Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: A Conversation with Susan, vintage enthusiast and owner of Foxy Couture


At the tail end of our California roadtrip, we stopped at a vintage store while we were at Carmel by the Sea. The owner of Foxy Couture, Susan, pulled vintage Lilly Pulitzer from backstock, along with Key West Fashions (a label of the same aesthetic and time frame) and provided intel about another brand to look into, Vested Gentress.

Susan and I discussed how she began in vintage resale, alteration hacks, and the first project any aspiring clothing designer should pursue.

Credit: Foxy Couture

L – When did you first develop an interest in vintage – or secondhand – clothing and accessories?

S – My grandmother was a knitter. I would spend summers with her in California when I was a kid. Whenever she needed a zipper for a project she would take me to a thrift store to get one. She would complain that the new plastic zippers were not as good as the old metal ones. She would give me a couple of dollars to buy some things. Back then most things in thrift stores were well under a dollar.

L – When did you realize that there was a market for upscale resale?

S – When I was in high school, my drama teacher asked me to help her with costumes for the high school production of Bye Bye Birdie which was set in the 1950s. I was living in Atlanta and I hit the thrift stores since there was no budget. I was showing my mom my purchases when she zeroed in on a label in a garment. It was a couture Pierre Balmain. My mom couldn’t believe I found it in a thrift store for mere pennies. She proceeded to tell me how to look at clothing labels and judge a garment based on construction, quality of fabric, and design. This prompted me to realize that some things were worth saving and moving on to the next generation.

L – You shared with me a hack for altering a skirt that may not fit around the waist by folding in the waist and taking it in from the waistline of the skirt. Do you have any other alteration hacks?

S – Yes, A maxi skirt can become a 1960’s jumper in the style of Courreges by using the hem to make the straps and placing darts in it if needed. Several scarves of the same size can become a bias cut mixed print slip dress. The possibilities are endless.

There are many ways to reinterpret a garment. If the fabric is good and there is enough of it, you are ready to design. One of the best things I ever did was to take sewing lessons from a Russian lady in San Francisco. She had grown up in a convent and learned to sew from the nuns. She taught us hand stitches for everything from a rolled hem on a scarf to a bound buttonhole. We basted every stitch before we sewed it at the machine.

I also took pattern making and draping. Since prices are low with thrifted items or damaged clothing, it is easy to be fearless when cutting up a recycled garment.

I had a lot of fun making clothes. When you learn to sew, a skirt should always be your first project. It is the easiest to construct and the easiest to alter.

L – Did sustainability – as in reuse – inspire you to get into the resale business?

S – I went to design school at night in the 1980s in San Francisco. During the day I was a Director of Finance in a financial services start-up. Design school gave me a much needed creative outlet. I toyed with the idea of producing a line of clothing but it just did not make financial sense. Most designers I knew were struggling financially. They would borrow to make a line and have to pay their lenders while not being paid by the big stores which led them to turn to factors, who smoothed out the money gaps but also took away most of the profits for the designer. At the time I had great sources for used clothing and recycling was in line with my personal beliefs so I went that direction.

L – Can you tell me more about Foxy Couture? When did you establish it and was there a particular impetus?

S – When I started in vintage, I had already been a collector. I decorated with items that I found at the Marin Flea Market or thrift stores. I just really liked old things. San Francisco in the 1980s felt like a small town of like minded people. There were many opportunities to start this business. Around 1989 to 1991, I had a friend who I partnered up with and we focused on wholesaling to the resale and vintage stores as well as doing the Marin Flea Market and Vintage shows. There was no official start date, we had no business plan, employees, or start up funding. It was just something that we wanted to do and that we felt good about ethically. We shopped almost every day and made amazing finds. I got to handle and own clothing that I could probably only see in a museum today. Most people focused on the 1940’s or Victorian at that time so to be competitive I focused on the 1970s. Growing up in South Florida in the 1970’s and looking at European fashion magazines gave me a good visual history of the era and there was not much competition in that segment of the market at that time.

The name Foxy Couture is a play on the 1970’s slang “Foxy” and Couture denoted that it was designer. Today the business focuses on exceptional designer clothing from all eras. If I had to describe my personal business plan, it was to make my avocation my vocation. I didn’t set too many limits and I have really enjoyed my work.

Foxy Couture is shoppable via the online store. The brick-and-mortar location is northwest of 7th Avenue, 2 San Carlos Street in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: A Conversation with Mimi, @theyearoflilly

last week…

I virtually met Mimi of @theyearoflilly after she shared with me an amazing resource for identifying vintage Lilly Pulitzer and other brands. Since then, her feed has been on my radar and I find myself checking back at least once week to see how she works Lilly Pulitzer in her {literal} everyday wardrobe.

Mimi not only studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but she also has an internship at Glamour on her resume, and has worked in social media for nearly five years. At the beginning of 2018 she owned a mere three pieces of Lilly Pulitzer, but it has since grown considerably. While our conversation began around the reuse concept of sustainability, we ended up discussing much about her year-long experience in living the #resort365 life, despite living in a cold climate.

