inside out challenge

A Year of Fair Trade Fashion: Closing Thoughts

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

I seriously cannot believe it has been 12 months since I took on a challenge to exclusively purchase fair trade clothing for an entire year. I’ve discovered that sticking exclusively to fair trade-certified products is nearly impossible, fallen in love with a few fair trade/ethically made brands (see here, here, here, here, and here), found a local store where I can shop for ethical clothing, and been aghast at times by the lack of ethically produced options in the fashion world (see here, here, and here). While I did have to give up some convenience, it hasn’t been that hard to make ethical choices, and it has made me reflect a lot on my consumeristic habits and the way my purchasing choices impact others. All in all? 100% worth it.

This post is supposed to be about my closing thoughts on buying fair trade fashion, but I really feel like I’ve only just begun. There are so many ideas floating around in my head that I’ve wanted to write about but haven’t had the time, so many ethical brands yet to share, so many areas of the ethical fashion world yet to explore. This challenge has permanently changed my life. While I may not be as strict in the future about buying fair trade-certified clothing, I do hope to buy ethical clothing 99% of the time, whether it’s fair trade, organic, made by a Certified B Corporation, sustainably produced, secondhand, or sweatshop-free. I hope that you’ll continue to enjoy my ethical fashion posts, because they’re here to stay!

Here’s to continuing to vote for a better world with our dollars in 2017!

xoxo Laura

2016: Year in Review

Goodness gracious, belles! Can you believe that another year has come and gone?

To celebrate another great year of blogging, I’ve pulled the top five most frequently visited blog posts from 2016. Starting with number 5:

5. My reflections on my two year wedding anniversary. Glad to see y’all love love as much as I do!

Wedding cooler with wedding vows | Trés Belle

4. My write-up on Catalyst Scrubs, an ethically-sourced scrubs brand! Not going to lie, I was a little surprised to see this one pop up in the top five. Then again, there sure are a ton of nurses, doctors, physical therapists, speech pathologists, CNAs, radiologists, and other medical professionals out there. Makes sense that many of you are looking for ways to do good when purchasing your daily work outfits!

Ethically-sourced scrubs from Catalyst Scrubs | Très Belle

3. The Frizzy Hair Manifesto! I have struggled (and continue to struggle) with so many self-doubts about my hair. It really warms my heart to have your support as I learn to embrace my natural self!

The Frizzy Hair Manifesto: Embrace Your Frizz This Summer! | Très Belle

2. My post introducing the Inside Out Challenge, which was my year-long attempt to exclusively buy fair trade fashion! Read about all of the ensuing escapades here.

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

1. Annnnnnd top billing this year goes to….Ben and Marie’s picturesque fall wedding!! Who can blame y’all for loving these luscious sunflowers and beautiful burgundy hues?

That’s a wrap, 2016! I can’t wait for what the new year has in store for this blog. Thanks as always for following along!

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Fair Trade Fashion Challenge Update: October

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done an update on my Inside Out fair trade fashion challenge, and I have a confession to make. I’ve bought some things that are not fair trade certified (!!!). Let me explain a bit more.

The first time that I bought something non-fair trade was an accident. I’ve written before on the blog about The Flourish Market, an ethical fashion truck in the Triangle area. I was initially under the impression that everything on the truck was fair trade certified, and was surprised when I discovered that this adorable blue and orange top from Grace & Lace that I had purchased was not, in fact, fair trade certified. Oops! While many of the products that The Flourish Market carries are indeed fair trade certified, others are ethically produced but do not necessarily carry an official stamp or label.

Floral Grace & Lace Top | Trés Belle

When I emailed Grace & Lace to inquire about their sourcing, they were quick to respond. Their products were originally all made in the USA, but due to quick growth of the company (probably because of an episode of Shark Tank!), they outsourced some of their manufacturing to Asia. Per the Grace & Lace representative who emailed me, “We continually have our team members visit each of our mills to ensure quality work environments.”

At this point, I felt torn about what to do. Should I discontinue shopping at The Flourish Market, withdrawing support from a locally-owned small business on a mission to sell ethically-produced fashion, in order to stick to my own strict rules for this challenge? My prayer from the beginning of the challenge was that it would result in a significant and enduring heart and behavior change for me rather than just following the rules for a short amount of time and then kicking them out the door as soon as the challenge was over. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more strongly I felt that developing habits that would stick and supporting a local business with the same ideals that I have for fashion were more important than being a hard-ass about the rules.

