Resilience, Covid-19, and Sample Sales

team photo in Siem Reap by Frank Scarfone

photo from our team retreat in Siem Reap in January by Frank Scarfone


Dear friends and family –

When we set the intention of resilience at the beginning of the year, we had no idea how important that concept could possibly be in 2020.


The short story:

We know everyone is facing challenges both personally and economically due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic – but if you have the means to do so – tonlé needs your help to keep our team members in Cambodia employed during this difficult time. Here are three ways to support if you can:

  1. We’ve brought back our most popular sale, the 3 in one sample box sale for just $80 including shipping.
  2. Make any purchase on our site, or purchase a gift card, to help us generate more sales and keep our team in work.
  3. If you’re feeling extra generous, make a donation to our Covid-19 resilience fund which will directly pay for paid leave for staff as needed. As a thank you for any donations over $500 – I will create and ship you a custom piece of art for you on a theme of your choice.

The long story:  

This week in the US we started to see not only the human but economic toll Covid-19 with not only the impact on the larger markets but small businesses starting to feel the pain as well. Many independent retailers are feeling the pain of lost business or forced closures, and since many of these independent retailers are our customers, we’ve had several orders canceled this week. Our own store in San Francisco has also been extremely slow, and we understand what everyone is going through.

At the same time, cases of Covid-19 have just started to spread in Cambodia, and we are putting precautions into place to protect the health and safety of our team. Nevertheless, we may be forced to close our workshop, put a temporary halt on production, or have people work from home to protect our workers’ health and safety. We are working on putting plans in place to do so – but it has been challenging while our financial situation continues to be affected dramatically by cancellations and lost retail store business. 

Factories around Asia have already closed and laid off thousands of workers, and it goes without saying those with the least economic means are going to be the hardest hit. 

We want to be able to continue to provide employment and paid sick leave to our employees when they need it most, but we will need your help to do so. We know that many of you are probably worried about your own livelihoods and family’s well being, but if you are in a place to help support our tonlé team, we would greatly appreciate it. 

In order to generate some sales to create a buffer during this time – we are bringing back our sample sale box – this time we will be doing 3 items for $80 – with free shipping with the US. We’ve got a lot of new products that have come in – each box will contain at least 1 new item in addition to 2 other sample or sale items. Please note these items will be shipped in a week’s time as it takes us time to prepare these boxes. 

Secondly, if you’d like to support tonlé but you’re not sure what you need right now or would like to gift tonlé to someone else, please consider purchasing a gift card.

Lastly, if you’re feeling really generous and have the means to do so – please consider making a donation to our covid-19 resiliency fund through PayPal. This money will be directly used to pay salaries and sick leave while our production work is slow or stopped. As a thank you for any donations over $500 – I will create and ship you a custom piece of art for you on a theme of your choice.  


Protecting the health and well-being of our customers and team

We’ve instilled strict cleaning procedures in both our workshop and in our store in San Francisco. Our SF store is still open, but we may have limited hours in the next few months depending on the situation. Stay tuned. 

We may consider temporarily closing our workshop in Cambodia. We are doing the best we can to mitigate the effects of this on our 60 full time team members through raising money to fund paid time off and also considering letting people work from home. We are continuing to monitor the rapidly evolving situation and appreciate your support in the process.

We’re all in uncharted territory right now and it’s so important to each be taking care of ourselves as well as checking in on friends and family. Many small businesses, especially in creative industries – will be feeling pressure and we humbly ask for your support as many among the tonlé team are especially vulnerable to economic hardship and health challenges. Thank you so much from the bottom of all of our hearts!


- Rachel and the tonlé team

March 13, 2020 by Rachel Faller

tonlé pay-what-you-can sale event

As we go into 2020 – we’ve been thinking about our pricing and transparency. We’ve seen a few other brands host pay-what-you-can sale events and we felt this was a great way to explore the idea of “fair” pricing.

January 19, 2020 by Sokpriya Yan

A Guide to Gifting Thoughtfully and Sustainably from tonlé’s Founder

I love giving gifts! But what I don’t love is knowing a maker may be being exploited or hurt by something I’ve purchased. And I don’t love adding to the endless need to consume during this season pushed by a broken capitalist system. 

