Introducing Findlay || Minimal, Sustainable, Elegant

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I’ve written before that bags seem to be the “gateway drug” for easing into sustainable shopping. They’re easier to integrate into your pre-existing wardrobe, don’t require as much planning, and, not surprisingly, there are lots of incredible brands making ethically made handbags. I’ve written about my fair share this year, but I wanted to wrap up 2018 with a post celebrating a newly launched brand that I believe in wholeheartedly and think you just might too.

Findlay officially launched in November with a Kickstarter campaign that highlights their minimal aesthetic, elegant design, and versatile function. I’ve been lucky enough to test out their Combo Crossbody Clutch before they officially “hit the market” and, also not surprisingly, I can’t get enough.

The Story

Findlay is the brainchild of Andrea, who fell in love with leather for it’s durability and quality. Her story is similar to many other brand owners and designers — as she struggled to find a bag that would transition well through all the hats she wore, she decided to try her hand at designing her own. Andrea designs and produces all of her totes in Los Angeles using vegetable tanned leather from an ethical factory in Italy.

Sustainability

Currently, only 10% of the world’s leather is tanned with tannins from tree bark and plants. This process, called Vegetable Tanning, is free from the harmful chemicals of Chrome tanning and is an “artisanal process” that’s safer for the environment, the workers, and the consumer.

Findlay’s bags are also lined with organic cotton — a feature that, I believe, increases the elegance and functionality of the bags while prioritizing eco-friendly materials.

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Quality

Of course, with the materials mentioned above, Findlay’s products can be nothing but beautiful. I’ve had quite a few leather bags in my day and I’m still amazed at how each one is different. Findlay’s leather is sturdy, not floppy, with a gorgeous sheen that will wear well with time. The lining of the bag gives it an air of class and makes it perfect to dress up or dress down. I could just as easily wear my Combo Crossbody Clutch to a New Years Eve party as I could to preschool pickup.

Giving Back

Don’t stop now, because Findlay gets even better. As tempting as being one of the first to test their bags was, I was hesitant to accept this partnership because I’ve reviewed several other leather goods brands this year and didn’t want to appear repetitive or overly consumerist. I’ve even turned down other partnerships for the same reasons. But, when I read about Findlay’s mission, I realized the timing was perfect, and I’m so proud of the steps this newly launched brand is taking already to make an impact.

10% of all of Findlay’s proceeds go to non-profits in the LA area committed to ending human trafficking locally. With Dressember coming to a close, it’s an honor to highlight a brand who will continue to contribute to rescuing survivors, making a livelihood for victims, and funding the operations who make it possible.

Andrea told me that this focus on social justice is integral to Findlay’s business structure and it’s so exciting to see a brand prioritizing not only ethics when it comes to eco-friendliness and worker safety, but when it comes to using their business to contribute to a matter so close to my heart as well.

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It’s possible to find a brand that produces with eco-friendly materials. It’s also possible to find one that designs with minimalism and functionality in mind. It’s even possible to find brands who give back.

But a brand who does all three? That’s something worth supporting.

You can shop Findlay’s first collection of bags on their Kickstarter campaign until December 29 — after that, the prices will increase, so don’t wait too long. Each sale from their campaign will support their full production launch and, trust me, these bags are worth getting your hands on.

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*Thank you to Findlay for sponsoring this post (I don’t take it lightly when newly launched brands put their faith - and budget - in influencer marketing) — as always, all thoughts, photos, and opinions are my own.

Outdoor photos were taken by Shutter Story Photography.*


Outfit details: Striped top (Elegance Restored), Dress (Sotela — designed by me and Emily!), Booties (Adelante Shoes), White tee (The Great Beyond).

Building a Versatile Closet || Why I Shop Beyond My Current Body and Style

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We all know the feeling. Facing a full closet that somehow seems empty. You, once again, have nothing to wear in spite of a wardrobe smashed full of pieces you’ve spent years collecting. So you toss on the same thing you wore yesterday, or pull together an outfit that makes you feel at least a little bit “you” and walk out the door, feeling unsatisfied and, probably, discontent with more than just your ootd.

Familiar, yes?

If you’re one of the few who has never experienced discontent with your closet (you may be a goddess or a mythical creature, because I really doubt than any mere mortal has ever escaped this discontent), it’s probably the fault of one of two reasons: you have an unlimited budget and closet space OR you’ve masted the art of versatility.

Although I don’t claim to be a closet goddess, I have learned a few things about minimizing the “empty closet phenomenon” and building a wardrobe I really love. The first, most important, golden rule to me will always be versatility.

A Case for Versatility

Unless you’re Marie Kondo herself, it’s nearly impossible for every piece in your wardrobe to seamlessly flow together. But versatility is one of the most important keys for getting the most out of your closet and, if you want to, minimizing it as a whole.

Although it’s pretty self-explanatory, I think of a “versatile piece” as one that flows between multiple outfits and occasions. It’s a piece that fits you throughout each month and season, as your lifestyle changes and as your body evolves. It’s a piece that lives your life along with you.

The definition is simple, but finding truly versatile pieces isn’t.

Here are a few reasons why I believe versatility is so important to consider when buying a new piece:

1. Your clothes will fit you as your body changes

  • This means less “maternity shopping” and no “period clothes”.

2. Your clothes will transition from season to season

3. You can shop less and live more


How to Build a Versatile Closet

A few “rules” to consider as you build a thoughtful, cohesive wardrobe:

  1. Can I mix and match this piece with more than 50% of what I already own?

  2. Will this piece fit me on an “off day” or if my body fluctuates?

  3. Does this piece make me feel like myself?

  4. Can I travel in this piece or style it for multiple occasions?

  5. Will it fit into my real lifestyle?

If the answer to most of these questions is “yes” then you’ve found yourself a versatile gem.

What building a versatile closet isn’t.

Slow fashion often gets a bad rap for being boring or “potato sack”-ish. Although there are definitely more than enough oversized, beige pieces to go around (I proudly own several), versatility isn’t chalked up to being lifeless or blah.

The key is finding pieces that feel versatile within your personal style. This might mean a lot of neutrals and beige. Or, it might mean pattern mixing and bright colors and fun silhouettes. As long as you’re shopping with versatility in mind, you don’t have to limit yourself to pieces that don’t have personality.


One brand that I’ll refer you to over and over for truly mastering the art of versatility is Encircled. I’ve worked with them before and am excited to say you’ll be seeing quite a bit of them on these virtual pages over the next few months.

In case you missed my first post, Encircled is a Canadian brand creating staple pieces with the traveling woman in mind. Each of their pieces is so incredibly versatile — many can be worn multiple ways and all are designed with the “rules” above in mind.

I’m wearing one of their most versatile in this post and, unless you know ahead of time, you probably can’t even tell that it’s the same piece.

Encircled’s Chrysalis Cardi — dress, scarf, cardigan, shirt, all in one.

Although I’ve only styled it two of the many ways in this post, the fact that I can wear my scarf as a dress, layered over and under pieces, as a jacket layer, as a beachy summer dress, or (as I’ll be doing lots in the future) as a nursing cover, is pretty staggering. Encircled shows 8 total ways to style the Cardi on their website, but I’m convinced there are even more options!

I’ll be taking this piece on our Babymoon next month to test it out while travelling AND to wear as a warm weather dress that works for a growing baby bump (the wrap dress and Grecian tunic styles are my favorite bump-friendly styles).

Now, let’s see if the Chrysalis Cardi meets my requirements for versatility:

  1. Can I mix and match this piece with more than 50% of what I already own?

    • Easily. The fabric, color, and multi-wear style makes it insanely easy to throw on with just about any outfit.

  2. Will this piece fit me on an “off day” or if my body fluctuates?

    • Yep. I specifically chose it with my continually changing pregnant (and post-pregnant) body in mind.

  3. Does this piece make me feel like myself?

    • Of course. I feel most “at home” in comfortable, flattering, and “live-able” pieces.

  4. Can I travel in this piece or style it for multiple occasions?

    • Oh yes.

  5. Will it fit into my real lifestyle?

    • And yes.

Clearly, Encircled knows what they're up to when it comes to designing pieces that give women more options without over-stocking their closet.

This piece is just a small sampling of the many that Encircled offers designed with versatility and real women in mind.

And best of all — you still have time to get an order in before their holiday shipping deadline hits! Any order placed before December 14th will arrive in time for Christmas and, just kidding, this is best of all — you can get free shipping with the code HOLIDAYSHIP18.

Now, let’s get real for a second. Tell me how your closet currently ranks on the “versatility scale” and let’s make a plan to get it where you want it to be!


*This post is part of an ongoing ambassador partnership with Encircled. All opinions, photos, and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible!*

Handbags that Elevate Entire Communities

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Storytelling is in my blood, it’s at the core of who I am and, in a strange, roundabout way, it’s become my job. Telling the stories of brands who are adding to the global movement of responsible consumerism. Telling their stories because they deserve to be told. Telling their stories because they’re so much more valuable than a positive “blog review”. Story is what drew me to the ethical fashion space in the first place — once I realized that each piece I bought and put on my body either told a story of exploitation and unfairness or one of beauty and hope, I couldn’t stop telling the stories of these trailblazing brands. I wanted everyone to know that there are better options. And so this space, in my mind, functions as an online collection of stories, a virtual library of brands who are making the world healthier and happier.

Today’s edition is about a brand who, very quickly, grew very close to my heart for several reasons.

Elevate’s name doesn’t leave room for speculation — they’re upfront about what they’ve set out to do: lift people up through job creation and business development. Tucked away in an unassuming Nebraska town, Elevate sells handmade leather goods made by artisans in communities all over the world where they work with locals to develop leadership programs and, eventually, full fledged businesses.

I have a sweet spot in my heart for Midwestern brands. I lived in central Nebraska until I was 10, only a few hours where Elevate has their headquarters. The sense of home, community, belonging, and slow captured across endless landscape and small towns packed with rich history. In a way, it will always feel like home. And in urban settings where the rush of inspiration and convenience of connection is rampant, finding brands doing amazing things isn’t uncommon, in rural Nebraska, however, where resources for socially conscious businesses are limited and it can be hard to convince communities to think outside their tradition, it’s something worth celebrating.

I see so much worth celebrating about Elevate.

Their Process

Instead of setting themselves up as “saviors” coming to employ the locals in the communities they work in, Elevate sets up long term programs, with locals as the true leaders. People are at the heart of their mission — they seek to understand the true needs of these communities and their worldviews, not imposing their own ideals where’re better left at home.

Their mentor program is meant to draw out the leaders in each community, giving them the opportunity for business ownership. The business training can take six months to a year to complete, with the opportunity to accept a small low-interest loan upon completion. These small businesses create jobs for others in the community and their leather products are sold both locally and to the global market.

It’s a sustainable, measurable method that is setup to create long lasting change in the communities where Elevate operates.

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Their Products

Elevate creates a wide-range of (really, really) high quality products for all budgets. Each and every one of their pieces are exquisite and designed to last a lifetime - from their briefcase messenger bags, to their totes and backpacks, to their belts, journal covers, and wallets.

I have their Mid-Sized Zipper Tote in camel (because I can never choose anything besides camel) and it’s the perfect middle-of-the-road option between my large ABLE tote and my small leather clutch. It has interior pockets perfect for holding phones and wallets, and a spacious main compartment for a laptop, planner, or a daily stash of diapers. It can either be worn as a cross-body or as a shoulder bag — I usually leave the cross-body strap attached because I like having options.

Their pieces would make the perfect keepsake gift for anyone on your list, or of course, the perfect addition to your own closet built for real life that won’t wear out from heavy use.

You can use the code “Olivia10” for 10% off your purchase!

Elevate is truly a brand to put high on your go-to list — their mission is making a real impact and their products are build to last. What more could you ask for?


* Thank you to Elevate for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions, photos, and words are my own*

One Dress, 31 Days || Introducing the Avery Dress

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I’m the furthest thing from a fashion designer. Oddly, I don’t even think of myself as a “fashion blogger” because I still feel like I’m figuring out my personal style as I go. I don’t know what makes the “perfect” piece. I don’t know how to source fabric, or where to put seams, or how to ensure a design works on multiple bodies.

But somehow, here I am. Wearing a dress that I helped create. For 31 straight days.

Everyone, I’d like you to meet Avery. She’s the dress I’ll be wearing all December long while I raise awareness for human trafficking with Dressember. (To read more of what Dressember is, why it’s effective, and why I choose to join in, read this post).

One dress, one full month, countless ways to style it.

I haven’t always been this crazy, don’t worry. Several years of Dressember under my belt (this year is my fourth), a shared inspiration with my sweet friend Emily of A Day Pack, and a desire to make this year a little different was the push I needed to make a month of dresses even more intense by limiting myself to one dress.

Here’s the story of The Avery Slip Dress, because, friends, I’m so excited and so proud that this actually happened.

Emily and I co-led a Dressember team last year. We’ve both done the challenge for several years and, aside from the privilege it is to raise awareness about an issue so close to both of our hearts, we both love the challenge of wearing dresses for a full month. Challenging my closet’s versatility, my own creativity, and yes sometimes, sanity, has become a highlight of each winter.

This year though, as we were chatting over the summer, we decided to try something we’d never done before.

We decided to wear a single dress all month long, because if we could do it, anyone could. One of the most common reasons for not participating in the movement is because people feel limited by their closet or think that wearing one or two or three dresses all month long isn’t possible. Allow us to prove that it is ;) (You can see an example of a previous “Dressember Capsule” where I wore five dresses here for added inspiration).

The problem was, neither of us owned a dress that felt like “the one” we’d want to wear for a full month. Nothing versatile enough. Nothing comfortable enough.

