Category Archives: Ethical Fashion

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.

2016-04-25_161137 USECRL4702_001_
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!

Downtown Anna-12
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.

Downtown Anna-15edited
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!

april

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.

before

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.

mama

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.

train tracks

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.

vince-second-hand

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.

DSC_6921
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!

DSC_6979
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.

FullSizeRender

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.

home-1920-1-1456246720
I borrowed this picture from wearPACT.com. Ethical undies – happy people ;)

Browse and shop PACT here

Never REcycle when you can UPcycle (especially shoes!)

I am not entirely sure how it happened, but I accidentally tore off the flower embellishment on one of my Oka-B ballet flats while changing clothes one day. Suddenly it was lying there, alone on the floor, and all my right shoe had left was the pop-rivet. How in the world?

Remembering Oka-B’s 2 year warranty, I decided to email them and let them know of my shoe tragedy. As I had hoped, in just a hop, skip and a few hours, I got an email from them offering me a brand new pair to replace my broken sapphire blue Maris flats. Yes, please!

Now, you know that Oka-B recycles any pair of shoes that gets shipped back to them, as part of their eco-friendly and zero waste production efforts, but I was hesitant to part ways with my original pair.

Why RECYCLE when I can UPCYCLE?! Who wouldn’t want two pairs of these comfy flats in their closet? Two pairs with different decor!

IMG_7593
Before upcycling

Before I added passionate blogger and part-time Swedish tutor to my already full work week, I dabbled a bit with scrapbooking and arts, so naturally I still have a few craft goodies in my stash. I dug it all out knowing exactly what I wanted to use for my “new” shoes: RED GLITTERY STARS.

Though recycling is great, and I love that Oka-B does it, it does consume energy. Keeping your shoes and clothes for a long time and wearing them over and over again is the only way you get to call your closet sustainable. And in order to do that, sometimes you have to be creative, mend and fix stuff!

The stars I used are stickers, and I know they probably won’t last forever. I’ll try to keep the shoes out of the rain but if ruined stars happen, I have blue and white ones too, so I can keep fixing them and changing things up.

This little fix only took 2 minutes. AND I might actually be more fond of this style than I am of the original one… That’s my kind of DIY!

IMG_7595
Star-spangled, made in USA, upcycled ballet flats!

Read my original Oka-B review here

Trust me. I’m somewhat, fashionably, organic.

My sister decided to surprise me with a new statement tee a couple of weeks ago, because she is awesome and this shirt was just right for me. And I promise you can trust me – I am mostly organic.

12765712_1119004391466373_238135681_o

I admit that wine, beer, Panera Bread and other inorganic foods do make their way into my body, but I shop organics for myself and my husband, whenever there are options available made somewhat locally. Here in Texas, most veggies are from Mexico.

Studies have found that organic foods contain fewer pesticide residue and antibiotic-resistant bacteria than regular food does. But is it better for us? There are lots of reports on the internet of how organic food isn’t better, stating that studies show no difference in health or chemical levels measured in people eating organic versus people who don’t. I wonder if they were paid by big Agri to report that, because there are also studies proving the opposite, for example that video showing how a Swedish family goes 100% organic – “ekologiskt” – for a period of time and discovers most of the pesticides and toxins disappear from their bodies!

I am not sure what to believe, but my gut tells me it’s better for me.

What I do know for sure, is that organic produce is better for the farmers and the environment! Organically farmed soil has greater microbiological diversity due to crop rotation, cover crops and the use of compost instead of chemical fertilizer. They also use fewer pesticides, better targeted. Where conventional farms use 55% of the budget on pesticides and fungicides, organic farms only use 11%. These practices are great for the laborers too, as they are exposed to significantly less agrichemicals than those working on a conventional farm!

I wrote a bit about organic cotton a couple of weeks ago, in my quest to find the perfect denim, if you are interested in reading more you can do so here.

DSC_5926

Contrary to popular belief, using organic practices in the US does not necessarily mean a better life for the animals. For example, organic milk just happens to come from a cow that is fed organic food and lives on an organic farm. The label doesn’t mean that the cow gets to run outside, eat grass, hang out with its calf when it’s born, isn’t impregnated artificially every year to make more milk or later becomes organic hamburger meat. An organic milk cow is probably just as sad as a non-organic one. (Regulations may be different in other countries though!)

Organic does mean that fewer antibiotics are given to the animals, but I think I have to call that more of a benefit for the consumer than it is for the animals. A miserable life without antibiotics is still miserable. Good thing my new t-shirt only has veggies on it!

Speaking of which, this is a Mexican tee with an American-made print by David & Goliath that my sis found at Bloomingdales. How cool would it have been if the fabric was organic too? I know – a slam dunk! For these pics, I paired my new tee with an old (2013) pair of 7 for all mankind jeans, also made in Mexico actually, and my yard boots.

12790197_1118881834811962_1349367873_o

Posing in the woods in a statement tee turned out to be great fun! Miss. Shutterluv scouted for locations with good light for future shoots, while I walked around cursing all the plastic waste that had been thrown away in our beautiful nature. Seems people keep forgetting to “not to mess with Texas”! All in all, a typical outing for the two of us :)

Viva organic!

Picture credits: Shutterluv by Ashley

Totes, stripes and cats: These are a few of my favorite things.

This awesome tote bag is the first thing I have bought for myself in 2016 on my “12 months – 12 pieces” adventure. Meow, it’s cute.

I knew I had to have it the minute “our eyes met” thru a store window after-hours, because he looked just like my adopted cat-brother. (RIP Tusse!)

Our cat was practically impossible to carry, yet we insisted on bringing him everywhere. This light-weight tote has already proven itself to be way easier to handle when out and about! I am used to heavier leather bags and my shoulders are definitely happy about this new, striped, lighter option.cat

Now, did this purchase hit the spot on my 2016 shopping goals? Yes!

I bought this “Cat Stripes Tote bag” online, directly from Seltzer Goods, a small company based in Asheville, North Carolina, and it is all made in USA. Since it only cost me 24 dollars, and obviously is awesome, I decided to buy the same bag for my mom’s birthday. I knew she’d love the look, size and remarkable resemblance to our beloved cat. And, I admit, I kind of love it when we secretly match (we live faaar apart y’all!).

The Seltzer Goods website is full of goodies, all with origin listed. Lots of 100% recycled paper cards with friendly dyes made in Canada, US made accessories, and Swiss-made pens. Totally sweat shop free and eco-aware.

They also pay it forward by supporting Earth Justice, a legal organization focusing on environmental causes – because the earth needs a good lawyer. Yay.

When you shop small, you discover the most amazing things.

Selfie on my way out!
Selfie on my way out! Take note of my awesome, one-of-a-kind, handmade, Texan hand-warmers. A vintage-store find.

How dirty is your denim, dear?

Oh, beloved denim. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’ve all got that one favorite pair of jeans that seems to go with most of the tops and shoes in our closets. How many pairs one has in total varies, but surely they cannot all be equal. Not in style and certainly not in environmental foot print.

It takes over 10,000 liters or 2,600 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. 2,600 GALLONS. That’s a lot of water. A scary fact in current times when climate change is causing more severe draughts and water supply, globally, is scarce.

But let’s put that amount into perspective and see what other “fun” things one can enjoy using that same amount of water:

  • Take 25 baths in a regular size bath tub
  • Eat one 16 oz. steak (believe me, in Texas this is not an unusual size)
  • Drink 44 glasses of wine
  • Or have 88 cups of coffee

I don’t know about you, but I sure enjoy a pair of skinny jeans way more than one steak! Or I would, if I ate beef. So does that mean that vegans and non-beef eaters can buy 50+ pairs of jeans per year with the same environmental impact? Nah, let’s not over-consume now, and there are still pesticides to consider.

jeans3
Environmental impact of one pair of jeans

According to our trusted source, the internet, it takes 2/3 of a pound of pesticides to produce enough conventional cotton to make one pair of jeans. Conventional cotton production accounts for 11% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of the world’s insecticides. The chemicals are harmful not only to the workers (five of the top nine pesticides used in cotton production are known carcinogens) but chemical runoff also affects surrounding ecosystems and contaminates lands and rivers. (The True Cost Movie highlights many important facts about growing cotton and its corruption; “Hello Monsanto”. If you haven’t seen that movie yet, please do.)

A better choice is organic cotton! Even if it uses the same amount of water, there are some great things to it; like no GMOs, no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, healthy soil practices, enhanced biodiversity and ethical treatment of farmers.

Google search, here I come.

