Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


Ethical Black Friday Sales (+ Cyber Monday and Fair Tuesday) - Updated

*denotes affiliate links

Check out the 2017 roundup here.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving chowing down on your favorite foods. I've never been a big Black Friday shopper, but so many ethical brands have gotten involved this year that I decided to put together a list of things I'm on the hunt for to see if they pop up during sales this weekend.

Here are just some of the sales going on this weekend (for many, many, many more, check out this Ethical Sales Guide curated by the Ethical Blogger Network).

Cyber Monday updates marked in Bold.

Charitable Giving

  • MadeFAIR* // Black Friday through Cyber Monday
    • 50% of shawl purchase donated to Made in a Free World

Holiday Weekend Sales

  • Paisley & Sparrow // Black Friday and Cyber Monday // no code needed
    • 1 item, 10% off
    • 2 items, 15% off
    • 3 items, 20% off
    • 4+ items, 30% off
  • Purse and Clutch // Black Friday through Fair Tuesday
    • Extra 20% off clearance with code, EXTRA20
    • $5 coupon for every $50 spent, no code necessary
  • PACT* // Cyber Monday
    • 30-70% off Everything, no code required
  • Krochet Kids* // Cyber Monday
    • 40% off sitewide plus free shipping with code, GOFORIT
  • Fair Anita 
    • Thanksgiving through Fair Tuesday // free shipping with code, SHIPFREE
    • Fair Tuesday // $10 off orders $50+ with code, FAIRTUESDAY
  • Ash & Rose // Cyber Monday
    • 30% off Outlet items with code, CLEARTHERACKS
  • LOVE GOODLY* // Black Friday through Cyber Monday
    • 20% off your purchase with code, CYBERLOVE
  • // November 24 through December 24
    • 30% off with code, CHEER30
  • Coyuchi // Now through Cyber Monday
    • 20% off robes and PJs
  • Sseko Designs* // Black Friday through Cyber Monday
    • 25% off sitewide with code, GiftsThatGive
  • WeWOOD Watches* // Cyber Monday
    • 30% off with code, CYBERMONDAY

More sales info here. 

If you know about an ethical boutique or brand offering a sale not listed here or in the Google Doc, just let me know!

thanksGIVING giveaway: Fair Trade Market Tote from Daisies & Doodles (+ a coupon code)

daisies and doodles fair trade
festive fall giveaway

Daisies & Doodles is an online ethical boutique with a focus on practical accessories, housewares, and stuff for kids. They carry an excellent selection of woven baskets and totes, including this Market Bag. Handwoven from water reeds under fair trade guidelines in Morocco, they come in a variety of patterns and are sturdy and large enough to use as a reusable market bag or work tote. One of my volunteers at the shop always carries her things in a little handled basket and this tote would work really well for her needs. And with tons of Holiday markets coming up, it would be a great item to bring along with you so you can properly stock up on local soaps, knitted things, and other handmade goods.

ethical outfit and market bag

I paired the Market Tote with a Shibori dyed scarf made by women in Rajasthan, India, part of Daisies & Doodles' scarf collection.

thanksgiving giveaway
Ethical Details: Scarf - c/o Daisies & Doodles; Dress - thrifted; Top - Everlane; Boots - Oliberte; Tote - Daisies & Doodles

market tote giveaway
Lucky for you, I'm giving away this Market Bag!
To enter:
- Simply complete one or several of the Rafflecopter prompts below.
- Tweet about the giveaway through the form for 1 new entry every day.

Open to US readers only. Winner will receive 1 Market Tote courtesy of Daisies & Doodles and Style Wise. Contest begins Wednesday, November 25 at 12:00 am EST and ends Wednesday, December 2 at 12:00 am EST. Winner will be contacted via email within 1 week of contest deadline. This contest is not affiliated with Instagram or Blogger. 

Giveaway Closed.


the moral wardrobe: Greenheart Shop's Ikat Crossbody

fall outfit fair trade purse from Greenheart Shop knee high boots on ebay

A mild November means the leaves have been able to hold on just a bit longer than usual and I don't mind at all. I love the bright reds of late fall. The EXTREME sunlight, on the other hand, gives me a headache, but it makes for beautiful photographs, so it (sort of) balances out.

