Two years ago today I started this blog as a community for women and girls who wanted to live gracefully. To me, that meant making choices that respected the planet and everyone who lived here- especially the women and children most affected by forced and low-wage labour.
It’s been a windy road since my first post. I moved from Egypt to Canada, started a new job at World Vision Canada, and, most recently, got married! Through it all, I’ve tried my best to ensure that my choices are, as much as possible, conscious ones. Here are three things I’ve learned from that process:
Shopping ethically can be HARD, but patience and saving do pay off.
Sometimes finding that perfect ethical item can be extremely frustrating. But saving up for quality items, hunting for the perfect ethical find, and revisiting thrift shops DO pay off. Here are a couple examples from my Instagram feed of patience and saving in action:
I wanted an item from Everlane for a long time. When fall rolled around last year, I realized I didn’t have a good trench to protect from the elements. So I saved up for this Swing Trench, waited for the colour I wanted to come back in stock, researched what size would be best for me and ordered it. It’s become one of my most-worn items, and I know I’ll have it for years to come.
On the other hand, I had just started thinking about how much I used to love my moccasins, but worried that they were too expensive and unethically made when some women from work and I went on a thrift store shopping trip. I was trying on last-minute finds when my coworker walked over to me, asked, “Are you a size 8?” and handed me these shoes from the exact brand I used to get in college…for $9.99! I have so many stories like that, I’ve learned to be patient when I need or want something- and to value and enjoy what I have in the meantime. In my experience, it always pays off.
2. No one can be 100% ethical all the time.
This one is often a tough pill for me to swallow, but the truth is that finances, necessity, and just a general lack of knowledge contribute so much to not being able to be totally ethical. The hardest area of my life to be ethical in is my diet…and after reading this article on checking our food privilege I realized I am not alone. Eating as a conscious consumer is tough on a budget. Although I try to buy fair trade and local as often as I can, I know that I just don’t have enough information about much of the products I buy to be able to tell what is and isn’t ethical.
And that’s where we need to give ourselves some grace. It sounds terrible to say we need to choose our battles, but for our own sanity and health, we do. However, that doesn’t mean we should just give up. We can each take small actions to limit our impact on the earth and those that live here. For me, that means not eating shrimp anymore due to the reports of forced and child labour in the industry. For many of my friends, I know that means leading a vegan lifestyle to limit their environmental impact. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you know the facts, and then put your whole heart into it. Every small action for people and the planet counts.
3. The conscious consumer movement is amazing…and GROWING
Back when I started this journey, finding the products and information I needed to make “graceful” choices could be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Since then, the sustainable, fair-trade, and conscious consumer movements have exploded. Every day I find a new brand, blogger or group on Instagram dedicated to many of the same principles that drove me to start this site.
That, my friends, is what change is about. Back in 2014, sitting on my bed pouring over the Guardian’s interactive documentary The Shirt on Your Back, I felt appalled and moved to action. But I also felt a sense of helplessness, not knowing how my choices could affect change, or even where to start.
I don’t feel like that anymore. I’ve learned that our actions as consumers, and our interest in ethical products DO make a difference to industry. Our opinion has pushed Cadbury to expand its Fair Trade chocolate options. It’s birthed new ethical companies. It’s protected our natural resources. And I am certain it has made a difference in the lives of the men and women in the fair wage enterprises we support. Maybe those things are small, but they give me hope. The hope that my next two years of (attempting) ethical living will be just as rewarding. The hope that soon ethical living won’t be a special lifestyle choice, but the norm.
So Happy Fashion Revolution Day Graces! Here’s to another year of living gracefully.
Today I am super-excited to share with you an interview that I have been wanting to do for years now.
Haley Cairo is a college student and the co-founder (with her mom) of Mae Movement, a line of bracelets made by artisan women in Nepal. The bracelets give the women a safe, enjoyable trade, and keep them home and safe, away from the rampant sex slavery trade that plagues many Asian countries.
Haley’s bracelets are beloved by YouTube stars and girls around the world for their trendy colors and incredible cause. Haley is one of the most positive women I have ever interviewed. I couldn’t have asked for a better conversation to have on Fashion Revolution Day! Here’s what Haley had to say about fair trade, shopping, and beauty!
