Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

guest posting at RHE today



Hey guys! I'm excited to let you know that my guest post, Strength and Dignity are Her Clothing: Making Ethical Fashion Choices is live on Rachel Held Evans' blog. Rachel is a Christian author and blogger who I've been following for many years now. We've had similar faith journeys and doubts about Evangelical church culture and have both found ourselves in the Episcopal church after several years of exploration. It's an honor to have my words featured in a space that so profoundly influenced my understanding of God and of myself. Thanks for having me, Rachel.

the moral wardrobe: frolicking in snow

snow photos
people tree tunic
style wise ethical style blog
thrifted suede coat
Ethical Details: Coat - thrifted; Tunic - People Tree; Leggings - old; Gloves - American Apparel; Vest - thrifted; Boots - thrifted

Another snow day. You know, it's nice to be able to take midday outfit pictures since I'm off work, but it's unsettling to miss so many days. Weather makes a big impact on sales, so I'd like to ask the winter to deal with us more gently. Make it warm, please.

I don't love playing in snow, but forcing myself to act a bit peppier lifted my spirits. My red rain boots are turning out to be the best $3.50 ever spent at the thrift store. In retrospect, I wish I'd spent even more time outside and less time obsessing over the black/blue, white/gold dress controversy. I can't even bring myself to link that for you because I never want to think about it again.

spring update

spring


Hey! It's snowing again, so it's a great time to talk about warm weather clothing (snow, snow, go away!).

This whole minimalism thing works out really well for those interested in sustainability and fair trade, because it means we can look on trend while making more thoughtful purchases. I'm sure the pendulum will swing back to flamboyant soon enough, but I'm hoping I can get comfortable with simplicity now while fashion culture is on my side. By getting a sort of uniform down now, I'll be less likely to be swayed by trend cycles later.

This spring/summer season, I'm looking to get a new dress from zero waste brand, Tonle, and keep everything else neutral. I want a couple pairs of versatile, season-less flats and understated sandals from Jerusalem Sandals. I'm also updating my ribbon collection for my Sseko sandals. I found a pair of jeans in my donate pile yesterday that fit me well and were barely worn, so my denim wants are taken care of (thanks, slight weight gain!).

I'm relying more and more on Everlane for t-shirts and small, sustainable labels for skirts and accessories. And there's always the thrift shop!

I'm brainstorming new features and topics for Style Wise in all my snow day spare time. Is there anything you'd like to know more about? I'd be happy to receive a prompt and do some research!

Ethical Items shown above: Everlane Tee, Everlane Striped Top, Nomads Cardigan (similar option here), Amour Vert Leeron Skirt, Curator Nora Skirt, Tonle Keang Dress, Similar Loafers, Similar Flats, Jerusalem Sandals, Sseko Ribbons

tallahassee dreamin'


Daniel and I spent last weekend in Tallahassee, FL, home of our alma mater, FSU. Daniel attended an academic conference while I basked in college nostalgia, eating at my favorite restaurants (Pitaria! Far East Cuisine! Jimmy John's!) and walking around Lake Ella with longtime friends. My sister and I also managed to endure Daniel's conference session (he was the best!).

We hadn't been back to Tallahassee since moving to Charlottesville the summer of 2012. I wasn't hit in the gut with memories the way I thought I would be - in fact, I somehow managed to erase my mental map of the town - but I still enjoyed the comfort of being surrounded by people who know me well. Spending a bit of time on Florida State's campus also made me realize that I'm at peace with my life right now. It took a long time to adjust to life after college, but I did it and I'm really happy in a way I couldn't have imagined in the months after I graduated.

I'm not very happy to be back in Charlottesville, surrounded by snow with more in the forecast.

Photos, from top to bottom: Eating at Lake Ella, Andrea, Mary swinging from a tree, a Muscovy duck getting a bit too close for comfort, my sister chilling on FSU's campus, Mary and I selfie-ing

the moral wardrobe: the biggest parka


Ethical Details: Parka - thrifted; Sweater - old; Jeans - Levi's*; Boots - thrifted; Earrings - Mata Traders

Best. Coat. Ever. I love being swaddled in pockets of faux goose down. 

The thrift shop determines snow days by county school closures, so I've been off all week. I went in today anyway and tinkered around for a bit, but I have lots of laundry and packing to do at home because we're headed to Florida on Friday! There's really no better time to flee south.

In other news, I updated the Resources page to include a few more shops, so check it out. And if you're looking for a specific item, feel free to email me at leahcwise@gmail.com.

*Levi's is taking steps to improve working conditions at their factories. Though not quite there yet, they're doing more than most global brands. I bought these more than a year ago and I wouldn't put them on an ethical brands list yet, but it's a step forward, at least.

spotlight on: american made

Over the past few years, a handful of fashion forward, conscientious labels have cropped up in California. They've pushed the boundaries of what sustainable fashion looks like and have attracted cult followings as a result. I haven't yet purchased from the companies represented here, but I believe in their process and hope their product lives up to all the hype. Plus, what's better than scrolling through warm(er) weather clothing when there's a foot of snow outside?

Reformation:

Mission Statement:

They're too cool for an About page, apparently, but include materials and production info on each product page.

Example: "This is made of Modal. It's a natural fiber and therefore biodegradable, which is super important because petroleum based synthetics like polyester can take over 200 years to decompose."

Offering:

Vintage inspired clothing for the California It girl.

Price Point:

$40-650

Curator:


Mission Statement:

"Curator is a line of clothing designed and produced in San Francisco by two best friends...Whenever possible, we use organic fabrics in our designs. This is truly a labor of love and our life's work."

Offering:

Sophisticated clothing for creative types.

Price Point:

$40-200

Amour Vert:

Mission Statement:

"At Amour Vert we believe women shouldn’t have to sacrifice style for sustainability. We employ a zero-waste design philosophy and use only organic and sustainable fabrics along with low impact dyes."

Offering: 

Casual, everyday knits.

Price Point: 

$40-200

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If you've shopped from any of these brands, let me know in the comments. 

sseko designs spring '15 collection



I'm cultivating a delusion. I'm buying sundresses at the thrift shop, hunting down sandals, and going without socks on 40 degree days in an attempt to usher in spring.

It doesn't help that Sseko Designs' spring collection is here! As you may know, I'm a huge Sseko fan. I bought their ribbon sandals last summer and wore them nearly every day and I find it rather distressing that months of cold weather are forcing us apart.

They also hit it big last Friday when they were featured on Shark Tank. They didn't get an offer from any of the sharks, but it brought really valuable brand awareness, so I'm excited to see where this takes them. Plus, they informed their instagram followers that they were able to partner with an outside investor after filming the show who offered them exactly what they wanted, so everything worked out in the end.

You can click the above links to be redirected to my favorites. Or peruse the lookbook below. 


an ethical outfit: anytime, anywhere

ethicaloutfit



I've been waiting for Everlane's breton stripe tee to be made available for what feels like forever. I bought a J. Crew striped top 3 years ago and it's really starting to show wear, so I'm so happy to have found an ethical and well made replacement. 

This outfit is my comfort zone: basics with simple jewelry and patterned bag. I'd be happy wearing it anywhere. 

The duster-style cardigan is currently on clearance at Nomads for $24.37 USD, if you're interested.

the moral wardrobe: people tree

Ethical Details: Top - People Tree fair trade; Flats - old

I took advantage of the good exchange rate between pounds and US dollars to buy this cheetah print top by People Tree. People Tree is one of my very favorite ethical brands, but I often can't afford it, so I wait patiently for sales and obsessively check exchange rate trends to find the best time to shop. 

I've always been on the fence about cheetah print, but this one is understated. It makes me feel cooler than I am, like I could just get on my motorcycle and ride into the sunset.

recipe: easy mediterranean brown rice


Rice and Beans is my main food group, but occasionally I like to mix things up. I went crazy earlier this week by making rice with tomatoes and kalamata olives instead! It was way more delicious than I anticipated - even Daniel liked it - so I thought I'd share it with you. 

Serves 2-3 as main dish. 
Preparation/Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. Minute or other quick cook brown rice
  • 1 3/4 c. vegetable broth (one small carton or 13.7 oz.)
  • 13-14 oz. grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • handful kalamata olives, pitted and diced
  • 1-3 cloves garlic (depending on size and preference)
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • parsley, salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste
  • feta cheese


Instructions:

  1. Bring vegetable broth to boil in medium sized sauce pan. Add rice according to instructions on your box of Minute rice. 
  2. Cut grape tomatoes in half. Pit and dice kalamata olives. Finely chop garlic. Set aside.
  3. Once the rice is nearly cooked, add 1-2 tbsp. olive oil to a frying pan or skillet on medium heat. Add garlic, olives, and tomatoes and cook until garlic is fragrant (2-4 minutes).
  4. Add cooked rice and stir. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and parsley as desired. 
  5. Turn off heat and add a hint of lemon juice. Crumble in feta cheese and stir until melted.
  6. Enjoy!


the moral wardrobe: where I came from

Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Cardigan - thrifted; Dress - old; Leggings - old; Purse - Manos Zapotecas

When I first started this blog, I eased into things. Rather than go straight to fair trade, I looked up Corporate Social Responsibility standards for the companies I already liked. But, after doing more research, I began to realize that merely placing standards on top of a broken fast fashion system isn't ultimately sustainable. I could no longer justify shopping at old standbys like H&M and Old Navy.

So, I made my decision and I cut ties, but I still had a whole bunch of sweatshop stuff in my closet. For months, I felt uncomfortable that so many components of my every day outfits were unethical and I strove to find ethical replacements to present to you in my outfit posts. But I realize now that that's also unethical. The fact of the matter is that I have stuff that was produced by people in unhealthy environments who didn't receive a living wage. But it would be a greater injustice to throw it all away and get stuff that makes me feel better about myself. I should honor them by cherishing what I have and I should honor the environment by using these perfectly good things until they turn to tatters.

My wardrobe is my journey. Maybe it's good to remember where I came from.

chocolate for valentine's day

equal exchange
image source: Equal Exchange

I'm not really sure why bloggers write weeks of Valentine's Day content considering that the holiday is really just a blip on the holiday schedule. That being said, I think now is maybe the best time to talk about my favorite fair trade food: chocolate.

While fair trade fashion is my first passion, I truly believe that it can't end there. I want to tread lightly in every aspect of my lifestyle and I'm looking to make fair trade and environmentally sustainable items my first choice in every category. I think it's really easy for self described "conscious consumers" to draw lines around our pet project for the sake of our own sanity - it's hard to make better choices all the time from Day One - but we have to remember that environmental and social sustainability are both necessary if we intend to build thriving, considerate communities.

Without further ado, I'll get off my soapbox and present you with my favorite fair trade and sustainable chocolate products:

Equal Exchange


This company was love at first sight (well, taste) for me. Equal Exchange believes in small scale farms and collective ownership; every employee is a part owner. Relying on small, locally run co-ops allows the company to make accurate judgments as to the condition and fairness of work and wages and it also discourages wide scale destruction of native landscapes. I worked at a coffee shop that used Equal Exchange coffee and a representative came to give us steamed milk training (which I loved!). It was great to be able to talk to an employee and get a better sense of the work environment.


equal



Divine Chocolate


This is my second favorite chocolate company. Divine also operates under a co-op structure, with the Ghanaian farmers owning shares in the larger company. They were the first fair trade chocolate bar that attempted to compete in the non-specialty chocolate market and, by all accounts, they've been pretty successful.

n



If you're hunting for the perfect chocolate-y recipes, I suggest:

Or...

Buy some fair trade chocolate hearts at 20% off.

I hope you feel loved this Valentine's Day. And if you're looking for a meaningful movie suggestion, I recommend Take This Waltz.

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Read more ethical Valentine's Day posts:


Valentine's Day - All the Romance Without the Consumerism
by Hannah at Life + Style + Justice

the moral wardrobe: a blustery day

j crew camel sweater
j crew camel sweater
j crew camel sweater
Ethical Details: Sweater - secondhand via ebay; Skirt - thrifted; Earrings - Ten Thousand Villages; Socks - SmartWool

Winnie the Pooh: Happy "Winds-day", Piglet.
Piglet: [being blown away] Well... it isn't... very happy... f-for me.
Winnie the Pooh: Where are you going, Piglet?
Piglet: That's what I'm asking myself, where?
[he is lifted into the air by a gust of wind]
Piglet: W-Whoops! P-P-P-Pooh!
Winnie the Pooh: [grabbing Piglet's scarf] And what do you think you will answer yourself?

A volunteer at the shop died on Monday. I didn't know her well, but she was a part of the thrift shop family, so it's been a hard week for everyone. You never get used to death. You never get used to seeing someone alive and animated, getting into their car, saying "See you next week," and then never seeing them again.

Sweatshop - Deadly Fashion: Unforgettable Moments

cambodian sweatshop

Aftenposten's Sweatshop - Deadly Fashion documentary series is worth a watch. Although it doesn't devote as much time as I'd like to the inner workings of the sweatshop industry in Cambodia (an extended project like this would be great), it still manages to be an eye opening experience for both the viewer and the Norwegian fashion bloggers sent there for the project.

Over the course of several days, three young bloggers explore what daily life is like for a Cambodian garment worker. They sleep in a worker's home, spend a full day working at one of the local factories, and try to buy groceries on their $3.00 a day wages. They also learn a bit about what locals are doing to demand living wages and visit a resource center to have one-on-one meetings with downtrodden workers.

Screenshots taken from Sweatshop - Deadly Fashion. Watch it here.

the moral wardobe: henna and layering

mata traders dress
blue knit sweater
mata traders
Ethical Details: Dress - Mata Traders fair trade; Sweater - thrifted; Boots - thrifted; Necklace - handmade via etsy; Belt - thrifted

I've been trying to figure out how to make this Mata Traders sundress work for winter ever since I bought it on sale late in the summer season. I'm pleased that this ensemble seems to really work. I like all the textures and shades of blue running up against each other. 

You may not be able to tell, but I dyed my hair with henna. I used the shade, Persian Mahogany, by Rainbow Henna. It comes in a screw top plastic container, which makes it easy to scoop out what you need for one application and store the rest. The application process is never a simple one and it smells pretty grody, but I learned how to keep a clean work area from last time, so it wasn't so bad. I like the subtle dark red tint it added and the way it evened out my partially natural, partially dyed hair color. I'm kind of a hair dye addict, but I am trying to keep things a bit more natural in terms of both color and processing. Henna is time tested and all natural.