Tag Archives: shopping

Living it up (the eco-way) in New York City

Welcome to New York. It’s been waiting for you.

At least that’s what Taylor Swift claims. As for me, ever since I found out I was going to the Big Apple for work, I was hoping that great vegan food, eco-fashion and new acquaintances would indeed be waiting. Guess what? They were.

The training I was there to take allowed me to be my most social self during the days and I made some great connections! In addition to all the fun I was having, several people in the class were into eating healthy and two were living plant-based, meaning green lunch choices for the group. Yay.

Finding vegan options turned out to be as easy as I had hoped. Finding plastic-free, zero waste vegan, a bit harder, though definitely possible. Let me tell you about some of the places where I ate!

Vegan, Organic and Zero Waste

The first night, after a long walk through the city, I had a well-made meal at Blossom (21st and 9th) in Chelsea. Friendly staff, fast service, nice setting. And, I got to eavesdrop on a seriously millennial conversation one table over, while watching the street action outside the window. Pretty sweet. Yes, that also applies the two glasses of organic riesling I had.

The best food of the trip was at Candle 79 on the Upper East Side (79th and Lex.). I started with empanadas, followed by a chick-pea cake creation accompanied by delicious broccoli and cauliflower in a curry sauce. It was excellent and I highly recommend this place. A reservation is probably a good idea, though I got lucky and was seated right away. By the window again.

Vegan on the go

Because sooner or later, all New York visitors will find themselves in midtown, near Times Square fearing that Olive Garden is their only lunch choice – I’ll tell you, it’s not. Fresh and Co. is half a block away on 48th street (between 6th and 7th avenue) and they’ll mix you up an awesome salad. Though delicious and fresh, my salads (Gaucho and Falafel) were unfortunately tossed and served in a plastic bowl (I didn’t have a reusable one). I did fill my own bottle with tea, no problem.

Organic Soy Latte

Anyone else appalled by the super sweet soymilk at Starbucks? Pret A Manger is a much better choice if you ask me, and they’re all over town. I had an organic, unsweet soy latte there and of course reusable cups welcome. This chain donates all their left-over food at the end of each day to homeless shelters and food programs too. Waste not, want not.

Picture1

On another eco note, I had four nights in the city and spent most of them walking around enjoying the scenery and the different neighborhoods. Why take a cab when you can walk, right?

One night while strolling down Highline Park, I suddenly had this idea to hit up Century 21 (the discount department store by World Trade Center). I hadn’t been there in years and was curious to see what made in USA or eco-friendly brands they might have (if any!).

A few minutes into browsing, I saw an Italian-made sweater by a designer I had never heard of before and decided to try it on. Instantly, it felt like mine. It fit just right and felt super comfy. Sold! Although it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said “eco-fashion” and it didn’t really follow any of the rules I set up for this year’s shopping challenge, I still had to have it. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart and break the rules a little.

IMG_8138
My new Dirk Bikkembergs made in Italy sweater

I hadn’t prepared much for this trip, however I still feel like I managed to make simple, eco-friendly choices throughout the visit. Like what, you say? Well, like:

  • Enjoying vegan, organic food (the most eco-friendly, low carbon diet)
  • Not using the hotel bath products (saving plastic)
  • Not asking to have my sheets and towels changed every night (saving water, energy and cleaning products)
  • Managing my drinking water, so there was no need to buy even a single water bottle (saving plastic and money)
  • Carrying my new Italian sweater in my reusable bag (saving plastic)
  • Walking or taking the subway instead of riding in taxis (less pollution)
  • Carbon compensating my flights
  • Stayed at a local boutique hotel to support small business

I had an amazing time and I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the breaking the rules part.

Indeed, it was all waiting for me in New York!

Read about my previous eco-friendly work trip to California here.

Sweater+me photo credit: 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?

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).

America’s wealth inequality and how it’s related to how and where you shop

According to a recent study, 9 out of 10 Americans believe the wealth of this country should be distributed like this:

Untitled
Ideal wealth distribution

The ones who work hard deserve to have more than the ones who don’t. And it’s ok that a few of us have quite a bit more than others; that’s the incentive to strive for the “American Dream”. Yet, people say that the wealth must be distributed in such a way, that everyone can make a living and sustain a healthy life for themselves and their families.

The reality of the situation is quite different. 1% of the population in the USA owns 40% of the country’s wealth. That means that the richest 1% has a whopping 21.6 trillion dollars. Here’s what the graph of America’s wealth looks like in reality:

Untitled2
Actual wealth distribution

So who do we find lurking among the richest 1%? Well, to name a few, we’ve got the Walton Family of Wal-Mart, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, cool folks like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, many dot com founders, the owners of food corporations like Mars, quite a few investment and hedge-fund bankers and last but not least, not so cool people like the Koch Brothers (oil and gas moguls working hard to kill the planet while getting richer) and Donald Trump.

Using statistics is a great way to create awareness, but it shouldn’t just amount to a shoulder shrug and depressed thoughts of what a terrible, “unfair” world we live in. It needs to do more than that. Don’t use it to get mad and blame the branches of government for not doing the “right thing” either; what’s past is past. Instead, use it as inspiration to make a personal change.

Ask yourself; what can I do to help correct this injustice?

In addition to using your right to vote and help climate-friendly Mr. Sanders (the only candidate not in cahoots with the 1%) win the nomination AND election this year, there are actually a few easy things you can do and start doing right now!

1. Shop Small.

What does it mean to shop small? Essentially what it means is to make your purchases at locally owned shops and eat at local eateries. That’s your neighborhood coffee shop, the mom and pop down the street, the farmers market, the vintage shop.

When you shop small instead of shopping big (at for example Wal-Mart, Target, Gap or Macy’s), you are supporting a tax-paying, local businessman or woman, not a multi-billion-dollar corporation. In order words, you are spreading the riches more evenly across the board, and pumping money into your local economy.

2. Buy Made in USA.

When you support locally-made, you are encouraging businesses to bring manufacturing back to where you live (from far away). Manufacturing jobs can make a big difference, as they are an important part in supplying the large lower and middle-class with stabile, safe, above-minimum-income jobs. The more we manufacture here – the more people we can employ.

In order to make themselves richer, the billionaire owners and CEOs of large companies generally outsource all manufacturing of products to Asia, never admitting that by doing so, they’re deliberately making their home country poorer. In the long run, making a country poorer means that the masses have to keep relying on “cheap” imported goods, as that’s all they can afford, allowing the corporations to keep importing since (obviously) that’s what the “people want”. See that vicious circle?

In short, it’s terrible for our economy and our people and it keeps some of the 1% way ahead of the rest. (As for the people overseas manufacturing these items as “cheaply as possible”, it’s not good for them either. If nobody stands up and stops supporting the businesses they un-ethically produce for, they have no hope for better working conditions.) Buying local does make a difference.

3. Don’t ever buy something you don’t need on a high interest credit card.

Every time you shop on your credit card for such high amounts that you cannot afford to pay it off the next month and instead end up paying interest, you are making some of the top 1% richer. The banks and their investors use that money to make themselves another not-so-hard-earned buck.

I’m not saying not to have a mortgage, a car or replace your broken dishwasher, I’m just saying; don’t buy another Chinese sweat-shop-made Coach purse on your credit card.

It’s not that hard is it? We all have the power to make a positive change. Be smart, place your vote and shop local.

If you want more information about this topic, you can watch the short and detailed video about the Wealth Inequality in America (that inspired this post) here. Find a list of America’s richest here (just for fun) and watch a movie about the Koch’s and their dirty business here.

PS. If you are one of the 1% and you’re reading this – great!  I’m happy to see that you’ve found my blog and obviously have taken an interest in ethical fashion, conscious consumption and sustainability; that’s really unusual for your kind. I have a lot of ideas I’d love to discuss with you. Leave me a comment and let’s get in touch!

Note: This post (written by me) was originally posted on the blog of The Made in America Movement, and you can read it here. I did change a few things in this version to better match my blog theme and personal political stands.

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

Two years of blogging and the best stuff of made right (here)

Woo! 2 years ago I started this blog with a few trembling words and a commitment in my heart to change my shopping habits and inspire America to do the same. (Yep, I aim high.)

I am celebrating my blogging fun with a list of the five most loved, awesome or unexpected items I have bought since the challenge started. All made right here of course! If it wasn’t for the restrictions I set for myself back in 2014, I may never have gone looking and found these brands.

1. Best all-around purchase
Wow, have we saved a lot of styrofoam, plastics and paper cups from hitting landfills this past year! #loveyou. My made in USA Life Factory glass bottle is my trusty companion and partner in reduce waste crime. Of course I’ve had reusable bottles before but non as handy as this one. “How often do you wash that thing?” I was once asked after countless lunches with my colleagues. That’s between me and my bottle.

Just hanging on the couch
Just hanging on the couch

2. Best baby item
The award for best toy or kids item must go to the recycling truck from Green Toys Inc. Safe, BPA-free, made of recycled milk jugs, packaged in un-bleached carton without plastic and made right here. I think it is so wonderful that someone is producing responsibly-made plastic toys, since plastic seems to be very popular in the kiddos’ first years of playing and chewing. They have so many items – trucks, buckets, bath toys, kitchen sets, teethers – anything your kid will need, reasonably priced and often on sale on Amazon.

My little nephew loved his recycling truck
My little nephew loved his recycling truck

3. Best life changing product
I might have found this brand even if I wasn’t on the challenge, but it has changed my skin and therefore changed my life. Skin Ceuticals are made in USA and cost a fortune. I pay a whopping 250 dollars every 4-5 months for my correct and prevent regime. And yes, I am probably overdosing on these acids but it’s working and I’m worth it! I’ll take “acid-addict” over blemishes and lines any day.

Miracle workers.
Miracle workers.

4. Best surprise
Did you know that the Home Depot has screws and bolts made in USA & Germany now? Spax is the brand and this was the biggest (best) surprise I got last year. I always randomly check tags at the Home Depot and finally there’s hardware not made in China (or Taiwan). My hubs says they’re great, and as he makes up for what I lack in the DIY department, I need to take his word for it.

So awesome!
So awesome!

5. Best break-the-rules impulse item
You know I hardly ever buy anything big-brand leather, and I stay away from “want to haves”, but this Tory Burch leather gold emblem bangle has proven more than worthy of an exception. I wear this made in USA bling at least twice a week. It just goes with everything I own!! If you want one, don’t get it online though, few bracelets are actually USA made and they all sort of look alike. I got this one at the Tory Burch outlet for about 60 dollars.

Made in USA bling
Made in USA bling

When you shop as few and carefully chosen items as I do, all things become more valuable, memorable and special. I truly recommend a shopping-challenge to anyone wanting a more grateful attitude in life :)

Read my very first post here.

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.

2 years on the challenge: Not made in China GURU – c’est moi!

2015 has been an amazing year! Not because anything particularly amazing has happened, on the contrary, but I have learned so much this year; by dealing with life’s ups and downs, making mistakes and frankly by researching a hell of a lot, looking for answers and watching documentaries.

2014 was all about “surviving” this challenge of mine, just avoiding the made in China traps and looking long and hard at what I actually needed to buy vs. what I wanted to buy. 2015, on the other hand, has taken me and the challenge so much further, turning me into a shop local champ and close to living somewhat sustainably (still have a long way to go!). Shopping not made in China is actually easy now!

During the entire year of 2015, I have participated in buying only these (very) few items made in China:

  1. Plastic frames for prescription eye-glasses for my husband (one pair of sunglasses, one regular pair)
  2. Two pairs of foot-friendly Merrell sneakers for my husband.

Isn’t that an amazingly short list?! Hurray! Glasses and footwear are two of few items, I consider “need to have” so I don’t feel too bad about my felonies! About the sneakers, he got two pairs from China and I got three pairs from Vietnam… so we both went sweatshop there. Anyone else come close to that low number? Take a look around your home, just for fun, to see where your new purchases were made!

I’ve had a lot of people read my blog this year, mostly because I have shared it on social media and people with curious minds have clicked my links. Nothing is more awesome than having someone say “You have made me think of that” or “Because of you I did this”. It means so much to me. I believe that most people want to do right, by each other and by the planet; they just don’t have the simple tools or the knowledge to do so – yet. I am really just trying to inspire while I’m constantly learning more!

2015 lookback

There was a time when mankind thought the earth was flat. There was a time when some people said Climate Change wasn’t due to human actions. Wait, oops, that’s now…

So that said, here’s a list of a few easy eco-changes I’ve made this year in addition to shopping made right (here):

  1. I’m now pretty much vegetarian (but I’m not putting a label on it). I made this change in order to save water, CO2, methane emissions, forests, and energy. Basically save the planet! (Yes, I saw the Cowspiracy movie!)
  2. Our household now has 10% solar & 90% wind powered electricity. Finally found a provider serving our area offering only renewable energy! Whooo!
  3. Cut my hair to shoulder length! I’d like to think I did it to save water, shampoo, and products, but I did it to look cute. Still, the savings are a bonus :)
  4. Stopped using my trashcan at work. I noticed the cleaning crew changed the bag every day, even if there was just a tiny thing in it. Now I walk 20 steps to the kitchen. Exercise! And that is 240 plastic bags saved, per year, for ONE person.

It’s 2016! I will keep blogging, keep bugging you all (yay) and keep my optimism and passion for the environment because I believe passion is contagious!

Remember; The Not Made in China Challenge is not just about China. It’s about knowing where your possessions came from, how they were made and how they affect our planet. We all need to process that knowledge and take it seriously. What you choose to buy or not to buy is your vote and your impact on the world market.

This is the NOT MADE IN CHINA CHALLENGE 2016! I am psyched for this year – is this the year I will have ZERO items on my China-felonies count?

Thanks for reading! Come back and visit :)

Let’s STOP and be thankful. Not SHOP and be thankful.

The holiday season is upon us. Candlelight, warm cardigans and silent nights are around the corner. But first, time to give thanks.

I am so thankful for everyone who decided to check a tag, made a change, or brought a shopping bag to the store this year. I am thankful for all of you who commented, shared and engaged in conversations about sustainable fashion, shopping local, eating right, being mindful and air pollution.

Honestly, thank you – for you I give thanks.

THANKS

Now that we are heading into the WORSE weeks of the year, when it comes to America’s overconsumption and unnecessary spending, I want to remind everyone of some truths about this season starting in two days, on Black Friday.

  1. The shopping frenzy you may be about to participate in, was created by clever advertising professionals and companies with ONE goal: selling you as many things as possible (mostly ones you don’t even need). By doing so, making you believe that material things make you and people you shop for, happy. Are you that gullible?
  2. Every single item that you buy has a story. Materials were grown or made, someone assembled it (at below-minimum wage), dirty energy went into it. Once you are done with it and it ends up in landfill you are causing further pollution of the world.
  3. You are making yourself POORER by buying things you don’t need. Is that what you really want? That sounds stupid.
  4. There are fun and loving ways of sharing holiday spirit without gifts. Spending time together and not at the mall is a good start. Games, conversation, homemade food and drinks may be added as needed.

Still feel the need to spend your hard-earned cash?

Well, there’s a way to do it better! Saturday is Shop Small Saturday, a day to remember your small community shops, farmers’ markets and locally owned businesses. So stay in on Black Friday, enjoy your day with friends, family or Netflix, and go explore on Saturday instead. It will be less stressful, you may find something locally made and meaningful to bring home or end up having interesting conversations with friendly store owners. You definitely won’t find that, elbowing your way to a new flat screen, at Wal-Mart.

Rise above shopping. Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s an eco-conscious, shop local, online-edition-only type of Vogue

One cool thing about having a shopping blog is that, if you’re lucky and have awesome friends, sometimes you get to pretend you’re Vogue. Eco-conscious, shop local, online-edition-only type of Vogue.

Let me back up.

What do you do when you write a blog about shopping local, but haven’t bought anything in the last two months? What do you do when buying something for no other reason than to blog about it, would be a CRIME against your sustainable lifestyle?

I’ll tell you what  – you turn to your beautiful and stylish friend, raid her closet for made in USA styles and then go all vogue on her. Yes, ladies and gents, THAT’S what you do.

Mary Beth’s clothes both differ from, yet remind me of my own wardrobe. She is bolder than I when it comes to prints, jewelry and length of shorts (sorry MB, I had to!) but we share the same simple, practical and sustainable approach to shopping.

Turns out, she had so many good looking made in America brands and styles; I had to limit my selection! We met on a Monday and had a very Miranda Priestly run-thru type meeting. (“I don’t know which one to pick, they’re sooo different”.) We ended up with five gorge outfits, representing different companies, looks and seasons. Lots of denim, of course, America’s favorite fabric.

MB1
On left, the tag we’re going for and fall colors on the right

Now, a week later, we just finished the photo shoot and I am so excited!! It has been raining and storming for the last couple of days but this morning the sun decided to come back and warm our backs and hearts (with all that’s going on in the world right now, we needed it).  Ashley (my photographer friend) rocked taking the photos, like always, and I got to stand behind the camera for once. I must say I have a talent for holding the reflector (yeah right!). I couldn’t have asked for a more gracious and lovely model than Mary Beth! I can’t wait to see the finished “roll” of film.

My blogging schedule is full for the rest of the year with holiday posts and other goodies, but come January I’ll be starting a multiple-post fashion series promoting the American made brands Mary Beth wore in the shoot. NEW year – NEW face in the Lookbook (yes!) so stay tuned!

Here’s a sneak peek and some behind the scenes action pictures from the photo shoot – I feel so inspired to write all of this up!

Apparently we all think that ducks are interesting. Their visit totally paused the shoot!
Editor in Chief Anna (that's me) ready to get to work, on left. On right, photo session in action!
Editor in Chief Anna (that’s me) ready to get to work, on left. On right, photo session in action!

It ain’t no Tupper-wear party, it’s a pop-up boutique

Please see disclaimer at bottom of post.

Okay, I must admit that when my friend invited me to come to a LuLaRoe Clothing pop-up boutique at her friend’s house, I didn’t know what to expect. A boutique at someone’s house, at a specific time, made me think of the Tupper-wear parties my mom was invited to back in the 80’s. You know, a bunch of ladies sitting around, getting information about a product and feeling obligated to buy something since the hostess was serving tartlets, and the worst part; free samples no one needed.

Knowing my friend, who supports my blog and sustainable lifestyle, I figured it would be ok. She had already told me about LuLaRoe and the fact that most of their clothes are made in USA, so I wanted to support her party and her friend’s newly started business.

As soon as I got there it was kind of obvious, that this was not a “tupper style” gathering. Colorful, soft clothes, in every single pattern you can think of, were hanging on racks in a (great smelling!) living room. The shop owner and homeowner, Martine, greeted me, was super friendly, introduced the brand and basically said “look around, if you like something let me know, no obligation”. NO samples. NO snack foods. NO demonstration. Yes!

On left: Excited about my skirt! On right: Rack of LuLaRoe goodies.
On left: Excited about my skirt! On right: Rack of LuLaRoe goodies.

Of course, there was some chatting and socializing, as we all tried on different dresses, skirts and tops. Miraculously, no matter the body shape, the clothes seemed to flatter everyone, including yours truly. I looked pretty good in a tight dress I tried on, but being an inside-of-the-box-pattern person, who’s scared of figure hugging dresses, I backed out from looking like the Little Mermaid (that’s what the pattern reminded me of! Forth from the left in the second picture), and went with a black and white pinstriped pencil skirt (see, not very pattern-adventurous am I?) instead. Only $32!

Mommy & Me, the stylish way
Mommy & Me, the stylish way

I did ask, and found out that the tights by LuLaRoe are made in China, while the rest is made in California of domestic or imported fabrics. That’s fortunate for me, since I don’t wear tights!! They have women’s and girls’ fashion, and yes, there are mommy-and-me outfit opportunities here, if that’s your thing.

I’ll make sure l show you how I styled the pencil skirt in another post (Coming soon!). For now, I hope I’ve clarified the concept of a pop-up boutique… it’s a small, calm, temporary shopping haven, inside of someone’s home.

If I’m invited; I will definitely go again. Maybe next time I’ll find another color combination of stripes. There is hoping.

Made right here in sunny California!
Made right here in sunny California!

[Official LuLaRoe pictures are from Instagram @lularoe_martine]

NOTE: After this post was published, LuLaRoe have started to produce more garments at international production sites (Mexico, China, Vietnam). If invited to a pop-up, check the labels.  I wouldn’t purchase any LulaRoe goods online without first checking where made. This is one of my most read posts, unfortunately the once Made in USA company seem to have deserted their original patriotism.

Come on ladies, there is nothing sustainable about H&M

hm2Ever since I fell in love with a blouse with giraffes from H&M’s “Conscious Collection” and obviously fell for their brilliant marketing ploy and bought it, I’ve thought a lot about H&M. At the same time, I’ve also seen them pop up here and there in blogs I read, often mentioned in a context of sustainable fashion, presented as being a company on the forefront of sustainability. They may be on the right path (finally), but “sustainable” is not a label they have the right to wear.

Why? It’s time to share some of my own thoughts on H&M.

1. Let’s talk about The Conscious Collection, which has gotten a lot of media lately, and indeed is a good initiative. A rack of sustainably made, recycled fabric garments, placed immediately inside of the entrance to the store, that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling about your shopping experience. Maybe you’ll be so excited about the collection that you forget that the clothes in the rest of the store, in other words 95% of their merchandise, were made without a conscience and non-sustainably. That’s what that collection label ultimately tells you, just like bread with an “organic” label at the grocery store tells you the rest of the bread is, in fact, not organic. Why else would H&M need to single that collection out and have a special label and special rack for those garments? Fail.

2. H&M launched a big campaign to inform everyone that you can drop off your old clothes at their stores, and they will recycle them* and in return you get a coupon. People seem to think recycling means you are eco-friendly, that recycling in all of its glory is the answer to our environmental problems. Wrong! Yes, recycling is great, but it’s the third part and last resort of the golden rule of sustainability. The first part is to reduce; a fact that H&M has no interest in doing. Heck, they give you a coupon so that you will shop more! Maybe the same day you brought items in for recycling you’ll buy something new, using your well-deserved coupon (“you did something eco-friendly, you recycled, now treat yourself to something new, you’ve earned it”). Second part of the rule, reuse; an activity H&M makes hard by mostly selling garments of lower quality, in styles which will only be on trend for about five more minutes. (I will tell you, I have a few good-quality H&M pieces in my closet, which I plan on reusing and enjoying for a long time.) H&M are completely ignoring part one and pushing the boundaries of part two, they actually encourage opposite behavior, yet people applaud them for doing part 3 recycling?! Fail.

3. The only way to sell a top for 10 dollars and make profit, is to have it made for less than one. Where can that type of manufacturing thrive? Only in factories paying minimum wage to workers in developing countries. That means everything in H&M’s US stores is imported, mostly from China, shipped here by polluting container ships. Fail.

4. H&M is actually one of the biggest thugs in the fashion industry as they keep prices low, all year long, and has new styles on the shelves every week which is great for encouraging impulse purchases and overconsumption of clothes. Most of which is sold to teens and young, trendy adults, who’s last season looks will end up in landfill as their closets are already over-flowing. “Quantity over Quality” does not a sustainable company make. Fail.

H&M should not be thought of as a sustainable company; please stop saying, blogging, thinking, sharing that they are. Adding a small eco-collection, does not make up for a buy-and-toss company philosophy. H&M represents the core of what is wrong in the fashion industry; fast, disposable, cheap. Don’t get fooled by their brilliant marketing department –  because brilliant is indeed what they are.

H&M is a trendy company and sustainable fashion is trending now, it’s as simple as that. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what the label “Conscious Collection” secretly means? They are fully aware (conscious) of the ongoing, important eco-trend.

Sadly, we bought it.

hm

*Recycling fabric technology is still in its early stages and, as far as I know, not yet a very energy efficient process. What is deemed not ‘recyclable’ is donated, which has proven to be another fake eco-friend, as it just means moving garment waste from one fortunate country to one less fortunate, already overflowing with western used clothes. Landfill is still landfill.

Made in USA: Is America’s garment industry making a comeback?

I’m the kind of person that dives in first and researches later, or rather I make up my mind and then I deal with it! It wasn’t like I looked into if China-free living was possible, or made a budget for shopping local, before I started the challenge. As I blog my way through it, it’s the same thing; I run into a brand, an item, an issue or a problem, and then I research it and write.

Lucky for me, there are bloggers out there who actually do serious research, write articles and share them with the rest of us. That’s how I got to reading about trends in Made in USA clothing on the Made in USA blog I follow.

Interesting fact: In 1993, 6.4 billion garments were manufactured in USA, with 52.4 percent of the garments sold here made here. In 2013, Americans bought close to 20 billion garments but only 2.6 percent of them were manufactured here! (The interesting part is that that number (513 million) is better than a few years before; in 2009 only 381 million garments were made here.)

How did we get from 52.4 percent to 2.6 percent in just 22 years? The reason manufacturing went abroad is, of course, the savings due to cheap labor in other countries, like China (with their aggressive growth strategy), Bangladesh, Cambodia and other countries in that same region. This started as early as the 60’s.

made in usa outfit
Old jacket meets new US made Tart Collection dress. Old rubber boots meet new US made Sweet-n-Sinful cardigan from Marshalls.

When fashion got faster and faster in the 90’s, western companies started comparing and pushing the over-there-shops  further, in order to be able to sell clothes at even lower prices to western consumers: essentially allowing us to buy more clothes. In countries where rules and regulations for health, emissions, safety and wages are less stringent; a reduction in production costs equals worse working conditions (lower pay, longer hours). And in the new millennium, indeed, more and more companies have moved their manufacturing to “cheaper” countries in order to keep up with their domestic competition; all of them ignoring the peculiar fact, that it is now cheaper than ever to have clothes made abroad, yet inflation is naturally moving in the opposite direction. No one wondering if they are cutting corners?

Fast fashion companies, like H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and such need consumers to buy a lot of clothes (profits are in moving inventory) and their CEOs want to get richer, so they need to keep manufacturing as cheap as possible – no matter the cost. When was the last time you saw anything in those stores not made in Asia? Do you think the garments they sell were made by people working in terrible conditions, earing 2-3 dollars a day? (Answer is yes).

That said, companies who manufacture local, stateside or Fair-Trade, aren’t exactly non-profit organizations; naturally they’re in business for profit too, but probably not making as much easy profit, as the companies who exploit workers and pollute the local environment in so called “developing” countries. (I don’t particularly like that term, their cultures are developed).

Personally, I believe there are more and more people like me, who enjoy shopping local and sustainably; who don’t mind paying a little bit more to keep things made right (here). Even if that means you can’t afford to buy as many items. The fact that I keep running into more and more cool stuff with “Made in USA” tags, to me, also signals progress. It’s not often that “progress” is presented as “going back to what we were doing way back” but in this case, I think we may have had it right in the 80’s. Yes, I said that!

DSC_0294 (2)

According to the article, the vice president of international trade at the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) agrees; “The number of clothes and shoes made in the U.S. has consistently increased over the last several years in what could be described as a small, but growing, trend”, he says.

There are challenges here though, like finding skilled workers and specialized materials; “Sewing is still a lost art”.

I believe in the people here though, we can learn how to sew, right? I believe so, and I obviously support this trend. I read that for every dollar a country invests in domestic manufacturing, the country earns 1.4 dollars back, so shopping local isn’t just taking a stand for sustainability, decent wages and reduced shipping pollution, but it also makes for a stronger economy.

I find this topic so interesting and important! There’s always more to learn about this complex, consumer-driven, environmentally devastating, but colorful industry.

DSC_0169
Living local is living greener! Outfit made in USA!

Note: I cannot find either of the websites for the striped hoodie “Ginger G” and cardigan “Sweet n Sinful”. (Sorry but those are some terrible brand names!) I suspect they are “straight from wholesale” brands without websites. Found both at Marshalls. (Photo credits: Shutterluv by Ashley.)

[LINK to Article]

When your friends go; “I saw this item and thought of you”

My friends crack me up. As they follow my journey to shop local they find themselves being super excited over the most random things they find and buy for their kids, that are made right here (or there if they are there) and they have to tell me! Immediately. This leads to me receiving the weirdest pictures EVER in texts. And yes, sometimes I have to text them back on not only say “awesome, go you” but also “what is that?”

So I am blogging kids stuff, two posts in a row…. But hey, all for a good cause! Here’s a collection of some locally made stuff they’ve bought. Read on for explanations of these cryptic photos!

gate-lazy

1. The Water Float. I suspect this picture was taken at Academy Sports when this mom of two was shopping for floats needed for the weekends at the grandparents’ lake house. I researched this company and all Lazy Bunz floats are made in USA – a great resource to keep in mind!

2. The SuperGate for Kids. This picture is actually clear! It’s a safety gate for kiddos, just in this case it’s actually for Buster, the dog. Easy enough, here is a link to this made right here product.

spid-maca

3.The Mysterious Spiderman. I got this picture and thought it was a toy of some kind. I asked this busy momma and she said it’s actually a kid’s toilet seat for potty-training! How cool; that it is made in USA! Here’s more info.

4. A Tag. Luckily, this picture was accompanied by an actual text. This is a twin mattress by Hampton and Rhodes. I tried to find out if ALL their mattresses are made in USA but I am not sure. Anyway, they are available at Mattress Firm so go there and check tags for yourself (if you need a mattress, that is!)

5. A cute paper bag on the side of a baby stroller. My sister sent me this from a shopping spree with her son in Europe (that’s where they live). That bag contains the cutest baby mittens from a German company called Macarons. All made in Germany and only available in Europe (shop local!). I am so impressed with their story and style; their webpage is full of inspiring kids and kids’ fashion you have to see!

You guys are awesome – go you! Thank you for letting me inspire your choices! Goes to show that made right (here) items can be found everywhere, all you have to do is look for them.

Keep the texts coming!

In celebration of my sister’s wedding anniversary: The story of her perfect dress

Today, it has been 6 years since my beautiful sister got married to her handsome husband. It was the most gorgeous, sunny day. And though it’s a day we will always remember (naturally) this story is really about when we went shopping for her wedding dress. See, I am taking a break from my eco-blogging (sort of) today to instead write a little something for her.

PICT4955Like so many times before; we had been saving and planning for our “New York sister get away”, for a while. We’d been taking notes on which coffee shops to try, which Broadway show to see and had been trying to find out where in the world the Manolo Blahnik store really was (It’s so hard to find!). However, the really exciting part about this trip was that we were going to shop for a wedding dress for my sis and a maid of honor dress for me!

It was May of 2009, wedding set for September 19th; we had plenty of time and plenty of optimism to find that perfect dress. The only question was; where do we begin?

It looked so easy on Sex and the City, but for two sisters in the city, not so much. We had no idea where to go. We figured you can’t just show up at Vera Wang like Charlotte (who can afford it!?) and we didn’t even know the names of any wedding dress stores. Strolling down 5th avenue and looking up at the second floor windows with gowns on pale mannequins wasn’t helping either; we didn’t even understand how to get into those places.

We decided to just start at the department stores; they have wedding sections! They do (I think) but none that you just walk into. We looked around the party dress departments for white, long dresses at Macy’s, Saks, Bloomingdales and even Bergdorf’s (I remember it was super fancy and sterile in there). Sales assistants we ran into, and told what we were doing, kept telling us how late in the game we were. “September? Oh wow, you better hurry!” What? We had four months, surely they must be mistaken!

We realized quickly that midtown and 5th weren’t working out for us. So the day after; new area and new spirit. Let’s go SoHo. And yes, that’s where it all came together, in a little bridal studio called Nicole Miller. Two tourists walk in on a day when no one had booked a fitting, and one awesome consultant (with seriously big hair!) let us in without an appointment! She must have fallen for our hopeful-and-lost-non-locals-look, and figured she had to help us out.

My sister was looking for a fitted, simple gown with a mermaid feel to it; which is basically all of Nicole Miller’s dresses. She tried a few, one after another; they all fit her perfectly (she has the perfect shape for dresses). They were all priced around 700-1200 dollars, which was right in line with what she could and wanted to spend.

PICT4964In less than an hour she had decided on her dress, not really any alterations needed (of course – perfect shape); form-fitted, mermaid feel, in an off-white, metal threaded fabric. Priced at 800 dollars, and made right there in New York City.

What a high! How did that work out so quickly?! Her wedding dress packed up nicely in a paper bag, not too heavy to carry around on her shoulder, so we took it to lunch – isn’t that amazing?

We had a great lunch, we were so excited, and we talked about the Manolos she was about to buy to match the dress and what the heck the maid of honor was going to wear (me!).

My sister hadn’t decided what color she wanted on me. The wedding wasn’t all planned out yet, but she knew she wanted it to feel like a fall wedding with warm reds, oranges and earth colors. We continued to explore SoHo, and randomly found Foravi.

We didn’t know what they might have, but as if it was meant to be, they had two Nicole Miller dresses in the same fabric as my sister’s wedding dress! One red, one earthy green; one size 4, one size 6. I could squeeze myself in to the red 4 (the fabric is very stretchy and hugging), but it was just too tight and the color was too sexy. The green dress fit perfectly and had the right cut, length, feeling and color for the upcoming fall wedding. It was 400 dollars, and as you guessed, made in New York! Sold!

IMG_6014   IMG_6016

There you have it. Two out-of-towners, went to the fashion capital of the world, without a plan or any appointments, and came home with the perfect pair of dresses. We sure proved those sales assistants wrong! How lucky were we to find matching, made right there wedding fashion?

skor manoloAnd; yes, we found the Manolo Blahnik boutique finally, and my sister got her white satin, open toe, rhinestone-buckle, Sedarby pumps. Price tag; same as her dress (yes, really!) I was lucky enough to have bedazzled (60 dollar) shoes at home, matching her style of shoes and my new dress.

Foravi is still in business and still focusing on providing hand-crafted, responsibly-produced, and aesthetically powerful clothes.

Nicole Miller still makes wedding dresses in New York City, and they are still reasonably priced. Don’t count on getting in to the SoHo studio without an appointment though! (Unless you know how to pull off the hopeful-and-lost-non-locals-look, and even so, it’s a gamble…;))

The girls may not have been locally made, but the dresses sure were. I love that every garment we buy has a story, and it starts long before we get to wear it for the first time. We have the power to decide what kind of stories the clothes we buy should have, from cradle to grave, not just from purchase to grave. And I love the story of these two dresses.

To my sister – the best sis and the most beautiful bride I have ever seen. Thanks for always letting me be part of your stories, and of your clothes’ stories too. Happy anniversary!!

klanningen
Gorge!
(Yes, I was blond at the time!)
(Yes, I was blond at the time!)