L – Tell me about your year of Lilly? Are you wearing all Lilly Pulitzer all the time? Did you start this project on 1/1/2019? Spill the juice about what inspired you.

M – This started off as a joke with a girlfriend She said “I bet you have enough you could wear it every day for a year.” This sparked the idea of not only actually doing it, but logging the analytical data for a brand new social media account and growing it organically. My background and my first love is digital design, social media and marketing. It started off as a way for me to use my skills in a time in my life that I’m not in my career field. (I live overseas with my husband until June 2019)

I officially began 1/1/2019 so it hasn’t been that long. I do wear Lilly everyday. I have so many small pieces that get overlooked normally that I find myself wanting to highlight those.

L – I relate. Within the past two months, I found myself neglecting my Lilly Pulitzer jewelry and consequently styled all of my jewelry with outfits {well in advance} so I don’t wear certain go-to pieces (looking at you, set of pearls) over and over again. I used to have many pieces that I overlooked and while I am on the west coast for such a short period of time for my husband’s job, inadvertently put a bunch of my Murfee scarves in storage. Tragique.

M – I have a bad habit of using my go-to pieces but since I consciously make an effort now, I have gotten more creative with my styling. I’ve put jewelry with some clothing pieces I wouldn’t have normally done.

I have posted consecutively for 140 days including the time when I had too much to drink and *ahem* drunk posted from Munich during Springfest.

L – Under-the-influence posts and captions happen. I applaud your commitment!

M – Thankfully it’s only been once and I don’t think anyone knew!

L – I love that you include #serialoutfitrepeater in your Instagram bio. So many bloggers / Instagrammers / influencers have a seemingly endless closet and not only is that unrealistic, but it is irresponsible in terms of the environment. What is the one (or two or three) items in your closet that you keep coming back to?

M – This is so important to me. As someone who has “a lot of clothes” to everyone else, I rarely buy new. 98 percent of my closet hard second, third, and something 11th hand. I am also very real about the money I spend on clothes and fashion. I’ll always be more excited to tell someone “I spent two dollars on this!” I’m always looking for a good deal which sometimes means not focusing on the brand. If I spend money on an item, it is a statement piece and a closet keeper. I want to inspire people to do the same; style and fashion do not have to be new and expensive. You can’t buy good taste. My go to pieces are easy, because you see them a lot on my IG. My Slathouse Soirée popover, my Jet Stream Elsa, and any of my Owens. (I own all six.) I probably put these on once a week, even if you don’t see them. But I might splurge on a swimsuit soon and because I’m moving back to the south and a pool, it might become my new favorite piece.

L – Amen, you cannot buy good taste. I am going to refrain from calling out certain very wealthy celebrities here.

You introduced me to the Vintage Fashion Guild Label Resource, which I have referenced many times since you have shared it with me, in my quest for vintage Lilly Pulitzer. Reuse is just another approach to practicing sustainability. About how much of your Lilly Pulitzer is vintage rather than the new pink label, percentage-wise?

M – I wish this was so much more. If we’re talking true vintage, I have two pieces. But if we’re talking white label/pink label, it’s probably 50/50. Lilly Pulitzer used to to design some wild stuff and I love seeing all of it. I’m a curvier girl, so a lot of true vintage items are hard to find in my size. But I have a ton of cute white label cropped pants that I’m excited about wearing this summer.

L – I had to go up a couple sizes in the super old styles, but apparently that is the norm with the vintage sizing. I found an eBay seller who has a stockpile of size 12 and 14 shift dresses and I have nearly cleaned out her supply.

Where do you usually shop vintage / second or thirdhand Lilly Pulitzer from, being overseas?

M – Primarily through Poshmark and BST pages. Although some thrift stores post online now and that’s how I got my Molly Haynes for $17!

Sometimes I get lucky and find them at the military base thrift store. Rarely.

My friend Katy has been my post office in between for over a year now. I’ll buy something, ship it to her house and then when the box is full, she ships it to me. It is a whole production.

L – That is clever. When my family lived overseas in the 90s, I do not think that ever crossed my mom’s mind. Other that Lilly Pulitzer, are there any other vintage labels that you have found yourself as obsessed?

M – Because thrift store shopping is trendy right now, vintage clothing is getting more expensive. Which is okay, but annoying. I didn’t grow up with new clothes so we thrifted clothing before it was cool. I do live in Europe and have for the last four years. The thrift shopping here is amazing, especially in Prague and London. Some of my favorite pieces were from street vendors. I don’t stop with just clothes though, my whole house is furnished with second hand items and pieces found at flea markets. Our TV is truly the only thing we’ve bought brand new.

L – I was just in Palm Springs and if you are ever out there, the vintage and antiques (albeit upscale) is amazing, especially if you love midcentury. Otherwise, the thrift stores in the northeast United States are such gold mines; my favorite is in Newport, Rhode Island. I got my Master’s degree in Historic Preservation, so I am especially interested in the furnishings that go along with the built environment.

