Giveaway: Global Guardian Project Subscription and Wall Art

Hippie in Disguise Global Guardian Project Wild and Free Children

One year ago, my friend Rebecca launched the Global Guardian Project, a not-for-profit organization committed to helping parents and educators raise ecologically conscious, environmentally educated children. GGP is involved in a number of education and outreach activities, but a main component of their work is producing a monthly interactive e-magazine (‘capsule’) for parents and children that teaches how to respect and protect the planet.  The e-magazine is interactive, because in addition to articles, lessons, interviews, recipes and other written content, there are also videos, podcasts, art project downloads and worksheets for homeschoolers; in total every capsule has over 50-pages of activities and educational content. Although the e-magazine is aimed at educating children, many adults have said they love to read the capsules and have learned way more than they expected from them. With each capsule focusing on a different country, worldschoolers have found the capsules really helpful for digging into local learning while travelling.

Here are a few sample pages from the Israel capsule (click to see an enlarged image):

In addition to the monthly capsules, GGP also publishes special topic capsules that can be bought individually, for example: global recipes, zero waste living, honey bees, American National Parks and more.

This week, to help Rebecca celebrate the Global Guardian Project’s first birthday, I’ve teamed up with her to *giveaway* a 6-month subscription to the Global Guardian Learning Capsules and your choice of a beautiful 24×18 world map wall art print from the Global Guardian shop. All Global Guardian maps are original art work by Rebecca and are amazing to use in combination with the learning capsules, as children learn about countries, plants and animals from all around the world, and see and learn how to locate them on the map.

global guardian project world map homeschool curriculum

You can read more about Global Guardian Project *learning capsules* in my post here. In a nutshell, the Global Guardian Project creates educational materials focused on global stewardship for families and children, home educators and anyone who loves to learn about the world and help make it a better place. Each month subscribers receive a learning capsule by email focused on a country and its wild life. To date, 12 capsules have been published covering: Brazil, Rwanda, India, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia, Argentina, Israel, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Thailand. Future capsules will feature other countries including Egypt, Japan, Australia, England and many more. Each capsule includes beautiful photography, facts and information about the country, it’s wildlife, global change makers, young activists and inspiring people, recipes, vocabulary and much more. There are also art projects and free digital downloads, podcasts, videos and guided meditation recordings.

Join the Global Guardian movement and raise more ecologically conscious, compassionate children. If you don’t win the subscription, please consider buying a subscription and support global education and outreach related to sustainable, peaceful living. Global Guardian Project has just introduced a pay what you can model, so you can get the monthly subscription for as little as $6.99 per month. Use code HIPPIEINDISGUISE to get 10% off too!

To enter the giveaway:

  • Subscribe to the Global Guardian Project email list here, you’ll get no more than one email a week, often less
  • Leave me a comment on this blog post, on my Facebook post or my Instagram post about the giveaway, to let me know you added your name to the email list
  • For a bonus entry: “Like” and comment on the Instagram giveaway photo
  • For a bonus entry: Share this blog post
  • For a bonus entry: Share my Facebook post about this
  • For a bonus entry: Repost my Instagram post about this with hashtag #ggpXhippieindisguise

Contest closes Sunday August 13, 2017 at midnight (Pacific Standard Timezone) and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

UPDATE: The winning name was drawn and the winner contacted for their prize. Congratulations Rhiannon!


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Global Guardian Learning Capsules Giveaway

Hippie in Disguise Rideau River Ottawa Canada

I’ve teamed up with my friend Rebecca to *giveaway* a 6-month subscription to the new Global Guardian Learning Capsules. You can read all about them in my post here.

In a nutshell, the Global Guardian Project is a monthly online subscription focused on global stewardship for families and children, home educators and anyone who loves to learn about the world and help make it a better place. Each month subscribers receive a learning capsule by email focused on a country and its wild life. The first capsule was Brazil (released August 2016), in two weeks the Rwanda capsule will be released. Future capsules will feature other countries including India, Australia, England and many more. Each capsule includes beautiful photography, facts and information about the country, it’s wildlife, global change makers and inspiring people, recipes, vocabulary and much more. There are also art projects and free digital downloads, podcasts, videos and guided meditation recordings.
Global Guardian Project Rwanda Capsule Homeschool

The capsules are both informative and inspiring, helping us understand how simple, small actions can make a big difference. Most importantly, the capsules highlight some of the things children are doing around the world to make a difference, showing us that there is no need to wait to for adulthood to make a positive impact.

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and look for the giveaway photo, and make sure to:

  • Sign up by email for the FREE sample capsule by visiting this link 
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo to let me know you signed up for the free capsule
  • Tag a friend in the comments who is a fellow global guardian, and if they sign up for the free capsule and follow @globalguardianproject too, then you’ll both win a subscription if your name is drawn the winner. Pay it forward!
  • For an extra entry: Share my Facebook post about this
  • For an extra entry: Repost my Instagram post about this with hashtag #ggpgiveaway

Contest closes Thursday September 8, 2016 at midnight (Pacific Standard Timezone) and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

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Luv Mother Mthr Merino clothing Hippie in Disguise Cape Cod

Back to School Giveaway with Luv Mother Merinos

Luv Mother Mthr Merino clothing Hippie in Disguise Cape Cod

To celebrate back-to-school and the changing of the seasons here in Canada I am hosting a special giveaway with Luv Mother over on their Instagram account!

Luv Mother makes merino clothing and accessories for children. I am very particular about the source of our clothing. Luv Mother produces their clothing ethically. You can read about their sourcing and process here. Not only is their product made ethically they also do all sorts of extras to make sure they are operating in as sustainable a way as possible:

  • They buy carbon offsets for their shipping footprint
  • They package with recyclable and compostable materials — and no plastics!
  • They save all fabric scraps from production and re-purpose them, for example by sharing them with artists
  • The list goes on…

We are a vegan family and although wool is an animal product we have opted to include it in our wardrobe because we feel that when *truly* ethically sourced it has a much lower environmental impact than other fibres. Did you know that you can wear a wool item up to 100 times without washing it? Think of all the water and energy saved! Did you know that wool is biodegradable? When it’s life is over (although it has a long life) it nourishes soil. Many synthetic fabrics contain plastics which never ever break down, which in turn harms ecosystems and all the plants and animals that are part of it.


Luv Mother would like to giveaway a three-piece outfit of your choice to one person following their Instagram account!

Luv Mother Mthr Merino clothing grid

To enter, visit the Luv Mother Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and look for the giveaway photo, and make sure to:

  • Follow @luvmthr on Instagram
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • For extra entries: Tag friends in the comments, separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots ???? No limit to number of friends tagged.

Contest closes Monday September 5, 2016 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!


Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and their families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off and read more about it here.

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Bamboo toothbrush charcoal bristle Gaia guy Plastic Free July living roof succulent garden

Giveaway: Bamboo Toothbrushes by Gaia Guy

Bamboo toothbrush charcoal bristle Gaia guy Plastic Free July living roof succulent garden

This month is Plastic Free July and to help celebrate I have a giveaway for 4 bamboo toothbrushes from Gaia Guy. Find out how to enter at the end of this post.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Plastic Free July “aims to raise awareness of the problems of single-use disposable plastic and challenges people to do something about it.” People are encouraged to refuse all single-use plastic for the period of a day, week, month or longer. Either that or refuse the top 4 single use plastic items: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws. Sadly, it is estimated that by 2050, “there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Most [of this plastic] comes from land and was was once in our hands.” Together we can refuse single-use plastics and keep oceans and waterways clean.

Toothbrushes aren’t single use items, but they are daily use items that are easily replaced with a non-plastic equivalent. Bamboo toothbrushes, with charcoal bristles, are recyclable and biodegradable. That means that even if you don’t have local recycling facilities your toothbrush will biodegrade and nourish the earth over time. Plastic toothbrushes will only breakdown into micro-plastics, at best, and will degrade the health of the planet over time. Not to mention toothbrushes prove deadly to sea animals who often mistakenly eat plastics and die as a consequence. Bamboo toothbrushes are affordable ($4-5) and last just as long as the plastic equivalent.

The bamboo brushes by Gaia Guy:

  • are made from 100% natural bamboo – truly sustainable
  • are vegan friendly, BPA-free, lead-free, phthalates-free, guilt-free
  • have bristles that are biodegradable nylon-4 infused with bamboo charcoal
  • are light, yet solid and are a naturally antimicrobial toothbrush
  • have packaging that is eco-friendly with recycled cardboard and no glue that is recyclable, compostable and biodegradable
  • last as long as conventional plastic toothbrushes
  • are a great eco-friendly gift

Imagine the amount of plastic you will keep out of the environment by choosing to use a biodegradable toothbrush. One simple choice can create a powerful positive change for the environment. What’s more: small simple changes encourage us to make more small simple changes over time that really add up and have a ripple effect with our friends and family.