The coolest denim brand I have found using only organic cotton, transparent sourcing policies and eco-friendly practices is Nudie Jeans. A Swedish company that doesn’t only live by mentioned practices, but also offers mending of old jeans at selected stores, (LA is my closest location), recycles denim and sells an all made in Europe product. Nudie buys the fabric in Turkey, the biggest producer of organic cotton in the world, and their jeans are sewn in Italy. It’s a bummer all their models are modeled by male models (that’s a lot of models!) online, but apparently many styles work for women as well. I am skeptic, but intrigued, and I can’t wait to find a retailer and try some of them on! All their other products, like tees and accessories, are fair trade or all made in Europe – they also source in Sweden (go local!).

nudie
Nudie Jeans stores: so stylish, euro and eco.

Next, I’d like to mention Patagonia and their line of eco-friendly, fair-trade, organic jeans. (Sewn in Sri Lanka). The drawback for me is that they only come in few styles and colors. Being designed for outdoor activities, comfort and “heavier use”, I am not sure these jeans would be best paired with a blouse and heels for a night of cocktails… I really appreciate Patagonia’s commitment to long lasting quality and the environment though. Did you know that every single cotton garment they’ve made since 1996, is organic? Love that!

Eileen Fisher has earned a shout out too, as they offer an all made in USA line, with jeans made of organic cotton! I have never tried anything on by Eileen Fisher, and at first sight, it looks like more of a classic ladies brand than a modern brand, but I have been surprised before. Made in USA plus organic? I’d be a fool not to try them on next time I need jeans.

If mentioned styles don’t work – don’t give up your eco-fight just yet. Do a search of your own for organic jeans and see if you find something you like better. If not, here are some other ways to make a positive eco-difference when it comes to denim:

  • Only buy jeans you are 100% awesome-looking in. Don’t jump on temporary denim trends.
  • Wear them in and wear them out. Mend them if they need mending. Repurpose the fabric for something else if they are beyond saving.
  • Support locally made and buy your pair from a small, local vendor. If you can’t avoid pesticides in the process of making your jeans, at least pump some money back into your local community.
  • Look for awesome pairs at resale shops and thrift stores. If you want many variations of jeans, or brands you know are bad for the environment, this is the way to buy them.
  • Honestly, you don’t need to wash them very often. And never, ever, like ever, throw them in the dryer. Wash cold and hang dry.

Good luck :)

Dang! You look hot in those jeans!

Every mama needs a mumu (The finale of my made in USA style series!)

This is the fifth and last piece of my Made in USA style series, featuring American made apparel and my beautiful friend Mary Beth.

We’re ending with a garment Mary Beth swears is the perfect mom-on-the-go piece: a tunic from Show me your Mumu.

The reason for its awesomeness? She can dress it down with boots, tights and a cardigan when hanging out with the kids or dress it up with skinny jeans, jewelry and heels for a dinner out on the town. It is indeed a good thing that this tunic is versatile and gets worn a lot – the price tag is $106 (unless you find a good sale, like Mary Beth did!)

The name, Show me your Mumu, is a reflection of the spark and the creativity of this brand. And just like Mary Beth finds her tunic (or “mu” as they call it) incredibly versatile, the brand seems to agree, writing on their website: “We sometimes wear our same Mu for 48 hours – to work, dancing at night, over a bikini, to weekend brunch and then to bed.”

Mumu post
Label and close up of Mumu’s “Baby Buds” tunic – a gorge floral

Show me your Mumu is made in the gorge USA – as they proudly state on their labels and website – in a downtown Los Angeles location. But like always with an online “Made in USA” claim, we need to check for ourselves if the fabric is imported or not, and in this case it is. That’s a bit disappointing considering the hefty price tag, that the fabric is polyester (which we certainly can make here) and proud proclamation of its “gorge” origin.

What we have here friends, is a classic example of online “tags” not following the FTC established rules for garment tagging. Looking at Mumu’s website; the exact tunic Mary Beth is wearing is listed as “Made in USA” while the tag in the actual garment states “Made in USA of imported fabric and components”. Online shopping will get you!

DSC_0428

Speaking of shopping, for a busy mom like Mary Beth, digging thru piles of clothes at Nordstrom Rack or Marshall’s, isn’t her preferred way to buy “Made in USA”. We both find great deals there, sure, but I can’t deny it can be time consuming, and time is precious when you have two little (very active!) ones to mind. Instead, she has a more straight forward way.

It’s simple. She shops in small, locally owned boutiques and asks the clerk as soon as she enters the store, if they sell any made in USA brands! Then adjusts her browsing-action accordingly. This is an especially great technique when travelling; as it helps her stay local to where she is, and often leads to discovering new, exciting brands.

