"My talk is about what every one of us can do to improve our personal footprint and the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry."
——Eva Kruse is CEO and President of Danish Fashion Institute and Copenhagen Fashion Week

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A Class on Ethical Fashion at AUP

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One of the Readings from the Ethical Fashion Module

This past weekend, I attended the Ethical Fashion module offered at the American University of Paris. This was the module that made me the most excited about applying to go to school at this university, so I was thrilled to finally experience the class. Taught by Professor Charles Talcott, we learned about the global impact the fashion industry has on the cultural, environmental, and human level. With guest speakers such as AUP Fashion Track Director Madeline Czigler, and an industry leader who preferred to go unnamed (so as to protect her privacy), we also learned about ethical fashion players and the reality of how ethics plays out in the business.

While fashion is often perceived as a glamorous industry, the class was an important reminder that the globalized industry affects the world in many different ways, often having negative implications. Given the nature of the fashion industry, only the beautiful, shiny parts of it are glorified and massively communicated, while the ugly is often swept under the rug.

This fact was proven when we watched “Behind the Label”, a film about the cotton trade in India. Tragically, many cotton farmers in India have committed suicide due to their inability to grow and trade cotton at the rate that would provide them a decent living wage. During Indian Fashion Week (just an hour away from the farms where the suicides were happening at an alarming rate), models walked up and down the runway in cotton dresses. Over seventy journalists covered Indian Fashion Week, while only six covered the farmer suicides. The disparity across the board- economic, social, and otherwise- are extreme.

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A Man Says Prayers at the Rana Plaza Site 

We also delved into conversations around the “watershed moment” in fashion, the devastating Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. Rana Plaza, a poorly maintained eight-story garment building, collapsed last April killing thousands of garment workers. April 24th marks its one-year anniversary. This was the moment that forced the industry to take responsibility and accountability, and one could only hope that significant changes will take place.

As a person with a social activist background, I appreciated participating in the discourse around social responsibility in fashion. Though at times difficult and heart wrenching, the class discussions were vital reminders that as industry professionals, we have the agency to make a difference. Should we choose to, we have the power to influence decisions, communicate a better story, and to work with integrity.

No matter what industry we may choose to enter, it is my hope that we find a way to use our work as a platform to aid in making the world a more just place.

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Twins for Peace: Shoes to Put the World on the Right Foot

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Here’s a shoe that’s a step in the right direction: Twins for Peace, a French shoe company, takes the infamous Tom’s Shoe company’s  “buy one, give one” concept and doubles the impact.

Not only do they give a shoe to a community in need after each purchase, but they also research that particular community to assess how they can be the most helpful. They then use that same community site to employ local producers to make the shoes, and invest in its education and healthcare systems to help break the poverty cycle.

I can’t say I’m not impressed.

To ensure that they are serving the communities in the best way possible, they establish partnerships with strong, credible local foundations who know the ins and outs of the community’s needs. One of their current collections, GACHA, is made in collaboration with the Jean-Felicien Gacha Foundation in Cameroon, and it employs local women at fair trade labor. The shoes from the GACHA collection are hand embroidered and beaded, using the local craftsmanship that is dying out with modernity. In order to preserve this artisanal tradition, Twins for Peace created this collection as an opportunity for women to train others in this craft. Percentage of sales go directly to the foundation (though I’m curious to know exactly how much).

So far, the company has donated shoes to Brazil, Mozambique, Colombia, India, and Tanzania.

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Twins for Peace proves that ethical fashion can exist without sacrificing the aesthetics of the product. The shoes are brilliant, stunning, and stylish. In my opinion, it seems like a good pair to put the world on the right foot.

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Tory Burch and the Womenpreneurs of America

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As most entrepreneurs know, starting a business is no small feat. Many people simply don’t have the extra capital they need to fund a self-made launch, and even if they did, so much is needed to fuel a successful company.

That’s where the Tory Burch Foundation comes in.

Tory Burch may be known for outfitting women of America with her signature “preppy-boho” flats and handbags, but she also offers American women something more valuable: the opportunity to start their own business. In 2009, the designer/entrepreneur founded the Tory Burch Foundation (TBF), an initiative that provides female entrepreneurs the guidance they need to be successful business owners.

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Through small business loans, mentoring programs, and entrepreneurial education, the Foundation supports the economic empowerment of female entrepreneurs and their families. With a focus on American women, TBF creates opportunities for homegrown, female-owned businesses to thrive. The Foundation’s mentorship program matches business experts with entrepreneurs for coaching or advice, as well as networking events to make way for peer collaborations. While most of the program participants seem to come from the mid to upper class backgrounds, the Foundation mentions that their partnership with Women’s Initiative for Self Employment helps to support low-income women with high potential for success.

In addition to her efforts with the Foundation, her website also lists a number of organizations that her company supports through donations and corporate events, and employee participation. A number of the organizations are focused on women and children.

To learn more about the Tory Burch Foundation, check out http://www.toryburchfoundation.org/

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Dimanche. #Paris 🌺🇫🇷

Dimanche. #Paris 🌺🇫🇷

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Asians in Paris: Barbara Bui

Barbara Bui is not for the faint of heart.

With a fierceness about her, Bui designs for every woman’s inner rockstar. Born in France in 1956 to a French Mother and a Vietnamese Father, her hybrid culture influences the cultural elements that she displays in her work, as well as her concept of blending the masculine and the feminine.

Her signature design blends rock n roll chic, modern elegance, and ethnic flair. Not surprisingly, leather is a material she uses often because of its ability to be “sensual and strong at the same time.”

Bui designs for the woman who possesses both a strong character and an emotional sensitivity. In her words,  “[This woman] can be completely involved with contemporary life, while at the same time manages to keeps her own spirit.”

She believes that when a woman possesses a quality product, it helps to make her feel stronger, more confident.

 Her latest Winter 2014 collection recently debuted at Paris Fashion Week, and I enjoyed her contrast of ivory and blacks, as if depicting day and night. Staying true to her commitment to dress the femme rock star, her latest collection involved strong pieces such as a cropped leather motorcycle jacket (of course) combined with big fur sleeves. Oversized cable knit ponchos reflected the knitwear trend of the winter season, and snakeskin prints juxtaposed with creamy ivory trousers suits the elegant woman with a wild side. In my opinion, the collection was entirely wearable, and gives women the capacity to stay warm, comfortable, and edgy in the kind of harsh season that is not always easy to dress for.

Barbara Bui was a writer before she became a designer. She received her Master’s in English literature and has a background in theater. She opened her first boutique on Rue Etienne in Paris in 1988, becoming one of the first designers to launch an eponymous label. She has been unanimously selected as a member of “Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Francaise et de Createures de Mode” as of 2003.

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#Elegance is the art of carrying oneself with confidence, charisma, and the conviction that you love yourself enough to believe you are valuable. Happy Monday. Love, Ruby (Took myself on a date to see the #CondeNast Fashion Photography Exhibit yesterday at Musee Galliera. It was beautiful. My only qualm? Wished there were more cultural diversity in the models featured…)

#Elegance is the art of carrying oneself with confidence, charisma, and the conviction that you love yourself enough to believe you are valuable. Happy Monday. Love, Ruby (Took myself on a date to see the #CondeNast Fashion Photography Exhibit yesterday at Musee Galliera. It was beautiful. My only qualm? Wished there were more cultural diversity in the models featured…)

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LVMH Adopts The UN's "Women Empowerment Principles"

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bell hooks Says Don’t #BanBossy Be Proud & OWN IT

clutchmag:

bell hooks Says Don’t #BanBossy Be Proud & OWN IT

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Not everyone is jumping on  Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation and its PSA campaign to ban the word “bossy,” as it’s frequently used to describe and diminish ambitious women, even if Beyonce is a part of it.

The legendary bell hooks is giving women some advice when it comes to the “bossy”.  hooks’ #bossyandproud campaign is letting women know it’s alright to stand up for yourself and to rid…

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Vanessa Leu’s Compassionate Collection Shines Bright at “The Other Fashion Week”

 In the midst of the flurry of back-to-back shows at Paris Fashion Week, a hidden gem was glistening right in the center of the city. Inside the Carousel du Louvre, the “other fashion week” was transpiring. Tranoi, a trade show in Paris boasting 450 brands, invited buyers from all over the world to have a look at some of the brightest designers on the rise.

Among those rising stars was Vanessa Leu, a California-based Taiwanese jewelry designer whose talent has catapulted her work in the spotlight. As one of the top brands featured at Tranoi, Leu was granted the center stage in the Louvre, being placed at the very front of the exhibit’s foyer.

Rightfully so, as Leu’s stunning creations are unique, edgy, and artistic while remaining subtly chic. The “Future Ring” reflects the elegance and edge of a modern woman, using black diamonds and druzy, and set on a two-finger ring piece. The “Wish Cuff”, featuring a quartz with healing powers, is set on a bracelet of thick metal, contrasting the strength and softness of a woman’s spirit.

I believe that the reason why Leu’s jewels shine so bright is beyond the aesthetic and craftsmanship of her design. The gems she carefully chooses are made to act as beautiful talismans to “protect and inspire beauty in the wearer”, channeling the gems’ healing and transformative energies. While other jewelry makers may tend to sacrifice the ethics behind the creation of their products, Leu, a spiritual seeker, is committed to building a compassionate collection that uses conflict-free diamonds and recycled precious metals all made under fair labor practices and the highest ethical standards.

 

Leu’s jewels have appeared everywhere from Katy Perry’s earlobes on the cover of GQ magazine to Brooke Burke’s neckline on the American hit show “Dancing with the Stars”. Not to mention, her jewelry has lent some extra shine to countless starlets on the red carpet.

Leu’s philosophy, combined with the beauty of her work, leaves no surprise as to why she has won countless awards and is recognized by Women’s Wear Daily as “One to Watch”.

Vanessa Leu was once a writer and journalist in her native Taiwan. In her younger days, she provided aid to Taiwanese aborigines. She is based in Los Angeles, California. 

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