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Fashion Designers Leaning Toward Greener Garb

From: Grist Magazine <www.grist.org 5/16/05

All That You Can't Weave Behind

Fashion consumers tending toward greener garb Increasingly, fashionistas "don't just want to look good in their clothes, they want to feel good in their clothes," says Ali Hewson, co-creator (with her husband, U2's Bono) of eco-sensitive clothing line Edun. With a growing number of ethical and green clothing lines hitting the market and making use of renewable fibers like bamboo, soy, corn, and chitin, conscientious couture-lovers have plenty of choices. And, say the founders of earth-friendly apparel line I Wear Red Shoes, those choices are no longer limited to Birkenstocks and varying shades of beige. Even more mainstream clothiers like Nike, Armani, and British boutique Marks and Spencer are using organic cotton and hemp fibers in some of their apparel lines. People are starting to look at their clothing and ask where it came from and how it was made. Says Hewson, "We are answering a need rather than creating a new concept here." straight to the source: Financial Times, Dimi Gaidatzi, 14 May 2005 straight to the source: Houston Chronicle, Clifford Pugh, 14 May 2005
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HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Houston Lifestyle & Features

May 14, 2005

EARTH-FRIENDLY ATTITUDE

Dreaming big and seeing red New apparel company adds flair to organic fashion
By CLIFFORD PUGH

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Jodie Smajstrla and Debbie Allbritton are ladies with attitude.

So it just seemed natural that the two women with Houston ties would create a line of colorful, ecofriendly T-shirts and tank tops with such sassy slogans as "Dream big, live loud, eat well" and "Just because I wear a dress doesn't mean I can't arm wrestle."

Their mission with their new apparel company, called I Wear Red Shoes, is to make fashion-forward, earth-friendly clothing.

"That usually means Birkenstocks, beige and different shades of brown," Smajstrla says. "But it doesn't have to be that way."

What's in a name?

The name of the company? Suffice it to say it has something to do with the power of red. Smajstrla points out that Dorothy wore ruby-red slippers in The Wizard of Oz, and consider what an exciting life she led. Smajstrla also owns a pair of red velvet stilettos that "seal the deal every time," she says.

"To be a little bit sassier, you can always throw on some red."

Allbritton, 38, and Smajstrla, 37, met five years ago after Allbritton, a freelance art director, and her photographer husband, Randy, moved from Seattle to Fredericksburg in search of the simple life.

Smajstrla had migrated to the charming Hill Country town 12 years ago for the same reason after managing her mother's restaurant, Lynn's Steakhouse, in west Houston. She and her then-husband, Todd Smajstrla, opened the Lincoln Street Wine Bar in Fredericksburg in 1996.

Two of a kind The two women found out they had much in common. They both attended high school in Houston (Smajstrla was a Klein graduate, Allbritton a Lee alumna) although they did not know each other then. They both have two young daughters. They look so much alike that people constantly ask if they're sisters. Their clothing tastes are so alike they often end up at parties in similar outfits.

Smajstrla was dabbling in art, painting figures of women mouthing sassy phrases like, "You can dress right, but you can never rein her in" or "She seriously doubted she would ever be well-behaved." Allbritton helped market the paintings, and they sold well.

But Smajstrla didn't want to be "chained to a paintbrush." So they adapted the ideas for clothing and stick-on labels and found a U.S. manufacturer who specializes in ecofriendly dyes and humane working conditions.

When they opened a showroom in Dallas last fall, orders poured in. Now their clothing, which is made of 100 percent organic cotton, is featured in 46 boutiques in 12 states and three countries.

In Houston, it's available at Cotton Club and Pattywhacks; Whole Earth Provision will carry their T-shirts beginning next month. (They are also in selected Nordstrom stores but not yet in Houston.) The Whole Foods megastore in Austin will feature their T's in a new apparel department in July.

The T-shirts, in aqua, cocoa and papaya, are $36; tanks, in green pea and obsidian (black), are $29-$32. Stick-on labels are $5.95 for a package of 16. Their Web site www.iwearredshoes.com, shows examples.

Next up: Smajstrla and Allbritton want to expand into a lifestyle line of ecofriendly linens, comforters, jeans, pajamas and, yes, even red shoes. "There's a real need out there for mod, hip organic clothing," Smajstrla says. "Everybody wants to feel like they're doing something good for the planet. This is a great place to start." clifford.pugh@chron.com