Chicago-based Greenheart Shop sent me their lovely little Ikat Crossbody to review this week and I honestly couldn't be happier with it. I thought it was going to be slightly too small to carry all of my stuff, but the multitude of storage pockets (3 inside, 1 outside) make it easy to keep track of my phone, wallet, altoids, keys, lip balm, and ibuprofen (for the sun induced headaches). Plus, it's fully lined in a contrasting fabric and accented with pebbled leather. The price tag may seem hefty at $85.00, but the quality is exceptional - you can tell skilled artisans were behind the design and production. The brand behind the bag, Opportunity Collection, provides survivors of trafficking in India and mentally challenged artisans in Kenya fair wages and job training.

crochet scarf and ikat purseorange and black outfit
Ethical Details: Sweater - thrifted; Skirt - secondhand via ebay; Tee (not shown) - Everlane; Boots - secondhand via ebay; Scarf - thrifted; Purse - c/o Greenheart Shop

I'm always a bit biased toward Greenheart Shop, because I got a chance to visit their physical store in Chicago in June and had a wonderful time. The selection is well curated and the women behind the company are knowledgeable, passionate, and down to earth.

If you'd asked me a year ago to review an orange-hued anything, I would have said, "No, I don't wear orange." But I'm really digging all the warm, earthy hues that are popular right now. I finally understand why my mom has always loved orange, too: it looks good on us. Plus, I've accumulated a nice little selection of pinky-peachy tees and sweaters over the past several months and orange is a natural accent color.

I'm off work for the week starting tomorrow, but I'm posting a million blog posts (as in, two more this week) so stay tuned.


Visit Greenheart Shop online here. Stay in touch on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (they'll announce their Black Friday sales soon!). 

inspiration board: colors and textures

I'm procrastinating going into work on my day off (lots of work to do in preparation for seasonal sales), so it seemed like a great time to share the pins that are inspiring me this month. Click here to visit my Pinterest account and access original image sources.

What I'm loving this month:

  • Peaches, tans, and coral pinks
  • Clogs and clunky shoes
  • Casual, simple outfits
  • Menswear inspired silhouettes
  • Bobs - I'm growing my hair out again

Making inspiration boards is a useful exercise for me because it helps me narrow down what I'm attracted to. I can then shop my closet and put looks together from what I already own instead of feeling like I have to purchase new things. With Black Friday in the near future, this sort of exercise is especially important. There's so much temptation out there!

Thoughts on Receiving Free Stuff from Brands

sponsored posts and blog collaborations

In case you hadn't noticed, 2-3 times per month I feature products I received for free from fair trade and ethical companies in exchange for a review. It's something a lot of bloggers do and, for most of us, I'd guess it's the main perk of blogging (besides building community and interacting with people all over the world). On a typical fashion blog, it's not unusual to see a whole outfit marked c/o ("courtesy of"), but ethical fashion blogging comes with a different set of rules and expectations, as well it should. 

Bloggers concerned with conscious consumerism are interested in curbing their appetite for stuff, so getting free things on the regular can come off as hypocritical or ignorant. And though no one has ever told me they find the presence of the "c/o" label off-putting here on Style Wise, I feel that it's best to clear the air - particularly since I'll be doing a higher volume of review posts into the Holiday season - and examine what it means to be a fashion blogger trying to live an honest, ethical life. 

I work with brands that compensate me with free product/money, because:

1. I can't honestly endorse a brand or company without being able to sample its offerings.

Most fair trade brands aren't readily accessible at local shops, so receiving product for review is not only the best way, but often the only way, to get my hands on the product I want to share with readers. There's a limit to the value of a Brands feature if I haven't actually sampled, seen, touched, or worn the product, so I find that product reviews are an excellent way to share companies I like with you all. 

2. Collaborating with brands helps me get a sense of who they are and where they fit in the conscious consumerism conversation. 

