Closet Tour: Avi Loren Fox, Wild Mantle

This I Wear | Closet Tour: Avi Loren Fox

Avi Loren Fox is the social entrepreneur and creative behind Wild Mantle, whose first product (the MANTLE) is a scarf-hoodie love child, which happens to be the perfect cozy antidote for this cold winter weather. With the recent launch of her Kickstarter campaign, Avi hopes to scale up production by enlisting the help of a B-Corp certified knitting facility in Colorado and using undyed alpaca wool yarn and recycled buttons. I interviewed Avi to learn more about her personal style, how she started her business and just how her style and values connect to her cozy accessory designs.

One of my favorite parts of the interview was learning about Avi’s own search to find more happiness and less stuff in her wardrobe while still finding plenty of ways to express herself. My other favorite part has to be the undeniable and overflowing love that Avi brings to her life and work.

Read on for Avi’s interview and how to support her (already nearly 50% funded!) Kickstarter campaign.

If someone looked into your closet, what might they learn about you?

I’m a minimalist who thrives on change. My closet is curated to contain my favorite staple tank tops and leggings mixed in with an ever-revolving collection of dresses, skirts and sweaters that I swap with friends and hunt down in thrift stores. I used to have way more clothes, but I got tired of sifting through things that weren’t quite right. So I got rid of more than half my wardrobe and have been 100% happier ever since.

Besides your favorite MANTLE, what piece in your wardrobe is your favorite to wear?

I have a pair of wood earrings handcrafted out of the heartwood of a Southern Yellow Pine (pictured). My beau carved them for me as a surprise, and I love this idea that they come from the heartwood of a tree – it’s so magical. When you hold them up to light, the wood glows naturally between the grain. They’ve replaced all my other earrings, and I wear them pretty much everyday.

What’s important to you when deciding what to wear each day?

I’ve learned that I’m only ever really truly satisfied with what I’m wearing when I listen to my intuition. I put my rational mind in the backseat and give my gut the steering wheel, and it’s so much fun! Sometimes this means I’m dressed in a really nice outfit even if I’m not going anywhere, or I discover a new combination that I never would have “thought” up. But it guarantees that I always feel good when I leave the house.

What sparked your interest in sustainability?

Looking back, I can find all sorts of clues throughout my life that point towards an interest in sustainability. But it was really Dr. Geoffrey Whitehall’s class in International Relations my freshman year at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. This class started a snowball effect in my life. I transferred to Temple University, majored in Environmental Studies, and became politically active when I founded an environmental organization in my hometown. While my sustainability interest was initially fear-based (i.e. we have to save the world from climate change and social inequality), it has shifted to become vision-based, focusing instead on how we can build a more beautiful world for everyone.

Did you ever think that interest would connect to fashion or making a product?

The MANTLE has been the most amazing surprise, like a lost puppy that wandered through my door one day. After I initially had the idea, it took a while for me to come to terms with the idea of making a product and “manufacturing,” because as a country we have an issue with making too much stuff. But it’s like Star Wars; you have to go in the Death Star to blow it up. So I’ve become invested in trying to figure out how I can enter our existing systems and restructure the foundation so that sustainable choices are available and made.

How do the values of the MANTLE – sustainability, empowerment, adventure – carry over into other parts of your life?

These values actually manifested in my life well before the MANTLE showed up. I have this vision of a lifestyle that lies at the intersection of these three values, and I’m on a mission to discover how to create that for myself and share it with the world. While I’m not perfect, when it comes to what I buy and how I live my life, I try to make choices that move our planet towards sustainability.

I’ve also been really intrigued by the concept of empowerment and how I could grow more as a person. A few years ago, my best friend brought me to an empowerment workshop led by Josie Maran, an amazing eco-preneur who has since become by big sister business mentor. The workshop helped me make big changes in my life, and I felt inspired to build the empowerment ethos into whatever I did next. In terms of adventure, I definitely embody that contradiction of cozy homemaker and spontaneous traveler. Over the years, I’ve given myself permission to balance and seek both sides of myself. I realize that sometimes the biggest adventures come from opening your eyes and appreciating what you have at home.

When you’re not working on your business, what are you up to?

Not working? Hehe, I’m pretty much always working. I even see mantles in my dreams. For real. In my dream last night, Jay-Z and I had the idea to make Beyoncé a golden MANTLE with a queen honeybee on it. But I’m a Libra and thrive on balance. On Saturday nights and Sundays, I try to unplug from the world and spend time with my beau. Other than that, I carve out time to see my girlfriends or swing by my parents’ house and usually have a few laughs. When I’m on my game, I also get my groove on at the gym three days a week, and whenever possible I sneak in some quiet notebook/dream time in coffee shops in the winter or the woods in the summer.

Thanks to Avi for answering all of these questions and sharing some of her beautiful photography! Ready to claim your own MANTLE and support this savvy woman entrepreneur? Support the Wild Mantle Kickstarter here and make sure to watch the beautiful video. Also, a special thanks to my eco co-warrior and fellow blogger Danielle Vermeer for introducing me to Avi!

[All images courtesy of Avi Loren Fox]

Trend or Timeless: Plaid

This I Wear | Trend or Timeless: Plaid

I think plaid is having a moment, but then again, I also thought plaid never left.

I see plaid everywhere right now. It isn’t the grungy plaid of the 1990s or the Clueless plaid that came later (I definitely had a number of plaid kilts from Limited Too if that tells you how old I am). Instead, this is the plaid that your favorite lumberjack wears every day, the classic tartan on a good Scottish kilt, and probably not too far off from the plaid already hanging in your closet. This is the tried and true plaid that I think never left. So I guess my question is – is this plaid explosion a trend or just an opportunity to stock up on something timeless?

I experienced this same confusion two years ago when suddenly everything was emerald green thanks to its selection as Pantone’s “Color of the Year”. When this gorgeous green was suddenly trendy, I took it as my opportunity to buy a few great green things, as it happens to be one of my favorite colors. Some might have engaged with the green as a trend, but for me, it just felt like a lucky time to stock up on what I know I’ll love regardless of the current style.

And that’s sort of how I feel about the plaid moment happening right now. You can see it as a trend, or if you love plaid, see it as your lucky day (or season).

Just to prove my point, I’m sharing a few of my favorite pins to show how timeless plaid truly is – from a 1950s Pierre Cardin coat in the Met Archives that I would wear in a second right now to a present day red tartan dress and oversized coat that would be perfect for your holiday party.

What do you think? Is plaid a trend or is it timeless?

[Images, left to right: Via, Via / Original, Via]

Find the Perfect Gift

This I Wear  | Find the Perfect Holiday Gift

While Black Friday is not my jam, I totally get that is a tempting way to kick off a season of holiday shopping. I’ve already started my holiday shopping list, and I’m on the search for the perfect gifts for my friends and family. The lure of a good sale means it might start sooner rather than later. Even if you haven’t thought much about holiday giving yet, I’m going to guess that Black Friday and its friends (Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday) are on your radar. (Wait, is there something on Sunday or is it truly a day of rest?)

So before we start whipping out cash, I thought I’d come up with a little (intentional) holiday shopping guide to help you stay focused and mindful when shopping this season. And not so coincidentally, I think it will help you buy the best gifts yet!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Make a list. Yeah, yeah, I know this sounds boring, but making a list ahead of time, especially when you’re shopping for gifts for others, is a great idea. I LOVE gift giving and I find my list making process is actually more of a brainstorming session. I typically take a few minutes per person on my list to think about what might bring a smile to him or her. Sometimes this is buying something new, but often giving them something of my own, my time or an experience emerges as the best gift. The thinking about what would bring them joy makes the process so much more fun AND it helps keep me focused if and when I do shop.

Quick tips: I actually make my list in a Google doc! This makes it easy if I do spontaneous shopping since I can access the doc on my phone and remember who and what I’m shopping for. And most recently, I’ve started a “secret” board on Pinterest where I save gift ideas for specific people year-round. That way, I already have a load of ideas by the time I need a gift.

2. You have to love it! This is my year-round rule taught to me at a formative age by my Aunt Lynn. Just because something is on sale is not a reason to “love” it. Take a step back or walk away for a moment to really envision whether this is the right thing (the thing you’ll keep and care for as long as possible) for you or a loved one and not just more stuff.

3. Shop small. Buying from a local craft fair, a small business, an Etsy shop, or even a used bookstore is an opportunity to have a conversation with the person most connected to what you’re buying. When you get a chance to ask questions and hear the story of what you’re purchasing, you’re able to share that story with the gift recipient. And I think we all know that the things that have a memorable story usually end up as our most prized treasures.

4. No more stuff. Just to reiterate this because I’ve already touched on it, but how can we steer clear of just more things that pile up in our homes? And it’s actually related to that Gifting 101 question: is this something I personally like or is this something they will truly use and enjoy? Keep the other person in mind and give them something they’ll really use, rather than just something you like. Don’t know what they love? Don’t guess! Gift certificates are awesome to avoid the stuff trap, and a great bottle of locally brewed hard cider or some homemade Christmas cookies can be even better.

5. Enjoy shopping. Yes, you read that right! If you decide to shop, I want you to have fun! Shopping for others can be such a joyful experience. Don’t let the holiday shopping madness get you down. Take things at your own pace, make a day of it, stop for a cup of hot chocolate and give yourself time to be thoughtful about gifts. The more thoughtfulness and love that goes into what you buy (whether that gift is the perfect responsibly made thing or whatever), the more likely it is that your recipient will love it as much as you do. And I think you could argue that something that is well-loved, used and kept for the long haul is better at this point than an artisan-made thingamabob that is never touched.

What are your holiday shopping tips? Share them here! And if you’re the enlightened Buddha thinking you are so beyond shopping, I highly recommend checking out The Center for the New American Dream’s “Simplify the Holidays” campaign. I’m super digging their calendar with daily suggestions on celebrating the holidays without the stuff.

[Image via here / original here ]

The Want-Free Week

This I Wear | The Want-Free Week

Last week, I had all but written this post but was left with no time to post it, which is just sometimes how things go around here.

I was preparing to leave for a work trip to DC – a trip that as soon as I agreed to it, I started to feel unprepared. My casual work wardrobe that New York’s culture allows for would not fly on Capitol Hill. I immediately went into a mindset of lacking. My clothes weren’t enough, which almost too easily transforms into that nagging, destructive thought “I am not enough.”

So just before the trip was set to begin, I dropped some cash on a “power dress,” appropriate for DC and all future “professional” events that come every once in awhile. And I did feel a sense of relief as soon as I had the dress. Now I’m ready. Now…I’m enough?

Here’s my wish for you (and for me!) this week, especially because next week brings Thanksgiving and that new American holiday, Black Friday: let yourself be free from wanting this week. Starting now and until Sunday morning, just let go of thinking you need anything you don’t already have.

If you see something you love, write it down and then let the thought go. You can return to that list later, but don’t think about it beyond that for now. As you scroll through your Pinterest and Instagram feeds, feel inspired rather than inspired to have. Appreciate things for what they are, knowing that you have everything you need right now.

For everything we feel that we need, we can often equate it with something we feel is missing in ourselves. Did I need the dress or did I need the confidence to go outside of my comfort zone?

There were still a few more things that I felt like I needed to be ready for the trip. But I let those thoughts go and the trip went just fine. Will anyone remember that I wore the right dress or that I didn’t have the right handbag? Or will they more likely remember my smile, my story or the way I spoke about something I’m passionate and curious about? (Another possibility is that they won’t remember anything!)

So just like you might be eating lightly this week in preparation for a big Thanksgiving meal, can we “want” lightly this week in preparation for the oncoming shopping season? A “want-free week” might help us recalibrate and detox, so that next week, we can more easily recognize the difference between a want and a need, and be a little more mindful when these superficial needs and wants are just covering up what our gut is telling us we truly need.

In and Out: October 2014

This I Wear | In and Out October 2014

I recently went on a shopping “spree”, which for me means I bought three very well-researched items in one afternoon. It felt extravagant. As I walked home with my unusually “full” bag of goodies, I had the idea of sharing what truly comes in and out of my wardrobe and apartment in a given month to be even more transparent about my relationship with stuff.

My list would include anything I acquire that is for me and anything that I give away, whether by sharing, donation, recycling, etc. I use the word “acquire” to make sure to capture everything, whether it’s gifted to me or bought or found. The exceptions: the gifts I’ve purchased for others because they go instantly in and out (and I don’t want to give away surprises) and groceries or perishables because they don’t stick around for long either.

This felt really intriguing and rebellious. I can appreciate good “wish” and “want” lists, but they feel so unconnected to reality. A wishlist just creates in us a constant sense of envy and feeling like we have to catch up. But the nature of a wishlist is that it is things not owned yet – it doesn’t necessarily represent what a blogger can afford or that they’re willing to put their money where their link is. But what are they willing to really get behind enough to purchase?

At the other end of the spectrum is that terrifying trend of shopping “hauls” where people just buy loads of stuff and then show it all off. The emphasis is on quantity and the search for a deal. It is possibly one of the scariest things you can watch on YouTube.

And finally, nowhere to be found is talk of  what people dispose.

So I thought I’d just do a coming clean post to share what I stand behind, where I’m imperfect, and how I acquire and share, even down to the price. I hope you’ll not only tell me what you think but consider making one of these lists for yourself over the course of a month. It’s amazing to see how much comes in and out of our lives.

IN
Bare Minerals Mascara, $18.
– Alternative Apparel Ecofleece sweatpants, $55. (*Though I wish they were more specific about the eco fibers in this blend.)
Fabriano EcoQua spiral bound squared notebook, $4.40. I am obsessed with these and buy a new one every few months when I’ve filled up the previous one. I just learned from their website that they also print Euros and have lots of cool responsible practices.
– Two pairs of sunglasses: Persol, $70, Cole Haan, $20 (bought at a discount department store). I tried on every pair at Warby Parker, but I ended up returning the pair I purchased because I just didn’t love them. Instead I had fun shopping for the first time in forever while out with a friend and got these two, which I love wearing.
Mercado Global clutch. It was a gift from their recent fundraiser event, but I made a donation after because honestly I know how much work goes into these artisan-made bags and I couldn’t accept it for “free”.
– Four sweaters and t-shirt dress from EILEEN FISHER that are mostly organic cotton and organic linen, purchased through the employee benefit program. At least one or two sweaters will become gifts, but this organic cotton sweater is definitely staying with me and I’ve already been wearing it nonstop.
– Signed copy of “Worn Stories” by Emily Spivack, $25, at the one and only Strand Bookstore.

OUT
– A big bag of donations to Goodwill, accumulated over many months, which included two pairs of jeans, a few accessories, two pairs of shoes, and odds and ends.
– A few tops and cold weather clothing given to visiting family members who never bring enough layers when they come North!

P.S. In doing this exercise, I literally sat down with my credit card bill and went through where my money went this month. And while I’m really excited about all of the above – no shoppers remorse here – I felt all warm and fuzzy when I thought about two purchases this month that not surprisingly had nothing to do with owning anything. One was a spontaneous after work cup of hot chocolate at the coziest café, which I enjoyed solo and could feel my heart fill with happiness. The second was a proper afternoon tea with some of my favorite people on a recent Sunday, having real conversations over cucumber sandwiches. Pure heaven. I will throw my money at those experiences any day of the week.

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