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.
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".
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".
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