A Recent Journey: Nairobi and The Women For Women (W4W) Program

 

I recently returned from an inspiring, gratifying, and motivational journey to Nairobi, Kenya. One that proved to me, if you embark on a journey with an open mind and heart, you have the space to receive, and be filled with what is in front of you. This was my experience  when I set out to Nairobi with the mission of establishing our Women For Women program, W4W.

This past February I began a partnership with an amazing group called Art & Abolition. Run by its Founder, Brittanie Richardson, and based in Kenya, Art & Abolition is an organization that works to restore justice to young girls in Kenya who have survived sexual violence as a result of poverty. The group fosters the girls, providing safe housing, proper education, and therapy while working with their families to reconstruct their environments through economic empowerment, making it safe for the girls to return home. Plume Collection funds and directs the Women For Women program, W4W.  We provide employment opportunities, and a safe working environment in order to energize their efforts to provide a better home life for their children.  I work directly with the women in making the designs I have developed for them.


 

 

In making this trip, I looked forward to meeting and getting to know the women in the program as well as those working for the organization, we worked together to make sure their goals were being met. We were lucky to find Pauline who we hired while I was there to be my point of contact, and to train and work with the women on the products being made and sent to me in Brooklyn. The six mothers in the program will be making three designs that I’ve developed for them. It’s an interesting undertaking because many of the women come into the program with limited to no crafting skills. My aim as the designer, is to design pieces that are beautiful, wearable, and simple enough to be understood and well crafted by the mothers. While there, I was able to personally train them in making and perfecting the designs, which was quite special. Before getting to work, we took some time to talk with the women about their lives. We traded anecdotes about our children and daily lives—with them asking me about the weather in NYC, and me being told about the day-to-day encounters of life in Sinai, the slum where they live. Though their living conditions are harsh and could challenge their ability to be hopeful, their sense of pride and enthusiasm about making a better life for their family was unbridled.

In addition to my work with W4W, I was delighted to finally visit with the artisans I have been collaborating with for the past year and a half. Jack Nyawanga along with two other partners started Victorious Bone Craft in their community of Kibera, which is the biggest slum in Africa. While the word slum often conjures up the negative associations, I witnessed so much life, kindness, art, inspiration, and amazing crafts coming from the people of Kibera. When meeting with Jack I was able to finally see the workshop and go over some of my new designs for our next season. In addition I am having Victorious hand craft the beads that we use for W4W.  I’ve been so lucky to have such wonderful partnerships with the artisans I’ve collaborated with, to finally meet them in person made things that much more extraordinary.

I left Nairobi feeling so full. Mostly because nothing fills my heart more than love and art, and Nairobi is brimming with both! It was so important to see how much we are helping the mothers and other artisans there. This has always been my main drive in the work I am doing. Equally as significant, it was profound to see just how much joy this work brings to them on a personal level, knowing that they truly enjoy what they do. This confirmed that even though we are still small, we are making a difference in not only their lives, but their childrens'. Providing economic empowerment has been life changing to this community. Providing a new skill set, and creating jobs, allows these women to provide for their households. There is now hope for these families to leave the slum in the future.

There are so many people whose support I couldn't do this without.  First I want to thank Brittanie who is doing such important and challenging work, and has made it her life's mission to support the girls of Art and Abolition.  I want to thank my friend Alyssa who traveled with me to Nairobi. She is talented with such valuable input, and passionate about the work being done in Nairobi for both the girls and their mothers.  I couldn't have asked for a better travel partner!  I want to also extend a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has purchased a bracelet made by these women! By buying one bracelet you have made it possible for one of the women to pay her rent and provide food for her family for a month. I literally could not do this without all of you! We will continue to make the beaded bracelets and we will have a new Mala necklace available as well as our leather clutch ready for Fall. 

If you've not yet done so, please consider purchasing one of the bracelets benefitting this life changing program.
http://www.plumecollection.com/kate-collins-jewelry/women-4-women-beaded-bracelet

Artisan In Focus: Rosecraft Weaving

 

In 1979, Rose Roques built a workshop on her Swaziland farm as a gathering place for local artisan women. More than three decades later, Rosecraft Weaving has become an economic and social engine for a rural community, employing 37 female artisans and spearheading efforts to increase access to early childhood education and clean drinking water.

The artisan weavers at Rosecraft make everything from scarves to table runners using raw materials like mohair, merino and bamboo. Annually, Rosecraft sells thousands of handcrafted items around the world, which support the living wages and other benefits of all Rosecraft employees.

Today, Rosecraft Weaving is owned and operated by Kerry James. We caught up with her earlier this year to learn more about the organization.

 Plume Collection: Rosecraft is committed to providing work for Swaziland women. What social/ cultural conditions led to this commitment?

Kerry James: [In Swaziland], it’s often the women that will be working a full time job, and plowing the fields, making sure livestock is tended to and so on. [Women] juggle farming the land, and managing the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families when the distance to access healthcare is long … Having a voice in the family is also a challenge. Whilst the women may be the main caregivers and provide a great extent of the family’s income, in this culture, it is the men who have the greater voice within the family and community, making it very difficult for women’s needs to be heard and considered.

 PC: The women in your area are expected to farm, raise children and earn an income? It seems like it would be difficult to find women with enough time to show up, much less learn the craft of weaving. 

KJ: Plus the business logistics of navigating constant increases in prices for raw materials, [and] logistics of being in a remote area lacking telecommunications, access for transport and couriers to receive raw materials and dispatch finished product…Yes, running a business is hard!

 PC: And yet, Rosecraft succeeds. 

KJ: [We] produce around 14 different types of products like scarves, snoods, shrugs, shawls, bags, hats, gloves, blankets, throws, cushion covers and table runners. They are made in a variety of different fibers—mohair, brushed mohair, merino bamboo and cotton—and in over 40 different colors and patterns. Today, we sell circa 3500-plus items per annum. [We sell] retail through our two Swaziland shops … and wholesale to customers in South Africa, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

PC: Are there plans to grow?

KJ: Yes, Rosecraft definitely has ambitions to grow it’s customer base, increase its revenues and continue to be able to provide training and income generation opportunities to more local people.

 PC: What’s needed to achieve these goals?

KJ: Our key tasks currently are to relocate a little way closer to the greater population so that we are more accessible to transport, facilities and trainee artisans; build a larger workshop…to accommodate new artisans and improve production workflow and efficiencies; and expand our sales and marketing activities and resources. To achieve this, we need additional funds [about $43,000], additional resources in terms of people, skills, and our biggest challenge of all: time!

 PC: There’s not an obvious bridge between social and economic equality in Swaziland and being fashionable in Brooklyn. And, yet, Rosecraft has built that bridge.

KJ: I have lots of thoughts on this. Ultimately, regardless of it’s origin or the impact on it’s originators, our products must be able to “hold their own” within the global market place. In other words they need to be of quality, atheistically pleasing ie: they need to meet market trends and our customer base’s likes and wants.This means that production has to be of quality, it has to be produced in time to meet customer deadlines, and it has to be efficient in order for our products to remain viable.

PC: It can't just be ethically produced. The product needs to meet consumer expectations in other ways. 

KJ: It is not always easy to convey to our end users the extensive time and skills that went into producing a single item by hand. They like the idea of buying something that has been perhaps ethically produced, but there is often a discrepancy between acknowledging the value of the product versus being willing to pay the price for such an item.

 In the same vain, the idea of purchasing something that is made by hand--as is the case of Rosecraft--is very often something our customers are attracted to, being able to accept that we are unable to produce quantities with speed, that are all identical, is often something our customers struggle with.

 What all of this means is that, as a business, Rosecraft needs to continually ensure that we, and our customers are the right fit.

This fall, we're thrilled to offer our Woven Bamboo Caftans from Rosecraft. And to learn more about artisans or to find out about upcoming sales events, email us at info@plumecollection.com

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Kerry James was the office manager at Rosecraft. She is the owner. 

A Long Overdue Update

Summer came and went and left us with hardly a moment to catch our breath. It’s been far too long since we posted here, but it’s not been for lack of news. Thank you to everyone who made the summer sales a success, and while I'm looking forward to introducing you to some of the new artisans I'll be featuring this fall, I want to take a minute to update you on another project I've been working on.

In Kenya, tens of thousands of adolescent girls have been forced into prostitution. The mechanisms of this trade are complicated. Work is hard to find in much of Kenya, and for women finding a job that pays enough to support a family is nearly impossible. In order to provide for their children in the face of abject poverty, mothers are often forced to sell their daughters for sex. For most of us in the United States, this is an unthinkable decision. For many in Kenya and across East Africa, it’s the only option.

Kenya-based non-profit Art and Abolition is working to change this paradigm. Founded by American artist and activist Brittanie Richardson, the organization recruits girls out of the sex trade, and by providing housing, therapy and education, helps them find a different, positive course for their lives.

Brittanie Richardson with girls in Kenya

Brittanie Richardson with girls in Kenya

I am inspired by Brittanie’s courage and vision, and inspired by Art and Abolition’s goal to eradicate the Kenyan sex trade. And I am grateful that she has agreed to partner with Plume on her Women For Women project, which seeks to snub out this epidemic at the source: by ensuring that mothers have better options. The project provides training in artisan craftsmanship--giving women the skills needed to create beautiful, high quality and marketable goods, while also creating new avenues to the marketplace. In July, my friend and supporter Nell Daniel, hosted a Plume sale to raise funds for Women For Women. We are grateful for Nell, and the amazing turnout. With the proceeds, we were able to buy Women For Women new sewing machines to help get them started. 

I am looking forward to continuing the partnership with Women For Women. This winter, we will be traveling to Kenya to meet with Brittanie and the women she is training. The plan is to collaborate with the women on my new designs for Plume, with the ultimate goal of bringing the items into production and to our customers sometime in 2016.

Brittanie with the Mamas of "Women For Women"

Brittanie with the Mamas of "Women For Women"

This is an exciting time for us, but there’s a lot of work and many obstacles on the horizon. We will be having a sale later in September, and we look forward to sharing some details in the coming weeks. But for now, we just want to say thank you for reading this post. And thank you for supporting Plume.   

Please check out plumecollection.com, some new pieces have been added!        

Artisan in Focus: Sabahar

When Canadian-born entrepreneur Kathy Marshal started Sabahar in 2004, she did so for four distinct reasons: to provide sustainable employment for Ethiopian artisans, to preserve and celebrate traditional weaving, to help recalibrate Ethiopia's image by exporting beautiful craftsmanship around the world, and to promote the Ethiopian silk industry. Today, Marshal has called Ethiopia home for more than 20 years, and Sabahar seems on a straight line to achieving its goals and more. Sabahar's International Marketing Advisor Sophie Joy Mosko recently took some time to tell us more. 


Plume Collection: Fifty percent of Sabahar's employees are women. What conditions in Ethiopia made this a priority?

Sophie Joy Mosko: Sabahar really takes a family approach to its business. We want to support strong families with multiple income streams coming into the household. Diversified incomes help in times of stress.

In this sense, we capitalize on the traditional roles of artisans in Ethiopia: men weave and women spin cotton into thread. This approach enables us to hire both men and women. Obviously as a women-owned business, women’s empowerment is core to Sabahar’s business. By providing consistent, regular income and all the benefits that come with formal work, women have the ability to make decisions in their best interest. They are not dependent on income from someone else. This is an incredible freedom, which allows them to leave abusive husbands, send their children to school and get proper medical care.

PC: Compared to other weavers and artisans in Ethiopia, can you tell us a bit about what it's like to be an artisan at Sabahar?

SJM: Almost all weavers and other artisans in Ethiopia work in the informal sector. This means that income is not consistent, and there are no safe guards in place to support them when there is no work. The pay in the informal sector is also not very high.

Sabahar artisans have a very different reality. The full-time employees get regular monthly salaries. They receive salary increments every year to off-set inflation. They also get a percentage of the profits of the company each year in the form of bonuses. If the company does well, the employees also benefit. They also receive medical costs reimbursed. They work a 37.5 hour work week. Those working in other factories work 48 hours a week and those in the informal sector work many more hours to scrape together a decent salary. Sabahar’s artisans also get access to many different kinds of capacity building opportunities, both to enhance their skills in their craft but also in leadership, communication, management and the like. They also receive pensions, time off to continue their studies, and sick and maternity leave.

PC: Sabahar is dedicated to preserving traditional Ethiopian craft traditions. Why is this important?

SJM: Ethiopians have been making their own clothing by hand for centuries. These skills create fabric that is perfectly imperfect. Each piece is unique. Hand made products are beautiful and knowing that more than 20 artisans’ hands have touched a final product, makes them even more special. These traditions, though, are at risk of dying. The big factories can produce textiles much faster and cheaper, but the result is not nearly as beautiful. 

Traditional craft helps tell the stories of culture. Each region has a specific weaving style of which they are very proud. It helps them define and ground themselves as being from a certain region, eating certain foods, wearing particular clothes and weaving specific patterns. To preserve this Ethiopian craft, is to help preserve Ethiopian culture. 

photo courtesy of Sabahar

photo courtesy of Sabahar

PC: Can you tell us more about how your products are made?

SJM: Our products are made only of silk or cotton or a blend of the two. We source all of the cotton in Ethiopia. Much of our silk is also produced in Ethiopia but … we also supplement the wild ‘eri’ silk that is produced [here] with some from India because there is just not enough grown in Ethiopia just yet. However, we are confident that in the future, all our silk thread will come from Ethiopia. 

More than 20 artisans touch each product we make. There are so many steps in making a product and each is done by hand … We wash the silk cocoons, dry them and then ‘fluff’ them up first. Once that is done, the silk is spun into thread. Once in thread form, it is transferred from cones into hanks on a small hand wheel. Once in a hank, it is individually pot dyed. The silks are most often dyed in natural dyes made from plants, seeds, and barks around us (like coffee, acacia, marigold, onion skin, etc).

Once dyed, the threads are measured out to make the warp. This can take up to 2 days to just put the threads on the warp. Once that is complete, the weaver starts weaving products. Depending on the intricacy of the design and the size of the product, it can take from 2 hours to one full day to weave a Sabahar product. 

After weaving the scarves, women individually tie each fringe by hand. Then, the products are washed, ironed and finished. A group of women check each scarf, cut off the small threads, check the quality, sew on the labels and get them ready for export. At the final stage, all products are counted and put in boxes for export. 

It would be really hard to estimate how long one product takes to make… but the journey is long and the hours of work are many.

MaiwaSabahar061.jpg
photo courtesy of Sabahar

photo courtesy of Sabahar

PC: What is the most important thing our customers in Brooklyn know about Sabahar?

SJM: Sabahar is a Fair Trade business (a member of WFTO) that really believes in exporting the best quality, hand made products to the world. Our social business model means that the artisans benefit from the increased business. However, we are a business, not an NGO. We really believe in the private sector model because we actually have to prove to our customers that the products they purchase are worth the money they spend. We pride ourselves in our quality, the integrity of our process and the purity of the raw materials we use.


We still have  cotton scarves from Sabahar in stock from our summer sale, but they won't be around for long. And if you're interested in learning more about the artisan group, you can visit their website here. 

A Little Help in Kenya

Last month we introduced you to Victorious Bonecraft, a group of young artisans from Nairobi's Kibera slums who work to improve their community by turning discarded cattle bones into fine jewelry. When we heard that one of Bonecraft's most urgent problems was the health risk posed to its employees by inhaling bone particulate, we wanted to help. Our friend Jack, one of the group's founders, told us that simple painter's masks would solve the problem, but they didn't have the means to purchase them. With the help of our customers, Plume set out to raise enough money to buy  masks for the men and women of Bonecraft. We are thrilled to report that they have arrived in Kenya and are being put to good use.

