WHAT ETHICALLY MADE MEANS TO US
The topic of ethically made goods is one Jarod and I have been passionate about essentially from the conception of apse. When we knew we wanted to advocate for causes working to end exploitation, we were faced with the fact that we ourselves had to be doing what we could to cultivate the same. Meaning over the last few years, we have examined a lot of our processes, as well as our hearts positions, in order to make our pieces in the most life giving ways. As you read this journal, you'll come across our personal thoughts on the matter, and throughout, you will get a detailed BTS look at the production of one of our most popular items, the Join bracelet. This includes its start to finish crafting, as well as a detailed illustration of where every cent goes when you purchase this piece. We want to be transparent and invite you into a part of the business we haven't shown in such a detailed way as of yet. Enjoy :)
When it comes to the desire to positively contribute to society, something we often hear from our communities is, “how?” How does one even begin to affect the rhythm of things, much less “change the world?” I’ve heard and seen the heart to deeply want to care for others and their communities, the environment, our personal health, etc.; however, it’s often coupled with a tone of helplessness. It is clear that many of us feel at a loss when it comes to making an impact that matters, and discouraged, to say the least, when it comes to making said impact by shopping ethically. How does one, who feels they only have so much to give, begin to contribute to the world of ethically made goods? And to be more specific, how does one who has the heart to see ethical production a standard, support the industry when they feel they don’t have the resources necessary?
First, before I delve too deep, I want to say, I understand. I understand that the issues surrounding ethical production and consumption may feel overwhelming, or maybe even discriminatory due to their price range and location. I understand that it may feel unfair that some influencers are not accurately representing what it looks like for the average consumer to navigate the fashion market due to the fact that, a lot of the time, they aren’t actually spending “their money” on the items they are advocating for. I understand that making things ethically often means that we cannot have items at a moments notice, and convenience sometimes isn’t an option. I understand that the companies and influencers promoting ethical fashion can make one feel ashamed or trapped in their circumstance, giving off the feeling that we are incapable and benched for the game.
I understand and acknowledge the negative ways in which the realm of ethical fashion/production can make you feel, but from what I’ve assessed, its mission and intentions are nothing but excellent. And for us, its heart is largely about positively impacting YOUR life. We aren’t concerned with changing the world--that’s not our job. What we are concerned with is encouraging you, providing something of value for you, giving you a new way to express who you are, and if in the meantime, we get to promote and support people’s health and well-being outside of that, then you bet we will.
I’ve been a middle class member of the economy my entire life and grew up with a wardrobe made entirely from untraceable sources. Now that I am in adulthood and have found myself building a company strongly based on ethical practices, I would say I’ve spent a fair amount of time considering my position as a producer and consumer, in the fashion market, but also when shopping for food, home goods, the whole gamut. And I’m gonna be honest, it can be tiresome to find the items I’m searching for, especially the ones that fit my budget.
This is where I want to pose a solution, moreover, a shift in heart and thought.
If you know me, you know I can be extreme. I either go big or go home. Either I eat the whole pint or don’t have any, clean the house top to bottom or leave the mess for days; you get the picture. So when approaching fashion through an ethical lens, it has always been, “either thrift it or forget it.” Most of my life I have prided myself on this aspect of myself, my stark decisiveness. However, more recently, I’ve seen so many ways in which this mode of functioning is not only not conducive to balance and moderation, but how it is actually holding me back from truly investing in myself.
Now, I am a massive lover and advocate of all thrifting, vintage and secondhand shopping. Yay recycling, yay treasure hunts, yay cheap things! By all means, shop secondhand. Nevertheless, I can picture myself in the midst of racks of clothes rummaging, and I can feel a spirit of desperation start to take over me. I haven’t found anything yet, a good 30 minutes has passed, and I can feel the hunger (I mean, literal hunger) kick in after my right shoulder muscle has gotten its full workout of swiping hangers backward, and I finally find… something! It’s cute, but it has a snag in the threads or a tiny stain on the collar, and it fits, but my body isn’t like, made for this garment. And all of a sudden it’s closing time and the lady who works there who is always talking about her cats has started cleaning up early and somehow returned my collection of finds back into the abyss. I turn and face the checkout with my two $7-$10 items, spend $15, and the items end up in the bottom of my drawer after two wears. Anyone relate?
Though this may be a fairly rare, but totally real, occurrence, imagine if I instead spent this time and energy, and in the end, $$$, and invested in myself, as opposed to my circumstance? What I mean by this is, what if we started seeing our purchases as investments in ourselves; investments in our well being, our future, and our community’s and culture’s livelihood? And what if we stopped “investing in our circumstance,” believing we can’t support the companies we truly want to, continuing to stay in a mindset of poverty (both physically and metaphorically) through frequent minor purchases, all the while, allowing the fast fashion companies to control our bank accounts? Say, instead, I used my resources to develop a collection of pieces that not only made me feel and look my best, but in the end, is much more economically sound and environmentally friendly. Instead of frequently spending $10-$20 on pieces that wear out in 4-6 months, or fit improperly, I would spend $120 one time and have the same flattering/well fitting high quality garment for 6+ years. I’m saving myself a lot of money. And to top the cake, I supported people and brands who I trust will carry forth my values into the culture, plus, will most likely repair my garment if ever needed, free of charge.
At their core, businesses are services. I know there are exceptions to this; not every company you meet will get a gold star or be teacher’s pet. But, we believe, above all, you should approach your business as a method of serving others. Your local grocery store is a provider of food, meaning they are serving the community by gathering foods so you don’t have to forage for your own. Everlane is a company providing classics for every aspect of your wardrobe, so you don’t have to make your own clothes, all while taking care of their manufacturers. And Article is a service that both makes contemporary furniture for you, but also will deliver it to your door, providing an effortless method of adorning your home.
As for us, we are handcrafting high quality jewelry, to strengthen your identity and remind you to live as your authentic self, all so that we can contribute to causes that are working to end sexual violence and exploitation.
And where these services have the desire to make something possible for their communities, we can’t do it without any financial backing. If we don’t make a profit, we can’t continue to provide the service. It’s that simple. To make it really clear and help you understand both how our products are made, but also, why they cost what they do, we want to walk you through the production, and subsequent costs, of one of our most loved items, the Join cuff. If you’ve ever wondered why so many “ethical” businesses or designer labels cost so much more than what you’re finding at H&M, I hope this is clarifying for you.
Some of you might recognize this method of illustrating a product's cost from Elizabeth Suzann's "Money Talk" blog. She goes really deep and gets really detailed in her journal, and also addresses some incredible topics concerning pricing and clothing. If you are looking for more to read on this and/or see a take of this concerning clothing, head to her blog here.
If this strikes up any questions for you, or you are interested in more detail about exactly how this price breakdown works - let me know!
I also asked Jocelyn, our right hand girl who helps handcraft all our pieces, as well as helps me produce content for this little journal of ours, to tell you all a little about how working for us has affected her point of view on the production of goods and what ethically made means to her:
"As I listen to the the new Blood Orange album and sit down to write, I feel so inspired by the creatives around me (If you haven’t given it a listen, do! We’re all obsessed over here) and their will to incite positive change.
“My resolution will be to do too much—why would we want to do the least?” is part of the spoken word that interlays into the very beginning of the album, and the way in which this sentiment is in conversation with our heart for our business practices is uncanny.
Why would we want to do the least possible when we have the power to do more? We feel this as a business capable of making a bigger impact and we bite off more than we can chew because we know we can handle it, and we know that in doing so we are working toward making a positive impact in the community close to and far from us. We know that taking on more and seeing your visions flesh out yields great potential and power. We want to encourage and empower you to do whatever you can, even if it feels futile, to move toward supporting ethical practices in the economy.
I am inspired by Hayley and Jarod and their vision for goodness and their ever budding and blooming imaginations every day. I am inspired by other creatives who are nearby and far away. From the very beginning, Hayley and Jarod have placed a huge emphasis on being ethical creators who make ethical products for ethical consumers. They have gone beyond what is expected of them to help see their truth become a reality for others.
I had never thought about being an ethical consumer until I met Marina, Hayley and Jarod’s first employee and close friend (and my close friend). She helped me unlearn the uninformed consumerism that has been ingrained in me, coming from a conservative, suburban area in southern California. I had never thought of my impact, environmentally and socially, until I moved to Washington five years ago. Being around so many people who live with intention and who value transparency rubbed off on me, and I found myself putting more thought into my actions. I have never felt entitled to the space that I take up and I feel that I have to earn my place in this world. Being a thoughtful consumer makes me feel a little better about the footprint that I am leaving behind, and knowing that my bucks are going to companies I can morally get behind feels powerful, and I trust that they are working to accomplish more than I would be able to as an individual. I think about what companies I give my money to and I think about how they treat/pay their employees, what ingredients they put into their products, how the production of their goods impacts the environment, what charities they donate to, and how they avoid playing into the harmful capitalist system that they are a part of simply by being a business.
The poverty cycle that capitalism enforces must be dismantled, and it starts from within. Kris Lin-Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s poses a tough question: “How do we protect ourselves from capitalism while deriving the benefits of it?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=95&v=tlxZjnBEsaI) And how do we use the positive aspects of capitalism to dismantle its negative aspects? These are questions I ask myself and questions that I do not know the answer to. But, I feel that in supporting businesses that have strong, kind, ethical people behind them, I am aiding in moving in the right direction, which is away from carelessness and inhumane business practices and toward caring about people involved in every aspect of production.
When everything that I do feels futile, I remind myself that I am at least doing something. And even if that something is as minute as buying a bottle of dish soap from Seventh Generation or a stick of deodorant from Schmidt’s, I know that my dollars are in the hands of people who are working toward something greater and who are thinking of other people more than they are thinking of themselves. No action is too small. Do not let anyone tell you your actions are too small."
To end, I just want to emphasize the simplicity that we feel this mode of operating encompasses. To us, it's not complicated.
It's about nurturing lives,
challenging minds and educating employees with new skills.
It's about celebrating and preserving cultures,
and finding ways to help economic communities thrive, not just function.
It's about tightening and building families,
about cultivating the earth,
and about providing humans with a living wage.
It's about crafting products with care and awareness,
committing to their lifespan outside of our studio,
and supporting and enriching the local community.
It's about meeting needs with love and excellence.
And almost most of all,
it's about having grace for humans,
knowing we aren't perfect and we all belong.
All our best,
Hayley, Jarod, and Jocelyn