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Discarded Materials Become Desirable at NY Fashion Week

Fashion Takes Action member Lanni Lantto is a fashion (re) designer whose entire creative design process centers around the idea of “reuse, reduce, and recycle”. She thrifts for her materials instead of buying new fabric yardage and marries wedding dresses with table runners and garters with suit coats. No material is off limits, and inspiration comes from anything and everywhere.

Lanni feels strongly about there being no need to buy new clothes- everything that you own can be redesigned in to a piece of your dreams. To her, everyone has the power to make a huge difference and (re)designing is not only a necessary component of living a sustainable lifestyle, but also a wildly adventurous way to honor and respect our world! Her mission is to help consumers reimagine the items around them, and help them to create beautiful new outfits- all while being fashionable. Check out this great video from New York Fashion Week, where 8 ethical fashion designers put on a show at Tesla Motors. It follows Lanni on her journey of designing four pieces which represented our societal transition from petroleum to electric cars.

For more information on Lanni Lantto, you can check out her website here: http://lannilantto.com/

   

 

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The Impacts of Plastics

Written by FTA Member Amelia Musselman, the designer behind Elladora 

Apart from the function of fashion, the collection I have put together function to educate the world and support a movement of social and environmental responsibility. That is one of the reasons why I began working with plastics as a material. Well that and the guilt I felt every time I would throw one away or just stash them in the plastic bag cavern under my sink. I thought there has to be something I can do with these. I began to experiment to create a new material, and with so many colours and patterns the options are endless.

We often don’t think of the tiny plastic bag as a nuisance and although plastic bags are convenient most of us are unaware of the repercussions that are occurring and will take place in the future. Experts estimate that up to 1 trillion bags are consumed and discarded annually word wide. That is more than a million per minute.

Plastic of all kinds omit toxic fumes like carbon monoxide, dioxin and hydrogen cyanide. These dangerous gases cause respiratory disease, nervous system disorders and immune depression in humans. Chemicals contained in plastic like benzene and vinyl chloride are confirmed carcinogens which can cause neurological problems, cancer, birth defects, hormonal changes, gastric ulcer, thyroid problems and cardiovascular disease.

Plastic bags do not just have a toxic affect they have a physical affect. Hundreds of thousands of marine life die because they have ingested plastic bags. Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation. Nearly 90% of the debris in our oceans is plastic.

Picture courtesy of Sam from Bombastic plastix. Taken in Bali, he says this is a very clear example of why he began using plastic bags as a material.

Plastic bags are not biodegradable. They simply break down into smaller and smaller toxic particles that contaminate our soil and water, thereby entering the food chain. The issue is not just the physical pollution seen allover the world nor the space taken up in our overflowing landfills but what gets leached into our systems over the hundreds if not thousands of years they will be around.

All these depressing factors aside, I have found many other people using plastic bags to create amazing accessories and bags.

 

Arnym

 “I have been doing this for a while now and it all started when I realized I had too many plastic bags around me that I didn't want to throw away. Making something out of nothing is an amazing feeling.” Arny

Avivart 

“I started working with them about three years ago. I found hundreds of colored plastic bags in the cupboard under the sink ( I stored them there to reuse them for garbage).

I mixed knitting and then fusing techniques. The earrings are the result of that experiment.” Aviva Sawicki

One More Use

“I began incorporating the methods of upcycling plastic bags into my work as my environmentalism deepened. This led me to strive to repurpose as many non-biodegradable items as I am able, to keep as much plastic pollution out of landfills and out of our waterways as possible.” Beth Petricoin

Frank Cluck

“I started working with plastic bags when I was on a mostly failed quest at making my own grocery bags. I tried making a bag for my mother out of dog food bags (she is an animal lover!). It was a hit. When my husband commented it was a good bag and I should make more, I KNEW I was on to something. I made a bunch for us, and then decided to list a few on Etsy. My shop has grown from there, with the help of lots of friends and family collecting bags for me!” Jenny

The Factory Girl Shop

“I have always been concerned with the amount of plastic waste we have piling up on our planet and I wanted to find a sustainable way to reuse all the plastic bags I have stashed around my house! I managed to merge that desire with my own aesthetic and come up with something fun, fashionable, and cute” Jessica Murphy

 Bombastic Plastix

“We have developed a supply chain that fits the challenges of the plastic problem and works financially for all those involved from the poor farmer who needs additional income to our customers that need an affordable solution for their green production needs and for us to turn a profit in the process. We have removed hundreds of thousands if not millions of plastic bags from the environment in Bali.”

“The plastic bag problem in Indo/Bali has reached a completely disastrous level. The environment is choking on plastic bags. We just couldn't stand it anymore particularly me being a surfer. We don't have to tell you, by now everybody in the world knows that discarded plastic shopping bags are a huge problem. It is an even worse problem in the developing world. When you add a remote location the problem becomes even worse because of the cost associated with moving the material to an industrial recycling center. What we have done at Bombastic Plastix™ is create a solution to the problem of how to collect and recycle plastic bags that makes economic sense for a remote island like Bali. We take the solution to the problem and not the problem to the solution.” If you are in USA  you can purchase their works at Bisa Bisa in San Fran and Nancybgoods in Nashville

and

 Are plastic bags a necessity in this fast pace throwaway world or can we make small changes to eliminate their use?

We live in a culture that promotes and sustains needless waste, taught to consume without a real understanding of the effects of our excess. 

These recycled plastic bag works are an attempt at challenging this hegemony.

 

“If I can affect the way we think about waste, I can create change.”

Amelia Musselman

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Shop Smart, Do Good, Feel Great!

Written by Sinem Kilic, FTA Board Member

Every time I’m walking my dog on Sherwood Park trails in Toronto, I take a deep breath of fresh air and feel lucky to be experiencing nature at my doorstep. I can hear the ecosystem chirping and see little bits of wildlife peeking out. 

Lately though, with gratitude also comes a feeling of despair. Accompanying the chirps is the buzzing of the ACs and roar of the cars. Tall condos and rapidly expanding retail spaces are taking over the sidewalks of my once-charming neighborhood. These settings are affecting our daily habits.  We are shopping more and we want more.

I am fully aware that if we don’t change our habits of consumption soon, our grandkids might not get to enjoy nature the same way do.

Optimism runs through me so naturally I believe that there is hope for the future of our environment. From bringing litterless lunch to work to unplugging electronics before you leave the house, there are many ways to contribute to reducing the stress we put on our planet. Fashion isn’t typically what people think of when it comes to being green. But I’m happy to say, although slowly, this is changing.  More and more consumers are seeking zero waste fashion.

Zero waste fashion is not a new concept.  It has been a part of our history for longer than we would think.  The idea of zero waste fashion starts with a thoughtful design that uses all of the fabrics and in turn reduces the amount of discarded materials. It is estimated that 15 per cent[i] of fabric is wasted with a typical garment design. 

Creating clothes with a goal of zero waste pushes designers to be creative and think outside the box. At the next stage of production however, is where the some of the biggest obstacles lie.  Manufacturing environmentally thoughtful garments that don’t use traditional patterns is much more difficult and expensive to produce.  Over the years, some progress in manufacturing has taken place but there is a long green way to still conquer.

For consumers, the easiest way to relate and understand zero waste fashion is at the retail stage. Shopping at vintage and second hand stores and buying clothing made from environmentally friendly materials, contributes vastly to zero waste in the fashion industry.

