Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Kind Sponsor: 9 Amazing Ethical UncommonGoods

In a world of fast factory fashion and cookie cutter design it's a relief that there's still a craving for the singular, the extraordinary and the outstanding. In short, goods that are in fact uncommon. I'm delighted to introduce you to this month's Kind Sponsor - UncommonGoods - a refreshingly unique online marketplace established in 1999 with its headquarters based in New York City.

When I first came across UncommonGoods I was immediately impressed by their passion for showcasing original designs and handcrafted gifts that were deliberately created in harmony with animals, people and planet. Here's a quick snapshot of how this commitment to kindness is being incorporated into everything thing they do:
  • People: Their lowest-paid seasonal worker earns 50% above minimum wage and employees are offered health, wellness, and counseling services as well as onsite childcare
  • Animals: None of their products contain leather or fur
  • Planet: They highlight items that are made from recycled or upcycled materials and they give to charities that are protecting vital ecosystems such as forests
At the core of this business is the belief that creativity and the expression of individuality represent two great human treasures. 

Here are my 9 (an uncommon number) favourite handmade and recycled picks from their current selection:

1. Typewriter Key Necklace - What a great gift idea! Each necklace is handmade in the USA and Mexico from authentic typewriter keys from the 1920s to 1940s. This super fun upcycled piece is from UncommonGood's exclusive range of personalized jewellery, click here for more options.

2. Succulent Living Wall Planter Kit - Surely nature is the most beautiful artist of all? I'm loving this stunning reclaimed wood display by Heather Auchter, which can be placed both horizontally or vertically depending on your aesthetic needs.

3. Upcycled Solar Watch - Wear the watch of the! Made in Japan from recycled PET fabric, this solar-powered watch can last up to 3 months between charges. What a great daily reminder that the time to be sustainable is always now :)

4. Kantha Patchwork Belt - Tired of boring belts? Then these beauties might be just what you're looking for! Handmade by fair trade artisans in India, each belt is made of five different recycled quilts sewn together using traditional Kantha stitching.

5. Baseball Bat Bottle Openers - Last year I visited the U.S. for the first time and this included taking in a Red Sox game in Boston. I had an absolute ball (see what I did there?). These funky bottle openers are handmade from genuine Major League game-day bats and each one comes with a story detailing its unique history!

6. Fern Frond Earrings - Inspired by the laurel wreaths strewn throughout Greek imagery, artist Katie Lime has captured the essence of both nature's beauty and humanity's skill with metal in her handmade earrings. You can find more stunning handmade gifts for women here.

7. Fantastic Anti-Plastic Beach Toys - Playtime at the seaside is simply more fun with eco-friendly toys like this bucket and shovel set made from a special biodegradable material. 

8. Spiro Stemless Wine Glass Set - Artist duo Carrie and Patrick Frost create gorgeous and distinctive pieces handcrafted using recycled materials. I think these glasses are so lovely and it's brilliant that each of your guests will have their own pattern to enjoy :)

9. Personalized Family Art - This is such an adorable idea! Talented mother and daughter team Mary and Shelly Klein create special family portraits using sustainable materials such as hemp, organic stretched flax and cotton. 
You can find even more
surprising personalized gift options here!
Want to connect with UncommonGoods? You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

When Kindness is Needed Most - A Personal Journey

Hi lovely readers! 

This is quite different from my usual posts but I hope you'll bear with me as I share something very personal with you. You may (or may not!) have been wondering why I've been very quiet over the past couple of months and I finally feel like I'm able to 'talk' about this. 

Firstly though, I want to emphasise that my commitment to bringing you inspiring stories and insights into the world of ethical fashion and design has not diminished in the least. In fact, I feel it growing stronger :) So while I will continue to focus on kindness in the world of design here - right now I want to talk about kindness in life.

So here's where my focus has been this year: in late January my dear Dad was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is a type of cancerous brain tumour. As you can imagine, this has been devastating for my entire family and a very difficult journey (to say the very least) both physically and emotionally for my Dad. 

In response to this and in consultation with Dad's specialists, my fiancé and I decided to move our wedding forward. This has meant squeezing 18 months worth of planning and coordination into around 5 weeks. Despite the stress and logistical craziness this has created, I don't regret this decision in any way, as the most important thing to me is to have my family together. 

Extended family, friends and colleagues have shown me and my folks amazing kindness and I am so grateful for this! My incredible fiancé Ryan has even signed up for a fun run to raise money for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation

The ones we love are everything in this world. Hug more. Say I love you, don't just think it. Appreciate the quirky things that make your family and friends who they are. Be kind to each other and forgive each other when you drift away from kindness. Create bright happy memories :)

Love + kindness to you all xo


Friday, 9 May 2014

Kindness by Review: Moonbird

Sydney-based label Moonbird sprung from the creative mind of Rachel Pines, who previously trained in Costume at Wimbledon School of Art and has worked on film costumes for the likes of Harry Potter and Star Wars. Rachel explains, "I truly believe fashion should be fun, beautiful and ethical. I don’t think you should have to choose between these things; you should be able to have it all. But I couldn’t find it, so Moonbird was born."

