Fashion Reimagined: A Personal Perspective

Courtesy of STE.MARG.SCOT.

Dear Earth,

How do I love you and fashion simultaneously?

It was 2019 when Emmanuel Macron tweeted, “Our house is burning, literally.” There I was with my reusable water bottle, cloth grocery bags, wearing my Vejas and sporting an ankle-length polyester puffer… doing my part to reduce my impact. But, unbeknownst to me, I was simultaneously a walking billboard for fashion’s addiction to fossil fuel-derived synthetics.

With a background in science and having taught climate change for close to a decade, even I was naïve to the impact of my consumption habits. Walking the line between fashion and sustainability, I suddenly found myself dangerously close to hypocrisy. 

Fast forward to 2023, Macron’s words seem prophetic. When faced with threats of wildfires and extreme temperatures, we’ve been taught that it’s Fight or Flight. While SpaceX is developing a round trip rocket to our red neighbour, Flight is not quite a feasible option. On the Fight side, we’re seeing some in the industry pursuing the green dream: Eileen Fisher, Vivienne Westwood, and as I’ve recently come to discover, countless other independent labels humbly doing their bit to reduce their impact.

But the question remains, how can the rest of us walk the line between our own fashion-focused self-actualization and something esoteric like limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C? 

The third less buzzy response to threat is to Freeze. The idea of moving through the world sustainably can seem so daunting that many of us throw our hands up and bow out. We might have already done away with disposable paper napkins and jugs of laundry detergent, adopted solar panels, a hybrid vehicle, and numerous other individual micro changes. With that, many of us feel like we’ve plateaued on the level of sustainability we can reasonably achieve day to day.

Nevertheless, every now and then, there’s a nudge that strikes a chord and inspires change on a bigger scale.

My most recent nudge came by way of the documentary Fashion Reimagined. Toronto-born director, Becky Hutner, beautifully transports us along Amy Powney’s incredible journey to use her ‘Young Designer of the Year’ Vogue prize money to create a sustainable and transparent collection for her fashion brand, Mother of Pearl.

The film is a fashion-lover’s beacon for hope. There’s a visceral call to action to re-focus on the romance of natural materials, craftsmanship, and the true value of traceability, and transparency in sourcing.

Premiering in 2022 at film festivals around the world, Fashion Reimagined artfully conveys the painstaking challenge of knowing where our clothes come from, really. Do we feel better in a wool sweater knowing that the fleece was shorn from happy sheep, and then scoured, spun and woven by folks earning a fair wage? I personally believe that natural fabrics just feel better, and interestingly, there is peer-reviewed research to suggest that wool has a higher measurable difference in vibrational energy when compared to synthetic fabrics. What this means to us is uncertain but adds an air of magic to natural fibres like wool.

Amy won her coveted prize in 2017, also the same year that Vogue published an article titled This was the Year Sustainable Fashion Got Sexy , on account of “the looming threat of climate change”. The timing of this article conveys that sustainable fashion did not yet have a foothold in our cultural zeitgeist. Sustainability was a mere buzz word, which would set the stage for widespread greenwashing in the years to follow. When Amy’s high-fashion and traceable collection launched in 2018, many prospective buyers were still not convinced that her viewpoint would resonate with their customers.Five years later,  I feel more hopeful that the gap between fashion and sustainable-fashion is closing, and this shift, however slow, is a sign of progress. As the late great Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time”. 

The film’s accolades and audience acclaim signal that sustainability is not just a “sexy” trend.  Rather, environmental awareness and social responsibility has seemingly grown roots deep enough to entangle all levels of fashion, from local boutiques to the major fashion houses. While the best approach to conscious fashion is still being deciphered, the hope is that these efforts are not just the appearance of awareness and responsibility. 

The film shows us that as creators and consumers we have a fourth reflex to threat, which is to Focus. Amy chose to start with her fabrics, stating that natural fibres have the greatest potential for circularity, such that the life cycle of fibres like wool, cotton, linen, and pulp fabric are not only renewable and biodegradable, but can also be regenerative. Lucianne Tonti’s Sundressed: Natural Fabrics and the Future of Clothing supports a similar narrative: that a return to natural fabrics, harvested regeneratively, is the path to a fashion revolution. I couldn’t agree more. Consider that if grown or produced in a way that fosters biodiversity, there is a physical bottleneck for the production capacity of natural fibres. The limits that natural fibres inadvertently possess align with higher costs, which then limits us to buy less, and buy better.

While Amy did not focus on how her factories are powered, or the composition of her label’s iconic “pearl” trims, she focused on her fabrics. What seems like a baby step in actuality was more like elephant steps. The film captures how difficult, and sometimes impossible, it is to make fully traceable clothing in an industry that seems to be stuck in a race to the bottom.

This is a struggle I can sympathize with since founding my renewable made-in-Canada outerwear brand, SteMargScot, which specializes in colourful wool coats.

SteMargScot was born when it dawned on me that 70% of our clothes are plastic, and for half of the year when temperatures dip, we are packaging ourselves in poofy polyester. The frustrating part is that we have not chosen this, it is simply what is offered to consumers because synthetics are cheaper and easier to produce.The outerwear industry will have us believe that synthetics are the only functional fabric that can keep us warm and dry in the winter. 

As a challenger brand, we see truth in Aristotle’s words that “nature does nothing in vain”. Wool has been perfected by nature for over 10,000 years, so much so that NASA chooses wool for their astronauts on account of its extraordinary functions; flame resistance, anti-static, anti-microbial, odor resistance, temperature regulation, and moisture wicking to keep skin dry.

Reviving high-fashion and renewable woollen winter coats that do not require fossil-fuel derived polyester, plastics and metals is SteMargScot’s mission. 

Polyester, on the flip side, is a synthetic ‘vegan-marketed’ fibre that does not directly affect animals, but does indirectly affect all life. In 2021, an unfathomable 61 million tons of polyester was produced from fossil-fuels (Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber & Materials Report). The sheer scale of this production volume results in processing pollution, widespread habitat destruction in desert-like oil fields, unjustifiable ocean poisoning from oil rig operation, and disturbing microplastic leaching that threatens all animal, plant, and fungal biodiversity. 

“2,811 spills were reported by oil and gas companies in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming in 2019, nearly eight per day, amounting to 23,600 barrels of oil and 170,223 barrels of wastewater. This has detrimental effects on the surrounding population and the environment.” Palacios-Mateo, C. et al., 2021.

Since most clothing is made from polyester, it adds insult to injury that the equivalent of a truck full of clothes are burned or landfilled every second. All of this is why a return to renewable and circular fibres, like wool, matters now.

Like Amy, my goal was to find wool sourced in an area of the world where there is a high threshold for animal welfare, strict environmental regulation, and fair wages. The United Kingdom suited my criteria for responsible sourcing and their mills could expertly produce ‘coating’ wool, which is hearty with a wider micron diameter than merino; thus, perfectly suited for Canadian winters. The goal for SteMargScot is to use Canadian wool, sourced from Canadian sheep with climate expertise, and that supports local farmers. To this end, SteMargScot has already begun working with the Canadian Wool Council to bridge the gap between Canadian wool and Canadian luxury outerwear.

While the most sustainable garment is the one already in your closet, the expectation  will never be to see an end to consumption. As Fashion Reimagined demonstrates, real change is steady and focused. We have busy lives, and perhaps the one thing we can do is to focus on one single change at a time. As someone in the fashion industry, I have found Fashion Takes Action’s Sustainable Fashion Toolkit to be a great way to arm myself with information to make the changes that will have the most impact. But equally starting with just one of 7R’s: reduce, reuse, repurpose, repair, resale, rent, and recycle is a great first step for every one of us to embrace.

There is hope in remembering that we all have agency. While Fashion Reimagined echoes my own challenges to create a sustainable woollen outerwear brand, I know that both creators and consumers have the power to change an industry. 

Climate change has never been more palpable. What we may not fully realize is the power our choices have beyond the single transaction. While large fashion houses may dictate the styles on the runway, the cumulative voices of consumers can change what those clothes are made of. How do we love the Earth and fashion simultaneously? First, break up with fast fashion, then focus on taking baby steps.

Fashion Reimagined can be streamed on Sky Documentaries and NOW TV.

Be well. Be Seen.


SteMargScot, Founder & CEO



Founded in 2022, SteMargScot is a made-in-Canada company challenging the sea of sameness monopolizing outerwear. They make warm, vibrant, and gender-inclusive woolen coats, with a free-from plastics and metals ethos. Their mission is to brighten dark days by reconnecting people to colour and nature.


Sasha Jardine lives in Toronto and is a science teacher, pediatric award-winning researcher (at Sickkids) and published author in drug discovery.

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