Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Not Ethical Fashion? Tips + Tricks to Ethical Shopping

beyoutiful hope christine tjahjadi-lopez

I suppose we can start with the heated discussion I had with my cousin and uncle about why consciously shopping at stores which they know have bad labor and environmental practices is a selfish and uneducated decision. Or we can start with my personal frustrations in finding ethical fashion brands online which exist (first of all), offer what I want (second of all), fit my style(third of all) and that I can afford(fourth thing in the list). Firstly, let me address the discussion with my relatives. This situation just generally frustrates me and makes me wonder, "At what point do individuals draw the line on, 'Ignorance is bliss?' Is it a matter of convenience and personal hedonism versus justice?" Secondly, put into dialogue with my personal consumer frustration, I ask myself, "If the average Joe(or Christine) sees ethical fashion as even more out of arm's reach then I do, is it really their fault that they don't know anything about ethical fashion?" If all people know is what they see, and they do not see labels barking, "I am ethically made!" or "I was made using child slavery in factories and on cotton farms! I am not ethically made!" then when people go shopping, will they know the difference? If these issues are not on the forefronts of their minds, I say they will not know the difference, nor know how to tell the difference. This is where today's blog post comes in. ;)

What do you think of when you hear the term ethical fashion? Do you think it is all ugly? Looking back when ethical fashion first emerged ten years ago, I would argue that IT WAS frumpy old lady stuff. But it is not anymore. Do you think it is all expensive? Have you thought about how your standard of cheap and expensive was created and the amount of products you value worth your dollar? Ethical fashion will not reach HM or Forever 21's current price points because those companies mass produce apparel and footwear in a way which exploits labor in order to give you, the customer, the cheap-ass price point we have all become used to seeing online and in the mall. That being said, ethical fashion prices range from Target, Pac Sun, or Aeropostale price points to luxury designer price points (examples below). Making the transition to ethical fashion purchasing means giving up those HM price points which means BUYING LESS STUFF. Now knowing this, it is up to you to decide if you want to purchase less, but better, or if you want to continue purchasing at an exploitative price (Charolette Russe or Old Navy). I suppose you wouldn't be here if you weren't at least a bit curious or concerned. Fashion is meant for personal self-expression and gratification. But is it really worth the exploitation of others or the degradation to our beautiful planet?

ethical fashion quote

Okay, Okay, so I admit it isn't particularly easy to make the switch to purchasing less at a higher price points, especially if you are ADDICTED TO BUYING STUFF and are not used to adjusting your budget (as I was). But it is worth it -- what you wear is never worth the exploitation, environmental harm and even slavery of others, including children. Remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which collapsed because a lack of regulations in the building, that killed over 1,100 people who were working for low wages with little labor rights in this factory which was subcontracted to sew for companies like HM? The Department of Labor's website shows statistics of the lack of workers protections and human trafficking in Bangladesh. This factory collapse is just one example which caught global news. 

fashion revolution

The dense supply chain (the process in which different stages of production are linked) of subcontractors and logistics is complex and not very transparent, allowing large companies which mass produce, to pass on the responsibilities (and with it remembering that humans sew clothing and dyes kill the planet), to cheaper subcontractors along the chain of production. Just to give you an idea of this production chain we can start from the cotton farmer, or the sheep who are shaved, to the person who processes the goods, to the factory which creates the thread and then sews part of it, then there are the other factories that add the buttons to that shirt. Thereafter the shirt is shipped to a wholesalers and wait, then retail stores purchase the design and ship the shirt and send it to another factory for their label to be placed on the design... then it makes it's way to you. >.< (What a mouthful!) And guess what? This happens over and over again because the fast fashion industry (most stores in the mall) has turned out a  52 season micro cycle of production (which is designed to make you feel out of trend)! Ethical fashion is not a 52 season production cycle, which means yes, there are less choices. BUTTTTTT, don't let that deter you! I too am a self-proclaimed fashionista! Below I listed tips to help SAVE YOU TIME as you learn more about being a conscious consumer and become an ethical fashion shopper!

7 Tips + Tricks to Ethical Shopping

1. Refer to Resource Lists of Ethical Brands

Click here for my list of ethical and sustainable apparel and home goods!

2. Verify Ethical Standards of Companies using Consumer Guides:
  1. Shop Ethical: Your Ethical Consumer Guide
  2. Good Guide
  3. Free 2 Work
You can also find more ethical consumer guides related to the environment here. The thing is, not all of the companies out there are a part of this database. This makes it a bit more challenging. In this case, go to the company's website and...

3. Check Individual Company Websites through Pages Labeled:
  1. CSR
  2. Corporate Responsibility
  3. Transparency
  4. Supply Chain Transparency
  5. What We Do
  6. Sustainability
  7. Our Commitment
My general rule is, the less information available and the more vague the information, the less the company cares, which means the less ethical it is. If you want to go a step further, you can email the company to ask them about their ethical standards. However, remember that they can word their answers in such a way that makes them seem more ethical than they truly are.

4. Wait for the Sales (for those of us on budgets)

Remember that ethical fashion companies set price points at a more fair price, which you can verify for yourself if the company is truly transparent. However, speaking as an on-budget graduate student, every year Black Friday and Cyber Monday occur. Many ethical fashion brands participate in this. My advise is to keep an eye out for pieces you like when you see them, and then make the purchase when there is a sale!

5. Thrift / Vintage Shopping

Remember that shopping second hand is the most sustainable you can shop! Less production (factory contamination), less pollution (harmful dyes used, scrap material thrown away) and less from your bank (it's cheaper).

6. 10 Awesome Ethical Fashion Bloggers (with Great Resource Lists) that You Should Know About:
  1. Birds of a Thread
  2. Dress Well, Do Good
  3. Ecowarrior Princess
  4. Fair for All
  5. StyleWise
  6. The Note Passer
  7. Let's Be Fair
  8. Life Style Justice
  9. Listen Girlfriends
  10. Walking with Cake
I have more ethical fashion bloggers listed here!

7. So What Can We Do to Bring Change to the Industry? Hold Companies Accountable!

As far as changing the industry, purchasing ethically alone will not do it. The industry itself needs to change. However, we can take action and make a difference! As my awesome professor, Dr. Trina Hamilton once told me,

" is important to help support niche ethical markets when you can (i.e. buying fair trade and doing the research when you're making big purchases), but I don't think that we'll change the industry through ethical consumerism alone. I actually think that other forms of activism are more important for creating regulations that cover all manufacturers and retailers, or for getting companies to act responsibly."

Check out her recent Huffington Post article on the Volkswagen scandal, Anger Over VW is Visceral -- And An Anomaly. She also pointed out recent changes that Urban Outfitters (along with Anthropologie and Free People) made after customers and activists took action through Jobs with JusticeSo now what? You can start by signing petitions to corporations and international not-for-profit organizations which are working to change the industry. To send quick letters/join petitions (pre-written, all you have to do is fill in your information and edit if you like) check out:
  1. Slavery Footprint - write to corporations
  2. Walk Free - write to your congressman/woman 
If you would like to be further educated on the supply chain and corporate social responsibility, check out all of these articles and documents by Know the Chain


Before you go, I would love to refer you to one of my favorite posts on ethical fashion shopping by The Tiny TwigA 5 Step Guide to Shopping with EthicsI want to THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for taking the time to read this blog post. Definitely leave a comment below and let me know your opinions on the fashion industry! 

God Bless,

beyoutiful hope who made my clothes
Images used in this article were taken from Fashion Revolution's resource page.
P.S. Thanks Amy for naming this blog post for me!!! >.< YOU ROCK! Also, thank you Erin for pushing me to write this post! ;)
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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fall Lookbook 2015 | Eco Ethical Fashion

Ethical/Sustainable/Fair Trade Options for all garment and shoes listed below! ;)

