Shopping Responsibly

I’ve decided to change my shopping habits, officially! I’m going to be shopping responsibly from independent designers and brands that are ethically producing beautiful, worthwhile goods. This is a change I’ve been working towards for the past two years and now that I’ve made it there’s no turning back. In the best way! That said, it wasn’t a decision I made lightly, which brings me to the topics I’ll be touching on today:

  1. Why I was apprehensive about making/announcing this change.
  2. Glossary of responsible shopping terms. 
  3. What it all means to me and why I’m committing to it.
  4. What to expect going forward on Style Bee.
  5. Where to start. AKA an epic list of fabulous shops and designers.

Style Bee - Shopping Small

1 | TREPIDATIONS about making/announcing this change.

I had originally planned to come blazing into the year with a big announcement about how I was shopping smart from now on but I chickened out. So I just did it on the sly, without making a big deal about it. But after lots of long chats with my friends, family and most of all my partner Dave, it became clear that this was a just the most natural course. Plus, I’ve worked hard to build a platform where I’m able to share the things I truly love. But actually, because I focus my blog on my personal style and how I shop, it made the decision a bit trickier. Here’s a few reasons that made me apprehensive about announcing my choice:

CONCERN #1 – Reader backlash. I was afraid I would alienate myself from readers by choosing to shop small, from often more expensive, harder to come by brands that aren’t always super accessible. I get that’s it’s a somewhat elitist attitude and was worried I’d come across as snobbish or that my style would no longer be seen as unattainable.

The reality – You guys totally blew me away with your response to my 50 Piece Closet and I was thrilled to see how many people were excited about my decision to make this commitment. I’ve since been getting emails and messages from people that’ve been interested in making the same changes in their own shopping habits. Actually, many of you are way ahead of me too! So a huge weight has been lifted in that respect. 

CONCERN #2 – Loss of commission sales. As many of you might know, earning commission via affiliate links is a main source of income for style bloggers. The thing is, most small brands and designers don’t offer any affiliate commission. Which meant I’d have to approach my earning methods differently and was looking at a harder, longer path to making a real living from my blog.

The reality – My readership and interest from brands has grown so much since I started focusing more on independent designers and companies that are producing their goods responsibly. I may be on a different path than a typical style blogger, but I know it’s the right one for me!

CONCERN #3 – The ‘ethical’ blog label. I didn’t want to pigeon hole my blog or my style into this category and I really didn’t want to come across as preachy or holier than thou.

The reality – This blog is the incarnation of my personal values, personal taste and personal zeal for all things style. Why should I hold back because someone might want to put Style Bee into a category. Really, it’s going to happen one way or another so I might as well stay true to myself in the process, right?

So there you have it. These are the trepidations I felt and ultimately decided to forge past. You know the saying, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”? Well that couldn’t ring more true to me right now!

Style Bee - Shopping Small

2 | RESPONSIBLE SHOPPING GLOSSARY

There are a lot of buzz words flitting around so I thought I’d take a moment to pull out 6 of them and define them properly. For my own sake mostly, but for anyone who’s a bit unsure about them too.

  • ETHICAL CONSUMERISM – the practice of purchasing products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and/or environmental damage, while avoiding products and services deemed to have a negative impact on society or the environment.
  • SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION – the creation of goods and services using processes and systems that are: Non-polluting. Conserving of energy and natural resources. Economically viable. Safe and healthful for workers, communities, and consumers.
  • ECO-FASHION – is a focus on the production of clothing that takes into account not only the environment, but the health of the consumers who will be wearing the clothes and the working conditions of the people involved with making the clothes.
  • CONSCIOUS CONSUMER – those who are willing to pay more, wait longer for or buy less of a product that’s been produced in an ethical and/or sustainable way. Fun fact: 66% of consumers around the world say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society.
  • ZERO CARBON FOOTPRINT – refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference (ie: planting trees).
  • SLOW FASHION – is about the deliberate choice to buy better-quality items less often. When purchases are made, they’re environmentally and ethically conscious rather than trend-driven. Sought after garments are timeless in design, durable and lend themselves to repairs, not disposal. Slow fashion makes a clear effort to be transparent so buyers know where their clothes are coming from, and items are often handmade by artisans.

