Sunday, April 24, 2011

Slow Fashion: the Little Black Dress Party

I'm helping to plan the coolest little fundraiser ever: the Little Black Dress Party, on the evening of May 5th. We've been talking about it on our Facebook event page and on Twitter using the #yegLBD hashtag.
The Uniform Project expressed as a formula, via.
#yegLBD is a slow-fashion fundraiser inspired by the Uniform Project, wherein Sheena Matheiken wore the same little black dress, creatively styled with vintage or handmade accessories, for a whole year to raise money for the Akanksha Foundation (who educate underpriviledged kids in India). At year's end, a series of people followed in Sheena's footsteps for a month at a time to raise funds for other deserving charities. Here's Sheena's talk at TEDxDubai, to help you understand why we were so very excited by the Uniform Project:

Inspiring, right?
So, the idea of the party is that we all shop our closets and wear our LBD (or an equivalent basic) accessorized to express our personal styles, have a fabulous night out with our friends, and raise money for both Akanksha and a brand-new locally-based charity called Literacy Without Borders. LWB will partner volunteer teachers from developed and developing nations to set up literacy projects with lasting community-based support
How: By sharing its knowledge of effective approaches to literacy and harnessing the commitment of local volunteers, Literacy Without Borders helps communities adapt literacy models to their local customs. This way, each community will be more likely to create truly meaningful programs, better positioning their members to implement and direct the programs on their own. LWB Ambassadors are deployed as a pair to communities in development for a period of 18 months with the goal of bringing together the people within each community who are most passionate and able to develop sustainable literacy initiatives in their community.  Initially, these local volunteers will work closely with Literacy Without Borders’ Literary Ambassadors to adapt a literacy model that best suits the community, and eventually, they will run, direct, and teach the programs on their own.
 Our little party could truly make a huge difference for LWB, since they're at the stage where they're applying for charitable status, printing their first marketing materials, and embarking on their first pilot projects. We're so excited to be working with such an amazing charity during their formative moments.

Uniform Project's charity-of-choice the Akanksha Foundation, formed in 1990, educate underprivileged children in 58 centres and 6 schools in Mumbai and Pune and publish curricula for use by other educators, and cohosted the InspirED Conference on innovation in education in 2010. Photo via.
Mmmm, martinis. Via the Devlin's Facebook group.
We're also really excited to be having our party at Devlin's Cocktail Lounge, an upscale martini bar on Whyte Avenue. They're going to create a special drink and appetizer menu for the evening just for us, and the room's cozy-but-luxurious feeling will give our party the perfect atmosphere. It's going to be a fun night of socializing, with photography by the incredibly talented Aminah Syed (seriously, how lucky are we?); a silent auction of items generously donated by local, independently-owned shops; and an accessories-swap table.

Our giant tip jar is ready to go. Well, I might redo the Sharpie.
If you're in Edmonton, tickets for the Little Black Dress Party are now on sale at Eventbrite. The $30 ticket price includes a martini and an appetizer, and every penny that doesn't cover your food and drink - more than half of the ticket cost - will be donated to the Akanksha Foundation and Literacy Without Borders. It's a small room so be sure not to wait to get your ticket - we're sure to sell out.
If you're not in Edmonton, why not hold a Little Black Dress Party of your own?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Slow in Japan: The Sloth Club

The Sloth Club logo, via their e-commerce site.
As I prepare for my trip to Japan (it's less than a month away now!), I've been reading a lot of blogs from there, and I ran across an absolute gem in Slow Japan. It's the English-language blog of The Sloth Club, a not-for-profit group formed in Tokyo in 1999 to promote the slow movement, sustainable living, a local living economy, and fair trade. The scope of their projects is impressively broad and ambitious for a group who say they strive to 'become the sloth'. Their members have organized many workshops with invited speakers (which seem to be usually promoted solely through their Japanese-language website and blog), participated in peace and antinuclear activism, organize voluntary blackouts to promote a slower lifestyle, published guidelines for slow business (essentially following the triple-bottom-line approach) and slow cafes, promoted conservation through the Hachidori Project, created a brilliant alternative currency system and a "Slow Business School", led slow-travel tours to other countries, promoted straw-bale building through a Slow Design study group, and created an intentional community called Yukkuri-mura in rural Fukuoka prefecture where participants live a han-nou han-x (half-agricultural, half-anything) lifestyle. Their Cafe Slow organic restaurant provides a community centre where some events are held, in addition to selling organic, green, and fair-trade products and books written by members of the Sloth Club. Recent events held by the club have included a conversation-cafe-style series on creating a slower post-3/11 world.

