I grew up in a blue collar family. One down side to that is that I sometimes had “made especially for me” clothing – made by my mom and grandma. On the plus side, is that sometimes those clothes were actually fashionable! But I am so excited to share THIS handmade clothing today! It’s one of my new favorite fair trade finds – Symbology Clothing. Y’all, I’ve never purchased one-of-a-kind, handmade clothing before. And this is some pretty spectacular stuff. The artisans in India who make the fabric (their wool and silk pieces are even hand woven!) use a hand carved stamp and block print the fabric by hand. This video is a quick and fun watch on the stamp carving and block printing. (there is music so if you’re at work, you might want to hit mute.)
I was so pleasantly surprised to find fair trade fashion in my by own backyard! Symbology is local to the Raleigh/Durham area of NC. It was founded by Marissa Heyl, an Anthropologist-turned-fashion maven who fuses handmade artisan fabrics from developing countries with fashion-forward designs–or as she puts it (which I love!) “fair trade made sexy.” Heyl’s inspiration to start Symbology Clothing developed from her research as a 2006 Mahatma Gandhi Fellow, in which she researched how fair trade empowers craftswomen in India. Every piece has two tags. Each tag proclaims:
Who doesn’t want to buy clothes like this?
Fashionable, well made, and inspiring change, especially in an area of the world where the mainstream garment factories don’t offer much hope and the only story you’re likely wearing is a sad one.
I was looking for some fair trade pieces to add to my wardrobe for a special occasion. I’d learned about Symbology earlier this year. And then I went to One World Market, Durham’s only non-profit fair trade store. I met some new BFFs, and found this amazing Symbology wrap dress there! It runs true to size and is lined in some pretty fabulous raspberry colored fabric. You’ll get a peek at that right here:
Want to know what I found will knock about 30+ years off?
Put on a full skirted wrap dress and spin! My 4 year old daughter gasped when she saw this.
This fabulous dress is also on Symbology’s site on sale! And so are some other great pieces. I tried the shift dresses, but they are a little short for my taste (and age… and marital status…)
So, you know that human thing that most of us have? You get something you like and you want more? Yeah. That happened here. After I got my dress, I was all excited and trolled back on their site, and I saw their preorder for tunics. I love me a good comfy tunic! I had a bit of a deadline, so I emailed Marissa. She was only on the other. side. of the world. and wrote back super quick! The tunics were on their way stateside and I could arrange to meet with her assistant. Who gives this kind of customer service?? So on July 4th, I posted this picture to Instagram. (if you don’t follow me there, you should. I’m way more faithful there than here on the blog)
This is my new friend, Epiphany. I love my fellow fair trade fashionistas! See all the loveliness there? It was almost IMPOSSIBLE to pick a favorite. And Symbology also has some of the most beautiful scarves ever! The colors are so saturated on crepe-like fabric. That pic in the lower right is the HAND CARVED STAMP that the artisans use for this silk paisley top.
And this is how I wore the vibrant red elephant tunic. I LOVE it!! It’s seriously my favorite item in my closet right now.
Here’s a few different accessories – sans belt!
There you have it fashionistas! An amazing find in the fair trade clothing world. In addition to making fair trade “sexy,” Symbology also offers free returns and exchanges (another example of excellent customer service!) and they invest 3% of every Symbology purchase towards Sewa Mahila Vikas, a women-run microfinance group that empowers artisans to manage their own orders and finances. That’s an awesome way to use your purchasing power for good. And there’s nothing more fashionable than that.
In style and love.