December 09, 2016

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What I Saw in Paris that Inspired Me

Last year Jase's passion for running marathons took us to Paris, France. 

In our few days there, we had many adventures.  There is one in particular I would like to share with you - when we decided to find and explore a traditional French neighborhood.  

After reading a few different internet suggestions, we hopped in a Taxi and handed the driver an address.  Twenty minutes later we were dropped off at a nondescript intersection. Across the street a cafe was just opening.  We decided to start there with espressos.  

Espresso in Paris

In hindsight I wish I could have hit pause on life and spent a month exploring the area we covered in a few hours. We wandered the streets and alleyways acutely aware of the everyday life happening around us.  

Turning one corner, we came to a street lined with food shops. The predominance of fresh, whole foods stacked and presented in beautiful displays was stunning.  

Paris Fruit Stand

On the quiet side streets we found traditional French ateliers. I was in awe, peeking in the windows and occasionally entering one of these clothing studios in the heart of this fashion epicenter.  These weren't giant designer labels - these were boutique designer artisans.  

However, it was a brief moment on one of these side streets that took my breath away and left a lasting impression.  They were halfway past us before I realized what we were seeing.  

A string of daycare kids, their adult guardians at either end, were on the move walking hand in hand.  They were laughing and smiling and downright joyful.  Jase and I had stepped out of the way and paused to let them pass.  

As we soaked in their exuberance and light hearts, it slowly dawned on me that this group of kids was made up of a diverse genetic background.  I am not going to say a difference of culture or nationality. . .because I presume they were all French citizens.  

Nonetheless the children's genetic variety mixed with their laughter and joy was stunning and burned an impression into my memory.

What would it be like if we all recognize that we are fellow Humans?  What if 'acceptance' wasn't part of our vocabulary, because we had no concept of discrimination. What if we could celebrate each other as unique individuals? 

These children gave me the gift of a brief glimpse into what life would be like if that were the case.

As we enter the Holiday Season during a period of heightened awareness for the challenges people and the planet are facing, I wanted to share this story from my travels and shine a light on a moment of hope and inspiration.

Wishing you all a blessed and be-loved Holiday Season!

with Amour,
Lisa  

P.S. The below photo was taken during our exploration on this day in Paris.  It is one of my favorite photos of me wearing my Cheval Amour Paris Vest.  How fitting, right?

Lisa Simmons wearing a Cheval Amour Paris Vest in Paris, France

 

 

 

 

November 28, 2016

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#GivingTuesday - and Beyond!

YOU MAKE A PURCHASE --- WE DONATE!!!

What does Cheval Amour have in common with the Joe Andruzzi Foundation? My husband Jase!

In 2014 Jase and I looked at each other as we sat on the plane. We felt the same way. How do we go home and back to work after the experience we had just had?  

We had been in Boston, where Jase ran the marathon one year after the bombings. While we were there, we were surrounded by millions of people showing incredible strength, generosity, and unending acts of kindness to each other.   

Jase and I decided on that flight that we wanted to keep this spirit alive and “Be Boston” to everyone we knew. 

Fast forward. . .this year Jase was offered a charity team spot to run the 2017 Boston Marathon next April as a member of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation team (Team JAF).

Founded by former New England Patriots offensive guard Joe Andruzzi and his wife Jen in 2008, the Joe Andruzzi Foundation grew out of Joe’s own successful battle with cancer and the couple’s ongoing work with young cancer patients.

The Joe Andruzzi Foundation provides financial assistance to cancer patients and their families, helping them focus on recovery – not bills.  The foundation also funds research at Boston Children’s Hospital, building on the Andruzzi's longstanding commitment to cutting edge pediatric brain cancer research.

Following our experience at the 2014 marathon, it is an incredible honor for Jase to have an opportunity to run Boston again in support of such an amazing non-profit. 

This holiday season, we are offering YOU a chance to “Be Boston” and join our fundraising efforts. 

During our Annual Gratitude Sale - on through the end of 2016 - you receive 15% off your entire order AND we donate 10% to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.

SHOP NOW and use code GRATITUDE at checkout!

With appreciation,

Lisa Simmons
Founder

P.S.  We also welcome you to donate directly!  CLICK HERE to visit Jase's Team JAF fundraiser page.

Jase Simmons 2014 Boston Marathon Finisher

 

November 21, 2016

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Relishing a Year of Change

Lisa playing putt putt golf at Bandon Dunes

You've probably noticed the crickets given that it’s been quiet around here this year. Allow me to share my story... 

