Eco-friendly fashion in Chicago

August 28, 2009 (CHICAGO) Clothing made from bamboo or plastic bottles may not sound appealing -- or comfortable. But once you experience it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

At two years old, Pivot in the city's warehouse district claims to be Chicago's oldest destination spot for eco-friendly fashion. Owner Jessa Brinkmeyer wanted Chicagoans to experience what was already popular in New York and L.A.

"A place where people could come in, touch the fabrics, try things on, interact with the fabrics and really fall in love with the concept," said Brinkmeyer.

All of the items are made from organic cotton or fast-growing materials like bamboo. There are also recycled and repurposed items, like this construction barrel turned tote bag. Brinkmeyer says one of the biggest challenges to growing the eco-fashion movement has been changing preconceptions.

"Most of the time when people heard eco-friendly fashion, they thought boring or hemp sack or hippie-like if you will, but these designers are really proving that these fabrics could be used in beautiful ways," said Brinkmeyer. "You don't have to sacrifice anything in terms of style, comfort, personal taste in order to have a more conscious wardrobe."

From smart shirts to stylish jeans, men can get their picks at "Connect Chicago." The Milwaukee Avenue store has only been open a few months. Nate Lindsay, one of three co-owners, says shoppers have welcomed their arrival.

"There are people that do shop our store, shop our brand just because it's eco-friendly and socially-responsible. I'd say the majority of people, they'd shop it either way just because the fashion is that good," said Lindsay.

The store also has its own house brand called Artless.

" We're using organic blanks made in the USA, made in Pennsylvania, and we're embellishing them with reclaimed surplus materials from a warehouse over on the west side in the city. Then we hire local creatives to cut and sew for us," said Lindsay. All the dyes that are used are environmentally friendly.

Of course, kids have to be fashion-forward, too. At Nat and Helen's you can find all things baby.

"People think that it's going to be a lot more expensive than it is. People think that there's going to be a really high premium for that and people are pleasantly surprised when they see the price points," said Mandi Altepeter, owner, Nat and Helens.

Altepeter said she tries to educate customers on the benefits of buying organic.

"Conventionally-grown cotton takes about a third of a pound of chemicals to make enough cotton for one t-shirt and all of those chemicals they can end up in the soil, the water, they can endanger the wildlife. So if we can use those same materials but without those chemicals, it's better for the environment and ultimately for the people who are wearing it," said Altepeter.

Pivot Boutique

1101 W. Fulton Market

Chicago, IL 60607


Connect Chicago

1330 North Milwaukee Ave.

Chicago, IL 60642

Nat and Helens

3125 N. Broadway

Chicago IL 60657

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