Inside Out Challenge

A Year of Fair Trade Fashion: Closing Thoughts

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

I seriously cannot believe it has been 12 months since I took on a challenge to exclusively purchase fair trade clothing for an entire year. I’ve discovered that sticking exclusively to fair trade-certified products is nearly impossible, fallen in love with a few fair trade/ethically made brands (see here, here, here, here, and here), found a local store where I can shop for ethical clothing, and been aghast at times by the lack of ethically produced options in the fashion world (see here, here, and here). While I did have to give up some convenience, it hasn’t been that hard to make ethical choices, and it has made me reflect a lot on my consumeristic habits and the way my purchasing choices impact others. All in all? 100% worth it.

This post is supposed to be about my closing thoughts on buying fair trade fashion, but I really feel like I’ve only just begun. There are so many ideas floating around in my head that I’ve wanted to write about but haven’t had the time, so many ethical brands yet to share, so many areas of the ethical fashion world yet to explore. This challenge has permanently changed my life. While I may not be as strict in the future about buying fair trade-certified clothing, I do hope to buy ethical clothing 99% of the time, whether it’s fair trade, organic, made by a Certified B Corporation, sustainably produced, secondhand, or sweatshop-free. I hope that you’ll continue to enjoy my ethical fashion posts, because they’re here to stay!

Here’s to continuing to vote for a better world with our dollars in 2017!

xoxo Laura

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The Flourish Market: Ethical Fashion Store in Raleigh, NC!

Y’all have heard me talk about The Flourish Market before…remember this post about the amazing ethical fashion truck right here in the Triangle? In a fabulous turn of events, The Flourish Market actually opened a brick and mortar store in downtown Raleigh about a month ago! I may or may not have been a couple of times already…

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

I love the peace of mind that comes with walking into a store and knowing that anything I pick up has been ethically made. I can turn off the critical, questioning wheels turning in my head and simply enjoy the shopping experience!

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

One of my favorite things about the clothing, jewelry, and accessories that The Flourish Market carries is that the prices are on point. Sure, they aren’t as cheap as Target, but they’re actually much, much better than the majority of boutiques you find in Raleigh. You can walk into any store in Cameron Village and easily drop over $100 on a shirt, but my purchases at The Flourish Market are always much less than that. Buying clothing that’s good to the makers and also good on my wallet? #winning!

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

TriFABB (the Triangle Area Bloggers group) had their holiday party at The Flourish Market earlier this month. In the photo below from the party, you can see me (on the right) wearing one of my recent purchases from The Flourish Market. I have worn this red dress to multiple Christmas parties this year…it’s the perfect color for holiday festivities!

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

via Molly Stillman of still being molly

Hit me up if you ever want a shopping buddy to go with you to the new store….I just might be able to sacrifice a little bit of my time for such drudgery (wink!).

xoxo Laura

P.S. – This is not a sponsored post. I just love sharing things that I love with my belles!

Ethical Fashion Gift Guide on Just Jess

This week I wrote an ethical fashion gift guide guest post for my friend Jessica’s “12 Days of Gift Guides” on her blog, Just Jess! If you’ve still got some holiday shopping to do, go check it out. There are suggestions for UNC fans, Carolina Panthers fans, yogis, fashionistas, and above all, folks who care that the things they wear are doing good in the world.

Angela Roi vegan leather cross-body bag on the Just Jess Ethical Fashion Gift Guide | Trés Belle

And if y’all want to buy a thing or two off the list for me, I won’t complain! (wink!)

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge Update: My Ethically Made Handbag by Angela Roi

Well, I’ve technically broken my commitment to exclusively buy fair trade clothing/accessories this year. However, it was not a decision that I took lightly…in fact, I debated buying this Angela Roi Sunday Tote II handbag for six months before I actually bought it!