Plume was conceived not only to introduce people to some of the world's under-represented and supremely talented artisans, but also, hopefully, to make a little bit of a difference in the lives of the people with whom we work. It's a lofty mission that could seem as much a marketing scam as a genuine cause. But the above photos and the message we recently received from Jack at Bonecraft are what truly sustain Plume--it is the first, and in some ways, the only reason for doing what we do. And we owe it all to our customers. To all of you, thank you.

 

 

Looking Forward

For those of you living in the Northeast, this winter was a harsh one. A thorough thaw is in order, and we hope the opening of our Spring Sale on April 11 is a harbinger of warmer days to come. We are proud of this season's offerings, and we're inspired by the people and organizations behind their creation. Here's a brief rundown of the four artisan groups we worked with for the Spring Sale:

Bone Craft

 The Victorious Bone Craft Group was found by three local men in the Kibera Village of Kenya in 2006. Their mission was multi-faceted: to provide work for the young people of Kibera, to clean up the accumulating and dangerous waste produced by the local slaughterhouses, and to curb the foreign appetite for ivory. The result is nothing short of incredible. Today, Bone Craft provides work for more than 40 Kibera villagers and produces astonishingly beautiful jewelry from the bones left in heaps around Kibera. To learn more about Bone Craft and Plume's upcoming partnership wit the group, check out our blog's Artisan In Focus on the first day of the Spring Sale, April 11. 

Sasa Designs by the Deaf

  Sasa Designs by the Deaf came about to address an alarming trend in Kenyan society: 85% of deaf people are unemployed.  In 2011, the organization, which we profiled in March, began artisan training for  deaf women in Kenya. Today, Sasa provides living wages for 14 artisans, not to mention some incredible jewelry, which we are proud to offer this Spring. 

Chiapas Bazaar

 Courtney and Mauricio, co-founders of Chiapas Bazaar, travel extensively through the rural Mexican state of Chiapas looking for talented artisans. They purchase pieces at fair prices and work hard to foster long-term, sustainable relationships with the artisans. For Plume's sale, Chiapas has provided cotton blouses made on a loom and embroidered by hand by a group of women who live in the highlands of southern Mexico. 

Sabahar

 Sabahar provides work to more than 120 people in Ethiopia. The organization pays guaranteed salaries of 250% the industry standard to produce a range of beautiful textiles. The scarves and towels they have provided for Plume are exquisitely woven using traditional techniques and died with plants and herbs found locally in Ethiopia. 

Moos

  For our Summer 2014 sale, we were lucky to come across Mary Joan and her partner Dwiyani who operate Moos in Java. They provide work for 50 women who specialize in traditional weaving techniques passed down through generations. The bags they have created for Plume in 2015 are pain-stakingly woven from palm leaf and are a testament to doing things the "old way." 

In the coming month, we'll be publishing "Artisan In Focus" posts on all of our Spring vendors. In the meantime, to learn more about any of these organizations or the Spring Sale, please feel free to contact us as at info@plumecollection.com 

 

Artisan in Focus: Sasa Designs by the Deaf

Plume Collection’s mission is simple: responsible fashion. The fashion part is easy. We work with an incredible array of artisans from around the world, each of whom provides an individual sense of aesthetic and craftsmanship to our collection. The responsible part is more complicated. We source only from vendors who are committed to providing living wages for their workers and who value the artisan more than a profit. Which isn’t always easy. Many of these organizations are in rural communities where infrastructure is scarce. The artisans, mostly women, are often disenfranchised with limited employment opportunities. The clothing and jewelry you see on our website is crafted in spite of these conditions. It’s a triumph.

Recognizing this, we are excited to introduce the Artisan In Focus series on our blog. Each entry will highlight a different organization, where the people behind the craft will tell their own stories, in their own words.

For the first installment, we’re honored to introduce you to Kenya's Sasa Designs by the Deaf. 


Sasa Designs by the Deaf was founded in late 2011 to provide work for deaf women in Kenya. Just a few years later, Sasa has trained and employs 14 artisans who earn a living wage crafting beautiful necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Today, Sasa works with vendors and other organizations in six countries, but they aren’t finished. We spoke with Director of Global Enterprise Megan McDonald to learn more about the organization and its plans for the future.  

Plume Collection: What is life like for deaf women in Kenya?

Megan McDonald: Kenya, like many countries with a disproportionate amount of people living in poverty, has a large Deaf population. Most people lose their hearing in early childhood as a direct result of poor access or inability to afford medical care, or a lack of immunizations. For those born Deaf, they are often treated as broken or a burden on families … They are treated as stupid in school and sometimes it's years before someone realizes their problems stem from an inability to hear -- nothing more. Unlocking the potential of a Deaf child can happen if they are lucky enough to go to Deaf school -- but many carry stigma throughout their lives.

PC: If not making jewelry, what might the artisans at Sasa Designs do?

MM: A number of our artisans had never worked formally. Those that had had mostly been, or would be, "house help" -- a term that refers to a woman who does any combination of cooking, cleaning and caring for kids. House help make up the base of the Kenyan economy, but it is incredibly low paying. Our artisans make five-times as much as a beginning house girl. One of our artisans had found work at one point as a seamstress, but it was at an overnight factory and the work was grueling. All others would likely be at home "up country," depending on family.

I honestly cannot express the joy of seeing an artisan like Susan, two years after coming to Sasa, welcoming us to her home and describing in her own way how different she was when she joined the team. Everything about her reflects her newfound sense of value: how she signs (talks), how she dresses, and her general spirit. She is also able to afford a much safer and securer room near our workshop than the original hut she lived in. And she now sends money to her extended family. What a transformation for a woman who was considered a burden now to be in a role of provider to her parents and siblings!

