The next time you throw on your favorite T-shirt, consider this: Approximately one-third of a pound, or 17 teaspoons, of chemicals—many of them known carcinogens—were used to grow the cotton to produce it. Fortunately, designers are now making clothes from eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, and soy, so you can wear your environmental beliefs on your sleeve.
What's more, you don't have to don frumpy floor-length tunics or oversize tie-dyes to be eco-conscious. Designers like Stewart&Brown, an organic-apparel company based in California, have created clothes so stylish that celebs like Cameron Diaz and Liv Tyler have been spotted wearing them. "Our goal was to prove that it is possible for organic clothing to be fashionable and sophisticated," says Howard Brown, the company's cofounder.
One of the latest additions is clothing made from soy. Of the Earth, a clothing designer and manufacturer in Bend, Oregon, started making soy-based clothes three years ago with names like Tofu T, Miso Cute Top, and Edamame Wrap. The advantage of soy fiber is that it's soft and durable like cotton, but wicks away moisture like polyester does, so it's ideal for yoga or active lifestyle gear. It's also from non-genetically modified crops, though they're not yet certified organic.
Forward-thinking designers have helped organic clothing gain popularity. According to the Organic Trade Association, the demand for organic fibers grew more than 20 percent from 2002 to 2003, and retailers like Patagonia and Nike have begun incorporating organic cotton into their clothing lines. "There's no doubt that sustainable fashions are making headlines," Brown says. "The clothes are better for us and better for the environment, and those are benefits that cannot be ignored."