VERTE SPRING/SUMMER 2013
SUMMER RAYNE OAKES CONFESSIONS OF A GREEN GODDESS
Letter from the Editor As sustainable design philosophy rapidly advances, the world has begun recognizing sustainable design as a crucial player in the fashion industry. This increased consideration for fashion’s environmental and social impacts manifests itself in the products of designers like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood. However, I still see a great need — and opportunity — for harnessing the power of fashion to build a more sustainable world. I joined the Sustainable Fashion Initiative, a group of fashion-lovers who share my passion for sustainability, during my freshman year at Princeton. During our quest to promote a socially and environmentally responsible understanding of fashion on campus and investigate the fashion industry’s best practices, I embarked on the (somewhat bumpy) journey of creating Verte along with a group of immensely talented and motivated individuals. This first issue of Verte Magazine is the culmination of hours of hard work, mistakes, epiphanies, creative teamwork, and buckets of new experiences. The word verte is French for “green” and embodies our mission to promote “green,” or sustainable, manufacturing processes and ingredients for fashion and lifestyle products, social enterprises, and the endeavors of socially responsible individuals. Verte highlights some of the most up-and-coming stars in the realm of sustainability — from our feature interviews with the avante garde activist and model-entrepreneur Summer Rayne Oakes and the winner of cycle eight of Project Runway Gretchen Jones, to a business model comparison of Toms and Indego Africa and a guide to sustainable alternatives for everyday products. I hope you enjoy the delightful mix of sustainable designers featured in our photoshoots: the eye-popping colors and strict geometry of David Peck’s new collection; the billowing lushness of Cherylana Organics, perfect for a midsummer’s night; Lusmila McColl’s quirky, yet beautifully tailored tweeds. And don’t forget the spring-ready sensations found in the treasure trove of a consignment store we simply call “jane”. I want to give a huge thank you to Injee Unshin and Emmy Williams, the best two creative directors I could ask for, my founding Verte team, and everybody featured in this issue — this magazine would never have seen the light of day without all your support, indeed! I also thank you, the Verte readership, for your support. Sustainability is here to stay, and the treats sustainable designers have in store for us this season are sure to add a pick-me-up to our days. Enjoy! ... And may this issue remind you why it’s just so damn chic to be conscientious.
VERTE Editor-in-Chief Vivian Wang
Creative Directors Injee Unshin Emmy Williams
Lindsay Beck Cissy Chen Amanda Coen Gavin Cook Jacqueline Cremos Marina Kaneko Priya Krishnan Megan Partridge Isabella Peraertz Kourtney Pony Kate Prucnal Summer Shaw Sasha Small Carolyn Yang Helen Yang
Photographers Injee Unshin Monica Chon Kelsey Dennison
Layout Designers Injee Unshin Alexander Chuka Kelsey Dennison Ben Denzer Vivian Gao Jacob Simon
J.CrewVERTE necklace. jcrew.com. SPRING 2013
SPRING/SUMMER 2013 Come Spring
Awamaki Lab Amy Small Tabitha St. Bernard
Lauren Bush Lauren Origins: A Review
in this issue... 58
COVER Model: Summer Rayne Oakes Photographer: Jon Moe Hair/makeup: Chris Newburg THIS PAGE: Summer Rayne Oakes Photographer: Charl Marais
6 14 16 20 21 25 28 30 36 38 40 44 50 54 56 58 65 68 70
Come Spring Weaving a Worldview Gretchen Jones A Letter from Lauren Bush Lauren 6 Sustainable Designers We Love Amy Small Origins: A Review Haute Couterre The Rags Beneath the Bones The Science of Scent Portobello Road Fashion with a Conscience A Model of Progress The Fine Print The Green List Summer Rayne Oakes Ubomi Beads DIY: Bleach Stencil T-Shirt Consignment Chic
Verte is sponsored by The Sustainable Fashion Initiative, an organization dedicated to cultivating a culture of sustainability in the fashion industry that is grounded in the convictions of consumers to live, create, and shop purposefully. SFI promotes an understanding of fashion as a powerful vehicle for human empowerment and sustainable development around the world.
Photographed by Injinash Unshin Makeup by Emmy Williams Models Hannah Cumming and Isabel Mitchell
Come Spring... Dressing for day-to-day campus life is an exercise in individuality and functionality. Here are the best eco-conscious looks for formal events, classes, date nights, and everything in between.
Usher in spring weather with punchy, graphic brights and bold jewelry, anchoring loud looks with nude heels. Mondrian dress to the left, $295, V-neck dress to the right, $375.David Peck, davidpeckusa.com.
Let your fancy evening jewelry see the light of day by layering big pieces over a simple shift. Pink tunic, $49, Soham Dave, sohamdave.com. Necklace, jane , call for pricing 609-683-5263.
A soft cotton maxi-skirt brings quiet romance to the everyday.Dot top, $60, Soham Dave, sohamdave.com. White skirt , CherylAna Organic Atelier, cherylana.com.
Belt a simple, loose tunic and pile on the accessories for personality. Blue tunic, $85, Soham Dave, sohamdave.com. Jewelry, jane , call for pricing 609-683-5263.
A WORLDVIEW Exploring the Language of cloth in the Andes of Peru by Meg Partridge
will always carry in my heart the spirit of the Andes — and of the people whom I so deeply respect, who are tied together by their profound connection with the mountains, with the water, and with the sacred threads that weave personal stories into the collective tapestry of the Quechua memory. There, cloth is more than just ever-changing fashion or the product of industry. It is a way of communicating a worldview through the weaving together of thoughts, emotions, and perspectives. Each piece, whether it be a chumpi (woven belt) or a pollera (skirt), reflects the unique skills, background, and spirit of its individual maker through style, utility, and design. Understanding the unique properties of any given weaving or textile provide a portal to the world of Andean communities and the piece’s individual creator. And over the summer, my experience living among Quechua weavers privileged me with a glimpse into the powerful and profoundly mysterious language of cloth. It is impossible to convey the complexities of the weaving tradition in a short report, but I will attempt to articulate several of its distinguishing characteristics here. To the Quechua, weaving is viewed as a way to metaphorically construct their world in textile. To this degree, it is a fundamental level of communication. Through the design and iconogra-
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phy of cloth, its functionality and its presentation, Quechuas identify who they are, where they are from, and their interests and worldview. The creative process of weaving is particularly telling of the intrinsic meaning each piece holds, as each textile’s design and color alignment is premeditated entirely within the weaver’s mind — inspired by the environment, a dream, or anything else that strikes the weaver as compelling and important to put into woven memory. The “anytime, anywhere” mentality of the weaver is also reflective of the cultural significance of cloth and of the practice and process of weaving. Weaving is a lifelong activity, taught at a young age of five or six, and continued, some believe, in a life beyond death. The daily interaction with weaving points to the everyday importance of cloth — and thus, its integral significance in Quechua culture Backstrap weaving is a process intrinsically
reflective of the deep meaning of the natural world to the Quechuas. It also reveals the vital importance of the natural environment to the livelihoods of the Quechuas; even in light of significant macroeconomic shifts, the principal economic activity in highland communities remains tending to alpacas, llamas, and sheep, as their wool has commercial value. In every step of the weaving process, from procuring natural fibers to determining the pallay iconography to be woven, the link between environment and self-identity is strong. Perhaps most directly, the materials needed to produce a traditional weaving are derived only from natural elements — everything from the raw fiber to the plants used for dyeing yarn and the sticks used for weaving. The weaver’s knowledge of this fact cultivates a high level of respect for nature and an attitude adamantly opposed to waste. Similarly, the pallay designs are informed by how the weaver experiences the world from his or her unique vantage point; a broad example can be found in comparing the fairly sparse designs and muted colors of the Patacancha weavings, which are formed in a harsh high-altitude environment, with the intricate designs and brighter colors of Parobamba, which boasts more biodiversity. As such, iconographies, styles, and even colors may vary from community to community, as each community experiences nature differently. The weaving process contains several steps, which I will only mention here: raising livestock; shearing between December and April; washing sheep wool; spinning using a phusca, or
spindle, to create yarn from fiber; winding yarn and skeining it to prepare for use; dyeing; warping; and weaving. Backstrap looms are the traditional tool of Andean weaving, in which the weaving is warp-faced; in other words, vertical threads are picked up to create pallay, as opposed to weft-faced weaving in which horizontal threads form the patterns. A backstrap loom is constructed from local lumber — even using, in my case, a stick on the ground and a makeshift belt around my waist. As this description shows, one end of the loom is a stick or pole, and the other end of the loom is the weaver herself. The act of weaving is a fairly routine yet complex process involving the following steps: separating alternate threads, raising half and lowering half, picking up the threads needed to create the desired pallay, passing the miñi (weft yarn) through, and packing the weft into place to solidify the design. I learned how to weave primarily in the small rural highland community of Patacancha, where I was taught by an experienced weaver named Margarita and her eldest daughter, fourteen-year-old Isabella. While living with Margarita, I would wake up at 6am in the morning to feed the chickens — one of whom I was particularly fond, named Rosita — and, if necessary, walk three houses down a steep hill to get bread and, if we were lucky, eggs for breakfast. Doris, Margarita’s other daughter, would light a fire in the kitchen, Margarita would slice the bread and feed baby Jesús Angel, and I would pack some snacks into my backpack. Isabella and I would then round up the sheep and start the long yet beautiful trek up to a grazing location; one day, it might be near the top of a mountain overlooking a horse farm and the winding road to Ollantaytambo, another day it might be in a quiet field far from the house. While the sheep were grazing, Isabella would teach me increasingly more advanced techniques and pallay on the mountainside, and then we would sit side-by-side with our respective weavings, chatting a little and then falling silent in concentration, the winter wind whistling past our ears. The value placed on cloth extends, however, beyond the creation of woven textiles and into the realm of dance. The fabrication of traditional costumes for the dances of religious festivals encompasses a sense of cultural pride and historical continuity. My friend José Reyes Delgado, for instance, spent four and a half years creating his costume for the contradanza, a dance performed during the festival of Señor Choquekillka in Ollantaytambo. To José and the other members of his dance group, participating in the contradanza is an honor of the highest level; the costume and mask he wears indicate a special knowledge of the myth and memory of the unwritten past. It is a coded message, so to speak, that can provide deeper insight into the nature of his character’s identity and his role in the story of the contradanza — but only if the observer speaks the common language of the cloth. This ability to interpret and embody a unique unity with the past instills a sense of deep pride in the costume wearer and creator. But it also serves as a reminder that cloth, in its functional form, is not an artifact frozen in time, but a constantly evolving expression of identity through woven narrative, that can serve as a powerful translator of broader forces at play. VERTE SPRING 2013
HITS THE RUNWAY WITH A TWIST
Fashion means self expression. Anyone, regardless of how big their pocketbooks are, can use clothing as a way to express themselves
and should. Interviewed by Lindsay Beck
retchen Jones is a Brooklyn, New York-based fashion designer whose collection and brand focus on environmental and social sustainability. Her innovative designs strike a balanced blend of down-toearth Western bohemian with a strong pop of modern color and flair with the infusion of Earthy Americana and 1970s romanticism. She calls her collection a cross between fashion forward and casual-cool, a term that can be used to describe the Portland, Oregon native herself. In 2010, Gretchen won the 8th season of Project Runway and since, she has grown into an inspiring designer with not only a strong sense of self, but also an admirable sense of consciousness and responsibility in striving to make her collections as sustainable as possible — a task that is far from easy for new and aspiring designers. With her unique vision and bountiful talent. Gretchen is one everybody should keep their eyes on.
VM: When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer? How did you decide to go into fashion, what inspired you? GJ: I knew at a very young age that clothing, dressing and self-expression were what I connected to most. I enjoy the use of clothing as creativity and chose to move towards it as
a career when I was 19. I am inspired by modern women’s interpretations of runway fashion, art, architecture, music and literature. VM: What matters to you most as a fashion designer? GJ: Room and support in order to see my creative visions come to fruition. VM: What are your goals with your brand? How do you see yourself progressing? GJ: My goal as a designer is to create a consumer following that sustains my brand and creative desires. I want to gain trust from my wearers so I can push the envelope and lead trend-oriented designs while building a client base that wants to follow in my directions. I aim to organically grow each season in a way I can manage, so I can be around for a long time.
VM: How would you define your personal style? GJ: I believe my personal style is urban boheme. I like to be romantic, but with a modern and urban flair.
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Ethereal and architectural, romantic and minimalist. VM: Who would you most like to see wearing your clothes? GJ: Real women. VM: Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothing. GJ: I’m typically inspired by a way of dressing, then that leads me to think about the silhouettes that conceptually relate to that style. I sketch based on these ideas and then source materials that relate to those concepts. VM: You describe your designs as infused with an earthy Americana and 1970’s romanticism. How else would you define the style your line exemplifies? GJ: I think my line crosses over the threshold of fashion forward and casual cool. My goal is to create “identity pieces” that are versatile enough to be turned to time and time again, while also being distinct enough to allow its wearer to make an impression when they enter a room. Individuality is about attitude, and good clothes help you embody that. VM: You state on your website that you strive to maintain a focus on social and environmental consciousness. How are your designs sustainable or how do they maintain a social and environmental conscience? Are there other sustainable options you have considered but not implemented? GJ: My collection and brand focuses on both environmental and social sustainability. I focus on producing domestically and as locally as possible, which enables me to support my local economy while I also create a stronger product. I use ethically sourced materials as possible, meaning that I design with a “fashion first” approach and integrate sustainable materials as I can. I believe the eco/green movements need to compete at a higher level of quality and design in order to progress ... That being said, I focus on making good work that can and will be able to compete for rack space from nonethically-minded competitors, I then integrate sustainable practices as I can/see fit. VM: Your work gains inspiration from your Western roots, but also the everyday fashion, art, music, literature, architecture and nature around you. What inspired you specifically this season? Do you have particular spaces you visit or music you listen to for inspiration?
GJ: My hunger for new, good music/art and distinctive literature enables my inspiration to refresh each season. I organically find myself interested in new content each season and use that to infuse my collections with fresh material. Each season I aim to create work that is relative to what I personally am searching for within my wardrobe. My collections are about making pieces I think the modern woman wants to wear. VM: You prefer working with natural materials like leather, silk, wool, linen, bamboo, organic cotton, wood, brass, gemstones, etcetera, but how do you select your fabrics, before or after you draw your collection? And what do you look for or focus on when choosing a fabric? GJ: That’s a tough question. I choose material based on the story I find myself making. Materials are informed by each other. It is important to create refined collections, with consistent and thoughtfully curated materials. VM: What barriers do you run into with trying to be sustainable? GJ: Time. Sustainable materials tend to be harder to find, take longer to produce and typically aren’t running at the speed/time frame of the rest of the industry. Cost. Sustainable materials are exorbitantly more expensive to produce and use than others, while producing domestically is exponentially more expensive than outsourcing. VM: What does fashion mean to you? And do you have any other passions besides fashion? GJ: Fashion means self-expression. Anyone, regardless of how big their pocketbooks can use clothing as a way to express themselves ... and should. I love the outdoors, skiing, hiking, swimming. VM: What part of your job do you like the best? And least? GJ: I like that I get to be creative for myself as a career. I’m playing by my own rules. I hate how expensive and oversaturated the industry is. It’s hard to afford the time it takes to solidify your place in stores and magazines and balance that with the pace at which I have to create.
I’m typically inspired by a way of dressing, then about the silhouettes that conceptually
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VM: If you could give women a fashion tip(s) to be fabulous, what would it be? GJ: I think the number one thing I would tell women is to get out of jeans and t-shirts. Take a little more time when dressing/putting yourself together. The beauty of being a woman is the ability to present ourselves differently all the time ... And you don’t have to sacrifice comfort and ease just because you’re wearing a dress. When women feel good about what they are wearing, they feel better about themselves. And when women feel good, they affect the lives of everyone around them, which inevitably affects their overall quality of life. Feeling pretty and good equals living well. VM: Who is your style icon(s) and why? GJ: Vanessa Bruno, Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant, Phoebe Philo, Karen Walker, Rachel Comey ... Real women, real designers, making it happen. VM: What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers? GJ: Be patient, put in your time under another designer, don’t be hasty or entitled and remember — it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
that leads me to think relate to that style.
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LAUREN BUSH LAUREN Dear Verte Readers,
It was only seven years ago that I was just where many of you are now — nestled comfortably in my college campus. My time at Princeton was idyllic, dedicated to learning, making friends and many great memories. But as senior year began, I found myself in a slight panic about what I might do after graduation. I knew I was interested in fashion design, but I also found myself contemplating life as a humanitarian aid worker. These two paths seemed very disparate, and hence I walked through FitzRandolph Gateway on June 6th, 2006, jobless and searching. Little did I know at the time how much progress I had already made in finding the right career path during my college years. For my summer breaks in college, I took fashion design classes at Parsons and Central St. Martins, and I interned at Zac Posen’s design studio in NYC. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, starting as a sophomore, I had the awesome opportunity to travel with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) as a student spokesperson and visit parts of the world where people are living in extreme poverty. I sat with a man in rural Cambodia suffering through his final days with HIV/AIDS; I met a group of Sudanese women refugees in Chad who told me how much they missed their homes and the family members they had lost in the war; I cooked a meal with families displaced by the Tsunami in Sri Lanka; and I played with a group of children in Guatemala were severely stunted mentally and physically because they were so malnourished. After each of these experiences, I would return to life as usual more inspired
to help those I met who are born into a life of poverty and chronic malnutrition. I also wanted to find a way to engage my classmates and friends to participate in the fight to end world hunger alongside me. This quandary inspired the initial idea for FEED, which I had while studying abroad my junior year. But it wasn’t until I graduated that I finally started FEED, a social business with the simple mission to create good products that help feed the world. For every product we sell, we make a donation to give meals, micro-nutrient powder, or vitamins to people in need, and consumers are able to make a tangible donation through each of their purchases. Now, six years after starting FEED, we have been able to give sixty million school meals to children living in sixty-two of the poorest countries around the world. FEED is a testament to the fact that when passion is combined with compassion, the result can be magical. I would urge you all to connect to what you are most passionate about or what makes you tick and then combine that with a sense of compassion for the world and an intention to give back. This might be overly simplistic, but the result will be fresh thinking and more innovative approaches to solving big world issues. The prospect of more Princeton graduates striving to make the world a better place while also pursuing the career of their dreams is something that makes me very excited and hopeful for our future.
Lauren Bush Lauren
VERTE SPRING 2013
1 Carrie Parry
An extremely talented designer whole latest Spring 2013 collection is as sophisticated as it is timeless. Classic shapes abound as they are re-interpreted in poppier colors and louder prints. Be on the lookout for her Fall release! www.carrieparry.com
2 David Gensler
Perhaps the most avant-garde and rebelliously inclined of the bunch, Gensler is the founder of Serum Vs. Venom, a NY-based brand whose mission lies in crafting pieces that sit â€œoutside the normal boundaries of institutionalized fashion and design.â€? His pieces are more art than fashion, and the brand, due to its anti massproduction philosophy, specifically produces one-off products. www.davidgensler.com www.serumvenom.com
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3 Erika Freund
The name of Freund’s collection, Mikuti, means “Dried Leaf.” The talented designer has found a way to turn the African Banana Tree into an exquisite, unique piece of jewelry. Erika also uses recycled aluminum and local, Tanzanian textiles to craft her line of chic and versatile bangles. www.mikuti.com
Faune Yerby 4
Yerby is not a fashion designer per se, but more of a textile expert. She specializes in crafting art prints using nineteenth-century photography techniques and modern chemical treatments. Yerby uses sustainable materials when possible, and her innovative work has been sold in high-end retailers such as Barney’s New York and Anthropologie. www.etsy.com/people/FauneYerby
5 Laura Sansone
Perhaps the most seasoned of the designers in this batch, Sansone is the founder of House-Wear, a brand that gained much attention for its line of garments made out of Tyvek, a strong, recyclable paper material. Her current project, Textile Lab seeks to not only develop effective natural dyes, but to also facilitate healthy dialogue between the producer and the consumer. Sansone is also an visiting professor at the Parsons New School for Design. www.house-wear.com
6 Marcia Patmos
Success knows no bounds for Patmos, a designer who has collaborated with acclaimed shoe-maker Manolo Blahnik as well as the upscale brand, Club Monaco. Her Spring 2013 line is a creative mix of conservative cuts and bold, masculine lines, and makes for a refreshing break from the saturating onslaught of vintageinspired fashions. www.mpatmos.com
AMY SMALL founder of
Interviewed by Sasha Small
ntrepreneur and avid crafter Amy Small, 31, runs a flourishing and vibrant business that creates yarn and other craft materials and provides knit patterns and tutorials for fellow artisans all over the globe. After obtaining her degree in Textile and Apparel Design from Cornell in 2003, Amy worked as a designer for Free People for five years, after which she decided to take a leap of faith and start her very own business. In this interview, Amy shares with us the unique efforts Knit Collage makes to preserve individuality and creativity in our world of fast fashion, but more importantly, the ways in which her company succeeds in doing this while maintaining an environmentally and morally conscious vision. VERTE SPRING 2013
VM: How did you discover the world of knitting and crafts, and why did it become important to you? AS: When I was in college I had an internship at Free People and that’s probably when my love of making “stuff” really took on a new importance in my life. What inspired me about the designer I was working with was the way that small knitted swatches and sketches came to life, becoming gorgeous garments. After working at Free People for a few years, I was lucky enough to attend this incredible hand-spinning weekend class. I learned a ton and immediately became obsessed with it. Spinning your own yarn is so fabulous because you can control exactly how each length of yarn looks and no two areas have to be the same. After that class, my love of all things yarn-related took on new proportions. I also love the world of crafting because it’s not quite as transient as fashion. In my business we can sell the same yarn year after year. However in the fashion world, a particular sweater design may only be salable for a small window of time. VM: What was the biggest challenge of starting up your own business?
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AS: The hardest thing is definitely cash flow! We buy all of the ingredients that go into our yarns in advance and they take a long time to be delivered to us by sea. So the time between paying for the yarn until the time my company is paid for it is quite a long time. Learning how to manage this has been the hardest part for me since I have more of a design background. Luckily, my hubby is great at all the financial stuff, and he’s helped take a lot of that off my plate. VM: Knit Collage’s mantra is “We hope to inspire your creativity, whatever that craft may be, and make the world a better place along the way.” What responsibilities do you think the fashion world have in making the world a better place? And how does Knit Collage plan on contributing? AS: I think there are a lot of ways the fashion world should aspire to make the world a better place. One of the most obvious ways in which Knit Collage contributes to this is by providing flexible work to 30+ uneducated women in India. Most of the women we employ are also mothers, and on any given day a third of them are out of the spinning studio due to family obligations. We plan our spinning schedule
around this and the women appreciate that they are able to be with their families when need be, while still holding down a good job. We also use recycled sari silk in some of our yarns, which definitely lessens the impact of our yarns on the environment. This fiber is so unique because it is swept off the floor of sari factories during sari production and then sent to us. It is definitely not easy to spin with because it’s quite tangled, but I think finally we’ve figured it out! And last but not least, I hope that Knit Collage makes the world better by encouraging others to embrace their own freedom of expression through how they dress themselves. I get so depressed when I go somewhere and see everyone wearing the same cookiecutter black outfits. I hope our yarn encourages women (and men!) to wear accessories and garments that they feel express their own individuality. VM: All of the yarn spinning for Knit Collage takes place in India, where you provide skills and employment for dozens of women. For you, how important is being involved with the production of your yarns?
special heartfelt gifts too. Anyone who’s been given a handknit gift knows this to be true! These days, I think the trend is towards more one of a kind fashion and accessories and away from mass-produced fashion. An example of this the uber-popular website Etsy (www.etsy.com) where tons of people purchase handmade goods from around the world. Many crafters are able to support themselves through sales from this site alone. There’s a huge resurgence of popular DIY blogs like Design*Sponge (www. designsponge.com), A Beautiful Mess (www.abeautifulmess. com) and The Purl Bee (www. purlbee.com) that also exemplify this attitude. I think all of this is a backlash against the “fast fashion” world that people are sick of.
