It’s one thing for a big clothing retailer to launch an eco-friendly capsule collection (as Target did in April with the 100%-organic-cotton Loomstate for Target by CFDA-award-winning designer Rogan Gregory and partner Scott Mackinlay Hahn). It’s quite another to make going green an ongoing commitment. But a few major mall stores are making the effort, both through the clothes on their racks and the way they do business. A PR move? Maybe. But it’s one that’s paying big dividends in protecting the planet—and producing some fabulously affordable sustainable styles in the process.

For hip, color-drenched, comfy basics (and the occasional sparkly little some’n-some’n), we love Swedish-based H&M. These days, H&M’s efforts toward sustainability are giving us even more to love. For one thing, the company updates its restricted chemicals list on a regular basis, ensuring that its garments are safer to wear, safer to make, and safer for the environment; like our own Big List, their list of no-nos includes lead, mercury, formaldehyde and PVC. To reduce its carbon footprint, H&M now also requires that transport companies instruct at least 75% of their drivers in eco-driving practices, restricts the sulfur content in diesel vehicles used to transport product and requires that its transport companies ban vehicle idling for more than one minute.

As for those trendy tops and bottoms for which H&M is internationally adored, they’re getting greener, too. In 2009, the company plans to use 3,000 tons of organic cotton, which is ten times more orgcot than it used just three years ago. And it’s a member of the Organic Exchange—an organization that promotes the use of organic cotton worldwide. H&M also is incorporating recycled PET bottles, recycled cotton remnants and other second-time’s-a-charm materials into some first-rate warm-weather essentials. Unfortunately, because their stores are so full of goods, it’s difficult to find their sustainable offerings, and you still can’t order H&M clothing online. Green tag special, anyone?

At Banana Republic, purveyor of what they call “accessible luxury” and what we like to think of as well-priced, nicely tailored classics, green is gaining traction. The retailer launched its Green collection in 2008, and has laid out a series of eco initiatives intended to protect and conserve. This summer, Banana Republic introduces Heritage for Women, a rather sexy (for conservative BR, anyway) collection of deliciously drapey, dare we say slinky, tops, pants and dresses—90% of which use sustainable fabrics and trims. We especially love the 48% soy-silk leopard-print halter pictured below—the perfect top for summer evenings al fresco. In addition to its newest eco collection, Banana Republic is devoting itself to cleaner, greener manufacturing and packaging practices. No, they don’t yet offer organic cotton denim, but at least the company’s Denim Clean Water Program requires the laundry facilities that dye and treat its denim pieces to adhere to strict rules governing water discharge. Sadly, although the Heritage collection is easy to find online, we were unable to find it in stores—apparently only a few locations actually carry the line, but we’re hoping that will change when they launch the next installment this fall. Saturday-evening-wear in eco-friendly fabrics and good ol’ Sunday jeans that are easier on the Earth? That’s a weekend we can appreciate.

Infused with New York’s signature style sensibility, but sensitive to the ecology of the wider world: That’s the vision behind pureDKNY’s organic capsule collection, new for spring/summer. Part of designer Donna Karan’s modern, understated, casual-chic line and available in DKNY boutiques nationwide, the collection includes sheer cotton dresses, jersey tank tunics and floor-length dresses in organic cotton, linen and recycled nylon. Prices start at $55 and top out at $375, which makes these pieces not just eco-friendly, but economy-friendly, too. The looks are simple, casual and, frankly, not the most exciting, but the semi-sheer, black organic-linen shrug and the cool, white organic-cotton cozy are perfect eco-options to throw over a (perhaps a little more racy) summer sundress. But designer Karan isn’t just making environmentally friendly clothes. With the Urban Zen Foundation, the organization she co-founded with British designer Sonja Nuttall, she’s also healing the world we live in by promoting natural health and nutrition, child empowerment and preservation of endangered cultures around the globe.

Yes, these are still big brands with far-from-stiletto-sized carbon footprints. No, none of them are discussing Fair Trade certification. But these small changes mean potentially eye-opening fashion options presented on a global scale. And we think that’s worth talking about.

—Natasha Garber

Natasha Garber is the former editor of Los Angeles Family magazine. Currently, she is a contributor to numerous bridal, event and lifestyle publications across the country, where she covers green events and event planning, sustainable catering and cuisine, and fashion and design trends. A mother of two and passionate proponent of eco-conscious family living, Natasha lives, writes, parents, plays and makes fresh, organic, totally delicious baby food in Los Angeles.

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