Our go-to style expert Isabel Slone presents a lineup of outfits and products that proves sustainability and style can go hand-in-hand. What makes these clothes sustainable? Slone prioritized natural materials, high quality, ethical labour and shopping at local businesses.
Slone, a former A\J intern, graduated from the Environment and Resource Studies program at the University of Waterloo in 2012, and moved to Toronto shortly after to pursue a wildly different career in fashion journalism. She uses her environmental background to craft compelling narratives about sustainability in fashion, and her work has appeared in FLARE, the Globe and Mail and the National Post.
Meet the models
Hsain Al-Shihabi is a contemporary Canadian settler who studied neuroscience at the University of Guelph and is now knee-deep in community building in Kitchener. Janice Jo Lee is a singer-songwriter, spoken-word artist and the City of Kitchener’s 2015 artist-in-residence.
Photos by Aimee Kocak of Pure Photography.
Organic cotton “Mojo” shirt and “Mission Ridge” shorts, Toad&Co, $54.99 and $59 (US).
Toad&Co is a US company with a wide range of sustainability initiatives covering their offices, fibres, shipping and more.
Organic cotton “Existence” tee, Oöm ethikwear, $40.
Made in Quebec from natural and recycled fibres.
Blackspot “Unswoosher” shoes, Adbusters Media Foundation, $125.
Made with organic hemp fibre and recycled tire soles.
Silk “Pheasant” blouse, Hilary MacMillan, $308.
Hilary MacMillian is a Toronto-based designer who manufactures all of her high-quality pieces locally.
Cropped “O-Pants,” Studio Fresh, $195. Available at Fresh Collective, Toronto.
Created locally by Connie Meyer in Toronto.
Recycled wool “Occidentalis” cardigan, Jennifer Fukushima, $369.
Cropped pants, Brenda Beddome, $155. Available at Fresh Collective, Toronto, and shopbrendabeddome.com.
Brenda Beddome specializes in classic, versatile pieces that are designed and made in Canada.
Organic cotton chambray “Honcho” shirt and “Mission Ridge” pants, Toad&Co, $70 and $69 (US).
“Grace” wrap-back viscose top, 3rd Floor Studio, $79.
Shoshanah Kuper is a Ryerson University Fashion Design graduate whose designs are made by hand, locally and ethically, in Toronto.
Isabel’s 7 Fab Finds in Canadian Ecodesign
Laura Siegel, Toronto
Laura Siegel’s eco-approach has a global reach. While clothes are designed in Toronto and New York, Siegel collaborates with artisans in developing countries to help preserve their culture and craft. In 2014, Siegal founded the charity Project Eleven27 to honor victims of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza disaster.
This dramatic silk wrap coat was embroidered by artisans in the Kutch region of rural India. Buying Laura Siegel garments helps to provide employment for traditional dyers, weavers and knitters around the globe.
$623. Available at Holt Renfrew or online at laurasiegelcollection.com.
Dayton Boots, Vancouver
Durability is Dayton’s game. Leather for each boot is hand-cut then double or triple sewn and soles are designed for easy resoling. Take it from a customer: “The Vancouver rain isn't a match for them. … They're over a year old now, and still look brand new.”
These pointy-toed unisex boots deliver a wallop of ass-kicking style. Dayton boots are handcrafted in Vancouver and have a lifetime warranty to ensure that your boots stay kicking for decades.
$599. Available in-store at 2250 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, or online at daytonboots.com.
Atelier b., Montreal
College roommates Catherine Métivier and Anne-Marie Laflamme formed Atelier b. in 2009 on the principles of “sustainable materials, local production and innovation.” They use only hand-dyed fabric spun in small factories and clothing is designed and handmade in their studio-boutique in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood.
The French terry cotton on this colourblock sweatshirt is 100-percent-certified organic. Atelier b. uses only hand-dyed fabric spun in small factories and clothing is designed and handmade in Montreal.
$102. Available in-store at Atelier b., 5758 Boulevard Saint Laurent, Montreal, or online at atelier-b.ca.
Brainchild of the Adbusters Media Foundation, the Blackspot Unswoosher is made from organic hemp fibre and recycled tire soles and produced in a unionized factory in Portugal. It is billed as “the most Earth-friendly shoe in the world.”
$125. Blackspot, Vancouver. Available online at adbusters.org.
HEY! Want to win a pair of Blackspot sneakers?
Brave Leather, Toronto
Brave Leather eschews the harmful chemicals often used to tan leather in favour of natural vegetable tanning processes. Their sturdy belts and bags are manufactured in North Toronto by a small team of skilled artisans.
Make a splash with this gold-splattered tote bag made from reclaimed vintage leather – without the harmful chemicals often used to tan leather. Brave Leather uses natural vegetable tanning processes.
$295. Available online at braveleather.com.
Obakki is the very definition of clothing with a conscience. The clothing line serves as a fundraising platform for the Obakki Foundation, where 100 per cent of its public donations go directly to its charitable initiatives, such as helping to provide clean water and education to communities in Africa.
This elegant knee-length skirt exudes smart, clean-cut minimalism. The clothing line serves as a fundraising platform for the Obakki Foundation, which has provided over 400 water wells and built 12 schools in South Sudan and Cameroon since 2009.
$295. Available online at obakki.com.
Bôhten Eyewear, Toronto
Bôhten founder Nana Boateng Osei says he draws inspiration from nature. All glasses are made in zero-waste facilities using reclaimed and renewable materials. The company is working towards manufacturing eyeglass frames made from composted barley, wheat and straw.
These funky tortoiseshell frames are made in a zero-waste facility from ecofriendly materials: reclaimed sapele – a wood related to mahogany – and acetate made from wood pulp.
$199.99. Find a store or order online at bohten.com.
Nicole Bridger, Vancouver
Nicole Bridger is Canada’s reigning queen of eco-fashion. The company’s commitment to sustainability informs even the smallest detail. Hang tags are made from 100-per-cent post-consumer recycled paper and buttons are sourced from Tagua nuts and other reclaimed materials.
Wear this classic shirtdress to work or on your weekly jaunt to the Farmers’ Market. The dress is manufactured in a small, dedicated factory in Vancouver with silk ethically sourced from Korea.
$129. Available in-store at 2151 West 4th Ave, Vancouver and online at nicolebridger.com.
Abaka, Shawinigan QC
Abaka designs wardrobe basics using eco-friendly fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, tencel and bamboo viscose. Each Quebecois garment is hand-made by seamstresses in their homes or produced on a small scale in factories in Victoriaville and Montreal.
For casual wear, a classic raglan tee never goes out of style. This one is made from soft bamboo viscose, a plant considered sustainable due to its rapid regrowth.
$39. Available in store at 413 avenue Mercier, Shawinigan, QC and online at abaka.ca.
Nomads Hemp Wear, Winlaw, BC
Nomad’s Hemp Wear began in 2000 in the back of a VW van. The company has since expanded but their core mission – changing conceptions of hemp from “shapeless, wrinkled, cardboard-looking clothes” to fashion forward togs – remains the same.
Get a head start on sustainable fashion! These leggings for wee ones come in many colours and patterns and are made from a blend of bamboo, organic cotton and spandex jersey.
$23.40. Available online at allthingsbeingeco.ca.
orphanage clothing, Halifax
orphanage clothing was founded in 2010 by Kim Munson, who designs, drafts, cuts and sews every garment in her studio in Halifax. Each garment is cut from post-consumer, deconstructed clothing.
The “little black dress” is a wardrobe staple – but you won’t find another like this. Repurposed from a trench coat and fitted with metal zips, this dress is one of a kind.
$130. Available online at orphanageclothing.com.
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