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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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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!

TNNUS: Blue & White Porcelain

September 4, 2013 in Design, Fashion, Fashion Anthropology, Textile Addiction by alliemcc

Today in TNNUS (There's Nothing New Under the Sun):

Valentino's Fall/Winter 2013 ready-to-wear collection.

Valentino F13 blue white

Image via my new favorite blog, The Terrier and the Lobster 

 

I blogged about this pattern back in 2011, almost exactly 2 years ago. It's a classic, and it's beautiful, and lends itself to so many possibilities for decor and fashion…

No Big Deal*: Plus-size fashion for the 1st time ever at New York Fashion Week

August 29, 2013 in Costume, Design, Fashion, Personalities, Style, The Business of Fashion by alliemcc

 

 

*Actually a Big Deal. Literally and figuratively.

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Anna dress in Giant Peony, at Cabiria

The times are a-changing. There's a lot of moving and shaking going on in the world of plus-sized fashion these days. More and more mainstream, "standard size" brands are finally expanding their sizing to accommodate larger ladies, and the choices for plus-sized shoppers are actually getting better in quality and style.

Full-Figured Fashion Week has been around for a while, but it's held separately from the major runway shows and presentations of New York Fashion Week – effectively in its own little chubby ghetto, physically apart and on an off-schedule, away from the mainstream fashion press, editors, and buyers who attend the majority of shows in Spring and Fall.

This year, that segregation ends.

Up-and-coming indie plus-size line Cabiria, designed by the charming Eden Miller (we're friends on Facebook!), is showing in the tents at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.**

**Like I said.

Cabiria is a line of dresses, sized 12 to 24, fabricated in high-end silks and cottons– no nasty, sweaty polyester, thankyouverymuch. Eden's inspiration for the line was the costuming in the films of Federico Fellini, and the surrealist style of designer Elsa Schiaparelli – coincidentally two of my own major influences. (I dream about the costumes in Juliet of the Spirits…)

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Still from Juliet of the Spirits, via Tout Ceci Est Magnifique

I actually wish I was a size 12 so I could wear this stuff– or that she one day does a diffusion line in smaller sizes. (What a coup that would be! "Oh, yeah, I guess we could produce something cheap and accessible for standard-size girls. sigh+eyeroll …") 

Eden says in her film that the styling is not retro, but I disagree– it's not a slave to historical accuracy but, in my eyes, it definitely takes a lot of inspiration from the eras of the past that were figure-flattering to curvy women's bodies. Ain't no shame in that.

On top of the universally flattering fit-and-flare silhouettes, Eden selects the most fun, modern, colorful prints that work in every possible scenario, from the office, to parties, to date night. And, from what I can tell, they all have pockets!

Eden is an award-winning costume designer for TV and films, and is currently in production on the show Alpha House, so she knows from bodies, and fabrics, and color. 

Happily, Cabiria's been getting a TON of press in the run-up to NYFW. Hopefully we'll be able to watch the show from the comfort of Youtube

The first fatty model-stomp drops on September 6! Mark your calendar. Till then, learn all you ever wanted to know about Eden Miller and Cabiria here on her site

Hurry up and buy your original Cabiria piece from the first season so you can say you knew about it before it was famous. Then you can pass the original, collectible, highly-coveted dress down to your daughter in 20 years.

DISCLAIMER: This is totally not an ad or a compensated placement in any way. I get really excited when I see other smart, thoughtful designers with a sense of humor execute on something that I wish I had pulled off. I think a lot about doing a plus-sized line, and I could totally see myself coming up with something that looks a lot like Cabiria. Eden is doing everything that I believe in as a designer: fabric quality, details, color, print, did I mention POCKETS? And, if I'm not mistaken, producing it all in the US of A! She's the kind of designer that I would actually work for free for (read: intern) because I completely support what she's doing and I want her to succeed. That's a rare find for me, which is why I don't often do designer/brand profiles on this blog. That is all. xoxo Allie

New Service: Denim Repair

August 28, 2013 in Fashion, Sustainability, Textile Addiction by alliemcc

I'm in the middle of the soft-reopening of my Etsy shop. Working on some new products, different processes for me, planning to keep up a slow burn to keep it stocked…

Introducing my handstitched denim repair service!

Photo 919

Can you see the influence of the Japanese quilting/patching techniques from the exhibition in France?

Booty-Cam(TM) images by my husband (who runs a how-to origami site, Fold Something = shameless plug).

