The Inside Scoop: Becoming a Noonday Ambassador

To celebrate my four year anniversary with Noonday Collection as a Noonday Ambassador, I thought I would share what it has been like being an Ambassador and why I've loved it and I'll start with introducing myself for any new faces around here.

I’m Brooke, wife to Aaron and a St. Louis transplant from Virginia Beach, Virginia — we moved here so Aaron could attend grad school and earn his Ph.D in Research Psychology. It’s been an adventure growing together in a city that is new to both of us! I work full time at Washington University in St. Louis for Olin Business School, but after work or on the weekends, you can find me partnering with women in St. Louis, sharing Noonday Collection with their communities, or cuddling with our labradoodle, Rosie.

Before sharing more about my journey with Noonday Collection, however, I should probably begin by explaining what it is for those who haven’t heard about the company before. Noonday Collection is a socially responsibly business that uses fashion and enterprise to create meaningful employment opportunities for people around the world. All of our pieces are handmade by 29 artisan business partners from 12 countries who earn a fair wage for their work.

BrookeinPeru2016-1.jpg

I’ve always loved jewelry. My first “real” job outside of cleaning my dad’s business growing up was at a local silver jewelry store called Hi Ho Silver. I loved helping my customers find that perfect piece for their friends or family and I especially loved the relationships we got to make with our repeat customers who soon turned into friends. Even though that job was only for a summer, it clearly left a mark on me as I embarked on my journey to be a Noonday Ambassador seven years later.

Noonday Collection first caught my eye at a local fundraising event at my church. There was a table set up with Noonday samples and lookbooks for us to browse the whole collection. I was immediately drawn to the creative ways the paper bead necklaces were made. I also owned multi-colored papered necklaces, but I had never seen them styled in the way Noonday was designing them: Solid color beads, some with gold accents, was a totally new way of designing artisan-made jewelry. I was hooked from the design aspect alone, but then I found out how it was made, how it was fair-trade and ethically made, and how it was helping break the cycle of poverty — and I knew I was done for.

I hosted my first Noonday trunk show a month later and had a blast. I gathered girls from my community group who I had just started getting to know and we had our very own grownup dress-up party, complimenting each other and changing the world right from my first little apartment in St. Louis, MO.

BrookeinGuatemala2015C.jpg

A month after my first trunk show — and two months after the initial fundraiser at my church — my heart and mind wouldn’t stop thinking about the impact Noonday Collection was having on the world and how I could be apart of it: By purchasing Noonday for myself and for gifts, hosting a trunk show, or — best of all — becoming an Ambassador myself to share Noonday with anyone and everyone who would listen!

The first two options were simple. I love to shop, so purchasing Noonday was easy. I also love having people over and earning free jewelry, so continuing to host trunk shows was another no-brainer. But, becoming an Ambassador in a city I had just moved to eight months earlier? Now that was something I would need to think about.

Still new in St. Louis, I didn’t have the security of close friends and family to support me and show up at my launch party or host my first trunk show. What if no one showed up? What if I didn’t meet anyone to share Noonday with? I knew it would be a huge risk to begin selling this world-changing jewelry in a place where I was still building my new community — especially because I’ve always loved staying behind the scenes. Becoming an ambassador for Noonday would not only require me to push outside my comfort zone, but I would also need to find the courage to be vocal about the jewelry and share the vision and heart behind the beautiful jewelry I was wearing.

BrookeinGuatemala2015.jpg

After wrestling with my decision for weeks, I finally said “yes” to my new role as a Noonday Collection Ambassador and I can honestly say that my life has been changed forever for the better — and it is all because of one thing:

The incredible community of artisans that Noonday partners with around the world.

Over the past several years, two of my biggest highlights as a Noonday Ambassador have been the two opportunities I have had to travel to Guatemala and Peru and to meet our artisan partners who make our gorgeous jewelry in person. On both of those trips, I have seen with my own eyes and felt with my own heart the impact we can have when we decide to shop fair-trade with our money. Noonday also partners with leaders in the communities we work in, so we are empowering local leaders across the world to create change and help their artisans and employees break out of the cycle of poverty.

BrookeinPeru2016A.jpg

To Americans, it’s a no-brainer that we earn at least minimum wage at our jobs, if not more, but in workshops and factories around the world, this is sadly an exception. Fair trade means Noonday artisan partners are paid minimum wage or higher, on time, every two weeks, and that they are only working 40 hours a week. This is a game changer in helping to alleviate poverty. Poverty often means living day to day, and doesn’t allow anyone to think about the future because they don’t even know if they will have money for their children the following day. Earning minimum wage or higher allows parents to dream about their future, save money for a house, and pay their medical bills.

