Loomstate's Scott Mackinlay Hahn on Eco-Chic, Alpaca, and Sustainability

scott mackinlay loomstate
Photo courtesy of Loomstate
Loomstate designer Scott Mackinlay Hahn

Eco-friendly used to be a dirty word in fashion. It brought to mind burlap-sack-like fabrics, dull colors, and unflattering shapes. But, as we all know, that's changed considerably over the last decade. Eco chic really is chic.

One of the pioneers of sustainable and environmentally friendly threads, Scott Mackinlay Hahn, the co-founder of labels Rogan and Loomstate, has been on the cutting edge of the movement for most of this last decade. He answered FashionEtc's burning questions about how to be more green, why alpaca is so very in, and what being eco actually entails.

How have people's perceptions of eco-friendly and sustainable clothes shifted over the years?

It's certainly on the cultural radar now that it's proven clothes can be rooted in both style and responsible production.

Has it become easier to design and manufacture eco-friendly clothing?

Designing and manufacturing higher-quality clothing will always take more effort; that's essentially what eco-friendly clothing is—much better quality!

What is the difference between environmentally friendly and sustainable?

Environmental measures and criteria are one facet of the sustainability equation. We must always address the social responsibility and economic profitability aspects to call something sustainable. At Loomstate we have added the beauty point and aesthetic value as part of a true sustainable design story.

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Photos courtesy of Loomstate

Looks from the Spring 2011 Loomstate collection

Not too many brands are socially and environmentally conscious. Is there a way to do both and still run a successful business?

We have a saying/motto at Loomstate: "It's all connected!" A lot of brands are capturing the conscious commerce awareness and positioning it in the margins of their business. Sustainability needs to be positioned at the core, driving every business decision made.

What was the moment you felt the fashion world finally realized that eco-friendly could also be chic? Or is that a battle you're still fighting?

Indeed, the purest fashion spirit has always regarded eco-friendly as chic. The market opportunities of popular culture have created meaningful challenges to maintaining that purity, but we will always be striving to create a restorative production loop, eliminating waste, and lightening our environmental footprints.

You work with amazing cotton at Loomstate and the leathers at Rogan are unbelievably good—eco and otherwise. Are people surprised by the quality?

Organic is all about quality in food and fashion. Going forward, we expect people to hold us and all businesses accountable to the best quality possible.

Alpaca became the fabric of the season at the Fall 2011 shows. We heard it was partially because the environmental impact was less than from other animals.

Alpaca fiber is super-functional and luxurious; we started using it in 2005. We run a program that uses the natural colors of the alpaca, promoting the continued breeding of colored animals. As demand increases the commercialization will require more dyeable fiber and thus narrow the diversity of the alpaca.

For those of us who are basic recyclers/use and buy organic when possible, what would you say is the most important change we can make in our lives?

List the top 10 items in your life, the ones used on a daily basis, and learn about all the ingredients in those products. Regardless of what they are, we should understand what we are supporting in the global economy. Traceability and transparency will become the most powerful tools for consumers going forward.

Part of Loomstate's M.O. is working with factories  and suppliers who meet your standards as far as labor practices and the treatment of livestock. How do you ensure that your standards are met?

Through our factory agreements. Our partners are governed by a code of conduct and terms of engagement. The most important and impacting method is for our employees to visit the factories and work closely to achieve a shared responsible vision of business.

Do you ever wear something that isn't sustainable or eco? Is there one item in your closet that's amazing fashion wise, but might not meet the Loomstate standards?

I often think back to the early Rogan denim and the aggressive washes we were achieving. The aesthetic results were art based and sculptural, although the environmental and business aspects were not sustainable. This was the single biggest prompt to shift our methodology toward sustainable design.