Christmas Eve 2015.  As I swung the muck bucket into better position I felt the lower left side of my back twinge. I ignored the warning and kept cleaning stalls. Two days later, my back was out and I was sidelined for two months.  

Just as my back recovered, I engaged in a wrestling match (don't ask) with a large countertop cooler full of fruit-infused water. The cooler won and the chronic calcifying tendonitis in my right shoulder became irritated and inflamed. 

As a lifelong equestrian, I am used to 'grinning and bearing it' and blocking out pain. This time, however, my shoulder would not be silenced.  I knew it was serious and I knew I had to do something.  

The first "specialist" I saw told me it was the worst case he had ever seen and recommended a complete tendon replacement using pig or cadaver parts. Umm, no thank you!

I did my homework and found the most highly regarded shoulder orthopedist in town.  I had to wait a couple months to have my first appointment with him.  He laughed at the previous diagnoses and assured me that that only a simple orthopedic surgery was required to remove most of the calcium in my tendon, not a full tendon replacement! 

Six months after my original Christmas injury, my shoulder surgery date finally arrived—and not a moment too soon! I’d spent so many days physically unable to lift my right arm from my side. Given that I’m right handed, and a self-employed business entrepreneur, it goes without saying that the horses enjoyed a quiet summer off in the pasture, and so did Cheval Amour!

I am deeply grateful to say that I had a successful shoulder surgery, but then I had to allow even more time for healing. Over the year I found myself deeply frustrated as I was held back from my 'normal' activities (even as basic as typing an email).  This year’s game changer came when I finally accepted that I needed to honor my body with time and space to heal.  Doing this gave me the opportunity to observe the deeper growth being presented to me!

I spent a lot of time thinking and reflecting, and watched incredible support systems grow in various areas of my life. 

I spent a lot of time thinking about Cheval Amour!

As most of you are aware, Cheval Amour is not a typical apparel company.   Stepping outside the bounds of a conventional clothing brand business model has come with many challenges.  Primarily, we’ve had to figure out the best way to make this a self-sustaining business.  When we first launched, my ideals were completely wrapped up in the way we did business: combining exemplary service with consciously-made, high quality clothing, and always being considerate of people and the planet. 

We’ve tried many different approaches and sales channels, but have yet to hit upon the right mix. 

Cheval Amour’s apparel is made from high-quality fabrics sewn in Canada.  This means our base cost is higher than most of our competition.  That said, we continue to provide our customers with extremely high satisfaction and long-wearing garments.  After much thought, I decided to make a big change to our business model: 

We are going back to selling DIRECTLY to our customers.

Selling directly to our customers will allow us to price our clothes in line with where we feel they should be, and allows us to continue to offer higher quality products at competitive prices.  Click here to see our new reduced prices!

And here we are in November already!  I’m still rehabbing my shoulder, and my slow recovery continues to allow me time to cherish and solidify the support systems we’ve created this year.  I know that my journey this year will allow me to be of greater service to my customers, my community, and my friends and family. 

Oh!  And I have discovered that I am pretty darn good at playing putt-putt golf with only my left arm. :-) 

I would love to hear your thoughts!  Please consider leaving a comment or send email me through our contact us page!

with Amour,

Lisa Simmons
Founder

December 23, 2015

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Happy Holidays

Be Good! Do Good! Be Kind! Do acts of Kindness! Live in Joy!
These are the words of customer Lauren Burrell and we can't agree more! The Cheval Amour family wishes everyone a wonderful holiday and a new year filled with hope, health and an abundance of joy!
In the photo Lauren is wearing her Limited Edition Cheval Amour BlackPearl Jacket at a volunteer event for the Oregon National Guard. To learn more about the non-profit BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe and the charities they support visit: http://blackpearlfriesian.org/community.html
December 01, 2015

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A Valuable Gift

It never fails. My heart leaps into my throat every time I unexpectedly encounter, online and off, a Cheval Amour in use.

The JOY that creating and running Cheval Amour has brought me wasn't outlined in the business plan. It didn't tell me I was going to develop a deep love of the equestrian community. That I would have the privilege to witness and be humbled by countless generous souls with seemingly unending will and strength. As a lifelong equestrian who spent many years in the show ring, I have to admit I had become disconnected from my peers. Jaded even.

No longer. With deep gratitude I want to THANK ALL who demonstrate the spirit of Cheval Amour. Your strength, integrity and dedication set a standard to which I will continue to aspire.

with Amour,
Lisa Simmons
Founder

November 26, 2015

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The Barn Jeans - The Human Connection

Ethical apparel barn jeans

Today I am thankful for my favorite barn jeans. Worn in just the perfect amount, they fit comfortably, look nice and are durable enough for all the usual barn activities. I am grateful for the excellent service they provide in my life, but even more than that, I am appreciative of all the human hands that touched these jeans on their journey to me.

