inclusivity or bust: why sustainable fashion needs to do more than donate to counter racial injustice

If sustainability had a relationship status, it would read “It’s complicated”. This is because, like many social and political movements, sustainability is anything but linear. It’s robust, complex, and hugely interconnected. When you take a good look, you’re able to see sustainability is not just about using metal straws and reducing waste. To be truly effective, sustainability also must take into account social & economic equality, human rights, accessibility, feminism, and so many more critical elements. So to try to oversimplify sustainability by greenwashing or for the purposes of cutting costs is to undermine all its other essential elements. 

The idea for this blog post actually started with me wanting to share some of my favorite ethical brands. But, after deep-diving into their Linkedin pages and social media, I walked away feeling…discouraged. In response to the current social unrest, many ethical brands have made donations and apologized for their roles in whitewashing the sustainability movement. On the surface, this is good. It’s important for brands to take accountability and for consumers to understand that meaningful change takes time. But, after seeing these brands’ current teams—almost all were completely or majority-white—as well as other glaring holes in their sustainability frameworks, I’m thinking—how can sustainable fashion be accessible & representative when the brands within the industry are currently anything but? 

The bottom line—donating isn’t enough. It’s a good thing to do but it’s not a means to an end in and of itself. So, what do ethical brands need to be doing to create lasting and meaningful change inside and outside of their organizations? Below are the thoughts I have. All require patience from customers, employees, community, and may at first be uncomfortable or even feel counterproductive. But with time, taking the following steps will set a higher standard in the fashion industry and move brands closer towards a truly ethical & sustainable future. 

THOUGHTFUL HIRING   

One of the best ways to judge whether a company is dedicated to a sustainable future is to look at its employees. Is the brand’s team representative of both the professional experience and diverse perspectives necessary to make educated & inclusive business decisions? In order to be profitable and sustainable, brands need a mix of social and business thinkers. The socially-minded thinkers are people equipped to handle community aspects of a brand. These individuals are able to do everything from communicating a brand’s sustainability model to responding to negative social media attention. On the other side, you have business thinkers. These people are responsible for the structure and development of a brand. Because of which, this group tends to be more focused on operations, sourcing, and design processes. 

So why do we need both groups? Let’s look at Reformation for an example. It’s very clear by both their response to accusations of racism and the testimony of Black employees that the brand’s internal structure was in total imbalance. Yes, they may tout sustainable materials and gorgeous designs—the job of business thinkers—but while that part of their business has thrived, their internal and external communities have suffered greatly. 

Although there’s no recipe for a perfect business model, having a representative and professionally diverse team sets ethical brands up to be responsive to business needs and social environments. Brands that embrace differing opinions and encourage critical thought can anticipate their blindspots before someone else does. Whatsmore, with a majority of young consumers feeling, “a strong affiliation to retailers that subscribe to a larger purpose” companies that demonstrate an authentic dedication to social and environmental sustainability stand to win big with their audiences. 

INTENTIONAL SOURCING 

Whether a brand designs and produces its own products or outsources to vendors, social sustainability should be part of both processes. A recent Vogue article followed Renewal Workshop and Parsons design students as they met the suppliers behind some popular ethical brands. The article exposed how rare—yet beneficial—close working relationships between brands and their suppliers are. On the part of suppliers, being able to closely communicate with a brand usually means better wages and safer working conditions. And for the brands, this type of relationship allows for more accurate timelines and less opportunity for error. The article found that taking the time to visit and get to know suppliers can help ethical brands choose “mutually respectful partnership(s)” that align with sustainability goals. More relevantly, this atypical proximity can also help prevent situations as we’ve seen during the global pandemic, where brands pull out of their contracts, leaving suppliers to pick up the bill. 

Brands that create their own products and partner with outside vendors, such as Lisa Says Gah, also have a role to play. These brands, now more than ever, need to welcome POC and Black-owned comapnies to the industry and act as their business allies. There’s no lack of talent out there—Selva Negra, Míe, and AAKS are just a few of the brands that come to mind—and it’s the responsibility of larger ethical brands to practice what they preach on social media.

REFORM SUSTAINABILITY GUIDELINES 

Good on You. BCorp Certified. Fairtrade. Even if you don’t work in sustainable fashion, you’ve probably heard of at least one of these certification organizations. At a glance, the industry standardizations these organizations create are great. They give brands a simple way to distinguish themselves from fast fashion and benefit financially from their missions. But like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, simplification can actually prove very harmful in the context of sustainability. Searching for words like “diversity” and “inclusive” on a few of these organizations’ pages generated slim to no results, which tells us that certifications are missing critical aspects of sustainability. After seeing these sobering gaps for myself, it wasn’t hard to understand why sustainable fashion is currently a mostly white and wealthy community. 

If ethical brands are going to change, they’ll need external guidance. Perhaps this means bringing in third-party consultants for a temporary solution. But long term, the guidelines of sustainability and what is expected from “ethical” brands needs to change. In order for brands to be better, certification groups will first have to make their teams representative enough to prevent blind spots and constantly be reevaluating their processes to make their guidelines more holistic.  

INCLUSIVE SIZING 

Well, this could be its own article, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Here’s what you need to know: 67% of US women are a size 14 or higher. Yet most fashion brands—ethical or not—stop their sizing at an XL or size 12. This shortsightedness is not only discriminatory, it’s also downright dumb. The “Plus” size market is valued at $20.4 billion and counting. And yet, brands still refuse to respond, sighting added costs and design challenges. Meanwhile, brands that have started to extend their sizing, such as Reformation, treat the category like an afterthought, introducing only limited styles and restocking them far less often than smaller sizes. As if the high price of ethical fashion wasn’t enough, people who fall into that extended size category have quite literally been pushed out of the sustainable fashion movement.

So what can brands do? A year or so ago, body positive blogger, Marielle Elizabeth, created a Size Inclusive Survey for brands to use to better understand the desire for ethical, size-inclusive fashion. Brands can use these kinds of guides to better understand the limitations of their current sizing. Or they can collect their own data and use it to expand sizing in a personalized and profitable way. Brands can also look into changing their design processes to make garments easier to alter or restructure their business model to be accommodating to size changes, like Universal Standard has done. Internally too, companies can be more intentional about selecting job candidates who express a first-hand understanding of size and other types of physical exclusions. 

PAID INTERNSHIPS & APPRENTICESHIPS 

No one should be expected to work for free. No one. This whole “pay your dues” mentality that generations still hang their hats on is outdated and out of touch with reality. As someone who interned for free twice in college, I can tell you I could not have done it without the financial support of my parents. And that privilege does not make me any more qualified than someone who cannot afford to make that same decision. 

Compensating interns and apprentices is a great way to open an ethical brand up to students or individuals who may not have even explored the position if it were unpaid. Not only does compensating attract a larger candidate pool, but it also has the potential to bring in talent that brands would otherwise have to spend time and money pursuing. 

These are just a few of my thoughts—I know, I have a lot of them. But I’m interested to know what your reactions are. What areas do you think ethical brands are falling short in? Do you think it’s reasonable to expect these types of changes from even very small ethical brands? Let me know in the comments.  

ethical summer shopping guide ft. Black and POC owned brands

Summer is the season of dresses, sandals, and surf-ready suits. And retailers loooove to take advantage of your desire to hit the beach or bar in new garments. Just like advertisers market back-to-school as a chance for reinvention and new beginnings, come summer, adults are hit with the same kind of self-improvement rhetoric. Not only is this all a ploy to get you to buy, its also another opportunity for brands to profit off of our own insecurities. If you really think about it, the whole notion of “bikini bodies” and tan lines are ideas that only exist through the belief that we are not good enough as is, that the other nine months of the year, we’re just ‘ok’. And the more we buy into that wholly unsustainable perception of self, the further we reinforce it. 

So this summer, rather than filling your drawers with cheap swimsuits and sling-backs, I suggest you make purchases that enhance your everyday wardrobe and self-image. In the spirit of pride and self-love, the pieces I am sharing below are entirely sourced from Black and POC founded slow fashion brands. While I have tried to pick out some of the ‘cheaper’ items, many of these garnmets are what I would consider ‘investment pieces’. While you browse, I urge you to look beyond the price tags and acknowledge the social and environmental impact your dollar can have when you buy intentionally from a brand that embodies your values. If it’s financially feasible, supporting Black and POC owned clothing companies is a very tangible way to refuse fast fashion and redistribute the wealth within this industry. 

Sueno Jumpsuit by Selva Negra 

Un sueno indeed. I’m in love with this jumpsuit. Its delicate ruffles and perfectly oversized style would be ideal for a rooftop bar—but equally as welcome in any WFH situation. The jumpsuit is made of 100% linen (a natural fiber) and deadstock fabric (material that would otherwise have been thrown away). 

Selva Negra is a 100% POC owned and operated brand. The founders, Kristen Gonzalez and Sam Romero, studied fashion in NYC before going on to co-found their brand. Although their website doesn’t offer detailed information regarding their sourcing and manufacturing processes, they do use mostly natural fibers and recycle fabrics that would otherwise have been disposed of. The company has also committed to offering more size-inclusive garments, limitsing the use of plastic in their offices, and claims to support organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Wildlife Conservation. 

Tencel Bralette by Proclaim 

‘Nude’ is not one color, okay? Got it? Good. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk Proclaim. If you’re like me, you’re always on the search for a better bra. One that fits every curve and line and makes you feel sexy all at the same time. Proclaim was started by Shobha Philips after a lifetime of having her skin color be ignored by the lingerie industry. In response, Shobha created her inclusively nude line of undergarments and a brand that embraces real women’s forms.  

This bralette, like all of Proclaim’s products, is made mostly from Tencel, a soft, naturally derived fiber created from wood pulp. I love the deep V cut of this bralette and can see it fitting perfectly under any of my summer camisoles. Yes, it’s a true basic but if you’re committed to a sustainable lifestyle and/or capsule wardrobe, a piece like this can offer a great deal of versatility and years of wear. 

California Love Long Sleeve Cotton T-shirt by Adele 

I love a good t-shirt. Tuck it. Knot it. Rock it. All about it. In my opinion, a good t-shirt is always worth the investment because it can be worn in sun, snow, rain, and sand. When you invest in a good staple, like a t-shirt, you’re more likely to circulate it through your weekly wardrobe, rather than retiring it every season for a new one.

Adele was started by its founder and namesake, Adele Jackson. Dedicated to sustainability, art, and “conscious awakening” Adele infuses all her work with a thoughtfulness you’d be hard-pressed to find at any fast-fashion brand. What’s more, 10% of all Adele’s profits are donated to organizations, such as My Friend’s Place, and Adele is committed to using materials and manufacturers that pose the least amount of negative impact to the earth.  

Tia Basket by AAKS 

I have yet to meet a woven bag I’m not instantly obsessed with. And no one does woven bags better than AAKS.

The brand was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of sharing the beautiful weaves and vibrant colors of Ghana’s longstanding artisan communities. Made from a combination of leather and palm, each bag is ethically produced and designed to last.

I love this bag, especially for its unique shape and ombre’d color treatment. The handle detailing is absolutely adorable and I know for a fact it can fit anything you’d ever need to summer in style. 

Llamoye Mule by Shekudo 

Mules, mules, mules—I will not tire of them. Crafted from cotton, goatskin, and wood, these babies are head-turners made to be showered with compliments. As for pairings, your options are wide open. I’d suggest a white flare pant or silky floor-length skirt to bring out the best in these shoes. But honestly, it’s hard to do wrong by such a versatile pair of mules. 

