Tagged: resources

I’m Not a Fashion Omnivore

This I Wear | I'm Not A Fashion Omnivore

Recently, I was visiting my brother, whom I totally and utterly credit with introducing to me to sustainable agriculture way back when it made a huge impact on what I have pursued in my life and work. He and his wife have both worked on farms extensively and every time I’m with them, I eat the most delicious, unexpected and almost entirely vegetarian meals. With them, there are no labels – the goal is simply to eat nutritious local food. But outside of this bubble, this diet would undoubtedly be labeled as vegetarian, making it sound much more high maintenance than it is.

Back in New York, everyone is high maintenance and has her own “special diet.” With all of the labels out there – vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, raw, Paleo – I’ve come to expect everyone to have their own diet boundaries. With all of these new diets, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when simply being vegetarian was surprising. Now, in most parts of the US, I’d like to think we’ve moved beyond the surprise.

But when it comes to fashion, a constrained diet is still surprising. And as a fashion “vegetarian”, what I want is often not on the menu. And though there are rare interactions with others who feel the same way and can share tips, it’s still a small tribe that is trying to find each other, mostly because there are lots of labels by which we call ourselves: minimalists, ethical shoppers, conscious consumers, sustainable fashion shoppers, and more that I probably don’t even know.

But I do know that I’m not a fashion omnivore. I’m pretty picky about what I will buy, but the fashion companies and retailers are like the crazy family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “He don’t eat meat?! Ok, I’ll make lamb.” They are still trying to make me “eat” things that aren’t in my fashion diet.

So what’s the ethical fashion diet, the “vegetarianism” of the shopping world?

Well the “meat” for me is pretty obvious. It’s fast fashion and it’s totally disposable. It is the $5 t-shirt, the slouchy pants that will be out of style within the next 6 months, and the sandblasted jeans that endangered the workers making them. It is definitely off the table.

But the “lamb” of my diet (or the fish or whatever someone mistakenly thinks vegetarians can eat) is the hardest part to explain and sometimes even difficult for me to recognize without reading the “ingredient list.” It is the clothing made by companies whose values and practices are questionable (e.g. American Apparel’s misogynistic CEO means I personally won’t shop with them) and the “made in USA” pieces that are produced in sweatshop conditions. Right now, the only safe thing we can assume from a “made in USA” label is that it provided jobs for people living in America. We can’t assume it was made by American citizens, that the job is in safe conditions, or that the quality is higher. We can’t even assume that the carbon footprint is smaller (fiber, fabrics and trim could have been imported).

Also in this category are the high quality pieces that might last forever but were made using questionable materials, whether fur or other animal products that are inhumanely produced, unsustainable fibers, conflict minerals or other controversially harvested materials. These issues are still tricky, and often may require compromise at times. As in the example of my bamboo scarf, I didn’t know it wasn’t in my diet until after I bought it. Sometimes we have to ask and research what the “ingredients” are and even then, we may still make mistakes for now.

But what about the “vegetables”? What are they and where are they?

Imagine if instead of going to the grocery store, you had to visit a different farm to find every kind of vegetable: it would be hard to know what vegetables exist or where the farms were. Not only would you be frustrated and inconvenienced, but you might be malnourished too. Well, that’s kind of how I view the state of ethical fashion right now: decentralized and disorganized.

As sad as that might sound, there are a lot of bright spots if you know where to look, and it’s been my goal this year to see this abundance. They are the handmade, the holistically sustainable, the secondhand and “second life” items, and the people who are so committed to providing safe and fulfilling work to their employees of the fashion world. They exist, but they just aren’t written on the menu yet. You have to ask for them.

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to connect with small production designers and makers online through platforms like Of a Kind, Madesmith and Etsy. Companies are starting to opt in for certifications and legal designations like B-Corporations that signal to the shopper that they are committed to creating more value in the world than just a good product. And smart people from bloggers to start-ups to established companies are starting to figure out their own boundaries are, which means communication on these important issues is improving, whether it’s easier to look up the information or it’s printed right on the label.

All of the above are merely examples of what your constraints might be in each category: what’s clearly off the table, what requires more inquiry or compromise for now, and what will make us jump up and down because it’s exactly what we’re looking for. It’s worth it to make these decisions for yourself, even if it takes time.

As for me, I might still have to work hard to find the vegetables, but when someone offers me the proverbial meat or fish, I say “no thanks” because I’m simply not hungry for that meal anymore.

Stories While Away

This I Wear | Stories While Away

If the media keeps telling us that our attention spans are getting shorter, it is certainly not paying attention to all the people who are telling stories just as well as your grandpa ever did way before the internet existed. As I’m off this week for a craft beer- and hiking-filled vacation in the Great Northwest (Portland!), I thought I’d turn over storytelling duties to others who are doing it pretty damn well.

Here are some stories I’m really enjoying:

01. The Alabama Chanin Journal is a treasure trove of stories of the artists, makers, and community that inspire Natalie and her team. It would be an understatement to say that Natalie herself is just a thought leader in sustainable fashion as she is truly a role model of how to put sustainability (and people) first in the making of things in the modern world. Read on for their latest journal series on personal heirlooms as they invite family and friends to share the things they hold dear.

02. Online ethical fashion retailer Zady only began in 2013, but it has already become a go-to source for beautifully designed and ethically made clothing and accessories for men and women. But as much as I’ve admired their product offerings, it wasn’t until I recently met co-founder Maxine that I really started to understand the care in which they select the products they carry and the disruption they hope to create in the fashion industry. In addition to giving us a great place to shop, their “Features” section is filled with great articles, including this recent article on the history of fabric dye.

03. New Zealander Emma Vitz writes about her adventures in conscious consumerism on her blog, This Kind Choice. I’m in love with the honesty and thoughtfulness of her writing, and I identify so much with her struggles to build a wardrobe that feels true to herself and her values. A favorite post for me is her own story of connecting with her clothes, so I was really excited to contribute to the series with one of my own stories too. She wants to hear your story too, so please reach out to her if you’d like to share your story.

I hope you all enjoy these stories, and hopefully I will come back from Portland with my own to tell. See you then!

If You Need It: A great bathing suit

This I Wear | Eco-Friendly Swimwear from Faherty Brand

The more that I tell stories of clothes here, the more I get asked the simple question of “where should I be shopping?” And unfortunately, there’s no single perfect source for everything we need that just happens to be ethically produced. Right now, the best place to shop for something ethically made is where you can find it.

So I’ve started little challenges for myself, as if I’m training for the marathon (the marathon of helping all of you find the responsibly produced stylish versions of everything you need). So when I think of an item I’d want, I see if I can source it ethically with as much style and quality as I’d demand of any purchase I’d ever make.

In honor of July 4th, today’s challenge is the swimsuit. Google “eco-friendly swimwear” and you will find a whole lotta ugly. Like a lot. But ask your Twitter followers after a fruitless full hour of googling, and you’ll get Faherty Brand (Thanks, Hattie!).

Faherty Brand, founded by a savvy pair of twin brothers, is a recently-launched swimwear line for men and women. The line predominately uses recycled polyester fabric, one that they’ve worked hard to create, so that it dries fast, retains its shape, and uses less resources like water and energy in fabric production. And well, the swimwear happens to be super flattering too.

If you’re curious, the swimwear is made in Taiwan, and they’ve shared a peek into their suppliers, though no information about their practices. But the brand also carries scarves created in partnership with Fair Trade social enterprise, Mercado Global, which works with women artisans in Guatemala (and I happen to be a huge fan!). I’m curious to learn more.

So, if you need it, find a great bikini (or some swim trunks) from Faherty Brand.

What are you searching for but can’t find ethically produced? Email me your challenges and I might tackle it in a future post.

[Images via FahertyBrand.com]

Related No.5

This I Wear | Related No.5
I mentioned recently that I’ve got a bit of a commute now, and I have developed this whole organized system of how I read all of my favorite blogs. And I can’t get enough. Here are some recent favorites:

1. Read Garance Dore’s 5 “Commandments of Style” all about creativity, quality over quantity, and enjoying the search. Guys, it’s really a great article.
2. Read Dana Arbib, founder of A Peace Treaty, explains her company’s awesome business model over on GOOD: saving endangered crafts, providing jobs for those affected by war, and sharing beautiful scarves and jewelry with us.
3. Fix your stuff at these designer-approved tailors, cobblers and more. (Lucky Brooklynites!) (Thanks, OfAKind!)
4. Wear some adorable and organic pjs courtesy of Australian brand ALAS. (Available in the US at ShopBop) (via Daily Candy)
5. Support Amy of Vermont-based Where Clothes in her Kickstarter campaign as she builds her company. As someone who also does everything herself, I know how helpful an extra hand can be!

Want more? Follow me on Twitter for more favorite reads and stylish finds.

Related No.4

I took a break from sharing my favorite readings and links around the internet as the new year had everyone off on a slow start. But I’m so happy to see new and exciting discussions on different aspects of ethical fashion popping up and also insanely grateful for the inspiration.

Here are a few things I’m loving lately:

1. Get Inspired by unexpected fashion. I recently attended the 4th Annual Recycled Fashion Show (pictured above) hosted by Bridge House New Orleans. Not only was it fun, but it put a whole new spin on thrift shop style and benefited a very worthy cause.
2.Watch Beth Doane talk about the dirty side of the fashion industry in this TEDxEMU video.
3. Attend Redress Raleigh’s Eco Fashion and Textiles conference from March 22-24 to see local players and industry gamechangers discuss how sustainability and social consciousness is finding its way into the apparel industry.
4. Learn how to properly sew on a button in this adorably quirky video by Eileen Fisher.
5. Love Given Goods, an online store where everything (yes, everything) gives back in one way or another. They’ve truly done a spot-on job of sourcing well-designed products from a wide range of young and growing brands. And well, they’re simply nice people too!

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