It’s been a painful week. None of us could have avoided that photo, and I admit it’s been difficult to think of anything else. In my new role with a relief and development organization, I’ve had an outlet to push for change (here are some suggestions if you would also like to help). But still, I’ve been left reeling, unable to imagine a world where we could allow this to happen.
And then, on Friday evening, my doorbell rang. It was the mailman, bringing a smile. Bringing shoes.
When I took the package and signed my name, I think I smiled my first real smile that day. As I opened the boxes, rainbow confetti scattered around me onto the floor. There were two shoe bags, a note just for me (in Spanish!) and my two pairs of Lolys. They weren’t perfect, but they were hand-craftedand beautiful.* A dream from Lorena Vazquez’s sketchbook, just for me.
A week like this helps us understand the ways we are responsible to one another. For me it goes right back to the choices we make with our money, and our time. Our world is in serious need of kindness. By supporting artisans, small businesses, and companies that treat their workers with respect, we give it that, at least a little.
I’m choosing to hope that we are moving towards a time when kindness, supporting one another, and hope aren’t so far away. It’s the reason for my first blog here in a year, and it’s what I’m working towards. Will you join me?
PS- If you would like to read more about my thoughts on the ethics of name-brand footwear (like Keds, Converse and Vans), head on over to my personal blog. You can also follow me on Instagram @megancradford for a weekly dose of flowers, inspiration and ethical living.
*For you animal lovers, Loly in the sky are also vegan-friendly and work to be environmentally responsible.
For me, Pinterest is all about dreaming. Whether it’s a make-you-think quote, an interesting DIY, or a magical pair of shoes, I can spend hours finding inspiration in the pretty pictures. My birthday is in a few days, and since it’s a time when no one can tell me not to put my head in the clouds, I’ve put my In-My-Dreams Wishlist on the Grace’s Way Pinterest.
Here are some lovely things I am swooning for. Starting from the middle and then going clockwise from the top, we have:
Puff Piece Adornments Petal Flower Crown– $18
Designer Krystin not only makes these works of art incorporating upcycled materials, but she is also just a lovely person. Her hand-made crowns are sold on Avenle and Etsy. Plus, her prices are so incredibly reasonable for such fairy-tale items.
Mae Movement Roller Girl Set- $36
If you haven’t read our tell-all interview with Mae Movement founder Haley, click here! Her bracelets give women in Nepal a wage three times that of the average salary in their country. They also give them a way to stay out of the sex slave trade. Oh, and they are bright, fun, and adorable pieces! The pastel greens and corals in this set were basically mae-d for me!
One Love Organics Travel Set– $50
I have heard such great things about this brand, especially from Ashley of makeupTIA. Their products are pretty expensive by my standards, but very special. This travel pack comes in a cute little bag that says Love in pink letters. I think it would be a great way to see what all the fuss is about.
Mermaid Shampoo and Conditioner– $60 for the set
I’ve been looking for a new natural shampoo and conditioner. This is it. Coconut and orange blossom scented and sulfate-free, I want these to be my new best friends. Basically a dream in two bottles.
A ticket to a Staves concert– $?
This one fits into the lifestyle category. I have been loving the Staves for a couple months now, ever since I asked a friend in the music production business to recommend some musicians similar to Scarlett O’Connor on my current favourite show, Nashville.
The Staves are three sisters with hauntingly beautiful voices and melodies, and lyrics just as poetic as their sound. I would love to see them in concert one day!
Della LA Travel Bag– $24
Can you tell I have a thing for cute little travel bags? I am always traveling, so I can justify the many I already have. They are just so helpful for organizing the bits and bobs I bring with me. This pretty purple zip-up case was handmade by artisans in Ghana by super-chic up and coming fair trade brand Della. The lilac and aqua tie-die is one of my favourite colour combinations.
Sole Rebels tooTOOs– $65
This brand makes fair-trade, eco-friendly footwear. I am loving their adorable tooTOOs style- a fabric ballet flat. I’m not ashamed to admit that I want every colour, but I’m kind of on a lavender kick, and the light purple ones are calling my name. Then again, the grey ones look really practical…hmm…
Mermaid Perfume No. 1– $50 for the perfume spray, $25 for the mini oil rollerball
I definitely don’t need another perfume, but…just the name makes me want to close my eyes and dive under salty waves. From the makers of Mermaid Hair, Mermaid No. 1 is an orange blossom scent that so many lovely ladies have raved about. Meghan from Briar Rose Blog wore it on her wedding day.
Sarah from Vintage Magpies pranced in a field wearing a breathtaking cobalt dress with it in tow.
I already love it for it’s all-natural ingredients, mystery, and lovely aesthetic, but the scent of orange blossoms is also special to me for its presence in the picture-perfect town of Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia. After climbing to the top of the hill, there is a little café where you can drink orange juice under the blooming orange trees. The town, with it’s white buildings and blue doors, coastal views, and laid-back atmosphere, was my very favourite place in Tunisia. I would love to have a perfume to remember it by.
RMS “Un” cover up– $36
RMS has been on my radar for a number of years. Recently I’ve been thinking I need to switch out the toxic, chemical-ridden stuff in my makeup bag with more natural fare. I have allergies around my eye area, and I have to be so careful with concealers and foundation. This one really intrigues me because it is meant to enhance your skin, not totally cover up- something I was never a big fan of with foundation anyway. It’s packed with lovely ingredients like coconut oil, which my dry skin definitely needs.