Thinking about what it took for the jeans to arrive in my life provides a sense of both connection and of the interconnection we all share.

A heart-felt Thank You to:

  • My community for supporting the local, curated resale boutique where I purchased the jeans.
  • The owners and employees of the boutique for having the courage and belief to run a business that benefits both people and the planet.
  • The previous owner of these jeans - both for sending them on to a new home and for having them hemmed to a perfect length for me.
  • All the employees of the retail store where the previous owner purchased the jeans - whether they worked in accounting, shipping, management or on the store floor they had a “hand” in these jeans arriving to me.
  • All the people in the shipping company that brought these jeans halfway around the world.
  • The individuals who each had a specific task in cutting, sewing, grommeting, finishing and inspecting these jeans.
  • Those involved with the manufacturing of all the individual pieces of the jeans: fabrics, threads, zipper, buttons, grommets, and labels.
  • The people who designed the jeans and the pattern maker who created such a great fit.
  • The singer (rock star) whose name is on the label.
At every point in the above, I could go back deeper and recognized and be grateful for even more “hands”. Ultimately this recognition would extend through all corners of the globe, through all professions, to all people - because we are all connected.

with Amour,
Lisa
Cheval Amour Founder and Designer
November 17, 2015

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Cheval Amour Travels

Today I am packing the first Cheval Amour order to be delivered to Australia. These international milestones really hit home for me. Like a traveler that puts pins on a map, Cheval Amour arriving and being worn in foreign destinations brings a sense of joy and connection.

Yesterday I received my first photo of Cheval Amour in Portugal. This goes in the same beloved folder as the pictures I have of Cheval Amour being worn in Canada, Ireland, France, The Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and even Egypt. Soon, hopefully, I will be adding a photo from Australia.

The best part about the photo from Portugal? The smile on the face of the subject, Sarah Kress, a dressage trainer. She is on a dream trip visiting the horse fair in Golega and private training barns. I have known Sarah for years and I believe she represents some of the finest equestrian qualities always demonstrating kindness, perseverance, and a dedication to not only her horses, but also the equestrian community. I could not be more excited for her to be on this trip. It is an honor to know she selected Cheval Amour for her suitcase.

Saúde, Sarah! Thank you for bringing us on your trip.

with Amour,
Lisa Simmons, Founder

_________

Below Sarah visits the APSL, the Portuguese Pure Bred Lusitano Association.

Dressage Trainer Sarah Kress in front of the APSL

March 14, 2015

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The BlackPearl Limited Jackets

The BlackPearl Friesian and Cheval AmourI would like to introduce you to an amazing heart-centered equestrian group.  

The BlackPearl Friesian Association is dedicated to serving community by bringing Joy and Healing to both Horses & Humans alike through Equine Performance Art in events that contribute to and successfully support local charities.

This talented group of equestrians shares the magic and charm of their beautiful horses with both large and small audiences.  But it is what they do behind the scenes that makes them so special. In the last two years, they have:

  • Gathered and donated 92,780 pounds to food banks
  • Participated as work crews at Whipple Creek Restoration in Washington
  • Taken their therapy horse to nursing homes and senior centers
  • Volunteered their time for numerous organizations such as Forward Stride, Oregon Army National Guard, Clark County Saddle Club Trail Course and The Ark of Vancouver

A full list of BlackPearl-supported charities can be found here.

"Hoof to Hearts XO"
- BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe

Cheval Amour was honored to be asked to create a team jacket for the BlackPearls.  A limited number of these jackets are available for purchase, with $25 from the sale of each jacket donated to the non-profit BlackPearl Friesian Association.

Love Cheval Amour apparel?  Then please consider adding a BlackPearl Limited Jacket to your collection and support a great cause!

 

 

 

 

March 14, 2015

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Human Friendly Fashion: Consider*it

On October 16, 2013, over 100 bloggers took part in a worldwide conversation on human-friendly fashion.  Cheval Amour felt that it is important to lend a voice and add energy to this worthy discussion.  The following is a re-post of our original blog. 

When Cheval Amour was in its concept stages three years ago, I believed that I had the knowledge and understanding of the general consumer regarding human right violations in the textile industry.  There is an awareness that exists, but overall there is a general disconnect while shopping.

