Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

The Limits of Online Activism

social media activism and how it hurts community stylewise-blog.com
I wrote this piece last fall when the events of August 12th in Charlottesville were still fresh in my mind, and when the trauma of that day kept showing up in the form of panic attacks (they still happen but not as frequently). I think I opted not to publish at that time because I wasn't ready to engage with the feedback. But a year later, this post is still relevant, and still important. Both terrible and beautiful things have funneled through the noise of social media in the last year, proving that it's an important tool for advocacy and connection, but we still have work to do.

(I attended a wonderfully life affirming sustainable fashion event in DC last weekend that I'm hoping to write about soon. But I need time to catch up.)

I'm starting to notice a major weak point in activist circles. 

There's a growing gulf between those of us who are part of online - mainly twitter - social justice communities and those of us who choose to remain offline (or at least out of twitter conversations).

Active users of the platform have developed their own shorthand for talking about the issues of the day, and even changed the definitions of common words to suit their needs. There is nothing wrong with that on the surface - it helps people articulate pressing concerns quickly to those already in the know. But what happens when these conversations become known to people operating outside the twittersphere?

A friend of mine recently shared an article that claimed that we should stop "humanizing" white supremacists. The author, a person of color, was responding to the unsatisfactory way Black Lives Matter activists at a Trump rally dialogued - or rather, failed to dialogue - with dangerous ideas about the way society should be structured. I agreed with her that the messaging was far too soft, that the BLM cohort, likely out of justifiable fear, tried to seek common ground to the detriment of voicing their legitimate concerns.

The argument broke down, however, because of the way she was using the term, humanize. To humanize someone is to "give someone a human character." Essentially, to acknowledge their humanness. The only possible implication of an argument that says we should stop humanizing someone is that we should dehumanize them. And that, surely, can't be the argument the author intended to make.

Context Clues

Within the very particular online activist context her argument lived in, maybe she meant that we should stop making excuses for the poor ideas of Trump supporters, or that we should stop implying that they are generally humane people (though, I would argue that people are walking paradoxes, and often do behave humanely in spite of their political leanings). But this did not come through for me, a casual Twitter user on the borders of online activist circles, so there's no possible way it could come through for a regular person. (The website has since changed some of the problematic language around humanization.)

And that's a  problem, because it means we've gotten to a point where communication, even between potential allies, is becoming nearly impossible. 

And it gets worse.  Not only do entrenched virtual activists use jargon and make references to conversations that are inherently exclusive because they require a high degree of participation in tech-centered social media platforms, they expect those of us who are not fluent in their medium to respond to political events according to the unspoken rules of these exclusive communities. They make us feel guilty for not "showing up" to the counter protests we simply never heard were happening. They silence our confusion assuming our genuine questions are an attempt to distract them from their goals.

They don't realize that their virtue signaling looks like the ritual of a religion we've never heard of.

Look, I'm not trying to discount the good intentions of activists, and I think social media has been an asset to contemporary social justice movements.

But is it fair to expect everyone to be plugged into virtual spaces?

The answer is obvious to me: no. Online activists are operating in a space that many either don't or don't want to have access to. And I tend to think that since we're physical beings living in a tangible world talking about material problems, it's ok if we're not constantly checking our phones and updating our feeds.

The people who created this technology admit that it's addictive, and potentially detrimental to our ability to thrive. If anything, we should be engaging less online and more in our local communities. Old fashioned word-of-mouth and weekly planning meetings should suffice, and they foster the face-to-face time that sustains trusting, dynamic organizations, not to mention allow for a proper analysis of body language and tone that contribute to more productive, less caustic conversations (I know I've been turned off by organizations I know are doing good things in my community because their online tone comes off as terse and scoffing).

Of course, many online activists already do meet in person, but I'm suggesting a thoughtful insistence on making these physical meetings the primary mode of communication rather than the monthly afterthought.

And, while traditional modes of communication will slow information down a bit, maybe that's a good thing...

"Now" Culture

A related problem to tech-based exclusivity is our insistence that actions must be taken now, that solutions can be found in the space of 5 minutes and 280 characters. We would do well to put our heads together long enough to consider the long term, to predict unintended consequences, to find the weak points in our methods and correct course before we lose control over it. I intentionally abstain from long form twitter activism because I find that it too often feels like empty performance.

Showing up matters, but so does strategy, and solutions come when people decide that community matters enough to fight for an equitable one. 

When we demonize allies, accept ideologically fundamentalist arguments about human behavior, and demand performance from people who were simply having dinner on the patio and missed your ping about the protest, we cause undue harm.

Maybe we even start to forget that activism was never about who can yell the loudest or preach the best or craft the perfect meme, that it's always been about empowering the "little people" in society to build a human pyramid so high that it rivals the Trump Towers of this world.

An Upcycled Bag That Ticks All The Boxes

Sponsored by Malia Designs
malia designs zero waste vegan cement bag stylewise-blog.com
By now, it will surprise no one that I love a practical bag. 

