Tag Archives: fashion

Wasting Energy and Endangering Lives: The “True Cost” of Fashion

TheTrueCost_Poster_2764x4096In years past, only the richest individuals could afford to own multiple sets of clothes to switch out depending on the day or activity. The rest of the world made do with one suit or dress for formal occasions, and perhaps a handful of humble garments for day-to-day life. That traditional approach to clothing has changed steadily for the past several decades as modern technologies and garment factories have driven down prices. Today, we live in a world of fast fashion, with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it transition from the catwalk to the store to the consumer and then quickly to the donation bin as styles fall back out of fashion. The cheap prices we enjoy today don’t really cost less than past clothing did, though – it’s just that rather than paying in money now workers are paying in suffering. Nothing is truly free, not really, which is a topic being explored by the new documentary directed by Andrew Morgan, The True Cost.

The True Cost holds a mirror up to the practices of an out-of-control industry, practices which are not only devastating to workers but also have a huge negative impact on the environment. Air pollution, water pollution, and deforestation can all be laid at the feet of the garment industry, though of course not exclusively. Alberta Energy states that about 10 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions come from this overproduction of apparel and textiles. Fossil fuels are being consumed at all ends of the garment process, from the farming machinery to the factories themselves to the huge container ships used to bring the finished clothing from the third world countries where they are produced to the first world countries where they are consumed. Continue reading

Barbie gets a more human makeover

A lot of our ideas for what “pretty” is gets determined on the pages of magazines and the screens of our televisions. For little girls, even the dolls we play with say something about waistlines, eye shadow and super cool ponytails. However lots of things are changing for the better! Dove ads have revealed the beauty of everyday women. Clothing lines like Calvin Klein and H&M are featuring models long considered plus size (translation: sizes 6-10) in their campaigns. Now, even Barbie is getting a makeover. Continue reading

One World: The Simplicity in Design and Message with Calvin Klein

Calvin KleinWith New York Fashion Week kicking into high gear, I took this opportunity to highlight one of fashion’s biggest stars and our ONE WORLD guest Calvin Klein. He is an icon in an industry that can make a designer a household name one year and then send them crashing back into anonymity the next. Yet he has managed to maintain prominence since founding his company in 1967.

Influenced by his grandmother, who was a seamstress in the Bronx and his mother’s love of style, Klein knew from a very early age that fashion and design were his passion. In his first runway show Calvin was immediately recognized as a rising star in the industry and was hailed as a young Yves Saint Laurent.

Calvin Klein’s continued success has largely been based on his focus and his ability to stick with his own personal aesthetic. “There has to be a way to communicate to people what you stand for,” he explains in his interview with Deepak Chopra.

“I don’t want to say it was easy, but…if I loved it, and I thought it was as good we could do, then usually the result came out well.” In an industry dominated largely by bold and busy prints, materials and shapes, Klein has maintained his clean and simple aesthetic and it continues to be successful decades after it was originally introduced.

Not one to be constantly in the spotlight himself and agreeing to interviews on a limited basis, Klein generally prefers to let his work speak for itself. The elegance of simple and clean lines is not something that Klein maintains only in his garments but also in his marketing strategies. With simple black and white advertising campaigns, the brand launched many models, including Brooke Shields and Mark Wahlberg into stardom. Today a Calvin Klein ad is instantly recognizable around the globe for its simple and consistent messaging. His body of work and his sizable success are a testament to the fact that sometimes less truly is more.

You can see his whole ONE WORLD discussion with Deepak Chopra here.


This 11-Year-Old Makes the Coolest Ties You’ve Ever Seen

grid-cell-4832-1375883264-50His name is Moziah Bridges, and on top of being an 11-year-old boy with an eye for bold prints, he’s an incredibly innovative businessman (businesschild?) on the up and up. Mo – as he is called for short – has been designing and sewing bow ties since he was 9 years old, when his grandmother taught him the art. His ties are beautiful and unique, but also brilliantly placed in a fashion world that until now has seen somewhat of a shortage of this particular accessory.