Another way to shop made in USA without too much time and effort, she says, is to use styling companies, such as Stitch Fix, where you can specify exactly what styles you are looking for. In this case, that’d be only US-made garments.

DSC_0404

Mary Beth has paired the Sherman Tunic (in Latte Crisp) with made in USA tights ($17) from Express.

Mary Beth’s “On Target” arrow necklace is another beautifully hand painted, American piece from The Gleeful Peacock jewelry makers ($32). The striped hoodie is also made stateside (~$60) by Bobeau Collection. This brand has an online shop, featuring as many imported garments as it does American-made (so check the details), and can also be found at department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom.

DSC_0444

That’s the last outfit of the series, folks!

A huge thank you to Mary Beth, for being such an awesome and truly gorge model! I happen to know that since we shot these pictures, she has bought a new USA-made, eco-friendly t-shirt and a handmade handbag, so I will do my best to convince her to model them both for the blog this spring!

And a big thank you to Shutterluv by Ashley for shooting all these outfits!

What’s your favorite made in USA brand or garment? Share with me!

Here are the links to the other four posts (incase you missed one):

  1. The one about poly-blends: A made in USA outfit (might include polyester)
  2. The one with an all USA made outfit: Celebrating American Beauty
  3. The one about labels: What’s with all this Imported Fabric?
  4. The one about jewlery: Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got

 

NOTE: After this post was published, Show me your mumu has started to produce more garments at international production sites (China, Vietnam). Check the labels. Unfortunately this “Made in USA company” may have deserted their original patriotism.

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got (it’s not what you think)

This is the forth post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring pictures of my beautiful friend Mary Beth. This week jewelry is on the agenda.

It is interesting because jewelry is both a sustainability hero and a sustainability zero if you ask me.

The cool (hero) part about the bling we own and wear is that it rarely goes out of style, and if it does, it is likely to come back in a few years, allowing us to wear it with confidence again. Jewelry lasts forever and no one can tell if a piece is old or brand new, making it a very sustainable and eco-friendly accessory to be worn over and over again, and passed down thru generations. Buying second hand clothing can be very intimidating, but thrifting for jewelry, I find is much easier. It is by far my favorite way to add new pieces to my accessories wardrobe. Not only is it the best eco-choice, but there are endless bargains to be made!

Jewelry is such a great way to complete an outfit, to make it feel more festive and put together. For the Made in USA style series, Mary Beth has been wearing artisan pieces she loves, in timeless designs.

Supporting small vendors, local artisans and craftsmen is definitely the next best option to buying second-hand jewelry in my opinion. The Purple Toadstool earrings ($20) we introduced in the first post are crafted in Texas, and the Gleeful Peacock necklace ($32) from the second post is handmade in Oklahoma. Two great quality, made in USA options with incredibly cheerful brand names!

The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)
The Purple Toadstool, Texas (left) & The Gleeful Peacock, Oklahoma (right)

Moving on to the not so great (zero) list of jewelry; at the top spot are diamonds (they’re not this girl’s best friends).

Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa. Some of the politically unstable countries there are dealing with revolutionary groups who have taken control of the diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. This is what is referred to as “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds”, which I am sure you’ve heard about (and maybe you’ve seen the movie with my eco-hero Leo DiCaprio).

According to what I have read, blood diamonds only constitute as low as 1% of all diamonds traded (2014 numbers), so buying a blood diamond by mistake is unlikely to happen. The problem still remains though, as it is of relative ease to smuggle diamonds across African borders and there are always buyers.

Diamonds are also considered clean when mined in nations that are not in a state of war or conflict, but whose diamonds have been mined using violent, unethical methods. Every day, more than a million diamond diggers in Africa endure dangerous and unfair working conditions, earning less than $1 a day, which is not enough to feed their families or sustain a healthy lifestyle. That sounds like “conflict diamonds” to me!

vintage
Vintage jewelry shopping: eco-friendly and 100% conflict free!

With 49% of diamonds being from Africa, it is safe to assume that about half of the diamonds we see at the jewelers in the west are “clean”, but nonetheless unethical, slave labor stones. (Canada is a big producer as well, where I am sure better employment standards are used for diamond mining.)

With the help of Fairtrade International, a fair trade diamond standard is in the early stages of development, but not in place yet. (A Fair Trade (US), or Fairtrade (Europe) Certification ensures that the producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. The goal of fair trade is to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.)

Most of the silver in the world is produced in Mexico, and China ranks third largest supplier, after Peru. When it comes to gold, China is the biggest consumer AND the biggest producer in the world. Which brings us to the next zero on this list: gold.

According to Fairtrade International, ninety percent of the labor force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tons of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewelry, which consumers across the globe spend a whopping $135 billion a year on buying! (Don’t get me started on our overconsumption issues now! Jewelry will NEVER be a “need to have”.)

I do worry about the miners, in terms of fair wages and working conditions, but also about the environmental impact of gold mining. According to Brilliant Earth, by the use of dirty practices such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching, gold mining companies generate about 20 tons of toxic waste for every gold ring made (0.333 ounce of gold). And of course, there are also serious health risks associated with improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide.

Small-scale miners and artisans, are at the end of a long and complex supply chain and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. Fairtrade Certified Gold  is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labor and protection of the environment.

fair trade jewlery
Whole Earth Provision Co. sells handmade, fair trade jewelry from World Finds!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t run into Fair Trade gold very often. And, most of the time, it is impossible to tell by the tag, how and where the raw materials of a piece of jewelry were made. Facts such as these are important to know, and should be kept in mind when one shops for jewelry. Maybe you don’t need another 20 tons of toxic waste on your finger, huh? Everything has an environmental footprint. 

Do you have a favorite handmade, artisan, eco-friendly, locally produced jewelry brand? Please leave a comment with a link to it, so we all can get inspired!

There’ll be a necklace again in next week’s post, I assure you, but mostly we’ll be talking shopping and smart outfits for busy moms. Come back and see us!

Read more about Fair Trade at Fair Trade USA

Made in USA style series part 3: What’s with all the imported fabrics?

This is the third post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring pictures of my beautiful friend Mary Beth.

This week, Mary Beth is modeling her Paige Denim Verdugo Ankle skinny jeans and a Splendid jacket, both made in USA of imported fabric. And with that, time has come to talk about labeling and imported materials.

Clothes made here of imported fabrics. (Picture by Shutterluv by Ashley)
Clothes made here of imported fabrics. (Picture by Shutterluv by Ashley)

The Made in USA tag means that the product is “all or virtually all” made in the United States. That is, the product should contain none or negligible foreign content. When we are talking about clothes; buttons, a zipper or a tag may be imported but the label will still read, and rightfully so according to the law, “Made in USA”.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that the label must indicate if a product contains imported materials (if non negligible). The label may identify the country of origin of the imported materials, but it doesn’t have to. Which means that it may say, “Made in USA of imported fabric” or “Knitted in USA of imported yarn” – two very common tags. This disclosure must appear as a single statement, without separating the “Made in USA” and “imported” references. Take note that this rule does not apply to online shops, which means that something can be listed as “Made in USA” on a webpage when in fact the actual tag of the garment reads “Made in USA of imported fabric”.

For certain fabric products like sheets, towels, comforters, handkerchiefs, scarves, napkins and other “flat” goods, the FTC requires identification of the country where the fabric was made. As you can see, clothes do not fall under that category of products, thus it is impossible for us consumers to find out where the fabrics of our clothes came from. With the current market my bets are on China and India.

label
Both brands following the guidelines set by the FTC for labeling, when it comes to imported fabrics.

It can be expensive for American companies to buy domestic materials because even though we make great quality fabrics and denim here, supply is limited. Organic materials, like organic cotton, even more so.  In order to make it “affordable” to buy American fabric, large bulk orders must be placed up front. Something large companies like Splendid, Paige and True Religion certainly are able to do, yet they import many of their fabrics. What’s their excuse?

A small business on the other hand, might not be able to afford US-made fabric. I imagine it must be a hard decision for someone who wants to go ‘all local’, but realizes it might break their small clothing line, especially in a start-up phase. If imported fabric allows someone to start a small business and employ locally, is it not worthy of support and encouragement?

The majority of large American brands outsource all the manufacturing of their clothes, shoes and bags to China and/or other Asian countries solely to make more profits, therefore if a company is at least committed to stitching it all together or manufacturing parts of their products here, surely that is better than nothing at all. Very often when committed to American manufacturing, the company will also have a sustainable sourcing agreement or guideline in place. Take a minute and check online and make sure the brand you’re eyeing at least has a policy in place for labor practices and environmental protection before you shop (not that that is a guarantee of any kind).

My personal goal is to not buy garments made of imported fabrics, just because I cannot trace how and where the fabrics were made. But it happens – this challenge of mine isn’t exactly easy. It is likely that the imported fabrics come from China, are made by someone working 14 hours a day for minimum pay, in a factory fueled by dirty energy, where leftover dyes and toxic chemicals pollute nearby lands. The very conditions I am against. If the material is 100% organic, fair-trade spun or made from hemp or bamboo, I’d make an exception! Organic cotton plantations, for example, bring good jobs, fair wages and healthy soils to the developing countries.

There’s no “correct” way to approach this, I feel. If I was considering our local economy and healthy manufacturing sector only, I’d lean towards accepting imported fabrics if the garment was sewn here. But in terms of planet sustainability and ethical manufacturing – what’s the point of shopping local and fair if most of the item acquired is imported and with that: UNTRACEBLE?

How do you feel about imported fabrics?

Next week, sustainability vs. jewelry is on the agenda, so check back in!

Read more about labeling at ftc.gov.

Made in USA style series part 2: Celebrating American beauty

This is the second post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring my beautiful friend Mary Beth. She is an awesome mom of two, a supportive wife, gifted music teacher, singer and humanitarian. She’s always looking for ways to improve society and I am so impressed by her spirit, intellect and efforts. Therefore, I decided to call this post “Celebrating American beauty”.

Last week I wrote that putting together a perfect outfit often requires some foreign pieces. Mostly that is true, but this week we did it, head to toe, using only made right here apparel! Another reason to celebrate.

DSC_0209b

Let’s start with the blouse, which is made by Collective Concepts – a wholesale brand you’ll find at department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Nordstrom Rack to name a few. This one with roll up sleeves and a cute leaf print was about 40 dollars at Nordstrom.

For anyone just starting out hoping to add made in America fashion to their closet, I truly recommend Nordstrom Rack. I have found so many stylish, reasonably priced, US made garments there over the past year! Yes, it requires some digging, tag-checking and effort, but rarely have I left empty handed. From 20 dollar shirts to 60 dollar Citizens of Humanity Jeans, most of what I have found there have become instant made in USA favorites.

The fabric of Mary Beth’s blouse is polyester, and it’s all USA made. The style kind of reminds me of the orange polyester blouse we showed last week, also made right here. You can read all about it and its petroleum based fabric here.

Leaves and feathers go well together. Love the light in this picture!
Leaves and feathers go well together. Love the light in this picture!

For a stylish pop of color we added an American feather design necklace, made in Tulsa, Oklahoma by the inspiring Gleeful Peacock Designs. Their collections are an ode to vintage designs, nature, warmth and beauty. All their items are hand-painted, so no two items are exactly alike. Mary Beth actually introduced me to this brand, when she bought me a bracelet for my birthday last year. I love the brand name (!) and the simple, yet timeless pieces.

The biggest challenge when it comes to dressing head to toe in made in USA items is shoes! Stylish options are few, and often expensive if available. The only shoes I have found that are affordable, yet appropriate for the office, dinners and outings, are (you guessed it) the Oka-B ballet flats! I bought myself a pair back in October, and we happen to wear the same size, so Mary Beth ‘borrowed’ them in order to complete this outfit. They are vegan, zero waste, 100% recyclable and made right here in Georgia by a company committed to American manufacturing. The price tag for a pair of Oka-B ballet flats (all styles) is 45 dollars. I love them because they are super comfortable, cute and eco-friendly.

Luckily, one can find America’s favorite garment, jeans, made here quite easily. Last week I featured Rag & Bone and this week Mary Beth is wearing the Victoria Skinny Cigarette by True Religion. They are rather expensive, like many other US-made jeans, the tag is around 200 dollars (Mary Beth got them for $75 at the Rack!). Unfortunately they’re made of imported materials but at least local hands stitched them together.

I’m sure you’ve seen that tag from time to time; “Made in USA of imported fabrics”. It’s definitely something worth talking about, in terms of what it means and why it’s done. I will share some facts about labeling and my personal approach to imported fabrics in my next post. So check back in!

There you have it! Four stylish items we found in Mary Beth’s closet, put together into an all made in USA outfit – pretty incredible right?

Celebrating American beauty, indeed :)

Photographs by the gracious Shutterluv by Ashley.