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Socially conscious clothiers

Shoppers caught up in buying “fast fashion” — trends on the cheap — may not realize there can be high ethical, social and environmental costs.

And while a growing number of national and global clothing designers are making ethical practices a priority — companies like Patagonia and Alternative Apparel — what if you also care about shopping local?

Luckily, WNY is home to its own sustainable clothing lines, made by local designers who are doing their part to slow down the fast fashion mentality and encourage “behavioral buying.”

Alicia Marván Atelier

With a master’s degree in sculpture, Marván approaches fashion in the same way she does other art and design projects — with social transformation in mind.

“The human body’s intelligence and sensuality has been hindered by social norms and conditioned by consumerism,” said Marván. “Disposable, toxic garments are fed to us like bait.”

Marván explained that her garments are manufactured with the least toxic materials and processes available. Working with sustainable fabrics including virgin wool, organic cotton and newer blends that combine bamboo, hemp, soy and recycled fibers, her sources follow strict environmental regulations. Through the implementation of an innovative patterning system, she has also reduced material waste to almost zero.

Starting Atelier after becoming disenchanted with what was available at retailers, particularly for curvy and plus-sized women, Marván’s designs are tailored, yet have plenty of room to disguise problem areas. They can also add volume and flair to thin silhouettes.

On the horizon: a line of accessories made of materials like recycled metals and bio-engineered composite that she hopes to launch next year.

Molly Hoeltke-Worth, Once And For All Clothing

Ethical manufacturing practices have always been designer Hoeltke-Worth’s primary focus. Formerly involved in a human trafficking awareness group that dealt in part with slavery-type conditions in the work environment, she was intent on sourcing domestically and having a high level of involvement in the clothing manufacturing process.

“I visit all my factories multiple times a year and know everyone personally,” said Hoeltke-Worth, who has factories in Buffalo, the Bronx and Tampa. She can be found alongside her employees each day at the Buffalo factory, cutting and sewing her line of contemporary womenswear.

Available online and locally at Anna Grace and Modern Nostalgia, Once And For All Clothing is versatile, effortless and designed for strong, feminine women, according to Hoeltke-Worth.

“We need to break the cycle of overconsumption of goods and turn to a valuing of less product at a higher quality,” said Hoeltke-Worth. “The mentality in the U.S. has been so disposable for so long, but people are shifting gears. We’ll get there.”

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