Which is more Important: Style or Fashion?

“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.

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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 to The 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?

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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.

Chat next week. With love.

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A Collective Creative Process

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.

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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”.  IMG_8563

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.

Happy creating.

Much love,

Christina

Maker Story; Sonya

Greenola Style shared with us a story of one of their makers, Sonya:

“Sonya, from our Tikas Women’s Cooperative,Tikas, is one of our newest cooperatives that we helped form. We first met Sonya, her sister Vasilia, and Beatrice (all pictured in the team shot on the left, below) through a Catholic organization in Bolivia. At the time they were handcrafting greeting cards in which they sold in local communities without great success. After much relationship building and understanding their needs and personal goals, we learned that all their husbands work quite hard to support their families but were still struggling with the financial demands.

These three women needed to work, but were finding it hard to balance finding work and seeing their children off to school.  In Bolivia children attend only a half day of school making it hard on caregivers to find profitable work. Also their schools are  often many miles away and due to safety concerns the mothers take the public transportation and/or walk the many miles with their children.

Unfortunately the small profit from selling greeting cards was not enough.  Upon scoping the raw material markets, GREENOLA learned that there is an abundance of raw seeds available. With that, we decided to create jewelry recycling these seeds into fashion forward designs. This process was also an easy skill to teach. Starting with these three women, we have been able to grow this project into a community project. Sonya, Vasilia, and Beatrice have welcomed their cousins, friends, and neighbors into the project and now help employ more than 20 women in their community. With this project, the women of the community in which they reside (Buena Vista) have pulled together to form a women’s group that comes together for much more than working on this project. They have gotten their community church involved, created programs for their children, rallied to have public transportation run to their community, and so much more.

Sonya is quite the woman. In addition to contributing financially to her household, she has taken on guardianship of her nephew raising him as her own. This last year we learned that she has been having stomach problems challenging her ability to eat, function, and live a healthy life. With our on the ground partner, SolidarityBridge.org we have been able to provide Sonya the healthcare she needs to work on this challenge and improve her quality of life.”

Greenola Team

 

We are so excited to support organizations like Greenola who take the time to get to know their artisans, as well as makers like Sonya who are determined and hardworking.  Over and over again we hear the stories and see the statistics that when women are employed the money that they make goes to support their families and then their communities.  Sonya is one of thousands of stories of women who are changing their communities because of their employment!

Our Favorite Ethical Style Blogs

Hi Route Friends!

When we began this journey over 6 months ago, we had no idea that part of the job would include souring the internet world for every single ethical blog we could find. In the process, I have to admit, we’ve become fairly knowledgable!  Below I’m sharing with you our top 5 ethical fashion & lifestyle blogs  to help you as you navigate shopping and living more mindfully. -Jessica

1. The Good Trade, thegoodtrade.com

The Good Trade

2. The Style Wise, stylewiseblog.blogspot.com

http://stylewiseblog.blogspot.com/

3. JooJoo Azad, www.joojooazad.com

http://www.joojooazad.com/

4. She Changes Everything, www.shechangeseverything.com

www.shechangeseverything.com

5. Sustainably-Chic, www.sustainably-chic.com 

www.sustainably-chic.com

The Next Step On Our Journey….Hello Holidays

The beginning of November is the deep breathe before the parties and the shopping and the family and the crazy. At Route, we know the holiday time of year so well, we work hard to prepare for it and we breathe. We do what we can to create space in our time and our thoughts to remember why we are here, what we are doing and why it is significant. Selling anything can feel like selling your soul, pushing products, encouraging people to spend money on items they may or may not need. Balancing simplicity with social expectations-what we may want and what we may need. Longing to give generously and hoping deeply that the gift will be just right, appreciated and communicate our love.

