MAKERS SERIES: Amphitrite Studio

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Katrina Jo Kelley started sewing when she was four. Growing up in Woodstock New York with throwback hippies for parents Kelley’s wardrobe consisted of mostly homemade clothing or items bought from the local bulk shop that sold 100% US made cotton clothing. Despite her childhood as a born to be slow fashion advocate her journey to where she is today wasn’t a straight path to seamstress and designer. After trying her hand at many different “crafts,” as she calls them, including hairdresser and construction worker she went to business school at the age of 30 and shortly after started Amphitrite Studio. “Now I’m a little over five years into it, it’s been my full time job and it’s finally starting to turn into something real and true,” says Kelley. 

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Amphitrite Studio clothing can be described as quality, small batch, and locally made with sustainable fabrics. But it can also be described as elegant, season-less, versatile, and comfortable. Leggings, linen shift dresses, and a lot of layering pieces make this line so interchangeable that just a few items can make a ton of different outfits. Which is only one reason why the line is so sustainable. “Sustainability is something I was taught and raised on,” explains Kelley, and it shows. The line is sustainable from the core. Not only are the items made from responsibly sourced materials but they are made to last. A dress you buy from Amphitrite won’t end up in a landfill after only a few wears. 

 I recently had the chance to see her line of women’s clothing, accessories, and home goods at the Center for Maine Craft in West Gardiner, Maine. It’s one thing to see the items on the internet but the feel of these fabrics is the biggest selling point to me. This is because Kelley really takes the time to research where her fabric is coming from. “I focus on fabrics that are organic, minimally processed, free of harmful chemicals and dyes, and come from quality work environments, sustainably made or harvested, etc.. I feel that any fabric touching our skin should be as pure as the organic veggies we buy for our insides,” she says. Kelley sources a lot of her fabric from an Amish family-run business in Pennsylvania and she takes the time to investigate the production practices and transparency of any other fabric supplier she plans to source from.

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In addition to sourcing sustainable fabrics Kelley notes that she focuses on quality made goods that can stand the test of time. In a day and age where most stores carry clothing that is almost literally disposable small slow fashion brands like Amphitrite and designers like Kelley know how important it is to make things that last for the sake of the environment. Kelley still sews everything herself for Amphitrite, ensuring that the level of production doesn't waver. "I like having control over my products and their full quality. " 

Although her background of sewing from such a young age and being brought up as a conscious consumer makes this way of purchasing second nature the population of informed and thoughtful buyers is quite small. Luckily being an advocate for slow fashion is easy when you have a slow fashion line.“If I’m not sewing, I’m spreading the word on social media, or going to events and shows. In sharing my goods, I’m automatically opening up a channel of communication about a slow fashion way of life in your closet and in your living room,” says Kelley. 

Although Kelley makes the majority of her own wardrobe she likes to “spread the love” to other local makers whenever possible and finds herself drawn to mid century-80’s vintage. “Personally, I try to look for my four W’s when I am shopping; Where its made, whats its made of, who made it, and will it last. These are standards to which I stick to when purchasing anything, from a $5 item to a $500 one.” 

In addition to Amphitrite Studio's line of clothing and home goods Katrina is available as a seamstress for hire and performs local tailoring services in her home studio in Newcastle, Maine. She actually sews the pillows and pouches for Hills and Trails, which is how I heard about her! Leave a comment below if you have a maker you think would like to be interviewed for the Makers Series. And be sure to check out Amphitrite's events page to see where you can experience the line in person or checkout the website!

 

 

 

 

Presenting the Makers Series:

It has been about a year and a half since my last blog post and I can tell you that I've been working on a few things. 

1. The mobile Boutique for Flora Lou is almost ready to roll! 

2. I have formed some strong views on fast fashion and consumerism in general that have changed the vision for Flora Lou a bit.