Thanks to Google for clearing things up 😉 

Style Bee - Shopping Small

3 | WHAT IT MEANS TO ME

As I was drafting this post in my head, I was trying to think if there was a moment in time or a turning point at which I suddenly started seeing the true value of shopping smaller. Turns out it was my first purchase from, guess who, Elizabeth Suzann, in June of 2014. It was a cotton crop top that had been aptly named ‘The Lee Crop’. I remember receiving it and immediately noticing the beautiful handwoven cotton fabric and all it’s elegant imperfections that made it special. Then I looked closer at the hand sewn seams and remember thinking, wow, someone went from imagining this top in their mind, to drawing it, to picking a fabric, cutting it out, sewing it, testing it, making more of it, photographing it, to finally packaging it up and sending it out to me with a heartfelt thank you note. That’s quite a process! It felt like a totally different shopping experience than when I ordered something from a mass retailer. I felt like I had just added something unique to my life, something akin to art, and I was lucky to have it. It’s still one of my favourite summer tops and looks brand new!

After that, my approach to shopping began to change. I no longer got the same sort of thrill from buying the must-have shoes of the moment or the cute cheap dress of the day. I didn’t really care about that as much, even though social media would have me believe otherwise. I began digging deeper into other brands that were creating beautiful, small run goods from their local studios. I was getting a real thrill from supporting and wearing clothing that had a story and connected me to this current of creativity.

So when it comes right down to it for me, shopping responsibly means recognizing the people and the work that goes into an ethically made product, investing in fewer items overall and waiting to find pieces that are exactly my style and made to last a long, long time. I want to pass my favourite items down to my children or even better, my grand children (although yikes!).

Style Bee - Shopping Small

4 | WHAT TO EXPECT ON STYLE BEE

Going forward you’ll see a lot of what you’ve been seeing already, just more introductions to small shops and collaborations with unique designers that I really love and feel jive with my personal style. I’ll still be wearing my favourite staples from years gone by, even if they don’t necessarily fit the definition of ‘ethical’, but I won’t be shopping from those brands for the foreseeable future. As much as I’ll miss some shops that rhyme with fadewell, hub honaco, yap and hey crew, I think my hard earned dollars are best spent on items I’m truly excited to call my own. Dollars that support creatives like myself who are pursuing their dreams and taking on the arduous task of running a small business.

I’ll do my best to keep things accessible, link to direct product sources and always aim to find a similar option when things are unavailable. But the reality is that shopping responsibly often costs more and takes longer, which means that ‘Buying Less and Choosing Well’ is more my mantra than ever before.

Style Bee - Shopping Small

5 | WHERE TO START

If you’re interested in pursuing your own responsible shopping agenda there are TONS of great places to start. Of course, it only makes sense to start shopping if you’ve defined your style (start with this easy exercise) and figured out what you really need (create a wish list). I wouldn’t recommend just going buck wild for the sake of it, yet 😉

I’ve had a number of emails from readers asking about my top recommendations for ethical boutiques and designers, which is awesome! I’m working on a new shop page for the blog that will cover my favourites but until that’s live, here is a list of all the best brands on my current radar (alphabetically):

FASHION

ACCESSORIES + SHOES

*Canadian Based.

Please note: I am not affiliated with these brands directly nor have I personally shopped from every one of them. 

Style Bee - Shopping Small


Olive Tunic Elizabeth Suzann (free shipping!) | White Skinnies Madewell | Mars Boots Rachel Comey (Fully restocked! Get $50 off! No code needed.) | Shape Cuff Stvdio Brooklyn | Bag n/a Primecut | Rugs Vintage | Step Ladder IKEA


Thanks for making it to the end of this post! I’d love to know your thoughts on the whole idea of ‘Shopping Responsibly’. Is this something you’ve considered or maybe already practice? Do you have any independent designers or brands that you love? Do tell!

54 thoughts on “Shopping Responsibly

  1. This post is absolutely amazing and I applaud you for taking the road less traveled. Such a great idea. I can’t wait to try out the new, smaller stores. Thanks so much for gathering the list and helping others to understand!

    Michelle

  2. This post is such a great resource I go back to it frequently. I wanted to add some more brands I’ve found this summer.

    I haven’t bought anything from these but they look promising:
    – Albion Fit (swim and workout gear)
    – Kortni Jeane (swim)
    – Bikyni (swim)

  3. Just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing this list of retailers–I LOVE finding new cool resources for ethically made clothing, and you have such good taste!

  4. Congratulations! You will enjoy making the switch, it is so much rewarding. I switched to ethical crafting and found so many (smaller) brands (in fact too many for me to test them all). But I feel like I am really knitting something special – and it was the same with clothes. Good luck – it is great that fashion bloggers are willing to make the switch, There are so many brands out there, I am sure it is easier than people might think.

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement Nat! Great to hear that you’re finding so much enjoyment from this approach. I’m finding the same thing, there are so many great options out there it’s overwhelming, in a good way! Thanks for reading. xo

  5. Oh my, this was just what I was looking for! I have been trying to shop ethically for the last few years and stumbled upon your site through Fringe Association. Thank you in advance for all your time and effort, and thoughtfulness.

    1. Heather, that is so great to hear! So glad you found Style Bee 🙂 Check back in a little while because I’ll be adding a more permanent ‘SHOP’ page on the blog with visuals and more shop details. Thanks so much! Xo

  6. This is a great post and I can’t wait to discover more makers from your blog. I’ve definitely begun to appreciate smaller designers a lot more recently.

    1. Thanks Mun! That’s so great to hear! You have such great style/taste and I’m sure you’ll find some new gems to rock! Keep up the great work beauty. xo

  7. I’m so glad you posted this Lee! And thank you for being so transparent about your process. I think all the thought and patience with yourself on this issue gives more weight to the decision and it’ll be more likely that you’ll stay with it for a long time; if you just went for it gung-ho last year it might have been harder to stay with it! Sidenote: thanks for mentioning that you are continuing to wear what you already have from other brands, because I’ve noticed myself trying to convince myself that it’s OK to hang on to these things, maybe replace them with a piece from a responsible brand when they wear out. Using/re-using what you have to avoid buying more now is as much a part of the process as buying well. And I totally think of my (future) daughters and granddaughters when I purchase or window shop now! You’re not alone! Oh, and one company/brand suggestion: Brilliant Earth. A San-Francisco-based jeweler where I got my wedding/engagement rings from. They use recycled metals and ethically-sourced gems and stones. They also provide education, training, water, etc. to the people they work with abroad. Looking forward to your next post!

    1. Kaja thanks so much for your lovely comment and for your recommendation about Brilliant Earth! I’ve been swooning over their gems and they seem like a great company. I deliberated about what to do with the existing items that weren’t ‘ethically-made’ per-se but felt like it was much more wasteful to get rid of them when I would gladly continue wearing them. Once they wear out I will look for a sustainably made options for sure though. Thanks again! xo

  8. Thanks for the post and list of designers. Curious about the note about $50 off the Mars boots on Need Supply, was that just limited to the weekend? Thanks!

    1. Hi Abby, My pleasure! Unfortunately, yes, the sale was only on for a limited time. That said, I paid full price for my Mars boot and they were worth every penny! I’ll be keeping an eye out for more sales though. xo

  9. SOO glad to see this, Lee!!! It is inspiring that despite the loss in affiliate income, you are still going to make the decision to shop responsibly made clothing. It seems like the ethical fashion space is getting bigger by the minute and we are all at the forefront showing that sustainable can be beautiful and chic. Kudos to you for announcing it on your blog and taking this giant leap towards a more fair world <3

    Can't wait until Sotela can be added to that list!!
    xoxo

    1. Hannah! I was so thrilled to see your name pop up here 🙂 Thanks so much for the encouragement and support. I am SO excited to see what you’ve bene working on with Sotela! I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. All the best beauty! xoxo

    1. Emily! Thanks so much for the encouragement! You and your shop are so inspiring. I love how you’ve curated your collections. Keep setting the bar high girl! xo

  10. I love this look so much. It is minimal, chic and totally wearable. Also your hair cut is very cute.
    I remember your post about 50 piece wardrobe and I really admired what you did. I hope that I can do this one day myself, but I can’t seem to take this step. I already do this when it comes to bags, but other than this I can seem to stop buying cheap things that I know won’t work out after a couple of months.
    http://dressmecasual.blogspot.com.eg/

    1. Thanks for the kind words Esraa! I promise if you decide to make a change in how you shop and what you keep you’ll feel 100% better about your style and closet options! I know it can feel daunting but it’s definitely worth it. xo

  11. Love this post and your approach to transparency and engagement with your readers! I suggest that you check out victoire, an amazing Ottawa-based company with three boutiques (two in Ottawa and one in TO) run by two incredibly rad women with a passion for Canadian design.
    http://www.victoireboutique.com

  12. I’m so excited for you! I also predicted that this was coming and have been waiting for it. You go girl!! I totally relate to everything that you said, and I’m really happy that you followed your heart. ❤️

  13. Lee, I just love this post. Your honesty and transparency really make me respect you more! I can relate your concerns, especially number two. But I believe you will be a pioneer in this area for fellow conscious consumer/ethical fashion bloggers. So excited to see what the future has in store for Style Bee! 🙂

    1. Andrea you are so wonderful! I just love your blog and your approach to fashion and style, I feel like we are definitely on the same wavelength. Bloggers often keep their cards so close to the chest so it all seems like a mystery as to how it’s done. I plan to continue being more transparent about the ‘realities’ behind blogging. Thanks so much for the encouragement and positivity! xo

  14. This is a wonderful post. I appreciate the thought process that went into your decisions. I love that you went with what was right for you, both in terms of style and values. I look forward to reading more. Julie

  15. Thanks for your post and for this magical list! I have two additional suggestions: Sevilla Smith for beautiful, customizable handmade-in-Philadelphia shoes and Vere Verto, an LA based, women-owned leather bag company with bags that convert from shoulder to backpack, etc (production is in Spain I think). Both have been great everyday items whilst I’ve been traveling the last two months, with the added bonus that they pair well with all those Elizabeth Suzann goodies 🙂
    Xo

    1. Emma thank you so much for reading and for your suggestions! I’m officially OBSESSED with Sevilla Smith shoes. I think I might need to treat myself to a pair this spring 🙂 I also really love VereVerto’s bags. The designs are so timeless and the leathers they use look amazing! If something works with Elizabeth Suzann, you know I’m into it! xoxo

  16. Thank you for posting this!
    I honestly have really never considered shopping ethically (though I do feel guilty admitting that.) I’ve heard of it before, but I always thought it seemed too granola. My initial reaction to no more fadewell and hey crew was “Nooooooo” but reading your reaction to the craftsmanship of that tank top and the idea of fewer, really high quality pieces is really appealing. I also feel like I’m a bit of a slave to aforementioned brands, following their every trend and big sale event. I was recently cleaning out my closet and nearly every piece that ended up leaving the premises was a low quality item, trendy at one point, or a “great deal” from the clearance rack.
    So anyway, you’re really inspiring me to do the same. That said, any good recommendations on the perfect pair of high waisted skinny jeans? 🙂

    1. Thanks for your genuine comment Katrina! I really appreciate your honesty. I know exactly what you mean about being a slave to certain brands and their various collections. It’s not easy to break the cycle! Good for you for even considering making the switch to ethical shopping. I thought about it for a loooonnng while before I committed. Sometimes you just need to be ready for it, which I’m sure you will be eventually. I really love my high rise skinny jeans from AYR! They’re made in LA and fit like a dream 😉 xo

  17. I’m very excited about this! I think another good way to shop responsibly (especially on a budget) is to mix in some second-hand items.

    1. That’s great to hear Kate! I 100% agree about shopping second hand! I’m sharing a really fun interview with my favourite vintage and thrift shop girl next week. Thanks for reading! xoxo

  18. Lee,
    Good gracious. Thank you so much for this. Huge props for a thoughtful and inspiring post. As always. It’s so refreshing to see such honesty and transparency on a blog. I relate to your new mission so much. I haven’t made the leap yet, but I want to get there. Sooner rather than later.

    And what you said about wearing independent designs… exactly. I initially found you by doing a Google search for “Elizabeth Suzann”, and seeing your outfit posts made me bite the bullet and buy her linen Georgia tee. When it arrived, I was a bit obsessed. The thoughtful shape, the amazing fabric, the construction. All of it made me feel as if I was wearing art.

    I so appreciate how your blog has grown with you and that you have remained true to yourself throughout the process. I think that’s why yours is still one of my all time favorite spots on the internet. It feels authentic, connected to an individual, and relevant. Keep on keeping on. And can we be besties? 😉

    ~Lindsey

    1. Lindsey your comment put such a big silly smile on my face, thank you!! I’m still totally obsessed with the Georgia Tee and I have three! I’m on a not so secret mission to get every colour and fabric haha. Really though, thank you so much for your encouragement and support. It means the world to know that people like you are gaining something from the work I put out on here. I 100% believe you can make the switch to shopping responsibly. I got your back girl! xoxo

  19. Lee, I’m so excited about this!! I recently made the same decision and have been enjoying discovering new ethical and or sustainable brands. A few favorites of mine – I’d say they tend more on the ethical side where at least I know they are produced fairly.
    – Bella Dahl: made in USA (check the tags, not everything is made in USA) bonus points for the products made with Tencel.
    – Tessa Hughes : made in Canada!!
    – Nicole Bridger: made in Canada!!
    – Fortnight Lingerie: made in Canada!!
    – Muchi: made in Canada!! (still lusting after these for when I need new workout gear)

    1. Brittany! Thank you SO much for the suggestions! Great to hear you’re on the same wavelength about shopping ethically. Feels so good to put on clothes that you love and know were made fairly. Thanks for reading! xoxo

  20. This is HUGE! I’m looking forward to following you on your journey and commend you for being committed to such a fine goal. I feel like you’ve joined a small community of dedicated and responsible women who are working everyday to inspire others like myself. I’m working toward responsible shopping in every area of our home from food, to home goods, to travel and one of the things I’m finding along the way is that it is not an easy journey. There is so much conflicting information available and it is all incredibly difficult to sort through. Bloggers like Erin Boyle and Rita Mehta have made our task so much easier. And seeing the rewards and feeling good about my choices is making these changes sting a little less every day. X

    1. Alexandra you are a gem! Thanks so much for your kind words and support. I totally agree that it’s important to carry this approach into all areas of life and that’s my plan for sure. But you’re right, it’s not always easy! Although like you said, the reward of satisfaction in doing what feels right is totally worth the extra effort. So glad you mentioned Rita and Erin, I admire them both so much! Keep at it girl and don’t hesitate to let me know about any great finds you come across 😉 xoxo

  21. I’m excited that you’re doing this! It’s something I’ve been transitioning into as well. Everlane is wonderful especially for those on a tight budget.

    1. Thanks so much Emily! Glad to hear you’re making the same changes. Everlane is definitely a great option for good quality, well designed items at very reasonable prices. They’re really supportive of their marketing partners too which is much appreciated. xoxo

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