ethical fashion

What is Fashion Revolution Week? (And How to Take Part)

What is Fashion Revolution Week, the artyologist

Here we are already, almost at the end of April, and this means that Fashion Revolution Week is almost upon us. Next week, April 24-30th is Fashion Revolution Week 2017, and I am getting ready to take part. I thought though, that some of you may not know about Fashion Revolution, so I thought I would share with you some of the “events” going on next week, so you can get ready to take part too.

So, what is Fashion Revolution Week? Well, it is a global movement which seeks to create transparency, sustainability and ethical standards within the fashion industry. The fashion industry is one with more than a few dirty secrets, and the Fashion Revolution organization works to generate awareness about the issues and injustices garment and textile workers around the world face. In their own words, “We want to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.

Fashion Revolution Week comes once a year, and falls on April 24th, marking the anniversary of the tragic 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza factory collapse, which is the largest and deadliest garment industry tragedy to date, resulted in 1,138 deaths (including both garment workers and rescuers) and injured over 2,500 people. Sadly, even though it is the largest tragedy, it was not the first to take place within the fashion industry, and it has not been the last either. There are many factories which are, quite simply, disasters waiting to happen. When word of the Rana Plaza building collapse hit the news, back in 2013, many consumers at the time, expressed outrage, claimed that the situation was terrible, and shameful and demanded transparency within the industry and improvements in the working conditions of the garment workers. But, like many other tragic news stories: people move on. Fashion Revolution was created in order to keep the issues alive, to keep people aware of what is going on within the fashion industry, and to keep asking questions, and encouraging us, the consumers, to ask brands and retailers, “who made my clothes”?

The fashion industry is one that is not fully “automated”. Someone, somewhere in this world made the clothing on the rack at your local shop. It may have been sewn by a machine, but someone was running that machine, and feeding the fabric through it. There are an estimated, 60-70 million people worldwide who work in the garment and textile industries, and about 3/4 of those workers are female. Some of those workers are treated well and are paid a fair wage, but many are taken advantage of and mistreated. Fashion Revolution Week gives people an opportunity to ask questions about how are garments are being made, who made them and what conditions they made them in. And of course, the goal is to be a part of helping to create change for the lives of these workers.

This year, Fashion Revolution has come up with several great ways to get involved in the event.

The first way to be involved is to ask brands, “Who made my clothes?” You can do this by showing the label on your clothes (like my picture above) and then asking the brand #whomademyclothes? You can do this on twitter, instagram or facebook. I’ll be taking part on instagram. Don’t forget to tag the brand in your post, so they’ll get the notification, and see your question!

There are a few new ways ways I am going to be involved, outside of social media, this year as well.

One is by sharing a fashion “Love Story”. I thought this was such a great idea on their part- by getting people excited about the clothing we already own and love we will start to think differently about impulse buys, cheaply made garments and “fast fashion fixes”. I’m going to be sharing one of my fashion “love stories” next week.

Another idea, is to share a “haulternative”, (fashion “haul” and “alternative” combined). This is a chance to refresh your wardrobe, without buying new clothes. I will be sharing some of my recent thrift shop finds next week, but there some other ideas for ways to take part in the haulternative.  Some of their great ideas for taking part are upcycling, mending, swapping or second hand finds.

They also have a template for writing a letter to a brand, in order to ask more directly, “who made my clothes”. I might be sending a couple of letters next week too. As for as other ways, last year I remember that there was also an “I made my clothes” event going on, where seamstresses and textile makers were sharing what they have made for themselves etc. so I might be taking part in that too. A lot of this will be going on over on Instagram, but I have those two posts lined up for this blog.

*UPDATE* I have since found out that, yes there will be a #makersforfashrev event going on this year too, hosted by Emily of In The Folds. Here is the “poster” for that. And feel free to share this image, Emily said, as the more people know about this event, the better!

makers for fash rev

If you want to take part in the event this year too, (last year there were over 70,000 participants) there is a pdf created by Fashion Revolution, with all the ideas on how to take part, here. Also, check out to see if there is an event in your area, on their page here. I am really excited for this years Fashion Revolution- because as each year passes, the event gets bigger and bigger- and though at times it may seem like an uphill battle, I know that changes are taking place in the fashion industry, ethical fashion is becoming more and more available and some of the bigger fashion brands are taking transparency seriously as well. Little by little change is coming, and it feels so good to be a part of that, in my own small way. We can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but we can each take a bit more care in the fashion and purchasing choices that we make for ourselves. I can’t wait to see what everyone is doing next week, and I hope you’ll join in the movement too!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday Subscription Box

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, will already have figured out by now just how much I love fair trade.  Really, I wish that there didn’t even have to be a term such as “fair trade” as the very wording implies that some people are not being paid fairly. Sadly, this is a reality for many people around the world, but it is so encouraging to see just how many fair trade groups there are all around the world who are ensuring people are being paid fairly for their work and helping them to escape the cycle of poverty that they live in.

I always love finding new fair trade groups. My go-to here in Canada is Ten Thousand Villages, as they offer a great variety of wares (mostly jewellery, scarves, housewares, etc), they have travelling fairs which come through all the small towns, and if I buy online I don’t have to worry about import/duties. I always love finding items that are both fun and unique (this is why I also love thrifting!), so if those fun and unique pieces are also fair trade, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Just this last week I learned about a new (to me) group called Fair Trade Friday. At my church’s final Ladies Bible Study, one of the ladies in the group surprised us all with a gift from Fair Trade Friday. Fair Trade Friday is a monthly subscription box based out of the USA, where each month you receive three to four handcrafted items such as jewellery, housewares, fashion accessories etc. which have been made by women all around the world.

It is a program which is run by Mercy House Global. Their aim is to help empower women who are living in impoverished conditions, struggling single mothers, and women who have escaped the sex trade (or other slavery and abuses) by helping them to obtain meaningful employment. They work with various fair-trade artisan groups around the world, who are dedicated to providing assistance to these women, not through charity and hand-outs, but rather by helping these women out of their situations, teaching them skills and providing employment for them to make a living wage and support themselves.

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Papillon Marketplace necklace

In each box, there is also information about the women who have made the items, which countries the items came from, and how many jobs were provided that month because of the box. Some of the items are signed, or have a tag including information about the woman who made the item, which is such a lovely personal connection. Additionally, some of the artisans’ websites also have information about their teams, and give background information to the women who are making the items.

You can buy individual boxes, or sign up for a monthly subscription, which you can cancel at any time. They also have a “Bracelet of the Month” and “Earrings of the Month” offer, and they also sell individual items in their shop. And the best part is that 100% of the money from the purchases goes towards the workers.

I think that the unique part of subscribing to Fair Trade Friday is not only do you receive a fun surprise package in the mail, but you can also consider it to be a donation to help their ministry. And, if you decide that you don’t want to keep the items for yourself you can always give them to others, just as the lady in our group did. She was originally going to choose an item for each of us, but then decided to instead let us each choose our own item. Here is what we (my Mom, my sister and I) chose from the box!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 1

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 2

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 3

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Batik Boutique Jewelry Roll 4

I, amusingly enough, picked out the exact item that she was going to give me! I guess she knows me well 🙂 I chose this hand dyed cotton Batik and leather jewellery roll by Batik Boutique. This artisan group is based in Malaysia and employs over 50 people. The women who work for the Batik Boutique set their own wages and hours which gives them the flexibility to be able to support their families monetarily, while still being able to care for them. The income they earn making these items is helping their families to escape poverty. They offer a small selection of Batik items such as other jewellery rolls in different patterns (this one is not available anymore), place mats, scarves, and various bags.

I am so excited to use this jewellery roll the next time I travel, as the last time I threw all my jewellery into a zippered pouch and ended up with a bent earring and a lot of tangled necklaces 🙁 This will be much nicer for organizing, and it’s just really pretty too!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Have Hope Necklace 2

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Have Hope Necklace

The gift that my Mom chose is this beaded necklace from Kenya. It is made of gold beads interspersed with lacquered rolled paper beads and was made by a lady named Rose, who works for a group called Have Hope. This group started up with help from Mercy House Global and consists of housewives who had no income because their husbands were unemployed. Originally the women were meeting for a Bible Study, but with the help of Mercy House Global they were also able to start making jewellery for Fair Trade Friday. The women now have a steady source of income, are able to feed their children, are moving out of the slums, and are even starting their own businesses. I don’t believe that this group has their own website, as I couldn’t find any, but they do sell through the Fair Trade Friday shop and the subscription boxes.

