Ten years ago this month we had our first conversation about whether or not to start a nonprofit that would sell fair trade items to create employment in developing countries. Our goal was to alleviate poverty and we felt so strongly that employment could make that happen. As February starts and we take time to celebrate relationships and love and connection, I can’t help but take a few minutes to share what we have learned.
Employment isn’t enough. Economic development, a good job, lots of money and opportunity are not enough to end poverty and the emotional havoc that it wreaks. It’s the relationships, the connections between the maker, the designer, the supplier and the customer. Every person who carries a product carries love to another.
Three years ago when we were rebranding Route I read and at one point spoke (yikes!) on the essay “I, Pencil”. It’s a brief essay marveling on how supply chains are so complicated and really beautiful in their intricacy. In our world, supply chains are simple, but reflecting on that essay I have come to almost charish how are products are passed on. It is the passing from one person to another that creates the relationships that carry the love and the appreciation and the value. AND then, when we are able to return again and again to those same people for more product, (which of course means more economic support) we also return to them in friendship and support and encouragement.
In ethical fashion, these exchanges are more often than not done through women. So this year, at Route we are going to salute the women who are committed to supporting each other, encouraging each other and giving strength in community to do impossible things.
Thank you to the women in our community who dream with us and challenge and support us. Here is to each one of you, from maker to customer and every incredible person in between. We LOVE you and THANK YOU for carrying the love.
Happy New Year! I’ve been a little quiet the past few weeks. In between the holidays I’ve had a bit of work to catch up on. But I’m back and excited to share the first of many editions of Five Days, Five Ways.
So what is Five Days, Five Ways?
For five days I am taking one article of clothing and showing the versatility of our closets. Too often I want new things because, well, they are new and new is fun. But. And you know me, there is always a but. The closets we currently own hold so many possibilities. So for five days I styled one garment to meet all my weekday needs.
Last week I was lucky enough to test out the Martina Bias Cut Skirt from Route! Partnering with Tonle to bring this perfect skirt from Cambodia I couldn’t imagine having the debut of Five Days, Five Ways be with anything else.
Since it arrived I have not taken it off.
Providing both structure and comfort I’ve easily transitioned this piece from corporate workday to casual evening in seconds. The material of the skirt is so soft and luxurious. It’s the one item I don’t strip off two steps into my front door as I do with other garments following a long day at the office. I would take naps in it if I wasn’t worried about wrinkles.
After a week of running all over town in this skirt I am excited to share with you the many ways it should be the next addition to your wardrobe.
Monday: Office Day in Corporate America
My day job is not glamorous. I’m a financial reporting manager spending most hours with accountants who still believe brown and black can never go together, tailoring is an unnecessary expense, and cardigans are the only way to pull an outfit together.
I stick out a bit.
Heading into the office I paired the Martina Skirt with a classic blush button down blouse (consignment store find a few years ago) and my favorite, take everywhere, Bartaile backpack for an effortlessly chic work outfit. Too often I feel constricted, physically and creatively, in corporate attire. Not with the Martina Skirt. With an elastic waistband on the backside there is plenty of comfort and room. This has been invaluable on the days that I gorge myself on the holiday gift baskets that continue to arrive by the truckload.
Tuesday: Cozy Winter Wear
Although winter hasn’t decided to fully show up in Denver we’ve still had a few chilly days. A skirt of this color is perfect as it can be worn in any season. I found it to be ideal with my over-sized knit sweater and over the knee boots. Spending a few hours in the coffee shop I was cozy while feeling stylish, what more could a girl ask for?
Wednesday: Ladies Night
I might look forward to Wednesday as much as I do Friday. Wednesday is ladies night. Middle of the week pick-me-up makes the first two days and last two days go a lot smoother. I, however, am usually running behind. Either a work meeting went long or my boss had a last second “emergency”. Being able to quickly transition my work clothes into going out clothes while feeling on point is important, it makes me feel good! Only having to change my top and throwing on a jacket makes the Martina skirt a definite go to.
Thursday: Sushi Thursday…Date Night
When Drew and I started dating three years ago I was working pretty hectic hours. Most nights we didn’t get to see each other. However, my team reserved Thursday nights as an early night in an effort to prepare for the upcoming weekend hours. Drew and I had multiple Thursdays that randomly ended up at Sushi restaurants, and so Sushi Thursday became a thing, our thing. We have tried to keep this tradition alive.
