Sunday, July 29, 2018

What Motivates An Ethical Blogger - Kristen Gilbride

I'm always hoping that ethical bloggers and fashion bloggers will want to write about Dunitz & Company. So when they do, I'm thrilled for the attention.  If they focus on the good looks of our fair trade jewelry, I couldn't be happier. If they hone in on our upstanding ethics, yeah - awesome! Write about both, now that's the best.

I meet the (mostly) women that write about Dunitz & Company various ways. Often it's through networking on Instagram. So it's not unusual that recently on this very social network, I met Kristen Gilbride of Purposeful Fits.  She's one impressive woman, currently working on her masters degree at Rutgers University. She recently wrote about Dunitz & Company on her blog.

And then, this got me thinking. How fun would it be to interview her?  With so many people always looking for the latest cheapest new blouse or shoes or necklace, what makes a 20-something feel otherwise? Lucky me. Kristen loved the idea of us reversing roles. Now I've been able to learn more about her and what makes her tick. Here's what she shared with me.

NANCY: I'm so impressed when I see someone your age advocating for change. Was there a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to educate others about sustainability and environmental issues? Can you tell me about that?

KRISTEN: Thank you so much. A few years ago I was working as a stock girl in a luxury women's fashion store in an outlet mall in New York. There, I learned so many valuable lessons about fashion and what needs to change within the industry.  This company produced really beautiful clothes and showed two collection each year. We were told to tell customers that the clothing was made in France when it was really made in China. The way the company got away with this was there were no "Made in" tags sewn into the clothing. Some customers came in with their recently purchased clothing and showed us holes or split seams.  At the time, it was somewhat easy to shake these feelings of customer exploitation. Or maybe each event was too small on its own for me to make a fuss. But it wasn't until me and my sister, who also worked at this store, were scanning out damaged goods, did the manager tell us that some of the blouses being sold for $300 or more only cost the company five dollars. We knew this small price tag had to include material costs, labor costs and transportation costs. This was hard to shake off.

I did some light research and found that this was the norm for most fashion retailers. Companies with transparent supply chains were few and far between.  But when I found companies that were transparent, it was refreshing to say the least.  I wanted to give these companies a platform to showcase the amazing efforts they were making to change the industry.  With this knowledge I wanted to show people that they can change how the fashion industry operates by supporting companies that operate with higher morals. (Note: Kristen will be building a list of ethical designers and suppliers for her blog soon.)

NANCY: I was thrilled when you wrote about Dunitz & Company and our fair trade jewelry line.  So obviously you're interested in promoting fair trade.  Is there a cause you're most passionate about?

KRISTEN: It was so much fun writing that piece.  Fair Trade is such an important topic to cover when it comes to many industries, including fashion.  Being Fair Trade is always my first check-mark when it comes to what I consider sustainable.  I have so many Fair Trade causes that I'm passionate about, but I think one cause that is sometimes overlooked is job security.  For so many women around the world, including America, maternity leave isn't guaranteed. Even if a policy exists, there is no guarantee that the same job will be there after you return.  Sometimes the working contracts are questionable and sometimes they are down right wrong.  Workers should be able to take a sick day or a personal day and not worry about losing their job. I believe fostering healthy work environments is important for employees and can generate creativity.  When people are comfortable and valued, it shows in their work.

NANCY: You're attending Rutgers. Are you taking or have you taken any classes that focus on ethics and sustainability?  Perhaps there was a course or a professor that most inspired you?

KRISTEN: I have not taken a class that specifically focuses on ethics or sustainability. But, I've taken several inspiring classes that have taught me things that I now apply to Purposeful Fits (Kristen's blog.) I took a religion class that talked about Native American representation and appropriation within America. This really inspired me to look into representation in general, and as it pertains to the fashion industry.  The majority of fashion labels have limited diversity when it comes to age, gender, race and body type.  I think it's so amazing when a company incorporates diverse models.

This last semester I took a class that focused on how to engage people in local issues. This gave me so much perspective on the many ways you can reach an audience. Not only did it make me aware of the number of issues people in poverty face, but it also really got me thinking about how I could encourage engagement in issues I'm passionate about.

NANCY: Do you have any idea what you might like to do professionally after you finish university?  I'm just wondering how your interest in sustainability and the environment will continue after you finish. Have you even thought about it yet?

KRISTEN: Ah, the question that is asked the most and the one most dreaded by college students.  After college I would like to work somewhere in the fashion industry.  I'm currently getting my masters in communications and would love to be part of a communications team that values Fair Trade, is eco-friendly, promotes social change, and of course sells beautiful clothes.  Right now I can't get any more specific that that.

NANCY: It's clear you love fashion.  You and Rowan Eo take amazing shots for your Instagram feed and blog.  Do you ever think about launching your own fashion brand?

