Imagine Goods: Classic, versatile style!

Happy {belated} Easter fair trade fashionistas!

We’re gearing up for Fashion Revolution Day over here (want to help? see below!) and SO excited about all of the discussion surrounding “fast fashion” lately.

What is fast fashion?

Wikipedia says: “Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly in order to capture current fashion trends.  These trends are designed and manufactured quickly and cheaply to allow the mainstream consumer to take advantage of current clothing styles at a lower price.”

You might be thinking “lower price? That sounds great!”  But the sad truth is that

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 As Americans, we’re so used to being able to run out to the mall or outlet store and fill up our shopping bags with lots of clothes for very little money.  And when those trends go out of style in a month or so?  Well, just run out and buy some more!  Why not?  It’s cheap and easy!

The SLOW fashion movement aims to help us be more conscientious consumers.  To think about classic style over trendy style.  To ask questions about where our clothes come from and who made them.

Today I’m thrilled to feature a clothing company that is providing all of the right answers to the right questions!

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Imagine Goods calls themselves a “Sustainable Supply Company”

—because we believe that when we buy a product, the cost of the item should be able to sustain every person connected to it with a living wage

How wonderful is that?  I LOVE how they genuinely care for the artisans in Cambodia who sew their clothing!  They’re committed to

creating products that care for the human race—giving opportunity for individuals to care for their children, families, and health. . . so that a new generation has a fighting chance to break the cycle of poverty.

PLUS- their skirts and dresses represent gorgeous, classic styles that will never go out of fashion!

My good friend (and Noonday Collection conference roomie!) Marijoy and I recently discovered that we had both bought the Lucy skirt!  (Of course we did, great minds think alike, right??)

What’s so great about this skirt is that it’s reversible!  So you get two skirts for the price of one (and the price is already very affordable in my opinion)!  We each purchased different fabrics so what you see below is the same skirt styled 4 different ways!

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 Isn’t she lovely?

{accessories by Noonday Collection}

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 Marijoy says this about her skirt: “I love the fabric and vintage style, very feminine.  I was really impressed with the quality of craftsmanship.  I got a medium and it fit really well [she's 5'7" and 140 for reference], and I really like that it’s adjustable.  And how fun that I get two skirts in one!  I choose which side depending on my mood.”

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I loved the polka dot pattern on mine!  This skirt is just the right length and is flowy and fun!

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 {shoes by The Root Collective, accessories by Noonday Collection}

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I’m head over heels for my skirt from Imagine Goods!  I’m sure you’ll love anything you buy from them (they have really cute kids clothes too, as well as jackets for men, tablecloths for your kitchen, and adorable scarves and bags)!

AND- you can take 15% off your purchase between now and April 29th!  Just enter the code: Fair Trade Fashionistas when you check out!  Let us know what you buy!

Also, want to help us start a fashion revolution?  We’re planning something fun for Thursday and you can be a part of it!  Just take a photo with your clothing on inside out and send it to thefairtradefashionistas@yahoo.com by Wednesday the 23rd.  It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing (no underwear please!), it’s just a symbolic act to increase awareness and promote discussion about who makes our clothes!  Join us!

In style & love,

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Mata Traders: Spring line debut and a style re-mix!

Happy Monday fair trade fans!  I hope you all spent the whole weekend outside in the sunshine!  By now you’ve probably tossed that old winter coat in the back of the closet and you’re bringing out your colorful spring clothes!  If you’re anything like me, you have that insatiable urge right now to SHOP and buy up lots of cute things to wear in this warmer weather.  Maybe you’ve peeked inside your closet and you’re feeling ho-hum about the selection.

Well, the good news is: you don’t need to spend a fortune to freshen up your wardrobe for spring!  If you can find 2 or 3 quality pieces with a fun, colorful pattern, you can wear them a dozen different ways!

One of our favorite fair trade clothing companies, Mata Traders, just revealed their spring line last week and they have an entire lookbook with cute new patterns and cuts!  Their skirts, dresses, and tops have a fun, vintage look.  But even better?  Mata Traders works with women in India and Nepal who are part of fair trade co-ops and take pride and joy in their work!

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Meet the women behind Mata:

Don’t you just love their smiles??  These ladies use artistic traditions such as block printing and embroidery to give your clothing that one-of-a-kind aura!  Wearing clothes that are hand-made with love, and changing lives in the process, makes me so happy. Another plus?  Not having the same ol’ clothes as everyone else!

To introduce two of our favorite new spring line pieces, Brandi and I decided to do a style re-mix!  We styled the Maybe Me Top and Rain or Shine Dress with items we already had in our closet.

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First up: Brandi’s super cute Maybe Me Top! Brandi says “I love this peplum cut! I can see why it’s so popular – it helps cover the infamous muffin-top without adding bulk to your middle. It also adds that little bit of va-va-voom to any mom-drobe.”

Business casual with a cropped blazer, wide-leg khaki pants, and patterned clutch.

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Ready for a night out with a pencil skirt and strappy heels.  We love how there are so many ways to tie the straps on top!

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Weekend wear: bright blue jeans and Sseko sandals!

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Next up: the Rain or Shine dress!  This dress fit me perfectly!  Have you ever put something on and felt it was made just for you?  That was definitely true for this dress.  For reference, I’m 5’7″ and the bottom hem fell about 4 inches above my knee.  And the quality of the stitching and fabric is just amazing!  This is a piece I’ll have in my closet for a long time.

First I paired it with my South African market belt, striped clutch, and an arm party, of course!

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I just adore the umbrella pattern on the top!

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Thankfully no April showers here today!  But I’m ready with my Roma boots and a cardigan just in case!

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This dress is perfect for dressing up or down.  I threw on some pointy heels and a ruffled blazer to accent the bright blue pencil skirt!

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So many different ways to wear these two adorable spring pieces!  What are some of your new favorites in the Mata Traders spring line?

In Style & Love,

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Daring to Believe: How a shirt can change a life

Hey, hey fair trade lovin’ friends. I’m excited to share this awesome group with you today! I was contacted by Ben and Kelly Field about their group a few months ago. I didn’t really realize the opportunity being presented to me to review their shirts. They offered to send one for my husband to try. I was immediately impressed with the quality of workmanship and excellent tailoring. But I am even more impressed with their mission and what they are doing to make a difference in India.

Dare to Believe started with a couple in India (Abraham) who saw a need and then took a step of faith to meet that need. Shortly after, friends from the US joined in (Ben and Kelly). Abraham was born into an upper caste Christian family in India, and fell in love with a woman of a lower caste from the tribal region of Northeast India. He disobeyed the rules of culture (caste system) and they were married. Because he married a woman of lower status, he was disowned by most of his friends and family and lost his job. For the safety of Abraham and his wife they moved into the slums. While living in the slums, they noticed hundreds of orphan children living on the street. Not only were the children hungry, but they were often rounded up and sold into slavery and prostitution. They began by feeding them, then teaching them. When they were with Abraham and his wife they were getting the opportunity to learn and were safe. For that reason more schools were established. Their passion for Christ lead to the Bible college. By God’s grace, the Bible college was started with little funding. Students come from hundreds of miles away for the rare opportunity to learn about Christ. They often leave everything behind when they go against culture to follow Christ.


As a way to fund these ministries, a clothing factory was started in 2012 run by women from lower caste villages as an alternative to prostitution. 


To date over 400 shirts have been sold in the U.S. at local events and retail shops. They recently became available online as well. Thousands of dimes (10₵ = one meal) and other generous donations have been collected to feed members of the lower caste and move this entire ministry forward. Local people have put their faith into action to meet needs and open doors that were once closed. These people have helped to streamline fund transfers, establish the nonprofit status, advertise, network, sell shirts, and so much more.

Here are a few pics of my husband (and fair trade fashion warrior in training). The quality of these shirts is amazing! The stitching and attention to detail exceeds many of the mainstream brands for which people pay far more. I highly recommend these shirts for any guy on your graduation or birthday list or for Father’s Day. There is also a 20% discount code below, but I encourage you to read Ben and Kelly’s trip report which follows. It’s funny and informative, and allows you to see how much your money can be made to work for great purposes. Their online shop reopens tomorrow (4/1/14) or you can also donate here! I’m excited to see their new additions tomorrow! I’ve heard they may have some new ladies’ pieces coming in!!

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We just got back from an amazing trip to India where we got to see how the other side of our ministry is doing. If you are coming from a country like the US, the first thing you notice in India is the driving. They drive on the left there … unless you feel like driving on the right. Those lines that show us where your lane ends and mine starts are rare. This is of course, OK because who knows if it’s going to be three cars wide, four mopeds and a car, or two ox, one car and the largest hay bale you’ve ever seen. Keep a close eye out because you may be driving down the freeway and see a vehicle coming at you on the wrong side of the median… amazingly nobody seems to mind. The oxen migrate from their fields to the downtown areas each day to graze through the trash along the road, adding to the already unique traffic flow. Just as it is getting dark, you can see them heading back. In the US, a family of five thinks they need a SUV. We can safely say that all you need is one moped and the correct arrangement of family members.

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TRAFFIC JAM!

The Dare to Believe Ministry, as it is called on the US side, is supporting churches, schools, orphanages, and a Bible college in India. These churches/schools are like the local community center and are often just a plot of dirt (which we hope to change). They are much more than just a place to go for an hour on Sunday. Here they teach lower caste kids from the slums, tribal regions, etc. This is often the only education that these kids in remote areas have access to. Many go to the government schools which we were told were usually a baby-sitting service at best that offered a small meal. The kids would come to the schools associated with this ministry after government schools.

This offers them an education, a future, safety from traffickers, and knowledge of Christ.

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While visiting many of these schools we got to hang out with the kids. The song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” was a real hit … the faster the better.

If you’ve never been to a slum it’s hard to describe. Picture an ally with small homes crammed side by side as far as you can see. This ally is a huge maze that you could easily get lost in. Homes may have some concrete walls, if they are lucky, otherwise, they are constructed with whatever materials or branches they can find. Many people are sitting on the path cooking by fire on the ground. Many sleep there as well. The rest you’d have to see for yourself. We’ve been told that many thieves, drug dealers, and murders live here since the police do not enter this area.

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It seemed like a totally hopeless place, however, a story we heard from our friends took place when they were visiting the slums where they started their ministry and lived for a while. They were walking in when they saw two girls they recognized. The girls started hugging (and practically kissing) them. They were two girls from the slums that were educated in their school and went on to college. From what we saw, this would not have been even remotely possible otherwise.
Two of the churches/schools we were able to visit had orphanages. One had seven kids and the other twenty-two.