Emailing back and forth with the brands I work with gives me insight into their intentions. The companies that get featured on the blog are companies I believe in, and their reps are generous, punctual, and well informed. There are, however, a few brands I didn't end up working with because I felt that they were unprofessional, insincere, or asking too much of me. Without the high stakes correspondence of a tentative business transaction, their true colors may not have come to light. It's easy for someone to be nice to you when you're featuring them for free; not so when there's money involved.

3. Blogging takes time, research, and energy and I deserve to reap the rewards. 

This reason may sound selfish, but I spend hours taking and editing photos, preparing giveaways, sending over interview questions, and writing essays and I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating the perks of a (relatively) successful blog. I make virtually no money on this venture, so receiving the occasional free product is really exciting, and means I don't have to hemorrhage money from other income streams to keep the blog going. 

4. I reduce my personal consumption in direct response to what I receive for free.

It's easy to think of free product as a surprise gift that has no bearing on my regular consumption, but I've made a point to seek out items from brands that fill a space on my shopping list rather than spring for whatever they will throw at me. I still over-consume - it's something I will be working on for a long time - but I have been able to significantly limit my consumption of new products outside of what I receive for review, and that's something I'm proud of. 

5. Sharing cool products from brands I trust helps the ethical retail market grow.

At the end of the day, I'm an ambassador for fair trade brands, and I'm happy to be able to spread the word. There are tons of companies I would have never discovered had they not reached out for collaboration and that's really cool. I just heard that Target is intentionally expanding their ethically sourced offerings, which means that all the chatter is finally loud enough to make seemingly impenetrable big box stores hear our demands! Being able to confidently review and wear fair trade products - and share them with others - encourages the conversation to grow louder still. 

Fashion blogging can be awkward when you're trying to be mindful of how your choices affect others. It's not as easy as just slapping on an outfit and strutting around. Transparency is always the key, I think, and I'll continue to tweak my process and be honest with you about it along the way. 

If you're a blogger interested in working with brands, here's my advice: stay true to yourself and to your blog's values and don't be afraid to initiate conversations with brands you love. Be honest about your stats and your expectations and things will work out just fine. 

Let me know:

  • Are you generally turned off by sponsored posts and collaborations? Why?
  • Would you be interested in a post about building your Media Kit in preparation for collaborating with conscious brands?

Ethical Leather Guide, by Kasi Martin

This post was written by Kasi Martin and was originally published on The Peahen blog. 

ethical leather guide

"Ethical leather" is an oxymoron to some, but I believe there are ways to source leather from reputable sources that do less harm to animals and the environment, though I tend to agree with Kasi that secondhand and vegan options are often the better way to go. Eating meat and using leather are issues I haven't quite come to terms with from a moral perspective. I currently do eat meat, though I limit it to once a week, and I own a variety of fair trade bags and shoes that source leather as a byproduct of small scale meat industries. I truly believe that a perfect world is a vegetarian one, but I haven't made a firm decision on whether that means, on a practical level, that we should all be vegetarians. Kasi breaks down our leather options in the well researched post below. 


Choosing leather ethically can be tricky. I’ve deciphered some of the popular options and brands to help you cut through the marketing and get to the truth.

I learned these lessons first-hand when my mom asked for my birthday wish-list, and kindly obliged to my request for an ethical, faux leather handbag.

After some research, I settled on a bag from Matt & Nat. It’s supple, neutral and ladylike – it doesn’t get more classic than that. The company has been delivering designs under the umbrella of ‘vegan leather’ since 1995. Matt & Nat’s brand relies on recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork. Their commitment is impressive in an era where chemical additives and man-made materials reign.

However, it turns out that Matt & Nat’s standard is the exception to the rule. Most vegan leather brands rely on cheap Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a synthetic material that’s carbon-intensive, doesn’t biodegrade and leaches toxins when disposed in landfills. After 20 years of Matt & Nat delivering beautiful vegan leather goods at accessible price points, I thought other brands would have adopted their model. I was wrong.

Most vegan leather brands rely on cheap Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a synthetic material that’s carbon-intensive, doesn’t biodegrade and leaches toxins when disposed in landfills.