We chatted about what our “ideal dress” would be and, coincidentally, we both had the EXACT same vision for the dress. A midi-length, rib knit, shift dress, perfect for layering and accommodating changing bodies.

Now all we needed was someone to agree to make it for us.

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Enter Hanna.

Hanna is the founder and badass one-woman-show behind Sotela. If you’ve stuck around over the past few years, you’ll know that her brand is one of my all time favorites and I’ve been lucky enough to partner with her lots over the years.

We pitched the idea of designing a “Dressember Dress” for us earlier this summer, half expecting her to say she was too busy or that the idea wasn’t possible.

We underestimated the woman though, because she was as enthusiastic as we were and took our design and literally made it come to life. Hanna had access to an organic ribbed cotton, offered to dye it black, and one sample later, we had the Avery Slip Dress.

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And the best part?

YOU can buy the dress too. We intentionally designed the dress to fit a wide range of body types without being form fitting. The fabric is perfect for baby bumps (lucky me), holiday food babies, bloat from period week, and everything in between. Layer over and under it with ease. Add heels for a night out, or flats for an easy at-home outfit. It’s the most versatile design we could think of (oh, and it’s reversible). We hope you love it as much as we do.

No, you don’t have to wear it all December long (although we’d love it if you joined us!). You don’t have to participate in Dressember to buy the dress. However, Hanna has generously agreed to donate a portion of the sales from the Avery Dress to Dressember during the month of December, so if you’re interested in the dress, your purchase can have twice the impact if your order it sooner rather than later.

It’s been so much fun bringing this dress to life and I can’t wait to see it on real women, during Dressember and beyond.

Click here to order the Avery Slip Dress.

Click here to join our Dressember team.

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All photos by my sweet sister-in-law and owner of Shutter Story Photography.

When "World Changing" Is Just Another Buzz Word (And How to Combat It)

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I’ve been sharing about incredible brands here for a while. Brands who literally change lives. Brands who, through quiet and beautiful production, make the world a safer, healthier place. Brands who aren’t afraid to do big things to help those in need. Brands who shouldn’t be taken lightly.

And after several years of sharing brand after brand, I can tend to have a “dumbed down” perspective of just how important the work these brands are doing is. Another brand that combats trafficking. Another brand that uses upcycled material. Another brand that employs at-risk women.

Is my privilege showing yet?

I know about the issues, but I’m not directly affected by most of them. I’ve never employed a woman fleeing for her life. I’ve never known the struggle of choosing to take a stand and use eco-friendly materials, or not use plastic in production. I’ve never traveled to far off villages to learn the art forms passed down from generation to generation in hopes to capture something similar for consumes in the West. And I don’t think most of us have.

When I feel myself loosing my “awe”, I slow down. I reevaluate why I write here and why I’ve decided to make a living out of showcasing brands who make the world a little better.

I don’t think I’m alone here. The echo of amazing, humanitarian, eco-friendly, ethical brand reverberating over and over again can warrant a quick applause and appreciation for beauty without much thought or action afterwards.

But I never want this space to become a numbed review of products. I never want to stop feeling the weight of what the brands I partner with accomplish (paired with my own inability to fully comprehend it). And I want the same for you, the people who choose to come here because you know fashion can/should be better.

So, when I brag about a brand, let’s feel the weight of what they’re doing in an industry that pushes against it. And let’s support that.

Which leads me to today’s brand. An offshoot of a non-profit organization doing truly astounding things in the lives of women whose options are sorely limited.

Meet Darzah

“Darzah” is the Arabic word for “stitch”. It symbolizes the literal process of embroidering product and also the journey each woman takes to arrive within Darzah’s safe walls. A part of A Child’s Cup Full, Darzah employs refugee women in northern West Bank, in an area where unemployment rates for women can be as high as 63%.

Employing women seems like a non-issue to those of us who live where we have easy access to jobs, don’t face blatant discrimination daily, and who haven’t had to literally flee for our lives. But for these women who A Child’s Cup Full employs, the opposite is their reality. These women have had to fight for themselves and their families and when a woman doesn’t have access to a job, the alternatives aren’t pretty.

Darzah teaches these women artisans how to embroider stunning and traditional Palestinian designs on locally sourced leather from a family-owned supplier. These designs, called “Tatreez” embroidery, are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter, a beautiful (and literal) symbol of the new lives these women are walking into.

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These words, “employing women”, “local supplier”, “refugee”, “traditional techniques”…let them hit you. Let them sink a little bit deeper than they have before.

These are the brands that are changing the world, one life, one embroidered pair of shoes, at a time. And I hope we never forget the weight of that.

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*Thank you Darzah for sharing your story with me and sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions, creative direction, and photos are my own.*