The Local Artisans of Tobermory

Recently whilst on holiday in the Scottish Isles, besides admiring the spectacular beauty of Scotland and the Inner Hebrides, The Local Artisan Guide was lucky enough to stumble (okay we took a ferry to the Island of Mull) upon the town of Tobermory. 

The picturesque town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

The picturesque town of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Tobermory is a picturesque town on the Island of Mull (part of the Inner Hebrides) with colorful houses, restaurants and shops lined up on a marina with rolling green hills and trees all apart of an incredible vista. Tobermory Bay was originally a fishing port that has since become home to small businesses, restaurants, small hotels and artisanal shops that offer a range in products including; jewelry, chocolates, soap, pottery, cheese, leather goods, a distiller, art, local fashion, stationary, baked goods and more. 

As you get off the ferry you follow the crescent shape road known as Main Street around the marina with multicolor buildings dotting the landscape. While walking down the street and entering the various shops one observes that many of the shops not only carry local products but many of the products are produced in the shop itself. There are also many products made from local artisans near by on the island.

After exploring Main Street here are some of the highlights in Tobermory:

AN CAMUS

An Camus

An Camus

Slightly off Main Street as soon as you depart the ferry you will come upon the studio and shop of An Camus where Stuart and Helen Orr can be seen working on their glass products, knick-knacks and stationary.

The workshop of An Camus is located in the shop itself where you see many items in the process of being made.

The workshop of An Camus is located in the shop itself where you see many items in the process of being made.

An Camus offers many representations of the sea and wildlife.

An Camus offers many representations of the sea and wildlife.

Its typical to see Stuart and Helen hard at work creating their wares.

Its typical to see Stuart and Helen hard at work creating their wares.

A small example of An Camus’s beautiful glassware.

A small example of An Camus’s beautiful glassware.

ISLE OF MULL SOAP CO.

Isle of Mull Soap Co.

Isle of Mull Soap Co.

Isle of Mull Soap Co. is a quaint soap shop founded by husband and wife team Stu and Sophie who create soap inspired by the culture of Scotland and all the many natural and native ingredients you can only find in the Scottish Isles. Soaps, soap bombs, candles, bath and body, gifts and accessories can be found in this shop along with beautiful packaging and always a friendly welcome.

Isle of Mull Soap Co. has a large selection of soap and bath products.

Isle of Mull Soap Co. has a large selection of soap and bath products.

With such scents as Hot Toddy, Cinnamon & Citrus and Rose & Patchouli, shopping here makes for great souvenirs.

With such scents as Hot Toddy, Cinnamon & Citrus and Rose & Patchouli, shopping here makes for great souvenirs.

Isle of Mull Soap Co. also offers bath bombs, bath and body and great gifts to remind you of your stay in Tobermory.

Isle of Mull Soap Co. also offers bath bombs, bath and body and great gifts to remind you of your stay in Tobermory.

TOBERMORY DISTILLERY

The visitor center for Tobermory Distillery.

The visitor center for Tobermory Distillery.

Tobermory Distillery, where the magic happens.

Tobermory Distillery, where the magic happens.

Established in 1798, Tobermory Distillery is the only distillery on the Island of Mull and one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland. The distillery is unique not only because of its picturesque location but because they offer not one but two distinctive single malts.

The shop in the visitor center of the distillery offers their entire selection of scotch and whiskey.

The shop in the visitor center of the distillery offers their entire selection of scotch and whiskey.

There is even a formal tasting room that you can make an appointment to experience.

There is even a formal tasting room that you can make an appointment to experience.

Tobermory Distillery offers more than just whiskey at the visitor center. Here you can purchase, hats, t-shirts and even soap made with whiskey!

Tobermory Distillery offers more than just whiskey at the visitor center. Here you can purchase, hats, t-shirts and even soap made with whiskey!

Is there such a thing as a “wee dram”? We think not, especially after you taste their whiskeys.

Is there such a thing as a “wee dram”? We think not, especially after you taste their whiskeys.

THE LAUNDRY

Is it a Laundry or a store? It’s both and both are well done.

Is it a Laundry or a store? It’s both and both are well done.

The Laundry is a laundry service with a twist. The twist being that The Laundry is also a boutique that offers products made from local artisans from the Isle of Mull which include fashion, handbags, gifts, candles, bedding and more.

The Laundry offers a selection of fashion, accessories and gifts made on the Isle of Mull. Oh and exceptional laundry services too.

The Laundry offers a selection of fashion, accessories and gifts made on the Isle of Mull. Oh and exceptional laundry services too.

The Laundry offers bedding, which comes in handy for all the Airbnb’s on the island.

The Laundry offers bedding, which comes in handy for all the Airbnb’s on the island.

Handbags made from local leathers are one of the key products you will find in The Laundry.

Handbags made from local leathers are one of the key products you will find in The Laundry.

ISLE OF MULL SILVER & GOLDSMITHS

You can’t miss Isle of Mull Silver & Goldsmith’s cobalt blue storefront on Main Street.

You can’t miss Isle of Mull Silver & Goldsmith’s cobalt blue storefront on Main Street.

Founded in 1975 by Phil Campbell, Isle of Mull Silver & Goldsmiths provides jewelry made by local designers and features Scottish jewelry which includes quaichs, kilt pins, cufflinks, silver spoons and more traditional and contemporary designs.

Jewelry to wear for your kilts to represent your clans is a feature at the Isle of Mull Silversmith & Goldsmiths.

Jewelry to wear for your kilts to represent your clans is a feature at the Isle of Mull Silversmith & Goldsmiths.

The shop also offers a wide selection of traditional silver spoons.

The shop also offers a wide selection of traditional silver spoons.

There is also a wide selection of traditional and contemporary jewelry designs made from local artisans.

There is also a wide selection of traditional and contemporary jewelry designs made from local artisans.

ISLAND BLUE TOBERMORY

Island Blue Tobermory is great place to shop for children’s gifts and art from local residents.

Island Blue Tobermory is great place to shop for children’s gifts and art from local residents.

Photographer Martin Guppy founded Island Blue which includes art from local artists, toys, skincare, candles, scarves, mugs and more.

Colorful mugs and coasters have imagery of the local sea and wildlife.

Colorful mugs and coasters have imagery of the local sea and wildlife.

Many scents made from local ingredients are displayed in the store.

Many scents made from local ingredients are displayed in the store.

Island Blue Tobermory offers a fun, eclectic array of souvenirs from Tobermory.

Island Blue Tobermory offers a fun, eclectic array of souvenirs from Tobermory.

Wood carvings of bird life and mugs of local cattle are a favorite at the store.

Wood carvings of bird life and mugs of local cattle are a favorite at the store.

MULL POTTERY

The welcoming storefront of Mull Pottery.

The welcoming storefront of Mull Pottery.

Mull Pottery was established over 25 years ago using their own recipe for clay ceramics. The shop also offers pottery made by skilled craftspeople including the popular and stunningly beautiful Iona Range. All pieces are handmade, making each piece unique.

The selection of mugs with abstract vistas is a popular sell at Mull Pottery.

The selection of mugs with abstract vistas is a popular sell at Mull Pottery.

Sea and wildlife imagery is a great choice for souvenir gift giving.

Sea and wildlife imagery is a great choice for souvenir gift giving.

The incredibly beautiful (and affordable) Iona Range ceramics make Mull Pottery an amazing stop on your trip to Tobermory.

