Pioneering a new level of transparency and demanding ethical production is the raison d’etre of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters, formerly of Hugo Boss.
Saddled with corporate malaise through years at the top of the fashion industry, Pieters went to Southern India and suddenly saw fashion from the opposite lens.
Gandhi’s famous words “be the change you want to see in the world” was what propelled him to create Honest By, the first company in the world to share the full cost breakdown of its products. Thus, designers have a public platform to share their own design processes; utilizing the extensive research Honest by has already conducted on organic fabrics and suppliers.
“We communicate everything about the materials, the manufacturing methods, and even the pricing strategies of the products stocked with honest by, to our client. Every part of the collaboration process is transparent including the store mark up calculations. We also invite different designers and brands to create ‘Green’ items or collections for honest by. All collections are then exclusively sold via the Honest by online store.”
Pieters is creating a new paradigm: one in which other retail brands can no longer afford to push exploitative practices under the carpet. Honest by is motivated by the challenges humankind faces collectively, to the climate and to ecosystems, in the hopes that as a pioneer, others will follow its lead.
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"Sustainable garment creation through a cooperative serving those touched by physical and mental abuse, trauma or disability. A fair trade ethic to protect human dignity. The opportunity to rebuild fragile lives through aesthetic values."
The marriage of couture and philanthrophy by Eden Diodati
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In the quest for the perfect T-shirt, the founder of PIMA DOLL Ashley Hamedi decided to create one herself.
The exclusive and dedicated use of Pima cotton, hand-woven by Peruvian women artisans: pima cotton is the most luxurious of fabrics—ecologically harvested, hand picked and preserved for thousands of years.
She sticks true to her principles of sustainability, transparency, and the preservation of indigenous skill. Her cotton is grown without environmental impact, as the leftover cuttings of the tee’s are upcycled into beautiful, one of a kind hand knits.
The result is striking, simple luxury that provides economic freedom and employment for local women in Peru, proving a business model that does not equate luxury with compromising ethics.
More on PIMA DOLL can be found here
NEST is dedicated to the inherent principles of social enterprise; that the maintenance of cultural heritage and indigenous craft is not mutually exclusive to successful for-profit models.
SAHALANDY is the epitome of such an enterprise; composed of the female Silkies of Madagascar who hand-weave the native raw silk of their country to preserve their heritage, protect the environment, and provide sustainable livelihood for their families.
Spearheaded by Natalie Mundy and Daniel Branch, who founded SAHALANDY in 2010 while serving as Peace Corps volunteers, the potential of their project is unlimited. The silkies are able to transform their ontological understanding of themselves, taking control of their livelihood through enhanced business skills and the beautiful crafts they produce. They are now able provide for their families and improve the lot of their community at large.
Thus, silk is not merely limited to a tradition that is passed down through generations, but also serves as a lifeline that supports and maintains community bonds. Raw silk from Madagascar is considered cruelty free, or “peace silk” due to the humane treatment of the worms. Over twenty individual hands collect the cocoons, spin, dye, and weave, using traditional and time-honored techniques.
“One silk strand is strong, but when many are woven together they are stronger” – Malagasy proverb
More information on SAHALANDY can be found here
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Palestinian handicrafts are a symbol of the plight of the Palestinian people in the face of the Israeli occupation, helping them survive and thrive during the long and desolate hours of immobilization.
More specifically, Tratreez Fallahi, or cross-stitch embroidery, is a traditional craft practiced by village women in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian diaspora, springing from a three thousand year long tradition from the biblical Canaanites. In contemporary Palestinian society, this craft also represents the rural and agrarian lifestyle that was threatened after the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.
However, whilst its revival stems from a place of loss, embroidery provides income-generating opportunities for hundreds of women. Thus, Palestinian women embroider shawls, scarves, and purses to support their families while ensuring that their traditional art form is kept alive.
Their artisanship and resilience is reflected in the superlative quality and beauty of their products.