She And Reverie Mermaid Skirt– $148
Have I mentioned that I love mermaids? This gorgeous skirt by hand-made loungewear company She And Reverie is made of softest cotton and printed with beautiful mermaids and roses in pink, blue and aqua.
Whew! I thought this was just going to be a few, but when I sat down and thought about it, there are so many lovely things I’ve been checking out lately. For more details on where to buy them, click through to my wishlist Pinterest board! Some of these are a little pricey, but hey, I get one blow-out-my-candles wish right? Now which should I choose…
Let me know what’s on your wishlist in the comments below, or with the hashtag #gracesway on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram! Happy pinning 🙂
Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly, Daisy from the Great Gatsby- what do all these women (real and imagined) have in common? They were born into an age when your favourite dress came from a shop down the street, or was tailor-made for you and worn for years. It wasn’t mass produced in a factory across the world, where the people who worked on it are payed less than your lipgloss cost you. It didn’t fall apart after a couple summers. It stayed beautiful for years. Maybe this is why we can still buy dresses from the 40s, 50s, 60s- even 20s- today, and continue to wear and enjoy them.
Vintage shopping is nothing new, but it’s gaining popularity with trendsetters from Taylor Swift to Violet magazine creator and star stylist Leith Clark (who has dressed Kierra Knightley, Clemence Poesy, Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams to name a few).
One designer who is vintage inspired is the iconic Orla Kiely. In a video on her collaboration with ethical clothing producer People Tree, Kiely talked about “fast fashion” vs. quality designs: “The race to buy cheap clothes…and you know, they don’t last, they fall apart, and I just think there’s so much to be said for quality now.” Kiely encouraged customers to “invest in pieces that they love and that will last,” and to “think about what they’re buying.”
Of course, we often don’t think they have the luxury of buying ethically, because of how much we think it will cost. On her blog, Wildfox Couture designer Kimberly Gordon gave us some advice about this. “When I was younger I shopped at places like Forever 21, now I realize what that company has to sacrifice to keep their prices so low, including low pay for their employees, bad fabrics (in many ways), cheap factories, and the stealing of other people’s creativity and hard work,” she said.
As an alternative, Gordon suggested “looking for local brands or vintage.” “If you regularly shop somewhere cheap check out its history and make sure you aren’t supporting something you don’t believe in!” she warned.
Those things that you may not believe in include art theft, in other words, when brands like Anthropologie and Forever 21 steal a struggling artist’s work and use it for their own profit. As the sister of an artist, that does not sit well with me.
An even bigger problem with high street fashion, is that the less you pay, the less wages and rights someone on the other side earns to get them to you. According to the Guardian, hundreds of people have been involved in making the shirt you are wearing. Many of them were paid $2 a day. Last year, the Rana Plaza Disaster in Bangladesh made use realize the impossibly high cost of of high street brands like River Island and Primark. Though most of the brands whose clothing was being created in the factories have signed The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, many are wondering if they will actually change their ways. Horrible things like Rana have happened before- fires, the discovery of factories without washrooms, of children working long hours…and little to nothing has changed.
Here’s the thing- by investing your money in quality pieces, you actually save in the long run. You won’t have to buy as much, or as often, since your clothes won’t fall apart. Get creative, and wear what you have, adding a fair-trade statement piece or a new pair of recycled sole shoes.
Quality is another pro of second-hand shopping: if a dress is in a vintage shop, chances are its been loved enough that if it hasn’t gone to piece by now, it’s not going to for another long while. Plus, there is always that shot in a million that it once graced the beautiful frame of one of your fashion inspirations.
Buying used clothing is also a way to keep our planet beautiful. The process of making your t-shirt the colour of your favourite flower is actually one of the most serious threats to that flower. You know the sweet “Fabric of My Life” ads with a celebrity twirling in a cotton sundress? The industry that made that dress is responsible for 25% of the insecticides used worldwide. That’s a lot of chemicals going into the plants and animals around us. By buying a similar dress at a vintage store, you cut down on those chemicals and save our natural resources. Plus, you look unique and adorable doing it.
Grace once said, “ If there is one thing that is foreign to me it is shopping for pleasure. On the other hand, I believe that it is right to honor all those who create beautiful things and give satisfaction to those who see me wearing them.”
In buying cheap products, are we really honoring those who made them? Or are we saying, “My desire to look pretty and own pretty things is more important than your life?” Do you, like Grace Kelly, want to be remembered as someone who did her best to help others, or as someone who just looked pretty?
This is what Grace’s Way is about- following the example of women like Grace Kelly. It is about resisting the urge- and the incessant marketing- that pushes us to buy more, at cheaper prices (and lower quality), rather than save up and spend more for pieces that will last long enough to become our favourites. It’s about acknowledging the beauty of the world and people around us, and loving enough to protect them.
I believe that beautiful things can be ethical too. Starting today, Earth Day 2014, I am making a commitment to the earth and the people on it. I commit to buying only vintage and sustainable clothing for this year. Will you make the pledge with me, and believe that beauty can do good? If you will, tweet or post on Instagram with the hashtag #gracepledge2014. Let’s join the movement of fashion for good!