spotlight: elise durbecq

elise - cover photo

When I imagine Mexico City, I think vibrancy, a culture that runs deep and authenticity.  Which is why when meeting Elise Durbecq who hails from the country, it makes total sense that I immediately fell in love with her.  Highly intelligent, articulate and worldly, I was in disbelief when finding out that she was only twenty-five years old.  We crossed paths when both freelancing at the women-centric retail company, Ann Taylor LOFT.

Elise came to the United States when she was eighteen to study interior design/architecture at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Along with her work as a design consultant on residential projects and for LOFT, in the Fall of 2013 Elise with partner Gillian Tozer,  launched a line of custom totes called TRUSS NYC.  Both Elise and Gillian, “fell in love with the traditional market tote while in Oaxaca, where we spotted the bags on top of the heads and in the hands of market women. We loved the bright colors geometric shapes, and sturdiness of the bags and immediately pictured them being a part of every girl’s life back in New York City.”  What began for Elise as childhood visits to Oaxaca, has now developed into an emerging brand that is not only fashionable and functional, but more importantly supports local weavers from the small town.  A dying art which TRUSS is passionate about sustaining, every bag is handwoven from indigenous Mexican craftsmanship.  A percentage of the profits aids in the support of these Oaxacan communities.  

The future looks bright for TRUSS since they were immediately picked up by Opening Ceremony, and sold in their New York, Los Angeles, London locations, and online.  The totes are beautifully made, durable, lightweight and come in a variety of patterns and colors.  Each style is original, slightly different then the next.  The quintessential summer bag that not only looks good, but gives back!  They retail between $150-$175.

When Elise and I sat down to chat, one thing she said that resonated with me was, “I don’t work to live, I love to work.” which is the perfect philosophy to live by, in order to achieve the most rewarding type of success.  TRUSS is a do-good brand with many emotional elements that hit at the core of who Elise is.  So I was curious about her soul, her style and how it all aligns with the incredible work she’s doing at TRUSS.  Here’s what she had to say…

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spotlight: sseko designs

jenny greenstein

Not just any old pair of sandals, the ones featured in this post by Sseko Designs, are giving marginalized women in East Africa the opportunity to gain a higher education.  Sseko Designs is a socially responsible and “ethical fashion brand based in Uganda”,  that produces handmade and locally sourced goods.  Founded by Liz Forkin Bohannon, whose mission is to help women create a sustainable life for themselves, the company works towards ending the cycle of poverty and creating a more equitable society.  The women are employed for fair wages, compensated appropriately and 50% of their earnings are put away for university.  Sseko then grants scholarships that match up to 100% of the savings each woman has made during her 9 month session.  Strong women, who dream of a bigger and brighter future, all that’s needed is an opportunity.  A chance.  To date, Sseko has enabled 47 women to continue on to university.  In addition to the education itself, women like Sofia, whose odds were against her, says Sskeo“ has empowered me, has made me realize that I am a person in this world, a girl with big dreams in the future, a girl ready to change Uganda, my country, and become somebody powerful.”  You can read more stories from women like Sofia here.

sseko sseko designs

I not only love the authenticity of these sandals, but believe in the stories behind them.  When I received mine, I immediately felt connected to a greater purpose.  The base of the shoe, the ribbon to tie around my ankle – I felt incredibly moved by the fact that the materials had passed through the hands of a woman who is being given the opportunity to work towards living the life she desires.  Sseko sandals are crafted from passion, from love, and from hope.

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liz’s legacy

kesler tran

Style from the inside out is the name of the game so using this platform for charitable opportunities is another huge initiative for Your Soul Style.  That being said, I came to learn about Liz’s Legacy, “a charitable program that supports cancer research, education and patient care” through my dear friend Kalen Karnes-Strickland, whose mother is Liz Karnes.  Alongside her father, three sisters and the help of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Liz’s Legacy was founded after Liz passed away from ovarian cancer in 2003.  The mission of the organization is to “continue Liz Karnes’ fight against cancer by supporting cutting-edge medical research and extraordinary care at one of the country’s premier cancer centers.”  Throughout Liz’s 12-year fight with cancer, she was dedicated to helping others who were also struggling with the disease, and inspired them by setting an example to keep on living through her strength and positive attitude.  Though Liz has passed, her legacy is carried on through this foundation.  100% of the donations (which is more then 1.6 million!) has been used to support life-saving research for breast, ovarian, childhood and other types of cancer research.

