Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Conversation with Fair Trade Advocate, Molly Stillman

I'm always looking for new places to network and of course, share about the Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry collection. To that end, some time ago I was introduced to Molly Stillman, an active blogger and advocate of fair trade who among other things administrates an active Facebook group, Purchase with Purpose. As part of this group, I learned the depth of Molly's commitment to educating others about ethical and sustainable business. You can discover much more about Molly on her website. Me being me, I wanted to know even more. I asked Molly if I could interview her and she graciously said yes.

NANCY: Was there  a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to promote fair trade and ethically motivated business?

MOLLY: On my first trip to Kenya in July 2011, we toured the Kazuri Bead Factory in Nairobi. This was the first time I physically saw the impact that a fair trade company was having on its community. Kazuri really focuses on employing single moms and disadvantaged women and they are empowering them in so many amazing ways. I wanted to know more about companies that did this. This was the gateway for me to begin learning more about other ethical companies.

NANCY: I think I've been part of your Facebook group for at least a year.  It's quite active and there is a significant membership. How do you recruit such quality members?

MOLLY: I started by inviting a base of people I knew in the ethical community and then reached out to my own readers and community who I knew wanted to learn more.  Then I asked people to invite others they knew and trusted. It organically grew from there.

NANCY: I see many blogs about sustainable and ethical fashion. What really impresses me about you is the consistent output of podcasts you produce.  How did you get into that?

MOLLY: I actually have a background in radio and have been blogging for 11 years. I love the medium of "radio" and interviewing and had always wanted to start a podcast.  So, a little over two years ago, I sat down and just did it.  I reached out to about 20 entrepreneurs I knew or had contact with. And as it grew, I was able to connect with others. It's been such a joy for me and I love doing it.

NANCY: Assuming someone had never listened to your podcasts before, is there one or two you'd recommend or you're most proud of?

MOLLY: Oh man, this is such a hard question because I have loved interviewing so many different people.  My 100th episode was really fun because it was my husband and I talking about the previous 100 episodes. Liz Bohannon of  Sseko Designs our Episode 28 was a really good one. So was Zane Wilemon of Ubuntu Made. That one is Episode 17. 

NANCY: Can you share a story that makes you smile? I'm guessing with all of your involvement with sustainability, you must have one of two worth sharing. Or perhaps you were involved with a project recently where you feel you made a huge difference.

MOLLY: I've been working with a ministry through my church with a group of women in Thika, Kenya. We are in the process of training them to become an artisan group. These women are overcoming unthinkable odds. Their stories are theirs to tell, not mine. But, I will just say they have experienced so much hurt and pain and hardship. Over the past two years, I have seen them come so far. They were reluctant at first that they could "do it". They thought they'd never have the skills needed to support their families. Now I see them smile and take pride in their work. And they want to learn how to do even better and grow their skills. Seeing these women have hope is absolutely incredible and motivates me every day to keep doing what I'm doing.

NANCY: Do you have any tips for newbie bloggers? It's such a crowded marketplace online. Are there any pearls of wisdom you might share?

MOLLY: I always tell new bloggers or people just starting out to find their niche, find their why and focus on that. Blogging is not easy and you will burn out quickly if you try to do what everyone else is doing. Be yourself and focus on creating quality content that you are passionate about sharing.

NANCY: And finally this might be the most important question. (Asked with a smile.) It appears you're quite a burrito aficionado. Can you describe your fav? Or perhaps you have a recipe worth sharing?

MOLLY: I love this question! The best burrito I've ever had is at a place called Freebirds in Texas. But since I don't live in Texas, I eat at Chipolte regularly and I am not ashamed. I get brown rice, black beans, half chicken, half steak, lettuce, cheese, and mild and medium salsa. Oh, and don't forget the guacamole. (Mouth watering...)

