For the Greater Goods

A lifestyle blog for the conscious consumer


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Inspiring Individuals: Sonia Agarwal

When it comes to ethical fashion, names like Stella McCartney, Alex and Ani, and Warby Parker might come to mind, but the name Sonia Agarwal may not… at least not yet. I have seen Sonia’s passion first hand in classes at Babson College where we both graduated in 2012. Since graduating, Sonia has created Asia’s first online marketplace for ethical, luxurious fashion called WHITENIFE. I had the privilege of asking Sonia a few questions about her venture. Continue reading to learn more about her company and thoughts on the future of the fashion industry.

How did you come up with the idea for WHITENIFE? What initially sparked your passion?

I have always been passionate about fashion, entrepreneurship and conservation. On graduating from Babson College in 2012, I found my true calling in WHITENIFE. Initially WHITENIFE was found to develop a premium, animal-friendly alternate to leather. During its research, it was introduced to Elfh- a patent registered, mineral based composite that is 89% close to genuine elephant ivory. It has been quite a remarkable journey for WHITENIFE as for today it has transformed to become Asia’s first marketplace for ethical fashion products. It currently houses over 20 brands & designers from over 16 countries and ships globally.

AMALENA specializes in ethical and eco-friendly gold jewelry. It designs timeless handcrafted pieces in 18ct Eco-Gold, which is extracted from mines in Columbia in fair, healthy and sustainable working conditions. Amalena encourages local female goldsmiths to create unique pieces that honor their heritage and conserve their traditional craftsmanship. This unique piece is a tribute to the beautiful artistic expression in the Wayuú culture. In their dialect, the word “Aa’in” means heart, soul and purity. The intricate curves within the shape is an homage to the spirals painted on the faces of Wayuú women. Just as they pay tribute to the circle of life, this charm reminds us that love has no end.

AMALENA specializes in ethical and eco-friendly gold jewelry. It designs handcrafted pieces with 18ct Eco-Gold, which is extracted from mines in Columbia in fair, healthy and sustainable working conditions. Amalena encourages local female goldsmiths to create unique pieces that honor their heritage and traditional craftsmanship. This unique piece is a tribute to a Wayuú culture expression. In their dialect, the word “Aa’in” means heart, soul and purity. The intricate curves within the heart represent the spirals painted on the faces of Wayuú women. Just as they pay tribute to the circle of life, this charm reminds us that love has no end.

What has been the hardest part of starting your own company? And the most rewarding?

WHITNIFE has always been forward thinking in the fashion industry. It has evolved many times to take its shape. These transitions have been certainly been challenging, but have allowed me to introduce a fashion platform that can address social-environmental world problem. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to allow fashion enthusiasts to indulge in fashion without guilt. 

ABURY is a pioneering fashion brand, from Morocco, that combines traditional crafts with avantgarde designs; to create a new luxury style that fosters intercultural exchange. The Abury Foundation not only supports the village communities by providing them with work opportunities but also gives back the same number of education hours at the Abury School, as the number of hours taken to produce an Abury product.

ABURY is a pioneering fashion brand, from Morocco, that combines traditional crafts with avantgarde designs; to create a new luxury style that fosters intercultural exchange. The Abury Foundation not only supports the village communities by providing them with work opportunities but also gives back the same number of education hours at the Abury School, as the number of hours taken to produce an Abury product.

What is your criteria to consider a brand “ethical”?

Ethical issues have always been subjective and there are many ways a fashion brand can choose to be ethical. For us at WHITENIFE, Ethical Fashion is about celebrating real fashion and empowering communities. WHITENIFE supports many of world’s big problems today such as education, human exploitation, and loss of biodiversity, waste production, water pollution, community development and women empowerment.

Every brand on our platform supports at least one of the eight causes below:

  • Artisan & Craftsmanship Conservation
  • Animal Friendly & Vegan
  • Environmentally Sustainable Materials
  • Conflict Free Mining
  • Up cycle& Zero Waste
  • Cruelty Free & Ethical
  • Women Empowerment
  • Social Development
Beach to Boudoir is a UK based, socially conscious lifestyle brand is dedicated to empowering local communities. Inspired from the 50s, its collection is eclectic in nature with signature prints and intricate beadwork. It uses natural Oeko Tex* fabrics along with Azo free certified dyes. Beach to Boudoir, produces zero waste for the landfill, and donates all their fabric wastage to two charities in Bali “The Safe Childhood foundation” & “Bali Life Foundation”, for new design & skill development.

