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Be Green

Eco-chic... on a budget!

Image courtesy Luc Bourgeois

If you think dressing "eco" means Birkenstocks and tie-dye, you need to see what a whole whack of VERY cool Montreal designers are doing. By the way, I mean no disrespect to the Birkenstock brigade-- I love you, peace out, etc. But let's face it, not all of us could or would want to pull off the whole hippie look. So how to dress eco in a climate of tight spending?
Simple: Head over to La Gaillarde. It's a non-profit institution that's committed to helping folks discover the potential of used clothing. They've been doing eco long before it became chic. The name comes from the French for "strong woman; a woman who stands by her convictions". Back in the day (this was in '99), La Gaillarde was a place to help female convicts reintegrate into society. Over the years, its focus has shifted to helping folks in the fashion biz be green. Oh, and that includes you.
We're giving away a free workshop at La Gaillarde where you'll learn how to recycle your wardrobe! Read on!

What does La Gaillarde do?
Basically, it helps you see used clothing in a whole new light.
The folks at La Gaillarde provide three basic services:
Friperie: They have a friperie or thrift store that sells used clothing as is (i.e. no modifications). They have a fabulous vintage section that feature clothes from the '50s all the way to the '80s. Fabulous used furs (which is the only humane and moral way to wear fur, in my humble opinion), evening gowns, flirty little boleros and satin chemises.... all for between $10 and $50 (although I did see some pieces for $6-$8!).
By the way, there's two levels of thrift store at La Gaillarde-- the vintage, classy stuff upstairs and the cheaper, more everyday stuff in the basement. All the stuff in the basement is $5 or less. Clio Forsyth-Morrissette tells me that stylish Montrealers often buy those clothes to use as raw materials in higher fashion projects. The basement is also where you'll find tons of materials (lace, cotton, satin, etc) that's been donated by designers and clothing mills. This is also up for grabs at (literally) bargain basement prices.

Image courtesy Aube

Support for designers:
Designers like Aube (who makes agendas from recycled silk and paper) and Supayana (who is featured in my video transforming the sleeves from a pair of mens' shirts into a sexy little summer miniskirt). Basically if you're a Montreal clothing or accessory designer working with recycled materials, La Gaillarde is your best friend. They'll help you source raw materials, put together a line, design a business card and organize a fashion show! If you have vision and the ability to put together funky outfits, you need to call these people!

This is Yana herself (from Supayana)
And this is my new favourite look! Yana cut the sleeves off a man's shirt, used the bottom curvy bits to make cap sleeves, added a hint of elastic for an empire waist and used the sleeves for that funky-ass cowl. This woman is my hero! You'll be amazed at what she can do with a pair of scissors, a sewing machine and 10 minutes!

Classes for folks with vision but no skills

Designers like Yana give workshops at La Gaillarde to help folks like you and me recycle our wardrobes. No prior experience necessary. In fact, since you're such a loyal follower of Be Green, you get to win a free workshop (for details, keep reading). Depending on the workshop you take, you'll learn everything from the most basic skills (sewing a button on a shirt) to crafting funky stuff like Yana makes. Tips on cutting, seaming and choosing fabrics. And all at very reasonable prices AND ON THE WEEKEND! Sorry, I need to take a moment... I'm so used to these fun classes being outside my reach because of scheduling that I feel an insane urge tp dance about. Okay, I'm done. Moving on...
For the class schedule (written in French), click here.

So here's the part where you can win yourself a spot in these classes:
All you have to do is write or call in with a project idea using recycled clothing. I'll give you an example: I plan to make a dog coat out of a thrifted, felted sweater (got the idea and pattern in HeartFelt by Teresa Searle). So what's your plan? Leave me a comment or call our Talkback Line (514) 597-5626.

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Comments (11)

Jackie Michelle Peters


I would love to go to the free workshop you talked about. For about a month now I've been designing a purse but I haven't the slightest clue on how to sew so this could be just what I need.. I have the purse all drawn out.. I just need to find the material I'm looking for.. and I need to learn how to sew! If you could get back to me that would be great!!

Posted March 9, 2009 07:30 PM

Johanne Rabbat


Hi Geeta,
I very much enjoy your Be Green segments.
Regarding your last report on recycling clothing, I was unaware of the alarming extent the production of cotton clothing has on the environment.

I'm always looking for both eco-friendly & eco-nomical tricks good for both the pocket book and the earth, so I'd love to win the workshop contest at La Gaillarde.

I want to transform an old vintage leopard print twin bed bedspread into a smoking pair of cigarette pants! I need help with the project since I'm a newbie when it comes to the sewing machine.
Hope I win!

Posted March 9, 2009 08:11 PM

Shannon O'Connor


I've always wanted to make a funky little skirt out of a bunch old ties. Since I lack any sewing abilities whatsoever, the actual process has always seemed too daunting. But now that I know there's help, that's just opened up a range of possibilities!

Posted March 9, 2009 09:20 PM

Anne Beamish


Great idea Geeta, la Gaillarde has been a bright star in St-Henri for years. So much clothing is wasted and fabric is endlessly recyclable. I would love to attend the workshop, I too would like to felt old sweaters and make my dog a coat, but also I would like to learn how to turn a man's shirt into a nice top or how to convert old pants into a pencil skirt. I have so many ideas...

