How to Wear a Revolution

FashRev

Face it, fashion isn’t always pretty. The industry has a long list of atrocities to contend with, from the unethical treatment of workers and animals to environmental concerns around industrial waste and sustaining overtaxed resources.

This month marks the two year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapse where 1,133 workers lost their lives and over 2,500 were injured.  In response to the tragedy, a Fashion Revolution was born. This global, grassroots campaign aims to remind us of the continued social and environmental dangers lurking in our fashion supply chain.

Fashion Revolution wants you to find out who made your clothes — from who spun the threads, to who sewed them together, to who grew the cotton in the first place. On April 24th, you can join the Fashion Revolution by taking a selfie showing your label. You could turn your clothes inside out to make more of a statement.

Tag @fash_rev and the brand on social media and ask #whomademyclothes?

Fashion Rev chain

Making squares for the Fashion Revolution chain

Want to join the revolution close to home? The Toronto-based Fashion Takes Action has been holding sew-ins with Ontario schools to create a literal fabric chain that will later be displayed in events and a possible museum installation. Students have been collecting used clothing and fabric, which they have then cut into squares to sew together and form the chain. The chain of fabric is both symbolic for the supply chain and acts as a petition encouraging transparency in the fashion industry. Swing by the public sew-in this Friday at OCAD’s main lobby (more on the event here) from 10am – 2pm.

Traceable

Emerging Canadian designer Laura Siegel takes on the supply chain issues in TRACEABLE, a new documentary movie airing this Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, Bravo, M3, and E!. The doc connects viewers to the individuals and communities involved in designing and producing garments, illuminating the harsh realities that are woven into the fashion industry. Written, directed, and produced by first-time filmmaker, Ontario’s Jennifer Sharpe, TRACEABLE follows Siegel as she develops her 2013 Fall/Winter collection using ethical and transparent practices.

UNCRATE Africa

Meanwhile some retailers and designers are helping build global communities through fashion. Last year Holt Renfrew unveiled H Project, a shop-in-shop designed to highlight and support different cultures, crafts and artisans from around the world. After a successful debut with UNCRATE India, this month they launched UNCRATE Africa with exclusive collections from over 22 renowned brands, including Dannijo, Stella Jean, FEED Africa, Indego Africa, Me to We, Otago, Kiya Kenya and Chantecaille.

Vancouver-based Obakki is also one of the participating brands. Obakki’s founder Treana Peake is the driving force behind the label and the Obakki Foundation, Obakki’s philanthropic counterpart. The charity focuses on providing clean water and education in Africa. The clothing label absorbs all the administrative fees of the charity, allowing 100% of Obakki Foundation’s public donations to go directly to its charitable initiatives. And Peake’s work with the foundation seems to drive the inspiration behind her Obakki collections.

Obakki-Foundation-Cameroon-700x467

Treane Peake in Cameroon, Africa with her Obakki Foundation

You don’t have to look far to find brands with a sustainable, ethical footprint, but you do have to look. Uniikii, a Canadian-based online retailer, features apparel, accessories and housewares from “partners who are socially conscious, environmentally responsible and dedicated to ethical manufacturing processes.” A pair of handmade felt boots that takes eight days to make? Why not. That’s a much nicer story than your cotton t-shirt using 2,700 litres of water before you even buy it.

Speaking of water, let’s get really real. California’s apparel industry is under a serious threat from the current drought. According to the Wall Street Journal, Southern California produces 75% of the high-end denim in the U.S. that is sold world-wide. Water is a key component in the various steps of the processing and repeated washing with stones, or bleaching and dyeing that create that “distressed” vintage look.

We are on borrowed time on this planet. The choices you make as a consumer have a butterfly effect on the rest of the supply chain. If you’re not yet considering where and how your clothes are made, isn’t it time to start?

Toronto Fashion Week – Part Deux

Fashion week isn’t just about what happens on the runways, it’s how we capture and share it. Since the dawn of Twitter, live events are for the audience — whether actually in attendance or not — to offer their play by play. Now with Instagram and Vine, it’s not just about what we say, but how we see it. I saw many use Vine  to record the final walks from designer shows in New York, London and Paris, so I put my own spin on it frequently last week. What else can you say in six seconds?

One of my favorite moments of the week was the Joe Fresh show. If you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that the fast fashion of Joe Fresh could be heavily influenced by the British impressario Malcolm McLaren, you don’t know Joe Mimran. McLaren and his girlfriend Vivian Westwood were largely responsible for the punk style of youth in the 1970s. Joe went straight to Paris for punk (with a hint of jazz) in the form of a French ingenue, a stylish young thing who, channeling a young Carine Roitfeld, donned mostly black. He brought us art in the form of Ed Ruscha — an artist known for painting words on large canvasses — and his lettered sweaters that wrapped up the collection. And then he brought us the best after party of the week. That’s Joe.

Photo by George Pimentel
Photo by George Pimentel

I skipped out on Friday’s shows due to commitments for Canadian Music Week (why, oh why does everything have to happen at the same time in Toronto?) but not before co-hosting FGI Toronto‘s Speed Networking event with Fashion Takes Action. This is the second season we’ve worked together with IMG to host the event during fashion week. Speed networking matches you up with someone new every two minutes, so if you’re not good at conversation, you will learn quickly!  The event was sold-out, thanks to everyone who came out for it. Check out FGI on Facebook and Twitter for more upcoming events.

Ready, set, go!