We are in luck because Toronto has lots to offer to the fashionably eco-conscious.   Some of my favorites are; I Miss You Vintage on Ossington Street, Courage My Love in Kensington Market, Preloved  and Fresh Collective on Queen Street West.  There are also a lot of home-grown labels making their mark in cyberspace. Check out some of the talent at Shopecofashion.ca.

Every detail of our daily lives is an opportunity to do good for our planet. I want to continue to enjoy my time in nature and intend on bringing my future grandchildren to Sherwood Park to hear the chirps for themselves.

My newest purchase from Courage My Love, metal and pearl button 1950s earrings from Afghanistan. 

 Vancouver-based eco-conscious design from Nicole Bridger (www.nicolebridger.com)

[i] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/fashion/15waste.html?pagewanted=all__r=0

 

Keep in mind the green alternatives when shopping for your clothes. Seek fashion with an eco-conscious mindset.  Shop smart, do good, and feel great! 

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Upcycling: Turning One Person’s Waste Into Another’s Treasure

Canadians are wasteful.  According to StatsCan, we produced 777 kg of waste per capita in 2008 – the most of 17 industrialized countries.  And the vast majority of that goes to landfill sites.

Things are getting worse, despite all of the recycling programs in place in Canada. Unfortunately, the positive impacts of waste diversion programs have been cancelled out by an overall increase in the amount of waste going into landfills (Statistics Canada, 2008).

With its focus on ever-changing trends, the fashion industry can be a significant contributor to our waste burden. 

Some fashion-forward designers and retailers are using upcycling – taking items that were going to be thrown out and converting them into new and more valuable materials or products.  They are putting into practice the old adage and actually turning one person’s waste into another’s treasure.

Upcycling is environmentally friendly, since it finds new purposes for things that would have otherwise ended up in landfill sites, contributing to the release of chemicals into our land, air and water. 

We’ve all done it at home – used an old t-shirt as a dusting rag or egg cartons for arts and crafts. To up-cycle is to re-image and re-imagine waste into something different; taking items that are considered waste like scraps of fabric, used tires, old newspaper, and giving them new life.  

Fashion Takes Action members have taken up-cycling to a new level, making discarded items into fabulous new clothes and accessories.  This saves these items from landfill, lowering the ‘footprint’ of the new fashion items they create.

 

Agent Reclaim transforms post-consumer leather garments into fashion forward, functional handbags and accessories saving once loved outdated leather garments from landfill destiny.

 

AYLA "rescues" pieces by upcycling reclaimed clothing, waste and end fabrics.  AYLA believes that conscious consumers do not have to give up on style.

 

Bazant creates necklaces using uses recycled sterling silver and a rare mix of vintage and artisan materials hand-picked from five continents.

 

Edit re-purposes materials to make products that are new and fashionable, and that reduce their toll on our fragile environment, with a mandate that style and sustainability can go hand in hand.

 

Hintz Design uses salvaged metal and leather to create unique jewelry concepts. The artists also upcycle old vinyl records that can no longer be used for their original purpose to create one-of-a-kind clocks. 

 

I.M Wyred uses recycled newspaper beads, tagua seeds and metal scraps in her jewelry.  

 

JOOL is a collection of up-cycled vintage pieces carefully reclaimed and redesigned into modern and unique works of art. Every piece is different; each JOOL piece is reborn from its past life, breeding into it a new history, eager to experience life again.

 

Kali Clothing creates unique designs for women and men using sustainable fabrics such as Tencel, Modal, organic cotton, recycled PET polyester and vintage silks.

 

Local Buttons sources hand-picked materials chosen from second-hand 'Pepe' markets in Port-au-Prince. Every design provides sustainable, fair-wage jobs and breathes new life into old materials.

 

NOUJICA integrates screen printing, glass work, drawing and sewing to create a unique line of clothing and accessories, using only recycled and organic materials such as leather, cotton and linen.

 

Jennifer Fukushima and her team at Paper People Clothing spend hours sifting through vintage castoffs to find the best materials to create their eclectic palette of printed, tonal and textural fashions. They source the highest quality reclaimed materials and eco-conscious textiles.

 

[RE] creates clothing that tells a story.  Inventive designs made out of the wildest of materials shed light on what is possible with upcycled clothing,

 

Resaac makes beautiful handbags out of recycled materials. They use mostly bicycle inner tubes but also seatbelts and outdoor furniture. 

 

Samantha Nemiroff Jewellery sources discarded vintage materials which are revived into necklaces. 

 

Totem makes bags from locally sourced upcycled materials:promotional banners,truck tarpaulins and bicycle inner tubes.Components used in all totem products are the toughest and most durable (and therefore non-biodegradable) materials as their original purpose demanded these qualities.

 

Written by Eva Musso, FTA Advisory Board Member

Sources:

http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/environment/municipal-waste-generation.aspx

http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/environment/en/residents/waste/index.htm

http://www.upcycling.co.uk/news/why-upcycle/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upcycling

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Behind the Seams With...Lois Laine

Welcome to Behind the Seams, where we chat with FTA designers to learn more about their business and views of sustainability.

Meet Lois Laine, the designer behind Lois Laine:Instant Favourite Clothing 

FTA: What inspired you to start your line?

Fabric has always inspired me and I worked for many years as a costume cutter in theatre.  It was really a trip to India that inspired me to start my own collection.  The colours and fabrics there are so intoxicating.  A trip to a worker-run weavers co-operative was the final catalyst.

FTA: How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

All of my fabrics are sustainable.  Some require very little processing such as linen and wool.  Some are cellulose based and easily regenerated.

Some are recycled.  I've also started using rescued fabrics which are leftover yardages from manufacturing runs which would otherwise go to landfill.  I also use 100% recycled paper products for business cards, tagging, and stationery.

FTA: What are some of the challenges you face as a business owner who is passionate about sustainability?

There are many challenges to maintaining sustainability in the fashion industry.  Keeping prices competitive one of them as the eco fabrics are more expensive and producing in Canada is also more expensive.

Another big challenge, as an artist, is to create a collection with a particular look with only a limited number of fabric choices available.  I know as the demand increases, there will be more and more choices but right now it is difficult.  This is where I find the rescued fabrics are very helpful.

FTA: What has been your biggest success thus far?

My biggest success so far is hearing people say how great they feel wearing a "Lois Laine".  I've had so many people say how they feel sexy, or beautiful, or that they can't stop wearing a particular item.  One woman had to rebuy a top because everyone thinks she's lost weight when she wears her Lois Laine top.  I love that!

FTA: What is your favourite sustainable clothing piece? 

My favourite sustainable piece right now is the Shoulder Drape made from modal or bamboo and organic cotton.  It adds aesthetic interest and gives the illusion of a smaller waist while adding a light layer of warmth around the shoulders. It can be worn a couple of different ways and with a variety of outfits.  The fall/winter versions are the Collarap and the Tangle!

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Toronto's First African Fashion Week

Toronto’s first Africa Fashion Week was held  on August 15-18 at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.

Throughout the 4 day celebration there were various events inclusive of fashion shows, student design competitions, a marketplace, lots of after parties and, the most exciting part for FTA, a dynamic panel hosted by Africa Fashion Guide.

Africa Fashion Guide is a social enterprise that promotes sustainability within Africa’s fashion and textile industry. It’s run by multi talented Jacqueline Shaw and is inclusive of a very informative website, a published book and numerous business and consultancy projects.

The panel, focusing on ethical fashion and it’s role within Africa, consisted of myself (Meaghan Grewal), Local Button’s Ann Pringle, Sasha Hamilton who is a product developer for a major Canadian fashion retailer and has worked with co-ops in Rwanda and Supafrik’s Chinedu Ukabam.

