Photo: Chris Blanchette

Ryerson students organize fair trade fashion show

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By Zeinab Saidoun

Ethically-made and eco-friendly fashion was brought to the runway at The Common Thread fashion show that was organized by Ryerson students.

These unique pieces made by Toronto’s own fair trade designers – presented to over 200 attendees at Daniels Spectrum – are unlike what we see in most retail stores today. They were either up-cycled, manufactured with no waste, fair trade, or all the above. The models were even wearing fair trade lipstick.

In hopes of raising awareness and starting a social movement, RTA media production students organized the show as part of their practicum project. Niki Gerety, the designer behind fashion label NG, explained that we could all make a difference if we ask ourselves a simple question: “who makes my clothes?”

“We can’t turn an eye to some of the issues in the fashion industry today,” said Marie-Claire Duquette, executive producer of The Common Thread.

According to Joanna Minakakis, executive producer and head communications of The Common Thread, the whole idea came together when Duquette showed her “The True Cost” documentary which shows the reality of clothing manufacturers in countries such as Bangladesh, Mexico and Venezuela.

“We want people to know that fair trade is fashionable and is so close to home,” said Minakakis. “It is so important to shop local and focus on the cause.”

The show featured seven local Toronto designers and each had a unique story and style behind their fair trade creations, however they all had a common goal-to reduce the negative outcome of fast fashion.

“When I think of companies using sweatshops, I just think pure greed,” said Paul Garcia, designer of Pablot. “My clothes are sourced from American Apparel because they are made sweatshop-free.”

Although Garcia went to school for economics, his love for fashion allowed him to further understand what happens behind the scenes in the industry and start making a change. Garcia said that this is his way of making a change for those who get paid $2 a day.

Self-taught Toronto designer Gabriel Ting saw the sweatshops first-hand when he went back home to the Philippines. He explained that it was a game changer for him to see the reality of where our clothes come from.

“I’m not the type to preach about fair trade, but we need to understand what the fashion industry is doing to developing countries,” he said. “We need to understand that paying $300 for a jacket is better than $15 every other week.”

As a consumer of fashion herself, designer of Elear, Cathleen Calica said that she loves the hard work that goes into a fair trade piece of clothing. She explained that not only are the pieces fashionable, they are sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

“The idea of up-cycling is to take something toxic and make it beautiful,” said Calica. “It’s worth spending the money on.”

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