My Top 5 Ethical and Sustainable Brands

We are constantly consuming ads from fast fashion brands all over social media, but sometimes finding those careful and conscious brands seems like a lot of work. I have compiled a list of my favorite ethical brands, big and small, to make finding them a little easier.

Culture Flock

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Culture Flock creates playful and positive graphic tees and sweatshirts designed by artist right here in Missouri. They were an online only store for years, but, as of October 11th, they opened a brick and mortar store In Springfield, MO.

Price Range: $-$$

The prices are pretty typical, around $25 for tees and $45 for sweatshirts. Keep in mind that this is a small, artist run business creating unique and lasting designs, so these prices are not too shabby at all. Older designs will often be on sale for less, as well.

Ethics Statement:

“We design, create, and handprint all of our wearables in a historic warehouse space in downtown Springfield, MO. We print our designs on Bella + Canvas or Alternative Apparel clothing. Both of these manufacturers place a high priority on social responsibility & sustainable practices, which is why we’ve chosen to work with them.”

Uniqlo

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I have no words for Uniqlo. Or maybe too many. Considering Uniqlo is a large brand that can be found in malls, they do as much as a brand of their size can to reduce waste. They create high-quality basics that come in an array of different colors. Uniqlo is a great brand to use as the building blocks of your wardrobe. And might I add, the pieces I own from Uniqlo are all very professional and COMFY AS HECK. Although the best part of shopping ethically is supporting smaller brands, shop here if you need something in a crunch and don’t have time to search.

Price Range: $ !!!

One of the most inexpensive sustainable brands on the known planet, probably. They have the closest rival in pricing to fast fashion brands.

Ethics Statement:

Here is a link to Uniqlo’s sustainability page. It is information overload in the best way possible. The more information a company can give us on their sustainability practices, the better.

Uniqlo seeks to reduce waste by creating long lasting products and making sure their products that are no longer being used are given to those in need if in good condition or recycled if no longer wearable. Their recycling program is much more nuanced and further developed than the gimmicky one put on by H&M. How clothes are recycled is tailored specifically to the area each store is placed.

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Take a look at number 4. “Clothing is delivered in consideration of local needs, climate, culture, and religion.” This program is incredible well thought out and there is plenty more information available.

I could summarize all day, but instead take a look at their site to see further information on their factories and values.

Big Bud Press

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Not to be dramatic, but I love Big Bud Press more than I love myself. Big Bud offers a line  of colorful unisex clothing that is made in LA. They have t-shirts, jumpsuits, fanny-packs, trousers, backpacks and more.

Price Range: $$-$$$

A bit on the pricier side, with t-shirts coming in at about $40 and jumpsuits at $160. But hot dang, those jumpsuits get me every time. You get what you pay for with this brand: a unique item that is packed full of fun.

Ethics Statement:

“All of Big Bud’s products are very proudly USA made and we take pride in our high quality and attention to detail!” This statement doesn’t seem like much, right? So, how do I know that they’re ethical?

They don’t have all the information on their main website, but they are very transparent on social media. There is a highlight on their Instagram dedicated to production, where they keep videos of their items being sewn and t-shirts being printed. As a smaller brand, they do not have to worry as much about producing excess waste. Any defective or messed up items are sold at deeply discounted sales rather than being thrown out.

Everlane

Hip and minimalist are the two words I would use to describe Everlane. They have quality constructed basics, but basics that are very “in”. They offer a few different styles in several different muted tones.

Price Range: $$-$$$

I like to use t-shirts as a comparison point, so note that Everlane’s tees fall around $32 dollars. Denim runs around $68, but they are built to last. I would note that they seem to run a little small, as I has trouble fitting into a pair in my usual size.

Ethics Statement:

“We spend months finding the best factories around the world—the same ones that produce your favorite designer labels. We visit them often and build strong personal relationships with the owners. Each factory is given a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment. Our goal? A score of 90 or above for every factory.”

Everlane also offers a break down of how much their items cost to make, and then shows how much they charge in comparison. “Radically transparent” is there motto.

Click through profiles of every one of their factories here.

Patagonia

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Surprise! The choice attire of frat boys everywhere is actually one of the leading brands in sustainability.

Ethics Statement:

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Patagonia offers ambitiously comprehensive information on their production on their website. They offer insight on everything from the growing of their organic cotton to their fair trade certified factories. They even give grants to grass roots activists around the word to further environmentalism outside of their company as well. They also have a section of their website titled “Worn Wear” which offers used Patagonia gear at a discounted price.

