As landfill-bound pumpkin suits and plastic witch hats take over store shelves, we can think of no better time to catch up with Ariana Boussard-Reifel. The founder of hip vintage e-tailer Mode Marteau is invariably the coolest-looking woman in the room, not in small part because she can make fashion magic out of virtually anything.
For those hoping to put together a low-impact Halloween look, we enlisted Boussard-Reifel's sought-after skills with pre-owned clothing and accessories. Whether you’re a thrifting novice or a secondhand-shopping pro, this “one-of-a-find” specialist has 10 on-point tips for how to make a killer costume out of vintage finds. By doing so, you’ll be extending the lifecycle of someone else’s discarded belongings–and maybe even scoring bonus points for authenticity.
Mode Marteau's Ariana Boussard-Reifel.
1. Be flexible–but do have a plan. Have two or three possible costumes in mind and see what pieces you find. Maybe you were going to be a zombie, but then you found an amazing Sgt. Pepper jacket... Be a dead Beatle.
2. Some DIY may be required, but you don’t have to be a tailor. Safety pins are your best friends, as are pinking shears. You can get away with remarkably little sewing if you drape creatively and use lots of pins. Brooches and belts also work well for tacking a costume together and adding sparkle.
3. The accessories make the outfit. It's amazing what the right props can convey. Just like with everyday styling, you can have a simple outfit, but if you throw on great jewels and shoes (or a hat and a pitchfork!), you will really stand out.
4. This is the only time that quality can be thrown out the window. I’m fanatical about quality in all vintage and secondhand purchases. But since this is a one-night deal, I think it's fine to buy that moth-eaten polyester gown as a base to your '60s housewife costume.
5. Don’t lose sight of potential gems in the hunt. You already get big sustainability brownie points for shopping secondhand for your costume (and not throwing another styrofoam Spiderman bodysuit in the landfill). But you can really rein in your carbon footprint if you select items that can be a part of your regular wardrobe after Halloween.
6. Shop early. Most thrift shops have a separate costume section starting in September, comprised of pieces that they've been saving all year but deemed too bizarre for every day. This can be a serious treasure trove–I have stacks of antique silk kimonos that I found just this way!
7. Don’t shop the usual suspects. There are excellent thrift stores around the country. (In New York, I love Housing Works.) These great shops excel because they pre-sort out all the riffraff. It makes it easy to shop, and the chance of finding designer pieces in great shape is much higher. But there is a downside, which is that they don't tend to have random things of little value. So you probably won’t find a 25-cent bag of yarn that will make your Raggedy Ann costume, or a pink XL Hanes shirt that you can rip up into a flamingo dress. For costuming, the less curated the shop, the more creative you get to be.
A full-body base layer will give you something to pin and stitch to–even to paint.
8. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We all want to be original, but sometimes an old favorite–say, Cleopatra–can be truly remarkable if you find a unique way to express it. The added bonus is that you’ll be familiar enough with the style vernacular (gold and blue; a headdress; snakes) that it will be easier to find pieces, because you'll know what you're looking for. If you want originality points, you can riff off an old standard and turn your Cleopatra into Nefertiti (add a conical hat), or even post-asp-bite Cleopatra (use ghostly make-up).
9. Start with a base layer. Whether for modesty or because it can be darn chilly in October, start with something to build on. It can be a black catsuit, a long red nightgown, or even nude stockings. A full-body base layer will give you something to pin and stitch to–even to paint. Plus, it will keep you warm enough to trick-or-treat all night long.
10. Get to the core. Think about what is essential to the costume, and start your hunt for that. If you’re going to be a ghost, you need things that are white and perhaps a bit tattered. Don’t head straight for the sheets, as you could find something that fits that category in almost any department, from skirts to curtains to stuffed animals. When you layer them on, you’ll have a great one-of-a-find costume.
For vintage-costume inspiration, follow Ethica's Vintage Halloween Costumes board on Pinterest.
It may not have been our most articulate moment, but when we saw Angela · Roi’s new Moa tote, the word that came to mind was “whoa.”
Throughout this past summer, as we shipped out Angela · Roi crossbodies in a rainbow of colors, the eponymous husband-and-wife team hinted that their new fall style would be next-level good. Boasting curvaceous handles, zipper hardware that encircles its east-west body, and a sumptuous palette, the Moa lives up to the hype. This is a bag that's all grown up–and a sign that the one-year-old vegan accessories brand is coming into its own.
Where some people see outfits, writer Emily Spivack sees culture, history and meaning. Spivack is the founder of Threaded, the Smithsonian's fashion history blog, and Sentimental Value, an archive of clothing tales culled from eBay. Her latest project, Worn Stories, is a collection of first-person narratives that illuminate the links between garments and memory.
“I introduced it as a website in 2010, just to begin collecting stories and start working through the idea. But I always knew I wanted it to be a book,” Spivack says. That book, also called Worn Stories, was published in late August by Princeton Architectural Press. Featuring clothing-inspired vignettes from 67 participants, it's been hailed as “a handy antidote to fast fashion” by the New York Times.
We spoke to Spivack about the connections we form with the things we wear. As for the items in her own wardrobe that she holds close? There’s a pair of peach socks that date back to the sixth grade, a ring that once belonged to her grandmother, and Doc Martens from her teenage years.
Over the course of working on Worn Stories, did you find that it was a piece of clothing that drove and helped shape memorable experiences among the people you interviewed? Or were the garments incidental and memorable only because they were part of larger and more significant experiences? What I found and what I love about the project is that the article of clothing finds its way into the story in different ways. Sometimes the story starts out with the piece of clothing, and the clothing is really like a character. At other times, it’s almost like a punchline–you’re not really sure where this is going and how it relates to a garment, and then it ties into it at the end.
Nearly every bride has a wedding dress story. Are there certain kinds of items that came up more often than others–“firsts,” hand-me-downs, concert tees? It’s anything from a pair of leg warmers and a fur-lined, suede, full-length coat, to a chainmail bikini top, a t-shirt that’s ripped and, yes, a wedding dress that’s been adapted. It could not be a more diverse set of things, and set of stories, too.
In such a varied group of items and stories, did any common themes emerge? The one thing that is consistent, no matter how prominent or how minimal the garment’s role is, is that the focus is ultimately on the story. The clothing is a conduit or a means to tell the story, but it’s ultimately about accessing the story through the piece of clothing.
Which story resonated with you the most on a personal level? There isn’t one that’s my favorite just because I love them all. I think that what was surprising to me is that I would get on the phone with someone or ask them to contribute a story, and I would never have any idea what kind of story they wanted to contribute or what their piece of clothing would be. That’s what was so much fun, to have no idea what to expect.
Worn Stories is available at Powell's, McNally Jackson, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
She's constantly surrounded by some of the most beautiful clothes in the world, but ethics and sustainability are what really make a garment appealing to stylist Lauren Bockow. After working with her on our summer lookbook and hearing a few of her behind-the-scenes tales, we asked Bockow to share what prompted her to want to work with sustainable brands, and what life as a stylist is really like.
Fashion styling is one of those "dream jobs" that is infinitely harder and less glamorous than it looks. What was your journey into the profession? After studying photography in Boston, I moved to NYC, where I was showing my art in galleries. Rather than being a starving artist, I got a job in advertising at CBS. I learned all about branding, research and marketing. It was very much a sink-or-swim sitution, and in order to survive I needed to find emerging brands that no one had worked with at CBS.
I found that I was really great and passionate at spotting trends and emerging brands, which led me to working as a trend editor for American Express. At AmEx, I helped build their first web-based flash sales company, which later became Vente-Privée USA. After successfully launching this brand, I felt the need to go back to my visually creative roots. I landed a job in a fashion photography studio, where I was introduced to styling.
Do you have any on-the-job war stories you can share? When I first started as an assistant, I once had to return $15,000 worth of clothes in less than an hour at a large dept store. I was given a shopping cart full of clothes stacked up to my head, plus an additional huge Ikea bag full of clothes, and I was supposed to do it all in one trip.
All of the clothes were completely mixed up in huge piles, even though they had been purchaced from four separate departments. Once I was almost done, the sales clerk insisted on keeping the original receipt, which I agreed to just so I could get out of there. When I returned to the stylist's house, she demanded that I go back to the store to retreive the original receipt. I went all the way back, only to find that the original had already been stored away and would be impossible to retrieve. At this point, the store was getting ready to close, but somehow I convinced the manager to go back through their files from earlier that day and print me a copy of the receipt.
You've styled shoots for the likes of Bloomingdale's, DVF, J. Crew, and recently became a full-time stylist at Net-a-Porter. What made you interested in also collaborating with ethical and sustainable fashion brands? The past few years, I have become more "sustainably" aware of what I consume, from food to fashion, and my goal is to become more socially and environmentally responsible. I believe it will change how we treat and trade with each other worldwide for the better, in turn making the world a better place.
We enlisted your talents for our summer lookbook. Which one of the looks you styled was your favorite? There were so many I loved! I’ll have to give you my top three: the white crewneck sweater by Litke with the Ace & Jig track shorts, the organic cotton Easy pants by Litke with the Samantha Pleet tank, and the Hatsuyo pegged pants by Crazy Wind.
Did you discover any new designers at Ethica that you'll be keeping your eye on? Litke – I definitely want to keep an eye on this one. Also, Etnia Barcelona’s sunglasses.
Has your approach to fashion changed at all since becoming more interested in and involved with the ethical and sustainable fashion space? Yes, I’m much more reluctant to spend money on unethical brands, and I'm constantly researching and keeping my eyes open for new ethically minded brands.
What's your dream gig or project? I would like to combine my artwork with my styling and create something more conceptual for films. I'm actually working on a few projects right now.
As someone who is constantly surrounded by beautiful clothes, what are your favorite places to shop? I love finding hole-in-the-wall thrift stores that have unique pieces that you can't find anywhere else at a cheap price. In NYC, I also like the Brooklyn Fox, Oak, Honey in the Rough, Dover Street Market and many others. Other than finding unique local shopping spots, I prefer skipping crowds and shopping online instead.
American designer Catherine Litke has perfected summer style (her striped cape-back blouse and white cutoffs are our current weekend uniform). That's why it's no surprise that she's got the summer soundtrack down, too. Get a load of the tunes she'll be rocking out to over the next few weeks, and click here to listen to her playlist on Spotify.
1. "Banana Split" by Lio
2. "Seeds of Sight" by Body Language
3. "Time Will Tell" by Blood Orange
4. "Better Days" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
5. "Dress Sexy At My Funeral" by Smog
6. "L8 CMMR" by Lily Allen
7. "Completely Not Me" by Jenny Lewis
8. "Camino Del Sol (Todd Terje Remix)" by Antena
9. "Sita Devi" by Vensaire
10. "Ways To Go" by Grouplove
11. "Get A Life" by Little Red
Passion for fashion might be a catchphrase that sums up most designers’ raison d’être. But Magaly Fuentes-Sagan has a passion for people, as well. The Pashen Collection founder has first and foremost built strong relationships with the artisans who make her clothes, and these relationships are the heart of her brand.
“When I love something or someone, I’m the type of person who wants to learn every angle of it,” says Fuentes-Sagan. Her brand name is a portmanteau of "shen," which means "spirit" in Chinese, and "passion," which she describes as the driving force in her life. “I worked in several areas of fashion to test the waters, find my niche and learn as much about the industry as I could.”
Fueled by the desire to be immersed in the field, Fuentes-Sagan has worn many hats. After stints working as a merchandiser at Saks Fifth Avenue, an apprentice with a couture bridal designer, a fashion publicist and a product manager–she realized something was missing. So she packed up her things, sold her house and moved to a small fishing village in Nicaragua to work at a surf lodge. Once she made the decision to really investigate what she wanted to do with her life, things seemed to start conspiring in her favor. She landed a writing gig at Eco Fashion World, and she would eventually go on to become the website’s owner and editor-in-chief.
“After returning to the States from Nicaragua, I spent months contacting various artisan groups,” says Fuentes-Sagan. “I have built such strong relationships with the people I work with, and we have learned so much from each other that it brings new meaning to that saying about the importance of the journey over the destination. Even several years into this, from the birth of the idea to today, Pashen is just in its infancy, with so much room for growth. I am beyond excited about the prospects. The strength of the ethical fashion community revolves around relationship building and working together.”
