New technology that makes clothing from the polyester fibers from recycled bottles and organic cotton grown without pesticides may prove that being environmentally conscious and staying hip can walk hand-in-hand.
SAO PAULO -- For young Brazilians worrying about the latest fashions, the dangers of polluting rivers and oceans with billions of plastic bottles and tons of pesticides may seem a distant concern.
But new technology that makes clothing from the polyester fibers from recycled bottles and organic cotton grown without pesticides may prove that being environmentally conscious and staying hip can walk hand-in-hand.
During this month's Sao Paulo Fashion Week, the biggest fashion event in Latin America, a group of local designers displayed several glamorous gowns made from recycled materials, known as e-fabrics.
"It's a great idea. It's a way of educating people and making them think more about these issues," said Ruth Marshall-Johnson, an associate editor with the Worth Global Style Network research and fashion news service.
The recycled bottles also are used to produce materials that serve as filling for matelasse fabric, ties and lapels. Collecting the bottles also generates income for thousands of poor Brazilian families.
Technological fabrics will be responsible for great changes in the business, said Gloria Kalil, one of Brazil's top fashion consultants.
"From now on, the industry will have to consider the environment. Otherwise, who's going to buy things that are damaging for the planet?" she said.
Marshall-Johnson agreed. She pointed out that the Internet has become a powerful tool for consumers to investigate whether what they wear utilizes slave labor or involves fabrics produced in a manner that is not ecologically friendly.
Commercially, producing certain e-fabrics such as organic cotton can lead to extra cost for the consumer of up to 20 percent.
"Organic cotton costs more to grow, but people don't realize that regular cotton is the worst crop for the environment because of the amount of pesticides it requires," said researcher Selma Fernandes, from the Institute E, a nongovernmental organization sponsoring the fabrics project.
"These pesticides end up killing butterflies and birds and pollute rivers."
This year, designer Raquel Davidowicz, of the fashion house UMA, created her first collection of clothing for the catwalk made from organic cotton and bamboo fibers.
"We were looking for new fabrics and chose these exactly because they are not harmful for the environment," Davidowicz said. "We are aware that they are trickier to sell."
Specialists say it might take five years for the trend to catch up and for more people to start to pay the premium price for clothes made from e-fabrics.
"The designers were interested in taking part in this project. Now we hope to create the desire among consumers to purchase this type of clothing," Fernandes said.