When I discovered digital printing I was immediately drawn to the idea of creating silk scarves as a medium for my painting and illustration. There’s something magical about a piece of art floating on sheer silk. Digital printing allows you to reproduce your artwork on fabric without losing any detail while maintaining colours and textures.
Though excited by the idea, I found I was battling an internal conflict. Coming from an environmental sciences background I’ve always had reservations about the impact of fashion on the environment. I didn’t want to be part of an industry I inherently disagreed with. On the other hand I LOVE designing and creating a career out of my work has always been a dream. I also believe the value in fashion as an art form; it has the ability to tell a story, to create dialogue and to unite while expressing individualism.
However, the more I began exploring into the manufacturing mechanisms of the fashion industry the less I liked the idea of contributing to it. Documentaries and articles pertaining to the obscene amount of pollution, exploitation of workers rights and the waste created by the industry was a heart-breaking realisation. Added to this, recently many high-street apparel stores have hitched onto the ‘green’ bandwagon sporting buzzwords ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco’ clothing often as a feel-good marketing ploy without much transparency or information as to how they are environmentally friendly.
Moving to Vancouver earlier this year greatly changed my outlook. For those who don’t live here, Vancouver boasts some of the most progressive environmental policies of any major city. I was excited to see many of the stores adopting sustainable practices and being transparent about their practices, including several fashion boutiques.
So I began researching. What makes clothes sustainable? What does ethical manufacturing look like? I came up with a list of the biggest issues facing fashion production and found solutions I was comfortable with for my own products. It has been a long process as supply chains are often long, non-transparent and based overseas. As a designer you are reliant on factories to print and produce your products so it is important you find manufacturers that you trust.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was weighing the trade-offs involved. Is it better to manufacture somewhere that uses recycled packaging but has to be flown halfway round the world, or made locally with non-recycled materials? As sustainability becomes a core element of more companies I’m sure it will be easier to find both locally made and recycled packaging but until then I have settled with what I think has the least environmental impact.
My promise to my customers is to keep researching, keep adapting and remain transparent about any changes in the production processes I use. In this way I can ensure I have a set of products that are true to my values, and hopefully yours. As I write this, my first scarves are being printed and I could not be more excited to show you!