Top ethical brands on Etsy

Do you remember when Etsy featured user curated treasuries on their homepage? I had a lot of fun putting those together and browsing through them was a great way to discover uniquely handmade items you couldn't find anywhere else. Etsy has changed a bit since then.

Plexida - Hand knit cotton tank 

Plexida - Hand knit cotton tank 

Before Etsy opened their online marketplace to designers + third party manufacturers, they were a hotspot for handmade fashion. While the company does have a set of ethical expectations for sellers who partner with manufacturers, Etsy does not audit them and cannot guarantee the conditions under which the products were made. What this means for Etsy sellers who still create their own designs is more competition and what this means for consumers is it's getting harder and harder to discover these brands. 

Etsy has changed the playing field, but let's face it, outsourcing manufacturing is the norm even for ethical brands. Transparency is key especially since responsibility falls on the conscientious consumer. As with Etsy, some brands are more open about their manufacturing process than others. What sets Etsy apart is there is still the opportunity to connect with people who are out there making things and inspiring others with their creations.

When I was living in India, I had an opportunity to visit a garment factory run by an NGO. Despite meeting the women workers face to face I felt a world away from them and I’m sure they felt the same looking back at me. Since then it’s been important to me to ask the question #whomademyclothes. Though Etsy has changed the marketplace, it is still one of the few places where you can find an answer to that question. Buying handmade clothes directly from the people who created them leaves no room for ambiguity about whether or not they were ethically made. 

I know what you're thinking, what about cost? One of the biggest obstacles that keeps people from embracing ethical fashion is expense, I'm no exception. When I first became interested in choosing ethically made pieces, I was a broke college student surviving off financial aid and student loans. But as my more affordable clothes from big brands like H&M and Forever 21 began to fall apart in the wash before the season was even over, I no longer felt like I was saving money by spending less. 

If you consider cost per wear, fast fashion isn't always the cheaper option. Nor will spending more guarantee you better quality. That is why I like the #30wears campaign, whatever your budget and regardless of where you shop, the challenge is to only buy pieces that will last for more than thirty wears or the equivalent of one season. The goal is to encourage eco-conscious clothing by taking a stand against the throw-away clothes the fast fashion industry creates. The Stylebook app is a great tool for keeping track of how often you wear the clothes in your closet.

I'm a pretty frugal person, so I take it a step further and try to get at least a dollar per wear out of the clothes I buy. This is easy enough to achieve shopping second hand which I love to do, but it gets a little trickier when buying new. I always like to stretch my dollar as far as I can and make every penny count. Investing in quality handmade items not only gives me the satisfaction of supporting artisans, but it means knowing where my clothes came from and that they were made with love and care. Check out the list below to discover my favorite Etsy shops for ethical fashion. I chose to feature these sellers because I believe they check all the boxes: ethically made + high quality + worth the money.

Top Ethical Brands on Etsy

Plexida - Gorgeous handmade knits, I'd love this cotton tank in every color.

Bookhou - Chic cotton canvas bags. This shop is a personal favorite, I purchased the field bag a few years ago and LOVE it. This is the newer style.

Sara Bergman - Modern styles made in Portland. I have my eye on the chambray railroad blouse.

Egretta Garzetta - Beautifully handmade high-waisted panties and bras. I love love love this pair

Thief and Bandit - Hip botanical screen-printed dresses, tops, + bottoms for men, women, and babies too. 

Minicyn - Handcrafted minimalist jewelry. I'm saving my pennies for the gold petal ring

What would you add to this list?

My tiny House + Tips for Small Living

San Francisco here I am!

It's been about a month since I made the move from Japan back home to California and while I am a native of the sunshine state, this is my first time living in the big city. As you probably can imagine, housing prices are off the charts. I traded my rather spacious two bedroom apartment abroad for a teeny tiny studio apartment with 4x the rent. Ouch. On the other hand, my fantasy of living in a tiny house has finally come true. Yay!

While the idea of living small has always been appealing to me, sharing a converted single car garage is not exactly what I had in mind. My bf and I are hoping to ride out the lease and move on to something a tad bit bigger. In the meantime, the space, though small, works great for just the two of us and if we can manage it for the next six months I think we will both have learned some pretty good habits that will serve us well into the future. 

Neither of us brought a lot of baggage into the mix. The college life followed by travel and living abroad helped us gradually pare down our possessions. We didn't have to downsize before moving in. One of the biggest challenges for me was closet space. I jumped on the capsule wardrobe bandwagon while living in Japan, but having to share a space made for one is definitely not ideal regardless of how little clothes you have.

Besides the obvious drawbacks to living small, we are both learning to live well with less. I don't see how this lesson can be learned any other way than taking the plunge. We simply don't have the space to slip up and splurge on things we don't need and have no place to put. Nor can we hide from the messes we make. Cleaning up after ourselves has become part of the daily routine. The dishes get washed, clothes go in the laundry basket, and the bed gets made every morning. These hard-to-form habits are now a basic necessity. We've found that keeping the house clean not only makes it feel bigger, but allows us to be more productive in the limited space we have. 

Below are some resources for: 

  • cleaning out your closet

Wardrobe Planner: free printable step by step guide to downsizing your wardrobe by Caroline.

Quality Assessment: choose quality over quantity with this beginners guide to assessing the quality of a garment.

  • getting rid of stuff

Marie Kondo: have you tried the life changing magic of tidying up yet?

Zero Waste: it's time to rethink your basic needs.

  • switching to 

E-books: get three e-books for $9/month using Scribd.

Audiobooks: Audible's price and selection can't be beat.

 

If you have any tips or inspiration for small living send it my way. It's only been a about a week so far and I don't want the charm to wear off anytime soon. Stay tuned for updates as I figure out storage solutions and how to navigate the narrow pathways around the furniture.

Cheers from SF.

Little Bras and Where to Buy Them

One of the first things I wanted to do when I came back from Japan was to go bra shopping. Like a lot of Japanese women I have a small chest and one would think Japan would be the perfect place to shop for little bras. Not so. Perhaps it's because of their small chest size that a lot of the bras in Japan are padded and embellished. I don't want to hide or cover up what I have, but finding bras that compliment my small size can be quite challenging and frustrating!

The Search

I headed to the mall and was disappointed to find out that none of the department stores carried my size in store. When I asked the clerk in J.C. Penny's for help, she suggested I check in the juniors department. After seeing the hot pink polka dotted bras for teens I was beginning to feel a bit humiliated. I'm not ashamed of my small chest size, but where do women like me go to find bras our size?

Before I gave up for the day I headed downtown to the local lingerie shop and I'm so glad I did. They carried a variety of brands and styles in my size. Because of my small size, support is not really an issue. Instead, I was hoping to find a minimally padded bra that would look great under t-shirts. I love my little bralettes, but they don't provide the kind of coverage I need on colder days. 

A Perfect Fit

After trying on about ten different bras, I fell in love with the Natori Collection. These bras are a game changer. I have a wide set chest and really need that extra inch of fabric between the cups, which all of the Natori bras offer. I've tried ordering bras from the Little Bra Company, which makes beautiful lingerie, but the cups are simply too close together for a proper fit. If you have a narrow set chest, I think the Little Bra Company is definitely a better option than the Natori Collection. 

I chose the Natori 'Disclosure' bra. It wasn't the prettiest one on the rack, but after trying it on I knew it was the one. I've never had a bra be so functional yet fit so well. The cups fit snuggly with no gapping. The light padding provides the perfect amount of coverage and shape under my clothes without adding any extra bulk. The cafe color and convertible straps are so versatile I can wear it under nearly all of my clothes, though I have my eye on the black one hoping it will go on sale. I'm in love with this bra. It's the answer to all my little bra shopping woes, making the $64 price tag worth every penny. 

Natori 'Disclosure'

Natori 'Disclosure'

Where to Shop

If this bra doesn't look like the answer for you, be sure to check out the rest of the Natori Collection. I love the sexy look and feel of the 'Lnyx', though the mesh cups and underwire provide more support than coverage. Another place to look is Lula Lu which specializes in petite lingerie. Visit them in store or shop online. And if you have a narrow set chest, don't forget to check out The Little Bra Company.

For bralettes check out Eberjey's extensive collection. And If ethical fashion is more your thing check out Naja's bralettes or head over to one of my favorite bloggers Seasons and Salt. She is on a quest to find ethically sourced and crafted lingerie. She recently wrote a review of the Brooke There organic cotton bralette. For organic fair trade cotton camisoles check out Pact.