Social entrepreneur starts eco-fashion consultancy with “Made in the USA” sustainable clothing
“Clean, cheap and domestic.” Those were the selling points for natural gas that T. Boone Pickens used when I interviewed him back in 2009 for my book Green, American Style. Since then, I’ve learned more dirt about the downside of extracting this cleaner-burning fossil fuel. But as much fervor as there is around the issue, we can’t deny that natural gas can be a good “bridge” to a coal-free future.
Sustainable living is full of trade-offs, and not just with our energy choices. We’re experiencing similar quandaries in every industry. Take apparel. Back in 1965, 95 percent of our clothing was made in America. Now we only make 5 percent of the clothes we buy. Yesterday’s Seventh Avenue apparel workers have become today’s third-world factory workers. Sadly, cheap labor is the reason most fashions are halfway affordable.
The apparel industry brings the impoverished nation of Bangladesh approximately $20 billion per year, but the women and girls who work there pay a high price for having these jobs. Many labor under dreadful conditions. Since 2005, more than 700 apparel workers have died in sweatshop fires while sewing clothing for some of the biggest US retailers.
Unfortunately, eco-friendly fashions have typically been too expensive, and not cute enough, for mainstream appeal As I said, going green is full of trade-offs. At least it has been, until now. I may have found the solution to my fashion woes: Kika Paprika (called “kika”), a clothing line created by a mother- daughter duo out of LA.
When Kim Shaw founded kika, she envisioned an “ultra-comfortable and stylish” clothing line that would allow women to look and feel great. She also wanted to provide an opportunity that would give women a way to share sustainable fashion as a business. Michele Langenberg is one such woman.
A corporate sustainability real estate executive by day, Michele also runs a kika business on the side, simply because she loves the clothes. Michele recently shared the line at a party at my house. My green-minded girlfriends admired her clothes for their purpose, while my fashion-minded friends appreciated the design appeal. (I appreciated the 50% hostess discount plus the free education and entertainment that Michele provided!)
“We use a variety of eco-friendly fabrics, including 100% organic cotton and a recycled poly-blend made from recycled water bottles,” Michele told our group. “Our ‘super-soft” Tencel fabric is made of eucalyptus pulp.” Kika also uses repurposed fabrics in their limited-edition garments, so these clothes are a means of “landfill diversion” more than just fashion.
From tread to finish, kika weaves its environmental ethic into its dyes, domestic manufacturing and other processes. The clothes carry a price tag that rivals that of stylish retailers like Nordstrom, with a personal shopping experience that came straight into my living room.
More than “clean, cheap and domestic,” kika clothes are stylish, high-quality, reasonably-priced, well-tailored and ethical.
“It feels fantastic to be able to finally have clothes that are both environmentally friendly and wearable,” said Tara Ortiz, a nutrition consultant and Shaklee distributor. “Finally there’s a way to be eco-friendly from the inside out. It’s a perfect fit.”
To view the line, visit shopkika.com/michelelangenberg.