Sustainable Fashion in Theory and Practice

LOCAL BUTTONS AND RYERSON FASHION STUDENTS TRAVEL TO PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI TO STUDY SUSTAINABLE & ETHICAL 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: anne@localbuttons.ca

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Fashion Travels

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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.

Shelley:

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.

 Alec:

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.

Danielle:

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!

 Stephanie:

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 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/

Fashion Forward?

Model from Baby Steinberg's collection at LG fashion week 2011

LG Fashion Week has come and gone, and yet again we see another festival pass without an eco-fashion component or event. Despite leading fashion cities like NYC, London and Vancouver all adopting eco-fashion initiatives and events into their fashion weeks, Toronto remains silent in the eco scene.

This isn’t to say that Toronto doesn’t play host to many  local eco fashion designers throughout the city, or promote sustainable fashion through F.A.T.. And in fact, LG Fashion Week did host a handful of eco designers incorporating sustainability into their collections. This year saw Baby Steinberg, Label, and Sarah Stevenson hit the LG runways. However, there has yet to be a night focused on encouraging and celebrating eco and ethical fashion.

Should LG fashion week, which prides itself on being ‘fashion forward’ not think in terms of the broader impacts of the industry? There really is only one way the industry can afford to go-towards an industry that promotes not only unique style, but one that encourages ingenuity and fosters fair and conscious consumption.

Bullying our Planet

Picking up trash for WWF's Shoreline Cleanup

Almost all of our experiences link together to further inform and engage us. We can choose to pull from the experiences and create links or we can simply react to each situation. I found myself drawing correlations between the following two separate experiences earlier this month:

The first weekend of October I took part in WWF’s Shoreline Cleanup initiative. Early one Saturday afternoon I, along with a few friends, made my to Ward’s Island to pick up trash. Along the way we were able to witness not one, but two, bridal brigades usher themselves onto the ferry and over to the island for photo ops.  Not exactly a regular Saturday  morning (the trash pickup), but it sure did provide for a weekend of retrospect. While picking up the scraps of other’s past experiences carelessly left behind, or those that washed up from the lake, left me wondering about the lingering effects of our polluting ways. An overwhelming amount of what we retrieved from the sand was cigarette butts and straws. Tossed aside with little thought, these seemingly inconsequential acts of dropping a butt in the sand have long lasting effects.

Birds, fish and other wildlife may ingest the tossed remnants. They get washed into street drains making their way to our water sources and de-beautify our parks where dogs roam, children play and hipsters lounge.

Earlier this month I also learned that a former highschool classmate remains hurt from the bullying he faced on a daily basis through his 6 years of middle and high school life. Hearing the negative lingering effect of the taunting, made me realize that what we are doing to our planet is bullying. Just as a bruise may heal and tears may dry, the emotional rigours of verbal and physical assault remain with a person indefinitely. It is hard to shake. When we pollute and pillage the earth the scars remain. The oil may stop spilling, the cyanide may become diluted in the lake, or the trash removed from the shoreline, but the lingering, hidden and often most detrimental problems prevail.

We may attempt to sweep up the mess, but what is desperately needed in both planet and human bullying is to engage in preemptive initiatives-Work on dealing with root causes, rather than the bandaid solutions.

Of course there are initiatives, and many working tirelessly advocating for safer and more welcoming environments. Here are a few links to name a few….

Environmental Justice Foundation-check out their campaigns to end the use of toxic pesticides in agriculture-and their links to helping make the fashion industry more ethically and environmentally sustainable.

It Gets Better-Of course we all heard about this org set up by Dan Savage-Speaking out against hate and intolerance and providing a community for LGBT youth

TEA-Toronto Environmental Alliance-a great way to get involved at a local level. In fact, this week is actually Waste Reduction Week. They also just released the report: Don’t Trash my Environment: Why Companies Need to Part of Ontario’s Waste Solution

The Evergreen Brickworks-beyond the fantastic farmer’s market and little oasis within the city, they are a great community resource and play host to a lovely bunch of local environmental organizations.

Flexibility and Versatility in Design

Tanya’s second post:

Since my last blog entry I have completed the technical drawings and specification measurements for the existing LB PEP line. My design contribution is the addition of a unisex tailored shirt. I spent this weekend patterning, cutting and sewing the sample.

This design addresses sustainability in multiple ways, first it is meant for both sexes. The idea of unisex design is becoming more popular and it is an interesting way to increase the function and marketability of a garment.

The most obvious sustainable quality is the garment is made out of found clothing. Found in my closet! I took a Ralph Lauren men’s plaid shirt from the 80s and a pair of Levis that I had bleached and worn to death and donated them to this new design for LB.

Lastly, this design is intended to have flexibility in its style. I envisioned the design to be worn in many ways. I think this will encourage the customer to buy less and wear the clothing they have more.

Hopefully this unisex shirt will be a must-have for the LB customer!

Tanya.