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal 3

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal 2

My sister chose two items (as there were some extra gifts left over at the end). The first is this beautiful leather journal with recycled cotton pages made in northern India by the talented workers of Village Artisan. Village Artisan has been around for sixteen years now, and provides fair employment for over 100 artisans as well as being an eco-friendly company. They sell other eco paper products, recycled sari scarves and bags, jewellery and other items. I am a stationery hoarder, so I am eyeing up all those beautiful card sets 🙂 Also, a bonus for me and my fellow Canadians is that orders over $50 USD receive free shipping to Canada!

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Papillon Marketplace necklace 2

This bead and pottery necklace is from Haiti by the group called Papillon Marketplace. Papillon Marketplace trains women who have had no education in order to give them marketable and useful skills. They use as many local products as possible to benefit the Haitian economy and pay their workers a living wage which is three times higher than the country’s minimum wage. They make pottery, tote bags, jewellery and t-shirts.

It is so exciting to see these beautiful handmade items, but also to know the story behind them- who made them, where they came from and how these women’s lives have been changed because of it. One thing that really stood out to me, too, is how so many of the companies’ prices are not much higher than, or are equal to, the prices you would see for similar items at a retailer. I often have a misconception that because items are fair trade they are going to be a lot more expensive, but really most of them have not much for markup and the majority of the money is going directly to the workers themselves.

I looked into buying a subscription box for myself, but because the program is out of the USA, with shipping, dollar exchange and duties, sadly it ended up being too expensive for me per month. I also wondered, because I do dress in a very defined vintage style, if many of the pieces would end up not fitting with my “look”. (With just my luck, the subscription box would include a t-shirt, coffee, a fabric headband and scented soap. Hint- none of these items are things that would work for me!)

However, I did look at some of the sites of the artisan groups who sell to Fair Trade Friday. The majority of these companies sell jewellery, scarves, pouches and bags and other small items like that. They sell lots of things which I think would make great gifts, even if you don’t need them for yourself.

The company JOYN in India, sells both leather and vegan leather and canvas purses and bags. They have a really lovely brown satchel, which is kind of a modern take on the classic 40’s style bag.

The group Purpose Jewelry sells jewellery and they have a collection of simple and graphic pendants and chains. Their main focus is on providing employment opportunities for young women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. (hence their name “Purpose Jewelry”)

Vi Bella has centres in Haiti, Mexico, the USA, and also partners with workers in India and Ecuador to create jewellery. They have some more “global” pieces of jewellery made out of products like horn and clay, as well as more delicate pieces made of metal and polished stones.

Have you ever heard of Fair Trade Friday? Have you ever purchased a subscription box of any kind? What are your favourite fair trade companies to buy from?

Neat Things: Fair Trade Friday, the artyologist, Village Artisans Journal

Thrifting Treasures

grey-dress-feature, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

Old things are just prettier. Don’t you agree? OK, I guess not all old things, as I have seen my fair share of terrible old things too, but as a general rule, old things are just prettier. The packaging is more thoughtful, the details are a bit more unique and the fact that they have lasted this long already, and have a story of their own, makes them just a bit more special.

I used to hate thrifting, because you could never find what you were looking for. But then, about 5 years ago I realized- that’s exactly the fun of thrifting. You never know what you are going to find and it’s like a treasure hunt. Now, I love to go to the local store about once a week, if I can. My local thrift store is a community store staffed by all volunteers (most of whom are older ladies) and all of the money they make goes directly back into the community (by giving the proceeds to the Boy Scouts, Cadets and Santa’s Anonymous etc.) I love to shop there because they get a ton of stuff donated, there are always new things out on the floor, and their main concern is really in getting it out the door, so they keep the prices very low, and every once in a while, when they have too much stock, they have a half price sale. The funny thing about thrift shopping is that I get into a bit of unrealistic bubble about prices, and then I catch myself saying “$3.00 for this vintage wool skirt? I don’t know, I wish I could have gotten it for $1.50 when it was the half price sale.” Oh right. . . $3.00 is a pretty amazing deal.

The past few weeks have been pretty good, and I have found quite a few thrifting treasures, so I thought that I would share them with you.

vintage grey dress, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

This piece has a bit of damage, where it looks like the dye has faded or discoloured, and some seams that need to be resewn. Since it is a larger size, it won’t be a problem to bring in the kimono sleeves a bit, though. It feels like a acetate fabric or something of the kind, and is rather lightweight, and has the prettiest metal rhinestone buttons and buckle on the front. It is about 2 inches too short for me, but it has a really wide hem, so I am going to let the hem down to amend that problem.

black-stars- vintage dress, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

black-stars-dress, thrifting, the artyologist

This dress has a lot of damage, and is going to require quite a bit of help, but the fabric was just so pretty, and it has flipped up sleeve cuffs . . . it was calling to me! It is some kind of artificial rayon/taffeta fabric (it is drapey like a rayon, but heavy like a taffeta). There are areas of the fabric that are shredded, like it got pulled apart, so I am going to see if I can fix them by patching from the underside. So, needs a bit of work before I can wear it.

tag-closeup, wool dress, the artyologist

wool dress vintage, thrifting, the artyologist

This one is too small for me in the hips 🙁 It fits perfectly in the top though, and since there is a hole in the skirt, I am going to transform this into a shirt. I know some people feel that vintage shouldn’t be altered, but since this piece is damaged as it is, I am OK with changing it; especially as I know enough about sewing to not destroy it! By refashioning this piece into a shirt, it will have a second life, and I will finally have a winter appropriate top to wear with my favourite pleated wool skirt! I like the fact that is brown, black and grey too, so it will coordinate with a lot of things I have in my wardrobe.

thread-spools, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

pile-of-spools, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

Next are the bags of sewing notions! I found two ziploc bags full of wooden spools of thread and other assorted vintage sewing notions. I love wooden spools- it’s so sad that spools are plastic now, don’t you think? There were thirty eight spools, and I love the variety of colours, and the labels too.

thread-spools-grid, the artyologist

These are some of my favourites. Top L-R: 1. I love the carved end of this spool. 2. This colour of green is so perfect. 3. I just liked this label. Middle L-R: 1.Another pretty blue. 2. This is the label for the blue spool. I’ve never heard of “The Canadian Spool Cotton Co.” 3. This deep royal/navy blue thread is so shiny and smooth. Bottom L-R: 1.Another carved spool and this time for silk thread. 2.This is the silk thread, a grey/mauve colour, and it is so pretty and . . . well. . . silky 😉 3. And the last one: there are two unopened spools of lilac. I guess I’m not the only one who buys thread for a project, and then never gets around to using it 🙂

notions, ricrac and hem tape, the artyologist

vintage needle-book, thrifting finds, the artyologist

needlebook-zippers, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

vintage sewing pamphlet, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

The elastic thread that accompanied this paper was long past useable, but this little instruction booklet has some great illustrations, don’t you think? They all look rather 1950’s in style to me, but the logo says “known over 50 years for Quality, Style, Value” and as the company started in the 1920’s, I guess it would date this paper as the 1970’s. Maybe the illustrations weren’t current, but rather a throwback to earlier times, or maybe they just never updated their illustration style?

books, thrifted treasures, the artyologist

Two lovely vintage books. They didn’t have a price on them, so the lady gave them to me for $0.25 each! #thriftscore

vintage xmas ornaments, thrifting treasures, the artyologist

When you doubt whether your outfit is really festive enough, just add this corsage. Instant Christmas kitsch! How could I resist it? Also, these ornaments were just in a ziploc bag, and tossed into a bin. I don’t think they realized that they are glass! One was broken (fortunately it was a modern and ugly one) but all these vintage ones were intact, albeit a little scratched, but that’s OK. 🙂

bonus-ornament, the artyologist

And, one “extra special” bonus treasure that was also included in the same ziploc bag, was this Limited Edition beauty from 1986. This is literally a glass ornament, with plastic wrapped around it. Yes, that nativity picture is a piece of shrink wrap. Why was this a Limited Edition (with capital letters)? And the better question to ask ourselves is, why did someone buy it in the first place?

Have you found any great treasures lately? (I’d love to hear about them!) Do you like thrifting items if they need to be fixed or altered, or do you stick with only things that are good “as is”? And, what are your feelings on refashioning damaged vintage items?

Fashion Isn’t About You

Fashion Isn't About You, the artyologist

We live in an era and a society that is obsessed with things like health. We use organic beauty products, because we know they are better for us. We clean with earth friendly products, so we don’t pollute our homes. We eat healthy and organic foods to minimize our risk of cancer. We know that eventually we will all die, and yet, we do what we can to improve our quality of life in the here and now. And yes, all of these things are great. We should avoid the practices that we know are bad for us, and do the things that are good for us (as far as we know that they are good for us!)

There is one element that is centre to all of these practices though, and that is that they are all good for you. As in, you personally.

Ethical Fashion is not something you do for you. It is something you do for someone else.

Ethical fashion, to be really honest, doesn’t benefit you personally in any way whatsoever. In fact, one could argue, it’s really a pain and a bother when it comes right down to it.

Fair trade fashion is often more expensive than the fast fashion garments you can find at your local mall. Fair trade and ethically made garments can be hard to find: most of your local chain stores don’t carry responsible brands in stock (especially here in Canada). And, sometimes the fair trade fashions you do find, will not be your fashion style. Building a fair trade wardrobe involves research. Which brands are ethical? Where did this come from? And really, #whomademyclothes? Being a conscious consumer involves constant questioning; not just, “Do I want this?” but, “Do I need this”? And, then there is always the question of, “What is the longevity of this garment?” Sometimes ethical fashion means going without something, until you can find it in an ethical and fair trade version.

Other options to buying fair trade fashion would be practices like thrifting, or buying vintage. This takes time though. To build a second-hand wardrobe, you put in countless hours searching for pieces that you not only like, but that fit, and are in good condition as well. Vintage is rare, depending on where you live, and it can be hard to find. You can’t just stop in at your local store to pick out exactly what you want and need. And once you find the thrifted or vintage garment you are looking for, it will require upkeep that new garments don’t. Mending and fixing go hand-in-hand with pre-loved garments.

Another option is making your own clothes. This again, is a large time investment (especially if you are like me, and are an extremely slow seamstress.) It also means acquiring the skills to be able to make the garments yourself, as you want to end up with something wearable; not a “Becky-Home-Ecky” that should be turned into a rag. And again, with new fabrics and textile, you must question, “Where did this fabric come from?” With reused textiles, you run into other problems and the quirks that come along with refashioning.

Ethical fashion is hard. Creating a wardrobe full of garments that are fair trade, where the workers who sewed your clothes (because each and every piece of clothing has been made by human hands, somewhere) are earning a wage they can truly live on, is really frustrating sometimes.

But, nobody should have to die for fashion.

That shouldn’t even be a thought that enters the equation. Because really, there should be no such term as “Ethical Fashion”. That is so redundant it’s like saying “Edible Food”.

Nobody should have to drop out of school at nine years old to go to work, just to be able to put food on the table.

Nobody should have to work with toxic fabric dyes, and no safety equipment, in order to afford their monthly rent.

And nobody should have to go to work in an unsafe factory, which may collapse at any moment, in order to survive . . . but end up dying instead.

Because nobody’s life is worth less than a t-shirt.

Fashion is something that shouldn’t be only about you. Your clothes might seem like a highly personal choice, but instead I would challenge you to view your wardrobe with an outward focus too and take a moment to think about how what you buy ultimately impacts the lives of those who you may not be able to see, but are affected nevertheless. And then not only think about it, but see what steps you can take to make a difference.

 “Demand quality, not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.”- Orsola De Castro

As I mentioned last week, October is Slow Fashion Month, and Fair Trade Month. I know it’s the last week, but I didn’t want the month to pass by without sharing some of my ethical fashion journey, and the reasons behind why I am building my wardrobe the way that I am. This weeks prompt is “Known Origins”. There is a story behind each and every garment tag, and usually it is a story we’ll never know. But it is those stories, and the realities that garment workers are facing around the world every day, that are shaping my wardrobe choices. It’s not always an easy journey, and sometimes I really just wish that I could throw in the towel and go and buy all the things. I do fail sometimes, making purchases that I end up regretting, because I know that they aren’t ethical purchases. Overall I have come to a point in my wardrobe, though, where I just don’t feel good about wearing cheap fashion, with unknown origins. And so, I choose to wear slow fashion whenever possible, because of the lives of the people behind the garment tags. Because, as I said before, nobody’s life is worth less than a t-shirt.