Conscious Consumerism || How to Tell if a Brand is Ethical (+ an outreach template)

Today's fashion industry is rampant with Greenwashing. This post helps you determine the good from the bad and gives you the tools you need to dig deeper, including a FREE template to email brands yourself.

In my “line of work” I get to interact with a lot of brands and brand owners. I see the great, the bad, and the ugly and have gotten pretty good at spotting when a brand isn’t really living up to their claims of sustainability/ethical-ness.

Even still, it can be hard to wade through the murky waters of ethics and shopping when you aren’t sure what to look for or even what an ethical brand “should” be saying. This post, I hope, will be a reference for that. I’ll share my tips — learned over three years of collaborating with brands, making mistakes, and finding some gems — for spotting green washing, a quick run down of what to look for in a truly ethical and sustainable brand that’s deserving of your support, and at the end, I’ll share a template that you can download and use to reach out to brands yourself when their website doesn’t give you enough information to go on.

An important disclaimer before I jump in: the realm of ethics/sustainability is incredibly NOT black and white. It’s full of opinion, perspectives, layers that consumers often don’t see, and steps. Being a sustainable brand isn’t easy in today’s convenience, consumer-driven world, and brands who value eco-friendliness and supply chain transparency often have to do so in small steps, instead of all at once. I’ve learned to give grace and celebrate small but important steps. I hope this guide will give you the confidence to do the same and to learn the difference between greenwashing and “green-doing”.

Important Terms

  • Ethical: Ethical fashion as a term typically references humanitarian issues like worker’s rights, pair pay/living wage, fair hours, factory/field safety etc. Brands who claim to be “ethical” are usually saying that they care for the people who make their clothes whether it’s garment factory workers in a different country or at-home seamstresses (but remember that just because they use the word, doesn’t mean they actually are…).

  • Sustainable: Sustainability refers to the way a brand tries to minimize their carbon footprint, or their impact on the planet. This encompasses A LOT and the most common areas are things like packaging, dyes, fabric composition, shipping, factory energy, water use, and more.

  • Supply chain: This is the journey a garment takes to become a piece of clothing. The supply chain can (and should) be traced back all the way to where the fabrics are grown/made to who is doing the sewing/growing, to who is packaging orders, and who is getting the money. It’s a “seed to shirt” mentality that, sadly, most brands aren’t very transparent about.

  • Greenwashing: Greenwashing is when a brand “whitewashes” their unethical behavior with buzz words. Sustainability especially is having a moment in the green-washing world. Spotting green-washing takes a lot of research and awareness as a consumer, because at face value, it isn’t always easy to spot.

  • Transparency: I share this term because, although the word itself is easy to understand, most brands use it as a buzz word. True transparency should entail sharing where their factories are, who audits them/when they’re audited, how much their employees/workers make, where their fabric is sourced, what their pieces are made of….if this isn’t listed on their website or code of conduct, it’s time to reach out.

  • Common certifications: certifications are helpful for discerning a bit of a brand’s ethics because in order for them to earn the certifications, they usually have to uphold a certain set of ethics/practices. However, certifications can be expensive and therefore inaccessible for smaller brands and startups, so don’t write off a smaller brand as unethical or non-sustainable just because they don’t have a list of certifications. Conversely, just because a brand uses GOTS Certified cotton or is a B-Corp, it doesn’t mean that they’re truly as ethical as they should or could be.

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Greenwashing 101

  • Watch out for buzz words. When a brand uses words like “ethical” or “sustainable” but has no actual FACTS or SPECIFICS to back it up, be wary. My rule of thumb is that brands who are truly ethical/sustainable will be excited to share and will probably give more details than most.

  • Think holistically. Great, a brand uses organic cotton or Tencel. But do they share where their pieces are made? Do they disclose who audits their factories? Employee base-line wages? Brands worth supporting will think through a holistic lens when they’re building their brand, not just focusing on one aspect over another.

  • Don’t accept their bio at face value. It’s really easy to write a catchy byline or “about us” page that doesn’t really give you any details or specifics about what ACTUALLY makes their brand ethical. For example….

    • “Modern apparel for the eco-conscious woman. Made ethically in LA.”

      • I just made that up, but it' doesn’t really tell you ANYTHING about the brand. Cool, they use good words, but they don’t have any specifics there. Most websites will go into more detail elsewhere through back links, blog posts, or even more details on their about-us page. If not, you have an easy jumping off point when you email them to ask for more info!

What to look for in an ethical brand

Ideally, a brand will check boxes in all of the categories: ethics, sustainability, supply chain transparency…when a brand is overly transparent and making an effort in all three aspects, I know I’ve found a winner. Keep in mind that the perfect brand doesn’t exist, but there are PLENTY of brands worth supporting who work hard to be transparent and do things right. Take a peek at ROUND PLUS SQUARE’s “About Us” page for an example of what I love to see. Sure, there aren’t links to factories or wages, but they’re extremely detailed and transparent. Through working with the brand for nearly six months, I also know that they’ll be quick to offer up any additional info needed, because the brand’s founder works incredibly close through each step of the process.

Here’s a quick list of things I check for when I’m deciding whether to pursue a collaboration or buy from a brand:

  • Do they use natural fibers or are they moving towards use of plant-based, organic materials. See my guide to sustainable textiles here for more info on what to look for.

  • Do they say where their clothes are produced? Who they support through their production?

  • Do they note anything about their factories/is there an audit process? (This isn’t super common, but an ethical brand should be able to tell you more info without a problem).

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Sample “outreach template”:

To (Brands name, contact email/point person,…)

My name is () and I’m reaching out with a few questions about your brand. I love your aesthetic and have had my eye on (), but before I add it to my closet, I’d love to learn a little bit more. I’ve committed to only shopping from brands who are as ethical, transparent, and sustainable as possible and in my research, I couldn’t find any information about (…anything from sourcing to material use to factories to wages…) on your website. Could you tell me a bit more about ()?

I try my best to make informed purchases and hope that you would value the same.

Thank you for your time!

Sincerely,

A hopeful customer (or your name)

See? Easy-peasy.

As intimidating as it can be, I always preface my emails with the internal reminder than brands are made up of real people — most of whom are just doing their best. Your email should be met with some kind of response, and if its not, you don’t want to buy from them anyway ;) Once you have your “foot in the door” with an initial email, you’ll be able to tell if the brand is just glazing over green-speak (ie. greenwashing) OR if they can give you the specifics you’re looking for.

As always, email me with any questions or responses you aren’t sure about. I would LOVE to hear how reaching out goes for you.

Good luck!

Simply Styled || A Postpartum Pep Talk

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I shared on Instagram a few days ago that I’m learning (slowly and with lots of patience) to put clothes on a body that feels a bit foreign to me. I know the postpartum phase is fleeting, and eventually I’ll “have my body back”, but for now, in the immediate weeks and months following pregnancy and childbirth, things just feel a little abnormal.

I’m getting to know a new soft, squishy tummy where there was recently a hard, round belly, and before that, something relatively flat and fit. My thighs touch where they didn’t before, my hips are wider, my skin reacts differently to things it used to love, even my feet seem to have shifted just enough to cause a noticeable difference in the fit of my favorite shoes.

Pregnancy is beautiful and I’m loving the postpartum phase more now than ever before, but sometimes, dressing a body that doesn’t feel like home yet is strange.

Whether you’ve had a baby or not, chances are women of all ages and lifestyles can relate to the feeling. Period bloat, stressful seasons, a new relationship, a job change, a sickness or new diet — all of these things can affect our bodies in ways we never expected, causing us to embark on a new journey of getting to know ourselves in our present state and push towards health as we are now.

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It’s tempting to want to rush to the “get my body back” part of this. It’s tempting to want to try on my old high wasited summer mom jeans that fit a mere 12 months ago. It’s tempting to compare my postpartum body to someone further down the “recovery line”. But this time, the third time, I’m finally content. I’ve found more peace with my present body and have thanked it for not only sustaining me but for growing and sustaining my little Aria.

But there’s a learning curve nonetheless.

I’m leaning hard on wrap silhouettes these days. This top, the Simone Top from Pamut, has been on rotation lately for it’s versatile shape (it can be worn tucked in or out, or reversed) and easy access for breastfeeding (which is just about all I have time to do these days). It’s made of organic cotton gauze and is especially light and airy for the summer months (and for postpartum hormones).

