Chicken Fried Bacon & Venison Arrives in Culver City on Monday

Husband-wife duo Whitney Flood and Julie Retzlaff are taking a break from the underground dinner scene to open Muddy Leek, a seasonable and sustainable spot in Culver City where everything from the bread to the stock is made from scratch. Lunches here will be hearty and filling with a nice selection of sandwiches and salads, but the real draw here are the eclectic dinner options like the Spicy Chicken Jjigae Soup with kimchi and poached eggs, the Juniper-Venison with foraged mushrooms, and the Chicken Fried Bacon in a lettuce cup with tomato chutney. Opens Monday, Dec. 17th. 

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A Store Full of Free & Zero Waste

A store where everything is free and a fashion line that engenders zero waste may sound like oxymorons, but, in fact, these are two very real new additions to the fashion industry. First, meet the Brooklyn Free, not to be confused with the Brooklyn Flea (the latter, remember, allows for the exchange of money and goods, while the former stays true to its moniker). “For six weeks, a group of people have been engaged in an unusual project in Bedford-Stuyvesant that they are calling the Brooklyn Free Store, where everything is available for the taking and nothing is for sale,” says the New York Times. Located on Walworth Street, near De Kalb Avenue, the fenced-in makeshift shop stocks vintage wing tips and fur coats, tomes by Plato, and a variety of other objects–most of which are donated–says the paper.

Perhaps equally unbelievable but just as legitimate is the tale of the clothing line that produces no unnecessary byproduct. “Apparel industry professionals say that about 15 to 20 percent of the fabric used to produce clothing winds up in the nation’s landfills because it’s cheaper to dump the scraps than to recycle them,” says the NYT in a separate story today. The root of the problem? The fact that clothes are cut according to patterns so whichever materials fall outside of the patters are typically deemed superfluous and therefore tossed in the garbage. Rebellion against such waste has surfaced in the form of designers reworking vintage and/or sourcing deadstock fabrics for designs so as to recycle formerly discarded fabrics.

But now the concept of cutting partners and shaping garments without wasting a single scrap is taking hold. “Next month, Parsons the New School for Design… will offer one of the world’s first fashion courses in zero waste,” while two separate exhibits focused on ‘zero waste’ will debut in New Zealand and New York (in the spring and fall of 2011, respectively), says the NYT. Both concepts may sound far-fetched at first, but if fashion can learn to embrace ‘no pants’ and 8-inch heels, why not stores where everything is free and clothing that causes no waste?

Photo via the New York Times

The Cost of Sustainable Fashion

This past week in NYC, The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan hosted a panel discussion, called “Voices in American Fashion,” between Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa, Maria Cornejo and Yoehlee Teng. Fashionologie took notes of the conversation, which covered celebrity designers, real-sized women and the alienation women thanks to fashion magazines. (Cornejo herself admits to feeling this way, saying, “I don’t even want to look at them. Anybody can make a 15-year-old model look good. It takes a lot to make a 47-year-old look good. There’s just this really big disconnect.”). The discussion got more interesting when the topic moved to sustainable fabrics.

Or, more specifically, to their affordability. “Only big companies like Target and Wal-Mart could [make it more affordable]. And if they did it, it would trickle down to us,” Cornejo says of the high price tag attached to most sustainable fabrics. So, as long as independent designers are the majority of brand heads committing themselves to using solely locally grown or sustainable fabrics and forgoing cutting costs by utilizing cheap materials or means of labor, it’s an uphill battle. But, if demand is increased exponentially, price points drop and even more individuals involved in the fabric game may begin working towards a greener practice. Fashion may never be completely sustainable, but working to promote better, more ethical fabrics is surely one step every major retailer should be taking. While H&Ms newly launched organic line may have proven not totally ‘organic,’ its fabrics were grown without hazardous chemicals and uses recycled polyesters. It’s a move in the right direction.

The Trouble With Sustainable Fashion

In light of the recent H&M controversy over using non-organic cotton (not to mention the brand’s wasteful destruction and disposal of garments that could have easily been donated to those in need), it seems prime time to clarify what exactly eco-fashion means. If such a thing were possible. “Having spent two days in Copenhagen immersed in the concept, having thought about it over the weeks since then, and having canvassed a wide variety of fashion figures, I can honestly answer … no one knows,” writes Vanessa Friedman in the Financial Times.

Friedman asked a number of fashion heavyweights about their personal understanding of the term “sustainable fashion.” Frida Giannini, creative director at Gucci, says it’s “quality items that stand the test of time.” While sartorial investments can translate to heirlooms, I’m not really buying it. What if those quality goods require non-renewable resources for manufacturing? Oscar de la Renta says, “Sustainable fashion implies a commitment to the traditional techniques, and not just the art, of making clothes.” Fine, but still no discussion of moving away from fashion’s inherently wasteful practices.

The best definition arguably comes from Anya Hindmarch, the brains behind the “I’m not a plastic bag” bags. “I would define the ideal as locally sourced materials that don’t pollute in their creation or demise (preferably recycled) and with limited transportation to achieve the completed product,” she says. Dries Van Noten offers an equally forward-thinking take on the matter. Not only should sustainability be considered on a micro, manufacturing level, “I believe, we need to consider this issue from a more macro and profound perspective.” In other words, “what was the ‘carbon imprint’ of its delivery, for example?”