Vancouverites interested in investing in an ethically and sustainably produced wardrobe have a new spot to frequent in town: Arc Apparel (306 West Cordova Street), the city’s first womenswear boutique devoted to sourcing responsibly made clothing.
A brick-and-mortar extension of an online marketplace of the same name founded in 2017, the Gastown space carries clothing and accessories from nearly 20 brands, each of which is committed to sustainability, ethical manufacturing practices, or philanthropic efforts. In many cases, the labels have pledged to a combination of these objectives or all of the above.
Lacausa, for example, uses a wood-pulp fabric called Tencel in many of its breezy frocks and button-ups, and designs and manufactures the entirety of its stock in Los Angeles. The brand also donates a portion of its profits to a different charity every quarter: at the moment, it’s partnering with Inner City Arts, an L.A.–based nonprofit that offers a safe, creative space for youth.
Groceries Apparel, another Cali-based brand, emphasizes organic and recycled fibres in its basic Ts and tunics, while the Australian-born Faithfull crafts its hand-dyed and hand-printed dresses and coordinates in Bali. A selection of versatile garments, lingerie, and accessories from homegrown labels like Mary Young, Emma Knudsen, Sokoloff, and Matt and Nat are also available.
Denim is well represented through brands such as AG Jeans, the formerly Vancouver-based Fidelity, and heavyweight Levis, which, unbeknownst to many, prioritizes chemical-free cotton production and water conservation in the making of its jeans. Prices range from $30 for T-shirts to $300 for denim.
“We try to curate things that aren’t as trend-based,” owner Sarah Stewart tells the Straight during an interview at the shop, “so that things you’re purchasing can last in your closet for more than one season.”
A business grad with a background in retail merchandising, Stewart's interest in sustainably and ethically made apparel was sparked after a stint volunteering with Vancouver’s now defunct Eco Fashion Week. She wanted to create a platform in which she could help women more easily discover and access responsibly produced fashions. “I just felt like I was having to do so much research and I couldn’t really find anything,” she says. “It was so scattered at that time.”
Arc’s new standalone shop allows Stewart to offer visitors an omnichannel experience. Realizing that quality, ecofriendly garments may be a “step up from fast-fashion”—in terms of price point—for some, she makes an effort to offer programs such as LaterPay, which allows customers to pay for an item in four equal instalments.
“It’s kind of an updated version of layaway,” explains Stewart. “We want to make it accessible for everyone and we don’t want anyone to feel like they’re left out of this area of fashion.”
Arc Apparel is now open at 306 West Cordova Street. Scroll through the images below for a closer look at the newly opened boutique.