The problem with hipsterdom in the witch-hunt for fakes and pretension is that no one wants to admit that they are in fact, a whole lot of hipster. Yes, all those recycled fashion clichés ring true and everyone is more art, street, environmental, and thrifty than their next Brooklyn neighbor. Ergo, if we could all just embrace that seven-letter leper, then admitting our own place as clichés in culture’s bidding war of cool will be an easier pill to swallow. So I’ll just start this off and concede to all of the above. How traitorous to the counterculture cause? Bite me. All I know is there are never enough strategically slim-fitting-low-cut eco-chic T-shirts in this stereotype’s closet. Insert Alternative Apparel’s new 100 percent organic cotton and eco line Alternative Earth to carry my hip ass on.
Out of the trunk of a car 20 years ago, Greg Alterman began his quest to bring quality T-shirts to the masses. Then in 1996, that same D.I.Y. ideal took shape when he founded the line Alternative Apparel to service those in need of vintage-inspired baby-soft classics. Since then, with a move to Los Angeles, the company has gained a massive celebrity following, been constantly compared to another provocatively advertised T-shirt bunch, and launched the green line “Earth” that matches the cool, quality, and comfort of the original. We interviewed the founder to find out what the green talk is all about.
Why did you decide to start the Alternative Earth collection?
I felt like it was my responsibility to do something for the environment. Being passionate about the world we live in (I'm addicted to the Discovery and National Geographic channels!), I see that it’s going to take monetary and emotional effort to change. Two years ago, we had nothing in the line we could call eco friendly; now we have the Earth line. We do what we can and will continue to expand the line in hopes that people out there will share our vision and dream, and help make a difference with what they wear. It’s not completely out of the question that our entire assortment one day will be made with earth conscious manufacturing. We are not 100% there yet, but we are definitely committed to promoting this line and expanding its offerings.
What makes a “green” T-shirt?
It starts with a piece of land that has been pesticide free for 6 years. Cotton is then grown on the soil (again, pesticide free), which produces 30% as much as a conventional crop. Knitting and yarn finishing are the same as conventional, but the low impact dyes are super important, as the waste is limited significantly. When low impact dyeing, most of the dye will adhere to the fabric. This type of dye is more costly and the process takes longer than conventional methods.
Your website notes that Alternative is working with two charities, Wildlife Trust and Gulf Restoration Network (GNR). How does the Earth line help promote these eco organizations' causes?
We give 10% of proceeds from Alternative Earth sales to these charities. It’s our way of making a difference.
In addition, we have many celebrities and creative people who like what Alternative Earth is all about, and have chosen to take a stand and help promote our cause. In a few months, you will be seeing our first Alternative Earth mini magazine, where we will be featuring a handful of environmentally conscious celebrities who are living greener. The magazine will promote their green efforts, new projects or charitable endeavors; and over the course of the next year, we will also be donating to each featured celeb’s charity of choice. It’s an interesting concept and we are determined to continue adding styles and categories of product to grow this line. It’s the future.
Do you think “going green” is just a fad that labels are pursuing right now because it's trendy, or do you think it will continue throughout fashion in the future?
We must make product with little to no impact on the environment. From the cotton, yarn, dye, wash, transportation, packing materials, labeling, and even promotional materials… it’s about thinking entirely green. There are steps to get there and it’s a process that takes time. We printed our newest magalog on recycled paper—sure, it was more expensive, but as the world continues to support this type of corporate evolution in green thinking, costs will come down as well. I do feel this is not a fad, more a progression in the way business will be conducted in the future. We all must be responsible for the mess we make.
“Make a difference with what you wear” is the inspiration for the Earth line. What’s next for the collection?
We have partnered with many green organizations and retail stores that get what we are doing. Not everyone is a believer that the “green movement” is here to stay. I look at it like the internet boom in the 90s. People and businesses are acknowledging it’s here and is going to affect the way all future products are manufactured in the years to come, but many are taking a wait and see approach.