 

3. In the past year and a half I have really become curious about and drawn to makers, thus the "Makers Series." For the next few months I will be getting everything ready to have the launch for my mobile boutique in the spring. I thought it would be great to shed some light on the slow fashion movement in New England by interviewing different makers and small business owners throughout New Hampshire and Maine to get some insight on what it takes to make a small business in New England that focuses on ethical and sustainable production work. So Here it goes, the first of many Makers I'll be showcasing in preparation for the launch of Flora Lou's mobile Boutique!

 

Hills and Trails

 I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kanya Zillmer, the owner and graphic designer of Hills and Trails, a printmaking and design studio in Portland, Maine. After working for a boutique graphic design firm for six years Zillmer found herself driving away from the city to be in the outdoors every chance she could get. She soon realized she didn't want to be behind a desk anymore so she started Hills and Trails with her partner James Frydrych, a photographer, as an outlet for their adventures. Specializing in quality screen printed goods Hills and Trails is THE place to go for modern, minimal homewares, apparel, and prints with a rustic edge. 

Zillmer and Frydrych Just recently moved the Hills and Trails studio from their home in Saco, Maine to a small studio space in downtown Portland. What I love instantly about the space is that it’s not over done. There aren’t any big machines or a group of people sewing and screen printing, just Zillmer and her production assistant, Paige Bedard, whose quietly working while I bombard Kanya with a barrage of questions. There is a metal rack with neatly folded miscellaneous screen-printed apparel, a screen-printing press (that Zillmer explains was found at a junk yard for $70), a sink, a stack of screens, a shelf with bottles of ink, and a small desk area. To me, this kind of small batch operation is what slow fashion dreams are made of. When I asked about scalability Kanya said they didn’t have any desire to get big, explaining that a lot of companies outsource their screen printing because it's a lot of work and the burnout rate is high. Her vision doesn’t include becoming a huge screen printing operation, although she does plan on reaching out to more brick and mortar stores to wholesale to. Currently you can find their products in these Maine stores, Toad and Co. in Freeport, Daytrip Society in Kennebunk, Little Boutique in Portland, Gingham in Yarmouth, Wylers in Brunswick, Lemon and Tulips in Fryeburg, and Boyce’s Boutique in Blue Hill, as well as Olives and Grace in Boston Mass. 

 Aframe Cabin Unisex Long Sleeve

Aframe Cabin Unisex Long Sleeve

I think it’s really inspiring to see an artist thrive as a small business owner. I think the “maker’s movement” has really progressed in the past 5 or so years, with websites like etsy broadening the scope of the customer base and craft fairs coming back into popularity. The recognition and demand for handmade, unique items seems to be on the rise. And speaking of craft fairs, you can find Hills and Trails at Picnic in the Brick South building at Thompson's Point in Portland December 10th, and the LL Bean Northern Lights in Freeport, Maine  on December 9th.

Zillmer is striving to source all of her materials from the US soon. Right now some of the apparel is made in the US but not all because of price point and lack of sourcing options. This winter one of their goals is to order samples from different companies for sourcing within the US. Because of the screen printing process it’s necessary to sample how the screen print will look on the material before ordering. Currently they source from a company called Bella and Canvas based in California whose manufacturing is primarily in Los Angelas but Kanya explains that sometimes there will be a batch of items that are manufactured elsewhere. 

All of her housewares, however, are made in mid-coast Maine by Katrina Jo Kelley, a seamstress and owner of Amphitrite Studio (stay tuned to the hear more about that on the next blog!)

 New Forest Geo Indigo 16x16 pillow 

New Forest Geo Indigo 16x16 pillow 

    As far as being an eco friendly operation Zillmer says Hills and Trails is “really conscious of what we are doing.” Making smart decisions like using only as much ink as needed for each screen, using only water based ink and reusing all of the paper left over from prints for the tags and packaging. Water based inks are not only better for the environment because they don't require harsh chemicals for clean up but because the inks themselves don't contain environmentally damaging petroleum or fossil fuels. Zillmer also spoke about where they source their paper from which is a Michigan paper plant that was established in 1871. French Paper is a sixth-generation, family-owned company that is powered by fully renewable hydroelectric generators installed in 1922 (and saving over one million barrels of fossil fuel to date). 

