Sustainable Fashion in Theory and Practice


Unemployment remains at an all time high in Haiti following the January 12, 2010 earthquake. Many skilled garment-makers and designers remain jobless due to the lack of exposure to international markets. The sparse garment jobs that are currently available in Haiti are often subject to poor pay and horrific working conditions. Local Buttons creates up-cycled professional wear and accessories that embody style and quality. Each piece provides sustainable, fair pay jobs in Haiti and breathes new life into old materials.

Local Buttons and the Ryerson School of Fashion collaborate to lead a select group of fashion students to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to learn first hand about ethical production and sustainability in the fashion industry. Students will be visiting Port-au-Prince from June 2nd-6th, 2014 visiting multiple factories, local designers and artisans and a bottle recycling plant that makes textiles in the US from recycled Haitian bottles.

Lu Ann Lafranz, program director of fashion design at Ryerson states  ‘As a strong supporter of experiential learning for our students at Ryerson School of Fashion, I saw an opportunity to ignite further interest in sustainable fashion through our hosts – Local Buttons. What better way to allow students to push the boundaries of their education than to reach outside the walls of our classrooms and create an international experience?’

The trip will provide an inside view of manufacturing to students whose education traditionally remains in the academic and design aspect. Opening the doors to ‘expose’ manufacturing will allow students to see first-hand the various levels of the supply chain and the human and environmental impact of our consumption patterns in North America.

Alec Hildebrand, Ryerson fashion student states: ‘By seeing first hand what the factories are like and what the ethical occupational standards are in a developing country, I will hopefully be able to design garments that not only fit my aesthetic and functionality, but also are able to be manufactured at a relative cost with upheld fair trade and proper safety standards.’

‘We are thrilled to bring students into our production process’ states Anne Pringle, co-founder of Local Buttons. ‘It has been our goal since day one to provide transparency throughout our line and encourage collaboration within the design community’.

For more information contact Anne Pringle:


Fashion Travels


Next week represents a milestone for Local Buttons. When we originally envisioned Local Buttons we had the grandiose idea to bring a group of students to Haiti to explore fashion and sustainability. We dreamed up ideas for internships and a way to connect emerging designers to producers in Haiti. We marched into Ryerson with a proposal in hand, only to realize we didn’t understand the first thing about curating a trip, nor did we have a strong enough grasp on the manufacturing industry.

We are so thrilled to say that we have come full circle and next week we take off for Haiti with an amazing group of students from the Ryerson Fashion department. We look forward to showing the students sustainable and ethical fashion in practice. We have a packed itinerary involving visiting factories, artisans networks, a bottle recycling plant & a training centre. Beyond all this the 4 students are working on both creative and academic projects focusing on fashion and sustainability.

We had each students write us a little note on why they are interested in coming to Haiti. Below you will find their personal accounts.


Like most 17-year-olds thrust into independence, I entered university with little direction. I developed a four-year bond with psychology, but I knew it wasn’t my passion. After some intense introspection, I realized that my interests in psychology could be reconciled with my true calling: fashion. Environmental and positive psychology taught me that connecting with nature increases happiness, health, and overall wellbeing. We are meant to be natural beings. But how could I relate this to fashion? The ideals of a “hippie” lifestyle are almost considered taboo to a culture rooted in consumerism.

My original idea was to create clothing that increased the wearer’s connection to nature solely through the properties of the garment. Through careful research, however, I realized that the benefits of nature-friendly clothing are far more reaching. In addition to connecting people with nature, sustainable fashion can include fair trade wages for workers, water reduction, and less waste during production. The key to unlocking all of these benefits is getting the consumer on board.  For long-lasting effects, consumers need to adopt sustainable fashion for internal reasons. Otherwise, sustainably becomes a trend that can’t even sustain itself. This grassroots movement starts with a small amount of eco-minded individuals and eventually spreads until the consumer-base as a whole internalizes sustainable fashion and garment producers are forced to react to consumer demands.

While this movement is driven by individuals and the extent to which they adopt sustainable fashion, it starts with a product. Haiti will provide me with the opportunity to experience sustainable production firsthand, absorb its benefits and relay them to consumers. Consumers need to buy into sustainable products and production. To convince them, I will collect video footage from the Local Buttons factory that clearly documents the production process and arrange this information as an attention grabbing, call to action video to foster a positive perspective towards sustainable fashion – the first of many steps towards an internalized preference for sustainable fashion, and eventually, a sustainable lifestyle.


