An FIT-trained accessories designer and former fashion editor at In Style and Fitness, Liz Polden is now a Wilhelmina-repped stylist on a mission: to ensure that "the future of mainstream fashion will include gratitude and compassion for all living beings and our beautiful Earth." We asked the eco-minded expert—whose clients include vegan companies Vaute Couture and Laika Magazine, in addition to mainstream clothing brands—to talk us through her transition into ethical fashion. She also lent her stellar styling skills to creating a few eco-friendly looks for these final days of summer, plus one to take us into fall.
How did your journey into green living begin? I became an environmentalist by accident. It wasn’t until I moved from my small hometown in upstate New York and into my first New York City apartment that I faced the fact that I didn’t actually like chicken—or any other meat. They were just place-fillers, and who wants to eat a place-filler? I thought, “Let’s try eating vegetarian for one month and see how that feels.” And you know how it felt? Ah-mazing. One month became the entire summer, the entire summer became the year, and seven years later, here we are. I have more energy, better skin and less junk in the trunk (well, kinda–Italian genes are strong!).
Organic Green Juice Anonymous should for sure be meeting at my place!
My sister gave me a copy of Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano, whose practical guidelines helped me make the environment a daily priority without turning into the total hippie freak that no one likes (I’m definetly not the Birkenstock, tie-dye wearing type). I now religiously say no to plastic bags. I have my reusable bags with me at all times, no excuses. I leave the house and do the check list: phone, keys, wallet, lip balm, reusable water bottle, reusable shopping bags. My favorite bags are by Baggu because they come in such gorgeous colors and have long handles that make for a great shoulder bag, helping me schlep all my purchases. I shop locally when possible and eat as much organic produce as I can. Organic Green Juice Anonymous should for sure be meeting at my place.
How did you become an eco-stylist? Since it’s such a huge part of who I am, I brought this eco-friendly sensibility to my career. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, I launched a small clothing line with a friend called M-E. We used fair trade factories in Lima, Peru, but our clothing line didn’t get off the ground. It was sad for us, but new lines are hard work, and I realized I wanted to focus on fashion styling, where I can turn people on to existing eco-friendly clothing lines. What’s better than creating outfits for my clients that I can feel good about?
How easy is it to incorporate sustainable clothing when you're working with "regular" clients, as well as into your daily life? I’ll admit that not every outfit I own or style is made of eco-friendly materials, but whenever it can be, it is. The truth is, I find it hard to shop without thinking about our environment, knowing the fashion industry is the second most damaging element to our world behind the oil industry. Some of my clients [know and understand this], so working with fair-trade, vegan and sustainable fashion is an absolutely must. For others, I sometimes sneak in options from sustainable designers; I don’t even mention the source until the client has fallen in love with the looks.
I really believe eco-friendly fashion will be the way of the future because the new generation of consumers likes to know that everyone was paid fairly and that they have done the environment no harm. After all, what does it mean to wear a gorgeous dress when you know that the dressmaker suffered, and the environment too?
How would you describe you aesthetic in general? While I love to play dress up for a living, my go-to look is classic and chic with a tomboy edge. Most of the year, I live in simple masculine or drapey shapes in solid black, gray and white. Although, when the sun pops out, I find myself drawn to colors like neon orange, kelly green and cobalt blue in stripes or tiny patterns. I adore gold delicate jewelry and wear layered rings and necklaces practically every day.
I shop consignment stores, which is a great way to be eco-friendly. (Finding anything by Stella McCartney makes my whole day!) I also love to find small local designers, like the amazing and compassionate vegan line Vaute Couture. Some of my favorite shopping purchases have been from small eco-friendly designers I have found on Etsy or local flea markets–along with online sites with eco-friendly values like shopethica.com!
Talk us through the items you chose for the sustainable fall "preview" look you styled (shown above). The skinny jeans I adore, and that's the sustainable beaded clutch I am dying to own. The scarf makes anything look styled, and the jacket is the perfect and timeless fall coat. The earrings are delicious! Wear them for day and embrace the glam with a jeans-and-tee look.
For more green living tips from this cool lady, follow Liz's new blog,goinggreenster.com.