The incredibly beautiful (and affordable) Iona Range ceramics make Mull Pottery an amazing stop on your trip to Tobermory.

ISLAND CRAFTS

The sea-green shop of Island Crafts.

The sea-green shop of Island Crafts.

Island Crafts Tobermory offers a wide selection of work predominately from artists living and working or with connections with the Isle of Mull.  They sell walking sticks, books, jewelry, stationary, antlers, gifts and more.

Island Crafts offer a unique selection of walking sticks made locally for that favorite of all activities in the Hebrides, walking the hills.

Island Crafts offer a unique selection of walking sticks made locally for that favorite of all activities in the Hebrides, walking the hills.

Beautiful home decor objects made from shells and pairing knives made with natural materials are show stoppers at Island Craft.

Beautiful home decor objects made from shells and pairing knives made with natural materials are show stoppers at Island Craft.

Island Craft also offers accessories, throws and caps made from wool from local sheep that help keep crafts alive and well in Tobermory.

Island Craft also offers accessories, throws and caps made from wool from local sheep that help keep crafts alive and well in Tobermory.

TOBERMORY HANDMADE CHOCOLATE

Just look for the chocolate colored building for Tobermory Handmade Chocolate.

Just look for the chocolate colored building for Tobermory Handmade Chocolate.

Founded in 1991 by husband and wife team Keith and Rhoda, Tobermory Handmade Chocolate offers artisan handmade chocolate with a variety of flavors native to Scotland and the Scottish Isles along with more traditional chocolates. There is also a cozy cafe and well stocked gift shop that offers more than local chocolates to take home.

The shop at Tobermory Handmade Chocolate offers an array of gift giving besides chocolate.

The shop at Tobermory Handmade Chocolate offers an array of gift giving besides chocolate.

Lots of home decor items available at the shop.

Lots of home decor items available at the shop.

Besides being able to buy their chocolates, there is a cozy cafe to settle in and taste and drink all Tobermory Handmade Chocolate has to offer.

Besides being able to buy their chocolates, there is a cozy cafe to settle in and taste and drink all Tobermory Handmade Chocolate has to offer.

Walking down Main Street in Tobermory will have you experiencing more than artisanal shops. There is a multitude of restaurants, bars, churches and more to explore. Then when you are done exploring Tobermory, feel free to travel throughout the Isle of Mull and find even more local artisans honing crafts passed down to them from generations of living in the Scottish Isles.

Can’t miss The Tobermory Hotel in all its pink glory!

Can’t miss The Tobermory Hotel in all its pink glory!

Arnos Hall is community owned facility that hosts events and markets all year round.

Arnos Hall is community owned facility that hosts events and markets all year round.

This former Gothic church is now home to a gallery for local souvenirs and a popular cafe for both locals and visitors alike.

This former Gothic church is now home to a gallery for local souvenirs and a popular cafe for both locals and visitors alike.

It is easy to understand how these vistas inspired so many beautiful depictions in the souvenir shops in Tobermory.

It is easy to understand how these vistas inspired so many beautiful depictions in the souvenir shops in Tobermory.

By Natalie Rivera






Distinctive Father's Day Gifts

Finding a gift for dear old dad on Father’s Day can either be spectacularly easy when you have a father that doesn’t have discriminating taste (a run of the mill tie, some Old Karate, a knitted vest). Or maybe you have an extraordinary father who appreciates the finer things in life, or you want to introduce your father to some of your marvelous finds. If its the latter then this blog is for you.

The Local Artisan Guide recommends the following for distinctive Father’s Day gifts that he will appreciate you went to all the effort for.

D.S. & Durga is a fragrance brand that specializes in scents that recreate experiences. Many of the scents are unisex in nature, however for Father’s Day, “Burning Barbershop” is the perfect scent for dad. The description of Burning Barbershop is as follows: A fire broke out in the Curling Bros. barbershop in Westlake, N.Y. in 1891. All the shaving tonics with their spearmint, lime, vanilla and lavender burned. A charred bottle was found half-full. It smelled like this.

Australian motorcycle brand, Deus Ex Machina, created this trucker hat designed specifically for the dads that want the most out of the warm weather ahead—a cushioned crown, meshed back, and quick-drying design keeps blocks out the sun, keeps ya cool, and looks great in the process.

How stylish and comfortable will your dad be when he slips into his C’H’C’M’ Yogi Elijah Negative Heel Boot. This very affordable suede boot is made in Portugal using the finest suede leathers in Europe.

St. Frank is a home decor brand that features home accessories made from artisans around the world. This St. Frank iPhone case depicts a vintage Kuba cloth from the Republic of Congo, a unique textile featuring complex designs that are created when various geometric raffia pieces are stitched to a plain raffia background. The resulting rough surface is punctuated by repeated geometric patterns with unexpected interruptions in design. Men cultivate the raffia palm and weave the raffia cloth; women then create the patterned textiles. Traditionally, Kuba cloth was used as a wrapped skirt worn during burials. Later, it was incorporated in ceremonial dress for ritual dances and other celebrations.

Rowing Blazers, the brand that focuses on rediscovering and reinventing preppie also offers collections of vintage watches. Here is the Rolex Day-Date reference 1803 dates to circa 1967 and includes its chronometer certificate (a.k.a. "COSC papers") and an extremely rare "The Day-Date" promotional booklet. The dial is beautifully preserved and the case is crisp and full. Wind Vintage purchased this watch from Heritage Auctions in April for $8,437.50, just so there is full transparency on its origin and what was paid. It is understood that the consignor to the auction was the original owner. This watch is currently on view at the Rowing Blazers Clubhouse at 161 Grand Street in New York City. Curated by Wind Vintage.

Nomad Tribe, the sustainable clothing brand has the perfect Father’s Day gifts for the “Woke” dad, here is the Mutuba Organic PlayNomad Shirt, their softest polo yet. Did you notice the musical prints and the 2-tone buttons? (Have another look. Perfect for on the run or the golf course, easily paired with khaki pants, shorts or jeans.

Our picks range from high luxury to extremely affordable and should make dads of all ages pleased you put so much time and attention show them how much you appreciated them being your dad.

Click onto the captions for more product information.

Happy Father’s Day!

By Natalie Rivera



Hudson Yards

Recently Hudson Yards, a complex that includes residences, offices, shops, restaurants and cultural institutions all encased among innovative architecture (innovative for NYC) has opened up to the general public.

The Local Artisan Guide feels its important for you to have information at your hand for shopping destinations whether its on a charming small dead end street or a multilevel complex. Hudson Yards is certainly the latter.

Located at West 34th Street and 11th Ave. (you can take the #7 train to Hudson Yards directly or a crosstown bus), Hudson Yards is where the MTA has housed subway cars for decades (still does). After exiting the highly stylized new subway station, you encounter a complex of new, cutting edge buildings that include residences, the Equinox Hotel, and a very upscale mall for New York City.

Hudson Yards include a complex of residences, office buildings, shops and The Equinox Hotel.

Hudson Yards include a complex of residences, office buildings, shops and The Equinox Hotel.

There is a structure outside the shops that looks like the skeletal system of a bug or artichoke called “The Vessel”. It is a piece that you can enter and explore from the inside (much like the Statue of Liberty). To enter you need to go onto Hudson Yards’s website www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com and reserve a time and day to enter the sculpture (its free). 

In the center of Hudson Yards you will encounter The Vessel, a sculpture you are allowed to enter and explore (tickets available for free online).

In the center of Hudson Yards you will encounter The Vessel, a sculpture you are allowed to enter and explore (tickets available for free online).

After exploring The Vessel you can head straight to the shops across the way. The main store here is department store Neiman Marcus. Neiman Marcus has never been situated in NYC (except for Neiman Marcus Last Call in Brooklyn) so in a city that has been losing iconic department stores for the last few years (Lord & Taylor, Henri Bendel’s etc.) it is nice to have one that has a long reputable establish itself here. Neiman Marcus presents itself in a minimal way, there is no or little clutter. They offer a strongly curated assortment of established and emerging designers in its store. 

Neiman Marcus is the dominant department store at Hudson Yards, located on the third floor.

Neiman Marcus is the dominant department store at Hudson Yards, located on the third floor.

A view of The Vessel and the trains lined up in at Hudson Yards from the interior.

A view of The Vessel and the trains lined up in at Hudson Yards from the interior.

What is interesting in the consortium of stores in the Hudson Yards is its range. Here you can find high end brands such as Christian Dior and Cartier’s, to mid range brands like Kate Spade and Tori Burch all the way to H&M and Zara. All presented much like the high end malls you see in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. Downtown in the financial district you have a similar collection of stores in Battery Park City with high end brands, grand architecture, restaurants, hotels and residences all flowing into each other, yet at Hudson Yards there is a difference as the selection of stores at Hudson Yards has a curated feel to it. Besides the brands mentioned there are also more independent brands that you would find by strolling down the streets of Soho but you wouldn’t find their presence in American malls. These brands include Scanlan Theodore, M.Gemi and Hatch to name a few. 

Fendi is one the high end stores you will find at Hudson Yards amongst others.

Fendi is one the high end stores you will find at Hudson Yards amongst others.

Zara and H&M are some of the affordable stores you will find at Hudson Yards.

Zara and H&M are some of the affordable stores you will find at Hudson Yards.

Scanlan Theodore is one of the many independent brands that have opened in Hudson Yards.

Scanlan Theodore is one of the many independent brands that have opened in Hudson Yards.

Also unlike the malls in Asia or in Battery Park City, Hudson Yards strives to have something for everybody as shopping and eating there runs the gamut of all price ranges. You can find both high end restaurants and more affordable eating, like Shake Shack at Hudson Yards. 

Hudson Yards offers besides shops, multiple places of all price points to dine. Shake Shack is amongst food choices at Hudson Yards.

Hudson Yards offers besides shops, multiple places of all price points to dine. Shake Shack is amongst food choices at Hudson Yards.

Many of the shops have still yet to open at the Hudson yards. The experience of shopping at Hudson Yards is similar to the World Trade Center instead there the art structure is part of the interior shopping experience and in Hudson Yards its on the exterior of the building.  Hudson Yards incorporates art installations throughout the interior and exterior of the complex making for a cultural experience too.

Hudson Yards included art throughout the entire complex.

Hudson Yards included art throughout the entire complex.

Hudson Yards is bound to be a popular place to visit in the future, especially if you live there or are staying in Midtown when visiting NYC. It is definitely worth a visit.

By Natalie Rivera

Bleek Street No More

In the summer of 2017 The Local Artisan Guide wrote a blog on the sad state of Bleecker Street. With its high rate of empty store fronts, Bleecker Street was starting to look more and more like a street in the mid-west rust belt. Retailers both local and national were abandoning their shops due to astronomical rent increases while landlords were fine with waiting out for tenants that could afford high rents. A few national beauty brands were moving in such as Aesop and The Organic Pharmacy, but in general walking down Bleecker Street seemed quite bleak. 

Fast forward to early 2019 where walking down Bleecker Street is now a more positive experience. Rents have started to come down however there are still multiple shops that are empty. Unfortunately stores are still closing (Sunni Spencer just shut down) but a few new brands are opening up under the revitalization project “Love, Bleecker.”

Still many empty storefronts dot Bleecker Street.

Still many empty storefronts dot Bleecker Street.

“Love, Bleecker” is a collaboration between Skylight and Brookfield Properties, created to breathe back some life into Bleecker Street. “Love, Bleecker” has acquired four storefronts to introduce four online brands who never had a brick and mortar presence. The four brands are couture retailers Prabal Gurung, men’s leather good brand Slightly Alabama, cashmere brand Lingua Franca and plant based bodega with floral collab Bonberi & Fleurotica

Along with the storefronts “Love, Bleecker” will also introduce art installations, music and more interactive community events in collaboration with the shops. 

#lovebleecker

#lovebleecker

“Love, Bleecker” paired each shop with an artist to have fashion and art play off each other. For Slightly Alabama they paired artist Chelsea Hryrick Browne, who created an installation of intricately hand-cut paper designs that will be displayed in the shop’s windows for 6 months. Her designs, which are layers of hand-cut paper create the illusion of an abstract painting.

Slightly Alabama and artist Chelsea Hrynick Browne collaboration.

Slightly Alabama and artist Chelsea Hrynick Browne collaboration.

Prabal Gurung was paired with Edward Ross who crafted a glass sculptural lighting installation which will live in the space for the year.

Prabal Gurung and Edward Ross collaboration.

Prabal Gurung and Edward Ross collaboration.

Lingua Franca was partnered with artist Ashley Longshore who made a very colorful and glittery painting of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Lingua Franca and Ashley Longshore collaboration.

Lingua Franca and Ashley Longshore collaboration.

Bonberi & Fleurotica have been paired with Signe Pierce who created floral and neon illuminated sculptures. 

Bonberi & Fleurotica collaboration with Signe Pierce.

Bonberi & Fleurotica collaboration with Signe Pierce.

Besides “Love, Bleecker” there have been multiple store openings of brands that have not had brick and mortar stores including; TDE (The Daily Edit), Kilona, St.Frank, Naadam, Margaux, Hill House Home and gold no.8 to name a few. Some pop up shops have opened up indefinitely such as Netluxe, The Citizenry Bunkhouse, Buckberry, Quaker Marine Supply and Greyers. Other more established brands have opened up new locations on Bleecker Street, which include Faherty, Buck Mason, Jay Kos and Marine Layer making Bleecker Street an up and coming men’s fashion destination.

Welcome to Bleecker Street! New brands are popping up along the way.

Welcome to Bleecker Street! New brands are popping up along the way.

So in the end, just walk down Bleecker Street, enjoy the new brands, art and events and remember at the end of the road there is thankfully Magnolia Bakery.

By Natalie Rivera

Sustainable Father's Day Gifts in all Price Points

For Father's Day The Local Artisan Guide is here to help you shop more sustainably for Father's Day gifts. Whether you are shopping for an older father/father figure or a new dad, The Local Artisan Guide has gathered some impressive sustainable AND stylish gifts to give to your father in all prices points from high end to extremely affordable. 

NOAH WAXMAN

Noah Waxman began his first collection with a few styles built by hand in America. Now the Handmade in USA collection celebrates the best in American boot-making. The USA boots blend a rugged Americana vibe with modern lines and unexpected colors and textures. The leathers represent some of the best in America, from locally sourced skins like Chromexcel and Shell Cordovan from Chicago's Horween tannery to American Bison. All USA boots are Goodyear welted for exceptional performance in all weather and years and years of life.  This is the classic American work boot, taken to new heights. The Hudson is a cap-toe lace-up boot that will last ages. Chicago-tanned Horween leather with a distinctive butt seam on the toe makes the Hudson boot stand out from the crowd. $595

ECOALF

Ecoalf is a retail brand that uses recycled and ecofriendly resources for their products. Their Briefcase isn an ultra-light bag perfect for your gym days, weekend trips or your day-to-day routine, thanks to its wide capacity. Equipped with hand and shoulder handle for maximum adaptability. It is made of 70% polyester and 30% recycled PES from plastic bottles. $168

WeWood

Helios is the new minimalist WeWOOD model with steel case and Flex-wood strap: The most recent eco-friendly WeWOOD solution has been created for those who understand the importance of substituting leather with alternative and more ethical materials without compromising luxury and beauty. Canvas and wood thin layers are combined with the finest horizontal laser engraving to reach the best flexibility. Made in Italy. $119.95

ALLBIRDS

Allbirds, the eco-friendly shoe brand has created a lounger with soft comfort in a smart silhouette that makes every experience a little more leisurely and a lot more cozy. The upper and the insole are made from superfine New Zealand Merino wool, the bottom is a lightweight dense foam that make this a perfect indoor and outdoor shoe. The wool makes is so comfortable you will not need socks and it helps minimize odor. $95

EVERLANE

Everlane, one of the most sustainable and transparent retail companies around has a great father's day gift for you, a softer cotton shirt. This cotton poplin shirt is lightweight and smooth, but gets a special garment-dyed treatment for a more lived-in feel and coloration. Great for when crisp and formal just isn’t what you want. Free shipping with first order! $48

PATAGONIA

The Small Text Logo LoPro Trucker Hat features a traditional, structured front ball-cap fit in a trucker setup: organic cotton bill and crown; polyester mesh back for increased ventilation. The six-panel design with front stitching, lower front-crown profile and pliable, precurved bill provide all-day comfort. Snaps in back make sure you’re well-adjusted. Patagonia is the leader in eco-friendly and sustainable retail fashion. $29

MUJI

The name "MUJI" is derived from the Japanese phrase "Mujirushi Ryohin," meaning "No Brand Goods." The resulting products are streamlined, environmentally friendly and beautiful in their simplicity. Over the last 20 years, MUJI has developed a worldwide following with a guiding philosophy that emphasizes innovative and simple materials, processes and packaging. Work manufactured by the company is featured in MoMA's collection. The MUJI Notebook Set includes five ruled notebooks, each with a different colored spine. 30 sheets per notebook. $3.50

 

So there you have seven great sustainable Father's Day selections in all categories and price points. Whether you are teaching your father about sustainability or he's all on board and happy that you are thinking the same way, sustainable gifts are not only thoughtful, responsible and eco-friendly, they are likely to last much longer and mean more to him with time.

Don't forget, shopping around your neighborhood for local artisans is also a great way to get conscious gifts for your father.

In the end a good father will love to have quality time spent with their children. If you can't be there with him this Father's Day and perhaps your dad is not ready for sustainable gifts, a donation in a charity he is passionate about is also a great gift. If your dad was an awful dad, may I recommend sending him a donation in his name to YOUR favorite charity. WIN/WIN!

As for me I will be giving my dad Yankee paraphernalia as any time I try to give him a thoughtful gift it goes right into the magical armoire where I never see his precious items again. Maybe one day the Yankees will be a sustainable sports brand on their own? One can only dream...

Happy Father's Day

By Natalie Rivera

CONSCIOUS MOTHER'S DAY GIFTS FOR THE SAVVY MOM

The Local Artisan Guide has a few last minute ideas for those of you who have yet to get your mom a gift (or if you are a mom in the know you can direct your family to this link). 

Is your mom savvy, thoughtful, unique, conscious, ecofriendly and loves artisan craftsmanship? Then this is the list for her.

RICA Bath and Beauty products are fresh-made to order in Brooklyn NY. Mixed “farm to vanity” style with organic and local grown ingredients (when possible) and sourced from the farms of Long Island’s North Fork. Made without synthetic preservatives, colorants, parabens, sulfates or petroleum, everything is USA made in a Gowanus, Brooklyn studio housing their production facility.  RICA BODY

RICA Bath and Beauty products are fresh-made to order in Brooklyn NY. Mixed “farm to vanity” style with organic and local grown ingredients (when possible) and sourced from the farms of Long Island’s North Fork. Made without synthetic preservatives, colorants, parabens, sulfates or petroleum, everything is USA made in a Gowanus, Brooklyn studio housing their production facility. RICA BODY

Foundrae is a jewelry brand which is more than jewelry: they are modern heirlooms, ones that allow the wearer to express something of herself to the world, and like all heirlooms, these pieces tell a story through customization.  FOUNDRAE

Foundrae is a jewelry brand which is more than jewelry: they are modern heirlooms, ones that allow the wearer to express something of herself to the world, and like all heirlooms, these pieces tell a story through customization. FOUNDRAE

Amour Vert is a eco-friendly, sustainable fashion brand that plants trees for every tee you buy (almost over 170,000 trees planted so far).  AMOUR VERT

Amour Vert is a eco-friendly, sustainable fashion brand that plants trees for every tee you buy (almost over 170,000 trees planted so far). AMOUR VERT

These colorful, flowery culottes are a great must have piece of clothing from the fashion brand Archerie.  ARCHERIE

These colorful, flowery culottes are a great must have piece of clothing from the fashion brand Archerie. ARCHERIE

The Hat Shop collection features its own eponymous label as well as the work of up to 20 local milliners. Besides the beautiful artisanal handmade hats you can have a hat custom made for mom.  THE HAT SHOP

The Hat Shop collection features its own eponymous label as well as the work of up to 20 local milliners. Besides the beautiful artisanal handmade hats you can have a hat custom made for mom. THE HAT SHOP

Angela Roi is a vegan friendly fashion accessories brand that is not only stylish but donates proceeds to animal humane associations.  ANGELA ROI

Angela Roi is a vegan friendly fashion accessories brand that is not only stylish but donates proceeds to animal humane associations. ANGELA ROI

Indego Africa is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering artisan women in Africa through employment opportunities and education. Plus you get beautiful home and fashion accessories which is always a great mother's day gift.  INDEGO AFRICA

Indego Africa is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering artisan women in Africa through employment opportunities and education. Plus you get beautiful home and fashion accessories which is always a great mother's day gift. INDEGO AFRICA

Brilliant Earth is the global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry, offering beyond conflict-free diamonds, gemstones, and environmentally responsible gold and platinum. Here is a replica of Princess Diana's engagement ring but lab grown and affordable.  BRILLIANT EARTH

Brilliant Earth is the global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry, offering beyond conflict-free diamonds, gemstones, and environmentally responsible gold and platinum. Here is a replica of Princess Diana's engagement ring but lab grown and affordable. BRILLIANT EARTH

Tom Dixon is a highly stylized London furniture and lighting brand with amazing gifts for Mother's Day like this air candle made in London.  TOM DIXON

Tom Dixon is a highly stylized London furniture and lighting brand with amazing gifts for Mother's Day like this air candle made in London. TOM DIXON

Whitby is a fashion handbag and accessories brand that gives 15% of its proceeds to non-profit organizations to help nonprofit partners to prevent the exploitation of girls through education. This "She Thrives" journal is the perfect gift for mom's, daughters, friends, etc.  WHITBY

Whitby is a fashion handbag and accessories brand that gives 15% of its proceeds to non-profit organizations to help nonprofit partners to prevent the exploitation of girls through education. This "She Thrives" journal is the perfect gift for mom's, daughters, friends, etc. WHITBY

Malin+Goetz is a New York City based beauty and fragrance brand with award-winning formulations and iconic packaging, made locally. Their fragrances are guaranteed home runs for Mother's Day gifts (and if you order $100 or more you get a free geranium hand treatment gift, use code MOTHERSDAY).  MALIN+GOETZ

Malin+Goetz is a New York City based beauty and fragrance brand with award-winning formulations and iconic packaging, made locally. Their fragrances are guaranteed home runs for Mother's Day gifts (and if you order $100 or more you get a free geranium hand treatment gift, use code MOTHERSDAY). MALIN+GOETZ

What all these gift suggestions have in common is that they are of quality, unique, well thought out and give back to the community. Show your mother that you think the world of her this mother's day!

Natalie Rivera

Ethical Shopping for Black Friday

It's here, Black Friday. That day of the year that jump starts holiday shopping with cut throat sales on brands across the board. 

Whether you plan to shop at a Brick and Mortar shop or go online, The Local Artisan Guide has made some suggestions to highlight some of the many brands that now focus on ethical and sustainable products that you should know about.

BRACKISH BOW TIES  is a Bow Tie brand made in Charleston, SC.  No dyes are used, giving each tie a unique coloring. The feathers are all-natural and sustainably sourced. Each tie arrives in a hand-branded, pine gift box. including a list of the feathers used and instructions on how to care for your tie.  www.brackishbowties.com

BRACKISH BOW TIES is a Bow Tie brand made in Charleston, SC.  No dyes are used, giving each tie a unique coloring. The feathers are all-natural and sustainably sourced. Each tie arrives in a hand-branded, pine gift box. including a list of the feathers used and instructions on how to care for your tie. www.brackishbowties.com

ROTHY'S  is a San Francisco brand that created a women’s flat with low-waste, low-impact materials, hand-assembled for high quality and durability. The flats fit true-to-size and have a removable insole and 3D knit upper for seamless comfort. Machine-washable in cold, gentle cycle; air dry only.  When you finally are ready to replace them simply send them to their Rothy’s recycling facility and help close the loop in making our planet a better place.    www.rothys.com

ROTHY'S is a San Francisco brand that created a women’s flat with low-waste, low-impact materials, hand-assembled for high quality and durability. The flats fit true-to-size and have a removable insole and 3D knit upper for seamless comfort. Machine-washable in cold, gentle cycle; air dry only.  When you finally are ready to replace them simply send them to their Rothy’s recycling facility and help close the loop in making our planet a better place.   www.rothys.com

ANITA DONGRE GRASSROOT  is a sustainable luxury brand born to revive, sustain and empower India's crafts and artisans. The brand translates village art into design for the globetrotting woman, and showcase the handcrafted traditions of India in contemporary tales. Grassroot works with rural artisans to create local employment opportunities, empowering every village to become a self-sustaining unit.   www.anitadongregrassroot.com

ANITA DONGRE GRASSROOT is a sustainable luxury brand born to revive, sustain and empower India's crafts and artisans. The brand translates village art into design for the globetrotting woman, and showcase the handcrafted traditions of India in contemporary tales. Grassroot works with rural artisans to create local employment opportunities, empowering every village to become a self-sustaining unit.  www.anitadongregrassroot.com

PATENT OF THE HEART  is a handbag and small leather goods brand made in Turkey. Designer Elif Akaydin has artisans create her sophisticated collection made with the finest European leathers and materials. Patent of Heart assures you every bag purchased is not only made with high-quality craftsmanship, but with a strong sense of functionality and style. A portion of profits helps contribute to worthy cause especially helpings young girls attain an education.   www.patentoftheheart.com

PATENT OF THE HEART is a handbag and small leather goods brand made in Turkey. Designer Elif Akaydin has artisans create her sophisticated collection made with the finest European leathers and materials. Patent of Heart assures you every bag purchased is not only made with high-quality craftsmanship, but with a strong sense of functionality and style. A portion of profits helps contribute to worthy cause especially helpings young girls attain an education.  www.patentoftheheart.com

JOE GROOMING  was established in 2002 with a goal to create a natural and organic line of hair products formulated to meet their core objective. By lowering surfactant levels in their shampoos, adding soothing, moisturizing extracts to both cleansing and styling products, and fragrancing with essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances, they have taken the first steps toward achieving this goal.  Extra benefit is for every order of a Joe Grooming product, they donate a bar of Joe Grooming soap to a resident of homeless shelters across the USA.  www.joegrooming.biz

JOE GROOMING was established in 2002 with a goal to create a natural and organic line of hair products formulated to meet their core objective. By lowering surfactant levels in their shampoos, adding soothing, moisturizing extracts to both cleansing and styling products, and fragrancing with essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances, they have taken the first steps toward achieving this goal.  Extra benefit is for every order of a Joe Grooming product, they donate a bar of Joe Grooming soap to a resident of homeless shelters across the USA. www.joegrooming.biz

EDUN  is a sustainable high end fashion apparel and accessories brand that makes all its products in Africa from artisans using fair trade methods and guidelines.  www.edun.com

EDUN is a sustainable high end fashion apparel and accessories brand that makes all its products in Africa from artisans using fair trade methods and guidelines. www.edun.com

APOLIS  is a fashion lifestyle brand founded on the simple idea that people can live better lives when they are given equal access to the global marketplace. Apolis is a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide.  www.apolisglobal.com

APOLIS is a fashion lifestyle brand founded on the simple idea that people can live better lives when they are given equal access to the global marketplace. Apolis is a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide. www.apolisglobal.com

Black Friday doesn't have to be a consumer nightmare, it can be a practice in conscious shopping. Don't forget to check out your local brick and mortar shops for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, you'll be amazed at the wonderful Black Friday sales and products you will find.

By Natalie Rivera

Ethical and Affordable Diamonds

A few weeks ago I was attending a lecture at the National Arts Club in New York City as they frequently feature talks on fashion related to a book with a particular topic and the author present to discuss and answer any questions.

This particular week they had Aja Raden, a Beverly Hills gemologist, jewelry designer and author who was discussing her New York Times Best Seller, “Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession and How Desire Shapes the World”.

stonedbook.jpg

That evening Ms. Raden displayed her incredible talent for story-telling as she kept her audience captivated while revealing secrets of the jewelry trade. She related true stories and amazing facts about jewelry throughout the ages. I highly recommend the book, it is a fascinating read for both men and women especially if you enjoy history, politics and stories of scandals.

Aja Raden, author of "Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession and How Desire Shapes the World”.

Aja Raden, author of "Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession and How Desire Shapes the World”.

After the lecture I knew I had a blog topic for The Local Artisan Guide as she discussed in detail the diamond trade and all the myths and marketing secrets we have come to accept from this controversial industry.

Years ago a friend of mine who specializes in high end commodities had related to me in passing that diamonds were actually very common and not at all rare. He told me diamonds are hoarded by monopolies and that in reality they really are worth in the area of $300 a carat. He warned me not to waste my money on them should I ever be in market for a diamond. I believed him as he is at the top of his field, however I had no interest in buying high end jewelry for myself and was not looking to become engaged anytime soon so I never really thought about the topic again.

Ms. Raden confirmed my friend’s statement about the false myth of diamonds being a rarity and explained how giant monopolies such as De Beers not only horde diamonds, but through the art of advertising portray to the world a narrative that diamonds are rare stones and hard to find. 

Diamond engagement rings designed by Aja Raden.

Diamond engagement rings designed by Aja Raden.

De Beers used marketing to create and manipulate demand for diamonds from nothing. Many in advertising and marketing point to De Beers as the original creators of modern day marketing and advertising because of this very feat. It all began in 1870 when huge sources of diamonds deposits were found in the mines of South Africa. Before 1870 diamonds were a rare stone that usually found its way only to the aristocracy and the moneyed classes. British financiers purposely made up a plan in 1888 to make sure the diamond market would not be saturated and this included, 1.) creating De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. to stockpile diamonds and control the price per carat and 2.) create demand for diamonds though advertising and marketing.

Eventually due to both World War I and World War II many fortunes of European family dynasties and monarchies were lost forever, which meant no demand and no one to sell diamonds to. De Beers decided that they would create a marketing campaign in which every family should want and desire a diamond, thus the creation of the diamond engagement ring was born. Although the concept of an engagement ring had been around since Medieval times, diamonds were rarely used as the stone of choice for the ring. Since the United States was one of the few countries during both world wars that did not lose a vast majority of their wealth De Beers focused on the US as their audience and main source of consumers.

Queen Elizabeth II's  Diamond Diadem. Diamonds were used for royal jewelry, crowns and tiaras before large sources were located in South Africa.

Queen Elizabeth II's  Diamond Diadem. Diamonds were used for royal jewelry, crowns and tiaras before large sources were located in South Africa.

Before the world wars the US had little interest in diamonds especially regarding to as an engagement ring. De Beers hired Philadelphia ad agency N.W. Ayer in 1938 to research using marketing and find out what Americans thought about diamonds. They found Americans thought back then diamonds were only for the very rich. N.W. Ayer had to figure out how to convince an American, especially in tough economic times that they needed to have a diamond. What they found was that if the diamond was tied to a emotional purchase such as love and marriage, the diamond would not only be purchased but never resold (another important goal for the diamond industry). That is how the diamond engagement ring was created in the United States.

Creator of modern marketing and advertising N.W. Ayers.

Creator of modern marketing and advertising N.W. Ayers.

N.W. Ayers cleverly instituted a marketing scheme that involved using that relativity new industry, Hollywood. At the time they had big celebrities of the day wearing diamonds and showing off their diamond engagement rings. The agency had the narrative of diamonds and diamond engagement rings written into movie scripts, radio, the press and fashion magazines. They never mentioned De Beers, they just mentioned the idea of the diamond engagement ring (it didn’t matter to De Beers since in the end they would be supplying the stone).

Hollywood was an important medium in spreading the word that diamonds are a girls's best friend. Here are four major Hollywood stars that are synonymous with diamonds. Clockwise Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe.

Hollywood was an important medium in spreading the word that diamonds are a girls's best friend. Here are four major Hollywood stars that are synonymous with diamonds. Clockwise Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe.

N.W. Ayers then started instructing how to buy a diamond making sure the general public was aware of cut, clarity and color but most importantly N.W. Ayers instituted how much a young man should spend on a diamond and gave a formula to the consumers; the diamond industry advised you should spend at least three months of your salary for the diamond engagement ring to give to your intended.

The end result of N.W. Ayer's ad campaign, the diamond engagement ring.

The end result of N.W. Ayer's ad campaign, the diamond engagement ring.

Then the slogan to end all slogans was created for the diamond industry, “A diamond is forever” and since then Americans and now countries around the world have bought into De Beers very successful and long running ad campaign on how every marriage proposal should include a diamond engagement ring. By developing this concept which is just about only 80 years old, De Beers managed to created value over nothing.

One of the best known advertising slogans, "A Diamond is Forever".

One of the best known advertising slogans, "A Diamond is Forever".

When Ms. Raden explained this to us, I could hear some of the gentlemen in the audience start to rumble. The man sitting behind me mumbled to his wife, “Well that is 80k down the drain.” as she tried to shush him. Today when you purchase your diamond, as soon as you exit the store it loses immediately half of its value, then it only goes down from there. So if you are spending 80k on a diamond, you lose 40k as soon as you leave the shop. Most people pride themselves in being financially savvy in their investments, in any other circumstance we would step away from such a lost of income, however the audience for a diamond seems to be unaware of their hard earned money lost forever.

Ms. Raden then displayed slides of the chemical compound that makes up diamonds. The chemical compound of a diamond is C which stands for carbon. Graphite and soot also share this chemical compound. What makes a diamond different from graphite and soot? Its called an “allotrope” which means it is a form of an element that has different physical properties (eg. color, crystal shape, hardness, melting points,  boiling points, etc.) due to different arrangements of atoms or molecules within the structure. So though diamonds share the same chemical compound, the only difference between diamonds, graphite and soot is how the C is arranged. While diamonds are one of the hardest substances on earth, graphite and soot are of course a much softer substance. 

The only difference molecular wise between diamonds and graphite is the molecular structure.

The only difference molecular wise between diamonds and graphite is the molecular structure.

Ms. Raden also informed us that once a diamond is mined it starts to “soften up.” Of course this takes many decades but eventually you can expect your diamond to start chipping away, perhaps not in your life time but don’t expect your great, great grandchildren to inherit a diamond that cannot be damaged. 

Ms. Raden advised the audience if they were seeking to purchase a diamond that she would recommend that they either 1.) get it from a pawn shop as there are many diamonds in good condition available for a small fraction of the price they were originally purchased at. 2.) purchase a diamond grown in a lab.

A great place to find recycled jewelry at a great price is in a pawn shop.

A great place to find recycled jewelry at a great price is in a pawn shop.

Ms. Raden as I mentioned earlier is a gemologist. She related that not only is the lab grown diamond equal to a mined diamond, a seasoned jeweler cannot tell the difference between a lab grown diamond and a mined diamond. They would need special tools in which to determine the light ranges in each particular diamond (using these tools requires a hefty price in the first place). Most lab grown diamonds have “lab grown” lasered on in the bottom. They are not of the family of cubic zirconia they are the same chemical compounds and chemical arrangement as mined diamonds. They are not fake.

Lab grown diamonds obviously jeopardize the diamond industry and the sense of rarity they have worked hard for the general public to believe. De Beers, diamond jewelers and others that rely on mined diamonds will try their best to dissuade the public from purchasing lab grown diamonds by out and out lies and deception. That is to be expected as it is a multi-billion dollar business. They will tell you that mined diamonds are “rare” and lab grown diamonds are “fake” both false statements.

In the last few decades a few jewelry brands have been marketing a “conflict free diamond” meaning that it is not a blood diamond as the diamond trade is one of the most conflict-filled industries in the world with blood, greed, enslavement, corruption and pollution on its hands. In order to distance themselves from this negative press, many brands have stated their diamonds are conflict-free which means they have followed “The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme”. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was developed by the UN and outlines the regulations and requirements countries must follow to make sure a diamond is mined and shipped in a humane, legitimate way. Diamonds that meet these regulations are shipped with a Kimberley Process certificate. When you buy a conflict-free diamond, the jeweler should be able to provide this certificate -- if they can't, you should be wary of the stone's origin. Brilliant Earth is a highly recommended brand with high ethical standards for mined diamonds.

The original mine in South Africa where large deposits of diamonds were found and are still mined, Kimberly Mine.

The original mine in South Africa where large deposits of diamonds were found and are still mined, Kimberly Mine.

However as you can surmise a conflict-free mined diamond is still a mined diamond. Mining always brings devastation to an environment no matter what the substance being mined for. So the question is if you can buy a diamond that does not harm the environment, is of excellent quality and has a significantly lower price point than a traditionally mined diamond (forgot to tell you that little fact), shouldn’t that be the logical choice?

Instead of spending 10k on a diamond, you can spend 2k for the same stone, save the rest of your money for your honeymoon, new home, children, travel, a rainy day, etc. No one would know the difference. You would just have to release your mind from a sales narrative created 80 somewhat years ago that we all have fallen for.

When I started to research brands that offer lab grown diamonds I was impressed not only by the product and the ridiculous savings in cost, but that they run their businesses in a transparent and ethical manner you see missing from the diamond industry (actually most industries). 

Diamond Nexus is such a company. Diamond Nexus houses their facilities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is proud to offer a product made in American paying their workers fair living wages. They hired old-school master goldsmiths and jewelry-making artisans who believed in quality and make the jewelry right there in their workshops. The company prides itself on its customer service and their customer ratings are quite positive. Best of all they pass on the savings of having a lab grown diamond to you the consumer.

Just one of the many diamond engagement ring designs at Diamond Nexus.

Just one of the many diamond engagement ring designs at Diamond Nexus.

One other benefit of lab grown diamonds is that they can be used in industry for tools in a manner that passes on the low cost of the diamond to the customer. The fact that the environment will not be harmed is a mere bonus as lab grown diamonds have a drastically lower rate of carbon emissions.

Lab grown diamonds.

Lab grown diamonds.

Ms. Raden will be coming out with two addition books for an overall jewelry trilogy (“Hammered” and “Rocked”). She had the courage to reveal the dirty secrets from her field and to give a ethical, conflict-free solution to purchasing jewelry, especially diamonds. She has given the customer the ability of not only purchasing stones in a knowledgeable, ethical manner but also saving themselves a substantial amount of money by not buying into a false narrative propagated by a corrupt and gluttonous industry.

 

By Natalie Rivera

 

Sustainable Fashion Brands to Watch

 

With Trump announcing to the world that he is pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, an immediate reaction reverberated around the globe of disbelief and incredulity that the United States who has for decades been on the forefront of innovation, science and industry has abandoned its leadership role due to the politics of a man trolling the planet. 

Some people just want to set the world on fire (with polluted coal).

Luckily the vast majority of countries (and to the contrary the United States) are not dying dinosaurs and have a desire to be on the path to sustainability knowing that it is the future. Cities, governments, corporations, farmers, communities and small businesses have been finding ways to make our future more sustainable and eco-friendly and will continue to do so regardless of Trump’s proclamations.

There are some large retailers known for their eco-friendly stance such as Patagonia, Burton’s and Eileen Fisher. Adidas and Stella McCartney just announced they were debuting collections made from recyclable plastics from the ocean, however there are many smaller and lesser known brands built on their dedication to sustainable fashion. Being aware and shopping these brands will help the planet so The Local Artisan Guide is highlighting four brands in the fashion world that go above and beyond for sustainability and accountability while also creating a stylish, well made product.

Rothy’s

Rothy’s is a footwear brand that creates stylish, sustainable flats for women out of recyclable water bottles. Rothy’s has figured out how recycled plastic water bottles can be transformed into a comfortable knitted shoe that fits like a glove and is soft like a sock. Founded by Stephen Hawthornewaite and Roth Martin (two industry outsiders) and based in San Francisco, their goals was to "Create an alternative, versatile shoe: one with the ease of a sneaker but with the polish of a feminine flat. And do it with low-waste, low-impact materials, hand-assembled for high quality and durability.”

Rothy's

Rothy's

Rothy’s shoes are almost like glorified socks as you can wear them, walk in them, spend all day in them then throw your Rothy's in the wash (cold water, gentle cycle, gentle detergent), and let them air dry. They come in an array of colors, patterns and toe shapes (only flats though) and share such qualities as: recyclable, an earth friendly carbon free rubber soul, recycled water bottle construction, washable quick dry technology, flexible sole and upper, blister-free seamless knit, lightweight all day wearability, moisture wicking all weather comfort, reusable packaging plus when you feel they are at the end of their wear you can send them back to Rothy’s to be recycled at their recycling facility.

Rothy's

Rothy's

Rothy’s basically seek to make a comfortable product with the least amount of carbon footprint possible yet still be fashionable and stylish with the feel of luxury. 

Rothy's

Rothy's

Matt & Nat

The name of this vegan brand from Montreal may sound like two friends named Matthew and Natalie (or Nathaniel) getting together and deciding to start a sustainable footwear and handbag brand (that’s what I thought). However Matt & Nat stands for MAT(T)erial and NATure meaning to explore the synergy between the two, the reflection of one on the other.

Matt & Nat

Matt & Nat

Established in 1995, Matt and Nat was created with the idea from the start to not use leather or any other animal-based materials or products in their designs. With every passing year they have continued to explore new innovative ways to remain sustainable and eco-friendly. This includes experimenting with different recycled materials such as recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork. Since 2007, they have been committed to using linings only made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles. Matt & Nat have also recently introduced recycled bicycle tires to their collections.

Matt & Nat

Matt & Nat

Matt & Nat have also adopted a very eco-friendly production and work environment. Their factories operates by the SA8000 standard and their goals are to make this standard a bigger part of their production going forward. The factories are socially compliant and the brand makes an effort to keep to PU (polyurethane) instead of PVC as PVC is much more harmful to the environment. Not only are Matt & Nat's customers getting the cutting edge of ethical and eco-friendly fashion. Their materials are consistently improved and updated with composites that are less harmful for flora and fauna.

Matt & Nat

Matt & Nat

At the office in Montreal, Canada they have made it a ‘cruelty free’ zone with monthly staff celebrations of vegetarian potlucks and vegan cupcakes. They encourage community volunteering for their employees and would like you to upcycle any Matt & Nat product when possible. 

However the most impressive feat that Matt & Nat offer is their design aesthetic which will have you not missing leather goods at all. The brand offers handbags, footwear, wallets, small vegan goods and men’s bags. They manage to cover all the latest styles, trends, colors all while putting out their own unique form. 

ECOALF

ECOALF is an outerwear lifestyle brand for men and women founded by Javier Goyeneche in 2012 after years of frustration with witnessing the excessive use of the planet’s natural resources and the amount of waste produced by industries around the world.

ECOALF

ECOALF

Absolved to create a fashion brand that is truly sustainable ECOALF states “Our goal is to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products. That way we show there is no need to use our world’s natural resources in a careless way”.

ECOALF uses a few key materials while producing their products: recycled water bottles are crushed into plastic flakes which then are processed and spun into a rough polyester and then fashioned into a yarn for the fabrics, straps, laces, etc. ECOALF has used up to 70 million recycled water bottles in their production thus far. 

ECOALF

ECOALF

Recycled cottons and recycled wools save water as 1kg of convention cotton needs 2500 liters of water. ECOALF uses the recycled cottons and wools in their outerwear, accessories and knits.

ECOALF also uses recycled fishing nets which are transformed into a fiber used for the swimwear. Used tires are compressed into a material for flip flops, and used coffee grinds are spun into a thread that produces a water repellant fabric used for jackets.

Their store is not only designed to maintain sustainable eco-friendly standards but stands as a place for the community to meet for conferences, exhibitions, screenings, etc. all within ECOALF philosophy. 

ECOALF's Madrid store.

ECOALF's Madrid store.

ECOALF also has started a foundation, The ECOALF Foundation is a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to promote the selective recovery, recycling and revaluing of waste in order to prevent its adverse impact on the environment. This is achieved through the development and application of new scientific and technological advancements – especially with regard to plastic waste products that are found in the marine environment.

For all that ECOALF strives to provide as a sustainable fashion brand, they know if you design outerwear, apparel, bags, shoes, swimwear and flip-flops that its all a waste of time and materials if you produce a product no one finds stylish enough to wear. ECOALF proves you do not have to have a hippie sensibility for sustainable fashion as they create cutting edge fashion with an aesthetic that leans to minimal chic and fashion forward. The brand is growing and starting to do projects outside of Madrid however their online store means ECOALF is available worldwide for those looking to expand their sustainable fashion closet.

BOTTLETOP

The Bottletop Fashion Company is a handbag and accessories brand that sprung from the Bottletop Foundation which was founded by Cameron Saul and his father Roger (Founder of British luxury fashion brand Mulberry) through a design collaboration with Mulberry. From the foundation came a handbag made from recycled bottle tops in Africa that was lined with Mulberry leather in Europe. The bag created a lot of buzz and generated local employment and raising funds for grass roots education projects in Africa.

Bottletop

Bottletop

This bag was followed by another bag designed by Bottletop’s Co-Director Oliver Wayman who discovered the "Bellani", a stunning silver chain mail bag with a distinctly 1970’s feel in Brazil. With the lightweight material, the bag consisted of upcycled aluminium ring pulls held together by crotchet. The bag is made by artisans in Brazil and has lead to the Bottletop Fashion Company being established in 2012 to create a brand that funds the operation of the Bottletop Foundation, which uses contemporary art and music to raise funds and awareness for education projects that tackle delicate teenage health issues such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. The Bottletop Foundation supports young people in Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Brazil and the UK.

Bottletop's "Bellani Mini" made from upcycled Aluminum ring pulls.

Bottletop's "Bellani Mini" made from upcycled Aluminum ring pulls.

As a foundation they frequently collaborate with other well known brands such as Narcisco Rodriguez and Idris Khan. The design and quality by Bottletop are a work of art for the craftsman and consumer alike. Their philosophy is “Blending design with technique across cultures, Bottletop creates collections that celebrate true craftsmanship. A timeless ‘created by hand’ aesthetic. The creation of Bottletop products not only enhance the techniques of some of the most highly skilled artisans from around the world but our training programs enable others to join them, supporting themselves and their families in the process”.

One of Bottletop's many artisan workers.

One of Bottletop's many artisan workers.

The brand offers handbags, travel bags, backpacks, clutches, accessories, etc. The aesthetic looks and feels luxurious and contemporary even with the aluminum rings pulls. When you chose a Bottletop bag you are not only purchasing a piece of artisan craftsmanship, you are helping the environment by choosing recyclable materials and contributing to a foundation that helps disadvantaged youths with their community and health.

These are four good brands to start your sustainable fashion closet. Larger brands are starting to take notice of the big, innovative ideas these smaller brands are contributing to the world and proving sustainable fashion is not only a real possibility but a stylish option that benefits all.

By Natalie Rivera

 

Who Made My Clothes

In our modern day, first world society we as a post-industrial population are so removed from the sources of our most basic needs that we have become completely not capable of surviving on our own. In the last few years many documentaries and books have come out detailing where our foods come from and the eye opening often scary journey to our table. Now the same movement is occurring in fashion in which many are shining a light on where and who makes our clothing, shoes and accessories. 

#whomademyclothes

#whomademyclothes

 

As a former production manager for retail fashion, I’ve traveled all over the world visiting the factories where the product I was overseeing was being manufactured. I was fortunate to work for companies that were socially compliant however that did not erase my thoughts on how the lifestyle of the workers half a world away from me went about their six day work week and their day to day life. It usually involved living far from home in small dorms, long days mostly standing on their feet working on machinery, doing tedious, receptive work for low wages, little time off and not much room for growth. It takes a special mindset to do this work and most U.S. citizens would not find this attractive for the same reason why the United States has trouble finding U.S. citizens to harvest our crops (a job usually reserved for migrant workers brave enough to risk getting deported).

Factory workers in China.

Factory workers in China.

When Donald Trump says he will bring back the jobs to the United States, it is already too late for most industries as automation is the future. With fashion it would involved building a new infrastructure, purchasing expensive, complicated machinery, training and keeping a staff that would have to be competitive with the rest of the world and the low cost employment they provide. That shirt you pay $20 for would now be $80. In our fast food culture we have become used to a fast fashion business model for the past decades changing the purchasing patterns of fashion that our parents and grandparents did not have access to.

 

In honor of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where 1,138 people were killed and many more injured on 24th April 2013, Fashion Revolutionary Week has been created with the hashtag #whomademyclothes to put a spotlight on the individual life of factory workers around the world and humanize your shopping experience. 

 

Emergency workers rescuing survivors from the Rana Plaza factory collapse April 24th, 2013.

Emergency workers rescuing survivors from the Rana Plaza factory collapse April 24th, 2013.

“Who Made My Clothes” encourages people worldwide to demand greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion supply chain. Fashion Revolution seeks to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to change the way fashion is sourced, produced and purchased so what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way. More information on this organization can be found at www.fashionrevolution.org.

The Local Artisan Guide has been spotlighting local artisans, independent designers and small brands who provide a “Slow Fashion” experience, meaning they create a product that is meant to last not only your lifetime but hopefully for many generations to come. When you purchase from a local artisan you know who created your items and can rest assured knowing you are not contributing to a sweatshop environment where exploitation, safety issues, child labor and extremely low wages are a part of the factory’s worker daily life. 

 

                                 Artisan block printer working on John Robshaw Textiles

So next time you are about to purchase an item ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Would I wear/use this item multiple times a month?
  2. Who made this particular item?
  3. Is it made well and are the materials biodegradable? 
  4. What country did it originate from? Is it a fair trade and ethical source?
  5. Does this brand have transparency in their sourcing and production?

Our society is now dealing with the growing problem of land fills being overrun with clothing that is not decomposing as brands such as H&M, Zara, Gap Inc., etc. are creating products not made well enough to last with synthetic materials and fabrics that do not decompose. These remnants of fast fashion are the new “disposable diapers” of the 21st century and you can help by being a more conscious shopper whether by shopping brands that are more sustainable, upcycling your clothes, shopping for vintage pieces and keeping yourself just as informed as you would for your food. In the end it isn’t only you and factory workers who would benefit from shopping more ethically but everyone else and our planet.

So join us in using the hashtag #whomademyclothes when reviewing brands on social media to help create a safer, transparent and more sustainable environment for all.

By Natalie Rivera