Photo credit Sasa Designs.

Photo credit Sasa Designs.

PC: Sasa Designs has grown quickly since its inception. What’s next?

MM: We have doubled every year! We produce between 1,000 and 2,000 pieces a month and are working to double this capacity in the next year.

In 2015 we want to establish a five-year strategic plan that includes building our own workshop, hiring more Deaf artisans (including some men -- we currently only work with women) and increasing the skill set of our artisans so we can create a broader product range. Our dream in three-to-five years is to set up Sasa in three additional countries where Deaf people face employment challenges, and can help us create new product lines to keep them employed long term. We'd love to build more of a lifestyle brand to support livelihoods of Deaf people around the world.

Sispina of Sasa making our beaded wrap bracelet for Plume's  Spring collection

Sispina of Sasa making our beaded wrap bracelet for Plume's  Spring collection

 PC: Ethical fashion creates a bit of a dichotomy. One doesn’t necessarily inform the other, and sometimes, when it comes to the world’s most popular brands, it seems as if aesthetic trumps the treatment of the people making the products. Do you think ethical fashion is a sustainable dichotomy?

MM: I am actually very thankful for this dichotomy. I believe deeply in the potential of small-scale producers to grow and engage more and more with the global economy. Educating artisans about what shoppers truly want is the only way this can happen. Training artisans to understand global production standards, providing training and capacity building support, and giving a bit of patience on lead times (“handmade” takes time, after all) ensures that we can develop lasting relationships and expand beyond a quaint cottage industry and into the global marketplace.


You can learn more about Sasa, its mission and the women who make it special at www.sasadesignsbythedeaf.com. If you’re more in the mood for some shopping, check out Plume’s collection of Sasa Designs jewelry during our Spring Sale, available April 10th. 


Plume Spotlight - Victorious Bone Craft

When researching jewelry artisans for our next collection, Plume discovered one particular youth group in the Nairobi Kibera slum, called Victorious Bone Craft.  What set them apart from other artisans was not only their beautiful jewelry, but their innovative use of discarded bones from cows and goats to make a living, help the environment and create one of a kind pieces.  

Jack Nyawanga, founder of Victorious Bone Craft, prides in the fact that his team is doing their part and playing a big role in Nairobi Kibera’s waste management.  By collecting bones and recycling them, Victorious Bone Craft is helping, in their own way, to keep the environment clean.  

But that’s not the only way Jack and his group are making a difference.  Victorious Bone Craft is also providing training and employment for more than 40 young people in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya.  Workers are paying for school for their children, putting food on the table and paying the rent.  

Plume has been fortunate enough to work with Victorious Bone Craft and its skilled artisans for our Spring/Summer Collection.  Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come.

Bone Craft Pendant designed by Plume

Bone Craft Pendant designed by Plume

Why Choosing Fair Trade Is The Way To Go

As you start our year off right with ethical shopping, we want you to know why choosing companies involved in Fair Trade  is the way to go.  Fair trade is an organized social movement helping producers in developing countries achieve fair wages, better working conditions and higher environmental standards.  The movement also strives for greater equity in international trading partnerships through dialogue, transparency, and respect.  

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We don't actually "need" Fair Trade because you can buy from many other producers, but buying from Fair Trade helps support the people creating your products.  Companies and consumers alike have a chance to support everyone in the world and give them an equal chance to survive.  

Another reason why fair trade is the way to go, is that it's also helping the environment by supporting sustainable preparations that minimize our environmental footprint.  Buying Fair Trade supports efforts made towards not only environmental sustainability, but also higher quality in merchandise.

So this 2015, choose Fair Trade and make a difference in people's lives and our environment!
 

 

3 Brands Taking The Leap For Sustainable Clothing

In the past, finding brands advocating sustainability, was not necessarily an easy task.  After all, it takes a lot of commitment and energy to ask questions about your intended purchases.  Yet these days, more and more brands are taking the big leap and giving consumers what they want......ethical fashion.  In fact, some may surprise you.  So if you're someone who's added ethical shopping to your resolutions list, check out these 3 brands taking the leap for sustainable clothing.  

H&M

Some of you may think of H & M as a fast-fashion brand complete with trendy, expendable merchandise.  What you may not know, is that since its first eco-friendly collection two years ago, H & M has been taking giant steps towards sustainable clothing.  Besides encouraging the use of organic materials, H&M is making efforts to improve labor conditions by better regulating its suppliers in Asia and Europe.  

Levi's

This iconic American brand is one of the earliest to institute labor and environmental guidelines for its suppliers.  Besides creating lasting merchandise, Levi’s has made efforts in sustainability by  consolidating water and reducing waste during the denim-making process.  

Stella McCartney

Not many luxury brands make it a priority when it comes to finding alternatives for materials such as leather, but animal rights advocate Stella McCartney certainly does.  Currently, Stella McCartney is offering a line of shoes with biodegradable soles and has launched the “Clean by Design” program. If that’s not enough, renewable energy powers all of its stores in the U.K. with plans of implementing eco-friendly practices to its stores worldwide.


 

What's Trending........4 Must Have Neutrals This Winter Season!

When adding pieces to your wardrobe, neutrals are a must have for any stellar closet this winter.  After all, neutral hues stand the test of time, give you versatility and can be worn no matter the temperature.  Check out our 4 Must Have Neutrals this winter season!

