Organic design

The city has become a hub for sustainable fashion, with more local designers relying in part or entirely on sustainable materials.

For many in the Portland fashion scene, green is now the new black.

The city has become a hub for sustainable fashion, with more local designers relying in part or entirely on sustainable materials. Many of the local designers who participated in the Portland fashion show in March used sustainable fabrics in their lines.

So what are sustainable materials, and what makes them sustainable? Bamboo, soy, hemp and organic cotton seem to be on the top of most lists, according to some local eco-friendly fashionistas, because of their renewable sources and durability.

Boutiques and brands from around Portland, such as Sameunderneath and Seaplane, have different views on sustainability because of the types of products they offer and their ideas about sustainable fashion. One thing is certain, however: The mission of sustainable fashion is to provide stylish products while causing the smallest environmental footprint possible.

Apparently, it is catching on. Stores across the United States and internationally–big brands such as H&M, an international clothing store–are beginning to provide organic-cotton alternatives for environmentally conscious buyers.

“I think we are going to start to see an uptrend for more environmentally conscious choices,” said Antonio Jeffery, general manager of the boutique Sameunderneath on North Shaver Avenue. “I am leery of fads. It is not about whether or not it’s a popular idea, it’s about whether the idea is worth keeping around.”

Sameunderneath’s clothing is made almost entirely of bamboo. Jeffery said there are at least three benefits customers get from buying sustainable clothing: The colors do not bleed, the feel of the fabric (bamboo is incredibly soft), and it is durable enough for machine washing.

Choosing environmentally friendly materials is not the only lens through which one can observe the sustainable-clothing trend. One of the most prevalent ways to be a part of the sustainable scene is to purchase or create recyclable clothes. Many local, independent designers who show their creations at the Northwest 23rd Avenue boutique Seaplane, known around Portland for their local, eclectic and beautiful pieces, utilize reusable fabrics and vintage ware to revamp them into modern outfits.

Laura Irwin, who works at Seaplane, said the company consistently carries three designers that use organic fibers. Most of their merchandise, however, is made by designers who hang their hat in the category of reusable fashion.

Seaplane is just one of the many stores around Portland that is bending to customer demand for more environmentally conscious choices.

Irwin said that people interested in getting involved in eco-friendly fashion should start buying secondhand clothes, and should also support companies that offer alternatives to factory manufactured products.

“Everything doesn’t have to be one kind of sustainable,” Irwin said. “It’s a complicated idea. Just because it’s made of soy, yet processed in polluting mills, can you label it sustainable? What about the waster factor?”