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Fashionista hopes to create positive change

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Anika Kozlowski is hoping to help effect change on the world of fashion.

The 32-year-old former North Kildonan resident, who now is based out of Toronto, takes an environmental worldview into the haute couture establishment.

"I always find it so interesting that fashion is based on change, and the one thing that hasn’t changed is how the actual industry operates," Kozlowski said. "It’s just gotten faster — faster and bigger."

The Miles Macdonell Collegiate grad initially planned to take environmental science upon graduation, but moved to southern Ontario "on a whim" to take fashion design at Ryerson University. After graduating and then working in the industry as a designer, Kozlowski is back at Ryerson working on a doctorate in environmental science. Her work has led her to speak at conferences like the Sustainable and Innovative Fashion Seminar in Helsinki, Finland, and the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in Denmark.

"I mostly talk about sustainable fashion, but looking at sustainable fashion from a design perspective," said Kozlowski, a co-winner of the Most Promising Designer award at the 2008 Art of Fashion Competition in Toronto. "Really, what needs to happen is a systems change. It’s the production, it’s the consumer. The whole fashion system itself needs to change."

Kozlowski encourages consumers to consider a variety of factors when purchasing new garments, including where they were made, how long they plan to own the clothing, and if the pieces are timeless or trendy.

"Sometimes, you just love it and you might wear it for the next five or 10 years," Kozlowski said. "You can start to distinguish what are those pieces you think you’re only going to wear a few times versus what you think is going to fit into your wardrobe for a long time."

She encourages consumers to also think about what they’ll do with garments once they’re done with them, be it give them to a second-hand shop, mend or alter them, or offer them up in a clothing swap.

At the producer level, Kozlowski encourages businesses to find ways to reduce water usage, reuse fabrics, and reduce material waste.

"A lot of the time, sustainability goes hand-in-hand with efficiency and saves everybody money," Kozlowski said. "The way the business model is set up, it’s all based on speed and economies of scale. There’s no time for designers to really explore these alternatives."

Kozlowski said her Winnipeg upbringing has played into how she approaches the fashion industry, in part because growing up in North Kildonan benefitted her creativity "because I was allowed to stay a kid for so long," she said.

But she also noted how the city looks at fashion.

"There’s style, but fashion isn’t everything. Clothes should be functional, and should represent you," she said.

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