THE CARDIGAN BY H&M

Most of us know H&M as a retailer with fast, trendy and disposable merchandise.  But believe it or not, this fashion brand has not only been carrying eco-friendly collections for the past two years, but it is also working to improve labor conditions with its suppliers.  That's why in our book, this rich and creamy wool cardigan knit in bouclé yarn with penguin sleeves is a must have in terms of fashion and ethics.   Its concealed snap fasteners at the front give it a clean and chic look that's perfect for any occasion.

 

THE LOLA TUNIC BY KORDAL

When discovering her passion for knitwear, Brooklyn based designer, Mandy Kordall decided to buy herself a knitting machine, creating quality collections with American manufacturing.  We just love her brand and her passion!  This light gray relaxed fit tunic drapes slightly over the right hip and features asymmetrical long sleeves.  A classic look with unique style.

THE HOODED SCARF BY PLUME

Our cream and navy hooded scarf is designed by Plume and handmade by women artisans at Mikono Knits in Kenya.  Mikono Knits is committed to bettering the livelihood of Kenyan women and dedicated to aiding their entire community.  This two-in-one scarf made of 100% hand spun wool is sure to make bundling up this winter stylish and easy! 

THE KAFTAN BY TWO

For those taking a vacation from the cold this winter, we have something for you too!  This pink triangle kaftan by Two, is made from one-of-a-kind hand loomed textiles in India and handmade in Brooklyn, New York.  Perfect as an easy beach cover-up or a night on the town!

So when you're adding to your closet this season, take note of those neutrals that will offer you flexibility, endurance and style!  You'll be glad you did!

Does Buying Ethically Mean Breaking The Bank?

After the tragic Bangladesh factory collapse in 2013, the conversation concerning global garment production has changed.  Shoppers are beginning to question their favorite brands and educating themselves so they can make the right choices concerning their wardrobes.  But one question remains as consumers get on the “shopping ethically” bandwagon.  Does buying ethically mean breaking the bank?  

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Many ethical fashion brands fall into the “luxury” category forcing some consumers to argue that ethical fashion is cost prohibitive.  Yet as consumers, we don’t realize as the latest fashion trend flies by, that we have complete control over what we’re spending and how often we’re purchasing.  So maybe the real question is not will ethical fashion break the bank, but can ethical fashion help me consume mindfully?

After all, the “luxury” industry has seen a tremendous growth over the years.  The big wig design houses, which are already marking up their clothes by ridiculous margins, are doing pretty well these days.  Unfortunately, they aren’t adopting mindful manufacturing standards.  So, the money is definitely being spent, but we can redirect where it’s going.  How?  By thinking about our closet as a long term investment rather than a ferris wheel of mindless consumption.  By choosing fashion that’s sustainable, ethical and transparent rather than a quick fix to the latest trend.

So as we list our new year's resolution for 2015, add mindful shopping to the list.  When you're thinking about getting that new coat or blouse, take a moment to think about what direction your money is going.  Do you need it?  Is it an ethical brand?  Will it add to your investment?  In the long run, your bank won't be broken, but probably more mindful.

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Don't forget to check out Plume's online sale!   Shop Plume during the months of December and January and 15% of your purchase will go directly to Art and Abolition, an organization working to liberate survivors of sexual slavery in Kenya.  

Ethical Shopping This Holiday Season

Unfortunately, a large part of the fashion industry contributes to the unfair and sometimes exploitive labor practices around the world.  As a consumer, the lack of transparency in these complicated, unregulated global supply chains can feel completely overwhelming.  After all, how can you possibly know where that sweater at your local department store came from?  Was it made by workers with unfair wages?  Was the cotton picked by small children?  Was the color made from toxic dyes that are now polluting the earth's water?  Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding the importance of transparency, sustainability, and ethics in the fashion industry and how it impacts the environment and people around the world, most consumers don't know where to start.  That's why over here at Plume, we're providing you with 3 QUICK TIPS that can help you shop ethically for those last minute gifts.  In fact, these tips can help you change your shopping ways and help you make a difference right into the New Year!

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DO YOUR RESEARCH 

Learn about the differences between ethical/sustainable fashion and mainstream fashion.  Ethical fashion promotes sustainable sourcing and quality garment production as opposed to the fast fashion that creates more garments in less time and less money.  This results in unsustainable resources and sometimes exploitative production.  Ethical fashion is changing that model by promoting quality items made with sustainable materials and by workers being paid a fair wage.

HOLD YOUR FAVORITE BRANDS ACCOUNTABLE

Do some due diligence on your favorite fashion brands and find out their story.  This will give you the opportunity and the choice to make an informed decision as to whether you want to support the brand or find more ethical/sustainable alternatives.

BUY SMARTER 

Instead of buying poorly made garments that are trending for a few weeks, look at clothing as an investment.  It can mean paying more upfront for higher quality, but an over all lower price tag in the long run because they won't unravel after a few washes.   And with the fast paced fashion trends, it is not unusual for last season's trend  to end up in landfills instead of donation centers.  Maybe buying clothing that's truly loved, will help people care where it ends up.

Ethical shopping may take a little extra time and money, but it can also change lives and protect our planet.  So this holiday season, make a conscious effort and support the brands that are transparently making a difference in consumerism and the fashion industry as a whole.  

And if you still have some last minute gifts, choose Plume today.  With every online purchase made in December and January, we are giving 15% of the proceeds to Art And Abolition, an organization working towards liberating survivors of sexual slavery in Kenya.

