Wednesday 18 September 2013

eco shopping : LA style

I must say, for all the cliches about the hippies in Los Angeles, I did not have an easy time finding sustainable fashion labels in Tinseltown.

I spent more time than I'd like to admit researching where to shop, including looking up sustainable labels to see where (if!) they were stocked in LA. Compounded with the horrendous traffic, it wasn't as carefree as my San Diego shopping excursion.

But all complaining aside, I did manage to track down a few gems.

This label specialises in taking vintage and surplus materials and transforming them into new chic styles. All pieces are made ethically in either LA or New York. I had a fabulous time wandering through Reformation admiring the fashion-forward upcycled creations. I didn't purchase anything myself, the majority of the pieces just didn't quite suit my personal style, but from the steady flow of shoppers it's clear this label is a hit with many of the local bright young things.

8253 Melrose Avenue

Visiting Myrtle was hands down the best part of my LA shopping adventure. (It was my last stop of the day and the only place I purchased anything, so I was thrilled to end on a high note.) Shop owner Whitney Bickers has curated a beautiful, edgy and occasionally quirky collection of independent designers into her Echo Park store, and all pieces are available online as well. Though if you're in the area, I recommend you stop in and meet the very charming and knowledgable lady herself, you'll be glad you did! Not all pieces are made of sustainable materials, but the majority are made in LA under ethical conditions. There is also a selection of vintage pieces. This shop will definitely be on my itinerary next time I'm in the area.

2213 Sunset Boulevard

I bought this Thomas Sires tweed skirt - made in USA
from (admittedly) non-eco fabrics.

I also bought this adorable Feral Childe top - made in USA
using sustainable practices.

It was a fluke that I came across SUPRNATRL while in LA visiting my amazing cousin's amazing art show. This shop is new on the scene having just opened in August and carries a collection of natural, sustainable and local labels. I was drawn to the pieces by As Is - funky tees and maxi dresses - but the pieces I particularly liked were made of non-eco synthetic materials. The label started out as a vintage remake label, and still does some pieces in that style, so no need to avoid them at all costs. There are many items for men and women in natural fabrics, including hemp, and an abundance of locally-made jewellery and dreamcatchers, too.

2400 Main Street

My friend Yatu over at Thinking Fashion gave me the heads up about these fabulous yoga pants made of recycled plastic bottles, and I went on the hunt for a sweet pair of my own. I didn't have much luck in the few yoga shops I visited and called, apparently these hot pants sell like hot cakes, but there is an online store. One yogi I met said she heard a rumour that Teeki is currently not in production. Gasp! I hope everything's alright Teeki! We need you in this evolving world of sustainable fashion!

Northern Lights hot pants from recycled plastic?
Yes, please!

Eileen Fisher
I'd headed to Bloomingdale's in hopes of finding some Loomstate organic cotton basics, but was given a very perplexed look by the shop assistant, who insisted they did not carry that label despite what Loomstate's website mentioned. I wandered around on my own anyway - I hadn't been inside a Bloomingdale's for ages, the pretty lights, the lovely smells, all trying to get me to buy, buy, buy - and eventually bumped into the Eileen Fisher section. Oh Eileen! How had I possibly forgotten about you?!

Timeless classics by Eileen Fisher

My aunt first introduced me to this label when I was a fresh-faced teen visiting her in the Big Apple, and I should have paid closer attention to the wisdom she was trying to impart (I was too caught up in looking hot in my Diesel denim and French Connection tight t-shirt - it was the 90s).

Eileen Fisher has a strong sustainability and environmental policy, taking a holistic approach considering everything from raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, wear & wash, recycling and end-of-life. Have a read through the environmental policy on the website, I'm sure you'll be impressed with the measures being undertaken. (I am also particularly taken with the suggestion to only buy pieces you love that will be in your style for years - sage advice not frequently imparted by a fashion label.) Eileen Fisher also follows strict labor guidelines and has a focus on human rights, having become a signatory to Social Accountability International in 1997, the group that has developed fair labor standards globally. A great label to purchase some timeless classics that should last many, many years to come.

I love clear labeling. It is my dream to have
all labels do this in the future.

LA has tons of fabulous vintage and consignment shops - including the vintage couture shop Paper Bag Princess with *to die for* pre-loved designer gowns and accessories - but I didn't have the time to vintage shop this time around.


Even though I eventually found some great pieces and clever boutiques, generally my LA eco-shopping experience left me wanting. Perhaps it was just a reality check to show me that despite the great progress being made in sustainable fashion, we still have a ways to go until it is prevalent in mainstream stores.

Did I miss something in LA? Am I wishing for too much? Should I be glad to find some sustainable labels without over-hyping the 'greeness'? I'd love to know your thoughts on this complex topic.


Wednesday 11 September 2013

eco shopping : san diego style

Well, last week's election didn't go exactly as I'd hoped for the climate, but no time to dwell. Onward and upward to more sustainable living activities, like scoping out the eco-shopping scene in San Diego.

I've been hanging out in sunny San Diego for the past month and exploring the eco-shopping options available. I had the most fun in South Park. Within a three block radius around Fern and 30th Streets there is a lot of mindful shopping to be had - and plenty of cafes to refuel if necessary.

Clarity Soap & Candles
After finding a rock-star car space (because, sadly, I've been driving a lot due to insufficient modes of public transportation outside the CBD, thank goodness it's a Prius) I spotted some gorgeous reworked vintage furniture pieces in front of a store and was drawn like a moth to a flame. . .

Turns out it was a candle shop, and the owner also refurbishes furniture pieces. A great place to find a special gift or a treat for yourself. The candles all have at least 50% recycled wax, with customers invited to return their wax to the store for a discount on future purchases, and only lead-free wicks are used. The store also sells handmade natural soaps.

Clarity Soap & Candles
3022 Juniper Street

Mythology Eco Boutique
Touted as the only eco-boutique in San Diego, I was excited to see what was on offer inside Mythology. The owner Richard Fredrick studied fashion design at FIT in New York, and after a time designing for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Fredrick returned to California and opened Mythology. The boutique offers a variety of eco-clothing and accessories for men, women and children - I saw a few tees I particularly liked by Arbor and Horny Toad made of organic cotton and Tencel. Much of the apparel was on the casual-side (this is SoCal, after all), but Fredrick can also be commissioned to create individual pieces.

In addition to the clothing, the shop has its own line of vegan belts and a fabulous collection of vintage belt buckles, as well as loads of lovely jewellery hanging from tree branches. The sustainability sourcing credentials are high, and more than anything, it was so lovely to chat with a shopowner who really understands sustainable fashion.

2365 30th Street

Make Good
Around the corner is Make Good, a great little shop featuring locally sourced pieces from San Diego and Tijuana as well as pre-loved items. I scored a pretty little secondhand ruffled tank, my hubby got a clever iPhone cord holder, and it was all I could do not to start a collection of the beautiful bracelets made by various local artists. The shop, which started as a collective of 8 local artists, carries pieces from over 100 artists. Make sure you have time to peruse each item carefully, there was much to discover!

Make Good
2207 Fern Street

Graffiti Beach
Walking into Graffiti Beach you just know you're going to find something really amazing. This shop was created as a space for emerging artists and designers to sell their wares, and lucky for all of us the emerging designers of today know the importance of sustainability.

Not all of the pieces were sustainable fashion, but there was jewellery made of used skate decks, bamboo sunglasses by Yellow 108, WeWood watches, sunnies by Solo, a label using a one-to-one system of providing sight-restoring surgery for each pair of sunglasses purchased, and maxi sundresses by one of my new faves, Threads 4 Thought. Not to mention oodles of gorgeous locally-made jewellery and artwork.

Graffiti Beach
2220 Fern Street

In the same building as Graffiti Beach there is also Home Ec. Studio where grown-ups and children can learn to sew - love!


San Fran better be careful, its status as US Eco-Queen is under threat by its sunnier neighbour to the south. Next time you're in San Diego, it's well worth the effort of pulling yourself away from the gorgeous beaches, donning your most hipster outfit, and enjoying an afternoon strolling through sustainable South Park. Once you've tired yourself out, stop in the Stone Company Store for a refreshing (local!) Stone Brewing beer.

Next stop - LA!


Friday 6 September 2013

voting for the climate

My fellow Australians,

As you know, I'm a champion of 'voting with your wallet' to demonstrate support for environmental and social issues. This blog is practically dedicated to the notion that each eco-purchase, and decision not to over-purchase, is a vote toward a sustainable future.  (Thankfully this makes sustainability super fun, as seen in this post about Offspring style and this post about green Nashville.)

I'm even more passionate about the democratic voting process. Perhaps this passion is driven by my American heritage, or perhaps it's a result of hearing so much devastating news about citizens living under regimes and dictatorships in non-democratic nations. Whatever the source of my passion, the cliche is true - it's a right and a privilege to have a voice in how your country is governed. In fact, I've already exercised my right and voted from overseas. I voted for the climate.