Their products can be seen at the Sunbula Online Craft Market
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It is truly aspirational when a social enterprise can alleviate an entire eco-system through a design-led organization with an economically sustainable model.
London-based The Living Furniture Project creates recycled collections in collaboration with world-class designers and employs formerly homeless apprentices in the process.
Every piece of furniture is handmade from reclaimed furniture and materials, and is completely unique.
LFP apprentices are homeless; their mentorship program gives them a dignified and sustainable means of living and income whilst not compromising on the beauty of the end product. Founder Alastair Sloan on his social enterprise: “transforming unwanted pieces into magical, high quality furniture is great fun and more importantly, helps people turn their lives around.”
“Rebuilding the life of a homeless person is about so much more than a salary, or the training we offer. It is about the moment when they hold something in their hands and think – I did that.”
More information on the project The Living Furniture Project
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Showcasing breathtaking traditional textiles from all corners of the world, NEST is featuring Bògòlanfini or bogolan (“mud cloth”), a handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud that has experienced a revival in the international design scene, from fashion to fine art to interior design.
Rooted in Mali, this beautiful form of craftsmanship proliferated throughout West Africa, particularly Burkina Faso and Guinea, combining the plentiful natural ingredients of water, earth, sun, and natural dyes.
The fabric is passed through a yellow dye bath, coming from African birch bush, and then sun-dried. Fermented clay, left in the earth for several weeks, is used to create the motifs. Each piece is symbolic, designed for ritualistic use. Once applied, it is again sun-dried, reacting with sunlight to oxidize the base.
Bògòlanfini cloth is rich in cultural significance; becoming a symbol of Malian cultural identity since the 1980’s.
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As a part of our series celebrating master craftsmanship, NEST is featuring the superlative John Neeman Tools, a company whose deep heritage and tradition is flourishing in this high-tech, mechanized age.
Founded by carpenter Jacob and a local village bladesmith, John Neeman Tools is comprised of a crew from Latvia who pass on their deep knowledge of blades and technique from generation to generation, in order to produce the best and most beautiful woodworking tools and knives on earth.
The crew uses a plethora of materials, ranging from 9260 spring steel in their blades (the same material used by samurai swordsmiths for centuries due to its ability to resist snapping and shattering), to locally harvested and kiln dried elm for handles and local high-quality leather cow hide for hand stitched sheaths.
“We use our hands to produce tools that will live on, telling their story in the hands of the craftsmen after us. Each tool we make is born with energy and personality – a love and care that will be felt daily by each craftsman; a resonance from the heart of the tool.
Our traditions of blacksmithing and woodworking walk step by step together. We are uniting our history, traditions and craftsmanship in one ancient craft – tool making.”
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This is a short documentary movie that shows the whole process of how John Neeman Tools are being hand crafted.
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NEST is committed to the tradition of craft and responsible artisan businesses that empower individuals and communities at large.
This week we are featuring New York based jewelry designer Karen Erickson of Erickson Beamon, who celebrates craft in the strictest sense of the word, designing one-of-a-kind, handmade jewelry pieces since the 1980’s. She is also credited with bringing statement jewelry ladled with crystals, pearls and embellishments into vogue and pioneering the concept of the chandelier earring.
“Consumers are getting something larger than themselves when they buy one of my pieces” states Karen with pride, “they feel the love; every single piece comes with a lifetime guarantee, passed on from generation to generation.”
But what is unique and special about Karen is the manner in which she treats her craftsmen, those who so carefully assemble her jewels. “I treat my employee as family; I love them, they are my favorite people in the world.” She ensures their livelihood, as well as the livelihood of their entire families, never sacrificing financial gain for human compassion.
For Karen, her company is an extension of her spiritual self; it is about the production of “beautiful things” made with love and human feeling. Erickson Beamon is thus the embodiment of all she represents, evoking an emotional response that reflects the heart and soul that goes into each and every dazzling creation.