Shopping for a cause: Exploring Ottawa’s sustainable fashion scene

Michelina Teti (Twitter) is a fourth-year journalism and gender studies student at Carleton University. Originally from Brampton, Ont, she’s a huge fan of a great yin yoga class, horrible television and hanging out with a pile of magazines in the traditional print form. She’s also Starbucks and agenda obsessed.

It’s the perfect weather for window-shopping.

Maureen Dickson and Malorie Bertrand

Maureen Dickson, a sustainability consultant and co-founder of Slow Fashion Forward, and EF Magazine editor-in-chief, Malorie Bertrand, joined together recently to create Fashion on Display, Ottawa’s first-ever boutique tour. The event has been going on since October 6, but doesn’t end until the 20th, so don’t worry, there is still plenty of time to peruse the streets of Ottawa!

The tour matches locally owned eco-fashion boutiques, vintage shops and thrift stores with a local artist who then creates a window display for the shop that spreads a message. The cause behind the event is to promote conscientious consumption. 

During the tour, locals are invited to visit each location, admire the displays and learn about the shop’s sustainable brands. 

Both Dickson and Bertrand are hoping the event sparks some debate in Ottawa about the eco-fashion options in the city. The tour also promotes the great local shops that do provide sustainable choices for customers. 

It was only a few years ago that Dickson used to shop just like the rest, tempted by the latest fashion trends and cheap retail prices. She’d buy at stores like H&M and Zara, and she’d shop a lot. 

Dickson gained new perspective and shopping habits during her time in Sweden, where she graduated with a master’s degree in strategic sustainability.

Now, when it comes to her clothes, Dickson is eco-conscious.

For those interested in sustainable fashion, the girls recommend shopping at second-hand stores and consignment shops. They also suggest having a clothing trade with your friends.

It’s when you need a piece of clothing that will last a lifetime that you should buy new and high quality, Dickson says.

Bertrand says her best finds are from thrift shops.

Her latest highlight? She recently went thrift shopping in the states and bought 20 things for $12! She boasts that she always gets compliments on those types of steals.

“At the end of the day we are all individuals and we all want our own sense of style as well. I find this so much more rewarding and satisfying,” Dickson says. “I’ve always loved rummaging for things and finding things that are unique that nobody else has.” 

As for me, my shopping trip down Dalhousie was a complete success. I found three new shops, all local and unique, and even bought a pair of earrings!

Here’s a sneak peak for you: I’m not going to tell you where the photos shown below are from – it’s your job to check the shops out for yourself. All I will say is these three shops were very close to each other, and visiting them could be a great little walk-and-talk kind of coffee date with a girlfriend.

Visit your Ottawa locals, shop at some great boutiques and learn a little bit at the same time.

Enjoy!

Sounds like a great way to combine shopping AND design (two of our favourite things). Well, Michelina has presented a challenge: do you recognize any of the window displays in the pictures above? Let us know – we’re curious too!