Voting at the Australian consulate in LA - the Aussie
accents and news in the lounge were music to my ears!

This election there are a lot of hot button issues at stake. The Carbon Tax. Marriage equality. Refugees. The National Broadband Network. The economy. Did I mention the Carbon Tax?

As an environmentalist I've found this election campaign supremely frustrating. With all the talk about axing the Carbon Tax focusing on economics, the sense of urgency to respond to the realities of climate change has been lacking. UN Climate Science Chief Rajendra Pachauri recently provided a stark reminder of the seriousness of the issue with his statement that the climate fight is '5 minutes to midnight'.

This election, more than ever, the environment needs our help.

It is certainly not my place to tell you how to vote - I had a hard enough time making my own decision. But I would like to offer information on emissions and the Carbon Tax to help clarify the environmental policies of Labor, the Liberals and the Greens.

Climate science
  • All three major parties agree on the science of climate change. 
  • Kevin Rudd once called it 'the greatest moral challenge of our generation' but his passion has been somewhat lacking this campaign. 
  • Tony Abbot said in 2009 'climate science is crap' but now agrees it is happening and some of it is a result of human activity (thank goodness for Malcolm Turnbull and the rest of the science believers in the party). The Liberals will abolish the Department of Climate Change if elected.
  • The Greens, well, they are all about this stuff.

Emissions targets
  • The Greens have the most aggressive emissions cutting policies, committing to 25-40% reductions on 1990 levels by 2020 - the reductions recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to stop temperatures rising more than 2 degrees Celcius - and net zero emissions by 2050. 
  • Labor and the Liberals have more modest targets of reducing emissions of 5-25% of 2000 levels by 2020. Labor is committed to an 80% reduction by 2050, and the Liberals will review the longer term target in 2015.
  • With current commitments from developed nations, we are looking at a 12-18% reduction of 1990 levels by 2020, well below the minimums set by IPCC, hence the increased urgency. (Sorry for the scary stats, but someone has to tell you!)

Carbon Tax
  • The Carbon Tax came into effect July 2012, charging money for pollution. The top 500 polluting companies in Australia are paying the tax, and they are *probably* passing these costs onto end-customers. (Mama Mia has a fabulous 5 minute guide to Carbon Tax and ETS.)
  • Emissions from the power supply (the largest segment of Australia's emissions) reduced by 7% in the first 12-months the Carbon Tax was in effect, though not all reductions can be attributed to the Carbon Tax. Power demand decreased by 5% during that year and has been on a steady decline since 2008 due to: renewables becoming more popular, energy efficient appliances expanding, rising electricity prices, and a spike in solar PV installations. Most experts agree the longer-term policies deserve most of the credit, but a price on carbon is helping the situation. 
  • Due to the decreased emissions, less revenue was generated from the Carbon Tax than predicted. Following a few changes in the budget, the net impact is around $1bn less over 4 years.
  • Both Labor and the Liberals plan to abolish the Carbon Tax. 
  • The Liberals propose the Direct Action policy, which remains vague and relies on government grant programs to achieve reductions. 
  • Labor proposes moving the planned Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) up one year to begin in July 2014. This would cause the price to drop (because of the global low price on carbon, the economic crisis in Europe has not helped), meaning polluters would pay less, potentially saving end-customers money, potentially encouraging more pollution.
  • The Greens want to keep the plan as is and transition to ETS in 2015 to ensure polluters continue to pay for what they emit.
  • The majority of Australians were frustrated with the 'Carbon Price lie' told by Julia Gillard, but now that the tax is in effect, 43% of Aussies believe it should be given at least a few years to work before the scheme changes.
  • Independent research has shown the Liberal's Direct Action plan cannot deliver the minimum 5% emissions reduction by 2020 at the proposed budget, requiring $4bn to $20bn more to reach the target. Tony Abbot has said he will not add more money to the budget, in effect ensuring Australia fails to meet its 5% emissions reductions target if he's elected.
Still with me?

I told you it wasn't looking good for the environment this year.

I know the environment is only one issue amongst a number of important concerns for Australians and will be just one consideration in your decision-making process. I ask you to remember that climate change impacts many facets of our lives now and into the future, and urge you to keep in mind the long-term health, social justice and economic benefits of voting for the climate now when you're selecting your preferences for your member of Parliament and the senate race tomorrow.

Whichever way you vote, I hope you can set aside the frustration that can come with choosing among a number of 'not quite perfect' candidates and appreciate the fact that you do have a voice. Together, we really can change the the course of environmental history. And if it all goes pear-shaped for the environment at the election this weekend, you can expect to see me at many more climate rallies, continuing to exercise my democratic rights.


Sunday 1 September 2013

I can create that style sustainably : Nina Proudman : Offspring 2013

First of all, let me just say, WOW. . .

I'm in the US right now and have been watching Offspring on iTunes this season, so I'm a little behind. I finished watching the final two episodes on Thursday and it's fair to say the wounds are still fresh.

RIP Patrick.

I can't believe I just typed that. I think I'm still in shock.

But I'm going to push through with this post. We need to stick together in times like these. And while we can mourn the loss of our beloved Patrick, we can also move forward and celebrate the fabulous fashion Nina was rocking once again this year.  Even we non-preggers gals were looking upon her wardrobe with envy. 

I had a great time recreating Nina's style last season, and couldn't wait to play again this year, so here goes . . .

Nina's sense of style was well and truly in tact as she blossomed throughout her pregnancy. Loose clothing is not a prerequisite for maternity wear - hurrah! Her signature layers, feminine details and splashes of colour were as playful as usual, and I was also thrilled to see so many stripes in Nina's wardrobe.

So, without further ado, here are my sustainable shopping tips to help you create a Nina-worthy wardrobe.

A camisole is the perfect place to start managing your layers. Betty Browne makes 100% organic cotton slim fit tanks in black, white and two shades of grey - super soft and made in Australia. Insider tip: read about organic cotton on the website for a special deal. For a splash of colour, try Threads 4 Thought tanks made of organic cotton and recycled polyester - perfect for that bit of stretch. Definitely one of my favourite label 'discoveries' while I've been in America this summer - affordable thoughtful fashion - and now shipping internationally!

Left : Betty Browne
Right: Threads 4 Thought, also available in spaghetti straps

I recently covered stripes when 'styling' Taylor Swift, and found that Chinti & Parker, Honest By, People Tree and Kuyichi have some fabulous sustainable stripes this season, and Kowtow has some deconstructed stripes as well. 

People Tree organic cotton top. I think this yellow number
would suit Nina perfectly, don't you?

I also love this Kowtow take on stripes, and I think
Nina would, too

I always appreciate the attention to detail in Nina's jackets, cardis and vests.  Here are a few interesting pieces I think would fit right into Nina's wardrobe.

Kowtow certified organic fair trade cotton cardigan,
available at Indigo Bazaar

Minna vintage lace cardigan, handmade in the UK

Choolips jacket,
available at Indigo Bazaar

Pre-loved vest from Dear Gladys

Nina's signature scarves were not used as much this year, instead she accessorised with lovely, delicate jewellery, including a number of graceful long necklaces.

Raven and Lily are a longtime favourite of mine. The pieces are made of recycled bullet casings and coins by HIV positive women in Ethiopia. Raven and Lily also reinvest into education programs in the area. Now that's what I call styling a sustainable future.

Alem Triangle Tube necklace

Desta Antique Dangle necklace

Alem bracelets - perfect to layer on in multiple colours.

Hovey Lee is another great ethical jewellery-maker out of LA, and all pieces are made of recycled metals.
Fern Acres earrings

Sand Dollar necklace

Form fitting pants
Nina looked great again this year in fitted denim, and even showed off her pins in fabulous patterned leggings.

Left: Reuse recycled denim
Centre: Nudie 100% organic cotton Nude Kelly denim
Right: Threads 4 Thought organic cotton leggings

Okay, how fabulous were those boots?! I'm hoping we can convince Hasbeens to bring back their kneehigh clog boots in this lovely blue so we can have a sustainable pair of our very own. Until then, I recommend hunting around eBay and vintage shops for your own colourful kicks. 

Left: Gorgeous Nina and her gorgeous boots
Centre : Hasbeens kneehighs
Right : Marc Jacobs preloved from eBay

I pretty much avoided this style of clothing.  Nina did not sport many overtly 'maternity' looks, instead alternating between sizing up non-maternity tops and dresses and proudly showing off that bump in fitted camisoles paired with interesting jackets. Of course some pieces, like pants, are trickier! For those of you gorgeous mums-to-be, pre-loved is by far the most sustainable option (for the planet and your bank account!), so check first with your friends, family and local thrift shop. Since I have no firsthand experience, here is a great article on Inhabitots about getting through your pregnancy sustainably, written by someone with firsthand experience.


Okay, that was therapeutic. Though I think I may have to watch season 4 all over again to get my fill of the Nina-Patrick lovefest. And maybe seasons 2 and 3 as well.

Until next time, give me a shout if there is anything in particular you'd like me to source sustainably.