Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday… WTF Wednesday

As a conscious business owner, I get a little conflicted this time of year.  While we definitely want folks buying sustainable gifts, and organic clothing fits the bill nicely of course, it's hard to condone or to ignore the commercialism that comes this time of year.  And yet, we count on the extra holiday sales to keep our books balanced.
On a completely unrelated topic, I've gotten a lot of eco-living questions lately unrelated to clothing.  Many people assume that since I know a lot about eco-fashion, that I might have done a little research on greening other parts of life.  So I was just pondering the idea of highlighting some of my favorite conscious businesses in the blog for next year. 
Then lo and behold, as a little holiday miracle, the following gem just landed in my personal inbox today from the awesome organic coffee company, Dean's Beans.  Here it is in it's entirety.

Black Friday,
Small Business Saturday…
WTF Wednesday

My first sit-down, face-to-face meeting with Dean was supposed to last 10 to 15 minutes. It was my intention to pitch him on my experience, explain away the inadequacies in my resume, and impress him with my innovative pseudo-millennial-tampered-with-an-old-soul approach to marketing. Within moments of meeting him, the resume was pushed to the side, my stress about finding the proper number of professional references was put to rest when he quickly called a former coworker of mine (whom he had known for 30 years), and told me that he didn’t doubt her judgement of my character. The conversation, very naturally, and very quickly, turned into a thorough examination of my soul.

Dean’s Beans, as I have come to know the company, carries itself like a man who has just seen his doctor and been given a few months left to live. There is a fundamental focus on the soul of the company, the legacy we are leaving behind, and the quality of the relationships that we are building. No one enters into an unmeaningful relationship in the final moments of their life. They don’t have the time, and every moment must be savored and spent with the people that are as excited about you as you are about them. Dean’s Beans as a company is alive and well, but as a company, they carry themselves as if every move is the defining moment of their legacy. It has to be ethical, it has to build meaningful relationships, and it has to feed the company’s soul.

Now, what does any of this have to do with the mad dash of consumerism that takes place after Thanksgiving?

Having had my soul thoroughly examined by every member of Dean’s team at his beanery in Orange, I was hired and given the title of Chief Media Magnet. As the go-to guy for all things marketing, I immediately extended my brain to the opportunities that the holiday season provides. I even began composing tweets, email blasts, and other social media pieces about the importance of supporting this amazing company in the holiday season- especially during the feeding-frenzy of online shopping at the end of November and beginning of December.

Except that none of it felt right.

 Black Friday has reached an almost comical level of chaos in most stores, to the point where REI publicly announced that they aren’t participating this year… ironically the publicity has been a major boon for the company, and others like Nordstrom have followed suit and are making beaucoup bucks. Small Business Saturday is getting a ton of love this year from congress, the president, and small business owners world-wide. BUT IT WAS CREATED AND CONCEIVED BY AMERICAN EXPRESS IN 2010! There is a foul odor emanating from any “selfless” promotion propagated by a huge corporation like American Express.

Now all of this isn’t to say that that these days of shopping are intrinsically evil. Thousands of small, wonderful businesses really benefit from this time of year, and this increased exposure. Heck- we sure do! But to ally ourselves with them? It feels like that’s a dicey defining moment to our legacy, and I now judge all of my actions by that company standard.

Therefore- I propose that you celebrate WTF Wednesday with us this year. It’s a wonderful way for you to plant your tongue firmly in your cheek, all while supporting the stores that you want to support. We are able to engage in meaningful, direct development work all across the coffeelands, partly due to the sales we make this time of year. We are so incredibly grateful that our customers have given us the opportunity to operate in this way- and we know that as we seek out only truly meaningful relationships, you are all a huge part of that.

As the newest member of the Dean’s Beans family, I want to thank you for feeding my soul.

Drink Deep.

Robin Stewart DeMartino
(the new guy)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why don't your organic bras and panties ever seem to go on sale?

We just completed an overhaul of our FAQ.  In addition to updating previous answers with new products, links and more detailed information, we've also added some new questions that we've received quite a lot recently.  The question that's come up most often is "Why don't bras and panties ever seem to go on sale?"  So, here's why.

We have a very hard time keeping bras and panties in stock. Bra and panty manufacturers seem to go out of business on us every few months. Because of that, we end up taking bigger risks with intimates, buying and stocking more than we normally would on other items and then having to warehouse them.

We put twice as much time and effort into getting the bras and panties in and keeping them stocked than anything else in the store. In addition, most Europeans are used to paying a lot more for bras than we are here in the US. So an $80 or $90 bra is common as is a $30 or $40 pair of underwear. (We've tried a few of those, but they just don't really sell here). So to keep prices reasonable everyday, we take a smaller profit on bras and panties. This is even true of the panties we manufacture in-house. We wanted to keep the price range to $12-$14 per pair regardless of the cost of production.

Please take a look at some of the other US companies selling organic cotton panties - like Blue Canoe or PACT. You'll find we're the only company that has a very large selection of organic panties for less than $20 each. And the few brands we carry that are more readily available in the USA are offered at 10% off every single day. (For example, all of our Blue Canoe products are at least 10% off every day without a sale.)

If you've made it this far, we can tell you that our Anniversary is in July. We premiered our webstore July 22, 2005. Each July we do a one-week sale that includes every single item in the store - including bras, panties and clearance items - as a celebration of our anniversary. So this is the one time of year to stock up and save. 

Be sure you are signed up for our newsletter so you don't miss the announcement.  It's mailed only once per month, so it's not an overwhelming amount of e-mail.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Beautiful, Organic Cotton Bra Exclusive to

I'm so excited to introduce the exclusive, limited edition:

In addition to working with Love Nature in Italy on our exclusive distribution arrangement, we've also been working with Occidente in France.  Occidente's line is a bit more whimsical.  They have fun, fresh lingerie more suited to special occasions rather than everyday basics.

We fell in love with the outline of this underwire bra with tie straps, and had them design one for us with the lovely butterfly fabric (GOTS certified, of course) from our favorite Forest Faery Dress.  (And what better item to wear it with?)

The only downside is that it is a limited edition.  So once they're gone... well, you know.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Organic Clothing has a Reputation for Being Expensive. Is it really?

You’ve just made your first eco-fashion purchase.  You’re enamored with your $20 organic cotton t-shirt and matching $40 shorts.  You’re touting the benefits of your new eco-duds to one of your friends when she whips out a t-shirt made from organic cotton that she just bought at Big Mart for $5.  Ouch!  What just happened?

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may be familiar with my suggestions on what to look for when purchasing truly eco-friendly clothing.
·        What is the source material the fabric is made from?
·        How is it processed?
·        What dyes are used?
·        Was the final garment treated with toxic chemical finishing agents?
·        Were the workers who made it treated equitably in a safe working environment?
Cheap “organic” clothing is the new trend in green-washing.  Big companies source a small amount of organically grown cotton and then insert it into their current production system.  This clean, organically grown cotton is then dyed with conventional dyes, finished with a chemical soup of toxins to make it softer, wrinkle free, and machine washable, and then sewn in potentially unsafe factories by workers earning subsistence wages. 
Am I exaggerating?  Maybe.  It’s unlikely that all of these things would be true of every Big Mart garment labeled organic.  And big box stores can weather smaller profit margins because they’re selling greater quantities.   However, if you think about all the things that need to go into making any t-shirt, and shipping it half way around the world, you’ll realize it is very likely that some serious corners need to be cut to offer that shirt for $5. For organics specifically, certifications such as GOTS, OEKO-TEX 100, and Fair Trade are also expensive to get and maintain, and those prices have to be factored in somewhere.
You may be thinking, if I only have five bucks, isn't it better to get the shirt that at least has some organic material in it than one that doesn’t?  While that may be true if those were your only choices, there are better options.  Instead of that cheap “organic” shirt, I offer up the following alternatives:
1.      Buy better quality, gently used items at charity shops, thrift or consignment stores or on eBay.
2.      Host a clothing swap with your friends and family.  How many of us have clothing that we don’t like or doesn’t fit that’s barely worn (or in some cases still new with the tags on)?
3.      Save up to buy fewer, higher-quality, lower-impact pieces.  They may be more expensive but they’ll also last longer, be better for the environment, and make a positive impact on the workers that create and sell them.
Watch the video below to see the issues with “fast fashion."

So is organic clothing expensive? Really?  Like many other things, you most often get what you pay for.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 to be the Exclusive Distributor for Love Nature Organic Bras and Panties

In February we announced that Love Nature was rethinking their line and might discontinue production.  Months later, with a lot of negotiation, I'm extremely excited to announce that will be exclusively selling a limited selection of Love Nature favorites.

Our agreement spans 5 organic cotton bras and 4 panties.  We'll be getting the largest quantity of the all-time favorite Alba line including:
Two pieces from the Princess Line:
One bra from the Fairy Tale Collection:
And a matching bra and panty set:
  • Daisy Padded Underwire Bra (currently sold out)
  • New bikini style to match this bra

We specifically tried to focus on bras that had features unique to Love Nature.  That's why 4 of the 5 are their signature organic cotton padded bras with polyester-free, cotton padding.  The Alba No Wire bra, our best-selling bra of all time, rounded out the fifth (shown left).

Love Nature is a subsidiary of the Italian lingerie brand Lormar.  While Lormar has decided not to move forward with Love Nature, they still have access to the production facilities.  The most difficult issue we faced was ensuring that Lormar could still source all of the incredible eco-fabrics that were used in the Love Nature line.  So their production team had to check each style for availability of the fabrics, the cotton paddings and the trims.  That, combined with the high quantities required to produce each style, forced us to stick with just a few designs.

For a small business like ours, the quantities are staggering.  We're literally getting thousands of bras and hundreds of panties.  Even at our most ambitious growth predictions, we should have stock the next 3 years.  However, this agreement was a one-time only offer from Lormar.  So we don't expect to be able to restock again once these are gone.

That said, there are a couple of minor negatives.
  • We expect a small price increase due to the high Euro to Dollar rate at the moment and the cost of warehousing all this stock for an extended period.
  • No more cute, embroidered linen drawstring bags.
  • The upfront cost of this endeavor is delaying phase 3 of our in-house manufacturing project.  This means we won't be producing men's underwear for a while longer.  Good news, though - we've found an excellent alternative for the guys (but that's a post for another day).
  • Sadly, the other 60+ Love Nature organic lingerie items - including all of those lovely PJs and nighties - are still discontinued.  Don't wait to get the one you've been coveting.
We hope you'll appreciate our efforts.  The most common complaint we hear is when a favorite staple - be it bras, underwear or socks - becomes unavailable.  Of course, we also hope this will bolster our business for the next few years while we scour the planet for more eco-undies.

We expect these items to be available for sale in October, 2014.