Green Fashion

It’s all about recycling for LaTonya Banes, owner and designer of LaTrice Designs in Dallas. She creates one-of-a-kind handbags and jewelry from repurposed materials, turning used materials into original fashion statements. Interest in green product choices such as food, cosmetics, and apparel is growing. The Soil Association reports that retail sales of organic products sold at over $4 billion in 2007, with an average annual growth rate of 22%.

Eco-fashion is clothing and accessories made from raw materials such as cotton grown without pesticides, the nonuse of harmful chemicals and bleaches to color fabrics, and recycled or reused textiles. According to Organic Exchange, a nonprofit committed to expanding organic agriculture, green apparel accounts for 85% of the total market demand; home textiles represent 10%; personal care covers the remaining 5%.

Like Banes, a growing number of African American entrepreneurs are exercising sustainable business practices, and creating distinctive eco-friendly products. The creative designer uses everything from old clothes, buttons, corks or any fabric that can be reused. She even recycled her own name, combining her first and middle names, LaTonya Patrice, to brand her company, LaTrice Designs.

“Each handbag or accessory I create is exclusive,” she says. “I create pieces from any recycled materials or fabrics I can find, and all the time, there is not enough of that material or fabric to regenerate more than one piece.” Currently, Banes is experimenting with the development of a handbag design from plastic bags. LaTrice handbags sell for anywhere between $50 to $200 depending on materials used.

LaTrice Designs has been operational for more than three years, grossing more than $30,000, but the company has been online for a little over a year at According to Banes, the Web does not yet generate as much revenue as expected. “We are in the process of modifying our marketing strategy to include hosting green awareness functions to educate our target audience and producing demo shows to drive consumers to our site,” she says. “Buying our products online would be an efficient, cost-effective way for consumers to shop and protect the planet. It would also save [the company] office and warehouse expenses.”

Banes feels that shopping for women is a tactile experience, which plays a major role in the purchase decision. This is the challenge that she believes is suppressing online profits because prospective customers don’t get to feel her products. “Our current Internet sales are not very high, but we are anticipating a significant increase once we educate consumers on the benefits of living green,” she says. In three years, she hopes to reach annual gross sales of $75,000 and to increase sales to $125,000 in five years.

Despite low Internet sales, profits for LaTrice Designs are significantly on the rise. “We more than makeup for low Internet profits at live shows,” she says. Regularly, LaTrice Designs is a featured vendor at fashion, hair, and trunk