Another Fashion Revolution Week is Over...Now What?

This week marked the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza Disaster in Bangladesh, where more than one thousand people lost their lives in the collapse of a five story building that served as a production factory for well-known fast fashion chains. This event, although it wasn’t the first of it’s kind or the last, sparked what’s come to be known as the “Fashion Revolution”. Each year, as a tribute to the lives lost and a call to shed light on the malpractice that still exists in the fashion industry, people and brands all over the world demand greater transparency. We ask of our favorite brands, “who made my clothes?” in hopes that the cumulative pressure will result in not only policy change but ground-level, real life, actual change too.

And it’s working.

Last year I shared a post about the strides in the Slow Fashion Movement to date, and I think that if I did a little more digging, I’d find that even more strides were made this year. More awareness was raised, more voices heard, more big brands committed to Fair Trade certification and greater transparency.

But, just because Madewell launched Fair Trade denim or brands like Everlane pledge to go plastic free doesn’t mean that we get to stop. We’ve by no means arrived and the need for an ethical fashion revolution remains more important now than ever.

But #FashionRevolutionWeek is over. So now what?

As inspiring and exciting as it is to have a world-wide week of awareness and action, we don’t get to stop there. Here are a few ways that I think we can keep the motivation going, all year long.

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  1. Keep asking questions

You know those photos of inside out shirts with the tags facing out and the wearer asking the maker “who made my clothes”? Don’t stop doing that. One thing I’ve learned over the past three or four years of communicating with brands is that you should never be scared to press for more information. If a brand you love isn’t transparent about their sourcing, fabrics, or factory conditions (which is truly pretty rare) on their website, don’t be afraid to email. Reach out to customer service via email — it’s much less intimidating than a phone call — and ask for more information on their sustainability and ethics practice. If they send over a generic Code of Conduct policy lacking in specifics, don’t be afraid to see through it and ask for clarification.

Ask questions, make it clear you won’t shop without answers, and if you need it, email me (or someone else who has been there before) for help!

2. Find a community

When, for most of the world, questioning the brands who make their clothes isn’t the norm, it can be overwhelming to “walk the walk” alone. In the beginning of my slow fashion journey, I stumbled on this amazing community of people who taught me and answered my questions about where to shop and how to confront brands and, most of all, taught me that shopping ethically was possible.

If you’re feeling intimidated by the scope of the phrase “quit fast fashion”, don’t worry. There’s a global community of people in the same place as you are, each with their own story and perspective. Find them (online, in real life, via blogs, via a quick Google search) and connect with them. The hunt for slow fashion will be much less intimidating.

Your community can be made up of individuals, but you can also form relationships with ethically-minded brands as well. Malia Designs, the maker of the bag in the photos in this post, was one of the very first brands I ever discovered and one of my very first “real” blog posts, which is why I decided to share about them in today’s post. For 10 years, Malia Designs has been working to fight human trafficking, improve wages, and give artisans a leg up in the Western market, and following their journey since I connected with them has been pretty amazing.

Get connected and you’ll have no shortage of inspiration.

3. Know what to look for

What issues matter most to you when it comes to ethical fashion? It’s hard for any brand, no matter the budget or intention, to check every single box off on the “sustainability and ethics ladder”. Knowing what issues are closest to your heart will help you weed through the overwhelming amount of brands out there and decide which ones you love to support. Is women owned important to you? Size inclusivity? Organic/plant based fabrics? Fair Trade certification? Artisan made? Versatile style? Supporting issues like trafficking and human rights?

See? It’s not simple. But it’s worth it.

4. Shop less (but better)

The bulk of deciding to shop more sustainably is to adjust your mindset. Overconsumption is the root issue of fast fashion and the exploitation at it’s heart is fueled by our (the consumers’) need for moremoremore. Create a capsule wardrobe, pare down your closet, invest in more expensive pieces that will last you decades instead of seasons.

5. Share with your “audience”

Whether you think so or not, you have an audience. Your family, your community, your kids, your co-workers, your social media connections. Start sharing, maybe slowly at first, about why you’ve transformed your shopping habits, and watch as your passion spreads.

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Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability or ethical fashion, but if we can keep the momentum going, as a unified community supporting each other’s perspectives and voices, there’s no doubt in my mind that this year can be the biggest year yet.

A little bit about Malia Designs:

Aside from their obviously unique appreciation of detail and re-purposing, Malia Designs is a true leader in the sustainable and ethical fashion scene. They employ men and women from three groups of Fair Trade Certified artisans in Cambodia. These men and women are often at higher risk of trafficking and having a fair, dignified source of income is life changing.

They use recycled and upcycled materials for their bags and accessories. Upcycled cotton canvas, recycled feed and cement bags and other materials help clean up the streets of Cambodia and decrease pollution from new production.

If you’re looking for a model of “what to look for” in a brand, browse Malia Designs’ website for shockingly refreshing transparency, photos of their artisans, and all of the details you need to make an informed purchase.

What now? How will you take the motivation of Fashion Revolution Week and run with it into the rest of the year?


*This post was sponsored by Malia Designs. All opinions, creative direction, and photos are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible (and the world a better place).*

Meet the Practically Perfect Encircled T-Shirt Dress

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You all know my love for Encircled. I’ve shared about them in at least five separate blog posts over the years and, more recently, have loved partnering with them the past few months to share some of their new releases and versatile classics.

If you need a quick refresher, here’s what I love about Encircled:

  • They’re based in Canada. (I’m not, but for all of my Canadian readers who ask me where to shop, here you go!) All of their production and sourcing happens as locally as possible (100% in Canada, which is amazing) and everything is cut and sewn in their studio in Toronto.

  • They’re B Corp Certified.

  • They focus on versatility and sustainability. As someone who lives in a tiny space with a tiny closet, I can’t say firmly enough that versatility MATTERS. Encircled’s pieces are designed with travel in mind, so almost all of them are able to be worn in multiple ways (we’re talking 5 or more for some of the most innovative garments like the Chrysalis Cardi and the Evolve Top).

  • They’re transparent about the struggles of owning an ethically minded business. I wrote in my Ethical Basics Guide that Kristi, the brand’s CEO and designer, shared with me a bit about how tricky it is to source fabrics that meet their high quality and longevity standards — if you’ve ever felt an Encircled garment before, you know what I’m talking about — and is gentle on the environment. They’re honest about when small compromises (like blending their fabrics with spandex) are necessary to achieve the final product they know will last women years and years.

  • They’re size inclusive. Their pieces fit sizes 00-20, which is a vast step above most brands who claim to include sizes for all.

  • Their pieces fit WITH your evolving body. Along with my Natural Edition tees, my Encircled tops and dresses were the only ones that comfortably fit me throughout my entire pregnancy. I know it’s unrealistic to expect the same piece to fit me when I’m my “normal” size and when I have a tiny human inside my torso, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised that I can stretch my wardrobe with their help.

Which brings me to the real reason you’re all here…Encircled’s newly released Everyday T-Shirt Dress.

I was able to test the dress out a few weeks before it was released and, if I’m being completely honest here, I’ve already lost track of the amount of times I’ve worn it. The dress is intentionally oversized, so even at 9 months pregnant, it still fits with room to spare.

It’s another winner in the versatility department, which is why I’ve styled it several different ways in this post. My preference currently is to pair it with a pair of sneakers and a jacket, but it’s just as easy to dress it up with a pair of heels or clogs and some statement jewelry.

The Everyday T-Shirt Dress

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Features:

The dress is reversible — one neckline is a lower scoopneck and the other is a higher boatneck. It has two pockets with a mesh lining, so the pockets can easily reverse as well. It falls just above the knee and is meant to “skim your curves” and not hug them too tightly.

Fabric:

Made from Bamboo based Rayon which has lots of pros and cons sustainably-speaking, but on the pro side, it’s incredibly soft, stretchy, easy to care for, and long-lasting. It’s made without the use of pesticides in a closed loop-process (that you can read more about here). There are also drawbacks to using bamboo-based fabrics (which you can read about here), so I try to limit the amount of rayon that I own.

Fit:

I’m wearing a size Small in the Everyday T-Shirt Dress, which is the standard size I wear in Encircled. I could have sized down likely, for a tighter fit, but opted for this size so I was sure it would fit my baby bump and be comfortable postpartum.

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It’s truly a closet super hero and can multi-task right along with you and your lifestyle.

Shop the Everyday T-Shirt Dress in three colorways here (I’m obsessed with the Vintage Rose color!).

Use the code SIMPLYENCIRCLED for FREE SHIPPING and for all US/Canada orders from now until May 31, 2019!


*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Encircled. All opinions, photos, and creative direction is my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep SL&Co. running!*

Fashion Forward || Fashion Revolution Week 2018

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Fashion is a conduit for self-expression. It’s an art form all it’s own - one with roots that stretch back thousands and thousands of years. Although styles change, production processes evolve, and cultures shift, fashion, the art of dressing oneself, will remain.

Fashion is also a terribly destructive industry.

As one of the top five most polluting industries in the world, fast fashion (simply defined as “big name” brands mass producing most of the clothes sold in stores today) is notorious for exploitation, injustice, and resource waste.

This week marks the five year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, an event that marked the beginning of a new era: the slow and steady rising of the Fashion Revolution Movement. In 2013, due to structural failings, the five story factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring more than 2,000 more, according to Fashion Revolution. The factory workers produced clothes for many well-known and respected brands, many who still haven’t been held accountable for their shortcomings, and lack of accountability and transparency.

Unfortunately, the Rana Plaza collapse hasn’t been the only incident of people losing their lives (or, in other cases, losing their fair wages, dignity, and other basic human rights) at the expense of fast fashion. Not even close. In fact, the vast majority of brands producing the clothes we wear aren’t required to trace their supply chain, provide fair living wages for their employees, or even know the conditions of the factories where their pieces are made.

GlobeIn, and the host of other brands I've had the amazing opportunity to work with over the past few years, is passionate about supporting the Fashion Revolution movement by partnering closely with artisans all over the world, providing them safe, fair, and dignified work, and sharing their work with a worldwide audience.

This "creed" should echo in our minds, whether you're a brand owner, a conscious shopper, or both, not just during FRW but all year long and with every purchase you make: 

We believe that fashion doesn’t have to be associated with abuse, poor quality, exploitation, and even the death of innocent people.

We believe fashion should be life-giving. We believe that the fashion industry can change, with the help of conscious consumers choosing to make educated choices about where their products are coming from.  

This week, GlobeIn is promoting their brand new Artisan Box called “Fashion Forward”  curated in collaboration with some of my favorite ethical brands to further raise awareness for this important message. The box features pieces from incredible empowering and ethical brands like Alaffia, Adelente Shoes (get excited - Adelente is one of my personal favorites. I wear my Granada booties from them everywhere.), Symbology Clothing, 31 Bits, and more! Each of these brands are changing the fashion industry for the better through reducing waste, paying their employees above and beyond minimum wage, and using earth-friendly materials and production methods. I'm in love with each piece inside, and I know you will be too.

The more people who ask #WhoMadeMyClothes and push for transparency will slowly but surely create change in the fashion industry. 

What changes are you making to push for change in your circle of influence? Let me know in the comments!

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Why Even Bother? || Strides in the Slow Fashion Movement

It's been nearly two years since I first announced my "transition to slow fashion" both to myself and my blog, and in that time, although my resolve hasn't lessened, I've learned a lot about the reality of the fashion industry, broke promises I made to myself, and, have seen a lot of growth in the slow fashion movement. 

But, as engrossed in the "industry" as I am (in just a few years, ethical fashion and promoting it has literally become my job), there are days when I question whether it's even worth it - whether things are really changing. Of course, I know, deep down, that my purchases matter and that buying a GOTS Certified white tee from a brand who can trace their supply chain and pays their employees fairly is a better choice than running to the mall and finding the first one with a clearance tag. 

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Whether you're the only person you know who strives to shop ethically or, you, like me, are a part of a huge community of people committed to the notion, it's easy to get disillusioned, or even forget that what we're doing matters. 

So today, in honor of Fashion Revolution month (with FashRev week creeping up the 22-29th), I wanted to share an encouraging post of progress within the slow and ethical fashion community. These things are hard to document, and it may be years before there starts to be wide-spread change within big name brands, but I truly believe in the impact this revolution is having, even if it's just t-shirt by t-shirt. We can (and we are) building a better industry. 

Regardless of what human nature may be predisposed towards (and what this particularly discouraging and not entirely untrue piece from the Conversation would have us believe), the idealist in me is encouraged by the growth I've seen in the ethical fashion movement in the short time I've been involved. 

Here are a few notes from the 2017 Fashion Revolution campaign and a lot of other resources (linked, if you want to check them out) that all "rev-ed" me up even more: 

  • In 2015 less than 200 brands responded to the social media campaign asking "#WhoMadeMyClothes"? Last year, more than 2,400 brands answered questions and responded to customers' pushes to do better. How many will there be this year? 
  • As of June 2017, Fashion Revolution counted 106 fast fashion "mainstream" brands who disclose at least some information about the facilities making their clothes (read the full list here). 
  • There is a "small but perceptible shift" towards the use of sustainable textiles in mainstream brands, collectively reducing waste and resource use. (source). 
  • There has been a push for more strict and all-encompassing regulation for brands, in everything from plant growth/harvesting, sourcing, resource usage, recycling, employee treatment and more. According to Global Fashion Agenda, this kind of collaboration can have industry changing effects by 2030. 
  • A host of regulations have already been introduced and implemented, encouraging consciousness among brands. For example, the "The Cradle to Cradle Certified™" standard by Fashion Positive ensures products can be perpetually used and reused, creating the beginnings of a closed loop system. 
  • The UN includes Sustainable Fashion in their Sustainable Development Goals for the fashion industry's power to affect change. 
  • Business of Fashion noted that 2018 is bringing to fruition the "next level" of sustainability, led by big name and small brands alike who value "sustainability across the entire value chain". 
To truly close the loop of the fashion value chain, both the technology and economics of recycling need to improve dramatically, ideally with a single standard to help with scaling up to commercialization. Getting there will require technological disruption, industry-wide collaboration and, hence, willingness to invest to truly move the needle.
— Global Fashion Agenda

Obviously, this is far from an exhaustive list, and I've barely scratched the surface. But, whether you're an blogger in the ethical fashion space, you own a sustainably minded brand, you're just beginning to learn what these terms mean for yourself, or somewhere in between, know that purchase power is real. And the small, seemingly insignificant changes we make in our day to day life can affect real change. 

Here's to an even more impactful and awareness-raising Fashion Revolution month!