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Changing Cities: Eco-Conscious Style in Vogue at Fashion Week

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Is it possible to be fashionable and eco-conscious? Designers at New York’s Fashion Week certainly hope so.

Eco fashion made appearances throughout fashion week, from off-site events and vintage fashion shows, to the main venue inside Lincoln Center’s white tents. Models sashayed on the runways in bold designs — fashion designers hoping to put a luxury face to the eco movement.

“People think sustainability must mean green like it can’t be perceived as luxury or well made design. When people see it in this way they don’t think it is,” Oskar Metsavaht, the creative director of Osklen, told ABC News backstage before his runway show. “My idea is to help break this paradigm. We have organic products, we have fish skin leathers, and recycled materials, and organic silk straw. While on first appearance fashion design is the most important, sustainability must be behind it always and forever.”

Sustainable clothing is an emerging trend not just reserved for high-fashion conscious New Yorkers.  When something is “In Vogue” at fashion week, like being eco-conscious, there is an expected trickle-down effect at stores across the country.  Shoppers at Target or WalMart start to be given more green options, such as organic cotton and recycled fibers.  These shopping choices add up, and have a real-life impact on the world.

“I hope it’s going to be a trend,” Metsavaht said. “It’s not that sustainability is a trend. Fashion brings trends to the market.”

At Ford’s Fashion’s Night Out pop up shop on Gansevoort Plaza in New York City’s meatpacking district, Fashion’s Night-Outers dressed to the nines or barely dressed at all shopped the collections of eco-designers like John Patrick and designer Christopher Raebur. The eco-friendly clothing on display sets itself apart not only with its design, but with fabric produced from sustainable resources, including plants and recycled fibers.

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Modern lines and crisp white shirts, slip dresses made of discarded materials and recycled fabrics were on display. The event, curated by Vogue Fashion Director Tonne Goodman, showcased the rising awareness of the source of materials among designers, and a new trend towards ensuring that all materials are developed in a sustainable way.

The production of textiles can have harmful effects on the environment, but designers are proving with the right choices it doesn’t have to be.

“It’s not so much what’s the benefit from having a shirt made from organic cotton, it’s what’s the benefit to growing materials without the use of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides that go into the water supply. It’s a bigger picture,” said John Patrick, whose brand John Patrick Organic was featured at the event.

Cotton, considered by many to be the world’s dirtiest crop, accounts for nearly 25 percent of all pesticides used in the world.

According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, there are an estimated 1 million to 5 million cases of pesticide poisoning every year, resulting in 20,000 reported deaths among agricultural workers and at least 1 million cases requiring hospitalizations.

Patrick has made it his mission to use organic materials, and has put his entire line of clothing on sourcemap.com so people can see the difference. The interactive site allows people to go online and see the sources of clothing — where the materials used come from and where it was sewn, and therefore its environmental footprint, allowing people to really examine the impact of what they are wearing on the environment.

The interactive site allows users to track the production of everyday products from blue jeans to Jessica Simpson’s favorite, Chicken of the Sea, to Tom’s Shoes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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