Last week, my interview with Kelsey Timmerman was published on the Dressember blog. I never imagined I would have a one-on-one conversation with a New York Times bestselling author or that my initial question would catalyze a reflection he had not yet made:
It’s been 10 years since Where Am I Wearing? was published. How has this changed your life? -me
Kelsey was one of three people I met last year whose work had already inspired me to support companies that introduce me to the makers of my clothes and food.
When I was a Vanderbilt University student, Bongo Java’s nearby cafe Fido had a photo of Belmont University students with Guatemalan coffee farmers. Then, I thought it would be a cool trip, but over the following twelve years, the direct sourcing relationships documented by Crop to Cup, Gimme! Coffee, Equal Exchange, and Square One Coffee made me aware of the beauty and hardships of coffee producers throughout the globe. Through the depth of joy I felt at a December 2018 event at Blanchard’s Coffee, I realized that meeting a coffee farmer in person had been a latent dream I never considered fulfilling.
Blanchard’s hosted Honduran coffee farmer Katia Duke to celebrate the release of the volume of their quarterly magazine featuring her farm, Finca San Isidro, and a limited edition coffee collection from there. Katia declared, “The present is female,” and she described overcoming resistance to her leadership in a male-dominated industry in Honduras. She shared her willingness to try, fail, and try again in experimental growing and processing techniques for the sake of improving her community through the premiums of specialty coffee. After her talk, she and I spoke a little in Spanish one-on-one, and she encouraged me to keep learning about women’s empowerment.
While looking for ethically-made bridesmaids’ dresses in January 2016, I discovered tonle. Their designs were too casual for the occasion, but their fair treatment of Cambodian makers, sourcing of remnant fabrics, plant-inspired screen printing, and generous sizing compelled me to purchase a few items for myself. This weekend, while 8 months pregnant, I wore one of the dresses I bought then.
In July 2018, I planned a stop at tonle’s flagship store in San Francisco during my family’s trip to Northern California. We also scheduled lunch with founder Rachel Faller. She walked us to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant where we had a down-to-earth conversation about entrepreneurship, affordable housing, and local parks. I left more committed to authenticity in my own work and life.