Wallis Evera’s Monique Parker Shares the Vision Behind Her Sustainable Brand

This post is written in partnership with Wallis Evera, who sent me a free product to review. No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. 

My sustainability journey mostly focuses on working conditions, but one area in which I continue to learn is natural fabrics. Canadian brand Wallis Evera is bringing sophistication to the natural fabric marketplace with their ready-for-work styles made from hemp and other eco-friendly fabrics. I recently had the privilege to ask Wallis Evera founder Monique Parker about their line of sleek, professional clothes.

 

Wallis Evera founder Monique Parker in the Lou V-Neck Top.

What advantages do you see with natural fabrics?

I like the simplicity of knowing that my clothes are made from the fibres of plants grown organically by farmers, rather than from concoctions of petrochemicals poured together in a vat somewhere. ​I realize the process is not that simple in reality and there are many stages of textile production that contribute to environmental damage. However, I believe that every choice we make along the way that supports organic farming and engages in environmental protection — no matter how small the impact may seem — it matters. Reducing our demand for petroleum-based products (i.e. polyesters, acrylics, nylon fabrics) is a worthwhile reason to choose natural fabrics, whenever possible.

What challenges do you find with manufacturing your products locally?

Producing locally means that our costs are higher right from the start, which makes it difficult to compete with goods produced overseas. ​However, I love having close relationships with my suppliers and being able to pick up the phone or visit them at any time through the production cycle — so valuable!

Do you have a relationship with a Canadian factory, or use individual seamstresses? Are the workers who manufacture your products paid minimum wage, or a living wage?

​We work with a couple of small, local factories in Vancouver.​ ​The workers are paid a minimum wage and are protected by very high labour standards and full medical coverage in British Columbia.

How did you discover hemp as a basis for eco-friendly clothing?

I kept reading about hemp as this “wonder fibre” and “the most eco-friendly fibre in existence.” I saw that a number of high-end designers had used it on their runways, but I didn’t know anyone that actually owned any hemp clothing. I had no idea where to buy hemp clothing. It was a mystery to me — that if it was really as great as so many people were saying it was, why wasn’t everyone wearing it? I started sending away for hemp fabric samples and found some that were really beautiful and versatile. ​

I’d love to hear more about peace silk and its role in your clothing.

​Some of our early fabrics were blends of hemp and peace silk. It’s been a very difficult blend to source on an ongoing basis, however, so our current collection contains conventionally harvested silk only. ​ I love the look and feel of peace silk, and would much rather use textiles that do not harm animals in any way. As soon as we are able to source this fabric again, we’ll be using it in our collection.

What is your background? How did the business get started?

​My background is in management consulting. I left a corporate career to start Wallis Evera because I wanted to create a business that reflected my values and the kind of world I wanted to live in. Rather than coming from a design background, my perspective is that of a conscious consumer and a futurist. The business got started with the help of a stack of inspiring books from the library, some great mentors, and a lot of trial and error.


Thanks so much to Monique for sharing the story behind her brand. To see more of Wallis Evera’s eco-friendly designs, be sure to visit their website and sign up for the newsletter. And be sure to check out my review of Wallis Evera’s Ana Button-Down Tunic!

 

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Review: Professional and Sustainable with Wallis Evera

I was provided a product to review in exchange for this post. No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

While I’m keenly aware of who makes my clothes, I don’t always give much thought to what makes my clothes. Closet staples like acrylic and polyvester are made from petroleum. Conventional cotton is responsible for environmental damage due to pesticides and herbicides. And while I like the idea of “natural fibers,” I really don’t know where to start.


When I think of hemp clothing, I picture rough fabrics and necklaces worn by surfers. Canadian brand Wallis Evera is shattering my expectations with their line of hemp-based work wear. Each part of their line of eco-friendly clothing is manufactured in Vancouver, Canada, from natural fibers like organic cotton, lyocell, silk, and — of course — hemp.

I think back to my corporate career years ago and wish I had a Wallis Evera wardrobe then. The sleek skirts and sheath dresses would have upped my professionalism in a major way. Now that I’m home every day with my kids, the Ana Button Down tunic is a good match for my on-the-go, casual lifestyle.

I was expecting a smoother fabric when I first read about the hemp/organic cotton/silk blend of this shirt, but the fabric is more akin to linen. The lightweight, breezy feel is great for the hot days of Tennessee summer. The cut of the tunic is a bit boxy, but since the shoulders and sleeves fit me perfectly I wouldn’t want to go down a size. The quality of the fabric and workmanship is fantastic — I definitely view this piece as one of the nicer items in my wardrobe.

Another pleasant surprise about the tunic is the ease of care. The fabric instructions list handwashing as the ideal method for cleaning the shirt. After a few wears I actually tossed the tunic in my washing machine on a handwash setting, then hung it to dry. The piece held its shape well and only has a few wrinkles that I’ll erase with my steamer.

To make their eco-friendly styles easily accessible, Wallis Evera recently created a home try-on program. When a customer orders one item from Wallis Evera, they can request up to two additional items to try on for free. Shipping in the US and Canada is free both ways for the additional products, so you can try them on and ship them back with no risk at all.

I wasn’t sure Wallis Evera’s hemp-based styles would work for me, but I find myself thankful to have them in my wardrobe. The versatility, durability, and quality means you’ll find me wearing this eco-friendly brand all year long.

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7 Small Business Lessons from a Reformed Workaholic

A selection of products from my fair trade shop, circa 2007.

Once upon a time, I was a small business owner. Young, passionate, and ready to change the world, I left corporate America looking for more meaning and purpose. I started a business. I closed that business. And in the mix of hard work and long hours, I learned a few lessons along the way.

1. Save more money.  I had a wonderful, well-paying job before starting my business. If I had worked six more months to save more capital, my little shop would have found much firmer footing.

2. Avoid scope creep. I started my business to bring fair trade goods to my neighborhood. Then I added a few items I had handmade because I thought they were cool. Then I added items friends had made. The next thing I knew, I was carrying a disjointed range of products that I couldn’t effectively market.

3. Get help. I was in serious need of experts. I had a bad case of I-can-do-it-myself. Some of it was to save money (see #1), and some of it was because I couldn’t be honest about my own deficiencies. I was too cheap to hire a bookkeeper and spent many miserable hours reconciling accounts and doing my taxes.

4. Find the right time and place.  My original vision for the business involved a neighborhood storefront, but I ended up online and at craft fairs when I couldn’t afford standard rent. Now I look at the tiny business incubator shops in my neighborhood, think about the growing interest in ethical fashion, and wonder “What if.” It’s funny to think about what my business might look like now, in the age of Square readers and Venmo. Waiting two years while conducting more research might have changed my entire business.

5. Expect the unexpected. I needed to build in enough time and money to cover the problems I couldn’t foresee. At my first event, my entire shipment of Thistle Farms lip balm melted in the August sun. A significant portion of money invested in products was now lost, and I struggled to rebound.

6. Look beyond the bottom line. When I decided to shut down my business, I felt like a failure. Even though I was shutting down by choice to focus on my family, I hadn’t yet reached the point of making money. I felt ashamed of spending our family’s money on something that didn’t give back. A wise friend (Okay, okay, it was my therapist) asked if I would feel so much regret if I had spent that money on graduate classes but ended up with no degree. Could the education of running a small business be worth the investment and toil, even with no financial gain?

7. Accept the gift of experience. With benefit of hindsight, I see that my struggling store was exactly what I needed during that time in my life. I learned so much about myself, and I like to think that what I did made a difference to others as well. My business didn’t thrive, but it introduced my friends and neighbors to the concept of ethical fashion and fair trade. I made a difference in the lives of the artisans who made my products. I met some amazing people. And maybe I changed how my neighborhood shopped, once person at a time.

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