My guest today is Adrienne Catone, founder and CEO of the eco-fashion website FaeriesDance.com. We’ll be talking about what’s available in the world of safer fabrics and her exceptional collection of clothing. Adrienne is a long time vegan and environmentalist who loves animals, faeries and fantasy novels. She started her career in the aerospace industry as an analyst. Her fondness of travel took her to Africa in 1994 where an encounter with a silverback gorilla troupe started her thinking about conservation and changed the course of her life. The changes culminated in the opening of FaeriesDance.com in 2005. Adrienne has an MS degree in Applied Mathematics from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook and a post-graduate Certificate in Environmental Studies from California State University (Cal State) Long Beach. www.debralynndadd.com/debras-list/faeriesdance-com
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Finding Toxic-Free Clothing
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Adrienne Catone
Date of Broadcast: December 02, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world. There are lots of toxic chemicals out there. We encourage them every day in consumer products. But we don’t have to live a toxic life because there are so many things in this world that are not toxic. There are so many ways that we can remove toxic chemicals from our homes, from our bodies, from our workplaces. It’s just a matter of learning how to make those choices. And that’s what we do on this show, learn how to make choices that are toxic-free.
Today is Monday, December 2nd. And it’s all overcast and cold here in Florida today. It feels like winter. It’s so nice. I’m really starting to feel in the holiday spirit now that Thanksgiving is over.
And something that I want to mention is that I have a new food blog that I’ve been talking about. And for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be posting a lot of recipes for wonderful holiday treats—candies and cookies and things that we like to eat that aren’t so good for us, but made from natural sweeteners, things other than gluten flour, things like almond flour, coconut flour, other things. They taste fabulous. And they’re easy to make.
And so, you can just go to my website. Go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com, go to the top of the page to the main navigation, and click on food. It’ll take you to that page. And you can just see every day that new holiday treats that are coming your way.
Today, we’re going to talk about clothing. A couple of weeks ago, I found a website called FaeriesDance.com. And they have one of the best collections of really unusual natural fiber clothing—and very good descriptions.
And so, I asked the founder and CEO to come on and be a guest, so that we can learn from her more about how we can choose and find clothing that doesn’t have toxic chemicals in it.
Her name is Adrienne Catone. She’s the founder and CEO of the eco-fashion website, FaeriesDance.com.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Hi! How are you doing?
DEBRA: I’m good. How are you?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Nervous.
DEBRA: Oh, don’t be nervous. We’re just going to have a conversation. So where are you geographically? Aren’t you in Oregon?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Yeah.
DEBRA: Oregon, yeah.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Yeah, just outside of Portland.
DEBRA: And is it cold there?
ADRIENNE CATONE: It’s very cold here. Finally, the weather has completely broken, and it’s down into the 30’s now.
DEBRA: Oh, how great. It’s 65 here which is very cold for Florida. I mean, I really am wearing a sweater and a wool scarf and everything, and it’s 65. Our bodies get acclimated to the heat.
So, just start by telling us your story about how you got interested in doing a website about eco-fashions.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Well, I actually was on vacation. This was way back—my story is long. It was slow getting started. But in 1994, I did a trek in Africa into the jungles between Rwanda and Burundi. And I met up with some silverback gorillas. You only get to be with them for an hour. And it was just absolutely life-changing.
And I had never, before that, thought about environmentalism or conservation. After that, I realized that they were on the highly endangered species list. And it really just completely turned my entire focus and thought process.
I started thinking about how I could live a more environmentally conscious life that would be more sustainable and that wouldn’t hurt these other beings on the planet with us.
DEBRA: Yes, I understand. So then what happened?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Well, what I started to do, when you initially think of things like these, it becomes overwhelming. And so then I did the “one thing a year” thought. So every year in January, I would change one thing.
So, one year, I said, “Okay, no more toxic cleaners.” I changed all the cleaning products. And I did all the research I had to.
And then, the next year, it was “No more toxic body care,” and I changed my shampoo and all the things that were in the shower. And then, the next year was like, “Okay, no more toxic clothing.” Just one thing at a time, “What am I buying for the house? No more toxins when you go out in the garden.”
And then, eventually, I turned vegan. And that’s partly because it’s very healthy and partly because I wanted to do more for animals […] And then, finally, it came down to looking at my career and saying, “This career is definitely not sustainable. What would I do? In a perfect world, what would I do?”
And that’s where the clothing company finally came about. It was almost 10 years later. But I had completely transformed my life in those 10 years. It was almost a completely different person. I started the business, and that’s how it grew.
But Faeries Dance really started as a more eco-friendly sustainable and less about allergens and toxins.
DEBRA: But I do see on your site that you give a lot of attention to things that are toxic and things that are allergenic. And I see a product that we’ll talk about later that I’m looking at right now. It says it was “designed to reduce reactions for individuals with chemical sensitivities.” So, I do see that toxics is something that’s important to you.
Well, let’s talk a bit about you’ve obviously done a lot of research. And that really shows on your site. So when you were deciding to remove toxic clothing from your life, what sorts of things did you find out about how things were toxic?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Well, the first thing that I was looking at—and like I said, at the beginning, I was really just thinking about the environmental issues and the sustainability of it. But the first thing I learned was how much pesticides were put on the things that turn into clothing.
ADRIENNE CATONE: I don’t know how much you or your readers know about clothing. But for example, cotton is the highest pesticide-sprayed crop in the world. And that’s because it’s not considered a food crop (even though cottonseed oil is in many foods). So it doesn’t have any of the regulations for pesticides on food. So, it’s just doused with toxic pesticides. And even if you forget about cottonseed oil, who wants to wear that against their skin?
So, I started looking first at the fabrics. And then, once I got to find organic cotton and hemp and all these wonderful things like bamboo that can be grown without toxic chemicals and pesticides, then I started researching the next step which is how much chemical finishing agents go into a final product.
And this is where it can get a little dicey. You might go into one of these big stores and see something that says it’s organic cotton, but it might have been grown organically, but then at the end, they want it to have a nice sheen and they want it to not wrinkle in the wash, and so it can be doused with chemicals at the end right before you wear it. Those are actually even worse than the ones grown in terms of you personally putting it against your skin.
DEBRA: I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years. I remember when organic cotton first became available and what it looked like natural and pure. It was really difficult to get. You had to order it—well, I was about to say “you have to order it online,” but no, there was no online. You had to order it by mail and wait for it to come in the mail.
And then, a few years ago, I went into a big store. And they were selling organic cotton. I bought some of these organic cotton sheets—actually, not for myself. I needed some as a prop for a TV show. I opened the package, and it didn’t look at all organic.
It looked like it had all kinds of finishes on it.
But we’ll talk more about this when we come back from the break. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. My guest is Adrienne Catone from FaeriesDance.com. And we’re talking about toxic-free fabric and clothing. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Adrienne Catone from FaeriesDance.com where she sells all kinds of eco-friendly and toxic-free clothing.
Her website is very well laid out because you can shop by size, by fabric, by color, by manufacturer. So if you’re looking for just organic cotton, you can just click on shop by fabric, which I’m doing right now, and then it shows you a menu, for lack of a better word, a gallery of fabrics, a picture of each of the fabrics as they appear in nature. I love that! I always had that idea, that I want to know and go all the way back to nature and see what it looks like. And then you can click on each one of these, and it takes you to its own page that explains each of these fabrics. And so, she has a lot of information on the site.
Before we talk about some individual clothing that you have, let’s talk about your fabrics for a bit. Let’s start with what we were already talking about, cotton. Let’s talk about organic cotton and why that’s important.
ADRIENNE CATONE: So, organically grown cotton is cotton that is grown without any chemical pesticides and without any toxins. And it does require more attention by the farmer. He can’t just spray and go away. You really have to be more careful with maintaining the balance of the soil and all that to keep the cotton healthy.