The discussion started out with opinions on the creative potential of producing in Africa. There was no debate on the potential or the capacity of the continent for ingenious and unique textile and techniques but there were numerous stories of experiences about the difficulties in actually producing. The major consensus was the inability to source raw materials locally.  Examples of unused mills to produce finished cotton were cited in Nigeria and Kenya as well as the exportation of premium cotton from various countries where locals only then have access to the downgraded versions.

One main aspect that came out of the hour long discussion was the need for long term thinking. The mainstream fashion industry is in a destructive race to the bottom, jumping from country to country looking for cheaper labour and cheaper raw materials. Eventually there will be no new production hubs to exploit and all that will be left is a trail of formerly employed work forces with empty factories. Africa has the potential, since it can essentially start from a clean (ish) slate, to change the model, utilize and harness it’s natural craft industry and production capacity, to create it’s own model for fashion production and truly revolutionize how sourcing and production has been thought about thus far.

It’s these next few years, with those on the frontier currently producing within the continent that will shape this future and this dialogue commences through panels such as this one and inaugural events as Africa Fashion Week Toronto that will catapult the movement through example and consumer awareness.    

 

By Meaghan Grewal, FTA Board Member

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Sans Soucie Turns Waste into Wonders

Growing up in the 1980s "when recycling was being implemented," was how Vancouver fashion designer Katherine Soucie first became waste-conscious.

Today Soucie runs Sans Soucie, her own label, which has followed a zero-waste design philosophy since its launch in 2003. Using unique materials, Soucie constantly educates consumers about eco-friendly fashion.

ZERO-WASTE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

Soucie's zero-waste design philosophy stems from working in a textile mill in Ontario, where she was first exposed to produced materials that were discarded at the end of the day. Seeing firsthand the waste that was created from a single company made her aware of the issue.

It's what society wasn't aware of that pushed her to study textiles and focus on creating waste-free garments and fabrics.

Soucie's philosophy includes using waste materials from garment factories, reusing dyes, and capturing excess ink on table covers. 

USING PRE-CONSUMER WASTE

Soucie avoids using newly produced materials for her garments, organic or otherwise. Instead, she chooses to use pre-consumer waste — buying materials that would never leave the factory, called castoffs. Castoffs are typically the result of a wrong stitch or something similar, she says.

Soucie makes her own fabric from the castoffs; her main source of material is hosiery. For the past 10 years, Soucie has bought waste from hosiery mills in Canada to "transform it into a new fabric, garments, accessories and art installations."

Straying from buying new fabric to create her garments is a decision made by having "more materials on this planet that we don't need to be producing anymore." While it's okay for designers to want to step into the eco-fashion market by using organic materials, the issue lies in those materials still being produced.

PRODUCING ALL-CANADIAN PRODUCTS

Though she sells her garments internationally, all of the materials Soucie uses come from factories in Canada. Producing one hundred per cent Canadian garments is important to Soucie and something she's been able to continue since creating her label.

Three years ago, she was encouraged to expand her label by buying waste materials from other countries, and had to take a step back. Soucie was reminded of her Canadian roots and why she originally put herself in the business. 

"There's a bigger picture to what I'm doing. I'm not just producing a textile, I'm not just producing clothing," she said. "I really wanted to rethink that structure because this is meant to be specialized."

"There's a certain process and there's only a certain amount of work available and that's okay."

PIECES MEANT TO LAST

Creating the pieces herself, Soucie also emphasizes the fact that her product is meant to last: "I've seen clients that have bought some of my earliest work and the work still looks brand new." The designs are described as timeless, so consumers really can wear them over a number of years without going out of style.

All garments are made to be machine-washable and dryable, but are encouraged to be hand-washed and hung to dry.

Furthermore, Soucie offers continuous repair on products. "If something happens or the client has outgrown it, it can be remade into something else," she says.

EDUCATING THE PUBLIC

Soucie finds educating people about what she does and why equally as important as using materials produced in Canada. 

While at design school, Soucie was told there was no market for reusing textiles, and terms like "zero waste fashion" didn't exist. "I was told that I couldn't do what I'm doing," she said. But being told she couldn't design for a non-existent market pushed her to where she is today, which is why education around zero-waste is so important to her.

"It needs to start before the fashion schools; it needs to start in the elementary and secondary levels," she said.

Today, Soucie educates people by writing about the type of work she does and using social media to help. Wearing her own label is a form of education in itself and even word of mouth is her "strongest form of marketing." Often her clients come from referrals from other clients and "keep coming back."

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

While Soucie creates her own fabrics, she intends to do the same for other designers: "My goal is to be able to produce this material for other designers to work with." Soucie is connected to a circuit of international designers, and hopes to collaborate with a handful of them by sending some of her material to see how they would make use of it. 

Soucie also aims to build a "design house" based in Vancouver where other designers would be able to come in and produce a collection of their own using her textiles.

Soucie's garments are heavily inspired by nature and architecture. Her designs embody the Japanese term "wabi-sabi," which means "finding the beauty of things that are dead or don't have a voice."

For more information about Sans Soucie, visit the website or Soucie's online shop on Etsy.

by Kayla Isomura

Photo Credit: Kayla Isomura (first three photos) and Peter Jensen (photos from Vancouver Eco Fashion Week).

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Behind the Seams with... Caterina Mazzotta

Welcome to Behind the Seams, where we chat with FTA designers to learn more about their business and views on sustainability.

Meet Caterina Mazzotta, the designer behind Kali Clothing.

FTA: What inspired you to start your line?

Caterina: I began making clothes for myself when I was in high school because I was unsatisfied with the conventional clothing I found in mass retailers and at the local mall. When I began to receive compliments and people started to ask me to make them items, I knew this was something I should hone my talent at. After high school, I earned a BA at York University in Environmental Politics and Sustainability, and realized it was possible to combine my two passions into one!

So in 2006, I began creating unique designs for women and men using sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and vintage fabrics. In recent years, I’ve begun working exclusively with lyocell and modal.

FTA: How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

Caterina: It's important for me to incorporate principles of sustainability into each of my business decisions. Each collection from Kali is produced using sustainable materials, and designed and manufactured in Toronto. Sustainable fabrics used in each collection include organic cotton, lyocell and modal. I try my best to extend sustainability practices at every level of the business; from using 100% post consumer recycled business cards and promotional postcards, as well as recyclable shipping labels and packaging.

Oftentimes I'll even deliver online purchases by bike to local customers (saves them shipping fees too). Overall, with Kali I design in the hopes to create meaningful fashion that combines style and ethics motivated by social responsibility.

FTA: What has been your biggest success thus far?

Caterina: It's difficult to pick something in particular since the brand is still young but being able to have the opportunity to work in a network like FTA with likeminded designers is a success of its own.

 

FTA: What is your favourite sustainable clothing piece?

Caterina: I am in love with the sustainable fabric Lyocell (Tencel®) that is a natural fibre derived from dissolving wood pulp cellulose from the eucalyptus tree.

My favourite Kali piece is the Lyocell hoodie top. It is soft and smooth on skin, breathable, naturally wrinkle-resistant and most importantly - environmentally sustainable.

Kali Clothing is available on Sustainable Style here.

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Innovative Eco Fabrics That Are On The Rise

Fabric is one of those materials that seem impossible to live without; we wear it, sleep on it, sit on it, decorate with it, and some of us even dress our pets in it. Despite its enormous presence in our lives, many people rarely wonder about the effect this product is having on the planet. However, it’s clear that the textile industry needs some sustainable alternatives. Fortunately, there are a growing number of environmentally-friendly fabrics being developed, which will hopefully be adopted by the textile and fashion industries.

CRAiLAR is an eco-friendly alternative to cotton that is just as soft and durable, but created using flax, which needs far fewer pesticides to grow.

Its production process requires 99% less water than that of cotton. Enzymes are used in a natural process to remove the stiff lignin from the flax, resulting in a fabric that is breathable and comfortable. Flax farming is low-intensity, and minimal chemicals and water are needed for the plant to flourish. 

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has classified CRAiLAR Flax Fiber as a 100% BioPreferred product.The fabric is light, cotton-soft, and eco-friendly. What’s not to love?

Milk fabric is breathable and is soft and smooth on the skin. The fibre is created by drying fermented milk, which is then combined with natural ingredients to make yarn. Qmilch is a brand of milk fabric that feels similar to silk.

According to the brand’s creator, Anke Domaske, the production process uses only two litres of water to make one kilogram, compared to 20,000 litres for cotton. Milk fabric is significantly more expensive than cotton, but since it’s being used as a luxury fabric, it stands in a class of its own.

For a completely sustainable fabric that you can grow at home, look no further than Kombucha, named for the effervescent fermentation of sweetened tea used to make it. The material is completely sustainable and can be used like leather. The simple process requires only green tea, sugar, yeast, and the kombucha microbe, and creates a resilient and transparent material that takes to dyes more effectively than cotton.

Unfortunately, rain is this superhero's kryptonite, so it wouldn't be wise to make a kombucha raincoat, for fear of being left wearing a layer of what might as well be damp seaweed. The material is biodegradable and utterly waste-free, making this grow-your-own fabric a unique choice to add some green to your wardrobe.

With so many beautiful and sustainable fabric options, it may be easier than you think to let cotton and polyester take a backseat. Why not test the greener waters and try out a gorgeous sustainable fabric the next time you decide to get new curtains, or spend a weekend making a unique and vibrant blouse? Your wardrobe or home will gain some amazing new pieces, and the environment will thank you as well!

by Petranella Daviel

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Behind the Seams with... Amelia Musselman

Welcome to Behind the Seams, where we chat with FTA designers to learn more about their business and views of sustainability.

Meet Amelia Musselman, the designer behind Elladora.

FTA: What inspired you to start your line?

Amelia: I was inspired to create sustainable fashions in two ways while I was attending OCAD. First, we were always making little art and craft projects using new materials, and then once our projects were finished, I noticed most students were just tossing their projects away. It felt wasteful. Second, when I took a fabric dye class I fell in love with natural dyes, which led me to experiment with flowers and fruits to dye natural fabrics. Once I graduated, I then decided to begin using plastic bags to create totes and handbags, which led to my research into the effects of plastics. This helped me learn about synthetic fabrics vs. organic and sustainable.

FTA: How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

Amelia: I incorporate sustainability into my business by choosing fabrics that are certified organic, natural, sustainable or recycled. I try to create as many of my works as I can by hand, but when orders are too large, I employ local sewers and print makers.

I never buy clothing hangers and always reuse them. I also always receive buttons, threads and other notions from ex-sewers, which I reuse. I create accessories and plant hangers using recycled plastic bags. What I hope for the future is to create more natural hand dyed pieces.

FTA: What are some of the challenges you face as a business owner who is passionate about sustainability?

Amelia: As a small sustainable fashion line, I have trouble sourcing interesting fabrics while keeping my costs low in order to stay in my price point. I am very interested in making vintage inspired bathing suits and would love to use PET fabrics made from plastic bottles. This type of fabric can only be ordered in very large quantities. Since I am still small, I have had to source other less suitable fabrics.

FTA: What has been your biggest success thus far?

Amelia: I have two things I would consider successes. First, that I have kept my business running in some form despite the birth of my two children in three years.

Second, when Elladora's bathing suits were featured in NOW magazine two years in a row.

FTA: What is your favourite sustainable clothing piece?

Amelia: From Fall/Winter 2009, my Narnia/Victorian inspired line. This teal and light blue dress titled Goodbye to Shadow Lands was conceived to transition you from winter to spring.

The light and airy fabric gets you ready for warm weather, but the pleating adds weight and warmth. The soy and organic cotton jersey makes it feel like a t-shirt while looking fancy and whimsical with the added acorn charm.

Elladora is available on Sustainable Style here.

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What's in Your Lipstick?

There's nothing pretty about some of the ingredients found in common cosmetics. The products that have become integral parts of the daily routines of millions, including shampoos, facial cleansers, and hairspray, often contain substances that can be extremely harmful, not only for the user, but also the people and the environment around them. Unfortunately, no amount of concealer can hide this ugly truth.

David Suzuki's 'Dirty Dozen' list details the detrimental substances found in the cosmetics of thousands of surveyed Canadians. Many have negative impacts on wildlife and the environment, and some are suspected of causing cancer.

The cosmetics industry is highly unregulated, which leads to many unsafe products making their way onto shelves all over the world. The industry uses thousands of synthetic chemicals in its products, some of which are also used in industrial manufacturing processes to clean machinery, stabilize pesticides, and grease gears. 

International concern about the environmental impact of cosmetics is supported by data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Census Bureau; more than 3 million tons of personal care chemicals enter the water system each year.

If even one bottle of chemical-laden moisturizer floating in a waterway can have serious impacts on a marine environment, it's easy to imagine the sort of damage that a huge quantity of similar products could incur on the global environment.

Nail polish is perhaps the most infamous of all cosmetic products in terms of nasty hidden ingredients. The 'Toxic Trio' commonly found in the product (dibutyl phthalate, toluene compounds, and formaldehyde) can seriously affect the health of those exposed to them.

Nitrocellulose is another unsavoury ingredient that can be found in our pretty polish. Despite being synthesized from cellulose, nitrocellulose is a synthetic substance with vapours that can irritate our skin, eyes, and lungs. Nitrocellulose is also used in automobile paint and the explosives found in dynamite and fireworks. 

There is evidence that suggests the biggest carbon footprint is created at the consumer level, either by wasting or by misusing the products. Approximately one-third of U.S. landfill waste has been estimated to consist of the packaging from our beauty products. Even after the products have finished damaging our bodies, they continue to damage the environment. DDT, a product that has been banned in many countries, has been proven to remain in soil for more than 20 years

Millions of people use cosmetics and similar products to care for their bodies, but they may actually be damaging them through this practice. It’s important to know if your facial cleanser contains ingredients that also work wonders on a car engine! To limit negative effects, be aware of the ingredients in your beauty products. Avoid waste as much as possible, even when using natural products. Take care of the environment, as well as yourself.

by Petranella Daviel

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Behind the Seams with... Kristi Raamat

Welcome to Behind the Seams, where we chat with FTA designers to learn more about their business and views on sustainability.

Meet Kristi Raamat, the designer behind Encircled.

FTA: What inspired you to start your line?

Kristi: I was inspired to start Encircled while packing for a yoga retreat to Costa Rica. My suitcase broke at the last minute and I had to stuff everything into a much smaller bag. It started the thought process; why can't I have more versatile clothing that can truly do more? I longed for a versatile piece that you could wear a few ways, and that became the Chrysalis Cardi.

FTA: How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

Kristi: Several ways! We purchase all our fabrics, notions and supplies from local and Canadian suppliers, reducing the environmental impact of shipping goods in from overseas. All our designs are produced in Canada at a reputable local contractor- this is our investment in the Canadian apparel manufacturing industry. We also use sustainable fabrics in our designs, such as Modal, which is derived from beechwood fibres and achieves a luxurious softness and drape without chemicals.

