Tuesday, July 8, 2008

cool to cotton

Cotton is an extremely water intensive crop, and processing this fiber also has environmental consequences, contaminating fresh water supplies. Continuous cultivation of cotton in the Aral Sea basin of Uzbekistan has decreased the actual surface area of the sea which has been diminished 45% because of the diversion of the two rivers for cotton production. Massive amounts of pesticides are used in cotton agriculture, but even if cotton is cultivated organically, is it still viable as a sustainable product? Cotton Inc. denies any such impact from cotton cultivation. see: http://www.cottoninc.com/Water-Management/Cotton-Irrigation-Systems/

Apparel and home furnishings manufacturers are beginning to use recycled fiber. Jimtex Yarns and Martex Fiber recycle cotton t-shirts to produce the ECO2cotton™ brand. ECO2cotton™ promotes an environmentally responsible product while also reducing landfill and conserving water and energy. Created from new, pre-consumer post-industrial cotton knit cuttings that are discarded during the cut and sew process, the fragments are reprocessed and blended into fiber similar to new cotton that can be re-spun into yarns or mixed with other fibers. 
see: http://www.jimtexyarns.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=32Teijin
One firm, Teijin Fibers Ltd. recycles uniforms and curtains to create fibers. Teijin Group established the first chemical recycling technologies for fibers, films and bottles and organized EcoCircle.

Landfill is controlled in Japan by steep pricing, and the sayonara or moving sale is common, simply to avoid such charges. Recycling clothing via resale is substantial in Japan and other countries. According to the US Textile Recycling Agency it is estimated that each person in the US generates over 60 pounds of textile waste annually, although over 90 percent of this could be recyclable, only 15% is recycled via re-usu. Adverts for pre-worn clothing are imminent.

Sarah Ratty designs ensembles from recycled jumpers (pullovers). Do Redo recycles sweaters donated by the Salvation Army by felting, then transforming the textiles into garments that are inspired by today’s trends as well as traditional design. Designers Katarina Brieditis and Katarina Evans recycle textiles, knitting, crocheting and embroidering to create sustainable garments. Their manifesto states: "Do Redo is a protest against society's tendency toward conspicuous consumption. Take a worn out wool sweater, wash it in hot water, grab a pair of scissors and give it new life! You can find inspiration anywhere-on the street, in a fasionable boutique or on the Web. And don't forget to look in museums, where you can find a treasury of old textiles to inspire you. We think handicraft can change the world, or at least make it a more pleasant place." Their book, Do Redo: The Art of Slaughtering a Sweater provides basic instructions on how to knit, embroider and crochet. Fashion reporter Anna-Stina Lindén Ivarsson wrote the text and chose the pictures and references to current trends and yesterday's fashion. Published by Alfabeta Publishers, Stockholm, Sweden. see: http://www.doredo.se/display.aspx?lang=2&tid=1&id=2

Luz Claudio's white paper, Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry explores the actual statistics of clothing re-use and discovered that only one-fifth of all clothing donated to charities is directly used or sold in their thrift or retail stores. “There are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountains of castoffs, even if they were given away.” see: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1964887

10 years ago, Sarah F. at the School for the Physical City in NYC was purchasing her clothing by the pound at Domby’s in Williamsburg instead of doing laundry and she may have been prescient, given the environmental impact of laundering. It is estimated 60% of the energy used in the life cycle of a cotton T-shirt is related to postpurchase washing and drying at high temperatures; transportation constitutes only a small portion of the energy profile to produce a cotton product. Why not dry clothes outdoors? For most of the US this is a viable option.