November 26, 2019 by Rachel Faller

How tonlé is Navigating Sustainability, Ethics, and Business on Black Friday

Thanksgiving is coming up, and along with it comes Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and of course, Christmas. As we approach the holidays this year, we are asking ourselves; how can we participate in this season in a way that feels true to our values?
November 26, 2019 by Rachel Faller

Celebrating Halloween Sustainably and Respectfully

Woman sitting in a white chair with a skeleton

Aside from the sudden surge of candy and pumpkin patch Instagram posts, one of the scariest parts about Halloween is its environmental and ethical ramifications.

In our excitement (or panic) to find the perfect costume, sustainability often falls by the wayside. According to a recent study by environmental charity Hubbub, costumes sold by the UK’s biggest retailers contain the same amount of plastic as over 80 million plastic bottles. In addition to often being culturally appropriative, many of these costumes contain poisonous PVC that will be worn only wear once before ending up in the landfill. Even seemingly harmless Halloween decor is often made up of single-use plastic, tossed as soon as the festivities are over.

With Americans spending a staggering $9 billion on Halloween, one can only imagine the amount of waste that will result from this one day alone—but rather than focusing on the haunting effects that Halloween has on the climate crisis, we can use this opportunity to enliven our spaces and express ourselves while maintaining respect for the earth and those around us.

Home ideas

Edible decor

As a simple alternative to pumpkin carving, use a non-toxic marker to create mini jack-o'-lanterns using clementines; if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can even carve out eyes and a mouth. Once Halloween is over, you can compost the peels and eat them guilt-free (but if you do end up carving some pumpkins, be sure to compost them as well!).

Aim for fall, not just Halloween, decor

Fall decor allows for a much smoother transition to Thanksgiving than fake cobwebs and spiders. Think oblong gourds and squash on your doorstep rather than pumpkins intricately carved with E.T.’s face—this will give off a warm, earthy feel without screaming Halloween, and you can keep them around for at least another month. 

For indoor decor, consider dimming the overhead lights and filling up your space with candles. Need some inspo? In our own San Francisco shop, we’ve decorated our window displays with hanging leaves to give off a cozy, festive vibe that will carry us into the holiday season.


Individually wrapped candy creates a single-use plastic dilemma. Instead of handing out candy that is not great for our childrens' health, pass out crayons, erasers, or other art supplies. If you're purchasing candy - we encourage seeking out fair trade options like these from Equal Exchange.

If you’re bringing your own kids around the neighborhood, have them use a pillowcase instead of a plastic jack-o’-lantern bucket—a pillowcase holds more goodies, anyway!


Costume ideas

Reuse an old costume

Considering bringing back a trusty old Halloween costume that you’ve stashed away, especially if you have multiple Halloween events to dress up for. No one will remember—much less care—that you wore it to that one party five years ago. 

Thrift, borrow, or swap

Scavenging your local thrift stores and consignment shops is as affordable as it is sustainable. Plus, piecing together an outfit always looks much more authentic and thoughtful than a brand-new, store-bought costume.

If thrifting sounds too time-consuming, try borrowing a costume or hosting a costume swap. Write a Facebook post inviting friends to participate, or post on your Instagram stories asking friends if they have a costume they’re willing to lend you. 

Dress up with makeup 

Dressing up in a costume that involves elaborate makeup gives you the liberty of getting creative without needing to splurge on an entirely new outfit. 

If you go this route, try to avoid purchasing toxic makeup (many face paints contain lead or hormone-altering ingredients), and be mindful about whether you’re only going to use the makeup once; many makeup-only costume ideas don’t require purchasing any new makeup at all.

Be sensitive of cultural appropriation

While society is thankfully becoming far less tolerant of cultural appropriation, it continues to be important to ask ourselves whether our costume could be potentially harmful, especially if any aspect “borrows” elements of a culture other than our own.

We think this flyer by Emi Ito is a great resource to help you avoid making others feel anything less than safe or respected. Emi also invites you to explore the resources below as a way to help nurture a safer, more inclusive anti-racist community for all of our children; please consider checking them out and financially supporting them if they have helped you. 

