Why I choose organic and sustainable shirts instead of American Apparel

You guys already know that I make jewelry, but I also have grandiose plans of creating a t-shirt line based on some cartoon drawings I’ve done. And you guys probably know that I’m pretty conscious about the sustainability and workers’/civil rights, so I had to find the right wholesale t-shirts to print on. The obvious choice, initially, was American Apparel. Hell, I think most of my wardrobe is American Apparel, but looking into them, I’ve discovered they had business practices that didn’t sit right with me. Because of this, I looked into some other alternatives, and I wanted to share them with you.

Before I get into the wholesalers I ultimately decided on, let’s talk about American Apparel, and why I decided not to choose them for my clothing line. On the positive side, they are well-known, have a huge stock and can almost always guarantee availability. The shirts are made in a Los Angeles factory, right on American soil. So what’s not to love? I would be supporting an American business (in an industry that so often outsources to shitty sweatshops) that pay their employees fairly. But their negatives outweigh the positives for me.

  • Throughout the years, CEO Dov Charney has faced multiple lawsuits for sexual harassment and creating an unsafe work environment for women.
  • He masturbated in front of a reporter… multiple times.
  • They regularly use ads objectifying women, often using waif-like models. They have been accused of portraying “kiddie porn”-like ads. (Though in recent ads, they have used a 60-something model and other “non-traditional” models.)
  • Hiring practices require full-length photos and are based on non-transparent, seemingly arbitrary criteria.
  • There are reports of segregation of race and gender in retail stores.
  • New hires are required to sign a contract agreeing to a million dollar penalty for whistleblowing.


These next few companies are the ones I’ve ultimately decided to go with, either for their fair trade practices or organic & sustainability principles: HAE Now, Econscious, and ONNO Textiles. These companies aren’t as big or as old as American Apparel, which means that not all stock may be readily available, and there isn’t as diverse of a selection as you would find at AA. But since I’m looking for simple t-shirts, these companies are great for me.

HAE Now is the best of both worlds, both organic and fair trade. Their name stands for “Humans, Animals, and Environment Now” and they use that motto to guide their business practices. The cotton they use is grown on farms that use crop rotation and botanical pest control. They use low-impact processes and dyes that help reduce water and electric use and toxic run off. HAE Now is Fair Trade Certified through Fair Trade USA. The program certifies companies that offer higher wages, safe and hygienic work conditions, the right to unionize, and additional funds to supplement wages or invest in community programs. HAE Now’s t-shirts range from baby onesies all the way up to adult women and men’s shirts. They also produce aprons and grocery tote bags.

Econscious takes pride in their code of conduct for a fair and equitable work environment. Their principles of sustainability extends to human and worker rights and the environment. Econscious offers a few different styles of tees and polos, along with sweatshirts, headwear (do I sense a future embroidery project for shop.JLOWATARI? maybe), and tote bags. Most of their products are made with 100% organic cotton, the few exceptions made with a blend of organic cotton and recycled polyester.

ONNO Textiles produces hemp, bamboo, and cotton shirts. The hemp and bamboo shirts are both combined with organic cotton. The materials and shirts are produced overseas, and factories are overseen by the Business Social Compliance Initiative monitoring system, which bases its labor standards on the International Labor Organization. The company only offers adult-sized shirts (sorry kids) and organic tote bags (I guess those are in right now, eh?). Unlike HAE Now, which provides long-sleeves and other styles, ONNO shirts are one style only. Out of the three companies, they seem to have the smallest stock.

HAE Now, Econscious, and ONNO are smaller companies than American Apparel. None of them come with the baggage that American Apparel carries. Despite their smaller size, combined they offer a great selection of styles to choose from. I think they are great alternatives that offer a clear conscious and well-made product.

Keep an eye out for my new shirts, coming soon to shop.JLOWATARI!

Destroying thrift store china

jlowatari.com branding, a linocut stampI’m working on necklaces and earrings to post in my online store and to sell to local consignment shops. My goal for this year is to get at least one store to carry my jewelry. And of course, more would be better! With that goal in mind, I’ve been working on branding and did a couple of linocuts to stamp some cards. But this post is all about the destruction of a plate I found in a thrift store. Oh, what a joy it is to destroy…

Smashing thrift store china with a hammerOnce home, I placed the plate into a leftover cardboard box before smashing it with a rubber mallet. (And because I didn’t want ceramic flying into my eyes, I used eye protection!) I made sure end up with a variety of sizes. The smaller pieces might become earrings, though I imagine also stringing a few together to make a necklace. The bigger pieces I’ll use as necklace pendants, and there are some that I’d like to make into bracelets, though I’m not sure how I want to do that yet.

Using this tutorial as a guide, I smoothed down the edges of the broken pieces and drilled holes for the jump rings. I followed the tutorial using a silicon carbide bit — those thick, blue ones, kind of like a sanding bit – for the edges, and found that it smoothed the edges down enough that I didn’t need to use the abrasive buff like the tutorial suggests.

The tutorial also suggests using the silicon carbide bit to drill the holes, but it took way too long. 30 minutes for just ONE HOLE! So I switched to the diamond drill bit for subsequent pieces and they were done in 5-10 minutes. It’s a lot easier to drill a small hole and then expand it using the sides of the diamond bit. But the tip wore down after a few pieces, so I’ll have to replace it or try a differently shaped bit.

Thrift store china: edges sanded down, holes drilled

I drilled the holes to be about 4mm away from the edge and I plan on using big jump rings, about 12mm, to hang the pendants from. Brass jump rings are on the way. They are bright brass, but I want to antique them somehow. I’m thinking lemon juice or vinegar to give it that tarnished look. I think the vintage look of the brass would pair well with the “cleanliness” of the English china.

I’m going crazy finding cool Dremel tutorials. I think my next project will be making these spoon pendants. I have to find a collection of old spoons. The ones in my drawer were hand-me-downs from my grandma, part of a set that she said she had planned to give to me as a wedding present. I’m not sure how happy she’d be if she found out I drilled into them!

East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use

East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use

Is there anything in San Diego like The East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use?

A few years ago, during one of my first visits to the Bay Area, a good friend (hi Meghan!) took me on a tour of Oakland. Knowing my crafty inclinations, we walked into what looked, in my mind’s eye, like a huge warehouse — like crafting heaven. Aisles and shelves and tables and boxes full of all sorts of off-the-wall material: bins of milk and egg cartons, old sewing patterns, crumbling sheet music, broken hand mixers, and binders and manila folders, in addition to more traditional crafting materials like fabric, markers, crayons, and chalk.

I dream of this place.

So is there anywhere in San Diego like this? Architectural Salvage in Little Italy comes close, in the sense that it’s a space filled with a random assortment of stuff, but it doesn’t come close to the eclectic, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” vibe of the Depot. And in the early days of my craftiness (ie high school), I had some luck finding craft material through the Freecycle group in Escondido, but a quick browse of the San Diego Freecycle group looks devoid of anything useful, unless you want 60 moving boxes.

I long for broken hand mixers.

Balboa Park

Along with Blind Lady Ale House, I am employed at Lady Carolyn’s Pub at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. I do food prep, wash dishes, and serve customers food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). I keep taking my camera to work but have yet to walk around the park to take pictures, but I did get to snap a few shots before a shift once.

This is the view from the plaza in front of the pub:



I need to learn to do some post-processing in the GIMP so I can bring down those highlights a little, but hey, not bad for a beginner, right?

On an unrelated note, I celebrated my 24th birthday yesterday and had a wonderful dinner at Yu Me Ya, a new restaurant on 4th and University in Hillcrest. I will write up more later, when I get my pictures developed!

BLAH employees

Have I mentioned that I like working at Blind Lady Ale House? They have cool employees that let me take pictures of them while I’m drunk, with a blinding flash on my F3. (And for the record, I was not drunk while working, just drunk at work, for Monday Movie with MIHO!)

Sayer will probably hate me for posting this picture, but that’s okay, everybody needs enemies!
Sayer is the lovely, patient woman who created MountainManChris.org, which you should visit if you haven’t yet.

Jeff grabbed me tips while Jesse pretended to work.
Jesse and Jeff

I’ve decided that I don’t like taking portraits with the 20mm lens. This might seem like a “duh” thing to most photographers, but I just realized it, ha. I’m looking forward to trying flash photography with my 50mm lens instead.

As always, more at my Flickr photostream.

