This one has nothing to do with fashion…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey fair trade fashionistas!

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

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all photos by Chelsea Hudson Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More braided straps and pops of color:

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

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

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

In style & love,

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Fair trade : when Love hijacks your shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In style & love,

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End of Summer {Fair Trade} SALES!

Well hello fair trade fashion fans!

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

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

Sseko 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!

 

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