Pretty things

July 7, 2016

PicMonkey Collage

Whenever Etsy’s email arrives in my inbox, I get a little excited. I love me some eye candy, and who doesn’t? Here are some of the pretty things I’ve come across over the past week from Ottawa, the rest of Canada and around the world. They might serve you as home decor or fashion inspiration, and even inspire a little shopping in you. Enjoy the browse.



Open Fire

open fire

Rare Specimens

rare specimen

Maderacraft Handmade


Lola Donoghue

lora donahugh

Blisscraft & Brazen


Coral + Cloud


Rowan Studios

Rowan Studios

Jenny Rijke

jenny rijke

Brown Bag Vintage

brownbag vintage


pepin montreal

Gen Woo



We Are Stories

we are stories

The selfish Christmas wishlist

December 5, 2015

I'm all about comfort and chic all in one |

I must confess; I like to treat myself to the odd gift or two while Christmas shopping for my loved ones. Don’t you dare judge me! Don’t! I’ve been particularly active on Etsy these days, discovering wonderfully talented artisans and shop owners from all over the world. Since I’ve done a lot of the legwork, I figured I might as well share my finds with you (in case you’re still not sure where to start with your list). First off, my personal Christmas wishlist! Read More

Better to give than to receive

November 16, 2015

Nesting Stoneware CAD 195.25

Nesting Stoneware CAD 195.25

uncommongoods (UG) is a great online shop that I’m surprised I didn’t hear about sooner. It prides itself on carrying a range of products, from jewelry to home decor that are made in ethical environments (click here to browse), to high standards and by artisans in the U.S. UG prides itself on supporting designers by promoting them through a variety of ways, including hosting studio tours, design challenges and panel series that connect local jewelry artists and designers to help them improve and develop their businesses.

UG also gives back to charities through its Better to Give program. With every purchase you make with UG, it donates $1 that is divided among its charity partners. Since the Better to Give program started 12 years ago, UG has donated more than $1 million to charities around the world. Check out the link above to see a list of their partners and their donation totals. Pretty impressive stuff.

The kind folks at UG have asked me to help them promote their upcoming “Giving Tuesday Campaign” that starts on Tuesday, December 1, 2015. It is themed around the well-known phrase, “It is better to give than to receive” and focuses on their Better to Give program.

In the lead up to the campaign, UG is asking its followers on social media “Why is it better to give than to receive?”

  • Give your answer on either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter
  • Include both #BetterToGive and #GivingTuesday hashtags

Submit your response by December 1 and you will be in the running to be chosen by UG to have your answer posted on its social media platforms and to receive $500 to give to your choice of one of their charity partners. There will be one winner chosen from each platform (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter).

Giving Tuesday

On Giving Tuesday, December 1, shop at UG and it will double its donation of $500 on your behalf.

For every person who uses the #BetterToGive hashtag tomorrow, UG will also donate an extra dollar to its Better to Give partners with a cap of $5,000.

In addition, if your post tags a specific Better to Give charity partner, that one dollar goes to that specific partner.  If there is no mention of a partner in the post, that dollar gets spread evenly among all partners.

I spent some time browsing UG’s wonderful line of products today and have listed my faves in several categories for you to check out – early Christmas shopping perhaps?

I particularly like the handmade jewelry pieces from Emilie Shapiro of New York City. Check out her pieces here and tour her cute studio here.



Gifts for her

I had my sister and mom in mind when I was browsing UG’s great line of products made just for that special woman in your life. O.K., so I also had myself in mind, but can you blame me?

Gifts for the little ones

My favourite gift that I got as a child was a telescope from my uncle Dave. I think the first thing I looked at up close was my spit…it was the first thing the kit suggested I check out, don’t judge! Anyhow, I put my kid cap on and put these on my list for wee ones.

Please note that I am receiving a small honorarium from uncommongoods for helping to promote their campaign. It is important for me to emphasize that I only accept monetary or product compensation from individuals and organizations whose values and aesthetics align with my own and this blog. In each case, I make a point of being transparent about it and adding a one-liner at the bottom of those particular posts.

I lied, the blogging continues

October 14, 2015

Mixing floral prints - Malorie Bertrand - EF Magazine - How to match colors and patterns in your clothes - Simple styling tips to help you make the most of your wardrobe

You may or may not know that I’m starting a small business. I stopped blogging here for the past couple of months to give me the head space to finish my business plan (I’m pressing SEND in a day or two for funding, fingers crossed!). I thought that I would stop blogging on EF altogether, but I realized that you would be the best readers to share my experiences with. The business is a natural progression from the blog, so why lose you as readers when you might really dig what I’m working on, you know?

I’m one or two blog posts away from being able to make the official announcement with bells and whistles. Until then, I’m incredibly excited and petrified to announce that I’m launching an online boutique to sell mostly Canadian-made sustainable fashion and accessories for women. Zee name? COMMUN – a sense of wear ( coming August 2016). Props to my mom for the slogan. Catch the play on words? I’ll post about the name and branding in the weeks to come.

Over the next ten months, I’ll post regularly about the ins and outs of starting up a business. I hope it comes in handy for any of you who are thinking of doing the same. The posts will also help me share with you all of the fun behind-the-scenes of shopping trips in the New Year. I’ll share images of the clothing I’m considering, highlight designers I’ve discovered, and share any meltdowns I might have as I near launching this baby. Should be quite the trip.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a blog post I wrote on styling as a guest for Rose & Fig, a wonderful sustainable lifestyle blog written by my friend Jess Hunt. By the way, she just got hitched and I think you’ll love the photographs. Missed Jess’s guest post on DIY beauty?

This post was inspired by a chat we had over Skype about how it may be easy to downsize your closet, but the styling afterwards is often what trips people up. I put together a post about matching because it’s often what challenges my clients most during wardrobe consultations. The outfits I chose were chosen less for style than to provide a clear example of matching do’s and don’t’s.  Now that I see them on the full screen I think: “Gah, I should’ve ironed my shorts!”, but I think you’ll forgive me.

Minimalist spring outfit

May 15, 2015


I basically put this minimalist outfit together to show off this pair of new shoes I bought back in September while on a trip in Paris. They’re designed by Zoe Lee, a talented shoe designer and owner of her own lovely boutique in Le Marais district of Paris. The shoes are not at all within my regular budget but I took advantage of a pre-season sale and while in my “how soon will you be in Paris again” mentality, made the purchase. Zoe Lee shoes are all handmade in a small, family-owned factory in Italy. She sources the finest Italian leathers and materials. Only 25 pairs of shoes are made per style. A Zoe Lee shoe is truly a work of art and a quality piece to cherish for years to come.

Enough about all that, what do you think? I chose these black booties because of their versatility and the heel is the perfect height – not too high, but just enough heel to make them fun.




Shirt: gifted, vintage velvet top (I have a matching skirt to go with it that I’ll showcase next fall/winter)

Jeans: Second Clothing jeans, a great Montreal-based company that makes the best yoga jeans around.

Clutch: Vintage

Shoes: Zoe Lee

EF + Workshop Mother’s Day Giveaway

May 9, 2015

workshop main

No material gift can convey to our mothers the love and appreciation we have for them and for all that they’ve done. Buut, I know that my mom certainly wouldn’t mind receiving one of these beautiful pieces as a token of all that I feel for her.

Workshop Studio and Boutique is filled to the brim with unique, hand-made clothing and accessories – all made in Canada and all too adorable for words. The big sister to Flock Boutique, Workshop has partnered with EF to offer you another giveaway to ring in the spring and to highlight Mother’s Day.


  1. Leave a comment in this post, saying which piece is your favourite
  2. Like the EF and Workshop Facebook pages
  3. A winner will be randomly selected on May 17, 2015 at 9 p.m. EST and contacted by email
  4. Best of luck!


Single ceramic bead necklace, Shayna Stevenson – $55.00 | Ceramic Sojourn necklace, Shayna Stevenson – $70.00 | Soft Square Moonstone ring, Justine Brooks – $60.00 | Bangle, Jessie Turner – $68.00 | Silver studs, Yvonne Villeneuve – $20.00










Earth Day shopping finds

April 22, 2015

If you find yourself lured in by Earth Day shopping deals, consider this little list of ethical and sustainable designers and brands that I’d like you to check out. Some of them are offering Earth Day specials that you might not want to miss out on. But keep in mind that this isn’t a reason to shop. Please shop responsibly and Happy Earth Day!

Edge of Ember

edge of ember mainA contemporary line of edgy, yet feminine jewelry. Each piece is handcrafted in small workshops in Cambodia and Indonesia, and each artisan is paid fair wages to work in humane conditions. This creates a sustainable cycle of trade that works to lift individuals and communities out of poverty. In addition to ethical production standards, 10 percent of all proceeds are donated to local charity programs that focus on preventing sex trafficking.


kow tow main

For a long time, many of our consumer habits have appeared to have no consequence. It is now quite apparent that there is an imbalance in standards of living throughout the world which is fuelled by the Wests continuing short changing and exploitation of labour markets in the so called third world. We don’t believe anyone who is truly aware of what is going on in the world would want to turn their heads and support a slave trade economy. Being into clothes we decided to do something about it. Certified fair trade organic clothing that is ethically and sustainably made from seed to garment.


forestiere mainInspired by tradition, natural history, silviculture, and uncommon artifacts, at forestière we believe in a simple, honest approach to design—one that celebrates timelessness, good craftsmanship, quality materials, and thoughtfulness. We favour the uncommon over the commonplace; the carefully considered over the hurried; the handmade over the mass produced; products with stories behind them and that contain a palpable sense of their maker(s). We believe that the art and objects that a person chooses for their life should be a reflection of these kinds of values, and hope to encourage thoughtful buying by providing our customers with a personal connection to their purchases. We are also committed to low-impact, environmentally conscious and sustainable practices, making a conscious effort to use ethically sourced, reclaimed, vintage, salvaged, deadstock, and natural materials in the creation of our designs, as well as re-usable packaging materials made from recycled fibres.


behno mainIn 2012, Shivam Punjya, behno’s founder, went to India to complete his research on women’s health. Punjya founded behno shortly after the tragic Rana Factory collapse on April 24, 2013. benho has partnered with a large nonprofit in India to create and build a new model of a garment factory in rural Gujarat. The factory will revolutionize the way garment workers are treated, viewed and employed. Along with adhering to international factory standards, the factory will strive to empower female garment workers by executing “The behno Standard”. The behno Standard focuses on ethical garmenting by implementing various programming, ranging from fair wages to garment worker health to eco-consciousness. behno is committed to raising awareness to the craft and character of “made in India” by focusing on high quality luxurious and tailored designs whilst providing our garment workers with empowering and safe working conditions.


voz main

VOZ is a collection of luxury artisanal ready-to-wear apparel inspired by the beauty of ancient cultures and ceremonial crafts that was founded by Creative Director Jasmine Aarons in 2012. VOZ honors and empowers artisans creatively, economically and culturally by providing education, sustainable fair-trade employment and a platform designed to preserve and support traditional art forms.


osei duro mainOsei-duro is based in Los Angeles, CA and Accra, Ghana. We produce our textiles and garments in Ghana, applying traditional techniques such as hand dyeing and weaving. We aim to support the local apparel industry – on both a large and small scale – in becoming sustainable. We work towards a vibrant fashion industry, one that exceeds international production standards while respecting the rights and aesthetics of local makers.

Studio 189

studio 189 mainStudio 189 is a social enterprise created by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah that consists of creatives who seek to provide a platform to help promote and curate African and African-inspired content through an e-commerce shopping site, a supporting agency and an artisan-produced fashion collection called FASHION RISING COLLECTION, launched in support of V-Day’s One Billion Rising. We focus on creating opportunities for empowerment, education and employment of artisans and creatives.

Starting an ethical online shop

April 8, 2015

good cloth main imageI may have mentioned it before that I recently joined the Ethical Writers Coalition (EWC). It’s a dedicated group of writers, journalists, bloggers and the like who share a common interest in writing about the ethical and sustainable fashion industry. Once a month or so, I’m going to feature a guest post from an EWC member. This blog syndication is something the EWC does to help spread the quality content that its members produce. It’s a great idea, not only because it shares each other’s content, but also because you might get tired of hearing from me, you know!? So here we are, my first syndicated post courtesy of Elizabeth Stilwell of The Note Passer. You can read the original post here.

