Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

11 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Madewell

11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com
Levi's Waterless | Everlane | Ace & Jig

Out of all of the contemporary brands at a mid-level price range, Madewell stands out as most representative of what women want to be wearing right now. 

It's a vintage Americana-meets-minimalist aesthetic that captures that aspirational need to feel polished and perfectly laid back at the same time. We could delve into the ways clothing acts as a sort of costume for living into our aspirations, but that would take awhile.

For now, I'll just say this: while Madewell and its parent company, J Crew, have a standard corporate social responsibility document in place, there is no evidence that the brand enforces these policies. In fact, a cursory search on Google will render multiple results for evidence of sweatshop labor. This doesn't mean that the J Crew-Madewell conglomerate is worse than most conventional brands, but it does mean they're not prioritizing sustainable practices in their supply chain (though, according to this recent Fashionista article, the new CEO is working to get sustainability and fair trade certifications for J Crew brands).

So you have a couple options:
  • If you're a Madewell super fan, email them and let them know that you'd like greater transparency and attention to ethics in their supply chain. Your voice matters.
  • If you're ready to find some ethical alternatives, use the list I've compiled to shop. 

Contains affiliate links
11 ETHICAL BRANDS THAT ARE BETTER THAN MADEWELL
11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com

1 | Levi's Waterless

Madewell is best known for their denim, but their denim manufacturing processes are opaque. Levi's produces a lot of their denim products with very low water waste and other responsible practices. You can still get that American heritage look without the wasteful manufacturing processes. Featured item.

SHOP HERE

2 | Everlane

Similar to Levi's Waterless, Everlane produces their denim range in a low waste facility that even repurposes fabric scraps into bricks for housing. Plus, their linen and basic t-shirts capture the Madewell look at a similar price point, but with better attention to ethical standards. Featured item.

SHOP HERE

3 | Tonle

Tonle is a zero waste clothing brand that does amazing things with factory remnants. Shop screenprinted and woven clothing with casual, cool vibes.

SHOP HERE

4 | Only Child

Made in California, Only Child captures the California-cool aesthetic in wide leg pants, cropped blouses, and more, most made out of high quality linen.

SHOP HERE
11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com
Liz Alig | MATTER Prints

5 | Liz Alig

Mentioned here because their new recycled denim line totally captures Madewell's 2018 look, with casual stripes and streamlined, vintage inspired looks. Featured item.

SHOP HERE

6 | Ace & Jig

With an emphasis on hand loomed, artisan fabric, Ace & Jig is undoubtedly an inspiration for Madewell's own line. In fact, Madewell partnered with them on a custom textile. The price point is higher, but the pieces are true works of art. Featured item.

SHOP HERE

7 | Synergy Organic Clothing

Cotton spandex separates with laid-back, feminine silhouettes, Synergy uses organic fabrics and produces in a fair trade facility.

SHOP HERE

8 | MATTER Prints

While MATTER may be a little out there compared to Madewell, some of their separates and jumpsuits fall right in line with the overall aesthetic, plus they're made ethically using traditional artisan textile designs and techniques. Featured item.

SHOP HERE
11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com
Everlane | Nisolo
SHOES

9 | Nisolo

A minimalist blogger favorite, Nisolo makes mules, sandals, huaraches, and boots with a fashion-forward meets timeless aesthetic. Featured item.

SHOP HERE

10 | Nicora (vegan)

One of my favorites for their thoughtfulness and tightly curated collection, Nicora uses eco-friendly, vegan textiles and other sustainable practices to produce high quality shoes and boots. The traditional shoe-making process ensures that these shoes can be repaired by a cobbler, which means they'll last for a long, long time.

SHOP HERE


VINTAGE

11 | Etsy

Last but not least, don't forget the vintage option! So much of Madewell's designs, colors, and patterns have been pulled directly from vintage pieces. Their look as of late is very early 80s with a dash of the 70s mixed in. Look for specific products through an etsy search.

SHOP HERE


BONUS! Reader Suggestions

12 | ABLE

Made fairly with full employee wage transparency (!), ABLE's entire line of clothing, shoes, and bags closely aligns with the Madewell aesthetic.

SHOP HERE

13 | Tradlands

Responsibly made, menswear-inspired classics for women like button downs, work jackets, and t-shirts.

SHOP HERE

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11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com

Greedy Influencers, Bitter Brands: 5 Ways to Spot and Select an Ethical Influencer

5 ways to spot and select an ethical influencer to work with stylewise-blog.com
There's a passive aggressive war going on in the influencer marketing space these days.

Sure, big brands like Gucci have fully embraced influencers as the key to selling their high-end products. But their marketing budget can be measured in millions of dollars, whereas smaller start-ups, social enterprises, and nonprofit companies simply can't afford to experiment with different types of advertising.

This, paired with a lack of transparency and pushy-ness on the influencer side, has put a bad taste in the mouths of small businesses trying to navigate their way through a tricky online marketing space.

