In an industry filled with fast fashion, some St. John’s brands are choosing to become more sustainable.
Trevor Bessette is the founder of Seaside Reclaimed. It is a local fashion brand that prides itself on being ethical and sustainable.Thandi O’Grady/Kicker
Cars and plastic are some factors that might come to mind when people think of what is negatively impacting the environment.
However, there is one factor people often tend to forget about – fast fashion. Fast fashion is the production of clothing that is cheap, accessible, and trendy. Due to the cheap materials, these clothes become easily disposable. The more the consumers buy, the more they throw out, causing a lot of waste and pollution.
Not every clothing company creates fast fashion. There are brands that focus on making sustainable fashion. Seaside Reclaimed is such brand. Founded in 2017 by Trevor Bessette, Seaside Reclaimed makes its clothing out of recycled plastic bottles and salvaged cotton scraps. Bessette’s goal is to help Newfoundland become more eco-friendly.
“I started off with furniture building actually and fell in love with the idea of giving new life to old materials,” Bessette said. “From there I started to learn about fast fashion and all the big problems that are caused because of it.”
Besides selling clothing that positively impacts the environment, Bessette makes sure the clothing is ethically manufactured.
“Once you see the images of landfills filled with fast fashion and you see the working conditions that the textile workers live in, it’s tough to kind of support that movement. I think that globally we are trying to slow things down a little bit in terms of manufacturing and favour quality and longevity over quick and easy and cheap.”
In an effort to expand the brand, Seaside Reclaimed has started a project called Recycle on the Rock. They collect plastic bottle caps to turn them into new products.
“The main goal is to expand the clothing brand into a more encompassing brand that turns waste products from Newfoundland into new products,” Bessette said.
Jennifer Cake, founder of the fashion brand, Jen Zen, also favours quality over cheap clothing. She is a 2017 graduate of College of North Atlantic’s textile and apparel design program. As part of her journey to learn more about fashion, she became an instructor’s assistant for the college program in 2018.
Cake makes clothing that is loose, flowy and inclusive of all sizes.
“I discovered a love of natural dyes when I was here (at the college),” Cake said. “So really my interest in making clothes stems from how much I love working with colour.”
Using the natural dyes was an organic process Cake fell in love with. Natural dyes, she says, is the process of extracting pigment from plants. Grocery products such as onions and avocado skin can also be used, she says.
A top that was handmade and designed by Jennifer Cake. It is dyed and printed using flowers and leaves from her own backyard. Thandi O’Grady/Kicker
As a designer, Cake is very passionate about sustainable fashion. However, she understands that sometimes it can be hard for the consumer to know what area to focus on.
“I think it’s just about simplifying and choosing pieces that are well-made, handcrafted. That means something because I believe the person will be more likely to take care of the garment and keep it for longer. It will probably mean something to them and won’t go into a landfill as quickly,” Cake said.
For brands that wish to be more sustainable, Bessette says it all starts with transparency.
“When you let the consumer know where you’re buying products, maybe even see the factories themselves, it gives you a little more incentive to choose better,” Bessette said.