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Conscious Consumerism Challenge: Day 8

In this 8-day series, we challenged Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker (InStyle Fashion Features Editor) to vet—and model!—brands that “do good.” As in, brands or sites that meet the following criteria: locally sourced, social responsibility (which includes repurposed/upcycle pieces), organic and all-natural, eco and sustainable practices, and embedded generosity.

K1X sneakers: K1X is a boutique sneaker brand out of Germany known for creating fashion-forward (and functional) basketball sneakers. These are men’s (sizing tip: When buying men’s shoes go down two sizes to find your fit) and from three years ago when they did a collection honoring the people and basketball players of the western Africa country of Sierra Leone. K1X locally sourced the fabric, and promotions around the shoes showcased the beauty of the region. Plus, a portion of the proceeds went to the Sierra di Lion Sharity Trust Fund. They have continued their partnership with Sierra Leone with a new release called Batik DCAC.

Bloom and Grace wrap bracelet: Each purchase from the new jewelry line Bloom and Grace translates to vaccinations for children around the world. This gold tone beaded and leather wrap bracelet, which was made by fair-wage artisans, comes with a tag indicating that nine children were vaccinated as a result of its purchase.

As I write this, a tally on the site shows that 591 children have been vaccinated since the launch of the line. Founded by Dani Lachowicz, whose previous experience includes work at the International Rescue Committee, Bloom and Grace works in partnership with the UN Foundation and its global immunization campaign Shot@Life. You can sort by style (statement stones) or by number of vaccinations (3 = $45 purchase).

Shop Hers Blazer by Ralph Lauren: Shop-Hers.com is an excellent, easy-to-use resource for consigning items from your closet and buying resale items from amazing closets of stylish women—including a few well known celebs who shall remain nameless. I’ve bought and sold a number of great pieces (lucky you whoever got my killer, cult-fave and too-small-for-me-but-I-bought-it-anyway Uma Wang dress).

This silver silk Ralph Lauren blazer was part of a suit, and it’s probably a few seasons old, but it’s classic to me. I often tell people that I look at my closet as a fluid economy—pieces come in, pieces go out—and sites, like Shop-Hers, with their simple buying and selling functionality, and their native, fashion-smart audience make the recycling of clothes that much easier. And fun!
 
People Tree x Peter Jensen tee from ASOS: When it comes to mass e-tailers and the ethical fashion space, ASOS deserves special recognition. Its "Green Room" is always stocked with hundreds of purposeful purchase options, including one-of-a-kind pieces from its reclaimed vintage line, its Africa collab (produced in partnership with communities in need), and lines—like People Tree— that are dedicated to conscious consumerism. This organic cotton top, covered in cute bunnies, is part of the People Tree x Peter Jensen collab, which paired the playful Danish designer (fans include Rihanna and Lena Dunham) with the fair trade and eco-practicing company.
 
Photo credit: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

Conscious Consumerism Challenge: Day 7

In this 8-day series, we challenged Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker (InStyle Fashion Features Editor) to vet—and model!—brands that “do good.” As in, brands or sites that meet the following criteria: locally sourced, social responsibility (which includes repurposed/upcycle pieces), organic and all-natural, eco and sustainable practices, and embedded generosity.

Matterial Fix pendant necklace: Courtney Sims, the former model and jewelry designer behind Matterial Fix, and who I wrote about on InStyle.com for International Women’s Day, is determined to make life a better place for girls. Each of her high-design, inexpensively priced (starts at $28!) jewelry pieces is inspired by her visits with women around the world. Plus, proceeds benefit non-profits that help the girls in those communities. 

A percent of sales of this angular pendant (the design echoes traditional Andean weaving) goes to Peruvian Hearts, an organization that provides support and education to girls in need in Peru.

Chamuchic clutch: I learned about designer and do-gooder Claudia Muñoz and her label, Chamuchic, at a talk she gave about ethical fashion and cultural preservation in Latin America at New York’s Cervantes Instituto. Muñoz, who was born and currently resides in Mexico, collaborates with female artisans in the Chiapas region of the country to create accessories that meld her funky-cool aesthetic with traditional Mayan weaving techniques. Chiapas is a region rich in culture, so Muñoz’s work is critical in preserving historical practices, like looming. She currently employs, fair-wage, 20 women, who help create her woven bags, home decor, and dresses whose designs feature natural dyes and nod to Mayan textiles.

