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Consuelo McAlister & Anne Pringle, Founders of Local Buttons (INTERVIEW)

Fashion Social Enterprise

— January 25, 2012 — Social Good jumped at the opportunity to interview the founders of Local Buttons, Consuelo McAlister and Anne Pringle. When we wrote a profile on the fashion social enterprise earlier this month, it turned out to be one of the hottest pieces we featured that week.

And you'll easily understand why. Local Buttons partners with the NGO INDEPCO in order to work with tailors in Haiti to create refurbished vests that they then sell in Toronto. Here, the founders of Local Buttons, Consuelo McAlister and Anne Pringle, expand on their business model and, ultimately, the ethos behind the ethically driven mission.

Four Questions with Consuelo McAlister and Anne Pringle, the founders of Local Buttons

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?

The Local Buttons business model is a socially driven model focused on the fair treatment of people and the planet. It evolved over time through an organic process of research and practical experience. We look at the fashion industry through a critical lens, looking for ways to adequately and accessibly incorporate sustainable practices into the fashion sector. Our business model is focused on collaboration. Not just between us and the talented tailors we work with, but with the larger community of others engaged in the sustainable fashion industry. We strive to connect consumers with producers by telling an engaging story through our refined refurbished clothing.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?

Our academic background is in international development studies. We studied at York University in Toronto. After graduating in 2009, the two of us, Consuelo McAlister and Anne Pringle, were looking for ways to engage with our local community.

We are inspired by the diversity of amazing local fashion available in Toronto and strive to promote "ethical" fashion to consumers at large. We fuse our commitment to ethical wages, working conditions and conscious consumption with creating change in an artistic way.

We decided to focus on sustainable fashion because not only is it fun to engage with fashion, but also it functions as an avenue that everyone can relate to and thus functions as a universal tool to discuss sustainability issues.

3. How do you get your inspiration?

We find inspiration through the relationships we have formed, particularly those in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The second-hand street markets where we purchase our clothing are vibrant and we have experienced a great amount of enthusiasm for our project. Working with the skilled tailors at INDEPCO (a Haitian NGO) has given us the shared opportunity to collaborate on a variety of vests that we all take pride in creating.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?

Coffee, yoga, laughs, dinner parties, travel to Port-au-Prince -- and we both dance here and there!