The knowledge of Noonday’s impact never fails to give me fresh energy and encouragement. In the moments when I might feel tired of loading my Noonday Collection samples into the car one more time or asking again and again if someone in my community in St. Louis will host a Noonday trunk show, I simply think about meeting Ana in Guatemala and José in Peru, who are running incredible businesses in their communities. And I think about how lives are being changed by business — and by things as seemingly simple as earrings, necklaces and accessories.

BrookeinGuatemala2015B.jpg

Being part of Noonday Collection has done more than help me be more connected to my local community in St. Louis — it has opened my mind, widened my worldview, and given me a passion for making every purchase count. Every sale matters — no matter how big or small — and they all help towards making positive changes around the world. So when you wear fair-trade jewelry in the future, you should always smile, knowing you are helping to end poverty right where you are.

If you would like to support myself & Noonday Collection, you can purchase through my Ambassador page here. Thank you for supporting fair trade & artisan made goods!

BrookeinGuatemala2015A.jpg

My Favorite Ethical White T-Shirts

For the rule-followers amongst us and with Memorial Day weekend now behind us, I thought it
would be fun to share some of my favorite ethical white t-shirts and blouses, as well as different
ways I like to style them. My most favorite ethical fashion company of all won't be a surprise to
those who've followed me for any amount of time, but — you guessed it — Everlane.

Everlane

I'll lay out a few of my top reasons I love Everlane and then we’ll get on to the shirts.

  1. They are known best for their "Radical Transparency". They believe in knowing who makes your clothes and that everyone deserves being paid a fair wage.
  2. They don't believe in the "mark-up" and are up-front about why they are charging what they charge. (see image below)
  3. A huge part of sustainable fashion is buying quality over quality and Everlane is just that. You buy clothes that last with Everlane and I can appreciate that about them.
  4. Their clothing is timeless and I love how most of their pieces are solid colors so they can be in my closet for years with no sign of "out of style".

With some of my favorite reasons why I love Everlane laid out, I'll now share some of my favorite white blouses/tees.

I'm wearing the The Japanese GoWeave Back-Zip Tee in White and I can't say enough good things about it. It's the perfect summer shirt as it is made from 100% triacetate—making it crease-resistant and cooling, perfect for surviving the heat with a subtle texture and silky drape. It also has a great weight to it that gives me the reassurance it will last for years to come.

IMG_9428.jpg

I am also a huge fan of scoop neck blouses and shirts and all the variety it allows when
accessorizing. I fully believe in working with a variety of textiles and materials when putting an
outfit together. With the subtle texture of this blouse plus the texture from my water buffalo horn necklace or bandana scarf from Noonday Collection, they compliment each other beautifully. 

I also love the creativity of the back of The Japanese GoWeave Back-Zip Tee, and how it elevates the style of the shirt.

My other favorite white t-shirts from Everlane are from their linen collection. Their lightweight linen gives you an easy drape and a breathable feel for warmer days. These are my go-to items when packing for a summer getaway.

Everlane also carries Men's and children's clothes as well so you can get your whole family amazing quality staples and ethical pieces in one shopping trip!

Other Favorite Ethical White T-shirts

I have other white t-shirts in my closet from a few of my favorite sustainable companies that I thought I'd share below - you might not need a new one now, but my hope is that when you have a gap in your closet and you need to fill it, you'll think of the companies I share here on my blog when you shop!

Live FashionABLE

FashionABLE has been a big favorite of mine as I have three of their purses, but they just came out with their new clothing line last week called .ABLE and I'm over the moon for it. I happened to be in Nashville over the weekend and got to try on and personally shop the new collection. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Their new clothing line is all handmade in Peru and is incredibly soft and could be mistaken for wearing butter. They are such great quality pieces and timeless. I'm a big fan of their color scheme and how I can have it in my closet for years to come.

ThredUp

ThredUp is a great second-hand online clothing company. A great way to shop ethically is to shop second-hand to give clothes a new life and ThredUp is my favorite avenue for shopping via thrift stores. You can filter by your size, type of clothing (tops) and color (white), and quickly scan to shop what you are looking for!

Krochet Kids intl.

Krochet Kids intl. makes their clothing line in Peru just like Live FashionABLE and considering I traveled to Peru last summer with Noonday Collection, that pulls on my heart strings. I love their Standard Tee and the Organic Tee.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 6.26.43 PM.png

Made in the USA

Lastly, I encourage you to keep asking major companies #whomadeyourclothes and if your shopping at major companies such as Nordstrom or Macy's, don't forget you can search "Made in the USA" in the search bar! They make it so easy to make an ethical shopping purchase without even realizing it with the "Made in the USA" note in the details section! 

*this post is sponsored by Everlane, my favorite Ethical clothing line!

a noonday collection ambassador trip: guatemala 2016

It’s a Friday afternoon in Santiago, Guatemala—a small town with a large indigenous Mayan population on Lake Atitlán. I’m standing on a cleanly swept dirt floor around a long wooden table, watching a group of local women sit and sift through piles of beads before they string them into beautiful multicolored beaded cuffs. I’m here with eleven other Noonday Ambassadors, on a weeklong trip to visit four Artisan partner groups.