Each and every piece produced by Pashen Collection reveals the connections Fuentes-Sagan draws between her artisan collaborators, passion and spirit. Scroll down to discover the story behind each piece in her own words.
1. KNIT SHORTS
"I designed these when it was winter, and I really wanted a cozy pair of shorts to wear with my off-the-shoulder sweatshirt and slouchy knit boots. [Ed. note: Fuentes-Sagan lives in Florida.] They can be worn so many ways. These are made in Peru on an artisanal machine operated by an artisan."
2. INDIGO IKAT SCARF
"There is quite the journey and story behind the design of this piece. I went back and forth via email for months with the American anthropologist who leads the artisan group in Thailand that made these for me. I combined traditional techniques with some modern twists.
The design is a combination of shapes, which include hearts (love), diamonds (the diamond shape represents protection to Native Americans), nāga (serpent deities; the artisans shared with me that, to them, it symbolizes protection from evil). These scarves are hand-dyed with indigo, and the ikat process is so detailed and simply beautiful. Each one is a little different and truly a work of art."
3. HEART STRINGS WOOL SCARF
"If you look closely at the pattern on this, [you'll see it consists of] hearts. There were three rounds of swatch samples made for these because I wanted the hearts to be obvious, and I wanted them in a very specific size. These shawls are oversized and so cozy, you just want to live wrapped in one."
4. CROCHET SHORTS
"These were inspired by peacock feathers and doilies. They were handmade by an artisan in Peru. I literally cut and pieced together doilies to show them how I wanted the pattern to work on these. There is a lot of detail. The artisan did an amazing job translating my vision."
5. CROCHET DRESS
"This dress is a beautifully pieced-together puzzle of some of my favorite dress elements. The sleeves are influenced by one dress I own, the neckline by another, and the empire waist by yet another. The open crochet look gives the dress a lot of versatility because it can be worn right over a bikini in the summer or with a slip dress with sandals on warm nights. It can even be worn over a sweater dress in the winter."
6. CHERRY BLOSSOM SILK SCARF
"I designed the motif on this scarf, and each one is printed on organic silk in Cambodia. The artisans also hand-sewed the delicate hem on these scarves. The cherry blossom represents the beauty and fragility of life. It’s something close to my heart. Cherry blossoms are a reminder not to take things for granted and see life as a gift every day."
It is often difficult to articulate all of the work that goes into making a single garment. Not so in the case of CRAZY WIND, an independent womenswear label based in Portland, Oregon. Helmed by designer Chiyo Takahashi, Crazy Wind harnesses the exceptional craftsmanship of two worlds: local American garment-making and a Japanese textile tradition. The collection is made in Portland, using an ikat fabric called kasuri.
Dating back nearly 200 years, kasuri was historically used in Japan for home decor, kimonos and clothing. Cheaper, faster-to-make and mass produced fabrics have contributed to a steep decline in demand for kasuri–which is why designer Takahashi is out to spark a comeback. Aided by her mother, who lives in Nagoya, Takahashi sources the increasingly rare material from 100-year-old, family-run factories in remote regions of Japan.
The making of kasuri is a painstaking, laborious process–a cultural and economic tradition that stands as a stark contrast to fast, disposable fashion. Below, a few facts about this Japanese wonder fabric:
• Rather than dyeing and printing a piece of fabric, making kasuri requires tie-dyeing the yarn first, then weaving the various colors into a pattern. As a result of this process, there is a soft, subtle blurring of the patterns on the finished fabric. Because the patterns are woven rather than printed, the design of the fabric is also visible on the reverse side.
• From designing motifs to applying the finishing touches, this high-quality textile goes through more than 30 different stages before it is completed. Each individual process requires skills and experience specific to that step.
• It takes about two months to complete a single roll of kasuri (40-cm wide, 12-m long), which yields only enough fabric for one adult-size kimono.
Images courtesy of Crazy Wind
After working in corporate insurance for 11 years, Nicola Woods took a sabbatical to travel the world. It was during this journey that the founder and creative director of BEAUTIFUL SOUL LONDON decided to revisit her childhood interest in fashion design. "I found my calling sitting under a cherry blossom tree in the heart of Tokyo," Woods reveals.
That instant was the inspiration for the label's spring-summer 2014 collection, which is dominated by vibrant prints of the ephemeral Japanese flower. "I wanted to translate that life-changing moment, giving it a twist of Notting Hill charm," the designer explains.
Said charm comes through in the label's new lookbook, which takes viewers on a summery journey through the tony London neighborhood. As the name Beautiful Soul suggests, however, the brand's appeal extends beyond its stunning designs and visuals, and to the ethos that is at the company's core. "I have grown the brand from a dream: that luxury fashion can offer a transparent supply chain," Woods says. "The label is committed to a conscious approach to fabric sourcing and environmental impact, as well as local production that supports the regeneration of U.K. manufacturing."
We first met The Style Line's Rachel Schwartzmann late last summer, around the time she was rebranding her website and we were unveiling our own first-anniversary site makeover. Beyond some shared technology woes, we found commonalities in our respective missions: TSL was born in early 2011 as a Tumblr-based, interview-centric street style blog, and the revamped online publication doubles down on that mission with a stated goal of "bringing storytelling with style back to the web"–much in the vein of what Ethica aims to accomplish within the context of a shopping site. Instead of products or trends, Rachel's focus is on places and, most of all, people.
As much as we've always loved our regular visits to The Style Line, the offerings lately have been particularly suited to our sensibilities. Recent stories include profiles on Ethica pals Rachel Kibbe of Helpsy and Wear No Evil author Greta Eagan, as well as features on sustainable jewelry designers Melissa Joy Manning and Nettie Kent. And there have been collaborations of our own, as well: Last December, we enlisted Rachel to share holiday gift ideas with the Ethica community, and she recently shared the story behind our gorgeous Hart jackets–which she's wearing in the photo above–with her audience.
Given the historical links between the rise of style blogs and fast fashion, we were curious about what it was that drew Rachel–for whom "selfies" are an occupational hazard–toward sustainable fashion instead. She shares what inspired her to hop aboard the eco-fashion train, and what the journey has been like to date.
What sparked your interest in sustainable fashion? Sustainability has become more present on my personal radar since relaunching The Style Line in August 2013. I've made it a goal to take a concrete position in terms of our content and the stories we share, which is why it is primarily people-focused and story-driven. Speaking more to this, we've very organically started talking to individuals and brands who either incorporate sustainable practices in their businesses or focus on creating products with value. It's become a recurrent theme in our stories, and coupled with our growing platforms that are so people-driven, I've started to understand that it is our responsibility to begin having what some may consider "difficult" conversations and at least getting the word out on what the eco-fashion community is bringing to the forefront.
For me, it's not so much about shouting, "Go Green!" to the world, but sharing these very real issues with our community and encouraging them to at least find some middle ground in their shopping and living habits. The more I personally become aware and knowledgeable of these issues, the more compelled I am to integrate it into The Style Line's brand DNA. It's a story in itself.
As I've gotten older, I've really learned the value behind less is more.
Was there one specific moment or piece of information that drove home why these issue are important? Hearing that the fashion/textile industry is the second largest world polluter next to oil is mind-boggling. [Ed. note: We made this very point in our November 2013 interview with TSL!] Literally, I think my immediate response upon hearing this was, "How?" That's when I became interested in speaking with people who could help shed some light on ways to change this.
What are some of your favorite eco-fashion brands? There are a ton, but a few that come to mind immediately include Melissa Joy Manning, Valentine Gauthier, Popinjay and Ivana Helsinki.
What steps are you taking to green your own wardrobe? As I've gotten older, I've really learned the value behind less is more. I'm actually doing a huge closet clean-out this season and have made a decision to no longer shop at a lot of major fast-fashion retailers. While I can't promise to go entirely green (at least at this point), I am taking steps to become much more well-informed prior to purchasing anything that may have come from questionable conditions. If I can look good and feel good all based on my purchasing power, then that's a change I'm definitely willing to make.
Inset portrait by Jinna Yang; courtesy of Rachel Schwartzmann
Alice & Whittles sounds like the name of a whimsical pair in search of adventure, doesn’t it? The romantic moniker belongs to Ethica's first shoe line. These aren’t just any shoes, though. These are espadrilles, famously favored by the likes of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. It's small wonder why, since the artistic simplicity of an espadrille—it’s made of canvas, jute and rubber—is a welcome comfort for doing just about anything, especially traveling.
Alice & Whittles elevates the concept with incredibly transparent and thoughtful sourcing and production methods. After launching via a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign in April 2013, the company continues to forge ahead with its model of sustainable production. So how exactly do you turn a passion for ethical fashion–or for anything, really–into a business? We caught up with co-founder Sofi Khwaja to ask her about what it takes to build a socially responsible company.
1. Connect the dots between so-called disconnected parts of your life—you might find you’re actually working toward your true calling.
Sofi says: “My partner Nick and I were working with the United Nations Refugee Agency in Tunisia, shortly after the revolution. I’m also a lawyer. After years in the system, trying to clean up pieces of a mess that’s made over and over again, we started asking ourselves, ‘Is this the right way to affect massive issues of poverty?’ We thought about what industries had the potential to balance the inequities of the world. Clothing is a human necessity. Economically, production takes place in regions that are unregulated, affecting billions of garment workers around the world."
2. Make something that fills a gap in the market. Something that you’d love to wear yourself.
Sofi says: “We traveled a lot for work. 90 percent of what was in our suitcase was clothing. We thought about the items you could take to India and on vacation in St. Tropez. We came up with espadrilles. We wanted to make amazing, high-quality espadrilles that are beautifully crafted by the people of a region, and give back to those people at the same time.”
3. Freaking out about the competition? Don’t. Because you can do it better.
Sofi says: “Tom’s One for One model, which gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, might have brilliant marketing behind it. But a company like Tom’s is missing the point. The truth is, mass-production on this scale isn’t sustainable. If you’re using exploitative labor, it doesn’t discount the negative impact you’re having. The charity model doesn’t work. It’s killing economies—basically you’re dumping all these free shoes in local communities. Now where are all the local shoemakers going to go?”
4. Do extensive research and tap into local know-how.
Sofi says: “We decided to go to the country that has the longest legacy in the garment industry: India. We spoke to policy makers, factory workers and slum garment factory owners. Then we decided to think outside of the box within the textiles world. We landed on a rural NGO, Khamir, which works to preserve the cultural ecology of the Kutch region of Gujarat. We work with brilliant people doing extraordinary things. We chose Kutch because we wanted canvas, and this region’s cotton was perfect. The artisans had the knowledge of the material we wanted to use, because the same canvas was used to make tarps in their farming communities.”
5. Practice what you preach.
Sofi says: “We provide fair trade for the labor behind Alice & Whittles. We give our artisan workers advance payment, health insurance, training, and there’s a commitment to full transparency about our business. From the organic cotton farmers’ seeds to the hand-weavers who make our shoes—we’re sticking to the principles we believe in. We’re not trying to make people feel guilty about what they buy, we’re trying to make a product that’s about workmanship, craftsmanship and quality. We want the shoes to be affordable and facilitate change on a grassroots level.”
6. Remember: Sacrifices can lead to the unexpected.
Sofi says: “Alice & Whittles is our baby, a reflection of both Nick and me. We don’t have anyone else but ourselves to do this. It’s our insides, our livelihood. Even for our wedding, we kept it very small because we spent that money on getting our business together.
Fear holds people back, and I had to shake off my ego and go against the grain of the family and culture I grew up in. But after I told my mother I was leaving the U.N. for fashion, she went upstairs to get a massive binder. In it was a coat of arms contract for my great-grandfather’s company, Alison & Co. They made clothes for the Raj, and the name was derived from the British mispronunciation of Ali & Son. We came up with the name as a play on Alison & Co. and Whittles, Nick’s mother’s family name. There’s so much love here, it’s so very meaningful to us. This is the best decision I ever made.”