Ethical Mother's Day Gifts for the Mamas in Your Life (or, For Yourself)

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This is my sixth Mother’s Day and it still feels surreal. For many people, Mother’s Day is a difficult day when facing loss, broken relationships or difficulty, and a list celebrating Mother’s may not be relevant or needed. For many others, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the female role models in their lives, or for others, the single dads who raised them. Whether you’re approaching Mother’s Day from a place of excitement — maybe it’s your first Mother’s Day after the birth of your child, or you have traditions with your own Mother you look forward to each year — or a place of hurt or difficulty, I hope you feel seen and valued on this day. This list, although I’ve specifically chosen gifts for moms, is meant to be unspecific. Buy these gifts for your step-mom, your best friend’s mom, your friend, your grandma, or of course, yourself if you need an extra boost of self-care this season.

I love celebrating mothers. The soon-to-be mothers, the mothers who are still waiting to conceive, the mothers who have dealt with loss, the mothers who have grown children and the ones who have been a mother to someone else’s child. We’d be nowhere without these women in our lives and they deserve all of the celebration.

Here are a few gifts I picked out from some of my favorite ethical shops (some of the links are affiliate) in hopes that you would shower a mother figure in your life with the same love she’s showered on you.

Ten Thousand Villages Harmony Bell Necklace

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This necklace, although perfect for anyone, is designed with expectant mothers in mind. It’s traditionally worn in many cultures by pregnant mothers, with the chain just long enough to skim the belly, and send soft chimes in for your baby to hear and be soothed by.

Shop here: Harmony Bell Necklace ($125)

LA Relaxed Loungewear

Loungewear is the gift that keeps on giving (for real life). LA Relaxed is one of my favorite resource for insanely comfortable garments that are made with plant-based materials. Their recently introduced hemp and organic cotton pieces are to die for.

Shop LA Relaxed (use the code SIMPLY25 for 25% off!)

Sela Designs “Known Necklace”

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Another one of my most worn pieces this year, my Known Necklace from Sela Designs is especially perfect for mothers. You can select letters to symbolize people she loves — I have one for each of my littles and wear the necklace everyday. It’s an understated, non-cheesy piece with just the right amount of symbolism.

Shop here: Known Necklace ($28 starting with one charm — hurry though, shipping in time for Mother’s Day ends 5/2!)

Do Good Shop

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A beautifully curated one-stop shop of fair trade home goods, jewelry, clothes, and more, Do Good Shop is owned and operated by a mother herself, and proceeds of the 501c(3) non-profit go towards supporting organizations that fight trafficking and provide dignified employment to women all over the world.

Shop Do Good Shop: Use the code SIMPLYLIVANDCO for 20% off!

The Little Homeplace Care Package

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I just stumbled on this sweet mama-owned company a few weeks ago and have fallen in love with how thoughtful and practical each box is. The shop offers three selections right now, the Original Homeplace Box, A Kitchen box, and a Bath box, all packed with homemade, eco-friendly goods.

Shop the Little Homeplace Box

Bohemian Reves Skincare

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Because every mother figure needs an extra excuse to care for herself too, skincare and body products make the perfect gifts. Bohemian Reves is one of my most recent favorites — I love their zero waste packaging and plant-based, organic ingredients.

Shop here: Bohemian Reves collections

ABLE

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From denim to leather bags to footwear to apparel to jewelry, ABLE is truly a one-stop shop with ethics that are hard to beat. They’re having a Mother’s Day sale too, use the code MAMA15 for 15% off at checkout!

Shop ABLE

ROUND + SQUARE

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For organic pieces that make a statement, look no further than ROUND + SQUARE. This brand is on a mission to empower women and girls through their collection of organic cotton tees and gorgeous silk scarves. Any piece from their shop would be a meaningful Mother’s Day gift.

Shop ROUND + SQUARE


*This post, while not sponsored by one brand, contains affiliate links which means I may make a (small) commission off of items purchased from these links. It is also part of a long-term collaboration with Sela Designs. LA Relaxed, ROUND + SQUARE, and Do Good Shop. Thank you for supporting these amazing brands!*

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!*

The Natural Edition || Sustainable AND Affordable Basics

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Last month I shared a giant round up answering a frequently asked “where to shop for ethically made basics”. Today, I’m excited to dive in deep with one of the brands featured there and one I’ve been honored to work alongside for several months now.

Forever drawn to all things neutral, versatile, and timeless, The Natural Edition has quickly worked it’s way to hold the grand title of “most worn brand” in my closet. This brand, more than just another brand who has jumped on the “sustainability bandwagon”, The Natural Edition, owned by fashion industry guru Nicole Adamo, has truly taken every aspect of creating a piece of clothing into consideration and made the most sustainable choice possible for the planet, the garment creator, and the consumer.

Today’s post will give you a deeper look into the decisions that brand owners have to face when setting out to make a truly sustainable brand. It’s not a black and white arena and, as you’ll see, there are lots of aspects that we as consumers oftentimes don’t consider or underestimate the complexity of when it comes to ethical production. Learning from the brand owners I’m lucky enough to work with is one of my favorite parts of my little job and I hope you get as excited as I do reading about the “behind the scenes” of it all.

The “Basics”

Before we get into the backstory, here’s a brief overview of who The Natural Edition is in a nutshell:

  • Where: The Natural Edition is based in the UK and produces their clothing using a Dutch/Turkish factory that’s Fairwear audited.

  • What: The brand, newly launched this year, has a first collection of versatile basics including tees and dresses made from GOTS-certified organic cotton and Tencel (read more about both of those fabrics in my Ethical Basics Guide!)

  • Who: TNE is owned by Nicole Adamo. She’s no stranger to the fashion industry and owned a successful luxury-wear brand sold in stores all over the UK. She felt unfulfilled though and constantly worn down by the harmful effects of fast fashion, so she decided to switch gears and create a brand that would do good in the world.

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From Fast to Slow, TNE’s Backstory:

The Transition: “I immersed myself in research, attended every talk and event that was on in London that addressed sustainability or ethical production and while researching more into sustainability and the issues decided it was important to influence the hardest working pieces of the wardrobe- wardrobe essentials. Starting a sustainable and ethical fashion brand was a lot more difficult than a luxury brand..firstly it was very different production to what I made before so I had to find a new factory…after working in luxury fashion my quality standards are very high and this proved a bit of barrier.”

The Fabric: “We started with sampling in the UK with the plan on producing in the UK as we could do smaller quantities and I could oversee production, however the quality was not to my standard. When we first started sampling our main jersey was bamboo as many brands cite this as eco-friendly but after further research realised that bamboo was not eco-friendly due to lack of transparency with sourcing and the amount of chemical needed to turn it into fabric. I became aware that there was confusion over what was sustainable and not well researched information doing the rounds.”

…”we had to make our own signature fabrics that were bespoke with the downside being the minimums were high the upside being we could get what we wanted which was super premium sustainably sourced fabric that was super soft and luxurious. I looked for a designer who was experienced in athleisure as my designs were all about combining style with comfort and found someone who was the designer for Beyonce’s Ivy Park and Sweaty Betty who had just gone freelance with her baby on the way. “

The Packaging: …”I assumed a factory that only makes for sustainable brands had a solution that was NOT plastic..but they didn’t as no one had figured it out and those biodegradable bags just break down to micro-plastics. Currently, nearly all garments are packed in a plastic polybag before leaving the factory and end up as landfill, or worse, in the oceans and we did not want our legacy to be that. At the final hour we found a packaging supplier that was willing to experiment and we designed a kraft card pouch so we could say no to the poly bag!”

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As strange as this partnership may seem at this point in my life (ie. 9 months pregnant and very well out of clothing that truly fits), The Natural Edition is one of the few brands I’ve been able to wear for my entire pregnancy. The intentionally oversized design — with extra length in the sleeves and at the bottom of tees — along with the rounded hems has made each item I own from TNE truly worth its “weight” in my closet.

The pieces hold up to daily life (real daily life…I’m a pregnant mama to two over here…), wash extremely well, stretch when and where they need to without becoming droopy, and go with just about everything in my closet.

I’ll be wearing them all for years to come and am so grateful to have connected with a brand who truly understands the need for well-made, fairly-made pieces for real life at a real-life price point.

You can shop Nicole’s gorgeous first collection here, and don’t forget to use my code LIV20 for 20% off your order!

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*This post is the last of a long term ambassador partnership with The Natural Edition. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible! As always, all photos, opinions, and baby bumps are mine ;) *

Conversations on Confidence & Raising Daughters

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One of the most common questions I’m asked as a mama of multiple girls is “are you going to try for a boy"? Well meaning strangers see AJ with his daughters and jokingly suggest that he’s “going to have his hands full” when they’re teenagers, or that it’s a shame he’s so outnumbered.

Although we’ve never been discontent with our girl gang, the idea of instilling self-confidence and individuality at a young age in my girls weighs heavy on my mind. Raising boys, which of course I have no experience with but know through chatting with friends, research, and watching my own brothers grow up into men, is naturally a different experience and being a mom of only girls is a mental adjustment I’m still working on.

