Ethical Fashion – What’s It All About?

17076767_1890591261223412_5049714588891742208_n

Pictured: V-Neck Dress / Draped Modal Midi Dress / Box Panel Tee / Sleeveless Trapeze Dress

Credit: Brittany Hinrichs, Content Manager, Mod + Ethico Boutique

The ethical side of the fashion realm can be quite intense and confusing for those looking to switch to a more mindful lifestyle. It can be overwhelming trying to learn and make sense of this side of the industry. You might think that your world–and typical shopping habits–have been turned upside down. Depending on who you ask, ethical fashion has a variety of definitions.

Simply put, ethical fashion is a fashion that values people, fair wages, safe working conditions and the environment–or the Achilles heel of fast fashion, as I like to say. It is progressive fashion that considers and takes accountability for its social and environmental impact throughout all of its processes.

Designers, boutique owners, bloggers and conscious consumers all work together to raise questions about industry standards and norms. They do it in the hopes that the idea of ethical fashion will no longer just be a movement, but rather, a way of life.

Here’s a breakdown of the ethical fashion industry, its social concepts, and benefits:

18013510_288968568219814_6123518037082505216_n

Credit: Suki + Solaine

1. Ethical Fashion – a movement that believes in the sustainable and ethical production, design and sourcing of fashion goods and materials. It is both socially and environmentally conscious.

Benefits of Ethical Fashion

  • Prices are set according to the quality, value, and construction of the garment.
  • It promotes sustainable practices in the garment industry to reduce waste, overconsumption, and future damage to the environment.
  • It considers the lives of artisans/garment workers and their families by providing fair compensation and safe work environments.

17126986_585758948283706_5405000498434539520_n

Pictured: Reverse Ball Choker

Credit: Brittany Hinrichs, Content Manager, Mod + Ethico

2. Slow Fashion – a cycle of fashion that supports slower shopping habits, mindful sourcing, and quality production. Clothes are produced on a made-to-order basis to reduce overproduction and pollution. Slow Fashion focuses on building a capsule collection with strong basics and investment pieces, rather than frequent, low-quality trend-based purchases.

Benefits of Slow Fashion

  • Slow production promotes slower consumption and production of waste.
  • Considers environmental and social impact of production and distribution.
  • Slow fashion retailers are often mission-based.
  • Allows consumers to build a capsule wardrobe with investment pieces and,
  • Often handmade and ethically produced.

jessinablog2931

Pictured: Fairtrade & Organic Cotton Kimono / Bamboo Dress

Credit: Lindsey Higgins & Jessina Nicole

3. Fairtrade – an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system (Fair Trade Federation).

Benefits of Fairtrade

  • Ensures underdeveloped countries and workers aren’t exploited by manufacturers, retailers, and corporations.
  • Environmental and social guidelines are taken into consideration with trade agreements and partnerships.
  • Promotes ethical and transparent partnerships between manufacturers, retailers, factories, and workers.
  • Empowers local and indigenous communities/artisans.

19120890_232851610545040_3606320421672058880_n

Pictured: Fairtrade & Organic Cotton Kimono / Veja V-10 White Sneakers

Credit: Lindsey Higgins & Jessina Nicole

4. Sustainability – A characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a consistent level indefinitely. A sustainable process meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (MSLK).

Benefits of Sustainability

  • Products are made from highly renewable, oftentimes natural, sources–bamboo, wood pulp, dirt, beech trees, etc.
  • Sustainable processes reduce the need to exacerbate human resources and production times due to the focus on synergistic, zero waste policies
  • Sustainable textiles and materials reduce landfill, CO2, water, and chemical pollution

Brands and retailers are starting to use post-consumer materials for shoes and apparel (eg. recycled plastic, bottles, rubber, and discarded hardware).

15802339_225565024567877_8408666150107348992_n

Pictured: CAM Rose Gold Stamped Studs + Ear Jackets

Credit: Brittany Hinrichs, Content Manager, Mod + Ethico

5. Upcycling – taking something considered waste and repurposing it (Upcycle That).

The repurposing of a material into a product of higher quality. An example would be a purse made out of woven candy wrappers (MSLK).

Benefits of Upcylcing

  • Promotes environmental and social awareness
  • Reduces amount of clothing and household items contributing to landfill pollution and/or lost in the travels of oversea charity sales

Product value, including its potential value, is determined and restored by the owner.

IMG-317-top

Pictured: Sheer Floral Bomber Jacket

Credit: Alain Milotti, Photograher, Mod + Ethico

6. Cut n’ Sew – the process of manufacturing a product from scratch; The sewing process starts and ends in one place — meaning the design is cut out from raw fabric and completely finished (Leaf.TV).

