- Myriam Laroche owned a 100 pairs of shoes, but now she’s leading Designers, Buyers, and Fashionistas along the Eco Fashion path with the launch of Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week.
- Eco Fashion is about standards and good production practives, but it’s also about taking small steps towards a more wholistic and caring lifestyle.
- Jeff Garner is a Southern Gentleman and a Designer, who would be working on a horse farm if he wasn’t conquering Eco Fashion week Vancouver or opening London Fashion week.
- Being stylish and caring about the planet isn’t just for hippies anymore. Hey I was a hippie, so I should know!
- Kim Cathers is a really nice person, despite the hatemail she gets everytime there’s a rerun of her season on Project Runway.
- Vancouver may becoming a green city, but this is only the first Eco Fashion week event. New York, Paris, and London are already putting on large scale Fashion weeks focussed on sustainable clothing design / Eco Fashion.
- Nicole Bridger’s clothing labels say “I AM LOVE”, which isn’t the reason why she recently won the FTA’s Design Forward award.
In truth, these are just a few of the many reasons that Eco Fashion Week was a success. The Fashion was both stylish and buyable. The Designers, Promoters, Producers, and Sponsors all showed it’s possible to combine sustainable solutions while running successful businesses. The rest of the Fashion industry will start to take notice, because this is a lifestyle now and not just a passing trend.
Readers may not know this, but I was in fashion design 25 years ago. I had an interest in sustainable development; I was one of those people always making my own clothes, and people kept asking me why don’t I go into fashion design? So I went to VCC to study Fashion Design, then moved to Montreal and worked in Fashion industry for 5 years. I decided to get out of the business, because the Industry was very wastful and there was no vision of Eco Fashion in 1985. I always had ideas about recycling clothing and reusing fabrics and so forth, but back then people were just not interested in those ideas. So here I am, 25 years later at Eco Fashion Week to figure out what people are up to now, how things have developed, and what young designers are creating for 2010 and beyond.
I attended the opening night and met with organizer Myriam Laroche about the event. She was very excited about creating an annual Industry event that would grow into something to similar to the Fashion Week events in New York, Paris, and London. Myriam told me about not being an eco-friendly girl, but a woman who was passionate about Fashion and owned a 100 pairs of shoes and always being passionate about Fashion. She had been involved in the Fashion industry for 15 years in Montreal, then moved to Vancouver 3 years and a half years ago. She loved Fashion but started getting overwhelmed with over consumption. After attending EPIC!, she became inspired by Counselor Reimer on how we can make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. Thus Eco Fashion week was born with the dream for Vancouver to become the International capital for Eco Fashion.
Myriam told me she wants the event to provide tools for both Designer and Buyer to take the green route. As an Industry event, EFW offered seminars such as: Eco as a Movement not a Trend, led by Carly Stojsic from Worth Global Style Network; and Paul Raybin from AirDye will be talking with Mark Trotzuk for a presentation about the lifecycle of fashion. Note: AirDye offers an alternative and sustainable method that provides a sustainable alternative to traditional cationic or vat dyeing processes.
Myriam Laroche wants EFW to be about helping people making small changes in their life rather than expecting people to be 100% Eco. By showcasing Eco Fashion Designers and companies, it will help both Industry and general public learn more about becoming more conscious in their design and lives.
With creation of Eco Fashion Week, Vancouver joins the list of forward thinking Fashion cities such as New York, London, and Paris who all are holding similar Eco Fashion events. In New York city, as part of the New York fashion week, there’s the eco fashion event called the Green Shows. In Paris, during Paris Fashion week, there’s the Ethical Fashion Week. In London, as part of London Fashion Week, there’s Estethica, which was started four years ago by the British Fashion Council. As BFC states: “All Estethica designers adhere to at least one of the three Estethica principles of fair-trade and ethical practices, organic and recycled materials and are selected for both their ethical credentials and design excellence.” The Esthetica collective currently consists of 37 members. One of their members this year was Jeff Garner. He opened London Fashion Week, and he was one of the fashion designers at Eco Fashion Week Vancouver as well.
I interviewed Eco Fashion Designers Jeff Garner ( Prophetik ), Lara Presber, Nicole Bridger, and Kim Cathers ( Kdon ), and Owner of Green Sapphire, Regina Noppè who brought EDEN Mens wear and the Green Sapphire by Patricia Moura Biojoias collection to Vancouver.
One commonality amongst these four designers was that their fashion was not just about design, but lifestyle as well. They all consciously practiced an eco-friendly and simple lifestyle on a daily basis, so the “eco” in Eco Fashion was very personal to them. They had always been recycling things, reusing things, repurposing things whether it was before fashion or after. This was a thread that had been in all of their lives. They were also people that had travelled all over the world. In all their cases they all ended up going back home. Jeff returning to Franklin, Tennessee; Laura to Calgary, Alberta and Nicole and Kim back to Vancouver, BC. It is very clear from talking to these rising stars of Eco Fashion, that home and family is very important to them and how they live their lives and pursue their careers.
Jeff Garner spoke with me about being a Designer and showcasing his work at Eco Fashion Week. He was recently nominated for most sustainable line by the Global Fashion awards. Prophetik manufactures locally in Tennessee using sustainable fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, peat silk, and linen. They spent about a year developing a way to create their own natural plant earth dyes, which they have been coloring their fabrics for the past year. Jeff told me that it’s an ongoing learning experience to balance making the dyes affordable yet sustainable. He said that Prophetik plans on sharing the knowledge and creating dye for other companies as well, because they don’t use a chemical process and would be providing dyes that few dye houses create in North America.
Jeff Garner dresses like he’s from another time, wearing clothes similar to those in his collection – solid, earthy, romantic, masculine vests and cotton shirt. There is an earthiness to the way he speaks, he has an easy pacing to his speech, that reminds me of a down home southern Gentleman. Jeff says that living in Tennessee on a farm, keeps him grounded on what he is doing. He agrees that location greatly influences his collection, having that old world feel, souther renaissance style with the ballroom gowns, and men’s vests. The style isn’t based on a trend as Jeff doesn’t read magazines or watch TV, so he can stay true to his vision. Prophetik is selling to about 40 Boutiques in North America, and London, other parts of Europe, and Japan.
The collection is kind of a combination of something that an English rider might wear on a fox hunt, or a young woman might wear in a romance novel. There’s an aspect of romanticized history of country, rural. There was a lot of attention to detail. The clothing was well-made, the fabric looked rich. It was clear that it was natural, there was a softness to the colour. The influence of his interest in rural life was evident in his collection. The men wore riding boots, and he himself wore riding boots. At the end of his collect there was a country Jamboree band that played. His personal presence is humble and sincere in the way that he talks about his work. But his collection stands up on his own. I think he will continue to be a rising a star in the fashion community.
Listen to Jeff Garner interview:
( Prophetik photos by Jonathan Hanley | hanley.co | flickr.com/pixelate )
Kim Cathers was an interesting interview, because I had arrived at the opening hoping to speak to her, but was biased having seen her on Project Runway. She was known for being a bitch on the show. However, I was pleasantly surprised because in person she was a very friendly, open, and honest person. She explains that after being on Project Runway, she had to take some time off to recollect herself because it had been an overwhelming experience. She had to decide what she was going to do next. She told me that she ended up going to Gabriole Island on the west coast and stayed there for 9 months to reconnect with what was the point of this life. You have 80 years to live your life, and she wanted to take advantage of doing something she loves to do.Then she decided to come back to Vancouver to pursue fashion – she felt like this was something that kept calling her back. She had always recycled things and reworked things. I had asked her if she had tried to do architecture. She said that she had tried in school, but that working with wires and other materials to be difficult for her. She preferred to work with fabric, she liked being able to drape it and hang it. She also liked being able to going from the 2D to the 3D. That caught my attention because that was something that got my interest in fashion design. There’s something very fascinating that’s creative and yet somewhat mathematical about it. She also mentioned that she is now designing some dresses that are more sculptural; she is using materials that are stiffer and heavier in order to make a more sculptural level. Those are on a more limited basis. She surprised me because despite her major exposure on Project Runway, that she tends to stay to herself. She lives a simple life. She walks to work, walks her dog, makes her meals at home. She said that not all of her fabric was “organic”, but all of her material was reclaimed fabric – fabric that was being thrown away, or not being used. Many times she didn’t know where the material was coming from, the history behind it, or even what type of material it even was.
(Kdon photos by Kris Krug kk+ / Static Photography )
It’s clear that in this generation of designers that “eco” fashion is more about taking small steps. In both your own personal lifestyle and in the choices you are making as a designer. As Myriam Laroche said, you don’t have to be 100% eco fashion to do your part – everybody is doing it in their own way by trying to live a conscious life.
