Rest in Style: Marilyn Riseman

March 6, 2014 in Fashion, Girl Crush, Personalities, Style by alliemcc

My friend, makeup artist Liz Washer, tipped me off today to the passing of Boston grande dame Marilyn Riseman.

I don't get to Boston very much (I'm more of an NYC girl) but Ms. Riseman kind of makes me think I should. 

 

marilyn riseman portrait scott m lacey

Portrait by Scott M. Lacey.

She had been well-known since the '60s for her iconoclastic personal style, and age-defying lifestyle. She was recognizable for her black-and-white wardrobe and her brash, bright personality till the end. In that sense, she's cut from the same cloth as Iris Apfel, the late Zelda Kaplan, and the legendary Diana Vreeland. Riseman even took inspiration from kabuki theater makeup, as did Vreeland– great minds think alike!

Riseman was a great fan of the fashion brand Ohne Titel, and, presaging the current mode for "elderly and beautiful" models, appeared in their ad campaigns for the 2011 season.

 

marilyn riseman gravure mag ohne titel

Riseman showing her Ohne Titel ad in Gravure magazine. Instagram @Gravure_projects via In.troducing.

 

Here's the obit.

And other recent media features abound: here, and here. And a young fan even has a Pinterest board dedicated to her.

 

What's your signature style statement?

What's your plan for badassery at age 85?

 

I have no life: Watching John Waters’ Cry-baby

February 13, 2014 in Style by alliemcc

During all these long months that I haven't been blogging, I have been consoling myself in my adjustment disorder as an underemployed fashion school grad by watching a lot of movies and participating in a lot of social media.

I have found the joy of live-Tweeting movies, even when no one else in the world reads or responds to my tweets. I find it to be a fun way to amplify the comedy in certain lines of dialogue or plot devices (read: plot holes).

It's a particularly great way to partake of cheesy, campy, cult favorites. Even if I am only entertaining myself…

crybaby cast

I just watched Cry-baby, John Waters' campy, trashy response to Grease. And here's my Twitter digest, complete with typos!:

The Cast of The Cast of

The Cast of

Guilty pleasures? Weird pastimes? Do tell!

Weighed down by shopping bags

February 12, 2014 in Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

american beauty plastic bag

Still from American Beauty (1999) via.

I recently received a letter form my grocery store (never in my life would have thought I would type that sentence!).

It was a warning that they are discontinuing the 5-cents-per-reusable-bag rebate they've been offering to customers for "over 20 years".

This store is one of a small regional chain that I've been shopping at since I moved out on my own. Their stores are consistently clean, and their employees completely pleasant and polite. They don't always have what I need, but for staple items, I won't go anywhere else.

They cite that the program began as a way to "educate and encourage our customers to conserve resources." And they claim that in the last 7 years, the sub-chain of stores owned by this particular family has kept approximatly 315 million shopping bags out of landfills.

Which all comes as a surprise to me, because every single time I buy groceries, I'm kind of amazed at how many people I pass in the parking lot, still filling the trunks of their cars with this chain's telltale bright yellow plastic bags.

It seems to have been so ineffective at changing behavior, that the cashiers and baggers still automatically reach for the plastic bags as my items start gliding down the conveyor belt, and there's always a little flurry of surprise and adjustment when I announce that I've brought my own bags.

At any rate, they claim that they'll be shifting the funds for the rebate program into their other environmentally responsible programs– which reads as a laundry list of greenwashing, sadly.

I remember when reusable totes starting becoming ubiquitous in grocery stores– about 6 or 7 years ago– and I saw one, discarded and tumbling down the shoulder of the highway, just like the "disposable" bags it was meant to replace. I wondered then if these 99-cent polyethylene (read: plastic) totes, complete with store logos, would soon be filling the gutters and flapping in tree limbs, just like their forebears.

At this point, I'm sure everyone who can be converted to the cause has been, so any further campaigning is falling on deaf ears and simultaneously preaching to the choir. I expect to see more and more supermarket chains give up their reusable bag rebate programs in the near future.

As for me, I've been using the same woven plastic totes from another grocery chain for 7 years— they're the same size as a standard paper grocery bag, and apparently sturdy as heck.

I also have a collection of other random totes and repurposed bags from various conferences, gifts, etc. that also get enlisted into supermarket and other shopping and general toting duties.

hemp reusable tote bags shopping

My favorites are these sarcastic  but very informative hemp numbers (currently unavailable) from ReUseIt.com. They do have a great selection of other bags and rigid baskets and totes as well.

