Do you care about ethical clothing?

The 2018 Ethical Fashion Guide just came out! This guide is such a good way for us in New Zealand to get insight into how responsible companies are when it comes to looking after the people who make our clothes. It grades companies on four key areas, and where a company chooses not to participate it does its best with publicly available information. It also doesn't only focus on Australasia – international companies are often included, like TopShop and Victoria's Secret.

An ethical, well-priced, super-cute top. Image:  Kowtow

An ethical, well-priced, super-cute top. Image: Kowtow

I was so pleased to see some of my favourite brands doing well (yay Kowtow, Zara and Witchery!)  As I looked at the report I did a little mental assessment of what I was wearing right then and was pretty happy with the ticks (Witchery top, Everlane trousers – not rated in this report but radically transparent, and, ahem, ethical underwear too!) 

I take this sort of thing moderately seriously. I'm far from perfect, but it's important to me, so I work at it. Some of my regular go-to brands are from the States and it can be harder to find information on them, but I still do try. I try to support brands that make an effort in their local communities, whether that be New Zealand or elsewhere. And – and this probably has the most impact – I do my best to shop thoughtfully, making sure that I truly love what I buy, know what I'm going to wear it with, and ideally, can sell it on when I'm done with it rather than putting it in a clothing bin.

That last one is an interesting point because there seems to be no correlation between the cost of clothes and how ethical they are. You can't consign brands like Glassons and H&M – there's no market because their clothes are so inexpensive in the first place – but both of those brands perform considerably better in the report than some brands that are easy to consign, e.g. Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper. To be honest, this just irritates me no end. If you're charging more for your clothes, it should be easier to ensure you're acting ethically, all the way along the whole supply chain. There really are no excuses for those companies.

I don't claim to have all the right answers or the perfect strategy, but I am glad this sort of information is becoming more accessible and more considered, by lots of different people. I like knowing this stuff and I like that we live in a world where it's not too difficult to make more ethical decisions when you have the right information. I've decided to keep doing what I started last year, and avoid shopping anywhere that got less than a B- in this year's report. That means no Karen Walker, no Ruby and no Ralph Lauren – but the good news is I have plenty of other options when I do want to buy something. 

What about you – do you have a strategy to shop ethically? Will this report change any of your behaviour?


What I bought in the States

I was really pleased with what I bought in the States, and more than a month after touching down in NZ again I'm STILL really pleased. I went with a fairly generous budget, but there are just so many shops there, filled with so many good things, that it would have been really easy to go a bit mad. I think my spending freeze in autumn helped me a lot with that – it seemed to act as a sort of reset for me. I thought long and hard before buying most things and it's really paid off. I also discovered a couple of new-to-me shops that have become firm favourites. Online is great but there's nothing like being there!

Madewell top.  Image via Madewell .

Madewell top. Image via Madewell.

Madewell – jeans x 2, striped tank top

I have shopped at Madewell before – one of my very favourite pairs of shoes is from there, as well as a very simple but well-cut black dress, both of which I have worn approximately one million times. I knew I needed new jeans and had been waiting patiently to try some on at Madewell that I had bookmarked online. Turns out their jeans fit me like a dream also! I bought a black pair of skinnies and a slightly distressed blue pair of skinnies with a raw edge hem (pictured below). The tank top (no longer available, but a similar style to this) was an impulse buy but it's paid off. You know I love my stripes, and the one I bought was very similar to one I had already seen in Zara and considered for ages before deciding it wasn't well-made enough. No such issues with the Madewell one!

Madewell jeans.  Image via Madewell .

Madewell jeans. Image via Madewell.

Cuyana – black floaty dress

An ethical clothing company that I've been following on Instagram for ages. They had a pop-up store on Abbot Kinney Boulevard and I was so excited to check it out! This sheer dress is designed to be a cover-up for the beach or similar, but I intend to combine it with a slip to enable wearing it pretty much everywhere. I just loved the simple, slightly architectural cut and, of course, the well-made ethical component. I think it would also look great over dark skinny jeans and a singlet. This is one for spring and summer – bring it on!

Everlane – linen v-neck t-shirts x 2, black trousers, silk top

Another brand I've followed online for a while, another pop-up store (in New York this time). Lucky me! Everlane call their model radical transparency. It's so nice having a clothing company just give you all the information you need upfront, particularly around their ethics. Everlane extend that transparency to how they price things also, which I find really interesting. Their pricing seems incredibly good to me so I guess that works? It worked on me anyway – I could easily have bought more than I did, but I restricted myself. The linen t-shirt is the sort of thing I wear all summer long, so I bought two, and the black silk top I'd been eying up for some time. I didn't like the look of these wide-leg trousers when I first saw them, but then I saw a few other people wearing this style and I started softening towards them, and then I tried them on myself and now I LOVE them. So much so that I'm seriously considering buying another pair in white. They did warrant a panicked message to my girlfriends the first day I wore them, when I realised I had paired them with a striped top and I was suddenly very afraid I resembled nothing more than a sailor, but the reassurance from my friends came thick and fast and I relaxed. It's still a bit odd wearing them – years of skinny jeans have left their mark on me – but it's also nice feeling slightly out of my comfort zone. 

Everlane silk top.  Image via Everlane .

Everlane silk top. Image via Everlane.

J. Crew – navy/white Breton top

J. Crew used to be one of my absolute favourites but they seem to have lost their way in recent years. Lured in one day by 25% off everything, I ended up rejecting everything but this striped Breton top – which was a collaboration with famous French striped top makers St. James, and therefore not eligible for the discount. Sigh. BUT I do love this top and have worn it so many times already. Quality is worth it, right?!

Aldo - black slides

I tried to buy two pairs of shoes in the States. I really wanted another pair of D'Orsay flats to replace my Madewell ones which have been falling to pieces for years now. I've worn them into the ground, and I keep gluing them up, but I've been aware for a good couple of years now that I really need a new pair. I found some Sam Edelman ones I liked, and made a trip into Midtown specially to buy them, but when I got there they didn't have my size in the black. I got them to order them in, then decided maybe the tan would be better. Another trip to Midtown to confirm I wanted the black, then another one again when they arrived – and they were scratched. Irreparably scratched. It was a valuable reminder that some things just aren't meant to be, and if it means a trip to midtown, it's probably not worth it.

The slides, though, I bought and love. Very much looking forward to wearing these with everything in summer. I got them from Aldo on the Upper West Side after a yoga class one day. No midtown, no worries. 

(I see they are on crazy discount right now and if they're in your size, I highly recommend them).

Sephora - blusher, mascara, Fresh tinted lip balm

Aaaah Sephora, I love you. Is there anything more to be said? One day you'll live here too, not just online. Isn't it a wonderful world we live in, where we have specialist makeup stores and teenagers are no longer restricted to the Maybelline stand in their nearest pharmacy?

Makeup's pretty personal, and the blusher and mascara are tried-and-true faves I just needed to restock (Nars Orgasm, Benefit BadGal Lash) but the Fresh Sugar lip treatment is all-new to me and a revelation. I got coral and it's the perfect amount of colour – bright but easy-to-wear and not drying. I now want all the colours.

Le Labo - Neroli 36 perfume

As detailed here. It is delicious. It's definitely a considered purchase but it just makes me so happy.


How to stay on holiday forever

Scent is so amazingly powerful, isn't it? Tommy Girl will always take me back to my early teens, as will the Body Shop's fuzzy peach shower gel (would you believe they no longer seem to make it?!). Combined, I'm on holiday in New Caledonia with my French class again.

Every time I travel, I keep this in mind and buy myself something that will take me back to that holiday every time I smell it. The last few times it's been perfume – London is Coco Mademoiselle, Paris is Hermès Un Jardin en Mediteranée, and now, LA and New York are Le Labo Neroli 36.

The best way I find to ensure it has the effect you want it to is to wear it a few times while still away, on days or evenings when you're pretty sure it's going to be a good one. For example, I wore Neroli 36 when we took Amelie to the Imagination Playground, and again when H1 and I went out to dinner by ourselves (gasp!).

Then, just bring it back home and wear it whenever you want to relive those holiday good times.

Room fragrance can have the same effect. If you're in a store, hotel or restaurant that smells particularly good, ask what they're using – it may well be a scented candle that you can buy and burn at home to recreate the same vibe. Sometimes it won't be available (as happened to me in the Marina del Rey hotel, which is literally the best smelling hotel I've ever been in) but often, it will be, and this is such a nice way of making your home feel just a touch more relaxing.

Finally, a scented candle or diffuser that pulls together different components of your holiday can help you relive it in a less direct way. This is what I'm looking for now, seeing as I couldn't buy the Marina del Rey scent. I'm after something a little citrus-y (for the fruit in LA), a little salty (the ocean) and a little cedar-y (Central Park). I'll let you know if I do end up finding the scent I know I'm after – it's one of those ones where I'll know it when I smell it! 

Have you ever done this to extend that holiday feeling, deliberately or otherwise?

The autumn capsule

And here it is. The capsule I've been wearing for the last month and a half, nearly.

Autumn 2017 capsule wardrobe.

Autumn 2017 capsule wardrobe.

This does, I must say, feel like a total non-event. After all, I know these clothes inside out – I've been wearing them for six weeks! But obviously this isn't the case for you.

I also look at this and instantly feel that it looks a bit boring. But that's the point.

Not to be boring, but to be realistic about what I like to wear, who I am, and what I do. And I'm very pleased to say that so far it's working out great.

So what's in the capsule?

