Arts

Photo: Allegra Morgado.
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U of O student launches socially responsible winter clothing collection

While most University of Ottawa students are trying to keep on top of their busy school schedules, third-year international development and globalization student Kim Kirton has a good reason for putting off studying.

When Kirton first thought up The Balance Project it was while avoiding studying for her exams last fall by watching a video about garment factory fires and unsafe working conditions for factory workers.

The video sparked the idea in Kirton, co-founder of The Balance Project, to create her own clothing line that would be socially responsible and environmentally friendly, while also informing people about ethical problems in the current fashion world. Kirton approached and worked with a group of friends to come up with a plan, and their first line was launched only a few months later.

Now, a year after this all began, Kirton’s company is launching its first winter collection on Dec. 9, the company’s second line with a more urban focus than the last.

“Most of the designs are the same… the main thing is new colours, and a new vibe,” says Kirton. “Before we were like wholesome, nature-like, but now it’s more urban flare, you could say.”

Although the company originally donated 20 per cent of their profits to India’s agricultural organic cotton farming sector, Kirton says that they are “not financially stable to do that anymore,” as they did not have the revenue to do this while sustaining a new company, but are looking to find other ways to contribute to encouraging ethical treatment practices in fashion.

“So we’re thinking of these global challenges, and someone told me a quote about thinking globally, but acting locally, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” says Kirton. “So basically all of our manufacturing and inking process is all done here in Canada.”

The new collection was first shown at a pre-launch party on Dec. 2 at HUB Ottawa. The line, which is filled with fashion basics like sweaters and tank-tops, features art from local artists silkscreened onto the shirts, including Joy Beshie, a U of O alumna and the newest artist to get involved with The Balance Project.

Although Kirton believes it is important for students to care about where their clothing comes from, her and her team simply hope that students become inspired to ask more questions about the ethics behind their clothing.

“Our objective is not to make people feel bad for buying something from H&M, or buying something from Levi’s. The point is to balance your wardrobe, by either sourcing locally or making sure it’s fair trade, and definitely to start asking those questions and having those conversations with people.”

When asked if she is hoping to expand the company eventually, Kirton explained that her goals at the moment are much more short-term.

“One day, one day. Let’s just get through tonight first.”

The new winter collection officially launches online on Dec. 9. Prices range from $5.99-$45 plus shipping, and can be purchased at http://www.becomebalanced.org/shop/.