I’m keenly aware of just how closely my five and three year old watch me. Everyday when I get dressed, put on makeup, size up my ever changing body in the mirror, or make snide comments about my body that I don’t think they’ll understand, I’m aware (usually after the fact) of their little brown and blue eyes watching me and their growing minds processing how I see myself. Will they resent me when they’re older for getting eyelash extensions? Am I letting them try out my lipstick too early? Is their wardrobe too “girly”? Am I modeling a balanced perspective of femininity? Did they see me scrolling Instagram admiring the wardrobe/lifestyle/body type/life phase of someone else? How do I, a young mom still very much figuring this whole self-confidence thing out for myself, instill these vital traits in my daughters?

This post is less of a “how to” guide (because in the realm of parenting, those don’t really exist) and more of a conversation around the subject of self-confidence and a few ways I’m working on modeling it in my day to day life in front of the girls. Of course, the same concepts can apply to raising boys too, and whether you’re raising boys or girls, I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions on the subject!

Let them do “big” things

All kids love “helping” their parents do adult-y things and, despite the fact that their efforts to help or join in usually aren’t all that helpful, I think it’s vital for kids to try their hand at the things mom and dad are doing AND feel reinforced in their efforts. For us, it’s usually letting the girls “get ready” with me in the morning, even if they smear lipstick all over their faces or pick out mismatching outfits. It’s letting them stir the cookie batter, even though you know it will be messier and take longer. It’s letting them help clean up and giving them the time to scoop snow with daddy, even if the snow all ends up back in the pathway. These simple (slightly inconvenient) gestures instill confidence in my girls through simply giving them a safe space to experiment, help, and learn new things.

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Don’t classify their appearance

I’ve made this mistake SO MANY TIMES and I’m sure I’ll make it a lot more, but I think especially with girls, it’s so important to let them take the lead when it comes to what they love to wear, how they like their hair done, and even what kind of toys they play with. A few months ago, I was helping Evie get ready for preschool and she walked in with an entirely pink outfit on; from head to toe, bright pink. I mentioned something about that outfit being really “girly” and asked if maybe she wanted to change her pants or something, and for a few weeks afterward she was obsessed with making sure her outfits were “girly enough” and didn’t become “too girly”.

Regardless of my personal taste (which tends to be super neutral, especially for kids), I’m working on letting them pick clothes/toys/hair styles just because they love them, and not necessarily because it fits a certain aesthetic or stereotype.

My girls love beautiful things, as most girls do, and little surprises like their You & Me Tassel Necklaces from Sela Designs are the perfect little accents to start conversations around inner beauty and highlighting it with beautifully made things that they truly love.

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Model self-care

For the first few years of my motherhood journey I rarely made myself a priority. Of course, it’s not easy when you’re raising babies or toddlers or multiples, but as my girls have gotten older and as I’ve done the same, I’ve learned that in order for me to raise them well and lead by example I’ve got to give myself time to recharge.

Self-care may be trendy at the moment, but in practice, it isn’t always easy or glamorous. Sometimes it means forcing a naptime because I can’t function without sleeping. Sometimes it means letting my husband take over bedtime so I can squeeze a shower in after he gets home from work. However it looks each day, I’ve been working on modeling language around caring for myself (especially easy for them to understand while I’m pregnant) and separating it from them. For example, I’m trying not to say things like “mommy needs alone time because you’ve been wearing me out today”. ;)

As they grow up though, I hope they’ll be able to look back and see that self-care is an act of courage sometimes, and that I modeled it well most of the time.

Take the focus off of their appearance early on

Girls grow up with conversations centered on their appearance from such a young age. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with telling a girl she’s beautiful (that’s important too!), I’m working on mentally rewriting my own script for when it comes to talking to my girls and complimenting them.

I’ll try to focus equally on their character, their choices, or their talents, instead of their appearance only. Pieces like my Round + Square silk scarves or t-shirts (which my girls have been known to steal from time to time) have empowering phrases on them that help spark conversation. Instead of saying how “pretty” their hair looks, I can talk about what being “brave and kind” means or what “#equality” looks like early on, or why “Girl Power” isn’t just a catch phrase.

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I’m still very much a work in progress as a mother, especially as I think about my girls getting older and requiring more and more intentional modeling and behavior.

My job is on the internet, requires me to take photos of myself all the time, get new things, and seems very externally focused on the surface, so I have ample room for improvement and conversation around self-confidence and inner beauty.

How are you having these hard conversations with your kiddos? I’d love to hear your experiences.


*This post is part of a long term collaboration with Sela Designs and ROUND + SQUARE. All content ideas, creative direction, photos, and children are my own ;) Please do not use my photos without permission.*