  • White t-shirt
  • Black t-shirt
  • Blush-pink t-shirt
  • Blue/white Breton top
  • White peplum top
  • Blue/white striped silk shirt
  • Beige merino jumper (not pictured)
  • Grey merino cardigan (not pictured)
  • Blue/white polka-dot shorts
  • Light-blue boyfriend jeans
  • Black ankle jeans
  • Dark-wash skinny jeans
  • Black dress
  • Beige trenchcoat
  • Navy raincoat
  • Black flats
  • Patterned D'Orsay flats
  • White sneakers
  • Black boots
  • Mushroom boots
  • Black floppy hat
  • Beige patterned scarf
  • Blue patterned scarf

Most days I'm wearing something really simple - a t-shirt and shorts/jeans when it was hotter, with sneakers or flats, and a jumper or top/cardigan and jeans now it's cooler, with boots. When I feel the need to make my outfit a bit more interesting I add a scarf or a hat. And because I'm at home with Amelie these days, I sometimes just wear activewear all day (activewear, underwear, singlets and pyjamas are not included in the capsule!) Most days, though, I'm in a proper outfit, and I've worn the black dress twice, which is twice more than I thought I would...quite happy with that.

This capsule is acting as a bit of a reset for me, allowing me some distance to get a better feel for my style, and hopefully help me make better spending decisions in the future. I've learnt some interesting things so far, like just how much I enjoy not thinking about what I'm going to wear in the morning. I've also encountered the opposite a couple of times though, where I've felt bored and just wanted to reach for something else, rather than put the effort in and work out how I was going to override that feeling with what I had to work wit. And the few times that has happened, I've realised something interesting – the feeling of boredom was less with my clothes, more with my plans for the day. I do get bored not working (and university isn't exactly a dressed-up place). And I think if I weren't doing this there's a good chance that boredom would get resolved through shopping. In other words, this approach has already paid off.

So that's that for now. Just three more weeks, and then the semester is over, and I am off to NYC for nearly all of June. I'll be capsuling in NYC too, as everyone does on holiday by default, and when I get back, I'll put together a capsule for July, August and September (I am cold just thinking about it) using the lessons I've learned from this one (there'll be another update post about those lessons once May is over, also). I'm looking forward to it!


Planning the autumn capsule

We're three days into April, so the question I capsuling?

Yes, I certainly am.

I downloaded Un-Fancy's wardrobe planner to help me with my decision-making and found it really useful. It's really hard to look at everything you own and decide what you're going to wear for the next couple of months. Her planner makes it a much clearer process.

One of my favourite looks - a plain shirt with jeans and a light scarf.

One of my favourite looks - a plain shirt with jeans and a light scarf.

Some sections I found really easy to answer (special occasions I need to consider? None! I'm sure the occasional evening out or social event will occur but apart from a baby shower for my sister-in-law, it's all pretty quiet) but some needed a lot more thought – like the word association. Here's the list of words I associate with my preferred style:

  • Classic
  • Neutral
  • Simple
  • Stylish
  • Well-made
  • Subtle interest
  • Quietly expensive

I circled simple, stylish, well-made and subtle interest as my favourites. These ones leapt out at me and felt right. Classic and neutral felt a little 'old' and not quite right. Quietly expensive is an interesting one. I don't think clothes have to be expensive to be nice or look good, and we all know expensive isn't synonymous with ethical or well-made, but most of my favourite pieces were on the expensive side, for what they are. And many of those pieces are old but still going strong. However, I think well-made sums it up better. It doesn't matter what it costs if it's well-made (I mean, budget notwithstanding, of course!).

An ethical, made-in-NZ top.

An ethical, made-in-NZ top.

I haven't included the word ethical, even though it speaks strongly to me. Right now my wardrobe is not particularly ethical – I've put no real effort into it along the way. To me, however, well-made is a good jumping-off point to ethical thinking – something that lasts a long time is better for our environment, and is also likely to be made in a more sustainable and fair manner (although again, that's not a perfect correlation).

In terms of other discoveries about myself, I learned that I really like my jeans, I don't really do colour at all these days, and I now feel id with clothes that are tight around my tummy (thanks pregnancy!). I have bought too many pairs of shoes that I don't like wearing because they're too big around the back of my feet and my feet fall out of them. I have narrow feet and I have to keep that in mind – no matter how much I like the shoes in the shop. When I like  something I'll wear it to death. I prefer the interest in my clothes to come from cut, not colour or pattern. That said, I'm a total stripe-a-holic.

My worn-to-death black dress. I know – no baby in this picture! She was in good hands. 

My worn-to-death black dress. I know – no baby in this picture! She was in good hands. 

I started wearing my capsule on 1 April, while we were on holiday in Hawkes Bay. So far so good...although both Hawkes Bay and Auckland are still very warm. That might be difficult to work with and if I need to, I will introduce some shorts as well, because sweat for the sake of principle doesn't seem worth it.

And where are the details of this capsule? They're coming! I'm still pulling it all together but I am close...and feeling pretty good about where I am, quite frankly. I think this is going to be fun...