Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

The Moral Wardrobe: Lazy Summer with Sseko Designs + Mata Traders

ethical summer outfit Sseko Designs T-Strap sandals with Carnival Accent ethical summer outfit with everlane and mata traderssseko designs t-strap sandals Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Shorts - thrifted; Layered Amulet Necklace - c/o Mata Traders; T-Strap Sandals* - Sseko Designs (worn with Carnival accents*)

I love the super hot days of summer that make it suddenly acceptable to wear cut offs and sandals everywhere you go. I love driving in my hot car with the windows down and letting the sun seep into my bones. I love feeling good with minimal effort and minimal clothing required.

If you follow me on Instagram (and are also paying a lot of attention), I recently sold my Sseko Designs' Ribbon Sandals and replaced them with the T-Straps. I have a condition called Raynaud's Syndrome that causes me to have circulation issues in my extremities and the constriction of the ribbon strap around my ankle had become a growing concern. The T-Straps are the perfect replacement, because they still have interchangeable pieces, but the straps hit lower on my foot and don't require that I secure them as tightly. I had really wanted to go with the black Nisolo Serena sandals, but the fit wasn't right, so I went with the neutral Caramel Sseko sandals instead.

In unrelated news, I decided to do an Ask Me Anything post on Instagram this week. Feel free to participate either there or in the comments section of this post.

Tea Talk: A Look Inside the Tea Industry with NUMI Organic Tea

Numi answers questions about ethics of tea
Special thanks to Numi Organic Tea for answering all my questions and sponsoring this post. 

I've been fostering my appreciation for tea for nearly ten years, having first started tasting and collecting flavors and blends as a freshman in college. I still use my trusty green mug with a chip on the rim for my daily afternoon teas. Over the years, drinking tea has become a ritual I can count on to calm me down, warm me up, and make me feel like things will be okay after a long day at work.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. According to the Tea Association of the USA, over 158 million Americans are daily tea drinkers and, globally, tea is the second most popular beverage after water. And yet, for tea's popularity, there's startlingly little public conversation about its origins and production process. Like so many things at the grocery store, we think the tea fairies stock the shelves when we're not looking. In reality, the tea industry at large is rife with exploitation and health concerns.

I've come to the realization that I can't accurately call myself a conscious consumer if I don't start considering the potential pitfalls of the items I use and consume every day. When you think about it, it's the everyday items that have the most impact anyway, so discovering the stories behind my face wash, yogurt, soap, and tea is absolutely essential to understanding how I can advocate best for ethics in the industry at large.

Curious to know how this staple product is cultivated and processed, I sat down for a virtual chat with the people at Numi who know best: Reem Rahim Hassani, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer; Brian Durkee, Chief Operating Officer; and Jane Franch, Director of Quality, Sourcing and Sustainability.

Exploitation in the Industry:

According to Brian Durkee, the high amount of exploitation in the tea industry is due largely to its designation as a staple product:

For the mass market consumer, purchase decisions historically have been based on price—the cheaper the better.

The good news is that in the years since Numi has been in business (nearly 17 years), there has been a substantial shift in consumer expectations and tea culture, and now, according to Brian, the average tea consumer is more likely to "[understand] and [appreciate] the nuances of premium tea." 

An expectation of a higher price point is good for the fair trade industry, as well, as suppliers are able to pay better wages when profit margins are higher. Numi works with premium tea producers who believe in the fair trade model's aims of human rights and sustainability and, because the Numi team visits suppliers regularly, they are able to form relationships that build trust and connection, an essential to long term, mutually beneficial partnership:

We’re seeing–and driving–a lot of positive changes in the tea industry, from India to China, Egypt and S. Africa. We’re happy to align with companies and individuals who are intent on solving these problems. If we visit suppliers and see conditions that don’t meet our standards, we talk to them. We make suggestions and let them know our terms for partnering. In some cases, we don’t work with them because we’re not aligned, whether it be organic production methods or the treatment of workers. 

Numi Tea interview about tea ethics

Planting, Growing, and Cultivation:

Tea tradition is rooted in ancient Chinese history, with the first known green tea process perfected and widely known earlier than 200 CE. Today, the quality and flavor of the final product is determined by a number of factors, from the type of tea plant to the quality of the plucked leaf to the drying process. Classic green tea is plucked fresh, then steamed and dried quickly, but other types of teas are fermented, allowed to whither or oxidize before drying, rolled, and cured.

