March 6, 2014

This is not a sponsored post. It is my personal review of a free product sample.

The friendly folks at Toms of Maine asked me if I’d review their new men’s “Long Lasting” deodorant. I said yes and passed the stick along to my boyfriend Olivier since, well, he’s the ideal test subject! Not to have me feeling left out, they sent me my very own stick to try and I am fully satisfied with the product. Honestly, I’d tell you if I wasn’t.

My history of deodorant goes way back to the first day I smelled something “not so swell” wafting from my pits up to my nose. I used antiperspirant for a few years until health studies started popping up, warning consumers of the health risks of using such products. The media picked up a scent that antiperspirants weren’t all they were cracked up to be and I listened. Since then I have tried natural crystals (basically consisted of applying water to my underarm area with a crystal – yeah, not so effective for moi), 100% organic sprays (effective but no longer available in Ottawa), organic pit pastes and balms (gave me a rash) and more. I finally found my smell saviour deodorant from Toms of Maine, their “Naturally Dry” one over a year ago and I’ve been using their toothpastes for almost half a decade too.

I’ve been testing out their new “Long Lasting” stick in refreshing lemongrass and I think I’m going to keep using this one once this sample runs out. I have sensitive skin and I usually get red bumps from applying deodorant (soon after but not too soon after a shave). This kind is very soothing to my poor pits and the lemongrass scent is, well, refreshing! I don’t smell like deodorant, even at the end of the day, and it doesn’t stain my shirts – a big plus. The nicest part of using this deodorant? The application. Rather than a stiff, baby-powder consistency, this stick feels more like a smooth, oily balm so it goes on easily and doesn’t tug at my skin.

toms of main-deodorant-womenYou need to know that I’m very conscious of the products I use, from deodorant, toothpaste, make up, cleansers and moisturizers, I do my research, listen to expert advice and test out a lot of brands along the way. Eco-beauty expert and journalist, Adria Vasil, is incredibly knowledgeable on the ingredients to avoid in beauty products. She is suspicious of the existence of propylene glycol in Toms of Maine’s deodorants and you can read more about this via her column in NOW Magazine. I read the company’s website and they have a pretty thorough explanation of their use of the ingredient, which I appreciate. They admit that in high concentrations and in different forms, it can be harmful (like most ingredients), but not how it’s used in their products. I’ll look into this more, to be safe, but I do like their transparency. I’ll ask Adria what she thinks and let you know her response. Stay tuned for an eco-beauty feature of Adria and our friend and EF beauty contributor, Lyz Plant, playing makeover. 

Olivier has been using his sample whenever he stays over (two-three times a week) for the past two weeks and he reported liking application and its scent, but he says he smelled a bit of body odour at the end of the day. He’s going to continue to use it and he’ll be adding his own review shortly.

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So if you’re on the lookout for a new deodorant, I’d highly recommend trying out Toms of Maine’s new “Long Lasting” line.

Brothers We Stand

February 28, 2014

I interviewed Jonathan Mitchell of Brothers We Stand a couple of months ago for a piece I wrote for the Ethical Fashion Forum on the current status of sustainable and ethical menswear. Brothers We Stand is a UK-based, online ethical and sustainable fashion shop, selling high quality, classic staples to men who are conscious consumers of fashion. The company has set out to prove that you don’t have to sacrifice style and function for ethics, showcasing a dozen contemporary menswear lines that each have their unique story to tell. From small production runs to organic materials, fair trade and ethical production, each label is carefully chosen for its message and this, says Mitchell, is the key to building a loyal customer base. “You need a good story to share your vision and sell a great product.”

One element of the ethical and sustainable fashion industry that is difficult to navigate? Standards. “I think the standards are all quite tough, even the label standards. There are a lot of sub standards out there too. Manufacturers have different certifications and it’s hard to know how legitimate they are. The supply chain is difficult to navigate. People are starting to think about beyond having factories that have certifications but also factories that have certain policies in place,” says Mitchell. Online shops such as Brothers We Stand help consumers navigate this pool of more and more eco-fashion brands, making the shopping experience simpler and carefree.










