How two cities stack up on sustainability.Read More
We want as many people as possible to know that swapping can be a fun and elevated experience that keeps unwanted clothing in circulation and out of landfills.
The Spring 2016 Swap was the biggest to date for the Ethical Writers here in NYC. These events are a lot of work to pull off, so you might wonder why we organize them twice a year. The first and most important reason is education. We want as many people as possible to know that swapping can be a fun and elevated experience that keeps unwanted clothing in circulation and out of landfills. Textile waste contributes to greenhouse gases when it decomposes, so it needs to be disposed of properly (just like any other material). Americans toss out 70 pounds of textile waste per year and only a small percentage gets reused; we'd like to help change that statistic. Beyond the very important education, there are three cheerier reasons to swap with us (or anyone).
For The Friends
New York members of the Ethical Writers Coalition came out in record numbers this year. Faye of Sustaining Life, Alden of EcoCult, Emma of Past Fashion Future, Rebecca of This I Wear, Nichole of Green or Die, Renee of Model4GreenLiving, Brittany of Sparkle Kitchen, and Juhea of Peaceful Dumpling all came to help and mingle. Guests often attend with their own friends and we love meeting our followers and their pals.
For The Fashion
Obviously, clothing swaps are about the fashion. People who attend swaps love the thrill of the hunt and a good bargain, but know serendipity is a fickle friend. Though I didn't find anything for myself this time, I made sure to ask what people bagged as I make my way around the room. Tabitha Saint Bernard of Tabii Just scored the best oversized jacket from the men's section; other swappers snagged light dresses and strappy sandals for spring.
We also enjoy partnering with ethical and sustainable fashion companies and introducing them to our guests! We were delighted to invite Lynn Davis of Givrr App to tell everyone all about her upcoming 2017 launch. Givrr is a peer-to-peer swap marketplace where you can sign up to exchange clothing with people all over the world.
Swap sponsor and Ethical Writer, Sara Weinreb of IMBY, sold her collection of 100% American made pieces and connected with ethical shoppers.
Andrea Reyes of A. Bernadette returned this year with her fair-trade items all made from recycled materials by women's co-ops in Uganda. Their wide range of bags are perfect for swappers who take home a little more than they can carry (a good thing!).
For The Free Stuff
Let's be honest—we all love free stuff. But as sustainability experts, we make sure our free stuff meets our rigorous standards. The first 30 swappers to sign up for the event received a goody bag stuffed full of discounts from our favorite brands like Orange Harp, StyleLend, and De Smet. Stuffed inside was Meow Meow Tweet's new stick deodorant which is biodegradable, non-toxic, and vegan. The reusable bags were generously provided by Garden Collage, a fresh lifestyle destination that brings gardening into readers' lives in fun, new ways. Men's goody bags included discounts from By Robert James, post-shave spray from Herbivore Botanicals, as well as discounts, collar stays, and sustainably-and-ethically-made pocket squares by Glass House Shirtmakers.
Cocktails flowed as we mixed Stellar Organic Sparkling Wine with organic, Vermont-brewed teas courtesy of Owl's Brew. I highly recommend these for easy cocktails at home or at busy events like ours!
Now that you know why we swap, you can sign up for our newsletter so you'll be the first to know about our future events.
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Good Times Were Had At The Ethical Writers Coalition's 4th Style Swap via Sustaining Life
You can follow the trends or you can start them. No matter what you've bought in the past or what you know, right now is the time to make a change.
A milestone of the ethical fashion calendar—an agenda wholly different from the traditional spring-fall fashion cycle—is Fashion Revolution Day which commemorates when Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1,134 garment factory workers. It's become rather cliché to say, but it's true that the tragedy shocked me into action. Eyes opened by the carnage of that day and having the time an inclination to further investigate, this event preceded one of the most transformational periods of my life thus far. The search for transparency and sustainability that grew from that day has seeped into all parts of my life. Even though I have moved past the basics of ethical fashion, I still consider it a valuable place to nurture broader sustainability. Unlike say, food, most of us have enough clothes to avoid buying more while we learn and our personal connection with clothing lends itself well to change. You'll be hearing more about Fashion Revolution from myself and the other Ethical Writers in the coming weeks. For now, I want to make you aware of the opportunities to get involved and create change.
A worldwide social media campaign that grows larger every year, Fashion Revolution Day is, in the words of founder Carry Somers, "not meant to be a new movement, but a way of bringing together all the people who are already calling for change." It's a chance to regroup and realign the movement by bringing together disparate groups that work year-round towards ethical fashion—consumers, producers, workers, and brands—and create a visible united front for the day. I'm guessing it's not a high-water mark for conventional brands as evidenced by H&M's attempt to thunder-steal this year.
If you're in NYC, you're invited to join the Ethical Writers and Kaight Shop for a free Fashion Revolution event! Get your photo taken with your clothing turned #insideout so you can join the movement by asking brands #whomademyclothes? Guests will also enjoy a discount off all new items at Kaight plus a sparkling cocktail.
Sunday, April 17th, 2-5pm
382 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217
Everyone else, consider throwing your own event with friends or simply participating in the now week-long campaign April 18-24.
Bi-Annual Fashion Swap
Sustainably clothing yourself includes second hand shopping. Mark your calendar for the Ethical Writers Coalition's spring fashion swap! On May 14th, we'll be mixing it up with free clothes, cocktails, and more—this time at Better Than Jam in Brooklyn. Save your clean, unwanted, spring season clothes (men's and women's) to bring and trade. Tickets go on sale soon, so sign up for our events newsletter to be notified.
Find more of my ethical fashion posts and resources here.
More NYC events
- Fashion Revolution Day: True Cost Film Screening & Clothing Swap! at Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator
- The Past, Present, & Future of Fashion & Sustainability
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Jonathan Castro is a local ceramics designer whom I met at a monthly salon coordinated by our mutual friend, Andrea Reyes. Ceramics are one of those things, like sweaters or iPhones, that we generally know little about the production of, despite their ubiquity. I wanted to know more about how a lump of clay becomes a household staple, so I met up with Jonathan and peppered him with questions about his process and his work.
Turns out, the business of ceramics can be quite local and sustainable. Jonathan sources his clay from the aptly named Ceramic Supply based out of New Jersey. Jonathan mentioned that he recycles dried clay and I sat in rapt attention listening to the process. Basically, he collects, soaks, and reworks the dried clay back into a dough consistency. It’s then processed through a machine called a “pug mill” to make it ready to use again. Jonathan explained, “The properties of clay allow it to be reused with little waste, which also saves on costs of ordering new clay over and over again.” A simple hand-mixed, non-toxic glaze is applied to his pre-fired pieces. I learned that glaze is basically glass, made from silica and various metal oxides like sodium or calcium, and sometimes mixed with colorants like iron oxide. Jonathan’s finished pieces are food safe, something that isn’t always true for older or even imported ceramic works.
The Chicago-raised current Harlem resident prefers the title “ceramic designer” when referring to the work he does at the Upper West Side studio Earth Works & Artisans. “I feel like some words used in the clay world give people the wrong idea about the seriousness of what I do,” he says. “In my experience, if I refer to myself as an artist, people don’t seem to realize it is how I make a living and it’s not a hobby. And honestly, for the style and type of ceramic work I create, it is design — whether functional, sculptural or a combination of the two.” That style was borne of roots in architecture studies interrupted by a switch to the ceramics program at Iowa State University after being inspired by a friend’s work. Jonathan recalls, “Since I was in a different program, it was a challenge to get in. But once I got in, I never looked back.”
What do you like most about being a ceramic designer?
I love being able to bring something to life. To be able to form a ball of clay into a beginning form in a matter of moments has always been fascinating to me. I have learned that I am also obsessed with the idea of steps taken and the process to get from beginning to end. Everything has a process, but for me, the number of steps between beginning and end are so grand. And the more techniques added from the basic steps, the longer the process becomes. Showing people my process is so important to me and I feel that such knowledge shared adds value to my work and to anyone's work for that matter.
What’s your routine like on a studio day?
Since I do this full time, I try to be as organized and efficient as possible throughout my studio days. I first make a list of priorities: custom work, store orders, best sellers (I make sure these are taken care of and note the dates that correspond with these). Next on the list would be new designs, experimental designs, seasonal items. And that's just the making part! I also have to make sure that I layer into my weekly schedule when clay will be made, kilns loaded and fired, and glaze made.
When making work in clay in the sort of production that I do, I make sure something is always in process — something being made, drying, being trimmed, dried out, fired, or glazed. And the juggling of all of this must be in the air at all times because if I don't have something in every one of these steps at the same time, that may create large gaps in production. It sounds insane to have so many things happening at once, but since each step takes so much time, this sort of schedule must be maintained, especially during high holiday season.
How have your designs evolved over the years?
The evolution of my work over the years has been and will always be developing. My main goal is to have a look and aesthetic and idea that is the same, but somehow ever-changing within itself. Take, for example, my Anomaly Series. I've been doing what I coined, "The Anomaly" look for eight years now. And I've taken that same technique and style and pushed it to the next level in a slightly different direction in form, but with that same look. To see these creations over the last eight years is exciting because I can see where my thought process was for each layer of the evolution.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Some inspiration is found through pieces of the past. In the clay world we say, "Everything has already been made," but I take that as a challenge to try to at least have my own signature spin on something that has already "been made."
And for my more sculptural pieces, I tend to be highly inspired by underwater sea life and plant life. My Anomaly Series of work has been hugely influenced by sea urchins and underwater plant life. I feel like this aesthetic and technique really takes a traditional functional form and brings it to life by adding these sculptural elements.
What’s your favorite time period of ceramics?
The Momoyama Period, which was around 16th century, would be the period of ceramics that really made me fall in love. And it all had to do with tradition and ceremony. Tea Bowls, tea ceremony, food traditions were the things that fueled my passion. The respect and preciousness of the vessel through tradition is what inspired me. The discipline, knowledge, and continued respect of the process and "how to" make these vessels is fascinating to me. There was the master and the apprentice and this sort of behavior over something that most wouldn’t think twice about, a tea bowl, was spiritual in its creation. So naturally, one of my current products, the Get-a-Grip Cup, is my modern day version of a tea bowl. It is a current look and feel on a traditional idea.
Where would you like to travel?
I would loooove to travel to Japan. My top two places to travel to on my bucket list were Spain & Japan...and I recently checked off Spain!
What’s your favorite place in the city?
My favorite place in the city, although overly crowded, is the High Line, on the west side. The development of that once run-down space is inspiring to me. Creating a nature-like destination while celebrating city life was a brilliant idea.
Is there another artist you’d love to collaborate with?
I can’t think of another artist right off the top of my head, but what I do know is that I want to collaborate with someone who works in a different medium. I would love to see what it looks like to work on a collaboration with ceramic design and wood design, or metal or fiber or something I haven't even thought about. I feel like one direction I haven't gone in is more of a mixed media design. Instead of learning a completely different medium, I would love to connect with another designer who is an expert in their world.
Do you have any advice for beginning makers/entrepreneurs?
My main advice is find that perfect balance of art and business. You can’t just be a maker and you can't just be a business person, you have to be both. It's the huge take away that I got from my ceramic professor at Iowa State. Be realistic of your strengths and weaknesses. Shine the light on your strengths for all to see and learn to develop your weaknesses — and sometimes that is through asking people who have skills that you may not for help. And don't give up. If you are a maker, it goes without saying you know that you won't feel your best doing anything else.
You can buy Jonathan’s work online at www.jonathancastrodesigns.com (currently under redesign) or at Global Table (in SoHo), Lady J (in Brooklyn), Harlem Heirloom (in Harlem), NiLu (in Harlem), and pop up shops during November at West Elm (DUMBO, Chelsea, and UWS locations). You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook.