Recently we’ve been talking a lot about the havoc that’s caused by the fast fashion industry - clothes made in unsafe factory conditions where workers are underpaid or not paid at all; clothes that fall apart after a few wears piling up in the landfills; and the excessive use of toxic chemicals, just to name a few. By turning out new styles and trends every season, big brands are promoting a constant turnover of our personal closets, making us more inclined to see clothes as disposable and temporary.
But once you become aware of all of the harm that comes with supporting the fast fashion industry, it’s hard to keep shopping these stores with a clear conscience. But it’s also hard to go from buying new clothes all the time to cutting out shopping cold turkey. Because of this, a new industry is emerging: sustainable fashion. Specializing in different ways, companies and designers are looking to continue to celebrate all of the wonderful qualities of fashion, but in a more responsible way. This means using textiles that are made from ethically and responsibly farmed materials, or upcycled fabrics. This means being transparent about the working conditions of employees, and ensuring that all labourers are receiving a livable wage. This means designing products that are timeless, and will last for years. This means being transparent about, and being responsible for, each garment from when it’s manufactured, to when it’s disposed of.
Fashion Revolution is a global initiative that encourages individuals, businesses, and organizations to push for transparency in the manufacturing of our clothes. This means being responsible for, and collaborating on, every step along the value chain. In order to do this, Fashion Revolution is encouraging people to ask the question “who made my clothes?” during Fashion Revolution Week 2019. They’re also asking for everybody to make a pledge to engage in behaviour that inspires and promotes transparency, sustainability, and responsibility in the fashion industry.
At fairechild, we’re trying to our best as a small-scale, local company, by offering products that are durable, made from recycled PET water bottles, and made by hand right in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. For Fashion Revolution Week 2019, we’re pledging to upcycle 100% of our waste by 2020. But we’re not alone in our efforts. In Halifax alone, there is a whole community of fashion revolutionaries who, in their own ways, are making leaps and bounds to bring the fashion revolution to everybody. You may have heard of some of them, like Sattva, Make New, Elsie’s, Lost and Found, Penelope’s, and more, who all run businesses with sustainability at their forefront. But in the last year there have been some emerging revolutionaries in Halifax’s sustainable fashion world.
One is a new consignment store located in Dartmouth called the Has Bin. The Bin is run by two owners, Bee Morrison and Gwyneth Maxwell, who believe in providing a shopping experience for people in the least harmful way. Morrison explained that the Bin differs from traditional consignment in how it’s “owned and operated by young, queer people who are trying to subvert the incredibly hetero, cis, skinny fashion world.” One of the services that is very unique to the Bin is the extended hours they provide for genderqueer folk who may feel uncomfortable shopping with and in front of strangers.
The Bin is also striving to give everyone the opportunity to shop sustainably and locally by making their prices affordable, and with no brand-bias. “You will find a Valentino cardigan and a American Eagle cardigan in our store for the same price (somewhere around $15),” said Morrison. By doing this, the Bin is offering a service that’s a little more curated than thrift stores, but more affordable than other consignment or vintage stores, while remaining transparent about the service they’re providing.
The best part about the Bin, though, is how clearly both Morrison and Maxwell’s morals are reflected in the operation and constitution of their shop. They are both committed to delivering a service that places extreme importance on social sustainability, responsible and cautious capitalism, and accountability for our own actions. You can find Morrison and Maxwell Tuesday through Sunday on Windmill Rd. in Dartmouth, where they would be happy to see you in the shop.
Another individual who has caught our attention is the young 14-year-old Aeryn Eastwood, who has recently created a new leather-alternative that’s made out of food waste. A recent award winner at the Halifax Sci-Tech Expo, Eastwood created a faux leather out of a bacterial cellulose, using the same bacteria and yeast as kombucha to produce a textile-like material called a “pellicle.” Titling her project “Garbage to Gucci,” Eastwood is challenging two major issues with her innovative textile: fast fashion and food waste.
Recently faced with the almost unfathomable harm that comes from the fast fashion industry, and the millions of tonnes of food that’s wasted annually, Eastwood began to think of ways that she could make a difference on her own. Already interested in fashion, Eastwood began to research different ways to make more sustainable textiles when she came across this bacterial cellulose pellicle, which can then be cut, dyed, and sewn into various products. Eastwood’s pellicle is even more innovative than that though: instead of using fresh tea leaves and granulated sugar, she replaced these ingredients with food waste products, making her product even more sustainable.
When asked what she wants to see change the most in the fashion industry, Eastwood made her priorities very clear. “First and most importantly, better working conditions and better treatment for workers. Globally one in six people work in the fashion and garment industry get only 2% receive a living wage. Secondly I’d like to see the fashion industry less reliant on traditionally sourced textiles and more open to using sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives. Thirdly we need to change how consumers think about fashion and how the fashion industry markets to those consumers. Clothing should not be seen as disposable single use items.” Eastwood wants her innovation to become accessible to everybody, especially those in developing countries where resources are more expensive, and a cheaper alternative like her faux-leather would be extremely valuable for producing goods that are traditionally leather.
With motivated, innovative, and conscientious people like Morrison and Maxwell, owners of the Has Bin, and Eastwood, creator of her food waste faux-leather, there is certainly a push towards a more sustainable and transparent local fashion industry. But of course, these two stories don’t cover all of the amazing things that folks in Halifax are doing. If you have a story about someone you know who’s doing incredible things, send us an email, and we’ll feature the story in honour of Fashion Revolution Week 2019. If you would like to make a pledge towards Fashion Revolution Week, or learn more about the organization, head over to their website.