Certainly if one is consuming cotton, organic is preferable, and in order to support fair trade, ecomodista advocates hand knitting, no not in China or Cambodia where wages barely support life, but in one's own home, with one's own hands. Rowan International recently launched its organically grown naturally dyed yarns. Knitting with organic cotton in a fair trade zone--ecomodista may just cotton to cool.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

more of a primitive source of warmth

Knit wear is sufficiently popular and the climate sufficiently inclement in Copenhagen to sustain numerous boutiques specializing in sweaters and scarves. ecomodista found the Danish climate challenging, but coped, wearing a vintage Prada ski jacket worn under an Allegri, needless to say layered over an alpaca sweater and wool scarf. At home, Nanny Glerup's felted wool slippers are absolutely addictive and essential, and every yarn/knit store seems to stock her products. http://www.glerups.dk/The Sabine Poupinel boutique on Kronprinsensgade features hand knits from Gudrun og Gudrun (G & G) as well as machine knitted designs by p.feilberg and others. Helga Isager, daughter of famed knitter Marianne Isager, has opened Amimono on Jaegersborggade, once a working class neighborhood, now rapidly becoming gentrified with cafes--The Coffee Collective for instance--and hip boutiques.

Founded by Gudrun Ludvig (the designer) and Gudrun Rógvadótti, and located in the Faroe Islands, once a Danish dominion. G & G, debuted in 2007, presenting appealingly sophisticated sweaters and dresses that subvert knitting for warmth by their very transparency. http://www.gudrungudrun.com/ Btw, while at the Poupinel boutique, we were advised that Bill Clinton bought two G & G sweaters recently while in Copenhagen. ecomodista should have explained that his purchase is not necessarily a fashion imprimatur, but in this case his choice is totally endorsed.

G & G is devoted to sustainability, using only waste products, wool and leather from sheep raised for mutton. Their colors are often limited to natural variety creating bold black and white motifs on sweaters based on historic Faeroe motifs. Double coated sheep on these islands are of ancient origin, probably wild sheep originally introduced by the Vikings over a 1000 years ago.G & G's knits are incredibly tempting, hand knit according to Fair Trade principles, from the softest wool, and chic design (black lace shoulders on a white sleeveless sweater banded at the hips with pale peach silk). Designer, Gudrun Ludvig is inspired by Norse mythology and the Viking technique that preceded the use of two needle knitting-- nålbinding, a looping technique, similar to knitting with two needles, involving a single, eyed, needle. Also known as netting without knots, nålbinding continued to be used until the innovation of working with two needles pervaded Denmark in the 16th century. The sheep are grown organically, a trend that appears to be increasing.

Remind ecomodista to report on organic wool production in New Mexico, since it is the largest in the US. The only other organic wool produced in Denmark, of which ecomodista is aware is Ruth Juul in Bakkegården, on the North Atlantic coast of Jutland. The shop on her farm features organic and naturally produced products such as Lambskin slippers, organic jams and natural dyed yarns from her own sheep.

Denmark's per capita consumption of organic food is one of the world's highest. and biologische restaurants abound. Consequently, ecomodista felt at home, not that we ate out. Peter and Anne, cooking with organic produce and ingredients made the most incredible meals. Organic restaurants that have been recommended are: Geranium, located in Kongens Have, the park surrounding Rosenborg Palace. Rasmus Kofoed and Søren Ledet are outstanding chefs. http://www.restaurantgeranium.dk/; Cap Horn which was one of the pioneers in organic restaurants; and Huksfluks, http://www.huksfluks.dk/

Sustainable hotels include: AXEL Hotel Guldsmeden (http://www.axelhotelguldsmeden.com/),Betrams Hotel Guldsmeden, and Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden located in the trendy district of Vesterbro The breakfast buffet is 100 percent organic with homemade yogurt, French cheeses and rustic bread and pastry from Emmery's, a well know organic bakery.

