Diary of a Frugalista:Stamped Denim

Diary of a Frugalista:Stamped Denim

When it is gloomy and rainy outside, it is the perfect time to stay at home and start some DIY projects!

Today I will show a sequel of my  Bleached Denim post. Let’s stamp!

My inspiration was these bleached-n-painted jeans shorts. I loved the idea of combining a bold black and white design with the subtle denim texture. The problem was… I could not do it by hand because I am so bad at drawing! What could be the solution? Stamping! Stamping is perfect for me. It is very easy to do, and gives a greater uniqueness and personal touch than what you can find in stores.

To my surprise, it was not easy to find good stamping accessories in Montreal. Some stampers were available at the art store DeSerres. Stamping kits were there too, but they were paired with a regular paint that is not suitable for fabric. Even Dollarama failed to help: I was only able to find toy stampers for kids there.

Of course, I could have bought the accessories on the Internet. But I did not want to wait – it was time to get creative!

I made a stamping inkpad out of a dish sponge that I cut through the middle. Small air-tight plastic containers from Dollarama became inkpad cases. The fabric paint was bought at DeSerres. Also, I bought a few floral and heart-shaped stampers there and got a bag of toy finger stampers at Dollarama.


At first, I did some sample tests. I diluted the pink paint with a bit of water and poured it on the sponge.  Then, I stamped the fabric and realized that- surprise, surprise! – results are better when stamping is done on a flat surface.

After stamping is done, the design needs to become permanent! The paint gets fixed by ironing for 5 minutes in cotton selection. Once fixed, the design resists machine washing and dry cleaning.

After waiting for the paint to dry, I washed the samples. Woo-hoo, it looks so cool!

Floral stamps looked pretty too.

Although I liked the resulting floral pattern, I wanted to make a geometric ornament with circles and rectangles. To do that, I bought an eraser and used its wide side as a stamper. The circle was made out of a finger stamper with the shape part removed.

The result was not perfect enough for me. The surface of the eraser side was too large, and the paint got unevenly distributed across the surface. The same happened with the circles.

After experimenting more, I decided to use the most narrow side of the eraser. It greatly improved the quality of the prints. Hurray!

I liked the brick pattern the best. Instead of the circles, I decided to use the star finger stamper.

Ok! So the pattern and the technique was all set! It was the time to prepare the shorts.

I bought a pair of jeans at a thrift store.

Then I cut and bleached them using the instructions I have recently published.

Stamping time! Making the very first prints was so exciting!

The left part was stamped with stars. Some stamps turned out to be untidy, because the circular edge of the stamper left marks. Another hint: to get a good quality print, use good tools!

On the back, I only stamped the pockets.

Before fixing the design, I waited one hour to let the paint dry.

Fixing by ironing was long and inconvenient, so I decided to use a different method! I baked the shorts in the oven for 5 minutes with the temperature at 300F.

(OMG, my oven is so dirty! Have not noticed before!)

Here comes the result! I rolled up the trouser legs and sewed them underneath in a few places. After baking, the fabric got some yellowish tint. The tint was resistant and survived washing, so I decided to pretend it was by design!

The view from the back. The flaps need to be ironed after every washing.

Stamping is cool!

A few practical tips from my experience:

  • Quality of the print depends on the quality of the stamper, so it is worth to spend money on accessories.
  • Do stamping carefully on a flat surface; to make sure the fabric was  flat, I put a magazine inside the shorts.
  • The fabric should be stretched and secured with pins.
  • Whitebright paint will probably not be visible on a light cloth; while choosing the paint, pay attention to what fabric it is designed for (darklight).
  • It is much easier to dry the paint in the oven than doing so by ironing; of course, it will work only if the garment has no plastic details or buttons.

This is it! Happy stamping!

My blog:

Interview with 4 elements

Interview with 4 elements

Dear Swappers,

Please give a warm welcome to Marie from 4 elements, who has kindly offered us her store as a drop-off point for clothing donations.

