Into the Wild

“I’m looking for a cute backpacking jacket,” I recently told a friend. To which she responded, in all seriousness, “Is there such a thing?”

This exchange took place after I’d embarked on the elusive search for some decently cute adventure ware. The fact that my outdoor wardrobe is pitiful has come into sharp focus now that I have a trip to the desert, a multi-day backpacking hike, and a voyage to Southeast Asia all on my horizon. (And my already blossoming wanderlust was further exacerbated when I recently devoured Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which TPR’s Christa Martin wrote about here.)

While I don’t expect (or think it necessary) to feel fashionable in most of these scenarios, I would like to maintain some semblance of my individual style on the trail or while backpacking through a foreign land.

Most sportswear is pretty standard, and hardly individualistic. A fleece is a fleece, right? But I’ve found a few items, so far, that go against the mold. The first is the above pictured Abby Jacket from prAna, a yoga/travel/hiking clothing company that puts cute, earthy twists on typical travel staples. The light, water-resistant jacket will roll up small for stuffing in my backpacking pack and be handy for exploring rain-prone tropical places. My second score was a crisscross bra top in peacock pattern from Onzie, a company that makes clothes designed by a Bikram yogi specifically for hot yoga (and other sweaty activities, like hiking). It’s practical for hiking and yoga (both of which I will be doing on my journeys) but also fun and funky with its bright, colorful pattern. Plus, it has “Free-Flow Fabric Technology” (whatever that means) that makes it quick drying and healthier for skin.

Next on my list are two items that I think will be easier to find, with greater variety to be had: a comfortable and practical day pack that suits my style and tennis shoes that will be as good for the trail as for sightseeing in new cities. Wish me luck!

Fashion Book Club: The Coat Route

While listening to journalist Meg Lukens Noonan talk about her new book, "The Coat Route," on the radio the other day, I couldn’t help but think about the last book I shared with Penny Rose readers. That book, "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion," explores the serious hidden costs (including human rights infringements and environmental damage) associated with the "fast fashion" industry that’s prevalent today. Fast fashion is the process in which clothes are mass produced, sometimes in horrid conditions or in very unsustainable manners, and sold at very low (although I’d argue we’ve grown accustomed to them) prices at large chain stores.

Noonan’s book, the subtitle of which is "Craft, Luxury & Obsessions on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat," on the other hand, is about an item of clothing made in quite the opposite way: a luxurious, one-of-a-kind coat made by a fourth-generation tailor in Australia named John Cutler. Now, I’m not saying that $50,000 is a reasonable price for a coat (are you kidding me?), but this tale of craftsmanship and true artisan creation—a coat made from the best of the world’s materials, all from hand, tailored to perfection—provides an interesting opportunity to ponder just how far we’ve come from the days when clothes were fitted and well-made with care by a skillful tradesperson. What I took away from the comparison of the two books was that it’s important to find that sweet spot between the dangerous trend of cheaply made, outsourced, non-unique clothes we buy like cups of coffee and discard just as easily and the extravagant, custom, insanely priced items made by a dying breed of tailors.  Buying clothes made locally in your area is a great way to find this balance.

Eco-Beauty Buzz: Zoya Nail Polish

Along my eco-beauty journey, I’ve tried slews of non-toxic nail polishes, usually resulting in serious disappointment. Finding professional looking polishes that are free of toxic chemicals toluene, formaldehyde, DBP (phthalates) and camphor is rough, but I’ve found a few that do the job (and even shared some of my previous favorites with you here. But none of them even come close to my newest discovery: Zoya. (Granted, I have yet to try the “butter” line from LONDON that The Penny Rose’s Sarah York recently raved about—and it sounds similarly impressive.)  I recently picked up a bottle of Zoya’s Wednesday ($8) color at Staff of Life Market in Santa Cruz. It’s a faded, creamy turquoise that screams summer and is a funky addition to my warm-weather wardrobe. The color was what sold me, but how it looks on is what made me a believer. Just one simple coat and it is thick, opaque, long-lasting perfection. Don’t believe me? A panel in Women’s Health Magazine named Zoya the longest wearing natural nail polish. The eco-friendly brand has 300 colors to choose from, from sheer and shimmery to matte with sparkles, which is more than enough to keep my fingers happy—and toxin free—all year long. 


Eco-Fashion Pick: Faherty Brand Swimsuits

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All natural sunscreen? Check. Hat, book, towel, stainless steel water bottle? Check, check, check and check. Eco-friendly bathing suit? That’s a trickier item to cross off my list of beach-bum musts. Which is why I was so intrigued to hear that Faherty Brand is, literally, rolling into town this week. Faherty Brand, an above-par men and women’s swimwear company helmed by a pair of beach-loving twins, features “clothing made from premium materials, both ethically sourced and environmentally sound, with a focus on unwavering craftsmanship, specifically made for life’s great moments at the beach and all the times you wish you were there,” according to their website,

As part of a “Never Ending Summer” road trip, the eco-ethical swimsuit makers will set up their mobile shop in front of Verve Coffee Roasters (816 41st Ave., Santa Cruz) from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Thursday, June 27. Made with rich colors and dainty patterns, their suits look adorable and, for those of us who steer clear of string bikinis (which they offer, as well), the line boasts gorgeous designs that cater to all body types, including trendy one pieces and sturdier two pieces. I’m eyeing the cami-style underwire top and high-waisted “hipster bottom,” myself. 

Eco-Buzz: Blithe and Bonny Opens New Store

Blithe and Bonny is giving Santa Cruz bath-and-beauty product hounds a reason to rejoice: The Bonny Doon-based maker of delightful candles, soaps, natural essential oils and oh-so-much-more is opening a retail location all its own. (Read more about the company and its products in this review by The Penny Rose’s Christa Martin.) On top of using ingredients that are respectful of our health and the environment (for starters, they don’t use parabens), the products are locally made, giving items in the soon-to-be store a small transportation footprint. (Personally, I’m crazy for the almond and shea hand cream.) The company’s trademark large black bee already adorns the storefront (next to the old Staff of Life Market location on Water Street in Santa Cruz), and, when the store opens its doors for business on June 22, you know where I’ll “bee.” More info: