It came and it went. October 5-7 marked the 3rd installment of Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver. I didn’t get media access this year, and with a busy work and VIFF schedule, I knew that going to all the shows I wanted to see would prove too difficult and costly. However, there are some changes with EFW this time around, which definitely made it worth checking out.

First, the venue. EFW was held at Storyeum, which I don’t even know is really called Storyeum anymore, because the Water St. space was completely evacuated. But where was once drywall was a well-lit, spacious hub conducive to vendor booths, private lounge and bar areas, and then a sweet runway space out back. Second, they added “The Window” – which invited the public to see and buy from eco-friendly vendors – both local and international. That was my one criticism from the previous events, which were great productions but never really invited the public to interact with eco-friendly artisans. When I went to the trade show last year, the designers kept asking me if I was a buyer. But I would have bought some stuff there right on the spot if I was able to!

With just a reservation, I was able to attend Friday afternoon’s seminar with President Myriam Laroche, who needed only 45 minutes to get her point across.

She started off by meeting the dozen or so folks of us to get a feel for whether we were industry folk or not and to make the whole presentation more interactive.

I wasn’t really coming as a blogger, just someone who wanted to learn – straight from the horse’s mouth – what we, as general consumers, could do to better the earth with our fashion choices.

Myriam’s story is really interesting. She’s been in the fashion biz for 17 years, and converted to being a vintage shopper after learning some of the alarming stats:

  • Each year in the US alone, 20 billion ibs. of textiles are thrown into landfills
  • Textiles take up more space than any other type of waste.
  • The average person tosses 68 ibs. of clothes a year.
  • It takes 256 gallons of water to make one t-shirt, and 987 gallons of water for one pair of jeans (very similar to the amount needed to make 1 ib. of beef)
  • Cotton growing accounts for 25% of pesticide use for farming
  • 99% of clothes are compost-able (we just need the systems to be able to compost them).
  • Dyes are also harmful to our water system.

I like that Myriam got the facts out of the way so that the “why” wasn’t so much the important part of the presentation. These stats are overwhelming, and shouldn’t be driven so hard into people to make them change.

But awareness is the first step towards change.

She then went onto explain how in the 20th century, most clothes were original pieces and made to last – these days, most ‘original’ pieces are still copied from others, and clothes are no longer made to stick around in your closet. They are cheap, and meant for you to throw away and buy the next thing.

Myriam spends hours shopping at Value Village and shared tips on how to find one-of-a-kind quality pieces:

  • Take a cart with you (at Value Village).
  • Wear tight clothing like leggings and tank tops to throw stuff on.
  • Look with your fingers instead of your eyes: feel for luxurious fabrics like cashmere, silk, and leather. For accessories, you may find real fur, crocodile, and snakeskin.
  • Look at the labels for quality designers.

Now another issue arises – isn’t animal skin and fur considered harmful to the planet? Her answer was that it’s not as damaging – and by reusing items already made from animals, you are not buying into the industry. There are some great companies also recycling fur to make accessories – one of the vendors from Quebec, Harricana, was there at The Window with some killer (excuse the pun) aviator hats.

Myriam also encouraged people to ease into second hand shopping slowly. Even for me, whose goal it is to start shopping more vintage and eco, it’s hard to kill old habits. This is why Front & Company is so great – they carry both new and used items. You can start by wearing recycled materials, with designers like Melissa Ferreira’s Adhesif Clothing. You can also find multiple uses for pieces – double shirts as dresses, use different accessories, or use them as inspiration for something else.

One big issue with second hand: the smell. Mothballs and cigarette smoke are the hardest to get out of materials, but if a few washes don’t do it, you can try Febreze – though I’m not a fan of the fact that it’s toxic.

Myriam would also love to change the rules about being guilty for wearing gowns twice at red carpet events or weddings. Who says you can’t wear it differently the next time? Made me think twice about buying a new dress for my friend’s wedding next summer.

Myriam ended off by allowing everyone to sift through her “closet.” The items had price tags on them so I assumed they were for sale… though they were on display most of EFW unattended.

This seminar was a great 101 class to why we have an Eco Fashion Week – unfortunately there just wasn’t enough of the public there. And I don’t see many people actively seeking designers who have shown at EFW, aside from the locals folks like Nicole Bridger. Aside from what we can teach each other on a personal level, in order for us to see more changes on a bigger scale, I think there would have to be government incentives for boutiques or designers to go eco. Something similar to the tax credit for film productions.

I’d also like to see more celebrities endorsing eco-designers and brands, and more fashion media dedicating pages or segments to eco-fashion. But as long as Eco Fashion Week continues to teach consumers here, they’ll still be working toward making a difference.

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