TOMMY DOES SUSTAINABLE

I recently got to work with Tommy Hilfiger on their latest campaign for sustainable fashion.

The jacket I got to model is padded with 100% recycled down and the outside is made of 50% recycled polyester. I love when companies, especially bigger companies like Tommy Hilfiger, realize the positive impact they will have if they push for more sustainable solutions. They have a HUGE audience of people eager to listen, so to have that much of a reach to spread something I’m so passionate about meant the world to me, and is exactly why I model. To have a platform like I do is such a privilege and to be able to partner up with likeminded companies, that sometimes have an even larger reach, means we get to spread information on climate change to that many more people and makes me SO PROUD and thankful that there are companies out there willing to adjust their business practices for the better when it comes to sustainability. This is only the first step, but it’s a huge one and will without a doubt create a ripple effect with other companies similar to Tommy Hilfiger. Soon enough, those who aren’t mindful of their environmental impact will be OFF TREND. And the sustainable trend is here to stay!

This Is The Swim You'll Want To Be Wearing All Summer

I came across Vitamin A swim when I was browsing for the perfect non-fussy bikini that was simple, stylish, but most importantly, sustainable. I kept hearing about Vitamin A, a company that similarly believes sustainability can be sexy. They too, felt strongly that bathing suits should be effortless and that they shouldn’t harm the environment. It seems crazy to wear a bathing suit in the ocean that would add to the destruction of it, so Vitamin A ensures the suits they create leave a positive impact on this Earth. They’ve become a favorite swimwear brand of mine that openly share their sustainable practices with all of their customers and followers, not to mention the swimsuits fit beautifully. I had the pleasure of chatting with Enya, a member of the Vitamin A tribe, on all the ins and outs of this company so you too can see what goes into making this sexy, sustainable swimwear! Enjoy!

1. How do you think you tapped into markets beyond the sustainable world? How do you maintain the “cool” factor while being eco-friendly?  

We believe that sustainability and style really go hand in hand! Our eco-conscious production practices are part of what make Vitamin A sexy and cool. This is the essence of the Vitamin A brand, and something that doesn’t change for us. 

 We were one of the first brands nearly 20 years ago, to come up with a new concept of sexy and bring about a new direction for color palettes. Prior to Vitamin A, we were only seeing bright colors - fuchsia, purple, turquoise, jade, and black - in the swim industry. Neutral palettes didn’t exist yet, so Vitamin A was one of the first to really introduce a softer and more simple aesthetic.  So later, when we integrated the sustainability aspect into Vitamin A, it was another platform, but the aesthetic was already there - it became another point of association for our customers and others in the swim industry! 

2. What criteria does the company have for choosing factories to work with?

All Vitamin A bikinis and bodysuits are produced locally in California, which dramatically reduces our emissions for transporting and delivering raw materials! And by keeping the vast majority of our work local, we’re able to closely monitor any of the processes we can’t do ourselves to ensure our sustainable standards are being met. We're able to take the time to get to know the people who make our goods, and we’re proud knowing that our manufacturing team maintains a high standard of ethics and environmental responsibility.

For some of our products that cannot be made here in California, we partner globally with fair trade artisans to produce our materials ethically, meaning Vitamin A production outside of the US is providing women with fair-wage jobs in safe working conditions! We also visit their factories and remain in constant contact with our partners to ensure that they are meeting our same high standards.

3. What can we do as consumers to prolong the life of our swimwear and is Vitamin A working on a way to close the loop on waste after use?

Our first fabric was actually created out of industry waste! Vitamin A’s EcoLux fabrication was the first in our industry and the model for all of our sustainable fabrics. So we‘re constantly working to close the loop on waste – this means keeping that waste out of landfills and recycling it within the industry, innovating with plant-based fabrics, and also looking for ways to recycle worn garments (we’re not quite there yet, but trust us, we’re working on it!).

Prolonging swimwear:

Wear More, Wash Less
When cared for properly, Vitamin A swimwear will last for years. We recommend a gentle, low-impact approach. Unfortunately, when you wash anything made from synthetics (even if its recycled) it sheds microfibers that can be pollutants if they wind up in the ocean. Here are some environmentally-conscious tips on how to care for your swimwear:

Swim Cycle
Rinse in cold water to shed fewer microfibers. We love hand washing with Bikinis Over Everything, an eco-friendly bikini cleanser. 

Use an all-natural biodegradable soap, such as Dr. Bronners, to spot-clean only necessary areas (it’s much better for your bikini and the environment than chemical-packed detergents or bleach).

Slip your bikini into an eco-friendly bag (like GUPPYFRIEND) designed to keep any loose microfibers from entering the water in your washing machine. It keeps our ocean water clean and will help your suit receive more delicate care.

Make sure to cold rinse your swimsuit after each wear, even if you don’t go in the water.

Stay Dry
Skip the dryer (and the green house gas emissions) and hang dry your bikinis. Avoid direct sunlight and lay your suits flat in a cool, dry place for a drying method that requires zero energy. 

Take Turns
We know you have a favorite bikini, but the key to making it last longer is to wait until it’s completely dry to wear it again. If you’re planning to spend a few days in a row dressed in a bikini (lucky!) plan on bringing a couple different suits to wear.