Boutique 4 Elements  is located on 4326 St-Denis (map) and clothing donations can be made during the following times up until July 22nd:

Mon – Wed: 11am – 6pm

Thurs – Friday: 11am – 8pm

Sat: 10am – 5pm Sun: 11am – 5pm

When would you say are the fashion world’s peak moments during the year?
The fashion world usually has 2 seasons, which in “fast fashion”, is then divided in two. But at 4 elements, the switch-overs are fall-winter into spring-summer, as we are based in a country where each season requires quite a different relationship to clothing in order to accommodate completely different climates.

What’s your definition of sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion starts with two ingredients: quality and style. We carefully select fashions according to their materials (certified organic cottons and low impact fabrics such as hemp, tencel, linen, wool, etc.) and review the story behind the clothing, where it is made and how. Styling also plays into our definition of sustainability, as we believe we should be able to wear garments over and over, season after season, not so much according to trends but according to fit. This changes our relationship to clothing in general: buying a piece of clothing that makes us feel great has more impact on people than buying a piece to follow a trend. It also changes our relationship to the products we choose to consume. We relate to each product, artist, and designer we represent, or as we put it: It’s conscious culture and fashion as storytelling.

Do you consider 4 Elements to be an Eco-friendly boutique? If so, how?
Ecological materials, brand stories, social involvement are highly sought traits by our buying team at 4 elements. Our mission is to offer only ecological quality products in order to create a healthier life and a more accountable one,  all while experiencing more enjoyment. Being smart and beautiful according to the ecologicalconcept is possible. We will attempt to convince everyone  of this, through our modern and unique selection, always according to our sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly guidelines. From organic cotton to hemp, recycled bike tubes or recycled pop bottle fabrics, there’s so much to discover. It is conscious culture and fashion as storytelling that makes being “green” feel great!

How would you like to see the fashion industry change over the next ten years? How do you think they should do it?
With stronger awareness about the environment, better education on the benefits of the global organic movement for both the earth and mankind, sustainability is starting to gain momentum with consumers. As Laure Waridel puts it, “Acheter, c’est voter”. Consumers have a voice and we want to support them in using it wisely.

We need to relate once again to what we wear and buy, we need to value the materials we take from our lands and the human resources used to transform them. This is not an overnight shift: our relationship to the goods we consume is key.

What’s a day In 4 Elements like?
At 4 elements, we not only strive to change the relationship to goods, but we have also created an environment where we encourage human connection. On a daily basis, we have sustainability conversations with our customers. Sometimes they are already aware; sometimes this information is completely new to them. Our one-of-a-kind boutique is an integral part of our distinctive character as we provide a shopping experience that is on a human level.

What designers do you sell in your boutique?
From Montreal, we carry clothing lines from Jennifer Glasgow, Pascale Viau, Advika, Musky, Kiitsch, Mademoiselle Valérie, Pas de ChiChi, Sugaristik, handbags we have Ressac, Deborah Adams, Sens Inverse, Lucie Bélanger and jewellery we do Otra, Arterre, Chikiboom, Z Créations, Estrella, Rose Pedals, Elk, Ada Jito, Vuela Vuela and much more to discover!

We do also carry other  Canadian designers  such as We3, Elroy, Lindsey M, Echo Verde, just to name a few!

What sales or deals do you have now?
We always have a great sale selection from 20% to 70% off but we are also helping locally made Soap to clear out their remaining line.

Tell us about the history of your boutique. How was it founded? What was the idea behind it? How did you start working here?
4 elements was founded in 2010 to follow the founder’s dream of an eco-friendly lifestyle boutique. Supporting sustainability and local flavours is first and foremost, but  we also offer different price points to reach to a wider audience. We provide basics that everyone can jazz up with style and unique accessories!

