U of C Fashion show highlights sustainability
The UCalgary Fashion Network hosted a crew of formidable leaders in the field of sustainable fashion on Friday, Jan. 26 at their Let’s Talk Fashion event.
The event was open to the public, allowing attendees to rub shoulders with Erin Bird, with FairTrade Calgary; Blake Ward, owner of Seed, a hand-made hemp clothing company in Calgary; and Stephanie Jackman, founder and president of REAP a not-for-profit association for locally owned businesses that care about the community and the environment.
The event explored how the current culture of diversity and localization of businesses, along with people still stuck with old stereotypes around the ethical and sustainable fashion movement.
“Even in this day and age when there are so many beautiful, wonderful options, there still is this misconception that it isn’t going to be high fashion or high quality,” said Jackman.
“People still have this out-dated notion that it’s going to be beige and ill-fitting.”
Bird challenged the notion that sustainable fashion is something hard and obscure mentioning that there are so many options for recycling fabrics, reusing fabrics, and knowing where the fabrics come from.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much our culture has really bought into the fast fashion world,” said Bird.
Sustainable fashion is still thought of as an expensive option reserved for those of a certain ethnicity and economical background, i.e., white and rich.
In recent years, this trend of ethical and sustainable fashion has started to diversify and become more inclusive as awareness and access to arguably better options increases.
Jackman said the average person wears only 30 pieces in their closet and suggested a change in our thinking to a cost per wear, rather than the amount and variety of items we own.
“If you really focus on buying high-quality garments and fewer of them, that’s a great way to reduce the cost,” said Jackman.
“Consignment is another a great way to go.”
Jackman said that even on a budget, one can reduce the amount of clothing being wasted while being able to express oneself in a way that reflects their values.
“You can feel confident and comfortable without really breaking the bank.”
Ward wanted to challenge those that claim his clothing is too expensive, arguing that although his pants cost close to $160 the fact that they will last a lot longer than a cheap pair of jeans means they are, in fact, more cost-efficient.
“If you are actually concerned about your money you should be buying our clothing because it lasts longer and saves you money over time,” said Ward.
The future for sustainable fashion is a bright one as more people become aware of the environmental and human impacts their purchasing power has, largely due to the documentary available on Netflix, called The True Cost.
“One of things that we’re really challenged with, in sustainable fashion, is the crazy long supply chain. We need to be able to meet our basic needs at home,” said Jackman.
The issue with long supply chains is they make it hard to monitor ethical and sustainable practices.
Ward is tackling this problem with his new project called Crop to Top, which involves localizing the whole process of garment production. He will be growing, milling and sewing close to home.
While fast fashion and chain stores are abundant and their marketing is woven throughout the fabric of our society, sustainable fashion is fighting back, challenging individuals to think about where their clothing is from and offering alternatives.
“We need sustainable fashion to be as convenient and as prolific as the mainstream is now,” said Jackman.
Bird suggested a few questions to ask when trying to figure out whether or not your clothing is sustainable.
“Who produced this? How did they produce it? Were those people treated fairly? Were they using pesticides or more natural processes? Where was it grown? How was it brought here to Canada?
“If your clothing costs $5 it’s very likely someone was exploited in the process,” said Bird.