The Parative Project

this flag won't change your life, but it will change someone else's

parative

a trip to a little place I like to call the mall

Drew Oxley

 If you follow this blog you probably know for the past 6 months we have been trying to shop ethically... (side note: "ethically" has become such a trendy word, how we like to define it is that the company or brand knows where their clothes are being manufactured and can guarantee that their manufacturing facilities are practicing safe and fair labor laws).

Over the weekend we went walking through the mall and we weren't really seeing anything from the brands we are familiar with and know we can shop. Walking through the mall when you are an ethical shopper is like one of those horses pulling a carriage, the kind with the blinders on the side of their eyes, but minus the pulling a carriage part. You don't want to spend a bunch of time looking at things you simply couldn't buy if you wanted to. Well, I had a weak moment and I peeked around my blinders. I saw this shirt from a brand that I know isn't strict about their supply chain. I was just setting myself up for failure because then I continued to try it on :) OOPS! It was so perfect and I would've worn it everyday. I really wanted to buy it. Drew just looked at me like why are you doing this to yourself? Luckily, he was there because if I was alone I'd most likely be sporting that shirt right now, and boy would I look good in it, just kidding, we would've talked about it when I got home and I would have returned it.

So the point is, I didn't get the shirt and I walked away super bummed about it and not excited about what we have chosen to do this year. I walked away so annoyed that I can't even buy a shirt that I really like not because we don't have the money (you better believe I've been saving up!!) but because the people who make it don't value their workers. It may sound dramatic to you, I couldn't get a shirt, whats the big deal? Let me tell you what the big deal is.. It's that many women in the world don't have the opportunity to be mad about buying or not buying a shirt because they are forced into labor and have no fair options or the choice to leave. The other part of the big deal is that huge corporations don't care enough about the lives of these women to guarantee them safe and fair labor, instead they take advantage of them and turn a blind eye. If I wasn't having enough of a cow the thing that tops it off is that WE EAT IT UP. We love it. We brag about the cheap deals we get without considering at whose expense we are getting a deal.

Something has to change in the fashion industry. I think choosing whether or not you buy something depending on the company's labor practices will make a difference. I'd like to believe that if we start shopping places like Everlane or PeopleTree, instead of places that can't and won't give information about their manufacturing practices, it will make companies change their ways of treating employees. I don't know, am I crazy for thinking this? That we could single handedly take down the man? Ha, I'M KIDDING. But I know money talks. And I think when we (ME TOO, I'm so guilty of it) throw our money at brands who don't care about labor practices we essentially say fair labor isn't important to us. 

We pick the things that the media cares to talk about it. When we turn our attention to the Kardashians and Fantasy Football that is what they are going to cover. We as the public pick the things that are popular or cool. When we start saying things aren't cool and we want change, businesses have to listen or they won't last. We as the public have to engage and search and care about things that matter. That is when we will have a large affect. 

I guess what I learned isn't to not go in the mall. What I'm learning is that we all have a voice. And how we spend or don't spend our money is a way to use that voice, I think its one of the most effective ways. We must remember that until all of us are free, not one of us is free. 

 

 

 

Why we love where our goods are made

Drew Oxley

We are so excited to be doing a 3 part series with Freestate and bonJOY! When all three of our businesses decided to collaborate we wanted to obviously do a giveaway (everyones favorite word!!) but we also wanted to inspire anyone who is starting their ethical journey. We wanted to bring you guys some valuable content and information on where ethical goods start and how they end up in the hands of you (or anyone who buys them). This week between our businesses we will discuss 3 things that contribute to effectively fostering ethical business.  Tonight we are going to touch on the production side of ethical fashion.

With Drew's recent trip to India he had the opportunity to see the production facilities that Parative partners with first hand. The production facilities we work with have a lot of depth because they not only value fair labor but they choose to hire and train women that were previously at risk or on the streets being trafficked.

In May, I went to India to visit one of our partnering production units. I got to spend a lot of time with the women and staff, as we were with them from 9-5 everyday. During the week, I got to see the culture of the workplace. The women are more sisters than coworkers. That week, the room was consistently full of laughter, questions about America and snow, and tea drinking. LOTS of tea. It was over 100 degrees and they all wanted hot tea. Needless to say, I stuck mostly to the ice water.

These women had been through some traumatic times. Even with all the smiles I saw, the women are still processing their past. But they're growing. A few women each morning were encouraged to sing a solo to help build their confidence. At one point, we had a pizza party. One woman, who was recently hired, was hesitant to eat. But with the nudge of a few others, she joined in with the rest of us. There was one particular instance that really sticks out to me still, and reconfirmed that we're working with some really good people.

