Stylish + Ethical Fashion: where to buy in NZ?

This a follow up to my previous post about ethical fashion; it’s about supporting brands who care about fair trade, who use garment factories that offer safe places to work in, and are happy to pay workers a living wage.  Brands who ensure that children are not among those working in their factories.

The thing is, unless you’re buying from a company who manufactures locally, it’s difficult to know what’s going on further down the supply chain.  Big brands can hide behind their slick advertising, pretty packaging, and well-designed fit outs.  But these chain stores selling “on-trend” clothing at unbelievable prices have been exposed over recent years, and a backlash is gathering momentum.  I think it’s hard to ignore issues around slave labour and child labour, and dodgy environmental issues once you know about it.


So I’ve been doing a little research.  Below you’ll find a list of brands you can support with a clear conscience.   All but one are New Zealand companies – although it’s easy enough to buy from those overseas now, it feels good to support our own right?  Obviously none of these will compare in price to cheap clothing – if this is what you are used to – but my personal way of justifying the higher prices is to buy less often, buy fewer pieces, and buy pieces that will last (in terms of quality and style).

And some great news regarding the Good On You NZ app – this successful app is currently available in Australia and takes the hard work out of finding ethical fashion retailers to support – the recent crowdfunding campaign was successful and it is currently being adapted for the NZ market.  YES!  The app will launch late August or early September, but in the meantime here’s my starting list of 12 brands that are doing great things.


KOWTOW have been getting enormous media attention over recent times and it’s well deserved.  You can read a lot about their philosophy on the website, but it’s fair to say this brand walks their talk.  I’ve read that when ethically made zips couldn’t be found, they decided not to use them.  Italian-made recycled hemp buttons are used instead.  There is a short doco on their website documenting their entire cotton chain from seed to garment.  See it here.  Kowtow has recently celebrated its ten year anniversary and what’s incredible is that founder, Gosia Piatek, didn’t have a background in fashion.  She ‘simply’ wanted to create something ethical and sustainable – to do her bit to save the world. In a recent interview in Well Made Clothes, the 5 Piece French Wardrobe concept was raised, and I personally think it could be pulled off with the Kowtow Building Block pieces.

STANDARD ISSUE creates knitwear in New Zealand and uses environmentally friendly dyes.  Their garments are made using either NZ merino or Italian cashmere.  There is a lot more to read about this experienced brand’s philosophy on their website.

WE’AR  yoga range is designed in NZ and made in Bali, in carefully monitored small home-workshops and factories.  You can have all your exercise gear sorted by shopping here and they also have a great range of “off the mat” gear too.  I absolutely love the way they describe their philosophy about conscious living and why operating in this way is important to them.  “We are starting to understand that this planet is a closed system and whatever we do affects this whole…When did we cease to be citizens and become consumers?”  Read more about their philosophy here.

FLIP YOUR DOG focuses on activewear sourced from around the world – lots of colourful, patterned leggings and tops.  If you like vibrant exercise gear, you’re going to love this!  All are fair trade and enviornmentally conscious.  The owner is very experienced in yoga and dance so you can expect all ranges to support movement well, no matter how you exercise.

KILT is NZ made with a good range of prices and a personal favourite of mine.  I contacted Kilt to ask about the sourcing of their fabrics, because while we can be assured that garment workers are being treated well, what do they know about the workers making their fabrics?  This was the response I was given: “At KILT we source our materials from a variety of reputable companies throughout NZ and globally. Some of the material that we purchase is not able to be entirely NZ made due to availability with the quantities that we produce. We do have fabrics that we can trace back the supply chain to the source of Merino sheep in Southland, with the complete process of knit, dye and finishing remaining in NZ.  We are reluctant to trust the trace of fabrics from other countries. We are very proud that our garments are entirely made in New Zealand! Last year we opened our very own factory to ensure that all KILT garments would always be made in New Zealand.  This means that we can assure high working standards.”


HOLI is relatively new to the market and currently has a small collection of black and cream pieces in organic cotton and bamboo; the range has a functional but feminine feel.  Worth keeping an eye on this brand as their range develops.  NZ made.