For Sushi Thursday this week I spiced things up a bit with a color block theme. My little red crop top and favorite lightweight jacket brought color blocking to a new level. The jewel tone of the jacket emphasized the richness of the skirt turning a simple outfit into a standout!
Friday: TGICF (Thank Gosh It’s Casual Friday)
My office doesn’t get much right in the fashion department, see Monday example, but casual Friday is something I will not argue with. Denim shirts are my go-to casual Friday look. The flowing femininity of this skirt paired with the structure of my denim shirt had me dancing my way into the weekend.
Our clothes are more than articles to cover our bodies. Our clothes should inspire us. Having staples in my wardrobe inspires me to be creative each day, to see how I can expand my options with what I have. I hope you’ve found some inspiration this week.
One of our favorite vendors; Tonle, is a company comprised of a caring group of Cambodians and Americans who work together to make a beautiful clothing line happen. Working intentionally in this war torn country, it is unique in its ethical business model as it has created a zero waste model of production. This means Tonle is as environmentally friendly as it is friendly in it’s production process. Tonle upcycles fabrics to make new clothing. ZERO waste. That means even the tags are scraps.
But make no mistake in thinking these pieces look recycled. The empowered artisans they employ celebrate the culture and beauty of Cambodia while making the latest chic fashion statements. The art of garment making is perfected and is demonstrated in the beauty of the clothing and also the care of the community in which it is made.
We are so excited to chat with the founder and creative director of Tonle, Rachel Faller, to get the inside scoop on what is happening this holiday season.
Your zero-waste business model is remarkable and completely different than any other model we’ve ever seen. How have you possibly managed to make this model sustainable?
In short, it is always a challenge! And each time we create a new collection, we have fabrics that we have to recycle from the previous collections. Some people have commented that our products should be cheaper because we pay so little for the materials. And it is true that the materials are cheaper because they come to us in smaller pieces that other companies consider not usable. However in reality it is much more expensive to produce this way because we have to take time to first of all pick out the materials, hand cut them, sort them, and then process all the small scraps. Of course, hand knitting and weaving new fabrics is tedious. What we love about the process is in the end much more of the final price goes to the artisans than to material costs. Big win! But it doesn’t mean it is cheap!
Would you say consumers are enticed more by the zero waste aspect or the fair employment aspect of the business? Does one hold more weight than the other?
It’s hard to say which is more important to people, but I will say that the zero-waste aspect of our business gets quite a bit of attention because it is quite unique. There are few companies in the world doing what we are doing in that regard so I think that really stands out to people, and it piques their curiosity – they want to know more about the process and learn what zero-waste means to us. Personally speaking, I think they are both very important, because first of all I know all the people who make our products and how much this work means to them; they are like family to me as well. At the end of the day though, our environmental mission and social mission go hand-in-hand; people who live in places that are deeply affected by pollution from the garment industry, like Cambodia, can testify to that.
Tell us about your exciting local partnership that is helping produce the new line this holiday season?
Weaves of Cambodia! We send them the smallest scraps left from our production and they hand-cut them into new yarn, and weave them into new fabrics. The whole process is quite tedious but the products are uniquely beautiful. Many of the weavers have disabilities from landmine accidents, as this region of the country has been war torn until the late 1990’s. Landmine clearance has really just begun in the last 15 years. This work creates not only a vital revenue stream for them but they say that the work and the community is really important and meaningful as well. The weaving is integrated in most all our products, however some of the new line statements which show the handwoven work is the sol triangle tote, srey crop top , srey long vest. and the phnom scarf.
What are your plans to grow and keep things going?
Thinking about growth is very interesting because as a zero-waste company – we don’t want our growth to come at the cost of the planet. But at the same time, growth of companies like tonlé mean that more artisans are employed with fair and livable wages, and hopefully reducing the number of toxic products that are produced. So we continue to think about growth with all the caveats attached regarding staying true to our principals and mission.
The week of Black Friday is here. Millions of consumers will leave their warm cozy beds to stand in line, plow over each other, and race through aisles all in the pursuit of getting a great ‘deal.’
What if this year is different? What if we embrace the true meaning of the holiday season: giving to others?
Today I am sharing sustainable and ethical gift giving ideas that give twofold: both to your loved ones as well as the individuals who work so hard to craft them!
For the Animal Lover
These whimsical t-shirts will definitely up the casual outfit game and are perfect for any animal lover. Last year, I bought myself (oops!) and my animal loving family members shirts from A is for Animals. Never have I worn a T-shirt so many times. They are styled to pair perfectly with a casual Saturday outfit or disguised under a blazer for the workday. With a percentage of each sale benefiting different animal organizations it’s hard to go wrong.
Another wonderful option for the animal lover on your list is the Orphans’ Project. The Orphans’ Project, developed and run by DSWT (David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn as well as the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation, and drought.
Pair an adoption with an E is for Elephants t-shirt for a uniquely thoughtful gift!
For the Minimalist Female Dresser
Capsule wardrobes have been a minimalist dresser’s best friend for years. Compiling a capsule wardrobe however takes time, patience, and hunting down well-designed pieces.
Finding a garment that is multifunctional, stylish, and comfortable is a tall order. Enter the Jessie Utility Jacket. Worn as a long staple, short and edgy, or a lightweight vest the Jessie Utility Jacket does it all and is a capsule wardrobe dream. This season give your minimalist friend the piece her closet has been missing.
For the Fashionable Mother/Mother-in-Law/Sister/Friend
For decades French women have embodied effortlessly chic style. There are many elements Parisian women have perfected but none so better than the scarf. An outfit can go from drab to elegant with the addition of a gorgeous scarf. For the ladies of your life that have overflowing closets or styles that you just can’t put your finger on there is the Natalie Scarf. Made of the softest alpaca you ever did feel the Natalie scarf adds style to any outfit as well as cozy warmth for the upcoming winter months.
I have styled this scarf to keep warm on my walk to work and with ease transitioned it to pull together my otherwise bland black work dress. The colors complement and bring to life neutral wardrobes and can be paired year-round. It has also been wonderful for holiday travel this week, keeping me stylish and warm during long airport stays.
For the Style Icon
If a scarf doesn’t push an outfit to full chic completeness a hat certainly will. As a society we have moved away from hats, and I think this is a shame. The history and craftsmanship of hats is as fundamental to fashion as Coco Chanel. This gift giving season if you find yourself wondering what to get that oh-so-stylish loved one in your life then look no further than Yellow 108. Yellow 108’s hats represent authentic American heritage with quality and timeless aesthetics. Crafted with skill and using salvaged and recycled materials these hats have earned the title of sustainable fashion!
For the Significant Other
Whether it’s a new relationship or one that has years of love, buying for the individual closest to you can be a challenge. Too often advertisements tell us we must gift the perfect material item. This holiday season why not focus on a shared experience?
Pack up and Go is a group of world travelers who wish to share their passion for travel with others. By filling out a brief survey of dates, ideal vacation type, and other tidbits, Pack Up and Go will craft the perfect three day/two-night itinerary to a surprise destination. Travel packages are focused around your budget making this gift of travel one for all to enjoy!
This surprise travel gift pairs wonderfully with an Everlane weekender. A gift within a gift!
For the Father/Father-in-Law/Brother/Friend
With all the gadgets on the market these days and all the cords that go along with them it’s a challenge to not end up with a big ol’ knot. This is Ground has solved this problem with men in mind. Based in Downtown Los Angeles, This is Ground believes that “the craftsman needs to own their own business” keeping all production in L.A and empowering workers. My favorite for this holiday season is the Cordito which effortlessly organizes and stores all the cords we seem to need in our daily routines.
If tech gadgets aren’t a winner for the men on your list or you’re looking for something to show you care then the classic, yet sustainable, beanie is a must. At their core Krochet Kids believes valuing “sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth” is important. Need I say more?
For the Comfort-Enthusiast
“Turns out the world’s most comfortable shoes are made of wool!” Allbirds are changing the shoe game in a huge way! Founder Tim Brown realized that wool holds all the perfect properties for shoes: minimizes odor, regulates temperature, and wicks moisture, however no one was using this sustainable resource. Allbirds are stylishly designed, comfortable beyond words, and make the perfect gift for those who like to enjoy comfort in style!
For the Skincare Guru
With the sustainable fashion revolution at the forefront of my posts it’s easy to forget that organic skincare is also having a big moment. As our largest organ treating our skin with love and respect is of the utmost importance. For the skincare guru on your list this year give them a One Love Organics 3-2-1 Fantastic Facial Kit. One Love Organics is cruelty-free, eco-cert, and is a Gold Certified Business from Green America. Wow!
As skincare products can be very personal I love the travel size of the 3-2-1 Fantastic Facial Kit. It allows for the trial of a new product without the long commitment. The products smell incredible, feel incredible, and are produced in the U.S at a sustainable manufacturing plant!
For the Holiday Hostess
With the holiday season comes holiday parties. Deciding what to bring a gracious host/hostess can be challenging, especially if you’re like me and want to venture outside a bottle of wine. I have always found candles and lotion to be crowd pleasers, especially when they are thoughtfully made. Route has teamed up with Larkskin Care putting together the ideal combination of a Route inspiration candle and a Larkskin Care lotion bar. This natural and ethically made pair will take all the guesswork out of what to bring your hard working hostesses this holiday season.
Happy sustainable shopping and the happiest of holidays to you!
It’s been a week and I’m back with part two of my buying sustainable process guide.
During our week apart I indulged myself a little with my favorite type of sustainable buying, recycled! While visiting home, my sister and I disappeared into the wonderful world of consignment fashion, at our local spot. After multiple arm loads to the dressing room, a few laughs, one moment of almost getting stuck in a pair of corduroy pants, I exited with some amazing finds.
A German made sweater, of 100% wool, the softest black and white sweater made of “baby alpaca” and a brand new, tags still on, hat that is made by a USA based sustainable company. I hit the jackpot in the world of sustainable shopping. What makes it all so exciting, is this can happen 9 times out of 10, if you’re willing to dig for it.
So without further ado, part two!
Recycle: When I say recycle I do not mean buying shoes that are made of recycled rubber or purses made of recycled plastic, although these are wonderful recycled options. When I say recycle I am talking about, of course, consignment stores or other secondhand clothing options.
Some may cringe at this thought. Wearing something preloved can be a hurdle but I’m here to preach, again, that it is not only good for your wallet and the planet but it can do incredible things for your style.
The pieces I get the most compliments on have come from consignment stores or thrift shops. For every item bought recycled one less item enters the consumption loop, which in turns decreases the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. For every American, 68 pounds of textiles end up in landfills each year according to research found in Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. The number is only increasing, recycled can help.
Consignment shopping can be overwhelming, I will admit that. Racks are not usually sorted by size but more often color and when you find something you like but not in your size you don’t have the privilege of asking the sales associate to locate what you need. This, I believe, is the beauty of consignment shops. When you find a piece that fits just right and is unique to you the excitement is like nothing felt in the dressing-room of a cookie cutter shop where ten others may be trying on the same piece.
My recommendation to tackling consignment shops? Grab a friend, or a sister, make a day of it and go experiment with a style that is uniquely your own!
Repair: How often does the rubber on the bottom of your heal fall off? The zipper on a favorite pair of jeans bust open because of one too many cookies? In our world of disposable fashion when this occurs we throw the garment away because “heck, I only spent $50 on these shoes so I might as well just go get a new pair”. Clothing has never been as disposable as it is today and that needs to change.
I have come to love repairing shoes, clothes and everything in between. There is something special about the way I feel in my favorite pair of jeans. If the zipper blows out during the holiday season, yes this has definitely happened (a couple times), I don’t want to replace them, I want to repair them.
It is easy to question why repairing something that was so cheap to begin with has any sound logic. So why not invest in higher quality items and ask yourself, before making the purchase, can I repair this item if it wears out? If the answer is no, maybe it’s not of high quality or maybe it won’t be true to your individual style for long enough to wear out, therefore maybe it’s not the right purchase.
