Angela Wallace is the founder and editor of www.sasstainable.ca, an expert voice on emerging ethical luxury. In 2013, she completed her MSc in Environmental Management at the University of London, at the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy. Her passion for the environment grew out of her family’s rural property in Raglan, Ontario, now a designated Natural Heritage System area in the Ontario Greenbelt. In 2009, she was granted Ryerson University’s Top 30 Under 30 Alumni award, because of her work as a motivational speaker, when she inspired over 30,000 students across North America. She is a published writer, contributing articles to Toronto’s leading business magazine for women, Women’s Post. She enjoys urban gardening, writing, fashion and yoga and currently lives in London, England with her husband, Owen.
Why did you decide to have a ‘green’ focus for your work?
As the editor of Sasstainable, I focus on luxury ethical lifestyle. I care about the story
behind the labels, from the food in my fridge, to the beauty products on my bathroom
counter and the clothes in my closet. I want to tell that story, and help change the
narrative. Integrating eco-friendly options in my work is a reflection of the outstanding
evolution of fashion and lifestyle that is transforming our lives.
Why do you think bloggers are becoming increasingly important in the publishing world?
If they’re independent like Sasstainable (check the fine print – not every blogger is
created equal), we bring unqiue voices that cut through the noise of big budget brand
advertising. Plus, many of us are honest and authentic. We share how we make style a
part of our everyday lives, rather than the other way around. In conventional advertising,
women all too often feel forced to pressure themselves into an industry ideal. We’re also
more immediate in our reach. We can share, instantaneously, the details of a sample
sale or the newest viral YouTube video. We’re fresh and fast.
Which green fashion labels are currently in your top 5 lust-list?
It’s so hard to pick my top 5 when there are so many good ones! In no particular order,
here are a handful of emerging brands that deserve our love and attention. I own a
brilliant satchel from label O My Bag out of Amsterdam, started by Paulien Wesselink.
Her brand is reinventing luxury leather goods that are hand made under fair trade
conditions in India. I recently heard Bruno Pieters, founder of the label honest by, speak
on a sustainable fashion panel and he was the most passionate panelist of them all. His
label is completely transparent and their SS13 collection is already selling out. I have to
give recognition to a few of my favourite Canadian designers. Nicole Bridger is now a
staple at Vancouver Eco Fashion Week and her collections continue to offer femininity
and high quality ethical materials to her devoted customers. Ferhn is an emerging label
out of Toronto, with a sharp eye on tailoring, ethical production and sustainable materials.
The Scuba Jacket, in a rich aubergine colour, is my current favourite. Finally, I love the
work of rising fashion star Henrietta Ludgate, one of the designers at London Fashion
Week’s Esthetica. She continues to inspire and I plan to visit her, and her showroom,
here in London very soon.
How do you merge ethical and non-ethical brands in your wardrobe?
I hold on to classic pieces, whatever brand they are, and keep my clothes in good condition.
That makes it easier to shop my own closet and style all my favourite pieces, ethical or not so
ethical. I have jackets that are now ten years old that I purchased with my first real job when
I was 19. I have a tailor and a cleaner, which helps to keep my clothes in pristine condition.
I value the things I own. I repair and resize, if I need to. I buy quality clothing and scour the
sales to pick up pieces that can last a lifetime, whether it’s a silk Diane Von Furstenberg
jacket or a trench coat by Canadian label Pink Tartan.
Do you use any green beauty products? If so, which?
I’ve started to introduce more organic and natural beauty into my regime. I love a lot of
products by Ren clean skincare, particularly their facial masks. The best is the Glycolacitc
Radiance Renewal mask, which provides clarity and fruit acid exfoliation. I’m also a
new monthly subscriber with Amarya Beauty Box, a subscription service that sends out
samples of the latest and greatest natural beauty. I’ll be writing up a review of my first
month of samples very soon at Sasstainable.
Which new green labels do you see as up and coming?
Annching Wang, founder of former brand Avery by Wang, is currently creating her
newest designs for launch in June 2013. In the past she’s used beautiful organic cotton
and the finest silks to create classic, wardrobe staples, like my favourite shirtdress in
petal pink. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. She’s one to watch.
Which is better: buying green, or buying vintage?
Well, both create impacts to an extent. Some sustainable lifestyle advocates claim
vintage is virtually impact free, which I lovingly disagree with. If you get technical, and
talk about lifecycle assessments, anyone who makes use of a product, like an item of
clothing, shares in the distribution of the impacts of that item. So yes, vintage may have
fewer impacts, but it’s not impact free. I recommend we do whatever makes us happy
and feels accessible. If searching the shelves at a vintage shop makes you break out
in a sweat, avoid it. If you love the element of surprise and the satisfaction of shopping
second hand, vintage is for you. Let’s be honest though, vintage shouldn’t include last
season’s ‘like new’ pieces that someone got rid of after wearing it once. Both approaches
have their place in personal style, so I say do what you love.
What’s your position on leather? Fur?
This is a difficult question to tackle as these issues have become inextricably linked
with sustainability in the public psyche. I wear leather, and will continue to buy more
sustainable leather, but I don’t currently own or wear fur. That’s not because I’m against
it – my great-grandfather was a furrier for Holt Renfrew and my Grandma had mink and
fox furs my Grandpa bought her from Eaton’s department store. They’re in tissue, packed
in boxes in my Mom’s basement. We took them out around Christmas and tried them on
together. They look lovely and they’re warm. I’ll wear them someday. There’s no denying
that animal products have a big environmental impact and there are considerable animal
welfare issues to consider. I’m reducing these products in my life whenever possible. I
feel it’s more important to vote with my fork than my coat rack when it comes to ethical
lifestyle and animal products, so my diet reflects that day to day.
Which shopping habits do you think are the most important ones consumers need to
Personally, the most satisfying shift in my own shopping habit has been a less is more
mentality. What that means to me, is this: I buy fewer items of higher quality and better
provenance. I want to know who made it, what it’s made of, and where it came from. I
won’t sacrifice style, so I’m building a closet of clothing that reflects who I am and will
hopefully last me a lifetime.
Any last words?
I also heard Jasmin Malik Chua, editor of Ecouterre, speak on that panel with Bruno
Pieters. She said something I really loved, “People won’t always do the right thing, but
they will often do the easy thing. We need to make the right thing the easy thing.” I
couldn’t agree more.