Brand Complaints

From what I can tell, most brands avoid working with bloggers and influencers for a few reasons:
  • Influencers routinely "cold" email them asking for collaboration, then demand payment.
  • Paying money for a collaboration feels dishonest (whereas sending free product feels organic).
  • Influencers fail to disclose paid relationships, which is misleading to potential customers.

My personal policy on contacting brands for collaboration is that I can't simply demand something without starting a relationship. And in most cases, if the brand hasn't reached out to me first, I don't request payment at all. This is because I can't make assumptions about their marketing strategy and budget, and to assume they can throw some money at me doesn't take into account the relationship-building that is integral to a quality collaboration. In a similar vein, I find a failure to disclose partnerships ethically ambiguous at best and thoroughly irritating at worst. It's the actual law to disclose marketing relationships, so if you notice an influencer never disclosing, avoid them!

But to the point on payment versus offering free product: in the eyes of the Federal Trade Commission, both strategies indicate a marketing relationship. You may feel that offering free product doesn't have the power to sway an influencer, but that still counts as a form of payment, so to create a clear dichotomy between them is a justification that doesn't hold up.

The Business of Influence

When a blogger or influencer works in a paid or comped-product capacity, they are taking on the role of a marketer. Marketers get paid for what they do - they are compensated for deliverables such as photography, copywriting, and concept - so it only makes sense to pay influencers, too. Sponsored posts are like advertorials in a print magazine: they offer a service and fit in with the features in the magazine, but they're marked as advertising. That's not so foreign when you look at it that way.

The key to effective influencer marketing is transparency! Bloggers and brands should do their due diligence to ensure that readers understand the collaborative relationship and trust the influencer's discretion and curation of brands.

If you're a brand looking to work with influencers in an effective, legal way, this is what you should look for...

1. Check for FTC disclosures and ask follow-up questions.

Do blog posts and/or social media posts that appear and read like sponsored posts have a disclosure indicating the influencer's relationship with the brand?

i.e. "This post is sponsored," "I was compensated for my work on this post," or "I received free product."

If you're not sure what's going on, reach out directly to the influencer and ask them what their disclosure policy is. It's ok to ask for links on what a sponsored post looks like for them versus what a non-sponsored post looks like. This will help you confirm proper disclosure and determine how frequently they create advertising.

2. Track how often they feature the product they're promoting.

Does the influencer seem to authentically enjoy the product they received for review? 

One way to gauge this is to check their personal style and #ootd posts on their blog, social media, or Instagram Stories to see if they use the product more than once. While this is not an indication of ethics, it does indicate something about the way they curate collaborations.

3. Assess their overall aesthetic and writing voice to gauge authenticity in collaborations.

Do the products you see the influencer promoting seem to fit within her overall aesthetic, meet her explicit standards, and cohesively work in her life?

I've seen some bad collaborations (a fashion blogger promoting Tylenol, for instance). Trust your gut when you see these types of off-brand posts, because they may indicate a lack of curation on the influencer's part. The products an influencer promotes should fit into her life, and align with her aesthetic and values. Most ethical influencers turn down far more collaborations than they accept.

4. Analyze the balance of paid versus unpaid posts.

Do all posts appear to be sponsored or is there clear variety?

Carefully scan through blog and social media posts, looking for FTC disclosures and other indications of sponsorship. Decide what balance you're looking for and how that balance affects engagement and trust with readers.

(I know some bloggers who do almost exclusively sponsored posts to great success. Most of us, though, will be more in the 50-70% non-sponsored content category).

5. Ensure that influencer fees are in line with fair market rates.

Does the influencer's pay rate seem in line with the influencer industry at large?

Ask the influencer to plug in their stats to a site like FOHR or Social Blue Book and check their rates against standard rates for the industry at large. This will help both you and the influencer know that you're getting a fair deal.

Any questions or anything I may have missed? Let me know in the comments.

Learn A LOT more about working in the ethical influencer space by purchasing my E-Book here ($5 off through this link).


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Related: 

The Life Changing Magic of... A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button

a life less throwaway book review stylewise-blog.com
I received a copy of A Life Less Throwaway to review

My not-so-secret secret is that I really didn't like Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

For one, Kondo begins the book with a personal anecdote about her strained, isolated home life, an environment that led her to find solace in organization. This is not, in my view, a healthy way to begin a project. Secondly, I was distressed by the lack of scientifically backed claims about what makes us consume and how to stop it. It's all well and good to make a home tidier, but without knowing what leads us to become stuff addicts, we're doomed to repeat the cycle. 

And maybe most dangerous: at local thrift shops, we could actually trace the fad by the volume of donations we were receiving. Sadly, a lot of the larger thrift chains threw away overstock, so all of that perfectly useable stuff the local community was "tidying up" ended up in the landfill at the end of the purge.

I say all that to say this: Tara Button's new book, A Life Less Throwaway, is the one book you should be reading on tidying up. 

About A Life Less Throwaway

The book is an extension of Button's passion project turned business, Buy Me Once, a website that brings users' attention to products that are meant to last a lifetime. The premise of Buy Me Once and A Life Less Throwaway is that decades of planned obsolescence - a business model that intentionally reduces the lifespan of an item so that the consumer has to repurchase it prematurely - have actually fooled us into thinking that this is the way the world has to be. This is a massive waste of resources, burdens recycling and waste management systems, and reduces people to mere consumers. It is dehumanizing through and through.

Button, a former advertising writer, offers anecdotes, expertise, histories, and scientific studies to help the reader understand that she is part of a complex, deceptive consumerism machine. The only way to defeat it is to live and shop in ways that are counter-cultural.

What I Learned

In addition to the sections on the history and psychology of advertising, which I gobbled up with glee, Button offers a lot of practical advice on developing personal taste in a way that can endure decades of trend cycles. Unlike predominant capsule and minimalist wardrobe narratives, she advocates for knowing what makes our taste truly original, i.e. a classic for me might be a tweed bomber instead of a khaki trench.

But this advice doesn't just apply to clothing: it also applies to household decor, appliances, and basically anything else you can think of. Know thyself. 

Later on in the book, Button provides step-by-step instructions for building small, long-lasting wardrobes for the different contexts of your life - like work and weekend - and offers a massive directory on how to select lifetime goods, as well as how to care for those goods.

Final Thoughts

Button is a wonderful writer, with a style that is both conversational and authoritative. In fact, I read the entire book in one day. Her ideas are backed up by real world data and personal stories. And maybe most importantly, she gets that a project in changing our consumer habits must address the whole person as they live and breathe within a multi-faceted system. This is not just a fun project - this is a total transformation.

Purchase A Life Less Throwaway...


a life less throwaway book review stylewise-blog.com

Ethical Style Notes: Fall/Winter Style Inspiration '18

ethical fall style with lots of secondhand and thrifted finds stylewise-blog.com
A look from last November
The time has come again to plan my wardrobe for the fall and winter season (I know, it is actually too early if we're being reasonable, but the clothing marketers are never reasonable). Luckily, I've been doing this regularly for more than a year, so there's far less to assess. But I got a lot out of exploring predominant colors and silhouettes in the spring, so I'm at it again for fall.

As I always mention, I don't do a four season capsule. Instead, I shuffle out off-season items and bring in appropriate items - there's fairly significant overlap from season to season because my basic tees and denim are worn year round.

I pin inspiration so I have visual reminders of what's catching my eye. This has been a big eye-opener, because my pins truly reflect the personal style I'd like to achieve...

Predominant Themes for Fall/Winter Style

Colors: Blue | Black & White | Cream | Burnt Orange | Deep Rose | Olive Green | Mustard

Silhouettes: Oversized Jackets, Cardigans, & Tunics with Vintage Denim | Cropped Sweaters with High Waist Denim | Vintage Inspired Midi and Maxi Dresses | Loose Fit High Waist Pants with Fitted Tees

Patterns: Dusty Florals | Stripes | Marled Textures | Plaid

Footwear: Mules | Fitted Booties | Lace-up Boots | Oxfords | High Top Sneakers
shop ethically buy vintage on etsy stylewise-blog.com
Recent Etsy Finds

What I've Purchased So Far

I'm trying to keep purchases to a minimum until the weather actually turns, because it can be hard to anticipate the gaps when it's warm outside.

That being said, I have been buying things secondhand as I've seen them, so I have a pair of black lace up boots (to replace my beloved boots that bit the dust this past spring), cognac heeled booties, loose-fit vintage denim, two vintage dresses in dusty floral and plaid, and two medium weight jackets: a bomber and a denim work coat. All of these were purchased from local thrift shops, swap.com, or etsy.

In addition, I received a pair of teal, vegan sneakers from EarthHero, which I plan to style with both dresses and jeans.

What I Need

I don't need anything at this point! My color profile this season is really just the fall version of my spring/summer palette, so all of my t-shirts and dresses are transferrable to fall. My shoe game is also looking pretty good. We'll see how I like the boots I purchased recently. If they're uncomfortable or don't offer enough warmth, they may have to be replaced mid-season.

Even though I'm pretty set, I have been saving up some store credit at Everlane for their washed denim jacket, coming out in the next few days.

P.S. Did you see they just came out with sustainable silk? I'm really glad to see continued momentum toward rehabbing their supply chain.

What are you all shopping for this season?

Click here to see my other outfit planning and Capsule posts

3 Ways Consumers & Brands Can Avoid Cultural Appropriation

Sponsored by MATTER Prints
MATTER Prints all day romper review and cultural appropriation stylewise-blog.com
As the conversation on appropriation goes mainstream - set in motion by events such as 2015's MET Gala, at which more than a few celebrities cringingly co-opted Asian culture and aesthetics - more people are aware that there are certain cultural symbols you simply don't adopt for yourself. From indigenous American headdresses to chopsticks in your hair to cornrows, it's fairly well understood that, unless you are a part of the cultures in which these fashions and symbols originated, you do not have a right to them.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. While I'm sure a vast majority of StyleWise readers have listened in on or participated in a conversation on cultural appropriation, I still think it's important to discuss why we would place certain restrictions on the ways people engage with cultures that aren't their own. The simple answer is colonialism, i.e. the fact that appropriation is most likely to occur when there is a power differential between the appropriated and the appropriator. In the case of Western colonialist history, white people of European descent have already, over years of neglect and abuse, co-opted and destroyed important cultural artifacts and symbols that give culture its distinctiveness, and that reinforce social bonds.

This is, to put it bluntly, a form of terrorism. I once spoke with a Syrian friend about his home country and he told me that what people don't think about is the depth of grief that comes from losing your sense of place, from losing access to ancient buildings and art that cradle you in belonging. In our colonialist context, then, where white supremacy reigns, it is particularly important for white people and others with relative social and political power to approach cultural heritage with sensitivity and contextual understanding.

The fact is that, in far too many cases, traditional prints, designs, and handicrafts are all that remain of a person's cultural history. To use these items without context is to rub salt in the wound of colonialism.

MATTER Prints all day romper review and cultural appropriation stylewise-blog.com
I recently read a very good piece on cultural appropriation versus appreciation on the MATTER Prints blog, which you can read here. Fran of Ethical Unicorn also covered this topic several months ago, and it's worth a glance.

In both articles, the writers highlight a few ways you can ensure that you're not partaking in cultural appropriation...

3 Ways Consumers & Brands Can Avoid Cultural Appropriation and Cultivate Appreciation

1 | Ensure that the creator of the product or experience comes from the culture they're promoting.

In the case of MATTER Prints, designs are not only inspired by artisan textile traditions, they're produced by the artisans themselves. This means that the people closest to the history, meaning, and creative process of the piece are overseeing production and financially benefiting from the sale of finished products.

The flip side of this would be big corporations like Urban Outfitters and H&M, who are routinely in the news for profiting off of textile prints and designs without a cultural link.

2 | Ask permission to use the product or partake in the experience. 

Fran, a white woman from England, shares a story in her post of the time she wore a gele, a traditional Nigerian head wrap, to a wedding. In her case, she was a member of the wedding party and was given express permission to partake in a culture that was not her own. This was a way for her to honor rather than exploit her friend's heritage.

3 | Educate yourself on the meaning of the print, design, or product you seek to incorporate into your lifestyle and respect it as an heirloom, not a throwaway good.

MATTER delves into this in their blog post, but the gist of it is that cultural artifacts like patterns, artisan processes, and clothing styles tell us something about people. Therefore, it's not just a matter of what we wear but of who made it and for what reason. Knowing this reminds us that people matter, and that ultimately fashion is meaningless without its ties to human experience, ingenuity, struggle, and storytelling.

When these 3 criteria are met in a single item, you'll be capable of truly appreciating the item rather than appropriating it as a mere fashion trend. But always err on the side of sensitivity, and if you don't know something, ask someone with answers. As I've found myself in more social justice and activist circles over the years, this is something I've learned: it is better to make a fool of yourself by asking than to stay ignorant.
  MATTER Prints all day romper review and cultural appropriation stylewise-blog.comMATTER Prints all day romper review and cultural appropriation stylewise-blog.com
Ethical Details: All Day Romper - c/o MATTER Prints; Hat & Shoes - thrifted

About the All Day Romper

First things first, MATTER Prints' All Day Romper is a one-piece you can use the bathroom in without taking the whole thing off (hooray!). It was also designed by a customer, which makes a lot of sense given how versatile and easy to wear it is. With a flyaway back and an adjustable waistband, it's the epitome of easy summer dressing (I'm going to wear it on my upcoming road trip to Louisville because it's really comfortable).

The print is called Falcon Footprint because of its shape, and was produced through a traditional ikat (ee-kat) dye process, which requires tie-dying the threads before they're woven into fabric, unlike what we think of as tie-dye, which is done on finished fabric. The fabric was woven and the piece completed in India, where ikat has been produced for thousands of years. 

One of the things I love about working in the sustainable fashion space is being able to celebrate true innovators like MATTER. I've been talking about them since the beginning of this blog, and being able to partner with them as they continue to develop projects and live out their mission is an honor.

Questions (or corrections) about cultural appropriation? I can't promise I have all the answers, but I can help you find someone who does. Feel free to leave a comment.

Shop MATTER here

The Moral Wardrobe: #nonewclothes

Thredup secondhand month #nonewclothes stylewise-blog.com
Imagine: a wardrobe full of sustainable goods you paid less then 10 bucks for. 

It sounds impossible, but it's actually completely accessible. It's called secondhand shopping, and it has changed my life.

As I mentioned in last week's 101 Things to Buy Secondhand post, Thredup is capitalizing on the fact that National Thrift Shop Day is this Friday (August 17th) by declaring August Secondhand Month and launching a #nonewclothes social media campaign in which participants pledge to purchase only secondhand clothing throughout the entire month.