 The latest Camp Daze Press limited edition print by Miekala Cangelosi

The latest Camp Daze Press limited edition print by Miekala Cangelosi

Another amazing thing about Hills and Trails is that they have an artist series called Camp Daze Press where every month they feature a new print by a Maine artist. Each print is limited edition. Zillmer says the artist is often not a screen printer so its really fun to show them how it all works and turn their artwork into a print, the artists are involved in the entire print making process. "It's really been about expanding the art community" says Zillmer. She explains that when she first moved to Portland she had a hard time connecting with artists within the community. 

 

Eco- friendly ink, small batch printing, and community outreach are only a few of the aspects of Hills and Trails that make them a truly unique slow fashion small business with thoughtful consumerism as an organic by product. Zillmer and Frydrych have made a mark in Maine and I have a hunch that their products will continue to pop up in small boutiques throughout New England! 

 

What MATTERS?!

In the process of becoming a business owner I’ve simultaneously become a thoughtful and conscious consumer. Unfortunately If I told you I have always been a conscious consumer I would be lying. For many years, more than I care to admit, I purchased clothing to quell a need, a hunger, a desire. I think it’s possible I was shopping altogether to fill a void that had nothing to do with covering my bum in public. After the past year or so of becoming engulfed in the world of ethical and sustainable clothing I realized a lot of things. Number one being that I was an offender of unthoughtful, over consumption, and I didn't like it. 

 The Bhalka nomadic blockprint is w orn by nomadic tribes and skilled artisans of iron, this bold repeat pattern derives from a large spear or arrow head motifs.  The Bhalka is traditional for the Gadia Lohar, iron workers historically renowned for the fierce defense of their identity and skilled artisans of the bhala spear. Also called the Banjari print, it is still worn today by the nomadic Banjara community in Gujarat. 

The Bhalka nomadic blockprint is worn by nomadic tribes and skilled artisans of iron, this bold repeat pattern derives from a large spear or arrow head motifs. The Bhalka is traditional for the Gadia Lohar, iron workers historically renowned for the fierce defense of their identity and skilled artisans of the bhala spear. Also called the Banjari print, it is still worn today by the nomadic Banjara community in Gujarat. 

Because the concept for Flora Lou came from learning more about the evils of the fashion industry I have naturally become hyper aware of what I'm buying and where, how, and by whom it was made. My clothing has become so much more than just an outfit, it has become a soap box, albeit a cute one. That is why I find it so exciting to share news of amazing new products from really cool companies like MATTER! Flora Lou recently received it's first scarf order from MATTER. Each scarf has an amazing story behind the unique block print (check out the blurbs under the pictures). And their commitment to supporting small community based artisans is truly admirable! 

"Blockprinting was invented for storytelling, created as a medium to record history and legacy. Beginning in China around 220, it started as blocks cut from wood used to print textiles and then used to reproduce short Buddhist religious texts that were carried as charms by believers. The technique is found through Japan, India, East and Central Asia, Egypt, and Europe. Matter searched through heritage blocks, textile museums and books to find those with enduring cultural stories and history. Visiting over ten printing workshops in Rajasthan, India, we found one man who still knew the meanings behind the prints. Working together with the block carvers, we created modernized versions that still contained the essential stories and spirit." -http://matterprints.com/pages/block-print 

   Playful and freewheeling, the Chakri print is reminiscent of the merry-go-round or carousel’s spontaneous, free spirited spirit.    It is a heritage print inspired by the wheels familiar to all children’s playgrounds. Spontaneously arranged in a diamond shaped pattern designed for movement, this symbol is a nostalgic interpretation of the freedom of childhood with a nod to the future in our past.

