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Hazel & Rose fights fast fashion with ethical and sustainable clothes

The store was coming together when we visited Tuesday.

The store was coming together when we visited Tuesday.

Gone are the days of eco-fashion conjuring up images of scratchy, colorless sacks cinched as dresses. This Friday, a new boutique stocking only socially and eco-conscious brands opens in northeast Minneapolis.

“The clothes are fresh and very modern, while still being sustainable and ethically produced,” says Hazel & Rose owner Emma Olson. 

Boutiques like Hazel & Rose challenge the fast fashion norm set by today's mass retailers, where companies seek to bring looks from the runway to stores at a rapid pace. The Rana Plaza collapse, where over 1,000 died while working in a garment facility, and the subsequent Fashion Revolution Day movement has brought further attention to the business practice.

"Brand transparency is becoming more expected because more consumers are demanding it,” says Olson.  

The idea of fast fashion, where trends and merchandise can cycle through stores and closets of consumers as quickly as week to week, is harmful to people and the environment. When product moves that fast, a lot of waste is created, and corners are often cut that sacrifice the quality of the garments and the quality of the lives of the workers producing them.

The solution to combating the cycle of continuously consuming crappy clothes can come down to one thing. "Education," says Olson, “and having a conversation about what the alternatives are.”

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For Olson, it was not enough to ask if a brand is sustainable or ethical. When researching what lines to carry in her store, “I’d look for natural materials and if something wasn’t listed, I would ask," she says. "I’d ask if the cotton was organic, or the leather was vegetable tanned; if they knew where and how the item was produced.”

For example, Hazel & Rose will carry shoes by Veja, a line based in France with production in Brazil. “You can trace each raw material; the rubber, leather, cotton, and the factories the shoes are made in,” Olson explains.

Wardrobe basics like tees and tanks by Los Angeles brand Groceries Apparel will also be available. “They’ve been very deliberate about making sure workers are paid more than fairly,” she says. When browsing the brand’s website, “you can shop by the plant the natural fibers come from.”

Many of the other brands Hazel & Rose will carry are produced in the United States, including exclusive pieces from local brands like Hackwith Design House and Winsome Goods.

There are other details as well that add to the store's sustainable mission statement, such as moving into an existing building, using a stamp on recycled paper rather than having branded materials printed, arranging merchandise on fixtures made from re-purposed materials or hung on recycled cardboard hangers, using LED lamps, and even obtaining a refurbished iPad to accept payments instead of a new one. The shop also worked with local fashion-meets-architecture design studio MAD on the space. Olson aims to make sure her business is held to similar standards as the products it will carry.

For the hesitant shopper, Olson knows fast fashion is a lot cheaper. But it's cheap in more ways than one. "Instead of thinking about what the price tag is… think about cost per wear,” she says. "[Consider] thinking about value and cost differently.”  

Hazel & Rose opens this Friday.