While we hear the word “sustainability” used a lot in the fashion industry, it’s one thing to preach a set of values, and another to embody it. It’s this disruptive mentality that led Calgary-based designer, Aleem Arif to create his sustainable line of leather jackets Bano eeMee.
Arif says, “If you asked my old self if I’d ever be a fashion designer, I’d say no,” but it’s perhaps his atypical pathway into designing that led him to foster something different. After having a career in finance in New York, Arif decided that he wanted to do something real.
“I’m originally Pakistani but grew up in Canada and I wanted to connect both aspects of who I am and what makes my DNA, as well as make a difference.” It was around this time that the fledgling designer travelled to Pakistan for six months to learn the art of leather making.
Arif says he’s not necessarily against fast fashion, but doesn’t appreciate the waste it creates and how the buyer has no connection to the person who made the garment. “I wanted to break that cycle.”
It was when he met a collective of artisans in Pakistan that the idea of the brand Bano eeMee was conceived. “These were all artisans who had years of experience, but no stable jobs or fair wages, and so I thought I’ll work with them and create pieces they can work on that I can sell back here in Canada.”
Along with employing passionate artisans, Arif also only uses lamb leather sourced from individuals who farm for their livelihood. This way he can achieve the highest quality of leather, with the least amount of harm to the animal.“The animal is used for the meat; the leather is the byproduct, and that’s what I buy,” Arif says.
The brand strongly resonates with those who care about what they put on, but also care about what they represent; socially conscious fashion. “I want my jackets to be a part of that story because fashion is the first skin — the first impression is made based on what we wear.”
We all want to look and feel good in our clothing, especially when it’s something we wear often like a leather jacket. Arif designs with this in mind — his pieces have a timeless quality, and are made with the purpose to be cherished and passed down from a mother to a daughter, for example.
This seasons collection embodies that ethos, while still remaining creative and playful. It feels free-spirited and has an airy, bohemian look — distressing and perforation can be seen throughout. The colour story has fun swatches like Strawberry Milkshake and Buttercream, and a montage of honey bees on every jacket lining.
Arif shares that he designs all the graphics for the jacket linings himself and chooses a different socially conscious or sustainable theme each season. “The honey bees are meant to talk about our environment through our clothing in a subtle way,” says Arif. It’s fashion that’s meant to start a conversation.
Dying to get your hands on a Bano eeMee leather jacket? The upcoming Spring ’18 men and women’s collection, and the current season’s collection can be seen at INLAND (the largest retail gathering of premium Canadian-made fashion and direct to consumer sustainable fashion). Make sure to check out Bano eeMee along with 69 other unique, Canadian brands on September 29 and 30.
Learn more about Bano eeMee here.
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