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. 

6 simple and zero-waste swaps for your bathroom

Before I jump into the article, I want to be sure to address the matter of affordability. After all, “affordable” is a very loaded term and it means vastly different things to different people. 

Yes, truly sustainable products do cost more than their generic alternatives. And unfortunately, this does negatively impact their accessibility. The promising news is that as more people already able to afford these products make the switch, over time, costs will decrease. It’s for sure not an immediate solution, but it does offer some hope for greater access down the road. 

Where I am at in life, it is financially feasible for me to make sustainability a priority. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some initial sticker shock as I started exploring these zero-waste swaps. Even if you’re able to make sustainable switches, letting go of comfortable and convenient habits is hard. So to help, here’s the logic I used to see these products not just as purchases, but as investments in a more sustainable future. 

Higher quality ingredients – Chemical-free and biodegradable products are naturally derived and therefore better for your body and the earth 

Longevity – Many sustainable products are concentrated or purer, requiring less volume per use 

Livable wages & working conditions – More money is cycled back to the people who grow and produce these products, so they can achieve a higher quality of life 

If you’ve been hoping to switch over to a more sustainable or plastic-free bathroom routine but haven’t known where to start, this guide will help you identify which products can work for your lifestyle and budget. For every product, I’ve broken down the costs and ease of switch to help make your sustainable transition a smooth one.  

1. Zero Waste Lip Balm | Ease of switch: 9/10

Currently, I’m using a nice mint stick from Twinkle Apothecary, a woman-founded, small business based in Oklahoma. The large stick, if I recall correctly, was $12 and has lasted me more than a year. 

Mint lip balm in zero-waste, compostable packaging

The only challenge I encountered when switching to a plastic-free lip balm was adjusting to the more natural formula. As a devout Burts user, I found my lips more dry than usual at the start, but they’ve since adapted and feel very healthy. 

Buy it here: 

Twinkle Apothecary $6 

Splashe $7.99  

Zero Waste Store $12.99 

Boston General Store $14.00 

2. Stainless Steel Razor | Ease of Switch 6/10 

If you’re willing to break from your plastic pal, stainless steel razors make for a great zero-waste swap. Unlike safety razors you find at drug stores or from popular brands like Billie, the steel versions feature two blades that can be replaced an infinite number of times. 

My favorite Albatross, zero-waste razor

I purchased my three-piece Albatross razor from Package Free a year ago, and although we had a pretty rocky start, we’re now very well acquainted. What do I mean by ‘rocky’? Well, bloody. I should preface this with the fact that I’ve never been a very adept shaver. Add to that applying way too much pressure to this new razor and you have yourself a perfect little storm. 

During my initial shaves with the Albatross, I used the razor just like my cheap plastic ones. Big mistake. Because the body of the Albatross razor is heftier, applying any additional pressure pushes the blade directly into your skin. Ouch! 

But before you write this method off completely—hold on. We’re not talking ER type cuts, just little nicks, easily fixed with a bandaid. A slow learner, it’s taken me almost a year to shave cut-free but now that I have a handle on it, I truly love this product and will NEVER go back. I use it on my legs, armpits, lil mustache, and uh yah, down yonder too. I only need to change the blade every 4-6 months and each replacement costs just cents. 

Another benefit of this particular brand is Albatross’ free blade recycling program that lets you mail in used razors to be repurposed rather than trashed in landfill. But if you aren’t able to buy Albatross’ razor and use their recycling program, I advise you collect your old razors in a pill container or Altoids box, something hard and difficult to puncture. When the container is full, put the entire thing in the trash. Never in recycling and never uncovered; the tiny pieces can damage disposal machinery and pose risk to workers. Obviously, this version isn’t completely waste-free, but you are still eliminating new plastics from being produced and added to the environment.

Buy it here

Package Free – $25 

Blade Refills – $.25 each

3. Bar soap | Ease of Switch 9/10 

Bar soaps are a cheap and easy way to cut back on plastic at the sink and in your shower. These zero-waste swaps are available in an incredible number of scents, packaging options, and sizes so most people won’t have trouble finding a good fit. If you can find and afford it, opt for a soap that is package-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.

