We first took notice of Blue Canoe back in March of last year, around the time the pioneering California eco-label was introducing its bamboo line of lingerie (and Lingerie Talk was just getting started). As supporters of eco-friendly undergarments, we wished this innovative company well with their new venture and hoped that it would be as successful as their other environmentally conscious endeavors. Turn the clock forward a year and a few months and we catch up with Blue Canoe creator Laurie Dunlap to chat about the bamboo line and find out what’s new for fall.
I know you began Blue Canoe by creating organic cotton swimwear pieces. When did your interest in design begin?
In my experience, there’s no better way to learn than by doing. My mom taught me how to sew as a girl, but I could never find commercial patterns in styles I wanted, so I started making my own changes from patterns that were close. Later in life I worked for a couple of girlfriends who were designing a swimwear line using exotic, expensive Italian prints. One of the women was European and had a great sense of style, but it wasn’t my style. So I started making my own using the exact opposite types of fabric – organic cotton that I would dye in my washing machine.
Do you have a specific design philosophy?
I like there to be something classic about the style – something timeless. I think great fit is essential. A garment that has lines that compliment a woman’s body is the best design there is! I’m also a great believer in functional design – meaning not a lot of ‘add-ons’ and frills. I like a clean and efficient aesthetic but with a twist such as an interesting or unexpected detail.
You recently started a bamboo line of lingerie. How is this being received by your customers compared to your other lingerie?
Bamboo really opened up design possibilities for me because it’s so fluid and drapes so beautifully. It inspired me to add a whole new category to the line — ultra soft lounge/lifestyle pieces. People have really responded well to it. It feels like wearing your PJ’s everywhere, only better looking. Bamboo especially lends itself to pleating, twisting and the draping that is so fashionable right now.
Can you tell me a little bit more about using bamboo as a fabric? What are the benefits?
When it’s grown organically, which ours is, it’s a very sustainable eco crop. It grows very quickly and can yield 20 times more fiber than trees in the same sized space. Bamboo produces 30% more oxygen than trees. So wear bamboo while you drive your Prius and you can help prevent global warming! It also feels great, breathes well and keeps you cool.
What are the eco-friendly steps you take when creating your products?
The main thing is that all the cotton and bamboo we use is organically grown. That means there are no pesticides or herbicides used on the crop and no chemicals that pollute the soil. We also only use approved, low-impact, non-toxic dyes. Few people realize that fabric dying is one of the most toxic industries in the world.
We have a new eco-performance fabric that is made with the plastic that comes from recycled plastic bottles. It wicks away moisture and is quick to dry, and it also helps to limit the vast quantity of plastic that is off-gassing in our landfills for the next 600 years!
Do you find it increasingly difficult to remain true to your eco roots in today’s industry, or is it easier considering the growing popularity and awareness around green thinking?
It’s wonderful that organic cotton and other eco fibers are becoming so popular. Blue Canoe was kind of a lonely pioneer back in 1994 when we started. The whole company is still dedicated to our original mission of using only the best eco fibers available and now there’s better availability. I would still love to see more unique, textured and chunky knit fabrics and slubs and marls. There are just not enough creative yarns being spun in organic cotton yet. Stay tuned!
What draws your customers more? The eco-conscious material and practices you employ or the designs themselves?
I like to think some of both. We were never a ‘granola’ line even though we were one of the first companies using organic cotton. Our fabrics have always been ultra soft and dyed beautiful rich colors. The styling has always been classic and contemporary.
Anything new and exciting with lingerie for fall?
Our Adjustable Bra, which could probably use a more enticing name. It hit the ground running and is already one of our best-selling bras. It has optional soft cup inserts, adjustable straps, and delicate lace on the neck edge and is made from our bamboo blend fabric. We also have a new robe that is super soft and features inseam pockets and comes in a sophisticated palette. It’s perfect for being comfortable while still looking elegant.
Now, here’s a sneak preview of some new items you’ll find in Blue Canoe‘s upcoming Fall 2011 collection. That’s the adjustable bra and hiphugger panty in cocoon in the main photo above. Below, clockwise from upper left, are: the Ava gown; the Princessline came and workout short; and the light robe.