D. Franca Designs || Handmade Bags On A Mission to Empower

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In last months handbag round up, you may remember a quick introduction to a brand I’ve been familiarizing myself with over the past few months. D. Franca Designs, a brand birthed in Italy with roots all over the world, created the gorgeous cross-body bag I’m so excited to showcase today.

In early September, I drove to a little town in between Winter Park and Denver to meet Diana, the founder, designer, CEO, and one-woman show behind the brand. We chatted over coffee in a tiny local cafe in Idaho Springs about her background, why she started sewing, what led her to Italy, and more. At the end of our visit, she gifted me with this sweet bag, packaged inside a reusable canvas tote.

The bag, that I’ve loved using ever since that day, was completely handmade by Diana. She stitched each zipper and seam, each pattern/leather/metal closure handpicked with care. As are all of D. Franca Design’s bags.

That kind of attention to detail and thoughtful curation to hand-make a full line of products is something I can’t relate to and, in the same vein, don’t take lightly. Diana could have just as easily chosen cheaply made fabric from an untraceable supplier, or outsourced her sewing to someone working for low wages, but she didn’t. Instead, she spent time sourcing the perfect fabric and leather, landing on a handwoven striped fabric woven by artisans in India, and of course, sewing the bags by hand in her home studio in Italy.

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In addition to designing thoughtful bags with a beautiful story, Diana has plans to extend the impact of her business, through hiring her first employee. She recently met a young refugee, relocated to Italy, and looking for work through the Sew Cooperative in Rome, and has plans to teach him how to sew her bag designs, building on his sewing skills.

She admitted to me during our chat that sharing her designs with someone for the first time was daunting and hard work, but eventually, she hopes to be able to hire a team and expand her business even further.

Businesses like D. Franca Designs are the small startups that make me excited to support slow fashion. Every step of the way, from design, to sourcing, to sewing the bags themselves is a slow, thoughtful, beautiful process that gives me hope for the future of fashion.

You can shop D. Franca’s first collection, Mesoamerican Stripes, on their website, or on Overstock!


*This post is part of a long term partnership between D. Franca Designs and Simply Liv & Co. All thoughts and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this site possible!*

A Sustainable Denver Staycation

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I’ve never lived in Denver, but for most of my life, I’ve lived a few hours outside of it, tucked away in a cozy mountain town that truly is my happy place. The proximity to the “Mile High City”, however, isn’t something I take for granted though. As one of the quickest growing cities in the country, Denver has no shortage of things to do and places to see. But, since I’ll likely never get around to seeing them all or doing them all, I’ve recently begun looking for businesses, restaurants, cafes, and shops that prioritize sustainability.

Last month, for my birthday week, AJ and I had a full weekend away to visit some of the places I’d been researching for our little “Sustainable Denver Staycation” and although we barely scratched the surface of all that Denver has to offer, these recommendations are based on our trip there and a few other gems we’ve discovered over the years.


To Stay:

Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Downtown Denver

When we go to Denver, we typically just drive home after a full day or, when needed, stay with friends. But this time, I decided to go all out and research hotels with high ratings for sustainability and treat the trip like a true tourist. Hotel Monaco, one of Kimpton’s two Denver locations, was sweet enough to accommodate us for a night and it truly made the "Staycation” a dream.

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A little bit about the hotel and their sustainability endeavors:

  • Single-use goods like coffee cups, napkins, paper bags, key cards, and the like are all made using recycled materials

  • Waste from the hotel is recycled/composted via commercial centers and in-room recycling bins

  • Reusable mugs/cups/flatware all provided for staff

  • The first hotel brand to become 100% certified by the Green Key Eco-Rating Program

  • Kimpton sources only organic and sustainably made wines from vintners with shared values (we can attest to how tasty their complimentary wine hour is).

  • They don’t offer “to-go” toiletries, instead, have re-fillable containers with organic shampoos, conditioners, and body washes.

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We felt so welcomed and, yes, at home, there. And to sweeten the deal, all of their rooms were recently renovated, giving a very modern sophisticated, yet art deco feel that I couldn’t get enough of.

Thanks so much, Hotel Monaco. We’ll be back soon!


To Eat:

Not surprisingly, when we weren’t at the hotel, we were eating. This little list barely scratches the surface of everything that Denver has to offer in the way of sustainable, farm-to-table eating, but oh my gosh, my belly was happy for two full days.

Rootdown: A forerunner in the farm-to-table movement in Denver, Rootdown (and their several sister locations - even one in DIA for all you passersby) has an incredible, seasonal selection at an approachable price point. The majority of their dishes are made with food grown either in house or locally, their business is entirely wind-powered, and the restaurant as a whole composts or recycles 80% of their waste. Read more about their sustainability efforts here.

Panzano: Located in the first level of Hotel Monaco, Panzano is considered one of “the” happy hour spots in Denver, as well as one of the best sustainable Italian restaurants. Their ingredients are nearly 100% organic and, when possible, locally sourced. They recycle and compost everything that they can and, of course, refrain from using straws and other single use plastics.

The Family Jones: Right next door to Rootdown and, conveniently, partnered with Hotel Monaco to offer guests buy-one-get-one cocktails, The Family Jones was a spontaneous stop before dinner but I’m so glad we tried it out. All of their spirits are made in house and the atmosphere was unique and modern, but so cozy and welcoming.

Mercantile: On my list for a while, Mercantile is located inside Union Station in the heart of Downtown. Mercantile hopes to bridge the “information gap between farmer and consumer” by promoting transparency in each step of the farm to table process. Their breakfast was amazing and they serve locally roasted coffee from Commonwealth.

Little Man Ice Cream: Little Man is designed to pay homage to the whimsy of the 1950’s and it’s a must-stop almost every time we come to town. In every relationship, Little Man seeks to develop long lasting relationships that support local farmers and businesses as well as the 9 countries they donate supplies to as part of their “Scoop for Scoop” model.


To Do:

Again, I can barely scratch the surface of all of the things to do in the Mile High City. These things are just a few of the places I’ve been that support my values.

Jalan Facial Spa: Last year, Aj and I were treated to an afternoon at this spa and it was mind blowing. If you’re looking for a sustainable spa that values organic products and will truly let you relax, book a facial or other service at Jalan Spa.

Denver Botanical Gardens: Supporting conservation all across Denver, the Botanic Gardens have two locations with gardens, tours, art exhibits, and more. There are scheduled free days as well throughout the year, if you plan your trip well.

Denver Center for the Performing Arts: I’ve seen many plays at the Denver Center over the years and they’ve never disappointed. Most recently, Les Miserables made me sob more than anything else ever has.

Cafe Crawl: I could chat Denver coffee with anyone for hours. A growing craft coffee scene with quality coffee and great vibes all over the city, I always hit at least two or three cafes each time I’m in the city. Here are a few stand-by favorites: Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, Jubilee Roasting Co., Amethyst Coffee Co., Little Owl Coffee, Huckleberry Roasters, Middle State Coffee…I could go on, but I won’t. Feel free to message me if you run out of options ;)


Where are your go-to spots in Denver? My list is always growing.

The Bendy Shoe

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As is the case for most industries, ethics isn’t typically at the forefront of many brands’ and consumers’ minds when they create or shop for new shoes. Creating shoes is admittedly more labor intensive than most garment production and, for most conventional shoe brands, convenience and cost trump eco or human-friendliness.

With the peak of fast fashion, shoes followed the trajectory of most other kinds of production. Exploitation, cheap corner cutting, and blind eye turning.


Luckily, there are always the trailblazers and the innovators who choose to look at footwear from a more all-encompassing perspective. They choose to create quality product without putting anyone else (planet or person) at risk. These are the companies I love to support and shed light on.

For decades, Mary Sue and her co-founder have worked in the fashion and footwear space. Their brand Ashbury Skies has always been a little unconventional, supporting small, independent shoe brands on their online retail space, but they haven’t created a product specifically their own, until the release of their newest endeavor: the BENDY Shoe.

They designed a shoe that reduces environmental impact without sacrificing comfort or style. entirely handcrafted in California. The BENDY is made with only four materials - a rubber sole, a front suede leather piece, a back sturdy leather piece, and thread. The shoes are designed to last, and are made with the utmost humanitarian standards.

Not surprisingly, BENDY surpassed its fundraising goal within a few days of launching, but that doesn’t mean that the campaign can’t use more support.

Today, Mary Sue and her co-founder have launched a scholarship program for emerging designers and students in the footwear industry who want to create an ethical brand or product from concept, to sourcing, to creation, to completion. The Ethical Shoe Design Course is a 12-week intensive course, and the first of its kind in the footwear space. The duo hopes that this course will create radical change for the future of sustainable footwear. And for each pair of BENDY Shoes purchased, a portion of the proceeds will support the scholarship fund.

BENDY, they hope, is a catalyst that will spark change and push consumers to continue to consider the impact of their purchases.

To learn more about BENDY or to support their campaign, click here.

25 Things I've Learned About a Conscious Lifestyle

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Today I’m 25. Here are 25 things I’ve learned about this conscious living thing.


1. Like the name implies, a slow life happens slowly. Be patient with yourself.

2. Ethical living (and all of the in’s and out’s of it) has different definitions to different people. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to conscious consumerism.

3. There’s a common misconception that ethically made clothing all looks like a hemp-grown, shapeless, burlap sack. Although I’m a fan of the style, this isn’t true.

4. You don’t have to have a plan to start living more consciously.

5. You don’t have to have a lot of money to start living more consciously.

6. Thrifting is, in my opinion, the most ethical form of consumerism.

7. Your life isn’t more ethical if you share about it on Instagram.

8. You can start slowing down right now.

9. Self-care isn’t a choice - it’s a necessity to live a full, healthy life.

10. It’s ok if your kids wear 100% thrifted pieces. Kids grow faster than our wallets do.

11. It’s ok if you don’t know where to start. Or if you get discouraged.

12. Capsule wardrobes may be trendy, but they’re onto something. They’re like the gateway drug to conscious consumerism.

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13. No, you cannot have too many tencel garments.

14. If there’s a “fast” option, there’s always a consciously made alternative.

15. Supporting people and their ideas, dreams, and talents is always, always, always worth it.

16. Saying “no” is self-care.

17. Let go of unhealthy guilt ASAP. No one is 100% ethical and eco-friendly 100% of the time.

18. Sometimes, you’ll talk to people who think you’re legitimately crazy. That’s ok.

19. Living a “conscious lifestyle” doesn’t mean all the other alternatives are “unconscious”.

20. Fall is the most ethical of the seasons. (Just kidding, but can fall never end, please?)

21. Investment pieces are worth it and the 30-wear rule is legit.

22. You can love color/prints/patterns and still shop ethically.

23. “Minimal Grandpa” is an acceptable personal style descriptor.

24. Each purchase is a vote for the kind of future you want. Be it a white tee, a new purse, or a tampon.

25. One step in the right direction is better than no steps.


Thanks for joining me on this little journey, friends. This space is better because you’re here. <3

10 Ethical Handbag Brands I've Tried and Love

When I began the transition to ethical shopping, finding fairly made handbags felt like the simplest “gateway” into the new lifestyle. They were pricier than running to Target for a new purse, but I knew that with the higher price would come a higher quality and it felt easier than revamping my wardrobe overnight (which definitely didn’t happen). As I blogged about my lifestyle journey, I started to collaborate with brands more and more frequently and, not surprisingly, handbags were often their medium for introducing sustainability, fair wages, and ethical style into the world.

I’ve worked with a handful of amazing brands creating beautiful purses, totes, wallets, and more and thought a little round up of them all would be helpful for anyone looking to upgrade their bag game. These brands offer many different styles for many different value-systems, lifestyles, preferences and budgets, but all of them are made by people treated fairly and with respect for the planet.

1. ABLE

One of the forerunners in the ethical fashion movement, ABLE has gone above and beyond time and time again in terms of transparency, quality, and durability. I own several of their pieces and this Mamuye Classic Tote in Cognac has been my go-to for the past 6 months or more. It’s classic, wears well (even when my toddlers “color” on it with a screwdriver), and goes with everything.

2. Malia Designs

Malia Designs was one of the first brands I ever partnered with and years later, I’m still excited to support the beautiful work they’re doing reducing waste, creating jobs, and fighting human trafficking. Their newly released Ikat bags merge traditional pattern and craftsmanship with affordability.

3. Filbert

Filbert creates 100% vegan and cruelty free bags that are extremely versatile and perfect for real life. They sent me their Steiner bag in grey and it’s elevated and classy, perfect for work, the market or anywhere your day takes you.

4. D. Franca Designs 

I had the honor of meeting the founder and designer of D. Franca Designs, Diana, a few weeks ago which only furthered my love for this beautiful brand. All completely handmade with ethically sourced fabrics celebrating the rich heritage of their “birthplace”, Diana designs her bags to be functional works of art. This gorgeous clutch/crossbody has been my go-to for quick outings when I don’t need a “mom bag”.

4. Vele

My Vele Simple Wallet has been such a help for downsizing the pieces I keep in my bag. I used to carry a giant clutch wallet stuffed full of receipts, cards I didn’t need, and other non-essentials. Now, I’m forced to simplify, carrying only my debit card, license, and maybe a bit of cash. Vele also sells gorgeously crafted handbags, all supporting victims of human trafficking.

5. Mother Erth

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Mother Erth creates eclectic and unique pieces from plastic waste collected and woven into something beautiful. I’ve used my tote mostly for travel and beach days - it’s perfect when you need to carry a lot of things, pack a lunch, and add a fun pop of color while you’re at it.

6. Lionheart Collective

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Handwoven with naturally dyed agave and vegetable-tanned leather, Lionheart Collective creates the most beautiful bags that are natural conversation pieces. Mine has been a favorite all summer long.

7. Sseko Designs

Although Sseko sells much more than handbags, their leather bags deserve an honorable mention because of the quality and beauty of the designs.

8. MAIKA Goods

Functional, fun, and perfect for dreamers with big to-do lists, MAIKA’s pieces are all made with ethically sourced recycled canvas printed with eco-friendly inks. As one of my clients, I’ve gotten to test their products and photograph them in addition to writing for their blog and social media.

9. ENAT

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Another brand I worked with several years ago who I still admire and love to support is ENAT. A two-woman show designing vegetable-tanned leather bags made by artisans in Ethiopia, their pieces are classics and sold at a more affordable price-point than some of the others I’ve found.

10. My Fight

With proceeds donated to support victims of trafficking, My Fight sells the most beautiful handmade leather bags supporting the mission that “her fight is my fight”.


*This post isn’t sponsored by any particular brand, however I have partnered with each of these brands at some point in time and am currently working with several of them to create new content. This piece is just a round up of brands I genuinely love.*