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Back to Paradise

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Images by: Travis Keyes Photography

Finally, you can dress your kids to the ethics you preach. Sustainable clothing with a conscience, which roots our bodies in living harmony with the planet has always been something of an adult accessory. Fair labor, USA grown labels have kids sizes, sure, and choosing to shop domestically for your children supports a living wage for honest workers. But the use of harsh chemicals is just as rife here as it is abroad, and while shipping the finished product a shorter distance with better-regulated trucks lessens the environmental impact.  We could vow to purchase eco-friendly children’s clothing, made with organic cotton and low-impact dyes. We could support a green, enterprising business which strives to educate a new generation about the dangers of climate change and the benefits of an ethical cooperation. We could, as I realized at an idyllic launch event this past Saturday, buy art & eden.

When Susan Correa started the label she had a similar moment of realization. Three years ago she stood in the atrium of the Hope School Foundation in Bangalore, providing hot, nutritious meals to children through a program she founded. Susan was excited and happy to give back. She dove right in, doling out food to hungry kids and, by the end of the evening, realized that all the food in the world wouldn’t be enough. There had to be a more holistic and impactful change, and Susan had to be the one to lead it.

She exited executive roles (plural) at two multimillion dollar companies and began to toil. Susan identified organic fabrics and low-impact dyes of which did not compromise on color or durability. She toured factories in India, negotiating with managers and swimming against the corporate current to uncover a plant willing to manufacture ethical clothing for children. She coordinated meetings with Ben & Jerry’s, and others, to understand how they managed to share, and market, the fruits of their compassionate, world-minded labor. Luckily for us all, Susan surrounded herself with cosmopolitan, trailblazing women; art & eden is alive and growing. Be sure to visit the website and Facebook to check out their first ever line, and stay up to date on ways to join the un-revolution. But for now, just to give you a little peek…

Textured patterns which balance the emotions of Fauvism and the simplicity of a 50s sandlot league carry the aesthetic. Expertly blended cotton provides the delicate touch of knits while remaining breathable and durable; there’s no better way to encourage an active, play-in play-out lifestyle. If you want to dress your child in cute animals and upbeat colors, but you feel that Freshly Picked is too saccharine and Boy + Girl is too staid, then art & eden is the brand for you. True, the ankle zipper on the odd pair of all-green sweatpants feels off to me, a metallic, modernist intrusion on the garden but, on the whole, if I could have fit into the clothes on the rack, believe me, I would have walked out with them. It’s no wonder that Nordstrom, an early supporter of the brand, will now be carrying the line for infants, toddlers, and big kids of all genders.

As if that weren’t enough, the event itself was magnificent. The food, I am convinced, was catered by a dentist-approved Willy Wonka. There were tropical fruit shish kebabs, peppers fashioned into hummus bowls, and, for the grown-ups, some ever-elusive handcrafted vodka. The staff navigated tricky waters between attentiveness and nonchalance, which complemented the polished but not-too-pretentious loft just off Union Square. There was a whole table just for the kids to chat and snack and make arts and crafts, and the organic mingling which dropped off only an hour or so after the scheduled end of the launch was proof to me and Jeanne – a mother and blogger whom I met there – that art & eden can give us more than clothing with a conscience. It can give us the home we dream about.

You know, when I was a kid I would often dream about being older, about getting to do all the things I wanted, when I wanted. I never imagined that this is the world I would grow into, with melting ice and rising fear. But I also could not imagine all the people who are working to save it, all the people who realize, as Susan put it, that “you have to grow big enough, and make the right connections if you want to change the world.” I think, given time and support, we can sew the seeds of a new paradise, together.

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