Playful and freewheeling, the Chakri print is reminiscent of the merry-go-round or carousel’s spontaneous, free spirited spirit. 
It is a heritage print inspired by the wheels familiar to all children’s playgrounds. Spontaneously arranged in a diamond shaped pattern designed for movement, this symbol is a nostalgic interpretation of the freedom of childhood with a nod to the future in our past.

When I opened the shipment of scarves from Matter I instantly fell in love with the product. Then I started reading about the historical aspect of the block printing and how each scarf has a unique story and I felt as though the scarf was so much more than a piece of dreamy silk/cotton blend; but it was also a piece of beautiful, wearable history. It is so special to be able to support the continuation of a traditional craft that otherwise might be lost in time. 

 The India print is designed by Nitya Amarnath from Botto as part of the Then&Thereedition, whose story for this print is on its vast differences of textile visual language in print and woven fabric from all corners. The floral visual from the west, geometric motifs from the north, hand painted motifs from the south, woven motifs from the east, all come together to form a kaleidoscopic motif which represents the diversity of the subcontinent.

The India print is designed by Nitya Amarnath from Botto as part of the Then&Thereedition, whose story for this print is on its vast differences of textile visual language in print and woven fabric from all corners. The floral visual from the west, geometric motifs from the north, hand painted motifs from the south, woven motifs from the east, all come together to form a kaleidoscopic motif which represents the diversity of the subcontinent.

 Triangles usually denote rice sheaves or man made daggers and sharp teeth, protecting the person with this cloth. The spectacularly bold motif is designed by Anya Lim from Anthill Fabric Gallery as part of the Then&There edition. Its geometrical, angular rhythm is inspired by the Philippines' namesake as the Sunshine Nation, the rays on the sun in the national flag and carvings on a local gong called Kulintang.

Triangles usually denote rice sheaves or man made daggers and sharp teeth, protecting the person with this cloth. The spectacularly bold motif is designed by Anya Lim from Anthill Fabric Gallery as part of the Then&There edition. Its geometrical, angular rhythm is inspired by the Philippines' namesake as the Sunshine Nation, the rays on the sun in the national flag and carvings on a local gong called Kulintang.

So many of the brands Flora Lou carries have stories similar to this one. Matter is just one heart-warming and unique company that Flora Lou is proud to carry. Matter's mission of connecting with artisan partners whose craft has typically been past down by their forefathers is imperative in creating a social change that supports small family businesses whose identities and culture revolve around a particular techinique and process of a skill. So next time you get dressed think about the story behind your clothing, and if you would be proud to tell it!

Deceptive promotions in Green Washing

As I come off of the adrenaline rush of my thirtieth birthday, and the opening event for Flora Lou’s pop-up shop I am in awe of the many blessings I have in life. The process of opening Flora Lou has been about a year or so in the making. The leap to quit my day job and open my own business was not made without hesitation or fear. But I felt as though I found my calling and I didn’t want to wait one more second to forge ahead. 

 These photos are from "A Night of Thoughtful Fashion" that Flora Lou put on at the Tamworth Lyceum, a beautiful little local coffee shop and store in Tamworth NH. During the pop-up event we played the True Cost documentary, which you should totally check out on Netflix if you haven't already! 

These photos are from "A Night of Thoughtful Fashion" that Flora Lou put on at the Tamworth Lyceum, a beautiful little local coffee shop and store in Tamworth NH. During the pop-up event we played the True Cost documentary, which you should totally check out on Netflix if you haven't already! 

My degree is not in business, or fashion, or anything related to owning a small women’s clothing boutique that specializes in ethical and sustainable clothing. Actually, my degree is in journalism, so writing this blog is the closest connection I have to “using” my degree.  What I do have is a passion to educate people about ethical and sustainable fashion and to spread awareness about the devastation the fashion industry is causing people and the planet. I also have an innate sense of fashion and style, or so I’ve been told, thus making me semi-qualified to own Flora Lou.

 Flora Lou's new A-frame sign outside of the Tamworth Lyceum.

Flora Lou's new A-frame sign outside of the Tamworth Lyceum.

I have come across some brands that, at first, seem to meet the requirements for ethical and sustainable practices that Flora Lou requires but upon further research their information seems to just be “green washing”. I have to warn you, if you are searching for sustainable and ethical clothing on the internet this will happen to you! Green washing happens when a company makes vague claims of being “eco-friendly” or using “natural materials” such as cotton. Cotton is natural but not “eco-friendly” by any means. Unfortunately finding fashion labels that are truly eco-friendly and ethically sound isn’t as easy as reading the headlines. In my own research I’ve found that going two steps further is necessary. If a brand claims to be eco friendly I ask the how, if they claim to have ethical production practices I want some sort of proof. I find this greenwashing index to be helpful in distinguishing the companies that are authentic from those that are just being on trend with “going green”. http://greenwashingindex.com/about-greenwashing/#how

Green washing can be easy to spot, but there are some companies that have dedicated much time and energy to making sure you really think they are doing their part in saving the environment and combating social injustice. For instance, if you google search "gap ethical practices" one of the first pages that comes up is a press release by gap inc. stating "Gap Inc. Named One of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the 8th Year in a Row." This is not a lie, but if you research who the awards are given by things get a little more complicated. The Ethisphere Institute is a for-profit company that claims to be "the global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices that fuel corporate character, marketplace trust, and business success." http://ethisphere.com/who-we-are. Ethisphere's scoring, however, is based mostly off of information provided by the companies themselves, with little to no research into the answers. Although Gap inc. seems to be working on their ethical and environmental issues their problems are far from being fixed. 

 Hand stamped hemp hangtags on the new merchandise!

Hand stamped hemp hangtags on the new merchandise!

On a more positive note, I have come across some brands that are doing incredible things in terms of leading the charge in sustainability and ethical practices. The availability of ethical and sustainable clothing brands in all shapes, sizes, and styles means you don't have to choose between wavering in your style choices or your convictions.

tonlé adheres to principles of transparency, fairness, and waste reduction in every aspect of production, from the big stuff like wages down to the little things like the materials in buttons.

Ethical and sustainable fashion is becoming far reaching in terms of aesthetic. I feel myself becoming more and more engulfed in this world every day. Striving to know more and do more and be better. Flora Lou has been the catalyst for my efforts in making an impression on as many people as possible that ethical, sustainable, and thoughtful fashion is important. If you have any questions regarding a certain brand of clothing that Flora Lou doesn't carry feel free to comment or send me an email and I will help you in any way I can!


Lifting the veil: The truth about cheap fashion

As the Opening Event for Flora Lou nears, I am constantly reassured that I’ve found my calling. The idea for Flora Lou materialized after about a decade’s worth of soul searching, many part time jobs, a college degree, and a lot of love and support from friends and family. 

About a year ago I started researching the ethical and environmental consequences linked to the fashion industry. After navigating what sources were credible on this lovely thing we call the internet, I became completely enveloped by the realities of the fashion world and the travesty it has become. Child labor, exploitation, and modern day slavery were just the beginning of the violations on human rights. Unfortunately the impacts on the environment weren't much better. Excessive water use, over consumption of materials, use of chemicals, and pollution are all very pressing matters created by todays fashion industry. I became almost obsessed with doing what I could to right these wrongs.

Although I know there is so much more to learn, I feel compelled now to know where and how my clothes are being made. I ask questions and that is the first step. Over the past year I have drastically cut back on my consumption of new clothing, seeking out things at thrift and consignment stores. But I also love the feeling of buying something new and knowing it has been made ethically and sustainably. 

In my effort to find ethical and sustainable clothing I’ve discovered that the companies that adhere to strict standards for ethical and sustainable responsibility are often significantly more expensive than those who do not. At first I found this frustrating and terrifying (as shopping is a favorite past time of mine and the thought of giving it up really scared me.) But then I heard something that fundamentally shifted my perspective. If a T-shirt costs only $5, it is nearly impossible that the person who made it could have been paid a living wage. I have drastically altered the way I shop because of the eye opening information I have gathered. Now I can’t imagine going back to my old shopping ways.

Transparency is such an elemental part of shopping for me now. Knowing the who, what, when, where, and why of my t-shirts and dresses is more important than how something makes me look. That being said, I have found a lot of clothing companies that enable me to do both.

The financial reality of what it takes to produce a piece of clothing is something that might shock you. Truly understanding this cost breakdown of materials and labor lifted the veil in terms of what I was really paying for. This is a comparison of the costs of producing a denim shirt in Bangladesh compared to the same shirt in the U.S. 

As you can see the labor costs are a mere $0.22. If we are honest with ourselves, how can we possibly believe that the person who made the shirt in Bangladesh is being paid a living wage? The cost of the shirt made in the US is higher, but for a good reason. 

If you are concerned with the food you put into your body on a daily basis you should also be thinking about what you are putting onto your body. If you like to know where your food is grown, you should also be asking where your clothes are produced and better yet where the raw material for that clothing is grown. Transparency and traceability of clothing is a foreign concept. I think It’s about time we make it a requirement.

What does Sustainable. Ethical. Thoughtful. mean?

 

    The origin of the food we eat has been a topic of conversation among consumers for some time. But what about the clothing we wear everyday? Where does it come from, how is it made, and what makes a tee-shirt, pair of jeans, or a scarf ethically and environmentally conscious? 

    My journey started almost a year ago when I decided to be more informed about the clothing I was buying. I felt like I needed to apply the same thinking into the clothing I was wearing as I was into the food I was eating. It was hard to know what to look for and what questions to ask. I quickly found that transparency within the fashion industry was almost non existent.  It wasn’t as simple as finding out where something was made because the supply chain for a tee-shirt is so complicated. But I quickly found that taking the time to look at a clothing label had a similar effect to looking at a food label. Reading the words “made in China” felt a lot like finding out your favorite cereal contained “High Fructose Corn Syrup”. As a society we have become accustomed to shopping quickly and thoughtlessly. Clothing has become a commodity to be worn only a few times before getting donated, thrown out, or shoved to the back of your closet. Adding thought into the process of shopping is a quick way to add meaning to the clothing you are buying. Becoming a thoughtful consumer of fashion is the easiest way to transform your closet. 

 Raw Earth Wild Sky 

Raw Earth Wild Sky 

    Knowing more about the clothing you are buying is possible, but following the supply chain does get complicated! You can start with the seed of a cotton plant, how that plant is grown and where. Then you take into account the workers environment, how they are treated, the production of the cotton plant from the time it is picked to the time it is spun into yarn, then the yarn has to be woven into fabric, the fabric is most likely dyed, then cut and sewn into the garment. All of these steps involve people, and most likely machinery and processes that effect people and the environment. 

 Esby Apparel

Esby Apparel

    There is a lot of information out there to help guide the consumer in the right direction. As far as the environment is concerned organic cotton, hemp and linen are preferable to non-organic cotton. Ethically speaking it is often easier to follow the supply chain for something that is made in the US. Additionally the US has more strict enforcement of labor laws than other countries such as China and Indonesia. The more information you can find about a brand the better. I’ve found that if nothing is being said about how something is made and where it most likely means there is something to hide. 

 Curator San Francisco

Curator San Francisco

    Luckily, much like the food industry, the fashion industry is becoming more transparent as the demand for the transparency grows among individuals concerned with thoughtful consumerism. But there are so many amazing brands that already exist in the realm of thoughtful clothing. Some that top my list are Esby Apparel, Raw Earth Wild Sky, Tonle Design, Ali Golden, Curator San Francisco, and United By Blue. 

 United By Blue

United By Blue

    If you are interested in learning more about slow fashion and want to start building a more thoughtful wardrobe I'm now offering closet consultations and green styling through Flora Lou Boutique. For more information email me at floralouboutique@gmail.com, give me a call at 603.387.3544, or visit the styling section of the website!