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    Letters from the Founder

    Spring Refresh

    Spring Refresh

    It’s Spring.  I love this season for the sense of renewal it brings from flowers to fashion.  As the snow melts and the birds return, I look at my surroundings and my closet with fresh eyes.  I like to freshen up my dull winter fitness routines by hiking nearby trails, paddle boarding on the lake in my hometown, or biking to the coffee shop.  I approach my garden with new ideas for vegetables and flowers that will brighten up my home. 
     
    In years past, I also used to head to the mall to stock up on spring trends, but this spring, instead of adding a bunch of new trendy pieces to my wardrobe, I’m looking to runway trends for inspiration, but more carefully supplementing with timeless, quality pieces that were produced with purpose.
     
    I was recently reminded that the waste created by fast fashion has doubled in the last 20 years.   But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Within our lifetimes, the accepted social norm was to buy affordable clothes that lasted for many years. There are ways to embrace fashion while still holding on to the belief that clothing should be made to last.
     
    The next five blog posts from our stylist, Michaela Lee, will feature spring fashion runway trends from major designers like Stella McCartney and Dolce & Gabbana, and how you can incorporate these trends in a way that supports longer-term investment in clothing and the world without breaking the bank.  Ethos Collection strives to offer that sweet spot between high priced high fashion and poor quality fast fashion.  We aim to bring timeless design with a nod to current trends along with the comfort of knowing everything was ethically sourced and well made.
     
    So, get ready for a 5-part spring fashion review as we explore several of this year’s hot trends: polka dots, blush, tassels, paper bag pants, and daytime sequins.

    Resolution Time: Find Joy & Mindfulness

    Resolution Time: Find Joy & Mindfulness

    It's still January! When the new year rolls around, I can’t help but reflect and meditate on resolutions. I love the idea of resolving to be better each year. Some resolutions I've made in the past have been too big, like the year I resolved to stop being late. Other resolutions have been too abstract, like the year I resolved to be more grateful. This year I'm trying something that feels achievable and specific, but also important and impactful. With an ever-present effort to be more mindful, I've resolved to simply stop and reflect before each purchase I make in 2017, asking myself two questions: Will this purchase bring me lasting joy? And, where did this item come from?

    The question about joy is a variation on the question, “Do I need this?”  Most of us in the U.S. are incredibly blessed to have more than we need, yet we continue to buy. While this habit brings pleasure in the moment of purchase, we don’t always think about its detrimental, long-term impact on people and the planet. 

    Although I aim to simplify, I know that I will forever be faced with the decision, "to buy or not to buy?"  So, rather than trying to convince myself that I need something that I assuredly don’t, I will instead reflect on the long-term impact of my purchases.  If I’m buying something for myself, will I wear it for many years with many different outfits?  If it's a gift, will I feel confident that the item will bring joy to the recipient?  Is it something that will brighten my day, not just today, but also tomorrow and beyond? 

    The second question, “Where did this item come from?” is just as important as the first.  Was this piece of clothing imported or made domestically?  What materials were used?  Was it made by an artisan or in a factory?  How confident am I that the people who made this item were treated fairly and paid a living wage for their work?  It’s becoming more and more evident to me that I can’t find joy in an item unless it came from a good place. 

    In 2017, I renew my commitment to align my personal goals with those of Ethos Collection-- to love what I wear, live mindfully, and use my purchasing habits to make an impact.

    As you plan your own year, what resolutions are you setting? In what ways are you looking to spark joy in your life? I wish you all deep joy this year, and hope that some of that joy is found in knowing that your purchases from Ethos Collection help alleviate poverty and support earth-friendly practices.

    What Makes a Great Gift?

    What Makes a Great Gift?

    It’s that time of year when so many of our thoughts and activities are dedicated to gift giving.  I personally love giving gifts. I find joy in the process of shopping and discovering the perfect gift for friends and loved ones.  However, as your list of important people grows, it can be overwhelming and even burdensome to find the right gift for everyone.  Whether you’ve been looking forward to the holidays all year or you are just trying to get through, here are some guidelines I find useful when preparing my holiday gift list.  

    Appropriate:  I think we’ve all been uncomfortable receiving a gift that seems too generous or disappointed by a gift that seemed like an afterthought.  When I got married, an older family friend gave me and my new husband a small bouquet of fake flowers doused in cheap perfume.  Luckily we found humor in this odd gift, but it stands out as one of the least appropriate gifts we received. To avoid such a standout gift, start your list by considering the norms surrounding different relationships and occasions. Ask around before you dive into selecting office gifts, teacher gifts, or gifts for your new boyfriend’s family. 

    Useful:  Usefulness is a deal breaker for many people. While the most obvious question is "will she use it?" the follow up question "does she already have this, or something like it?" is also important.  If your friend already has five black clutches, she is likely to return a sixth because it isn't useful.  Today, many of us are also trying to simplify our lives, keeping only things that bring us joy or are of use. To align with this mindful lifestyle, shop our timeless collection and avoid trendy gifts that risk going unappreciated after one season

    Meaningful: Matching your gift to the recipient’s interests will likely make the gift a keeper. What do you and the person you're buying for have in common? If you and your friend have both been involved with your local food shelf, giving an ethically made piece of jewelry, like the Fighting Hunger Bullet Necklace from Half United, with a personalized note indicating why you bought it, will go a lot farther than a generic gift card.  This is a situation where the adage “it’s the thought that counts” is true.

    Unexpected: While it's sometimes risky to veer off one’s "wish list," the emotional payoff of a well-timed surprise is often worth it.  This stems from the idea that "expectation is the root of all heartache."  That which we don't expect is more pleasantly received.  I only go with the unexpected gift if I know the recipient so well that I’m confident it will be appreciated.

    Packaged:  I come from a family that isn’t about appearances, which is wonderful in many ways. But, when it comes to gift giving, part of the anticipation of a gift comes in the moments before unwrapping.  So, whether it’s in a simple gift bag or elaborately wrapped, the key is that the gift is fully concealed until the moment the recipient opens it.  At Ethos Collection, each of our Holiday Gift Boxes is hand wrapped with simple up-cycled materials and twine. 

    In fact, our the Ethos Collection Holiday Gift Boxes meet every gift giving guideline. With useful and meaningful items packaged up at only $55, they are an appropriate and unexpected delight for many gifting situations.

    Good luck and happy shopping!

     

    The Impact of Micro-Lending

    The Impact of Micro-Lending

    The Ethos Collection strives to unite both beauty and social impact.  Beauty is straightforward.  It shows in our products and their presentation.  Social impact is more complicated. It comes in many forms.  We select brands as partners that use ethical practices both for the planet and for workers.  We also invest our revenue in creative ways to drive social impact.

    Ethos has partnered with the micro-lending platform Kiva to invest three percent of our top-line revenue.  We chose micro-lending because we believe that people should be empowered to choose their own path out of poverty. Providing access to capital is one of the best ways for disenfranchised populations to break out of the cycle of poverty by using skill, talent and hard work.  Micro-lending through Kiva is also exciting because our impact from a small base can compound quickly.  When loans are repaid, we will reinvest them.  Our social impact will grow faster than our business due to the compounding effect of reinvesting returns.

    We believe that uniting beauty and social impact has the potential to improve the lives of everyone we touch from our customers to garment workers to recipients of our Kiva loans. 

    For more information about Kiva visit www.kiva.org, or to join our lending team and invest directly visit our Ethos Impact Team site.

    My Ethos - Quality not Quantity

    My Ethos - Quality not Quantity

    My Ethos - Quality not Quantity

    There is a movement brewing, and I will join it.  Like all movements, I’ve seen it disseminate through the currency of culture – books and films.  The movement says, “less is more.”  It says, “simplify.”  And it says, “quality, not quantity.”  I’ve seen it address all basic necessities – food, housing and now clothing.

    When I was younger, super-sized portions, artificial sweeteners and fats were the norm.  High volume, reduce calorie food was considered "healthy" regardless of the chemicals and processing involved.  But as the breakthrough documentary “Super Size Me” showed way back in 2004, quick convenient foods aren’t best for the human body. The best "diet" advice I ever received was from Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,”  “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  It's so simple but requires mindful choices.  Not only is it better for us, but it’s better for the earth too.

    Around the same time that McDonald’s was super sizing our food, came the rise of the McMansion.  Even the term McMansion connects the generic quality of these homes with our image of mass-produced fast food.  Reading Sarah Suzanka's “Not So Big House” was a pivotal moment in my relationship with space and shelter.  I became more focused on natural lighting, a quiet location, and a friendly neighborhood rather than a large, unwelcoming space.  I found that the quality, beauty and durability of materials inside my home set the tone for my mood, energy, and health.  I found that small changes like fresh paint and vintage hardware were not only less expensive, but also more mindful of our earth’s resources.

    Only recently have I started to apply the same mindfulness to my relationship with clothing.  Elizabeth L. Cline’s book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” showed me that supporting "fast fashion" is just as bad for the planet and our basic human needs as fast food or mass-produced homes.  I am guilty of buying inexpensive wardrobe pieces without much thought to whether I needed it or where it came from.  And unlike most manufacturing, which has become automated, our clothes are still assembled by people.  These people are often working in dangerous conditions, making just pennies per item they assemble.  Besides exploiting vulnerable populations for cheap labor, fast fashion also relies on synthetic materials.  The production of these materials pumps chemicals into our waterways and ecosystem.  I learned that if the price of a $6 shirt seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    My new relationship with apparel has shifted.  I now seek beauty and quality at a fair price.  I stock my closet with intention.  Like my home and my food, I'm less concerned about the quantity of clothes I own, but rather how they make me feel and how they have impacted others and the planet.  This is my ethos.