Photo credit: Lydia Hudgens | This post is sponsored by ROUND + SQUARE. As always, EcoCult only accepts financial support from companies that we think are doing great things. Support EcoCult by supporting them! ROUND + SQUARE came into my life at just the right time. Before this fall, while I supported gender equality in an abstract way, I felt like I could set it aside and leave it to the experts, so I could focus on sustainability. Obviously, I don't believe that anymore. Our rights are under assault at every level of government, and we have a president who is so openly hostile to the very idea of someone with a vagina exercising critical thought and autonomy, it makes me nauseous. I'm digging in for a long fight.
As I started looking into buses to DC for the Women's March, an email from the new fashion brand ROUND + SQUARE landed in my inbox. Honestly, my expectations were low, but when I clicked through, I was treated to an edited collection of fun and sustainable fashion – silk bandanas, shawls, t-shirts and statement pins – that filled my sartorial need to proclaim my membership in the proud feminist club. This astutely fashionable do-good brand is the work of founder Henriette Ernst, a long-time fashion designer who has worked at Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, and Dries Van Noten. Last summer, she had paused her career to reconsider her role in what can be a damaging and superficial industry, when her imagination was sparked by a conversation with the human rights lawyer Yasmeen Hassan, who is the global executive director for Equality Now, an international non-profit organization which campaigns for gender equality and women's and girls' rights. Equality Now has campaigns that address genital mutilation, sex trafficking, sexual violence, justice for girls, and gender equality. Ernst wondered: how could she support? By making it stylish, obviously. She took her considerable skills and self-funded ROUND + SQUARE, which launched in time to provide the chicest nonprofit swag ever for Equality Now's annual gala – Gloria Steinem wore a Round Plus Square scarf on stage, the leading activist Jaha Dukureh wrapped one into a turban, and the TV producer Joss Whedon tied a bandanna around his wrist. The message of equality is subtle – you can't see it on the shawls and bandannas unless you're flying them like a flag, and the t-shirts look more like a fashion brand's streetwear offshoot than the kind of t-shirt you get for free when you volunteer. ROUND + SQUARE is direct-to-consumer to keep the cost down, and 30% of sales supports Equality Now. The give-back element is not just cosmetic – the sourcing and manufacture is well considered, too. The tees are made with GOTS-certified organic cotton. The cashmere/silk shawls are made with Canepa’s SAVEtheWATER® - Kitotex® process, which cuts down the use of water and energy by nearly 90%. The silk bandanas are ethically manufactured in Italy, and the pins are ethically hand-embroidered in India with GOTS-certified organic cotton. There are even more thoughtful details. The woven labels are made of polyester from recycled plastic bottles, the tags and packaging envelopes are made of recycled paper, and the tags’ chords are made of organic cotton, too. For a finishing touch, your scarf or pin will be delivered in a 100% organic cotton pouch with some suggested hash tags related to gender equality. I'm going to really enjoy getting my pop of color from something that holds a real meaning, and supports impactful programs to help women and girls. May this give me the strength to keeping fighting for the next four years. You can get 10% off your ROUND + SQUARE purchase by signing up for their newsletter!