 

The church planters barely have enough for their own family, yet won’t turn these kids without a home away.

These were some of the most selfless people we have ever met. The kids seemed so happy and well taken care of in the orphanages. We played more games and even had a dance party at one that had a radio. What great kids.

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This same church planter who runs one of the churches, schools, and orphanages also travels to the tribal regions to teach and help with basic needs. The tribal region is like a slum, but they often live on government land in the country along the canals. They fish the dirty canals for food and pick through trash to find recyclable materials for money. Homes are constructed from bamboo, palm branches, and whatever else they can find. By the big response we got, it was clear that visitors are rare. We enjoyed an aerobic game of Simon says with the kids. When you speak a different language, Simon says everything … it’s a fun game of doing what the crazy Americans are doing.

During the worship times we were so impressed with the passion we saw both at the churches and the Bible college. There was no holding back. These church planters often give up everything and are frequently rejected by their family and friends; just like when Jesus says to leave everything and follow Him. They certainly do that without guarantees of any kind.

We got to sit and talk with a women’s group too. The difficulties that most of these women have overcome are things most of us have never experienced. As with most of the people we met, they are living day to day unsure of where their next meal is coming from, yet they spend a large portion of their time helping others. One lady was teaching 60 kids in the slums built by the sewage drains along the road. People build there because the land is not privately owned. She still faced opposition for educating the lower caste despite this being a place no one else seemed to care about.

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One of the recent projects was funding and building a church in south India. It was cool to see it up and running. We walked in and saw about fifty kids waiting to play games and sing. It was getting dark and the kids were still there because there was nowhere else to go and their parents usually did not come looking for them. These kids would be roaming the streets and at risk of trafficking if it was not for this school.

Over a year ago a clothing factory was started as an alternative to prostitution for women of the lower class. Due to the caste system and the lack of education an opportunity like this is rare.

It was great to see first-hand where the shirts we receive were produced and how talented they are. Some of these women and men are experts and some are in training. During the slow times these women find work at other clothing factories which shows how well they were trained here. Despite taking opportunities elsewhere during slow times, most come back to this factory because of the great work environment. Check out the shirts and use FASHIONISTA20 to get 20% off through the website https://www.etsy.com/shop/BelieveFairTrade?ref=l2-shopheader-name.

Through the faith and willingness of these people to serve, we literally saw lives changing through this ministry. Christ’s light was certainly shining bright here.


 

What could you possibly be waiting for (except April 1st when the shop reopens)? Use your purchasing dollars for good and let’s make a difference in the lives of people in India.

In Style & Love,

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Just in time for Easter: Feather your nest with The Sparrow Studio!

Hallelujah, Spring has sprung!!  The trees are turning green, flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and March is rolling on out like a lamb.  That means Easter is right around the corner, and it just so happens that I have the perfect way for you to decorate your home with bright and cheerful color!

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Today I’m so humbled to tell you all about The Sparrow Studio in Kigali, Rwanda.  They handcraft gorgeous paper bead garland, Easter egg ornaments, earrings, scarves, and other beautiful things!

One of my fellow Noonday Collection ambassadors, Annie, helped get this co-op of 35 women off the ground and flying strong.  Annie has a kind and generous heart, and a passion for providing hope to some very special women.

Before I highlight their beautiful work, I want to give you some background.  I’m a story person: I love to hear stories and tell stories, and know the story behind the things that I buy.  This particular one is tough to tell, but so important.  But don’t worry, it has a happy ending!

As you may remember, Rwanda was the site of a horrific genocide in 1994.  Anyone in Rwanda today over the age of 20 is a survivor of this conflict, and they live with daily reminders of those who were lost.  There were 10 times as many widows as widowers among survivors, and many of them have children to look after.  Jobs, especially for females, are scarce in Rwanda, and the hard truth is that many women turn to prostitution to earn money just to feed their kids.

I don’t know about you, but this absolutely breaks my heart.  I’m guessing many of our readers are moms, and if you are, can you imagine just for a minute the sight of your child starving?  What depths would you descend to make sure they lived another day?

Annie broke down the math for me in a way that was easy to understand:

 The average wage per day in Rwanda is about 1000 Rwandan francs (RWF) = $1.50

A living wage, just the basics-  rent for a 1 bedroom home, school fees for 1 child, and food = $3.50

The ladies sell their bodies for about $.80 per trick.

You can do the math.  Even with a normal, average job, it’s nearly impossible to provide for just 1 child.  But even worse, how many times would a woman have to sell herself to make sure her family survived??  This is the reality that these 35 women in Kigali (and countless others!) live with every day.

BUT… and this is where The Sparrow Studio comes in…

With the sale of just one paper bead garland, the women can make about 1000 RWF or $1.50!

If they can sell 3 items per day through their work at the co-op, they are making over a living wage to care for 1 child!  And not only that, they have a way out of a situation that is inherent with shame, contempt from their peers, low self-worth, exposure to HIV and other diseases, and an endless cycle of crippling poverty.

But what is so wonderful is how this co-operative provides more than just a job to these ladies.  They gather together for literacy, business, and English classes, weekly devotions, and sewing lessons.  They pray together and sing together.

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I love how Annie says so beautifully:

These women are worth our time, our financial investment, and the best of our creative energies.  We love them because God first loved us.

