A passion for fair trade

Posted on by magf1227

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

- Dalai Lama XIV

Over the last few years, through my work in eco fashion, I have learned that the fair trade certification process can be lengthy and costly.  Some artisan groups, cooperatives and other organizations just do not have the funds to go through the steps at this point but they have made immense efforts to change the way things are run within their group.  In other words, they abide by the principles of fair trade without having the official certification.  I have interviewed some of the leaders of these groups, visited their workshops and even checked back in from time to time and have found that they are indeed legitimately running a fair trade operation, even without the certification.

With that being said, I  know the opposite exists.  I know there are some governments (I won’t name any names) who hand out fair trade certifications like they are pieces of bubble gum, in an effort to allot these businesses a competitive edge – an opportunity to hike prices and enter an industry that is still comparably new and fresh.  Let’s set aside the fact that they are scamming consumers and focus on the fact that they are all-the-while running their business unethically with workers working arduous schedules in terrible conditions for next to nothing.

To deal with this in my search for groups to work with and because some people are just not familiar with the term “fair trade”, I have come up with various ways to explain fair trade and a list of questions about the way their businesses are run.  I have even gone so far as to change meeting times at the last minute to show up when not expected.  They may think I’m nuts for going into this topic at such length but it’s really important to me so if they want the business they will understand and deal with it.

I want to offer products that are beautiful and comfortable.  I want them to be treasured and represent a level of quality that speaks for itself.  BUT, I also want to be able to pass styles from Pashen Collection on to customers knowing that someones creative spirit went into each piece alongside my spirit and no person or living thing was harmed in the process.  My journey continues…


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Do what you love, love what you do

If you let your spirit out, where would it go?

From the time you are a small child, people ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I think most people struggle with this question at one point or another.  Sometimes people have a hard time finding that thing that makes them crazy in a good way; that thing that makes them feel alive and they can’t picture their lives without.

Fashion is that thing for me.  It’s about so much more than clothes for me.  Art, research, creating things, the business and marketing aspects of it…all of the different areas I have been lucky enough to have worked in throughout my career – they all mean something so special to me and I love every single bit of it.  Ethical and sustainable fashion has added yet another spoke to my “fashion-love” wheel.  With all of the challenges and new things to learn, the opportunities to make good things happen for people and the earth, and the excitement surrounding all of it, I know it is where I am meant to be.

Recently, I had to answer a questionnaire for a very large corporation I do some freelance work for.  One of the questions was “If you were speaking to a group of future business leaders and were asked what single piece of advice you would like to offer, what would it be?”

My response:  Push boundaries, use your imagination, do what you love, love what you do!

I can’t stress it enough – DO WHAT YOU LOVE!!!

Thank you, universe, for affording me the opportunity to do what I love every day…

Illustration for in-class project - Art Institute, 1997

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Inspiration: Memories of our trip to New Zealand

lush landscapes, maori tradition, delicious food and wine, geysers, mountains, ocean, lots of sheep, the smell of sulfur, mud baths, hundreds of baby seals playing at the bottom of a waterfall, warm welcomes, and more…

We traveled to New Zealand for our honeymoon in May (how time flies) and it left quite an impression on us (we have talked about getting a time share there in the future).  Recently, I had the opportunity to write an article for Ethical Fashion Forum’s SOURCE Intelligence Magazine about New Zealand’s ethical fashion scene.  It was a story I pitched while we were there.  The project prompted me to think back on all of the fun adventures of our trip and gave me another reason to do more research on a country we both fell in love with.

We went for 3 weeks and traveled through both islands by car, plane, and ferry.  We couldn’t stop taking pictures.  Of all the places I’ve been, it’s the one place that I think anyone, from my hippie backpacking friends to my more fancy pants 5-star travel friends, would appreciate.

Looking back at photos makes me want to go again right now – even with the almost 24 hours of travel time it takes to get there.

Happy Love Day!!

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Pieces of pashen from Peru

Posted on by magf1227

Samples have been coming in for the last couple of months, sporadically.  Mostly it’s been samples of fabric, swatches of knits with specific stitches I’ve asked to be developed, and lots and lots of color cards with sample yarn in a million different colors.  Recently though, I received the first samples of completed garments from one of the artisan groups I am working with in Peru.  Please don’t judge me, but I almost started to cry.  Actually, I don’t care if you judge me, my lip was doing the little tremble thing and I had to literally fight back tears.