So, I’ve made an exception for The Flourish Market during these final few months of my fair trade fashion challenge. I’m still drawing a hard line when it comes to other non-local ethical fashion companies that aren’t certified fair trade, but I do see myself loosening up a bit after the challenge is officially over and purchasing from these companies given that a strict fair trade-certified approach is difficult to sustain.

I’ve purchased a couple of additional non-fair trade, ethically-produced clothing pieces from The Flourish Market and hope to have photos of them on the blog soon!

xoxo, Laura

Inside Out Challenge Update: My Ethically Made Handbag by Angela Roi

Well, I’ve technically broken my commitment to exclusively buy fair trade clothing/accessories this year. However, it was not a decision that I took lightly…in fact, I debated buying this Angela Roi Sunday Tote II handbag for six months before I actually bought it!

But first, can we take a minute to admire its loveliness? Okay, thanks. 🙂

Ethically Made Handbag by Angela Roi  |  Trés Belle

So. Fair trade handbags are difficult but not impossible to come by. The ones I looked at were either a satchel design in lightweight cloth that I knew would be destroyed within a week or leather, which I felt reluctant to buy due to my wannabe vegan tendencies. I really wanted to buy a non-leather bag if at all possible.

I had stumbled across Angela Roi bags before I started my fair trade fashion challenge and had fallen in love. They aren’t certified fair trade, but they are sweatshop-free (and vegan!). I agonized over whether this purchase would count as cheating on my fair trade fashion challenge, but ultimately decided to move forward since my purchase was still values-centric and because I couldn’t find a comparable bag that was certified fair trade.

Ethically Made Handbag by Angela Roi  |  Trés Belle

Bag pictured above with my fair trade jumper by my favey fave, Threads4Thought.

I’m not going to lie: This is the most expensive handbag I’ve ever purchased, and that’s even using the handy dandy $20 off coupon code I got for signing up for emails. Thankfully, I can say that I have been 100% satisfied with the money I spent. The craftsmanship and materials are high quality, and the size is perfect for someone like me who carries their entire life with them wherever they go. The neutral color lends itself to any outfit/season, making it incredibly versatile. Because it was an investment, I’ve been far more motivated to take care of it rather than throwing it around like with previous handbags. I think it will last a long time.

What do you think, belles? Love it or hate it? Anyone else out there running into problems finding certain fair trade accessories or clothing pieces?

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge: “True Cost” Fashion Documentary

Last week, my good friend Traci and I went to a screening of the documentary True Cost, hosted by Redress Raleigh. We had heard that it was about the ethical, humanitarian, and environmental problems associated with the modern fashion industry and figured it was a perfect movie to watch as we continue in our Inside Out fair trade fashion/beauty product challenge.

It’s hard for me to find adequate adjectives to describe this documentary. Moving, convicting, fascinating, and heartbreaking all come to mind. I stared in shock at images of waste water from leather factories and blinked back tears as I listened to a young woman in Bangladesh describe her working conditions and the consequences her job has had on her family. As someone who has done some research on the fast fashion industry, I was not shocked at some of the statistics, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself learning new information throughout the movie. I highly recommend this film to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or level of interest in fair trade/ethical/eco-conscious/insert-your-favorite-buzzword-here fashion. It’s incredibly interesting.

Anddddd…great news! True Cost is currently on Netflix! So add it to your queue and get watching, friends. You can also rent or buy it on Amazon, iTunes, or the True Cost website.

And in the meantime, check out the trailer:

xoxo Laura

Fair Trade Tennis Shoe Crushing

As you all know by now, I am doing a fair trade fashion challenge this year that involves exclusively purchasing fair trade clothing, jewelry, and accessories. I am in need of a new pair of tennis shoes (mine are sporting more than one hole at this point), and was hoping to find a nice fair trade pair to purchase. Ha! I did find some, but they are made in France, and the cost/logistics of shipping them here to the U.S. are a little too daunting for me. But before we get into all of that, join me in crushing on these sneakers by Veja:

Veja Holiday Low Top Black Oxford Grey | Très Belle

 

Veja Holiday Low Top Groseille Nautico Rose Fluo Fair Trade Sneakers | Très Belle

If you’ve ever shopped fair trade, you probably know that the number of actually fashionable fashion options out there can be slim. I was impressed by the design of these sneakers! They are actually something I would want to wear.

