Refreshing Green Tees

Model wears design by Moral Fabric.

Yahoo News, July 28, 2008

New York - What one imagines when thinking of an eco-political "green" t-shirt is generally neither visually appealing nor stylistically stimulating- the perennial clip-art squeezed globe with a recycle symbol around it comes to mind. Yet the means by which an eco-friendly message impacts the world is usually largely due to innovative design. Spreading the "green" message should not mean giving up on style.

Recently, new breeds of t-shirt designers are emerging who combine fashion forward sensibilities while being ecologically and socially considerate as well. "We've taken extra effort to design our clothes without cheap shot political messages or cheesy catch phrases," says Joe Maluso, president of Brand of the Free, a family-run business that prides itself on its ethically-aware message. "We aren't out to point fingers or make a political statement. We also don't plan on force-feeding our agenda. We would simply like to give people a fashionable option to support America while remaining socially responsible."

The company sells t-shirts with bold graphics, colors, and slogans that, while thought-provoking, are not obvious. "Our design aesthetic is generally pretty minimal. We utilize clean lines and simple graphics to create a lasting impact. Although the graphics are fairly bold and thought provoking, the concepts usually remain quite subtle. We enjoy taking simple objects or ideas and presenting them in a surprising new way," explains designer Mike Maluso.

Promoting green ideals in this way seems to do the job of educating the t-shirt-reading public in a more intelligent, subtle and subversive manner than emblazoning the usual political mottos on one's chest.

Some designers use their messages to elevate the spirit. "Laugh Often," "Embrace Change," and "Practice Kindness" are just some of the slogans with which Tees for Change owner Andreea Ayers has inspired her clientele. "At first, the slogans were a response to some of the challenges in my life at the time. Currently, I hope that they serve as gentle reminders to think positively." Using a simple font and harmonious color combinations on organic cotton and bamboo materials, Ayers' designs not only offer an optimistic take on life but also practice doing good in the world by partnering with "Trees for Life" and planting a tree for every tee purchased.

Another eco-friendly business, Moral Fabric founded in 2004, presents designs with collage-like juxtapositions of color, line and shape. "In Moral Fabric's infancy, the aesthetic was very much influenced by nature. Lately I have been experimenting with a more 'psychedelic' approach," describes founder and designer Bobby Wiggins. "It's like streetwear for hippies!"

Aside from using organic cotton, grown either in the U.S. or in Peru under fair trade certified conditions, Wiggins adds another benefit to his green approach to business. "I have found that my customers all seem to share the common desire to do good and live a healthy and spiritual life," he says.

This kind of "giving-back" attitude is shared by Altitude Inc., a product innovation firm that has designed many well-known consumer products including the PUR water cooler and the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker. Focusing its design acumen on a good cause, Altitude has recently put together a collection of its favorite environment conscious designs on t-shirts, bags, mugs and even doggie t-shirts incorporating the Altitude logo and the message "Green is the New Black."

"Altitude developed the green t-shirt designs and messages to help promote green thinking," says Altitude's Debra Fleury. We wanted to make the message visually interesting and something that people would enjoy wearing, while they spread the message to 'think green'."

Even a simple t-shirt purchase can be philanthropic when buying green. One hundred percent of the proceeds raised by the sale of Altitude's items are donated to Sweat Equity Enterprises (SEE). Fleury explains, "SEE brings together young people and businesses for collaborations that serve as an innovation lab for companies and an unbelievable learning opportunity for teenagers."

"At the risk of sounding cliche, we should leave things better than we found them," adds Bernadette Maluso of Brand of the Free. These new designs all subscribe to this same sentiment, satisfying the consumer's environmental and fashion conscience at once.

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