And what about you– paper, plastic, or durable and reusable? What are your favorites?

Share below in the comments, or on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do your social thing! I've got handy buttons for all that, below.

Black Friday Weekend: be there or be square!*

November 26, 2013 in Craft and Art, Design, Fashion, Social Responsibility by alliemcc

*More on that, later this week.

 

holiday market announcement

Click on the pic for more details.

 

If you must go out on Black Friday (for example, if your in-laws are driving you to drink), this is where you want to be in CT.

All Made in Connecticut awesomeness, plus live music, food trucks, and gorgeous architecture in the newly renovated, Cass Gilmore-designed, Waterbury City Hall.

I will be there, on behalf of my new job at Village of Power, a social enterprise sewing workshop in New Haven. 

Organized by the same bad-ass team that put together the Freight Street Gallery handmade markets circa 2 years ago, this event be one to remember.

Hope to see you, and please bring everyone you know! You won't regret it. xoxo Allie

Fair Trade: How to wear it

October 31, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

Here it is: the last part in my series on Fair Trade for Fair Trade Month! Now we get to the good stuff: fashion.

Ethical and sustainable fashion has come a long way since the movement really started taking off in the 90s. There's still way too much yogawear and graphic t-shirts in that space, but the tide is turning. Now, you can actually wear stylish, on-trend, high quality garments out in public!

This year brought the first cohort of Fair Trade certified clothing and shoes, certified by Fairtrade USA (Fairtrade International is continuing to work on standards). Previously, only agricultural products were able to be certified, not manufactured ones.

Cotton— the fabric of our lives– as an agricultural product, is currently eligible for certification by Fairtrade Int'l and Fairtrade USA. The complication comes in certifying an entire supply chain which creates a single garment.

This article at Entrepreneur explains how factory workers in the garment industry will benefit from Fairtrade USA auditing, pricing, and certification:

All workers at Fair Trade certified factories receive a Fair Trade "premium" paid by the brand hiring the supply services. That extra money goes into a single, collective bank account controlled by the laborers in the factory. The workers themselves then vote to decide whether they will use their Fair Trade premium for a community need or pay it out as a cash bonus to each employee. In Liberia, Fair Trade factory workers voted to use their disbursement to support a local school. In India, factory workers are considering establishing a computer training center and clean water projects in nearby villages with their disbursement.

Here's a great short video that gives you a window into how Fair Trade works for small cotton farmers:

On the Trail of Fairtrade Cotton from Fairtrade International on Vimeo.

And if you've been skimming the news headlines for the past 5+ years or so, you may have an inkling into why organic and fair trade cotton is so super important.

Of the Fairtrade USA certified brands, here is my pick:

oliberte shoes f13 lookbook

Oliberte – shoes made in Ethiopia using goatskin leather, of the desert-boot/ boat-shoe variety– quite rugged-looking. They also have a very cute light blue sneaker. And some badass looking backpacks.

 

There are gajillions of other ethical fashion companies, social enterprises, sustainable designer brands out there who are doing the right thing, but don't happen to be using Fair Trade-certified factories. As I mentioned before, if you find something to covet, do some snooping around on their about pages and in the ethical and eco-fashion media to check out their standards and their reputation.

Jewelry and accessories are heavily represented in this arena– as I mentioned here and here.

Some of my favorite ethical, responsible, and fair– one way or another– fashion brands are:

people tree stripe dress

People Tree Tilly Stripe Dress

 

For high fashion, with commensurate prices, Maiyet and Edun are doing amazing things, and creating beautiful products.

Etsy is a great source for small brands and independent designers that care about the same things you do– enter the factors that are important to you (i.e. organic, ethical, sustainable, upcycled) in the search box, and prepare to be wowed.

Don't forget to shop Made in the USA! Our democratic government, rule of law, and protections for workers mean that garment industry workers here are generally well paid, safe, and healthy. Brands doing American Made really well are American Apparel, Nanette Lepore, and Milly.

Be sure to take a look through my sustainable Shopcade closet here for a selection of my faves from these brands.

 

Fair Trade: What is it?

October 23, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Sustainability by alliemcc

We're about the get a little economical, so just hang with me.

Fair trade is the market-based answer to charity. Instead of perpetuating the charity cycle, which just creates dependency on handouts, fair trade principles ensure that farmers get a fair price for their harvest, based on the market, i.e. supply and demand. Trading is done directly, without a middleman, which would otherwise take a chunk out of the farmer's price. These transactions generally involve agricultural products which are sold for export.

gujarati farmer

A farmer in Gujarat, India. Photo by vasantdave

 

The most commonly Fair Trade certified products are coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, other produce, and flowers.

In addition to fair payment, fair trade ensures that working conditions are safe, farm workers get a living wage, and workers maintain the right to organize for collective bargaining.

All of these principles create positive impacts, like allowing working families to eat better quality food, keep their kids in school, receive healthcare, improve their housing, and save and invest for the future.

And the environment benefits, too. Fair trade agreements require that local ecosystems are protected, and farmers are encouraged and supported in transitioning to organic agriculture

Each fair trade certification organization has its own variation on these principles, so be sure to investigate what they're actually certifying, if you want to know more about a particular issue. Fairtrade International is basically the global leader on Fair Trade standards. Fair Trade USA certifies some products being imported to the US.

Here's more, from this [very negatively-biased] Wikipedia article:

Although no universally accepted definition of 'fair trade' exists, fair trade labeling organizations most commonly refer to a definition developed by FINE, an informal association of four international fair trade networks (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations InternationalWorld Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association (EFTA)): fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the [global] south.

Next time, I'll be talking about Fair Trade cotton and clothes–finally!!!

Here's a short video about Fair Trade Arabica coffee grown in Tanzania.

 

On the Fairtrade Coffee Trail from Fairtrade America on Vimeo.

 

Fair Trade: Why I Care

October 16, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Sustainability by alliemcc

 

Last week, 2 weeks ago (good golly, time fliesI posted a quick quiz about fair trade, to mark the beginning of October, Fair Trade Month, a promotion of Fair Trade USA. This isn't a sponsored series, just an issue that I think you should know about, something I'm very passionate about.

 

bandaid juliaf

Image by JuliaF

 

For 2 years, I worked as a social work case manager, helping newly arrived refugees and survivors of human trafficking adjust to their new lives in the U.S. On a regular basis, my co-workers and I would discuss our work, new issues that came up with clients, new things we learned, but always circling back to 2 issues:

  1. the anti-trafficking activist movement and all the social workers and law enforcement who are helping trafficking survivors are really just putting a bandaid on the issue;
  2. so how do we stop trafficking, prevent it before it starts, and decrease the demand for forced labor? and how do we empower people to avoid becoming vulnerable to the fear, deception, and violence that traffickers utilize?

I left that job for various reasons, but that 2nd side of the coin– preventing trafficking and empowering vulnerable people– stayed with me. Over the next few years, as I got back to my creative roots and my love of fashion, I saw the potential of the internet and the fashion industry to create change. So here we are.

As with anything that has to do with human beans, trafficking is hella complicated— its causes, prevention, and rehabilitation (aka "rescue") of survivors.

One thing that is a common thread, though, is that ultimately all trafficking survivors were taken advantage of by someone who knew they needed to make money to survive. They were preyed on because of their need for an income and their dream of the better life that would bring.

So, from early on, I realized that one way to keep people out of such a desperate economic situation, is to increase the number of people who are working under fair trade conditions.

Stay tuned for the next article in this Fair Trade series when I'll get into the nitty-gritty of how it really works.

HFFB logo

 

Time to TREAT YO’SELF

October 15, 2013 in Design, Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

To celebrate my affiliate partnership with online retailer Clean Spirited,

I've got a little something for my watch collectors out there!

(That's their glamorous cocktail dress ad over in the sidebar.)

 

 

and watch zebra clean spirited

AND Aristotle  Watch in Zebra

 

CleanSpirited has a 5-point rating system so you can see how your purchases impact the people and resources that are involved in the supply chain. In addition, $1 of every order gets sent to eco-friendly organizations, with a new group featured every month. Be sure to check out the CleanSpirited blog to learn more about their non-profit partners.

I love the wooden watches by WeWood and Earth, and the men's watches from AND …

 

we wood watch clean spirted

WeWood Date in Beige/Brown

 

15% OFF Watches at CleanSpirited.com

with promo code Watch15 through 10/31/2013

plus FREE Shipping on orders over $30 every day at CleanSpirited.com

 

and mother of pearl watch

AND Parmenides watch

 

CLICK HERE to see all their eco-friendly watches for men and women, and remember to use code Watch15 to get 15% off by 10/31!

