Inspired by Waste, Eco Fashion Week Addresses the Real Cost of Fast Fashion
Before I venture into the mall, I channel my inner Amazonian. Like the women of Themyscira, years of training has given me an underbelly of strength that will carry me through any challenge– whether it’s passing a five-person-wide crowd or elbowing my way into the heart of a busy sale.
On most days, braving the mall is a futile endeavor, but sometimes I find that perfect outfit that fits my body just right. And that makes me feel like Wonder Woman after she climbed a tower with her bare hands.
I love getting a bargain on a beautiful outfit, but I can no longer turn a blind eye to the fashion industry’s many transgressions. That endless quest for the latest outfit de jour comes with a steep price tag, and there are real social and environmental costs behind that two-for-one tank top. Fast fashion gobbles up a massive amount of resources, is notorious for unethical labor practices, and leaves a mess of pollution in its wake. Lately, this has me rethinking my shopping habits.
The Cost of Fast Fashion
As the high-end retailer Eileen Fisher famously said: “The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world– second only to the oil industry.” According to the Washington Post: “The apparel industry– particularly the inexpensive, runway-to-retail segment known as ‘fast fashion’– is known to wreak havoc on the environment.”
The fashion industry has also come under fire for its unethical labor practices. According to the Guardian and UNICEF: “The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 170 million are engaged in child labor, with many making textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the U.S., and beyond.” That’s why adopting an ethical and eco-friendly approach to fashion is so much more than a passing trend.
With the spirit of holiday consumerism upon us, we caught up with the magnetic Myriam Laroche, founder of Eco Fashion Week, an annual sartorial event that takes place in Vancouver each Spring, to discuss the importance of adopting an eco-friendly approach to fashion.
“Fast fashion gobbles up a massive amount of resources, is notorious for unethical labor practices, and leaves a mess of pollution in its wake. Lately, this has me rethinking my shopping habits.”
Laroche, a Wonder Woman in her own right, is on a mission to create a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry by changing the way we consume, design, and discuss fashion.
GC: Why is creating a more responsible fashion industry so important?
ML: It was never a question of if we could create a sustainable fashion industry, but when and how. We know that the fashion industry is the second most energy-consuming industry on the planet. We all wear clothes, and we’re all responsible for the waste that we create. Going green isn’t just a trend– we must embrace it. We will never make clothes the same way again.
GC: What inspired you to create Eco Fashion Week?
ML: Vancouver is a very green city, and creating an eco fashion event just made sense. I created Eco Fashion Week as a tool to help the fashion industry transition into more sustainable ways of doing business. That’s how the journey started. I think the question is much bigger than one company or one brand. Shifts are happening in fashion, and sustainability is a movement that’s sweeping the entire planet.
GC: What’s unique about Vancouver’s fashion identity?
ML: Vancouver’s fashion identity is nothing like Montreal or New York. We have different seasons and tastes here, but Vancouver isn’t just a leggings-and-jeans city. We have our own distinct style. We wear extremely comfortable clothes with amazing fits, and it’s all about durability, sustainability, and efficiency.
GC: How can we, the average consumer, create our own green wardrobe?
ML: My idea of sustainability might be different than yours. A family of four and a single person won’t have the same “eco recipe”. We all have different values and resources, and we’re all trying our best. Some people will only wear vegan fashion, while others are comfortable wearing ethical or second-hand leather and fur. We can’t judge and shame. We must find our own unique purpose and lead by example instead of blaming and shaming.
GC: As consumers, how can we support a more values-based approach to fashion?
ML: Reusing is the easiest way to make an impact. There are so many great clothes out there that aren’t being worn, and we don’t always have to buy new. You could swap clothes with a friend or search for vintage treasures at a consignment store. I’m a big fan of Value Village, and I go there all the time. When I wear those unique vintage treasures, I get so many compliments. If you’re not comfortable wearing second-hand clothing, you could start with a belt or a vintage bag. Most importantly, donate the clothing that you don’t wear. There are far too many textiles going to the landfill.
GC: What can we do with mismatched shoes and socks with holes in them? How can we keep these items out of the landfill?
ML: Value Village accepts items you wouldn’t think of donating, like ripped clothing, random socks, or even one shoe. They have all the appropriate channels to recycle these items. You don’t have to ask yourself if something is in good enough shape to donate. Just donate it, and Value Village will decide what to do with it. Even if it’s just one sock or shoe, donate it. There’s a man who makes unique shoes from mismatched footwear, and he made around 100,000 pairs last year alone. He takes the donated shoes and finds a match for almost every shoe.
GC: We’ve heard that you use coffee and honey as a natural facial scrub. Any natural skincare secrets to share?
ML: I use plain organic yogurt and oatmeal as a gentle cleanser, and I keep leftover coffee grinds for face and body scrubs. If I want to do a scrub, I mix coffee grinds with coconut oil. The scrub is a bit messy, but I love it. I always carry coconut oil on me, especially when I travel. I’m always ready for a scrub. Sometimes I do a honey and cinnamon mask, which is amazing. Cinnamon can cause irritation and redness, so be careful with your cinnamon-to-honey ratio. If I want a lip plump, I put cinnamon and honey on my lips.