By Angela Wallace
While Canada is well known for its natural beauty, it’s an unfortunate fact that its environmental record has gone from bad to worse, what with all their logging, mining and tar sand exploitation.
This lack of concern for the planet extends to fashion, too – while some great designers have come from this large nation – hello, Erdem and DSquared – there are very few eco brands of note.
Happily, that seems to be changing slowly. We rounded up three great examples of sustainable Canadian fashion designers who are demonstrating that style and sustainability can, and should, go hand in hand.
Based in Vancouver, Obakki creates classic and refined styles for the modern woman. These timeless staples capture effortless elegance for every day, offering pieces that are as beautiful as they are wearable.
With celebrity fans including Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, this ethical fashion label has been gaining international attention. Obakki works with their philanthropic counterpart the Obakki Foundation. This is a registered charity that focuses on providing clean water and education in Africa, and Obakki absorbs all administrative fees for the charity, allowing 100% of public donations to go directly to its charitable initiatives.
Unlike most denim brands, Triarchy has a secret: they use a Tencel/Cotton blend, which is far more sustainable than pure cotton (which is usually grown with GMO seeds and takes up a lot of water). Tencel is a highly sustainable processed wood fibre made from the eucalyptus tree, and if feels super soft when spun into thread. Not only is the energy used to grow, produce and manufacture Tencel 100% renewable, it also uses 85% less water than cotton to grow and process.
By combining these two materials, Triarchy jeans save on average 1500 gallons of water per pair and the water they do use is recycled. And speaking of recycling, they also use off-cuts from their production to create patchwork and fringe adornments to their blue jean styles.
3. Laura Siegel
Laura Siegel is a Toronto fashion designer, known for her ethically produced, artisanal collections. I attended the Siegel S/S14 show at World Mastercard Fashion Week and was impressed with her approach to laid-back luxe. At the time I wrote, “…you can see the hand-of-the-maker in so many of her designs.” Siegel has taken her commitment to craftsmanship and culture even further, with her newest collaboration, Project Eleven27.
Project Eleven27 was founded in response to the Bangladesh garment factory tragedy that occurred on April 24, 2013. When 1,127 lives were lost, it became the deadliest garment factory related tragedy in history. Siegel is honouring each life lost by hand weaving 1,127 limited edition scarves.
The beautiful, lightweight scarves incorporate laser-cut recycled sarees, hand woven with a silk-cotton blend by Namori Vankar and his family of talented artisans in Kutch, India. A portion of proceeds from each scarf will be donated to Sreepur Village Organization, which supports children and families by working with them towards their health, wellness and independence.
“Project Eleven27 will bring us one step closer to providing safe working conditions and promoting global advocacy for the ethical treatment of workers in developing areas,” Siegel said.
I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more from Siegel, since her designs are now sold in Canadian luxury department store, Holt Renfrew, and she was honoured with a nomination as one of six designers for The Emerging Talent Award at the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards. She’s definitely one designer to raise a glass to on Canada Day!