On my recent shoot with Amour Vert, I got to talk all things sustainable, why we started ODM/ODC along with my involvement in the Model Mafia crew. Here are some of the talking points we discussed…I’m so thankful a company was willing to sit down and talk about these things with me. Slowly but surely, companies care about the model as a whole, more than just their looks. It’s beautiful to be able to share our passions and beliefs, especially on touchy subjects like the environment and sustainability. Join the conversation by leaving your comments below!
As a model, I get to work with so many different types of companies. That’s what I love about my job, I’m a chameleon and I get to change for every brand to represent their image the best I can. From dream wedding dress companies to haute couture and Ready to Wear, it’s beautiful to see behind the scenes and what often goes into making the clothes and the images to sell them. On the flip side, this is what opened my eyes to the sometimes wasteful nature of our industry. A lot of the times, I can feel firsthand the difference between a product that was made with love and one that was made to disintegrate to potentially fuel the overconsumption nature of our economy. I am however a firm believer in working with those who we wish to inspire. It’s not about working against the companies that “aren’t doing it right” but by inspiring them to change and be better! And sometimes, I’m lucky enough to work with companies that I TRULY believe in, like Amour Vert. It was an absolute dream to shoot with a company that is so in alignment with ODM/ODC and our values. Scroll down for my interview with Emory Cooley from Amour Vert and see for yourself why the Model Activist group is obsessed with this company!
1. Tell me a bit about how you got connected with Amour Vert. What’s it like working for them?
I studied Fashion and Textile Management in school and took a course on sustainability. After taking the course, I was shocked at the corruption within the industry. Upon graduation, I knew I wanted to work for a brand with a larger vision at hand, and I found Amour Vert. I moved from North Carolina almost 2 years ago to join Amour Vert in their quest to change fashion.
It’s been an amazing experience working at Amour Vert. My co-workers have become close friends and the office has amazing energy. Teams collaborate frequently and ideas are shared and formed throughout the office and between teams. We have a company-wide meeting every Monday and every Friday there is a family-style lunch. When you work for Amour Vert, you’re a part of a family.
2. What are some of the core values to Amour Vert and how does the company ensure they’re sticking to them?
Our core values are to be sustainable in everything we do. From the factory to the fibers, we are sustainable. We stick to this by having transparency and close relationships with our mills and factories.
3. I love the fact that the company partners with artists on limited-edition prints. I especially love the print you just did with Buckley for Women’s Day! Tell me a bit about this process and some of the collaborations the company has done in the past and what you have coming up in the future.
We work with value-aligned women to develop prints. The collaborative process is between our design team and the artist. The prints are developed based on the season, designs and story we have planned for the collection they are designing into.
We have had so many collaborations it’s difficult to speak to all of them, but most recently in March, we partnered with Kate Miller from Elworth Studio. She developed our Mojave Floral print which we love! We will definitely continue this program in the future, while also developing in-house prints.
4. Tell me a bit about the fabrics Amour Vert uses. They’re so incredibly soft it’s hard to believe they’re sustainable!
We partner to use fiber blends to create new exclusive fabrics that are fashionable, durable and of course, sustainable. We are excited for our exclusive Tencel and Modal blends for the spring season. Tencel comes from eucalyptus trees and Modal comes from beechwood trees and both are created in a closed loop process using sustainable yarns and are biodegradable. We have brand new fabrics from each of these fibers to look forward to this spring.
5. I love the fact that 97% of the clothing is made near the San Francisco office. What’s the importance on producing locally and what are some of the advantages of being so close to the factories?
Producing locally allows in-person conversations, which we believe are crucial and allow for creative minds to collaborate together. It also allows us the opportunity to touch, feel and see the softness and drape of the fabrics.
6. I also love that you showcase the women in your community who live and breathe the Amour Vert ethos. Tell me about some of these women and why you’ve chosen to highlight them in some of your campaigns
In January we launched the “It’s Not About Us” campaign, it’s a campaign that has no end date and will continuously highlight women who live the ethos of Amour Vert. We believe models are more than a pretty face, and we want to give them a platform to tell their story.
7. What are the criteria for choosing like-minded companies like Agolde denim, Vitamin A swim, Veja shoes, etc. to sell on the site?
We partner with companies that share the same sustainable and ethical standards. That means these companies are aligned in their values. We work hard so that our customer can shop online and be effortlessly sustainable.
8. In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What are you doing to combat this?
There are so many aspects of the fashion industry that are unsustainable, but something that we like to focus on shifting is fabric production. We work with only 100% Certified Organic Cotton (only 1% of the world’s cotton is grown organically), and natural fibers that are produced in a closed loop process, such as our signature Modal, and Tencel.
These fabrics are not only better for the environment and the farmers, but also for every person working with them along the supply chain, and eventually the customer who purchases and wears the piece. In terms of ethics, we ensure that the factories that we work with respect to their workers by providing safe and clean work environments, a living wage, reasonable hours and breaks. This shouldn’t be unique in the fashion industry, but sadly it is.
9. For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?
We would encourage consumers to ask for transparency. Ask if the factories are sustainable, understand the fiber content. Customers should educate themselves so they can ask companies the harder questions that often times no one is asking.
10. What are the next steps for Amour Vert? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?
To continue to grow, open stores and spread awareness about the importance of sustainable fashion, etc.
Being in an industry, one of the few where women are more successful than men feels damn good! From designers to models, stylists hair and makeup artists, women rule the fashion industry and are making leaps and bounds above their male counterparts. While I by no means wish any ill-will to the opposite sex, I’m a feminist who loves men and believes in balance on all fronts and I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite women-run businesses in the sustainable and ethical world. Because although we’re killing it, it still helps to support and lift each other up and share the successes of our Girl-boss tribe, a success so recent it needs to be celebrated, on women’s day especially and everyday for that matter!
For models, it’s not only our job to wear incredible garments by top designers but we always try to look put together when we’re “off duty” and on the go. (This may sound incredibly vain talking in first person) but when you see us on the street you’ll generally know we’re a model and not only because of our height but oftentimes because of our timeless style that never goes out of trend (mostly talking about my friends here, my street style consists of a lot of workout wear, naturally). However, for days when I’m feeling like dressing the part, here’s what I’ve learned after six years of modeling in New York City about achieving a classic wardrobe to complete your model off duty look.
As a rookie in the industry, a model tends to wear the same black tank top, white t shirt, black jeans, etc. because you’ll get 15+ castings a day during fashion week and you have to always be ready to go for that last minute job or go-see (I think I have over 15 black tank tops!). It is in our best interest to wear this because we meet so many new clients and our 'uniform' makes us work appropriate at any time. If you get caught out of the house in anything that isn't great for clients to see you in (it’s happened and it sucks…), you’re damn right that’s when you got a last minute casting that you have to be at ASAP with no time to go home and change.
As you grow with the industry, agents and clients start to trust our judgement that comes naturally with experience. You start to feel more confident about branching out and wearing things a little more gratifying than these go-to tanks and tees. Don’t get me wrong I still have and wear all of them, they're my staples, but I’ve learned to add fun accessories and awesome vintage jackets and make that same black tank top we all have my own.
After your first few seasons go well and you make a good amount of money, naturally as a new young model in NYC you spend it. It's easy to justify spending way more than you ever have because you were making a lot of money up front and you don't have to think about paying taxes until the end of the year. Other girls wear designer clothes, shoes, and bags so you inevitably feel the pressure, after living in the same tank top for weeks on end, to spruce up your wardrobe with the newest, hottest stuff. What happens at the end of the season is that a lot of us learn trends go out of style and you’re left in debt wondering how you will pay all your accumulating taxes. Was it really worth it to buy a bunch of stuff that you no longer wear so you could land yourself on a couple cool street style blogs? Probably not.
From my experience of trying to achieve that perfect off duty style, I've finally learned how to dress in a way that is budget friendly, eco-friendly and timeless. When we’re off duty, we’re always wearing something that could be well perceived in front of our agents or clients. We have all the basics to complete a timeless wardrobe, the best white t shirts, the perfect fitting black tanks, amazing skinny jeans, slim-fit boyfriend jeans, denim shorts, cool boots and a great bag. We also occasionally indulge in designer clothing and accessories (for me it's important that they're thoughtfully produced in sustainable ways, better yet used from sites like The RealReal or Tradesy) but it’s always important to remind yourself to choose pieces that will never go out of style. That all black leather backpack I have gets worn every single day. My oversized bright pink sweater that was ‘in’ two seasons ago still gets worn, but maybe only once per year. Think about what you invest in and try not to fall into the latest trends. You'll find you'll save a ton of money and always look put together with your simple, stylish staples.
Here are some of my go-to off duty looks!
Fashion week is an incredible time in our industry to show off your best looks, book your most exciting shows, head to the coolest parties and essentially skip all ideas of sleep. It’s what keeps our industry alive, fun an innovative but naturally with such pressure it’s hard to stay afloat. Collectively, my friend Dani and I have been modeling for over twenty years and believe us when we say we have first-hand experience of how difficult this time of the year can be, especially as a new model. That’s why we created our pre-fashion week event; Calm Before the Storm.
We want to create a community of models to lean on when the going gets tough so you can have a friend to wait at a casting with or to relax over a bottle of wine post shows. For us, what gets us through this industry and has enabled us to continue to model is how we’ve built each other up when we’re down and surrounded ourselves with likeminded girlbosses who inspire us to build side hustles and know how to brand our best selves. Because nowadays, it’s so much more than being a pretty face and we want to create a positive community, for the young new faces especially, to celebrate our friendships, accomplishments and to know we can stick together!
It’s been a beautiful evolution throughout the past year and was especially exciting to see even more new faces this time around. We’re so happy to have this event grow and it means a lot for us to have the support as well. In addition to our models, we love building up our community and showcasing our friends who are doing incredible side projects/hustles/jobs/foundations, you name it!! Our model hosts, Sinead Bovell from WAYE talks and Grace Mahary from Project Tsehigh opened up the evening with a beautiful talk on how they build their side hustles, how they found balance between that and modeling and how incredibly important it is to be active in your community and with your friends. Because as Grace mentioned, when you’re on your death bed you won’t remember what you made for this job or that show but you’ll remember all the incredible faces you met and experiences you created together. Amen!
Afterwards, our attendees got to check out the “vendors” (our amazing girlboss/guybosses who have super cool companies they run or work for). We love profiling them and showing off what they’re up to, from health coaches to trainers and eco-friendly laundromat enthusiasts. The idea is that we try to relate it to fashion week with healthy recipes for castings, best workouts for small hotel rooms or what to do if your flight gets delayed.
We also had AMAZING gift bags this year from the most amount of sponsors to date…Without this community, we wouldn't have been able to throw together such a fun night! Check out the sponsors and vendors below and scroll down for all our pictures.
Sustainability was a big topic at our event today. Check out one of our favorite clothing brand’s Aday! From materials used to new-tech innovations that eliminate textile waste, this company is ahead of the curve in terms of sustainability and is a company Dani and I are both proud to say we have shot with! Tag your ADAY pics with @thisisaday, #thisisaday and enjoy $20 off your next order with their coupon.
Those beautiful oils and face masques you received are from Amberlight Beauty, a company started by Dominyka Gajauskaite. Dominyka ensures the best materials go into all of her products from rose to open your heart to chamomile for calming your senses. Find out more at @amberlightbeauty.
Our very own model mafia member Anastasija Titko gave us pamphlets on an organization that’s near and dear to her heart, The Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences. The foundation offers yoga and meditation programs and are always happy to host new members. A nice way to keep calm before fashion week. Check them out!
Those awesome flower pouches with the mineral eye shadows were given to us by Boho Chic Cosmetics. They are all about clean, fun beauty that is made in small batches, vegan and cruelty-free!
The CUTEST toothbrush packages were provided to you all from BOKA. They’re a mindful oral care company that stresses the importance of working with our bodies, not against them. See all their fun pics and share yours @boka!
Did we not have the coolest hosts and event space?? We have Celsious to thank for that! This eco-friendly laundromat in Williamsburg gives you the low-down on how to wash your clothes in the ‘cleanest’ (pun intended) way, all whilst being better for the environment. They also have a café you can hang out at while you wait for your load to finish, and honestly even though Dani and I both have laundry in our buildings we’ve come for a hang out at this space because it is simply so cute and so well-done! Congrats to the founders Theresa and Corinna on such a successful space!
EcoEnclose provides sustainable solutions for packaging and sent us all those beautiful recycled paper bags for your goodie bags! (Britt uses them for all her ODM/ODC shipping!) and they’re incredibly easy to work with. Check out their Instagram @ecoenclose.
For Days provided us with those awesome pouches with gift cards inside to use for their zero-waste shop that closes the loop on fashion waste. Pick a tee, wear it endlessly, return when done and you’ll receive a fresh new tee while they recycle and reuse your old one! Fashion waste problem solved!
You know that face spa Dani and I are always posting from?? That’s Glo Spa and they graciously donated us coupons for 20% off your next facial! They’re located in the financial district. Enjoy;)
Herbivore Botanicals provided us with one of our favorite face products, their popular rose hibiscus hydrating face mist. Dani and I both love spraying our face with this product every morning to wake up and it’s the perfect thing to keep your skin hydrated on a long flight. Their products are made in U.S.A. and never tested on animals!
High Brew donated all those incredible cans of coffee that are protein-packed and will be perfect to sip on between all your crazy castings and shows. This should help keep your energy up!
INTO app helped us so much by promoting the event on their app. We were able to reach out to even more models which is what this event is all about, building our model community! For model-events and products to use that are often free or heavily discounted, check out their app which you can download here.
Jaw x Jawshop by Tim Jaw has always been one of our biggest supporters! His awesome line of locally made basics and fun socks and scrunchies, an ode to the 80s, are the perfect thing you need for brunch on the weekend with your crew.
Joya Studio has given us awesome roll-on samples of their fragrances to keep you smelling fresh and clean during the fashion week season. Their ingredients are simple, locally-sourced and to top it off they have sustainable packaging which we’re such big fans of! They’re a personal favorite of mine to use while traveling!
Lighthouse BK is one of our absolute favorite restaurants in Brooklyn and gave us those awesome bites for us to eat at our event. They are on their way to being completely zero-waste and they don’t let that sacrifice on taste or presentation. They employ a number of organizations in their community from composting to cork recycling and the Billion Oyster Project where they donate all their used oyster shells each week.
Magic Mix Juicery offered us samples of their aloe shots. Super tasty, good for digestion, and anti-inflammatory! Have them on their own or pop them into a smoothie or glass of water. You can find those aloe shots and many more treats at their location in Financial District!
You got some awesome samples and drinks made at the event by Mr. Maks Ginbao Tea! I can personally attest to the fact that this alkalized beverage with ingredients like ginger, ginseng, honey and lemongrass are the perfect combination to thirst your quench and help calm your stomach if you have a little ache. Enjoy warm or cold. And no, there aren’t crazy amounts of added sugars to worry about. We’re huge fans!
Parcelle Wine is a curated wine shop and the first retail concept from Delicious Hospitality Group, the team behind NYC restaurants Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones, and Legacy Records. Parcelle’s offerings reflect the best of the wine programs for which DHG’s restaurants are known. Hopefully their wine helped you relax as you headed into your fashion week shenanigans!
