Moving on from the spotlight on Asia’s fashion innovators, we look ahead into the birthplace of the “new-age” green movement in North America.
While designers in Vietnam or Cambodia struggle to reclaim the “Made in” trademark of quality, apparel industries in the US and Canada - especially the Garment District of New York - have shrunk to the bare minimum over the past 50 years. Due to major shifts in the global marketplace that have taken most of the manufacturing to developing economies, only 3% of the clothing sold in the States comes from Manhattan. Despite the challenges, it remains an important ecosystem of research and development for fashion (Save The Garment Center).
The prevailing fast fashion model is a lose-lose situation for the majority of people working in the supply chain, both in the West and in Asia. If an American citizen becomes unemployed after the company decides to outsource the production in Bangladesh, a poorly paid employee without better alternatives steps in to fill the allotted space. This contributes to high-volume competition based on the lowest wages and costs that convert into huge profit in the retailer’s back pocket.
With the growing sense of awareness in which shoppers ask for traceability and authenticity of their purchases, North America has given rise to the new consumerist paradigm that encourages brands to maintain the integrity of their designs. The core values – locally, organically, slowly – have grown into a global movement, an eco-revolution, asking the industry to clean up its act. Opposing the anonymity of mass-market goods, the focus is now on the stories behind people’s lives and communities as Lucy Siegle, the advocate of sustainable style, has pointed out: “With ethical fashion you are not necessarily paying just for cut and trend, you are also buying into a vision.”
Taking collective action to drive positive change, these are today’s fashion innovators from The United States to Canada you have been looking for:
Founded in 2005, Vancouver-based Obakki creates timeless wardrobe essentials that offer the best look and fit for the modern woman. Refined yet wearable, the brand is an extension of its founder Treana Peake who spends much of her time on the road in South Sudan, providing clean water and education through The Obakki Foundation - the fashion label’s philanthropic counterpart. Since the company covers 100% of the NGO’s administrative fees and every donation goes directly to the communities in Africa, Peake is pioneering a new type of fundraising model that gives clothing a higher purpose.
Meaning ‘green love’ in French, Amour Vert designs and assembles all of its preppy, all-American staples in San Francisco. Committed to revolutionizing the way clothing is made by using low-impact fibers, non-toxic dyes and a zero waste philosophy, this one-to-watch brand is setting the new standard in the fashion industry. Encouraging customers to make a positive environmental impact of their own, Amour Vert plants a tree in North America with every purchase of a T-shirt.
'Mindfully made' is the mantra of New York duo, SVILU. Launched in 2012 by Britt Cosgrove and Marina Polo, the label offers modern staples that combine feminine prints and colors with classic menswear tailoring. Being both ethically and environmentally conscious, SVILU works with GOTS organic cotton, Tencel and Modal while their printed silks are digitally manufactured to reduce ink, water and electricity. As told to A Boy Name Sue: “We want to be able to do fashion better. Sustainability is all about doing something that’s been done for years and years in a way that’s going to be more long-term and effective.
Made in Brooklyn for effortless everyday styling, Ilana Kohn’s aesthetics play with fun and bold prints emblazoned over relaxed silhouettes and tailored outerwear. Kohn, a former commercial illustrator, projects her creative wit through locally made garments since 2011. Easy-wear, clean and minimal, the indie label breathes new life into casual-cool separates that are kind to the wearer and her surroundings.