By Selina Ho
Jessica Phenix, founder of Montreal-based clothing line Firebird, cleaned out her closet in 2018 and also learned the shocking truth behind the fashion industry.
“After identifying pieces I no longer wore, I researched where to donate these clothes and that led me down a fashion sustainability rabbit hole,” she says.
“I wanted to donate my clothes but discovered that only 10 to 20 per cent of clothing at thrift stores are sold, meaning an alarming percentage ends up in the landfills,” she explains. She also learned that brand-new returned items can end up in the garbage as well. “Most times, it’s more expensive for a brand to pay someone to sort through the returns and restock them versus throwing them out.”
Similar to me, it broke Jessica’s heart to learn that many well-known clothing companies have ties to child labour.
“Factories offering production services are competing to offer the lowest prices to fast-fashion companies. In the process, children are being taken advantage of and missing out on their childhood,” she says.
Jessica decided that she wanted to make a change and challenged herself to leverage her creativity. With help from YouTube, she taught herself how to sew and started upcycling thrifted clothes. By modernizing clothes she bought at thrift shops, she found happy owners for those pieces and saved them from going to the landfill. When the demand for her pieces took off, she hired a local sewer to increase her capacity to create repurposed clothing for her growing customer base.
“I love giving clothes a second life,” Jessica says.
Eventually, this passion became a full-fledged business and she named her brand Firebird.
“The Firebird brand name represents ‘Phenix’, which is my last name, but it has a double meaning. It also represents the clothing that is given a second life, like the phoenix, a mythological bird that is reborn after death,” she explains.
Jessica is proud to be contributing to the sustainable fashion movement and is optimistic for the future of fashion.
“There is a lot more awareness amongst the general public; we see a significant amount of effort from leading brands who are making sustainability efforts, and government action in certain countries. That being said, there’s still work to be done and in order to see real change, we must recognize that this is a collective effort, but it also requires explicit leadership.”
Do your part
Want to commit to sustainable fashion? Here are five accessible ideas:
- Buy fewer clothes. It’s better for your wallet and the environment! To combat impulse purchases, wait a day before you hit the checkout button. Ask yourself whether an item is just trendy or if you actually want it.
- Attend or host a clothing swap. Instead of donating unworn clothing, see if a friend or family member would like to swap for some of the pieces they no longer wear.
- Shop at secondhand stores. Instead of buying clothes from fast-fashion stores, find hidden treasures in thrift stores. You’ll score one-of-a-kind pieces and save money.
- Research brands using the Good On You app or website when buying new clothing. Make sure you stand by the brands you support. We love supporting our clients such as Adeera, BELLANTONI, Firebird, Smith Bowen, and Styelle Swim. Vote with your dollar!
- Participate in Fashion Revolution Week every April. Ask brands #WhoMadeMyClothes to support transparency in the fashion industry and fair treatment for garment workers.
Bonus tip: Pace yourself. Shifting to a conscious lifestyle can feel overwhelming and stressful. Take it one step at a time and remember that balance is key. Small changes can add up to a big impact.
By buying fewer clothes, choosing quality over quantity, and supporting sustainable brands, we can show businesses what we want and where the opportunity lies.
Read Selina's full article, The Cost of Our Clothing in Issue Two.
Selina Ho is the Founder & CEO of Recloseted. When she's not working, you can find her on the mountains, (hiking or snowboarding), meditating/doing yoga, or cooking a new recipe.
Together, let’s right the harmful fashion industry!