Kalen came to me last year when the family was holding their annual Liz’s Legacy fundraiser in Chicago to see if I could donate to the silent auction.  Pleased to be a part of the project, I donated a very lightly worn Cole Haan handbag, alongside other contributions like Cubs ticket and a Chanel clutch.  Be it from people’s personal collections, companies they work for, or someone they know, everyone came together with an assortment of amazing things, making the day a huge success!

On August 16th, Liz’s Legacy will be holding their 10th annual event, which will include a silent auction, and I will be donating again.  If you would like to donate and help raise money for this amazing cause, this is an opportunity for you to participate.  We all have pieces in our homes and closets that are either new, lightly used, are collecting dust and can be used for something good!  Or perhaps you work with a designer or brand that has something to give as well.  Let’s all pitch in and make it happen.  I’ll be collecting items directly over the next two weeks so please send all e-mails to jenny@yoursoulstyle.com with your information and what you are handing off.  If you don’t have anything for the auction, and you’d still like to make a monetary donation, please go directly to the website for information.  You can also contribute to Liz’s Legacy by sharing this post via e-mail, Facebook or other social media platforms to help me bring awareness to this wonderful initiative.

Liz Karnes said herself that, “Every day is a chance to make life a little bit better”.  I’m proud to pay her message forward and keep her spirit (and legacy) alive.  Join me.

xx jenny

photo via kesler tran

spotlight: tribe alive (pt.1)

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With no shortage of social, political and environmental issues plaguing the world today, Your Soul Style’s mission is to highlight individuals and brands who are working towards making a difference.  With that being said, when my dear friend Carly Burson told me about the decision to launch Tribe Alive with partner Ashley Faircloth, “a socially conscious lifestyle brand utilizing its passion for fashion as a platform for social change that stands behind fair trade principles and practices social responsibility”, I immediately recruited them for a spotlight feature.  I’ve known Carly for five years, and she has always inspired me with her lifelong commitment to non-profit work.  The launch of Tribe Alive is a natural extension of her already established do-good contributions.  Combined with Ashley’s ability to build a business from the ground up, the two were a match made in heaven.  Both Carly and Ashley come from long-standing, successful careers in the fashion industry and wanted to leverage their knowledge and experience to help better the lives of others.  Each individually passionate about making an impact, Tribe Alive was born out of a desire for positive change in the global marketplace.

“Tribe Alive utilizes it’s passion for fashion and responsible commerce as a platform to help alleviate poverty among women.”  The mission is to employ female artisans from developing countries and provide them with an opportunity to work at fair-trade wages to improve their future and their families future through the production of local goods such as handbags and jewelry.  Indicative of dynamic cultural perspectives from around the world, all of the pieces are handmade by impoverished women with Tribe Alive providing access to the necessary tools, training and support for sustainability.  The launch collection(s) which include bags and jewelry, are from Honduras, Ethiopia and Guatemala with intentions of expanding to countries like India and beyond.

Along with interviewing Carly and Ashley, I had the privilege to a sneak peek of the assortment which will be available on October 1st.  Not only is it beautifully curated, hip, and stylish with a heavy appreciation on the cultural arts, but helping a woman and her family thrive is the real fashion statement I’m proud to make.  Like Carly and Ashley say in their brand philosophy, “We believe that every purchase should be made with a purpose, and that there is nothing more stylish than giving back.”  Yes!  I couldn’t agree more.  I am truly bursting with excitement to see how things develop for these two inspiring women who ooze with soul and style of epic proportions.  I am honored to be a part of the tribe!

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nordstrom anniversary sale

courtney trop
Nordstrom is currently having their anniversary sale so I spent my Sunday evening “window” shopping the bootie assortment since I’ll need an updated pair for Fall.  Why not grab them now before the prices go back up in August?  I love a good steal!  With that being said, I had my eyes on styles like a peep toe from CoachJoie and Alice & Olivia, an everyday classic from Cole Haan, Sam Edelman and Dolce Vita and an edgier option from Steve Madden and Dolce Vita.  Shop the entire sale at Nordstrom which continues until August 4th and includes everything from apparel to accessories to shoes.  Happy shopping and Monday.

photo via always judging