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 here.


*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 Zero Waste Picnic || Acacia Creations

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Lessening waste in today's world isn't easy. Nearly everything bought in a store is wrapped in plastic or made out of it. Attempting to buy items in bulk, plan meals in advance, and reduce your single use plastics takes forethought and effort - much more so than a quick, convenient run to the super market to pick up dinner to go. 

For the past month, I've been attempting to participate in Plastic Free July and, if nothing else, it's opened my eyes even more to the sheer amount of plastic and waste that's readily available at our finger tips on a daily basis. 

Some days I succeeded and others I failed miserably (our roadtrip to Omaha was particularly bad), but if there's one thing I learned during the challenge it's that small, pre-planned actions really can add up. Reducing waste may not be the easiest option, but with some habit re-wiring, and a bit of effort, it's totally possible and incredibly rewarding. 

One of the hardest parts of living a low waste lifestyle for me is the addition of my kiddos to the mix. It's difficult enough to reduce waste as a single person or someone living with a partner, but with a family, especially one with young kids, it can seem impossible. Gifts come wrapped in (or made of) plastic, most food that is marketed towards kids is covered in single-use plastic, and frankly, it's much more of a hassle to buy in bulk, plastic free, and plan ahead with two grumpy toddlers in tow at the grocery store. Straws, plastic plates, styrofoam...the works...it's all the norm for most families regardless of how old their kids are. 

So when Acacia Creations, an artisan marketplace I've admired for a few years, asked to partner on a blog post centered around a zero-waste summer picnic, I was skeptical. I was sure that, true to our normal tendencies, we'd cave and buy prepackaged food for the picnic, or that I'd forget silverware and drift towards the plastic-ware aisle. But I knew it was worth a shot. Acacia was sweet enough to send over a few pieces that not only made my zero-waste picnic much more aesthetically pleasing, but inspired me to follow through with my plans to have a truly zero-waste meal with my family. 

A bit about the brand before we dive into the pieces, because as many beautiful ethical marketplaces as there are, Acacia has one of the sweetest and most impacting missions of any that I've found yet. Acacia Creations is based in Nairobi, but works in 7 different countries across Africa and Asia. More than a fair trade company, Acacia creates jobs, provides training and health care, and gives back to each community they're involved in. Their pieces are extremely well designed (I've had their olive wood servers for a year or so as well and love how durable yet beautiful they are) and are handmade by craftsman carving out a better livelihood for themselves and their families. 

With their gorgeous handwoven cotton table runner as a centerpiece, and their clear Zanzibar canister (made from upcycled bottles found on beaches with a handcarved wooden lid) as a beautiful multi-use piece, I hauled the whole group outside earlier this week to test just how zero-waste we could be. 

Although preparing for the picnic wasn't nearly as quick and easy as running to pick up a carton of prepackaged fruit and a sandwich to share, preparing our food ahead of time felt much more intentional and, of course, healthy. I made a quick salad, cut up some watermelon (my girls' favorite), and sauteed some brussel spouts and corn for something a bit more filling and comforting. 

I put it all in reusable, glass containers, grabbed a few forks from the kitchen and glasses to fill with water when we got there, and tossed it all in my Mother Erth tote and we were off. It was a windy, rainy afternoon, but the sun cleared just long enough for us to eat and take a few photos before the thunder started rolling in. 

We didn't have plates and, if we had more than just us joining in, I would have spent more time crafting a more well-rounded meal, but on the whole, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to prep, pack, picnic, and put away. Our reliance on convenience can brainwash us into believing that it's not possible to do things the "old fashioned way" - however, I, like so many others out there, am working on rewiring my go-to habits and making them as ethical, sustainable and kind as possible. 

With Plastic Free July nearly over, I'm curious, how many of you try to live a low waste lifestyle? What has been your biggest struggle and/or how have you rewired your own habits to be more sustainable? 


*This post was sponsored by Acacia Creations. All photos and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible*

Adelante || Shoes Worth Standing For

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See the boots I'm wearing? They weren't made in a factory, somewhere in an industrialized city district. They weren't made by machines in a warehouse. They certainly weren't made in a sweatshop, by underpaid workers with cheap materials destined to fall apart and end up in landfill only after a few wears. 

No, Selvin made my shoes. 

This is the first time I've ever known the name of the person who made an item specifically for me, taking days of his time to create a piece I wear almost daily. 

We talk about "artisan made" products all the time in the ethical fashion world, but what does that really mean? Is it just a fancier word for someone who works in a factory making products? Is it an old word that we just use to mean a more "ethically made product"? Yes, in a way. But in a much more impactful way, the word "artisan" is all about skill. 

ar·ti·san

ˈärdəzən/

noun

  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.

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More than just handmade, defining something as "artisan made" implies the learned, refined skill of the creator. It's more than just a job, it's a trade. It's more than just a product, it's a piece of art. 

Through my partnership with Adelante, my appreciation for "artisan made" has doubled. 

Adelante is a shoe company that employs craftsman in Guatemala. And Selvin, of course, is one of the craftsman working with them. 

True to their "cobbler to customer" promise, in each shoe box, Adelante includes a photo of the craftsman, with a bit about them. A simple step, but one that drives home the fact that there are hands, and faces, and stories behind each product. 

In an effort to make this more than a "product review" and to better understand the stark difference between what Adelante does and what most shoe companies do, I was able to speak to Selvin directly, via Skype, to hear his story and learn about what goes into making a pair of boots like the ones he made for me. 

Here's what I learned: 

Selvin has been making shoes since he was in the sixth grade. Shoe-making was once a large industry in Pastores, a main stream of income for many families there, and a trade that Selvin learned from his father. However, as other trades and demands have pushed their way in, many cobblers have been out of work. Adelante is the first business of its kind in Pastores, and Selvin told me that through the brand, he's able to provide for his family.

(Adelante ensures that their artisans are paid above the "Living Well Line", which, means that the wages are determined by balancing a "regression analysis of World Bank data with in-person craftsmen interviews" and determining a wage that doesn't stop at country level and considers the individual community, economy, and livelihood of the people they employ.) 

Speaking of his family, he has three children who hope to grow up to be accountants. 

He also told me that his favorite part of the shoe making process is putting the finishing touches on the product - the polish and shine. At this stage, he said, you can truly appreciate the quality of the shoe and get excited about the final result. I showed him my Granadas through the computer screen, with his signature on the inside, and he smiled as he asked how I liked them and what I thought of the fit. 

Our chat was short, about 15 minutes, but seeing his face and hearing his story was a conversation I won't soon forget. The importance of choosing to support brands like these - brands who care about the people they employ, brands who value the culture and craft behind their product, and brands who pay their employees a wage they deserve to be paid - these are the brands I'll never stop falling in love with. 

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** This post is sponsored by Adelante Shoe Co. as part of an ongoing partnership. All opinions and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this blog running!**

Artisan & Fox || Celebrating Heirloom Craftsmanship

Artisan & Fox || Celebrating Heirloom Craftsmanship

Although fashion has so much to do with individual expression and personality, it always amazes me how impersonal the fashion industry has become. Perhaps due to sheer size, but likely due to many other factors and cultural shifts as well, the fast fashion industry dehumanizes our clothing, allowing us to forget that there were actual hands that made the pieces hanging in our closets, not just unattended machines in a warehouse somewhere. 

Dehumanizing anything, as I'm continually reminded by participating in Dressember, is a dangerous action. Nonetheless, we do it, almost everyday. From the clothes we buy, to the foods we consume, to the way we ignore the person standing next to us in line, preferring our phone over immediate interaction, dehumanization has become so ingrained in our culture that we forget about it.

Sure, I love the self-expression involved in fashion. I love finding pieces that make me feel beautiful or, more often, practically fit into my everyday life. But when I ignore the countless other people involved in aiding in my self-expression, I can't feel beautiful, not truly. 

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