Conscious Consumerism

Courtnay- A La Court Creative

retailer, artisanNick OgdenComment

Like a warm hug; that’s the way handmade knitted scarves and sweaters make a lot of us feel. We can sense the effort and care that the creators of these types of garments put in to making them. With every stitch, ball of yarn, and needle grasped, the creators of handmade knitted products are putting a piece of themselves into every article they create. This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Courtnay from A La Court Creative.

Courtnay is a new Halifax artisan, creating knitted products, jewelry, art, and just about anything else that she feels inspired by. During our conversation, an overwhelming feeling of creativity and an urge to share it with our community washed over me as Courtnay spoke with me. Our chat went on long tangents about everything from Queer Culture to Nova Scotia’s Education System, and I am thankful for these tangents. Courtnay is a person with a huge passion for sharing her creative gifts with the wider community and I am so happy to help her do this.

How did the brand start?

I would knit in my spare time making Christmas presents for friends and family. I received such positive feedback it gave me the push to just start selling my pieces. I recently reconnected with my inner creativity after being lost by the “growing up” process; the positivity from family and friends really gave me the confidence to start creating again. I also wasn’t very happy with the idea of a 9-5 job because it stifled my creativity and that is not something I wanted to lose. So I started working in a position that gave me more time to create during my off time.
— Courtney, A La Court Creative
 Courtnay, A La Court Creative 

Courtnay, A La Court Creative 

I think, like a lot of creative people, finding a balance between being creative and working is extremely hard. Being able to have your creativity as your work is a blessing and for the few of us who have this opportunity, we must take it and cherish it, as it is something that many people will never have.

What does your brand represent?

It represents a collection of my creativity and whatever falls under that umbrella. I couldn’t decide which avenue to focus on, so I dabble in everything I feel inclined to. I started using dead stock and recycled products for my jewelry and artwork so I don’t add the wasteful throwaway culture. It also forced me to use what I already have, allowing me to be more creative, not being able to make the same thing over and over.
— Courtney, A La Court Creative

What story do your pieces tell or what stories are you trying to tell through your pieces?

My knits tell a story of simplicity; the traditional maker. I want them to fill a very basic need that we have as Atlantic Canadians; we have a specific lifestyle and climate that requires big, warm knits. In our colder seasons we want to feel wrapped up and cozy
Most of my jewelry is my version of trying to reconnect with family heirloom style pieces. I was inspired to start making jewelry from a pair of pearl earrings that my late grandmother left me, and the simple, elegant styles she loved to wear. They make me feel connected to her and I think a lot of people want that kind of connection to their family.
When it comes to clothing, I was always interested in fashion and design. But I always stuck to the middle ground, balancing between feminine and masculine clothing; finding it a struggle to decide how to best portray myself. I want to create unisex clothing so everyone can feel comfortable in what they are wearing, and not be worrying about on which side of the line they should walk. And the materials I want to use are that of up-cycled fashion inspiration.
— Courtney, A La Court Creative

Gender identity and how we choose to portray ourselves to the world is an incredibly powerful thing. In an instant we are judged, critiqued, and have opinions formed about us before we even have a chance to say “Hello”. Expressing yourself—your true self—through the clothing you wear is so important because, in part, it tells people around you a bit about yourself. Having the right clothing available to help you tell your story is even more significant. I applaud Courtnay for her efforts to try and make this type of clothing available. There is enough in this world to make our lives difficult; worrying about what and how we represent ourselves through our clothing should not add to these struggles.

Will you be shifting your products for the warmer seasons?

Yes, I want to create my unisex clothing line in time for the summer months, but I am still gaging exactly what that will look like and how to create styles that are more widely accepted across all genders.

What can we expect from your brand?

The unexpected. I have an idea of what the brand will look like but I am always changing my focus and remain open and responsive to that change. I want my products to make people feel good and be long lasting, to try and reclaim the durability and classic-style longevity of fashion in past generations. And I will always try to use pre-existing products to make new ones
— Courtney, A La Court Creative

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to purchase a piece from A La Court Creative head on over to their Intagram and Spreesy pages.