Posted March 10, 2009 09:11 AM

Cristal Haidalis


I would love to attend the workshop you talked about yesterday evening. I would love to transform one of the many table cloths or bed spreads my grandmother has knitted for me, when I was little, into a bohemian dress or a loose fitted tank top. It would be a great way to showcase her talent! Thank you!

Geeta says:
Ooh, no fair, you're appealing to the knitter in me! This is definitely a great idea. The comment continue to pour in. I'm going to wait till tomorrow morning to pick a winner. Thanks for writing in. Log on (or watch the program) tomorrow to find out who wins!

Posted March 10, 2009 01:11 PM

Eve Dumas


I have always been a fan of second hand...well, everything! But recycling your own clothes is such an original and great idea! I have a tiny background of sewing but never thought myself good enough to actually make clothes, I'd love to go to the free workshop La Gaillarde offers. With spring around the corner I think I'd like to make a summer dress out of the collection of old dryer-shrunk tank-tops I have.

Posted March 10, 2009 02:40 PM

Dorothy Kryworuchko


Along with knitting and crocheting, sewing is the next in line to learn. Have a little bit of knowledge (from Home Economics classes, way back when). This would be a hoot! Now let me think of what I would like to redo...purchasing a vintage dress and learning how to make it fit me..love vintage clothing. Will you be there along for the fun? Certainly hope so ;-)) It wouldn't be the same without you, Geeta! Oh...how to make a duvet cover from sheets, or curtains? So many things to learn and do, so little time to learn it all!

Posted March 10, 2009 06:16 PM

Mayra Rivera Belsham


Geeta, I have to say that I was INCREDIBLY happy to hear your segment this Monday on La Gaillarde. This weekend I had been doing some searching around for sewing classes and stumbled upon their website and was impressed with their work. As an earth-respecting citizen I try to incorporate “green” practices in both my personal and professional life. Life with an 18-month-old has inspired me to pay closer attention to the daily things we can do to be eco-friendly and penny-savvy!

With a sewing class from La Gaillarde, I would ask my work colleagues to donate an item of clothing to make a ‘patchwork’ pillow or tapestry to put on the wall in our organization. It would be our collective ‘gift’ to our place of work and the women and children whose paths cross ours on a difficult and courageous time of their lives. We are a shelter in Montreal for women and children who are victims of family and conjugal violence.

My follow-up idea is to share some of the skills I learn in the workshop with women at the shelter as an activity so that they could be introduced to the world of sewing. Perhaps it would be the beginning of a future sewing collective? We’ll start one stitch at a time. (Sorry, I couldn’t let that one slip by)! ;-)

Geeta says:
Mayra! You're my hero! I LOVE your idea. As for the patchwork quilt, you must check out this gorgeous book :
It's from the writer of the Posie makes cosy blog (which is sheer creative bliss). The book is full of ideas and patterns for making toys and quilts and other useful items from cherished clothing/scraps that have outlived their original purpose. More power to you!

Posted March 10, 2009 09:59 PM

Natacha Coleman


Hi Geeta,

Thank you for your article...quite motivational!

I have been thinking for awhile now that I would love to turn a pair of black wool-like pants (which I do not wear any longer but are in still good condition) into an "Obi-like" belt. The only problem is, I do not know how to sew by hand or by sewing machine. The idea came to me when I bought an "Obi-like" belt from a store...and I thought...maybe I could make this somehow, it seems so simple! I would use the material from the legs of my pants and trace my existing belt to make the pattern. I am able to see the finished product so clearly in my mind but I simply do not have the skills to do it myself.

Kindest Green Regards,

Geeta says:
I think you're onto something. Your belt should be incredibly easy to put together-- and although I had to google "Obi belt" to visualize what you were talking about, I now see why you're so motivated (gorgeous!)
While you wait to find out if you've won, here's a link that might further inspire you:

Posted March 10, 2009 10:58 PM

Alison Proteau


I am a long time second hand shopper, but my second hand clothing shopping has been seriously curtailed since moving to this province. Back in Nova Scotia there is a chain of stores called Guy's Frenchys and they truck in bales of clothing from the US. Sometimes the tags are still on the items and the selection is insanely good, as are the prices. In December I filled a big bag with nice clothes (jeans, cords, sweaters, t-shirts) for my 2 sons and it came to about 36$.
Qc could seriously benefit from a chain of retail stores like this and like the one featured in your piece. I really miss getting my eco shop on.

Geeta says:
I'm with Alison on this one! I think we should start a petition! Bring on Guy's Frenchys!

Posted March 11, 2009 08:50 AM



Hi Geeta!

Remember me? The girl who said (on your show) that she was going to recycle her wedding dress into something she could wear again?...But who hasn't yet!

I would like to turn my flowy princess dress (that doesn't exactly warrant for many occasions) into a sexy kimono.

Do you have any other ideas?


Geeta says:
Of course, I remember you Izzy! You were our "green wedding" bride. Sounds like a great idea. Although the contest is closed at the moment (he winner will be announced tonight), I would really encourage you to go to La Gaillarde and take a course. They're not expensive and they teach you all the basics so you'd have a whole bunch of skills that you can then work with to convert just about anything.
Good luck!

Posted March 12, 2009 09:59 AM

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