Brian notes that:

Tea leaves are generally not washed before they’re air-dried (oxidized). This means any pesticide residues on the tea leaf can steep directly into your cup. This is one of the reasons we believe consumers should always choose organic teas and herbal teasans. 

Building an Ethical Supply Chain: 

Numi takes certifications seriously, but they're more interested in forming authentic relationships that ensure that they can really understand the needs and challenges of tea cultivation. According to Jane Franch:

For some companies, a certification becomes the scaffolding upon which you hang sustainability claims...Our first filter is always the direct relationship with suppliers who share our values.   

Our hands-on model also gives us the ability to expand markets and work with suppliers who may not initially have the certifications we require, but through careful assessment we determine they’re a supplier worthy of investment to help them get to where they need to be. In this way, we’re creating a mutually beneficial partnership that positions us both for sustainable, positive growth. 

(Side note: As someone involved in community organizing, I find this people-first mentality compelling. We reform best when we work together, and really getting to know people in order to build a unified community is the key to incremental, lasting change.)

Brian explains that being hands-on does more than allow for a clean auditing process, it makes a better, more innovative product:

1. Because we use only whole ingredients from nature – none of the flavorings used by many tea companies – we have to be hands-on in our supply chain. We don’t rely on blenders or flavoring labs to deliver our flavor profile, we rely on the farmers.  

2. We also have a history of innovation, being the first to the U.S. market with products like rooibos, honeybush, pu-erh, flowering tea, etc. That requires us to create a supply chain that didn’t previously exist, and in the process to assure those suppliers are meeting organic and ethical standards. 

3. Many of our most successful products are sourced from a single estate so nurturing and growing those relationships is key.

numi tea behind the scenes

Sustainability: 

Sustainability is the new buzzword in conscious consumerism as advocates for ethical consumption begin to understand the complexity of the global manufacturing system. I tend to define it in a broad sense as a business at its best. Put another way, how does a business make sure that it can maintain and sustain a happy, healthy work force; consistent profitability; and continued use of natural resources? For Numi, the goal of sustainability is a practice in patience and constant recalibration. Reem explains it best:

Sustainability is not an absolute, it’s a process. As a company, we’re putting a lot of product into the world. I come from the mindset that we have too much “stuff” so putting more product into the world is not a right, it’s a process that requires consciousness every step of the way. Some of the steps we take and questions we’re always asking ourselves: 

• Planet: What we can do that creates the least impact? For us, this spans everything from using recycled materials and soy inks, not using shrink wrap, packaging that can be recycled and non-GMO certified tea bags that can be home composted. We’re even taking it “one step closer” in partnership with OSC2, we’ve joined forces with like-minded organizations to create a compostable non-GMO overwrap for tea bags, and are now working to bring more brands on board to scale production.  

• People: How do we sustain or improve livelihood of all the people we work with – people throughout the supply chain as well as employees, and even our customers? Our impact comes from a range of activities: Choosing to only work with organic farms so workers – and our customers – are not exposed to pesticides; Supporting Fair Trade (80% of the ingredients we use are Fair Trade Certified) to assure workers receive a fair wage and are empowered to choose how they want to invest incremental funds in community development; and last but not least, the Numi Foundation H2OPE fund, our mission to bring clean drinking water to farming communities where this basic necessity is lacking.  

Common Misconceptions: 

From Reem:

I think the biggest misconception is around quality and flavorings. One misconception is that tea tastes bitter, requiring milk and sugar to make it palatable. Tea is actually very smooth and nuanced, like wine. Bitter tea often means you’re drinking tea dust and fannings. Teas that use low quality ingredients often try to disguise the poor taste with flavorings and perfumes. We focus on using premium organic tea leaves and herbs and blending with only real fruits, flowers and spices. We believe the best flavors come from nature’s whole ingredients, not from “natural” flavorings created in a lab.

ethics of tea production numi tea

How do you take your tea?

Like me, Reem has her tea ritual down pat: Earl Grey mid-morning followed by Green Tea in the afternoon. In the evenings, she serves her family a classic Moroccan Mint Tea using Gunpowder Green as a base and mixing in fresh mint from her garden. A woman after my own heart, she takes most of her tea without milk and sugar, except for special occasions with family. 

How do I take my tea? I often lean toward Earl Grey tea in the afternoon and Rooibos or Chamomile with a spoonful of honey after dinner. When I'm sick, I go for strong Ginger tea mixed with lots of honey.

Parting Words

Our work is always a process of making conscious choices along the way, and constantly reassessing vision, mission and values to avoid complacency. I hope this glimpse into our approach affirms and ignites your passion.

What questions do you have about tea?


Additional Reading:
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See my previous collaboration with Numi here. 

Follow along with Numi on social media: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

On Trauma, and Community Organizing

spiritual abuse and community organizing Post-meltdown refuge

I'm going to tell you a complicated story about the time I went to a community organizing conference and came back a few pounds lighter in tears. I'll do my best to be honest without causing undue harm to the organizations and people involved in very good work around the country. 

In college, I attended a fundamentalist Christian church that neither ordained women ministers nor let women participate in Sunday services in any meaningful way under the pretext that women might accidentally teach men something, a no-no according to a literal interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12. It was a strange choice for me - I had grown up in a church denomination where women could be ordained - determined mostly by the people I met and the person I was dating. But I thought I would be able to find my niche regardless of the strict gender dynamics.

The college ministry, in some ways, functioned as an independent entity and we had a fairly progressive academic as our college minister, so I hadn't felt restricted from speaking my mind or joining theological conversations, at least at first. But after about a year, that minister left and was replaced by a stricter adherent to this particular brand of Christianity. Sexism began to permeate every event. I was a Religious Studies major, so I knew more than most people in the room about historical context, the original languages of the Bible (I took Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic), and genre, but I found myself silenced or bulldozed over by men with opinions during weekly Bible Studies. Then church leadership appointed a worship leader that couldn't read music when there was a female musicology student who would have readily volunteered had she been allowed to participate as a leader. Things were boiling in me underneath the surface for weeks, and probably months, but I had tried to keep my mouth shut. 


These were my friends, after all. Weren't they?


Shit hit the fan one day when a woman who had come to our house for a gathering overheard me tell a group of people I was sick of the church and decided her best course of action was to tell our college minister. He called me into his office and told me that I was "making the church look bad" and needed to stop making a scene. You have to understand that by this point I felt I had nothing left to give. I felt abandoned by church leadership (Why didn't he care what I thought about the church? Why did it only matter what other people thought?) and scared that I could be tattle-told on in a context as intimate and familiar as my own home. The rigidity of the hierarchy and its unwillingness to recognize the gifts, intelligence, education, and dedication of the women of the church, let alone respond appropriately to criticism (from a woman? Gasp!) made me feel trapped in a visceral, desperate way. What's worse is that my hysterical response to all this only reinforced church leadership's stereotypes of women. There was nothing I could do to convince anyone that I mattered. And a part of me wondered if maybe I didn't matter, after all. That meeting with the college minister sent me into the most serious spiritual and personal crisis of my life and I spent many afternoons and evenings after work crying in bed. 

Flash forward to July 2016. I had been involved with my local interfaith community organizing group for just under a year and, while I had found many interactions and experiences quite gratifying, I had occasionally run up against behavior and rhetoric I found inappropriate or sort-sighted. 

I was anxious to attend the national conference to get a better sense of the context and underlying ideology of the group, hoping that it would ease my worries. 


Though I believed very strongly in the concept of community building for the purpose of local advocacy, I had increasingly felt agitated by the rigidly structured meetings, lack of transparency from leadership, and the feeling that I was always being guilted into doing and saying things I felt uncomfortable with. I was excited to room with a friend I met through organizing and bounce ideas around with her in the evenings. 

It's hard to explain completely coherently what happened there, but I'll do my best. The first full day of the conference began at 8:15 and ended nearly ten hours later with only a couple 5-10 minute breaks and about a half hour for lunch. The day was comprised of a series of intensive, fast-paced lectures packed with information with no time for open-ended questions or processing. This was fairly terrible for a few reasons: 1. I already knew nearly all of the information presented because local leadership had already provided it throughout the last year, 2. there was no opportunity for participation, so attendees were unable to use their brains, really at all, to connect with information in a new way, 3. it was impossible to question the basic ideology of the organization because lecture leaders were not trained - nor had the time - to respond to complex theological or relational questions. 

One particular instance comes to mind. During one lecture on the importance of engaging our communities based on their self-interest, the leader suggested that the church is actually wrong when it suggests that the Bible teaches us the importance of self sacrifice, instead insisting that we should work to see ourselves as powerful. If you're familiar with Christianity at all, you'll know that, in fact, the entirety of the Christian narrative hinges on the literal self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our salvation. Since this particular brand of organizing seeks to mobilize religious communities, there were several ministers present and, naturally, a few of them had some real concerns about the leader's interpretation of their religious text. One man raised his hand and asked how we could reconcile her reading with the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the meek...Blessed are the poor in spirit...") and she essentially dismissed it. That triggered another pastor to raise his hand and force her to allow space for the conversation. If you're a religious adherent, countering an unclear and potentially contradictory interpretation of your theology is of grave importance. The leader didn't answer the question. Anxious to complete her monologue, she simply moved on. 

This was intolerable. It's okay to disagree, but you have to allow space for that disagreement to work itself out. 

Here we were at a conference focused on community and dialogue and we were permitted to work toward neither. 


The whole day felt like this. The people in the room wanted so badly to participate in a fruitful way but they were not allowed to. By the evening, I was both bored out of my mind and agitated by the way things had been handled during the lectures. I ranted a bit with my roommate and went to bed, hoping the following day would be better. 

Boy, was I wrong. The next morning continued the lecture series. To make use of my brain, I decided to write down a quick list of improvements to recommend to conference leadership, knowing that there was a designated time for feedback later in the day. When the time came, we were told we had 4 minutes to answer 4-5 short answer questions. The forms were not anonymous, the questions were leading questions intended to obscure real critique ("What was your favorite thing about the conference?"), and the moderator insisted on calling on people to share their responses. I scribbled down the list I'd written earlier that day and then...I just lost it. 

I turned in my form, then starting shaking. I ran out of the conference room and hid in the hall by the bathroom. And the tears started coming and they wouldn't stop. A nice catholic woman came and tried to soothe me, but it was all I could do to go back to the conference room and grab my bag before rushing back to my room. I laid in bed crying, fell asleep from the fatigue. I woke up and felt numb. 

At 2:00 that afternoon, I was supposed to go back to attend more sessions, but I couldn't. I found a tucked-away coffee shop and planted myself there for a couple hours before heading out to a nearby marina to let myself stop thinking for awhile. 

Here's what I think happened: the rigidity of the ideology, lack of opportunity for appropriate critique, real and implied silencing, harmful Biblical literalist approach to religious texts, and tightly controlled hierarchy had thrown me back so hard to that place of utter hopelessness I'd felt at my church 5 years ago that all the wind had been knocked out of me. 

I was dangerously, irrationally afraid that I would get in trouble for criticizing leadership. I was afraid of being abandoned. 


I was afraid of being made to look crazy. I was so afraid the only thing left to do was to cry. I'm starting to cry again as I write this. 

What I experienced back then at church was spiritual abuse. It was trauma. And the conference had triggered that trauma. I was being forced to feel viscerally - in my shaking muscles, in my bones - the injustice - and yes, it was injustice - I'd felt back then. The irony of that. Here I was at a social justice conference feeling silenced and marginalized. All I wanted to do was shut off for awhile. All I wanted to do was to make it go away. 

Fortunately, I was already planning on leaving early the next morning to head to my current church's retreat weekend in the mountains. While there, I was able to talk to people I trusted about my experience, sit and not think for awhile. 

And I was overwhelmingly, giddily grateful for a religious community that does not deal in rigidity and exclusion. 


That welcomes women and gay people and trans people and black people and former Evangelicals and people with doubts and everyone to the table and says, "You belong. We will not leave you." What a gift. What a miracle. 

I don't know what I'm going to do about my involvement with the community organizing group. But I know I am not alone. 

And that's helping me breathe again.


Getting Thrifty With It: Part 2, 6 Things to Buy at the Thrift Shop

5 things to buy at the thrift shop

Scavenging for treasures at thrift stores is one of my favorite pastimes but, admittedly, it can be a bit tedious to find just the right thing. A few weeks ago, I shared 5 things to avoid buying at thrift shops, but my advice doesn't end there!

Today I want to share the items I prefer to buy at thrift shops over regular retail stores. For me, thrift shops aren't just more sustainable alternatives to the mall, they're treasure troves of goods that defy current trends and traditional merchandising standards. My personal preferences (and my body type) don't always mesh with current trends, so thrift shops provide an essential resource for finding things that work for me across brands, styles, and eras.

6 Things to Buy at Thrift Shops Instead of Traditional Retail Stores


1. Durable Cotton Denim


Even if you're not big into the mom jeans trend, you have to admit that thick, cotton denim from the 1990s and earlier just holds up better than jeggings. Since I carry most of my weight in my hips and thighs, I hunt for high waisted denim with extra room in the hips to make into cut-offs in the summer. Cropping full length jeans allows me to customize the length (booty shorts just aren't my thing) and they're a lot more flattering than the flimsy, skin-tight shorts you often find on the market today.

2. Skirts, Skirts, Skirts


Why buy a new midi skirt when you can buy a groovy, vintage one from your local thrift shop? I don't shop for skirts from traditional retailers at all now that I've discovered the skirt wonderland that is the thrift shop. All sorts of patterns, lengths, cuts, and brands are available in a single place, which allows you to try on lots of different things and find the perfect fabric, pattern, and cut. I recently styled a vintage Ralph Lauren Country skirt I thrifted in a The Moral Wardrobe post.

3. Sweaters & Outerwear


Cold weather clothes made of high quality, cozy fabrics like cashmere and wool are expensive, not to mention that a lot of today's luxury materials just aren't as high quality as they used to be. That's why I've become a secondhand cashmere hoarder ever since I started working at a thrift shop. I used to stock up on Old Navy sweaters made of acrylic and cotton blends, but they never really held in my body heat like a layering piece should. Now that I have access to cashmere sweaters (at $4.00 a pop!) and the perfect wool toggle coat (for $29.99), winters are a lot more bearable.

thrifted cut off shorts and crossbody with everlane pima cotton
Wearing thrifted shorts, a thrifted purse, and an Everlane tee.

4. Statement Dresses & Tops


The ethical fashion world is great at producing high quality, organic cotton basics and I tend to prefer to buy those sorts of things new for the best fit and long term wear. But fun, printed garments produced under fair trade guidelines are either harder for me to find in the right cut or out of my price range, so I seek them out secondhand. Favorite finds: a cold-shoulder top, a '90s skater dress, a slinky polka dot t-shirt dress, and a Ralph Lauren color-block button-down.

5. Swimsuits


This may surprise you, but I actually prefer to buy swimsuits secondhand. Hygiene issues aside (just be careful to check for wear and wash thoroughly before wearing), the thrift shop provides better variety and better pricing on swimwear. I found the perfect, daisy print halter swim top at a shop in a neighboring town a few years ago (I can officially say that I had a halter swim top before it was cool) and it pairs just fine with the black swim bottoms I already owned. For someone who is neither an hourglass nor a wearer of push-up bras (it always seems like swim companies assume we all fit in those categories), I like being able to select from a wide variety of silhouettes and sizes. In fact, I think my top may be a children's item.

6. Purses


Though I have a pretty even mix of new and used bags in my collection, I often get more use out of the surprise finds from the thrift shop. I always use a mid-sized crossbody, preferably made of lightweight fabric with lots of organizational pockets. Finding all of that in an ethically produced bag is pretty much impossible, so I keep my eye out for conventional brands with those specs at secondhand shops.

I'm interested to hear your thrift shop victories! Let me know in the comments. 


Read about 5 Things to Avoid at Thrift Shops.


The Moral Wardrobe: Ketchup + Mustard

sseko designs d'orsay flats via madefair outfit everlane and gia coppola collection revieweverlane and gia coppola collection revieweverlane and gia coppola collection review
Ethical Details: Tee - Everlane; Skirt - thrifted; Ring - Alex & Ani (made in USA); Shoes - Sseko Designs* via MadeFAIR

I ordered this tee from Everlane's collaboration with Gia Coppola on a whim since I had a bit of referral credit and was pleasantly surprised with the fit. As a general rule, if Everlane describes something as slim fit, I order one size up and when they describe something as loose-fitting, I size down. That worked well with this tee, as well - I'm wearing a Medium and the fit is just right. The banded collar and sleeves and mustard stripes make this feel very summer-in-the-70s, and I love the contrast between it and this thrifted maroon skirt. The combination is pretty close to my alma mater's Garnet and Gold.