Rachel Pines

Thanks to Moonbird's unique combination of vibrant designs, luxurious organic fabrics and impeccable ethics, you'll be feeling gorgeous inside and out when you don their pyjamas! Their entire range of sleepwear is made:

  • From GOTS certified organic cotton
  • In a certified fair trade production facility in Jaipur, India
  • With AZO free dyes using traditional screen printing methods by artisans from rural India
  • With love and respect for its workers and the environment

It was such a pleasure for me to receive some beautiful Moonbird pieces to review - including the brand new Dahlia classic style pyjamas

As soon as I put these on I felt completely luxurious, as if I was about to be treated at a 5-star spa retreat! It's quite funny to be wearing pyjamas yet feeling like you've just 'dressed up' ;-) 

The 100% organic cotton fabric with its satin finish felt so lovely and soft on my skin. I was intrigued that the material could feel so light and airy and yet substantial enough to keep me feeling cozy in the autumn chill. 

On close inspection it was clear to me how well-crafted both the top and bottom pieces were - and I loved the coconut shell buttons, such a pretty (and sustainable) detail! The distinctive dahlia flower pattern has been hand screen printed in Jaipur, India in a Fair Trade accredited facility

Photo: Moonbird
I was also thrilled to review Moonbird's vibrant Desert Sun pyjamas, with their invigorating palette reminiscent of the bright orange soil found in the Australian outback. According to my fiancé and intrepid photographer, Ryan Collins, these pyjamas were so funky I could almost get away with wearing them out and about town!!!

I have serious issues getting out of bed in the morning so I was instantly attracted to the zest of this design and colour scheme! The top also has a hidden support layer, which I personally don't look for in my PJs, however it certainly didn't detract from my comfort in any way :)

One last detail I really appreciated was the special Moonbird drawstring bag that all of their sleepwear comes in. Each bag is 100% organic cotton and has been produced in a Fairtrade cooperative in Kolkata, India. The cooperative gives women trapped in the sex trade freedom, skills, access to healthcare and education. On the swing tag it says: "This product is more than just a stitched piece of fabric, it tells a story of freedom". 

Now for some incredibly cool news...Moonbird is generously giving Kindness by Design reader's the chance to *win* their very own pair of dahlia classic style pyjamas! Perfect for yourself or as a super special bonus Mother's Day gift. 

To enter you must leave a comment on this post telling me which of Moonbird's four designs (Sylvie, Sea Leaf, Desert Sun and Dahlia) most suit YOUR personality and why? The competition will run until 10:00 am (AEST) on Monday 12th May 2014, and is open to readers worldwide. To be in with a chance of winning and to access additional options for more entries take part via the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
You can also connect with Moonbird via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

After Fashion Revolution Day - The Beginning of a New Fashion Future

The first ever Fashion Revolution Day (FRD) has now come and gone, but the fight for a fairer future for fashion has only just begun! The driving force behind FRD has been a desire to use the power of fashion to catalyse change and reconnect the broken links in the supply chain. As with any type of purchase, whether it's food, fashion or furniture - it can be difficult to feel a sense of that item's full history and the imprint its creation has had on both people and planet. Our lack of knowledge can mean that our purchasing decisions can lead us to become unwitting accomplices to human rights violations and environmental degradation. 

The great thing about FRD is that it was never about making us as consumers feel guilty and helpless but to empower us all to take control of our choices, to be curious, find out more and take simple but effective action. To kickstart this process the world was asked to make a statement by wearing an item of clothing inside-out and asking the brand on the label - who made your clothes? 

As a member of the FRD working committee for Australia and New Zealand I was delighted by the amazing response we received leading up to and on the day itself. People from a wide variety of backgrounds and of vastly different ages joined FRD in saying 'enough is enough' - it's time to face up to the consequences of fast and unethical fashion. It was so inspiring to see people showing a true desire to follow the thread linking the garment to the machinists who sewed it, all the way down to the farmer who grew the cotton. 

Rather than slowing down after the actual FRD on 24th April, it feels like momentum is continuing to build on the topic of making fashion fair for all. Last Friday our amazing Country Coordinator for FRD in Australia and New Zealand, Mel Tually, joined a panel discussion on cheap and dirty fashion hosted by Oxfam's 3 Things Project.  The panel also included Simon McRae from Ethical Clothing Australia, Lisa Heinze of Clean Cut Fashion and Nishan David from Bloodless

The key messages I gained from this insightful discussion were: if you care, be persistent when asking brands for information about their supply chain; never assume anything, for instance if a brand has a charitable foundation that's great but it doesn't necessarily mean they pay their workers a living wage; and when in doubt, the best thing you can do is buy less and cherish what you already have!

So what now? For starters I'll be continuing to bring you the latest developments in fair fashion here on Kindness by Design. In the meantime you can also take one or more of these simple actions:

1. Invest in the future of Fashion Revolution Day by supporting their campaign here on Indigogo and nab yourself some stunning ethical fashion perks at the same time! Talk about win-win :)

2. Purchase an official Who Made Your Clothes tee designed by Michael Stars and produced by Under the Canopy with 65% of the proceeds going to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund. These limited edition tees were made in a geothermal/solar powered factory, using certified organic cotton and patented chemical-free, seaweed-based dyes. You can grab yours here.

3.  The FRD site has a wealth of fantastic resources and links to connect you to more information about ethical and sustainable fashion. Check them out here

4. If you're in Australia or New Zealand you can follow all the FRD news and events on Facebook and Twitter. From somewhere else? No worries! Find your local groups here.
 Photo credit: Matt Hoggett

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kindness by Review: Kowtow and The Silent Space

There's a confident yet illusive and ethereal quality to the consciously crafted designs of New Zealand born label Kowtow. The first thing you notice about their clothing is their minimalist beauty and exquisite construction - it's only later that you discover the deeply ethical practices underpinning the entire brand. Check out this short video documenting their supply chain from seed to garment:

Every single Kowtow garment is made entirely from premium certified fair-trade cotton using Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) approved dyes that are free from hazardous elements such as nickel, lead, formaldehyde and pesticides. As they articulate on their website: "We don't believe anyone who is truly aware of what is going on in the world would want to turn their heads and support a slave trade economy".

I was delighted to be asked to give my thoughts on their amazing collection, 'The Silent Space'.  Drawing its inspiration from Tadao Ando's architectural work, the pieces in this collection were designed to embody 'bare concrete walls, sunlight creating shapes on every surface, raw materials echoing the meticulous randomness of nature, large openings framing wind, rain and light'.

Himeji Jumpsuit in Black on Chalk Blue - I found this edgy jumpsuit to be outrageously comfortable without compromising on style. While wearing it I felt strong, funky and ready for action! Vibe: Having an absolute ball on a rainy summer's day saving kittens from trees
Spatial Dress in Coral on Bone - The organic cotton jersey material of this oversized t-shirt dress felt so delightfully silky on my skin. The drawstring allows you to adjust the silhouette to your liking AND I love it when dresses have pockets! Vibe: Strolling through a sun-dappled park with an ice cream

Osaka Dress in Black - When putting on this unique dress I was instantly struck by how much heaver this organic cotton 280gsm loop knit fleece felt compared to the other outfits. You instantly feel your luxe level rising! Another thumbs up for side pockets :) Vibe: Cocktails with Audrey Hepburn in the 21st century
Vacation Parka in White - While this ingenious parka with its oversized hood, waist and hem draw-cords, back storm flap and front patch pockets looks great over your regular outfit - I thought it also makes a sumptuous poolside robe! Vibe: Palm trees, piña coladas and sweet pineapple breezes 

You can shop 'The Silent Space' and other Kowtow collections here. Want to connect with them? Check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest :) 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Ethical Easter Treats for Ecochic Fashion Bunnies!

Easter is a very special occasion for a lot of people. For some it's a time of sacred significance, while for others it's a relaxing secular holiday filled with delicious chocolate treats.

Whichever way you like to spend this time of year, being mindful of your purchases means that you can enjoy yourself without negative environmental or social consequences.  

Here are just a few of my favourite ethical finds for Easter:

Chocoholic Soy Candle by Pigeon & Weasel - Give yourself or a loved one 40 hours of deliciousness with this limited edition soy candle, hand-poured into an upcycled beer bottle!
Carrot Soap from LUSH Cosmetics - Perfect for vegans who love some relaxing bath time! This soap may be shaped like a carrot but it smells of essential oils such as buchu, lemon and bergamot. Plus there's a tiny bunny to be found in each one :D
Coffee Truffle Easter Egg by Constant Craving Chocolates - Get your chocolate AND caffeine fix all in one sweet hit with these handmade vegan eggs
Organic Bunny Toy by Jen Galaxy Designs - I love the idea of giving children gifts that will last for generations :) This super cute bunny has been lovingly handmade using 100% organic cotton and filled with soft corn fibre
Desert Cottontail Clutch from NYhop - This upcycled vegan clutch with its hand-painted rabbit is quite simply ADORABLE! As they say on their website: "Let the bunny look after your money..."
Run rabbit, run, run, run Necklace by Vinyl Cuts - These distinctively sweet bunny pendants have been crafted from upcycled vinyl records!
Carrot Cupcake Bath Salts by Daily Repose - How gorgeous do these sound!!! Fill your bathtub with citrus, spiced with scents of clove, carrot, nutmeg, cinnamon, bay leaf and vanilla extract. Suitable for vegans and anyone wanting to unwind and sooth tired muscles
Organic Chocolate Cheeky Bunnies by Montezuma's - Have a cheeky splurge on these guilt-free vegan chocolate bunnies! They even come in sustainable packaging :)
Chick in Boots Tee by Pini Piru - Made from 100% organic and fairly traded cotton, this is such a funky tee for young ones and a great gift for Easter!
Orang-utan Friendly Easter Guide from Zoos Victoria - Did you know that your Easter yummables might be having a negative impact on orang-utan habitat due to the widespread use of unsustainable palm oil? The good news is you can now make smarter choices using this great guide!

Have a Wonderful Easter Everyone!
KB x