Monday, April 16, 2018

Making a Difference in So CA - Teresa Baxter

I've been acquainted with Teresa Baxter for several years now. And I've always been impressed with her tenacity and drive to promoted 'fair trade' in Southern California.  For this reason, I asked and she agreed to be interviewed for the Dunitz & Company blog. Guess what? I learned more about Teresa than I'd previously known!







NANCY: You've been an advocate for 'fair trade' for a long time. Can you tell me what inspired that? How long have you been fighting for this cause?

TERESA: I discovered my fair trade mission when I began volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages Pasadena when the non-profit store opened about 12 years ago.  This took me back to school, earning my BA degree in International Relations from Columbia University and State University of New York.  While in New York, I became the Publicity Coordinator for HandCrafting Justice, then an international fair trade project of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. [Note: HandCrafting Justice closed their doors in January 2016 and had been long time members of Fair Trade Federation.] I was also active with the New York City Fair Trade Coalition. My passion didn't stop there.  I lived in Alexandria, VA for a year and while there, I was involved with Fair Trade Town Campaigns. I helped Alexandria obtain their 'fair trade' designation. I'm happy to be back continuing my mission of service in Southern California.

NANCY: We met when I first joined Fair Trade Los Angeles several years ago.  You were the social media maven for the group.  What is your background that gave you the know-how to do this?

 TERESA: Social Media was part of my publicity position at HandCrafting Justice, where we had over 3000 followers on Facebook.  I have a nose for fair trade news, and I used social media to share all of the global good many on the same mission were accomplishing. It was also a great vehicle to promote all of our events and social justice projects. Ad Age Magazine even featured an article on us.

NANCY: And now I know you're actively involved with Fair Trade Long Beach. Can you explain what roll you've taken on with this group?

TERESA: We are a strong group of activists pushing forward our wish to earn Long Beach a "Fair Trade Town" designation.  There's a lot of groundwork identifying retailers and organizations that promote fair trade. This also entails getting media coverage and interacting with the city council to promote and commit to passing a resolution advocating for fair trade principles.

NANCY: Describe some of the important projects you are working on.

TERESA: Fair Trade Long Beach holds monthly meetings that keep growing in attendance, so much that we grew out of our meeting space. We are currently looking for a larger venue that shares our values.  Our strongest partnerships are with Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force and the local Salvation Army.  We previously participated in a 'youth empowerment safety symposium' promoting awareness against human trafficking and showed how fair trade helps battle this fight.  Most recently, we participated with the Task Force and Salvation Army with a table at the start of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Our campaign "I Am Not For Sale" was all about educating the public.

NANCY: Can you tell me a little bit about Fair Trade Campaigns and how it will make a difference?

TERESA: Some of our team represented our [Fair Trade Towns] campaign at their national conference in Washington DC. I represented us [Fair Trade Long Beach] at the recent Fair Trade Federation conference in Denver.  The takeaway for most of us was how much stronger we are collectively. We know that together we can accomplish great acts toward a more just world.  One of my favorite quotes from Margaret Mead seems to capture our spirit. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Note: I love that Teresa is pictured here with Rachel Spence,  the Engagement Manager at Fair Trade Federation. I interviewed Rachel in December, 2017.
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Thank you Teresa for taking the time to answer my questions. I know many of us will be thrilled to know a little bit more about your efforts to promote fair trade. I know I am. I'm so impressed with your tireless efforts. -ND 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Small & Affordable: A Winning Combination

Times have changed. And what we sell the most of has changed with the times. When retail buyers visit our fair trade jewelry trade show booth, they always ask "what is your best seller?"  And in recent times, I say "the designs we can wholesale for under $10.00 or a retail store can sell for under $25.00, $20,00 even better!" The response is always a chuckle and "ain't that the truth."  It's as if our customers already know the answer. In the old days, I could design exquisite cuffs that wholesaled for $32.50 (estimated retail price $85.00) and I'd write orders for them all day long. Honestly, those days have sailed. It isn't that we don't sell some amazing larger pieces. But, it is the small and affordable that pay the bills.

Thankfully, I've been able to successfully focus and design some fabulous smaller fair trade earrings.  I've learned low costs are of paramount importance. Recent trends also indicate many women more often choose to wear smaller earrings. Small and affordable; it is the winning combination. If you're familiar with our collection, you've probably ordered some of Dunitz & Company's smaller earrings. Have you ordered our Dream Net Earrings?  These delicate cuties, available in 12 colors were well received this season.



Some of our most popular, our small wire and beaded teardrops have been in our line-up foooooor-ever! At least it seem like that. And each season we show them in 12 new color ways for our wholesale customers. (We create new color combinations each season to follow fashion trends.) Looking for you? Don't worry. Look for a retailer near you on our shop locator.  No store near you? We offer some very pretty color options of these teardrops on our retail site. Sweet spot pricing, too.


Our Joanie M fused glass earrings also tend to be smaller.  And yes, they too are very affordable. When I first introduced this collection in 2011, I designed some larger styles. Some designs even had two components. We knew almost immediately that larger was not better. The cost was never that far off. It was confirmed that "small" was the winner.  When I share this information, there are naysayers that suggest it is because glass is heavy and our larger sizes might be uncomfortable.  Those that choose to wear the mightier designs, have confirmed this not to be the case.The truth is, as I mentioned before, lots of women prefer smaller earrings.

So, there you go. I just had to say it. Small & Affordable. That turns out to be our winning combination for our fair trade jewelry and specifically our fair trade earrings. Be sure to check out our wholesale and retail sites to see ALL of your options. -ND

Friday, March 9, 2018

LynAnne Wiest, Manager of HumanKind Fair Trade

Not too long ago, I decided the Dunitz & Company blog would be enhanced by sharing profiles and conversations with various individuals working in fair trade. We're all so unique and our experiences and motivations vary. Each of us has our own story and our own pearls of wisdom to share.

This is why I asked LynAnne Wiest, store manager of HumanKind Fair Trade if she'd allow me to interview her. I already knew from years of working with LynAnne that she is lovely and passionate about her work. Whenever I see her at a trade show or fair trade conference, she always has a huge smile on her face. In the past, I've called on her advice regarding Dunitz fair trade jewelry designs and whether she thinks this or that would sell given my costs. She has always been ready and willing to provide valuable input. And once again, she graciously accepted my request for this interview. So, here we go:)!

NANCY: You've been part of the HumanKind Family since 2013!  I'm just curious. Did you move to San Luis Obispo for the job? Or were you fortunate to find this perfect fit after moving to SLO?

LYNANNE: I moved to SLO for the job! I had previously worked at a fair trade store in St.Louis, MO, but had moved back to California to be closer to my family in Fresno.  I was job searching in Calfornia when I discovered that HumanKind was hiring. I had always loved this shop when visiting SLO, and I was lucky enough to get the job.

NANCY: Was there a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to work in 'fair trade'?

LYNANNE: My pivotal life experience happened over the course of a year. I had studied graphic design in college [Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS] and I knew I wanted to use that skill for some kind of social good. After college I signed up with a non-profit organization, Mennonite Central Committee, which does relief and development work around the world. I was willing to go anywhere that could use my design skills, and they found a place for me in Cambodia working with a couple of fair trade artisan groups. I spent a year there working on product design and marketing with artisans. I saw how hard they worked and how much they needed additional buyers for their products. I knew that when I moved home, I wanted my work to be all about creating a greater market for their crafts in the United States. 

NANCY: Describe some of the important projects you are working on in the shop?

LYNANNE: We are just starting to venture into ecommerce. The retail trend toward online shopping only seems to be getting stronger, and we feel it is a great next step for our shop.  I am always looking for ways to grow and improve HumanKind, and I am excited about the potential we have in ecommerce.  Of course, it is a big project to create a new website and develop systems that will make our online shop manageable and profitable, but I think it is going to be worth it. The more we can grown our business, the more we can purchase!  (Gosh she thinks like me!)

