My relationship with social media has always been a love/hate situation...blogging has forced me to re-think my goals and how to achieve them without losing myself in the process.Read More
Are you hitting up the beach any time soon? Are you looking for a summery look that provides comfort and coverage? I recently came across these pieces and just had to share! P.S. This outfit is 100% ethical and sustainable!Read More
Annaborgia is a San Francisco-based fashion label that creates bridal dresses for maximum versatility. Gone are the days that you would spend hundreds of dollars for a party dress and never wear it again! Read my interview with Daniela Degrassi, Annaborgia's creative mind and founder.Read More
I started off the #summer10x10 capsule wardrobe challenge with determination, but in the spirit of transparency I will also tell you the truth - I did not make it until the end. The biggest reason was that by the time Sunday came, I had to wash almost all of my clothes and I got too lazy. Between the work we did to pull of the conference we were organizing (and subsequent celebrations) and the 12 hours I spent getting from one city to the other...you could understand how my levels of giving AF were low on Sunday. All I did was binge-watch Game of Thrones to get ready for the season premiere, but the gods of HBO GO decided that us underlings did not deserve the live streaming we paid for. We also had three power outages that night, thought I am not sure if that had anything to do with the premiere.
Sure, I could have picked it up on Monday, but I was also too sick to care. I am currently fighting an allergy infection so it doesn't become into a full-blown cold. I have a super sentient body that knows when it's okay to drop the ball on life and curl up in bed (same thing happened after my wedding!). I have 1 week to be sick all I want, next week my mom and grandma are coming to visit me!
Lessons Learned from the #summer10x10 challenge
Again, here are the pieces I picked. You can read about the sustainability credentials of each in my previous post.
- I wanted to use as much sustainable/ethical items as possible, so I limited my capsule to those items. I don't own that many, and that's why I had a lot of printed tops. I bought them to complement my other basics which are not sustainable/ethical. Having too many prints made it very predictable, I could only match the tops with one of the two pants (only a few could be combined with the skirt). Next time I would balance the prints with neutral colors.
- Undecided about the shoes. Is counting them as part of the challenge harder to mix and match, or did I choose the wrong pairs for this capsule? I only ended up wearing the booties three times, which is not bad considering I only did the challenge for 6 days. Counting the shoes as part of the challenge is HARD. If I were to do it again, I wouldn't count the shoes. I didn't realize how important it is for me to tie my outfit with the shoes I am wearing! For me, the shoes make the outfit, so limiting to 1-2 pairs felt like I was wearing a uniform. Now that I am looking at the photos it doesn't seem that way, but in the day to day I felt I was being redundant with my outfits.
- I thought that I would go crazy with the accessories to create different looks. Turns out, because of the tops I picked, I didn't feel like I had a lot of room for accessories. I did use a scarf in multiple ways, so I achieved that goal!
- The challenge was an excellent packing list, I even did some outfit combinations that were outside the ones I originally designed (I came up with 11 as you can see below). I had an unexpected business meeting on Friday and I had not packed another business outfit, so I wore the striped shirt with the trousers.
- If you decide to do this challenge, at some point you will need to do laundry (especially in the summer, pants can be worn multiple times but shirts? ew!) So I would carefully plan the order in which you will wear each outfit so you are not stuck with a dirty top or forced to do laundry more than necessary (which is a waste of time and water).
Some surprises in the 10x10 challenge:
- I'm still not convinced about the striped top with the skirt. Yay or nay? Maybe if I wore it with different shoes...
- Instead of just doing the typical shirt + trouser mixing and matching I tried to use my Ekyog dress in three different ways. I had used it before with the People Tree skirt, but I had never paired it with trousers. I felt a bit like Frankie (Grace and Frankie) and even my husband said that the style was not me at all, but I liked it, I surprised myself with it! I think this is something I would wear on a lazy Sunday. The bralette that I wore in that outfit is from NYC HarMonica Designs.
All in all, I'd do this experiment again! How about you, will you join the 10x10 challenge?