I like the singularity of this particular clutch (or iPad holder, if you prefer; it is super padded) and the muted purple color, which plays well with my Studio JUX top.

Studio JUX blouse from Accompany: Looks like silk, feels like silk, but it’s not silk. The top is actually made from wood—specifically wood pulp, a soft textile material that’s manufactured in Nepal from sustainably managed forests.

Studio JUX is a designer brand out of Amsterdam with an emphasis on designs that embody simple, structural silhouettes in pretty, rich colors. Their pieces, which include eco-merino knits in poppy hues, are made by fair-wage employees in Portugal or Nepal. For the designs made in Nepal, a number on the tag links you to the actual maker online. Through their site’s “handshake” gallery, I found out my garment was produced by the cute Rajendra Pariyar, a married father of a little boy, who grew up in Kathmandu and learned to stitch from his grandfather.

Studio JUX is one of about 100 designers vetted and sold on the new ethically edited fashion site, Accompany, which you can read about here. Founder, humanitarian (he speaks at the UN about social entrepreneurism), and former fashion industry brand strategist (John Varvatos, Converse, Kenneth Cole) Jason Keehn and his team curate the super chic—and fairly priced—global offerings that are artisanally made, fair trade and philanthropic.
 
Vintage Edgar Pomeroy leather skirt from Circles: I picked up this exquisitely tailored Nappa leather skirt from my favorite consignment and vintage shop Circles Unlimited in my hometown of Atlanta. Edgar Pomeroy, a bespoke suit maker and throwback dapper gentleman from an earlier era, was especially well known for designing men’s suits. But in certain Atlanta circles in the late ’80s and early ’90s, he was also known for a women’s line that was carried at Saks. The skirt features precise darting, silk lining, and it’s the perfect mini-not-too-mini length. For an Atlanta-gal, I consider this find a real gem.
 
Photo credit: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

Conscious Consumerism Challenge: Day 6

In this 8-day series, we challenged Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker (InStyle Fashion Features Editor) to vet—and model!—brands that “do good.” As in, brands or sites that meet the following criteria: locally sourced, social responsibility (which includes repurposed/upcycle pieces), organic and all-natural, eco and sustainable practices, and embedded generosity.

Bow and Drape dress and top: Aubrie Pagano’s online-only label Bow and Drape is ethically produced by seamstresses in New York’s Garment District. This thick, boatneck ponte knit dress with three-quarter sleeves that I’m wearing is perfect for work. Today, I layered it with a cropped striped top (coming back to the site later this month) that features cheery floral appliques. The detailing is one of the many customizable offerings from the site. Others include design modifications, like sleeve length and hem length, and clever extras, like sequined custom lettering.

Hengst Metropolitan Coat: More love here for designers keeping things local. Though I live in NYC, I have the web to thank for learning about Hengst, a boutique in Manhattan’s Lower East Side that makes its items in the Garment District. One of my weekly must-clicks is Shoptiques, a site that aggregates small, hip boutiques around the world in order to bring a wider audience to these cool shops and independent designers. Susan Hengst, who was a 2012 nominee for the Smithsonian’s prestigious Cooper Hewitt design award, uses natural and organic silks and cottons to create her very wearable fashion-forward line (think structural shapes that convey ease, like this voluminous cashmere and wool coat that I wore all winter; also there is no better closet staple than a camel coat). 

Photo credit: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

Conscious Consumerism Challenge: Day 5

In this 8-day series, we challenged Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker (InStyle Fashion Features Editor) to vet—and model!—brands that “do good.” As in, brands or sites that meet the following criteria: locally sourced, social responsibility (which includes repurposed/upcycle pieces), organic and all-natural, eco and sustainable practices, and embedded generosity.