And don't be intimidated by the Danish language, every Danish website seems to have a "Kontakt os" feature and if you can read this, you can grasp other phrases, although everyone in Denmark, except in the tiny tiny hamlets, speaks English.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

a primitive source of warmth

ecomodista spent a month this winter in Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Ribe (the oldest town in Denmark near the west coast of the Jutland) researching a primitive source of warmth--hand knitting--a great substitute for energy consumption. Sex also qualifies as a source of warmth, but one can't or shouldn't indulge in public, giving sweaters an edge. In the course of this research, we also experienced several new buildings in Hamburg, most notably, Europa-Passage, (http://www.europa-passage.de) or arcade, designed by Hadi Teherani one of the largest inner-city shopping malls in Germany. Teherani has been quoted, "The economic and ecological prosaic construction technology in the background, is merely an indispensable precondition...Architecture is defined by atmosphere and not by reason." And the parabolic Europa-Passage is exciting, primarily illuminated by the clear ceiling, and an openess not often encountered in an arcade. Not that our friends, Brigitte and Ulrich were impressed, in terms of the quality of the boutiques, and horrors, a Starbucks! Considered to be spatially innovative, green aspects of the building are the norm in this country. The Germans have built numerous commercial passages, essentially strip malls indoors, sheltering one from the frigid winds off the North Sea, usually on the ground floor of commercial office buildings. Europa-Passage represents a new direction in material consumption modes for the Germans--the mall...

The Danes and Germans are incredibly energy conscious, despite rampant freezing temperatures. In fact, in Copenhagen, our hostess, Anne met us at the train station on her bicycle, and there were numerous cyclists on every street. ecomodista loves the fact that one can leave a bicycle on the street without security chains and locks. According to Anne, the only time one really needs to be concerned is New Year's Eve, when those in a drunken stupor might "borrow" one's bike to ride home.

Copenhagen is definitely the city for au courant knitwear, from hand knits to machine knits, everyone wears layers of sweaters and scarves. The best selection of scarves is found at the Tekstilgalleriet, http://www.textilgalleriet.dk/ Not only fashionable, knits continue to provide utility and warmth for which they were originally designed. In northern sea faring climates, fishermen relied on wool sweaters that retain body heat even when wet from the fiercest storms and sheets of rain, a tradition traced back to Vikings, who practiced a form of knitting, nälbinding, a looping technique involving a single needle.

Also known as netting without knots, nälbinding continued to be used until the innovation of knitting with two needles arrived, migrating north from what is now Germany. Knitting has become synonymous with Nordic countries, and while one might be more familiar with Norwegian Setesdal sweaters, Denmark is also home to internationally recognized knitters.  See http://www.isagerstrik.dk/1-35-topmenu-1.html for Marianne Isager's site, her daughter, Helga Isager, http://www. amimono.dk and Vivian Hoxbro, http://www.viv.dk/English/default.htm

From Hamburg, we took a train north to Ärhus, the second largest city in Denmark, a country which has a population of 5.5 million (ecomodista loves tiny tiny countries). Textile artist, Ruth Sørenson met us at the station, but had some difficulty recognizing us, having described myself as blond, and Wayne and I wearing black. You can imagine how many blonds there are in Denmark, not to mention everyone wears black. Fortunately, we had our comrade in arms, our faithful, but vicious pekingese, Tong Zhi, as an additional identifying factor. Ruth drove us to Ebeltoft, a small fishing village in Djursland, where she lives. I had made an appointment with Ruth to interview her and make photographs of her work, not on a model, unfortunately, that must wait until warm weather pervades the north, about July. Ruth kindly invited us to stay with her, but having a dog with a NYC bite number (two bites and you and your dog are out) we declined, concerned for her and her husband's safety. 

Ruth Sørenson studied textile design at Designskolen Kolding. Hand knitting was included in the curriculum. At the time, Ruth disdained knitting, preferring weaving, and other art forms. When her children left home, four years ago, she decided to research knitting and wool in the Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands, which has since inspired her designs. Working in the traditional stranding technique, her work is stunningly innovative yet simultaneously traditional. See http://www.ruths.dk/engelsk/index.htm

construction detail of michael reynolds earthship