Tomorrow I'm leaving for nearly two weeks in the UK to visit/pick up my younger brother who has been studying there. I'm going with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law (that's right, sans children - the part I'm most hesitant about) and will be making our way from London to Scotland and then back down to London for a few days.
I wanted to share a quick packing list for those of you who may be interested. Although I'm packing it all in a carry-on (mine is from Lo & Sons and I LOVE it), I feel a bit like I overpacked. However, I've had each of these pieces in mind for months and am excited to mix and match them for some easy, travel-chic outfits while I'm gone.
I'm also bringing my Eba Tote with me - it's INCREDIBLE for travel, with a center divider, several pockets, and a cup holder in the bottom. I'll bring reading material, a smaller clutch, Keepcup, Yuhme water bottle, and other essentials in it.
You are imperfect. Permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.
— Amy Bloom
Beauty is, as I've written before, a fluid concept. I'm quicker to notice the beauty in other women than I am to celebrate my own, but as I've "gotten older" (I can say that at 24, right?) I've slowly and surely learned to accept my own "inevitable flaws" and, if not love them, appreciate them for what they are.
Today is International Women's Day. A day that symbolizes empowerment, progress, and the many (many) flaws in the "system" that women face in the workplace, home, and world at large. And while all of these things are incredibly important and need to be discussed, I want to use today as an excuse to share about a topic that I've written on several times, but never felt comfortable "donning" for the world wide web. Lingerie, yes, but more than that, insecurity. And, in turn, the way a beautifully made piece of clothing, even one that no one else sees (unless you're silly enough to post it on the internet...), can empower you in its own small way.
When I've shopped for lingerie in the past, it's usually been for one of two reasons:
1. for practicality's sake, usually while I was breastfeeding (easy access and comfort are key...everything else can go to underthings' hell). 2. for enhancement's sake. In an effort to "disguise" my reality. (Ie. you've had two kids and still have no boobs to speak of).
Shopping ethically, for either of those reasons, is difficult in its own way. The first, for sheer lack of options and, because, nursing bras, well, they get destroyed.
The second, because most non-Victoria's-Secret slow fashion shops don't rely heavily on "enhancement". More clearly stated, my days of push up bras comprised of two-inches of sheer non-boob foam were coming to an end and I'd have to accept my body for the way it really was if I wanted to support brands who were doing things in a truly empowering (and ethical) way.
Of course, not all ethically made bras have to be un-padded bralettes for A and B cups, but by and large, the majority of brands I've come across focus on celebrating, protecting, and appreciating a woman's natural form, not her enhanced "socially accepted" form.
And although it has been a hard acceptance on my end, the correlation between my own self-esteem and the types of clothes I choose to buy isn't lost on me. That's not to say that you can't rock a Victoria's Secret push-up bra (because I still do from time to time), but when I feel the need to wear pieces that don't honestly reflect my body, I've learned to re-evaluate my "why". Is it because I'm unhappy with my body? Is it because I feel like I need to be "enhanced"?
And so I've begun the slow process of accepting my body - disproportions, stretch marks, acne, hairy arms, small boobs and all. See that "stomach roll" in the next photo? I accept that too.
I've learned that acceptance can be both practical and beautiful. Un-enhanced and feminine. Beauty doesn't have a definition or "type", so why should my underwear?
A few brands I've been wearing (and genuinely loving) lately that have helped me feel beautiful in my skin: Hara the Label:
Hara is an Austrailia-based lingerie company selling body-positive, organic, unbelieveably comfortable underwear and bras made from bamboo. I'm wearing their Stella low cut bra in Ivory and I forget that I'm even wearing a bra when I have it on.
AmaElla sells underwear, bras, and nightwear made from organic cotton. Their bras (both bralettes and non-bralette) and underwear are all made from OEKO TEX STANDARD cotton. I have their Organic Cotton Brazillian Knickers and they're the perfect amount of sexy and comfortable (the perfect combination, if you ask me).
Aikyou is a label designing specifically for women with small busts (hallelujah, right?) Their pieces perfectly blend femininity, uniqueness, and comfort, without compromising support or fit. I'm wearing their Milla Triangle bra in mint/white.