Natural bar soap is biodegrable and can be purchased completely pastic-free

Something you might also want when making the switch to bar soap is a self-straining holder. These little babies can be helpful in preserving the life of your soap and preventing the bar from becoming soggy. I like this one from the Zero Waste Store, but you can also make your own using rubber bands and a jar top

Dr. Bronners – $4.69 (I can often find this brand discounted at T.J.Maxx)

Toms of Maine – $4.99 (Try your local grocery stores as well) 

4. Toothpaste tabs | Ease of Switch 8/10 

If you like breath mints, toothpaste tabs will be a synch. Unlike some of the homemade solutions I’ve tried, toothpaste tabs don’t cause me to dry heave over the bathroom sink. Which is great. While you definitely don’t get the same rush of freshness as you do with a chemical-heavy Crest or Colgate, the tabs still leave your teeth and mouth feeling clean. Oh, and my dentist approves, too! 

I personally use Bites, although after doing this cost analysis, I’ll probably switch to Georganics. Regardless, both brands’ are cruelty-free and don’t contain sulfates or parabens. If you’re not a fan of traditional mint, Bites also has flavors like Berry Blast (good for kids) and Lavender Lemon. 

I love these Bites plastic-free toothpaste tabs

As for cost, Bites charges about $.2 per tab while Georganics is half that. My Bites subscription is $30 for four month’s supply that automatically renews, so I never run out. Their refills come in compostable, plant-based plastic, making even that part of the process zero-waste. Georganics, on the other hand, is about $26 for the same amount of tabs and they do not offer a subscription option.  

Truthfully, there’s not a huge difference in price or quality between either of these tabs. During this pandemic, Bites is more convenient because I can’t access a lot of local stores. However, after this period is over, buying Georganics makes more sense because it’s slightly cheaper, lets me support local business, and doesn’t require any added shipping. 

Buy it here 

Georganics tabs – $12.90 for 8 weeks 

Bites – $30 for four months  

5. Reusable Swabs | Ease of Switch 6/10 

I use ear swabs for makeup and, of course, a satisfying de-waxing. But daily use really adds up and these small items unfortunately often end up damaging waterways and oceans.

A zero-waste alternative to tradtional ear swabs

Fortunately, a very smart person invented a reusable & zero-waste swab. I own two different types; one for ears and one for makeup. Both are made out of a squishy, body-safe silicone and are easy to clean using just soap and water. They’re very comfortable and other than regular washing, don’t demand much of an adjustment. 

Earthsider – $12.95 (duo pack)   

LastSwab – $12 

6. Refillable Floss | Ease of Switch 10/10 

I hate flossing. What normal person doesn’t? But every time I go to the dentist, she reminds me it’s the only way to keep my own teeth. So I floss.

I started using refillable floss a few months ago and am very happy with this zero-waste swap. Before, I did try a low-waste floss wrapped in paper, but found it’s design totally non-durable and by the end of the pack, I was having to cut the floss with scissors. 

Low-waste charcoal floss by Georganics

Refillable floss, however, is just like regular floss but without the plastic waste. The container is made from glass and metal. And while normal floss is typically nylon, a type of plastic, most zero-waste floss is made from compostable 100% silk. The only exception I’ve found is Georganics charcoal floss, which contains some plastic in the form of polyester. Regardless of the brand you choose, always read the materials of your floss prior to buying to make sure you’re getting a wholly biodegradable option. 

As you may have guessed, refillable floss isn’t cheap. It averages about $7 upon initial purchase, plus $10 for two refills. I bought my current floss about four months ago, floss 3 times a week (don’t judge me), and still have a ways to go to finishing it. Out of all the products I’ve shared, refillable floss is arguably one of the most expensive and difficult to justify. But if you can afford it, you’ll be removing dangerously small and easy to swallow plastics from waterways and any animals in them. 

Buy it here

Public Goods – $2.50 

Boston General Store – $6.90 

Package Free – $11.99 

meet @dressedtosustain

If you were to walk down any given street in any given urban or suburban area, the chances are you could throw a rock and hit a Starbucks, H&M, and Bath & Body Works all in one shot. Thank god, right? After all, what would I do without my overpriced almond milk latte, the dress I’ll definitely only wear once, and that glittery bath gel I stock up on any chance I get?

