Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week puts the “hip” back into hippie, reports Vv Magazine’s West Coast Editor Alexandra Gill…
The ninth edition of Eco Fashion Week (EFW) premieres Sunday night at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. “Only in Vancouver,” you think with a giggle?
Perhaps. But now that sartorial sustainability is strutting down the runway as one of the hottest trends in fashion, EFW founder Myriam Laroche is obviously an innovator and Vancouver was an early adopter.
“We’ve ditched the hippie stigma,” says Laroche. “If you’re looking for granola and hemp, you’ll have to check the snack bar.”
Opening night will feature H&M’s new Conscious Collection. Made from organic cotton and recycled polyester, the sleek black-and-white collection launched in stores this week. It also drapes off the slinky shoulders of celebrity ambassador Olivia Wilde on the current cover of InStyle Magazine. (As part of H&M’s Garment Collecting Initiative, the company gave away 100 opening-night tickets to BC shoppers who donated a bag of clothes.)
H&M is just one of many fast-fashion brands that are feeling the guilt of their huge stain on the planet. Levi Strauss, Gap, and Target have all participated in the Natural Resources Defense Council program, Clean by Design. Its first report, released in Shanghai this week, noted that participating Chinese textile mills saved $14.7 million while reducing pollution by following its recommendations for reusing cooling water, improving insulation on factory equipment, and not allowing sewing machines to sit idle.
For EFT, local environmental initiatives will be discussed at the Zero Textile Waste Dialogue, presented by Metro Vancouver. Luxury womenswear designer Jason Matlo will be joining the panel of industry stakeholders to discuss how he reuses fabrics. He’ll also present his fall collection on Tuesday night, one of four runway shows that will showcase local and international designers.
When it comes to eco fashion, one size doesn’t fit all. “It’s about finding your own eco recipe,” says Laroche. “Maybe you buy yoga pant made from organic cotton with no pesticides, but find they only last six months to a year. Or maybe you buy pants made from synthetic fabrics that are more damaging to the environment, but last four years so you end up buying less. You have to find what works for you.”
Discussion, not judgment, is the point of Fashion Revolution Day, presented with VIFF Vancity Theatre. Everyone attending the screenings of Traceable (a documentary about the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 people) and Hand Made with Love in France (a celebration of haute couture artisans and the pressure to move their work overseas) is being asked to wear their clothes inside out so the labels are visible.
“We’ve become robots,” says Laroche. “We go into stores, we try it, we buy it, and we don’t even look at the label. Most people don’t even know if they’re wearing clothes that were made in Bangladesh.”
Of course, the easiest way to be an eco-fashionista is to buy less, buy local, buy high quality, and buy second-hand. Monday night’s events are an attempt to show that thrift-store styles can be fashion-forward. For the Thrift Chic Challenge, presented by Value Village, three stylists were each given $500.00 to create 10 runway-worthy outfits from gently-used clothing. For the 68-Pound Challenge (the estimated amount of clothing thrown away each year by average North Americans), Project Runway Canada Season 1 alumnae Carlie Wong will create an entire collection from 68 pounds of pre-loved garments.
If that still sounds weirdly West Coast, consider Kering. The luxury conglomerate behind Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen, is currently trying to “grow” leather in a lab from cell cultures to reduce its environmental footprint.
That’s not just weird, it’s actually kind of creepy. But the clothing it sires will undoubtedly be fabulous.
Who are you most excited to see on the runways at Eco Fashion Week? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.