Prints and Patterns Inspire Us Into Action

How patterns and prints in sustainable fashion might cure social malaise.

I sometimes get really down on fashion. There seems to be no justification for colorful pageantry in a world that is literally coming apart at the seams. A military prisoner is unjustly stripped to his underclothes or less while in prolonged solitary confinement; women work their fingers to the bone in suffocating garment factories overseas; and teen models starve themselves to death for the glory of walking the runway as expressionless hangers. It is a grim concoction to ingest along with our daily intake of international news and toxic environmental affairs.

Is contemporary fashion simply a cheap visual band-aid or a deep soothing salve for less than savory current events and crises? I really can’t say, but as one friend confessed to me recently, “You know, I sometimes just need a little fun.” This was coming from a person who I consider to be a devoted animal-rights activist and discreet risk taker.

How do we incorporate luxe fashion and bold new prints and patterns into our wardrobe when we know that others might be spying on us to monitor just how indulgent or fashion-frivolous we sneakily are? Does guilt-free fashion even exist with the increasing scrutiny and lambasting of even the most valiant green carpet efforts?

Sustainable style is a great way to celebrate looking good while also rolling up one’s sleeves to delve into the pervasive mucky-muck. This is not to say that conscious-fashion cures all, but rather that visibly better ways of doing things set us on the right path to improving conditions for folks we may never meet as well as those within our immediate sphere.

With this in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the most eye-catching prints and patterns from several sustainable fashion collections of 2011. Informed choice and awareness can be a very sexy thing. The first step in altering seemingly irreversible patterns of behavior and excessive consumption begins with the right statement we make in our cheeky and unique personal style.

Electric Street Style: JoAnn Berman

Nasdq Robo Coat and turban by designer JoAnn Berman

One cannot talk about transformative fashion without referencing the street-smart repertoire of designer JoAnn Berman. This GreenShows favorite is a pistol and a half on the sustainable style scene and an editorial wizard when it comes to gritty and electrifying storytelling. Her techno-ikat digital prints and recycled vintage textiles really typify the extremes that one woman will go to in order to engage you in the fun of artful dressing and kick-ass combos. These colorful pieces available on JoAnn Berman’s online shop are total investment pieces, both for your closet and the alter ego that you would like to get to know better but have not yet met at the crossroads. JoAnn Berman’s designs coax you to get on with it already, and fashionably barrel ahead for the real work that needs to get done.

Historic Nostalgia: Feral Childe

Feral Childe’s Spring/Summer 2011 Tarquinia Collection

No surprise that Feral Childe tops the list for arty prints and historic references with their Spring/Summer 2011 ‘Tarquinia’ collection. Moriah Carlson and Alice Wu don’t hold back when it comes to textile studio experimentation and art school wit.

These latest designs unearth a whole new spirit in sustainable fashion with their laser cut detailing, sumptuous silk crepe flow, and triangle motifs on organic-cotton jersey blends. I love the hip layering effect of the ‘surplus nylon mesh’ tops, and the versatility that these pieces provide in any climate. The Tarqquinia collection offers clear optimism and an irresistible Mediterranean palette even if you have not stepped foot out of the office for several weekends in a row due to pressing deadlines and a world-changing agenda.

Native Modern Textiles: Lina Rennell

Lina Rennell Spring/Summer 2011 collection, featuring pineapples and aloe  (Rock Sunhat and Aloe Tank)

Textile/fashion designer Lina Rennell just keeps on making beautiful things without all of the hoopla and self-consciousness that typically goes with the territory, and this, for me, makes her a rather likable fashion role model. Lina incorporates green fabrics and low-impact craftsmanship into everything she does, and her limited edition production model guarantees that her exquisite designs are true fashion statement pieces. The  SS 2011 ‘Aloe Tank’ of 100% organic cotton voile literally soothes one into a state of, ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ serenity and cool-collectedness. All of Lina Rennell’s designs are ethically made in Northern California, upping the brilliant factor even more.

Non-Linear Lyricism: BOA Studio

One-of-a-kind hand drawn illustrations on BOA Studio’s designs

My recent trip to Istanbul was all about local textile and eco-fiber research, so my visit would not have been complete without meeting up with designers, Sena Cevik and Seray Cengiz of BOA Studio. This trailblazing duo has been promoting sustainable fashion on the shores of the Bosphorus and beyond for several years now, and their signature black & white graphics are like nothing else on the planet. BOA Studio has been focused on working with organic ‘pamuk’ (cotton) since the early days of their label, but as of Spring 2011 they will be introducing their new ‘Eko-logik’ collection of edgy graphic statements on superfine bamboo fabric. The team opted to begin working with bamboo as they believe strongly that organic cotton simply uses too much water. The bamboo fabric that they are now sourcing suits their standards for low-impact and responsible design.

BOA Studio, mind over matter meets pure green thinking

It is hard to sum up how inspiring Sena and Seray are as a new generation of designers who have put down roots in their native country to support the textile traditions that reside there. Add to this their deep commitment to agricultural biodiversity, cultural preservation, and urban gardening, and it is no surprise that their designs transport you to wherever you need to be as someone who is both grounded and a believer in making the impossible possible.

lead image: Lina Rennell/Beklina; all other images courtesy of the designers; JoAnn Berman’s photos by Nina Berman