Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hollywood Stars Shine in Pink

I'm always thinking about color and how it pertains to Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry collection. That being said, you absolutely know that the color pink is on my brain after watching the recent Academy Awards. I already knew from watching trends, projections and runway shows that I should include various shades of pink in the Dunitz Spring 2019 lineup.  And I did. What I didn't know, and to some extent still don't, is whether my customers will be willing to wear it. (You've heard me countless time say blue is always the top seller.)

I couldn't have been more pleased to see so many Hollywood A-Listers dolled up in fabulous pink gowns for Oscar's biggest night. Pale Pink. Hot Pink. Fuchsia. Julia Roberts. Gemma Chan. Helen Mirren. Kacey Musgraves. Age was of no issue. Even Jason Mamoa stepped out in a pink velvet Tuxedo.

What does that mean for the rest of us? I'd say it's time for many of us to show some bravery, even if it's only a small accent of bravery.  Consider wearing a pair of Dunitz & Company's pink fair trade earrings. And yes, we have pale pink, hot pink and fuchsia options. -ND

Monday, February 25, 2019

Oscar Fashions - Tongue in Cheek

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I always study Academy Awards fashion looking for tips and trends that might impact my designs for Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. I loved the sea of pink. So many different shades of pink. There were also many looks that for some reason struck my funny bone. So for a bit of humor, I thought I'd share my observations.

Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez. The woman is gorgeous. And she looked absolutely stunning last night. However, my knee-jerk reaction was, "where is the floral headpiece?"  Her silver mirrored mosaic gown (designed by Tom Ford) with her perfect hourglass figure made me think of the glitzy vases you'll find in many lifestyle furniture stores. And you know what I mean, right?

Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves showed up in a flouncy pastel pink number that landed on several best-dressed lists. To me, her gown, designed by Giambattista Valli reminded me of a fluffy loofah. I've since observed that the fashion twitter feeds are saying the same.

Gemma Chan
When I saw Gemma Chan on the red carpet I was totally wowed. How could someone look so absolutely breathtaking in a dress that resembles a tent. (I read she hid cookies in her pockets.) OK, this Valentino gown didn't "exactly" look like a tent. But, seriously.  I live and work in Hollywood, CA. I live only half a mile from where this extravagant event was taking place. I live next to the Hollywood Bowl where all the limos parked during the ceremony. And I hate to say it. The gown brought me down to earth and reminded me of all the tents in the area housing homeless. And sometimes they're pink. It's a huge problem in Los Angeles.

Charlize Theron
A more pleasing association is what was brought to mind when I saw the stunning Charlize Theron strutting her stuff. She's one long tall drink of water. And in a slate blue Dior gown topped off  with prominent diamond jewels, I know it's crazy, but I thought of a long, tall light post. And the most famous one's around here are Urban Lights, a sculpture installation created by Chris Burden. See it up close out front at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Haven't seen it? Now you must get on over to LACMA.

Christine Lahti
Christine Lahti looked quite adorable in this number designed by Romona Kevenza.  And evidently she twirled in it several times to show off just how pretty it was (and she was.) It reminded me a bit of a lampshade I have in my living room. It did. Well just a bit.

Lupita Nyong'o * Bjork
So here's my final thought. Lupita Nyong'o skipped the red carpet this year. Evidently she attended the Academy Awards. She just didn't strut her stuff in the feathery Oscar de la Renta gown she was donning. Perhaps she didn't want to be compared with Bjork and the swan dress Bjork wore in 2001. (Gee, that was a long time ago.) But here's the thing. Lupita does the look so much better!