One of the days, I was talking with one of the supervisors. She reminded me a lot of my own mom, very caring and sweet. She told me when one of the girls had been hired she was a natural at sewing. She quickly became one of the top artisans in the production unit. Her newly found sewing skills were growing, but the pain from her past would keep a grip on her as she would get frustrated and lose her temper with the others.

This situation called for a hard conversation. The two supervisors sat down with this woman and helped her process what needed to change. Basically in this conversation, they told her that this was a job and she needed to act appropriately. There was an understanding that these outbreaks weren't beneficial to her or the team. That conversation concluded with the proposal that she had one month to control her anger, or she would be dismissed. 

Fast forward a month after that conversation. She did it! Through lots of one on one conversations with her supervisor, she had worked through several of her trigger points. And as time went on she grew in her patience and leadership. She's now preparing to be a line leader, the first job promotion the women can receive. The line leader supervises five other women, and fields any questions they may have. This is an important position as this allows the tailor to focus on his work and not have to stop whenever there's a question. 

The "what" of this story is a great  example of redemption. The "how" of this story is where the magic is. Over the past year, I became familiar with a model that shows four different types of relationship approaches.

1. Low invitation/Low challenge

2. High invitation/Low challenge

3. Low invitation/High challenge

4. High invitation/High Challenge

Throughout the week I spent in that production unit, I knew they had established an environment of high invitation and high challenge. There weren't any "drill sergeants" demanding the women to work harder, and there wasn't a vibe where the staff was stepping on eggshells so they wouldn't offend anyone. What I saw was love. Real love. They were meeting the women where they were and helping heal, grow, and become who they were made to be.

We are thankful to be partnered with manufacturing facilities that are this dedicated to their employees. These aren't the requirements that make a brand ethical or fair trade but it is what good business looks like. It makes you think, who is making my clothes and how are they being treated? It makes you question where you buy from and how you do business. 

Thanks for reading and following along. You can enter the giveaway we are doing with Freestate and bonJOY below! Just leave your email and you will be entered. The winner will be chosen on Monday Sept 26. Be sure to check out their blogs as they finish out what the other stages of ethical fashion look like. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream to Do: FLOWER POWER

Drew Oxley

We love the hustle (cue the song Do the Hustle and me dancing around in my pajamas). This past weekend we had a booth at Renegade Craft Fair in Wicker Park, Chicago. It was all music to our ears... the people presenting the goods they made, the names they came up with, the booth set ups they thought up. It was SO good to see everyone proudly presenting their ideas, their brain children, on display for all the world (actually just Chicago) to see. It was so fun AND INSPIRING. 

There is something about people going after it, people going hard, and not looking back. People sticking to their guns even when its not easy. People who have passion and want to talk about it. Its contagious and its attractive when people believe so much in an idea that they aren't ashamed to prioritize it. When people make themselves proud with hard work, bravery, and taking chances.

We love these people so much we want to highlight them in a blog series called Dream to Do.

This series is for the Dreamers and the Doers... Those that never give up and always persevere. Its an anthem for people who get out of bed to do what they were made to do. You know the ones, they don't put up with fears and consider even the tiniest of steps progress. The ones who open their eyes to the reality of their potential and step into that potential. They don't look back or wish things were different. They don't just daydream they live their dream.

Our first guest is Julie from Charlotte, North Carolina. She stood out to us as we got wind that she quit her full time job to pursue something that is a dream. We don't AT ALL believe you have to leave your job to pursue your dream (Ahem, Drew is dressed and ready to sling coffee as I type). We don't AT ALL believe you have to start a business to be following your dream. All you need is a goal and something to work towards. It could be anything. ANYTHING. Spending more time with your family, having a beautiful home, keeping a garden, making good food, eating junk food, belly dancing, ANYTHING. We don't care what your dream is we just care that you are making it happen.

So here is a snippet of our interview with Julie. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

PARATIVE: Julie, thanks for sitting down with us. Tell us about your dream. 

JULIE: My dream is blowing people's minds with beautiful flowers. I own a small floral design business, Jimmy Blooms, and started it in 2014.  Flowers have always been one of my dreams, but I never considered making a career out of it. I started taking some classes and learning arranging techniques, but my dream really started when I got the opportunity to do the flowers for a friends wedding. It was complimentary of course, as are many small beginnings. :) I started an instagram page to post pictures of the flowers that I was arranging and then I decided to just go for it! I got a business license and wholesale license so I could buy all the flowers I needed. I ended up booking 7 weddings my first year in addition to other small events and random orders. By the end of 2016, I will have done over 20 weddings and events. I would never have imagined my business would have grown this much so fast, but I am pumped! If you would like to learn more about Jimmy Blooms, head over to www.jimmyblooms.com!

(photo by Stefanie Haviv)

(photo by Stefanie Haviv)

PARATIVE: Thats amazing, 7 weddings in the first year! Whats the biggest sacrifice you have made so far to keep your dream alive?

JULIE: Since I started my business, I had still been working another job 5 days a week. It was a little crazy trying to juggle everything, but I needed the stability of another income. As of the end of August, I am now doing my flower business full-time! I have booked enough events through next year that I was confident to quit my other job. It's definitely a little scary not knowing what each month will look like in the future, but it's definitely worth the risk to try and take the business to the next level. 

PARATIVE: So cool and ballsy, we love it! We know dreams are always changing but as of today, if your dream came to full fruition, what would it look like in 10 or 15 years?

JULIE: I have 5 big dreams for my business, so bare with me, I am dreaming big here!

1) I want to have a physical location so I can fill ongoing flower orders, teach classes, and have a beautiful space to host small events. I have two good friends who have a baking business/ministry called "Flour & Oil" and we are kindred dreamers alike. We have had the vision of combining forces and opening the "Blooming Bakeshop" , flour and flower power! How amazing would that be?

2) I would love to broaden the services of Jimmy Blooms to more than floral design. Adding event design, coordination, as well as having a preferred photographer.

3) Eventually, I want to have at least 2 staff so that I can take on larger weddings and events. 

4) I want to grow my business so that I am able to offer donation flower services for people who can't afford flowers but want to bless others who might be grieving, sick, or going through a tough time. 

5) Lastly, my dream is that after having some kiddos, I can teach them about flowers and possibly one day pass the flower dream onto them! But if not that, at least the "dreaming gene". 

PARATIVE: Talk about an obstacle you faced that made you question your dream?

JULIE: When I first started my business, I had a dry spell and wasn't getting much interest for a few months. I thought maybe my business would just dry up since I didn't really have the capability for marketing. I also lost quite a bit of money one time doing a flower pop-up shop. Floral design has a lot of overhead with the cost of flowers so it is discouraging if you feel like the time and money doesn't pay off. Thankful I pushed past that and continue to be confident in my work.

PARATIVE: I've never thought about how short the shelf life on flowers is. So then why flowers?

JULIE: I think the right question is, why not flowers?! They are amazing and beautiful and all so different. For me, flowers have always be something that points me to my creator. I have loved them since I was just a little girl. I always wanted to help my mom plant flowers and know all their names. What a dream come true that I get to work with them all the time and get paid for it!

PARATIVE: How did you get the name Jimmy Blooms?

JULIE: I got the "dreamer gene" from a man named Jim, or Jimmy, as some liked to call him. Jimmy was my dad and he was a man passionate about the Lord, his family, sports, and finding that passion and making it your work. And that is just what he always encouraged my sisters and I to do. He was a professional athlete and went after his passions and it landed him in the 1975 World Series. He was also an entrepreneur and started a very successful commercial printing business that supported our family. While printing was not his passion, our family was and he did everything he needed to provide for us. It was after he passed away a few years ago that I felt inspired to start my business and really run after it with a sense of purpose. And doesn't "Jimmy Blooms" just have a nice ring to it? Thanks for asking, I love any excuse to remember my dad and talk about what a cool guy he was. 

PARATIVE: We love the name and the meaning behind is even cooler. We just have to ask, what's your favorite 90s movie?

JULIE: I am going to have to go with Free Willy. I mean, if you had the chance to be best friends with a whale, wouldn't you? 

PARATIVE: Haha yes, that might actually be our newest dream. And the Michael Jackson music video at the end of the VHS is the best. What is your favorite thing in the Parative store right now?

JULIE: I really like the Land of the Dreamer Tee

PARATIVE: Us too! Thanks for sharing your dream. Best of luck and Godspeed. We are off to find that Free Willy music video. 

Here is Julie's cat Willie with her Land of the Dreamer flag (WISH WE WOULD'VE ASKED IF HER CAT WAS NAMED AFTER THE WHALE)

We're looking forward to hearing more from you in this series and you hope are too. Be sure to sign up for our email list so you don't miss a blog! (keep scrolling all the way down)