Fairtrade Calgary wants to make city a sustainable fashion hub

Erin Bird brings fair trade fashion to Calgary: Erin Bird runs Fairtrade Calgary and is getting ready to launch a fair trade fashion competition in Calgary and Vancouver. Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (Photo by Meaghan Fitzpatrick/The Press)

Fairtrade Calgary is partnering with Vancouver this March at the Canadian Fairtrade Network Conference hosted by Simon Fraser University.

This will be the first time in the six years that Calgary will be participating in a fair trade fashion show, exhibiting designs from both Calgary and Vancouver based fashion designers.

“Fairtrade fashion is something close to my heart,” said Erin Bird, who currently runs Fairtrade Calgary.

“It’s hard to find and that’s why I want to make it something I’m working on.”

Bird is planning a competition for fashion designers to pitch their ideas and put forward fair trade designs, with a format yet to be decided.

“If we’re doing a competition, we need make sure it’s ethical and we are paying people for their designs.”

Sponsorship is important for events like this, but it can be tricky to find a company that’s practices and values are aligned with the event.

“It’s hard to be picky, but at the same time, if you don’t do that, then you’re really shooting yourself in the foot.”

When Bird decided to source fair trade material for the competition she found it to be harder than expected to find fabric that was truly fair trade, which she speculated probably contributes to the limited use within mainstream fashion industries.

“As an individual who was extremely motivated to find fair trade fabric it was still extremely difficult,” said Bird. “

Bird ended up finding a fair trade co-operative in India, but the difficult process made her realize the disconnect between North America and the countries the make our fabric.

“Streamlining that process, I see that as a huge niche market.”

Fairtrade Calgary is hoping to leverage what happens at the conference, which will be held March 2-4 in Vancouver, and increase its involvement with events like fashion week, and other fair trade fashion shows across Canada.

“We’re not sure how big we can take it this year, but there are definitely plans to take it bigger and bigger each year,” said Bird.

Fairtrade Calgary doesn’t plan on leading every ethical fashion intuitive but rather wants to connect with already existing ethical fashion groups to help the movement grow bigger.

Fairtrade fashion is something close to my heart. – Erin Bird

Pairing with organizations such as Respect for the Earth and All People (REAP), which is the host of Down to Earth Week in Calgary.

“If we were able to put a new focus on sustainable fashion, which I think a lot of new designers are considering, then Calgary could be a great hub for sustainable fashion,” said Bird.

“Even the fact that we grow crops like hemp, it’s really a unique area of Canada to be in.”

About Meaghan Fitzpatrick 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Meaghan Fitzpatrick worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.