Alyssa Lau is an Edmonton-based photographer and founder of New Classics, an online retailer that is home to sustainable and ethically-made clothing brands. Alyssa is at the forefront of what we hope is the future of fashion. She is committed to educating her audience on shopping consciously, championing brands with transparent business practices, and spreading the word on what constitutes "slow fashion."
We love the way Alyssa pulls together outfits using both vintage designer pieces, and independent brands carried by New Classics. Her dreamy aesthetic comes through her beautifully filmed videos that range in topic from beauty, skincare, and fashion.
VSP chats with Alyssa about the hidden cost of fast fashion, how to shop with integrity, and what brands are doing the work to make a sustainable future.
Some might not know the term “Slow Fashion”, would you be able to explain it for us? How does New Classics fit in?
To understand slow fashion, we first need to learn about fast fashion. Fast fashion describes businesses like H&M and Zara that sell cheap garments designed and manufactured in mere weeks to capture current fashion trends. It is a business model that depends on the mass manufacture and selling of trend-based pieces that encourage customers to continuously consume. As a result, fast fashion retailers produce new styles in ‘micro-seasons’ every week of the year, which means that these retailers are producing 52 seasons per year or hundreds of millions of garments per year (and are therefore sitting on billions of dollars’ worth of unsold clothing). Long story short, fast fashion allows us to buy into the latest trends for the same price as our lunches. But what we don’t see as consumers is that fast fashion has an extremely high hidden cost, and it’s the environment and garment workers involved in the fashion industry’s complex supply chain that must pay it. This is where the slow fashion movement comes in. Proposed as a solution to the fast fashion industry, slow fashion is about creating fashion consciously and with integrity while consuming less and consuming better. It’s a unified representation of all the eco, green, ethical and sustainable fashion movements which intends to slow down our rate of fashion consumption. Like the slow living and slow eating movements, the goal of slow fashion is to get consumers to become more mindful about what they purchase, while encouraging these very consumers to support local and small businesses, shop second-hand, sustainable or artisanal, re-purpose unwanted garments, and invest in high quality garments that will both last longer and transcend fashion fads. In 2014, I launched New Classics for two reasons: 1) to support and benefit the independent designers and labels paving the way for the slow fashion movement, and 2) to bring more awareness to the slow fashion movement. We’ve made it our mission to showcase a variety of brands that fit within the umbrella of slow fashion, especially to those in Canada who don’t have easy access to many of these brands. We believe that it is only by understanding and being aware of how our clothes are made, and who makes them, that we can start making better purchases and start demanding businesses to do better.
What are some designers that encompass your ethical and sustainable ethos?
Stella McCartney has been a long-time supporter of the slow fashion industry and has clearly shown that through her work and her unwillingness to compromise on her sustainable ethos. She has consistently set stringent sustainability targets for her brand, such as avoiding endangered forests and reducing her use of oil-based synthetic fabrics (like nylon and polyester), and has been a forerunner in the slow fashion movement as it has become more mainstream and consequently influence other luxury brands like Gucci. With that being said, Stella McCartney could definitely be more transparent on their garment workers’ labour conditions, but imperfect answers like this are okay. Sustainability isn’t black or white - it’s a process that requires a lot of imperfect answers. We just need to push more fashion companies and designers to start that process. Other labels that I love include Kowtow (which creates organic cotton garments made in fair trade certified factories based in India) and VEJA (an eco-friendly sneakers brand that works with cooperatives of small producers and social associations in Brazil and France).
What are your visual references for the videos your create?
Photos I see on Tumblr, Instagram accounts like @jillburro_w and @__s____o, older animes and mangas like Nana, old photographs I find at my parent’s house, nostalgic memories.
Do you have certain rules or standards for your own personal style?
I wouldn’t say that I abide by any rules when it comes to dressing up, but I do have standards when it comes to the clothes I wear and keep in my closet. As a slow fashion enthusiast, I am quite picky about the pieces that I purchase, which means that a lot of thought goes into buying something before I metaphorically pull the trigger.
What are four things you can’t leave the house without?
My wallet, phone, Moleskine, and some lipstick.
What are you looking forward to in the near future?
A trip to Tokyo in October with Eric and some friends!
Photos by Eric Yun
Text by Marlowe Granados