Fashion should not only be stylish. Fashion should also be fair. That is the opinion of more and more people. Also companies and entrepreneurs try to follow this trend. But even if the demand is rising, the situation for small sustainable shops is not always easy: The opinion of the owners of two fair fashion shops in Brussels.
You might have heard of locavores, followers of a local food movement who eat exclusively locally grown or produced food. Much less popular is the term Locawear. The principle of the style-conscious twin of the food movement is the same. But – as the name reveals – it is about fashion and clothes. Followers try to support designers from the region who use local or – at very least – organically produced fabrics. That should avoid long-distance shipping, exploitation of employees in low-wage countries and also facilitate local entrepreneurs.
With a lot of cities that are well-known for design and fashion Belgium is supposed to be a leading country for this movement. But even if more and more designers and companies in Brussels try to be as sustainable as possible, is this – especially for small businesses – still hard to realise.
Super fair: Super Green Me
Super Green Me in Brussels looks more like a well-designed living room than a shop. Flowers, palm trees, comfortable wooden chairs and an accommodating employee gives you the feeling of being invited at a good friend’s place. Alexia and Valérie Berckmans opened the eco in Brussels in 2008. The sisters offer clothes, but also cosmetics, shoes and household linen. They attach importance to products that are locally produced and not tested on animals.
If this broad offer doesn’t satisfy your wishes you can go one door further. There is the second shop of Valérie Berckmans. She sells her own fashion collections there. The fabrics and materials she uses are all ecologically and fair produced. But sustainability has its price. “We can not offer as cheap prices as some other shops because our workers are well-paid. In return is our quality better,” says Valérie Berckmans, “We have to change our mind. Instead of ten cheap t-shirts you buy two for the same price.”
The owners can see that a lot of people are already aware of the fact that they have to change their customer behaviour. Especially young people find a favour in the shop. Nevertheless it is not always easy for the two entrepreneurs. They wish they had more support of the politics, “State subsidies would help us a lot. Also we have to pay as much taxes as big chains or shops that are not sustainable.”
Makes fairness come true: Wonderloop
Wonderloop is a new store in downtown of Brussels that is also part of the Locawear movement. As soon as you enter you can feel the good vibe. Silent music and a smiling sales assistant welcome you. The furnishment is simple AND is to 95% made out of recycled materials.
The owner Héléna van Aelst checks every label on its sustainability before it is presented in the store. Only products that are made out of sustainable – or even upcycled – fabrics make it in the store. Also the conditions for the workers have to be appropriate. “The clothes are still industrial produced. But you can not stop the whole industry. It is better to change it and make people aware of what they are wearing,” says Héléna van Aelst.
The store offers 20 designers from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece and Portugal. Not enough to cover the huge demand, according to Selene Mauvis who works in the store, “We cannot offer every style. The offer for sustainable fashion in Brussel is not big enough. But the city moves in the right direction.”