Throughout my adolescent years, okay and even sometimes still today, Carrie Bradshaw was living my New York dream. Although we would disagree on her constant over consumption there is one thing she got right, shoe repair. In season three episode fifteen Carrie learns that her trusted cobbler has been replaced with a comic book store. She is devastated because for Carrie throwing away a $500 pair of Manolo’s is not only ludicrous but financially irresponsible. By no means am I advocating to spend unnecessary amounts of money on designer goods, I sure never have, but $150 for a quality shoe is not unreasonable and if repaired regularly will last for decades.
Repurpose: This one just barely made the list. It has only come into my life in the last few months. What I love about repurpose is it was forced upon me. As soon as I stopped shopping at cheap fashion stores and started reevaluating my closet I realized I needed to repurpose items I already owned. Without this change in attitude I would have become frustrated with my wardrobe and probably given in to supporting an industry I adamantly write against.
Repurposing is no easy task. I am fortunate enough to have a very stylish boyfriend, if I do say so myself, and I have been able to incorporate some of his pieces into my rotation, such as a classic destroyed denim jacket (it also works in my favor that the 90’s are back so too then are over-sized pieces). I understand sharing a wardrobe is not a luxury for most women but there are many other options.
Repurposing your wardrobe takes time and creativity which is the best part. I have rediscovered my style without spending a dime. I’ve taken sweaters that are too low cut in the front and worn them backwards, creating a completely unique and new look.
The age old saying “out of sight, out of mind” can be applied to wardrobes. There is something really wonderful about the change in season and pulling out all those long lost garments that have been stored away for months. If you don’t yet do this, give it a try. Pack away your summer clothes, “out of sight, out of mind” and when the ground begins to thaw pulling them out will feel like having an entirely new closet.
It was not long ago that I shopped at fast fashion stores. It was not long ago that I didn’t even consider checking labels before making a purchase and it wasn’t long ago that I stood before an overflowing closet whining “I have nothing to wear” (although that last one still happens from time to time). This process continues to evolve for me.
Over the past few months I have learned a lot about our world and about myself. It is exciting to feel grounded in who I am and in my style more than ever before. This has occurred because I forced myself to reevaluate my shopping habits and my wardrobe. I now work every day to refine my style. To challenge myself. It’s been a wonderfully empowering and creative process that I hope encourages you to give it a try.
Here we are, two weeks in and I have thrown out the term sustainable fashion over and over again. But what truly defines sustainable fashion? How does one begin the process of buying sustainable? How much will I be giving up to only shop sustainable? I started by asking myself these questions, along with many others.
Sustainable, per Webster, is of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.
Fashion, per Webster, is defined as a prevailing custom, usage, or style.
Put together, sustainable fashion is the method of using a style textile so that the textile is not depleted or permanently damaged. This definition, that I word scrambled together, is not the end all be all, however, I have found myself needing a broad definition.
Determining this broad definition was a challenge. What has been more of a challenge is determining how and where to buy sustainable. What are the requirements needed to meet the title “sustainable”? Do products have to meet every requirement for me to feel confident in making a purchase?
Sustainable means something different to every individual pursuing this journey. Some take it 100% at face value, buying goods that are only made of organically grown materials, in which resource depletion does not occur. Others believe sustainable is paying a fair, living wage and yet still others believe sustainable is only buying recycled, re-purposed or reused products.
There are so many ways to go about this process and all are great.
I’ve broken sustainable purchasing into a few categories. I strive to base, almost, all my purchases with these categories in mind. It’s impossible to buy completely sustainable 100% of the time, in my life and the life of many others, it’s just not realistic. And that’s okay.
My categories are: ethical, organic, recycle, repair, and repurpose.
But what does this all mean…
Ethical: Ethically made goods are ones in which the individuals in the product chain are paid a living wage, do not work in hazardous environments and are afforded basic human rights.
In China, officially $42.3 million people live in poverty, reported Ellen Ruppel Shell in her book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. This was 2009. The Chinese population has only grown since then thus has the number living under the poverty level. What many don’t know is in China the official poverty line is drawn at $156 a year, versus the World Bank poverty limit of $456 a year writes Shell. This translates to millions more living at or well below the poverty level, many of whom work in the factories that make all the cheap goods Americans have come to rely on.
Before learning these heartbreaking details I knew of the sweatshops of many third world countries, of the deaths that occurred, the hours that were worked, and the lost childhoods, all so that I could wear a $5 shirt from Forever 21. Now, knowing more, it is even more important to me to purchase goods that make a difference in the life of the individual who made it.
Luckily, in today’s educated society finding companies that carry these products does not hold the challenge that ethical shoppers use to face. Where we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars matters, so chose to spend on products that support and empower workers.
Organic: This category has been more of a search for me. Many companies have begun using organic cotton or other natural fibers but it is still an adventure finding these products. Organic and other natural fibers hold such importance as the process of growing, processing and disposing of them does not deplete resources, as well as chemicals are not used throughout the process. Cotton and other cellulose fabrics are durable and if they make the unfortunate trip to the landfill they do not contribute to methane secretion which causes greenhouse gas buildup.
As clothing interacts with our body all day everyday it is important to remember that our skin, our largest organ, is absorbing aspects of these fibers. Dozens of chemicals are used during the process of harvesting, treating and dying cotton, which then enter our integument system. Research is still in process to pin point the numerous negative impacts of our constant interaction with these chemicals but is it really a chance worth taking?
Give organic a try, treat your body and earth with some respect, our generation and the next generation will thank you.
With the hope of keeping you wanting more, and to not overwhelm with information, I am going to leave recycle (my favorite), repair and repurpose for next week!
No matter how you chose to start the process of buying sustainable remember, it is a process and the best part of any process is all you need to do is start.
My ideal top is one I can move around in without showing skin, needs no special bra, and one I don’t regret wearing three hours into work. It needs to make me look great and be versatile enough to fit with different jewelry and bottom sets. In addition to being captivating, versatile, and comfortable, I’d also like my top to save women’s lives.
Almost sounds too good to be true. Enter Elegantees.
Let us reintroduce you to the beautiful cotton clothing designed for the everyday woman who is socially conscious and loves to look good. This October I had the opportunity to speak with the founder of Elegantees, Katie Martinez, to get an idea of how she came up with this genius company and how it works. We talked style and the holiday rush and what that means to her company.
Tell us more about the concept behind the beauty in your more conservative fashion pieces. How does your clothing reflect the models and the everyday consumer purchasing Elegantees?
I designed Elegantees because shopping was hard. I needed tops that were pretty and comfortable, and with proper coverage. Having spent my life both on a farm in Iowa, and in the Fashion District of New York City, I’ve seen two extremes in the way women dress. A common approach is to avoid fashion altogether and wear the same tee and jeans or leggings daily. The other extreme is to place so much emphasis on fashion that it becomes an identity. Elegantees is for the woman who seeks to find a balance between fashion and life, with a tee that looks like more than a tee.
Our aim is to break away from the unrealistic standards of beauty. I believe that ideal beauty is an expression of something that comes from the inside. When a woman takes care of herself, and others with kindness, she’s at the height of beauty. True beauty is in being clothed in strength and dignity.
What does it mean to your business when people choose to do their holiday shopping with you? Specifically, what will it mean this 2017 season?
It means a lot! Holiday shopping sustains our operations, and provides for my family and our nonprofit partner. Revenue from the Elegantees sewing center funds rescue operations at one of the border stations at Nepal-India. Each border station rescues two to three thousand victims each year. The sewing center provides full time work for 17 people, most of them are women. I want to hire 3 more seamstresses by end of this year. If we hit a certain number in sales, it will happen. We are normally slower in the summer months, so being able to set aside that cash reserve as savings will ensure nobody gets laid off.
Holiday shopping is not just about gift giving for the new and growing companies that Route partners with. Your purchase from them can make huge and lasting growth happen in their business – often in the form of more employment for people who need it the most.
We have LOVED getting to know Katie and her staff as we have worked with them and watched their growth. Consider including an Elegantees purchase in your holiday gift giving to help make their goals and dreams for their company come true!
I began this journey, as I talked about last week, with a very brief education. However, I am ashamed to admit, the first few months following my passion I was not practicing what I was learning. I was still lured in by sales at H&M, Aldo, and Nordstrom with the thought that once I found brands that were “sustainable” I would stop shopping at these fast fashion behemoths and start practicing my newfound knowledge. I was living two lives, the life of sustainable education, that aligned so seamlessly with my morals, and the life of the deal hunting fashionista who was tempted by 50% off.
Everything negative I was reading I was still embodying.
How was it that I had found something I was so passionate about–everything I was reading and talking about was focused on it–yet I was not changing my behavior? I dug deep into the psychological aspect of consumer buying habits with the help of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. Shell eloquently explains that as consumers we are wired to focus on the dollars saved not the dollars spent.
This is due to the phenomenon of ‘earned savings.’
As consumers we believe that when we find a good savings deal we have earned that deal, we worked hard to track it down, maybe driving many miles to the outlet store or sifting endlessly through the sale racks at our favorite store. This mindset allows us to disregard how much we spent on an item and focus solely on how much we saved forgetting that dollars had still left our pockets.
I realized while reading Shell’s words that I was afraid of losing out on the deal, on my earned savings. I believe this is a hurdle for many others as well. As consumers, we have associated deals with earning savings without question to the quality of the purchase because why would we? We found a good deal and can do the same tomorrow if the garment falls apart. It’s this mindset that I believe needs to be changed and can be changed. Getting a good deal should not be focused on price but on quality.
Our preoccupation with low price makes it easy to forget that every penny we save on markdowns must be taken from someone else or, failing that, extracted from the value of the object of our desire. In discount nation, what once was solid, permanent, and dependable has become disposable, ephemeral, and dicey.
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, Ellen Ruppel Shell
So how do we change what is fundamentally wired into us as consumers to seek out the best deal? We start by changing our relationship with our clothes. We stop seeing our wardrobes as revolving doors, a constant stream of in and out, and realize that our cheap fashion purchases are not a cost savings but a constant drain on our wallets and our environment.
As an experiment, I went back over the last year and added up all the wardrobe purchases I had made, the ones that I bragged about getting such a great deal on. The cost SHOCKED me. For every dollar I ‘saved’ I had actually spent $15! Rather than having earned any savings I had spent and spent and spent.
Merchants have programmed us to expect sales. Our culture of sales has trained us to think that if merchants can profit on a 50% off sale then us consumers paying full price must be fools. Today an item that doesn’t sell in four or five weeks–or even sooner–may be relegated to the markdown bin, Shell writes, thus hastening the cycle of fast fashion. Merchants want their products out the door and consumers want to earn their savings–leaving us in a cycle of overproduction and waste.
I write all this because I realize there is a significant hurdle to overcome when shifting our shopping habits to sustainability.
Making the switch can seem scary or even overwhelming. Not knowing where to start or who to support.
I asked Christina, Route’s founder and director about this and this was her response:
“Start with us. Try out Route, even for one item, our goal is for you to not just like what you purchased, but to love it, wear it regularly and feel deeply connected to the process that that item took to get to you. So much love was put into every step. It’s a risk to try a new boutique and trust that you’ll like the item when it is in your hand and not on Instagram, but we want to do everything we can to make it worth the risk for you.”
Try out their new fall line here to explore their incredible pieces!
Buying sustainable does not mean giving up current fashion trends or putting a big dent into your shopping budget. Buying sustainable does not mean only wearing hemp clothing and other recycled goods.
Buying sustainable means purchasing quality products, made by individuals who are trying to overcome challenges in our oftentimes oppressive world. Buying sustainable means empowering designers and producers in our world to earn a living wage. Buying sustainable means taking an enormous weight off our environment. Buying sustainable means making a difference.
It is difficult to fully trade deal-hunting desires for the desire to improve our world through fashion. But it’s a worthwhile journey that I’m on and inviting you to join.
“She was dressing herself before she could walk,” has been my parents’ favorite way to describe my stubbornness and love of style for as long I can remember. From the beginning, the battle my mama bear would never win was attempting to get me to change my mind about what I was going to wear. Until recently this has rang all too true. I love clothes and I love style but I had no idea where my clothes came from, who made them, or how much the textile worker was paid.
I didn’t know the route.
Hi! I’m Jasmin, a lover of style, interested in all things sustainable, and striving every day to leave the world better than when I found it. Through a most serendipitous introduction I became connected to Route and the lovely Christina. I knew I had to be involved from the moment I learned about Route.
Luckily for me Christina was willing to take a chance—on a friend of a friend—and allow me the privilege of guest blogging for Route! I’ll be here weekly to share my ideas, research, and opinions regarding my continued journey toward ethical and sustainable fashion. I’ll also highlight the incredible steps Route is taking to bring this important movement mainstream and ways for you, our lovely supporters, to join the movement!
A year ago I started my clothing education journey, completely unaware of the impact it would have on my life and the lives of my loved ones. (Thanks for allowing me to get on a soapbox regularly dear loved ones!)
So where did it all begin? Where else but the spot where countless hours, by countless women, have been spent standing in front of an overflowing closet wondering what to wear and yelling “I have nothing to wear!” I was frustrated, exhausted and downright over it when I began questioning why this happens. Why, on a weekly basis I was running late to work, or appointments, or to meet friends? Not getting up early enough? Probably. But also because of an irrational thought that I have ‘nothing to wear’ even in the midst of an overflowing closet of options. I pondered on this notion for days and finally landed on one overarching question I continue to come back to, which is more important: Style or Fashion?
Fashion has evolved from a predictable four season cycle to a revolving door of 52 yearly changes. Style on the other hand is specific to an individual, one who embraces the idea of pushing ever changing fashion trends behind and embarking on a journey that forces the question, “who am I, what makes ME feel good, and what face do I want to present to the world?” What we oftentimes forget is how impactful clothes are to our mood, first impressions and social success, not to even mention the environmental impact.
Style is an identity that does not change week to week but instead is yours and yours alone. This is not to say stylish people are not fashionable, quite the opposite actually, stylish people are the most fashionable, the only difference is, they do not follow trends because they are the trends, they invest in pieces that are flattering on their figures, in line with their personal design, and above all else make them happy!
This important realization gave life to my current clothing education journey.
Right as I found myself exhausted from trying to keep my closet filled with the most on trend looks, I was introduced toThe Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black, which was conveniently on my family’s coffee table during a weekend visit. I would later learn that my sister had taken an interest in the book at the library and before I knew it I was devouring page after page. My desire to move away from rotating fashion trends, all for very selfish reasons; physical, mental and financial exhaustion, turned into a passion to create social awareness and change surrounding an issue that impacts each and every one of us. I realized my personal style is minimal chic and smothered in sustainability!
I began checking labels, I began asking…
What if we reevaluated our closets? What if we asked where things come from and who made them? What if we started investing in lasting items and did away with weekly shopping? What if we learned the Route?
To these what if’s I say: it’s a worthwhile challenge. But it is a challenge nonetheless. I have embarked on this journey to answer these questions, to change my relationship with clothes, and to share my newfound passion with others.
All the while let’s remember we are human and we will falter in our efforts to eliminate cheap fashion. We will be tempted by low prices and new fashion trends and occasionally we will cave to a deal too good to pass up.
What is important is when we care about where our products are made and of what quality and what textile, we are making a difference. We are supporting living wages, safe working conditions, and a respect for our environment. If, as often as we can, we know the Route our products have taken to our closets we are already making a difference. We are creating the change we want to see in the world.
I do not consider myself a creative person, and certainly not artistic in anyway. I DESPERATELY need the help of photographers, writers and designers to help create our brand. Each individual person has their own personal creative process. Some sit in a quiet room, some play loud music, others prefer to be outside. It’s usually a space, sometimes a time of day and may or may not include caffeine or certain foods. The creative process seems to require this lovely combination of physical, mental and emotional details to really flow.
Until recently I’ve learned about this only second hand. We started doing model photo shoots a few years ago, it is so much fun to find beautiful places in our city and reveal an entire clothing line to the photographer and models in beautiful spaces. Model shoots are the first time I have experienced diving into the creative process. What I love most about our shoots, is that it’s the creative process happening in community. A communal creativity. When it works, it is easily the most inspiring and energizing experience I have ever had.
We spent the morning laughing, exploring, talking, creating and making beautiful photography. Through the process we felt connected, uplifted and in general walked away saying over and over again “that was so much fun”.
How do you create? When and where and with whom?
Route is about not just purchasing consciously, but living consciously. Being aware and watching for those precious moments of connection with other humans, enjoying and valuing and sharing life with them. I LOVE that the route of connection today for us was a communal creativity. SO FUN.