So far, so good for me (well, with the exception of underwear). Thredup gave me some store credit so that I could share a post with readers on Instagram but I decided to discuss it more here. I ended up getting two amazing J Crew blazers, this dress and shoes, and a cool Ralph Lauren choker for under $200 (the bulk of the price was in the blazers). The outfit I'm wearing cost about $40.
  Thredup secondhand month #nonewclothes stylewise-blog.comThredup secondhand month #nonewclothes stylewise-blog.com Thredup secondhand month #nonewclothes stylewise-blog.comThredup secondhand month #nonewclothes stylewise-blog.com
Ethical Details: Dress and Shoes - c/o Thredup; Earrings - Darling Boutique Charlottesville

My ethical fashion journey has been interesting this year because I've rekindled my love for secondhand while also getting really honest about what I'll actually wear. In the past, it's been hard to limit my purchases at thrift stores because everything is fun and cheap. But I end up with so much stuff that doesn't get worn that it becomes overwhelming. 

Now I'm reframing secondhand shopping, not as a way to idle away the afternoon, but as a part of my overall wardrobe building goals. So I might take a chance on a pair of slip-on sneakers, but I'm still going to look for the silhouettes, styles, and brands that make me feel most like me.

Hungry Root Unsponsored Review: Vegan, Gluten Free Meal Delivery

Hungry Root review unsponsored vegan meal delivery stylewise-blog.com
Green Goddess Lentil Salad
Recently, after some aggressive targeted advertising, I bit the bullet and purchased a Hungry Root meal subscription at the promotional rate of $50 for 8 meals (they claim there are 2 servings per meal) and 2 desserts. After the initial $50 offer, a one week Hungry Root subscription costs $100.

I've been trying to come up with more meal ideas, and I thought feeling out new flavor profiles from a company that does exclusively vegan meals was a good way to continue moving toward vegetarianism. Of course, subscription services are not at all a way to move toward zero waste. But I bargained that trying it once wouldn't hurt too bad, and in the long run reducing meat consumption is just as if not more environmentally friendly than reducing plastic.

For the sake of brevity, I won't list out every single thing I sampled, but rather give you a sweeping overview.
Hungry Root review unsponsored vegan meal delivery stylewise-blog.com
Black Bean Brownie Batter (cooked)

Flavor Profiles

I really liked the vegetable forward, subtly spiced dishes and was pleasantly surprised by how balance the flavors were, and how palatable each dish was.

Nutritional Value

Almost all dishes are high in protein and fiber, which help you feel full. This was a big draw for me, because I am not maintaining my weight the way that I used to (ugh, aging) and I did want to test the claims that this is an effective dieting tool.

That being said, several dishes are also high in fat and sodium. I actually ended up gaining a bit of weight during my trial period, but some of that could have been from stress eating snacks in the evenings (let's just say it has not been the easiest month for me).

Ease of Use

Some items required a bit of cooking, but everything was easy to prepare and took less than ten minutes in most cases. Not exactly grab and go, but nothing to complain about.

Quantity

This one is complicated. I could get by on the recommended serving size initially, but I would feel ravenous a couple hours later, even if the meal was fairly high calorie. I suspect this made me overeat snacks, which was counterproductive.

Financial Value

I worked it out, and if I were to split each meal into two servings, it would be about $5 a meal + some change for dessert. That's not terrible, but it's still more expensive than a vegetarian meal needs to be. You're paying for convenience, though, so compared to similar options like delivery, it's a bargain.
Hungry Root review unsponsored vegan meal delivery stylewise-blog.com
Ginger Brussels Yuba Lo Mein

Final Thoughts

One problem I consistently have with vegan meals is that they're often made with more fibrous vegetables that are difficult for my sensitive digestive tract to digest and with a lot of salt or spice to sort of "make up" for the fact that there's less umami flavor. While I actually really enjoyed the food overall, I felt slightly sick to my stomach most days after eating them. But even other vegan meals have done this to me - like 80% of the time - so it's not unique to Hungry Root.

If you're vegan or vegetarian already and don't typically have a sensitive stomach, I think Hungry Root is a good option. I would recommend that you purchase the introductory offer and see how it goes before ordering another. And do consider the packaging waste. I would probably not place an order more than once a month just to keep waste down.

Get $30 off to try Hungry Root with my link

Thicket: The Cast-from-Nature Earrings I Wore for a Month Straight

Thicket Jewelry cast from nature Charlottesville jewelry designer eco friendly stylewise-blog.com
This post is sponsored. Editorial direction and opinions are my own. Get 15% off Thicket items with code, STYLEWISE.

Blackberry thorn. Lemon seed. Cardamom pod. Birch bark.

No, these aren't ingredients for a tincture - they're inspiration for a collection of straight-from-nature jewelry by local designer, Becca, of Thicket Jewelry.

