May 16, 2007

Product Review: Certaintees

[Full disclosure: I received this product free of charge. Do with that info what you will.]

I generally avoid buying decorative items that espouse some political bent; I don't have bumper stickers on my car (yes, I have a car—boo, hiss—and yes, I have a small Red Sox stickah on it), I don't have buttons and pins all over my bag, and I don't wear t-shirts with philosphical statements printed across the chest. Until recently.

When I was contacted by artist Lee Tracy about her new line of bamboo, hand-screened shirts, I was a little skeptical. I get a lot of emails about new "green" products and the bulk of them lead to nothing more than claims of carbon neutrality or some such token gesture. Thus far I have simply avoided the whole thing by reviewing products very, very irregularly. But as always, I took a look around the website and was surprised at what I found.

First and foremost, I actually liked the designs offered. This was hand-printed, custom art, and it was clear that they were made with care and respect for the craft of printing (this is actually very important to me as a graphic designer). I wasn't sold on the concept of "wearable wisdom" that drives the company's commitment to social responsibility, though (see first paragraph). Then I read that $5 of each t-shirt sale goes directly to one of several very cool nonprofits. Then I read a list of incredibly impressive facts about bamboo and bamboo clothing. Then I read about how everything was packaged with ecological care. It went on and on.

So I decided to see just how normal a bamboo t-shirt is. Before placing my order, though, Tracy mailed out a shirt for me to "experience." It arrived inside a plain cotton tote that I now use for hauling veggies around from the farmers market (bonus!). The shirt was a large (I'm paranoid about undersizing), but a little too large for my 5' 4" frame. Dang.

It was also incredibly soft and the colors were intense (if I recall, Tracy mentioned giving it a double blast of ink). One problem, though: the fabric was so thin that I was showing a little more than I would have liked (a tank top underneath fixed that, of course).

This is a comfortable shirt! My office gets pretty chilly, and the shirt was actually much warmer than I expected for the weight. I have no idea if the other shirt styles are as thin (I suspect they are), but it's actually well suited to the delicacy of the designs printed on them. These aren't rough-and-tumble work shirts here, and they also aren't cheap (then again, I'm generally a $5/3-pack Hanes undershirt kind of girl, so what do I know?). But then again, you're getting a whole lot more than a production-line commodity.

Check 'em out, and take the time to read the backstory throughout the site—this is a great example of a commercial enterprise that effectively marries sustainability with commerce, and produces quality products to boot.

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