For some of us, it’s difficult to remember what shopping was like before the Internet. But, there was a time when in order to buy something, you had to drive to a store; fill your hands with merchandise in various sizes; try it all on in a badly lit dressing room with a flimsy lock or, even worse, a curtain that didn’t close all the way; and then purchase it while a cashier tried to get you to open a store credit card. That also meant that in order to return something, you had to drive to the store again and interact with a real-life person who, hypothetically, could deny your return. The whole process was time consuming and a little intimidating. Of course, people still shop in-person today, but there is a difference between voluntarily shopping on a lazy afternoon at your favorite local boutique because you want to, and going through this process because you have to.
Online shopping has certainly made our lives easier, but this convenience comes at the price of returns. Product returns are costly on our wallets and the environment — a fact purposely swept under the rug by retailers.
The Point of No Return
In the retail business, returns are referred to as “reverse logistics,” and the open secret is that most companies don’t have a good handle on what to do with all of these products once consumers decide they don’t want them. According to a 2021 article by Amanda Mull in The Atlantic, while retail stores have return rates in the single digits, online retailers can have return rates anywhere between 15 and 30 percent. This rate is on the higher side for clothing retailers because of a term Mull refers to as “bracketing” — the practice of consumers buying one size larger and one size smaller than their typical size to check for the best fit.
The reliance on returns is what we could call the “Zappos effect.” In her article, Mull relays the early success Zappos had in enticing consumers to buy an item that is notoriously difficult to buy online by offering free shipping, free returns, and a “the customer is always right” attitude. The company experienced such exponential growth that it could afford this business model, and soon, other companies followed suit until it became standard practice. By constantly offering free shipping, free returns, and regular discounts, which are actually just baked into the retail price of the item, companies set up a system that incentivizes consumers to return products.
However, now companies have dug themselves into a hole that they can’t get out of. Recently, The New York Times wrote about liquidation warehouses that started springing up in late 2021. Due to the pandemic, companies such as Target, Walmart, and Amazon experienced skyrocketing sales, since people spent money on goods rather than services. With supply chain issues leading to empty shelves, companies ordered products months in advance to try to keep up with demand. And then the demand suddenly dropped due to inflation, leading to warehouses of goods being sold at a loss. Add that to record-high losses due to returns — with record sales comes record returns — and there is simply too much junk out there for any major company to know what to do with.
It is impossible to know exactly how much merchandise is disposed of, as the supply chains are so complex they are almost impossible to trace, but Mull states that it is estimated by industry insiders to be around 25 percent of all returned goods. So, roughly one out of four of the items you have returned to an online retailer have ended up being incinerated or thrown into a landfill. While this is an issue that should be regulated on a government level, the number of returns we make as consumers is something that we have power over.
Tips on How to Reduce Returns
Buy secondhand when possible. Buying an item secondhand keeps clothing out of landfills. Explore thrift stores or sites like Poshmark or Depop before buying something new.
Consider trying on items in person. If you are near a physical store location, visit in person so you can try on different sizes at one time.
Even if you buy online, return in person if you can. Returns made in person are more likely to actually end up back on the shelf.
Don’t buy multiple sizes of the same item. While buying more than one size when online shopping is convenient, it means you are guaranteed to make a return, and that return does not just “go back on the shelf.” Take detailed notes of your body measurements and compare them to the brand’s size chart. Read reviews to see if an item runs true to size or not. You can even email customer service for advice on what size to get if you are still unsure. If you increase the chance that you get it right the first time, you can decrease the chance of a return.
Revisit brands you know. While it can be fun to explore new designers, if you know a brand tends to fit you well and makes good-quality clothing, it is a safer bet than one you haven’t tried before.
Shop smaller brands. Indie designers and small brands are less likely to be able to afford the high cost of tossing returns and are incentivized to resell inventory.
Buy two of something you love and wear often. Do you find yourself always wearing the same pair of jeans or shoes over and over again? Consider buying a second pair, and better yet, buy them lightly used. Styles are discontinued all the time, so you will save yourself the need to search for their replacement in the long run. Further, owning two of the same item actually makes your items last more than twice as long, since recovery time between wears extends the overall lifespan of your items.
Do you have any other tips on how to reduce returns? Let us know in the comments!
Typically when we think of fast fashion H&M, ZARA, Forever 21, Primark and/or Topshop are usually mentioned. However there are a lot of other brands that can’t as clearly be identified as fast fashion. We looked into some popular brands to make a call on which classify as fast fashion and which don’t.
How do we define fast fashion?
While some brands can be easily identified as fast fashion solely based on their extremely high volume of clothing sold at cheap prices, others seem to live in a more grey area. Here is the other criteria we used to determine if a brand classifies as fast fashion or not:
How often do they release new styles? (eg. 4 collections per year vs. new products weekly)
Is the focus on quantity over quality?
Is the brand heavily trend-driven?
What is the price point?
Do they have info and transparency around their manufacturing and sustainability initiatives? (Also keeping an eye out for greenwashing)
Is ASOS fast fashion?
Yes, ASOS is fast fashion. They add up to 7,000 new styles to their website every week. (source)
Is Adidas fast fashion?
Yes, Adidas is fast fashion. They produce a large volume of clothes and are lacking transparency around wages as well as being accused of wage theft.
Is Aritzia fast fashion?
Yes, we think Aritzia is fast fashion. Their price point may be higher than other brands but they are still producing an excessive amount of clothing, constantly adding new styles, and highly trend-driven. Aritzia also received a score of only 20% on Fashion Revolution’s 2022 Transparency Index and transparency is just the starting point for ethical production.
Yes, GAP is fast fashion and they also own Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta. Gap Inc. produces a high volume of clothing and has faced many labor controversies over the years – most recently initially refused to pay workers at the start of the pandemic and lobbed against the Garment Worker Protection Act. (source)
Is Lululemon fast fashion?
No, we don’t considerLululemon fast fashion, due to the fact they have a strong focus on quality and their garments are not highly trend-driven or “disposable”. However we also don’t think they have great ethics and sustainability standards. There have been accounts of unethical manufacturing and accusations of Lululemon greenwashing.
Yes, Madewell is fast fashion. Again we have a brand producing a high volume of clothing with a lot of turn-over and little transparency. Madewell does seem to have some better initiatives such as a few Fair Trade Certified products but this is only a small % of their production.
Madewell is also owned by J. Crew and we consider J. Crew fast fashion too.
Is Nike fast fashion?
Yes. Nike is fast fashion. While Nike has had many labor and sweatshop controversies over the years they do seem to be cleaning up their act and offering more transparency. However they still produce a high volume of clothing and have a fats fashion business model.
Is Shein fast fashion?
Yes. Shein is fast fashion and has become the leading brand of an even worse ultra-fast fashion model. Learn more about why Shein is particularly bad and what ultra fast fashion is here.
As sustainable fashion enthusiasts, we’re used to hearing about all the ways we can reduce our personal impact on the planet and fight for a better industry. It’s (finally) becoming understood that the best thing we can do as empowered consumers is to buy less, opt for secondhand when possible and make the most of what we already have.
But what happens when we do need to buy something new? Clothing and textile production isn’t going to stop anytime soon, so it’s time we start looking at solutions that don’t simply minimize harm, but that actively restore and renew the planet. Regenerative clothing is the result of a growing movement aimed at improving global farming practices and reversing the impacts of climate change. Pioneered and still led today by indigenous cultures, regenerative agriculture offers us a precious opportunity to transform industries and help save the planet in the process.
What does ‘Regenerative’ mean with Cotton and Clothing?
You might not think about it when getting dressed, but our clothing is intricately linked with agriculture. Cotton doesn’t just magically appear in a factory to make cotton T-shirts, for instance! So, in order to understand regenerative clothing, we first need to understand regenerative agriculture.
Any clothing made from a natural material first started out as a crop in a field, and large amounts of precious resources like land, water, labour and sometimes pesticides are used to bring those crops to harvest. Although we typically consider natural fabrics better for the planet, they still have a significant impact on the environment and the people that produce them. Considering how much clothing is produced every year, it’s crucial that we create these materials as responsibly as possible. That’s where regenerative agriculture comes in.
According to Regeneration International, “regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improvements in the water cycle”.
Why is this so crucial? Most of us know that there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and in our oceans. But did you know that, through industrialized farming practices and other activities, we have damaged our soil to the extent that we’ve removed an estimated 50-70% of the soil’s original carbon? As the Centre for Food Safety explains, “carbon is constantly cycling through different spheres as either a liquid, solid, or gas. Human activities—including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, the draining of wetlands, and repeated tillage— have disrupted the carbon cycle, taking it out of balance”.
Regenerative farming practices can help restore this balance by removing carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back into soil. Not only is this vital in slowing global warming, it also leads to healthier crop yields, natural ecosystem restoration and increased biodiversity, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The regenerative agriculture movement is informed by pre-industrial practices and refined by modern day science, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says. Instead of viewing a farm as a factory, regenerative agriculture sees it as an essential part of a larger ecosystem. The goal is to move away from the current status quo, which prioritizes high yields and profit over sustainability, and is extremely damaging and extractive. That being said, there’s no one-size-fits all solution. Every region will require a tailored approach that considers its unique climate and ecosystem
How does Regenerative Agriculture differ from Organic Farming?
You might be wondering how regenerative clothing differs from organic clothing. Once again, we start with the crop. Organic programs focus mainly on the removal of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, as well as ecological balance and improved working conditions.
While the production process of organic materials does have a lot of benefits over conventional, it isn’t exactly harmless. One major criticism of popular organic programs is the cost of entry. Farmers are often faced with large admission fees and complicated guidelines that can make adoption difficult. In addition, it can take a few years before a farm is officially certified organic, which means the pay off can be delayed and uncertain. Another concern is that as the demand for organic products increases, more land will be needed to meet demand, which could lead to deforestation and displacement of local communities. This is because compared to conventionally grown crops, organic farms can have smaller yields. So in order to produce the same amount for our food and textiles, more land will be needed overall.
Is ‘Regenerative’ better than ‘Organic’?
Large-scale organically grown crops can still take a toll on the land they’re cultivated on, and producers often don’t do enough to address declining soil health, loss of biodiversity and overall carbon emissions. Put simply, organic production is more focused on the inputs involved in farming, and not enough on the overall impact. Organic farming also doesn’t address a lot of the major issues with conventional agriculture. For example, in order to control weed growth, many organic farmers rely on intensive tilling leading to decreased soil health, explains the Centre For Environmental Farming Systems.
Regenerative techniques go far beyond organic standards in that they account for the entire ecosystem and soil health.
How can I support Regenerative Fashion?
Luckily, we’re beginning to see more brands incorporate regenerative agriculture into their decision making. While Patagonia is probably the most well-known proponent, there are some other great companies like California Cloth Foundry, Christy Dawn, Coyuchiand Eileen Fisher that are prioritizing regenerative fibers in their designs.
Certifications will also play a big part in the growth of regenerative fashion. California-based nonprofit Fibershed offers a Climate Beneficial verification, given to brands that incorporate carbon-capturing practices, improve biodiversity and restore healthy ecosystems. One example of this is their Climate Beneficial Wool, sourced from land stewards who are enhancing carbon drawdown with practices that regenerate soil health.
Another program currently underway is the Regenerative Organic Certified Seal. To receive this verification, a company must be certified organic. The program is based on three main pillars: soil heath and land management, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness. These types of programs ensure that consumers like us have the information we need to make informed choices, and most importantly, that farmers and producers have access to the tools they need to protect the environment.
All that being said, it’s important to remember that certifications are rarely a perfect solution. Similar to organic, regenerative agriculture certifications can be challenging to navigate and require significant funding. Many communities and producers, including indigenous land stewards, have been regenerating the earth for generations on their own. So in addition to looking for certifications, we should prioritize traceability, transparency and a commitment to regenerative practices when buying new clothes and material. Check out this video to learn how a small-scale wool farm is actively restoring the land it’s on, proving you don’t need to be certified to make a difference.
Regenerative agriculture offers us an exciting opportunity to have a positive environmental impact through production. What other climate positive practices have you heard of? Let us know below!
This post was kindly sponsored by wearwell and contains affiliate links, however all opinions and experiences are my own.
My wardrobe is unfortunately not at it’s peak. A lot of favorite clothes and unique pieces no longer fit and I’ve defaulted to a uniform of leggings, sweats, tees, and sweaters the past couple years – comfy but not inspiring. So when the opportunity came to try a sustainable personal styling service I jumped on it. As a work-from-home mom with not much time for shopping and also feeling in a style rut, I was curious to try it out and hoping to get some inspiration from the stylist.
Wearwell is a US-based marketplace of clothing and accessories from brands with vetted ethical and environmental values. They feature some of my favorite brands such as Tonlé, People Tree, Miakoda, Thought, and Mata Traders, as well as other brands I wasn’t as familiar with but also seems to have solid ethics and sustainability initiatives.
In addition to being a hub for sustainable fashion, they offer a membership which gives you discounts, perks, and access to their personal styling service. You can either get 4 seasonal styling sessions as part of their annual membership or purchase personal styling sessions whenever you like.
My Personal Styling Experience
First you need to fill out wearwell’s style quiz which is pretty straight forward and covers some basic things about what you like and what you’re looking for.
They will also keep your location, season, and climate in mind when making selections. You can even request your stylist picks certain pieces for a specific occasion or event if you have something coming up.
First Virtual Styling Session
My stylists picks quickly arrived in my inbox within a couple business days. I was quite happy with the first picks – some good staples and a couple pops of colour. I’m honestly pretty impressed that all the pieces they chose were things I would wear and also items that could fairly easily integrate into my capsule wardrobe. The only pick that wasn’t a good fit for me was the backpack and just because it’s made of leather, I think the style is quite cute.
I appreciated that instead of picking random items my stylist, Meg, considered how the pieces would go together so if I was getting a few items they would work well.
It also felt so nice to see clothing picks and know that it’s all from slow fashion brands I would actually want to support. Very different from my usual experience of looking for outfit inspo but 95% of the pieces don’t at all align with my values.
When booking the stylist I didn’t expect to be surprised by anything though. I figured the stylist would find items that I’ve already thought about or considered in some form or another. But… those amber trousers! The colour and cut is something I would have skimmed over when shopping and not thought much about, however now I can’t stop thinking about them. It was exactly the push and inspiration I was hoping for from this experience. I am very seriously considering adding them to my wardrobe, the only thing holding me back is that they’re made of denim and after years of soft, stretchy pants I’m not convinced I want a pair of jeans again. 😅 But I’m going to think more on them or maybe look for a similar colour in a different material.
Second Virtual Styling Session
About a month later I booked a second round of virtual styling. I wanted to have another set of selections before writing this review.
Again I think Meg did a great job! She nailed a good mix of versatile items, but also pieces that have interesting or unique details – like the very whimsical tiger print on the wrap top. Again all the pieces would be able to fairly easily integrate in my wardrobe.
I appreciate that she also thought about practical considerations, such as asking if I care about having bra coverage or not. You can give your stylist feedback to help with nailing future picks.
Going forward I would remove “accessories” from my list of items though because while I like them, I don’t tend to wear many different accessories so in hindsight it would have been better for to get another clothing pick instead of an accessory recommendation.
Is wearwell Personal Styling Worth it?
Overall I was really happy with my wearwell virtual styling experience. I got out of it exactly what I hoped for – some style inspiration and clothing recommendations that would work for my wardrobe from conscious fashion brands.
If you are someone who:
doesn’t have time for or doesn’t like shopping but wants to support sustainable and ethical brands
feels a little lost with your personal style
wants to get started with or explore more ethical/sustainable fashion options
then virtual styling can be a great way to get some guidance and inspiration, or basically have an expert shop for you!
It’s also a very nice bonus as part of their membership perks if you are a regular wearwell shopper. Why not get some stylist recommendations?
The only downside for me is that wearwell is currently only shipping within the US. So since I’m in Canada, if I fall in love with a piece my stylist picked I have to try and find it elsewhere.
