8.24.2010

Sustainable Style: Via Nativa

Even in the sweltering heat that I know some people are enduring right now (luckily things are still lovely here in California), the style seasons are rapidly moving toward fall, and blogs, magazines and ads are putting notions of crisp colors in our minds.

When I think of autumn, I think of where I grew up in Missouri, and the oak trees that turn glorious shades of yellow and orange. You walk to the sound of crunching leaves, and the wind invades your senses with nature's last hurrah before its hibernation during the winter months. 

Yes...I admit it. I miss the Midwest in the fall. If I could reside there from late September to mid-November, then come back to Santa Monica for the sea air the rest of the year, things would be just about perfect. Until that magical situation occurs, however, I'm left to find fall inspiration elsewhere, and today's sustainable style spot is a great place to start.

Via Nativa is a fair trade organization that works directly with independent artisans, community-based collectives and nonprofit organizations in Nicaragua to provide craftspeople there a way to earn a sustainable living while staying true to their traditional lifestyle. The online store boasts home decor items and hammocks, but its main focus is beautiful pieces of jewelry created from reclaimed or spalted wood. The finishing on the wood is all natural (such as linseed or pure tung oil), and even the labels have sustainable properties, either made from plantain leaves or printed using soy ink. Perhaps even better is the fact that they're relatively affordable. Below are some of my favorite pieces:

L to R; Curva Ring, $20; Boca Ring, $15; Curva Earrings, $22. (Images courtesy of Via Nativa)



L to R: Tube Ring, $22; Hoja Earrings, $25; Tube Bracelet, $29; Curva Necklace, $42. (Images courtesy of Via Nativa)


Founders Alessandra Plasa and Vanesa Natale started their environmentally friendly business after seeing firsthand the beauty of artisan crafts in Nicaragua, crafts that represented not only art, but a way to make a living. Plasa, who has a bachelor's degree in fine arts in interior design from the Pratt Institute in New York, currently runs the business and works directly with artisans and women-owned co-ops in Nicaragua to create the sustainable wood accessories. Natale currently volunteers with the NYC Fair Trade Coalition and has other fair trade businesses and projects in the works.
 
They also work with a fair trade, nonprofit organization called Esperanza en Accion, which is based in Managua, Nicaragua, and works with a variety of groups all over the country who create pine needle bowls, clay jewelry, soap stone sculptures and much more.

To take it one step further, twice a year, Via Nativa collects donations of clothing, medicine and other items in New York and distributes them to rural and urban areas of Nicaragua. If you're interested in helping, contact Alessandra at alessandra@vianativa.com.

Be sure and check out their website for more information and videos that show how the pieces are made from beginning to end. And, if you're feel so inspired, plop a couple things in a cart while you're there and start your Christmas shopping early! (Hey, it IS August after all...[sigh].)

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