Fashion with a Purpose: GoEx’s buyer tells her story

Megan Dodd – Go Exchange buyer and fashionista!

 

I always imagined buyers being the type of women pounding the pavement in NYC wearing tight black pencil skirts, slicked back ponytails and 5-inch heels. I’ll admit there was a point in my life where all I did was dream of being one of those women. Feeling powerful and in charge. Having the ability to make decisions and watching others marvel at my excellent taste. Well, I don’t wear 5-inch heels and pencil skirts aren’t my thing, and yet, here I am. The only difference? I’m in Haiti. Wearing yoga pants, Birkenstocks and a ripped chambray shirt trying to make my sweaty hair look semi chic in a top knot, but meeting with a designer, buying a fall line nonetheless. This day was profound for me. It was as if an adolescent dream came true today. Only, it came in a way I never would have predicted for my life.

 

I spent my childhood growing up in a setting where world travel was normal. I took my first trip to Haiti at age 11. I thought from a young age that helping in a country like Haiti was my purpose in life. I felt like I had purpose when I was in Haiti. I felt like I was making a difference. I have my amazing parents to thank for exposing me to the poverty of Haiti from such a young age. I went through phases where I felt closer to my passion for Haiti and phases where Haiti felt very distant. I traveled there regularly with my dad until college.

 

Megan in Haiti, age 18
Megan in Haiti, age 18

Growing up, I also developed a love for fashion, design and merchandising. My mom let me buy my first copy of Vanity Fair when I was 12, because Mary-Kate and Ashley were on the cover. I kept that magazine and read it cover to cover each day until it fell apart. That was my first real exposure to fashion. And I was in love.

 

I studied business in college, and decided fashion was my calling. I remember having breakfast with my friend Caroline one morning shortly before we graduated and saying to her, “I feel like I will be unhappy forever if I don’t make fashion my career”. I remember her encouraging me to pursue my passion if I felt so strongly about it. I went with my gut, and I moved to Los Angeles. I managed a retail store. I saw celebrities. I lived what aspiring fashion gurus would say is “the LA dream”. And in some ways it was my dream too. But it was lonely. It was expensive and eventually, I left.

 

I came home to Kansas City looking for something new. Something to do other than manage a retail store and “babysit” my associates day in and day out. I wanted more meaning in my career. That’s when I got a call from an organization called The GO Exchange. The GO Exchange (GOEX) is essentially an online boutique. Our passion is orphan prevention. By providing living wage jobs to the artisans making the products we sell, they are able to keep their families together. Many times parents give their children up to be adopted, because they cannot afford to feed and clothe them.

A sneak peak of GoEx's fall jewelry line!
A sneak peak of GoEx’s fall jewelry line!

I met with someone from The GO Exchange shortly after moving home, just explaining my interests and my background with fashion. And then, on a random Tuesday I got a call with a job offer. No application. No formal interview. Simply, will you come work for us? I accepted the offer before the person on the other end of the phone could even finish their sentence. I knew this was what I had been looking for. I started working at GOEX shortly after, and quickly became enamored with the process of choosing products to sell on our site. I have a strong opinion and I know what women shop for, and to the dismay of the men I work with at GOEX, I believe I’m usually right. Lesson to be learned: don’t let a group of middle-aged dads choose products for women (just saying). I share my thoughts and express my feelings about our products enough that Mike, my manager, decided to let me come to Haiti and pick out our fall line.

 

A child Megan met at a GoEx sponsored orphanage.
A child Megan met at a GoEx sponsored orphanage.

As I walked around the factory today, seeing the workers, learning about the entire production process, it really hit me hard. These workers making t-shirts, handbags, pajamas, etc. are working so hard to provide for their families. This is their life. This is how they will feed their children. Great fashion does not have to come at the cost of cheap and unfair production. It’s completely possible to make beautiful products and not sacrifice the good of the worker. I am proud to say that I know the people producing the products I sell. I know they have proper work environments, clean bathrooms, lunch breaks and room to move around.

