Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


When It Comes to Fair Trade, What's Fair? A Chat With Brad Jeffery

What is fair trade? and interview with Brad at Causegear

Growing interest in conscious consumerism has necessarily brought with it a range of questions about what constitutes fairness, ethics, and transparency. While the definition of fair trade has remained fairly solid over the last several decades, new companies, marketers, freelancers, and bloggers have introduced terms to the marketplace that, at once, appropriately nuance the range of "ethical" perspectives available to us and create confusion.

We've gone from having to define one term - which is difficult already - to having to hash out the meaning of dozens of terms: ethical, sustainable, transparent, eco-friendly, vegan, green, slow, minimalist, the list goes on and on. They're all related, but they're certainly not all the same.

This questioning has also led people like me - writers, bloggers, hobby ethicists, and consumers in the ethical space - to ask what their role is in ensuring that "ethical" adheres to a meaningful set of standards and definitions. And then, to try to understand what our role is in adhering to those standards ourselves.

My friend, Hannah, answering a question on a recent Instagram post, pointed out that she's uncomfortable making $100 on a blog post when the producer of the item she's reviewing made far less than that. I appreciated her comment, because it got my wheels turning about the related topic of profit sharing, and what it means to ensure that all participants in a "fair" organization are receiving reasonable, ethical treatment as individuals and employees.

I reached out to Brad, founder of CAUSEGEAR, a Chicago and India-based social enterprise that operates with a unique 5x wage model to pick his brain about these questions, and see if we could find any resolutions. If you've ever wondered about the complicated inner workings of running a fair trade business, I encourage you to read the full interview below.


I’ve noticed that most fair trade certification agencies and membership organizations require companies to set a minimum wage that is higher than the base wage in the country of production, but there seems to be a lot of wiggle room on whether these companies are required to provide a meaningful living wage. Can you speak to that?

Brad: We don’t put a lot of stock in fair trade certifications. I’ve read Fair Trade Federation standards  and others like it, and they’re kind of ambiguous. They’re not hard and fast - they leave a lot up to individual discretion. Because its ambiguous and there’s a lot of corruption in these regions, people aren’t held to task [despite the good intentions of the parent company].

It’s really hard to decide [what the appropriate wage is] and so we came up with this 5x model, because I personally needed some hard standard for ourselves.

When we surveyed the people we were trying to help, the multiple [for what constituted a living wage] was about 5x the typical wage in that region. Some of our partners take a portion of that higher wage and use it for childcare or other benefits. The 5x Model is enough income to provide for the needs of the crafter plus 3 dependents.

The test that I use is to work really closely with the organizations and groups that are actually running the factories, looking at both qualitative and quantitive results. If you visit an employees' home for dinner, you can tell really quickly if the wage they've received is not enough. For that reason, we work directly with the nonprofit that runs the factory (we work with nonprofits because they have missions aligned with ours) and we audit through consistent, close relationship, not just questioning financials but observing the obvious, tangible results.

That being said, we have to be careful to not place our North American standard of a “livable wage” on people using the fair trade model. Consider the fact that the minimum wage in Bangladesh is $1.58 a day and in India it's $2.40. Paying 5x that wage still looks like very little to our eyes, but it is what the producers themselves believe is livable.

I've heard stories of women in fair trade factories having to continue to participate in sex work due to unsatisfactory wages. Do you know of this happening among your work force?

We work in the largest red light district in Asia in Kolkata. Our team is right in the center of it. Two hundred and fifty women have left red light work and are now involved in crafting and are doing well. They are out of trafficking, but they still live in the environment. It's right outside their doors.

I've heard that some women continue work in prostitution while they're transitioning into full time work in another field. In some cases, the fair trade co-op is not able to provide enough work hours - for instance, when the item produced is seasonal - so they will make ends meet by continuing in the sex work industry, though our partners provide a full time wage when business is slow to help women stay out of prostitution.

What is fair trade? and interview with Brad at Causegear

What are your thoughts on the fact that most fair trade business owners are making more money than the artisan? In light of varied cost of living, I understand that some adjustments must be made, but do you think makers are getting the short end of the stick?

It's true that the artisans are not making as much as the business owners, but you have to look at the cost of running a business and what is the appropriate wage for skill and responsibility. As you grow, your wages should track with that. This is true whether you live in America or India.

Another thing many consumers don't realize is that shipping and import taxes take a huge amount of potential profit out of the equation.

At the end of the day, you have to use best practices, so we’re paying the crafters 5x a basic wage and the way we’re going to pay for that [in the long term] is by lowering unnecessary expenses.

Causegear has a "low profit" model. What does that mean and how does that relate to profit sharing?

90% of the profit goes to a special fund to go toward crafter benefits. We are designated an L3C, or low profit limited liability. The guideline itself doesn't set a standard, so we have set our own standard.

[In regard to profit sharing,] from my experience in business, the best business culture is a collaborative team culture that provides everyone the opportunity to make an impact on the company overall. We practice Open Book Management, which means we share financials with our team. Every week, we have a team meeting and we actually show the income statement. When everyone can see how the company is doing, it makes teams stronger.

And lastly, I've been thinking a lot about "social good" companies that market themselves around charity but don't seem to prioritize ethical labor standards. What are your thoughts on this? It seems to me that, rather than being revolutionary, it's completely in line with traditional business models that give back after they've made a profit. 

Charitable giving can at times reinforce rather than alleviate poverty. The greatest region of poverty is sub-Saharan Africa. If you look at the amount of aid over 26 years it's 1 trillion dollars. In that same 26 year period, poverty has gone up. So I think we need to be careful to not see charity as the long term solution. In the end people need good jobs that empower them.


