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, piƱa 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 :) 
 
Review

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.

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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 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

Friday, 14 March 2014

Project Karchob is Bringing Artisans into the Spotlight!

"India’s rural artisans and craftspeople are among the country’s greatest creative and cultural resources and are a vital part of the Indian economy. Yet despite their substantial contributions, rural artisans and craftspeople have been largely left out of India’s explosive economic growth and remain among the poorest groups in the country" - Artisans of Fashion

It's with great pleasure that I introduce you to a young woman who is determined to shine a light on both the talent and the life stories of artisans living in Uttar Pradesh, India. Aafreen Hasnain has hit the ground running since graduating from University only last year, starting Project Karchob in order to promote the skills and work of the artisans of Uttar Pradesh through the non profit organization Jyoti Welfare Association based in Lucknow.

   
According to her research more than 60% of the artisans are women, less than 10% of whom are educated beyond Grade 5 and due to a strict Caste System, a section of these women are given a lower wage than the others. Aafreen and her colleagues have made a conscious decision to create significant positive change within this artisan community!

I spoke to Aafreen recently about her work, inspirations and the future of fair trade in India. 


Q. What inspired you to work with artisans based in Uttar Pradesh and to create Project Karchob? 

I have grown up seeing my Mother work with artisans; I have been observing and learning from her since my childhood.

I started Project Karchob as I had strong faith in the work being done by the community and that their designs can be used on products beyond Indian clothing, which would suit a wider audience thus helping the society by getting more customers and promoting the art of hand embroidery.  

Q. Where does the name ‘Karchob’ come from?

A 'Karchob' is a framework for making raised zari metallic thread embroidery, used by thousands of artisans to make beautiful hand embroidery. Our society is famous for it’s niche metallic thread work.


Q. How would you describe Project Karchob in 10 words or less?

Faith in hand work creates fair trade and innovative sustainable fashion

Q. Why do you think women are playing such an important role in fair trade projects around the world?

For India I can say the reason is because women were usually the ones who did not go out to work and hence they engaged in work they could do at home. Learning hand embroidery worked for most of them as they could sit at home and work while their kids and husband go to school and the office respectively. Even now, it is mostly the rural women who engage in hand embroidery as an income generating skill. 


As for the women doing fair trade projects, I would say it is compassion and an enthusiasm for working for the much earned credit and praise that the artisans deserve which is worth fighting for.

Q. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working on Project Karchob?

1. Lack of a brand value: People usually do not buy from a brand they do not know of and which does not have a strong online presence. The society, Jyoti Welfare Association is a small society and does not have a website with a payment gateway.

2. Designers: The society has very fine hand embroidery artisans and niche design techniques but we do not have designers who can make clothing for a western market or to make products beyond apparel. Hence we are looking for designers who want to use our skills and work with us in the field or remotely to make some beautiful embroidery pieces.


Q. Where can people purchase the items crafted by the project’s artisans?

People can visit our store in New Delhi, India to purchase readymade products or order customised products.

Currently we do not have an online store with a payment gateway, however we do have a Facebook page where people can view the products and send a message for the item they are interested in. 


Most importantly people who like our work can contact me directly at Aafreen.h@gmail.com and I will be very happy to discuss our catalogue and assist in customized design for their products.

Q. Who or what is inspiring you right now?

I am inspired by lots of people working in the fair trade fashion sector but most of all I am inspired by the people I work with in the field i.e. the artisans themselves and the designers who work with us out of their comfort zone to continuously improve their designs on modern clothing and accessories.


Q. What does the future hold for Project Karchob?

Well, a lot of hard work for sure! I hope that through Project Karchob we are able to provide permanent employment to the artisans, as of now we have only work-based employment. 

You can follow Aafreen and Project Karchob on Facebook and Twitter!



Thursday, 6 February 2014

Make a Sustainable Love Connection this Valentine's Day!

There can be so much pressure around Valentine's Day for both singles and couples to spend an inordinate amount of money on...well...rubbish. Don't get me wrong, I'm a hopeless romantic and I love planning surprise treats and picking out a thoughtful gift or experience! But whether you're organising a big night out or staying in and pampering yourself - don't forget it's about the love not the stuff ;-) 

If you do want to splash out on something fun for your special person, then sustainable is the new sexy! Here are a handful of romantically ethical finds to inspire you:

Reusable Romance Trade Tokens by Leafcutter Designs - I really like that this is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, helping to build fun memories :) You can even top up your activity options from the other editions including 'Foodie', 'Outdoor Adventure' and 'Sexy Time'
Balls for Good by Jinta Sport -If your Valentine is a sporty guy or girl, why not treat them to a new fairtrade ball! You'll not only earn points for caring about their favourite game, your purchase will also benefit community development projects in third world countries AND sports programs for Aboriginal children in Australia

Soft Coeur Massage Bar by LUSH - I am so head over heels for massages! Share an intimate and relaxing moment with your Valentine with this chocolate and honey massage bar. You know what else is a turn on? Equal rights! So why not check out LUSH's Sign of Love campaign
Really Wild Gifts from WSPA - You'll totally be in for a bunch of bear hugs after giving this gift! Make someone's heart glow knowing that there are bears being saved from captivity and cruelty thanks to your present
Fairtrade + Organic Cotton Men's Sleepwear by Sorella & Me - Sure getting dressed up and hitting the town for a romantic night out can be awesome fun, but so can staying home in bed watching your favourite movies! If that's your plan why not make sure he's wearing something an ecofashionista can be proud of? Pssst: use the code MYLOVE at the checkout for 15% off storewide until 14/02/14

"Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that" ~Michael Leunig


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Purposely Pretty Ethical Fashion in Shades of Purple

According to colour experts Pantone - Radiant Orchid is the Colour of the Year for 2014! I'm personally very partial to the purple spectrum and am loving this gorgeous hue. 


Here are some of my fashion and design picks that proudly carry an ethical purpose behind their purple aesthetics:

Audrey Dress by Mumu Organics - This gorgeous flattering dress is made with 100% organic cotton fabric, fairly traded and GOTS certified and is available online from The Beautiful Think
Glossy Plum Rain Boots by Roma Boots - If I'm wearing my gumboots (Aussie talk for rain boots) I feel like a million bucks as I splash in the puddles with lovely dry feet! For every pair of  these natural rubber boots purchased, a brand new pair is donated to a child in need PLUS 10% of all sales proceeds go to the Roma For All Foundation to help these children break out of their cycle of poverty and despair
Upcycled Body-Con Skirt by Goodone -This visually bold and sexy skirt has been cleverly crafted from old ethical fashion stock which was sourced fairly in its original form! That makes it both socially and environmentally friendly as well as cute :)
Purple Eco Watch by Sprout - Feel like a distinctive timepiece that doesn't weigh you down with guilt? This chic watch is made from sustainable materials such as cork, corn resin and organic cotton
Fabric Button Earrings from Perch and Pantry - Made by women living in Chiang Mai for a project called Sunshine House, these delicious earrings will have you feeling sweet inside and out! Proceeds go toward empowering disadvantaged women including medical care, counselling services and education
Bandeau Bikini by Auria - This purple candy coloured swimsuit is made from 73% recycled polyamide! British designer Diana Auria has collaborated with London based illustrator Margot Bowman to bring you chic prints with a difference
Design Your Own by KeepCup - I love that the quintessential environmentally friendly coffee cup can be custom made to suit your style! I choose a mix of Pantone's Royal Purple, Plum and Aqua Blue
Feather Print Maxi Dress by Folks Like Us - Fiercely pretty, this fairtrade cotton dress has been made under ethical conditions in Nepal
Purple Zandra Rhodes Skirt from People Tree - I like the quirky nature-inspired vibe of this 100% fairtrade and organic cotton print skirt. This fun piece was made by a socially responsible business based in India called Creative Art of Souls
Crush on Trees Tee from Tree Hugga - Share your love of trees with this cute organic cotton tee that's as green as it's message :)
Cutaway Halter Swimsuit by Emobi - Now I'm not 100% convinced that I would personally feel comfortable wearing these provocative bathers, but I am convinced that this purple design printed using eco-inks is gorgeous!
Floral Lace Contrast Tee by FAIR + true - Feel pretty and edgy all at the same time with this stunning limited edition top lovingly crafted from end of roll fabric under fairtrade conditions
Purple Doggy Swag from Carpets for Communities -Pampered pooches love a little purple comfort too! This lovely travel bed has been handmade from cotton t-shirt off-cuts, used hessian rice sacks and cotton thread. By purchasing one of these lovely carpets you're  also supporting the education of some of the poorest and most vulnerable children in Cambodia
Surinam Top by Kokomo - If you're after something out of the ordinary then this top with its distinctive pattern and purple hues could be for you! The design is actually taken from the Surinamese five dollar note. Suriname is located on the South American coast. The top is made from 95% recycled polyester using low-impact dyes and low-waste pattern cutting techniques
Bastille Bracelet in Purple Thistle by Mata Traders - This beautiful piece of jewellery has been handmade under fairtrade conditions by artisans in India. Another beautiful thing is that Mata provides on-site daycare, communal furnaces, and strict health standards for its employees. I really like the combination of purple and orange on the clean neutral background! 
Wrapped Cardigan by Seamly.co - Despite the fact that it's summer here in Australia right now, I'd be so tempted to put this cardy on! It just looks that comfy! This super versatile and flattering wrap about has been made from surplus fabric, meaning either fabric left over from mills and garment factories or materials thrown away by big companies because of slight imperfections
Urban Fingerless Gloves in Orchid by Indigenous - These handy (ha ha) gloves are adorable!!! I'm a massive fan of fingerless gloves that keep you comfy but still let you do all important 'gripping of things'. These lovelies are made from a blend of organic cotton and tencel and coloured using low impact dyes...all under fairtrade conditions of course!
Purple Quartz Crew Neck Top by Monolog - This super funky hand-screenprinted organic cotton top celebrates of splendor and multitude of form of the eye-catching purple quartz crystal (one of my personal favs!)

Did You Know that purple is the colour associated with the Crown Chakra - thought to connect one with the infinite consciousness? No wonder it always puts me in a philosophical mood! You can find more fun purple-y facts here.