I absolutely LOVE this image they used to promote a recent orientation event for new volunteers.
I think it's magnificent that they've used sloths - instead of the usual snails and turtles - as their symbol of sustainable and slow living, especially given their fair-trade and conservation-project ties with Ecuador:
“The aim is to emulate some of the basic behaviors of the sloth,” in particular its “low-energy, cyclical, symbiotic and non-violent lifestyle.”

Sloth Club members at the 2010 Earth Day celebration in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo. Via.

Namake (alternative currency), via.
Some of their Slow Business articles also mention alternative currency called "zen", a nice wordplay on the yen.
Sloth Club member at a peace demonstration, via
The Hachidori Project logo uses the story of the hummingbird who carried a drop of water
to try to keep the forest from burning as a symbol to promote sustainable lifestyle choices. Via.
Sloth Club members at a huge anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo on 11 April 2011, via their Japanese-language blog.
via the SlowPhoto blog of a Sloth Club organizer - I think she's saying she took the photo in Jordan, but I can't be sure.

The Sloth Club's work has been profiled in Treehugger,'s It's Getting Hot In Here blog, Kyoto Journal, New Colonist, and Metropolis - but none of those articles are recent, and their work is spread across several websites of varying translation quality, so I thought it might be helpful to have a recent synopsis of their activities in a single blog post. 

Inspiring stuff! I can't wait to check out Cafe Slow while I'm in Tokyo.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Monthly Slow News Summary: April 2011

On Slow Living:

It's Earth Month! Check out Discovery News' slideshow of Earth Day celebrations around the world and Newsweek's slideshow of places endangered by climate change for some inspiration - then follow up by perusing GOOD's "Earth Day Every Day" special page that curates the best of their green living stories to find some tips for actions that go beyond the obvious ones you're already doing.

Do you bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping, or forgo bags altogether? Ecosalon did a brilliant post on why you should consider it.

Jorg & Olif brought our attention to the international Slow Art Day. It's already past for this year, but next year will be held 28 April 2012, so there's lots of time to get your city on the list of those participating.

This review has me wanting to try OmmWriter to create a distraction-free environment for writing.

The Atlantic had a great book review that pointed out the huge role the introduction of bicycles had in social change in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The disaster in northeastern Japan has spawned innovation in publishing that use slow-design methods, with handwritten newspapers emerging in affected communities, and the Twitter-crowdsourced Quakebook fundraising for Japan Red Cross.

Brand marketing gurus BBMG's newest report identifies a group they call New Consumers, who comprise up to a third of the US population and combine pragmatism and a do-it-yourself attitude with an interest in sustainability and social responsibility, according to a synopsis in Environmental Leader. Hmm, the New Consumer sounds like the Slow Consumer to me.

It's election time in Canada, again. Engaged citizenship is definitely a goal of the slow movement.
(poster via a friend's Facebook feed)

On Slow Food and Permaculture:

CSRWire profiled the Slow-Food-affiliated RAFT's important work in identifying and preserving endangered North American heirloom plant varieties and livestock breeds that are adapted to specific terrains and climates.

Eat Magazine noted the release of Slow Food's sustainable fish buying guide to coincide with this year's Slow Fish festival in Genoa, Italy.

The USDA is considering (finally!) warning labels for artificial food dyes, and Ecosalon posted a brilliant and thorough synopsis of why such labels are sorely needed.

The Rambling Epicure outlined ten rules for eating the French way, and Active Kids Club suggested ten ways to connect nature with food. Both lists are really about Slow Food. Meanwhile, RedGage reported on the emerging #NoFastFoodFriday movement on Twitter.

Life On The Balcony has posted a great DIY for turning a (preferably heat-treated) pallet into a vertical garden for small spaces (found via Apartment Therapy). Combine that idea with Mike Lieberman's advice on Ecosalon and soon you'll be growing your own food no matter how small your space.

