"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Accessories

 Kate Spade threw out some new arrivals this week online and as I was scrolling through in my half-interested January mood I noticed three items in particular for their prettiness.
I think the scarf, above, is exquisite, there's something about the pattern and the use of pink and black and cream that is so fetching to my eye.

 I am looking for a ladylike evening purse in black with a little strap this year, but this is not the one.  Why am I sharing it?  Well it comes close, though I'd like a shorter handle and maybe a patent leather finish.
I'm also making a serious effort to buy items on my very short list for 2013 from brands that I know for certain pay their workers a living wage.  I've just read this great book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre, and I'll tell you what, it has really opened my eyes.  I wish I had read it years ago!
Did you know that even luxury brands get into all kinds of tomfoolery around the provenance of their products?  Like gluing the tops of shoes together in factories in China and then sending them to Italy to be attached to their "Made In Italy" soles?
That's just one teeny example.
I really like the colour and shape of these cheapie earrings.  I'm hoping for the real deal this year, maybe from MrBP?  A gemstone in blue or green, ethically sourced if possible.

Have you read Deluxe?
Are you looking at the production of the items you buy this year?
xoDani

61 comments:

  1. Have not read Deluxe, but have begun looking more carefully at the production source of items. For your bag, have you looked on Ebay for a vintage, black crocodile one? I have one in brown from there with that's from the 40's, very lady-like and classic, and bought it for less than $100. I wouldn't buy new crocodile, but I feel like a recycled one is ethically OK.
    Hope you get your "real" earrings!

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    1. Hi Kathy, That's a great idea, I'll start looking for one on ebay.
      If I give the hint I just might! I'll let you know.

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  2. Morning Dani, I have heard of Deluxe but not read it. I had a quick search for 'ethically-sourced gemstones' and came across this blogpost by a jeweller:
    http://cecileraleydesigns.blogspot.ca/2012/08/are-gemstones-ethically-sourced.html
    It looks like it's pretty difficult to get all the necessary information, especially for gemstones other than diamonds.

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    1. Patricia you received some nice earrings for Christmas, did hubs have trouble finding some?
      I will check out that blog, thank you very much!

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    2. Well Dani, I actually found them! (I have taken to making a folder on the computer for gift suggestions - he doesn't feel comfortable choosing on his own.) However, your post gave me food for thought. I don't know where the stones came from and, as the blogpost says, it's probably very difficult to find out for sure.
      I agree with Hexicon below - I, too, would like to buy less but better, but 1) I can't justify dropping really large sums and 2) it seems like even a high price tag doesn't guarantee an ethical provenance. It *is* depressing!

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  3. I read that book the day it came out, it was such a great read.
    I've been in a huff with my wardrobe, every pair of cords is just too small, I need to grow up and size up, and I thought my navy pea coat was a bit neat - checked the label dumbo somehow ordered a 2 instead of a 4 - arrgh! I want to dump everything and start over, I find winter dressing such a challenge.

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    1. Tabs I really enjoyed that book and I'm not one for non-fiction.
      I've had that dump and start again feeling before, if we're not comfortable in our clothes it's a never-ending cycle. I have my winter wardrobe just where I want it but only because I've been collecting Brora for 3 years.

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    2. I remember years ago shopping with daughter when she was growing up. I found a beautiful pair of pants but they were too big. She looked at me with those big five year old eyes and said " don't worry, you'll grow into them". Damn her!

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  4. Hi Dani, yes I read the Dana Thomas book on holiday last year.What an eye-opener.And, it now has to be Hermes every time, doesn't it.Very few other brands bore up to too much scrutiny.Now,I am fairly certain it wouldn't be your type of thing at all, but in the UK there is someone called Susannah Hunter who has a workshop in Bloomsbury on Lambs Conduit Street in London.She and her employees make THE most beautiful appliqued leather bags and furnishings.She has a website where you can look at all the lovely things.And you can see everyone at the back of the studio making the things when you go in to the shop part.Good luck with the search for an evening bag.