Becca has an MFA in Poetry, and it's evident in the attention to detail she gives to her designs before they're even cast. For one, they're made with recycled materials whenever possible. But most distinctively, they're cast from real organic materials and kept true-to-size. There is both a practicality and a delightful whimsy in this fact, this way of capturing the minute details of the natural world and solidifying them, quite literally, as keepsakes.
  Thicket Jewelry cast from nature Charlottesville jewelry designer eco friendly stylewise-blog.com
But let me tell you another story first.

Becca and I have known of each other for five or six years. She was a picture framer within walking distance of the coffee shop where I worked and we'd greet each other and make small talk whenever she came in to grab a drink. Later on, she worked with a fair trade company assisting with design and fabrication. Meanwhile, I was starting my job at the thrift shop.

We lost touch until I spotted her at a craft fair selling her jewelry. It was a new venture at the time, but I found it all very intriguing. I didn't buy anything that day, but my friend bought one of Becca's early earring designs and still wears them weekly. It's funny when you make connections with people and then find your paths crossing again and again, even funnier when you realize you share a similar aesthetic and ethical vision. Neither one of us was working in the sustainable fashion space five years ago. Now here we are working together.
     Thicket Jewelry cast from nature Charlottesville jewelry designer eco friendly stylewise-blog.com
Thicket Jewelry cast from nature Charlottesville jewelry designer eco friendly stylewise-blog.com
Thicket Jewelry cast from nature Charlottesville jewelry designer eco friendly stylewise-blog.com

Blackberry Thorns and Brambles

I'm wearing a mixed earring set composed of blackberry thorns and brambles cast in recycled silver. I've found the size of these ideal for everyday wear because I can sleep in them without irritation. The fine metal is also ok to wear in the shower (versus cheap metals which can turn your skin green over time). I actually opted to keep a Blackberry Thorn matching set (the other featured items are on loan for review) because I already have stick earrings. This gives me more versatility, but I love the asymmetry of the mixed set. You can purchase individual earrings for your own mixing and matching. Earrings start at $24 each.

And the title of this post is true: I wore - and am still wearing - the Blackberry Thorn earrings for over a month now. I wore them on my recent trip to Florida and they generated some fun conversation about what they were and how they were made. I appreciate items that spark conversation and come with a story, so these are really perfect for that. They make a statement without hollering at you.

Lemon Seed

The delicate pendant in the photo above is cast from a lemon seed in the same recycled silver. While I don't personally wear a lot of necklaces, I am drawn to unobtrusive pieces like this one because they don't hit you in the face when you bend over or get entangled in purse straps and seat belts. Like all of Becca's pieces, it is thoughtfully created. The Lemon Seed necklace is $98.

Final Thoughts

Thicket Jewelry doesn't need a lot of creative marketing because the pieces speak for themselves. In a sea of minimalist jewelry, this is a remarkable accomplishment.

By turning the small details of the natural world into fine art, Thicket also - at least for me - achieves something like virtue: it draws the eye to everyday miracles, diverts our gaze from the hardness of our modern lives and lets us ease into a walk through the brambles, taking footpaths carved by animals over hundreds of years and trod before by millions of tiny and large footprints. It re-enchants our world.

In a word, it's poetry. Condensed into visual haiku.

Shop Thicket with 15% off through September 9th with code, STYLEWISE

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101 Things to Buy Secondhand

101 things to buy secondhand thredup stylewise-blog.com
National Thrift Shop Day is August 17th and online secondhand retailer, ThredUp, has declared August Secondhand Month. I decided to join up by featuring secondhand outfits and inspiration. Contains affiliate links

Even though I spend up to 40 hours a week working at a thrift shop, it's easy to forget just how many things are available on the secondhand market.

A combination of convenience and incessant marketing discourages most of us from seeking out as many things as possible secondhand, but honestly, the convenience part of the argument has become, in the age of the internet, a poor excuse. With relative ease, you can shop millions of secondhand products from your living room. And if that's not your preferred method, most towns are located near a local charity shop, Goodwill, or used furniture store that round out your options.

Finding something like a used blender may not be as easy as stopping by your local Bed, Bath, & Beyond, but the cost savings and environmental good you're doing more than make up for it (she says after having just purchased a new blender).

Why is secondhand ethical?

The secondhand market is just as it sounds: a secondary market. As such, purchases made from individuals and shops selling secondhand goods do not directly contribute to demand for new goods, which means no person or ecosystem will be further harmed as a result of your purchase (that burden lies on the first consumer of that good, though it also lies on the system that allows exploitation to happen in the first place). Secondhand, in this sense, is an ethics-neutral marketplace.

However, shopping secondhand is also a stop-gap between the initial consumer and the landfill. If you can get even a few more uses out of an item before it's discarded, you're significantly reducing its environmental impact. Not to mention you'll save a lot of money over time.

The List 

Below, I've brainstormed 101 things to buy secondhand and provided links where applicable to help you narrow down your search. And in case you're wondering, yes, I have either personally thrifted or helped others shop for every single thing on this list.

As a general rule, household and clothing items are readily available on Ebay; clothing and accessories are easily accessible through Poshmark, Thredup, and Swap.com; and electronics are available from Newegg or B&H Photo. Fun vintage items are easy to find on Etsy. But never forget your local secondhand shops!
101 things to buy secondhand thredup stylewise-blog.com
Without further ado...

101 Things to Buy Secondhand

Household

Online Options: Ebay (search "pre-owned")
Local Options: Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, Local Resale, Craigslist

1. French Press or Electric Coffee Maker

2. Pots & Pans

3. Silverware

4. Plates

5. Food Storage containers

6. Sheets

7. Curtains

8. Quilts & Comforters

9. Towels

10. Furniture

11. Bathroom caddies

12. Mirrors & Artwork

13. Picture Frames

14. Tiles & Flooring

15. Cabinetry

Electronics

Online Options: Newegg, B&H Photo, Ebay (search "used" and "refurbished")
Local Options: Goodwill, Local Resale, Craigslist

16. Computer

17. Camera & Lenses

18. Cell phone

19. TV

20. External Harddrive

Clothing

Online Options: Ebay, Etsy, Poshmark, Swap.com, Thredup
Local Options: Goodwill, Local Resale

21. Tops

22. Pants & Skirts

23. Sundresses

24. Evening & Cocktail Dresses

25. Wedding Dress

26. Socks

27. Bras

28. Pajamas & Loungewear

29. Swimsuits

30. Activewear

31. Scrubs

32. Jackets & Coats

33. Baby & Kids' Clothes

101 things to buy secondhand thredup stylewise-blog.com

Accessories

Online Options: EbayEtsyPoshmarkSwap.comThredup
Local Options: Goodwill, Local Resale

34. Purses

35. Shoes

36. Backpacks & Suitcases

37. Scarves

38. Belts

39. Jewelry

40. Hair Accessories

41. Shopping Totes

Outdoor

Online Options: Ebay (search "pre-owned")
Local Options: Local Resale, Goodwill, Habitat ReStore, Craigslist

42. Outdoor Furniture

43. Bird Feeders

44. Sporting Equipment

45. Flower Pots

46. Plant Stands

Baby Equipment*

Online Options: Ebay, Swap.com
Local Options: Craigslist, Local Resale

47. Pack 'n' Plays

48. Strollers

49. Cribs

50. Booster Seats

51. High Chairs

52. Activity Centers

53. Mobiles

*Check safety standards and regulations. It is generally best to avoid buying used safety equipment like car seats. 

Toys

Online Options: Ebay, Etsy (vintage toys)
Local Options: Goodwill, Local Resale, Craigslist

54. Bikes

56. Stuffed Animals

57. Legos

58. Toddler & Baby Toys

59. Baby Dolls

60. Barbies

61. Melissa & Doug Toys

62. Puzzles

63. Board Games

64. Scooters

65. Video Games & Equipment

66. Card Games

Crafting

Online Options: Ebay
Local Options: Local Resale, Goodwill, Craigslist

67. Crafting Kits

68. Looms

69. Yarn

70. Knitting Needles

71. Fabric

72. Ribbon

73. Buttons

74. Thread

75. Sewing Machines

76. DIY Books

77. Sewing Patterns

78. Canning Jars

79. Craft Storage Cases

80. Paint

82. Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils, etc.

83. Canvases & Stretcher Bars

101 things to buy secondhand thredup stylewise-blog.com

Media

Online Options: Ebay (search "pre-owned"), Better World Books
Local Options: Local Resale, Goodwill, Vintage Shops, Craigslist

84. DVDs

85. Records

86. CDs

87. Books

88. Audio Books

89. Magazines (these are often free at thrift shops or libraries)

90. Record & CD Players

Appliances

Online Options: Ebay (search "pre-owned")
Local Options: Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, Local Resale, Craigslist

91. Blender

92. Toaster

93. Washer & Dryer

94. Dish Washer

95. Food Processor

96. Knife Sharpener

Tools

Online Options: Ebay (search "pre-owned")
Local Options: Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, Local Resale, Craigslist

98. Carpentry Machinery

99. Screwdrivers & Drills

100. Hardware

Toiletries

Online Options: Ebay
Local Options: Goodwill, Local Resale

101. Sealed Toiletries

Once you sit down and think about it, you realize that items available on the secondhand market are virtually infinite. A little forethought goes a long way.

101 things to buy secondhand thredup stylewise-blog.com

What's the weirdest or most surprising thing you've purchased secondhand?

EarthHero: The One Stop Shop for Ethical Fashion, Eco Goods, & Zero Waste Living

EarthHero one stop shop for ethical and zero waste goods stylewise-blog.com
This post is sponsored and contains affiliate links. I shopped EarthHero with store credit received as part of the collaboration package.

I'm not typically someone who gushes. I get excited about new things, sure, but that initial sparkle-eyed joy is tempered by a fair bit of skepticism. 

