Category: Announcements

This I Know

I have been thinking about the future a lot. I’m thinking about the future of the fashion industry, as I shared recently. I’m thinking about the future of our planet. And I’m thinking about my own future, and so today’s post is finally giving you a glimpse of what I’ve been thinking about for the past several months.

A few times in my life, I have made decisions where I just know.

One of those times was my decision to move back to my hometown of New Orleans in 2012 and take a year to redirect my life’s course. At the time of the decision, I had been so unhappy, and so it was a welcome change that my year in New Orleans was one of the happiest years of my life. That year also happens to be the year I started this blog, though my interest in sustainability and fashion had been building for 4 years by that point.

After that year, I made a decision to move back to New York to begin working in the fashion industry on social responsibility, while continuing to blog. This was not a decision that I just knew. It was hard in ways I still can’t articulate and very confusing. I’ll attribute it to a bad case of “Saturn Returns” (if you’re 27 or 28, do yourself a favor and Google this). But even in my fog, the content I shared here deepened as my own understanding of the industry evolved and as the awareness of others outside of the industry grew from tragedies, such as Rana Plaza, and trends, such as minimalism.

The way I personally evolved as I stepped into my life back in New York was surprising. I became really passionate about Ayurveda, alternative medicine, and taking ownership of my own health. I started hiking and developed a personal relationship with nature that I had never experienced or even witnessed growing up. I read Mary Oliver’s poetry, often as part of my burgeoning meditation practice. I began exploring systems thinking and the possibilities of the Circular Economy. I started composting at home and bought a farm share in a CSA. I deepened my belief that business can be a catalyst for positive social change. I claimed my identity as a writer and wrote over 125 posts on this blog exploring how we can all become more intentional about the decisions we make, starting with the clothes we wear everyday, as we strive to live our values.

Over the last few years, I experimented with bringing some of these new interests and experiences into my writing here, though I held back, thinking that a reader interested in fashion might not be so interested in the other things I was learning. Slowly, though, as my understanding of sustainability grew, I began to see just how interconnected all of these ideas were. Yet once I understood how big the picture was/is, this blog began to feel too small to hold all that I had discovered.

So last September, I wrote a draft of a final post for this blog. I knew the time had come for me to end This I Wear. But I got scared, and I started asking for a lot of other people’s opinions. Many well-intentioned friends and readers encouraged me to keep going. As life swirled around me and I chose to resist my intuition about other big life changes too, I let this blog sit, waiting patiently for me to act on the decision I knew I needed to make in order to move forward.

Sometimes in life, we just know. I know that as much as I’d like to know what’s next, so I can direct you to a new fancy project with a new fancy Twitter handle, that right now I only know that my first step is to bring this site to a close with so much gratitude to all of you for sharing this with me.

At the same time, I know that the fashion industry still has a long way to go. We need more voices than ever to demand change and bring awareness to the need for new ways of thinking, living, and yes, even buying. So, in parting, I’d like to offer two things to you:

1. Get comfortable living in the gray area, because sustainability is the gray area. It’s complex and our understanding of what is best for people and planet is always evolving. Yes, as humans, we all crave certainty, but unfortunately, the only thing certain about sustainability is uncertainty. If someone claims to have “figured it all out” or to offer “the most sustainable option”, be skeptical, challenge them, and ask questions. Trust those who are willing to be honest that they’re still figuring out how to make their products and processes more sustainable, and trust those who are willing to admit when they’ve been wrong.

2. Explore your own connection with clothing and see what you learn about yourself. Fashion has a bad reputation of being frivolous, but how we dress ourselves is anything but surface level and it often reveals a lot about us and our values. I’ve made you a special worksheet with questions you can use as a guide for digging deeper. You might choose to journal on the questions on your own, or you might ask someone to interview you or use it as a tool to learn more about friends and family. Download the worksheet here.

Before I close, I will share one more thing. Each year, my favorite posts to write became my New Years’ intentions (here and here). I didn’t write a New Years post this year, but I did choose a word. “Wild” has become my invitation to step back into trusting what I know to be true. To me, it means being fearless, letting go of worrying what others think, and questioning the “rules”. It means following the flow, allowing myself to experience joy, and trusting myself fully. It gave me the much-needed courage to finally step into what’s next for me, even when I don’t know where it will lead just yet.

I know we are becoming collectively more aware of the impact our clothes have on people, the environment, and even our own wellbeing. It’s always hard to see how we’re changing as it is happening, but looking back over the last 4 years, it’s so clear just how far we have come.

I’m so grateful to have shared this site with you, and I hope you’ll keep in touch! First, don’t worry – the site will stay active so you can come back and read as you like. If you do want to be notified when I’ve got a new project to share, sign up for the email list here. You’ll find me actively posting on Instagram in the meantime. Thank you so much for sharing these last 4 years with me!

More Flow Please

This I Wear | Go With the Flow

At the beginning of 2015, I wrote a post on water, going with the flow, and my expanding, ever-changing view of what sustainability is and what it means for my own life and purpose. Here we are at the fresh start of a new year, and looking back at this post gives me goosebumps. It’s only in hindsight that I see how much “going with the flow” became my theme for this past year. It emerged with the unexpected loss of my grandmother this summer. It showed up when it became clear that there would be no “slow season” at work this year. And it said “hello” again when I found myself having a really hard time writing here after coming back from my annual August writing break.

While it wasn’t an intentional decision, I let myself slowly step away from This I Wear to gain perspective and rest.

As I let go of the “shoulds” and the guilt about not writing every week here, I found myself spending a lot of time letting myself be curious and learn new things. What ended up happening was that all my blog time this Fall ended up going to an online course on the Circular Economy led by the European university TUDelft and sponsored by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

There is nothing more “go with the flow” than the Circular Economy. The Circular Economy, which is still an emerging idea, is the total opposite of our current economy. Imagine our current economy – a linear economy – as a line: we take resources from the planet, we make the materials into stuff, we use that stuff, and then we toss it in the landfill. At most, that stuff gets a second go-around for recycling. In the Circular Economy, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a circle: we stop taking new resources from the planet that we can’t replenish, use all of the incredible resources and materials that we’ve already put in circulation, start designing things to last as long as possible and to be designed to be disassembled or re-imagined, and then keep them in the flow of making and using stuff as long as possible. In the Circular Economy, just as it is in nature, there is no waste.

Nature knows how to go with the flow. A fallen leaf becomes the nutrients in the soil to grow a new tree. Rainwater nourishes our gardens and then evaporates back into the atmosphere only to come down again. The cycle continues.

Throughout the experience of the course, I felt my understanding of sustainability growing and evolving. There is even a whole week dedicated to fashion and textiles. If you’re curious, the class will be offered again in February 2016.

This month, I’ll start another online course focused on finding your own way to be an activist in the sustainability movement. The 7-week course is hosted by the nonprofit The Pachamama Alliance, which works to protect the culture and environment in the Amazon, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, and it’s a pay-what-you-wish donation at the end of the course. If you’d like to join me, you can sign up here.

If you want to start with the basics, though, try their free online 2-hour course, Awakening the Dreamer, which will guide you through understanding the environmental and human rights issues of our time. Heads up that at the beginning, you might wonder “what is this??” but trust me it’s worth it to stick it out to the end.

And just one more learning opportunity if you’re up for it: The Ethical Fashion Forum will be hosting a free online course for the first time on building a sustainable fashion business. So if you’ve been dreaming of creating your own clothing line or want to know the ins-and-outs of sustainable fashion in practice, sign up before the class starts on January 18.

So what does all of this mean for This I Wear?

Here’s the only thing that I know: My posting is going to be a lot more “go with the flow.” I won’t be posting on a regular schedule moving forward, but instead I’ll only be posting when I know I have something really exciting and thoughtfully written to share with you. If you’d like to be notified when there are new posts, you can get them right to your inbox by signing up to receive posts by email here.

And yes, in case you caught it, I did say the word “activist” earlier in this post. I’m going to be honest that the word bothers me. When I imagine an “activist”, I imagine someone who aggressively pushes their views on others. That’s not me at all. But I’m also increasingly feeling like I can’t stand by while I see bad decisions being made everyday that hurt people, hurt our environment, and endanger our future. Changing our shopping habits might be the way that we dip our toes into more responsible decision making, but I’m also ready to start talking about how we take big steps to make sure our future planet is one we want to live on.

I’m also curious to hear from you. Do the topics above interest you? Would you like me to be sharing more about sustainability innovations and more non-fashion sustainability ideas? Would you be interested in hearing about what I’m learning? Share your thoughts in the Comments or send me an email.

Meet me in Brooklyn on October 3rd!

This I Wear | Ethical Writers Coalition

You know when you have really good news but you have to keep it to yourself for a while? Well, that’s how I feel about today’s announcement.

Over the summer, while I was on my writing hiatus, I joined the Ethical Writers Coalition, a group of nearly 40 writers who are as committed as I am to sharing how to live a more sustainable life. While each writer may have her/his own focus – whether beauty, fashion, food, or home – and perspective, we all share the common goal of making it easier for you to make ethical and sustainable lifestyle choices.

I’m just getting to know many members of the group, so I hope you’ll click on over to the EWC site and discover some new voices along with me. You’ll also find the EWC logo in the sidebar going forward, so you can easily find more resources on sustainability issues from these writers whenever you need them. In fact, I highly recommend checking out the Secondhand Challenge happening this month.

As a perfect way to celebrate this growing community, I would like to invite you all to join me at the Ethical Writers Coalition Style Swap in Brooklyn on October 3rd. I’ll be there, supporting the event and swapping a few of my own things, and I would LOVE if you would introduce yourself to me if you attend! I’ve connected with so many of you online, but I would love to say “thanks” to you in-person for supporting this site and get to know you better.

Interested? Here’s how the swap will work:

1. Buy a ticket on the event page here.
2. Show up on October 3rd with 5-10 Fall/Winter pieces (clothing, shoes and/or accessories) to swap. P.S. You’ll want to get there early since the first 50 guests get a Zady tote bag and discounts from other ethical brands.
3. Drop off your pieces and enjoy a drink while everyone arrives.
4. When the swap starts, you can pick out a new fall wardrobe til your heart’s content! You can go home with as many pieces as you like, regardless of how many you bring.

Spaces are limited. This means if your gut is saying, “Let’s do this”, you should grab a ticket soon! I hope to see you there. And for those of you who aren’t in the New York area, you can check out my guide on how to host a swap in your community.

The Ethical Writers Coalition Style Swap is sponsored by Zady. Zady is re-envisioning the future of fashion by creating apparel with the highest of standards and a completely transparent supply chain. Similar to what the slow food movement did to the food industry, we are doing this for the clothing industry. The Essentials Collection is where we put action to our words by providing high quality pieces that are made with the highest environmental and ethical standards.

Launch a Sustainable Fashion Company with Factory45

This I Wear | Announcing Factory45

It’s a two post sort of week, and for a very good reason. I’m really excited to share that Factory45, an online accelerator program for budding entrepreneurs who want to start a sustainable apparel company, is now accepting applications through March 2nd.

Factory45 was founded by Shannon Whitehead to help entrepreneurs with an idea for an apparel company and a passion for ethical, made-in-USA, sustainable fashion bring their idea to life and to market. The 4-month long online program connects participants to suppliers and manufacturers and teaches them how to raise capital to fund production.

It’s ideal for those who have a great idea for any type of sewn product but haven’t yet worked out all the logistics of sourcing, producing and financing.

I know each one of us has had to compromise on our values when we’ve made a fashion purchase. Finding something you love to wear that is also ethically produced, both in terms of human rights and the environment, is not easy just yet. But why wait any longer for someone else to do the work for you? If you’ve got a great idea for a product you want to see made ethically, maybe this program is just the boost you need to take action.

