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It’s no secret that fast fashion is designed to make you feel off-trend in a matter of weeks, days, or—sadly, we’re not exaggerating here—hours. In Elizabeth Cline’s 2012 book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, the author reported that H&M and Forever 21 receive daily shipments of new styles. The idea? Sell as much low-cost clothing as possible and then move on to the next thing.
The end result, of course, is waste—not just the devastating agricultural and industrial kind profiled in documentaries like The True Cost, but 81 pounds of actual clothing that every American is now estimated to throw out each year. (That amount is up 400 percent from 20 years ago, and is the subject of a design challenge at Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week this year; see below.)
Perhaps nothing gives a person a sense of the urgent nature of the situation like picking through used clothing. In fact, that’s exactly where Vancouver designer Mishel Bouillet’s interest in the slow-fashion movement arose.
An avid used-apparel shopper who has spent years as both a sharp-eyed “picker” for local vintage boutiques and a sewer reworking used clothing, she became highly aware of the increasing number of fast-fashion labels turning up in the discard piles she’d dig through.
“Walking through Value Village, all you see is fashion labels like H&M and Topshop and Joe Fresh,” she says, sitting in Tacofino Gastown before heading to her studio to work. “That’s where my whole sustainability thing comes in: from seeing how we just throw all this out. Why is it so disposable?”
The designer, who debuts her taut, clean-lined new collection, Models Own, at Eco Fashion Week (Saturday to Thursday [April 9 to 14] at the Fairmont Waterfront and other locations), began to wonder if there was an answer that went beyond just buying used clothing.
“Everybody loves vintage, but for the most part you can only do one-off pieces,” she explains. “It got me thinking: how can you put out more consistent products and turn it into a brand that isn’t so disposable?”
For Bouillet, who studied in the Vancouver Community College fashion program, the concept began with a small collection of finely crafted, minimalistic pieces that would transcend trends—and not surprisingly, solid black and white figure prominently. The few debut pieces she’s dubbed her Control collection include sleek wrap-style miniskirts in black or white suede, an apron dress in raw organic denim, and flowy pleated culottes in light denim, dark denim, and elegant white.
Continue reading about Mishel Bouillet's innovative collection in the original Georgia Straight article.
VCC's fashion arts programs develop in-demand technical skills while fostering individual creativity. Join us at VCC Info Night on April 20 to meet instructors, try your hand at design, and learn more!