“I get so depressed when I go somewhere and see everyone wearing the same cookie cutter black outfits.”
AS: I love being in India and teaching the ladies a new technique or skill. They are so excited to show me what they’re working on even though our ability to communicate is difficult because of the language barrier! I love knowing how every aspect of the yarn is made and have taught the women how to spin, spending countless hours perfecting it. I think that if I didn’t know the ins and outs of how it all happens, it would be very hard to understand why things cost what they do, and I’d also have difficulty designing new products. VM: In terms of fashion, Knit Collage promotes a DIY attitude. Do you think that DIY methods face challenges in a culture dominated mainly by fast fashion and mass production? Why do you think creating your own clothes and accessories — by knitting for example — is a valuable pursuit?
VM: On your website, you mention that Knit Collage yarns are unique in that, being handmade, “no two yarns are completely alike.” What are some of the merits in preserving creativity and individuality in our current fashion climate? AS: Personally I’ve always felt that you always need to stay true to yourself to be happy! I try to express my own creativity and individuality through my yarn designs, and without this creative outlet I think I would be very depressed.
VM: Has the Internet, particularly the advent of social media, changed the ways in which crafts and craft communities work? AS: For sure! There’s a hugely popular website called Ravelry which is like Facebook for knitters. It’s an amazing way to share what you’ve been making with your friends. Before you just knit whatever you knit, now you can show it off to the whole world on Ravlery! My business has been featured on a few very popular craft blogs, which has lead to some big sales for us.
AS: Yes! I am a total DIY-er! Once you start it really takes over your life — from cooking to home repairs etc. It’s addictive! There’s nothing better than knitting something (or making anything) exactly the way you want it to be and the feeling you get after you’ve finished making it. Every time I’m making something I have to show my husband about 1,000 times and ask him, “Isn’t this the most amazing thing ever?!” He has to say yes, obviously! Handmade things make such VERTE SPRING 2013
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hautecouterre Photographed by Injee Unshin Makeup by Emmy WilliamS model pew Wutilertcharoenwong
Add some quirk to a white tunic or black tweed pants with interesting details: Patterned leggings and unusual belt clasps keep it fresh. THIS PAGE: Blue drop strap top, $150, Soham Dave, sohamdave.com. Carabina trousers , $310, McColl&Clan, mccollandclan.com. OPPOSITE PAGE: White tunic, Soham Dave, sohamdave.com.
Tweed gets a punk makeover in a pert purple plaid. With a cheeky look like this, stick to more traditional accessories. Purple plaid dress, $510, McColl&Clan, mccollandclan.com.
Neutral ensembles should be a study in textures: silken shirt, velvet leggings, sleek metallic bib. Printed shirt, $75, Soham Dave, sohamdave.com.
The 90s are back, and so are handkerchief hems and chokers. Pair them with streetwise footwear for a savvy modern spin. Blue asymmetric dress, $80 Soham Dave. sohamdave. com.
Who said formalwear has to be dull? Let a brightly printed leg peek from beneath a floor-length gown for some playful shock therapy. Black dress, $940. McColl&Clan, mccollandclan.com.
by Carmina Mancenon
The RAGS Beneath the 36 VERTE SPRING 2013
When Occupy Wall Street protesters targeted the elite at the Calvin Klein runway show at New York City Fashion Week last February, they forgot an ally: the fashion models themselves, who were likely paid for that evening’s work with a tank top. These models would scan through their runway photos in magazines the following morning — a dream world of intricate beauty and dresses more costly than their year’s rent — while sitting on ripped couches in unheated model apartments in the midst of a winter blizzard with an overdue agency bill under their front doors. Jane Randall, a finalist of the TV series America’s Next Top Model and a current Princeton University student, explains that “the first jump for models is to break even.” When models begin their work, the agency gives them a stipend to afford the “capital” costs for their portfolio, including paying for rent in expensive cities and test shoots that cost at least $500. But this stipend automatically enters the account that the models work from. “They’re essentially in debt already,” she says. “There is a 1% to 99% pyramid structure,” according to Sara Ziff, a renowned fashion model and founder of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit labor group for models working in the American fashion industry. “You have incredibly successful models like Giselle and Kate Moss who are making 50 times what most other models on the runway are working. It’s a win and take all market.” In fact, the median annual salary for a fashion model is $27,000 — right in the range of a janitor’s. It’s not easy to
in the industry. They stand at work and are often referred to as ‘she’ or ‘the model’ without eye contact, and are subject to comments such as “she’s never going to fit into this outfit, let’s send her home,” that are made carelessly in front of them. “It can be a very dehumanizing experience,” Ziff says. Even more outrageously, some models have contracts from their agencies that would be null and void should they gain more than two centimeters on their hips. Aside from harsh contracts and low pay, models are also exposed to other less-than-ideal conditions at work. According to industry analysis conducted by the Model Alliance, 30% of models have experienced inappropriate touching on the job and 77% have been exposed to drugs and alcohol on the job. “Certainly the most vulnerable are the very young models in their early teens,” Ziff says. “They are thrusted into this adult market, and the industry doesn’t distinguish between children and adults.” Yet the timing for their modeling is often not under their control. As Ziff says, if “Meisel [a famous photographer] decides he likes you and you’re 13 years old, it’s not really up to you whether you miss school, because you have this moment and you have to capitalize on it.” Randall doesn’t expect this trend to change despite the public movement against hiring young models. “The young girls on the runway … have pre-pubescent bodies that are so thin that they fit in the clothes perfectly like hangers. You can’t get this with older girls. Aesthetic comes first.” Substance abuse constitutes another issue plaguing the
“The median annual salary for a fashion model is $27,000 — right in the range of a janitor’s.” break this chain, since “it takes the top photographers to think your look is creative and put you at the top runway shows,” Randall says. And even at that stage, financial security is far from certain. “70% of the designers who show their collections in New York don’t pay their models. They pay by trade, by clothes. They think they’re doing you a favour,” Ziff explains. Commercials with brands are the main avenue through which models can earn a higher salary. However, Ziff says, “Most models do not have that brand or success. Most models are making very little money.” The reality for most models is not living the life of the rich, postured woman that is portrayed on the runway. Randall recalls a time when she was “on a shoot and everyone was eating lunch. The photographer was eating while shooting. The stylist was eating while fixing me. I was on set saying ‘I’m starving.’ They told me ‘you’re not supposed to be into this.’ But it had been 10 hours!” According to Ziff, many of the models that work with the Model Alliance ask how the organization is going to help the fact that models are given very little respect or recognition
modeling industry. On this topic, Randall adds, “It’s weird when you see a 15-year-old Brazilian girl taking shots in a classy bar, and a 40 year old investment banker around her. They should really be at home.” However, substance use may not be as bleak as the statistics may suggest, at least if you have an education from a place like Princeton University as a protective shield around you. The first time Randall saw drugs was over a year into her stay in NYC. “There’s definitely a shady side to night hotspots for models. But I think I was able to relatively navigate the waters clearly because I go to Princeton. I was treated nicer because of that.” Until more attention is given to these hidden yet pervasive problems in the modeling industry, agencies and fashion houses alike will continue to exploit models. But for now, in such a world governed by taste-making, reputation, and relationships, in the words of Jane Randall: “You just can’t complain.”
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The Science of Scent by Helen Yang
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hile fashion trends like bell bottom jeans and scrunched socks come and go (and leave some of us cringing when resuscitated every once in a while), perfume is one of those classic fashion staples that will never go out of style. A good perfume choice can be expressive of our personalities and moods and be the finishing touch to a stylish outfit. However, for the environment- and health-conscious fashionista, choosing the perfect perfume should go beyond the appeal of the scent. It is commonly believed that the perfume we buy is from flowers and herbs, the truth is that it is mostly chemicals extracted from petroleum crude oil, although proponents of synthetic perfume argue that it is preferable to the practice of slaughtering animals for the collection of their oils, such as the fragrant ambergris of the sperm whale. It is of serious concern as to what consequences this may have on our health, considering that our skin absorbs these aromatic scents when we apply them. A 2005 Greenpeace study found that there are two groups of harmful chemicals in perfumes: phthalate esters and synthetic musk. They are slow to break down, and their use results in unknown long-term consequences. Another study based at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station found that synthetic musk encourages toxic bioaccumulation. When applied to California mussels, they found that the musk inhibited the mussels’ natural defenses against toxicants. They also found that musk is contained in human tissue and fat,long after you spritz that supposedly glamorous mist onto your skin. Their discovery is alarming for two reasons: This stuff is potentially and most likely harmful, and not enough research has been conducted to know exactly how it affects the body. It doesn’t end there. There are also environmental
concerns about the production of perfume. The majority of perfumes are from synthetic sources derived from a chemical called Toluene. According to US Environmental Protection Agency, toluene is a colorless, flammable liquid, occurring naturally in petroleum crude oil. Petroleum crude oil is the largest source of toluene. Petroleum is a nonrenewable resource, and the manufacturing of perfume is energyintensive. It seems like we’re caught in a lose-lose situation: smell nice and stink up the environment, or eschew the much loved (and not to mention essential) perfume from our wardrobe, but maintain our conscience. The end? Enter the hero that saves the day: eco-friendly perfumes. Given the negative health and environmental consequences of synthetic perfumes, many fragrance companies are making eco-friendly choices. These choices decrease their carbon footprint by choosing more responsible sources of energy in the production process, adding ingredients that are natural (not from petroleum) and from sustainable sources. One such company is Aveda, which produces its perfumes from “green ingredients” and are “naturally derived.” Because these terms can be quite vague and ambiguous, the company defines them in detail as to what the manufacturing of the perfumes specifically entails. On Aveda’s website, the term “green ingredient” means that ingredients will be biodegradable, provide fair compensation to the suppliers, involve environmentally responsible processing (steam distillation rather than chemical extraction of essential oils), and will not negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced. Another example of Aveda’s efforts to be environmentally friendly is their use of wind energy in the manufacturing process; this reduces the carbon footprint and emission of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The perfumes are also naturally derived, a designation that the company defines as derived from a plant, non-petroleum mineral, inorganic or other natural source, such as water. Another company that is practicing eco-friendly manufacturing of perfumes is Rich-Hippie. This company strives for peace and harmony with Mother Nature. Following in the time-honored tradition of creating perfume from the lovely ingredients of nature, Rich-Hippie uses all-natural and chemical-free fragrances. It also chooses its ingredients from plants that have been organically farmed. Organic farming is environmentally friendly because it eschews the use of the use of synthetic “-cides” (e.g. pesticides), fertilizers, and growth hormones. These harmful chemicals can cause runoffs that seep into the ground, contaminate freshwater resources, and damage the balance of the surrounding ecosystem. When it comes to choosing the right perfume, it can be very difficult to find out whether the perfume contains dangerous and environmentally dangerous chemicals. In fact, it is almost impossible, since fragrance companies choose not to disclose all of the ingredients. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and analyzed by Environmental Working Group found 38 secret chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and EWG, fragrance secrecy is legal due to a loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973. In other words, it is very difficult
for consumers like you and me to make an informed decision about what to spray on our bodies the next time we go shopping. Because it is difficult to know exactly what has gone into any given perfume, it is best to buy from companies that vow to use all-natural, organic ingredients. Fear not; though the perfumes are “green,” they won’t leave you smelling like freshly-mowed grass. There are many environmentally conscious companies and a wide range of products that will complement your mood and outfit perfectly.
Light and Refreshing Acorelle’s Eau Fraiche Tea Garden A refreshing mist of lemon, lavender, and mint with notes of gaiac wood and violet leaves — a scent worthy of its name and the environmentally-conscious fashionista.
Mysterious and Warm Pacifica’s Tibetan Mountain Temple A tranquil blend of Vetiver and Indonesian Patchouli with a misty touch of orange and ginger.
Feminine and Sweet Rich-Hippie’s Spring A floral fragrance that is both light and feminine, with balmy notes of French honey bee extract and organic Indian Jasmine.