Same Sky Infinity bracelets: I wrote about Francine LeFrak’s company Same Sky that employs women in need and provides fair wages and wore their Easter-egg colored hand blown glass beaded bracelets on Day 1.  These two chain link-inspired bracelets are from Same Sky’s Infinity collection and feature glass seed beads crocheted onto a semi-stretch cord. One purchase of these bracelets amounts to three weeks(!) worth of food for the artisan.

Raven + Lily top and scarf: This company has impressive Hollywood roots: The founders are Kirsten Dickerson, a former film stylist, and Sophia Lin, a graphic designer whose creative agency worked with stars like Pitt and Clooney. Though they share a passion for glamour, they also wanted to make a difference in the world, so together, they created Raven + Lily, an e-commerce site with the tagline: “Empowering women through design.” The line of embroidered and screen-printed casual basics and edgy jewelry is made with repurposed materials and employs—fair wage—nearly 800 at-risk women from communities in need in across the U.S, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. A percent of sales also goes back into education channels in those communities.

Because the cotton basics are made with repurposed jersey, they are super soft, and I’m a sucker for animals on anything, in this case, giraffes. The infinity scarf, made from remnant jersey by formerly homeless women in LA, features a band of copper-hued leather for a modern accent.
 
AELLA pants: I wrote about this line of tailored pants on Day 2. Eco and locally manufactured in LA, this style is a cropped version of what I wore previously. These pants—because they are of a knit fabric that is substantive and, I swear, will not crease—are in constant rotation in my closet.

The Root Collective ballet flats: Yesterday, I wrote about The Root Collective’s work they do on behalf of artisans in Kenya. Today, I brought flats into the office because I can’t walk New York sidewalks in these very pointy, glittery, golden heels (I leave a trail of gold dust in my wake).

So on days like today, these Guatemalan print ballet flats become my walking shoes. Each pair is made by a cobbler known as "Don Otto," who works and resides in the La Limonada slum of Guatemala City. He sources the pretty handwoven cotton fabric uppers from Mayan women living in rural areas who practice traditional weaving, and they come in a variety of pretty prints as well as richly saturated solids.

This flat—or its adorable peep toe cousin—could easily become your summer music festival shoe paired with denim cut-offs and a cropped top (my 23-year-old self would have rocked that look).

Photo credit: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

Conscious Consumerism Challenge: Day 4

In this 8-day series, we challenged Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker (InStyle Fashion Features Editor) to vet—and model!—brands that “do good.” As in, brands or sites that meet the following criteria: locally sourced, social responsibility (which includes repurposed/upcycle pieces), organic and all-natural, eco and sustainable practices, and embedded generosity.

The Root Collective beaded necklaces: The Baltimore-based founder of The Root Collective, Bethany Tran, travels the globe finding local artisans to partner with in creating pretty colorful shoes and accessories, which she then sells on her site. The artisans get paid fair wage for their work and 10 percent of sales benefit NGOs servicing their communities (the buyer gets to pick the beneficiary NGO). These beaded necklaces—they come in different colors—were made by a Maasai artisan in Kenya named Emily. Her earnings mean that her children get to go to school.

SBJ Austin dress: I got this roomy-around-the-belly SJB Austin dress when I was pregnant and it quickly became a closet go-to. Fifteen months—and a somewhat tinier waist—later, I still reach for it. The crisp and thick (organic) cotton means it works across seasons. The simple-yet-feminine silhouette in a neutral gray print means I can easily dress it up or down. The line—which includes seersucker shirtdresses and brushstroke-print tunics—is designed by Mallory Carroll out of Austin, Texas, where they’re also made. Any dresses that aren’t sold are donated to Dress for Success.

Study Two-Tone Baseball Tee from Of A Kind: I have so much love for Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur, the equal share editorial and style savants behind Of A Kind, the site they started that features limited edition runs from collector-worthy designers, like Ace & Jig and Collette Ishiyama. They’ve done a few limited editions with Study’s Tara St. James, the talent behind this oh-so-easy, wear-with-anything, gray and cream sweatshirt-tee hybrid. St. James does a rare thing these days: She sources her organic cotton domestically (Texas). Earning her further ethical fashion halos is her practice of no-waste patternmaking as well as dying and sewing her pieces locally, which for her is Brooklyn.

