Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nana: A Boutique for a New Generation

I went back to visit Nana again in its Mount Pleasant location.  (They opened in 2003 on U Street.  They are now at 3068 Mt. Pleasant Street, NW).  When I first went to Nana, I asked the owner/founder, Jackie Flanagan, whether they had any sustainable fashion lines.  She looked doubtful for a moment, and started to say that there was not much right now, except for this, and this, and this, and....  It turned out that almost everything in the store had a sustainable angle.  She seemed to have made these careful choices almost unconsciously, and it occurred to me that I was seeing the post-green-movement world.  For example, her own clothing line, also called Nana after her very stylish grandmother, is made in Adams Morgan and incorporates many vintage and organic fabrics. 
Nana proprietary line dress and soy candles
 Most of the jewelry is also made by local designers.  I loved the bold pieces by Sultana Maria, who uses antique bells and bullet casings paired with rough crystals. 
Sultana Maria jewelry
Quarter Life curates a vintage clothing corner (which currently has lots of nice tweed skirts in case you're thinking about joining the Tweed Ride).  Toronto-based company, Preloved makes upcycled garments and accessories from vintage elements, ensuring that your item will be unlike any other you see in town. 
Preloved upcycled sweater vest
 I am generally against anything that vaguely resembles tie-dye because I've seen too much of it in Takoma Park, but these shibori-dyed dresses by the local company La La Circuit won me over with their subtle colors and interesting patterns.  I loved the necklines too. 

La La Circuit shibori-dyed dress

 Judging from the hem, I believe these are made from upcycled bed sheets, which was a great surprise.  And there's much, much more to enjoy:  lovely fair-trade dresses by Mata Traders, soy candles made with love by Jackie and her husband, and DC-designed and made leather clutch purses. 
Do give yourself a treat and stop in with some girlfriends for a nice long shopping session.  You are sure to find something that you look great and feel great in.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Breaking News! Fashionable Fair Trade Clothing in a DC Boutique

This is big for you fair trade lovers!  I have long loved Mata Traders  because their stuff is really cute.  (Let's be honest.  Some fair trade clothing is really frumpy.) Mata Traders is having a Trunk Show TOMORROW at Nana Boutique in Mount Pleasant from noon to 6pm.  That means there will be smart fair trade clothing that you can try on and buy in person with confidence.  Here's the link.  Support both of these great organizations on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with some friends.

Herban Lifestyle Review

I really enjoy BUST magazine, and one of the things I like is the way they review beauty products.  They give a product to three interns to use and get three honest opinions.  I feel like these are much more trustworthy, balanced and valuable than the reviews I see in other mags.  Plus the reviewers value attributes like no animal testing, etc.  PLUS it shows a proper appreciation for interns.  I have a wonderful intern just now.  Her name is Andy Visoso, and she is in DC for three months from Mexico where she is working on a sustainable fabric dye project and designing and selling accessories.  You will hear more about her projects in future blog posts.  For now, Andy and I are going to do a BUST-style review of local beauty products from Herban Lifestyle.  Herban Lifestyle handcrafts herbal bath and body products in small batches using natural, organic and Fair Trade ingredients as well as earth-friendly packaging.  Herban Lifestyle is certified sustainable by Green America and Cruelty-Free by Leaping Bunny. Andy and I selected their Pale Ale soap and lip balm sampler to try.

Pale Ale Soap scented with Lime and Rosemary 

Set of Three Organic Lip Balms

Katy:   I had corresponded with Herban Lifestyle founder, Mary Kearns, while I was researching the benefits of natural and organic cosmetics, and she had commented, "I also feel that natural ingredients smell much better than artificial ones. I find things like natural beeswax, cocoa butter, dried herbs and pure essential oils to be absolutely yummy smelling! You can't say that so much about phthalates, EDTA, etc."  I did not understand what she was talking about until I opened our package and was amazed at how truly WONDERFUL the products smell.  The lime & coconut lip balm I tried was like the freshest summer dish I ever had (delectable lime scent with fainter tones of vanilla and coconut), and the pale ale soap was a beguiling-- and yummy-- autumn mix of scents.  I usually avoid scented products because I'm afraid they will be overpowering and clash with each other, but these do not linger in any unpleasant way.  And the lip balm is truly soft and moisturizing-- not waxy.  Would it melt in my purse in summer?  I will certainly have some next summer to see.  The soap lathers up nicely and leaves my hands feeling smooth.  Even my sons liked the soap.  I am hooked!  These products are a treat you should try for yourself or for a great gift.  Perhaps the Man Beer Soap for that special someone?

Andy: I´m beginning to know about organic cosmetics, and I am falling in love with them because it makes me feel so good knowing I help the environment with this kind of life style.
I tried the Mint + Chocolate lip balm and the Vanilla + Tangerine lip balm. To be honest the Mint + Chocolate has become essential to my lip care. I use it all the time! When you put it on, your lips get refreshed because of the mint, and the smell is great because of the chocolate. The texture is very soft, and the moisturizer also is very comfortable. I just take it everywhere with me. The Vanilla-Tangerine balm is delicious too! It is so soft and light that your lips look very hydrated and healthy.
The Pale Ale soap is made with Lime & Rosemary.  It too smells delicious, and it seems very gentle on the skin.  The sensation is soft and refreshing.  Also the skin looks moisturized, and the smell of the soap stays all day.

