How these Montreal designers are making truly sustainable fashion

·3 min read
Jennifer Glasgow, right, is pictured with
Jennifer Glasgow, right, is pictured with

Montreal designer Jennifer Glasgow is calling attention to people in the industry who, like her, are producing 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 a garment, it's because on our end, we're actually ... putting forth our values that are really important to the environment and to ethics in fashion," said Glasgow.

Fashion Revolution is an organization based in the UK, with a branch in Canada.

Submitted by Jennifer Glasgow
Submitted by Jennifer Glasgow

It started in 2013 after a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh exposed the poor working conditions for workers in the clothing industry.

The organization hosts a week of workshops, lectures and meetings to encourage the garment industry to be more sustainable and ethical.

Glasgow, who has been running her own fashion line since 2003, notes that the larger garment factory disasters have been overseas but that 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 such as myself, we're striving to work towards fair pay — we are paying our seamstresses fairly and we engage in that communication with them so that they are making living wages."

While locally produced clothing may cost more than buying from an international brand, local designers say there is an economic benefit to it.

LISTEN | Jennifer Glasgow explains how she keeps her business sustainable and ethical:

Montreal designer Katrin Leblond has been working in the industry for more than 15 years, sourcing and manufacturing her clothing as locally as possible while paying her employees a livable wage, which she believes is better for everyone.

"Every bit of money stays home when I pay someone because they can afford to live here," says Leblond.

Courtesy of Katrin Leblond Design
Courtesy of Katrin Leblond Design

That isn't the case for many clothing manufacturers in Canada, especially those who get their manufacturing done overseas. They may not even be aware of what workers are being paid to make their clothes.

Erin Polowy of Fashion Revolution Canada says there is little to no communication between employers and employees since companies can simply order their merchandise to be made and pay a flat fee for a certain number of items.

"That's why we started the hashtag #whomademyclothes, to force brands to be more transparent," says Polowy.

One of the goals of Fashion Revolution is to ensure that everyone in the garment manufacturing industry is making a livable wage. This year, they asked brands to come forward about what they do to make that happen.

"People who buy art usually know the artist, but who knows their seamstress?" says Leblond.

Courtesy of Katrin Leblond
Courtesy of Katrin Leblond

Using 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's sometimes difficult to manufacture with 100 per cent locally made components for every fabric.

"We use fabrics such as Tencel, modal, which are wood fibre-based as well as organic cotton," says Glasgow.

She sources textiles from within Canada to reduce her carbon footprint as much as possible. Working this way costs people like Glasgow and Leblond more, but they believe it's worth it.

The price point is arguably higher for some brands who choose to work more sustainably and ethically, but Fashion Revolution Canada says consumers need to better understand their role in making a change in the industry.

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