GIVEAWAY: Win a Swegmark Organic Cotton Bra of Your Choice

 

Organic cotton padded underwire bra
Alicia Padded Underwire Bra

It’s true!  Win your favorite Fair Trade, Organic Cotton Bra from Swegmark of Sweden. Since we brought this collection in last year, these bras have become our customers favorites.  There are now 10 styles to choose from including 8 of Swegmark’s signature full-coverage, wire free, organic bras plus an organic cotton sports bra and now a lightly padded, underwire bra.

 

All of these organic bras have wide, adjustable comfort straps and 3-position hook-and-eye back closures for the perfect fit.  They are well-constructed with wide underbust bands for great support and coverage.  Sizes range from 34B – 46DDD.  Not all bras come in all sizes, but the winner will have the option of choosing any of our in-stock options.  We have Swegmark bras in white, nude, pink, blue, grey and black.

If you don’t get your perfect size on the first go, you can even send it back and we’ll do an exchange for you.  Once you’ve tried this brand of comfort, stylish, sustainable bras, we don’t think you’ll ever choose anything else.   So go ahead and enter below. The winner will be announced Monday, November 27.

 

organic cotton fair trade no wire bra
Wellness Dots Bra
Fair Trade Organic Cotton Bra
Faithful Full Coverage Bra

 

Share this article:

How are Bras Made? The Ins and Outs of Organic Bra Manufacturing.

Why don’t USA manufacturers make organic cotton bras?  We get this question a lot.  There are actually a number of great companies, like Blue Canoe, that make soft bras, bralettes, and yoga bras in the USA.  However, you won’t find padded, molded cup or underwire bras made in the USA.  When we started making our own line of organic panties in Oregon, we thought we might try our hand at making some bras as well.  What we found is that bra making takes expensive specialty equipment.  Most sewing manufacturers can’t afford to buy this equipment unless they are using it regularly.  It’s certainly possible that somewhere in the USA there is a small manufacturing company that can make these types of “constructed” bras, but if there is, we weren’t able to find them.  So let’s break down types of bras and how they are sewn.

bamboo bra, removable bra cups, soft bra, organic bra
This pull-on style bra has removable padded cups.

“Soft Bras” or Bralettes

This is the category of bras made without molding, internal padding or underwire. The bralette is very popular these days, and it’s the easiest bra to sew.  There are bralettes that pull-on over the head, those that have the addition of a hook-and-eye back closure, and even a few that are sewn with internal pockets for use with removable padded cups.  The removable cups offer the option of a padded bralette such as the Adjustable Soft Bra, shown left, without the expensive equipment needed for internal padding.  The hook-and-eye back closure takes more sewing than a pull-on style and tends to make the bras a little more expensive, but they don’t require any specialty equipment.  The entire hook-and-eye piece is often manufactured separately and bra companies just need to buy the pieces and sew them in using a standard sewing machine.  The Avignon Triangle Bra shown below is an example of the hook-and-eye closure bralette.

Bralettes can be sewn in almost any sewing shop or factory and can even be made at home.  A standard sewing machine pulls most of the weight for these bras, though a cover-stitch machine can also be beneficial.

organic bra, bamboo bralette
This bralette has a hook-and-eye back closure.
molded cup bras, organic bras
This machine creates molded cup bras.

Molded Cup Bras

All of the bralettes described above will have some sort of seaming, pleating or ruching in the cups to provide shape.  Molded cup bras provide shaping without any seams.  Since this type of bra looks particularly good under t-shirts or tight knit tops, they are often referred to as t-shirt bras.  The molded cups require an intricate piece of equipment that stretches the fabric to the exact shape of the cup.  Since you need a separate “mold” for each cup size, the equipment cost can get expensive.  I had the opportunity to snap a few photos of a molding machine at Swegmark’s offices in Sweden along with the resulting molds.  As you can see in the image right, this machine creates only two sizes, so additional machines or larger machines are required based on how many bra sizes you want to create.  Swegmark has been making molded bras out of polyester fabric for years, but when I visited this summer they were working on their first fair trade, organic cotton molded bra.  We look forward to having those available for sale in early 2018.

how to make a bra
Bra cup molds created by the molding machine.

