It was a Tuesday in October 2017 when we first heard about NOVEL. We were doing dishes and listening to the The Real Rebel Podcast. NOVEL SUPPLY founder, Kaya Dorey, was the guest. And we turned up the volume.
We were in the early stages of developing our business plan for Girl In The Wild and were feeling stuck, actually. Because we couldn't find an apparel company that met our ethical standards. As stewards of the environment, we refused to pay $2 for tees made by migrant workers making unfair wages using materials wrought with chemicals, petroleum, and plastics. We had been on the hunt for a leader in sustainable fashion and we had been hitting walls.
And then, there was Kaya, in our earbuds taking about closed loop fashion and her personal mission to make sustainability cool. Our kinda girl.
Fast forward one year and we've partnered with Kaya and NOVEL to launch our inaugural line of Girl In The Wild tees and tanks—fashion forward and future friendly.
Kaya's passion for sustainability came about honestly. After learning about all the clothing that ends up in landfills, about synthetic fabrics that never (ever!) breakdown, about tax chemical used in production, and about unfair working environments, she felt compelled to become a change maker.
"I realized I wanted to create a sustainable, ethical, and locally made clothing option," says Kaya.
Her mission was lofty, yet simple: "To create, design, and supply rad products that shift the stigma of sustainability." In other words, this woman was on a path to make sustainability cool.
Kaya shares our belief that brands must make responsibility for the products they're making. "Humans are never going to stop buying clothes," says Kaya. "So we, the brands, need to step up and do our part to source sustainable fabrics from ethical suppliers and manufacture in ethical environments."
Why is this so important? Because this is what's happening in the fashion industry right now. And it's terrifying.
A recent study by the Ellen MacCarther Foundation found that one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. (Whoa.) And, according to a report by the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, fashion is responsible for a staggering 92 million tons of solid waste being dumped in the landfill each year. The amount of water, resources, and chemicals that are used and wasted by our current fashion industry model is simply unacceptable.
To combat this, NOVEL is developing an initiative to take back their apparel at the end of its life. It's a closed-loop methodology that means there's zero waste created. Essentially, the end product is either recycled, upcycled, or downcycled instead of treated as waste.
Unsafe working conditions
Kaya explains: "Major disasters like the collapse of the garment factory, Rana Plaza, that killed 1134 people and injured around 2500 more is another critical issue. Big brands have developed fast fashion models that require factories to make clothing extremely fast at the lowest cost possible. The countries that we outsource our manufacturing too are some of the poorest countries with little regulation. This ensures that workers are paid very little and are forced to work in unsafe working conditions as they have no other choice."
For this reason, NOVEL manufactures its line locally in Vancouver, BC. "We believe that the people making our garments should be paid fair wages and should work in safe working conditions," says Kaya. And at Girl In The Wild, we echo that.
The dyes and chemicals used in garment processing are often expelled into local water supplies in countries that don't have water filtration regulations. According to the World Bank, dyes from the garment industry are responsible for 17-20% of industrial water pollution. 72 toxic chemicals in China's water originate solely from dyeing—30 of which cannot be removed. This causes major health problems for the people in these areas. If you really want to understand what's happening, Kaya recommends you watch the documentary Riverblue. "It will change your perspective on the fashion industry," she says.
Synthetic clothing is petroleum-based—just like plastic. Which means it’s part of our global plastic problem—clogging our oceans and damaging our ecosystems. "So we chose to work with hemp and organic cotton," says Kaya. "Hemp uses much less water than cotton and generally doesn't require any pesticides or herbicides to grow. It's also a strong fibre and is resistant to bacteria so it has anti-odour properties."
In addition, NOVEL sources dye-free fabric and chooses to do small-batch natural dyeing with indigo instead to ensure no toxic chemicals are released into the environment.
Because sustainable fashion isn't cool (yet!), it's easy to turn a blind eye to save a buck. Kaya reminds us that "when consumer choose cheap fast fashion; they are supporting the current activities of the industry." It's a sobering truth.
"Somewhere down the supply chain, someone is paying with their life, health, and the environment they live in to make that shirt so cheap."
NOVEL is re-educating consumers on the true cost of apparel so that consumers can shop more responsibly and choose to invest in something called "Slow Fashion". It's the decision to choose better quality items less often. So instead of buying a new item every season, choose something well-made and neutral that can take you from season to season. It might be more expensive, but buying one shirt that lasts instead of four that fall apart after a few washes is a much more economical way to shop.
We chose to collaborate with NOVEL because they're the most forward-thinking fashionistas and environmental stewards on the planet, in our opinion. It's a combination we're hoping we'll see more of.
See what NOVEL is up to next as it presses forth to make sustainability cool on Instagram @novelsupplyco.