One of my favorite things about this brand is the fact that, although their size chart already goes from a 00-16, they’ll make any customer a piece to fit their body if their measurements aren’t on the size chart. Size inclusivity is something particularly important to me, in addition to sustainable fabrics and ethical production (all of which Pamut achieves beautifully).

Shamless plug for this wonderful brand: if you’re in the market for some extremely high quality pieces that can be easily dressed up or down, use the code “simplyliv” for 20% off an order from Pamut (not an affiliate link, I just love it when you can save money on great clothes).

I paired the Simone Top with my trusty Aurorei linen pants — the pair I had been fantasizing about my entire pregnancy because I missed wearing them so much — and my Nisolo Ama mules.

The outfit looks more elevated than many a cozy-loving-mama’s go to of leggings and tee, but trust me, it's even more comfortable, breathable, and practical. It’s also great for the “getting to know you” phase of my body’s recovery. The silhouette is loose but feminine and it gives me lots of room to breathe and accept.

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I hope to share more of these “simply styled” posts and give raw, truthful peeks into my postpartum journey and what that looks like for not only my closet, but for my mental health as well.

What about you? Can you relate to the sentiment of not fully knowing your own body for a time? How have you given yourself grace to grow through those seasons?


Thank you to Pamut Apparel for sponsoring this post — as always, all photos, creative direction, and opinions are my own. Use the code “simplyliv” for 20% off any order at checkout!

Simple, Affordable, Organic Skincare with Bohemian Rêves

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When it comes to skincare, I’m a minimalist at heart. I’ve shared bits and pieces of my skincare lineup before (if you can call it a “lineup”…I really only use one or two products consistently), but each time I have the opportunity to work with a skincare brand I feel extra spoiled. There’s something about taking extra great care of my skin, bathing it in ingredients I can pronounce and trust, and supporting organic, sustainable brands that feels like such a win/win/win.

Pregnancy is a mixed bag when it comes to skin health — for some, they’re glowing like the proverbial goddess for 9 months straight with no concern about switching up their normal routine, for others, they’re battling more breakouts, dryness, and unevenness than they did when they were 14. I’ve been in both camps and have learned to listen to what my body needs (typically, more moisture) at each phase of pregnancy/postpartum/breastfeeding/menstruation, as well as to not stress about whichever “phase” my body is in at the time.

Bohemian Rêves is my newest skincare obsession and once you learn a little more about their ingredients, packaging, and mission, I think you’ll fall in love too.

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Last Spring I shared a post listing my “skincare criteria” when it comes to which products I try and which brands I support. If you missed it, here’s a quick recap of the questions I ask before committing:

1. What is my skin type and what issue am I trying to address? 

2. Can this product be used in more than one way? 

3. How transparent is the brand about their ingredients/sourcing?

4. Is this product worth the investment? 

I’d also add a note to consider the brand’s packaging, since this is my year of #InspiringZeroWaste…

When I consider Bohemian Rêves’ products in relation to these questions, I’m even more convinced they’ve earned their place in my natural (albeit minimal) beauty routine.

The brand crafts all of their products using organic, plant based ingredients. They use glass jars for packaging (which I love to reuse when I’m done), AND they’re much more affordable than other brands I’ve tried in the past. Featuring a beautiful line of body butters, botanical perfumes, face masks, rollers, and more, I’m already hooked on the sweet products they sent over for me to test out.

The Mask

Doing a weekly face mask has become a mini-ritual for me lately, especially at this phase in my pregnancy when rest is hard to come by. Bohemian Rêves’ Rose Clay + Ginseng mask is as luxurious as it sounds and their custom bamboo mask brush makes putting it on simple and mess free. I typically put mine on a few minutes before showering and then let it soak into my skin before washing it off mid-shower.

The Botanical Blends

One of the products I was most excited to try was Bohemian Rêves’ Botanical Blends. I love softer scents and knew that these blends would be just enough of a mood boosting perfume to lighten my mood and keep me feeling just a little bit fancy (I mean, how gorgeous are the bottles?!). I tried the Sol Dorado scent and it’s a fun, citrus-y, earth-y concoction that leaves me feeling awake and smelling fresh.

The Body Butter

Although I primarily requested this body butter for my baby belly — stretch mark prevention and all that jazz — I’ve been using it everywhere and on everyone. Mara is prone to super dry, eczema-like patches, especially in our ultra-dry Colorado winters, and this body butter has helped to keep her skin moisturized and non-itchy.

The Matcha + Green Tea body butter isn’t greasy, like many other body butters out there, and has a light scent that makes it perfect for everyday use.

The Deodorant

Although it’s not pictured, I also tried Bohemian Rêves’ Patchouli and Blood Orange natural deodorant. As someone who is extremely picky when it comes to natural deodorants (and have tried quite a few in my day), this one has come out on top as one my favorites I’ve tried. I’m waiting till I’ve used it for a bit longer to make up my mind officially, but for the first week or so, I’m wonderfully surprised. Instead of many alternative deodorants that use baking soda, this one uses arrowroot powder and magnesium to absorb odor, making it much gentler on the skin.

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If you’re on the hunt for clean skincare alternatives, Bohemian Rêves is the perfect one-stop shop for everything from candles to soap to lotions to cleansing oils. Their ingredients are thoughtful and non-toxic, their packaging is zero waste and reusable, they’re budget friendly, and have products for all skintypes, what more could you ask for?


*This post was sponsored by Bohemian Rêves. All photos, opinions, and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible!*

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).

Zanni || Dresses for Whatever

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When it comes to versatility and timelessness, I can't think of any pieces that fit the bill better than the "LBD". A classic in it's own right, black dresses transcend seasons, events, life-phases, and can even accommodate changing bodies (hello pregnancy, or you know, period week). They can range from sultry and strappy to loose, modest and flowy, but if you've peeked inside my closet anytime in the past three years, you'll know that the t-shirt dress silhouette is my favorite for the LBD. 

Although until now, I've only owned one LBD. My trusty Sotela shift dress that I bought long before I ever partnered with the brand. The material of that dress, tencel, while great for dressing up and everyday wear, isn't stretchy or sweat resistant. These two qualities aren't typically on my radar when I choose a new piece for my closet, however, now that I've tried Zanni's "dresses for whatever", I'm hooked on a new kind of versatility that I don't usually consider. 

Zanni designs their dresses for quite literally anything. Made from a stretchy, workout apparel-like fabric, these dresses are meant to take you from a bike commute, to a meeting, to a post-work coffee date. Frustrated with the lack of "low maintenance" pieces in her closet, Zanni founder, Suzanne Brosnan, wanted to find a way to celebrate her love for comfort without sacrificing style or timelessness. So, she combined the two in the most dreamy way - stretchy, athletic-esque material with classic LBD designs that can take you just about anywhere. 

The Fabric

Sourced from an ethical and vetted fabric mill in Italy, Zanni's dresses are made with a blend of cotton, Polyamide, and elastane, giving them incredible stretch and softness. The fabric is UV ray resistant and waterproof to boot. 

I put it to the ultimate test by wearing my Zanni Wear on Repeat dress on a plane ride and, subsequently, several days in the humidity and heat of Omaha, Nebraska. No matter how hot I was, the dress never felt wet and actually did a better job of keeping me cool than anything else I packed for the trip. 

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Suzanne has designed a wide range of dresses, including a maxi dress, a classic A-line, a tank dress, and more. The material is flattering, clinging where you want it to and falling away from where you don't. I've worn mine alone with sneakers, dressed up with flats and a statement necklace, or casually with my Tradlands denim jacket and Sseko slides.   

As someone who generally steers clear of "athleisure" fabrics for my day to day life (you'll rarely see me in leggings unless I'm doing yoga, going to bed, or having a really off day), I'm genuinely in love with the ease and low-maintenance feel of this dress. Although I love getting dressed, I appreciate any brand that helps me achieve a no-fuss, simple yet classy look and Zanni does it all with ease. These truly are dresses for whatever. 

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*This post was sponsored by Zanni LA. All photography, opinions, and words are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this blog alive.**