All this time, if you’ve been buying vegan or fake leather as a conscious decision for the environment and animals, you’ve been lead astray. This misinformation leaves us in a bind. How do we, as conscious consumers, decipher what’s ethical and what’s BS when it comes to leather?

As with all consumer decisions, we don’t make purchases in a vacuum. There are some seriously complex forces at work in the leather industry – from the supply chain, to environmental principles to labeling and false marketing. If you’re detail oriented, see references number one and two below.

You might want to crawl under a rock at this point, but stay with me. There are two important things you can do to keep your ethics in line when buying leather: learn the lingo and adopt some new laws.

Deciphering the Leather Label

First off, mastering leather lingo is the best way to make informed decisions. Most people choose their stance on leather the same way they choose their lunch. There is a strong correlation between hamburger habits and leather boots and, conversely, soy-dense diets and faux handbags. I wish the issue were as simple as real vs. fake but the nuances of the label are critical.

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

Real Leather

Surplus leather (sometimes labeled ‘dead-stock‘) can be thought of as, simply, scrap leather. It’s the leftover leather from agricultural or manufacturing production. Buying surplus is technically still reinforcing animal agriculture; however, it’s a step forward to eliminate production waste.

Vintage leather is your best option if you want the longevity and look of real leather. Be aware: if you’re an animal rights advocate, you’ll be a walking, talking contradiction of yourself. Still, vintage leather is considered an ethical option because no new demand is created for animal skin, or other polluting materials.

Handcrafted/artisanal leather honors traditional – oftentimes slower – production and supports local craftsmen. Buying direct from artisans allows you to get closer to the supply chain and be better informed about ethical practices.

Local leather is the equivalent of local produce, with the same benefits. Buying leather from locally raised cattle removes the carbon impact associated with transport. Unless you live in an agricultural area, this type of leather will be hard to find.

Vegetable tanned leather is a natural alternative to industrial, chromium-tanned leather that leaches toxins into the water supply. It goes easy on mama earth.

Calfskin leather is leather produced from young calves touted for its supple feel and fine grain. This is the veal of the leather industry. I can’t write avoid it enough times.

Alternative leather is made from animal skin by-products that are cast aside as leftovers during food production. You may see the skins from eel, fish (typically salmon), sheep, ostrich and – even chickens (poulard) – on the label. Be skeptical of this type of leather unless it follows the surplus model.

...vintage leather is considered an ethical option because no new demand is created for animal skin, or other polluting materials.

Faux Leather

Microfiber vegan leather can be identified by PU or PVC on the label. Try to avoid these under all circumstances. If you must, the lesser evil options are made from recycled nylons or degradable polyurethane (PU). Take Kamea’s word for it, PU and PVC are among the most polluting materials on the planet.

Natural vegan leather is hands-down the best option available. Look for cork, glazed organic cotton, paper, cardboard and barkcloth as the primary materials. Pleather is the retro name for vegan leather. Those outside the fashion set will refer to it this way.

The New Laws of Leather

Now that you can cut through the BS on a leather label, there are a few general guidelines you can follow to make ethical decisions in an industry that’s out to mislead you.

Some naysayers downplay fashion as frivolous or unimportant. They are wrong. Fashion can be presented as art, but when it’s boiled down to basics – it’s a common need of every human. Right now, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil, and animal agriculture’s role in this is becoming increasingly important. Livestock make up 51% of all greenhouse gas emission (see Cowspiracy). All this said, there is massive potential for change-making in the industry if consumers demand ethical products, especially leather goods.

Fashion can be presented as art, but when it’s boiled down to basics – it’s a common need of every human.

