Sustainably sexy: New Paltz shop offers “green” lingerie indulgences

Melissa Orsini of Salix Intimates located at suite 424 in Water Street Market. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Modern women are expected to wear many hats and juggle lots of different responsibilities, but how many different people can you really be at once? Is it possible, say, to lead a politically correct, environmentally “woke” existence and still be, like, glamorous and sexy instead of frumpy and lumpy as a bowl o’ granola? Melissa Orsini thinks so. Stop into her brand-new shop in the Water Street Market, Salix Intimates, and she’ll show you how.

Sustainable lingerie is Orsini’s jam. She’s a young Brooklyn hipster who has spent most of her working life in the retail industry, the last six years of it managing a clothing shop in trendy Williamsburg. There she built relationships with vendors who were just beginning to bring undies and loungewear to the market that reflect contemporary consumers’ interest in shrinking their carbon footprints.

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“I always wanted to be a business owner,” says Orsini. Recently, she also found herself wanting to escape the stress of the big city, and fixed her sights on New Paltz: “My parents have been here a long time.” She was ready to make her move this fall, and in a spectacularly lucky twist of fate, a small-but-airy shop on the upper level of the Water Street Market became available — just across the parking lot from the about-to-open Denizen Theater.

Orsini grabbed the space at once, and it’s easy to see why she thought it perfect to display her intended wares: Sunlight floods in from windows on all four sides, and if you show up toward the end of business hours, you can glance at the glow of the sun setting over the Gunks while you admire the merchandise. Painted in white and neutral colors and filled with live plants, Salix Intimates has the feel of an upscale treehouse, adding a spritz of fun to the shopping experience.

The lingerie and “lifestyle products” on sale are fun to peruse in themselves. All the clothing looks both chic and comfortable, neither overly girlish nor matronly. There’s no Frederick’s of Hollywood cheesiness to be found here, no excess of frills and furbelows, no baby-shower pastels. Orsini’s taste in color leans toward unusual dark and rich tones — elegant browns, maroons, greys, forest green, deep blue, the occasional ‘30s-style print — in addition to wardrobe-staple blacks, whites and beiges. Yuletide jewel-tones will be in soon, she promises.

But the truly amazing thing is that all these posh-looking knickers — not to mention hosiery and robes and pajamas — are made from stuff that’s good for Planet Earth. Kent Woman supplies fair-trade organic silk garments; Mary Young makes its cozy/slinky robes from a blend of bamboo and cotton; Only Hearts trims its lingerie with recycled lace; Swedish Stockings makes fishnet anklets, pantyhose and tights entirely from repurposed stockings. “They’re the only sustainable hosiery company in the world,” Orsini says. “When you wear their products out, they’ll take them back. Eventually they end up being woven into mats for collecting oil spills in the ocean.”

Boutique apothecary items, all made organically and sustainably and often locally, are clustered in intriguing little collections atop the various countertops (mostly wooden dressers that Orsini has obtained from the Antique Barn next door). There are skin-care products in plastic-free packaging from Meow Meow Tweet of Gardiner; delicious-smelling, soy-based travel-sized candles from Brooklyn Candle Studios; salves and balms and even a soothing oil for the temples and wrists called Calm the F*** Down from a collective called Herbal Underground, which is Brooklyn-based but grows its herbs on upstate CSAs. You can buy organic toothbrushes that don’t take centuries to decompose like plastic ones, compostable silk dental floss, reusable bamboo drinking straws that come with a cleaning kit (perfect for New Paltz, amirite?).

Soon to come, and sure to raise a few eyebrows, will be reusable menstrual products from Glad Rags, including washable pads in fun, colorful prints. “All the products in the store I either own or have used,” the proprietor assures us. “It’s not gimmicky.” She says that she wants to ensure that Salix is “definitely a safe space” for women to expand their horizons of intimate wear and products. She does professional, private bra fittings in the tentlike changing room. Maternity and nursing bras are on the eventual horizon, and “I’m sourcing for sustainable activewear,” such as jogbras, she says. At present the shop’s sizes range from extra-small to extra-large, but that selection is also expected to expand: “I’m trying to focus on being as size-inclusive as possible.” Why should the fit and the svelte have all the elegant-underwear fun, indeed?

Orsini gets a mischievous look on her face when asked whether the store will be a “safe space” for befuddled lingerie-hunting boyfriends by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around. “That’s my favorite thing to do,” she confesses. “When guys come in, I try to make them comfortable. I ask them what their wife or girlfriend likes, what size she wears. A lot of times they don’t even know the size.” She says that Salix offers a generous exchange policy in case the gift-giver guesses wrong, so long as the garment is clean and the tags are still on. “I definitely want to be the spot where people want to come for Valentine’s Day!”

But don’t wait that long to check out Orsini’s wares: There’s a ten-percent-off-your-first-purchase offer happening right now. Salix Intimates is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week; later store hours for the holidays will soon be announced on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/salixintimates. (A full website is currently under construction.) For more information, call (845) 328-0363.

There is one comment

  1. William Moeller

    WOW! Melissa Orisini is like the Indiana Jones of organic lingerie!
    Congratulations on finding the mother lode of SJW suckers!
    I just wish I owned stock!

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