Perhaps you have already heard of the 10x10 challenge that Lee from StyleBee started in 2015. The 10x10 capsule wardrobe challenge is very simple: pick 10 items (includes shoes) from your closet, and style them in 10 different ways for 10 days. This time, Caroline from Unfancy is also co-hosting the challenge!
You can follow the challenge on Instagram with the hashtags #summer10x10 and the ongoing hashtags — #unfancyremix and #stylebee10x10.
I am joining in and I am challenging myself to use my ethical/sustainable clothes for this capsule. In my guest blog post for Good Cloth, I talked about some of the beliefs I needed to get over before switching to sustainable fashion. It defeats the point to switch mindless consumerism of fast fashion to mindless consumerism of ethical fashion, right?
I don't have an extensive collection of ethical clothes because I only shop 1-2 times a year. A lot of the clothes that I will wear in this challenge were bought last April, that's my time of the year to shop because it's my birthday month (yes, month, not day!)
Here are the 10 pieces I chose:
- 3 t-shirts
- 1 collar shirt
- 2 pants
- 1 skirt
- 1 dress
- 2 pairs of shoes
This week I have to go to Cali, which is great because I don't have to worry about including outer layers..it is hot over there! One of the days I need to wear my "business attire" and I think I can pull it off with the skirt and the collar shirt, but definitely not with the shoes I picked for the challenge. I will have to cheat that day and wear different shoes!
I already feel that this challenge will make me think about how I wear accessories. Who else is like me and pins all the posts about wearing a scarf 50 different ways and you never actually try it?!
UPDATED: Here is my recap of the challenge!
Who Made my Clothes?
In this 10x10 challenge, 9 out of the 10 items I picked are from sustainable brands. I have other pairs of shoes that are from ethical brands but they did not fit this capsule and the things I need to do this week, so I will use them in another challenge!
The Striped top and Trousers from Armed Angels
The striped top and the blue trousers are from the German company Armed Angels. This is my first time buying clothes made from Tencel, and I love the material! The trousers are SO comfy I feel that I am wearing fancy pajamas.
Check out their blog, they are earnest and open about sharing their experiences as a fashion label and recently posted a story about a supplier that did not pass their audit! Armed Angels is part of the Fairwear Foundation, which ensures ethical and safe work conditions of garment workers.
The T-shirts and Candy Skirt from People Tree
The palm print t-shirt, the lipstick t-shirt and the candy print skirt are from People Tree. I got them on sale in April so sadly they are not on the website anymore. Below is the tag with the story of my clothes. All three items were made at Assisi Garments, which is an Indian company that uses organic cotton and hires deaf and mute women in their factories.
The Indian Heritage Shirt from Fabric of Humanity
The white collar shirt is a crowdfunding campaign purchase from last year. The picture I took doesn't do justice to the shirt, but you'll see it better once I share the full outfits! I received a letter and a signed postcard with my purchase, I love these small details that make the purchasing experience more special!
My Indian Heritage shirt is made in Jaipur, from GOTS certified organic cotton. The details in the cuff and the collar are block printed by hand and the buttons are carved from mother of pearl.
The LBD from Ekyog
This was my first sustainable clothes purchase EVER (Mom paid for it, thanks)! It was winter of 2015. I had done some research on Ekyog as part of the business plan I was doing for my MBA thesis, and when I had the chance to visit Paris I went to one of their shops and got this black dress (it was hard to walk away with just the dress, they have so many beautiful things). The dress is made from Cupro, which is a textile made from regenerated cotton waste. I've worn this dress year round, the design is versatile and it can be dressed up or down very easily.
Jett Coated Pants from Prana
I bought this pair of Prana pants on Ash & Rose's platform. This was the first time I bought a pair of pants online, I have weird body proportions (I should weigh more for my height, so sometimes pants don't fit me). I had to take them to a seamstress because my ass is just not big enough to fill the pants *sniff*. I love the leather/shiny texture, it makes them more interesting! The pants are no longer at Ash & Rose's store, but I found them here (if you have Done Good installed in your browser it will tell you that this shop supports Trump products - do as you wish with this information!).
Black Sandals from Fortress of Inca
I freaking LOVE these sandals, and I like telling the story of how I found these shoes. It was February 2017, we were spending the last days of our honeymoon in Miami (we did a heavy metal cruise for four days, #besttimeever) and we were walking around South Beach when I found Nomad Tribe's shop. I had not heard of them but I was excited that I found this place because I WAS looking for a place to shop for black sandals, they had been in my wishlist for quite a while! The whole time I was in Miami I was resisting buying from other shops because I wanted to shop from an ethical brand. I felt like the universe rewarded my patience because I also got a good discount as they were closing that location at the end of the month (you can now find them in Wynwood). The sandals are from Fortress of Inca, a company that works with artisans in Peru to manufacture high quality, EXTREMELY comfortable, and stylish shoes. I wore them the second I bought them and walked the entire afternoon with my new shoes. No blisters, no tired feet, NADA! I have sensitive skin and new shoes give me blisters, it is very rare when that doesn't happen to me.
Boots from Bocage (Not sure where they stand on sustainability and ethics)
Bocage is a French shoe company that's been around for 50 years. I bought these shoes on a trip to Belgium and I wore the hell out of them during fall 2015-winter 2016. I decided to include them because I haven't worn them since last year, they were sitting in my closet for so long that mold started to grow on them *gasp*. I am taking them out for this challenge because I've been stuck in a rut wearing the same clothes and shoes while half of my closet is just sitting there. I tried looking into their website for information on their manufacturing and sustainability, and the only thing I found was that they still manufacture about 25% of their shoes in France.
Be sure to check out the recap post to see how I styled this capsule!
In my past life I wanted to be a botanist and trek the jungles of Central America, discovering plants with medicinal properties...until I actually went out in the jungle and did field work, and realized that I'm not that kind of outdoorsy person!
The love for botany remains, which is why I fell in love with Gung Ho designs. I'll let Sophie explain (click on video below):
Each design comes with a talking point, so next time people tell you how beautiful you look you can also tell them about the story and the environmental cause behind the print.
This is Sophie's third collection, but it's the biggest one to date. Support this project by clicking the button below!
#EthicalHour is a Twitter chat that happens on Mondays (8 pm BST) and I enjoy participating as I get a glimpse of people's thoughts about the industry. A lot of brands interact in the chat, which is also a great way for me to get to know them. At least every other week, someone will start a conversation about how to make sustainability sexy, cool or more attractive to the mainstream.
How do you get people to convert?
The answers are usually the same. Focus on the quality of your product. Share your story...sustainability comes last. This is all true, I don't care that you are solving an environmental problem, if your products are ugly, I won't buy them!
Are we (ethical fashion brands and consumers) suffering due to the wording? Can we come up with something like Normcore or Shabby Chic to describe our style? Perhaps no other paragraph (talking about the word sustainability) can summarize it better than this:
The few conversations that I've had about ethical fashion with my friends go like this:
Friend: "Love what you do, but I could never do it" The reasons are one or more of:
a) I like owning piles of clothes so I need them to be cheap
b) I cannot be a minimalist because repeating outfits is boring (once again, she needs to be able to buy clothes cheaply)
c) Shopping is my only addiction, why are you ruining my one dirty habit?
d) Going to the mall is easier (and therapeutical, apparently).
Me: ...Yeah, life is hard. *rolls eyes until I can see the back of my skull*
I don't spend time trying to convert people. I think you should arrive to those conclusions on your own. I just point them towards Netflix and recommend that they watch the True Cost. If that won't do it, my silly little blog won't do it either. I've worked in sustainability for a while and I know that you cannot force people to do anything, even when the consequences are right in their backyard.
Still, that doesn't prevent me from getting frustrated with what I want to do with this blog. When I first started, I just thought that if I show women that there are options, they would be interested right?
Sometimes I think I should give up because my online persona isn't trendy enough. I'm not your vegan, spiritual, yoga-addicted millennial who loves to take photos of herself wrapped in white blankets while sipping a gigantic cup of chai. No. I don't have a farro salad recipe to give to you. I don't DIY ANYTHING - I still go to my mom to mend my clothes. Yes, I'd rather buy something new to decorate my apartment instead of spending an ungodly amount of hours searching through second-hand stores and flea markets. None of that sounds fun to me. I don't want to spend a Saturday afternoon painting mason jars and making my own candles. Even when I lived in Vancouver, I didn't compost. I only recycled. The only DIY project I ever did while living there was to make my own beer.
This is the kind of stuff people expect from someone who gives a shit about people and the environment.
To make things worse, I'm not a fashionista.
I don't follow NYFW and the others. I know some model names, but I don't even follow them on Instagram. I don't follow ANY fashion/Hollywood celebrity, except for Emma Watson because she promotes sustainable fashion and is working with the UN on gender issues. But, do I love her for her acting work? Not really, I can't even remember watching Harry Potter.
If I know any luxury brand is because I am surrounded by people who buy that stuff. If it wasn't for them, the red sole of a pair of Louboutins would mean squat to me. Once in a while I check out Refinery29's website and that's about it. I don't read Vogue, or any other fashion magazine (not even at a salon, I always carry a book in my purse).
As a shitty fashionista, I've gone through some fugly fashion style periods - basically all of my undergrad. I only started caring about my appearance when I started grad school, and the reason was a very superficial one. I was living in the suburbs, commuting 3 hours every day, my stipend qualified as a working poor wage and my days were 12-15 hours long. I could not be broke, surrounded by ugliness AND also look frumpy. Dressing up was my way of keeping my dignity, a thing that is usually gone by the time you finish grad school....
So yeah, I get it why a woman would want a nice closet even though everything else in her life screams I AM ONE PAYCHECK AWAY FROM BEING BROKE. I used to buy fast fashion clothes. All crap. They would fall apart or pill by the end of the season. It wasn't until one winter, where I spent 200$ on something like 5 pairs of shoes that did not make it through the year that I realized I was better off spending those 200$ on ONE pair.
I learned how to budget for that. I learned how to avoid temptations and I read all I could find about capsule wardrobes and building a functional closet that was also stylish enough for me.
To recap: I am not a shining example of conscious living and I am not an envy-inducing fashionista. I do a very bad job at advertising FOMO and targeting your insecurities to make you go shopping. I also do a shitty job pretending that I am one with Gaia.
So who am I and why on earth did I decide to do a blog on ethical fashion?
- Buying from ethical brands is important to me because I cannot bear the idea that someone out there is working 18 hours stitching the same sleeve and they cannot afford the basics to live. How can I turn a blind eye on what is basically modern slavery? And all of that misery for what, for a 5$ shirt that will be delivered to a store in 2 days so I can wear it and toss it after 3 times? Or for an expensive bag that I wear to show off my status? (Yeah, luxury brands are no better, they can also exploit workers)
- I have this vision that one day there will be no such thing as "sustainable fashion". It will just be fashion. We would know who made our clothes and no one would be exploited. I do not want to support a business that can only exist in a massive scale because it tramples human and labor rights, especially if that business is non-essential to life. Yes, fashion is art, fashion is political, fashion is a reflection of our times...but at the end of the day, it's just CLOTHES.
- I think that I can be a part of that vision by blogging. Ethical fashion is relatively new. People need to be convinced that it is worth their time and money. I hope I can achieve this by showing you the options, finding good deals for you and sparking your curiosity about the big picture - how did we get here and how can we be better?
- A part of me thinks that the fact that I am not your typical hippie or fashion addict can be part of my "charm". There's got to be plenty of us happily not giving a shit about being trendy (just enough so we look presentable) but still like to do some shopping, right? No one really types "fashion website for the woman that is tired of bullshit and just wants some pointers and some outfit inspiration so she can work her closet plus some suggestions of ethical brands because I don't want to exploit others, but can you recommend me stuff that is not taken out of a Coachella weekend please?"
That's essentially what this blog is about.
I don't think that buying sustainable fashion should imply that you must also fit into a certain "type". This is why we can't reach the mainstream - we are terrifying them with "if you dress like this, then you must live this way". I can't relate to any die-hard crowd, whether they are environmentalists or fashionistas.
Is it possible to be ordinary and still stand out in the sea of blogs? (Or to be more accurate, is it possible to be super-normal-me and still stand out?)
TAMGA Designs is a creator of consciously designed and produced fashion that reflects a global and travel-inspired lifestyle. Their maxi dress is a summer wardrobe basic and I have styled it three different ways...check it out!Read More
Behind the Scenes
I spent one afternoon at Cyclus' offices, where I had the chance to meet with the CEO and talk about fashion, life in Colombia and future plans for the brand.
Cyclus is a brand of accessories made from recycled inner tube tires. In its inception the products were made 100% of recycled tires, but since the brand changed owners in 2013 it has integrated cotton and European-inspired designs while keeping the use of recycled inner tubes.
Normally, businesses start by validating their products in their own backyard before being export-ready. For Cyclus, it was the other way around. Their products sell in Asia and they are now growing in the local Colombian market. The timing is perfect, as the eco-friendly culture in Latin America is growing. When I started my undergrad, it was hard (or impossible) to find "hippie foods" in supermarkets in Panama (think quinoa, kale, gluten-free food), organic coffee was rare and only in the last five years things like local markets, craft beer, artisan chocolate, and an appreciation for slow fashion and slow food has started to emerge. However, we have always been addicted to avocados so we are ahead of the curve on that one!
The Cyclus Spirit
I asked Ralph to describe the person he had in mind when he thought of Cyclus. The first time I browsed through their website I was instantly transported to Europe. I thought of a woman riding her bicycle in Amsterdam, going on short weekend trips to neighboring cities, always chic while keeping it simple. It was very funny, then, when I stepped into Ralph Thoma's office and found out that he is Swiss (and from Lausanne, the same town I used to live in!)
Cyclus is for the man or woman who seeks experiences over things, is conscious of their well-being, the impact of their consumer choices and enjoys quality over status. He or she is probably a world traveller, an early adopter, with an open mind as a result of being exposed to many cultures (through music, art, food, travel and literature).
The brand identity is Colombian, which is reflected in the names they choose for their products: Usaquen, Macarena, Monserrate and Zona G. These are names of neighborhoods in Bogota. They have also done a modern version of the mochila, which is a popular bag style in Colombia. I hope that one day they create the Chapinero, that is hands down my favorite neighborhood in Bogota!
The Anatomy of a Cyclus Bag
Currently, the cotton is sourced from India (not organic). The leather is natural (not dyed) and is sourced locally. The recycled tires are also bought locally and are used to give stability and structure to the bags. I am as new as you are to the world of ethical fashion, so I had to investigate what the heck is a tire inner tube after my meeting with Ralph because I just thought that all tires were made the same way. Haha, NOT! If you are as curious as I am check out this post I wrote about tires and recycling (I think it is fascinating, I used to work in pulp and paper and I had no idea that "tire fuel" was used in this industry). One cool thing that I learned is that Cyclus resells the scraps from the tire cuttings, which is commonly used as roof tile isolation.
The staff at Cyclus keeps quite busy working on the Cyclus products plus two other brands that they sell: Pangolin and Crafted Goods. Each brand has its own identity and style, but one thing remains in common: it is made in Colombia by a small group of artisans. This 16-people staff has become like a family, there has been little turnover since the company restructuring and I could tell that this was something Ralph was very proud of.
The Way Forward
One theme that kept coming up in our conversation was the importance of defining your brand. The fashion industry is very competitive and your brand DNA is what will keep customers loyal. As an emerging fashion brand, it is important to define your brand yet remain flexible as this definition will evolve with the market and customer's preferences. Cyclus started with 100% recycled tire, then added cotton and leather, and they are still evolving. They are launching a new collection this year, and I got to see a little bit of it (won't be sharing photos because I don't want to ruin the surprise!). I'll just say that the new colors are cheerful :)
I hope they reach a point where they can source organic cotton! But they are on the right track with several things - their treatment of workers, incorporating waste material like recycled tires and staying fierce to their Colombian roots (many "Colombian" leather brands manufacture in India, for example).