Photos by Anna Cate Little.
0811 Molly GreenAnna Miller with sister and Molly Green owner Brittany Hartwell. Photos by Anna Cate Little.
Molly Green is not a person, it’s a concept. The idea for an eco-friendly clothing boutique came to owner Brittany Hartwell when she recently decided to move back to her native Birmingham.
A fashion merchandising major at Lipscomb University, Hartwell has introduced downtown Homewood to a shop like no other around: stylish threads made with sustainable materials.
Looking for her own identity in the colossal fashion industry, Hartwell found that she was drawn to a more creative, unexpected style. Shopping at Salvation Army, having clothes swaps with friends and learning to sew was much more fashionable (and green) in her mind. While choosing a more organic and “clean” diet, Hartwell realized that organic can transfer to all facets of life, including clothing. After owning four restaurants in Florida together, Hartwell and her husband decided to move closer to family and slow down a bit. And that’s when the concept came to her.
“I knew it had to be something I could really stand behind, fashion-wise; it needed to be different than what everyone else had,” Hartwell said. “Because really you can find almost anything you want on this street… except for sustainable fashion!”
So just what is sustainable clothing? Well, it’s the opposite of “fast fashion,” which includes many large, affordable retailers who source their clothing to third-world countries where factories are mass producing in sub-par conditions.
It goes beyond the use of organic cotton (cotton production accounts for 25 percent of all pesticides used in the United States) and other organic textiles such as bamboo, hemp and soy.
“Many of the designers will use recycled fibers,” Hartwell said. “They’ll take the remnants left on the cutting room floor, and they’ll spin them back together and add PET to strengthen the fibers. They use low-impact dyes that are less chemically harmful. A lot of the time they can tell me exactly where the fabric came from and who made it.”
Currently the store sells pieces from nearly 20 designers, a number that is quickly climbing. “Most are in the U.S., which is huge because we need to think about where our clothes are being made,” said Hartwell. “And we haven’t even touched it yet. Every day I find a new designer online, and I say, ‘I just have to have them.’”
Another facet of making “eco-chic” clothing is reducing the amount of clothing turnover. “[The designers’] goal is to create something that’s quality and will last for years,” Hartwell said. “The problem with fashion right now is that it’s very trend-driven and not about people seeking their personal style, only what’s being marketed to them.”
Molly Green opened its doors on May 7, and Hartwell, along with her dutiful employee and sister, Anna Miller, believes the concept is slowly catching on. “People are eating well, and they’re choosing organic options for what they put in their body, just not what they put on their body,” she said. “They just don’t realize their impact, the buying power they have.”
Hartwell is also very pleased with the boutique’s location in the heart of Homewood’s shopping district. “We were really lucky to find this space,” she said. “We have an awesome landlord, and it’s just so cozy. Everybody’s really friendly.”