Starting a label of my own provided me with an education into this complex topic.  My "learn as I go" classroom has deeply affected my approach to shopping for my own clothes.  When I layer environmental responsibility on top of social responsibility, I encounter many personal mental quandaries.  Nothing is simple or black and white in our modern-day American-shopping environment — there is always a balance.  The balance that exists today will not be the same as the balance that exists  tomorrow.

What is a consumer to do?  It is easy to make blanket statements, yet the reality is that what is right for one person is going to be different than what is right for another.  My number one recommendation to you is to take every opportunity to educate yourself and grow your awareness — then you can select brands or retailers that reflect your personal values

We have recently heard a lot about the conditions in Bangladesh apparel factories — first  the horrific factory collapse in April, then the factory fire that happened this month.  These  are examples of a worldwide reality regarding less than desirable conditions for many textile industry workers.  I refer to this because earlier this year I read an excellent, well-researched article on what it would cost to "buy" occupational health and safety for people working in Bangladesh factories — Ninety Cents Buys Safety on $22 Jeans in Bangladesh.

My educational journey on this topic lead me to a London-based international group called The Ethical Fashion Forum.  Cheval Amour applied and was awarded a "Fellowship 500" membership.  This group is not only a wonderful, on-going educational resource, it also provides a fantastic network to both collaborate with and be inspired by.  

One last personal observation:

When I first started learning about and expanding my awareness of the impact of the textile industry on our planet and fellow humans, I encountered a deep sadness and a feeling of immobility - the sense that any choice had huge consequences with respect to my own personal consumption, and even more with my sense of responsibility for the growing Cheval Amour brand.  I bring my own thought process to each purchase I make, especially with regards to apparel.  For Cheval Amour, making the commitment to be an ethically-labeled brand and bringing our products to market not only provides consumers with a choice, it will hopefully displace less-responsible products.   This gives me tremendous hope and inspiration.

I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on this subject matter.   Please consider leaving a comment below!

March 14, 2015

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Made in America / Made in USA

Cheval Amour believes strongly in a local supply chain. When we launched Cheval Amour our plan was to have apparel carry the "Made in USA" label.  We spent a lot of time researching and meeting with different clothing manufacturers.  Our story was similar to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. . .one manufacturer was too big, one was too small, and many were not producing the quality of product desired . . .  It was during this intensive research that we found our current manufacturer who is located in Vancouver, British Columbia - more about why we choose to work with them in a moment.

What does the "Made in America" or "Made in USA" label mean when it comes to clothing?  We were surprised to learn that in order for an article of clothing to bear the label, it not only has to be sewn in the USA, but most of the fabric and other components (threads, buttons, zippers, etc.) must be made in the USA.   To be more specific "all or virtually all" of the components of a garment must be made in America, a definition that comes from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which regulates the labeling of products.  Small start-up companies are faced with significant challenges when they attempt to assemble high quality yet economical material to into elegant performance apparel.  To add to this challenge, apparel manufacturing companies have moved overseas for economic reasons - causing more than 600 textile mills to close nationally since 1997!

Although we initially desired a "Made in USA" label on Cheval Amour clothing, we decided to enter into a relationship with a manufacturer in Vancouver, BC for a number of reasons which include the following:

-  The apparel produced by this manufacturer is extremely high-quality.

-  The clothes are sewn by employees who are protected by Canadian Labor Standards at a facility located less than 450 miles from our Cheval Amour headquarters.  (Closer than many of the manufacturers we were considering in southern California).

-  Our manufacturer is a certified bluesign® System partner.

-  Our manufacturer is dedicated to addressing climate change.  This can be seen throughout their entire operation which include the fabrics they use, having their factory and showroom's greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint measured (implementing changes to reduce their carbon footprint), and initiating a clothing recycling program.  

    The Made in America / Made in USA label is something to strive for - this goal should become more realistic as our nation becomes more aware of the impact our textile industry has on our planet.  Until both qualified and quality resources are available here in America, we will proudly use the "Made in Vancouver, BC" label on our Cheval Amour apparel. 

    Resources:

    bluesign® Standard:  www.bluesign.com

    FTC "Made in USA" Standard:  http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/usajump.shtm

    What Does "Made in USA" Really Mean?  Defining Made in America, June 7, 2012:  http://madeinusachallenge.com/2012/defining-made-in-america/

    Los Angeles Times, Made in USA label advantages wear thin -Bangladesh tragedy reinforces LA firms' stay-local stance, but challenges remain., June 12, 2013:  http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/12/business/la-fi-la-manufacturing-bangladesh-20130612