Fashion for Good: Thunder Bay Sisters Bring Sustainable Fashion Home to Canada

© Photo by Jamie Dawn Photography

“Every piece of clothing is touched by another life.”

Ungalli is on a mission to change the way people think about clothing. In today’s changing world, the pressure to buy new clothes, whether to be on-trend or for the thrill of owning something new, is underlined by a dark truth: the fashion industry is the second most polluting industries in the world.

Based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, sisters Hailey and Bree are fiercely committed to creating a new style standard, raising awareness about the negative impacts of the mainstream clothing industry while producing a superior, sustainable alternative. Since its launch in 2013, Ungalli has made incredible strides to create a community of environmentally conscious consumers, received praise from all over the country, and recycled over one million bottles to make into clothing. The sisters champion local in more ways than one: all of Ungalli’s products are ethically made in Canada from recycled and organic materials, and the brand makes giving back a priority.

In 2011, as the sisters became more aware of the major flaws within the clothing industry, they felt they had to do more to bring it to people’s attention. At the time, sustainable materials were not easy to find, nor was finding means of production.

“We did eventually find a company in the USA who helped us bring our vision to life, but we always wanted to bring production to Canada,” Hailey recalls. “With the help of a very generous grant from Canadian Geographic Magazine, we were able to finally bring the entirety of our production home.”

The sisters opened a retail store in their hometown of Thunder Bay and operated their business online. But the impact Ungalli has made goes past just t-shirts. By choosing Ungalli, shoppers are not just choosing to support a sustainable brand and ethically made clothing—they’re choosing to support local charities and programs that give back to the Thunder Bay community. From The Mashkawi-Manidoo Bimaadiziwin Spirit to Soar Fund, which connects vulnerable Indigenous youth with community programming, to Indigenous Canadian artists like Emma Forbes, who designed Ungalli’s Orange Shirt Day collection, Ungalli places immense power in supporting local.

© Photo by Jamie Dawn Photography

“Ungalli is deeply rooted in community and believes in supporting and giving back to the community that supports us. We are also a big supporter of the Wake the Giant movement and music festival that supports Indigenous youth that come to Thunder Bay from remote First Nation communities to attend school,” says Bree. “It’s important for us to provide a platform for artists to showcase their talents, work, and message.”

That belief is also the driving force behind the Ungalli Collective, a storefront featuring locally made wares and small businesses. The sisters share that the vendors they feature in the collective are not only amazing at what they do, but they also represent a piece of the Thunder Bay community.

From a small kiosk in a mall to a new retail store and warehouse space, Ungalli’s growth has made an impressive impact. The demand for their custom screen-printed tees, which they produce for businesses, charities, organizations, and more, have been in demand, which the brand is happy to accommodate. As the sisters describe it, organizations order hundreds (or thousands!) of t-shirts at a time, and by replacing traditionally manufactured t-shirts with sustainably and ethically produced shirts, the environmental impact is substantial. Ungalli is one of the only companies in the country that offers this kind of service on sustainable clothing.

To date, Ungalli is proud to have saved 5,076,312 days of drinking water, avoided 124,423 km of driving emissions, and recycled 1,169,242 PET bottles.

As Ungalli continues to grow and expand its product line, the sisters want to share that the smallest changes can have a big impact when it comes to building a sustainable wardrobe!

“It’s not about replacing your entire wardrobe with sustainable clothing and throwing everything else out. It’s about a shift in your mindset and buying only what you need.”

© Photo by Jamie Dawn Photography

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