Pockets, zippers, compartments, and an adjustable strap are the key to a happy long term relationship with a handbag. It also helps when it's lightweight and made with ethics and sustainability in mind.

So Malia Designs, who I've worked with for a couple years, is a natural choice...
malia designs zero waste vegan cement bag stylewise-blog.com

Why Malia Designs?

Malia Designs was founded by a Peace Corps veteran (Lia) and her best friend (Maria) to provide economic opportunity to women in Cambodia by working with preexisting co-ops under fair trade guidelines to create practical, versatile bags, often made with readily available recycled materials.

In addition to advancing the goals of fair trade, Malia Designs gives back to agencies that fight human trafficking in Cambodia and the US. During 13 years of business, Malia Designs has assisted in the sustainable growth of the co-ops they work with and donated over 160,000 dollars to anti-trafficking efforts through their philanthropic arm, Stop Traffick. Learn more here.
  malia designs zero waste vegan cement bag stylewise-blog.com
Ethical Details: Tee & Jeans - Everlane, Shoes - thrifted; Earrings - Shop Glister via Darling Boutique; Blue Dragon Crossbody Bag - c/o Malia Designs

About The Bags

Malia Designs specializes in two types of textiles: recycled cement and feed bags, and screen printed canvas remnant. This makes their range suitable for a number of aesthetics without compromising on practicality or ethics.

I'm using the Blue Dragon Crossbody Bag made from a recycled Cement Bag. My sister has a Malia Designs cement bag purse from a few years ago and she still uses it every day because it's sturdy and lightweight. I really like the idea of upcycling old materials intended for discard into long term items, and there's something about this style that feels both fun and a la mode. High fashion is having a moment with novelty and it's lovely when it coincides with sustainability. Plus, I was born in the year of the dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac, so this has some symbolic value for me (and my birthday was yesterday!).

The Blue Dragon bag has two open exterior pockets, two internal pockets, an adjustable strap, and a zip closure. It is lined in red cotton. Price: $38.00
  malia designs zero waste vegan cement bag stylewise-blog.com
Now I have a little "capsule" of ethical, practical bags that I can feel confident wearing, both because I know how they're made and because they work for my lifestyle and my wardrobe. I harp on this a lot, but turning 30 (and the anticipation leading up to it) has really pushed me into a long season of self reflection and inspection. It's valuable for me to know what I like. If nothing else has come from aging, at least there's a small glimmer of self assurance coming to the surface.

Shop Malia Designs here. 


Malia Designs on Social Media: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest
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Is Everlane Ethical? Pragmatism, Scale, & Why Good On You Doesn't Tell the Full Story

how ethical is everlane good on you stylewise-blog.com
I've received lots of questions about Everlane's rating on Good on You over the past few months. This is my response.

What is Good On You?

Good on You is a popular app that rates companies along a scale of 1-5 according to a fixed rubric, measuring environmental impact, labor rights, and animal welfare.

As a general rule, Good on You is a good resource, not just because it makes an effort to provide consistent measurements across the industry, but because of its scope: it covers both brands marketed as ethical and conventional brands with the same rating system. 

But there are a few gaps in the rating system that make it more subjective than it looks, and nowhere is this more obvious than with Everlane.

Everlane's Rating on Good on You

Everlane receives 2/5 stars or a "Not Good Enough" rating on Good on You.


Before you mistake this piece as an impassioned defense of Everlane, let me say this: Good on You isn't wrong that there are gaps in Everlane's ethics. And they're also not wrong in ranking them lower than a fair trade darling like People Tree. After all, until recently, they had made few public strides toward offering garments made with eco-friendly processes or sustainable fibers (though, it should be noted, now they have both Clean Denim and Silk lines). And, in spite of the "radically transparent" branding, they haven't released detailed, comprehensive data on factory conditions. Consumers, in many cases, have to take their word for it. 

But a potential flaw in Good on You's ranking system is that it can only measure what it can see. In the case of Everlane, a lack of specific public data skews their ranking downward, which means a cursory glance at the rating would lead you to believe they're as bad as Nike, despite never having been in the news for horrific sweatshop conditions. As in all brand claims, I could be biting my tongue in a few years if a story breaks that Everlane is up to no good, but it would still be problematic to claim that Everlane is "as bad" as a company like Nike without any substantive evidence to back it up.

A Scale-First Model

I have watched Everlane's every move with caution over these past few years. I know bloggers who, in their growing interest in sustainability, have stopped supporting them. But I also know that hundreds, even thousands, of newbies to the concept of sustainable, ethical fashion got here because of Everlane. 

And that's because Everlane decided to scale first. 

What do I mean by this? While Everlane has had clear "ethics-y" language since the beginning, they didn't have all of their sustainability ducks in a row by any means. And, though they won't admit it, I think during the middle part of their growth, they used factories in Asia that probably weren't that great (I gleaned this by the lack of information about them on their website during that time). 

