Shopping local and buying organic aren't just responsible guidelines for what you put into your body — they apply to what you're putting on your body, too. Local designers are getting greener with every sustainable stitch, and each step of the process is intended to leave an ever-shrinking carbon footprint.
Nicole Rae Styer
Clothes made from scraps don't have to look scrappy. Need proof? Peep sultry, lingerie-inspired duds by Nicole Rae Styer, queen of lace-embellished gems made from vintage fabric (like a more wearable Betsey Johnson). By upcycling strips of fabric, Styer turns wardrobe staples into daring statement pieces. "A lot of my custom orders are things people have in their closet that they want revamped," she says. Her reuse of shipping boxes, hand-dying of natural fabrics and distribution at local boutiques all add to her cause. Her Passyunk Avenue boutique is set to open by the end of March. Nicole Rae Styer Boutique, 1822 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-339-0168, nicoleraestyer.com.
Thanks to Taryn Zychal, trash gets transformed into protective outerwear for people and their pets. She finds broken umbrellas and craftily transforms them into bold hoods and stylish doggie raincoats. As Recycling Zychal closes in on its second year, the titular designer is gearing up to release her latest upcycled looks, including bow ties and aprons. And the whole process, from the gutter to your mailbox, is green: This Dumpster-diver works on a curb-lifted desk, cleaning found umbrellas with natural products and shipping them in recycled cereal boxes. Nothing gets tossed. Plus, liners are made from Eco-Fi felt or vintage remnant pieces purchased from Fabric Row. "Not only does this help local stores," says Zychal, "but it also ensures uniqueness." Recyclingzychal.com.
For his apparel company, b minus, Marc Hummel creates minimalist tees that display downright adoration for the biking lifestyle. "I love bikes for the silent camaraderie that all cyclists share," says Hummel, whose screen-printed tops reflect that sensibility with slogans like "Bikes are Bisexual" and stick figures riding tandem above the phrase "Bicycles Are for Lovers." And while cycling is the eco-friendliest of all transit, advertising its importance on American Apparel tees isn't enough for Hummel. "We can always be more green," says the man who's donated nearly $400 in profits to several local bike organizations, helping improve bike lanes, teach safety and encourage community involvement. Plus, b minus packages all orders in recycled brown bags — and even delivers them by bike when possible. It's a business fueled by the cleanest energy of all: bike love. Bminusdesigns.com.
Mike and Wilder Scott-Straight
West Philly is prime breeding ground for environmentally aware artists. Husband-and-wife duo Mike and Wilder Scott-Straight promote small-batch, handmade goods by helping organize — and participating in — the new GO WEST! Craft Fest, scheduled for April 9 at Cedar Park. Designing under the name Manor House Creations, Wilder gives new life to gently worn children's clothes with charming bike patches, while Mike creates striking earrings and pendants out of broken china or sea glass found on the banks of the Schuylkill. Says Mike of his creations, "I really love that I can take dinnerware and turn it into something new and beautiful." Etsy.com/shop/manorhousecreations, vixemporium.com/go-west-craft-fest.