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Now that’s a redemption story worth sharing!  And how appropriate to spread the word about this amazing co-operative right before Easter!  Just like our sisters in Rwanda, we are wandering in the darkness, without hope and desperate for love and mercy and a future.  And in walks God’s great love, in the form of his son Jesus, to rescue us and pull us out of the depths!  What joy!!

And now, without further adieu, I want to show off some of these lovely things:

This is my very own paper bead garland from The Sparrow Studio.  It comes with these handy little clasps so you can keep it as a loop (like on my kitchen chandelier) or as a long strand (on my mantel).  You can even use the clasp to attach it to other strands of garlands to customize the length!

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The garland is only $8-$14 and comes in lots of different colors.  (You can see all of the options here)

So many possibilities for how you can decorate with it!  These are some ideas from the website:

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I also bought these wonderful Easter egg ornaments to hang on our Easter tree (a treasure I stole from my mom’s house):

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See what I mean?  Beautiful things with a beautiful story!  And a perfect way to “feather you nest” with hope this Easter!

In style & love,

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Rooted in Style (and Love): The Root Collective review

Hey y’all! Are you ready for Spring? It’s FINALLY in the air… I don’t know how long it’ll stay, but I’m busting out my peep toe and ballet flats. (It’s that much closer to feet in the sand and grass.) My girl, Shannon, and I are going to be reviewing The Root Collective shoes today. Not only are they fairly traded, on trend in saturated and rich colors, but the best part is that these guys are super comfy! I also love the mission - and the Founder, Bethany Tran!

Let me introduce Bethany first. I want you to see the heart behind the style. Here she is in her transparent, humble glory. :) 

The story behind The Root Collective is really one of God breaking my heart and changing the way I view everything. 
 
I’ve been very close friends and involved with one of our nonprofit partners, Lemonade International, since their conception more than 5 years ago. They work solely in the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City. It’s the largest urban slum in Central America and is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. It has a significant presence of gangs and life there is very, very hard.
 
A very good friend of mine was one of the founding members and was moving to Guatemala to work with the people living in La Limonada.
I’m not the kind of person who is certain of things right away. But I knew instantaneously that I was supposed to go.
So, three weeks after she moved, I arrived to what I now call my second home.
 
My experience in that single week utterly changed my life.
I knew poverty. I knew that my calling as a Christian was with “the least of these,” just like it is for all of us. But I didn’t really understand what that meant until I saw it first hand. I went to Guatemala twice that year, both times coming home devastated to be back in my normal life, with my normal corporate job. I knew that I was supposed to do more, to be involved more.
 
Now, let me get something straight here: I didn’t want to help. I didn’t want to be a savior. This is an important distinction. I wanted to partner. I didn’t want to say, “you need me” or have a superiority complex that implied that they weren’t capable of working hard enough to change their circumstances. It might sound weird to say that I didn’t want to help, and I don’t mean that in the way that it might sound.
I just believe in the people who live in poverty enough to know that they are capable. They didn’t need me. They just needed someone to believe in them enough to partner with them.
 
I come from a marketing background, so I knew pretty much right off the bat that I needed to use my skills to make an impact. The concept for The Root Collective was planted after my first trip to Guatemala. It was one of the scariest things I could possibly think to do! I hadn’t worked in retail, and I hadn’t worked in international business enough to really know anything about it.
But sometimes, I think the most successful things can come from people who are too naive to realize what they don’t know.
After 4 years of thinking about it, I finally got the guts to just do it. I had seen the PBS premier of “Half the Sky” and emailed Bill Cummings, the Executive Director of Lemonade International, the next day and told him we needed to talk.
 
That got the ball rolling! A few months later, I was back in Guatemala, starting relationships with artisans that were working with Lemonade already. I also had a friendship of the directors of Come Unity and Neema Project, our two other nonprofit partners, so I began discussing partnering with their artisans as well.
 
The process of getting The Root Collective off the ground was extraordinarily difficult. We came across so many unexpected challenges and had to work so hard to get through them. But it has been beyond incredible to go through this process, continue to develop relationships with our artisans, and see their lives beginning to change through our partnership.
 
Also, 10% of each sale (not just profit!) goes back to our nonprofit partners. The really cool part is that customers get to pick which nonprofit partner they want to support! And the thing that’s special about this is that we’re able to partner with the artisans, and also with their entire communities through supporting the work of the nonprofits. It’s been so neat to see how much impact this is able to create! 
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We really want people to learn more about The Root Collective and become partners with us!
Consumers are the most powerful people in the world and how you spend your money really determines the kind of world that you want to live in.
So our hope is that people will become more aware of this and will start focusing on companies like The Root Collective when they’re looking to purchase. It can really make such a difference!
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Can you see why I love this new friend? She is wise and using the talents and gifts she has received to serve others. May we all follow leaders such as she. 
 
So for the shoes: they come in whole sizes only. I normally wear an 8.5 so I sized down after talking to Bethany. I’m glad I did!! The material stretches just a bit with wear. These guys have a nice, firm rubber sole that you just KNOW they’re gonna last. They’re lined in moleskin which feels good against the foot and I think also helps so they don’t rub. I mean, I’m all for a good foot rub, just not by my shoes. The higher heel back also covers the entirety of the heel bone so there is no rubbing there either. Hooray for no blisters!
Here are the two pairs that Shannon and I bought:
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See how fab they are? Rich, saturated colors that are on trend for Spring 2014. Don’t believe me? How about the Pantone Fashion report from a little thing called New York Fashion Report…

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What do y’all think? Are you ready to buy these guys? Still on the fence? Check these outfit suggestions Shannon and I put together on polyvore. (follow us if you’re there. We plan to get more into outfit creation.)