 

organic cotton bra, bralette, organic bra, molded cups
A bra with cups created by a molding machine.

A molding machine can also be used to create molded padding for bras that have internal padding rather than removable padded cups.

The Alba No Wire Bra (shown left) from Love Nature is an example of a no-wire bra with molded, seamless cups.  This one has molded cups without padding.  We had sent a number of request to Love Nature to add an a A-cup bra to their size range before they went out of business.  At the time they told us they didn’t have any molds for an A-cup and this is what they meant.  It wasn’t just re-working the sizing to fit an A-cup, they would have had to buy more physical equipment.  In their case, they didn’t think the sales would make up for the large upfront investment.

 

 

 

Underwire Bras

The addition of underwires to bras allows them to shape and support the breasts much better than a no wire bra.  Additionally, it is possible to use the wire to support cotton internal padding rather than the more common polyester/nylon padding. There were rumors stared by a book in the 90s that led some people to believe that underwire bras caused breast cancer.  However, that myth has been well debunked.  You can read about it here or here or here.

We still sell a lot of underwire bras, particularly padded, underwire bras and it turns out that adding in the wire requires yet another piece of expensive machinery. While I’ve never seen one in person, I have been able to find them online.  An underwire bra machine such as the one shown below runs about $8,000-$10,000.

This machine bends wires to the bra shape and cup size.

Conclusion

Finding the perfect bra for you always takes a little effort.  While we would ideally love to offer a wider variety of bras that are made in the USA, the downturn in American textile manufacturing has left us with few, if in fact any, companies that can make seamless cup or underwire bras. In fact, the equipment is so costly that many of the manufacturers we work with are actually bra designers and still outsource most of the construction and sewing to larger facilities that have all of the needed equipment.  Despite that, we are still thrilled with the variety and quality of organic and natural fabric bras that we are able offer, and hope you can appreciate all of the work that goes into making them.  For our little company, though, we will not likely get into bra manufacturing any time soon.

 

Share this article:

Giveaway: Win a Fingerless Glove and Scarf Set – ENDED

We recently held an event at our warehouse for local folks who wanted to come in to try on organic bras and eco-fashions in person.  Everyone who came walked away some freebies!  From goodie bags to raffle prizes to gifts with purchase, no one left empty handed.  We hope it was a great experience for our Oregon and Washington friends, but sadly, the rest of our fabulous customers live too far from our warehouse to participate.  So we’re launching a few blog giveaways to let everyone in on the fun.

We gave away 3 sets of these adorable matching fingerless glove and scarf sets from Earth Creations at the show, and now is your chance to win a set.  (Note: the coloring in the pictures looks slightly different, but it is actually a matching set.)  The Infinite Scarf is 100% Organic Cotton Jersey and the Fingerless Gloves are a Bamboo/Organic Cotton blend in French Terry.  Both pieces are low-impact dyed in an autumn-inspired pumpkin color and made in the USA.  With the autumn equinox on the horizon, they’re the perfect fall accessory.  We have one set to give away and the combined retail value is $45.

Leave your information and a comment on this blog post below to get your first entry.  There are options for additional entries by liking / visiting / interacting with our social media pages.  Contest ends September 17, 2017.

 

Share this article:

Eco-Fashion Warehouse Sale & Sustainable Living Showcase

Have you been wanting to try on one (or a whole bunch) of our products in person?  Your opportunity is here!

The event will run from 11am – 5pm on Saturday, August 26, 2017.  We’ll be doing raffle prize drawings every 30 minutes starting at 11:30am.  You must be present to win a prize, so be sure to leave some time for your visit with us.  You could easily get into 2 or 3 drawings while you try on clothes and meet with these other wonderful Portland-area women business owners.

Dr. Kayla Luhrs will be there to help you develop a wellness plan for conscious living.  

Amanda Bishop will show you how to make your own cleaning products using common household items and essential oils. 

Angela Stevens will chat with you about buying and selling real estate, or how to green the home you currently own.

 

Our warehouse is located minutes from this years Street of Dreams site.  We’ll be raffling off tickets to Street of Dreams at noon, so be sure to come early and check it out.

We’re also giving away 25 “Goodie Bags” to the first 25 people who RSVP either on our Facebook Event Page or by calling us at (971) 255-0752.

 

Here is a (partial) list of the prizes on offer for our raffle:

  1. 2 individual tickets to Street of Dreams
  2. PrAna Bag
  3. PrAna Eco Yoga Matt
  4. Maggie’s Bee Socks
  5. Maggie’s Scarf
  6. Swegmark bra of your choice
  7. Blue Canoe logo tee
  8. From War to Peace Make Art Not War Necklace
  9. Earth Creations Fingerless Gloves (multiple colors)
  10. Earth Creations Infinite Scarf (multiple colors)
  11. Spun Bamboo men’s Boxer Briefs
  12. dōTERRA Essential Oil Starter Kit
  13. Cottonique hair accessories.  (Also in Goodie Bags!)
Share this article:

Berlin Ethical Fashion Show, Green Showroom and Swegmark Organic Bras

Funkhaus Berlin Interior

New York, London, Milan, and Paris have the largest Fashion Weeks around the world, but a number of other cities are touting more sustainable fashion weeks.  Green Fashion Week is a non-profit, traveling, sustainable trade show that has already made stops in Los Angeles, Milan and Abu Dhabi with its next showing in Rome and Naples in November.  And Ethical Fashion Show Berlin has become a sustainable Fashion Week staple.  It runs concurrent to the Berlin Fashion Week with a clear focus on sustainability, and partners with Green Showroom, an eco-fashion resource for retailers.  This summer Ethical Fashion Show Berlin has made a permanent move to a larger venue… and Faerie’s Dance will be there to check it out!

Ethical Fashion Show
Funkhaus Berlin on the banks of the Spree River is the new home of Ethical Fashion Show

A confession… after 12 years working in the fashion industry, I’ve personally never been to a professional fashion show.  In truth, I still get more excited by spreadsheets and graphs than runways and high heels.  YES, I love what I do for the positive impact it has on the world.  (In case you weren’t aware, EcoWatch claims Fast Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil.)  But rekindling passion for your work is never a bad thing, and one of the things I’m very passionate about is travel.

Naturalmente by Schweikardt Moden will showcase at Ethical Fashion Show Berlin

So this year I’m going to do a little work-related traveling.  Faerie’s Dance will be attending the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, checking out new lines at the Green Showroom, meeting up with Occidente at Panorama Berlin and finally flying to Sweden to discuss organic cotton bra designs with Swegmark.  Of course, since I’ll already be in Sweden… My partner and I will be taking a much needed vacation together as well, spending a week on a cruise through the Baltics.

We are training assistants to “watch the store,” and will be shipping orders and processing returns and exchanges during the entire trip, from July 1 – 20th.  However, customer service will be limited to e-mail only, with no phone service at all during that period, and we will not be able to offer expedited shipping for those 3 weeks.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook to get updates from the show.  I look forward to celebrating our 12 year business anniversary on July 22, 2107, upon my return.

 

 

Share this article:

Giveaway: Win a Sustainable Summer Hoody – Ended

We’re in the process of cleaning up some of our older products.  In some cases, we just bought way too many. (Ok, maybe 100+ English Bay Polos was overdoing it, but they were going out of business and the price was so good…) In some cases, the style just didn’t sell or was too “trendy” rather than classic, and has now passed.  But in a few cases, we found lovely styles that are still relevant that had terrible images.  On our old website, we tried to keep image sizes below 40k so everything would render well.  We’ve been adding and updating images on the new site, but a few pieces got missed.

Shoyu Hoody in Beet
Shoyu Hoody in Blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In particular, there were two adorable hoodies with good stock left, but tiny images that made them hard to see.  So we’ve taken 3 steps.

  1. There are new images both on a model and on mannequin so you can see the products better.
  2. They’re both on sale!  Now until the end of May, both hoodies are 20% off. (Hint: if you’re not on our newsletter list, sign up now at the bottom of this page to get extra discounts exclusive to newsletter subscribers for Mother’s Day.)
  3. We’re giving away one of the hoodies for free to one lucky winner!  Since we don’t have all sizes in both, you’ll get to choose which one you prefer.
Short Sleeve Hoody in Rose
Short Sleeve Hoody in Wheat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The choices are:

Shoyu Hoody:

  • Med/Beet, Med/Blue
  • XL/Beet, XL/Blue

Short Sleeve Hoody:

  • Sm/Wheat
  • Med/Wheat, Med/Rose
  • Lg/Wheat, Lg/Rose

For size comparison, our size 10 model is wearing the blue Shoyu Hoody in medium and the rose Short Sleeve Hoody in large.  Please let us know when you leave the comment what size/color combo you’re interested in.

 

Share this article:

Last Chance Item: Xylem Organic Cotton Sports Bra

Organic Cotton Sports Bra
The Xylem Sports Bra in Organic Cotton is being discontinued.

Over the years we’ve had a number of natural fiber sports bras.  I wrote about running my first half marathon in the Bamboo Sports Bra (shown below) back in 2011.  I still use that bra in my workouts today.  However, the Xylem Sports Bra (shown left) is the first organic cotton sports bra we’ve had that has enough support to stand completely on its own.  There’s no need to double up with a shelf-bra tank or anything else.  The fabric is thick and supportive, and at 92% Organic Cotton with just 8% spandex, it’s high on the eco-friendly scale.  It has sold so well that many customers have found a size or color sold out at least once.

So you can imagine my dismay when Xylem told me they had decided to discontinue this style.  What(!)  Turns out they are experimenting with a bamboo version that they’d like to try out. We’ve also got a recycled sports bra coming this summer for those who prefer the more traditional polyester in their sportswear, but still want something eco-friendly.  But if you prefer organic cotton to other fabrics, and you really want support, the Xylem Sports Bra is the one.  We just got in the last 53 pieces yesterday.  (While that might sound like a lot, it averages to a little over a dozen per size.)  If this is a favorite for you, get them while they’re still available.

Bamboo sports Bra
The Bamboo Sports Bra has been a staple in our store for 8 years.

For those of you who have been wanting a sports bra for larger breast sizes, have no fear… we’ve been working with Swegmark of Sweden and hope to have an option for you near the end of summer.

Share this article:

Can Organic Clothing Manufactured in China Really be Trusted?

One of the questions we get A LOT is about organic clothing manufacturing in China.  There is a belief that garment manufacturing in China automatically means low wages and lots of pollution.  Many of our customers avoid anything made in China at all.  However, some sustainably-minded companies are still manufacturing organic clothing lines in China and it’s time to take a closer look at why they are.  For one thing, garment industry wages in China are increasing rapidly.  “Cheaper” clothing lines are actually leaving China for Africa and East Asia, where wages remain ridiculously low.  Additionally, organic clothing manufacturers are working with third party certifiers such as the Global Organic Textile Standard, OEKO-TEX, and Fair Trade International to ensure their Chinese-made goods are meeting environmental, safety and ethical employment standards.  Many of our USA made goods actually carry fewer certifications.

We caught up with Jane Nemis, owner of Echo Verde clothing for an interview on why they still manufacture in China.

Jane Nemis of Echo Verde visits a Chinese organic garment factory.

Faerie’s Dance: What influenced your company to manufacture in China?

Jane Nemis:  I had been working in China when it was the only producer of eco/organic fabrics (18 years ago) and formed relationships with factories that I still have to this day.

FD: How long have you worked with your current factory in China?

Jane:  We have several factories – depending on sweaters or cut/sew knits – some are new 2 years and several are 6 years – 2 are 15 years.

FD: How often do you travel to China directly to meet the people who make your clothing?

Jane:  Twice yearly.

FD: Can you tell us about your relationship with the folks who make your clothing?

Jane:  There is still wide-spread opinion that sourcing and manufacturing clothing in Asia-and more specifically in China is a desire for cheap labor and that the conditions under which people work is not good. The truth, though, is much more complicated and nuanced, or just plain not true!  Our Chinese manufacturers have become experts in working with organic and eco textiles and they produce some of the highest quality goods at competitive prices. All of our factories are reviewed for workers’ conditions and all must show proof of third party monitoring of social and environmental conditions. We have formed relationships with these factories from our years of visiting them in China and their owners and many of the ladies that work there are now our friends!

They have also listened to us over the years and instituted changes which have bettered the living and working conditions of their staff.

While the work ethic in China may not seem “perfect” to our standards, it is considered to be a skilled trade now to be a garment worker.  They bring home a middle-class income and many factories now have health care.  Many of the workers support their families and send their children to school based on the money they earn cutting/sewing and finishing our goods. The factories we work with are all family owned and smaller operations that employ workers from the surrounding areas. This means we are able to support families staying together. There are many sweatshops all over the world including specifically in New York and LA. It is important to us that we can personally monitor conditions and we have a partner that respects and listens to our requests for change.

Our workers are honest, hard-working, and family oriented and doing the best that they can to make a living. They depend on us for this. When we visit the factories, the ladies laugh and joke with us and teach us new words in mandarin. They are free to come and go to the bathrooms, they have tea and water available at all times and they are free to stop work and share a chat with their friends. The food they are served is the same as I eat when there (free lunch tokens are given out) and it is good and balanced and they have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. One of our factories has even built a small meditation garden where workers can walk during their breaks and get some fresh air and enjoy the greenery. Both our knit factories have adopted stray dogs from the local area and care for them like family pets.

These ladies make our clothes!

FD: Do your factories have any certifications (WRAP, GOTS, OEKO-TEX, etc.) and can you explain what that entails?

Jane:  Yes, one factory has WRAP the other has a European version of WRAP and the very small ones cannot afford the costs so I just make sure they are following the same standards.

All our factories are small – we paid for one factory to get WRAP certification but while many big businesses can list an impressive amount of certifications – the reality is this is out of reach for most small family owned operations.  Cost for WRAP was around $350 USD for a small factory of 23 employees.  So it is impossible to do this for all our little factories even though they use the same standards (or higher).  Bigger companies can afford to pay for WRAP and FLA (Fair Labour) is even higher $1200 USD which is to be paid as a yearly fee.

FD: Do the fabrics you work with have any certifications?

Jane:  Yes, bamboo is 100% certified organic, cotton is 100% certified organic, wool is produced using humane farming practices and non harmful chemicals to process it.

FD: Some of our clients are concerned with Chinese factories “faking” certifications or claiming certifications they don’t actually hold.  Is this a real concern? 

Jane:  Yes, I would say this is more related to large scale operations – they can afford to bribe the certifying body – I have heard about it but have never experienced it first hand.  I would say it is a real concern with anything that is produced on a large scale for low cost… organic is expensive – as are good working conditions.

FD: Can you tell us a little bit about what modern Chinese facilities are like?

Jane:  Here are some pictures – they are like any factory I walk into here in Canada or USA.  Some are much better kept actually.  Very  neat, all windows are open in summer and doors.  Well ventilated, lots of natural light and each worker has their own chair/light/table.

FD: What other information can you give us to assuage the negative connotation that is still often associated with garments that are Made in China?

Jane:  Another reason that we manufacture in Asia is because all of the eco textiles originate from Asia, and one of our goals is to have our production facilities as close as possible to where our fabric, hardware and fixtures originate, this has been proven to reduce the environmental impact of shipping.   Did you know that much of the cotton produced in the US is sent to either China or India for milling before coming back into the states?  So really, if you go to the root of the garment – it is possible almost every piece of clothing has come from China in some way.

I would add is that I find it frustrating that there is such a negative connotation with Chinese goods.  The US has spent the past few decades growing trade with China and helping to bring the work up to standard, pay etc.  This is primarily why all the cheap brands have moved to countries without any work conditions in place (Bangladesh, US Samoa, Cambodia, Areas of Africa) – I also think other big industry has not kept pace and there are still horror stories of people falling asleep making cell phones and getting little to no pay for extremely poor work conditions.  So unfortunately, I think this is the impression that is given in the media – these are the things that make the headlines – not the goods news.

FD: Is there anything you’d like to add or would you like to bring up any points we may have missed?

Jane:  Just to stress that we have worked a long time with our factories and they rely on us – that’s how they make a living.  So although we may do some production locally, we will continue to support them.   It is impossible to do the sweaters we make in US or Canada.  The machinery just does not exist anymore.

Share this article:

Win a Peace Bronze “Make Art Not War” Necklace – ENDED

Wow, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a giveaway.  Let’s kick off with this new necklace by From War to Peace.  The necklace is made from their exclusive Peace Bronze© and then plated with recycled gold.

The story of Peace Bronze© is quite fascinating. From War to Peace digs up the cabling connecting disarmed nuclear missile silos that was left in the soil of the American Midwest after the cold war. (The cabling is not radioactive and never has been.) The metals from the cabling are recycled into their pure forms, and the copper is used to create a wonderful alloy called Peace Bronze©. This creation is made from 95% copper, 4% silicon, and about 1% manganese—all of it recycled materials. Peace Bronze© is an entirely American-made product being used to create beautiful jewelry pieces that celebrate peace over war.

Unfortunately, not everyone likes the look of bronze in their jewelry options.  So From War to Peace has started dipping some pieces in recycled silver or recycled gold.  The entire piece remains recycled, inexpensive and made in America, but now has the lush look of gold or silver.  We’ve brought in an entire line of silver plated Tree of Life pieces perfect for Valentine’s Day.

We’re also giving away a gold plated Make Art Not War Necklace. It’s a $35 value and one lucky winner will receive it absolutely free. Start your entry below and you’ll unlock ways to get additional entries.

 

Share this article:

Stock up on Green Tree Organic Panties Before Year End

Organic Cotton Panties
Green Tree Organic’s Trista Cami and Eat Organic Panty

Green Tree Organic Clothing has been in business for 2 years now and we’ve put out a total of 8 designs.  Our goal was to offer inexpensive organic cotton panties and intimates that are made in the USA.  If you followed along with us that first year, you’ll know the process was much more trying than I had ever imagined.  Fortunately, our process is now fairly stable and our small line is doing quite well.

 

Unfortunately, rising prices of everything from fabric to elastic to sewing has kept us from expanding into more colors, more designs and men’s items. We have been reluctant to raise prices because we really wanted to offer an economical, Made in the USA option. If you look at the PACT model, they started off sewing exclusively in the USA.  Prices continued to rise until most of their panties were in the high $20 to low $30 range.  Eventually, they gave up on manufacturing in the USA and started manufacturing in India.  It brought their costs way down and their panty prices are now all under $15. On the flip side, Blue Canoe has continued to manufacture in the USA and their price is now $34 for a single panty (though we sell Blue Canoe panties at a small discount everyday for $30 each).

Organic Cotton Boy Short
PACT’s Boy Short

 

So what’s a small business to do?  Here’s our plan.

•   We will continue to manufacture in the USA and keep as much of our processes local.

•   We will be raising prices in January both to reflect our higher cost and to offer wholesale so we can get USA-made panties in brick and mortar stores.

•   We will expand the line of PACT underwear that we carry to offer a less expensive organic cotton panty alternative for those who really want organic and just can’t afford the Made in USA prices.

 

Green Tree Organic panty prices will go up between $3 – $5 each starting in the new year.  This is early warning for you to stock up now.  There are a few sizes/colors currently sold out, but our seamstress is working on them and we should have everything back in stock before Christmas with at least a couple of weeks left at the old pricing.

What are your thoughts on this?  Manufacturing in the USA has certainly been in the news a lot lately.  Is price more important than local jobs?

Share this article: