For fashion lovers who want to honor that human beings are behind the clothes we wear and wear clothes that deserve respect, Caroline Brevetti of New Paltz has opened up Conscious Co. Boutique on North Front Street in Kingston. Her goal — establish an ethical and sustainable marketplace for everyone.
Brevetti said she has always been concerned with where things are made and wants to know that the manufacturer adheres to standards of sustainability. In the clothing world, this is measured through Global Organic Textile Standards, which certifies that the textile product must contain a minimum of 70 percent organic fibers with all chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries meeting environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved, and all processors must comply with social criteria.
“Fair Trade” is another top priority, which, according to World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) is “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers — especially in the South.”
Brevetti carries clothing, jewelry, shoes, hats, accessories, body and skin care and other household sundries for men, women and children, with plans to add even more, including children’s toy lines. She especially appreciates sourcing from companies such as Able, a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty through providing economic opportunity for women, and which publishes all its workers’ wages online. A men’s brand, PX, is another model of sustainability Brevetti respects and thus carries in the store. PX uses wind turbines to power its factories and 96 percent of the water from the dying process is recycled.
Conscious Co. Boutique’s clean, bright space is warmed by naturally scented candles hand-poured by women recovering from addiction and sex-trafficking. The store is loaded with good karma. Some of the children’s clothes for sale include brands like Go Gently Nation — which are cut to order so there are no leftovers — and Finn and Emma, which are made from organic cotton and produced in fair trade settings that focus on women’s social and economic independence.
The store’s mission is to be a marketplace for all ethical and sustainable goods. “People want ethical and sustainable, but don’t always know how to get it.” Her store is not vegan, however — Brevetti added that if leather is used on any products she carries, she makes sure the animal was used nose-to-tail, and not just for its hide.
Brevetti graduated from Poughkeepsie’s Oakwood Friends School — a Quaker school — and soon established a lively, New York City-based paralegal career in her early 20s. She credits both her Quaker education as well as her mother for having raised her to become compassionate and empathetic.
Though she was volunteering one overnight a week in a New York City women’s shelter and her career was successful, she recognized she was on the wrong path. “It wasn’t for me … I have always struggled with both sides of my brain; I love the analytical but also I love knitting — all arts and crafts — painting, fashion … ”
Brevetti went deeper. “A huge part of my journey started with something my dad had said to me a few years ago … he told me that he used to see a spark in my eyes and a need to help the world, but that it was dimming more and more. He told me he wanted me to find that spark again because it scared him to see me lose it. He passed away last October, and since then I have been less passive in my life and trying to find way that I can do my part.”
Leaving the city and opening the store is just the beginning of the 30-year-old’s journey, she says, and also intends to plan crafting events from which she can donate the proceeds to local organizations. Brevetti hopes to one day have her own clothing line with which she can “do good,” such as offer employment to others with fairness and dignity. “For me, it comes down to the fact that everyone should have a dignified workplace with fair wages and benefits. I hope to be able to provide that to people in the future.”
Shop fave? The hat on her head. Brevetti worked in fashion doing direct sales for Sseko Designs — a clothing line created to enable high-potential, talented young women in Uganda to continue on to university with mentoring and generous tuition matching— and offered Brevetti the opportunity to travel there to meet the women. She said she and all her coworkers bought hats for the trip from fellow ethical manufacturer, Equal Uprise. Brevetti recalled on that trip they were on a boat on the Nile in Uganda when a huge storm came and blew a woman’s hat into the Nile’s waters. “It was fished out and still held its form and was still beautiful and I knew I wanted a beautiful product like that, which lasts, in my store.”
“Well-made” is an important part of the sustainable and ethical creed, she emphasized.
Super-cool ethical gift on the shelves? A spoon, Brevetti points at, but an Article 22 spoon — made from recycled bombs and other shrapnel dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War.
Conscious Co. Boutique is size-inclusive, with men’s pants that start at 28 and women’s up to 32. The store’s price points are competitive with other fine clothing lines found in boutiques, with sunglasses handmade in South America ranging from $63 to $114. Jeans by Boyish brand range from $158 to $188. Women’s shirts and dresses run in that price bracket as well. PX men’s shirts start at $36 and there’s even a winter jacket for $100. Smaller ticket items like locally produced, toxin-free nail polish or candles, are under $20.
“There’s a lot of great shops to peruse but none of them can offer you items that are not only fashionable but also supports a cause larger than themselves,” said Brevetti’s bestie from Oakwood, Sierra Suris, who has been helping Brevetti by photographing the store’s items for the website.
For more information about Conscious Co. Boutique, check out her website www.consciouscoboutique.com or do an IRL visit to her store at 58 N. Front Street. Remember to bring your own bag.