"Fashion is what you're offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose." —Lauren Hutton
Advanced Style, is a light-hearted fashion blog that describes itself as 'capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set'. Unlike other street style blogs such as The Sartorialist , Advanced Style is devoted to fashion for women over 60. The blog's founder, Ari Seth Cohen has a lifelong affinity to his elders and explained the blog's inspiration simply as “I wanted to show that you can be stylish, creative and vital at any age.” The blog (and now movie) features street portraits of stylish women over 60 who despite their age continue to regard fashion as a core part of their life. The blog has gained fans among designers and creative directors and has inspired ad campaigns for Lanvin, Karen Walker, Coach, Kmart and has helped land modeling gigs for some of it's over 60 fashionistas.
In addition to its great portrait photography, Advanced Style is thought provoking for it's ethos and underlying social commentary. There's no reason to look the way people expect you to look, regardless of your age. The anxiety over aging is created by perceptions in society and media. It's reassuring to see Cohen's older fashionistas so self assured, unapologetic and having such a good time.
The slums of Rio de Janeiro rise high above the city, holding commanding views over Copacabana beach and the ritzy neighborhoods below. Originally built as make shift housing, these shantytowns or favelas exploded over a hundred year period to become the extremely dense, permanent urban zones that they are now. Today one in five residents of Rio live in favelas -- cities within cities that evolved organically with no formal plan and very little infrastructure. Few people outside of the community know what's inside because everything that they've ever heard and seen about them is downright scary.
(Click image to start Google's 'Beyond the Map' video)
With a timely interest in Rio as host city of the 2016 Olympics, Google has created a jaw dropping video production, 'Beyond the Map' that introduces Rio De Janeiro's favelas in a series of compelling video episodes. With spectacular video footage, 360 degree mapping from the back of motorcycles and introductions to people in the community, Google has succeeded in presenting a narrative to an under represented urban landscape.
Last month Escama Studio's online retail partner, Shopping for a Change, made a generous donation of reading glasses to our artisan partners in Brazil. Executive Director, Stacey Horowitz met with us today to explain more about the eyeglass donation program called 'The Future Looks Bright Project'
Photo gallery of the artisans wearing their glasses from the Future Looks Bright Project.
Stacey: I was so excited to have Escama as part of our most recent community improvement project—The Future Looks Bright Project, which was funded in January 2016 from our 2015 product sales. We were able to provide 2500 pairs of eyeglasses to artisans on 3 continents around the world. People typically begin to lose their ability to see clearly up close between the ages of 30-55. This can be truly devastating for an artisan. Not only does their production begin to dwindle when they cannot see well, but they risk losing their ability to work completely. By providing this eye wear they are once again be capable of working to their fullest capacity, enabling them to provide necessary food, shelter and education for their children.
Escama: Your website, Shopping For A Change funds community improvement projects every year from the profits raised from the previous year's sales. How did you come up with this year's idea of free eye wear?
Stacey: It came about as a result of a conversation with one of our artisan groups. We were trying to come up with a health-oriented project, and the artisans themselves said that what they needed most were eyeglasses. I began to think that this was probably a common need among all of the groups with whom we work, so I asked everyone to share what their artisans’ eye needs were. I began researching eye wear providers and discovered VisionSpring, a NY-based nonprofit whose focus is on eye care in developing countries and teaching local communities how to do eye exams and sell glasses. We purchased 2500 pairs of magnification style eyeglasses, and with the information gathered from our artisan groups we were able to know which strengths, quantities & styles to send to each. We've started to get comments from artisans around the world about what a life changer it is for them to be able to see clearly again.
Escama: Yeah, the glasses are great! (I admit that I stole a pair myself and I can actually see clearly now). And from Brazil here are some of the things that we've heard back from the artisans:
What's it like to work with a group of other artisans in an artisan co-operative? We've been asking some of the artisans to get their perspective and today we talked to Chica Rosa.
ES: Hi Chica, when did you start working as an artisan?
Chica Rosa: I started in 2004
ES: Your products are now all over the world, it that exciting? How does that make you and the other artisans feel?
Chica: Well, first off it makes me sure to be careful to the details. It is exciting that these products are sold outside of the country. I feel that it's difficult to produce each item but I feel accomplished when I see the result of my work. To see the transformation not only of the material in a product so beautiful but also to see the ability of the women in this process...it's fantastic! In this partnership the difficulties become insignificant compared to the great satisfaction that I feel. The result of our work is that we have created this great family.
ES: What has changed since you joined the project?
Chica: The income from the production has improved our lives, it's made many friends to feel happier than before. My life has changed thanks to the income that I have with this work. We produce as a group and I love it. We are a group! We learn from each other, sometimes we are students and sometimes we are teachers.
ES: What have you been able to do for your family recently?
Chica: I bought clothing for the kids and we made a trip together to have a good time. My family and I are always together. We have had the opportunity to travel, buy gifts. On one occasion, I traveled with some artisans. That was fantastic too.
ES: Anything else?
Chica: This partnership makes me very happy.
Fair trade fashion is a relatively small but growing market segment in North America and Europe. But what is the situation of fair trade fashion in other markets? Here in the West we rarely hear about the market for fair trade products in Japan.
Today we're interviewing our friend, Tamae Takatsu to find out how things are developing there. Tamae manages a series of pop up retail shops called Love & Sense and also has experience serving on the board of OXFAM in Japan. She has been promoting and advocating for fair trade for over 10 years.
Tamae Takatsu, CEO of Fukuichi Co.,Ltd.
