Western students launch Earth-Fashion mag

Bertrand, Franklin and Mills want longevity for eco-trendiness

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Green is the new black.

No longer confined to a niche market of crunchy hippies and radical environmentalists, every fashion outlet in sight is promoting the green movement.

Vogue recently printed “30 Eco-Chic Tips” on how to save the planet while still turning heads, American Apparel promoted its 100 per cent organic cotton clothing with almost equal fervor as its Fair Trade motto, and the latest L’Oréal Toronto Fashion Week held Fashion Takes Action, a collaborative fashion show displaying eco-friendly Canadian designs.

It’s unclear whether the industry’s recent jump on the green bandwagon will improve our environment or just benefit those with deep pockets. Although promoting planet-friendly consumer choices is rarely viewed as detrimental, the risk of making green hip is that the social movement becomes a trend.

Once eco-fashion loses its heat, it runs the risk of being relegated to the racks of last year’s ephemeral blips.

Malorie Bertrand, a fourth-year media in the public interest student, is striving to prevent this from happening by promoting eco-fashion in an innovative way.

Bertrand is an active member of London’s fashion community. Last year she was the director of the OHM fashion show.

Spurred by an alternative media class, Bertrand collaborated with two other students, Chelsea Mills and Michelle Franklin, to create a magazine devoted to environmentally conscious fashion.

“I wanted to marry fashion and environmentalism into a magazine,” Bertrand says.

The result is Earth-Fashion (EF), a sophisticated student publication that is both aesthetically and socially pleasing. The magazine is designed to function as an environmental compass that helps the savvy consumer navigate the world of fashion.

“As far as we know, EF is the first magazine of its kind,” Mills says. “We devote the entire magazine, including photos, articles and advertising to being green.”

EF attempts to counter the trend of capitalizing on the cachet of environmental chic by creating a magazine that is solely eco-driven.

EF will provide comprehensive information on topics related to buying clothes that weren’t made in sweatshops, tips on how to incorporate earth-friendly habits in your daily life, as well as feature thought-provoking opinion pieces that offer a variety of views regarding globalization and the environment,” Bertrand explains.

True to the vision, in the debut issue of EF, one article breaks down the myths surrounding consumer packaging with insights from an environmental science professor. Another article presents easy alternatives to the traditional holiday rituals.

Like most fashion magazines, EF is concerned with featuring interesting and current items for its readers.

To make the cut, stylish products must fit the magazine’s strict code of social ethics. The writing team forgoes visits to trendy fashion stores like H&M and Zara in favour of sifting through the clothing bins at Value Village, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill for recycled labels.

Raising awareness about what Franklin calls “the benefits of second hand shopping,” EF’s main photo shoot incorporated an array of vintage finds that evoke a do-it-yourself approach to style.

As for obtaining samples for the magazine’s beauty spreads, Bertrand says it was a slightly difficult task.

“We had to leave London to find a variety of different products as all-natural cosmetics are not yet widely available. Even in a major city we had to do a bit of digging.”

In the end, she acquired organically approved beauty products from Sephora, Lush, and Origins. For EF, it’s a win-win situation: readers get a great deal and eco-friendly freebies end up in someone’s purse, home or car.

EF won’t be making the same mistake as Vanity Fair’s “Green Issue,” which faced criticism for being printed on eco-unfriendly paper last year. The magazines will mostly be distributed online. Pending funding from the University Students’ Council, the team is open to printing the magazine in hard copy on recycled paper.

But how green is green? Many environmental critics argue that promoting eco-friendly fashion is a paradox. Fashion perpetuates consumption and waste, while environmentalism fights for recycling and conservation.

Bertrand suggests that if you can’t eliminate consumption, why not remodel and join it? She defends green fashion as being environmentally progressive.

“With eco-fashion we’re promoting the consumption of products that are somewhat necessary. Clothes are a basic need,” she says. “These products are not harmful to the environment. We will not be a magazine that simply markets alternative products to buy. We want to encourage readers to think critically about their role in society as consumers and citizens.”

The debut launch of Earth-Fashion is Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. at the Alex P. Keaton.

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