Look 1: Casual in Knits
Multicolored Chunky Knit Scarf | Old Purchase (Maurices, low ethical standards)
>> Ethical Option: Fair Trade Multicolored Tie Dye Scarf | Fashion Conscience
Their website states transparency and supply chain responsibility, but lack of details and minimum requirements have prevented me from shopping at Maurices, as an ethical fashion consumer.
Teal Knit Sweater | Hand me down (originally Lululemon, not ethical)
>> Ethical Option: Fair Trade, Organic Cotton Teal Knit Jumper | PrAna
Although Lululemon is touted as the rave for yoga moms, with high quality and connection to the planet and your body through yoga, I doubt their labor and environmental standards do anything but meet minimal requirements, based on the information on their website. So much for 'one with the earth.'
White High Rise Denim Jeans | Hand me down (originally 7 For All Mankind, low ethical standards)
>> Ethical Option: Monkee Genes, eco, ethically conscious, partnered wit a charity for worker's rights in Bangladesh
The most sustainable fashion is thrifting! Looking at 7 For All Mankind, their website shares their sustainability and community impact projects. Although their website states that they uphold strict standards for workers and have sustainability projects, Shop Ethical Consumer Guide graded them an F.
Burgundy Leather Boots | Artisan Made, purchased while backpacking in Ecuador
>> Similar:  Handmade in Peru by a small artisan workshop, Leather Oxford Laceup Boots | Nisolo
>> Similar: Vegan Suede, handmade in Europe, Vintage Olive Vegan Leather Boots | Vegetarian Shoes
Purchased in Baños, Ecuador from a small local artisan store while I was backpacking, these were handmade by local artisans and assembles with local material sourcing.

Look 2: Maxi with a Vintage Feel
Creme Blouse | Old Purchase (Forever 21, absolutely not ethical)
>> Ethical Alternative: High Transparency, factory in China, Silk Blush Blouse | Everlane
>> Ethical Alternative: Recycled Fiber Creme V-neck Blouse | HM Conscious Collection
Purchased before I made the hop to ethical fashion, Forever 21 is presently one of the more notorious American fashion companies to have human rights violations. Forever 21 received an F from the Shop Ethical Consumer Guide for their cotton sourcing and labor standards from suppliers.
Brown Maxi High Low Skirt | Raven and Lily 
Ethically made by a women's coop sourcing, artisan made, recycled polyester material
Vintage Jewel Clip on Earrings | Estate Sale 
Thrifting is sustainable at it's best!
Nude Heel Sandals | Clarks Shoes, not ethical
>> Ethical Alternative: Sustainably made, handmade in Peru in a small workshop, Bolivar Wedge Almond | Nisolo
These heels are also a hand-me-down. Clarks Shoes scored an F from the Shop Ethical Consumer Guide and an E from Rank A Brand.

Look 3: Muted Tones for School

Quetzal Leather and Woven Fabric Backpack | c/o Kakaw Designs
Ethically made by women's coops in Guatemala, substainably dyed fabrics, local sourcing (check out my interview with them here!)
Teal Tassel Scarf | (Forever 21, absolutely not ethical)
>> Ethical Alternative: Fair Trade, handmade in Cambodia Emerald Scarf | Voon
>> Ethical Alternative: Handmade in Ethiopia by a women's group (survivors of human trafficking), Mist Grey Scarf  | FashionAble
>> Ethical Alternative: Handmade by a women's coop in Guatemala, Cotton Aqua Scarf | Novica
>> Ethical Alternative: Handmade by an independent artisan in Thailand, Light Green Silk Scarf | Novica
Leather Leaf NecklaceRaven and Lily
Women's group in India, artisan made
Dusty Rose Long Sleeve | Threads for Thought
>> Similar Here: Sustainably Made Neutral Colored Long Sleeve Tees from Threads for Thought
Threads for Thought is one of my favorites for basicwear, they ethically and sustainably produce in a factory in China with one of the highest water sustainability systems for garment production
Forest Green Ankle Jeans | AG Jeans
Sustainable fibers, vertically integrated factory and excess fabric upcycled
Nude Ballet Flats | Shoes of Prey (low-medium ethical standards)
>> Ethical Alternative: Handmade in Uganda by a women's empowerment/higher education program group, Chestnut Leather Loafer and Vintage Gold Leather Loafers | Sseko Designs
>> Ethical Alternative: Handmade in Peru by a small artisan workshop, Suede Oak Flats | Nisolo
Because of my extra-wide feet, I use shoes that are not ethically made (if you find an ethically made double wide cute shoe, let me know!). I emailed Shoes of Prey, asking them about their standards, and their answers led me to think that they are low-medium ethically made, because the response was that the shoes are responsibility made in an artisan workshop. I have listed nude ballet flats that are ethically made above.

