Two young designers are proving that environmental consciousness and fashion consciousness are not mutually exclusive.

Ann Coulter would have us believe that environmentalists have no sense of style. They neither shave nor bathe as often as they should, she complains. They mat their clumpy, unconditioned hair under dirty bandanas. They pace anti-whatever demonstration lines in tattered clothes, hoping to convey that the true environmentalist is too burdened with the fate of the world to care about looking good.

Melissa Sack and Emily Santamore, both 26, are proving Miss Coulter doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Sack and Santamore are the founders of Moral Fervor, a green clothing company committed to proving that environmentalists can express their conscientiousness with panache.

“We compare our audience with the customers at Whole Foods Markets,” Sack said. “These are people who think about what they eat, what they put in their bodies, and what they put on their bodies.”

In the spring of 2006 the company started using Ingeo™ fibers in their clothing. Ingeo, derived from fermented corn, is the world’s first easily biodegradable synthetic fabric. And, Sack assured, “It won’t suddenly rot to shreds in your closet.” But when Ingeo clothes are exposed to high temperature and moisture, they can biodegrade in months. (Cotton clothes, on the other hand, take about 60-90 years to biodegrade.)

U2 frontman Bono has adopted Ingeo fibers in Edun, the fashion line he runs with his wife. But Edun’s mission is primarily economic: to bring trade to poverty-ridden Africa. In addition, Edun’s style is more high-end couture, whereas Moral Fervor—despite the sobriety of the label’s name—offers a line of relaxed T-shirts and long-sleeved tops that function as everyday gear.

Moral Fervor’s corn fabric is dyed at a tinturaria in Portugal, and Sack and Santamore visited the plant over the summer to inspect the site’s water purification system. They wanted to be sure that contaminated wastewater does not pollute local water sources.

Even the pairs’ prints are designed with an environmental conscious—the Spring 2007 and Fall 2007 lines both reference human-caused ecosystem damage. The designs on the Fall 2007 line are inspired by Caulerpa taxifolia, a genetically-engineered strain of seaweed widely used in aquariums. Since being accidentally released off the coast of Monaco in 1984, C. taxifolia has become an ecologically invasive menace in San Diego, the Australian coral reefs, and especially the Mediterranean Sea, where it prevents other plants from flourishing.

Monarch butterflies were on the designers’ minds as Moral Fervor’s Spring 2007 line took shape. In the late-1990s, monarchs faced wide-scale eradication when a strain of corn, genetically modified to incorporate pesticide in its DNA, began decimating the butterflies in addition to crop pests.


Because their last names both begin with “Sa,” Melissa Sack and Emily Santamore were assigned to be college roommates during their freshman year at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, in Philadelphia. They both graduated with dual-degrees in art history and fine art in 2002, and they now live and run their business in New York.

Click on the picture for a larger version

EcoFest001-tease.jpg T-shirts and long-sleeve T-shirts from Moral Fervor’s Fall 2007 line; all three are 100% lyocell, made from wood pulp. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest003-tease.jpg A razorback tank top for the Spring 2007 line, made from Ingeo corn fibers, which biodegrade faster than cotton. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest007-tease.jpg A razorback Spring 2007 dress made of Ingeo corn fibers. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest015-tease.jpg A lyocell V-neck T-shirt from the Fall 2007 line. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest018-tease.jpg A lyocell men’s T-shirt from the Fall 2007 line. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest021-tease.jpg A long-sleeve lyocell men’s T-shirt from the Fall 2007 line. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest023-tease.jpg A lyocell V-dress from the Fall 2007 line. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest024-tease.jpg A lyocell dress from the Fall 2007 line. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

EcoFest025-tease.jpg A women’s V-neck lyocell tank top from the Fall 2007 line. Credit: R.J. Mickelson

Originally published September 21, 2006


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