If I can suggest keeping an eye out for Vested Gentress and Key West Clothing Company, both are apparel companies from the same era as OG Lilly Pulitzer and one hundred percent looking into on eBay before the rest of the world catches on.

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: The True Cost

last week…

A shift happened in apparel production that only looks after big business interest. One of the first documentaries exploring the epidemic of fast fashion following the tragedy at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, The True Cost explores this shift and opens the eyes of the viewer to the implications of the profits of the corporations and the western culture’s need for more.

Fast fashion is a new concept and one that has changed the clothing industry. Instead of two seasons a year, we have 52 seasons a year. How does a company manage producing that mass? One in six people in the world works in the global apparel industry and the majority are factory workers. The average wage for a current employee of a Dhaka factory is less than three dollars a day and that is how fast fashion can afford to be made lightning fast and and so cheaply.

As recently as the 1960s, America made 90 percent of our clothes. As of 2015, it was three percent. Why is the 97 percent outsourced? Corporations can get away with cutting corners and disregarding safety measures when they outsource to third world nations. (Where is OSHA when you need them?) Cutting corners and disregarding safety measures became de rigueur, at least until it was illuminated by the tragedy at Dhaka, Bangladesh. The death toll of the factory collapse was over one thousand. What is most sickening is that the building was called out as structurally unsafe before the collapse.

An interview with an industry expert gave me food for thought in regards to consumption. The next time you find yourself “needing” something, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your needs feel satisfied by consumption?
  • Is the way to solve the problems in your life through consumption?

Then the documentary started to hit especially close to home and brought be back to my Q and A with Lindsey. Clips from YouTube channels of Bethany Mota, Meaghan Dowling, and Sadie XO each featured clothing hauls, specifically fast fashion brands H&M and Forever21. This part was cringeworthy, particularly the part when Sadie XO commented that she did not even know if she liked a sweater she bought, let alone if she was ever going to wear it.

Everyday I see outrage on my Twitter feed about the state of human’s rights in the United States. Can those who are as outraged by the lack of women’s and minorities’ rights in the states (and I am with you), be as indignant for those in third world countries who subject themselves to brutal conditions so that us westerners can shop an eight dollar top?


Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Stories from the Past Month


How To Create Sustainable Fashion From Recycled Clothing” by Carina Legl via Forbes, June 19, 2019, accessed June 21, 2019

Net-a-Porter Launches New Platform That Will Make Considered Fashion More Accessible” by Jessica Davis via Harpers Bazaar UK, accessed June 21, 2019

Does ‘Sustainable Fashion’ Really Mean Anything?” by Jacob Gallagher via Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2019, accessed June 21, 2019

Do We Really Need Any More Sustainable Fashion Brands? by Whitney Bauck via Fashionista, June 6, 2019, accessed June 21, 2019


Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Brittany, founder of A Little Britt of Fun

last week…

Within the first few months of 2019, I found blogger Brittany at A Little Britt of Fun. Lindsay of A Cozy Stylist tweeted about one of Brittany’s blog posts about living more sustainable, more specifically about 2019: The Year of LessI immediately devoured the blog post and followed Brittany across social media. We discussed our responsibility as bloggers and what steps we can take to make a difference.

Credit: A Little Britt of Fun

L – Is there a particular moment or event that brought your attention to sustainability?

J – Not really. I have sort of been on a mindfulness journey and found my way to sustainable clothing and ethical fashion. I simply got tired of purchasing things that were made to fall apart and made to make me more of a consumer. Things like Forever 21, H&M, etc… where they are mass producing cheap clothing that is killing the environment but also where they aren’t treating their employees ethically. I think the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve stepped out of my bubble so I started to wonder about the clothing in my life and things I was supporting with my money and started doing research. I wouldn’t say it was one big thing that brought me here but a series of little things over time.

L – I enjoyed reading your posts Every Damn Thing I’ve Found Helpful for Giving Up Fast Fashion as well as 2019: The Year of Less. I tried to abide by the latter myself; I just spent money on clothing for the first time in 2019. Fortunately, it was via the secondary market, five vintage Lilly Pulitzer dresses and four months into the new year. How have you been doing with your Year of Less?

J – So I liked The Year of Less because you can create parameters. I gave myself the goal of not buying any clothing or household decor, etc… unless it fit into a specific category. As of this month I’ve purchased three dresses, two bikini tops, one shirt, and one pair of shorts. This has replaced clothing that no longer fits me and that I got rid of, which was one of the parameters I gave myself for purchasing. This is a huge change for me as I made an effort to shop small and to shop for sustainable clothing. I bought the rest from H&M’s Sustainable Collection. It’s also huge for me because I am a person who shops when I am feeling down or when I have a trip planned or when it’s a new season and I’ve drastically changed my mindset around that. I also am currently wearing clothing that is falling off of me and I refuse to replace it. It’s made me much more mindful of what I buy and why I buy. I realize we are only in quarter two of the year but my hope is to stay this strong throughout the rest of the year.

L – I too shop when I am down. Or maybe even sometimes bored. Real talk: I have reservations about H&M’s Conscious Collection from the social perspective. Is there supply chain transparency for this line?

J – H&M’s Conscious Collection is one of those things where a person has to decide what is good enough for them and how they want to move forward. For me, the sustainable collection specifically is incredibly transparent with how clothing is made and sourced. They state that it is ethically made and uses ethical products that are grown in environmentally sustainable ways. H&M as a whole is one of the largest producers of waste when it comes to clothing. As a whole the company is making an effort to try and move towards better production overall but they very much need to improve drastically as a brand. That said, they have an actual plan in place for how they want to move forward as a brand and they clearly state the conscious collection is organic, sustainable, ethically made and sourced clothing. They’ve also received an A rating (according to Good on You) in their supply chain and transparency. For ME that works. They are very clear with how their Conscious Collection is made and sourced and they are actively working to change as a brand overall. I know a lot of people would not support this collection because the larger brand is H&M but I think that is just a personal choice. It’s how I feel about veganism. I drastically cut back on meat in my diet and a lot of people will say that’s not doing enough but in reality going meat free for one day drastically improves the environment.

L – I have considered the impact made by going meatless one day a week, but taking that metaphor to H&M is something I had not thought about before. Thank you for sharing that perspective. Just think about if everyone – or even if only bloggers – made one little change for the better? One less item from a fast fashion brand or giving up shopping for one week or one month, we could change the world.

J – Yep! I wish that more fashion and beauty bloggers and influencers were doing what they could to share options and brands that are ethical. I don’t fault anyone for making money and for having success but we have become overrun with consumerism and the way some of these fashion brands, even luxury ones, are creating waste in the space or the way they are treating employees is so unfortunate. I don’t impose my point of view on other people but I do wish more people with an audience used their voice to highlight other options.

L – Sometimes I feel an internal struggle between encouraging my audience to live a more sustainable life and writing about clothing, albeit those that fall into the classic / traditional style. Do you ever feel similar?

J – So I am VERY vocal about A LOT of things. LOL. So I don’t often struggle with encouraging folks to make a change. That said, I often frame things by telling people to give themselves and each other grace. I think the biggest issue people have is they go out and say YOU HAVE TO BE VEGAN OR YOU’RE KILLING THE ENVIRONMENT or YOU HAVE TO BUY ECO FRIENDLY CLOTHING OR YOU ARE RUINING LIVES and it’s not that simple. There are things that go into all of these lifestyle changes and I try to push that when I share my opinions. I typically tell people to TRY and start somewhere small. I think anyone can make a small change and typically that will turn into a bigger/more permanent change. However, I definitely feel called to share information and encourage growth and change in people. I have a platform and I refuse to let it sit there and not use it for some good.

L – That goes back to what you were saying about the small changes and I think that is a great place for anyone to start. About getting further inspired, have you watched any sustainability in the clothing industry documentaries that have resonated with you?

J – I actually haven’t. So if you have any please give me some suggestions! I got most of my material from Google searches and finding some sustainable brands and blogs on Instagram.

L – The documentaries Slowing Down Fast Fashion and The True Cost are eye opening. What sustainable blogs can you recommend?

J – I shared a lot of brands and lists and resources in my post in relation to this but these are my go to sources for blogs / Instagram / websites that have endless information. If I had to tell you to pick a few I’d say Good On You and Eco Warrior Princess are the best.

  1. Eco Warrior Princess

  2. Good On You

  3. Sustainable Fashion Forum

  4. Eco Cult (as a whole) but specifically their long list of sustainable/ethical brands page

  5. Fashion Revolution

  6. The Good Trade

  7. The GOCO Collective

I highly recommend visiting Brittany’s blog at A Little Britt of Fun, as well as connecting with her over Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: A Conversation with Jack L. Carlson of @RowingBlazers

last week…

Recently I discovered the Rowing Blazers End-of-the-Day Rugbies. I was immediately impressed with the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the brand. I reached out to the founder, Jack Carlson, to get his insight on sustainability and social responsibility.

Credit: Rowing Blazers About page

L – For those who do not know, you have a Ph.D. in Archaeology from Oxford. Does that perspective inform the Rowing Blazers brand and if so, how?

J – I’d like to think so! An archaeologist is a person who studies material culture, objects. Whether I’m excavating pottery shards in an Etruscan temple in Italy or hunting for vintage blazers in Cambridge, England, I’ve always been interested in studying objects and their stories in a fairly deep, rigorous way. I think fashion in general can be quite superficial. Words like “authenticity” are so overused that they are virtually meaningless. At Rowing Blazers, there is a culture of looking and learning more deeply; of being a student of objects (in our case, clothes). This also means we don’t do things just for the sake of doing them, or just because something looks cool. We would never slap a made-up “crest” or coat of arms onto a shirt. Every graphic we use has a meaning (sometimes a cryptic meaning); everything we do has a reason. I wrote my Ph.D. thesis on visual representations of power, and I used to help design coats of arms for people at the British government institution responsible for heraldry. So I’m very finely attuned to this.

L – I make an effort to be more sustainable by consuming less and when I do, select items that are going to be timeless and classic. Rowing Blazers certainly falls into this camp but does one better, as the End-of-the-Day Rugbies are made of left over fabric from Rowing Blazers Rugby Shirts. At what point did you become cognizant of the potential for this item? Was it sustainability that inspired the End-of-the-Day Rugbies or was it born out of practicality or otherwise?

J – The End-of-the-Day Rugbies (a rugby shirt made from the scraps of fabric leftover at the end of the day) is a double win, because it is born out of sustainability, but also looks extremely cool. We use scraps of fabric from our own rugby shirts, and even scraps from other brands. These double wins are what we look for. When a product not only looks good, but also makes sense or gives back in some other – often much bigger – way.

L – On that note, I was impressed to read that Rowing Blazers gives back to the community. Last year you collaborated with Noah to produce a capsule collection with proceeds going to Row New York. Can you share what inspired the collection and giving back, and do you have plans to integrate more philanthropy in the future?

J – Row New York has been really important to me for a long time. As someone who has been involved in the sport of rowing for a long time, including on the national team, I can say confidently the lack of diversity in the sport in the United States is a big problem. Row New York is an amazing organization not only for changing the sport, but also for changing the lives of thousands of high school kids in New York City. We will continue to support Row New York, and we also have several other charitable partnerships: Play Rugby USA, a similar program to Row New York with the sport of rugby; and the Honeybee Conservancy, an organization dedicated to bee conservation and sustainability. We have a few more exciting partnerships on the horizon. Animal welfare is extremely important to me so look out for some partnerships in this area on the horizon soon!

Rowing Blazers End of Day Rugby
Credit: Rowing Blazers End-of-the-Day Rugbies page

L – I could talk about philanthropy forever but to get back to the End-of-the-Day Rugbies, without disclosing trade secrets, are there more or different design considerations that go into the End-of-the-Day Rugbies, as opposed to the standard Rowing Blazers Rugby Shirt?

J – Ha! No, I’d say there are fewer. End-of-the-Day Rugbies are what I’d like to call semi-random. Which is great, because you discover color combinations that work beautifully together that you’d never think of otherwise.

L – I love the unexpected color combinations. I also think there is also something to be said about a one-of-a-kind item also being a trophy item. It takes limited edition to the next level.

J – Yes? I completely agree! Once we posted a photo of an End-of-the-Day Rugby Shirt on our Instagram after it sold, and the person who had bought it wrote to us in a panic, concerned that their shirt wasn’t one-of-a-kind after all. We explained that the photo was of their exact shirt – not another one just like it. But I think that shows what you say is true: people view these as trophies because they are one-of-one.

L – I am sure that there is a lot of demand for a one-of-one item. For those who want to shop them online, how frequently do you update the End-of-the-Day Rugby page?

J – We usually put one new one up on the site every Friday (an end of the week End-of-the-Day rugby), and then every once in a while, we put 20 or so online all at once. But there are always many more in our store (161 Grand Street in New York).

L – To manufacture products locally is another sustainable practice. Speaking of New York, are any of the Rowing Blazers products made in NYC, or more broadly, in the United States?

J – Yes! Most of our products are made in the United States actually. The majority of our blazers are made in the Garment District in New York, and we know all the people who sew the jackets personally. Our woven shirts are made across the river in New Jersey, and some of our hats, ties and belts are made in Queens and Long Island. We make some of our other products in other parts of the U.S. as well: in Virginia and on the west coast. It’s not a hard and fast rule for us — we make some things in Europe and Asia too — but where possible we like making things locally or in the U.S. at least. We do this, because it’s best for the environment to produce locally, and because we can monitor production practices better when producing domestically.

L – As of right now, the only Rowing Blazers women’s product category is blazers. I happen to love dressing from my husband’s side of the closet, but do you have any styling advice for ladies who have reservations about dressing from the guys department?

J – The way we look at it, the blazer is the only thing we do that’s gendered. Everything else, to us, is unisex. And a huge percentage of our customers for things like rugby shirts, “dad” hats, polos, even pants, are women. I think the only thing it requires is confidence. My girlfriend wears our rugbies and wide leg pants all the time. She has her own women’s blazers but also steals mine. And there’s nothing sexier than confidence and genuinely cool clothes.

L – For those who are shopping online and are on the fence about hitting the Order button, what is the Rowing Blazers return policy?

J – We have a hassle-free 14-day return policy!

L – Other than the online store, where can people shop Rowing Blazers?

J – We have a store in Soho, New York, at 161 Grand Street. The store started as a pop-up, but we decided to turn it into a real shop! Other than that, we are in a very select group of shops around the world from Nantucket to Tokyo, LA to Madrid. The full list is here.

L – Does Rowing Blazers ever do pop up stores, at regattas or other events? If so, when is the next one?

J – Our NYC flagship started as a pop-up (that feels weird calling it a flagship because we called it a pop-up for so long!). We have done events and pop-ups at other shops, polo matches, rowing regattas, vintage car races and all sorts of other crazy things in the past. Follow us on Instagram (@rowingblazers) to keep posted on what’s next!

L – Can we expect to see Rowing Blazers expand into any new categories this year?

J – I don’t want to give too much away! But… (whispers) rugby dresses?

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Lindsey Kyle, @CozyStylist

last week…

I have noticed an uptick in bloggers being more environmentally and socially conscious and thank goodness for that. Lindsey Kyle of Cozy Stylist is one of these bloggers and after I read her take on sustainably shopping for spring, she and I discussed our responsibility as bloggers, thrift shopping, and sartorial sustainability documentaries.

Credit: Cozy Stylist’s Shop Sustainably for Spring Fashion

Lu – Is there a particular moment or event that brought your attention to sustainability?

Lindsey – I went to school for fashion and I learned a lot about the process of making clothing and what it takes to produce them. From the manmade fibers to chemical treatments to the underpaid labors who are sewing the garments together. It was very eye opening to see how bad everything is.

Lu – Interesting! I feel ignorant to admit that I never considered that the ethical ramifications of the industry would be addressed in an educational curriculum. Can you share the school / program that you are studying?

Lindsey – I went to West Virginia University and have my Bachelors degree in Fashion Merchandising. I am currently in graduate school at WVU to earn my Master’s in marketing.

Lu – Sometimes I experience internal struggle between encouraging my audience to live a more sustainable life and on the other hand promoting clothing, albeit those that will stand the test of time. Do you ever experience similar sentiment?

Lindsey – Ugh this is something that I struggle so much with! There is a constant battle to buy new clothing to promote on my blog and social media, but I know how bad my shopping habits are. I really haven’t found a way to balance the two yet but I just try to promote more organic clothing in my posts so that people see that I do still support sustainable fashion.

Lu – I spoke with Carla Arvie of I Got It for Chic earlier this year and she inspired me to take a secondary market approach to satiating any shopping needs. Lately I have been indulging in shopping secondhand, specifically vintage Lilly Pulitzer via eBay. Just keeping clothing out of landfills.

Lindsey – I love going to thrift stores and consignment shops to search for new clothing. I have one that I regularly sell my clothing to every other month.

Lu – The clothing industry is the second largest contributor to pollution, next to oil and gas. Have you watched any sustainability in the clothing industry documentaries that have resonated with you lately?

Lindsey – I watched a Netflix documentary called The True Cost that went in depth about horrible working conditions for factor workers, and how we are spoiling waterways with deadly chemicals. It made me want to research sustainable brands that practice eco-friendly production processes. I am more aware of the clothes that I buy now too, I won’t buy something if it was produced in Bangledesh and I always research a brand online before purchasing something. I want to know what that brand and company are doing to be friendly to our planet and their workers.

Lu – The 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse was devastating. It is physically difficult to look at photos of the aftermath. Along with not purchasing anything from Bangladesh, I also look at tags for the fabric content. Unfortunately, as someone has to shop online for tall length sizes, the provenance of items is not disclosed in the descriptions.

Lindsey – It is very difficult to look for clothing brands that tell us everything about the piece of clothing that we’re buying. That’s why I try to stick to brands that are very open about their production processes. I actually just published a blog post too about how to shop spring fashion with sustainable brands.

Lu – Lately H&M has been running commercial spots for their sustainable line. An H&M sustainable line seems like an oxymoron. Even if there are not environmental implications, I sincerely doubt that there are not social implications. What are your thoughts about the line?

Lindsey – H&M is one of the worst offenders for fast fashion. There have been news stories about how their workers are begging for help in little notes that are left in the pockets of clothing. I don’t know how true those stories are but they are believable. They product their clothing at such a fast rate that they don’t care about the working conditions of their workers or the quality of their clothing.

Lu – I recently read about a human bone found in the Primark socks at the beginning of the year or back in 2016, a rat sewn into the Zara dress.

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion

last week…

This morning I watched the documentary Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion. For those who are unfamiliar, Alex James is multifaceted but well known for being the bassist of the British rock band Blur. If you were in the states and out of diapers by the 90s, you will most definitely recognize their Song 2I distinctly recall Channel One news using it as the background in a few clips illustrating the 1998 El Nino. How fitting for today’s topic.alexjamesLike (some) bloggers, rock stars are sent boatloads of clothing. Alex acknowledges how outrageous it is. He even negotiated new socks and pants via Blur’s rider. He discusses that he is part of the problem and starts his exploration of fast fashion, commencing with a trip to farm and a ton of sheep.

Alex opens the documentary by hypothesizing that positive action is the answer; all we have to do is understand the fashion industry. Ask yourself the following when finding a too good to be real deal:

  • How can it be so cheap?
  • What is it made of?
  • Who made it?
  • How long will you wear it?
  • Where will it end up?

When it comes to fast fashion, the things we wear are disposable. Fast fashion garments are not designed or intended to last a lifetime, let alone the season. A brutal fact: fifty percent of what we buy ends up in a landfill. And why? More than eighty percent of what we wear is made of plastic, which is made of petroleum, which will never degrade. Landfills are not a renewable resource and as such, we need to change our strategies when it comes to outfitting ourselves.

Alex speaks with industry leaders and gets perspectives on the fast fashion epidemic:

  • Author Elizabeth Cline wrote Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion. Did you know that in the year 1990, half of the clothing consumed by America was made in America. As of these days, only two percent is made in America. Elizabeth and Alex go guirilla-style shopping and filming in a fast fashion store and note that a shirt is $4.95. A pair of pants clocked in at $9.99 pants. How does that happen? Garment workers in China are topping out at five dollars an hour and in Bangladesh less than one dollar an hour. All this is to say that the social (people) bottom line is taking a hit.
  • A fast fashion employee ponders that it is a chicken and the egg issue and hypothesizes that the responsibility lies on the consumer demands.
  • Psychologist Pam Nell likens fast fashion and more broadly shopping, as a quick fix, similar to a recreational drug. Consumer society says that we need X in order to feel accepted. Pam goes into how this starts in adolescence and this is something with which I particularly identified.
  • Editor of UK GQ Dylan Jones OBE says that male shopping habits are more akin to women’s and fashion fashion is unfortunate manifestation in the industry. With Dylan Jones as editor, GQ is keen to articulate investment dressing and to emphasize character, as opposed to idiosyncratic behavior and consequently, dressing. He stresses provenance, as it is as important as who designed a garment and the level of on-trend one is.

Alex directs the viewer to the KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE label on a garment. He then films a experiment in acrylic versus wool. He hands up two near-identical sweaters, one made of acrylic and one made of wool. When he lit them on fire, the acrylic version literally melted and stuck to the floor. Meanwhile the wool version burned but did not catch fire; clearly it was the sweater I would have preferred to be armored in, in a flammable sitch.

Per Alex, fast fashion is a trillion dollar business but also an environmental, social, ethical nightmare. Bottom line: what can the every girl (guy), like you and I, do about it? He provides us ideas:

  • Research provenance
  • Buy less and buy natural
  • Look at labels and know fabrics
  • Think about who made it
  • Think about where it will go
  • Buy quality, no matter the age
  • Repair the clothes you love
  • Buy from charity shops
  • Upcycle

I wrote about the quadruple bottom line approach in terms of the clothing industry in the last year and it bears repeating in terms of the clothing industry. In the quadruple bottom line approach, fast fashion has social (or people) and environmental (or planet) implications. Fast fashion suffices in terms of profit and albeit questionably, aesthetics.

Is it worth it?

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Lela Orr of Project Runway, @designerlela

last week…

Who else has been keeping up with the reboot of Project Runway on Bravo? I especially enjoy the addition of Christian Siriano and Karlie Kloss. The latter is easier to relate to than her predecessor; Heidi lost me circa 2009 when she stated that she found a little bit of an open back to be appropriate for an office environment. And it is not.

Bringing it back to 2019: one of the contestants, Lela Orr, is an eco luxury designer. Lela is the co-owner of the label, Ferrah. Per the website, Ferrah is 100% ethically sourced womenswear. Lela is a zero waste designer, which means that she seeks to use fabric and other materials to maximum capacity; nothing is simply thrown out. I love that she shines a light on zero-waste because previously, I only considered zero-waste in terms of the built environment industries. This makes me wonder, how many other industries can we apply zero-waste to? Food, for sure. Sound off in the comment section with other industries that come to mind.

I especially enjoy when the camera follows Lela at Mood as she discovers materials that align with her eco values and always I find myself looking forward to what she is going to send down the runway. Shall we review her looks from weeks one through four?

left to right: week one (bottom three) // week two (in) // week three (in) // week four (in) // week five (in)  // Credit: 2018 Bravo Media, LLC

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Stories from the Past Month

last week…

This week, a round up of articles featuring sustainability in style:

Sartorial Sustainability Sunday: Michelle Valtas, @Mvaltas

last Sartorial Sustainability Sunday…

This week I am excited to introduce Michelle Valtas. I initially connected with Michelle when I discovered her tweets about paring down. I am always impressed with anyone who pursues a more minimal lifestyle. In the effort of wanting to clear out my own clutter, I wanted to chat with someone who has been through the process.

Having a dialogue with Michelle inspired me to take steps to minimize my life. Read on and find inspiration.

University books
Image courtesy of Michelle Valtas

L – What inspired you to declutter?

M – I’ve always decluttered more items than others and on a more regular basis. Then I heard about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and after reading a few sections what stood out to me was the “rebound” she talked about. It resonated with me because that was exactly how I’d describe my constant purging – a cycle of buying and decluttering. I wanted out.

Another reason for me was to hopefully get some money from selling my items. I’ve always heard of people making money from reselling their items and clothes, so I thought I should give it a try and see how it went.

L – Can you share whether you resold via an online platform or a brick and mortar consignment shop? Where there any hurdles? Can you give any advice?

M – Based on a story of my friend’s mom’s success selling her unwanted items online (through an app called Let Go), I posted some of what I thought were the best items I was getting rid of. Over the course of two months I had a lot of favorites (or likes of items) and inquiries, but I only ended up selling one item – a large decorative (but functional) wall clock for twenty dollars. I’ve since deleted the app from my phone since it took more time than it was worth. After that, I used a consignment store called Plato’s Closet to earn money on some clothes and shoes I was getting rid of, donated all my household items to the Salvation Army, and all my books to GoodWill (Salvation Army wasn’t taking any). My advice would be to skip apps like Let Go and go straight to Plato’s Closet. I learned they’re a chain, at least in Canada, (editor’s note: also in the States) so what one store didn’t accept I took to another. After two stores, I donated the rest. There are a lot of people out there who are actually in need of items (as opposed to me who had an excess of items) so donating is a great alternative to reselling – or worse, keeping.

Overall though I was generally appealed to the promise of a constantly clean house, where everything is easily accessible, provides value, and sparks joy while making your life calmer and providing you with more freedom. With that big of a promise, how could I not try it?

L – You are over two months past your #minimalist and #sustainableliving journey. Tell us what you purged? What have you been on the fence on, and what did you say to yourself to make that decision?

M – I purged a lot of clothes. Eleven large bags worth. Plus books, random kitchen gadgets, and items that frustrated me because they didn’t work well or were hard to clean. I decluttered jewelry, papers, and more. I was on the fence for a few items: a portable matcha maker, a tea press, a book or two, a pair of black jeans. (They were my go-tos but were faded). For each one I asked myself if it sparked joy or was functional / brought value. If not, I pitched it.

L – I have to ask – did you keep the portable matcha maker? Also do you have any tips or tricks that made this less painless? (My mind goes to breaking open a bottle of chilled rose and keeping it in my marble wine cooler twice a year when I do my seasonal closet flip. It keeps me from having to leave my room and getting distracted by the inevitable madness in the living room / dining room / kitchen.) 

M – No, I didn’t. I love matcha lattes and make them often at home using a milk frother, so I only really used the portable matcha while traveling by car when I can pack more. While I liked the idea of making a matcha when I’m not at home, I don’t tend to actually do so – opting for easier options like a black tea with milk or a herbal tea. The biggest argument against keeping the matcha maker though was that it was so difficult to clean. Cleaning it actually frustrated and annoyed me. So in keeping with my decision parameters of “does it spark joy?” and “is it valuable/necessary?” the answer was no to both. The more I reflect on it, the more I stand behind my decision on it – so I guess that’s my advice. Weigh the pros and cons, use a parameter for your decision making that’s meaningful to you (in my case: joy and value), and take time to reflect on it several times.

L – Have you found yourself longing for anything you gave away?

M – Nothing at all. And if I ever do think of something it’s a fleeting thought – never a longing or sense of regret.

L – What has been the hardest part of decluttering?

M – Well to be honest, there’s a room in my basement that ends up storing all this random stuff: seasonal items, sports gear (golf clubs, skis, etc), and general items from when we moved in but didn’t unpack it. AKA a room full of junk. It haunts me so I haven’t started decluttering it yet. That’s the hardest part: getting started on the part I don’t want to do.

L – You got this! May I recommend bringing a chilled bottle of rose to help you?

Where can we find you online?

M – @Mvaltas on Twitter and @themillennialexplorer on Instagram

Pack a Bag: Airlie, Part II

read part I here…

One of the strongest green initiatives of Airlie is the property’s approach to sustainable agriculture. Not only is there on-site farm land but there is also a community garden. Inviting and integrating Airlie guests as well as locals, into the agriculture component not only facilitates time in the outdoors but also promotes healthy eating and nutrition. The fresh air in the Virginia countryside…you just cannot top it.


Harry’s at Airlie is the on-site restaurant and named for the Philadelphian gentleman who established the property, Harry C. Groome. We dined at Harry’s the night that we arrived at Airlie and I could not have imagined a better welcome to the property. It was delicious.

Some of the ingredients that are served on the Harry’s menu come from as close as four hundred yards away from the restaurant. While not everything on the menu was designated as locally sourced, there was enough that both my husband and I found ourselves ordering as such, down to the beer we drank. (Powers Farm and Brewery Plum and Ginger, look into it.)

I think I was still full from the night prior, but found room for French toast, bacon, and eggs, and copious cups of coffee. Meanwhile, my husband made friends with the gentleman manning the design your own omelet station. I have to admit his spinach, ham, and bell pepper design looked pretty tempting from across the table, especially when mixed with toast and sausage links. 

Sincerest thanks to Airlie for sponsoring our stay.