Fashion Revolution Week starts today, and we’ve got a problem. As we talk more about FRW and its signature #whomademyclothes campaign, we’re hearing comments like these:
Here’s the thing. Fashion Revolution, to us at FMB, isn’t about guilt. Guilt immobilizes, and we need a path to change that’s beaten by lots and lots of feet taking little steps.
That’s why we’re suggesting that you, a single consumer with (if you’re anything like us) imperfect shopping habits, use the #whomademyclothes campaign to show the positive changes that are already being made by you and others in your community.
Sure, you can ask that big Swedish brand #whomademyclothes - but you can also ask the scarf knitter at your farmer’s market and shine a light on her non-toxic dye process. She needs the marketing, and your city needs to see that they can take a small step towards more responsible shopping by purchasing from businesses like hers.
Our mantra is “Progress, not perfection.”
We want you to be brave this week by asking questions despite your own imperfections, and accepting answers that are equally imperfect. We’re all working within limitations, but the more we hear #whomademyclothes, the more normal it becomes to expect real change.
How to participate in Fashion Revolution Week:
Elsewhere in the world? Check out Fashion Revolution’s resources here - there’s lots to get involved in.
WIN House is the recipient of the pad, tampon, and undie donations we’re collecting during this month’s All About Her. Period. campaign. Claire and Lindsey stopped by WIN’s offices to meet Tess Gordey, Executive Director, and learn more about WIN’s services and donation needs.
Tess has over 30 years of experience in education, development of policies, and ethical practices relating to domestic violence prevention. She is a Registered Social Worker who earned her Masters of Social Work in Leadership in Human Services from the University of Calgary. Along with her role of advocacy and leadership at WIN House, Tess is a member of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters and the Capital Region Housing Committee.
Claire: Tess, can you tell us a little about how you got started in your career?
Tess: I started out in 1996 as a counsellor in Second Stage Housing (SSH) at the Brenda Strafford Foundation. The foundation began in Calgary in the first three floors of a nine-storey building in the Kensington neighbourhood, and has since been replaced by a new mixed-housing project on 10th Street in Calgary.
It was about two years ago that I was 18 years into the same job and ready for a change. When I got the job at WIN House, my husband and I packed our van in about five days. We moved up to Edmonton with our three dogs, and I was here!
Claire: WIN House turns 50 next year. Can you tell us a little bit about the role you play in our community, and how the organization has developed over the years?
Tess: Women only gained personhood in Canada in 1929 - and fifty years ago, there were no places for women to go. Most of the ‘shelters’ fifty years ago were a bedroom in a friend’s house. Fifty years later, women’s shelters are still turning away twice as many people as they’re taking in.
WIN House provides a safe space, physically and emotionally. We invest in creating emotional and psychological security by providing clothing and some of the comforts of home. We have a part-time donations coordinator to help with this, and we run a “WIN House Boutique” where our clients can select free donated clothing. We’ve got some amazing donors - Central Sewing, for example, makes heirloom-quality quilts to go on all our beds; our clients can take them when they move on.
Lindsey: Have you noticed change in how we approach violence against women in the past 50 years? Has there been improvement?
Tess: Change has been slow. It’s mostly about collaboration and community development. There are so many complex pieces - the bottom line is, this is a gender issue.
When I was a teenager, I remember my father watching Question Period on TV, and almost every MP erupting in laughter when there was a question about domestic violence prevention. My mom had to have a note signed by my dad to get her tubes tied after giving birth to 7 kids. At 15, I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t right.’
However - there are a lot of changes we have been able to make in the past 15 years:
Claire: Do you think that progress is going to come from lots of small changes, or from a few big ones?
Tess: We’re hoping that the small changes add up to big change. Where marketing and community involvement is concerned, we can only do what I’m able to do off the side of my desk - which is why it’s so crucial for community to come to us. Your campaign and others, like November Family Violence Month, are great examples.
Claire: Can you tell us a little about your resources, and what WIN House needs to be able to continue providing its services?
