Alyce Santoro designs dresses and accessories that are sensuous, supple and shiny. They also sing. The Brooklyn-based artist (and former marine biologist) pieces her fashionable creations together from a combination of cotton and an audible material called Sonic Fabric, which she made from recycled audiocassette tapes. When stroked with a tape head, the fabric emits a sound akin to gentle gusts of wind.
Santoro's clothing line joins a growing list of garments spun from an array of components not commonly found on the catwalk: old tires, truck canvas, soda bottles and bamboo.
New York designers Gaelyn & Cianfarani make rubbery black clothes out of bicycle inner tubes, while Mexican designer Metztli Mancilla Hernandez creates handbags from recycled tires. Soda bottles supply Sweet Skins with a plush eco-fleece; truck tarpaulins turn into shoes, belts, and backpacks at the Brazilian firm Yellow Port. Bamboo, which can be grown in the tropics without any pesticides, is the source of soft fiber for baby booties and blouses from Bamboosa.
Using such unusual textiles is not only stylish but also saves on cotton, a crop that accounts for one-quarter of the world's pesticide use. (According to the World Health Organization, as many as 220,000 people die every year from pesticide poisoning). Still, some eco-conscious couturiers are content to use cotton, so long as it's recycled: British designer Sarah Lucy Smith has created a range of snazzy undies from second-hand dresses.