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!

New Year's January 2nd Resolutions

2019 is upon us which means it’s time to make new goals for the new year. Some find it cliché, and I have to admit sometimes it feels like more of a chore than anything else but as we hit day two of 2019, I feel inclined to write a few things down, as a reminder and a reset for living my best life physically, spiritually and mentally. 

One of my biggest goals, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts is to relax and go with the flow. What’s important about writing this on day two instead of the first of the year is that yesterday, I slept in, I didn’t work out and I did not plan for the new year. And to me, the first day was a success as I let the enjoyment of hanging out with friends and family and relaxing my way into 2019 trump any preconceived notions of having to start on my best foot. So far, 2019 is off to an amazing start, two brownies, zero workouts, an afternoon of snow tubing and a sugar-y hot cocoa day later. 

Prior to becoming a model, it’s a well-known fact that I was much more easygoing. My schedule was up to me to make and if I slacked, that was my fault too. But with modeling comes last minuteness as your schedule is determined by your agents and clients, oftentimes the night before the shoot. So, as I adjusted to something being beyond my control, I became determined to manage all other aspects of my life, to the extreme. This affected all areas of my life: when I would eat, an in-detail itinerary for each weekend, three reservations for different restaurants each time we would go out to ensure the best possible choice was made, and so on. Vacations were insanely planned out in detail from the moment we left for the airport to when we came back home, there was no room for error. Just ask my fiancé, he’s not the biggest fan of traveling with me to and from the airport. If we call a car and it takes 10 minutes instead of five, that’s five extra minutes of my insanely planned out life that I could have enjoyed elsewhere. This is where it becomes a problem. While I still get enjoyment out of all the pre-planning, the issue was when things wouldn’t go according to plan. 


Instead of adjusting and going with the flow, I would have mini-meltdowns and become extremely inflexible as a result of my insane neuroticism. 

While I have definitely gotten better at this over time, it still remains a goal of mine to be at ease with the unexpectedness of life. That’s where the beauty is hiding and will shine through when you’re least expecting. I sometimes get upset when people make fun of how much I plan in advance but something I will continue to work on will be to be happy when we have a plan and happier if that plan doesn’t go accordingly. For lack of a better example, the night of our engagement was supposed to be a simple dinner with family and friends as we toasted to the incredible vacation we had in front of us on our first night in Croatia. An hour or so into dinner, I got proposed to, surprise surprise, not according to “the plan”, but the excitement we all had with the unexpected beautiful moment we all then got to share together was priceless. (I must add, I’m lucky Josh had a plan that night and stuck to it… ;) 

Similarly, living in New York I tend to get overwhelmed easily, yet there is nowhere else I’d rather be, at least for the time being. You’re constantly stimulated, which is an incredible perk if you’re someone like me who likes to keep busy, but the downside is that it’s hard to switch off and not feel guilty. I don’t think I can count on two hands the amount of days I’ve planned to just relax and stay put, better yet to not even plan it but just let it happen. So with the New Year, and in order to stay sane in the city where it’s all happening, a goal of mine is to find inner peace. Whether it be to meditate more or to find stillness in yoga, to cozy up with a favorite book or get off the subway early and walk the last stop, I want to continue to plan and stay busy which is something I get so much enjoyment out of but to find balance in stillness and maintain inner peace and calmness. Then with whatever craziness New York throws my way, an insanely packed subway car with someone yelling at you or a taxi that purposefully takes the long way because they think you’re a tourist (the bridge god damnit not the tunnel!!!) I hope to let all that negativity glide off of me and only make me stronger. With strength will come calmness, with strength will come ease and knowing you have a strong mind will let all areas of your life be unaffected by the unexpected displeasures. 

As my birthday approaches, instead of planning a wild night that ends with a disgusting amount (albeit delicious) of late-night crap, maybe I’ll propose a meditation class with friends, a yoga class or a solo trip to a meditative retreat… But the best part is I’ll leave it be for now and see what comes as the day approaches. As I mentioned, there’s something beautiful about letting life throw all it has your way and finding adventure in the journey of your destination. What I’ve learned from my year in 2018 and what I will never forget is that it’s never about the destination but more importantly about the journey. 

