1. First off, can you tell us a little bit about Fashion Takes Action? How did you first get involved?
Fashion Takes Action is Canada’s only non profit organization devoted to sustainable fashion. For the past 10 years we have worked to change the way we CREATE and CONSUME fashion. This means we work with both industry and consumers. To date we have worked with more than 400 designers, brands and retailers, and we have hosted more than 50 events. FTA grew out of a fashion show fundraiser called the Green Gala, that was intended to raise awareness for sustainable fabrics available at that time. Pandora’s box was fully opened up following the first Green Gala, with designers from across the country contacting us to help them source fabric and understand what “green” or sustainable fashion was.
2. What inspired you to launch Design Forward? How were the designers selected?
We actually first launched Design Forward in 2010 and Vancouver based Nicole Bridger was our winner. There was no event associated with the award, as it took place online. Due to lack of sponsorship (back then it was really hard to convince the industry that sustainable fashion was not a trend but rather a movement) and also due to some new programs we were developing at that time, we decided to put the award on hold. In 2016 we brought back the brand Design Forward and produced a curated, conscious collective runway event. So this year we are thrilled to be adding back the award element. The designers were selected based on their overall style and aesthetic – first and foremost. We belive that it has to be about the fashion first. If a garment is not stylist, doesn’t fit well or isn’t made well, then it really doesn’t matter how or who it was made. The sustainability story lives behind the scenes, so designers must first attract consumers on design, and then its just a bonus to learn that it was made sustainably. Having said that, once the designers were selected based on design, we then looked at their sustainability claims. The more designers were doing, the higher they scored. This will also be factored into the scorecards that we provide our jury as they will be determining who the 3 finalists (including the one winner) is after our first installment on May 27th.
3. What do you hope for attendees to take away from the event?
I want our guests to feel like they are a part of history in the making, and to also feel proud of the talent we have here in Canada. I want our guests to see that sustainable fashion is fashionable, and that it belongs on a runway. It is not crunchy granola festival attire, but something that they would actually wear – to work, to a party or even a gala event.
4. How do you think this event will help promote a more sustainable fashion industry?
I think by showcasing the fashion first, we will be able to demonstrate to the conventional fashion industry (designers, media, influencers) that this is the future of fashion. This is not a trend that is going to go away. Our planet is in jeopardy and since our industry is the second largest polluter after oil, it is time we did something about it. I hope that it will inspire more media coverage, as well as more designers to embrace sustainability – whether that means they source sustainable fabrics, upcycle, use natural dyes or zero waste techniques, pay fair wages or produce locally.
5. How can our readers at home get involved?
Well we just launched a community membership level for people who aren’t directly involved in the industry but who want to support the movement – the work we do and the services we provide to our industry members. The membership cost is just $25/year and there are some great perks like attending our community events at a discounted rate or for free. These events include our pop up marketplace, clothing swaps, film screenings and social mixers.
In addition, it is important to know that as consumers, we really have a lot of power. How we choose to spend our money matters. If we vote with our wallet, then we can over time, count on more brands engaging in CSR and sustainability initiatives. If we demonstrate to them that this is important to us, and ask them questions about their fabrics used, and the factory conditions where their clothes are made, then we will collectively have a great impact.
But we really need to REDUCE our consumption. That is the most important of the 3 R’s. Actually at FTA we refer to the 7 R’s of fashion (reduce, reuse, recycle as well as repurpose, research, rent and repair). But reducing how much we buy is key. We should be investing in our wardrobe and buy fewer pieces that are going to last. That are well made and seasonless, and that won’t fall apart after a few washes. And we need to recycle our clothes – so when they do fall apart we don’t just chuck them in the garbage. Everything can be recycled – even one sock or your old undies. While used clothing collectors make a higher profit off items in good condition because they can resell them, they still profit off the rest of our textile waste which gets shredded and used for many other purposes – from carpet under padding to insulation in car doors.