mata traders

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

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

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

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

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

The Moral Wardrobe: a Whole Lotta Mata (Traders)

mata traders maxwell midi skirt reviewmata traders maxwell midi skirt review
Mata Traders works with women's co-ops in India to produce their line of festive, feminine dresses, skirts, blouses, and jewelry. They sent me the Maxwell Midi Skirt and the Layered Amulet Necklace from their Spring 2016 line to wear and review. I love the updated designs and the versatility of these items.

First, the hand block printed geometric design on the skirt is graphic without being too busy, and it pairs well with my overabundance of Everlane tees. The length is great for work, where I often have to lift boxes and pick up dust bunnies, and the necklace adds a thoughtful touch to basic tops. I imagine it would look great layered with other jewelry, as well.
  mata traders maxwell midi skirt reviewmata traders maxwell midi skirt reviewEthical Details: Maxwell Midi Skirt and Layered Amulet Necklace - c/o Mata Traders; Tee - Everlane; Sandals - secondhand via Thredup

Now for the downsides: I always have trouble getting the right fit in Mata Traders items, particularly with their woven, non-stretch fabrics. The skirt is too big in the waist by several inches even though I followed their size chart (definitely size down). As a result, it's a bit awkward to fit evenly at mid-rise, as I'm wearing it here. The skirt also lacks a back or side slit, which limits my stride when I'm walking, though they did add enough fabric near the knee and calves to provide reasonable walking comfort if you're not a fast walker, like I am.

I'd definitely still recommend the skirt, but you may want to reach out to Mata Traders for specific details before ordering. The necklace is lovely, as well.

I took these photos on the only sunny day we've had in, like, 14 days. I'm back in sweaters for now, but I enjoyed the brief respite.

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Mata Traders is featuring artisan stories and running a giveaway until May 16th! Check out this post to learn more. 

Fair Trade Federation Holiday Gift Guide 2015

fair trade federation gift guide

It's here! The moment you didn't know you were waiting for. The Fair Trade Federation just published their 2015 Holiday Gift Guide chock full of ethical gifts for everyone on your list. Just click on the Isuu reader below to start reading.


I support Fair Trade Federation shops whenever I can, because I believe in their mission and find them to be a trustworthy source for fair trade goods. The FTF isn't a third party certifier - it's a business association that provides networking and other resources for companies that believe in ethical, transparent supply chain practices.

A few of my favorite FTF brands are Mata Traders, Education & More (support them via their sidebar ad), Manos Zapotecas, and Ten Thousand Villages.

I know it's a bit early to be talking about the Christmas holiday (at least I think so), but it's hard for fair trade companies to compete with big box retailers if they don't start the season early like everyone else. We're only a couple weeks away from the biggest fair trade sales event of the year - Fair Tuesday - so I'll be busy researching sales and creating lists and gift guides for you all.

Are you looking for anything specific this Holiday season? Let me know in the comments and maybe I can find an ethical version for you to include in a guide.

an ethical outfit: poolside at the retreat center

*This post contains affiliate links. 

Daniel and I are headed out to our annual church camp retreat this weekend. This will be our second year going. If you've been reading Style Wise for awhile, you may recall that our car broke down on the interstate last time around. We were stranded in the hot summer sun until the caravan of other drivers headed to camp spotted us on the side of the road. It was quite the adventure.

The retreat weekend itself was marvelous and I think I appreciated the time with friends learning Gospel songs by ear, reading, and playing ridiculous games all the more because of the way they rallied around us after the car-tastrophe. I'm looking forward to another year of peace and friendship (and hopefully the car will get us all the way there this time around!)

the moral wardrobe: on being (sunburnt) with American Nomad

Ethical Details: Dress - Mata Traders; Sandals - Betula; Hat - thrifted; Necklace - c/o American Nomad

The weird thing about blogging is that I feel obligated to tell you that my mother-in-law just left town after staying a week at our house. Her side of the family is rooted in Baltimore, so we spent the last two weekends road tripping up for surprise parties and backyard BBQs, getting hugs from people we'd never met, and eating more than we normally would in a week, including steamed crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning (a regional tradition). Fortunately for me, my mother-in-law did the driving (fun fact: Daniel doesn't drive) and I sat in the back reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawende (I highly recommend it!). 

We dropped Kathy off at the airport in Richmond on Monday and decided to meander through Carytown for a little while before heading home, which is how I got my first sunburn of the year; I forgot to bring my sun hat, too!

On to my outfit: Michelle, the founder of fair trade accessories brand American Nomad, contacted me a few months ago to connect and see if I'd be interested in writing a guest post for the American Nomad blog. We both got distracted by other things, so it took awhile to work out the details, but the post is up now! She sent me this beautiful necklace as a thank you and I love it because it's modern and reminds me a bit of honeycomb. Thank you, Michelle. 

I encourage you to check out American Nomad online. The shop is well curated and the graphic design and photography work is stunning!

the moral wardrobe: indigo girl

Mata Traders In Full Bloom Dress
Mata Traders In Full Bloom Dress
Sseko Designs Chiffon ribbons
mata traders dress
Ethical Details: In Full Bloom Dress - Mata Traders; Sandals - Sseko Designs*

The moment you've all been waiting for! This is the dress I bought at Mata Traders in Chicago. The rich indigo and resist dye flower motif are beautiful and the classic silhouette makes me feel feminine but not twee. As I mentioned in my behind-the-scenes post, I have trouble finding a good fit in some Mata dresses, but this one works great on my frame and the waist hits right at my natural waist as it's meant to. 

You've probably noticed that this month's blogging schedule has been jam packed. I was determined to finish the Justice Conference posts while everything was still fresh (and relevant), but between that and all these (awesome) giveaways, I've spent a lot more time blogging than usual. I think I'll ease up and get my bearings next week. 

Speaking of giveaways, the Hands Producing Hope giveaway is over and a winner will be contacted shortly. The Synergy gift card giveaway is still going strong 'til next Friday, however, so enter if you're interested. And if you don't have an instagram account (the mandatory entry), just click through as if you do and make sure to sign up for the Synergy newsletter. I don't want you to be left out just because you don't have access to an expensive iPhone or iPad.

*denotes affiliate link.

behind the scenes: Mata Traders HQ

mata traders tour

I met up with Hannah of Life Style Justice for the Justice Conference in Chicago last weekend. The weekend exceeded my expectations in every way and I found a dear friend in Hannah. I'll talk more about the conference once I've taken the time to process it all.

On Thursday, Hannah and I met for the first time at the airport, then headed out for a day of exploring fair trade shops. We started, quite fittingly, at Mata Traders. Mata was the first fair trade clothing brand I ever heard of and I even interviewed for a position there a couple years ago! We were welcomed immediately by their staff and shown around by cofounder, Jonit.

mata traders office
fair trade warehouse
First photo: the Fair Trade Federation Principles wall; Second photo: Hannah scoping out some jewelry

Mata headquarters is housed in an industrial building with beautiful art deco details and exposed brick walls throughout. The office has an open floor plan with stock, desks, and work areas arranged within the same room. All of the employees were wearing adorable dresses - most of them Mata - and the atmosphere was one of both collaboration and individual work ethic.

mata traders
mata traders
Hannah and I shop the Mata warehouse. Photo credit: Jonit

Cofounder Maureen and design staff asked us our opinion on some Spring '16 prints (so exciting!), then Jonit let us loose to shop the stock. I've had difficulty in the past finding a good fit with Mata dresses because I'm small up top and a little hippier on the bottom. Jonit went to work helping me find dozens of dresses to try on. It was a fantastic opportunity to see what silhouettes work with my figure for future ordering and I was able to find a versatile skirt and dress that make me feel great.

mata traders
mata traders staff

I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to get an inside look at Mata Traders and I'm so thankful I got to meet everyone! Thanks for welcoming us, Mata team. You're awesome.

I'll be sharing the items I bought in outfits posts in the coming weeks!

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You can shop Mata Traders online and at select boutiques.

shop local: Betsey Boutique

betsey boutique charlottesville

Betsey Boutique is a new-to-Charlottesville women's clothing shop on Market Street near the Downtown Mall. I first heard of it while using Mata Traders' find-a-retailer search tool and was so excited to see that Mata Traders had finally come to Charlottesville. I intended to stop in several weeks ago, but it was closed before I could get there.

By a twist of fate, however, Betsey Boutique had been asked to participate in the Sew What fashion show I was set to model in, so I met owner, Lisa, during fittings for that event a couple weekends ago and got to wear a few Betsey items on the runway! In our conversations during show prep, she told me she recently relocated from a small Virginia town and loved to find unique items at reasonable price points, the latter being something sorely lacking among Charlottesville boutiques. She also features local designers when possible.

sew what fashion show
photo credit: Keith Alan Sprouse

Yes, that's me (my own mother had trouble recognizing me at first). Here I'm wearing a tunic dress from a local designer. 

I finally got a chance to check out the store a couple weekends ago and was pleasantly surprised to see a wide range of fair trade and made in USA options (Betsey is not exclusively an ethical retailer), including lots of Mata Traders' jewelry and dresses, ethical bags, and cute soaps made in New York. 

mata traders charlottesville
betsey boutique charlottesville
betsey boutique charlottesville

I plan on stopping in again to shop when I have more time (I have my eye on a dress and some earrings). 

betsey boutique charlottesville

Lisa wasn't there when I took the tour, but a friendly shop attendant welcomed me. Thanks, friendly shop attendant!

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Check out Betsey Boutique on facebook!

warm days ahead: an ethical wishlist

ethical summer wishlist


When I started buying primarily ethical clothing, I didn't really believe I'd be able to reduce my overall consumption. Shopping was such a huge part of my life and I always wanted the next new thing. But I've been pleasantly surprised with the progress I've made.

When you commit to buying ethically sourced items, you end up spending more time researching and more money per item, which means (theoretically) that your consumption should go down with minimal effort, but it's easy to get caught up in sales or go crazy at the thrift store (something I'm still working on) and end up right where you started, carelessly buying.

It helps me to make a pared down visual representation of what I'm looking for so I can stay focused. This season, I'd love to purchase:


There's no possible way I can buy all of this in one season, but I can keep my eye out for sales and similar items. 

Are you adding anything to your closet this season? 

inspiration: fair trade florals

florals
florals by stylewiseblog featuring fitted dresses

Featured Items (clockwise from left): Nomads Summer Halter Dress, Mata Traders Primrose Dress, Reformation Peony DressEthica Elysees Dress, Ash & Rose Cherry Blossom Dress

I had settled into a nice minimal wardrobe, content with my Everlane tees and dark wash jeans. But, one day not long ago, the trees in the median of a nearby street suddenly bloomed dazzling pink and now I just want to wear bright florals to chase the last bit of winter away. 

Solid colors have their place - and they're essential building blocks if you're someone inclined to prints - but it's a season for pattern and I'm so excited to dress a bit more feminine after being on a menswear kick for the past few seasons. In reality, I'll be depending on thrifting and accessorizing for floral accents. I don't think I can justify overturning my wardrobe (or my budget) to make way for half a dozen new dresses.

Oh, and by the way, I'm using the Style Wise facebook page to post interesting articles and fair trade sales. There's a lot of interesting stuff happening in the world of retail right now.

the moral wardrobe: the biggest parka


Ethical Details: Parka - thrifted; Sweater - old; Jeans - Levi's*; Boots - thrifted; Earrings - Mata Traders

Best. Coat. Ever. I love being swaddled in pockets of faux goose down. 

The thrift shop determines snow days by county school closures, so I've been off all week. I went in today anyway and tinkered around for a bit, but I have lots of laundry and packing to do at home because we're headed to Florida on Friday! There's really no better time to flee south.

In other news, I updated the Resources page to include a few more shops, so check it out. And if you're looking for a specific item, feel free to email me at leahcwise@gmail.com.

*Levi's is taking steps to improve working conditions at their factories. Though not quite there yet, they're doing more than most global brands. I bought these more than a year ago and I wouldn't put them on an ethical brands list yet, but it's a step forward, at least.

the moral wardobe: henna and layering

mata traders dress
blue knit sweater
mata traders
Ethical Details: Dress - Mata Traders fair trade; Sweater - thrifted; Boots - thrifted; Necklace - handmade via etsy; Belt - thrifted

I've been trying to figure out how to make this Mata Traders sundress work for winter ever since I bought it on sale late in the summer season. I'm pleased that this ensemble seems to really work. I like all the textures and shades of blue running up against each other. 

You may not be able to tell, but I dyed my hair with henna. I used the shade, Persian Mahogany, by Rainbow Henna. It comes in a screw top plastic container, which makes it easy to scoop out what you need for one application and store the rest. The application process is never a simple one and it smells pretty grody, but I learned how to keep a clean work area from last time, so it wasn't so bad. I like the subtle dark red tint it added and the way it evened out my partially natural, partially dyed hair color. I'm kind of a hair dye addict, but I am trying to keep things a bit more natural in terms of both color and processing. Henna is time tested and all natural.

an ethical outfit: thrifting

fair


This outfit may seem a little too put together for thrifting, but it's a good fit for a few reasons: 1. Slip-on shoes are a must for trying on shoes and clothing, 2. two piece outfits are preferable to dresses when you're trying to get a sense of how tops and bottoms will look with items you already own, 3. a crossbody helps you go hands free when you're hunting through the racks, and 4. earrings are a better option than a necklace or rings because they won't get in the way while you're shopping.

Preparation is key!

Outfit Details: Green 3 Sweater, Rag & Bone Jeans, Mata Traders Earrings, The Body Shop Tinted Balm, Parker Clay Bag, The Root Collective Flats

my jewelry collection


minimalist jewelry collection on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

In middle school, I decided I should only wear one piece of jewelry at a time and I still believe less is more. I don't wear a lot of jewelry, but I have a fairly large collection of pieces that get their moment to shine periodically.

j crew elephant charm necklace
butterfly wing necklace

My current favorites include gold and brass items, geometric designs, and the occasional animal-inspired piece. The locket necklace above has a real, sustainably harvested butterfly wing fragment inside.

the moral wardrobe: camel sweater

j crew camel sweater personal style post on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
j crew camel sweater personal style post on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
j crew camel sweater personal style post on stylewiseblog.blogspot.com
Outfit Details: Sweater - J. Crew via ebay (similar); Pants - thrifted; Earrings - Mata Traders; Shoes - Blowfish

I call that last photo "Camel-flage."

It's really looking like fall now. We've had a warm October, but everyone says this is the best leaf display we've had in years. I don't know about that, but it's certainly better than last year. 

I've spent the week marketing the thrift shop's Halloween costumes like crazy. I've almost convinced myself to buy one, but I'm on a spending freeze at the moment, partially because I finally broke down and bought J. Crew's Fall '13 camel sweater on ebay. I've wanted it for a year, so I guess that means it's not an impulse buy. I have a weird tendency of thinking that some items are so special I can't possibly purchase them.

the moral wardrobe: it's fair trade month!

Happy Fair Trade Month!
mata traders outfitI'm more excited than I look.

ft6Levitating leaves

fair trade month style postOutfit Details: Dress - Mata Traders, fair trade / Earrings: Ten Thousand Villages, fair trade / Cardigan - secondhand / Shoes - old

Hooray for a whole month of celebrating a living wage! I'm wearing my new Mata Traders dress and fair trade tassel earrings from Ten Thousand Villages in celebration.

It's amazing what doing a little laundry and cleaning the dishes will do for my spirit. Things feel much more orderly now.

an ethical outfit: afternoon lecture


outfit



Details: People Tree Dress, Mata Traders Earrings, Malia Designs Bag, Ruby Dust Vintage Loafers

(Click the styleboard to be redirected to polyvore)

I don't have any lectures to attend, though I did go to a special talk given by one of Daniel's professors a couple weeks ago. It's important to me that I'm still connected to the academic community. I enjoy living outside of it while keeping up with the conversations within it; it's the best of both worlds. Being married to a grad student has its perks.

I love this People Tree Dress, but the conversion rate makes it pretty far out of my reach. Sad face. The Malia Designs bag, however, comes at a reasonable price at $38.00. It's made from a cement bag and has the most adorable graphic elephant print!

The weather is inching down to fall temps. I'm not excited for the winter, but Charlottesville is really meant for fall. It's a fireworks display of changing leaves and mountain breezes in October and November.

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an ethical outfit: dinner outdoors

downtown dinner
downtown dinner by fracturedradiance featuring genuine leather handbags

The weather's gotten noticeably milder since the first of the month and it worries me. Last year's winter started too early and ended too late, which left us with barely a spring and a short summer. Having grown up in Florida, I have a difficult time adjusting to the cold, dark days and long nights of winter and I'm not quite prepared to live through another extended season.

But it's still pretty warm and the nights are pleasant, perfect for a drive over to the Downtown Mall for dinner outdoors. Maybe I'll bring a cardigan just in case. I just ordered a pair of floral print Betula by Birkenstock sandals off of ebay and I plan to get as much use out of them as possible before cold weather hits. I think they'll look great with skinny jeans and long cardigans. I don't know how you Northerners successfully live your lives with all the cold weather you get.

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the moral wardrobe: closet secrets

red hair red5mata traders maxi dressOutfit Details: Dress - c/o Mata Traders / Shoes - old / Earrings - AE

I totally forgot I had this Mata Traders maxi dress! It had gotten pushed to the dark, mysterious depths of my closet until I tore through it looking for an appropriate outfit to wear to a local art auction that wouldn't clash with my new, crazy hair color. Though the printing techniques on Mata Traders' custom fabrics are as traditional as they get, the cut on the neckline is very contemporary with its crew neck and angled arm holes. A lot of their Spring/Summer line is now on sale, so it's a great time to peruse what they have to offer.

So, my hair is very red. Shockingly red. But the women at church seem to like it and they can be a tough crowd, so I'll take that as a sign that I have no reason to worry about it.

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accessorize: mata traders earrings


Mata Traders is an American fair trade clothing company. I love that they've begun to make more streamlined, less feminine garments that appeal to my aesthetic. I find that their clothing isn't really tailored for my body type, however, so I'm happy to support their accessories line. Mata Traders sent me this season's Quill Earrings and I wear them at least a couple times a week. They make a statement while remaining lightweight and relatively minimalist. I prefer geometric shapes in my jewelry and most of their offerings provide exactly what I want.

ha1

The real selling point, though, is that they're reasonably priced in the range of 18.00 to 25.00. I typically buy my jewelry from etsy sellers or Ten Thousand Villages, so I always expect to pay in that range for an ethically made, high quality piece. I'm strongly considering buying a few of their sale items, like the black and gold ones featured above.

*I wasn't compensated for this post, but I did receive a pair of earrings to review.

 

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