Workers at the Papillon factory pound rocks into dust for clay beads.
Workers at the Papillon factory pound rocks into dust for clay beads.

It seems counterintuitive- looking for ethical production rather than cheap production. If you want to make a buck, cut your costs wherever you can. That’s all they taught us in business school. But how did we get so caught up in that business practice? When did we start putting the product above the worker? Why don’t we even think twice about the worker when we buy a garment? It’s possible to have both- a beautiful garment and an ethical production process. And it’s gaining momentum. We thought it was a fad when brands started popping up a few years ago with an ethical bottom line. But this generation has proven it’s not a fad. It’s an innate desire to help. To give back. To be ethical. Our generation is changing the way products are made.

Megan Dodd – Go Exchange buyer and fashionista!

Today I became that buyer I dreamed about becoming as a teenager. It’s funny how life comes full circle sometimes. My passion for Haiti, my obsession with clothes and design, it all connected today in a way I never dreamed it would. Ethical business was never on my radar when I dreamed about what I would be when I was growing up. But today, I am proud to say that’s what I do. I’m part of the movement. And I will commit to valuing the worker as much as the product.

 

Story and photos above by Megan Dodd.

 

Find out more about the Go Exchange, and shop their fun store here! The products that Megan chose will be coming out with their fall line. Follow them on Instagram to keep up to date.

GoEx provides employment for moms so they can support their families. Photo: goex.org
GoEx provides employment for moms so they can support their families. Photo: goex.org
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Belated Graceful Favourites- May!

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I am a few days late with this, but May has been an extremely busy month. It’s was my birthday month, and I’ve been traveling, working several jobs at once, and there is construction happening in my garden that disrupts my schedule. I will try to post my favourites in a more timely manner next month. And now, on to my favourite fair trade, natural, ethical, graceful things of the month!

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Beauty:

This month, I have been using two oldies but goodies quite a bit. One of them has been in my collection for years, and the other I received at the end of the month from my family.

Shorts Story by OPI is a lovely pink. It’s one of those colours that you just can’t look at with a frown, and it is a staple for me.

Bikini So Teeny by Essie is the most perfect periwinkle blue I have ever seen. I’ve been eyeing it for so very long, and I couldn’t believe it when I opened my birthday package from my family and found it there, wrapped in pretty polka-dotted pink paper. Thank you Mom, Emma and Beth for reading my colour-loving mind! The polish is a cream formula, with tiny shimmers in it. It does take some working with- I put on two coats one day, and a third the next morning for full opacity. But the colour is worth it. In the shade, it’s an almost-mod periwinkle leaning on the blue side. In the sunlight, it takes on a more sky-blue shade that I can’t take my eyes off of.

Both of these formulas are free of the main three chemicals that make nail polish toxic. I’ll be posting more about the levels of nail polish toxicity, and what you can do to keep your pretty fingers and toes from hurting the planet (and you!) soon.

Pink Blossom lip balm- Burt’s Bees lip balms are a cult favourite. This tinted formula is the perfect in-between for girls who aren’t into full-on lipstick or lipgloss. It’s buttery smooth, with a poppy-pink tint. Oh, and it’s almost totally natural.

EOS lip balm in honeydew melon- I’ll be honest, my first EOS (summerfruit) didn’t get that much use. But this one seems to be softer for some reason. My mom and sister bought the four pack in Costco, and asked me which flavour/sent I wanted. I’ve been using it a ton this spring, after borrowing my little sister’s strawberry one every night when I was home. Like the Burt’s Bees, it’s natural, plus it is sweetened with steevia. My only complaint is the excessive plastic packaging.

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Skincare:

I’ve been going back to basics at bathtime, and skipping the shower gel for the more traditionally made soap. This one is by Fragonard, a beautiful centuries-old parfumeur in Grasse, France, and a gift from my cousin Laura. I visited the factory while I was staying with Laura in Nice, and we got to see how they extract flower essences to make beautiful fragrances. This soap is a lot more natural than my Bath and Body works shower gel, and it feels so old-school glamourous. The delicate rose fragrance reminds me of Grace Kelly. I can picture her taking a quick jaunt to the Fragonard store to pick this up- the factory is only a few hours from Monaco. It came in a lovely keepsake box of four- lavender, verbena, rose and freesia. I only have the freesia left now, and then the box will hold trinkets and treasures.

I’ve been having some issues with dry patches on my face, and this Calendula cream from Weleda really soothes and heals them. It’s made to be used by all ages, so it’s very, very gentle. The whole Calendula line from Weleda is great if you have sensitive skin like me.

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Fragrance:

My first fragrance is not natural, per se, but I have been wearing it almost every day since I got it as a gift. Wild Bluebell from Jo Malone smells like a dew-spattered field of green grass and flowers, with a hint of sweetness. If you were a fairy, this is what you would wear. I’ve wanted it for years.

Since bluebells are an endangered wildflower, Jo Malone recreated their scent with lily of the valley, briar rose, orange flower and cloves. They also made a large donation to the Woodland Trust, to help preserve Britain’s beautiful bluebells. That sounds pretty graceful to me.

My natural fragrance pick of the month is Malibu Lemon Blossom by Pacifica. If you want to hear my full review of this fragrance, click here. It’s been traveling in my backpack, my purse, and my beach bag all month.

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Fashion:

When I like something, I wear it over and over and over. This was the case for my two fashion favourites this month. The first was a daisy dress that I bought at a used clothing market. It was originally from H&M, and I wore it every week. It got snagged on a nail, so it is in the mending pile right now, but it will be back for June! You can see more photos of it in my outfit post.

I received this necklace from my parents at the end of this month, but they showed it to me on Skype on my birthday. I have worn it almost every day because it matches EVERYTHING. I’ve never been a silver girl, always preferring gold, but this may just convert me. Thank you to Shakespeare’s Sisters for crafting such a unique piece, the lovely vintage-inspired Avenle for stocking it in their webstore, and my wonderful family for sending it to me!

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Food:

I am a tea addict, and this month, there have been tea that I have come back to over and over.

The first has been a favourite of mine since moving to Egypt, but I just recently discovered the “more than fair trade” story behind their products, which you can check out here. Dilmah strawberry tea is lovely with honey and milk when I have a sweet craving. It reminds me of the first time I tried flavoured tea. I was eleven years old, at an American Girl doll (remember those?) tea party in Dakar, Senegal. I had always loved drinking milky tea with my Dad, but at this party, they served us raspberry flavoured tea with milk and sugar. It was a revelation to me. Tea can have flavours? I was hooked on experimenting with tea from then on.

My other favourite has been the chai green tea from local health food store Imtenan. I like to make a cup of iced tea with this in the morning to wake me up. It’s a little spicy, which is a nice change from regular green tea.

Incredible colours at Abdel Zaher
Incredible colours at Abdel Zaher

Lifestyle:

Notebooks, notebooks, and more notebooks. Put me in a stationery shop, and I may never come out. That’s what it was like when I visited Abdel Zaher for the first time. The store is in a little nook, off the beaten path near the historic Al Azhar mosque in Cairo. A friend steered me into it on my first visit to Cairo and bought me this notebook. I’ve been waiting till I use up some others, and now it is my little travel journal!

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This lavender and gold softcover is from another Egyptian brand called Colors & Shapes. Their designs are really cute, and they are made here in Egypt too. This one I am using to write down poems, quotes, and good things.

 

That’s all for now. I hope all you had a graceful May, and that June is even more full of wonder, beauty, and joy. There are exciting things coming to Grace’s Way this month. Sometime next week, a buyer for a not-so-average fashion brand will be sharing her incredible story with us of how she went from L.A. to Haiti- and loves it!

 

gracefully yours,

 

Megan