Brothers We Stand




Photos courtesy of Brothers We Stand

Aus Design

January 10, 2014

Reet Aus went to Bangladesh while working on her PhD thesis. There she visited Beximco, one of the biggest vertically integrated clothing manufacturers in Bangladesh with more than 27,000 employees. It has contracts with retail heavyweights such as H&M and Zara. While visiting the factory, Aus noticed a large amount of leftover fabric was being thrown out. She saw an opportunity to partner with the manufacturing giant and turn its fabric waste into an entirely new Reet Aus clothing line.

Reet Aus designs and Beximco produces, together they solve an urgent problem of fabric waste. To its knowledge, Reet Aus is the first and only clothing company to do this. You’ll notice that each garment is labelled with statistics that show how much water, energy and Co2 was saved by making the garment.

Currently, the label is busy working on its new collection for the upcoming Berlin Fashion Week.

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December 20, 2013

I’m in a bit of a fitness craze at the moment, specifically related to fitness apparel companies whose funky names, coincidentally, begin with the letter “l”. First Lolë, now LÆNE SCANDINAVIA.

LÆNE SCANDINAVIA is designed by Heidi Helavirta and Anette Cantagallo. They met at The London College of Fashion where they both completed a masters in Fashion Design and Technology, graduating in 2009. Since then, Heidi has worked at the Finnish National Opera and Anette was trained at Stella McCartney and worked at Unconditional in London, and Denis Colomb in Los Angeles.

The label’s cornerstones are sleek design, high-performance and sustainability. The primary inspiration and concept is drawn from the pristine and untouched nature of Scandinavia where both Heidi and Anette grew up.

Like what you see? Buy four styles at 50 percent off via the brand’s Kickstarter page and receive free shipping!


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The Mayflower has come ashore

November 18, 2013

Came across this great new online vintage shop, Mayflower Supply Co., via my fave blog, Miss Moss. The Mayflower just landed this month and it has kicked off its journey with a real bang. Founder Liz Hull has beautifully woven her concept into a classic brand that is sure to make her ancestors proud and this generation ever so well dressed. I quickly signed up for updates and was happy to see a beautiful lookbook to browse in my inbox a few days ago. Take a look!

Mayflower Supply is an online shop selling handpicked vintage clothing, shoes and accessories with a nod to New England sensibilities.

Named after the ship that brought owner Liz Hull’s ancestors to the new world in 1620, Mayflower Supply focuses on classic pieces with sound construction, and unique but wearable vintage sourced from all over New England.

Our goal is to dress you like a Kennedy on a Pilgrim’s budget. – Mayflower Supply Co.

Here are my fave looks. Photographer: Courtney Brooke Hall, Stylist: Emily Theobald, Model: Emily Theobald.

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Keep warm, feel right

October 11, 2013

New Tech Livorno

ECOALF is every environmentally responsible Canadian’s dream come true: warm, stylish outerwear with a conscience. I have my eyes on the brand’s deep khaki green Courchevel down jacket. It’s made out of 80 recycled plastic bottles. Oh and it looks fab. If only they shipped to Canada…sigh.

When my first child was born, I had the idea of creating a truly sustainable fashion brand.

A company that would not use the planet’s natural resources indiscriminately but instead would recycle those that had already been used and create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products. ECOALF symbolizes what I believe the fabrics and products of the new generations should be, and for that reason I incorporated the first letters of my son’s name, Alfredo, into the brand.

Since then, our objective has been to travel the world, looking for factories where we can invest in R+D so that together we can create fabrics, soles and laces, labels, thermal insulation, linings and all the elements necessary for producing our collections by using sophisticated recycling processes on such varied waste products as fishing nets, tires, post-industrial cotton, coffee, PET bottles, etc.

Where other people see trash, ECOALF sees raw material that can be turned into new top quality, design products.

We put all our efforts into creating authentic products that reflect our values in every detail.

We are aware that the development of a sustainable model begins with the design. It is our way of understanding true luxury.

