Anne Mulaire Legging Review & Behind the Brand Interview

posted in Behind the Brand

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.

My Anne Mulaire winter leggings & zero waste crop top

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 GREENCLOSET for a free headband!)

Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau
Image credit: Anne Mulaire

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.

I would have to shift my production to somewhere else, to the point where the last [local manufacturer] closed up. I took the sewers because they no longer had jobs, and said, “I think I can do this.”

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.

Where all Anne Mulaire pieces are sewn

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.

Image credit: Anne Mulaire

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.

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.


Image credit: Anne Mulaire

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.

that’s another thing with sustainability, it’s all about being creative and finding new ways.

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.

Image credit: Anne Mulaire

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.

if you can’t include everyone, then it’s not sustainable

Image credit: Anne Mulaire

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.


Thank you so much Anne, and be sure to check out Anne Mulaire’s lovely pieces.

What is OEKO TEX? Harmful Chemicals in Your Clothes and How it Helps

posted in fabrics

What Is OEKO-TEX?

Image credit: OEKO-TEX®

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.

Formaldehyde is used to create wrinkle- and stain-resistant finishes on products. If you have ever bought a non-iron dress shirt and noticed a distinctive chemical smell, you have encountered formaldehyde. When worn on the body, formaldehyde can cause rashes, eczema, and immune responses, according to the United States Government Accountability Office. Formaldehyde is an even bigger risk for garment workers as it’s a known carcinogen when inhaled over long periods of time. Again, this is not a risk that OEKO-TEX Standard 100 monitors.

For each of its tested chemicals, OEKO-TEX determines the safe levels for these chemicals with four different classes: class one is for textiles used for babies, class two for textiles worn near the skin, class three for textiles not worn near the skin, and class four for decorative textiles. For example, while formaldehyde is completely banned for class one textiles, slightly higher amounts are allowed in each class thereafter to the level that is deemed safe for that class. 

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.

Image credit: OEKO-TEX®

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.

How To Get Started With Sustainable Investing (SRI and ESG)

posted in Lifestyle

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 paper delves 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. 

Ethical Alternatives to Dolls Kill

posted in brand roundups

Dolls Kill has been a destination for unique pieces and statement items. Best known for their festival styles and as a destination for punk, kawaii, goth, rave, and “alternative” fashion.

The issue? They’ve taken many counterculture fashion movements which were previous driven by DIYers and independent designers and highly commercialized them.

Is Dolls Kill fast fashion?

Yes. Dolls Kill is a fast fashion brand with unethical practices.

Dolls Kills has terrible transparency about their manufacturing, wages, and ethical standards, and no environmental initiatives. Additionally, Dolls Kills has been accused of stealing designs (read more about why this happens so often in fashion), cultural appropriation, inappropriate and exploitative marketing, and in 2020 the owner praised the police during the Black Lives Matter protests sparking the trending hashtag #BoycottDollsKill.

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)
Image credit: Thief & Bandit

Thief & Bandit

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 

Image credit: LOUDBODIES

LOUDBODIES

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, made locally

Availability: Based in Romania, ships worldwide

Image credit: NOCTEX

NOCTEX

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 

Image credit: FOXBLOOD

FOXBLOOD

Vegan brands with a gothic, mostly black collection. Their collection includes lots of casual and everyday wear.

FOXBLOOD manufactures in both LA (where they’re based) and Turkey. They select suppliers and manufacturing partners who pay a living wage.

Size Range: XS – 4X

Values: Vegan, some sustainable materials, gives back

Availability: based in USA, ships international

Etsy

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.

Image credit: We are HAH

We are HAH

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

Availability: based in USA, ships international 

Image credit: Frankie

Frankie

I have to give Frankie’s upcycled collection a mention, in particular their bustiers and corsets, reworked cut-out tees, and mini-dresses. They repurpose vintage tracksuits and sportswear to strike the perfect mix of cool, sexy, sporty, and sustainable. Their unique pieces are made in Vancouver with workers paid a living wage.

