Cheol Joon Baek
Q: Where have all the green clothing stores gone?
A: Spring is in the air in the world of catwalks. But just as Fashion Weeks across the planet roll out green forecasts, eco fashionistas in Toronto may be wondering how they got left in the cold.
This month alone sees the kickoff of Vancouver's first Eco Fashion Week and the inclusion of a ModEthik show in Montreal Fashion Week, right after New York's Eco Fashion Week, aka The GreenShows, draws to a close.
And this is no green sideshow. Hell, London Fashion Week just cleared prime runway time for a sustainable catwalk show for the first time ever, featuring high-profilers like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood.
All things considered, it's little wonder every eco blog I pop on is littered with hyper-fresh, show-stopping designs made from a gamut of sustainable textiles. And yet tracking some down in Toronto seems only to have gotten tougher.
Okay, economists and fashionistas may read totally different glossies, but the clothing industry is as dependent on financial forecasts as on weather advisories.
Before wallets started tightening in late 2008, green clothing boutiques were springing up like daisies in May, but many of them couldn't survive when purses clamped shut.
Toronto sadly let go of Green Is Black and Heart on Your Sleeve, while Ottawa kissed Karma Wear goodbye, and Calgary's Green Bee Boutique shuttered. A handful of eco designers and distributors across the country stopped selling altogether.
The thing is, Montreal's and Vancouver's green clothing scenes seem to be surviving the recession with barely a scratch. (Just talk to the thrivin' peeps at Montreal's Rien à Cacher.)
So I ask local eco fashion guru and founder of Fashion Takes Action (FTA), Kelly Drennan, why. She blames it on the fact that Toronto is Canada's conventional fashion capitol and hasn't had much motivation to change. Lord knows, T.O.'s Fashion Week can do more to set a green example.
Luckily, we still have a couple of dedicated green clothing stores in this city, namely Preloved, Thieves and Freedom Clothing Collective. And you'll find a solid handful of clothing items at eco home stores like Ecoexistence, Grassroots and Anami.
Indy fashion boutiques like my neighbourhood fave, Nathalie-Roze, Distill, Black Daffodil, The Rage and Shop Girls also carry excellent green lines.
Across Canada, we've got at least 40 sizeable eco designers, 14 of which were nominated for FTA's first-ever Design Forward Award recognizing Canada's green talent. (It also pushed nominees to step up to the plate with greater transparency and accountability around green textiles.)
On top of some kick-ass West Coast talent like winner Nicole Bridger, Lav & Kush, Salts and Nixxi and some notable Easterners like Deux FM and Atelier B, keep your eyes peeled for those awesome Ontario-based fashion pushers on the list - including Elladora, Flora&Fauna, Revolve Clothing Co., Paper People Clothing, Preloved and Thieves.
If you want to see more of them in stores, you'll have to ask for them. It's up to all of us to create demand for sustainably made clothing and buy it when we see it, keeping in mind that it does cost a little more for fabrics that don't ravage the planet with pesticides and petrochemicals and salaries that don't leave workers in poverty.
Just buy a little less, knowing that quality items last season after season - something a $50 pair of pants just can't promise.
And if your budget just doesn't permit, bypass cheaper mall finds for vintage shops, hold old clothing swaps and scour green websites for off-season sales. That's my trick.
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