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Putting the planet in your underpants

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today Jan 22, 2009
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PARIS, Jan 22, 2009 (AFP) - "If you don't know what's in your knickers, should you be wearing them?" asks a short film showing at Paris' lingerie show this week, the globe's premier underwear event.


The Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris - Photo : AFP

After foods, cosmetics and street-clothes, the shift to organic has finally hit lingerie -- the cutting edge of female seduction that cannot stand the slightest compromise on style.

"Green is out of the closet," said Karine Lebreton of trendspotters Promostyl. "Green is glam."

Long seen as frumpy, dowdy and dull, green-friendly lingerie is hitting shop-shelves in the form of sexy satin or silk bras and briefs, and other lacy bits and pieces.

"People think eco is hemp or granola-looking," said British designer Jenny White of lingerie firm Eco-Boudoir.

"We make eco sexy," said the founder of the two-year-old firm that sells to top department stores such as Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and Le Bon Marche.

Her eye-catching undies, featuring sultry reds and blacks, ranged from tiny briefs to structured bras and spicy eyemasks -- in organic silk, organic cotton, bamboo or lenpur, a new textile fibre made from white fir wood pulp.

"People should know what's in their knickers because the textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world," said White, who produced the campaign film at the lingerie fair highlighting the ugly side of undies and viewable at www.morethanprettyknickers.com

-- There was no seductive ethical lingerie --

A pair of pants, it says, produces 18 kilos (39 pounds) of CO2E, the standard measure of carbon footprint, while 20,000 litres (quarts) of water are used to produce every kilo (2.2 pounds) of cotton.

"I care about the planet," said 32-year-old White. "I eat organic food, I use organic cosmetics, I wanted to set up a company without trashing the planet. We are running out of water, running out of oil. We have no choice. I want to wear things that are ethical and beautiful."

But of all fashion, lingerie is the most difficult to make, often requiring some 30 different bits of fabric. So no wonder manufacturers have hesitated on adding to the sale price by going more expensively organic.

"I think all manufactures are beginning to do what is necessary to marry their style with organic considerations," said Jina Luciani at just-established French firm Occidente.

"Now we have organic cotton but also organic satin and lace, and we're looking at organic elastic, said Luciani, who said her 100-percent fair trade underwear and loungewear aimed at cosmopolitan-thinking women who cared about the planet but wanted to be chic.

"There was no seductive ethical lingerie available for such women," she said. "Yet organic fabrics are soft and comfortable on the skin."

So is eco underwear here to stay, and will it hit the mainstream?

"This is more than just a niche market," said Florence Peyrichou, the lingerie specialist at trendspotters Promostyl.

"After all these years of flourish, excess, extravagance and bling-bling, people want a return to simplicity, softness and natural well-being."

"Because lingerie is so close to the skin, people are looking for something soft, this is a trend that will grow with time."by Claire Rosemberg

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