Over coffee at the new Luke’s Central Library location, Alena Tran or @allyctran, a Calgarian ethical fashion blogger – with nearly 13,000 Instagram followers – muses on the moment her fashion worldview shifted two years ago.
It was a quiet night at home and she turned on The True Cost, a documentary detailing the negative aspects of fast fashion, especially the impact the industry has on its employees.
“The documentary really planted that concept in my mind that I was complicit in the suffering of these people, by supporting brands that are exploiting some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world,” says Tran.
Inhumane working conditions for garment works, child labour, and negative environmental impact were just some of the realities of fast fashion that the documentary has pulled back the veil on for Tran.
Ever since then, she has wholeheartedly embraced the ethical fashion realm, first sorting her own closet, then committing to buy less garments, and, after learning the gaps in her wardrobe choosing to buy vintage or from ethical makers.
“I had no idea where I would get clothes in the future but I knew that I would figure it out as I went and, like a true millennial, I thought, ‘What better way to do that then by documenting through Instagram?’,” says Tran.
Now, her personal Instagram showcases neutral-toned, French-girl-chic outfits starring vintage finds and clothing created by brands committed to the ethical fashion movement. While her blog, allyctran.com, features a “responsible brand directory” where she has created a labelling system for each brand based on what they offer, such as ‘F’ for Certified Fair Trade and “+” for “Offers Plus/Inclusive Sizes”.
Just recently, she and her sister-in-law, Amanda Tran, launched Truce Clothing, an online vintage clothing and accessory shop with local pick-up options and biodegradable packaging.
Below Alena shares tips on being a more world-conscious fashion consumer, and still looking fabulous:
How do you define “ethical fashion”?
“Ethical fashion is a brand that tries to minimize its negative impact on people and maximize the positive. So their employees are their top priority. They’re making business decisions out of that, rather than making profit their priority. My priority is the garment workers to be paid a living wage, and [brands who] really go above and beyond and try to lift workers out of the cycle of poverty instead of just doing the bare minimum. That’s the kind of brand that I really want to support.”
What are some great resources for learning more about ethical fashion/slow fashion/sustainable fashion?
“Follow some ethical influencers (she recommends: @leevosburgh, @thegarmentlife, @ecowarriorprincess, @aldenwicker and @jesswithless) there’s so many of us now and people who are really committed to that lifestyle are constantly sharing tips. And as for books, Elizabeth Cline’s books are wonderful. She was ahead of her time and she saw these problems [early]. She’s just come out with a new one this year, called The Conscious Closet.”
What is the best way to start building a more ethical wardrobe?
First just buy less, because we can’t shop our way to a more sustainable world. We really need to first start by looking at our own buying habits, because it’s that fast, cheap, quick, convenient model that got us into this trouble in the first place. Learn how to really mix and match and get the full wear out of your wardrobe. And then, if you do need something new, and the secondhand stores don’t have what you’re looking for, I’d say turn to ethical brands.
What are some brands you love?
For jeans: Outland Denim, they’re an Australian denim but you can buy them at Holt Renfrew. James Martell, the founder, opened a garment factory in Cambodia and employs woman who either are survivors or at risk of human trafficking. The jean quality is amazing, they use organic cotton and vegetable dyes.
For basic T-shirts: Kotn, they are based out of Toronto but have free shipping throughout Canada. They use Egyptian cotton, but they trace their entire supply chain back to the farmer’s picking cotton and make sure that everyone is paid a living wage.
For shoes: Poppy Barley from Edmonton, they actually just opened a store in Market Mall. Their shoes are made in Mexico, but all really ethically made. They focus on the wellbeing of their garment makers and they try to use sustainable leather.
For swimwear: Nettle’s Tale and Minnow Bathers, they’re both similar brands where they focus on size inclusivity – that’s a big conversation that’s happening in ethical fashion. So these swimwear brands have a larger range of sizes and flattering all body types.