Fashion Week Highlight: John Patrick Organic, Fall 2008

February 11, 2008

I crossed under the scaffolding on a wet, gray Friday to enter the Bryant Park Hotel where a small crowd had gathered by the elevator, chatting about everything from the rain outside to Hillary Clinton’s pants-suits. I wondered if we were all headed to the same show – I couldn’t imagine the typical fashion-week crowd, ambling around in their furs and expensive-logos, getting excited by anything “eco”. Funny thing was, that on any other winter it would be snowing as opposed to raining. February in New York is typically a slushy mess, but – as we know – our planet is changing – and, being a physical part of it, so must we.

JPO Vest

Once inside the loft, a simple set of raw, wooden benches with recycled felt cushions lined the sides of the runway. The lighting was bright and sunny, and the room was getting packed. John Patrick ran around, saying hello to everyone and offering water. “You’re the one with the blog!” he said to me. “I grow my own organic cotton in the Peruvian jungle, and I recycle wool. I have offices in three different countries and I don’t even use computers!” He must have had some coffee. A suited DJ with classic Ray-Bans readied the turn-tables.

Apparently, John Patrick has mastered the art of turning old bed sheets into chic shirts, using harmless and natural dyes, and like Bono’s ‘Edun’, ORGANIC is comprehensive in it’s approach to labor. He travels around the world, training his factory workers to mill the organic crop into fibers and to maintain sustainable, local cottage hand-production industries.


The menswear featured on the runway had a casual and bucolic, private-school feel. John Patrick’s home in the Hudson River Valley surely played a role in inspiring these rustic looks from the recycled wool herringbone pants and recycled alpaca, storm-dust gray, short-tie to the organic cotton and recycled-wool, kelp-green vest. Another highlight was a gorgeous, organic jungle-cotton henley.

We talked briefly about our common taste for folk-rock, his work methodology, and his motivations. “We make sexy, modern organic clothes for the sexy, modern organic world…to look at ORGANIC and see only clothes is to miss the point: the clothes reflect a lifestyle. To wear them is to vote for the radically modern concept that luxury isn’t about stuff, it’s about integrity.”

JPO4 While we disagree in some areas, specifically on the use of new wool and leather (aside form recycled wool, which I have no problem with, he uses new ‘organic’ Vermont wool and vegetable-tanned cow skin), our vision for a paradigm shift within the industry is mostly united. More and more, the symbology of ‘cool’ and ‘luxury’ is changing, albeit a resistance of status-quo financial interests, and continual waves of color-by-number designers, stylists, and writers who haven’t been exposed to anything but a traditional and dangerous ideology of garment production and it’s equally dangerous iconography.

Let’s be honest; prototypical fashion designers do not concern themselves with ethical issues of ecologicalJPO3 sustainability, social responsibility, and animal exploitation. Some do, however – recently, fur seems to have made a come-back, and even while a psudo-defiant celebration of infantile self-gratification seems to overwhelm the fashion industry’s most influential – there is a growing rebellion that has yet to be embraced as the true calling of the iconoclast. Designers such as Vivian Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Betsey Johnson, Benjamin Cho, Charlotte Ronson, Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Comme des Garçons, Linda Loudermilk, Jay McCarroll, Richard Chai and Marc Bouwer have all banned fur from their designs. Michael Kors and Donna Karen, take note. For more on fur, click here.

Furthermore, organizations like the ICC, UN, and ILO provide standards in working towards sustainability and social justice.
>> Go to ILO

There is a new generation of people (not ‘consumers’) who really care about where their clothes come from and what lives they affect. The important thing is that SSA (Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Animal Advocacy) is no longer just a noble concept to put into action – it is literally crucial for the very existence of the fashion industry.

DB’s Etiquette Recommendation: We live on a finite planet (that means there are limits, not infinite resources) and the typical production model for fashion and most other industries is a linear one. All things considered, common sense tells us this is bound to self-destruct. Watch this video to get a better understanding. It’s high time for the rest of the fashion industry to evolve or die off. The stakes are high, but the reward is the sustenance of fashion itself.

Check back soon for my interview with John Patrick.

*Photos courtesy of Paper Magazine

Soft Spot: ‘White Gold’ & Partybots

February 2, 2008



Who doesn’t want awesome, organic tee-shirts with illustrations of dorks, animals, robots and skulls? I know I do…


Karl Addison, designer and artist, started Partybots “out of a love of clothing and art that would break the norm“, and that he did. In 2003, Karl gave two friends tee-shirts with Robots on them. Obviously, this was magical, and the rest is history. His humor and warmth penetrate even the website. Check it out!

“The colors, placement, effects and more continually evolve, the end result being work that’s always one-of-a-kind—even when it’s reproduced. All of my printing, painting and production is done in-house by me. This allows me to use a variety of media—clothing, bags, books, posters, textiles—and easily create custom work.” – Karl Addison

He uses soy inks, water-based glues, organic and eco-blend apparel, and low-impact color-dyeing. Who needs Urban Outfitters (with their right-wing President) when we have people like Karl Addison making original clothing-art? Karl is certainly a Discerning Brute. Thumbs up.


“One of the most staggering disasters of the twentieth century”UN official statement about the conventional cotton industry.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently, “whats wrong with cotton? It’s a plant!”. When I think of cotton, I imagine tucking my knees up under a soft tee-shirt, white cotton-candy-puffs growing in a field, and those incredibly melodramatic “cotton, the fabric of our lives” commercials. Whose lives are they referring to? Ours? When we look more closely, we’ll see that the fabric of many peoples’ lives is falling apart due to that fibrous, little cloud-like plant.


Gentlemen, the switch to organic cotton we see happening in so many clothing lines is not just a hip trend or buzz-word to sell products. I do not believe it is a passing fad either. ‘Organics’ is here to stay – and for good reason. Organic, fair-trade cotton has some real legitimacy when the social and ecological devastation caused by conventional cotton industry is considered. Toxic dust from pesticides and thirsty plants are destroying aquatic ecosystems and causing TB and cancer-rates to skyrocket in Uzbekistan. The social injustices have even led to murdered cotton laborers, who were shot by state security in 2005 while protesting their treatment. Educate yourselves (it’s sexy).

Did you know:

  • Uzbekistan is the second-largest exporter of cotton in the world
  • It takes about 530 gallons of water to produce 1 tee-shirt
  • The Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth largest inland lake, providing the region with fish and water, has shrunk to 15% of its original size due to cotton production
  • Up to one third of Uzbekistan’s workforce is made to labour on cotton farms; denied ownership of the land they work, and forced to labour without reasonable wages
  • In Uzbekistan, laborers are unable to opt out of cotton cultivation — those who try are subject to violence, imprisonment and intimidation
  • Much of the cotton comes from child labor

Watch this video:

DB ‘s Etiquette Recommendation: Read labels and take responsibility for how you vote with your dollar. Refuse to buy cotton products coming from socially and environmentally destructive situations. Spread the word and support fair-trade and organic products.