Noonday Collection on the Runway!

Happy Wednesday fair trade fashion fans!

A few weeks ago I was involved in a really fun, inspiring event in Annapolis and I just had to share it with you!  It was a fashion show that combined many of my favorite things in one place: local boutiques, fair trade accessories, and a charity event for a good cause!  My friend Michele of Fashion Karma produces this fashion show every year called Strut and Sip for Autism.  The mission is to raise funds for locally based organizations providing therapeutic services to children and adults with Autism.  She asked if she could feature some Noonday Collection accessories on the runway, and of course the answer was YES!

It was so incredible to work with her for about 2 hours one afternoon, styling all of the outfits that she pulled from local Annapolis boutiques!  I learned so much about current trends and what goes on behind-the-scenes at a fashion show.

On the night of the big event I joined one of my Noonday Collection hostesses and her friends on the red carpet:

10731147_355970411230583_4398571127514181206_nWhat I’m wearing: the new Silk Blush Headband, Clustered Charm Necklace, Helena Necklace, and carrying the Film Noir Clutch.  My little black dress is made in the USA!

We had the best time sitting in the front row, clapping and cheering as we recognized all of the Noonday Collection pieces on the runway!  I imagined the artisans sitting there right next to me, seeing their handmade work under the big lights!

Octagon Hoop Earrings  with pant suit from South Moon Under

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Dreamweaver Earrings with dress from Wrabyn

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Pagoda Necklace with outfit from W by Worth

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Angelica Infinity Scarf with outfit from W by Worth

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Dainty Paper Bead Necklace with top from Wrabyn

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Feathered Fringe Earrings with pants from South Moon Under

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Del Mar Necklace with top from Wrabyn

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Tagua Seed Bracelet in Seagreen with skirt from Lilac Bijoux

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At the end of the show, Michele walked down the runway with her daughter Lydia, who she says is her inspiration and encouragement.

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Such a beautiful moment!  I really was so honored to be a part of such an amazing night!

In style & love,

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(all photos by The Annapolis Photographer)

Run for Another: Janji

I have a confession to make: I’m not what you’d typically refer to as a “fashionista.”  All of these pics you’ve seen on the blog of me so far?  Totally outside of how I normally look!  On any given day, you’ll find me like this: in running clothes.

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(my friends are all nodding in agreement right now)

This. Is. Me.

There’s almost nothing more I love than going for a nice long trail run with a friend or two.  No running watch or Garmin device, no training plan.  Just plain old running, Forrest Gump style.

So when we made the move from Florida to Maryland earlier this year, I knew I needed to find some new, warmer running clothes STAT.  No way am I giving up outdoor running once the temps start dropping!

But of course, you know me: any clothing purchase needs to have a purpose behind it…

So I was so thrilled to find Janji!

JANJI MEANS “PROMISE” IN MALAY: Our promise is to use the power of running to fight the global water crisis.

It was love at first sight for me with this running apparel company: I quickly decided to order a new pair of tights and a long sleeve shirt!

The tights are so super comfy and warm… like seriously warm!!  They feel kind of fleecy on the inside.  Zippers at the bottom for easy on and off.  Elastic waistband on top for flexible fit (check their size charts before you order). Zippered pocket in the back for your car key.  Perfect.

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Also?  The purchase of these tights provides water for 3 YEARS to one person in Tanzania!!  Amazing.  You can learn more about the water projects they support here.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMy shirt is providing 1 week of clean water to a person in the United States through the DIGDEEP organization.  I love how you can choose your clothing based on a particular country that you want to support…

Do you feel drawn to Haiti, Rwanda, Peru, Kenya?  They’ve got a shirt and pair of shorts just for you!

While Janji is not “fair trade,” they are most definitely a socially-conscious company that aims to make a difference in the world.  They pay attention to the important things, like manufacturing practices and fair wages for their workers (which goes to show that a “made in China” tag is not always a bad thing):

Janji manufactures over 95% of our clothing at a small, family-owned sportswear factory in Guangdong Province, China which has been owned and operated by two brothers since 2009.  The strong partnership between Janji and our factory is rooted in our shared values concerning the importance of fair working conditions and high quality apparel construction.

I can totally vouch for the quality of my new gear and it’s safe to say that I’ll be purchasing more from Janji in the future to add to my running wardrobe!  I have my eye on the running jacket and their cute new headbands!

Happy trails, running fashionistas!

In style & love,

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Fair trade = poverty alleviation = orphan prevention (#whyInoonday)

Web-Banner-for-CAFO-SiteHey there my fair trade loving friends – November is National Adoption Month and the first Sunday (today) is internationally recognized as “Orphan Sunday.” It’s a relatively new movement founded through the Christian Alliance for Orphans. The point is to increase awareness of the ongoing orphan crisis worldwide and equip churches and others to play a part in orphan care and prevention.

I haven’t conducted any scientific polls, but I think some people hear about this crisis and (depending on the decade you were born) think of this:

annie collageOr if you’ve fostered a child here or visited a third world orphanage, it’s likely you wish you could trade the images in your head to a world where “Annie” is what comes to mind instead. :(

The point is this: there is a crisis where children (some estimates are as high as 153+ MILLION) are growing up in institutions. They are abandoned, neglected, sometimes never form appropriate attachments to other humans and are in an environment where Darwinistic thoughts like “survival of the fittest” reign. They are languishing there due to politics, corruption and greed, and even our own first world problems.

I’m sorry to say that for 33 years, I hadn’t really found my niche in orphan care and prevention. It wasn’t until I became a Noonday Ambassador that I realized we ALL have a role to play. As a fair trade advocate, my goal is to educate and empower consumers to use their purchasing power to alleviate poverty around the world. Why does that matter? One of the biggest attributors to the orphan crisis is extreme poverty. Many impoverished people are forced to at least consider relinquishing their children to orphanages as a better alternative to watching their children starve or suffer the effects of malnourishment. (And for many it moves past consideration to implementation.)

But I believe there is hope! Because there is an increasing awareness, education and social responsibility. Even mainstream companies like Wendy’s are stepping up and coming alongside families who do choose to grow their families through adoption and fostering children who are not safe with their biological families. Consumers like YOU are choosing to shop ethically via fair trade/direct trade principles and use their purchasing power for good. Reputable organizations are going in to places where there are no social welfare programs to help keep families together. And longstanding ministries are continuing to reach out and sponsor children around the world to put/keep them in families, in school, and forging relationships with sponsors who learn a lot just by caring for children in impoverished conditions.

Three years in to this and I meet people all the time who want to learn more about what THEY can do to be a part of the solution. It’s my hope that you are now asking “What can I do?” too. Here are some ideas that I’ve listed in order of personal sacrifice/investment required. :)

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1. PRAY. The easiest way to start is to pray. Pray for opportunities to come your way. Pray for direction and insight into how you can use your talents, money, influence to help orphans in your immediate area, around our country, and around the world. You never know what your answer will be, but whatever is presented, I hope you say “YES!” I firmly believe that children belong in families.

2. SHOP FAIR/DIRECT TRADE. You probably figured I’d mention that one, but it’s really the most practical and convenient way to “be the change.” Fair trade practices ensure that workers are earning a LIVING wage (which is determined differently wherever they live. A fair wage in Kampala Uganda wouldn’t translate as “fair” in New York City or Mumbai or Lima). When workers earn a living wage, they can care for their families beyond meeting basic needs.

3. SUPPORT ORPHAN CARE/PREVENTION ORGANIZATIONS. The list of these would get pretty exhaustive if I made one. There are many reputable groups you can come alongside to care for children in orphanages. The list of those who strive for biological family preservation or in-country fostering/adoption is also ever increasing, praise be to God. I won’t endorse any directly here, but strongly encourage you to thoroughly investigate any group to which you send money. You can check some sponsorship orgs at www.charitywatch.org but there are many that are not listed who are doing amazing things.

4. BECOME A BIG BROTHER/BIG SISTER/MENTOR to help underprivileged children in your own community. This requires a little more personal investment. It’s one that will tire you out, but can also be the most rewarding experience of your life.  Again, there are a number of organizations who offer this type of volunteer opportunity. Most require training, background and reference checks, etc.

5. VOLUNTEER to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian Ad Litem for children in your own city who are victims of abuse or neglect. Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care. Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. You’ll be entering someone else’s pain and open yourself up to heartbreak as you become possibly the only trusted adult in some kids’ lives, but I know people who do this amazing work and consider it a privilege to be a voice for children who desperately need one.

6. OPEN YOUR HOME to one of the 420,000 children in our foster system in America or provide respite care to a family already fostering. It probably differs state-to-state, but this an involved process that requires opening your life and home to a social worker for a home study to determine your capacity and suitability to handle and serve children who are not your biological offspring. Most states also require licensure/certification through training programs that require a significant time commitment. This can be a very cost effective way to grow your family as many states allow approved families to adopt out of foster care FOR FREE!

7. ADOPT. This is a long term, forever family kind of commitment that will definitely cause a ripple effect through your immediate and extended family and throughout your community. Whether you adopt domestically or internationally, I strongly encourage adoptive families to build a STRONG COMMUNITY FOR SUPPORT. Reach out to area churches that offer ministry to adoptive families, and find other families who are in-process of adopting, or who have recently adopted, through whatever adoption agency you use. RESEARCH the heck out of adoption agencies before you choose and begin the monetary commitment; the country you’re adopting from; and attorneys who work on your behalf and those who are in-country if you are adopting internationally. BE BRAVE AND BE INFORMED. Also, please consider older child adoption.

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There you have it. This isn’t an all-inclusive list. There are so many other things you can do if you get educated and advocate to help increase awareness. This is a topic I am so passionate about because I do believe that all children belong in families, biological if possible or adoptive if necessary. I believe that every life is intentionally given and with purpose to attain. I believe there are too many ways to alleviate poverty and the orphan crisis to opt out of of feeling some personal responsibility. I hope this post is both informative and convicting and motivates you to get involved in whatever way you can! orphansignature

This one has nothing to do with fashion…

Hey y’all. I don’t know what’s happened this morning. I guess there really is a crack in everything and that is how light gets in… this post isn’t about fashion or informing you on the next place to spend your dollars to make them count. This one is a bit deeper, transparent, and I’m just going to hit “publish” at the end. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. ;)

Have you ever gone searching for mementos (not the candy, although they ARE good)? But you know what I mean… you just get this thing… this longing to go looking through old love notes or cards to be reminded of something that you feel like you’ve lost? You just want to rekindle those feelings (which I often rely to heavily upon). 

I can read The Bible and be reminded of God’s love, His compassion, His mercy… I can even share my now old, as in “past,” infertility testimony and I do get that swell of emotion at His faithfulness. But, if I’m being honest, sometimes, those things just don’t really cut it. They don’t make you excited about the season you’re in (usually that’s a pretty stinky season). I haven’t especially enjoyed this one I’ve been in. It’s been hard. It feels like I am constantly reminded that I’m in this maturing stage. The one where you don’t see the crazy (super)natural growth happening. The one where you have to ACTIVELY CHOOSE joy/love/hope/perseverance. I want it to just come without any cost to me: It always has in the past. But it seems these mid-30′s, or just this part of my faith walk, are not being too kind. They are requiring more of me than I’ve had to pay before. Things are shifting and changing and never have I felt more the words of Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a wood…” AND I HAVE TO CHOOSE WHICH ROAD TO TRAVEL!!

I got a sweet reminder today from a friend who saw something I wrote in 2013, which wasn’t that long ago chronologically, but feels like an eternity ago in every other way. Again, if I’m being honest, it feels like I’ve back tracked. It’s like I was reading a book, laid it down right as it was getting good, and lost my place. I’ve tried picking it back up but nothing’s making sense. I almost can’t even remember the plot line for Pete’s sake! Has that happened to you?? Then, it’s like, you either write the whole book off and say “oh well… maybe someday I’ll start over and then I’ll finish it.” But often, it seems, you never do.

The problem is that book that I laid aside? It’s MY LIFE. With all the dog eared pages, and the parts that I want to read over and over (and sometimes over) again because they’re just SO GOOD. And I’ve kind of cast it aside (I do this so often in my every day life. I seriously have multiple books hanging on the sides of couches and chairs throughout our home). It’s like I’ve left it open to the page I was last reading, and then I checked out. I got distracted… tired… scared. I may call it guarding my heart or guarding my time or whatever but this morning it looks like I just got lazy. Like I counted the cost and said “meh… I’ll just stop reading right here. I’ll pick up another book and start that. Maybe someday I’ll come back and finish this one. It’s getting good, but I’m scared of what’s going to happen to the main characters!! I’m not sure if this ends the way I’d write it! So maybe I won’t finish it and in MY head, it’ll go as I wish.”

Wow. This is so off topic for what y’all usually come here to this blog for… As I mentioned when I sat down, I can’t explain why I’m “going there” today in this blog post. That reminder from my sweet friend from 2013 really got some things stirred up. I’ve been wrestling for a while believing that, in the end, I would come out on top, but not being willing to surrender. I think the greatest (seeming) oxymoron of following Jesus is that sometimes you have to lose, to gain. May I be a humble “loser” (which really means winner). May I, today, decide to be one who gives over the pen to the Author of Life, picks that book back up and finds my place. And my prayer be “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee…

If you too, are feeling this way, join me! I need accountability partners!

(here is my original memento that got me going today… Oh to live as “Haiti Brandi”)

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Do a Little Good: Wear a Scarf, Provide HOPE!

Hey fair trade fashionistas!

I’m not sure what the weather’s like where you are, but here in Maryland, temperatures are dropping and fall is in the air!!  Having just moved here from Florida earlier this year, I’m not quite used to the cold temps yet… and my first instinct is to run out and grab a scarf, put on jeans & boots, and bundle up!

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all photos by Chelsea Hudson Photography

What if every time you put on a scarf in the morning, you were providing HOPE to someone who needs it most?

Instead of buying a scarf at the mall or Target this year, I’d love for you to consider purchasing a scarf (or four!) from this wonderful artisan group that I just learned about: it’s called Daughters of Hope.

Daughters of Hope is a fair trade, social enterprise based in South India that provides training and employment to impoverished women. Daughters provides not only a safe and healthy work environment, but provides family support in many ways through free childcare, free healthy lunches, savings plans, insurance, and much more.

The women that work at Daughters of Hope come from difficult backgrounds: most live below the poverty line, have been widowed, abandoned, abused, or exploited.  Most have little education or training, but they’re hired by DOH and provided with training and much more!

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They create beautiful infinity scarves made from saris (traditional garments worn by women in southern Asia)- so each one is unique, soft, carries with it a beautiful story.  They also sew bags using the saris as accents and to make the straps!

My good friend Chelsea, of Do a Little Good (check out her blog post about one of the ladies at DOH), and I got together last week in downtown Annapolis to do some product shots of these gorgeous scarves and bags!

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I was really impressed with the quality of these scarves!  I love all of the different patterns and colors!

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Of course, I’m wearing my jade striped Root Collective flats.  Of course.  :)

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These are the straps I was telling you about!  They’re braided using strips of fabric from actual saris.  So neat!!

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These scarves are perfect for casual, every day wear… or dressing up!  So light and easy to throw on.

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All jewelry shown is Noonday Collection!  I love pairing accessories from companies with one common goal: to alleviate poverty and provide opportunities to artisans around the world!

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This scarf: the colors!!  So vibrant and fun!

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More braided straps and pops of color:

IMG_5349Okay, are you ready for the best news of all?  The scarves are only $12 each!  Because they’re made with upcycled saris, no two are alike.  They recommend you purchase them in groups of 2 or 3 so you have a variety of colors!  I honestly loved every single one that I tried on.

And make sure to check out the bags too… they’re really affordable as well and tell a great story with all of the sari accents!

Let’s change our shopping habits so that we’re buying products like these that give LIFE and HOPE!  We can all “do a little good” every day!  If you buy one, let us know what you get!

In style & love,

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Fair trade : when Love hijacks your shopping

October is Fair Trade Month and we want to make the most of it here at the fair trade fashionistas. My favorite excuse for shopping fair trade fashions is based in the quote by Anne Lappe “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” I constantly remind my husband (the CFO of our household) that there are already lots of dollars that go towards making the world worse, and I must uphold my duty for good. (I’m sure you can imagine the reaction to that!;)) In my pondering recently, I have been reminded of something amazing. This fair trade/ethical fashion movement is what happens when Love hijacks your shopping. Want an example?

My friend Beth is a mom of three. She has chosen to stay at home with her children and home schools. She lives modestly while striving to make her purchasing dollars count. Like many of us, she still wants to dress fashionably, even if it’s not for “show.” She had bought three pair of “cute shoes” not too long ago. When she heard about Otto and The Root Collective, this is what she did:

See these three pair of darling shoes? They are going back to the non fair trade store they came from so I can purchase a pair Otto made instead. Thanks Shannon and Brandi for reminding me that our purchases are powerful and thank you Bethany for giving us cute shoes and the chance to make a difference!
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What makes any woman sacrifice THREE pairs of shoes to cover the cost of ONE pair? The answer is akin to the Cinderella story – where the purpose and destiny of life is tied up in shoes.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Otto. He grew up in the slums of La Limonada, a unique neighborhood located in Guatemala City, Guatemala. There he endured many challenges: poverty, social stigma, and a prevalent gang culture. Like many in his community, Otto had two choices – go to school or join a gang. There are no other choices. Young, idle minds must find an outlet. If your parents cannot afford to pay school fees, you’ll find SOMETHING to occupy your mind. With gang culture rampant in this slum community on the outskirts of the city dump, you join willingly, or you are “persuaded” to join.

I don’t know the details of how Otto came to be a member of a gang, but he did. He made bad choices. Gang life in Guatemala City is just like we hear about gang life here: weapons, theft, and fighting rival gangs. But Otto had another story to be written.

One day on a public bus, his heart was changed. He had an encounter and knew that this was a lifestyle he must leave. He jumped off the bus and ran… and ran… and ran… eager to escape the mistakes he had made and desperately seeking an alternative way of life. He experienced a real transformation when he stopped running and found his acceptance outside of the gang.

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In his new life, using shoe-making skills he learned as a 10 year old, he felt burdened to make shoes for kids in his community – Children going to school or for local kids in orphanages. He set about his task, creating shoes for children who deserve a life with more than only a of couple options.

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(source: http://whereverhemaylead.blogspot.com)

He is good at his trade and then began making shoes for tourists, and finally, with The Root Collective. His shoes go on to find hundreds of feet and his passion grows to provide opportunity to many in his community. And EVEN THOUGH his son has been paralyzed due to gang activity, Otto longs to mentor and help mold futures for the young men in his community who live that lifestyle. Because HE KNOWS a life beyond gang activity and beyond bondage to poverty, he longs to mentor others in the art of shoemaking and show them there is another choice. And guess what? When Love hijacks our shopping and we buy those shoes? It helps bring those dreams a little closer to reality.

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(source: http://youngadultsguatemala.blogspot.com)

I guess what I’m saying is this: when you buy shoes from The Root Collective, you are holding in your hands the most dangerous weapon to come out of the gang culture of La Limonada: weapons forged by Love, and likely worn in it too. You make the conscious choice to side with Love when you shop ethically. And that my friends? Is the best hope we have, not only for the poverty stricken slums of Guatemala, but for the world we live in because Love never fails.

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Brandi Mendenhall is a wife and mom, fair trade advocate, blogger, and Noonday Collection Ambassador. She prides herself on being a conscientious consumer, fair trade fashionista (which doesn’t even require her to get out of her PUNJAMMIES(™) ), and a lover of shoes. Her goal is to educate consumers on using their purchasing power for good and as a very practical way to love their neighbor (even when they don’t live on the same continent).

>>This post previously appeared on The Root Collective blog<<

Fair trade on-the-go… the Tin Lizzy Mobile Boutique!

Today I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Laura and her amazing, unique fashion truck!  Laura and I met a few months ago and immediately clicked over our love all of things fair trade!
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She’s cute and spunky and has an incredible passion for bringing handmade and ethically sourced clothing and accessories to wherever YOU are!  Laura is the owner of a fashion truck named Tin Lizzy, and if you live in the mid-Atlantic, you just might see her at a food & wine festival, farmers market, or even on the side of the road on your way home from work!
I recently stopped by to visit her in Annapolis (she’s currently camped out at The Red Dresser in Edgewater on Thursdays 11a-5p, and 1405 Forest Drive on Fridays 4p-7p) and found this bought this really cute Mata Traders maxi dress!  Y’all it has POCKETS.  Enough said.
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When I posted about my shopping trip on instagram and facebook, people seemed excited to learn about Laura’s fashion truck!  So I asked her to tell us a little more about Tin Lizzy!
Tell us all about your mobile boutique! What do you sell, where do you sell?
Tin Lizzy is a 1997 Grumman Step Van given a new life as a traveling shop specializing in fair trade and sustainably sourced women’s apparel, accessories, and gifts. The truck was previously used for a board of education and was basically a blank slate. My boyfriend and I renovated the truck to look just like a little shop- it’s framed with walls, has hardwood floors, shelving, and a collapsible dressing room. Tin Lizzy travels the Mid-Atlantic region setting up shop at festivals, vineyards, street fairs and markets, operating street-side as permitting allows, as a fundraising tool, and offers a home party service.
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How did you get the idea to do a fashion truck?
Well I originally wrote a business plan for a fair trade, sustainably sourced brick-and-mortar boutique however the start-up costs made the plan more of a dream. A friend of mine saw a school bus in Cape Cod that was converted into a shop and I thought that was such a clever idea and solved so many problems I had with my own business plan. I met with Stacey Steffe who opened the first “fashion truck” in the US and she helped me rewrite my business plan for a truck and totally sold me on the concept of mobile retailing.
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Why fair trade and handmade?
To me, the most important aspect of fair trade and handmade items is the transparency. You know exactly who made the product, who you are supporting, what materials your goods are made of, where the materials came from,  and how they got to you.
It is so important to me to be an informed consumer and to make a statement with the dollars I spend- whether it’s supporting a talented artisan, women working in a workshop, or safe working conditions in a factory.
When/where did you first learn learn about fair trade?
I went to the University of Delaware for Fashion Merchandising and first learned about fair trade in a course I took in college about sustainability in the fashion industry. Learning about the corruption and seeing the ugly side of conventional trade and then being expected to go work in that industry upon graduation made me a bit unsure of my post-graduation goals. The most important piece of information that I took from that class was that as consumers, it is our responsibility to know where our products come from. I started volunteering and working for various fair trade retailers, wholesalers, and non-profits which is where I really learned about the world of fair trade and the change that can be made when we choose to use our purchasing power to support marginalized people.
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What items other than fair trade do you sell?
I like to use the phrase “thoughtful shopping” to describe what Tin Lizzy sells. The items I sell that aren’t technically considered “fair trade”,  I have made sure are sustainably sourced. I purchase handmade items that tell a story and support impoverished, marginalized people. I also have a few made in the USA items like organic lip balms with fair trade ingredients that are made in Montana and bracelets from The Shine Project which employes underprivileged youth and gives them college scholarships. I have begun to bring in some locally made products as well like little girl dresses hand sewn with vintage fabric in Baltimore and gorgeous beaded headbands made by a friend of mine who recycles old jewelry into new pieces. I plan to bring more locally made products into my truck for the holidays as well. I want to be a reputable source for unique, handmade items that are sustainably sourced.
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What’s your latest favorite company/artisan group?
I love finding new fair traders and new groups to support. Mata Traders consistently nails it every season with their jewelry and clothing- they do a great job with the fit. I also love The Root Collective, Symbology’s block prints, Matr Boomie and Altiplano for awesome accessories, and I am obsessed with Good Paper’s line of greeting cards. They sell so well in my shop and they can honestly brighten your day.
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Why should people stop and visit your boutique?
For someone looking to support small, local businesses. you can’t get much smaller than Tin Lizzy! Even if you have no interest in fair trade, you will find unique, one-of-a-kind items you won’t find at the mall. I also make a conscious effort to have price points for all shoppers. A myth about fair trade is that it’s more expensive which isn’t always true. I think we are accustomed to paying too little for our goods but fair trade cuts out the middle-men which means more money stays with the artisans and producers. I place orders weekly so I try to keep the inventory fresh and exciting. Everything is handmade, everything has a story, and I love sharing the stories of artisans with my customers.
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Thanks Laura!!  If you see Tin Lizzy around town, stop in and say hi!  Trust me, you’ll want to check out all of her awesome finds!  And if you live elsewhere, don’t worry, you can find her shop online!
In Style & Love,
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The one word I heard the most in Guatemala…

Happy Wednesday lovely readers!  I know I’ve apologized profusely for our lack of blog-posting the last few months, but now that the kiddos are back in school, we’re energized and ready to get back on the fair trade front lines!  Want to know what we were up to all summer?

Well, on June 16th, Brandi and I boarded a plane to heaven.  Yep, we left the Newark airport and 5 hours later, we landed in heaven.

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Okay, so it wasn’t heaven, but it sure felt like it!  Did you have any idea that Guatemala was so beautiful?  I certainly wasn’t prepared for how breathtaking it would be!

Unfortunately, despite the beauty, Guatemala’s history is full of earthquakes, volcanoes, civil wars, high crime rates, and a lack of infrastructure that makes it difficult for it’s people to rise out of poverty.

However, what Guatemala does have is a history rich in culture, heritage, and tradition!  We were excited to travel to Guatemala with Noonday Collection to meet with our artisan groups that create gorgeous scarves and bracelets.

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Their traditions of weaving and beadwork have been passed down generation to generation, and the amount of time and skill required to make each piece was simply amazing!!

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I honestly could write an entire blog post about each one of the products, the unique materials used, and how they’re made (and maybe one day I will!) but today I want to focus on what I learned from the artisans we met on this trip.

We met with 4 different artisan groups (2 weaving and 2 beading) and we were intentional about spending time with each one.  Learning their names, talking about their families (and our own), and hearing their stories, the good and the bad.  We learned that communities had been torn apart by natural disasters (one mentioned lava from a volcano) and guerrilla warfare (their most recent civil war ended in 1996).  There were families with 8 or more kids, some with special needs.  Girls who had no school to attend after 5th grade.  Children denied the opportunity of education in order to sell fruit or other goods on the street.

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Working with artisan groups that partner with Noonday Collection has provided each of them an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and create a pathway to a better life for their families.

The one word I kept hearing over and over again was CONSISTENT.  As in, “Thank you for the consistent work.”

Here’s a quote from Rosario, the lead artisan of one of the beading groups (they make the beautiful Laguna Cuff)!

If each woman could tell their story they would tell you a story of need. From abandonment, to poverty, from natural disasters or people that lost their homes, sometimes someone just needs a leg up. We can help them develop this ability and offer them a chance to join this group.
We have 50 employees and they each have family at home working too.
The work is sustainable, consistent.
When they didn’t have work it’s hard. Noonday sends consistent orders.
We’re working on the biggest order ever. A holiday order!

It was apparent from the moment we arrived in Guatemala that there are many, many skilled artisans there.  The streets were full of colorful huipil blouses and corte skirts handmade by the women, and markets full of vibrant scarves and paintings.  As you can imagine, as soon as we stepped into the central courtyard in Antigua our group of 12 (very tall!) American women was approached immediately by vendors looking to sell their wares.  Many of them were children not much older than my own.

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Selling products to tourists on the street, as well as in the markets, is the only hope that most artisans in Guatemala have for income each day.  I talked with our friend Olivia (did you see her guest blog post?) more about life in the market to gain some insight into that way of life.  She spent a few months living and working closely with locals and had so much to share:

They are working there basically seven days a week, twelve hour days (at the very least). When it isn’t tourist/mission trip season, they are extremely slow and barely make anything. Usually things go really well for about the two months during the summer of June and July and they make great wages. But, the other ten months of the year, they hardly make enough to survive. It ends up being extremely hard those months because on any given day, they have no idea if they’re going to go home with a lot of money or nothing at all.

This is why Noonday Collection is making a huge difference in the lives of artisans!  By creating a marketplace in the United States for the talented men and women in Guatemala (and in other countries!), we’re able to provide consistent orders all year round that aren’t dependent on the weather or tourist season.  Many of the artisans in the groups that we met with are paid a daily wage, or a salary, that they can count on.  This a complete game changer for their families: now they no longer fear what will happen the next day or whether they’ll have food for their families.  They can maybe save for a new home, or start up a new business.  Kids can be sent to school instead of out into the street to sell fruit or other goods- and the cycle of poverty ends for that family as they begin to invest in the future.

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Here is what we heard from Angelica, the lead artisan of one of the weaving groups:

Thank you for the consistent work that you give us. There is a lot of competition in the market and many times women do not get paid for their work. It does not even cover living expenses. But with your orders we are paid well. I just couldn’t even thank you enough. It has helped our families so much. Because it’s sure work. I know when I make one of these scarves it is going to sell. We’ve been able to help our kids and our family. Our kids are able to go to school. Please keep fighting for them.

This is Angelica and the lovely scarf that’s named after her (it’s a top seller!):

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Meeting with our artisans in Guatemala, being welcomed into their workplaces and homes with hugs and kisses and sometimes homemade food and handmade gifts, and just spending time with each of them is something I’ll never forget!  I loved every minute and was so honored to be a part of it all.

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Want to be a part of something big too?  Have you checked out Noonday’s new fall lookbook??  So many gorgeous new pieces handcrafted by our friends in Guatemala and all over the world!  You can use your purchasing power for GOOD by shopping online or opening up your home for a trunk show!

Rosario compared all of us to a team of ants: each with a different job, working together towards a common goal.  Noonday Collection is able to alleviate poverty only through the amazing skills of the artisans, and the work of the ambassadors, hostesses, and customers creating a market here in the US.  Join us!

In style & love,

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End of Summer {Fair Trade} SALES!

Well hello fair trade fashion fans!

Hope you have all had a wonderful and restful summer!  Many apologies for the lack of blog posts this summer… Brandi and I have been traveling to Guatemala, spending time at the beach with our families, and just relaxing and reflecting on the many blessings in our lives!  

But I wanted to make sure you knew about all of the awesome summer SALES going on right now with many of our favorite fair trade companies!  Now’s the perfect time to grab some great deals on clothes, shoes, and accessories as everyone’s gearing up for the upcoming fall and winter season, and clearing out their supply of summer things! Go ahead and stock up for next year!

Sseko Designshttp://ssekodesigns.com/

Take 20% through August 22nd with the code SUMMERSTEALS

I’ve been wearing these Sseko T-strap sandals ALL. SUMMER. LONG. and I love them!!  They have lots of different accessories to choose from, so you can change the look to match your outfit!

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Raven + Lilyhttp://www.ravenandlily.com/sale/

I have this Giraffe Tank and it’s so soft and comfy!  And it’s on sale right now for $19!  Plus lots of other cute stuff!

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Mata Tradershttp://www.matatraders.com/shop/sale/clothing.html

We love all of the new clothing that Mata Traders just added to their sale page!

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The Root Collectivehttp://therootcollective.com/sale

Remember these gorgeous flats that Brandi reviewed in spring?  They’re only $47 right now!!

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Symbologyhttp://www.symbologyclothing.com/#!sale/c1plu

Symbology always has fun and flirty dresses and tops… several are discounted right now!

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Happy Shopping!!  Let us know what you buy!

In Style & Love,

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Ethical shopping when traveling abroad : a guest post

Happy Friday my faithful, fair trade loving friends! Sorry it’s been a while… It’s been an eventful summer that started with a trip to Guatemala to meet Noonday Collection artisans. I had been last year and wanted to deepen the relationship by visiting again. Little did I know that I had an as-yet-unknown-friend who lived there and wanted to meet me! It’s always fun to get IG messages requesting a meeting when you’re in a foreign country. Especially when you have 1. an overactive imagination and 2. have been reading social justice/human trafficking books for the past 3 years. After thoroughly checking out the new friend on Instagram, I decided she must be safe. Seriously, just look at that angelic face! (side note: this clearance is from someone who met her husband by dialing the same wrong number twice in one night. It may not sound smart, but the odds have been in my favor to meet awesome strangers in random ways.) So this guest post is from my (now) friend, Olivia. Who went to live in Guatemala after graduating from high school. And worked in the local markets selling to people like me and my Noonday sisters who have a penchant for huipil textiles. Read on for how to shop ethically when traveling abroad, especially to developing countries.

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Hello everyone! My name is Olivia and I am just so honored that sweet Brandi invited me to guest blog here! Today I’m just going to touch on how to shop ethically while you are traveling abroad. Amidst all of the colorful and exciting things you see around the world, it is easy to get caught up in the bargain game and thinking how you can get the best price. While this is all well and good, it is also vital to remember that the artisans who are selling their items are running a business trying to make fair wages, and in some cases, simply survive. 

 

Here’s part of my Guatemalan family ~ we had so much fun together each day working in the market!

 

 

For the month of June and part of July, I worked in Antigua, Guatemala in the Mercado de Artesanías with some dear, dear Guatemalan friends of mine. Edwin, Nely, Eleazar, Isack and Kenneth became my second family and living with them in their indigenous village changed my life forever. Having this new point of view, I now realize that there are some vital things to share about shopping ethically while abroad that I would have never known had I not had this experience. So, what can you do? I can’t wait to share with you a couple of things that I learned that can really impact the lives of everyone involved in your transaction while shopping abroad!  

 

 

1. Walk a fine line in bargaining. Bargain! Yes! The market is made for bargaining! But, what I didn’t realize before working in the market is that the shop owners are usually so set on making a sale that oftentimes they will sell the product for such a low price that they don’t make anything from the sale. In my experiences, this even effected our meal plan for the evening ~ the amount of merchandise sold in the store on any given day changed the amount of food that we were able to eat that evening. That was a hard concept to take in, but, there is a solution. I found that if you can lower the price of an item around 20%, that will usually result in a fair price for both store owner and shopper. Even though there is definitely a fine line between too cheap and overpriced, I really found that the 20% rule was quite on track. 

 

 

 

2. Buy directly from the artisan if possible. While I was walking through an art gallery one day, I met the most adorable, hilarious young man named Albino. Albino was a local artist, so he took time to demonstrate his painting techniques to me. In the process of this, he urged me to buy directly from him, and other artists like him. When I questioned why he was so adamant about this, he told me how lots of people will buy paintings from him, and then he realizes that their intentions are to bring it to their store in the market and sell it for double (and in some cases I saw even triple) the price he was selling them for. Especially when it comes to art, I really believe that the best way to buy is directly from the artist himself or herself ensuring that they get their fair share of the wages (and you don’t end up spending way more than necessary). 

 

 

3. Build relationships with the artists/vendors/etc. The thing that I believe makes the biggest difference in the world for both the buyer and the vendor while abroad is building relationships. My first trip to Guatemala, I was very guarded when buying from local vendors and never really let myself have the opportunity to have a genuine conversation with them. But, this summer, I realized what a difference this makes in the vendors lives. Be interested in what they have to say. Ask questions. Tell them about yourself. Invest in them and learn their names. Shoppers who really interacted with the customers in the marketplace were the ones my Guatemalan family would bring up at the dinner table that night and be so excited that a customer had taken such an interest in their work, family, etc. Whether you’re doing some hardcore shopping or simply browsing, simply starting a friendship and taking interest in the vendor’s life can make all the difference in the world!

 

 

Whatever you do, have the time of your life soaking up the new culture of wherever you are traveling. Try new things and embrace the way the people around you live. Let The Lord teach you so many things while you are there and be open to the things that He has to say to you! 

Much love, 

Olivia

P.S. If you’re interested in reading more about my travels to Guatemala, you can check out my blog HERE! Have a great weekend!

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Isn’t she awesome!? So glad my winning streak for new friends continues on.

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