Tess: 65 percent of our funding is from government, and 35 is from private donors and community fundraisers. We’re really lucky that funding’s been holding steady despite the financial downturn - the difference is that we’ve lost some of their big donors, but gained almost twice the third-party donors.
Funding is always a challenge, especially because the goal is always “sustainable” funding. Sometimes, we have to say, ‘It doesn’t matter if this funding might not existing 2 or 3 years - think of all the families we can help now who would otherwise be turned away at the door.’
A specific funding challenge right now is that WIN clients aren’t technically “chronically homeless,” and we can’t access some funding options because of that. We try to argue that our clients need temporary housing to prevent homelessness.
The frustrating thing is that we can only help about one-third of the women who come to us - and that means that, by the end of the triage process, most of the women we serve are the ones who have absolutely zero resources. Not the women who have some money squirrelled way just in case, or the women who have friends or family they can call. It’s important to remember how little these women have - not just when they come to us, but ever. Donations like fresh underwear, or little treats like bubble bath or even a blank journal - these are luxuries.
Claire: How does WIN House approach the conversation with women around menstruation supplies - especially with women from different backgrounds and levels of comfort in period-talk?
Tess: The experience of a well-off woman who’s had a good understanding and healthy body image is going to be very different from a woman who’s been sexually abused or traumatized. We see tampon ads on TV in a way that we may not have 15 years ago - but it’s still all about running through daisies. There are bins at the houses for pads and tampons, and it’s our job to learn what women need - and to do so in a culturally sensitive way.
You can read more about WIN House here and meet the rest of the team here. Through the end of March, we’ll be accepting in-person donations of undies, pads, tampons, and any other personal-care items at:
9909 72 Ave NW, Edmonton (Timbre Studios)
Monday - Friday, 9 - 5
Check out our All About Her. Period. Campaign-specific products here, including a $5 Period Pack that we’ll donate on your behalf.
We were overwhelmed by the super-positive, genuinely heartwarming response to our February Bestie Box campaign - first and foremost, thank you for making what’s usually a pretty cold, icky month awesome. Y’all are amazing. Seriously.
When you get that kind of momentum going, you don’t want to lose it. So this month, in honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re honouring the women in our broader communities - those who need a boost during a time of difficult transition.
WIN House is an Edmonton-based shelter that provides safe spaces, in addition to emergency services, for women and children who are escaping domestic violence. Among the list of items WIN is always in need of? Period stuff. Lady things. Underoos. All that stuff that’s worn below the belt, as it were… and which we’re asking for your help collecting. Here are three ways to take part:
Again, thank you for the love you showed us and your besties in February - we’re so excited to join you in boosting even more women this month.
A note from Claire:
A few weeks ago, I found a folded-up list of Flatter:Me goals from May 2015. Circled three times and surrounded by stars was “HIRE A MARKETER.” I’d just escaped the Great Firewall of China and moved to Canada, where people used something called Twitter; I had only the vaguest idea of what a hashtag was, and I was pretty certain that I was missing out on super cool opportunities to connect with other businesses that care as much as we do about social justice, size-inclusive fashion, and women’s entrepreneurship. The worst part? I was hearing from customers with extraordinary stories about why and how they use our belts - and instead of re-shouting their praise from the rooftops, I was burying it under supplier contracts, tax returns, and the other desk work that was kept me busy all day long. In other words - I felt too busy to get the help I needed. To become less busy. Sigh.
This, along with a deep feeling of inadequacy for not being able to Do It All, went on ‘til this month. Then - along came Lindsey. We’d worked together on a sustainable fashion event and kept in touch. When I learned she was on the market and looking for a job where she could make a real difference, I snapped her up. It was terrifying.
Until, of course, her first day on the job, when it was clear that (a) she was going to nail this and (b) I *of course* was never going to be able to Do It All And More. It’s a full! Time! Job! to make and maintain meaningful connections with people and organizations you care about. After her Flatter:Me début as Bestie Box Mastermind, I have no idea what we ever did without her - and I’m so excited to see where she takes this role. Welcome, Lindsey.
