Better Life Bags. The name says it all.

This is my dream. My unspoken goal. Design something awesome + Change people’s lives. There I said it. Lofty, no? That’s why I’m in awe the folks behind Better Life Bags!

See a need, come up with a plan to fill that need, provide hope, build a community. All while making adorable, useful bags. That is what Better Life Bags is doing in Detroit.

We hire women, who otherwise cannot get jobs, to work for BLB.  We rent them a sewing machine and tools while teaching them a skill set that allows them to become a primary or secondary provider in their families.  Most of these women are first generation immigrants from countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Yemen, so we are also able to provide them with much needed fellowship and friendship as we visit their homes to deliver fabric and pick up orders.

That’s not all, though.  From the beginning, Better Life Bags has given 10% of every sale to a low income entrepreneur in a developing country through Kiva.org.

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Yes, you can run to the mall to buy a bag. But that mall bag won’t be a customized with the fabric of your choice. That mall bag won’t help provide jobs and training for women in order to provide for their families. That mall bag won’t help build a community. And that mall bag you would buy isn’t giving 10% of every sale to a low income entrepreneur in a developing country. But Better Life Bags is doing all of this!

The Alicia clutch (shown above in a custom fabric) is ready to ship in 4 colors. You can customize it with their huge selection of available fabrics. How amazing is the one above? I’m in love with the fabric. It’s going on the Christmas list…

Need more proof?

The Brynnda Bag. Leather & Amy Butler Fabric? Perfection.

The Nesting Pouches. Perfect for, well, everything.

Custom Snack Bags? Imagine not having to buy (and throw away) ziploc bags anymore. These will pay for themselves, and help the environment!

Check out the rest of their collection and options: Shop for Bags

Want to learn more about the folks at Better Life Bags? Check out their Better Life Bags Blog and follow them on twitter @betterlifebags

Your purchases and gifts can help change the lives of others. Giving takes many forms, and sometimes it is through the purchase of a fantastic bag.

Big news!

It’s here. After months (years) of prayers, listening, waiting, dreaming, tinkering, playing…it’s here.

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Inspired by Al Andrews, to become an improbable philanthropist.

Inspired by Jon Acuff, to Start. (First inspired by Quitter, but I can’t quit my day job as a mom.)

Inspired by Rebecca at Better Life Bags (where I first admitted my dream “Design something awesome + Change people’s lives”), Megan at She Does Justice and Sarah at BeCause to start a business that combines creative talents & giving.

Inspired by Mike Donehey to sponsor children through Compassion.

Grateful for the encouragement of friends and strangers that have purchased bags already.

Come on over to GingerLaneGoods.com or the Ginger Lane Goods Etsy store or the Spoonflower fabric store!

Shop with your heart Holiday Gift Guide: Women’s Accessories

This holiday season, you can purchase gifts from the mall. Or you can support organizations that are working with artisans worldwide and are changing the world with every purchase.

1 – Krochet Kids, The Marie Infinity Scarf (also available in Deep Green, Butterscotch and Black) Handmade in Peru
Why? Started by three guys who took their love of crocheting (that statement alone is reason to support them) to Uganda and Peru to help create sustainable employment and empowerment. Today, over 150 people in Uganda and Peru are working, receiving education, and being mentored toward a brighter future.

2 – Toms, Windward Sunglasses in Tortoise with Light Blue
Why? With every purchase, Toms will help give sight to a person in need, in the form of a pair of prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery or medical treatment (in partnership with Seva Foundation). And in addition, they are donating $10 for every eyewear and $5 for shoe purchases to Save the Children to help with the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

3 – Rural Revolution, Jaya Lemon Clutch from Indonesia or purchase from Roozt.
Why? As a company, Rural Revolution believes in the power of employment and self-expression as a means for women to help sustain themselves and their communities culturally, economically, and physically. We believe in partnering with established co-ops when possible and forming new ones when needed. Currently they are working with artisans in Ethopia, India, Indonesia, New Orleans, and more.

4 – Noonday Collection, Zip Up Wrap
Why? The passion at Noonday Collection is to connect you with the lives of artisans struggling for a better future while styling you along the way. Their artisans span the world, including Uganda, India, Ecuador, the US, among other. They also help families raise money for their own adoptions by giving 10% of trunk show sales directly to the adoptive family when they host a trunk show.

5 – Roma Boots, Glossy Navy boots or purchase from Roozt.
Why? Roma Provisions combines fashion with charity to fight the cycle of poverty afflicting street children and orphans by bringing them hope, love and lasting change in the most sustainable and practical way. For every pair of Roma Boots sold, a brand new pair is donated to a child in need.

6 – Out of Print, The Great Gatsby eBook cover
Why? For each product sold, one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa.

7 – IndoSole, Women’s Pantai Beach Shoe in Marigold (also available in natural, cobalt blue and black) or purchase from Roozt.
Why? Each pair of sandals/shoes is hand-made with love, using old motorbike tires, and possess a charm which is synonymous with the Balinese craftspeople who create them.

8 – Better Life Bags, The Alicia Clutch (you can customize with their huge fabric selection)
Why? Located in Detroit, they hire women, who otherwise cannot get jobs, to work for BLB. From the beginning, Better Life Bags has given 10% of every sale to a low income entrepreneur in a developing country through Kiva.org.

*I highly recommend joining Roozt (it’s as simple as putting in your email and making up a password). Joining will not only feed a child, but they sell some of the products above at a discounted member price.

 

Maybe it’s time for a Fashion Diet

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By now, we’s all heard about the dangers of GMOs,  overeating, junk food, processed foods, pesticides. Fast fashion is no different. Our need for more and cheaper – our over consumption of basically disposable clothing – can be damaging to all involved in the lifecycle. The documentary True Cost is unveiling the human suffering, the damage to communities and their environments, just so that we can have a $5 t-shirt that we may wear only once. A few short sentences will never convey the destruction of the mass produced fashion industry, so I highly encourage you to watch the movie (Netflix/Amazon/iTunes). (For more info, here is our Beginner’s Guide to Ethically-Made Fashion.)

One of the many facts that you can’t unsee or unlearn:

Only 10% of the clothes donated to charity or thrift stores are sold.

The other 90% ends up in landfills or flooding markets in developing countries overseas. Hurting their economy and environment.

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(True Cost film still. Source.)

“The global trade of second-hand clothing is a multi-billion dollar industry for developed countries. With our clothing waste being sent overseas by the tons, there’s little chance of African countries, as a whole, developing their own textile trade. In the last 10 years, local industries, such as garment-making and tailoring, have collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers unemployed.”

Shannon Whitehead, “What really happens to your donated clothing

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I’ll be honest, I have always loved the idea of donating my clothes. You think you’re doing something to help out another person. I will be the first to tell you that I’m the Queen of Rationalization. I can find a bright side to most anything. Need a new dress for a party? No prob, I’ll just donate it later.

Before watching the documentary, I happened to read the popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and am slowly “Konmari-ing” the crap out of my house. Reducing and organizing my clothes was freeing, but also eye-opening. I had A LOT of clothes I didn’t wear. Either it didn’t fit or I didn’t really like it anymore, whatever the reason, I had clothes just sitting there. Taking up space and collecting dust. So after an honest purge, six garbage bags were filled.

The worst was the tiny little dagger I felt when looking at an item that I loved and it just sat there reminding me of time when it did fit. How freeing it was to kick those clothes – and the negative self-talk that came with them – out of my house.

These, the clothes that I loved but couldn’t wear, were the ones I gave to friends. What an absolute joy it was to see them try them on, twirl around, and feel beautiful. Clothes that give the gift of happiness. Another bag went to my dear friend who hand delivers clothing and food to homeless people on the streets of Boston. Clothes that can help keep them warm. The rest was dropped off at Savers. Clothes that will find a new home (and hopefully not in a landfill).

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  • Buy less.
  • Invest in quality pieces that will last. Here’s a list of some of my favorite ethical fashion brands.
  • Have extra jeans? Host a Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party to cut shoe patterns to be made into shoes for kids in Uganda to protect their feet from harmful jiggers.
  • Trade/share clothes with friends.
  • Shop at thrift, vintage and consignment stores. Go rock a vintage Valentino jacket at your next holiday party. And jeans are always better worn-in.
  • Pull together clothes to be given directly to homeless or similar missions. Cradles to Crayons does an excellent job of involving the community (great for kids!) and giving directly to those in need.
  • Reduce the amount of cheap, fast fashion clothes you buy. I’m still working on this too, especially shopping for my boys. They only wear athletic pants (what they call “fancy pants”) and destroy them/grow so quickly that I end up at cheaply made places like Old Navy and Target.

Just as we teach our children: actions have consequences. Our need for more more more + cheaper cheaper cheaper has massive ethical and environmental consequences. The surprising thing for me, especially after Konmari-ing my own clothes, was the psychological impact of fashion in my own life. Why do we buy so much? Why do we feel like more will make us happier? Why do we feel like we deserve it? Stuff will never fulfill us. Stuff will never bring lasting joy.

As a side note, True Cost covers how horrible the cheap leather industry can be. At Bevy Goods, we are committed to investing in and using responsibly-sourced leather, which means our leathers are vegetable-tanned (reducing the amount of dangerous chromium that used) or comes from facilities that adhere to strict environmental codes and conditions. We are creating bags with lasting style + purpose: ethically-made bags that carry you from day to night. 

Sign up at Bevy Goods to join us on this journey and be the first to know when we are launching. And while you’re at it, let’s connect on InstagramFacebook & Twitter!

A Beginner’s Guide to Ethically-Made Fashion

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Ethically-made. Ethical fashion. Sustainable fashion. Made in the USA.

What does it all mean?

Confession: When I started Bevy Goods, it was with primary purpose to put people first by providing jobs to those in need in the US, as well as supporting local, domestic manufacturing. I didn’t know anything about ethical or sustainable fashion. All I knew was that I wanted the heart and mission of my company to be focused on empowering people and building community. Then I completed the incredible ethical fashion accelerator program, Factory45, which started to open my eyes to the true cost that goes into the garments and accessories that fill our closets.

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Defining ethical fashion is tricky because “ethical” can mean something different from person to person. As an umbrella statement, ethical fashion encompasses promoting ethical labor conditions, fair trade, animal welfare, environmentally kind and sustainable materials and production.

Some may disagree and see ethical fashion as a black & white issue: either it is all of these things or it is not. And that’s fine. But to me, ethical fashion is a journey. It reflects how you prioritize these issues based on your value system and beliefs. One may be adamant that everything they buy be free from any animal cruelty. Someone else may only buy items made with eco-friendly and sustainable materials. For others, people and production may come first. Ideally, it would be all of the above. But for the sake of this beginner’s guide, we will start with the issue of ethical production, fair wages and beneficial working conditions.

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How do you currently think about something before you buy it? Style? Price? Fit? Trend? I’m not saying that I’m any different or better at this, but it’s important to realize that everything we buy has already been touched by a lot of people. And we have important purchasing power where we endorse the lifecycle (including wages, conditions, damage) of whatever we buy. No pressure, right?

But as G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle”. We want to know that our apples are organic and that our cleaning products won’t harm our children. Shouldn’t we want to know if the shirt we’re wearing was made by someone who was treated inhumanely at a sweat shop? What went into making a t-shirt that a company can sell (for a profit) for $2.99?

What can we do? Dame Vivienne Westwood said it best:

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I highly recommend watching the True Cost documentary on Netflix/Amazon/iTunes for more information on the ethical issues with fast fashion. And for a look at the environmental impact of fashion, check out The Reformation and Zady.

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There is so much more on this topic. For now, here are a few of my favorite brands for women’s fashion. Each varies from the next in terms of ethical manufacturing and environmental impact.

Everlane – The leaders in transparency. Committed to finding ethical manufacturing, they will even tell you how much it cost to make the garment. Grab a t-shirt for $15, made in Los Angeles. You can’t get that at the GAP!

Brass Clothing – I just love Brass. Not only are they also from the Boston-area, but they have dresses in every shape, for every body type, and reasonable priced. They are committed to small batch manufacturing at a facility in China which they have developed personal relationships.

Jessica Faulkner – Timeless and fun pieces that are designed and Made in Los Angeles.

Eenvoud – A fellow Factor45er, Eenvoud is committed to transparent production practices, made in the US, and the use of sustainable materials. I just love her signature sleeveless tops can be dressed up or down. So perfect.

Hackwith Design – Working in small batches, the Hackwith designs are sewn in Minneapolis. I love their support for other independent makers, as well as the inclusion of plus sizes.

Milk & Thistle – So, I’m big on Made in the USA, but that is just for the purpose of supporting local talent, reducing travel costs of materials, building community and relationships. If I could pick an Australian sister, it would be Sydney-based Milk & Thistle, with a passion for textile design and committed to Made in Australia.

Jacob & Esau – Moving south of Sydney is Melbourne-based Jacob & Esau, an ethical, Made in Australia brand. I’m slightly biased because Melbourne is one of my favorite cities in the world. Just a note about Australian fashion if you’re based in the US: remember that we are on opposite seasons. As I sit here in Boston looking for sweaters and winter gear, their fashion is filled with summery goods.

Emerson Fry – I’ve been a fan of Emerson Fry since they went by Emerson Made. They are a small independent company committed to domestic manufacturing and conscious design. They are like the wardrobe you’ve always wanted but could never find.

The Reformation – Fashion + Sustainability. Committed to cutting out the middleman, they manufacture at their own faculty in Los Angeles.

Zady – Just as Everlane provides transparency for pricing, Zady offers an in-depth look at each of the people who work on your garment along the way, from where wool originates, to where it is cleaned and dyed and ultimately knit into a sweater. All supporting US small businesses along the way.

Kelly King Collective – Chicago-made, and just the cutest party dresses. You know all those holiday parties you have? Shop here.

Bevy Goods – We are merging style + purpose to create ethically-made bags for all your day to night moments. Where we (and soon to be you) know every maker by name.

Sign up at Bevy Goods to join us on this journey and be the first to know when we are launching. And while you’re at it, let’s connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter!