Street View 123: Conscious style at Expo Chicago

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Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.

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Color, shape, texture. It's all there. But the focus on materials goes beyond the merely visual: Jenny Kendler is concerned about their origins as well. Which makes total sense, since she is the upcoming artist in residence at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental organization currently participating in Expo Chicago. Jenny's work attempts to question and bridge the separation between humans and nature—her solo show "Invasive Species" opens 10/4 at the Salon Series Projects. She was shot at NRDC's Expo-related event on the rooftop of the Civic Opera last Monday. Appreciate Jenny's art here and read more about her eco-friendly style in an interview after the jump.

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Artist and environmental activist Jenny Kendler was interviewed via e-mail:

Isa Giallorenzo: How does your work connect with what you wear?

Jenny Kendler: My artwork deals with human beings' relationship to the natural world, and advocates for conservation and biodiversity, so sustainability is very important to me. When we moved to Chicago 9 years ago, my husband and I made an agreement to buy only used, handmade or sustainable goods whenever possible. Luckily, this is not only very easy when it comes to clothing and accessories, but makes your wardrobe that much more interesting and personal—as each item is the end result of a treasure hunt of sorts. My guess is that pulling a made in China item off the rack at Forever 21 is nowhere near as fulfilling—as comes with a host of ethical issues to boot.

Can you talk a bit about the items you were wearing?

The dress is Dion Lee, an incredible designer from Australia. It has a sheer layer of hand-dyed dégradé silk over a yellow neoprene cut-out under-dress. His work would normally be way out of my price range, but second-hand on eBay it was completely affordable. The cape is an incredible faux fur from the 40's and is one of my favorites fall pieces. Blade Runner is a constant style reference for me, and I can definitely see the Rachel wearing this cape. The cream wool jacket and shoes are also second-hand from eBay, and the purse is 30's vintage, and has a darling matching change purse and mirror inside.

Being interested in sustainable fashion, what are some tips you can give to those who would like to dress more consciously? Any good sites/blogs on the subject you recommend?

Becoming conscious of our impact on our ecosystem is one of the most important tasks of our generation. But don't worry, you can be both sustainable and stylish! For those who love having a personal style and want to dress beautifully, I think that the back-story of a piece is important. If the dyes poisoned waterways, and the seams were sewn by someone working for below a living wage, to bring profit to a huge corporation, then to me, the garment seems a lot less beautiful. The good news is that it is incredibly easy to be more sustainable when it comes to clothing, especially with sites like eBay.com for second-hand, and Etsy.com for handmade. I never regret giving up shopping for mass-produced fashion when I have such good alternatives that are so much more ethical . . . and more interesting! This website is a really great source for several types of new sustainable fashion (fair trade, recycled, energy efficient etc.): modavanti.com. As is this one: fashion-conscience.com.

Could you mention some cool sustainable accessory or clothing lines available here in Chicago?

My favorite place to find a lot in one place (up-cycled, vintage, handmade etc) is Renegade Craft Fair. This year I got an incredible Grace Jones-esque vintage vest, a geometric lapiz necklace, and a few great pieces from local vintage shop Tusk. My favorite neighborhood places in Chicago to snag amazing second-hand or vintage are Crossroads & Buffalo Exchange in Wicker Park for basics and recent second-hand, and in Ukrainian Village I like Le Thrift for designer pieces (I consign there too), and Very Best Vintage. My friends run Kokorokoko, which is an amazing place for '80 & '90s gear, and if you love unusual vintage jewelery then head to Broadway Antique Market. Happy hunting!

Jenny Kendler's upcoming solo show, "Invasive Species," opens 10/4 at the Salon Series Projects . She's the next artist in residence at NRDC, which currently has a booth at Expo Chicago.

See more Chicago and Expo style in the Chicago Looks blog.

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