Living Locally   /   Style

Ripping the seams of eco fashion myths

Debunking common misconceptions about sustainable fashion

April 1, 2016 by Centaine Hlushak on Alora Boutique, Café Blanca , Mañana Imports and Gifts, Studio Intent, SwizzleSticks SalonSpa

This morning we announced a new 2-year partnership with Cafe Blanca that would deliver “farm-to-closet” eco fashion made from burlap sacks.

Were you fooled? It is April 1st after all.

Our tongue in cheek article played on some common misconceptions about what sustainable style is: hemp smocks, burlap sacks, and other ugly, shapeless clothing that is more sustainable than stylish.

While PERCAL8 and its fashionable burlap sacks may not have been real, the accessories and styling in the photos were. Alora Boutique provided the locally-made hand crafted jewelry. The Clothing Bar, a brand new consignment boutique in Marda Loop, provided the shoes and handbags for the PERCAL8 shoot, as well as all of the clothing you see in this photo. SwizzleSticks SalonSpa did our models’ hair and makeup, using ethically-made beauty products by Kevin Murphy, Aveda, and Jane Iredale. And we would be remiss not to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of Ingrid Kue Photography.

Now that the gag is over, let’s debunk five of the most prevalent myths surrounding sustainable fashion:

1. Sustainable fashion is for hippies.

No longer is sustainable style the domain of treehuggers; it’s a means of expression for the modern citizen. Many Hollywood celebs are embracing eco-friendly garb, with household names like Harry Potter star Emma Watson and musician Pharrell Williams leading the movement.

Emma has been promoting her personal “challenge” on Instagram to have a wardrobe consisting exclusively of sustainable clothing. She shares details of the backstory of each piece; including how and where the garments were made.

Pharrell is the co-founder and creative director of Bionic Yarn, which makes yarn and fabrics out of recycled plastic. Bionic Yarn is currently being used in a line of denim jeans, called RAW for the Ocean, which Pharrell is co-designing.

2. Eco fabrics are boring and uncomfortable.

Hemp and linens aren’t the only eco-friendly fabrics anymore. Organic bamboo (which is unbelievably soft), recycled and organic cotton, ethically-sourced leather (as a by-product of the food industry), recycled rubber, and the aforementioned recycled plastic are all prime examples of the luxurious textiles being used.

3. Sustainably made clothing is expensive.

Consignment stores are a great way to develop a sustainable wardrobe on a budget. Eco Fashion Week states that the average North American throws away 68 lbs of clothing and textiles per year, so whether you’re dropping off your old duds or buying something new to you, shopping second-hand can help shift that statistic.

For those of you who are in the market for new, embracing the Slow Fashion movement is another way to build your sustainable wardrobe affordably. Simply put, be thoughtful about the pieces you buy and select quality over quantity. Buy only pieces that are timeless, well made, and coordinate with multiple pieces already in your closet. Buy clothing that will last and, even though the t-shirt might cost you $50, it will become softer and more fabulous with each wear over many years rather than needing to be replaced after three washes like its $5 mass produced Fast Fashion counterpart.

4. Sustainable fashion eliminates jobs in foreign countries where they are needed.

Following the collapse of a Bangladesh factory in 2013, many proponents of Fast Fashion argued that it’s better to offer people the opportunity to work (even in unsafe conditions) than to spend our manufacturing dollars elsewhere. Surely this is a simplistic view of a complex issue.

Valuing human life and the environment as well as profit is an important aspect of the growing eco-fashion industry. By demanding transparency in the fashion supply chain, and co-creating fashions that honor and preserve cultural traditions with artisans around the world, progressive designers are helping to lift people out of extreme poverty rather than perpetuating it.

5. There is no sustainable fashion available in Calgary.

Pop up shops like Studio Intent and Fond Boutique curate collections of sustainable fashion. Studio Intent carries professional clothing by Canadian designers like Nicole Bridger, Jennifer Glasgow and Miik (to name a few) who have been carefully selected for their ethical sourcing of materials and labour. Fond is a “thoughtful” consignment store, operating via Instagram or by appointment, which celebrates street fashion with high-end brands.

Manana Imports in Kensington purchases directly from artisans in developing countries like Nepal and India. Owner Stephen Burger can tell you the story of the maker of each piece he sells. Tribe of Lambs is a new ethical jewelry brand that empowers at risk youth in India through its projects, and Alberta Apparel makes organic cotton and bamboo clothing inspired by our own place.


  1. Missed the April Fool’s gag? Click here to see the most fashionable burlap sacks never made.
  2. Learn more about the tremendous waste that happens when North Americans throw out their Fast Fashion purchases by the tonnes each year. Visit the Eco Fashion Week website, or watch this humorous video by Upworthy on our Facebook page.
  3. Click here to read about Calgary’s Localest T-shirt – a collaboration between REAP and Alberta Apparel especially for Down to Earth Week 2016.
  4. Join us at Sustainable Style YYC on April 12 to meet all of the retailers mentioned in this article as well as many others. Click here for details and tickets.