In a world full of fast-fashion and having what’s new, a local Toronto company is bringing environment and people-friendly style to the city. Artisella is a Toronto-based fashion company that focuses on ethics, sustainability and style to make people more aware of the impact fashion choices have on the world.
The pop-up shop is located on Queen Street West and is Artisella’s first stand alone boutique. The company has previously collaborated with the Big on Bloor Festival and Bellwoods Flea Market.
“Artisella is a made up word,” says founder, Sheryl Luz. “It’s a cross between artisan and ‘bella,’ which is an Italian word for beautiful.” The beauty behind the company’s name is reflected in the type of products sold in the shop, ranging from toques to leather totes that are entirely sustainable and eco-friendly.
“Sustainable fashion really puts the artisans who make our product in the spotlight,” says Luz. “No one really talks about that - it’s all brand, brand, brand - but really there are people behind the product and there’s a lot happening behind the scenes.”
Luz came up with Artisella after working in the fashion industry for years. Her desire to explore the ethical fashion sector started with travelling.
“The best way to understand sustainable fashion is to really experience it,” says Luz.
She travelled to various parts of the world, like Southeast Asia, and witnessed the fair trade industry first-hand. When Luz returned to Toronto, the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh happened. About 1100 garment workers were killed when the eight-story factory building fell. From there, Luz knew she had to make a difference.
Artisella has made a difference for many, including intern Sebrina Bender, a fashion management student at George Brown College.
“I think what’s really special about Artisella is that everything in here has a story behind it,” says Bender.
For this season’s pop-up, Artisella has teamed up with brands like FashionABLE, Apse, The Brave Collection, and Krochet Kids, as well as a mix of international and local sustainable fashion brands.Each brand believes in slow fashion and dedicates their work to a particular social issue, such as at-risk youth or human trafficking.
“We are very focused on telling the stories of the brands,” says Luz. “I think that’s very important because, when people know the process of making certain products and the story behind it, I feel like they value it more.”
FashionABLE, one of the brands at the pop-up, began as an organization that provided therapy for women struggling with addiction or prostitution in Ethiopia. Because work was so hard to find, these women started making scarves, jewelry and leather bags as a way to escape their harsh pasts.
“FashionABLE has chic products and a great story behind them,” says Bender. “Some of the pieces have the names of the creator on them, so it recognizes the women behind the work.”
According to Luz, the slow fashion industry is still in its beginnings but there are ways to make your own closet more sustainable. She says the first thing is to ask questions. “Ask how the product is made, where it’s made and who’s behind the brand. If you take that first step to give a little thought into your purchases, that would open a lot of windows and progress to a bigger thing.”
Both Bender and Luz say their choice in clothing has changed since Artisella has emerged. “I used to shop at Zara and H&M but, after beginning to intern [at Artisella], I’ve learned so much about everything that goes into my clothes,” says Bender.
“My sustainable clothes became like a collectable item to me,” says Luz. “I’d look through my closet and say ‘Hey, this was made in Toronto, this was made in the U.S., or this one is recycled’ and it’s kind of like a passion.”
This story was edited by Krizia Ramos, the Co-Fashion Editor of CanCulture.