Happy Holidays!

From The Plume Team

 

 

 

 

Give Back With Plume This Holiday!

With all the shopping hoopla and holiday frenzy this time of year can bring, it's sometimes difficult to remember what the holidays are really about.  Unfortunately, this season can certainly have a tendency to bring on that “give me" and "get it done" attitude in all of us.  That's why over here at Plume, we've decided to give back  to a cause we are very passionate about and get back to what the holiday season is truly about.   During the months of December and January  when you shop Plume online, we will give a percentage of those sales to Art And Abolition, a solidarity movement fueled by love, and the understanding that as Harriet Tubman said, "until we are all free, none of us is free."

Art And Abolition specifically targets girls 15 and under who, because of poverty and/or pressure and threats of violence from their caregivers are being forced to sell their bodies for everyday necessities like food, water, and school fees.  Their goal is to liberate survivors of sexual slavery, see them healed and restored, release them into their dreams, and change mentalities in their communities concerning sexual abuse while equipping caregivers with tools for financial stability.  Art And Abolition does this by identifying children who meet their criteria, recruiting them into the organization, and then offering them programs for healing through art, education, and empowerment.

                                    photo courtesy of Art And Abolition

                                    photo courtesy of Art And Abolition

Shop HERE and make a difference this season through your Plume Collection purchases.  

                                                        photo courtesy of Art And Abolition

                                                        photo courtesy of Art And Abolition

What's Trending? Black & Cream Lace For The Holidays!

Tis' the season to be jolly, merry and lacy!  After all, lace is the new trend and over here at Plume, we can't get enough of black and cream lace.  Not only is lace the perfect mix of sweet and sexy, but when wearing it in black or cream, the options can be endless.  After all, it's easy to dress up or down and offers the perfect backdrop for jewelry.  Here are our TOP 4 picks for this holiday season.

LACE DRESS BY SEE BY CHLOE

This is a perfect winter dress for any event and offers the perfect canvas to show off your favorite jewelry.  We suggest pairing it up with Plume's Soutache Bracelet for a little splash of color HERE!

Plume's Soutache Bracelet

Plume's Soutache Bracelet

LACE BLOUSE BY JOIE

This black heavy cotton lace blouse paired with a black camisole, is the perfect piece for an evening holiday party.  We think paired with Plume's triangle ring from recycled paper, would add contrasting texture HERE.

Plume's Triangle Ring

Plume's Triangle Ring

LACE DETAIL SWEATER

BY KNITTED & KNOTTED

This stunning cream lace sweater is made of acrylic, wool, alpaca and linen.   It offers the perfect combination of delicate detail and casual comfort.  We suggest pairing it with Plume's round pink ring for a little added fun HERE

Plume's round pink ring

Plume's round pink ring

LACE BLOUSE BY ZARA

This black lace blouse is affordable and low maintenance as it comes with a built in lining.  Pair it up with jeans and Plume's round black earrings HERE.

Plume's round black earrings

Plume's round black earrings

Enjoy this holiday season with a little black and cream lace.  It's certain to make any gathering a little more fun and a lot more festive!  Happy Holidays from the Plume team! 

The Plume Spotlight With Baobab Batik

Our newest Plume Spotlight is Baobab Batik, a company building sustainable economic and social solutions for women in Swaziland through the ancient art of Batik.

How did Baobab Batik come about?

Founder, Els Hooft became interested in the art of batik when she moved from the Netherlands to West Africa working as a volunteer nutritionist.  Mesmerized by the art form, Els soon found herself wanting to learn more about the complex method and decided to teach herself.  After moving to East Africa, and finally settling in Swaziland in 1985, Els' batik handiwork gained popularity in the community, which led her to train a small group of women.

What started as a hobby for Els Hooft, is now a thriving small business supporting over 25 women in Swaziland and making significant changes to its local community.  Born in 1991, Baobab Batik has seen growth and great success.  Today, Baobab Batik has two retail stores in the Kingdom and exports to various countries worldwide.

Els Hooft and the women of Baobab Batik (photo courtesy of Baobab Batik)

Els Hooft and the women of Baobab Batik (photo courtesy of Baobab Batik)

What motivates Baobab Batik?

Profit is always an important factor when running a business, but what motivates Els Hooft and Baobab Batik most, is a love for design, the livelihood of women and the effect we have on our planet.  

photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

How Baobab Batik help their artisans?

Baobab Batik gives artisans tools that promote sustainable economic and social solutions for them and their communities.  Providing a transparent, open, warm and friendly working environment is paramount to their commitment.

Baobab Batik also offers its staff members social and creative workshops that promote personal development.  These include life skills training, HIV/AIDS awareness, First Aid training, skills development and self-defence classes.  Baobab Batik is a member of SWIFT (Swaziland Fair Trade), an organization that supports the development of the handcraft industry in the country and adhere to fair trade principles through all our practices.

How does Baobab Batik help the planet?

Baobab Batik is always looking for ways to have the greatest positive impact on the environment.  That's why Baobab Batik makes an effort to reduce waste and ensure efficiency in their production process.  They monitor energy consumption, source fabric on their continent wherever possible, all while reducing, reusing and recycling dyes, wax and all fabric scraps.

What makes Baobab Batik unique?

Baobab Batik creates decorative vibrant African designs with a contemporary twist.  The combination of tradition and modernity, in combination with the skills of the artisans, is what makes Baobab Batik unique.