So, where does all of this leave us as consumers and advocates? It means we should ask more questions, prioritize low profit and profit sharing models, and understand that there isn't always one right answer.

While bloggers, influencers, and ethical businesses should be conscientious about the wages we demand - ensuring that they fit within an integrated ethical business model - there is nothing wrong with making a modest salary. We seek fairness at each step of the process.

Question everything. Go to the source. Build relationships that matter. That's what "ethical" business should be about.

Thanks to Brad at Causegear for letting me talk your ear off!

FashRev Week | Soul Flower Rhythm & Blues Fair Trade Collection

Soul Flower fair trade rhythm and blues yoga collection This post is part of a paid collaboration with Soul Flower.

Soul Flower Boutique makes organic, eco-friendly, and fair trade clothing for lounge, yoga, and everyday wear. I've been enjoying their stirrup leggings for the last month or so - and they really hold up in the wash - so I'm excited to introduce you to their newest fair trade certified line for spring.

The Rhythm & Blues collection was inspired by Millefiori, a craft technique whereby many shaped layers of clay or glass are carefully cut away to reveal the patterns within. Head designer, Leiah, created freehand mandalas and triangles in multiple sizes, allowing them to layer and merge to create a continued pattern. Hand drawn patterns take a great deal of attention to detail since they can't be easily manipulated like a digital print, so you really get a sense of the skill of the artist in each stroke and careful placement. Due to this focus on quality, the collection took nearly a year to complete.

I appreciate the fact that this deep care and awareness coincides with the fair trade model's respect and passion for people, and the artisan craft traditions they inherit.

Soul Flower fair trade rhythm and blues yoga collection

The Rhythm & Blues Collection is made from a 95% organic cotton and spandex blend, and was produced in a fair trade certified factory in India. Each piece was cut to be flattering and comfortable, and the print is so beautiful even the yoga-inspired silhouettes can carry over into everyday life. I'm partial to the Geo Organic Cropped Funky Pants. Paired with a simple blouse and flats, they would be work appropriate.

Soul Flower fair trade rhythm and blues yoga collection
Soul Flower fair trade rhythm and blues yoga collection

In addition to their new line, Soul Flower sells a vast selection of organic and ethically produced clothes for women, men, and kids in flattering silhouettes, along with a selection of accessories. I appreciate companies like Soul Flower that strive for the highest standards while remaining humble, and I can personally attest to the quality of fabric and fit.


See the Rhythm & Blues Lookbook here

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FashRev Week | Escama Studio: Intergenerational in Life & Business + Giveaway

escama studio fair trade for every age
Posing with thrift shop volunteer and good friend, Fiona
This piece was sponsored and produced in collaboration with Escama Studio. Scroll all the way down for giveaway.

From a very young age, I've intentionally volunteered on behalf of and with "old people."

My youth choirs would travel to the local nursing home around Christmas time to sing carols with the residents. In high school, I helped plan the annual "Senior Prom" at the retirement center, and took part in their fall festivals. In college, I headed up a Conversation Hour program meant to foster relationships between college students - who were often inexplicably wary of retirement-age folks - and residents at the state-of-the-art retirement community in Tallahassee, Florida. That program fizzled out after I left because it turned out most college students were only in it for the volunteer hours, and this didn't sit well with me or the seniors who dedicated a few hours each week to trying to get to know the younger generation.

Understandably, it made them feel like charity cases instead of the interesting, intelligent people they were.

I put "old people" in quotation marks for a reason. While my reasons for being around people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s was due mostly to a fascination with the stories they could tell and, I think, ultimately a reverence for the lives they'd lived, I was still susceptible to cultural conditioning that told me that it was ok to treat older folks as one homogeneous group, or as a separate species to be dealt with sensitively. Now that I've worked alongside dozens of volunteers of retirement age, I realize that, sure, maybe I still do have a particular vocational calling to intergenerational relationship, but that's just it: it's intergenerational and it's about relationship.

escama studio fair trade for every age
Modeling the Escama Studio Socorro Pop Top Bag

The age divide so permeates our culture that it even shows its ugly face in the fair trade marketplace.

Andy Krumholz, who heads up fair trade brand, Escama Studio, thinks about this topic a lot, as Escama seems to resonate well with a more mature age group. On this topic, he brings a lot of wisdom:

"Looking at fashion, in this era when brands are able to project their lifestyle in such a variety of targeted forms it’s ironic that one group is so underrepresented, namely people over the age of XX. It would be easy to point fingers at brands like American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch for perpetuating the cult of youth but we may be equally culpable. We are able to personalize the information that we receive, and we end up filtering out the things that are dissonant. Even if we are not intentionally filtering out certain types of images on Instagram, the end result is the same; there’s often a common thread or tonality, thematic brands, like-minded followers that network out to yet more people with similar tastes. Older people are one of the things that end up being filtered out. The blinders that we put up in the photo sharing world may be a mirror image of what we are doing in the physical world.

It’s ironic that in this particular age of turbulence, resistance and activism, that we would be paying so little attention to the generations of our mothers and grandmothers. Ironic on a couple of levels:

‘Whatever type of citizen we have been, we need to be a different kind of citizen’ – these are the words of Samantha Power, the former ambassador to the UN, speaking in regards to how we need to approach our lives in the age of Trump. If we are looking for role models to emulate in this new reality, who better to serve as guides than those who have protested and resisted in previous generations. Some of our mothers, grandmothers and other women of their generation, may have insights into how to best live in turbulent times. Protests and campaigns for equal rights in the late 60s and early 70s are worth revisiting. The participants in these protests live among us.

