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 Designs – http://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 + Lily – http://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 Traders – http://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 Collective – http://therootcollective.com/sale

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

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Symbology – http://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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Fair Trade this Father’s Day!

Who’s harder to shop for than your mom? If you guessed “your dad” you get the prize! I am self professed procrastinator, but hopefully we still have time to get dear old dad some fairly traded, ethically sourced and/or made in the USA gifts to celebrate his day coming up on June 15th. Here are some ideas:

 

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1. EDC Magnesium Fire Starter - Magnesium and ferrocerium (flint) fire starter with high-carbon steel blade on a portable key ring. Magnesium shavings ignite damp tinder and kindling easily but are fireproof in solid form. Measures 2 ¾ inches long. Made in Idaho.

2. Brass & Walnut Pour-Over Coffee Brewer Heat-resistant glass pour-over cone with adjustable solid brass ring and arm. Set on a walnut base. Slide turning knob up and down to accommodate the smallest espresso cup to a 10-inch-tall travel mug. Made by hand in Colorado.

3. This  laptop sleeve has a two way zipper and colorful embroidered design hand crafted by Thai crafts folk. Many tribal people live off of their agricultural production, but access to land on which to support their families has become more scarce. The production and sale of handicrafts provides them with a viable alternative, and helps to revive handcraft traditions which otherwise might have been forgotten.

4. Handmade Pewter Flask – Pocket-sized 4- or 6-ounce flask with a captive screw top. Bright polished pewter doesn’t taint the sweet taste of booze. Handmade in Sheffield, England.

5. Stewart Stand Stainless Steel Fiber Wallet (Silver) Made of the same ultra thin stainless steel fabric used in advanced aerospace applications. RFID blocking design keeps your personal info safe. 85% post-consumer recycled stainless steel, 15% silver ballistic nylon. Features a large bill pocket, 6 card slots, plus 2 extra pockets

 

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1. Fair Indigo Men’s Short Sleeve Fair Trade Organic Polo – Everything you’ve been looking for in a polo … and then some. First off, it’s knit of pure organic combed cotton – and if you’ve never felt the difference, you owe it to yourself to experience a whole new level of softness. And it’s exceptionally durable, too. You’ll be happily wearing this polo years after lesser shirts have landed in the rag bag. To top it off, our polo is dyed with low-impact and colorfast dyes, entirely crafted in a Fair Trade USA® Approved Facility.

2. Northwest – Tense Watches – designed and manufactured in Canada.

3. Two handsome money clips come to life in red-brown leather. Magnets inside the pair help them hold bills.

4. Handmade (in Honduras) 100% leather Briefcase by Mission of Lazarus’s vocational school students.

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1. 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.

2. Cambodian Tie Cayenne/Cobalt Wide Stripe – Handwoven cotton tie in stylish hues, with raw silk lining. Spot clean. 57in.L x 3 1/4in.W at widest point.

3. Twin zippers open this compact travel kit to reveal pockets for grooming items. Two open pockets on one side and a zipper pocket on the other holds essentials close at hand.

4. Men’s White Everyday Crew Neck Tee – 60% organic cotton / 40% recycled polyester. No pesticides, no fertilizers, no bleaches, no sweatshops, no nasty stuff at all.

5. Deluxe Shaving Set –  Neem shaving soap, aftershave lotion, bar soap. Ramie soap bag, Boar bristle brush, brush travel case. Mango wood plate

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1. A summer classic, this beautiful hammock is hand-woven of unbleached cotton. Maya Artists of the Yucatán create it in the same way they have for centuries.

2. Hand-Carved Onyx Chess Set: Exquisitely hand-carved onyx pieces turn the board into a sculptural landscape worthy of permanent display.

3. Handmade (Made in Honduras) 100% leather bound NIV thinline Bible.

4. Handmade (Made in Honduras) 100% leather journals by Mission Lazarus’s vocational school students.

5. Fair Trade Coffee!!!

6. Fair Trade Mug (not the one pictured)

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1. This bottle opener set from Guena combines two of Brazil’s natural riches in a spectacular design. The stand is carved of cedar wood, while the handles display agate’s unique veins that are dyed blue. Set includes a traditional bottle opener, a waiter’s friend corkscrew, and a can opener, all in nickel-plated brass

2. This unisex adjustable apron is part artist’s smock and part grilling apron! Made of a durable cotton/silk blend, it’s designed so that you can either wear it long—for more coverage—or fold it up at the waist to create an extra pocket. With a neck tie that slides through the sides to fasten in the back, you can adjust the neck tie length as well as the back ties. Plus there are three sections to the large front pocket, which is deep enough for your grilling tools, kitchen towel, or paintbrushes. (Use Happy 1st birthday to get 25% off)

3. This attractive three compartment condiment server may be used for salsas, preserves,marmalade, nuts, etc.
Each piece of La Chamba is a one of kind piece of artisan cookware, carefully crafted using century old technique native to this region. La Chamba can be used on the stove, oven, grill and in most microwaves. Learn more about Chamba care and use.

4. Bordered in brilliant cobalt blue, these delightful tumblers bring a festive touch to any table setting.

 

Happy shopping, friends! Thanks for continuing to use your purchasing power for good! And as always, let us know if you make a purchase!

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One Mango Tree: Perfect summer shorts and other favorites!

My very first taste of fair trade, artisan-made clothing was from a little company known as One Mango Tree.  When that chili red mini dress showed up in my mailbox with a cute little tag about the ladies that sewed it, I was immediately addicted!

ImageAbout 2 years and countless fair trade purchases later, I still think of OMT first when I’m in need of something new to wear!

One Mango Tree is a sewing co-op in Northern Uganda that seeks to empower men and women there with vocational skills that they can use to gain employment and provide for their families.

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There’s nothing like owning a piece of clothing that you know was handmade by someone and stitched with love!  And knowing that your purchase is improving the lives of others?  Even better.

ImageMy current favorite OMT piece is my Shirred Tunic, which I bought at AmaniDC!  I’ve been wearing this constantly because it looks great with leggings for cooler weather, or without when it’s warmer.  The shirring is super flattering and the organic cotton is so comfy!

ImageAnd of course, One Mango Tree looks great with Noonday Collection accessories!  Noonday has collaborated with OMT several times on different pieces.  Our heart and mission lines up perfectly: using fashion and design to create opportunity in Uganda and all over the world!

ImageIf you happen to live in the Washington DC area (or if you’re visiting), make sure to check out AmaniDC‘s store for lots of OMT clothes and plenty of other fair trade items from Africa!  The word on the street is that they have exclusive new OMT shorts in stock!  I need to get over there to check it out and report back.

I practically live in the two pairs of One Mango Tree shorts that I own right now!  They’re perfect for summer because they’re lightweight and colorful.

I asked my “little” sister to help me out with photos:

ImageThe fabric is locally sourced from markets in Uganda and is so unique- you won’t see everyone else in town in the same shorts!

ImagePlus? Both pairs are on SALE right now!  No excuse not to start your summer off right with some new fair trade clothes!

In style & love,

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My “why”: a story from Haiti

The irony of the moment hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was standing in my old office, complete with a three piece solid wood desk and stacks of blueprints, just the way I’d left it the day I went into labor with my first child 7 years ago.  But instead of sporting slacks, a collared shirt, and a hard hat, I was wearing lipstick, a dress, cute flats from South America, and carrying an armful of lookbooks to show off the accessories I sell.

That’s when I knew I was completely “off my rocker.”

What in the world is this former-engineer doing selling JEWELRY and writing for a fashion blog??  My old coworkers were really curious (I was there to have lunch with them).  “Don’t you miss being an engineer?”  They told me I could come back anytime.  

But the thing is… I have something burning up inside of me now.  Sometimes I feel like my hair is standing on end, and my heart is about to burst, and I have to unclinch my fists because I sense a calling and a purpose for my life and I can’t ignore it.  Maybe I could go back to being an engineer.  But the whole time I’d be thinking about artisans in far off countries…

I hear the statement from friends and family often: “Wow, you’re really passionate about this fair trade stuff!”

So I thought I might tell you a little bit of my “WHY.”

You might say it started when I jumped on board as an ambassador for Noonday Collection in the fall of 2012.  Or when I witnessed life in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa shortly after.  But really, the turning point for me was during a trip to Haiti, in August 2013.

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A group of 9 of us showed up to volunteer at a creche (orphanage) that was founded by an amazing couple from Arizona.  We didn’t know a lot about what we’d be doing that week; we just showed up with hands and hearts open to whatever was needed.

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While digging a drainage trench for a new soccer field, cleaning out an old storage room, and painting the walls, we learned about the history of the creche and more about life in Haiti.  The sad and undeniable truth is that when Americans (and others) swoop in and open up an orphanage with clean water, food, education, and clothing for the children inside, many children who show up on the doorstep are not orphans at all.

“The vast majority of Haiti’s “orphans” have not been orphaned by parental deaths, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods, but are children of living parents who gave them up simply because they knew that an orphanage could feed their child.”

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One day I will remember forever is the day that we saw a family at the creche that had given up their son about a year ago.  They traveled a long way to attend a court appointment… just one step in a lengthy process to relinquish their parental rights to their child forever.

Can you even imagine?  If you’re a parent, you are probably thinking “I would never do that!”  The thought of turning my child over to someone else makes my stomach turn.  And yet, it’s true that I would do anything for my children… to keep them safe, to feed them when they’re hungry, to keep them healthy and alive.  We’ve never experienced hunger.  We have no idea what that’s like.  Who am I to judge.

I will never forget looking at that family and seeing them light up when their child walked in the room and seeing their smiles when they saw how happy (and well fed) he was.  I remember thinking, “THEY BELONG TOGETHER!”


As wonderful as it is that this boy is being well cared for by this creche, and will soon be with parents in the United States that will love him forever, families should stay together


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I kept wondering, “what would it take for them to be able to care for this child?”  We could have easily handed them a couple hundred dollars right then and there.  But money runs out.  Kids need to be fed and educated (school is not free in Haiti) and they need clothes and they need healthcare… for almost 18 years.  What the parents need is not a donation here or there… they need a JOB.  And jobs are what are seriously lacking in Haiti and in other developing countries.  

The very next day, we witnessed just one of Chances for Children‘s solutions to this growing problem.  A group of women gathered together to receive their monthly paycheck for participation in an artisan group.  These women brought their children… and their smiles!  I have to be honest, we didn’t see a lot of adults smiling on the streets of Haiti.  Their faces seemed hardened and sad for the most part.  But in that room, it was all joy!  They had worked hard rolling little beads from paper and stringing them into necklaces, bracelets, and key chains to be sold in the US and at our guesthouse.  To see them gather together with such happiness… it was more than my heart could take!  We were all sobbing happy tears right along with them!

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Imagine what this means to them: I have a job.  I can feed my child.  I can take him to the doctor when he’s sick.  I can send him to school.  Our family can stay together.  They are beating the odds in Haiti.

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This is why my heart feels like it’s on fire and I can’t sleep at night.  I’m soaking it all in and pondering over it in my head and wondering what else can I do to improve the lives of those living in Haiti and elsewhere??

I will do everything I can to help keep kids out of orphanages and keep families together.  I will stand up for artisans who are working so hard to make a living, because I know that these jobs are their only hope.

I can’t fix poverty with the money in my pockets.  No one can, really.  But as Americans, we spend a LOT of money and if we’re shelling it out, we might as well direct it where it can do GOOD.

My goal, and my mission, and my passion is to bring awareness.  To connect you with artisan groups and fair trade companies who are empowering their community through employment.  I’m so thankful to Brandi for letting me be a part of this blog and for giving me an outlet for the thoughts that keep me up at night.

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Thank you so much for journeying with us and for changing one life at a time through your fair trade purchases!

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In Style & Love,

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postscript: The artisan group that works at C4C just opened up a boutique in Haiti, introduced a new brand name, received uniforms, and is about to launch a new website!  I’ll have a follow-up post in a few weeks with info on their products and how to order!

 

Symbology: a token for Mom

Hey my fellow fair trade loving friends, I have a confession…  I haven’t bought a single thing for Mother’s Day. Have you? Procrastinators UNITE! We’ll be hard pressed to get anything exceptional in time given that most awesome stuff has to be mailed. That’s my experience anyway. But I did talk with Marissa, of Symbology Clothing fame, today, and she had some ideas for us.

Symbology just released their Spring/Summer line a week and a half ago. I went to the launch party in Chapel Hill. It was so awesome to see all of her fabulous new pieces – and some Fall sneak peeks too. (Of course, I couldn’t leave without buying a tank… you know, for blog/research purposes.)

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Who doesn’t just L-O-V-E cobalt blue? I might be slightly obsessed this season. This tank is perfect with my TRC peep toe flats. Add gold hand block print? You’ve got a real winner here.

 So there are other tanks to chose from. I got a small. They aren’t “fitted” so they’re pretty forgiving. There are some other tops – some are from their new collection – that I really love… the tunic and the button up below are fab! And perfect colors for this season.

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I can always shop for myself… never have a problem identifying what I might want, but what about dear old mom? I don’t know a single mama who isn’t a fan of scarves and Symbology has some great ones. Here are some of my favorites. One is even on sale! For $34… use the following ways to save, and you could get it for $24. AND? Symbology ships PRIORITY mail and Marissa is going to do her best to get items mailed in time to get there for Mother’s day (you have like 1-2 days at best to get on the stick, though!)

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To treat yourself and/or your mom, head over to symbology’s site and shop. Here’s some ways to save:

> You can get a $10 gift card for answering a few questions for market research. Marissa really wants to know more from her target market – socially conscientious shoppers just like you! It’s a 5 minute survey and it’s kinda fun! (I was a little stumped when it asked me what bands/musicians were my fave. I seriously wanted to just put in my pandora stations.)

> Shop to your heart’s content and get $15 off your order of $50 by using code “iheartmama” at checkout or “lovemum” for $20 off $100 orders.

> Click this photo below and order your Mama a $50 e-gift card (shh… it’s our little secret that you only pay $35!) This is the perfect gift for all procrastinators. You can either print out the e-gift card and put it in the card you hand to her, mail to her. Or you can let Symbology know to email it directly to your Mama. Win/Win, my friends.

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Have fun and enjoy those mamas, and those who are like your mama, by empowering mamas in India with sustainable work at a living wage.

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Viva la revolucion – the Fashion Revolution, that is

Today, April 24, 2014, is the first anniversary of the factory collapse in Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and today, we’re sounding the call to revolution: a Fashion Revolution. It’s a peaceful one, but the revolt is real – and I mean that in every sense of the word. (The following story is somewhat fabricated by me based on information obtained from this article from PeopleTree, a UK based brand of sustainable, fair trade style. Selina is a real victim of the collapse.  I tried to envision what it must have been like for her as a mother and worker when she knew there were risks to her continuing to work in Rana Plaza.)

April 23, 2013

I wonder what’s next? The factory fire that killed over 100 just months ago and now I’m very concerned about cracks in the wall at my job in the Rana Plaza Factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inspection teams discovered cracks (that we’ve all known were there) in the structure of Rana Plaza today. Shops and a bank branch on the lower floors immediately closed. But the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors ordered employees to work

My name is Selina. I have worked long enough in the Rana factory to have saved 20,000 Bangladeshi taka (roughly $250). It has taken a long while to accumulate that money. I am hopeful that it would help provide for my son, Bizroy, in the event that something happens to me. It is our job as his parents to ensure his future is bright, but I know that 20,000 taka will not go very far. It is all we have, so I pray that it will suffice.

The majority of garment workers in Bangladesh earn little more than the minimum wage, set at 3,000 taka a month (approximately $38), far below what is considered a living wage, calculated at 5,000 taka a month (approximately $64), which would be the minimum required to provide a family with shelter, food and education.  – www.waronwant.org

My husband and I both work at the factory making garments for people we’ll never know. There must be a lot of people, with an even bigger need for clothing, judging by the sheer number of pieces we sew and assemble. Our lives have been hard, but no harder than that of those around us. At least we have each other, our son, and our extended family, and I’m not forced to sell my body to provide for our family.

As well as earning a pittance, Bangladeshi factory workers face appalling conditions. Many are forced to work 14-16 hours a day seven days a week, with some workers finishing at 3am only to start again the same morning at 7.30am. On top of this, workers face unsafe, cramped and hazardous conditions which often lead to work injuries and factory fires. – www.waronwant.org

I have been worried about the crack in the building we work in. It’s quite large and many workers have shared their worry about it as well. Some have even declined to work in protest. But what can we do… We don’t work? We do not get paid. We don’t get paid? We do not eat. There is no one with surplus to offer help. We are all in the same boat.

There are more than 4,800 factories and 3.5 million people employed in the Bangladeshi garment industry, producing cheap clothes under appalling working conditions for major UK and international brands. Women account for 85% of the textile work force and are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. The garment industry accounts for 80% of Bangladesh’s export revenue and is the fourth largest exporter of garments in the world. – www.waronwant.org

Sometimes I wish I could put a note in the shirts I sew. That somehow all the people who wear them could know I made their shirt. That I could tell them about my son. That I could tell them what my life is like and I wish to know what their life is like. Their clothing is quite different from ours, I bet their lives are too. Maybe some day these people will know. Maybe they will have a window into this factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Maybe they will see that crack in the wall and fix it…


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source: A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

On April 24, 2013, that large crack in the wall of the factory in Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, finally yielded to the pressure and collapsed, claiming the lives of 1,133 workers. Selina was trapped for 4 days in the rubble and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital shortly after her rescue. Her son, Bizroy, is now a double orphan, meaning that both parents have died. His father also passed away in the factory collapse, although even with DNA testing, authorities were never able to identify his remains. Bizroy is now being raised by his grandmother, and that 20,000 taka is helping provide for him. He is still in school, although at a cheaper one. His grandmother is managing with the help of her sister and daughters.

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Bizroy with his grandmother, Razi, holding photos of his mother and father. Source: Miki Alcalde/PeopleTree

And here we are today, one year after so many lost their lives so we can enjoy a closet full of inexpensive, practically disposable, clothes. I’m as guilty as the next person. Old habits die hard and I’ve found myself perusing racks of clothing that I am certain were not made ethically. (how can you know?) But today serves as a reminder: The clothing in my closet is not worth dying for. I wouldn’t risk my life for it, so I shouldn’t expect anyone else to, at any point up the supply chain, either. We’re like addicts only instead of looking for our fix to inject, we’re looking for a fast fix to wear. My challenge to you, and for myself, is to question “WHO made our clothes?” and to strive to stop the cycle because we can:

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And today, join us in wearing your shirt #insideout in raising awareness and encouraging more questions. Take a selfie and tag the company who made your clothes with the question “Who makes our clothes?” and tag @fash_rev too. Post to twitter, Instagram, etc. Let’s start a revolution for accountability and ethical and clean supply chain management. No one should die so we can have cheap, landfill clothes.

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The window has been opened, friends. We’ve seen the cost of our fast fashion fix. Our demand for more, but cheaper is doing no one and no thing any good.

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¡Viva la revolucion!

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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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