EcoFashion: New Year’s resolutions for a sustainable closet

Fashion is a multi-billion-dollar international industry that commands a formidable labour force and the voracious consumption of natural resources. Becoming more savvy in how we leverage our consumer power through better shopping habits is an important step toward sustainability. Tips for turning over a new (green) leafOnline editor Hilary Henegar suggests alternative ideas for making 2009 more sustainable.

Credit: Flickr Commons / James Jowers

Every time January 1 rolls around, I make the same well-intended but just as equally doomed resolution of cutting down on shopping. The whole operation is rather Sisyphean, except the boulder is more like a bulging closet into which I’m trying to push more stuff.

Seeing that I’m just as likely to stop shopping as Christian Louboutin is going to design a series of discount pumps for Superstore, I have modified my strategy for 2009: If I can’t help shopping, I should at least shop in a way that beneficially impacts my community and the environment.

So here are my seven resolutions to achieving a sustainable closet in pursuit of eco-chicdom (and yes, my other resolution is to stop using non-words).

Nixxi ruffle wrap dress


1. Remember home sweet home

Vancouver is home to a host of tremendous fashion design talents, and I’m resolving to become more familiar with what this vibrant community has to offer. I want to discover useful resources like Shop Cocoon, which showcases an exciting variety of local talent, including Nixxi, whose elegant collection also utilizes organic fabric. The classic ruffle wrap dress (pictured right) uses 56 percent soy, 36 percent organic cotton and 8 percent spandex.

I want to help support independent creative expression by shopping at charming little boutiques—like Dream Apparel, Motherland, Smoking Lily and Front & Company—that carry items from local/Canadian designers.

I want to make use of online resources such as that allow users to search for local vendors for beautiful handmade accessories and clothes at affordable prices. The vintage-inspired Private Idaho purse (pictured below-right) is not only eye-catching but—made of cotton twill—it’s animal-friendly as well.

Private Idaho bag

Why waste time and gas idling at border lineups on outlet mall trips when there is so much to explore at home?


2. Shops, shoots and leaves

I will educate myself further on the benefits of sustainable fibres, such as bamboo, organic cotton, hemp and other alternative fabrics that are kind to the environment because their harvesting and manufacturing processes do not require the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

I’d like to find out more about sites like that features products from an impressive range of designers who utilize sustainable materials and local vendors that do the same, like Devil May Wear, which stocks comfortable and durable bamboo tights in a range of fashionable colours to add that extra oomph to any outfit.


3. Bend the space-time continuum

We all know that in the fashion world time is never a linear concept. A splash of vintage glamour can always be counted on to elevate modern cool. To take advantage of “old is new again,” I will eschew cookie-cutter stores in the mall and discover more neighbourhood gems, such as Front & Company, Legends Retro-Fashion and Mod to Modern on Main Street; deLuxe Junk Company in Gastown; Shine Consignment Clothing on West Broadway; and Mintage and Little Miss Vintage (pictured below) on Commerical Drive. (A listing of more consignment and second-hand shops in Vancouver may be found at

Little Miss Vintage

The merchandise on display at these top-notch consignment and vintage stores have been through a rigorous selection process, selected by a discerning and experienced staff who know not only the high level of quality required by their customers but also the latest trends and what works—from everyday basics to the hip and funky and the urban classics.


4. Take stuff from people

Well, and give back, too, of course!

One of my favourite pieces of clothing is a simple black tunic sweater that I picked up from a coworker (none other than Granville’s very own art director) almost two years ago; she had brought to the office a number of items in good condition that she was ready to part with, and we were all grateful for it!

So I would like to organize a clothing swap meet, either with friends or coworkers or kindred spirits from the community. It will be a great opportunity to hang out while scoring new treats for the closet. And any extra items can be donated to charity!


5. Prevent wardrobe cloning

I have to admit it—my closet is pretty cluttered most of the time. Every now and then when I muster up the effort to clear it out, I always find something that’s as perfectly wearable as cleanly forgotten—worse, I’d since bought something similar! For shame! This year, I will consistently keep up an organized closet, which will help me take better stock of what I have and avoid wasteful spending and duplication.


6. Wear a car tire


Dax handbag

Or chopsticks. Or magazines. Or soda can pop-tops. This year, I’d like to be exploratory and seek out fun and bold statement pieces creatively recycled from unlikely materials such as those offered at The edgy Dax handbag (pictured) is made from recycled truck tires. Roar!

In my more subdued moments, I will try for more conventionally recycled materials, such as the chic necklaces made of recycled wood and silver that can be found at Lavish & Lime.


7. Be fair or be square

I will do my part to support fair-trade labour by seeking out manufacturers like No Sweat Apparel, which prides itself on employing independent trade union members in North America and the developing world in producing comfortable and versatile casual and active wear—fashion and political statements rolled into one. I will remind myself and others to check out initiatives such as the Hunger Site, which showcases a beautiful, constantly growing selection of exotic fair-trade jewelry that promotes style as much as awareness and solidarity.

My husband rolled his eyes when he learnt that I’d made resolutions to keep shopping (what is so fascinating about the ceiling?). I really believe, though, that by making more informed and community-motivated choices, we can start to make a difference. After all, fashion is a multi-billion-dollar international industry that commands a formidable labour force and the voracious consumption of natural resources. If each of us can become a bit more confident in our power as consumers to effect change by making a statement through our shopping habits, slowly but surely we will be able to help ease the burden on Mother Nature—and help make ours one good-looking planet, inside and out.