Stitching fashion with attitude and a conscience
“If you really want to Occupy Wall Street, support local business.”
That was the sign hanging in a funky little clothing boutique with a clever name on Vancouverâ€™s Main Street, the busy shopping area my local friends pointed me to for anything vintage, handmade or unique on the clothing scene.
I commented on the sign as I walked in, and quickly the woman behind the counter at Devil May Wear and I launched into a fascinating conversation about the role small local businesses play in supporting a local and more sustainable economy.
As her skilled hands tore seams on fabric with darning sheers, Tyra Weitman was excited to share more about the store, the meaningful work she feels they do, and tell me more about Stephanie Ostler, the passionate owner of the store. As Ostlerâ€™s right-hand-woman, Weitman does everything that needs doing in managing the store that prides itself for supporting local and sustainable fashion.
Founded in 2003 by Stephanie Ostler then at 17, Devil May Wear has grown from a small home based wholesale operation to an extensive wholesale/retail experience. With one full time (Tyra) and one part-time employee, along with Stephanie the owner, Devil May Wear sources a large portion of their materials from sustainable, Canadian milled reclaimed or dead stock textiles and findings. Vintage deadstock is new fabric thatâ€™s never been used but was made in the 50s, 60s or 70s and is incorporated into their clothing line for a vintage, kitschy appeal. Natural and organic fabrics such as cotton and bamboo are also commonly used, both for their soft and comfortable feel, and their lighter impact on the planet. Their products are now sold internationally in Hong Kong, Holland and the US.
After our high energy conversation in the store, I was pleased to receive a follow-up email from Tyra, and we reconnected again on the topic of meaningful work and local economies.
â€œWe want to help start a conversation about where people are putting their money, remembering about local business where our dollars are spent,â€ Tyra says on the phone.
â€œA lot of those ideas that people want to achieve with Occupy, can be done with supporting a local economy with food, clothing and all other everyday needs. Small local businesses are there to create jobs, watching the community change over time. Big box players are not so much invested in local economy.â€
For Tyra, her idea of meaningful work is being independent, being able to support a business that makes sense and does good in the community, all the while creating beautiful products that are durable and have their own style and character.
â€œTo me, itâ€™s doing a job that youâ€™re passionate about that you love to come to, and youâ€™re willing to put in 18 hour days without complaints. Something that makes you feel like youâ€™re making a difference. Being able to make it your own way, instead of having to constrain yourself,â€ she says.
That same attitude of self-expression and independence inspired the storeâ€™s name, from the1950s saying â€œdevil may careâ€. At Devil May Wear, Tyra defines the style as â€œwearing whatever you want to wear, how you want to wear it, and standing out a little bit more.â€
About Stephanie Ostler, the woman who founded Devil May Wear in 2003, Tyra wrote in an email, â€œShe’s always been self motivated and as a young child instead of sitting around the house she would be rounding up the neighbourhood kids to clean up the neighbourhood, making Femo Beads and selling them in front of her driveway or creating buttons for local punk bands.â€
Working for a company that fits her own working â€“ and clothing â€“ style, as well as having a boss who shares Tyra’s values and walks the walk is vitally important in that sometimes ephemeral, often in flux notion that oneâ€™s daily labours contribute to a sense of meaningful work.