Most all of Hollywood's elite looked amazing last night. And only a few made me think of mosaic vases and vintage lamp posts. Stay tuned for the 2020 Oscars. Who knows what I'll discover and share on the Dunitz blog. - ND

Friday, February 22, 2019

LeeAnne McCoy - Changing How You Shop

LeeAnne McCoy
Are you familiar with LeeAnne McCoy and her encyclopedic website "Change The World By How You Shop?" If you aren't, you should be. If you want to make more educated, more ethical buying choices, she's done all the work for you. Clothing. Furnishings. Food. Toys. You name it. She has diligently assembled what I think is one of the most comprehensive buying guides for smarter shopping. I am so impressed with her website, I asked if she would be willing to have me interview her. Lucky me. Lucky us. She agreed. And now we know what motivates all of her hard work.

NANCY: Your site 'Change The World By How You Shop' is an extraordinary resource listing so many companies producing and selling ethical merchandise. How did you get started with creating this site? 

LEEANNE:  The idea for my website was born for two reasons.  First, the more I learned about the mistreatment of people behind so many of the products we buy, the more passionate I became about ethical shopping and the more I wanted to do something to make a difference.  Secondly, when I began shopping for ethically made products, I was frustrated at the lack of ethical shopping guides available, particularly for shopping within the USA. When I started, I couldn't find any.

So I came up with this crazy idea of creating my own guide which would break the products down into very specific categories, making it easier to find whatever you were looking for.  The website takes a lot of work to maintain, but, if nothing else, it has certainly makes ethical shopping a lot easier.

NANCY: Do you have a favorite fair trade category you like talking about the most?

LEEANNE:  I am most passionate about businesses that go beyond just paying living wages and invest in the entire person, transforming people's lives. Many of the organizations whose products I feature on my site are providing job training and hope to people including those with disabilities, widows, orphans, former victims of human trafficking, the homeless, and on and on.  I give to charity. I also love the idea of supporting well-meaning business through my every day shopping. I like to know the mission of companies is about changing and improving lives.

NANCY: It appears you don't support your site and work with paid or affiliate advertising. Is there a reason for this?

LEEANNE:  You are one of only a few who has even noticed that.  I am certainly not against anyone earning income from their blogs or shopping guides and maybe someday I will too.  But, for now I do not, for two reasons.  One, I am not a very good salesman and I find it a whole lot easier to promote and sell something if I am not profiting from it.  Two, because I promote so many organizations which are mission-based, my website has become my mission. 

The best payment I get for the work I do is when I hear someone bought a product after referring to my site.  I am fulfilled when I am able to encourage and provide resources to someone running a fair trade business or non-profit who is feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.  That is why I do what I do.

NANCY: I met you in the 'Purchase with Purpose' Facebook group.  How else do you promote your site and the amazing things you've learned while putting it together?

LEEANNE:  I love that Facebook group. I have met so many cool people and found so many great resources through that group. I also follow many other ethical shopping Facebook groups and blogs and spend a lot of time scouring the Internet and social media for other like-minded shoppers. Then I let them know about the resources on my site.  I know there are many others like me who are looking for ways to make ethical shopping easier and I am happy to share my research. (yes she is!)

NANCY:  You're a mom of 6 young children.  Obviously you want the world to be a better place for them. How do you explain your site to them?

McCoy Family
LEEANNE:  Shopping ethically with young children is not always easy.  How do you explain to a six-year-old why he cannot have a particular toy or chocolate bar?  My nine-year-old sometimes laments that he wishes there was no more slavery or bad factories so he could buy whatever he wants. And my eleven-year-old keeps coming up with elaborate plans on how to fix all the world's problems.

I hope that by not being able to buy anything and everything they want and thinking about those who made things we do buy, it will help them be more grateful for what they do have.  Ultimately, my dream is not so much to make the world better for my children, as it is to inspire my children to make a difference in the world.  If my children choose to use their talents, time and resources to invest in caring about and impacting other people’s lives than I will have succeeded.

NANCY: Clearly you're an advocate for the promotion of fair trade and ethical goods. What do you do for fun when you're not helping others make better buying decisions?