Also, a quick note on my Sseko Designs* flats: I've had these for a couple months now and they're not holding up that well. Sseko Designs keeps making the mistake of using soft lambskin for their flats and it's just not hearty enough to stand up to regular (mostly inside) wear. That being said, their suede options and sandals tend to hold up a bit better and they're doing a series of anniversary sales this week, so sign up for their email list or follow them on Instagram to see if you can snag a deal.

(If you're still thinking about dyeing your hair with henna and red tea like I did a couple weeks ago, here is what it looks like about 4 weeks in. Still noticeably red, but the color is more subtle.)

Vegan Leather that's Good for the Planet, by Summer Edwards

sustainable eco vegan leather options

From Leah: Now that I'm fairly aware of labor and human rights issues in the manufacturing industry, I'm trying to educate myself on more ecologically sustainable textiles. From farm to mill to factory to store, everything is interconnected, and a product made with toxic materials or water-polluting processes ends up being not only an environmental issue but a human wellness issue as chemicals seep into water supplies and permeate the air. It's a complex system, for sure, so I'm grateful for people who have started the research. Today I'm sharing Summer's exploration of vegan textiles that prioritize both animal welfare and ecological health.

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This post was written by Summer Edwards and originally appeared on Tortoise and Lady Greya fashion and lifestyle blog which aims to promote ethical and sustainable wardrobe choices, and inspire readers to embrace a slow fashion lifestyle.

There are immense ethical and environmental implications of leather, and for this reason an increasing number of consumers are opting for vegan leather alternatives. However, when it comes to vegan leather, the options range from the highly unsustainable to the very low impact, so it pays to do your research.

If you are vegan, or you just want to reduce your reliance on a product that involves the slaughter of animals, there are an increasing number of products that cater to your needs. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse emissions and this is only projected to rise. Due to this fact alone, many vegan leather brands will advertise themselves as sustainable, eco-friendly or green. However, the majority of vegan handbag and shoe brands use conventional vegan leather, which is a PVC product. PVC is one of the most toxic materials that are used in fashion. It is not biodegradable, and it releases carcinogens into the environment. Not to mention that is derived from non-renewable petrochemicals. Choosing PVC leather may seem like the ethical choice, but it is certainly not the sustainable choice. Those who genuinely care about the impact of their wardrobe would be best to avoid it entirely if possible.

The good news is that there have been a number of advances in the development of new sustainable textiles in recent years, and there are some good vegan alternatives to leather which are genuinely eco-friendly. The two that you can find at the moment are cork leather and Piñatex™ (pineapple leather).

Cork leather is made from the bark of cork oak tree. The bark is harvested without harming the tree and it can be harvested every 9 years for the life of the tree, which is up to 300 years. Cork leather is durable and completely natural. It has similar properties to leather in its use and it makes an attractive replacement for leather in handbags, purses, jewellery and shoes...

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Read the rest at Tortoise and Lady Grey.


Pinning Down My Style & Shopping Less

curating a wardrobe capsule wardrobe

I like spending money on things.

That's probably not unusual, but it's very difficult for me to set aside anything I deem extra money for a rainy day when I could go buy a new fair trade dress or check out what the local thrift shop got in this week. It's not as though I have an overspending problem, it's simply that I buy too many things I don't need, or even particularly want.

I've found that the best way to avoid the shopping itch is to spend my time far far away from a store or computer. But since that's not always practical, I also find a lot of enjoyment in seeking out images and representations of my aesthetic and work on curating that instead of my literal wardrobe.

A couple weeks ago, I printed off Caroline's Capsule Wardrobe Planner booklet. I don't practice a Capsule Wardrobe and I don't plan on starting one up again, but I liked the way she broke down wardrobe creation into sections based on lifestyle, habits, and personal preferences.

Listing out what I love versus what I don't love in my current wardrobe was a sort of Duh! moment that helped me realize, 1. I already have everything I really want and 2. obviously I should not buy silhouettes and colors that I don't feel good in, even if they look fine on me. I might experiment with interesting color stories and vintage silhouettes, but there are just some things I won't wear. It's about time I learn that about myself.

For visualizing my style, I rely on Pinterest boards organized by season. As you can see from my Spring/Summer board below, I'm drawn to stripes, midi skirts, mid-wash denim, and minimalist flat shoes when the weather's warm. The images are remarkably consistent, aren't they?

Makes me wonder why I think I don't have a consistent, personal style.

In the News: Police Brutality, Ethical Living Burnout, & Fast Fashion Slowing Down

fair trade and ethics news: fast fashion, police brutality, ethical living

In light of last week's horrors and tragedies, I wanted to orient some of the news I share today to police brutality and racism in the US. As I've said before, you can't have a pet cause when it comes to justice, and it strikes me that we can't do right by the people we can't see in garment factories thousands of miles away if we aren't trying to do right by our own neighbors. I can feel the direction of StyleWise moving slightly to something that encompasses a broader definition of ethics-in-practice, simply because I've come to realize that it's not responsible or healthy to narrow my focus to one type of injustice.

Certainly, there are things I will always be able to speak better to and topics that will resonate with me more deeply, but I tend to perceive whatever work I do here as ethics work rather than a shopping resource. I'm also attending a national community organizing conference this week, so I'll be sure to fill you in on what I learned and experienced!


Searching for solutions: Why are black kids arrested more often than white kids?

For the last 20 years, in one way or another, the city has been collecting and analyzing data on DMC in an attempt to reduce and, ultimately, stop it. Nearly four years ago, the city got more serious about tackling juvenile DMC and brought together more than 40 people—about half white and half black—to form the Charlottesville Task Force on Racial Disparities and Disproportionality, or what’s become known as the juvenile DMC Task Force.

Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person

As a White person, you are in a unique position to influence the perspectives of other White people. If the illegal killing of Black people by the police bothers you, as it should, talk to your White friends about it.

Philando Castile Had Valid Permit for Gun, Long History of Getting Pulled Over

Philando Castile was telling the truth. The 32-year-old school cook had the appropriate state license to own the gun he was carrying the moment he was shot and killed by a cop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday, a source told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Days After: A Nation Reacts To The Week's Violence

That sentiment has been present all throughout the city: a need to do something, comfort someone, be comforted, paired with a realization that answers for the hard questions this week raised aren't yet knowable for many.

Do you suffer from ethical living burnout?

(I've been teetering dangerously close to Yes these days)
One of the hardest parts of living an ethical lifestyle is that quite often the people that make up our support systems – family and friends – unwittingly contribute to our ‘otheringness’. I’m talking about the parent or sibling that can’t hold back from commenting on what you are eating at every family gathering, or the friend that refuses to understand why you eschew plastic toys in favour of wooden or second hand ones for your kids.

Companies Are Doing A Terrible Job On Sustainable Cotton

You’re wearing it. You sleep in it. You dry yourself off with it. Cotton is everywhere in our lives, and its production, which relies heavily on water and pesticides and can cause soil erosion, takes a severe toll on the environment.

Hey! Some Good Things...


This Waterproof Jacket Is Made Without The Usual Bad Chemicals

But like nonstick pans, the PFCs in waterproof jackets pose potential environmental and health risks. Now, a redesigned rain jacket has eliminated PFCs completely.

The Voices of China's Workers (TED Talk)

In the ongoing debate about globalization, what's been missing is the voices of workers — the millions of people who migrate to factories in China and other emerging countries to make goods sold all over the world. Reporter Leslie T. Chang sought out women who work in one of China's booming megacities, and tells their stories.

Fast-fashion's rapid growth starts to slow

EZ Worldwide Express, a shipping firm that handled clothing deliveries for Forever 21, has cut ties with the low-price retail chain because business tapered so dramatically that it was no longer profitable to work with them, according to The Wall Street Journal.

New Ethical Brands I Discovered This Month...


Feelgoodz Sandals*

Silly name, nice looking shoes with fair trade standards in place. I like this pair.

Same Thread 

Beautiful textiles in contemporary, flattering, '70s inspired cuts. I looove this dress.

Thanks to the members of the Ethical Writers Coalition for the article leads and good discussion.

