Category Archives: Sustainable Style

Eco Fashion Week 2013: Young Oak + Park, Couture Therapy, Dahlia Drive and more

Young Oak + Park

I really loved the look, craftsmanship, and ideas behind Tammy Joe’s first Young Oak collection. Designer Tammy Joe sources vintage pieces from all over the US and locally in Vancouver, then re-constructs them into re-contextualized pieces for the modern woman. After the show, we spoke with Tammy where she informed us that the brand is homonymous with her mother’s name. The name also spoke to her because of the juxtaposition of the two words: newness paired with the imagery of an old oak tree represents her re-construction process perfectly. Park Apparel, on the other hand, is her friend’s hosiery line that she used in the show.

We were surprised to find that most of the styles were constructed from two separate pieces – even some of the jackets were made from two items. Each look was so flawless and the entire collection very cohesive. We also spoke with Tammy about the scalability of producing one-off vintage pieces, and she said she had thought about all the work that goes into producing  unique pieces, but that she loves the process so much she went with it. I love her passion for reworking vintage, love her vintage-contemporary style, and hope to see lots more of her in the future.

Cherry Blossom Design

Cherry Blossom Design is an eco fashion clothing company which began in 2004 and is based on Salt Spring Island, BC.  The clothes are all sewn in Vancouver and screen printed in the Cherry Blossom studio using screens made from reclaimed picture frames and curtain sheers.  The most sustainable and softest fabrics are used, bamboo being the favourite due to its many environmentally friendly properties.  Designer Deanna Milligan is inspired by Chinese brush paintings, as well as the many flora and fauna surrounding the company studio on the island.

Dahlia Drive

Wendy Van Riesen is the one-woman show behind Dahlia Drive. She salvages pre-loved slips, shirts, and fabrics, then brings the garments back to a colourful life by hand-dying, screen printing and embellishing them in various ways. Some printed designs included trees, the human skeletal system, swirls, and abstract prints. One of my favourite pieces was a white 3/4 length sleeve shirt-dress that had a red background and a white tree. Somehow this piece’s tree branches played tribute to the spirit of the skeleton print from other pieces, while being wrapped in a pool of blood-red colour, and in the end captured the spirit of beauty found literally on the inside (of the body) and outside (in our natural environment).

Sally Omeme

An Albertan native, Sally Omeme learned to knit in the early 2000’s which led to her studying at the John Casablancas Institute in 2011. Supported by her instructors, she decided to realize her dream of becoming a knitwear designer and showcased her first collection at the John Casablancas Institute fashion show in May 2012. Watching Kim Cather’s 68 Pound Challenge creations at Vancouver ECO Fashion Week inspired her to experiment with used fabrics to make knitwear. She considers Audrey Hepburn, Carrie Bradshaw and Sarah Burton her style icons.

Couture Therapy

Sarah Couture was born in the small town of Merritt, BC, and has been passionately designing since the age of thirteen. She graduated from Blanche Macdonald in 2002, and after starting a family (her two very lovely little girls walked down the runway with her), she returned to fashion to start her own fashion business, House of Couture. The Couture Therapy ready-to-wear line she showed at Eco-Fashion Week was very street smart. Her ideal client is definitely a woman with attitude, and a whole lot of confidence to back it up. Models walked down the runway with t-shirts reading phrases like, “I heard that you like bad girls…” and “I am FU#@KING crazy but I am FREE.”

But the question is, who doesn’t need some Couture Therapy?

Photos by Aurora Chan

Words by Miranda Sam

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Shop Fluevog on July 25 to Support Project True

fluevog x project true

Project True is one of my favourite local charities. It’s an an organization that helps people struggling with body image issues and disordered eating. Not that I actively promote shopping to fill such voids, but this year on July 25th, 50% of sales from the Granville Street John Fluevog location will be donated to the worthy charity! I’ve always admired Fluevogs and Project True from afar, so maybe it’s time to help out both local organizations.