Every day we do our utmost in the hope that you will become an active part of this on-going story.

Javier Goyeneche (Founder and President)

Aspen Down Jacket and Dublin Packpack Aspen Down Jacket Man Blue KleinCape Town Aspen Down Jacket Man Khaki Logo Ecoalf low resolutionAspen Down Jacket Woman Mustard Cape Blue Klein
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London Organizer Anthracite London Quilted Organizer Blue Klein New Tech Livorno Man Khaki (recycled coffee fabric)
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Two Birds, one menswear line

October 1, 2013


Canadian eco menswear has always been the dull side of the spoon since eco-fashion first sprung up globally in the 1980s. Husband and wife team, Daniel and Tiffany Andrew of Toronto-based but soon to be Vancouver-based Two Birds Apparel are helping to fill this gap of premium men’s casual fashion in Canada’s booming eco-fashion market.

The husband and wife duo launched their line of sustainable, ethically made basics this past June, at first providing both male and female customers with a classic collection of wardrobe staples made for durability and comfort more so than trendiness. Two Birds has since decided to focus its efforts on giving its male clientele more eco options, sighting that there are already many Canadian eco labels for women. Joining the likes of Elroy and Outclass, two established Canadian menswear brands, Two Birds Apparel will launch its fall/winter 2014 menswear line made up of a carefully curated selection of high quality, Made in Canada staples from a tencel/organic cotton cardigan to 100% organic cotton crew neck sweaters, hoodies and lounge pants.

This shift in clientele focus is perfectly in line with the careful, well thought out esprit of Two Birds’ designers, Daniel and Tiffany. Soon into our phone interview, it was easy to tell that this couple put a lot of thought and effort into developing their line. Every decision they made in the lead up to Two Bird Apparel’s launch was well researched. They weren’t just jumping the eco-fashion bandwagon for some kicks and a chance at making a profit.

“I had to find different business models that demonstrated that sustainability and business could go hand in hand,” says Daniel, a sustainability consultant, business graduate and Chartered Accountant. “Not only that, but that they are superior business models in terms of longevity and in terms of being a social mission to help people enjoy life and the things in it.”

The key aspect to selling their product, says Daniel, was including an educational arm to the company’s marketing plan, informing clients of the benefits of buying sustainable and ethical clothing.

“There are a lot of advantages to buying eco but peoples’ hesitations to do so have more to do with their perception that eco clothing costs more. This seems to be a real sticking point,” says Daniel. “My business professors would say it’s [cost] the leading influence in people making purchases. So if you focus solely on cost, it’s hard for a company to have a sustainable mission to compete head-to-head with a company doing everything as cheaply as possible. When you start educating people, that helps shed light on why it’s important to spend more money to support the people making your clothing.”

Fans of Two Birds appreciate the brand’s commitment to source from Canada’s somewhat limited sustainable fabric supply, local manufacturing and developing a clean aesthetic that would stand the test of time.

“We wanted them [products] to be as classic as possible,” says Tiffany of the team’s pieces. “I like to avoid disposable fashion, so anything trendy isn’t in line with our business model. We only produce things that have a good fit, clean look and will be flattering for most people.”

It may come as a surprise to many that one of the hardest things to accomplish when starting an eco-fashion line is sourcing fabric. North America’s garment industry took a nose dive in the 1970s when companies saw the profit-driven advantages of sourcing cheap labour overseas. Local mainstream fabric is hard enough to find, let alone sustainable fabric.

“I started researching fabric before I started talking with Daniel about developing the line,” says Tiffany. “We really wanted to stay local. Stock colours are limited and the cost to make it here is way too high for many people starting out. But it’s about research. If you’re starting out and you’re passionate about making your product something that’s going to be ethical and sustainable, it’s possible, maybe not at the capacity you want, but start small and build, which we’re trying to do now. You’ll have to express to people why it’s a good investment. So it’ll just take more time.”

