Partner Spotlight: An Interview with Katie of Elegantees

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

19780642_1583877124990523_8300954885000105383_o
Katie with her beautiful daughter in Elegantees!

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!

Happy Ethical Shopping!

Love,

Liz, Christina and the Route Team

Advertisements

Why Swap Clothing?

I often have clothing I no longer wear and struggle with what to do with it. I never mind donating things to resellers, but have read so many accounts over the years of clothing that gets donated being thrown away. Somehow between consumers and businesses, in the U. S. alone, we dispose of 15 million tons of clothing waste a year. Most of which is synthetic and synthetic fibers take 100s of years to decompose. Only 15% of consumer pre-used clothing is recycled or reused, the rest of what we give away ends up in a landfill.

 

So, let’s buy less, buy recycled (Tonle, one of our partner groups works with only recycled fabrics), buy natural fibers AND on Sunday, SWAP what we don’t want anymore for something someone else has that we do want.

While we are at it, we’ll make it a party and offer some new clothing to purchase to pair with what is used. Hopefully, this will be really fun way to move our wardrobes and our clothing garbage in a more conscious direction. Link for event details and tickets is here.

Here is how it will work:

  1. Choose 5 to 10 pieces from your closet that you want to get rid of, any size, any season, but only women’s clothing, jewelry or accessories.
  2. Bring all of them to the Clothing Swap
  3. When you arrive you will be asked to put a label with your name on any clothing that you would want returned when you are done. If you have items that you’d like us to dispose of, we will do that in the most ethical way that we can find.
  4. We will organize your clothing by size on our racks.
  5. The swapping will begin 45 minutes after our event starts (so at 4:45).   While you wait please feel free to shop our vendors that are joining us.
  6. At 4:45 you are welcome to walk around and choose 5-10 pieces of your own to take home with you.

We will be “shopping” on the honors system. If you see something and want it, take it but please do not take more than the number of items you brought. If someone is holding something, it is off limits. Let’s abide by some basic rules, treat each other the way you would be treated and know that this is just for fun to find a new happy home for our stuff and hopefully get a great piece or two that we will wear in return.

Can’t wait to see you there and talk about swapping, reselling and all things ethical fashion.

Much love,

Christina

 

Resources We Rely On

I got into a great conversation this weekend with a friend about how to know which companies we buy from are ethical or not AND what harm we are causing with our purchasing. A fitting question as we celebrate Independence Day this week.

Continue reading “Resources We Rely On”

Tonle: Eco-friendly meets Socially Conscious

Almost a year ago I texted some friends and ask them to help me hunt for clothing that was ethically sourced, we were really wanting to see pieces that were classic, well priced and were easily styled with other simple, functional pieces that we already owned.

Minutes later my friend Kate texted me this photo from an Instagram post and I did a happy dance!

 

After spending time reading about Tonle and Rachel Faller, their fearless leader, we were so excited to reach out, learn more about their work and goals and bring their clothing into our product selection.

Tonle works in Cambodia with small groups of weavers to supply their fabric and carefully trains their tailor’s to create their clothing in zero-waste facilities (They actually boil down their little bits of remnant fabric and make it into paper used for tags and packaging!).  They do a great job working with their employees over long periods of time and celebrating their promotion when it’s earned.  Meet Dara, their most recent employee to be promoted to Sewing Team Leader!

You can find photos and some bios of each of Tonle’s makers here.

From first hand experience we know how hard it can be to commit to a group of people, to train them, carefully treat them with respect and produce products that are consistent and high quality.  Rachel and her team manages this with humility and care.

In their effort to make their production holistically eco-friendly they consider natural processes and traditional craft as much as possible.  This gorgeous image below shows several fabrics in the coloring process next to the materials used to create the dye.

Learn more about their dying, packaging and production practices here.

Tonle has proven that economically and social conscious fashion is possible, through hard word and dedication they are creating a line that we hope will become a model for countless other clothing manufacturers.

We are so proud to be promoting and selling their beautiful clothing!

These Tonle pieces are currently up on the online shop and we have a larger selection in the Columbia shop.

The Maera Shift Dress

The Kayla Tulip Dress

Photo Credit: Tonle Design

Ethical Fashion; The Challenge & The Solution

At Route a new season means new products. The goal is always to purchase and design pieces that will come together to form a beautiful collection and make a significant impact. There are so many factors that go into our purchasing, not the least of which is price. We work hard to keep our price point affordable, while still provided lasting impact to our makers.  At the center of our passion for what we do is a desire to both get the word out about how products are made and create routes of access for individuals to purchase ethically.

It is possible to be incredibly well dressed in an entirely ethically produced wardrobe with a robust if not endless budget, but so few of us are able to purchase without a budget.

We believe the growth of ethical purchasing should continue, more people should have access to products they can afford and therefore the option to purchase ethically. There are so many ways to creatively organize the production chain so that safe working conditions and fair wages are sustainable AND the retail price of a product is reasonable.

We are excited to introduce a series of comfortable and versatile dresses to our online store this season. These simple pieces are exactly what we want to be selling.

As they come in, please give us feedback on whether or not you are getting enough information about them, do they look like something you’d want to wear? How would you style them? Can’t wait to share more, for now don’t forget that your purchase makes ethical fashion possible!

Photo: Sugar Bean Photography

Introducing; Mingle Sets

Mingle Sets delicate Gold Necklaces

We’ve finally “officially” put the Mingle Sets up online and we are so excited. For the last couple of months we’ve partnered with an organization here in St Louis, Forai, that trains and employs refugee women. They meet once a month, and then the women are able to do the rest of the work at their own pace and schedule from the comfort of their own home.

We developed the Mingle Line because we love delicate everyday jewelry and have struggled finding it in ethically produced channels. We put our heads together and came up with the Mingle Sets. Bought separately, but can be worn together for a layered look or by themselves for a simple everyday look. Keep checking back–we’ll be adding more pieces!

For now, these are online only but there’s always free shipping to the Route shop in Columbia. Shop the Abigail Mingle.

Mingle Sets Route Forai

30 Second Style Ethical Style

So often those few precious moments we dress ourselves in the morning are completely determined on how we feel. We want to feel comfortable and look good without having to put too much thought into it.

Our philosophy is basics, neutrals, and things that can be thrown together quickly and still look perfectly put together. Black jeans, bulky cardigan, boots and one of our long necklaces, done. A floral dress and sandals paired with our delicate gold jewelry, classic. No time to do your hair? No problem, the messy bun and dangly earrings will save you every time. Our goal…simple pieces that go with every outfit in your closet and can be easily combined. Added bonus: ethically made. No effort, you just know that whatever you grab creates a great finishing touch.

From delicate layered necklaces to lightweight tiered earrings and a cute leather tote, pile it on and forget about fussing with the rest, nearly everything that we carry on the Route site can be mixed and matched for effortless pairing.

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.
 dog
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