What plans do you have for the future?
We launched our online boutique on June 1st, as we want to showcase our local flavours and eco-fashion outside of our physical location. We continue to spread the eco conscious word and want to take part in this major shift towards sustainability. In the future, we would like to spread our wings and carry more goods, always keeping within our sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly guidelines.

If you had all the power of the world, how would you change the fashion world?
I would slow down the pace of fashion, design and production. “Fast fashion” terribly affects quality, durability and humanity. “Slow fashion” allows us to bring back more grounded values, such as the well-fitting piece in our boutique. We have a great selection of yoga clothes, mats and accessories because we are yogis. We’ve selected organic beauty and hair products that will amaze with their quality, their natural scents and other special properties. Last but not least, we carry home products for everyday use, from well designed mugs to reusable lunch packing solutions.

Behind the scenes of The SWAP Team’s Spring/Summer 2012Look Book Photoshoot

By Flora Law

At The SWAP Team we have been super super busy making preparations to bring you the most fashion-tastic swap event on July 28th and 29th at the Place des Arts Montreal! We have been cooking up some pretty amazing stuff and pulled off quite a few great looks from the various swapped items from several donors and our awesome local and eco-friendly sponsors to put together a look book for spring & summer 2012!

We’ve even come across some rare gems, like a Christian Dior blouse, Gucci sweater and other unique pieces donated by our amazing local designers. We are not pulling your designer boot leg here. See for yourself:

Dress – Quartier Mode

Jean-François Brière, our very own talented photographer has managed to capture some really glamorously gorgeous shots! We went all out and gave our bloggers the fully-packaged star treatment, including hair styling and make-up by Martine Fillion (514-889-0001) and Susannah Rupnik (514-586-2656) and wardrobe styling by Caroline Alexander from Ludique with some help from Kimberly Maturo.

Oh, what fun the fashion bloggers had going through the various assortment of outfits and trying them on! Look at these hot poses below — it’s like they were born to be standing in front of a camera lens!

We couldn’t contain ourselves, so we decided to share with you some of the amazing behind-the-scenes shots we took:

Blazer – Cokluch
Pants – Ludique (Christian Chenail)

Kim Ninkuru, @FakionIshon of

Blazer – La Gaillarde (Jones New York)
Skirt – The SWAP Team
Bracelet – Cat, The SWAP Team
Necklace – Cat, The SWAP Team
Top – Annex Vintage

Lisa Kisber, @LKiSStyle of

We hope this inspires you to clean out your closets and get excited about the things you might find at the swap! You never know what treasures you will discover while updating your wardrobe in an environmentally and fiscally responsible way!

Special thanks to our sponsors BijoutiaQuartier ModeLudiqueCréations Encore, PwarkCokluch, ChikiboomAnnex Vintage, La Gaillarde, Tomate D’Épingles, Meemoza, Jennifer Glasgow Design, 4 Elements, Éthik BGC, Atelier Tri Cycle and Créations Compulsives.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the look book delivered to your inbox!


Look forward to your likes, shares and comments! Sharing is GOOD 🙂

Interview with Quartier Mode

Dear swappers,

To thank our supporters for all of their help this year, we have offered to conduct interviews with them that we will post in the weeks prior to the event.  For our first interview, I’d like to introduce you to Tiffany from Quartier Mode, who has hosted a fundraiser for us and has offered us to use her shop as a drop off point for all of your donations.

" Everyday comes with its own challenges. But what I like best is the immediate reward, when a customer is really happy" - Tiffany from Quartier Mode

Quartier mode is located at 4276 St-Laurent, and dropoff hours up until July 22nd, are:

Mon – Wed: 12pm – 7pm
Thurs – Fri: 12pm – 8pm
Sat – Sun: 11am – 5pm

Quartier Mode is located at 4276 St-Laurent Blvd.