Family Game Night
LEEANNE:  I am a piano and flute teacher. That is how I actually make my living. And when I want to relax, I play music.  For fun, me and my whole family are avid board game players. I have had to do quite a bit of research to find out which games are ethically made. Now we have a whole collection we all enjoy.

NANCY: Is there anything else you'd like people to know about you?

LEEANNE:   My dream would be to work directly with the amazing people who create the beautiful products I feature on my website. Maybe someday. But I have learned that God does not call everybody to the front-lines.  Those of us who are on the sidelines cheering them on or working behind the scenes are just as important to making a difference.  So, anyone who shops through my site also gets to join me in having an impact.

---end of interview

How can you not love this woman? Her aura is inspiring and inspired. I'm certain if you cannot find a company that offers the ethically produced product you're looking for, you just need to ask LeeAnne. She's a pitbull at finding resources. And she'll make sure any new information she uncovers will be added to Change The World By How You Shop. Heck, she found me. I'm thrilled Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry and Judaica are noted on her site.

Here's a big thank you to LeeAnne for creating Change The World By How You Shop.  I'm certain LeeAnne is changing the world for the better - one person at a time and one fair trade and ethically made item at a time. -ND

Friday, February 15, 2019

New York Fashion Week - Black Black Black

Once again, like clockwork, New York Fashion Week is behind us. And if you're anything like me, your eyes were glued to all of the Fall 2019 runway shows of all the top and best-known designers. What did I see? Lots and lots of black clothing.  

Seriously? I was hoping to find some vibrant clothing that might inspire new color combinations for Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry collections. I discovered a bit. But what I mostly saw was a sea of black and grey from all the names you know, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Cynthia Rowley and more.

The silver lining? If women are strutting their stuff in monochromatic black (next winter), I can offer all kinds of colorful baubles. What better backdrop for shades of purple, jade and burgundy is black?  One of my best strategies for coming up with fabulous color combinations is to hone in on what were our best sellers in the past.

Ya know what? I'm a bit guilty when coordinating my own wardrobe. I wear a lot of black. And certainly these top designers recognize that most women do. They know it sells.  'All black' is an easy "uniform" for many of us. How often have you seen me at a trade show not in black?

So, get it on. Doll up in all of your black clothing for Fall 2019. You'll be right on trend. And you'll be able to adorn yourself with just about any color of gem or bauble that steals your heart. Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry, always designed with rich colors will be your perfect add on. -ND

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fair Trade at Work: Global Gifts' Alissa Head

When you work in "Fair Trade" as long as I have, you meet so many people making a difference. Big differences. And more often than not, many of these do-gooders don't get the recognition they deserve. We don't always know who they are. We don't always understand exactly what they do. One person that has impressed me with her professionalism and dedication is Alissa Head. Alissa's the Executive Director of Global Gifts, a group of fair trade stores based in Indianapolis, IN.  I asked Alissa if I could interview her for my blog. She graciously accepted. Here's what she had to share with me.

NANCY:  You've been part of Global Gifts for several years.  I'm just curious. Did you move to the Midwest to work for Global Gifts? Or were you fortunate to find this perfect fit while already living in Ohio?

ALISSA:  I was already living in Columbus, OH when the opportunity to join Global Gifts came about. I had just stepped out of my role as Vice President of Operations at a local, print on demand, direct to consumer e-commerce t-shirt company that had grown by 500% during my tenure of 4 years. (from $500K to $12M in sales annually.) As graphic tees phased out of fashion, I was asked to downsize our production. I did so, but I put myself at the top of the list of people to lay off and left the company at the end of the reorganization. One week later a friend told me about Global Gifts opening a store in Columbus, and there was a position open for Store Manager. I was eager to get back into the non-profit world and applied. (Alissa explained she had previous experience in non-profit trade association work.) 

