Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), through our eco-fashion thrift boutique, My Sister’s Closet (MSC), was honoured to participate three times at Vancouver Eco Fashion Week (EFW) which was created under the brilliant leadership of Myriam Laroche. Eco-fashion week was established in Vancouver, in 2010, and aimed to present the solutions and innovations working to develop a more responsible fashion industry. The sustainable fashion spectrum is diverse and multifaceted, as it considers the environment, the working conditions, the supply chain as well as responsible consumption practices. Myriam endeavored to inspire change in individuals and the fashion industry. We respect Myriam’s decision to end EFW. We share her vision to inspire and engage people, retailers, the industry locally to make better choices in their consumption and manufacturing of fashion. EFW brought focus to very important ideas and vision to designers in repurposing fabric and textiles and education to the general public through their eco-fashion workshops.
In 2011, we joined EFW with (zero.O.lab) our collaboration with Katherine Soucie which was our very own in-house clothing label for My Sister’s Closet. (zero.O.lab) was also a space for artists, designers and creative thinkers to conduct research on zero waste art and design concepts. Using collaboration as method for exploration and dissection on fashion production and consumption, and served as an incubator into the conversation between art, fashion, and the commerce of identity.
In April 2013, we presented a full runway show, Sisterhood Swagger Runway Show. The collection was born from the empowerment of women and their fashion dreams to end violence against girls and women. With style all about the swagger of empowerment; an embodiment of the diversity of the left coast where the mountains meet the sea and where Toronto, Montreal, New York and Paris lean in to learn more.
In October 2013, we presented a second full runway show, Fashion Forward to End Violence Against Women, the collection titled,“Fearless,” was curated by nine women, including two artisans who designed unique pieces for the event.
It was beautiful to see that our participation each year increased community awareness about how and why a woman’s organization, like BWSS, was involved in ecofashion. At BWSS we have always known that the issues of violence against women, fashion, consumerism, and the environment are all connected and EFW gave us a platform to illustrate how all these issues were interconnected and mattered in building a healthier and more just society.
The fashion industry —a $2.5 trillion sector—is the second most polluting industry on Earth, right behind oil. Manufacturing a piece of clothing has a tremendous impact on the environment—for example, beyond the carbon emissions caused by energy consumption, the typical pair of jeans eats up 1,664 gallons of water in its lifetime. Regardless of this ecological toll, the average individual still throws way 81 pounds of clothing and textiles into the trash every year which heads to our landfills.
We are disconnected from the people who make our clothing as 97% of items are now made overseas. There are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that many people in the West do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women. The human factor of the garment industry is too big to ignore; as we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labor and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights through globalization and as direct result of unchecked consumerism.
Cambodian garment factory workers toil at the W&D garment factory, just southeast of Phnom Penh, April 28, 2004. (AP Photo/Isabelle Lesser)
Battered Women’s Support Services formed My Sister’s Closet based on some of the same ideas as Eco Fashion Week; shifting away from excess consumption, recognizing the role of textiles and the overarching degradation of the environment and looking at oppression and globalization especially how they grind down on women’s lives in terms of the male violence they are subject to and the sexual violence and exploitation they face at various levels in the fashion industry.
And although it is the end of an era for Eco Fashion Week, the ecofashion movement continues and we are proud to be a part of a community that is grounded. And this movement continues to reuse, repurpose and envision economic model that are sustainable and safer for women, communities, and the environment.
BWSS social enterprise, My Sister’s Closet, advocates for zero waste, revenue generated from the sales of donated women’s and men’s clothing and accessories help fund violence prevention and intervention services that we operate assisting us to respond to 11,000 requests in 2016. Donations can be dropped off anytime during opening hours at its location, 1092 Seymour on the corner of Helmcken St., Downtown Vancouver.