Photography by Cristina Gareau
Canadian brands like Mimi & August and Nat the Label are leading the way with sustainable and environmentally conscious designs.
Beka Shane Denter
Date August 26, 2021
Slow fashion is a priority of many up and coming Canadian designers. With a focus on diversity, inclusivity, gender fluidity, body positivity, ethical manufacturing and giving back, these brands are producing lines that are both beautiful to wear *and* committed to the well-being of people and the planet. With an undeniable global shift towards a more mindful way of walking through the world, these Canadian labels show us that being a conscious consumer doesn’t mean sacrificing style.
“Made to step lightly” is the motto of this innovative, socially and environmentally progressive Toronto brand whose mission is to design a range of stylish, functional footwear that is kind to both the planet and its inhabitants. Working with 90 percent sustainable materials, co-founders Sofi Khwaja and Nicholas Horekens were first inspired by their relief work in North Africa to start a brand that focuses on “quality design, sustainability, comfort and functional integrity.” Perfect for shoppers who are looking to invest in classic shoe styles, Alice+Whittles products are made from “natural fair-trade rubber from sustainably managed forests, reclaimed ocean plastics, recycled PET, and vegan water-based glue.”
Ana + Zac
Ana Gilkerson and Zac Barkhouse are partners in both life and design. Body positive pieces with genderless styling and seasonless colours are the focus of the married couple’s brand which offers a selection of wardrobe staples, from fitted crewnecks and drapey tanks to jumpsuits. The brand measures their success by the degree to which they’re incorporating sustainable practices into their business model, how short their supply chain is, how transparent their sourcing is and how well they integrate ethical manufacturing into every aspect of production. In addition to Ana + Zac, they frequently collaborate with other brands to bring the best of sustainable fashion to their brick-and-mortar and online shops.
Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau wants women to feel empowered when wearing her made-to-order designs. Her heritage-inspired and eco-conscious brand, honouring Canada’s French, Indigenous and Métis cultures, is made in small batches with natural and organic fabrics. The brand’s Revive Program is a circular model that allows their garments to be either resold, recycled, or upcycled into new Anne Mulaire products. The brand aims to break the mold of fast fashion by adhering to principles of transparency and accountability. As stated on the brand’s website, “wasted fashion is simply bad design, and it is our goal to keep all clothing out of the landfill.”
This innovative Inuit-owned brand consists of a team of artists, designers and creators from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. The line, which includes clothing, hats, scarves and accessories, are made with the intention of promoting awareness of Inuit and Northern culture. Hinaani sources primarily from Canadian suppliers with the goal of reducing their global carbon footprint. The brand aims to share a modern interpretation of designs that reflect the Arctic landscape and Indigenous motifs. They collaborate solely with companies whose manufacturing policies are guaranteed to be ethical and environmentally sound, and who are transparent about their working conditions.
British-born Canadian and Ghanian designer Emefa Kuadey combines her love of fashion and former life as a civil engineer into her minimalist and modern line of made-to-order sustainable clothing. The brand adheres to the following five key factors that ensure each item of clothing is constructed with purpose and longevity: minimizing the impact of manufacturing through good pattern design and cutting techniques; donating, re-using or recycling waste and offcuts of fabric; sourcing materials and trims locally; designing functional packaging that customers can re-use and repurpose; and working towards a “digitally-led design development process” which involves creating patterns digitally and investing in 3D software to develop samples that will ultimately create less paper and fabric waste.
Mimi & August
Camille Forcherio and Joao Crisostomo have combined their creative forces in producing a one-of-a-kind made swimwear label that celebrates all shapes and sizes. The pieces are designed and produced locally in Montreal with minimal manufacturing abroad and limited quantities available for purchase. The brand has recently expanded to include ethically made tees, sweatshirts, accessories, stationery, travel cups and zero waste candles. They also offer a vintage market, where gently used items can be sold and purchased from the website.
Nat the Label
Vancouver brand Nat the Label is all about the beauty of simplicity and details. Founder and designer Nathalie Morel’s creativity shines in the dresses, tops, tote bags and selection of foulards she designs in calming colours inspired by nature. Not only is her line of effortlessly stylish items handmade in small batches in her home studio, but they also have a conscience. To date, Nathalie has designed two sets of charitable T-shirts, with a percentage of the proceeds donated to local organizations such as BC Community Alliance, Rainbow Refugee and Spirit North.
Olann Handmade Knits
This isn’t your mother’s wool sweater. On the windy west coast of Vancouver Island, Emily Mabel Scholes Williaume handmakes classic knits inspired by her time living in Ireland. As described on the Olann website, “The story begins on stitch one but doesn’t end on the last stitch…and continues with the opened box, the first wear, the last wear, the passing down to someone new.” The designer has cultivated a loyal clientele by producing a high quality line of small-batch knitwear using environmentally conscious materials such as Irish tweeds, mohair, Canadian wools and merino, and natural dye.
Peau De Loup
Co-founders and self-labelled tomboys Adelle Renaud and Erin McLeod created Peau De Loup as a stylish and androgynous collection of basics that can be worn by anyone and is for everyone. Known for their classic button-down shirt, this Vancouver label offers up a range of timeless pieces using “only the best available fabrics — limited-edition, one-time-only roll ends of fabric leftover from other companies’ production.” This upcycling process allows the brand to create garments with almost zero waste as no new fabrics or harmful dyes are used, and small runs of each design prevent excess inventory from ending up in a landfill.
Founder and designer Emma May doesn’t want you to give up comfort and style in the name of sustainability. Her workwear-focused brand Sophie Grace prides itself on producing timeless styles that evolve as you do, which translates to small runs of its collections in an effort to avoid overproduction and waste. Environmentalism and ethical production are at the core of Sophia Grace as 70 percent of its garments are produced in Vancouver. Be sure to check out the charitable line of tees created by the brand that gives back to organizations such as the YWCA Calgary, Momentum.org, the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.