Veja Holiday Low Top Suede B-Mesh White Pierre Fair Trade Sneakers | Très Belle

The price of the sneakers themselves isn’t at all bad: 109€, or $123. However, international shipping is where things get tricky. Veja offers free international shipping on orders over 150€, but unfortunately, only two pairs of  women’s sneakers on the entire website meet that minimum (and neither pair is one I am interested in). So, I would be facing a shipping charge of 25€, or $28. Yikes! Perhaps more daunting to me is the difficulty of returns should the shoe not fit. I would be responsible for paying international shipping AGAIN to send the shoes back over the pond for a return or exchange. This isn’t practical, cost-effective, or wise in my opinion.

Anyone know of other fair trade sneaker brands? Please send them my way! Otherwise, I will be waiting until after my year is up to look into other ethical options or begrudgingly schlep myself to the nearest Dick’s Sporting Goods for a shopping spree.

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge Update: My First Online Clothing Order!

Hey there, belles! I wanted to share a bit today about how my Inside Out fair trade fashion challenge is going. In a nutshell: well!

I conquered my grandma instincts and ordered clothes online for the first time! Well, okay, let me give myself a little credit…I have ordered clothes and shoes online before, but only when there was a physical store close by where I could easily return them (think: Victoria’s Secret, DSW, etc.). This was my first time ordering clothes when the only return option was to ship them back. Cue the anxiety now!! Just kidding. Like most things, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be.

It helped, of course, that the clothes I got (from Threads4Thought, my absolute favey-fave fair trade clothing company) were ADORABLE! How fun and summery is this blue and green maxi skirt??

Green and Blue Threads4Thought Fair Trade Maxi Skirt | Très Belle

I’m also loving this casual but chic black jumpsuit. You feel like you’re wearing pajamas, but you’re dressed up enough for dinner downtown. #winning.

Black Threads4Thought Fair Trade Jumpsuit | Très Belle

 

Black Threads4Thought Fair Trade Jumpsuit | Très Belle

Threads4Thought clothing just…fits. Perfectly. Everything I’ve bought from them is true to size and flattering. The price point is also quite reasonable (especially when you buy things on sale and take advantage of free shipping on orders $50+ like I did).

Anyone else bought some new ethical fashion or had a fun online shopping experience lately? Would love to hear about it!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – this post is not sponsored by Threads4Thought. I just love sharing great finds with my belles!

Inside Out Challenge: Fair Trade Fashion Truck Adventures

Yes, you read that right. Fashion trucks! They’re a thing, y’all! Think of a food truck, but with pretty clothes inside instead of tacos and burgers. It’s fantastic.

I recently wrote about my difficulties finding stores here in Raleigh at which to shop for fair trade clothing. At the end of that rather depressing post, I promised that there was good news coming. Here it is!

Back in January, I was telling a group of ladies about my interest in fair trade fashion and my struggles to find local vendors. One of them piped up and said she had recently learned about a local fair trade fashion truck through another friend. I was beyond excited and immediately hit the Internet to find out more.

The Flourish Market, which just opened its doors in fall 2015, camps out at various festivals, parties, and events around the Raleigh/Durham area in addition to running an online store. The truck carries fun fair trade brands like Threads 4 Thought, Tribe Alive, Grace and Lace, and Akola. In addition to clothing, the truck also stocks jewelry, shoes, purses/bags, home decor, and gifts.

After stalking the truck’s schedule on Instagram for several weeks, I finally caught up with The Flourish Market a month or so ago in Durham. It was a breath of fresh air for this shopping-deprived gal! Most of the clothing was just my style, and I thought the prices were very affordable compared to the sticker shock I had gotten on several fair trade websites. I probably tried on every single piece of clothing in the truck and left with some beauties, including this STUNNING dress, which I can’t wait to wear to every single party and dinner outing this summer:

Threads 4 Thought fair trade dress from The Flourish Market | Trés Belle

Since then, I’ve gotten to know Em, the truck’s founder, and learn more about her heart for winning people over to ethical fashion (you can read some pieces she’s written for The Huffington Post here). It’s so inspiring to connect with other Raleigh locals who have a passion for social justice and who are doing big things to change the fashion industry. AND, I’m just tickled pink that I finally found somewhere local to try on and buy fair trade clothing! Happy dance!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – If you’re new to the Inside Out Challenge, you can find previous posts here.

Inside Out Challenge: Shopping for Fair Trade Clothing in Raleigh, NC

Shopping for clothes on the Internet just isn’t my thing. I don’t have a “normal” body shape (but isn’t that true of most of us?), and depending on the brand and fit, I can wear clothing that ranges anywhere from a size 0 to size 8. Trying things on in store is critical for me. Reluctant to order an expensive fair trade shirt online only to find that I have to pay to ship it straight back due to it not fitting, I set out in my car a few weeks ago to find fair trade clothing in my home city of Raleigh.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

The number of brick-and-mortar stores selling fair trade clothing in Raleigh (the second largest city in North Carolina, I might add) is underwhelming at best. Google searches only turned up one store: Sugar Magnolia, which is located on Hillsborough Street near NC State’s campus.

The Sugar Magnolia website gave me the impression that all of the clothing in the store would be fair trade. However, upon arriving and inquiring with the sales associate, I learned that only a small fraction of the store was fair trade: the traditional Indian clothing from India.

The clothing, which was simply not my style, was also incredibly inexpensive, making me admittedly a little suspicious about its sourcing. There were no fair trade certification on the labels that I could see.

I walked out of the store empty handed and headed for my next stop: Certain Things in Cameron Village. I remembered having a conversation with the store owner around Christmas time about a fair trade line of clothing they stock. Symbology makes clothing that is much more my style (typical popular American fashion). Certain Things had three or four different shirt styles in stock, and I found a few in my size to try on. They fit okay, but I have to really love a piece of clothing to fork over $180. I left empty handed once again, but will certainly stop back again in the future to see updated styles.

Conclusion: The fair trade fashion options available at physical stores in Raleigh is lacking and/or the stores that do carry fair trade lines aren’t showing up in Google search results. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the two stores I visited for taking a small step forward, but we are in desperate need of leaps and bounds in the NC ethical fashion arena.

Don’t fret though, belles…I have good news about where you CAN find local fair trade clothing coming soon in another post 🙂

xoxo, Laura

Mission Impossible: Searching for the Illusive Fair Trade Men’s Suit

Finding fair trade clothing retailers PERIOD is hard enough to begin with, but when you’re on the hunt for a specific, specialty item, I’m learning that you’ve really got your work cut out for you. When hubs recently commented on how he needed some new suits for work, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to browse fair trade men’s suits online (I knew the chance of finding a local store was 0%). However, there was nothing to browse. I found zero (ZERO!!) suits online that were fair trade certified. I’m trying to give the universe the benefit of the doubt by assuming there’s got to be at least one fair trade suit out there on the market, but it’s just buried on a website whose developer doesn’t do good SEO.

What gives, clothing industry? Or maybe I should say, what gives, American businessmen? Is there really so little demand for fair trade suits that companies see no point in making them?

So, what’s a socially conscious man to do? Despite the dearth of fair trade options, I did find some ethically-made suits.

Brave GentleMan offers a number of “fair labor” and vegan suit pants and blazers made from eco-friendly fabrics. Honestly, the clothing sounds more or less fair trade, it just isn’t certified.

Brave GentleMan Burgundy Blazer. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

Apolis, a Certified B Corporation (meaning they’ve been graded and received a “passing” score for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency), offers one full suit for sale. And, when you buy the jacket and pants together, you get 15% off, which is nice!

Apolis (Certified B Corporation) Suit. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

Another brand that I’m pretty excited about is Hardwick. Most of their suits are made in the USA with fabrics that are made in the USA (per my chat with Hardwick employee Andrew Welsh, fabrics made elsewhere are noted in the clothing item descriptions). Because the U.S. has minimum wage laws, this (hopefully) means the suits are essentially fair trade, though I did not ask about sourcing for things like the zippers and buttons.

Hardwick Made in the USA Men's Suit. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

For those interested in environmental sustainability, check out Rawganique. They offer chemical-free and sweatshop-free hemp jackets and slacks in addition to organic cotton dress shirts.

Rawganique Hemp Slacks for Men. Sweatshop-free, chemical-free. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

Pretty please y’all, if you find suits to add to this list, comment or contact me! I get over-the-moon excited when I learn about new ethical clothing brands!

xoxo Laura