Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on November 24, 2008
LA-based designer Deborah Lindquist has been a fixture on the green fashion scene since, well, before there was one. A grand dame of green, she was repurposing and recycling vintage items while some of her A list clientele – Gwen Stefani, Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton et al – were still in diapers. Lindquist’s designs are as body conscious as they are ethically savvy. Part couture, part ready-to-wear and completely environmentally fabricated, her signature items include recycled cashmere sweaters, gorgeous yet edgy scarves, fingerless gloves and other accessories, as well as the exquisitely crafted green wedding dresses.
A graduate from the Parsons School of Design, Lindquist began designing in New York in back in 1983. Her first ever creation was a belt made from recycled leather, I imagine it was quite a novelty in an era that celebrated conspicuous consumption. But breathing new life into old clothes came naturally to a girl who grew up in a farm in Minnesota. In 1990, Lindquist headed to the City of Angels and began experimenting with bustiers made from vintage jackets. The bustiers, which were a big hit in the 90s, have enjoyed a comeback of late. The burlesque singing troop the Pussycat Dolls, are fans of the shoulder skimming, cleavage enhancing numbers. In fact, the bustiers have served Lindquist very well. They are also the centerpiece for her green wedding collection; a smash hit among socially responsible bride and grooms to be.
Living on the West Coast has certainly influenced her style. Lindquist’s sought after cashmere sweaters come in sleeveless varieties because “LA girls want to show skin at all costs”. Another by-product of living in Lalaland? Getting up close and personal with celebrities. Although Lindquist is well aware of the power celebrity can bring — demonstrated by Sharon Stone donning her Skull and Bones cashmere cardigan which sent sales through the roof – she’s not beholden to them. If celebrities dig it, great. If not, it’s business as usual. A business that now also includes a recently opened flagship store in the trendy North Hollywood Arts District.
Lindquist’s current collection boasts “a few pre-loved fabrics that have become staples in her collection such as: cashmere, kimono, sari, scarf, wool, leather, and lace”. She is also experimenting with some new textiles such as “hemp blends, organic cotton, peace silk, modal blends, and soy chiffon”. When asked about the “greenness” of some of these new vegetable fabrics, Lindquist is refreshingly frank. Soy, for example, has its downside. Although the fiber is spun from waste generated by tofu manufacturing, soy is often genetically modified and requires pesticides and herbicides. The latter is a particularly sensitive issue for Lindquist, whose father almost lost his leg to pesticides after a mishap on their farm. Other interesting fibers debuting in her current collection are “peace silks”. Whereas conventional silk is made by “boiling the intact cocoons and unwinding the single silk strand onto reels”, peace silks allow the moth “to emerge from their cocoons and to live out their full life cycle”.
Crunchy greenies may wince at the mere suggestion of animal fibers, however Lindquist is philosophical about them. As long as the animals are well treated, de-hairing a goat for cashmere or shearing a sheep for wool is about as natural as it gets.
Travel serves as an inspiration to Lindquist. She’s been getting her fill of late. Lindquist recently traveled to Paris, as one of the three American designers chosen for the Ethical Fashion Show and has been invited to partake in Esthetica in London. When asked whether the Europeans are ahead of us, Lindquist replied: “They ask a lot more questions”. Interesting. As the bandwagon continues to grow, I have feeling green will be subject to more scrutiny here too.
So what’s next for LA’s answer to Katherine Hamnett? Two words: Spring 2009. But after that she’ll turn attention expanding her wedding line, children’s line and dog line. Lindquist is also excited by the possibility of lower-priced ready-to-wear line (yippee) as well as swimwear – after all, what’s a socially responsible bride supposed to wear on her honeymoon? I’ll leave you with this talented designer’s answers to out G pop quiz:
The worst examples of green washing are…jumping on the green bandwagon without knowing what you are using, where it comes from, where it’s been manufactured, whether the workers have been treated fairly and paid reasonably… basically jumping in without knowledge.
The biggest threat to the planet right now is…global warming.
The planet can be saved if…we all do something, no matter how small. In my case, that’s making clothes, eating organic, driving a Prius and recycling.