some big ideas from Patagonia’s “The Responsible Company”

Stayin’ busy but wanted to drop in and leave a couple nuggets I found that pertain to fashion design and manufacturing in general vs. the environment and our own well-being.

The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years
by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

Chapter 2: “What Crisis?”

“If the United States is the birthplace of conservation…we have not kept stride with the rest of the world…. We are still the leading practitioners of the kind of high-growth, material-intensive capitalism that is to blame for the destruction of nature.”

“Those who…raise their voice against it cannot be heard when the company that did the [damage] does not belong to the community…. When local politics becomes subservient to distant economic power, the concept of citizenship…loses its meaning…

Reject the official story told by governments and corporations that a healthy economy relies on the suppression of social, ecological, and individual health.”

interview with a 4th grader

I was recently interviewed by a sweet 4th-grade student from my former school who was completing her Career Report. She wants to be a Fashion Designer! Here’s the interview. :)

What are your 10 fave sewing techniques?

I have some books and a binder full of sewing techniques, with pictures and instructions because I can’t remember 10 techniques–definitely not the hundreds of techniques that are out there! I love to go on Pinterest and find pictures of haute couture techniques. Do you know what haute couture is? It’s French for “high fashion,” and it means the best artists in the world working together to make one garment, each person knowing one special technique. One person puts the beads on the fabric, and they are the best in the business. One person cuts the fabric because they are the best cutter. Each person has a specialty, and the garment is very expensive because so many people helped to make it, and because they are each so good at their technique.

Check out this wonderful video that shows all the people making one beautiful red coat from the very famous French fashion house Dior:

How long does it take to design a dress?

Sometimes the idea just pops into my head, as clear as a photograph, in one instant. This happens a lot when I am falling asleep or waking up. Other times, I have to draw and I’m designing it with my hand and eyes instead of my imagination/mind. When I do it this way it can take a very long time to get the sketch just right. My jacket design took many hours and I erased the paper so many times that it started to shred! Other times, I walk past my drawing pad and I draw a line and then walk away. Then I come back later and draw another line and walk away, and I keep doing this until I feel it’s done.

I just finished my first dress design, and now that I put it on and wore it for an entire day, I realized I like the design but there is one thing I want to change. So even though I thought that design was done, I will now revise it.

And then once you have the design on paper, there are a lot of steps to actually see the design in fabric!

Some designers design the dress on a dress form, or even a live model! The live model might get poked sometimes with pins, because the designer is draping a piece of fabric over her, and pinning it together or cutting it into the shape they want.

Here’s a video that shows a dress being designed in 1938, and being created in 2008. That means this dress was being designed for 70 years!

How long have you been designing?

Since I was about your age. My mom used to design costumes and make some of our clothes, and I would go with her to pick out fabrics and patterns. When I was older I got a sewing machine and have been making some of my own clothes for about eight years. And now I am learning to do my own designs completely from scratch, nobody else’s patterns, my own pattern from my own sketch from my own head.

How do you design a dress?

Many designers do it different ways, but they all start by asking, “What is the dress for?” Personally, I look at other dresses that I love. I try to see what is it that I love about those dresses? Or I look at a garment I partially like, and I think about how I would make it so that I like it even more.

I sketch my design, then I watercolor the sketch. I start to look for fabric in the right color. You have to make sure you get the right type of fabric. Let’s say I want to wear my dress to a Christmas party. I don’t want to make the dress out of thin cotton, because I will be freezing in that fabric! I want something warm, so I have to pick a warmer fabric like silk.

I also need to make pattern pieces so that when I make this dress again later, I’ll know how to cut my fabric. I could also buy a pattern and change it to fit my body.

Then I sew a sample. I start by sewing it in a very cheap fabric, called muslin, to make sure the pattern pieces are correct. If they are, I then sew another sample, in the real fabric. Finally my design is a dress!

What are your fave patterns?

Before I learned how to make my own pattern pieces, I purchased patterns from a German company called BurdaStyle, and some independent patterns from the United States. One of my favorite patterns was free on the internet, and it is basically just two long rectangles of fabric that became a skirt that I wear all the time, and every time I wear it people give me compliments, even though it is one of the most simple things I ever made!