Chrysalis Cardi owners get access to our Members Only section on our website, which features our digitized lookbook, additional how-to-wear videos, and other exclusive content. Our website has been great in helping minimize our paper use! And finally, we are currently transitioning to eco-friendly shipping supplies.

FTA: What are some of the challenges you face as a business owner who is passionate about sustainability?

Kristi: One of the most significant challenges is creating value and managing costs. Inherently, choosing sustainable fabrics, local production and materials is more expensive and necessitates charging a higher price to maintain a long-term business model. Consumers are starting to appreciate and value ethically-sourced and sustainable fashion increasingly every day, but there is still much work to be done in North America to increase education and awareness on why this matters.

Sourcing sustainable materials can also be a challenge, but there is an increasing number of suppliers who are offering eco-conscious fabrics and notions in response to consumer demand.

FTA: What has been your biggest success thus far?

Kristi: One of our biggest successes was being featured in the National Post. It was a story written by Lilian Asante, who beautifully captured our story and purpose. The story was subsequently picked up by the Calgary Herald, The Vancouver Province and the Montreal Gazette.

As a self-funded, start-up fashion brand who competes with large, million dollar companies, every little bit of press is helpful. That was our first national feature, which helped boost our sales and brand awareness in Canada.

FTA: What is your favourite sustainable clothing piece?

Kristi: My favourite piece is our Chrysalis Cardi in Black.

It can be worn over 8 different ways including a luxurious cape, cocoon cardi, one-shoulder maxi dress, tunic and more. It's perfect for travelling- helps me pack less and works as a day-to-night piece to instantly transform my look!

Encircled is available on Sustainable Style here.

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Ethical Shoes are a Shoe-In

It is estimated that a leather shoe takes 50 years to decompose - and synthetic shoes take even longer. To better understand the impact, remember that each shoe has a corresponding pair, and that the average person owns many different pairs of shoes during their lifetime. Then consider the number of people that own shoes, have owned shoes, and will own shoes. It can be shocking to consider the sheer volume of discarded footwear and its impact on landfills.

If you’re concerned about your impact on the planet, but also care about style, then have no fear. There are many eco-friendly footwear options, and fashionable items can easily be found. soleRebels is an Ethiopian company that produces shoes using recycled car tires for the soles.

Other sustainable materials are used as well, such as organic fabrics and jute. soleRebels is also fair trade certified, so you can wear its shoes knowing someone was rightfully compensated for their work in a safe environment.

Social impact also finds its place at FTA member, NationWares. This social enterprise partners with entrepreneurs in various countries for its products, ranging from bath products to office accessories. Its footwear line is handmade in Guatemala and offers colourful and unique options for both men and women.

NationWares further supports the local communities in which it is involved by providing training, creative education, and mentorship. You can find Nationwares shoes online or in the FTA Showroom in the Distillery District.

More mainstream brands are getting in on the eco action as well. For comfortable, everyday footwear, try the Vegan line by TOMS. The popular brand is not only known for its One for One policy, which provides shoes to children in need, but also for its fun patterns and colours. The Vegan line is free from animal products, yet retains all the aspects that make the product a fan favourite.

Great for a trip down to the beach, a relaxing weekend, or a shopping date with friends, Vegan TOMS are a fantastic choice for the conscientious shopper.

It can be alarming to consider the huge impact that we have on our planet. Consumerism is running wild, and our planet is being irreparably damaged because of it. We should put the planet first, and the choices we make in our daily lives should reflect this. Buying conscientious footwear is not only a weight off your shoulders, but a weight off the environment as well. There's no need to sacrifice style, though! Next time you need a new pair of shoes, check out the beautiful products that eco-friendly brands have to offer before heading out to a department store. Make a difference in your environment, not just your wardrobe.

By Petranella Daviel

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Resizing Fashion's Footprint

For all the hype about the environmental impact of clothing production, you may be surprised to learn that the majority of a piece’s impact comes from the customer caring for the garment. This includes energy and water use during washing, drying, and ironing. Luckily, it only takes a few changes to make a huge difference.

Fashion Takes Action has partnered with Million Acts of Green to launch ‘Resizing Fashion’s Footprint’. This campaign will help you realize energy and water savings by making small, but important, changes to your laundry regimen. In addition, by making smarter purchasing decisions, you can also reduce waste. The app is available on FTA’s Facebook page. By completing the acts, you can learn how much you have reduced your impact, and see which celebrities also do that act of green.

Did you know…

  • Approximately 80% of the energy used to wash a load of clothes is used to heat up the water
  • Many fabrics, and even items such as pop bottles, can be recycled to make new yarn, reducing the textiles in landfills
  • Synthetic dyes are made from coal tar, which is one of the most carcinogenic substances
  • The chemical ingredients in laundry detergent can create a toxic environment for aquatic organisms

Check out Resizing Fashion's Footprint here!

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Behind the Seams with... Lara Bazant

Welcome to Behind the Seams, where we chat with FTA designers to learn more about their business and views on sustainability.

Meet Lara Bazant, the designer behind Bazant Unique Adornments.

FTA: What inspired you to start your line?

Lara: I've created jewelry ever since I was a little girl. My greatest inspiration came from growing up partially overseas and becoming immersed in the culture and craftsmanship of India, Afghanistan and Thailand. After studying fine art and design, I spent a few years climbing the corporate ladder, but always made jewelry on the side. The whole time I worked in an office I never felt like I was making enough of a difference - I always wanted to do something more.

In 2006, I jumped ship and combined my experiences in business, travel and design to launch Bazant Unique Adornments.

FTA: How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

Lara: I use recycled silver and reclaimed vintage.

I also practice Direct Trade, which means I purchase materials directly from the artisan makers around the world, and can ensure they receive a fair wage.  

FTA: What are some of the challenges you face as a business owner who is passionate about sustainability?

Lara: Balancing the bottom line while staying true to my values and ethics has always been tricky. It would probably be a lot easier to get the cheapest materials and not care about the environmental or social impact, but having seen first-hand the results of unfair wages and poor working/living conditions in third world countries, I just can't do it.

FTA: What has been your biggest success thus far?

Lara: Well, that depends on how you define success. There are some media milestones that I'm proud of: Toronto Star, FLARE, LOU LOU, etc. I was recently invited to speak in front of an audience of 800 at the Society of North American Goldsmiths, which was a big deal because I realized I am considered an expert in my field. Juggling an artisan-based business with a newborn baby is also definitely an accomplishment!

But the thing that stands out most is a trip I took to Uganda in 2009. I volunteered in a school for orphans in war-torn Lira for a month so I could learn more about international development and pick up local materials. It became so much more than that. In teaching the girls, I learned to be a leader and left a legacy. When I came back, I was different. That trip still inspires me to be a better person every day.

FTA: What is your favourite sustainable clothing piece?

Lara: That's hard! I have a bunch of vintage stuff that I love. After working closely with FTA over the past year and a half I've become much more involved in purchasing Canadian-made eco fashion. I have a cardigan by Device called the Clara Cardigan that is my current fave. It goes with everything.

I tried it on at a trunk show but held myself back. I couldn't stop thinking about it so I contacted Melanie (the designer) a few weeks later and ordered it. I'm lucky she still had it in my size. Her stuff is very limited edition - which is part of why it's so great. Very unique. 

Bazant Unique Adornments is available on Sustainable Style here.

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Is Your Wedding Dress Sustainable?

Canada, as many of us know, boasts an abundance of ethically sourced and locally made clothing that consists of more than a burlap sack. However, when it comes to your big day, often an eco friendly wedding dress isn’t at the top of your list. Maybe you’ve had your eye set on a certain cut or even a particular dress. Many would go to great lengths to be able to walk down the aisle in their dream gown. But did you know creating a wedding dress can be more taxing on the environment then creating a t-shirt?

“Polyester is the main fabric in many gowns, it’s not breathable nor is it biodegradable,” said Patty Nayel, designer behind Canada’s eco-couture wedding dress company, Pure Magnolia.

Polyester involves the intensive use of energy and water in its production. Silk dresses are better, but the silk worm is often boiled alive or electrocuted in order to extract silk from its cocoon. In comparison, peace silk, which is used in some of Pure Magnolia’s gowns, is made from damaged cocoons that remain after the silk worm has hatched.

“It’s not just about the production of the garments, I’ve also looked into the fabric production, ensuring that all our fabrics leave as little carbon footprint as possible,” Nayel said.

Many mainstream wedding dresses are made in factories in the Far East, where workers suffer from exploitation and poor working conditions. One reason to consider donning an eco-couture wedding dress for your big day is to show you do not support unhealthy and unsafe working environments. According to the World Health Organization, 20,000 people die each year in developing countries as a result of pesticides used during cotton farming.

Any large-scale event, especially weddings, can be extremely taxing on the environment. From sending out invites to the leftovers at the end of the event, the only way to begin a revolution is to start small and grow from there.

For more information on sustainable made-to-order wedding gowns at reasonable prices, check out Pure Magnolia’s website.

by Rachel McHollister

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Behind the Seams with... Carrie Hayes

Welcome to Behind the Seams, where we chat with FTA designers to learn more about their business and views on sustainability.

Meet Carrie Hayes, the designer behind Ferhn.

FTA: What inspired you to start your line?

Carrie: I was inspired to start my line because there weren't good options out there that fell somewhere between work and casual. Like many women, my work days are busy with a lot of running around. I needed clothes that were comfortable and transitioned well from the boardroom to what I had going on in the evening.

Ferhn is the perfect solution. We make cutting edge jackets and super-comfortable separates. I wouldn't be caught dead in yoga pants or a hoodie. Ferhn is an elegant solution for women who feel the way I do, but still want comfortable pieces in their wardrobe.  

FTA: How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?

Carrie: Ferhn clothing is sustainable in a few ways. The first and most important belief I have is that things should be made well. Clothes that fit and are hand crafted with skill will naturally last longer and be more satisfying. It might take a bit of searching; trying on a brand you've never tried before, but the payoff is worth it. It's this delay of gratification (taking the time to visit a small shop instead of rolling in to H_M) that pays big dividends for the planet and your bank account. Ferhn clothing is far less likely to end up in a landfill because it fits great, is made with high quality materials and is made in Canada.  

Some of the other ways we incorporate sustainability are using some natural/organic fabrics, pricing competitively (to make it a realistic alternative) and manufacturing close to home. Our sewing factory is a few blocks from our office. This cuts back on shipping and packaging. Instead of 30% of your shirt's price being shipping costs (shipping costs = fossil fuels), virtually none of your money is funnelled towards transportation. Instead your money pays for quality fabrics and durable construction - things you can actually take home with you.

FTA: What are some of the challenges you face as a business owner who is passionate about sustainability?

Carrie: The biggest challenge to overcome is habits. We all have them. It's easier to buy a brand name and not think about it, than to have to evaluate quality. We're not even prepared for that anymore. Many people are unsure of how to tell whether one product is better than another.  

Making conscious choices is much harder than making unconscious ones. We have to slow down and think about it, we have to educate ourselves. There is a learning curve there. The payoff is huge though - for our spirit, our environment and our experience with the product. Buying sustainable is a contribution to the cultural piggy bank. 

As a sustainable Canadian business we are constantly trying to break the habit of people going to the Eaton Centre for what they need. It’s the best moment when someone walks out of our fitting room and their face lights up as they realize how much better our jacket is. It's a moment when their assumptions have changed and their horizons have expanded.

FTA: What has been your biggest success thus far?

Carrie: Ferhn's biggest success has been its loyal following across Canada. I feel honoured to know so many retailers support the line. I have customers tell me they'll never go back to another brand. Hearing that from someone makes you feel like you've done a good job.

FTA: What is your favourite sustainable clothing piece?

Carrie: The pieces I'm personally wearing a lot this season are the Linen Cycling Pant (looks fabulous rumpled and wrinkled) and the Waterfall Dress.

Both are super easy and chic. One of my perennial favourites is the Asymmetrical Jacket. I wear it year round.

Ferhn is available on Sustainable Style here.

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Big Box Stores Making Sustainable Choices

Shopping sustainably can make you feel great, but sometimes the higher price point can be prohibitive. Although fast fashion often has questionable origins, it sure does come cheap, and it can be hard to resist its lower prices. Fortunately, a number of big-name retailers known for cheaper clothing are starting to increase the sustainability of their practices.

 

 

H_M has received international approval for its improved eco-friendly production policies. The company is now the number one user of organic cotton worldwide, and has educated hundreds of thousands of workers on their rights. In addition, it has saved millions of tons of water in denim production and donated just as many clothes to charities. The H_M Conscious campaign has allowed the company to publicize all of its changes in policy and new sustainable production methods. H_M has become a global standard for retail giants starting to incorporate eco-friendly procedures and goals into production.

 

 

Online store, ASOS, is also working to improve the sustainability of its supply chain. Its website provides extensive information about the company’s journey toward cleaner production and friendlier fashion; topics covered include everything from working conditions and environmental concerns to animal welfare. In 2008, ASOS adopted the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) Base Code throughout its global supply chain, and became a member of the ETI the next year. The company also carries several hundred pieces from collections with ethical or eco-conscious origins in its ‘Green Room’. ASOS is taking big steps towards sustainability and its efforts are bringing the company far closer to excellence.

Macy's is a top destination for classy, fun fashion for the young American, but it is also surprisingly proactive when it comes to sustainability. Despite the widespread criticism of the company’s use of helium and petrol during the Black Friday parades, Macy’s has taken some serious action toward its goals. For example, the retail giant has installed 41 solar power systems in stores across the country and increased its use of recycled or certified sustainable materials to 93% of its marketing materials. This may not seem like much, but when a huge company decides to change its ways for the better, it makes a difference.

 

If you're attracted by more competitive prices, or there's a style you love that you just haven't seen in any eco-friendly shops yet, never fear. Many of the world's biggest retailers are becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment and are taking steps to increase the sustainability of their supply chains. The important thing to know is where your purchases come from, and the policies and procedures of the company in question. By making informed decisions, you can shop with a clear conscious without excessive harm to your wallet.

 

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Fair Trade, Better World

Fair Trade (FT) is a social movement based on principles which guarantee the equitable exchange of goods. Sounds simple, but in a global economy governed by debt and profit maximization, unfair rules are often disguised as complex legal trade agreements.

Defining Fair Trade is difficult because the term “fair” can be controversial in nature, but generally speaking, it encompasses secure living wages, transparent negotiations and guaranteed trading prices for commodities. In the absence of Fair Trade, developing world nations often find themselves stuck exporting large quantities of global commodities and resources but rarely see the economic gains that should come along with this level of engagement with the global trading system.

 

The problem here is that many developing world nations enter the global trading system at a disadvantage and often struggle to hold their ground due to pressures and stresses beyond their control. As a result, social and environmental rights and standards suffer as do those that work within these systems. 

In the fashion world, Fair Trade carries great significance because it challenges the infrastructure of today’s disposable “fast fashion”. Fast fashion is made possible thanks to FREE trade, where multinationals can cut expenses by producing apparel in poorer countries where workers bear the cost of cheap wages, bad working conditions, harsh labor laws and no environmental regulations. As a result, the manufacturers and/or farmers are greatly compromised, while western retailers enjoy large revenues and consumers enjoy cheaper purchases.

FREE trade arose in order to stimulate international economic prosperity and secure living standards. However, the reality today is that small communities in developing countries have little access to the benefits of the world market. By purchasing fair trade products, you help empower communities and shift the pendulum towards a more fair and sustainable global economy.

 

by Samantha Rudick

Photos from Azadi Project of their artisans in Bangladesh and Pakistan

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Origin Stories

To most shoppers, it is the final product, not its origin, which is most important when browsing the aisles. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in unwittingly bringing home merchandise that perpetuates child labour or other atrocities. This situation is certainly prevalent in the jewellery industry. In the past, retailers claimed it was impossible to know exactly where each jewel came from and how it was prepared. Today, shoppers are less ignorant and often demand more information. By making yourself aware of how and where your jewellery was created, you will save yourself the horror of realizing that your favourite earrings are a product of forced labour.

 

Photo from HowStuffWorks

Although child labour in the diamond industry has been widely criticized and reported, there are still hundreds of thousands of underpaid child workers in the diamond industry, most notably in India and Africa. While mining, cutting, or polishing, these children come into direct contact with oil, minerals, and machinery exhaust, which can have dangerous impacts on their health. The majority of the world's diamonds are cut and polished in West India, where the workers often are only paid a fraction of 1% of the stones they cut. In Africa, an estimated one million diamond diggers earn less than a dollar a day, which puts them below the extreme poverty line.

The illegal sale of diamonds has helped to fund devastating civil wars across Africa, which have destroyed the lives of millions. Conflict diamonds are those that are sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war. During the devastating wars in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone, warlords and rebels alike used the profits from the trade to buy arms. These wars have cost an estimated 3.7 million lives. Although the fighting in these countries has either ended or decreased, the conflict diamonds have not gone away. Conflict diamonds from Liberia are being smuggled into neighbouring countries then exported; diamonds mined in the rebel-held mines in the combat-ridden Ivory Coast are also reaching the international diamond market. Conflict diamonds are available in the global market, making it especially important to know the origins of your jewellery.

 

Photo from Human Rights Watch

Diamonds aren't the only commodity with roots in child labour and dangerous working conditions; the gold industry is just as prolific in terms of products with questionable origins. In Tanzania, for example, young workers mix toxic mercury with ground ore to retrieve gold in pits more than 15 metres deep, and many are seriously injured or killed when the pits collapse. Throughout the world, some 1 million children work in small-scale mines that use very basic techniques and avoid government regulation, thereby keeping work hours high and pay low. Much of the work these children do is prohibited under international law for anyone under 18. As pretty as the shiny metal is, its origins are often not quite as nice.

 

 

There are, however, many ways to keep your jewellery collection fresh and unique without inadvertently supporting forced labour or widespread conflict. Onetribe creates body jewellery from natural materials, and produces it either on-site in Virginia, or at their Indonesian workshop, which is run by friends and their families. Their extensive collection of ear plugs, labrets, standard earrings, and pendants are all exquisitely crafted, and often feature brightly-coloured stones such as labradorite, amber, and orange jade. For more classic jewellery, Brilliant Earth can supply you with certified conflict-free diamonds set in eco-friendly platinum or gold. Green Karat provides customers with detailed information about the origins of all the components of their jewellery and stocks a variety of lovely pieces. There are many suppliers who provide their customers with details on the materials they use and the procedures employed to create their products, so it is really quite simple to avoid jewellery created in unsafe, illegal, or inhuman circumstances.

Conflict diamonds and other materials procured through child or forced labour are certainly prevalent in the international jewellery industry, but it is not very difficult to find alternatives. Being an ignorant shopper is not advisable in any context, but it is especially important to be aware of the origins of your purchases when so much baggage may be attached. By being knowledgeable about how and where your jewellery was made, you can keep a clear conscience and be sure you do not support devastating conflict financed by blood diamonds and dangerous ore farming. 

Sources

http://money.howstuffworks.com/african-diamond-trade2.htm

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15842528/ns/world_news/t/diamonds-journey-grime-behind-glitter/#.UZzXS4bNvRE

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/11/13/end-child-labor-gold-mines 

by Petranella Daviel

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A Word with Melissa Ferreira

Since officially opening its doors in 2003, Vancouver clothing company, Adhesif, has promoted its line of handmade garments and zero waste approach to clients. The company has participated in Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week for the past six years; so what puts the "eco" in eco fashion?


Founder Melissa Ferreira, a vintage clothing buyer turned entrepreneur, spoke to FTA about her company and what makes it sustainable. 

RESPONSIBLY-SOURCED MATERIALS 

When asked what first came to mind about Adhesif's commitment to the planet, Ferreira stated that 95 per cent of her materials are vintage and reclaimed. The materials are bought from a local warehouse, with garments and fabrics donated by people and other companies. 

The 95 per cent also includes sewing items like buttons and zippers.

"A lot of our zippers are from the 1950s and 1960s," she said, adding, "most of the buttons are vintage", a popular feature in the store.

THE 'ZERO-WASTE ENVIRONMENT'

Ferreira not only refrains from buying new materials for her garments, but also sticks to a zero waste policy. Every scrap of material is used or recycled as best as possible. The smallest scraps of fabrics are donated to textile artists and because her store lacks a recycling system, Ferreira takes all recycling from her store to her home and recycles it there.

"It becomes a habit and you don't know any other way around it. A lot of companies claim to be sustainable and in my opinion really aren't. Just because you're using recycled paper does not make you a sustainable company," she said.

Ferreira said companies should look at every aspect to their company and "try to make it as close to possible to zero waste as you can".

"If someone's planning on using new materials as opposed to post-consumer waste, then try and make sure those are utilized to their complete fullest degree".

PRODUCING LOCALLY


All garments at Adhesif are produced in a studio in the back room of the store. Garments are handmade, put together by "a very small team of seamstresses". The company's main seamstress is Ferreira's mom who "worked in garment factories for 30 years," but work that's too much for her is passed to the rest of the team.

Adhesif ultimately produces "about a thousand garments every eight months". The production stage is endless and is worked at almost every day of the week.

THE POWER OF CHOICE

As someone who produces handmade clothing and handpicks materials, Ferreira feels "this type of work is really under appreciated".

"People are so used to being able to go into a place like H_M and get something for so cheap and not question it." Living in a western society, Ferreira says, "we're kind of spoiled. Instead of asking why is something so expensive, why not ask why is this so cheap?"

Because fabric often costs more then a cheaply-priced garment, "you need to question the ethical value behind it".


"That to me means someone somewhere along the line is totally being cheated. I feel like it's our responsibility as fortunate citizens in the western world to be able to make better choices".

"It ultimately affects our neighbours and it affects the less fortunate who don't have the power of choice," added Ferreira. "We have the power to choose and I feel like that should be taken as a huge blessing".

EDUCATING CUSTOMERS

With that said, Ferreira constantly educates her customers, explaining why her garments can cost over a hundred dollars compared to ten dollars. "It's a huge process to source the materials, then to wash them and care for them all," she said. Materials must also be deconstructed before being made into a garment.