Below are some of my top picks of sandals, boots, and shoes.

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Size Ain’t Nothing But A Number

Kirstie Clements

I read an article in The Guardian by former Australian Vogue editor, Kirstie Clements, about size zero and the modelling industry. It’s an elusive size for many women, no matter how strong they seem on the outside. For an average model vying for top runway jobs, it’s likely a size they want to not only strive for but wish to stay under. As Kirstie delves deeper in the industry, she finds stranger and more frightening bits of information that slip through the cracks.

One example is when she asks a model how she received scars on her knees, and the model nonchalantly responds by saying it’s normal for her to faint once or twice a day from starvation. Another example surrounds the ‘prestige’ of being a fit model. A fit model is what couturiers and high-end designers use as a live dress form. Each season’s clothes are designed based on a waif-y body type and are then shown on the runway on the same waif-y silhouette. It’s also common for fit models to constantly be in the hospital for not eating. Kirstie says, “That the ideal body shape used as a starting point for a collection should be a female on the brink of hospitalisation from starvation is frightening.”

I’m certain you, me, our mothers, co-workers, and daughters run into body image issues at one time or another. I touched upon this subject on a previous post about Cameron Russel’s TED Talk. I still remember the later high school years where I obsessed about losing weight under the guise of eating healthy. But the thing is that these issues aren’t just going to go away. They’ve been with us from the beginning of our human history, and have always been hidden as a shameful subject. If we can shed some light onto these deeply rooted and very sensitive sore spots, we can start to heal, however slowly.

And who’s to blame? Kirstie mentions, “There are a few male fashion designers [she] would like to personally strangle.” However, not all designers are what we perceive in the media as perfectionist eccenctrics who would rather jump off a bridge than produce size 14 clothing. Take a look at a Helen Jean, a new Vancouver brand that launched in 2012: there are no size labels sewn into the clothing. Instead, customers get to choose a word of their own as a reminder of who they are or aspire to be: strong, sexy, beautiful.

Owner Katie Jeanes started her online custom-made dresses after being disappointed in the change room time after time. In her Indiegogo fundraising video, she says, “the worst part was watching my friends pick themselves apart because they didn’t fit into a predetermined size.” It’s such great news to hear that designers are taking responsibility and trying to break down the link between size and self-worth. Models, too, are taking action. The Model Alliance has done some genuinely profound work to help change New York state’s modelling laws. I have the greatest respect for these women who dare push for the idea that size ain’t nothing but a number.

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EP!C 2013: A Look at Sustainable Living

Sustainable Consumption Workshop

Sustainable Purchasing & Production CHANGE JAM Workshop

Vanessa Timmer, Executive Director of One Earth nonprofit ‘think and do tank’ and Chris Diplock, founder of Collective Research Group presented a wonderful discussion on sustainable purchasing and production both at a corporate and family levels. So what does this have to do with fashion & retail? Consumption. Chris mentioned a communal tool shed project he helps out with that allows neighbours to borrow power tools that would otherwise cost too much to rent or end up being unused in a garage.

I loved the idea of community and sharing, so I shared the story of how I have 4 weddings to attend in August and was determined not to buy a dress. I threw out my request on Facebook, and within minutes I had friends and acquaintances open their closets up to me. Workshop participant Anna Mae Abia also brought up, a brilliant use of technology creating real-time bulletin boards among neighbourhoods. For example, someone can post that they need to borrow skis for the weekend, inform others about nearby traffic accidents, or invite neighbours for a potluck. It’s just too bad that Next Door is currently only available in the US (although Anna Mae and countless others have written emails to rally for a Canadian version).

“GMO OMG” Film Screening

“GMO OMG” film screening presented by Nature’s Path

The film “GMO OMG” documents the quest of Jeremy Seifert, a young father of 3, who attempts to better understand what he’s feeding his children. He quickly learns that GMOs permeate the American agricultural industry, and only few have the courage and patience to switch to organic farming. I loved that this film came from a father’s perspective, and I’m sure you would too. Jeremy tries teaching his young boys about nutrition through DIY “GMO goggles” made of spaghetti sticking out the side of the eyewear like whiskers. He teaches them to see how dominant GMOs are in the grocery store, fast food chains, and even in corn fields.

I don’t know if I was left with anything more than a smidgen of hopelessness at the end of the film, as I had just learned that 90% of beets contain GMOs. One of the suggested solutions was to keep food production at a smaller, more manageable size. As an interviewee in the film mentioned, industries and companies are not too big to fail, they’re simply too big.

And as it’s important to be aware of what’s in our food, we must also be aware of what’s in our clothing. Check out the Greenpeace campaign that convinced Zara to “eliminate all discharge of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020.”

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EP!C 2013: A Look at Sustainable Fashion

Tees & Sunnies

Two Birds Eco-Luxury Apparel

Daniel and Tiffany of Two Birds know a thing or two about casual luxury. Their eco-friendly line of organic cotton and bamboo t-shirts are silky soft to the touch and make their customers feel indulgent without looking it. They also carry a line of eco eyewear called Sire’s Crown. According to their website, each pair is “handcrafted in LA using sustainably forested and reclaimed woods.” In addition to the stylish Wayfarer-esque look, the glasses also come in an equally sleek case too.


Frocks & Gowns


Designer Leanne McElroy was at a sustainable employment sewing cooperative in Indonesia at the time I had wanted to interview her. Not only does she help develop communities through the co-op, she also uses organic, sustainable or upcycled fabrics, sourced from the Indonesian communities. But this established Vancouver designer needs no introduction; the clothes speak for themselves. Her contemporary West Coast stylings are well suited for an evening out or for professional day-to-day wear. Elroy definitely had one of the busiest booths at EP!C.

Pure Magnolia

Pure Magnolia is a dream come true for brides who opt for eco-weddings to suit their eco-lifestyles. Designer Patty Nayel sources fabrics such as organic cotton sateen, hemp silk satin, and modal knits. The team collects and refashions vintage wedding dresses,  as well as create new styles; one of my favourites being the diamond back styles. The designs even inspired a 3 year old boy, who pointed to the tulle wedding dress on a mannequin and said, “When I get married, my bride’s going to wear this dress.”


Purses & Handbags

Love Me 2 Times

Featured in the EP!C preview, Love Me 2 Times is the brainchild of handbag designer, Amelia Shaughnessy. Her bags, clutches, make-up bags, and coin purses are all made from recycled leathers sourced from local vintage shops. Her latest collection of fringe purses are are flirty and fun; simply perfect for summer.

Cork by Design

The Portuguese designed and crafted cork handbags by Cork by Design could easily pass for leather. Instead, the husband and wife team, Martha and Jack Vainer, have used cork, sourced from the cork forests in Portugal. Bark is stripped from the cork trees, and the renewable resources “regenerates itself after each extraction.” The Style by Fire team’s favourite eco-design of EP!C is definitely the Cork by Design iPad shoulder bag: how modern and sustainable!

Coming up next… A Look at EP!C from a sustainable living point of view

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EP!C Preview: Amelia Shaughnessey Loves Leather 2x


Amelia Shaughnessy started making bags from reclaimed leather 3 years ago while working full-time. But at her day job, she says, “All I was thinking about was making bags!” So in January of this year, she opted to make Love Me 2 Times  her full-time work. Although every new business can be a struggle to get off the ground, Amelia confidently says, “It’s worth it to do what you love.”

Her bags are all made from vintage leather jackets… and pants! Apparently there’s quite a high supply of leather pants in the thrifting markets. Pants also offer a much wider range of colour choices for the designer, as most leather jackets she finds are brown or black. What is now a teal handbag was once a pair of pants, and a current blue purse was a former leather skirt. Amelia never knows what to expect when hunting for new materials;  it’s certainly always a surprise.

Because of the panels on these garments, she often takes what may seem like an awkward piece and turns it into a focal point in her designs. Oftentimes, jacket pockets are repurposed as a bag’s external pockets. Perhaps it would act as an easy go-to area for lipstick? Love is literally infused on Love Me 2 Times bags: a little stitched heart makes an appearance on the products.

Look inside the recycled leather bags, the brightly patterend lining you see was made from a vintage dress. In addition to speaking to the environmental awareness she creates, Amelia says she “really wanted to something so each one is unique so that people felt it was something really special.” The uniqueness factor is something that runs throughout her business and personal style. When asked which fashion icon she admires, she doesn’t take a moment to hesitate, and mentions Emilio Pucci. “My entire wardrobe is vintage dresses,” she laughs.

Amelia Shaughnessey

Amelia will be at the EP!C Sustainable Living Festival this July 6 – 7th at the Sustainable Living Marketplace. Check out Love Me 2 Times along with Elroy, Dahlia Drive, and other eco-fashion designers.

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Sustainable Style: Meeting Lisa von Sturmer of Growing City

Miranda & Lisa von Sturmer of Growing City

At Roger Killen’s “Inside the Den” event that featured former Dragon’s Den contestants, I got the chance to meet Lisa von Sturmer of Growing City. Her company offers commercial composting services, and sustainability is infused in every aspect of the company: from the uniforms made from 100% recycled plastics to the policy of  banning plastic and single-serve cups at work. Talk about walking the walk!

I’ve seen Lisa in the media before, and in person, she’s just as friendly and full of enthusiasm. She even made it a point to talk to everyone who came up to her after the event. I don’t want to take away from this inspiring and successful young female entrepreneur who’s been chosen as a Dragon’s Den Game Changer as well as the CYBF National Green Business Award. However, what makes Lisa distinct from other entrepreneurs, especially in the environmental field, is that she brings a whole lot of style to the game. I would even go as far to say she makes composting look glamorous! Just take a look at her website and how she brands herself by wearing green and blue (hint: they’re Growing City colours!)

At “Inside the Den,” Lisa is seen carrying a Tory Burch purse and wearing a Forever 21 dress she found in Las Vegas. I think it’s great that for a successful female entrepreneur like Lisa, she’s able to mix high and low fashion to create outfits that always stand out from the crowd.


If you are passionate about doing your part for the environment, consider getting your office to take on composting with Growing City. Start by getting a free quote at 1-855-WE-COMPO!

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A Conversation with Wes Baker, co-founder of de-brand

Wes Baker, co-founder of Debrand ServicesThe story goes that Wes Baker and partner Amelia Ufford got the idea of recycling corporate textiles while surfing in Sri Lanka. They saw the masses of “brandfill” float ashore and decided to do something about it. Thus began the concept of Debrand, a company that recycles textiles while offering brand security to businesses such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and lululemon, who require brand security for their products as well.

The business had originally started out as a creative design firm called Cinder Creative. After establishing a solid client base, it allowed them to “spark the dialogue with [their] clients about the idea of ‘debranding’.” Once the resource recovery side eclipsed the creative side, the company fully rebranded as Debrand.

They first hosted Debrand in a warehouse in Yaletown. Rent was minimal, and they “constructed” it as they needed the space to work for their business. At the time the whole building was under a facelift; jackhammers were used the whole time, so he figured that they might as well jackhammer their place to outfit the space for their specific business needs too!

Wes definitely piqued my interest by doing what it takes to run a business, so I asked him about whether he believes entrepreneurship can be taught, as he holds a degree in it from the University of Victoria. He said he learned the basics of everything from his education: he can read financial statements perfectly well, can do operations, and of course the marketing. But the bottom line is that it takes a certain low-risk spirit and a leap of faith to be an entrepreneur. Or, says he likes to say, just “know enough to fake it.”