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

Alissa's Hat Design
ALISSA:  I have been very active in our local handmade community for many years as a knitting pattern and knitwear designer, which led me to my previous job. Handmade is the root of my passion for fair trade, but justice and integrity are what drive me. Treating people fairly, in all aspects of work, both domestically and globally, as well as environmental sustainability are two tenets I hold very dear. There was a moment during my previous employment, during rapid growth, when we visited one of our t-shirt distribution centers. The warehouse was one square mile, chockablock floor to ceiling, full of boxes of blank shirts. I was stunned by the magnitude of it and I thought to myself, “There is no way this is sustainable.” That moment, plus the reorganization of the company, were two experiences that made me realize I would never be comfortable working towards increasing a bottom line at the expense of the environment and people’s welfare. I had heard of fair trade chocolate and coffee, but was unaware of the handmade movement. When I had the opportunity to work for Global Gifts, I jumped in eagerly!

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

ALISSA:  Right now my focus is on streamlining operations for our four stores, including better systems for Human Resources, as well as upgrading our technology in stores to improve our efficiency and customer relations. Additionally, along with our Marketing Manager, Jennifer Moncel, I am working to increase our brand awareness and improve our website to make it more cohesive with our brick and mortar experience.

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

ALISSA:  Before I was promoted to Executive Director I was Purchasing Manager, while also Store Manager in Columbus. Looking at all the lovely new designs and deciding what to bring into the stores is still one of my favorite things. Although I am no longer in charge of purchasing, I still enjoy our process, now led by Dave Debikey, our Bloomington Store Manager.

NANCY: When did Global Gifts become part of Fair Trade Federation?  Do you have any thoughts about this partnership? 

ALISSA:  I joined Global Gifts in late February 2014, and one of my earliest experiences was attending the Fair Trade Federation Conference that year in Indianapolis, co-hosted by Global Gifts. I learned so much there and am so grateful for the FTF Community. We rely on Fair Trade Federation verification when considering new products, vendors, and artisan groups. The assurance Fair Trade Federation membership gives us in transparency and accountability, and the ability to share that with our customers, is key to our mission in supporting at risk and marginalized artisans.

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

ALISSA:  This year we have completed all of our requirements to make Columbus, OH an official Fair Trade Town through Fair Trade Campaigns. The only step left is to have a resolution passed by the Mayor. This has been a personal project of mine since 2015, and I am gratified to see its completion. We have a great fair trade community in Columbus, and last year we started making regular appearances vending at local events, as well as hosting our own "World Fair Trade Day Sip and Shop". This result is due to the accumulated efforts of not only myself, but many unpaid interns and community members. I hope to be able to pass the torch this year to take Fair Trade Columbus to the next level, spreading the word and work of fair trade.

NANCY: You must be proud of your website. It's really easy to navigate.  Where else can people learn more about Global Gifts?

ALISSA: In addition to our website, each of our stores has its own social media accounts on facebook, Instagram, and twitter. Following these accounts gives a wonderful insight into each store’s location, culture, and community, led by the store managers. It’s a lot of fun to see what they do with their posts and how it takes us further along the path of sharing fair trade at the local level.

NANCY: Of course, I'm thrilled that Global Gifts is selling Dunitz & Company's fused glass jewelry. You know I had to ask.  Do you have a favorite design you like pointing out to customers? Or something you personally enjoy wearing?

ALISSA:  I personally love the skinny leather and fused glass bracelet in my favorite hues of blue. 

NANCY: Is there anything else you'd like to share?

ALISSA:  I feel so fortunate to be Executive Director of this organization, working for fair trade along with our wonderful team at Global Gifts.  Although I feel that I bring a lot of experience to this position, I also still have so much to learn, and I am looking forward to the continued journey.

---end of interview :)

Post Interview: I asked Alissa to tell me more about her artistic side. I wanted to know just a little more about her and what drives her in addition to her work at Global Gifts. She told me about her formal visual arts training and shared with me some images of her recent art work. With her permission, I'm sharing a few here.

Alissa spends a lot of time creating fiber art. Check out the photo to the right. Named "Meditations on Wholeness," Alissa knit this piece with stainless steel and silk thread. How cool is that?

Alissa's wool fiber paintings were part of a group exhibit hosted last year at Global Gallery, a fair trade coffee shop located in Columbus. Her paintings are inspired by photographs she took at Blendon Woods, one of the metro parks in her area.  Spot on.

Thank you for allowing me to pummel you with questions, Alissa. It always amazes me how much more I can learn from all those around me working in and supporting fair trade. I'm so impressed by you and the work you do at Global Gifts. And now I know what a talented artist you are as well.

Reading this? If you're in Indianapolis, Bloomington or Columbus, get on over to a Global Gifts store. These shops offer a wide selection of wonderful fair trade goodies. And, yes, lots of Dunitz & Company fused glass jewelry. -ND

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Say It With Fair Trade Hearts

Several Items from my 2019 Valentines List below are no longer available as of January 2020. I have removed the links where need be.  I promise to do an updated Heart Guide for 2020. -ND

What is love without hearts? As Valentine's Day is approaching, I thought it would be fun to discover fair trade gifts, shaped like hearts that are offered by Dunitz & Company and our Fair Trade Federation colleagues. Check out my eleven fun and affordable discoveries.

1. Soapstone Heart Box - Handmade in Kenya and offered by Fair Trade Winds. Traditional love-red, adorable and seriously affordable. $20.00 (no longer available.)

2. Felted Monkey with Heart in Hands - How could you pass up on this adorable little monkey handing out his heart? This adorable gift, made in Guatemala is offered by Mayan Hands. $10.00


3. Pink Crystal Heart Earrings - Yes, these cuties come from Dunitz & Company and are made with Czech glass beads in Guatemala.  Regularly $12.00. At the time of writing this, they're on sale for $9.60

4. Bicycle Chain Heart Hook - Perfect for your guy-pal. This rugged heart shaped offering comes from the Global Gifts website and is made by Mira Fair Trade. Both Fair Trade Federation members. $9.99 (no longer available)

5.Hammered Heart Bracelets - Eternal Threads is selling these good-looking bracelets. You can't lose. They were $25.00 and now their 50% off. And the purchase of these helps to support orphans and other vulnerable children in Swaziland. Now $12.50

6. Beaded Heart Earrings - If you visit the Dunitz & Company website you'll discover these beautifully crafted earrings in several colors. Prefer pink? You'll find them. They're made by artisans in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. $24.00

7. Heart Note Card - Say it with the written word. These beautiful handmade in Vietnam cards are offered by Fair Trade Winds and are designed by Quilling Card. Again both Fair Trade Federation members. $9.95

8. Heart Horn Earrings - Isn't it always fun to wear a little bit of turquoise with your horn? Your honey is sure to love these earrings from Wanderlust Jewelry. They're made by artisans in Peru. $9.00

9. Heart Mango Wood Pivot Box - Inspired by traditional Indian spice boxes, these hearts are sure to please. Offered by Zee Bee Market and designed by Matr Boomie, both Fair Trade Federation members. $28.00

10. Heart Treasure Bell Charm - And charming it is! What could be a prettier way to add some soft sounds to your environment? Available on the Global Gifts website. Designed by Matr Boomie. $35.00 (no longer available)

11. Hearts with Hearts Stones - Bright, fun and they say "Love". These small hearts are carved of Kisii Stone in Kenya and are offered by One World Fair Trade. Only $5.00 (no longer available)

So there you have it. It amazes me that so many people think fair trade gifts are expensive. After checking out this list, I'm sure you'll agree that not only are these offerings from Fair Trade Federation members fabulously adorable, they're seriously affordable. We hope you'll support Dunitz & Company and our fair trade colleagues this Valentine's Day and all year long. Your purchase definitely make a difference for people and planet. I can vouch for my fair trade colleagues. We all care deeply about the people we work with. -ND