All sarcasm aside, this is the reality of the 21st-century consumer experience—one I’m on the journey to distance myself from. I mean, we’ve all seen pictures of the Great Pacific garbage patch and I’m willing to bet you were one of the 33,485,492 people who watched that turtle get a straw pulled out of its nose. But beyond the environmental damage, there are other less visible costs at hand. For example, wealth in the US may be rising, but so are rates of depression and anxiety. And while I’m no psychologist, I’d be willing to bet that many people’s need to keep up with the Jones, so to speak, by having the latest iPhone, best job, and so on is at least a little bit to blame for our growing dissatisfaction.

So how do we counter this consumer rat race? My answer came in the form of conscious consumerism. The act of caring about where, how, and by who your products were made, staying away from brands who don’t share your values, and considering every purchase as an opportunity to financially support the companies who have dedicated themselves to social and environmental sustainability.

For me, sustainability was, and is, being a member of my family. There’s a picture hanging in our garage of my mom and dad, young and smiling in matching t-shirts at SolarFest—a true Vermont namesake—that stands as a constant reminder of where I come from. My dad, in particular, has made sustainability a non-negotiable part of our household, equipping our home with all kinds of energy-saving gadgets, solar panels, a garden, and even a make-shift shower timer when I was eight (I wish I were kidding, too). But because it was more or less forced on me, my reaction growing up wasn’t to dream of the day I’d own my own Prius or embrace a zero-waste lifestyle. No, instead I kind of went the other direction. To me, sustainability wasn’t even an afterthought. I didn’t think about the impact of the waste I created, where it all went, or what the long-term effects of my usage would be. To me, a disposal coffee cup was convenient, plastic cutlery was a no-brainer, and if you think I gave a second thought to buying anything from H&M or Forever 21, my friend, you are sorely mistaken.

What changed? Well, me. As I got older, I exposed myself to movies, like Food Inc., and spent more time considering the expansive and murky gap between me and the products I consumed. But none of this happened overnight. On the contrary, it’s taken me a very long time to get where I am and there’s still so much work to be done. Only recently did I make the choice to stay away from retailers like Zara and start bringing my own mesh produce bags to avoid using the plastic ones at grocery stores. But as I started taking these small steps, I came upon big realizationsLike, why do people put bananas in plastic bags? They literally have their own natural covering. And why are straws a given at most bars and restaurants when, for most people, they are by every stretch of the imagination completely unnecessary? And then came the very sobering reality: With the growth and development of the commercial market, the value of convenience has only continued to skyrocket. In fact, it’s so ingrained in us to reach for a plastic fork or jump at anything cheap or free that we don’t even stop to think, “Hey, wait a minute.” This isn’t by accident. The plastic market is predicted to be worth $654.38 billion dollars by 2020. And just like beauty, fashion, and other industries that have to work to create consumer demand and stay relevant, the easier and more prevalent these products become in our lives, the harder it becomes to remove the plastic spoon from our mouths.

 But I want to be clear—I say none of this to shame anyone. I myself used three single-use plastic cups a few nights ago while I was out at a bar. And god knows I’m still trying to tame the rabid consumer beast that surfaces whenever I step foot into a TJMaxx. No, instead, I want this blog to be a place where people come to take first-steps and make small, but important, realizations. I want to put helpful information in people’s hands and make the process of living a more sustainable lifestyle financially, practically, and aesthetically feasible. I hope that by eliminating some of the stigmas and barriers associated with sustainability, I can make the movement as a whole more accessible for more people. I want to make room for mistakes and varying definitions of what it means to be “green”. And most of all, I want to show readers how truly gratifying, and even fun, a sustainable lifestyle can be. God knows, there are so many incredible artists, companies, eateries, and people working to make sustainability just as common as convenience. And the work they do isn’t just good for the planet, its refreshing to see. It’s a new spin on a modern story whose ending we each play a critical role in. The question is, are you willing to take that first step?

– Alexis