Guelph Tool Library’s Circular Fashion Festival: Encouraging Sustainable Fashion Around the City

Guelph Tool Library’s Circular Fashion Festival: Encouraging Sustainable Fashion Around the City

Originally Published December 2022

This fall, the Guelph Tool Library hosted the city’s first ever Circular Fashion Festival. The week-long festival ran both online and in-person events starting on October 17th, coinciding with National Waste Reduction Week. In this short period, 2500 kg of waste was diverted from landfills. Gratitude to Stephanie Clarke, the wonderful program coordinator at the Tool Library for making this festival happen in our beautiful city.

Circular fashion is all about the life cycle of a product, from source and design to transportation and use. We engage in circular fashion and sustainability by thrifting, upcycling, as well as learning to repair our own clothes and caring for the tools we use to do so.

Kicking off the festival with the Upcycled Fashion Show, a long line of people were queued outside of 10C Shared Space. Located at 42 Carden Street, this inclusive space is available to host an array of events. Upon arrival we were given ballots to vote for our favourite designer that night. PWYC snacks were available and consumed. Our host for the evening, Tim Clarke, welcomed us with a song and introduced the local designers. For the first half of the show, we were graced by the talents of Megan Clarke (Shop the Swap) and Becky Swainson (Gather and Make). Megan handpicked the pieces that would later be available at the clothing swap. Off the runway Becky Swainson of Gather and Make offers ways to begin your own sustainable fashion journey through sewing classes and the sale of circular textiles.

Following a brief intermission came Shelly Thompson (The Muse and I) and Bobby Raffin. Shelly’s clothes showed us how old quilts could be turned into beautiful, patterned fall statement pieces. Bobby showcased his incredibly intricate hand-stitched sleeves and beadwork on a variety of pieces you’d kill to wear on vacation. Models proudly walked the runway wearing pieces laboured from love. Not a single article of clothing resembled something you could buy in a mall. It was the unique use of textiles and sheer quality that made each designer stand out, every piece was a beautiful ode to slow fashion.

It was tough to decide who to vote for! A special thanks goes to Emily Duncan and Stephanie Clarke for coordinating the evening.

Later in the week, a sewing machine repair and maintenance workshop was held for a small group of folks at the Guelph Tool Library. This workshop focused on the skill side of circular fashion with people bringing in their own sewing machines. It was facilitated by Toby Binder, local musician and seamster. A master of his craft, Toby taught the participants how to regularly clean and oil their machines as well as how to make hook timing adjustments. Empowering people through skill-based knowledge, in the case of sewing machines, allows us to prolong the life of well-loved pieces and create new ones. This is just one of many ways the community came together during the festival to practice sustainable fashion. 

Saving the best for last, Guelph Tool Library hosted the city’s largest clothing swap and sale at the Old Quebec Mall. This event was accessible and featured handmade, vintage and slow fashion vendors. Clothes were swapped and donated to be loved over and over again; a great step towards environmental consciousness and modeling circular economies.

Overall, the festival was a huge success. We are so grateful to have such supportive and eco-conscious community leaders partaking in sustainable fashion. 

Beyond the festival, Guelph Tool Library provides multiple membership options, so anyone can access their tool lending services! 


Keep up with Guelph Tool Library on Facebook or @gtoollibrary on Instagram to find out about their upcoming events.

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