Organic Consumers Association

Florida Organic Clothing Company Growing

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August 3, 2003

by Kelli Kennedy

Green is the new ³basic black² and organic has never been more in vogue- and not just on your kitchen table. Granola loving tree huggers have been buying organic produce and soy products long before Whole Foods Markets turned into the billion-dollar blockbuster supermarket chain of the new millennium. And now earth loving purists are trailblazing another eco-friendly trend - organic fiber. But don¹t think burlap sacks and monotonous colors, says Marci Zaroff, founder and president of Under the Canopy, a Boca Raton-based clothing line featuring only organic fabrics. ³When I first got into organic fibers the only options were socks, underwear and T-shirts.

Certainly nothing I was interested in wearing,² says Zaroff, sitting in her zen inspired office filled with scented candles, soothing music and feng shui designs. A self-proclaimed yoga devotee and tofu lover, Zaroff said her mantra is ³yoga off the mat, incorporating a lifestyle of balance, peace and love.² But don¹t be fooled by her love beads and free flowing hair. A graduate of University of California at Berkeley, Zaroff graduated with a degree in marketing and financing and then went on to work as a licensed financial manager. ³I¹ve always been an entrepreneur. I had my first set of business cards when I was 11,² said Zaroff, who started her own calligraphy business from the Boca Raton home she grew up in. ³But I wanted to combine my business savvy with my passion for a balanced, holistic approach to life.² ³The way we see it, we all live under the canopy of our planet¹s ecosystem.

Pollutants and harsh chemicals that need not go into the production of clothing erode this fragile canopy every day,² says a statement on Under the Canopy¹s Website. Most people aren¹t aware that it takes one-third of a pound of toxic chemicals to produce one cotton T-shirt, says Zaroff. ³You are, not only what you eat, but also what you wear because your body absorbs fibers,² said Zaroff, who frequently spouts startling statistics about fibers that can pollute the environment. For instance, 84 million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on cotton last year, she says. ³When I started, the fabric was my greatest challenge,² said Zaroff, who had few eco-friendly options to choose from. But after working with a chemist, Zaroff developed organic cotton, silk, denim and linen products, many of which are free of dye and other harsh chemicals. Now, the president of the company says the array of organic fabrics is one of the company¹s greatest blessings. Filled with pure fiber clothes designed to take customers from a morning workout to an office meeting and on to dinner on the town, Zaroff¹s line features clothing for women, men and children.

Accessories, like Eastern inspired jewelry and wooden high heels with a turquoise beaded strap complete the line. Zaroff has helped spearhead the eco-friendly fashion movement and now big name manufacturers are taking notice. Nike, Timberland and Patagonia are just a few of the clothing manufacturers going organic. ³The Organic Trade Association deserves the thanks and appreciation of all of us who are working to build and sustain the organic fiber industry,² Heidi McCloskey, a global sustainability director for Nike told the ³Ecologic Investor.² ³OTA¹s pioneering leadership is helping manufacturers like Nike meet consumer demand for products that make genuine contributions to our planet¹s health.² Zaroff meets several times throughout the year with major clothing labels, which are looking to expand into organic clothing, and says a major marketing campaign to educate consumers about organic fibers will kick off next year. She is also in the process of developing custom made fabrics of organic soy, bamboo and green tea extracts, which will be used in future clothing lines.

And the bottom line isn¹t purely economical, says Zaroff, whose business philosophy incorporates a three-pronged focus on environmental, social responsibility and financial returns. ³We had to define ourselves within the fashion world,² said Zaroff, whose clothing has been featured in Health magazine and on Barbara Walters¹ TV show ³The View.² ³Nobody¹s going to buy organic clothing just because it¹s organic. It has to look good.² But with stars like Cameron Diaz, Daryl Hannah and Bruce Springsteen sporting Zaroff¹s clothes, the company is finding its niche among the environmentally conscious of the fashion world. ³People are so disconnected from leaving the world a better place for the next generation and it¹s just so unfair and so irresponsible,² says the mother of Jade, 8, and Mason, 5. ³But we¹re giving people products where they don¹t have to compromise their lifestyle. They don¹t have to sacrifice fashion to wear organic clothing.²

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