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Tired of Fast Fashion? So are we. Meet Astor + Orion

Natalia Gomez

Posted on December 08 2020

Astor + Orion fast Fashion antidote, ethically made hoop earrings on model

If you’re reading this, you know that fast fashion’s time is up - or at least it should be. 

Right now, 80 billion garments are produced per year, and they’re only worn ten times on average before they’re thrown away. Those trendy and cheap, fast fashion clothes that fill generic shopping malls are basically destined to end up in landfills or be incinerated within the year.

Gradually, people are waking up to this reality and asking, “won’t somebody make a change?” Well, we’re not asking. We’re doing.

We created Astor + Orion to be part of the change.

The jewelry industry is not immune to the effects of fast fashion - after all, you can buy a set of ten cheap, bendy metal earrings for $20 anywhere. And, when most people lose half of a set, they just throw the other one out (unless you’re with the trend of wearing mis-matched earrings - we see you!).

These lone earrings, that were already made by tired workers in inhumane conditions, just get thrown away. Not at Astor + Orion. Our designs aren’t throwaways modeled after what everyone else is making, set to be replaced in a matter of months.

Instead, we channel the ideas of circular design and a truly unique creative process to put timeless pieces to the hands of fashionable folks everywhere - and we make sure the workers involved in our design and manufacturing process are treated with the respect they’re due.

Astor + Orion ethical jewelry production

We’ll be honest - sleepless nights got us here.

Enter Karen Hartman, one of our founders and a passionate creative who spent nearly a decade in Shanghai as a manufacturing agent. When she couldn’t sleep because of her new baby, she did what we all do: scroll the internet. 

She loved her old job of being the bridge between brand and factory, but was missing her creative spark. By chance, she found an online jewelry design class at 5:00 AM Shanghai time by the renowned American sculptor and jewelry designer, Tomas Wittelsbach.

Through ZBrush Jewelry Workshop, he showed her how to combine old-world sculpting techniques with a cutting edge 3D workflow that allowed the creation of modern, yet artistic jewelry designs.

She put in the work, waking up every day at 4:30 AM to attend Tomas’ class. They eventually became good friends, bonding over a shared love of art, film and a passion for - you guessed it - jewelry design.

This was it! It was what she’d been looking for: a chance to explore creativity in a new medium. She got Tomas on board, and together they started Astor + Orion with the intention of bringing artistry back to the jewelry industry.

Hand sculpted, ethical and unique jewelry made in zbrush

Building on her manufacturing experience, she knew that just creating beautiful jewelry wasn’t enough. 

She also wanted her process to respect the environment and the people bringing her ideas to life. Since Karen had experience in the manufacturing side, once they got started, she knew just what to do to make sure that things got done the right way. 

 

So, what’s the antidote for fast fashion?

We use the concept of circular design to look at the big picture and ensure that as little waste as possible goes into making our jewelry. The resources are kept in a closed loop - we use recycled metals for our jewelry, cotton for the pouches, and paper for packaging. We don’t even use stones in our jewelry, because we want the metals to be easily recyclable again.

We are constantly working hard to make sure our consumer packaging is wrapped in love and not plastic. Our goal is to make everything compostable first, then recyclable and finally use the absolute minimum amount of materials that will end up as trash.

 

Oh - speaking of factories, what is yours like?

So glad you asked. At Astor + Orion we focus on the quality of our pieces and the quality of our work environment. We use a digital sculpting platform to hand-design intricate, timeless jewelry, that’s then 3D printed, cast using a mold filled with recycled metals, and finally coated with silver or gold (are we bragging?). But we also set out to make life good for all of the people who work producing our designs. 

Ethical jewelry casting worker and machines

We searched the world to find a manufacturing partner that shares our belief that high quality jewelry starts with a safe and fair workplace. 

Our factory is fully certified for its  sustainable and ethical business practices. It’s vertically integrated, which means that we monitor every step from refining the raw material to packaging the end product so we don’t miss a thing! 

Our factory holds:

  • ISO 9001 certification
  • ISO14001 certification
  • SEDEX membership

Translation: this means that we meet high quality and safety requirements, anti-pollution requirements, and ethical trade service standards. Our “waste” water is so clean that we use it to irrigate the compound's two soccer fields, and the employee turnover is super low, because working with a brand that cares rocks.

 Ethical Fashion Brand Astor + Orion on Kristy Drutman aka ethical fashion blogger Brown Girl Green

It’s not easy being a green brand. 

We started this company using over 10 years of experience manufacturing products combined with the school of hard knocks. The only thing that kept us going through all the ups and downs (and downs again) was a commitment to changing the fashion industry and getting our beautiful designs out there - but it’s a tall order to compete with the fast food of the fashion world. It’s everywhere, it’s cheap, and as long as you’re not thinking too hard about it, it can feel pretty okay. 

Luckily, we’re not alone. Countless people are turning their backs on fast fashion every day.

Some of our clients are one day choosing a nice pair of earrings and the next they’re explaining circular design to their friends. Your choice to support companies like us is starting to turn the tide, helping us help others. When you decide to splurge on an ethically made pair of earrings cast from recycled metals, you become the force behind the change.

Circular Design: Closing the loop with jewelry 

We get it, life happens and sometimes earrings are lost. Sometimes things get  broken beyond repair. Don’t worry, the “circular” part of “circular design” comes from the fact that the materials we use are intended to be recycled. When one cycle ends, another begins. 

We have two solutions for you to keep things moving: 

  •  If we have the style in stock you can purchase a single replacement earring. Problem solved and your lonely earring will get a new soul mate. 
  • If a replacement earring is not available or if you would rather try a new style, you can send your singles (or a pair) back to us for a credit towards a new pair. 

Email us at closetheloop@astorandorion.com to get a return started.

We will reclaim the metal in the old earrings by returning it to the resource loop through recycling the metals in Seattle. 

If you are ready to give ethical and sustainable fashion a try, take a look at our full collection of jewelry ethically made from recycled metals

If you’re interested in making the switch to jewelry that’s good for you and for others, subscribe to our mailing list click here for future offers and updates!

Further reading on the harm the fashion industry causes:

https://pebblemag.com/magazine/living/whats-wrong-with-fast-fashion 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/books/review/how-fast-fashion-is-destroying-the-planet.html

https://www.mic.com/p/inside-the-tiktok-trend-shaming-corporations-for-destroying-perfectly-good-stuff-48292822

 

 

To Learn more about Tomas Wittelsbach's Jewelry Design in Zbrush, click here. 

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