Adhering to these new laws will keep you honest:

  • Always opt for vegan.
    •  Make the animal a non-issue.
    • Be sure to look for natural materials, with a preference on cork. Vintage, real leather is a better option than PVC or PU faux leather.
  • Watch out for greenwashing.
    • This is the sneaky way marketers tap into the eco trend by propping up their products as sustainable or animal friendly when they are not. Faux leather brands are prime offenders.
    • Be leery of “Made In” tags. This label guarantees only that a product was assembled in a designated location, not that it originated there. This can be a form of greenwashing because it sweeps the shipping and related carbon emissions involved in the supply chain under an eco-friendly label. 
  • Consider longevity.
    • If you’re going to wear the heck out of your purchase then vintage leather is a durable option. As long as you’re not morally opposed, choose real leather for these types of purchases. But, if you’re buying a trend piece, vegan leather makes more sense.
    • Vegan brands like Matt & Nat are rated surprisingly high for durability. Make your selections on a case-by-case basis.
  • Don’t buy it if you don’t need it.

Be leery of “Made In” tags. This label guarantees only that a product was assembled in a designated location, not that it originated there.

When it comes down to buying any kind of leather the details are wishy-washy. Consumers are stuck in the middle of the vintage vs faux war, forced to decide which is more important – earth or animals. The decision isn’t simple, but when it comes to ethics you can never go wrong with too much information.

...when it comes to ethics you can never go wrong with too much information.

Here are the leather brands doing it right: 

Do you know any I haven’t covered?


About the Author: Kasi Martin is dedicated to making ethical standards in fashion mainstream. She is the creator of The Peahen, where she writes about brands, designers, issues and trends at the intersection of style and standards. Visit The Peahen blog here. 

References: World WatchEthical Fashion Forum (gated), Eluxe MagazineRefinery 29
Image Credit: Creative Commons via Robert Sheie on flickr; text and color editing added by me.

Fair Trade Federation Holiday Gift Guide 2015

fair trade federation gift guide

It's here! The moment you didn't know you were waiting for. The Fair Trade Federation just published their 2015 Holiday Gift Guide chock full of ethical gifts for everyone on your list. Just click on the Isuu reader below to start reading.

I support Fair Trade Federation shops whenever I can, because I believe in their mission and find them to be a trustworthy source for fair trade goods. The FTF isn't a third party certifier - it's a business association that provides networking and other resources for companies that believe in ethical, transparent supply chain practices.

A few of my favorite FTF brands are Mata Traders, Education & More (support them via their sidebar ad), Manos Zapotecas, and Ten Thousand Villages.

I know it's a bit early to be talking about the Christmas holiday (at least I think so), but it's hard for fair trade companies to compete with big box retailers if they don't start the season early like everyone else. We're only a couple weeks away from the biggest fair trade sales event of the year - Fair Tuesday - so I'll be busy researching sales and creating lists and gift guides for you all.

Are you looking for anything specific this Holiday season? Let me know in the comments and maybe I can find an ethical version for you to include in a guide.

the moral wardrobe: FashionABLE's new customizABLE line

personal style post dusty rose sweaterfashionable customizable horizon necklace
This post contains affiliate links.

I recently purchased* the Horizon Necklace from FashionABLE's new CustomizABLE line. The launch couldn't have come at a better time with the Holiday season on the horizon. The line - along with all of FashionABLE's offerings - is ethically sourced and ethically produced in Nashville, Tennessee.

personal style space dyed cardiganj crew warehouse sale sweater
Ethical Details: Top - J. Crew Warehouse sale; Cardigan - thrifted; Boots & Jeans - past season; Necklace - FashionABLE

The interface is really convenient and you get to see a sample of the finished product before making your purchase, though I should note that the sample image for this particular piece shows 4 beads on each side and I only received 3. I kind of like this version better, but that's something to keep in mind since it costs an extra $5.00. The stamping option, however, is free, so take advantage of it if you can think of a meaningful word or name to add.

I chose to add the word Wise to my pendant because it's my last name and a trait I aspire to. I didn't realize until I was wearing it around my neck while reading an article on The Toast about changing your last name when you get married (well, more about making fun of the idea of women changing their names when they get married) how "traditional' I may come across for having chosen "my husband's" last name as a focal point of the piece. I've gotten a lot of flak for "bowing to the patriarchy" and changing my name when I got married and I've struggled to adequately express why it doesn't make me the very worst feminist. Because I'm a loud and proud feminist and I don't mind that I changed my name. It doesn't make me feel inferior. It doesn't destroy years of feminist work, contrary to the gut reaction of many I've encountered. This isn't a make or break thing.

thrifted outfit

Yes, I made a choice that aligns itself with the patriarchy. But not every decision is political. We have to live in a world with fluid and ever evolving gender norms, expectations, and definitions and we can't possibly all navigate them the same way. So fellow feminists: I'm terribly sorry if you feel like I've shunned our great movement, but I'm not going to take it back. And it's not your business to tell me I made a mistake.

End rant.

Thanks for reading and check out FashionABLE's CustomizABLE Line!

*FashionABLE provided a discount code in exchange for a review.

Ethical Shopping: It Gets Better

This guest post is brought to you by Julie Overby of bonJOY Box.

These days, if you're willing to put in a tiny bit of effort, moving your purchases out of the (big) box and into the ethical space is easier than ever. More and more people are realizing the importance of fair trade, sustainable packaging, and environmental awareness (not to mention healthy products), and as they do, clever little brands are popping up to meet those demands.

What I love about being in the ethical consumer-goods space is connecting with the people behind these brands  people who are taking what they know and making a dream happen. Every single one of them has heart. They put in tremendous amounts of work to pull a profit, but they're not just in it for the money; they're consciously trying to make a difference in the world, and most of all, for the people who make the goods they sell. 

Perhaps it stands to reason then that my other favorite thing is introducing my network to the do-good brands and products I discover. It brings me such joy to tell the stories behind the pieces I've purchased! I guess I'm just a nerd about celebrating people who are stepping out with a lot of courage and making beautiful things. 

Speaking of beautiful may have noticed, but fair trade doesn't look so "fair trade" anymore. Not to get down on the pioneers of the movement in any way, but you know  there's a look. Today's fair trade is disguised as luxe fashion, on-trend jewelry with precious metals, and home goods that can rival any you'd find at Target. 

So here's how you can start discovering this new horizon in do-good goods: 

1. Find an ethical marketplace. 

107 Market StreetBought Beautifully,New CreationTo The Market...there are a growing number of these marketplaces and if you pay attention to the brands they feature, you'll find yourself quickly falling in love with a new favorite.

2. Stalk a brand you love... 

...and find who they've followed on Twitter and Instagram. Chances are you'll make some amazing discoveries! Twitter is a surprisingly great tool at suggesting similar brands once you've followed one. Some of my favorites that would make a great place to start:EleganteesMulxiplyUNCVRDBadalaProsperity CandleRooted BeautyRaven+LilyHope SoapThistle better just cut me off right there. 

3. Try a subscription box. 

Full disclosure here: I helped get a box off the ground with a fellow anti-trafficking advocate, so take the following words with the appropriate grain of salt (I prefer pink himalayan sea salt, if you please): bonJOY IS THE MOST AMAZING SUBSCRIPTION BOX OF ALL TIME. I mean, it's pretty great. Most of the brands we feature each quarter are specifically invested in the fight against trafficking, whether providing employment for at-risk women or helping fund survivor care. You can see what we've featured in recent boxes here and here...oh and here. In all fairness (and seriously, there's no competition in our world...we're all in it for the good!), there are several other great boxes happening in this space: Purpose Box, which funds a specific cause each go-round, CAUSEBOX by SevenlyFair Trade FridayFair TreasureGlobeIn, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more pop up soon.

So, happy shopping! A personal challenge from me to you is to move all your Christmas shopping over to ethical suppliers. It's completely doable, totally joyful, and doubly rewarding. You can do it. Let's change the world, okay?

Julie is the co-founder and marketing & innovation director over at bonJOY, a fashion, beauty, and living subscription box. She's a freelance copywriter, designer, and full-time dreamer who keeps her feet on the ground by making a home for her husband and little one. Julie lives in Colorado and always loves making a great connection: 


Julie and I swapped posts this week. See my Ethical Gift Guide on the bonJOY blog!

the moral wardrobe: wearing sunshine

black and white ethical outfit stripes with bright cardigan sam edelman petty booties turquoise j crew cashmere Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Cardigan - J. Crew Warehouse; Boots - thrifted

These photos were taken a couple weeks ago, but it might as well be today. Last week felt like summer with a warm, moist breeze and temps in the high 70s, but we're back to reality now and the sunshine is on a break again. I love this cardigan because it's abrasively bright. If it glows this much during cloud cover, imagine how bright it looks on a sunny day! I realized about halfway through my first winter here that everyone's typical black and gray uniform was not going to work for me. If I can't see the sun, I want to wear something bright to cheer me up. 

Speaking of bright, I bought some very red henna and am planning on dyeing my hair again within the next few days. I'm also thinking about growing it out! 

the moral wardrobe: falling back with Braintree Clothing

fair trade striped top

Braintree Clothing is a London based company committed to ethical manufacturing. They use natural, organic, and recycled fabrics; have a comprehensive animal welfare policy; and pay fair wages to factory employees. Additionally, they believe in maintaining long term relationships with their factories to ensure continued employment and consistent regulation.

1970s ethical outfitvintage shoes

All of that is awesome, but what attracted me to Braintree was their collection. Modern, casual, and just a bit British heritage, it's effortless, everyday wear. They provided the Jarrah Striped Tee to review on Style Wise and I love it more than I expected (and I expected to love it because it's striped!). It's made of a bamboo viscose/cotton blend with a bit of stretch and has cool buttons on the back. After I snapped these shots, I undid the bottom three buttons for more of a flyaway look with my high waist jeans. I like that the angled hem looks like a vented shirttail on a suit when the buttons are undone.

braintree clothing reviewbraintree clothing jarrah top review
Ethical Details: Jarrah Top - c/o Braintree Clothing; Earrings - c/o Bario Neal; Shoes - thrifted; Ring (not shown) - Alex & Ani

The width of the stripes and the cut made me think of casual '70s looks, so I paired it with flares and vintage, t-strap flats that remind me of clogs. The Jarrah top costs about $50.00 USD and runs true to size.

Side note: this was maybe the first time I've ever taken photos before work. With the time change, it gets dark at 5:00, but the morning light is glorious!


Shop Braintree Clothing. Follow Braintree on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

5 Questions Every Conscious Consumer Should Ask

5 questions every conscious consumer should ask

My recent post on shopping the J. Crew Warehouse sale sparked a great discussion on the plethora of approaches to shopping ethically. This topic is particularly relevant now, as the Holidays and all their consumer temptations approach, because it's easy to get caught up in our decorative and gift giving aspirations (not to mention crazy sales) and lose sight of the commitments we've made to be conscious consumers.

There are a handful of relevant questions every conscious consumer should ask before making a purchase. We may choose to prioritize some questions over others depending on personal preference and stage of life, but I believe the amalgamation of responses will help guide us to a lifestyle that is better for everyone.

This is a companion piece to 6 Myths About Buying Ethical Clothing and What is Ethical? 7 Terms You Need to Know.

1. Will it make a real and lasting impact on my wardrobe?

This isn't a question of whether you "need" something or not, but whether you know that the item is timeless and "you" enough to be a staple in your wardrobe. If you ask this question first, you'll be able to avoid low quality, trend buys and save yourself some money in the long run since you won't have to replace the item as often.

While this question obviously applies to things like winter coats, denim, and work attire, I think it's useful to ask it about every single thing you consider purchasing. Don't buy the fuzzy sweater just because it's in, but by all means consider it if fuzzy sweaters are the foundation of your personal style! (I own a fuzzy sweater and it's starting its third winter season with me this year.)

2. Is it durable and well made?

This is the most boring question to me, because I associate it with all those style books and capsule wardrobe posts that advocate only buying neutrals without a lot of individuality. Nevertheless, it's a really important question to ask, because you don't want to have to keep buying and re-buying clothes, shoes, and accessories that are shoddily crafted, not to mention that buying poor quality products from social enterprises does a disservice to the makers. You'll waste money over time and you'll be sad that the things you love disintegrate so quickly.

