The Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association, in partnership with Conscious Collective Co., hosted its first pop-up sustainable fashion store since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on August 28 in Phoenix. The event provided an array of vintage vendors, independent businesses and innovative recycled clothing stores for the future of sustainable fashion.
“We’ve spent the last year connecting and networking with different local brands,” said Madeline Dolgin, executive director of the Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association. During this time, he connected with Conscious Collective Co., who introduced him to more ethical and environmentally conscious companies.
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One local business in attendance at the August 28 pop-up event was Voyce Threads, a “socially conscious lifestyle brand that raises awareness for important causes,” said Founder and CEO Drew Shaw. Voyce Threads is in partnership with Teach for America Phoenix, Arizona Humane Society, Circle the City, and other nonprofits.
Shaw said they were creating mismatched socks inspired by their nonprofit partners to start a dialogue about “the organization that’s pictured at your feet.” A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these socks goes back to their nonprofit partners in the form of a donation, Shaw said.
Sustainable manufacturing is a top priority for Voyce Threads because it uses “yarns like recycled cotton and recycled polyester,” Shaw said. He said their maker is also a zero waste company, so leftovers from the production process are reused “to make new products that are donated to the community.”
The area of sustainability goes beyond reshaping environmental practices, as it also calls for the assessment of social practices. This can be illustrated by fair compensation for workers, ethical labor practices and philanthropy. Voyce Threads focuses on achieving both of these aspects.
Another supplier present at this event was the Tucson-based company without support, whose mission is to create clothes “for women who want to be comfortably without a bra while remaining modest,” says founder Erica Yngve.
Yngve produces all her clothes at Sonora Points Factory, a Tucson manufacturing company that she owns. Owning his own business has given Yngve more control over the manufacture of his clothing in an efficient and sustainable manner, according to an interview with Well done Arizona.
Yngve said she was using “a fabric made from bamboo and modal”. These fabrics have environmental benefits, in particular the low water consumption when producing modal fabrics and the potential of bamboo to be biodegradable. They were probably chosen for their breathability and silky soft qualities.
Yet navigating the emerging world of eco-friendly fabrics has its drawbacks, as all materials have the potential to be unsustainable in one way or another. In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the Americans eliminated 17 million tonnes of textile waste, a number that has doubled in the last two decades.
The production of new products can be unsustainable as it only creates more clothes that settle in landfills. The reuse and reuse of old clothes is an alternative to respecting the environment.
When not spending her time working with the Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association, Dolgin focuses on her own upcycle fashion brand Healing Seams.
“I mainly take old jeans that I’ve received from friends and family that have torn and can’t be worn anymore, and I find creative ways to reuse them in new clothes,” Dolgin said.
His designs featured in recycled denim ranged from overalls to vests and everything in between.
Dolgin said his journey with sustainable fashion stemmed from his years in the industry at university, where the negative environmental impacts of the fashion industry changed his mindset.
She learned how the production of clothing produced around 2-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and the hazardous chemicals used to make clothing fabrics and dyes. Pollution by these chemicals leads to about 20% of global water contamination, according to the common goal.
“I felt like I was at a crossroads between deciding whether to continue to pursue fashion and carry on business as usual… or do something,” Dolgin said. “I chose to take the path of sustainable development.
Dolgin said she always tried to stay involved by protesting fast fashion brands, growing her recycling business, or educating others with her Growing Together podcast. She also helps organize events and facilitate brand awareness with the Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association.
“The Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association website showcases our brands. We currently have around 25-30 brands on our account, so it’s a great resource if you’re looking to buy sustainably, ”Dolgin said.
While the Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association has no upcoming pop-up events on the calendar, Dolgin said they will be involved in the Tempé Fashion Week. On October 2, they will showcase a lasting look on the track at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium.