Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Chat with Rachel Spence of Fair Trade Federation

I thought it would be fun to know a little bit more about Rachel Spence, the Engagement Manager at Fair Trade Federation. I asked her if I could interview her for this blog. She graciously said yes, and today, she was my victim ;). My goal was to learn a bit more about her and find out what had motivated her to work in 'fair-trade'.

LinkedIn seemed a good place to start when prepping for my chat with Rachel. I loved learning that she had studied for her Masters Degree in International Affairs at George Washington University and worked at the DC - UN offices during those years. (I softened her up by mentioning that my nephew had also studied at GW and loved it.) I wondered if there was a life experience that attracted her to this course of study. Rachel mentioned that growing up in Delaware had a great deal to do with that choice.  She stated that many international headquarters are based in Delaware and as a kid she was ever-cognizant of their presence. That, family vacations abroad (she specifically mentioned loving Mexico) and  frequent trips to a Ten Thousand Villages store kindled her interests in world affairs.

One of Rachel's first gigs was working at United States Council for International Business, a trade association that assists larger corporations with issues concerning gender equality and labor rights. She spoke enthusiastically about this experience.  I also garnered she had a light bulb moment while working at USCIB. Rachel recognized that she wanted to work with small businesses where she felt she would have a greater impact for change. A volunteer opportunity at RUNA, a producer of fair trade tea and energy drinks put her boots on the ground in Ecuador where she helped them through the fair trade certification process.

Rachel joined the staff of Fair Trade Federation during the summer of 2016. And that is when I met her.  She along with other FTF staffers visited NY Now, (a wholesale trade show) to meet and greet with those FTF members exhibiting at the show. That might have been one of her first activities working at FTF. And I learned in our conversation that such activities are some of her favorites. Rachel told me she feeds off meeting members in person at trade shows and gatherings such as the annual Fair Trade Federation conference. Mingling with FTF members (nearly 250 companies now) amplifies her voice and enthusiasm. She's all about educating the public about fair trade and creating visibility for FTF and its members. [Photo to the right was taken at NY Now. I'm on the far left. Rachel is on the far right.]

Now the fun stuff! I asked Rachel to tell me about her favorite fair trade items she uses in her every day life. Right off the bat she mentioned that she's all about jewelry and clothing. You know I wasn't going to have any of that. I insisted on specifics! Phew!  Maybe it's lip service. Rachel mentioned she adores the two pair of Dunitz & Company Joanie M fused glass earrings she owns. (Note, she's wearing a pair in the first photo posted above.) She also described a beige and brown handbag she carries each and every day that comes from Manos Zapotecas, another Fair Trade Federation member.  It was clear she owns many fair trade adornments and it was not a simple task to select a favorite.

The thing is Rachel wants everyone to enjoy fair trade pretties as much as she does. And as Engagement Manager for FTF, she's continually finding new ways to communicate to the world about just how great fair trade items can be.  Just yesterday she was an integral part of a "Twitter" conversation focused on holiday shopping.  If you were on twitter yesterday, and you didn't know about the Fair Trade Federation Holiday Guide, you may very well know about it now. There are oodles of fashion, food and home decor items featured. Luscious items.  Haven't finished your shopping? Check it out. Dunitz & Company's fused glass cuffs can't be missed!

It was at this point we digressed a bit. Rachel shared with me her love for her 2 year old, possibly Labrador/MinPin X rescue dog, Ivy.  And then of course, I had to brag about my two Doberman rescues, Stetson and Ida.  Dogs? Don't get me started. But, at this point, I think both Rachel and I were operating on fumes. I mean, this can be tough for both interviewers and interviewees!

In closing, I asked Rachel what was the one thing she'd like people to know about fair trade. Guess what? That wasn't a simple question either. She left me with three thoughts.
  1.  Many companies working in fair trade spend a lot of energy focused on the well-being of our environment.  Yes, fair traders take care of people. She also wants everyone to know that when talking about fair trade, the environmentally friendly aspect of fair trade often is overlooked.
  2. She recognizes that people who support fair trade (with their pocketbooks) are most often interested in the stories of aid and support. But, just as important is the high quality and good design now available from fair trade producers.
  3. And finally, she mentioned it is easier to "shop fair trade" than ever before. This is the case because you can easily purchase great products on line and there are more and more (brick & mortar) shops and producers offering fair trade items. It's not always about coffee!  
Thank you Rachel for spending your morning (on the phone) with me. I really enjoyed our chat. Want to learn more about Fair Trade Federation, fair trade and FTF members?  Please check out the FTF site. There you'll be able to easily browse and learn so much more. -ND

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My Favorite Instagram Feeds

I look at a lot of photos each and every day on Instagram. Between my @ndunitz feed and @shopdunitz feed, I breeze through nearly 2400 accounts of images. Yes, that is a load of images! I follow the retail shops that sell Dunitz fair trade jewelry. I watch sustainable and ethical bloggers. I track all sorts of fashionistas. I follow back - those that watch me. And at the end of the day, there are a few feeds that have become my favorites. Here are a few you might enjoy watching too. Note, none of these Instagramers have paid me for this mention.

Many of you know, I learned so much about fashion from my mother. She was my first teacher of fashion. As a kid, I watched her dress up for all sorts of social events that ranged from charity luncheons to gala dinner parties. She was a clothes horse and she looked good in everything. And she knew her designers.  I think this is why I've become so intrigued with Rachel Adelicia's Instagram feed. This girl rocks style. And it warms my heart to see her wear amazing vintage design.  I drool over the clothing she shows off.  I'm almost sure she has great relationships with some upscale resale shops. Women wearing beautiful clothing on IG are a dime a dozen. Rachel not only looks terrific in so many styles, she styles her shots very very well.  Seriously, she could be a magazine editor. She has a great eye. I sent her a message through IG recently asking her about her inspiration.  She responded to me that she loves looking at fashion advertisements in magazines and recreating the looks with vintage. Bravo, Rachel. Read her blog to learn more beyond the photos she shares on Instagram.

I love to eat. OK, most of us do! And I love to look at beautiful food. For this very reason, I watch a few foodie feeds on Instagram.  My favorite eye candy comes from Ivy Chin, who describes herself as a self taught and passionate cook. She uses edible flowers. Her works are full of amazing colors. And her combination of colors has inspired my jewelry design. You just NEVER know what will be the catalyst for design. I can't tell you how many times I've commented on Ivy's photos with "too pretty to eat."  Check out her feed and let me know if you agree.

Weaving tales in color seems to be a specialty of Emma Thomas. She's going through a pink phase right now. If you scroll through her feed you'll see lots of luscious and foggy colors. I loved her recent posts of hunter green images. She features yummy vintage time and time again.  And the filters she chooses create such a wonderful moody feel. I drool over many of her choices. And I know I'll never find or be able to afford many of the breathtaking designs she features.  So for now, I live vicariously through her feed. Love it, Emma!

Last year a friend of mine suggested I reach out to fashion bloggers on Instagram to see if I could obtain some visibility for Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry. I wrote to several women. Many ignored me. Several looked at our website and emailed specifically which pieces of ours they'd love to own and model. Others left it up to us. Rie Victoria Aoki was one of the women I contacted. At the time, she posted several photos on Instagram and on her blog wearing Dunitz jewelry. Since that time, her's has become one of my favorite feeds to watch on Instagram. And clearly, I'm not alone. Her followers have been growing exponentially. Why? Because this is one woman who has it going on. She's stunning. She has style. And, from experience, I can tell you she is lovely too. Add her to your IG list! She will inspire your style.

Please share with me your favorite Instagram feeds. I'd love to watch what you find most inspiring. And of course don't forget to follow ours.-ND

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How did Dunitz & Company get in the Holiday Guides?

It's hard work! I've been doing my very best to get Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry some visibility in this season's magazines and holiday guides. I had no idea what a challenge it would be. I also know as consumers change the way they make their purchases (more often than ever people are shopping online) it is imperative that Dunitz & Company grows a, however small, online retail presence. Without developing an additional arm to our business, maintaining the business and sustaining our artisans becomes more difficult.

