Friday, April 21, 2017

Earth Day 2017 - Make A Difference

There's a lot of talk about "Earth Day". On a personal front, I agreed to volunteer with a group of New York University alums to help out at the Festival of Books which will take place at University of Southern California this upcoming weekend. It's been taking place since 1996 and is all about bringing books and people together. What better thing to do on Earth Day than to encourage our planet's people to read just a little more?

On a professional front, I thought I'd marinate on some of the small things Dunitz & Company does to save our planet.  Sometimes it isn't that obvious.  Other times it is.  Perhaps by mentioning a few here, I might influence others to make small changes.  First and mostly, we often try to use recycled components in our jewelry designs. On an ongoing basis we design using old buttons, retired coins and broken watch parts. Recently we design by recycling old traditional cloth and denim. We go to the markets to recover torn jeans. From these we create beautiful bracelets, earrings and necklaces. We're recycling and we're on-trend!
Dunitz has been wholesaling since 1990 and recently launched a retail site.  Whenever possible, our orders are shipped in a recycled box and packaged with recycled packaging materials. We do not purchase Styrofoam peanuts or plastic shipping materials. Often we receive parcels filled with these things. Sometimes we collect packing materials from neighbors before it goes to land-fill. Yes we save money by doing this. We're also saving our planet.

I'm a big thrifter. Flea markets on the weekend not only provide me hours of pleasurable hunting, I find stacks of things useful for day to day operations. One Sunday I found a pile of bins that are perfect for sorting orders and organizing jewelry. They cost me .25/each! The finds never stop. They include lined and computer paper, stickers and notepads. I could write paragraphs describing the goodies I've found and the business has enjoyed. Remember Tippy the mannequin? She was a flea market steal!

Every season we take photos of our newest designs and create posters. These decorate the walls of our trade show booths. I'm sure many of you have seen them. Our jewelry is always tastefully placed on greenery in and around our offices in Hollywood, CA.  We have a hard time tossing these images once their primary function of 'booth decoration' has passed. What do we do? The posters become wrapping paper. The delivery people and others that help us out receive their holiday gifts ---yes, wrapped in old Dunitz & Company posters.

There are always other creative ways to use things that would otherwise be put in the trash.  In our workshop in Guatemala we have what seems like 100s - yes 100s of beads in varying sizes, shapes and colors. We need to easily grab them to create our jewelry. That means we need lots and lots of open containers that will hold a good quantity of any particular color or type of bead. The perfect solution is recycling plastic food containers. Yogurt, butter and sour cream containers have been the perfect solution.

Will you do something special for Earth Day? What changes might you make to help preserve our planet? If you have some ideas for us, we'd love to hear them. -ND

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fashion Revolution; Fair Trade and Transparency

Each year we hope more and more people change the way they make their clothing (and  jewelry) purchase choices.  More and more people are speaking about the Fashion Revolution. Do you know why this movement started?  In April 2013, the largest garment factory disaster in history took 1134 lives and injured thousands.  Does this ring a bell?  It happened at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.  This is the incident that played out across all media in the biggest way. The photos were absolutely horrifying. It was the pinnacle of garment factory disasters that made many consumers ask "Who Made My Clothes"?

The horrors of Rana Plaza do not represent a stand alone event. Tragedies on various scales have taken place for decades. Why do you think garment factories have always been called "sweat shops"?  There has always been abuse with clothing factories.  At the turn of the century disasters also took place within our borders. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 in New York City took 146 lives because the doors were locked and the workers could not flee. (Shop owners at the time suggested they wanted to reduce worker breaks and opportunities for possible theft.)  It's only because the cost of labor has increased so much in the USA that so many manufacturers have taken their projects overseas. And because a majority of consumer want to buy as much as they can as cheaply as they can - many manufacturers and importers in their efforts to fill this demand continue to 'brow beat' third world producers into providing cost so low, they cannot offer fair wages or safe conditions for their labor force.

The "Fashion Revolution" encourages consumers to ask "Who Made My Clothes?" The question essentially demands transparency in manufacturing. This is a concept Dunitz & Company has been practicing through our commitment to fair trade for more than 25 years. At Dunitz & Company we'd like consumers to add the question specific to us - "Who Made My Jewelry?"  [Yes, I know who made my jewelry.] We believe in a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and our planet's environment is protected. If more and more people begin asking the question "Who Made My...fill in the blank?" and genuinely cared about the answer, our world and the people in it would be much better off.

April 24-30 has been defined as this year's 'Fashion Revolution' week.  Were you planning to shop at H&M or Forever 21? Perhaps think twice about shopping chains known for churning out the cheapest fashion at the expense of worker well being. Write a letter to their CEOs and demand information about "who made the clothing" they sell.  If enough people ask the questions and purchase from companies that provide adequate answers then many manufacturers might alter their business practices. Small changes at big manufacturers can make huge differences. Looking for socially responsible companies to purchase from? It's easy to research suppliers online. Dunitz & Company is a member of Fair Trade Federation.  You can easily review FTF's member lists and find ethical suppliers that retail clothing, jewelry and gifts. The Good Trade, a reputable blog recently published a list of clothing companies with honorable business practices. (We're waiting for them to blog about fair trade jewelry and hope they mention us!) There are lots of reputable bloggers that explore the ethics and sustainability of fashion. One we like a lot is Style Wise.

Get on board! Ask the brands #whomademyclothes? Will you? -ND

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Not Always Black & White

We've followed a pattern. When we photograph our fair trade jewelry for our website we almost always photograph our collections on a white background. We do this because we think it best shows off our baubles.  If our designs are created with white colored beads or glass - we tend to use a beige or taupe background. Visit Dunitz & Company wholesale and retail websites and you will see this consistently. To the right you'll see a couple of our favorite designs that use vintage components including old buttons, coins and watch faces. The white background is perfect!

This pattern of ours continues when we photograph our collections each season with models. We always make sure our fashionistas are wearing solid colored tops. And yes, most often we prefer black and/or white. As you see here, these lovely women are modeling our vintage designs in those uniform colors. We've always thought that by wearing clothing that drifts into the background, one will focus on the jewelry. I must say, looking at this photo now, I hone in on big brown eyes and playful facial expressions first.  And yes, I've looked at these images 100s of times. What do you see first or second?

Yesterday an up and coming fashion blogger emailed me some photos of her wearing one of our brightly colored necklaces on a floral blouse. (Soon, I'll write another post about 20-somethings blogging about our fair trade jewelry. Stay tuned.) It registered. Our fair trade designs look amazing on multi-colored and patterned clothing.  From time to time, we ask our artisans in Guatemala, the women that create our beautiful wares to model with the jewelry they've made.  It's fun for them and us.  And from time to time you've seen us post these photos on social media. Click! These shots are amazing. And our artisans are always wearing brightly handwoven and embroidered traditional huipils. This just validates that it doesn't always need to be black & white. Sometimes it should be grey. Or boldly colored. Or floral or checkerboard. What do you think? -ND

Friday, April 7, 2017

Green Forward - Did You See Melania This Week?

Yes, I'm referring to "Green, the color" this time. (I'm usually talking about green eco fashion, I know!) Earlier today I saw a stories from Vogue and Vanity Fair pointing out that our First Lady, Melania Trump wore fashionable green to meet with Queen Rania (another absolute beauty) of Jordan. Until now she seems to have been wearing a lot of white, neutrals and red. So where did the fashion statement of Green come from?

In December, Pantone announced that "Greenery" would be the color for 2017.  At the time I was surprised. In recent times, Pantone had been all about light pinks and sapphire blue. This new grassy tone seemed such a departure.  I had avidly watched all of the Spring runway shows.... and well, this shade of green didn't seem very prevalent for upcoming fashion.  I had used bits of green as an accent when designing the Dunitz & Company Spring 2017 collections.  At the shows I pointed this out and told my customers I was very clever. Ha.

And then, perhaps I saw some of Pantone's influence when it came to Fall fashion.  When watching the runway shows from New York, Paris and London I noticed that lots of designers were incorporating green into their collections. Of course this made me happy because I'm crazy for all shades of green. I love it in clothing. I love it in jewelry. I love it in home fashion.  My mother always told me I "had" to own a sweater in any tint of teal green. (I don't think it was her favorite color.)  In this photo to the right are outfits from the Fall runways of Kenzo and Nicole Miller. And these two fabulously 'green' outfits are only the tip of the iceberg of green offerings for the upcoming season from "big designers".

Between Pantone and "big designer" (That means Donna as in Karan, Nicole as in Miller and Calvin as in Klein among others. They make a lot more money than me!.) offerings, It was clear that 'green' would be BIG for Fall 2017 fashion.  As always, I diligently studied the shows to create new color schemes for our beaded and fused glass collections.  Here's a preview for you.  In spite of my mother, I'm introducing a minty/tealy/hunter combo.  And another, an olive/army green classic. I know they're winners!

So, now I'm wondering what was the path to Melania's green outfit? -ND

Monday, April 3, 2017

When Costs go Up - A LOT - A Tale of Woe

When you're a fair trader - or maybe just an ethical business person - you always worry about those around you.  We want to make sure our artisans are paid fairly and earn living wages.  We also want to make sure we charge our retailers and customers the fairest and lowest price possible. And although fair trade is about supporting everyone along our short supply chain, we personally sometimes take the short end. 
Over the many years we've been at this, we've estimated that labor costs (in Guatemala) rise about 5% per year. We have many designs in our arsenal that we've sold to our retailers year after year. With only a very few exceptions, we've never changed our wholesale prices on these items. No wonder our customers think they get such awesome value for the prices they pay Dunitz & Company. Essentially we've absorbed and the owners of our workshops on the ground have absorbed these cost increases. With rising rents, trade show fees and other expenses incurred in running our US Operation our margins deteriorate.
So, here's our tale of woe. This year there are significant issues out of our control where we don't see how we can absorb the extra costs. Guatemala has new legislation in place charging 7% of all invoiced product leaving the country.  They're also requiring a $44.00 "documents" fee per shipment. This doesn't sound like a lot of money, but as a percentage of product costs when you ship often and reasonably small parcels, it adds up. And finally the Quetzal (Guatemalan's money) continues to weaken against the US$.  This affects our artisans. In only a few years, the Quetzal has dropped from 7.75/$ to 7.20/$. At some banks in Guatemala, the rate is 7.  The differential is huge.
The prices we pay for our older fused glass designs are being worked out as I type.  If you're reading this blog, I say "stock up."  As tough as it is, we will most likely have to to raise our prices on our various fused glass designs between 15-25%. We'll make an official announcement soon.  Unfortunately these added costs I describe here make it impossible to keep our pricing artificially low. And truth be told, even with a price hike, I think our prices will still be very good for the high quality and design you will receive. Feel good. You know everyone is being treated fairly. -ND

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Diego Rivera Reminds Us - Fair Trade is Not Charity

On a recent mini-vacation to Mexico City I visited the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This fantastic theater is also well known for its colossal murals on the second and third floors.  I was particularly drawn to one created by Diego Rivera in 1934 and wondered why much of the signage depicted in this masterpiece entitled "Man, Controller of the Universe" was in English. And then I learned the story behind the images. This grand scale painting was originally commissioned (even larger in size) by Nelson Rockefeller for yes, Rockefeller Center.  Diego began painting the mural, then known as "Man at the Crossroads" in New York in 1933 and it included images of Lenin and the Soviet May Day parade. When asked to remove these parts of the mural, Diego Rivera refused. Rockefeller paid the artist for his work and then had the partially completed mural destroyed and painted over. It was only then that Diego Rivera took his plans and re-created this masterpiece in Mexico City.

One of the main themes dictated for the creation of the mural was "looking for hope for a better world."  The timing of this is an interesting one since the mural was created after the Crash of '29 and before World War II. There are plenty of references to scientific discoveries. What I honed in on was the disparity between rich and poor people represented. Their are rich society women playing cards. And right next to them is a worker with a sign "We Want Work, Not Charity."  Other signs seen state "We Want Bread, We Are Hungry" and "Divided We Starve, Together We Eat." There are police officers attempting to keep marching crowds in order. Leon Trotsky is also part of the mural with his red flag "Workers of the World Unite." Everyone is looking for a fair shake.

The desperate times depicted in this mural, in the scheme of a life, weren't that long ago. Much less than 100 years ago, our brothers were starving and looking for work and fair wages. We've all read about this part of American history. Many of our parents and grandparents lived this tale. And so I wonder, when we experienced this way of life in what really is recent times, so many of my country mates turn their back on supporting fair trade and following the golden rule.  Life is not better for us or the world when we try to buy goods at the cheapest price without considering how and where they were made. This clearly was our story in the 1930s. Did we not learn anything at all from our own difficult times? What do you think?

If you do visit Mexico City - you MUST put a visit to this mural masterpiece on your to-do list! -ND

Monday, March 20, 2017

Raquel Welch and Fair Trade Fused Glass Earrings

Did my post title catch your attention? I know it's rather silly, but I had to do it.  Raquel Welch actually has marketed a wig collection for many years.You can easily find Raquel's wig designs online as well as numerous glamorous photos of her modeling them. I took the liberty of changing out her diamond earrings for Joanie M fair trade fused glass earrings in this image. She's styling in our Delgado Earrings. What do you think?
By now you are asking where is all of this coming from.  Many of you know that I am flea market maven. Often on Sunday's you can find me scouring tables and piles of vintage goodies at one market or another. Recently I found a Raquel Welch wig mannequin. My Raquel has long eyelashes, pierced ears, plump lips and enviable cheekbones.  I have no wigs for her.  I do however have lots and lots of earrings to doll her up in. For the occasion of this blog, my Raquel was outfitted with our fair trade fused glass earrings. Each pair is individually cut by artisans and then cooked in a kiln. Every pair bubbles just a little differently. Buy a pair on our retail website. Or you can order them for your shop.  Dunitz & Company has been designing this collection of fair trade jewelry since 2011 and it has become a huge hit with our retail store accounts. Triangles, rectangles, teardrops, almonds - these are only a few of the shapes we offer. And they're always available in many colors. Ear wires are made of surgical steel.We promise you don't need to look like Raquel Welch to look like a million bucks in our fair trade earrings. -ND