4. In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is Vitamin A doing to combat this? What about ethically?

The least sustainable part of the fashion industry is the pure fact that it’s based on petroleum products, which are materials derived from fossil fuels. At Vitamin A, we’re working on utilizing plant-based swim fibers to create our designs, while also shifting all of our beachwear to biodegradable products, recycled cotton, organic cotton, tinsel, linen, and silks.

5. 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?

Consumers should look out for certain environmental endorsements, partnerships, or support of certifiable organizations that will indicate if any certain company is dedicated to eco-causes. For example, Vitamin A is a member of 1% - meaning we pledge to donate one percent of our annual sales to environmental non-profits. 

 We should also be sure to read our labels! Keep an eye out for where products are being made and what kind of materials are being used. Swimwear that’s made domestically will have less of a carbon footprint.

6. What are the next steps for Vitamin A?  How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?    

We recently launched our newest BioRib fabric this season, which is made from organic plant-based fibers – meaning there’s zero impact on the food chain, 20% less CO2 emissions, and lower water consumption! We’re currently working on expanding on this concept with more biodegradable fabrics and continuing to innovate with new sustainable options. We’re also excited to be launching exclusive product collaborations with some of favorite retailers with the concept of “sustainability is sexy", to further share our mission with other brands in the industry! 

Getting To Know Amour Vert, The Company All About Green Love

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. 

Kata Banko Couture; This Bridal Company is Doing it Right!

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!

A Sustainable Life- L.A. Edition

A month in Los Angeles...

I spent the whole month of May in L.A. this year and to say I was impressed with the abundance of sustainable/ethical/local brands based in the City of Angels is an understatement. While I was aware of the bigger, well-known companies like Reformation, I was time and time again pleasantly surprised with how many ethical options there were. While taking advantage of the fact I was a local for a month, I would occasionally window shop to check out some of the brands I hadn't heard of so I could feel the fabrics and ask the questions, who made the clothes, where the factories were and whatnot. But I decided to also take advantage of the fact that a lot of these companies were producing their pieces right there in L.A. I reached out to as many companies as I could, including the company that makes our ODM/ODC Sustainable is Sexy tees, and got a lot of positive feedback. Not only were companies willing to answer any questions I had but a lot were open to having me visit their headquarters and/or manufacturing warehouses. Transparency at its finest. 

To start, I headed to Groceries Apparel to see where exactly our tees are made and the production process from start to finish. They couldn't have been more open about the entire process which was incredibly important for me, in order to relay all the info to you guys, our customers! I met with the Co-founder of the company and his lead sales rep who told me all about the fabrics they use, where most of their materials are farmed, where their fabrics are dyed, how long they had been in this factory, what future design plans they have, and much much more. I was surprised with how much information they were sharing, especially since growing up I've been used to most companies withholding all this information. We are the buyers and we should be in the know about where everything is made and who all is making it. Why does it have to be so secretive? Groceries Apparel doesn't think so. Below are pictures of their staple tees and the factory where everything is sewn, cut, and sampled. 

Groceries Apparel

Made in L.A.

Pattern making, cutting...

Sewing and bagging away to be dyed at their nearby dye factory!

Next up, I got to meet with the talented visionary behind the L.A. apparel company, EVERYBODY.WORLD. Iris, co-founder of the company previously worked at American Apparel and took everything she learned from working there to create her own line of simple basics, ethically made in L.A. Iris was kind enough to invite me to her L.A. headquarters to talk about the company and how they came about. 

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Iris Alonzo

Co-Founder of EVERYBODY.WORLD

Differing from Groceries, Iris talked about her love of recycled cotton, a newer innovation they're working with to use the discarded fluff that gets wasted when you spin cotton buds into yarn. Oftentimes, this fluff is thrown away. Iris figured it's worth a shot using this as fabric, and therefore a lot of their tees and future products will be made with the "recycled" form of cotton, closing the production loop even further. The funny thing is, there isn't any right or wrong way. While Groceries focuses on organic fabrics, EVERYBODY.WORLD specializes in this recycled material and puts organics lower on their list of priorities. What I started to realize after talking with both companies is that everyone is doing what they can to be better and do better. While some smaller companies can't always afford organic cotton (a lot of the bigger corporations like H&M are buying all the organic materials which drives up costs exponentially), there's always a way to try and be better which is what EVERYBODY.WORLD is after. After recycled cotton, treating their workers well and working with their community is high up on their list of non-negotiables. A lot of their designs have been made through collaborations with people in their community. 

Prakash'a Perfect Sweatpants

Prakash Gokalchand is a 76-year-old spiritualist and chess enthusiast with classic, unassuming style.

The fact that they're collaborating with people in their community to find out what exactly matters to them and what they'd like to see in their ideal pieces of clothing is incredibly inspiring. Talk about giving back to their community!

Some more of our L.A. favorites!

L.A. Style

Below find some of my favorite sustainable pieces I wore throughout my L.A. trip... My Groceries Apparel tee, Levi's jacket I wore to the Eat.Drink.Vegan festival (reusable cutlery from Joseph.Joseph in tow for all the samples!) and the white blouse I found at the Venice Beach flea held on the weekend. Perfectly paired with my friend's gifted vintage Calvin Kleins! 

Suggestions?

Have a favorite sustainable/ethical/made in L.A. brand you'd like us to profile? Comment below, we're always looking to learn more!<3