But first, can we take a minute to admire its loveliness? Okay, thanks. 🙂

Ethically Made Handbag by Angela Roi  |  Trés Belle

So. Fair trade handbags are difficult but not impossible to come by. The ones I looked at were either a satchel design in lightweight cloth that I knew would be destroyed within a week or leather, which I felt reluctant to buy due to my wannabe vegan tendencies. I really wanted to buy a non-leather bag if at all possible.

I had stumbled across Angela Roi bags before I started my fair trade fashion challenge and had fallen in love. They aren’t certified fair trade, but they are sweatshop-free (and vegan!). I agonized over whether this purchase would count as cheating on my fair trade fashion challenge, but ultimately decided to move forward since my purchase was still values-centric and because I couldn’t find a comparable bag that was certified fair trade.

Ethically Made Handbag by Angela Roi  |  Trés Belle

Bag pictured above with my fair trade jumper by my favey fave, Threads4Thought.

I’m not going to lie: This is the most expensive handbag I’ve ever purchased, and that’s even using the handy dandy $20 off coupon code I got for signing up for emails. Thankfully, I can say that I have been 100% satisfied with the money I spent. The craftsmanship and materials are high quality, and the size is perfect for someone like me who carries their entire life with them wherever they go. The neutral color lends itself to any outfit/season, making it incredibly versatile. Because it was an investment, I’ve been far more motivated to take care of it rather than throwing it around like with previous handbags. I think it will last a long time.

What do you think, belles? Love it or hate it? Anyone else out there running into problems finding certain fair trade accessories or clothing pieces?

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge: “True Cost” Fashion Documentary

Last week, my good friend Traci and I went to a screening of the documentary True Cost, hosted by Redress Raleigh. We had heard that it was about the ethical, humanitarian, and environmental problems associated with the modern fashion industry and figured it was a perfect movie to watch as we continue in our Inside Out fair trade fashion/beauty product challenge.

It’s hard for me to find adequate adjectives to describe this documentary. Moving, convicting, fascinating, and heartbreaking all come to mind. I stared in shock at images of waste water from leather factories and blinked back tears as I listened to a young woman in Bangladesh describe her working conditions and the consequences her job has had on her family. As someone who has done some research on the fast fashion industry, I was not shocked at some of the statistics, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself learning new information throughout the movie. I highly recommend this film to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or level of interest in fair trade/ethical/eco-conscious/insert-your-favorite-buzzword-here fashion. It’s incredibly interesting.

Anddddd…great news! True Cost is currently on Netflix! So add it to your queue and get watching, friends. You can also rent or buy it on Amazon, iTunes, or the True Cost website.

And in the meantime, check out the trailer:

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge Update: My First Online Clothing Order!

Hey there, belles! I wanted to share a bit today about how my Inside Out fair trade fashion challenge is going. In a nutshell: well!

I conquered my grandma instincts and ordered clothes online for the first time! Well, okay, let me give myself a little credit…I have ordered clothes and shoes online before, but only when there was a physical store close by where I could easily return them (think: Victoria’s Secret, DSW, etc.). This was my first time ordering clothes when the only return option was to ship them back. Cue the anxiety now!! Just kidding. Like most things, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be.

It helped, of course, that the clothes I got (from Threads4Thought, my absolute favey-fave fair trade clothing company) were ADORABLE! How fun and summery is this blue and green maxi skirt??

Green and Blue Threads4Thought Fair Trade Maxi Skirt | Très Belle

I’m also loving this casual but chic black jumpsuit. You feel like you’re wearing pajamas, but you’re dressed up enough for dinner downtown. #winning.

Black Threads4Thought Fair Trade Jumpsuit | Très Belle

 

Black Threads4Thought Fair Trade Jumpsuit | Très Belle

Threads4Thought clothing just…fits. Perfectly. Everything I’ve bought from them is true to size and flattering. The price point is also quite reasonable (especially when you buy things on sale and take advantage of free shipping on orders $50+ like I did).

Anyone else bought some new ethical fashion or had a fun online shopping experience lately? Would love to hear about it!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – this post is not sponsored by Threads4Thought. I just love sharing great finds with my belles!

Inside Out Challenge: Fair Trade Fashion Truck Adventures

Yes, you read that right. Fashion trucks! They’re a thing, y’all! Think of a food truck, but with pretty clothes inside instead of tacos and burgers. It’s fantastic.

I recently wrote about my difficulties finding stores here in Raleigh at which to shop for fair trade clothing. At the end of that rather depressing post, I promised that there was good news coming. Here it is!

Back in January, I was telling a group of ladies about my interest in fair trade fashion and my struggles to find local vendors. One of them piped up and said she had recently learned about a local fair trade fashion truck through another friend. I was beyond excited and immediately hit the Internet to find out more.

The Flourish Market, which just opened its doors in fall 2015, camps out at various festivals, parties, and events around the Raleigh/Durham area in addition to running an online store. The truck carries fun fair trade brands like Threads 4 Thought, Tribe Alive, Grace and Lace, and Akola. In addition to clothing, the truck also stocks jewelry, shoes, purses/bags, home decor, and gifts.

After stalking the truck’s schedule on Instagram for several weeks, I finally caught up with The Flourish Market a month or so ago in Durham. It was a breath of fresh air for this shopping-deprived gal! Most of the clothing was just my style, and I thought the prices were very affordable compared to the sticker shock I had gotten on several fair trade websites. I probably tried on every single piece of clothing in the truck and left with some beauties, including this STUNNING dress, which I can’t wait to wear to every single party and dinner outing this summer:

Threads 4 Thought fair trade dress from The Flourish Market | Trés Belle

Since then, I’ve gotten to know Em, the truck’s founder, and learn more about her heart for winning people over to ethical fashion (you can read some pieces she’s written for The Huffington Post here). It’s so inspiring to connect with other Raleigh locals who have a passion for social justice and who are doing big things to change the fashion industry. AND, I’m just tickled pink that I finally found somewhere local to try on and buy fair trade clothing! Happy dance!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – If you’re new to the Inside Out Challenge, you can find previous posts here.

Inside Out Challenge: Shopping for Fair Trade Clothing in Raleigh, NC

Shopping for clothes on the Internet just isn’t my thing. I don’t have a “normal” body shape (but isn’t that true of most of us?), and depending on the brand and fit, I can wear clothing that ranges anywhere from a size 0 to size 8. Trying things on in store is critical for me. Reluctant to order an expensive fair trade shirt online only to find that I have to pay to ship it straight back due to it not fitting, I set out in my car a few weeks ago to find fair trade clothing in my home city of Raleigh.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

The number of brick-and-mortar stores selling fair trade clothing in Raleigh (the second largest city in North Carolina, I might add) is underwhelming at best. Google searches only turned up one store: Sugar Magnolia, which is located on Hillsborough Street near NC State’s campus.

The Sugar Magnolia website gave me the impression that all of the clothing in the store would be fair trade. However, upon arriving and inquiring with the sales associate, I learned that only a small fraction of the store was fair trade: the traditional Indian clothing from India.

The clothing, which was simply not my style, was also incredibly inexpensive, making me admittedly a little suspicious about its sourcing. There were no fair trade certification on the labels that I could see.

I walked out of the store empty handed and headed for my next stop: Certain Things in Cameron Village. I remembered having a conversation with the store owner around Christmas time about a fair trade line of clothing they stock. Symbology makes clothing that is much more my style (typical popular American fashion). Certain Things had three or four different shirt styles in stock, and I found a few in my size to try on. They fit okay, but I have to really love a piece of clothing to fork over $180. I left empty handed once again, but will certainly stop back again in the future to see updated styles.

Conclusion: The fair trade fashion options available at physical stores in Raleigh is lacking and/or the stores that do carry fair trade lines aren’t showing up in Google search results. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the two stores I visited for taking a small step forward, but we are in desperate need of leaps and bounds in the NC ethical fashion arena.

Don’t fret though, belles…I have good news about where you CAN find local fair trade clothing coming soon in another post 🙂

xoxo, Laura

Mission Impossible: Searching for the Illusive Fair Trade Men’s Suit

Finding fair trade clothing retailers PERIOD is hard enough to begin with, but when you’re on the hunt for a specific, specialty item, I’m learning that you’ve really got your work cut out for you. When hubs recently commented on how he needed some new suits for work, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to browse fair trade men’s suits online (I knew the chance of finding a local store was 0%). However, there was nothing to browse. I found zero (ZERO!!) suits online that were fair trade certified. I’m trying to give the universe the benefit of the doubt by assuming there’s got to be at least one fair trade suit out there on the market, but it’s just buried on a website whose developer doesn’t do good SEO.

What gives, clothing industry? Or maybe I should say, what gives, American businessmen? Is there really so little demand for fair trade suits that companies see no point in making them?

So, what’s a socially conscious man to do? Despite the dearth of fair trade options, I did find some ethically-made suits.

Brave GentleMan offers a number of “fair labor” and vegan suit pants and blazers made from eco-friendly fabrics. Honestly, the clothing sounds more or less fair trade, it just isn’t certified.

Brave GentleMan Burgundy Blazer. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

Apolis, a Certified B Corporation (meaning they’ve been graded and received a “passing” score for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency), offers one full suit for sale. And, when you buy the jacket and pants together, you get 15% off, which is nice!

Apolis (Certified B Corporation) Suit. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

Another brand that I’m pretty excited about is Hardwick. Most of their suits are made in the USA with fabrics that are made in the USA (per my chat with Hardwick employee Andrew Welsh, fabrics made elsewhere are noted in the clothing item descriptions). Because the U.S. has minimum wage laws, this (hopefully) means the suits are essentially fair trade, though I did not ask about sourcing for things like the zippers and buttons.

Hardwick Made in the USA Men's Suit. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

For those interested in environmental sustainability, check out Rawganique. They offer chemical-free and sweatshop-free hemp jackets and slacks in addition to organic cotton dress shirts.

Rawganique Hemp Slacks for Men. Sweatshop-free, chemical-free. from Mission Impossible: Finding a Fair Trade Men's Suit | Très Belle

Pretty please y’all, if you find suits to add to this list, comment or contact me! I get over-the-moon excited when I learn about new ethical clothing brands!

xoxo Laura

Inside Out Challenge: Giving Up Convenience for Fair Trade

The Inside Out Ethical Fashion Challenge 2016 | Trés Belle

I’m starting to realize one of the most difficult parts about exclusively buying fair trade fashion: You can’t just “run out real quick and grab ____.”

This realization recently hit home when I was preparing for a big meeting at work. As I was putting together my outfit the night before, I noticed how my tan belt was worn and frayed and looked as though it might snap in half. No problem, I thought, I’ll just run by Target on the way to work tomorrow and pick up a new one. 

Well actually, no. No I won’t. Because I’ve committed to this fair trade deal.

My mind started turning frantically. I can’t wear a black belt with this because I’m wearing nude shoes. Black shoes wouldn’t look half as good with this outfit. There’s nowhere within driving distance where I can find a tan belt tomorrow morning before work, and I don’t have time to order something online. Agh!

Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that not having a tan colored belt was a fashion dilemma for me. Yes, the nude shoes and belt would have looked smashing with the outfit. But the black shoes and belt looked just fine, and no one else noticed the difference. If there’s one thing this challenge is teaching me, it’s that, for the most part, I already have more than enough, and I still look fine even when I don’t look like I stepped off the runway. I’m just not willing to compromise on my values anymore in order to have a closet full of beautiful clothes.

Takeaways: 1) Learning contentment is a process. 2) Buying fair trade does not always fit nicely with the convenience-driven American lifestyle. 3) People > clothes. Always.

Thoughts, beauties?

Xoxo Laura

P.S. – You can catch more Inside Out Challenge posts here.