This Week On WWD...

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

Feeling Centered

As we gear up for the new year, it’s nice to take the time to reflect upon the year behind us and how we plan to move into the future. As repetitive as it may seem to make these goals or check in with yourself, I can’t help but think it’s a nice excuse to be able to tap in and see how you’re doing.  Whether you had a shit year, an exciting year, an unexpected year or a year of growth, it’s important to take the time to think about what went well and how you can grow. 

It’s like when you go through a breakup. I like to always think (for the most part), no harm done. You had your good times, you made your good memories, and now it’s time to move on and sprout into a better version of yourself. 

So as we gear up for the New Year, the “New Us”, I’d like to share what I plan to focus on personally that I think we can all benefit from more of in our life. 

For me, this past year was a time of stability and growth. I worked hard and I worked a lot, but the sacrifice was my inner peace. Granted, I live an incredibly blessed life here in New York City. I’m doing my dream job and can pay for myself to have the lifestyle that I want, but oftentimes the grind of New York City will eat you away in ways you miss before it’s too late. 

So with all the work I continue to hope to get, I also plan to find balance within myself to attain true peace. No more trying to mask the frustration of each subway ride, gritting my teeth at every little annoyance, snapping at those closest to me because they’ll tolerate it or suppressing the need to meditate daily. If I think back to my year and how well it went work wise, I can only imagine how much better I’ll be if I’m calm with myself and my mind. Imagine how much more work will flow if I’m centered. 

Tuning into your soul is a lot easier said than done. To quiet the mind and all the fuss around you is something that takes many yogis or meditators years to achieve. This is no small feat, but if it’s something we can all work on, perhaps those subway rides or little tiffs with your loved ones will be much easier to manage for all of us. Imagine for instance if every New Yorker were to take a chill pill before they leave for work. Only in a dream world right? Maybe. But perhaps meditating and focusing on your thoughts and personal needs is the medicine we all need for the illness we’re not being treated for. 

I like to do “Yoga with Adriene” at home. It’s easy, I can choose my own level and be in my own space to move at whatever pace I feel comfortable with. On one recent practice, I had been a bit easily annoyed by everything that day, perhaps it was that “time of the month” and I couldn’t seem to shake anything off. If someone looked at me the wrong way I could have broken down and cried right then and there. Thankfully I realized I was being a bit unreasonable so decided to check in with Adriene and let all the frustrations glide off me with each drop of sweat. About 10 minute into the practice, my partner came into the kitchen, adjacent to where I was doing my flow and started to quietly make dinner. Totally fair, his space just as much as it was mine but I couldn’t help but snap at him with anger. “Couldn’t he see I was trying to not be annoyed by doing this yoga practice???” 

I stopped the practice, stormed around the room and made a fuss then tried to get back into it as my love one kind of just stood there confused by my recent outrage. It was another 10 minutes into the practice that I began to realize absolutely nothing was his fault. He could have smiled at me and I would have burst with annoyance. It was the buildup of simply a busy day in the city that got to me more than I realized and was causing more turmoil with what should have been a calm relaxing night in.

Thankfully, I fell into the trance of Adriene’s soothing voice and literally visualized all the grit leaving my body with each deep breath. It was incredible. I was feeling lighter and calmer and couldn’t believe something as simple as deep breathing and a little stretching could make me feel whole again. 

With all that in mind I still continue to live my dream life in New York and don’t visualize giving it up anytime soon. The city gets to you, but when it does you simply have to tap into yourself and give yourself some extra love to combat the aggression you may be blindly holding. 

Here are some ways I think we can give ourselves a bit more love and work on our inner healing. While the holiday season is supposed to be a time of love and reflection, oftentimes it ends up being a period where we overstress, we overbuy, we over indulge and over extend ourselves. Let this piece inspire you to go to the events you want, indulge in the cookies you’re dreaming but to always remember to take a little time to reflect on what you personally need to live a little happier.



