Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"REAP" - Sustainable Style YYC

Sustainable Style YYC - The Movement of Eco-Fashion
(photos: Binzento)
REAP, which stands for being Respect Environment And People, is a non-profit organization that support locally owned businesses that are sustainably operated. These businesses are committed to making ethical business decisions such as buying green power, paying their employees a living wage, supporting local suppliers and importantly, give back to the community. Certainly this is easier to repeat it out loud than to actually execute it. It takes a lot of bravery and dedication especially in a city like Calgary where its economy is heavily dependent upon non-renewable resources. Nevertheless, REAP is the ray of light that shows there are entrepreneurs that do care about the environment, and is a great example where economy and nature can co-exist. 
REAP's annual Calgary Earth Week, for the first time hosted Sustainable Style YYC at the Arrata Opera Centre, an event that focuses on the local fashion sector. The keynote speaker was Myriam Laroche, the founder of Vancouver's Eco-Fashion Week. Myriam is an inspiration to set foot on the eco-fashion movement. As a veteran in the textile and manufacturing business, she knows very well the amount of "wastes" are produced from producing textiles (clothing, accessories, linen and things and upholstery). "Defining eco-fashion is more than organic cotton" she said. Some of the factors which set the eco-standard include material wastage, water and energy consumption, chemical usage, labor and work conditions, animal cruelty, transportation footprint and marketing and packaging. Myriam added that it's also important to understand the concept of "finding your own eco-fashion receipe". These include financial resources, human resources, values, beliefs… And be able to improve them year after year.
Every year per American, approximately 68 lbs of textile is thrown away to waste. Myriam had organized a program with Value Village to allow emerging designers to take 68 lbs of textile and materials from unwanted clothing and recreate an entirely new collection. Amazingly, 68 lbs can produce approximately 30 pieces per collection. 

Myriam describes in today's soceity we often fall into the "Just in Case Syndrome", where we are trapped in "mass consumerism" - buying the excess thinking that one day we might need it. If we cut back on the mass consumption, perhaps it may also ease the demand of a single pair of jeans, made of cotton, which takes a mininum of 1,800 gallons of water and 25% of world's total pesticides-used to make. Myriam is also aware that eco-fashion takes into the account of the working condition of factory workers. Though most of these factories are located in 2nd or 3rd world countries and only meet substantial living wages, we are not imposing that we should stop sourcing from these locations. In fact, many of these factories provide jobs and secure income for these villagers or workers and help drive their local economy. The key is that a healthy working condition is in place to protect these workers and ensure that they are treated fairly. Myriam suggests us to next time when we pick up a piece of clothing to wear, we ask ourselves "Who made your clothes?". What is the working condition for these people that made them? 
Sustainable Style YYC closes the night with a fashion trunk show presented by local fashion designers and merchants, all of which supports the REAP organization. The idea of "eco-fashion" is continuing to evolved. There is certainly a new wave or movement in recent years coping the idea of renewable, reusable and sustainable fashion. For more info on Eco-Fashion Week - you can visit HERE.


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