Sustainable Fashion: An Ungala Report (and Gift Guide)

Andrea SzyperSubmitted by
Kreyol Essence

Earlier this month, we celebrated the third UnGala, an almost-annual party thrown by the Untours Foundation to celebrate fair trade, innovative business, travel, and microenterprise. Aside from raising money for the foundation, it connects entrepreneurs, Untours staff, funders, investees, foundation board members, and other members of the community for a night of food, conversation, and cross pollination.

This year’s theme was Sustainable Fashion. Above is Elizabeth Killough (center), Director of the Untours Foundation standing with two visionary businesswomen, Yve-Car Momperousse (left) and Rachel Faller (right). Both have been awarded the foundation’s UnDreamed Of Award for their groundbreaking, life-changing businesses.

Kreyol Essence

Yve-Car accepted this year’s award for her business Kreyol Essence, a natural hair and skin care line made with organic oils grown in Haiti. In her speech, Yve-Car joked that she was working to make agriculture sexy again. Her company partners with farmers in Haiti to grow black castor and moringa, two traditional remedies for hair and skin.

Yve-Car (pictured above, left, with Brenda Davis of Iron Man) is Haitian-American and started her work in Haiti in 2009, ahead of the island’s devastating earthquake. She was well poised to help the economy as she grew her business, creating jobs that paid a living wage and helped lift communities. She is especially proud of the fact that the vast majority of the company’s employees are women, and the jobs are helping families.

Her motto of “A hand up, not a handout” is a favorite saying of our late founder and aligns perfectly with the mission of the Untours Foundation.

Gift idea: Check out the Kreyol Essence website for a wide variety of all natural shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and creams in luscious scents like mango rum punch, lavender, and cafe au lait. You can also find pure organic oils for face and hair. Testers in the Untours office give the body butter two thumbs up!

Wear Well

The other star of the night was wearwell, a home delivery fashion service that uses savvy stylists to personalize looks for its clients and ships them boxes of hand-picked items to wear and buy or return.

Sounds familiar, right? The huge difference is that wearwell sources all of its pieces from socially responsible apparel makers, so its clothing, handbags, and jewelry are sourced from companies that are screened for fair wages and labor practices and environmental responsibility. Pieces are not only chosen for you based on your style preferences but also based on the values you identify as most important to you.

They cater to all ages, styles, and body types. And talking with Emily Kenney, wearwell co-founder (above, left), it was clear that their values permeate everything, down to tweaks they are making in their process to minimize returns, cutting their carbon footprint.

Wear Well

Wearwell dressed models who mixed and mingled in the crowd. They wore rich textiles and accessories that were conversation starters! Aside from their stunning attire, they were easily recognized by their large hang tags, describing why each outfit was sustainable. Among the descriptions were Fairly Traded, Pays a Living Wage, and Empowers Women.

Women are disproportionately represented in the factories that make our clothes, so it is quite empowering to see women wearing garments made in a way that lifts their female makers out of poverty and helps support families and build strong communities. Clothes matter!

Untours Foundation

Olivia McConnell was among the models circulating in the crowds. Olivia is a member of the Untours Foundation board and works as a stylist. She is photographed here with Shannon Davidson (left), who is wearing a top by tonlé. Shannon manages communications for the Untours Foundation. Both women were instrumental in throwing this party.

Guests were also encouraged to pin on smaller tags of their own if they were wearing any clothing that was fair trade or ethically sourced. During brief speeches, someone asked for a show of hands from people wearing sustainable fashion and a surprising number of hands went up, from thrift store shoppers and eco-fashionistas alike.

Untours Foundation

Foundation board member Alicia Agnew modeled another wearwell outfit. Many of the pieces modeled at the UnGala had vibrant patterns and rich textures. These are unique clothes that catch attention and spark conversations about things that matter!

Gift idea: Subscribe yourself or someone you love to wearwell. It will save them time and energy seeking out the clothes they love and take away the stress of sourcing them form companies they trust. Plus, they will always be the best dressed at the party!