Take a look at the listing, and spread the word!

xoxo Allie

Le sigh. Knee-buckling gorgeousness in France this summer.

July 31, 2013 in Craft and Art, Design, Fashion, Sustainability, Textile Addiction, Travel by alliemcc

If you're also a fan of my Facebook Page, you may remember that back in the spring I applied for a fellowship to work in France for 2 weeks in June. Sadly I was not selected, but the exhibit that was put together by the fellows from Parsons is up now at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in Lessac, and it looks unspeakably beautiful.

 

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The exhibit consists of a collection of Japanese textiles – kimono, quilts, mattress covers, bags – made by peasants from patched and stitched indigo-dyed cotton. 

Until well into the 20th century, large parts of Japan were so poor that people could rarely buy textiles for clothing and bedding. In northern areas, cotton was especially precious and pieces of used fabric were purchased in order to patch-work them into clothing or duvets. Many of these textiles had been mended repeatedly from generation to generation without being thrown away. “Boro textiles were the domain of the ordinary man and represented a collective, impoverished past. They were largely forgotten after the mid-twentieth century when Japan’s society shifted towards mass-scale modernization and urbanization. However, they are the tangible embodiment of a cultural legacy which has only recently been accorded a formal name and has received critical consideration”, explains Mr. Szczepanek.

 

They are displayed in the 1860 manor house on the estate, where the bare rooms, natural light, and slightly decayed decorative details provide the perfect contrast to the minimal shapes; dense, organic construction; and spare beauty of the textiles.

(Click to enlarge the images below)

 

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Interspered throughout the exhibit of traditional Japanese pieces are modern garments constructed using similar quilting and patching techniques, made from upcycled sari material by women in Bangladesh.

 

 

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The exhibition page is worth taking a look at, and there is a lovely video which shows how the exhibition was designed and put together.

And if you're traveling to France anytime soon, it looks like this would be an out-of-the-way gem in a lovely area to visit.

The Woefully Incomplete Guide: Brookline-Boston, Massachusetts

July 23, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability, Travel by alliemcc

vintage boston postcard etsy

Stay

Warning: Do NOT stay at the Holiday Inn on Beacon Street. Trust me on this.

 

Shop

Spare Change News

If you see anyone on any street corner selling this newspaper, get out your crispiest dollah bill and buy it, even if you already have 3 of them. Read it (i.e. one of them) from cover to cover to learn some amazing things about our fine country, then find the nearest curbside recycling bin (there are lots, this isn't Georgia) and recycle it. Better yet, subscribe.

Mint Julep
Recommended by the Not For Tourists guide book (my go-to for travel guides). Small up-scale boutique with lots of great jewelry and dresses– plenty of color and pattern here, if you like preppy, on-trend stuff. Brands like Nanette Lepore, Tracy Reese, a little Free People.

I bought: An upcycled PVC pipe bangle by The Base Project.

Brookline Booksmith
Heaven on Harvard Street. Glorious independent bookstore with amazing selection, huge kids section, beautiful gift items, and a basement with used books and event space. Only 1 shelf of fashion books, sadly.

I bought: One used and one new art & design theory book; 2 artisan-printed fairy tale book-zines; a canvas Baggu backpack; and a postcard for my niece. It took a lot of restraint.

Fire Opal
Art-to-wear dark neutral apparel, plus fine jewelry and gifts – beautiful pottery and tableware. There were some interesting dresses. A lot of the clothes looked to have been designed by people who own the Pattern Magic books. Feels like the 90s.

I bought: nothing. Too rich for my blood.

 

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Encore Exchange

This consignment store made my week. Located in the Coolidge Corner Arcade, a beautiful time capsule of a space with an eclectic mix of businesses. Lots of 80s and 90s fare, plenty of vintage jems. TONS of jewelry, fine and costume. Also furs. Prices are a little too high, but keep an eye out for the Red Dot Sale for 50% off select items. Also the walls are pink.

I bought: A chain belt with girlie charms (hearts, stars, etc.) and a floral print mini duffel bag for styling photo shoots. A white, oversized, long-sleeved blouse, vintage 80s-90s, by TravelSmith. A pair of leopard print silk pants with an elastic waist, vintage 80s-ish. Because I can.

Ten Thousand Villages

The national retail chain, the flagship of social enterprise and ethical trade. Lots of beaded jewelry in almost every color. Scarves galore. Beautiful home decor and gift items. 

I bought: Nothing. Feels like they've had the same product line since forever. Nothing really caught my eye.

 

Eat

Yasu for Korean BBQ.

Elephant Walk for French-Cambodian fusion.

Do NOT eat at Yagamama Japanese fusion at Faneuil Hall (downtown). The place was a hot mess, shitshow service, and the food was nothing special. In fact, there's no reason for you to go to Faneuil Hall except to see the buskers and follow the Freedom Trail. Or buy a plush lobster doll.

 

 

Vaca Style

July 3, 2013 in Design, Fashion, Social Responsibility, Style, Sustainability by alliemcc

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Photo illustration by Miles Aldridge

 

You, of course, are a traveler in the true sense. Crush the mere tourists with style!

Motivated by my recent experiments and research with packing less (ahem), I have some curated ideas for your travels this summer, whether it's your daily commute or a farflung getaway, so you can be stylish and sustainable at the same time.

Take a look at my Pinterest board.

Sorry:
- Please recheck your ID.

Lobster love.

June 28, 2013 in Design, Fashion by alliemcc

I don't know what it is, but lobster-motif style has been bombarding me lately!

I've always had a thing for the weird-looking (and tasty) crustacean. For some reason, I wanted a plush lobster toy as a toddler when my family took a vacation on Cape Cod– and my parents obliged.

That said, I will fully admit to not knowing how to properly eat a lobster. About 10 years ago, my family decided to have lobster for Thanksgiving– and not only was it messy, but us kids were totally grossed out by dissecting the poor things. It's something on my list to master, now that I'm a grown up.

Meanwhile, I'm really into lobsters as a visual motif. I always associate them with summer, and New England, my home turf. 

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this great cover art on an ambient track by Bjorn Olsson. Although I now stand corrected, this features a crayfish. 

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This other album features a lobster graphic:

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Then in Savannah, I saw this very clever sign:

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I'm sure there are tons of clever, lobster-centric restaurant signs in seaside towns throughout the country.

Later, I found this lingerie editorial:

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(Photo by Nadia Lee)

And of course, I've always loved this Schiaparelli dress, a collaboration with Salvador Dali who suggested that Wallis Simpson smear actual mayonnaise on it when she wore it.

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(Left, photograph of Wallis Simpson by Cecil Beaton, 1937; the dress in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.)

Philip Treacy created this bodacious cocktail hat for Lady Gaga to wear in 2010.

philip treacy lobster hatAlthough a similar hat was previously worn by Isabella Blow. (There is a great gallery of ocean-inspired fashion here.)

And the B-52s created this fantastic song in tribute to the crustacean:

And then, I was reading Andy Warhol's book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, and he offers this:

The red lobster's beauty only comes out when it's dropped into the boiling water … and nature changes things and carbon is turned into diamonds and dirt is gold… and wearing a ring in your nose is gorgeous.

which I just love.

Peachy keen!

June 18, 2013 in Design, Fashion, Style by alliemcc

Just returned from a week in Georgia (the U.S. state, not the nation-state) with family & friends.

You can check out my photos here.

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Will everyone please chill out about Gatsby?!

June 15, 2013 in Costume, Fashion, Textile Addiction by alliemcc

*This article was republished at The Mercurial!*

 

So many people have their vintage panties in a twist about the apparent lack of historical accuracy in Baz Luhrmann's long-awaited interpretation of The Great Gatsby, the novel every high school student in the United States has read.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has been made into a film at least 5 times since its publication in 1925. It's also been adapted as an opera, a ballet, a stage play, and no less than 3 computer games. To say it has captured the popular imagination is an understatement.

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The first rant I came across was in Collector's Weekly, in which Lisa Hix takes aim at not only Luhrmann's apparent magpie-tendencies toward all things glitzy, but also Fitzgerald's own failure as a writer to accurately portray his female characters. She provides us with a thorough cultural dressing-down and  the authority of someone who clearly has the telltale chip-on-the-shoulder of someone who was ridiculed for their enthusiasms as a child.

Yet she negates her own angle by stating the crux of the matter, the very reason the film industry exists, and the reason we keep making Gatsby movies:

Of course, given his directing style, Luhrmann would be drawn to a classic tale of intrigue, betrayal, and reckless excess that allows him to create a stunning, opulent Art Deco tableau. The Roaring Twenties possess an undeniable magic—a brief, giddy period of time when America wasn’t at war and wasn’t broke.

Forward to last week: Colin McDowell's column for The Business of Fashion opens with Colin's own rant on Luhrmann's film– like Lisa Hix, taking aim at the novel itself as well as the director's apparent endorsement of conspicuous consumption. In fact, modern, twenty-first century self-indulgence and excessive acquisition is what he claims this Gatsby adaptation is really about, and that makes his awkward segue to the real thesis of his article: the far more urgent and important topic of pornographic, misogynistic imagery in fashion marketing.

This bizarre coupling of subjects weakens both of McDowell's critiques, making his view on Luhrman's Gatsby sound like a shrill rant, and taking us on a meandering path through too many paragraphs before his otherwise really strong critique of violent imagery in fashion. Nothing a good editor couldn't have easily fixed. (Where were you on that, Imran?)

The common thread between Hix and McDowell's reviews is that "Hollywood is trying to sell you stuff", in this case, Prada dresses and Tiffany jewelry.

Chris Laverty at Clothes on Film has a much more well-rounded and thoughtful take on the sets and costuming.

This is a flavour of the 1920s, those details that cinemagoers with just a passing knowledge of the era can recognise: cloche hats, bobbed hair, short fringed dresses and striped blazers. […] If you want steadfast period accuracy might we suggest you check out Boardwalk Empire instead?

How much you accept Luhrmann and Martin’s interpretation of 1922 will largely depend on how you view the role of period costume design. Basically this comes in two forms: 1) recreate the era in question, 2) reflect the era in question. Lincoln is the former; The Great Gatsby is the latter. Martin’s greatest concern was that costumes be relevant to a contemporary audience and one way of achieving this was to involve prestigious yet modern designers in the process, hence Prada, Tiffany & Co. and Brooks Brothers. Another was to shape the clothes to be more relatable for modern eyes.

Be sure also to read this interview with Catherine Manning, the costume designer, set designer, co-producer, and Baz Luhrman's wife.

I don’t know why anyone would be up in arms about Baz Luhrman’s interpretation of anything. If you’re familiar with his style of filmmaking, set design, and costuming, you know he’s all about fantasy, and a collage-like re-interpretation of whatever subject or time period he’s presenting:

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A still from Strictly Ballroom

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A still from Romeo and Juliet

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A scene from Moulin Rouge

Most films are primarily entertainment, not historical re-enactment. We go to the movies for fantasy. We go to museums for historical accuracy.

At this stage in the evolution of our culture, if you’re upset about commercial product placement in Hollywood films, you should buy a camera and make your own.

Some Fitzgerald/Gatsby lore:

Gatsby fashion inspiration:

I've curated some Art Deco decor and style inspiration that's more than just sparkly mini dresses, over at Pinterest.

 

Help this important ethical fashion startup!

May 28, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, The Business of Fashion by alliemcc

If, like me, you have longed for the day when ethical, sustainable fashion is:

  1. readily available
  2. at a variety of pricepoints
  3. and actually stylish,

the wait is over. Modavanti.com is in the house, and they are off to a great start doing great things.

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Dress by Upstate, available here.

With the recent news of the factory tragedies in Bangladesh and Cambodia, it is now more critical than ever. We cannot keep taxing our environment and our fellow man in the name of cheap throwaway fashion. 
 
But for the sustainable fashion revolution to really take hold on a widespread scale, we as conscious consumers need a trusted and recognized destination where we can go to find clothing that fits our values without sacrificing on style. 
 
To be the recognized destination for the socially conscious consumer requires thousands of dollars to market our site, build brand recognition and gain new customers. That is why I hope you will join us by contributing to and sharing our campaign so that we can make Modavanti an even better site that continues to provide the best sustainable fashion brands.
 
Even $10 will make a huge difference. If you can't contribute, sharing our campaign on your Facebook page and forwarding this email to 10 friends is a big help as well!

 

No yoga gear here, my friends! Just beautiful, modern, fashionable clothing and accessories that you will actually wear.

 

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Bucket bag by Lalesso, available here.

If you can, please contribute to their new Indigogo campaign to help them grow.

I am a big supporter of what they are doing. I have met David and Adam of the founding team, and I can absolutely vouch for their intelligence, sincerity, and sweet personalities.

And be sure to pass it on to your fellow stylish, conscious fashion lovers. Thanks <3