NANCY: And do you have a favorite project or activity you're involved with at HumanKind?

LYNANNE: I love the creativity that goes into managing a shop. From curating our product selection, to merchandising items in the store, I put a lot of energy into creating a beautiful space for our customers to discover. Even though I have a background in graphic design, I don't enjoy designing on a computer screen.  I find satisfaction in merchandising real, tangible objects that all have a significant story behind them.

NANCY: When did your shop become part of Fair Trade Federation? (I actually think I wrote one of your recommendations for membership.) Any thoughts about this partnership?
 
LYNANNE: We became members of FTF in 2015.  We joined partly because we wanted to be able to tell our customers that we were vetted by another organization, and partly because we wanted to create better connections with others working in fair trade.  The greatest benefit we have from this membership is the ability to learn from the other stores. I have learned so much about good business practices and how we all can practice fair trade better.  The annual conference is a great chance for us to learn from other retailers and to make new plans for the year.


NANCY: Can you share a story that makes you smile?  A story where you and/or HumanKind were integral in making a positive change? 

LYNANNE: I smile every time I get to explain what fair trade is to a customer. I recently had a family with elementary-age kids come in the shop, and I was able to tell the kids all about how fair trade supports families in other countries so that kids can go to school and don't have to work.  These kids loved everything in the shop, especially learning to play the singing bowls. Their time in HumanKind opened their eyes, just a little bit, to the rest of the world.  Watching someone's face light up when they learn about fair trade for the first time is one of the greatest parts of working this job.

NANCY: You must be proud of your website.  Where else can people learn more about HumanKind? Do you do any local outreach?

LYNANNE: We are active on Facebook and Instagram, and we love sharing beautiful products and artisan stories with our followers.  Other than that, visiting our brick & mortar shop is the best place to learn about us.  We have a wonderful team of staff and volunteers who do a great job educating our customers about fair trade and our fair trade artisan network.

NANCY: Do you know Dunitz made their first sale to HumanKind in May 2009? What is your favorite part about working with Dunitz & Company or the favorite thing you sell from Dunitz? (You know I had to ask!)

LYNANNE: We have been buying Dunitz jewelry since we first opened our doors in 2009! We love the beaded Dunitz teardrops earrings and the Joanie M fused glass jewelry.




Thank you to LynAnne for the time she took answering my questions. Meet LynAnne and visit at HumanKind Fair Trade at 982 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. And keep watching their website. Their ecommerce portal will be available soon. And you're sure to find some Dunitz fair trade earrings for sale. - ND

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Red Hot Oscars

Let’s talk about “red”! Especially since we spotted some serious fire engine red at the Academy Awards on Sunday.  Red screams ‘look at me.’ And a few celebrities had every reason to call attention. (Photos to follow.) As a Dunitz & Company fair trade designer and vendor, I’ve also noticed that even if I see fashion spreads in Elle and Marie Claire with the likes of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, we tend to sell red to a more mature audience.  Yes. Yes. There are lots of exceptions. However, historically we find our “missy” crowd digs red.  In tow at the Oscars, it was no surprise which actresses took on this hot color trend.

Allison Janney was a lock for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother. Did you see her in I, Tonya? I thought she had one of the most memorable performances of the season. And wow, she had every reason to strut in red at the awards ceremony. Long, lean and bold. She was a stunner in her Reem Acra gown. (Should we also mention that she was wearing over $4million worth of borrowed diamonds?)







Another reigning Hollywood royal, Meryl Streep donned red this season. And I thought it was one of her best ever and most flattering award show looks. Her Christian Dior Haute Couture looked like it was made for her. Hard to believe she is 68 in this get up!









More maturity. Maya Rudolph looked ‘old lady’ in her Valentino, 'don’t show any skin number.' I’m not sure why she chose this gown which seemed to age her quite a bit. Perhaps with the #metoo movement, she chose to erase any hint of her sexuality. One thing is for sure. She did not go unnoticed.








And talk about sexuality. Blanca Blanco strutted her stuff in a slinky and revealingly gown designed by Atria Couture. One twitter follower thought her dress was a "wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen." (Remember? She also wore red at the “all black” Golden Globes earlier this season.) This girl likes to get her red on! And well, she's 37.








But here’s the thing. You don’t need to be at an awards ceremony to wear red. Red can be for any occasion, fancy, casual or otherwise. Heck, one of my favorite “ look at me” pieces of clothing are my straight leg red corduroys. Now we’re talking.









Got Red? You know I have to make a plug for Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. This season we’ve offered several red hot designs in our Joanie M fair trade fused glass collection. Don’t want to wear red pants! You’ll make a statement without being overbearing in a pair of red earrings or bib necklace.


Do you wear red? -ND

Monday, March 5, 2018

Oscars Pink - by any other name

Oscars Pink by any other name would look as sweet. Rose Quartz. Blush. Champagne. Cameo. I loved seeing all of the pink gowns on the Academy Awards red carpet last night.  Pink seems to be a perennial favorite for Millennial fashionistas. And Dunitz & Company fair trade often includes fresh pink looks in our collection for our wholesale and retail customers. What a breath of fresh air pink was on the red carpet...

Saorise Ronan was absolutely adorable in her Calvin Klein pink gown with it's huge bow at the back. (The style reminded me of the light blue gown I wore to my brother's bar mitsvah.  My neckline was higher and I was only 11! Stay tuned. I promise to share a photo of that sometime soon.) When I saw this charming dress and others, it confirmed that Dunitz & Company continues to be right on track with color planning.






Did you see Allison Williams in Get Out? Now that was a though provoking film. Even she found the character she played a bit disturbing. At least this is what a gathered from her chat with a TV host on the red carpet pre-show.  Her blush Armani Prive gown and hair style screamed "classic" Hollywood. What a dream she was.







Elizabeth Moss is a favorite of mine. An she was picture perfect last night in Dior Haute Couture.










More pink from Mira Sorvino. If you watched the awards, you saw her partnering with Ashley Judd (wearing a slight variation from Pantone's Ultra-Violet) speaking out for the #metoo movement.








Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin fame donned a Zuhair Murad gown with a plunging neckline. And, yes - another stunning blush pink gown.











So here's the deal.  If all these wildly beautiful celebrities choose to wear pink, why shouldn't you?  I encourage everyone to wear shades of pink. Pink is so soft, feminine and flattering. And you don't have to be dolled up in a gown. Heck, last week Dunitz & Company was exhibiting at the California Marketplace gift show. On a short sales break, the woman working in the booth next to mine went hunting for treasure in other booths near ours. Guess what she came back with?  A pink sweater!





And you know what we say about that? Dunitz & Company fair trade offers the BEST pink earrings! And bracelets and necklaces too! Be brave. Get your Oscar Pink on. Let us help you do it. -ND

Friday, March 2, 2018

Discovered Inspiration on Instagram

Every day I log into my Instagram accounts, @ndunitz and @shopdunitz. A primary reason for having these accounts is to communicate with and develop relationships with my Dunitz & Company wholesale and retail customers. Another is to find inspiration. Inspirational color. Inspirational design. Inspirational thoughts. Creative juices will flow when watching images through the lenses of others. Here are a few of my recent favorites.

I have absolutely no idea how I stumbled upon KaRMA Positivo. Evidently others have as well since this profile now has over 15K followers. Their tag line says they are curating images from Instagram about lifestyle, fashion and artisanship. And that they do. If you browse the feed, you'll find oodles of wonderful and inspirational photos with great styles and colors. Some vintage. Some current. I dig this feed.  The quirky thing is I decided to dig a bit further. The website attached to this feed & their twitter account leads you to the personal blog of Walter Tay Ann Lee, a mechanical engineering student from Singapore. [A reply to an IG message sent by me to KaRMA suggests the URL provided has either been hacked or expired in error. Let this be a warning to check all your links and expiry dates.]