So, the next time you need a new toothbrush go find a bamboo one at a local shop or order one online. Gaia Guy sells them here.

  • By the way, if you aren’t making your own toothpaste I would recommend that you check out Truthpaste – they make a superb paste that is free of plastic microbeads (yes, conventional toothpaste has plastic in it that you swallow and spit down the drain. Horrendous!)

I would also encourage you to visit Gaia Guy’s website to read about his passion for regenerative enterprises. (He didn’t ask me to share any of this or the facts on his toothbrushes, I just loved what I found on his site and wanted to share with my readers). As he explains “regenerative enterprises are about partnerships with living systems,” that is, business in harmony with the planet and its ecosystems. As he explains this is not an oxymoron. I truly think regenerative enterprise should be the model for business going forward. Thank you for your energy and inspiration on this Ian (Gaia Guy)! Everything Gaia Guy stocks is biodegradable, reusable and bio-based.

To enter the giveaway for 4 bamboo toothbrushes, visit my Instagram account and look for the photo above, and make sure to:

  • Follow @higaiaguy on Instagram
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • Bonus entries:
    • Tag friends in the comments on the Instagram giveaway photo, separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots ???? No limit to the number of friends tagged. Each friend counts for an additional entry.
  • Get 5 extra entries: post a photo of yourself, your children, family or friends doing something good for the earth, like planting a tree or doing something in a more sustainable way. Use the hashtag #hippieslovegaiaguy so we can find your entry
  • Get 2 extra entries for putting @hippieindisguise and @higaiaguy in your Instagram post
  • Bonus entry if you follow Gaia Guy on Facebook

Contest closes Sunday July 31, 2016 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!


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Wilde Asher Mala Sacred Jewellery

Giveaway: Wilde Asher Malas for Women and Children

Today I have a beautiful giveaway with Wilde Asher over on my Instagram account! My friend Sophie is one of the owners of Wilde Asher, a small online shop stocking lovely handmade and ethically sourced goods, including sacred jewellery and home decor. The lovely women behind Wilde Asher would like to giveaway two malas: one women’s Chakra Mala and one children’s mala. By the way, you can read about Sophie’s beautiful creative, earth-centred life in Australia in my interview with her here.

Wilde Asher Mala Sacred Jewellery

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and look for the photo above, and make sure to:

  • Follow @wildeasher
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • For extra entries: Tag friends in the comments, separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots 🙂 No limit to the number of friends tagged. Each friend counts for an additional entry.

Contest closes Friday July 15, 2016 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

But wait, there’s more! Wilde Asher would like to offer my readers and followers a $30 AUD discount on their Chakra Malas. Quite generous! Find their collection of malas online here.

  • You can use the discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for $30 off your mala.
Truthpaste ayurvedic toothpaste

TruthPaste Toothpaste Review & Giveaway

TruthPaste wants to giveaway one jar of TruthPaste toothpaste and a copper tongue scraper to one of my Instagram followers. TruthPaste is an all-natural, ayurvedic, botanical toothpaste sourced from pure ingredients in a sustainable way. Packaging is up-cycled and recyclable. Awesome! Details on how to enter are found below.

Truthpaste ayurvedic toothpaste

Some of you know that I’ve been making our family’s toothpaste and deodorant for about a year now. I started making it because I like to be self-sufficient but also because I wasn’t sure about the ingredients in toothpaste, even in the case of organic and natural brands. For example, some natural brands contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which is not healthy at all (you can read why here).

If you are still using conventional toothpaste you might want to know that many (most, or even all) of the big brands of toothpaste contain plastic microbeads for exfoliation. That’s right, you read it: plastic! So, not only are you likely to be ingesting (and accumulating in your body) some plastic beads, the rest are being washed down the drain and accumulating in waterways. Not cool! You can read more about it over on one my favourite blogs Zero Waste Chef.

My toothpaste recipe, which I need to share on the blog soon (note to self!), is a simple combination of:

It works really well and is easy to make, and so far no complaints at the dentist. I make a similar recipe for my kids, but use Citrus Bliss essential oil (think orange-vanilla creamsicle flavour) and add a few drops of liquid stevia to sweeten it.

When I recently found out about TruthPaste I was naturally quite curious to know what the ingredients were. I was really pleased to find a completely natural and healthy formulation. It is definitely superior to my own recipe, particularly because it includes colloidal silver, which is a strong, but gentle, anti-microbial liquid, so I gave it a try. Result: we all love it! I definitely recommend it to everyone.

To enter the giveaway for a jar of TruthPaste and a copper tongue scraper, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and make sure to:

  • Follow @ilovetruthpaste
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo (same photo as above) to confirm your entry
  • Tag at least one friend in the comments
  • For extra entries: Tag more friends, but please separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots. No limit to number of friends tagged

Contest closes Saturday May 28th, 2016 and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!


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Label Love: Mikoleón Sustainable Shoes + Clothing — and a Giveaway!

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Growing up our family always had what it needed, but certainly there was no money to spare or to spend on being fashionable. Our clothes were most often second hand or sewn by my mother, and when we did buy new things we had to be price conscious.  Shoes, however, were one thing that my mother would not spare expense on. She always said her children had to have good shoes — for the health of the foot, not for the sake of fashion. She bought us sensible shoes that fit well and since we only had one pair of shoes at a time, they would be shoes we could do anything in: climb trees, walk to school, play sports, and so on. When my sister, who was the fanciest little toddler you will ever meet (she went through a phase where she couldn’t be seen in public without a bridal veil), wanted fancy shoes my mother found a local shoemaker who made my sister Mary Janes that were functional and fancy (of course this was long before the online shopping era, so my mother had to locally source shoes, a good thing for sure).

I carried my mother’s concern for healthy foot development forward as a parent and have always done my best to outfit Ro and Sen’s feet with quality shoes that would let their feet breath and develop in a healthy manner. With Sen and Ro growing like weeds over the winter (I love weeds, by the way) I needed new shoes for both of them this spring. I had the good fortune of getting them handmade shoes from Mikoleón, which, by the way, have proven to be exceptional quality.

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Mikoleón is a small company making children’s clothing and footwear. The production ethics are outstanding: their clothing is made from up-cycled fabrics, 100% cotton, chemical free, dye free, fair trade, reduced CO2, sustainable and handmade. Their shoes are handmade by cobblers in traditional slow production methods. The leather is processed in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. With all this production goodness I wanted to share more about the company with my readers (this is not a sponsored post!), so I asked Cony, the woman behind the company, if she might indulge me in an interview. She said yes and offered to do a giveaway too — yay!  I don’t encourage frequent or conspicuous consumption, but do take note of Mikoleón for the next time you need to buy some beautiful ethically made children’s clothing and footwear. And make sure to read to the end of the post to see how you can win something from Mikoleón.

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Cony, could you tell me a little bit about yourself, the person behind Mikoleón. What is your background?

I’m a mom of 5 and now grandmother to 14 beautiful grandkids including triplets! I’m an entrepreneur at heart! I love the idea of creating something and watch it blossom…I like to figure things out; I’m fascinated and obsessed with anything related to textiles and natural fibers; and I’m committed to living a green life as much as I can!

How would you describe Mikoleón in 5 words?

A brand with a conscience.

Why did you choose Mikoleón for your brand name? What does it mean?

A Mikoleón is a Kinkajou also known as “honey bear,” but not an endangered species…yet. They are native to the jungles of Central and South America, they eat fruits and live among trees. Mikoleón in Spanish means monkey-lion, and for us, it was the perfect name to describe the soul inside our company.

What inspired you to start designing shoes and clothing?

I wish I could say that my dream was to be a fashion designer! But the real reason is…I saw an opportunity to help people in Guatemala with sustainable jobs and that combined with my love of textiles sealed the deal! I was in awe of their craftsmanship and desire to have a better life. I couldn’t deny the opportunity.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to be a mom. Now that I’m one, I want to someday write a children’s book about love.

Craftsmanship and sustainability are important to you. How do you translate these into your designs and their production?

Even though we have skilled artisans, there’s always a learning curve to produce high quality products for them. Training our employees to understand the level of quality we want is imperative and essential to our production. We strive to make products that are simple in design and that showcase our specialty fabrics.