Take a social media break 

I’m not saying get rid of it all together or to not post, believe me for my own job (unfortunately) it’s pretty imperative that I have an online presence but the world will wait, believe it or not, for you to post whatever you need to. Whether it be to take a day off here and there or to limit the number of minutes (in reality, hours) you spend each day, try and monitor your usage and slow down a little bit, especially over the holidays. Your friends will all be having a grand ol’ time, everyone always appears to be, but just remember it’s okay to have a boring day where nothing seems worth sharing. Savor the days where you can relax and perhaps skip the endless scroll on days like this and read a book or listen to a podcast instead, whenever you get the urge to open the app. 

Do some yoga! 

There’s something magical about the power of tuning into your mind and taking a deep breath. It helps switch off any negative energy you may be holding on to and it’s a nice way to get your body moving with the flow. Yoga with Adriene has different free videos for any mood you may be in. “Yoga for back ache”, “yoga for post-breakup”, “yoga for starting your morning”, etc. She’s got a video just for you. 

Right when you wake up, before you check any e-mails or read any news, write down one thing you’re grateful for

I saw another model post about this practice and was immediately enthralled. I often wake up immediately check e-mails and Instagram which often starts my day off a little stressed out. Instead of taking time to think of what I’m thankful or happy for, I see news I don’t want to read or scroll through pictures aimlessly. Instead lately, I’ve been trying to wake up and immediately write down what I’m grateful for, however big or small it may be. Sometimes it’s something recent that has happened, other times it’s something big, but it truly helps set your day off on the right foot.

Meditate five to ten minutes every day 

Similar to practicing yoga, taking a moment to breath can bring a lot of positivity to your day. If you don’t have the time to do a full yoga practice (guilty!), try taking a moment out of your day, I love doing it right before bed, to lay down, close your eyes, and practice some deep breathing. Sometimes, if I need some extra guidance I’ll throw on a meditative track such as ocean waves white noise or use an app like Insight Timer that guides you through a meditation however long you see fit to whatever noise that brings you most joy. The Zhada bowl has a grounding ring to it that makes me feel aligned and centered. 

Get off the subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way

There’s nothing like a little fresh air to make the commute a little more pleasant. In New York especially, you’re often sandwiched in between people you don’t even know, a yelling match 9/10 times always breaks out and there’s absolutely no such thing as personal space. To get a few extra steps in and calm myself before work or before I get home, sometimes I find getting out a bit early and walking the rest of the way is the best answer. 

Be compassionate 

Something that always keeps me calm and collected is to try my best to be compassionate. Granted, it’s hard as can be to sympathize with the guy standing in the doorway of the subway at rush hour who won’t move for anyone because that spot is most convenient for him (perhaps I’m coming from a place of experience here) but what I try and do (again, perhaps maybe not in that instance) but rather than letting my anger boil over I often try and just think of how that person is doing. On my worst of days, I still have a home to come home to and an incredible fiancé to love. Perhaps that person has no loved one, is in between jobs or just got fired. Anger (most of the time) doesn’t come from nothing. So while it would be a lot easier to yell at that guy on the subway or even give him a shoulder on your way out, try sympathizing instead or even giving him a smile. You’ll feel better about yourself afterwards and your heart will be more full. 

Do a meditative retreat 

Sometimes we need to really remove ourselves from our natural habitat in order to power off and get back to our centers. I’m hoping in the new year to be able to do this by going on a yoga or meditative trip, however long I can fit in. If it’s two days, amazing, a whole week, even better! I’ve heard magical things about Kripalu in Massachusetts. They have retreats for all types of activities from meditative to yoga to Ayurveda and teacher training and you can go for weeks or a long weekend if that’s all the time you have. 


If it’s one of these things or all of them, however many you can try and implement them into your New Year’s goals and see how you feel once you’re tuning into your center light. I think a lot of us hold on to stress we didn’t even know we had; stomach aches and indigestion (guilty), unexplainable bald patches of hair missing (guilty), or a fragile emotional state that makes you want to cry a little too easily, and something as simple as taking a moment to breath or write down one thing you’re thankful for can help alleviate a lot of the stress. As Adriene from Yoga with Adriene says, “Find What Feels Good”, and may you all go forth into the New Year with all the strength, passion and wholeness you need. 


