Monday, May 20, 2013

A Quickie...

Busy making a Slenderman plush doll for a client these days.  I'll post pics when I'm done.  Meanwhile the Dutch designer,  Johanne Helger Lund, just popped up in a facebook ad.  She uses natural fibers and organic and sustainable elements whenever possible.  Her background is costume design, which gives her clothes a nostalgic look that I like. 

Carmen dress available in several colors for 184 euros.

Here's a different view that shows the details

I think this is my favorite:

Carla dress for 184 euros

She specializes in feminine, flattering looks.  The prices are steep as you might expect from a small design house committed to fair labor conditions.  How's the Euro-Dollar exchange rate these days?  Check out her label's website,  Ecouture,  for more lovely frocks available for on-line purchase.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's Goodwill Industries Week!

There are some wonderful mega thrift stores in the area where you can pore over racks and racks of merchandise and find inexpensive things to surprise and delight.  They all look like non-profit charity organizations, but they are not made alike.  For example, Value Village and Unique Thrift are for-profit organizations.  They contract with non-profit organizations like the National Children’s Center and Vietnam Veterans of America, who collect the merchandise and provide donors with the ability to write off their donations as charitable.  I am glad the National Children’s Center and Vietnam Veterans of America have found this means to support their charitable work.  However, as an eco-fashionista, I was sad to see the Value Village on New Hampshire Avenue in Hillandale begin featuring a huge Hallowe’en shop with hundreds of new, cheap costumes made overseas.  As a for-profit entity, this just made good business sense:  they realized everyone was scouring thrifts for costume ideas and elements, and they made sure everyone could find something to buy.  From an environmental point of view it undercut the goals of reducing, reusing and recycling.
Goodwill of Greater Washington is an exception to the for-profit thrift model.  The organization exists to provide job training and placement.  And 91% of DC Goodwill’s funding goes directly towards their job training and employment services.  What a great way to do a lot of good with your clothing and furniture donations!  Also, I think, because of their non-profit soul, they are likely to stay truer to their important environmental role.
Below is a video about Goodwill and, after it, a lot impressive facts about their work.  If you’d like to learn more about Goodwill of Greater Washington, find their nearest store or donation center, or get involved, please visit --or download their free mobile app from the iTunes app store.  My friend, Kristina, recommends heading out Columbia Pike to one of their Virginia  sites as their are many great eateries along the way.  Salvadoran food anyone?  Go Goodwill!

  • In 2012, DC Goodwill provided job training and placement services to over 3,200 people in our community.
  • DC Goodwill successfully placed 228 people into new jobs in 2012 and employed over 600 in its retail stores, contract services and administrative support divisions.
  • After 90 days of employment 86% of the individuals DC Goodwill placed into jobs last year still retained those jobs.
  • Some of the companies where DC Goodwill graduates were placed in 2012 include Allied Barton Security, Accenture, Safeway, George Mason University, Jiffy Lube, Securitas, Virginia Commerce Bank, Fairfax County Public Schools, PNC Bank and Marriott.
  • Over 80% of the people in DC Goodwill’s contracts division have a documented, severe disability.
  • DC Goodwill is also a job creator. Every retail store we open creates between 25 and 30 new jobs.
  • Whenever someone donates to Goodwill they are also repurposing and recycling unwanted household goods. In 2012, DC Goodwill diverted 20 million pounds of goods from area landfills.
  • DC Goodwill donated almost $70,000 in Good Samaritan vouchers to other nonprofit agencies in 2012 so that the populations they serve can secure free clothing and shoes from Goodwill stores.
  • Goodwill serves people with a variety ofdisabilities including emotional, developmental, physical and mental.
  • Goodwill serves people with a variety of disadvantaging conditions including those with a lack of education, those trying to get off welfare, ex-offenders and the chronically unemployed.
  • In January the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia was at 8.6% compared to 5.5% just five years ago.
  • The unemployment rate in DC’s Ward 8 still exceeds 25%, which is the highest area rate in the country!
  • Sunday, May 5, 2013

    Introducing Calamarie

    How about this weather?  And the gorgeous spring blooms?!  It is the perfect time to highlight a jewelry designer who makes beautiful, colorful things using natural products.  In 2009, Columbia-native and U.S. State Department employee, Catalina Lemaitre launched Calamarie, a company dedicated to eco-friendly jewelry made by Columbian artisans.  Her designs do wonderful things with orange peels, seeds and even silk cocoons.  Here are just a few of her designs.

    I bought a purple orange-peel-rose bracelet a couple of years ago and can attest to its durability.  I am now attracted to her many hair accessories.


    She has an extensive on-line store, ( plus you can view her jewelry in person at the National Museum of Women in the Arts gift shop, Coco Blanca at National Harbor, On the Purple Couch in Silver Spring, and Pure Moxie in Leesburg.  EVEN BETTER, there's a "Meet the Designer" event Tuesday May 7 from 11am to 4pm at the National Museum of Women in the Arts gift shop.  Take a long lunch and see the exhibit of Anna Archer paintings there too.


    Did you know that only 5% of the art currently on display in U.S. museums is made by women artists?  NMWA finds those we should see more of.  Take a long lunch and enjoy some great art and great jewelry design.  Happy Spring!

    Friday, May 3, 2013

    Overdressed and Underpaid

    In response to the recent garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 500, Terry Gross of  Fresh Air did a great interview yesterday with Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.  The interview started with Cline's own love affair with unbelievably cheap clothing (fast fashion) and described how her thoughts changed over the course of her long investigation of the fashion industry. 
    Elizabeth Cline and too many clothes
    She wrote the book before the latest factory disaster, but she had gone undercover as a garment buyer in China and Bangladesh and had noted the obvious safety problems- especially in Bangladesh.  Despite sending auditors to monitor factory conditions, the big clothing retailers (H&M, Zara, Gap, JCPenney, Wal-Mart, Sears, Target, Disney...) have failed repeatedly to ensure safe working conditions.  The government of Bangladesh is not doing enough to protect its citizens either.

    In the drive to produce cheaper and cheaper clothing, manufacturers have willingly moved into developing countries where the costs are absolutely rock bottom.  Workers in Bangladesh make about $38/month according to Cline, which is even below the $200+ made by Chinese workers.  The quality of textiles and clothing has also declined as the race for the lowest price continues.  Clothing retailers are also changing inventory more often and promoting shorter trend cycles.  All this has lead consumers to shop more often for cheaper goods and to consider buying, say,  a $15 item for one party or event-- disposable fashion.  Enormous volumes of clothing end up in landfills or thrift stores.  If they don't sell within a month in thrift stores, they are often collected in large bales and shipped  to African nations where are they sold to second-hand clothing merchants.

    The transport alone of huge volumes of clothing is hard on the earth.  When you consider the high toll of growing water-hungry cotton, of producing petroleum-based polyester and of chemically processing textiles in countries with dismal environmental controls, it frankly gets a bit nauseating.  I am tired for Mother Earth.

    But that is me.  The author was much more skilled and graceful on Fresh Air.  She presented the facts gradually and ended with a gentle account of how her own habits have changed (less shopping and more carefully chosen items that she keeps longer).  She also added this final thought:  "I'm 100 percent convinced this is the turning point.  There's just something about the number of the pictures. I feel like it's too bad of a tragedy for the brands to bounce back this time."

    (See Elizabeth Cline's list of ethical fashion designers and resources on the book's website here.)