Road Trippin' in Leota

Road Trip 3.jpg


And by road trip, I mean we followed the 84 West until we hit the end. Turns out there's a beach there, and lots of green in between. I do love those California highways.

The dress comes courtesy of Leota, a line of women's dresses made in NYC with a commitment to fair working conditions and long-lasting partnerships with its seamstresses. You can learn more about Leota's transparency model, and even get a glimpse into their Brooklyn factories, here

I mentioned Leota before in a roundup of ethical maternity clothes, but their regular line is killer too. This black wrap mini dress has served me well postpartum. It's forgiving and nursing-friendly while maintaining a flattering silhouette, and I've been wearing the heck out of it lately. Even when it makes no sense to do so (like on a weekend road trip).  

*I received this dress as a gift from Leota. I was not paid to write this post and all opinions are of course my own.

Outfit Details:  Perfect Wrap Mini Dress in Black Crepe, c/o Leota (made in USA) / Leather sandals by Fidji (made in Portugal)/ Birdie Watch by Shinola (made in Detroit, USA) / Sunglasses by TOMS

How Know the Origin Built an Ethical Brand from the Ground Up

For years now I've been fantasizing about starting my own line of ethical clothing, and I'm always inspired by those who have actually taken the plunge! Charlotte Instone and Laura Lodge did just that when they founded Know the Origin, a line of beautiful basics that follows ethical processes from seed to garment. I spoke with Instone about the company's roots and startup process, as well as her team's recent trip to India. Whether you're a budding ethical entrepreneur or a pipe-dreamer like me, I think you'll enjoy their story. 

What inspired you to start Know the Origin? Were you always interested in ethical fashion, or was it something you discovered later? 

I started studying Fashion Buying and Merchandising at the London College of Fashion simply with the desire to do what I love - create awesome clothing. I was learning how to produce clothing and the process at every stage, but had never stopped to ask who was actually making these garments. But when Rana Plaza, a factory in Bangladesh, collapsed in 2013 it opened my eyes to how the fashion industry holds profit above all else, at a huge environmental and social cost. I knew I didn’t want to be a part of this system. This inspired me to start Know The Origin, so I could follow my passion and work with incredible producers that wanted to create positive change in the fashion industry.

Who is your target audience? Can you describe the typical KTO customer? 

The KTO customers are people who are uncompromising - in style and in values. People who love classic, simple pieces and share our values of joy and respect for people and the environment.

Your branding is spot on. Did you work with an agency, or did you do everything in-house? 

Thank you! All the Know The Origin branding has been done in-house. It’s been a huge process, with lots of incredible people supporting us and adapting it, but it’s definitely one of the things I think matters most.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges in marketing ethical products? 

One of the biggest challenges has definitely been the existing prejudice against ethical clothing. As soon as we describe KTO as “ethical clothing” people often ask if it is expensive (or, you can practically see images of ugly, overly-hippy outfits dancing around in their heads!). We've tried to shatter this stereotype with our branding and products. Our Foundation Set is entirely fair trade and organic whilst also being stylish and affordable.

How hard was it for you to find suppliers and and factories that met your standards and upheld your company's ideals? 

I don’t want to say “oh, it was so difficult,” because I know this is often used as an excuse for brands to not try to find suppliers with uncompromising ethical standards. There is an incredible network of amazing suppliers and factories out there! But the real test is finding ones that have full transparency and can trace where their thread, dyes, fabrics and cotton comes from. This is where research and energy is required. However, it’s been utterly and completely worth it.

As ethical fashion becomes more and more mainstream, greenwashing (or “goodwashing”) is a real problem. How do you ensure that KTO walks the walk? Can you share some of the direct positive benefits to people and communities that your brand has achieved so far? 

This is where transparency is key (and just to avoid buzzword confusion - I don’t mean we are selling entirely see-through garments!).Transparency is all about giving consumers all the information about exactly where each part of the garment is made. It creates brand-customer accountability so there is nowhere for any dark, not-so-green secrets to hide. I don’t want to take credit for the incredible benefits our suppliers and factories have in their communities - it’s just so cool that we get to be a part of their journey!

