Fashioning the Mind

“The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
-Diane Vreeland
The integration of fashion and academia is not something that immediately springs to mind when you start speaking about clothing. However, the two are closely linked. Fashion integrates architecture, engineering, chemistry and art. It is this integration that allows for the greatest creations.
The fashion industry, which must constantly reinvent itself, is undergoing a massive change as consumers begin to demand more from their clothing. A shift away from fast fashion and towards ‘slow’ fashion is the only way forward. We are beginning to place greater emphasis on understanding the impacts of the fashion industry on our natural environment and those who create our garments. But in order to succeed, it is vital that equal attention is paid to aesthetic, functionality and impact.
Just last week we got to be the fashion nerds we really are as we watched (like proud mamas) our Cornell dream team present to a team of judges in DC for the 2014 P3 Competition and National Sustainable Design Expo at the 3rd USA Science and Engineering Festival.  The team presented the findings of a year-long study/project focusing on waste reduction in the clothing manufacturing sector based on our model in Port-au-Prince.  The dream team won an honourable mention and we are thrilled to know the partnership with Cornell will continue!
Oh, we also met Bill Nye on our DC adventures.
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Media Hype

Check out LB in the media over the past little while, it’s been a busy and fun time for us!

We are working on new designs and new branding, all very hush hush:) but we’ll update with that soon. In the meantime check out our media buzz.

Waldorf Alumni Video featuring the LB starring Consuelo

http://vimeo.com/37692881

LB in NOW magazine

Emily Hunter rocking a LB vest at the Connect Beauty event at CSI in the Annex

Consuelo winning runner up for the Eveleen Dollery award at for the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s Passion for Fashion business worshop series.

LB vests on the runway at the Green Living Show

Kelly Drennan of FTA at the Green Living Show talks about LB and sustainable fashion!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7k5QS7vfNc

Anne modelling a LB vest on CHCH TV in Hamilton to promote the Green Living Show (2:10 on the clip).

http://www.chch.com/index.php/morning-live-blog/item/7596-sustainable-fashion

LB featured on both Trendhunter.ca and socialbusiness.org

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/local-buttons

#12 on the top 40 young social entrepreneur list:

http://www.trendhunter.com/slideshow/young-social-entrepreneurs#12

ReFashioned was a Huge Success!

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Dear All!

We could not have imagined the evening of our launch party unfolding any more spectacularly!

Friday night, Nov.25th, at the now  famous Nick’s Place, will never be forgotten by us for its success and significance. The evening was both action and people packed.

Nick we can’t thank you enough for opening the doors and letting us all flood into your incredible space.

Vests flew off the racks! It was so exciting. Our hearts were flooded with joy to see more and more of our guests wearing our vests and carrying parcels. We have requests for more that we can’t wait to fill!

Guess what! We haven’t wasted any time and INDEPCO is already producing more! We are hyper motivated, you all got us so pumped! We can’t thank you enough.

Our models were incredible Local Buttons ambassadors and it was amazing to witness. Each wore their vest in their own style, looking ridiculously good strutting down the runway stairs! When we followed the last model down the stairs we were nearly shocked into a loss of words by the sea of faces looking back at us. Image

Peter and Trish Lazar, the talents of Urban Room Disign and Production, and Nadia Tan, the talent of Six Nine Three, captured the action on film! We are very excited to see the footage from these wonderful artists. Some pictures taken throughout the evening are already posted on our Local Buttons facebook page and we can’t wait to share more as they come.

With every room in the house full we were given the opportunity to thank so many of the people who have helped us come as far as we have. In addition to thanking our incredible local community we could not emphasize enough the incredible work of our INDEPCO friends and partners.

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Mako Jey, DJ extravaganza, took us deeper into a perfect evening with maddd tunes. Unreal dancing!

Thank you to Mad Mexican Food Products, and Chocosol for generously providing delicious eats and we hope everyone enjoyed our Button cookies and signature popcorns! Thanks to our incredible bartenders for quenching everyones thirst with out of control sangrias, mixed drinks, and steamwhistle beer!

We also look forward to sharing the print and online media coverage that was at the event when it is released!

A Night we Will Never Forget!

Thank you with all our hearts!

We’re having a PARTY

We’re hosting a launch party and we want you to be there!!

Our vests have been pieced together and are soaring high above the Atlantic Ocean on their way to our eager hands! We are so excited for their arrival we can barely sleep:)

Join us November 25th for a night of LIVE fashion,  local eats courtesy of Madd Mexican and Chocosol, local brew, delicious sangria and beats provided by our live DJ.

You will have the chance to browse and PURCHASE one our vests hot off the machines of INDPECO in Port-au-Prince.

Mingle with other like minded eco-lovers and do some holiday shopping.

http://refashionedwithlocalbuttons.eventbrite.com/

The $10.00 Deal or RipOFF?

Fall day in Guelph, ON

Fall is upon us, cool and sweet, a gentle whisper of the harsh cold about to usher our way. Along with this onset of crisp air it’s tempting to revamp our wardrobes with new items and the newest trends. Of course, with the staggering amount of new trends thrown our way we tend to find ourselves searching for a cheap fix. Naturally, we all enjoy a good deal. A little bang for our buck. But where do we draw the line? At what point do we begin to view a deal in a larger scale? Understanding that nothing works in isolation, but rather our ‘deal‘ is connected to many people along the supply chain.

My boredom with my ‘old’ clothing and the chilly air has left me with this desire to revamp my Fall/Winter look and has had me thinking a lot about the ‘$10 Deal’. That cheap t-shirt or sweater promoted as a a STEAL. However, I have shifted my thoughts to see it now as a $10 ripoff.  I seek not to create a doomsday theory here, but rather look to engage more consciously in these so called DEALS that are offered at every turn.

In regards to the production chain, from start to finish, an item-let’s say a t-shirt-passes through many many hands. First a designer puts their creativity into a tangible sense and a t-shirt is born. Materials then had to be both created and purchased for which crops, water and labour are required (in 1999, 81 million tonnes of pesticides were sprayed on cotton alone) . Machines are assembled and sewers hired to create the design. Water is used to wash the garment and packaging created to ship the t-shirt. The t-shirt is then placed in a store by an individual and later sold by yet another individual. Beyond that, tags and labels are created and the store is heated, the walls built, the paint laid. So many small details made it possible for the $1o t-shirt to go from a cotton crop to on your back, yet only $1o was paid.

So who loses in this ‘deal’? A big company like Levi’s who is currently arguing over a $2.oo raise for their workers in Haiti (a raise from $3.05-$5)? I think not. It’s more likely the garment producer or farmer who is losing the most. But I would like to make the argument that almost everyone in this supply chain is losing. The designer, as their design is not produced to it’s full extent, the farmer, the sewer and yes even the consumer. If you purchase a cheap garment that was made poorly, you are not going to feel good wearing it and chances are it will fall apart fairly quickly.

We definitely understand the need for affordable clothing, but affordability must encompass all involved. Canadians spend an average of 21.5 billion on apparel each year (2009 Stats Canada Report). It’s evident that money is being spent and garments consumed. I am not advocating that consumers stop spending these funds, but rather relocate them. Continue to purchase clothing, just look at it like an investment in quality over quantity. You may buy fewer garments, but you will purchase ones that are well made, ethically produced and environmentally conscious. Less would be consumed, less waste created and clothing would last longer. It’s a win win.

The sun sets early…

Market in P-au-P next to the solar powered artisan marktet

There is so much beauty and confusion in this country I can barely keep my mind in one place throughout the day. Literally it reels. There are at times road blocks as we move forward to fill our first order-from pay scale, to logistics of importing to the practical aspect of finding the right pieces to work with. But there is so much beauty in the contacts we are making, relationships we are building and through watching and helping our clothing come to life. Of course ‘progress’ is never a linear line, but wow is it ever noticeable as we take this slow fashion journey with the men and women we are working with at INDEPCO. So much has happened this past week-from our work, to travel to going out and experiencing nightlife inPort-au-Prince. Allow me to elaborate a wee bit….

The sun sets early here, at 6pm, a much different vibe from ourTorontolate sunsets and later nights out. At the beginning of our trip we found ourselves falling into bed early each night as each day continues to bring with it a great range of emotions; from extreme highs and laughter to low lows of anger and sadness. Last Wednesday we hit the streets for Pepe. We started the morning off by mindfully meandering the streets with Perez in search of a pair of sunglasses that I broke the night before as I sat on them…Perez proved to be a great help throughout the day. After purchasing my new stylish glasses to repel the sun we hoped in a taxi. The day was supposed to be seen via motorcycle but alas safety was deemed more important than our yearn for adventure.

We visited a different market this time around-one that had everything from food, to Pepe, to new clothing and toys. The smell at times was a little less than pleasant, but our feet clad in our beat up Tom’s shoes we were ready for it all. Perez, a master negotiator, was incremental in getting us the best price possible for our purchases. As we walked through the stalls we were met with much laughter and bewilderment. We were on the search for GIANT pairs of jeans, men’s jackets and plaid dress shirts. Not exactly what you picture two young girls searching for. It was so hot I actually think I sweat more there than I do in my Bikram Yoga classes.

We loaded ourselves down with all our ‘new’ purchases and headed to the artisan market. There, we were taken up a tower to see the solar panels and batteries that are used to power the market. It was a welcome climb up the tower as just the previous night we had been wondering about the uses of alternative forms of energy and innovation inHaiti. How fitting that we be exposed to an example the next day.

We then found ourselves en route to an orphanage our host, Vincent, is working with. As we walked in the kids were in a semi circle singing, playing drums and calling each other out to dance. The joy in the place was palpable, as was the sadness. We spoke with the men and women who dedicate their days and nights to the children who stay there. Being with the kids made me realize that I may one day find myself working at an orphanage-I didn’t want to leave. I took to little Sony, the sweetest young boy with a gentle demeanor and ever present smile. It was while he was on my lap that I was informed that not only was he with out parents but he had a hernia-which caused major swelling and discomfort in his stomach and genital area and needed to go to the doctor. No child so young should ever feel such emotional and physical pain.

Yet he sat with me as if he were happy as could be. Not to sound like a bleeding heart, but it actually pulled at my heart strings. I found myself so upset. Yet what does my sorrow do for the situation? Nothing. I felt helpless, only imagining how he, Sony, must feel in the situation. Perhaps he knows no different, but is that not just as tragic? He has been on mind ever since, and we plan to go back to the orphanage, where I hope to find him peacefully recovering from surgery.

Of course there are many adventures to be had no matter where you are and we have experienced many. From dancing

Sony

the nights away throughout thePort-au-Princebar scene, to a lovely weekend getaway in Port Salut where we soared amid a cascading waterfall into fresh, cool water. The experiences both invigorating and heart wrenching for sure will continue.

Avek patyans nap jwen lombric foumi

Those moments where your fears become the reality are not easy. The pay scale at INDEPCO was a reality long before we arrived however we had been led to believe that it had an ethical structure in so far as it served the needs of the tailors. This is not the case. We are now delving into a complex challenge. We draw strength from a number of communities here and abroad that are engaging in the realm of ethical fashion.

It was a much needed wakeup call and one that we think we sub-consciously sensed before it was presented to us a in a very real way. We were misinformed on the pay scale of those who work at the INDEPCO factory. What we had believed was $40 US a day turns out to be $40 Haitian dollars or 200 Gourdes i.e. $5.00 US a day. A very drastic difference and one that is unacceptable in our eyes. That is the entry level pay. Those who have more experience can earn up to $8 US a day. Those in managerial positions are paid a salary, which is competitive in the Haitian market.

The good news is INDEPCO remains to be a favoured working environment for the tailors. One senior tailor has worked there 11 years and plans to remain. There is a sense of contentment leaving only the pay scale as the outstanding problem. We’ve observed the liberal expression of the employees as they talk, listen to music, eat and drink refreshments and work with fans, etc. There are a number of good things we could discuss. Forever the optimists yes!

Back to the hard bad truth.  INDPECO is a minor increase in pay over other factories which pay 100-150 Gourdes a day, it is still however, not a wage that allows for sewers and tailors to gain purchasing power or to create a middle class. We have spoken immensely with those working in the factory as well as others living and working inHaiti. We have been informed that it is above minimum wage, but it is still not enough. From what we have gathered one needs to be paid $9 US a day. It is crazy to imagine that a sum so low as $9 is a wage worth discussing. We struggle with what to do. We want to pay at LEAST $9 a day. So, do we demand that those who work on our project get paid our bare minimum? We think yes, but will that create power dynamics within the factory- i.e. those working with us and those who are not on our contract?

The garment industry is not servingHaiti’s economy as it should. CurrentlyHaitiis the choice location for the manufacturing of garments because it is the cheapest, cheaper thanChinafor example. We’ve been told that buyers are doing their best to work out ofHaitidespite the difficulties of getting orders done on time. It is a new location for the race to the bottom, the same race that has been run in so many countries. What would it cost companies to actually pay decent, livable wages? Would perhaps their issues of orders being completed on time not be resolved if the employees had incentive, through respect and pay? A company like Levi’s is arguing against a pay wage in their factories to up pay from $3 to $5 a day. Why is it that these are the discussions being had at a large scale, and not discussions centering around creating an industry that fosters the growth of a country and helps a company grow?

We believe these discussions need to be had. Like the Haitian proverb, ‘With patience you will see the bellybutton of an ant’, we believe that with patience we will begin to make incremental change. We could walk away, but we have decided we need to stay, to have discussions with both Hans, the tailors and those working with INDEPCO. We want to create an avenue that demonstrates that change happens in increments. Small nudges move big pillars. Inequality in the fashion industry remains a large pillar. But as the eternal optimists that we are, we believe that change will come.