Sustainability in Action: Post-Holiday Clothing Swap

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The Sustainable Fashion Collaborative (SFC) put on their second event this past Sunday, a clothing swap held at Bella Luna in Jamaica Plain, a restaurant that prides itself on supporting local non-profits.  During Boston Fashion Week 2013, the SFC exhibited sustainably-made fashions in a show that also included works highlighting issues in the garment industry.  For the Post-Holiday Clothing Swap, attendees were instructed to bring 5-10 pieces of unwanted clothing or accessories that were still “quality”. In exchange, participants received tokens for the number of items accepted for the swap to trade in for selections brought by others and free pizza!

I decided to bring mostly clothing and accessories that I have bought over the years but never wore, most still with tags.  The event workers collected all the items first to display “boutique style” on racks organized by type.  Anything rejected was donated to Rosie’s Closet (like one of my BNWT J. Crew skirts. Go figure!)  While the clothing was being arranged, swappers waited at the bar where lucky for me they had Downeast Cider on tap!

When it came time to start swapping, it became clear to me that I did not share the same definition of “quality” as my fellow swappers and those deciding what to accept or reject clearly dropped their standards at some point as they went through items.  Many things could be described as wacky, ugly, pilled, ripped or just plain worn out.  Most of it was just boring.  I had 8 tokens but really strained my taste to find even 2 to bring home.

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As events go, I would say this was a good idea with room to improve execution.  The organizers probably need to find a way to have the clothing dropped off earlier so they have time to really sort through it.

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Festive (But Office Appropriate) Party Outfit

What to wear to my conservative office holiday party that is still fun and seasonal?  I searched around a variety of eco-oriented shopping sites for something but just didn’t find anything that fit the bill.  I wish I didn’t admire the mass-produced clothing at J Crew so much, but as I have previously noted, there is no shortage of castoffs on Ebay.  There I found the Phoebe dress in black watch plaid which garnered many compliments at my office party at the Union Bar & Grille.

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While looking for navy tights to add some warmth – a color that is not that easy to come by – I discovered the brand commando at Neiman Marcus.  These are made in the USA and work just like Spanx.

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I have a pair of navy patent leather Cole Haan heels that I love and have worn so much the heel was ground down to a pulp with the nail poking out the bottom.  I thought they would complete the outfit really well but they were unwearable.  I brought them to Alton Place Shoe Repair in my effort to fix rather than buy new.  For $25 they did quite a good job which I would not have though possible considering the state they were in.  The shop is located a few blocks from Coolidge Corner and but is only open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

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Esplanade Cleanup Day

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On Saturday the Esplanade Association invited members of its young professionals Council, employees at Bain Capital and an MIT Fraternity to participate in a cleanup day.  At least 50 people turned out to be directed by horticulturalist Ozzie Bateman to rake the leaves in front of the Hatch Shell which were hauled off to make compost.  With one-full time and one part-time employee managing the upkeep of the Esplanade, the park really relies on the 3,000 volunteers who lend a hand each year.

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Since yard work isn’t a regular activity for me I needed to purchase something suitable to wear, especially with temperatures in the 40s.  I found a sturdy pair of boots again from Timberland’s Earthkeeper’s line.  The Savin Hill Mid Boot has a lining made 100% from recycled bottles, a 15% recycled rubber sole and leather from a tannery certified for energy and water efficiency.

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I also tried a new pair a jeans from Big Star, a company headquartered in Los Angeles.  Many of their items are made in the USA and their jeans are processed using “ozone technology” which reduces water, chemical and energy usage.  Copious amounts of water are typically used to get the right color on jeans after having been dyed with indigo.  The technology employed by Big Star achieves the same result with less water and time.  Online eco-retailer Kaight sells the skinny Alex model in several colors.  These however are made in Mexico.

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To keep me warm I bought the Trail Model Fleece jacket from L.L. Bean made from Polartec-200, a material produced right here in Massachusetts from 85% recycled plastic bottles.  It is unfortunate that the fabric is then shipped to El Salvador for sewing before being shipped right back here.

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Boston Fashion Week: Oficio Fashion Bazaar

On Saturday a pop-up shop of local designers and sellers was hosted at the offices of Oficio, a company that leases temporary workspace from desks to offices.  The Fashion Bazaar was heavy on jewelry designers, the best of which I thought were:

A Touch of Couture (also repairs or redesigns old jewelry)
www.atouchofcouture.etsy.com
Medfield, MA
508-359-7297

Patricia Wellenkamp Jewelry
Joy Street Studios #24
86 Joy Street, Somerville, MA 02143
857-523-8233

Wendy Jo New Metal Designs (takes commissions)
www.wjnmetaldesigns.com
Winchester, MA
781-962-0282

Sarah Nehama Handmade Jewelry
www.sarafinjewelry.com
617-435-9747

Studio 600, Sasha Walsh Designs
www.sashawalsh.com
46 Waltham Street, Courtyard 600, Boston, MA

There were also a few artisans who specialize in revamping clothing and textiles, a good way to give new life to a beloved item that has seen better days.  This one takes custom orders:

Pat Curran/W.I.M. Whatever I Make
380 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
617-864-4236
patsymaecurran@yahoo.com

I spoke briefly to Eujin Kim Neilan of Uni-T about her fun shirts and accessories made from organic cotton and bamboo.  I loved the owl and ninja prints.  The items are made in China but she assured me that the factory in which they are made is certified with a U.S. organization for environmental and ethical practices.  She sells her items through an Etsy store and at the Natick Mall.  I bought the short-sleeve Ninja t-shirt in the color “dirty purple”.

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I also spoke with Allee Graziano representing Schuch Box which is a new company that aims to be a Birchbox-like monthly subscription service.  She caught my attention with the free sample of Magic Moon Soap, a relatively new Salem-based company using organic goat’s milk in their products.  She explained to me that Schuch box would like to include locally-made products in their boxes.  As I am looking for a way to kick my Birchbox habit, I went to the company website and signed up but I think they must have to contact you because there was no payment procedure or email confirmation.  Stay tuned.

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