November 21, 2007 / 8:50 PM / 10 years ago

Green is the new black for savvy consumers, retailers

3 Min Read

<p>Inventor Libby Andrewsn wears a pair of her Yoga Stick-e Socks made from bamboo at the annual Action Sports Retailers show at the San Diego Convention Center in California September 7, 2007. Bamboo is one eco-fabric that has surged in popularity and availability recently, as has recycled material.Mike Blake</p>

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Global warming may not only affect climate and the environment, it will also have an impact on clothes and fashion, according to design and retail experts.

Savvy, environmentally conscious consumers are approaching clothes with a different mind-set and designers and retailers are responding.

"With Seventh Avenue proclaiming that 'green is the new black,' we can expect a surge in fashion innovations in response to climate change," said Jo Paoletti, a professor at the University of Maryland and an expert in design and fashion.

It will mean not only debates about the benefits of cotton versus polyester or other fabrics, but likely future innovations such as smart clothes that monitor and adjust to body temperature to reduce the need for air conditioning and heating, she added.

Bob Kirke, executive director of the Canadian Apparel Federation, which represents retailers and design, manufacture and supply companies, agrees that climate change awareness has created a demand for more environmentally conscious fabrics.

"All of this is coming very quickly. Three years ago no one cared about this in apparel and textiles -- they had people who would wear hemp clothing but they'd buy it at hemp shops. Now it's much more mainstream and the marketplace is catching up," he explained in an interview.

<p>A corset made from cans is on display during an exhibition by artist Nikos Floros in Athens, Oct. 8, 2007.Yiorgos Karahalis</p>

Bamboo is one eco-fabric that has surged in popularity and availability recently, as has recycled material. Consumers are also thinking about how much they buy.

"The same people who are now eschewing plastic bags are starting to look into their wardrobes and saying, 'Am I doing everything I can to reduce my consumption in terms of clothing?'" Paoletti said.

"Most Americans have many, many more clothes in their closet than they can wear. And I think they're aware of that," Paoletti added.

The average person in the U.S. throws away nearly 70 pounds of clothing and textiles a year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling in the United States.

Daniel Butler, vice-president of merchandising and retail operations for the National Retail Federation, said companies are also interested in sustainable or green retail efforts.

"Some retailers look at merchandise, some people look at their marketing method, some people have green supply chain initiatives, some people are building green stores. Everybody is trying different things that make sense for their company, their product and their customer base," he said.

Reporting by Naomi Kim; editing by Patricia Reaney

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