The holidays are right around the corner and that means that some of us are deep into panicked shopping mode. It can be tricky to support locally-made and ethical products when potential gifts beckon from every which way. Fortunately Artisella, a seasonal pop-up at Shops at Don Mills, is making it pretty easy for anyone seeking out a super stylish, one-stop-shop for presents that will keep both your heart and the earth happy. Not to mention all those people opening your gifts.
We spoke to Artisella’s founder Sheryl Luz to learn more about her work in sustainable fashion and her slow fashion oasis.
What was the turning point for you when it comes to supporting local and ethical products?
I was working on a wholesale agency few years back and was very unsatisfied. I represented over 25 brands, selling all day long. It really began to feel meaningless because at the end of the day these were just products that needed to move out of the supply chain. There was no talk about the design, the makers, how or who made the products I was selling. The only question that mattered was “what products would bring me the most profit?”
Growing up my mom ran a small garment business and I was surrounded by seamstress, pattern makers and designers. Back in the Philippines my grandmother was a textile retailer with her own shop in a small town. I suppose its not surprising that while I was in my wholesale job I just always felt there was something missing, a connection to the products that I needed.
When the Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013 I couldn’t go on with the status quo. I quit my wholesale job and travelled. I volunteered with fair trade shops in Vietnam, teaching English and helping them re-merchandise their stores. Eventually I realized that I really wanted to start my own business.
A year later, Artisella was launched. Since then I have become very conscious of the impact fashion has on garment works and I continue to learn about the many environmental impacts.
What are the ‘must-haves’ on your check list when you go about selecting product?
Our priority is to support independent brands and designers that are using fashion to make a difference. Products must fulfill one or more of our criteria: fair trade, made in Canada, eco-friendly, artisan, handmade and vegan.
I also look for versatile and classic design that won’t go out of style after one season. Because I care about good craftsmanship, innovation and care I choose products that will be treasured through the years.
How would you describe the Artisella aesthetic?
I’d call our aesthetic “Kinfolk Classic.” Whether I’m crafting a space or a product selection, I look for classic design paired with natural materials and unique construction. I like to stick to neutral tones, both in the space and the products, that allow the inherent beauty of the products to really pop. All of my spaces have a contemporary design vibe that’s softened with an eclectic mix of repurposed items. I also play around with geometric shapes and patterns, metallic tones and top it all off with a healthy addition of living plants.
Why did you choose Shops at Don Mills for the Artisella location?
Actually, Shops at Don Mills chose us! After a successful pop-up at the Toronto Eaton Centre, we were offered an exclusive spot at CF Shops at Don Mills for the holidays. It’s such an honour to showcase ethically made products in a mainstream retail location.
Any tips and tricks you can dole out for those of us looking to sway friends in a more ethical and sustainable direction?!
Be the change you want to see! From the clothes you wear, to the food you eat, to every purchase decision you make. Your friends will notice those changes and eventually ask why you’re choosing the more expensive toque or locally grown food. That’s your opportunity to explain and gently educate. It takes time but you will create change around you.