When we talked, what I noticed about Wes was that he was very multi-faceted; I think it comes from being an entrepreneur that requires one not only to juggle many tasks at once, but to see things from many perspectives. I brought up an issue about how it’s sad that clothing and apparel businesses churn out so many items that go to waste, basically I labeled it “bad,” but somehow he managed to look at it from a different angle.

He explained that it’s just a necessary evil because companies experiment with better ways of applying technology, similar to how nowadays consumers do much testing of beta software. I guess that’s just how the mind of an entrepreneur works – always seeing the opportunities.

Then we touched on some big issues in the fashion/sustainability world. “The fundamental of your business is to make more stuff and sell more stuff,” he said. We talked about how our economy is based on a consumption cycle, but just like the issue of skinny models ruling the runways, it’s really difficult to pinpoint where we can find a leverage point to create change. I also learned of an outdated part of our duty system, where it’s financially more sensible for companies to destroy clothing instead of recycling them because “destruction” warrants companies to regain its duties. We both agreed the whole situation is very grey.

So, instead of donating your old clothes to the nearest clothing collection bin, either give it to someone you know or leave it in your closet for a few more seasons. As he mentioned in his speech during the Eco-Fashion Week seminars, 95% of the clothing donated doesn’t make it back to a thrift store. In fact, most of it ends up as unwanted waste in third world countries.

Just take one of his examples – Wes was about to donate a jacket that had been sitting in his closet for a while but decided to give it one more go. Four people complimented his “new” jacket that day. So maybe it’s not so much that we need to find where the root of our consumption patterns lie, but rather, for us to view our wardrobes through a wider perspective. Just as an entrepreneur would see the many possibilities.

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Recap of Eco Fashion Week Seminars

I had to debate about going to EFW’s seminar series. Like yourself, I’ve only got 24 hours in a day and I was hoping to work on some other things and keep my Sunday lazy. But honestly, it was one of the best things that I could have done to further the learning I’ve done through BCIT’s SBL Program.

We didn’t dive into the details about LCAs or CSR plans, but what I found was similar to a fellow SBL-er classmate and friend of mine: I jumped with joy when I understood every term the speakers threw out there – closed-loop systems, zero waste, vertical integration, etc. I even knew the answers to some questions and felt confident to provide ideas to the discussion based on the research I’ve done on sustainable fashion throughout the year too.

So here are the highlights (aka my Coles notes version, quite literally) from the 5 seminars that kicked on EFW season 6:

  • Seminar 1: Facing the Issues
  • Seminar 2: Looking for Solutions
  • Seminar 3: Designer Challenges & Solutions
  • Seminar 4: Trends & Moving Towards the Future
  • Seminar 5: Rethinking Second-hand

I found a few recurring themes throughout the day…

– challenges of family life and running a business

– challenges/opportunities of Vancouver’s small industry


– limits of growth for small, local businesses

Interesting things I’ve learned:

– textiles will be part of the City of Vancouver’s recycling plan as of 2017! (from Wes Baker, de-brand)

– don’t use cotton thread with polyester – textile mixing not good for the recyclers and decomposers (also from Wes)

– modular design – it’s possible to design a piece of clothing worn 25+ ways as a shirt, dress, skirt, scarf, bag… (by Shannon Whitehead)

– trend: in popular culture, we’ll see nature to take on a sense of humour (by Carly Stojsic, WGSN)

– trend: we’ll be turning away from consumption and gravitating toward DIY (also by Carly)

– having more control of your fashion business via vertical integration allows you to make a bigger social difference (via Nicole Bridger)

– you CAN find Gucci, Balmain, Dior, Givenchy at Value Village! (a la Myriam Laroche, EFW founder)

Best Quotes of the Seminars:

“We hold our corporations accountable, but we don’t hold ourselves accountable.” – Jason Neve, Boardroom Eco Apparel

‘The good thing about my designs is that they’re never out of trend because they’re never on trend.’ – loosely quoted from Lincoln Heller, FiveLeft Leather

“Can I hack it in the industry and be who I am?” – Nicole Bridger

“I’m not going to do any good in the world if I don’t make money.” – Nicole Bridger

If you are at all interested in sustainability, I highly urge you to attend next season’s seminar series!

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Something’s Not Right: Runway Models Plea for Cash

model alliance

Amy Lemons, Sara Ziff, Linda Vojtova & Jeisa Chiminazzo

A reader posted a comment on Style by Fire today, and so I moseyed on over to her blog to check it out. I read an article she linked  from Buzzfeed which was real eye-opening but enraging. It was an article titled, “Fashion Models Finally Earn Money After Plea For Cash,” and it made my gut wrench.

Wannabe models sacrifice so much to become the next Giselle or Kate: they’re away from their families, live in model dorms, eat next to nothing (ok so some of it is self-imposed). And for what? The article talked about how even big names like Marc Jacobs had not paid their models until recently. Worse yet, fashion designers recognized even to those not in-the-know are holding back from compensating models: Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler, Narciso Rodriguez…

Some models get paid $100 for a high-end runway show… if they’re lucky. Most get clothes. And a lot of them are in debt with their agencies too, even the semi-successful ones.

I, too, have endured experiences where I was paid in clothes (not working as a model but in the industry). Although my co-workers and I were adamant we get paid in real wages, we ended up keeping quiet because we decided an extra weekend’s worth of work was not worth losing a job over. Thinking about it now, I don’t even know why we held on so tightly to those jobs, as there was much abuse similar to the ones models face, except for the image. I had often wished that in fashion and retail, there was some sort of union or collective voice to speak up for all our inequities. Lucky for models, as of February 2012 there is one.

Sara Ziff, a 30-year old model who has been the face of Stella McCartney, started The Model Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving the working conditions of the American fashion industry. This smart cookie also put herself through a Bachelor’s at Columbia and produced Picture Me, a documentary behind the scenes in fashion.

Initiatives for 2013 include…

  • Backstage Privacy Policy (to prevent invasive photography behind the scenes when models change)
  • Child Labour (Vogue has agreed to not hire models under 16)
  • Model Alliance Suport (to prevent sexual harassment)

On the other hand, some readers weren’t as supportive of this movement. One reader called Draconis wrote on November 29th, 2012 in response to Sara Ziff’s article on the BBC, “If you join a superficial industry where looks and body shape count for everything, you can’t really complain once you’re in it. that’s a bit like a soldier complaining he has to shoot at the enemy.” Although I understand where s/he’s coming from, it’s also like saying that because you willingly sign up to be a waiter, you should take all the customer abuse in the world.

“There is something deeply unsettling about some of fashion’s wealthiest, most powerful brands hiring minors and not compensating them financially,” says Ziff. And I agree. In terms of what we’re learning in sustainability class, the social aspect is just as important as the environmental piece. You’ve got to be treating your workers fairly so that they may support themselves in a healthy manner. In turn, when they have a standard quality of life, you’ll also benefit from what they can bring to the world.

While child labour in overseas countries may get some companies in trouble, treating workers in North America does not get anyone to blink an eye. The trouble is that most people don’t know about this, myself included until I read Ziff’s article. So please, the next time you watch a Narciso or Proenza Schouler show, remember that these designers are forcing others to sacrifice while they profit.

I’m seeing a lot of models stand up for rights like Cameron Russell who spoke out about deconstructing images, Sara Ziff who formed The Model Alliance, Coco Rocha for not having her photos airbrushed, and Summer Rayne Oakes who stood up for plus size models. Kudos to you girls.

“I think that if we put more work into empowering the models themselves, we can change the kinds of imagery that we see.” – Sara Ziff

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