Instead of engaging directly with questions about textiles sourcing, they plugged away at it until they could build the scale - and subsequently, the impact - to make bigger changes. When you're working in the global fashion industry, and operating at a sustainable scale, creating a good that ticks all the boxes of ethics, sustainability, and quality is difficult. And that quality part matters, because you can't sustain a business without it, even if you're sending lots of poor kids to school through your programming, or training trafficking survivors to sew (this is a tangent, but I tend to stay away from companies who do this, because they don't put enough resources into training, and the clothes are often wonky).

True sustainability must always, always include good business practices and an ability to scale in a measured way. So Everlane took the extraordinarily pragmatic approach of building out their business model before writing a detailed "Our Ethical Standards" page. Unlike most of us in this space, they didn't lead with their idealism.

Idealism vs. Pragmatism

And I think this is what trips people up. 

We are a crowd of idealists and dreamers who insist on hard lines when it comes to ethics. And this is important! We can't demand more without knowing when lines are crossed. 

But there's also something to be said for pragmatism. Take the unfortunate circumstances UK-based fair trade company, Traidcraft, finds themselves in. Due to marketplace anxiety caused primarily by the Brexit decision, Traidcraft is no longer able to sustain fair trade wages for their artisans at the scale they're used to. So, instead of restructuring, they're opting to close the retail side of operations.

Their reasoning?
We have a system of beliefs that we do not compromise and we take the consequences of that.

On its face, this is great. But what is the practical consequence of refusing to change in the face of closure? Will these artisans lose so much business that they would have been better off settling for a lower wage until the market recovers? Sometimes, refusing to change your structuring because of ideological purity means destroying infrastructure your people have come to rely on. And this is not, in any scenario, ethical. Why couldn't Traidcraft make a smaller purchase order or temporarily reduce wages in conversation with their artisan partners?

Those of us on the consumer advocacy side of ethical fashion often think in simplistic dichotomies: choose this over this. This is ethical, that is not.

But the marketplace is full of moral ambiguity, and this means that often we are not choosing between a good choice and a bad choice. We're choosing between business structures that, because of their differentiated priorities, are more equipped to achieve certain goods and ignore others.

I recently attended a dinner party with an architect who builds low-resource schools for rural communities, primarily in southern Africa. In a conversation with famed ethicist Peter Singer, he asked this question:

"How do we choose the right way forward?"

Singer replied that, more often than not, when choosing between two systems or organizations, we are choosing between two evils, i.e. two structures that were not built with ethics in mind and do not require ethics to sustain themselves. In a sense, we're asking the wrong question. But we must make our choice anyway, pragmatically, thoughtfully, and with an eye toward the long term. 

So, on its surface, choosing a small artisan brand may feel more right, but we have to consider its potential for impact and its long term financial viability. Maybe I'm just burnt out, but I have partnered with so many brands who had all the right credentials but went out of business in two years because they didn't have any business acumen, and they were unwilling to make the sacrifices they needed to make to endure. In the long run, this may have caused MORE harm to the communities they sought to impact, because they made them reliant and then pulled out the rug.

Moral Relativism

Maybe we're looking at "pure" morality versus moral relativism the wrong way. 

If I make a choice that doesn't rank well on Good on You, it doesn't mean I did it because I'm weak-willed. It means that my sense of the long view ruled out my commitment to short term change. It means that I knew that any choice I made wasn't going to be "right," but I needed to make the best choice anyway.

This is decidedly less sexy, and we are not at all trained to think in this way (if you question this, just turn on the news). 

Everlane is just an example. Take them or leave them. The point is that we can't tick off some boxes and be done with it, because ethics are complicated and no system was built to address them equally. Because people and the political empires they build are full of moral nuance and differentiated priorities, but we must make choices anyway. 

I hold in me a paradox of wanting every day to feel like the "I Have a Dream" speech and knowing that the dream is just the beginning. That measured progress means compromise, and that sometimes the business that survives is not going to win Miss Congeniality in the ethical beauty pageant. 

What do we do with this? We make our choice anyway, pragmatically, thoughtfully, and with an eye toward the long term. 

So is Everlane ethical? In many ways, yes. But, as with all things, we'll keep our eyes open.

how ethical is everlane good on you stylewise-blog.com

The 2 All Natural Skincare Products I Recommend to Everyone I Know

SW Basics sensitive skin skincare cream and oil serum review stylewise-blog.com
Post contains affiliate links

I think I first heard about SW Basics from an ethical blogger, but I can't remember which one.

The concept is simple, like its name implies: uncomplicated, sustainable, minimal formulas. At first I turned up my nose at the idea of buying luxury skincare made of grocery store standbys like olive oil and coconut oil. I think in my head I figured I would somehow get around to experimenting with my own concoctions to save money.

But now that I've been using two products, one for the last year and the other for a couple months, I'm hooked. I purchased the cream out of pocket, but received the serum as a part of my EarthHero collaboration.