From the perspective of fashion, we should fess up to the fact that many themes in fashion today are exactly mimicked of this earlier era. Natural lighting, natural fibers, the studied boho casualness of Free People and Anthropologie, beards, fringe, macramé (and of course the dreaded hanging terrariums) have all been transported as if by time capsule from the late 60s and early 70s. A few brands have included older models in their campaigns but for the most part fashion brands are developing long term customers among millennials.

So where does that leave us? Should we make an effort to reach across the generational divide and make a greater effort to ‘understand older people’? Yes and no. The fact is that older people may not give a shit about what we are thinking or doing. If we were to tune in to what women on fashion blogs of older people , we might find a refrain repeated throughout which basically says: ‘The interesting thing is that now I feel truly liberated. I wear what I want and could care less what other people think’. 'I’m more confident with my personal sense of style. I find that I can be much more daring than younger women because I’ve been through all of that.'

And therein lies the beauty of older people – they are you and me, they just happen to be older."


While age can bring with it a new type of dependency as health and community degrades (this is just a part of life, not a cause for shaming), as Andy points out, older people don't want or need us to cater to them. They're busy living their lives, like we are. Until we realize that, we will be incapable of bridging the divide and establishing authentic friendship.

I count among my best friends women in their 70s and 80s - women like Fiona, featured here. When we were taking these photos, she pointed out that we're almost 50 years apart and yet we share intimate details of our lives, rant about politics, and cry over sad news with an openness we don't often grant to friends our own age. That's because we get each other. Age is just a number.

So let's stop letting age define us, getting in the way of creating diverse and fair communities. Let's start seeking out spaces, communities, and companies that work to redefine what it means to matter. Age should never be a barrier to influence and respect.

Use code STYLEWISE to get 20% off your online purchase at Escama Studio through 5/14.


Escama Studio creates elegant bags out of pop tops and cording through a fair trade co-op in Brasilia, Brazil. Each artisan is given a dedicated introduction on the website, so read more here. What I love about Escama is that they offer a product that could be seen as typical within the fair trade artisan market, but they do it exceptionally well. Pop tops are made luxurious due to high quality and design standards, and bags are fully lined in solid cotton fabric. I've had the chance to see and feel two of their products - the Chica Rosa Metallic Clutch and the Socorro Bag (seen in these images) - and both are impeccably made.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to US residents only. Contest ends Wednesday, 5/3 at midnight EST. Winner will receive 1 Escama Studio Socorro Pop Top Bag with black accents. I will contact the winner within 3-4 business days of giveaway's end date. If I do not hear back from selected winner within 1 full week, a new winner will be selected.

FashRev Week | My Fashion Revolution Love Story

Fashion Revolution Love Story Fashion Revolution Love Story ethical fashion

Welcome to the Fashion Revolution!

Fashion Revolution was founded in direct response to the Rana Plaza Garment Factory collapse that killed over 1,100 people on April 24th, 2013. This week, we remember the victims of this and related garment factory tragedies and use our voices to demand justice for garment workers around the world.

The fact is that many survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse are still awaiting agreed-upon compensation and, among those who were injured, over 40% are unable to work. Meanwhile, workers around the world continue to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions. For more information about the current state of the industry, read the suggested links at the end of this post.

Through Fashion Revolution, consumers and fair trade organizations around the world join together to hold companies accountable for their labor standards, asking #whomademyclothes? and sharing positive stories about beloved garments and better business models. This year, the Ethical Influencer Network has decided to focus on one particular prompt provided by Fashion Revolution: Love Story.

The idea is simple: share a story about a piece of clothing that you cherish. We do this to combat the idea that fashion is throw-away, and to consider the ways that pieces bought and cared for with love positively impact our lives.
  Fashion Revolution Love Story ethical fashion
Wearing: Dress - The Kissing Tree Vintage circa 2011; Shoes - Etiko
Fashion Revolution Love Story ethical fashion
College Graduation, 2011 | Spring 2013 | Winter 2016

The item I'm featuring this year is a vintage 90s skater dress I bought from The Kissing Tree Vintage* in 2011 (oddly enough, the owner lives in the town I grew up in) . It means a lot to me because it was my first foray into vintage shopping, and I was hooked. I love the sturdy knit cotton of an early 90s garment, and I've always found this dress to be flattering and comfortable, with its wide v-neck and eye catching back seam. It creates an hourglass silhouette while gently skimming over my body, and the crochet accents on the sleeves are a big hit - they always prompt an amused comment or two.

I wore this dress under my gown for my college graduation, at the crappy customer service job I had the following summer, during my first Virginia summer, at parties and church gatherings, and off and on when the weather and occasion suited it.

Now that I'm in my late 20s and manage a shop, the hem feels a little short to be appropriate for everyday wear, but it goes great over leggings and is still perfect for weekends winery-hopping or hanging out with friends.

This dress has seen me through the highs and lows of post-college soul searching, tragedies, and triumphs, and I can't look at it without feeling thankful for the journey it's seen me through.

To join in Love Stories on social media, post a picture with a description and use the hashtags #lovedclotheslast #fashionrevolution #30wears and/or #fashrev.

Suggested Reading:


Learn more about Fashion Revolution here. 

Makeup Free for 40 Days: 5 Things I Learned

what i learned when i gave up makeup for lent

It was late February and Lent was quickly approaching. 

Lent is a season of fasting and deep reflection that mirrors Jesus' 40 days spent fasting in the desert in anticipation of the hardest test of his time on earth: his radical, self-sacrificial death on the cross. For many Christians, the practice of giving something up is meant both to remind us of the immensity of Christ's sacrifice and to keep us rooted in spiritual disciplines that help us let go of material things and focus on what matters.

