This season, accessories can do more than make you look good, they do good as well. The Accessories Show held at the Javits Center in New York City had over 1,000 exhibitors, ranging from established brands to upcoming designers. Yet, under all the glitz, gold, felt, and fabric one theme united the designers. Women demand fashion with a conscious and a purpose; they want accessories that they can brag about for more than their aesthetic value.
The first wave of conscious consumption focused on eco-friendly and environmentally safe products. In the last five years, many industries have undergone a “green” makeover. While many companies branded their items as “green”, these designers are the real deal. The innovative use of materials and close attention to design makes green gorgeous.
For example, Sprout Watches makes stylish timepieces from new corn-based resins. While these watches look like their traditional counterparts, Sprout watches are non-toxic and can biodegrade in a compost environment. As a testament to their commitment to innovative materials, Sprout was one of the first companies to use Swarovski’s Advanced Lead-Free Crystals.
Awareness of third world artisans came into vogue around the same time as the green movement. Projects that employ local women not only help lift families out of poverty but add to their sense of self-worth. The good karma that comes from these accessories is sure to make the wearer smile. Although some women may feel disconnected from the workers who produce their baubles, many designers have long-standing relationships with the artisans they employ.
Nancy Dunitz of Dunitz & Company has worked with Guatemalan artisans since the 1980s. She maintains strong ties with her crew by visiting twice a year for, what she described as, “intensive design periods.” Dunitz’s efforts are apparent and proudly displayed with a Fair Trade Certification.
Similarly, Martha Duran and Tita Navia founded Mishky designs. Duran and Navia have close ties to the Colombian woman who produce her line of beaded jewelry. By teaching local women a craft, Mishky empowers them and encourages efficient time management. The women are able to spend quality time with their families while still brining in an income. Since its formation four years ago, Mishky has helped countless women and families in Colombia while adding style to many an American arm.
As an alternative to outsourcing, designers have embraced a hyper-local movement. Most closely associated with food, the premise behind this movement is to cut down on transportation costs while also supporting the local economy. This notion of hyper-localism echoes the workshops and craftspeople of previous eras. While not a backlash against global business, local designers tout their American-made wares as authentic and close-to-home.
Taking the notion of hyper-localism one step further is Charlotte Guptill’s CHART Metalworks line. This charming line of map-based accessories pays homage to precious locales. Guptill handcrafts the pieces in a workshop in Maine using old maps and boaters’ resin. Her pieces were recently features in the Uncommon Goods gift catalog.
Accessories companies also collaborate with charities to raise awareness and funds for a cause they believe in. Most commonly, only a certain line of a designer’s collection benefits their chosen charity or cause. One notable exception is Amber Royal’s jewelry collection, Royal Things.
As the logo on her business implies, the entire collection benefits charities committed to ending hunger. She works to end hunger at a local level and on a global scale: each piece purchased provides a bagged lunch to a homeless American or a nutrient-dense meal to a child abroad.
With an assortment of collections to choose from, everyone can find a new piece and a cause close to their hearts. These accessories become even more precious because they spark conversations and bring up global concerns in a stylish setting. Hopefully, they will encourage women to move beyond superficial acts of charity and truly make a difference in the lives of others, just as these designers are doing.