New Classics is a Canadian online shop that stocks, exclusively, ethically made fashion and beauty bits. Alyssa Lau, New Classics’ founder and owner, has a keen eye for timeless design and stocks pieces that are wearable, sustainable, and chic. Here, below, Alyssa talks to us about her 180 pivot from broke college student with an ASOS addiction, to full-blown slow fashion activist.

  1. You have such a stellar educational section on your website regarding the ethics of fashion. (I learned so much! Especially about textiles!). When did your interest – your activism – in fashion start? & were you ever a consumer of fast-fashion?

Thank you! My interest in slow fashion really took root after I read a book called Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution, almost 4 years ago. Previously, I was very much so a fast fashion consumer—frequenting companies like ASOS and ZARA to help release stress during my undergraduate years at University. I was constantly on the hunt for the cheapest pieces, and considering that I was on a student budget at the time, I really felt there was no other way to buy clothing. Clearly, I was wrong.

2. You have a fairly large following on various social platforms. Your personal IG has 59K followers, the New Classics IG has 23K, and you also have a YouTube channel with 19K subscribers. I would imagine, with an audience that large, that you’re very well positioned to spread the word about sustainable fashion, recycling & upcycling, textile standards, and the ethical brands that you work with. What came first? New Classics? Or your online following? & what do you like about the social community?

I wasn’t always a slow fashion activist. I started my blog in 2011 when I was 19 and a student, and posted outfits that were all, if not mostly, from fast fashion retailers. Fast forward seven years, and now I try to use my platforms to discuss how I apply slow fashion and, ultimately, slow living principles to my own lifestyle. Sustainable fashion can seem daunting to many who think that it’s simply about buying expensive things, but applying sustainable principles to your own life can be as simple as changing the way you think about your clothes, and how you buy your clothes. Ultimately, slow fashion is about consuming less and consuming better.

  1. You make such a good, compelling case for slow fashion – for investing in well-made pieces, for shopping locally, for focusing on companies that are ethically minded and fair trade. What would you say to a young person though, who isn’t financially very secure yet? Someone who may not feel like they can afford to properly invest in their wardrobe &/or the slow fashion movement?

This is probably one of my most frequently asked questions, which is a great one to be asked, as I know that shopping sustainable brands isn’t always accessible. However, I think that the option that often gets overlooked is thrifting, which, if you think about it, really is the antithesis of disposable fashion. Re-wearing secondhand clothing displaces the need to create new ones, saving energy and the earth from the hulking environmental impacts of clothing manufacturing. It also keeps perfectly good clothing out of the landfills or from flooding markets in third world countries! So even if you can’t afford shopping from sustainable labels yet, you can still be sustainable via thrifting!

4. You feature a lot of smart, creative, stylish women on the Journal tab of your New Classics website. How do you find your subjects? What are you looking for when considering who to feature on the site?

I really credit New Classics’ features to our interns, Akosua and Darleen, who have done an amazing job finding women who are inspiring, creative, and align with our principles of sustainability.

  1.  Ethics aside, how do you select pieces for your shop? Do you curate with your consumer in mind? Or do you stock items that reflect your personal taste?

It’s always hard to not buy for the store with myself in mind, but stepping away and removing myself from the buying process every now and then has really helped with trying to picture our consumer and what he/she/they would like to invest in. Ultimately, at New Classics, our goal is to showcase a variety of goods that: a) fall somewhere within the slow fashion spectrum, b) are timeless and classic in design, and c) will be wearable for years to come.

  1. As an activist, and also the founder of an online retailer, what is your hope for the future of the industry?

As with any problem in the world, awareness is the key! We need to have more conversations about slow fashion and what it means to make smart, meaningful choices when we consume. So much of the consumption we partake in is mindless and impulsive and we often forget to take a step back and ask ourselves “Why?” Consume less, and consume better. But before we can do that, we must understand the importance of slow fashion and just how dangerous the fast fashion industry is for both our environment and the garment workers caught in its’ supply chain. So yeah, let’s get talking!

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