One of the best patterns I ever did was a pattern for making matching mama and baby elephant stuffed animals. I made them for my baby niece, and that’s how I learned to hand-sew!

When you visit we can look at some patterns and you can borrow some if you want to.

What are your fave things to design?

I love to design clothing for myself. When I was a girl, I always wanted to have beautiful clothes, but there were lots of kids in my family so we were kind of poor. Because I couldn’t have lots of clothes, I would imagine clothes, and sometimes even dream about clothes. Designing is really the same as imagining.

I love designing modern clothing based on historical clothing. I think historical clothing was very exciting! But also not very practical. French ladies wore skirts so wide they couldn’t fit through doorways! I think it’s silly to follow a fashion just because it’s popular. You have to think about whether the garment makes sense, whether it gives the lady freedom: freedom to move, and freedom to express herself.

This lady has LOTS of freedom to express herself—her dress says LOOK AT ME! But she does not have much freedom of movement. She can’t go running/jumping/playing in this dress. In fact, it will be hard for her to even dance with other people because her dress will keep hitting all her friends. Plus she’s wearing a corset, which makes her unable to breathe. Sometimes, fashion can be beautiful but silly at the same time.

I love designing dresses, ball gowns, skirts, jackets, hats, everything! My favorite designs, the ones I really enjoyed designing and feel very proud of, are my Hamlet and Ophelia costumes because they are a little more wild. They’re not something you could wear to just anything, they’re more like a piece of art that you mostly look at to appreciate.

Have you ever designed a Halloween costume?

Halloween is cool because for one day a year, everybody is a designer!

I sometimes think instead of being a fashion designer, I want to be a costume designer. But instead, I think I will combine both and make fashion that is sometimes costume-inspired.

Some costumes I designed with my mom when I was a kid:

  • A prairie girl, for when I was in Oklahoma in high school
  • A purple wizard robe with silver stars all over it, and a matching pointy wizard’s cap. This was when I was in 7th grade, and we learned about Medieval Times. We had a costume competition, and I was one of the winners so I got to eat lunch at the Royal Banquet Table (which was really just a regular cafeteria table but it felt pretty special to me)
  • A “flapper” costume for a 1920’s-themed choir concert. It was simple: my mom had a black slip and we glued fringe onto it. I put a sequin band across my forehead.
  • A cavegirl costume for a school dance, complete with furry boots and a plastic bone in my hair!

Have you ever designed pet costumes?

I once made a dog coat for Bunny the School Dog, and she even wore it to school when the weather got chilly! It was in the style of Coco Chanel, a famous French designer who made warm stylish jackets for the women of Paris. It had a big gold button on the front to make her look like a proper Parisian lady of a certain age.

Where did you get your fabric?

  • Pacific Fabrics in Northgate (they have a special selection of expensive lace and beaded fabrics)
  • Stitches on Capitol Hill: This is where I got some of my fabrics that will be in my first runway show.
  • Nancy’s Sewing Basket on Queen Anne: They also have an entire room of ribbons!
  • QuiltWorks Northwest in Bellevue: They also have old buttons and beads!

The fun thing about being a fashion designer is, sometimes for your job you get to travel to other countries or states and look for fabric that comes only from that place. For example, I went on a vacation to Shanghai (China) once, and while I was there I bought some very unique fabric, that was handmade by a person who lived right there in Shanghai. Because he is one of the only people in the world who makes this type of fabric, it is very special to me. Every time I wear the skirt, I feel connected to the person who made the fabric, even though I don’t know him. This is better than any souvenir keychain or coffee mug I could buy.

Made In China. Environmental Impact of the Textile Industry in China.

“There is a saying in China that if you want to know what colours are currently in fashion all you need to do is look at the rivers.”

中国制造 Made in China

Made In China. Textiles and its Environmental Impact in China.

It is estimated that China makes ¼ of the worlds clothing .  The processes employed to manufacture textiles is often dangerous to humans and the environment. The problem of environmental damage is not unique to China of course but with more and more of our clothing being produced there what impact is it having on the environment and on the human population? What steps, if any, are being taken to reduce the damage ?