SW Basics Cream

This cream is intended for face, but I use it on trouble spots like rashes and dry patches. I had an allergic reaction to my (all natural, aluminum free, baking soda free) deodorant this summer and needed something that could soothe my painful, itchy underarms. I had this cream lying around in my nightstand drawer and started applying it before bed and within a few weeks, the rash was gone. Recently, I had a dry patch on my elbow that needed attention. The cream healed it in about a week.

I also like to apply this to my tattoo for extra moisture, which makes it appear more vibrant.

I've read amazon reviews for this product, and it looks like a lot of dermatologists recommend it for eczema, as well.

Shop it here

SW Basics Oil Serum

I don't use serums the "right way." Rather than using it as my sole moisturizer, I normally add 3-4 drops to a basic lotion like Cetaphil before applying it to my face at night.

I had been using Desert Essence products until recently, but the SW Basics serum is much gentler on my skin. It's made with Avocado, Geranium, Turmeric and Coffee Oils and smells a bit like celery, which I'm kind of into. I have found that in addition to healing dry spots on my face, it also makes my skin look a little more glowy when I wake up. I've switched back and forth between my old serum and this one a couple times just to make sure I wasn't making it up.

Shop it here

I am not a big spender when it comes to beauty and skincare products, but when something really works for my sensitive skin, I hold onto it. So I'll be repurchasing these products as long as they make them.

The Moral Wardrobe: The Classics

Sponsoredethical style classics featuring sela designs stylewise-blog.com ethical style classics featuring sela designs stylewise-blog.comethical style classics featuring sela designs stylewise-blog.comethical style classics featuring sela designs stylewise-blog.com
Ethical Details: Custom Embroidered T-Shirt - c/o Known Supply; Jacket - c/o Hackwith Design; Authentic Stretch Denim - Everlane; Mini Ellen Hoops - c/o Sela Designs

If there's one thing I learned from the Glam Capsule, I am a creature of both comfort and habit. I want to make a statement, but it's ok if it's not evident from several yards away. It's all in the details.

So today I'm wearing some of MY classics. They may not look like a French Wardrobe or a standard capsule, but they're things that work for me, again and again. I've worn this Hackwith Design Jacket, for instance, at least 20 times since I got it in July. It works as a going-out jacket, car coat, and beach cover-up and it always garners compliments. This surprised me at first because I wasn't sure how such a simple piece could make an impact, but the details, the fit, and the confidence it gives me are noticeable.

This shirt, too, is one of my very favorite things. Known Supply makes fair trade garments with organic cotton and other sustainable fibers, and they'll embroider basically anything you want on their t-shirts for a small upcharge (of $10). The jeans, as you know, are new, but in the cut and color I always go for in the fall and winter months. And these earrings, which I just received from Sela Designs' Fall Collection are updated classics: hoops with a small black bead that are lightweight and easy to wear.

When I was in my early 20s, I couldn't imagine that small details and whispered statements could signal anything meaningful to the world. But these days the world is already loud enough. Everyone's yelling and tweeting and grandstanding. So I'd rather say my piece in safe space, and let the people who really take a chance to look appreciate the details.

Get 10% off your purchase at Sela Designs with code, STYLEWISE10.

Personal Style in the Age of Influencing

putting the personal back in personal style stylewise-blog.com
For the past few months, I've been on a journey.

Since early July, I've been working on a freelance project with a new ethical fashion company, writing a series of articles on ethical fashion, labor movements, and certifications. Having external prompts and external feedback helped me work out questions I had struggled to resolve by myself. I also read Tara Button's book, A Life Less Throwaway, in just under 7 hours and became fixated on the chapters about planned obsolescence, the way marketers and makers exploit our psychological need for novelty and social conformity to get us to buy more.

Finally, I undertook the #glamcapsule 10X10 challenge, which forced me to get *really* creative with my wardrobe since I chose loud colors and prints that at some point had to be mixed and matched (a throwback to the pattern mixing days of my early 20s). It also provided excruciating clarity on what my actual style is, to the point of nightmares!

These things on their own don't amount to much, but together they've nuanced the internal discussion I've been having with myself on running an ethical style blog and being a conscious consumer. They've also forced me to spend more time thinking about identity and how it's tied to social pressures and expectations.

Boredom & Barriers to Personal Style

Earlier in the year, I got really tired of the aesthetic on a lot of the minimalist blogs I followed and went on an unfollowing spree, replacing them with just one blog, Man Repeller, a place that feels very welcoming to both the intellectual and fashion-y sides of my personality. Following this "conventional" blog has helped me get out of the negative headspace I was always in trying to understand my distinct style while looking only to people wearing neutral linen as my inspiration.

While fashion is more democratized than ever - and seemingly any style, color, and silhouette goes - we are, I think by nature, tribalistic, and this leads niche communities (like ethical fashion, for instance) to slowly and perhaps unintentionally develop a type of uniform. As evidenced by a lot of the top sustainability bloggers, and especially by the looks in the typical 10x10 Challenge, that uniform consists mostly of wide leg pants; drapey linen separates (think Elizabeth Suzann); clogs and glove flats; leather; and hues of burnt sienna, taupe, and black.

Does this sound dreamy to you? I mean, it does to me. 

But the problem is that when I attempt to put these things together, I feel like I'm wearing a costume. The shapes don't always suit me. The colors, depending on how light they are, make me look like a ghost. And I don't get that energy boost I have come to rely on when I'm wearing a bright, eye-catching color.

Excuse me for a moment while I go on a tangent...

Instagram's Pull

Some of the current predominant style may have something to do with Instagram. I mean, in one sense it's because we are all looking at and referencing each other when we get dressed in the morning. But there's something more happening, I'm convinced.

Despite how free we are to wear what we want, it's undoubtedly true that some trends will garner higher engagement on the highly visual platform of Instagram. And getting likes and comments isn't just addictive, it's business if you're a blogger or influencer. So we all rush out to buy the thing that will make for a great photo, higher engagement, and, ultimately, more financial security.

That's not to say that we're being totally insincere. We're convinced we like these things because they make us successful and well liked. Heck, maybe we actually do like wearing these things. But at some point, the line is blurred between truly personal style and slightly adulterated "personal" style that serves a broader, less artistic or emotive purpose in our lives.

In a way, it's a costume worn for the part we're playing.

Consumer Culture & Aspirational Dressing

The reason why contemporary marketing is so effective is that it sells aspiration, subtly and seductively telling us that we aren't good enough at the same time it offers a "solution." Unfortunately, social media users are pretty good at using this strategy, too.

When a blogger or influencer shares a new look that garners hundreds of excited likes and comments, even if the post isn't sponsored, it achieves an end of convincing the viewer that the influencer's life is somehow better, that her style is more current and curated, and that indicates something about her worth. And the viewer, obviously, can't actually become that idealized person on their iPhone screen, but they can buy some new clothes or adopt a new diet or get the same haircut.

We live so much of our lives on social platforms that were created to exploit us through advertising that we ourselves have become the advertisers. We are willing - but perhaps ignorant - pawns in a consumer culture that couldn't care less about the person in "personal" style or anything else.

putting the personal back in personal style stylewise-blog.com

Getting Personal

There's nothing wrong with being interested in fashion or curating a minimalist wardrobe or following style icons on Instagram. But we need to learn how to separate the various pulls of aspiration - which, in more accurate terms, is really just a form of self doubt - in order to get back to the joy of choosing things for ourselves. Sometimes that choice will leave us happily empty handed if we find we are content with what we have. Sometimes it will lead us into the back of Grandma's closet or to the clearance bin at the thrift store.

For me, fashion has always been about creative self expression. I don't consider myself an artist, but getting dressed can be artful, and like doodles on an etch-a-sketch, it's something I can make and re-make every day, in endless combinations and color schemes. I lose myself as an artist of personal style when I rely too much on what other people think about what I'm wearing, or when I'm not in alignment with both who I am and what I want to express, not only in my clothes but in my presence and language and action.
---
You will never be able to buy enough to bury your insecurity, to make yourself someone different. Who you are at your core is vibrant and attractive, perfect in its imperfection.

So if you want to tell a story through your clothes, let it be the story of who you are: where you've been, where you're at, and who you're becoming. You are not a character in a disjointed story told through images or social media mentions. You're, if I may paraphrase Pinocchio, a real person.

Today I'm starting a small revolution: I'm doing what I want. So what if I turn into one of those middle aged women who still wears the stuff she bought in her 20s? I'm ready to be me.

Karin of Truncation Blog wrote a great piece on this topic a couple weeks ago. Fran wrote an interesting piece on personal style, too.

Everlane Review: High & Mid-Rise Authentic Stretch Denim | Side-By-Side

everlane authentic stretch denim high-rise and mid-rise review stylewise-blog.com
High-Rise | Mid-Rise
I used store credit garnered from my referral link to purchase product for review

When Everlane announced they were making stretch denim, I was elated! As much as I love the Cheeky Jeans (wearing them right now, actually), I spend about five hours in choir rehearsals each week. If you've ever tried to sing while sitting in high-rise, non-stretch denim, you'll understand that it's no easy feat. It's uncomfortable because you can't ever get to full lung capacity.

I also prefer skinnier denim for my fall and winter silhouettes of crewneck sweaters and long cardigans. It just feels more balanced. So this seemed serendipitous. In my enthusiasm, I quickly ordered the high-rise denim, unaware that they also released it in mid-rise, which is actually what I was aiming for. So I ended up sampling both styles and thought it might be helpful to offer a side-by side comparison of the two.

Everlane Authentic Stretch Denim Review

I ordered the High-Rise and Mid-Rise denim in full length, Dark Wash Blue. I ordered my usual size 29. For reference, my measurements are 29" waist, 39" hips, and I'm 5'7" tall.

Rise

There's a 1.5" difference between the mid and high rise - the high-rise is 11" and the mid-rise is 9.5" - and it's actually hard to see the difference if you don't look at the photos closely. But this does affect comfort a bit, especially if you have a bigger butt like I do.

Though I'm inclined to favor the look of the high rise, when you look at photos of the back, you can see that the rise appears even more subtle...

everlane authentic stretch denim high-rise and mid-rise review stylewise-blog.com
High-Rise | Mid-Rise
This is because the rise on the high-rise pair isn't quite long enough to accommodate the contour of my backside, versus the mid-rise pair that sits correctly.

While this doesn't cause comfort issues when standing, I definitely notice that the high-rise pair pulls toward the back when I'm seated. That means it's not really useful for choir practice. The mid-rise pair stills pulls a bit, but it's less substantial, and therefore more comfortable.

Color

I'm only comparing one color here, but I am satisfied with the dark wash. It does fade a bit after washing, but not significantly enough to cause concern. 

Leg

These are a true skinny jeans, so if you're used to vintage cuts, you might need to readjust to the feeling of tightness through the leg. I have proportionately bulky thighs and knees, but these fit fine through the thighs. They're a bit tighter than I'd like at the knee, but I think they'll stretch a bit over time. 

everlane authentic stretch denim high-rise and mid-rise review stylewise-blog.com
High-Rise | Mid-Rise

Length

These stop right at my ankle, which is how I like my skinny jeans. They'll layer well under tall boots at that length, too.

Verdict?

I think I'm going to keep the mid-rise and sell the high-rise on ebay (I can't return them because I took off the tags). I'll have to wear the mid-rise jeans a few more times to decide whether they're precisely what I'm looking to add to my wardrobe this season, but the fit is undoubtedly better at this rise.

All Everlane Authentic Stretch Denim costs $68

Was this review format helpful? What else would you like a review on?


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200 Ethical + Sustainable Companies: The Ultimate Shopping Guide

shopping guide for over 200 ethical sustainable vegan stores stylewise-blog.com Contains affiliate links

Bookmark this comprehensive list of ethical brands, boutiques, and marketplaces to use as a reference when you shop!

Items were selected based on the following criteria:
  1. Fair trade principles | Do they offer a living wage, higher-than-average wages, or transparent and improving wages?
  2. Sustainability | Do they offer products made with biodegradable, eco-friendly, non-polluting, and/or organic fibers and dye processes?
  3. Commitment to improvement | Have they shown a commitment to continue to improve their supply chain and business practices?
  4. Transparency | Are they willing to talk about their process and reveal the imperfect parts of their business?
  5. Aesthetic and Quality | Are their pieces worth the investment?

Ethical + Sustainable Clothing

Brands



Boutiques


Secondhand Shops


Crafting



Athletic


Underwear + Socks


Men's Items



Ethical + Sustainable Accessories

Shoes

  • All Birds | Sustainably sourced wool sneakers
  • Bhava | Vegan, fashion foward shoes
  • Bourgeois Boheme | High end vegan shoes
  • Cardanas | Sweatshop free, simple sneakers (similar to Keds)
  • Deux Mains | Simple sandals, made in Haiti
  • Ethletic | Ethical sneakers from Europe
  • Etiko | Fair trade sneakers (Converse look-a-likes)
  • Everlane | Minimalist leather goods from Italy
  • Fortress of Inca | High end, trendy leather shoes
  • Mamahuhu | High quality, classic leather shoes for men and women
  • Mawu Lolo | Ethically made sandals
  • NICORA | Made in USA, vegan shoes
  • Nisolo | Classic, minimalist leather goods
  • OESH | 3-D printed sandals and shoes made in Charlottesville, VA
  • Oliberte | Fair trade certified leather shoes, made in Africa
  • Po-Zu | A full collection of sustainable shoes
  • Root Collective | Flats and boots made with traditional textiles and leather in Guatemala
  • Rothys | Washable flats made with recycled materials
  • Sole Rebels | Ethical flats and sandals for men and women
  • Veja | Ethical and eco-friendly sneakers


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  • Warby Parker | One-for-One model, regulated factory
  • Retrospecced | Gently used and vintage frames with prescription lenses

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Ethical + Sustainable Tech

  • Pela Case | Biodegradable and charitable phone cases
  • Nimble | Laptop and phone chargers and accessories made with recycled and natural materials
  • Fair Phone (Europe only) | A fair trade phone that can be upgraded and adapted

Subscription Boxes

  • GlobeIn | Global, fair trade housewares and personal care items
  • CauseBox | Women's fair trade and charitable goods
  • Material World | A subscription box containing secondhand designer clothing and accessories

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Representation in Ethical Fashion: A Conversation with Tavie Meier

representation in ethical fashion stylewise-blog.com tavie meier interview
Ethical fashion has a racial representation problem. While we celebrate the women, predominantly women of color, who make our clothing once a year during Fashion Revolution - and maybe a couple more times around the Holidays - in almost all cases, we see white faces and white cultural expectations plastered across Instagram, in marketing campaigns, and in product photos. This dichotomy hurts people of color because it always establishes white people as saviors and people of color as mere beneficiaries of care.