We work with a factory called Freeset in Kolkata where all the pieces are made by women who have chosen to leave Kolkata’s sex trade and are being supported in their next stage of life both with a sustainable income but also with mental health support. Then in Telangana we work with Chetna, a 100% farmer owned cotton co-operative. It is entirely organic so farmers aren’t trapped in a cycle of debt and bad health that is associated with chemically treated cotton. Additionally, they provide food security training so food crops can be planted alongside the cotton. As KTO grows we are excited to support more incredible producers, whilst also using our profits to support these communities. 

Tell us a little bit about your recent trip to India. Any travel tips?

I think traveling is just about going with the flow! You can’t really predict what will happen, and we have had some pretty hilarious and incredible experiences in India so far! Our recent trip was awesome. It’s amazing that on our “business trips” we get to meet so many wonderful people. We were able to hang out with the people that work in our supply chain and chat with our producers who are incredibly passionate about supporting their community. I wish I could sum the entire experience up but I can’t! I'm just excited to go back. Favorite areas are Jaipur and Dharamsala are by far some of the most beautiful parts of India!

What (or who) is your style spirit animal?

Haha, this is the first time we have been asked this, so points for originality! I have to say Emma Watson. I am loving her ethical hype at the minute - and she does it so stylishly! Beautiful, minimal, ethical style. And I totally love the transition from frizzy haired Hermione to immaculate UN ambassador - gives me hope! 

Check out KTO's website to learn more about their supply chain or shop the foundation set.

Secondhand 4Ever

Vintage Leather Jacket Outfit

Along with buying fair trade and sustainable clothing, shopping secondhand is an important part of the ethical fashion movement. In fact, it's probably one of the best things we can do to curb the rampant waste that the fashion industry creates. Not to toot my own horn too much (toot! toot!), but I've been shopping at thrift stores for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, it was a necessity for our family. And fortunately, by the time I was in middle school wearing torn-up jeans and vintage band t-shirts was about as cool as it got.  

As I've gotten older and my disposable income has grown (i.e., I'm privileged enough to buy "fewer, better things"), I still make thrifting a priority. I like saving money, sure, but I also love the thrill of the hunt. There's nothing quite like finding a silk vintage-style Moschino dress printed with tiny black and white sheep (I should probably share that out some time), or a worn-in leather jacket that I've been searching for new for months. This beauty is by Wearmaster, one of Madewell's labels modeled after a heritage workwear brand. I found it at Fillmore & 5th in Palo Alto, a designer consignment store that carries high-end clothing and accessories. It's become one of my favorite local spots, and the place I hit up first when I need a new piece of clothing. 

The jacket (and Honest Co. diaper backpack) served me well on my recent trip to Southern California with the baby. My dad snapped a few photos of me near our house in Wildomar, superbloom in full effect. 

Do you shop secondhand often? What are some of your favorite stores or online boutiques? 

Vintage Leather Jacket Outfit
Wearmaster Leather Jacket
Vintage Leather Jacket Outfit

Outfit Details: Wearmaster/Madewell leather jacket (thrifted) / Paige jeans (made in the USA; similar here) / Amour Vert Belinda Ribbed Tee (made in USA) / Honest Co. City Backpack (vegan)

Lessons in Chilling

"Give a man a bro and he'll chill for a day. Teach a man to chill and he'll have bros for life." 

- Overheard in Oakland, by some guy who probably saw it on Twitter

I grew up in Southern California, where the No Bad Days ethos was strong. And even though I lived for musical theater and figured I'd end up tap dancin' my way through New York City some day, I also tried my hardest to emulate the seemingly laid-back attitude of my Cali brethren. As young as age eight, I remember trying to pass myself off as an easygoing optimist. 

"Just relax, Mom," I'd say to my frazzled mother as I threw on my tie-dye shirt and L.A. Gears, "life's a beach." Later that day, I would wrap myself up in a blanket and stare at my bedroom ceiling, contemplating the concept of infinity and the fact that we all have to die someday

In seventh grade I spent my $50 back-to-school budget on a pair of Ocean Pacific corduroy shorts and a striped surfer shirt, certain this marked the beginning of a new era for me. I was no longer the high-strung overachiever of the sixth grade; I was the chill girl, the girl with the long beachy hair. The one who skated, listened to reggae, really just carpe diem-ed the shit out of life. A few weeks later, my mom found me sobbing on the bathroom floor, wet hair scattered everywhere, after trying to give myself a Drew Barrymore bob. 

In short, I’ve never really been that good at chilling. I've always been overly-concerned with how others perceive me, and considered my clothing, activities, and career choices defining factors in my personal brand. So every time my tastes or life circumstances changed I went into a bit of a tizzy. Was it possible to love competitive cheerleading and the Cramps? Could I be a straight-A student and still smoke cloves behind the archery shed? Could I quit teaching after just three years and still support public education? Am I a sellout? Is it ok that I hated La La Land??

Given my existing neuroses, adding "mom" to the equation could have triggered a whole new identity crisis. But it didn't. 

Maybe it's just that I have less time in general, but I've barely stopped to consider what kind of mom I want to be. Neither Jon nor I have read any parenting books, and we've saved most of our questions for the pediatrician rather than asking Dr. Google. I have no philosophy on discipline, no idea how I'll react to her first bad report card, and couldn't care less at this point if she's college-bound.  

I'm just enjoying her. And it's one of the first times in my life that I truly feel in the moment. 

That's not to say that I haven't had my fair share of anxieties. I was certain for a couple of days that our building's fire alarm had rendered her hearing impaired, and I lose my shit every time Jon plays baby airplane or holds his cell phone too close to her head. I still wake up at least once a night to make sure she's breathing, and am terrified of pressing too hard on her fontanelles. 

But overall, there's a pervading calm and quietness in our days together. Parenthood forces this upon you, I think. 

I've attended enough mindfulness workshops to know that a focused mind is a peaceful mind, and I've relied on the practices of meditation, deep breathing and one-pointed attention to quell my anxiety for years. But inevitably every time life got more hectic I would slip back into my natural state of overthinking and multitasking.

Babies won't let you do that. When baby needs to eat, you stop what you're doing and sit quietly for 20 minutes. Oh, and you thought you could check your email during play time? Heck no, even at three months Avery can tell when she's not getting 100% of your attention. And then there's the whole cuteness factor, which which renders watching her make spit bubbles in her sleep infinitely more interesting than Facebook or – I don't know – taking a shower? 

It all leads to an acceptance that this is our life now. It's slower, more measured, and full of quiet magic. Over the years I'm sure Avery will teach us just as much as we teach her, and I'm grateful for this early crash course in the art of chilling.

She is a California girl, after all. 

Outfit Details: J. Crew chambray button up (very old) / Silk shorts, made by me using Burda 6797, silk and bias tape from Britex / Avery: floral jumpsuit by Splendid

 

A Ruffly Distraction: Papercut Patterns Adrift Dress

I won't sugarcoat it: the last seven weeks have been tough. I love, love, love our baby girl more than I can express, but sleep deprivation, a recovering body, and lack of daily routine (where do I work again? Who am I even??) have left me reeling. Combine that with the generally screwed up state of our country and.... well anyway, we're all feeling it. 

On the other hand, I really love being at home with my little boo. She's growing and changing by the minute (those fat little cheeks! I die!), and I even have a few hours here and there to sew while she sleeps. So let's take a moment to forget the frightening new world order and celebrate silk, cinched waists, and ruffles! Brought to you by Papercut Pattern's Adrift Dress and Avery's nap time. 

Pattern and Fit

Here’s my dirty little sewing secret: I never make muslins. Since most patterns fit me without any adjustments I get cocky, and I can't handle the idea of making a garment twice (I only have so much free time, dudes!). But I learned my lesson this time, and unfortunately I had to learn it while using some very expensive Missoni silk. 

One of the reasons I’ve been inspired to sew lately is that none of my pre-maternity clothes fit. I’m sure they will eventually, but for now I’m stuck in that awkward postpartum limbo where my bust is three times bigger, my belly still smooshy and protruding, and my shape a little foreign to me. So even though I cut the pattern a size bigger, it still ended up being way too short. I did make one other adjustment by inserting a waistband between the skirt and blouse instead of folding it under like the pattern instructs, elongating the dress by about an inch. The dress is still completely wearable with tights and a slip, but I’m kicking myself for not planning better (I'm also guessing that the pattern has a short waist to begin with, so if you’re a long-torsoed gal like me, make sure to account for that before cutting!). 

Otherwise, I give the Adrift Dress an A+. The drape is to die for, and the ruffles were actually a lot easier to assemble than I’d anticipated. That’s the magic of a well-drafted pattern!

Fabric

I found the silk at Britex a few months ago. It’s Missoni, it’s scrumptious, it's made in Italy, and it cost way too much. I realized as I was sewing that it was actually the first time I’ve worked with 100% silk, and I probably should have used a finer needle. But overall it was fairly easy to work with. 

I’m interested in learning more about silks in general — specifically, what makes this particular silk drape so well and remain nearly impervious to wrinkles? I own several 100% silk blouses, and some of them are wrinkle-resistant while others are barely wearable without creasing. Does anyone know what the difference is, terminology-wise? I’m particularly curious because I’d like to order some ethically-sourced silk online, but I’m afraid it won’t have the texture that I’m looking for. 

More sewing plans

I have no idea how long it will be until I lose the fifteen pounds I need to get back to my fighting weight. And who knows, maybe I never will. I don’t hate my postpartum body — I’m amazed by what it did — but I do need to sew or buy some new pieces to get me through the next few months. I’m planning a small capsule wardrobe that includes another solid version this dress, a Sew Over It wrap dress, a Grainline Archer, a Colette Mabel, a couple of True Bias Ogden Camis, and some Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans. Ambitious? Absolutely. But sewing is one of the few things that’s been keeping me sane lately. Well that, and Miss Cheeks over here. 

Wrap you up in love : An upcycled baby blanket for Avery

Avery Rose made her debut on December 10, 2016, with a full head of hair and an impressive lung capacity. Needless to say, Jon and I are pretty in love. 

Although I was pretty low-key for the majority of my pregnancy (blame it on the morning sickness), I may have gone a little nuts over the last twelve days. Suddenly, I’m a germaphobe who sanitizes everything and gives the side eye to other people’s sticky-handed children in the pediatric waiting room. Suddenly I can’t sleep at night, looking into Avery’s cradle every five minutes to ensure she’s still breathing. Suddenly I’m the kind of person who rush-orders baby noise blocking headphones because the building’s fire alarm went off twice. Suddenly the world is a much scarier, dirtier place than it was before. And I want to create a force field around this baby girl to protect her from all of it. 

Instead I made her a blanket. 

I found the double-gauze cotton in a seagull print at Britex (made in Japan by Kokka Fabric). Super soft and ocean-themed, it was the perfect choice for the top side of Avery's baby blanket. For the other side, I found a swath of vintage ikat fabric at the General Store in San Francisco. I love how both fabrics work together without being overly matchy, and only contain a hint of girliness. There was plenty of the ikat fabric left over, so I made a couple of pillow covers as well (pictures of the whole nursery coming soon).

I wanted to have something handmade for Avery when she arrived. Something to carry on the tradition of my mother and grandmothers, all of whom sewed blankets for their babies. I may not be able to shield our little girl from the world forever, but at least I can wrap her up in love. And even if I'm 99% more crazy than I was two weeks ago, I'm 100% content. Which is a very strange feeling indeed. 

Ethical Gifts for Women

I'm a total dork when it comes to Christmas. I love the decorations, the music, the hot toddies, even the egg nog (I know, I'm gross). But I'll admit I've become a little lax over the years when it comes to gift-giving. Jon and I are pretty inconsistent about giving each other presents (Christmas or otherwise), and my family dropped the expectation long ago. I actually like it this way; it makes the gifts we do give and receive that much more special. So when putting together my shopping guides this year, I chose items that not only give back and have a good story, but also exude good quality and construction. These gifts are meant to feel special, and to show the people in your life how much they mean to you.

Note: Asterisk indicates an affiliate link. 


14k Gold Filled Hair Accessories

$68 - 188

Available at ByBoe

There's just something so elegant about a hair pin — every time I wear one I feel like I'm in an episode of Downton Abby. This pin and hair jewel by ByBoe are made in New York City by individual artisans using recycled and ethically sourced sterling silver and 14kt gold filled from US factories.


Brass and Bone Plane Ring

$68.00

Available at Nisolo

Last year ethical shoe company Nisolo launched a jewelry line, and I can't get enough of their gorgeous creations. This ring is handmade in Kenya with upcycled brass and bone by artisans who are offered beyond fair trade wages, extensive benefits, and a healthy working environment.


Martina Low-Rise Briefs

$25.00

Available at Naja

Not only are Naja underwear, bras, and swimsuits cute as all get-out, they're also made by single mothers and female head of households who are paid above market wages. Sweathop free and all about empowering women, Naja is one of my favorite lingerie lines. 


BABY ALPACA SCARF

$125.00

Available at Cuyana

Through their Lean Closet initiative, Cuyana encourages women to buy "fewer, better things" and reduce their overall consumption. Production-wise, they develop close relationships with artisans around the world rather than outsourcing cheap labor. This baby alpaca scarf is crafted in Peru, and will serve as a wardrobe staple for years to come. 


Ceramic Ring Trays

$32.00 each

Available at Amour Vert

These pretty little ceramic dishes are handmade in Kansas City, Missouri by The Object Enthusiast. Finished in a variety of glazes with 22k gold lustre details, they're perfect for displaying rings and other treasures.  


MM. Lafleur Bento Box

$50 - 1,000

Avilable at MM. Lafleur

Finding ethical professional clothing can be a frustrating and time-consuming, but MM. Lafleur makes it easy with their Bento Boxes. Each box contains a selection of sustainable, American-made wardrobe staples that are personalized based on a quick style survey.  You can send the workin' gal in your life a gift card with increments up to $1,000, which will come with a note from her stylist that explains the Bento process. 


Cosmetic Case Set (vegan)

$80.00

Avilable at Angela Roi *

Angela Roi creates beautiful, cruelty- and sweatshop-free handbags and accessories. Handmade in Korea using  vegan leather, the Elle Cosmetic case perfect for those who want to avoid animal products.


The Birdie Watch

$525.00

Available at Shinola

This one is definitely a splurge, but well worth it if you can swing the price tag. A few years ago, Jon gave me the Birdie watch for Christmas, and it continues to be one of my most valued possessions. Elegant, well-designed, and just straight up cool, Shinola products are all made in Detroit, Michigan, with the mission of bringing jobs back to the USA. 


MORE GIFT GUIDES FOR WomEN

Need more ideas? Check out these gift guides from other ethical bloggers: 

LEOTIE LOVELY - 9 Eco + Ethical Gift Ideas for Women

LIFE + STYLE + JUSTICE - Ethical Gifts for Her

SARAH LAUGHED - Ethical Gift Guide for Her

MORAL FIBRES - Ethical Gift Guide #1

VALERIE KEINSLEY - Simplified Gift Guide: for Her

INTO-MIND - 12 Thoughtful books about style, ethical fashion and building a better, simpler wardrobe

Maternity Style | The Waiting Game

Pink Coat 2.jpg

Maternity leave pre-baby is kind of like vacation. Except I'm still pregnant. And I can't drink. And I get to sit around and wonder when, exactly, I'll be launched into several hours of intense pain. So really not like vacation at all. 

I've been working on the nursery and putting together ethical gift guides to pass the time (due date is tomorrow), and figured I should capture a few more maternity style pictures before I officially deflate. I especially wanted to get some shots of this coat, because it's been a godsend since the temperature dropped a few weeks ago. By this point, none of my regular coats fit, so I bought this dusty rose cashmere coat by Theory (I found it on sale at Bloomie's... phew!). I'm so glad that relaxed, oversized silhouettes are in this season, as it made finding  maternity-appropriate winter wear much easier. And the color is a bit of a head-turner; I get compliments on it every time I wear it out.  It makes me feel like a fancy East Coast lady-about-town. 

All I need is a Shih Tzu with a diamond-studded collar.

All I need is a Shih Tzu with a diamond-studded collar.

...But is it Ethical?

Much like BCBG, Theory isn't a brand that I would promote as particularly ethical (you can read Project Just's review of their parent company here). But their clothing is incredibly well-made with an emphasis on classic/timeless silhouettes, so they'll do when I can't find an ethical or secondhand version of what I'm looking for. The dress, by Susana Monaco, is made in the USA (similar here). 

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We'll see how much more blogging I get through before our new friend arrives, but au revoir for now darlings! 

Outfit Details: Theory 'Clairene New Divide' Wool & Cashmere Coat  / Susana Monaco dress (made in USA; similar here) / Woven leather platform sandals (thrifted) / TOMS Luisa sunglasses (one-for-one)