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How to Rock the Hay-bale: My First Fashion Show for Fibershed A.K.A. The 150-Mile Wardrobe

Posted on 02 April 2014

Recently, I walked my first runway. No, it wasn’t New York Fashion Week. It was a straw-bale runway in rural Point Reyes Station, CA. Does that challenge your idea of fashion? Make you rethink glamour? That's the point. That's why eco-visionary and author Rebecca Burgess asked friends in the fledgling eco-fashion realm to design some foxy togs - and why she asked other friends who believe in her message to model the clothes (she certainly didn’t chose me for my model-thin bod or impressive catwalk!). What's Rebecca's message? Actually it's more of a mission. A righteous, rockin’ mission, called Fibershed: One Year, 150 Miles. Rebecca wants to stretch the aesthetics of fashion to include holistic, healthy clothing. She wants you to wear clothes that heal. She does not want you to mindlessly don toxic jeans from China, where factory workers in synthetic dye factories have half the lifespan of workers in natural dye plants. She wants you to wear jeans that are good for your health – and that won't kill the world or the workers who made them, or harm you, for that matter. You know the Hundred-Mile Diet? This is "The 150-Mile Wardrobe." Rebecca dreams of a world where we wear clothes made of fibers grown and processed within 150 miles of home. She imagines non-toxic, fairly-made, organic jeans with an almost imperceptibly small carbon footprint, made of organic cotton and dyed in wholesome natural indigo. And...she thinks all of this – clothing that doesn't harm the earth, its makers or its wearers - can be haute. Stylish. Fashionable. And healthy. That crazy-sexy kook. I love her. That's why Rebecca and I have co-taught several natural dye workshops together over the years. Her mission brought out my inner, evidence-seeking scientist. (Okay, so maybe I wear my inner scientist out on my organically-made sleeve.) Rebecca inspired me to turn fashion into a science experiment. I set myself a challenge: for one year, I will only wear organic clothing. I'll use my fancy-pants, mad-doctor skillz to find the answer to this question: Will wearing organic fibers, free of endocrine disruptors and toxic metals, improve your health? I collected numbers: a few key health and hormonal indicators – estrogen levels (both good and less good types), anti-oxidant levels, and so on. That decision was a few years ago. Here's what I found in my experiment of wearing, schmearing and eating only organic – my anti-oxidant levels went up. And my estrogen metabolism improved. I just need some free time to get the data up on the website. Volunteers, anyone? BUT. As I found out (when I cleared out my toxic closet of ready-made, synthetic clothing and was left naked and shivering with only FOUR pieces making the healthy cut), exclusively wearing organic is a major challenge. We simply don’t have many local fibers, designers, manufacturers, or retailers to choose from. Which brings us back to Rebecca and her crazy-sexy mission. With this hurdle in mind, Rebecca did what any heart-centered, problem-solving, ass-kicking, organically-evangelizing entrepreneur would do. Guided by farmer and activist Sally Fox (that's Sally, rockin' the mic, in the opening shot), Rebecca planned a benefit to support a natural cotton mill in her neighborhood. She asked friends to set up a kombucha bar and provide a locavore feast for dinner. She marshaled designers making organic fashions and russled up some willing victims volunteer models. (Like moi.)

And then she hosted the whole community in West Marin at the uber-chic Toby’s Feed Barn. In so doing, Rebecca invented the answer to The Big Question, Where can I buy locally-made, organic clothes? And her answer is, RIGHT HERE. Here’s luminous Rebecca showing her 150-mile map of artful eco-fashion at the magical evening.

Here’s me, doing my best catwalk on straw bale (very lumpy!). Thank you, Paige Green, for the gorgeous photos.

------------- Interested in learning more about my one year, all-organic experiment? Sign up for my updates where I'll reveal all – even my numbers. In the meantime, tell us YOUR secrets, and let us know by dropping a comment on our Facebook page. Do you wear organic clothing? Who are your favorite designers? How do you make eco-fashion affordable? Want to create your own 150 Mile Wardrobe?

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