Browsing Tag

Ethical Fashion

A21 Everyday Advocacy Human Trafficking

Join the Story of Freedom: Film Screening + Fundraiser for A21

Join us for a screening of Missing Persons: A 10-year short film by A21

Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 7:30 p.m.

Wexford, PA [RSVP for address]

Let’s kick off summer by using film + art + fashion for good!

You’re invited to a screening of A21’s 10-year short film “Missing Persons.” Join the story of freedom being written by this global anti-human trafficking organization, and discover how you can support local efforts to spread awareness and end modern-day slavery.

View the trailer.

We’ll show the film at around 9 p.m. when it gets dark. Before and after, shop original art + paper goods by Sarah Nelsen of Atlas Art Press as well as sandals + bags and more from Sseko Designs. Sarah will donate a portion of her proceeds to Walk for Freedom Pittsburgh, and we will be raffling stuff off and accepting donations at the event. Spread the word, and invite friends!

RSVP via Facebook or contact me!

Can’t make it? Shop! Now through June 30, make a purchase toward the event at ssekodesigns.com/kelly_sjol  or atlasartpress.com/shop/.

Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy Imagine Conference

Imagine Spotlight: Dressember

Are you coming to Imagine Conference? Have you registered yet? The deadline is TODAY.

The Story: It’s Bigger Than a Dress

Dressember is a collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to promote the inherent dignity of all people. Since 2013, Dressember has grown into an international movement to save lives.
In just the past four years, thousands of women have raised more than $3 million to end human trafficking—I participated for the first time two years ago and since then I’ve raised nearly $2,500!—just by wearing dresses.

Started by Blythe Hill in 2009, Dressember began as a quirky style challenge with a clever name that spread like wildfire. In 2013, it took on new meaning, opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women by aligning with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. In 2015, Dressember added a second grant partner: A21, which exists to abolish modern-day slavery in the 21st century.

When you participate in Dressember, you become an advocate for freedom and dignity as well as a voice for the millions of voiceless women, children, and men around the world who are enslaved. How?

Become an Advocate

Commit to wearing a dress (or tie if you’re a guy!) every day in December and telling people about it. Link arms with fellow advocates to raise money and awareness for the fight against global human trafficking.

Join our team: Dressember Pittsburgh. Our goal is to raise $6,300—the cost of one rescue mission. Simply visit bit.ly/dressember2017, click on Join Team, set up your personal fundraising page, then join Dressember Pittsburgh!

Donate

Not into wearing dresses (seriously you don’t need to own a lot of them—I’m planning to rotate two to three of them all month with different accessories)? Make a donation.

Give to my campaign! My goal this year is $3,000. And don’t forget to follow along on social media during the month of December.

Want to learn more about Dressember? Come to Imagine Conference this Friday and Saturday!

Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy Imagine Conference

Imagine Spotlight: Anugra

Are you coming to Imagine Conference? Have you registered yet? The deadline is Wednesday!

The Story: Purchase and Empower

Anugra creates modern home goods that are environmentally sustainable, fair trade, and that contribute toward creating better opportunities for women in India. Pronounced uh•new•gruh, the name comes from the Hindi word “anugraha,” meaning blessing and grace.

It all started when Daisy, an Indian woman passionate about gender equality, saw a need for women empowerment in oppressive communities throughout her home country. A sewing center developed, providing women from these oppressive environments with a safe space and skill set that would otherwise be unfathomable. Fifteen years and over 3,500 trained women later, they were ready for the next step, wondering ‘How can we advance this to an even greater level of community impact?’

Anugra was born out of a desire to directly employ the top seamstresses and build a social enterprise. One that would pour back into the ministry while elevating sewing skills, literacy, fair wages, as well as creating safe spaces to work and grow together. Daisy’s nephew, Emmanuel Pothen, then living in Gloucester, Mass., took that desire and turned it into reality, bringing on Brooke Fryer as Anugra’s creative director.

Each product is handmade by women in Bhopal, India.

In the western world, purchase power is a new found glory. We all want to know where each of our products come from and how many hands have handled it. We have the privilege to choose: the choice to participate in transformation and impact. Quality over quantity. We have the opportunity to invest in more than our personal wardrobe or décor, but in lives across the globe, writing a new story for humans just like us, born into different circumstances.

