Coal Miner's Daughter on Shopping for Ethical and Sustainable Fashion

This is our second in a series of posts we're creating on living a sustainable life. Read the first post here.

This post is with Krysten Caddy, one of the founders of the Toronto boutiques Coal Miner's Daughter. After running a local business focused on Canadian fashion for over a decade, Krysten knows quite a lot about shopping for sustainable and ethical clothing. We had a quick chat with her about her best tips for finding your way through the racks.

Also, check out Ingrid in a chic Autumn outfit from CMD!

CF: When shopping locally how do you know where it was made and if it was made outside of Canada if it was made in a good factory or a bad one?
KC: Unfortunately, you mostly have to take the vendor's word for it.

CF: What are some brands that you trust (and sell)?
KC: The majority of the brands we sell are Canadian made, and then a smaller percentage is Canadian owned and made overseas, and then a percentage are international brands. Our overall commitment is to carry a minimum of 80% Canadian brands. When something is made locally we trust that the ethics and working conditions meet our values, so I think that's always the first thing to look out for. Locally made items have a smaller carbon footprint than something made overseas, even better if the fabric was milled in Canada or made from upcycled fabrics; Meemoza is a brand we carry who does a lot of both. Dagg and Stacey are a Toronto-based brand that makes great easy-to-wear everyday dresses and separates, and their collections are made right here in Toronto. They visit the facilities where their collections are made several times a year and have close relationships with their production staff that have spanned years. This is the same practice for all of our designers who have made the more expensive and ethical choice to produce locally, whether it be in Vancouver (Allison Wonderland, Pillar, Object Local, Erin Templeton), Montreal (Eve Gravel, Birds of North America, Ursa Minor, Valerie Dumaine), or Toronto (Sara Duke, Amanda Moss, Fitzy Design Co.). Producing locally also means they can produce in smaller batches and have more control over the quality of each and every garment.

If something is made overseas by a local brand, we make sure to vet with them that they have ethical standards for the workshops and factories they work with overseas, and the factories are held to a high standard when it comes to health, safety, and environmental factors. For our non-Canadian brands, this practice is no different. We carry a select number of brands from France, Australia, Spain, and Denmark, and we make sure to always research them before partnering with them to ensure their production standards meet our values, and often times they will promote these values on their websites, examples are Indi and Cold and Elk.

CF: Anything to beware of if you’re trying to shop local and buy ethically?
KC: If something is very inexpensive I would be cautious. Buying ethically doesn't have to carry a very high price tag, but if it matches fast-fashion prices I would steer clear. The price you pay for something has a direct relation to how much someone was paid to make it and the quality of the factory where it was made. Super cheap clothes = super cheap labour and possibly an unsafe and inhumane work environment.

Believe it or not, but I don't like shopping for myself. So when I do, I like to shop for quality feeling fabrics and well-made garments that will last me a very long time so I can shop less over time. Trust your hands when you're shopping, you can usually feel if something is going to last. Look at stitching and finish on the hem. Buttons will come off of even the most well-made item, that happens, but seams should be nicely finished and look airtight.

CF: Thanks Krysten!

Established in 2009 in Toronto, Coal Miner's Daughter is the product of friends and owners Krysten Caddy and Janine Haller. CMD specializes primarily in Canadian clothing, jewellery, and accessories with a goal to have no less than 80% Canadian designers and brands in store. Follow CMD on Instagram @coalminersdaughter and visit them at five locations across Toronto:

1360 Queen Street East | 87 Roncesvalles Avenue | 744 Queen Street West | 3023 Dundas Street West | and Daughter at 1586 Dundas St West

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