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THE ERA OF AWAKENING WITH MYRIAM LAROCHE

Myriam Laroche

Photography by: Audet Photo

October, 23rd 2020

She is the woman every company needs and everyone wants to become, both within and outside the fashion industry. Smart and casual, Myriam Laroche has revolutionized our perception of clothes with her Eco-Fashion week.

Words By Alessandra Di Perna

In a candid, cross-oceanic talk over Zoom, Myriam Laroche welcomed Staiy to join her morning tea routine and gain a deeper understanding about her perception of eco-fashion and what hides behind her small, yet statutory label.

Understanding the dynamics within the fashion industry, its shows, and its events is no easy feat. “When I ask myself whether we should continue to do these types of events, I don’t have a conclusive answer. My observation is that we should not produce a show that costs millions of dollars where we don’t even pay those working behind the scenes. Every human should be well-treated; equality has to be an integral part of any business model, with employees receiving the remuneration they deserve. The remaining budget will then tell you how big of a show you can have. And don’t get me wrong, I understand the elemental part of beauty and flamboyance in these shows. I love fabrics and all the rest, but I feel that somewhere along the road, we lost our sense of what really matters.”

“I understand the elemental part of beauty in these shows. I love fabrics and all the rest, but I feel that somewhere along the road, we lost our sense of what really matters.”

Inspired by the latest call-to-action by fashion designer, Giorgio Armani, Laroche reflects, “We do not admire our clothes anymore, we do not value them.” She does not embrace the traditional idea of sustainable, non-mainstream, bohemian fashion; on the contrary, she ditches the typical notion of ‘sustainable’ being inherently expensive. “People are always remarking, ‘Oh but sustainable fashion is so expensive!’ I think we should eliminate the word ‘expensive’ and create affordable prices. If I want to pay $100 for a t-shirt made from Egyptian cotton that is going to last me three years instead of buying ten t-shirts at $10, I will do it, to get that durability. And I know that when I buy something of good quality that fits me well and that I feel great in, it’s the only thing I want to wear! The cheap clothes that might be cute for a week but don’t actually fit, I am not interested in them.”

Source: sanvt.com

The starting point to achieving this, according to Laroche, is in the values held. Personal or company values, whether constantly evolving or strongly rooted. When friends ask her for shopping advice, she never states a particular item or brand. “You have to consider your budget, what your needs are and what your values are.” Only once you recognize these fundamental factors can you achieve a truly customised style. “We have to reassess ourselves as individuals because we are all unique.”

“If you want to play with trends you can always go secondhand, where clothes have the potential to be modified in a unique and awesome way. I am very passionate about supporting a circular economy and the three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – and that’s where I would say my strength lies.” Eagerly, Laroche pulls out an outfit, “Look at my pyjamas, I sleep in a cashmere sweater that I bought secondhand for $7.99. Isn’t it amazing?”

“We are in such a gray zone; your unique, customized outfits do not exist already created for you. You have to figure out what works for you, which will most likely not work for me or anyone else.”

Laroche moved to Vancouver in 2007, and by October 2009, she created her first Eco Fashion Week; a huge event for such a young city. Before this, she was a regular fashionista armed with countless fashion pieces and over a hundred pairs of shoes. “During my last job as a buyer, I was negotiating with a factory in Asia and I remember asking them to discount each item by $0.50. There was an $8 tank top and I wanted it for $7.50. That’s the business and that’s what you do, but I stopped myself and wondered why I was pushing so much. I developed a relationship with the factories and started to like them. As for the fifty cents I wanted to gain… they needed it more than I did. That’s when I asked myself, what am I doing here? What do I really want to do with my life?”

During her time as a consultant, numerous brands approached Laroche for advice about their practices with a determination to change. “The problem is that [the fashion industry] is going so fast and there are so many factors to consider that it is not possible. By the end of my career as a buyer, I was buying clothes and selling them at discounted retail prices. In that business, it is always about quantity, acquiring more clothes at cheap prices. There was never once an item at full price.” Companies are not the only ones to blame: “There is a certain prestige with owning a large walk-in closet filled with virtually untouched clothes.”

Studio Membrane, EFWA 2017

Source: luxiders.com

Her inspiration for the creation of the Eco Fashion Week came from Vancouver, a budding city brimming with fresh, wide-eyed youths, that at the time was in search of its identity. “The city was slowly opening its eyes to fashion; it was the beginning of lululemon. Around the same time, Vancouver announced that it wanted to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. And that’s how I thought of Eco Fashion Week. I registered as a non-profit-organisation in October 2009, going on to produce our first ever event in February 2010, during the Olympics.” Laroche and her staff were exhausted by the amount of work required and the financial payback was not sufficient to sustain the whole organization. “When your company is so small, it can be really tough. I was in desperate need of a break to recharge my batteries after eleven years of running my own business. But now that I’m back, I can feel that the industry is ready to move towards sustainable fashion.”

“There is a lot of realization right now. There will be a transition period for sure, but we’re slowly waking up.”

Inevitably, the conversation slides onto the topic of the pandemic: “Covid was a blessing in disguise: I know it’s sad, but it is the wakeup call the world needed. I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a long time because until now, nobody was listening. It makes us realize that we don’t need that many clothes; what we need instead is quality clothes that have been mindfully designed and purchased.” From a business perspective, the pandemic made Laroche reinvent her approach. As an increasing number of retailers had to shut down, her interaction with clients shifted to online-based training. Her approach consisted of providing companies with a “toolbox” to assess their assets and determine how and where to improve their performance in sustainability. What seems to be so special about her approach is the degree of customization companies can achieve. With Laroche’s guidance, the company can evolve their vision and goals, learning how to formulate a plan, so they can themselves create and implement the perfect eco-recipe. “At the moment, what retailers and brands need to do is take that first step. It doesn’t require environmental studies or a degree to begin; it doesn’t have to be expensive.”

Activists wearing coats made of grass

Source: businessoffashion.com

Laroche has a clear vision of a normalized, greener way of thinking in the fashion industry, where the main players will be the ones who have adapted their approach in terms of sustainability. “There is a lot of realization going on right now. There will be a transition period for sure, but we’re slowly waking up.”