Group plans to help designers find "green" fabrics

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MILAN, Oct 1 (Reuters) A new forum that wants to put high fashion together with sustainable fabrics launched alongside Milan's womenswear shows last week, aiming to marry materials made of wood, plants and even milk with innovative design.

C L A S S -- Creativity, Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy -- is the brainchild of Giusy Bettoni and Sandy McLennan, who had both had careers in the textile industry and saw a gap where designers could not easily find ''green'' fabrics.

''You would talk about sustainability and people were enthusiastic, and nothing was happening,'' said Bettoni.

They had seen that on the other side, producers of sustainable fabrics -- ones that are biodegradeable, or made from renewable resources -- had problems working out how and where to contact designers who might want to use the products.

''Something wasn't working for communication in the market upstream and downstream,'' Bettoni told Reuters.

C L A S S is bringing companies such as India's Birla Cellulose, one of the largest cellulose producers in the world, and NatureWorks, which makes Ingeo fibre from plant sugars, into contact with stylists, to show that sustainable does not have to be stolid.

Milkofil is fine fibre made from casein, the main protein in milk, and produces a yarn that is easy to wear next to the skin.

On show at the exhibition was work by Japanese designer Masako Oka, who had used Ingeo for a silky shirt with artistic pleats and sleeves of yellow and pale blue.

Soft jerseys and suiting hung alongside embroidered tops and cuddle-up dressing gowns at the showroom.

''Nobody buys a garment just because it is sustainable,'' said Bettoni. ''There were garments that were great from a sustainability point of view but nobody would ever buy them, because they were green, brown, beige.'' She adds that C L A S S aims to change the marketing method of environmentally-friendly fabrics from that one selling point to three key attractions -- adding visual appeal and a practical pull, when garments are washable and durable.

''We wanted to have a performing garment, we wanted to have a nice garment, and if it's sustainable ... that's perfect.'' Bettoni admits that these fabrics cannot provide the same range of colour and texture as can be obtained using processes such as chemical dyes, but says when designers make requests, C L A S S can give feedback to producers to help them innovate.

''It's step by step. We're trying to create a journey.'' REUTERS SKB KN1638

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