Good Things

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Skincare | Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. I’m a sucker for face masks, so when I placed my first Glossier order last month, I had to get one. I opted for the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, and holy moly it makes my skin so soft. I can’t wait to try the Moisturizing Moon Mask.

Haircare | Lush BIG Shampoo. I’ve had quite the shampoo debacle over the past few months. I haven’t been able to find one that works for my hair and isn’t filled with massive amounts of harmful chemicals, packaged in ridiculous amounts of plastic, or produced using unethical standards. The first Lush in my state opened up recently, and even though it’s an hour and a half away from me, I took a trip up there to see what I could find in the way of shampoo. The girl at the store recommended BIG to me, and I love it. It’s made with sea salt, which is really fun, and keeps my hair voluminous and oil free.

Music | Volcano Choir. I love how music attaches itself to specific moments in my life. When I listen to Volcano Choir, I think of my freshman year of college when I shared a dorm room on campus with three other girls and how we would go to the record store on cold Saturdays and get orange cake and coffee from our favorite German bakery afterwards. I bought this record on one such Saturday, and it fills me with nostalgia whenever I put it on.

Podcasts | Stuff You Should Know. Now that I have my first big girl job, I’m having to get used to sitting at a desk and staring at a computer for eight hours a day, which is a lot easier said than done. However, I’ve discovered that listening to podcasts while I work is the secret to making the time go by. Stuff You Should Know has become my go-to podcast since I started my job. The premise is that the show’s hosts pick a topic – anything from pacifism to Alexander Hamilton to poop – research the heck out of it, and talk about what they learned.

Essential Oil | Young Living Purification. I recently got a diffuser, and I’ve been loving coming home at the end of the day and diffusing my favorite essential oils. Currently, I’m loving Young Living’s Purification oil. It’s a blend of citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree, lavandin, and myrtle, and it smells so good.

Food | Sunday Suppers. I’ve had this cookbook for a while, but I’ve recently discovered some new recipes in it that have become new favorites. My favorites at the moment have been the shakshuka and the challah. And food aside, the book itself is an aesthetic dream. I highly, highly recommend.

TV Show | A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Series. This show has been getting mixed reviews amongst my friends, but I absolutely loved it. I read these books when I was in elementary school, and admittedly, I was a little skeptical about Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, but I think he did a really good job. The style reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, which doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit.

Article | Am I Annoying? This article by Man Repeller really resonated with me. I have social anxiety and I’m very much a people-pleaser, so I’m frequently worried that I come across as annoying in school, work, or social situations. This article made several really great, non-cliche points about why we shouldn’t worry about seeming annoying to others.

Art | Tommy Ingberg Surreal Photo Art. I love surrealist art, so when I stumbled upon these surrealist photographs, I fell in love. The photos encapsulate the spirit of surrealism really well. They look like a Magritte painting come to life.

Activity | Ceramics. This past semester, I had an open space in my schedule. Most college seniors in that position would have been thrilled to have a light schedule for their final semester, but because I am the overachiever that I am, I decided to use that opportunity to take a class in something that interested me. So I took a class in ceramics, which was so fun. I’m not master potter by any means – in fact all of my mugs are incredibly asymmetrical – but it’s so satisfying to drink my morning coffee out of a mug I made myself.

What have you been loving lately?

– Lauren

The Young Vinyl

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Over the past month or so, American Apparel has become one of my favorite places to shop. Previously, I had thought it too expensive for my student budget and never really gave it a fair chance. But that was before I discovered their amazing sales, particularly the factory store section of the website. One day, I had gotten it into my mind that I really needed a vinyl skirt, so I scoured the internet for fair trade, vintage, or secondhand options. The only thing I found that matched my vision perfectly was this light pink, a-line skirt from the American Apparel factory store, and I was shocked that it was only $20 (now $15). I ordered it immediately, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite pieces of clothing I own. The structured a-line is incredibly flattering, and it’s a style that looks good on everyone, because it cinches at the smallest part of your waist and creates an hourglass shape. The flattering shape combined with the vintage feel of the vinyl is exactly the unique sort of piece I aim for with my personal style and was impossible for me to pass up.

After finding this skirt for such a good price, I skimmed the American Apparel website and discovered that everything is incredibly well priced for a fair-trade, sweatshop-free company, and their sales are really good as well. I picked up a few more items during their end of the year sale, so look out for those in future posts.

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What’s your favorite fair trade clothing company?