And that’s why it does wind up costing a little bit more although it’s questionable whether or not it yields the same. Some studies say you get about the same amount of cotton. It just takes a little bit more energy and effort on the farmer as opposed to kind of just spraying and forgetting it.
So, it’s a much cleaner cotton, to start with. And you don’t wind up polluting the ground water with all those pesticides and killing off bees and butterflies.
DEBRA: I just want to mention that I know some tests have been done to find out if there are pesticide residues left in the fabric. And they found that if you have like cotton batting like in a mattress or a pillow or something, that there’s still pesticide residues on that. By the time the cotton gets processed into fabric, that there actually aren’t pesticide residues.
So, even if we’re not wearing organic cotton clothing, there’s no pesticides residues on either regular cotton or organic, but it’s so important to wear organic because, as you were saying earlier, the toxic pesticides, the amount of pesticides are so great that it’s going to the environment, but it’s also coming back to us as an indirect exposure in our air, in our water, and in our food. You can’t put toxic chemicals in the environment and not have them come back to us.
So, that’s where we really need to watch out for the toxic chemicals. Organic cotton is so important. And on this site, Adrienne has a variety of organic clothing pieces that I’ve never seen anywhere else. So we’re going to talk about that a little later.
But there’s more and more organic cotton available, more and more clothing styles. So it’s really important to take a look and see if you can find organic cotton clothing that’s right for you.
Tell us about hemp.
ADRIENNE CATONE: So hemp is a cousin of marijuana. Most people know that. It has been illegal to grow here in the United States for quite a while. However, hemp actually can’t be smoked. It doesn’t have the THC that makes you high. It’s a cousin.
It’s not the same thing. So it never really should have been illegal to grow, but there is concern that it looks like marijuana and so it was banned at one point.
And hemp has actually been around forever. It was made to ropes and riggings for ships back in the days of Columbus (we were using hemp). It’s just an incredible fabric.
If you get raw hemp, which is mostly unprocessed, it tends to be a little bit scratchier than cotton. And so it makes better jeans, for example, than it does nice, soft shirts. But you’ll find that it holds up really well in the wash. And it softens over time.
So, hemp is probably, I’m going to say, the best, the most eco-friendly fabric of all the ones that I sell.
DEBRA: I would agree with you. And I love hemp. I love the way it looks and feels because I like things to be rustic. But it’s also really good for things like bags because it’s so durable and heavy duty. And it will last so long. So it’s really good for like a jacket or something that you’re not wearing next to your skin, but that you want to have good protection.
Okay, the next one you have is linen. I love linen.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Yeah, linen is just a nice fabric. You can get linen that’s grown without pesticides. It’s from the flax plant.
And I think most of us have seen that linen has that kind of neat, little striping in the fabric itself once it’s woven. And it’s very crisp and clean, it doesn’t wrinkle.
But if you get linen without pesticides, grown without pesticides, it’s a great natural fabric that comes from nature. So it’s another good one.
DEBRA: Okay, good. So those are what I would call the natural fibers that you carry—cotton, hemp and flax. And there’s other natural fibers like silk and wool. I don’t see those here, but those are animal fibers. So that’s probably why you’re not carrying them.
So then you have some other ones that start out with natural materials, but then they’re made into fabrics. You’re not actually getting the fiber as it appears in nature. So tell us what tencel is.
ADRIENNE CATONE: So tencel, I think most of us are familiar with rayon.
DEBRA: Oh, before you do that, we have to go to break. I was so interested in listening to you, I didn’t watch the time.
ADRIENNE CATONE: I could go on forever.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And I’m here with Adrienne Catone. She’s from FaeriesDance.com. We’re talking about the natural fibers that her clothing is made from. And then, we’re going to talk about her very interesting individual pieces. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Adrienne Catone from FaeriesDance.com. And we’re talking about her exceptional organic and natural fiber clothing.
Alright! So before the break, we were talking about tencel. So tell us what that is.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Okay, so tencel is actually a man-made fabric, but it starts with managed tree farms. The purpose of tencel, this company in Germany was trying to recreate rayon without all the toxic chemicals, without all the damage it was doing to the environment.
