Saturday, June 16, 2012

Espadrilles worn in the Andes
photo by chaquetadepollo

If you wear shoes this post may interest you.
(if I don't get a billion views this time...)

Espadrilles are an old type of summer shoe which you can see a lot in the South of France (apparently they originated in the area around the Spanish border).

- Sole = jute rope
- Upper = cotton canvas

Doesn't this equate to 'great human-made object fullfilling a basic need with benign environmental impact and full biodegradability'? (if you really push I'll agree that the impossibly virtuous version would be locally grown organic jute soles + locally grown organic linen canvas, but here I'm making myself sick).

There seem to be some traditional makers left [see the awesome manufacturing process here].
I am yet to see a pair without the addition of vulcanized rubber on the sole though.

Fun fact: as if to explain their decline in the 20th century, French Wikipedia writes the bizarre statement: '[The espadrille] has now become unfit as a walking shoe'.
I suspect this sentence was inserted by a malicious Nike exec.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hey good people. Haven't written in a long time, so busy with work.

Today, another of our David vs. Goliath battle: BODY WASH vs. BAR SOAP

I don't know if it's the same for you; as a child growing up in the eighties, I was washed and learned to wash myself with bar soap, and that was pretty much it for the first decade of my life. Then, somewhere in the nineties, shower gels started being the way to go. Waaaay cooler, adieu slippery soap and minuscule leftover bits. The modern man wants a sexy, tropical shower experience smelling like passion fruit, in a civilized vertical bottle.

I was trapped into this marketing dream until very recently myself. Awake now.
Been having a few conversations with co-workers, about how plastic packaging makes us feel guilty ('where the fuck does the freaking bottle GO after I've dumped it in the trash while closing my eyes?'). More and more I want to try to have all the stuff I buy and use be biodegradable or compostable. And stop giving my money to Procter & Gamble, in exchange for garbage I'll have to dispose of myself.

Cause let us be clear: when you spend $3.99 for a bottle of mainstream shampoo, you buy:
- 1 month-worth of liquid shampoo (containing potentially harmful chemicals)
- a bottle-shaped 100 years-worth of soft plastic, which society will have to dispose of one way or another. This might include having a poor chap wearing a mask and gloves dig into your pile of garbage at the sorting factory, the killing of baby birds on Midway Island, bringing your own personal addition to the Giant Garbage Patch, etc.

I have this secret dream that one day I'll gather up the time to make pretty cardboard packages and send back to L'Oreal each one of the plastic bottles I've finished using.

Meanwhile, I am switching back to bar soap, preferably without palm oil. I found Aleppo Soap (not a brand, but a type of soap made in Syria). Ingredients: olive oil, laurel oil, water, lye. 100% DISAPPEARS after use.

For $3.59, you buy SOAP, and you get...SOAP. That's it.
Easy switch, no?

Note: the one I just got isn't totally perfect, as you can see on the photo it's wrapped in an extra thin layer of cellophane (yuk), but I've seen soap bars in other places which have no / or just a paper wrapping. Next time will aim for that.

Btw, this particular Aleppo soap smells deliciously of jasmine, suds just as much as the old gels, and gives this clean feeling on the skin that only bar soap manages to create. 


Monday, January 23, 2012

The Italian movie 'The Golden Door', by Emanuele Crialese, tells the story of Sicilian peasants leaving their homeland for America, at the beginning of the 20th century. It's very beautiful - I highly recommend.

At the beginning of the film there is a scene which particularly moved me: the three main characters are preparing their crossing. As shepherds they have always lived bare foot, wearing their simple mountain clothes. Knowing that they are about to leave for the New World, a man in the village takes them to a room containing wooden chests. Inside are leather shoes and sunday clothes, which have been carefully preserved after their owners passed away. The man proceeds to distribute a pair of shoes and proper garments to each man, so they can start their journey with adequate attire.

There was something very touching about seeing people put so much value into these items, because they were rare and costly. Seen from the point of view of a middle-class consumer of today, such care is surreal. Transmitting a pair of shoes. Keeping it for the next generation. Owning only one pair, and keeping them for Sundays.

How precious must the world's production seem, when seen through those eyes. When there is rarity, objects that are well done, materials that last, and few things to look at. This scene told a humbling story of respect for things, and at the same time of respect for people - I was imagining the shoemaker, the tailor who had made these in the first place, of how their work was being honored by this care.

Wishing there was more of that. Yeah that post was totally artisan-crafty-nostalgico.