Explaining his attraction to the art of bow tie-making, Mo told Fox News,

I really was a young dapper man and I couldn’t find any other bow ties that I really like. So my grandma – my lovely grandma – she’s been sewing for over 80 years, or something crazy like that, so I wanted to start my own business making bow ties.

We love that he refers to himself as a “young dapper man” – he certainly is! But his talents don’t end there. Mo of course selects all his own fabrics and sews the ties himself, but he is also invested in giving back to the community. His “Go Mo! Scholarship Bow Tie” returns 100% of the proceeds to the community by helping kids attend summer camp. Mo is also interested in helping other fashion-inclined kids dress well by creating a children’s clothing line, complete with blazers, nice pants, and more.

Mo has already made over $30,000 through his Etsy store and is looking to expand. His recent mention in the Oprah Winfrey magazine is bound to be a major boon to his business, and we hope Mo realizes all the success he dreams of!

Here are our favorite picks from Mo’s Bows:











Images via Mo’s Bows Memphis

5 Questionable Quotes on Sex, Weight and Beauty from Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries

abercrombie-fitch1Ask your grandparents if they’ve heard of a company called “Abercrombie & Fitch” and they are bound to say something about a hunting and fishing retailer. Pull away the current steamy, semi-pornographic ads and teeny bopper vibe, and you’ll find that A&F was actually once the “Greatest Sporting Store in the World,” according to the company logo. Their Madison Avenue building contained not only retail areas but also a shooting range and golf school, which might suggest that an over-the-top commitment to both fitness and excess were always present in the company’s culture. Abercrombie shifted its focus to apparel in the late 1980’s and has since been the source of much controversy.

A&F’s CEO Mike Jeffries has taken things to a whole new level, though, by publicly coming out against those he believes “don’t belong [in our clothes]” – essentially anyone without a “washboard stomach.” Who does belong in Abercrombie clothing, according to Jeffries? Apparently, an “attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends.”

Here are 5 highly questionable statements from the second highest paid fashion CEO:

  1. “We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
  2. “People said we were cynical, that we were sexualizing little girls. But you know what? I still think those are cute underwear for little girls. And I think anybody who gets on a bandwagon about thongs for little girls is crazy. Just crazy! There’s so much craziness about sex in this country. It’s nuts! I can see getting upset about letting your girl hang out with a bunch of old pervs, but why would you let your girl hang out with a bunch of old pervs?”
  3. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
  4. “I don’t think we were in any sense guilty of racism, but I think we just didn’t work hard enough as a company to create more balance and diversity. And we have, and I think that’s made us a better company. We have minority recruiters. And if you go into our stores you see great-looking kids of all races.”
  5. “Listen, do we go too far sometimes? Absolutely. But we push the envelope, and we try to be funny, and we try to stay authentic and relevant to our target customer. I really don’t care what anyone other than our target customer thinks.”

In the full interview, you’ll also find Jeffries’ thoughts on looking “butch,” why pants should sit as low on the hip as possible, how big a male mannequin’s “package” should be, and why to avoid “looking like an old guy.” Judge for yourself…


Photo credit: Abercrombie & Fitch

The Real Risks of Wearing High Heels (Infographic)

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.00.17 AMHeels can inspire confidence, bring you closer to your beau’s face, and effortlessly dress up a plain outfit. As any woman – or man – who has encountered the spiky devils knows, they can also turn a perfectly good pair of feet into a mangled, puffy bundle of pain. So why do we insist on maintaining heels in our fashion repertoire?

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, women’s foot and toe complaints have increased roughly 75% over the last several years, as the average heel has steadily steepened. Some women have even started seeking out surgery to rid themselves of heel-induced woes, including shortening toes, receiving filler injections in the balls of their feet, and even in some drastic cases removing pinky toes, altogether. Might sound like the world has finally gone mad – but it’s still far from the wildest thing anyone has ever done for the sake of fashion.