So, they start with managed tree farms. And the way they do this is they take the base material, which is plants, and they run it through a big, chemical bath. And that’s how rayon is created. And then, it is turned into fiber. And all those chemicals are dumped into the water.
So, what this company did was they did the same thing, but they first reduced all of the really toxic stuff. They got rid of all the bad toxic chemicals and tried to create more benign chemicals. So they’re still using a chemical process that got rid of all the really yucky stuff.
And then, they created what’s now called a closed loop system where they were able to take all of that stuff at the end, all of the waste products, and then re-use it. And so, actually, they don’t dump any waste at all. They just keep reusing, reusing, reusing the same chemicals. They’re much more benign. They don’t pollute. And they create the same, nice drape and flow as rayon. So now you can get these gorgeous gowns and things that you would normally see in this tencel fabric.
And we also carry white pine. And white pine is a very similar process where they’ve used that closed loop system without the toxins to take white pine tree trimmings. And in this case, the white pine is really fun too because they don’t actually even kill the trees or manage the farms. They just take all the trimmings that people would normally do and use that leftover tree to create a fabric in a closed loop system that doesn’t have any bad side effects.
DEBRA: Oh, I like that. I like that. So you also have soy fiber. I’ve never heard of soy fiber.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Yes, soy is fun. And basically, during tofu manufacture, soy beans have that outer casing. If you’re eating edamame, you eat the inside and you throw out the outer casing. Well, in tofu manufacturing, of course, there are tons of this casing that just gets thrown into the trash (or they can dump them, and then try to turn it into soil and stuff). It’s essentially a waste product.
This company in China figured out a way to take those soy casings that were being thrown out and turn them into a fabric as well.
So, we sometimes get asked, “Is it non-GMO?” And the answer is we don’t always know. It’s essentially a recycled trash type of fabric. And so we don’t always know if the soy is GMO or not. They’re taking essentially this trash.
And soy is fantastic because it turns out to be really stretchy—almost like a spandex, but without spandex, without the polyurethane or oil that would go into spandex. So it’s got a nice stretch. It’s just a beautiful fabric.
I’ve been waiting for them to come up with something in lingerie because it’s such a great fabric. And they finally have. And now we have soy lingerie as well.
DEBRA: Hmmm… interesting.
So, when we were talking about this page that you had, I had said that you could just click on shop by fabric in your menu, and it would take you to the page where there’s a picture of all the different fabrics. I was making an assumption I could just click on them, and that there will be more information. But during the break, I clicked on them, and found that if you’re on that page, and you click on it, you get all the products that are made, all the clothing that is made from that type of fabric.
But there’s also a link there to a page called product information, and it does have all the information and links to find out more about each of the fabrics. So all of that is on the website. It’s just not where I said it was, but it’s there.
Alright, let’s talk about some of your clothing. The first I want to ask you though is you have so many things that I’ve never seen before. I’ve been looking at eco-clothing for as long as it’s been around. I was looking at natural fiber clothing, looking for natural fiber clothing way back in the ’80s when everybody was wearing polyester leisure suits. I know it’s very difficult to find.
So, how do you go about finding all these things? I mean, I don’t want to take away your searching secrets, but how do you find these things?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Well, it’s two ways. At the beginning, it really was quite a search for me. I went to a bunch of different sustainable manufacturing type events where sustainable manufacturers would show items. And eventually, what happened is that, especially with intimates (we have a lot of intimates, bras and panties), what’s happened now is that because we have a reputation for bringing organic bras, occasionally, some of the manufacturers will contact me, which is always exciting that somebody has found me and wants to have their items shown.
DEBRA: Yes. And people contact me too. I know, it’s fun.
ADRIENNE CATONE: So, I will say that, on the one hand today—we’ve been open for eight years. And even just in those eight years, it’s a lot easier to find some of these things than it used to be. There are more sustainable manufacturers now than there were.
