I started interning with Paper People Clothing at the beginning of November and so far it has been a very unique experience for me. I moved to the city in September to begin an MA in fashion at Ryerson University and quickly realized that there will be no 'entry level' paid work in fashion manufacturing for me – retail is a cruel dream I'm trying to suppress... by getting some more retail work for the holidays... Ouch.
The environment here is fun and relaxed, I find myself getting caught up in some interesting conversations as I pick lint, cut patterns, and sew buttons. Listening to Jennifer is where most of my 'learning' has come from to this point, the way she talks to Ashley provides me moments of insight into what it takes to participate in the sustainable fashion industry of Toronto.
'Sustainable fashion' can wear many hats (pun intended...) from organic fibers grown 'green' to recycled garments being transformed into new updated creations – but what does it all mean? Sustainable fashion, to start, means that the manufacturing process makes a minimal impact on the environment. By using pre-existing garments to create new ones Paper People Clothing fits this bill. Even the scraps are salvaged to use as lint catchers and ties to organize and bind the clothing together.
Being 'green' is a hopelessly ambiguous term that seems to connote any practices that do not harm the environment by using toxic chemicals or pollutants – think BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) or biking to work instead of firing up the gas-guzzler. In farming and fiber production this means not using chemical pesticides in the creation of 'organic' cotton and considering the carbon foot print involved in transporting these fibers.
This all boils down to taking responsibility. We, as humans – to speak really broadly – have done a great job of putting the planet in peril. Fashion is seen by many as a useless and frivolous consumption pattern that contributes mostly to bigger landfills and taller piles of junk at Value Village's door. Paper People is providing a fresh take on the consumption by creating something new to freshen up your look while diminishing those junk piles and turning them into gold. Think alchemy but more useful.