Sustainable Style

Local Clothing Line Gives Unused Fabrics Second Chance

After working for over 10 years at one of Canada’s leading fashion houses and watching mountains of unused luxury fabric accumulate in warehouses at the end of each season, local designer Suzanne Bateman decided to take action.

The British Columbia native and longtime Montreal resident created Rescued. Designs in 2010, buying leftover high-end fabrics from Canadian designers and creating eco-conscious apparel at a fraction of the original price.

“[Rescued.] is basically making a landfill diversion,” explained Bateman. “Things aren’t just going in the garbage. We’re using what’s already out there, not creating more ‘stuff.’ Most of the fabric is from Italy and France; it’s never been used, it’s never been worn.”

In addition to “rescuing” fabrics that are otherwise destined to gather dust in a warehouse, the label makes an effort to minimize its carbon footprint by using recycled boxes for shipping, eschewing paper lookbooks in favour of online content, and, best of all, using hang tags made from plantable paper—when the tags are removed, soaked in water and planted, wildflowers grow!

Bateman’s design credentials are impressive: in addition to studying fashion design at Lasalle College, she apprenticed, modeled and designed for over a decade for Zenobia Collections— founded by prominent local designers Pina Iannelli and Marisa Minicucci.

The ethical clothing line also employs a local charitable organization called Les Petits Mains to sew the garments. Les Petits Mains provides opportunities to women who have immigrated to Canada, as well as single women within Montreal, who need to learn French and English language skills. The organization offers language classes and provides necessary services such as day-care facilities while giving the women an opportunity to learn a marketable trade.

Rescued.’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection was recently unveiled at Montreal Fashion Week as a part of ModEthik: Le Salon de la mode éthique de Montréal, a collaboration between Bateman and two other ethical clothing lines.

Bateman describes the Spring/Summer collection as inspired by “Japanese women and the Asian aesthetic.” It was created envisioning a Japanese seaside resort or village, taking cues from the Hayao Miyazaki animated film Ponyo and the colours of ocean life.

Bateman’s favourite piece is a bright V-neck kimono dress with a wide cummerbund waist that flatters most body types. Although the line is generally designed for career women and mothers, many of her dresses are playful enough to be worn by younger women, like the flirty white “belle du jour” frock from the Fall/Winter.

“Part of being a sustainable collection is that we want longevity within the garments,” Bateman explained. “We want classical pieces that are going to last from season to season.”

The collection is available online, at Ottawa’s Flock Boutique or in Montreal at Emmeline & Annabelle couture café. Dresses generally retail for $250, skirts for $150, and tops range from $75 to $100—in many cases a bargain considering the line’s environmental consciousness and quality. “This fabric used to be sold on dresses that were worth thousands,” said Bateman.

As the sole designer for the company, finding boutique representation is difficult at a time when affordable, fast-fashion chains are more popular than ever. Rescued. is a small operation, and the expense involved in creating an ethical clothing line represents a major challenge to expanding.

Despite the aims of the project, Bateman has nothing against affordable, mass-produced fashion; as a mother of two, she is no stranger to the concept of thrift. But Rescued. offers an ethical alternative for the environmentally conscious fashionista, and that choice is priceless.