Alyssa Beltempo is your chic gal next door with a bubbly personality. She creates online content on slow fashion and mindful style from right here in Ottawa. After a career in finance, she transitioned to fashion and styling, where she noticed a disconnect between her clients’ satisfaction and the size of their wardrobe. She started blogging in 2012 to fill a gap in the sustainable fashion discourse, which focused either on minimalism or promoted sustainable brands. Today, she’s a slow fashion guru, with 143,000 subscribers on YouTube!
We met on a “heat alert” weekday afternoon to chat about slow fashion and to get a few tips for Apt613 readers.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: How do you define slow fashion?
Alyssa Beltempo: Slow fashion is a way of producing and consuming fashion in a sustainable way, from an environmental and social perspective. Slow fashion also centres on pieces that are constructed to last and transcend trends. Sustainability in fashion encompasses so many considerations and no garment will be 100% sustainable. So I think we need to pick the values that are important to us individually and focus on those.
What do you think of the argument that sustainable fashion is expensive and what tips do you have for a change in perspective?
I think overconsumption is the main problem. If you look at it from a perspective of shopping less, you would be making a much more economical decision, and with longer-lasting pieces, the cost per wear is much lower. I think through marketing and fast fashion, our perception of what is enough has changed.
My goal has been to shift the narrative so that shopping less does not feel like a sacrifice, but rather a creative endeavour that anyone can do to see your wardrobe as abundant. I like to encourage choosing creativity over consumption. I don’t want to sound like Oprah, but I think practicing gratitude and appreciating what we already have in our closets is also important.
My favourite series that I make on my YouTube channel is Shop Your Closet. I always learn something new when I make those videos. I think another great way to make things fun and be creative is to set styling challenges for yourself. If you are a jeans person like me, you can challenge yourself to not wear them for a week so you can discover new ways to wear other items in your closet.
As we transition to fall, what is your advice for extending your summer wardrobe into fall?
A good fashion trick in transitioning between seasons is to inject a new texture — pairing your summer dresses with a wool or leather piece in fall and switching to closed-toe shoes. The second is to layer! Don’t think of it as always having to layer over by adding a sweater. I think it could be really chic if you layer under by wearing a thin turtleneck or a mock neck underneath your summer outfits.
Any slow fashion tricks for Ottawa winter essentials?
Proper winter wear for Ottawa weather could be expensive! So my recommendation is to plan ahead and manage your closet. If your winter coat is getting old or if your body is changing, start saving in July so you’re not surprised by snow in October and scrambling to buy whatever you can find or a low-quality coat.
Also, my best winter coats (not parkas) have all come from secondhand shops. I have found beautiful cashmere wool blends in Value Village or Salvation Army! So if you have the time to look through the racks, start there.
I recommend that at the end of each season, you give your boots and coat a good clean or steam, or take them to a cobbler or seamstress to get fixed, so when you pull them out the next season, they look new and fabulous and you would be excited to wear them.
Where are a couple of go-to spots in Ottawa to get your garments repaired?
The downtown Ottawa cobbler Capital Shoe Clinic is the best. They do not say no to anything you want repaired. Chaussures et Cordonnerie Regional in Orleans is my other favourite spot for shoe repairs. You can find good seamstresses around town. Gifty’s in Orleans is my go-to spot for alterations and repairs.
What are your go-to shops in Ottawa for sustainable fashion, pre-loved or new?
Twiss & Weber carries beautiful Canadian-designed and made pieces.
For the best-curated vintage collection in town, check out Bellwethers in Centretown.
Any recommendations to Apt613 readers for other sources to learn about slow fashion?
The documentary film The True Cost is one of the first programs I watched, which talks about the humanitarian and social impacts of the fashion industry. I’m a big podcast listener and recommend checking out Conscious Chatter and Wardrobe Crisis. On Instagram, Aja Barber and Marielle Elizabeth share good tips and resources on slow fashion as well.
If you want to catch one of Alyssa’s group workshops to learn how to shop your own closet and share your styling tips with others, check out her blog for an upcoming virtual session in September.