Local maven launches a ‘green’ fashion retail outlet online
With a model for a grandmother and fashion magazines lying around the house as a youngster, Deirdre Holbrook was destined to find a career in fashion—in some way or another. After working in public relations, slugging her way through journalism, and finding her niche in environmentalism, Holbrook recently landed in that seemingly destined place—she pulls double duty overseeing a PR firm (Vie PR) for “green-friendly” clothing designers, and she has also recently launched a charming website named oakandco.com, which functions as a retail outlet for environmentally conscious clothing. All this, while holding down a family and life here in Santa Cruz. And not only that, but Holbrook can be credited for helping to put local jewelry company Blank Verse on the fashion landscape. The local designers of Blank Verse have been featured in numerous recognizable magazines and their work has slipped onto the wrists and necks of celebrities.
Holbrook is a local rock star fashionista who is making a significant dent in promoting and supporting green clothing and accessories. And we’re not talking about hippie fare here. The work that she dives into is beautiful, luxurious, cutting edge, modern and very fashion forward. Meet the newest face behind the green living fashion industry—Deirdre Holbrook, from Santa Cruz.
She meets me at a Downtown Santa Cruz coffeeshop and is wearing several items off her new website, oakandco.com: the Elin Coat by Juleselin, a Northern California designer who uses things like recycled fabric including bamboo, and whose aesthetic rivals anything you’d find in Anthropologie; and the Cowl Neck (a long-sleeve shirt in a dark grey color with a textured neck), also by Juleselin; as well as the Erma Boot (a sturdy and stylish work/play/rain boot) by Greenbees. Her ensemble is fitting for her career choice as someone who’s promoting fashion with a purpose—each item has a “green” emphasis in some manner, be it the shoes that incorporate tires into their soles, or the organic fabrics found in clothing, fair trade practices, recycled items, or sustainable accessories and jewelry. For a “green” fashionista, oakandco.com is a haven.
That’s not to say necessarily that the items are particularly on the lower-priced end of things, but Holbrook makes a good point when she explains common consumer philosophy and the tendency to snap up trendy items that will fall apart in no time, be out of style in a jiffy, and don’t have a pleasant history concerning their environmental impact.
“People are aware of organic food and the environmental impact and they’re shopping in droves at farmers’ markets, so there’s an awareness of what we eat,” Holbrook says. “But the same awareness isn’t there around clothes. Most clothes we wear are cotton, and cotton is a huge pesticide intense crop that has a severe impact on the environment and on people who work in the fields. People don’t always make the connection between what we wear and the environment.”
Holbrook started to make that connection several years ago when she worked for a newspaper in Half Moon Bay and began to notice the environmental battles going on there. The impact on her was significant enough that she left journalism and started working in PR as an advocate for sustainable causes. She became connected with someone who was launching a sustainable shoe company, so she started doing PR for them to help them get a ‘foothold’ on the competitive market. From there she began to build a wealth of contacts at newspapers and magazines, which led her to co-found Vie PR (which has offices in San Francisco and New York), and now she is further bolstering green fashion designers by creating this new retail website to showcase their work.
“In choosing the designers (on the website) I look for fit No. 1, then fibers, and that the fabric is wonderful, and I want everything to have a handmade quality to it,” Holbrook says.
In addition, she is also hosting a trunk show in the spring that will be open to the public, featuring the work of local designers like Manu (lingerie) and Blank Verse (jewelry), as well as designers whose work is showcased on her website. (Stay tuned for more information on this.)
In fact, other local designers can go ahead and contact Holbrook to see if they might secure a coveted space on her website. However, they must have a sustainable approach to design.
“I feel that to really have meaning in your purchase you have to know a story about anything that you buy,” Holbrook says.
For more information, visit oakandco.com.