Monday, March 04, 2013

Fashion Under Fire

Fashion Under Fire

Browsing the Faded Glory line on Wal-Mart's website you’ll be amazed at the prices. You can find a dress for $9, $15 for a pair of jeans, and $6 for a 100% cotton blouse. What a steal! Or is it a murder? Last January seven women lost their lives in a factory fire in Bangladesh. Two months before that an even worse fire caused the death of an estimated 112 people in another Bangladesh factory. This has led many to ask, what is the real cost of cheap fashion?
Since 2005 more than 600 people have been killed in factory fires in Bangladesh. The most horrific fire happened last November, at the Tazreen Fashion Ltd. factory. Some victims burned, others jumped to their deaths. The factory was on the upper floors of the building. According to a survivor, when people first started smelling smoke the managers told the workers to stay in their places and that it was just a drill. Shortly after that the lights went out. When people started to panic and try to escape they soon discovered that the fire had spread to the stairs. Not only that, there were also insufficient exits, some of which had been locked. At least 112 people died.
In the burnt wreckage, garments baring the labels of Disney, Sears, Dickies, and Wal-Mart’s private label Faded Glory were all found. When contacted by the major news networks all the companies implicated claimed that they had done their sourcing through a third party and that they thought they had stopped doing business with the manufacturer months ago. The rights group Worker Rights Consortium’s Scott Nova says otherwise, telling ABC News “they know exactly what is going on in these facilities; they have staff on site in Bangladesh.”
But what makes Bangladesh such a hot bed for factory fires? Right now Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothes, and with multiple sources claiming the “end of cheap China” Bangladesh is poised to eventually become number one. This is due primarily to the incredibly low wages. The average worker makes $37 a month. Almost all the facilities that went up in flames were either behind in their inspections or the government had no idea it even existed. A major problem is corruption. According to Transparency International, Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The advocacy group said the main problem was that “no real effort” was put into fighting corruption. This makes it easy for the factories and the international companies to skate by.
As consumers our only power is through our dollar. We must therefore focus our scrutiny on the companies that use such labour practices. Another reason why Bangladesh is so desirable for companies is because when things go wrong, there is very little financial risk for them. When Tommy Hilfiger was involved with a factory that caught fire last year ABC News tried to talk to Hilfiger about why his brand is involved in such labour practices and why even after the tragedy the company has not pulled production out of Bangladesh. The designer gave a vague statement about how all facilities are now up to the “gold standard” and promised a mere $10,000 to the families of each victim.
We must ask ourselves, “do these companies really need such low labour costs”? Most of the brands found to have manufacturing in Bangladesh are the ones setting the unreasonably low prices that other brands must struggle to compete with. One could understand this if a young company that is trying to keep up with behemoths like Wal-mart or H&M would resort to such desperate sourcing tactics. That for the most part however, is not the case. Wal-Mart, Sears, and H&M are all known to have production in low paying Bangladesh factories. These companies are the same ones squeezing well made products out of the market place, in exchange for cheap clothing that tares in a day. They don’t need these low prices to survive. Nobody needs a $9 sun dress to survive, but garment workers do need a safe work environment and a livable wage.

Tea with Talia

Tea with Talia
An expert talks career, style and the future face of fashion

            Toronto has flourished as an artistic and cultural hub in the last few years, particularly in the fashion industry. Talia Brown is one of Toronto’s highly established and successful professionals in the business. Talia is a freelance personal shopper and fashion stylist. Growing up in the small town of North Bay, four hours north of Toronto, she knew from a young age that she adored fashion. The stylist first began dealing with clothes in her teenage years. “I worked in the florist shop of a department store and they would occasionally give me children’s wear to sort and handle. Even though I didn’t particularly want to work with children’s wear, I knew that I loved it “says Talia. She went on to study English at Queens University and by the time she started a career in fashion she had no educational background in the art.

            Talia has dipped her toes in many waters in the business of fashion. She began her career with internships at Marni in New York and California. Talia explained “When I landed my internship in California they threw me into wardrobe almost immediately because it was evident that I could do the job”. Of all the successful collaborations she has had the pleasure of being a part of, Talia insists that her favourite jobs have been to work on multiple shoots for Fashion Gone Rogue and Vogue Italia. She was the stylist on set for ‘Dahlia’ the lingerie shoot featured in Vogue Italia. The honour of a feature in Vogue is a dream Talia has had almost her entire life. She also enjoys her photo-shoots with photographer Javier Leveria insisting that they work extremely well together and often possessing similar creative visions. “Sometimes the work we have done together for no pay has been work that received more positive attention than paid assignments I have been a part of” Talia exclaims. The stylist points out that when her and Javier leave the set for the day they know they have created art.

            Reaching the level of professional success that Talia has with no formal fashion education, allows her to understand the difficulties of breaking into the business of style and fashion.  The Toronto fashion industry tends to fluxgate in terms of available jobs in the last few years. Print is becoming electronic and magazines, which contain a large percent of industry employment, are a dying art form. The spirited stylist exclaims, “Technology unnerves me, I love the romance of holding and smelling a magazine”. She realizes this is not the typical answer, however, she believes that with this new age of technology come pros and cons, especially in fashion. In the more recent years, graduates and young professionals starting their career are moving abroad to look for more opportunity, causing the job demand in the industry to shift repeatedly.  When asked if the job market would expand in five to ten years, Talia replies that it truly depends. She explains that everyone with an interest in fashion deems himself or herself a stylist of some form. In recent years it has made it complicated for employers to regard styling as a specialized skill and paid profession rather than a hobby.

            Due to the fact that Talia has worked her way up the style ladder, she has experienced the professional fears and barriers most fashion students will. Becoming a professional stylist in this new age is absolutely more of a possibility than it may have been fifty years ago, however, it can still be tricky for future graduates. Talia advises students to be ambitious, patient and confident always. “Do not take no for an answer” she warns, “because there are many people in the industry who will break you down”. Talia claims that her hands on experience has provided her with the largest amount of knowledge she has acquired. The classroom taught her the interpersonal skills she values but being thrown into the industry gave her the skills for her successful career. She advises that in this new generation of extensive post secondary education, students shouldn’t forget that you really only learn to do a job by doing it.

            The talkative trailblazer is extremely excited about spring/summer 2013 trends. Talia confesses that we have had monochromatic colour schemes for a long time and finally this season we can look for pops of bold and bright colours. She acknowledges that rich silver and gold tones will be all the rage. “Nails are huge right now. Nails have shifted into an essential and creative part of fashion and dressing yourself to go out” Talia comments. For the upcoming warm season, this pretty professional has a few work gigs lined up. She is working on an editorial ad campaign for Persona and a series of photo-shoots for various look books. Talia is also working in wardrobe for a pilot television series that has not yet aired; from there not even she knows where her fashion journey will take her next.

'Click' Into the Future - Embracing the World of E-commerce in Canada

‘Click’ into the Future
Embracing the World of E-commerce in Canada

It seems more and more people are becoming addicted to the world of online shopping and the instant gratification that our technology savvy world can bring us. The expanse of the ‘e-world’ is becoming so advanced that you can literally buy anything with a click of a mouse – clothing, groceries, a new pet – you name it, you can find it for sale on the web. However, what does this mean for our fashion market –specifically, our fashion market in Canada? Should traditional retailers fear growth of online shopping or embrace it?

Online shopping and the e-world are growing at a rapid pace but in a country as large as Canada with such a young fashion industry, it’s hard to predict where the market is going. Online shopping has struggled here in the past with Canadian Tire shutting down their online shopping in 2009 due to dismal sales and The Hudson Bay Company just starting to make an online come back since their e-commerce shut down in the same year. Compared to America, our e-world is almost comical; however there is a definite need in the fashion market and Canadian shoppers are desperate for a domestic online solution.
Joanna Track, who started the beloved website, was the first one in Canada to recognize this need in the market and do something about it. In 2011 Track started, an online shopping heaven for designer women’s fashion but it didn’t come without its challenges. Many Canadian women spend the majority of their online shopping on U.S. or European sites, such as or, which often results in high shipping and duty charges. According to the Guide to E-commerce in Canada article written by Jordan Markowski for Digest Dx3, Canada Post says that the confusion over shipping speed, costs and delivery can often prompt a shopper to abandon their shopping cart at the checkout. There are many advances in technology that makes shopping from home a luxury – with features like free delivery with tracking and returns accompanied by preaddressed return stickers make online shopping a breeze and a seemingly risk free experience. Where people tend to get caught is in the fine print. They don’t realize that most of the time they need to spend a certain amount of money to qualify for free shipping or free delivery is only offered to citizens of the U.S or wherever the site is based. As Ms. Track told the Globe and Mail in an interview with Katherine Scarrow (May 9th, 2011), “the real challenge here is getting the product from the vendors to the customers in a smooth and efficient way”, not to mention clear and cost effective – and Track is doing just that! Being a proud Canadian, she has tailored eLUXE to the needs and desires of other fellow Canadians with clear methods of shipping at competitive rates or a free shipping option and always free returns. But many are concerned about online shopping because it doesn’t have that personal touch of face-to-face selling – which causes people to second guess whether brick-and-mortar shops are really becoming obsolete.

            Brick-and-mortar stores offer the option to see the actual product in person, to talk to available sales reps who should be able to answer any questions, and is overall a fun and social experience for most women, which generally results in a positive experience with a less percentage of returns or unsatisfied customers on point of purchase. However, the face-to-face experience can also have its downfalls, sales people can often be annoying and pushy, stores and malls are often crowded (don’t even think about it during the holiday season) and in a wide-spread country like Canada, shoppers often have to travel to the shopping destination. In fact, the Globe and Mail article More Canadians Turned to the Web for Christmas Shopping (Jan. 17th, 2013) reported steady rises in consumer shopping online in late 2012 and early 2013 with “consumers [spending] 2.8 billion online in December” alone. E-commerce brings everything to your door with the ‘click’ of a mouse from the comfort of your home or virtually anywhere you have access online – be it the office, a coffee shop, or in your car. Although there is always a wait time to get the purchased product and a chance of that item not fitting the way you imagined, the risk is balanced out with quick, reliable and often affordable shipping methods. Sure, you might not get the same experience as you would in a brick-and-mortar store but there are many more fabulous bonus features that offer their own personal touch. Ms. Track has designed eLUXE to help the everyday woman in her shopping experience with such features like an online stylist that you can talk to live to get advice on styles, fit, or shopping within a budget – not to mention all of the discounts that can’t be found anywhere else, online or in-store. Tactics like these, paired with a wider selection of items than carried in-store and a direct way to get exactly what you’re looking for make online shopping the perfect option for the modern-day consumer.
            Online shopping paired with brick-and-mortar stores is the perfect retail combination that will save time for those who get frustrated from a wasted shopping excursion – I for one hate coming home empty handed from a day at the mall. is the perfect example, who just launched an ecommerce website for Canada! It allows one to browse the collection at their convenience, see if they’re interested and even check stock levels at each location if they want to go in for a closer look.
In our opinion, brick-and-more stores definitely still serve their purpose and offer a perfect excuse to get together with the girls for an outing but if you’re someone who is fashion hungry, wants to find the best deals, the widest product range, and is possibly looking for a great outsource for some retail therapy – our advice to you is to get online!

Give a Hoot. Give Fur the Boot!

Give a Hoot, Give Fur the Boot!

Do ethics and the equal rights of animals hold any place in the heart of a true fashion leader?

A topic such as animal cruelty within the fashion industry has been brought up time and time again. We’ve all heard it a thousand times and it seems that no one really cares to hear it again; unless we are in a time when caring about animal rights within the fashion industry is cool, easy to do and fits with the trend of the season, which as of the last few years it has not.

It’s true that keeping up with all of the injustices of the world is not an easy task. Every time we turn around, one of our favourite products or companies is being reprimanded for the exploitation of something or someone; but with the vast knowledge of the internet at our fingertips, can we really use being uninformed as a valid excuse?
With the abundance of popularity of leather and fur in the last year, how can the question of animal rights not be brought to our attention? Are we really ignorant to what is actually happening to our four legged friends? Or are we simply apathetic?

Being Cruel isn’t Cool

With a growing demand for fur and leather over the past century, apparel produced from animals has gone from being functional to being fashionable. An industry spokesperson attributed the rise primarily to two factors: designers who have incorporated small amounts of fur and leather into a wider array of garments, making these items an option in warmer climates, and "a younger generation whose passion is not animal rights."

Although fur/leather/animal pelt wears are not all Cruella De Vil’s that wish to cause harm to an innocent creature, they are still part of the problem. By wearing real fur coats, sporting leather belts, carrying around designer leather handbags is a prime example of being an accessory to animal cruelty and supporting an industry fueled on the pain of living things.

Many of the tactics that are used to create these real animal fashion products are extremely inhumane and often too hard for the general population to imagine. This fact alone is one of the main reasons that most people stay ignorant to the injustices of animals; another would be the fact of wanting something and not caring where it came from.

The way these animals are killed is probably the worst thing to be ignorant or apathetic about. Many of the ways these products are produced is in the cheapest and most time efficient manner which is often the cruelest. This includes practices such as suffocation, electrocution, gassing and poisoning. There was a study done by PETA showed that “more than half of the fur in the U.S comes from China, where millions of dogs and cats are beaten to death or skinned alive for their fur. Chinese fur is often deliberately mislabelled so the consumer is unaware of whose skin they’re in.”

After countless acts of animal cruelty across the globe influenced by the fashion industry, a serious question needs to be asked. Can we really place the luxury and status of a garment over the well-being of another living creature?

Playing Devil’s Advocate

As with any hot topic, there are two sides to every story. So, are there any benefits to the continuous use of animal furs and skins? The Fur Council of Canada argues that there are, and that “fur is an excellent choice if you care about nature.”

The Fur Council of Canada is a national, non-profit association representing people working in every sector of the Canadian fur trade, in all regions of the country. Their stance is that fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource, meaning that as long as the fur trade in all aspects including trappers, farmers, auction houses, processors, designers, craftspeople, manufacturers and retail furriers are being regulated and holding up to legal standards that the use of fur can be environmentally friendly, ethical and respect humane standards.

They suggest that wearing real fur is “Being Green.” Fur is long wearing and more eco-logical than the popularity of today’s cheap, disposable, fast fashion. They argue that “tons of unwanted materials (80% non-biodegradable synthetics) end up in landfills, and most synthetics are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, can create major environmental issues when being produced and discarded.”

The Fur Council of Canada also disputes that by using fur, they are being ethical to the treatment of animals. They remind us that most animals produce more young than their natural habitats can support. Most young animals would die of hunger and disease or be killed by other animals. Although many people would argue that this is simply nature and it is not our place to intervene, they call this “sustainable use;” a principle now recognized and promoted by many serious conservation organizations.

Although there may be pro fur/animal pelt organizations out there that can assure us their use of animals is ethical, concerned with animal welfare and ecologically friendly, but the major problem is that the popularity of the product lead to mass production of it. The trend loving consumer cannot be guaranteed that their fur vest or leather purse was created with good intentions and proper protocol.

Even if a consumer chooses to say no to real animal products, can they be sure that their faux fur/leather items are not destroying the environment?

Whatever our personal and ethical reasoning’s may be, the most important decision a consumer can make is an educated one. We must be aware that we do have the power to change the world and with everyday resources such as Google and YouTube, it’s never been easier to become informed and spread the word.


Cheap chain stores like Target, Old Navy, H&M, or Forever XXI were once a niche market but thanks to the rising cost of living, cheap fashion is on the rise.
     How many times have you walked into a store with the intentions of buying one pair of pants and walk out with three bags full of clothing? Cheap clothing retailers were once unfashionable but thanks to new technology, low-priced chain stores are breaking through the barrier.
     Retailers such as H&M, Forever XXI, and Zara are the founders of fast, low-cost fashion. Since equipment is modernized, speedy, and easy to use, retailers are taking advantage of third world countries, such as China and Bangladesh, because of the low manufacturing and exporting costs, as well as little to no environmental or working standards.
So what’s the catch?
     As everything does, fast fashion comes at a price. Although we are led to believe that the low prices are saving us money, we are ultimately sacrificing our earth. We live in a high-speed world and recently disposable purchases have widely replaced long-term investments. Before technology, our world was simple and custom and as society got smarter and technology grew larger, our personability to one another began to dwindle.
     Because trends are constantly changing many of the fast fashion garments that aren’t used but have been produced are waste. This means that thousands of fabrics, dyes, water, and energy are wasted and harming the environment for no reason. These cheaply made garments cannot be recycled or sold in thrift shops due to low quality, so they are forced into landfills.
     Not only is this growing market bad for the environment, but the quality of the garments are not what they use to be. Basically you are spending $10 on a shirt every month, when you can buy one shirt at $30 for the year. This way of thinking is because of the recent recession; consumers are cautious and have since been looking for deals that will save money.  Retailers have noticed this and are catering to the their customer needs. Today, quality has become an option rather then a requirement and damaging our atmosphere is inevitability.
     As of this year, we as consumers are disposing of 1 million pounds in textiles a year. In addition to the landfills being filled with toxins and non-biodegradable waste, rivers and water sources that are used for both fashion and for the developing country water supply are being largely polluted. Approximately 82 million tons of fiber is being produced every year, world wide, to feed our inexpensive garment addiction. This is being made possible by massive North American companies in countries that have little to no environment standards, to keep costs low and production rates high.
     So why is it when we have an event or somewhere to go we often hear ourselves saying “I have nothing to wear!” The convenience that these massive clothing retailers bring us is more then what we could ever imagine. The fact that we are being catered to and offered fresh, new, styles of clothing, more then twice a season, for almost less then $20 a garment, is unimaginable but consequentially in demand. Our society thrives on impulse and these cheap buys leave the customer feeling good about the little amount of money spent and has them coming back for more. This feeling of euphoria is not only brought on by fast, cheap fashion, but anything that goes our way or whenever we like something. When something good happens to you, you eat something amazing, or save a few bucks, it leaves a smile on your face and you start craving more.
     Are you willing to pay higher costs for garments that are offered at cheap chain stores? And would your answer be different if your country were where the harmful factories were?
     Green products are slowly trending in North America and are being made into reusable bags. And although this is a start, we must still work harder to protect our world because it is the only one we have. The North American governments are working towards cleaning up the pollution being produced within their countries, but are not working hard enough to standardize environmental costs as well as working conditions in the third world countries that their leading manufacturers are outsourcing to.

     By being conscience of these factors and making a decision that you feel good about in the end is what really makes you look and feel good while you are wearing these items of clothing. As we all know beauty is only skin deep

     In the end it is your ethical decision as to what you chose to do, but if you do onto others, as you would like done onto you, sour society would be much happier and so would our earth!

“Buy Less, Buy Better”

