THUNDER BAY -- Sisters Bree and Hailey Hollinsworth were students (in pre-med and Kinesiology, respectively) when they worked at a company making medical uniforms. The experience gave them a realistic view of how inexpensive garments are made.
“Both of us always loved clothing, and this really opened our eyes to fast fashion and what’s going on with the industry and all the flaws within it,” says Hailey.
From toxic dyes and low wages to shipping across the world, none of it was very ethical.
The sisters started researching to see what alternatives there were. They found a company that made fabric out of recycled plastic, came up with T-shirt designs, and got into an accelerator program at the Northern Ontario Innovation Centre.
For the first three months of 2014, they worked intensely on their fledgling project, setting up their website, finding suppliers and launching their business. They named the company Ungalli Clothing Co., after the tree in the children’s book The Name of the Tree.
Since then, the garments they have sold have saved some half a million water bottles from the landfill. The fabric comes from a factory in Quebec, and it is 50 per cent recycled polyester and 50 per cent organic cotton.
Ungalli buys the fabric and sends it to factories in Scarborough and North York to be cut and sewn. The shirts are then screen-printed here in Thunder Bay, based on designs by local graphic designer Jordan Danielsson and other artists.
Most of the fabrics take on the natural colour of the recycled materials. The black fabric is made from black food trays, while there is a shade of grey that derives its colour from recycled x-ray film. There was even a limited edition brown (currently not available) which used brown root beer bottles. Not many of the shirts are dyed, because that requires a lot of harsh chemicals.
The two have a little store at Intercity Shopping Mall and their shirts are on sale at Gear Up for Outdoors and Fresh Air Experience in town. In addition to selling online, they have gotten into several retail locations across Canada and take bulk orders from organizations that want branded apparel that is environmentally friendly.
“We’re getting a lot more into organic fabrics as well,” Hailey says. “Whether it’s recycled materials or organic, there’s something that helps you better the world,” Bree adds. “People seem to be really excited to learn all about it, to find out that there are options,” Hailey explains.