How these Montreal designers are making fashion truly sustainable
Montreal designer Jennifer Glasgow draws attention to people in the industry who, like her, produce clothing sustainably and ethically in Montreal for Fashion Revolution Week.
“I think it’s really about communicating and promoting that to the public so that they understand that when they’re paying a lot more for an item of clothing, it’s because on our end, we’re actually putting.. .forward our values which are really important to the environment and the ethos of fashion,” said Glasgow.
Fashion Revolution is an organization based in the UK, with a branch in Canada.
It started in 2013 after a collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh revealed poor working conditions for workers in the garment industry.
The organization organizes a week of workshops, conferences and meetings to encourage the clothing industry to be more sustainable and ethical.
Glasgow, which has run its own clothing line since 2003, notes that the biggest disasters in garment factories have occurred overseas, but Canada has also had problems with working conditions and pay for people who work in the industry.
“I think it’s important to recognize that for designers like me, we strive to work for fair compensation – we pay our seamstresses fairly and engage in this communication with them so that they earn a living wage.”
While locally produced clothing may cost more than buying from an international brand, local designers say there is an economic benefit to this.
LISTEN | Jennifer Glasgow explains how she ensures the sustainability and ethics of her business:
All in one weekend10:41Fashion Revolution Week: Jennifer Glasgow Designs in Montreal
Montreal designer Katrin Leblond has worked in the industry for over 15 years, sourcing and manufacturing her clothes as locally as possible while paying her employees a living wage, which she says is better for everyone.
“Every money stays at home when I pay someone because they can afford to live here,” says Leblond.
This is not the case for many garment manufacturers in Canada, especially those who have their garments made overseas. They may not even know how much workers are paid to make their clothes.
Erin Polowy of Fashion Revolution Canada says there is little to no communication between employers and employees, as companies can simply order their merchandise to be made and pay a flat fee for a number of items.
“That’s why we started the hashtag #whomademyclothes, to force brands to be more transparent,” says Polowy.
One of Fashion Revolution’s goals is to ensure that everyone in the apparel industry earns a living wage. This year they asked brands to come forward on what they are doing to make that happen.
“People who buy art usually know the artist, but who knows their seamstress?” said Leblond.
The use of sustainable fabrics is also one of the key issues in the industry and one that Fashion Revolution wants to promote.
Montreal is home to a few companies that produce sustainable textiles with a low carbon footprint, but it is sometimes difficult to manufacture with 100% locally made components for each fabric.
“We use fabrics such as Tencel, modal, which are made from wood fibers as well as organic cotton,” says Glasgow.
She sources her textiles in Canada to reduce her carbon footprint as much as possible. Working this way costs people like Glasgow and Leblond more, but they think it’s worth it.
The price is arguably higher for some brands that choose to work more sustainably and ethically, but Fashion Revolution Canada says consumers need to better understand their role in changing the industry.