• This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do
The Work by Tiffany Jewell
• So You Want To Talk About Race By Ijeoma Oluo and their Instagram Acccount @theconsciouskid

Our challenge

If you’ve taken steps to have a safer and more sustainable halloween and fall holiday season - Post about it on social media tagging @tonledesign and #tonleactivist now through October 31st– and we’ll credit you with 100 points for participating in this challenge. Points can be redeemed for credit on our site. Don’t forget to sign up for our activist program to receive credit for your action. We will also track these actions and let you know how much waste was avoided by the collective actions of our community. Thank you for participating and have a safe and Happy Halloween! 
October 28, 2019 by Ariana Buccat

Indigenous Peoples' Day

Image of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, tonlé is initiating a monthly payment of our Shuumi land tax in recognition of the fact that our business operates in San Francisco on stolen Ohlone land; we are sharing this in the hopes that other bay area businesses that benefit from being located in this region will consider a contribution as well.
The Shuumi Land Tax is a voluntary annual financial contribution that non-Indigenous people living or working on traditional Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone territory make to support the critical work of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust - an urban Indigenous women-led community organization that facilitates the return of Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship. The Shuumi Land Tax directly supports Sogorea Te’s work to acquire and preserve land, establish a cemetery to reinter stolen Ohlone ancestral remains and build urban gardens, community centers, and sacred arbors so current and future generations of Indigenous people can thrive in the Bay Area. Sogorea Te creates opportunities for all people living in Ohlone territory to work together to re-envision the Bay Area community and what it means to live on Ohlone land. Guided by the belief that land is the foundation that can bring us together, Sogorea Te calls on us all to heal from the legacies of colonialism and genocide, to remember different ways of living, and to do the work that our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do.

October 14, 2019 by Rachel Faller
Rainforest waterfall in Cambodia

Help us plant 1000+ rainforest trees in Cambodia

Southeast Asia was once covered with approximately 500 million acres of rain forest, but only about 5 percent remains. One fifth of those remaining forests are in Cambodia - but Cambodia is being deforested at a faster rate than almost any country in the world. With an issue that hits so close to home that is also critical in the fight against climate change - we wanted to do something to help. 
August 21, 2019 by Rachel Faller
Ethical and Sustainable Maternity Wear

Ethical and Sustainable Maternity Wear

if you're an expecting mama who wants to live sustainably while your body is changing, finding sustainable and ethical maternity wear presents a unique challenge. There are many great options for swapping and using and adapting what you already have, but if you are lacking something in your wardrobe during this unique time period or are wondering what might adapt with your body's changing needs throughout pregnancy, we've curated a special collection just for you.
April 30, 2019 by Rachel Faller

Help us convert the tonlé workshop to solar power

help us run our zero waste workshop in Cambodia with solar power

This week, all gifts cards are 20% off with the code GOSOLAR and 100% of the sales will go towards converting our workshop to solar.

Purchase a gift card with a 20% discount here!

It's something we've been considering for a while as we try to reduce our carbon footprint and make one of the lowest impact garment production facilities.


However, this week due to power shortages across the country the government abruptly cut off the power for half the day and announced that this change would be on-going for at least three months. As a result we've had to reduce the capacity at our workshop, while we're still paying full time salaries to our team. Many people are rapidly trying to buy up generators, which will no doubt dramatically increase the amount of emissions going into Phnom Penh's already polluted skies, and this is not something we want to contribute to. 

We've received quotes for installing a solar system and battery as soon as next week. This will cost between $8,000 - $15,000, accounting for additional infrastructure changes we will need to make and to recoup the costs for the lost production of the interim weeks. This solar panel will pay for itself in the long run, but this was not an expense we were expecting in the short term. 

Your contribution to this campaign will help us fund converting out workshop to solar, keep our production moving and providing employment to our team in the short term, and in the long term dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. We have calculated that powering our workshop with solar would reduce our emissions by at least a further 288,000 pounds of carbon over the next two years alone, in addition to the impact our production is already making. With your help we can do even more! 

Ways you can support: 100% of gift card sales and 80% of e-commerce sales this week will go to our solar panel fund as well as supporting the staffing costs while we are unable to produce. Don't forget to use the code GOSOLAR at checkout to get 20% off your gift card. Additionally, sharing this post on social media is also very helpful! 


March 22, 2019 by Rachel Faller
Learning from 2018 and looking forward to 2019

Learning from 2018 and looking forward to 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR from the tonlé team! We're grateful for your support in so many ways this past year. In wrapping up this year we're in reflection mode -  Help us improve our business and services by filling out this 5 minute survey, and as thank you, we'll send you a $25 gift card! Read on for a note from our founder.
December 31, 2018 by Rachel Faller