Bindu printing table runners

Brooke Fryer (far right) with some of the women of Anugra

Website: anugra.co

Purchase: anugra.co/shop

Donate: anugra.co/donate

Follow: anugra.co on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

 

Want to learn more about Anugra and meet Brooke? Come to Imagine Conference this Friday and Saturday!

Want to shop these pieces in person and hear the incredible stories behind them? Join us for Discover Anugra on Monday, November 13, at 7 p.m. at North Way Christian Community, 12121 Perry Hwy., Wexford, PA 15090.

Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Dressember 2016: Join me, Pittsburgh!

Dressember Pittsburgh

Hey, local friends, want to help end modern-day slavery by wearing dresses?

Dressember is a collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to restore dignity to all women. In just the past three years, thousands of women have raised more than $1.5 million to end human trafficking—I participated for the first time last year; this year, you can help me bring this movement to Pittsburgh!

Started by Blythe Hill in 2009, Dressember began as a quirky style challenge with a clever name that spread like wildfire. In 2013, it took on new meaning, opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women by aligning with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. In 2015, Dressember added a second grant partner: A21, which exists to abolish modern-day slavery in the 21st century.

When you participate in Dressember, you become an advocate for freedom and dignity as well as a voice for the millions of voiceless women, children, and men around the world who are enslaved. How? You commit to wearing a dress every day in December, telling people about it on social media, and sharing your personal fundraising page. That’s it!

Responses to common objections:

No, you do not have to own a ton of dresses to participate. The founder originally wore the same dress all month and just paired it with different accessories. I’m probably going to rotate three or four dresses.

Yes, it’s okay to wear your uniform, scrubs, etc. to work, and no, you don’t have to wear a dress when you work out or go to bed. When you have a choice of what to wear, wear the dress.

Yes, you can wear leggings under your dress when it gets cold.

No, skirts don’t count unless you wear them over your dress.

Yes, it’s fun. And easy.

Ready to sign up? Here’s what you do:

1. Join Dressember Pittsburgh.

Visit support.dressemberfoundation.org/pittsburgh and click on “Join Team.”

2. Set your fundraising goal.

You could start off at $50 or $100, but why go small? Last year was my first year, and I set a goal of $500. I raised $750! This year I’m going for $1,000, because why not?

3. Choose your personal url.

This is where you direct your supporters so choose something they’ll recognize, like your name: support.dressemberfoundation.org/yourname

4. Change the world.

5. Win prizes!

The first three people to join Dressember Pittsburgh will receive an official Dressember pin! Everyone who signs up and raises at least $50 will be entered to win a Noonday Collection necklace! Plus Dressember does giveaways and offers prizes to the top fundraising teams! So yay!

Questions? Contact me or visit dressember.org/faq for answers.

Finally, share away on social media! Feel free to share links to this blog post as well as the team page to encourage your friends to join you. Every time you post, use #dressemberpgh and #itsbiggerthanadress, and feel free to check out my Instagram feed from last December for inspiration. You certainly don’t have to post every day; it was my way of staying on track, and my tiny group of fans really liked following along.

Can’t wait to do this with you!

xoxo

Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Ethical Fashion: Our Clothes Tell a Story, Part 1 (of 2)

your clothes tell a story

Imagine this scenario:

You’re shopping at Target. That doesn’t require any imagination so scratch that; it doesn’t involve enough imagining. And your kids are definitely with you if you’re at Target, so there’s not a whole lot of actual shopping going on. Imagine you’re shopping in the designer jeans section at Macy’s with your best shopping friend. Not in the clearance section either, the full-price designer jeans.

All of a sudden your friend (who has seemingly become quite “enlightened” lately) tells you she knows for a fact XYZ Company employs forced labor to produce its jeans and that workers at its factories are often abused and paid a substandard wage. Would you try the jeans on? I’m going to guess no. How would you feel toward XYZ as a brand? You would be angry with them, right?

Now imagine you are approached by a researcher doing a study, and you’re asked to rate five brands of jeans that differ along four measures—the style (boot cut or regular cut), the wash (regular or dark), the price and, lastly, whether the company used child labor.

You’re told that due to time constraints, you can only view information about two of the four measures before you come up with your ranking. Be totally honest with yourself: Which two would you choose?

This was an actual experiment, conducted as part of a study by researchers at Ohio State and the University of Texas at Austin. The results were published online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

When asked which two criteria they would use to rate the jeans, more than 85 percent of participants opted to not find out whether the company used child labor.

According to a write up about the study on NPR online,

“If we’re actually told that a specific product was produced in an unethical way, we won’t want to buy it. Yet given the choice, most of us would rather not know the backstory. We won’t make the effort to, say, download an app or check out a website that could give us ethical ratings of manufacturers. And the reason we avoid this extra checking-up is at least partly that we’re unconsciously afraid of being upset by what we’ll discover.”

The thing is, we likely would be upset by what we discover.

 

cheap clothes fast fashionThe fashion industry has changed dramatically in just the past 20 years, and not for the better.

Two reasons: Cheap clothes and fast fashion.

Clothes became cheaper because we started manufacturing them in developing countries, where production costs are a lot lower. Today we spend a much lower percentage of our incomes on clothes, around 3 percent, and produce them almost entirely overseas.

In 1960, the average American household spent 10% of its income on clothing and shoes, 95 percent of which were made in the United States.

Today, we import 98 percent of the clothing we purchase, so only 2 percent is made in the United States.

“Trendy clothing is cheaper than ever, and cheap clothing is trendier than ever.” —John Oliver

So the question becomes, how do the big brands compete when the clothing is so cheap? The answer is simple: large volume and low quality. To keep their prices really low, retailers have to sell a ton of clothes, and in order to sell a ton of clothes, brands have to produce them quickly and cost effectively. This is the essence of fast fashion retailers H&M, Forever 21, and Zara.

These retailers design clothes to fall apart. Their bottom line depends on it: They need you, the consumer, to buy often and in excess. The clothes typically only last a few washes before they start to fall apart, and then you have to go out and buy more.

Also because of fast fashion, we move through trends at lightning speed now. In the early 90s, there were two to four fashion cycles per year, they were centered around the seasons and planned months in advance. Today, there is no such thing as cycles, only trends, and they are changing constantly. H&M and Forever 21 receive new inventory every single day. This “trend cycle” explains why we feel like we can never catch up to the “it” style of jeans—is it the Boyfriend? Wait no, that was last fall or spring maybe? Now? It’s the Ex Boyfriend. I’m not kidding, look it up.

Add all of this together, and we’re buying way more clothes. According to the 2013 article “Why America Stopped Making Its Own Clothes,” In 1960, the average American bought fewer than 25 garments a year. In 1991, it was around 40. Today, each of us buys, on average 70 pieces of clothing per year, or more than one per week. That amounts to almost 20 billion garments per year, or around 28 percent of all the clothes in the world.

There’s a high environmental toll as well, because we’re throwing away more clothes than ever, overloading landfills and secondhand stores, which can’t keep up. Textile waste has increased by 40% since 1999. Appropriate to mention, because Earth Day is this week. We’re shielded from the environmental and human impacts because our clothing is being produced overseas—the problem is far away.

So hang with me, I’m about to bring it a little closer.

Cheap clothes equal cheap labor. According to Jenna Lusk in a May 2015 article for the Village Blog, most of our clothing is produced in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Most Chinese workers make about $1-$2.50 an hour; in Bangladesh it’s less than $1. It’s true the cost of living is lower in these countries, but these poverty wages don’t even begin to cover basic necessities like food and shelter. Women often work 14-16 hours a day just to meet their families’ basic needs, which doesn’t enable them to send their kids to school or save for the future.

“The reality is, the fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar a year industry, and only 2% of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage.”—Shannon Whitehead in “The True Cost of Fast Fashion”

And wages aren’t the only problem. Sweatshops employ children to meet demand. Men, women, and children are victims of indentured servitude: As of 2016, there are an estimated 27-30 million people in slavery across the globe. Working and living conditions are often unclean and unsafe. Almost three years ago to the day, on April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza complex, which housed several garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring 2,500, most of them women. The cause was substandard construction—adding floors on top of floors without proper support—and owners had been warned several times it wasn’t safe.

That’s hard to hear about. All of this is hard. The idea of children being forced to work, women being trafficked and enslaved, mothers and fathers being mistreated and underpaid just for trying to provide for their families, it’s very hard. The world is full of so much hard. We have enough to fight for in our own lives; we have enough difficulties facing us in our marriages, with our kids, at our jobs, in our finances. What’s wrong with a little willful ignorance every once in awhile?

Therein lies the problem. Because there are people behind the clothes we wear.

your clothes tell a story

Every item of clothing, every piece of jewelry, every accessory has a story to tell.

Every factory worker getting paid a substandard wage or being treated unfairly is a person, made in God’s image. And as Christians, we should care, and not only that, we should stand up for the vulnerable and advocate on their behalf.

Right about now you might be thinking, “This is all good information, ethical fashion lady, but what does it have to do with me?” or “Fashion? Seriously? She obviously doesn’t understand my life.” This does have something to do with you, I do understand your life, and I’m about to tell you about some very small steps you can take toward becoming a more conscious consumer.

Because “in order to make purchases that support our values, we must be willing to be conscious, thoughtful consumers—even if it means spending more on quality items.” (“The Case for Thoughtfully Buying Expensive Things”)

Excerpted from an April 21, 2016, presentation I gave on ethical fashion and continued here.

Everyday Advocacy Noonday Collection Start

Noonday Collection: The Start of Everything

This is a story about how I started.

None of this ethical fashion stuff was on my radar two years ago. Two years ago my babies were 1 and about to turn 3, and I was working as a freelance marketing director, editor and project manager for universities. So I was working mostly from home with very little childcare, which meant doing job and kids at the same time, plus the home stuff. So yeah, I was “busy.”

SOURCE-+Noonday+CollectionAt the time I was involved in an online bible study through She Reads Truth, and one day one of the leaders posted about a trip she was going on to Rwanda—it was a storytelling trip with a group of well-known, popular bloggers and photographers. They were going there to meet with people who had survived the genocide to hear and tell their stories. I am obsessed with stories so I thought it was a cool concept, and I noticed it was sponsored by an organization called International Justice Mission and a company called Noonday Collection, so I researched both.

Noonday Collection grabbed me from the moment I discovered it. Within minutes of being on the website an overwhelming sense of urgency came over me. I thought “I have to be involved in this.” And then I saw it: “Host a trunk show,” and I thought, “Oh, crap.”

Noonday Collection is a socially responsible business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world.

It started when Jessica Honegger and her husband Joe, who already had two young kids, were in the process of adopting a son from Rwanda. They were temporarily living in Kampala, Uganda, and got to know another American couple that was there starting sustainable businesses. Through that couple they met another couple, Jalia and Daniel, who had two kids they couldn’t afford to house and could barely afford to feed. They were college educated, unemployed, and homeless, but they could make jewelry out of paper beads. Jessica purchased some of the jewelry the local men and women had made and took it home with the intent to sell it to her friends at a trunk show to help raise funds for the adoption.

Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what the response would be, or what the Lord was preparing her for. Her friends went crazy, and she ordered more jewelry, and more, and more, selling it out of her car, until she ultimately decided to partner with her friend and sustainable business expert Travis Wilson. They started a company, focused on partnering with artisan businesses around the world to create opportunities for dignified work in vulnerable communities. Four years later, I ended up on that company’s website.

Not only did I host a trunk show (something I NEVER thought I’d do), but I became an ambassador—the first one in the entire western half of Pennsylvania.

After many sleepless nights of sensing God was calling me to something impossible given the demands on my time, I gave it to Him and submitted my application at 11:30 p.m., hoping to get some sleep. I had zero interest in anything direct sales, no extra time, and my “background in fashion” consisted of some retail experience and attending fashion shows with my mom, who worked at Saks Fifth Avenue. Like I said earlier, that was two years ago, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was in for, and I’ve never looked back.


I have learned the stories of the people behind the accessories I wear. Stories of people like Renal, who ran his own metalworking workshop and store in Haiti until it was completely wiped out when Hurricane Sandy hit. After months without work and no way to support his wife and young son, he heard about opportunities for good-paying, long-term work for craftsmen through a Noonday business partner. Noonday’s orders were the first he got, and they provided him with enough income to get his business back up and running. Not only that but he was able to repair his broken-down truck, which he now uses to take his son and other neighborhood kids to and from school. Having a working vehicle is a big deal in Renal’s community, and he’s thrilled to be able to give back.

Renal, Haitian metalworker

Renal, a Noonday Collection artisan [photo: Noonday Collection]

This bracelet, called the Briye, which means “shine” in Creole, is produced by the metalworking group in Haiti out of upcycled metal and leather.

Briye bracelet

Briye bracelet, kellysjol.noondaycollection.com [photo: Noonday Collection]

Latifa bracelet Noonday Collection

Latifa necklace, kellysjol.noondaycollection.com [photo: Noonday Collection]

Latifa was 16 years old when her parents could no longer afford to educate her. She went to the capital of Uganda, Kampala, to look for work and ended up on the streets selling whatever she could find to survive. A man took her in and informally married her, but he also abused her. She got pregnant at 17. By 21, she couldn’t take it anymore and left with her son and young daughter, who was sick. She was alone with no way to support herself, and everyone told her to just give up her kids. She adamantly refused to abandon her children. She met Jalia and Daniel, who now had a thriving business that employed over 100 people. They invited her in and allowed her to do housework. Latifa was so determined and had such a strong work ethic that she quickly rose through the ranks until she was put in charge of quality control for the entire workshop. She now runs her own side business selling charcoal and is able to afford a house and education for her kids.

Today, Noonday Collection partners with 29 artisan businesses in 12 countries, directly impacting more than 4,000 artisans and nearly 20,000 family members.

My work with Noonday and everything I’ve learned about ethical fashion and poverty and issues like human trafficking have had an impact on my family as well.

My girls see me in another role besides mommy who works on her laptop at home. My now 4-year-old understands that people in other countries hand make the pieces I sell and that many of these people are mommies like hers who are working to take care of their kids. She watched me as I participated in a movement called Dressember and wore a dress every day in December to raise money for organizations that fight to end human trafficking. My girls are growing up in a much smaller world than I did thanks to the Internet, and I want to be the first example they have of what it looks like to do for others, even those in other countries. Not only that but they’re starting to love jewelry too.


Visit kellysjol.noondaycollection.com to view the gorgeous spring/summer 2016 collection and purchase any time. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, contact me to host a trunk show. Interested in becoming a Noonday ambassador? Find out more here.
Dressember Ethical Fashion Everyday Advocacy

Dressember: It’s Bigger Than a Dress

If you follow fashionable people who follow fashion bloggers on Instagram, you’ve likely encountered the style challenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Said fashion blogger throws out style inspiration and a hashtag, and fashionable followers come up with their own interpretations and take and post selfies. It’s fun, if you have time and the wardrobe for that kind of thing.

Blythe Hill was a fashion blogger pre Instagram. She was also a bored college student in 2009 who came up with a personal style challenge to wear a dress every day in December, calling it “Dressember.” She completed it herself and thought that’s where it would end. Until the following year when her friends wanted to join her, then their friends, and their friends’ friends. Four years in, Hill had the idea of making Dressember into something bigger.

It was around 2005 when I started hearing about the issue of human trafficking. I began learning that slavery exists in every city in the world, around every major sporting event, at brickyards, brothels, truck stops and massage parlors. It’s estimated that there are currently over 30 million people trapped in slavery—more than any other point in history.

When I started hearing about trafficking, I felt an urgency to do something, and so naturally, I looked at my skillset for a way to engage. The problem was my interests and talents didn’t seem to line up with making a difference. I’m not a social worker, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a cop. I’m someone who’s interested in fashion, trend analysis, wordplay, and blogging. My interests felt shallow in the grand scheme of things. I remember feeling powerless, and thinking, “There’s nothing I can do.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I feel that all the time. But Blythe stepped back, realized she’d created a “movement” without even meaning to around the style challenge of wearing a dress every day in December, and decided to align her interest in fashion with her desire to do something. In 2013, she aligned Dressember with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. They raised over $165,000. In 2014, more than 2,600 participants raised over $465,000. This year, Dressember is also supporting A21.

I found out about Dressember because of Noonday Collection—Noonday is a huge supporter and brand partner—and decided to participate this year along with a bunch of my fellow ambassadors all over the country. Every day in December, I’m wearing a dress. I’m also learning as I go about human trafficking, the stolen lives of its victims, and the triumphant stories of rescue made possible by organizations like IJM and A21.

You can join me! You don’t have to wear the dresses. Follow along each day on Instagram. I’ll also be posting occasional updates on Facebook. Learn more at dressember.org, and contribute to my campaign at bit.ly/givetodressember.

Of course follow me here, and let me know in the comments if you’re participating this year or plan to next Dressember!