"Once people understand that, there's a huge appreciation but it's a constant education that requires a lot of patience and a lot of determination," she said. "Once people do get it and they love the pieces, they end up becoming loyal customers over time".

Ferreira also said: "Education's a form of empowerment and once people realize they have the power to choose and the power is within their own choices then they feel empowered; they feel good about themselves".

"They feel like they're contributing toward their community and the world around them and they can change things if they want to".

THE SLOW FASHION MOVEMENT


While Adhesif is "not one of those successes overnight," the business continues to progress and evolve each year, something Ferreira enjoys seeing.

"It's really neat to walk down the street and see people in my garments," she said, and also once encountered an Adhesif sweater in the warehouse she buys her materials from.

"Someone bought it and accidentally shrunk it and then donated it," said Ferreira. "It ended up back in the exact same place where I get the materials from so that was endlessly comical to me. I was like wow it's happened, it's come full circle".

Ferreira's interest in designing and reworking garments began at age 12. She describes her own style as eclectic and enjoys wearing colours, patterns and textures. Although producing handmade products might sound "totally crazy," she said if she didn't enjoy it, she wouldn't have come as far as she has with the store.

Producing unique garments also gives each piece "its own personality".

"Everything is made with a heartbeat and a story."

Adhesif is located at 2202 Main Street in Vancouver, B.C. For more information, visit adhesifclothing.com.


by Kayla Isomura

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Formal Wear for You and the Environment

For those of you in high school or those with a high school-aged daughter, now is the time when the hunt for prom dresses becomes more of a blind, desperate, grab-it-and-go affair. Unfortunately, sustainability is rarely at the front of anyone's mind. Although it is rare to find a recycled-fibre gown at one of the many boutiques catering to this sort of event, they do exist and are a great choice, both for the occasion and for the environment.

Formal wear is infamous for the wasteful stigma that is practically sewn into the garments themselves: that they will be worn once and never again. For many consumers, this is the sad truth. However, there are many fantastic solutions to this unfortunate problem, just waiting to be tried on!


For a line of lovely, streamlined wedding apparel, have a look at Rawganique, as featured in Instyle Magazine, Washington Post, and USA today, among others. All their merchandise is made from hemp linen fabric, which is organically grown in Europe. Many of the wedding dresses are lined with wild, raw silk for a smoother shape and drape. Detailed information about each piece’s origin and ethical production is also available. Rawganique is a great choice for simple, stunning, and sustainable bridal wear.


Despite H_M’s unfortunate association with a company that sources Uzbek cotton, the company has been working to clean up its act (it is alleged that Uzbek state-run cotton fields regularly employ child labour). H_M has been reducing its water usage in denim production, donating clothes to charity, and educating Bangladeshi garment workers on their rights. The company has also launched its ‘Conscious Exclusive’ line featuring formal wear made from organic cotton, recycled polyester, recycled polyamide, and Tencel, a fibre manufactured from cellulose.

No matter which dress you choose, there is still a way to ensure it won't be wasted in your wardrobe for decades until it is once again rejected by your daughter - the unfortunate yet common scenario for many of our wedding and prom dresses. To ensure your dress is forever remembered, why not donate it to a local theatre? They are often in need of costumes and your discarded dress will gain a new, exciting life beneath the bright lights. Another option is to simply restyle it; many seamstresses or tailors can alter and even dye it to create a gorgeous blouse and skirt, a christening gown, or even pillowcases! The possibilities of what your dress could become are endless. Or, choose the method recommended by the David Suzuki Foundation: sell it! At Smart Bride Boutique, you can give someone else the chance to look fantastic on their big day, and save your dress from the trash.

If you are heading to a wedding, prom, or black-tie party, you have more sustainable options than you may think. There is so much you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and it can all be done while looking absolutely gorgeous! 


by Petranella Daviel

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Questioning the Daily Costume Change

When I was in school completing my thesis research there were many days when I barely left the house, let alone the desk in my bedroom. One of my good friends who saw me regularly throughout my year long slum would ask, “So is this the outfit you’re wearing for the week?” as I was known to keep a single dress on the go for several days in a row (and I’m not ashamed to admit the dresses often did double duty as pyjamas). Since I wasn’t attending any fancy functions, other than a trip to the grocery store or post office once every few days, I didn’t see the need for constant costume changes. Until, of course, the outfit began to acquire an undeniable odour or the inevitable mustard stain, what was the point of changing?

 

I was (rightfully so) prohibited from leaving the house in this classic thesis writing outfit.

So I got to thinking, why do we need to have a different outfit every day? I agree with changing undergarments on a daily basis, but jeans, t-shirts and my infamous dresses rarely get dirty after one day of wear. But now that I’m back in the working world I feel compelled to participate in the daily change, not because my outfit is dirty but because it’s the socially accepted standard. People would think it was odd if I showed up to work in the same thing each day. I’d be risking ridicule or worse yet, maybe I’d be risking my job.  

This daily ritual wasn’t always the norm. In the early 1800s, when most clothing was handmade, you likely didn’t have enough outfits for a daily switch up. It might have even been considered pretentious to want such a thing. It wasn’t until the 1920s, when more clothing was being purchased instead of handmade, that it became affordable for most people to own multiple outfits.

These daily costume changes we’ve become accustomed to are a social construct not a necessity. And maybe we need to start questioning the impact of these expectations. Is it better to have a closet full of cheap clothing just so that I can make a daily change? Or would it be better to have a few quality pieces that I really love?  

So I say, if you want to wear the same dress two days in a row, or the same shirt twice in a week because you love the way it looks and feels then go for it! Fashion is about feeling good and one should never hesitate to break a few rules when it comes to fashion. 


by Candice Anderson

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Reducing Textile Waste

The apparel industry has been accused of being one of the most harmful global industries, not only because of the overwhelming presence of its products in the world's landfills, but also because of the environmental impact of its manufacturing. Clothing production is an energy-intensive process that creates large emissions of volatile organic compounds and acid gases. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 13.1 million tons of textiles were trashed in 2010, crowding landfills and polluting the environment. 

The environmental impact of 'waste couture' certainly lasts longer than the products themselves; synthetic fibres don't decompose, and although woolen fibres do, the process releases methane gas, contributing to global warming. 

'Fast fashion', like its culinary counterpart, provides consumers with temporary satisfaction and certainly isn't overflowing with environmental benefits. When merchandise must be made as cheaply and quickly as possible, longevity is not a concern. One of the major contributors to a garment’s short life is the ever-changing styles that encourage enthusiastic consumerism. Cheap pricing further incentivizes shoppers to throw out their clothes and replace them with new trends.

There are, however, many ways to reduce waste and still keep your wardrobe fresh and fabulous. Invest in quality clothing that won't come apart with wear, look into upcycled and recycled fashion, and try out some multi-purpose pieces. 

 

                               

For example, EnCircled's Chrysalis Cardi can be worn eight different ways, including as a gorgeous draped scarf or a stylish evening dress. This is an incredibly versatile piece that will keep both you and the environment happy.

To make sure your discarded garments don't end up clogging a landfill, donate them to a charity that supports those in need. Alternatively, check out Eco Canada Textile Recycling, a Canadian company whose mission is to reduce textile waste and raise funds in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Being conscious of your environmental impact doesn't have to take over your life. Being aware of how your garments were manufactured or choosing pieces that are of good quality can keep your wardrobe clear of fast fashion and lower textile waste sitting in our landfills. 


by Petranella Daviel

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