Helping the planet one clothes pony at a time

Stay trendy and be savvy by shopping organic and vintage

Era Modern Vintage manager Karli Heeney says shopping vintage saves money and helps the planet.
Era Modern Vintage manager Karli Heeney says shopping vintage saves money and helps the planet.

Certain fashion trends die hard, but your old shopping habits don’t have to with the abundance of organic and vintage clothing available in Kingston.

Sustainable fashions are all the rage in today’s design world, with more clothing companies adopting the green philosophy and more shoppers opting for organic and vintage clothing to help the environment.

Organic clothes certified by Skal International, a non-profit Dutch company that tests and verifies international organic farming standards, are made from materials raised or grown without the use of chemicals in the form of pesticides, herbicides or other artificial treatments. Shoppers should look for the SKAL label to be sure they’re buying genuinely organic products.

Kingston stores Roots, Lululemon, Urban Trade, and Forward feature organic products. Karma Wear, a store that sold a complete line of organic products, closed in May. Hatley, a store in downtown Kingston, features clothes made from organic cotton and other all-natural fibers.

Jeremy Oldland, head of production and part owner of Hatley Inc., based in Montreal, said many people buy organic clothing for the feel-good factor and the knowledge that the product they’re buying isn’t harming the planet in its production.

“Growing organic cotton helps the local ground water. They are benefitting by not having pesticides or artificial fertilizers being put into the ground,” he said.

Oldland said Hatley tries to make sure every step of the production process is environmentally efficient. Its factories in India use a closed-tube dyeing system that ensures the solid waste from dye doesn’t get into the water system. The company also conducts a social accountability audit to make sure the factories have fair labour practices.

“We try and put our best foot forward. We inspect our factories to make sure they are using the best practices,” he said.

Oldland encourages consumers to pay attention to the clothes they’re buying. Since organic cotton is often hard to come by, he suggests buying clothes from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo, and to avoid petro-chemical based products such as polyester and nylon.

American Apparel, which has a location on Princess St. sells a collection of organic clothing under the Sustainable Edition banner. Anything in an American Apparel store that has Sustainable Edition on the tag is made with 100 per cent organic cotton.

American Apparel spokesperson Ryan Holiday said the company tries to use as much organic cotton as possible in all of their garments, something that separates them from other companies.

“Clothes not in the Sustainable Edition line can still have as high as a 20 per cent organic cotton mix and we’re still trying to push that higher,” he told the Journal via e-mail.

In an effort to eliminate waste, the company turns remaining or unused fabric from other garments into underwear and baby lines. They turn scraps into braid belts rather than wasting them or throwing them away, with the remaining fabric recycled or donated to arts and crafts groups.

American Apparel also saves on shipping and manufacturing by refusing to outsource its labour. The company also operates its own Los Angeles-based fabric dye house, garment dye house and knitting facility, Holiday said.

For shoppers looking to curb their consumerism, shopping vintage is a way to save money and promote the recycling of clothing. Era Modern Vintage is a popular vintage store in downtown Kingston that sells vintage clothes, books, furniture, dishes and jewellery. People from all over Kingston bring in their used goods to be resold to shoppers. The store opened three years ago in downtown Kingston. It was originally a combination of designer and vintage products, but became solely a mod shop one year later. They later added furniture, photos, books, etc to their merchandise.

“There is a great selection of stuff coming in everyday. People can bring it in, or we have a delivery truck go out and pick it up two to three times a week,” Karli Heeney, the store’s manager, said. She said thanks to their many regular customers, items are usually sold within a couple of days of their arrival.

Era Modern Vintage determines what is to be sold based on condition. Whatever clothes they will not sell are sent to a recycling plant in Toronto. The store is large, open, and packed with pieces dating back to the 1950s.

“Some neat and crazy stuff comes through this store,” Heeney said. “You just can’t find anything like these pieces anymore. Also, they’re in great in condition and will last a lot longer than other clothes. If they’ve already lasted 30 years, they’re likely to last for years to come.” The store features a diverse group of pieces including dresses, blazers, jeans and jackets, with prices from $1 to $20.

Heeney said she encourages shoppers to shop vintage because less waste goes out when you buy used clothes.

“There is enough stuff already out there to clothe everyone, we don’t need to buy any more.”

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