When would you say are the fashion world’s peak moments during the year?
I don’t follow too much the “fashion world” anymore. I’ve been mega focused on our own little local fashion community. I haven’t really been obeying the typical Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter calendar’s either. Some of our designers make items as they are inspired. I try to treat each month as its own different little fashion season. For me, every time I found a new, talented designer, or when they presented themselves to me,  or anytime a customer said, “Oh, I don’t know this one” and I could introduce them to something new in the local fashion world, those were big peak moments for me.

I did however feel like Jeannie Becker retiring was a big thing. I had been watching her since I was a child. I was inspired by designers and it helped me see outside my small town, making me think that being a designer was attainable. So that was big. I guess people have to retire sometime.

What’s your definition of sustainable fashion?
I think of it like this: If we lost all contact to the outside world, like outside Montreal, and we had to rely on only our own resources, would we be able to still make it? I think self-reliant structures are key to sustainability. We have all the talent we need here to produce everything, we should be using it. It employs our local people, makes our local economy stronger, and makes us masters on a global playing field.

Do you consider Quartier Mode to be an eco-friendly boutique? If so, how?
Yes I do.  A lot of our 37 designers tend to use eco fabrics anyhow. They maintain sustainable fashion practices by making their items locally. Our whole mission is to support the local designers and local production; so Yes, we are an eco-friendly boutique. Plus, they are all very friendly aside form being eco, so very eco-friendly.

How would you like to see the fashion industry change over the next ten years? How do you think they should do it?
I want more production done locally, so that more local designers are encouraged and supported to make it to the customers! I want consumers to realize the impact that their purchasing choices have on their community and how supporting local could help so much. I would like to see people move to quality, not quantity and being responsible for what they do with their clothing when it’s done, either by swapping it or recycling it instead of hucking it in a land fill. There is so much waste, with clothing being one of the top items filling up landfills since they are mass produced items that break in two weeks later, or fade quickly. It is so pointless and disappointing.

We should all learn how to take proper care of our garments too and learn how to mend them so they last longer. Our grandmothers can teach us these things or someone in our community who knows how to. It all has to do with buying local and supporting local businesses really, such as the tailor on the corner, the designer in our neighborhoods, etc. That is why I used Quartier Mode. They are the ladies riding by us on their bicycles on the street, or those who we pass in the grocery store, it’s neighborhood fashion.

What’s a day In Quartier Mode like?
I start by checking emails, filling on-line orders, and drinking a huge coffee then I open, and greet customers as they come in. I always have list of thing to do, but no matter it is always a wild card kind of day. I never really know who I will encounter or what styling challenges I will face. There is always something new to learn or someone new to meet.

I love finding a new talent and giving them valuable feedback from customers to designers. I also love talking to people and helping them find the right item based on their life, finding who they are, and making people feel beautiful. Everyday comes with its own challenges. But what I like best is the immediate rewards, when a customer is really happy. I love connecting with people and helping them define their personal style or helping someone overcome a personal issue with their body by putting them in the right fit. When I start to know a customer well enough to see new styles coming in and knowing the ones they will like, I get excited. I want people to be happy and I want to be apart of their happiness in some small way. I want to give the support I always wanted as a designer and as a shopper.

At night I stay late and re-stock and/or lately making patterns for clothing and think about the day. Knowing that I tried my best and was true to my morals and our mission makes me happy. Then, I drink Valerian tea and try to leave work at work.

What designers do you sell in your boutique?
To name a few, we had Meemoza, Remy & Mercy, Rififi, Camz, Sandrine Devost, Kollette, Mizdragonfly, Naike, Alice & Alishka, Les Enfants Sauvages, huard et associes, noujica, atelier b, Birds of North America, Dfly, Et isemerie Crea, Self made, cocolilly, pattern recognitions, preloved, Jennifer Glasgow, Hanami, atelier make, Genevieve savard, deborah adams, JJ louis, blank, sosiesosie, allison wonderland, ramonalisa, Les ballades de florence, Aria bijoux, Missy industry’s Black Light collection, Virginie Millefiori, and Noir de Mars. Plus in the Fall, we are launching a few new designers, such as Dawcy & Ella, Dear Dawcy, and we are also getting Paper People clothing, Broken Doll and more.

We opened in September with 13, now we have about 37 local designers and more from independent designers across Canada.

What sales or deals do you have now?
We have hand bag designer Noir de mars’ new collection and launch party coming up on June 28th! Also in the last weekend of august, we have discounts on local designer past season collections, and of course our spring/summer end of season sales. Every month we have different events!

Tell us about the history of your boutique. How was it founded? What was the idea behind it? How did u start working here? (if the interviewed person is not the owner/founder)
It was founded by myself and a co-worker day dreaming, we were both working in between jobs and making our designs at night. We both moved here over a decade ago and we’re still trying to make it. We knew a lot of designers who were struggling like us, unable to break in and find financing to make enough stock to supply stores to even get really started. So the name came from trying to find a name for some sort of event to promote local designers. We started doing pop-up shops in other people’s stores to promote local designers.

When I got laid off, I took it as a sign and I started the SAJE program, a business development program. The business plan took on many forms over that year. I spent a lot of time obsessing and researching. But in the end, based on all my research and thinking long and hard on how I wanted to spend my days and on how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, and what was really important to me, I came up with the store/web store/blog concept.

I must have presented to about 15 different organizations until I got enough financing to start the store and it has been go go go ever since. Since then my friend who helped come up with the original idea, finished her textile degree and will be launching her first big collection by the end of this month in the store. She also works here part time.

What plans do you have for the future?
Just building our customer base and selling more for the designers. I started working with a great team to make the web store huge; reaching international markets that will sell a lot more of our designers items and really get them out there. That is coming along. I aim to do bigger events in the future for our designers as well, and build the blog up more to promote them even better. I am also still working on my line of clothing slowly too, within that I have lots of things going on.

If you had all the power of the world how would you change the fashion world?
If I had all the money in the world to change it, I would keep doing what I am doing. The only thing I would like is to reach our goals more quickly by hiring on the right people for our team so that we could do a lot more in a quicker way and bring on a lot more designers! I would also start supporting new designers by funding their first production runs and offer mentoring to get them going! I would love that!

What is your favorite fashion star? Who inspires you?
My grandmother. She has such lady like elegant style and makes all her own clothing, she used to sing on CBC radio and has all sorts of elaborate pieces she made to her normal ensembles.

Also the ladies who come into the store. From their feedback, or what they have on, and how they wear items. I always keep a sketch book near by. They get my wheels turning. I am constantly thinking on how can I improve or build on this, looking at vintage fashion. I design based on construction and how to make cuts most flattering on the body. All the designers in the store also inspire me, they all have such unique styles of their own. It is nice to see the depth in which they delve into their concepts and how they will re-invent it every season or with each creation. No one can be anyone else, so I am so inspired by all their different evolutions too.

Describe us your ideal customer. Who is your boutique for?
All types of women. We have customers ranging from the age of 18 to 65. But also, a woman who enjoys quality and loves to feel beautiful.



Host a Clothing Swap,Be the Envy of Your Friends

Host a Clothing Swap,Be the Envy of Your Friends

by Nicole Longstreath

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving an invitation to a monthly event called le Salon. At this very exclusive monthly event, about 6-8 smart ladies get together to share conversation and make something either yummy or useful. So far, we’ve made vanilla extract, holiday rum balls and lip balm. We catch up on relationships, read directions to one another and share recipes in the end.

Ladies of le Salon

Hosts have impressed us all with hot, mulled cider, goat cheese tarts and classic no-bake cookies. It’s female camaraderie with a special something to take home with you – so there is no reason to not make a clothing swap among friends a classy, social affair. Here is how you could host your very own le Swap:

1.) Decide on a venue and send out invitations. The most authentic way to host le Swap is at your own place, and Evite is perfect for rounding up everyone by email. Welcoming your friends into your home for a party is fun and gives you an opportunity to shine as a host. If you feel like you can’t do it all by yourself, recruit an invitee of le Swap to help you prepare.

2.) Collect all clothing in advance and sort. This is an important step. If you don’t collect the clothing pre-swap, you have to do either mad dash swap or everyone-chooses-one-at-a-time swap. What you want to create is a rotational swap, where everyone can choose the best item out of a group. So, collect all clothing and sort by type – blouses, knit tops and sweaters, jackets, bottoms and accessories (always include accessories, if not require everyone to bring at least one).

3.) le Swap. This is how you do a rotational swap for 8 ladies: create 4 groups of clothing which contain a bit of everything that was collected. For example, if you got more tops than bottoms, then each group should contain more tops than bottoms. Draw numbers and everyone takes turns, 4 women at a time, choosing one item from one group until everything is gone. If you have items left over, just donate them.

Of course, you will want to take photos during the swap to share later. And always send the recipes featured in your le Swap to your friends after the event so they can make them at home. Before you know it, you could have a regular group, swapping your haute couture while munching on tarts and enjoying girl time.

Toronto clothing drop-off locations and hours

We’re making it easy for you to participate in our spring event by collecting clothing in advance.

Please make sure you have bought your ticket and downloaded and printed our labels for your bags of clothing first! (See our event listing with all details here.)

281 Pacific Ave.
Please ring doorbell

Dates/times clothing is accepted:
Apr 14: 7-9pm
Apr 30: 11am-2pm
May 11: 6-9pm
May 15: 11am-2pm
May 17: 7-9pm
May 21: 11am-2pm

21 Ossington Avenue
located at the corner of Ossington and Queen Streets
Note: building is covered with flowers

Dates/times clothing is accepted:
May 6: 4-6pm
May 7: 9am – 12pm
May 14: 1pm – 4pm
May 20: 4-6pm
May 21: 1-5pm
May 25: 3-6pm

Questions? Email us:

The Paisley Shirt: 3 Ways

The Paisley Shirt: 3 Ways

By Nicole Longstreath, writer of

The exotic and mystical paisley motif has been dazzling design lovers for centuries. Conceived in the Middle East first around 650 AD, the paisley was associated with – what else – fertility, and was reserved strictly for royalty. It wasn’t until the 17th century when trade brought the paisley to Europe where it evolved as a staple textile pattern.

On a recent thrifting trip for home goods, I wandered innocently over to the women’s clothing. This wasn’t my usual location for clothing, so I was skeptical that I would find anything I liked. Mostly, I was right, but this paisley shirt caught my attention.

The color and pattern was striking – almost Pucci-esque, yet slightly muted. I snatched it off the rack, held it up to my torso to estimate whether it would fit and threw it in my basket. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure how I would wear it, but I was determined to find a way.

Tourist, Liberal Activist, The Editor

“Tourist” is perfect for not looking anything like a tourist. Vacation clothing should be comfortable and stylish. Unfortunately, that “USA #1” t-shirt will ensure the worst service everywhere you go. Traveling without style is a big no-no, so ditch the fanny-pack and sneakers for a smart bag and stylish sandals. Pair with long shorts, sunglasses and a travel guide.

“Liberal Activist” doesn’t pay attention to rules for pairing patterns. She’s got rallies to organize, baby seals to save and Republicans to piss off. This look is kept comfy and breezy, because restrictive clothing is just another way of The Man keeping you down. Pair with a colorful skirt, gold T-strap shoes and a picket sign.

“The Editor” doesn’t care why your story is late. Deadlines, people! Her favorite motto for writing headlines is keep it simple, stu … er, sweetheart. This just in: frumpy office attire just won’t do, story at eleven. Pair with tailored pants, skinny belt and a menacing stare.

Snapshot: Secondhand Clothing Market in Amsterdam

Snapshot: Secondhand Clothing Market in Amsterdam

by Allison Gryski

On Amsterdam Clothing MarketMonday mornings in Amsterdam, the Noordermarkt has numerous stalls of secondhand clothing.  The popular display method seems to be heaps of clothing (or shoes) laid out on tarps or tables.  It’s bustling with people digging through these piles of clothes, looking for a stylish bargain.

clothing market in AmsterdamThe Dutch people are said to be very keen on bargains and the popularity of such markets seems to support that.  To give you further perspective, there was a recent grocery store ad campaign where the selling point was a savings of 21 cents (on a grocery bill of approximately 64 €) compared to the competitor.  This works out to just 0.3% cheaper.  I wouldn’t expect this to be a compelling difference in many places, but it apparently works for the Netherlands.  I think clothing swaps would be popular here, but so far I’ve only run across mentions of small scale, semi-private ones. (See more more pictures from the market).

clothing marketDo you know of any clothing swap events in the Netherlands?  Share them in the comments!  Are you interested in starting a chapter of The S.W.A.P. Team in the Netherlands (or anywhere else)?  Here’s how to Get Involved!

Allison Gryski is a Canadian living in Amsterdam. She describes herself as a bookish artist, exuberant baker, usability snob, discerning gourmandise, and occasional freelance dragon seeker. She’s also passionate about thrift store bargains, bicycles, and afternoon naps.

The Sustainable Closet: 10 Reasons to be Suspicious of "Eco-Friendly" Fabrics

by Allison Gryski

Part of the S.W.A.P. Team’s mission is to promote eco-friendly clothing consumption. Finding clothing produced with a lower environmental impact is not an easy task, however. Products are called “green” and “organic” and “eco-friendly” as a means of selling them, not as a means to inform the consumer. Looking to profit from the “green” trend, unscrupulous or uninformed corporations target consumers with half-truths and misleading advertising. Eco-friendly labelling often falls apart when you look at the whole system involved, rather than at just one piece of the production process. Here’s a little perspective on some frequently touted “greener” fabric choices: organic cotton and bamboo.

Organic Cotton

Conventional cotton production involves a lot of pesticides and herbicides, so organic cotton seems like a great solution.

1. Organic cotton … at least a little?

Some products labelled as organic cotton may be 100% cotton, but are only partially composed of organic cotton. Sometimes as little as 3% of the fibre used is actually organic cotton.

2. Organic cotton … says the price!

Organic cotton has lower yields than conventional cotton, which means a more expensive end product. Of course, a higher price is no guarantee in itself as companies want to profit from using the label “organic,” even if it’s not justified.

3. Organic cotton … says who?

You also have to contend with the industry standards where the organic cotton was grown. Cheap labour is still the best way to harvest organic cotton, since standard harvesting techniques involve using yet more chemicals for defoliating the plants. Handpicking cotton bolls is only an economically viable option in developing countries. Accordingly, more than half the world’s supply of organic cotton comes from India, and independent testing by a German laboratory in 2010 reportedly showed that 30% of the samples did not meet organic standards. It’s the same old story that countries offering cheap labour (leading to affordable end products) tend not to have rigorous standards.

4. Organic cotton … but what about the rest of it?

Another tricky bit is that garments made with 100% organic cotton may be dyed with non-organic dyes, compromising the organic claims.

5. Organic cotton … but it still uses a lot of water!

Even if you overcome all those marketing obstacles, you still need to look at the whole system in context. The term “organic” has become almost synonymous with environmental friendliness, without necessarily delivering on that promise. Even crops grown with no chemical assistance can have a negative environmental impact. In the case of cotton, it uses a huge amount of water.  This isn’t a problem in regions where the crop is rain-fed, but irrigation is also common.  Irrigation is obviously more reliable than rainfall and it produces higher yields.  Irrigating cotton is completely “organic”, but terribly detrimental to the local ecosystem.


So if, organic cotton isn’t the panacea it seems, what about bamboo? Bamboo has been the green darling recently because it’s a fast-growing grass that requires little in the way of pesticides and herbicides, making it an easily renewable and low impact crop.

