SUSTAINABLE STYLE

Written By: Deborah Halber | Photography By: Kit Noble

Summer resident and fashion designer Britt Cosgrove is making green the new black.

Even as a young girl, Britt Cosgrove had a strong sense of what she wanted to wear— and it wasn’t the tomboyish khakis and button-downs her mother bought for her. “She had a lot of opinions about it. I had a lot of opinions about it, but she won most of those arguments,” Cosgrove laughs. “So I think it’s a deeply rooted rebellion.”

Cosgrove’s rebellion took the form of a women’s clothing line called SVILU, (pronounced svee-loo), which comes from the word sviluppare, Italian for develop, expand, evolve, strengthen. Co-founded by Cosgrove in 2012, SVILU’s latest spring/summer collection of dresses and jumpsuits in washed linen, organic cotton and raw silk blends classic, simple lines with feminine, floaty silhouettes.

Cosgrove grew up in Cleveland where her father, renowned cardiac surgeon Dr. Toby Cosgrove was, until recently, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. Her mother, Anita, worked as a healthcare consultant. Cosgrove would beg for trips to the local craft store. She’d spend hours choosing fabrics. “I just loved it. I wanted to make things,” she recalls. She taught herself to sew on a Singer machine in the basement of the family home. After majoring in psychology at Middlebury, Cosgrove moved to New York. She landed jobs in PR for Prada and the luxury brand Hogan, which she says offered her a 360-degree perspective on the design world. “We were doing a lot of really exciting stuff, like dressing celebrities for the Oscars and one-off creative projects,” she says, but she decided to follow her passion and enroll in Parsons School of Design.

She then worked under fashion designer Peter Som and met her future business partner, Marina Polo. When Cosgrove and Polo started to explore their own line, they noticed that sustainability was a driving force behind industry startups in food and beauty, but not fashion. “We said, let’s make the company environmentally responsible but not compromise on the design at all,” Cosgrove says. SVILU uses organic cotton grown from non-genetically engineered seeds and without the use of pesticides, insecticides and synthetic fertilizers. They are also partnering with mills to develop better alternative fabrics.

True to Cosgrove’s childhood vision, the texture, ease and muted fabrics of her own line make the styles functional and effortless. Her mom’s utilitarian influence was “a double-edged sword, because it made me want to be creative and do my own thing. But at the same time, it taught me that you dress to empower yourself. You’re not dressing to be decorative. You’re not dressing to make other people look at you. You wear clothes to feel your best and highlight you—not what you’re wearing.”

The next big step for SVILU, which has been available through boutiques and department stores, is reaching customers directly online and through social media. Cosgrove is thrilled to be able to connect with the women who wear the clothing day to day.

Now she divides her time between Cleveland, where she is a diehard Cavaliers fan (“They won the championship on my birthday two years ago—a momentous occasion!”); Nantucket, where her parents own a light-filled, modern home on a cul-de-sac off Cliff Road; and New York City, her home for fifteen years, where she and her husband recently renovated a house in Brooklyn.

Cosgrove says Nantucket provides much-needed balance from the drive of her fast-paced life: “I love Nantucket in all the seasons. Landing in Nantucket, it’s fog, fog, fog. Then you get off the plane, and it’s humid and it kind of smells like roses. And you have this exhale moment.”

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