Tag Archives: responsible fashion

Five brands that’ll make you Captain Sustainable Underpants!

A question I get asked a lot is “Do you know any made in USA underwear brands?” to which I always reply: Yes, as a matter of fact I do!

Made in USA isn’t really enough, they need to be sustainable too, right? Here’s my list of fabulous makers to get you started. (Two undies-makers are not based here but made the list anyway!)

Sustainable underwear brands

1. Hanky Panky

Made in: North East USA since 1977

They’ve got: Women’s lingerie, sleepwear, bras, bralettes, panties.

Sustainable because: It’s made right here which is great for our economy and our people. 100% of the fabrics and trims used to make their lace styles are knitted in the USA as well. The styles I have bought are all organic cotton (grown here!) which is safe for farmers, lands and butts alike.

Awesome because: It’s sexy and sustainable. Organic cotton undies are often pretty boring, but not here. Also this is the only American-made brand that offers padded, shaped bras – not just soft bralettes.

Fun Fact: Instead of water coolers with plastic bottles, Hanky Panky has installed filters to purify their NYC tap water, and each employee is provided with a BPA-free reusable water cup to reduce waste around the office.

Hanky Panky organic cotton

2. BGreen

Made in: Rancho Dominguez, California.

They’ve got: Women’s and men’s underwear, shirts, base layers.

Sustainable because: Made of organic cotton, recycled cotton or recycled polyester. 100% of the fabric scraps generated during the cutting process is recycled adding up to about 200,000 lbs. of material per year that doesn’t end up in the landfill! The factory is Fair Trade Certified which signifies that rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards have been met.

Awesome because: You can’t take for granted that garment workers in Los Angeles actually make a good living even if we are, by definition, talking “Made in USA”. (Immigrant workers are often taken advantage of, not making a living wage, which unfortunately is why lots of “cheaper” made in USA clothes are made in California.) With a Fair Trade Certification we know we can trust BGreen!

Fun Fact: In addition to their own production, this family-owned factory has been producing apparel for some of the best-known brands in United States for over 30 years.

3. Brook There

Made in: Fall River, Massachusetts.

They’ve got: Women’s underwear, bralettes, tops, dresses, skirts, leggings.

Sustainable because: The base fabric is an organic cotton jersey made from GOTS-certified yarn, milled in South Carolina and dyed in Pennsylvania. All undies are shipped straight from the cut and sew facility, and not a separate warehouse, meaning they don’t have to use any plastic bags for storage. Plastic free and organic! Yay!

Awesome because: The underwear is comfortable, comes in many styles and super pretty. Oh, and I love their modern, organic, cool take on the granny panty! (They call it the “boyshort” though ;))

Fun Fact: Brook There’s design studio happens to be situated on an organic vegetable farm.

Brook There made in USA organic underwear

4. PACT

Made in: India, Turkey.

They’ve got: Women’s and men’s underwear, shirts, pants, sleepwear, socks.

Sustainable because: PACT’s underwear factory is Certified Fair Trade which complies with legislation regarding maximum working hours, overtime compensation and other benefits  such as transport to and from the jobsite, company sponsored meals, health plans, and funding for workers’ children’s education. The cotton used in PACT undies is GOTS-certified organic cotton. You can read more about cotton farmers and the importance of supporting organic fields in India here.

Awesome because: Comfy and soft. Also, they’ve got several fun prints with flowers and stripes – not just solid colored cotton. And this brand is not just for grownups, they’ve got a few baby onesies too.

Fun Fact: I’ve blogged about PACT before! You can read that post here.

5. Thinx

Made in: Sri Lanka

They’ve got: Women’s period underwear, active wear.

Sustainable because: Thinx underwear is period underwear. Meaning that by having a few of these in your drawer you can save lots of disposable pads and liners from hitting the landfill! If you’re curious about waste free periods, check out Kathryn’s post at Going Zero Waste here. All Thinx’s manufacturing is certified Fair Trade and they just added an organic cotton line of undies! 