One of the countries greatest environmental challenges is water pollution. The World Health Organisation estimates that polluted water causes 75 percent of diseases in China.

According to World Economic Forum on East Asia, Security and Sustainability China uses three times more energy than the global average, four times more than the USA and eight times more than Japan. Pollution is endemic; four hundred thousand Chinese die…

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10 Positive Affirmations to help you stay happy at work and build a successful career// Mojo Mondays…

Featured Image -- 9522

Thank you for this, Alisha Brown. I needed it.


Maintain your happiness and sanity at work by using the affirmations below. I love affirmations because every time you use one and repeat it at least three times daily you are shifting your mindset. If you hate your job use these affirmations to keep your head in the game and on a path to your dreams:

#1  I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful.

#2 My efforts are being supported by the universe; my dreams manifest into reality before my eyes.

#3 I feel joy and contentment in this moment right now.
#4 I release the past and live fully in the present moment.

#5 There are no limits to what I can achieve.

#6 My success or failures do not define me. They grow me.

#7 Success and growth will be inevitable outcomes of my hard work.

#8 My struggles are temporary my future is bright.


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bookworm: excerpts from “the responsible company”

Walking through Belltown the other day, I ducked into Patagonia to run an errand, then saw this little beauty at the counter. “Hello, what’s this?” I thought (doing my best British accent–in my head). “Business? Responsibility? These are two things I happen to have been stewing on lately. I’ll take it!”

I’m happy I did. So far, chapter 1 alone has inspired me. I’ve been searching for reliable resources who can tell me whether small business and responsibility can go hand in hand. On the one hand, there are business people in my life who seem woefully unaware of global warming, who insist ecological considerations are bad for business, and who purposefully obstruct information. On the other hand, small business owners I chat with want to be responsible, but already flounder to compete and can’t imagine putting on another hat in addition to all the hats they are wearing already. Is it possible to run a responsible company that also turns a profit (or at least pays the bills)?

Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, believes it is. And author Vincent Stanley builds a strong case showing that ecologically sustainability is not only possible and necessary, but also competitively profitable.

Of course, there are environmental reasons for responsible business practices. “Packaging is responsible for a third of all waste generated,” writes Stanley. The authors present frightening data, but not in a guilting or heavy-handed way. In fact, they are open and honest about their own mistakes, and stay focused on solutions–in particular, business solutions, for small and large businesses.

Ecological impact is undeniably the biggest reason for businesses to change their ways, but for the cynics out there who insist it’ll put business under, the authors outline economic reasons for responsible business practices, as well, urging businesses to view responsibility as a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world. “We are all trying to get a new roof up over the economy before the old, sagging one caves in,” Stanley writes. “According to a new Harvard Business School study, socially responsible investments, which once underperformed more enticing opportunities like subprime mortgages, now over the long term outperform the market as a whole.” (Mental note: Time to invest in solar panels and windmills.)

Finally, there are social reasons for responsible business practices. To begin with, “Individual consumers are famously powerful for controlling two-thirds of the U.S. economy. ” Consumers have an incredible amount of power when they demand more from ethical companies, and stop supporting non-ethical companies. Furthermore, we are coming to the end of an era when consumers didn’t care about a company’s ecological practices, and frankly, we’ve come to the end of the era when we could afford not to. Younger consumers will vote with their wallets. “Every company should be afraid…of teenagers, and what they will consider environmentally acceptable or socially cool as they come into adulthood. No one under forty has ever lived in a year without an Earth Day or thought the health of an ecosystem subordinate to the whims of a corporation.” The authors insist that “a company that can make environmental improvements will attract more customers.” We can assume Patagonia’s continued financial success and customer satisfaction over the course of 40 years bears this advice out.

Are there really any take-aways for a small business owner like me? Here’s a shocking statement: “90 percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage; it is the designer in Los Angeles who determines most of the harm to be done in Guangdong.” Pressure! If I am responsible for 90% of CUP & PENNY’s environmental impact, I’d better make sure what I’m producing isn’t adding to the problem. “…Everything we all do at work…hurts the environment more than it gives back,” the authors point out. “No human economic activity is yet sustainable.” Just in case you missed the point, they reiterate one more time: “We have no business applying the word sustainable to business activity until we learn to house, feed, clothe and enjoy ourselves–and fuel the effort–without interfering with nature’s capacity to regenerate itself and support a rich variety of life.”