I had been feeling guilty about a few recent expensive makeup purchases and had some eye irritation as the result of a new eyeshadow, so makeup was on my mind. It seemed like the natural thing to give up. I've never worn a lot of makeup, not because of any moral stance but more out of a sense of lazy-ness. I also have easily irritated eyes, so heavy eye makeup is out of the question. When I told a few friends I had given up makeup for Lent, the response was mostly: "Do you even wear makeup?"

But see, this test wasn't about others' perceptions of me. It was about my perception of myself, right down to the core of my identity.

What I Learned When I Gave Up Makeup for Lent

1. Makeup is a security blanket

One of my friends, an older woman named Mary, passed away a few weeks ago. When I got the phone call, the first thing I thought was "I wish I was wearing makeup." The shock of grief hit me square in the face and I just wanted to wrap myself up in something and feel safe. Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that makeup was about security, but I guess I felt like, if everything else was going to be wrong in the world, at least my pores would look small. It sounds trivial, but I can see how it's mixed up in lots of legitimate emotions.

2. People don't notice your flaws the way you do

Aside from one rather observant - and absurdly critical - volunteer, no one commented on my face at all. If I mentioned to a friend that I had gone makeup-free, they would universally tell me that they hadn't noticed a change. Of course, I could see the minor differences, but that eventually stopped bothering me as time wore on.

3. Flaws are human, and I shouldn't have to apologize for them

When I was a teenager, I remember reading an article in a fashion magazine on the topic of the best concealers. The author measured the efficacy of the product by how "awake" she looked in meetings after a long night of work the day before. It occurred to me then that the burden shouldn't fall on her to look perfect if she was being overworked. If you're tired, why aren't you allowed to look tired?

Seeing my skin without makeup made me acutely aware of the way my skin reddens when I'm nervous, the largeness of the pores around my nose, and the dark circles I get when I haven't slept well. It was oddly freeing to accept my skin in that state, to call it good.

4. My body tells me what it needs

On a related note, being able to see the sunburns and pimples and dark circles made me want to do right by my skin by treating my whole body better. I focused on getting rest, drinking water, and using nourishing skincare products to improve my skin rather than covering up the issues. I also tackled some recurring health concerns by making sure I was getting enough protein and taking probiotics. I feel much better because I learned to pay attention.

5. It's ok to have rituals

One of the things I missed the most about my daily makeup application was the ritual. I liked being able to focus in on my skin, paying attention to the nooks and crannies of my face as I applied powder and blush, carefully curling my lashes before applying mascara, and tracing my lips with tinted balm. But I got my tattoo about a week into Lent, so the process of caring for it became a new ritual.

Framing my routine as a ritual made me more observant of the other little things that help me start and end my days, like boiling water for pour-overs and herbal tea, applying lotion, even shaving my legs. These tactile things we do add a great deal of meaning even when they mostly go unnoticed.

what i learned when i gave up makeup for lent

So what's the game plan now?

I wore makeup on Easter morning and it felt weird. I had expected to love the return to normalcy, but I actually felt less like myself with makeup on after all of those days without it. For now, I've eliminated tinted moisturizer, powder, and eyeshadow completely. I've reintegrated light blush and my beloved Glossier Boy Brow. I've found that my lashes stay curled all day if I don't add any mascara, so I've said goodbye to mascara, as well.

It's really satisfying to have arrived at this place of confidence and renewed self awareness. Until the last week of Lent, I was still complaining about going makeup-free, but now I feel good in my own skin. And, though I know it shouldn't be about others, it's satisfying to know that people who care about you really don't care if you're wearing makeup or not.



The Moral Wardrobe: Put a Scarf on It

ethical outfit with silk scarfethical outfit with silk scarfethical outfit with silk scarfethical outfit with silk scarf
Ethical Details: Top - thrifted (similar); Sandals - Betula (similar); Scarf - thrifted; Watch - c/o The Fourth Gentlemen

I'm so glad the adorable, 1950s scarf thing is back in, because it makes every outfit look just a little more elegant. And it means that I can make an outfit I've worn in some form or the other for 2+ years look current with minimal effort.

We've had several large donations come in at the thrift shop due to the passing of a few stylish ladies. I was close to one of them, Mary, and I enjoyed feeling close with her again through the process of sorting her clothes. I never met the other woman, but she had very good taste in scarves, so I purchased three of them. Some people are turned off by the idea that they're wearing things that belonged to dead people, but I like to think a part of them can live on through the thoughtful re-wearing of their belongings. Material goods meant something to the people who collected them, and there's no reason to discount that. I honor those passed by mingling my own sense of style with theirs.

Sometimes it feels like they aren't even gone, just away for a little while.

A Watch for the Ages: The Fourth Gentlemen Uses Sustainable Bamboo + Cork

The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review
This post was sponsored by The Fourth Gentleman and I received an item for review.

There are very few low impact, low maintenance raw materials in this world. 

Plants like wood and cotton will regenerate by themselves to a point, but it can take years of proper nourishment and appropriate weather conditions to create a thriving plant, not to mention tons of water and vigorous pest control. So, while it's undoubtedly true that planting trees and tending to organic cotton are good, necessary things for the health of the fashion industry and the planet, it's even better to seek out ecologically sound alternatives that require fewer resources during their cultivation.

That's why I'm really excited about The Fourth Gentlemen's line of bamboo and cork accessories. 

The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review

Bamboo, classified as a grass, is a great replacement for wood because it regenerates quickly, which means far less human intervention and natural resources are needed to sustain it. In fact, it can grow at a rate of up to 4 feet every 24 hours and can regenerate to its full height in 6 months, versus 30 to 50 years for a tree. It doesn't require large swaths of land to grow well, and continuous harvesting has been shown to improve, rather than degrade, the quality of the plant over time. Additionally, since bamboo stalks don't have to be uprooted during harvesting, cultivating bamboo can help prevent erosion.

Similarly, cork can be harvested without uprooting the tree it comes from, providing a stable and protected forest for native plants and animals, an essential refuge in a world that is suffering from increasingly dire deforestation and habitat loss.

Found primarily in the Mediterranean Basin of Europe and Africa, Cork Oak Forests are carefully managed to ensure long term sustainability. The first harvest is taken only after the tree reaches maturity at 25 to 30 years of age and each subsequent harvest occurs every 9 to 13 years to ensure that the tree isn't damaged from over-stripping. As a material, cork is both elastic and water tight, making it suitable for all sorts of heavy duty uses, from flooring to shoes to insulation to wine corks.
  The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review The Fourth Gentlemen Sustainable Bamboo and Cork Watch Review

Accessories company, The Fourth Gentlemen, works exclusively with cork and bamboo because they believe that conscious consumer models should be true to their thoughtful premise through both the products they create and in their broader outlook, i.e. to be conscientious, you have to expand your intentional thinking to lots of different areas, not just your purchases.

To this end, The Fourth Gentlemen, in addition to using sustainable cork and bamboo in all of their products, plants 2 trees in deforested areas with each purchase, works with a well-regulated factory in China, and donates 10% of proceeds to the Himalayan Cataract Project to ensure that they can make the greatest impact, and hopefully encourage their customer base to live into their values in more abundant ways.

The Fourth Gentlemen sent me the Women's Bamboo Watch (retail price: $90) to review, and I'm really happy with it. I'm not one for bulky bracelets because they get in the way of writing blog posts and doing other computer work, but the soft, lightweight cork strap makes this easy to wear. The bamboo face is also understatedly beautiful and, though it doesn't have numbers, I haven't lost track of time yet while wearing it. The other important thing to mention is that this watch fits! I have very small (like child-small) wrists, but this watch has 7 notches on it, which is quite generous. The watch comes packaged in a little box, as shown in the site images, so it's ready to go as a gift, as well.

I'm glad to own a watch made out of sustainable materials, not just because I anticipate that it will help me keep time for years to come, but because it ensures that, in a small way, the world is left better off than before. And that gives me some measure of hope.


Shop The Fourth Gentlemen here. 

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A Rosy Outlook

A roundup of rose scented and colored ethical products
This list contains a few affiliate links. 

Every fashion blogger I follow is obsessed with rose, it seems. 

But they're mostly talking about the color. And I'm mostly talking about the flower.

Shea Brand sent me a sample of their rose-scented shea butter last month and something strange happened. Though I've always found rose to feel a bit old, like the expired perfume that my grandmother stored in the guest room nightstand, I became obsessed (my grandmother is, perhaps not coincidentally, named Roselyn). I rub it on my lips, on my dry elbows, and on my cuticles multiple times a day and then just breathe in the scent.

The thing I like about it is that it does have a traditional, almost musty, smell. The old-fashioned, feminine scent has grown on me, making me nostalgic in that sort of hazy, unexplainable way for something I've never actually experienced. Maybe in this political climate and this frantic personal period, I just want to imagine a time when perfume was as simple as a dab of rose essential oil.

In any case, I was inspired to share a few rose-related, ethical items.

Left to right, top to bottom.

Shea Brand Rose Shea Butter | Sustainable, ethical production

Angela Roi Luna Crossbody in Pale Pink | Vegan, ethically made

Kari Gran Radiant Tinted Lip Whip | Organic and paraben-free

Lake + Skye Epic Love Essential Oil Blend | Clean Beauty, crafted in USA

Numi Organic Tea Embrace Holistic Tea | Fair trade, organic (Numi sent me a sample of this as part of my ongoing partnership with them and it's such a soothing, distinctive flavor)

American Giant Classic U-neck in Tea Rose | Made ethically in the USA

How do you feel about rose?

Simply Wood Birth Flower Ring: For Mothers & Mother Earth + Giveaway

Simply Wood Rings Birth Flower Mother's Day Ring and Giveaway Simply Wood Rings Birth Flower Mother's Day Ring and Giveaway
This post was sponsored by Simply Wood Rings and I received an item for review. Scroll all the way down to enter the giveaway.

To kick off Earth Month's eco-friendly brand features, I want to orient the discussion around our planet in the broadest sense. 

I'm interested in coming to understand the way we've anthropomorphized and even worshiped the earth through the character of Mother. An earth goddess exists in several of the world's ancient religions, including those of the Inca, Algonquian, Mesopotamians, Indo-Europeans, and Egyptians. And in ancient Rome, Gaia stands in as the ancestral mother of all life. As one character in a larger, polytheistic narrative, these earth goddesses interacted with others gods, as well as humans, on a regular basis in tangible, everyday ways.

You don't have to adopt particular religious beliefs to see the value in the symbolic figure of Mother Earth. Framing the earth as a mother strips back the dominating, industrial narrative of the last few hundred years and forces us to imagine what an interpersonal relationship would look like with this humming, diverse planet. Mother is a role of origination and sustaining, of protection and discipline. As a child, I saw my mother through a lens of respect, gratitude, wonder, and deep love. If we could consciously see the earth and its ecosystems through this framework, I think much could be accomplished for sustainability.

Simply Wood Rings brings this ethos of respect and wonder to its sustainable, eco-friendly wood rings.

Simply Wood Rings Birth Flower Mother's Day Ring and GiveawaySimply Wood Rings Birth Flower Mother's Day Ring and Giveaway

Simply Wood Rings is a Chicago-based ethical business that produces one-of-a-kind, custom made rings for any occasion.

Their business model is community based in that all raw materials are sourced through an organic network of friends, clients, and small businesses. Wood is gathered from local cabinet makers, donated from clients' home projects, salvaged from fallen branches in local woods, and even saved from an old xylophone and marimba factory. Flowers for inlays are taken from friends' and families' gardens, or purchased from small scale etsy sellers. And gemstones are purchased from vendors and co-ops that prioritize US-based, sustainable industry, including turquoise scraps from Alltribes artisans.

Being able to wrap a beautifully polished piece of tree around my finger makes me feel rooted. It's a reminder that the most meaningful things in life are simple: a laugh between longtime friends, birdsong, sharing a meal, walking through the woods, watching a child play pretend.

I'm wearing Simply Wood Rings' new Birth Flower Ring in these photos, customized to represent meaningful dates in my life. Coming full circle, the Simply Wood team made this ring with mothers in mind, with the intention of having the mother select wood that represents her birth month and floral inlays to match the birth months of her children. Since I don't have children (and my mother was unlikely to wear a ring), I selected the components of my ring to represent Daniel's and my relationship.

The base wood is cherry (July) to represent Daniel's and my wedding month, as well as strong expression and compassion. There are two floral inlays: Aster (September) for my birth month and magic, mystery, love, and daintiness, and Gladiolus (August) for Daniel's birth month and moral integrity, infatuation, and fortitude.

Simply Wood Rings Birth Flower Mother's Day Ring and Giveaway
Wearing an Everlane tee, c/o Emma Suzanne Scarf, and c/o Simply Wood Rings Birth Flower Ring

The Birth Flower Ring makes a definite statement without feeling clunky; in fact, it feels quite feminine in a modern way. I plan on making it one of my everyday rings in addition to my wedding and engagement rings. For me, it symbolizes the continuing, everyday relationship Daniel and I share. It's so much more than that single wedding day, so much more vibrant, deep, and all-encompassing.

As we look toward year 8 of marriage this summer, it feels right to honor our marriage with a stunning piece of jewelry, just as much a keepsake as the rings we exchanged on our wedding day. (This piece, all in, totaled about $310, but costs vary by complexity of design and materials used, so if you're interested you can fill out a commission form here.)

This year, Simply Wood Rings is celebrating Earth Month in a special way:

From April 1st to the 22nd we are donating 10% of all purchases made to an environmental charity of your choice. We have four options to choose from this time around: the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Earthjustice. 

I can highly recommend Simply Wood Rings for their quality, beauty, sustainable ethos, and professionalism. My ring came packed in biodegradable cardboard and tissue paper, and was cushioned in a little wood tray. Whether you're looking for a Mother's Day gift, a wedding ring, or commemorating another event in your life, Simply Wood Rings will work with you to make a ring that suits you distinctly, and with the sense that there was equal nurturing given to you and Mother Earth.



ENTER TO WIN 1 Customizable Birthflower Ring from Simply Wood Rings 
here and on Instagram (@stylewiseblog).

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Must be 18 years old or older to enter. Open to US readers only. Winner will be able to customize 1 Mother's Birthflower Ring to their heart's content - no price or customization cap. Giveaway ends midnight EST 4/18/17.


Shop Mothers' Rings here.

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Inside an Ethical Wardrobe: Spring 2017

Image via Everlane

A quick look inside my ethical spring wardrobe. 

I had intended to make this a regular feature on StyleWise, but it's kind of a pain to pull everything out of my closet then put it back in again, so it seems I neglected to share anything in 2016. If you're interested in comparing this season's wardrobe to Spring 2015, you can read that post here.

The weather is all over the place this time of year, so I still regularly pull out sweaters and boots, but I wouldn't say they are really a part of my spring wardrobe. I should also note that the vast majority of these items are not new - most have been a component in my closet for at least a year, but some of them have been going strong for 4-5 years!

Without further ado...

 Some links are affiliate links.
Clockwise from top left: Elegantees Giselle Cold Shoulder Tee | Stack of Elegantees Tee (out of stock), Everlane Tees, and thrifted top | Everlane Striped Tee | Thrifted Striped Top and Button Down Tank | Thrifted Silk Bandanas (similar) | Elegantees Celeste Flutter Top

What's New: I added a few Elegantees stretch knit tops to my wardrobe this season to spruce things up, including a moss colored tunic that's currently sitting in my clothes hamper.

Clockwise from top: Karen Kane Jeans (similar), made in USA | American Eagle Boyfriend Jeans (not ethical) | Eileen Fisher Cropped Jeans (similar) | Vintage Jeans

What's New: Just the Karen Kane jeans.

Left to right: Old Cardigan | Everlane Soft Cotton Square Cardigan | Love Justly Kimono Jacket (c/o)

What's New: Both the Everlane cardigan and the kimono jacket are new this season, and I wear them all the time.

Clockwise from top left: Synergy Organic Clothing Full Skirt (similar) | Thrifted Cutoff Skirt | Synergy Organic Clothing Holly Skirt | Vintage Skirt, thrifted

What's New: I just bought this "Made in Texas" peasant skirt at a local thrift shop last week. The denim skirt was purchases a few months ago, but I haven't been able to wear it much until now.

Left to right: Greenheart Shop Crossbody | Thrifted Vera Bradley Tote (similar)

What's New: I couldn't resist this old school Vera Bradley tote when I saw it at the thrift shop. It's in good condition, and the lightly padded quilted fabric will be good for toting around my new laptop. 

Left to right: Sseko Designs Suede Loafers | Sseko Designs Gold Loafers | Thrifted Earth Shoes (similar) | Frye Oxfords (questionably ethical, but some styles are made in USA)

What's New: Not shown, a pair of red suede loafers I thrifted last week. I'll feature sandals in my summer wardrobe post (if I manage to remember to photograph it!). I also plan on buying a pair of the Everlane flats (featured in the first image on this post) when they come out next week.

That's (mostly) it! There are a few items I couldn't photograph because they're dirty, and I left out dresses because I have yet to wear a dress this season. For me, they're more of a summer item. 

I hope this is helpful to you. Let me know if you have any questions!

3 Ways to Follow Trends Responsibly

3 ways to follow trends responsibly and ethically
via Unsplash

I hadn't realized this until recently, but over the last few years, I've become very methodical in the way I follow trends. 

Sustainable and ethical fashion bloggers will tell you to think of your purchases in terms of timelessness - and this is great advice - but most of us are still impacted by what's in now and purchase accordingly, even if we lean more minimalist than conventional bloggers.

And of course, minimalism as an aesthetic is a trend, which means there's no telling when this fashion movement that thinks of itself as existing outside of time will fizzle out. In fact, there are ripples of movement toward its polar opposite, maximalism, already apparent on the runways and in stores.

So I think it's worthwhile to admit that we are going to want to dress like others, whether we're influenced by runway shows, regional scenes, or global trends, and that the best way to do this responsibly is to set some ground rules.

3 Questions I Ask Myself Before Buying into Trends

Do I like the style well enough to wear it even when it inevitably goes out of fashion?

This is the most important question to ask, because there are plenty of of-the-moment items that I might enjoy for the season when other people are wearing the same thing, but as soon as they all move on, will I still feel comfortable wearing them?

Case in point: Mules. The mules comeback is undeniably cool and surprisingly fashion forward, but realistically, I can't see myself wearing them years from now. They'll feel dated quickly, at least in the context of my wardrobe and personal preferences, so they're not a good buy.

Is it constructed well and made with high quality materials?

There's no sense asking the first question if the item I end up buying will fall apart after a couple seasons. If I'm going to make a purchase of any kind, I need to check fabric quality, breathability, care instructions, and seam construction. This is the key to making a responsible purchase, whether the item is trendy or timeless, because poor quality excuses us from having to really live with our purchases.

Can I justify the price point within my current budget?

When it comes to fashion, there are everyday things and then there are things that just speak to us. In my book, it's ok to occasionally buy something that isn't inherently practical as long as it meets the first two qualifications and it fits within my budget. If I really needed a sturdy pair of jeans but I splurge on something whimsical, I haven't really made a responsible choice.


I've found that making these questions a habitual part of my shopping process helps me avoid impulse buys and keeps me far far away from the temptations of fast fashion stores. And, it helps me solidify my personal style, which is much more gratifying than mindlessly following trends.

Do you have any advice on trend buying? Is there a current trend you love but know you shouldn't embrace?

Ethical Easter Dresses for Women + Girls

victoria road, ethical easter dresses for women and girls
Image via Victoria Road

Easter is just around the corner!

Each year when we were young, my grandmother would take my sister and me out to hunt for the perfect Easter dresses. We used to dress to the nines back then, donning woven straw Easter hats, tights, and little buckled shoes. I anticipated those special excursions with my grandma, particularly because I knew she didn't have the income to splurge on shopping trips for her grandchildren more than once a year. It was something she carefully budgeted for, and I appreciated her generosity all the more for it.

Easter is a celebration of self sacrifice, hope, and redemption, so it only makes sense that any purchases we make surrounding the holiday should center around ethics. Here are some of my favorite places to buy ethical spring dresses for adults and kids. All items are fair trade, and about half use eco-friendly textiles.

This list contains a few affiliate links.

For Women

Passion Lilie

Favorites: Azure Shift Dress | Daily News Wrap Dress

Mata Traders

Favorites: Midsummer Dream Dress | Tisbury Dress


Favorites: Savannah Maxi Dress in Shaded SpruceVivian Dress in Purple Sage (this one is my Easter dress!)


Favorites: Shibori Tunic Dress

People Tree

Favorites: Danielle Dress in Green | Chloe Dress in Blue


Favorites: Maddie Dress | Cosette Dress

For Women + Girls

Victoria Road

Favorites for Women: Peony Cross Top Halter Dress | Rose Tunic Dress
Favorites for Girls: Grace Ruffle Dress | Ruffle Pinafore Dress | Spring in Bloom Tunic Shift (pictured above)

Global Mamas

Favorites for Women: Party Dress in Light Blue Garden | Sunset Dress in Mustard
Favorites for Girls: Reversible Dress in Blueberry | Sundress in Light Pink
Favorites for Babies: Twirl Dress

Go Gently Nation

Favorites for Girls: Tank Sack Dress | Sleeveless Ruffle Hem Dress
For Babies: Poplin Slip Dress

Water and The Fashion Industry

water usage in the fashion industry

April is a big month for sustainability advocates, with both Earth Day and Fashion Revolution bringing awareness to the related causes of fair labor and environmentalism. I thought I'd start out the month by sharing a piece on Water and the Fashion Industry written for Good on You by contributor, Bethany Noble.

I'm also partnering with brands who prioritize sustainable and eco-friendly practices leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd. Then, the week of Fashion Revolution (April 24th-30th), I'll share some companies dedicated to fair labor practices, and my own #fashrevlovestory, in collaboration with the Ethical Influencer Network.


Originally published by Good On You app.

Ever thought about how much water it took to make your cotton t-shirt? How about three years worth of drinking water for one t-shirt! That’s a lot of water; 2,700 litres to be exact.

Pretty shocking right?