B Corp

Jay and Randi Coen Gilbert hosted the event in their beautiful home. All of the UnGalas have been house parties, intimate and a little crowded, but oh so comfortable. Guests ducked in from the rain, mingled by the fireplace, and lingered around a buffet table laden with excellent comfort food.

Jay is one of the founders of B Lab and was the one who personally invited Untours to be certified as the first B Corp. Our tour company is now among thousands of global businesses committed to using business for good.

Gift idea: There are some gorgeous clothing brands that are B Corps. Among the best known are Patagonia (worn by Jay above), Eileen Fisher, and Athleta. Here is a full list.  And there are lots of other gift ideas on the B Corp website, well beyond wearables.

Untours staff

Dodge Amaral (left) and Cathrin Baumbach (middle) were among the Untours staff attending the party. Dodge coordinates Untours in France, Spain, London, and Ireland. He is leaving shortly for Portugal, to visit the two new Untours we have launched there. Will Porto replace Paris as his favorite city? Stay tuned.

Cathrin heads our Untours in Germany, Austria, Greece, and Scotland, plus our offerings in Prague and Budapest. She has helped create our highly rated Vienna Uncovered program, which delves into the history, culture, and arts of the city with guided tours and events. She is currently at work on a program in Berlin.

Gift idea: An Untour makes a great gift! The cliche is true: travel is the only expense that makes you richer. Untours offers gift certificates, and we can work with you to “gift” an Untour in a fun and creative way. Whether you prefer an apartment stay or a river cruise, Untours can help you plan the gift of a lifetime!

Tonle

Rachel Faller was last year’s UnDreamed Of Award for her negative-waste clothing line tonlé. She gave a rousing speech about our interdependence and the the ways that we as consumers can make a difference. It is not out of guilt that we can or should make these choices, but out of excitement and opportunity. It feels good to look good and to know that it is not at the expense of someone in a sweatshop.

Rachel came out from her headquarters in California to join us and was among many in the crowd wearing tonle’s beautiful clothing. Her business uses cloth remnants to make their attire, using everything down to the scraps, which they spin into yarns that they knit into scarves. Smaller fibers are made into paper. Nothing is wasted, and their fabric is rescued from landfills.

Gift idea: Check out tonlé‘s beautiful clothing on their website, where you can also find accessories and gifts that work well for anyone on your list. And if you are lucky enough to live in or visit the Bay Area, check out their retail space in San Francisco.

Untours Foundation

Sarah Cooper Searight (center, with Mike Marks, left, of Roar) serves on the Untours Foundation Board. Sarah modeled another lovely wearwell dress. The board is made up of dedicated volunteers who bring a wide range of skills to the table. Well beyond the usual board work of fundraising, this group of people also helps find and nurture new businesses that will go on to grow and create jobs.

Aside from the low-interest loans the foundation offers its investees, it provides hands-on support from board members with business skills, experience, and connections. The board taps its contacts and network to help secure additional funding and support for the new businesses it funds.

Gift idea: Donate to the Untours Foundation! You can make a donation is someone’s name and we will acknowledge them with a creative thank you.

Business Board

Lisa Mitchell (right) serves on the Untours Foundation board and the business board that advises Untours. She and her friends (Jazzmin Drennon, center, and Stephanie Barnes, left) enjoyed delicious food by Brothers Restaurant of nearby Chester. They are an Untours Foundation Investee.

We raised a glass of micro-brewed local beer (generously donated by Sterling Pig) to toast people- and earth-centered innovations in fashion and business, and to celebrate the generosity and vision of those who help it get off the ground and make it thrive.

Gift idea: Support our local independent restaurants and breweries. Local businesses support local economies and help seed development that creates jobs. Buy a gift certificate to a local restaurant or microbrewery as a gift for that friend who has everything.

Oh, and tell that friend who has everything to make a donation to the Untours FoundationCheers!

All photos in this blog post were taken by photographer, travel blogger, and Untours Foundation volunteer Frances Schwabenland. See more of her work on worlddocumentaryphotographer.com.

 

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