Awesome because: This company is run by women, sewn by women and made for women. The Thinx undies do work (holds the same amount as about two tampons), fit nicely and look like regular undies.

Fun Fact: They also have a fair trade (not aid!) initiative going on where girls are trained in entrepreneurship and sewing, among other things, reusable pads. It may be hard to grasp but periods are a major issue in some developing countries, preventing girls from attending school several days per month, which means they’re lagging behind their male peers. You can read more about Thinx’s foundation here.

Brook There organic hipster panty

That’s it! Five brands. Five styles.

I have to say my super favorite is Hanky Panky’s boyshort undies in organic cotton with lace trim ($32). I “need” twenty of those ASAP :)

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This list wasn’t what you were looking for? Here are some bonus tips:

Looking for socks? I’d go to REI (so many made in USA brands!) or order me some Colorado-made Smartwool’s. In need of a maternity bra? You’ll find a comfy one at Storq.com. All in all disappointed with my coverage of men’s underwear? Here’s a list of made in USA brands to check out (my husband hasn’t tried them so can’t recommend any specifically!). In Europe? Woron Store might be for you.

Is your new dress funding North Korea’s nuclear program? Find out.

You know, some people think it’s really silly to refuse straws and shop local. They “kind of care” about the environment, and yes, they’ll agree climate change is real, but it’s just not enough for them to change any of their habits.

Keeping our environment safe isn’t enough. Reducing global warming (yes, that ol’ term!) isn’t enough.

So, a Not Made in China challenge is CRAZY right? Why would anyone give up shopping away on Amazon for something like that!??

I recently shared my six reasons for not buying made in China here on the blog, and although one of them has nothing to do with the environment, all six are rooted in sustainability. Sustainable world, sustainable economy.

“Anna, we don’t care about sustainability! We care about cheap stuff!”

I know.

However, here’s something “awesome” that has just been revealed, that some of you might actually care about:

Your made in China clothes could be made in North Korea.

Yes, you read that right.

It’s becoming more and more common for Chinese textile businesses to take advantage of the cheap labor across the border, yet still labeling items “Made in China” according to a recent report from Reuters.

“Textiles were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totaling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).”

The fascinating thing about that is that all of North Korea’s factories are state-owned. Remind me now, how do we all like the state of North Korea?

“In North Korea, factory workers can’t just go to the toilet whenever they feel like, they think it slows down the whole assembly line. They aren’t like Chinese factory workers who just work for the money. North Koreans have a different attitude – they believe they are working for their country, for their leader.”

Would you, as an American, sleep well at night knowing that YOU helped fund North Korea’s nuclear program?

Our purchases matter. EVERY DAMN TIME. For so many reasons.

I may be a tree-hugging, tag checking, straw refusing liberal, but at least I know who and what I am funding with my dollars.

Do you?

[Quotes from the Reuters article, which you can read HERE.]

Five awesome vegan handbags – Made in USA

A while back I wrote a post about the environmental footprint of leather, saying we should buy less of it and buy better. Better in this case meaning locally sourced hides, vegetable tanned, high quality and handcrafted where you live.

But, then came the question; If we are to buy fewer leather bags – are there any durable, good-looking, made in USA, vegan handbags out there we can buy instead?

Of course.

When it comes to “pleather”, a plastic, leather-looking material, often found at H&M and Forever 21, I have one thing to say: no thanks. It breaks, it doesn’t look as good, and we don’t like plastic anyway, now do we? There is a new material in town though, Piñatex, which looks a lot like leather, is durable and also eco-friendly. Piñatex fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest so no extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them. However, shops are not exactly overflowing with this material yet, and why if we don’t want leather would we have bags that look like leather?

I say screw that! Instead why not venture out and pick one of these five nothing-to-do-with-leather materials:

1. Cork

Cork is super sustainable and as it turns out, super stylish.

Did you know that a cork tree that has its bark removed every nine years will absorb up to five times as much CO2 as a tree that doesn’t? In other words using the cork is good for the tree, good for the environment and good for, mainly, Spain’s and Portugal’s economies.

One brand to keep in mind if you’re into the look and durability of cork, is Nest Pure. Handcrafted, high quality bags and accessories, made right here in Minnesota. In addition to the main material, cork, the bags come with various colors of organic cotton.

Nest Pure vegan cork clutch
I want this one!

2. Recycled Sails

It may sound like a bit of a stretch but old, no longer usable sails from boats become the most awesome tote bags up in Maine. You may have read my blog post a few weeks ago about Seabags of Maine and my new turtle tote? If not, check it out here for more details about this cool brand.

Seabags of Maine vegan handbag
Me and my bag.

PS. The fabrics are not really recycled, they’re “reused” :)

3. Cotton

What’s wrong with the look of cotton? Actually, nothing as far as I’m concerned! I’ve been sporting my cotton tote bag quite a bit on the blog actually.

Cotton is great because it’s natural, yet durable and easy to wash. (Organic cotton is obviously better for the environment than conventional cotton is, but let’s keep focusing on the vegan thing and just say cotton bags are cool!)

Brands to check out: Seltzer Goods (USA), MapTote (USA) and Morado Designs (organic, USA).

Maptote texas clutch
Love this print!

4. Waxed Canvas

Canvas is made from either linen, hemp or cotton – all natural materials – and make for durable fabrics when waxed. What about the wax you say? Well, yes, using beeswax means this fabric is not vegan, so I’m cheating a little, but it is still far from the eco-nightmare of leather. In my opinion, using beeswax makes much more sense than using a poly-based (fossil fuel) wax. But that’s just me.

Newton Supply Co. out of Austin, Texas, makes the cutest waxed canvas bags. (Some do come with natural color, veg-tanned leather details so look out for that.) This company is extra awesome because they’re partnered with Open Arms, a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition which empowers refugee women by providing living wage employment. Cool.

Newton Supply Co Texas handbag
Oooh, I want this one too.

5. Seat Belts

It may be unusual, but yes, Harvey’s makes bags out of seat belts, in sunny California. There are endless styles, colors and sizes to chose from. My good friend has a backpack, which is lightweight, well made and sized “just right”.

Harvey's backpack vegan handbag
My friend with her cool blue bag.

The company started out using actual old seat belts, salvaged from broken cars, which was super sustainable! I’m pretty sure the current handbags are made from newly woven “seat belts” though. Still, this unusual “fabric” makes for a fun, vegan handbag.

6. Bonus Tip: If all else fails, go second hand

Here’s what, if you can’t stand carrying a purse that doesn’t look like leather or in fact IS made of leather, yet you’re not keen on another cow dying and more pollutants being released; second hand will be your saving grace. Mom’s or grandma’s closet is normally a great place to start browsing! It’s made, it’s there, give that leather bag a new home.

(And yes, I do know that a vegan would never go for option number 4 or 6, but not all leather-skipping readers are. It’s all about inspiration to shop differently ;))

Anyone still in the mood for a leather bag made in China??!

 

Style of the summer: Fair-trade, 100% organic, made right (THERE!)

Despite being on a shop-local-misson, when it’s fair-trade and organic, I occasionally import. This summer, I decided to import a shirt.

After all, certified fair-trade initiatives must be supported and organic cotton growers in India must get paid. In fact, because of our purchases, they make a much better, safer living than farmers still growing conventional (pesticide-covered, fertilized, Monsanto seed) cotton.

Did you know that due to debt owed to the seed producer, one conventional cotton farmer commits suicide every eight hours in India? That’s three souls per day.

When we demand organic fabric, more and more farmers can make the transition to growing organic crops. Here’s a promising read about how growing organic cotton frees Indian families from the (GMO) debt traps, if you’re interested.

Back to the shirt.

Organic cotton PrAna Gina Top

A light, airy, plaid shirt from eco-friendly brand PrAna looks and feels just right for summer and my upcoming days at the office (going back to work soon!).

100% organic cotton, certified fair-trade, soft, great fit. Also, loving me some great bonus details such as the green stitching on just one of the button holes and a hidden pocket on the right side. I paid $47 for this shirt (sale price!) at our very favorite co-op REI right here in Houston.

Fair trade organic cotton pink plaid shirt

Organic is cool.

Oh, and you might be wondering how much I’ve shopped this year, since I’ve written posts about a few new things lately! In addition to this shirt I’ve gotten a new eco-friendly bag ($160/USA/recycled fabric), a handmade scarf ($55/USA/organic), black tights ($10/USA/cotton) and a well made t-shirt ($36.50/USA/cotton). Five things in six months – that’s pretty good!

I’m wearing a size XS of the “Gina Shirt”, I’m 5’8″, 140’ish lbs.

My premium crew T: It’s the cotton and the American made.

There’s nothing better than ordering something online and being pleasantly surprised by the quality, is there? So often we find ourselves in the opposite situation.

Lucky for me, buying mostly made in USA, my latest purchases have all been grand. That Tradlands’ flannel this winter, all the US-made cloth diapers for baby, and now, a green, cotton tee from American Giant.

I got this t-shirt on a bit of impulse, adding it to the cart as my husband was ordering two more of American Giant’s 100% cotton “fleece” workman’s jackets ($89). He had one and wanted another two (in other colors) simply because they fit great, work great, and look great. Though they call it fleece, which traditionally is made of polyester, these are made with a long fiber cotton that holds up during the yarning and knitting process with minimal breakage and produces a heavyweight, durable fabric. (And no plastic microfibers to worry about like with plastic fleece!)

My Premium Crew T is made from 100% slub cotton, sourced in the USA. “Slub” was originally considered a defect, caused by knotting in the yarn during the knitting process resulting in a uniquely textured look and feel. Slubs tend to be flimsy and transparent but the fabric used here is thicker than regular slub and not see-thru at all (yay!). At the same time it allows the shirt to actually be quite form fitted. I love it. It’s well made.

There’s also a surprise seam on the back that adds a bit of interest.

Made in USA high quality cotton t-shirt
Made in USA American Giant t-shirt

I envision wearing this tee with my beige blazer, black skinnies, Oka-B black flats and a necklace when I head back to work. For now, I am wearing it casually, out and about with baby. I wore it to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff a couple of weekends ago, and got some cute pictures of it.

Yes, I am holding an unsustainable one-time-use Sprite bottle (thirsty!), but I’m making up for it with my all US-made clothes and baby’s fashion is all second-hand. We did recycle that bottle at least! ;)

This comfy classic sells for $36.50 at AmericanGiant.com and they’ve got free returns! (I’m wearing a size S, I’m 5′ 8.5″, 140 lbs.)

Combining my two great loves: American-made fashion and stripes!

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I have a special place in my heart for stripes.

That said, I haven’t bought that many new striped creations since I started shopping less, more sustainably and made in USA. There’s the Soft Joie dress, the Tart Collection dress and the second hand dress I scored in South Carolina to mention. Oh, and the striped hoodie from Marshalls and the Lularoe pencil skirt. However, not a single new striped t-shirt in three years?!

stripes
I’ve got stripes.

Sad as that may be (erm, not really!) I do know where to go when I “need” a new striped shirt fix. I’ll look no further than super sustainable Amour Vert.

Amour Vert is basically the definition of a sustainable fashion company. Not only focusing on eco-friendly materials, keeping it American-made and zero waste; they actually plant a tree in North America for every t-shirt (or top) sold. So far they have planted more than 100,000 trees thanks to the sales of their made right here tees!

dsc_4747
My friend Mary Beth in her American-made Amour Vert shirt

Amour Vert’s specially engineered textiles and blended fabrics are crafted to be soft, flattering and long-lasting. They only use low-impact and non-toxic dyes. Mary Beth’s tee ($78) is made of 95% eco-friendly modal, with 5% spandex for stretch.

You will find a few, carefully selected other brands on their website as well. I am little bit obsessed with the skinny jeans from STRÖM, I must admit. I have never bought a pair of jeans online, so I am hesitant to jump in considering the slim chances that a pair of slim jeans will fit like they do on the model… STRÖM is actually a Swedish/American brand (like me!) with a denim based, sustainable collection, produced exclusively in the United States.

dsc_4739

Incase you were wondering, Mary Beth paired her Amour Vert tee with hand-me-down, Frye leather boots (a great way to reduce eco-impact from leather is getting it second hand) and a pair of Paige Verdugo Skinny jeans from Nordstrom. The “Arrow Bar Necklace” is from an Etsy shop called Layered and Long and the “Hammered gold necklace” is from Etsy artist Freshy Fig. The wrist band is bought and made in Savannah, Georgia by leather crafters Satchel.

Yes! She’s rocking an outfit entirely made in USA – just how we like it.

This was the forth and last post in my series focusing on American-made style! Of course, this topic keeps coming back to made right (here) – that’s kind of the whole point of the blog ;)

I am happy Mary Beth wanted to share some American-made brands with us and I love that they were all photographed in a few super neat Houston locations by our lovely friend Ashley.

I hope you want to check out post number one (about another t-shirt), two (discussing leather goods) and three (a guide to US-made shopping in suburbia) too, if you haven’t already. And finally, I hope you’ve been inspired to shop more made in USA style in 2017! :)

My ultimate guide to shopping ethical and American-made style (OFFLINE!)

For anyone starting out on a Made in USA shopping journey, finding places to shop and brands to trust can be overwhelming. I know when I first started out I felt quite discouraged for a while, as it was difficult to find American-made clothes.

A few years later, and a gazillion online shops later, I know where to go for my next “Made in USA fix”. Mrs. American Made, a style blog, has guided me to many brands, so has random Instagram browsing. The question still remains though, what are some physical stores where we can find locally made clothes, shoes and décor?

Online shopping is great for supporting small businesses and of course very convenient, but sometimes it’s nice to shop down the street, isn’t it?

If you are lucky enough to live in a place that promotes local, like Boulder, CO or Asheville, NC, you’ll have access to small boutiques, fair-trade markets, apothecaries, vintage shops or brand stores like PrAna and Patagonia and you’re off to a good start. (NYC residents probably don’t need this list either!) However, many of us reside in more of a “big-box retailer” region so I’m sharing my favorite stores with that in mind! Anyone can succeed and master American-made shopping (even in the suburbs ;))!

1. The BEST store for Ethical Fashion and all around browsing: REI

Yes, the camping and outdoors giant is our favorite place to go browse and try on new clothes! REI carries brands like United by Blue, PrAna, Toad & Co and many more small batch, fair-trade, natural fiber options. They’ve also got a massive selection of great quality, made in USA socks, from Sockwell, Smart Wool, Thorlo and more. You’d be surprised how many of the camping and hiking essentials are actually made in USA as well! Here’s the store locator.

2. The BEST store for affordable Made in USA clothes: Nordstrom Rack

Here’s where I score all the best deals on American-made fashion. I’ve found sweaters, tops, dresses, jeans, sweatpants, undies and more by digging through the store and the clearance rack. Anything from $60 Citizen of Humanity jeans (!) to $10 Hanky Panky underwear – they’ve got it. Ever thought you’d run into a jumpsuit, or romper, sewn in the USA? Well, my friend Mary Beth did. Succeeding here does require some energy as stores tend to be overflowing with options. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA romper
Mary Beth in Loveappella Romper, Made in USA, from Nordstrom Rack

3. The BEST store for high quality home decor and furniture: Crate & Barrel

I know it’s on the pricier side of things, but we haven’t bought anything at Crate & Barrel that broke or disappointed us. They’ve got lots of made in USA kitchen gear, decor and furniture, as well as beautiful glassware from Europe. We got our king size bed frame from there, it was built and upholstered in North Carolina and made to order. Here’s the store locator.

4. The BEST store for American-stitched denim: Last Call by Neiman Marcus

Splendid, AG jeans, Paige, 7, True Religion, Eileen Fisher, J brand, rag & bone and several others – Last Call has most of these brands available at all times and the majority of their denim is sewn in the USA! You’ll also get a much better deal here than shopping at the mall or online. I am not the type to order jeans online – trying them on is a must. Even the same brand and style, to me, fit differently depending on the fabric and wash. Here’s the store locator.

Made in USA denim where to shop
US-made Splendid denim shirt with Alice & Olivia jeans (+ wind in the hair!)

5. The BEST place to go browsing and spend all day: Premium Outlets

You might get lucky at Premium Outlets and get a good deal on made in USA items at New Balance, 7 for all mankind, Tory Burch (some jewelry is US-made!), Saks off 5th or True Religion. The downside is you might NOT and end up spending the whole day, only to find nothing but sweatshop made clothes at Banana Republic and Chinese leather bags at Coach… (don’t buy them!) It’s worth a try if you keep an open mind and if you’re in that “shop all day mood”. Here’s the outlet locator.

Phew! These are my top five! Which ones are yours?

Shopping Made in USA doesn’t have to be complicated just because it’s happening offline! Try it out, let me know what you find :)

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This is the third post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, featuring pictures of my friend Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out my previous posts in the series about an LA-made t-shirt here and a great read on domestic leathers  here.

Because the trendiest (and best) eyewear is handcrafted STATE-side

When I wrote about and modeled my new Tradlands flannel shirt back in December, you might have noticed that my (awesome looking) glasses also appeared to be brand spanking new. You were right, they were.

State optical ravenswood frame

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about American-made style here on the blog. Why? Because shopping local strengthens our economy, helps small businesses grow and is actually more environmentally friendly than importing goods from far away.

When it comes to clothes, I hope you’re starting to realize that there is an abundance of made in USA brands out there. However, although many great handmade accessories (bags, jewelry, boots) can be found, some items are harder to find than others.

One thing that came to bite me before on my “Not made in China challenge” was eyewear.

Eyeglass frames are VERY often made in China or at least, rarely made in USA. So, in order to not shop for sweatshop-made imports, I had been wearing the same old, made in China Oakleys since April 2013! My friend, who happens to co-own an optician store, told me it was time for me to up my style with a new, ethically made pair from a “just-in” designer line of frames.

Meet STATE Optical. Luxury eyewear, handcrafted in Chicago, Illinois.

Handcrafting frames at State Optical
Handmade by American craftsmen. Here, the STATE logo (Pic by STATE).

As I am writing this, there are 18 styles for optical frames and six different sunglass frames to chose from. All styles are named after the streets of the Windy City and come in four different colors.

I am wearing the Ravenswood frame in Granite, and do I need to mention how trendy they make me look? (These are the kind of frames an aspiring writer should be wearing! I feel very editorial.) The color of the frame is modern yet subtle and goes well with all my clothes.

“Named for the Ravenswood Land Company who originally planned the area around the thoroughfare as Chicago’s first suburb, Ravenswood Ave is now home to art centers, non-profits, some of the best pizza in the city, brewhouses, you name it. This style evokes the same vibe, worldly yet laid back.

State optical Ravenswood frame
“Worldly, yet laid-back”.

I’ve had my frames for about two months, and so far I LOVE them.

I am especially impressed by the fact that I haven’t felt them get “looser” over time. Anyone who wears glasses knows that the most annoying thing about it is to constantly correct them, push them up the nose, because they loosen and become too big with wear. STATE uses a unique German designed and manufactured custom hinge, with a nylon sleeve around the screw that allows a locking effect which should prevent the temples from loosening over time. Judging by my own experience it definitely seems to be working.

Custom hinge. STATE brand logo.
Custom hinge. STATE brand logo.

Founded in 2014, STATE Optical Co., in their own words, “Is a brand fueled by an intrinsic motivation to accomplish the improbable and blaze its own path despite evidence that “it can’t be done”. Of course, referring to the idea that manufacturing in the United States is an impossible feat.

Well, they, like so many other wonderful, small business brands I promote and love, are proving that indeed it CAN be done – with great success, better materials, more advanced techniques, superior craftsmanship and elevated attention to detail.

Handmade in USA is here to stay.

Check out STATE and their story at StateOptical.com and find a retailer near you. I got mine at Optical Edge, Houston, TX. Frames are $300+.

Note: Prescription lenses are readily available Made in USA! Just ask your optician before she cuts them for you, to make sure.

When it comes to leather – does it really matter if it’s “American-made”?

Some readers will see this gorgeous bag and think “Oh, look at that FABULOUS, made in USA leather bag!” while, others will say, or more like grunt, “Why is a self-proclaimed environmentalist showing a leather bag on an eco-blog? Yuck!!”

Hear, hear.

Leather is not exactly an eco-friendly material (more on that later), so why am I blogging about a bag made of just that?

Satchel Savannah grey leather bag
Satchel: Handcrafted in Georgia. Worn well in Texas.

Easy. Because I hate seeing individual and stylish women go to Coach, Michael Kors, Fossil or Cole Haan and end up with the same Chinese-made bag everyone else has. This blog is a space of options, and when I say that I mean a space where I am trying to help consumers make better choices. Is an American-made, small business, handcrafted, locally grown leather bag a better choice than an imported Coach bag is? Absolutely!

This one is my friend Mary Beth’s and made by Satchel: three female artisans in a small Savannah, Georgia design studio, handcrafting leather goods and custom handbags. If you’re interested, you’ll have to call and place an order. Though there are some styles in their studio for sale, nothing is “ready to buy” online.

It’s always good to have an excuse to talk about leather too, isn’t it? Ever thought about what the word actually means? Us humans are good at coming up with words that distance us from what we’re actually dealing with. Kind of like how we eat “beef” not cows and “pork” not pigs. Current generations are farther removed from nature than ever before, so it makes sense that when we talk about animal skins or hides, we just call it “leather”.

Leather is the processed and polished version of the skin of the animal, the end result if you will. It’s important to remember that as a conscious consumer.

You may have run into companies that handcraft their goods in USA of Italian leather? Italian leather is known to be good quality and it has a nice ring to it, so businesses like to flaunt it, however the animal that became that “Italian leather” may have emigrated after death; it could have come from any other country, but it was processed in Italy. So, in other words, we have no idea where the hide came from (China? India?).

What we are looking for as conscious consumers in the USA, are key words like “native” or “domestic” hides. Some small businesses will be open about their sources and proudly promise to only use domestics. Cattle is not slaughtered for hides in USA but for cow-meat (see what I did there?), so essentially with current demand, domestic hides are a byproduct of the beef and dairy industry.

It’s hard to argue about or measure a byproduct’s impact on the environment. “Since beef is bad for the environment and its production contributes excessively to climate change, then cow skin must be also” sounds like too easy of a conclusion. Do the fashionistas consume more skin than the steak eaters left behind? No way! But, what about when animals (other than cows or cows in other countries) are raised for their skin or fur alone? Well, then we have a whole new set of ethics and environmental impact to consider. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

The processing or “tanning” (what turns “skin” into “leather”) on the other hand is extremely toxic and for that reason alone; leather is indeed a bad eco-choice. No matter where it’s from.

