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Different Approach By Valley Designer

Fashion designer Deborah Lindquist has dressed some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Gwen Stefani, Sharon Stone, Pink, and Hayden Panettiere from the television show Heroes are just a few of the A-listers who’ve donned her wears. But Lindquist, who has been in the fashion business for more than 25 years, takes a little different approach. to haute couture than most big name designers. All of her clothes are made out of recycled and ecologically friendly materials such as organic cotton, hemp, peace silk silk harvested without killing silkworms refashioned cashmere, vintage lace and kimonos, and sustainable synthetic materials. She launched a line of eco-conscious clothing in 2003, a custom bridal gown business in 2005, and opened a storefront on Magnolia Blvd. in Toluca Woods in 2008. Her designs are geared towards women and sold in boutique shops worldwide. And she is most known for limited edition cashmere sweaters and colorful bustiers. “I’m not trying to be a fanatic or proselytize about ‘green,'” says Lindquist. “It’s a lifestyle for me. And the most important thing is doing something where I’m using materials that I feel good about.” Lindquist, 52, grew up on a farm in Willmar, Minn., the youngest of three siblings. She traces her fashion roots back to when she was five years old and her grandmother taught her how to sew. “I had one of those treadle sewing machines and made all kinds of stuff,” says Lindquist. “I guess I was a seamstress in a previous life or something,” she adds, jokingly. She earned a marketing degree from a college in Willmar, took fashion classes at the University of Minnesota and trained at Parsons the New School for Design in New York. After stints at Garanimals childrens clothing and Kellwood Company, a women’s apparel marketer, she launched her own fashion accessory business. Early in her career, Lindquist focused on making one-of-a-kind and small production pieces out of pre-used fabric. It was not because eco-fashion was “in,” but because she liked the aesthetic of worn leather, kimono, sari, old lace, and other vintage and used materials. “I was inspired by the textiles because they were so beautiful,” she says, adding her passion was fueled when, after moving from the East Coast to L.A. in 1989 she lived next to Hidden Treasures vintage store in Topanga. Lindquist garnered a cult following. Then her big break came in 2003 with the eco-conscious line. Her designs have since appeared on shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and The View, and she has shown on the runways of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios. She has also been featured in major fashion magazines. “Deborah has been doing things since the 1980s that are based on the same principles of eco-conscious fashion today,” says Summer Rayne Oakes, author of “Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Beauty,” model, and activist. Oakes says the bar was pretty low at first for organic cotton, hemp, and other green clothing. It used to be all about the materials. But independent designers like Lindquist have been at the heart of growing the industry and boosting the quality and fashion-forwardness of the clothing. “Her designs are beautiful, sexy and playful,” says Oakes. “It’s a brand that has transcended L.A. but is still very L.A.” But compared to temporary fashion trends, eco-fashion has more staying power, she adds. An increasing number of businesses are finding that environmental sustainability, in general, makes good business sense. Sophie Uliano, author of the New York Times bestseller, “Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-friendly Life,” and just released book, “The Gorgeously Green Diet: How to Live Lean and Green,” is another fan of Lindquist. “She was into it way before green became cool and I think she will remain on the cutting edge,” says Uliano. “I think that once the economy gets stronger, what started as a burgeoning trend (eco-fashion) will become more mainstream, as people like to vote with their dollars for a cleaner world.” In addition to her trademark cashmere sweaters and bustiers, Lindquist makes pants, shirts, dresses, scarves, gloves and one-of-a-kind bridal gowns. All of the production is done in L.A., and she says the business generates less than $500,000 per year in revenue. The down economy has slowed orders from retailers, she says. So she has been increasingly marketing directly to customers through the Web site, www.deborahlindquist.com, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and by making personal appearances. What does the future hold for eco-conscious fashion? The industry has grown a lot, says Lindquist. “In the beginning fabrics were more limited, but now there’s a lot more manufacturers coming on board. It starts out slowly. And people will know that it’s OK when they start seeing it on other people.”

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