Eco Fashion Week rolls up its runway; founder leaves Vancouver

Vancouver needs less talk, more action if it really wants to be the greenest city, Myriam Laroche says

Myriam Laroche was in a meeting to discuss the details of the next Eco Fashion Week when she realized she just couldn’t do it any more.

She had founded the non-profit organization in 2009 to encourage a sustainable approach in an industry that thrives on constant consumption and wasteful packaging.

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And while she was embraced by Vancouver for her vision of environmentally responsible fashion practices, that enthusiasm did not translate into financial support. Essentially, she and her co-workers were volunteering their time to pull together the thousands of threads that were woven each year into the multi-day event.

“We were all tired and burnt out,” she says, in a recent interview with the Courier. “I realized that if we want to create a healthy planet we have to be healthy as humans, too. It was a big contradiction for me.”

A decision was made to cancel Eco Fashion Week earlier this year. It was a decision that ultimately also led to Laroche leaving Vancouver.

Quebec-born, she’d moved west 11 years ago and embraced everything Vancouver had to offer, including its goal to be the world’s greenest city by 2020. She created and organized Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week, eventually moving it to Seattle in 2016.

“Vancouver talks a good talk” but is lacking when it comes to supporting initiatives to make things happen, she says. Her reaction became, “Can we stop having coffee and do something?”

“I want to be somewhere where I can do more change,” she tells the Courier. “I hate waste and I felt I was wasting myself and not reaching my potential.”

A few weeks ago, she moved back to Old Quebec. She was sad to leave Vancouver but at no time did she feel it was the wrong decision.

“I’m so happy I lived in Vancouver for 11 years,” she says “There’s something great about Vancouver.”

She says she learned a lot about waste, and how to reduce it, including forging a EFW relationship with the second-hand clothing chain Value Village. She was profiled in countless magazines to spread the eco gospel, including speaking out against business practices that harmed low-paid workers in developing countries. She worked with companies such as Holt Renfrew and Ford to enhance their eco-friendly efforts. Behind the scenes she involved with the Forum For Women Entrepreneurs and for Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in Circular Economy.

“Vancouver is one step ahead in being healthy and eco-friendly,” she says. Her decision to leave is “more about reaching the next level.”

“Vancouver knows how to do it but we need to make it louder and it’s way louder here,” she says of Quebec’s business-like approach. Her next challenge is to meld Vancouver’s “chilled out” culture that embraces being eco-friendly with Quebec’s drive to make money.

Eco Fashion Week
Through Eco Fashion Week, Myriam Laroche, here with some models at the 2015 edition, was able to push forward awareness of sustainable choices. - Alfonso Arnold

The Courier talked to Laroche when she was in an airport lounge about to take a plane to Lima, Peru. Peru’s Forest Stewardship Council has invited her to meet with people who are creating products, including textiles from tree pulp, and talk about other sustainable ventures.

She says South America “has been crossing her path” quite frequently lately and foresees doing more projects there. She also plans to do some work with Vancouver-based Sustainability Television.

Eco Fashion Week might not return as a week-long extravaganza but there is the possibility of organizing more manageable one-day Eco Fashion events.

And as happy as she is to be back in Quebec City, she asks and answers the next question about her future: “Will I be here forever? I don’t think forever is in my vocabulary any more.”

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