Environmentally minded Cortex brings upcycled fashions to downtown Vancouver

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      When designer Negin Izad was working at a local rag yard six years ago, she was stunned by the amount of textile waste being produced in the Lower Mainland. “I would see clothes that were just in stores maybe a few months ago and that still had tags on them,” she says. “And they hadn’t been used because they were too trendy or not made well enough, you know?”

      With a strong interest in the garment industry—and an acceptance letter to Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s fashion-design program in hand—the Vancouver-born creative began doing her homework in an effort to craft clothing that caused minimal damage to the Earth.

      The result of that research was Noctex, a sustainable fashion line designed and created in Vancouver that uses 90 percent deadstock textiles. Dubbed “nocturnal” textiles by Izad, these rolls of fabric have been deemed out-of-season, in excess, or effectively useless by other manufacturers.

      Since 2013, Izad has been sourcing such cotton, linen, and other cellulose or plant pulp–based materials from the U.S., transforming them into drop-hem button-downs, distressed T-shirts, leggings, and slouchy cardigans. Her predominantly unisex pieces—coated in monochromatic hues—are made to be mixed, matched, and layered regardless of the season.

      “The idea was that you could keep reusing and keep playing with these items for years to come,” Izad explains.

      Lucy Lau

      In 2014, the designer started conducting pop-up shops around the city to showcase her Noctex collection, along with accessories, homewares, apothecary, and other apparel from similarly eco- and ethically minded brands. Interest from the public and a case of good timing then led her to open Cortex, a permanent retail concept that, since January, has called 420 West Pender Street home.

      It’s here in the bright, 1,400-square-foot space that Izad speaks to the Straight. Seated on a set of 1930s movie-theatre chairs that she sourced from Craigslist, the designer points out a few of her favourite lines. There’s Deadwood, a Swedish brand that recycles outdated leather garments into biker-chic jackets and bags for the sartorial rebel; Hvnter Gvtherer, which crafts hand-hammered metal jewellery in Chicago; and These Secrets, a knitwear line from Vancouver’s Caitlin Ffrench that employs Canadian-sourced wool in its art and accessories.

      Unsurprisingly, Izad is drawn to handmade objects that are developed with care and intention. “Part of sustainability is being able to purchase something that has a story and that value, so you’ll be able to use it for longer,” she says.

      The Cortex boutique also carries a range of footwear, candles, and stationery, plus Noctex’s full line of men’s and women’s fashions (starting at $60). Think oversized tunics, frayed denim, and pullover hoodies, some of which are produced on-site. Due to their handmade nature, many of the items are small-run or completely one-of-a-kind.

      The design of the downtown Vancouver shop forwards Izad’s eco-conscious beliefs, too. All furnishings and décor items are repurposed or secondhand, and the designer is looking to collaborate with local artists to create an in-house gallery space. “I see fashion as an economy,” she says. “If you’re able to support someone by buying materials from or working with someone who’s local…you’re able to come full circle.”

      Check out the images below for a look at Cortex before you visit the shop IRL.

      Lucy Lau
      Lucy Lau
      Lucy Lau
      Lucy Lau

      Places to go nearby

      Approx. 15 minutes away