And yet! The authors immediately remind us, “It makes a difference to do less harm.”

There it is: In a new competitive market where ecological impact becomes increasingly important, less is more. Sustainable business practices, in the fashion world at least, are not just a moral imperative, but a pragmatic step in the direction of long-term success for a business, if we re-define “success.” No longer can we measure success only by profits. Modern companies succeed by adapting, leading the charge towards ecological consciousness. Doing no harm is impossible; doing less harm is imperative to the well-being of not just the planet, but consumers, employees, and CEOs alike.

watercolor snippets from Moss A/W16

‘seafog’ raglan tee with mohair neckline

For ladies like me who desire a little enhancement up top.
Locally sourced and hand-dyed mohair.

‘moss’ bolero, ‘concrete’ skirt with flat-felled seams

Wool and fully lined to keep you warm.
All the ‘Moss’ sleeves have thumbholes, for ladies whose circulation doesn’t quite make it to our fingers. Goodbye chilly hands.

‘concrete’ flat-felled mini with mohair fringe

Short and stretchy enough to wear over leggings.
Fuzzy fringe will keep us warm.

‘moss’ wool mini with mohair fringe and velvet side panels

Stretch-velvet panels on the side give ease of movement, while the darker shade visually slims.

It looks like a mess
but it’s a system.


My runway watercolors laid out,
swatches streaming in,
I try to eliminate but I want all of them.


My exhaustive/ing textiles research is paying off;
I have options!
Should I use the wool gray jersey, the silk, the cotton, or the hemp?
This one feels softer, but costs 4x.
This one is pricier, but has a lower minimum.
Factors weighed.
If I purchase the required ten yards,
can I use that fabric for more than one garment?


All of this is fun,
the decision-making, all of it.
This is what I was already doing for a hobby,
only now it feels more important, not just for me.
Is there anything more motivating?


The most exciting part is
seeing an idea become a real thing,
a thing I can hold.
The idea becomes the painting
becomes the fabric
becomes a garment
becomes something a body will walk in.
Pleasure is making all these tiny decisions,
remembering there are no wrong answers,
just expression.
Who am I at this moment?




across the water, the moss drips


Ferried across
a water passage,
in a sea of change.
Last year we drove here the long way,
exploring and finding it on accident.
This year I returned with a purpose.


The shop was as cozy as I remembered,
warm and welcoming,
full of ladies who create with their hands
and talk and laugh and pamper the shop dog.
If I squint I can pretend it is a century ago,
and we have gathered at this barn to knit.
But I don’t know how to knit.
So why am I at a yarn shop–again?

This radiant lady is Katy Flynn, Seattle designer and lovely friend

This time, car loaded with friends who must see this shop,
I hoped my memory hadn’t over-shined this place,
but here it was still:
Baskets full of dark dark green mohair, loose through my fingers;
nearby, the northwest jungle of the Hoh rainforest.
There, the moss drapes from the trees like great green fingers.
A collection had formed in my mind: Moss.
Now I knew where to source my moss.


runway to freedom

I’ve heard the hours that lead up to a runway show
can be hectic or dramatic,
but not this one.
We arrived hours ahead,
set the clothes out for each model,
lint-brushed one or six times.
The models arrived.
The makeup/hair artists set up mood boards,
then began their hours-long shift
decorating models,
all of us volunteering
for Mary’s Place,
a shelter for women and children.


Before the guest celebrities arrived,
I stole a moment out front.
The venue was too textured not to explore,
an old building just north of old Georgetown.
A room with partitions appeared to have been a stable.


I loved the chipped-paint rafters,
the texture of time passing.
As day faded to night,
the lights came up
and music and fashion filled the place.


You can help Mary’s Place
by donating or volunteering here.
And a big thank you to Katy Flynn,
(a lovely and talented Seattle designer),
for inviting me to be part of this special event.