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By Summer Shaw
ortobello Road, a long winding road in the Notting Hill district of London, may at first seem like a typical English street, dotted with charming boutiques and cafés. On Saturdays, however, it transforms into a bustling antiques market that attracts merchants from all around London to set up shop. Hordes of consumers, locals, and tourists alike, descend upon the famed Portobello Road Market to browse stalls lining both sides of the street, displaying goods ranging from old gramophones and antique vases to Victorian costume jewelry and, above all, vintage clothing. Offering clothing from a vast array of time periods and locations,Portobello Road has, unsurprisingly, long been
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a source of inspiration for fashion designers and celebrities alike. Alexander McQueen was known to frequent Portobello Road Market to buy vintage clothing, the styles of which would often form the basis of later collections. Both the Spice Girls and Amy Winehouse used to intermix items bought from Portobello Road Market with their onstage costumes. Indeed, Portobello vendor Helen, who has managed an ordinary street stall selling vintage clothing and accessories every Saturday for 35 years now, once sold a silk Chinese dress to the pop star Kylie Minogue in person, and she even has Kylie Minogue’s autograph for proof. While there has been a resurgence of interest in vintage fashion over the past decade — with vintage clothing being
championed by stylish celebrities and entering mainstream fashion — the ordinary stall holders of Portobello Road are finding it increasingly difficult to survive. The economic recession is undoubtedly a key reason behind the declining profitability of vintage sellers, but many other factors must also be taken into account. Increased competition in the clothing market has reduced the sales of individual stallholders. Huge global brands such as H&M mass-produce clothing in factories overseas that are often sold at lower prices than the “used” vintage clothes found on Portobello Road. There has even been an invasion of cheap, manufactured clothing to Portobello Road, as savvy entrepreneurs buy clothing in bulk from factories and sell
them at higher prices alongside stalls selling vintage clothing on Portobello Road. However, the quality of such mass-produced clothing is often very low, especially in comparison to vintage fashion. After all, as Helen astutely commented, “If a dress has survived for 50 years, you know it’s good quality.” Alongside the advent of vintage fashion into public consciousness, there has also been increased competition within the vintage clothing market itself. Many mainstream fashion brands have adopted vintage lines such as Urban Outfitters’ “Urban Renewal” line and American Apparel’s “California Select” vintage line. Ordinary vintage stallholders have nowhere near the resources necessary to compete with the mass publicity campaigns and broad geographical reach of VERTE SPRING 2013
these brands. Moreover, the higher unemployment rate resulting from the economic recession has prompted some of the newly unemployed to join the ranks of vintage sellers in order to make a living. One such example is that of Peter, who lost his job in 2009. After living off his savings for a couple months, he decided to try to enter the vintage market, which at the time was “easy money” due to the huge demand but low supply of vintage clothing. He started with a stall in Truman Brewery, near Brick Lane in East London, and then moved to a stall in the Portobello Road Market, which he called “le Petit Bazaar.” This was so profitable that he was eventually able to buy his own store on Portobello Road, “Goldsmith Vintage.” While Peter’s personal story is one of success, many other vendors are not as lucky. The continual influx of new vintage sellers has made competition today even more brutal than competition at the beginning of the recession, so much so that even established stores such as Peter’s Goldsmith Vintage are finding it difficult to profit. According to Peter, it is crucial that vintage sellers follow contemporary fashion trends in the clothing that they stock, or else they will be left behind. Peter noted that particularly popular items at present include sheepskin jackets, fur coats, heavy knit sweaters and dresses from the 50s and the 70s. In marked contrast to the struggles of ordinary stallholders, business for One of a Kind, a boutique of designer vintage clothing, is booming. Celebrities such as Kate Moss, Rihanna and Madonna have all visited One of a Kind; indeed, so many celebrities visit that One of a Kind has a special VIP room upstairs and prohibits photography within the store. Calvin Opaleye, a model/ stylist and current employee of One of Kind, attributes their success to their “designer niche” in vintage. This suggests that the current trend of designer fashion being profitable in spite of the recession extends to vintage fashion. According to Calvin, “vintage is timeless,” and the high quality of designer vintage pieces, surviving decades of wear, makes them deserving of their high price. After all, the oldest piece in their collection is from the 1880s, and
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"If a dress has survived for 50 years, you know it's good quality." One of a Kind proudly possesses one of the first Chanel bags ever made in 1931, which, Calvin asserts, will never be sold. Despite the differences between boutiques of designer vintage and ordinary stallholders, in the spirit of true London pride, all vintage sellers agreed on one point: London is not only a fashion capital, but also â€œthe vintage capitalâ€? of the world. However, if vintage sellers in the vintage capital are
struggling, the longevity of the vintage industry in other parts of the world where vintage clothing is even less prominent is seriously called into question. While vintage lines of mainstream clothing lines are beneficial to raising awareness of vintage fashion, protecting ordinary vintage sellers is crucial to maintaining the essence of vintage fashion: passing down individual styles of clothing from generation to generation.
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Fashion With A Conscience Tabitha St. Bernard, owner and designer of TABii JUST interviewed by Isabella Peraertz photographed by Kelsey Dennison
abitha St. Bernard designs clothes with a conscience. Her new Tabii JUST line follows a zero-waste policy and exhibits a free-flowing, vibrant, and elegantly structured aesthetic. In her Spring 2013 collection, look for motifs and colors like electric blue, punchy red, and earthy prints. Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Tabitha St. Bernard came to the United States when she was only 19 years old. She earned a B.A. in Psychology, but she had always harbored a passion for fashion. When she turned 25 years old, she decided to turn over a new leaf and pursue her passion for fashion design. So she enrolled at The Fashion Institute of Technology and kick-started her journey as a fashion designer. Internships with fashion powerhouses, such as Vivienne Tam and Tahari ASL, drove her to discover her love for sustainable fashion. These experiences mentored and supported her until November 2012, when she launched her own line. Her love for her environment, both planet Earth and New York City, manifests itself in her line, which is
notably made in New York City itself. When we made it to Tabitha’s home and studio, we were greeted by an edgy woman with a fabulous half-shaved haircut and a demurely striking yet sexy red dress. Her accessories added just the right amount of spice to top off her ensemble. It was immediately apparent that this woman has the brains, guts, and beauty to make it in the fashion industry — and judging from the way the Arielle dress fit her so beautifully, she has the skills to make a lasting impression. Tabitha has already made such an impression on the sustainable fashion world. She is a fashion and beauty blogger for many websites while maintaining her own blog, Tabs on Fashion. Sitting on her couch in her chic living room — complete with a wall-to-wall bookshelf full of travel books and fabulous Mexican masks coloring the stark white walls — and settling ourselves next to her bunny rabbit, “Gangster Chanel,” we got a taste for the formula that sets Tabitha St. Bernard and TABii JUST apart from the rest. Beginning in April of 2013, the Tabii JUST collection will be available at Kaight in Brooklyn, modavanti.com, purecitizen. com, givengoods.co, and tabiijust.com. VERTE SPRING 2013
VM: Where did the idea for your line’s zero-waste policy come from, and how does it work? Tabitha: I wanted to make my line sustainable; I knew that I wanted to be eco-conscious. I wanted to make my line because I wanted to do fashion with a difference. So, I was looking at eco-friendly ways to do things and I happened upon a professor at Parsons who is doing his Ph.D. on the concept of not wasting any fabric. His concept is that you start with a block of fabric and you fit the pattern into it in a sort of one-size-fits-all manner, but I didn’t really want to do that. So I felt like that wasn’t it for me, but reading his work really resonates with me — this idea of not wasting anything — and I started reading that 15 percent of the fabric that we use to make our clothing is tossed out and it goes to landfills, and I just realized that I wanted to do fashion, which in itself is a very indulgent thing to do. But I wanted to find a way that we could do it by wasting less. So, I started experimenting with how to make my clothes without any waste, and it has been an evolution of sorts. We’re at a point now where I make a basic pattern in a way to use as much yard as possible, and I take the extras and make a regular headband, or a bag, or something depending on how much waste it is. And now we’re in the middle of signing a contract with a toymaker to send her the little scraps. I didn’t know what to do with tiny pieces — you can’t put that on a bag; it’s going to fall off, it’s going to fray. She’s going to use the scraps to stuff toys. VM: Are the headbands and handbags successful? T: We’ve had a good response to them. I just think it’s safer for people to purchase the bags and the headbands than it is for them to purchase the dresses. Especially if they can’t really afford the dresses, because the dresses go from $200 to $250. That’s partly because we make it locally, so the price is a little higher. But for people who want to support the line but can’t really afford the dresses, it’s nice for them just to have a bag — and it’s still the same type of print and the same pretty colors. So it’s really nice for them. We’re going to be at Redress Rally in North Carolina in March, and we’re hoping to sell the handbags and headbands there as well. VM: Have your designs been influenced by your trying to waste less fabric? T: Definitely. I mean, naturally, I like edgier clothing, but I’ve found that my aesthetic has developed into things that are more comfortable and free-flowing, because when you make something that is more structured, there tends to be a lot of excess waste. I mean, our line is growing, and now that we can send our waste to places like the toymaker, I can still make my structured looks but still have it be no-waste. VM: What is the manufacturing process for the clothes in your line? T: When we first started off, I was looking for ways to save money, so I would make all of the prototypes myself and I made the bags myself as well. Then it was a matter of me
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doing the patterns and then sending them to the factory for them to make samples and then for them to actually produce the clothing. When we got more funding, I started off wanting to have a professional sample maker, but I realized I would be letting go of some of the control of making the pattern and when you let go of that kind of control, you’re never really sure of what waste they’re actually wasting. So, when I make the pattern myself, I know exactly how much waste there is and when the factory comes back and shows me their sample, I can go “Oh, that makes sense; that is what I got when I made the sample.” So, it’s pretty much me making the prototype — the difference between a prototype and a sample is that I don’t finish the seams — and I have a fit model, so she comes over and tries it out and she gives me feedback about how it fits. Once I finish the garment and am happy with it, I figure out what the excess product is — I have a little bin in my room and I put all my little scraps in there — and at the end of the month, I put it in a box and send it off to the toymaker. After that, I finish the pattern and go over to the factory and give it to her, and she would then make a production sample. Once it’s pretty close to what I’ve made, then we can go into production. VM: What are your tips for making sure that your factory is not cutting corners? How do you go about controlling whether they’re up to your sustainable standards? T: I think that so much about fashion is about relationships and getting to know people and figuring out who is on the same wavelength as you. So if you’re having a discussion with someone and even when you go look at the factory, you can see how they treat the fabric. Like, if you see scraps on the floor then that probably tells you that they’re not completely in line with zero-waste. So there are many little clues along the way but it’s about really getting to know the people you work with and make sure you can trust them — Oh! And get to know the product well because if you don’t know what you’re doing and how much your product wastes, they know what they’re doing; they’ll tell you whatever and at the end of the day it’s a business. VM: You’re obviously really involved with the New York community. How do you infuse your love for the city and your Caribbean heritage into your designs? T: Well, I left Trinidad when I was nineteen and it’s so much a part of who I am; I could never be “completely New York” or make my clothes “completely New York.” I feel like Trinidad has really shaped who I am. When I first started observing clothes on women and really enjoying clothes, it was in Trinidad. It was in a warm climate, and I grew up in a very religious home, so the way you dressed was in those guidelines. It’s just a part of who I am. And then I live currently in Brooklyn, so what seeps into my mind is a lot of New York. VM: How long did it take you to create that amazing dress? Are you happy with your designs? T: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t want to start the line until I was happy
with my designs. My first thought was to launch a line with just one zero-waste top. Then I started experimenting and then I saw these prints and fell in love with them. It is a constant process. My mind is constantly in motion and I do a lot of browsing as well. Like, I go to Bergdorf Goodman and I just window-shop and browse and start looking at how other people make their clothes. I start to think, “Well, how can I do that? How can I do that without wasting fabric?” Like, reconfiguring things. So yeah, it’s like a continuous thing — my mind is like a switch; it’s always on.
ganic sort of way. In a year’s time I want to sell clothes in a couple stores and sell online in a couple places. I don’t want most of our revenue to be from our online sales because I don’t want to be regarded as just an online store, but maybe ten to fifteen years down the line, I’ll be able to have a team of people manning just the store. But I’m not at that point yet and I don’t want to be at that point when I’m not ready to be at that point. VM: I find it quite admirable that you’re sort of holding yourself back, like not tying yourself to rushing the job.
VM: Wow! You must love it, then! T: Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of fun. It’s hard for me to go to sleep at night because I have to stop myself from thinking. [Laughs] But it’s great; I mean, fashion is exciting. VM: How do you see your line growing? T: I feel like we’re going to grow at a very natural rate; I feel like everything that’s happened has happened in a really or-
T: Yeah, thank you! But, it’s sort of been like, I am naturally a very Type-A person. [Chuckles] I like to control everything. But, one of the reasons behind me wanting to do my own line is that I wanted a better quality of life. I didn’t want to be working, like, ten hours a day and exhausted. I mean, I was at a point where I was working, like, three jobs and it got to thepoint where I was almost 30 and working at Tahari, but I was not happy. So I wanted to figure it out: “What does it take to get to my own happiness?” VERTE SPRING 2013
Arielle dress, $300, Tabii JUST, Kaight inVERTE Brooklyn SPRING 2013
VM: What kind of branding do you see your line moving into? T: I think we have sort of a distinct identity, where it’s a very easy-going, not very trend-based line, although we do like trendy stuff. I think that we’re very urban at the same time and we do have some sexy pieces. So we’re for the woman who enjoys dressing up but that doesn’t feel like she has to show every curve of her body. VM: Tell us a little bit about how your time at Tahari has influenced the creation of your line. T: The CEO there really taught me about how to treat [fashion] like a business and how to look at the clothes by trying to appreciate what is beautiful, but also trying to appreciate what is going to sell, because at my stage I’m not really producing clothes for press or for fashion shows. So I need to make clothes that are going to sell. So it was a very intense time for me, but it was very eye-opening. It really taught me so much about the fashion industry and what I want and what I didn’t want for my line. VM: So, trying to fuse together the business with the artform aspect of fashion, who is the girl you want to design for? T: The girl I want to design for is very sharp. She is very aware of trends and very aware of how to dress herself and what looks good on her body. My woman does not necessarily have a specific look, but she knows how to dress her own body. She’s a bit of an idealist. She loves fashion, but she loves the earth as well, so she’s trying to do better with her fashion choices. My clothes won’t really appeal to teenagers, I don’t think, because they have so much personality. It’s really about women who have started looking at clothes as investment pieces; it’s not something that you just throw on to look like people on TV. VM: So it seems like you really want people to appreciate the patterns that you have put so much work into. T: Which is hard, because I think when you have lines like H&M that bring out new stock, like, every week, it’s hard to get people to be conscious of the fact that we aren’t at a point yet in this world where making clothes is automated. Making clothes requires so much more than just telling a machine to make a garment. If you’re charging $15 a shirt, it’s about how much are the producers getting paid for all this hard work, which makes you think twice. So it’s more of the older crowd, like the college-age kids who start thinking about, “Well, where is this coming from? Who is making this? What are the conditions under which people are working?” VM: Do you have any advice for student entrepreneurs who want to start up in the fashion industry? T: I would say, definitely intern and work for somebody else for a while before you jump out on your own. Never forget your dreams. I think that people who have that entrepreneurial spirit — you know deep down inside, no matter what
you do, that you want to do your own thing, but sort of suck it up for a little while, and work for somebody else. When I was at FIT, I heard over and over again, “Learn on somebody else’s dime.” Go out there and make mistakes on somebody else’s dime, because I’ll tell you for sure, as an emerging designer, I am making mistakes and it is costing money. So, it’s a choice that I’m making at the end of the day to make sometimes costly errors. So the more you’re willing to stand working for somebody else and learning from them, I think you probably should intern. And it doesn’t mean that you have to do things that you don’t like doing. Look for companies that are in line with what you want to do with your free time and learn from them and suck in that knowledge. VM: Is the rumored cutthroat nature of the fashion industry real, or is it a myth? T: I think that every industry is a little cutthroat. I think that if you’re determined and you know what you want, there are always going to be people who think that you’re too naive. Since so many people want to get into fashion, I feel like it’s easier for those in power to say “Next!”—I mean, it’s a hard industry. I’ve had really good experiences with the sustainable fashion world. I mean, I’ve met some really cool people and they’ve all been supportive—even in the general fashion industry. I kind of try to focus on the positive, you know, in everything you do there’s going to be people that are going to discourage you and put you down and you just sort of have to brush it off. VM: Where did your love for fashion and fashion design come from? T: That’s a good question. I gotta be honest, I feel like, and this is so cliché [laughs], I was born with it. From as far back as I can remember, I always noticed what other people were wearing and tried to think about how to make clothes. Back home in Trinidad there’s a culture of—back home we didn’t really buy clothes—you would buy the fabric and take it to the seamstress and she would make the clothes. So that’s what I did mostly; I would spend all of this time sketching clothes and I would take it to my aunt and she would do what I wanted. Then growing up, my granny lived over here, and she would buy me all these clothes but her idea of my size was so skewed that she would buy me things that would never fit [laughs], but it was really cute stuff! So I would sort of cut it and remake it so that it would fit my body. So, yeah, fashion design has always been a huge part of who I am. VM: What’s your definition of sustainable fashion? T: I think that sustainable fashion is fashion with a conscience. It’s pretty much any way to approach fashion where you’re thinking, like, “How can we do this in a better way? How can we be really responsible with our clothes and what we’re wearing?” There are so many ways to be sustainable now that I think it’s really fun what’s happening right now.
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A Model of Progress Comparing the strategies and outcomes of TOMS and Indego Africa By Jacqueline Cremos
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Indego Africa founder Matt Mitro
t’s not often that a social enterprise like TOMS, with its trademark canvas shoes and casual indie vibe, becomes a household name. In fact, the company is at the forefront of a growing movement of conscious consumers who want their purchases to make a difference. But is it a positive difference? With companies like Indego Africa, a Rwandabased organization bringing the products created by local women artisans to a global market, TOMS may no longer be ahead of the curve. TOMS’ motto is “One for One.” For every pair of shoes it sells, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country in one of more than forty countries all over the world (although you might not know it looking at the stock pictures of African children in TOMS’ annual Giving Report). Durable shoes can protect young feet from soilborne diseases and rough terrain. This makes the long walk to school a little easier and improves the child’s chances at receiving an education. While the need for shoes seems like an insignificant problem next to the other calamities sweeping the developing world, it’s exactly this narrow focus
that has made TOMS a successful social enterprise. Having a pair of shoes can make a meaningful impact in a single child’s life, improving her chances of getting an education and protecting her from disease. Indego Africa is a non-governmental, non-profit social enterprise. While TOMS exists to make a profit (although it began its giving program before turning a profit), Indego uses its resources to maximize human welfare, in this case by stimulating entrepreneurship among women living in poverty. Indego sells products created by Rwandan female artisans on its online store and in over 80 retail stores in the United States. The organization also sets up collaborations between artisan cooperatives and brands like J. Crew and Nicole Miller, also available online. What’s distinctive about this enterprise is that it invests 100% of its profits (mostly donations) into training the women in business, management and technology. They also receive training in health and literacy, skills which often translate into increased opportunities for their children. Investing in women is the best way to ensure that families will benefit. In Rwanda, oneVERTE SPRING 2013
third of all households are headed by women, making them ideal partners in Indego Africa’s mission. However, femaleled households are also 12 percent more likely to earn less than $1 a day (roughly the poverty line). Since 2008, the percentage of Indego artisans earning less than $1 a day has fallen from nearly 100 percent to about 30 percent. According to Indego’s 2011 Social Impact Report, more families have running water, telephones, and electricity in their homes. Before getting into the differences that might make one or the other a more successful company, I should first point out that both TOMS and Indego Africa are based outside the regions which they are trying to help. TOMS is based in Santa Monica, California, and Indego Africa is incorporated in Houston, Texas with regional headquarters in New York and Rwanda. According to their own websites, both organizations seem to be managed in the United States with varying degrees of input and feedback from their regional offices. These business models can invite the accusation that, as far as charities go, they’re a case of Whites in Shining Armor (coined by the blog Good Intentions Are Not Enough). The term refers to cases in which Western international charities receive much more media attention than homegrown social enterprises. This can create the impression that developing countries need foreign philanthropy much more than they actually do. Just because a charity is US-based does not mean it cannot do a good job. But because it is coming from the outside (at least according to public perception), a foreign charity has to put a lot more effort into research and local partnerships. Indego works directly with the women it is trying to help. TOMS researches communities to assess their need for shoes and establishes partnerships with local charities to improve distribution and feedback. More importantly, it looks for communities that don’t already have established local businesses that can provide the shoes themselves. This is crucial because charities can be notorious for squeezing out local vendors by giving away their product for nothing. This undermines local economies in ways that donations cannot fix. It is impossible to compete with philanthropy.
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TOMS For-profit commercial company Sells its own product: canvas shoes (branching out into eyewear) Consumer covers cost of donated shoes Shoes manufactured in fair-trade factories in China, Ethiopia, Argentina
Empowerment lies at the heart of organizations like TOMS and Indego Africa. A social enterprise helps people by giving them the resources and opportunities to thrive on their own terms. At first glance, TOMS looks like it’s swooping in with things that people didn’t ask for and they don’t need. It arguably provides an outlet for Western consumers to feel good about their purchases — and therefore keep making them — without actually helping anyone. Kevin at A Personal Diaspora argues that soil-borne disease has very little to do with shoes. Without proper sanitation, a child might still be susceptible to these illnesses. Still, children in developing countries often have to walk miles to get to school; shoes can help them navigate the rough terrain. Many shoes require students to wear black shoes. TOMS claims that it researches local needs before setting up its projects. It seeks out areas
Indego Africa Non-profit social enterprise Middleman for artisanal cooperatives: jewelry, clothing, textiles 100% of profits reinvested in training programs Products created by artisanal cooperatives in Rwandan communities
where there is an acute need for shoes. Critics argue that this giving program creates dependency on foreign aid, and specifically on shoes. Wearing shoes can diminish your immunity to soil-borne pathogens. When the shoes wear out, you are left to contend with those same pathogens, only this time without any immunity to them. TOMS has to keep on giving more shoes whenever the old ones wear out (and from the looks of them, canvas shoes can’t have a very long lifespan) for the rest of the wearer’s life, or until he can support himself enough to buy his own shoes. TOMS is counting on the latter, hoping that shoes, in the context of broader health and education initiatives set up by local and global charities, will improve a child’s chances of buying her own pair of shoes. Sustainable development work needs to give its
recipients a stake in the process. Not only is it more efficient to let people allocate their own income, but it is integral to their dignity. The mission of Indego Africa is to empower Rwandan women by bringing their products to the global market. In 2010, the enterprise developed a line of fair trade textiles and bangles with designer Nicole Miller. 15 percent of the proceeds went to Indego Africa. The artisan women decide what to make, and they decide what to do with their expanding income. With more business and financial training, their ability to make informed decisions grows. The main difference between the two organizations is the direction of the supply chain. With TOMS, the product starts in the developed world; although the shoes are produced in developing countries, namely Ethiopia, Argentina and China, corporate headquarters is in Santa Monica, California. With Indego Africa (which is based in Texas), the innovation originates in Rwanda, which is the focus of the company’s development work. That said, it’s important to realize that a non-profit social enterprise like Indego Africa has different goals from a commercial company like TOMS. Indego Africa sets out to foster entrepreneurship. TOMS is the entrepreneur, and they are trying to sell their own product, not market someone else’s. TOMS has brought socially conscious enterprise into the mainstream. The company’s model offers a lot to social enterprises looking to get started. Start narrow. Ask questions. Get feedback. Indego Africa, while it is a different kind of organization, builds on these lessons. Trust your clients. Teach them to succeed on their own (even if it means they won’t need you anymore). Empower.