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This may officially be my longest post ever. But I just quickly want to encourage you to step out of your “plain” colored shoe box (see what I did there?). If you want to know a little about color theory, you can read about it online. I don’t know much, but anyone can google a color and find complimentary or coordinating colors. Things no longer have to “match” – things just “go” together. Fashion has come a long way from those conservative rules and misconceptions. So go wild! Buy some of the fabulous Root Collective shoes. You won’t regret it! It’s style, rooted in love. And with these beauties on your feet and your dollars going to so much good, you’re feet will be firmly rooted in love too. 

Hopefully this is a compelling post. If you need a little more of a boost – Bethany has been generous enough to extend a discount to my fellow fair trade fashionistas… use code FAIRTRADEFASH for 10% off!

In Style and Love,

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International Women’s Day!

Good morning my fair trade loving amigos! My friend Shannon has some words of wisdom (and discounts!!) to share with us today on International Women’s Day. She’s one of my favorites, and I know you’ll love her too. She’s going to be a regular contributor here on the blog. Please read on!

Hi ladies (do we have any fashionisto’s out there?)!  Did you know that today is International Women’s Day?

ImageIWD started as a way to promote equality and suffrage (voting rights) for women in 1911. When you think of equality for women, you might think about how we should earn the same wages or be treated fairly in the workplace.  And we should.  But SO many women elsewhere in the world are fighting for so much more.  They’re fighting for their lives and the lives of their children. They’re seen as unworthy of love or care, unworthy of education, and unworthy of occupation.

As women here in the US, we have the opportunity to go to school (free!) from age 5-18.  We’re allowed to vote, we’re allowed to work outside of the home, and (for the most part) we’ll allowed to decide when and who we should marry.  We have a police station to call when a crime is committed against us, and we have reason to hope for justice.  Not to mention clean drinking, water, food, antibiotics… I could go on and on.

We have so much to celebrate!

But we demand the same for women everywhere, in every nation.

TODAY, on International Women’s Day, we link arms and stand together with our sisters all over the world, because that’s what they are: family.

We admire their courage, strength, and perseverance.

We applaud their ideas and skills.

We acknowledge that every woman deserves HOPE for a better future.

There’s no better way to celebrate today than to support fair trade companies that are creating opportunities for women who need them the most!  Employment is the key to a better life and is the catalyst to change an entire family’s future, and sometime even an entire community!  For those living in poverty, a sustainable job means basic needs can be taken care of: clean drinking water, food, education, and healthcare.  Not to mention self-esteem and pride and joy in the work the women are doing!

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And guess what?  Several of our favorite fair trade fashion shops are offering discounts in honor of International Women’s Day!  So shop with the knowledge that your purchase is empowering a woman in Africa or India to change her story for GOOD!

Mata Traders – vintage inspired and artisan-made clothing – take 15% off with the exclusive code “fashionista”

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Symbology – they make fair trade sexy while crafting a better world - Use the code womenrock at checkout between now and Saturday, March 8 to get $10 off any Symbology purchase! http://symbologyclothing.com/.

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Amani ya Juu – a women’s sewing reconciliation project in Africa – take 5% off with coupon code “WOMEN14″

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Imagine Goods – Beautiful vintage-inspired clothing and home goods from Cambodia – save 15% off with the discount code “Women’s Day”

Happy Women’s Day and Happy Shopping!!

In Style & Love,

Shannon

The New Mama: Fashionable and Fair Trade minded

Hey my friends! I just want to let you know that I admire, so much, those of you who are actively making changes in your lifestyles to live a more “fair” life!! I love to hear when people are inspired to do things a little differently – especially when they are the primary influence over other, shall we say “impressional” people, like their own children. I thought today would be a good time to share this fabulous guest posting from my friend Lilly. She is a newly adoptive mama who is making it a priority to start her daughter off in the best possible way. Not only in caring for herself but for others simply by making conscientious choices. (And I’ve heard statistics about baby booms about 9 months after severe weather like much of the US has experienced this Winter, so…you could find yourself in need for baby goods sometime in the near future… Just sayin’ ;) )

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Hi there! My name’s Lilly, and I’m a blogger at Pancakes and Beet Juice, a newly adoptive mom and a fair trade fashionista in training thanks to some of the great companies Brandi shares for a fashionable, fair trade life! 
 
Bringing home a new baby is complicated and expensive, and while I wanted to make sure I was purchasing items that were practical and worked, I also hoped to find options that were made responsibly and potentially even worked to give the world a better future for my little girl. 
 
These awesome additions to my diaper bag have been practical, ethical and cute! 
 
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Wren and Rumor swaddle blanket - This blanket is designed by a darling mom in Dallas who makes these swaddle and burp cloths from organic cotton. The first thing I did when Heidi was born was order a customized one with her name on it. It’s light weight enough to fold into our diaper bag easily and I get compliments wherever we go!
 
FEED Projects Diaper Bag - Lauren Bush Lauren was my first example of a fair trade fashionista, and I’ve been inspired by her and the cause movement ever since. This FEED x DKNY diaper bag has been great for all of the necessities. I love the changing pad, bottle pockets and the fact that my husband, Markus, isn’t afraid to carry it! I love that our new diaper bag also provides nutrient rich powder to one mother and child for a year. 
 
Honest Company diapers - I have loved these adorable and eco-friendly diapers for Heidi, but perhaps my favorite part is they show up every month at my door without me having to think about it! The diapers are super absorbent, made from plant based materials, made with fair trade labor in Mexico and give back to a multitude of child and family-focused charities. 
 
Dr. Smith’s Diaper Cream - This diaper cream keeps Heidi happy, is made from ingredients that I can actually pronounce and is made in San Antonio. This Texas secret is now available around the U.S. at Walgreen’s, and the company donates to the March of Dimes. 
 
Out of Print Pouch - It is never too early to foster the love of a great book with a little one! This Hungry Caterpillar pouch is Made in the U.S.A. and the perfect size for holding Heidi’s diapers so they’re not floating around her bag. The purchase of any item from this fun site for fair trade, fashionable bibliophiles creates a donation for Books for Africa. 
 
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what have been some fair trade or conscientious items you’ve used with your baby? we’d love to hear!
 
In Style and Love,
XO,
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Blog train – Next stop: DEFINING PURPOSE

Hey hey fair-trade-loving friends! I assume that many of you reading are here today because of the Noonday blog train. If you’re a regular reader (if you’re not, you should become one!) and are wondering what this blog train business is about, it’s where Noonday Ambassadors band together in generosity, and I think we have over 40 of them going as we launch the new Spring Line. You should check out Krista’s post from yesterday and Paige will be coming up next. I hope you’ll come along as we blast the internet with Noonday love while sharing stories, hearts, and gifting stuff along the way.

I decided to write today about purpose, or as some call it “calling.” These are buzzwords I hear a lot. I don’t know if it’s because I’m entrenched in my mid-30′s (and so are many of my friends) ;), but it seems purpose is up for discussion in generations behind me and before me. It’s not just a mid-life crisis!

Noonday helped launch me in to mine, and I want to offer you some tips to define yours, encourage you to write it down and then pursue it at some point every day! I can’t lay any personal claim to many of the word here. I attended an awesome “Leading on Purpose” workshop at my church last March. It was led by my Pastor’s wife, Lynette Lewis. She is an international speaker, accomplished author, fashionista, and just got the title of “new mom” through an amazing testimony from God: twin girls (word to the wise: you’ll have to reapply your make up if you watch that link)!! I am so thankful for people, like Lynette, who so confidently walk in their purpose that they help many other women define their own.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

Why am I here? What am I SUPPOSED to be doing? Is there some greater purpose that I’m supposed to be living right now? What are my dreams? (As a mother of two, I have definitely been in a place where I didn’t think I had any, mainly because I never got enough sleep to warrant actual dreaming) Maybe you feel like you’re wandering the wilderness season of your life right now… Maybe you know why you’re here but you’re afraid to write it down, to commit. Or maybe you have a God-sized dream that you worry makes you sound like an ego maniac and you won’t share it with anyone else for fear of who or what they may think you think you are (see how convoluted these things get?).

- To start the process of defining your purpose, Lynette says to ask yourself questions. Questions show your values. So ask yourself questions like “which of my abilities and giftings are most often noted and affirmed by those around me?” “what activities bring me the most joy?” and “What could I be passionate about doing for the next 10 years?” More than likely, if you were created for a reason, your heart will recognize it when you’re doing it.

- Then consider a list of action verbs and pick a few that most appeal to you and the answers to the questions up above. I’m sure you know what action verbs are and this probably isn’t the BEST list because it sounds more like we’re writing a resume. This is just to get you thinking:

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(My words from the workshop were: empower, encourage, equip and restore – I apparently like “e” words).

- Now that you know what your values are, what makes you feel like you’re doing what you’re made for, and have identified a few key action words, you can figure out your purpose!! Even if you sincerely question whether you even have one! Or you may already feel like you’re sure of the why you’re here, but you should put it into words. It’s really cool to see your personal purpose statement and mission written down and being accountable to it.

- My PURPOSE is to ___________________ (word or phrase that indicates change…) Through, by, or with: (what you will do, your mission)

This is what mine sounds like:

My purpose is to empower and encourage consumers by equipping them with knowledge and awareness to make more conscientious choices in their day-to-day lives. I will do this by blogging, personal shopping, and advocating for vulnerable people through Noonday trunk shows.

It can even seem a little chicken vs. egg when you do this. Was my purpose and calling waiting all along or did Noonday create and launch that purpose? I can’t say for sure, and honestly, who cares? The fact that I am walking in purpose with my mind and heart focused helps not only myself, my family, my friends, but I hope it inspires others along the way to find theirs too.

I really believe in motivating you to sit down, put some thought in to this and commit to it by writing it down. So I’m giving away a $50 gift voucher to Noonday Collection to shop our fabulous Spring line! All you have to do is go here to enter: http://tinyurl.com/l5qrqx3

Don’t forget to check out Paige‘s posting tomorrow! She’s a master story teller!!