Knits. Gender identity. Eco-Fashion. A La Court Creative is all of these things and many more. Courtnay is a fantastic creative and I am so glad she is a part of our local artisan and entrepreneurial community here in Halifax. I can’t wait to see what her unisex clothing looks like when it is released.

Thank you for reading and have a great one!

Mary- Life After Death Denim

recycled, retailerNick OgdenComment

For a while now I have been admiring a really cool Instagram account for their sweet shots and their fantastic philosophy, Life After Death Denim. If you aren't aware of the impact of big brand denim manufacturing it is extremely detrimental to our planet; 3,781 litres of water is used in 1 pair of Levi's, 33.5 kilos of CO2 emissions during lifespan of Levi's, 3year typical lifespan of a pair of Levi's. Levi's are just one example of a denim brand; Calvin Klein, Guess, Diesel, and other big brands are all similarly at fault. Creating a denim company is not cheap or easy. During my discussion with Mary she shed some insight into the industry and had some really interesting points that I have never even thought of.

Mary, Life After Death Denim, designer, environmentalist, fantastic conversationalist, and overall really nice lady. She has been in the denim world, designing for brands like Levi's and Ralph Lauren for decades, she knows whats up with denim. Credentials aside, Mary has this fire to create a denim brand that has a far less environmental impact then the big brands that is extremely inspiring. 

Life After Death Denim has been emerging out of Los Angeles, California, sense October of 2016 building momentum ever sense. The idea stemmed during a conference on transparency in the fashion industry which Mary was attending. She sat and listened and let her mind go to work. She immediately thought that to be transparent a fashion brand must have sustainability baked into its core code of ethics, fundamentally the bedrock which it is built. Mary needed a break from the conference and went for a walk, as she strolled around the outside the conference centre she had an epiphany, a denim brand using only recycled or dead-stock products; not adding to the waste that a typical fashion brand creates. Life After Death Denim was born. 

What is the vision for what the brand represents? 

The brand represents a new era of using what we have; using dead stock, recycled materials to make high quality new products.
— Mary
 Mary, Life After Death Denim 

Mary, Life After Death Denim 

Throughout our conversation Mary kept stressing this point, we need to start looking around at the resources we have and learn how to create products from materials that are on hand. If we don't need to make a new garment out of new material then why are why?! During her time with Levi Straus and Ralph Lauren she stressed this point, her team and managers liked the idea but the mechanics of big business moved to slow to make real change. 

Will you be expanding your collections to include all body types

Absolutely! All of our processes that make us who we are are unisex but right now its the cost that is setting us back. Creating a fashion line means spending lots of time and money of developing fits but we will get there!
— Mary

Mary explained to me that every one of her pieces are made by hand and as she put it, 100 hands touch each garment. That is 100 hands that are treated well and paid accordingly. Mary went into detail about the realities of her costs constraints, her garments are above a typical garments and that it leaves out some consumers but thinks consumers need to start to understand the real price of garments. Mary also went into detail about the difficulties about selling to men, in her experience she has found that men are more analytical, do more research, more critical but are willing to spend more for garments that are worth the money. 

Where do you do your dead stock and recycled components come from? 

Big warehouses in L.A.. We literally go digging through 5x5x4 foot bins of recycled and dead stock. We often get denim material from military and postal service suppliers for their high quality and abundance.
— Mary

How are your pieces made? 

Every piece is hand sanded with sand paper, we use a proprietary CO2 ozone closed loop destressor, new clean wizer wash system.
— Mary

Mary gave us some insight into the typical abrasion processes, which uses Turkish rocks that nick and wear, bleach and harmful chemicals. The rocks that a lot of used come from one hill in Turkey, shipped to where ever the manufacturers are, used until powdered (usually one or two uses), and then the process is repeated. This process is extremely laborious and a prime example of an open loop system. Through Life After Death Denim Mary wants to show all fashion manufacturers that there are much more sustainable ways to produce garments now. 

Do you have any words of wisdom or closing remarks? 

I want to inspire the next generation of denim brands to eliminate chemicals and wasteful processes. Have patience. Denim brands take a lot of time mature and catch on. Keep grinding. Lets continue to ask why and question big brands about their processes. We are an example of what the future looks like and what is possible.
— Mary

As a guy trying to create an almost gorilla movement of conscious consumers to push brands to make sustainable choices Mary has inspired me to keep fighting. Through our brief phone call it is clear that Mary has so much to give to the fashion and design industry and to all entrepreneurs. I can't wait to see what she creates through Life After Death Denim and beyond. 

Thank you for reading and don't forget, you can change the world. 


Kate- The Tare Shop

zero waste, retailerNick OgdenComment

I am a big supporter of young entrepreneurs and an even bigger supporter of young entrepreneurs that create here in Halifax. As an introduction to this segment of the blog I will be periodically interview local and non-local entrepreneurs with projects along the conscious consumerism path. This will be a showcase of young local talent building momentum in our community towards a more sustainable Halifax and global future. Our market is ripe with opportunities and there are young people around here making those opportunities a reality. 

Kate, recent Dal grad with a double major in Sustainability and Environmental Science with a minor in Marine Biology. She is what is known as a Zero-Waster, someone who strives to create as little or no waste while living on this planet. After graduating from Dal and spending a year contemplating life and realizing she has the skills and know how to make Halifax a little better, The Tare Shop was born.

The Tare Shop will be a zero waste cafe, bulk foods and sustainable goods boutique with a community centred approach; offering eco-education classes for the whole family, yoga classes, and community space. A seriously awesome ambitious idea! During our chat, Kate, emitted this strong belief in community and wants to create a space that is not only offering her values but will offer the values of the community, reflecting community wants and needs pivoting to react and support the people who support The Tare Shop. Kate has had a run with community support and eco-education through another project of her's: Our Positive Planet. This is a resource of positive eco-friendly articles dedicated to showcasing the good in our sometimes over critical world. Education and community are what seem to drive Kate.

Kate is an extremely positive person and has an incredible outlook on our market. When we talked about what impact she thinks the Tare Shop will have on other Halifax retailers, her response was nothing short: 

I really hope other businesses will move toward zero waste, it truly is the best thing for our planet.
— Kate

In thought, I really damn hope Halifax retailers follow suit. This might be a bit of stretch for some of the bigger stores but our homegrown shops should seriously think about it. Our market is small but we are an extremely loyal, loving, and supporting consumer base for local shops. As consumers if we ask retailers to follow suit of the Tare Shop then they will hopefully listen. 

I asked Kate about what the zero waste cafe might look like and more importantly, how in the heck is she going to convince Halifax to start bringing reusable coffee cups?! 

We won’t offer one use coffee cups but we will offer reusable coffee cups for sale in the shop, and maybe for those people not looking to spend that kind of money we will offer mason jars.
— Kate

The ever so useful, always gosh darn handy, ruler of the container, mason jar. These bad little beasts are in all honesty, the answer to so many of my problems. The only thing I hate about them, they get so darn hot with coffee in them. When discussing the mason jar coffee cup I suggested a leather sleeve, a buddy of mine makes them and boy do they work (shoutout to you Paul!).  

I asked Kate if she thought community and collaborative driven business is the way of the future: 

Yes! We will support local as much as we can, putting Nova Scotia suppliers as our primary source and then reaching further across Canada as needed, hopefully not stepping to far outside our country.
— Kate

To Kate, community isn't just her immediate supporters and geographical neighbours but rather an interconnected network of local business (as local as she can). This model of business is certainly a more sustainable way of supplying ones business but it does come with limitations. Global markets and trading have opened our demands to stretch far further then Canada can provide, however, Canada is blessed with some amazing things. I salute and support Kate's mission to support Nova Scotia first, Canada second, and global trade as a last resort. This style of business I think is what, as consumers, we should try and support. It doesn't say "no global trading" but rather "let us support ourselves and our local economy first". 

Lastly I asked Kate for any advice she would give to someone wanting to start to live a zero waste lifestyle: 

Start small, one change at a time. Do not restrict yourself to your perception of what a zero waste lifestyle means. For everyone it is different and it is always changing.
— Kate

Kate is one inspirational and positive person who I am so thankful decided to stay in Halifax after her degree and grace us with her entrepreneurship. The Tare Shop will be opening in the fall of 2018, North End Halifax. Keep your eyes and ears out for anything and everything that Kate does. I look forward to more chats and stepping into The Tare Shop this fall. 

Thank you for stopping by and have a great week!