Why Not Bamboo? Q&A with Eco-Fashion Designer Sara Kirsner of Doie

Sara and I get into bamboo. Check out my dress . . . it’s from the Doie spring collection!

Considering I’m on a mission to cleanse my corporate-retail past and embrace eco-fashion, I’ve decided to learn as much about environmentally friendly fabrics as I possibly can. My first lesson comes from Sara Kirsner, the talent behind Doie, a beautiful collection of Asian-inspired bamboo jersey fashions.

All of Sara’s pieces are locally produced in New York City. I got to pay a special visit to her office and observe the designer at work amongst a plethora of bamboo swatches, organic cotton samples, and many adorable dresses. After picking out my favorite one from her spring collection, Sara and I talked shop and answered the ultimate question . . . why not bamboo?

Olivia: Sara, you obviously had some pretty good gigs with very famous and well-respected designers such as Marc Jacobs and Donna Karen. What made you leave that glamorous high-fashion world and start your own environmentally-focused line?

Sara: Contrary to what people might think, high fashion is only glamorous for the fifteen minutes the clothes are on runway. Even though it’s artwork, the amount of time and effort that goes into those fifteen minutes is crazy. I wanted to create clothing that was more accessible to the “everyday” woman.

I started out using regular cotton. After my first collection was produced, I was showing it to my friend’s mom, who also owns Vivaterra, an awesome website featuring eco-lifestyle products. She loved my collection and asked if I could make a few pieces for her in a sustainable fabric such as bamboo or organic cotton. I really liked bamboo and after learning more about it I decided to continue using it for all of my future collections. My family is very environmentally conscious. It just seemed natural. After learning how environmentally disastrous cotton is, I will never go back.

Olivia: It’s funny that you say it just seemed natural, because unlike spandex or polyester, cotton is a plant fiber and is commonly thought of as being “natural” and therefore ecologically sound. In reality, however, cotton uses a massive amount of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. To top it off, developing countries waste huge amounts of precious water and fertile land to grow cotton as a cash crop to repay national debts. Simultaneously, people who live in these countries are malnourished because of the shortages of water and agricultural land.

Sara: Yes, there is that misconception. In reality, however, five of the most commonly used cotton pesticides in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are known cancer-causing chemicals and classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as Category I and II Chemicals— the most dangerous chemicals class.

Bamboo production is not completely virtuous as there are harmful chemicals used to breakdown the bamboo into fabric, but bamboo growth does not require any pesticides and is 100% sustainable.

Olivia: Fashion and environmentalism aren’t exactly two peas in a pod. Do you ever see the fashion industry fully embracing environmental practices? Is it even a possibility?

Sara: I think it’s “trendy” right now, because of the celebrity following, but I am hoping that it will be a lifestyle change for people and not a trend. Organic food was trendy at one time and now it is a choice that people make every day. I am hoping that will happen with eco-fashion.

I think if there is more demand for eco-clothing, the fashion industry will have to step up and change their practices. I think once large companies start to become more aware of how much harm they are doing, they will change some of their practices.

Olivia: Can you tell us a little more about bamboo jersey? What makes it your fabric of choice?

Sara: Besides being amazingly soft to the touch, bamboo is a highly sustainable resource. A grass, it’s the fastest growing plant in the world and doesn’t require pesticides. Bamboo is also naturally anti-microbial, which means the fabric actually prevents bacteria from growing on it, resulting in clothing that remains odor-free longer than other fabrics . . . meaning less trips to the dry cleaner, which is always a major plus for the planet and your wallet!

Olivia: So the question really is why not bamboo? Do you plan to continue to use bamboo for all of your upcoming seasons or are you going to branch out to other sustainable fabrics? If so what other fabrics are eco-friendly?

Sara: For next spring (’08), I will use bamboo, but plan to incorporate organic cotton into the collection. I think that organic cotton is a great eco-fabric and I am excited to use it.

Olivia: One last question Sara. Where can we buy your amazing designs?

Sara: If you go to my website: www.doiedesigns.com there is a list of stores where you can find my line. You can also order directly from the site.