In Style and Love,

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Mamafrica Designs: Spring is in the air

Hey hey fair trade fashionista(o)s… after racking my brain trying to find one plus to these polar vortexes and snow that keeps you homebound for days, I finally thought of one! It provides the opportunity to dust off the ol’ blog and help educate, inform and then empower others to do the same!

First up in my power postings will be Mamafrica Designs. I thought they’d be a great highlight on Valentine’s day simply because of the heart of Founder, Ashley Nemiro. She is an amazing woman who, while studying for her PhD in Counseling and Psychology, visited Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and her life was drastically impacted. She first visited DRC to conduct mental health research for women who were survivors of sexual gender based violence and were experiencing somatic and cognitive symptoms that were disrupting their everyday lives. It’s a great time too because they are releasing new leather products that are locally made in Bukavu, DRC and are also highlighted on globalgiving in the hopes to raise awareness in the belief that together we can RISE UP and change the narrative of women in DRC. She also goes back and forth from the US to DRC staying for weeks on end.

Come meet my friend Ashley and hear her roar…

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Brandi: I’d love to highlight Mamafrica on my blog. I love your new spring pieces – especially the bags!! 😍 
 
Ashley: I can tell you a little about us and why we do the work we do and how amazing the women are! Mamafrica Designs is a non-profit organization based out of Bukavu, which is located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Our mission is to change the lives of the women and the future of the children that have been most affected by conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
Brandi: How do you “change lives”?
 
 
Ashley: Well, we take a holistic approach to creating this change by providing education, healing arts programs and economic opportunity. This fosters self-empowerment, community and sustainability for the women and will ultimately result in generational change. Our programs reflect the basic premise that when women have equity, nations and the world become more secure. At Mamafrica we believe that human relationships can be a mechanism for growth and recovery.
 
Brandi: Ashley, you’re a young woman, attending a competitive PhD program. Why are you taking on a problem that’s on the other side of the world??

Ashley: Why? Well, I moved to DRC for a four month stay in the summer of 2012, and I was quickly hit by the level of poverty, the pervasive narrative of suffering and loss, and the unemployment rates of women. In a region (south kivu) where women are neither the owners nor the top-decision makers in the business market, I was not surprised to hear that 90% of women were unemployed. Out of that summer in DRC, Mamafrica was started with the help of Aline Malekera, our co-director. We had the vision of creating a program for the women and their children that were most affected by the ongoing conflict. We work with women who have been internally displaced and have resettled in Buakvu, DRC with little skills to compete for limited employment. At Mamafrica we aim to provide employment for these women and give her the tools and skills to stand on her own two feet. I’ve mentioned our programs, but we also provide educational seminars on health and business, mentorships, and we collaborate with local hospitals to provide classes on family planning. In addition, we create a savings plan for women to send their children to school and have an on-site nursery for women to bring their children with them to work. We are unlike other programs because we are not just a non-profit we are a community of women banding together to create systemic change.  

Brandi: I honestly don’t know THAT much about DRC. I have heard that it is one of the economically poor countries in the world. And it sounds as though, as is the case in most developing countries, women are second rate citizens?

Ashley: Absolutely. Sexual violence against women and girls is epidemic in DRC. The good news is that UN studies have found that when women have jobs, there is economic growth across all sectors; and if a girl goes to school, for even one year, her earnings increase dramatically and her children are healthier. At Mamafrica, the women are paid bi-weekly and because of this are able to feed their children more than one meal a day, which according to The Women’s Under Siege research team: 60% of women only eat one meal a day. Which means more to me than a statistic. I have seen it with my own eyes. 

Brandi: I really believe in the work you’re doing and the difference you’re making! Tell me a little more about your products and Spring line.

Ashley: Each product sold is unique to the website and sold as a limited edition piece. Our fabric is one of a kind and each piece tells a story. All of the leather is bought locally in the markets of Bukavu. It’s all natural, organic leather and handmade into these beautiful bags/clutches.

We named this clutch ”Rasta,” after our new leather sewing instructor: Image

 

Brandi: I can’t decide which one I prefer! That one or this one!?

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Ashley: They are both great and only $60 and $75 respectively. 

The skirt here, the Nabintu skirt, is named after one of the beautiful women of Mamafrica who is now one of the sewing instructors. This is a mini-length skirt! It is perfect for work, a night on the town, or just to throw on with a solid colored top for the weekend. It has an elastic back, a tie in the front, and pockets! It comes in a variety of fabrics all handpicked (3 of those shown below) from Bukavu, DRC, and is only $35.

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Brandi: Those are super cute! And I love how you’ve styled them. What else would you say to inspire any fair trade fashionista reading? 

Ashley: Mamafrica Designs aims to connect you to female artisans in Democratic Republic of Congo through their handmade items, the unique fabric, and the women’s stories of resilience and hope.  When you buy from Mamafrica Designs your money is going to help the women we work with build hope in their community with the ultimate goal of empowering them to stand proud and independent. Our products give the women at Mamafrica a way to earn money and a way to be part of the work force in Congo. We are creating opportunity where there is none. Each product is handmade by the women of Mamafrica and all the proceeds go straight back into the program. In conclusion, as a woman I felt called to speak loudly for the women of DRC and tell their stories because even though they have nothing {by American standards} they exhibit raw beauty in their smiles alone. The sing, they dance, and they fight harder than I would know how to. Their products serve as a way to tell their story…to help them stand proud. 