Each collection tells its own story; from their signature wildlife collection, portraying the simple beauty seen around them to their contemporary collection; illustrating the bold patterns displayed on African artifacts.

Go To Baobab Batik HERE and check out their amazing collections!

What's Trending? Our TOP 5 Weekend Bags For Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, most people are thinking about turkey, stuffing and being with family.  Over here at Plume, we love Thanksgiving for all of those reasons too, but with all the traveling most people have to do to get to their Thanksgiving destination, it's also an opportunity to purchase the perfect weekend bag.  Here are our TOP 5 bags that will take your Thanksgiving weekend to the next level. 

 

THE CANVAS TOTE

This simple and stylish canvas tote from CB station is environmentally friendly and uses all natural materials.  Of course we love it!

CB Station

CB Station

THE CHIC CARRY ALL

The Leather Carry All by Christine Ahrens for PB 0110 is a great weekend bag as it’s flat bottom shape is designed to hold folded clothes without creasing them.  This bag is practical and pure stylish perfection!

Christine Ahrens

Christine Ahrens

THE BIG BAG

This weekend bag by Faribault comes all the way from Minnesota and is definitely a must if you need the space.  It's also extremely affordable and made of wool and canvas.

Faribault

Faribault

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THE CLASSIC LEATHER 

This classic leather bag by Claire Vivier is sure to turn some heads with its beautiful italian leather.  But you don't have to go all the way to Italy to get it.  Lucky for you, it's made in Los Angeles and ready for travel.

Claire Vivier

Claire Vivier

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THE OVER THE SHOULDER TOTE

And last but not least.......the over the shoulder tote from our very own Plume Collection!  With size, comfort and design being top priorities for Plume, this burlap and leather tote made in Brooklyn is sure to give you plenty of room and loads of style this Thanksgiving.  Get your very own today HERE!

Plume Collection

Plume Collection

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Plume Collection.  Enjoy your turkey and stuffing and of course, take the opportunity to travel in style!

 

Why Organic Cotton Can Save Our Water

When we think of cotton, the words “comfortable” and “soft” usually come to mind.  After all, we’ve all enjoyed our fair share of “comfy” cotton t-shirts.  But did you know that one t-shirt made from conventional cotton represents 2,700 liters of water?  Yes.  Believe it or not, the famous look and feel of cotton can come at a high water price.

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Conventional cotton is known as being one of the thirstiest crops around.  Therefore, its need for demanding irrigation, has caused significant drainage in groundwater, lakes and rivers.  But unfortunately, that’s just the beginning.  Conventional cotton is also chemically dependent and hooked on the pesticides and fertilizers that pollute our rivers and groundwater stores.  This leads to upset ecosystems and high risks for our wildlife and people.

So what are we trying to say?  Loose the hazardous t-shirt that’s destroying our water and more importantly, our environment?  Yes.  But hang on to “comfy” by choosing organic cotton instead.

Cotton Scarf from our Plume Collection

Cotton Scarf from our Plume Collection

HERE IS WHY…...

  • 80% of organic production is rain fed rather than irrigated, organic cotton preserves important groundwater stores.  The water pollution impact of organic has been shown to be 98% less than non-organic cotton production.

  • Organic practices require that cotton farmers keep their soils healthy.  Being that healthy soils are better at holding on to and soaking up water that comes from rain or irrigation, organic soils make better use of water inputs and are more resilient in drought conditions.

  • By eliminating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, organic cotton keeps waterways and drinking water safe and clean.

So choose Organic Cotton…..our water will thank you.

Written by Elena Schloss

The Art Of Batik, A Traditional Craft Makes Room For Innovation

The traditional craft and art form known as Batik, is quickly becoming more well known in the West, but has been practiced for centuries.  Batik, a method of producing designs on fabric by using a wax resist, can actually be traced back 1,500 years ago to Egypt and the Middle East.  A variety of samples have also been found in Turkey, India, China, Japan and West Africa.  Yet the most well known and intricate batik techniques can be found on the island of Java in Indonesia, where batik is still a part of an ancient tradition.   

Photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

Photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

In fact, the word batik originates from the Javanese word tick which means to dot.  Some scholars believe that the art form of batik was considered an accomplishment for young Javanese women.  Skillfully handling a canting (the pen-like instrument used to apply wax to cloth) was just as important as other housewifery duties.

Photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

Photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

The unique process of batik is one that takes time and patience.  Traditionally, high thread count fabrics such as natural materials like cotton or silk are used so that the wax that is applied in the dye resisting process can be absorbed.  To make a batik, the fabric is painted with wax designs and placed in a dye bath where only the areas with no wax are dyed.  Intricate designs are then created by layering colors and using cracks in the wax to produce detailed lines.

photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

photo courtesy of Baobab Batik

Today, the art of batik is constantly evolving as modern techniques are being introduced into the process.  For example, the use of etching, discharge dyeing, stencils, different tools, and a variety of wax resisting recipes are giving artists opportunities to explore this unique process in a more flexible and modern way.

Also, the introduction of wool, leather, paper, wood and even ceramics have widened the range of design and creativity in this traditional craft!  Today, batik artists are exploring innovative techniques that could not be possible if not for the Javanese people who made this beautiful art form so popular.

written by Elena Schloss

Resources

http://www.expat.or.id/info/batik.html

http://www.batikguild.org.uk/whatisbatik.asp