**This post was sponsored by Hara the Label, Aikyou Lingerie, and AmaElla Lingerie. I received product for review but wasn't compensated. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this site running!**
See the boots I'm wearing? They weren't made in a factory, somewhere in an industrialized city district. They weren't made by machines in a warehouse. They certainly weren't made in a sweatshop, by underpaid workers with cheap materials destined to fall apart and end up in landfill only after a few wears.
No, Selvin made my shoes.
This is the first time I've ever known the name of the person who made an item specifically for me, taking days of his time to create a piece I wear almost daily.
We talk about "artisan made" products all the time in the ethical fashion world, but what does that really mean? Is it just a fancier word for someone who works in a factory making products? Is it an old word that we just use to mean a more "ethically made product"? Yes, in a way. But in a much more impactful way, the word "artisan" is all about skill.
a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
More than just handmade, defining something as "artisan made" implies the learned, refined skill of the creator. It's more than just a job, it's a trade. It's more than just a product, it's a piece of art.
Through my partnership with Adelante, my appreciation for "artisan made" has doubled.
Adelante is a shoe company that employs craftsman in Guatemala. And Selvin, of course, is one of the craftsman working with them.
True to their "cobbler to customer" promise, in each shoe box, Adelante includes a photo of the craftsman, with a bit about them. A simple step, but one that drives home the fact that there are hands, and faces, and stories behind each product.
In an effort to make this more than a "product review" and to better understand the stark difference between what Adelante does and what most shoe companies do, I was able to speak to Selvin directly, via Skype, to hear his story and learn about what goes into making a pair of boots like the ones he made for me.
Here's what I learned:
Selvin has been making shoes since he was in the sixth grade. Shoe-making was once a large industry in Pastores, a main stream of income for many families there, and a trade that Selvin learned from his father. However, as other trades and demands have pushed their way in, many cobblers have been out of work. Adelante is the first business of its kind in Pastores, and Selvin told me that through the brand, he's able to provide for his family.
(Adelante ensures that their artisans are paid above the "Living Well Line", which, means that the wages are determined by balancing a "regression analysis of World Bank data with in-person craftsmen interviews" and determining a wage that doesn't stop at country level and considers the individual community, economy, and livelihood of the people they employ.)
Speaking of his family, he has three children who hope to grow up to be accountants.
He also told me that his favorite part of the shoe making process is putting the finishing touches on the product - the polish and shine. At this stage, he said, you can truly appreciate the quality of the shoe and get excited about the final result. I showed him my Granadas through the computer screen, with his signature on the inside, and he smiled as he asked how I liked them and what I thought of the fit.
Our chat was short, about 15 minutes, but seeing his face and hearing his story was a conversation I won't soon forget. The importance of choosing to support brands like these - brands who care about the people they employ, brands who value the culture and craft behind their product, and brands who pay their employees a wage they deserve to be paid - these are the brands I'll never stop falling in love with.
** This post is sponsored by Adelante Shoe Co. as part of an ongoing partnership. All opinions and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this blog running!**
One of the strangest (and most fun) aspects of this blogging gig is the way I form connections to people and their brands, without ever meeting them in person or trying their product. Today's interview bloomed out of a relationship just like that.
I've been following along with THOM KELLY's journey for longer than I can remember, before they had a physical product or even the finalized designs for one. I remember being so intrigued by the concept of an ethical, high quality plaid shirt and knew I had to watch their journey unfold. As time went on, I connected with Megan, the one-woman-show behind Thom Kelly, and (probably too often) let her know how excited I was for her brand's launch.
Despite the many road blocks that come with launching a USA-made, eco-friendly company, Thom Kelly launched their first collection of plaid shirts at the end of last year and is waiting for their first production run next month. It's an honor to give you a behind the scenes peek into this incredible brand (seriously, I think you'll be impressed. They're one of the very few who make ethics a priority in every area).
Over the next few months, you'll be hearing more about them, but for now, meet Megan and her sustainable-dream-project, THOM KELLY:
What inspired you to create THOM KELLY? Tell us a little bit of the story behind your brand!
I can remember very vividly the day this idea got sparked. My husband and supporter in this venture (Ryne) came home from work one day and started talking about something he read about sustainable clothing. I had never heard of sustainable clothing before, so I think my exact words were “what are you even talking about?” So, that next morning I started my Google search and the rest is history. I quickly became obsessed with educating myself about the world sustainable clothing.
Like many, I was doing my part to help the environment and my health by reselling my clothing, eating all the right things, recycling, and staying away from toxic products. As I started to learn more about the devastating impact of the fast fashion industry, I couldn’t believe I had never given much thought about the clothes on my back.
I wanted to start purchasing more responsible clothing, but through my search I couldn’t find a lot that fit our everyday style. So instead of settling, I decided to create my own. When I ran this idea by Ryne he was immediately along for the ride and never questioned how it could be done even though we had absolutely no fashion experience.
We needed a product to sell and I wanted it to be something he and I would wear all the time. I looked at our closet one day and took a quick inventory of the clothing. There was plaid, and a lot of it. This was the moment a light bulb went off in my head. In our efforts to find more responsible clothing we could not find a lot that we could picture ourselves wearing, so it was obvious a plaid shirt would help fill this void.
Is there a story behind the name?
Coming up with a name was challenging because it needed to be gender neutral since we planned to sell both men’s and women’s shirts. I made long lists of names that gave nod to our eco-minded mission or plaid, but they all felt forced and none really stuck out. I finally gave up on this idea and decided to keep it personal. THOM KELLY is a mix of our names. When I first said it out loud we both knew it felt right. It’s nothing clever or fancy, it's just us. We also decided to name the first collection of shirts after our two dogs, Sawyer & Axel.
I've been following your brand's launch for so long (yay!) and loved seeing the behind the scenes you shared along the way. What was one of the hardest parts you dealt with in building your brand ethically?
Oh gosh, there have been many hurdles during this journey to build an ethical brand! Aside from it being more costly and time-consuming, I’d definitely say our fabric was the hardest piece. We have been committed to using eco-friendly materials since day one and when I decided to create plaid shirts, little did I know how hard it would be to find eco-friendly plaid fabric. I started contacting every fabric supplier I could find asking for their eco-friendly plaid samples.
The eco-friendly plaid that already existed was very, very slim pickings and none of colors and patterns fit our vision. We either needed to scratch the plaid idea or come up with a solution. We went the solution route and decided to create our own plaid fabric from scratch.
Easier said than done for a one women show who has no fashion background, but I was determined and love a good challenge. After a lot of learning, many fabric samples, and even more mistakes, the custom fabric was finally created. The fabric was woven specifically for us using the patterns we designed, the colors of our choice, and the yarn we selected. It has been amazing and so rewarding to see our plaid designs on a computer screen turn into real fabric that we now wear around in our daily life.
What does THOM KELLY do differently than other plaid shirt brands out there?
Some brands use eco-friendly fabric, some make their shirts in the USA, some create custom fabric, and some give back, but we haven’t found a brand yet that does all those things. That's where we come in. Our plaid shirts are made in the USA, the fabric is custom designed, we give back a portion of sales, and we use all eco-friendly materials.
We also are a little biased toward the fit of our shirts. There was always something a little off with the plaid shirts in our closet (like sleeves being too short, or not enough buttons to help with gaping) so we ended up not wearing them much. We set out to fix these issues and created shirts we truly feel comfortable wearing every day.
Where do you see your brand in two years?
In two years I’d like to still be focusing on our core product (plaid shirts), but with more designs and styles. Eventually, I would like to expand into other items, but right now I am anxious to get more plaid styles made! I really love creating the one-of-a-kind designs.
We are committed to giving back a portion of each purchase to environmental non-profits as part of our 1% for the Planet membership, and I would love to expand more around this mission and be able to give a sizable contribution in two years.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee all the way! My daily dose usually comes from the same pot reheated about 4 times throughout the day.
And just for fun, what is something that most people don't know about you?
I’m a new mom! I was pregnant during much of the time I spent building the brand, then when we officially launched our website I had a 4 month old (which also explains the re-heating of coffee multiple times a day).
Stay tuned for more on THOM KELLY next month, but for now, don't forget to follow along with their inspiring brand on Instagram and pre-order a plaid shirt for you (or your man)!
*This post was sponsored by THOM KELLY as part of an ongoing Ambassador partnership. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this site running!*
If you've read my blog or followed along for any length of time, you know that SL&Co primarily focuses on ethics within the fashion industry - a topic with more than enough subjectivity and sobering statistics to keep me busy for a while. However, another realm that I'm equally invested in, with an equal amount of corruption, pollution, and confusion, is the coffee industry.
Whether you work in coffee, are just beginning to dip your toes (or, mug?) into the world of specialty coffee, or you fall anywhere in between, most conscious consumers would agree that, like any other industry, there are ways to "do coffee" well, and there are ways to do it poorly. I'm not just talking about whether your coffee tastes like it should or whether you know how to brew it properly (both of which, I would argue, are important as well), but about all of the "unseen" aspects behind your morning pour over.
It's estimated that more than 40 hands and over 2,000 hours go into make a single cup of coffee. From seed, to plant, to processing, to roasting, to brewing, coffee, like most things in life, isn't simple. And crafting excellent, ethical coffee is even more complicated.
This post is by no means as in depth or exhaustive as it could be. Instead, it's meant to be a "gateway" to cleaning up your coffee routine, for the sake of craft coffee, the livelihood of the hands who produce it, and for the environment, with simple steps and basic statistics. I've implemented all of these "steps" into my daily coffee routine and I would love to hear how you make them work in your day to day life too!
1. Swap Your Beans for Direct Trade and Certified Organic Coffee
This piece is first on my list because, like sourcing with textiles or food, the supply chain behind each bag of coffee is incredibly important. And, incredibly varied. It probably comes as no surprise to learn that slavery, forced labor, child labor, unsanitary working conditions, pesticide use, and scant wages are all fairly common among coffee farms all over the world.
According to Coffeelands, extreme poverty (and lack of education and ability to gain better jobs), demand for coffee, and cheapening prices of coffee per pound all contribute to the slavery-like conditions that plague coffee workers around the world.
However, there are ways to make sure your morning cup isn't contributing to slavery (a statement that sounds loaded and emotionally charged, but a quick look at the facts shows that it really isn't).
With the growth of Fair Trade Certification, more standards are being put into place to ensure that the working and living conditions are safe, that the coffee is grown in pesticide-free land, and that it's a higher quality of coffee than non-certified coffees. In fact, the FTC reported that of the 400 million cups of coffee that Americans drink per day, if each person switched to just one fair trade cup per day, an additional $2 million would be re-invested into the farmers, helping them address the issues that cause the vicious cycle of poverty and forced labor.
To take it a step further, opt for Direct Trade Coffee over Fair Trade.
What's the difference? In a word, Direct Trade gives control to the roasters, allowing them to directly interact and support the farms that grow their coffee. It eliminates the third-party middle man, so to speak, and actually allows coffee farmers to make more money as a result.
Click here for an excellent infographic on the difference between Fair Trade and Direct Trade, (of course, buying fair trade is far better than buying non-certified coffee, but if you can, find a roaster who works directly with the farmers via Direct Trade!)
(See the bottom of this post for a round up of a few of my favorite roasters and coffee companies!)
2. Ditch Single Use Filters (or Opt for Compostable Ones)
When it comes to at-home coffee, chances are you're using a single-use system like a Nespresso or K Cup. If you're not using one of these, you're likely using a drip brewer. According to Statista, single use coffee makers generated retail sales of almost 4 BILLION dollars. However, Business Insider noted that the vast majority of these pods can't be recycled, meaning that the amount of discarded K-cup and Nespresso pods could easily circle the Earth more than ten times, if stacked side by side (source).
Although, luckily, there are more eco-friendly options out there (like compostable and re-usable pods) I'm a fan of manual brewing methods combined with reusable filters to ensure the least amount of waste and the best tasting cup. (Coffee snob alert, I know, I know).
