Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Green Runway

I'm not much of a television person, but I have a weakness for Project Runway (fashion designer who likes Project Runway - predictable, I know). I was especially excited for last night’s episode, which not only featured the oh-so-very-adorable eco-lovin' Natalie Portman, but also focused on a challenge based on eco-friendly fabrics.

The twist was that the models, not the designers, chose the fabrics, which in my mind, was sort of a metaphor to the real-life experience of eco-designers like myself. Eco-friendly fabrics, although more available today than in the past, are difficult to come by. Color choices are limited, prints are virtually non-existent, and with every designer and their eco-grandmother jumping on the green bandwagon these days, the relatively hard-to-get fabrics are snatched up so quickly that sometimes we must work with whatever we can get, even if it’s not our first choice.

I have to admit that I was rather disappointed by the designs. If we, as real-life eco-fashion designers, are able to come up with stylish designs even with limited fabric choices, why was it so difficult for the P.R. designers, many of whom hold degrees in design and have experience at large, well-known clothing lines, to create garments that looked even semi-wearable? I did dig Suede's winning design, which featured organic silk (see pic above). Despite the fact that the bodice strips didn’t allow for much movement and looked a little bulky at times, the silhouette was very eco-cool.

Carry on!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The "Smart. Sustainable. Style." Fall Trend Eco-Fashion List

Ahhhhh, fall. The vibrant leaves, the cool breezes, and best of all, the fashion. What’s that you say? Fall is the furthest thing from your pretty little mind? It's 90 degrees outside and the only way to be comfortable without blasting the AC is to sit around in your underwear sucking on ice cubes? (Just a little FYI: 1/6th of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from air conditioning). Well, hot and sticky weather or not, the fall fashion season is peeking its lovely eyes around the corner. Before you know it, your favorite teeny weeny organic bikini will be shoved in the back of your dresser drawer only to be replaced by sweaters and jackets and thick socks and tear-producing winter winds coupled with bleak gray skies and mounds of dirt-encrusted snow and... Sorry. The vision of last winter here in Chicago caused our entire office to experience a collective panic attack. Breath in, breath out. In, out. Okay. We're back. Fall fashion. Yes.

Here at Mountains of the Moon, we're all a little obsessed with fashion (duh), and there is something especially exciting about fall clothing. For me, there is little out there that invokes creativity and artistic urges like playing with layers and mixing up different textures and cuts, and fall clothing allows for that sort of imaginative experimentation so much more than spring. I also get all giddy about trying out the fresh trends that come with a new season, and this season is no exception. But with the very concept of the word “trend” implying something that is in style for only a short period of time (read: disposable), how does an eco-fashionista justify indulging in the latest styles without committing eco-sins?

Behold the “Smart. Sustainable. Style” Fall Trend Eco-Fashion List. This list will inspire fashion-lovers everywhere this fall, as it is taped to full-length mirrors and closet doors around world, acting as a beacon of ideas and reflections on how to experience the pure bliss of fall fashion trends whilst (yes, whilst) being conscious of our precious mother earth. A bold assumption, I know. But trust me, it’s the first thing to which I’ll be referring when I start drooling over the September issue of Vogue in all its $2000 per pair of couture fall tights glory.

1. Fall Trend: The 1920’s. From Diane von Furstenberg to Betsey Johnson, the biggest designers showed 20s-inspired flapper shifts, feathered skirts and vampy pieces fit for the smokiest of the roaring era’s jazz clubs on the fall runways.

Eco-Solution: Thrift stores and vintage shops = the ultimate in recycling. Retro trends are always great because they are, obvi, inspired by trends of the past, which means fun with vintage. It might be slightly more difficult to find a fringed flapper number at your local Good Will than at a fancy vintage boutique, but it’s easier than you think to find a great piece for next-to-nothing that incorporates the trend in one way or another. If all else fails, try a loose-fitting, strapless dress without a defined waist (either one in your closet or from a thrift store), and add a little fringe around the hem or some beading to the neckline. Think a dash of 20’s spice with a modern twist (vs. a trashy Halloween costume made in an overseas sweatshop).

Side note: For all you grunge lovers, plaid is another “retro” trend making a huge comeback this fall. I’ll bet you your original copy of “Nevermind” - on cassette - that you can find plaid plaid plaid galore at just about any Good Will or thrift store. Try a skinny belt around your waist on top of a plaid button-up shirt for a more current look.

2. Fall Trend: Non-traditional Colors. Unlike the earth-tones and dark shades we usually see for fall, this season mixes things up with jewel tones and both lighter and brighter colors often only reserved for spring. Mountains of the Moon’s Fall Collection features colors like ochre, rust and cream that are usually considered spring tones, and couples them with deeper shades like dark plum, shitake, twilight blue, and of course, fall’s staple color, classic black.

Mixing spring/summer wardrobe pieces with new fall looks. With bolder colors being the big thing this fall, try layering some of your summer pieces with warmer fall designs for a very on-trend ensemble. This not only allows for creative fashion fun, it also prevents one from being environmentally wasteful. Who needs to spend their entire September paycheck on a brand new fall wardrobe when you can choose a few key pieces for fall and make them even more fabulous by mixing them with pieces you already own from summer? Remember kids, mama earth likes it when you reuse.

3. Fall Trend: Baggy Pants. Slouchy, wide-leg, high-waist pants absolutely dominated the fall runways. The wider silhouette of this season’s pants make the waist look smaller (we likey) and are also more comfortable than their skinnier cousins. The more avant-garde designs with MC Hammer-like dropped crotches and tapered bottoms aren’t for me, but the more subdued versions with flattering wide legs and slight pleats (think flowing and sophisticated, not “mom jeans”) look incredible with a fitted top and over-sized sweater.

Eco-Solution: Go for the “less is more” look. With any extreme fashion trend, the more outrageous the design, the more likely the fad to burn out quickly. Choose a piece that embodies the trend in a subtle way, so that you can wear it for many seasons, rather than going for the excessive and only wearing the piece a few times. Re-wearable= good. Disposable = bad.

We at Mountains of the Moon never like to be ones to toot our own eco-horns, but we have a major crush on our new Sophie Pants for fall. With a semi-wide leg and a slightly higher waist than our other pants, this design features everything we like about the baggy pant trend and leaves out the stuff we don’t (sorry, but we don’t do harem pants). We went for subtlety but still threw in a lil' of the fashion-forwardness so that we can be sure to wear these eco-trousers for years to come.

Bonus: sustainable hemp/tencel fabric, eco-friendly bamboo button, made sweatshop-free in the USA. Coming this September to an eco-boutique near you. (Don't let this simple sketch from our line sheets fool ya. These babies are to die for).

4. Fall Trend: Eco-Friendly Designs. Eco-fashion has been making its way onto the runways for the past several seasons, but fall ’08 marks its biggest presence ever, with Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Versace, Givenchy, Narciso Rodriguez and many other top designers incorporating sustainability into their collections.

Eco-Solution: Read the labels. Wait a second. Eco-friendly style needs an eco-solution? When did things become so complicated? Unfortunately, just like in the movies, even your favorite superhero (let’s call her “Eco-Fashion”) must fight to overcome the obstacles of the evil villain (let’s call her “Green Washing.”). The popularity of being green, despite its wonderful intentions, has created new challenges, as some companies (including some clothing lines and designers) play on the eco-trend in order to market themselves to the eco-conscious consumer. As excited as I get when I hear of a designer or label coming out with a new eco-collection or (finally!) incorporating sustainable fabrics into their designs, part of me has to wonder: Why didn’t they ever consider the environment in their fashions before it became the “in” thing to do?

Fortunately, there is a surefire way to ensure that the sexy new eco-fabulous dress you’ve been eyeing for fall is indeed truly sustainable: read the labels. Under fabric content, look for earth-friendly fabrics like “organic cotton,” “hemp,” “tencel, etc.” Then check that label again to see where the garment was made. I’m big on clothing lines that are made here in the USA, rather than those that are made overseas (transporting clothing lines – or any products - internationally creates a HUGE carbon footprint). If the garment isn’t made in the USA (or made locally, in your country), make sure that it is fair trade and sweatshop-free (truly eco-friendly fashion is human and animal friendly too). And after you read those labels, ask questions. The designer or boutique owner should easily (and happily) be able to answer you when you ask with a merry twinkle in your eye: “were these gorrrrrrgeous eco-friendly autumn pants that I am so incredibly close to buying dyed with low-impact dyes?”

It's as simple as the cool autumn breeze. Just keep these ideas in mind when you do your own personal eco-zation of the hottest fashion trends this fall, and not only will you look fabulous dahhhling, you can also brag all autumn long about how “smart, sustainable and stylish” you truly are – and be able to back to up. Got ideas of your own on how to make fall fashion trends more sustainable? We’d love to hear about them.

See you soon, Mr. Autumn. For now, I'm going to relish in the hot, sticky air and lemony sunshine before it’s just a sweet, sweet memory.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cycling in the City (Or Revisiting American Values)

Cycling in the city has such universal roots. I say this as a veteran—as I’ve proudly spent the past two and a half weeks joining the ranks of Chicago’s finest eco-conscious commuters...the “city cyclers.” Unlike their brethren of the country and (more commonly) suburbia, this clan of dare-devils spends their commuting and/or leisure hours, dodging pedestrians and playing chicken with traffic. And, why? I’m finding the answer lies in our most American values.

Did anyone else just gag? Unfortunate isn’t it, that the phrase “American values” triggers nausea rather than pride (or at the very least, nostalgia.) While our values system has been compromised pretty much from its inception- I think we can all agree that it’s time to revisit what defines us as “American” and how some of these definitions are changing in regards to how we see our role in bettering our country and by extension our planet.

The rhetoric of freedom and independence that lost its luster from overuse and abuse (and by extension induces nausea) can truly be regained in the act of city cycling. It’s independence from the gas pump and freedom to travel on human energy and simple machines. It’s the ultimate self-empowerment, personal control—the positive side of rugged individualism. It’s about fitness—physical AND mental fitness. Conquering the lack of self-control lacking in the OLD Americans.

There is a new breed of Americans, and they’re bike riding, canvas-bag toting, local produce shopping, eco-conscious consumers. And not just as a novelty- people actually are finding it’s actually enjoyable, convenient, cheap and consistent to live this way. I think we’re getting smarter as a country. Not to get too political, but let’s just say we’re learning from our mistakes of the last 8 years. We are taking back ownership of words like freedom and independence and not being so na├»ve as to allow others to control us.

To me, that’s the crux of bike riding. It’s taking back control- creating your own schedule, paths and routes at your own pace. I felt the words of Jack Kerouac the other night, as I rode my bike through alleys in my neighborhood of Lakeview, “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.” (from On the Road) Maybe the stars aren’t so fine in the city, but the sunsets are, and the skyline takes on a starry quality of it’s own (as much as can be appreciated from light pollution).

And, perhaps this wave of yearning to recently envelop Americans, is now rushing toward the open road, where we, on our bikes, can take back the streets and create new paths. It’s getting back to the idea that we are creators, and not destroyers. And how powerful, cool and empowering a concept to live by, in repairing the ethos of our country, and commitment to our world.

Now, armed with my bike lock and wire basket, there is literally no Chicago-turf unconquerable on my cherry red, vintage 70s AMF ladies cruiser. Until it hits below 45 degrees...

Note: My new commitment in cycling is dedicated to my high-school friend, Eric Ng. In December of 2006, Eric was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike in New York City, on the Hudson River Greenway. He was an active cyclist, teacher and eco-warrior. Google him to find out more about how awesome this guy is ☺ May his dedication to our planet inspire us all to live greener lives.

(Bicycle pic above taken by Melissa in Amsterdam, eco-conscious cycling city of the universe, March '08)

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Heart BYOB

I'm not talking about booze, you drunks. Not that I don't worship the plethora (yes, plethora) of Bring Your Own Booze restaurants that Chicago has to offer, because trust me, there is nothing like all-you-can-eat avocado rolls washed down with a bottle of wine brought in by my very own self (and hence not marked up three times its value). But today, we are talking about baggage, and, alas, not beer/wine/tequila.

That's right, the BYOB to which I am referring is the concept known as "Bring Your Own Bag." It's not a new idea or anything (we brought our own bags to the grocery store when we were just wee ones, and trust me, our family got plenty of weird looks from the other shoppers), but it has definitely only recently become a mainstream way of thinking. But what's the big deal about just using the free bags that stores give away? I mean, it takes less thought and effort, and none of us have much free time these days (and/or the capacity to add one more reminder to our mental to do lists)...............

Well, here are a few simple things to ponder, and I will be brief as to not get too soap-boxy:

1. It takes about 1,000 (umm, yes, that says ONE THOUSAND) years (or more) for a disposable plastic bag to break down in a landfill. Yummy.

2. Well thank goodness there's the "paper or plastic" option! I'll choose paper! Or maybe not - paper bags destroy forests, and take 40% more energy and generate 70% more air pollution than the manufacturing of plastic bags.

3. Many grocery stores these days will offer you money OFF your total purchase if you BYOB.

4. You will look incredibly hip and stylish walking out of the store with your reusable bag over your shoulder (and no one will know that it's filled with bottles of wine).

It's easier than ever to find reusable bags too. Many grocery stores have them for sale right there at the registers. Or make a trip to Good Will and find a fabulous vintage bag to use for your groceries (style + recycling = TLA - that's "true love forever" for those of you not still in middle school).

Beware though of all the canvas bags out there... Lots of companies are hopping on the trendy eco-bandwagon these days without truly being eco-friendly (stay tuned for a future blog on what is known in the eco-world as "green-washing"), and are selling reusable bags made from pesticide-laden canvas cottons. If you're not using an old bag or getting your bag from a thrift store, look for bags that are made from eco-friendly materials. In fact, the ladies at Mountains of the Moon (that's us!) have designed some pretty sexy reusable bags ourselves with which we like to accessorize ourselves as often as possible. Check out our 100% organic cotton "Eco-Fashionista" Bag or our hemp "Eco-Warrior" Bag (as seen in the gorgeous picture of our very own Rachel, above), and be the coolest shopper on your block next time you head out for a spree at the liquor - I mean grocery - store. Reusable bags are also great for "wrapping" gifts and for overnight bags. We just love our eco-slumber parties.

Your BYOB Goddess and "Plastic Bag Rehab" Counselor,

Monday, July 7, 2008

On a related note....recycling, etc

After reading Morgan's most recent blog, I got to thinking more about
recycling. I happen to live in a suburb that makes it EXTREMELY easy
for us to recycle. I.E. we were given a huge bin, just as big as our
garbage bin, to put all of our recyclables in. Our city is very
generous and forward thinking about what can be recycled, and I often
wonder why other cities/suburbs aren't the same. We can recycle
pretty much anything but Styrofoam (why oh why do restaurants still
use these for take out? Perhaps I should start bringing my own
containers for left overs. Now THAT's an interesting idea!) Even as
easy as my suburb makes it to recycle, would you believe there are
people who still do not participate? Case in point, my neighbors
never recycle and their garbage can is over-flowing each week with
things that are clearly recyclable materials. I cringe just about
every week that I see this. So I asked them not long ago what the
deal was. Their response "Oh, our recycle bin is being used to store
boxes in our garage, we wouldn't make a difference anyhow" How sad is
that, in the times in which we live, and all of the awareness about
recycling, etc? One person CAN make a difference.

On the same note, my kids go to a charter school that is very
environmentally focused. My son has been there for 6 years now, my
daughter 1, and when we pack lunches they must be "trash free"
Meaning, no throw away, convenient food packages, cloth napkin,
reusable utensils, etc. When people hear where they go to school the
first thing they asks is "ohhh isn't that the school where they can't
have trashy lunches? That must be so hard for you" To which I
respond in amazement "no, it isn't hard at all. It's called
Tupperware containers, etc" I'm amazed at how many people out there
still are just so into the convenience factor instead of just taking a
few more minutes to actually take foods and put them into reusable
containers. It just seems like common sense to me and I hope this way
of thinking continues to spread. At least we know our 2 kids will
have grown up with this way of thinking, as well as all the kids they
attend school with. We need more kids to grow up this way as they
truly are the hope of the future of Mother Earth!

Recycle, Reuse, Recover, Reduce. Words to live by!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Recycling and Composting in a 'Not-So-Green' City

Living in the Chicago burbs for 18 years and having hippie parents, I grew up thinking that recycling and composting was a normal way of life. When I went to college at IU Bloomington at the ripe "naive" age of 18, I discovered that not everyone recycles...can you believe that???

So after approximately 10 years of apartment (recycling-free) living, I finally bought my own house in Indianapolis just 5 months ago. FINALLY I got to purchase a recycling plan and receive my glorious orange recycling bin. I even got my very own "Welcome to Recycling" instructions... only to discover that my options are limited. "No cardboard." "No plastics with numbers 4 and on." "No paper." ARRGGGG!!!

At least my carbon-footprint wont be as nasty as it was just a few short months ago. I'm glad Indy got with the times, but seriously... is this 1985? Okay, rant over with. At least now I do have my own house, which enabled me to instantly buy a compost bin, which is now on its sweet way to making organically gorgeous black soil. (Ahhhh organic, salmonella-free tomatoes!! :)). I do have to say that I'm a little scared of the very "human-like" turd that is quietly resting in front of my compost bin right now. I'm not sure if my bin o' compost has pissed off my neighbors or what. Hmmm!

I'm doing my best in this 'not-so-green' city. I do use only 'green' cleaning products. (I may quite possibly be the biggest germ-a-phobe on this planet). One battle at a time right? Once school starts up again, I plan on encouraging my students to recycle their 'straight-A' papers. Yes, I said 'straight-A.' My students are perfect (that's what I like to tell myself as I cry myself to sleep at night). Luckily, we do have paper recycling at the school, and the kids are actually in to it. WOO HOO!!

Cheers to all of us recyclers/composters. Maybe one of these days the great city of Indianapolis will offer cardboard recycling and I can feel a little better about the world.

Over and out...
-Morgan :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

INTRODUCING............ us.

What happens when 5 women who love fashion and eco-friendliness (is that a word?) come together? An eco-fashion empire is built, and the world becomes a better, more stylish place for all of its inhabitants.

Well, not really, but that sounded really cool when I was typing it.

Hi, I'm Melissa, and I am the owner and head designer of Mountains of the Moon Eco-Fashion, an eco-conscious clothing line. I live in Chicago. I really like soy lattes, my dog Leary, anything creative (you should see what I fashioned out of my boyfriend's old Guns N' Roses t-shirt), live music (the non-sucky kind), short dresses, staying up much too late for my age, travel and pretty much anything lemon-flavored. I also like to write, so, ya know, why not start a blog? Everyone else is doing it, and I would definitely jump off a bridge if everyone else was doing it. Wait. Hmmmmmm.

All that said, yay! Welcome to the "smart. sustainable. style" official blog! Way back in 1998, when Mountains of the Moon was just an eco-twinkle in my eye, in those beginning stages when I had little more than a sewing machine set up on a cardboard box and some sketches on scratch paper, way back when I didn't even know how to turn on a computer, I never would have imagined that ten years later, I'd have a clothing line made completely of eco-friendly materials that would be carried world-wide, an incredible staff of intelligent, creative, fabulous women, and a real live blog. I don't think the word "blog" really existed back then, so the last part doesn't count. But you get it.

Starting today, hopefully rather frequently, the GLOMOTM (Gorgeous Ladies of Mountains of the Moon - remember GLOW? Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling? Never Mind.) will be tantalizing your peepers with thoughts, ideas, eco-tips, jokes, stories, product reviews and random babblings. Because our motto is "smart. sustainable. style," we will do our best to focus on topics that are smart, sustainable and/or stylish (duh). We hope that you enjoy this glimpse into the exciting (slight exaggeration, but again, it sounds good) lives of a team of eco-friendly fashion design company co-workers/women of the world.

Before I end our very first blog with something incredibly witty and thought-provoking, let me introduce the BSITW (best staff in the world). They are totes obvi the coolest chicks evs, and yes, we like abbrevs (feel free to contact us if you have any good abbrevs, btw).

Morgan Rainwater - Oh, sweet little Morgan Baswell Rainwater, remember when you used to kick the boys' asses at video games and He-Man/Thundercats showdowns? My how you have grown, all adult-like in your brand new house with eco-friendly cleansers galore, and, like, all married and with pink and dark blue hair and everything. Morgan is my little sister, she is stunning inside and out, and she has been on the MotM Team since day one, doing everything from addressing catalogs to fulfilling orders to co-designing to running Wholesale Accounts to mopping the office floor because it was really grossing her out (eco-OCD seems to run in our family). She lives in Indianapolis with her hubby Josh and her 20 pound killer dog Isis who eats organic dog food, thankyouverymuch. She also teaches psychology to high school students. Major. Morgan resides in Indianapolis. There is more than corn in Indiana.

Rachel Lowen - Rachel is a jack of all trades, but in a really sexy way. In other words, Rach wears a lot of (organic, recycled, incredibly stylish) hats. She is not only the Fulfillment Manager for MotM, but she also works as the Project Manager for the well known Shoe-Gaze band Umphrey's McGee (just kidding about the Shoe-Gaze part, they are actually Two-Step, with a little Boy Band thrown in), has many important roles at Major Music Events (like completely organizing Artist Transportation, which is not an easy feat), teaches Hebrew School, and also helps us exhibit and model. Not bad. Rachel (also known as Eco-Rachel) is also quite the writer, as you shall soon see. Rachel lives in Chicago.

Kari Saul - We like to refer to Kari as Superwoman. She is a really, really hot mom to two little ones, who are undoubtedly going to grow up to be the coolest people in the history of the universe. Kari handles heads up the Customer Service department here at MotM, so if you e-mail or call, she will most likely be the one who will take care of you, and yes, she does accept bribes. Kari, like Rachel, also works for Umphrey's McGee (we prefer to keep things incestuous with these Chicago-based companies and all) as the Fan Liaison, so let me tell you, this woman knows customer service. Kari won't turn away a glass of good organic red wine. She lives in the Chicago area as well, because, let's face, Chicago is totes awesome.

Corinne Witzel - Perhaps you've met Corinne at one of our vending booths. She is what is known as an Eco-Warrior, but she doesn't have one of those mean warrior faces or anything. She is actually one of those people who you gawk at for 5 minutes with your mouth dropped and then say something like, "You should be a model," but it usually comes out with a stutter or burp or something because she's real purdy and you get thrown off. Coco is a soon-to-be-MILF, although it takes everyone a good hour to even realize that this chick is 8 months pregnant. It's amazing. Anyhoo, Corinne has been working in our vending booths for three years now, and the past two, she's taken on the arduous task of completely running our Bonnaroo booths, which is probably one of the most intense experiences you can have (think 90,000 people + hot, hot summer sun in southern Tennessee). Corinne is currently transitioning into our new Wholesale Accounts Manager, which will become her perma-gig in August when Morgan goes back to teaching full-time. (Never fear though, Morgan will take on one of our other 52.789 positions on a part-time basis). Corinne's daughter Halen, who will arrive in just a few weeks, is no doubt going to join Kari's kids in the Coolest-Person-in-the-Universe club. Coco lives in Louisville, y'all.

And that, my friends, is us! Stay tuned, as the life-changing, thought-provoking closing comments I promised earlier will come in our next blog entry (um, or maybe the following one). Either way, check back often. There is lots of Mountains of the Moon smart-sustainable-stylish nonsense coming to a computer near you very, very soon.

Your Friend,
Melissa Baswell, aka DJ Eco-Melly-Mel, aka the one who designs the clothes, and like, stresses out a lot.

Look, neat!