In a more than 50 billion dollar per year industry, millions of couples take the plunge into matrimonial bliss without even realizing that their walk down the aisle packs a significant environmental punch. Alongside travel plans and decorations, traditional wedding attire greatly impacts the planet. However, a growing trend is on the rise, thanks to eco-conscious couples who choose to embrace conflict-free diamonds, soy inked invitations, and ‘green’ bridal wear.
From dresses fashioned with sustainable fibers to recycled vintage creations, an arsenal of bridal couture designers and businesses have answered the call for an eco-friendly marital experience – literally breathing ‘new life’ into the industry. With pioneers, such as Adele Wechsler, whose Eco Couture II collection caters to “brides who care about the world in which they live,” green wedding choices are less complicated to make.
“Natural weddings are becoming easier and easier for people to plan, as the availability of eco alternatives to such things as wedding attire, catering, and invitations continues to expand and become more and more sophisticated. A woman no longer has to sacrifice any of her personal style to embrace an eco friendly gown,” says Crystal Miller, of Conscious Clothing.
A one-of-a-kind wedding dress that takes into consideration the personal beliefs of a bride not only creates magical memories, but also celebrates a way of life – one that includes a respect and love for their natural surroundings and planet. For Conscious Clothing, which has worked with sustainable fabrics since 1995, personalized requests have included a flamenco dancer who wished to perform in her wedding dress during the reception.
The Emergence of Hemp Silk
An increasing number of designers are learning how to harness the versatility of natural materials, such as incorporating hemp silk into their eco-friendly bridal designs. Jessica Iverson, who started out in the business carving a niche for herself with fashionable wedding gowns for expectant mothers, recognizes the popularity of hemp silk. “I see more and more hemp silk wedding gowns being offered. It’s a beautiful fabric with an incredible sheen and texture, [and] sumptuous drape,” says Iverson, “and given that it’s completely sustainable, biodegradable, and dye free in the ivory color, you really can’t ask for a more beautiful, and environmentally friendly fabric!”
Offering a range of luxurious hemp silks, natural silk satin, silk chiffon, and silk shantung, Iverson produces ‘green’ bridal wear with imported laces and hand beading. Customization for all gowns are provided, including her high-end, luxury Spring ‘09 Collection favorite, Meghan, which features alternating layers of silk chiffon and silk shantung from top to bottom that creates an alluring mermaid silhouette.
Green Wedding Couture as an Art Form
While peace silk and hemp materials are used to create bridal couture, some eco-friendly designers transform previously worn dresses into recycled works of wearable art, or add personal touches to new concepts. Finding a unique use for your grandmother’s brooch or incorporating the beading of your mother’s wedding dress also keeps in line with a ‘green’ wedding approach.
The movement towards green bridal couture is one steeped in personalization and one-of-a-kind designs. “As people are becoming more educated on the way products are manufactured, they cannot ignore it, so they incorporate their learnings into all aspects of their lives, including their weddings,” states Anna Mkhitarian (founder of Annatarian).
When making some of her bridal gown creations, Mkhitarian has perfected the art of incorporating sentimental pieces of clothing and jewelry. Annatarian produces eco-friendly wedding dresses and accessories that have been worn at the Grammy Awards and the Oscars; decorated the pages of luxury publications; and graced the catwalks of cultural fashion shows.
Alternative Eco-Friendly Trends
Green bridal couture doesn’t always come straight off the racks of the latest designers. Some brides choose to follow an alternative eco-friendly trend and purchase a previously worn dress that has been donated to companies, such as the Bridal Garden – the only non-profit bridal boutique in New York City. The rewards of dresses from the Bridal Garden are two-fold. Resold at a deep discount, profits are donated to aid the education of local children.
At The Frock, brides can browse a collection of vintage rewear hailing from the days of Victorian, Edwardian, and flapper fashion, which includes a 1930’s Harlow-era floral fantasy ($4,700). Other green wedding dress opportunities include recycled selections at Brides Against Breast Cancer, Vintage Indie, and Oui, je le voeux.
While trends in bridal fashion come and go, it seems that incorporating sustainable materials or following an eco-friendly approach while wedding dress hunting is here to stay. “I think the sentimental aspect, as well as people wanting to exemplify their beliefs on one of the most special days of their lives is why the trend [eco-friendly wedding couture] is here,” says Mkhitarian (of Annatarian). “Brides want a little more than a beautiful dress.”
By Yona Williams