Your Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us which means spending time with family, cozying up to some hot apple cider by the fire, ice skating until your cheeks go red and Elf on in the background. While it is a time of a lot of joy and happiness, it can bring on stress with the pressure of getting the right gift. As we get older, material gifts seem more of a nuisance than a pleasure, however we love the feeling of sharing with others things we know they need and things you know they’d love. Here is the our edit of the official ODM/ODC gift guide… from cozy sweaters to experience getaways and reusable cutlery, we’ve got everyone on your list covered and you can ensure everything we recommend is timeless and ethical. And if you're going to skip the presents this year (good idea!), we've got a little something to recommend for the person who seems to have everything too!

For your parents

The Cocktail Experience Gift

The perfect gift for your best friend

Darling Magazine Subscription

Someone who loves adventure

Patagonia Backpack

Someone Always On The Go

Joseph Joseph Travel Cutlery Set

Someone fashion forward

A Used Stella McCartney Purse

For the Homebody

West Elm Artisanal Throw

For the Conscious Traveler

Samsonite Eco-Glide

For the man in your life

The Cashmere Crew

A Little Something Extra For Your Mum

Soko Jewelry

For the hygge obsessed

Cedar Scented Candle

For you and your partner

Responsible Travel

Your bosses will love you

WINC Eco-Friendly Wine Club

For the person who has everything

A Donation in Someone’s Name

Renting Is The New Black

The holiday social season is upon us!  Your calendars are likely filling up with good times with good friends! As I looked over my plans for the next few weeks, I started to think about what I'd wear.  At the same time, I received an email from Rent The Runway, offering a special deal on their unlimited monthly membership.  For $159/month (with $80 off for November & December) you get unlimited access to outfits, from cocktail dresses to motorcycle jackets, all delivered and dry-cleaned for free.  

You can order up to 4 outfits at a time and keep them as long as you want.  When you want something new, just return them and order more.  Most have the option to buy if you really fall in love. My daughter and co-founder, Brittany Bergmeister, is a big fan of Rent The Runway and has modelled for them in the past.  She loves the sustainability of renting and re-using clothes that you might only wear a couple of times.  I decided to give it a try! I ordered on Saturday and am expecting delivery just in time for Thanksgiving.  I'll let you know how it goes! Happy Holidays!

-Maria Bromley, Mom Of Model

 
 


The Tribe of Lambs Crew; What They’re All About

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. 

Recently On Shiffon Co...

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!

Second Annual Calm Before the Storm

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!

Sponsors:

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

Sustainability was a big topic of our event today. Check out one of our favorite clothing brand's ADAY! Tag your ADAY pics wearing their hat to receive a discount at their store! @thisisaday

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!

Groceries Apparel is a sustainable style + lifestyle destination for conscious fashion-forward individuals. They’re also the company we use for our Perfect white tees! Follow them @groceriesapparel.

The healthy bubbly was provided by Health-Ade Kombucha! We're addicted! If you are, check out more information or share your pics @healthade.

One of the best feelings in the world is putting on a pair of new white crisp socks. Lucky for us JawxJawshop slipped some of our socks into our goodie bags! You can follow them @jawxjawshop!

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.

We raffled off beautiful rings donated by Shiffon Co. Shiffon is more than just a jewelry brand, they aim to be supportive, powerful network for women. Follow them @shiffonco for more inspiration!

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

RYU is an incredible clothing line created for the urban athlese that moves with you. They stand for respect and they are #BeyondTough. Check them out @ryu_apparel

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:

Cameron Russell:

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 brittb@odmodc.com to see how you can get on our e-mail list.

FaceLove:

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 Gajauskaite:

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 Rayne Oakes:

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 Bovell:

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!

Daniel Gottlieb:

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.

Sandrina Bencomo:

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.

Celsious:

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

An Inside Look Into Groceries Apparel

After being introduced to Groceries Apparel by a fellow model, I was immidiately drawn to their simple, stylish staples that were clearly made well with the environment in mind. I had been thinking about creating my own basic white tees at the time and while modeling was taking over much of my time, I found it difficult to balance both worlds. I created a sample tee, here in New York and after I wasn't completely content with the first mock-up, I reached out to Groceries to see if I could do an ODM/ODC edit on a tee they were already producing perfectly. I was exceptionally impressed by their openness to work with a smaller company like myself. They were flexible with their minimums and completely open about where they sourced their fabrics, where everything was made and everything in between! They're a dream to work with, and after a recent visit to L.A. I was even more impressed with how open they were on a tour of their factory. Robert Lohman, founder of the Groceries took the time to answer some in-depth questions so you can get to know a bit more about where our Sustainable Is Sexy tees come from! Check out his answers below!

1) Tell me a bit about how Groceries Apparel came about? Where did everyone in the company come from and how did you all transition into the sustainable/ethical world?

Groceries started on the Venice boardwalk with American Apparel organic blanks dyed with grass, orange juice, rust, soil, tomatoes, blood, and milk, and basically anything in my backyard.  I was set on creating a non-toxic t-shirt.  When I was trying to expand, it dawned on me that there were no volume blank providers that were 100% committed to chemical-free and made in USA.  I had randomly met Dov Charney at a fabric store called Ragfinders and he ended up inviting me to take a tour of his American Apparel factory.  Dov showed me how to sew in teams and digitize patterns.  The next day I rented three Kansai Special’s and a Tukatech license.  I’m not really a fashion guy, I’m an environmentalist that loves manufacturing.

2) What is your take on organic, recycled and regular cotton? Is there one the company is partial to?

From day one we’ve sourced only organic or recycled ingredients.  I’m not a fan at all of regular cotton, one of the reasons we exist is to shift demand away from it.  The future is in hemp, post-consumer recycled textiles, and bio-based textiles, these are some of the only fabrics that fit into a larger circular economy.  Lenzing has been working on some really soft closed-loop textiles made from recycled eucalyptus fiber, like Refibra.  We have some new spandex blends made from recycled ocean fishnets.  There are a lot of textile innovations on the horizon made from food waste, orange peels, fish skins, coffee, etc.  We also dye garments with flowers, roots, bark, leaves, and onion skins.

3) All of your clothing is made in America, which is awesome!! While I don’t think made outside the U.S. has to necessarily mean it’s a bad thing, why did you guys choose to stay local?

Locally-made is central to our business model.  Being local means being closer to our garments as they are made, which helps us command the fit and quality.  It also allows us to cut out middle men, trim redundancy, and lower the carbon footprint impact and costs.  Being local enables us to respond and fulfill orders faster, which helps our boutique partners.  Stores are able to hold their budget and analyze sales trends later into the season before purchasing.  Brands that stay local don’t need to speculate their production orders, they can cut-to-order and limit waste.  There are a ton of advantages to manufacturing local, made in China is great if you sell to China.

4) Tell me a bit about the factory you use and how you chose it. What’s the best way you guys ensure workers are treated well?

We are the factory.  We operate our own factory to ensure our standards and values are fully executed, especially when it comes to treating our employees well.  We have 80 yards of cutting space and 43 sewing machines, producing 40,000 units per month on average. 

5) What’s something difficult Groceries has been able to overcome in terms of becoming more sustainable?

Early on we were passing on a lot of sales opportunities due to our higher price point and our unwillingness to manufacture non-organic garments.  Groceries’ first business model relied on economies of scale in order to compete, which was hard to execute out of my garage.  It was kind of a paradox in the fact that we needed more orders to feed our factory, but we were also turning down orders because we were unwilling to make a cheaper non-organic option.  I was unwilling to compromise my values in order to stay in business, which sounds great but was actually a huge problem for the company.  My business model stated we had to generate about 4 million dollars a year in order to feed our factory and become profitable.  Groceries’ was more of a young, big business than a small business.  It took me a while to convince banks and investors that my business model wasn’t insane.

6) In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is GROCERIES doing to combat this?

The industry is the 2nd most toxic in the world behind oil, so I would say the toxicity.  We’ve purchased 3 million yards of organic and recycled textiles to help push the demand for chemical-free and gmo-free.  We’re also moving toward non-toxic, vegetable-based dyes. 

a)What about ethically? 

We pay well above minimum wage to our employees and offer a safe and happy workplace.

7) What are the next steps for Groceries? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?

I see non-toxic and ethically-made clothing becoming the standard for our industry.  Every step we take will be working towards this.