What I expect to gain from this trip to Haiti, is a solution to a problem I’ve been having since starting my education in fashion design. I understand the creative and technical creation of designs, as well as the business side, but the manufacturing segment is some unknown world. By seeing first hand what the factories are like and what the ethical occupational standards are in a developing country, I will hopefully be able to design garments that not only fit my aesthetic and functionality, but also are able to be manufactured at a relative cost with upheld fair trade and proper safety. Being within an actual factory will ground my ideals and forward my perspective from just being based on theory.


I’m unbelievably excited to travel to Haiti and to get the chance to be on the ground! It’s one thing to purchase a product that supports development from friends or even just a company, but its completely another to actually walk through the process with those facilitating it! I know this is going to be a very eye-opening experience for me & I’m really happy to be travelling with Local Buttons for this journey. I’m also happy to be travelling with 3 other students in my program who I can share the experience with when we are back. I think the ethical & sustainability issues we face in the fashion industry today can be tackled by us together – it’s really great to have a team of such like-minded and passionate people!


As a student going into fourth year at Ryerson University for Fashion Design, this will be my second time travelling to Haiti. In February of 2014 I completed a mission trip to help in orphanages and schools. This is when I fell in love with Haiti. I experienced a great deal of love and kindness on my travels which will forever touch my heart. Since then my goal has been to help Haitian people. Local Buttons has opened a door to helping Haiti establish fair trade jobs with a sustainable and ethical business model. I am so excited to be a part of this amazing group and contribute in anyway I can!

ReFashioned 2012


ReFashioned was an amazing night for us. We are so thankful to all those who came out to support both us and Maison l’Arc en Ciel. Through your generosity we are able to present the organization with just over $2000.00.

We want to say a sincere thank you to all of our sponsors: Mill St Breweries, Iceberg Vodka, Wayne Cowley from the Bottom Line, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Stasis, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Milestones, Indie Ale House, Melissa Dumanic, Bombshell Bakery, Ezra’s Pound, LPK Culinary Groove,TThese Five Minutes, Kathryn Rose Floral Designs, Chocosol and Jim Beqaj & Emma’s Eatery. We are so grateful for your generous donations.

A big and heartfelt thank you to our amazing volunteers from Humber, Ryerson, Senecca and Fashion Takes Action-you ladies made the night run so smoothly.

Gratitude to our models for rocking the LB style with so much personality and grace-you made us so proud! DJ MJ you continue to awe and inspire us. Our amazing hairstylist and makeup artists you added the most beautiful and elegant finishing touches to our looks. Sam, you took fantastic photos, we love them! Brianna Ber, thank you for your incredible sense of style, the clothing looked amazing because of you!

We cannot wait for our next event-maybe a summer one is in the works?!

DSC_0224 models us vests for sale vests up high volunteer

One Photo Shoot Away

We present to you: Sarah Portway. Sarah, like Tanya, is interning with us for the summer. Sarah is helping us get ourselves in gear in terms of research and the logistics and creatives of our photo shoot. Sarah brings a lot to the table with her dedication to eco-fashion, intellect and creativity. She is an excellent compliment in our Local Buttons family and we couldn’t be more excited to work with Sarah. Here is her first blog in a series of three.

Hello Local Buttons blog readers! I am new to this blog so I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself and explain why I am here.

My name is Sarah Portway. I am currently working on my masters degree in fashion at Ryerson University. The program is new to the university, and new to Canada. I am one of only 19 students currently involved, although our numbers will balloon to at least 39 in September 2011. I came to Toronto specifically for this program, and after a few new apartment mishaps (including a narrowly dodged bed-bug infestation, cruel landlords, and exorbitant rent prices) I am settling in nicely. My background is in fine art and retail management, and my future holds many teaching opportunities in sustainable fashion design based on localized Toronto practices – hopefully.

I’m focused on a triple-bottom-line: people, planet, and profit. This is why I became interested in Local Buttons. The summer semester of my program requires each student to complete a 140 hour internship. Local Buttons came and spoke to my class during the winter semester and I fell in love instantly. I knew right away that I needed to work with these remarkable women. A few of my classmates echoed my sentiments and signed on for the summer as well. I felt inspired by Consuelo and Anne’s passion and their commitment to social and environmental activism was very compelling.

As someone who is also interested in sustainability and social responsibility for garment workers, I have read a lot in the field. What struck me about Local Buttons is their focus on positives. A lot of literature and countless ‘green’ products present their case in negatives:

‘This shampoo is free of chemicals!’

‘Paraben free!’ ‘Contains no dyes or fragrances!’

‘This product is sweat-shop free!’

While this is a great start, I believe in focusing on positive solutions and changes. Local Buttons talk in positives when they are presenting their business model. They focus on what they can do to be responsible; they want to create an ethical and environmentally sensitive clothing line. They are not subtracting from their supply chain, such as removing the possibility of low-wages. Instead, they are forging positive relationships with ethical factories in Haiti. Rather than sending technical drawings and specs to this factory without seeing the conditions or overseeing production, they have gone to INDEPCO to work with the designers there and create the Pep look. They have actively sourced local talent to design these garments. They don’t waste time and energy discussing all that is wrong with the contemporary fashion industry. They take productive steps towards change.I have a great deal of respect for this approach and I hope to be a part of it in whatever capacity I can.

Right now, I am working on some research for Local Buttons and preparing for a fashion shoot with the samples that are ready. The research will help inform Local Buttons’ approach to fashion in Toronto as I will be reporting back on what they need to possibly start another production hub here in the city. The fashion shoot is going to focus on the theme of ‘transportation’ and the three of us met yesterday to discuss possible shooting locations and inspirations. After our chat, I went out on my bicycle and scouted some possible shooting locations in the Toronto Port area, just west of the beaches. A pleasant day for a ride, I felt once again that I had been touched by Consuelo and Anne’s positive influences. They had me so excited to get involved that despite working a full 8 hour day before we met, I felt compelled to put in some over-time for them. As I result, I’m now feeding off my own positive memories of the two-hour trip and I’m feeling very inspired going into this process… although my legs are a little tired from peddling around.

Tired legs aside, I’m looking forward to working closely with Anne and Consuelo over the next ten or more weeks. If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting them and basking in their positive glow, I highly recommend it.

Partnerships made at Ryerson Inspire Pép!

It is marvelous to become more and more immersed in the Ryerson fashion community. Indulge me as I share the inspiring new relationships that have immerged from the seeds we planted in with Robert Ott, the Chair of Fashion, and David Brame, asst. prof, last summer. Seeds transformed into stems when we met Dr. Lu Ann Lafrenz, assoc. prof, and presented Local Buttons to her Master Design class more recently in January. Stems of growth have turned out many buds of potential throughout February…We are on the verge of blooming. How timely as it is nearly spring time!  Ok. I will now loose the analogy and deliver the grounded…earthy… details (oops…it’s just I can’t wait for the greenery and shine of warm weather!)

Anne and I released the Local Buttons (LB…it’s time to be an acronym!) journey unto the  Ryerson master’s design class in January and were incredibly encouraged! We we were answered with praise and thought provoking questions around sustainability in fashion. Students Tanya White and Sarah Portway have since become interns with LB! Mayan  Rajendran continues to work with us, and Jenifer Forrest, currently running a successful business called Bennie and Olive, is working with us to update the LB business plan. We can’t wait to release more details regarding the fruition of these partnerships!

My favourite activity of late with Ryerson was LB’s participation on an opinion panel! Dr. Lafrenz’s class was assigned the challenge of designing a garment from used clothing in a deconstruct/reconstruct project. The completed designs were easy to praise! The innovation and creativity was fantastic. For some it was their first time sewing a garment!

I’d like to share some images of Mayan and Jenifer’s respective work that they have made accessible on thier blogs. It is definitely worth checking out!

The design creation

The LB is due back at Ryerson March 16th to present our activities to Pauline Ashworth’s, PT instructor,  4th year Design undergrad class.

We have BIG plans for expanding the Pép line. Our interns and partners are fantastic. Thank you all. Spring really will be a fruitful time with exciting new developments!

Made from the yarn of three unravelled mens sweaters!

We will share the roles being filled by talented Tanya and Sarah as interns with LB shortly, we will update the developments of Mayan’s designs for Pép, and we will soon have a comprehenisve busineness plan to put forward as we work to complete it with Jenifer.