Category: Closet Tour

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]

Closet Tour: Kyle Berner, Feelgoodz

This I Wear | Closet Tour: Kyle Berner, Feelgoodz

I first learned of Kyle Berner and his socially conscious flip-flop brand, Feelgoodz, through a recent GOOD article. After I got over the excitement that he was a fellow New Orleans native, I totally identified with the boldness of traveling in South Asia with a single pair of shoes (visiting a temple where you have to leave your shoes outside becomes much riskier!). But once I spoke with Kyle, I learned that having just one pair of shoes isn’t a far stretch from his at-home wardrobe. While none of this was too surprising given that Kyle’s laid-back style and personality is closely tied with the feeling of Feelgoodz, I did start to wonder if he’s onto something: what if we all owned just five t-shirts?

Of what you’re wearing today, what’s the most special piece to you?

My t-shirt. People make fun of me and say that I own a total of five t-shirts and I just rotate them out, which – while I do have more than five t-shirts – I do have 5-7 core t-shirts and they all just happen to be black. And I’m wearing one of those core ones today.

Name three favorite items from your wardrobe that mean something to you or represent your style.

I always say it’s my black American Apparel tee, my jeans, and my Feelgoodz. If you were to see me on any given day, that’s probably what I’m wearing. I literally have two pairs of jeans, but I wear them incessantly.

Once something has ended up in your closet, how long does it stay there for?

Until I just cannot wear it anymore because it’s filled with holes or ripped. I find the things I like and I just stick to it. I know what works for me; so the things that I love, I will wear to pieces. That’s probably why a lot of my friends tell me that I have a total of five t-shirts. I just wear things over and over again.

Kind of like a uniform? Like the Kyle uniform?

Kind of like the Kyle uniform.

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

That I like to keep it easy. I’m the epitome of casual. When [someone] gets to know me but maybe has never seen me before, they will not be surprised about what I’m wearing just based upon who I am.

What influenced that?

When I was a child, I didn’t even like to wear shoes. I would go around barefoot for as long as I could. And anytime I’d get new t-shirts, I’d make my mom cut the tags out of the back because they were itchy. I’ve just always wanted to be comfortable and to wear clothes where I felt that I could breathe. I’ve always been the kind of guy that if I feel like I’m confined in any way, that Kyle Berner as a person is compromised.

Does your personal laid-back style influence the brand’s style as well?

I’ve always been a flip-flop sort of guy. It was not difficult for me at all to absolutely love Feelgoodz.

As far as adding new things to your wardrobe, how often do you shop?

I have a favorite t-shirt shop in New Orleans called Dirty Coast. I’ll go there maybe once every six months and buy half a dozen shirts. Other than that, if I’m shopping, it’s by accident. It’s usually like, “Oh my gosh, my jeans ripped and I need a new pair”. So I’ll go in, I know exactly what I’m going to get, I get it, and then I’ll leave. The thought of perusing around a mall sounds like torture.

Unless I’m in some international market, like in Thailand. Like that’s a shopping experience, but it’s so different. It’s a cultural experience more than a shopping experience.

What’s your favorite souvenir you’ve picked up in your travels?

Something that I can either wear or carry with me at all times. So it has to be something small, lightweight, and easy to fit in my pocket or backpack or wear on my wrist. My favorite thing that I ever got was a black wristband that was written in Thai that one of my former students from Thailand gave to me, and I started wearing it in 2007. I didn’t take it off until it literally fell off – like I literally did not take it off until it broke a couple of months ago.

Has your work influenced your style or shopping habits in any way?

It has always made sense to me that if I’m going to sell a product, like flip-flops for example, let me do it in the most responsible way possible and in a way that isn’t exploiting anyone. That just felt natural to me. But since starting the company, Feelgoodz is extremely looped into the conscious market. So as a result of learning about the amazing companies that exist in this space, when I go out to buy something else, I first consider a Rolodex of companies that I’ve come across first, as long as it’s within budgetary reason. But I do that now – that’s a shift. I didn’t always do that, but then I started Feelgoodz and became linked with all these other awesome companies.

Last question! How many days of the year do you wear Feelgoodz flip-flops?

Out of 365, I would say probably 325. If I’m in my apartment, I’m not wearing any shoes. But it’s the vast majority of days that I’m wearing Feelgoodz.

