Category Archives: Ethical Fashion

Call yourself a feminist? Then you can’t wear fast fashion

It’s Fashion Revolution week, a week to honor and remember the victims of the fast fashion factory collapse in Bangladesh April 24, 2013 by asking ourselves and our favorite brands: “Who made my clothes?”

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Now, I have a pretty good idea of where, how and by what kind of employee my (recently bought) clothes were made. I know this because I read tags like a maniac and spend the money necessary to only add small batch, made in USA fashion and Fair Trade styles to my closet. Not exactly news to anyone perhaps.

What might come as news to some, is that 80% of the world’s garment workers are women. This means that the majority of people who died or were injured in the factory collapse were women. Underpaid, overworked women, without benefits or sufficient needs to take care of their families. See, fast fashion is indeed a women’s issue.

Yes, because of that 80% statistic, but also because women in general tend to shop a lot more than men do. H&M, Zara, Gap, Banana, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Coach, Fossil and all stores like them, appeal mostly to women. The majority of fashion bloggers are women too. “Style of the week here we come!”

Many privileged women in the west go on marches, speak up for equality and some wear pussy hats. And that’s great, since, frankly, women still don’t have what men have. But what the privileged woman often forget is that her clothes were made by a woman across the ocean who can never take the time off to worry about knitting a pussy hat.

Marching for equality in an Old Navy top anyone?

Women’s rights are human rights, yes. It shouldn’t be a trendy (all of a sudden!) issue because massive amounts of (privileged) dimwits voted for an orange man (who says women have the “potential” to do great things according to his daughter) but a world issue, no matter who is president. What women do here, will always affect a woman there.

Thus, if you consider yourself a feminist, you cannot wear fast fashion.

When you shop fair, on the other hand, you are taking a stand and making an impact, demanding fair treatment of all the sisters (and brothers!) you’ll never know.

Take the pledge and ask “who made this garment?” next time you’re shopping. Only buy if and when you like the answer.

A look at Patagonia (with thoughts from a not made in China shopper)

If you are a nature lover or environmentalist, chances are, you’ve got something from Patagonia in your closet. And rightfully so, they make good quality, practical clothes that last a long time.

I haven’t bought any new clothes for eco-baby other than two pairs of wool socks from Smart Wool and diapers (does that count?) and, as you may have guessed since I’m bringing it up: something from Patagonia. The rest of his fashion is all second hand.

I couldn’t resist this little tee though. It’s made in USA of fair-trade, 100% organic cotton (most likely grown in India or Turkey) and has a mason jar (the symbol of zero waste living) and a great statement “Live simply” on it. I found it at the clearance rack at Whole Earth Provision in Houston for only 10 dollars, so it was a pretty good deal too!

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Eco-baby’s only (so far) non-second hand tee.

Let’s talk Patagonia. A company that decided to donate all proceeds from their Black Friday sales to environmental organizations last year. A company that’s into preserving the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and has been ever since they started in 1973. They have a repair program in which worn clothes are revived, produce a line of sustainably dyed jeans and all their cotton garments are 100% organic (some of it grown in the USA). They also offer paid family leave and on-site childcare (to their US employees).

That said, it was just a coincidence that I bought eco-baby a Patagonia shirt. Come to think of it, neither myself nor my husband own anything from the brand so I can’t say we’re fans. Why, if they’re so eco-friendly and fair haven’t we supported them more?

Honestly, I have some issues with them. Mostly, it’s the importing from China thing.

Patagonia manufactures the majority of their garments in Asia and thereby (pretty much) all their merchandise sold in USA is imported from far away. Eco-baby’s little tee is the first thing I’ve ever run into that’s made right here (still from imported fabric!).

Why is this such an issue to me?

About 70% of crude oil pumped from our precious soil or ocean floor becomes diesel or heating oil. A large chunk of that diesel is used by shipping transports, you know those huge container ships constantly cruising our oceans with “stuff”. To limit further climate change we MUST stop importing the vast quantities of goods from the Far East that we currently do. It is completely unsustainable and harms marine life. I find it strange that an eco-company takes this lightly.

And while Patagonia may say that all their Chinese shops are fair and eco-friendly, I can’t help but wonder if they really, truly know. I haven’t yet seen a fair-trade stamp in their fluffy jackets or in their plaid shirts made in China. (The Indian fabrics and jeans are certified, but not the Chinese.) Where’s the stamp? And how do they know the factories are running on green energy?

My second issue is the heavy use of polyesters, and I am not the first one to bring up this issue with Patagonia. Fleece being a favorite of many outdoorsmen, one would think Patagonia would have come up with a 100% plant-based fleece by now, considering poly-blends are made from fossil fuel and release a ton of plastic microfibers into our waters every time they’re washed. Right?

I’m curious to see if any of these concerns of mine will be addressed by Patagonia in the future. I hope so, but cheap labor and stay-dry fabrics sure are attractive for a global company.

In the end, what I am trying to say with this post is that although a company appears to be doing things properly, going beyond what is required by consumers and is by definition “green”, there may be policies that I, on my own eco-journey, don’t agree with. And just because I don’t want to shop everything a brand has to offer, doesn’t mean I can’t buy the items that indeed are made right (here).

There is no getting away from tag-checking! Every time. Every garment. Every brand.

You can check out Patagonia’s Global Footprint HERE.

Another update on my 2016 sustainable shopping challenge!

Today is officially the last day of August and with that, I have completed TWO thirds of my “12 pieces – 12 months” challenge!

You know, I decided back in January to buy a maximum of one new item for myself per month for the entire year of 2016, in order to reduce my consumption and live more sustainably.

I wrote a similar update post after completing four months on the challenge, and now the time has come to share what I’ve been spending money on during our long, never ending, hotter than the sun, Texas summer.

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In May, I went on a work trip to New York and found myself downtown browsing away at Century 21. And not only browsing for that matter, I bought a made in Italy sweater from what I assume is a fancy designer, since it cost me $199! I love this sweater even though it wasn’t my best ever eco-purchase. Judging by the price and origin, I do believe it is a sweatshop-free item.

In June, hubby came across a new brand of reusable water bottles while reading a magazine, and we got ourselves a couple of Liberty Bottleworks bottles. They’re made in Washington State from 100% recycled aluminum. One 24 oz bottle was $23.

In July, I decided it was time to gear up for fall with a new pair of Oka-B ballet flats. This time I got myself a black pair with a grey pendant. Made in Georgia, recyclable, zero waste, vegan shoes at their best! And of course, only $45. Woop!

In August, the time had finally come to get myself an adult coloring book. Nerdy or awesome, who cares, it has cats. Lots of cats. I got it at Barnes and Noble for $13.95 and it is printed in Canada. Judging by the time I spent coloring half a page, this book will last for a long time.

I am very happy with all these things!!

As you can see, the challenge is not just about clothes, bags, accessories and shoes, it’s also about other “nice to have” things, like books and bottles.

Four more months to go! Will I succeed? I am planning on it!

How are you challenging your old shopping habits?

Link to the January through April update here.

It can’t only be about “Sustainable Fashion”

Sustainable fashion is having a moment. A major moment.

And by moment, I don’t mean a sudden reduced consumption trend in the fashion industry or an upswing of people digging through thrift stores for hidden gems instead of buying new clothes. I mean it’s having a “Come buy this because it is sustainable”- moment.

Don’t get me wrong. We are definitely in need of companies doing things right, making it right here, picking the right fabrics in regards to environmental impact, paying the right salaries to the right employees and so forth. However, the question still remains, how can fashion be labeled “sustainable” when we’re constantly encouraged to keep shopping?

I have two concerns in particular.

  1. I fear that the fashionistas are still buying all their cheap H&M clothes, sexy Victoria’s Secret bras and convenient Gap basics, only now they’re adding another cool dimension to their outfits with a sustainable item. In other words, they’re shopping more. “Look at me, I’m so trendy and this bag is handmade in USA of recycled hemp. #SustainableFashion”
  2. I suspect that the sustainability interest stops with the fashion. And by fashion I mean what we show off using our bodies. I doubt that the sustainable fashion people also stopped buying I-phones, plastic China-made toys for their kids, made in Pakistan rayon work-out socks and imported Christmas decorations.

It can’t only be about sustainable fashion. There has be more to it.

Sure, fashion is a start, but how does one justify slave-labor-made decorations from China when it’s suddenly UNTHINKABLE to buy a sweat-shop-made shirt from Bangladesh? Sweat shops make other things than clothes, you know.

And there has to be less. Less stuff.

A made in the USA top you’ll never wear is not a sustainable purchase, even if it is made responsibly down the street of eco-friendly materials. No one (except the industry) will applaud you for buying it.

We can’t buy things because they are sustainable, ethical or made locally. 

First, we have to decide what we need (or, let’s be honest, want) and then we have to make sure we pick an ethical, made right (here) product.  That is sustainable shopping. Yes, it takes effort. Yes, it takes responsibility. Yes, it takes awareness. Yes, at times we will fail (that’s ok).

Yes, it is worth it. It has to be. #SustainableEverything

Fair Trade or simply UNFAIR aid? How your TOMS help create poverty

I believe most of you reading this blog are in agreement with me that buying locally made products supports and maintains a strong local economy. I also believe that price is the only reason an American would buy a made in China product over a made in USA one.

Imagine that you have a choice between two identical sweaters, one made here, one made in China. The price is the same, the quality is the same and they’re sitting next to each other on the same shelf at the store. I bet you would pick the one made in USA.

Now, let’s say the imported sweater is ten dollars cheaper. Some of you would now switch, some would not, claiming that ten dollars off of an 80 dollar sweater doesn’t matter. But what if the made in China sweater was free? Yes, completely FREE of charge! Now, which one would you pick?

Hold that thought for a second and let’s turn our heads toward developing countries, applying the same logic. What do you think happens when companies like TOMS overflow a developing market with free shoes? What do you think happens when your donated clothes arrive in a less fortunate country? Do the people there still go shopping for locally and sustainably made?

Let’s talk about TOMS a bit, just because they’re probably the most famous of all “social entrepreneurs”. You think you’re doing a great thing, buying one overpriced pair, while TOMS donates another to a child in need.

Unfortunately, the reality looks a bit different. Instead of helping, you’re actually:

  1. Buying a pair of shoes you don’t need i.e. wasting resources (come on, admit it).
  2. Making the American CEO of TOMS richer.
  3. Importing a pair of shoes from China. (Go ahead, check the tag. Pretty much all pairs are made in Chinese non-fair-trade-certified factories and shipped across the ocean disrupting marine life.)
  4. Helping destroy local shoe making businesses in developing countries.

Oops. Not so great.

Now, I don’t think TOMS was started with some evil intention to keep third world countries poor, nor do I think you wanted to help them do that, when you bought your shoes. I simply think TOMS misunderstood their own efforts and lots of people believed (or believe) in their concept.

For generations “we” have tried giving aid to poor countries in order to “help” them out of poverty. And obviously, it’s not helping. I haven’t heard any sunshine stories about how riches ever came from aid (talking about all that free stuff).

And it makes sense. No one would invest in a local rice plantation if there were bags of free imported rice available. No one would want to start a local manufacturing plant if everything people needed (and wanted) was already available for free.

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Is that you Angelina? (Copyright Povertyinc.org)

The cool thing is that we can make better choices in our everyday lives to make sure we don’t contribute to the broken aid system! Here are some ideas on what you can do to make a positive impact:

  1. Stop randomly donating money. Make sure you know what your money is used for, and who profits the most from it. If you are unsure, you’re better off keeping your dollars away from any organization or church meddling in another country’s business. This does not include properly handled emergency aid.
  2. Stop over-shopping. By limiting your shopping, especially of clothes and shoes, you can avoid “donations” that contribute to the mountains of items overflowing developing countries. Quality over quantity, you know. If you need to donate, give it to a local homeless shelter or a resale shop.
  3. Shop second hand. Keep other people’s bad choices from ending up as donations!
  4. Shop fair. The only way to HELP developing countries grow strong economies is to purchase their fairly made (non-sweat-shop) products (i.e them creating jobs). I’m talking about fair trade clothing from Kenya, organic chocolate from Peru, unique jewelry made by artisans in Haiti* or something as simple as choosing the local beer and hotel chain when you travel. You know; doing it fair, shopping it small and keeping it real.

Without local manufacturing and thriving businesses, a community, no matter which country it’s in, can never rise above poverty.

If you were tempted (or secretly picked) the “free” made in China sweater instead of the 80 dollar American one in the scenario at the beginning of this post – you know this is true.

The Poverty Inc. movie inspired this post.

* To me, the optimal “fair” shopping is when you shop items made close to where you live, minimizing shipments. So if you’re in Europe, support African Fair Trade, if you’re in the States go for Central American goods etc.

The clothing is old, what’s vintage is new, a purse that is borrowed & ballet flats in blue

Second hand shopping and I don’t always get along. I get impatient and picky and normally leave empty handed. But now and again, on an odd day out, I strike gold. (Fake gold that is.) Why I keep at it? Because it’s the most eco-friendly way to add new things to my closet and I support small neighborhood businesses while doing so!

First, let me introduce my “new” flower broche. A vintage piece that I immediately fell for at the Vintage Revival boutique south of Houston. I paid $10.50. I love using a spectacular broche as the focal point on a (dull) purse!

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Vintage Broche from Vintage Revival Shop, Nassau Bay, TX

This plastic clutch was actually my grandmother’s. She got it for free with a mail-order make-up purchase, sometime in the early 2000s, and I snagged it right away. Finders keepers, you know? That goes for the broche and the clutch bag.

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Made in USA ballet flats, second hand blouse, upcycled jeans

The blouse is ALSO a “new” second hand find! Can you believe it?

This is Lucky Brand (lucky me), from who knows when, which I got for $10 at a local resale shop. I love the pattern and I love how the blue plus red threads “make” purple, allowing me to wear one of my favorite old scarves with it. Scarves always make every outfit better (logic according to Anna). This one was a gift from my mom.

The jeans are my “overhauled” old boot-cut Gap jeans that I blogged about last week, and the flats are, of course, my made in USA Oka-B’s. The BEST (and cutest) shoes for Houston’s wet weather.

Sustainable fashion at its best; garments that are old, a vintage broche that is new, a purse that is borrowed (no return date set) and of course, ballet flats in blue.

That’s how that saying goes, right? ;)

Picture credits: Shutterluv by Ashley.

An update on my shopping challenge!

Tomorrow is officially the last day of April and with that, I have completed one third of my “12 pieces – 12 months” challenge. I figured it is about time that I share an update on how it is going!

You know, I decided back in January to buy a maximum of one new item for myself per month for the entire year of 2016, in order to reduce my consumption and live more sustainably. So far, I am on track AND I’ve acquired some amazing new things!

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In January, I bought a made in USA tote bag from a small business, Seltzer Goods, for $24. I’ve used it a lot – it’s so cute and lightweight! Currently it’s in the laundry bin.

In February, I finally found, and purchased, reusable, organic, made in USA cotton rounds from Skin Deep Naturals. They set me back $12. I use them every night. Great purchase. Go me.

In March, I ruined my Oka-B shoes (booo), and decided to up-cycle them so I could keep wearing them, but Oka-B stuck with their (super generous) warranty and sent me a replacement pair! So even though I bought ABSOLUTELY nothing in March, I still got a new pair of made in Georgia, recyclable, zero waste, vegan shoes.

In April, I have been all about “in with the old”! My mom took in an old pair of jeans for me (that I now wear all the time, and blogged about this past Monday) and I found some cool items at the resale shops in my neighborhood (including the black top I wore in the jeans pictures). So, yes, April was another month when I bought nothing new, but still got myself some really cute things! I will blog about the rest of my April thrift-treasures next week.

Pretty good right?

When it’s all about reinventing what’s in your closet, you become more thankful for and aware of all the amazing things you’ve already got. I  truly believe happiness comes from thankfulness (in all aspects of life).

And, I must say, I’ve become more creative too! I’ve come up with so many new outfits  this year, combining old goodies (sometimes forgotten ones) with all the awesome made right (here) clothes I got last year.

Eight more months to go! I know I’ll keep rocking it. Not shopping is liberating.

How are you challenging your old shopping habits?

How my mama took my jeans from boot-cut to straight (leg) outta Vogue

Like most travelers and globetrotters, I get inspired by the places I visit or in this case, move to. When I first moved to Houston and saw how lots of cute girls were wearing boot-cut jeans, I had this insane idea that I too could rock a pair.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with boot-cuts, Jennifer Aniston always looks great in them, but I am a skinny/straight jean Euro.

Despite knowing this, I went out and bought an unethical, cheap pair at the Gap in January 2012. (This was before I started my not made in China challenge, and Gap claimed to have an eco-friendly wash process.)

Fast forward four years. Here I was with a bad pair of jeans that had only been worn maybe ten times (over three years ago). Not only were they the wrong fit for me, but also a bit too long, too high-waisted and with time, they had gotten to be a couple sizes too big. I tried selling them at garage sales, twice, for two dollars but no one picked them up. Evidently, I was not meant to part ways with these jeans. Considering how much energy, water, pesticides and fertilizer that went into the making of them, I knew the sustainable way to move forward was to “save” them. 

Mom to the upcycling-rescue.

I asked her if she wanted to give fixing them a go; “You need to take them in and change the entire style” I said, “I need skinny/straight jeans”. She agreed to try, considering only two dollars were at stake, though assuring me she was no longer the master seamstress she was when making clothes for me and my sister growing up. I trust her though, I know she’s awesome and I’ll take my chances any day!

Here’s where we started. It’s not great.

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I put them on, took them off again, and she started by needling her way to a tighter fitting inseam, including shortening the rise about one inch (to create a lower waist). After that, she took in the outer seam, starting just below the front pockets.

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Then she had me try them on, over and over, each time she’d remove more and more fabric in the legs, making them slimmer and slimmer until I said “stop”. She also took two inches off the length.

My mom is a goddess. Here’s where we ended up: straight (leg) outta Eco-Vogue.

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This is my new favorite pair! Next time I see her I’m going to bring more clothes for her to “fix”. (Yes, I already told her.) So if someone asks me who made my clothes, I’ll say my mama did.

Looking amazing. Zero dollars spent. Minimum eco-impact.

That’s happiness in a pair of jeans.

More on sustainable denim here

Ethical Fashion and I – an interview by Tomorrow Living

Last week I was lucky and honored, to be part of an amazing Ethical Fashion Profiles Series on the eco-blog Tomorrow Living!

Just like me, Aimee, the voice behind Tomorrow Living, is blogging all things eco, ethical, conscious and awesome. She decided this spring to showcase some of her favorite ethical fashion bloggers, instagrammers and fashionistas from all walks of life to demonstrate the sheer variety of “Ethical Fashion” that is out there, because conscious, green fashion is as diverse as the people who choose to wear it.

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This is me, straight from the office, in made in USA jeans and flats.

Aimee asked me some very good questions for the interview, like “What inspired you to start your blog?”, “What are your favorite ethical brands at the moment?” and “What has been the most eye opening thing about buying local, US made products?”

I was also asked what my top tip for more conscious, green and sustainable living is. That is such a relevant and great question to ask any eco-blogger! I have to share my answer here too, because I think it came out really well:

For more conscious living, the thing to do is to take a long, hard look at how you live, what you eat, what you buy and then try to answer the question of why you choose what you choose. That may sound like a difficult thing to do, but I think all change has to start with self-awareness. People tend to have a perception of themselves as “sort of green” and they honestly believe that to be true, all while eating a cheeseburger and drinking soda from a disposable Styrofoam cup after another quick shopping trip (in their SUV) to Wal-Mart & the Gap.

That said, my tip would be to sign up to follow a few eco-blogs, get a vegan recipe app (“Forks over Knives” is great!) and to follow a few zero waste instagram accounts. It’s a great way to be inspired to make better choices, create awareness and to get the latest updates on cool, ethical products, without having to do any research yourself!

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Hand-me-down earrings, old scarf and my most beloved shirt.

Another part of the deal was that I got to pick one of my favorite outfits to show off and explain why I love it and how it represents ethical and sustainable fashion.

Want to read the rest? Head on over to Tomorrow Living to read the whole interview and get all the details of my favorite outfit and why I chose it! :)

PS. You might want to check out the first post in the series too, which featured Sarah of Plum and Plaid, who is all about second-hand finds, hand-me-downs, upcycling and spectacular vintage treasures. I’ve been following her blog for a while and I was excited to read more about her and her thrifting genius! :)

Pictures by  Shutterluv by Ashley.

Here’s the Link to Tomorrow Living’s interview about made right (here).

Let’s talk about my Fair Trade underwear, shall we?

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, not knowing how to “report” on the topic of underwear I’ve bought. Not to mention how or if to include a picture of them on the blog. I do enjoy a fun shoot and a good selfie, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Modeling undies? No thanks from me and, probably, a no thanks from you!

I still have to blog about this brand though that my husband and I both love: PACT.

Anyone who gets to wear (or model for that matter) their stuff will be happy. PACT is super soft, organic, non-GMO, fair trade cotton undergarments in a variation of prints and colors. All fabrics are free from toxic dyes and pesticides.

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Just because a garment is labeled as green, sustainable, or eco-friendly does not make it so. In order to certify the organic content in their apparel and to ensure that all their clothing is made ethically and sustainably, PACT is partnered with OCS (Organic Content Standard), GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), and Fair Trade USA.

As they’re committed to making only organic clothing, it makes economic and environmental sense for PACT to manufacture where the organic cotton they use is harvested; that means India and Turkey.

You all know that I am all about shopping local, and I love supporting US manufacturing but as you can see, in this case, I’m promoting a product not made in USA! So, what’s up with that?

Well, since the clothing they make is always sweat-shop-free and child-labor-free and the work they provide, in less fortunate areas of the world, actually betters the communities and makes a positive impact on lives, I am all about it – locally made or not. True and honest fair trade is an awesome thing! 

Underwear is a “need to have” not a “want to have” in my opinion, and it is one of those items that has to be unnoticeable too; “Am I wearing undies or not?” type deal. So finding a comfy, cute AND ethically made pair is quite the score. And an important one!

PACT is ethical undies defined.

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I borrowed this picture from wearPACT.com. Ethical undies – happy people ;)

Browse and shop PACT here