Karen at sustainablefashionchat is obsessed with...you guessed it "sustainable fashion".  And you can read more on her blog. Because I am a fair trader (you're probably reading this because you know Dunitz fair trade jewelry) and I'm obsessed with thrift stores and flea markets, I am always amused to see how she pulls together her ethical outfits.  And she models them so nicely too. Just like me, Karen wears a lot of neutral color clothing. Ah this is a good thing for so many reasons! First, you can wear a sweater over and over again and no one will say... "you wore that yesterday." And, neutrals make the perfect backdrop for Dunitz colorful jewelry. Now we need Karen to wear a piece or two :)!



Here's a profile I enjoy that isn't fashion oriented at all.  Not too long ago I started following Janet Jeffers at janetlittlejeffers, a brilliant photographer who captures awesome finds with either her iPhone or Nikon. I've drooled over some of her recent trip photos. But honestly, it seems if she's in Budapest or her own backyard it doesn't matter. Janet has an incredible eye and can snap the most mundane things and make them exciting. Heck, look at this door in the photo to the right. Those shades of green, rust and black inspire me to create a new color combination for Dunitz fair trade jewelry.  I definitely recommend following her IG feed. Or check out her website.





Sometimes it's "just about pretty"! And that is how I find Sarah's incasualsimplicity feed. Sarah mentions her feed is about finding poetry in everyday life. She seems to savor nature and what she calls simple things. Her photos are lovely. And even better yet, she shares images of her own work created with watercolor and gouache. I am certain this is why I like her profile so much. I find inspiration in her many images of flowers. I also enjoy seeing the Japanese prints she shares with her audience. (Did you know my senior year of college honors seminar at University of Michigan focused on Japanese ukiyo-e prints? Go Blue!)

 
Please share with me some of your most loved Instagram profiles. Perhaps your favorites will lend some inspiration for me and my Dunitz & Company pretty and fair trade designs.-ND

Friday, February 16, 2018

Suffering from Compassion Fatigue? Buy Pretty.

Our business model has always been the same. Since 1990, Dunitz & Company has lived by and operated by the golden rule. We've always put fashion first. And our jewelry is always fair trade. These days, there seems to be a glut of vendors pulling at every one's heart strings. How can you tell when someone is good or just saying they do good in an effort to make a sale? Often business owners say their line is fair trade (even if they aren't Fair Trade Federation verified). Others spout that they donate a % of profits to this cause or another. My guess is some do. Some don't. The 'compassion marketing' noise is endless and the result is increasing 'compassion fatigue'.


I just returned from the NY Now gift show. While there I had a handful of conversations with retail store owners, buyers from museum shops and another wholesaler (now also retailing) who was once a booth neighbor at the now defunct Boston Gift Show. Surprisingly, I was not the one to initiate the conversation. These buyers were quite explicit that they were "done with" buying for goodwill. And evidently their customers are over it too. What I garnered from these conversations was, when spending money, customers want affordability and well-designed merchandise. They want "pretty". And only after that, do they want to know their purchases were produced under fair trade principles or that any given business owner was providing financial aid or making donations to this group or that organization. And I say bravo!

When I heard this from my customers, honestly, I felt a sigh of relief.  For years that is exactly how I saw our sales. Our customers bought Dunitz & Company jewelry because it was beautiful. Our ethics were verified with our Fair Trade Federation and Green America Business memberships.

Just today a client of ours who buys for a few locations said to me,"It is really hard to find fair trade things that sell and aren't too village crafty. We need items that are a good value and people can use every day.  Your jewelry is the perfect example.  It is on trend, cool and wearable." Yes, this warmed my heart big-time.

Are you a buyer or vendor reading this blog? What do you think about the topic of 'compassion fatigue' and how this applies to you and your life?  I'd love to hear from you.  In the meantime, I'm hoping there is a return to "pretty".  I'm certain Dunitz & Company sales will increase as buyers focus more on 'good looks and value'. And then and only after choosing our jewelry because it is "pretty", customers can feel even better knowing our jewelry is verified fair trade. -ND