Be sure to check out our special offers in our April newsletter: Green Box Boutique April 2015 News
Yes, we know, you’re still looking at snow from time to time out your window, and contrary to that trending feeling, you’re “feelin’ the chill” more often than not. But trust us, the time isn’t far off when you’ll feel the burn of the summer heat.
It’s summer fashion time, and cotton is in like never before! Green Box Boutique is ready to make you the coolest, freshest and most stylishly dressed woman (or child) in the neighborhood. We feature wonderful dresses from Mata Traders and our new line of Global Mamas girls’ and boys’ items.
We want to get you as excited about these cotton items as we are. Here’s some information about cotton, how it helps our economy, helps the environment, and most of all, what it does for your body.
Cotton Helps the Economy
Cotton comes in all kinds of textures and looks: broadcloth, calico, chino, denim, duck, gingham and seersucker, to name a few. 17 Seventeen states across the U.S. grow cotton, from Virginia to California, with 12 million acres planted to cotton or about 19,000 square miles. The cotton industry brings in $100 billion in business revenues each year and invests a lot of that back into the economy in seed, fertilizer, tractors and other heavy equipment, transportation and for employees.
75% of the cotton grown is used in apparel. The remainder of the plants are also put to good use in meal for cattle, cottonseed oil and more. We sell $7 billion worth of cotton, or 12 million bales, overseas, 30% of the world export market. Asia, Mexico and Turkey are our biggest customers. We also sell 3.5 million bale equivalents of textile products overseas annually.
Cotton Producers Taking Steps to Help the Environment
“Cotton is the most widespread profitable non-food crop in the world. Its production provides income for more than 250 million people worldwide and employs almost 7% of all labor in developing countries. Approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton.” (WWF)
Unfortunately, current practices are often unsustainable. WWF is one organization that works with a coalition of global partners to promote the sustainable production and use of cotton. “Cotton’s most prominent environmental impacts result from the use of agrochemicals (especially pesticides), the consumption of water, and the conversion of habitat to agricultural use.”
Organizations like WWF work with farmers all over the world to minimize the impact of harmful crop protection practices, encourage more efficient water usage and preserve available water resources, care for the health of the soil, conserve natural habitats, preserve the quality of the fiber and promote decent work.
Not only do better management practices preserve the environment, they increase production! More and more cotton growers are able to make the claim that their cotton is sustainably grown.
In addition, organic cotton agriculture is growing in popularity. Green Box Boutique garments are hand-made, Fair Trade, often organic and always sustainably produced. Adult and children’s items use non-toxic, natural dyes.
Now for the Great News: Cotton on Your Body
Picture yourself sitting on your porch on a hot afternoon sipping your sustainable wine and feeling nice and cool in your beautiful cotton dress. Why does it feel so good?
Cotton is natural and light in weight. It breathes, it absorbs and wicks away body moisture, it discourages the growth of mildew and yeast that happens in dark, moist places, and it maintains its fresh smell even when you’re really hot.
Cotton is hypoallergenic. Unlike synthetics, it doesn’t cause rashes or skin allergies. It doesn’t irritate the skin or cause static.
Cotton is soft and is good to have close to your skin. That’s why so many doctors recommend it for you and your baby.
In short, it feels wonderful on your body in the heat of summer!
Caring for Your Cotton
First the fit: cotton does have poor elasticity, not much give. Be sure the clothing fits you properly when you purchase it.
Did we mention that cotton is durable? That means you can launder it, even using hot water. Stains clean off it easily.
But most manufacturers of beautiful cotton clothing, especially handmade, recommend hand washing to maintain clothing longer, or at least turning the clothing inside out and washing in 100% cold water on delicate.
Pilling happens when the short fibers in clothing form lint. Cotton can pill, but the good news is that it whisks away. When synthetics pill, it never goes away.
Most shrinkage occurs during drying and only to a certain extent (it won’t shrink until it disappears), so you can account for that when you choose your clothes if you know you want to wash and dry on no heat or delicate for the shortest time possible.
You can also hang clothing outside to dry, taking advantage of the summer weather to get a bit of sun and do your part for the environment — but preserve colors by turning the clothing inside out.
