Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week comes to end after eight-year run

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      Eco Fashion Week, a Vancouver-founded, not-for-profit event that highlights environmentally friendly designers and garments, has canceled its 13th edition for 2018 and will not move forward with additional shows.

      In a media release, organizers cited a lack of sufficient support and said they will be reassessing the structure of its events and exploring alternate avenues for encouraging the conscious consumption of clothes. Speaking to the Straight by phone, EFW founder Myriam Laroche shared that the multi-day affair, which ran for 12 editions over the past eight years, was becoming increasingly difficult for its group of volunteers to produce given the limited funding.

      “We had to think about ourselves now,” she says. “It’s not healthy to produce fashion weeks anymore for the team. We need more support.”

      Laroche, who works as a full-time sustainability consultant for large-scale retailers, will also be returning to Quebec in February after spending 11 years on the West Coast. Although she remains passionate about the slow-fashion movement, she says that, at this time, there are no plans to resurrect EFW in the future. “There are a lot of questions still in mind about what’s the right way to go for the cause.”

      Founded in 2010, EFW offered a platform for 160-plus environmentally minded designers and labels from over 15 countries, including Vancouver’s own Mishel Bouillet, Obakki, and Bianca Bellatoni. It brought together 100 speakers and 80 vendors as part of its panel discussions, which saw figures like Esther Speck, vice president of global sustainability at Lululemon; local designers John Fluevog and Nicole Bridger; and Tony Shumpert, vice president of reuse and recycling at Value Village, converging in Vancouver to address how we can more sustainably produce, reuse, and dispose of clothing.

      The event was best known for its two signature shows: the Thrift Style Challenge, which tasked three local designers with crafting fully realized collections using only secondhand clothes, and the 81-Pound Challenge—formerly known as the 68-Pound Challenge—which saw a designer or group of designers producing a fashion line from exactly 81 pounds of gently worn fabrics, apparel, and accessories. The number represents the weight of textiles that the average North American tosses every year, according to statistics provided by Value Village.

      In 2016, EFW debuted a revamped spring/summer edition in Seattle. A portion of its most recent iteration, meanwhile, took place in Toronto, where Project Runway Canada winner Evan Biddell took on the duty of dreaming up a pre-loved fashion collection as part of the 81-Pound Challenge. The rock ‘n’ roll–inspired line was then transported to the Museum of Vancouver, where it was displayed for two weeks in April.

      Although EFW is bowing out of Vancouver’s fashion circuit, Laroche hopes that designers, retailers, and consumers alike will continue to re-evaluate their own manufacturing and consumption habits. “Being sustainable in fashion is not a trend anymore,” she says. “It’s the only way to go.”

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