Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


The Moral Wardrobe: Something Old, Something New

ethical and thrifted outfit with bead and reelethical and thrifted outfit with bead and reelethical and thrifted outfit with bead and reelethical and thrifted outfit with bead and reel
Ethical Details: Top - old; Cardigan - old H&M; Skirt - thrifted; Sandals - Melissa via Bead & Reel*

The best outfits combine old favorites with new staples. This top is from a conventional brand, but it's going on year 3 this season. The cardigan is at least 4 years old. And the skirt, though it's new to me, was likely produced at least 10 years ago judging by the style and size. I picked it up for $1 at my shop's end of season sale. I purchased the sandals from ethical boutique, Bead & Reel. 

The fall and winter seasons necessitate a uniform of sorts because the primary goal is warmth. On almost any day from November to March, you'll find me wearing a bright sweater layered over an Everlane tee, plus a pair of skinny jeans and boots. But then warm weather hits and it's suddenly possible to experiment with new silhouettes. It's a little overwhelming and I often end up trying out things that don't stick. 

This year, I'm trying to stay true to the colors and patterns that I know I'll wear, and limit the number of "Oh, this is fun!" items I purchase. To that end, I'm sticking with simple skirts, unfussy patterns, lots of blues and stripes, and cropped denim. Though complicated outfits can look great, I know that I'm likely to avoid anything that needs adjusting during the day. 

8 Ethical + Minimalist Spring Pieces

8 ethical and minimalist spring pieces
Photo via Unsplash

Lovers of clean lines and streamlined color palettes, this one's for you: 8 beautiful, ethical pieces from established fair trade and transparent companies at reasonable price points for the quality and construction.

This list contains some affiliate links.

People Tree

People Tree Alana Jumpsuit, $121.50

Why It's Ethical: Organic cotton, fair trade, supports female artisans

People Tree Marsha Top, $81.00

Why It's Ethical: Organic cotton, fair trade, supports artisans.

Tribe Alive

Tribe Alive Open Back Tank, $98.00

Why It's Ethical: Fair trade, supports artisan craft tradition in Guatemala.

Grove and Bay - Passion Lillie

Passion Lillie Dynamic Blue Top via Grove & Bay, $41.95

Why It's Ethical: Fair trade, uses low impact dyes and low water weaving process.

Thought Clothing

Thought Iris Tencel Denim Dress, £69.90

Why It's Ethical: Fair labor, made with sustainable tencel and organic cotton.

IMBY Culottes

IMBY Amelia Cropped Culottes, $108.00

Why It's Ethical: Made in the USA with a sustainable modal/cotton blend
Fortress of Inca

Fortress of Inca Abby Jane Flats, $230

Why It's Ethical: Fair trade, leather sourced as byproduct from local meat industry in Peru.

Bourgeois Boheme Cork Sneakers

Bourgeois Boheme Kim Cork Sneaker, $180.00

Why It's Ethical: Recycled sole, organic cotton laces, sustainable cork upper, ethical labor, vegan.

8 ethical and minimalist spring pieces

I'm Donating a Portion of Blog Proceeds to 2 Important Charities

bee Xerces Society

The time has come to put my money where my mouth is. 

I'm going to donate 6-10% of StyleWise's annual proceeds to two charities that are near and dear to my heart. I would love to give more, but as this blog becomes a more essential source of income in the next few months (my husband's about to lose funding for his graduate degree with at least a year left to go), I can't commit to more at this time.

So, what are the charities?

Xerces Society

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. We take our name from the now extinct Xerces Blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), the first butterfly known to go extinct in North America as a result of human activities.

Now that I have a bee tattooed on my arm, it only makes sense to go the next step and monetarily support insect conservation to the best of my ability. The Xerces Society works with scientists, land managers, policy makers, farmers, and citizens to provide resources, advocate, and create long term solutions for conservation. They're well respected and established, having been operating since 1979. Learn more here.



For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The ACLU, or the American Civil Liberties Union, has tirelessly fought for equal rights - and against policies and people who would threaten them - since 1925. Their recent work in opposition to the Trump Administration's Muslim Ban was/is absolutely remarkable, a definitive example of justice prevailing. In this political climate, I find it particularly important to support the ACLU and organizations like it, fighting the good fight with knowledge, dedication, and passion. Learn more here.


There are lots of other organizations I could donate to, and I'm sure some align a little better with the ethical fashion premise of StyleWise. But I think starting where I'm led is a good first step. I'll review this topic at the end of the year, or when something significant changes either in my income level or in terms of greatest need.


What charities and organizations are you passionate about supporting?

Would you be interested in supporting charities through a group fund? I'm not sure how to do that (yet), but it might be fun to see how much this community is able to raise throughout the year.

Safe + Natural Tattoo After-Care

I got a tattoo!

Surprise! If you've known me (in person) for very long, it's actually not much of a surprise that I ended up getting one. I've been talking about it for 10 years. My college roommate and I spent many a night scheming up the perfect tattoo design and placement. She got one last summer, so it was only natural that it was time for me to follow suit.

Why a bee?

My nickname growing up was Leah Bee. There's no origin story there, it just flowed nicely and was picked up by my relatives. My older cousin, Meghan, even gave me a cute little bee backpack for my birthday (I must have been 8 or 9) and I cherished it for years until I felt I had grown too old for it.

I was stung by a bee at Disney World as a very young child. But my mother told me that the bee was just afraid and didn't mean to hurt me. That has stuck with me, and as an adult I appreciate the way she diminished my fear by allowing me to empathize with that little creature instead of learning to hate it.

I vividly remember a moment in elementary school - I must have been 9 or 10 - when the class was sitting cross-legged outside waiting for our teacher to pick us up from the cafeteria. A bee approached us on the hunt for flowers and, seemingly in slow motion, each child jumped up into the air, shrieking and fleeing. But I stayed, leg over leg, calm as Yoda, just observing. I'd learned, thanks to my mother, that bees didn't want to hurt me.

I wonder now if that story, embedded in me, has affected my approach toward inclusive relationships. If even the bee is worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt, how much more grace should we extend to humans?

Anyways, I'm happy that I got it and have been pleasantly surprised with the speed of the recovery process. (And yes, it hurt, but I found breathing through the pain to be very effective.)

This list contains a few affiliate links.