Look 4: Layered Earth Tones for Sunday

Forest Green 5-way Maxi Dress | Seamly.Co
Sustainably handmade from recycled fabrics, Made in America
Black 3/4 Sleeve Cardigan | HM Conscious Collection
I only shop the HM Conscious Collection, because this is the only line HM carries (and the entire mall actually) that upholds a somewhat strict labor and environmental standard for the production of the garment (but of course not as good as PrAna, PatagoniaThreads for Thought, or Mata Traders who are fair trade). This means that the garment's every step is more carefully watched, with higher transparency in the production chain. You can tell which clothing is from the HM Conscious Collection because it's tag is a forest green color and is labelled "HM Conscious." This is actually mixed in with all of their normal, mass production with low ethical standards apparel, so it's a search and find deal when you go shopping at their storefront.
Watercolor Large Scarf | c/o Trades of Hope (rep Carissa Simmons)
All products are handmade by women's groups in Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia
Gold Brass Chevron Earrings | Greenola Style 
Fair trade, artisan made jewelry from independent artisans and coops

Wow, do I have a newfound respect for investigative ethical fashion bloggers, and journalists in general. Finding all of the alternatives to hyperlink in this blog post took me over three hours. Reflecting upon this, I realize how inaccessible ethical fashion and eco fashion really are, which is obviously a barrier for people interested in transitioning to a more conscious consumer lifestyle. And so, I have decided to draft up a blog post titled "a guide to ethical fashion" which will hopefully help you all save time when shopping as an ethical consumer. ;) Check back next week for that!

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Happy Fall,

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."
James 1:12 -

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Interview with Kakaw Designs: Slow Fashion from Guatemala

Kakaw Designs Beyoutiful Hope
beyoutiful hope kakaw designs threads for thought
ethical fashion blogger interview
buffalo in the fall photoshoot
buffalo blogger christine
kakaw designs quetzal backpack
puerto rican indonesian blogger
ethical fashion blog
ethical fashion blog interview kakaw designs
Romantically Fall Look
Light Rose Long Sleeve Top || Threads 4 Thought via Ecolissa
Ethically and sustainably made in one of the world's most advanced water recycling programs in the world.
Tunic || Free People Intinamtes
Not ethically produced
Double Wide Leather Boots || Women Within
Not ethically produced
Quetzal Textile and Leather Backpack || c/o Kakaw Designs
Handmade with textiles traditionally woven and naturally dyed by a women's group in Guatemala

Where has time gone? It's already fall? Golly Gee! Well today I am very excited to bring to you another interview (as always) with my Ethical Fashion Interview Series! (I hope you have been reading it... if not, you better! :p ) Today we travel to womens traditional weaving groups in  Guatemala via interview. "Where is Guatemala?", you may ask. Guatemala is a Central American country of 14.5 million people located just south of Mexico, touching both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. If you didn't know already, I am actually traveling to Guatemala in January and will be visiting various ethical fashion organizations that partner with Indigenous women's groups and fair trade cooperatives that traditionally hand weave textiles and use natural dyes to finish!

For today's interview I actually contacted Kakaw Designs a while back and had the opportunity to interview them and do a product review for you all.  I find that it is always important to review product, because my past experiences have shown me that, the title ethical fashion does not always equate to high quality. It the vast majority of the time does, but not always. 

Today, with my completely romantic with a hint of explorer outfit, I am sporting the Kakaw Designs Quetzal Backpack. Sturdily made with leather, thick naturally dyed textiles and two inch wide straps, this actually fits my school binder and books, making it the perfect school pack. There are also two large pockets on the inside to store pencils, your sell phone, and lady things. haha. As far as the outside finish, I absolutely love the texture and finish of the leather. In the interview below, you can learn more about the leather smith that Kakaw Designs partners with, right in Guatemala. Okiedokie, let's get to the interview!

Interview with Mari, Founder of Kakaw Designs

  1. Hello there, please introduce yourself! Where are you from? Where are you now? Is your current career where you saw yourself 5-10 years ago? Hello!  My name is Mari, and I’m mostly from California. I have been living in Guatemala for three years now, and I love it here. 5-10 years ago I did not have a plan, nor do I really consider what I do dabbling in all kinds of fields.  Diversity makes me happy and keeps me now a career.  The word career sounds so rigid, and the truth is I love going.  I am miserable at a 8-5 job, that’s just not for me. 
  2. How do you define ethical fashion? Ethical fashion, to me, is fashion with a conscience. This means treating people and environments fairly, while still creating beautiful pieces that make people happy.
  3. Do you consider KAKAW DESIGNS ethical fashion? Why or why not? Yes, I do consider Kakaw Designs to be ethical, and also slow fashion.  We’re interested more in the quality rather than the quantity.  For example, all our new textiles from our partner cooperative of weavers are prepared on a traditional backstrap loom, which allows the women to work from home where of course they have lots of other things to do.  We could somewhere else, and not as many of the women would benefit since we wouldn't reduce cost by using a foot loom, but then the women would have to work from need as many of them to get the job done.  So in a way, we’ve made a even if that means increasing cost.  We know our products are worth it, conscious decision to slow down the process so that more weavers would benefit, and we want to make sure the weaving tradition continues. 
  4. How many weaver community cooperatives do you partner with? How did you decide on them?  We have partnered with a wonderful cooperative at Lake Atitlán because of their skills in not only weaving but also using natural dyes.  The founder, Francisca, is incredibly sharp and it is wonderful to too, but have yet to encounter anyone with the level of professionalism that work with her and her cooperative.  I’ve tried working with other groups Francisca has. Aside from cooperatives, we try our best to buy used textiles from women directly.  This means cutting out the middle man and more benefit to the weavers, or the owners of the beautiful huipiles (blouses) and cortes (wrap skirts).
  5. What makes textiles used in KAKAW DESIGNS traditional? How important is tradition in the communities you work in? We use some traditional textiles and some with new designs that we have developed with our partner cooperative.  All the textiles we use are handwoven using traditional methods, so they are traditional in that sense.  I love using Mayan designs, but I think it’s more important to be course spark creativity in other weavers.  New designs, new products, more innovative in style, looking for new designs that help us stand out and of work.
  6. What does "upcycled textiles" mean? The upcycled textiles are the huipiles and cortes that women have worn, gotten tired of, and sold (to me!).  Just as we get tired of wearing that same shirt, village women in Guatemala do, too.  Fashion changes, new colors and designs become “in” and women want to sell their old clothes and buy new ones.
  7. What percentage of textiles used in KAKAW DESIGNS are upcyled? This is a hard one to judge, but I would say maybe 40% right now.  This depends on demand, of course, and we are always working to increase the portion of new textiles rather than the used, so that we can provide more work and incentive for the women to keep weaving.  
  8. Tell me about your leather smiths. We have the most wonderful head leather smith, Don Julio.  He is 65 years old and has been making boots for 48 years.  He is the most detail-oriented leather smith I have yet to meet, and it is so wonderful to have someone like that on our team.  He is in charge of putting together the different leather smiths for each of the boot-making processes: cutting leather, sewing the pieces together, molding the boot, and respective homes.  The idea of “going to work” doesn't really exist for molding the sole. Most of these tasks take place at the leather smiths’ doing their job - which he does very well, of course, because he is well-respected local leather smiths, so Don Julio really has a big job making sure everyone is in the community.
  9. Leather is sourced from Xela. Why did you decide to source from Xela, Guatemala? Can you tell us about the community? This was an easy decision - we like the quality and color from there!  To be honest, we are not very involved with the leather portion, as this is a male-dominated and well-established industry.  We have chosen to work more closely with the women weavers.
  10. Tell me about your target market. What is your main venue for promoting your business? Our target market is mainly in the US, but we have shipped our products to many other countries.  To be honest, we haven’t spent much money in ads - word of mouth has been our best promotional tool, because our products are best seen in person!  
  11. Where do you see KAKAW DESIGNS in 2 years? 5 years? I see Kakaw Designs building further partnerships with other weaving cooperatives, and creating new design.  I think it’s really important for the weavers to be creative in design, and for us to come up with new products together.  I would love to work with a group working with embroidery, and making jewelry with textile pieces as well.

  12. What makes KAKAW DESIGNS different from other leather/textile businesses with similar products and business models? When I started Kakaw Designs two years ago, there were already other brands making boots with textiles.  But I really didn't like what I saw in design, quality, and business model.  So I guess I don’t really know other brands around that have a similar business model - there are those that are more focused on fast fashion, and those that have built themselves more like non-profits, but lacking in design.  I aim to be the healthy middle ground between design and ethics.
  13. Do you have anything else you would like to share? Just that I can’t wait to see more of your photos!  They are always so beautiful, and I love how natural they are.  That’s the image we want for Kakaw!  And I look forward to meeting you, Christine, soon in Guatemala!  

Blessings Always,

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