Leah Barrett, from Toronto, Mumbai and Hong Kong, is an MA Sustainability Studies candidate at Trent University.

Her work in the apparel industry has taken her across Asia and Europe!


The clothing choices available to Canadians is a cause for concern. Piles and piles of clothing are sent to landfill, and fast fashion keeps us hooked on new looks despite bulging closets!

But imagine if designers created clothing with a purpose. Instead of cheap and disposable, it is built to last and can be adapted to your changed needs or repurposed for someone else’s use!leah1

Leah is proposing alternate clothing apparel business models, that are “user-centered” and “service driven”. For instance, users can rent clothing instead of buy it!

She will be surveying independent designer-entrepreneurs in Toronto and conducting interviews with practitioners whose business models have elements of current/traditional and user-centered practices.

fashion show

Fashion Show highlighting local design

Strategic frameworks for organizational sustainability will be used to examine companies’ transitions to user-centered systems over the short and long term.

Clothing can enhance individual well-being (through fabric, fit, expression etc.)  and community well-being (through cultural engagement, employment).


The industry has tremendous power to enhance a sustainable a way of life that reflects Canadian culture and values.

But this power has been diminished by intense competition arising from globalisation of the industry. This research will uncover ways to transition to a user-centered system which depends on local networks, and returns power to users and communities.

“The Sustainability Studies program is interdisciplinary and this has made it possible to break through past the prevalent views of the fashion industry and its problems. My professors and classmates through their own research are driven by a vision of healthier, happy lives for all, and have been inspirational and very supportive. The devil in Prada is no match for these angels in green!

Thanks for this important research, Leah, we look forward to learning more!