Check the seams, buttons, and materials label on items before you purchase to make sure they seem well made. Lower quality products often have side seams that warp and bend in the wash or buttons that are sewn on with just a few loops of thread. I also try to avoid polyester/cotton blends with too much polyester - they're more likely to pill after one wash. Be wary of rayon blends, too, because they often require more maintenance to keep looking new.

3. Does my purchase contribute to demand for new goods? Is that a good thing?

If you're shopping at a retailer known for labor or environmental violations, the last thing you want to do is contribute to demand for new goods from that company. This is the question I asked at my recent excursion to the regional J. Crew Warehouse sale. While I was purchasing products from a company without firm or well-regulated Corporate Social Responsibility standards, I was buying end-of-the-line products that wouldn't be produced again. Beyond clearance, beyond outlet, these were goods that either never made it to store shelves or were past season. I considered questions 1 and 2 and then made purchases that checked off all the boxes.

If you're purchasing from a fair trade or sustainable company or from a social enterprise that gives back, contributing to demand for new product is exactly what you're trying to do, so you can feel confident in your purchase making a positive impact.

4. Is the company or product sustainable?

Sustainability is a trending word in the conscious consumerism discussion, because we're realizing that it'll take more than a few fair trade companies to turn the industry around. We can think of sustainability in two ways: 1. are fabrics and processes environmentally sustainable?, 2. is the overarching model concerned with efficiency, transparency, and respect for its workers?
While companies like Everlane tend to focus on the second question, ZADY* (and now Krochet Kids'* new Kickstarter campaign) realizes that we'll need to answer "Yes" to both of those questions for a more sustainable future.

We must remember to strive for progress, not perfection, and reward companies that are taking steps, however small, to make the industry more sustainable. That means that shopping at Everlane, ZADY, and even H&M (the largest buyer of organic cotton in the world) can all be fine decisions as long as we keep the other questions in mind before making a purchase.

5. Can I afford it?

Price point is the elephant in the room in the ethical clothing conversation. The fact of the matter is that fairly sourced items are going to cost more. But we still have to be mindful of our budgets and make sure we're not hurting our families' or our financial security when we shop. An item may tick all the boxes, but if it's not something you can fit in the budget, you'll need to put it back on the rack. This is a difficult one for me, because I want to support all the companies I love, but I simply can't afford to do so.

If you love a brand, advocate for it. Share new products and lookbooks with friends. But don't buy something if you can't afford it. Keep in mind that even lower priced goods sourced from thrift stores or consignment shops like thredup may not be affordable if you've already gone over your clothing budget or if you really can't find a long term use for the thing you're been eyeing.

There are lots of other specific questions to consider when making a purchase, but the ones listed above are broad enough to get you started. It's not always about redirecting all of your spending to fair trade certified products. You have to make decisions that are right for your lifestyle, preferences, and budget, too. 

Let me know what questions you ask before purchasing a product in the comments.

Image Attribution: Creative Commons License, by Nan Palermo on flickr; Graphic added by me

inspiration board: November

inspiration board november
This month is the first month of consistent cold in Charlottesville, but there's still enough variation that it's worthwhile to consider wearing light layers rather than heavy, constricting garments. I've been really into black recently, but I always try to brighten it up with color or something light, like gray stripes or a denim jacket.

As it so happens, I am now the proud owner of a secondhand "jean" jacket that's actually made of a thick, stretchy cotton blend. It's a lot more comfortable than standard denim and I plan to wear it as the last layering piece over a top and sweater to keep the wind out. I also used up the rest of my birthday ebay gift card on a secondhand pair of knee high boots. The ones I bought are brown, but they have a similar silhouette to the ones above. I'll wear them soon for an outfit post.

One of these things is not like the other: sooo, I can't really wear sandals in this weather, but I scooped up some lovely Made in Italy sandals at the J. Crew Warehouse (read my thoughts on the ethics of the sale here) sale a few weeks ago and I'm daydreaming about wearing them. I guess I'll be spending the next 5 or 6 months gazing at them longingly as I put on my boots each morning.

I'm still after the perfect pair of frames, but I'll have to wait a few more months since I don't have eye insurance.

This styleboard contains affiliate links. Everything listed is domestically or ethically produced. The bag is vegan leather.