Photos by Amanda Coen for Ecouterre
Meemoza is a Montreal-based ethical fashion brand that insists on keeping production local. Designer Emilie Rioux does everything to keep the feminine line as sustainable as possible not only by using materials such as tencel and modal, but also by biking or using the city’s “Communauto” car share program to transport her designs for production. Rioux took Ecouterre for a visit to the Montreal Garment District to take a first had look “behind the seams”.
Emilie Rioux started Meemoza about a year ago after receiving her first sewing lessons from her mother at a young age before going on to study fashion design and later business. Drawing on the two disciplines, she quickly learned the importance of having a vision and maintaining it in her work.
“I think it’s important to have your own vision to be able to create products that fit with your vision and that your vision reflects your values,” Rioux tells Ecouterre. “For me, this means that it’s important that the main portion of the garment is 100% eco-friendly and that it is ethically made.”
Rioux uses biologically based fibers such as organic cotton, linen, Modal and Tencel to construct her garments and tries to source from North American mills as much as possible. While she would like to use recycled materials, they are often hard to find for designers who are producing in smaller quantities than what is required for bulk purchases.
Rather than complain, Rioux works within limits and finds other ways to keep her designs as sustainable as possible. For instance, she uses wooden buttons and end-of-line fabrics for the pockets and linings of her garments. She also stresses the importance of ethical production practices to maintain transparency and ensure that workers are paid fair wages.
Montreal’s Garment District has offered Rioux with a wealth of local talent while simultaneously providing her with a means to contribute to the local economy and reduce emissions related to transportation. On the day Ecouterre visited, Rioux took us to Les Ailes de la Coupe where we met master cutter Joseph Hajjar and his team. They work with about 25 clients and are constantly rolling out and cutting huge rolls of fabric while paying meticulous attention to detail. A short walk down the hallway, we then visited Blank where a team of talented seamstresses were busy at work. Observing Rioux, it was obvious that she has put a lot of time and effort into finding people she enjoys working with and building trusting relationships.
Beyond the emphasis Rioux places on using sustainable materials and keeping production local, she has also created a relatively affordable line defined by versatility and comfort infused with romanticism. She states, “I think it’s important to prioritize where you want to put your energies because, especially for Meemoza, I want my products to be accessible to people.” Rather than starting with outrageously high prices and depending on high cost margins to make up for end of season sales, Rioux has chosen to establish a fair price point to begin with. She believes that a fair price reflects the work put into each garment and, while not always the cheapest option, it encourages consumers to be selective in their purchasing decisions and reduce consumption patterns. To ease the process, Rioux’s collections include a limited number of well-made, ethical styles so as not to overwhelm customers.