The Sustainable Three G’s: Gift Giving Guide

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
e-is-for-elephantsThese 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.

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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 scarf-escalator
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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

allbirds-shoesFor 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 Guruone-love-orange
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 HostessIMG_8795 2
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!

Chat next week. With love.
j-sig

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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.

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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.

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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

The Earned Savings Mindset

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.

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How was it that I had found something I was so passionate abouteverything I was reading and talking about was focused on ityet 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 weeksor even soonermay 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 savingsleaving 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.”

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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.

Chat next week. With love. 


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.

j-sig

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

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”

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!

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

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!