The (Ethical) Edit: Brother Vellies

Aurora James, founder of the made in Africa shoe line, Brother Vellies, is a badass. She founded the line as a way to introduce the world to her favorite traditional African footwear while also creating and sustaining jobs in Africa. The shoes are handmade in South Africa, Kenya and Morocco and the craftsmanship is simply incredible. I’ve been following Aurora and her work for some time (I highly recommend this interview) and her newest product led me to finally launch this series.

If you’ve read Cheap, you are likely aware of the issues caused by the huge amounts of donated clothing that end up in Africa. The Brother Vellies T-Shirt Project is Aurora’s answer to this issue.
brother vellies t shirt project
From i-D:
A few years ago, on a trip to Nairobi to visit one of the brand’s workshops, Aurora saw a Kenyan man cycling down the street in a T-shirt that read “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.” It was funny. But it was also just one of the many absurd side effects of the current system of international clothing donations. Every year, Americans discard roughly 12 million tons of clothing, and a large portion of it ends up in Africa. But, contrary to our instincts, that clothing may be doing more harm than good.

In 2014, Aurora launched the Brother Vellies T-Shirt Project to help raise awareness of this problem. Specifically, she wants to highlight the damage foreign textile donations can do to local industry in Kenya; the influx of free imported clothes effectively destroys the market for locally produced garments.

This is how the T-Shirt Project works: with help from the artisans at her workshops, Aurora finds great American T-shirts in Kenya and sells them right back to America through her website, then all the proceeds go towards skills training and medical care in the local community. Because we’ve been sending our castoffs to Kenya for decades, among the piles of once-worn H&M going-out tops and discarded Romney Ryan 2012 T-shirts are original 70s ringer tees and collectible pieces of 90s DKNY. Aurora is well aware of the irony of sending these donations back to where they came from – but that irony is exactly what she wants to call out: the money raised by selling a T-shirt back to the US can be used to make more of a difference in Kenya that the donated shirt itself.
Brother Vellies t-shirt project

Read more about the T-Shirt Project.
Shop the T-Shirt Project.

(N.B. The Ethical Edit is a new series where I will occasionally share wonderful products that are not made in America, but are made responsibly and by thoughtful brands. I often receive questions about what brands to buy from when there isn’t a reasonable American made option, this is my attempt at answering those questions. I’ve thought a lot about this and feel comfortable with the addition, but I’m open to feedback. If this isn’t what you want to see here, please don’t hesitate to let me know.)

Images and excerpt via i-D Magazine. Text by Alice Newell-Hanson, photography by Jason Eric Hardwick.

The Introduction: Kindred Black

I recently stumbled across a new shop, Kindred Black, and when I found myself checking back this weekend, I realized it was time to share. As more and more shops launch with the same tried and true (albeit amazing) independent brands, I’m always thrilled to see a shop with several new-to-me brands and products… and a little bit of (really good) vintage is always an appreciated addition.

A Question of Eagles Enameled Copper Bowl
Made in Los Angeles, California

Yield Design Co. Spun Copper Planter
Made in St. Augustine, Florida

Brook There Boyshorts
Made in Portland, Maine

hand-blown glass bottle
Made in West Concord, Maine

Kumari Luxury Nourishing Bath Soak
Made in Washington D.C.

Flora Tea Tree Apple Cider Vinegar Toner
Made in Los Angeles, California

hand-blown glass bottle
Made in West Concord, Maine

Kindred Black is a retail studio sourcing and curating luxury lifestyle goods that are eco-responsible, craftsman produced and ethically manufactured. We believe style and design should not have to be compromised for eco-responsibility. We should have more options to make socially and environmentally conscious decisions about what we buy.

When sourcing product we look for at least one, but preferably a combination of the following elements – natural ingredients, low waste packaging, the use of recycled materials, manufacturing local to the designer, pre-owned, vintage items, craftsmen and handmade goods, and heirloom quality items that can be treasured and handed down for generations to come. Our vision is to promote the reuse of those things that are beautiful and already exist in the world and combine them with high quality contemporary goods that can replace a dozen mass produced and disposable versions.

Kindred Black is a proud member of 1% For The Planet, an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet.

(images via Kindred Black)

The Introduction: Tenfold by The Line

The internet has changed shopping – the fact that we consume differently now that all of the information is at our fingertips is indisputable. (Per Google, Black Friday may be a thing of the past – finally!) This is better for the consumer, but makes it more difficult for retailers for many reasons, the primary being that consumers are more likely to shop solely based on price and tend to bore more easily – it’s simply not as fun to shop if you see the same things in every city and on every website. Enter private label as a means of differentiation – retailers can create the products they want to sell, or that their customers have asked for, and benefit from exclusivity. I’m generally a proponent of private labels and retailer exclusives (it is what I do for a living!) but these collections have to be done thoughtfully, have to align with the brand and the customer, and perhaps most importantly, have to be special – in look, in feel, in origin, and ideally in price.

The Line, one of my favorite shops, and essentially a grown woman’s thoughtfully designed fairytale, has just launched Tenfold by The Line, an exclusive homegoods collection that aligns with their house apparel brand, Protaganist NYC, and the various brands carried in the shop. Not all of the products are American made, but it came as no surprise that my favorites were these pillows made in New York and ceramics made in Portland.

Ease is the art of making the deliberate — that which has been carefully considered, thoughtfully planned, and painstakingly realized—look effortless. It is far easier to achieve with an elegantly oversized cashmere sweater or a faded-to-perfection pair of jeans than in a living space, where tightly coordinated elements can take on a precious air while even the most calculated approach to casual may appear arbitrary and disorganized. Between these two extremes lies the enduring ease of Tenfold, a new collection of homegoods available exclusively on The Line and at The Apartments by The Line.

Tenfold transcends today’s ubiquitous, basic homegoods in favor of the exquisite and the enduring. It is an invitation to collect, combine, and cherish special pieces distinguished by old-world craftsmanship and American ease. Spanning categories ranging from bed linens and bath textiles to vessels and accessories, the new collection is a source of adaptable elements that are designed to be used daily and treasured for years to come.

The subtle yet polished palette—seasonless hues such as chalk, cream, oatmeal, graphite, and slate—allows Tenfold to be at home in the city and the suburbs, in the country and by the shore. Each item can stand on its own but was developed as part of a collection, and so also combines and layers easily.

(Images via The Line)

The Uniform: White T-shirts


This summer, I realized that I was reaching for my white crew neck far more frequently than the gray v-neck I’ve lived in over the last few years. When I looked around, I realized that I was in good company – all of my friends seemed to have made the switch as well.

I have a bit of a problem, and have tried them all… here’s what I look for in a t-shirt:
1. Texture – the fabric has to be soft and thin, but not so thin that it snags on jewelry, random corners, zippers, etc.
2. Opaque – I’m not interested in overly sheer t-shirts. Too much work!
3. Pre-shrunk – while I do hang dry, I’ll eventually miss something, so I look for shirts that won’t shrink too much when they inevitably end up in the dryer.
4. American made (duh).

There will always be a place for a well cut v-neck, but change is good. Some of my favorites, all under $100, because while I can justify spending money on something you can wear every day, I’m also clumsy, and red wine, coffee, and pen marks are the bane of a white tee’s existence.

1. Zady Linen Jersey T-Shirt
2. American Apparel organic Women’s Jersey tee
3. Cotton Citizen Classic Crew
4. Current/Elliott Petit tee
5. Reformation George tee
6. Frame le Boyfriend tee

A few other options: classic, hemp (an interview with the founder coming soon!), cropped and distressed.

Graphics for The American Edit by Rebeccah Erickson