Thanks to Kyle Berner and Jennifer DeSimone of Feelgoodz for making this interview happen. To learn more about Feelgoodz and to make sure you’re in the loop when they launch their brand-new seasonal footwear line, visit their website or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

(Photos courtesy of Kyle Berner)

Closet Tour: Carmen Artigas

Closet Tour: Carmen Artigas | This I Wear

I feel like I just traveled around the world! And not because I am still on the other side of the world, but because my interview with Carmen Artigas, Mexican designer/teacher/”eco-cop” (her word, not mine), was a whirlwind trip around the globe from inside the closet of her beautiful Park Slope apartment. Carmen was one of the first people I asked for advice when I decided to pursue THIS I WEAR, and she is the extreme embodiment of the conscious consumerism I hope to explore here. Yet it is still not always easy to shop consciously and to dress intentionally. As a teacher at FIT and Parsons in ethical fashion, I thought she might have some advice on how to start asking questions about our clothes and connect with our stuff in a new way. Given Carmen’s passion, it was a pleasure to sit back, listen, and let her be my tour guide for awhile.

What are you wearing today?

I’m wearing a bracelet that is made from two types of wood. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend in Milan. The dress is also an Italian brand, not very known…Hache? I like it because…you know, like Pompeii? It gives me the idea of a painting from Pompeii – the pleating…So it just gives me a very romantic feeling, and it might not be flattering. Maybe I look three times my size, but I like it.

The shoes are the feature of the day. They are [made by] my friend Monisha [of Love is Mighty]. The inspiration was an antique Tibetan necklace. She did everything beautifully. And this [necklace] is from Mexico. What is the stone? Jade? From Mexico, in the south near Chiapas.

What part of your outfit is most special to you? And why?

This is my personal critique, because I stopped buying H&M just over three years ago. I just thought, “I can’t do this. I’m not going to support them. I don’t like their quality. I can’t figure out how the prices can be this low.” I teach Ethical Fashion, so I just stopped buying [H&M]. But this was one of my last purchases – these tights. They look like tattoo, and many people have stopped me and asked me “Where did you get that?” and I say “H&M.” I never saw them again. They never made them again.

And they’ve lasted?

Yes, they’ve lasted all this time. So that’s a very unusual choice. But I don’t have anything else from H&M, because it doesn’t last. You can tell. It’s made to fall apart. But meaningful? I think the shoes right now, because I just appreciate the story behind them and the person behind them, because I know Monisha worked very hard. She had a vision, and it came full circle.

Do you have a shopping philosophy? How do you shop?

I really am very aware about waste. My personal sustainable agenda is about water, trees, waste, and working with artisans. So waste is an issue for me. It doesn’t go away. It’s not going to disappear, so where is it going? So I would say of my shopping habits, I will only shop for things that I see longevity. Of course, price…

Do you shop often or only when you really need something?

Very little. I actually was able to ask that question to a whole classroom [of FIT students]. I said, “How often do you shop and where?” They were caught off-guard because many of them – the youngest people – said Forever 21, H&M, vintage, and Zara. And the men barely shop. They didn’t even know what that meant. Maybe their wife took care of that. But the younger they were, the lower the price point. And the older they were, the more interested they were in longevity. And so am I. I have things that are 20 years old. They are beautiful, because they were never in a trend. I like things that will never be noticeable in a trend.

For people who are shopping at Forever 21 & H&M, a lot of them are doing it because of their budget. Do you have advice for them?

But the obvious reply is that there is no quality, right? So if you wash it once or twice, the garment looks terrible. [The students], mostly because they chose to take Ethical Fashion class, are becoming very aware and feeling guilty. It changed radically towards the end of the class. One semester I asked [the question] at the beginning of the class and one semester I asked towards the end of the course, and the answers were very different. Everyone was like “Oh no! We do swapping, I shop in stoops [sales], I inherit things…” So people were more connected to what’s out there that they aren’t making the most of.

Interesting! So it’s more that as soon as people become just a little bit more aware of it, they start asking questions?

Yes, because they ask me “what’s behind the price of a $4.99 top?”

The other thing is I support my friends. I have many friends who are designers, so I buy directly from them. It’s a relationship, and it’s a supportive relationship. I also get a better price, because we are friends. It’s meaningful that way. The other day I was wearing something from Ross Menuez. He’s a designer for Salvor. Everything is done locally. He does the silkscreen, and he’s a genius at the printing. I shop from him, and Monisha recently. I guess if I go through my closet, I could start noticing…

If someone looked at your closet right now, what would they say about your style?

Eclectic! Eclectic, Boho, Bohemian. I would be Boho chic. My impulse buy will be handbags, shoes – that I cannot resist. And I don’t care about a label. Nothing in my closet has a label, like a logo. I avoid logos at all cost. I find them tacky. I don’t need to advertise. I like craftsmanship and creativity, so most of my bags are handmade or very unusual. I think you communicate more personal style with accessories rather than the outfit. That has been my mode. I’ve done it always. And you know, let’s say if you gain weight, you know that black is going to slim you down. So you have a neutral choice of wardrobe, and then you would spice it up with accessories. Jewelry, I like also, but I like very meaningful big necklaces that have a lot of impact.

Once a piece ends up in your closet, how long does it stay there?

20 years. Most likely 10 or 20 years at least. But my size keeps increasing, so I have things that don’t fit anymore…

Would you say that you love everything in your closet?

Yes. It’s a language. Definitely first impressions count on people…Like [my style] is not expected. I have Uniqlo pieces, but I want to make them look special. [These pieces] carry an energy.

And with that question, I’ve selected a few highlights from the tour of Carmen’s closet, making sure to leave in the stories as only Carmen can tell them and including a little list of the items we didn’t quite have space for as an extra treat.

Select pieces by Christina Kim, Dosa
I was a big big fan of Dosa – the founder is Christina Kim. She’s a Korean designer, and everything she does is amazing, but it’s very expensive. So I collected a few pieces of Dosa from sample sales. They’re very unusual. She works with artisans around the world, like this is a mud-dye cotton from China. They pound the pigment in, so they hit the fabric [until] it becomes this finish, like metallic. This is another skirt from her. If you wrap it, it has multiple uses. It’s like an art piece, like you’re a gallery owner, no?

Mexican Rebozo
Rebozo is the typical Mexican shawl. The colors are amazing. This is called articela, so it’s synthetic. They used to be [made of] silk, but now it’s synthetic. The fine ones should pass through a ring. When they sell it to you, they pass it through a ring, because it’s so light and so precious. That was the old Mexico.

Rope Necklace from Tanya Aguiniga
This is from a friend of mine who is Mexican but is based in Los Angeles – Tanya Aguiniga. She’s amazing. She also works with artisans in Chiapas [and] with artisans around the world, but it translates well. It almost looks Japanese in a way. I went to her studio. I connected with her on Facebook and made an appointment. My brother took me to LA, and we ended up in her house. She took me to her workshop. It’s amazing.

Replica of original handmade skirt
I made the original in Mexico City when my friend and I were doing costume design. She made me this skirt, but it was ruined with makeup. So I went to Thailand, and I brought my skirt with me, and I asked them to copy it. So this is a replica of the original one from Mexico.

Select additional items:
Vintage kimono from Japan
Fabric handbag with coin decoration from Thailand
Turquoise necklace from Chiapas, Mexico
Men’s wraparound pants from India (they “look like pajamas”)
Silk and bead necklace by Carmen
Trosman-Churba piece from Argentina
South Mexican pants received as a gift from her aunt
Bone and bamboo necklace by German sculptor working in India

Thank you to Carmen both for the interview and her patience as I worked on this piece. If you couldn’t tell from the interview, Carmen is such an inspiration for me personally, so I was truly honored that she let me into her closet and shared her incredible knowledge about ethical fashion with me. If you’d like to find out more about Carmen, I HIGHLY recommend the Facebook page she runs, Ethical Fashion NY, and you can find information about the colorful woven plastic bags she creates with imprisoned workers in Mexico in the top photo on her brand website, Viva la Vida.

*Quick note: I’ve linked to several websites for the designers Carmen mentioned. I have no affiliation with them, but just think they are worth your time. Enjoy!

Closet Tour: Kendra Jones Morris

Kendra Jones Morris | This I Wear

I met Kendra Jones Morris a few months ago through Propeller (formerly, Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans). Kendra runs Rural Revolution, a social enterprise that creates job opportunities locally for sales ambassadors who in turn sell beautiful jewelry by female artisans from around the world. Kendra’s professional and personal background is so interesting that I had to find out how her life experiences have influenced her style. We chatted about how style evolves with age, her closet confessions, and why you shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to wear something you love.

