Attention all life students of consciousness! The term “eco fashion” has been thrown around ever more increasingly as the movement to greenify aspects of living grows into a mainstream global concept. Trying to decipher exactly what “eco” means as applied to one of the most superficial and wasteful industries in human civilization can be as daunting as a fully unchecked holiday shopping list the evening of the 24th.
Here is a brief glossary of concepts and terms to get you started in understanding what makes some garb green and other garments ghastly (on the eco-front):
Includes products that have been handmade by independent artists and manufacturers using crafts that preserve ancestral (read: pre-factory) means of fabrication, such as embroidery and hand-carving. Markets and artisan fairs are a wonderful way to discover these handmade beauties, as well as get to know some of the creative souls in your community.
Garments produced under ethical guidelines preserving the rights of both the environment and the people who are involved with their production, such as using local manufacturers or fair wages and work conditions where manufacturing is done internationally. Vancouver’s sweetheart of eco-design Nicole Bridger has made the global stage over the past few years with her innovative designs and dedication to green production. Check her out on SHAW TV here, talking about the eco-initiatives she has implemented in both her clothing and her shop designs.
Fair Trade Certified
There are organizations dedicated to certifying clothing labels that promote healthy standards for international labor like reasonable work hours, no child labor, the right to unionize, and fair social policy. Look for products that are certified by organizations like Transfair (www.transfair.ca in Canada and www.transfairusa.org in the U.S.).
The term ‘organic’ in clothing means that the item is made of natural fibers grown without the use of pesticides or other toxic materials. Some major organic fabrics include bamboo, hemp and organic cotton.
A growing number of manufacturers are using recycled materials to create new garments; this includes re-working, or “upcycling” them into new items altogether. One of my favourite examples of this method is Quebec’s Harricana Par Mariouche, which takes vintage fur coats and creates exceptional new pieces and accessories with the taboo material.
Products made without the use of animal or animal tissue. You generally find “vegan” applied to shoes and bags using “vegetal leather”—constructed of ie. Amazonian rubber, recycled or man-made materials, instead of animal skins.
Vintage and secondhand shopping has come a long way in the past decade: from Salvation Army stores that have become a widely accepted means for finding treasure items, to chic boutiques where buyers scout the world for pristine items made from the 1920s-80s and/or buy new, unused stock from stores to re-sell and reduce waste.
Replacing your box store go-to mentality using the terms and techniques above can mark a significant reduction in your carbon footprint. Just as we’ve developed the habit of reading food labels to check fat content, gluten or MSG, check your clothing labels for the “Fair Trade” stamp—and then wear your care with pride.