Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
I’m a West Coast girl. I lived in small towns in northern BC and the Yukon when I was very young, then we settled in Victoria in time for middle school and I stayed there until university. I studied Psychology at UVIC, took a couple years off to travel and live in Berlin, Germany, and then returned to Canada to study Public Administration at Carleton University in Ottawa. As soon as I was done, I moved back to Vancouver and have been here ever since.
Prior to starting Wallis Evera, my career was primarily in management consulting. I worked as an analyst and project manager in industries ranging from manufacturing and distribution, to high tech, healthcare and government. When I had children, I stopped working for a few years so that I could be with them. When it was time to re-enter the workforce, I realized I wasn’t going to be happy plugging back into the regular 9 to 5 office routine. I wanted to start my own business and create a life that was a direct reflection of my values and interests.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
About 3 years ago, I happened to come across a book in my local public library, called Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline. It opened my eyes to a side of fashion that I really had never considered before in any great detail. I hadn’t been aware at all of the scope and degree of devastation (environmental, social, economical) that our clothes were having on the world. After that, I read everything I could get my hands on that related to Slow Clothes and the Eco-Fashion movement and I knew that this was a movement I wanted to be a part of.
I began supporting the sustainable fashion movement as a conscious consumer. When I had trouble finding locally produced, eco-friendly clothing that were my style and that I could wear to my 9-5 corporate office job, I founded Wallis Evera and started making them myself.
The company is named after my two grandmothers – both of whom lived and raised families in the 1940s, an era when materials and resources were well understood to be limited, and everything was – simply as a matter of course – recycled, reused, reduced and repaired.
What is the importance of the idea of ethical and sustainable fashion to you? What about ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
As a consumer, I want to know that my actions and purchases are not contributing to environmental degradation or human rights abuses in any way. In fact, I will actively seek out companies who are creating a better world through their business model. I want my purchases to reflect my values and I believe that many consumers today feel the same way.
As awareness increases about issues such as climate change, population growth, and the limitations of our world’s natural resources and how that is all going to affect our societies, it is becoming imperative that anyone producing products at all should be searching for a way to do it sustainably… or not at all.
I believe in the assertion that building sustainability into your business is not just a moral imperative, it’s a business imperative.
What is Wallis Evera?
Wallis Evera is a Canadian eco-brand that makes modern hemp apparel. Our aim is to make clothes that can spark dialogue and inspire change toward a more sustainable future.
We focus on two key areas — Fibre + Form — to create elegant and enduring clothing for women in the workplace. We choose to make a difference by:
- Manufacturing locally, and
- Using hemp as the foundation fibre for all our products.
What are some of its feature products?
We launched our first collection in Spring/Summer 2015, comprised of simple sheath dresses, loosely structured jackets, pencil skirts and matching tops. This year, we’re adding a few pants and other separates. All our fabrics have at least 55% hemp content, and many of them have been custom woven and dyed specifically for us.
Many factors come into the fold for consideration within this movement. It is international, moderate in size, and growing. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires in 2012. This implies human rights, worker rights, and, in many instances, women’s and children’s rights. How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
At Wallis Evera, we’ve chosen to manufacture locally and, although it’s an expensive choice, we will continue to manufacture locally – wherever local is – as we grow. We place a high value on contributing to our local economy and giving within the communities where we live. By staying local, we’re able to have a very close and personal relationship with our factory workers and we’re able to have a direct impact on the vulnerable populations in our own community.
What topics most interest you?
Because I have small kids and a husband that works in the public school system, our dinner table conversations tend to be a lot about educational theory – how we think, learn, change, grow – and how this can be encouraged. Stories related to the Hero’s Journey, human potential and transformation are very interesting to me, and I look for those themes when I pick up fiction, go to the theatre, read the news, build my business, everything.
What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?
It’s incredibly fulfilling to be able to create something beautiful and tangible in the world, from nothing but an idea. The problem solving, team building, research, mistakes, all of it – being an entrepreneur in the fashion space is challenging in every way, every day. The learning curve is steep and continual, and the feedback is pretty immediate because you’re dealing with the market. But that’s what I love – every day there’s some new challenge to tackle and also some old challenge that you can celebrate or lay to rest.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time?
Juggling a young family and a start-up fashion business is beyond full-time work already. The only other thing I try to do on top of these two priorities is stay fit – if I can get a run in every day, I do – it’s how I stay sane!
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Thank you for the opportunity, Scott.
Thank you for your time, Monique.