Ethical Canada: Kotn
I remember family vacations to Florida and Hawaii. My sister and I would spend the year wearing faded one-piece swimsuits reeking of chlorine, needing them only for lessons -- no bikini-worthy beaches to be found in Calgary. Then as a trip to one of these warmer destinations approached, we'd tell our parents that we needed to go bathing suit shopping. We desperately wanted something a bit more appropriate for the myriad beach photos that would inevitably be shared with family and friends. The response almost always was: "Wait until we get to the States first, we'll buy you a new one there. It's cheaper."
Canadian friends, surely you remember those days. Did we know how lucky we were to be able to actually save money by purchasing items from the US? I took for granted that it would always be that way.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my recent Story talking about the Everlane jeans I ordered. They're fabulous jeans, but the markup was painful. While retailing only at $68 for Americans, the jeans actually cost me around $100 CAN, and that's not including shipping and taxes, which totaled around $40. (I only bit the bullet because I had an Everlane gift card from Christmas.)
If you've been on the hunt for responsibly made clothes for any length of time, you've probably noticed that there are way more American options than Canadian ones at this point in time. Shopping ethically already limits your choices, and trying to avoid paying the current exchange rate makes it even more challenging. Frustrating, even.
Which is why I've decided to help out with some of the searching for you. I've partnered with several great Canadian designers who either make their items here in Canada, or are based in Canada but have them responsibly manufactured elsewhere. This way, although you may have to pay shipping for some of them, you won't have to pay any nasty exchange rates. Can I get an Amen!?
Of course, I can't cover every brand -- I only want to feature brands whose clothes I have had the opportunity to wear and test out, for integrity's sake. There are certainly other brands out there besides the ones I will be showcasing. But this series will go on indefinitely as I continue to discover new brands. And I hope that by hearing my honest opinions and seeing me wear them, and having me here to answer your questions about the garments, you'll be able to make more confident choices.
One last thing: these are ethically made garments. If you're new to the world of ethical fashion, you may blink at a few of the price points. But remember that the prices are higher because employees are being paid living wages. The artisans are respected for their craft, they receive benefits, they aren't working in unsafe conditions, and the quality of the garments is generally much higher. That's worth saving up for. And the point is that instead of buying lots of cheap, unethical clothing, you thoughtfully buy less, but better, clothes that will last years. If the items I share with you are still way out of your budget, I totally get it. Fear not -- I have some upcoming posts about shopping ethically at every price point that I think you'll enjoy.
That's enough rambling for now. Without further ado, I'm thrilled to introduce you to one of my very favourite (and affordable) ethical Canadian designers: Kotn.
When people say 'ethical basics,' I usually don't get especially excited. It seems that the majority of new ethical clothing startups describe themselves as selling 'basics' or 'essentials,' because those are easier for them to design and manufacture, and appeal to the capsule wardrobe philosophy. But I was never particularly impressed with what I saw, and the prices were often too high for such simple designs. It wasn't until discovering Kotn that I fell in love with refined basics, done right. We're not talking about flimsy, see-through tees and paper-thin fabric, or shapeless cuts. Their basics for men and women are truly timeless and well-made, the fabric sturdy and oh-so-soft (made with 100% Egyptian cotton). The best part is, they're actually affordable (in CAD $$$ y'all), and standard shipping is free!
But what stands out to me about this brand even more than just the great collection is their passion for enriching the lives of their workers, right down to the farmers picking the cotton. They are investing in the community and families of their farmers, working closely with them to ensure ethical practices and a good quality of life. They buy their raw cotton directly from the farmers, which is then sent to their responsible factory outside Alexandria. There is no middleman, ensuring fair wages for them and affordable prices for us. To slow the cycle of child labour, they are also working to improve the literacy rate of children in Egypt. I couldn't be happier to be partnering with this wonderful brand.
I'm 5"7 and am wearing the Fitted Turtleneck in black and a size Medium. Only $45 CAD. The fabric is soft, slightly stretchy, and durable. Just the right thickness. I also own the Easy Crew tee in black and a size Small. My husband is 5"9 and wears The Scoop tee in a grey Medium (he's picky about his tees, and chose to wear his Kotn shirt the first day he preached in front of our church. Testify!).