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This is just scratching the surface on brands that offer a plethora of different styles without harming humanity or the only earth we’ve got. If you didn’t see a brand that peaked your interest, I hope you were, at least, able to see that there is no reason to settle for fast fashion brands.

Summer’s Last Hurrah

It may not be summer anymore but this is my last warm weather look for the season. It’s not actually getting cold, I am just trying to will the universe into submission by wearing turtlenecks.

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This post is mostly going to be a photo-drop, but if you’ll notice I’m taking a bit of my own advice from Daytime Disco Dress. This rainbow crop-top is 1980’s piece I picked up from the OKC Mod Swap. I balanced it out a bit by wearing jeans, but kept it fun with my Classic Sarah (TM) yellow beret and some bubblegum pink Keds.

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These photos were taken by my multi-faceted friend Andrea Schultz. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve seen her fabulous work many times. She is launching her website soon, and you can (and should) keep an eye out for it by watching her Instagram.

This blog is about to turn one years old! What should I do for my blog-birthday post? Help me decide in the comments.

 

How to Shop Ethically While Traveling

A souvenir does not have to be an “I heart NYC” shirt or a gator head bought at a gas station in Florida. Shopping ethically during my travels this summer was actually helpful to both my wallet and to meeting the luggage weight limit. I ended up only coming home with items that I really loved instead of tons of gaudy chotchkies. Here are some tips I learned throughout my travels this summer.

Thrift stores are unique in every city.

Every city has a unique style. I find that when I am in a new city, I start to notice small details about how the people there dress differently than I’m used to seeing back home. A thrift store will also contain these little nuances, so don’t feel weird about stopping at Goodwill in a new city. Even when traveling abroad, many places have thrift stores that go by a different name, such as a charity shop. A unique item you spend time searching for carries sentimental value and an ability to remind you of your travels (maybe even more than a snow globe). The main difference is that you will actually use it instead of having it sit on your shelf or in the back of your closet.

Keep your eye out for vintage shops.

In New York City I was SURROUNDED by vintage stores. It was heaven. Some of the coolest parts of the city I visited were because I searched for the locations of a few vintage shops online and then just branched out and explore the surrounding area.

Look for local art shops.

No matter where you go, there will probably be a community of local artist trying to make it. Look for places that real people are designing and selling things they make. It is not hard to do a quick google search. You can find much more eclectic t-shirt designs that locals actually wear or just generally interesting items.

Do your research and read the tags.

If you have access to your phone, the world is your fair-trade and sustainably farmed oyster. Google to your hearts content. I am not going to lie to you and say that shopping ethically while you travel is easy, but it is definitely possible and accessible if you are willing to put a little effort into it. I made a practice of reading the tags on items to see if their is any information on its origins, and was surprised to find that if an item is sustainable or ethical, it is usually eager to tell you so. Don’t be afraid to ask store owners or workers about where their clothing is made. If something looks suspicious, it probably is.

Get creative.

Don’t be afraid to bring home more obscure souvenirs. Locally roasted coffee beans (the bag will usually indicate if they’re fair-trade) or books about the new place. If you are traveling abroad, always grab different types of candy and snacks from the country. I have a friend who grabs business cards from all of the different places she visits. You are only as limited as your mind.

 

 

Daytime Disco Dress

One of my friends told me I looked like Hannah Montana in this outfit. No shame in dressing like a pop star every once in a while.

Often times, people will compliment my outfit and say something along the lines of, “I could never pull that off.” My response to this is always a resounding, “NOOOOOO.” Nothing makes me sadder than hearing that people aren’t dressing the way they want to simply because they feel that they aren’t the “right” type of person. You just need a little bit of courage and lot of sense of humor to put on that sparkly dress you want to wear even if you’re just going to brunch. The number one piece of advice I’d share about taking fashion risks is to understand that, unless you’re going to work, there is no reason to take fashion seriously. Play with it. Like I said earlier, people makes jokes about my outfits or say that I dress like a cartoon, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. If I put on something I love and it is a little weird, I just keep in mind that people will probably think so. For every person who doesn’t get your style, there will be tons more who are into your creativity and willingness to break the status quo.

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However, I did make some conscious accessory choices to help keep the outfit from being entirely distasteful. When I wear a really attention grabbing statement piece, I like to choose accessories that won’t compete for the attention. Sneakers and a denim jacket help tone this dress down, taking it from night club to casual. I still kept the beret and sneakers colorful because that’s my thing. It works even though the dress is so loud because the colors are in smaller doses.

Almost all of the items in the outfit were thrifted. Except the coffee.

Go forth and make fashion fools of yourselves. It’s a lot of fun.

Hot Take: Is H&M Recycling a Scam?

H&M has been advertising a program in which the buyer donates their old clothing to their local H&M for recycling in exchange for 15% off of their next purchase. Sounds pretty awesome right? Is it, though?

No? Maybe. Kind of.

I’d advise a healthy dose of suspicion toward fast fashion companies in general, but especially when they suddenly advertise their image in a way that is contrary to their entire system of functioning. Being “sustainable” and having a new display of clothing every week is just not compatible. It is important to ask what H&M’s motive is and even to question our own motive in participating.

This fast fashion company has gotten in trouble in the past for the mass shredding of never before sold or worn clothing. The recycling program, which has been going on for a couple of years, if my memory serves me correctly, is part of an attempt to shine up the store’s sullied image. Trying to clean their image is not a problem necessarily, but it is not entirely genuine.

The 15% off coupon is a huge incentive for most people, considering H&M’s already low prices. If a person drops off one bag of clothing and leaves with three new bags, has anything good truly been accomplished? It seems like one step forward and two steps back. It has the potential to create more waste than it eliminates.

It is also important to consider that clothing recycling is not magic. The act of shipping the clothing around and breaking it down for re-use is also a use of resources. A good use of them, but maybe your clothing could have a second life on a friend or in a re-sale shop before needing to reach its final demise. It is a fairly new practice that is rigorous and in need of more research for efficiency.

Recycling is always better than throwing away, but it is not better than not creating or consuming excess in the first place.

The final decision and conclusion is in your hands. Mostly, I urge you to never stop thinking critically.

 

Back in Time

Let’s go back in time. I don’t mean to the 1960s’ as my outfit might lead you to believe. (I’d rather stay in 2018, thank you very much.) I am referring to close to two months ago when this photo set was taken by my dear friend, Andrea.


I made this dress YEARS ago. When I was in the 11th grade, I decided to make this dress, inspired by Marina and the Diamonds’ Electra Heart phase. Thankfully, I still had pretty good taste back then, as this hot pink mini dress has stood the test of time.



It is crazy that I’ve waited so long to post these pictures considering how awesome Andrea did taking these. This was from one of the last times I hung out with my friends before leaving on a super long trip.


If you didn’t know, I’ve been in Hong Kong teaching English for the summer and I’m current in Cambodia. I have been insanely busy since the minute I got on the first plane, which is why I sat on this post for so long. It’s been a once in a life time experience for sure. I apologize for any mistakes in this post as I only have access to the internet through my phone right now. I am sorry to be so short but am excited to begin posting more in the weeks to come!

Thanks for your patience.

Fashion Isn’t Shallow (Or, It Doesn’t Have to Be)

Often, fashion is trivialized. Those who are involved in fashion are pinned as lacking the depth necessary for other hobbies. I was made to believe that fashion was vain. Women only care how they dressed to catch the gaze of men. Fashion is just a status symbol. I even pondered if my desire to put together unique outfits was “sinful” due to a combination of loose interpretation of scripture and church-modesty culture. In early high school when my love of fashion was coming into full bloom, I was embarrassed and ashamed of it.

None of these previous statements about fashion are true, at least, ninety-eight percent of the time. Some of these statements are products of a society that profits off the objectification of women. Whether or not it should be this way, fashion has been classically identified with women. Modeling and fashion are among the few industries where women have an upper hand, as queen Tyra Banks has said. This art form is about us and society shudders at the thought of women doing anything just because we want to, so they flip it around and try to distort our motives. This is where the idea that fashion is about pleasing men comes from. If the media can convince us for even a moment that pleasing men is what we desire, they can sell us more insight into the male mind. Whereas, it is much harder to sell to an audience whose criteria is defined solely on personal style. The idea that any appearance decision I have made was to please men is ludicrous. I wish I had a dollar for every instance throughout my life in which I was told boys liked girls with long hair and then decided to get a haircut anyway. I’m not recommending getting a haircut out of spite, but I may have done so once or twice.

The idea that fashion is lacking depth is a statement lacking depth in itself. Do not tell me I cannot be both an honor student and a fashionista: I contain multitudes. There is a difference between loving fashion and loving shopping. Do not equate every person who is into fashion as someone with a 2003-Paris-Hilton-esque shopping addiction. It is not about spending money and it is not about having the latest trend. Many people have even moved away from the word “fashion” to focus more on “style” in order to stop being viewed as a trend-leech. It is especially hard to say that fashion-lovers are shallow when so many of us are using our platforms for activism, drawing attention to slave-labor, unfair wages, and negative effects on the environment. How can you call us shallow when we are so willingly pointing out the flaws in the industry we love, so willing to hold nuanced views and have hard conversations?  

The most insecure years of my life I dressed in Nike shorts and old t-shirts. Of course, some people dress this way because that is how they are most comfortable. (Do your thing!) However, I used it as a form of camouflage. I did not want to be seen; I thought I was not supposed to want to be seen. I grew up, as many of us do, confusing insecurity with humility. Here is how I now differentiate: humility is how you view yourself in relation to others, being secure or insecure has to do with how you view yourself when no one else is around. Self-love and humility are not mutually exclusive. I thought I had to hate myself in order to think highly of others because that is what was modeled to me. I strongly believe we love others best when we learn to love ourselves (a process that takes time and is not linear, something we may all struggle with continually).

For me, fashion was and is self-love. It was a way of saying to myself, “It is okay for people to notice you. You are allowed to take up space.” I remember the first time I wore a skirt on a week-day. I was in early high school, probably 9th grade. Going somewhere that wasn’t a Sunday morning church service in a skirt was a huge deal. It was a gathered maroon skirt that I picked up from Forever 21. (Forgive me of my past sins.) I was self-conscious and hyper-aware of how I looked, constantly tugging at my hem. Simultaneously proud of myself while also hoping no one would comment on what felt like such a daring outfit. And yet, someone did. I remember someone asking what I was “so dressed up for.” The classic and unintentionally yet blatantly misogynistic, “What, do you have a date or something?” I replied with a line I had rehearsed in my head over and over in preparation for the impending battle ahead, “I don’t need a reason to dress up.” I may have stuttered, may not have looked the opponent in the eye. It was not a perfect battle, but it was a quiet victory. It was a step towards freedom from the idea that I needed to hide myself in order to be a “good girl.” 

Fashion is not an inherently shallow form of art just because your body is the canvas. Art is vast. It is anything we create. Sometimes our best creation is ourselves. You are allowed to feel like a work of art. If you feel that way no matter what you wear, that’s beautiful. Sometimes we all need to dress up a bit to remind us that we are all alive, capable, and growing. To feel like we deserve to seen is empowering. We must fight self-hate in whatever ways that we can. I choose to fight with fashion.

Capsule Wardrobes and Traveling Style

I started off this summer by spending five days in Washington D. C. and five days in New York City. Naturally, I wanted to dress as extra as possible while being there. However, I was encouraged to only bring a carry-on and wanted to leave plenty of room for souvenirs as well. I decided to try packing a small capsule wardrobe, and this outfit is just one of many outfits I was able to form with just a few pieces.

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A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothing in which all of the pieces can be worn together interchangeably. Some people do this for their entire wardrobe as a way of consuming less. If that’s your thing, awesome! However, for those of us who consider fashion a hobby, it is a little less feasible to do this on a daily basis. My capsule wardrobe was composed of a smaller selection of the clothes that I already owned that would fit easily into a carry-on.

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Here is the break down of my capsule wardrobe: two skirts, three tops, two dresses, and one pair of shorts. It was important for me to choose light weight items and items that all fit into the same color scheme. These items make a combined total of eleven outfits. Capsule wardrobes don’t have to be boring and neutral. Accessories, like this vintage scarf from my grandma, take up almost no space. I brought lots of scarves, necklaces, and hair-clips which put a new spin on an old outfit if I decided to wear it again.


After packing all of these items, I still had an entire half of my bag empty, which I promptly filled full of vintage and thrifted items from New York. If not for your everyday wardrobe, I recommend capsule wardrobes for traveling. Less time picking out an outfit means more time for ice cream in Chinatown.

Let me know if anyone is interested in a post about my vintage shopping experience in NYC!