What are you wearing today?

This [top] I got from Hattie Sparks, which I love. It’s a see-through white button-down. White pants from the Gap. And the shoes I wear with this are black and gold. I’m really into white, black and gold.

Are those your signature colors?

No, but with children, I’m really desperately trying to find a uniform, so that I can everyday have everything go together.

Tell me about three of your favorite items in your closet right now.

[1] I really like this skirt, because it’s so flowy. [2] Trenches because they cover up everything, and it doesn’t matter how sloppy I am underneath. [3] [This jumper] is one of my favorite things that I’ve never even worn. Basically staples. I am constantly looking for staples.

Is that part of being a mom?

Absolutely. In my 20s, I had my closet completely organized by color, texture, and lots of different items. It was fun. But now, I’m constantly giving away all of my clothes, because I’ve got to zero in on and find a style that works. I’m looking for a uniform. White, ivory, grey, and black. You can do all white in New Orleans and be very appropriate.

How would you describe your style in general?

I feel like I’m the messiest I’ve ever been in my life, but right now with my age and position in life, I’m looking for my new norm. I’m looking for my style.

If someone saw your closet, what might they say or learn about you?

I thought she had more! I get a lot of compliments on my clothes, but I don’t really have that much in my closet.

Once something ends up in your closet, how long does it stay there?

Sometimes it hasn’t even stayed two months, if I don’t think it’s going to work. If I like it, it can stay for years.

What are those pieces that have stayed?

Classic denim jeans. The ones you find in vintage stores. I can never seem to part with vintage “Made in America” jeans.

What is your closet confession? Do you have any secrets in your closet?

I think holding onto clothes when they’ve started to get tattered. It’s something that you think nobody will notice [laughs]… But sometimes people notice. That’s a closet secret.

Is it because it’s a piece that you just can’t part with?

Yeah, because if it’s a piece you love and you can’t find something to replace it, then you think “I’ve gotta hold onto this until I can get it replaced.” And then I may or may not wear it, but I think that I can’t let it go until I get it replaced.

Have your travels and the places you’ve lived influenced your style?

Definitely. I never had the backpacker look, but I love the European [look] – it’s all very uniform. Everything is black and grey. They always look sleek. I think in America we typically go for quantity as opposed to quality. We get pleasure out of consuming as opposed to enjoying [the use of the items]. My philosophy has always been, I never know if tomorrow will come, so dress accordingly. That’s what I would think everyday: if you buy something, you have to use it, because there is no “tomorrow I’m going to be a glamorous person.” Today you’re a glamorous person.

How did you develop that philosophy? Did anyone influence you?

My mom always looked really sexy and I was from a farm town of 1500 [people]. While all the other moms wore fuzzy sweaters, my mom always looked like she was going to the office, even though she wasn’t. She always wore high heels… She was just a really attractive woman. She was from a small Missouri town too, but she was a Peace Corps volunteer. She and my dad had traveled and that was when people didn’t really travel. She always looked glamorous.

Has that influenced you a lot?

Definitely. And with my daughter, I want to look presentable in front of her, as often as I can, because that influences her. I think it’s ok for children to get sloppy and experiment, but I think there is something about having your mother look like she’s intact. So I’m always trying to make sure that at least I look like I’m together.

So it’s more than just clothes. It’s really about self-respect?

Definitely.

Does your daughter Gisele like to play dress up? Are you seeing her develop her own style?

Yes. She is her own person. She’s always the princess.

You’re collaborating with Hattie Sparks in New Orleans for Rural Revolution. Can you tell me about that?

The trunk show will include leather clutches that are handmade by female artisans in Indonesia. We work with female artisans throughout the world and then we give back in their name and in our name to their communities. In Indonesia, it’s helping an orphanage that is right in the girls’ neighborhood. In New Orleans, it’s going back to the Redeemer Presbyterian Church that has helped to rebuild 500 homes. So every piece has a story, and we think Hattie Sparks is a great place to showcase affordable high-end quality goods that tell a story.

Learn more about Rural Revolution on their website or on Twitter.

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