A couple of months ago, I sat around a table with Kelly Drennan, the founding executive director of Fashion Takes Action (FTA), and several of the members of FTA’s Board of Directors. I sat there, generally quiet, listening intently. I asked a few questions, mostly related to the meaning of some acronym that was being used. I was peeking in to the FTA world, sitting there wondering, “What am I doing here?”
Founded in 2007, FTA is a Canada’s first and only non-profit organization focused on sustainability in the fashion industry. This means in every aspect: labour, supply chain transparency, toxic chemical use, water, energy and waste.
I first met Kelly sometime in the fall of 2009, the year our kids started attending the same school. I don’t remember the first time I met her specifically, but it was probably in the schoolyard with my two year old in tow, my three other kids arriving late to school. I was probably dressed in mom jeans and a t-shirt. I likely hadn’t showered that day, and I probably had bags under my eyes from being woken up several times during the night by the nursling in my bed.
Huh, eco-fashion, how about that?
I probably wanted to run away and hide feeling the shame of being so far removed from anything eco or fashion. I shopped almost exclusively at a retailer who sold clothing for the whole family and who had both a change room and a washroom big enough to fit all of my kids plus a stroller in it. It was $4.99 sweatshop t-shirts all the way, baby.
It’s not that I wasn’t concerned with eco or fashion. In my pre-children days I had a good sense of style and was always well put together. Mr. FamilyNature and I have always tried to do our part by living eco-friendly in lots of different ways. Eco-friendly clothing wasn’t something that occurred to me at the time except to think that I couldn’t afford it.
Then I started getting to know Kelly. I started following her on Twitter. I read this article she wrote. I read up about FTA and what it was all about. I went to a few events at FTA when they had their Distillery District showroom and bought a few great pieces.
I started to realize that I actually was doing some things that were eco-fashion friendly. I rely heavily on hand-me-downs for my kids. I have, many times, put the word out of Facebook that I was looking for hand-me-downs in a certain size (and found plenty that way!). I have made my kids and myself clothing – not tonnes, but some. I started keeping all the kids’ denim with holes in the knees and using the fabric to make something else (see below). I have always been very aware of the fabric content of the clothing I buy. I also have always loved to shop local, even before it was cool. Through this whole thought process I started to realize that being eco-fashionable is the way I wanted to be.
The thing is, in an ideal world, every piece of clothing and accessory we all own would be ethically made, but it’s not an all or nothing thing. As they say, the wheels of change can be slow to turn but they will change when we, the consumers, demand it. No matter what your budget, you can find ways to be more eco-friendly when it comes to fashion. Buy second-hand, shop local, participate in clothing swaps, and be more mindful. Ask your favourite retailer what their labour practices are. Think about where the fabric comes from and the environmental cost to produce it. Organize a clothing swap with friends or a mother’s group. Baby steps, folks.
I’m not going to lie, I still have a lot of eco-unfriendly fashion in my closet, but I am far more aware than I ever have been. I try to invest more in quality pieces, rather than the fast fashion that is everywhere. I ask more questions and am more mindful of every purchase I make. Slowly but surely I’m changing my ways.
I’ve been thinking lately about getting back into the paid workforce and not been sure how to jump in. Exactly how I got talking to Kelly about this would make this long post even longer, but I decided to get my feet wet with Kelly and FTA, and that’s how I ended up sitting around a table talking business with some of FTA’s finest.
“What am I doing here?” I wondered as I sat around that table, listening to a bunch of smart, dedicated, inspiring women, with varied and interesting backgrounds. The answer to that question became increasingly clear: I am here because I am an example of how the average person, with kids and a limited budget can change her ways. I am an example that eco-fashion is for everyone. If my mind wasn’t made up before that meeting, it was after. I wanted to work with these women. I wanted to learn more. And I wanted to be a part of this organization.