I've reviewed a few companies over the years who hoped to become one-stop-shops for ethical consumers, but many of them either never scaled or shuttered their doors too early to tell. This always makes me sad, because we really *need* one-stop-shops, both for ease of use and for better cost and resource efficiency. If I have to buy my skin oil, sunscreen, kitchen storage, shoes, clothing, and makeup in five or six different places, I end up wasting time, money, and packaging that could have been used for something more world changing. I mean, this is why giant online marketplaces thrive - they offer a service that goes beyond deal-hunting.

For the past several months, I've been shopping from a new ethical marketplace that hopes to change the game for ethical shoppers: EarthHero. With items ranging from clothing to zero waste goods to skincare, I'm able to place one order and get the bulk of things I need in one go.

EarthHero one stop shop for ethical and zero waste goods stylewise-blog.comEarthHero one stop shop for ethical and zero waste goods stylewise-blog.com

About EarthHero's Ethical Criteria

Whenever I'm on websites that offer a mix of ethically produced and conventional products, I end up really frustrated because I can't just read one set of standards and get on with my life. It turns shopping into a research project, and I believe that's a major barrier to getting more people on board with ethical consumerism. What I like about EarthHero is that every single product has to meet their minimum criteria for ethics and environmental stewardship...

EarthHero ethical and zero waste one stop shop stylewise-blog.com

Additionally, EarthHero places simple logos on each listing that indicate which criteria each product meets. To me, this is really the best way to curate a store. No product or process is perfect, but aiming to gather in several ethical criteria under one umbrella ensures holistic progress. You can learn more about that here.

EarthHero one stop shop for ethical and zero waste goods stylewise-blog.com

Clothing + Accessories

While EarthHero is still working on building out its clothing and accessories categories, they're already well stocked in staples. I had been hoping to finally get a pair of casual sneakers, but am becoming increasingly wary of buying leather - even "ethically sourced" leather (more on that later) - so I was pleased to see that EarthHero offered a few options, all under $100. These Saola shoes have skater vibes, but are still streamlined. They have a cork footbed and are made with renewable and recycled fibers. I'm planning to wear them with denim and dresses this season. I think they'll even be good for hikes. (Unfortunately, these sold out right before posting, but EarthHero will have other Saola sneakers in stock in mid-August.) They also carry Indosole espadrilles made with recycled tires. I actually own these, too, and they performed surprisingly well during my trip to NYC.

The Satva Pav Mesh Tee I'm wearing is also from EarthHero. Made with organic cotton and low impact dyes, the sides have breathable mesh inserts that make this black tee surprisingly suitable for hot weather. I like the wide neckline and curved hem - they make the piece feel special, and suitable to pair with loose denim or something a bit fancier.

In addition to women's items, EarthHero carries men's clothing and accessories, underwear, activewear, and more. See the Clothing + Accessories selection here.
  EarthHero one stop shop for ethical and zero waste goods stylewise-blog.com

Beauty + Care

EarthHero's personal care section is my new favorite place to shop. I have very sensitive skin and a desire for simplicity when it comes to ingredients, so I deeply appreciate a marketplace that does the curation for me. I've tried the Desert Essence Restorative Face Oil, SW Basics Serum, and Desert Essence Bulgarian Lavender Lotion and haven't had any allergic reactions. Plus, the products are actually effective (I feel like I'm gushing here, but it's really true). I've been dealing with ongoing rashes and skin issues this summer, so it's been refreshing to try products that don't create more problems.

In addition to the products I mentioned, EarthHero carries coral-safe sunscreen, oral care, deodorant, and shaving products. See the Beauty + Care selection here.

EarthHero one stop shop for ethical and zero waste goods stylewise-blog.com

Home + Zero Waste Living

Last but not least, the oddballs in the bunch. Daniel and I rent an apartment that was built in the late '60s, so our kitchen(ette) has those great mid-century oak cabinets and a wood backsplash. They really needed a good refinish and EarthHero's Bambu Finishing Oil did the trick, especially on the water damaged sections. The oil evened out the tone and created a subtle glossy finish without releasing a strong odor or toxic fumes. See other Home Cleaning products here.

I also finally buckled down and selected some Beeswax Wrap to cover leftovers. I was wary of Bee's Wrap initially because I know that the beeswax eventually breaks down and makes the cloth unusable, but after talking with some of my zero waste blogger friends, I learned that you can always refinish them a couple years down the road. Bee's Wrap works really well as a plastic wrap alternative and the subtly sweet smell of beeswax doesn't hurt, either. EarthHero offers vegan wrap, as well. See other Zero Waste Living products here.

Final Thoughts

Because of EarthHero's ambitious goals and comprehensive selection, some items go out of stock pretty quickly and some categories, like Clothing, are still under capacity. That's to be expected at this stage. Overall, I have been really impressed with the selection, site navigation, and prices of items - not to mention the clear ethical standards - and would recommend EarthHero to anyone who's grown tired of having to shop in ten different places for the things they need. Especially if you're, like me, just building up your zero waste essentials while also needing bits and bobs from other categories. 

Get 10% off your EarthHero order with code, stylewise

Free shipping over $50


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