Some of you may be wondering why we decided to lower our prices. Is it because people aren't buying our products? Are we cutting costs by moving away from our green business practices? The truth is MORE people and MORE boutiques than ever have bought our products and love our line, especially our new collection! And we're not changing a thing in terms of how we do business; all of our pieces will continue to be made in San Francisco using the most eco friendly materials ever.
Here are the three reasons we lowered our prices:
1) The eco fashion market doesn't have to be a luxury market. When I see Stella McCartney's lovely clothing and Gucci's new eco-friendly loafers I sigh a little. While it's important that well-known fashion brands embrace more ethical practices, materials, and manufacturing, the eco market doesn't have to be a luxury market. I want anyone to be able to afford our high quality, eco-friendly pieces without breaking the bank, or worrying about going over this month's budget. I realized that if I can lower the prices so that more women can afford our products, why not?
2) I believe in our products so much that I want more women to give them a try. I don't want the price of our pieces to keep you from trying ALL the crazy colorful pieces we make! It's hard to show online what vegan suede and wool felt feel like--they're super soft and light--so if more women rock our pieces and show each other that eco can be chic AND affordable, we're changing fashion together. And that's feisty. :)
3) You should mix, match, stack, color block, and make those outfits pop! We're rolling out even more designs and colors this year and you need some more extra feistyelles to start playing with your jewelry. Every morning, I get dressed and add jewelry on at the end. I stack and flip different colors and designs together (that's how I figure out our stacked designs for the shop!) and I come up with more crazy, fun combos than you see on the site. Now you try! Take your pieces off the hoop and start making up new combinations. If you take our sweet pastel lotus earrings and stack them over our popping neon lotus pieces, that's a killer new pair of earrings! You know you get 6-earrings-in-1 with each stacked pair so think of how many awesome combinations you'd get if you had two or three pairs...
I hope you're down with our reasons for lower prices. :) And if you're local or traveling to SF in the coming weeks, come find us at Unique SF and Renegade SF.
I've known and admired Mallory Whitfield for as long as I've had feistyelle as a business. Her deep dedication to supporting handmade work and indie designers through her shop, Miss Malaprop, is one of the best examples I can think of that lifts up handmade products, eco-friendly fashion, and a passion for one's city (Mallory's a proud resident of New Orleans, Louisiana).
I first learned about her gift for constructing recycled clothing and accessories when she constructed a dress made from recycled FEMA blue tarp. Talk about a statement dress! Her FEMA tarp creations went on to be featured on BoingBoing and Etsy. In addition to being a shop owner and avid blogger, Mallory has also written for a variety of publications and websites, including Antigravity Magazine, StyleList.com, Blogging New Orleans, and Southern Flourish Magazine.
Here's what Mallory had to say about starting Miss Malaprop. Read to the end for her book recommendations for building socially conscious businesses!
Why did you create an eco-friendly fashion brand?
I've always had an interest in the environment and sustainability, even as I kid. And I've always had a love of fashion, mixing and matching, and playing with clothes. So when I started learning how to sew during high school, for me it was about taking apart what already existed and figuring out how to make it into something new and special again. This was the beginnings of my first business: called dismantled. It was a line of one-of-a-kind reconstructed & upcycled clothing.
I still make some of the same stuff today, particularly my favorite denim & lace reconstructed skirts. But I've started working with a lot of other artists too, as now my long-term goal is to open up a brick & mortar boutique here in New Orleans dedicated to handmade goods, independent artists & designers, and eco-friendly fashions. I love supporting small businesses, independent makers and companies that are really trying their damnedest to make a difference in this world.
What makes your company eco chic?
I work with a lot of local artists, as well as artists from all over who are using recycled materials in unique ways. I also try to utilize supplies & services from small independent companies as much as possible, and seek out more sustainable materials wherever I can. For shipping for my online shop, I use the USPS's Cradle-to-Cradle certified packaging, as well as other recycled materials. I also include a sustainable seafood pocket guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program in all of my orders. Growing up along the Gulf Coast, I've always felt a deep connection to the water and to wildlife, and ocean conservation and sustainable fishing practices are something that is close to my heart, particularly in the wake of the BP oil spill a few years ago.
Tell us about some of your favorite artists that you work with. What are your favorite pieces that they make?
I'm really in love with just about everything that my friend Taslim van Hattum of Abiqutie makes. She does these beautiful hand-painted earrings and necklaces. She started out using a very lightweight wood that she custom cuts, but she recently started using recycled countertop pieces as well. She's inspired by a lot of world cultures and each of her pieces is one-of-a-kind - I have trouble not keeping it all for myself!
I'm also very inspired by my friend Emily of Sweet Olive Soap Works. She was one of the very first artists whose work I started selling back in 2009. Her grandmother taught her the art of soap-making, so she's been doing it her whole life, and she is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about soap-making. I've really learned a lot from her. She's also very fussy about her ingredients, and she's committed to sustainability as well. She's always updating her ingredient lists if she finds out something is not as eco-friendly as once thought. And she sources a lot of local ingredients too, including Ponchatoula Strawberries, local beers, and she even grows a lot of the herbs in her own backyard! Her All Souls soap is one of my personal favorites.
What other eco-friendly companies inspire you?
We've got a great foundation of eco-friendly companies here in New Orleans. My friends Heather & Mark of UP/Unique Products and Erin of Zuka Baby are just some of the founding members of something called the Green Light District, which is a group of green-minded businesses in the Lower Garden District that have joined forces to promote sustainability in their businesses.
I'm also really inspired by some of the businesses who have been committed to sustainability since way before it was cool, and have made a huge dent in the marketplace. I love the stories of Ben & Jerry's and Newman's Own. There are great books about each company that document their struggles and triumphs in building socially conscious businesses:
When I read Ez's campaign for honesty and transparency in how we present our lives online, all stemming from Jess Constable's post, I LOVED it and felt joyful relief. It's time for the online community to stop acting as if our lives are gorgeously pristine and show our lives as they are: beautifully imperfect. We're all still trying to figure out our not-glamorous-in-the-least lives, pay the rent/mortage, do the laundry, and make time for our loved ones. I know it's silly to think that everyone else's lives are professionally styled and blemish free, but all the fanciful and beautifully styled photo shoots can really reinforce that fantasy is reality. Her post and the posts of my favoritebloggers have given me the courage to share with you some things that I'm afraid to tell you:
1. I've been bad about accounting. Only recently have I gotten my finances and inventory in order thanks to some friendly pressure and Outright, Shoeboxed, and Stitch Labs. It took a while to figure out a system that worked for me and for the first time this year, I didn't have to file an extension because I didn't have all my numbers figured out on time. My company's a work in progress, just like me.
2. My work room is messy. Sure, it looks like this sometimes, but most of the time there are boxes of packaging, tissue paper, fabric, photo lamps, jewelry findings, and notes strewn all over and under the table.
3. I work full-time as an in-house graphic designer. And I'm full-time with feistyelle. People assume I work only on feistyelle, but it's not paying all the bills yet. It's challenging to juggle both types of work and lately I haven't gotten enough sleep while launching the new collection. Plus, living in San Francisco is expensive!
4. Some days I don't give a crap about my Klout score or saying something fun or clever on Twitter. Everything I share is about something that matters to me but some days I just want to make quality things, hang out with other people that make quality things, and not feel pressure to constantly document my life. If my Klout score goes up because you like what I share with you, great, but I'm not going to be a slave to an algorithm.
5. I don't see my family and friends enough and wish I made more time to see them. See #3.
So here I am, just as I am, and I'm okay with it. That said, I wrote a little haiku so that you know that I feel the same way about you.
Whoever first said "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," likely never had to deal with copyright infringement.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a friend with the subject line: "Stealing your design???" She'd taken a camera phone photo of some earrings at a local boutique. The design were complete COPIES of our dahlia and leaf designs.* I was livid!
A Google search didn't turn up the company name on the earring tag, but a second search showed that these copies had also turned up in a handful of Etsy shops. (A selection of our work is also on Etsy.) I began to suspect that an overseas manufacturer had stolen these designs and were selling them as their own. This would prove to be the case. A friend's online sleuthing led me to an Etsy supplier in Hong Kong that was selling both designs as painted and unpainted wood charms (for easy assembly as jewelry pieces) in a selection of colors:
My boyfriend quickly discovered Etsy's Copyright and Intellectual Policy. I followed the directions listed on the page and by that evening, I'd drafted my first take down notice for copyright infringement. I included links to listings of the Etsy supplier and the sellers who'd unwittingly bought our designs without knowing it. An IP attorney friend also proofed the notice. The next morning, I emailed the notice to Etsy Legal Department. Within hours, all listings were removed! Thank you, Etsy!!!
I was incredibly relieved. The next step was to make sure the Etsy supplier knew I was aware of their shops and that I'd be keeping an eye on them. I wrote them the following message:
As you must know by now, Etsy has removed listings of my copyrighted designs from your store, _________. I'll be checking your store and your sister store, _______, regularly to ensure that my designs do not appear in your shops again.
I can't prevent people or companies from buying our designs outside of Etsy, or outside the US, but I'll take this victory. I'm grateful to Etsy for their quick work and that I had a legal outlet to appeal to ensure the Etsy marketplace wouldn't allow for the continued selling of my copyrighted work. I also received some terrific guidance and support from SF Etsy Street Team.
As for the local store that
was selling our designs, it turned out that they too had bought our
designs from Etsy. They assured me of the swift removal of these items
from their shop inventory.
From this point on, not much changes. I'm doing what I love, which is continuing to develop new, colorful, and fun pieces in the most ecologically responsible way possible. (Our new designs are due out any minute!) However, I also won't hesitate to defend my work in the legal arena.
A few days ago, it must've been fated that I'd flip open one of my favorite magazines, UPPERCASE, and read an article entitled, "Is Copying Ever Right?" by savvy retail strategist Rena Tom. It's a smart piece of writing that helps put our experience into perspective. I'll leave you with two quotes that really spoke to me:
"Unfortunately, many of those who want to participate in the global design/craft scene are taking shortcuts to get there. Ironically, the desire to be original leads to copying the work of others who are original."
"The best way to combat theft is to keep creating new, original work and staying ahead of the curve."
--Rena Tom, "Is Copying Ever Right?", UPPERCASE, Issue 12
*I sketch out and prototype all of our designs before they become our statement earrings, necklaces, and accessories. All designs are copyrighted.