April 19, 2021 – Hooray! We’ve made it to my first official ethical fashion post. It’s a big deal, mostly to me, because I have procrastinating hard on creating this content. Not because I didn’t want to, not because I didn’t have the means to, just because I felt so overwhelmed with all of my ideas. Does that happen to anyone else? You have this full vision for what you want things to look like and you spend two hours trying to figure out how to make the photos on your site portrait-style instead of landscape…and then you give up and don’t look at things for three months. No? Just me? Alright, that’s fair.
Anyway, we’re here and it’s real and I am so excited to share this post because it features an ethical fashion brand that I have been following for years:
Manos del Uruguay
I first interacted with them at an absolute dream event, TED Women 2016, in San Francisco. If you scroll back far enough on my Instagram, you’ll see a cute staged photo of me with the TED sign where I was straight cheesin’. What 23-year-old gets to go to TED for free?! A very privileged one, obviously! I mean, I was there to work as a vendor for their artisan marketplace, but still. The idea was to have a marketplace where people could shop all artisan-focused, ethically-made products. Part of the curated group of brands (by the Artisan Alliance, if you’re ever curious about resources for artisan brands) was Manos del Uruguay.
And oh my word was their booth plush! Their products are made in Uruguay by artisan women in rural areas, who are paid fair wages for their work. Their most well-known product is probably their wool yarn, which is all handmade and hand-dyed. They also make apparel and accessories, like scarves, hats, sweaters, and what I’m wearing here…
I have a merino wool poncho from their Traditional Huella line, most similar to this one, but have just seen their new spring collection on their website and wow – gradient-dyed wool shawls? I am in love.
It is truly a blanket and makes this weird spring in-between weather a lot more bearable, especially during pandemic times where a lot of gatherings are happening outside to limit the spread of COVID. The lovely ~lewk~ above was from a colleague’s bridal shower in the most adorable outdoor patio at Orso’s Italian Restaurant on Wells Street. I know Old Town isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is just something about Wells Street on a Saturday.
The wool fabric is surprisingly warm. Like, seriously. I’ve worn this in 40-50ºF weather a handful of times and have never felt too chilly. The fit is oversized, but the side slits make it breezy. I’m sure you could belt it and I’ve done a front tuck that turned out pretty well. The fringe on the bottom is such a cute touch and I love a good chunky turtleneck too. I’m wearing a size small here and am usually a medium but this fits perfectly so I’d recommend sizing down.
Best of all, it’s handmade, ethically, by women who are skilled in their trade. This poncho checks all of the boxes! When I set out to create more content that features ethical fashion and artisan and sustainable brands, Manos was at the top of my list. I know how deeply they care about investing in their artisans’ futures, while also preserving traditions that go back generations upon generations.
I love that it’s so versatile too! Last month, I wore this on an airplane and it was great for a long travel day, but was super easy to dress up with these heels and a light accessory. However, I should caution all of my fellow heel-wearers: Putting heels back on after the pandemic year was truly shocking. My ankles had a moment of panic trying to remember how to handle that whole situation. Luckily, we figured it out, whew!
I topped things off with one of my favorite (of very few) bracelets from Meyelo, another ethical brand that works with artisans in Kenya – a place that is near and dear to my heart. I found this group back when I first started getting into artisan, ethical fashion and, while brass jewelry is not scarce in Kenya, I was enchanted by their timeless, minimalist style and focus on the craft. The coil bracelet is a testament to that, case in point. PLUS, a portion of proceeds from their products go toward local community development.
Either of these would be a great gift for moms, with Mother’s Day coming up! Or for a treat-yourself-we-made-it-through-quarantining splurge. I’m personally eyeing this Dalma necklace for an easy, subtle statement piece…