I recently had a call with Robyn, the owner of Le Prix. We discussed all things sustainable fashion, including her store in downtown Kitchener, where the sustainable fashion industry is going and the impact of fast fashion. Robyn started her business in the last year of her undergraduate degree. She began by shopping second hand, and styling her friends and family that asked for her advice. She has always had a good eye, and her friends would often notice her style and ask her to take them shopping or ask where they should shop. When Robyn was shopping second hand, she would find pieces that didn’t fit her but knew that they would look good on someone else. That was when she started Le Prix.
What was the development of your business from the beginning? Was it online or straight into the store?
It was a bootstrap method… I was a student and didn’t haven’t any money, so I bought a couple of products and started a Facebook page. I had people shop by appointment in my house, and would also do a lot of pop-ups. Everything continued to organically grow from there because people noticed what I was doing, and women especially are very expressive. When they like something on a friend, they will ask which will lead to referrals.
What kind of flaws did you see in the way that fast fashion was produced?
So many- there is waste in every level of the supply chain. The impact from there that people don’t really think about because it’s so far down the line. Also, it is important to consider the working conditions of the people that work in fast fashion factories. When I was 13 I found out about child labour. When I worked in retail, every month you’d have to buy the new collection even though the products from the brands that you already own are perfectly fine.
Do you implement sustainability into other aspects of your business operations?
I’ve been developing the sustainability page on my website more recently because every element of Le Prix is sustainable but I understand that it might not be conveyed to new customers. One of the sustainable aspects of my business is the use of sustainable delivery services. I use a zero-emissions delivery company that uses electric cars to deliver my local packages. I have also started to use a rideshare delivery company that delivers to customers outside of the KW areaand uses cars that are already on the road to reduce emissions. In terms of packaging, I work with local businesses to collect boxes and paper to ensure that all of my packaging is recycled.
Are there any sustainable practices that you have yet to implement but would like to in the future?
The one area that I am working to improve is the little plastic tags that attach the tags to the clothes. I have found a company that supplies a biodegradable option but will only supply in numbers that are for large stores, much larger than my own. I also am making sure to work through my current stock as it’s not sustainable to throw out the tags that I have.
Are the items in your store Canadian retailers and producers?
Yes, I make sure to have products from Canadian retailers and producers. Also, I try to support female entrepreneurs as often as I can, as there are fewer of us and there are more barriers to entry for females. I recently expanded a new line of jewelry from a woman based in Kitchener, originally from Laos, who repurposes war waste materials out of aluminum to make jewelry. Another line of jewelry is these silk tassel earrings that are made at a disabled women’s shelter that employs women and trains them to have desirable skillsets. I make sure to do a lot of research for every single product and I make sure to remain strict on what I accept and avoid greenwashing.
How do you think the industry will change with the pandemic and quarantine?
Online shopping inherently can be very wasteful. If you buy something that gets shipping to you, and it’s not the right product then you have to ship it back- there is so much packaging wasted and associated carbon emissions. I’ve made sure to create some videos on how to properly measure yourself- I want to teach people how to buy things that will fit them properly so that they won’t have to send anything back or exchange their products.
What is next for Le Prix?
I’m planning on growing the garment care side of things, which I have expanded over the past year. I now offer biodegradable bleach, laundry detergent, and various products that help to fix clothing that you already own. I am trying to inspire people to take care of the clothes that they already have.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Every purchase at Le Prix is weighed to track the impact that we collectively make together by shopping second hand and purchasing sustainable fashion. So far, we’re at 1.4 tonnes of fashion that has been diverted from landfills. While some people might think the specific item that they are purchasing is small, the collective impact is actually very significant. It’s something that excites my shoppers because it makes the action of shopping for sustainable fashion something deeper than just a simple purchase that you’re excited to wear. It’s clear now that every individual can have a strong impact on climate change and the environment. Whereas 10 years ago before social media and social movements online, people didn’t think they had an individual impact. I’ve been really grateful to create a space where people can learn about sustainability and share their impacts.
“I learn things from my clients and they learn things from me. It’s a place of no judgement because sustainability is an imperfect journey and sometimes, we can feel frozen with where to start if we’re not doing everything perfectly.”