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I am so encouraged by the lovely people I meet and learn about all the time. There are many of you out there who see a need and are coming up with ideas, starting businesses, lending advice, doing your little bit of good. Keep pressing on! As the wise Desmond Tutu said “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

In Style and Love,

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Human Trafficking Awareness Day

I’ve lost that blogging feeling… (ooohh that blogging feeling) I’m working to get it back. In the meantime, I have a guest post! From Mr. Fair Trade Fashionist(o) – my husband, Joe! I can’t link you to anything of his because he is virtually silent (haha – pun not intended – but seriously, he has almost no virtual place to find him. except email…)

Anyway, he is doing a book review of “The Exodus Road” by Laura Parker. I attended a conference in October and had the pleasure of meeting Laura and hearing their story. It’s almost unbelievable how this “normal” family moved to SE Asia and went all “undercover agent.” She also had a fantastic breakout session addressing fear and how it keeps us from living our Story. (Maybe I found some blogging inspiration after all.)

I did get to take advantage of a special deal where I bought a book to review and they gave me a second copy for free, so I am offering that one as a giveaway here. Just leave a comment and I’ll do a random drawing in a couple days and will mail it to the winner. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my husband’s heart and are intrigued by the book! Without further adieu…

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Many holidays mark our modern calendars.  We are all very familiar with some of them:  Christmas, New Year’s Day, Independence Day… Others are largely unknown or maybe considered trite or silly: Groundhog Day, International Left-Handers, Hillbilly Day, and even one called Nothing Day.  But today has more of a sobering theme.  January 11, since 2007, has been dedicated to Human Trafficking Awareness.  In fact, this global justice issue has become so prominent in our nation that Barack Obama declared the entire month of January as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month” in 2012.  

 It seems these holidays, coupled with the efforts of various anti-trafficking individuals, organizations and lobbyist groups have been quite successful in recent years raising awareness and prompting governments at all levels across the globe to take action against what is arguably the most contemptible crime of our age.

 One such organization, “The Exodus Road,” recently published a book by that name detailing an ordinary couple’s unintentional but life-changing journey into the very heart of this dark reality.  In the relatively short and fast-paced documentary, Laura Parker relates her side of the life-altering experience she and her husband Matt endured while serving as missionaries in Southeast Asia.   

 While working in Malaysia, Matt Parker, a former youth pastor, encountered a subcommittee of the NGO (Non-Government Organization) and came to realize how understaffed, unfunded, and unorganized the anti-trafficking efforts really were in that country.  The more he learned, the more he was determined to do something to help.  “What if it were Lilly?” he asked, referring to their own young daughter.  That was probably the most heart-piercing statement in the whole book for me.  As a father of two, I tried to imagine the lengths I would go to if my son or daughter were ever abducted into such a horrific nightmare.

 Desperate to help rescue children from sexual slavery, Matt decided to assist the local Malaysian police force in surveillance.  As they had no means to equip him, Matt managed to cobble together his own crude surveillance system – basically a hidden mini-camera he ordered from Amazon hot-glued to the inside of a computer bag.  Then he hit the streets.  

 Knowing every night could be his last, Matt would step into some of the last places he (and his wife Laura) ever expected to go – brothels, strip clubs, and red-light districts – all the while gathering valuable intel such as names of children and their pimps.  What he witnessed – young teenage girls (and boys) being cheaply “rented out” for rape to married businessmen, forced to strip, fondled, abused – must have seemed like a vision of hell itself.  How can this kind of thing be happening every night to millions of children while the world sleeps on in blissful ignorance?

 Fortunately, Matt’s efforts began to result in raids, prosecuted pimps, and freed children.  And he also began to meet other undercover investigators (mostly former-military) that they began to partner with to share intel and resources and gain valuable expertise.  After months of tears and sleepless nights, Matt and Laura had the realization that they could best serve in this mission in a different capacity – by starting a coalition to tackle this huge criminal industry in a concerted, collaborative manner.  Exodus Road was born.

 Slavery has certainly not been abolished, not even by a long shot.  And unfortunately, the number of slaves today dwarfs the number slaves in America during the 1800’s Atlantic slave trade.  The statistics are staggering: from 10-30 million in 161 countries, with over 20% in the sex industry being children (according to the International Labor Organization).  Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar business, the third largest-grossing crime today.  Some children are forced to serve over 30 clients in a single day.  

 Every time I hear these numbers, I tend to despair.  What could I possibly do to help?  Well, Mother Teresa made it simple: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”  If every one of us did our part, this problem could be quickly eradicated.  But awareness must be increased, and action must be taken.  As Edmund Burke once said, if good men do nothing, evil will prevail.  

 One of the best and most exciting parts of this book came at the very end in the appendices – a section entitled “What can I do?”  Here, Laura detailed an extensive list of action options just about anyone can do to help.  Here are some examples:

 William Willberforce said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” So, none of us are really without excuse.  We have to raise our voices for all the children without a voice, and fight (intelligently and collaboratively) to rescue and defend them. 

Here’s their recent stats:

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And here’s their latest video.

Want a copy of the book? Post a comment below with an idea you practice to help combat human trafficking. For example, a comment could be “I buy fair trade coffee/tea!” And that counts. We’ll pick a winner in a few days and mail the book out to you. Thanks for reading.

In Style & Love.

XO,

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