But we also bring in a lot. We found that Europe is doing a lot more with sustainable fabrics, especially in the lingerie. The Europeans are very aware of having sustainable fabrics against their skin. And so we bring in a lot of products from Europe and Canada, as well as those that are made in the US.
DEBRA: I found that too. Back in 1990 when I was first looking at sustainable things, I went to a green product show in Germany. And when I walked in, I just started crying because there were so much there that was not in America at all. I couldn’t find it in America at all. And it was just like Christmas morning for me to go around that show and see all these things that were organic and made out of natural materials. I just would’ve bought everything that was there if they could’ve taken them all on the plane with me.
We need to take another break. But we’ll be right back to talk about toxic-free clothing with Adrienne Catone. She’s the founder and CEO of the eco-fashion website, FaeriesDance.com. We’ve got some exciting things to talk about when we come back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Adrienne Catone from FaeriesDance.com. And I want to spell that for you because it’s spelled in the old way, F-A-E-R-I-E-S-dance dot-com. And we’ve been talking about different fabrics.
So, let’s talk about your clothing. I want to just mention a few items that really intrigued me. The one I’m looking at right now is called Tweed Swing Coat. It comes in regular sizes and plus sizes. And ladies, if you’re looking for plus sizes, organic clothing and plus sizes, this is a place to look because there’s more than I usually see on websites. Often, you can’t find any, but she’s got a lot on here.
But the thing that’s interesting is—okay, so what happens when you go to an individual product, it tells you the fabrics, it tells you the percentage of each fabric (this one is 83% hemp and 17% organic cotton), and then it tells you if you can wash it (what are the care instructions, how to wash it, how to dry it), and then it tells you where it’s made. This one is made in the USA of imported fabric.
And that gives me a lot of information. I don’t often see that much information. I really appreciate that. I appreciate that very much. I think you’ve done a really good job, Adrienne.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Thank you.
DEBRA: Another thing that I like about this coat is that it says “it’s fully lined with leftover fabrics from previous seasons. Each lining is unique.” I just love that!
If you go to, say, a department store, you can certainly find say a linen jacket or a wool jacket or a cotton jacket even, but it’s usually lined with a sytnethic lining. And I’m always looking for natural fiber clothing that doesn’t have those linings in it. And so here is a hemp jacket. And the lining is uniquely made out of scrap. And I think that’s absolutely fabulous.
So, what kind of fabric is pieced together for the linings?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Most of them were leftover silks from previous seasons. The company that makes these does use silk.
We don’t usually carry silk as a vegan company because they kill the silkworms. But we love the idea that this is silk that was already made and now scrapped, and it wasn’t thrown away. It would actually get used. So I think it’s great.
DEBRA: Right, right.
ADRIENNE CATONE: It’s not guaranteed to be silk. But most of them were silk though. We saw because it was a nice, warm lining. And that was what they had mostly leftover of.
DEBRA: Good, good.
So, I’m going to just click back here to these pages as I’m talking about them. Another one I wanted to mention was the little black dress. And I have a question. I want you to explain something. But while I’m typing, why don’t you tell us about the little black dress.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Is there a name for this dress?
DEBRA: Oh, it was on the home page in the text. This is what I’m talking about. In the second paragraph, it says, “need something for a night on the town, slip into the perfect, little, black dress.” Here we go, it’s the Dandeen Dress.
ADRIENNE CATONE: This is a fun one. it is made from a blend of bamboo and organic cotton. And it has one of those adjustable tops which is just so much fun. You can tie it several different ways at the top to give you a different look.
This one is made in China. And we actually don’t have a problem with bringing in items from China as long as they are adhering to Fair Trade Federation guidelines.
DEBRA: Okay, that was my question. This is probably my number one question from my readers. If I recommend something that comes from China, they say, “Do you know that that came from China?” like if it comes from China, it must be bad.
But I have the viewpoint that not everything from China is bad because I know companies personally who have their things made in China. They are wonderful, wonderful products. They’re not full of lead or any of those other China problems.
