An Interview with Sarah Power of INLAND

INLAND is a Canadian designer shopping event, a platform for designers and brands to sell their collections directly to shoppers, read on to know more about INLAND and Sarah. The founder and creative director behind the event

Tell us your story of how you got into fashion.

I started doing a degree in communication studies, which lead me into a variety of roles including not-for-profit. It oddly involved me in getting a teaching degree, in education. I did a lot of travelling through it with the time off. I was Germany. I really, really came in tune with some of the design scene happening around the area.

Europe is pretty phenomenal. I was not comfortable in what I was doing. I returned and went to school for fashion. I went to the clothing show in 2007, which was a 25-year running semi-annual trade show that brought in about 300 vendors. It was international. There was this boutique section, Katie’s Desires. I became fascinated with that area.

I went on to do some other things. I decided several years later to revisit the idea. The clothing show has collapsed. I was looking at this transformation of the retail environment, even locally and looking at local designers. There’s significant work around fast fashion. Many organizations are looking to bring light into the harsh and troublesome reality of all of that.

I rolled into the Canadian design scene, local manufacturing. I decided it was the perfect time to start a show that focused on promoting those things. That’s where INLAND came to life.

Sarah Power founder and creative director behind the event

Sarah Power founder and creative director behind the event

What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion for you?

If we want to preserve humanity, if we want to preserve out creative culture, we have to look outside of the fundamentals of now, what looks good or fashionable. It is not about what is made fast and cheaply alone. It is about human beings who are in the living environment. We need to consider all of these aspects and put them together.

At another level, it comes down to survival. It comes down to survival of multiple species and in a healthy way. It is about education, ground-up networking. It is about educating children. It is about lobbying against corporations. Everything works better in the social fabric to think ethically and move in that direction.

With respect to expanding, you have mentioned in a short promotional video the need to or the hope for expanding into other parts of the world. Other major fashion centres. How would intend to go about doing it?

The concept of pop-up, which is what INLAND is founded on, is immediate short-term reach out opportunities for a curated environment for contemporary designers. They come together. The nature of that business means that it is not static. It is not tied to brick-and-mortar situations.

It is able to move around the city, the country, the globe and gain international recognition. We live in a global world now. So, to take Canadian design on a global level, that recognition of the different brands and labels that exist. Unfortunately, fashion does have this need for glitz and glam, and credibility.

INLAND Event

INLAND Event

Canada has not made its mark internationally, but there is the opportunity to make that happen by taking the brand outside of the country rather than trying to build inside it. It is trying to do it from both directions. That is the reasoning behind it. The process for doing it is taking a show and popping up in different cities and growing from there.

One of the ways that this seems to be done is propping up certain fashion design people, have been around for a while, and have become personal heroes to people. Are there people that have become personal heroes for you?

First and foremost, I respect the emerging designer. I respect all designer, but the emerging designer is someone facing a vast landscape of competition, challenges, personal and social ethical debates on how to pursue a collection, how to engage with your customer. So, my heroes are the designers that take the lead deeply into their passionate field.

That is to design. It is very, very, very, tough to survive in that marketplace. I have to put it back on all of them. It is hard for me to point out a particular individual.

The majority of garment workers are women. Sometimes, children are a majority, dependent on the region. Do you see ethical and sustainable fashion as concomitant with women’s rights, child rights, be implemented – e.g., good working conditions, children don’t work, children aren’t slave, women have decent working conditions, women have decent pay, and so on?

Absolutely, absolutely, it is a fundamental part of ethical and sustainable manufacturing. It is to ensure that we are all living in a healthy, social situation, and not just in “developed nations,” but across the world. That’s a given. There’s no reason for anybody to live that way. I think this revival of traditional methods of manufacturing: small batch, slow fashion, shopping local.

It gives the public an opportunity to learn about the process. It has made pursuing that craft for everyone quite ‘sexy’ now. Before, people weren’t pursuing fashion design sewing careers. Now, people are taking on the craft. I am hoping that this is going to grow with regard to being in Canada and North America so that we can have a balance on a global level.

Absolutely, women and children in poor countries are the typical person doing these jobs.

INLAND Gallery, representing contemporary retail at it's best.

INLAND Gallery, representing contemporary retail at it’s best.

What other work are you involved at this point in time?

I work full time at the art gallery in Hamilton. I am the digital marketing and social media communications coordinator. So, I work in an arts community in Hamilton.  I’m from Toronto. It is an industrial town built on industry. Therefore, there’s large, large factory warehouse areas with extremely cheap real estate everywhere.

It is a growing design and creative culture area. Hamilton is becoming the new Queen West in Toronto, or even the Brooklyn through New York. There’s a lot happening in the city. There are artists taking up spaces and starting businesses. Hamilton has a lot of idea. My 9 to 5 is working at the art gallery in Hamilton.

What personal meaning and fulfilment does this work, INLAND and the art gallery, bring you?

It allows me to connect directly with designers and creative people. I find that fascinating and inspiring, which pushes me to continue to want to promote them. I did go to fashion design school. I didn’t produce a collection. I didn’t have the determination or skill set, or patient, to be able to do that.

What I do have is an extraordinary enthusiasm for the art of design and I wanted to be able to promote that, that’s what I wanted to focus on. Being in those environments fuels my energy and pushes me forward to help them out.

Last question, any thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

I think potentially just speaking to the ethical and sustainable fashion point. There’s lots of questions and ideas surrounding what is made in Canada. Running a sustainable fashion pop-up, I get asked that a lot. It is important for the industry to come together and start defining it and to look outside of that term for the sake of the designers and businesses that are here and have a good mind about what that means.

INLAND featured designer

Designers who are featured at INLAND are selected for their overall business sense and brand presentation including; style, innovative technique and material choices, production quality, market awareness and customer engagement.

It is about who made the clothes and not where they were made. That’s what I have been focusing on for change and hoping that’s a positive one, where that takes me.

Thank you for your time, Sarah.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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