Flowering of Fashion Consciousness

What if all fashion runways were mossy paths through redwood groves?

The Mather Redwood Grove Amphitheatre at UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens was the setting for the Flora Meets Fashion Show at this year’s Green Gala, a fundraiser for the gardens. Named “A Celebration of Diversity” and curated by Sasha Duerr of the Permacouture Institute —which is leading the way for integrating natural dyes into the mainstream fashion industry —the event was conceived to show original eco textiles and fashion designs inspired by the garden’s 2,200 rare and endangered plant collection.

Introducing the beautiful setting, the compeer said, “You could quite happily sit here without a thought in your head, which is rather the point.” While I’m sure he was referring to the meditative nature of our surroundings, I couldn’t help but consider the “empty-headed” accusation that is typically leveled at fashion lovers. And yet what most people don’t realize is that the fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters. Clearly, caring about fashion is vital.

Caring about Ethical Fashion: Adie+George’s Darby maxi skirt

Unlike mainstream fashion, ethical fashion has the enviable ability to transcend those negative perceptions. Bringing together style seekers and designers who are open to change, prepared to revaluate and who appreciate what is involved in protecting the beauty around us. Duerr introduced the ten amazing Bay Area-based designers whose work was selected for their use of sustainable methods. According to Duerr, the participants were all developing “ongrowing” connections to the garden as a result of their work, she’d meant to say, “ongoing,” but in the lush setting the slip made perfect sense to the audience. She continued, “Plants not only provide us with food and shelter and clothing, but as you will see they can be a really profound design inspiration too.”

As the models emerged on their runway through the trees, the setting was transformed into a forest-fashion wonderland. Our imaginations aided by the stunning makeup and hair styling by Shawn Burke. Evoking this season’s bright eyeliner trend as seen at Derek Lam’s Spring 2011 show, the models resembled mythic wood nymphs with ferns plaited into their hair.

Perfect for a stroll in the woods: Feral Childe’s Fornasetti Pinafore + Abalone Dress.

The designs that followed were lovely, the standouts include: The hand-painted silk dress with oak gall to resemble the bright white with black markings of a paper birch, by Sarah Borruso of Stars+Ravens; Adie+George’s Darby maxi skirt with seamless blocks in graduated depth of avocado pit dye: Mollie de Vries of Ambatalia’s reclaimed denim Summer Halter daringly cut and dyed to a remarkable blue achieved from distall thistle, an invasive weed; the languid and layered appeal of Moriah Carlson and Alice Wu of Feral Childe’s Fornasetti Pinafore + Abalone Dress, a look that couldn’t have been more perfect for a stroll in the woods; and Ariel Bishop of Spikit, whose hand-smashed flower prints and Liana tunic and legging combo cemented the modern fairy tale feel of the fashions.

After the show, I joined up with fellow green-fashion-gals, Global Action Thru Fashion’s Domenica Peterson and EcoFabulous’ Caitlin Bristol to discuss the inspirational show. We agreed that every fashion show must take place in this setting. And certainly every show for Bay Area greenies. San Francisco’s unique egalitarian sense of fashion has long resisted either a traditional fashion week format or a defined fashion district, despite our best efforts over the years. Last week, Stella McCartney, a designer who is known for her ethical fashion approach, threw a secret party in St. Luke’s church gardens in the West village for A-list celebrities Liv Tyler and Naomi Watts, U2 frontman Bono and Vogue editor Anna Wintour to see her latest spring 2012 collection. Lets hope this marks the beginning of a trend.

I do believe it was actually McCartney’s mother, Linda who said, “If the abattoir had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians.” Like wise, on parallel with slow food as a route to encourage people to slow down and consider the way they consume, if all fashion runways were mossy paths through groves of rare blooms and 90 year old redwoods —we’d have a profound opportunity for change.

Liana tunic and legging combo from Spikit. A modern faerie tale feel to the fashions.


PHOTO CREDIT: All images by Paige Green Photography





Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.