Agent of Change July 03, 2016 13:43

 'Copious Fashions' fashion designer Carissa McCaig's clothing is meant to last.

With Canada celebrating its 149th birthday, and the Pride Parade being in full swing, I found myself thinking about major milestones that have contributed to a big change in the fashion industry. Now, I’m not talking about a change in Louis Vuitton’s new collection, but rather about a change that has contributed to making the fashion industry a better place. 

During my first year at Ryerson University, my Professor Ben Barry spoke a lot about ethical fashion, eco-friendly fashion, sustainable fashion and all other kinds of fashion… So much that my head would start to spin because I didn’t know what it all meant, nor what the difference was. But hearing Ben Barry talk about the impact of fashion on our environment really made me think about clothes in a whole new way.  

I never really thought a lot about where my clothes came from or who made them. When I bought a new pair of jeans or a new sweater all I really cared about was: “Does it fit? Do I look good wearing it? Does it feel good?” Even that last question is a bit of a stretch because I also remember buying a pair of jeans that I only wore twice simply because I thought they made me look really skinny. But in reality they were so tight and uncomfortable that I could hardly breathe in them. Don’t get me wrong, all these questions are still totally valid and important because fashion is supposed to make you look and feel good, but maybe not so much in the big picture. 

With the current trend of fast-fashion and mass production, most of us don’t think about the number of clothes we buy. We see a 50% off sign and jump at the chance of finding an item we love for half price, not thinking about if we actually need it, where it came from and what it’s made of, but more about the fact that we just got an amazing deal. But did you know that today we buy 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago? Clothes are not made to last anymore. We buy dresses for $15, and if we can get 4 months of wear out of them then we consider it a pretty good deal. Out with the old and in with the new. But our resources aren’t endless! When we buy fashion, we need to take our environment into consideration because without it, there will be no fashion. Fashion should always be designed and manufactured to maximize benefits to people and communities while minimizing the impact on the environment. However, our current system of overconsumption has made it nearly impossible for designers to think about the environment.

There are designers and companies who make it their job to not only create clothing that will last, but clothing that is also ethical.

“The meaning of ethical goes beyond doing no harm, representing an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, minimizing and counteracting environmental concerns.” ~ The Ethical Fashion Forum 

So, while it might take a little bit more time to find clothes that are ethical, think about the contribution you’re making to the lives of others. You can be an agent of change. Trust me, it feels that much more amazing to wear clothes that aren't harmful to the environment and others than to get a 3rd pair of shoes for half price that you didn’t need to begin with. 
Happy “Contribute to Change” Weekend! 

~Chris Berneck