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The Fine Print
Chemical cocktails are best served bottled. by Gavin Cook
he penis sizes of men across the world have decreased by 10 percent over the past 50 years. This is bad news. Many pundits propose that one of the main reasons for this is the increasing levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment around us. While it will take a lot of concerted action to get these chemicals banned in the US, you can take steps to limit your exposure. One of the most significant things you can do keep your body clean inside and out is use natural cosmetics. Go grab your shampoo bottle. Read the ingredients. Now read this. As a male, there is no shortage of reasons why you should pay attention to how you groom yourself. Women notice it. Men respect it. That, unfortunately, is as far as most men go. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that what you use to groom yourself has wide implications for you, your health, and the planet. For me — and many other men — grooming products were the gateway to toxins reform, a controversial and criminally underreported issue. Most grooming products are carefully engineered chemical cocktails engineered mostly to smell good and look interesting, but there are natural formulations that do the same thing less expensively and with less toxic load. Modern cosmetics are a very recent invention. Humans have been grooming themselves for thousands of years, but the competition between Pantene Pro-V and Garnier Fructis has been raging for a miniscule fraction of that. The basic ingredients of most chemical cosmetics don’t change from year to year. The “fluff” like fragrances and dyes are the only things that vary. Scents and colors are exciting, yes, but they’re terrible for you and the planet. In the quest to outsmell each other, cosmetics companies have littered the body of the average American with a laundry list of toxic chemicals. Your skin is not plastic. It’s very porous, and it absorbs most of what you put on it. Ergo, be careful what you put on it. Toxins are found in every part of most commercial cosmetics. Some are active ingredients that have friendlier alternatives. The classic example is the foaming agent sodium laureth sulfate — it’s not friendly on its own, but it is often contaminated with dioxin, which is virulently carcinogenic. Other foaming agents exist, but even then, foaming agents aren’t necessary to wash hair. Another example: Animal placenta protein, which disrupts hormone activity and is all-around nasty,
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is used thicken hair in some shampoos. Simple olive oil does the same job. Most commercial deodorants contain aluminum salts to clog pores and stop sweating. These salts also cause degenerative disease in the brain, which nobody wants. Natural deodorants don’t stop sweating, but they can nip odor in the bud just as well as Axe (and they don’t smell like a middle school slow dance). The worst ingredients, however, are fragrances and dyes. They do nothing to change how the product interacts with your tissues and are notoriously toxic. They do no good and cause lots of harm. To put it bluntly, there is no good reason they should be in anything. These show up on labels as “fragrance” or something like “FD & C Yellow 5”. Avoiding these can be tricky not only because the formulations of fragrances vary widely, but also because the FDA allows cosmetics manufacturers to be vague, letting cosmetic companies claim that their exact formulations are “trade secrets.” It’s impossible to know just by looking at a bottle of shampoo if the “fragrance” is laden with testosterone-
options: Use natural brands, or make your own. Do some research and find out what makes you most comfortable. You can save some serious cash and feel content knowing you’re doing your body a massive favor. As an example, I had cystic acne that didn’t respond to anything I tried. I had no desire to go on Accutane or strong antibiotics, and found my (super cheap) saviors in Fuller’s Earth, a clay that repairs acne scars, and Prid’s Drawing Salve, a farm remedy for boils. I apply a clay mask with Fuller’s Earth and slap on some Prid’s Drawing Salve before nighttime. That regimen, combined with dietary changes, cleared up my skin really, really quickly. I use a natural toothpaste and supplement it with baking soda, and I’ve found a solid natural shampoo and conditioner brand. Depending on how hardcore you want to go, you can experiment with vinegar and oil for hair. I’m also a huge fan of natural bar soap, which is a lot more ecofriendly than liquid soap and really easy to find. It’s fun to shop for, too. Whether you admit it or not, smelling soap is a
“Most commercial deodorants contain aluminum salts to clog pores and stop sweating. These salts also cause degenerative disease in the brain, which nobody wants.” eating endocrine disruptors. Dyes are a little more obvious. There are two types of dyes: FD & C, which means the dye is approved for food, drugs, and cosmetics; and D & C, which aren’t food-safe, but, according to the FDA, totally fine to put all over your face. On cosmetic labels, sometimes the “FD & C” (which stands for “Food, Drug, and Cosmetic”) portion of a dye’s name is omitted — especially if the dye is just D & C-approved. Makeup is especially toxic. A handful of extremely heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, are sometimes used to give lipstick a deep red tint. Natural lipsticks do exist (though the FDA is very touchy about allowing natural dyes in cosmetics), and many men and women swear by them. But before you go try to find natural makeup, consider the option of going barefaced — the most natural look of all. Most of the ingredients in “natural” makeup are not thoroughly tested. The screening processes for cosmetic chemicals are notoriously lax, and many harmful ingredients that are outright banned in the European Union are widely used in America. Even worse, if the chemicals are tested at all, they’re not tested for synergistic effects. This should scare you. The relatively new field of mixture toxicology, which researches the effects of multiple toxins in the body, is turning out some horrifying results. The EU has been at the vanguard of toxicology sciences, and they’ve crafted very strict regulations for cosmetic ingredients. If this scares you at all, don’t worry — eliminating these toxins from your bathroom and body is easy. You have two
blast. The best part is that natural products are easy to find — there’s even natural deodorant for sale at the U-Store! All of this is just a small segment of toxins reform. There are thousands upon thousands of nasty chemicals that we encounter in our daily lives — brain-damaging fire retardants in furniture, endocrine disruptors in canned food, toxic plastic softeners in water bottles, pesticide residues in food, and toxins in the air we breathe. There’s no easy fix for all of this. While individual action only lets you avoid a fraction of these toxins, it can make a significant difference, and every purchase of natural cosmetics lets industries know that we, as a nation, want better regulation of toxins. Shampoo was my gateway into toxins reform. Hopefully, it can be yours as well. Avoiding these chemicals and staying healthy isn’t difficult. Use the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” database. Shop consciously. You’ll look good and feel better knowing you’re doing you and your future kids a favor.
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LIST Apple & Bee
wooden handle clutch, $85 Inspired by nannas and weekends away, this embroidered wooden clutch is reminiscent of days gone by. Made from organic cotton and bamboo silk. www.appleandbeeusa.com.
Wildlife Works black rhino tank, $38 o
The worldâ€™s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) company uses a carbon neutral supply chain to raise conservation of biodiversity awareness. 100% organic cotton, cut and sewn in Kenya and screen printed in San Francisco. www.shop.wildlifeworks.com.
Mercando Global sol earrings, $86
Empowers indigenous women in Guatemala to overcome poverty and become agents of change in their communities. Hand formed and hammered. www.mercandoglobal.org.
Patagonia synchilla vest, $79
Patagonia combines old soda bottles, unusable second-quality fabrics, and worn-out garments to create its lightweight vest. The fleece is also 100% recyclable through thecompanyâ€™s Common Threads take-back program.. www.patagonia.com.
sweetgrass bangle set, $36 Woven by the women of Imirasire Cooperative, these colorful bracelets are hand-dyed in perfect summer shades with love from Rwanda. www.indegoafrica.org.
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Obakki red scarf, $36 100% of the proceeds from the purchase of this scarf is used to drill water wells in South Sudan. www.obakki.com.
powder brush, $7.99
This ultra-soft cruelty-free brush delivers an even, all-over dusting of powder. Made using recycled aluminum ferrule and bamboo.
klean kanteen reflect water bottle, $38 This is not any old camping flask. Built from stainless steel, foodgrade silicone, and sustainably harvested bamboo. No paint, no plastic, no rubber seals.
Love is Mighty uma shoes, $195
100% handmade and vegan. No two pairs are the same. Made using recycled plastic and woven in looms by artisans in rural India. www.loveismighty.com.
extra-rich hand cream, $25 Aloe Vera, shea and cocoa butters soothe and smooth, while argan and hazel nut oils repair damaged skin with an organic commitment. www.usa.melvita.com. VERTE SPRING 2013
SUMMER RAYNE OAKES Avante garde activist and Eco model entrepreneur shares her path from then to now and into tomorrow Interviewed by Vivian Wang and Injinash Unshin Photographed by John Rozer
Take away Summer Rayne Oakes’ cell phone for three days and she would be in bliss. The twenty-eight year old eco-model claims, “You’re not missing anything by turning off your cell phone or not opening up your computer screen for a few days. The only thing you’re missing is the full potential of what you could be doing or creating. Sometimes it’s just about sitting and thinking, and dreaming and getting into your imagination.” You wouldn’t expect that someone with Summer’s list of accomplishments — from co-founder of the online textile marketplace Source4Style to author of fashion guide Style, Naturally, and being the world’s first eco-model — could even fathom turning her phone off for a couple days. But even though she isn’t in constant communication with other people at home, she still has good company. This is a woman who shares her home with several insects and over 200 plants. “My bugs, they come and go because their lifespans are short lived.” She even plans on turning her closet into “a kitchen closet” used to grow a variety of herbs and vegetables. It’s no surprise that Summer surrounds herself with elements of nature. After receiving degrees in environmental science and entomology from Cornell University, Summer fused her love of the environment with the fashion world. From creating films to speaking at conferences, she has inspired people of all ages to take care of themselves while giving back to the environment. “It’s more about getting people to understand
what is happening in the bigger scale and then being able to pull it down for them on a level that relates back to the current work that they’re doing everyday.” One might say that Summer has more than enough on her plate. But it looks like she wouldn’t have it any other way. A lover of travel, nature, and the world around her, this entrepreneur certainly has several more initiatives coming our way. In her personal statement, Summer says to “most importantly, live by example.” Oh, we will, Summer. --VM: You just came back from your trip to Guatemala this winter. Can you tell us about what you were doing there? SRO: I have been part of an environmental fellowship with a group called PERC. They had a series that they do with the Liberty Foundation, getting together an international group of fourteen fellows from various years, and that included me. We went down to Antigua and Guatemala to discuss the light topic of civilization collapse [laughs]. You read different excerpts and discussion points, and you start to see patterns throughout history and discuss the trigger points of what has led to civilization collapse in the past, and critical thinking about increasing our population to the next two billion over the next 37 years, and how that shifts the world.
