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Jess Sternberg claps back at fast fashion with her ethical clothing brand Free Label.
Jess Sternberg is a rebel. “People are really leaning into this clothing-haul disposable culture, where buying is almost a form of entertainment,” says the foundeof Vancouver-based clothing brand Free Label. Not Sternberg, though: she’s on a mission to change the fashion industry one ethically made, ridiculously comfortable, size-inclusive and reversible bra at a time.
As a buyer for a Toronto boutique back in 2015, Sternberg noticed a gap in the fashion industry, one that made it hard for her to find Canadian-made clothes that fit her lifestyle and her curvier frame. So, with the support of that same boutique, she began designing and selling her own wares, starting with a basic tank top. The next year, she moved to Vancouver, and Free Label quickly grew into a cult favourite brand thanks to comfy, long-lasting and versatile basics that come in sizes ranging from XS to 5X.
Slowing down fast fashion isn’t cheap, however. “I will never be able to make a $10 T-shirt ethically,” Sternberg says. “It’s just not possible.” Her message is clear: buy less, but better. The company uses deadstock fabrics and small-scale production while giving back to the community through a mentorship program and funding for BIPOC entrepreneurs in Canada. “It’s important to me to be able to tell the story of who made your clothes and why you should choose, when possible, ethically made clothing instead,” Sternberg explains. Her commitment to sustainable slow fashion earned her a spot on BCBusiness‘s 30 Under 30 list in 2020 (read the story from our sister magazine here).
And there’s more stylishly sustainable goods on the horizon: be on the lookout for Free Label’s new athleisure collection launching this fall.
This story was originally published in the May/June 2023 print issue of Vancouver magazine—find the digital issue here.