After interviewing Kerrie Pierce on safe cosmetics, I've changed my tune a bit when it comes to "all natural" products. While my sensitive skin thanks me for using mild, naturally derived ingredients in most cases, I'm learning to trust my skin when it tells me it isn't responding to a particular product.

I've eliminated the aggressive skin oils that burn on my skin and thrown out the mascara I was using that contained no preservatives, allowing bacteria to thrive.

Apply Two Times a Day:

Anti-Bacterial Soap

When my tattooist recommended I use an antibacterial soap for the first few days, I decided to listen. Antibacterial hand soaps are generally a bad idea for everyday use because they encourage the bacteria that survives to mutate into super bacteria, but when it comes to cleaning an open wound, it can still be the best choice. After the first week, I transitioned to an unscented bar soap. My friend, Faye, recommends Dr. Bronner's.

Dial Gold Liquid Handsoap (for first few days)
Dr. Bronner's Baby Unscented Bar Soap (contains palm oil)
Tree Hugger Soap Co. Castile Soap (palm oil free!)

Coconut Oil

My tattooist also recommended coconut oil in place of ointment, because it has mild, anti-microbial properties that may aid in healing and absorbs into skin more effectively than a product like Aquaphor. I know I'm way late to the coconut oil party, but now I see why everyone was (is?) obsessed with it. It smells incredible and leaves you with soft skin free from residue. I used store brand unrefined, organic Coconut Oil.

Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Apply as Needed:

Unscented Lotion

To ease itching and skin discomfort during the day, I brought a bottle of Cetaphil to work. Every few hours, I rub a little bit on the tattoo for quick moisture that doesn't suffocate the skin.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
Tree Hugger Soap Co. Unscented Whipped Body Butter (palm oil free)

Shea Butter

Faye also recommended Shea Brand Whipped Shea Butter for after care (Shea Brand sent me some products for review). Shea Brand uses hand-whipped, sustainably and fairly harvested, organic shea butter with a hint of Vitamin E and essential oils.

I didn't start using this on my tattoo until about a week and a half in because it needs to be thoroughly rubbed into skin and a flaking tattoo can't handle that. But while I was waiting for the tattoo to heal a bit more, I applied it to a rash I'd had for over a month and it started to fade almost immediately. Within a week, it was gone! Shea is a nut-based cream that goes on thick, but dries matte. It's great for cuticles and chapped lips, too. I've been carrying a little tin of it in my purse to ease the dryness caused by cold wind and indoor heaters. I highly recommend it as a multipurpose skin product.

Shea Brand Original (Unscented)
Shea Brand Rose

Shop Shea Brand here.


Are you thinking about getting a tattoo or do you already have one? Feel free to ask questions and make suggestions in the comments. 


Related Reading: 
How Ethical Are Tattoos?

The Moral Wardrobe: A Denim Miracle

Everlane Top and made in USA denim Everlane Top and made in USA denim Everlane Top and made in USA denim Everlane Top and made in USA denim
Ethical Details: Top - Everlane; Jeans - Karen Kane (made in USA, similar); Belt - thrifted; Shoes - Frye (some styles made in USA)

Let me tell you about these jeans.

For the last several years, I've been on a somewhat noncommittal hunt for ethical jeans that actually fit my body type. I have wide hips and a relatively narrow waist and it seems like all the "cool" small, ethical brands make jeans for straighter figures. For that reason, I've tended to fall back on American Eagle jeans despite their less-than-stellar production standards, justifying it by purchasing dark wash, mid-rise styles that I can wear for years.

The only problem is that American Eagle's quality has gone waaay down since the last time I bought jeans there. So I went on a frantic hunt around the mall looking for an alternative. On a whim, I walked through Belk, checking the labels of a half a dozen jeans before I came across these, by Karen Kane. Produced in the USA out of imported fabrics, they're not the pinnacle of sustainability, but at least they check off one my boxes.

This was the only pair left, not my typical size, and listed as $89.00. I tried them on anyway and they fit. I worked up the nerve to throw down nearly $100 at the checkout counter (I can spend a hundred bucks no problem online, but I have trouble facing that price tag in person), but then the clerk said, "Your total comes to $25.00." Suppressing my surprise and childlike glee, I paid up.

Sometimes you reluctantly make the better choice and the Heavens open up and reward you for it.

Grove & Bay Makes Conscious Consumerism Compelling + Accessible

Grove & Bay new online ethical retailerThanks to Grove & Bay for sponsoring this post. 

"The World's Best Shopping Experience for Conscious Consumers"

Chris Welch, the founder of new online ethical retailer, Grove & Bay, is best described as a pragmatic idealist. He wants global change in the manufacturing industry as much as the next conscious consumer, but he knows that simply slapping some fair trade goods up on a website is not enough to create a sea change.

It has everything to do with the foundational questions. 

Instead of asking, "how can I convince people that fast fashion is bad?" Chris asked, "what makes educated, empathetic consumers choose fast fashion over more conscientious retailers?"

Let me unpack that a bit. I think that most of us in the conscious consumer community are preoccupied with that first question. We think that if we just provide enough detail about the state of the fashion industry - about sweatshop labor, factory collapses, deforestation, and widespread pollution - that people will obviously change their shopping habits. We push brand stories, even to the point of selling narratives more than products.

But research shows that our assumptions simply aren't true, and that over-selling the ethical narrative can even push people away. People, by and large, don't change their habits when introduced to troubling data. In fact, they might just dig in their heels and deny what they hear.

But people do respond, very favorably, to an attractive, easy shopping experience. 

That's where Grove & Bay comes in, bringing education, quality, price point, and user experience together for an overall experience that will give fast fashion retailers a run for their money. This isn't your quaint, run-of-the-mill ethical retail website. This is sophisticated, thorough, and, most of all, clear.

Grove and Bay Fair Trade Ethical Retail

How Grove & Bay is Different

Style First, for Women and Men

Grove & Bay understands that a brand story can only go so far. Clothing and accessories must be stylish, wearable, and high quality or they're not truly sustainable. After all, what's the point of "choosing better" if the item is ill fitting, scratchy, or poorly constructed? Grove & Bay aims to limit their selection to styles that people will want to grab again and again, for years to come. Plus, they carry both women's and men's styles on one convenient platform.

Transparency Guide

Grove & Bay researched over 1,200 ethical and eco-branded items to select the best of the best in the industry. Rather than organize collected data using a badge system or secondary menu, each product's ethical designations are available on the individual listing's page for both ease of access and absolute clarity. Love a top but wonder what makes it "ethical"? Scroll down to its Transparency Guide and learn everything you need to know.

Ethical Fashion on a Budget, Grove and Bay

Sizing Tools

Each item at Grove & Bay has been measured individually so you can be sure that the thing you ordered will fit when it arrives at your door. Their cool sizing technology also lets you compare items in the shop to ones you already own so you get a sense of silhouette, not just measurements.

Affordable Prices

Conscious consumers everywhere know that one of the biggest barriers to shopping ethically is price. Grove & Bay is committed to showcasing affordable goods, with all items ranging from $12 to $120.

That's all well and good, but do they carry things people will want to buy? 

Grove & Bay wants to focus on classic-but-not-dated, casual style. Think your GAP or J. Crew shopper. Their introductory product line includes offerings from Amour Vert, Etiko, Alternative Apparel, Passion Lillie, United by Blue, and more, with brand launches every month. They're also the only US-based online retailer offering Thought (formerly Braintree) Clothing, one of my favorites.

In an industry that's been trying, with some futility, to change hearts and minds by focusing almost exclusively on the makers, I'm thrilled to see a company successfully marrying maker stories with consumer interests. Though it can be discouraging to realize that empathy alone won't change the world, the sooner we can collectively make smart choices, the closer we get to authentic, sustainable change.

That is worth celebrating. 

And that's why I'm sure I'll be one of Grove & Bay's first customers. More than a product or a mission, the Grove & Bay model is smart, appealing to both aesthetic and ethical sensibilities, and maybe - hopefully - bridging the divide between hardcore ethical shoppers like me and people who would make better choices if only they had the resources and the time to do it.


Grove & Bay launched yesterday! Be one of their first customers...

Shop Grove & Bay here.

Follow along: Instagram | Facebook

What I'd Say About Ethical Fashion if I Met You on the Street

ethical fashion and generosity

Recently, I was visiting with a friend who I hadn't seen in awhile and she said something regarding my blog that has stuck with me:

"Maybe it would be a good idea for you to move somewhere where people are less concerned with being intellectual so you can know what it's like in the real world." 

I'd taken this to mean that my approach on this blog can seem inaccessible, even judgmental, to those living outside of my specific social circle. To give you some context, I had just been complaining about the Type-A, aggressively driven culture of UVa and Charlottesville, how it exhausts me while also pushing me to strive for more. In many ways, it's a great thing to be surrounded by people who are obsessed with going after their dreams. But it inadvertently creates a culture of judgment and misplaced expectation because it assumes that anyone who isn't doggedly pursuing something "important" (it's easier to tell what's not important than what is important around these parts) is lazy, or maybe not very smart. And those things, in this context, are very bad words.

When I first moved here, I had no idea what I wanted to "do with my life" (now, I think we're fooling ourselves if we assume that there is only one thing we're "supposed" to do). When people asked me, "So, what do you do?" I couldn't give a satisfactory answer. "I'm a barista" or "I work at a screen printing company" were not adequate in the eyes of these driven, high-minded people. I'd get a blank stare and then a follow up, "Oh, but what do you want to do?" I wanted to yell "That's not what matters! I matter! See me for who I am, now."

I fear that maybe I can come off as a "What do you do?" person. 

As blogging became more central to my life, I started to get more respect and fewer blank stares. "I write on ethical fashion" or "I collaborate with social good companies" sounds like a real thing, believe it or not, and the academics among me could relate it to the type of work they do. On the one hand, it's nice to have a project that forms part of my identity. But it also makes me prone to becoming the type of person who values people only for their labor and not for their being.

And maybe sometimes, it makes me seem like the type of person who would judge you for not living according to my standards.

So, let me be clear...

If I met you on the street, I would not tell you that you are bad, or not good enough. 

If you asked me "what I do," I would tell you my spiel, "I write on ethical fashion and manage a thrift shop," but I wouldn't then expect you to engage in any particular way with that information.

If I met you in the store or at church or at a university event, I would not try to guilt you into embracing my lifestyle, or pretend that I had it right. Don't get me wrong: I love to talk about ethical fashion with people who seem genuinely interested. It gives this project some validation in the real world. But I don't ever want to give the impression that because I am living a certain way that I expect you to do the same.

In the tiny room that is this blog, the conversation is different, sometimes more intense.

But you - the reader who keeps coming back - are having this conversation by choice. You entered this space of your own volition. 

If you're a woman stopping into the thrift shop while your brother's getting his weekly transfusion at UVa Hospital or a volunteer hoping for a little camaraderie during the week or a fellow parishioner at a weekly dinner, you didn't ask me to talk to you about this. I respect that and I honor you.

I believe that people have the responsibility to live according to high moral standards and encourage others to do the same. But accountability comes as relationships mature, not in the beginning.

So if I meet you on the street and I'm not living up to the standard of inclusion and hospitality that I strive for, you have permission to tell me so.

And I'll try my best to not ask you what you do, but what you enjoy and how you spend your days. You matter so much more than the work that you do can ever let on. I've sorry if you've ever been told otherwise.

What is the Direct to Consumer Model? by Alden Wicker

This piece was written by journalist and blogger, Alden Wicker, and originally appeared on EcoCult, a curious, thoughtful, utterly enthusiastic view into the NYC sustainable scene. Learn more here.

Sezane, Elizabeth Suzann, Siizu, and Reformation are all direct-to-consumer brands.

The moment I understood – really grasped in its entirety – what "direct-to-consumer" means, my mind got blown.

It's not a hard concept to wrap your head around. But I don't think many consumers get the full import of it. Because if they did, well, everyone might shop differently.

To explain, let's start by describing how traditionally a sweater by a designer finds its way into your closet. (FYI: This is a simplification. There are variations on the financials of wholesaling that I'm not going to get into.) First, the designer sketches it out, then has a sample made. They take all their samples that make up that season's collection and show it to buyers. This is what Fashion Week used to be for. Designers sent models down the runway wearing their samples, and the people in the audience were buyers for stores and fashion magazine editors. If the designer can't afford a fashion show, they might just invite buyers to a studio to look through samples, or present at a tradeshow like Capsule. The buyer then puts in an order for the items they want to buy for their department store, and pay the wholesale price: say, $50. The designer then has the order made and shipped out to the store in the next few months. Then you walk into the store, try on the item, and decide to buy it for $150, the retail price. The store gets $100, which helps it pay for the lease on the store, the sales associates, advertising, and various other costs, leaving some profit.

This system worked really well for a while, because designers and small brands needed to be in a store in order for consumers to find and buy them. The dream was to get an order for 500 of your designs from a big store like Nordstrom or Bloomingdale's, thus launching you into the big leagues, at least for a season.

Up until the last five years, if a new brand didn't want to go this route, then they had to raise enough money to open their own brick-and-mortar stores selling mostly their own product. Think about the mass-market, mall brands: Gap, Express, J. Crew, Victoria's Secret, H&M, TopShop, etc. You won't see any of these brands being sold in a department store. But starting a retail store is a whole different career path from starting a label.

Even if a designer or brand becomes big enough to open their own store(s), they charge their own customers the same retail price for that sweater, and keep all of it for themselves. Not because they want to bilk customers out of money, but because operating a store has additional expenses. More importantly, designers have an agreement with department stores to not undercut them on price. So, a pair of Nike's at the Nike store will cost the same as the same pair of Nike's at Bloomingdale's. This, of course, breaks down a little bit once sale prices come into play. (That's a whole other story.) But when product first hits the sales floor, it's all even.

How to Support an Emerging Designer

Knowing this reveals one easy way you can support a sustainable fashion designer, now that the internet exists. Once you discover a designer you like, buy directly from the designer's own website instead of a department store. You pay the same price, but all of it goes to the designer. If a designer is on a mission to improve the world with their fashion by using organic cotton and paying artisans a fair wage, why not direct your dollars to them instead of an amoral department store?

In fact, why ever buy from a department store or boutique ever again, you might wonder? Well, maybe because that store is doing you a valuable service. The buyer likely saw that sweater in person, so it's been vetted for quality. If too many sweaters get returned because the fit is off, or if the designer is flaky and unreliable, the store will stop carrying that designer, thus protecting you from getting burned. Plus, the department store might have generous return policies, and a well-developed shipping system that will get you your item on time, and may even provide free return shipping. Most importantly, they are finding and curating fashion for you, so that you can peruse 15 different red sweaters in all materials and fits, and then buy it along with a pair of jeans and some sexy lingerie, which will all arrive in the same box.

In the case of a store like Ethica, they provide you a service by finding all the best ethical and sustainable fashion and putting it in one place for you. Or, if you want to try on a bunch of different sustainable designers in person to find the perfect dress, you could pop in a store like Kaight in Brooklyn, instead of ordering seven different dresses from seven different designers. That would be a major pain (and cost) to ship those six other dresses back! (Believe me, it really is a pain to deal with return shipping for tiny designers. It's not really their fault, they're just focused on, well, designing.)

"We Cut Out the Middleman"

So what if a fashion brand doesn't want to play the wholesale game? What if they just want to sell right from their own website? Bingo: the internet has given small brands and emerging designers an easy third way: direct-to-consumer.

Everlane is the most prominent evangelist of this model, though they call it "radical transparency." Here's what they say on their site:

We believe customers have the right to know what their products cost to make. At Everlane we reveal our true costs, and then we show you our markup.In traditional retail a designer shirt is marked up 8x by the time it reaches the customer. By being online only, we eliminate brick-and-mortar expenses and pass these savings on to you.

Other ethical and sustainable companies have also set out as direct-to-consumer brands from the get-go: SiizuReformationElizabeth SuzannSezaneBluer Denim,  and Allbirds are a few. How do you know if they are direct-to-consumer? They say things like, "We don't sell to stores" (Elizabeth Suzann) or, "100% online, no intermediaries, straight from the most beautiful workshops to the customer." (Sezane.)

For the modern ethical brand, a direct-to-consumer model can make a lot of sense. Consumers want to buy ethically and sustainably, but when the wholesale price of an ethical and sustainable sweater is $100, it could end up being $300 at retail, which is too much for many well-meaning consumers to swallow. The direct-to-consumer model is the only way to create a beautiful, quality, ethical and/or sustainable sweater for a retail price of less than $150.

So when you see a direct-to-consumer brand, you can be almost sure that you are getting great value for your money. The same quality sweater might cost three times as much in a store, or even more.

However, not all emerging designers and brands can go this route. Notice that almost all the brands I listed have full collections. To operate this way, you need to be a go-to for consumers, the first thing they think of when they want to go shopping. Designers can't just slap up a website and sit back to await the hoards of customers. They need to advertise, hire a PR firm, buy Google ads and keywords and Facebook ads, and really hustle to get the word out to potential customers that they exist. This is what's called "customer acquisition" and it's expensive! Plus, you need a user-friendly website, a good photographer, and a team to handle customer service and shipping. Note that by May of 2016, Everlane had raised $19 million in funding, and was seeking additional investment. Direct to consumer may be affordable to you, but it's not affordable to an aspiring designer.

So, Should You Buy Only Direct to Consumer?


Read the rest on EcoCult.

Know Why It's Better: Fibre Athletics Pursuit Top

Fibre Athletics Ethical and Eco-Friendly Activewear Fibre Athletics Ethical and Eco-Friendly Activewear
This post was sponsored by Fibre Athletics and I received an item for review.

There are those of us who buy things because we like them. 

And then there are those of us who obsessively Google search, compare items, make charts, email companies, and check and double check for ethical standards.

In case you can't figure it out, I'm the definitely the latter. Which is why I'm am as happy as a kid on Christmas morning reading the product listings at Scroll down to "How It's Made" on each product page and you'll discover a treasure trove of detailed information about the product, from textiles sourcing to certifications to manufacturing.
  Fibre Athletics Ethical and Eco-Friendly ActivewearFibre Athletics Ethical and Eco-Friendly Activewear
Ethical Details: Pursuit Top - c/o Fibre Athletics; Everywhere Jacket - c/o Fibre Athletics; Leggings - Soul Flower Stirrup Yoga Pants; High Tops - Etiko

The Fibre Athletics Pursuit Top is made of rPET certified recycled polyester (sourced from water bottles) produced in facilities that are verified to pay and treat workers well. It's then treated with Chitosante, a nature-sourced, environmentally friendly product (made from crustaceans and the cell walls of fungi!) that adds durability and longevity to athletic wear. It also meets the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification, which ensures that dyes used are low-impact, non-reactive, use fewer resources, and are safe on human skin.

The top is cut and sewn in a fair-trade certified factory in Chicago.
  Fibre Athletics Ethical and Eco-Friendly Activewear

Why I Like It

Like the Everywhere Jacket, the Pursuit Top ($70) is cut extraordinarily well, skimming the body's curves without constricting movement. The raglan sleeves are cut a little loose for freedom of movement (constricted shoulders are my biggest pet peeve when it comes to clothing) and the back zipper pocket lets you go hands-free. I like to go on walks and I often have trouble finding a pocket large enough for my phone and keys, but this one has ample space for both. I've been blown away by all of the American-made goods I've reviewed on StyleWise, and this is no exception. 

I'm wearing the Nova Red color here. It's almost fluorescent red with an orange undertone and I like it a lot. I used to have an aversion to pinks and reds, but they've become my favorite shades recently. I like the way they play against my henna red hair. 


Get 10% off your purchase at Fibre Athletics with code, stylewise10.

Follow along: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Heads Up: Fibre Athletics will be hosting a celebration and fundraiser to assist in the production of new products on April 21st in Chicago. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

6 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Free People

Ethical free people style,

Free People

Though ideologically I'm probably more like a hippie than I realize, I've never fully embraced boho style.

But I've always admired the cool girls and women who pull it off well. Layers, mixed prints, embroidery, and drapey silhouettes feel easy while offering tons of visual interest.

The boho/hippie style is typified by Free People, the aspirational brand that makes you want to spend your life savings on sheer slip dresses and perfectly draped tees just to get a glimpse of what it's like to live life with no reservations or regrets.

I love the Free People catalogs as much as the next suburbia-raised American, but as I've learned more about ethical fashion and cultural appropriation, it's been necessary to keep my distance. 

Not only is a large portion of Free People's product line produced in factories where wage and safety standards are low or unverified, the overall aesthetic capitalizes on the trendiness of indigenous and cultural craft traditions without giving the original makers the credit they deserve.

I've come around to thinking that I really shouldn't be wearing an intricately woven dress made to look like the work of a Oaxacan artisan if it was actually made by a poorly paid teenager in Bangladesh. Instead, if I want to capture the look of a traditional technique, I should buy directly from the culture that created it.

Fortunately, the fair trade movement is all about restoring and preserving artisan craft tradition. These brands do more than pretend: they work directly with artisans to produce high quality, contemporary pieces any Free People woman would love to wear.

This list contains affiliate links.

Abrazo Style

Lightweight dresses, blouses, and shawls made by Oaxacan and Chiapas artisans in Mexico, Abrazo Style aims to offer the highest quality hand-embroidered products while keeping the dying craft tradition alive for years to come. Shown in graphic: Lilia Shift. Worn here and here.


Victoria Road

Tunics, dresses, and more made out of supple local cotton. Designed by Pakistani designers using traditional embroidery techniques and contemporary cuts. Shown in graphic: Anna Off The Shoulder Top. Worn here.



Symbology makes feminine silhouettes with artisan details, like block printing by Indian textile artists and embroidery by Pakistani artisans, with a mission to preserve craft tradition and offer stable, living wage employment. Shown in graphic: Blush Jewel Flower Kimono Jacket. Worn here.



Swingy shapes with cool details. Made in USA out of environmentally friendly and recycled fabrics. Shown in graphic: Criss Cross Cupro Dress in Wine.


Same Thread

Handmade in Thailand under fair trade guidelines using local textile craft traditions and contemporary cuts. Shown in graphic: Ao Nang Maxi Dress.



A socially motivated business making artisan loomed and printed pants, shorts, tops, and jumpsuits and specializing in affordable luxury. Show in graphic: Sideswept Dhoti. Read more here.


Ethical free people style,

Suggestions or questions? Leave a comment. 

Mawu Lolo Sandals: Comfort, Value & Ethics

Mawu Lolo SuborSubor Sandals fair trade reviewMawu Lolo SuborSubor Sandals fair trade review
This post was sponsored by Mawu Lolo and I received an item for review.

Being picky about footwear is a matter of health for me.

Last year, I was diagnosed with Raynaud's Disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the extremities. As a result, my toes show signs of tissue damage and hypothermia after very limited contact with cold conditions (even air conditioning), which means I need footwear that is appropriately warm in cold weather and doesn't constrict blood flow.

You might be wondering what this has to do with sandals.

I love the look of ankle-wrap sandals and flats, but I realized last spring that my ribbon sandals and ankle-wrap flats were tightening around my ankle with continued wear, resulting in numbness and discomfort in my feet. Sadly, I had to let them go. I thought I'd never be able to achieve the elegant look of an ankle-wrap again - though I knew different strap configurations existed out there, I couldn't find a fair trade version.

But then I discovered Mawu Lolo's SuborSubor Sandal.

Mawu Lolo SuborSubor Sandals fair trade reviewMawu Lolo SuborSubor Sandals fair trade reviewMawu Lolo SuborSubor Sandals fair trade review
Ethical Details: Tunic - c/o Victoria Road; Jeans - Eileen Fisher; Bag - c/o Greenheart Shop; Cardigan - Everlane; SuborSubor Sandals - c/o Mawu Lolo

The Mawu Lolo SuborSubor sandal is made by Ghanaian artisans out of hand-loomed fabric and local materials. The leather ankle strap is delicate, and shaped to look like a typical ankle-wrap, but a secure grommet on each side ensures that it's fastened at the preferred tightness without constricting more as you walk. This means my foot is secure, but I can keep the strap loose enough to maintain proper blood flow.

I'm wearing the Brown Multicolor version, which contains brown, cream, black, and a few pops of color, making these perfect for every outfit. The footbed is soft and lightly padded throughout and the sole is made of a sturdy, skid-resistant material.

The best part? These sandals retail for $34.99. Don't be fooled by fair trade companies that tell you that ethically produced items have to cost hundreds of dollars. Costs will vary based on country of production and materials sourcing, but it doesn't mean that all ethical goods must be cost prohibitive.

Case in point: I recently learned about a fair trade huarache sandal brand that buys their shoes from artisans for under $12 bucks and retails them for over $90! That means the bulk of the price is paid to the American owner rather than the person who made the shoe. We need more accountability in profit sharing, so I'm pleased to see that Mawu Lolo prices fairly.

Mawu Lolo SuborSubor Sandals fair trade review

Mawu Lolo works on a fair trade partnership model, selling artisan products in the American market and returning profits to Ghanaian artisans in a profit-sharing loop that allows the program to sustain itself while providing fair wages to Ghanaian employees.

Mawu Lolo is actually the commerce branch of a larger initiative to provide education to children and vocational training to their mothers, who learn employable skills and are provided sewing machines so that they have a continued source of income. Sandal making is a related skill that allows artisans to have access to an additional source of sustainable income. In a country where over 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty, sustainable and responsible infrastructure is absolutely essential.

Mawu Lolo currently carries a small collection of sandals for women and men, including a unisex slide and a few styles of flip flops.

Fair trade. Fair value. Real comfort.

I couldn't be more pleased with these sandals, or what they support.


Shop Mawu Lolo here. 

Follow along: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Photos by my sister, Jennifer Nichole Wells

Soul Flower Makes the Leggings I've Been Looking For + Giveaway

Soul Flower Yoga Pants Giveaway Soul Flower Made in USA Yoga Pants Review This post was sponsored by Soul Flower and I was provided an item for review. Scroll down for a giveaway!

I have a high tolerance for impractical garments, but when it comes to everyday essentials, I am as scrutinizing as a mean girl.

My t-shirts, socks, and leggings need to be particularly sturdy, because they're bound to be worn and washed again and again. My Everlane tees and J. Crew socks (not ethical, but high quality) are going strong 2 and 3 years in, but my ancient Old Navy leggings - purchased before I fully embraced ethical fashion - are definitely worse for the wear.

When it came to finding a replacement, I didn't want to settle. The old pairs are semi-sheer, too short, and cut a bit too low to be flattering at the waist. I knew I wanted to replace them with a high waist, thick, organic cotton pair that covered more of my ankle and wouldn't ride up. That's a lot to ask from a pair of stretchy pants, so it took my awhile to find what I was looking for:

Soul Flower Organic Cotton Stirrup Yoga Pants

Soul Flower Made in USA Yoga Pants Review Ethical Details: Top - A Beautiful Refuge; Legging Pants - c/o Soul Flower; Scarf - Synergy Organic Clothing; Fitbit - refurbished via ebay; Sandals - c/o Mawu LoloSoul Flower Made in USA Yoga Pants Review

Don't let the name fool you: Soul Flower's made in USA, low-impact dyed, organic yoga pants are super versatile. I wore stirrup pants as a kid in the early '90s and had been itching for another pair, because they stay put. They'll go perfectly with boots and high cut flats, because I can tuck them in and they won't ride up my ankle like other leggings. The thick stretch cotton means I can wear them as pants without exposing myself, or simply keep warm when I'm wearing them as a cold-weather layering piece.

As seen in these photos, the stirrup piece is sewn on like a cuff, so you can easily pull it up your leg and wear these like a regular pair of leggings depending on the activity and footwear choice. Every detail was carefully planned, from the wide waistband to the contoured reverse seams that snake down the front and the back of the legs.

I honestly did not expect to love a pair of leggings this much, but here we are. The quality is immediately apparent, and that makes me feel respected as a customer.

  Soul Flower Eco-Friendly and Ethical Leggings ReviewSoul Flower Eco-Friendly and Ethical Leggings Review

Soul Flower specializes in affordable, eco-friendly clothing for hippies, yogis, and people who like to wear comfortable clothes. They carry a range of original screen-printed tops, leggings, and accessories, as well as ethically-made jewelry from like-minded brands.

Each Soul Flower product adheres to a set of clearly labeled values, incorporating organic and recycled fibers, sustainable hemp, domestic production, low impact dyes, repurposed textiles, fair trade standards, and more. They're a testament to the fact that something can be made responsibly without costing $200. Most items in the Soul Flower line fall in the $25-60 range. The Stirrup Eco-Friendly Yoga Pants retail for $62.00.


Win a pair of Soul Flower's Stirrup Yoga Pants!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to US readers only. Contest begins midnight 3/7/17 and ends Wednesday, 3/15/17 at midnight. Additional entry on Instagram. No purchase necessary.

Additional entry on Instagram!

Photos by my sister, Jennifer Nichole Wells

No, I'm Not Doing More Sponsored Posts Than Other Bloggers. I'm Just Disclosing.

Blogging, Bloggers, FTC Disclosures and Sponsored Posts

Did you know it's the law for bloggers to disclose, clearly and prominently, when they were paid or received free product in exchange for writing a blog post?

Well, it is. 

That's why I write "This post was sponsored by [company] and I received a free product for review" at the beginning of all of my sponsored posts. That's why I declare things "courtesy of" or "c/o" in outfit details. And it's why I have an Affiliate Linking and Privacy Policy page.

I believe very strongly in transparency, so I would like to think that I would tell you these things with or without the weight of the law compelling me to, but I'm glad for the accountability that requires me to stay honest.

The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, was created to keep companies from falsely labeling or promoting their products to intentionally mislead consumers. Think turn-of-the-century "diet powders" that were actually just baking powder and "alcoholism remedies" that were actually diluted opium. There need to be regulations on advertising to ensure that consumers aren't duped or, even worse, harmed or killed by falsely labeled products. Regulations have since expanded to include clear labeling of editorial content so that consumers don't mistake advertising for "unbiased" journalism (we could have another conversation about what unbiased journalism even is, but that's for another day).

When fashion blogging first came on the scene, there were no regulations governing client-blogger relationships. 

Blogging was a new medium unlike anything before it, blending personal narrative with advertising with journalism, and it was difficult for people to distinguish between editorial and advertorial content. Companies and bloggers exploited this confusion to sell products, and make bank.

That's when the FTC stepped in, treating blogging as a digital magazine and applying similar disclosure requirements. 

In print magazines, editors are required to disclose when an article has been paid for as a means of advertising a particular company or product. They are not, however, required to disclose when a product in a round-up was provided free of charge, when a company has a particular stake in editorial content without direct advertising, or how brand-magazine relationships skew editorial messaging.