This project has been a long time coming and to see finished garments in my hands that were created based on the images in my head and scribbled in my notebooks, is absolutely amazing.

It was just the first round and there are some corrections to be made but I believe hard work pays off and I am looking forward to sharing my hard work with the world.

A few snippets from the package:

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Converting an image or shape into a stitch pattern

Posted on by magf1227

Considering I was born and raised in South Florida’s warm to super hot weather, it may seem a little odd that I am fascinated with knits. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t often wear them growing up, except during vacations or fluke cold spells, or when a group of us hung out at our friend Peter’s house as kids and cranked the a/c down as low as possible so we could light a fire in the the gorgeous fireplace centered in the gigantic but somehow still cozy living room. Whatever the case may be, I am a little obsessed with knits – the cozy look, the work that goes into each stitch, the different ways they can be put together by hand or artisanal machine, and of course the final product.

In designing my pieces, I have done a lot of research, looked at hundreds of stitch samples, and I have found myself taking a new approach in selecting stitch patterns/designs to use in each piece.

I am inspired by a countless number of things on a daily basis: the shapes of leaves and clouds, the colors in our amazing backyard sunsets, the gorgeus hues that turn up on our orchids, the colors that result when I mix paint or the way it splatters into a shape, a reflection in water, the soft and smooth feel of a piece of fabric or just the way it moves when I wear it, the list goes on and on. I post images on a cork board in my office or slip them into an inspiration book I keep. If I don’t physically have an image to post on my board or tuck in my book, I try to take pictures and catalog them in folders on my computer to go back to for reference.

I go back to the inspirational images and I look for a shape that I want to be mimicked in a stitch pattern and the brilliant artisans that are working on my samples take it from there. So far, they haven’t rejected a single challenge – in fact, they say I am pushing the boundaries of how they typically work and they are enjoying the process!

Here are some tiny sneak peeks – I can’t wait to show you more!

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Inspiration: family and lace

Posted on by magf1227

Many things inspire me but none more than family.  I have a super old school tight knit family and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

I asked my mom for her wedding photos the other day.  I was looking at samples of lace fabric and some swatches of different types of knitted lace and remembered I used to look through her wedding photos all the time when I was little.  She looks ethereal with her long brown hair, big brown eyes, and formal multi-layer lace ball gown.  I scanned a bunch of the album pages so I could keep copies of my own.  Now, I can look at them whenever I want.  Just beautiful…

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Sweet Contemplation

I sit at a small patio table outside of my modest but charming little hotel near Managua eating breakfast or “desayuno tipico” – fried egg, toast served with butter and jalea, a small bowl of gallo pinto, cafe con leche and juice.  The geckos are singing to me through cracks in the ondulated tin roof over my head.  Birds are chirping and a crisp December morning breeze gently passes, magically creating an orchestra of calm-inducing sounds among the leaves of trees and plants throughout the hotel property; especially the rows of bougainvilleas with soft white and bright raspberry colored flowers and lush green leaves, framing entranceways and gates and adorning walls.

The hotel is situated from the middle to the top of a steep hill, cleverly tucked up and away from a curvy busy highway.  Today, this is my perfect spot to sit, observe and think.

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Trip to Nicaragua

Posted on by magf1227

I’ve been in contact with a non-profit in Nicaragua since the beginning of September 2010.  They put me in contact with a woman who runs a small sewing cooperative just outside of the capital city of Managua and she put me in contact with a few crocheters and embroiderers in Granada and Masaya.  I am finally heading to Nicaragua to meet with everyone face to face and see if we can make a go at this part of the pashen collection project.

My husband and I first decided to travel around a little bit and enjoy some of what beautiful Nicaragua has to offer.  We went to Ometepe Island for a few days then to the city of Granada for a couple of days.

Volcano Concepcion on Ometepe Island

View from a little cafe on Ometepe

The path to the waterfalls (cascadas)

My husband and I enjoying some down time at Ojo de agua

After fun exploring, it was time for my husband to head back to the states and for me to get to work.

I first met the woman from the sewing cooperative who immediately took me to meet her friends who run a fabric recycling factory just 10 minutes from the Managua airport.  Scraps of all kinds of fabric sorted into what seemed to be mile-high ceiling-touching piles; sorted by color, weight, type, etc.  This fabric comes from all over and is purchased by people all over the world to be repurposed.

The last few days have consisted of meetings with the various people I have been communicating with, fabric store visits, a meeting with owners of an industrial sewing machine shop, a tour of two organic cotton farms with an extremely knowledgeable agricultural engineer, a meeting with the non-profit group who I’ve been talking to for so long, and an honest analysis of the project.

Organic Cotton Field - 4 weeks before it's ready

Raul Machin - Agricultural Engineer originally from Cuba/Amazing Educator

Did you know?…

Cotton grows first as a flower

Develops into a fruit called a "cotton boll"

Then bursts open when it's mature

Even after so many communications, being here in the middle of all of it and meeting all of these people face to face has added a lot of different angles to the mix.  The toughest of all issues seems to be the financing to get an additional industrial machine and how to get the fabric I want.  Unless I purchase enormous amounts of fabric (which is unrealistic for me at this stage of startup), my next option is to purchase directly from the shops.  The shops may receive a type of fabric one day and when they completely sell out of it, there is no definite time that can be promised for the fabric to arrive again.  You walk into the fabric shops and there are piles upon piles of bolts of material wrapped and stacked on tables, shelves and the floor; most of them are not labeled to indicate content, origin, or anything of the sort.  This is Central America.  A reworking of the plan with regard to fabric is in order.

I didn’t come here thinking this was going to be easy and anyone who knows me knows I don’t give up easily so, (as I say often) if it is meant to be, I will find a way…

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Clearing our minds in the Florida Keys

Sometimes a getaway to a not so far away place does the trick!

My husband Shannon and I were given a gift certificate for a weekend stay at The Moorings Village on Islamorada Key as a wedding gift.  It took us 7 months to finally book it and here we are.  This place is heavenly… our very own sweet cottage surrounded by lush tropical foliage, blooming orchids clinging to trees, and other flower-filled plants, just steps from the beach.  Maybe it’s the time of year we decided to come, I’m not sure, but we are the only ones here so (other than the owners and property caretakers) we have an entire 18-acre private beach to ourselves.

Walkway to our cottage

The Sifka House

We couldn’t ask for prettier weather with perfect blue skies, an occasional wispy white cloud floating by, and the temperate high in the upper 70s, low in the upper 60s.  It’s really windy but that’s perfect for sitting in the warm Florida sun (with a ton of sunblock on).

We ran into our cottage, threw down our bags, grabbed our reading materials, sunglasses and towels and ran out to lounge in the sun.  Goodbye normal every day clutter of busy schedules, multiple projects, phone and email overload.   Hello fresh air, coconut palms swaying in the wind, giant hammocks, isolated white sand beach, and time to relax.

Ready for beach time

Loving life

Gorgeous private beach

The perfect day on Islamorada Key

Sit, breathe, and read...

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Crochet Class

I took a crochet class the other day, at a local boutique yarn shop called Great Balls of Yarn. I did this for two reasons:

1. I have always admired beautifully crocheted items and been interested in learning the techniques.

2. I am incorporating crochet in my designs and I want to be more than a designer who draws something and asks someone to make it. I don’t expect to master any technique but I want to know more about the work that goes into it and feel that this will only help things go a little more smoothly through the design process and in communicating with the artisans I am working with.

Wall of Blues and Greens

I arrived a little early and wandered around the shop. I have never seen a place of that size, full from wall top to wall bottom, with so many kinds and colors of yarn. A yarn lover’s paradise with shelves of binders containing pattern ideas, samples of finished projects displayed beautifully, and a wall dedicated to any tool you may need to complete your dream knitting or crochet project.

Varying textures

The class was so much fun – myself and four other ladies fighting with yarn overs and trying our hands at samples using a variety of stitches inclduding the most basic chain stitch, the treble crochet stitch and others. I sat there wondering how someone first came up with these methods forever ago, how so many gorgeous things have been made using these techniques, and how it continues to be passed on. There is something really special about creating things with your hands. I enjoyed the class so much that I have already signed up for the next level. More pictures to come after the next class; and let this be a reminder to try things you have always wanted to try!

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