Common Good

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I’ve always tried to use natural products whenever possible, while simultaneously valuing efficiency, effectiveness, and design/ease of use. We switched to Method products for our home years ago and I hadn’t given them a second thought until Goop sent out this home detox guide… and I realized that (according to the EWG) most of my favorite Method items weren’t actually that clean. I started to research new cleaners and was instantly overwhelmed… but then in a happy, fortuitous coincidence, I received an email introduction to Common Good that very day!

Common Good is a line of 100 percent biodegradable household cleaners in glass and plastic bottles, candles and gift sets that are made in the US and completely eco-friendly. Prior to founding Common Good, Sacha Dunn and her husband, Edmund Levine, were prop stylists living in Brooklyn, NY with two little ones. They started the line after a trip to Sydney, Australia to visit Sacha’s parents. Their two kids were traveling with them, so they were doing tons of laundry. And in Australia, almost everyone refills their laundry detergent bottles with refill pouches or milk carton refills. They thought it would be a great thing to start in the US since they couldn’t find anyone locally doing it.

We have been using Common Good products in our home and at The COMN for the last few months and I am in love. The products are gorgeous but simple (it’s so nice not to have neon colored soap in every bathroom!) and they really work. I was a little nervous about switching because I’m fairly particular and have a sensitive sense of smell, but everything is amazing… my only suggestion would be that I wish the plastic laundry detergent had a pump, because we put the detergent into the top of our machine, and I’m short (and weak!)… but that’s an incredibly minor issue!

Common Good is available at West Elm, online, and shops across the country… I didn’t realize it before, but we actually have a refill station down the street from The COMN! (which is awesome, because we go through a lot of dish soap around here…)

Sacha took some time to answer a few questions about her experiences building Common Good. It’s such a great story and example… I can’t wait to see what comes next from Common Good!

I LOVE THAT YOU WERE INSPIRED TO START THE BUSINESS AFTER TRAVELING – AND DOING LAUNDRY – IN AUSTRALIA. WE’VE ALL HAD IDEAS FOR BUSINESSES INSPIRED BY OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES – WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO ACTUALLY ACT ON THIS ONE? (I’m so happy that you did!)

I guess it’s in our nature! We seem to be risk takers, although I never would have thought that of myself before. We’ve both had long freelance careers, so we’re not afraid of working for ourselves. We’ve done crazy things before, like moving to a new country and starting from scratch. So this was a pretty easy move. Also, we had that lightbulb moment where we just knew we were onto something. The more research we did, the more excited we were to give it a go. (I’m so happy that we did too!)

HOW DOES YOUR BACKGROUND IN STYLING IMPACT COMMON GOOD?

Part of the reason we started Common Good was because we felt there was room for a modern brand of safe, green household cleaners. I wanted the design to be simple and attractive enough to leave out on the counter. It was a very similar process to styling except that in the end, we had a permanent product rather than a photo.

WERE YOU AWARE OF THE LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE NATURAL PRODUCTS INDUSTRY BEFORE YOU STARTED? HOW DID YOU DETERMINE WHAT YOU COULD (AND SHOULD!) USE?

No! I had no idea how unregulated products in the US were until starting Common Good! From the start, we chose to transparent about what’s in our products. We worked with great, green chemists to develop formulations that we were happy with. We put all the ingredient names on our labels even though it’s not required by law. Even now, plenty of brands use euphemisms which is just adding to the confusion about what’s safe. We have a page on our website that goes through each ingredient to explain what it is, and why we use it, in plain English. I look forward to a time when chemical ingredients have to be proven safe before they’re allowed on the market, instead of the EPA having to prove they’re not.

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YOUR PRODUCTS NECESSITATE A CHANGE IN HABITS FOR MANY AMERICAN CONSUMERS – HOW DO YOU INSPIRE THIS CHANGE? HOW DO YOU EDUCATE YOUR CUSTOMER?

We started with the idea that there were enough people like us who would be naturally drawn to refilling. Then we designed the bottles we wanted to see in our home. We had a feeling that if we make a bottle that people want, they’ll change their behavior to get it. Design drove the demand, and we made a hippie idea cool.

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IF YOU KNOW THEN WHAT YOU KNOW NOW?

Oh my goodness! Done an MBA?! Most of Common Good came about instinctively, but we’ve had to work out a lot of stuff along the way. I wouldn’t change anything about the brand or our products, but I would have loved to know more about manufacturing and business before we started.

HOW HAS LAUNCHING COMMON GOOD CHANGED YOUR PERSONAL CONSUMPTION HABITS?

Happily, we can refill our bottles! And that was the whole point from the start. I think there has been a lot of change in the country’s consumption habits since we launched Common Good. CSAs are more common, people use reusable shopping bags more than ever, and shoppers are learning more about what’s truly good or bad. I’m definitely more discerning than I used to be, and I think the upside is that whether food or chemicals, consumers are demanding change. The more we all know, the better.

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WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER MAKERS/ENTREPRENEURS?

Don’t listen to the naysayers. If you believe in your idea and think you have what it takes to get it done, go for it! But be prepared because once you launch, your business is your baby – it’s wonderful, but it will take everything you have.

WHAT IS NEXT FOR COMMON GOOD? WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?

I’m very excited about our new linen water spray which will be out in the fall. It’s a great way to freshen clothes without dry cleaning or you can a little scent to bedding without using chemical dryer sheets. We’re also about to do a baby range because our friends all have babies and are forcing us!

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Photos by Johnny Miller c/o Common Good

Disclosure: Common Good sent me products and we conducted this interview after I’d tried the products in my home and studio. I only feature brands that I will use, recommend, and love.

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Maryanne Moodie

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I’m a huge fan of Maryanne Moodie‘s incredible weavings, so a few months ago, I visited her at her beautiful home in Brooklyn to learn more about her work. Maryanne’s weavings are intricate and gorgeous – the thought and attention to detail in each piece is remarkable. Maryanne herself is as wonderful as her work – she is one of the nicest, most humble makers I’ve met, and her love and dedication for her craft is apparent.

My favorite part of our interview was when Maryanne told me about her search to find a craft and creative outlet – when you see a talented maker like Maryanne, you typically assume that she just picked up the craft and excelled at it – I loved learning about the many crafts she tried on her way to weaving, and can imagine that each of her attempts helped her to become the talented weaver she is today. Our meeting was a great reminder to me to keep pursuing new interests and hobbies… you never know what will come of them!

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

I was an Art teacher in Melbourne, and I also used to run a vintage clothing shop.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?

I started weaving about 3 years ago… I’d been creative, but not really creating, so I was looking for something I could make as a hobby. While looking for a craft, I tried basket weaving, knitting, and crochet, but nothing was the right fit. I’d seen and liked hanging textiles but didn’t know how they were made. While I was cleaning out a storeroom at school, I found a weaving kit and realized that the textiles I’d admired were weavings. I kept the kit and made my first piece and was so excited! I shared the item on my instagram account and received great feedback, which was validating. So I kept making more and posting and getting great feedback.

While on maternity leave, instagram and social media created a creative connection with society – I didn’t feel alone even though I spent a lot of time at home with the baby. It felt like everything clicked into place when I started weaving.

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DID YOU ALWAYS PLAN TO START A BUSINESS?

No, initially I thought this could be a hobby or something I could give as gifts. But, people immediately asked to commission work – I didn’t sell right away though, I wanted to make sure I was ready to sell – I had to figure out the finishings, how the weavings should hang, how to make sure they’d stay straight and even, etc.

This may be an Australian thing – but I was worried about Tall Poppy syndrome – the idea that if you rise above, you are asking to be cut down. Don’t be too confident, someone will always bring you back down. I wanted to be humble and to make sure my work was worth it. I wanted the work to speak for itself before I put it up for sale.

I primarily do commissions, I sell wholesale as well when possible. I like to push myself and I always treat this like a business even though I love it.

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WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Nick Cave’s embroidery and textures in the book, Doppelganger, Images of the Human Being. Ted Sabarese.

I like working with people who have a loose vision of what they are looking for so we can work together.

WHAT MADE YOU START TEACHING WEAVING WORKSHOPS?

I love teaching weaving – it combines my current role with my previous experience as an art teacher. And I love weaving so it is nice to share with other people who are also excited about it. The 3 hour class I teach should help you get to where I was after weaving for about 1.5 years – I learned a lot when I started and now I can teach people how to get started quickly, but you need to keep playing and trying to get comfortable with it. Learning to weave is difficult – when you google weaving, you only get information on hair extensions! It was a lot of work to find the right information – I can make it easier through my classes and kits.

The business has grown organically – I was making my own art, and then people wanted to buy it, so I sold it. Now, people want to learn, and I am happy to share. It’s a way to connect with people who are all over.

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Follow Maryanne : Instagram | Twitter

Photography by TAE.

