A New Year, A New Color

Alright y'all, I hope you won't mind if I share some thoughts and talk about the overlap of The Simple Kind & my personal life for a minute.

The past few years have been phenomenal, and I've learned SO MUCH. I'm so glad that was something we made a priority in the beginning-- to be learners before we are doers or talkers. While there is obviously an ocean of things I've yet to learn about life and this concept of ethical fashion, I feel like I have been so intellectually & emotionally nourished by our travels and relationships we've made along the way and the stacks of books I've invested in learning about this whole thing. The more I learn, the harder it is to talk about anything, because I realize much more I have left to learn. I see ethical fashion growing in trendiness, and I worry it's going to lose its subversive power, and that pulls at a foolish urgency in me and makes me want to talk louder. I want to teach & to inspire folks to care about the world, about the economy, about how our shopping habits have the ability to both feed demons or set people free... but lately, jabbering on about these things has just felt empty and ineffective. 

That said, I've been ruminating on what it means to truly live a life that is ethical and fair. I think it extends far beyond our habits as consumers; it has to do with the way we treat the checkout clerk at the grocery store, how we disagree with people, what we spend our time investing in. At the end of this year, I am inspired to stop talking and experience the freedom of living a life that I am proud of and want to see multiplied. 

On that note, The Simple Kind will be dressed in a new color this year. We're taking a bit of a break from production, because we want to expand our Latvian partnership to be long-term and sustainable and that requires all hands (and hours) on deck. I'm going to spend a few months with them this summer to pursue this expansion, and I'll be volunteering with @freedom61_ywamlatvia's Work while I am there. And until then, I hope to share things I hear or see that remind me of the heart of the ethical fashion movement. I want you to feel encouraged and included! I'm also going to give some reviews & shoutouts to companies I really love and want to share with you guys. 

I'm moving back to Texas in two days, and from the on The Simple Kind will be set up in the Austin area. I've got people to meet and places to explore! I'm also getting married next Fall, and I'd love to share some behind-the-scenes glimpses of how we (hopefully) pull together a socially/environmentally-conscious party to celebrate. 

Essentially, this is going to be a pretty personal year for The Simple Kind. We're so thankful for your support, that you've followed our story and have shared yours with us. We are all part of a Beloved Community, each member using their voice & flavor to spread freedom and dignity in their own arena of life. May you be strengthened to live & love with integrity, with a watchful eye for your neighbor and a grateful heart to appreciate each breath!

 

Molly Hardwick

Fresh Insight from an Eco-Conscious Babe

Hey there world! We're back from a long blogging hiatus and excited to share with you a new series we are cooking up: interviews with some of our favorite makers! 

There is a vibrant community of entrepreneurs who are involved in gloriously creative & innovative works to impact the fashion industry in the direction of becoming more socially & environmentally conscious. We thought we'd do some of the social media scouting work for you, and create our own little platform for you to learn about some of our favorites. 

Without further adieu, please enjoy this conversation we recently had with one of our ethical fashion heroes... Amy Nicole! Amy is a sewing blogger, seamstress, tailor, pattern-maker, and all around eco-conscious fashion queen with her own brand of handmade & upcycled garments: Honey Darlin. We asked her just a few questions to give us a glimpse into her world; we hope you feel the urge to check our her work and learn more about the wonderful things she's up to.

  1. Tell us about your journey into fashion! When did you first become familiar with “eco-conscious fashion”?

    I've been into refashioning since I first started sewing in college. I think the concept of using what you have and not wasting had just been engrained in me from a young age by my mom who was an avid recycler. I would go to goodwill instead of the fabric store when I wanted to start a new project. Still, I didn't really understand the negative impact of fast fashion till I was living in NY and studying fashion design. I saw everything that went into producing a garment, and when interning for brands who were ethically producing in New York's garment district it dawned on me that there's no way someone is ever paid fairly when a tank top costs five dollars. That's when I stopped buying fast fashion. 

  2. Tell us about Honey Darlin! What is the ethos behind you brand, and what do you hope to inspire in people who shop Honey Darlin?

    Honey Darlin is for eco conscious gals who enjoy having fun with their wardrobe. I feel so many ethical brands focus on elevated basics, which is awesome. But I wanted to create clothing that makes people smile and maybe even think "how funny!" I'm not a tshirt and jeans kind of girl. I love color, and prints, and quirky details. I hope to bring this aesthetic into the eco-fashion world. 

  1. We know you’re quite a resourceful (and talented) seamstress. Can you tell us about your favorite “upcycled” piece you’ve made?

This isn't even my "most upcycled" piece as far as the changes that were made to it, but hands down it has to be my wedding dress. It was my mother's dress, that was made by my grandmother. I updated the sleeves and the skirt shape and gave it a cut out back. My mom passed away two years before I got married, and her and my dad were best friends who were married for over 39 years. So it meant the world to me to walk down the aisle in the same dress she did. 

  1. What book/content/resources would you recommend to people who are interested in learning more about eco-conscious fashion?

    If you are unsure as to why exactly eco conscious fashion is important, definitely watch the True Cost movie. It's an eye opener especially for people who don't have a full grasp of how the fashion industry works. Also Study 34 has a great newsletter that accumulates articles from all over the web around the topic of sustainable fashion for those that want to really dive deep. And it's just once a month so they don't bombard your inbox (one of my pet peeves!)

  2. What are three things you that would advise someone who wants to become more eco-conscious in their wardrobe purchases; key things to look for, what to avoid, etc.?

First I would say that it takes a mindset shift. It's hard to get over the price jump that often comes with shopping ethically. But the idea is that you are shopping less often, so generally the shift balances itself out. The average American owns way more than clothing they need and only wears those items once or twice before tossing them out. So changing the way you think about what clothes we "need" and why we shop so much in general is a huge first step. 

Second I would say stop shopping at places like target and forever 21.  Just. Don't. Do it. It's hard, trust me I know.  I used to go to forever 21 every Thursday to buy a new outfit for the weekend. But you just aren't going to find anything to buy with a clean conscience there. Obviously this is something we can hope for in the future, but right now it's just not an option. 

My third tip is to embrace second hand! Buying second hand is one of the best and most affordable ways to join the eco fashion movement. Not only are you keeping clothing out of landfills, but your money is not supporting many of the major fast fashion brands you will find there. Often times second hand shops are run by charities - extra bonus! 

Thanks for sharing what you do with us, Amy! Be sure to check out her website where she documents her current projects (with tutorials! Yay!), Honey Darlin's Etsy store, and her social media pages: @amynicolestudio and @heyhoneydarlin!

Remembrance & Looking Forward

Every year, March 25 invokes remembrance & honor from the labor rights community. The day marks the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that occurred in New York City in 1911; the largest garment manufacturing tragedy to happen on US soil.

The fire claimed 146 lives; 123 women, 23 men, and nearly all immigrants. The fire served as the match lighting for women to join the labor movement, largely through the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. The petitions, strikes, and protests that marked their efforts cost them both social and physical security, but would accelerate the acquisition of workers rights that most all of us in the United States enjoy today (freedom of association in joining trade unions, elimination of forced and child labor, minimum wage and overtime requirements, enforcement of safety regulations and workers comp, etc.). The same rights were championed decades later by the tenacious men & women of the Civil Rights Movement who fought their own battles for the same rights to be guaranteed for African Americans. 

The conditions that produced the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy are key to understanding how such devastating events occur: fire safety regulations were not enforced, and doors and windows were locked during work hours to prevent theft. These conditions sound inconceivable to many workers in the West, and yet they are regretfully the common state of many garment manufacturing facilities around the world today, where lethal fires of similar size happen too often.

If you are wondering whether or not you would have been on the right side of history with labor rights in 1911, here are things you can do today:

  1. Pay attention when you hear about worker's rights in this day and age. This means things like income inequality, mass incarceration and the immigrant workforce. Read stories about these issues from both sides of the political spectrum-- sift through the bias to find what you believe and do something about it. Take a note out of the history books: join pickets and nonviolent protests, volunteer, host community discussion nights. And of course, vote for public servants that will participate with integrity in empowering workers across society.
  2. Research whether or not your favorite companies support workers’ rights along their supply chains. Many companies talk about corporate social responsibility on their websites, but reports from third-party action/watchdog groups will tell an unbiased version of the story. (Human Rights Watch, Workers Rights Consortium, and International Labor Rights Forum are excellent resources.) If you're disappointed with what you find, write to these companies and ask them to improve their practices to international ethical standards. If you're happy with what you find, tell everyone you know and make sure they get good business. Use your collective power of purchase to tell the corporations what you want.
  3. Become an active member of your community and talk to people who look different than you do. I think somehow we subconsciously justify participating (even passively) in a corrupt global economy because somewhere in us we don't realize that no matter what country you live in, no matter your standard of living or minimum wage, we are all humans with a basic desire for dignity. Be part of a community garden, eat meals with your neighbors. Strengthen your empathy muscles, and your concentration on shared humanity will change your shopping tastebuds. I promise!

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Molly's Booklist!

Hey guys!

We just got back from our tour through Texas where we spent some time talking with different groups about the garment industry, human trafficking, & everything in between. We had a couple of requests for a list of books where folks can learn more about these issues-- so I made a list of all my favorites! These books have been part of my personal journey of understanding injustice within our global trading system, as well as stories of people of faith who have lived courageously in the tension of immense corruption and hope for a better world.

These are listed in no particular order; READ EM ALL! And enjoy them so much!

  1. Strength to Love-- Martin Luther King

  2. Jesus and the Disinherited-- Howard Thurman

  3. Selling Olga-- Louisa Waugh

  4. Sex Trafficking-- Siddharth Kara

  5. Poor Economics-- Abhijit Banejee/Esther Duflo

  6. Disposable People-- Kevin Bales

  7. Not For Sale-- David Batstone

  8. Overdressed-- Elizabeth Cline

  9. Stitched Up-- Tansy Hoskins

  10. The Long Loneliness-- Dorothy Day

  11. Globalization and Its Discontents-- Joseph E. Stiglitz

  12. Half the Sky-- Sheryl WuDunn/Nicholas Kristof

  13. Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way-- Walter Wink

  14. A Nun on the Bus-- S. Simone Campbell

  15. The Irresistible Revolution-- Shane Claiborne

We're Headed to Latvia!

A note from Molly Hardwick, TSK Creative Director & Founder:

Hello, friends and fam! I wanted to fill you in on some [more] exciting happenings with The Simple Kind.

This past year has been so incredibly valuable for us as a company. Our research trips to Cambodia, Thailand, and Hungary challenged us greatly and opened our eyes to the nuances of what it means to run a healthy social business. Our time here in the States (designing, sewing, and selling two collections) has taught us so much about working hard and rolling with the punches to achieve short and long term goals. We’ve done all of this while working full-time jobs, and we’ve realized that in order to continue growing, we’re going to need to start outsourcing some of our labor!

This decision has been something we’ve really taken our time with. We’ve learned that easy answers usually aren’t the best ones, and we’ve been determined to be patient in the process of finding a production group that meets our standards of empowerment, sustainability, and quality. With a big ol’ sigh of relief, I’m happy to announce that we’ve connected with an incredible group who are going to join us in production in 2017! We’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to help cover some of the expenses that come with this partnership (2017 supplies + a portion of travel costs). You can view it, read the overview of our mission, and donate HERE... and keep reading if you’d like to hear more of the behind-the-scenes story. :)

Freedom61 is an organization in Latvia that empowers women coming out of exploitive situations to live independently with health and wholeness. I (Molly) have known the folks who run F61 for a few years, and I was able to visit them in Latvia in 2015. They are shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves in their work-- reaching out to women working in prostitution, providing genuine friendship and support, and walking alongside several ladies who have chosen to exit the sex industry and move on to meaningful work. F61 links together the pieces for women to successfully do this, all while experiencing a time of rest & healing at a beautiful home in the Latvian countryside. They have a vocational training structure at this location that allows the ladies to make an income-- in order to slowly begin contributing to their room/board, learning financial planning, and saving for their future education and living expenses.

Before The Simple Kind started, we received some incredible and timely advice: “If you want to be a social business, you have to be a good business first. It’s unwise to invite economically vulnerable people into an operation that isn’t stable.” We heard this again on our trip to Southeast Asia, and we've made it our goal this past year! We’ve been working hard to stabilize our business, better understanding what will sell (and how). I think we’ll always continue learning, but we’re at a place where we feel that this partnership will truly be mutually beneficial. We reconnected with Freedom61 at the conference we attended in Budapest in late August, and since then the ladies have been practicing sewing under the guidance of instructors and professionals. Here’s a photo of their sewing room— with some of our dresses hanging in the background!

We also value a partnership in Eastern Europe because in our travels we have seen that women from this part of the world are some of the most heavily trafficked into the sex industry and forced labor, largely because of economic need. The women I met who were working in prostitution in Latvia had come from villages where they couldn’t find work, and lack of access to education prevented them from finding decent-paying work in the city. Economic opportunity is an invaluable piece of the rehabilitation puzzle, as well as instrumental in preventing at-risk situations in the first place.

I also witnessed Riga, Latvia’s capital city, bursting with young creatives who are using traditional Latvian skills of knitting, embroidery, and sewing to make a living. Our hope is that the partnership will be an allied force for the women to gain culturally, socially, and financially relevant skills. We are purchasing Baltic linen and embroidered ribbon in Riga for our garments this next year, to celebrate their cultural strengths as well as invest in local economy and support small wholesalers.