Beach to Boudoir is a UK based, socially conscious lifestyle brand is dedicated to empowering local communities. Inspired from the 50s, its collection is eclectic in nature with signature prints and intricate beadwork. It uses natural Oeko Tex* fabrics along with Azo free certified dyes. Beach to Boudoir, produces zero waste for the landfill, and donates all their fabric wastage to two charities in Bali “The Safe Childhood foundation” & “Bali Life Foundation”, for new design & skill development.

What are your hopes for the future of the fashion industry? And how do you see WHITENIFE playing a role in that?

The dynamics of the fashion industry are changing rapidly. We envision, that in the coming years, fashion corporations will be more sustainable and young, upcoming designers will take immense pride to embrace the possibility of transforming the world with Fashion. 

WHITENIFE has been a pioneer in the fashion Industry by creating Asia’s first platform to curate ethical brands and designers from around the globe. This platform will not only allow fashion connoisseurs to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle but also encourage more brands to strive towards sustainability. In order to extend our promise to be green, WHITENIFE works with its brands to reduce carbon footprint.

EARTH HEIR is a luxury craftsmanship company from Cambodia, with an exquisite collection of handcrafted fashion, and home accessories. Each piece weaves a human story, made lovingly by master craftsperson carrying the disappearing traditions of their forebears. They use natural fibers, upcycled materials and ecofriendly dyes to craft their unique products. Earth Heir return 10% of their revenue to charities supporting trafficking survivors and plant two trees for every scarf purchased.

EARTH HEIR is a luxury craftsmanship company from Cambodia, with an exquisite collection of handcrafted fashion, and home accessories. Each piece weaves a human story, made lovingly by master craftsperson carrying the disappearing traditions of their forebears. They use natural fibers, upcycled materials and ecofriendly dyes to craft their unique products. Earth Heir return 10% of their revenue to charities supporting trafficking survivors and plant two trees for every scarf purchased.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to create a more ethical wardrobe?

It is a myth that in order to have a more ethical wardrobe one needs to compromise on design and craftsmanship. One simply needs to address How is it made? Where is it made? With what is it made? Who makes it? And of course visit www.whitenife.com a platform that curates brands that address these positively.


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Splurge or Save: To The Beach

Summer is officially here! To me summer and the beach go together like peanut butter and jelly. I would go to the beach everyday if I could. The sand between your toes, the fresh, salty air, the soothing sound of crashing waves, looking for shells and wildlife, warm sunshine, even taking a dip if its hot enough (although it is very rarely hot enough in Maine). I love it all. I grew up around the ocean and since I am a seasoned veteran, I know how important it is to be prepared for a day at the beach. You gotta remember sunscreen, a towel, water, a good book, maybe a Frisbee, and most importantly… snacks! Now with all of that stuff, you’re gonna need a hefty beach bag to carry it all around. Lucky for you I’ve picked out two super cute, functional, and socially responsible beach bags for this month’s splurge or save.Mar y Sol Tote

The first bag is made by Mar y Sol, which is a company that enables families in Madagascar to gain economic independence. The founder, Laurel Brandstetter, traveled to Madagascar in 2003 for a community development project and while she was there she met many talented artisans who dreamed of making their products available in the global marketplace. So Laurel did just that and works as a liaison between local artisans and global buyers. Mar y Sol also promotes environmental conservation. This bag is made out of responsibly sourced agave leaves with organically tanned leather handles. You can learn more about Mar y Sol in this video. Each step of making these bags is done locally and by hand which means these bags don’t come cheap. This particular bag costs $125 and can be found online at Nordstrom. 

World Market Beach Tote

This second bag has a VERY similar look, but is blue and will only cost you $30. Apparently pom poms are “in” when it comes beach bags. This bag is sold by Cost Plus World Market, which actually has a very similar mission as Mar y Sol: to make unique items from around the world accessible to a global market. It began in the 1950s when a San Francisco businessman turned traveler began selling shiploads of hand-woven wicker he found along his journeys. People were enthralled by the unique treasures and the business took off. This bag is particularly unique because it is made out of recycled plastic bottles. You can buy it here at the Cost Plus World Market Website (also available in orange).


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Presents With A Purpose: Women’s Causes

Today is the last day of my Moorea Seal Presents With A Purpose gift guide series. Phew. Are you sick of me yet? Blogging everyday this week was a big challenge, but I’m glad I’m really glad I never gave up.

From the products to the charity, today is all about the ladies. The products featured today donate 7% of proceeds to the Athena Network, which has been at the forefront of ensuring gender equality and human rights in the HIV response since 2006. They are partnered with 31 global and regional women’s organizations to advance the recognition, protection, and fulfillment of women’s and girls’ human rights as a component to the response to HIV and AIDS.

Click here to see all of the products below and much much more.

Womens

1. Agate Arrowhead Necklace / 2. Teal Cylinder Vessel / 3. Pennant Earrings / 4. Amethyst Druzy Ring / 5. Speckled Sphere Vessel / 6. Stardust Quartz Ring / 7. Brigid Flats / 8. Jagged Diamond Duffel Bag 


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Presents With A Purpose: Health + Wellness

More gifts galore for day number 4!

7% of proceeds from today’s Presents With A Purpose picks go to the Our House Grief Support Center. The center was founded on the premise that grievers need understanding, support, and connection. Their missions is to provide the community with grief support services, education, resources, and hope.

This Moorea Seal category has a lot of scarves, bags, and sunglasses. So if you don’t see one here you like, definitely check online because there are many many many options.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.16.54 PM

 

1. Morley Hat / 2. Small Glass Diamond / 3. Waxed Canvas Tree Tote / 4. Westward Scarf / 5. Mackenzie Sunglasses / 6. Newsprint Scarf / 7. Punched Mini Pouch / 8. Tiny Trees Cards / 9. Leather Dot Tote / 10. Rectangle Dish / 11. Clare Slip Ons / 12. Splatter Clutch 


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Presents With A Purpose: Protecting Our Planet

Day 3! Today’s Moorea Seal products give back to the environment. 7% of proceeds go to Semilla Nueva, which means New Seed in Spanish. Those 4 years of high school Spanish finally pay off.

New Seed’s mission is to develop locally-led farmer education programs that rebuild the soils and improve food security and income for Guatemala’s rural poor. They plan to do this by harnessing the power of sustainable agriculture technologies, organizing communities, and engaging with local government. In the future Semilla Nueva hopes the increased incomes and environmental protection will go hand.

Check out my top gift picks from Moorea Seal’s Protecting Our Planet section below.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.20.51 PM1. Laundry Day Candle / 2. Screw Cuff / 3. Salt + Pepper Foldover Cowhide Clutch / 4. Reversible Feather Pendant / 5. Stir Shake Calender / 6. In The Garden iPhone 6 Case / 7. Golden Fern iPhone 6 Case / 8. Dos Tonos Ankle Boot / 9. Tomato Tea Towel / 10. Caramel Flecked Clutch


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The Most Fashionable Of Foundations

Everyone comes to crossroads throughout their lives. Crossroads are inevitable. Whether it’s choosing what to have for dinner or what career you want to pursue. You can play it safe and order pizza or go wild and try a new, complicated recipe. You can choose a career in fashion or decide to start a nonprofit.

That is exactly the crossroads Amanda Munz ran into (the career one, not dinner). After spending years interning with various fashion designers, one day Amanda realized she needed to do more. She wanted to inspire people, help those in need, and make a difference. Combining her knowledge of fashion and her desire to make an impact, she created the Fashion Foundation and started her mission to help students in need.

The Fashion Foundation is an online store that sells donated new and gently used clothes, shoes, and accessories. The money that is raised through sales helps purchase various school supplies for students and schools that can’t afford them.

I had the opportunity to ask Amanda some questions about her nonprofit, how she got started, and what inspires her. Her story is inspiring and she gives great advice.

How did you come up with the idea for the Fashion Foundation? What inspired you?

I was interning at one of the top designers in the world, and one day I had to throw out boxes of shoes, right into the dumpster.  I thought “there has to be something we can do with all these shoes instead of throwing them out”.  Months before graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, I decided to turn down the job offers I received and start a nonprofit that could eliminate fashion waste and enhance education.

One problem with my new found idea… what if I can’t get designers to donate their samples they don’t want?  So I thought, everyone always has an item in their closet they don’t wear.  What if I can get individuals to clean out their closets and donate their unwanted clothing to us.  After months of brainstorming, the vision of The Fashion Foundation started to come together to have designers, individuals and people who don’t even care about fashion, come together and support education.

We had a ton of individuals clean out their closets for us, and now designers are starting to get involved.  We had jewelry designer, Jacqueline Rose, donate 11 pieces from one of her collections, which was really exciting for us.

Has education always been a cause you’ve been passionate about?

Yes, I personally loved school when I got older, not so much as a kid though.  I don’t think kids realize how important education is.

When we were partnering with our first school I asked their Assistant Principal “What do your students need?”. I was expecting them to say ipads, computers, or new technology systems.  She responded, “Art supplies”.  Their students didn’t have access to basic art supplies like glue, markers, paint, paper and more, because their budget was so tight.  It’s crazy to think that some students don’t have basic education necessities that some of us take for granted.

What has been the hardest part of starting your own nonprofit?

Spreading the word about The Fashion Foundation.  When people hear about us, they love the concept.  What’s better than shopping for a new outfit that actually provides school supplies to students?  It’s hard to reach a broad audience that isn’t connected to our friends, family, friends of friends, coworkers, etc.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give other aspiring nonprofit starters that you wish you knew when you started?

Honestly, don’t be afraid to google a question you don’t know the answer to.  Everyone does it, but no one admits it.  There were times I didn’t know the answer to a question, and I spent time researching on google. 99% of the time, you’ll find the answer you were looking for, and if you don’t, there’s always someone you can find that knows the answer.

And don’t underestimate the power of networking. Making strong connections with people is essential to growing.  People are always saying “You should talk to my … “, people really want to help connect you to others.

What has been your favorite moment since starting The Fashion Foundation?

At our first school partnership, we donated $1,500 worth of art supplies to PS 325 in Harlem, NY. We got to spend a day with their students to see all the artwork they created with our donation.  A few weeks later I went back to PS 325 for their Field Day, and a handful of students ran up to me and hugged me because they remembered me from my last visit.  In that moment, I knew I made the right decision to start The Fashion Foundation, because our donation brightened these student’s school days.

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On top of the interview, Amanda has put together some snazzy outfits using clothes that are currently available on the Fashion Foundation website.

Outfit 2

Armani Exchange Jeans ($118.00) $10.00 / H&M Sweater ($24.95) $10.00 / Aldo Black Suede Boots ($129.99) $8.00 / J*V Black Leather Bracelet ($75.00) $7.00

Outfit 1

Dolce & Gabbana Top ($975.00) $98.00Forever 21 Faux Leather Skirt ($15.00) $5.00Unknown Black Booties ($25.00) $6.00 / Jacqueline Rose Earrings ($18.00) $12.00 / Unknown Black Clutch ($20.00) $10.00

See anything you like? Get it quickly because there’s only one of each item and once it’s gone, its gone for good.


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Trend Tribe: Doing Good While Looking Good

Today I am excited to introduce you to Samantha Cooper. She is a former Babson classmate of mine and is currently a trendsetting entrepreneur. She started her own company called Trend Tribe, which aims to sell the trendiest jewelry at affordable prices.

Believe it or not, at one point Sam struggled to get a job. The summer after her freshman year in college she attempted to get an internship without any luck. But rather than giving up and taking any old summer job, she took the entrepreneurial approach and decided to design and sell her own jewelry. Now Samantha is on a mission to help other women going through the same struggle she did.

Her group of college campus ambassadors, also knows as Trendsetters, sell jewelry on their campuses at trunk shows they organize and host. The goal is to provide these lucky ladies with hands on entrepreneurial experience.

Trend Tribe also believes in giving back! Portions of trunk show sales are donated to a philanthropic cause chosen by the Trendsetters. And along with that, Trend Tribe is honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month by donating $5 for every purchase of these hot, hot, hot, pink studs.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Trend Tribe is donating $5 for every sale of these hot pink studs.

So I reached out to Samantha for an interview and here is her inside scoop on fashion, starting your own business, and giving back.

What is a typical day like in the shoes of Samantha Cooper? Walk me through a typical day in the life…

As they always say, no day is a typical day. I have a joke that I hardly sleep in the same bed for more than 3 nights in a row because I’m always traveling. 

On days I’m not traveling, I start my day by checking in with our Trendsetters and providing one-on-one mentorship, training, and support. I make sure not to schedule any meetings from 9-11 so that I can focus on the Trendsetters 100%. 

After that, it’s all up in the air! I’m usually on the phone with our team of interns and freelancers – mostly everyone works remotely. At night, you can find me at networking events or grabbing dinner with other entrepreneurs. Building relationships is essential when you’re starting a business.

What have been your most and least favorite parts of starting your company?

My favorite part is seeing Trendsetters succeed on campus. One of our Trendsetters did over $1,000 in sales at her very first event and we were able to raise $300+ to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. 

On top of all that, she now has a killer resume with tangible results that not just shows, but prove her skills in fashion and business. It’s a huge confidence boost and at the end of the day our mission is to empower young women while giving back. 

It’s a win-win and nothing is more exciting than seeing your vision come to life.

My least favorite part is dealing with the legal and accounting side of the business. Boring, but so essential. Having enough discipline to deal with the things you don’t love is not easy! 

What’s one piece of advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?

“It may not all happen today, but it’s all going to happen” is a quote I came up with when I realized I was beating myself up for not having everything “perfect.” 

When you have so many ideas, but limited time and resources it can feel like you’re chasing your tail. No matter how many hours a day you work, it’s impossible for everything to be perfect. Beating yourself up about it isn’t going to help either. It sucks the fun out of living your life’s dream. 

Now, I focus on putting one foot in front of the other and taking everything one step at a time. Have faith that it will all happen, even if it doesn’t all happen today.

Why did you choose to make giving back to philanthropic causes a part of your business plan?

It actually wasn’t in the original business plan, but once I started bringing on Trendsetters and working with them to plan their monthly events, it was clear that philanthropy was something that was near and dear to all of their hearts. Of course, I’m all about giving back and I was inspired to see that Trendsetters were more passionate about donating their commission than keeping it for themselves. 

Now, we donate 10-20% of all product sales to the different philanthropies that Trendsetters choose to work with. I’m so proud to say that it was our Trendsetters who sparked this crucial element of our business. No matter what everyone says, millennials are passionate about giving back and they’re going to change the world. I believe that 100%

How would you describe Trend Tribe’s style?

As the name says, our style is trendy! We’re all about bringing the latest fashions to the mass consumer at a super affordable price. Everything in the collection is $50 and under. Oftentimes people say our jewelry reminds them of Kate Spade or J.Crew which is a huge compliment!

Finally, what is your favorite accessory?

Is this a real question? I can’t pick! Hmmm, I guess I would have to go with statement necklaces. They’ve become my signature. When I traveled to Boston for a big trip I had so much jewelry with me that I couldn’t bring clothes. I wore an outfit and brought an outfit and just rotated the statement necklace. It does the trick! Statement necklaces are also great for networking – people are always complimenting my jewelry which gives me an opportunity to talk about the company and spark up a conversation. 

And there you have it! Great advice, great prices, great deeds, and great jewelry! Does it get any better? Why yes it does.  My lucky readers can use the code forthegreatergoods25 to receive free shipping on orders over $25. So head over to trend-tribe.com and pick out some stylish pieces. You know you want to. I’ve already got a few on my wish list…

Trend Tribe Wish List

Black Cord Layering Bracelet / Deco Blush Statement Earrings / Tortoise Statement Necklace

If you’re a college student and interested in becoming a Trendsetter, you can apply here. And if you still haven’t gotten enough fashion and entrepreneurship inspiration, you can head over to the Trend Tribe blog to get more career, life, and fashion advice.