The holidays are a step for us, a step in the direction of world change – we sell more in the next two months than the rest of the year combined. We work hard to choose what we will offer wisely, to maximize impact and to communicate clearly that giving a gift from Route is also giving hope and sustainable change. We want to have pieces that you want to give. Pieces that are beautiful and well made, that you would be proud to wear and carry. So please, buy more! In doing so, know that we are proud to sell to you, to stand behind each beautiful piece and are confident that the purchase you make will bring happiness, joy and everything that we work so hard to remember during this season.

Breath with us, and remember the change, then celebrate the difference we are making together!

Women en Route: Liz

We met Liz over coffee and tea in her kitchen on a cozy, rainy day with her dog, Olaf. Liz currently works as an emergency room nurse in the city of St. Louis, and also happens to be on the Route board!
Route: What are you currently struggling with?
Questioning the value of employee loyalty is something I am struggling with at the moment. Loyalty was ingrained into my psyche by my mother. “Do your job to the best of your ability, go above and beyond, always be honest” my mother said. As of late I’ve had experiences that make me question whether my employer holds my value to the place where that hold theirs. What am I worth to my employer, am I a dime a dozen? And if the true answer is that I am of little worth, do I continue my level of loyalty regardless? Should I base my work decisions on my selfish gains or the betterment of the business? At a certain point character comes into question and integrity will guide my actions. Perhaps there is a middle ground.
Route: Where do you find your peace?
I find my peace at night lying in bed with my pit-bull Olaf curled next to me, my tea on my coffee stand, and reading material in hand. My competing place of peace is my neighborhood park early in the mornings. Nature has a way of bringing me out of my thoughts and back to the realization I am but a blade of grass in this large fleeting world. I have much to learn and life isn’t all about me.
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Our time with Liz has taught us how to cherish conversation and enjoy quiet moments.  Her confident and caring personality inspires us to enjoy each relationship more.  Her passion for righting wrong and pursuing change keeps us focused everyday.
Thanks, Liz, we are inspired by you!!
xoRoute
P.S. Liz recently started a blog about thoughts on global issues, specifically tailored to women and ethical fashion. Check it out here.

Women en Route: Kendall

Here at Route we get inspired by the stories of other women,  whether it’s a friend, a maker of our products, or even a “celebrity”. It’s so good to know there are other real women out there working for good and passionate about change.
We met Kendall a while back and were inspired by her passion for public health, travel, and ethical fashion.

Route: What is your current job?

I just moved to New York from St. Louis to do my part to help shape the next generation of global leaders as admissions officer for a bridge year program between high school and college.  I just graduated with a masters in public health.  Finding my path has been a continued balanced of hearing and seeing what others are doing around my, and being true to myself. After serving in the Peace Corps, I went to grad school, and then PhD seemed like the next thing to do and I was all set to go, but on my way to a short term summer  work trip in Ghana last summer I just had this feeling that I knew it wasn’t right and PhD school wasn’t going to happen. It was hard but at the same time empowering to consciously make that decision.

Route: What are you currently struggling with?
I’m really struggling on how to maintain a positive work/life balance. I just started working from home as well, so it can be hard when you enjoy your job to know when to turn off. I also wonder why its so hard to make friends as an adult.
Route: What do you find peace with?
I couldn’t live without wine and chats with good friends 🙂
Kendall has been an incredible encourager to the Route team, sending us ethical fashion blogs she reads, having incredible conversation (over wine, of course) and talking about Route at every opportunity.
Thanks, Kendall!
xoRoute

Route; A Beginning

Routes are created, paths are crossed, and relationships are made when we purchase goods.  At Route we believe that understanding a product’s journey is equally as important as the product itself. To acknowledge the significance of that journey is to transform a customer into an ally for the makers. By embracing the relationships that their transactions foster, the we can understand how their purchase changes the world.

This relationship means ending slavery and workplace abuse. It means engaging in commerce with an eye towards social justice. It means celebrating the connections between makers and allies and revealing how they are equally different and alike.

Know your route. The journey begins with a purchase from our community. We invite you to share our products, our stories, our lives, and to be changed.