I recently picked up a few organic cotton/hemp filters from Pinyon Products and have been loving them. They don't alter taste (my biggest concern), are as easy to use as paper filters, and last for years and years and years. Pinyon sells cloth filters for drip machines, Chemex and more.
(Extra-Coffee-Snob note: using non-paper filters can yield a bit thicker cup- less clean than you might be used to, so to compensate, I suggested using a coarser grind if you're using a Hario V-60 like I am).
Similarly, single use coffee cups are generally not recycleable due to a thin layer of polyurethane on the inside to insulate and waterproof the cups. (Ew, I know). However, this poses a huge problem, especially if you enjoy frequenting your local cafe. There are recycleable single-use cups on the market, which is great for the shops that actually use them. But unless you're going to call up each shop ahead of time to ask what kind of cups they use, bringing your own mug is a simple way to reduce waste.
It's no secret that I love my KeepCup, but it doesn't really matter what brand or style of cup you use, as long as you remember to bring it ;) You could save an average of 158 disposable cups from landfill (source).
4. Support Local Cafes That Value Farm-to-Cup Transparency
It's no fun to drink coffee in your kitchen all the time. I'm a bit of a coffee shop addict and love discovering new shops. But before I head to a new shop, I like to research a little bit beforehand about what roaster they use, and how transparent that roaster is about where and how their coffees are sourced.
Small, local shops are usually the quickest way to find passionate shop owners passionate about transparency.
5. Re-use Your Coffee Grounds
Although coffee is rather acidic, the used grounds are almost pH neutral and are perfect for composting, DIY fertilizer, and even using in body products.
Love them or hate them, there's no denying that a few high-quality basics are the backbone of any well-rounded wardrobe. Even if you love patterns and have an "eclectic" personal style, you've got to admit that it's hard to pull together even the wildest of outfits without some kind of basic thrown in to build around.
A good white tee, solid layering tanks, long sleeve shirts, a good pair of leggings or denim. These are a few of my favorite things.
I've heard from several of you, however, that you don't like shopping for basics due to the sheer amount of options out there. Almost every ethical retailer sells basics of some kind and it can be hard to know where to turn and, most of all, who to trust, when you're designing the core of your wardrobe.
Encircled, a Toronto-based brand that I've had a major crush on for a while (their founder, Kristi, has even written TWO guest pieces for my blog that you can read here and here), has basics down. They've been designing versatile, sustainable, beautifully-made pieces for years, some that you can wear countless ways, like the Chrysalis Cardi that can be anything from a scarf, to a cardigan, to a romper, to a dress. I KNOW.
Most recently though, Encircled has set out on a mission to make selecting the basics of your wardrobe as easy as possible. Their new Kits (which are officially launching this week!) allow you to choose three pieces to mix and match with the rest of your wardrobe from their selection of already existing pieces. They were sweet enough to let me try out the process ahead of time and, obviously, I was more than thrilled to fill a few "basic gaps" in my wardrobe.
Believe if or not, I didn't own a white t-shirt until I received this one in the mail. It, along with the Olive green Essential Long Sleeve Tee, and the Minimalist Leggings in black, came with a "Just the Basics" tote bag that perfectly sums up the mission behind Encircled's Kits.
Each piece is made of uber-sustainable fabric, which also equates to unbelievably soft and durable as well. The Nomadic V is made of Lenzing Modal, a fabric made from the pulp of beech trees. The Essential Long Sleeve Tee and Minimalist Leggings are both made of a Bamboo/cotton/spandex blend.
I'm wearing a Small in all three pieces and am amazed at how well they fit. The shirts are long enough to cover the booty and just low-cut enough to be able to layer under or over other pieces. The leggings are high-waisted, semi-thin material, but definitely pass the "downward dog test" for see-through-ness.
Although there are obviously unlimited ways to style these pieces, which I'll be showcasing in upcoming posts, for this one, I wanted to focus on each piece in its "pure" form. They're perfect for lounging in, brunching in, dancing in, cooking in, doing yoga in, working in, sleeping in - you name it. In fact, I can't think of an occasion when, with the right accessories and other pieces, that the items in the Kit wouldn't work for.
If there's one part of your wardrobe to consider buying brand new, from a sustainable, trusted brand, it's your basics. The pieces you live your life in, the pieces you use to set off your "statement pieces". Great basics are worth investing in, and Encircled makes some of the best I've tried yet.
Shop their website here and stay tuned for the launch of their Kits very soon!
*This post was sponsored by Encircled in promotion of their new Kit launch. All opinions and photos are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep SL&Co. running!*
*This piece is a guest post that I hope you'll find particularly helpful if you, as I have many a time, find yourself overwhelmed by clutter in your closet.*
Marie Kondo is an organization goddess. The KonMari Method is a way of thinking which teaches us to cherish the things that matter and spark joy, and get rid of the things in our lives that don’t. I plan to tackle my closet in this way (and encourage you all to as well). You’ll be amazed by the impact it can have on your well-being.
The KonMari Method is simple. Below are Marie’s rules with my closet-decluttering twist.
Commit yourself to tidying up your closet. Make it a resolution. If you can set aside a few hours on your day off to get this taken care of, you’ll feel great! Think about getting to the final product. It will motivate you to get through the process.
Imagine your ideal closet lifestyle. Do you consider your style to be trendy? Maybe you’re more on the simple and clean side. Allow your closet to be a reflection of your own personal style! If you consider your style to be more on the trendy side, find ways to showcase some of your favorite items such as your shoes. If you are more clean cut, consider adding additional shelves or drawers to keep everything as organized as possible.
Finish discarding and donating old items first. Before you go forward with organizing and adding new items to your closet, figure out which items have got to go! Although it doesn’t seem that simple, try channeling your inner Marie Kondo and ask yourself “does this piece of clothing bring me joy?” If your answer isn’t immediately yes, then you don’t need it! Find other ways to repurpose it. Try taking some old tee-shirts and making a rug! The possibilities are literally endless with upcycling and DIY.
Rules 4 & 5
Tidy by category, style and color. When it comes to the actual organization of your closet, I try to keep similar items together. Sweaters in one area, tanks in another. Of course, all of these are color coordinated. Personally, I attempt a rainbow descent of colors. Same for your shoes! Try to organize them by the style. Not only will this aesthetically look great, but it will make getting ready in the morning much easier!
Ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it makes you feel like you’re making a difference. When purchasing new items, it’s important to make sure you are buying something that you not only need, but something you’ll wear and actually enjoy.
When I purchase new clothes, I also look for items that leave less of an environmental footprint. Knowing that the clothes I wear not only were made in a sustainable manner but also are made with organic ingredients makes me feel good and proud to wear my clothes. Talk about sparking joy! Two of my favorite sustainable clothing brands are:
Pact: As an organic clothing company, their mission is “searching for new ways to make clothes that aren’t just better for you and your loved ones, but better for the world, too.” Their product offerings range from men, women, children, and babies! They are also an affordable option.
Cariloha: This brand makes their items out of bamboo which is a renewable resource. They not only offer clothes but they also offer bedding and other household items. Their price range is a tad higher but you definitely won’t be breaking the bank!
Are you feeling a bit more zen yet? Try implementing these rules into your decluttering process and let me know how it worked for you!
Craftsmanship isn’t like water in an earthen pot, to be taken out by the dipperful until it’s empty. No, the more drawn out the more remains.
— Lloyd Alexander
Supporting artisan-made brands isn't the only way to shop ethically, but the more I research and the more I connect to brand owners, the more I'm drawn to the story of so many slow fashion brands. I love learning the history and the passion and the culture behind the pieces I add to my closet. More and more, the brands I love collaborating with are ones who are deeply connected to the hands who make their products, whether locally or internationally. Paola, the founder of SHILANGO is no different.
SHILANGO is her passion project, an ethical marketplace re-investing in her hometown. Her pieces celebrate traditional Mexican culture, using naturally occurring materials like wood, tamarind seeds, coffee beans, huaje seeds, cantalope peel, and handmade beads.
Of all the pieces she sent me (SO generously, by the way), my favorite are the Aztec Fan earrings, which I've alternated with my other pair of statement earrings almost every day since I've had them. They're the perfect pop of color to my mostly neutral wardrobe and I love thinking about the story behind them each time I put them on.
Because, more often than not, it's easier to buy something (even an ethical something) at face value, or just because it's ethically made, without considering the story or the history that went into creating the piece. And it's forever one of my favorite aspects of slow fashion.
My goal is to always share the story behind each brand I introduce and, today, Paola is doing the introducing herself with an interview that actually brought me to tears. Her love for her brand is contagious.
Can you tell us a bit about the backstory of Shilango?
I immigrated to Toronto almost a decade ago with the dream of growing my business acumen, learn other cultures and of course, learn English too. Later on, once I've learnt how to communicate in English, I encountered myself with a strong feeling of giving back to the small community I grew up in.⠀
Although I have a BA majoring in tourism, I've been naturally interested in fashion since age six. I used to watch Fashion Television with Canadian host Jeanne Beker since the age of twelve and recycled full page editorials to place them on e-v-e-r-y single cover of my school notebooks. You can say I was born a fashionista :)
The love for my family, native country (Mexico), its culture and the people who move the country forward encouraged me to start SHILANGO in which I combine my passions for sustainable fashion and keep my Mexican heritage alive.
Do you have a favorite product and why?
The Genesis Bracelet. Besides that it’s beautiful, it has sentimental value to me. My husband bought it for me on one of our trips to Mexico, and it’s become one of our best sellers. I named it the Genesis Bracelet because genesis means the beginning. It’s the Christian Old Testament and the first book of the Hebrew Bible in which God creates the world. The bracelet represents the creation of SHILANGO.
Other than running your business, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I consider myself a foodie, so when I'm not hustling, you can find me trying a new local restaurant. I also love to stay healthy so I like to workout and eat healthy.
You also have two sweet boys. How do you balance life as a mama while running your online business?
I do have two small boys (4 & 2 yo) so life is definitely busy! Being a mother is a huge responsibility, and it's my number one priority. Hence, I have to apply my time- management skills and be present for them when they are around. I work on the business while they're taking naps, in school and when after they're gone for bed. I'd say I have to work effectively and efficiently because I really don't have a lot of time to spare.
What is the most important aspect of SHILANGO to you?
SHILANGO'S vision is to be the example for sustainable fashion committed to the people we work with (artisan partners + clients), the Earth we live in (by specializing in eco-friendly materials) and ethically sourced practices (artisan made + fair traded + honouring heritage + respecting human rights + small quantities made).
You can shop this incredible handmade selection on SHILANGO's website (plus many more pieces not pictured here).
*This post is sponsored by SHILANGO. All opinions and creative direction are my own. Thank you for supporting the inspiring brands that make this blog possible.*
I’m frequently asked what the “catalyst” was for my obsession with ethics and living a “slow, conscious lifestyle”. What drove you to this point? Have you always lived an “eco-friendly” life? Was there a tipping point when you quit fast fashion?
And my answer, always, without hesitation, is when I became a mom.
Of course, motherhood is laced with responsibility and exhaustion and keeping another human (or two or three) alive and mostly clean, but, what I wasn’t expecting was the (literal and figurative) wake-up call that becoming a mom would be for my lifestyle.
I got pregnant at 19. I wasn’t married, although I was with the man I intended to marry, if that counts. I had no idea how to hold a newborn baby, much less grow one inside my body, give birth to it, and then assume the title of “mom”. Life, at that point, was chaotic, exciting, stressful, and a mess. As most new moms can relate to, the act of “becoming a mom” isn’t simple, smooth, or easy in the least. Rather, it’s filled with life-changes, irreversible body alterations, unmet plans, and of course, lots and lots of excitement and love.
Evie, my oldest, was born a few months after I turned 20, and I loved her fiercely. I still do, for the record. But what does all of this have to do with ethics or where I choose to buy something as simple as a basic white tee?
Last week, I published the first "segment" of my Conscious Confessions about the different definitions of the word "ethical" and the (often hidden) fact that ethics and ethical shopping aren't a black and white area. Rather, they're a grey, mushy area full of opinions, and perspective, and history.
But that, I believe, is what makes the topic beautiful and worth learning about.
This Conscious Confession series isn't planned or sponsored - rather, it's a reflection of issues and conversations that I see rising in the slow fashion community and want to dissect further in the "safe space" of my own blog. It's a place for discussion, thought, and maybe, disagreement.
Today, I was prompted to dive into the topic of pricing, in it's (again) complicated form, after having several conversations on the topic in a surprisingly short period of time. The first, was with my friend Sara, the founder of IMBY and general business and ethical living guru who I've been lucky enough to call friend over the years. The second, was for an interview with an online publication who, almost immediately after my chat with Sara, asked me my thoughts on the price of most ethically made pieces. The last instance was less of a conversation and more of an extrapolation after seeing a fellow ethical blogger's Instagram story and having an inner "AMEN" moment.
When things come up in succession like that, I usually take it as a "sign" to hurry up and listen.
It's no secret that shopping from ethical or fair trade companies is more expensive. But why is that? It is because they hike their prices up to add "exclusivity" to their brand? Is it because producing ethically is really that much more expensive than producing like most brands do?
I try to represent a wide variety of price ranges on SL&Co, knowing that most of my readers (like myself) don't have an expendable budget and that just because a piece is made ethically doesn't mean it has to cost the same as my rent. However, I've been noticing a lot of chatter around pricing and whether or not it's truly "fair". That's what made me want to dive in and stir the pot (to mix two, totally non-compatible idioms).
One blog post from Elisabeth Suzann (recommended to me by Sara), discusses this issue in detail, breaking down the exact cost/profit margins for their particular brand and explaining why their prices seem to be so much higher than a "similar" piece from J Crew or GAP. She did an incredible job of breaking it all down, but I want to do a similar rundown here, and add in a few "counter" points that are worth considering as well.
Here are my rambled thoughts on the matter:
1. We are conditioned to accept unethical prices
30 years ago, a $10 pair of jeans would be considered "cheap"- and not in the good sense of the word. It wasn't unheard of for someone to spend $60- $100 on a quality piece of clothing that they knew would last. Closets were smaller, pieces were more unique, and fashion wasn't nearly as fast (although it was swiftly moving in that direction). As noted in the blog post linked above, even though many of us haven't experienced that mindset and market, the reality is that fast fashion became "fast" very quickly.
And we, as products of our generation, are conditioned to think it's normal. We're taught to hunt for bargains, and shop the sales racks, and accumulate more (at a lower price), rather than being taught to look for injustice, and shop for pieces that will last, and accumulate less but better.
Luckily, minds can be changed and broken industries can be healed, or at least patched up.
Are ethically made pieces really outrageously priced, or are they just priced they way fairly made clothing should be? We've cheapened our expectations as much as we've literally cheapened our clothing prices.
Fast fashion brands are able to offer such "affordable" prices because they've cheapened the labor and quickened the process (i.e. devalued the human life and the natural process of product creation) on the other end of the supply chain. We are taught not to question it.
2. There is privilege involved in ethical shopping
As a counter argument, I'm fully aware of the "privilege" that's involved in slow shopping. Even having the ability to save up money for a $185 pair of jeans is unheard of for a vast portion of the world. For some, making ends meet is the top priority, and usually that means shopping at garage sales and sale racks and buying the $9 pair of jeans. I'm aware that the fact that I can "get on my high horse" and preach about ethical shopping is a privilege. But for those of us who are able to, choosing to support ethical brands is one way to use your advantage for good, not just for convenience's sake.
3. Your money is your voice
Of course, your actual voice is your voice too, but the places you're willing to spend your money (not just out of necessity, but out of choice,) are your voice too. Each time you purchase from a slow, ethically constructed brand, you're casting your vote for small business, ethical practices, and circular economy, and against fast fashion, exploitation, and broken supply chains.
No, you won't be perfect. And sure, ethics is a multi-layered subject. But when it comes to the "cost of shopping ethically" I think the cost of shopping "fast fashion" is much higher.
What say you? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter- even if you disagree with my reasoning!
And if you're looking for more resources, here are few that I've found particularly helpful on my quest for an ethical closet: