Whether we just broke up with our SO or a kid called us a bad name on the playground, at some point in our life we've probably been told "It's what's on the inside that counts." It is a wonderful sentiment that reminds us that our character and values far out weigh any physical attributes. What I find amazing is this little statement also holds true as a consumer.  In our times of fast-fashion and disposable goods, we often shop purely on looks. Billions of dollars are spent each year perfecting the picture perfect store layouts and window displays. We are enticed with big graphic signs about sales and seasonal styles and bombarded with "how-to" posts on Pinterest on using color, creating that perfect farmhouse style and setting that photo-worthy holiday table. As consumers, we're enticed with everything on the outside, but as an advocate for ethical shopping, I have found the key to discovering the beauty of an item almost always lies on the inside.

 

I remember shopping with my Mom when I was younger and when I would ask her to buy me a shirt she would immediately pick it up and flip to the hem. As an experienced seamstress she would examine the stitches and more often than not would put it back on the rack with a definitive "nope!" As a kid I would get frustrated and ask why, but as an adult I now realize my Mom was far ahead of her time as an ethical shopper. She didn't care how "pretty" something was, if it wasn't made well she wasn't going to spend her hard earned money on it. This is a lesson I have brought as the curator of goods for AMERICAN NOMAD. Before I even start to fall in love with how pretty something is, I flip to the inside to see how was it made. I want to ensure our shoppers are spending their hard earned money on items that will bring beauty into their lives and the lives of the artists that make each item.

Here are three quick ways to find out "what's on the inside" of items you may be considering purchasing:

1. Check Out the Inside

Just like my Mom used to do, look at the inside of an item. One of my favorite examples of how beautiful the inside of an item can be are our Vintage Berber Cushions, handmade from vintage textiles handwoven by Berber artists in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Just like people, the inside is beautiful, messy and a sign of its journey. There is no doubt these cushions are made by hand!

 

I feel the same way when looking at the inside of our bags and purses, particularly the ones made by La Vie Devant Soie. Crafted from upcycled silk, each one is handmade by deaf individuals fighting the stigma of disabilities in Cambodia. I simply LOVE that each artist takes the time to make the inside as beautiful and colorful as the outside. 

2. Look At The Tag

Sure we look at the tag to see what size something is, but take an extra second and flip it over to see where it was made. In my experience when the tag purely focuses on the name of the brand, it's a sign that's what's most important to them - their brand. An ethically minded company ensures their supply chain is transparent to consumers and they WANT you to know about the artists that craft each item. The tags that are stitched into our handmade kantha quilts are a perfect example. Not only is each one signed by the artist that made it, you can also visit BASHA's website to read their story and find out how they've been empowered through employment at BASHA.

3. Do Some Quick Recon

As we mentioned earlier, ethically minded companies are transparent! Visit their website or social media pages and see what they're talking about. Look at product descriptions, do they only give basic information like size and measurements? Does their company page highlight their supply chain? Even on social media, is it more about selling you an "image" or do they talk about the craftsmanship. Some quick glancing of information can tell you a lot!

 

February 28, 2017 by Michelle Wolfarth