City Park will host its annual Earth Day festivities on Tuesday (April 25) from 4 to 7 p.m., featuring exhibitors showing eco-friendly products, activities for children, cooking demonstrations and food. The celebration will take place on the plaza in front of the Oscar J. Tolmas Center, 5 Victory Ave.
In recent years, it’s gotten a little easier to be eco-conscious in New Orleans. There are several local stores offering products made with sustainable practices, organic and and fair trade ingredients. In honor of Earth Day, we caught up with Jamie Menutis, owner of Green Serene, a Magazine Street boutique specializing in ethically made women’s clothing and accessories.
Eco-friendly fashion has come a long way in the eight years since Menutis opened Green Serene. This transcript was edit for length and clarity.
We last talked to you about eco fashion in New Orleans about eight years ago. Has it grown since then?
I think that it’s grown immensely since 2009. We were just getting a feel for it. And when people used to come in the store, we used to have to explain to them our concept and what we do. Now, eight years later, people really do get it and really understand it. We’ve broadened it to become more than just eco fabrics or sustainable fabrics. We’ve added fair trade, locally made and made in the U.S. products.
What’s contributed to the popularity of sustainable fashion?
I think people are becoming more aware of the clothing and getting more used to the idea. That’s why it doesn’t seem like something so unattainable. It’s about awareness. The prices also have come down. When it first started, sustainable clothing was not so cute and very expensive. It’s come a long way. … There’s a lot more sustainable clothing being made (so there are more options).
What fabrics are commonly used to make eco-friendly clothing today?
Organic cotton, which isn’t grown with pesticides, and then we have a lot of bamboo clothing. (Bamboo) needs very little water to grow. It’s a nice fabric and has a lot of nice properties to it. It keeps people cool when it’s warm out, and the opposite when it’s cold, and it’s antimicrobial. It feels like silk. People love it, and mostly what they notice about the clothing is the way that it feels compared to other clothing. … If we have any polyester, it’s a recycled polyester and usually mixed with organic cotton. Eco-friendly clothes feel so good on them that people get spoiled.
You mentioned that you’re now featuring more clothing made in the United States. Is it hard to find sustainably made brands here?
Clothing is made all over. Eighty percent is made in China. The U.S. used to have a much bigger clothing industry. Now it’s coming back a little. I’m trying to support it, but I do have clothing from every country — Nepal and all over the world. It’s really important to support American designers.
Fabric, where it’s made and how it’s made, is all important to me. It’s really a mission. If you want to make a lot of money, I would say this isn’t what you want to jump into. If it’s your mission, and you love it, it’s a joy every day.
Have you always been conscious of the origins of your clothing?
No, I haven’t always been conscious of what I wear. I’ve probably been like everyone else and just wanted to find things that were cute for the day and may or may not wear it again. I started to learn more about (eco fashion), and once my consciousness became more raised about the conditions and what’s going on in the environment, I realized it was very difficult to find clothing that isn’t made that way. This all happened after Hurricane Katrina, when I was living in Texas and thinking about starting a business.
When I came back, I wanted to start something that was different. … I’m happy to see that other shops now are doing similar things, and we could all complement each other. It kind of happened organically. There are some new (sustainable fashion and accessories) stores that have popped up across the city.
We’re all friends, we all know each other, and we all want to support each other.
Those stores include:
- Green Serene, 2041 Magazine St.
- Up/Unique Products, 2014 Magazine St.
- Passion Lilie, 3207 Burgundy St.
- Branch Out, 2022 Magazine St.
- Cocoally New Orleans Boutique, 630 St. Ann St., 1330 Prytania St.
- Zuka Baby, 3248 Severn Ave., Metairie
- Queork, 838, Chartres St.
The next time you’re cleaning out your closet think of this: Americans toss out a whopping 10.5 million tons of clothing annually, sending discarded jeans, jackets, blouses and shirts into landfills, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. Between 1999 and 2009, the amount of post-consumer textile waste in the United States grew by 40 percent, and Americans recycle or donate only about 15 percent of their used clothing to charity or textile recyclers.