Shopping sustainably: Where to get summer clothes in Montreal
Summer’s upon us! And that means getting your summer dresses and shorts and bikinis out of storage and in reachable view in your closet. If you’re looking to refresh your summer rotation but would like to do it sustainably, here’s a list of places to look:
1. Your closet.
Yes, really. Most of us have things in our closets that we’ve completely forgotten about (myself included). It’s in our nature – we live in our society that urges us to overconsume, and most of us don’t have the space (physically AND mentally) to keep proper track of all of our stuff. BUT, the most sustainable piece of clothing is the one that’s already in your closet. I would recommend taking a few hours to really go through your stuff and see if there’s things you can wear that you hadn’t thought of before. Who knows, you might find some interesting new combinations or rediscover an old favourite!
2. The Bunz app
The Bunz app is a place where you trade your unwanted items for items that you do want, including clothes. Founded by a young Montreal native who was broke & tired of watching perfectly good things go to waste, it’s very active in Montreal and is a great option for rehoming any still-functioning clutter that you have around the house.
A lot of people have been cleaning out their closet during quarantine, so Bunz these days is full of clothing posts. Just make sure that the trade is contact-free (mailbox trade, porch pick up or do that awkward dance of depositing something on the ground and moving away from it so that the other person can approach). And, of course, wash/disinfect your new belongings once you get home. I’ve been actively trading on Bunz since 2017 and have done three trades since the beginning of quarantine, all successful & disease-free as far as I can tell.
3. Vintage/consignment/second-hand stores
Montreal is in no shortage of vintage stores – there’s one in every neighbourhood if not on every corner. I recommend checking out some that are close to where you live. Here are three ideas to get your started:
- Value Village on the corner of Pie IX and Ontario (2033 Boulevard Pie-IX) – Recommended by a fellow ecoblogger who is a thrifting pro, this place is basically like a Winners but with lower prices and the occasional item in used condition. You can also donate your gently used belongings when you visit and get a coupon for 20% off your purchase.
- Ex-Voto – I’ve been and got the feeling that the staff are very careful in selecting the pieces that they sell. A friend who’s been going there for a long time confirms: it’s generally easy to find pieces you like. They also have fun accessories and home items on site.
- Deuxième occasion – from the website it looks like consignment done right. Designer clothes & shoes at much more accessible prices than retail.
For more ideas, check out MTLblog’s map of the best vintage stores in Montreal. If you’re good at knowing your size and eyeballing fit online, you can check out online secondhand marketplaces like Poshmark, Depop and ThredUp.
4. Local, sustainable shops & brands
If you’ve done your best to find what you need in 1-3 and you’re still needing new clothes or something in particular, I’d definitely recommend buying from brands that make a genuine effort to be as sustainable as possible. Here are a few I’d recommend checking out:
- Kotn: a Canadian brand that’s big on traceability and using high-quality, ethically-made natural materials. Remake-approved. Price range: $25-$35 CAD for tank tops and $75-$90 CAD for more complex pieces like pants & dresses.
- Ramonalisa: Ethically made in Montreal using ecofriendly fabrics. Price range: roughly $80-$150 CAD before tax for most items.
- OÖM/Message factory: a Québec brand based in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu that is keen on ethical, environmentally-friendly & local production. Price range: $45-$150 CAD before tax.
- Gaia & Dubos: a higher-end sustainable boutique based in Québec City. A bit more expensive but cute styles and high-end sustainable fabrics like peace silk (made in a way that doesn’t kill the silk worm). Made ethically in Québec. Most items are around $100-$500 CAD.
Here are also a couple of international brands to check out:
- People Tree – this UK brand was featured in The True Cost (the go-to documentary on fast fashion) as the example to follow for ecofriendly & ethical clothing production.
- No Nasties – an India-based brand recommended by fellow ecobloggers and rated as “Great” (5/5) by Good on you.
Longer lists are available here and here. Also, when you’ve found a brand you like and want to know if it’s sustainable, the Good on you website/app is a good place to look if you want a quick overview of how it scores on being kind to the environment, the people in its supply chain and to animals.
Avoid fast fashion as much as possible
Yes, it can be tempting to buy new clothes at trendy places that have lower price points but it’s really, really unethical and bad for the environment (check out the books & films on my resources page to learn more). While I’m a strong believer in redemption and second chances, at the time of writing I would recommend against buying from the following companies:
- Urban Outfitters: rated “Not Good Enough” (2/5) by Good on you. It’s a fast fashion brand particularly plagued by controversy.
- Victoria’s Secret: doesn’t use ecofriendly materials and its production methods probably include forced labour. Good on you rates it as “Not Good Enough” (2/5) as well.
- Anthropologie – This store was a lot cuter in my mind before reports surfaced that it had a code name for telling their employees to follow black customers around its stores while leaving white customers alone.
- Everlane: once considered a sustainable brand of choice, recent reports reveal union-squashing practices and an incredibly toxic and racist work culture. Steer clear.
Hope that helps! If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to comment below or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.