Tuesday, 28 February 2012

'Bling' - a blessing for charities?

Jessica Mindich, a former lawyer and mother of two, came up with one of a kind company ‘Jewelry for a Cause’ back in 2008. The company’s ethos surrounds the idea that purchasing jewellery can be guilt free, and can come complete with the added bonus of completing an act of kindness. To do this, Jessica designs eye-catching pieces including necklaces, bracelets and earrings, all of which can be purchased on line, and she made a commitment to donate 20% of the proceeds from many of the lines to charities of the customers’ choice. 

She has also designed fairly inexpensive and wearable pieces as part of ‘charity kits’ which can be purchased by schools and other charities, and used to sell and raise money for their own needs and causes – great for when you’re just so sick of baking, and inevitably scoffing, cake... 

The unique company has, to date, raised over $300,000 for around 300 schools and charities. And just think – that’s the result of people going shopping, but shopping wisely and therefore making informed choices. 

All of the pieces and DIY kits can be found here: http://www.jewelryforacause.net/ all of which make great and thoughtful gifts, for someone special or just for you because you’re THE BOMB too. One of my favourites is the blue Buddha talisman, which symbolises compassion and healing, and 20% of the profits go to www.dosomething.org

But Jessica didn’t stop there. Oh no. Realising that there was still more she could do with her talent and eye for style, she launched sister company ‘Glam for Good’, which offers diamonds and other precious stones as a fundraising tool for not-for-profit organisations. Since the launch last year – ‘Glam for Good’s 100-carat sapphire necklace was auctioned off the neck of Chyler Leigh at the Thirst Project gala in Beverly Hills, generating enough money to build a well in Swaziland where the clean water crisis is at its peak.’

A number of pieces can be seen and ordered on her website @ http://www.glamforgood.com/index.html the earrings in particular are absolutely stunning, very vibrant and unique, and will definitely be going on the ‘in my dreams’ birthday list. Well, a girl can dream can’t she? 

‘With Glam for Good, Jessica found a way to make “bling” a blessing for charities all around the world.’
Both of these great companies see luxury being redefined for present times; and open our eyes to the fact that we can have our cake and eat it too (sorry for all the references to cake, I think I must be missing it slightly). As Jessica succinctly puts it, ‘Doing good needs to be more a part of the fabric of daily life.’

Smart cookie.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Love, Peace and Harmony Project

The Love, Peace and Harmony Project is a design company that has its roots in promoting and spreading two things that make the world go round: love and happiness. 

They make fashionable, yet classic, hand printed (therefore making each piece unique) t-shirts, sweaters and hoodies for men, women & little ones; available @ http://www.thelovepeaceandharmonyproject.co.uk/

The company also work strongly with ethical suppliers, and in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, the majority of their garments are made in a wind-powered factory in India, and once complete they are transported here to the UK by BOAT, not air – thus classifying the garments as ‘carbon neutral’.  In addition, all clothes (where possible) are made from 100% organic cotton, and in ‘Fair Wear Foundation’ factories where it is ensured that the workers are paid well and are treated fairly in good conditions.
‘We want to be as ethical as we can, because to be honest, we wouldn't want to do business any other way’.

In addition, priding themselves on being a responsible and kind business, 20% of all profits are donated to their chosen environmental and social charities. 

When I hear about small scale companies such as this, donating a huge chunk of their profits to worthwhile causes, it makes me extremely happy and furious simultaneously. It sends my mind into over-drive, thinking about all the gigantic fashion labels that are making mind blowing amounts of profits each year, and yet remain unattractively greedy in their quest to make yet more money. And I have no idea why... When all is said and done, money is just that – money. It might equal power, and be some people’s measure of success, but it has no real value. Being wealthy won’t make people think of you as kind or dignified or compassionate; and I know I would rather be those things and have no change in my pockets, than be someone who is only out for myself, and always looking for what others can do for me rather than what I can do for them

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Screw you, mainstream fashion and everything you represent. We can no longer be friends. It’s not me, it’s most definitely YOU.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

VV Vintage & Design With Oxfam

VV Brown is the latest performer to have branched out into the world of fashion – a place that my friends and I know increasingly well as this is where, for now, we have chosen to spend all of our days and our time. The star has recently launched a new e-commerce site entitled ‘VV Vintage’ which is partnering with Oxfam, and appropriately focuses on up cycling and sustainability within fashion, as well as a vast selection of meticulously sourced vintage pieces which promise to be la crème de la crème. 

VV Brown ‘known for her unique and quirky sense of style, personally approves each item available on the site and is pro-active in seeking fresh exciting talent to work with.’ 

Much like the project that the first year fashion designers at NTU have recently embarked upon, VV’s new site is working with emerging undiscovered designers to transform Oxfam’s excess & unwanted materials into one of a kind bespoke pieces that will inevitably fly off the website like hot (chocolate chip) cakes (with plenty of frosting). Now listen up Guys & Dolls: what’s great is that 10% of the profits will be going directly back to Oxfam, so money will be made from old fabrics and garments that would’ve otherwise gone to waste, unnecessarily -

‘Giving back to the community with an ethos that fashion can create a place where everyone benefits.’

And the good news just keeps rolling: this project – Design With Oxfam (DWO) – is open to ALL designers, whether you’ve learned your craft at the world-renowned St Martins or simply from doodling & daydreaming about pretty dresses in your bedroom. They’re currently looking for more designers to join their new venture, so get on the website and get in touch if you believe you have something unique to offer, and are ready to put your talent out there into the big wide world.

I’ve had a speedy snoop at some of the vintage pieces on the website at the moment, and they’re great – really individual, each with their own story. Loads of colour, print, classic items, slouchy t-shirts, jumpers and dresses + plenty more; but don’t take my word for it, take a sneaky peek yourself @ http://www.vvvintage.com/

 As Coco says,

‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.‘ - Coco Chanel.

Fashion is everywhere, circulates our lives on many levels, and represents far more than many people choose to acknowledge. But never mind those who choose not to see or believe. As long as you and I see, that is more than sufficient to use fashion as a vehicle to change the world, even just a little bit.  

Because sometimes, all it takes is one.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Share Your Soles

‘What if you could change the world? Would you?’

Share Your Soles is a charity organisation that was founded by a remarkable lady called Mona Purdy, and began from a journey through Central America that she took in 1999. She recalls how she saw children painting tar on the soles of their bare feet so they could run a race during their village’s festival, due to the unavailability of footwear to them. Mona also met an American orthopaedic surgeon by chance who was in the area, and he told her that if these children had shoes to wear, there would be a lot less need to perform amputations of children’s infected limbs. 

After returning home, Mona scouted around neighbourhoods and families asking for donations of any unwanted children’s shoes – she collected and brought these to an orphanage in Honduras. However, as she was about to leave, one of the workers at the orphanage asked ‘When are you coming back?’, and Mona thought to herself ‘I’m not coming back. This was a one-time thing…’ And it was that question that changed her life.

Soon enough, Mona gained immense interest from numerous schools, church groups, scout troops and Civic organisations; and subsequently the shoe drives began to attract much media attention, resulting in generous donations of shoes pouring in. She also managed to enlist the aid of shippers and airlines, government agencies, embassies, small businesses, government officials and major corporations. All the while, Mona ensured that shoes were given in a way that ‘honoured the dignity of those who would receive them’ and were thus sanitised with hot water & bleach and polished, before being shipped out. Any shoes that were too worn, with holes and tears etc. were discarded, as Mona wanted each pair of shoes received to be clean and in good condition.

Since Mona embarked on that journey through America, Share Your Soles has accumulated and sent out hundreds of thousands of pairs of shoes to people in need world-wide. This includes the regions of: Central America, Southeast Asia, The Caribbean, Appalachia, Eastern Europe, American Indian Reservations, India, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Cameroon, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Ghana - No boundaries. No borders.’

You can check out their website @ http://shareyoursoles.org/ to read more about the organisation, and to see how you can get involved and make a difference. Unfortunately, there are currently no collections in the UK, but don’t let that stop you – you can still collect a bundle of shoes, and ship them over to America! Yes, it may cost a bit in postage, but you’ll feel really great about doing a good deed, and how about you cut out £20 from your usual ‘more clothes that I really don’t need and have no space for in my wardrobe’ budget? I know you have one, all of us girls do. £20 will be more than enough to cover shipping costs, AND leave you with some spare cash in your purse to do even more great and charitable deeds with! Or, if you’re feeling extremely enthusiastic, you can contact the team to see if you can make an area near you an official drop site for donations – surely worth a try...

‘When you choose to make a difference in an innocent child’s life, you bring love, hope and a sense of belonging into their life – as well as your own’

Monday, 20 February 2012


Just a quick shout out guys & dolls: If you do one thing today on your computer, you must check out Style With Heart @  http://www.stylewithheart.com/ - it’s an amazing site dedicated to providing a guide of hundreds of ethical clothing and accessory brands available to consumers today. I think many people would be pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of labels on the market that are concerned about our world and all of the people living in it, as opposed to simply making a quick buck with no regard to anything or anyone else.

The site is split into a number of categories: Fair Trade, Fairly Traded, Organic, Eco-Friendly, Recycled and Vintage. I dare you to come away without finding something that tickles your taste buds; there’s almost certainly something to get everyone excited about responsible fashion.  Whoever came up with the concept of the site is a super kind genius (the best kind of genius out there in my humble opinion). We're all going to have to begin to make more informed choices where the clothes on our backs are concerened if we're going to maintain anything that vaguely resembles a sustainable way of life for future generations to come. And if we consciously decide to make better choices now, and learn about where our clothes are actually coming from and the journey of how they reach us, then we will be in a much better position to teach younger people about these important issues, and pave them a better path.

 (all images from stylewithheart.com)

And while I’m on the theme of kindness, though this is nothing to do with fashion it centres on kindness which I believe is central to the idea of charity and giving back, and fashion can definitely be a part of that. Anyway, just take a peek at this ‘Thought Bubble’ animation by author Amy Krouse Rosenthal - it added much needed rays of beaming sunshine to my day...

Share this with someone today!


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Sparkle inside & out with Moonshined Designs

Since embarking on this blog, I have found that the discovering of one brand or organisation often leads to the uncovering of several more, and this process continues – resulting in me having endless amounts of fashionable goodness to keep you in the loop about. Today, it is a high quality jewellery company called ‘Moonshined Designs’.

Designer and owner Cate Reubenstein promotes her company with the promise of all pieces being handmade, ensuring an ‘Old-World/European tradition of very high craftsmanship’. Another fundamental factor is that quality is ensured, and is of an extremely high standard; and Cate only ever uses Sterling silver and pure gold – none of that cheap stuff that leaves you with embarrassing green marks... She says, ‘I am designing things to last’. What do you have to say about that Primark? What’s that – nothing? Yeah, I thought so. 

All of Cate’s designs have a refreshing simplicity to them, and are made from only the purest minerals. Every single detail of every piece has been carefully considered, and crafted with care. The website allows you to shop by colour, material, and gemstone – of which there is an abundance to choose from; and don’t worry lads – you haven’t been forgotten - there are a number of unisex pieces on offer too. And once you click on a piece you’re particularly interested in, a set of details appears, which feel like a personal note from Cate to you about the piece you might buy, as well as a list of ‘superpowers’ that each material of stone holds for the wearer. It’s those little touches that make a purchase feel special, and make you feel special, as you should. 

  Not to worry if you can’t find something to suit your needs, because Moonshined also offers a bespoke service where you can discuss any particular needs you might have with Cate, who welcomes custom orders and aims to please you! And that’s not the best part: A portion of all sales is donated, and benefits either Marine Animal Rescue or Breast Cancer Research (depending on your preference). I like this girl more and more by the minute.

Regarding her personal philosophy Cate says, ‘I probably don’t need to tell you that when you look good, you feel good.  Or that true beauty comes from within. But I wish you much beauty in all realms of your life; increased faith in whatever sustains you, and the power and courage to be your best self. I hope my designs help, and if not my designs, then just the thought behind them’. 

You can head straight over to the website here: http://moonshinedonline.com/ 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fashion kids @ NTU join forces with Oxfam and Upcycle

Today I spent my morning in the awesome treasure-trove shop that is Oxfam (you know - the quirky Goose Gate one in Nottingham). It’s nothing like your typical bog-standard charity shop, that generally lacks inspiration or imagination - oh no – it’s an absolute pleasure to wander around its shop floor, never knowing what you might stumble upon. The building is beautiful, and the interior decor is really vibrant and inviting and just plain FUN. Items are sorted into different sections, including high street and retro, with an eye candy rainbow rail of colour coded items near the entrance. Numerous vintage accessories including scarves and jewellery; in addition to scrap pieces of fabric and do-it-yourself projects are scattered around in various wooden trunks and chests, patiently waiting to be discovered. I just love it there. 

Anyway, back to why I was there (no, I wasn’t shopping and frittering away my student loan, again) – the first year Fashion Design kids at Nottingham Trent Uni (where I am currently a final year student) are embarking on an upcycling project with Oxfam. Working in teams, they were each handed a mysterious green Oxfam sack filled with a random lucky-dip of donated clothes, which do not meet the required shop-floor standards. Their mission, should they choose to accept it or not, is to rip, shred, tear, dye, print, deconstruct, and upcycle these old items into brand spanking new, on- trend show stopping garments, which will then be sold in the Oxfam shop. So clothes that would normally have gone to waste are being given a new lease of life, a step in the right direction to save our planet is being taken, the fashion kids get to have a lot of fun with an interesting project, and Oxfam will get extra money to save lives. It’s a win win win win

I must say it was very interesting watching the students’ faces as they delved into their green bags, hoping for some fine diamonds, while mostly finding cheap cloudy fakes. But that is the whole point of the project – it’s not supposed to be easy, and will most definitely challenge these young designers and their skills, but will also be extremely rewarding upon seeing their final garments being strutted down the catwalk. Oh, their faces were a picture...

the store-room

The students began to reveal the contents of the ominous green sacks. Some were pleased...

Others, not so much.

various old trims and bits & bobs that the students could help themselves to

The lovely fashion accessories lecturer Lee in the background here

The funniest trousers I've seen in a long while... He seemed impressively enthusiastic though...

Emma (a lovely lecturer @ NTU) with Thomas the Oxfam manager

I was fortunate enough to speak to the manager of the shop – Thomas – who was telling me that Oxfam are currently struggling to get enough re-sellable donations through the door, which I feel could be due to the explosion of eBay which makes it very convenient to sell your unwanted clothes and pocket some good money in the process.  In addition, Thomas believes that fabric recycling companies, which pay for un-wanted clothes by the weight, are also affecting Oxfam. So Guys & Dolls: PLEASE DONATE SOME OF YOUR UNWANTED CLOTHES TO CHARITY! No, you won’t receive any dollars in exchange, but what you will get is a whole lotta good karma; and that’s a promise.

I’ll keep you updated on this project, and will show you the final upcycled pieces once they’re complete!

You can also check out the online Oxfam shop @ http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/ or pop in to your local high street branch!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

'Buti' Camp with Kinabuti

Caterina Bortolussi started her fashion label with a conscience ‘Kinabuti’ in 2010. Her vibrant designs are greatly inspired by the country of Nigeria, and Bortolussi made an inspiring decision to use fashion and her label as a catalyst for change in the deprived region.

"I thought, 'Why can't we use fashion as a vehicle to make a difference?' We should lead by example," says Bortolussi. "We should do something that will make a difference and inspire other people. That is what I want to do with Kinabuti: positive action."

Kinabuti’s ethos is to engage with the local Nigerian community and, through fashion, provide opportunities and training to the people who need it most.

One of these opportunities included casting 21 local girls to model her designs. None of these girls held any prior experience in modelling, but took part in training at ‘Buti Camp’ where they had the chance to learn and perfect many tricks of the trade including make up & hairstyling, runway walking and striking a fierce pose that Tyra Banks would be oh-so-proud of.

These lucky few became the chosen ‘Kinabuti girls’ and are fortunate enough to regularly work with the label in promoting and modelling the designs. Aside from industry experience, their role also provides the precious opportunity to network with so many different people, and to also work alongside other designers, and learn many relevant and valuable skills which they will keep for life, and will significantly brighten each of their futures. 

"It's not every day in life that we have the opportunity to do what we want to do... Being part of Kinabuti has showed me that I can do things. It made me believe in myself. Having that in my head ... has been the most exciting part of this experience so far." - Ini Godwin, one of the young models.
If I were you, I’d keep my eyes on Kinabuti, as Bortolussi has many more ambitious plans for Nigeria where her label is concerned  - "Our focus is on the community," she says; "What we want to do for next year is organize training for tailors in skills like draping, dress-making, making patterns and creating new fabrics.

The website for this amazing label is: http://www.kinabuti.com/

You can also follow the label on twitter, and like it on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kinabuti/101107026629393 Go on, show your support!

And you can read the full story of this campaign here: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/12/27/world/africa/fashion-nigeria-kinabuti/index.html (all images are from here)

This is yet another great story of someone in the fashion industry who is taking a stand, and deciding to do things her way. Power to you sister! You’re an exemplary role model for all the young fashion kids out there at this moment, who aspire to be designers one day. You make me believe that change is possible; you just have to want to be a part of that change. If you don’t like how things are in the industry right now, then don’t just sit on your bum and except it. Change it. Fight for something. Be a part of shaping your world – because if you don’t, I guarantee that somebody else will.