The concept for Two Birds came about during a trip the couple took to Bowen Island. It seems only natural that the eco-line was born in a natural setting, remarked Tiffany, and now the company’s moving out West permanently. Vancouver’s eco-fashion scene is more mature than Toronto’s with a well-established Eco-fashion Week and more manufacturers to choose from. The West Coast city is also Daniel’s hometown and inspiration for his lifestyle choices. “Vancouver is very green. I grew up recycling and all of these experiences led me to want to start a sustainable business,” he says.

Tiffany grew up in cottage country near Huntsville, Ont. Her close relationship with nature throughout her childhood influenced her to become a vegan later on in life and she says that meeting Daniel made her more of an environmentalist. “I’m completely opposite to Daniel. I studied art, I’ve been a dancer since I was young, starting with classical ballet,” she says. But these two complement each other well, one business-savvy and one creative. “I used to direct and choreograph dances. I started working with wardrobe and got more into the fashion side of performance.”

With the launch of their second collection coming up, the Two Birds designers are introducing new eco-textiles and planning on producing custom fabrics. “Right now our fabric is a blend of bamboo and cotton,” says Daniel. “Like anything sustainable, it’s all about trade off. Bamboo isn’t a native plant to Canada but we like its growing properties. In many parts of the world, it’s essentially a weed. It grows rapidly and it’s hardy. It isn’t as damaging as conventional cotton in terms of damaging soil. The properties of bamboo itself are nice and it feels nice as a fabric. We also want to support the organic agriculture industry. Some of our garments have a blend and as we grow and customize we’d like to move more in that direction.”

As Two Birds Apparel heads West with plans to expand, the brand is still focused on promoting other like-minded collections. They now sell WeWOOD watches made out of salvaged wood alongside Sires Crown Eyewear from L.A. You can now find Two Birds Apparel in Logan & Finley on Queen West in Toronto, Ont. and look out for them in more boutiques in Toronto and Vancouver this fall.

Tips for budding eco-designers:

Don’t be scared to start. It’s possible to test things out with family and friends. You don’t have to have an expensive product line to begin with. It isn’t as expensive as you think to get samples made. There are a lot of resources out there for young entrepreneurs for start-up financing and mentorship. There’s also crowd-funding, especially for designs and products that have unique and innovative features to them. This can be a really good option and some of these things go viral. It’s one great way to collect some support from family and friends. The other one, which I’ve had involvement with, is the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. They offer loans to youth where a bank probably wouldn’t and they offer low-interest loans. You don’t have to have a huge amount of money to start as long as you have the drive and know-how.

Future of eco-fashion?

As the middle class grows in Asia, it’s starting to become more expensive to manufacture there and it’s actually becoming cheaper to manufacture certain things here. There will be a shift in manufacturing to help bring some of that here from an economic stand point. And as designers, it’s our responsibility to create things that are appealing to people at price points that are reasonable and to educate. But education alone isn’t going to be a big enough influence. I’ve seen a number of brands out there that make stuff that is eco but it isn’t necessarily something we want to wear. Finding a good balance in design, reasonable price and sustainability is the sweet spot and hopefully it’ll continue to help people make better consumer choices.

Favourite sustainable brands?

Tiffany – Keep Shoes from California. This is a vegan shoe company, which has a variety of designs that include natural materials such as organic cotton and hemp.

Daniel – One of the things we’re trying to do is help promote other sustainable brands so we’ve established a partnership with Sires Crown in L.A. They’re a really interesting company that makes high-end wooden eyewear (sunglasses and prescription glasses) using exotic woods. For every pair they make they plant ten to thirty trees with Trees for the Future. They’re a brand that I admire.

Two Birds Apparel is a North American brand that believes in sustainable practices that reflect the integrity of our planet. Our eco-luxury apparel is made of premium materials that are sourced responsibly. We focus on minimizing our carbon footprint by keeping our supply chain as local as possible. Our fashion lines are knit, dyed and manufactured in Canada within a 100-km radius. Where possible we use environmentally preferable materials such as bamboo and organic cotton.

