Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

ethical gifting: tonle for valentine's day

gift box

So, I kind of hate the word, "gifting," but its specificity makes it awfully convenient.  However, I love gifts, so I'm quite excited to share Tonle's Valentine's Day Gift Box, which they've put together in collaboration with several other socially responsible companies.

You may recall from my post earlier this week that Tonle is a zero waste, fair trade company based in Cambodia. I think their commitment to fair wages and environmental sustainability represents the end goal for the fair trade movement, so I'm glad they're setting an example for everyone else.

valentines day gift

The box contains coconut oil scrub by Coco Khmer, Remy & Rose soap, 3 pairs of Tonle panties, and a Tonle necklace made of remnant fabric and locally sourced beads, wrapped up in packaging handmade by artisans at Dai Khmer. It also comes with a handmade card! Visit the site for more details on the companies involved.

The gift box's retail value is $88.00, but it's available for a limited time for $65.00 on Tonle's website, so grab one early.

all natural coconut oil
All photos courtesy of Tonle.

the moral wardrobe: zero waste brand, tonle

tonle tee

It was way too cold to be outside taking photos today, so I basically just snapped a couple before (literally) running inside. I'm sure I'll get a chance to feature my new tonle tee in better detail in the spring, but I wanted to make sure to tell you a bit more about the brand since they just started shipping to the United States.

zero waste clothing
fair trade blogger
Ethical Details: Top - c/o tonle; Coat - thrifted; Earrings - Mata Traders; Cardigan - old

Tonle is a zero waste, fair trade clothing company based in Cambodia. They're passionate about long term sustainability, so they use remnant materials and cut patterns carefully to ensure that minimal scrap fabric is generated. Scraps are then re-woven into yarn and used again. They're serious about the details, so all packaging is made out of 100% recycled materials, their all natural dyes are non-toxic, and notions (buttons, zippers, etc.) are either made sustainably or purchased from garment factory overstock. It's really incredible! They also provide living wages to their talented team.

Tonle sent me this comfy keang top. It's made of super soft knit cotton and has a boxy, cropped fit for a modern silhouette. I also appreciate the understated rope graphic.

This post is rather timely since ecouttere just made me aware of a Norwegian documentary series featuring fashion bloggers sent to Cambodia to see firsthand where their clothes come from. It's a fascinating peek into Norwegian and Cambodian cultures and the global fast fashion industry. You can watch it here.

Stay tuned for more information on tonle. In the meantime, check them out on facebook, instagram, and twitter.

illustrated favorites: january

doodle

It's been a looong time since I seriously doodled. So long that I can't remember the last time I posted an Illustrated Favorites feature. This month, I've been really into mid rise, dark wash jeans; my new People Tree checked tunic; the Save the Bees tee I purchased on etsy with a gift card; the Manos Zapotecas bag I reviewed (and then purchased; shhh!); printed socks; my thrifted Tommy Hilfiger striped cardigan, The Body Shop's lip stain; and my thrifted scarf.

I've also been hunting for a good deal on leather t-strap flats and an American Apparel cropped sweater when I'm not reading The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. 

This winter hasn't been as emotionally burdensome as the last one, but I'm still affected by the weather and it often shows itself in frustration and rage over tiny things. It's upsetting because I know I need to work out ways to deal with my mood, but it's easier to just make up excuses.

an ethical outfit: thrifting

fair


This outfit may seem a little too put together for thrifting, but it's a good fit for a few reasons: 1. Slip-on shoes are a must for trying on shoes and clothing, 2. two piece outfits are preferable to dresses when you're trying to get a sense of how tops and bottoms will look with items you already own, 3. a crossbody helps you go hands free when you're hunting through the racks, and 4. earrings are a better option than a necklace or rings because they won't get in the way while you're shopping.

Preparation is key!

Outfit Details: Green 3 Sweater, Rag & Bone Jeans, Mata Traders Earrings, The Body Shop Tinted Balm, Parker Clay Bag, The Root Collective Flats

the moral wardrobe: nomads floral tunic

nomads fair trade tunic
nomads fair trade tunic

Nomads sent me this beautiful floral pocket tunic in December and I've worn it several times already, but I finally got a chance to photograph it! It's made of soft organic cotton - it's not scratchy like some organic cottons can be - and it has a straight silhouette without looking like a sack.

Nomads uses organic cotton for many of their products. Since it's processed without the use of chemicals, it's a safer, healthier option for cotton farmers, but it has several other benefits, as well. According to the site:
Organic farming emits about half the amount of CO2 produced by chemical methods, the soil is more fertile and it also employs more workers to harvest the crop naturally so provides more jobs. It also has huge benefits for the farmers and the environment...

fair trade outfit
boho tunic dress
Ethical Details: Tunic - Nomads; Boots - thrifted; Sweater - thrifted

What's been great about reviewing several Nomads items is that I've gotten a chance to see if sizing is consistent across the line. I'm pleased with the fit and surprised that the sleeves are long enough (sleeves are never long enough on me).

In other news, yesterday was a beautiful day with temps above 50 degrees. My blood is finally adjusting to "cold" Charlottesville weather and I consider 50 warm now. I drove with the windows cracked and had a nice time trying my best to copy John Legend's riffs in Glory and remember all the words to O Mio Babbino Caro, a song I learned in high school voice lessons.

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Get to know Nomads on facebook, pinterest, and twitter

glory



One son died, his spirit is revisitin' us 
True and living, living in us, resistance is us
That's why Rosa sat on the bus
That's why we walked through Ferguson with our hands up
When it go down we woman and man up
They say, "Stay down" and we stand up
Shots, we on the ground, the camera panned up
King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up


Happy MLK Day! Go watch Selma if you haven't already.

The Moral Wardrobe: Manos Zapotecas (MZ Fair Trade)

purse review

I reached out to Manos Zapotecas to see if I could review one of their handcrafted bags on Style Wise. They lent me this lovely chevron crossbody and I'm probably going to have to buy it now because I love it so much.

hand loomed bag
tapestry bag

The Zapotec are an indigenous people from Mexico whose culture dates back at least 2,500 years. They are credited with creating the first writing system in Mesoamerica and have a long craft tradition in jewelry and textiles. There are currently around 800,000 Zapotec throughout Mexico and the United States.

Manos Zapotecas partners with Zapotec artisans to create beautiful bags with traditional textiles under fair trade guidelines. The bag I received is lined in cotton and has an internal pouch for extra storage. The handwoven exterior is made of 100% wool and the strap is made of soft leather.

manos zapotecas
winter style
Ethical Details: Jacket, Boots, Scarf, Sweater - Thrifted; Bag - Manos Zapotecas

This crossbody is just to my taste. It's lightweight when empty, thick enough to hold its shape, but soft enough to mold around my body and not get in the way. I've been using a Vera Bradley hipster for the past year or so and I'd say this bag feels fairly similar against the body.

Each MZ bag holds an element of discovery, from the significance of each Zapotec design, to the bold color combinations, and most importantly, of the hands from which they come. - Manos Zapotecas

sweater sale at fair indigo

fairindigo



Fair Indigo is an ethical retailer that offers a wide variety of everyday clothing items and accessories. They're putting on their Sweater Sale this week! Prices have already been reduced, but you can get an additional 30% off with code, SWEATERS. The coupon will remain active until this Sunday, January 18.

It's a snow day for me today, so sweaters are quite an appropriate topic.

review: The Body Shop Lip and Cheek Stain


After my last post on The Body Shop, I purchased a few more items! I'd been thinking about trying a lip stain for awhile. I like the lipstick thing, but often I feel a bit like a clown with bright red lacquered lips and I don't like getting lipstick on my mug at work. As I previously noted, The Body Shop participates in community fair trade programs and also works to ensure that their products aren't sourced through slave labor. They're also cruelty free (no testing on animals!). Their Lip and Cheek Stain is produced in Italy.


The top left image is me sans lip color. To apply, I use the rim of the container to wipe off excess stain from the wand, then brush it across my bottom lip. I smoosh my lips together, making sure my lips get coated evenly, then apply a second coat as needed. It dries within seconds. Like most stains, this one has a matte finish and can be a bit drying. I normally apply The Body Shop's Born Lippy Stick in Plum over it for moisture.


My lips stay vibrant for hours, even after drinking coffee or eating a snack. I like the understated way it brightens up my whole face.

What are your go-to makeup products?

darkness and light: how religion shapes my fair trade journey


Style Wise has always been about building a community of people centered around a common goal of buying and living more ethically. Because of that, it's never been a priority to share the more intimate inner workings of my values system. And, more than that, it's kind of terrifying.

My blogger friend, Hoda, recently shared post ideas that helped her blog grow and one of them was sharing more personal stories. I love that she is passionate about fair trade and sustainability issues in the clothing industry, but I really appreciate that she is an American Muslim who isn't afraid to enlighten people to her reality in a clear and compassionate way. 

In that same strain, I thought it could be useful to share my back story. So, here goes. 

I grew up in a conservative Evangelical Christian tradition called the First Church of God. They're not too different from most Evangelical churches in the US, but they do ordain women to be ministers, which is somewhat unusual. I became a Christian when I was 6, reciting the Sinner's Prayer, and got baptized before middle school. I tell people I could have been the poster child for my high school youth group. I was involved - sometimes it felt like I lived at church - and passionate about living Christianity correctly. I was morality driven thanks to a father who had always been involved in political engagement on issues of abortion, education, and climate change. The family spent many nights at home watching the news and discussing world issues. We also read the Bible together several times a week. It was useful in fostering spiritual discipline and rhetorical confidence, but it wasn't all good.


I convinced my best friend to become a Christian in the fourth grade by telling her she would go to Hell if she didn't. I alienated a friend in need in high school by practicing an attitude of moral superiority in almost everything I undertook. I didn't realize until college that my unwillingness to hear people out continued to affect the people I had unwittingly abandoned in their time of need years ago.

In tandem with that realization, I became quite interested in studying Religious Studies at my state university. I had always wondered why, if half of the Christian Bible was Old Testament, we didn't take more time to understand the context and culture of ancient Hebrews/Israelites/Jews. So, I plunged right in to the program, taking classes on the Hebrew Prophets, David, and Job. I loved this literary and historical approach to the texts I'd grown up with but had always found boring. I discovered the humor and depth of the narratives simply by acknowledging them as art rather than cold, hard fact. This concerned my family, who had always believed in Biblical Literalism. They were afraid I was on my way to false belief or even atheism. For the sake of brevity, I'm understating the emotional devastation this period in my life brought as I began to question my belief system and came to terms with the fact that the hyper-structured Christianity I had grown up with just wasn't cutting it. It wasn't answering enough questions. It wasn't giving enough grace.


I wasn't quite ready to leave Evangelicalism, but in the end, I felt I had little choice. I spiraled to a dark place, feeling unsupported by my church community and unable to speak the language of faith I had been fluent in for most of my life. The tropes and phrases and expressions no longer rang true for me. I left the church for about a year and a half, during which I never stopped struggling to understand what I believed, where I stood before God, and how to move forward. It was an extremely gradual process that carried a lot of uncertainty, anger, and isolation, but things did get better.

I spent about two years wondering if God existed, wondering if a church so opposed to change could actually change the world. During that time, I began to take an interest in fair trade issues. I always knew that my particular perspective could not have arisen without my faith tradition and without my journey through doubt and darkness. Even on days when God didn't seem very useful, the life of Christ impacted me. Jesus demonstrated impartial grace. It's not a love that glosses over problems, but a love that exposes the darkness and works to make it light. 


The way I live is deeply impacted by this narrative, by his model, and it would be ignorant to suggest that I could be who I am now without this religious reference point. This model of "being light" is useful because it means I'm called to cast away my reservations and give joy and hope to others. I'm also called to lighten people's loads by extending grace and working beside them. It's a call to work! Jesus solved people's immediate problems before talking to them about intellectual or spiritual goals. In the same way, I believe the best charity models seek to alleviate pain and need first and foremost. To be like Christ is to do work without expectation of personal payoff. I think the mission of his life speaks for itself and that the best evangelism I can do is love, accept, and welcome all people. That's why I talk about issues without talking about Religion. I don't seek to hide it, but I want the hard work of living ethically and intentionally to get done regardless of my faith tradition and whether or not others share it with me.


Now I belong to a local Episcopal Church (The Episcopal Church Welcomes You - that's their motto) and have found a great deal of support and Christ-like love in my faith community. Living according to a value system is important and having people who can help propel you forward by asking hard questions and lending a hand is vital. 

I hope that this blog can help support you on your journeys to live more ethically and I know that some of you have really helped keep me going on this path. 

Thanks for reading. - Leah

are you smarter than a 5th grader?

notebook paper

My friend, Jenny, wrote this in late elementary school. She's pretty smart.

Why Americans Buy Lots of Stuff by Jenny Campbell:
I believe Americans buy lots of stuff because they feel happy when they have something new. Also we Americans tend to follow fads. It's like we think that it will make us cooler and popular if we have the latest fashion or toy. Of course, that's rarely ever true. If Americans bought only the essential stuff, like food, water, electricity, and a new shirt when our old ones had holes, America would be a nicer, healthier country. 

True that, fifth grade Jenny. True that.

the moral wardrobe: winter gingham

Ethical Details: Sweater - thrifted; Skirt - thrifted; Socks - Smart Wool; Earrings - handmade, gift from parents

There's nothing like an ear cuff to push a sort of '90s outfit over the edge. Also, this sweater was originally from Express and is most def circa 1999. 

I'm back to work this week after a two week hiatus. I enjoyed the days of sleeping until noon and online shopping in my pajamas (and visiting my family, of course), but I'm happy to be back.

On a sadder note, my childhood cat was put to sleep yesterday evening. She was suffering from an inoperable tumor in her bladder. I'm sad, but my parents, who cared for her for all 16 years of her life, are having an especially difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers this week. 

the moral wardrobe: hoosier

Ethical Details: Coat - thrifted; Scarf- thrifted; Boots - secondhand via ebay; Sweater - secondhand via ebay; Tee (not shown) - Everlane

I come from a long line of Hoosiers. My ancestors on both sides hail from Indiana and I lived there for nine years before moving to Florida. We road tripped over to Lapel, a tiny town outside of Indianapolis, to visit my mother's mother while we were with my parents for Christmas. The field behind the house used to be active farmland, but the owner lost interest several years ago. The local gossip is that they're going to turn it into a softball diamond. 

My grandpa used to sit outside on the back porch and watch the birds for hours. There was a big old tree that attracted larger birds and hummingbird feeders strung at the edge of the porch. The tree is gone now and so is Grandpa.


a good read: ecouterre's eco-fashion predictions

Ecouterre recently asked 37 ethical and eco-minded designers, leaders, and organizers what 2015 holds for the sustainable fashion industry. Though no one knows for sure how things will pan out, most believe that this may be the year the movement hits critical mass. Things are changing, and with starlets and world leaders talking about it and wearing conscientious clothing, the larger population is sure to join in soon.

image source: ecouterre

The difficult thing about discussing fair trade, for me at least, is that it's always a give and take between endorsing sustainable brands and limiting consumption and consumerist ideals. If fair trade becomes a trend, that means we can get a lot of people motivated to spend their money on things that make a difference. But I'm a big believer that motives matter. Ideally, a move toward sustainability will include thoughtfulness and conviction, and help us slow down a bit in our race to get what's new and better. In the short term at least, it can't be helped that we're forcing ethical ideals into the Capitalist framework that forms our economic identity. But we should try to acknowledge that the consumerist system we live within is a construct. It does not represent all possible realities. We must strive to change shopping habits and hearts. We don't have to settle for less.

All that said, I am really inspired by what these ethical leaders have to say about the future of sustainable fashion and I'm in a bit of disbelief that changes are happening quickly and on an international scale. Let's keep fightin' the good fight. Let's keep reassessing what our goals are and what they should be!

A few excerpts:

Over the past year, we’ve seen the end of greenwashing as an industry practice as more designers and brands focus on the internal shifts within their companies and supply chains needed for real actionable change. While the importance of the consumers' education for better quality fashion still exists, 2015 will be a year for retooling internal operations. - Lewis Perkins
And, as consumers are made increasingly aware that both fast fashion and fast luxury are responsible for unethical fashion, I predict the resurrection of the artisan, as we collectively look into our heritage, as well as innovation, for sustainable solutions. - Orsola de Castro
On the brighter side, Fashion Revolution enters its second year. Carrying on the groundswell of international support, the global conversation will be opened even further. More people than ever before will demand to know that their clothing has not been made at the expense of people or the planet, and the public will expect that brands are able to ensure this. - Sarah Ditty

All quotes excerpted from Ecouterre's 37 Eco-Fashion Predictions for 2015