At Eco Fashion Week, clothes to make Mother Nature happy

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Newspaper ballgowns, recycled plastic sandals and coats made of wool from happy and free sheep – designers are showing clothes to make Mother Nature smile at GreenShows Eco Fashion Week.

After a first run last September, the event s second fashion week kicks off on Sunday, with 10 designers sending models down runways at an East Village building in New York City.

Even the location is environmentally friendly, complete with LEED-Gold certification – a high standard of environmentally sustainable construction.

Models will strut their stuff for four days for GreenShows, timed to coincide with stylistas and tastemakers from around the fashion world flocking to New York City to view Autumn-Winter 2010 collections on display at Bryant Park.

While designer superstars, including Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs and Catherine Malandrino, prepare to unveil their latest collections at New York Fashion Week, Samatha Pleet is putting the final touches on her line.

The 28-year-old designer is planning to show 35 pieces next Tuesday at Eco Fashion Week, which is co-sponsored by natural cosmetics manufacturer Weleda and features hair and makeup demonstrations on the sidelines of the shows.

You see this parka, it has a cracked paper look, she said, pointing to a light brown matte jacket.

It s silk created in China, buried in mud for two months, and then they use yams to dye the silk. It s a traditional Chinese method, the Pratt Institute graduate added.

Alongside the coat hangs a bustier dress made from a recycled polyester micro-fiber that looks like suede and a silk blouse dyed with pigments derived from pumpkins and red fruit.

Pleet showed visitors flannel capes lined with organic wool.

This organic wool comes from Vermont, no chemicals are used and the sheep live a happy and free life. They only use pigments, no (chemical) dye, she added.

Gary Harvey, a British designer who will be showing his recycled material line, has big plans in mind.

I believe we can contribute to an ethical fashion revolution, he said.

Harvey created a sensation in London in 2007, when he showed a couture-inspired tutu dress with a skirt made entirely from 30 copies of the Financial Times newspaper.

At the Kaight boutique in Chinatown, Kate McGregor proudly displayed items by many of the eco-friendly designers who will present their work at GreenShows.

She also sells Vivienne Westwood shoes from a collaboration between the eccentric British designer and Brazilian brand Melissa.

Fresh from collaborations with France s couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier, Melissa s factories are world specialists in the use of Mel-flex a flexible and sustainable plastic material used in shoes that range from ankle boots to high-heeled, peep-toe slingbacks.

Melissa has a closed loop system, no waste is generated (and) Mel-flex is a non-toxic plastic, McGregor explained.

According to the Brazilian company s website, Melissa shoes use no animal products and the manufacturer vows to treat its workers well and pay them fairly.

GreenShows organizer Eric Dorfman said he was surprised by the event s success.

I did not expect such a result. I had the idea to get eco fashion brands together and to do fashion shows, he said.

Eco is more than a way of producing clothes, more than fair trade or fair pay. It s about consciousness of life.

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