Laura Presber was originally studying architecture in Boston. She decided that she wanted to get into fashion design and apprenticed in Milan. After that she decided to come back to Calgary, where she was born. She felt more comfortable being in Calgary and being around family and friends. She said that there are pros and cons to living in Calgary. It is a small fashion commuity, so she gets more recognization than if she were living ina bigger city. It’sharder for her to get fabrics, but with shipping now it’s much easier get things than in the past. She has all of her clothing made locally, so she’s helping to support the local community. Which was a common theme with all of the designers that I interviewed. That in itself becomes another aspect of eco fashion in which you require less impact in order to make the clothing. She said that her clothing at Eco Fashion did have references to architecture in the style and design. Lara Presber’s Spring 2011 collection has an architectural theme , with designs based on the new Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.
Listen to Laura Presber interview:
( Lara Presber photos by Kris Krug kk+ / Static Photography )
Nicole Bridger is based out of Vancouver. She recently one the FTA’s Fashion Forward eco award – best eco fashion designer in Canada. She studied at Ryerson University, then apprenticed with Vivian Westwood in London. If you know Vivian Westwood you would be aware that she is someone of very strong and distinct style and personality. Nicole specifically asked to apprentice with Vivian Westwood, because she liked her style. She told me she almost wasn’t able to apprentice with her. She had to basically beg and plead with Vivian to give her a chance, and just let her work there for a week and see how it would go. It was very important to her. She she was able to do that, and came out of the experience learning a lot. One thing that she mentioned was that she had always been interested in the business and the fashion side of things. Vivian went bankrupt during the time that she was working with her, and that made her very aware of the importance of being able to sustain your business. She says that her business is probably 50% business and 50% design. She likes doing both, instead of just the design aspect. She also is using organic materials. She also lives a sustainable lifestyle. One of the ways that she is contributing to the idea of eco fashion is not just the materials but her attitude as well. She talks about treating everyone with respect and kindness. That includes the people she is working with and her customers. She actually puts on her label “I Am Love”. In the sense it’s making her clothing with love, and also making people filled with love, it creates a positive energy. That in turn helps how people are treating the world.
Listen to Nicole Bridger interview:
( Prophetik photos by Jonathan Hanley | hanley.co | flickr.com/pixelate )
A big thank you to Mariam Laroche and especially KristinAnn Janishefski from Vanguard PR who took good care of me and made my reentry into the world of Eco Fashion an inspiring and positive experience. Myriam Laroche’s dream to make Eco Fashion Week a destination on the global circuit of Fashion Week may come true if the people behind the creation, production, promotion, and sponsorship are any indication. Most people I spoke with clearly are passionate about the planet and think Fashion can be fashionable, beautiful, and sustainable. Maybe 25 years later, it’s time has come. Let’s hope this generation keeps their green dreams alive, because in the end people will make their buying decisions based on the quality of the clothing and design. Saving the planet is just a bonus for most, and if that works for now then it’s a step in the right direction.
FTA Fashion Forward award: http://www.fashiontakesaction.com/content/fta-design-forward
Eco Fashion Week Vancouver: http://www.ecofashion-week.com
Eco Fashion PR: http://www.thevanguardpr.com/
Prophetik ( Jeff Garner ): http://www.prophetik.com
Lara Presber: http://www.larapresber.com
Nicole Bridger: http://www.nicolebridger.com
Green Sapphire Imports ( EDEN Mens wear, Patricia Moura Biojoias collection ): http://green-sapphire-imports.com
Social Alterations: http://socialalterations.com/2010/09/16/eco-fashion-week-vancouver-seminars-sept-29-30
Air Dye: http://blog.airdye.com/goodforbusiness/2010/09/27/airdye-sustainability-tour/
Photographers: Jonathan Hanley: at Hanleymade: http://hanley.co or http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelate and Kris Krug: at Static Photography: http://staticphotography.com or http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk and Alfonso: http://www.j28studios.com/gallery_eco_3.html
Jonathan Hanley is an entrepreneur, web guy, writer and photographer— into all things social media and communications. He has worked with international green groups and sustainable businesses for more than 25 years. Bringing people together by building and growing social communities for 14 years.
Jonathan has blogged 27 posts here.