RECREATE is a special brand to know about because they are 100% non-profit; they put their profits back into communities that need assistance.  They design and produce their own organic clothing range, with production based in Cambodia.  Their production centre provides sustainable employment for women, allowing them to protect their children and work towards a better future.  Alongside their clothing range is a selection of scarves, BELOVED jewellery, bags, and children’s toys, sourced from producers who align with their principles around fair trade.

CHALKY DIGITS has an outdoorsy feel with a large range and like the brands above, really walk the talk.  They are NZ made using ethical, traceable and organic fibres, and source material close to home as much as possible.  You’ll also find candle holders and jewellery on their website.

UNTOUCHED WORLD you’ll likely know about.  What you might not know is that they are the first fashion company in the world to be recognised by the UN for sustainability.  Every aspect of their business is conducted with sustainability in mind.  Remember the garment worn by Bill Clinton at the APEC summit in 1999?  This was Untouched World.  Clinton claimed it was the “smartest garment he’d ever been given in seven years of being President”.  This is not cheap clothing, but if you can afford it, go for it…these guys appear to do great things in the community as well as create fantastic clothing, made to last, in a sustainable and ethical way.

NOBODY DENIM was started in Melbourne in 1999 and is still made in Australia.  These guys do denim so well!  They claim to use the best materials and support ethical labour practices.  Their range of jeans is extensive and I’m looking forward to trying these guys out when my current jeans wear out.  Click here for NZ stockists (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Wanaka and Queenstown).

LIMINAL APPAREL: if you want your own T, hoodie, apron or tote bag printed with your own design, or one of theirs, this is the company to use.  Their range supports fair trade, and uses only sustainable or organic materials.  95% of their products are manufactured using FREESET, a business that gives women who were trapped in bonded labour and human trafficking the chance to work and regain control of their lives in a caring community.


So that’s it….my list.  I’ll cover footwear in another post, and I’m still unclear on how to dress my tweens ethically (on a budget), so I’d love to hear if you can help…

Please follow me on facebook or instagram to keep in the loop, or subscribe to my blog so you can easily access this list again.

Would love to know if you find it useful.

Kim x






I love fashion.  As a teenager I was obsessed, and studied Textiles and Clothing Design on leaving school.  Each day we can express a little of our personality in the clothes we choose to wear.  But I have to admit I’m not much of a shopper these days – it is a long time since I derived much pleasure from hanging out in a shopping mall, but it is fun to occasionally go clothes shopping with a girlfriend.  I love the fact that I have a few items in my wardrobe that are nearly 20 years old, and lots that are over 5 years old.


But have you noticed that the cost of clothing has reduced dramatically over the past few decades?  How can that be when all other goods and services increase?  Trend-driven, cheap, ‘fast fashion’ is why – the type of clothing we find in chain stores.  I watched The True Cost early this year.  Have you seen it?   This documentary delves into the garment industry and shows us why it is possible to have $7 T shirts for sale – I mean how is that possible…really?  It is fascinating, disturbing and confronting to watch.  If you haven’t, I urge you to.  Watch the trailer here.

Another fascinating watch is Sweatshop…a reality tv show following two gorgeous young fashion bloggers from Sweden who are immersed into the textile industry in Cambodia.   They arrive looking glamorous and sounding naive but quickly the experience transforms them as their eyes are opened to the reality of what life is like for a garment worker.  They finish the season as activists – fighting for textile workers to receive a living wage – and fundraised to create season two where they could continue to raise awareness and see change in action.


In 2013 an 8-storey garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1130 people, and brought immediate media attention to the hideous conditions in many of these factories.  How is it that a T shirt can sell for $7 in a chain store?  Only by exploiting people, and often children.  The 3 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse was last month – April 24 – and I read with interest to see what had changed since then.

Rana Plaza collapse, Bangladesh


Behind the Barcode is a guide produced by Baptist World Aid, allowing us to easily see if the brands we like to purchase rate well for ethical work practices…or not.  First created in 2013, it has been updated each year since, and the 2016 results are interesting.  My young teenage daughter discovered Glassons last year – the look and the prices work – but I was devasted to see that they rated F in early 2015.  However they rate as C+ in this years report and have spoken publicly about their desire to keep improving.  Take a look at this report – some of the brands that you expect to score low are actually reasonably high, and vice versa.


The Good On You app operates in Australia, allowing consumers to instantly assess the ethical ratings of fashion brands, rated for their impact on people, the planet and animals.  While not currently available in New Zealand, there is currently a crowdfunding campaign happening to allow the app to be customised to our market.  I would love to see this happen, and you can help show your support by clicking here.  This campaign ends on May 22nd, so time is running out to reach their $12000 target.


Another organisation raising awareness globally around the true cost of fashion is Fashion Revolution.  They are working hard to make traceability through the supply chain an everyday reality in the fashion industry.  Because this isn’t just about those in garment factories, but those further back in the chain; those making the zips and buttons, those making and dying fabrics, etc. They challenge people to ask their favourite labels “Who Made My Clothes?”.


Unfortunately just yesterday in the news I heard about a hidden camera placed inside a textile factory in Instabul, exposing many children – some as young as 11 – toiling away on machines.  Apparently most of these children, if not all, are Syrian refugees and easily exploited….

So in closing, I hope you’ll join me in helping to change the conditions for those working so hard in the garment trade.  Perhaps you already are…  As consumers we simply need to support those brands that are making big efforts to create transparency in the supply chain.  There are brands available locally who use 100% organic Fairtrade cotton to make ethically made garments, like Kowtow, but I can’t afford to buy more than the occasional piece.  Recreate  and We’ar are more affordable.

I will not wear a garment that sells new for $7.

Your Ethical Easter Guide

Being a last-minute sort of person, easter egg shopping would normally involve me flying into the supermarket a day or two before, and buying the best from whatever is left.  This year I’d like to know who is supplying the more sustainable options and support these brands.  With Easter now only a week away, I’ve done a little research, and here’s what I have discovered…


mother orangutan with her cute baby

Photo credit: Leo Biddle.  See interview “The Great Conservationist” by clicking here

Rainforest clearing in South East Asia to create space for Palm plantations poses a threat to several animals including the orang-utan, Sumatran tiger, Asian rhino and Asian elephant.  According to information on the Hamilton Zoo website, if deforestation at the current rate continues, these species could be extinct in the wild by 2022…SIX years away! So to ensure you are buying palm oil-free easter eggs, check out this link on the Auckland Zoo website here.  There are a lot of options (fantastic!), so I am going to print this out and take with me.





When you purchase chocolate with the Fairtrade logo, you know that the cocoa farmers have received a fair price for their produce AND they have received a Fairtrade Premium which the farmer co-operatives can then reinvest in their local community to improve education, healthcare, farming equipment etc.   Growing cocoa is not easy and 90% of the world’s cocoa is grown on small family farms by about 6 million farmers who earn their living from growing and selling cocoa beans.  However most farmers don’t receive a fair price and live a life of poverty.  By simply purchasing Fairtrade certified chocolate, we can make a huge difference to the lives of these families.



According to Fairtrade NZ, Green and Blacks have a 100% Fairtrade Commitment. For the following brands, look for the Fairtrade logo on selected products;

  • Whittakers
  • Cadbury
  • Pana Chocolate
  • Wellington Chocolate Factory


ChocolateRange.jpgTrade Aid have been certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation, verifying compliance throughout the entire supply chain.  So you can be assured that if you are purchasing anything from Trade Aid, the people behind the products have been rewarded fairly for their time and labour.  I have bought a few bars of their chocolate to send my parents this Easter (image above).  I love the packaging, designed by Aucklander Tina Yu, reflecting the places of the world where the ingredients come from.  I love too, that the packaging is compostable and that organic NZ milk is used in their milk chocolate.

Click here for Trade Aid’s recipe on how to make your very own handcrafted chocolate eggs.  Easy enough to make with the kids and pretty enough to offer friends. See the one minute video clip here.  Well worth a look!

For the first time this year, Trade Aid have produced Easter Eggs in their Christchurch factory – go check them out if there’s a store near you!

Photo from The Wellington Chocolate Factory

If you live in Wellington you probably know about The Wellington Chocolate Factory.  Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock but these guys have only just hit my radar.  This is straight from their website; “At the Wellington Chocolate Factory we make organic, ethically traded, bean-to-bar chocolate of the highest quality. We founded WCF to be a leader in the new chocolate revolution, exploring how artisan production methods, fair trading practice, and local communities can reinforce each other in building a strong, sustainable business.”  Their blog posts, complete with amazing photos, look to be a great read if you’re interested in the work they do with growers behind the scenes.

WHAT?  Craft Beer Easter Egg??? (Right) and Salted Brittle Caramel Egg (Left)

You can buy their eggs online or at various stockists in NZ.  Click here for their contact details to see if there’s a stockist near you.


Whittaker’s were voted New Zealand’s Most Trusted Brand in 2015, and it was great to see them on the Auckland Zoo palm oil-free list, and that some of their products use Fairtrade cocoa.  Like Trade Aid, for the first time they are selling an Easter product, the KIWI in creamy milk or dark chocolate, in two sizes.  20c from the sale of each chocolate kiwi goes to Kiwis for Kiwi, an organisation dedicated to protecting our special bird and the places they live. (NB: these kiwis also are made using Fairtrade cocoa.)


The Lewis Road Creamery story is a good one.  Read about it here and look out for their Easter treats in your local supermarket!


Here’s hoping this info has been useful – I’ve learnt a lot myself! I know I’ll feel good this Easter with the knowledge that the farmers who grew the cocoa beans and sugar in the chocolate we’re eating, have been rewarded for their efforts.  And that I’m not contributing to a loss of habitat for those animals who live in rainforests.  Happy Easter everyone 🙂


How to Nourish and Revive Chopping Boards

Sometimes it’s the little jobs that we put off for so long that they become bigger than big.  That’s how it became with me and my wooden chopping boards.  They were looking unloved, dull, with a paint splatter or two and a little mould on the sides where they had sat too long damp (yuk).

So this week I dedicated 30 minutes to researching how this is done and discovered that if you want to avoid mineral based oils (petroleum based), then Tung oil is a great option provided it is 100% pure.  The oil is pressed from the seed of the nut from the Tung tree, and is non-toxic and food safe.   If interested, a good supplier of this in New Zealand is The Natural Paint Company  I was keen to order but impatient to get started and not willing to wait for the oil to arrive from the South Island….

In searching online I had stumbled across a beeswax based ‘butter’ that is simply made with only two ingredients; beeswax and a neutral oil.  While I also found detractors of this method – due to the vegetable oil becoming rancid over time – it seems many people have used this butter for some time with no trouble.  (And I remember a local guy who sells chopping boards at markets telling me he uses vegetable oil to protect his.)  But don’t try this if concerned!

This led to me needing to find good quality beeswax, and I remembered reading about an online store based in Auckland who supply high quality oils and ingredients for soap making etc, direct to the consumer.  So I placed an order for a small amount of organic beeswax from Pure Nature and it arrived the next day.

I followed the recipe posted by The Kitchn.  The ingredients are given in ounces so I’ve shown what I used in metrics below.  (Oh and this is HALF the recipe which made heaps….enough to fill an empty peanut butter jar, 10cm high.)


  • 60g quality organic beeswax (I purchased a 100g bag)
  • 120ml neutral oil (I used Rice Bran Oil)


The instructions are so well written on The Kitchn website, so click the link here if you are keen to give this a go.  It really is easy and once you have the water simmering, you can be doing other things with only minimal attention required.

To prep my boards I gave them a good sand (took 30 minutes by hand)…but you can skip this step and simply give them a good scrub if your boards aren’t as neglected as mine!


I quickly scanned my kitchen for other wooden things that could do with reviving, and noticed my GIANT spoons bought in Thailand years and years ago.  They were both a dark brown colour, and funnily enough I found when cleaning them, that the largest one is actually bamboo – not wood – and it’s actually a gorgeous golden colour – not dark brown at all!  I think it had actually been coated in smoke residue from being in a basic home in Thailand where the cooking was being done inside.  It came up beautifully with a scrub of baking soda and white vinegar.  Who would have known!


This is how it looks after approximately 20 minutes in the pot of water.


And after another 20-30 minutes with some stirring, it becomes this lovely creamy texture  as it cools. And it smells divine.


Even the soap dish has been ‘revived’…





Easy ways to REDUCE PLASTIC in the home


In a TED talk I recently listened to it was said that REFUSE is now the fourth R.   I feel fairly confident that I’m doing a good job in refusing shopping bags (supermarket and other), but whenever I do a supermarket shop it’s hard to believe how much plastic packaging come wrapped around SO much of our food.  We’re not big buyers of processed food in our family, but much of our regularly bought items (crackers, cereals, nuts, seeds, baking goods etc etc), mean there’s loads of plastic going into the bin each week.


Do you use the bulk bins in your local supermarket?  I use these EVERY week and while the bags supplied are reusable for other things, how many of these zip lock bags does one need???  So I’ve taken to naming and storing these bags, and taking them with me on every shop – and it’s significantly helped.


I hang them with a big wooden clip, stick them to the fridge near the grocery list, and then they are ready to go.  I throw the whole lot – clip and all – into my handbag.




The flimsy plastic bags at most fruit and vege stores really annoy me, but the lightweight drawstring bag is a fantastic way to avoid these.  I’ve had mine for 6-7 years with many, many years left, so buy them once and you’ll never need to use those flimsy bags again!


The biggest issue is remembering to have them when shopping, so I now hang them under my handbag by the front door.  Game changer….  😉


We don’t eat meat every night, so the meat we do buy usually comes from the butcher not the supermarket.  There’s something nice about supporting these small businesses, chatting to the guys preparing the goods, and you expect the quality to be better.  Recently I’ve started taking my own containers to avoid the plastic bags (flimsy;straight-in-the-bin), and my local butcher didn’t even raise an eyebrow…seems I’m not the only one 😉


There’s people out there doing AMAZING things to completely cull plastic from their home – I’ve recently become aware of the Zero Waste Bloggers Network and these people are making a significant difference.  But I figure that small change is better than no change, and I’ll continue to come up with practical ideas that are easy to start and maintain.  Crackers are my major challenge – we eat so many of them!  My kids love them, I love them, and when I baked my own recently, while they worked beautifully they were expensive to make.  (And my kids wouldn’t touch them…)   So please let me know if you have a good cracker recipe that doesn’t empty my seed jars!

With plastics polluting our oceans, killing our sea life, and entering the food chain as they break down into tiny, tiny pieces, ulimately affecting our health, it seems the time is now to make changes to our daily habits.  No stylish pics this week, but unfortunately there’s nothing pretty about this….


See you next week and have a happy weekend ahead!


P.S. I’d love for you to follow me on fb and instagram for regular inspiration on creating a more sustainable home and lifestyle 🙂






After a break of ummm…..4 months….I am back to my blog and inspired with the newish direction I plan to take.  So while the look of my blog will remain the same (relaxed, coastal, Scandi, rustic), what I choose to write about has shifted…

I’ve long had a strong interest in natural products, organic food, fair trade, and in supporting smaller, local businesses.  In recent years there has been a noticeable shift in awareness of these issues, as concern for the state of our planet and our wellbeing increases.

Design has also been a big part of my life; I studied fashion design, but ended up working in visual display and interior design, so I appreciate well-designed interiors, products and images.  In my blog I now hope to connect these two areas of my life as I explore ways to create a home and lifestyle with a planet-friendly, sustainable focus.  I hope you’ll join me….


Here in New Zealand it’s summer right now, and the flies have been relentless.  After putting up with this for weeks – refusing to resort to the usual chemical-laden sprays – I’ve come across this gorgeously presented, natural product from Japan.  (Now available in NZ.)  All products in the range are based on Camphor wood and pure essential camphor oil.  While I love the earthy smell, similar to Eucalyptus, insects don’t!  (Mosquitos, flies and moths are some of the insects mentioned on their website).  Other uses for camphor oil are as a decongestant, an anti-inflammatory, and in cleaning products.

Most importantly however, I was keen to rid my house of flies!  I bought a set containing four little blocks and a bottle of oil.  While the camphor wood obviously contains the oil naturally, for a more powerful effect, I simply drop additional oil onto the blocks.

IMG_0060 (5)

Now I haven’t had the total elimination of flies as hoped, but there’s been a big reduction.  I’ve found that by putting blocks in strategic spots around my kitchen/dining room and office space, the effects have been really quite good.


Cooking time obviously attracts more flies than usual, so I’ve dropped camphor oil into my diffuser and switched this on while making dinner, and that’s made a difference.  (With the added benefit of creating a calming pre-dinner space!)  Obviously little things like removing food scraps quickly helps too.

IMG_0078 (1)

KUSU HANDMADE claim to only use waste product from the edges of the camphor tree, once it has been cut and used for various timber products.  They only source from trees logged in forest maintenance.


I’ve read that basil, bay leaf, lavender and mint are effective fly-dettering herbs.  I have been adding lavender essential oil to my diffuser, but have all these herbs in the garden (and many of you will too).  Apparently fresh and dried work well.

Wishing you luck in reducing fly numbers in your home this Summer!  I’d love to hear if you’ve had success with any other natural remedies?

Till next week,


Please subscribe to my blog if you wish to be kept in the loop about creating a natural home and lifestyle, written in my home by sea in Auckland, New Zealand.







Creating MAGIC from your MOOD BOARD

Scandi-inspired Kitchen
Scandi-inspired Kitchen

I’ve made a few mood boards in my time as an interior designer and I’ve always understood the value in using these to portray my vision to the client.  But I’ve never been taught how to put one together – it’s just something I’ve instinctively done and I’ve always been happy enough with the results.  But recently I’ve done a couple of moodboarding workshops; one with the wonderful Natalie Tolhopf who I get business coaching from, and the other from Gudy Herder  an international trend expert, trainer and speaker in the design industry.  Mood boards can be used in a variety of different situations – they are commonly used in the design field – but they can be just as effective in creating a strong vision for where you are heading in your personal life, whether that’s your career, retirement, keeping fit and active, wedding or party planning etc.  I’ve learnt different things from both and will summarise them below…

  • Spend the time before hand thinking about words that describe your vision for the project at hand.  This is really important and will help you create a clear, concise message on your board.
  • When selecting images collect more than you need so that you can narrow your choices down once you start putting your board together.  Collect other items too; buttons, ribbon, fabric, paint samples, leaves etc – these add a layered quality to your board, creating texture and interest.
  •  Have everything ready before you start; glue, blue-tac, double-sided tape, coffee (hahaha), the board you wish to use….once you start creating it is really helpful to “stay in the flow”….this might be lost if you have to nip out to the stationary store for supplies!

You might know that we are (slowly) renovating our kitchen.  I’ve spent a lot of time saving images on Pinterest and from magazines, but do you know what?  It was until I created my kitchen mood board yesterday (pictured above) that I realised I didn’t want the black sink I had been SURE about all year!  This is how important they can be for crystallising your ideas/thoughts.

Here’s a few more from Pinterest to get you inspired….(click on each to link to source)…




If you are interested in finding out more about how to create a great looking mood board that also has a strong message then consider doing a workshop with either of the people mentioned above.  If you live in Auckland you could do one with  Natalie Tolhopf or you can be anywhere in the world and do  Gudy Herder’s  workshop online.  Or you can send me an email to discuss how I could help.

Have fun with it!