– Lauren

Tybee

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My favorite time to go to the beach is during non-peak seasons when the weather is cooler and the beaches are empty. No need for a swimsuit and no fighting against a crowd of people. When I was in Savannah a few weeks ago, I took a day trip with my best friend to Tybee Island, one of my favorite beaches, and spent the afternoon walking along the water as the tide receded. There was something magical about having the place to ourselves. I’ve said for a while that after I finish school and work for a while, I want to move to a small coastal town and open a bookstore/cafe in a seafront cottage. Those daydreams are easy to picture on a day like that one, when the beach is empty and a cold wind is coming off of the waves.

But for the time being, I took in the calming solitude and crashing waves and guarded myself against the chill with my new bomber-sweater combo that I picked up at Civvies, the same vintage shop from my last post, and it served me well as we danced around, snapped some photos, and lounged in the sand.

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– Lauren

Days Dazed

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No class or work on Fridays makes for the perfect days for exploring. And exploring is a great way to treat yourself to a fun day that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Last week was a stressful one, so on Friday, I met a friend in Birmingham with no plan and ready to discover some new things in the city. And discover we did. Birmingham is a cool place. It’s even on Forbes’ list of emerging cities. One of my favorite places we found was Revelator Coffee, which has only three menu items and the most stunning decor. There, we stumbled upon some locally-produced kombucha, which made my kombucha-loving soul very happy. For the rest of the day, we just walked – the weather was perfect – and found ourselves in parks, antique stores, bread shops, cool restaurants, and the historic district. 

As for my outfit, everything I wore was either fair trade or thrifted. My jeans were thrifted from my roommate’s closet, and the sunglasses are from a vintage shop in England. My shirt is from Brandy Melville, whose clothes are produced sweatshop free in Italy. And my shoes are Soludos and were, to my knowledge, produced in either Spain or China. Based on everything I read about Soludos, they are a fair trade company with transparency regarding their international factories, but they are working on further expanding their relationships with artisans throughout the world for product collaborations. They’re also made of eco-friendly materials.

P.S. I got some weird looks as I was walking around town, and it took me a while to figure out why. The bottle isn’t beer. It’s kombucha. _MG_7924_MG_7927_MG_7930_MG_7942_MG_7947_MG_7946_MG_7948_MG_7951_MG_7953_MG_7961_MG_7966_MG_7968_MG_7977_MG_7992_MG_7998

What’s your favorite way to spend free days?

– Lauren

Pink and Dreamy

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve decided to change the way I shop. So instead of buying tons of clothes I don’t need that were made in sweatshops, I’ve resolved to buy clothes from ethical and fair trade companies or thrift stores on a more as-needed basis. As a result of this lifestyle change, the content on my fashion posts will change as well. Because of my current financial situation, it just isn’t feasible for me to scrap all of the clothes I own that were not produced ethically – almost all my clothes – and create a new wardrobe from scratch, which means that over the coming months and years, I will be slowly working ethical clothing into my wardrobe and cycling out what I’ve purchased from fast fashion brands. I say all of this to say that the ethical fashion movement is one I’ve come to be passionate about, and as a result, I don’t want to promote in my fashion posts brands whose ethics I don’t agree with.

I love doing fashion posts, and I don’t want to give up on them altogether. So how I’ve decided to reconcile my obstacles with my reluctance to stop making fashion posts is to make the posts more conceptual, not about the clothing pieces themselves and where to buy them but about the combinations or patterns or materials.

Which leads me to my next point…

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TURTLENECKS AND WINTER COLORS. I remember very vividly hating turtlenecks as a child and I was unsure how I would feel about them at 21. But I took a chance and discovered that I really love them these days, especially cropped ones paired with medium length, collarless jackets. I really like how the jacket hangs down past the sweater but the sweater peaks up over the jacket. I’m also really keen on this color combination. Dark denim with a cream sweater and olive green jacket. It’s subtle but really nice, especially when paired with this dreamy pink wall I found while exploring downtown. This sweater + jacket combo has become the outfit of winter.

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What’s your go-to winter wear?

– Lauren

The True Cost

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I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe that you can start over or set goals for yourself whenever. But as it happens, within the first few days of the new year, I resolved to make a change in the way I live and, more specifically, in what I consume. Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about the clothes I wear and the people who make them. A friend recommended that I watch a documentary on Netflix entitled The True Cost, and it opened my eyes to the effects of fast fashion on garment workers and the environment.

Until recently, I, like most people, had never thought about the hands that make my clothes. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that my clothes were made by actual people. They just existed on the shelves of my favorite stores, waiting for me to buy them. And it is exactly the type of system that ignores the humanity of its employees that allows for one of the most grievous social and environmental injustices of our time: fast fashion.

Essentially, fast fashion is a term that describes the way in which clothes are produced and sold cheaply  in order to move trends from the runway to the shelves of your favorite stores quickly. Conceptually, this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. However, in order for clothing companies to produce clothes and sell them cheaply, they must outsource their production to sweatshops in developing countries where labor is cheap. Because of the nature of the supply chain, the CEOs of these clothing companies have the power to deliver all sorts of ultimatums to the factory managers of these sweatshops. They have the power to say, “Produce these garments for this amount of money, or we’ll take our business elsewhere.” And because these factories need business, they accept these demands. However, the only way to produce their goods as cheaply as the clothing companies desire, the workers in these sweatshops are denied adequate wages and many corners are cut in terms of safety regulations.

Basically, these companies base their profit on the desperation of the garment workers. And while some people argue that the workers essentially pick their poison, it is worthwhile to note that it’s easy to look at the plight of the garment worker and say, “They didn’t have to work in a sweatshop.” But the fact of the matter is that these workers lack almost all agency over their own lives. Social mobility is almost impossible, and job options are fairly limited. It is nearly impossible to look at the life of a Bangladeshi factory worker, for example, from a western worldview and truly understand their options. The CEOs of the major clothing companies justify the exploitation of these workers by saying that a job in a sweatshop is better than any other option available to the workers. But if that is true, then something is wrong. We’ve created an inadequate system, and it needs to be scrapped. Garment workers are paid less than $2 a day. When they form unions to demand better working conditions and higher wages (in Bangladesh, they demand only $160 per month), they are attacked and beaten by factory managers. Safety regulations are often overlooked in order to save money, which leads to disasters such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where over 1,100 workers died and many more were wounded.

I want to put this in perspective. These people are not different from us because they live in developing countries and are driven by desperation into working jobs where they are treated inhumanely and are subject to dangerous conditions. And when I read about the conditions in which these people exist, I can’t help but place myself in their shoes. What if I lived on only $2 a day? What if it were my mother who died when her workplace collapsed because  her bosses decided not to prioritize her safety for the sake of making money? What if I had to leave my child with family or friends and only see him or her once or twice a year just so he or she could be educated? What if, on a daily basis, I were denied my basic human rights and a reasonable wage on which to live? If it were me, would I sit around and do nothing about this drastic injustice? The way I see it, if I wouldn’t be stricken by apathy if it were me, then I shouldn’t be stricken by apathy if it’s someone else.

And from a religious perspective, I believe in a God who is for justice, who cares for widows and orphans and the downtrodden, and who teaches love for the nations.  I read a Bible that tells me to not grow weary in doing good. This is what I say I believe. These are the principles that I say guide my day-to-day life, and I do not see a way where I can claim to follow a compassionate and loving God but contribute to the heartless oppression of so many people.

The reason this system is allowed to persist is because big brands perpetuate the idea through their marketing promotions that the more you have, the happier you’ll be. Today, American women own more than double the number of clothes they did even thirty years ago. The paradox of the system is that these fast fashion companies tell you that by buying their products, you’ll be happier, richer even, but the only people who are actually getting richer are the CEOs and high-up people of the big brands.

Not only does fast fashion exploit the workers of the garment factories, but it exploits the environment as well. The use of GMO cotton and widespread use of pesticides damages the environment faster than it can repair itself, causes disease and deformity to the people in the farming villages, and serves as yet another tool for large corporations to exercise unchecked power over farmers.

The benefit of our free market economic system is that, theoretically, the consumers have control. If we’re not satisfied with a product, we can stop buying it. If a company has questionable ethics, we can boycott it. We don’t have to allow fast fashion to exist. To say that we can end fast fashion by simply refusing to buy from big brands may be an idealized notion. But we have to try; we have to care; and we have to educate. And rest assured that if the fast fashion industry dies, these garment workers will not be left without jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’ve decided to make a major change in where I buy my clothes, and instead of supporting unethical clothing companies, support those that are fair trade. Honestly, I don’t know whether it’s even possible, given the current system, to completely swear off buying products from the big brand companies, but I’m going to try. I’m going to buy less and buy smarter, and I encourage you all to do the same. And yes, it will be a little tougher on my wallet and it will mean sacrificing some of my favorite stores, but a $10 shirt is not worth another person’s life.

Leave a comment and let me know some of your favorite fair trade companies.

– Lauren

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