All of Shekudo’s shoes are handmade in Nigeria under the careful creative direction of founder, Akudo Iheakanwa. The company makes an effort to use only locally sourced materials in its products and minimizes textile waste by making each product slightly different from others, rather than identical copies. 

Contour One Piece by JADE Swim 

Beach day, anyone? Over the years, I found nothing is more empowering than finding a bathing suit that really fits you. The perfect color. A great design. But in a world of $5 bikinis, these elements can be hard to come by. That’s why I’m so excited by this JADE suit. A great one-piece, this bathing suit features sexy exposure, not to mention a range of awesome colors to choose from. Although their sizing leaves something to be desired (they only go up to an XL) JADE’s suits are highly versatile—made for a swim, yoga class, or even to be worn as a body suit on a night out. Their creator, Brittany Kozerski, comes from a fashion styling background and put a great deal of thought into the design of her suits. On top of their versatility, the suits use “shape retention technology” to sculpt the body while built-in sun protection helps maintain color, wear after wear.  

Sicily Dress by Míe

One limb in this dress and I could die a happy woman. Look at the bow along the shoulder blades. The square neck. The open back. This dress is D-I-V-I-N-E! 

Míe is a company wholly dedicated to slow and more sustainable fashion. The company is based out of Lagos, Nigeria—aka Africa’s fashion capital. Their entire resort line, while pricey, is made from natural materials and biodegradable fibers. The designs for this season feature billowing sleeves, sleek cuts, and richly dyed fabrics. Although I couldn’t personally find any information on the company’s founder, their ‘About’ page does note a commitment to continually revising their processes for the benefit of the earth and their customers. 

It’s about time we talked vintage! You can find vintage Levis on almost every secondhand online marketplace. But when you buy vintage denim from Jane Dottie, your dollar goes even further. 

Tatyana Zhane started Jane Dottie only a year ago. As the daughter of a “extremely hard working single mother”, Tatyana not only started her business with a goal of empowering consumers through the secondhand market, she’s also made lifting up other women an essential part of her business model. Jane Dottie donates a portion of every sale to organizations that support women in need and allows shoppers to leave their own suggestions for worthy causes to donate. 

how to shop second-hand online

Let’s talk shop. 

So you miss the thrift store and want to try second-hand shopping online? Great, there’s an almost unlimited market just waiting for you to dive in. But with so many options right at your fingertips, the shopping process can sometimes feel overwhelming. Unlike physical stores, online thrift stores don’t have a clear beginning and end, making it easy to miss out on hidden gems.

The following tips & tricks are designed to help you easily navigate the digital second-hand market and find more opportunities to incorporate used clothing into your wardrobe. 

WHERE TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

First, you need to know where to look. After getting acquainted with the offerings and format of each of the following apps, you’ll be able to decide where to focus your time and monaaay.

What you’ll find: Each app has its own niche. Some offer more mainstream brands, others luxury or streetwear. Get to know each app’s “vibe” and use those observations to avoid information-overload. 

Consignment vs. direct-to-seller: Consignment means the items for sale have gone through quality control & authentication. In direct-to-seller, the seller lists and manages their items independently. This process will affect the cost of what you’re buying. Consignment typically is more expensive because it’s been vetted by a third party.  

Buy, Barter, or Trade: Apps sell their products in different ways. Bartering usually gives you a better price than buying outright. And if you decide to sell on any of these apps, trading with another seller could get you a mutually beneficial deal. 

Restocks: Second-hand stores don’t follow typical inventory. That makes striking while the iron’s hot and checking back regularly critical to finding the items you’re after. 

Poshmark – The People Pleaser 

  • What you’ll find: Caters to major brands like Madewell, Everlane, Zara as well as some sustainable brands, like Eileen Fisher and Girlfriend Collective 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Barter & Trade 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Be cautious when buying designer brands. Unless you spend above $500, items aren’t authenticated by the app. Also, note that ‘boutiques’ are not always second-hand, so do your research before buying!

Depop – The Rebel with a Cause 

  • What you’ll find: Streetwear brands & vintage
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy, Trade & Barter
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Going in with some knowledge of obscure brands will help you navigate the app 

ThredUp – The Cool Mom 

  • What you’ll find: Popular mid-range brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Great for basics, but not as many interesting statement pieces 

Etsy – The Girl Who Doesn’t Wear Labels 

  • What you’ll find: Eclectic styles, hand-made clothing & vintage 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Varies by seller 
  • Wise words: Try finding sellers you like & following them to narrow down your options

Curtsy – The IT Girl 

  • What you’ll find: Trendy styles & popular brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy & Barter 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Not as many high-quality/long-lasting brands available 

The Real Real – The Luxe Lady 

  • What you’ll find: Authenticated luxury & designer brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Yes! If an item has sold, you can sign up to be notified when it’s restocked 
  • Wise words: Pricey compare to other second-hand sites 

Lovanie – The Sustainable Sister 

  • What you’ll find: Sustainable brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet
  • Wise words: The site is new & in Beta testing 

HOW TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

Unless you have incredible patience, apps are not necessarily a great place to browse. To find the right pieces, try going in with a gameplan. This will prevent you from buying things you don’t need and help you cut through the clutter. 

Brands & styles 

Go through your closet. What brands do you have the most of? Which fit you best? What styles do you wear most often? Many of these apps do not accept returns unless the item you bought is damaged. That makes it all the more important to feel confident that what you’re getting will work for you.  

Want list 

If you follow brands on IG or email, you probably have a sense of what they’re selling each season. When you spot a new item you like, copy & paste the name into any of the app(s) to see if you can find it gently used & nicely priced. You’d be surprised just how often you can find what you’re looking for. 

Search Terms 

Know the correct names of styles by doing some research beforehand and you’ll be able to weed through options more quickly. 

Size(s) 

Each of the apps lets you create a size range. To allow for some wiggle room, I recommend you set this feature to your size, slightly smaller, and slightly larger. 

Colors 

Pictures can distort colors. Always ask questions or, better yet, try to find the item on its original brand website for a more accurate portrayal. 

Read the Reviews

If a listed item is still available on its original brand’s website, read the reviews before buying. The site will have more specifics on fit and quality to help you make a better informed purchase. 

Saved Searches & Waitlists 

Some apps let you save your searches. If you’re consistently on the lookout for something, using these in-app features can save time and ensure you’re first to know if an item you want is available. 

KEYS TO SECOND-HAND SUCCESS 

Persistence 

Listings can happen at any time, so if you really want something, check in regularly.  

Know an item’s true value 

Just like you’d negotiate your salary, know what you’re buying and how much it’s really worth. What was its original price? Does it have signs of wear? How much are similar items being sold for? Factor all this in to know you’re getting a fair price. 

Shop them all 

The more apps you use, the more likely you are to know what’s available, where to get the best deal, and which app you have the most success on. 

Know your dupes

Be cautious when buying designer brands direct-from-seller. There are tons of videos out there on how to spot luxury dupes that can help you do this. If you’re looking for a fool-proof purchase, remember The Real Real and ThredUp do authenticate and perform quality checks. 

Start on Google 

If you know the name of the item you’re looking for, try searching “Item name Used” into Google’s Shopping tab. From there, you can go directly to the apps selling that specific product. 

Avoid cheap brands 

Most second-hand clothing is preloved. That makes cheap, used pieces even more likely to be pilled or damaged by the time you get them. Unless it’s a style or color you’re obsessed with, I’d say leave cheap brands in the cart. 

Like & Favorite

It’s hard to remember everything you see when browsing. Use in-app saving features to your favor. Depending on the store, you’ll be notified about sales, price drops, and if something sells.  

Okay, you’re officially ready to shop! Give these tips a shot and let me know which work best for you! 

sustainability style: my 2020 glowup

I’ve been making the transition to a low-impact lifestyle for a little over a year now. I say “transition” because so much of this process is about me forming and settling into new habits, none of which happens overnight. It’s all a work in progress and no matter what, there always seems to be some room for improvement. 

Taking into account the past year’s downfalls and successes, here are six ways I’m reevaluating my lifestyle & consumer decisions to make an even greater impact in 2020: 

No more stockpiling

The daughter of a chronically overprepared woman, I was born into a world where there was always a reserve of household supplies. Lotion, toilet paper, the same shirts in black, white and red. There was never a shortage of anything—sometimes to a fault. 

As I got older and began to pick up my own buying habits, I kept up with stockpiling. From white blouses to the perfect mascara, I was obsessed with having more than enough of everything. Unfortunately, this too often meant loading up on something I’d just end up donating or throwing out because it was no longer cool, necessary, or had passed its expiration date. Wasted money. Wasted space. Wasted resources. 

I still love being prepared—I keep a lip balm in every one of my bags for christ’s sake. But this year, I’m trying not to cross the line into over-preparation…toilet paper being the only exception. 

No fast fashion. No exceptions.  

I’m normally really good at dodging unethical brands. But, admittedly, I did make a few exceptions while traveling abroad in 2019. Figuring in the reduced shipping distance (most of Spain’s Zara garments are made in Morocco and Turkey) and timeless design, I ended up bringing back a Zara belt, jacket, dress, and shearling coat on two separate occasions. Have I worn the items? Yes, absolutely. But, let’s be honest—I know better.

Although they’re not coming from China or another country notorious for poor working conditions, there’s no way those garments were made by healthy, well-compensated Turks or Moroccans. Zara uses the same production model across its factories and buying from any store is supporting unethical practices. 

In trying to reevaluate why and where I shop in 2020, I’m cutting ties with all fast fashion brands and instead, exclusively buying from second-hand shops and ethical labels. The ‘no exceptions’ thing is going to be tough. But if I can’t say no to a piece of clothing, knowing all I do about its negative impacts and even though most of the time I can afford to find an alternative, well, let’s just say I’m not loving what that’s saying about me.  

Cutting back 

In tandem with my oath to not shop fast fashion, I’ll also be cutting back on how much I buy. My goal is to limit shopping to one or two indulgent/non-necessity (new or used) per month. This could be clothing, housewares, technology—anything I could really live without but want nonetheless. I’m hoping this change will help me to stick closely to my monthly shopping budget and consistently force me to take into account what I already own. 

No more guilty gifting

When it comes to gifting, there’s enormous pressure to buy, buy, buy. I’ve had so many experiences, both on the gifting and receiving side, where quality has been sacrificed for quantity. For my birthday this year, one of my friends didn’t know what I needed or wanted. Instead of guessing, she got me a gift card to a zero-waste store. It was perfect. I got exactly what I wanted and didn’t have any extra stuff I didn’t need lying around after. 

Whether it’s weddings, birthdays, or baby showers, I’m choosing to no longer give in to the social pressures and instead get people fewer, better quality items and/or experiences. 

Bye, bye subscription boxes 

Causebox, it’s been fun. I’ve loved trying all the new products and reading about the different brands. But after regifting up to half of each box, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it. The thing about subscription boxes is that they let you try products you wouldn’t otherwise try…which probably means you didn’t need them in the first place. I love putting on a new lotion as much as the next girl, but by making my own beauty items or buying locally, I discover new brands without using or spending more than I really need to. 

Slowing down 

Instant message. Fast food. Our culture grooms us to expect everything now, right now. The problem is, the more we speed, the less time we have to really think about what we’re doing and, more importantly, why. Just last week, I found myself on a RayBan bender. I flew through Poshmark for hours, looking for THE PERFECT PAIR. In the past (reads: even a month ago), I would have closed the deal then and there just to satisfy the hungry consumer in my head. But I just couldn’t justify it. I have perfectly fine sunglasses. I could hate the way the style looked on me and not be able to send them back. Was I feeding into brandom? Bottom line—there were just too many cons and not nearly enough pros. 

Instant gratification feels great in the moment. It’s a buzz…until it’s not. The limelight of new items seems to fade for me after just a few uses. So rather than jump at the first fish I see, this year, I’m making a concerted effort to stop. Think. Then buy. This new mindset allows time to try to find an item used or of even better quality before ever reaching for my credit card.

thrifted ootd: 1 blazer. 5 ways.

With the holidays around the corner and winter already in full swing, I am in desperate need of a new wardrobe rotation. On a recent trip to Savers, I was searching through the racks of blazers, intending to find a nice nude or black, when I found this beautiful plaid number. Still wearing all its original tags ($168!) and in perfect condition, I knew she was coming home with me. And that $20 price tag (plus 20% off) sealed the deal. 

Blazers are the peanut butter & the jelly to any capsule wardrobe. Navy, black, corduroy, silk—they come in every variety and are ready to uplift virtually any closet. But when it comes to finding the right blazer, cut is everything. As much as I love Eliane, her blazer game, or lack thereof, had me skirting the garment for years. 

But as I’ve learned, the blazer doesn’t have to be all business. It can be fun, sporty—even chic. And best of all, it plays very, very well with others. Take a look, I think you’ll see what I mean. 

Look #1 

I’m a simple girl at heart. And nothing makes me happier than a subtle color palette. So for this outfit, I made sure it was architecture, not color, that spoke the loudest. I love the way this loose, playful jumper pairs with the structure and business of the blazer. Add a little bootie action and I’m ready to go to the office or the wine bar.  

Look #2

I’m all about layers, especially during the winter. When pairing similar shades, layering helps create some dimension and prevent grout-fit situations. The pointed leather boots keep this outfit sophisticated and still oh-so-very comfortable.

Look #3

Truth is, my legs won’t see the light of day until at least May. But for the sake of this post, I’ll skip the tights and pretend like its possible to wear this outfit in 35-degree weather. The Eileen Fisher chunky knit and denim skirt are already living so well together. The blazer just steps in to frame the overall look and finish it all off with a touch of maturity. 

Look #4

There’s an undeniable love affair happening between graphic tees and blazers. Men, women, even children rock the duo and nobody can complain because you really do look put together. In hot offices, the t-shirt’s perfect for layering up and down. Plus, even though the look is fairly common, everyone brings their own unique spin to the outfit, making it a signature part of their weekly rotations.

Look #5

The thing I love most about this blazer, in particular, is just how many colors its made up of. Maybe you can’t see all of them, but this blazer has pink, blue, tan, and dark brown hues in its fabric, which makes it all the more versatile for pairing. I can’t get over how perfectly it lives with this satin skirt. The sheen of the fabric is toned down just the right amount by the tans in the blazer. And with my favorite Vans, this outfit is ready for every holiday gathering next week has in store.

sustainable holiday shopping guide—boston edition

So you waited until the very last minute to buy gifts. And I can’t say I blame you—between the impeachment trials and mercury finally getting the fuck out of retrograde, there’s been a lot going on. Unfortunately, that excuse won’t fly when your dear mother, who birthed you, realizes you’ve brought her nothing home for the holidays. 

In this kind of situation, solutions can come one of a few ways. The first is online shopping, with all the thrills of very expensive expedited shipping that still may or may not get to you on time. The second is a commercial shopping rampage…oh, except holiday shopping started weeks ago and sizes/style are few and far between.

But wait, hold on, there’s still one more way out. Buying local.

With far more curated inventory and closer proximity to their customers, small businesses are the perfect place to begin your holiday gifting. To start, quality at these stores tends to be higher than what you’d find at any commercial retailer. That means you may end up paying more per item but you’re more likely to find a gift that will be loved and lasting. As for available inventory, independent shops tend to have close relationships with their merchants/manufacturers and may be able to hook you up with out-of-stock merch or have good ideas for substitutions.

To get you shopping in the right direction, here are a few of my favorite Boston-area shops that will help you score before time runs out. 

For the Best Dressers: 

Covet Consignment Store 

391 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127 | 109 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114 | @covetboston

Great for: Luxury (Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel) and mid-scale (Zara, Free People, Madewell) labels and products including handbags, shoes, sportswear & sunglasses

Reformation Sustainable fashion 

353 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02115 | @reformation

Great for: Last-a-lifetime pieces in a wide range of styles & inclusive sizes

For the Aspiring Minimalists

Boston General Store Sustainable & Low Waste Products 

305 Harvard Street Brookline, MA 02446 | 626 High Street Dedham, MA 02026 | @bostongeneralstore

Great for: Sustainable supplies for home & on-the-go (dishware, natural beauty, refillable soaps, personal grooming) & quality leather goods, like hats & bags 

For the Health Kickers  

Cambridge Naturals Natural Products & Food  

23 White Street Cambridge MA 02140 | 92 Guest Street Boston MA 02135 | @cambridgenaturals 

Great for: Natural beauty, grooming, vitamins & supplements, bulk teas, and spa tools 

For the Athletic Types 

Heartbreak Runners Running Gear

652 Tremont St Boston, MA 02118 | 638 Commonwealth Ave Newton, MA 02459 | 294 Massachusets Ave Cambridge, MA 02139 | @heartbreakrunco

Great for: Fit gear, sneakers, specialized fitness classes & marathon preparation 

Tracksmith Luxury Sportswear

285 Newbury Street Boston, MA 02115 | @tracksmithrunning

Great for: High-end sportswear & athletic accessories

For the Plant Mamas & Papas  

Niche Plant Boutique 

286 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139 | 619 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02118 | @nicheplantshop

Great for: Fun variety of house plants & in-house plant experts 

For Big & Little Readers 

Brookline Booksmith New/Used Bookstore

279 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446 | @brooklinebooksmith

Great for: Books, coffee table books, notebooks & quirky gifts 

For the Person Who Has Everything 

Abroad Modern Authentic Indian Gifts

260 Concord Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138 | @abroadmodern

Great for: Internationally sourced gifts & kitchenware

Black Ink Card & Stationery Store

5 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 | 101 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114

Great for: Games, puzzles, hand-made greeting cards, feminist swag & cute totes

Something for everybody

Bow Market Mixed Vendors

1 Bow Market Way, Somerville, MA 02143 | @bow.market 

Great for: Vintage, Boston maps, jewelry, plants & accessories & locally made art

SOWA “Farmers” Market

460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118 | @sowaboston

Great for: Vintage & antique finds, handmade cosmetics, jewelry, and local grub

5 steps to slow shopping

In a sea of influencer posts and bulging content, style envy is more real than ever. On any given day, it’s rare that you leave the house without happening, or scrolling, upon a style or aesthetic you admire. But there’s so much that goes into our personal style, and appearance, that’s just the start. 

Compared to when I was sixteen, or even twenty-two, I know so much more about myself, including what I genuinely feel comfortable putting on my body. I’ve come to love baggy, oversized tops and slim fit jeans. I can’t live without espadrilles and black boots. And when it comes to underwear, the more coverage the better. 

But none of this evolution happened over night, something I am forcefully reminded every time I clean out my closet. Instead, realizing my style required a long and thoughtful process of trial and error that eventually helped me tap into my very own je ne sais quoi. 

Pin it to win it. 

Every time I see decor or an outfit I like, I screenshot it. Some of these pictures get posted to my literal wall while others stay on my phone until I don’t find them relevant anymore. 

What exactly do I get from this? The screenshot is like a mental pause. Instead of reaching for my credit card, it gives me a visual reminder I can keep coming back to until I decide to act, or not. Pinterest, the save function on Instagram, and magazine clippings are all great ways to identify styles you’re interested in without making any rash financial commitment. 

Fit over flatter. 

I remember flipping through Seventeen Magazine as a highly susceptible teenager and racking my brain over which body type I was. A pear? An apple? A hotdog? Okay, that last one was a joke. But according to the magazine, the rest of these strange categorizations were key deciders of what I could and couldn’t wear. 

Looking back, that system was a load of hot crap. Overall, I think the editors meant well and wanted to encourage body acceptance but their execution needed some serious work. As companies like Girlfriend Collective now show us, a thoughtfully designed line can look good on literally every body and it’s up to companies, not consumers, to cater to our bodies. 

Rather than feeling pressured into certain looks, find fabrics, cuts, and colors, that make you feel comfortable in your skin. Then, make it your mission to identify trends that incorporate at least one of those elements into their design. 

Ride it out. 

When it comes to trends, no one’s an equal adopter. Some pick up a trend and run with it for the rest of their lives. Others are willing to take more of a risk and incorporate fads liberally. 

But Alexis, you say, aren’t trends wasteful? In theory yes, but just because you buy into a trend doesn’t make it inherently unsustainable. Think about it—you could go out and buy 50 white t-shirts, all in the same style. Or, you could buy five different trendy pieces. Which is the better option? In this scenario, the latter would be more sustainable because it creates the least waste and unnecessary excess. When purchasing, why you buy something is usually just as important as what you buy. To stop an impulse purchases in their tracks, ask yourself: 

  • Do I already own something similar? Will this be a repetitive purchase? 
  • How often will I wear this piece? (More than 30 times is a good place to aim for.) 
  • Will this piece help me get more wear out of other items I own?

Think outside the store. 

If you think you’re ready to take the plunge but don’t want to swim in the deep end, try finding alternatives to buying new. Sites like Nuuly and Rent the Runway are great examples of rental options. Buffalo Exchange, Savers, and local thrift stores also let you try out a garment with minimal impact or investment. Better yet, raid your friends and family’s closets. Because most trends are simply recycled from another time period, it’s perfectly feasible that you could find the look you want from a decades-old piece. 

Locked and loaded. 

If you are ready to go all in and buy a piece new, shop around to find a high-quality option. Brands that produce smaller collections, like Reformation or Hack with Design, put less stress on resources, like water and oil, compared to fast fashion brands. What’s more, sustainable materials tend to be more timeless than synthetic fabrics, letting you make the piece a staple of your wardrobe for more than just a season. 

slow fashion lookbook: july

July was a scorcher. As one of those AC-deprived people, this time of year is particularly focused on me not melting. That means putting my makeup on directly in front of a fan, wrapping my hair in all kinds of unflattering contortions to keep it from touching my neck and back, and, of course, wearing as little clothing as socially acceptable. 

Fortunately, one of my more recent wardrobe evolutions has been the adoption of light-weight fabrics, many of which happen to be made from natural fibers. Without me saying anything, you can probably think of a whole slew of reasons why natural fibers are superior to their synthetic counterparts. They can support small-scale agriculture and farming, tend to use less energy in their production process, and most are designed to be very breathable. Check, check, and check. 

Wicker Shopper: 

Lately, my feed has been full of woven purses and totes, like these ones featured on The Good Trade. Needless to say, wicker is definitely having a moment and I’m not mad at it.

I found this gem at a farm stand just outside of Saratoga, NY. I regret throwing away the label but I can remember the bag was crafted in Africa and every purchase helped support small, women’s cooperatives. The bag itself is woven from thin straws and the straps are made of either leather or vegan leather. 

I love wicker because it offers a unique type of construction you can’t find in other matierls. It makes this bag a rare breed of accessory, one that’s suited for the beach and a five-star restaurant—not that I see a lot of the latter. 

Yacht Club Shorts: 

Savers for the win. Again. These pre-loved Gap shorts came into my life on the way back from Acadia, ME. A big fan of high waisted shorts, I admittedly had never had much interest in non-denim options, that is until I stumbled upon these 100% cotton bad boys. 

I think we all know cotton is natural. However, not all cotton is produced the same way. Uzbekistan, for example, one of the world’s leading producers of cotton, has been front and center in human rights debates due to child labor and worker exploitation, amongst other issues. On the other end of the spectrum are companies like Knickey, who are getting smarter about cotton by paying attention to both its sourcing and manufacturing processes. 

Because these shorts are Gap and likely a few years old, I’m willing to bet they were not made from sustainable cotton. But, I did buy them second hand—no money is going back to Gap—and despite any ethical issues, they are made from a natural fiber so they won’t shed microplastics in the wash. 

Silky Smooth Tank Top: 

When I was a kid, I remember stealing my mom’s silk scarves…well, momentary, until she took them back only minutes later. Honestly, I still feel a little child-like when I wear silk. But I’ve found the imposter syndrome wavers a bit when I find the right pieces.

This tank top, another post-Acadia find, has a sophisticated cut that’s easily paired with any bottom in my closet. To be honest, I really only bought this piece because a fashion sustainability panelist once said to buy vintage silk whenever you can find it. That said, the top’s grown on me since then and I have no regrets about the purchase. 

slow fashion lookbook: june

June is a funny thing in New England. There are days when the temperature teases you at a chilly 55 degrees. And other days, it’s so sweltering that you double check the calendar just to make sure you didn’t somehow forget it was August. Regardless, after a long winter, nothing feels better than taking off the layers of fleece, wool, and down until you finally remember what you look like when not preparing for a frigid 4-month apocalypse.

During this transition, your closet can be a really fun place to experiment. As the days get longer and I wake up to more and more “mostly sunny” weather reports, my hands automatically reach for sandals instead of boots, capped sleeves over long, bulky sweaters.

But don’t let your excitement for warm weather outway sensibility. Be too hasty with your clothes and you’ll be shivering in the office or sweating your way through an outdoor brunch. Instead, your approach to Sprummer (ha, see what I did there?) should be seasonally collaborative. Wool with bare legs. Lightweight bottoms paired with chunky knits and denim. Boots and summery dresses. The key is knowing what you need to stay a comfortable tempurature while creating enough visual contrast to keep things interesting.

Now, to the closet.

Look 1: Urban Indiana Jones

I’ve always struggled with hats. One, they block my peripheries. I mean if there’s a rogue BMW coming my way—I live in Boston so, likely—and I’m crossing the street, its a draw whether or not I make it to the other side in one piece. My second justification is simply that hats take confidence to wear. They are the adult versions of bras and lipgloss in middle school; you want to wear them but are nervous that you’ll look foolish or get unwanted attention. But snap my bra strap if you will because this hat and I are going to be inseperably this season.

I can’t let the hat get all the credit though. After all, look at these classic high-waisted white slacks! Another thrift find, these pants are equal parts light-weight and elegant (reads: elle-ay-gant). Since they entered my closet, they’ve become my go-to because they play nicely with literally every top in my closet. For this look, I’ve paired them with a cappuccino short-sleeved turtle neck, also thrifted, strappy espadrilles I found on Poshmark, and a long arrowhead necklace reminiscent of my high school years, another Poshmark find. Finish it all off with an oversized denim jacket and you’ve got a casual—yet still put-together—day look.

Look 2: Why Yes, I do Farmers Market

I found this beaut of a summer dress while perusing the shelves of an RI Savers. I normally don’t fall too hard for florals—something about their inexhaustible enthusiasm makes my inner Wednesday Adams squeamish. That said, this dress caught my eye because it was more subdued, still springy and fresh, but with a dark palette to bring it back down to earth. Add to that the high, full-coverage neckline and perfectly tailored form and I was sold.

With it, I paired my ethically and sustainably made Kozii shawl I purchased in Portugal last summer, wicker bag from a farm stand outside Saratoga, NY, and my new summer staple, my Eileen Fisher espadrilles.

This outfit is a great example of how clothes can really set the tone for a season. The dress offers nice grounding while the shawl adds a necessary touch of easy-breezy. Easily transitioned from day to night with the change of a shoe, this dress has earned itself high marks in my seasonal wardrobe.

Look 3: The Notorious RBG

I came upon this incredible skirt at my local thrift shop. I tend to avoid the skirt section altogether, finding I’d rather just wear a dress. Skirts are so often too short, too tight, too long, too sheer, etc. But at the time, I was looking for a longer, slightly billowy skirt to add to my “adulting” repertoire. This one was the ideal length with nice body and a memorable print. It falls perfectly on my natural waist and has just enough wiggle room to tuck in a top.

Keeping with the Ruth BadA$$ persona, I added this cream cowl neck top, another thrifted piece, made from this airy, stretchy material that drapes effortlessly with the rest of the outfit. Then I finished off the look with a classic brown leather tote from Madewell plus a $40 donation to Planned Parenthood and hazah, I was reminescant of the young cieling crusher herself. Well, at least a little bit.

guide to throwing your own clothing swap

Just being trashy.

As a kid, I loved hand-me-downs. Nothing thrilled me more than a garbage bag full of our neighbor’s Old Navy dresses or my older cousin’s cool tops and skirts from brands I’d never heard of. Every time I received a fresh load of used clothes, I’d sift through, trying on every piece and daydreaming about how cool I’d look sporting my new outfit at school the next day. Each delivery had new styles and brands, letting me experiment with my outfits and find different ways of dressing myself. If I was lucky, these bags also included purses, books, and toys.

Unfortunately, at a certain age, the trash bags stopped flowing in—likely because the girls stopped growing so frequently and started to level out in both weight and height. Even so, I still miss those shipments and the process of literally digging through bags of the unknown to find something out of the ordinary, something capable of bringing out a new side of my personal style.

Just like my neighbors and cousin, the majority of us can relate to that moment when you look in your closet and realize there are at least a few pieces you’ve been neglecting. That romper you wore out once but never again. Or the jacket you thought you’d need for work, before you realized your office was casual AF. And then there are all the things we grow out of. Jeans that are uncomfortably snug or sweaters that have become unflatteringly oversized. Whether it’s the style or the fit, we naturally grow disconnected from some pieces. So even if we still hold tight to them, say because you think it’ll fit eventually or because it has some emotional association, the reality is those pieces aren’t getting the wear they deserve.

For those closet castaways, donating is a great option. Donation centers often support social services to uplift particularly vulnerable populations, such as those with a criminal history, helping them create a livelihood and reconnecting them to their community. What’s more, larger second-hand chains, like Goodwill and Savers, have programs in place that allow them to recycle or repurpose almost anything (yes, even your old underwear!) so very little ever ends up in the landfill.  

But donating your clothing isn’t the only way to do good by an unwanted item. After all, one gal’s trash is a another’s teasure. So if you’re up for something a little more involved, clothes swaps are a fun and cheap way to KonMari your wardrobe, not to mention a damn good excuse to get the girls together.

The Who’s Who.

The key to a great clothes swap is the guest list. When it comes to invitees, try for 10-15 people. Any less and there may not be enough goods to go around. Any more and your event may lose its intimacy and community-feel. However, if you’re hoping for a more public-facing swap and don’t want to be restricted to your home, consider expanding your guest list to 30-50 or even posting your event to Facebook or Eventbrite. Churches and community centers are often happy to open their spaces to events for little or no cost, especially if the events have a social or environmental tie in.

In addition to how many, another important element to consider incorporating in your guest list is diversity in both body type and style. You want every guest to feel excited about your event and that means making sure there’s something for everyone. As you think about who to invite, be aware of each guests’ style and size. It may not work out perfectly but try your best to feature some clothing that will appeal to and fit all your guests. Another way to be inclusive is by offering more than just clothing. At my event, people brought books, shoes, jewelery—even a flask. With more to offer, you can guarantee guests will feel comfortable and leave with something they’re excited to take home.

The moral of the party.

Whether you’re hosting the swap at your home or in a public venue, put your best designer on making cute e-invitations (save some trees!) to get the event on everyone’s calendar and remind them to start scouring their homes for things to bring. In the description, list off examples of items you’re looking for, like clothing, shoes, housewares, books, kitchen items, and accessories, so guests understand the scope of your event.

Another thing you’ll want to include in your invite is a mention of why you’re hosting the event. This objective is totally up to you. If you just want to have a boozy girls day, that’s totally fine. But you could also use the swap as a chance to support your favorite sustainable charity by having guests donate $5 for attending the swap. If you’re particularly interested in the impacts of second-hand clothing and goods, like me, consider making your event educational. At my house, I hung up DIY plant streamers and notecards with facts about clothing waste, fast fashion, and the benefits of recycling. Lastly, if you’re wanting to put forth something even more involved, consider showing a movie like The True Cost or creating your own short presentation that demonstrates the impact each guest has had because they chose to recycle their clothing. As for supplemental materials, you could make a list of local second-hand stores guests could shop at in place of popular fast fashion brands. Or, check with a local thrift or charity shop to see if they have any materials for you to share.

Decor-rate.

When it came to preparing my house for the event, I knew I wanted to keep everything as low-waste as possible. That meant no balloons or plastic dishware. Instead, I used my own dishes and prepared the refreshments myself. While the spread was not completely plastic-free, it was a far cry from the red solo cups and plastic plates I commonly encounter at parties.

On top of the refreshments, I also DIYed my own decorations. Do I have strong artistic skills? No, my own mother could tell you that. But by using what I already had, I was able to create a fun environment without buying or consuming anything new.

Let them shop.

On the day of your event, make sure you know where you’ll be displaying the clothes. Consider asking guests to bring hangers or a rolling clothes rack. If you want to keep it low-maintenance, just have guests lay out their clothes on your floor (I highly recommend vacuuming beforehand). Make sure each item is visible and displayed so guests can get a good look at what’s up for grabs.

Before anyone begins picking, have each guest take a quick sweep around to survey the goods. This will help keep the process moving more quickly. Once everyone’s had a look, have each person pick a number. Whoever has #1 chooses first and so on and so forth until everyone has gone through the cycle once. While each person takes their turn, I found it helpful to have activities on hand. I set up a small painting station and indoor potting area where guests could plant tomatoes, basil, and carrot seeds to take home with them. Again, you could also choose to show a film or—god forbid—let people talk to one another.

Depending on how many you host, I suggest having guests go through the full lineup three to four times before they’re able to choose out of turn. When you do get to this point, feel free to open up the floor to trades as well.

To the thrift.

Last stop—the thrift store. Once guests have gone, gather up all the leftover items and put them into sturdy bags. Be sure to fold the clothing to keep it in good shape and prevent wrinkling. Afterward, head to Google to find your nearest donation center. Most organizations will take everything but keep in mind if there are items one place won’t accept, there’s likely another organization that will. For example, many animal shelters collect old towels for kennels and cleaning. And children’s afterschool programs are likely to accept used sportswear, like golf clubs or cleats. No matter what is left over from your swap, its important to do what you can to move every item closer to a new and loving home.

I hope this article has left you inspired to throw your own swap. If so, I highly recommend you check out The Good Trades’ article on clothing swaps for more examples of how to make your event a sustainable success.