KRISTEN: Rowan is such an amazing photographer and person. I don't think I have too much of an eye for design. I'll leave that to the (design) professionals. With that said, I would love to work alongside those designers to creative a sustainable fashion line.  I think my talents are geared more toward the communication side of a business. Who knows? Maybe one day you'll be wearing Purposeful Fits designs. (last comment clearly communicated with a smile.)

NANCY: What projects have you been involved with in school or outside of school that make you most proud? Tell me about it.

 KRISTEN: Although this doesn't pertain to fashion, I'm very proud of playing the cello.  I've been playing cello since I was 6 years old and have performed in Carnegie Hall and with various orchestras. Not too many people know this, but initially I was a music major at Rutgers before switching to communications. I still play, just not as much as I'd like to.

NANCY: Am I missing anything important?

KRISTEN: I don't think so. Your questions were great, super interesting and diverse. I'm so happy you wanted to interview me.

And with this - I must say, I'm thrilled I interviewed Kristen. I was impressed with her before. Now after digesting her answers to my questions, I'm even more impressed. I know more about what motivates a young ethical blogger. It's obvious this talented moral woman will go far. Learn even more about Kristen by reading her Purposeful Fits blog. And of course, do not miss her post about Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. -ND

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thrifted Clothing Inspires Fair Trade Jewelry Colors

I've been working diligently lately on Dunitz & Company's Pinterest account. The goal. To have more active users follow, and hopefully purchase our fair trade jewelry so we can continue to sustain our artisans we've been working with for over 25 years.  And while I've been spending more time on Pinterest, I've been reading lots of blogs posted by like-minded people.  I always read articles specific to fair trade and those posted by my Fair Trade Federation colleague members. Now I'm also devouring articles on sustainability, ethical clothing brands, thrifting, repurposing & upcycling and zero waste. The blog posts available on these topics are endless. And as is courteous on Pinterest, I've learned it isn't always about you. So, in the spirit of sharing, I'm not only sharing oodles of model shots and links to Dunitz product, I'm also sharing (pinning as they say in Pinterest world) many blog posts written by others on all the topics I just mentioned.

I've always been keenly aware of my Fair Trade Federation colleagues. I know the countries they work in and the products their artisans produce. I am not as familiar with the many clothing lines that are deemed ethically and socially conscious. But, I'm learning. I've always been into recycling and thrifting. Spending more time reading about these topics has been fun. It also got me thinking about how I have always used my own wardrobe for color inspiration.  Yes, I watch Pantone projections closely. Yes, I watch New York and Paris runway shows. Yes, I'm inspired by nature. But, you know what? I'm also inspired by the colors I've always loved wearing. And yes, many of those colors are inspired by my old and/or classic thrift finds.

I adore Aqua. Doesn't almost everyone? This must be the reason I gravitated toward this beach bum man's shirt at a Jet Rag Sunday sale. Jet Rag, a Hollywood vintage store institution, stages a crazy sale every Sunday in their parking lot. The hipsters, thrifters and hoarders line up to hopefully snag something cool. Everything offered is only $1.00. I've seen some shoppers duke it out over a pair of jeans or a designer label t-shirt.  Mountains of stuff are sifted through at a furious pace while everyone dreams of finding the perfect addition for their wardrobe. (My guess is several are dreaming about the big bucks they can make reselling their discoveries online.) This, not so famous designer shirt, as it turns out has been perfect with jeans. And the colors of aqua, gold, jade, black & brown are loved by just about everyone. See that bracelet I propped on top of the shirt. That is Dunitz & Company's "Color #249"! We'll be making loads of seed bead jewelry in this color combo this season.

I've always been a nut for neutrals. And I have always been able to wear various shades of brown well. I also know that women in general love metallic colors. Gold and Rose Gold (or as we fondly call it light copper) together make spectacular jewelry. I will be wearing Dunitz & Company's "Color #236" all year long. This coming fall, I'll be pairing it with one of my OLDEST tops that is frayed at the neck and sleeves with a pair of vintage straight leg cords I found a couple of years ago at a thrift store in Chicago. No, I can't turn this cotton shirt into a cleaning rag. And - if you're from the Chicago area, you are incredibly lucky. I don't know if Chicago has the best thrift stores of any city I've been, or if the friend I was palling around with had already done her homework.

I just read an article from Pantone stating that gray is projected as the "big" color for just about everything for Fall 2019. Gray will be everywhere. On cars, home decor textiles, men's clothing and interior & exterior painted walls. It seems only last year we were hearing "Gray is the New Black." Maybe Gray just never goes out of style. It perfectly aligns itself with silver. And we know women love silver when it comes to jewelry. I dig all shades of gray when it comes to clothing.  Gray can be tinted green, blue or purple. These two pieces of clothing have been in my wardrobe forever, both having a more purple caste and are total treasures. The skirt was my mother's before me. Which means she purchased it in the 1970s! It's from Yves St Laurent. As long as I fit in it, it's not going anywhere. Fashion tip from me. If you wear a monochromatic look (top and bottom the same color) you can easily dress up any outfit with accessories of many colors. I've paired my outfit with Dunitz & Company's "Color #276" which combines gray, beige and a pale bronze. Will you be wearing gray clothing this next season? You'll be right on trend.

Now let's talk about classic style! Black & White (or add a bit of silver to the mix), is always a fan favorite. I even focused on Black & White on a prior blog entry. This color combo is such a staple that Dunitz & Company's "Color #351" was not only offered in Spring, we will once again show jewelry in this combo for Fall wardrobes.  For the purpose of this blog, I had to couple this bracelet with a pair of old seersucker pants.  I'm absolutely crazy for seersucker.  I'm not sure if these shrunk the last time they were washed. Or if I gained a couple of pounds. The thrifter in me says keep them around. Maybe they'll fit next summer!

Boyfriend Jeans. Ah, I love them. Hip and just a bit baggy so they are comfortable. I also know that the ones offered by Ann Taylor Loft (sorry, not noted as an ethical brand) fit me so well. The solution? For me, it's Ebay. When I shred my jeans up so they are no longer wearable, I look for a second-hand pair online that someone else decided to get rid of. I recently read an article from Green America that suggested buying used clothing on Ebay was a good way to help our planet. Phew. It seems almost everything matches jeans. Paired up with an old burgundy - purpleish hoodie, Dunitz & Company's new "Color #357" is a sublime coordinate. BTW, if you're in the Los Angeles area on the second Sunday of the month, check out the Rose Bowl Flea Market. There are great finds everywhere. Focused on clothing? Head to the last lot where you find mounds of shoes, jackets, hats, scarves, jeans - you name it. I'm sure this is where I found this hooded shirt.

Sometimes I recycle color combinations.  This one, Dunitz & Company "Color #79" was originally offered in 2004. This combination of olive and greenish-gold was always an all-time favorite of mine. I'm thrilled to have it in our fair trade jewelry line up for the upcoming season.  Time to drag some clothing out of the back of the closet! This skirt (part of a suit, inherited from my mom. 70's again, I'm certain.) is quite a bit brighter than my iPhone could capture. As is the army green blouse.  When I wear this ensemble, I think I'll be layering oodles of long medallion strands in this very color.

Red will be all over store shelves this fall. That's certainly the case if my study of runway shows is at all accurate.  Personally, although I have offered fire engine red jewelry in the past, I much prefer deep burgundy tones. (Ha. And I personally wear them much better too.) My projection is you'll all see a lot of brown in store too. Perfect. (Didn't I mention that I like wearing brown earlier in this post?) Out comes the varying shades of chocolate and crimson for Dunitz & Company "Color #255". Paired with a 'made in France' vintage skirt and a brown knit top. The latter, I confess was purchased at a shop in the mall several years ago. (I'm not perfect.)

Often I tweak popular color combinations. It keeps things more interesting for the shop owners who visit my wholesale booth at trade shows. And it keeps work more fun for me. Did I mention how gray seems to always be on-trend?  This season I paired a metallic gray with sapphire (very on trend) and amethyst. Dunitz & Company's "Color #355" is sure to please. And I can wear it with my purple t-shirt snagged from a Goodwill 'closeout outlet' center.  Do you have one near you? I believe there are only two or three in Greater Los Angeles. One closed. A new one opened. Typically you'll find tons of other pickers and needier folks foraging through enormous bins. Then you pay by weight. It's quite an experience.

Over the years, I've learned that any shade of brown paired with any shade of blue is typically well received.  Of course, more on-trend shades of brown and blue will produce even more winning combinations. I'm hopeful that Dunitz & Company "Color #251" will please our fans this upcoming season. Metallic gold, metallic bronze (can look a bit green when paired with green) and pale aqua blue will be great with brown, green, tan, gold.... & DENIM. Yes, denim blue. See that denim shirt I plopped in this photo? It has holes (one folded over in this image) everywhere. I absolutely cannot part with it. And I'm certain that greenish sleeveless top was another one of my Goodwill outlet finds.

Before I close, I must pay tribute to one of my very first and favorite designs. I debuted our classic twelve strand bracelet in 1990! It drips with Czech fire-polish glass crystals and is an integral part of our fair trade jewelry line. I can never retire it. Why? First, it sells. And honestly, it grounds me each season.  I create all my color combos first using this design. And if the shades and beads I select work on this design, then they follow through the rest of our line. -ND