Sustainability is not a trend. It’s an entire way of thinking about how we live our lives. For the next wave of style superstars from Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Design program, how clothes are constructed has become as important as what they look like.
“The growing interest and commitment to sustainable fashion from our students and faculty fills me with delight,” smiles Tyler Udall, Executive Director of Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Design Program. “We’re at a pivotal moment in history and our industry plays a major role in steering the world towards a more sustainable future. This is going to be an exciting but long road towards a more eco-friendly way of living, and necessity is the mother of invention. I’m thrilled to nurture and bare witness to the innovative work and working styles born from this committed path forward.”
FASHION DESIGN STUDENT: SAMANTHA TRAN
“Consumers are more aware now than ever,” agrees 2021 graduate Samantha Tran. “It’s a lot easier for people to be informed and see the real effects fast fashion brands have. There’s definitely some green washing going on, so it’s important that we never stop pushing for improvement.
“I actually was wary about getting into fashion because I spent a lot of time learning about the impacts of fast fashion and the factory farming industry. But then I saw people upcycle garments on Youtube and began reading more about ways to change the fashion industry. I visited Blanche and everything fell into place!”
For my collection I limited the kinds of fabric I used, with all natural and organic cotton, cotton jersey, and silk organza. I also sourced everything from Canada, trying my best to stay in BC and support local fabric suppliers. I hand painted all the prints and prevent minimal run-off waste as well. I could have done even more but I learned a lot from the process. It's incredibly important that we are always learning, listening and finding solutions! —Samantha Tran
FASHION DESIGN GRADUATE-TURNED-TA: DAISY COOK
Education was at the heart of graduate-turned-TA Daisy Cook’s changing approach to fashion.
“I used to have an unhealthy spending habit with the majority of my money going on clothes,” she recalls. “The cheaper the better! I never bothered to find out where my clothes came from. It was definitely an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. As more horrifying news stories started appearing it made the issues around fashion so much harder to ignore. I became much more aware of the personal decisions I was making. I questioned if I should really be encouraging people to buy new things when there’s so much existing already. So I compromised and began to make new things out of the old!”
I thrifted all of the fabric I used for my grad collection. Nothing was brought new (bar one lining fabric due to a delay in delivery). I continue to practise these techniques in all of my designs since my grad collection, still only using existing fabrics. Having boundaries to work within encourages creativity! — Daisy Cook
These days Daisy is inspiring, and being inspired by, the next wave of sustainability-focussed designers.
“Today’s students are so aware of the effects of the fashion industry. It’s enlightening to hear them discuss and debate sustainable practises with their own designs and lifestyles.
“I’m glad these conversations are happening but we’ve all got a long way to go!”
SUSTAINABILITY IN DESIGN AWARD-WINNER: GALA PETERS
“I always loved fashion,” explains award-winning grad Gala Peters, “but as I learned more about the impacts of manufacturing I knew something had to change.
“My graduation collection at Blanche Macdonald was made entirely from recycled materials. Helping protect and heal our environment is something I feel very passionately about, so I needed to showcase a line that had a strong element of sustainability. That was the bottom line of my collection.”
I sourced all my textiles from off cuts from large manufacturers or repurposed clothes I found a second hand stores. Having patchwork and panelling elements in my designs made it possible for me to use smaller amounts of fabric to form my garments. — Gala Peters
“After my collection debuted, Blanche awarded me with the Sustainability in Design Award. I’ll forever hold that Award close to my heart as it wasn’t something they’d awarded in the past and was created because of my efforts.”
“My efforts towards sustainability can have a larger impact; starting from production, to distribution, and in the end the customer mindset and how they use our products. Ethically produced fashion is in demand now more than ever. For example, organic cotton is really trending in the fashion world right now. Conventional cotton relies on harsh chemicals for production. These chemicals leach into our environment and have a big impact on the health of our planet. By using organic cotton we’re able to replenish and maintain soil fertility while promoting biologically diverse agriculture.”
A passion that took shape at Fashion School has taken root in the industry itself as Gala has continued to spread the gospel of sustainability as an Account Manager for Vancouver brand Noble Gentlemen.