Fashion Enlightenment: Our
What does sustainable really mean? When it comes to fashion, it can be confusing. Is it just another buzzword and catchy marketing trend to catch our attention? The idea of eco-fashion and sustainability has seemingly gone mainstream overnight, so it does feel as though we collectively woke up one morning and suddenly recognized our over consumption and the fact that could buy a blouse for $9.99. And just like other areas of our lives where we seek more balance, like our diet for example, and a work life equilibrium, we began to apply the same methods to our closets by making mindful choices and being aware of what we are buying and wearing. It isn’t very chic anymore to have that 6th Zeline, I mean that same Zara black dress.
Photography: Mark Binks
Words & Styling: Lauren Walker-Lee
Beauty: Kim Creton Model: Henriette
This new mindfulness and awareness of where our clothes come from is allowing us to create our own recipe and definition of what sustainable choices mean to us, creating a sort of fashion enlightenment that has caught on like a wild fire this second half of 2019. Sadly, and devastatingly, around the same time as the Amazon forest fires raged on – the lungs of the planet becoming viral symbols of a need for change and a wake up call to us Western hemisphere folk to start talking and asking questions.
Finding balance in fashion is a personal quest. Just like we have grown to accept friends with flexitarian diets, and applaud the first step of a meat-free Monday, or are entertaining the idea of a hybrid car but are not quite Tesla ready, we are becoming increasingly more aware of our fashion foot print, wanting to take steps in the right environmentally friendly direction by creating our personal recipes, and every bit helps. This new sartorial mindfulness has swiftly infiltrated our shopping habits. Less fast fashion more local independent boutiques. One quality knit sweater, perhaps actually made of wool, not ten acrylic ones. I’m looking at you H&M, or the wearing of fur only if it’s vintage, resale, or your mother’s. Thoughtful purchases not impulse buys. Whatever your mix, and if it works for you (and hopefully the planet) is a win.
Smythe designer’s Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe have always been mindful of designing slow fashion and have been focused on incredible textiles. Their collaboration with Audgen is exactly that. “The SMYTHE x AUGDEN collaboration is about celebrating the craft of knitting while empowering a community of women. The result is eco-friendly, sustainable product. Sourced from the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, each SMYTHE x AUGDEN piece is hand knit from the finest Alpaca yarn. Indigenous Incan artisans interpret and bring our designs to life, showcasing their incredible skills while earning a living that enables financial independence and the ability to support large, extended families.”
Eco-chic has certainly arrived, and I’m sure the grande dame of sustainable fashion Stella McCartney is thrilled more people are at the party. Brands like Reformation, Brother Vellies, and Megan Markle favourites Outland denim and Veja sneakers are highlighted amongst contemporary brands with social responsibility and transparency. It is no longer hemp sacks and tree hugging, as new high fashion brands hitting the scene like Redemption and Caitlin Price have built sustainability into their business models. And you know it’s a thing when it gets the royal stamp of approval with Queen Elizabeth announcing she will go fur free, and Gucci building carbon neutrality into all its verticals.
Extending the life cycle of a garment is one of the easiest ways to enact change. We can and will continue to shop. We just can shop smarter, recycle, and or wear our clothes longer. The luxury resale market is growing faster than the luxury primary segment reports The Fashion Law with a stat from Boston Consulting Group, estimating that luxury resale will grow at an average rate of 12 percent per year through 2021 to a whopping $36 billion market with a 9 percent share of the personal luxury goods segment. Additionally back in October, The Fashion Law reported that The RealReal was teaming up with Burberry to show the power of luxury resale and the impact it has on the luxury market. Those who consign Burberry pieces with the veteran luxury re-sale platform would receive an exclusive personal shopping experience at select Burberry stores. It is said to encourage their shoppers to extend the life of the products through re-sale. A similar circular clothing initiative is also in play with Stella McCartney, where those who consign Stella McCartney products receive a $100 store credit for the leading luxury sustainable brand’s retail stores.
“Extending the life cycle of a garment is one of the easiest ways to enact change. We can and will continue to shop. We just can shop smarter.”
Younger consumers take both the planet and creating less waste into consideration when it comes to where and how they spend their money. Dag Larson of Consign Toronto has noticed the shift. “Young people are really seeing how they impact the planet and are becoming much more conscious consumers. Recycling and reusing and creating less waste is so important to the younger generation, so this has helped grow consignment. When I started in this business the demographic was definitely older, and in my business I would say clients were more on the conservative side. What else has really changed over the years in consignment is that now people are looking for the hot new thing and if they can save a small percentage they are happy to buy very lightly used vs. paying 20% more for brand new.”
Fashion fans the world over will declare these things a victory: snagging something great on sale, finding a gem at a vintage store, or being first in line at a sample sale. Luxury re-commerce is essentially all of those things. Owner of Toronto luxury re-sale boutique VSP Consignment Britt Rawlinson speaks to rise of luxury consignment “There are so many different factors. I think people are starting to understand the effects of fast fashion. I also think people enjoy finding very specific items that are no longer available. The idea of buying secondhand has evolved into being about finding rare and one-of-a-kind pieces. As much as I think it is about moving towards smarter, more sustainable buying habits, I also think it’s about creating looks that aren’t easily replicated.”
Helping the environment and realizing just how quickly we discard our garments, almost as quickly as they are produced is now aiding the cause. Consumers demanding better has fast fashion retailers and independents alike upping their sustainability game with their garments and retrofitting their business’ with eco-friendlier practices. “Sustainability is a huge driving factor in the shopping choices we make today as consumers, and designers are prioritizing eco-conscious production as part of their brand identity. We have come a long way from the wasteful excess of 1980’s fashion and want to be better to ourselves and our planet,” shares Julie Yoo of I Miss You Vintage. And whether you love or hate social media and call out culture, it has the power to spread messages quicker than ever before, such as enlightening others about useful tips on conscious consumerism.
During the Black Friday mayhem, mega-blog turned online magazine Manrepeller sent out a call to action to their 2.3 million Instagram followers entitled ‘Questions To Pop Before You Shop’. They outlined seven questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase. Things like, will it elevate the other staples in my wardrobe? If I ran into someone I admire would I want to wear it? Is this so much better that I would feel compelled to donate three things in its place? And importantly, if it were more expensive, would I still try to figure out how to buy it? All excellent questions to ask ourselves when we feel that impulse to buy.
The renting revolution is also an area of the fashion industry that is taking our shopping habits by storm. The idea of zero waste coupled with the widely known knowledge that the textile industry is one of the most wasteful of the bunch is fuelling this new way to wear fashion. This aspect of the sharing economy is directly inline with savvy young shoppers looking for new economical and eco friendly ways to consume in all areas of their lives. Angela Pastor & Julie Kalinowski of dress rental studio The Fitzroy give some insight on the rise of renting. “We think it has a lot to do with people wanting to be less wasteful in their spending habits and favour sustainable options. We have all been following the same patterns for so long and ended up with closets full of dresses that were worn once, maybe twice. We think people are really starting to look for alternative options to this wasteful cycle and renting is an amazing solution! It gives you access to more variety and more options at a much lower price point, so you can still have that magical experience of looking and feeling amazing in a killer outfit without having to feel guilty about it taking up space in your closet and then buying a whole new outfit for the next event because everyone has already seen you in that one, either in person or online. The rise of social media combined with the rise of climate change awareness and the zero-waste movement have all led to an increase in the sharing economy, as people are looking to re-use what already exists rather than buy something new. Fitzroy successfully keeps garments in rental rotation for multiple years, bucking the engrained notion that people constantly need or desire current in season options perpetuated by the fashion calendar when in fact they might not.
“The rise of social media combined with the rise of climate change awareness and the zero-waste movement have all led to an increase in the sharing economy, as people are looking to re-use what already exists rather than buy something new.”
As with everything the pendulum swings, and our instant gratification and on demand culture for newness might have hit the limit on the silly scale. One click desire-fulfilling and our disregard for the planet literally has mother nature saying enough as well as our collective voices jumping on a new trend. It has shifted from being cool to tell someone your garment is vintage in the Kate Moss sorta way, to it’s now trendy to care about the planet sort of way. “Shopping resale and reselling your items also extends the life cycle of that unwanted item and makes it useful again. Cyclical fashion is the new shopping habit,” says Julie Yoo of I Miss You Vintage.
Our new mindfulness and awareness of what we are buying, wearing, or not wearing is a trend that should continue to rise. With information at our fingertips and our interest to ask more from our beloved brands will continue to have a ripple effect, aided in no small part by social media accounts and publishers who have realized they too need their content to be a bit more “green.” Accounts like Fashion For Good and Livia Firth’s Eco-Age (famed for the green carpet challenge) all publish excellent snackable and informative content, sharing new ways to care for the planet in terms of fashion. I definitely believe our care for the planet is a factor. Clothing can unfortunately sit in landfills for up to 200 years. Cycling your wardrobe just seems like common sense. Why wouldn’t you choose the more sustainable option? adds Britt Rawlinson. And sustainable options can be shopping your own closet, shopping vintage, donating and recycling through appropriate channels, supporting brands with sustainable principles, renting, and even washing your clothes in cold water. However you find balance within in the matrix of fashion sustainability and daily eco-friendly practices should be the right fit for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach just like there is still no standardized sizing within fashion, but together we can make a smaller footprint one sustainable stiletto at a time.
Photography: Mark Binks
Words & Styling: Lauren Walker-Lee
Beauty: Kim Creton
Model: Henriette at Niwa