Related No.2

Pinecones | This I Wear

1. Read Well Spent, a blog featuring “obtainable, honestly crafted goods” for gents (and the women who love things made in the USA).
2. Read A love story of lost mittens
3. Think Why don’t we get dressed up anymore? Smithsonian’s textile blog “Threaded” explores dress codes and etiquette of the 1960s.
4. Make Grab a sewing machine and create custom boot stuffers to keep your tall boots happy, courtesy of Loeffler Randall and HonestlyWTF
5. Watch Twins & biz partners Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato talk about the materials, the work, and the story behind their jewelry line [via OfAKind]
6. Do Nola TimeBank regularly hosts an event they call “Fix Mix” – bring clothes, shoes, electronics, whatever and the community will help fix it on the spot to keep things that can be repaired from being thrown away.
7. Love Mercado Global, a nonprofit that creates insanely stylish accessories with women artisans in Guatemala (and currently collaborates with big retailers like ABC Carpet & Home and Levi’s)

My Closet: Ruby Earrings + remembering your favorite gifts

Favorite Gift: Ruby Earrings | This I Wear

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? I’m collecting responses for an upcoming holiday-themed This I Wear post and I’d love to share your story. If you already know exactly what your answer is, comment below or email me to share your story and include who gave it to you and why you love it.

We remember certain gifts for lots of reasons: the gift was useful or was something we absolutely love, or perhaps we remember the gift because of our relationship to the giver. In thinking about what to give this holiday season, I started to look to the best gifts I’ve ever received for inspiration. Immediately, I thought of the pair of gold and ruby earrings I’ve worn at least once a week for the 4+ years I’ve had them. These little bits of bling were given to me as a college graduation gift by my employer at the time. While it was a gift from the whole office (of three women), I could tell by the style that my boss Aimee made the ultimate decision.

I was 21 years old when I first started working for Aimee. She had just started her event planning business, and I was the first paid employee. I was still in college, but Aimee trusted me like no one had ever trusted me before. By the end of my year and a half, I had planned a wedding in Mexico for one of our clients, and I was barely over the legal drinking age. I remember the job as stressful, thrilling, challenging, and, most of all, one of the best experiences of my life. In fact, I’m convinced that my work experience with Aimee has not only helped me get every other job I’ve had since, but it has made me successful in all of them too. I was naïve and stubborn at the time, but Aimee helped me grow up. And now, as I inch closer to the age Aimee was when she started her business, I continue to see her as a model for who I want to be and the life that I want to have, even if event planning is not my career focus.

To receive such a thoughtful and beautiful gift from someone I respect so greatly felt more like I had received an award than a gift. Aimee was more than my boss; she had become my role model. And every single time I wear them, I think of her and the gratitude I have for the chance she took on me.

What if each gift we gave this holiday could have that same effect? It’s easy to get absorbed into the culturally-imposed chaos of the holiday season and forget the reason we give gifts in the first place: to show love and appreciation to the people who are important to us. Before you buy a last-minute gift card from the drugstore, think about what that person truly means to you, what they need and/or love, and how a gift might even remind them of your relationship with each other. It might still feel like a lot of pressure to find the right gift, but a little thoughtfulness can ensure that the recipient will continue to love the gift long after the holidays are over.

Feeling inspired now? Comment below or send the story of your favorite gift, whether it’s something you can wear or not, along with who gave it to you and why you love it. Just a few sentences will do! Your story might be featured in an upcoming post.

Related No.1

Since I started This I Wear, I’ve realized I will never have enough time to share all the amazing stories and resources I come across in my every day research. So starting today and continuing weekly, I’ll share what I’ve been reading/watching/listening to that I think you might like. Some might be my favorites I’ve shared on Twitter, while others will just be shared here. Since this is a new series, I’d love your feedback on what you like and don’t like and what you’d like to see more of.

Weekend Reading | This I Wear

– Think How could we apply new programs of limiting food waste to the fashion industry?  [“No Simple Recipe for Weighing Food Waste at Mario Batali’s Lupa” via NPR]
–  Read
The Good Wardrobe launched their “Sew It Forward” campaign in London to share skills like knitting, embroidery, and other handsewing arts that are being passed down less and less in families [Urban Times]
–  Read Kaufmann Mercantile explains why they opted out of Black Friday discounting
–  Read Design*Sponge kicks off the holiday season with a “No Buy” gift guide and a link to their DIY Archive
–  Do Donate children’s clothes (& toys) to Project11 Nola to be given to the kids/teens of Son of a Saint and Pink House
–  Listen I can’t get enough of the podcast “After the Jump,” including this episode with Megan Auman, author of In Defense of Stuff
–  Love SUNO, a New York-based womenswear collection with a commitment to ethical production and sourcing

The Monthly Mend: Invest in your shoes like a pro

Alex, Patina Shoe Parlor | This I Wear

When I first moved to Manhattan, my coworker Sara introduced me to the man who would become “my” shoe guy. When you live in NYC (or any walking city), you will destroy every pair of shoes you own, so having a shoe guy in NYC is like finding a trustworthy doctor when you move to a new city: it’s inevitable and best not to wait until you’re desperate. But even with a fantastic shoe guy, I have a long history of being embarrassed by the state of my shoes. I take pride in my appearance, but somehow my shoes can never quite keep up with the rest of me. They have been the enemy: uncomfortable and unreliable no matter how much money I increasingly spend on them. And even more embarrassing, I have to admit to throwing away some shoes in the past that have let me down one too many times. I needed help.

Alexander Bourne is a young entrepreneur who set aside his dream of becoming an orthodontist to start Patina Shoe Parlor in New Orleans in early 2012 after he accidentally purchased a shoeshine kit at a garage sale. Almost overnight, he expanded the business from just shoeshines to include repairs of shoes and leather accessories. I spent an hour with him to pick up some tips on how to take care of my ever-embarrassing shoe collection and how to know what shoes to invest in.

Here’s what I learned from Alex:

1. Before you throw out a pair of shoes, take them for a consultation at your local shoe repair shop. I was amazed at the extent of repairs that Alex can do (and I LOVE seeing the “After” shots on his Instagram). Need the whole sole replaced? He can do it. Got a scuffed shoe? He’s your man. Just a quick heel repair? He can help. So before you toss, it’s worth asking if a repair can be done. Depending on the extent of the damage, it might not be cheap, but your shoes could look like new with a little love and investment.

2. You will wear through your shoes, even if they are well-made. This was my zen moment, and I was quite glad to hear it from Alex. Shoes get more wear and tear than the rest of your wardrobe. I feel guilty because I seem to go through shoes so quickly, but in reality, it is because I love walking and I tend to rotate just a few favorite pairs of shoes rather than buying lots of pairs. If this describes you as well, you are going to need to make friends with someone in shoe repair.

3. Invest in shoes that can be repaired. An expensive shoe does not necessarily mean it is a repairable shoe. When you buy a repairable well-made shoe, simple sole and heel replacements can be done over and over as long as the rest of the shoe holds up. For men and women, turn the shoe over when you are shopping and look for leather soles and wooden heels. Avoid molded rubber soles (sorry, comfort shoes!) or anything that has been fused to the shoe’s upper rather than stitched.

4. A big price tag doesn’t mean the shoe will last. When I asked Alex if shoe price relates to shoe quality, he pointed to the example of the infamous Louboutins: “Christian said, ‘I don’t make shoes for you to be comfortable in. I make them for you to look good in.’” That makes sense. If shoes are difficult to walk in, they probably weren’t made for walking. Save them to wear on special occasions, but don’t expect them to last forever.

5. Leather lasts, but more ethical options exist too. Alex says that a surprising number of his clients are vegans, who don’t wear leather products both for ethical reasons and for the environmental impact, especially of the tanning process. Vegan alternatives can include synthetic leather substitutes, which are improving. It’s not a black-and-white choice quite yet, though. Leather is typically more expensive but easier to shine and refurbish (and therefore, save), while vegan alternatives are less costly but less likely to be repairable or as durable as leather, meaning they are more likely to end up in a landfill faster. It’s worth it to do your research.

6. A lot of people just don’t know shoe repair is an option. I asked Alex what types of people he sees investing in the repairs. He says you can’t predict clients by demographics: his clients include everyone from vintage shoppers and young students to some of the city’s wealthiest. However, he thinks the difference is in awareness, which is too personal to quantify. Alex explained, “You have individuals who may have grown up with their grandfathers, their parents getting things repaired, so they feel that is something they should do. More often, you get individuals that just aren’t aware that these services even existed.” And sometimes those new to shoe repair need some convincing: “They look to get something repaired, and they say, ‘That’s more than I initially spent for it.’ That right there…negates what they originally bought them for. You bought them because you liked them, you liked the way they feel, maybe over time, you’ve acquired an emotional attachment to them. You have people that it has nothing to do with whether or not they can pay for it, it’s strictly reasoning. These people don’t want to reuse or repurpose their goods because of essentially a number.” Moral of the story: think about the value of the shoes to you, not just the cost of the shoe. And if you’re just starting to take your shoes in for repairs, ask questions and feel free to get a second opinion on a repair cost. It can definitely be worth the investment.

And finally, a tip from me: don’t wear dirty boots with run-down heels to interview someone who works with shoes. He’s gonna look at your shoes, so be prepared. Alex has always had high standards for his own shoes, mentioning that “I’ve always been the one, even before I got into shoe repair, I’d be the one to go into the bathroom, and if [my shoes] ever got dirty, I would get some dishwashing liquid, take a glass, get an old toothbrush, mix it up, and I’d just scrub ‘em. I’ve always been that way. My shoestrings, I’ll take them out, throw them in with some bleach, let them soak in the sink…” Now that’s dedication.

In New Orleans and in need of a repair? It’s easy to find Alex of Patina Shoe Parlor on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or in person at 2036 Magazine Street.

In NYC? “My” shoe guy can be found at Yakub Shoe Repair (212-673-6230) at 229 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. He’s in the back of the shop behind the dry cleaning counter. Tell him I say “hi.”

Shop thoughtfully: Opt out of Black Friday

Merci Paris | This I Wear

How important is the experience of shopping to you? I recently revisited some papers I wrote in a college class on “The History of Shopping,” which focused literally on the history of how shopping went from buying things we need to becoming an experience and a pastime. One class focused solely on how department stores grew to be a family destination of sorts when they first debuted in the nineteenth century: literally the whole family would travel together to the store and spend the day there. It reminds me of a few of my favorite stores – Anthropologie, Liberty of London, MERCI in Paris [pictured], and many small boutiques – where the visual merchandising is so stunning, you not only take your time in the store, but you specifically go out of your way to get there. The experience of shopping almost feels like one of discovery rather than just simply consumption.

Shopping is an experience, and it is ok to enjoy it. Perhaps it is even your only social time with some of your family and friends. For a period of my life, the only time my sister and I said anything nice to each other was when we were shopping (“You look amazing in that dress!”). At present, some of the only time I spend with my grandmother is helping her pick out another pair of white capri pants at her favorite store. I am grateful for that time.

But I think Black Friday is the opposite of the enjoyable social and sensory shopping experience that many of us crave. It just seems really…unpleasant. Instead, I’d like to suggest a few responsible alternatives to indulging in Black Friday shopping that you can even sleep in for and still enjoy.

Choose not to shop.
1. Spend the day “shopping” in your closet: Create a pile of the things you don’t wear anymore and donate them to a local nonprofit (especially those winter coats). Pull out what needs to be repaired and support local small businesses by taking them to your neighborhood tailor or shoe repairman. Challenge yourself to wear anything that still has the tags on it within the next month.
2. Keep it in the family: You’re already over at their house anyway, so dig into the closets of your friends and family. When I’m at home, I have a habit of playing around in my mom’s jewelry box. I love asking her to tell me about the pieces she has, and she is always willing to share the stories (and sometimes the jewelry) with me.

If you must shop, shop thoughtfully.
1. Find a deal on vintage items at local or online vintage retailers and thrift stores (or even eBay) that will give you the thrill of the hunt while keeping previously worn items out of landfills.
2. Give thanks by purchasing items that give back: The one-for-one model started by TOMS is being replicated by tons of young brands, including Warby Parker and newcomer OAK Lifestyle. But make sure to do your research on the brand and make sure they’re giving back as promised.
3. Support the handmade: Spend some time on Etsy and consider reaching out to a seller to make a custom gift for a friend or family member. You’ll be a part of the making process and the recipient will get something extra personal.
4. Shop local: Wait for Small Business Saturday and support your local boutiques.

How are you spending your Black Friday? Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear #AltBlackFriday to share stories and photos of your post-Thanksgiving weekend plans.

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