This is a brand new partnership, and we are hopeful for it growing organically to continue empowering women in the Baltic region. I’d be so, so honored if you joined us on this journey, prayerfully and financially! I am humbled to remember that we’ve only gotten this far with your support and encouragement-- what a beautiful thing! This truly isn’t just my story or The Simple Kind’s story, it’s been all of us working together to create hope and change, empowering women to stand tall.

THANK YOU so much!

P.S. To view our Crowdrise campaign and donate, click here!

Budapest, Stories, and The Shine Conference

 The painted ceiling of St Matthias Church in Budapest

The painted ceiling of St Matthias Church in Budapest

From the beginning of The Simple Kind, Molly and I knew we wanted one of our core values to be “story”. The very heart of the ethical fashion movement involves looking at a garment and asking, “Where did this come from? Who made it and how? What are the human details behind the tag?” By asking these questions, we can begin to see our closets for what they are: anthologies filled to the brim with soft, embroidered, human stories.

By daring to wonder about the anonymous, humming workforce behind this multi-trillion-dollar-a-year industry, we invite ourselves and others to examine our own part in this worldwide story. In this way, the clothes we wear become a sort of woven relic: a symbol of the connection between the one who sews and the one who wears.   

As a writer, I was captivated by the inherent poetry of the movement. As an idealist, I was optimistic and passionate about propelling it forward and inviting others to make bold moves towards awareness and justice. But, just like all social justice movements, the nuances quickly unravel all hastily formed ideals. The more we learned and read and traveled, the less we shouted and the more we listened. From garment workers to NGOs to other social businesses, we encountered bold, wise voices who both kindly and sharply asked all the right questions.

“Should we become a nonprofit or should we stay a business? How are we going to be sustainable and profitable? What does NGO dependency look like? How do we avoid exploiting someone else’s story? What does successful impact even look like to us?”

Under the weight of these questions, The Simple Kind’s seemingly straightforward framework suddenly seemed a bit wobbly. And so we've spent much of 2016 trying to research and pray and talk and labor our way towards some kind of conclusion and direction. We’ve traveled to Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, connected and reconnected with new and old friends, swerved through awkward conversations, banged our heads against countless walls, swooned over sweet little dresses (and the babies in them), cried over failures and injustices, and fallen into bed from pure exhaustion...all while working day jobs, might I add.

We have found that forming a social business is hard work in every sense: physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally, the whole endeavor requires some serious guts and endurance. At moments, I’ve had the lurking desire to take the easy route: “This whole thing is way too complicated. Can’t we just find an affordable production group? Or run some kind of marketing campaign without considering every single ethical implication? Let’s get to selling! Let’s succeed now! Quick!” But soon I realized: these hurried thoughts are the same voice of instant gratification that we’ve been so vocally condemning within the fashion industry.

Instead, we’re intentionally and earnestly listening to a different voice: “Slow down. Pay attention. This is the story of The Simple Kind.” We’ve learned more and more that the process has been fixed and steady for a reason: the women we want to work with deserve far more than a quick-fix attitude. This road isn’t centered around outcomes, and success may look different than we expect. For now, we’re focusing more on creating a good, sustainable business than we are creating a cut-and-dry success story.

Several weeks ago, we traveled to Budapest to take part in the Shine Conference, a network of organizations working with victims of exploitation around the world. The conference was designed to encourage and connect these groups in order to meet needs and facilitate relationships. Walking into the conference, we felt a bit timid. Most of the people here were on the “front lines” of the fight against exploitation...we were merely a social business. Would we fit in?

The answer turned out to be an emphatic YES. After listening to many of these groups discuss their needs and experiences, the common denominator was a need for sustainable jobs. It turns out work (and especially meaningful work) is the most healthy long-term solution to staying out of exploitative situations.

Needless to say, we walked out of the conference with fresh perspective, renewed passion, new friends, and one potential production partner. We met some truly incredible folks (Freedom 61, Hope Dies Last, Kaleo, and Dignita Amsterdam, among many others), saw some insanely beautiful pieces of Europe (wowee, Budapest), and felt the tides begin to turn.

Keep up with us in the coming months to see what we have in store! Our plans include...

  • A Fall/Winter 2016 Line release in October (sneak peek below!)
  • A limited Fall “Simple Kind Tour” in several US cities (a sort of party/Q&A/pop-up shop)
  • Holiday shopping opportunities in Texas and Colorado
  • More announcements about production + travel

Be on the lookout for details and dates! 

- Kelsey Yandura || TSK Storyteller