Where are Mikoleón shoes made and clothing is sewn? What is your relationship with the seamstresses?

Our shoes and clothes are made in Antigua, Guatemala. Our seamstresses and cobblers are skilled women and men that were in great need of a job to provide for their families. We were just lucky to find them…and have the chance to help them.

Our fair wage policy goes beyond what the local Guatemalan government considers a fair wage. Our in-house employees enjoy all the benefits the laws in Guatemala require, such as medical, social security, maternity leave, and vacation benefits. In addition, Guatemala laws require that you pay your employees for 14 months of wages but they actually work only 11 months! Twice a year they get paid for two months of work while working only one.

We take much pride to say that we pay fair prices for their goods.

What’s special about the materials you use? And your production methods?

Our denim is up-cycled. Basically, we collect new waste materials from the denim factories in Guatemala, and transform it back into threads; we then use the up-cycled threads to make new woven and knit fabrics. This saves a tremendous amount of water in the manufacturing process compared to traditional new fabrics.

We consider ourselves a slow fashion company, meaning, each piece is done in small quantities as needed. We don’t have a factory, I like to think of it more as a sewing shop, and much like a seamstress or tailor shop would be here in the USA. We buy raw materials from ISO certified factories (ISO 9000), and we are always mindful of the environmental impact of our production methods.


What has made you the most proud of what you’re doing?

Being able to empower our employees to believe in themselves and their worth; and second would be, knowing that we are providing our customers with products that make them feel good while making conscious fashion choices.

Do you plan to expand the line?  What’s next for Mikoleón?

For now, we just want to educate consumers about the beauty of natural fibers, up-cycling, and the negative impact on our environment and the real cost of fast fashion.

When you are all caught up on work, what do you love to do?

I love a cup of chai tea, sitting on my back porch and staring at our beautiful Rocky Mountains, reminding myself how lucky I am for the chance to love my little tribe!



Thank you Cony! Readers you can find Mikoleón’s online shop here and follow them on Instagram @mikoleonkids

Mikoleon wants to giveaway a $100 gift card and a Nena & Co Mini Clutch to one of my readers! …Details below

6042 mothers day giveaway flatlay

Example of a Nena & Co Mini Clutch shown above **If you are curious about Nena & Co, you can read about them here

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Sen calls his Mikoleon shoes his “Adventure Boots” — according to him the side pocket is meant to hold treasures collected while adventuring, I’m pretty sure he’s got that one right!

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and make sure to:

  • Follow @mikoleonkids
  • Follow me @hippieindisguise
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo to confirm your entry
  • For extra entries: Tag friends in the comments. Please separate each friend into a different comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots:) No limit to number of friends tagged.
  • For an extra entry: Sign up for Mikoleón’s mailing list (and BONUS you’ll get a 20% off coupon sent to your inbox!)

Contest closes Sunday May 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm NYC standard time and is open worldwide. The winner will be announced on Instagram on Sunday May 1st after 4:00 pm. Good luck friends!

You might also like my post:

Reincarnating Traditional Fabrics into Modern Bags: An Interview with Ali from Nena & Co

A Thoughtful Guide to Women’s Gifts for Any Occasion

Glimpses into our Home: Slow, Mindful, Minimal, Nature-Inspired Decor

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Giveaway: Breastfeeding Online Classes from Lactation Link

Today I have an amazing giveaway from Lactation Link over on my Instagram account! Lactation Link is a small breastfeeding support practice run by Lindsey Shipley. Lindsey is a nurse, mother, childbirth educator and lactation coach, and a really nice person too! Through Lactation Link Lindsey works to empower women through education to reach their goals, whatever they may be.


When I had my first child I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and like so many women I assumed that labour and childbirth would be the biggest challenge. I took natural birthing classes, read some books and spoke with women about child birth. I studied up and looked for support – I prepared myself as best as I could. But, in contrast, breastfeeding appeared so simple, so straightforward that I didn’t at all prepare myself for it. Three weeks postpartum with terrible mastitis and never-ending nipple pain I sobbed that “Childbirth was way easier than breastfeeding! Why didn’t anyone warn me?” And I meant it: breastfeeding was way harder. But that was because I didn’t know what I was doing! Fortunately, with help from my midwife and a lactation consultant I easily learned what I was doing wrong and how to get on track to loving breastfeeding. I’m so thankful for those women, for the knowledge and gentle encouragement they gave me. Lactation consultants and coaches are amazing, empathetic people. I went on to nurse my children for over 8 years (put together, not each!). Now when women ask me about natural child birth and home birth I share my experience and tips, but I always make sure to spend time telling them that they need to equally prepare and educate themselves about breastfeeding, to find a coach and support network, and to believe in themselves and what their bodies can do.



Lindsey wants to give 3 of my Instagram followers a free online breastfeeding class. Lindsey’s classes are super popular, if you are a mama-to-be or a breastfeeding mother these classes are great. You can learn in the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule. Lindsey also offers all kinds of other great free resources through her website so check it out (here)! A great place to get started is with Lindsey’s ‘Top Ten Tips for Breastfeeding Success’.

To enter the giveaway, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and make sure to:

  • Follow @lactationlink
  • Like and comment on the giveaway photo
  • Tag at least one mama or mama-to-be in the comments. Each tagged friend counts as a separate entry, so more tags=more entries! Please tag each friend in a separate comment so that it is easier for me to make the ballots 🙂
  • No limit to the number of friends tagged.

Giveaway closes Sunday February 28 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

{ Photography in this post by Janae Kristen Photography }


Soho NYC flower child nico nico clothing

Giveaway: $75 for Darling Clementine Shop

Today I have a great giveaway with Darling Clementine Shop over on my Instagram account! Lindsay, owner of Darling Clementine, runs a small online shop curating quality, often organic, small scale children’s and women’s wear brands. She stocks some of my favourites I’ve mentioned before like Ace & Jig, Nico Nico, and Thief & Bandit. Lindsay would like to giveaway a $75 shop credit to one of my Instagram followers!

Ro in Soho NYC Nico Nico Clothing

To enter, visit my Instagram account (rules are explained there too) and look for the photo above, and make sure to:

Contest closes Sunday February 21, 2016 at midnight and is open worldwide. Good luck friends!

Nena & Co Reincarnating Traditional Fabrics into Modern Bags

Growing up, there was an eclectic, beautiful, and growing collection of textiles in our home. My mother had gone to school for fashion design and loved fabrics of all kinds. ‘Treasure’ to my mother was finding a high end textile in the remnant bin that she could sew into the most fancy romper or dress for one of her girls. There’s no doubt in my mind that I formed an appreciation for colour, pattern and texture through my many visits to the fabric store with my mother. I loved seeing my mom’s eyes light up at a discounted piece of upholstery fabric, that less than 24 hours later she would have transformed into the most gorgeous fall coat for my baby brother. As with most creative types, my mother was always collecting things, mostly fabric and buttons, for future projects, waiting for inspiration to strike.

My father also contributed to the household collection. He appreciated my mother’s fondness for textiles, so when he travelled for work (which was often, far and wide) he would bring her back fabric, table cloths, batiks and other local fabric arts souvenirs. My favourites were always the South American textiles and specifically the Guatemalan ones. I loved the bold colours and embroidery, the geometric patterns, and the animal and floral motifs.

Nena & CO sustainable hand bags hippie in disguise

Needless to say, growing up in that environment, Guatemalan textiles and handmade clothing and accessories have become nostalgic for me. So when I came across Nena & Co bags I was immediately smitten. Not only are the bags beautiful, they are handmade (including hand woven fabrics), many from repurposed huipils (hand woven traditional garments), and each bag is one of a kind. The bags seemed to meet my litmus test. Beautiful: check. But more importantly: handmade, sustainable, fair labour, and socially responsible. Check marks all around.

What’s more Nena & Co makes giving back to the community that produces their bags a normal practice. Through a variety of projects, Nena & Co helps the communities they work with by providing purified water, or, more recently, supporting outreach programs that teach women how to deliver babies and provides them with birthing kits.

It is undeniable that I love beautiful things, but more important to me is always the story behind the thing, the creative inspirations, and the production ethics. I was really happy when Ali, the owner and designer of Nena & Co agreed to do an interview with me. I can gush to you about the outstanding quality of my Nena bag and how much I love using it, but I expect you will be more compelled to love the bags when you hear straight from Ali about why these bags are so important to her and to the people who sew them.

Tell me a little about yourself. How did Nena & Co get started?

I started Nena & Co because my family is from Guatemala; I ended up lucky enough to be first generation American (on my mom’s side of the family). This could be one of the reasons I believe in social responsibility. When visiting a third world country you have to ask yourself: “why am I one of the lucky ones to have so many opportunities and these people don’t?” Because of that, my love for design, and my heritage, I decided I wanted to create opportunities for people that want to work and do it in a dignified way, which is important to all of us. The people I work with in Guatemala are amazing talented artists. They have learned complex specialized trades from the time they were children. When these craftsmen have to leave home to work in factories to do jobs unrelated to their skills, they often end up performing jobs that are not equal to their talents, interests or artistic nature.

We are a new business that has only been around since May of 2013! Oddly enough my Dad had been encouraging me to do this for 10 years, but it wasn’t until I met my husband three years ago that I felt I had the vision to move forward with it. And once I did, it all came so naturally!

Where do you find your creative inspiration?

I find creative inspiration all around me but there are two specific things that dominate my creative process: 1) What I perceive as a daily need in a product. 2) I invest a lot of time and money in understanding the various textiles made in Guatemala. By doing this I don’t just learn things like how cotton is grown, dyed and loomed. I always learn the story of the artisan. This might be my greatest motivation as I try and design products that truly flatter the hand made fabrics that come from such inspiring people.

What is your favourite part of what you do?

Getting to know the people that work for Nena & Co. in Guatemala is by far the most rewarding part of what I do. Of course I love designing and seeing a finished product that people love. But the most rewarding part of my job is becoming friends with the artisans that work for Nena & Co. and learning their story. Guatemala is a country whose people have suffered from recent civil war, corruption in their government, and great poverty. Even with all of the negative influences they have pulling on them, they greet you with warmth and will share whatever they have. When we meet with our craftsmen we like to teach them business principles on how to place a value on their product based on materials, technique, quality, and time since most of them do not know how to do this and are used to foreigners “haggling” down their prices. We honor their work and we do not underpay our employees or craftsmen.

We value what we make but also want to be fair to our customers and set our prices accordingly. I think we should all ask ourselves “what is my social responsibility,” and although we can’t all start a business, I’d like to think I’ve created a way for people to give back with meaningful purchases or “shopping with a cause” through Nena & Co. and other brands that follow the same business model. I love what we do, the people I work with love what they do, and I hope you can see the beauty in Nena & Co. products.

The motivation and reason I started Nena & Co was because I am half Guatemalan and it was my dream to one day give back to families from there. It’s been a learning curve but we’ve come to a point where we don’t just manufacture in Guatemala but we’ve created sustainable work for Mayan women and men who are able to earn above just “fair wages” and in a dignified way with our company. It is rigorous work that we don’t take for granted. We are so grateful to be able to share our heritage and their beautiful talents with our customers.

Whenever I get home from a long trip to Guatemala all I usually think is I can’t wait to come home and take a warm shower, eat a hot meal and snuggle my husband and watch a movie. Then I started thinking of all the women we work with and the homes we visited and I know they never get to do what I just described. If they have water, it’s definitely not hot, there is no heater to warm the house or a cozy bed to snuggle in. They work from when they wake, doing household chores, tending to children and livestock and then making time to weave to earn money. Don’t get me wrong, I really like nice things and I don’t feel guilty; rather, I feel responsible. I feel a great responsibility to continue to design, collaborate and build a business to give these women and men an opportunity to create a better future for themselves.

What’s next for Nena & Co? Do you have any exciting new products or projects in the works?

I’m striving to create more and more products where we can integrate newly woven textiles into the products so we can continue to give the Mayan men and women sustainable work. We have created three new collections to do just that: the Resort Collection, the Sustainable Line (we just launched the newest addition to that line the Sustainable Mini Carryall), and the Kids & Baby Collection. All these projects are near and dear to my heart and have created so many more jobs than we could’ve imagined when we first started out.


A few photos from our Sunday stroll last weekend to showcase my bag — make sure to scroll all the way to the end for details on the Nena & Co Giveaway that I am hosting.

You have a chance to win your own reincarnation of a traditional garment into a modern, stylish and responsible bag by participating in the giveaway that I am hosting on my Instagram account here. The giveaway closes Sunday April 26th, 2015 at midnight in New York City. Good luck to everyone!