Last month, Vancouver welcomed back the ninth season of Eco Fashion Week (EFW), to celebrate the ongoing transformation of the fashion industry into one that is aware of and co-exists with the environment. This year’s Eco Fashion Week fell during Earth Week, with Offsetters Climate Solutions on board as the Official Offset Sponsor, helping to raise awareness of the environmental, and more specifically, the carbon impact made by the fashion industry worldwide. The week was inspiring, energizing and reinvigorating, full of runway shows, speaker sessions, films and, of course, more shows!
The week kicked off at the Fairmont Waterfront with H&M’s Conscious Collection, worn by models who mixed and mingled with the guests, and a series of posters throughout the space highlighting H&M’s sustainability strategies and commitments. The following two nights were filled with back-to-back fashion shows including stylists working with product from Value Village, vintage stores and eco-designers. Designer Carlie Wong compiled an incredible collection made from 68 pounds of clothing from Value Village. The average person throws out 68 pounds of clothing a year, so Wong took product in this weight to make an elegant all-black, sparkling and leather collection.
Bringing in more than a trillion a year in revenue, the apparel industry so successful relies heavily on the resources of healthy ecosystems — fresh water, clean air, robust biodiversity, productive land — and the stability of just societies. So, as the third most environmentally damaging industry in the world, one might also wonder what its leaders are doing to promote the kind of sustainability necessary for their long-term viability. Well, Myriam Laroche did, too.
Laroche founded Vancouver Eco Fashion Week to work with the fashion community to create a healthier apparel and textile industry. Laroche, who says she was once the “girl with 100 pairs of shoes,” and the “one who would buy one tank top in five colours and wear only three,” said she was influenced by the community of people that incorporated sustainability into their lifestyles after moving to Vancouver. When she learned that the average amount of textiles thrown away per person in America was 68 pounds, she re-evaluated her relationship with clothes and soon founded EFW.
Innovation in fashion is inextricably linked to innovation in sustainability, and EFW’s purpose is to inform and inspire the fashion-conscious and sustainable-minded, alike, in a way that harmonizes beauty and the environment. This year’s EFW featured a Zero Textile Waste panel, during which panellists Glencora Twigg of WE3 Designs, Joy Mauro from Turnabout, Tony Shumpert of Value Village and Wes Baker from Debrand discussed reducing waste throughout the various steps of the apparel supply chain and the need to create your own list of priorities when it comes to choosing eco-friendly apparel. As the apparel industry continues to evolve, it is vital for companies to collaborate and to educate their consumers, and for consumers to continue to ask questions.
Laroche said her goal is to eventually drop the term ‘eco’ from fashion, as she hopes that the apparel and textile industry will be creating and manufacturing clothing in the least harmful way possible.
“Instead of ‘eco,’ I want to bring in the words ‘conscious’ and ‘responsible.’ Responsible fashion is about the treatment of people and the earth during the entire garment-making process,” Laroche said. “Right now the fashion industry is a $300 billion a year business and it's causing damage. There's so much fabric waste, damage from the chemicals used in textile manufacturing.”
This is where Offsetters plans to play a role, working with the industry to develop and implement carbon management and offsetting, and other sustainable practices. To date, Offsetters has worked with a number of clothing manufacturers in Vancouver and North America. While working with these brands, Offsetters has helped to reduce their environmental impacts, specifically looking at the carbon and water footprints, as well as their upstream supply chains. Once strategically reducing the footprints, they have offset the emissions of select product lines to create garments that are carbon neutral. These successes have highlighted that the fashion industry can work to reduce its environmental impact without reducing its bottom line.
Offsetters is looking forward to calculating the footprint of this year’s EFW to create a baseline for future years. As the event continues to grow, Offsetters will be able to help them further reduce its impact and educate attendees on the importance of understanding, reducing and offsetting their environmental footprint.
Vancouver is proving to be an ideal location for an EFW; as Laroche puts it: “It is Manhattan with mountains; residents are passionate about their city and surrounding environment. It is definitely a place where taking care of our planet is a lifestyle. Most people genuinely want to make a difference, either with the way they consume food, furniture or clothes.”
Integrity is the core of EFW, and Offsetters supports and agrees with their belief that education is key, and promoting sustainability — from process to product — while looking at areas of reduction and offsetting, will be the way to create change within the fashion industry on a global level. EFW collaborates with organizations, brands and designers who encourage people to examine, explore and question the world around them, and Offsetters is proud to be a part of this collaboration of likeminded, innovative companies.