Ultimately, it’s your feet and your health. Everyone makes that decision for themselves. Here is a fascinating infographic, though, which you might take into consideration next time you want to don those stilettos for a fancy occasion. Chances are you’ll look just as fierce in a pair of flats with happy feet that will carry you long into the night.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

Photo credit: Flickr

Infographic credit: Sun Sentinel

The Bangladesh Garment Factory Tragedy – 10 Sweatshop-Free Clothing Companies


When we buy an item of clothing from a mall or outlet in the United States, we often don’t think about the hundreds, even thousands, of people laboring in factories around the world to bring these fashions to the racks.

The weight of this reality hit home, however, after news surfaced on Wednesday of the devastating collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh. The disaster left at least 175 people dead, more than 1,000 injured, and countless others trapped in the rubble. This marks the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history, and points to the chilling underbelly of the fashion industry. According to reports, the building, which housed five garment factories in its eight stories, had developed cracks the night before, but workers were nonetheless ordered back in for work the next morning. If true, the accusation would make this not only a tragic display of negligence, but a human rights violation, at that.

This horrific incident may remind you of similar news from November 2012, when a fire broke out in another garment factory in the country, trapping workers inside and killing 112 people. These disasters are all too common. The garment industry comprises over 75% of Bangladesh’s international exports, with some of their largest buyers being H&M, Walmart, and Gap Inc. Consider that the average H&M women’s shirt is roughly $20, while the average hourly wage of a factory worker in Bangladesh is just $0.13. Roughly one third of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, a trend common among countries with some of the highest sweatshop labor exports around the world.

If all of this makes you a bit sick to the stomach, we completely understand. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 clothing companies that do not use sweatshop labor. Please do your own research, though, and let us know what brands you support! Hopefully collectively we can convey the message that no purchase can be considered “cheap” if human lives are the cost.

1. Eddie Bauer

2. Givenchy

3. Ben Davis

4. Union Jeans

5. Alternative Apparel

6. American Apparel

7. New Balance (Made in US collection)

8. Tom’s Shoes

9. Cut Loose

10. Flax


Photo credit: A.M. Ahad/AP

2 Rules to De-Clutter and Get Creative with Your Clothes

Rubbermaid Homefree Series Closet Kit 3P40Most of us probably wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time because we play favorites. However, we continue shopping and spending money that we could have used more wisely or saved. For many people a cluttered closet becomes a symbol of a cluttered mind. Moreover, an overcrowded closet demonstrates that we are overly concerned with what others think: “Oh, everyone will remember that I wore this outfit last week.” To this worry I respond, “I hope they remember me, how kind I was, or what I said, not what I wore.”

When I asked people why they don’t get rid of excess clothes, here are popular responses:

* I paid a lot of money for this outfit

* It was on sale

* I have my fat clothes and my skinny clothes

* This outfit symbolizes a special day in my life, so I can’t give it away

* I got it as a gift

* I will have a future occasion to wear it

If your item’s best attribute is that it was an irresistible sale, you might want to reconsider the purchase. I have found two rules which prevent my own impulsive purchases:

1. If I think I just have to buy it, I ask the sales person to put it on hold and then return in a day or two to try on the merchandise again. Most often I lose my enthusiasm for the purchase and decide NOT to spend the money. This makes me feel empowered and in control.

2. I imagine myself in a school uniform or doctor’s scrubs or a nurse’s uniform. In other words, I can wear the same clothes every day. Guess what? I usually end up wearing jeans or black pants with different tops.  Black serves as a great base to build.

Stress management is all about perception. When the seasons change, I put away some knick-knacks, bring back a few old ones, and rotate others around the house. Therefore what’s tired becomes stimulating and fresh. I even change where I sit at the kitchen table to see things from a different perspective. Similarly, in your own closet you can change your perception about your old clothes to see them in a fresh light, clearly no need to purchase when you possess the creativity. Try wearing an old outfit differently by belting, shortening, accessorizing or changing buttons – the way you change cabinet handles to achieve a totally different look.

Cleaning out your closet is cathartic. Keep it simple.


OBene’s founders are getting along just fine traveling together, scouting for beautiful products that will generate contributions to the charities of your chosing.  While we both have a deep connection to Africa and a strong history of building brands and engaging the public in support of causes, James is more keenly focused on digital media trends than on fabric weights, pintucks, and beadwork fashions.  But we both love yoga, so in between excursions to visit design shops and artist studios in Cape Town, we’ve been practicing at a wonderful studio YogaLife.  If you’re ever in Cape Town, looking for a place to play and reground, you’ll feel welcomed into their community.

Over the course of this past week, we’ve come to know Dave and the other amazing instructors well.  Hi Sara!  Today, Lara gave us a terrific tip about a friend of hers who creates witty, cheeky, fabulous fabrics under the name Shine Shine.  We visited Shine Shine designer Tracy Rushmere’s super groovy home this afternoon.  I’m ready to move in.  The views both inside and out where hip and heavenly.  We’ll definitely be placing an order – sling sacs, aprons, cushion covers, wallets – all too fun to pass up.  Even President Obama seems very happy to be hanging with Tracy in her play-filled home with her extraordinary kids.

Enjoy the collage of her creations below and join me in a deep bow to the YogaLife family.  We’ll miss you all very much until next time!

On the Road with OBene

What more perfect way to end our first day in Cape Town than a lovely dinner with New York-based fashion designer Tina Lunz.  Like many other old friends and colleagues, Tina and her friend Barbara are here to help celebrate Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday.  Tina’s been traveling the world for the past several months, encountering beautiful design across Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.  So, it was a lot of fun talking about OBene’s plan to introduce just such marvels to shoppers in America, who are looking for products with a story, a soul, and a certain sensibility that sets them apart.  And of course, in the cradle of democracy, we’ll be empowering OBene shoppers to designate at least 10 percent of every sale to their favorite charity.  A collective win for global makers, American buyers, and charities across the globe.

We also returned today with the first cache of samples from an amazing local leather goods designer.  We’ll be back at the studio on Tuesday to finalize a larger order, so please let us know if anything in these photos tickles your fancy!  Just post a comment below and we’ve got you covered.  So, start shopping today and start thinking about which non-profit you’d like to have share in the spoils.

Those who know me, are well versed in my affection for poetry, so how could I resist these gorgeously-detailed and whimsical purses, inspired by Edward Lear’s sweet meter and rhyme?  These are perfect for carrying a phone, a lipstick, and as many notes as you’ll need.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, 
and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The printing, stitch-work, and detailing on the larger bags that we selected is remarkable.  They are handcrafted here in Cape Town from leather, embroidery, stamped canvas, and other embellishments sourced throughout South Africa.  Each item is a limited run, so it’s essential to carpe diem before they sell through.  That’s why we’re heading back to secure what we can and make it available to you at OBene.com soon. 


Other finds:

  • Long sweeping necklaces with beads, metallic pieces and recycled off-cuts of leather.  Tie me up.
  • Colored leather disguised as oxidized metal.  Light as a feather.  Fierce as a falcon.
  • Life’s a thrilling mystery — every day — with your mask on a chain.  Oh meow.


We’re off to another studio tomorrow, so check back in for updates.  Also coming soon, a preview of OBene’s iconic inaugural partners:

Schier Shoes: unique, custom-made Indigo kudo leather desert boots from Namibia.  Incredibly groovy.

Henry Dombey Photos: striking black and white images from travels in South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania.  Totally transporting.

Indego Africa: gorgeous hand-knit wool & silk scarves from Rwanda.  They’ll warm you in all the good spots.

Watch this space for more updates from the trip.  LIKE and FOLLOW us for photos!

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