Perhaps some of my ideas will help you in your business. Perhaps you'll have some ideas for us! In May, I signed up for several months with a service called Media Leads. For $99.00/month, this service provides editor and blogger requests for pitches. It's easy to use and many quality reporters use this service. I also signed up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out) which now emails me three times per day with requests for information. Most aren't applicable to a fair trade jewelry business. Every once in a while, a blogger requests information and/or samples where I know Dunitz & Company will be perfect.  Since May, I've emailed over 200 pitches (each requiring a follow-up). Unfortunately, just writing editors and bloggers doesn't result in publicity. It's a BIG numbers game. Often bloggers and editors ask for samples or high res photos and never use them. You can see the nods we've received in the Press sections of our websites. The Press section of the retail "Shop Dunitz" site only shows our consumer press nods.  The Press section of our wholesale "Dunitz" site also includes trade nods. My head swells as I add the accolades we've received.

Earlier this year, I initiated contact with several Instagram fashionistas and bloggers.  Many asked for samples. Many kept them as gifts and never posted or wrote about our work. Of course, this frustrated me to no end. If you check out the Blogger Posts on our website, you'll see that several women came through for us!

I'm determined. Keep watching us. The jury is out whether all of this hard work translates to sales. In the meantime, our web press sections are growing. And don't forget to shop for fair trade jewelry on our website! -ND

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Museum Store Sunday - November 26th

Forget about Black Friday. Consider Museum Store Sunday. This will be the first of what will be an annual event promoting museum stores. Of course, I think museum shops provide some of the best curated gift selections available anywhere...all year long. Not only do museum shops sell great stuff...the profits earned from purchases directly assist in the missions and programming of museums. I can't think of any reason not to support Museum Store Sunday. And besides, if you're reading this blog, you're a fan of Dunitz & Company. And we consistently sell our beautiful fair trade designs to many museum shops all around the good 'ole USA and sometimes abroad! (Did you know that Dunitz & Company is now a member of the Museum Store Association?) If you read the 'News' section of the Museum Store Sunday website, you'll see that many shops are offering special discounts, giveaways and musical entertainment on November 26th. Why wouldn't you do your holiday shopping at a museum store?

Yes! Shop at a museum store.... & take in an exhibit or two.  Since we're located in Los Angeles, I thought I'd highlight some of the museums & shops I've recently visited. Each of these are participants in and are promoting Museum Store Sunday.

J. Paul Getty Museum - is on my list. I haven't been there yet this season. But, our jewelry is in their shop! And their current exhibit Golden Kingdoms, Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas is calling my name.  I'm sure I'll be there soon to take in the Mayan, Aztec and Inca art on display. And yes, I'll take a secret shopper pic of our embroidered earrings and bracelets! They've already reordered, so we know museum store shoppers like their Dunitz selections.

The Library Store -  I was at the Central Library for the opening of Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in LA in September. The murals on display are fantastic. And of course, while I was there, I had to visit the shop. The staff was lovely and they really have some amazing and innovative gifts there. And seriously, many are so affordable. It would be the perfect place to check out on Museum Store Sunday.

Japanese American National Museum - A regional Museum Store Association meeting, hosted by the Japanese American National Museum prompted my visit. There current special exhibit Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo is so worth checking out. There were some fabulous installations. While there, you better believe I visited the museum shop. And it's terrific. There were so many cool gifts to choose from. And some were edible :). Somehow I think many people automatically assume museum shops  only offer expensive goods. This definitely was not the case here. You could easily pick up affordable treasures for all of your loved ones.

Skirball Cultural Center -  I didn't know about Anita Brenner. And now thanks to the Skirball Center and their current exhibit, I do. Anita Brenner, a Mexican Born, American-Jewish woman was paramount in educating those in the United States about the culture and arts of Mexico. It's not a large exhibit...easy to digest in an hour or a bit more. It is well worth seeing. Now let's talk about their gift shop. It's fantastic. The Skirball may have the best selection of Judaica gifts in all of Los Angeles. And guess what? They also sell Dunitz & Company's fair trade Judaica! You'll find our kippot on display and for purchase.

Annenberg Space for Photography - Most of you reading this won't know that I visited Cuba in 2000 for Jazz Fest. I spent 10 days in Havana listening to amazing music and feasting my eyes on the places and people of this iconic city.  The current photo exhibit at Annenberg Space, CUBA IS is replete with breathtaking and thought provoking images. I saw it last week. And now on my 'to do list' is revisiting all of the images on film and slide I snapped while I was there.  If you're interested in Cuba, or photography, consider this location for your Museum Store Sunday excursion.  The shop has gifts and a lot of really cool books.

Hammer Museum - The Hammer has one of the most talked about exhibits currently showing in Los Angeles.  Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 had been mentioned to me so many times that I made a point of visiting this museum a few weeks back.  Definitely go with your thinking cap on. There is a lot to read and watch. Do you like watching video?  You'll find it here.  Oh -and while you're there....VISIT the gift shop!

I'm in a tough spot now.  There are several Museum Store Sunday participants driving distance from my home and our offices. Where shall I go on November 26th? All are worthy. All have great shops. I know because I have been to many, just not recently. And we know all of these fine institutions have great exhibits going on as well. OK - so if it's not next week - my mission is to visit each of these museums and their shops over the next several months. This list is long! Pasadena Museum of History, Kidspace Children's Museum, Gamble House, Huntington Museum and Gardens, Long Beach Museum of Art, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Museum of Contemporary Art, LA Philharmonic (although I have been to the Hollywood Bowl and there gift shop many times this summer because it is located a stone throw from where I live), Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Craft & Folk Art Museum and Norton Simon. Phew. I have my work cut out for me! Where will you be on Museum Store Sunday? - ND

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Steals & Deals - Dunitz Jackpot Jars

So as of today, Dunitz & Company is pilot testing some new offerings to our wholesale customers. And for those retailers that take advantage, we'll call this a little bit of legal gambling. Of course, we think there is little risk. If you now log into Dunitz & Company's wholesale catalog, in the Closeouts & Specials section you'll find a link to Jackpot Jars. OK - not all of these special deals are in jars. We'll be showcasing Jackpot Boxes, Jackpot Jugs and other containers too! Each will be designated with a random number. Each will be filled with random fair trade jewelry.

As many of you know, I've been designing and wholesaling fair trade jewelry since the early 90's. Every six months we change up all of our colors. Every six months we introduce a host of new designs. Sometimes we have designs that Dunitz & Company sells oodles and oodles of. Even then, we eventually retire those designs. Other times we have designs that bomb.  Sometimes they under-perform because our costs are too high and we can't offer them at a competitive price allowing for successful reselling. Other times, we introduce something that just doesn't excite our wholesale customers. We've also learned over time that what a wholesale customer responds to doesn't always jive with what a retail customer sees. (I've learned this over the years at some retail charity sales I've participated in.)

Bottom line. Dunitz & Company has been around for a really long time.  And we have an office with bins filled with beautiful jewelry that our customers never see.  For this reason, we decided to test market Jackpot Jars. These will be containers of all sizes filled to the brim with some of our older designs. Remnants from season's past.

The first handful of Jackpot Jars are on the site now.  Our customers will never know specifically what they will find. We provide you measurements of the container and a few hints.  For instance, our first jars are primarily filled with fall colored earrings. We also state what the original wholesale value of the contents were. And finally, you'll see that we've slashed our prices way below our actual costs. That's right, way below our costs. That's the point. We might clean up our shelves a bit. Even if a purchaser only sells a few items from any given jar, they will be a winner. Make sense?

This Key Lime Pie cookie tin is a work in progress.  Because of its size, it most likely will be filled with earrings. Going forward, we may be decorating brown shipping cartons. Bracelets and necklaces take up a lot more room. We'll be improvising with this project.

So steal some Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry for your shop. Roll the dice. We think you'll be happy you decided to gamble...just a little bit. -ND

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fair Trade Kippot: A Visit to the Skirball Cultural Center

Have you ever been to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles? I knew when I went there this weekend, I would see the Anita Brenner exhibit and Dunitz & Company kippot in their stunning gift shop. If you live in Los Angeles and you have an interest in Jewish history, this is a must-see museum. The permanent exhibit which explains the history of the Jewish diaspora is exquisite.  Did I say they also have a magnificent gift shop? Yes. Yes. It's even more amazing when they have Dunitz & Company offerings on hand.  Just the same, the choices for menorahs, candle sticks and other Judaica is some of the best available in the City of Angels.