The reality is far more complicated than that, which is why I reached out to several women in the ethical fashion space to ask difficult questions about representation. I'll be sharing a couple more interviews later on, but today I'd like to introduce you to Tavie Meier. Tavie and I have known each other for a couple of years, having worked together on collaborations when she owned an ethical fashion brand, MadeFAIR. I encourage you to read this interview with openness and understanding, then voice your thoughts in the comments.
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StyleWise: You're a person of color working in an industry that is still fraught with a white savior complex. I think you've mentioned before that white people in this space are sometimes seemingly oblivious to the fact that your lived experience is not theirs. Can you elaborate on that dynamic and talk about the issues in the messaging and attitudes of the fair trade and ethical fashion movement?

Tavie Meier: I grew up in Littleton, Colorado and was often the token minority within my friend group. For example, I worked at a movie theater, and the staff dressed-up as James Bond characters for The World is Not Enough premiere. My manager assigned me Solitaire (Jane Seymour in yellow face). I've also been Princess Jasmine, Scary Spice, and as recently as last year, I was expected to be Missandei for a Game of Thrones party. (I wanted to be Margery Tyrell.) Costumes seem harmless, but it's illustrative of how we perceive "the other." I'm more white European than I am Chinese, Arab, or Black, yet I'm still considered “non-white” because of my skin color.

It's like a dripping faucet: the drips, themselves, aren't bad. They get more annoying as time goes on and soon you're fixing your faucet with a sledgehammer.

Fashion Revolution and #whomademyclothes is ethical fashion's dripping faucet. It perpetuates the racial divide by showing predominately brown women as the benefactors of white women's money. It's a glamorized "White Man's Burden," believing - as a society - poor people require intervention and oversight. It strips them of their fundamental right to privacy.

Sure, sometimes US-based studios post photos of themselves for Fash Rev Week, but those instances are small businesses piggy-backing off Fash Rev's marketing reach. If I'm purchasing a piece from a small studio, I already know who the designer is.

SW: Can you speak more to your point on Fashion Revolution? Is there a way to participate without causing further harm?

TM: I worked on Dorsu's Fash Rev campaign this year, knowing the co-founders, Hanna and Kunthear, wanted to avoid the racial divide we see in the #imadeyourclothes photos that would inundate Instagram that week. The idea of the "How to be an everyday advocate" was a sort-of sequel to Hanna's past Fash Rev article on using the power you already have.  WhatFash Rev is missing is an actual call-to-action that will have measurable results beyond social media impressions, because the easiest way to get an Instagram like is to show your "generosity," and in ethical fashion's current climate, that is really just veiled racism.

SW: It is my theory that part of ethical fashion’s lack of inclusivity has to do not only with continuing white privilege, but with the fact that the fair trade movement as we think of it today was founded by white Evangelical Christians who, however inadvertently, adopted a colonialist mindset when working with artisans outside the US. This implicit/explicit framing attracts white people because we are less able to see the outlines of that problematic framework.

TM: Let me first acknowledge that I wouldn’t exist if not for Food for the Hungry, an Evangelical INGO that my dad worked for in 1980, when he met my mom in a Thai refugee camp for Khmer Rouge survivors.

Having said that, I have a well-documented dislike of charity for reasons that required a 2000-word guest post on the Note Passer. I don’t think the act of charitable giving is bad – it’s charity structures that are cyclical and unproductive. The reason I switched from charity to ethical fashion isn’t too different than a lot of ethical fashion founders who have rooted their mission in the New Testament. To be Christian means to be charitable, and, ultimately, they’re combining this fundamental aspect of who they are with capitalism – a cornerstone of the United States.

You know Christian-based brands because they use words like hope and peace in their names, and often quote Bible verses within a click of a landing page. Because charity imagery has historically been colonial (white spokesperson standing next to brown, malnourished person “in need”), some ethical brands may feel they need to use this to show their customers they, too, are “doing good” by making a purchase.

Using words like hope, peace, and [gag] redemption is even more problematic than colonial imagery. Many of these brands work with makers in majority Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist countries and create an association between these countries (and their majority religions) with the absence of hope and peace, in need of “redemption” by way of making purses “designed in Texas (or wherever).” I’ve seen some that make mention they work with Christian organizations, which then makes me wonder if they feel non-Christian or secular organizations are unworthy hope, peace, and redemption, which isn’t very Christian.

representation in ethical fashion stylewise-blog.com tavie meier interview

SW: Some brands say that they "have to use" conventionally attractive, white women for their marketing for things to sell. Do you think this is a legitimate claim? I know that in blogging, for instance, there is some truth to the idea that you'll be more successful if you fit certain stereotypes of attractiveness and behavior.

TM: There’s a marketing principle about how we buy things from people who look like us. It might give this claim some legitimacy, but that's about as much credit as I'm willing to give it.

Saying they "have to use conventionally attractive, white women" means one of two things:
  1. They’re only planning to sell to conventionally attractive, white women. 
  2. They don’t mind selling to women of color, but they don’t want our faces and bodies representing their brands. 

When ethical brands say they have to use conventionally attractive, white women, I assume they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re trying to emulate images of beauty they see in media, which indicates the types of media they choose to consume. If you’re only following white bloggers and reading news written by white journalists, then of course you’ll believe you need conventionally attractive, white women to sell products.

SW: I've been writing on ethical fashion for over 5 years now and in some ways I'm more discouraged than ever. It seems like the urge to sell-sell-sell has made people cut corners and lose some of the initial thoughtfulness I came here for. What do you think consumers should be paying attention to in order to cut through the marketing BS?

TM: The problem is brands sell what they believe people need or want, and therefore justify their unsavory methods by convincing themselves they're solving a problem or turn a blind eye for the sake of "financial autonomy for the most oppressed people in the world." Therefore, they’re acting in such a way they believe is in the best interests of their businesses. In fact, I bet some people would agree with everything I’ve said here and remain blissfully unaware they’re doing anything wrong.

As a consumer, I do a “selfie test.” I’ll go to a brand’s Instagram account and look for a couple of things:
  1. Tokenism in their editorial photos, meaning the same person of color shows up throughout the entire account. 
  2. Are the people in the their “corporate” behind-the-scenes photos disproportionately white compared to the people in their “workshop” behind-the-scenes photos? 
  3. Have they been tagged in loads of customer photos but only re-gram the ones of conventionally attractive, white women? 

If I notice just one of these happening, then I take my money elsewhere.

I’d also like to make mention that minorities have always felt discouraged by all fashion because of cultural appropriation, sizing, or representation. There’s an equilibrium in ethical fashion, where middleclass (mostly white) women enter it as idealists then feel discouraged. On the other end of the spectrum, women of color enter it already cynical, but with the urge to make it better. For the idealists, being retweeted once will feel like failure, whereas the cynics will view one retweet as one human being listening and identifying to what they have to say.


SW: More and more, I think this movement has to become intersectional. Do you have any suggestions for how to incorporate broader social justice issues into the way we talk about and market ethical fashion?

TM: The best way to do it is to just….do it. As part of an elaborate research project for MadeFAIR (which I haven’t finished yet), I studied audience engagement of five major, ethical fashion brands to see how breaking news affects their Facebook posts. So far (this is ongoing), I found that across the board, audience engagement decreased by an average of 30% after Reuters reported on the GOP’s family separation policy. There was one exception: Eileen Fisher. The reason why theirs increased is because of this post:


representation in ethical fashion stylewise-blog.com tavie meier interview

There’s a chance they promoted this post, but then I went to Instagram and discovered the same announcement received about 5x the number of likes and comments as the posts before and after.

Now, Eileen Fisher received mixed reactions – some people were stoked about this, others were angry their favorite brand used their platform to take a political stance. As a shrewd marketer, I see a brand taking a massive marketing risk that will end up translating to increased sales because, as a consumer, I see “my money” (their profits) donated to a cause I like.

SW: You've been working in this industry for years, both as a business owner and marketer. Have you seen any progress in inclusion? Do you think certain components of the niche actually deter that progress?

TM: I see progress in established brands who, over time, have realized the importance of inclusion. For example, Mata Traders has not only the most options for extended sizing but also a racially diverse group of models on their website. Tonle also has one of the most lifestyle-inclusive Instagram accounts (I’m 100% here for tattoos and pink hair), and it’s impossible to ignore Everlane actively embracing androgyny and showcasing bloggers from all walks of life – their website taught me the word “gamine.” Even Reformation – the poster child for coolness and leggy models – has started including plus-size women in their social media imagery. Lastly, I’d be remiss not to mention Soko, the first brand (that I noticed, anyway) whose models have always been representative of their jewelry’s cultural roots.

These are all hugely successful, US-based brands who embrace diversity rather than seeing it as a detriment to sales. However, many new brands seem oblivious to these examples, and that lacking awareness and research is ethical fashion’s biggest hindrance.

Maybe they're using their friends to save money (big mistake - professional models are professional for a reason), or perhaps they've never had to consider how awful it feels to buy your brown child a white Barbie. I doubt they’ve consciously ignored the void of representation, but pair their ignorance and that desire to "do good" with the US’ systematic racism, and what we see is the internalized correlation of brown people with poverty, and white people with wealth and beauty.

Thank you, Tavie!

Tavie Meier is the former owner of the ethical fashion retailer, Made Fair, and now discusses the challenges of running an ethical fashion brand on Madefair.co. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from The University of Colorado at Boulder, and is regularly interviewed on topics about diversity and ethical marketing.


representation in ethical fashion stylewise-blog.com tavie meier interview

Photos by Demetrius Washington on Unsplash