Joseph Visser, the photographer behind Winnipeg-based creative platform From Here & Away, wants to make it easier for people to wear their values on their sleeves.
On Nov. 27, Visser will launch From Here & Away’s inaugural clothing line, which is ethically produced.
“Collectively, there’s a desire for ethically made clothing. I want to make that decision as easy as possible,” Visser says.
In 2016, Visser has taken a movement that began as a photography collective and grown it into an ethical outdoor goods business.
He uses 25 per cent of his profits from the sales of travel journals, hats and coffee mugs to fund community arts programming.
As From Here & Away progresses into ethically sourced, made-in-Canada apparel, Visser says he wants consumers to feel stylish and socially conscious at the same time.
“The main motivator that needs to be on the forefront is, is it nice? Is it quality? Does it feel good? Does it look cool? If I can answer those and have the ethics component, I think that’s kind of cool,” Visser says. “If they feel this shirt, I want them to be like, ‘Oh man, I need to wear that. I need to buy that because it feels so good.’”
One of Visser’s inspirations is Andrew Doerksen, the shirt-maker behind Commonwealth Manufacturing.
Doerksen, who designs and manufactures men’s shirts at his Exchange District workshop, cites ethics as the driving force behind his business.
“The more I learned about how the garment industry exploits its workers and the environment, I really got passionate about starting something, even if it’s something really small, as an alternative. That’s what I get excited about,” Doerksen says.
He is similarly excited about the growing support for ethically produced clothing in Winnipeg.
“It is still a niche, but it’s certainly growing. There are more and more small makers popping up all the time. I think more people are starting to understand it, and I think there needs to be a bit of education about how the garment industry works.”
Doerksen says cost is one barrier faced by consumers who are thinking about buying ethically made clothes. He believes one way past that barrier is through transparency on the part of clothing makers.
“Honesty is the only way. On the Commonwealth website, a new thing I’ve done is I have fully transparent pricing,” Doerksen says.
“Under every item, you can scroll to the bottom and see how much I spent on labour, on fabric, what my markup is – you can know the whole breakdown. I do that because I’m really proud of it. I spend a lot on fabric, and I pay good wages.”
Visser says he is a fan of Doerksen’s ethos as well as the quality of his work.
And, as he gets ready to launch an ethically minded fashion line of his own, he encourages Winnipeggers to join him for the celebration.
From Here & Away’s clothing launch is Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. at Forth Projects. Admission is free. Most of the event will take place on the roof, where there will be heaters, candles and hot toddies.
Published in Volume 71, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 24, 2016)