Photo credit: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

Conscious Consumerism Challenge: Day 1

In this 8-day series, we challenged Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker (InStyle Fashion Features Editor) to vet—and model!—brands that “do good.” As in, brands or sites that meet the following criteria: locally sourced, social responsibility (which includes repurposed/upcycle pieces), organic and all-natural, eco and sustainable practices, and embedded generosity. 

Same Sky bracelets: These so-pretty-I-could-eat-them shiny glass bead bracelets are from Same Sky, which I’ve written about before. Francine’s jewelry provides employment to women who are HIV-positive in Africa, and she recently launched an outpost in New Jersey that provides work for women recently out of jail.

Valentine Gauthier top from ShopEthica: One of my favorite ethical fashion e-comms is Shop Ethica, which we featured in #bestofdigi last year. They have a solid selection of accessibly priced, on-trend offerings and each item is tagged with at least one of the site’s highlighted ethical practices (such as sustainable, Made in the USA, etc). You can also sort and shop by ethical quality.

The Valentine Gauthier shirt I’m wearing is sustainable and fair trade. And it’s made with cotton and silk from India—soooo soft! Gauthier only uses natural fibers and organic fabrics, and she makes the pieces in the country where the fabrics originate, thus reducing the product’s carbon footprint. Strictly from a design perspective, I love that the collar is in a contrasting fabric, providing a fresh take on the classic style.

Julie Bee’s shoes: I’m wearing coral Julie Bee’s pumps, a cool shoe brand out of my hometown of Atlanta. Her shoes are made with vegetable-dyed leathers in the USA and some are customized with vintage material remnants.

Photo credit: Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

What Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker is Wearing: 8 Days of Conscious Consumerism

As a fashion editor, I love fashion. But as a human being, I love things that give back, do good, are good. Fortunately with the current movement of “Conscious Consumerism” gaining traction,  I can do both: wear fab things and feel great about those choices. For eight days I decided to wear at least one, sometimes more, item of clothing or accessory (and makeup!) that checked at least one of these boxes: eco or sustainably sourced, supports fair trade, gives back to a community, is locally produced, has an embedded generosity (charity) component.

Here’s how it unfolded:

DAY ONE:

Neary T-Shirt with gold brushstroke from Raven+Lily ($42): This site ravenandlily.com sells chic, globally sourced items and supports sustainable economic opportunities for women around the world. This hand-printed tee is from Cambodia, and the super-soft jersey cotton is remnant fabric that has been naturally dyed. They are made by women with HIV and/or formerly trafficked. Proceeds also fund health and education programs for women and children in the community. 

Lip Sheer in Twig by Beauty Counter ($28): This new boutique beauty brand focuses on safe, healthy products and was co-created by natural beauty expert and makeup artist Christy Coleman (see Miranda Kerr's face for her brilliance in action). The offerings are paraben-free (along with 1500 other contested chemicals and toxins) and they won't include anything that hasn't been tested. I love all this, but I'm also in love with their luxurious packaging and competitive prices. For my lips, Twig's my neutral go-to day hue (and so hydrating) and Currant is what I swipe on at night.

DAY TWO:

Isidro San Lorenzo T-shirt by Á-la-Mexique ($50): This is a limited edition shirt that’s part of a 4-shirt collection of Spanish-ized designer names and logos (Isidro San Lorenzo is the Spanish nod to Yves Saint Laurent; they also have Coco Canales and others). It’s designed by friend and PR powerhouse Gabriel Rivera-Barraza and T-shirt designer Simon Guindi Cohen. Proceeds benefit Project Paz, a non-profit dedicated to promoting peace in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Slim Skinny High Rise jeans in Soul Mate Medium rinse by Bluer Denim ($128): Luxury jeans at non-luxury prices with all components—the zippers to the fabric, plus the design and manufacturing—USA born from this Portland-based label. And get this: You can send them your old jeans and they’ll repair, clean and donate to someone in need, and you’ll receive credit for future purchases.

DAY THREE:

Beaded choker by Anna Trzebinski: The Kenyan-based fashion designer and her team of local artisans use local materials and employ traditional techniques to create out-of-this-world jewelry, jackets, sandals and bags. I love that this is truly a one-of-a-kind piece, and it works effortlessly with a LBD or a T-shirt and jeans.

Noir Juliette Bra by Naja ($55): You can’t see the adorable lined bra I’m wearing, but you can see the line’s designer and philanthropic founder Catalina Girald (pictured, seated with me). Catalina is a proven tech entity, having started and sold tech businesses. Recently, she turned her focus to her passion: designing lingerie. The line is sold exclusively on the Naja site and does a few things: 1) It brings high-end, beautiful and impeccably produced lingerie directly to consumers, thus saving costs; 2) Catalina sources materials from South America; and 3) She employs single mothers there. Plus, profits go toward their entrepreneurial sewing program, which provides single moms with marketable skills. 

DAY FOUR:

Alpaca Infinity Scarf in camel ($65) and Oversized Sweater in Gray ($150) by Cuyana: Warmer than wool and lighter than cashmere, these alpaca pieces are my staples for a frigid NYC winter. The sweater is actually made with baby alpaca, which is not in fact a baby. It’s merely the softest hair from the alpaca, located on its neck. I love that it’s roomy and a little longer in the back than the front. Cuyana, which means “to love” in Quechua (a native language of the Andes in South America), was founded on the principle of intentional shopping: Buying fewer, but higher quality (classic and highly crafted) items. Cuyana’s co-founder Karla Gallardo sources sustainable materials and only works with small-run factories from Scotland to Ecuador.

DAY FIVE:

Silk Chiffon Monk Dress by StyleSaint ($178): New fashion-forward looks, under the eye and care of StyleSaint co-founder and designer Allison Beal, are created every six weeks in limited runs. There’s a strong emphasis on “Made in the USA,” with fabrics sourced locally and fabricated in and around Los Angeles—where the company is based.

DAY SIX:

Love Knot bracelet by Sequence from ShopLatitude ($60): Alisa Ng and her team at the highly addictive global bonanza that is ShopLatitude.com locate makers from around the world that create chic offerings and support local communities. Case in point: Sequence by Ariela Suster (who was a former InStyle editor—woot woot!). Her line of jewelry is made in El Salvador (where she’s from) by local artisans, and it also benefits her “Spread Light & Love” project to help young people who live in at-risk communities.

DAY SEVEN:

Yucca Screen Printed Handwoven Scarf by A Peace Treaty ($310) and Nesika Dress by Pendleton The Portland Collection ($328) from ZadyZady.com is a new e-comm that seeks out clothing, accessories and home décor that must hit at least a few “buy good” notes: locally sourced, made in the USA, made by hand, sustainable. A Peace Treaty's designs are made in a co-op in Nepal using traditional techniques, and heritage brand Pendleton has recently expanded its offerings by partnering with local Portland designers—in this case: Rachel Turk and Nathaniel Crissman of indie line Church and State.

DAY EIGHT:

Phi silk coat from Shop-Hers, Blumarine silk chiffon dress from Circles Unlimited, vintage Chanel pin from Lxr&Co: Everything here is from a consignment shop, because consignment = recycle = awesome. Shop-Hers is a site based in LA that sells coveted brands from highly covetable closets. I scored this NWT (New With Tags) Phi coat for about $100, no joke. The Blumarine silk cocktail dress (worn under my grandfather’s cashmere cardigan that I belted) is from my favorite brick-and-mortar consignment boutique Circles Unlimited in my hometown Atlanta, GA. Owner Faye Rittlemeyer, who is always dressed to perfection, fills her jewelry box of a shop with divine vintage, current pieces and lots of NWT items. So, if you are ever in Atlanta, you should go. The Chanel pin is from Lxr&Co, perhaps the best resource—with the best prices—on the web for authenticated consignment designer handbags and jewelry.

—Isabel González Whitaker, Fashion Features Editor, InStyle

Photo credits: Alex Reside and Sarah Balch for InStyle.com