So, can you explain your experience and why you have things from China?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Yes. I will tell you that some of your readers are correct. There is a lot going on in China in terms of there’s a lot of pollution, there’s a lot of lead. However, China is coming into its own. It wants to be more westernized. And there is a subset of Chinese manufacturing that’s really trying to come up to standards that we would consider acceptable.
So, one of the things for us—and for me in particular—is it has to meet all fair trade. I don’t want somebody working slave hours and getting $3 every two months or something. So, fair trade means they look at the local economy and they make sure that everyone there is working at a living wage for their economy, that there’s no child labor, there’s no sweatshop labor, that generally healthcare is either provided or their wages are high enough that healthcare is reasonably within the realm of possibility for the people who are working. So, for me, the human aspect is the biggest thing.
But then, also, something like ISO adherence is a fact that they are concerned about, making sure that they’re not dumping those chemicals, they’re not polluting the water.
And so there is quite a bit of good things coming out of China. And everything we source from China, we follow through. We have to personally talk to someone who’s been to the factory to make sure that it’s there. And then we either want certification or written standards that we can make sure, “Okay, this person that I know has actually been to the factory. And these are the conditions they’ve seen. And they meet, in this case, ISO adherence and fair trade standards.”
And if that’s the case, then these are people too, they need work and they’re trying to do something great. So why not support them?
DEBRA: I agree, I agree.
So, let’s talk about your bras especially because you have so many bras. And especially, there was one that caught my eye called the drawstring bra. I’m going to type that in just so that I can look at it while we’re talking.
You have to excuse my nose and my cough. Cold weather.
ADRIENNE CATONE: I’m pining for the days of 65. I’m here from California, from Los Angeles actually. So I’m used to the really warm weather. So it’s pretty cold for me too.
DEBRA: Okay! So, here we have an “organic cotton jersey bra with no metal hooks or stretch marks from coarse elastic. It’s designed for comfort and support. And it utilizes adjustable drawstrings and rib fabric for flexibility.”
I don’t even know what to say. It’s completely latex-free, completely elastic-free for sensitive skin, organic cotton, double layered cotton lining. It has covered seams to prevent rubbing and agitation, irritation-free label for sensitive skin, textile dye-free and resin-free.
This is amazing! I’ve never seen a bra like this.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Yeah, I think I told you at the beginning that I started out looking for just eco-friendly and sustainable.
And what I found was that there were a number of women coming to my site who had allergies. We started looking through, “Okay, well, even though this is low impact dye, they have an allergy to this dye,” or “Even though this is organic cotton, the elastic is latex.” And I had not realized how many people with allergies there were out there. And that’s when I started realizing that this was a marketplace that was underserved.
I started looking for specifically allergen-free eco-friendly. And I came across this company. They actually work out of the Philippines. And this is the only company that I’m working with that actually does this. But they actually test, do medical tests on all of their products for allergies.
So, these has been so popular since I got them. As I’ve said, I didn’t realize how many people had allergies. But this is a bra that has no latex and no elastic—I mean, no elastic at all which is just amazing. It’s a godsend for people who have severe chemical sensitivities.
DEBRA: We’ve only got about a minute left. Didn’t that go by fast? So is there anything that you want to say that you haven’t said (and say it short because now we have less than a minute)?
ADRIENNE CATONE: Well, the other thing I would say is the biggest question we get is why can’t you expand sizes. We’re definitely trying to do that. We get as many sizes as we can.
And then, the other thing I’d like to point out is we’re also starting in 2014 our own line. Right now, we’re just a retailer. But in 2014, we’re manufacturing our own clothing line.
DEBRA: Excellent! And I hope you’ll let me know when that happens, so that we can have you on again, and you can tell us all about that.
ADRIENNE CATONE: Oh, absolutely!
DEBRA: Well, thank you so much for being on with us. I think that you’re doing some innovative and ground-breaking work.
Just keep doing it. It’s really wonderful.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And you can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com in order to find out more about the show. You can listen to all the past shows which are there archived. Tell your friends! I’ll be back tomorrow.