I was on that for four days with some great folks that ranged from France to Iceland to Bolivia. It was very lowkey, and it was very welcome at this point in my life. We ended up staying down there a little bit longer because one of my dear friends who has been working with the Earthship Biotecture crowd was just about an hour north of Antigua in a town called Comolapa. It’s kind of demarcated by this folkart style of art and design, and many of the people there are illiterate so they have pictorial stories of the Guatemalan war across the murals of the city. VM: We saw your film, eXtinction, on your website, which seems relevant to the topic of our eventual civilization collapse. Is this an area you are currently interested in to tell people where we’re headed and to kind of scare us? SRO: I started producting eXtinction the film in 2011 and then I released it at the end of 2012. It was really based on a speech that I had been giving for three years prior actually. The genesis of it was really about trying to appeal to a more human aspect of our senses as opposed to just
of filming and shooting together even though we never storyboarded the film. I approached him three years ago on a Discovery set when I was shooting a cheesy commercial that I had to do for Discovery and Readymade magazine, and I told him about this idea of doing this as a film. So it took three years to actually produce it, because even though it’s a five-minute film, it carried a hefty price tag. We really didn’t storyboard it together but we have the creative chemistry to work together. I had never really seen it underwater, and some of that inspiration was almost as if it was genesis. We were going to make it a little more literal but we chose to take much more of an artistic sense. I have to say that the nudity… I’ve gotten a lot of comments on that. They’re like, “Well, maybe you should do a PG version.” I talked to my editor to see if he would be able to do it, but it was run and done with. And I think I’m going to leave it as is, which is very hard because I’m not very puritanical, but it’s been shown to all sorts of people, including kids. Originally they’d be like, “No, no, no,” but there’s quality to it. I’m not very comfortable being underwater either, and I actually went and got my diver’s certification a few years ago
“eXtinction is narrated in my life, and I think that the film has a sense of humanness, a sense of being able to understand what it’s like to lose something on the timescale that we think about everyday — our lives.” relying on cold, hard statistics. But what I think is redeeming about the film itself is that it relates back to the lifeline of a young woman, and it’s narrated in my life, and I think that the film has a sense of humanness, a sense of being able to understand what it’s like to lose something on the timescale that we think about everyday — our lives. The film for me came at an apex as I lost my mentor, one of the closest people in my life, Tom Ivener, so the film for me was really medication. The quality of the film was decided upon after Tom died because I really wanted something that he would be proud of. So I think that eXtinction was a very cathartic experience for me because it was something that I was looking to get off my chest. I had given that speech to corporate audiences, and it was more along the lines of getting them to understand what is happening in the bigger scale and then being able to pull it down for them on a level that relates back to the current work that they’re doing everyday. That’s the real struggle — having your work really matter — and relate to something that is much larger than the things we do on a day-to-day basis. I am kind of interested in how business will be reflected as the next two billion people get on the planet. VM: I was watching a movie in a really public spot, and then the water scenes came on, and I was like “Whoa, whoa guys“ — How did you shoot a movie underwater? I personally never really learned how to swim very well, so it’s distressing to be underwater for me. How did that feel? SRO: I was kind of distressed, too, to be honest with you. What was interesting about the film is that Clayton, who shot and directed the film, and I had a nice co-partnership
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because I wasn’t comfortable being underwater. I have to admit, shooting this film, I’m definitely no mermaid [laughs]. VM: You studied environmental science and entomology at Cornell. How did you move from that into modeling and creating an eyewear line and videos? What was the turning point for you? SRO: Well, I think that contrary to popular belief there’s no real one turning point. I’ve always had a tendency to follow my gut and what seems like a risk to others seems like a very natural opportunity for me. If it means having to go out and spend some time getting to know the players within the field, then it becomes that much more vivid of a potential. Two things happened when I was in college. First, I was getting published relatively early in school, which is something a young budding scientist would want to accomplish. Second, I tend to have friends who are not necessarily in my field so even though I interact with a ton of people from the environment, my friends tend to be from all different walks of life. My corporate strengths happened to be one girl from Philly, and four guys from all parts of the world like Stanten Island, Buffalo, and Singapore. I ended up moving in with them my sophomore year. Hanging out with people like that, you realize they have different worldviews and they may not understand where you’re coming from. Since I started getting published very early, I was wondering, Well, what’s next? And second was getting to the question: Do my friends really understand what I’m doing and how can I reflect more in their lives in a positive way? I fell into this space where I obviously dreamed big and wanted to make an impact and be creative, and these things
were leading me down a path of not necessarily pursuing environment in purist form, but maybe thinking about it in an industry that was far away from the part of the environment. For me, I thought that would be the fashion industry. I actually had not really given any attention to the fashion industry except for the fact that one of my good friends got me interested in the fashion world. And I thought, “Well, that’s really interesting; what if I could combine these two worlds together?” So that was my pursuit. But I knew nobody within the industry. Ali had a perfunctory knowledge of the industry, so I decided to do some research online and put together some meetings with people and told them what I was planning on tying environment into the fashion world — which, at that time, not many people were even remotely thinking about it or knew what it was. I thought I could enter the world to understand it a bit more as a model, and it really took a bus ride and 50 meetings with various people in New York City to get me started, and it was hard. I just had lunch the other day with Michael Uslan, who’s the executive producer of Batman, and he came out with his book called The Boy Who Loved Batman, and we were just sharing some mutual stories of how ideas turn into success. It’s really like a butter knife and you’re breaking a little string at a time, and that’s how my life has been led forth. Sometimes you have three doors open and you’re like, Which one should I take? And is it going to lead you up 50 flights of stairs, or the Eiffel Tower, or is it going to go way downhill? And what I definitely see in my field as well is that there’s a quest for easy living or “give me a reality show” and “give me that 15 seconds” and there’s this kind of self-righteousness of wanting that. What people are missing is that it’s the journey up the side of the mountain that you have to actually want, because that’s the character building along the way, that’s the story that you’ll be able to tell, that’s the experience of it. Nobody wants to read a book where you started from the starting line and you completed it without running the race. There’s no excitement of having to go through some trials or tribulations of spraining your ankle one season and dismissing the Olympics and coming back four years later. VM: How much time does everything that you do take? You’re starting your line, you’re traveling, you’re doing photoshoots, you’re in partnership with the Discovery Channel. How do you manage your time? SRO: As much as time gives each of us. [Laughs] I often wish that I had more time, but I’m in a different space now because I’m at a juncture and I’m entering a different chapter of my life. I think having built Source4Style with my business partner Benita took a tremendous amount of concentration and time and that just pushed some of my other interests and pursuits to the periphery of the days. Even eXtinction was shot with the little time that I could spare. So sometimes it takes a little more finagling. Now it’s a little bit more of time to fight off phone calls or e-mails or the different things that we’re faced with in the technology world, because these things can actually be very distracting. I don’t know anybody who has written a good book that has not once turned off his or her phone or e-mail and said, “Okay, I have actually got
to hunker down and do this.” I think that as human beings it’s harder and harder for us to actually be disciplined to turn those things off. I’m reaching that space because I want to do more writing and thinking. The idea of having a snowstorm right now in the Northeast is really lovely for me, because I went out and got all my groceries and am planning to be here for three days; my friend Paul from Guatemala is going to come up and we’re going to be working on a project together. I head up for Argentina on Tuesday, but I want to get as much done that I can before then. Sometimes it doesn’t involve a product of seeing words come out on a piece of paper. Sometimes it involves you sitting, and thinking, and dreaming and getting into your imagination, and that’s going to take a tremendous amount of time. And how my days are split up really varies and I’m grateful I don’t have a life that has to put me on casting calls or go here and there. People want to work with me because of what I represent as a person. Even when I just got out of college, I never saw the point of going to five or six casting calls, particularly because of what I was interested in, which was getting environmental initiatives in the fashion industry, and also because of the nature of who I am. My body type is very different from what is typically accepted within the fashion industry, which is absurd and wonderful at the same time. I think that my days are very different, and if you asked me that question eight months ago, when I was running Source4Style, it was almost like everything that I ate, breathed, and lived for was for Source4Style, although I did find time to travel or get out or work on my other projects. It’s always a challenge of doing time management, different, and if you asked me that question eight months ago, when I was running Source4Style, it was almost like everything that I ate, breathed, and lived for was for Source4Style, although I did find time to travel or work on my other projects. It’s always a challenge of doing time management, but my best advice for anybody is you’re not missing anything by turning off your cell phone or not opening up your computer screen for a few days. The only thing you’re missing is the full potential of what you could be doing or creating and that’s something that I need to live by and remind myself as much as the next person. VM: Tell us about launching your own line. How did it feel to transition from a model and environmental speaker, to enter the design world? Did you collaborate with anybody? SRO: Nothing was a direct transition. I started collaborating more than 4 or 5 years ago. I did a shoe line with Payless for 3 years, which ended in 2012. It seemed like a natural transition for me. In 2007, I started writing a book on sustainable fashion and beauty, and it was published in 2009 called Style, Naturally. That was really lovely because initially the first book I was doing, I was drawing it myself. It was an illustrated book, and that changed and I ended up getting a publisher who put together some pretty cool graphics and photography. So after doing that book, two things happened. I was immersed in the design world even though I wasn’t trained as a designer. I did a bedding line with Portico, and in that I was more of the creative director for the line and VERTE SPRING 2013
everything is very collaborative — the people bring you in for your principles . you represent, the brand that you embody, as well as your vision. For me the glasses are more along the lines of “here’s something that I’m drawing up; I really want this kind of 50s inspiration; I like the element of wood; I did this collection, EcoSafari, that I was really inspired by.” So it’s been wonderful because I get to work with a team. If I see something and I just sketch it out, then the team who’s equipped at doing CAD will actually materialize it, show it to me, see if that’s what I was envisioning, and then do a prototype. That’s basically how the collaboration works. It’s not too much of a stretch because after doing Style, Naturally, I was being sought out by some brands to actually do collaborations with them since it was a definitive style guide within the area. My other natural transduction was not to talk about sustainable design any longer, but to actually create the infrastructure to make that possible — and that’s where Source4Style was really born. It was the idea of creating a business-to-business marketplace that connected
cultures and getting excited about that. I loved unwinding outdoors and seeing my friend Paul in Guatemala because I feel like I rarely see a lot of my very good friends, and it’s because they’re really out in the world being dynamic. But those are the kinds of friends that years could pass and you could see them two years from now and they’d be like old chums. [Laughs] I am also very comfortable being alone, and I know that’s an uncomfortable thought for most people, but the time that I have to be alone in my own mind and to be able to write is very pleasant for me. I think that’s what I’ve been craving after running a startup, and I think that’s kind of what I’m shedding now. It’s like a snake slowly slipping out of her skin. The other stuff that I love…I’m not really one for dressing up your home environment, but my house is pretty spectacularly cloaked in greenery. VM: And your many insects, right? SRO: Yes, my bugs. They come and go because their lifespans
“I think that as human beings it’s harder and harder for us to actually be disciplined to turn those things off. I’m reaching that space, because I want to do more writing and thinking” designers to sustainable suppliers around the world, but my business partner Benita is running it now. I stepped down from CEO after we raised about a half a million dollars’ worth of capital for it last year. We source in around 40 countries and we have designers in about 80 countries around the world. What I found out from just chatting with designers when I was interviewing for my book was that it’s hard to come by quality sustainable materials, and they’re not necessarily trained in textiles — they’re designers. They like to cut, they like to sew, and so for us it was about creating that marketplace online that connected these two groups together that historically wouldn’t have been connected together because it’s hard to find these suppliers .
are short-lived. I have a map of the life and death of all my millipedes over the course of one week. I just assembled a vertical garden in my bedroom, and my next project is with a magazine and they’re going to take over my closet. I’ve agreed to remove all the clothes from my closet, and I’m going to turn it into a kitchen closet where I grow vegetables and herbs. [Laughs] I have 200 plants in my house right now, and with the edible growing closet, I’ll probably have far more surface area of green than the hanging gardens of Babylon.
VM: It sounds like your schedule is super hectic. What do you do to just relax and enjoy yourself?
SRO: Tom Ivener, the founder of Chemical Ecology. He was quite possibly one of the biggest mentors in my life. Somebody who I haven’t really been hanging out with for a long time, but who has definitely mentored me in some critical times in my life was someone by the name of Alexander Juscawitz. He really helped me think through my book and understand the idea of what my services to companies were worth. I didn’t even know how to put a value on things before, but when you’re actually thinking about service that you’re providing somebody or what your brand is worth or what your time is worth, it is a far more nebulous discussion point. By far one of the closest people in my life is a gentleman by the name of David Horowitz. He’s a great friend and he’s teaching philosophy at Columbia, and he became in-house philosopher at Google, and he has been a wonderful person in my life. Anytime I want to show off an idea, he comes back with another, and I think it’s important to have people like that in your life all the time. Like a few good people that you could just ask them to pinch you for a bit if you feel like your ideas might not be wise.
SRO: I love traveling, and often times I will travel with friends or meet friends in different places that I’ve traveled to. If something is work-related, I will often expand the trip so that I can enjoy a bit more of the culture and the place that I’m at. That sounds maybe a bit extraordinary, but I feel like one of the things I missed out on when I was younger in life, meaning my teenaged years, was really traveling, so I’ve done excessive amounts of it now. I want to see the world and understand it from a different place and perspective, and that is really important to me because the reason I got into the fashion industry, the reason why my friends are not really like me, the reason why I entered the world of technology is because I like to go into industries I have no business in being in. [Laughs] It’s about learning the ropes and permeating those industries with more values. For me, those values are getting more people and different audiences to understand nature and environment and understanding different
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VM: To wrap it up, are there any people that have mentored you along the way?
Beading P verty One business’s journey to level the playing field in South Africa
t first glance, you see intricately crafted beads that can be worn as necklaces, bracelets, or head-wraps. Each piece of jewelry is one of a kind and can be worn as subtle additions to an outfit or as bold, fashionable statement pieces. Now look again. Not only are these beads unique and beautiful, but every single bead on each piece of jewelry was handcrafted by women in a South Africa township…from recycled magazine paper. Ubomi Beads is the organization responsible for the distribution of these elegant pieces of jewelry. However, it’s more than a business: The story of Ubomi Beads is one of love, entrepreneurship, and a spirit of community. Princeton students Angela Groves ’12, Karen O’Neill ’12, and Krystal Valentin ’12 met single mother Nokuzola “Mama Noks” Matolengwe while they were studying abroad at the University of Cape Town and witnessed the poverty and unemployment in the township, Gugulethu of Cape Town. When it was time for them to return home, they were not ready to part with the community that had welcomed them with love and open arms, so like true Princeton students, they tried to stay con-
nected by giving back to Gugulethu. While they were living with Mama Noks, they noticed the beautiful handcrafted beads she made out of recycled magazine paper, the very ones that are now sold here. Working with South African university students and Mama Noks, Angela, Karen, and Krystal embarked on an entrepreneurial journey to start an organization that aimed to employ women in South Africa by selling these handcrafted beads abroad. In 2011, they launched Ubomi Beads. Mama Noks is dedicated to helping single mothers employ themselves in order to build a sustainable future for themselves and their children. The community of Gugulethu currently faces the challenge of extreme rates of poverty, as unemployment rates are close to 75 percent. Economic conditions are especially difficult for single mothers with children, due to low levels of employment opportunities for women. In response to this problem, the goal of Ubomi is to empower these single women, youth, and the entire community by promoting the production and distribution of locally made jewelry made out of recycled paper. Ubomi supports aspirations for a “New South Africa” with a 3-pronged approach, as Angela Groves will be describing in the following interview. VERTE SPRING 2013
More and more often in today’s media and fashion industry, the term “sustainable fashion” is thrown around as we are working for a more “green” approach to fashion. Sustainable usually translates to “environmentally-friendly,” but Ubomi Beads makes waves in this industry because it has shown us that fashion can be “sustainable” in more ways than one. The beads are environmentally sustainable as they are made from recycled materials, but more importantly, the making of these beads sustains life as a source of employment for the community residents. Single mothers especially are given an opportunity to become business leaders and help sustain themselves and their families. Since the organization is still relatively new, it is still in the process of expanding its business; Ubomi Beads also aims for a sustainable economic future so it can continue to aid the residents of Gugulethu.
The international distribution of these beads is also representative of the organization sustaining multicultural ties. Currently, Ubomi Beads is trying to expand to more college campuses, including the University of Michigan. By creating chapters all over the country and linking them back to South Africa, Ubomi Beads is both a business and a vehicle for social change. It is a successful example of fashion that can be sustainable in more ways than one. Behind each colorful bead of the jewelry is a story. Each bead is a symbol for the environmental, economic, and societal sustainability that the organization embodies. The story and sustainability of Ubomi Beads, coupled with the true timelessness and delicate beauty of the beads, makes the organization a pioneer in the fashion industry, as it succeeds both in its product and in its purpose and motivation.
By Cissy Chen
Vivian Wang sat down with one of the Princeton student founders, Angela Groves, and South Africa Director Sizwe Ndlovu to talk about founding and sustaining Ubomi Beads, sustainable fashion, and starting your own business enterprise as a student. VM: Tell me about the story behind Ubomi Beads… What inspired you to found this social enterprise and what was it like starting it completely from scratch while still in college? Angela Groves: It’s a story of friends, of people who have become family. It started when Amira, Krystal, and I did a homestay with a woman named Mama Noks in Capetown, South Africa, after studying abroad at University of Capetown. Seeing a lot of privilege at the elite universities of Africa, we really wanted to see the rest of South Africa and get a more authentic experience. We stayed at [Mama Nok’s] house, slept in her bed, hung out with her children, ate chicken feet with her neighbors … It was a really, really great experience and eye-opening. We got to learn more about the struggles that were there. There was very high unemployment rate, and people were just doing what they could to get by. Mama Noks made jewelry from recycled magazine paper and at first, it was kind of a passing notion, like ‘Wow, Mama Noks, this is so gorgeous, this is so cool; you could sell this to more people.’ The community showed us so much love and support, and we had such a transformative experience that we didn’t want to leave and not stay connected. So Amira, Karen, Krystal and I got together with Sizwe and some of our other South African friends. We decided something we could do to really stay connected and really make a difference with this woman that we met would be to make a business that would sell Mama Noks’ jewelry in the United States. We made a commitment to each other that we would do this. VM: Could you tell me a little bit about the origin of the name “Ubomi Beads”? AG: Ubomi means life in Xhosa, the language Mama Noks
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and her community speaks. It represents the life in an organization that is really giving life through Mama Noks and sharing that life with us across global barriers. VM: How did you incorporate the idea of “sustainability” into your business model? AG: As much as we would like to say we’re recycling tons of paper, it really is just a strip of paper. But it’s more about the image/symbol of sustainability and the social impact. It’s about the image that it creates of the importance of sustainability and recycling and being responsible citizens of the Earth. VM: Are you looking to expand the reach of Ubomi Beads? What’s your long term vision? AG: We started at college campuses because college is the heart of where change happens in a society. We’re expanding to UMich, and talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Emory, Berkeley, etc. We’re also talking to neighboring businesses around college campuses. We want to expand to more communities in South Africa.
VM: How did you initially set out to define the brand image of Ubomi Beads? AG: We want people to look at our product and buy it without even knowing the background — we want our product to be that strong. Seeing the impact it has is definitely an added bonus, but we want our product to appeal as a product alone. That’s the idea of sustainable fashion — the product is just as strong but also has a really great meaning behind it. VM: What do you consider to be the most important part of your business strategy? AG: We want to be sustainable just as a business model that has a steady flow of income that’s going back to South Africa. The story is a key part that connects all of us to Ubomi. The story plays a crucial role in how we sell the product and pitch it, especially when pitching to potential investors — it’s the hook. VM: Can you elaborate on Ubomi’s 3-pronged approach to creating a “New South Africa?” AG: That came out of us really thinking about what defines Ubomi and what impact we want Ubomi to have. The economic aspect is the livelihood, the business, the entrepreneurship of Mama Noks. This is how they keep their families; this is how they survive. Then there’s the environmental impact — our product is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Then there’s empowerment — of Mama Noks, single mothers, and the youth in that community. VM: Can you describe your role in Ubomi Beads and your job on a day-to-day basis? It must be hectic between juggling your job and running this social enterprise! AG: During senior year, Ubomi became my number one extracurricular, Ubomi was what I loved to do: I would wait to take a break from writing my thesis to do it. It consumed me and I loved it — we were friends and it was an amazing thing. Now, Teach for America is such an all-intensive, completely all-consuming job; so for me, balancing that has been a chal-
lenge sometimes but completely worthwhile. And the fact that we’re such an awesome team made it worth it. Because we’re such an awesome team, we balance commitment and responsibilities. Sizwe Ndlovu: It did get really intense; but if you really want to do something, you will make time for it. Like Angela, it has been really rough at times, but for me I will make it happen because I really want to. AG: And what’s really awesome is the team. We had such a diverse team — we have different interests and different social groups but we fit together really well. VM: Who are the people actually making your beautiful Ubomi Beads? AG: Mama Noks is the leader — right now there are about 6 women who have been associated with Ubomi. These are women who live in the community; Mama Noks really coordinates them. VM: After talking to the single women, youth, and the community in the South African township of Gugulethu employed by Ubomi, how has this social enterprise affected their lives? AG: These are women whom Mama Noks coordinated for her homestay business and that’s another piece of what she does. But technically, Mama Noks’ steady employment is that she works as a babysitter. The other mamas do everything from selling chicken feet to hosting students. They would take up a lot of things just to make income. VM: Does all the money you earn from the beads go directly to the mamas? How does the process/flow work? AG: Right now it’s direct: all profit is going directly to building the business and directly to Mama Noks. VM: Any advice for student entrepreneurs in general or students wanting to enter the fashion industry? AG: My advice is don’t sell yourself short and dream big. I know it’s cliché but it’s important to actually believe in yourself and the power of your team. You can start a business as a student. I never thought that I’d start a business but I just went with it. If you have an idea, just go with it. SN: Know why you’re doing it. If you’re trying to get rich, just stop right now. AG: There is so much value in being that Princeton student. People want to invest in the future and when you’re a student, people are excited to see what you have to say. The beads are currently being sold at the Princeton U-Store and the Escarcha Boutique in Puerto Rico, but the business is seeking to expand to more college campuses in the future. http://www.ubomibeads.com VERTE SPRING 2013
DIY: BLEACH STENCIL T-SHIRT
an easy way to glam up a t-shirt with your own design! TIME
30 minutes plus wash and dry
MATERIALS 1 dark colored t-shirt contact paper or shelving paper x-acto knife (scissors also work) permanent marker bleach water
spray bottle masking tape cardboard paper towels hydrogen peroxide
Print or sketch your design on paper. Keep in mind you will need to cut your design into a stencil, so make lines bold enough or play around with blocking and shading if you have a more complicated design.
2 Cut out your image and tape it to the contact paper. Transfer your design onto the contact paper using a permanent marker or pen.
3 Use the X-Acto knife or scissors to cut out the negative spaces or lines on your image. These areas will become bleached and as a result be a lighter color.
4 Prep the t-shirt by inserting cardboard between the layers. Peel off the backing of your stencil and press it down on the shirt.
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5 Surround the stencil with pieces of cardboard to shield the rest of the shirt. Tape the frame in place.
6 It’s best to dilute the bleach before using it in order to avoid degrading the shirt fabric so create a mixture that is 1 part bleach to 1 part water in a spray bottle.
Now it’s time to spray your stencil! The color will take a few minutes to change. Feel free to play around with gradation and building the faded look, or go for a splattered effect. Keep in mind that the bleach may continue to act on the fabric as you go, depending on how concentrated it is. Our mixture was not very potent, turning the black t-shirt a rusty color.
8 If possible, pour some hydrogen peroxide onto the bleached area of your shirt. This will stop the bleach from having further effect.
9 Keep in mind that the bleach may continue to act on the fabric as you go, depending on how concentrated it is. Our mixture was not very potent, turning the black t-shirt a rusty color.
10 Pat the stencil with paper towels, drying excess liquid. Remove the stencil and tape carefully. Voila! Wash your shirt either by hand with a little bit of detergent, or on a gentle cycle in a washing machine. After you dry it, it’s ready to wear!
By Marina Kaneko
Color block dress, $35, French Connection. 100% organic cotton lunch bag, $20, by fluf. Turquoise beaded necklace, $20.
CONSIGNMENT CHIC Weâ€™ll let you in on a cool-girl secret: You can score designer threads and unique vintage finds for a dime at your local consignment shop without sacrificing glamour. Who buys new when recycling looks this chic?
Photographed by Monica Chon makeup by emmy williams Models Lekha Kanchinadam and Reid Bergin
Pale blues, beiges, and eggshell telegraph elegant restraint. An artful bag and intricate necklace create quiet drama. Blazer, $125, Salvatore Ferragamo. Bib necklace, $125, Vera Wang. Vintage tapestry bag, $45,
Bring the discothĂ¨que to the dining hall with palazzo pants, platforms, and a swingy jacket with sheen. Jacket, $175, Sara, Claire, & Esther, Pants, $35, Harari.
A structured jacket with skinny pants and statement shoes makes for a smart, modern look. Blazer, $995, Chanel. Yellow strappy heels, $225, Jimmy Choo. Chair, $ $150, Funkify.
Standout items are practically commonplace at consignment shops. Donâ€™t be afraid to tone down and update wild pieces with simple accessories and demure hair/makeup. Printed top, $25, 172 grams. Metal chair, set of 4 for $100, West Elm.
Don’t be alarmed: Fur is ecofriendly when it’s vintage. Relish in this guilt-free luxury with heels and your most dramatic look — funky brights or classic black. OPPOSITE PAGE: Patchwork rabbit hair bomber jacket, $395.Gold costume-style necklace, $15. THIS PAGE: Printed dress, $55, Isle. Platform heels, $40, Hasbeens. Red purse, $95, Kate Spade.
Consignment stores can be a great source for formal dresses. Search for the perfect LBD; just be prepared to belt it or alter it if necessary for the perfect fit. Black sequin dress, $40,
beautiful clothing, accessories, furniture, art, & princeton ephemera www.janeconsignment.com 7 spring street · princeton, nj · 08542 609-683-jane (5263)