Chilpa: Handmade and fairly traded products from Mexico

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UK-based Mexican fashion brand Chilpa is producing a new range of contemporary products made with traditional Mexican scarves (known as rebozos). A rebozo is a long flat garment similar to a scarf, used since colonial times to cover up and carry babies, and for centuries they have been made in small-home based workshops on mechanical foot looms. The use of these weaving looms requires no fossil fuels or electricity so it has minimal environmental impact, and they are dyed by hand in small batches. Chilpa’s rebozos are made with a traditional ikat technique (where the cotton is tied together previous to dyeing then untied to reveal the pattern).

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Unlike other new brands, Chilpa’s products champion slow fashion – moving away from the reliance on globalised mass produced garments sold at low prices to favour close collaboration with the people they work with and reinvesting a percentage of the profits to train a new generation of artisans. Chilpa treats the artisans who make its products as its own internal employees, as they believe that the fashion business’ archaic model needs an upgrade – moving away from low wages and poor working conditions, fostered by many people’s belief that fashion is cheap and disposable. As a way of changing this mind-set, every one of Chilpa’s products celebrates the artisan who made it by including their name and portrait on the label attached to it.

“I set up Chilpa because I was tired of Mexican mis-representations in the media in so many negative ways. I had also seen how fashion designers became famous by using rebozo fabrics, without acknowledging the people who made it and I wanted to do the opposite”, explains Maru Rojas, Chilpa’s founder.

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Maru worked with a professional fashion designer and seamstress in London to produce a new range of practical yet beautiful bags incorporating the fabrics of the rebozos. Local seamstresses, working in small workshops rather than factories, manufacture all the bags in Mexico. Most of the bags use eco-friendly jute fabric as an alternative to cotton. Chilpa is committed to responsibly sourcing all their materials and ensuring the production process pays a fair wage to all those employed.

Chilpa is raising funds via a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to help produce this new range of products ranging from tote bags to exclusive silk rebozos. All items can be pre-ordered until October 7th, 2015. Check out the campaign here.

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Win a Scarf from Sancho’s Dress New Collection

Sancho's Dress Scarves

Sancho’s Dress is an ethical fashion and gift store in the beautiful city of Exeter. Earlier this year, the store’s owners Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius, launched a Kickstarter campaign to set up a loom workshop in Northern Ethiopia in order to produce their own range of scarves and shawls. They wanted to create training opportunities and jobs for local women using back-to-basic wooden looms that require no electricity, fossil fuels, excessive water or heavy machinery, and have a minimal carbon footprint.

Happily, the Kickstarter was a success and they have just launched their winter collection! The organically-grown cotton is hand-picked and hand-spun to ensure it is made of the softest and most sustainable fabric. Each scarf is uniquely made with care and consideration. The colours are soft and perfect for autumn, with hints of burnt orange, sky blue and moss green. Each scarf takes three hours to make and in a transparency lost in most textile enterprises, both of the founders know exactly which seamster or seamstress made each piece. A range of ponchos (bang on trend right now) are new for AW15 and come in the same hand-woven cotton.

Sanchos - Blue Shawl

Speaking about the collection, Kalkidan said:

“We set out to create a line of scarves that are stylish and contemporary, while also being cosy and comfortable for the winter months”. We believe business creates systems of empowerment, education and ownership. We will fight hard to work with marginalised women to show them their capacity to success.”

Sancho’s Dress won Sublime Magazine’s Best Social Enterprise Award 2015. They are offering one lucky reader the chance to have their own scarf from the award-winning workshop in an exclusive giveaway. Just email emma@ethicalhighstreet.co.uk by 30th September 2015 with the subject ‘SANCHOCOMP’ to be in with a chance to win! If you’re on twitter, tweet @Sanchosdresses to get a second entry into the prize draw!

Sanchos - Green and White Scarf

For more of the range see www.sanchosdress.com

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Discover Ethical Products Every Month by Subscription

Subscription boxes are definitely hot right now. It’s not unusual to have a regular veg box delivered to your door, but you can also get monthly deliveries of tea, razors and socks. These aren’t particularly fun things though are they? (although I do love tea and socks).

May contents of This Good Box

May contents of This Good Box

I had a very nice delivery recently, a small box of ethical goodies from This Good Box. This Good Box makes it easy to discover fantastic ethical or natural products as you sign up to have a small selection posted to you (or a friend) every month. You can also buy individual boxes without subscribing, and each month is focused on a theme.

May = CREATE. And this was the box I received recently through my letter box.

The box exceeded my expectations – at first I wasn’t sure whether a regular supply of more ‘stuff’ sat comfortably with the slow consumption cause but looking through the contents I soon realised it offered so much more than just stuff. Founder, Lianne Howard-Dace, wanted to encourage the contents to be shared. As part of my ‘Create’ box I had some yummy Fairtrade organic chocolate from Chocolate and Love, a natural cuticle butter by Filbert of Dorset, a felt brooch making set, Sarah Corbett’s ‘A Little Book of Craftivism’ (worth checking out) and fabric pens to decorate my own plain bag. A note inside provides suggestions of ways to share the contents and spread the word, by sharing the chocolate with someone I haven’t spoken to before, or making the brooch to pass to a friend. At the moment it’s aimed at women but they hope to launch a men’s box in the future.

Craftivism and fabric pens from this good box
Chocolate and love Fairtrade
This Good Box

I hadn’t heard about the chocolate company before, so it’s a great way to promote small brands and ethical products. Keen to speak to Lianne about This Good Box, she happily answered my eager questions (and offered an exclusive discount code, see the end of the post!) –

1. Where did the idea for This Good Box come from?

It came from something in my own life really. I wanted to live in a better way and learn where to find great ethical products – at the same time I was enjoying receiving several subscription boxes and had the idea to bring the two things together. I just had to see if anyone else would want to buy it as well and it looks like they do!

2. How do you source the products each month?

Sometimes I’ll think of a useful item that works for the month’s theme and set out to find an ethical version which is easier with some products than others! Other times I’ll discover a brand and know I need to get it in the box or a social enterprise might contact me and we’ll see how they might fit with future boxes. Everything has to be able to fit through the letterbox as well so it’s a big challenge but one of my favourite parts of running This Good Box.

3. The box offers ideas of ways to share it’s contents, why do you think this is important?

From the offset I wanted a random acts of kindness vibe to run through what we’re doing and the products are so shareable it really lends itself to that. I can be quite introverted by nature but I really believe that connectivity with the people around us is so important; we can’t solve the problems facing our world without each other. Community is really important in my life so I want to find little ways for people to build a sense of it in their own lives. Sometimes getting out of our comfort zone is incredibly rewarding!

*DISCOUNT* This Good Box have kindly offered a promo code for any readers of my blog to get £10 off your first box. Use EMMAGOODBOX1 to get £10 off a one-off purchase and EMMAGOODBOX to get £10 off any subscription plan. That equates to a box of ethical goodies for just £7.50 + P&P! Get yours from www.thisgoodbox.co.uk

Filberts of Dorset natural beauty

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Mindful, Fair Trade Jewellery by Mosami

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Jewellery can be so much more than adornment. Often we attach deep meaning to pieces because they were a gift, an heirloom, a memory, a way of saying thank you, well done or I love you. The pieces by Mosami can mean all of these things, but importantly they also come with a symbolism of their own. Mosami is a brand combining beautiful jewellery design with the benefits of mindfulness, a feature I find captivating. If you seek to find greater courage, success or happiness, there is an ethically crafted piece to suit your mood along with an accompanying simple mindfulness ritual to practice whenever the moment takes you.

Mosami was founded by Sarah Greenaway, a woman passionate about sustainability, peace and beautiful things. We met up over coffee to chat about her plans for Mosami, my plans for Ethical High Street and the global need to continue moving towards a greener economy. Mosami pieces (necklaces, earrings and bracelets) are made from recycled or Fairtrade silver. As Sarah explained, she’d like to use more Fairtrade silver but as it is fairly new on the market, availability cannot currently keep pace with demand. In fact, with just one Fairtrade certified mine in the world, Sarah is part of a small group pioneering the Fairtrade metal. The silver is sourced from Sotrami, a mine in Peru where a dedicated team have worked hard to gain Fairtrade accreditation.

All of the Mosami pieces are designed by British designers and made by men and women highly skilled in their craft. Mosami aims to raise awareness of the shocking environmental impact of artisanal mining, offering jewellery that is beautiful to wear, and made with respect for people and planet.

So how does Mosami team jewellery with mindfulness?

“With a little practice jewellery can do more than just remind us of happy times passed, it can remind us to make positive choices for a happy future too. Mosami pieces are created to inspire beautiful personal rituals that blend empowering thought patterns with everyday routine”

Just as Buddhist prayer beads help aid meditation, Mosami show you how to use their pieces to take time out and focus your thoughts. I love the Wisdom Cuff (£125) that Sarah was wearing when we met. Made from 100% Fairtrade silver the “Words to Live By” cuffs are a tribute to the Celtic reverence for the wise oak. Each is decorated with oak leaves and acorns, and discreetly inscribed with words of wisdom from icons of more recent times.

WisdomCuff_Mosami
Not only do the inscribed quotes by Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Charlie Chaplin provide a mindful thought to empower you through the day, but the bracelet itself can provide reminder to be true to your own wisdom as you gently touch the hand-beaten metal as a reminder to slow down and take a mindful moment.

Browsing online you can shop by product, wish and ritual. So –

to improve positive thinking and to feel lucky every day try the Lucky Day Clover Necklace (£70) and accompanying Lucky Day ritual.

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Or be reminded of your inner happiness with the Marigold necklace (£60) and accompanying happiness ritual.

marigold_Mosami

You can shop Mosami online at: www.mosami.co.uk

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Spring Beauty: The Story of the Daffodil

"Narcisa 0012" by Martinas Angel

“Narcisa 0012” by Martinas Angel

Signs of spring are starting to shine through. On the way to work today I passed lots of daffodils. Daffodils are my favourite flower! They are a sure sign of spring, a bright yellow beacon of life emerging from the (wet) ground. I love how they ‘spring’ up all over the place – at the side of the road, on roundabouts, outside your window. When people plant daffodils they provide pleasure year after year.

Daffodils have quite a history. They are more than just a sign of spring, they have other symbolism attached to them. Daffodils are officially known as by the name ‘Narcissus’ and native to Europe, North Africa and West Asia, traditionally appearing in woodlands. Narcissus is a figure from Greek mythology who drowned whilst gazing at his own reflection in water. It’s not known if the two are actually related but certainly in the West the daffodil is seen to symbolise vanity and egotism. In popular culture the two are often associated, for example in the Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali. The oil painting depicts Narcissus sitting in a pool, gazing down. Not far away there is a decaying stone figure which corresponds closely to him but is perceived quite differently; as a hand holding up a bulb or egg from which a daffodil is growing. Could a story of such gloom be related to a flower of such life?

In modern times, the daffodil is used as a symbol of Easter and iconic for Mother’s Day. It’s also the national flower of Wales, chosen because it is in bloom for St David’s Day on March 1st. From the sixteenth century, the daffodil was given fun synonyms such as ‘Daffadown Dilly’ and ‘Daffydowndilly’. Narcissus has had various uses from ancient times. Romans used narcissus ointment to create a fragrance called Narcissinum. Arabs used it in their perfumery, as well as to cure baldness. In India, the oil of narcissus, as well as fragrant oils of sandal, jasmine, and rose, is applied to body before prayer. In France it was used for treating epilepsy and hysteria. The scent of the oil is strong and rich, and is used in some famous perfumes although you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Personally I think the best use for daffodils is to leave them be. Even with their dark mythology, I still see them as happy, playful flowers and a sure sign of the changing seasons. Their beautiful yellow hue brightens up the dullest of settings. They grow easily here in the UK so you can snip off your garden surplus and bring them into the house, carbon footprint free!

With Mother’s Day coming up, Marks and Spencer have the most beautiful bouquet of 80 sunny daffodils and 20 purple tulips, currently on offer for £25.

Daffodil bouquet, M&S

Daffodil bouquet, M&S

You can also check out my recent post for Fairtrade Fortnight on Ethical High Street where I look at Fairtrade cut flowers and why such certification is necessary in an industry we rarely consider past the beauty of the blooms. Fairtrade flowers are available from a number of places including Marks and Spencer and online at Arena Flowers who offer free delivery 7 days a week, perfect for Mother’s Day.

Arena Flowers are currently offering 15% off all products. Click here to browse and enter MUM15 at the checkout to apply the discount, until 15th March.

I’m currently writing about a different Fairtrade product each day for Fairtrade Fortnight, see them all at ethicalhighstreet.co.uk

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January Sales on Ethical Fashion, Eco Living and Sustainable Style

Ethical fashion often gets criticized for being too expensive compared to the staple high street stores. Sale season therefore offers a great opportunity to try out a new brand or treat yourself to something you wouldn’t normally buy with many eco brands offering brilliant deals online and in stores.

Over at Ethical High Street I round up some of the sale offers available for womenswear, menswear and kidswear. You can check them all out here.

Other ethical fashion and sustainable clothing brands on sale include:
whomadeyourpants – 30% off pants ethically made in Southampton.
Chinti and Parker – up to 70% off mens and womenswear including 100% cashmere knits.
High-fashion led pieces at COSSAC
Mens and womens casual wear at Howies
Beyond Skin – 30% off vegan shoes
Pure Collection – Up to 70% off cashmere
Mud & Water – up to 50% off womenswear
Liv – sale on clothing and gifts

Classic Arun knit from Liv, produced by British knitters Peregrine. Now £47.40 from £79

Classic Arun knit from Liv, produced by British knitters Peregrine. Now £47.40 from £79

Taking a look at the offers available from Ethical Superstore is a must. The online shop stocks everything from ethical fashion to eco kettles all now on sale. The Christmas clearance includes discounts on ethically produced decorations and Divine chocolate. They have special offers all year round and free delivery on purchases over £50. See for yourself at http://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/
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Finally, what if you received an unwanted gift this year? Or the kids got duplicate presents? You can use the boot sale app Shpock to turn those items into cash by selling them on in your local area. Find out more here. It’s the perfect environmentally-friendly way of selling things on or buying second-hand items locally.

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