---end of interview :)

Whether you work in fair trade or support it, you may benefit from being a member of Purchase with Purpose. I have Michele Adams of Village Country Store to thank for my intro to this Facebook group. If you're interested in joining in, let me know and I can submit your name for membership.
One final note. Molly has compiled a wonderful resource list of fair trade operations, ethical brands and Made in USA fashion companies. It's definitely worth checking out and sourcing from. And yes, Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry is noted in the accessories section. -ND

Monday, September 10, 2018

15 Fair Trade Fashion Companies You Want to Know

Recently, I've read lots and lots of posts written by ethical and sustainability bloggers. It's amazing how much I've learned about zero-waste and thrift shopping. I've been pinning and tweeting left & right. I've also discovered numerable lists circulating of recommended fashion companies offering ethical and sustainable designs. Of course I'm always looking to see if Dunitz & Comany's fair trade jewelry is listed. Dunitz & Company is a long time proud and verified member of Fair Trade Federation. I'm also well acquainted with several other Fair Trade Federation member companies that you all should know about. Here is my list of 15 fashion and jewelry companies, all Fair Trade Federation members, all offering well designed jewelry, accessories or clothing. Each has a website where you can make purchases direct. Each also actively wholesales to stores throughout US and Canada.

In alphabetical order 15 fabulous fair trade and ethical fashion resources:

1. Abrazo Style - Clothing and accessories handmade in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico. Abrazos is best known for their stunning hand-embroidered cotton blouses and dresses. (I'm embroidery crazy, and drool over there blouses.) They also offer hand woven scarves, totes and a small jewelry collection worth checking out.  https://abrazostyle.com/

2. Aid Through Trade - Seed bead jewelry ethically handmade in Nepal. Over 50 artisans create the roll-on bracelets many of you have come to own and love. Available in more colors than you can dream of.  (I also must mention that in the early 90s, Aid Through Trade and Dunitz & Company were among the very few businesses offering seed bead jewelry designs in the US marketplace. Yes, we're friendly competitors. We learned over time that many retailers sold designs from both companies.)  https://www.aidthroughtrade.com/

3. CAUSEGEAR - Offers a complete line of handbags, some leather, others made from canvas and handcrafted in India.  CAUSEGEAR not only produces fabulous products, they also aid both women and men with self-sustaining jobs which often assist these workers out of trafficking situations. Check out this company for the coolest guitar straps too. https://causegear.com/

4. Dunitz & Company - Offers some of the finest quality and fashion forward glass seed bead, embroidered & fused glass jewelry available today. Dunitz has been working with artisans in Guatemala since 1989 and their designs range from sophisticated to sassy and Victorian to ethnic. They also have a lovely fair trade Judaica kippot collection. https://www.shopdunitz.com/

5. Global Mamas - Thinking of cool batik clothing? Then Global Mamas is your answer. They've been working with and supporting women in Ghana since 2003 and offer a host of clothing options for women, men and kids. http://www.shopglobalmamas.com/

6. JOYN - Offers a full line of outstanding handbags and totes. Many with leather. Many vegan. Their creations often incorporate traditional weaving and block printing techniques. The men and women
that create this expansive line live and work in various regions of India. https://www.joynbags.com

7. Liz Alig - A fashion label producing ethical clothing from fabric to sewing. Liz Alig designs their very hip collection in the US using recycled, organic and handwoven fabrics.  They then partner with NGOs and fair trade organizations to produce the clothing in several countries in Central America and South Asia. http://lizalig.com/

8. Maggie's Organics -  Founded in 1992 based upon the premise that clothing and accessories should be comfortable, durable and affordable, and should be produced in such a way that respects and protects our planet’s resources and the lives of those who make the products. (I've always been crazy for their fun assortment of socks.) Search their site to discover ponchos, leggings, clothing and options for children. https://maggiesorganics.com/

9. Malia Designs - This handbag company works with women in Cambodia with a social mission to fight human trafficking. They offer a really cool assortment of satchels created from recycled cement and feed bags.  You'll also discover a lovely collection of wallets and clutches made with traditional ikat fabrics when you search their site.   https://www.maliadesigns.com/


10. muichic -  A sustainable and organic tagua jewelry collection designed in Vermont and ethically handmade in Colombia. muichic's collection is colorful, lightweight and affordable. Tagua is often referred to as vegetable ivory because it has the feel and look of ivory. (My motto is save an elephant however and whenever you can.) http://www.muichic.com/

11. MZ - MZ's goal is to perpetuate the beautiful traditions of the Zapotec artisans of Oaxaca by connecting them to socially conscious consumers around the globe. And they've been quite successful doing just that. MZ's handwoven bags combine traditional indigenous designs with modern color palettes. https://mzfairtrade.com/

12. Passion Lilie - Designed in New Orleans and ethically produced in India. The Passion Lilie collection offers a wide selection of clothing choices for both women and men. Some of their clothing designs are created with traditional block printed fabrics while others use ikat handwovens. https://passionlilie.com/

13. Raven + Lily - I'm completely wowed by the wide assortment of sophisticated offerings of this ethical vendor. You'll find cool jewelry, handbags and clothing made by women artisans from too many countries around the globe to count. Just as all other providers on this list of 15, Raven + Lily's goal is to break the cycle of poverty through equitable trade. https://ravenandlily.com

14. Sevya - I've been acquainted with the women behind Sevya for many years and absolutely adore their scarves and tunics. Their fair trade accessories are made by artisan groups in India using centuries-old craft traditions including hand-loom, block-printing, tie-dye and embroidery. Sevya designs are crafted with natural fibers and eco-friendly dyes. https://www.sevya.com/

14. Victoria Road - This company collaborates with emerging women designers and skilled craftsmen in Lahore, Pakistan to create modern, sophisticated fashion for globally savvy women and children. The collection is really sharp and you can even snag some amazing deals in their Sample Sale section. https://victoria-road.com/

So there you have it! A list of 15 fabulous designers and ethical companies, all verified members of Fair Trade Federation. Perhaps you already knew some of us. Maybe you didn't. I'm thrilled to have  planted the seeds that will encourage you to check us all out a bit more. Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry is in such good company with all of these other vendors. -ND

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Botanicals - Fair Trade Flowers Jewelry

Botanicals. Fair Trade Flowers Jewelry. You might wonder what inspired Dunitz & Company to create and offer a new collection of affordable earrings and pins with images of flowers. Not just any flowers. But vintage images of flowers. Doesn't everyone love vintage? Well, at least lots of people love vintage. I adore vintage. You'll very often find me scouring a flea market on any given Sunday. After a successful launch of laser cut earrings with images of famous art, (think Starry Night) this seemed a natural progression.

At the recent New York Now trade show, Dunitz & Company debuted a collection of dangles, studs and pins with floral images from a host of antique illustrations.  I spent hours and hours combing the internet for just the right images of roses, poppies, tulips and just about every other type of flowers, even cacti. Trust me. It wasn't an easy task to find great images with high resolution that are also available in the public domain. I'm certain I reviewed hundreds of beautiful images pinned to Pinterest. Sometimes you click and the URL is missing or wrong. Most times you click and find a low resolution image. If you're looking for artistic images, one fabulous source is Open Access from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They've photographed and cataloged over 375,000 images from their collections available for unrestricted use.

Source ideas pop up in the most unusual ways. Some of you may know that we're actively posting on our 'Shop Dunitz' Instagram. (if you're not following us, you should be!) We've made lots of friends and connections using this social network. One of  our followers (who we watch too) loves vintage and suggested we check out the files shared by the Rijksmuseum. Was she ever right. This too has been a wonderful resource. (Shown to the right, bontanicals as stud earrings!)

As my searching continued, I stumbled upon luscious images of vintage wallpapers from around the world. Some are European. Others Chinese. Often floral. And then there were those with birds. Did I mention birds? You betcha. I also hunted online for as many cool avian images as I could find. Vintage birds. Yes, we debuted those too. As dangles and studs. Why? Over the years I've sold fair trade jewelry to shops such as Wild Birds Unlimited. I've also worked with many zoos with aviaries. Dunitz & Company had to offer these too:). [If you don't know, now know that Dunitz also has created these earrings with custom images for a few of our clients. We can easily do it. Low minimums. And they are super affordable.]

Dunitz has always sold lots of beaded studs and fused glass studs. My guess is many of you reading this have purchased them for yourself or for your shops. You might even be wearing a pair today. It made sense to offer our vintage images as studs, not just dangles. This wallpaper design is floral with parrots...from vintage Chinese wallpaper. How cool is that?

When I started working with the laser cut designs, we only offered earrings. I'm certain I woke up in the middle of the night with a light bulb going off in my head. Pins. Pins. Pins. It made sense to add them to our arsenal. They're pretty and very affordable. (Do you ever wake up from a deep sleep brainstorming with ideas?)

The punchline of this post? Dunitz & Company now offers more fair trade flowers! Yes, I mean in fair trade jewelry form. When I first masterminded this collection, I thought it would primarily sell to museum and botanical garden gift shops. I was wrong. Did I suggest earlier that everyone (including me) loves vintage? I've been more than pleasantly surprised and pleased with the host of gift boutiques that have ordered. The collection is new. I'm hopeful that it will sell through and my new customers will reorder. Keep your fingers crossed! Mine are. -ND