Yellow Part Two

Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project 2003
Ólafur Elíasson, The Weather Project, 2003; installation view, Tate Modern, London, 2003; photo by Andrew Dunkley & Markus Leith

This is a continuation of Yellow Part One.

My latest obsession with the colour yellow continues in Netflix’ latest season of Abstract: The Art of Design. This series dives deep into the creative process of well, creative people. Episode one features Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Elíasson. Elíasson is a joy to watch; his immersive installations mesmerize, even from the perspective of my tiny tv. Their massive scale and innovation must be astonishing to witness in person. Imagine my delight to see the sunny yellow colour play a central figure in some of Eliasson’s most famous work. About halfway through the yellow sunflower pops back into my consciousness and onto the screen – and as Eliasson’s second arc – with Little Sun.

Olafur Eliasson Little Sun
Ólafur Elíasson with his design, Little Sun, photo by Tomas Gislason

Little Sun started with an Eliasson and his team’s idea to bring affordable, clean energy solutions to the 1.2 billion people in the world who don’t have access to an electrical grid. It became a social business spreading clean, affordable solar energy around the globe. It’s a work of art that works in life.

This high quality, portable solar lamp is the perfect accessory for the garden, patio and weekend camping trip. But adorable practicality isn’t why I really love it. For every Little Sun sold, one goes to their partners in rural Africa, where they train local sales agents and bring solar energy to those who need it most. Unfortunately, supporting this social enterprise from Canada is challenging – the website only ships to the U.S. and the only local retailer listed is the Royal Ontario Museum, who claims to never have stocked the item in the first place. I’d like to buy Little Suns for friends and family this Christmas, so I’ll keep you posted of my search.

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?