The Moral Wardrobe: Sporting

synergy organic clothing and OESH shoessynergy organic clothing and OESH shoesOESH Athena Sandals made in Charlottesville, VAsynergy organic clothing and OESH shoes Ethical Details: Dress - c/o Synergy Organic Clothing; Athena Sandals - c/o OESH Shoes

It may come as no surprise to you, but I'm not much of an athlete. In high school, I was (much to my surprise) recruited for cross country by my PE coach, but I chose vocal ensemble and the high school pageant as my sports instead. Don't get me wrong: I believe in the value of exercise, I just prefer to get it through my daily work tasks. That's a major perk of working in retail. There's always something to lift and push, and plenty of opportunity for extensive walking. 

Despite my lack of interest in gyms, I quite enjoy the athletic-inspired details on this Synergy dress from last summer and my new OESH sandals. Both items are wearable, relatively versatile, and make me feel confident. Fun fact: the soles on my shoes were 3-D printed on machines fabricated by a group of badass women here in Charlottesville. I'll be doing an extended feature on the company soon. 

American Dreams

4th of july reflection

It's the 4th of July and I'm in Florida awaiting tomorrow's memorial service for my husband's late grandmother. I don't have a lot of spirit left to wax poetic (or otherwise) about much of anything, but I thought I should say something in light of this, our country's most exciting patriotic holiday.

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When I think of my layered identities, American is close to the core. I was born in Indiana, lived in a house next to a cornfield. My great grandparents were subsistence farmers, their children blue collar workers and labor leaders at the GM factory, and their children - my parents - white collar, corporate types. My family history embodies the American Dream: climbing the ladder of success and economic independence despite, not because of, where we came from. This ideal is beautiful. So beautiful that we forget that it's not really true for millions of people - children, parents, families - in this country.

Being an American doesn't guarantee material or personal success. 


I was going to say something about some distant, romantic past where being American did guarantee that, but the truth is, it never has. Being at the top of the capitalist food chain as a nation gives us a collective advantage, but it also creates gross income inequality and forces regular people to bow to the wills of the "job creators" who are, simply as a result of working within a capitalist framework, either resigned to or motivated by profit.

But it's always about profit. 


I've been tracking an ethical company I used to heavily endorse over the course of the past year after it, quite literally, sold out to investors. This company insisted that a for-profit social enterprise model would guarantee greater success for the people they employ across the world. And if you look at their astronomical growth, that's probably true in a way. But they grew at the expense of their core values. They changed their business model to one that puts more of the focus on the narrative of a fictionalized, wanderlusting, individual consumer instead of their employees and the quality of their product. They brought products to market before they had been perfected. They painted the poverty of the global south as a novelty for social media likes. 

They lost their uncompromising commitment to the ideals of ethical business along the way. 


And it's a shame, because as much as sustained growth matters, how can it matter more than the message of living your values, especially when you're a values-based company? Which brings me back to this point: capitalism requires us to place profit over people every time. That's not to say that there aren't good people (there are lots of them, actually) working within a capitalist framework. Rather, it's a word of caution to businesses and consumers alike that we must work intentionally to create something meaningful and human-centered within a framework that will always resist it.

But back to the main point: the American Dream is inextricably linked to this capitalist, profit-over-people system. It's about carving your own niche, creating businesses, and finding new and innovative ways to profit. Under the ideals of the American Dream, we can switch career and life trajectories so easily (remember, this is theoretical) because we're willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, forsaking family ties and relationships for the good of the business endeavor. In fact, we must forsake these if we want to stay the course.

It's not just that the American Dream isn't true, it's that it's not what we should be wanting in the first place. 


Financial security is important, but idolatry of the boot strapping, profit hunting entrepreneur is both dangerous and pathetic. If your first goal is to get big, then your priorities aren't in order.

I want to aspire to an American Dream that is truly inclusive. And that means we have to stop bowing down to the capitalist system and its entrepreneurial gods, stand up, look around, and see the crowd of people we stand with.

I want united states and united people. I want us to notice the people doing the work, and sustaining it. I want us to recognize our complicity in impoverishing other countries and other people for our own gain. I want us to stop "being changed" only by our exotic mission trips to Africa and start being moved by the people in need in our own communities. I want us to physically move, to say something, to see small needs and correct them.

To see big needs and join a movement.

I want boots on the ground of every city, hands up, saying we will no longer stand for fear and violence, ignorance and hate. We will not be afraid. We will not. We cannot.


I dream of an America where people look into each other's eyes and say we are in this together.

And maybe it'll be hard and maybe we won't succeed, but it's about time we freaking try.