The Ecoture™ project was created by Deborah Milner in partnership with Aveda and took inspiration from their belief that companies can profit without sacrificing the environment or exploiting people. The idea was to design and create a collection of beautiful unique couture dresses that were both ethically and environmentally sound. This groundbreaking project was an attempt to encourage more environmentally and socially responsible practices in the fashion industry, by showing what is actually possible within a seemingly narrow boundary of available fabrics and techniques. Deborah believes that couture is uniquely positioned to do this, as, it is not confined by the same budget constraints as Pret-A-Porter and, also, historically, Haute Couture has been defined as the pinnacle of creativity in fashion. The final collection of 11 classic and wearable red carpet dresses was shown at Alta Roma, Rome’s Haute Couture week in 2006 and proved that couture could be both beautiful and sustainable.


The collection  was inspired by Deborah’s trip to visit Aveda’s partners, theYawanawa Tribe in Acre, Brazil. This led to her collaboration with Chief Tashka Yawanawa, who supplied processed urukum through the Brazilian company Formil Quimica Ltda for use as a natural dye and kindly allowed Deborah the rights to use her photos of the tribe for the Yawanawa Dress. Each dress in the collection approached a different aspect of sustainability and, as such, presented a unique set of research challenges.


Alongside her dedicated design team, Deborah worked closely with long term collaborator, textile consultant Karen Spurgin, on the research and textile design for the project, as well as Penny Wright, an expert in natural dyes, and Emma D’Arcy  who created hand marbled fabrics. The collection used a combination of organic and fairtrade fabrics, including fabric woven by Women Weave, a fairtrade weaving collective based in India, recycled fabrics, such as end of line tie silks donated by Italian fabric manufacturer Mantero, and a plastic lace created by Janice Marr from plastic bags. Fabrics were all hand dyed or marbled using natural dyes and utilised traditional techniques, such as Chinese embroidery from a small family company threatened with extinction in the face of rapid industrialization.