Mara & Mine

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I discovered these rad skull loafers from Mara & Mine a few years ago (via instagram, obviously) and was so excited to meet the founders and see the studio when I was in LA. Mara & Mine was started by Jasmine Yarbrough and Tamie Ingham, Australian friends who live in Los Angeles. Jasmine & Tamie both got their start in fashion – Jasmine as a model and Tamie as a stylist – and their hectic studio jobs led them to search for cute, fashionable, and flat shoes they could wear all day.

They sourced leather for their shoes in the US and were planning to produce in Portugal and Spain (high-wage countries known for shoe-making) when they found a factory right in LA that could create the shoes that they were looking for. The collection is now in it’s fourth season, beloved by all of your favorite celebrities, and includes espadrilles, sandals, and bags – with more amazing options to come this fall. (the slip on sneakers in these photos are seriously incredible)

Shoes are hard to buy online… which was part of the reason I hadn’t invested in a pair of Mara & Mine loafers before visiting the studio. But the loafers are amazing – the materials and detailing are incredibly luxe, and the lambskin lining means the shoes will mold to your feet. And if you aren’t sure about which option to buy, Mara & Mine has recently launched a customization option, so you can create your dream shoes!

Thanks, Jasmine and Tamie, for taking the time to speak with me and show me your studio… and for proving to me that you can look extraordinarily chic while still being comfortable!

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WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Travel. Each season is based on where we travel together or where we would like to go. The architecture, the foods, the color, the materials that we see during our trips.

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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL? WHERE ARE YOU HEADED NEXT?

Harbor Island in the Bahamas – the people are so incredibly friendly, and we loved the local music. Next we are headed to Paris for trade shows.

WHAT GETS YOU THROUGH THE DAY? THROUGH THE WEEK?

Eachother (answered simultaneously!)
Coffee – Tamie. Green Tea – Jasmine.

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WHAT WAS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU WHILE YOU WERE SOURCING YOUR LINE?

Finding a great manufacturer, where we could control quality. We love that he hand makes everything.

WHAT ARE YOUR STYLE ESSENTIALS?

A blazer, Mara & Mines, sunglasses, leather pants, and a good tee.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Custom loafers and our fall collection. We’re working on some collaborations, including baby skull slippers we are really excited about! (adorable!)

WHO IS THE MARA & MINE GIRL?

Confident, well-traveled women. Fashion-forward, can be creative. A bit quirky. Like to have fun with fashion but still take it seriously. Also, very confident men who like to make a statement – we’ve heard that our loafers work as great pick-up lines for men! (even Ludacris wears them!)

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Original images by The American Edit.

Mara & Mine is a TAE A-list brand. Follow along:

Kieley Kimmel

I came across Kieley Kimmel’s incredible knits last fall (and still regret not buying a sweater!) – and her spring collection is even more incredible. The pieces are deceivingly simple – but the collection is built on incredible fabrics, prints and structural (yet still soft) details that make all the difference.

Read on to learn more about the inspirations behind the collection and what we can look forward to… this is a line I’m so excited to watch. (ps – my favorite online shop Mille has some Spring 14 pieces on sale! I’ll be forever envious if you buy that sweater!)

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WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?

My background is in Painting and Textile Design with a concentration on History, Philosophy + Social Sciences. I studied at Rhode Island School of Design.

WHAT INSPIRES YOUR COLLECTION?

I gather inspiration from my immediate surroundings and various theoretical texts. I’m mostly drawn to complex textures, materials and surfaces.

WHERE DO YOU DESIGN?

I design all of my collections at Kieley Kimmel Studio, Downtown Los Angeles. But the design/inspiration process is constant, no matter where I am.

WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE?

I love to take day-hikes + adventures on the outskirts of Los Angeles. There a ton of hidden rivers, pools and waterfalls in the Angeles National Forest. Also, Marfa TX is my dream space escape, but I haven’t been back to visit for over a year!

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WHY DO YOU MANUFACTURE IN AMERICA?

I’ve sourced some great LA manufacturers who are able to maintain a hand-made quality to their work, especially with garments that are focused on the fabric + textile. It’s a matter of quality control. I also prefer a more personal relationship to my production team.

WHY IS YOUR COLLECTION DIFFERENT?

I think the line appeals to a broad audience, and I always try to include a mixture of different styles/personalities in each collection. A little something for everyone. The textiles are custom designs, using very fine materials. I’ve noticed that the quality of fabrics are what people are initially drawn to.

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’d love to focus on my knitwear + possibly a Kieley Kimmel Unisex/Menswear line. Art direction for small-scale film projects has also interested me lately.

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Images c/o Kieley Kimmel. Follow along: