Olio United 

Marjorie Skinner

Ideally there will be a time when shopping according to a general standard of ethics requires little research and effort on the part of the consumer. But for a few local exceptions (stores that specialize in locally produced clothing, for instance), it's rare to be able to walk into a store that's done the work for you—where the proprietors have sussed out each line's story and chosen to carry only those that prove to be socially responsible as well as aesthetically appealing.

Olio United (1028 SE Water) is a new store with just such a plan. Walking in, the establishment doesn't hit you over the head with its moral purpose, but rather strikes as a likeable mélange of men's, women's, and children's clothing, as well as housewares and paper products. And while everything is researched, the store's attitude seems to be less about preachiness and more about the desire to connect people to products that have a story. And these stories are usually about people who are navigating a business in times when it's increasingly difficult to do so without causing harm.

Most of the lines are small, though you'll see familiar names, like Loomstate, a longstanding veteran of the eco-fashion movement. Others include Ivana Helsinki, and Toms Shoes—simple, moderately priced unisex slip-ons inspired by traditional Argentinean footwear, every purchase of which the company has pledged to match with a donated pair to a child in need. You'll also find Melissa Night shoes, beautiful bags by Ashley Watson made from repurposed leather jackets, and a wealth of interesting pieces for your home, from journals to a chair made from salvaged cowhide.

While not all of Olio United's merchandise is new to Portland, its something-for-everyone hipness makes it an essential destination that you might come to for the ethics, but stay for the design.

Sussing it out: marjorie@portlandmercury.com

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