Shop Talk

SHOP TALK: Textile hub + training centre EcoEquitable opens sparkling new space in Vanier

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven 

Since becoming involved with  EcoEquitable, Anouk Bertner looks at frogs in a whole new light. And by frogs I mean the current exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

“Every time I see that banner I think, ‘where’s it going?’ I want that vinyl!” she laughs.

Eco Equitable ... photo by
The EcoEquitable Boutique sells recycled fabrics and upcycled fashion accessories including totem bags and infinity scarves.

It’s one of the many ways that EcoEquitable transforms the way we think about clothing, consumption, and community.

EcoEquitable started in 2002 as an organization focused on helping immigrant women learn to sew. Informal groups honed skills on theatre costumes and children’s clothing. Four years ago, EcoEquitable launched a five-month course that provided new Canadians with skills that would equip them to work at an industrial textile facility, or as tailors, or even designers who create their own labels. Classes not only covered hemming and pleats, but also job hunting tools and basic literacy. 

But more than that, EcoEquitable opened up a space for women who spend much of their time alone — or with only young children. It created a community space through potlucks and a jovial, productive atmosphere.

That atmosphere, however, was a bit cramped and quite dark. Located in the basement of community centre on Chapel Street, it was tough to find and — despite all the laughter that was going on when I visited the space in 2010 — didn’t do justice to the great things that were happening.

EcoEquitable offers intensive sewing classes for immigrant women as well as weekend courses for casual sewers and kids.
EcoEquitable offers intensive sewing classes for immigrant women as well as weekend courses for casual sewers and kids.

Fast forward to today and EcoEquitable is thriving in a new space in Vanier that faces busy McArthur Avenue. Natural light streams into the space, which has doubled in square footage from their previous digs. There’s a dedicated classroom area, as well as a new boutique space that’s been meticulously designed and branded, just for them. 

It only seems fitting (pardon the pun) that this industrious, social, and environmentally friendly group has such a great space to call home. After all, EcoEquitable is not only creating a vibrant community space (in an area that, while on the rise, can use all the beautifying it can get), it’s also recycling (3,000 pounds of fabric last year), engaging with the community about fashion (watch for affordable maternity wear in their boutique), supporting other sustainable fashion companies (e.g. Toronto’s Totem bags that reuse TIFF and War Horse banners), and putting that energy to good use sewing bags for Terra20! 

Special guests at the opening of the new space included, from left, councillor Matthieu Fleury, mayor Jim Watson, Lucile Champagne, EE founder, councillor Diane Deans.  The City of Ottawa is a major supporter of Community Economic Development and helped fund the boutique's renovation and launch last month.
Special guests at the opening of EcoEquitable’s new space included, from left: councillor Matthieu Fleury; mayor Jim Watson; Lucile Champagne, EcoEquitable founder; and councillor Diane Deans. The City of Ottawa helped fund the boutique’s renovation and launch last month.

“Because we design and manufacture everything on site, it’s very environmentally friendly,” Anouk says. “But to me, environmental products shouldn’t be something you buy because it feels good, but because it’s functional and beautiful.”

We love that! And we would also love a frog leaping off our backpack. (Canadian Museum of Nature, we’re looking at you to make this dream come true.)