“Ethical fashion” has become buzz worthy within the world of the environmental sustainability movement. Typically, fashion that is deemed to be “ethical” is classified as such when the product is sourced and manufactured in a manner that minimizes harm to both the environment and to the individuals and communities who are involved in production.
While the efforts to do things like reduce poverty, create sustainable livelihoods for workers and minimize negative environmental effects are all important, we can and should take this ethical stance one step further. If the very essence of the ethical fashion movement is to minimize harm, then theoretically ethical fashion should also include harm inflicted against non-human animals.
PETA asserts that there is absolutely “nothing “natural” about clothing made from animals’ skin or fur. In addition to causing the suffering and deaths of millions of animals each year, the production of wool, fur, and leather contributes to climate change, land devastation, pollution, and water contamination.”*
By excluding animal-based materials in fashion we rule out the unnecessary harm and cruelty inflicted against non-human animals whose body parts are used as mere commodities. This exclusion would also reduce the amount of pollution resulting from both animal agriculture practices and the toxic chemical process generally involved in converting “the putrefactive raw skin into a durable material (i.e., to keep it from rotting in the buyer’s closet)”.* [For a detailed look at the issue of sustainability within the context of animal agriculture practices I highly recommend checking out Cowspiracy].
With so many high-quality, plant-based, sustainable and renewable fabrics available on the market it is definitely possible to stay on trend without resorting to wearing animal products like leather, fur, angora, wool, down, or exotic skins. Instead, consider voting with your dollar and support brands who create products using vegan friendly fabrics like hemp, cotton, bamboo, and linen.*
Marcus Aliaga, founder and president of allTRUEist, a Montreal-based Ethical Designer Boutique, ultimately wants to see the classification of “ethical fashion” become synonymous to “vegan fashion”. I met Marcus this past summer in Toronto when he was in town showcasing cruelty-free handmade handbags, jewelry, beauty products and accessories that he carries at allTRUEist. Marcus curates fashion forward, high-quality vegan fashion and beauty products from brands around the world. The allTRUEist ethos is simple - to provide its customers with great fashion that is made with the highest standards of design, craftsmanship, sustainability and ethics. allTRUEist is working towards carrying exclusively vegan products, and if some items are not vegan they do help socially with other missions.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Marcus and I asked all of the big questions about how he got his start in fashion, what sets allTRUEist apart in the Canadian fashion scene and what we can expect for Spring 2016 at allTRUEist. I’ve included that interview below and at the end there is a special offer from allTRUEist which is exclusive to my readers!
How did you get your start in fashion?
I have always loved the fashion industry. My mom always dressed well and I remember her always taking good care of herself. I'll never forget a pair of red Gucci pumps she had with white piping, they were so cool and she would rock those outfits. My grandparents also instilled an appreciation for fashion within me as well. Even at their old age, my grandfather would not leave the house without a 3 piece suit and my grandma with her full length coat and hair and makeup done. I remember seeing the black and white pictures when they were young and they were such a good looking couple.
I attended Fashion Merchandising program at City College in San Francisco. While I was in school, I worked at Macy's in Downtown San Francisco. I loved seeing fashion stylists in action pulling merchandise for shows. I ended up landing an internship working for a BIG show. It was a crazy time in my life, going to school full time, working full time and doing an internship full time, but I loved every second of it. Working backstage in fashion shows and eventually becoming lead stylist is what really got me hooked. The adrenaline that I experienced during fashion shows is so amazing that I just wanted to experience everything I could in the industry.
That became my goal - to work in many facets of the industry to learn, learn & learn. I've worked in fashion for almost 20 years and quite honestly I can't see myself in any other industry. I've worked with many celebrities, top designers, managed for major luxury brands, and managed the West Coast of the US for the largest fashion eyewear company. At every stage the most important part was working with great people. Also, with each company I learned a little more of what goes into making the product, who makes them and I started opening my eyes more and more.
I understand that you founded allTRUEist earlier this year. What was your journey like in creating a brand of your own?
When I was 23 I opened my first jewelry boutique in Florida (where I lived for 5 years). I always loved jewelry and still do. Opening my own company was the biggest thrill and it never felt like work. I ran the boutique for a bit and ended up closing it. I was younger and inexperienced, but I knew I would always end up working for myself at the end, I just needed to learn from experts in the field first. About 4 years ago the itch to open my company started. I had learned many things over the years of working for others, like how to successfully build teams and grow businesses through the teaching of great mentors.
I wanted to do something different. A big inspiration for me was TOM's, the One for One shoe company. I loved what they were doing and I wanted to help others as well. I knew that their business model was working. At the same time, I wanted to start shopping for myself with brands that were socially responsible. I started informing myself about brands, things like where they manufacture their products, where can I get brands that are made responsibly and it was incredibly frustrating. I couldn't find "FASHIONABLE" ethical items in one place, and most of the ones I liked were not in the US which meant having to buy online - not knowing the fit and having to pay high amounts for shipping. That's when I guess I had my "AHA" moment as Oprah says, that this was a need that nobody was filling yet, or at least I didn't know where to find them.
So one day I sat down and wrote my whole business model. I couldn't stop writing, pages and pages of what I wanted to create, where I wanted it to go. The next thing was to come up with the name. The concept of my company was going to be to help others through amazing brands, have a boutique that only carries brands that are socially responsible. It was altruistic in a way and that's when allTRUEist was born in my mind - a company that would be transparent and true to the causes it stands for.
Why was it important for you to create a company that offers vegan products?
As I began to look deeper into brands, I learned about how things are made in poor countries, how big corps just look at the bottom line and most of the management teams don't even know where or how things are made. To become vegan means you have already made that conscious decision to be more thoughtful of what you consume, whether it be food or fashion. The vegan customer is much more aware of what is going on than the rest of consumers when it comes to ethics. Change is coming, people are becoming more aware. One day "ethical fashion" will just be "fashion" and the other side will be called "unethical or irresponsible fashion".
The industry is not perfect, nor are we, but it takes time to create change.
What are some other concerns that people should be aware of when looking for vegan fashion products?
Vegan products can be labeled so easily as “vegan” and are thought to be good, yet are not ethical in the sense of environmental issues. PVC is an example of this issue. While it is a vegan material it is also extremely toxic to the environment. So you may be using a pair of shoes that are not made of animal leather, and no animal was harmed by making your shoes, but all of the toxins that were used to make that PVC went down the river killing other animals, harming the environment and contaminating poor populations that surround the factories.
What sets allTRUEist apart in Canadian fashion?
One of my favourite things about allTRUEist is that every piece has a story, and these stories are connected to real people that made the products. Most of the companies we work with are new and also want change, are forward thinking and fashion conscious. There are a growing number of ethical brands and boutiques, which is great but we need more. There are very few boutiques that fall more in the luxury sector. We cater to a client that likes luxury items but wants them to be made responsibly.
The price point of our products reflect the time and effort that goes into making each item. Our designers use higher quality materials, pay living wages to their employees and most of the items are truly handmade by artisans creating beautiful pieces. For instance, our clutches from Earth Heir take 2 months to make from start to finish and are handwoven in Uzbekistan using old weaving techniques, sewn in Cambodia by disabled artisans and survivors of Human Trafficking and the stones hand set in Malaysia. A portion of the proceeds also goes to help victims of human sex trafficking. We were also the first to introduce the Alexandra K. handbags brand to the Americas. Each handbag is made by one person and no 2 bags are alike as they all have unique serial numbers.
What trends should we look out for in the current season?
Fall is my favourite season, everything feels more luxurious and the items we have in the boutique reflect that. There are a lot of new models this season from Alexandra K., crocodile embossed fabrics, duffle bags for men and women and new clutches. New jewelry from Azaara, including statement earrings which are a must this season as well. We also have beautiful forest-fresh green nail polish hue “I Kaled it” from Trust Fund Beauty. We are hoping to bring in some amazing faux-fur items - so on trend, so guilt free!
What can we look forward to for Spring 2016 with allTRUEist?
Alexandra K. will be expanding even more. It is a designer to keep your eye on, trust us! Trust Fund Beauty will be coming out with vegan and toxic free lipsticks and lip glosses. We want expand our men's offerings and by summer, our goal is to bring in some amazing vegan shoe labels to the boutique!
As an exclusive offer for my readers allTRUEist: 15% OFF for your next online purchase! Just enter the promo code “LOVE” (all caps) at checkout!
To learn more about altruist and shop the boutique online click here.
This post was in collaboration with allTRUEist. This is an unpaid endorsement. I only share content about products that I personally support, and that are of the highest integrity. The coupon code provided is an affiliate link, which means that if you use this code to purchase product, I’ll get a commission. Don’t worry – the price is still the same for you, plus you'll get a 15% discount with my promo code! To work with Avra and Love Wild Live Free on collaborations, reviews and sponsored posts please get in touch on the Contact page!
*”Wool, Fur, and Leather: Hazardous to the Environment." PETA. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/animals-used-clothing-factsheets/wool-fur-leather-hazardous-environment/>.
Promo Code Details: The 15% off code "LOVE" from allTRUEist can be applied to your entire purchase on www.alltrueist.com. This code expires January 15th and is limited to one use per customer.
Note: Products in the NAU collection contain recycled wool and recycled down from post consumer products that would have otherwise gone to landfill. While those products technically contain animal product that has been recycled, the focus of NAU is creating sustainable products as an alternative to similar items that would otherwise be made using new animal-products or new synthetic materials.