As I look back on our week in Guatemala, what I will be taking away from this experience are the people I got to meet and what I learned from them, especially from the leaders of our Artisan partner groups.

During our time with Ana, an amazing woman leader working in Santiago,

 I loved seeing the sense of pride she has in her work. 

She enjoys who she works with, laughing and learning alongside them. She is always trying to improve—from constructing a tin roof over their rear workspace to switching from a wood-burning fire to propane gas to heat their dye (which can be hazardous for their health and also enables them to produce more—and thus earn more). Ana is proud of the work she has created for her community and leads them well.

IMG_0847
IMG_0821

On another day in the nearby town of San Juan La Laguna, we got to meet Cristobol, one of Noonday’s key Artisan partners in Guatemala. Cristobol 

has a passion for empowering others,

 despite the difficult circumstances he went through in his past. I was so moved by the way he has built a network of teams in his workshop—we met the eight women who each have their own team, allowing them to learn leadership skills, and they even share the various steps involved in the creation of each bracelet.

Because of the work they’ve received through Noonday, each of these eight women leaders in Cristobol’s team have been able to open their own personal bank account and he’s also currently training twenty-one additional women to have a trade and soon join his team. He’s looking out for his community and I walked away from our time together inspired to grow even more involved in my own home community.

IMG_0572
IMG_9988

Finally, I loved meeting Rosario and her team. Rosario has a 

determination to pursue her dreams.

 She drives four hours one-way every weekend to attend university and is also putting her daughters through school right now. In a community where it’s often typical for a girl to only complete education through sixth grade, Rosario’s determination to see her children and all of her female Artisans complete their education was humbling and inspiring to witness. She said that Ambassador trips always bring her joy and peace. It was amazing to realize our connection was just as meaningful for both of us.

This trip was a beautiful picture of how no matter what your role is in life and in the world, you matter. Whether you’re a Noonday Artisan partner,

Ambassador

,

Hostess

or customer, every role is vital and dependent on each other. I am so thankful to now have that perspective.

Now when I see our pieces, I see more than jewelry—I see the faces behind them, and the stories they shared with us. Just as the women in Rosario’s workshop transformed individual glass beads into wearable works of art, I now feel an

even stronger

connection with the story of Noonday—all of our individual stories, of Artisans and Ambassadors, woven together across the world.

So Worth Loving

I think we all struggle with the inside voice that tells us we are not worth loving. I think our media tells us every day that we need to be skinnier, wear more makeup, work harder, and do more. But, I often think what would our world and our personal life look like if we all believed we were “so worth loving”? What If we all ran our own race, didn't compare ourselves to others, celebrated each other’s successes, and truly believed we were beautiful. All bringing something unique and special to the table.

I’ve seen this cultural in the Noonday Collection Ambassador community and it’s so life giving, y’all. Our founder, Jessica, said it best. “Because, when you allow yourself to shine, you give others the permission to shine too.” When you focus on your own race and you run at your own pace, not the pace set by the world’s standards, life gets a lot easier. We begin believing we are worthy of love and living into our full potential!

This isn’t really a new concept, but it’s a concept many of us struggle to put into practice. Surrounding yourself with a community who believe this is game changer.  This environment enables you to really shine. You're able to really believe you're “so worth loving”. I pray that this continues to be the heart beat of my Ambassador community with Noonday and that it is put on women’s hearts all over the world. If you haven’t heard of “So Worth Loving” or Noonday Collection before, I encourage you to check it out. They are changing the game, one person at a time. Don’t forget you matter and your "so worth loving".

Brunch Beauties

One of my favorite things to do since moving to St. Louis in July of 2013 is to explore. Not growing up here, I've taken upon myself to get to know the city and to love where I've been planted. After a hard first year of not having people we knew, I finally got connected and met some wonderful people from our church, The Journey! Some of those people are the girls below. God has given me some great friends here and I'm so glad He hears our prayers! 

When you visit St. Louis, you need to stop at Bowood Farms and have brunch. Bowood farms is a natural greenhouse-style facility that has a cafe inside. Cafe Osage is "located within Bowood Farms, and features fresh vegetables and herbs grown directly on-site." It has the ability to transport you to another world inside the city limits. It's such a fun 'girls day' spot and does not disappoint. 

Eight months after moving to St. Louis, I began my journey as a

Noonday Collection

Ambassador

, and, to be quite frank, I was nervous due to not knowing many people at all. The girls in my community group at church were such a driving force at giving me the strength to go for it and the support I needed to "take the plunge" to be brave! Their support has meant the world and they wear it SO well. I love how everyone has a unique style and how Noonday still offers variety to fit everyones different styles! Emily totally rocks the

Quito Necklace

with her stripes. Swoon.

One of my favorite pieces is the 

 Rustic leather tote

. It is handmade in India out of goat leather and is the perfect size. I love that it can go dressy or casual too. We are best friends forever.

Krissy is rocking the gorgeous 

black diamond earrings

. They are just what Krissy needed to finish off her outfit. Perfect mix of edgy and sparkle. I love how see connects with the pieces made in India. It's so special seeing your friends and family connect with a certain country that our artisans are from!

I am grateful for community and that I get to explore St. Louis with these beauties. Friendship is so special to me and it's so great when you meet others who value the same things you do!

Lastly, Erin just rocks this vintage Noonday piece. She is such a support to me and has even

hosted a Noonday trunk show

. God knew what He was doing when he placed us as neighbors and I'm so glad he did.

Moving to a new place where nothing is familiar is hard. Growing up is hard. But find people who encourage you and can walk beside you through it and I think you'll see alot of growth. Take the risk and be brave. Now, go enjoy the weekend and never stop exploring!

Noonday Collection & WH Clothier Collaboration

I am SO excited to share a company that is so dear to my heart, Wholehearted Clothier! After becoming a Noonday Collection Ambassador last May, it's completely opened my eyes to how we have purchasing power and can actually play a part in changing the world through our purchasing!

I found 

Wholehearted

 Clothier on Instagram and loved what they were about. Sunny, the founder, was tired of the corporate world and knew she was born for something bigger. WH Clothier was born out of her passion! You can read all about her

here on her blog

.

Sunny mentions on her blog that her "dream for this company is to celebrate fashion and individual style while supporting our neighbors both locally and around the world. How do we do that? Well, here at WHC, 10% of EVERY PURCHASE is set aside for a family, person, charity, or organization that is in need. To date, our world changers have raised almost $1500 which has gone to help a teen mom purchase a car and to CASA of Collin County."

This goes hand in hand with what Noonday is all about. The moment I found out about WH Clothier, I knew I had to be apart of the work they are doing.

This black pleated skirt is my current favorite in my closet and comes from

Whole Hearted Clothier!

 It is for sure the most comfortable skirt I have ever owned; it's like a fancy sweatshirt!

It was such a fun skirt to style and I love how it gave me a french vibe with the stripes. It would also look so cute dressed down with a graphic tee and converses! The sky's the limit!

Just how Noonday Collection's name was named from Isaiah 58:10 "When you satisty the needs of the oppressed, your light will become like the Noonday" 

Wholehearted

 Clothier was also named after a Bible verse:

"

Driven by Jeremiah 29:11-13, WH Clothier intends to seek God wholeheartedly in this venture 

and encourage others to do the same."

Another thing that immediately drew me to WH Clothier was how Sunny pairs Noonday with her pieces on her Instagram! I love how it's such a beautiful example of women empowering women and how when we support each other, everyone wins. 

If you know me and follow me, you know Noonday continues because of women joining hands with their local ambassador, and creating a marketplace for our artisan partners by opening their homes and inviting their friends over. If you're in Texas, WH Clothier has trunk shows as well! I mean, world changing accessories AND clothing? At the same place? Yes please! 

If your in Dallas, TX (or surrounding areas) learn all about having a WH Clothier

trunks show

here!

I should probably not leave out my current necklace crush too.

The Quito Necklace

 made in Ecuador is my surprise favorite from the Noonday Collection Spring line that launched last month

! "This gorgeous necklace combines natural tagua seed and coconut shell with a graphic Ecuadorian fabric. When Noonday discovered this printed fabric on a trip to Ecuador, they knew it would be a perfect addition to this special piece."

p.s. because of the fabric, it is SO comfortable! The red tagua seed is the perfect pop of color this summer.

I am just so excited to introduce you to 

Wholehearted 

Clothier and all they are about. And, as a huge thank you for shopping ethically and continuing to learn more about fair trade, Sunny at Wholehearted Clothier has given you a 10% off coupon to 

shop

At checkout, use code 

BROOKEJVG10 to take 10% off your order until March 31, 2015. I can't wait to see what you purchase. Make sure to tag me (@brookejvg) and @whclothier on instagram to show off your newest, world changing outfit! 

p.s.s. TOMS Jutti flats are my favorite. They give one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. And, the Black Jutti flats are currently on

SALE

! Bonus! 

Now, I'd love to continue shopping ethically and find out about new fair trade brands. Write below with your favorite brands! 

xoxo, 

Brooke

Outfit Details:

Quito Necklace

Cubed Studs, Silver

Head of the Class Pleated Midi Skirt

TOMS - Black Jutti Flats 

Glasses: Wilkie, Warby Parker

Shirt - Old Navy (last season)