Sustainable and Ethical Shopping with Sustainably Chic

Sustainably Chic – Changing the World One Shopper at a Time

Changing the world for the better can seem like an overwhelming task and no matter how much energy and desire you have, it can be difficult to know where to start. The world is so big and you’re just one person, what can you do?

Let’s meet Natalie, a young woman from South Carolina who provides a simple answer to that very complex answer: change how you shop

Natalie Kay is the founder of Sustainably Chic, a blog and boutique dedicated to sustainable shopping that helps support fair trade, eco-friendly companies that work with artisans from around the world. She was, like so many of us, in college when she really became aware of and passionate about changing a particular social issue. As a fashion major, Natalie was introduced to the darker side of the fashion industry, a dark side that included not only the poor treatment of workers but excess amounts of waste that contribute to a growing environmental problem in our world today.

So, with a bravery and tenacity we should all admire, Natalie set out to help change it. She devoted the remainder of her time in school to studying sustainability and ethics in the fashion world. For her graduation portfolio, Natalie created La Petite N-Kay, her own accessories line built on a sustainable business model.

Natalie on La Petite N-Kay: “Working with only organic yarns, vintage buttons & other odds and ends I found, it was my way to contribute to something I was passionate about.”

Natalie uses sustainable materials not only in the making of her products, but also in the shipping materials she uses. La Petite N-Kay is currently in the middle of what is sure to be an amazing update, and you should keep an eye on the Sustainably Chic blog for new items soon!

shopping ethically and sustainably with Sustainably Chic

Natalie with a beach blanket from Fair Seas Supply Co. (Photo courtesy of Sustainably Chic)

BUILDING A COMMUNITY

Starting small with La Petite N-Kay, Natalie wasn’t finished working to improve the fashion world. In 2014 she founded Sustainably Chic, where she has created not just a blog but a community where like-minded people from all over the world come together to improve it, each in their own small ways. Natalie has found social media to be invaluable, saying it “has been the best tool for networking and finding new brands to work with.”  She started by creating an Instagram and “just posted about looking for sustainable brands. Within the first day [she] had over ten emails and some content to write about.” Natalie’s experience with Sustainably Chic has been about more than just running a business, it has been about building relationships. She keeps in touch with the people and businesses she blogs about and everyone trades advice about business and marketing.

Natalie: “We all have the mentality ‘in this together’ so everyone has been quick to help each other out… I’ve had brands tell me they have been picked up by new retailers from seeing the photos on my Instagram or blog. I love to hear about growth! That’s what these relationships are all about – helping each other grow.”


On Sustainably Chic you can learn about companies around the world like:

Wachila

Sustainably Chic Suppliers - Shopping Sustainably

Making a mochila bag can take up to a month. (Photo courtesy of Sustainably Chic)

In Columbia we meet the Wayuu tribe, and the women who produce beautiful 100% handwoven bags called mochilas. The Wachila company, a combination of the words “Wayuu” and “mochila,” practices fair trade and provides one-of-a-kind bags with the personality of the weaver woven into each one. The weaver tells a story in the patterns and the colors they choose to use, making each bag unique and beautiful in more ways than one. It’s easy to see how Wachila fits Natalie’s views, as a company that is promoting change by starting with a small difference. By paying the women of the Wayuu tribe fairly for their work, Wachila ensures that its customers are shopping ethically, sustainably, and supporting a community a world away.
Read more about Wachila on sustainably-chic.com here

Natalie: “Promoting products where pay is fair with good working conditions is very important. Even though most of these workers aren’t in your community {or anywhere near}, we have the duty to make sure their life is not in danger because of us.” 

Ways of Change

Sustainably Chic Artisans in Myanmar

An artisan smiles for the camera. (Photo courtesy of Sustainably Chic)

Ways of Change (WoC) works with refugees on the Thailand Burma border and sells handmade jewelry made from organic, natural, fair trade and locally sourced materials. As happens so often, the people in this community were artisans with amazing talent, but had no access to people who would fall in love with and be able to purchase their products. Through the power of technology, Ways of Change provides that much needed access to a marketplace.

But they didn’t stop there. Partnering with a local nonprofit, WoC funds entrepreneurial training and community development projects. Currently they are working to fundraise enough money to help one of the refugee communities purchase a plot of land that houses their school and soccer field, which will otherwise be used for large-scale, non-sustainable farming.
Read more about Ways of Change on sustainably-chic.com here.

Natalie: “I understand it being difficult when you can’t see it happening, but it is being talked about and we can’t stop until there is an end to all of it. Ethical factories are becoming more popular and Fair Trade is helping support impoverished nations.”

MudLOVE

Sustainably Chic Artisans Making Crafts - Shop Sustainably

Hand crafting a MudLOVE bracelet. (Photo courtesy of Sustainably Chic)

Based in Indiana, MudLOVE is a company dedicated to helping solve the water crisis in the developing world. They sell simple but exquisite bracelets and mugs that are handcrafted from clay, and use lead-free, non-toxic glazing and non-hazardous mud in their products. If a particular piece has imperfections, it is simply melted back down and its clay is reused. Not only do they operate using a sustainable business model, but through their partnership with Water for Good, each purchase of one of their products means you are also buying a week of clean water for someone in need. The Central African Republic, an underdeveloped country that recently had an outburst of violence, is the focus of the current fundraising project through MudLOVE and Water for Good’s partnership. Half of every sale of their cursive “love” bands goes to provide clean water for the people in need in this developing country.
Read more about MudLOVE on sustainably-chic.com here

MAKE A RIPPLE

With just a glimpse into three of the small, sustainable, eco-friendly and fair trade companies that Natalie promotes on her blog, it is easy to see that not only is Natalie herself making an impact on the world, but that she is also drawing attention to others doing the same. It may seem that our efforts are just a drop of water in a huge ocean. But through the power of online community, Natalie shows us how each drop is making ripples and how their ripples are connecting to make a much larger impact.

Natalie: “I think what we have to keep in mind, as much as we want things to change, we have to do it a certain way. We can’t be rude about others or pretentious, which happens a lot with ethical and eco nuts. We turn people off to the idea of a more sustainable community real quickly. The whole ‘I’m better than you’ attitude truly radiates off some. I try my hardest to be understanding of other lifestyles, and want the conversation to be more open, genuine and inviting.” 

It started small. A fashion major operating her own line of sustainable accessories and starting a blog about fair trade, sustainable businesses. But it’s reached around the world. And sometimes, as Natalie says, “Our voices are heard a lot louder in smaller areas, and it is much easier to change the minds around you, rather than taking on everyone all at once.” 

Let’s take our lead from Natalie: “We can all make a difference by what we decide to purchase and not purchase. Shop positive, shop small, shop sustainably.”

Founder Natalie Kay Smith - Sustainably Chic BlogConnect with Natalie and learn more about Sustainably Chic at:
www.sustainably-chic.com
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2 thoughts on “Sustainably Chic – Changing the World One Shopper at a Time

    1. Thank you Natalie for being a part of The Global Commute! We love sharing stories like yours and will continue to support as much as we can you as you grow!

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