In recognition of World Water Day, we want to reflect on the fact that not everyone around the world can just turn on a tap in their house to drink clean, fresh water, let alone flush a toilet with the push of a button. Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is freshwater and only 0.3% is accessible to humans. So while we may be a ‘blue planet’, usable water is incredibly scarce in comparison.

The fashion industry is a massive consumer and polluter of our fresh water. And one of the biggest culprits is cotton. Despite only occupying 2.4% of the world’s cropland, cotton accounts for 24% of the world’s insecticide use and 11% of pesticides. Toxic chemicals washing into waterways and entering the ecosystems, is becoming a major source of pollution, especially in developing countries.
Unsustainable cotton farming has resulted in the loss of the Aral Sea in central Asia. In the 1970s, the Aral Sea was the fourth-largest lake in the world. It was an important source of life for the surrounding communities and home to millions of fish. It now covers a mere 10% of its former area.

The local Uzbek communities have suffered the loss of livelihoods and food sources while gaining new health impacts. The dust from the lake is carcinogenic and now covers their villages.Aral Sea - water and fashion

Manufacturing in the apparel industry also contributes to the water footprint of fashion. It’s estimated that around 20% of industrial water pollution in the world comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles, and about 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles. Each year, textile companies discharge millions of gallons of chemically infected water into our waterways. It’s estimated that a single mill can use 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric. So not only does this consume water, but the chemicals pollute the water causing both environmental damage and diseases throughout developing communities.

In the developing world, where the majority of our manufacturing takes place, factories and textile mills are located directly along or close by waterways such as rivers and canals. These factories use 1.5 billion cubic metres of freshwater each year. In places like Dhaka, Bangladesh, the water is so polluted at times, it isn’t even safe for livestock. Many industries and households that rely on fishing and farming to make a living are now suffering as a result of the lack of freshwater.

Polyester is one of the world’s most common fibres and it uses the same material found in plastic bottles. But when we wash our polyester clothes, thousands of microplastic fibres are washed into the waterways. In fact, it’s estimated that a single polyester garment releases 1,9000 individual plastic microfibers. And guess where these microfibers end up? In our oceans where they threaten ecosystems and end up in our food chain.

But there is something we can do

Did you know that if we extend the lifecycle of our garments (especially our cotton garments) by nine months, we can reduce the water footprint of our clothing by about 5-10%? It’s not a huge amount, but it is a case for buying less, buying well and making it last!

Another great way to reduce your water impact is to buy only certified organic cotton. It’s grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers, which means you won’t be contributing to water pollution. However, it does still use a vast amount of water to grow the crop, so you’ll want to make it last as long as possible.

Alternative fibre sources are another great alternative to the thirsty cotton crop. Brands using raw, natural, renewable or recycled materials are on the rise. These materials include flax, monocel (a form of bamboo material that uses less water and toxic chemicals), linen and recycled polyester. Seek out brands that use waterless dyeing and low-impact dyes if you can, as they help reduce the pollution of waterways.

Making clothes last

It’s not too hard! While you wouldn’t expect even the best-made t-shirt to last forever – you simply wear items like these to death – stretching its life out by nine months is doable. We have nine simple ways to help keep your wardrobe from absorbing too much of the precious resource and keep your garments around longer.

1. Wash Less Often

Washing our clothes frequently is wasteful and bad for your clothes. Wash them less frequently to keep them longer, while saving time and natural resources. Washing detergents are harmful to the environment and damaging to your clothes. Many clothes, especially sturdier items, like jeans, only need a good airing out before your next wear. Martha Stewart has an elaborate guide for spot treating to avoid the machine wash.

2. Read Care Instructions

It’s not always fun reading instructions, but four lines ain’t so bad, right? The guidelines are there by law and provide you with useful information. Like where a garment was made, how to wash it and what not to do with it (like tumble drying).

3. Removing Stains Before Washing

Got some red wine on your white shirt? No problem. Before you put the garment into the wash, spot-clean the stain. Cold water and a bit of Wonder Soap or laundry detergent will do the trick. Cold water will reduce the chances of the stain setting, especially if it’s those tricky ones like coffee.

4. Be Careful of Machine Washing

If you absolutely must machine wash your clothes, make sure you colour match and save up your clothes to wash as many at once. The settings are important, as spinning on the highest setting will fatigue your clothes quickly. Cold washes are usually best. Some machines even have an eco setting, so make sure you switch over to that to save water as well.

5. Drying in the Sun or Shade

Know whether to dry your clothes in the sun or the shade. The sun is quick to fade clothing, so avoid leaving colours in the sun for too long. However, whites love the sun and get an extra sparkle from the rays.

6. Losing Shape

Some clothes will lose shape when hung on a line. Opt for a clothes horse to lay a special garment flat when you need to take extra care not to disfigure.

7. Be Careful of the Dryer

Read the care instructions! Some clothes are fine in the dryer, but keep in mind that high temperatures can affect the fit. (And it’s also not great for our environmental footprint!).

8. Ironing

Ironing might take a bit of time, but it will keep your garments looking fresh and sharp. But remember, heat can stress the material and fade the colour. To protect your garment, iron on the reverse on a cooler setting. If it’s thicker cotton or linen, you will need more heat. But be careful you don’t burn thinner cotton. If you’re using organic cotton, use a much lower setting, as the chemicals in conventional cotton won’t be there to protect the garment.

9. Hung or Folded

The way you store your clothes will affect their fit and shape. If you’re hanging a heavy knit it will lose its shape and fit. However, a crisp shirt will hate being folded in a draw. Hang it alongside your silk dresses and freshly ironed tees. Despite being a little more expensive, wooden hangers will last longer and take better care of your garments.


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