6. Bamboo fabric … grown nicely, produced nastily!

A sustainable growing process doesn’t guarantee an earth-friendly end product. Unfortunately, the processing used to turn bamboo into a fabric is generally a chemically intensive process with toxic byproducts. If you find something labelled “bamboo linen,” then (at least in Canada), this means it was produced with a more environmentally friendly mechanical process, similar to how flax and hemp are processed into linen. However, most bamboo fabric is actually produced similar to rayon, using a chemical process.

7. Bamboo fabric … antimicrobial or not?

One frequently advertised feature of bamboo is that it has a natural antimicrobial quality, but this is destroyed by the rayon-style processing.

8. Bamboo fabric … made where and by whom?

The problem of processing is compounded because so much clothing is produced in developing countries with lower environmental standards for industry. Given lower standards, the environment isn’t the only concern.  There’s also the potential health hazards to the workers exposed to the chemicals during processing.

9. Bamboo fabric … low impact means lower profits!

While some types of bamboo fabric have lower impact, this usually goes along with a higher price, making it undesirable both to companies and consumers. Most bamboo fabric on the market is produced with the chemical process, which is cheaper than the low-impact mechanical process.

10. Bamboo fabric … no way to know!

And of course, there’s usually no way of knowing the production details when looking at the final garment.

So what is a Sustainable Choice?

Excepting “bamboo linen,” neither organic cotton, nor bamboo fabric qualify as truly sustainable choices.  This type of information can be demoralizing and make it feel like there’s no point even trying, but natural fibres are still a better choice than synthetics. Fibres like hemp, linen, and “bamboo linen” are all produced in a sustainable way. Even natural fibres that have a higher impact, such as cotton (organic or not), wool (organic or not), and chemically processed bamboo, have advantages over synthetics. For example, compared to synthetics such as acrylic, viscose, and polyester, natural fibres are more biodegradable.

Even better, there is one type of clothing that is guaranteed to have low environmental impact: second-hand clothing! Regardless of the original manufacturing process of the garment, giving it a new life in your wardrobe is infinitely better than wearable clothing going to waste in a landfill.  Using pre-loved clothing means that less new clothing needs to be manufactured.  Thrift stores, consignment shops, and clothing swaps are great places to find affordable clothing to stock your sustainable closet.


Allison Gryski is a Canadian living in Amsterdam. She describes herself as a bookish artist, exuberant baker, usability snob, discerning gourmandise, and occasional freelance dragon seeker. She’s also passionate about thrift store bargains, bicycles, and afternoon naps.

Swapping is the new Shopping!

So what are you going to do with that Christmas sweater you didn’t like? That tacky dress from your old boyfriend? That designer piece you “invested” in only to take it home and realize it wasn’t you? What about that skirt you bought that didn’t quite fit and you ran out of time to exchange it? And, oh! Those … well … nevermind. Let’s call them bad decisions. We’re entitled to make fashion mistakes, right? As long as they’re hidden in the back of the closet – out of sight, out of mind!

You could sell them on eBay, couldn’t you? Take good pictures of everything, measure them, upload the pictures, write the descriptions … nahhh, too much work.

You could drop them off somewhere and give them away … but what if, just one time, you actually decide you DO want to wear them? You spent a lot of money … hmmm.

Why not take off those unwanted clothes and take them to our next clothing swap?

Swapping is the new shopping! Here’s how it works:

  • Bring us men’s, women’s and/or children’s used clothing, shoes and accessories in clean, wearable condition
  • We’ll give you 1 ticket per item (except accessories, which are 1 ticket per 2 items)
  • You use your tickets to “shop” for anything in our swap boutique – it’s set up just like a store but there are NO PRICE TAGS!
  • All of the leftover items are donated to a charity such as The Salvation Army!

So what do you have to lose (besides that crocheted sweater from your birthday that you never wore)?

Check out our happenings section and come SWAP ’til you drop!