Do you know what makes shopping local so wonderful and extra awesome?
It’s that behind almost every brand committed to fair and local manufacturing stands a woman or man with a vision to make the world better. No bullshit. This is what I find over and over with made right (here) brands.
Some are motivated by sustainability, some by employing their neighbors , some want to bring craftsmanship back. Some, like the founders of Sweedie Kids, found that with their scarf-like bibs, they could make a big impact on the life of bigger kids with disabilities.
“We care about giving, and we do that through “Sweedie Dreams”. When you purchase a Big Kid Bib, you are contributing to Sweedie Dreams because it’s not just a product, it represents our passion for serving those with special needs. For each Big Kid Bib we sell, we give $1 to an organization tied to serving those with different abilities.”
Nowadays it’s not that hard to find cute, made in USA bibs for babies, but what makes Sweedie Kids the most ethical choice is that they’re also making bibs for a market that is so often forgotten. For children who are so often forgotten.
Super absorbent, cool designs and made from Oeko-Tex certified fabrics (i.e. certified safe, sustainable, ethical materials), these bibs get the job done no matter the age of the wearer.
August has been modeling these bibs since he was about three months old. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they make drooling cool, but maybe just a tad bit more fashionable. (They’re also pretty great for when we practice drinking out of a glass. Let’s just say that not all the water ends up in baby’s tummy just yet!)
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?
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:
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.
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.
PS. The fabrics are not really recycled, they’re “reused” :)
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.
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.
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”.
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??!
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.
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.
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.
The cool thing about this new bag by my new favorite maker Seabags of Maine, is that it’s made from old sails. Some may refer to the fabric as “recycled” but actually it’s simply reused, or upcycled, if you will. No energy consuming recycling process is needed to turn sails into bags – just washing, handcraft, threads and needles. That’s American handcraft of course.
“Our materials come from Maine first, New England second and USA third. We use the last remaining thread manufacturer in the U.S. We use the only rope manufacturer in New England. And our sail supply chain? Well, that’s as local as it gets. We collect our sails one at a time through a network of passionate boaters who love our community waters as much as we do.”
Though there are plenty of prints and designs to pick from, this medium size (14″ x 14″) turtle tote had my name on it.
I fell in love with turtles when we first moved to Texas because they’re everywhere! In ponds, lakes, bayous and sometimes backyards. Mostly we’ve got the red-eared slider here, and I’m pretty sure that that’s a sea turtle on my bag, but I love them all equally. (I love them more than enough to never use straws in my drinks! ;))
My new tote bag is sturdy, easy to clean (wipe off!), great size (I’ve got lots of baby gear with me and recently used it as carry-on on a cross-atlantic flight – it worked perfectly), vegan and has a very low carbon footprint for something new – being as it’s partly “old”. In fact, over the past 15 years, Seabags of Maine have saved over 500 tons of material from going into landfills.
And that is how it should be done, fashion industry.
PS. Since we are on vacation in Scandinavia at the moment, I shot these pictures on a Danish beach, on the other side of the Atlantic from where this bag was made. Same water, different shore. Pretty poetic.
Bags start at $45, totes at $120. Read more at Seabags.com
As a Swede in USA, it’s nice to sometimes show off my Swedishness with fashion. Not just with stripes and Euro stylishness (ha!) but with fabrics from Sweden.
Presenting this scarf; made by small business owner and Dallas-based designer Louise, whom I’ve gotten to know through blogging. It’s an infinity scarf, half Dala horses, a classic symbol of Sweden, and half stripes, my favorite thing. Both fabrics are organic and GOTS certified.
Louise normally spends her days sewing and designing children’s clothes, but it wasn’t hard to convince her to make a scarf for me.
The idea came to me when she gave us the cutest onesie for baby August, and I realized I wanted, no needed, Dala horses too. (Ok, that’s a lie. My inner consumer wanted it!) At least I won’t grow out of my scarf anytime soon, like baby will with his outfit :)
If you’re looking for well made, locally made and handmade kids’ (or maybe adult!) fashion, check out Louise on Instagram @MammaLouiseSyr or on her Facebook page (she’s got a sale going on the month of June!).
Prices vary depending on fabrics and styles. Find out more by reading my wonderful interview with Louise (from 2015) about her business here.
PS. If you’re not looking for a Swedish scarf or baby clothes, I encourage you to contact your local makers – maybe they can make you exactly what you need, or let’s say it, want. Not only working for, but also with customers, that’s the beauty of small business.
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.
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.)
Now, I have a pretty good idea of where, how and by what kind of employee my (recently bought) clothes were made. I know this because I read tags like a maniac and spend the money necessary to only add small batch, made in USA fashion and Fair Trade styles to my closet. Not exactly news to anyone perhaps.
What might come as news to some, is that 80% of the world’s garment workers are women. This means that the majority of people who died or were injured in the factory collapse were women. Underpaid, overworked women, without benefits or sufficient needs to take care of their families. See, fast fashion is indeed a women’s issue.
Yes, because of that 80% statistic, but also because women in general tend to shop a lot more than men do. H&M, Zara, Gap, Banana, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Coach, Fossil and all stores like them, appeal mostly to women. The majority of fashion bloggers are women too. “Style of the week here we come!”
Many privileged women in the west go on marches, speak up for equality and some wear pussy hats. And that’s great, since, frankly, women still don’t have what men have. But what the privileged woman often forget is that her clothes were made by a woman across the ocean who can never take the time off to worry about knitting a pussy hat.
Marching for equality in an Old Navy top anyone?
Women’s rights are human rights, yes. It shouldn’t be a trendy (all of a sudden!) issue because massive amounts of (privileged) dimwits voted for an orange man (who says women have the “potential” to do great things according to his daughter) but a world issue, no matter who is president. What women do here, will always affect a woman there.
Thus, if you consider yourself a feminist, you cannot wear fast fashion.
When you shop fair, on the other hand, you are taking a stand and making an impact, demanding fair treatment of all the sisters (and brothers!) you’ll never know.
Take the pledge and ask “who made this garment?” next time you’re shopping. Only buy if and when you like the answer.
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?!
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!
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.
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! :)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
If you are a nature lover or environmentalist, chances are, you’ve got something from Patagonia in your closet. And rightfully so, they make good quality, practical clothes that last a long time.
I haven’t bought any new clothes for eco-baby other than two pairs of wool socks from Smart Wool and diapers (does that count?) and, as you may have guessed since I’m bringing it up: something from Patagonia. The rest of his fashion is all second hand.
I couldn’t resist this little tee though. It’s made in USA of fair-trade, 100% organic cotton (most likely grown in India or Turkey) and has a mason jar (the symbol of zero waste living) and a great statement “Live simply” on it. I found it at the clearance rack at Whole Earth Provision in Houston for only 10 dollars, so it was a pretty good deal too!
Let’s talk Patagonia. A company that decided to donate all proceeds from their Black Friday sales to environmental organizations last year. A company that’s into preserving the environment, reducing their carbon footprint and has been ever since they started in 1973. They have a repair program in which worn clothes are revived, produce a line of sustainably dyed jeans and all their cotton garments are 100% organic (some of it grown in the USA). They also offer paid family leave and on-site childcare (to their US employees).
That said, it was just a coincidence that I bought eco-baby a Patagonia shirt. Come to think of it, neither myself nor my husband own anything from the brand so I can’t say we’re fans. Why, if they’re so eco-friendly and fair haven’t we supported them more?
Honestly, I have some issues with them. Mostly, it’s the importing from China thing.
Patagonia manufactures the majority of their garments in Asia and thereby (pretty much) all their merchandise sold in USA is imported from far away. Eco-baby’s little tee is the first thing I’ve ever run into that’s made right here (still from imported fabric!).
Why is this such an issue to me?
About 70% of crude oil pumped from our precious soil or ocean floor becomes diesel or heating oil. A large chunk of that diesel is used by shipping transports, you know those huge container ships constantly cruising our oceans with “stuff”. To limit further climate change we MUST stop importing the vast quantities of goods from the Far East that we currently do. It is completely unsustainable and harms marine life. I find it strange that an eco-company takes this lightly.
And while Patagonia may say that all their Chinese shops are fair and eco-friendly, I can’t help but wonder if they really, truly know. I haven’t yet seen a fair-trade stamp in their fluffy jackets or in their plaid shirts made in China. (The Indian fabrics and jeans are certified, but not the Chinese.) Where’s the stamp? And how do they know the factories are running on green energy?
My second issue is the heavy use of polyesters, and I am not the first one to bring up this issue with Patagonia. Fleece being a favorite of many outdoorsmen, one would think Patagonia would have come up with a 100% plant-based fleece by now, considering poly-blends are made from fossil fuel and release a ton of plastic microfibers into our waters every time they’re washed. Right?
I’m curious to see if any of these concerns of mine will be addressed by Patagonia in the future. I hope so, but cheap labor and stay-dry fabrics sure are attractive for a global company.
In the end, what I am trying to say with this post is that although a company appears to be doing things properly, going beyond what is required by consumers and is by definition “green”, there may be policies that I, on my own eco-journey, don’t agree with. And just because I don’t want to shop everything a brand has to offer, doesn’t mean I can’t buy the items that indeed are made right (here).
There is no getting away from tag-checking! Every time. Every garment. Every brand.
You can check out Patagonia’s Global Footprint HERE.