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Thursday, Mar. 29, 2007 By JENNIFER CHEN
Parts of Asia may lag behind in environmental awareness, and also be home to many of the world's sweatshops, but conscientious fashionistas shouldn't despair. There's a small but growing band of designers and entrepreneurs who are using materials and production methods that are kind to the earth, while sticking to decent labor practices. If you wear your green beliefs on your sleeve, here are three Asia-Pacific labels to watch out for.
BELLE AND DEAN: Started by two British expatriates, this Singapore-based label creates organic-cotton T shirts, tank tops and baby onesies. The pesticide-free cotton is sourced from Turkey, and then shipped to a child labor-free factory in Thailand. There's also an inherent message in the garments' zoological motifs, says co-founder Issy Richardson. "Our designs are of endangered animals," she says. "That reminds people of our fragile world today." Buy from the website, belleanddean.com.
BIRD: Australia-based British designer Rachel Bending uses only water-based dyes for Bird, her range of organic cotton and linen fabrics, clothes and housewares. The brand also encourages employees to switch to solar power at home (where many of them work), and participates in schemes to offset its carbon emissions, supporting Australian solar-power and water-saving projects. Bending sees her well-made lines—typically featuring funky, retro-style patterns—as an antidote to the big, cheap fashion chains. "If something feels good, is made well and is good for the planet," she asks, "why would you throw it away?" See more at birdtextile.com.
SHOKAY: It's a little known fact, but yak undercoats actually rival cashmere, alpaca and vicuna for softness. And though yak fiber is almost exclusively used by Tibetan nomads at present, that may change if a group of young Harvard grads succeeds in raising the material's profile. Their vehicle is Shokay, a brand of scarves, throws and knitting yarns made from yak fiber sourced from poor Tibetan herder communities. A portion of the profits goes back to the herders to fund health, education and other development projects. Stay warm, and do good, by visiting shokay.com. The site lists U.S. and Taiwan stockists and also accepts orders.