Benefits of Cut N’ Sew

  • Allows for more customization
  • Fabrics are cut and altered in their raw state, instead of undergoing mass alterations once purchased by retailers
  • Garments are designed, cut, sewn, and finished in their entirety
  • More care for fabric selection and quantities produced
  • Promotes locally sourced, handmade, and made-to-order processes

Cuts out middlemen and general questions of ethical production.

15538757_376571552676212_6753171156188004352_n

Pictured: Knee High Sock Pack

Credit: Mod + Ethico

7. Indigenous Techniques – Traditional methods of hand-making garments practiced by indigenous cultures and artisans, which have been practiced for generations. Indigenous clothes are typically made using one of three carefully selected handmade methods: hand-knit with needles, hand-held knitting looms and hand-woven looms (Indigenous Clothing)

Benefits of Indigenous Techniques

  • Garments are produced by the indigenous groups and artisans that specialize in that specific construction and design.
  • Original construction techniques are typically of higher value and quality and are priced accordingly.
  • These techniques put the spotlight back on traditional craftsmanship and undervalued communities.
  • Clothing is more personal, meaningful, and is an exemplary example of natural artforms.

Ethical and slow fashion brands work with indigenous groups through fair trade programs to ensure proper pay and recognition for the skilled artisans — eg. Krochet Kids, Indigenous, Bead & Reel, and The Root Collective

Written and researched by contributor Jessina Nicole, of Love Leather and Lace

5 Eco-friendly Lifestyle and Beauty Hacks to Save you More Than Just Time & Money

As a the founder of Mod + Ethico balancing both my start-up, my full-time gig in advertising, AND with a baby on the way, I am always seeking life hacks to save time. The great news is that these hacks not only save time, but also precious natural resources, cut-down on energy use, and minimize waste.

Some beauty & lifestyle tips, good for you and the planet:

  1. Wash your hair less often. I grew up in humid Virginia, where I avidly washed my hair daily for most of my life. I have since trained my hair to go longer stretches between washes. The benefit of washing your locks less: accelerate growth, maintain hair health, and clearer skin. Eco-reasons to love washing less? Saving water (saving 2.1 gallons of water per minute saved)  and energy from skipping the blow dry. Other reason? Time. I save minutes in the shower and even more substantial time blow-drying. This means I get extra snooze time on days when I skip the wash. Help stretch time between washes with dry shampoo. I have tried several over the years, from salon quality to drug store brands, and right now I really like L’Oreal Extraordinary Clay Dry Shampoo. I plan on trying this DIY Dry Shampoo for its eco-friendliness and minimal ingredients.

    3rd_Day_Hair_ModandEthico
    Day 3 Hair – After using cornstarch today with just a tad of L’Oreal Extraordinary Clay Dry Shampoo.
  2. Make-up removal & facial cleansing. Opt for natural DIY makeup removal and facial cleansers. Here are some fabulous ideas from Wellness Mama. Rinse with a washcloth which is washable and reusable, reusable biodegradable eco cotton pads by S.W. Basics, or opt for biodegradable cleansing wipes such as Klorane Make-up Remover Biodegradable Wipes.

    S.W. Eco Cotton Rounds
    Minimize waste from your beauty routine with these organic, reusable cotton pads for $22.
  3. Freshen clothing without washing. I have researched ways to extend time between dry cleaning and washing – saving time, water, and energy.
    • Use mixture of vodka, water, and a few drops of lavender oil. A theatre wardrobe expert claims the mixture works beautifully, and I have to agree.  Get a giant bottle of cheap high proof vodka, mix it in a spray bottle with water. The ratio should be about 60%-70% vodka. Spray it on the clothing, or . The vodka dries odorless, kills bacteria and helps remove icky smells. (Reddit)
    • Freeze your jeans. Save water, and help preserve the vibrance and integrity of your denim by forgoing frequent washes and throwing them in the freezer once a month. The recommendaton comes from Levi’s VP of Women’s Denim Design Jill Guenza. (Elle.com)

      Henry_and_Belle_ModandEthico
      Giving these Henry and Belle babes to a little freeze treatment to preserve the fit and fabric.
  4. Kick petroleum-based products to the curb. Petroleum found in your beloved lip balm is sadly a by product of the petroleum industry. I have also been told by my wedding makeup artist that petroleum-based lip balms can further dry out your lips. I have not found concrete evidence supporting this claim, but I always prefer to opt for more natural and sustainable options. Lately, I am loving 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Shea Moisture. I use this to hydrate dry patches on my cheeks, my chapped lips, very lightly at the ends of my hair to protect from heat, and on my body post-shower in lieu of lotion. Since I just started my third trimester, I am liberally using coconut oil (with vitamin E) on my belly to hopefully prevent unsightly stretchmarks. So far so good.

    2294106
    100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Shea Moisture
  5. The 30-wear minimum rule. Invest in capsule pieces you truly love, that are versatile, and can stand the test of time. The average article of clothing is worn just less than 5 times, and are kept for less than 35 days, and produce over 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than garments worn 50 times and kept for a full year. Bonus benefit, you will tap your own creativity to pull together new outfit ideas and feel good doing it. (Forbes)

Versatility is key, I put great use to this beautifully Chicago-crafted vegetable-tanned Horween leather moto jacket by Production Mode ($750). While $750 may sound     like quite the investment, if I consider how often I style this jacket with an outfit, my   cost per wear in just the past year – at least 30 times – is just $25. However, I will get a lifetime of wears out of this jacket. When you buy fast-fashion pieces for relatively a relatively inexpensive price, let’s say $50, and you wear it 4 times, then this jacket ends up actually costing you quite a bit more per wear. I style this jacket with anything from boho shorts to black jeans, dresses, and everything in between.

These little changes can help simplify my lifestyle, and I feel like I am making steps to minimize my carbon footprint. I reflect daily on how I could do more. The great news is that these changes not only help keep our planet a little cleaner, but my sleep has improved by saving time, my skin has improved since adopting a new routine that is more gentle, and my sanity is spared by cutting down on laundry and my beauty regimen so I can savor a slower lifestyle as I await the arrival of my little one and balance my career.

– Candice Stewart Collison, Founder & Owner modandethico.com

Show Me the Money: How buying ethically-made clothes can be cheaper in the long-run

While I’m extremely passionate about sustainably- and ethically-made clothing, I’ve always said I’d never turn down a good deal. I’ve since proven myself wrong. While perusing my inbox recently, I saw a deal offered at Victoria’s Secret for a sport pant, sports bra, and beanie—all for $55. I found myself reeling and loudly asking my laptop how this could even be possible.

vs-outfit

What has been sacrificed to bring you this price? Quality, fair payment and treatment of workers, and environmentally friendly materials and production practices surely top the list. At prices like this though, it’s hard to think about anything other than “just buy it, it’s so cheap!” But what if you were able to silence that impulsive mini-you to really think about what you were buying? What if spending a little more upfront could actually save you money in the long-term?

Let’s focus strictly on quality for the purposes of this analysis.

Assume that these lower-priced pieces will last one year—and that’s an ambitious estimate—if used and washed regularly and that you’ll replace them each year when they fall apart, fade, stretch out, etc. with similar pieces at similar prices.

Rather than spending $550 over ten years and throwing away your worn-out fast fashion finds,—really, even thrift stores don’t want them—take a bit of time to find pieces you absolutely love that are made responsibly and will hold up to your active lifestyle. Items produced with care and emphasis on quality will stand up to whatever you throw at them for years.

Search for well-made pieces like the Tempo Criss-Cross Back Sports Bra and Carry on Legging from NUX that will give you the high-performance you expect out of your athleisure wear and hold up to daily sweat sessions and subsequent washes. Top the look off with the good hYOUman Slouchy Black Beanie. All three pieces are made in the USA with an emphasis on innovative design, quality construction, and performance.

Especially when it comes to fitness, quality can enhance or hinder your activities in the clothes. I’ve certainly found that my poorly-made activewear went quickly from the gym, to my couch, to the “donate” pile. Since higher-quality pieces are both optimized for physical activity and look great, they’ll take you from the studio to the airport and everywhere in between.

Let’s assume the pieces above will last five years if used and washed regularly and that you’ll replace them when they wear out with similar pieces at similar prices (I’ve made this assumption based on the life cycle I’ve observed for investment items—both athleisure and ready-to-wear—that I’ve purchased over the years). The full outfit comes to $170. Over ten years, you would spend $340. That’s over $200 in savings compared to buying those fast fashion clothes!

If you’ve examined your budget and really can’t buy slightly higher-priced clothes, then by all means, purchase what you’re able to. But if you have the ability to save up and buy fewer, better, more versatile pieces less often, then you should, if for no other reason than long-term savings.

This isn’t about spending a fortune upfront. It’s about thinking just a little bit farther down the road than “right now.” It’s about being mindful of what you’re putting on your body, what you open your wardrobe to, what you want your clothes to say about you, and the principles you’re willing to put your money behind. Mindfulness is a huge emerging trend in the fitness world—why limit the practice to your yoga mat when you can expand it to what you wear on the mat?

Written by Amber Vignieri, Urban Hippie and Mod + Ethico Contributor

Behind the Brand: Meet VARYFORM designer and owner Masha Titievsky

masha

Behind the brand: VARYFORM

Meet Masha Titievsky

Age: 25

Born: Kiev, Ukraine

Grew up in: Louisville, KY

I met Masha Titievsky this past summer, and was immediately impressed by this young, motivated woman and her easy going style, poise, and wealth of knowledge in the domains of fashion and retail.

Masha and I spent about an hour together in our first meeting, never having met before except for email exchanges, brainstorming and bouncing around ideas for retail experience and collaborative opportunities between VARYFORM and Mod + Ethico (M+E). Not only is Masha the lovely creative talent behind VARYFORM (designing, and often sewing her designs), but she is so incredibly collaborative and giving of her time, expertise and has a warm and calm disposition. Since that summer day, Masha and I have become wonderful collaborators: Masha regularly consults me from a visual strategy and styling perspective, and this weekend, 11/26 during small business Saturday M+E will host a sample sale for VARYFORM – celebrating the accomplishments of female entrepreneurship in Chicago.

Event details:

VARYFORM Sample Sale at Mod + Ethico

When: November 26th 11AM-6PM

Where: Mod + Ethico

27 N. Morgan St.

Chicago, IL 60607

What: Small business Saturday is a gift-shopping event specifically celebrating small businesses. We will feature samples from Masha’s elegant line VARYFORM, and will also offer 30% off the entire store, and will be featuring a mimosa bar throughout the day.

More info on VARYFORM:

VARYFORM is a ready to wear womenswear line designed by Masha Titievsky in Chicago. VARYFORM expresses change over time and the transformative nature of clothing.

Aesthetically, Masha is strongly influenced by natural phenomena such as plant growth patterns, wave movement, the structure of crystals, and the reflective surfaces of water and glass. Her designs transform these natural elements into special staple pieces with a sense of glamour and sophistication.

Masha Titievsky is a current Designer-In-Residence at the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street. Her collection may be viewed in full on VARYFORMdesign.com.

Contibutor: Candice Stewart, Founder & CEO of Mod + Ethico

True Cost: A testament to the importance of ethically-made fashion

When I mentioned SEWN to a friend, she immediately recommended a documentary she had recently watched on Netflix, The True Cost, and how impactful it was on her. She mentioned that this documentary transformed her views on how she purchases any product, but most especially her clothes.

I quickly decided that my next Netflix rainy afternoon would be dedicated to watching this documentary, which quite frankly left me ashamed of some of my own clothing purchase behavior patterns to date. It’s no secret that younger generations (yes, notably Millennials) love a wardrobe revamp, so long that it doesn’t do too much financial damage. They cannot be seen, especially on social media, repeating outfits within a few months (for some, this time period could even be years). Taking note of this, retailers, and even services like Rent the Runway, provide cost effective ways to constantly rotate out clothing without breaking the bank.

However, The True Cost sheds light on the danger this ever popular fast fashion trend has impacted the livelihood and places unbeknownst to most. As you watch this documentary, you are reminded that while this trend might be wallet friendly, it certainly isn’t friendly to humanity. The irony of it all is that all modern advertising promotes the notion that increasing consumption leads to happiness. However, most people in the Western World seem more depressed than ever.

In the 1960s, the U.S. produced roughly 95% of the clothes domestically. Today, this figure is closer to three percent. Most of the textile production is outsourced to developing countries where labor costs allow for clothes to be merchandised for low prices in stores. What isn’t know to most are the life-risking conditions people must work in to attain production goals set by fashion mega-companies, which are in turn set by increasing fashion consumption trends.

What I found particularly interesting about this documentary are the environmental impacts that clothing overproduction trends have. I had no idea that both crops and people are affected and the earth is being abused. It is estimated that only 10% of donated clothes get recycled or up-cycled, and thrift stores can’t sell a lot of the garments that come in, so they end up in a landfill. Because it takes takes 200 years to break down textile, the clothes just sit in the ground releasing harmful fumes in the atmosphere for centuries.

The lasting takeaway this documentary left on me was the careful choice on the clothes that you consume could essentially save a life. This notion pairs so perfectly with the SEWN mission of highlighting the importance of socially and environmentally responsible fashion. Our planet and our people have suffered enough and it is time for us all to change our behaviors in an effort to stand up to inhumane working environments and textile production practices.

We curate some of the most stylish and unique responsibly-made designers available, and are just loving our new arrivals from Suki + Solaine, Me to We, Good hYOUman, and Argaman & Defiance, . Here are a few essential pieces to help build your sustainable wardrobe:

Suki + Solaine Sheer Striped Caftan, loving this now and will pair with a moto leather jacket in the fall.

City_Stripe_Black_SD

 

ME to WE Kipande necklace that we have been pairing with everything. ME to WE is handmade in Kenya by female artisans who are paid a fair wage for their stunning craftsmanship.

Kipande_Gold_White

Good hYOUman Simone Keyhole-back Sweatshirt is a stylish, cozy essential piece for the fall. Good hYOUman’s entire production process: from knitting to cutting and sewing, is all done in California.

RAWs-063

This long Grey Marbre silk Argaman & Defiance scarf is a perfect transitional piece from summer to fall. Wrap around your neck, or wear draped – this piece is versatile and handmade in Chicago. 

Long_Grey_Scarf_2

Contributor: Alex Hart

Argaman & Defiance: When Nature Inspires Your Favorite New Silk Accessory

Our founder Candice Stewart was introduced to Lydia Crespo, founder of silk accessory and clothing company, Argaman & Defiance, just a few months ago and knew instantly upon their first meeting that she had to stock Crespo’s products.

Outside of absolutely loving all of Crespo’s designs, the Argaman & Defiance mission fits perfectly with the sustainable fashion manufacturing practices that SEWN so passionately promotes while also tying nature into every silk piece they create.

The Argaman & Defiance brand was founded in 2009 and all items are made of 100% silk. Argaman & Defiance items use both raw silk and fine silk. The items are all individually hand-dyed in the Argaman & Defiance studio located in Chicago, Illinois.

Crespo’s grandparents lived in Defiance, Missouri where she has fond memories of visiting their home that was located near the Busch Wild Life Sanctuary, a well known forest preserve. She attributes her love for nature to her grandparents as it was at their home where she built her deep appreciation. Crespo takes uses her passion for nature to inform her designs of the Argaman & Defiance products. Argaman & Defiance only uses natural dye extracts that are safely collected from tree bark, roots, and leaves.  The hand dyed process is an artfully crafted skill, making each Argaman & Defiance piece uniquely beautiful.

 

Long_Grey_Scarf_2
Argaman & Defiance Grey Marbre Long Silk Scarf

 

All of the Argaman & Defiance scarves are so versatile and fun and truly can dress up any casual outfit or can also be worn with something dressier to add just that extra edge to your girls’-night-out look. Shop Argaman & Defiance on thesewnco.com to add that pop of color and style to every ensemble.

– The SEWN Co. Contributor, Alexandra Hart

Suki +Solaine: An Effortless Luxe Brand Designed and Made in Chicago

I recently discovered Chicago-based Suki + Solaine, and quickly wondered how I ever lived without this luxe brand that balances comfort with intrigue: using luxuriously soft modal, original prints, and stunning cuts that flatter a range of figures. After meeting with the team’s In-house Sales Rep. Jen Dobransky at the West Town showroom, I instantly loved her, and the line she passionately represents (she is the model featured above).

Jen and founder Brandi Archer are supportive and enthusiastic towards The SEWN Co.’s mission, and I feel so fortunate to be working with these women and featuring this line that I personally cannot get enough of – truly, I own practically the entire Summer transition line and a few quintessential Fall pieces that will be coming soon to thesewnco.com.

(Left: Jen & I hanging out at The Sewn Co. Pop-up; I am wearing the white City Sheer Caftan Top and Jen is wearing the Flutter Hem Dress. Right: Me wearing the Ryder Romper paired with Holly & Tanager Wallet/Clutch).

Suki + Solaine is committed to manufacturing in US, and designs for an active, modern woman who needs effortless, versatile clothes that suit every facet of her life.

Brandi_Archer_Nicole_Puszynski

The brand was founded around Creative Director Brandi Archer’s (financier turned lawyer turned fashion entrepreneur) concept for a collection of high-end knitwear essentials and quickly became known for deliciously soft tees and dresses in modern but wearable silhouettes. When designer Nicole Puszynski (hails from Alexander Wang and Narcisco Rodriguez) joined the team, she brought a new point of view to the brand with her insistence on adding a healthy mix of woven textiles – including fluttery silks, smart twills, and custom jacquards. Together, they’ve evolved Suki +Solaine into a smart, urban, city-chic brand known for its luxe fabrications, exclusive digital prints, and facile use of line and texture.

I am obsessed with their line, and am so excited and honored to have SEWN as a Suki + Solaine stockist.

– Candice Stewart, Founder & CEO of The SEWN Co.