You never thought you could outfit yourself for a cocktail party in eco-friendly duds … until now.
Allison Parris, creator of girly and feminine, feathered and flouncy, beaded and dazzling dresses for women, hasn’t been known for her sustainable cred. But now she’s trying to spread the word that her dresses, currently a favorite of chic New York party girls and modern brides alike, should also be a favorite of the eco crowd.
Don’t believe me? I didn’t either when I saw them, but it’s real:
- Made in New York City? Check.
- Eco-friendly fabrics of organic silk and PET netting from recycled soda bottles? Check.
- Feather skirts humanely sourced from naturally molting roosters? Check.
- Utterly adorable? CHECK.
You can see the influence of designers Catherine Malandrino and Cynthia Rowley, under which Parris worked before she launched her line in 2008. Let’s talk bows on the shoulder of a demure sheath dress. Flouncy tutus that just make you want to dance. Elegant ballgowns that are striking in black, and perfect for a wedding in cream. This season you’ll find the skirts, tops, jackets and dresses in blush, navy and black, and all over the city at chic boutiques like Otte, Montmartre, Jessie James, Darling, Gabriella (yup, that’s a bridal salon), and Chic Tweak, competing for space with labels like Tibi and Opening Ceremony.
Allison Parris herself isn’t your typical hippie. She’s tall and thin enough to be a model, entering her charming workshop for the interview clad in her own design–a formfitting black dress with beading on the sleeves–and sky-high nude heels that showed off her long legs. By her own admission, she doesn’t have enough of a social life to be a frequenter of farm-to-table restaurants in the city for brunch, and held a Coke Zero in her hands throughout the interview. Her New Year’s resolution is to get a coffee maker and mugs for the workshop so cut down on disposable waste. (Baby steps.)
But when it comes to her clothes, she’s the real deal. Over 75 percent of the material is organic, recycled or repurposed, and she sees that increasing as technology improves.
“Our philosophy is if you can do it, why wouldn’t you?” she says, though she claims being green is more of a personal belief, inspired by her time working at a small girls’ off-the-rack label that sold to J.C. Penney. “I saw the factories that J.C. Penny suppliers were using .. bad things were happening,” she says.
Of course, having the dresses made in New York and custom-ordering certain sustainable fabrics jacks up the cost a bit. Her dresses run from $235 to almost $700 for a beaded fringe dress. But to my (admittedly, untrained) eye the quality looked equal to any other designer dress, with careful construction, high-quality fabrics and sumptuous embellishments.
Anyway, the main point of the line isn’t to make an Earth Day statement. “Ninety percent of our stores don’t care that we’re eco,” Parris says. “I think a lot of people are turned off by the crusade aspect, so it’s good to ease them into it.” Instead, Parris tempts women with “happy girly party dresses,” practically sneaking the organic silk onto their bodies before they can say, “Ooohhh, sparkly!”
“Every dress is a party dress,” Parris says. “Everything is light and happy and makes you want to dance.”
The Allison Parris line employs anywhere from five to ten people, depending on the season, and sells mainly to small boutiques here and in the Middle and far East. But she hopes to be in larger department stores in the next three or four years. For now, Parris is easing into the typical green stores, who aren’t quite sure how to fit her exuberant styles next to the typical yoga pants and drab, earthy sweaters. But you can find some of her designs at the NYC green fashion destination Kaight this spring.
I say get thee an invitation to an event, so you can rock one of these pretty frocks like a rock star.
Shop for Allison Parris frocks in her online boutique.
Photo Credit: Trevor Wilson