By Stephanie Amy Collazo
In the basement of a Catholic Church in the Bronx one priest is producing sustainable clothing good enough for the stars.
Goods of Conscience is the brainchild of clergyman, now clothing designer, Rev. Andrew O’Conner. His designs have been featured in the high fashion magazine Vogue as well as on the big screen in the summer blockbuster Eat Pray Love.
The idea to start Goods of Conscience came to O’Conner after a retreat to Guatemala in 2004. O’Conner discovered that only one farm produces the heritage cotton that was the origin of the world’s love affair with cotton.
“My parish on the Upper West Side had not purchased albs, the white garments that altar servers and priests and deacons wear,” said O’Conner. “I decided to make them of the hand woven fabric I was exposed to in Guatemala and make the garments in New York City so that my parishioners would know where the garments come from.”
The clothing is produced in the basement of an old convent located in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx. It is here where O’Conner stores fabric, has a workshop where they cut and sew the garments and monitor’s the quality of the product.
Word quickly spread about the sustainable garments after magazine editor Anna Wintour used pieces from the Goods of Conscience line in the June 2009 issue of Vogue, which had been dedicated entirely to “green” clothing.
Much of the business’ popularity is due to the “go green” movement that has become widespread over the past few years. O’Conner has received a great deal of attention from the press for producing sustainable clothing that is beautiful and can do more than just address environmental issues.
“It also can address issues of poverty and heal what causes it,” said O’Conner.
Actresses Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts are two celebrities that have been spotted wearing the clothing, and with a price tag of $75 for a tote bag and $895 for a jacket it wouldn’t surprise me if more celebrities started sporting the Goods of Conscience brand.
“The clothing’s price is a barrier to the mass market,” said O’Conner. “Only a few, at his point choose to afford the price of Goods of Conscience, however price helps to recalculate value.”
Another cause for the high price tag is the quality of the garments; they are not mass-produced in a factory but hand woven in a limited quantity. The fabric is durable and breathable as well as possessing the usual advantages of cotton, softness, beauty and a natural aversion to wrinkles. “Color-grown cotton also has a suede-like finish that reacts beautifully to indigo,” said O’Conner.
Products are only available for purchase online or in the workshop located in Holy Family Church.
Goods of Conscience is currently aligning themselves with a bicycle commuter who wants an appealing line of practical clothing that can stand up to exertion, while still looking great in the office.