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    1. Hi Sue, thanks for the tip I'm going to head over to that website this afternoon!
      Hermes does stand up. Louis Vuitton is part of LVMH and they do have factories in China now, unbelievable. My bag was made in France, so it says, but apparently a company can do the finishing in Europe and then slap the label on. I suspect however it is the much-counterfeited LV canvas bags that are partially produced in China.
      One thing that will keep me saving for a Louis Vuitton bag for summer is that they commit more money to fighting counterfeit goods than any other luxury brand, and the counterfeiters are known for using child labour , really it's a terrible terrible business.

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  5. I think a vintage bag would meet your needs and have seen several candidates here on local consignment shops. Etsy or ebay might have just what you are looking for. I have not read that book but think I might track it down as it does sound interesting.

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    1. Hi Hostess, I think you would find it really interesting. Our beloved Hermes stand up to scrutiny I'm happy to say, well for now, I hope they don't get sucked in by LVMH.

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  6. Between "Deluxe" and "Overdressed" I don't know what to wear or buy any longer. It's very depressing and a Catch-22, as I generally can't afford top-level, craftsman-made items. I know all the "how to dress like a Parisienne" books always say "buy fewer yet better things," but my Puritan soul will not let me drop $450 for a scarf. (I tried this fall but could not make myself enter my CC number at checkout.) So, I am on a bit of a break until I can put together a good spring shopping list. Mr. Hex bought me a pair of Kate Spade shoes for anniversary/birthday so I think that will tide me over for a while.

    Like you, I did enjoy the new KS roll-out. Anyone know where her stuff is made?

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    1. Hi Hexicon,

      I feel a bit like you do.

      I thought this was a good discussion about spending more for better and how that doesn't always make sense: http://the-nife.blogspot.ch/2012/12/cost-per-wear-limits.html

      Consignment might be a good option, though it can often be too pricey as well.

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    2. well, through the late 90's, the Kate Spade bags were made in a sweatshop in western Queens - right across the river from Manhattan! -, which was the subject of some controversy.
      http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/22/nyregion/high-end-leather-low-end-labor-handbag-workers-embroiled-bitter-contract-dispute.html?n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fPeople%2fS%2fSpade%2c%20Kate

      It is now said that Kate Spade has signed a Fair Labor contract. I am relieved, I love my Woody clutch.

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    3. Hexicon it is depressing and almost impossible to know what to do, especially when you think that the answer is to buy a luxury brand: chances are those goods are also made in Chinese factories with 20,000 workers living in bunks and making $120 a month.
      And Fred makes a good point, there are sweatshops in the US as well.
      As far as the Kate Spade shoes go, I think they are actually made in Italy. The one pair I own (black patent 3" pumps) are so comfortable and well made, I've actually finally put all of my JCrew heels in a box as I never ever wear them. The KS pumps are the ideal evening shoe, I can stand in them for hours.
      I hope you enjoy your own Kate Spade shoes!
      Abby thanks for that link I'm going to go give that a read!

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  7. i do not doubt such practices dani. not for one minute. it's a confounding situation for consumers. it's one of the most important reasons why i continue to slug my way through 2nd hand stores. that scarf is a beauty. xo

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    1. The scarf is pretty but made in China probably for $4. It is a tough situation for consumers and shopping second hand is definitely one of the better solutions!

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  8. There are some pretty handbags in the KS new arrivals - I agree. So expensive though and likely made in a far off land. I'm trying to buy American, but it is tough and very expensive. A brand I admire from afar is Caleen Cordero - all made in the US - LA area actually. Her prices are very high, but I am going to save for one of her pieces this year. I've seen many in person-gorgeous. I believe her web site has video of the entire manufacturing process from the wood and leather in the shoes to the production site.
    I haven't read the book, but I'm sure it is eye opening.

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    1. Julie Kate Spade make their handbags in China though as Fred pointed out they recently signed a Fair Labour contract.
      It is tough to buy American. I have not heard of this brand but I will google it this afternoon, ooh I can't wait to see the line!

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    2. Clare Vivier is another Los Angeles handbag designer, and her bags are great. Made in LA.

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  9. Yes, Dani - it's a very worthwhile read and to be honest it merely confirmed my own thoughts on the whole grubby business. We as consumers have always been quite gullible. It seems that most things are glued together in China these days, whether it says so on the label or not. I do like that little scarf, though.

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    1. Sulky very true it is a grubby business. I wonder where Stella makes her poly outfits.
      I was shocked to read about the shoes glued and then sent to Italy for the labelled soles. I never would have imagined, and what a commotion of container ships crossing the globe for all of these stupid reasons.

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    2. By the way, in the big markets in Budapest you can find gorgeous bags which look like they were made in Italy. I've been told that some are made in Hungary then shipped to Italy to be adorned with the 'Made in Italy' tag. So, I have a couple of bags bought in Venice and Rome which I may as well have just bought at the local market!!

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    3. Patricia loads of that foolishness goes on. Armani makes suits in Egypt and then sends the shipment to Italy where the tags are ripped out and replaced with Made In Italy. I couldn't believe it when I read that! The shipping around is amazing, what about the carbon footprint of all of this stuff!

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  10. I have not read Deluxe, but will put it on my reading list. We have so many sweat shops here in the U.S. that even the Made in the USA label doesn't guarantee good practices. Even my husband worked in one as a child during his summer breaks when he first immigrated from China to New York. Families do what they have to do to survive, but it's upsetting that there are so many people out there willing to exploit others (and children, at that).

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    1. Merry Wife, how can it be that sweatshops exist in the US, I guess they are run under the radar? Dana Thomas does note that some counterfeiters set up shop in the NYC area, better to be close to Canal Street I am guessing.
      The child labour and child trafficking is the most distressing aspect of this whole issue. Your husband must have had quite the experience, how terrible for him.

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    2. The one he worked in was in Chinatown in NYC. Although Canal Street is right there, I don't think he was working on counterfeit goods. My understanding is that many brand names subcontract the sewing of their clothes, so although I'm sure they have an idea of where the clothes are coming from, they have some plausible deniability. My husband did piece work - sewing inseams on pants. I forget exactly what he got paid - but it was a few cents per piece, I think. They would also bring home pieces from the factory so that they could continue to work into the night. His family is an American success story (his mom is now a pattern maker for one of the couture designers in New York). And frankly, I don't think they are bitter at all about what they went through (they were happy for the money), although it makes me very angry when I hear about it.

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    3. Merry Wife that's interesting because Dana Thomas talks about the subcontracting that goes on and the deniability that results when it is discovered that sweatshops are producing clothes and bags for luxury brands, some even in Italy etc with imported workers.
      It warms my heart to think of this American success story and I am so happy for your husband and his family that the story is a happy one in the end. But taking work home, how exhausting it all sounds.

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  11. Great post, Dani.

    I love that scarf.

    I read the first chapter of Deluxe (a perk of the kindle - you can read the first chapter of most books before you decide if you want to buy it) and while I really appreciate the premise of the book, I found her reporting to be lacking.

    I wish that I could remember specific examples, but I recall finding a few holes in her reporting in that first chapter, which put me off of the rest of the book. I'm sure that much of what she says is accurate, but the inaccuracies in the first chapter alone suggested to me that I'd have to read the whole book with too big a grain of salt.

    That said, I don't doubt that much of what she reports is true, and that companies engage in a great deal of shady practices.

    I don't know who to buy from anymore, honestly. I have considered shopping only second hand for a year. That is hard for shoes and pants (for me, anyway, I'm far from "average" size), but surely I must have enough of those by now? Even second hand can be dicey (Value Village, for example, is not the best choice).

    My college boyfriend went a year without buying any clothes. That was quite illuminating, I must say.

    What brands have you found, Dani? The only brand that I know can be trusted is Patagonia. Also known as Patagucci amongst the outdoor set!

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    1. Abby I think the book as a whole is worth the read, especially for someone like me: I suspected things were bad but I really had no idea, and I am naive as well so some things were shocking.
      Patagucci! That's hilarious. I am not outdoorsy in style so I don't shop Patagonia but I have found Brora, they make their cashmere in Scotland and their clothes in England. They are not a huge corporation but an owner/designer run business. I am wearing head to toe Brora right now.
      No clothes-buying for a year, I'd like to do that. With enough Brora now I think I could!

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    2. Maybe I will give the book another look, it does sound interesting.

      I am not outdoorsy in style either, though I am pretty serious about some outdoor pursuits and like to look decent when I am doing them! But I really have two wardrobes - work and outdoors. I try to make Patagonia crossover when I can, and I just got a simple black wrap dress that I can wear to work.

      I am tempted to make a commitment to not buy any clothes for a year. Or maybe six months? I mostly do my buying in spurts when I am in Canada, usually twice a year. So, I think the biggest challenge would be to go there and not buy anything! So hard to imagine - what does that say.

      Well, we will all keep trying. Thank you for getting this conversation going. I am happy to see people sharing ideas for better sources.

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    3. Abby well if you come up here on vacation maybe that's why the shopping happens, I know when we go to Florida for example it's just one of the expected activities!
      I'm planning to not buy anything for a good long while, I placed a Brora order last week and just picked up my new Bedhead pajamas, I also sent back a whole bunch of J Crew stuff. I definitely have enough clothes and I'm saving up for a summer handbag. If I don't buy anything else I'll actually be able to buy the one I want by summer!

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    4. Yes, it's the vacation effect and the availability/prices - it's really expensive where I live, and I have trouble finding anything I'd want to buy.

      I just remembered this article, as further food for thought: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/world/asia/bangladesh-fire-exposes-safety-gap-in-supply-chain.html?pagewanted=all

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    5. Oh, and that's a great idea to save up for the bag you want!

      There is an LV in the window of my local consignment shop, in the pattern that I like. I don't dare go check the price!

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    6. Abby it's fun to save for a particular item, I've got a separate account for it and everything, it's like I'm a kid with a piggy bank again!

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  12. I've not read "Deluxe" but I have read "Overdressed". Distressing. I try to get household things from the many craftsmen/women we have; my dining room table was built by a very talented boatbuilder as his "vacation". This is much harder to do with clothes, and I would like to support good workmanship around the world.

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    1. Lane "overdressed" is next up on my list. Agreed it is much more difficult to find clothes made by craftsmen, even a good seamstress is hard to find.
      I am trying to use the clothes I have and fix the ones that have busted seams from poor workmanship or have poor quality linings. I'll be keeping my tailor busy this year.

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  13. I am adding this to my "to read" list. I have actually been working in my back room all morning - getting bag ready for giveaway, consignment, etc. I am with Hexicon on the $450 scarf, but on the other hand, I probably just bagged up $2000 worth of clothes, many only worn a very few times. Since this year is all about recalibrating, I also need to look at the ethics of clothing as well. I know we try to only purchase locally raised produced and meat and we are very confident of their practises and sources. I need to pay attention to who is making my clothing, etc. Please tell me Brora is all good!

    I was very carefully about checking my provenance of my diamond earrings. I asked about the garnet and the company is a private company here in town that tries really really hard to ensure that all of its gemstones are of good provenance, but it is not so easy for other gems, as was noted above. It is quite daunting isn't it?

    I like your accessory choices.

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    1. WMM Brora is all good, I've read loads on that company and I love them.
      It is daunting!
      It sounds like you've had a busy day, I need to get back to my cleaning as well!

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  14. I have read Deluxe and thought it was quite good and eye-opening. It did make me think twice about my purchases and find items that are appropriately sourced.

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    1. HowLoveLee, really I think Dana Thomas has done us a service by writing this book. A friend gave it to me for Christmas and I certainly owe her big!

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  15. I have read "Deluxe" and it made me feel quite ill. The labour going into our "luxury" items comes at quite a human cost.
    That being said, I adore the scarf...all my favourite colours.
    Kate Spade was my go-to handbag designer when she first started out, but I've veered off for years. I'll give her a new look. Although she sold her company many years ago, the new designers are keeping to her original ideals, very well.
    Thanks for a great post. Now I'm off for that scarf!

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    1. Hi AWSL, The designers seem to be keeping her sense of colour and proportion, feminine lines and vintage styles all in mind with each new collection. They produce things rather fast with a new arrival each month which does tell me they've got factories working overtime. It is the way of the world these days though, companies have to do this to keep up!
      The design of the scarf is gorgeous though I have to admit!

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  16. I haven't read it, but will put it on my list. You know I love my KS and need to spend a bit perusing the new arrivals. I found a bag just like what you're talking about (in a black croc) on our trip to Italy. Perhaps look at Furla? I have one Furla bag that I love and is really well made and classic-looking.

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    1. Hi M, Italy! If I was going soon I would just wait but alas we are home this year! I hope your packing up is going well.

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  17. I have not read "Deluxe",but i will put it it on my must read list.
    I have been thinking a lot about my spring/summer bag and finally decided on the chloe paraty.It is made in Italy.

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    1. Hi Ina, I will look up your Chloe bag, I'm sure it is gorgeous you have a great eye!

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  18. I haven't read the book but I studied many aspects of manufacturing and the sourcing process as part of my MBA. I find it so interesting and although there are some horror stories there are also legions of poor, uneducated workers lifting themselves and their families out of poverty honorably performing work in conditions that we may consider beneath all humankind, although would have been normal life for most Western people a hundred years ago. To be clear I am not advocating mistreatment or saying it can't be improved, just adding a different perspective.

    I would much rather have a $400 Hermes scarf than 8 x $50 scarves from a lower-end line. I'm sure that's not a surprise as you know I love Hermes. Quality, versatility and longevity are key for me and I will exert the effort and spend the money to get it. In the end though, I think I spend less in total on my wardrobe than others who buy many more items for less cost per item. I'm quite content most of the time so I don't need a steady stream of new.

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    1. xoxo now that I have Hermes scarves I don't want any others either, I'd rather save my money for a period of time and buy one. This is the experience I've had with my LV bag as well, now I'm saving my money for the navy blue version. I will be able to replace 6 bags with that 1, just as I did with my brown "fall-winter" LV.
      I think you do spend less in total on your wardrobe and that's the place I'd like to be as well. It helps too to buy clothes that last, scrutiny is necessary for your approach and you've taught those of us who read your blog how to look at garments carefully as well.
      I always appreciate your perspective as you know. You certainly did some interesting work while studying for your MBA.

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  19. I agree with xoxo, there are many places on earth that do not enjoy the cleanliness and safety we have grown accustomed to in Western society and some of those places exist in the US. It isn't just manufacturing, it's also where people live, the markets where they buy food, the hospitals that care for the sick, the orphanages-many would be considered horrible in our eyes, but I would bet in many places, it is an improvement over what may have been the norm fifty years ago-China is one example. I am not condoning the business practices of the luxury brands and many other manufacturers, but according to my husband who has been on several medical missions, the standard of living is still better for these workers than the ones who live in the hills or in the jungle. I think my criteria for purchases going forward is to buy only clothing that serves a purpose and possibly spend a bit more if said articles look like they will hold up for awhile. As for the Deluxe book, I read portions of it one afternoon whilst hanging out with my nephews in a bookstore and it seems the author was over zealous in some of her reporting. We have all benefited immeasurably from modern manufacturing processes and I think there are very few of us today that have the intestinal fortitude to hitch up the mule, plow the field, plant the seeds, pick the cotton, etc-heck, most of us complain bitterly if we have to sew a button back on. Sermon finished, I guess that I'm just closer to the farm than some of y'all.

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    1. David well said! (Interesting information for us Kate Spade fans from Fred too about KS and their newly signed fair labour agreement.)
      Pick cotton, oh my, and so true look at the lives we lead thanks to modern manufacturing. If I was living back in Ireland 200 years ago I'm sure I'd be a char woman cleaning the slops.
      Your husband has a unique point of view as well due to the incredible work that he does for impoverished people. He's a hero.

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  20. I hope I am not too late to wish you a happy New Year. The scarf is lovely. It has been quite some times that I try to be very careful with the product I buy. It is not easy to really find out where and how things are made, but what I have learned with the years is, often, when the brand is high in marketing and do many things to be very visible, there are high chances that their products are not really sourced in a nice way. Staying out of the brands that are in the high lights has, so far, given me more chance to have products ethically sourced.

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    1. Steph Happy New Year to you as well! You make a good point about marketing gone mad for certain products, the really great quality items I have are from Brora and they are very low-key.

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  21. Hmmm, this issue raises some interesting ethical points. If we don;t buy the goods made in overseas sweatshop are we benefiting the workers there or the opposite? It is difficult to say.
    I know this is not only comparable, but when I was in college, I worked at a German pickle and jam factory every summer. We made about $3 an hour, slept in bunk beds and worked about 16hrs a day (the more the better). I had to leave my toddler daughter at home with my mom. The money we made in two months was more than most people would make in a year and supported us through college. Of course we were being exploited but I was grateful for the job and lived better life than many young families.
    I am not saying that it is OK to ignore the issue and a lot of companies engage in predatory business practices, just that there is different side to it as well.
    It is true that every time we buy something we make a decision to support somebody's business and their business practices. I almost never go to chain restaurants, buy my groceries at Trader Joe and Whole Foods, but you are right it, is much more difficult with clothes and high end labels or high prices don't necessarily mean 'fair trade'.

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    1. ajc I knew you were a hard worker but I didn't know you had this experience when you were a young Mom. That must have been so difficult leaving your daughter. Thank heavens for your lovely Mom, what a connection you must have with her.
      It is a funny issue for us to wade through, and it is hard to know what to do. I think you make an important point about making a decision about who to support, I am definitely going to take that into account going forward. I know for example that manufacturing around counterfeit goods is very bad, child labour etc, horrible practices, so I can choose to support my current handbag brand, Louis Vuitton, because I know they pour money into keeping counterfeit products off the market (and therefore being made, well they've quite the battle don't they).
      I think it is important to keep talking about these things. As consumers we have power.
      xo!

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    2. ajc why do you avoid chain restaurants where many young people work to earn their living or support themselves in college and then buy groceries at (very profitable) chain stores like trader joe's and whole foods? I don't follow your logic.

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    3. Anon, I was trying to point out that I am conflicted about it and that the choices are not easy. Young people work in non chain restaurants as well but eating there I am also supporting local business as opposed to big corporations. Whole Foods sells more fair trade and organic products than other chains, Trader Joe never test on animals etc. It is much harder to find locally made clothes that I would like. Of course I know I could do much more but I am not on a mission here, I am just trying to balance my ethics, my budget and my lifestyle.

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  22. Hi Dani,
    I just put a hold on this book at the library. When my daughter Taylor was doing her Master's degree in Business she travelled to China and visited the Coach factory. The women left home during their teens and return back to the provinces by 21 years old. They were happy ,slept in dorms and took money back to the family.
    All of them felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to be working there.
    This year my best purchases were from Brora and seeing the tags with made in Scotland made it special.

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  23. If you haven't already done so, I urge you to check out "To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World" by Lucy Siegle. She delves into the practices of the whole fashion industry, not just luxury brands. A compelling and shocking read, which gave me much reason to pause and carefully consider my clothing purchases.

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  24. Outsourcing is a very complex subject and not one-sided. I despise counterfeiting, and also being "tricked" into thinking I'm buying something that was made in a place where it was not. But as AJC has pointed out, this outsourcing has given income and revenue to lots of people who might otherwise have no employment. So, if something says "Made in China", I might worry about the quality, but have mixed feelings about the origin. Obviously sweat shop conditions are not acceptable anywhere, but as others have pointed out, we have them in the US as well.

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