RYU is an incredible clothing line created for the urban athlete that moves with you. They stand for respect, and they are #BeautifulTough. Check them out @ryu_apparel and enjoy your new, sleek water bottles!
Seaweed Bath Co. provided us with awesome goodies form their detox cream and scrub to their fabulous serums. They’re one of our favorite skin/body/haircare products that are clean for the environment, nutrient-rich and performance-optimized. All seaweed in their products are sourced and certified organic from the coast of Maine!
The ladies of Shiffon Co. donated one special ring to the winner of our raffle (congrats Kaye-Li!!!). The founders are two badass entrepreneurial babes who balance finishing their degree at their Ivy league schools and managing this business. Michelle Obama, Christy Turlington and Serena Williams have been seen wearing their famous pinky promise rings that support women entrepreneurs with the sale of each ring.
Silk Philosophy gave us each a silk accessory to spice up each of our black on black fashion week uniforms. The silk accessories sell primarily as bracelets, but they could be worn as mini scarves/chokers, hair ribbons, or handbag charms. All silk bracelets are made of high quality silks in limited quantities and the patterns never repeat.
Simply Suzette has graciously provided you all with a coupon for her site that sells eco-friendly and ethical jean brands. Denim is one of the dirtiest industries out there so this is her way of trying to help promote the companies doing it right! And I’m telling you they’re my personal favorite pair of jeans I own. And I don’t have to feel guilty about wearing them because I know they’re made with integrity and better for the environment than the traditional jean.
We got the perfect fashion week treat for your all from Snow Monkey! Now you can enjoy your fashion week cravings without the guilt attached. All Snow Monkey ice creams are plant-based, paleo, and high protein!
Tulerie gifted us with those awesome reusable straws!! Make sure and sign up for their clothes-sharing app, especially useful during your fashion week antics!! ;)
Here’s some takeaway info about the lovely vendors we had set up around the room.
Daniel Gottlieb was there to help us with all our sore, achy muscles. Dan is a brand ambassador for RYU and Hyperice, He has weekly workouts at Bandier's Studio B that are great for relaxing your muscles and stretching you out! We all need more of that! Check out his Instagram to learn more and DM his for more info on his classes!
Dawn Gallagher was there to share her story about using your voice in this industry and how powerful it is to share your story. What an incredible example for all of us! She’s been there, she’s done that and she’s here to pave the way for us as change makers in this industry! She also is passionate about Drawdown, an event that is all about sustainable green living and teaching us all we need to know about drawing down carbon in our atmosphere, something incredibly important as we head into fashion week, often with a lot of travel and flying.
Dominyka Gajauskaite started her own skin care line as a result of being sick of the unfriendly products being used on her face time and time again. Stay in the know about all her products @amberlightbeauty! In addition to all her incredible samples that she gives us for each and every event, Dominyka was especially helpful in organizing this event for us. From new sponsorships to organization in general, Dominyka was a HUGE help for this event and we’re especially helpful for all she has done for us.
Grace Mahary was our top model speaker who couldn’t have given us better advice. Remember, it’s all about the experiences you make and the relationships you form, not about the superficial things in life! In addition to killing it as one of Canada’s top models, Grace started her very own foundation, Project Tsehigh which provides clean energy to impoverished communities around the world.
Our favorite relaxing facials were provided to you by Face Love! They made our event that much more special and have been collaborating with us on events for the past three years, something we’re so thankful for! Check them out in at their new flagship in the Flatiron. Dani and I will be there next week;)
Jonathan Glass from Mr. Maks was our awesome bartender for the night, creating mixed drinks using their Ginbao Teas. Healthy, low sugar, and super settling for the stomach with calming ingredients like ginger and lemon.
KW Travel was our awesome travel agent who answered all your questions about flying, how to attain status, some awesome trip itinerary ideas for you and your girlfriends and so much more. I’m personally someone who loves to create my own itineraries but after seeing the attention to detail, I handed over all my honeymoon plans and will be working with Katherine for our upcoming trip to Italy.
You heard all about the Model Mafia from one of our members, Kaye-Li Taylor. It is our incredible social impact and activism focused group and together we take collective action and share causes we care about with each other. The group marched in the DC Climate March demanding a cleaner fashion industry and world, raised $12,000 for the Standing Rock community, and has been tackling sexual harassment in the fashion industry. If you would like are to join, please send an email and agency link to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the tribe @modelactivist.
Shivani Persad and Samantha Bolger have their very own podcast, More Than Model Radio where they interview models about what they’re passionate about beyond modeling! If you want a chance to be interviewed, hit them up on Instagram! Listen HERE for previous episodes.
Sinead Bovell of WAYE was our incredible host this evening who interviewed Grace Mahary on how she’s balanced modeling with her side business, Project Tsehigh. For inspiration on how to create your own business and brand, check our Sinead’s side hustle, WAYE (weekly advice for the young entrepreneur) and make sure to come to one of her upcoming WAYE talks. I can’t say more than they’re on of the few events that I actually look forward to attending. She’s inspiring and a complete go-getter and will give you all the inside knowledge on tech, business and the future. Check her out!
Tulerie was in attendance, one of the coolest new platforms of digital “shopping”. I without a doubt think this will be the way of the future; a concept that lets you lend and borrow from your friends without braking your bank or contributing to the fabric waste created by fast fashion and consumerism. And if you do want to shop, invest in that piece that will last you a lifetime and put it on the app so you can make some money off your purchase from your friends who want to borrow the piece as well! We’re all about a brand that works on closing the loop on waste.
Our event photos were taken by Ryan J. Ulsh. He’s been a dear friend to Dani and I and we’ve also collaborated a ton on test shoots together. I’ll often organize shoots with him and my agents have used A TON of our shots, many of them still in my book to this day. Follow his photography adventures on J. Ryan Ulsh or Jryanulsh.Studio
Earlier in 2018 I had the pleasure of working with a friend of a friend who wanted to style out an ethical themed wedding shoot. I had just been proposed to, so the timing couldn’t have been better! A shoot that would be organized all around sustainability and ethical style from the food we ate to the location of venue and jewelry, everything was thought out to show brides an idea of how to do their wedding with a little more thought about the environment. Weddings are one of the most special times of anyones lives but they can be incredibly wasteful. Years going into planning for that one special day that’s over before you know it and sometimes you’re left with a ton of plastic waste, uneaten food, a dress made of plastic you’ll only wear once or jewels that weren't exactly sourced with the environment in mind. From this shoot, I was introduced to Kata Banko Couture, an eco friendly wedding accessories line that graciously lent us pieces to style our shoot from incredibly unique head pieces to statement necklaces and chokers. I decided to keep in touch and find out a little bit more about this company. Check out what Colleen, founder of the company has to say in regards to how they make their pieces, how they stay ethical, and plans for the company as they grow…!
1) Tell me a bit about how Kata Banko Couture came about? Where did everyone in the company come from and how did you all transition into the sustainable/ethical world?
Kata Banko Couture came about in 2002. The name belongs to my Grandmother, Kata. I started my business in evening and RTW couture, designing gowns for galas and such. During that time I was raising two young boys as a single mother and took a break from designing to go into Nursing. In 2009 a friend of mine opened a bridal salon and asked me to help her out with alterations and custom design. We started seeing a great need for bridal accessories, especially custom, so I gave it a go and created a bridal accessory line. After the first couple of years in business I got to see how un- sustainable the industry really was, and not to mention unethical. So once again, I changed it up, totally educated myself and launched a new line that fit my vision for the world rather than the industry. I found a special little group of “sustainable minded” suppliers as well as ethically minded people. I have always used sustainable fabrics, but I needed to do more. We use recycled metals, no kill dead stock leathers, peace silks and recycled and dead stock fabrics occasionally. We are working to also make our products wearable beyond bridal and offering more everyday wear. Currently I have my magic maker of beautiful things, Breanna, myself, and we are introducing a new team member co designer this year, Lexi. And I have to say, I have one of the best, if not the best, PR Company, Perry Rose Media, specifically Alex, she is the force behind alot of what goes on in the brand, and also she's my girl!
2) Sustainability in bridal wear is definitely a newer topic, however, brides are starting to realize that a lot of waste goes into one day and feel it’s important to make a positive change. Why did you guys decide to tap into the bridal market specifically?
Agreed! The bridal market fell into my lap quite honestly! I am planning to keep a curated bridal collection, but we are moving into what feels right to us, which is lifestyle. I want our brides to be able to continue wearing our products beyond that day. No waste.
3) How is each Kata Banko product created from conception to production?
It all starts with some good music and good vibes and a sketch. From there it goes through several different design phases until it feels right. Everything is hand crafted, start to finish using artisan techniques.
4) What materials are you using for your jewelry and how do you choose each one?
We use Swarovski vintage and current pearls and stones, hand crushed quartz crystals ( the first to apply this technique in the industry) and semi precious stones, hand crafted bases and recycled hand plated metals and findings. I dont change these staple components often, I really want to keep it cohesive and sustainable by avoiding waste.
5) In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is Kata Banko Couture doing to combat this?
Oh boy, where to start! I could write a novel! Aside from major waste and pollution, I would say the chemically laced unnatural fabrics. Also the need to keep creating collections, so much waste there! If it’s good, it will keep selling. As you can see we really haven't changed our components in years, this cuts down on waste and it is a sustainable way to create heirloom signature items. We are definitely hyper aware of what's going on in the industry and always try to elevate awareness by talking about honestly. The brand will always continue to be as sustainable as we can and will always no matter what be ethical. You will alot more conversation and education coming out of Kata Banko Couture this year, in fashion and in bridal. We've got some magic up our sleeves.
What about ethically?
That is a subject that needs to be talked about more! So many unethical practices in the industry and bridal is off the charts with unethical practices. People need to be a focus in this, it is very ugly! I work with Fair Trade Certified CO-OPS only when I’m producing garments. Being in the fashion industry for 20+ years, in many roles, I’ve seen the backside of this industry and while there are some great brands out there who are ethical and sustainable, there are too many who are not and its all about the money no matter what the cost. It’s very unsettling. I am very lucky to have a small team and partnering with Fair Trade production for gowns and garments is a stellar thing! Basically, I could tell you who produced your gown or your accessory, their life, interests and how long we've been connected. It’s not all about how much you can make, it’s about loving it and treating it with heart, we are a family, we value what we do with each other, we all have real life conversations, its very personal. There's value in that, it’s called connection. Unethical companies don't care about any of that.
6) What are some of your own personal sustainable habits you live by? Do you have any goals for 2019 to live a little cleaner?
I don’t buy a lot of stuff! Especially plastics and clothing. I still am wearing clothes Ive had for 20 years. We live in a buy more, have more stuff mentality, it’s not working for our planet!
7) What’s the best way you ensure your workers are treated well?
We are a family! What is mine, is theirs, always. When we are working, it’s a good time, kind of like hanging out with your bffs eating, laughing , listening to some good music and getting our work done. I am very fortunate to have amazing people in my life and in my business. We keep it “light”, and any conversation is always welcome, we share in the process, my main photographers are my sons, we pull friends into shoots, even sometimes one of us, it’s gotta be fun. When it’s not working as a whole, it doesn't work, to think, at one time it was me doing everything myself. I love how this has grown, so very organically.
8) What are the next steps for Kata Banko Couture? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?
Well, there's a lot going on behind scenes, so we will see:)
I had the pleasure of designing the first new collection of bridal wear for Celia Grace last year, which was a dream, being that Celia Grace is Fair Trade, Sustainable and Ethical. So we definitely has some exciting stuff happening behind the scenes with that. For Kata Banko, we are doing us! 100%! It’s all about the lifestyle, we have stayed in the “lines” and it hasn't really fed our souls, so look out for a fresh, real approach. So excited about it!
In 5 to 10 years, we will be not only a full on lifestyle brand, we will be a movement!
9) What’s something different (or special) about Kata Banko Couture from other companies you’ve worked at in the past?
It’s real life, no gimmicks and really for the future. We have always been about, ethical and sustainable practices and what makes us special is that we continue to talk about it, be about it and bring about change in the industry. There is no planet B , we all have a responsibility to care for the earth and each other.
10) For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?
Do your research! How is that company impacting the earth and the people producing it. Reach out and ask questions, if the company is legit, they will be happy to talk to you about their products. Email me anytime! I’d love to educate you on what I stand for in my business!
We recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rosemary Feitelberg from WWD on the future of sustainability in fashion. Sharing our journey and story with you all means so much to us. We’re only a few years into living our sexy sustainable life and continue to learn and be inspired by everyone in our community each and everyday, so thank you to our tribe for never failing to motivate us to do bigger things and be better people. We will never stop learning and will always share what we come across along the way, being entirely transparent about the companies we promote, and the things we produce. Cheers to making it into WWD as we near the end of the year, one of our biggest goals of 2018. We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings for ODM/ODC and for everyone in our community. Let’s continue to spread the world of sustainability in fashion and beyond.
All our love, Britt & Maria
When a makeup artist friend of mine came to me with a project he was helping produce, I was immediately intrigued. Tribe of Lambs is a project founded by a Canadian who was passionate about creating jewelry and giving back to different communities in India, all whilst bringing awareness to the HIV+ epidemic especially for children. The specific project my friend was asking about was for their upcoming shoot and I was more than honored to be a part of it. So much of my job requires me to shoot for brands I don’t always have the same beliefs in. This was something I was proud to promote, support, and share with all of my community. Meet Bobbi, Co-founder of Tribe of Lambs….
Founder Bobbi Paidel and Director of Marketing Philip Haley
1) Tell me a bit about how Tribe of Lambs came about? Where did everyone in the company come from and how did you all transition into the sustainable/ethical world?
Tribe of Lambs started over 4 years ago as a crowdfunding project to raise money for two orphanages in the Himalayas of India. I was volunteering there and felt a real pull to do something more meaningful in life. Phil came to India when the campaign was finished and helped me complete the donations. Initially we were selling a variety of different artisan made accessories and supporting a variety of youth based causes but we’ve since streamlined our mission and our products. Nearly 3 years back we became aware of the issues HIV+ children face and we felt very strongly that this was something we needed to put all our efforts into. The initial campaign was so well received we came home and registered as a nonprofit, along side our 3rd friend who used to be quite involved. As the team is now just Phil & I, we’ve had to boot strap it, working full time jobs and growing the organization on the side. My background is Fashion and Phil’s is marketing, so we have complimentary skills, which can both easily transition into this type of social venture.
2) I couldn’t believe reading about the treatment of HIV positive children in India… It’s atrocious and stunning to read they’re often segregated or left to fend for themselves. Tell us about some of the NGO’s you’ve been working with that are helping to make a difference. How did you choose who to partner with?
We currently have one partner organization – Rays Aasha Ki Ek Kiran which translates to One Ray of Hope. It is a small privately run organization, which works solely for the lives and rights of HIV+ children in and around Rajasthan. It is absolutely incredible to see how the life of a child can be completely transformed when provided a loving home, a sense of family, proper nutrition and health care and quality education. Beyond that, the children we work with are constantly reminded that their lives matter, that they can lead by example, that fear and stigma do not have to be the societal norm when it comes to a person living with the HIV virus. Rays currently house 38 boys, 16 girls & employs 8 HIV+ widows to work as caretakers in the home. We’ve met and worked with a handful of organizations over the years and in India the culture of personal connection runs much deeper than in western partnerships. We first must have a “good feeling” about an organization, their presidents or founders and administrative staff before we will even consider moving forward. This means regular meetings and conversations to see if these small NGO’s are aligned with the Tribe and then we move forward ensuring transparency and ethics are being maintained so that we can build a trustworthy partnership. The founders of Rays and their families have now become our families. We know our project funds are being properly allocated and we love spending time there to experience first hand what’s made possible through our generous contributors around the world.
3) I think it’s beautiful that the artisans you work with are oftentimes giving back to their very own communities. That must be special to see. How do you find artisans to work with and is their work volunteer based seeing as 100% of the funds are donated to your projects?
100% of our donations are donated to our projects. As we are a nonprofit company, we contribute our jewelry sale profits (after expenses) to our projects, which works out to be between 10-40% of each purchase. We pay our artisans 3x minimum wage in India, we connect with small family run producers to ensure that work ethics are met to our standard. We only move toward partnerships once a mutually agreeable and trustworthy relationship has begun. Empowering local artisans and bringing economic growth into the communities we work to support is how we operate a full circle business model. The artisans know that their work is contributing to children who are in need in their communities. There is a lot of corruption in India, and we work hard to ensure we’re part of the solution, not contributing to the problems.
4) What materials are you using for your jewelry Tand how do you choose each one?
We use Indian 925 Sterling Silver, 18 Carat Gold Plating, Semi-precious stones and brass detailing. We use silver because it is an affordable price point and a high quality, hypoallergenic metal. We source our gems from a gem wholesaler who’s family has been working in the industry for more than 40 years.
5) In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is Tribe of Lambs doing to combat this?
Overconsumption & waste due to fast fashion, advertising & greed in our society. The mass impact on the environment and garment workers overseas are becoming more common knowledge however, we have a long way to go in making simple lifestyle choices which will help make long lasting change.
a) What about ethically?
Tribe of Lambs is working towards a consumer industry, which focuses on quality over quantity. We want our customers to both understand our strengths and our areas for growth in the production of our products and also know that their purchase is contributing to a global issue. We encourage our customers to look for quality when making a purchase so it is long lasting.
6) What’s the best way you ensure your workers are treated well?
We have close working relationships with all our producers who disclose the payments, agreements and schedules of the workers they employ. All our producers sign Tribe of Lambs supplier standards documents. As we contract our workers, we do not have total control over these issues however, it is in our 5 year plan to develop our own jewelry cooperative where we can shift this.
7) What are some initiatives you’re working on in Canada, UK and India to spread awareness?
Our whole business is our awareness initiative. Our mission is to raise funds and awareness for HIV+ children through the sale of our jewelry. Our jewelry acts as a platform to create meaningful conversations about HIV and other global issues and how we can come together to inspire change.
8) What’s something different (or special) about Tribe of Lambs from other companies you’ve worked at in the past?
Since founding Tribe of Lambs I’ve really been focused on showing consumers that ethical & sustainable can also mean quality & style. 5 years ago when I was working in the fashion industry, ethical had a “hippie/granola” vibe to it and people weren’t responsive. Now it’s totally possible to support smaller brands with bigger missions. Tribe is different that we are supporting such a small marginalized group of HIV+ children while maintaining a quality product, at a competitive price. It IS possible to use business for change if you strategize correctly. People will always want to shop, and they want a platform to give to…that is what we offer.
9) For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?
Research! Read about a companies values and standards before you give them your money. If the information isn’t available online, send them an email. I appreciate getting emails requesting more information about what we do and how we do it.
I had the pleasure of being featured on Shiffon Co.’s blog about why I started ODM/ODC. Shiffon Co. is a company that believes in the power of supporting women entrepreneurs. With the sales of their pinky rings they help fund startups run by women or ones who support women. I couldn’t have been more honored to be featured on their site, especially considering how inspired I am by them. Check out our interview below by clicking THIS link and click HERE to figure out more about the pinky ring!
Fashion week is a time that happens twice a year and is when our industry truly becomes alive. The energy is heightened, New York, London, Milan and Parisian streets become a runway show themselves with everyone wearing their best streetwear as models run from casting to show to casting again with little sleep food or sanity.
With a few seasons under our belt, Dani and I understand how stressful this time of the year can be and therefore wanted to provide models with an outlet. Last year we held the Calm Before the Storm, a bi-annual pre-fashion week event for models to de-stress, primp and prep themselves for the upcoming shows. It was such a success that we decided to throw another one, this year with even more sponsors, more vendors, and super special guests to lead our opening chat.
To see our community come together was so special and we’re happy to see this event grow stronger every year. From new faces in the industry to models with cool side projects, it was a beautiful night of love and laughter and was so fun to be in a space with each other minus the competition or anxiety. We hope everyone went into fashion week with a new friend, a little less stress and confident you can kill it. And if you need advice or a coffee to grab, Dani and I are always down (especially for matcha lattes at Blue Stone Lane;).
Without our community of sponsors, we wouldn't have been able to throw together such a fun night!
