Bits 'n' Pieces: Vancouver designer to showcase her eco-clothing

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian features news coordinator

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Vancouver's Caryn Stockwell thinks clothing should be something you look forward to wearing.

"I know what I like to feel against my skin, and I know how I want my clothing to move," she said. "Clothing should be comfortable."

Stockwell hopes her perspective will inspire the audience in October at Fashion Week San Diego.

She will be one of 26 emerging designers showcasing their work at the Port of San Diego's pier, with Stockwell one of six invited from outside California. More than 3,000 ticket holders are expected to be in attendance at the event, including industry professionals and media.

Dubbed the Eco ArtWear Collection, Stockwell's 10 designs use color as a common thread to highlight her devotion to certified organic fabric. Certification ensures that every step of the textile process uses natural elements and measures.

"I am hoping I can raise awareness," she said. "There are more than 2,800 chemicals used in conventional fabrics from start to finish."

The designer's entire line is sponsored by California-based Harmony Art Organic Design, "the only certified organic manufacture in United States," Stockwell said.

"The beauty of organic fibers, especially certified organic, is that after you're done with the pieces, you can bury them in your backyard. The whole thing will decompose in 6 to 12 months."

And anything that can't be organically sourced, such as zippers, buttons or lace, Stockwell uses recycled materials.

"The whole line feels like you're not wearing anything," said the 43-year-old designer.

Her collection combines a lot of current fashion trends, including a shift toward sustainable fashion, the mixing of bright colors and patterns, and matching accessories for outfits. When she saw Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian both sporting outfit-matching shoes and gloves at a red-carpet event in April, "a huge light bulb went off. I'm on the right track," she said.

"I've collaborated with five other designers, including hand-painted shoes that match the (textile) patterns by Hourglass Footwear out of Seattle."

A cohesive collection that inspires consumers to buy her looks is what she hopes to present on the runway.

Stockwell has been creating and designing clothing for more than 20 years. It wasn't until 2006, as she was making clothing for her children, that the idea for her label Second Star Designs began to bud. She originally focused on creating a children's line of whimsical outfits using reclaimed and "upcycled" fabric. She was invited to show her children's line at last year's Baltimore Fashion Week.

"What I found at Baltimore, even though (the collection) was really well received, parents are less likely to spend money on designer clothes that their children are going to outgrow."

"It's easier to have your foot in the door with an adult line," she said.

Even though she's turned her business model on its head to do so, she still keeps to her inspirational roots.

"I like to say I have an 8-year-old CEO and a 14-year-old for demographic research," she said. "I joke about it, but they play important roles. The teenager lets me know if its something that she likes, or wants to wear."

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.