Learning the 20mm

Things not to do with a 20mm lens:
Take a picture of something small because you will have to get really close (as in: inches)
Palm leaf

Things to do with a 20mm lens:
Take a crowd shot

Take a picture of the 805, the hills, and the horizon

Like always, more at my Flickr account, which is going to reach 200 photos soon. On a free account, that means anything older than the latest 200 photos will not be accessible by anybody. POOP. Thinking of upgrading soon, or hosting a web gallery on camaraderiedesigns.com (a maybe-defunct domain of mine).

MIHO, Mission Brewing, and the Golden Hill Farmers Market

I took my Nikon F3 out and about with the 50mm lens. Goddamn, this lens is awesome for indoor light (as long as it’s sunny outside, I suppose). I took some shots inside Mission Brewing that I thought came out very well.


MIHO quote

The week before, MIHO had a fucking delicious tofu lettuce wrap. About $8 for a gigantic portion of marinated tofu, green tea rice, lettuce, veggie medley.  The 50mm prime lens has such a shallow depth of field.  Amazing.

MIHO tofu wrap

I also walked down to the Golden Hill Farmers Market while I was sick. It wasn’t the greatest idea, but mmm, look at the delicious food.


I want to eat everything in this picture:

Like always, more at my Flickr account.


I love dogs.

I took pictures of dogs.

This lazy one is Chai.

This other lazy one is Sequoia.
Squinty Sequoia

I found this dog at the Grape Street dog park in South Park. I still have no idea if the poor woof found its owner.
Waiting dog

I have more photos posted on my Flickr, from South Park and Valley Center.

I don’t know if I’m becoming a lazier editor or what, but I’m liking more of my pictures per film roll than I did before. If it’s not my laziness as an editor, then it’s my improvement as a photographer. I’d like to think it’s the latter, but who knows. ;)

Coming later will be shots from the Golden Hill Farmers’ Market and the Mission Brewing tasting room, taken with my Nikon F3 and a 50mm prime lens.

Snapfish.com review

If you’re looking for cheap photo developing and re-prints, Snapfish is the way to go.  It’s $4.98 per roll to develop, which is less than half the price of CVS or George’s Camera.  The price includes shipping and handling, negative processing, scanning and uploading of low-res versions to their website, and 4×6 prints.

The price is even sweeter when your 1st roll is absolutely free.  And Snapfish also gives away your first 20 digital prints free.

Another perk to Snapfish is their Flickr integration.  I love the community aspect of Flickr, and I love being able to easily share the photos I have on Flickr to anywhere (here, Facebook, or Twitter).  With Snapfish integration, you can upload any Flickr photo into Snapfish to order them as prints.

However, I think after these perks run out, I will continue going back to George’s Camera, for a few reasons.  First, it’s always better to support a local business than an Internet subsidiary of a giant corporation (in this case: HP).  Second, you know the people at George’s are handling your negatives and photos right.  Third, the turnaround time is MUCH faster when you get your photos processed locally, and you’re saving gas and time when you stay local also!  To send and receive your negatives and prints, it takes 2-3 days for your film to get to Snapfish, another day or two for them to process and upload, and then a week for your prints and negatives to be returned to you.  Even the local CVS has a one-day turnaround.

Do I recommend Snapfish.com?  Eh.  If you’re cheap, don’t mind waiting a couple of weeks, and still have all the free sign-up perks from them, use them while you can.  But if you have a local, quality place to support, go there!

Half of magenta

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SERIOUSLY, do not park in this lot!

Here are some of my photos from my last two rolls of film.  This time, instead of going to George’s Camera, I used Snapfish.com.  As a first time user, I got the first roll developed for free, and they scan in the pictures for you at no extra cost.  Not a bad deal. However, I did have to do white balance correction in every single photo. Is that my fault or the scanner’s fault? (Probably mine. :P)

I have been working again at Blind Lady Ale House. I decided to take the camera in and take some pictures.

Lighting is not so great for photography in the kitchen, but I think I captured the spirit of the Back of the House in this picture:


And the Front of the House:

That segues into this awesome sign I found in South Park. I wish I could go lobster hunting in the canyon, but this sign forbids me!

My favorite color, creeping along a South Park sidewalk:

As always, more at my flickr account.