With documentaries such as The True Cost and River Blue, which expose the unethical and unsustainable nature of the fashion industry, entering the mainstream in recent years, it's become no secret that the process in which we obtain many of our clothes is a dirty one.
Luckily for us, however, events like First Pick Handmade, which returns for its second edition on Saturday and Sunday (March 17 and 18) at Heritage Hall (3102 Main Street), are making it easier for Vancouverites to access, discover, and shop a multitude of locally designed garments that are crafted with intention and minimal harm to the environment.
Below, we spotlight a few talented vendors to look for at the one-of-a-kind shopping affair this weekend.
Jessica Redditt Design
Jessica Redditt’s crisp, organic-cotton T-shirts, button-down dresses, and palazzo pants are washed in soft shades of indigo, yellow, orange, and aqua. However, unlike the threads at fast-fashion or big-box stores, the hues here are derived naturally from a dye garden that the local designer cultivates herself.
“Natural colours are one way to get [an article of clothing] to be almost 100 percent sustainable,” Redditt says by phone. “So, over the last couple of years, I’ve begun experimenting with colouring textiles and colour testing. It’s become a passion and something that I really love.”
The fashion-industry veteran designs and hand-dyes her made-in-Vancouver garments (from $90) using pigments she draws from plants like marigolds and hibiscuses. The process of making and then applying the tints to the clothing is time-consuming and requires a lot of experimentation, says Redditt, but worth it for the end result. “It’s all really fun,” she adds. “It’s kind of like being a scientist.”
Reddit hopes to debut her eponymous line with a look book and Kickstarter before the end of March, though curious attendees can get a sneak peek at the five-piece capsule collection at First Pick Handmade. There, the Calgary-raised designer will also have a selection of recycled-silk kimonos decorated with vibrant florals on hand.
Local designer Samantha MacKinnon was out and about one afternoon when the bottom of the tote she was carrying—a reusable bag from some generic big-name grocer—broke suddenly, sending her belongings tumbling onto the concrete below. “It just burst and shit went everywhere,” she recalls in a phone interview, “and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m done with this.’ ”
The mishap spurred the Winnipeg native to come up with a better designed and constructed carrier: one that would be suited for last-minute supermarket trips, leisurely strolls through the souks of Marrakech, and every occasion in between. She looked to furoshiki, a single Japanese cloth traditionally used to wrap goods, for inspiration. “I just loved the drape of the fabric and the idea of using one piece,” shares MacKinnon. “And how, when it’s not in use, it folds into nothing.”
A year later, the fashion-and-production grad has developed three styles of unisex bags (from $70) under the name My Bukuro using sustainably manufactured and dyed linen. Available in a range of sizes and hues—and with optional hardware and vegetable-tanned leather handles—the handcrafted, no-fuss totes are made with self-described minimalists and the environment in mind.
MacKinnon and her team even take care to employ every piece of their ecofriendly, Belgian-sourced material. “We basically Tetris out our patterns so we know that it’s utilizing the full potential of the fabric,” she says.
Designer Meagan Drozdowski’s personal style leans more androgynous than feminine, so it’s no surprise that she decided to pursue menswear when attending fashion school in Montreal. Besides the aesthetic of men’s clothing, however, she was also drawn to the finer details in their development and production.
“In terms of design, it’s more about how something is made as opposed to what the whole piece looks like,” she explains by phone. “It’s quality and technicality.”
The Calgary native’s 2018 line, DRZDWSK, which is pronounced Drozdowsk and is a reference to her surname, includes classic, tailored pieces (from $90) such as high-waist trousers and boxy, oversize coats. Crafted almost completely from natural and biodegradable fibres like organic hemp and cotton canvas, the locally handmade garments are made for maximum versatility in one’s wardrobe.
In an effort to create a collection that’s as sustainable as possible, Drozdowski employs seed-paper hang tags, which grow wildflowers when planted. She also uses recycled and repurposed packaging when mailing out orders. “I’ve always been really concerned about the environment,” she says. “So when I started designing, I wanted to make sure I can make the best with the least impact on the Earth.”
First Pick Handmade’s spring edition takes place on Saturday and Sunday (March 17 and 18) at Heritage Hall. See event listing for details.