The delicious food we enjoyed was catered by Ripe! Ripe is a healthy food catering company in NYC. They believe food isn't just fuel, it's an experience, it's community, it's growth. We agree! Ripe donated their event space to us for their event! You can tag them on any posts using these handles: @so_ripe
Those beautiful serums you received are from Amberlight Beauty, a company started by Dominyka Gajauskaite. Dominyka ensures the best material go into all of her products from rose oil to open your heat to chamomile for calming your senses. Find out more at @amberlightbeauty
The cutest toothbrush + dental floss packs were provided to you all from BOKA. They're a mindful oral care company that stresses the importance of working with our bodies, not against them. See all of their fun pics and share yours @boka!
EcoEnclose provides sustainable solutions for packaging and sent us all of those beautiful recycled paper bags for your goodie bags! I uses them for all of our ODM/ODC shipping, and they're incredibly easy to work with! Check our their Instgram @ecoenclose!
Keep your luscious locks shiny + your skin feeling bright with the powerful ingredients in The Seaweed Bath & Co's products! They sustainably hand-harvest certified organic seaweed of the coast of Maine! You can follow their story @theseaweedbathco.
Everyone searches for that perfect pair of denim, look no more because Simply Suzette definitely has it! They are an online boutique for women looking for ethically + sustainably produced denim! See more from them @simplysuzette.
Artisanal coffee & food delivered with first-class service. That pretty much sums up Bluestone Lane! It was also the place where Dani + I first brainstormed our Calm Before The Storm event, so you know we are big fans! In your gift bags you will find some yummy granola samples from Husk Bakeshop these goodies can be found in their cafes! Follow them @bluestonelane to see what they are up to!
Modern, sustainable and luxurious: Celsious offers a fresh and new way to "come clean" in a beautifully designed environment in Williamsburg! If you haven't checked them out you can find them at @celsious_social.
The beautiful candles decorating the space in addition to the samples in our goodie bags were provided by Keap. This candle company was created to provide consumers with a middle ground; a candle that was neither cheap and full of harsh chemicals nor overly priced. In addition to making candles that are better for our health and our pockets, Keap started as a Public Benefit Corporation to provide better access of affordable, sustainable living to people outside of the electrical grid. They’ve partnered with SolarAid to provide solar light to communities in need through their Buy a Candle, Light a Home program.
Knours. is an innovative brand that addresses the casual link between a woman's cycle & her skin. Sounds too good to be true! We love the cute pink bags of amazing product they gave us and we hope you do too! Check them out here @knoursknows
Trying to keep healthy while on the go can be a bit tricky at times, luckily Monday Carrot has you covered with their smoothie packs! They combine science backed benefits of a plant-rich, whole-food diet with the latest findings in nutrition research to optimize results from the inside out! Check them out @mondaycarrot
All of that wine we enjoyed was donated by Parcelle Wines! They are a curated wine shop and the first retail concept from Delicious Hospitality Group, the team behind NYC restaurants (and some of our favs) Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones, and Legacy Records! See more from them @parcellewine
Role Models MGMT is an ethical talent & modeling agency started by two models + social activists who came together to start a modeling agency. Role Models MGMT will disrupt the way we think about and see the industry! Check them out there @rolemodelsmgnt.
Did we not have the best chairs ever?! Those were graciously donated to us by Sub Rosa. They are an independent strategy and design practice that helps organizations explore, learn and grow. Check out their Instagram @wearesubrosa.
And of course our amazing vendors:
We are so grateful to have Cameron Russell Speak at our event, she is such a role-model in our community! Cameron put together the first event that Britt and I had ever gone to where the model activist community first began. We spoke freely about our experiences in the industry and got to meet more models in a space other than a casting. She is now head of the group, we call ourselves the Model Mafia, and we get together for events, talks, fashion shows, climate marches, etc! E-mail email@example.com to see how you can get on our e-mail list.
What looked to be THE MOST relaxing facials were provided to you by Face Love!! They made our event so much more special. Their massages are the perfect pick-me-up during fashion week! Check their new storefront out in Flatiron @love_facelove.
Dominyka started her own skin care lines as a result of being sick of unfriendly products being used on her face time and time again. Her serums are our favorite. Stay in the know about @amberlightbeauty!
Summer is definitely a jack-of-all-trades! She is literally a master in everything she does, we are so inspired by her! Her love of plants and amazing green thumb have us all asking for advice!! Check her website to discover more and definitely hit up her youtube channel.
Sinead is the founder and CEO of WAYE (Weekly Advice for the Young Entrepreneur), she is dedicated to building a sustainable working future for the next generation through entrepreneaurship. If you haven't been to one of her talks, make sure to follow her at @sineadbovell!
We hope you were able to experience all or that Hyperice love from Mister Yoga Dan! He has developed a practice that brings together his two passions- sports and yoga- to create a full mind/body fitness for your spirit program! See more from Dan @misteryogadan.
We all know how hard it can be to take care of your health while you are running around for fashion week! Sandrina has a few tips + tricks! If you were not able to speak with her check out her website to book and appointment.
FINALLY doing laundry can be fun (seriously)! Celsous had filled that gap by opening up a snazzy new laundromat in Williamsburg where you can hang out, grab a coffee + do laundry with and eco-friendly approach! @celsious_social