Summer lovin’: Green dresses, The End of Growth & more

July 4, 2013


First of all, can I just say, who else is giving you sweatshop-free fashion advice and an excerpt of a speech by a world-renowned economist/environmental thinker like Jeff Rubin (author The End of Growth), all on one dense column page? Welcome to the revamped Ecoholic section in NOW! We cover it all, literally. Here’s a snap of what the page looks like in print: Dressed To Kill pdf

If you haven’t read ‘The End of Growth: But is that all bad?,’ you should. It’s brilliant. I was lucky enough to pop by a fundraiser for TREC Education (the education outreach arm of Toronto Renewable Energy Coop) and hear Jeff Rubin in real life. Wish we had room to share the entire speech but this excerpt in this week’s Ecoholic in NOW gives you a good teaser.

On a breezier note, I offer up some change room choices on the summer dress front. Though, of course, it’s not all hemlines and fluff. Each dress gives us a chance to dive into the wider problems and politics of each brand and/or fabric, like the Gaps’ refusal to sign the Bangladesh fire and safety accord or Me to We’s sharing of 50% of profits with Free the Children.

Since I’ve been talking a lot clothing companies behaving badly abroad, thought I’d share some examples of kick ass fair trade designers stitching responsibly in developing countries. Azadi Project make their dresses fairly in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, offering up a positive spin on what’s possible. It’s a shame they don’t use organic fabrics, but we love them anyways – and their fabrics are handwoven without electricity thus minimizing their carbon footprint. Check out some of their super fly styles at the top of the page.

Paper People dressesYou can’t get any greener than upcycled dresses sewn locally using second hand fabrics. I featured Preloved in the column because it’s available nationally, but there are countless other upcycling designers across this country, like Adhesif out west, Toronto’s Paper People Clothing (left), and Quebec’s Creations Encore . Some use a mix of new and old fibres, so ask. Patagonia dress

If you’re shopping at outdoorsy stores like Mountain Equipment Coop, you’ll find a few eco dress options, including organic dresses by Patagonia, Prana and MEC itself. Though my favourite of the Patagonia dresses is this one (right) made of organic cotton and Tencel.

Now for the bamboo babes. Bamboo gets complicated because while it’s pretty sustainable to grow, it gets mashed up with a bunch of chemicals to process it into soft fabric , often in a polluting process in China (see Ecoholic Body for the full low down). At the same time, it’s the most common eco fabric in use amongst green designers. I’m told that’s partly because it’s more widely available in a variety of patterns and colours and partly because the price of organic cotton has really spiked. Is it a perfect fabric? No. But I still encourage you to support independent, sweatshop-free Canadian designers that use bamboo (often blending them with organic cotton) over what you can buy at the mall. There are lots of fab options in  Lilikoi dressesthis camp.  BC’s Lilikoi  (left) uses a combo of bamboo,organic cotton and hemp for her gorgeous event-worthy cuts.  Another Nelson, BCer trending across Canada is Dear Pony, which also uses a blend of organic cotton and bamboo as well as Tencel for her cute cuts (right).  DearponySome take their bamboo up a notch – like Miik Dresses Miik  (left) – his bamboo is certified organic, milled/woven in Canada and says his source is closed loop (which means the chemicals get reused/recycled). A lot of his stuff is double sided too so you can wear it two ways and Miik has a lot of stuff suitable for professional women of all ages and sizes.

But the dress I’m getting most wear out of this season is a number handmade SoleeNaturalsby a tiny company called SoleeNaturals in Toronto. It’s only 67 bucks, it’s organic cotton and it rocks my world. Only available at Fashion Takes Action’s showroom in the Distillery District. The one woman show behind it is modelling this very dress to the right. So if you ever assumed eco fashion was all about dowdy beige hemp sacks, well, this one’s for you.