I can hardly contain my enthusiasm about being part of the incredible Flatter:Me Belts team as their first-ever Marketing Coordinator. I’ll be the gal chatting to you over social media, shooting product photos/videos, plotting super-fun campaigns, drinking too much coffee, and who you’ll reach out to if you want to collab with Flatter:Me Belts - *wink*.
A voice emerges: Lindsey, we want to know, how did you find yourself in this position?
Glad you asked, mysterious voice that *totally* isn’t me talking to myself… I wasn’t originally in marketing. Coming from a more science- and math-inspired background, I originally found myself in oil and gas positions, originally in Calgary and later in Edmonton. A career segue about a year and a half ago pulled me through into the world of marketing. I started to understand the feeling that people get when they truly love their job. I was SO grateful that I had found my way into this amazing world that blends fun and creativity with logic and analysis (see, Mom and Dad, my education didn’t go to waste). In hindsight, maybe I should have taken business or communications in post-secondary, but I would have missed out on a pretty wicked adventure that led me here.
Voice: Surely that’s not all you do, Lindsey. When not at work, where can we find you?
How’d ya know? In the past six months, I’ve started pursuing photography (live music and portraits are my faves) and I also became a 200HR yoga teacher. Aaand I took a few DJ lessons, which I’d love to continue in the near future... And don't call me Shirley.
Personal hobbies aside, I enjoy volunteering in the community. Claire and I actually worked together on Change of Clothes, an annual Edmonton-based responsible fashion event with speakers, a clothing swap, repairathon, and upcycling workshops. Mark your calendars, because the 2017 event is taking place during Fashion Revolution Week. I’d love to see you all out!
Oh, and I looove to travel. At least once per year, I like to pick a place completely foreign to me and check it out - double the points if I do it alone. My travel track record includes Colombia, Singapore, and Iceland. I am headed to Portland in a few months - I hear it is beautiful, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the 24hr donut shop was the biggest draw for me.
Voice: If someone wanted to get in contact with you, how could they best do that?
I can be reached by email at lindsey@flattermebelts - and I love making new friends, so drop me a line any time.
Happy Family Day - or as we like to call it, Friends-Whom-We-Call-Family Day. Little bit of a mouthful, sure, but as we run our February Bestie Box campaign, we’ve been blown away by the stories you’ve shared about your buddies - how you met, what you love about them, how they’ve supported you - and it’s pretty darn clear to us that friends really are the family you choose.
Today, we’re featuring the third woman entrepreneur making our Bestie Box possible: Amy Beaith-Johnson, founder of PLANTiful and creator of the gloriously luxurious lip butters we’re rubbing all over our faces as we type including in every BB. For almost fifteen years, Amy has been obsessed with developing products with pure, fine ingredients for sensitive skin. She launched PLANTiful in 2009, and we really relate to the value she places on community as she grows her biz. Below - Amy’s chat with Lindsey.
Lindsey: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Amy! Can you tell me a bit about how PLANTiful started and how it felt to receive feedback from your first customers?
Amy: I started PLANTiful with the intention of making natural skin care products - this was way back in 2004, [and started] just as a hobby. I actually used to be a medical librarian, but creating these products was a creative outlet for me and it really filled a personal need: I needed skin care products for myself that could treat my eczema and that were toxin-free. I have always needed to be careful in the products that I used on my skin.
When I started with the idea of my skin care business, my friends and family were really the ones who helped give it a push. They would give me positive feedback about my products and encourage me to try selling them, but I had to learn so many things - building a website, how to market, and all the things that go with running your own business. I didn’t have a helper until last year. In the beginning, my husband helped a lot - he was an automatic helper. My kids also love helping.
Receiving initial positive feedback from my customers was so empowering - like, “They’re giving me money for this - this is great.” The biggest rush I get is having returning customers - when they say that the products work well. It’s so cool seeing how they’re getting healthy, clear skin again.
Lindsey: What was life like pre-PLANTiful? You mentioned your librarianship - was this in Edmonton?
Amy: No, actually. I did my librarianship all over in places like Toronto, Vancouver, Saskatoon, and Vancouver Island. When I moved to Edmonton, I was ready to leave librarianship behind. I started with an intention of making a part-time business - there was such an amazing handmade market scene in Edmonton that inspired me that I thought, “I should try to make a go of this.”
Lindsey: How do you feel travelling and working around Canada has affected your friendships?
Amy: In some ways, moving helps you find your true friends - the ones you thought were closer sometimes turn out not to be when you move away. One of my best friends is my cousin in Saskatoon - Michelle. She always joins me on adventures and takes part in my crazy ideas. When I was just starting out, she and I made soap one night. We were up until four in the morning waiting for it to set properly. We didn’t think it would take that long, but we were so far in that we had to see how well it worked. It turned out so good - my eczema went away after using these handmade products!
Lindsey: Who are the besties in your life who helped PLANTiful grow?
Amy: I definitely lean toward female influences in the city. I want to promote women-owned businesses. I have one female employee, whose name also happens to be Michelle.
Michelle: (in the not-so-distant kitchen) Hi!
Amy: She does everything from helping with production to looking after the kids for a little bit [Ed. note - like Jacqueline from JACEK Chocolate and Claire here at Flatter:Me, Amy’s also a mom. Making the acquaintance of her two little girls was the highlight of our photo shoot.] Michelle’s been my right-hand for sure. I couldn’t have grown the business without her help.
I also look to Justine Ma (Justine Ma Design). We became friends through the Royal Bison and ended up beside each other at craft shows. When I decided that I wanted to rebrand, I approached Justine for her advice and ideas.
Jillian Schecher, the photographer, has been another great local female influence. [One more ed. note - we can’t help ourselves - Jillian’s the photographer behind a lot of Flatter:Me’s images - if you’re an Edmonton brand needing stellar photography, look her up!]
Lindsey: How about your regular customers - have you found that friendships have grown from those interactions?
Amy: Definitely. One of my customers was cleaning out her basement one day and found a bunch of kids’ books and asked if I wanted them!
Lindsey: Has there been a time where you and PLANTiful have been able to reciprocate the friend-love and help a peer grow their business?
Amy: Around the time that I was starting my skin care business, I met a woman named Nicole on a VIA Rail train going from Edmonton to Vancouver. This was one of those 24-hour train rides where you don’t get to get off. At the time of me meeting her, Nicole was doing marketing and advertising. We ended up chatting about the business of skin care and she said, “I think I want to do that one day.” We stayed in touch through Instagram and Facebook, and when she started her own skin care business, she asked for some advice and questions. I was happy to help her wherever I could. Her business is called Wild Moon Organics.
Lindsey: That’s too neat! I love that both of you were able to pursue your passions. Thanks for your time, Amy. Can you tell us which markets you’ll be at next?
Visit PLANTiful's online shop here!
Bestie Boxes include a Flatter:Me Belt, a JACEK Chocolate Couture bar, and a PLANTiful lip butter. They start at $39 including shipping and are available all February long.
Shop the Bestie Boxes below - available for a limited time only!
The Bestie Boxes we’re featuring this month are all about celebrating the strength of the relationships we have with the women in our lives. What you might not know is that the actual contents of the boxes reflect this, too - Jacqueline Jacek of JACEK Chocolate Couture and Amy Beaith-Johnson of PLANTiful are two Edmonton-based entrepreneurs we’ve admired for a long time, and who help make up a local community of extraordinary women-owned businesses.
It’s taken a village to get Flatter:Me off the ground, and we were curious about the friendships that might have helped our Bestie Box collaborators’ businesses launch and thrive. First up? JACEK Chocolate Couture, founded in 2009 in the basement of owner Jacqueline’s home and since expanding to brick-and-mortar shops in Sherwood Park, Edmonton, and Canmore, in addition to a thriving e-commerce operation. Inspired by couture fashion, JACEK introduces collections of chocolates seasonally - and for special occasions (if anyone wants to send a Valentine’s gift to FMB HQ, please send a box of Champagne & Strawberry Truffles).
On Friday, FMB’s Lindsey and Claire braved the cold to visit JACEK’s factory and original storefront in the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park. Through ladylike mouthfuls of chocolate samples, we asked Jacquie: Who are the besties she leans for support as JACEK grows?
Jacqueline: There are a lot of women who I have looked up to - mentors from afar who I’ve watched. These women are strong, but vulnerable at the same time, which I think there is a lot to be said about. Someone who I have admired is Angela Santiago from The Little Potato Company. I think she’s done a lot of really cool things and represents the kind of person I want to be. Also, JACEK is a team of females and we work really well together. We have one guy and he does very well with 14 other women - but having hired women has been very good for my business. We just “get” each other. There have been a lot of friendships that form here, and as life happens to us all, we do a good job of understanding and supporting one another.
Claire: I remember you telling me that you moved a lot when you were younger. [Jacqueline was born in Canada, but grew up in New Zealand.] How has that affected the way you’ve started and kept friendships?
Jacqueline: My two best friends are in London and Germany. They’re friends from university. I don’t feel like geography has separated us. Sure, we don’t go for wine as often and we only see each other once every two years... but when we do see each other, it’s intense, and it’s awesome. For keeping in touch, it’s the little notes through social media and technology that help keep the friendship alive.
Claire: For me, it was so fun living in China but so hard moving away. These people who know me so intimately now are on the other side of the world. But then I realize that they’re just a FaceTime or text away. The time difference actually makes it fun, because I wake up to their hellos and vice versa.
Jacqueline: Yes! And I think the biggest thing is that nobody apologies for not communicating over a certain amount of time. If we go six months without talking, it’s okay. That’s when you know it’s a true friendship. We know we’re thinking of each other; there is love from afar. If something happens where you need to talk, we’re there for each other - even if it’s the wrong time of the day.
Lindsey: How do you manage the balance of being fully present at JACEK and in your friendships?
Jacqueline: Balance is a funny thing - everyone’s is defined differently. I have a lifestyle that I’ve chosen, and I really embrace being active in the present rather than trying to schedule things in. In my business, there are seasons that are going to be crazy at work. I’m going to be working long hours, and I’m going to be totally focused on that. But there are also seasons - like the summer - where work isn’t going to be as demanding, and that’s the time when I’m going to dive in deep with my friendships.
If you strive for an idea of balance, you’re inevitably going to fail. The friends I have in my life understand the nature of my work, and I understand the nature of theirs - we’re all busy. But if your friends want to see you fulfill your dreams, they will be there. These are the people who will be cheerleading for you.
Visit JACEK Chocolate Couture's online shop here! They offer pick-up orders for Valentine’s - and year-round - at their retail locations. We highly recommend indulging in their sweet treats on all occasions.
Bestie Boxes include a Flatter:Me Belt, a JACEK Chocolate Couture bar, and a PLANTiful lip butter. They start at $39 including shipping and are available all February long. Next time on the blog? A visit with Amy Beaith-Johnson, owner of PLANTiful.
Shop the Bestie Boxes below - available for a limited time only!
In the hierarchy of needs, we’re pretty sure “keeping pants up” is second only to...
This is why we’ve teamed up with two other businesses to create our first-ever care package: the Bestie Box. The idea here is that we’ve all got a friend who could use a little extra love; by love, of course, we mean a Flatter:Me Belt, JACEK artisanal chocolate bar, and PLANTiful organic lip butter. The only question left: how best to surprise your unsuspecting lady pal with their Bestie Box?
After careful calculations and analyses, our panel of Expert Surprisists offers the following three Bestie Box Reveals:
1. Lunchtime Delivery: Suggest a lunch date out with your bestie, keeping your Bestie Box hidden in the extra-roomy tote bag you’ve planfully brought to work. When you arrive at the restaurant/taco truck, escape for a moment to the bathroom/condiment stand. Visit your server/fellow taco-lover and ask for them to deliver the box to your table along with dessert/their leftovers. Be prepared to tip either way.
2. Grab the Snacks: This one is for the couch-and-movie aficionados out there. Schedule an evening of binge-watching the ‘flix, complete with jammies, snacks, and an invite for your best gal. Plant the Bestie Box in the refrigerator and, when you begin the movie, look extra-snuggled in while wistfully mentioning that you forgot the dip for your chips. When she selflessly treks to the fridge, your bestie will find an awesome surprise! (And you’ll pour her an extra glass of wine for her trouble.)
3. Scavenger Hunt: This method is for the overachievers among us - it requires intense attention to detail and a keen mind for sleuthing. Invite your bestie over to your house and hand her a clue. Our gamemaster Google suggests:
*Dusts off hands* Well, there you have it - three expert-approved ways to make your bestie’s February awesome. Have your own strategy for a Bestie Box Reveal? Let us know in the comments. Extra points if it involves haiku or geocaching.
We’ve got a limited number of Bestie Boxes, but they’re sendable - for free - anywhere in the world, all February long. Check ‘em out below!
A funny thing happened on the way to making a flat belt: We realized we have kiiiind of an awesome travel belt on our hands, too.
We started getting pictures like these from customers:
And then Claire did an epic capsule wardrobe trip to central Europe:
And, most recently, our customer Cathlyn came in to the office to pick up three belts that she said *had* to have before she left for a cruise.
Flatter:Me on a cruise? Belts on a boat? We needed to know what exactly made FMBs indispensable on a Caribbean cruise. Said Cathlyn:
“We have really limited luggage space — and my husband needs most of it for once, because he has to pack a suit for formal dinners. My pants fit better with belts, but they’ve got to be really compact and roll up with my clothes when I pack.”
We get it. Luggage space is at a premium even when your partner’s not packing black-tie. We just leave our Flatter:Me’s in our belt loops and roll our pants right up. Donezo!
Two other things that make Flatter:Me a great travel companion:
Overall? When you’ve got a bite-sized suitcase to work with, everything in it has to do at least double duty. (Or, if you’re Jocelyn in Mexico, triple duty — there’s an out-of-sight Flatter:Me attaching her bug net to the ceiling:)
You deserve to feel chic and put-together even when you’re rotating through a very limited number of clothes — you may have washed those jeans in your hotel sink, but darn it, they fit like a dream.
If you’ve taken your Flatter:Me Belt on a trip, tell us how it went. And it’s snowbird season — if you’re about to head off on an adventure, we’d love to hear where you’re going and what you’re packing. Tag us on Instagram or post to our Facebook page so we can see!
Hi — Claire here!
Welp, here we are, smack-dab in the middle of holiday shopping season. Black Friday’s well behind us; Christmas is still a couple of weeks out; and I have to admit that while we’re really proud to offer our products and occasional deals, this whole shop!-shop!-shop! thing leaves the minimalist in me a bit… conflicted.
I honestly never thought I’d be in the making-and-selling-of-stuff business. The world has a lot of stuff, you know? And I had stuff fatigue coming out of Industrial Design in university. But, as you know from our origin story, I also had a pants problem, and I saw a opportunity to make neat jobs in my neighbourhood. Flatter:Me Belts was born.
A few years into the business, I still stare at incoming shipments of belts with a combination of excitement and queasiness. A few thousand belts represent hundreds of hours of labour, kilometres of material, and a very real carbon footprint. But here's what else they do:
So where does that leave Flatter:Me, and how we talk to you — without whom we wouldn’t have a business — about shopping this season? Well, there’s a lot of good we want to do in the world, and we do it by putting belts on hips. During the shopping season, we want our belts to truly solve the problem that we bet you’re facing: figuring out how to give something useful, meaningful and, for heaven’s sake, easy. After Christmas, we get to dive back into all our other jobs. We've got big goals to reach, and small belts to reach 'em with.
Sending you every wish for a peaceful, meaningful holiday season.