Size Range: XS – 3XL

Values: upcycled materials, low waste production, made in Canada

Availability: based in Canada, ships international 

Image credit: Uye Surana

Uye Surana

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

Availability: based in USA, ships international

Don’t Forget Secondhand

Shopping secondhand is an amazing sustainable way to find unique clothes. Here are our favourite places to thrift online.

Any ethical brands we missed? Please share your favorites in the comments!

What Is Lyocell vs Tencel? + Where to Find Tencel Clothing

posted in brand roundups, fabrics

In the world of sustainable fashion, materials are always a hot topic. Whether we’re talking deadstock, low impact, recycled or repurposed, there are a million different opinions as to what is truly best from an environmental perspective. Lyocell fabric is certainly no exception to this debate. While some hail this popular fabric as a magic bullet for the fashion industry, others claim it’s merely another case of greenwashing.

Let’s dive right in and see what we can find out.

What Is Lyocell?

Smooth, breathable, moisture-wicking and naturally wrinkle-resistant, lyocell has a number of benefits and applications. But what is it?

To put it simply, lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric made from cellulose, originating mainly from Eucalyptus wood, although Birch and Oak can also be used. Despite coming from trees, lyocell isn’t considered a fully natural material, as it requires an intensive process to transform the wood chips into the soft, airy fabric we see in stores.

According to “Fashion Fibers: Designing for Sustainability” by Annie Gullingsrud, first the cellulose must be separated from other compounds found in the tree. The wood is dissolved into a pulp using a nontoxic solvent called amine oxide and is then extruded through tiny holes using a tool called a spinneret to form the fibers. From there the lyocell fibers are dried, spun and processed further .

Generic Lyocell vs. TENCEL Lyocell

There are two main types of lyocell currently available on the market: generic lyocell and TENCEL Lyocell. Although both varieties are made from the same base, the manufacturing process is vastly different. Developed by Lenzing in Austria, TENCEL Lyocell is considered a sustainable option primarily because of its closed-loop system

To begin, the trees are only harvested from sustainably managed farms certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certifications, and the fiber is only supplied from production locations that comply with the EU Timber Regulations. Besides being rapidly renewable, Eucalyptus trees are used for TENCEL Lyocell because of their resilience and ability to grow without artificial irrigation, gene manipulation or synthetic pesticides. 

Chemical pollution is a big problem in fabric manufacturing. TENCEL Lyocell is a better option because throughout the manufacturing process, more than 99 percent of the chemicals used are recovered, filtered, and reused, and any remaining emissions are safely broken down in biological wastewater treatment plants. 

In general, lyocell is biodegradable. If all other materials, dyes and trims used in the clothing are also biodegradable, then lyocell, unlike other synthetic fabrics, will decompose under the right conditions.

This is what makes TENCEL Lyocell a good alternative to many other fabrics, both natural and synthetic. When done correctly, the production process can save water, divert chemical run-off, and prevent further pollution. Conventionally made lyocell gives no guarantee of a closed-loop system or responsibly sourced raw materials, and this is why opting for certified TENCEL Lyocell is key. 

Assuming it is TENCEL, the main disadvantages of lyocell are price and availability. As you can probably imagine, the manufacturing process requires very specific technology and expertise, the cost of which gets passed onto customers. That being said, the more widely it is used, the less expensive it will become over time. 

Keep on reading to learn about 5 places to find TENCEL Lyocell clothing!


Best Brands That Make TENCEL Clothing

(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)
Image credit: Organic Basics

1. Organic Basics

Known for their comfortable undergarments and everyday loungewear, Organic Basics is the perfect place to stock up on all your essentials. Their well-rounded collection of men’s and women’s clothing is designed in Copenhagen and produced ethically in factories throughout Europe. You’ll find ultra-soft underwear, sleepwear, and casual daywear in a range of sustainable fabrics, like TENCEL Lyocell of course!

Price: $56-$170
Size Range:
XS-XL
Values:
Sustainable materials, factory transparency, seasonless collections, GOTS certified cotton, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics, B Corp, body-inclusive models
Availability: Based in Denmark, ships worldwide. Available in select Canadian retailers.


Image credit: tentree

2. tentree

Designed in Canada and made ethically in factories worldwide, tentree has just what you need to create the perfect capsule wardrobe. They offer stylish, high-quality, and affordable basics for everyone in the family — accessories included. And you guessed it…for every item purchased they’ll plant ten trees. Each piece comes with its own unique tree code that you can use to track your ten! 

Price: $18-$328
Size Range:
XS-XL
Values:
Sustainable materials, recycled/reclaimed materials, factory transparency, seasonless collections, GOTS certified cotton, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics, B Corp, carbon-neutral shipping
Availability: Based on Canada, ships worldwide. Available in select Canadian retailers. 


Image credit: Encircled

3. Encircled

Made with comfort and wearability in mind, Encircled is a Canadian-made brand creating high-quality pieces for all the seasons of your life. You’ll find everyday basics like t-shirts and sweats, along with dressier pieces to take you from day to night. Each garment is cut and sewn at one of their Toronto factories using natural and OEKO-TEX® 100 certified materials. 

Price: $48-$248
Size Range:
XS-XXL (virtual fittings available)
Values:
Sustainable materials, recycled/reclaimed materials, factory transparency, seasonless collections, GOTS certified cotton, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics, B Corp
Availability: Based in Canada, ships to most countries


Image credit: Paneros

4. Paneros

Flattering silhouettes and feminine prints are what’s on the menu at Paneros. This LA-based brand works with two artisan factories in Indonesia to bring their sustainably made styles to life. Although they tend to focus on deadstock materials, we’re sure you’ll love their current selection of TENCEL Lyocell designs.

Price: $89-$179
Size Range
: XS-XL
Values: Sustainable materials, recycled/reclaimed materials, factory transparency, GOTS certified cotton, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics
Availability: Based in US, ships worldwide


Image credit: Toad & Co

5. Toad & Co

Based in California and made responsibly worldwide, Toad & Co has a wide selection of TENCEL Lyocell clothing for both men and women. Their current collection features a mix of flowing woven pants, easy dresses and versatile t-shirts in a range of prints. They also support a number of great social causes and initiatives including Search INC, an organization that provides skills training and employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Price: $18-$125
Size Range: XS-XL
Values: Sustainable materials, recycled/reclaimed materials, factory transparency, GOTS certified cotton, OEKO-TEX certified fabrics
Availability: Based in US, ships within North America. Available in Toad & Co stores and select retailers across North America.


BONUS: TUCK

Now that you know all the best places to find lyocell clothing, you might be wondering how else to incorporate this sustainable fabric into your life. Lucky for you, Tuck carries a wide range of TENCEL Lyocell sheets, duvet covers, bundles and even crib sheets to add to your linen closet. All of their products are made from a luxurious proprietary blend of GOTS organic cotton and TENCEL Lyocell, which means they’ll completely biodegrade once they’re no longer usable. Check out our past article on sustainable bedding to learn the pros and cons of each fabric, and where to find it! Go ahead, get your nap on.


There you have it! We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick overview of lyocell and TENCEL Lyocell materials and some great places to find it. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!

Toddler & Young Kids Spring/Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Just like with my own capsule wardrobes, the more you do them the better you get! I’m very happy with how this spring/summer capsule wardrobe for my 2 1/2 year-old daughter worked out. There are enough clothes for all her needs, for us to do laundry approximately once a week, and I love this fun colour palette with tons of mix and match options.

When planning this capsule I used many of the same considerations as for fall/winter, however temperature was even more important this time. Spring where we live can range from very chilly to quite hot so we need options for both extremes. I could split this up into 2 separate capsules one with the tees, long-sleeve shirts, pants, and layers for spring, and the other with the tanks and shorts for summer, but I think with kids just doing 2 capsules per year is easiest.

For the colour palette I went with bright blue, a light aqua blue, and a contrasting yellow, and coral. The capsule is anchored with navy, grey and white as the neutrals. With any prints or graphics I tried to find pieces that had most of these colors in them for maximum versatility.

Why More Bottoms than Tops?

Typically with any of my own capsules I have significantly less bottoms then tops, however I’ve found with a toddler they go through bottom changes equally if not faster than tops. Especially with things like potty training and in summer when they sit and climb on everything. My daughter will also wear either leggings or shorts under the couple dresses.

Brands & Budget

(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)

As I talked about in my tips for buying sustainable kids clothing on a budget most of this capsule wardrobe is secondhand which then allows me to spend a little more on some new sustainable items to fill in the gaps. For those new pieces I got quite a few organic items from Hanna Andersson – they regularly have sales which is a great time to stock up for the next season.

I also scored the adorable, recycled raincoat and natural rubber rain boots from Frugi, and the yellow puddle pants are from Canadian brand Faire Child.

I haven’t had much luck finding good quality and comfy shoes secondhand, so her shoes are from Native Shoes, part of their Sugarlite line (blue pair) which can also be send back for recycling when worn out, and HeyFolks (brown pair).

Underwear and socks obviously aren’t part of a capsule wardrobe, but our favourites are the cute organic ones from Q for Quinn.

Check out this post for more of our favorite sustainable kids clothing brands.

Here’s a few more outfit examples and there are endless ways to mix and match this kids capsule wardrobe!

10 Must-Read Sustainable Fashion Books

Our top picks for books to learn more about environmental and social issues in the fashion industry — and what you can do to help.

(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)

Consumed” by Aja Barber

The industry needs to change and this book does a great job breaking down the many complex issues and uncomfortable truths with fashion in a way that is approachable. I was honestly hesitant to pick up this book because often books like this can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed with endless doom-and-gloom stats, but that’s not the case with “Consumed.” Aja takes a friendly tone and leaves the reader empowered with critical thinking tools and ways to take action.


Fibershed” by Rebecca Burgess

Rebecca Burgess pioneered the now-global Fibershed movement with a personal challenge to create an entirely local wardrobe. This book shares her experience of that process, what she learned along the way, and why this farm-to-closet approach can be environmentally and socially beneficial.

This book was a joy to read. I have been researching slow fashion topics for a decade now so at this point it’s rare for me to find books that I learn so much from and feel inspired by! I love Rebecca’s vision for a localized textile system and the chapters on regenerative farming were very interesting. It’s exciting to see this movement growing.


Project 333” by Courtney Carver

I’m definitely biased because I am actually featured in this book! 😊 But as someone who has been doing capsule wardrobes for years I see a ton of sustainable benefits in them. “Project 333” was what first introduced me to the concept, but even if you aren’t ready for the challenge or don’t see a capsule wardrobe as being for you, this book is about so much more than what’s in your closet.

Courtney shares how changing our views on clothing and consumption can offer so much more freedom, time, and joy in our lives. I completely agree that a capsule wardrobe is so much deeper than the clothing you wear and this book offers some excellent anti-consumerism tools and motivation.


The Conscious Closet” by Elizabeth L. Cline

Written by journalist Elizabeth L. Cline, this book is great for beginners to sustainable fashion as it offers a wealth of information about the fashion industry — from garment workers to different types of fabrics and so much more. It’s also full of tips including how to mend and take better care of your clothes. “The Conscious Closet” will give you an eye-opening lens on the clothes you already own and will inspire you to invest in higher-quality, ethical clothing when you are ready to introduce new pieces to your wardrobe.


Wardrobe Crisis” by Clare Press

Clare Press loves fashion — but as a fashion journalist, knows the industry needs to change. Big time. “Wardrobe Crisis” is a critique of fast fashion and a journey through the fashion industry, with a strong focus on the history of fashion, including department stores and some of the biggest and highest-end brands in the world. It’s an engaging read!


Slave to Fashion” by Safia Minney

Every piece of clothing has a story before it even gets to your closet, since clothing usually takes the labor of many people to produce. If you want to learn more about who makes your clothes and the exploitative conditions clothes are often made in, “Slave to Fashion” is a great choice. A unique part of this book is a section of photos and interviews with garment workers, as well as an actionable toolkit for how consumers can demand better working conditions and pay for the people who make their clothes.


Loved Clothes Last” by Orsola De Castro

You’ve probably heard the quote, “The most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe.” It was written by Orsola De Castro, the Co-Founder and Global Creative Director of Fashion Revolution — and author of “Loved Clothes Last.” Supporting ethical and sustainable brands is important, but first and foremost, we must love and care for our clothes so that they can have a long life with us. Orsola gives readers plenty of tips on how to do just that!


Fashionopolis” by Dana Thomas

The fashion industry is rife with human and environmental exploitation, and journalist Dana Thomas details many of these issues without the book feeling too dark of a read. “Fashionopolis” is best for people interested in innovations in fashion, including sustainable technologies.

An issue with the book is that the brand recommendations Dana gives is often out-of-reach for the average person — not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a single sustainably produced garment from Stella McCartney. However, My Green Closet has plenty of more accessible suggestions to help in that regard 😊


The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees

While this is another book focused on capsule wardrobes, I think this book is incredibly valuable as it is all about avoiding trends and instead finding your personal style and building a wardrobe of pieces you love wearing. Personal style is a key part of slowing down fashion consumption — one of the best things you can do for a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe is wearing what you have until it’s unwearable. However, this is hard to do if you don’t actually like your clothes that much.

Anuschka helps readers figure out a wardrobe that works for them, and she does this without focusing on styles and colours that are “flattering,” which I deeply appreciate — it’s about finding the style that you genuinely want to wear for years!


Mend!” by Kate Sekules

Mending your clothes doesn’t have to be boring — it can turn your worn-out clothes into a fashion statement and give them new life. Author Kate Sekules is a big proponent of visible mending, and her book is filled with plenty of ideas, complete with lots of photos and tutorials. “Mend!” also goes into a history of fabrics and mending/tending clothing. It’s an enlightening and fun read to get your creative juices flowing!


Finally you can check out more books I recommend, including sewing/patternmaking books and sustainability books for children here.

What Is a Living Wage and Why Isn’t the Fashion Industry Paying It to Garment Workers?

The average garment factory worker is pressured to work at least 10-12 hours a day — and yet, they still can’t afford to support themselves and their families. An estimated 98% of garment workers, of which 75% are young women, don’t earn a living wage.

Clean Clothes Campaign’s Tailored Wages 2019 Report found that “no major clothing brand is able to show that workers making their clothing in Asia, Africa, Central America or Eastern Europe are paid enough to escape the poverty trap.”

Unfair wages are an old legacy of the fashion industry and one we need to work to fix.

How is a Living Wage Calculated? 

Garment workers should be able to maintain a “decent standard of living for [themselves] and their family” by working a maximum of 48 hours a week, according to Oxfam. There are several factors to consider when establishing a living wage, and it varies by country. ABLE, an ethical brand leading a transparency campaign called the #LowestWageChallenge, determines a living wage “based on local prices in each country for housing and utilities, transportation, food and water, healthcare, childcare, education, and savings.” 

Living wage vs. minimum wage: A living wage should not be conflated with minimum wage. Minimum wage in many countries is not enough for someone to support themselves and their families. It is simply the minimum amount of money a person can legally be paid. 

Clean Clothes Campaign calculated that wages for garment production are rarely more than 3% of the final retail price of a garment. A report from Oxfam found that if garment workers were paid a living wage, it would only cost brands 1% more to produce clothing items. At the end of the day, fashion brands are often just keeping most of the profit on garments for themselves. 

“It would cost $2.2 billion a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers from the average wage to a living wage. This is the equivalent of a third of the amount paid out to shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector,” says another Oxfam report.

What Can Fashion Companies Do to Make Sure Workers Are Paid a Living Wage?

Brands avoid the responsibility of paying a living wage in several ways, such as blaming the factories, saying it’s too expensive, or that they’re paying the legal minimum wage. Instead of pointing fingers, brands need to own up to their mistakes, recognize how they can fix them, and implement solutions like changing how prices are split or how they pay factories. 

Some brands are taking steps to make positive change. For instance, Nisolo and ABLE partnered in 2020 to create the #LowestWageChallenge “because you deserve to know whether or not the people who made the clothes on your body have been paid enough to meet their basic needs and live a life of dignity.” By asking other brands to share the lowest wage they pay and having it third party verified, they are trying to create change in the fashion industry and rectify decades of unfair wages.

Clean Clothes Campaign says they’re working to get brands to change how they pay suppliers so that a living wage can be paid to garment makers. “Our work revolves around asking companies to use living-wage benchmarks when calculating order prices. By putting a figure on the living wage, the labour cost can be calculated and embedded into pricing breakdowns, and companies can use this to be sure that suppliers are receiving enough to pay a living wage,” they say on their website.

This article from The Guardian asked experts from business, trade unions and campaign groups what would need to change in order for garment workers to get fair pay. These experts pointed out various solutions, including  brands taking on the responsibility of making sure each worker is paid a living wage by paying their suppliers fairly, and getting local governments involved so that it is against the law to pay workers any less than a living wage. 

What Can I Do To Support Garment Workers?

There are many ways to help garment workers receive living wages. You could…

Do you have any more suggestions on how people can support garment workers? Comment below!

Spring 2022 Capsule Wardrobe

posted in capsule wardrobes

Even though it’s still cool out here, I’m so ready for spring and was thrilled to pull out some of my clothes from storage!

Watch my spring capsule video:

Items in my Spring Capsule

(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)

Tops

Black tank top – secondhand
Cropped tee – Anne Mulaire
White tee – Miakoda
Black tee – Organic Basics (watch a review here)
Brass mock-neck – Encircled
Cropped puff-sleeve top – Valani
Printed blouse – Tamga
Black wrap top – Matter
Grey long-sleeve – People Tree
Linen button-up – secondhand
Orange sweater – secondhand
Green cropped hoodie – Tentree

Bottoms

Black pocket leggings – Encircled
Green dressy sweatpants – Encircled
Beige joggers – Tentree
Plaid pants – handmade
Printed pants – Tamga
Linen skirt – Son de flor

Dresses

Grey tee dress – Kowtow
Blue tee dress – Tonle
Linen wrap dress – Son de flor
Green linen dress – LA Relaxed

Layers

Beige cardigan – old
Rust cardigan – Eileen Fisher
Red printed robe – Tamga
Grey hoodie – Tentree
White jacket – old

Ultra Fast Fashion: The Newest Wave of Throwaway Clothing

posted in fashion industry

By now you’re probably well aware (and hopefully wary) of the concept of fast fashion. You’ve no doubt conjured up thoughts of mega retailers like Zara, H&M, Forever 21, and even family-focused chains like Old Navy and The Children’s Place. But quickly overtaking these giants of the 2000s is a new kind of fast fashion. A version that’s somehow quicker, cheaper, more disposable, and more addictive than its predecessor. Join us as we take a brief look at ultra-fast fashion: what it is, who it affects, and what it means for the future of fashion. 

What is Fast Fashion? 

Fast fashion first started to gain popularity in the mid 2000s as a go-to choice for teens, young families and folks on a budget. In contrast to the traditional quarterly fashion calendar, these multinationals ushered in a new era of consumerism with their speed to market and low costs. Brands like H&M could take a trend from fashion week and have it designed, sewn, shipped, and merchandised in a store within just a few weeks. Most Zara shoppers can attest to the rapid turnover within stores, inciting an insatiable need to buy. In fact, this Atlantic article noted, “whereas the average shopper visited any given store about four times a year, Zara shoppers stopped in once every three weeks.” 

Motivated by the ever-changing styles and a low financial risk, customers flocked to fast fashion brands. The financial recession of 2008 solidified this new business model’s hold on both consumers and investors. Fast fashion was seen as affordable and accessible, and as a result, it was here to stay. 

Many argue that this was the moment our relationship to our clothing began to shift. From 2000-2015, clothing production increased twofold, but prices continued to plummet. The average consumer was spending roughly the same amount on clothing each year, but getting double the amount. “At its peak, in 2015, Forever 21 made $4.4 billion in global sales,” according to The Atlantic.

It’s easy to see how the constant availability of cheap, trendy clothing has changed the way we consume fashion. According to Bloomberg Green, Americans dispose of up to 11.3 million tons of textile waste a year. That’s equivalent to 2,150 pieces per second. And with this comes a steep environmental and social toll.

At least 60% of our clothing is made from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon (and is expected to double by 2030). Harsh dyes and chemicals are used to treat and finish clothing, most of which ends up polluting waterways and impacting the local quality of life. When these petroleum-based fabrics break-down in landfill, they release harmful gases like methane into the environment, contributing to global warming. To keep costs down, fast fashion brands typically rely on subcontracted work from countries with exploitative environmental and labour laws. Clothing is shipped all over the globe in order to take advantage of the cheapest regions to produce in, leading to even more emissions caused by transportation. 

What Is Ultra Fast Fashion?

Now, we find ourselves in the middle of yet another shift in fashion. One that moves away from the brick-and-mortar retail goliaths and towards the agile and decentralized world of eCommerce. Today, companies such as Shein, those within the Boohoo group (boohoo, boohooMAN, PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal) and Fashion Nova are dominating. Guided by the same unethical business practices and disregard for the environment, this ultra-fast business model relies on many factors including cheap labour, favourable import/export laws, minimal or no physical locations, less inventory on-hand, quicker turnaround times and, most of all, our data. 

What sets this new wave of companies apart is their use of technology to predict demand and track customer behaviour. Most of us have had the experience of viewing an item on a website, only to have it stalk us on our social media for days, or even weeks after. Companies like Shein and boohoo are able to reach millions of people through social media without even needing stores.

In a conversation with Vox, Beijing-based writer and technology analyst Mathew Brennan described this new process as “real-time” retail. In a traditional fashion model, it can take anywhere from 6 months to a year for a brand to design, create and receive feedback about their products. With the use of tracking technology and analytics, ultra-fast fashion companies can track demand, get almost instant feedback, and shift strategy. If a style suddenly goes viral, they can increase their order size almost immediately. 

As a result, we’ve become even more obsessed with newness. A quick scroll through TikTok and YouTube reveals thousands of #haul videos depicting mostly young women showing off piles of plastic-wrapped clothing they paid next to nothing for. Younger generations are getting swept up in the quickening pace, even admitting they would rather buy something new than be seen in it again. And when a new dress costs the same as lunch, that’s entirely possible.

As Lauren Bravo, author of “How to Break up with Fast Fashion”, explains, “people are no longer shopping for clothes –– they’re shopping for content.” Where fast fashion retailers used to boast about having fresh styles twice a week, eCommerce brands like Shein are now adding somewhere between 500-2000 new styles a day, according to various reports.

When trends never stop changing, it’s impossible to keep up. And the more we buy, the less satisfied we seem to be. Ultra-fast fashion succeeds by playing to our deepest insecurities.

It harnesses the power and influence of social media, convincing us that what we have isn’t enough, and that with the click of a button we too can bask in the warmth of belonging — until the excitement wears off, at least. It’s an endless cycle that many of us are intimately familiar with.

What Can We Do About Ultra Fast Fashion?

It’s going to take a combination of government regulation, verifiable sustainability initiatives and consumer activism to see real industry-wide change. That being said, there are endless ways to have a more conscious relationship with fashion. In our culture of excess and instant gratification, slowing down is a radical act. Take a look at our list below and be sure to leave your own suggestions in the comments. Change starts with us!

  • Mending & tailoring clothes you already have
  • Upcycling worn-out materials into useful items 
  • Shopping secondhand & vintage
  • Learning to sew/knit/crochet
  • Choosing responsible brands as much as possible
  • Re-wearing & taking care of your clothes
  • Considering when and how often you’ll wear something before buying
  • Unfollowing social media accounts that constantly encourage you to buy
  • Taking social media breaks
  • Sharing information about fast and ultra fast fashion with your family and friends
  • Developing your own personal style
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