I've been on a mission to see as many exhibits as I can, currently hosted as part of Pacific Standard Time. PST was initiated by the Getty to celebration Latin in Los Angeles. Over 70 arts institutions in and near Los Angeles are hosting exhibitions that do just that. Another Promised Land, Anita Brenner's Mexico, educates us about this influential Mexican-born, American-Jewish writer and journalist who was part of the inner circle of many Mexican artists (Think Kahlo, Rivera, Orozco) most of us are familiar with. It amazed me that she, who had suffered at the hand of so much anti-semitism in her childhood (in Mexico), returned to make a huge difference in educating those living in the USA about the culture and important art scene of Mexico.  I definitely suggest you visit the Skirball Center while this exhibit is there. You'll learn a lot. You'll also see a portrait that Diego Rivera painted of Brenner's then young son....such a precious portrait.

Did you know I absolutely love mural art? If you follow me personally on Instagram, you'll see that I often post images of graffiti art and murals I see everywhere. I seek them out. In Los Angeles, of course. In Melbourne, Berlin, Copenhagen, New York -where-ever I find myself.  I was delighted to see an ancillary exhibit produced by the Skirball featuring many photographs of Ken Gonzales-Day. He has captured images of countless murals that are found all over this expansive city.  It was fun seeing them (most I've never seen) covering the walls of a huge gallery top to bottom. This exhibit is only in one large room, but there is plenty to check out. And the floor you walk on is a huge map of Los Angeles with a red pin for the location of each mural Gonzales-Day has photographed.

The take-away - is definitely visit the Skirball Center! And definitely see as many Pacific Standard Time exhibits as you can. Most are here in Los Angeles through January and February of 2018. Need a suggestion? Send me a note. I've already seen several others.

And, if you're in the market for fair trade kippot, definitely think of Dunitz & Company. And don't forget you can find a nice selection at the gift shop at the Skirball. (And if you're looking to carry fair trade yamulkes in your store, also think of Dunitz & Company! -ND

Monday, October 30, 2017

Vintage Handbag -> Now Planter -> DIY

For years, I've been friends with Bonnie Stauch, costumer extraordinaire. When you live in Hollywood, CA, you're bound to hang out with people that work in the industry. (Yup, I did too - during my early years after college.) Many years ago, Bonnie created wardrobe for what seemed like 100s of Hallmark movies. More recently she's dressed Bruce Willis.  Lucky me, she has used Dunitz & Company designs in several shows. Mel Harris (think Thirty-Something) wore our amulet pouch in one movie and I actually had a press shot of her showing it off. I have scoured my home and office for that image. Unfortunately I put it in such a safe place, I cannot find it. When I'm feeling insecure about what dress to purchase for this event or that event, Bonnie allows me to drag her shopping. Now that's a friend! If you're professionally dressing actors all day long, every day, I'm sure the last thing you want to do is go shopping with your girlfriends.

So, here's the thing. For Bonnie's birthday, I wanted to create a gift she'd appreciate - but was not way over the top. Truth is, none of us need anything. So, something imaginative and thoughtful is always the prize. If you don't already know this about me, I love a good flea market. Hunting the steal is my fun. You can only imagine how stoked I was to find this vintage Lucite (fancy name for plastic) 'Original Rialto NY' handbag. It's not in perfect condition, but it sure is pretty. I knew I'd never carry it.  I knew Bonnie would never carry it. I also know that either of us would love staring at it.  So, the question became, what should I do with it?

Here's the transformation!

Do you think she'll love it? I've given it a trial run in my kitchen window box. So, here's food for thought for you. Just about anything can make a cool planter. A rusty coffee can. Old boots. A humorous coffee mug. Get creative. Succulents are absolutely impossible to kill. They hardly ever need watering. If you do so sparingly, you won't need to have holes in the bottom of your creative pot. So, grab some dirt. Snatch up some cuttings from your yard (if you can) or pick up a few small plants at your nearest nursery. Easy. You'll have your next creative gift in no time flat. Who will receive one from you? (And by the way, she LOVED it!) - ND