Cotton wrinkles, a function of natural fiber coming in contact with moisture. You might need to run an iron over your cotton clothing to keep it great looking…on the other hand, the wrinkled look is in these days, and many items are made to show it off.
You in Your Cotton Dress
So…now that you know how wonderful cotton is, and you’re imagining yourself in that wonderfully cool, fresh cotton dress in the warm weather, it’s time to come on in to Green Box Boutique to find the dress that’s made for you.
Some of us are old enough to remember a time when clothing was made in this country and featured “Union Made in the U.S.A.” tags, when it was durable, with things like invisible hems and additional fabric in the seams to allow alterations.
In the 1960s, “mod” designers introduced disposable clothing. It was also a time when the big discount retailers, like Walmart and Target, proliferated around the country.
In the 1970s, massive textile mills began opening around the world so that retailers could relocate or outsource their manufacturing operations, saving millions of dollars.
As of 2011, only 2% of clothing was made in the U.S.A. We probably also remember the campaign to purchase clothing and other items made in the U.S.A. It’s a push that hasn’t worked, and of course, it would take work away from deeply disadvantaged populations in places around the world if we returned the entire industry to the U.S. and closed down all those mills.
Yet every day we are more aware of factories that are really sweatshops, where pay is unlivable, where there are no benefits, where children work alongside adults, where the hours are long and the environment unsafe. “From 1990 to 2012, there were at least 33 major fire incidents at garment facilities in Bangladesh.”
These stories parallel our own history in the garment industry. In the Manhattan Triangle Shirt Factory fire of 1911, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history, 146 garment workers died, many by falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were Italian and Jewish immigrants, aged 16-23. The youngest victims were 14 years old. The doors to the stairwells and exits had been locked to prevent unauthorized breaks and reduce theft.
In that case, the two owners were prosecuted for manslaughter. Although they were acquitted, they were later sued in a civil suit and forced to pay the families of those who died $75 per person. The owners’ insurance compensation amounted to about $400 per person. New York City’s Fire Chief, John Kenlon, told investigators that his department had identified more than 200 factories where conditions made a fire like what occurred at the Triangle Shirt Factory a possibility.
The fire led to legislation that improved factory safety standards and stimulated the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).
In recent years, social entrepreneurs have taken another approach than trying to persuade everyone to purchase US made clothing. Through the mechanism of their businesses, they address particular problems in the global social environment, particularly working conditions in disadvantaged areas. We featured several of these businesses in our blog, businesses whose clothing lines we proudly carry:
- Avatar: http://www.greenboxboutique.com/?p=311
- Mata Traders: http://www.greenboxboutique.com/?p=208
- Synergy: http://www.greenboxboutique.com/?p=319
- The Starfish Project: http://www.greenboxboutique.com/?p=162
We’ve taken important steps in this country to ensure the safety of workers, to eliminate child labor and to provide adequate compensation for work. We need to do much more. But it’s also important to see ourselves as part of a global community, not only benefiting from its pool of laborers, but helping to improve their work situations. It’s called fair trade, and that’s what we support at Green Box Boutique.
This year we’d like to wish everyone a sharing, caring Christmas and thank you, our customers, and our vendors for partnering with us to build a better world.
As our customers, you care about the people with whom we share our world and care about the environment. You show your caring in your shopping choices. Every purchase you make at Green Box Boutique is one that shares with others by helping disadvantaged workers all over the world and by saving our beautiful world so future generations can enjoy it as well. We thank you so much for supporting this effort.
And we’d also like to thank our vendors, each of whom cares and shares in such amazing ways. We invite you to read about them in our blog and learn about their contributions, efforts you also support with your purchases at the Green Box Boutique:
- Pompeii St. Soap Company
- Mata Traders and Again
- Synergy and Again
- Maria’s Style
- Avatar Imports
- Laura Tanner Jewelry
- Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery
- Bridgewater Candles
- Nadina’s Cremes
- Oka-b Shoes
- Wei of Chocolate
- Starfish Project
- All our wine vendors
And so many more that we haven’t had a chance to write about yet.
Thank you all, and have a wonderful, caring and sharing Christmas.
Are you looking for the perfect dress to wear through the holiday season? A dress that makes you look and feel good? A gift for yourself and a gift to the world?
At Green Box Boutique, we specialize in items that give in so many directions. Let’s look at two dresses we have for you to help you feel beautiful inside and out during this holiday season.
From Synergy, we have the beautiful Little Black Dress pictured above. Accessorized here with an Angelica Rustici necklace and an Ili World purse, the dress evidences the Synergy style, softly draping, body-hugging fabrics. It shares these other features with Synergy clothing:
- 95% GOTS certified organic cotton melange fabric, 5% Spandex
- Dyed with low-impact dyes
- Cap sleeves
- Decorative pleating on front
- Fitted silhouette
- Hem falls just above the knees
- Hand wash, line dry
- Made in Nepal
Stop in soon to pick up this beauty, because as of this writing, we have only three left. Oh, and don’t forget the Oka-b shoes!
Read more about Synergy and the great work they do as social entrepreneurs in our earlier post.
Or imagine yourself in this delightful Poetry in Motion Purple dress from Mata Traders. Mata describes it this way:
A peplum dress in gorgeous prints…be still our hearts! It’s extra fun styled with loafers, but you can also wear it with heels for work or play. Don’t be scared to pile on the jewelry, too!
With characteristic Mata handwork, the dress is sure to shine as brightly as any holiday lights when you’re out celebrating. And as they say, don’t be scared to pile on the jewelry! We have so much from which you can choose at Green Box Boutique.
We have just five left of this special creation, Poetry in Motion. Stop in today to check it out. And if you’d like to know more about this wonderful company and how you’re giving to others while you give to yourself, read our post, Mata Traders: Beautiful on Both Sides.
We love our vendors, their products and their commitment to social goodness. We’d like you to know as much about them as possible. And we’d like to see you decking out the holiday season in these beautiful clothes!
“Radiate effortless style while treading gently on the Earth.” Imagine yourself in this simple and simply beautiful black dress, a dress that works as well for a night out on the town as an evening at home with friends.
Or how about getting married in the white version, a classically stylish dress so simple that it is perfect for this important occasion or to wear in your backyard for a summer party.
These dresses are just one example of the way we break down artificial barriers in the 21st century. Many of us remember the days when there were clear lines between day clothes and evening clothes, work clothes and active-wear, what you wore on Sunday and what you wore the rest of the week. If you went to a luncheon and wanted to take a vigorous walk afterward, you had to go home to change first. No longer the case, we want our clothes to feel comfortable in a variety of environments. We want one dress to turn into many, with accessories, jackets, undershirts and more.
Try your own individual combination with this dress of long-sleeved t-shirts, jackets, belts, leggings and boots while you’re waiting for summer and a chance to wear the dress all by itself.
These versatile, soft, breathable fabrics are perfect for yoga, and Synergy makes many yoga styles in addition to their dresses, skirts, tops and outerwear.
Synergy clothes are comfortable in many environments, in any environment. Made of 95% certified organic cotton and 5% Spandex, the garments are body hugging without being tight or stiff but instead beautifully and softly draping in the right places. Garments are dyed with low-impact dyes and made in Nepal. Synergy represents our desire to return to the classic simplicity of real fabrics. The clothing lets you move and will carry you stylishly through the activities of your day and evening.
Like so many of the companies whose products we sell at Green Box Boutique, Synergy also represents the commitment many of us have to the environment and the workers who make our clothing. Their signature organic cotton, sustainably produced, is turned into beautiful garments by Fair Trade workers in Nepal.
Why organic? From Everything Beautiful, a blog that features Synergy clothing as The Only Fabrics You Should Have On Your Body: “As modern society teaches us, technological advances don’t always prove to be beneficial. It wasn’t long ago that only natural fabrics were solely used like hemp, cotton, flax, silk, wool, cashmere, alpaca, and linen. Nowadays, though, our fabrics are chemically treated and processed, causing adverse effects to the wearer. Harmful detergents, petrochemical dyes, formaldehyde (to prevent shrinkage), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxin-producing bleach, and chemical fabric softeners are a few of the additives involved chemical processing. These not only release toxins to the body, producing ill health effects and causing irritation (skin reactions are very common in those chemically sensitive), but produce harmful effects to the environment as well. Today’s clothing industry is a seven trillion dollar a year industry that uses an astounding 8,000 synthetic chemicals.”
For more information about why this clothing not only feels good but is good for you, be sure to check out Synergy’s blog. Here’s an excerpt from This Week’s Links: “The True Cost — This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing? Yes, this should definitely be on your Must Watch List.”
In Facebook, Avatar Imports likes to post the music they’re playing in their Santa Cruz location. One day in October 2014, they posted that “Weird Al” Yankovic’s song, “Mandatory Fun” pretty much sums up Avatar’s philosophy.
Sounds like a pretty good self-description with discussions like the following peppering their feed: “Which would do a better job of swimming across a river: a taco or a grilled cheese sandwich? Here at Avatar we’re asking the tough questions.” That sparked some fun answers!
In a somewhat more formal (if we can use that word in this context) way on their website, Avatar describes themselves like this: “Based in Santa Cruz, California, Avatar Imports’ mission is to design and create fun, fashionable, high quality goods in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically responsible. We are a former member of the Fair Trade Federation, and are a certified green business under Santa Cruz’s Green Business Program. You can find our products at stores throughout the U.S., Canada and online.”
And there, in a couple of sentences, we have a multi-faceted mission. Avatar designs and creates a particular style of clothing while having a great time, both in the shop and while traveling.
Within a year of their 1990 founding, they met Jhaindra Ghimire in Kathmandu, Nepal. Soon they partnered with him as he created a Fair Trade textile factory, all agreeing “it was time to adhere to the principles of fair trade and give our employees an opportunity to rise up out of poverty and enjoy an improved standard of living and quality of life.” They are all committed to giving the impoverished a chance to improve their lifestyle by obtaining steady work in a safe, healthy environment with an above average wage and learning valuable work skills.
In addition to their membership in Fair Trade organizations and their partnership with Jhaindra Ghimire, Avatar Imports actively supported relief efforts after the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, running an Earthquake Relief Sale from May through August.
Avatar Imports describes its clothing as “inexpensive boho dresses, yoga wear, bohemian style clothing and hippie chic.” Another Facebook post shares “Boho — Fashion History and Bohemian Style”. The article describes Bohemian as a style that for more than 200 years has been “an exotic alternative to the accepted fashions of a given period.” It incorporates ethnic clothing styles and historical costume into individualized, stylishly shabby presentations: “Bohemian style consists of loose, colorful clothing and has been known as boho chic, hippie style, and Aesthetic dress. With their long flowing hair and rich, though threadbare fabrics, bohemians stand out in a crowd representing a colorful counterculture based on creativity, poverty, and an indifference to social structures and traditions.”
Hippie chic and bohemian style clothing is, like Avatar Imports itself, fun, carefree and fashionable while making a social statement and fulfilling a social mission.
When I was a child, my Dad gave me a reversible dress as a gift. It was my favorite dress because it was “beautiful on both sides.” I wore it all the time, and I remember every detail of it today, sixty years later.
I am thinking about that dress as I write about Mata Traders, and “beautiful on both sides” takes on a whole new meaning. Every dress, every skirt, every top from Mata Traders is beautiful on both sides.
On one side, Mata Trader vintage-inspired clothing displays meaningful block-printed designs on simple, eco-friendly, natural fabrics, usually cotton. On the other side, Mata Trader clothing reveals a world of hard-working, talented women with an opportunity to lift their families out of poverty in an environment that speaks respect and fair compensation.
Mata Trader describes itself this way: “Mata products are original designs handmade in India and Nepal by women’s cooperatives and artisan groups that practice fair trade principles. This means that our producers are paid a livable wage in safe and fair conditions, and do their work at home and in small workshops rather than factories. Services like on-site day-care, medical check-ups, and over-time pay are offered.”
Maureen Dunn, the founder of Mata Traders, and her partners, Michelle King and Jonit Bookheim, met at the beginning of their freshman year at Northwestern University and became instant friends. “Their journey with ‘Mother India’ began in 2003,” when Michelle, Joni, and Maureen “spent 4 months traveling the subcontinent . . . After that, while Michelle went to grad school and Joni worked at a community org,” Michelle returned to India yearly on buying trips. She soon became aware of the conditions of poverty in which much of the population lives. She sought out “producer groups that paid their workers good wages and practiced the principles of fair trade.”
Soon, Maureen’s friends, Michelle and Joni, joined her as partners in the business, followed by Scott Rosenjack. Chicago-based Mata Traders “topped $1.35 million in sales in 2013.” Throughout its growth, the company has remained true to its founding mission, “to work with organizations that educate, employ, and empower women.”
“Everything is interconnected. The point is to know it and understand it.” Maureen tells the story of Harshali, who started out working as a helper at the women’s cooperative and helping her grandmother and sister sell fish at the side of the road. Today, Harshali is an assistant to one of the co-op’s designers, oversees all sampling work is on the road to becoming a designer herself.
Michelle tells the story of a day in the sampling unit, where some women are trained to work on sewing machines and come into the cooperative daily. For many women, it is their first time working outside of their homes. Other women are talented hand-embroiderers, many learning techniques at the cooperative but returning home to do the work. All the women work hard, rising early to prepare food and get their families ready for the day, working a full 10 AM – 6 PM day, and returning home to prepare dinner for their families.
Reading the story of these dresses is exciting. First, the dresses are beautiful, “inside and out.” Made of simple, real, natural material, cotton, each garment represents the idea of clothing with meaning. Hand done block-printed designs and embroidery have personal meaning for the designers, the personal care that workers put into the garments has personal meaning to the workers, allowing them to develop their traditional skills as well as new skills. At the same time, their work brings them respect and the possibility of lifting their families out of poverty.
And then there is the joy you can experience of wearing an eco-friendly garment, made with love and care, that is “beautiful on both sides.” You can know you have a part in repairing the world.
We can do it!
Americans like to spend money. In 2014, that means, among other things, we spent 82 billion on clothing (a trillion worldwide). That’s a lot of buying power, and used on behalf of organic, eco-sustainable, fair trade clothing, it could accomplish a lot.
As recent changes in the fast food industry demonstrate, we can shape policies when we vote with the dollars we use to purchase food. We can do the same when we purchase clothing and other items.
Brief Primer: Chemicals in Clothing
There are two phases to consider in looking at chemicals in clothing. The first is the growth stage of the plants, plants like cotton. During this stage, if the clothing is not organic, pesticides and insectides permeate the crop, and the residue remains through the second, processing, stage.
Relevant statistics cite that 50% of all fiber in the world is cotton; 10% of the world’s pesticide use is due to cotton, and 25% of all insecticide use. Another report cites cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s land while using 16% of the world’s insecticides, representing very heavy saturation. In addition, it requires ⅓ lb. of synthetic fertilizer to grow 1 lb. of raw cotton in the U.S. and just under 1 lb. of cotton for one t-shirt.
Many chemicals then remain in the fabric through further processing into fabric. A Greenpeace study found harmful chemicals in both adults’ and kids’ clothing after checking over 20 of the big brands. These chemicals disrupt hormones and endocrine function, attack the immune system, and could be carcinogenic. Greenpeace presents a series of videos examining this problem and the beginning of solutions.
Organic clothing uses fiber grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers, materials like cotton, linen, hemp and wool.
The second phase to consider in relation to chemicals in clothing is the processing stage, that is, bleaching, sizing, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, mothproofing and static- and wrinkle-reduction.
Many of us probably remember the days when clothing shrank fairly easily, when stains took hold more quickly and permanently, and ironing was a weekly, if not daily, chore. Probably don’t want to go back there. The chemicals used to achieve more care-free clothing, though, are daunting and include “formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines” as well as disinfectants. Organic clothing is not necessarily chemical-free at the processing stage, so it’s important to know your sources.
The power of One in making changes for the better!
We can shape policies when we vote with the dollars we use to purchase fashion items. When we buy clothing that we know represents what we would like to see in the world, we deliver a message that the big manufacturers will eventually hear — and some hear now.
- Regulate the textile industry
- Eliminate use of toxic chemicals in clothing
- Require using natural fibers and low impact dyes
- Eliminate carcinogenic waste from the production of synthetic materials
- Reduce environmental degradation
In addition, since those small companies that produce organic clothing are usually fair trade organizations, our purchases have an impact on unethical labor exploitation.
If we feel beautiful in new clothing, imagine how much more beautiful we’ll feel knowing that the clothes we are wearing are making the world a better place as well!