(GC- Grace’s Way founder Megan, MM- Haley Cairo)
GC: Tell us about how you came up with the idea for Mae Movement.
MM: I have always been passionate about helping others and finding the bracelets and my lifestyle change to be fit and healthy happened at the same time. I was a junior, or 11th grade in high school, and was a part of the state student senate. I used my personal story as a platform to speak to youth about achieving your goals and dreams even at a young age. It really motivated me to take this globally ! We thought making the bracelets a part of it was a perfect fit because they empower women in Nepal, plus we did fundraisers to start selling the bracelets, and donated a portion of the proceeds to different organizations.
GC: You got a lot of support from YouTube stars like missglamorazzi. How did that happen? Were you surprised that the bracelets caught on so quickly?
MM: Omg thinking About this still MAEks me excited! Dee (Mama Mae Movement ) and I were in New York for IMATS, which is a makeup trade show that all the beauty gurus attend. I went to share our bracelets and give them as gifts to some of my favorite YouTubers. I gave them bracelets and my card. Dee and I were walking back to our hotel that night and Ingrid (missglamorazzi) texted me! She and the other girls loved the bracelets and the movement behind them, so we planned to meet up the next day and have a little hang out and bracelet party at the Mercer in SoHo- it was so much fun! I really could not thank them enough for sharing our bracelets!
GC: Wow, that is so great that they jumped on board like that. So, from all this, what kind of things have happened for these women as a result of Mae Movement? Have you been able to check back with them?
MM: Yes ! Most definitely! These women are earning a fair trade wage 3x the amount of the standard salary in Nepal. Not only can they afford to take care of their families and provide a good home for them but our artisans are provided with two free meals a day, and health care. We are also able to continue to employ more women!
GC: So obviously, brands like yours really make a difference. Have you noticed that there is a movement among young entrepreneurs towards creating social change?
MM: Absolutely! I think it’s human nature to want to feel like you are giving value to this world, and so much of what we are fed on television and the Internet is junk. I have seen such a trend lately with people who start off promoting themselves, their brand in a more worldly almost superficial way, and are now trying to bring on a more philanthropic aspect to their work, whether its with life advice or hosting fundraisers on their social media platforms.
I hate to say that giving back is trendy but in all honesty it is and it should be because there is so much in this world that is swept under the rug and goes unspoken. That why I am so passionate about Mae Movement, because there is no limit to what or who we are MAEking known 🙂 it could be an issue in a third world country or right here locally, like bullying.
GC: On the fashion side of things, how do you design the colours and patterns for the bracelets? (My favorite this season is the Cotton Candy set!)
MM: I LOVE that one too!
I grew up wanting to be in the art and fashion industry so I was always paying attention to trends and forecasting for the upcoming seasons. So I take a similar approach to creating our collections. I can tell you, Mae Movement is about to get a little MAEkover with our collections – we will be launching them faster and will have some new products !
GC: I’m excited to see what’s next. You sound super busy- What do you do when you are not working on the new Mae Movement campaign…or do you have any spare time at all?!
MM: Oh boy haha I am always working. I am also a freelance illustrator and photographer, so I am either working on a commission or doing a photo shoot. Another huge part of MM is my YouTube so I film and edit videos. Then I have my schooling. I am currently a student at the Institution of Integrative Nutrition! We will be launching personal health and lifestyle coaching very soon! I am also training a lot I wake up anywhere from 4-5 am to go to Crossfit or the gym.
GC: On that note, we know you are a fan of the Tone It Up girls. I’ve been watching them since college, by the way- love their videos! Who or what are some other influences on your personal style and lifestyle choices?
MM: Well, for lifestyle, my number one is my savior Jesus Christ. He has brought me through some of the hardest times, and I know he will always be there.
My Mom. I have never met anyone with more love in them then her. Not kidding, and anyone who meets Dee would tell you that I am so blessed to have her, she is my biggest cheerleader.
My grandmother “Nonners”, she is the my best friend – she has given me life advice that I will always reflect on. She is my absolute fashion icon. She introduced me to Vogue when I was little and she continues to give me her issues after she reads them. I use to play in her closet, and we definitely have had one or two…well a lot of bonding time over shopping. She always told me to be elegantly understated, and I would say I dressed older than my age in high school. I appreciate a good leather driving shoe and a killer bag.
As I have gotten older my style has developed and I would say I get a lot of inspiration has come from being so into fitness. I wear a lot of casual basic and dress them up with statement jewelry and cool shoes. I love how Victoria Beckham has mastered wearing black. And Nicole Ritchie is great at being a chameleon with her styles. Then of course Rachel Zoe the queen of accessorizing. Those are currently some icons of mine.
GC: Speaking of style icons, shopping is a huge part of following our fashion idols. Why do you think it’s important for young women to think about how the things they buy affect others?
MM: This one is huge for me because a lot of people don’t think about. One of my goals is to really push a new type of ” haul ” video on YouTube, with more fair trade or even USA and locally made products. These products may look glamorous, but if they saw the conditions of the factories and how the workers are treated it would give them a whole different perspective on what they buy.
Cosmetics is a huge one too. I love finding new fair trade beauty products I am currently loving my face lotion by Everyday Coconut. They are empowering the people of Togo with their products and they use local ingredients, it so awesome.
GC: Personally, how do you decide on whether you will buy something or not?
MM: I am a quality over quantity so I will spend more on something knowing it came from a good source. Since starting Mae Movement I have become much more aware of it. I would say I especially pay attention to this with food! I try and buy organic and locally and I love supporting companies that use fair trade ingredients. I would love to say everything I have is some kind of empowerment product, but I do have some favorites that are not.
I am also a supporter of small businesses and independent designers. If you follow me on Instagram I post a lot of photos with shirts that say Dyer Brand on them. My cousin Mason is an incredibly talented surfboard shaper and men’s fashion designer. All of his clothing is American made and high quality. I probably wear his shirts more than anything else.
GC: That is so great. So, besides Mae Movement, do you have any other fair trade brands that you enjoy?
MM: I am in love with the Nena and Co bags from Guatemala I do not have one yet but I am planning on splurging for my birthday in June! These bags are made by women artisans in Guatemala using a traditional weaving technique. They have a ” peace pilgrim” that gives back to these women and their families providing fresh water and education.
GC: I’ve never heard of them, I will definitely check them out!
MM: Yeah, and I also love Wakami, another Guatemalan product! Their jewelry is awesome ! They have a great team of people who are really passionate about life and giving back to these people.
One that is special to me is Nepali by TMD. They have women artisans in Nelal who make the most beautiful scarves I have ever seen. They are super popular right now and I am so happy to see them getting mainstream attention!
GC: I am a scarf-aholic, so that sounds right up my alley. So, we’ve covered fashion…what is your favorite beauty tip?
MM: My favorite beauty tip?!?! That’s so hard I have a few ! Haha.
My grandfather is an orthodontist so my whole family are teeth freaks! A smile can change someone’s whole day so why not let your beauty affect others?! Take care of your teeth!
But on a more glamorous note….Beauty really comes from the inside out so having a diet high in vitamins and antioxidants will give you radiant skin! I drink a lot of green tea and lemon water! My grandmother always made sure I took care of my skin so sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen everyday !
Lastly people always ask me how I do my “no makeup” makeup look…. My secret is gold toned highlighter. I use Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in radiant light, but I not only high light my cheekbones but my eyelids to! I know it sounds weird but you look like you just got back from a vacation in the islands!
GC: Our final question: What’s next for Mae Movement, and for you?
MM: This is an exciting question! So many things! We are launching an apparel line! We have some new jewelry concepts but most importantly our involvement and community will be taking on a whole new role in Mae Movement! Really aim to have our day MAEkers our “movers” have a place to find not only awesome products with a purpose but a place where they can get life advice, health and wellness coaching, recipes, fashion tips, everything! A full on lifestyle brand! We will have a much more active blog and will be having some pretty exciting collaboration too!
GC: You really do have exciting things ahead! We’ll be following them for sure, and looking for how Grace’s Way can partner with you. Thanks Haley!