Green Designers  

The movement to “go green” has become very trendy in the past few years, and if any industry knows trends, it’s the fashion industry. In this series of articles, San Jose Fashion Week celebrates several “green” designers who first sought to change the footprint of their trade, and continue to push both the design and economic envelopes today. Saving the environment is one cause that will never go out of style, especially if you can look good while doing it.


Tierra Del Forte
Queen of “Green” Blue Jeans

by Casey Jay


                Any piece from Tierra Del Forte’s exclusive line of denim wear is sure to stand out. The perfectly fitted pants feature exquisite washes, sophisticated style, and just the right amount of stretch. And, as an added bonus, each item is completely organic. Before Tierra Del Forte established her own company, Del Forte Denim, in 2005, a pair of organic blue jeans was nearly impossible to find. “I worked in the mainstream apparel industry for seven years before Del Forte Denim,” she said, “green fashion wasn’t really on the radar at all.” In fact, green fashion wasn’t always on Del Forte’s mind either. She first found a passion for design in her youth. “When I was a little kid, my favorite uncle was a fashion designer,” she said. “I was sure when I was in elementary school that I’d be a designer.” As she grew older, Del Forte’s interest moved to other areas. But her thoughts came back to fashion in her early twenties, “when you think, what am I going to do with my life?” she said. She realized it was time to go for it.


“I’ve found a little bit of spandex goes a long way,”


                Del Forte completed design school in San Francisco in 1999 and ventured into the fashion world. After seven years in mainstream apparel, Del Forte decided she was ready to try something on her own. However, her original plan did not include pioneering organic denim. “Honestly, I didn’t know anything at all about organic cotton,” Del Forte said, “but if I was going to start my own company I wanted to do it to match my own values.” As Del Forte explored her options for cotton supplies for her clothing line, she was shocked to learn how damaging the cotton industry was for the environment. She discovered that her solution to having both a unique and ethical company lay in organic producers. This enlightened decision was not an easy one. Del Forte faced the struggles most small business owners encounter, along with the added trouble of locating a very specific material. “In the beginning, I started on a small budget, but that’s challenging for anybody,” said Del Forte. She explained that the greater difficulty lay not in start-up collateral, but in start-up textile. “When I started looking for cotton in 2005 there were very few mills using organic,” Del Forte said. And as a jeans designer, she was looking for something even more special. “I’ve found a little bit of spandex goes a long way,” she explained, “and finding stretch organic cotton was very challenging.” Just four years later, Del Forte Denim can be found in stores throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States, with several Bay Area locations to choose from. And as if bringing style and eco-consciousness together into America’s favorite fashion item weren’t enough, Del Forte said she has more plans for the future. “With the economic situation, I’m not going to make any big changes this year, but I would definitely like to launch a men’s line and a less expensive line,” she said.




“Asking for organic products is what’s going to make the big brands seriously consider changing their products”


                Currently, Del Forte Denim sells at the upper end of the jean spectrum due to its high-quality material. “I knew the market would be accepting of price point, when what goes into the price is organic quality and fair labor, not advertising,” Del Forte explained. However, her hopes are to present a more affordable line so that more people can make the choice to buy organic. Del Forte considers education and the advancement of the organic industry extensions of her work. “We live in the Bay Area where everyone is really well-informed,” she said, “but part of my job is getting the information out there across the country.” Del Forte also makes it a point to impress upon consumers that the real control over an ethical fashion industry lies with them. “Asking for organic products is what’s going to make the big brands seriously consider changing their products,” she said. “I always like to remind consumers how powerful they are,” she added. First and foremost, Del Forte describes herself as “a designer at heart.” Not one to follow the pack, Del Forte Denim is as unique as its creator. “My motto is that I want to produce things that are flattering, not that are trendy,” she said. “Everything I design is with that in mind.” On whether she wants to inspire others through her design or green actions, Del Forte said she had a greater motivation. “My job is more to educate than inspire,” she said. “People find their own inspiration.”



“My motto is that I want to produce things that are flattering, not that are trendy”
-Tierra Del Forte


Tierra Del Forte


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