Jorg & Olif did a great piece on the slow-food trend of home-curing meats with a great recipe for brined pork. The same process (shown in this short video) is used to make salt beef (or corned beef for you Americans).

On the philosophical front, Michael Pollan did a great interview explaining the recent 'war on foodies' with the Globe & Mail that makes a fascinating, nuanced read. Meanwhile, Bob Comis wrote a compelling piece for Grist on why the food movement needs to move beyond the gourmands and localists in order to effect real change for the greater good.

On Slow Fashion:

Lou Sagar mused about the adoption of the Slow Fashion movement by luxury brands as a marketing strategy (at least I think that's what he was musing about - but the distinction he tried to draw between eco-fashion and slow fashion just didn't ring true to me). Meanwhile Ecosalon posted a fascinating and provocative piece about the fashion industry's prevailing business models.

La Poubelle Verte abounded with inspirational slow fashion from Junky Styling and Martin Margiela. Swooooooooon. What incredibly beautiful work!

Rowena Ritchie reports to Ecosalon that the 'Hemline Index' theory has been thoroughly busted - so, continue to wear whatever length skirt you want.

Bright Young Things (the designer of the Uniform Project Year 1 shirtdress) has been picked up by Urban Outfitters! How exciting - congrats to Eliza!!! I hope they'll carry these pieces at the Canadian locations.

Meanwhile the Uniform Project has launched a gorgeous new site design that shows off the many facets of the project and makes space for new initiatives (like other bloggers who are taking the UP 1-dress challenge, and the UP-inspired LBD fundraiser party we're having here in Edmonton) to be introduced.

On Slow Travel:

Jorg & Olif rounded up the three best Slow Festivals going, tempted us with a cycle-and-yurt holiday in southern Norway, and profiled a couple who are documenting their trip cycling the British Isles at the speed of spring (which reminds me of Will Ferguson's book about chasing the sakura!).

On Slow Design:

GOOD profiled some great DIY urban design projects - amazing stuff.

The ten principles for creating a Slow Home got more great press from Natural AwakeningsJorg & Olif and the Miami Herald.

A friend sent me this YouTube video showing DIY sun tunnels made from 2 litre pop bottles filled with water. Measurements taken on a bright day show they can provide the same amount of light as a 50 watt incandescent bulb.

On Sustainability:

The NYT's Paul Krugman summarized what happened when an expert witness brought in as a ringer went off-script at a Congressional hearing on climate science, and the UK's New Scientist explained how the US budget compromise will affect the environment. Sigh.

The Guardian published an interesting piece on what Japan's disaster tells us about what a post-peak-oil world might look like.

Discovery News reported that our opinions on climate change are measurably affected by the weather.

...Have a great Easter long weekend everyone!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Slow Fashion: Doing Project 333

I've mentioned previously that I was simplifying my wardrobe and planning to do the Project 333 fashion diet. Here's Project 333 in a nutshell:

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout) 
I tested out my 33 clothing and accessory choices for the month of March, and I'm doing the April-to-June sessionSince the weather will be changing from mild late-winter to early summer temperatures during the 3 months, and I'll also be travelling, I'll be using three bonus rules:

Bonus Rule #1: I'm allowing myself to rotate in three warm-weather items and rotate out three cold-weather items (which will be stored away, not donated as some other participants have done - I'll need them again next winter). I'll be otherwise dressing in layers, so careful selection of my three switchable items should be sufficient to cover the -25C to +25C temperature range of 'spring' in Edmonton.

Bonus Rule #2: I'll also call time-out on my 33-item wardrobe and use a different, even more limited wardrobe for my 15-day trip to Japan in May (which will mean dressing for much higher humidity than Edmonton ever experiences, and temperatures comparable to early July where I live). What's coming to Japan with me will be the subject of a separate post, and I foresee my Japan trip wardrobe as the basis of a summertime Project 333 list. I do know that my main neutral for the summer will be navy instead of black.

Bonus Rule #3: Putting my basic list together was actually pretty easy once I had cleared out my wardrobe, and really wasn't that different from figuring out what to pack for a long trip. The key was in making it so a lot of the items can be dressed up or down, and keeping all the basics black or dark grey. So I decided to make it a bit more challenging for myself and really bring the slow fashion cred:
  • 8 items were bought at local (from my city) independently-owned retailers
  • 3 items are made by me, from supplies bought at local indie retailers
  • 1 item was handmade by an artisan in my city
  • 5 items were second-hand or vintage (thrifted or swapped or eBay or Etsy)
  • 7 items are made of sustainable materials or upcycled materials
  • 3 imported items were handmade using techniques traditional to the region where they originated
All these items are marked with an asterisk (*) in the list below, for a total of 18 out of 36 items - some of them fall into more than one category. Most of the remaining items, while not local or sustainable or handmade, are timeless in their design and durably made of good-quality fabrics.

Here are my 33 + 3 items: 
(OR denotes the items I'm allowing myself to swap as the weather warms)

1. black knee-high winter boots* OR black knee-high unlined boots
2. purple woolen peacoat OR white trench coat
3. black rainboots OR black leather sandals
4. (skinny) black organic cotton leggings from Cotton Ginny Ricki's
5. red-violet cotton-modal waterfall cardigan by Kersh (from The Bay)
6. red-violet/black/cream paisley-print faux-wrap blouse from Rickis, thrifted*
7. red-violet soy-cotton skirt by Nomads Hempwear*
8. black stretch-polyester dress pants from Ricki's
9. dark-indigo-rinse bootcut cotton denim jeans from Gap
10. black denim trouser-cut cotton denim jeans from Gap
11. black-grey-checked stretch-cotton pants from Gap
12. green velvet blazer by Lady Hathaway, thrifted (needs rip repaired)*
13. dark grey recycled-cotton-blend fleece double-breasted jacket by EchoRain*
14. vintage cream handknit popcorn-stitch cardigan, gift from my mother in 1990, from Cape Isle Knitters in Maine (similar to one currently being sold by Anthropologie)*
15. black cotton seersucker skirt, thrifted*
16. reversible black/grey bamboo-cotton blend skirt by EchoRain*
17. black dress, to be sewn (by me or a local seamstress) from Uniform Project pattern and locally purchased eco-fabric*
18. green bamboo-cotton long-sleeve dress by Movement*
19. moss-green cropped hemp-cotton blend pants by Nomads Hempwear*
20. black V-neck cap-sleeve cotton tshirt from Gap
21. teal cotton torn-ruffle-hem long-sleeve tshirt from Anthropologie
22. black scoop-neck ruffle-detail cotton tshirt from Old Navy
23. black snap-pocket spring jacket, swapped*
24. hat made from old menswear by local designer and Etsy artisan SugarSoul*
25. statement necklace I made, amethyst and moonstone beads*
26. statement necklace I made, mix of thrifted and new sterling silver chains*
27. vintage handwoven silk ikat scarf from Uzbekistan, via eBay*
28. black leather-and-suede faux-buttoned pumps*
29. black leather everyday shoes (need polishing)
30. vintage mirror-embroidered-and-beaded hip belt, via Etsy*
31. mod-style polyester-blend little black minidress, made in Canada, thrifted*
32. black fleece gloves
33. black leather crossbody purse for everyday use underwear, socks and hosiery, pajamas and workout clothes (which can both double as loungewear), and everyday jewelry that I practically never take off (my eyeglasses, and 3 rings, 3 hoop earrings, and a necklace that were gifts from my husband).

I have been wearing my 33 items as a test since Sunday March 6th. Since the temps were still dipping to -31C with the windchill, I cheated a little during my trial run and wore my down coat instead. I also spent a chunk of the month sick or caring for sick children, or recovering from a car accident (I'm OK, it's just a mild case of whiplash), and so spent more time in my lounge clothes than really would make a fair trial.

My observations from my trial run: 
- Items 5, 6, 7, 14, 18, 19, 31 need to be handwashed and hung or laid flat to dry, which may pose a challenge.
- I changed item 4 because the original version's wide legs read as yoga pants instead of leggings and needed folding to go inside my knee-high boots
- I probably have too many (6) jackets & cardis and not enough (1) dressy blouses. I probably need a classic white blouse. I rely heavily on black t-shirts as blouse substitutes.

I'm looking forward to exploring my observations of my challenges and feelings about Project 333 over the next three months!