Milan to Maasai; Handcrafted Artisan Jewelry

It’s not often that I come across a line of jewelry that gets me really excited.  Not only does it fit my design aesthetic but my social conscience as well.  As much as I love the jewelry, the story behind it is even more amazing….

Hundreds of tiny glass beads are strung together to form amazingly beautiful jewelry

Artisan Jewelry

This extraordinary jewelry is meticulously handcrafted by 200 Maasai women on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, East Africa from hundreds of tiny glass beads.

This is an incredible story about saving trees by replacing deforestation with artisanship. Until this jewelry project, the Maasai tribeswomen in this region generated income by cutting down trees and making and selling charcoal. This resulting deforestation was unsustainable and destructive to the balance of the ecosystem. How amazing that this jewelry has become an innovative environmental solution. By providing an alternative income source, these women have been able to shift from logging, back to their artisan roots to create this stunning wearable art.

Devotion, bravery, status. Unity of family, harmony of community and balance of nature.

These are just a handful of the core concepts the Maasai people hold in high regard. Though ideas circulate amongst generations, consolidated by the advice of mothers and the command of elders, nowhere is social value granted a more elegant expression than in the art of beadwork undertaken by the women of each community.  Women of the Maasai have the age-old habit of gathering together before, after and in-between their daily chores to craft beautiful jewelry. Hundreds of tiny glass beads are strung together in stunning patterns and shapes.

A community of Maasai women gather to craft their glass beaded jewelry

Collaboration

This all began as an extraordinary jewelry collection designed under the mentorship of Francesca Torri Soldini at Italy’s prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design. From there, Maasai artisan women meticulously handcraft the designs into breathtaking jewelry.Think high fashion fusion where Milan meets Maasai.

The development of this alternative microenterprise now protects the environment, preserves indigenous culture, at the same time creates a stable and sustainable income source for the women. Now that’s a beautiful thing on many levels!

A community of Maasai women gather to craft their glass beaded jewelry

Can you see why I’m so excited?  Adorn yourself with this incredible jewelry and be a part of making a difference! View the jewelry collection here

Diane Kennedy, eco-fashion, plus size clothing, made in Canada,

Taking Your Time To Explore Slow Fashion

Now that we’ve had a chance to explain what “Fast Fashion Is” in our last blog, we want to take our time explaining the other side to this, where the grass is greener. The positive opposition to “Fast Fashion” which Diane Kennedy holds as an important business model. A concept aptly named, “Slow Fashion”.

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To encourage needless spending, the Fashion Industry thrives on the concept of “Buy to toss”. Slow Fashion turns this concept around and defines itself by giving proper value and weight to a product through its slower, more deliberate production process – from design to finished garment. Our clothes are flattering and versatile; standing apart from passing trends and exemplifying classic style . By sourcing high quality fabrics and designing for exceptional fit across a wide range of sizes, we create looks that are not only beautiful, but ageless.

As a Canadian company that prides itself on making Eco-Ethical conscious choices, we recognize that our business is interconnected with our environment & the globe’s social structure. It is our responsibility to make business decisions accordingly, in order to lessen the negative impact our choices have on our earth.  By simply decreasing the volume and frequency of fashion production and ensuring it is managed with a certain level of standards, we can be sure that our participation in the industry does not leave unnecessary pressure on our global community or the earth’s natural regeneration cycle. Furthermore, by supporting local factories that uphold codes of conduct, instead of hiring overseas production, we encourage the fair treatment of workers and cut back on harmful emissions/waste in producing & importing from a foreign country. We are also dedicated to using local materials and resources when able, to support the development of local businesses and skills.

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When you purchase a piece of Slow Fashion like our sustainable bamboo garments, what you’re buying will not be an “impulse buy” because of a “good deal”. What you’re buying is the idea that your style reflects a sense of creative individuality, in addition to your willingness to act responsibly with how and where you spend your money. By spending more and buying less, you understand the correlation between material & labour quality, how it relates to style longevity, and its socio-ecological impact on our earth. Instead of filling your closet with clothes you may never wear more than once or twice, you’ll collect a cohesive, timeless wardrobe, while supporting fair wages and the sourcing of sustainable production methods.

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Why Fashion Shouldn’t Be Fast

As the gifting giving season rapidly approaches, we want to take a moment and address an issue that is seriously affecting both consumers & retailers…”Fast Fashion”. This is a term coined to describe a current trend in fashion, aimed at ensuring that consumers buy as many garments as possible, as frequently as possible. With the rise of online retailers such as RoseGal and Dresslily, that sell their garments at ridiculously low prices, consumers have come to expect these prices without the thought of the consequences.  But are these garments truly a great price? We want to explain what Fast Fashion really means and why it’s too good to be true.

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With cheap and rapid overseas production allowing some retailers to release styles weekly, Fast Fashion’s goal is to make the consumer feel out of style after the first few wears. Yes, that top may be $20, but there might easily be 100+ pieces to purchase by the end of the season. It’s not much of a deal if you feel obligated to buy every week, just to feel on trend.

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Which leads us to another point – Fast Fashion is literally designed to fall apart about as quickly as it’s purchased. Retailers know that if their garments fall apart, it will give the consumer a reason to purchase something new. Deliberately poor quality/low grade fabrics are not only dishonest but also lead to much unneeded waste, with an estimated 68 lbs of textiles per American, finding its way into landfills each year.

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These cheap materials often include chemicals such as petroleum & heavy metals like lead. In addition to being potentially harmful to your health, these materials take decades (at the detriment of our environmental footprint) to decompose. In short, by participating in Fast Fashion, you are guaranteed an inferior piece of clothing.

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If that’s not enough to deter you, we would be remiss not to address the ethical repercussions of supporting Fast Fashion. In addition to cost-cutting measures like poorly graded Plus Size designs (or excluding Plus sizes altogether) Fast Fashion also manages their bottom line by contracting factories overseas that do not have and uphold employment standards like here in Canada. This leads to extremely unfair wages and poor working conditions, in addition to the illegal use of “informal workers” that work from their homes in some of the poorest regions of the world. This unfortunately also includes children; Children whose small fingers are more cost-effective for companies to employ, than purchasing the expensive machines required to sew on embellishments such as beads and sequins. In fact, if you purchase a relatively inexpensive garment with beads and sequins, they were almost certainly sewn on by children.

As we’ve spoken about in the past, Diane Kennedy prides itself on its commitment to Eco-friendly, ethical practices in every facet of our company. From using local factories and Canadian employees to manufacture our line, to sourcing sustainable textiles such as our signature bamboo fabric. We believe that high end fashion simply cannot be synonymous with “cheap” and we understand that a good quality garment will be quality controlled and can stand by their factory’s standards.

Unless you’re purchasing from a company that is transparent about where and how they manufacture their garments, you cannot be sure that you’re purchasing guilt-free, quality clothes. It is a little-known fact that many outlet stores (Like Winners, TJMaxx, Marshall’s, to name a few) do not actually sell a brand’s out of season pieces or excess stock; In actuality, an outlet’s broker deals with large brand names, in order to put designer labels on the cheaply made clothing manufactured in their own low-quality factories.

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We hope that this peek behind Fashion’s curtain has helped educate on the negative effect that Fast Fashion has on the global community and industry. It is time we all slowed down and made a conscious decision to be more thoughtful about what we wear.