Artists in search of green “merch”
Eco-responsible merch is increasingly popular with artists.
Several music lovers leave the shows of their idols with a souvenir t-shirt or cap, what is commonly called merch. But as you know, the fashion industry, especially fast fashion, is very polluting. Fortunately, a few artists have begun to offer more conscientious solutions.
To accompany the release of her album Blue in 2021, it was out of the question for rapper Emma Beko to print t-shirts in series. Instead, she bought several carefully chosen clothes from a thrift store on which she had her logo screen-printed. And she has no intention of going back.
For her, this approach is not only more original than producing traditional merch , but it is more consistent with her way of life. She gets her personal clothes from thrift stores, always avoiding fast fashion, for a long time.
Other artists like Safia Nolin or Calamine have also done the same.
Tomber la chemise
But even before digging around to find second-hand clothes, you must first think about reducing at the source, that is, producing less to consume less. “This is the first thing to do when we want to reduce our impact on the environment,” says Laura Grenier-Paquette, sustainable development advisor.
“For artists who have advanced careers, who are no longer dependent on merch, it is quite popular to avoid producing it or, at least, to reduce production drastically”, she remarks.
But, as Laurence Lafond-Beaulne points out, half of the Milk & Bone, also co-founder of the Citizen Artists on Tour (ACT) organization, whose mission is to promote eco-responsible practices in the entertainment industry, merchcan be “a pretty significant chunk of income in an industry where revenue for your music is only going down more and more”.
So many artists can't afford, financially, to give up selling t-shirts. Not only because the merch sometimes earns them more than their songs, but also because it brings visibility.
It's also a question of pride: “Showing your favorite artist proudly in the street, wanting people to know him, there's something beautiful in that,” says Laurence Lafond-Beaulne.
Buy local and ethical
If an artist wants to create merch from new clothes, there is always a way to make more informed choices of suppliers by favoring ethical and local production.
Important downside: sourcing from these suppliers is expensive.
“Ethical producers in Quebec are expensive. There is no possible profit margin. That's why everyone turns to the Gildan and American Apparel of this world. There is an impossible dilemma between making money and being responsible,” believes Laurence Lafond-Beaulne of Milk & Bone.
Besides, even clothes bought in thrift stores are more expensive than those of the big producers of mass-produced t-shirts.
Emma Beko confirms it: she didn't make a profit with her merchmade from second-hand clothing. But that wasn't his goal.
“I just want the world that appreciates my music to be able to wear something to say it, to share it with others,” he says. her.
Like the rapper, Laurence Lafond-Beaulne intends to do merchwith clothes purchased from thrift stores for his forthcoming solo project. For her, money is not the motivation either. She will afford it since she enjoys other sources of income.
So is it possible for a artist forced to produce industrial merch to limit his environmental impact? Yes, “by extending the life of clothes through their design”, says Laura.
The expert therefore encourages artists to create “a timeless garment to ensure that the person who is going to buy it wears it for several years”.
Finally, to avoid waste, it is also necessary to make sure not to produce too much even if the production in large quantities is often cheaper. Unsold pieces of merch can sit in warehouses for years. former formation of Emma Beko, now inactive, who still has plenty of unsold merchandise, which she is about to deliver to a donation center.
“Once you start to see all that, it's hard to close your eyes,” says Laurence Lafond-Beaulne. There are a lot of things to review in our field, the merch is only a tiny part of it.”
But rethinking practices does not discourage the artist, on the contrary, she sees in it “an exciting creative process”.
“Giving yourself constraints forces you to be more creative and ideas arise that you would not have thought of”, she concludes. .