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Cozy knits just in time for fall

September 26, 2013


Here Today Here Tomorrow is a sustainable fashion and accessories shop and studio based in Dalston, London. Be sure to stop by the shop on Wednesday, October 2 from 4 p.m. to enjoy drinks and a private viewing of the label’s adorably chic a/w collection. You will also get a chance to win a beautiful piece from the collection!

This new line of 100%, fair trade, wool knitwear is the product of three years of collaboration with the company’s fair trade producers in Nepal. Read their full story here.

I love how they’ve taken staple spring pieces, such as the mini skirt, and made it fall friendly in knit. And the boat neck, sleeveless sweater is a must to throw over turtlenecks or to pair with a silk skirt for that nice contrast between heavy and light fabrics.


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NYFW Flashback: Vaute Couture

August 16, 2013

An interview with founder and creative director Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart

VAUTE- New York Fashion Week Solo Debut from Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart on Vimeo.

With autumn fast approaching, we look back at one of our favourite A/W 2013 shows of New York Fashion Week.

After the label’s fashion week debut last February, Vaute Couture was the name on everyone’s lips. It’s hard not to be captivated by a runway show where rescue dogs wearing bows graced the runway.

This puppy love is far more than an accessory. As the first all-vegan label to show at NYFW, Vaute Couture seized the opportunity to showcase its unique blend of animal rights activism and cutting-edge sustainable fashion.

At the heart of Vaute Couture is a strong belief in business as a model for activism. The label’s mission is to push the fashion industry forward through innovation in sustainable fabrics and apparel design. By sourcing and developing high-performance fabrics that are both eco-conscious and animal-friendly, Vaute Couture aims to influence the practices of the mainstream fashion industry from within.

The runway of NYFW also served as a more direct platform for animal rights activism: the canine “models” were in fact available for adoption, and representatives from the New York Humane Society and Badass Brooklyn Rescue were present to field audience questions.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Katcher.

Vaute Couture developed out of a predicament we Canadians know all too well — the difficulty of finding a cruelty-free, fashionable dress coat that can actually keep us warm in -20°C winter weather. Chicagoan Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, a long-time supporter of animal rights, saw this gap in the market as the perfect opportunity to make a contribution to animal rights activism. In 2008, Hilgart quit her modeling contract and MBA studies to devote herself fully to making a mark in the fashion industry, bringing together the principles of “high ethics, high function and high design”. Vaute Couture’s first line launched in the summer of 2009, and its stylish, vegan winter coats immediately garnered a devoted following.

The A/W 2013 collection, the label’s first full ready-to-wear line, expanded the label beyond its trademark outerwear and t-shirts. All the garments were made locally in New York City, and materials ranged from waxed canvas to bamboo jersey. Inspired by Sailor Moon, the collection combines mixed separates in different fabrics and textures, adding depth and visual interest to modern silhouettes. Pops of bright blue, zippers, and peter pan collars accentuate this contemporary styling for a cool, effortless look. Shop the collection here.

It’s easy to see why Vaute Couture’s “compassionate cool” caught the attention of mainstream media behemoths CNN and Business Insider.

After the whirlwind of NYFW, EF Magazine got the chance to chat with Vaute Couture founder and creative director Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart about her first NYFW experience, the A/W 2013 collection and her drive to develop the future of fashion through sustainable, cruelty-free innovation.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

EF Magazine: How does your ethical vision inform your design process?

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart: I am first and foremost here to innovate in fabrics and apparel design to create a more conscientious and sustainable fashion industry. I approach fashion from an invention and problem-solving standpoint: What elements of production can be improved? What fibers and fabrics are at once sustainable, animal-free, have the drape, hand, protection, and price that make it at once better than wearing animals is, and accessible to the mainstream?

EF: What are some of the biggest challenges in incorporating ethical sources and practices?

LMH: The biggest challenge is that my fabric is not ready to go. And it can’t be purchased in small quantities. And it’s not necessarily available for the samples in the same finish and color as it will be when we do the production run of fabric. This limits the style, texture, patterns that I can design with and increases the scale of which I have to produce each style. Also, of course, it’s challenging to do everything without compromising ethics, when Americans are used to purchasing apparel made in sweatshops overseas. They interpret a higher price with greed, when it’s the other way around. It’s because I care about the workers getting paid fairly that we can’t sell this to you for cheap. America is starting to realize that we’ve become pawns in the profit-driven fast fashion arena, buying more and creating more trash. Instead we’re pushing the idea to invest in pieces from companies who are supporting people and sustainable practices and mills, and at the same time purchase second hand clothes. All together this creates an affordable wardrobe that is yours alone, and you can express yourself in your own way, instead of being a slave to trends and what the big box stores want you to buy.

EF: What was the most rewarding experience of being involved in New York Fashion Week?

LMH: New York Fashion Week taught me to trust myself, to trust the process. Out of character, I panicked the week before, not sure I could pull it off. But the amazing response from CNN, BusinessInsider, and US News and World Report, when I was exhausted and couch-bound the week after from giving it my all and then some… reminded me that when you’re doing your best, and taking that leap of faith, you’ll have a safe landing. Trust, trust, trust. Always.

EF: What inspired this season’s collection?

LMH: The Fall 2013 Collection is inspired by Sailor Moon, filled with oversized bows, fit and flare shapes, heart and star cutouts, and bright pops of color. Sailor Moon is an inspiration and really tells a story that I think should be told again and again. An “earth” girl saves a kitten from being abused on the street, and in turn the cat turns out to be a magic cat who transforms her into her super self, Sailor Moon, who is a “soldier for love and justice.” This story is one that tells us that by giving we are find our best selves. That we all have a better version of ourselves just waiting to awaken and be put to use for making the world better.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

EF: You recently opened up a store in Williamsburg. How has becoming a brick-and-mortar business influenced your design and production process?

LMH: Having a space for our friends and fans from around the world to visit has made me super happy. I have been touring with VAUTE since the beginning, for a few years now, so having a store is like having a permanent tour to meet everyone, get feedback, and see my designs on different bodies and worn different ways. This is invaluable information to have during the design and production process. But the biggest change is in our customer service abilities. By meeting so many more of our customers in person, it’s been really fun to get to know everyone and what they like and what they think.

EF: Since the launch of your label in 2008, the mainstream fashion industry has increasingly embraced sustainability. How has this shaped Vaute Couture, and your position as a vegan fashion designer?

LMH: I focus on developing the future of fashion that is at once sustainable, vegan, and superior in performance than traditional animal fibers have been, so we can push the industry forward. We aren’t just about ethics or an alternative lifestyle, our innovation is in using high-performance fabrics that are also vegan and eco-conscious, so that I can develop the next step in fabrics that are beneficial for the entire industry. The increased awareness in mainstream fashion has meant that they are starting to see the importance and response to caring about what we wear, and are very interested in how I’m working to push the industry forward without using animal fibers.

EF: If you could collaborate with another sustainable designer, who would it be?

LMH: One of my close friends, Joshua Katcher, of Brave Gentle Man is a menswear designer of sustainable men’s suits and shoes. We’ve discussed collaborating to create some men’s pieces, so that might happen soon. Joshua is the kindest, funniest guy out there, and his style is impeccable.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Vaughan.

EF: What kind of innovative sustainable practices or technologies do you hope to explore in your next collection?

LMH: I’m working on accessories next with recycled fiber and vegan leathers to create some sexy structured bags, and I’m also working on some zero-waste knit processes made here in NYC.

For more cruelty-free fashion, follow Vaute Couture on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Main photo by Anthony TwoMoons.

Velo Vogue bike fashion show recap

June 5, 2013

Weren’t able to attend Ottawa Velo Vogue’s bike fashion show this past Saturday? We have you covered! The intimate venue (the Kichesippi Beer brewery) lent itself well to the quirky aesthetic of the show. Guests lined the crooked runway that ran around huge, steel brewing vats. Models rode or walked alongside beautiful bicycles of all shapes and sizes, and the fashions represented a great variety of pieces from Ottawa’s local boutiques and designers.

Photography courtesy of Luke Ciesielski

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