If you would purchase from wearwell regularly then the annual membership at $8 per month (which includes a 10% discount, 4 seasonal styling sessions, and other perks) is definitely they way to go and could quickly pay for itself. Alternatively if you’re looking for just one styling session, you can purchase that on it’s own too.
If I lived in the US I could easily see myself using both the styling service and ordering clothing through wearwell, especially hard to find international brands like People Tree, and the membership being well worth it. Hopefully they’ll expand to Canada soon! 🤞
Although if you are in the US and interested in a membership, wearwell kindly shared a coupon code – you can use MYGREENCLOSET for 50% off an annual membership! So you can get their seasonal styling, a 10% discount, and free shipping for just $4 a month.
So overall I was very happy with how my personal styling sessions went and will likely be adding some of the stylist picks or (similar versions of) to my wardrobe.
How are you feeling about your personal style and wardrobe? Would you try a slow fashion virtual styling service?
We’re currently in the middle of a huge home renovation project so unfortunately I wasn’t able to make a capsule wardrobe video this season. So here is my summer capsule in picture form! I also like this format because it can be nice to visualize everything together.
I definitely wouldn’t say this is my best capsule. Many of my favourite summer pieces no longer fit (like sadly my two summer-staple jumpsuits) and because we’re working on the new house most days, shorts and a tee are my go-to outfit. It’s a more practical and less “fun” capsule wardrobe, however I still included some of my favourite dresses and a few colours so things don’t get boring.
While I no longer aim for exactly 33 items (most of my capsules are 30-35 pieces) this one came out to a nice 33 including the 3 pairs of shoes I wear during the summer. I’m also waiting on a tank top to arrive which is the gap.
The online retailer might be convenient, but supporting it is hurting the planet and our people.
Amazon started as an online bookstore where we could all get access to our favourite authors with the click of a button, but now it’s become the biggest retailer on the planet with customers in 180 countries, selling everything from diapers to TVs and including services like video streaming and smart home technology.
Here are five reasons you should stop shopping on Amazon.
Amazon treats workers badly
This New York Times investigative report from 2021 found that hourly workers who worked for the company for more than three years were encouraged to leave so they could be replaced by fresh faces who were eager to work. Employees are constantly tracked and evaluated based on their amount of T.O.T., or “time off task”. Some workers only find out about their shift the day before, while other workers raised issues of racial inequality in the workplace with unfair pay across demographics and one worker being called “not smart or articulate” after a protest. Workers have too few bathroom breaks, which are timed. All of this was made worse by the demand presented by the pandemic.
Amazon drivers have said that they are told to deliver 250 or more packages a day (which works out to two minutes a package per eight-hour shift) and due to this incredible pressure to perform to the high standard being held by Amazon, many drivers don’t take lunch or bathroom breaks, often have to speed to keep up with the pace of same-day-delivery and put themselves and others in danger — all to keep their jobs.
Amazon also uses third party companies to deliver some of their packages across the US, and they use this as an excuse to distance themselves from problems arising from their problematic working conditions. When an Inpax driver delivering Amazon packages hit 84-year-old Telesfora Escamilla and caused her death, Amazon’s lawyers said: “The damages, if any, were caused, in whole or in part, by third parties not under the direction or control of Amazon.com,” in a court filing, effectively washing their hands clean of the entire issue. This detailed Buzzfeed article is a thorough investigation of how drivers are put in danger, treated unfairly and how third party companies are paying for it.
Amazon evades taxes
Amazon is exploiting people while not paying their fair share of taxes to the countries and communities they operate in.
For example, Amazon made €44 billion in Europe in 2020 but paid no corporation taxes. How? According to The Guardian, the company reported a €1.2bn loss even though they had a record breaking year in terms of income. The company’s European division (EU Sarl) was also “granted €56m in tax credits it can use to offset any future tax bills should it turn a profit”, the Guardian article stated.
A simple search for fashion on the e-tailer can bring back a flurry of results that contain counterfeit items parading as high-end items — even though their prices and reviews are obvious clues that they’re not the real deal. The Washington Post says Amazon execs have spent “hundreds of millions of dollars and hired thousands of workers to police its massive market of third-party firms that use the e-commerce site to sell their goods”, so why does this keep happening? According to the article, it’s due to Amazon’s encouragement of cheaper prices, their drive to offer a massive selection of products, and their priority of profit over good business practices.
The company often houses “luxury” items in their warehouses, but they’re hardly ever inspected to see whether they’re the real deal. Of even more concern, luxury items aren’t the only fakes in their warehouse — safety items, baby food, and cosmetics have also been found to be counterfeit.
Amazon is ruining the book industry
The reason your favorite novels are cheap on Amazon? The company is evading taxes, avoiding publisher and author payments, and neglecting safe labour practices, says Social Justice Books. Amazon forces many publishers to reduce prices of books and e-books with bullying tactics, all so the company can lure customers onto their website through cheap books — and then offer them discounts on bigger, more profitable items.
It’s shady all around, and much better to support your local bookstore or online indie bookseller!
(Or if you enjoy audio books – switch from Audible, which is owned by Amazon, to our fave Libro.fm. They partner and share profits with local, independent bookstores!)
Amazon has a huge carbon footprint, and company leaders lie about it
The online retailer said that “activities tied to its businesses emitted 60.64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020 — the equivalent of burning through 140 million barrels of oil”, according to an article in Fortune. Amazon’s carbon footprint has increased every year since 2018 (the first year the company reported this metric) .
But this isn’t even taking into account that Amazon has been undercounting its carbon footprint for years, according to Reveal News. While most retailers have been counting carbon emissions from all of its merchandise, Amazon only counts items that have the Amazon brand label, which only makes up 1% of all its online sales. Amazon even counted 29% less carbon emissions from employees than Target even though their workforce is now triple the size. The company, “vastly undercounts its carbon footprint, accepting less responsibility for global warming than even smaller competitors,” according to Reveal News.
Back in September 2019, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the company’s commitment to fighting climate change with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and becoming carbon-neutral by 2040. Amazon was to issue reports of its emissions regularly and set forth a timeline for the company to be run solely on renewables by 2030, but can this really be done considering that they’re not being honest about emissions to begin with?
Instead of supporting the tech giant and contributing to climate change, poor working conditions and tax evasion, try shopping local. There are lots of small businesses that make great products at a great price who will appreciate your patronage.
Last winter I got a DM from Anne Mulaire asking if I’d like to try a pair of their winter leggings. I’ve never owned winter leggings before and love a good legging for layering so said yes. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are a game changer. I honestly don’t know how I lived without without winter leggings in Canada for so many years.
After such a fantastic experience with their clothing and learning more about the brand, their values, and ethos, we arranged a brand ambassador partnership; I couldn’t be more excited to work with them and share the great things they’re doing.
For a quick breakdown, Anne Mulaire is an Indigenous, queer, woman-owned brand with inclusivity, sustainability, and ethical manufacturing as the foundation of their business. They create what I see as ‘elevated basics’ with many pieces that can easily transition from lounging, to the office, to date night, to the weekend.
Size inclusivity is also extremely important to Anne Mulaire and they spent almost a year doing fittings and developing their plus sizing to have a range from XXS – 6X. They even created a 70″ measuring tape for customers after finding that conventional measuring tapes didn’t work for everyone!
Since all their production is done in-house, Anne Mulaire also offers customization options. For pants you can select your inseam – perfect for both tall and petite people. You can also contact them for other customizations such as sleeve length or shoulder adjustments.
I have a couple Anne Mulaire pieces now in my wardrobe and I know they’ll also be perfect for filling wardrobe gaps in the future!
Anne Mulaire Winter Legging Review
I own a pair of their winter leggings in the colour ‘charcoal’ which looks black in the photos but is actually a dark, slightly blueish, gray. The leggings are a soft, fleecy blend of bamboo and organic cotton. They’ve been amazing for layering under dresses and skirts or wearing as comfy pants — I especially love the look of pairing leggings with a chunky sweater.
The fit is honestly perfect. I have no riding up or sliding down issues and the wide waistband is comfy and snug without digging in anywhere. Definitely note that their size chart tends to run larger so be sure to compare your measurements with the chart, read any fit notes, and don’t be afraid to contact them and ask about sizing — they were very helpful with finding the right size. The inseam customization was also a huge bonus; being petite, my leggings are always too long and I usually can’t be bothered to hem them; it’s lovely to finally have a pair without scrunchy ankles!
The fabric quality is also excellent. Pilling is generally something I’m quite concerned about with bamboo viscose, but after months of wear there are no signs of pilling on the inner thighs. I’m so pleased with the leggings, I’m going to get a second pair for next winter.
For spring and summer I also got one of their zero waste crop tops made from scraps and remnants from their production. It’s a super cute piece with a unique design from the patchwork, and I love how they’ve found create ways to use up their textile waste.
(psst – if you are interested in shopping from Anne Mulaire you can also use coupon code MYGREENCLOSET for a free headband!)
Interview with Anne
I recently had the opportunity to visit Anne Mulaire’s studio in Winnipeg, take a tour of their production, and sit down with CEO and Designer Andréanne (Anne) Mulaire Dandeneau to learn more about the brand, her inspiration, and what it’s like to manufacture in-house in Canada.
(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Erin: It’s so lovely to meet you and have a chat in person! Can you tell us how Anne Mulaire started?
Anne: I started Anne Mulaire in 2005. I was coming from a dance background, and had shifted from making costumes for dance to creating a yoga line. Then just it just evolved — I would hear from customers that they wanted different options, so the brand evolved into something you could wear for work.
From the get-go when I started my company, I always wanted to have these core values of mine present:
Keep the manufacturing in Canada, which I wanted in Winnipeg specifically so I can be there and see what’s happening.
Produce with sustainable fabrics. I was brought up wearing natural fibers, so that was embedded in me and very important to me.
I am Anishinaabe French Métis, so I want to keep my heritage spirit alive through my collections. That is brought with a heritage collection that I put out every year. It’s classic pieces with some really nice prints and embroidered pieces that tell the story of Indigenous peoples in Canada and also Métis peoples.
We didn’t always own our manufacturing. In 2005 I used to get some of the products made in manufacturers in Winnipeg, but slowly the manufacturers closed. So I had to shift my production to somewhere else, to the point where the last one closed up. I took the sewers because they no longer had jobs, and said, “I think I can do this.” So we started all together and it is where we are today.
I had just 400 square feet for probably seven or eight years. Only last year we doubled the space and even doubled the staff too, which is exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time because you’re running a bigger operation. But it’s pretty cool to see this boutique clothing manufacturing exists in Winnipeg. I don’t think there’s a lot out there that runs a full production line.
Because you have everything in house you’re able to do just-in-time manufacturing. Can you explain what that means?
Anne: When somebody places an order we are able to produce it right away versus having bulk orders stocked. Doing it this way, we’re able to give customers the opportunity to customize their products, such as customize their length — if they’re tall and they want a 34 inseam, we can cut and make it. When they want a shorter pant, or they want longer arms or shorter, we do that before we cut the product. Then the customer [can come in to our boutique] and try the garment on. If it works out awesome, if it needs a little bit more, we do alterations on the spot.
I feel doing the customization is [part of] “buying better and buying less” because you’re getting something fit for yourself. Those who have bought something in the past years that fit them so well, I’m pretty sure you’re still wearing it today and you’re proud of it and you feel good. And also for all body shapes, all body sizes, customization is the way to create clothes. Sizing charts [do not fit most people] and you still have to do a few alterations — even I have to do alterations on my own clothes because I just don’t fit the full perfect model. The journey to keeping your clothes longer, that’s step one to sustainability.
Was there anything in particular that sparked your interest in sustainability or was it always there?
Anne: It’s always there. It’s embedded in me. I think us being Indigenous people, Mother Earth is so connected. Talk to any Indigenous person, we’re just connected this way and we think, it’s a no-brainer kind of thing.
That’s why I used natural fibers and then I went from natural fibers to thinking I need something better. So then I went to bamboo and now we’re like, okay, we need something better, so we moving on to Tencel. It’s a journey, the sustainability. It’s never going to be perfect. But I think if most companies or brands could could just tap into it and say, okay, what can we do better from where we are today? That’s the first step.
I love that you have that growth mindset versus just saying, “we use this eco friendly fabric” and that’s it. Sustainability is a constantly evolving thing and there is always new information or things to try. So on that note, can you talk about why you decided to create your zero waste line?
Anne: The zero waste collection came out in 2015. At that time, we were doing more bulk orders for trade shows, and I was seeing all these remnants I had. Every time I see waste I’m thinking, how can we deal with this? This is an issue. So I started thinking about if I could take the remnants and make a piece of clothing. I think as designers, we’re always looking for a challenge.
I started doing these [zero waste] pieces and in 2015, with my first collection, I decided to go a little bit more couture. I wanted to elevate the zero waste and for it not to look too recycled but make it look like it can be something different. But after that people gravitated towards the concept and I started creating more ready-to-wear pieces.
Today we have a really nice zero waste collection and I have a couple of people to help me. It’s fun because it pushes their creativity too. And that’s another thing with sustainability, it’s all about being creative and finding new ways.
I think that’s such a great point. It’s so easy to just go buy something new, but we need to think: is there a way that you can use something you already have? Or take something that exists and make it into what you need? That kind of mindset is so important in all areas.
Anne: You’re totally nailing it. We’ve been trained to think quick and impulsively. In the old days you would go to the tailor and you would have to wait for your clothing. Consumption has changed over the years and I think we have to retrain our minds to slow down again. I know that’s always been the talk — slow down, slow down, but it is true.
With clothing, if you have a hole you can bring it to someone to mend it or learn how to mend it, it takes time. But I think it’s a necessity. If we keep doing what we’re doing now, we’re not going to have anything to show for the next generation.
And you have a repair program too, correct?
Anne: We are launching our Return to Nature initiative and it is an aggressive four-year plan to try to keep our clothes in the loop. We’ve always done repairs, we’ve always done alterations, but now we’re actually putting it together in a package. Customers can come in and choose from the two options; a light repair, where they can repair rips or a full repair, where we can change the waistband, change the piping, the cuffs for pants or for tops. Sometimes the stitching comes undone and it is way less expensive to repair than buying a new piece, and you can give it another year of life! So that’s our ‘Refresh’ program.
Then we have our ‘Revive’ program, which is similar but where people bring in their old pieces with parts totally run out or need to be replaced. I would maybe replace a whole sleeve, keep the part of the jacket or the piece of the dress — whatever piece of the garment that is workable. Then the rest I kind of upcycle. So use my own fabric and kind of play around with that.
There is also our resale program. We’ve been wanting to do the resale for a while because clothing sometimes is expensive and we want to open up to more people. We believe if you can’t include everyone, then it’s not sustainable. People can bring back their old Anne Mulaire and we will resell, mend it, do whatever needs to be done, and then give customers store credit if they want to purchase something else later on. So that’s going to also allow customers to buy our garments at a lower cost.
For the last question, I’d love to know more about how you design. Do you draw a lot on inspiration? Is it very customer driven?
Anne: It’s definitely customer driven, but I also feel and see what’s out there, seeing what lifestyle is happening. I definitely felt it through COVID, especially for this last spring collection, not being able to travel, not being able to see people. I love to travel and I think that’s how I open my eyes to see what’s happening around me. I wasn’t able to do that for two years and I definitely felt it. My creativity was very low and I felt just not inspired as much. But sometimes [I’m inspired] just walking. It could be a person wearing something, and I’m thinking, “oh, wow, this is just so beautiful.” Or it could be the shape I love, different silhouettes inspire me. Also the customers’ feedback, a couple of customers are muses for me.
You may have seen products in stores with the OEKO-TEX label and wondered what exactly this means.
OEKO-TEX is short for The International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology and was started in 1992. It oversees several textile certifications that require companies to undergo regular independent testing in order to use OEKO-TEX labels on their products.
The OEKO-TEX Standard 100 is its most common certification and the one consumers are most likely to encounter in their day-to-day lives. It guarantees that all aspects of a textile, including buttons, zippers, and other finishings, are free of 100 harmful chemicals that are often found in textiles. Products are pulled directly from retail shelves in order to be tested by approved labs, and are retested during audits to ensure quality control, according to an interview in Women’s Wear Daily with one of the founders of OEKO-TEX Association.