Escama: Hello Tamae! You have a unique approach to selling fair trade products, you're selling in Hankyu department store and to some of the most exclusive department stores in Japan. How do you do it? It would be difficult to pitch a fair trade themed pop up shop to Neiman Marcus, is Japan completely different?
Tamae: This is my own approach. Fair trade products in Japan are generally not positioned as high-end, or luxury items. I decided to take the 'path of most resistance'.
An early Love & Sense pop up shop in Takashimaya
Escama: The 'path of most resistance'? I like that! What exactly do you mean?
Tamae: More than 10 years ago, I was involved in establishing OXFAM Japan. I had the notion that the organization should retail fair trade products because I knew that OXFAM UK included product retailing among their activities. It turned out that it was difficult to do in Japan with some problems including the quality of the products. In those days, I gave up the idea to be involved in fair-trade, and ultimately I ended up running the shops by myself. I started to plan how to target a luxury market, an affluent clientele with high quality, high style products. That is what I mean by the path of most resistance.
Escama: But how did you follow the path of most resistance and actually end up in Takashimaya, Isetan, and Hankyu department stores? That's impressive.
Ground floor pop up shop at Isetan, the most popular store in Japan.
Tamae: It took many years, it didn't happen overnight. Early in my career, in the early 1990s, I had my own marketing company and my clients were department stores. I advised them with matters concerning merchandising, marketing and promotions. So I had connections with decision makers and I understood the culture of department stores. This was important but it was not the only factor.
Escama: What was your first exposure to fair trade and how did you start your first pop up?
Tamae: I became exposed to fair trade in 1998 and started to research artisan-made products on my own. I contacted the company People Tree and participated in their fair trade study tour to India in 2000. I gradually developed the theme for the store, (Love & Sense), started identifying products and made contacts with artisan groups. Then I arranged meetings with decision makers in department stores to convince them that fair trade was something that must be done. I told them that fair trade is necessary for other parts of the world. If we have marketing influence then we need to work with poor countries to increase fair trade.
National newspaper Sankei with circulation of 500,000 readers, covered the retail store Love & Sense, Tamae's business Fukuichi Co.,Ltd. and the fair trade movement for five straight days.
Escama: Did you convince them?
Tamae: Back then no. It wasn't time. But sometimes opportunities come by themselves. In 2006 the head of LOFT department store asked me if I knew anyone who could make a pop up shop in his store. I thought about it and decided 'I can do it'! I didn't have any experience doing a retail store. It was a disaster! No sales. The only sale was when my assistant bought a bar of chocolate. But the display was beautiful and we took lots of photos. Not long after that, a friend introduced Love & Sense to Omotesando Hills shopping center. It is one of the most elite shopping destinations in Tokyo. (Customers arrive there in Rolls Royce with chauffeurs, that kind of thing). It was a miracle! Our pop up shop was a hit in one of the best places in Tokyo. Because Omotesando Hills shopping center is so highly regarded, it opened the door for Love & Sense. Ever since then we have opportunities for pop up shops in department stores all over.
Escama: I love to hear stories like this! So for 10 years you have sold fair trade to the most affluent market segment in Japan. Do you have a feeling for how this has impacted Japanese views towards fair trade?
Tamae: In Japan, the biggest impact comes from famous shopping areas, never from the bazaars. Japanese people are insular and don't think about the outside world. So when famous department stores like Takashimaya, Isetan, or Mitsukoshi create promotions themed "I Love The Earth," "Global Green Campaign," it helps raise awareness from the top down.
10 Years ago I created the company Love & Sense to help promote fair trade in Japan. In 2006 we conducted a market research survey with 1,000 respondents and asked questions relating to fair trade awareness. Only 1% of people had any concept of fair trade, only 3% had heard the word. In 2015, according to the survey conducted by another organization, 50% of respondents had heard the word 'fair trade' and about 30% knew some of the concepts. Awareness of fair trade is becoming known in Japan through mass media. I have been doing media outreach for about 10 years and there's a growing interest in fair trade among Japanese people.
Media outreach is another key to Tamae's success.
Escama: What's next for Love & Sense?
Tamae: Big things are happening in May 2016. A fair trade 'Ethical Week' promotion in Hankyu Department Store, the most popular department store in Osaka will run through May 10. The location of the promotion will be in the highest traffic area of the store and there will be many other smaller fair trade pop up shops, each with their own unique theme.
Escama: For more information about Hankyu, visit the link >>
With politics in utter chaos and so much bad news coming from Brazil we thought that it's important to underscore the fact that ordinary people in Brazil are extraordinarily resilient and still manage to survive and thrive.
Escama Studio has been working in Brazil with 65 artisans since 2004. Over that time we've made 200,000 bags and our products sell in 30 countries worldwide. From our perspective, this venture has been a great success: it's sustained us and we're proud of what we've accomplished. But we wanted to hear from the artisans what their experience has been over the past 12 years.
So today we interviewed one of the artisans, Angela Bezerra
Just in time for Earth Day, Escama Studio will be attending the annual convention of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, April 2-7. ISRI has been super supportive of Escama Studio to attend the event and they've been fans of our recycled aluminum handbags for some time. We've never been involved in this type of a forum before and it's possible that conference attendees will be scratching their heads wondering why we're there -- ISRI members are manufacturers and processors, brokers and industrial consumers of scrap metals, paper, electronics, rubber, plastics, glass, and textiles. But who knows, maybe the people who truly understand the material in our recycled aluminum purses will be big fans! Either way, we're thrilled to have a chance to meet so many people who are involved in the industry and it's bound to be a great place to learn and network.
So if you happen to be attending ISRI 2016 or if you just happen to be in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay please stop by and say hello. We'll be in the lobby, dressed in this recycled aluminum Valkyrie outfit. (Joking)