Vegetable tanning is probably the least environmentally damaging process and you’ll see some brands promise that their leather has been tanned that way (it’s expensive though, not stable in water and can discolor over time), however 90% of hides are tanned using chrome (think Erin Brockovich!). That’s what leads to toxic rivers and polluted lands, as well as serious birth defects and cancers in countries with lax regulations, like India and China. (Make no mistake, chrome tanning is used everywhere, here too, it just pollutes a little bit less where laws are stricter!) Processing one ton of skin produces up to 80 cubic meters of waste water, with high levels of chromium, sulfides, fat and other solid wastes, and notable pathogen contamination. Producers often add pesticides to protect hides during transport as well.

Satchel grey leather handbag

Leather bags and shoes last a long time, and despite the fact that leather biodegrades faster than plastic, which is good, I don’t see either product group disappearing anytime soon. That’s why I love to take the opportunity to talk about this, present some facts that might help a reader out who is looking for a new leather bag. There are small businesses out there offering small batch, American-made styles. A bag like this one from Satchel can be yours for around $250 to $300, pretty much the same price as the imported bags sell for. (I’ll have to blog about vegan handbags soon!)

Personally my leather bag shopping days are over. I have a black one (bought in ’07), a brown one (’09) and a blue one (’13) that I am sure will last forever. New boots or leather seats in a new car? Very likely to happen in my life still. It’s a journey. We’re on our way to having mainstream plant-based, “just-as-nice” alternatives to animal leather, but the market is not quite there yet. In the meantime, I will shop locally grown, well-chosen and only when absolutely necessary.

The sweater Mary Beth is wearing, if you are wondering, is by Tea N’ Rose, from its boho-chic Orange Creek premium line. (I LOVE the elbow patches!) Tea N’ Rose is not committed to American-made clothing, though the style we are showing off is, of course, made in USA.

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This is the second post in a four post series focusing on American-made style featuring the beautiful Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our friend Ashley. Check out last week’s post on a cool t-shirt HERE.

2017 American-made style starts with a statement t-shirt

With a brand new year, full of hope and promises (right?), comes a brand new opportunity for everyone (you too!) to start shopping better.

More sustainable. More locally made. Less stuff. Better quality.

And with that said, time has come to promote some new Made in USA clothes and accessories here on the blog, just like I did last winter with my five-piece made in USA styles series. You may remember the discussions we had about polyester and imported fabrics, the gorgeous Texas-made knitted earrings, and that made in USA outfit we put together.

Since my baby bump is becoming more planet-like by the hour, thankfully, my dear friend Mary Beth agreed to model and contribute to the series once again. See, this lovely lady was so inspired by this little blog of mine that she decided last year that if the fashion isn’t made in USA, it simply isn’t worth buying. The result? She’s bought ONLY American-made clothes, bags, accessories and jewelry since her last appearance on the blog. Quite impressive, isn’t it?! Getting to inspire others is WHY I BLOG, so thanks MB!

Now, let’s get down to business and talk about the first American-made garment we picked for the blog – a statement tee from Good hYOUman.

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Mary Beth in her “See you tomorrow” tee from Good hYOUman – Made in USA

I love that we’re starting with this brand because Mary Beth is such a good human.

This company, based out in LA (of course) is all about delivering high quality basics, giving back to the community and manufacturing ALL its products in the United States of America.

They’ve got tanks, tees, sweatshirts and sports bras for women; beanies, short- and long sleeved shirts for men and onesies and tops for the kiddos. Most tees are cotton/modal blends or 100% cotton which make for great eco-friendly picks. They do have some polyester mixes as well, but it’s all stated clearly on the website so you can easily manage your choice of fabric. Transparency is how we like it.

They can be found in smaller boutiques all over the USA (check out the store locator) and of course you can shop on online at GoodhYOUman.com – domestic shipping is free!

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T-shirts sell for $40 to $48, and sweatshirts are in the $60 to $85 range.

Go check out Good hYOUman and come back and see us soon as I’ve got more Made in USA fashion posts coming! This is the first post in a four post series focusing on American-made style, all featuring the beautiful Mary Beth in her own locally made clothes, photographed in some neat Houston locations by our lovely friend Ashley.