What Harmful Chemicals Are in Clothes?
Toxic chemicals, such as phthalates, formaldehyde, certain azo dyes, and pesticides, are often used in the finishing states of textile production so companies can streamline production or create desirable properties for fabrics, such as wrinkle resistance. OEKO-TEX protects end users from all of these toxic chemicals.
The NIH refers to phthalates as “the everywhere chemical,” and repeated exposure has been associated with adverse reproductive health in both men and women and developmental problems in children. Phthalates are commonly used to print logos on clothing and in the production of accessories.
Azo dyes are the most common kind of synthetic dyes used today, because they resist breakdown from being washed and exposed to light, and because they are cheap to produce. Some Azo dyes can cause cancer and some others are allergenic; these would be controlled by an OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification. However, the production of azo dyes generates toxic wastewater that pollutes the environment in developing countries with high rates of textile production. A certification that solely tests end products cannot control byproducts of the manufacturing process.
Are Textile Certifications and OEKO-TEX Greenwashing?
One potential criticism that has been raised about textile certifications, such as OEKO-TEX, is that they provide a way for companies to claim they are more sustainable than they actually are. For example, the Target sheets pictured emphasize they are certified by OEKO-TEX, but are made out of 100% polyester. Because it’s a synthetic, plastic-based material, polyester is resource intensive and doesn’t biodegrade.
The Changing Markets Foundation wrote a report earlier this year entitled “Licence to Greenwash,” which analyzes ten different textile certifications, including OEKO-TEX, and how effective they are at driving change in the fashion industry. The foundation gave OEKO-TEX high scores for transparency and for driving improvement in the industry, but also pointed out that OEKO-TEX is limited in scope and “cannot be credited with instigating any industry-wide transformation.” While keeping harmful chemicals out of the clothing you wear is certainly an important endeavor, the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 only looks at finished products; it does not investigate chemical usage during the manufacturing process and how this may harmfully affect the environment and the people who make your clothes.
In 2015, OEKO-TEX introduced the Made in Green label (pictured). It goes above and beyond the Standard 100 requirements to cover things like social and environmental responsibility. However, this program has a far smaller reach than the Standard 100 program, and most consumers probably don’t recognize the difference between the two certifications.
In conclusion, OEKO-TEX is a great tool for consumers to learn whether a textile contains safe levels of 100 commonly used harmful chemicals. It’s a better certification program than most in the industry, but it does have blind spots and has yet to bring about mass industry change. Even though it’s not perfect, and no one certification system can be, it helps people to be mindful of the toxins they expose to themselves and their families.
In my day to day I try to make choices that align with my sustainable values: I shop local, buy used whenever possible, walk and bike as much as I can to save gas, and generally avoid supporting companies that are actively contributing to great environmental or ethical harm.
However, when I started investing for my retirement, I felt a sense of dissonance between these decisions and where my money was going to grow in the stock market, supporting companies or sectors I disagreed with. To come to terms with this, I did some research on how to make my investing align with my values.
Sustainable investing has gained traction in the last ten years. — It’s also known as socially responsible investing (SRI); environmental, social and corporate governance investing (ESG); values-based investing or ethical investing. — This kind of investing was once considered unprofitable, with funds having high management fees and lower returns, but there is a much larger selection on the market today and ESG funds are making their way into the mainstream.
Personal finance is, as it is named, extremely personal and I am by no means a financial advisor. But if you are also wanting to take a more active role in your investments, here are the main questions I had starting out and some information I found helpful when looking for investments I felt good about.
Some terms to be familiar with:
Standard Brokerage Account: Also called a non-retirement account, a brokerage account holds financial assets, but has no tax advantage.
401K: Retirement fund sponsored by an employer, with a match to a certain amount
Ira/Roth Ira: Individual retirement accounts. The biggest distinction from a standard brokerage account is that retirement accounts often have tax advantages built in.
Expense Ratio: The cost in fees of owning an investment.
Index Fund: An index fund is a pooled fund that acts like a basket that holds many stocks and tracks a specific “index.” For example, the S&P 500 tracks the top 500 companies in the US. Both mutual funds and ETFs are index funds.
ETF: Stands for exchange traded funds and can be exchanged and traded like a company stock. These are usually passively managed, and have somewhat lower expense ratios. They are traded throughout the day like normal stocks.
Mutual Fund: Mutual funds are generally more actively managed, have somewhat higher expense ratios because of this and are just traded once per day.
What should I or should I not not be investing in?
There are many factors to consider when looking for socially responsible investments, and at the end of the day they are quite personal. Each person’s portfolio will look different, with different financial goals, ethos and sustainability focuses.
Do you care most about what you are not investing in, for example fossil fuels? Or do you actively want to support something with your investments, like your local community or green energy? These are good things to think about before you start looking for investments.
Some funds use exclusionary tactics, booting out companies from a certain sector, like fossil fuels. For example, SPDR® MSCI EAFE Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF opts out of fossil fuel holdings, or companies invested in fossil fuels.
Conversely, some funds use inclusionary methods, specifically targeting specific impacts or values. For example, QCLN – First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy invests in green energy companies.
Do socially responsible funds perform as well as others?
There has long been a sentiment that values-based investments are synonymous with a hit to financial gains, but this doesn’t seem to be true, though it’s hard to say for certain. According to several studies, there is evidence that SRI funds can perform as well or better than standard investments. This 2015 study analyzes the findings of 2200 studies on the performance of ESG funds and concludes that there is evidence of a business case for ESG investing. However, other studies haven’t found a strong correlation. This 2015 meta analysis of global SRI funds found no benefit or cost to including SRI funds in your investment portfolio.
It is argued that sustainable investments can be considered more secure in the long haul, as they are more protected from environmental, governmental or social risks and perform well in volatile markets. For example, SRI funds outperformed conventional funds during the pandemic. This academic study offers one explanation that “when owners have long-run strategic interests in and commitments to the firm, such as a corporate owner, markets price these characteristics positively when evaluating the impact of COVID-19 cases.”
It is important to keep in mind that ESG investment performance is a hard thing to quantify, as studies use different criteria to assess what is actually ethical or sustainable. This paperdelves into the issue of “divergence of ESG ratings,” where funds are assessed on different criteria or metrics. A fund may be given a good rating by one party, but a bad rating by another depending on what factors they’re looking at.
How do I find sustainable investments?
This depends on how much support you are looking for, and will involve some research and vetting.
One option is to open an investment account yourself: if you feel confident in your knowledge of the stock market, opening a brokerage account and choosing your own investments can be a good way to go, and can give you the most agency in deciding what your money is invested in. Below are two tools to help you get a sense of what funds are invested in.
Fossil Free Funds: Allows you to search funds and see how much they are invested in fossil fuels. For example, SPDR® S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Rsrv Free ETF has fossil free in the name but scores a D on the Fossil Free funds rating due to investments in coal and fossil fuels.
As You Sow: Works similarly to Fossil Free Funds but has options to filter by other issues like deforestation free funds, prison free funds, gender equality funds, and weapons free funds.
You could also try out a robo advisor: If you want more support and guidance, there are platforms like Betterment and Wealthfront (US) or Wealthsimple (CA) that help simplify your role in this process and offer ESG and SRI funds. Betterment has three SRI portfolios based on Climate Impact, Social Impact, or Broad Impact. Wealthfront has risk-based SRI options available, with more room to handpick and modify your portfolio. Wealthsimple provides SRI funds with the top 25% of carbon emitters cut from the funds, and with boards of at least 25% women.
For the most support, you could hire a financial advisor. While financial advisors have higher fees than a robo advisor, they can help you create an investing portfolio that matches your values.
How do I do this in my 401k?
Unfortunately, funds in a 401k are pre-set by the company, so it is harder to choose what funds you invest in. This New York Times article, “How to Get Socially Conscious Funds Into Your 401(k),” provides interesting insights into how to advocate for ESG 401k funds within your workplace.
Key Takeaways for Sustainable Investing
Get clear about your values and what is most important to either include or exclude from your investment portfolio.
Sustainable investing can be profitable and more stable in volatile markets.
Like any sustainability decision, sustainable investing requires research and vetting, and you have to look out for greenwashing.
In response, people started sharing other places to get similar styles. Though unfortunately many of those brands also have no transparency and questionable ethics. Here our our top picks if you’re looking for Dolls Kill alternatives that are ethically and responsibly made.
(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)
With their exclusive prints silk screened in-house Thief & Bandit has a signature, statement style. Their inclusive collection includes clothing, swimwear, underwear, and accessories all made in their Halifax studio.
Size Range: XS – 4X
Values: Sustainable materials, made in-house, made-to-order, made in Canada
Availability: based in Canada, ships international
On a mission to design stylish, comfortable, and sustainable clothing for all bodies, LOUDBODIES has the most inclusive size range we’ve come across from an ethical brand! Their sweet feminine styles and statement cuts made a perfect slow fashion alternative to Dolls Kill.
Size Range: XXS – 10XL; custom
Values: Sustainable and recycled materials, made-to-order, low waste production, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics, carbon neutral shipping, plus sizing, body-inclusive models, made locally
Sexy and sweet styles. We are HAH makes swimwear, lingerie and an apparel line for those who want to stand out and show some skin. They provide info about each of their factories and are incorportating more recycled and eco-friendly fabrics into their line.
Size Range: XS – XL
Values: Sustainable and recycled materials (some), gives back
Love black? Looking for something more dark and edgy? NOCTEX has a collection you must check out! Their pieces are locally made in Canada from deadtsock fabrics.
In addition to producing their own line, NOCTEX is a great place to shop as they also curate and sell pieces from other independent designers (although the other brands may not have the same sustainable/ethical values).
Size Range: XS – 1X
Values: Reclaimed & deadstock materials, low waste production, made in Canada
Availability: based in Canada, ships international
While Etsy can be a great place for specialty, handmade clothing, I do want to emphasize that it’s always important to look into the individual seller. Unfortunately some businesses on Etsy aren’t actually selling handmade clothing but are getting it from a factory or re-selling clothing bought elsewhere. An easy way to check for this is to read the seller’s bio and check them out on social media if possible. Ideally they’ll share info about their design and making process.
Size Range: The sizes available will depend on each Etsy store, but many sellers offer plus and custom sizing.
Availability: Etsy is available world wide and you can also filter by stores in your country.
Cute feminine, and whimsical lingerie. Uye Surana creates lacy and mesh pieces which can be worn as lingerie or styled as sexy statement pieces. Their garments are ethically made in Colombia in small batches.
Size range: XS – 5XL
Values: small batch production, body-inclusive models