For fashionistas and style gurus looking for an eco-friendly and sustainable way to accessorize, there are companies that offer products that support a green lifestyle and consciousness raising products.
With Earth Day only a few weeks away (April 22, 2013), I recently devoured the new highly visual book Path of Life published by lifestyle and accessories brand Alex and Ani. This collection of inspirational stories is the company's first book (part of forthcoming series).
Co-written by Giovanni Feroce and Cyd McKenna, the book chronicles how Designer/Founder Carolyn Rafaelian's products -- infused with love, peace, positive energy, in addition to being eco-friendly and made in the USA -- are meaningful to the wearer and to a larger global community.
Fashion for a cause is how I think about this book and brand.
Recently, I had the opportunity to explore both the world inside and outside of the covers of the gorgeous book and talk to Alex and Ani's Lifestyle Editor, Corporate Historian and co-author Cyd McKenna about fashion, the environment and how Alex and Ani's mission to impact fashion and so much more is a message we can all relate to on Earth Day and every day.
1. Tell us about the book Path of Life -- why did Alex and Ani decide to publish a book?
Path of Life is based on the incredible feedback we get all the time online and in real life. We have one customer in TN whose son was getting treatments at a New England Children's Hospital. As a Mom, our bangles had real healing properties for both her son and her, and it was stories like this one that became the impetus to write the book. Once we started listening, we were inundated with so many beautiful and inspiring stories! For a lifestyle brand to hear about our daily impact on so many lives and levels -- well we knew this was unique and we had to record these experiences. It's one way we are giving back.
2. Earth Day is this month. How does nature and place (as well as sustainable living) inspire Carolyn Rafaelian's designs as well as the Alex and Ani brand? We know she lives on the RI coast (what's not to love?).
Carolyn definitely loves the water -- Newport, Jamestown, Palm Beach. She is also dedicated to historic preservation -- she has a real appreciation for old architecture and landscape. You can't love historic design without being passionate about sustainability -- they go hand in hand. Carolyn has a deep reverence for the land, mother earth, mama pacha... so that dictates what she does on all levels -- it's all about giving back. So that might mean protecting the soil, protecting historic property or giving back philanthropically, it's all linked. Her dad used to say "give a bucket, receive a waterfall." Carolyn in turn gives the waterfall. It's all regenerative. It's amazing to watch and be a part of.
3. What is the best advice for living a positive lifestyle?
Carolyn always talks about living consciously. And that's what a positive lifestyle is all about. Think about it -- how conscious are you as you move through the day? Did you make eye contact with the gal who handed you a coffee this morning and say "hi! Thanks!" Did you walk around the bug on the sidewalk instead of stepping on it? Did you make a decision not to take a plastic bag, or to take a quick shower instead of letting the water run and run. We make decisions all day long that are simple, where we can chose to be positive or to be negative. We can make someone's day with the smallest gesture. That's important. So my advice is, be conscious. Participate in here and now. Look at the beauty around you and take it in with gratitude. Look for the symbols and signs and let them guide you. Do the right thing -- you know what it is. No shortcuts, the only person you "get over" on is yourself when you try to cheat. And be kind, to yourself, to others and to strangers. You never know how what you do will impact someone else, or likewise, how the kindness of someone else will impact you or someone you love!
4. The Alex and Ani brand is unique and loved -- can you explain why Alex and Ani transcends fashion -- that is, the brand appeals to all styles, ages, even genders? The products go beyond style to your fans -- for many the bangles have magical (almost mystical) properties.
Alex and Ani is made with love. And that really means something. I'll never forget when I was interviewing Carolyn for the book, I'd lost my gold hoops while traveling and was sitting there in some cheap ones I bought real quick at a department store. Carolyn started talking about jewelry that was made in China, and how you have no clue what's in the metals, what labor conditions they were made under, and how all of that leeches into the finished products and lowers your vibrations and energy. As she was talking my earlobes literally began to burn -- like, it was as if all the sorrows from the hands of whoever made my earrings were pouring into my skin. I couldn't get them off fast enough! They went right in the trash. In contrast -- when you see Alex and Ani products being made, you go to our manufacturing facility and it's these ladies who have been there forever, crafting these pieces, taking such pride in their handiwork -- they talk, laugh, cry, it's an incredible atmosphere over there, and all of that love is literally poured into the pieces. You can't fake that. People feel it as soon as they try Alex and Ani pieces on. It's infectious -- it's positive energy, and it's not a gimmick -- it's infused into our products and it actually makes you feel good when you have it on. So, yeah, it is beyond fashion, it's beyond "type" ... it's a lifestyle, and it's one that people naturally gravitate toward because it feels good!
5. Your title is Corporate Historian -- what is your role at Alex and Ani?
As Corporate Historian, I document the growth and evolution of the company. Which is great, because I get to follow Carolyn Rafaelian (Founder) around, tape her, take pictures of new projects, archive where we've been and where we are going. This information is used in marketing and promotional material, in the design of our stores, or as inspiration for future collections or projects. There is so much to work with, it's really fun to see how our past as a company plays into future projects. I definitely have the coolest job in the company!
6. Describe your own fashion style.
My style is pretty classic and streamlined. I'm from New England, so you can basically spot me as the one in the navy blazer dressed up or down. I spent my 20's in San Francisco in the 90's though, so I definitely have an edge -- full tattoos on both arms, etc., which is always a surprise to those who don't know me. So I'm just your basic preppy punk, you know, we're a dime a dozen! My favorite Alex and Ani piece is my expandable charm necklace. Carolyn made it for me, and it has a bunch of religious medals on it that are so pretty and delicate. I feel so protected when I wear it!
7. Give us a few example of how to wear Alex and Ani pieces including how to mix and match product.
I always start with a charm -- a meaningful piece that resonates with my life at the moment. For example -- I recently bought a charm that says "chief" because I was missing my dad who passed away a few years ago. He was a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy. Then I got a sea shell, because he loved the water. I filled in around them with coral beaded bangles, added a Virgin Mary for grace, a queen's crown to remind me to act with authority (he always told me to come from a place of strength, not weakness) and then a whole pile of shiny gold plain bangles. So it's the "Lenny Anderson" set. To anyone who sees it it's just a gorgeous stack of bangles, but to me, it's a reminder of my dad, what he loved, and what he taught me. So for mixing and matching, my suggestion is you start with what means something to you, and let that guide what fills in around it. It always comes out gorgeous, but then again, the pieces are all so pretty, you really can't go wrong.
8. What are your favorite trends for Spring 2013? (Fashion and accessory please!)
Spring 2013, my wish list.. If I hit powerball, I'd buy a black Dior tuxedo jacket, but I'll settle for a white Alexander Wang one. I love the Celine leopard print Vans style shoes. Black cigarette pants- not skinny jeans but really well tailored ankle pants with sky high single sole pumps -- that's my go to outfit. Trend wise, I love the Indian boho stuff that's coming back -- reminds me of the geeta shirts we wore to Dead shows back in the day -- Isabel Marant is doing them brilliantly. Calypso by Christiane Celle, I could spend a fortune in there if I had one to spend. The movie in my head has me flowing along a beach all summer in gauzy vibrant colors, gypsy inspired and free. My reality has me in DC behind my laptop in cotton tee shirts and the gorgeous bangles from the new Moroccan Refuge Vintage 66 collection, or the tasseled ones from the Alex and Ani Paint the Town collection, and my favorite -- the charm necklace! Everyone should have an expandable charm necklace -- it's the most amazing and underrated piece in the Alex and Ani store (besides the book)!
9. Alex and Ani now offers fragrance and continues to expand the brand in a sustainable and earth-friendly way. Will Alex and Ani enter the apparel industry? What's next?
Scent 7 is sublime! There are lots of great things coming up for Alex and Ani -- all I can do is say stay tuned and know that whatever it is, it will embody beauty, positive energy, functionality and fun!