Photograph by Natasha Gerschon. Hair and makeup, Sierra Elliott for

An early environmental awakening led to the sustainable storage of stylist and activist Sarah Jay.

Sarah Jay’s collection of sustainable, locally made styles got off to a bit of an abrupt start. “Early in my career, I had an existential crisis,” confesses the famed Toronto stylist, environmental activist and documentary designer Toxic Beauty. “I just felt like I was drowning in excess. I loved fashion, but I wondered where our clothes came from and how they were disposed of.

Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, An inconvenient truth, is partly responsible for Jay’s self-reflection. “This movie really checked my facts and opened my mind, but it also coincided with my heightened chemical sensitivities,” she says, referring to the byproduct of her days immersed in the chlorine as a synchronized swimmer and to her own description. addiction to hair dyes and cosmetics. As his health declined, Jay embraced a new, more organic wardrobe to keep his skin (and his environmental conscience) satisfied – and so his collection began.

One of her first enduring pieces was a dress by a Ukrainian-Canadian designer Katia Revenko. “I was working for her when she won the Toronto fashion incubator Elle Canada’s New Labels fashion design competition in 2006, and she paid me with clothes,” says Jay. Sixteen years later, Jay is now independent, but she often brings back stylish souvenirs from work.

Before buying an item, Jay asks himself a series of questions to make sure the item is worth it: “Will I wear it more than once? Can it be styled multiple ways? Will it last over time?” As she dresses her clients exclusively in ethical and environmentally friendly outfits, the answer is almost always yes. “It is important for me to follow the path and not just talking,” she says of her reasoning behind starting her fashion tank. “It’s also a result of being involved in the local designer community and falling in love with what they create. . »

And she really loves him. Over the years, the collector has acquired more than 100 enduring fashion items, ranging from handmade hoodies to jeweled fanny packs. Although she cited Courtney Love as her fashion inspiration, the vast mix of eras and aesthetics in Jay’s collection is hard to categorize. Vintage Wayne Clark skirt suits hang among the Toronto company’s contemporary pleated pieces Sid Neigum. Recycled denim rubs shoulders with silk dresses. Black Line Accessories’ Geode jewels mingle with her kitsch handcrafted creations. And the list continues.

Jay acknowledges that being a fashion fanatic turned sustainability superhero presents some challenges. She sometimes struggles with the paradox of loving the looks but hating the industry. “How can I sleep at night? she asks mockingly. “Sometimes I don’t feel authentic, but I guess I learned to understand and respect that sustainability is a spectrum. There is no perfectly sustainable lifestyle, clothing or brand. It’s about getting in the game…starting where you are.

But no matter the time or the textile, the call for Jay is forever in history. “I’m proud to support these artisans,” she says. ” What can I say ? I love it! I love the love that has gone into these pieces. I like to know and celebrate the design process. And I love starting a conversation about sustainability.

This article first appeared in THE FASHION April issue. Learn more here.

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