By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 17, 2008 at 5:04 AM

In the fashion world, green is the new black, and fortunately, many new eco-friendly designs are a lot less crunchy than the shaggy, hemp-based ensembles formerly associated with organic clothing.

At Mequon's new Olive Fine Organic Living, which opened May 6 in The Mequon Pavilions at 10910 N. Port Washington Rd., you'll find soft soy dresses and shirts, 100 percent organic cotton Levi's jeans, and apparel items for men, women and children made from alternative materials such as bamboo, corn, vegetarian silk, seaweed and recycled rubber for shoes.

For the eco-warriors among us, it's a boutique to believe in. But even for the passive environmentalist, the store works. Most of the items don't scream "green," and would fit naturally in any fashion-forward retail setting.

"We believe you can make a difference without sacrificing quality, style or taste," says co-owner Michael Katarinic, a Grafton native whose appreciation for health and purity heightened after he was involved in a serious car accident in the late '80s. "By making an effort to change how we produce, trade or purchase clothing, we can drastically reduce wear and tear on the planet."

The store offers what Katarinic and his business partner Kfir Dayan call "luxurious" ecobrands -- names like Linda Loudermilk, the queen of green who first trademarked the "luxury eco" tag for her clothing collection, and Portland, Ore.-based Of The Earth, eco-fab family apparel, which is a popular line with Whole Foods Markets.

Children's apparel includes brands like Sckoon and Seattle-based Kate Quinn Organics.

"I wanted to create a line that encompassed all the wishes and dreams of new parents: the softest, most natural materials to surround your baby, the highest quality design and construction, and most importantly, the hope of a cleaner, kinder earth," says designer Quinn.

Organic textiles are an industry minority, and fair labor practices tend to come with a steeper price tag, but price points at Olive -- ranging from $30 to nearly $3,000 -- are not all that different from other independent boutiques in the area.

Aside from fashion, Olive also offers a section for home goods, like throw blankets and rugs from Ecolution and Loop Organic's cotton towels, as well as natural body care products like Trillium Herbal Co., Sturgeon Bay-based skin care products that are free from synthetics and preservatives.

"We carry the purest line of personal care products that I could find at this time," says Katarinic. "Some of our skin products are certified organic by the USDA to food standards, which means you could eat these products and you would not be ingesting and unnatural or non-organic chemicals or preservatives."

Many aspects of the space itself are green, as well. Katarinic and Dayan used  several sustainable building materials, including recycled wood fibers,  energy efficient fluorescent lighting, water-based paints, eco-friendly adhesives and product labels printed with soy inks. Plus, many of the remaining materials from the space's former tenant were recycled.

"Old drywall was sent to a dairy farmer for use in his fields, old wood studs were given to individuals for reuse and old carpeting was recycled to make new carpeting."

The owners also directly support  the community by contributing financially to The Farm Project, an organic farm committed to renewable energy resources that takes a holistic approach to education, training and socialization of at-risk youth.

The owners are proud of the Olive business model and see it as the path to a brighter future.

"As the price of old materials increases with the cost of oil and oil byproducts, it will make more sense for businesses to use eco-friendly materials," says Katarinic. "Plus, it will become more cost effective. It's my belief that more businesses will realize that the full cost of doing business includes the environmental impact of the building and the selling practices."

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”