So there you have it.  'wish we could sound a bit more critical for our first product review, but we just loved these products.  Katy, at least,  promises to be more snarly sometime in the future.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October is Fair Trade Month- Visit Ten Thousand Villages!

by Guest Reporter Andy Visoso

I went to Alexandria for the first time and I´m in love with that place. My principal reason to visit was to see The Ten Thousand Villages store on King Street.

Ten Thousand Villages is an exceptional source for unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, tableware and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. One of the world's largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), the company strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries. .  Buying a product with a "fair trade" certification assures you that the person who produced the item received a living wage for the work.
When I walked in my eyes filled with the artisan´s magic products, I was so excited.

I conducted an interview with a sales associate named Danielle, She explained to me how the store works and its philosophy. Everything that she said made me interested in fair trade and the artisans.
Danielle said, "The artisans that sell in The Ten Thousand Villages are people of different parts of the world. Every product is unique but every product has something in common they are made under fair trade."
A funny and interesting fact was that the best-selling product is a carved wooden nose to put eyeglasses on like a pedestal.

Fair trade products are often included under the "sustainable" umbrella because fair trade practices contribute to a humane and just world economy.   The accessories and beauty products at Ten Thousand Villages are also made largely from natural, organic or recycled materials.
Danielle also commented that she would like to find a specific place or shop for Eco-fashion clothing.

Finally I would like to recommend visiting this store, you will find interesting pieces for gifts or decoration.  Everything is unique with meaning and history. Also there are stores in Alexandria, Bethesda  and Rockville.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Reason to Love Vintage- No VPL

Warning: this post contains mature content and a mature butt.  The editor believes that fashion is all about the human body, so she sometimes includes bodies.  They are not always pretty.... 
 Last year the blog Capitol Hill Style introduced me to the acronym VPL (Visible Panty Line). I followed the MANY fervent comments about whether thongs are sublime or evil with amazement. And interest. I have a flabby white girl ass.I'm pretty OK with that.  My bum has cushioned me on a lot of metal chairs, propelled my bike faithfully and helped me carry a lot of laundry up the stairs, so I can't be too negative, but I am prone to visible panty lines. 
Hello vintage!  I find that vintage clothing is much more likely to be heavy enough, lined or discreetly designed so that I don't have to face the question of whether or not to thong.  Take the mustard colored dress at top, for example.  A friend gave me this fine vintage sheath.  (I added the puzzling and wonderful vintage cocktail napkin.)  
The sheath is made of a substantial (and body flattering) polyester knit.  AND it's lined.  I like this.  One does not need to worry about the rearview so much.  You can just run all out for that bus!  (If you aren't wearing heels....)
To see the dress in person, come to the DC Arts Studios Member Exhibition and Open House this Sunday between 3:00 and 7:00.  It coincides with the Takoma Street Festival, so it will surely be a good time for all.  'hope to see you there. (The dress will be on a dress form, so you will have to take my word on the VPL point.  It will be for sale in my Etsy shop after the show.)

Why Buy Natural and Organic Cosmetics?

I understand why all-natural and organic are desirable attributes for food.  Organic farming practices are better for the environment, and organic and all-natural foods are less likely to contain strange substances that shouldn't be ingested.  Certainly make-up ingredients that are not synthesized from petrochemicals are more sustainable.  The environmental benefits of organic agricultural practices would hold for the ingredients in cosmetics too.  Biodegradable substances are always good.  But is all-natural likely to be healthier?  Sulphuric acid is all-natural, but probably not so good for the skin.  There may be synthetic products that would be better for the skin.  So are the health claims for organic and all-natural cosmetics true?

To find an answer, I went to the website of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (message: your make-up is trying to kill you) and checked out the beauty industry's Personal Care Products Council (message: there are no bad ingredients, and don't regulate us).  The FDA?  Essentially: We are only authorized to step in if the ingredients are putrid or the label fraudulent. 

So what's a consumer to think?  Fortunately, I have a network of wise, accomplished friends to call on when I need to know more.  I noticed that there were a lot of breast cancer groups signed on to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, so I contacted my friend, Sara Collina, who knows a ton about research into the environmental causes of breast cancer.  Here's her intelligent response:

"I think there is reason for concern, yes. [The supporters of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics] exaggerate what they "know" -- "toxic" things are in almost everything we come across. It's almost impossible to demonstrate causation. It took decades of research to "prove" smoking and lung cancer are not only correlated, but that there is a causal relationship. There are just way too many variables. How would you design a study? So the extent to which they claim causation, they are being disingenuous.

But then there's common sense. Why shouldn't we have regulations limiting what goes into a product that goes on your lips?  It's only because Revlon and the like are so powerful. The only reason to allow substances that have been shown to be harmful to humans in a product is if it would do more good than harm. Cosmetics don't "need" these substances.... I'd much rather live in a world where products that go on my body do not include known carcinogens.... Environmentalists... often turn out to be correct.  Remember those crazy folks back in the 1980s who thought human beings were heating up the planet? As if..."
Thank you, Sara.  That is the science-based and common-sense-based point of view I was looking for.  I hereby resolve to look for natural and organic personal care products to replace the ones I am accustomed to.  More on this to follow....