“Buy Less,  Buy Better”
The Slow Fashion Movement, Versus Fast Fashion Powerhouses
The 22nd century has technologically created a platform for a digital generation to emerge.  We have all embraced social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, in which everyone can have their own individual stage to express their personal style.  You can find the #OOTD (outfit of the day) tag which was at first synonymously only associated with fashion blogs, tagged underneath the daily photos on the social media profiles of students and people from all different walks of life.   Editorial style can no longer be deemed exclusive to just the fashion world’s darlings such as Kate Moss and Anna Wintour.     
Following this trend of our digital generations desire to express our individuality, it has also given rise to the “fast fashion” movement.  Fast fashion is apparel that quickly captures the current runway trends, and is sold at retailers at price point in which breaking the bank is no longer necessary.  No longer do we have to wait an entire year to see the following season’s trends, as they can appear at retailers such as Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and Topshop in the blink of an eye.  Gone are the days of going into a store and seeing the same products for an entire season.  If you go shopping in Zara and see something that you like, it would be wise to purchase it in that moment because chances are by the following week it will already be replaced by an entirely new collection. Fast fashion retailers have allowed us to quench our insatiable thirst for the newest and trendiest pieces, all at an affordable price.
This has been an era in which fashion has never been more accessible to the masses.  However, the fast fashion movement does have its negative side.  We are all guilty of buying an overabundance of cheap fashionable pieces which we wear only once or twice, and eventually leave to collect dust at the back of our closet.   The fact is that the majority of the pieces that are sold at fast fashion retailers are meant to be worn only in a “moment”.   As quickly as they become a trend, they also all too quickly become dated.  This has only encouraged us in the developed world to become more and more of consumerist culture.  We may have a lot, but it is still for most never enough.  I am sure many of you like me have closets and drawers crammed with clothing, yet it always seems like you have nothing to wear.  What this all really boils down to is the easily disposable nature that goes in hand with the fast fashion movement.
On the other end of the spectrum a “Slow Fashion” movement has emerged in recent years, a term which was coined by author and eco textiles consultant Kate Fletcher.  This fashion movement she has stated is “not time-based, but quality-based”.  This movement encourages designers and retailers to develop apparel with actual longevity.  Rather than selling stuff that is super trendy, this movement is meant to inspire us to more consciously think of our purchases and invest in more timeless, classic garments. 
The slow fashion movement is built on having retailers create fewer collections, with an emphasis on a greater degree of quality in their production.  By having retailers invest in manufacturing garments with more sustainable, luxurious fabrics and made with a higher level of craftsmanship we would end up purchasing pieces that are not as easily disposable.  The cost to purchase garments made in accordance with the slow fashion movement, would cost more for us as the consumers.  However, “by buying less, buying better” we would have less of a need to purchase too many new pieces each season and just build upon the classic wearable pieces we already own in our wardrobes.   
The investment in better manufacturing practices would also require better trained, skillful workers.  As a result of this companies, would have to pay their manufacturing workers a higher rate of pay for their work.  Fast fashion has had a negative reputation for encouraging unethical work practices in developing countries, by paying workers extremely low wages, unsafe work environments and sweat shop environments.  This would in theory help to dispel this practice.  The slow fashion movement would allow us not only to own better crafted garments, but also have a more honest conscious in knowing our garments were not manufactured by an exploited worker.
The slow fashion movement also asks us to consider investing in more vintage pieces.  Vintage is a trend that has reemerged in popularity in the past decade, with many a fashionistas scavenging second hand stores and EBay for treasures just waiting to be found.  This is a way to reuse clothing in a way that produces less waste, and encourages us to once again develop our own individual style.  Another valid point to consider that is vintage clothing has only been so sustainable from decades past, pre-fast fashion, because of the craftsmanship that went into the garments.  With the poor quality that fast fashion has, will fashion from our generation even be able to make it to the vintage stage for future generations?
In the past few years I have attempted to become a better fashion consumer.  I am more likely to restrain myself from making impulse purchases, and saving my money to invest in pieces I know that will make through the long haul with me.  Yes admittedly I still do every once in a while buy something trendy from fast fashion retailers, but only limit myself to a few pieces.  I have found from my experience that the classic pieces that I have invested in that were at a higher price point, but made with better quality have been consistently worn more often than items that I purchased from places such as H&M.  And unlike their fast fashion counterparts, these pieces despite being worn time and time again have very little wear and tear.  Fast fashion will without a doubt continue to prevail in the future, but nevertheless I think it is important for us all to start taking a more conscious attitude towards what and how much we buy.