That’s not to say that applying to (and being accepted into) the Factory45 program isn’t a commitment. For the 4-month program and lifetime access, you’ll be investing just under $3000 in your idea. But if you’ve ever tried to go from an idea to a finished product (and do it sustainably!), you’ll know this program is going to pay for itself. And luckily, Shannon outlines every tiny detail of the program, including the curriculum, upfront so you know exactly what you’re signing up for and what you can expect from the program.

If you’re serious (or at least curious) about the Factory45 program, head to the website and start perusing. Just don’t forget to apply by March 2nd! As soon as I get the right idea, I might be joining you as well!

Full Disclosure: The above links to Factory45 are affiliate links. If you apply to and end up joining the program, I may receive a commission. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know honesty is the name of my game and I only make endorsements that I truly believe in! (Ask Shannon about the fan mail I’ve sent her!) My promise: I will always let you know when I use an affiliate link and I will always use any money earned to keep this site going.

[Photo courtesy of Factory45]

Water

This I Wear | Water

“Water is the same as the blood in our bodies; stagnation brings on death.” – David James Duncan, DamNation

When I watched the documentary DamNation a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to hide tears from my boyfriend who was sitting next to me on the couch, because I couldn’t really justify why anyone would get emotional about a movie on dams. But there is something undeniably powerful about water. And tears are water after all.

The film, if you haven’t seen it yet, is a moving and stunningly beautiful look at how dams in the US were built to create progress, but now they literally are holding us back and causing more harm than good. From Washington to Maine, the dams highlighted don’t live up to what they promised and have damaged important ecosystems and the inhabiting wildlife. They have taken away livelihoods and sacred Native American grounds. They have created artificial (and under-used) recreation and drowned priceless natural beauty in water.

So by the point in the film when you see a dam exploding open and the water gushing forth, it becomes very easy to get a little gushy yourself. The author David James Duncan so perfectly captured the feeling at that moment in the film of why this liberation feels so vital: “Water is the same as the blood in our bodies; stagnation brings on death.” The release of the water instantly feels like a return to life.

I have never been interested in politics in my life, and I am too embarrassed to tell you the last time I voted, though I can confirm that at present I am registered to vote. But this film was just one more little watery gurgle that now is not the time for inaction or passivity.

Last summer, I realized that at the root of my interest in sustainability is a desire to live a life of kindness and compassion, for other people, for other living things on the earth, and for nature itself. It just so happens I’ve found my outlet to contribute to this through my work and lifestyle centered on sustainability. It’s just made sense to me. And like a healthy river, the fresh flow of life is always expanding my understanding of this.

This year, I am so excited to see where THIS I WEAR is headed. We’ll be turning three over the summer, and I’ve already got a few months’ worth of post ideas lined up. I am taking my cue from water and going with the flow, perhaps headed into uncharted waters but always embracing the vitality and direction the flow offers.

In fashion, we are more connected to water than we think: it ensures the growth of the natural fibers we weave into fabric and allows the colors we love to adhere. It cleans our clothes when they are dirty, and often carries away bits and pieces of our clothes into the oceans.

I hope you’ll be inspired by this flow and the opportunity to bring new life where there has been stagnation, to move beyond just changing the way we shop and dress but reconsidering how we live. This is the year we get closer to a more sustainable vision for fashion, and it’s going to take everyone to get us there. Luckily, we are not alone.

“Here is the river flowing, so great and so fast. There will be those that are so afraid that they’ll try to hold onto the shore. They are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. Let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river and keep our heads above water. See who else is there with you.” – Hopi Proverb

Want more? Patagonia’s campaign connected to the film, “Crackdown on Deadbeat Dams”, is in its final push, so watch the film on Netflix and then head over to Change.org to sign the petition if you feel moved to act.

[Images, left to right: still from DamNation by Travis Rummel, Charlize Theron for Vogue by Annie Leibovitz]

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