In this way, bloggers are held to a higher standard than magazines, and some of us - myself included - acknowledge that this isn't really fair. The difference is in how we direct that anger. For myself, I think traditional magazines should have to disclose early and often. They should be held to the standard bloggers are held to, so that readers can make an informed choice about the tone and nature of content. Some bloggers skew the other way, feeling that we, the little guys, shouldn't be persecuted just because we're not connected to a large publisher.

In either case, it's clear that we need consistency. But just because the system isn't as fair as it should be doesn't mean I'm free to forego disclosures.

I do a fair amount of sponsored posts - it's how I make a part-time income off of this blog - but I don't do more than others.

It's just that I'm disclosing. 

If a blogger features a new product every day, it's pretty fair to say they received those products - or at least some of them - for free, or received store credit to purchase them. If a blogger writes a piece dedicated to a particular brand, it's very possible they were paid to do so. If a blogger shares an Instagram post with one item featured prominently - especially when it's off brand (think fashion bloggers talking about Tylenol) - they're probably in a paid partnership with that company. If a blogger goes on vacation and overshares about the hotel's amenities, the hotel has probably paid for their stay.

If a blogger links to a product using or another link shortener, it's probably an affiliate link.

I'd like to tell you this doesn't happen in the "ethical" blogging world, but it does, all the time. 

And that's why I'm writing this today. Because I'm tired of seeing people not live the values they claim.

Look, sometimes it's hard (and annoying) to disclose everything - and sometimes I forget to disclose affiliate links - but for the sake of transparency, legality, and consistency, I think we owe it to ourselves and our readers to suck it up and just do it.

Why do bloggers refuse to disclose?

It's probably not from a sense of entitlement or disrespect. It's more likely fear.

Fear that readers won't respect that blogging is monetized, and that our work is worth something other than page views. Fear that people will think that monetization inherently equals dishonesty. Fear that we can't drive sales if readers know we're using affiliate links.

Bloggers need to build trust, and readers need to give it. I have a responsibility to disclose even when it hurts the bottom line, but I'd hope that would mean you'd respect me more, not less, for it.

Being able to work on monetized collaborations with brands gives both parties an opportunity to learn, grow, and promote responsibly:

  • I offer packages that allow me to show products not in an aspirational light, but a realistic one. I think that's ethical. 
  • I get the chance to celebrate companies based on the value of products I can feel and wear, and that means my promotion is based on personal experience, not promotional talking points. I think that's ethical.
  • I connect with companies who pursue their values in all sorts of interesting, innovative ways, and I hope we both grow from our interactions with one another. I think that's ethical. 
  • I learn to discern when a company is not a good fit, or when ethical priorities are being greenwashed. I choose not to promote those products. I think that's ethical.

I don't believe that the ends justifies the means. So, even if I'm promoting an ethical product, I have a responsibility to extend that premise to the way I go about promoting it. I know that doesn't make me popular, but it's the best way to live my values.

Sponsorship isn't the problem. Dishonesty is. And so, we must disclose.

Partners, Not Saviors: Pathways for Promise Promotes Change from Within

Pathways for Promise garment workers program
Pathways for Promise student and former garment worker, Shahnaz Khanam

This piece was sponsored by Pathways for Promise in partnership with the Ethical Writers Coalition.

As a western consumer, I struggle to identify the best way forward for the garment industry. 

On the one hand, I reluctantly agree with the "vote with your dollar" rhetoric that pervades the conscious consumer movement, but I am uncomfortable with the implication that merely consuming more or better would lead to long term solutions for garment workers.

Not to mention that the concept of consumer-driven change stems, at least in part, from post-war propaganda meant to firm up the economy and strengthen traditional social ideals. It's not that it's bad, or wrong in every context, but the people who helped drive consumer culture were not primarily interested in our long term physical or psychological well-being. Just because it's normalized doesn't mean it's the ideal framework.

So, with that being said, I strive to pinpoint and support systemic solutions for problems in the garment industry. From where I stand in the US, I aim to support policies that demand better corporate oversight of factory conditions and that reward the companies and agencies that create awareness and provide models for progress. As an individual, I participate in awareness campaigns like Fair Trade Month and Fashion Revolution.

As a global citizen, I look for agencies that work at the grassroots level to promote change from within. 

American women are unlikely to transform the garment industry. But the women of Bangladesh's garment industry are poised to do what we can't...

Enter Pathways to Promise.

Founded in 2016, Pathways for Promise is an educational scholarship program that provides opportunity to promising young women in Bangladesh so that they can work to transform their communities.

As a program of the Asian University for Women, it adopts the basic tenets of the larger institution, to:

  • Identify talent in places where women’s potential is ignored
  • Establish international networks of educated women and their supporters
  • Cultivate the next generation of leaders in Asia and the Middle East

All AUW students - representing 15 countries and 25 languages - live and study together in Chittagong, Bangladesh to provide support and promote cross-cultural understanding.

Pathways for Promise through Asian University for Women

Pathways for Promise is a bridge program that connects high-potential women to the formal education AUW provides. 

Potential students, primarily garment workers and ethnic minority groups like the Rohingya (read more here), are required to take entrance exams and undergo an interview process to determine skills. Unlike other programs that assess English-language proficiency and educational preparedness, however, Pathways for Promise assesses character traits like engagement, anger at injustice, and desire for systemic change, which means women who otherwise may have been overlooked are given a chance to succeed.

In its first year, Pathways for Promise partnered with a select group of factory owners to offer entrance exams on the factory floor. Additionally, the factory owners agreed to continue paying monthly wages to workers who went on to receive a formal education through the program. Out of more than 1,000 applicants, 30 were selected and are now enrolled in Pathways for Promise.

The program in its entirety lasts 5 years, offering intensive English-language learning in the first year followed by another year of additional preparation before students enter a 3-year Liberal Arts program, where they can major in Environmental Science; Economics; Public Health; or Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

Initial funding for Pathways for Promise was provided by the IKEA Foundation, who paid for the first 26 garment workers' educations, and Open Society Foundations, which works to promote tolerant and democratic societies.

Education = Transformation

The Pathways for Promise Program, even in concept, is compelling. But it only really matters if it works.

Based on data from the AUW at large, Pathways for Promise is promising not just for individual students but for the communities they impact:

  • 90% of reporting alumnae secure gainful employment or enter reputable graduate programs.
  • "AUW alumnae work in nonprofit organizations, research institutes, private companies and schools. The majority of alumnae pursue graduate studies outside their country of origin due to the availability of scholarships, but 85% of employed alumnae go on to work in their home country, thus limiting “brain drain” in the region. Roughly two-fifths of graduates have gone on to teach or work in the private sector; 36% of graduates have gone on to work in nonprofits or government."
  • "AUW has cultivated an international network of emerging leaders who are earning income, living independently, uplifting others, and promoting sustainable human and economic development in the region. Their accomplishments offer the surest proof that AUW is effectively achieving its mission."

Based on early data, the students of Pathways for Promise are on their way to changing the world.

It is good, I think, for westerners to have empathy for the garment workers we inadvertently impact through our purchases.

But it is even better when we realize that we are not meant to be saviors, we are meant to be partners.

As the manager of a small nonprofit, my goal is to see my volunteers rise to the occasion. That means providing them with adequate support, resources, and education to work fairly autonomously in their roles. That also means trusting that they are capable, and worthy of being treated as equals.

If I recognize this as the key to building strong teams at home, I need to let go of the myth that I'm holding the key to changing the garment industry in my wallet, and learn how to be a support, not a foundation.

I am excited to see a world transformed by small steps - and by people empowered to promote progress right where they're planted.

We don't need superheroes. There are kickass humans getting the job done.


Learn more about the Asian University for Women.
Learn more about Pathways for Promise.

Follow along: AUW on Facebook | AUW on Twitter

Additional Reading: Pathways for Promise, Walking With Cake

When Fashion Is Political, by Catherine Harper

This piece was written by Catherine of Walking With Cake, one of my very first ethical blogger friends. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Catherine!

A recent conversation about a shirt, printed with these words: “The Future is Female,” made me think about the way I dress and how it’s perceived.
I don’t consider this shirt truly political; at least, I didn’t before that discussion. As it turns out, the shirt has very political origins, which you can read more about in this New York Times article. Originally designed in the 1970s for Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City, the shirt became well-known after Alix Dobkin wore it in a photograph taken by her girlfriend, Liza Cowan. The current version was recreated by Rachel Berks, owner of Otherwild, and a portion of the proceeds are donated to Planned Parenthood.

So yeah, it’s political. But why, I wondered, did I not see that?

That question has bugged me over the last few weeks and I’ve been thinking a lot about the political aspect of fashion. Hoda Katebi, one of my favorite fashion-slash-political activist bloggers wrote a wonderful post, On the Political Value of Fashion, and I’ve read it several times. She was also recently profiled in Mother Jones article that should be required reading. Hoda asserts that “You cannot choose to be apolitical about your fashion choices,” and I agree.
And this Vogue article explores the ways in which Black female activists used fashion as an extension of their work. Fashion is important because what you choose to wear sends a statement to the outside world, and we need to be clear about what statement we are sending.
As a supporter of ethical fashion, I’m used to thinking differently about the clothing I purchase and wear. That, I’m realizing, is a political statement. Everything that I choose to cover my body, from my underwear to my shoes, is carefully researched before it’s purchased. It sounds boring and tedious, but it’s become a routine habit. Once I thought nothing of killing an hour by shopping at a local retail store and often bought things impulsively, but eventually my eyes were opened. As I began to understand the implications of fast fashion on the rest of the world, I worked to change my habits. It’s taken years to adapt to a new routine, and it’s a difficult conversation to have with friends and family who might not understand. But now, it’s become who I am, and I’m able to look at clothing and fashion through different eyes.

When I think back on my fashion choices throughout my teenage and early adult years, there’s an emerging pattern of quiet rebellion. 

Attending a public high school, I never had to wear a uniform, but I also couldn’t afford a lot of the name brand styles that were popular in the late 1990s. I began to secretly loathe the idea of prominently displayed logos on shoes, purses, and sweatshirts, and that awareness of clothing as advertising has stuck with me as my style has changed. In college and into my early years of teaching, I adopted a dress code that looked a lot like Pam Beesly from The Office, wearing affordable separates that could be mixed and matched with knee-length skirts and black loafers. I wore hose to be modest, and as a very young teacher in a public high school, I did not want to draw any extra attention to myself.
After I moved to Austin, my style relaxed a lot, due to the overall political climate here. Two separate jobs later required me to wear a uniform, and I balked at the suggestion. I have a very distinct memory of almost getting fired for not wearing a college sports shirt to work one day, simply because I did not support college sports, and did not own a college sports shirt. I had to borrow a friend’s shirt to continue working. Later, during my very brief stint as a Mary Kay consultant, we were required to wear a skirt and blouse to all of our meetings. That was no problem, but I somehow failed to notice that the blouse should be white and the skirt should be black, and I stood in a room filled with dozens of women, all wearing the same outfit, while I wore a bright pink sweater and a grey skirt. Oops. After that experience, I realized that I don’t like being told what to wear.
Now, I’m a mom in my late 30s, and I’m free from the dress codes of school and office settings. But I still find that there’s an unspoken dress code or dominant style in my city, and again, I seem to quietly push against it. I stopped dyeing my hair several years ago because I was tired of the maintenance, but also because I decided I’m fine with looking my age. It’s normal and beautiful to have grey hair in your 30s (or in your 20s, or 40s, etc.), and I have learned to love mine. I’ve adopted a basic uniform of jeans, a blouse or shirt that I find interesting, and a comfortable pair of shoes. In the winter, I add a cardigan for warmth, and in the hot months, I switch things up with skirts and simple dresses.
When I read The New Garconne recently, I was struck by the simple style of the women profiled, and so many mentioned two things I identify with: always wearing a uniform and maintaining a sense of individual style. When I made the leap into ethical fashion, I left behind a lot of my favorite trends from previous years, and I’ve embraced simple cuts and colors. Shopping ethically means giving up a lot of unnecessary details and embellishments, and I’ve truly learned to see the beauty in a simple stitch or quiet pleat. I know that my clothing is handmade by someone who cares about their work because they are safe and fairly paid, and I can honor their skill and talent by wearing these pieces for as long as possible. 

Their creations cover my body in the most personal way, and it is only right that I value their contributions for what they truly are.

That doesn’t seem political when you think about it, but I guess it is.