Celebrating Earth day, we reached out to local Vancouver sustainable expert Cher Thorsen who used to be a part of the Green Chamber of Commerce in British Columbia and, other than being an active environmental blogger, is also owner of Underables, an online store that sells basics, sleepwear and intimates from ethical, sustainable, and charitable global brands.
Here’s a bit about our interview with Cher in order to understand sustainable brands and how we can create a positive impact on our environment by making meaningful and well-thought investments when we selecting items for the whole family.
APDC: How can we define sustainable wear?
C:”There are many variations of sustainable wear / ethical fashion / slow fashion / sweatshop free – which basically means sourcing sustainably produced fabric made from organic or fast renewable crops; created in a fair-trade or ethically run, safe factory or sewing centre, where the workers are paid above fair wages, with benefits.
Some sustainable fabrics are bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, linen, eucalyptus and tencel, they each have their own challenges and growing conditions to keep them “sustainable”. In reality, overconsumption of anything isn’t sustainable.
Some of my tips for building a sustainable closet would be purchasing pre-loved clothing, and investing in good quality, slow fashion, basics that will last years and not go out of style. There are so many Capsule Wardrobe mentors on Instagram now, if you’re looking for inspiration.”
APDC: What are the main challenges for brands that are looking to be sustainable?
C:“Cost, that’s the main challenge. If we as a culture can get our mentality away from fast “cheap” fashion, it would be so much easier. To me cost is so much more than just dollars - when we buy “affordable” fashion, we are contributing to unsustainable crops, environmental contamination, toxic drinking water in third world countries. We have to remember that every garment we see has been sewn by hand. Whose hands worked on that $10 t-shirt? How much was that person paid? Unending poverty in poor, unsafe working conditions is usually the answer. So when you look at it that way, it’s really not “affordable” at all – there is a very high cost to (mainly) women’s lives and the environment.
When you take into consideration what we’re paying for is a healthier world and happier hands, hands that can afford to send their children to school and end the cycle of poverty, it’s epic! Think back 100 years ago, men had a suit or two, women had a few everyday dresses; they had to take good care of their clothes, because they understood the value of clothing, they mended and took great care of their garments.”
APDC: How can we create a culture around sustainability with our children?
C: “For myself, I try to teach my children about quality, and buying things to last, and we definitely don’t get everything we want on a whim. Understanding the value of work, what it means to give up your time to make money and making good, meaningful choices with that money. My kids go to school with zero waste lunches and although we make meaningful investments by buying a few new clothing items per year.
I also feel that knowing where their food comes from, visiting farms, having a garden, and talking about what it means to nourish ourselves goes a long way to create a culture of sustainability.“
APDC: What’s the story behind Underables?
C: “I started Underables 3 years ago when my daughter was 8 months old and my son was 3, I was told it would be too hard, and in many ways it has been! But it’s also been such an amazing journey. Ethical, slow fashion has been increasing in awareness and scope over the past few years and it’s a beautiful thing. There are so many incredible brands out there that I wanted to support and make it accesible to more people. The feedback has been wonderful, I have so many repeat customers that have become friends, I just love every person who shops consciously!”
APDC: What importance should parents give to eco fashion when choosing products for their children?
C:“Less is more! With children it’s hard to remember that, but they can have capsule closets too!
Some of my tips for children’s clothes are:
- If you have an older child, buy quality and sustainable items that can be passed down to siblings or visit some consignment shops every few months, keep a running list of what kids are growing out of and what season is coming up.
- Get on the mailing list for independent and ethical brands that you love, you might find items that you love including during sale season.
- Let them get dirty and wear out their clothes, having fun is more important!”
APDC: What advice can you give to parents when shopping for eco-friendly brands?
C: “My advice is do what you can and don’t stress! Even if you cut down your purchases from the box stores and a few ethical purchases, it’s better than nothing. Everything counts, and it’s a journey to be enjoyed."
If you are interested in learning more about sustainability, reach out to Cher Thorsen through her store Underables.