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Noir

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One of the collections spearheading a marked departure from the marginalized market that spawned it, is Noir by Danish designer Peter Ingwersen; a super chic, luxury fashion label which benefits people of third world countries through trade rather than aid, by creating “meaningful consumption”.

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Noir produces clothing and accessories made under fair working conditions. ILLUMINATI II, is the textile arm of the company, which supplies sub-Saharan, Fair Trade organic cotton fabrics to Noir, as well as to other fashion brands. Having worked directly with Ugandan farmers to develop long staple organic cotton, Noir supplement their collection from European sources, as well as from ethical textile resources in China and India.  The brand is aiming to have an average of between sixty and eighty percent of the textiles used in the collection made from organic cotton or other ethically produced fibers.

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The company adheres to the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact, as well as the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labor Organization Conventions and the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Charter for Sustainable Development, and is reviving an industry in Uganda as well as bringing money back into the community.  Noir have chosen to distance themselves however from other sustainable labels, preferring instead to be judged on their skill and taste as designers, rather than their sustainable practices.  This choice is a marked departure from most other labels, where sustainability comes first, and design second.  Noir are clearly stating that they are not afraid to be judged against the best that fashion has to offer.

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“I totally respect what everyone is doing for ethical clothing, but at the same time. I don’t want to be lumped as that ethical clothes label. Our garments look like normal, stylish clothes, made from luxurious fabrics and, unless you knew about us, you’d never guess the organic provenance.”

The collection is the antithesis of hippie; it is in fact the utmost of refined, with every collection synthetic-free and incorporating sub-Saharan organic cotton. Noir’s signature look incorporates hard-edged tailoring with dark, sexual undertones.  According to Ingwersen, consumers buy Noir because they are attracted to the pure designs and because they know that some corporate responsibility is associated with it.

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“First, it’s the most beautiful collection and second, it has the finest cotton in the world, and it may justify peoples spending, knowing that a certain amount will go back to the people who helped pick the cotton.”

A perspective Julie Gilhart, Creative Director for Barneys New York, and the person behind over fifty different ‘green’ projects underway at the store, has often expressed. Her customers care that a product is well made, authentic and well designed, not that it is organic or ethical. In a roundtable discussion on eco fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2007, Julie said

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“Many of our customers purchase our products without ever knowing they are ecological or ethical.”

Perhaps before there time, unfortunately the brand is no longer in business.

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