Stephanie Hepburn is a journalist and the founder of Good Cloth, an ethical online store that focuses on items that are produced in a way that is kind to workers and to the planet. While writing her most recent book, Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight, she was motivated to combine fashion and human rights into one venture, Good Cloth. This venture is an endeavor to fill a gap in the marketplace by evaluating the entire journey of a product and ensuring transparency from start to finish. Stephanie’s goal is to generate interest in labour exploitation and forced labour and to help create positive change.

As Good Cloth is beginning to grow, I caught up with Stephanie to ask her a few questions about her inspiration and thoughts on the sustainability movement.


I started Good Cloth because I want to make change in the garment industry and spread awareness on the topic of labour exploitation in a positive way. As a journalist, I have written about labour exploitation and human trafficking for years and it seemed that only a niche audience was listening. Meaning, I was preaching to the choir. That doesn’t really trigger change or at least not in mainstream society, and that limits the degree of change that can take place. At the same time, I was separately writing about fashion, an industry where exploitation is rampant. This further encouraged me to change my personal way of shopping.

I have always been a fan of second-hand stores because they prevent clothing from ending up in a landfill, but I wanted to discover brands that create innovative pieces made with respect for the planet, workers and consumers. I didn’t exactly love what I found. It seemed like many of the eco and fair trade designers at the time were also targeting a niche audience, just as I had (even though my goal, and likely theirs, had been the opposite). This inspired me to create a space where people can purchase pieces that are made with consideration to people and the world we live in and design.

My hope is that the shop casts a wide net when it comes to aesthetic appeal. This means that those who fit the niche will shop at Good Cloth but so will people who just really dig the designs and then (bonus!) they can walk away knowing they did something positive for workers and the planet (and themselves, because the items are made for longevity and without harmful chemicals).


Everywhere (the shop is online)! Our headquarters is in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Initially, I was a one-woman show. That is slowly changing. I still run the majority of the day-to-day aspects of the business but now I have an amazing publicist working with me. She is great at keeping me on track so that I don’t go off on too many tangents. As a reporter, entrepreneur and mother of two small children, I have a limited amount of time so this is incredibly important. I also reel in my friends as much as possible and created a Facebook secret page where they can give me feedback on designs; they share what they love and what they don’t. I have my own strong aesthetic but it’s great to hear what other people think and why they are attracted to certain pieces.


Sustainable is an on-trend term. The media frequently talk about sustainability in terms of the slow food and slow fashion movements. I love that sustainability as a concept is gaining momentum; what I find problematic is that sustainability seems to be viewed as synonymous with eco-friendly, which isn’t accurate. Sustainability certainly means conservation of the planet, but it also means preserving people and communities. It is this latter and broader view of sustainability that Good Cloth applies when determining which designers are a good fit.


We first research designs that we love and then we do as much digging as possible about the designer’s product transparency. Do they share a similar mission to Good Cloth? If it seems like the aesthetic and mission fit, then we reach out to them and start a conversation on how they make their goods and how they source their materials. Some designers don’t know and/or don’t care to answer these questions. Other designers care foremost about aesthetic and are inconsistent in their application of eco-materials. I respect their application of sustainable materials but the inconsistency and lack of transparency doesn’t work for Good Cloth. We find that designers who care equally about aesthetic and transparency are the best fit. They are generally able to answer all of our questions because they share the same ethos and put transparency and ethical sourcing on equal footing with design. Our questions dig into treatment of workers and the planet at each step of the process.


Yes! Often designers are elsewhere — in other nations or across the country — but I do try to meet as many designers as possible. Fortunately, though it is not the same, the world of technology allows me to meet designers in other ways than in-person. We can’t yet teleport, but as soon as we can, I will be all about it!


Years of researching labour exploitation give me a unique background and vantage point that translates to the shop. Not in a bang-it-over-your-head kind of way, but in transparency. Each item not only includes a description but also a product journey, so people know where their clothing came from. The focus isn’t just on the final manufacturing process but also where the materials come from and how the materials are sourced. We search for designers that have amazing designs and ensure that their products are sourced and created with respect for the environment in safe facilities by workers who are treated well and paid fair wages to work legal hours and who select suppliers that are doing the same.


Good Cloth is trying to push past trend into true positive momentum that will change the garment industry. It is on-trend to shop eco-friendly but what does that really mean? What makes a particular design eco-friendly? We don’t know without transparency. Labeling something green or eco-friendly is a powerful marketing tool but not always genuine. This is concerning because it gives shoppers a false sense of responsible purchasing and it fails to take us any further in fixing problems in the garment industry. What’s important to me is that people step away from labels and focus on the transparency of goods, that is the checks and balances that ensure companies are doing what they say they are.


When customers become more focused on transparency they will shop accordingly. It is much like how, as consumers, we generally examine where our food comes from. It wasn’t always that way. Our hope at Good Cloth is that people will be as conscientious about what they put on their bodies as what they put in them. The more that consumers understand where their apparel and accessories come from, the more discerning they will be. As consumers, we would not knowingly purchase a shirt that was made using toxic chemicals where the laborer who made it worked 14-hour days on the verge of passing out because her wages were insufficient to pay for food, rent and, ironically, clothing. Unfortunately, neither is a rarity in the fast-fashion garment industry. The lack of transparency in the industry means that we, the consumers, remain in the dark.


Ethically made clothing that pays proper wages for workers can’t compete with the costs of fast-fashion apparel. There are reasons these pieces are so inexpensive. Yes, fast fashion offers consumers affordable on-trend clothing, but it also comes with hidden costs like toxic chemicals, poor garment construction and exploitative worker conditions. There’s a mental disconnect we consumers have between how our clothing is made and the garments we try on and purchase. When we imagine workers exposed to chemicals while making our garments, we somehow think the garments are cleansed by the time they get to us. They aren’t. If they were made with lead, they will still have lead when we wear them.

The pieces in fast fashion are made rapidly and are not designed for quality or longevity. I mean, the plan is that you buy more items next season! So, that means (whether you want to or not) you will need to replace those items when they quickly fall apart. This makes them less economically appealing. Cheap yes, but less so when you factor in how often you will need to purchase new items. In a time of recycling and eco-friendly savviness, this is a disposable approach to fashion that wastes millions of tons of water and CO2, and where tons of textiles end up in landfills. In fact, textiles made up nearly six percent of the total municipal solid waste in 2012. That’s 14.3 million tons of waste!

What determines cost acceptability has a great deal to do with consumer expectations. Many fast-fashion shirts cost $9.95 and that is what we expect they should cost. To put it in perspective, we expect our shirt to cost just over twice that of our favourite decadent coffee beverage. The average American adult worker spent $1,112 on coffee in 2013, while the average consumer spent $1,604 for apparel and services in 2013.

As a responsible consumer, a shirt for $9.95 should be a red flag. In order to create prices that low, a company has to find incredibly low-cost labour. The result is that garment workers that produce the majority of big name fast-fashion apparel are paid a mere fraction of a living wage. The Center for American Progress reported in 2013 that garment workers in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh — the four primary apparel exporters to the U.S. — earned 36 percent, 29 percent, 22 percent and 14 percent of a living wage, respectively. In Bangladesh garment workers’ monthly wages are $68, making it the lowest in the world.


Ingenuity. I am inspired by creative people.


We just added the Box Handbag by Elvis & Kresse. It is truly stunning. It is handmade by artisans in the U.K. out of reclaimed military grade parachute silk and de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses, which, after a distinguished career fighting fires and saving lives, were otherwise destined for the landfill. The hardware is ethically sourced in Europe through members of the Ethical Trading Initiative. Fifty percent of the profits from this item are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity. We love that these retired hoses that spent their years fighting fires and saving lives and are incredibly durable (after all, they are designed to survive the harshest of environments) are given a new start and transformed into this incredible piece.


Hmm. I so wish I could answer this question with colourful and wondrous experiences of what I do in my spare time. New Orleans is an interesting place. You aren’t locked into adulthood in the same way as elsewhere. You can be silly and wear tutus and dance, which is pretty much what I do whenever I can. That said, most evenings I fall asleep reading to my daughter. If I manage to stay awake (I don’t know what happens when you put a kid to sleep, but apparently it is exhausting) then I will read a book, watch a movie or go out with friends.


Where to shop “eco” online for spring

March 19, 2015

Aside from buying from local Ottawa consignment shops and the odd eco-purchase in-store, I’m all about eco-shopping online. I’ve been browsing the following sites for some resort pieces for my upcoming trip and I thought you might like to know where I’ve been hopping and skipping to on the interweb.

a boy named sue collage

Dress – $260.00 | Top – $120.00

accompany collage

Kaftan – $160.00 | Playsuit – $234.00 | Shorts – $120.00

brika collage

Watches – $69.00 | Necklace – $90.00 | Earrings – $45.00

elizabeth suzann collage

Top – $155.00 | Tunic – $175.00 | Trench – $295.00

everlane collage

Trouser – $120.00 | Shirt – $35.00 | Blouse – $78.00

heinui collage

Collection not yet available online

need supply collage

Dress – $68.00 | Coat – $288.00Pants – $330.00

of a kind collage

Top – $165.00 | Ring – $136.00| Shoes – $117.00

How ethical and sustainable fashion is helping to preserve Indigenous cultures

March 11, 2015

Are certain cultures around the world in danger of becoming extinct? If you consider the fact that a language is lost approximately every two weeks each year, the answer becomes pretty obvious. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 46 percent of the world’s languages will be extinct by the end of this century. If it is true that a language is the mirror of a culture, you can imagine what those statistics mean for the future of cultural diversity around the world, and the inevitable loss of knowledge that will follow it. Thankfully, the ever-expanding ethical and sustainable fashion industry is partnering with Indigenous artisans all over the world and giving them a platform on which to showcase their skills and culture to a global consumer audience.

A growing demand for hand-crafted products


Weights on a loom. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

One of the main reasons why traditional craftsmanship is abandoned is because of the lack of demand for the artisans’ hand-crafted products. This is where the movement of ethical and sustainable fashion has come into play. Consumers have become more concerned about where their products are made and by whom. They are keen to learn the story behind products and artisanal crafts are rich with culture and history. Designers have begun partnering with artisans from around the world by incorporating their skills into their designs and thereby helping to keep their crafts alive.

Improves the quality of life for artisans


School children in class. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

Apart from the cultural benefits of supporting traditional handicrafts, there is also the humanitarian aspect of ethical and sustainable fashion. By providing a steady income to these workers in exchange for their unique skills, ethical and sustainable fashion plays an active role in improving the quality of life of an artisan’s entire community. The artisans’ families live healthier and happier lives, and their children gain access to education and health care, not to mention they are presented with the option of continuing their parents’ legacy and becoming expert artisans themselves.

Encourages government support


Weavers working on a loom. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

Now that the ethical and sustainable fashion movement has proven that there is a consumer demand for the handicrafts of ethnic minorities, more and more local governments are taking notice of the now steady flow of income. They are beginning to consider the importance of preserving these traditions and supporting these small businesses that have found commercial success through ethical and sustainable brands.

Increases international recognition of cultures


The rise of e-commerce has made it easier for designers to showcase traditional designs in their products to a wider audience. The ethical and sustainable fashion movement is about providing consumers with complete transparency, and also with providing their products’ stories in order to reinforce the effects that consumers’ purchases have on someone else’s life. The conscious choice of wearing sustainable fashion pieces also helps in that respect, since these pieces become a constant reminder of what they represent, both to the wearer and to the people who admire them.

Slow fashion is made to last

Day to Night Bag

The Day to Night bag. Photo courtesy of Danica Ratte.

It is important to remember that ethical and sustainable fashion pieces are built to outlast fast-fashion products. They are not a seasonal thing, nor are they a trend. They represent quality and timeless craftsmanship, and they are meant to be worn for a very long time.

My question to you is, what other ways do you think fashion can preserve culture? Do you have any pieces in your closet right now that were made by artisans?

I’d love to hear what you think. Please feel free to either leave a comment below or send me an email at danicaratte [at]

Danica Ratte - Wild Tussah Danica Ratte is a sustainable travel addict who is now an expat in Vietnam. She is the Founder of Wild Tussah; a weave and leather handbag line that preserves ancient weaving cultures in Vietnamese ethnic communities. She and her team often write about women’s empowerment, sustainable fashion, cultural preservation, weaving traditions, eco-tourism and anything else Vietnam-related, which you can read on the Wild Tussah blog.

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