 

Digital Native: Support indigenous e-commerce this Columbus Day

October 10, 2013 in Design, Fashion, Fashion Anthropology, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability, Textile Addiction by alliemcc

Look, I'm not going to get into a whole dissertation/rant on how indigenous people have been treated around the world since the Age of "Discovery". But I think anyone with a liberal arts degree can agree: it's been pretty shitty for the last 500+ years. Especially the most recent spate of cultural appropriation, the stereotypical "tribal" trend.

You can appreciate real, live, indigenous designers working within their time-honored media and techniques, and mixing it up for the 21st century. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Beyond Buckskin

Beyond Buckskin is a website established by Dr. Jessica Metcalfe to 1. call out cultural appropriation and 2. promote Native American fashion and design. In addition to her seeringly smart and informative blog, the Beyond Buckskin shop features great jewelry, accessories, and casual fashion. I bought my friend a pair of upcycled-leather baby booties for her new little guy.

beyond buckskin bag editorial

Parfleche Shopper handbag by Jamie Okuma at Beyond Buckskin

 

Faire Collection

I featured them recently in my review of a necklace from their Vietnamese artisans. Faire was established through a partnership with artists in Ecuador, and has now expanded its sourcing– and social impacts– into Peru– and that's just in this hemisphere. Jewelry made from tagua nuts and accessories from alpaca fiber are some of their specialties.

faire collection editorial

Mini Mariposa necklace at Faire Collection

 

Hiptipico

This is a new discovery for me, and I am in love. Hiptipico works with native Mayan artists in Guatemala to create awesome, colorful woven and beaded accessories, clothing, and housewares. Their primary social mission is in funding scholarships for Mayan students. Their backpacks are beautiful!

hiptipico backpack

Mixta Mini Huipil Backpack at Hiptipico

Native Max Magazine

Native Max is a new fashion and lifestyle magazine by, for, and about indigenous American style. They feature fashion spreads, designer profiles, and lifestyle articles.

native max

 

There are MANY others, so look around the tubes– I particularly recommend reading through Beyond Buckskin's blog and Native Max's articles to discover more indigenous designers.

Skip the mall, and start your clicking here to support real tribes, not stereotypes.

Surprise! It’s October.

October 1, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

It's true. I know. Don't worry– you're not the only one looking around for a calendar to check the date.

The great thing about this particular October right here, is that it's the 10th annual Fair Trade Month!

This year, Fair Trade USA has expanded it's third party certification to fibers and apparel, so we have lots to talk about.

Stay tuned, as I'll be posting lots of info on Fair Trade and fair trade, and how it relates to your personal style.

To get started, click the image below to take a short, fun quiz, perhaps win a prize, and learn a little bit more about Fair Trade certification, or just go to BeFair.org

fair trade farm worker girl

 

Product Review: Fair trade jewelry from Faire Collection

September 25, 2013 in Design, Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability, What I Wore by alliemcc

Funny story:

This past spring, I went to the Kickstarter launch party for Modavanti with a couple of my friends from Parsons. While we were there, we met a young woman who worked for Andean Collection, a line of ethically produced artisan jewelry and accessories made in Ecuador. I had heard of the brand before, no doubt featured on one of the numerous eco-fashion media sites that I look at on a regular basis. Very nice stuff.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago– I received an email from a PR person at Andean Collection, now known as Faire Collection, asking me to review a piece from their new line. Isn't it great when things work out like that?

The name change was prompted by a big expansion in the brand's handcrafted jewelry and accessories products and mission: "We now design products which are responsibly sourced from our artisan partners in VietnamSwaziland, and Peru, as well as new regions within Ecuador, such as the Amazon." Best of all, when you make a purchase, you help fund their social impact projects in the artisans' local communities, such as educational scholarships and no-interest loans.

I also love the play on words of "faire" – it means "to make" in French, and it's a synonym for "beautiful" in old English (think "my fair lady"). Totally appropriate.

While this is a sponsored review, I'm giving you the straight dope, as usual. Read on.

 

P1040103

I selected the Picasso Necklace in the Quarry colorway. It's a bold bib-style necklace with horn beads on a suede cord, with a pop of sky blue. I love that even the toggle closure and extension rings are beautifully designed.
 
faire necklace review
 
Here's more on the materials
The rectangular / triangular beads were made of recycled bullhorn that had been discarded by local stockyards. Bullhorn is an ideal materials for craftsmen, because it can be molded and sculpted into different shapes by applying heat and water. Bullhorn is also unique in its natural color variation. Each horn has a different combination of colors ranging from white to black, brown and gray tones in between.

 

P1040113

The necklace came nicely packaged in tissue paper, and had a tag with the name of the artisan and a QR code with more information about the project. My necklace was made by Hoang Van Manh, a Vietnamese craftsperson, and the QR code brought me to the webpage for Faire Collection's Vietnam workshop.

 

P1040111

I wore my new necklace to an appointment last week when I needed to "look like a grown-up Fashion Designer," and it did the job very nicely. And I wore it again this past weekend to meet friends in NYC for lunch, and got a bunch of compliments on it.

 

P1040107

This baby is going to get a lot of wear in my wardrobe. The earthy, variegated tones of the natural bone beads can be dressed up or down, and the bold geometric design and the pop of bright blue make it completely modern and on-trend. Bonus: You can flip it over to show the solid side of the beads for an even more graphic style. 

 

P1040105

My only critique is that the design needs a slight tweak. Since the smaller beads are shaped like rectangles, the tension on the cord causes the bead in the center to push out into mid-air– it's a little bit phallic, unfortunately. Giving the beads a slight trapezoid shape, with the narrower end strung on the cord, will help them distribute the weight, and lay flat, I think.

That being said, I love this necklace– it nicely straddles the line between organic and earthy vs. bold and modern, which is a very satisfying pairing that I'm always striving for in my personal style.

 

P1040112

 

And the rest of collection is so beautiful and delicious looking, great colors and shapes, and a nice range of price points. I had a really hard time choosing just one. I highly recommend you treat yo' self! ;)

Click HERE to see the new line of handcrafted jewelry with a social impact from Faire Collection!

 

What I Wore:

  • diamond print silk chiffon tee, by Madewell, via Goodwill
  • Picasso necklace by Faire Collection
  • little boys' camo jacket, thrifted
  • almost-vintage black Tommy Hilfiger jeans, thrifted

Shopping Guide for Best Exotic Style

September 17, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability, Travel by alliemcc

My original post on the styles of Best Exotic has gotten so much love since last spring! It's no wonder, since the South Asian-inspired costumes worn by Judi Dench and Co. in the film were so elegant, comfortable, and flattering.

 

IMG_1307.CR2

Photo via Film Matters Magazine.

 

Lots of readers wanted to know where to find the tunics, scarves and jewelry, and I put up a few links to retailers that I know and trust. But pages move, styles sell out, links break.

So, here's my go-to guide to shopping online for your very own Best Exotic style! I've focused on ethical and fair trade producers, so you can support skilled artisans with your purchase. I'll try to keep the links as up to date as possible. And please let me know if you're looking for something particular, or if you know of a great source you'd like to share!

In no particular order:

 

blog mymela best exotic panchachuli

MyMela – an Ethical Ocean shop, a social enterprise featuring jewelry and accessories, including scarves, from India. Also available through their own website. Shipping to US and a number of international locations.

 

marketplace india

Marketplace India – a nonprofit social enterprise with a full range of clothing and accessories, and home decor. Shipping to continental US only.

 

ten thou vill necklace

Ten Thousand Villages – Fair Trade retailer with brick & mortar shops plus online, mostly home decor & gifts plus scarves, bags & jewelry. Shipping to US and Canada (must use this link) only.

 

deva tunic

Deva Lifewearnatural fiber apparel produced via a cottage industry, made in the USA. Styles are limited, due to supply chain issues, so be sure to look for their email confirmation. Canadian & international orders require a money order.

 

gaiam harem pants

Gaiam occasionally has something appropriate for daywear. Mostly jersey knits and activewear for yoga. (This is their Zazen pant.) Shipping to US and Canada only.

 

naturals pendant

Naturals Inc. – beautiful South Asian-inspired jewelry, plus ethical apparel basics, handbags, and Dr. Hauschka skincare. Shipping to most countries, charges apply. (I'm a Naturals affiliate!)

 

For more general inspiration on this style, be sure to check out my Pinterest board!