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Spring Simplicity

Spring is so wonderful, but it can also be pretty tumultuous. The weather can go from 70 and sunny to a snowstorm and back again. Everybody seems to get sick. Hello allergies! And that longing ache for full-on summer. Here are 5 tips to help ease into and simplify your spring.

Spring Clean

Its cliché, but spring cleaning really does do wonders. Give your home a deep clean and get rid of (donate or sell) any of your stuff that’s either not directly improving your life or doesn’t bring you joy. Also, make sure to put away your winter things – snow boots, parkas, extra comforters.

Plan Your Wardrobe

Planning out my seasonal wardrobes is something I’ve been doing for a few years now that has made my life so much simpler. Each season, I take a look at everything I own and keep only what I want to wear for the next 3 months in my closet. Everything else gets put in a storage bin under my bed or is donated. Then, I allow myself to buy a maximum of 3 new things each season (not including essentials like socks and underwear). Sometimes I don’t buy anything, but giving myself this limit means that I’m extra intentional about what I do add. This process has helped me to build a beautiful and small wardrobe of only things I love slowly over time. This spring, I added:

The Double Pocket Trousers in Black (coming in late summer).
This awesome vintage chore coat.
-A loose striped linen t-shirt.

Take A Breather

Taking a time out is a really helpful way to say goodbye to one season and hello to the next. Time off is rejuvenating, refreshes your work ethic and helps you to more clearly see what to focus on for the months ahead. Last week, I took five days off in Argentina. I soaked up sunshine in Buenos Aires, drank malbec in Mendoza and didn’t look at my email or Instagram once. So good.

Update Your Exercise

Exercising in the winter is really tough for me. Walking to the gym is freezing. Jogging on a treadmill is just so dull. As soon as April hits, I’m back to running outside and walking the 20 minutes to my favorite yoga class. So good!

Take It Slow

Just because its warmer outside doesn’t mean you have to suddenly do all the things you didn’t do when it was dark and cold. Be gentle on yourself, keep your days simple and make the space to enjoy all of the little things that Spring has to offer – warmth, light, freshness, flowers, anticipation.

“For a seed to to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli

“They remembered only the feeling which is the meaning of spring — one’s answer to the first blades of grass, the first buds on the tree branches, the first blue of the sky — the singing answer, not to grass, trees and sky, but to the great sense of beginning, of triumphant progression, of certainty in an achievement that nothing will stop.” -Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.” -John Galsworthy

The Little Things

An ice cream cone in the middle of the day.
Walking slowly to work.
A croissant from the French bakery down the street – on a Monday.
Noticing something beautiful on your block that you’ve never truly seen before.
Having somebody innocently and genuinely smile at you.
Finding a note from a loved one in an unexpected place.
Getting whipped cream on your hot chocolate.
Taking an hour lunch break to sit outside, even when you’re busy.
Reading on a stoop in the sun.
Burger dates with your best friend.
Witnessing an act of kindness between two strangers.
Watching the sun rise and set.
Going to the movies with coffee on a cold morning.
Going to the movies on opening night alone (you always get a seat).
Giving and receiving gifts with deep meaning.
Seeing an old man or woman smile wide.
Having somebody you love take your hand in theirs.
Reading a really good book in one day.
Reading in the same position until a limb falls asleep, and still not moving.
Exploring a new place with no agenda.
Listening to a new song on repeat for an entire afternoon.
Cooking for your parents.
Sitting by a wood fire in the morning.
S’mores made over a campfire.
Being surrounded by fireflies.
That feeling of instant calm when you arrive at the ocean.
Swimming with your dog.
Body surfing a wave all the way to shore.
A really really good glass of red wine.
A hike on the first perfect fall day.
Laying in the grass on a summer night staring up at the stars.
A long run in the woods with your music turned up.
A perfectly ripe summer tomato.
Homemade dinner alfresco.

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder

What are your little things?

BLOCK ISLAND

Block Island is a small New England island situated 13 miles off the tip of Montauk and 14 miles from the coast of Rhode Island. It’s less well-known than it’s counterparts, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and that’s partly on purpose. Block Island is modest. You won’t find expensive shopping, fine dining (although there are some excellent restaurants) or scenesters. There’s no golf course. And while there is a small airport, it’s not big enough for commercial jets.

Block Island’s values center on the land. 44.7% and growing of the island is protected land, thanks to the Block Island Conservancy, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, set up in 1972. Greenways (hiking trails (see above)) weave across the island. And the first offshore wind farm in the United States is currently being built 3 miles off the coast of the island.

Block Island also happens to be my place of residence many weekends of the year and is a major source of inspiration behind Eenvoud. There is something about the island that can only truly be understood by being there — a palpable appreciation for nature, simplicity and time spent well with each other. If there’s any place that truly values “the little things”, it is Block Island.

On that note, I want to leave you with a quote I stumbled on recently and that I think so perfectly embodies a way of living that so many of us are chasing after in life…

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly; await occasions, hurry never;  in a word: to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common – that is my symphony.”

-William Henry Channing

Have a wonderful weekend. Hurry never.

DESIGNER Q+A – ANGELA TSAI

In honor of this Sunday (it’s Mother’s Day – get on it!), we’d like to introduce our friend and fellow designer, Angela Tsai. Angela is not only an entrepreneur, but also a mother of two little kiddos and a full-time traveler (her husband is Scar in the musical, The Lion King). Angela has designed a product intended to simplify and inspire new moms, but that can worn by anyone. Learn more below.

About Angela:

Angela is the founder and designer of Mamachic Co., whose first piece is an all-in-one scarf designed for new mothers, but to be worn by all. Made with sustainable bamboo fabric and strategically-placed snap buttons, the Mamachic can be used to nurse, burp and swaddle babies; though its wearability goes far beyond it’s function. As a TV host turned mom who travels full-time with her family, Angela saw a need for a product that helped to minimize baby gear while still letting a mother’s beauty and confidence shine through.

What is the meaning behind the name Mamachic?

Mamachic is my earnest, straightforward mission to literally make mamas of the world feel more confident, beautiful and chic. There’s a funny thing that happens when you have babies — those abs you worked so hard in Crossfit to sculpt? Gone. Most cute tops and dresses collect dust during the breastfeeding years, unless their necks are elastic, v-ed or button-down. With lack of sleep, the energy it takes to maintain your appearance is suddenly secondary to caring for your baby.  But it doesn’t have to be that way! I want mothers to reclaim their swag. I want them to embrace their new, strong role with positivity. I want mamas to know they’re beautiful — not in spite of being a mama, but because they’re a mama.

Do you have an ideal customer or muse? Who is he or she?

My muse is Jessica Alba! She’s the outspoken natural mama who seems so effortlessly chic, even when she’s toting her children around. My customers are women who are driven, conscientious about how their purchases affect their kids and the environment. They care deeply about both style and function, and aren’t afraid to pay more for quality. They don’t want ‘stuff’ just for stuff’s sake and are always looking for creative ways to do more with less. They appreciate beauty and define it on their own terms.

Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas or designs?

I love collaborating creatively. There was something so wonderful about working with my husband Mike, a truly conceptual person, on our first few scarf designs. He’s an actor and I was a graphic designer and TV host previously. Neither of us had any fashion design background, but it didn’t matter — we were trying to solve a problem. Mike felt he needed something foolproof to protect his clothes when our baby would spit-up on him. We brainstormed together on everything. Then I would tweak little details along the way. We were psyched that the Mamachic evolved into something that solved many problems and looked great. Most recently with Factory45, I was able to get off the lonely island of entrepreneurship and bounce ideas off of other like-minded creatives. That’s when the most recent design fell into place and just ‘clicked’.

What does sustainable design mean to you?

Sustainable design to me is the creation of items or processes that will help us all — humans, creatures, the earth — stand the test of time. Whether it be sourcing materials that minimally damage the environment, creating jobs locally to give your community a fair chance at survival, or making a garment that’s durable and can be used in multiple ways; there are so many things we can do every day to make our lives last a little while longer.

You’ve got quite a full and exciting lifestyle! How do you manage to stay so balanced while launching a business, raising your kiddos and constantly moving your family across the country?

Ah, that work-life balance is a constant struggle!  I surely don’t have it perfected. However, my very extreme lifestyle forces me live minimally. We try not to accumulate too much stuff, since we move constantly and travel in our car. Without this ‘stuff’ there’s less to worry about day to day. So that’s nice. We’re truly thoughtful about our purchases. Further, my husband’s job with The Lion King is fairly easy schedule-wise, so he’s able to spend a lot of time with our kids during the day if I’ve got to crank on work. My kids — Max is 4 and Eva is 1 — are pretty adaptable, although transitioning between cities with them and our cat can push the boundaries of sanity at times. But the experience of seeing so much of the country is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This convertible pantsuit from Seamly.co. So many customizable looks, so comfy, so versatile! And of course, the Mamachic scarf would accompany me everywhere!

Finish this sentence. Simplicity is:

Surprisingly easy to achieve if we just stop overthinking so much!

Angela is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her first production run. Check it out here.

HOWARD ROARK

If you’ve read The Fountainhead, then you know Howard. If you haven’t, you’ve yet to fall in love with a man named Howard Roark; an idealistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. I read The Fountainhead for the first time in 2011, in the midst of my first semester at Parsons. While I was already a budding minimalist at the time, Howard Roark’s character was a major source of inspiration for me and helped me to better understand simplicity and my craving for it. I even created a collection called Roark Aesthetic.

Ayn Rand gets a lot of flack for her political views, but there is no denying the beauty of a person who believes in what they’re building so much that they’re willing to stand alone in order to create it.

Here are a few excerpts as inspiration:

“But you see, I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards—and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

“Now, talk. Talk about the things you really want said. Don’t tell me about your family, your childhood, your friends or your feelings. Tell me about the things you think.”

Mallory looked at him incredulously and whispered: “How did you know that?”

Roark smiled and said nothing.

“How did you know what’s been killing me? Slowly, for years, driving me to hate people when I don’t want to hate… Have you felt it, too? Have you seen how your best friends love everything about youexcept the things that count? And your most important is nothing to them, nothing, not even a sound they can recognize. You mean, you want to hear? You want to know what I do and why I do it, you want to know what I think? It’s not boring to you? It’s important?”

“Go ahead,” said Roark.

Then he sat for hours, listening, while Mallory spoke of his work, of the thoughts behind his work, of the thoughts that shaped his life, spoke gluttonously, like a drowning man flung out to shore, getting drunk on huge, clean snatches of air.

“It’s said that the worst thing one can do to a man is to kill his self-respect. But that’s not true. Self-respect is something that can’t be killed. The worst thing is to kill a man’s pretense at it.”

“To get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences. The work, not the people. Your own action, not any possible object of your charity.”

“The only thing that matters, my goal, my reward, my beginning, my end is the work itself. My work done my way.”

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received—hatred. The great creators—the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors—stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The first airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.”

“What you think you’ve lost can neither be lost nor found. Don’t let it go.”

TARA ST JAMES

As clothing designers, we’re fascinated by what other creative people are doing around us. So we decided to ask some questions. Welcome to our first Designer Q+A, a space where we’ll be featuring other makers from Brooklyn and beyond.

Since our initial conception in 2013, Tara St James of Study has been a sort of acting mentor / big sister to us and we’re so honored to have her as our first interviewee.

About Tara:

Tara is the founder and creative director of Study – an ethical contemporary womenswear label based in Brooklyn, NY. They make seasonless clothing locally and ethically without subscribing to the traditional fashion calendar. Tara is also the production coordinator and a research fellow at Pratt Institute’s new endeavor, The Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator – a space that provides designers with the resources they need to transform their ideas into successful businesses.

What does the name Study mean?

The name was born of a desire I had to really examine my production process and focus on a different technique every season. That began with zero waste patternmaking, then progressed to weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, pleating, etc… Now that I’m no longer producing seasonal collections I still focus on different techniques but I spread that focus over several months rather than each edition. I knew very young that I wanted to design clothes and work in fashion. I studied menswear in college because I liked the rigid structure of tailoring. I still apply a lot of those principles to my womenswear designs. Another underlying principle I learned from studying menswear – though it was not mentioned outright – was a disregard for trendy items, with a focus on craftsmanship, fit and longevity of wear. I started my career working in the denim industry, then worked for larger fast fashion brands in Montreal and New York. I left my last job designing a high street brand called Covet and started Study. I started Study at a time in my career when I was very frustrated with fast fashion and mass production. With Study, we wanted to not just source sustainable materials but also produce them locally. There is a bit of a disconnect between sourcing sustainable materials and then producing garments in a large factory in China. I had a lot of experience sourcing sustainable materials through previous roles, however, producing the clothing locally was something completely new for me, very different, but a really enjoyable experience. I love being so hands on. We have also looked at our business model and want to provide an alternative to fast fashion and the traditional fashion calendar. We have moved away from seasonal collections, which never made sense to me. We now provide monthly editions and develop a few new pieces for the months ahead. This has been a great change for me and the stores love it as they are getting new stock in that is relevant to the time of year and can really build a collection.

Do you have an ideal customer or muse? Who is she or he?

I don’t really. I like putting my work out into the world and seeing who is drawn to it and why as I find those people very varied and that’s fascinating to me.

Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you come up with a new design or collection?

I always start by choosing my fabrics and then I let the fabrics dictate what they want to become. Of course I often have silhouettes in mind, for example I know if I want to make a jumpsuit or a coat, but usually the silhouette is in the back of my mind and the fabric comes first. That’s one of the reasons I really like knitwear, because it allows me to create my own fabrics.

What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

This is the definition I find to be the most accurate: “Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won’t deplete resources or harm natural cycles” (Rosenbaum, 1993)

I have a checklist of sustainability tenets, and on my blog. If I can check off at least 3 items from the list with each garment, then I will consider it sustainable and therefore eligible to be branded Study. But checklist aside, I don’t believe another human, animal or the environment should have to suffer for fashion. It’s as simple as that. A majority of my production is done in New York City’s garment center. I use only organic or sustainable textiles (organic cotton, hemp, recycled poly, linen and peace silk). I also work with fair trade and co-op based factories in Peru and India who pay fair wages and work to sustain traditional weaving and knitting techniques while providing income for indigenous populations. Fashion is art in my opinion. But to some cultures clothing is just a means of protection from the elements. There is such a huge gap between how first and third world nations view clothing and design. Ethical fashion has the ability to bridge that gap by providing developing nations with a market for their traditional craft techniques and a sustainable business opportunity.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This jumpsuit.

Complete this sentence. Simplicity is:

Not having to choose one value over another. Also, unfortunately, not my reality.

PARSONS

Parsons has a mystical aura surrounding it that instantly lends you coolness in conversation. But what’s it’s really like is a little different. It’s really hard. It’s very inspiring. There’s so much work. There’s no sleeping. Really, I stayed awake for 51 hours one time. You will leave a different person than when you started. Here are a few things that I learned along the way.

Designing a garment takes a lot of time.

From the initial drape, through the patternmaking process, making and fitting a muslin sample, pattern corrections and then to sewing the final garment— the whole process took roughly 100 hours per garment. Most clothes aren’t made this way anymore. Many are directly copied from already existing garments out there on the market.

Patternmaking is a complicated science.

Patternmaking truly is an art and a science. A master patternmaker can create a flat pattern that when cut and sewn molds perfectly around the human form; similar to an architect creating a blueprint for a building. Most patternmaking these days is out-sourced to other countries and is rushed by people with little training. For that reason, most garments out there (particularly from large retailers) don’t actually fit us all that well. My patternmaking professor at Parsons was a diamond in the rough and we’re lucky to have access to many others here in New York.

Designing is wasteful. 

Walk into the work rooms at Parsons and the floor is a multi-level patchwork of muslin, fabric, pattern paper and thread. Think many a slips on your butt. Having the janitor mistake your garment for one of the hundreds of scraps surrounding you (during finals. Gah!). Leather was having a moment in 2012 and the amount of discarded leather laying around on the floors always shocked me. Fortunately, there are methods to consciously design patterns that significantly minimize (or even eliminate) wasted fabric.

Wearing the same thing everyday makes you more creative.

So many of the students at Parsons were decked out in the current trends everyday; each trying to out-cool the other. But the students who really got down to business and created amazing work were typically wearing the same thing everyday. Yara Flinn of Nomia said it perfectly in this recent NY Mag article: “I just wear a uniform myself every day, because I don’t like thinking about what I’m going to wear, which is kind of ironic. If I don’t think about what I’m wearing, it’s easier for me to design”. Wearing the same thing everyday — that you feel good and like yourself in — frees up your energy for creativity.

Protect The Magic.

A majority of the people that I’ve come across in the fashion industry are stressed out. This industry, like Parsons, moves fast and to keep ahead in the game you have to constantly keep producing. But somewhere in that process, the pleasure is lost. What if we didn’t have to design so quickly; design so many pieces; design so many seasons? What if instead we slowed down and focused on creating well-made, wearable garments — garments that become parts of uniforms— and let the ourselves love the process?

“The keyword is simplicity, which is a means serving a greater purpose; clarity. Reference lines, simple shapes, simple marker strokes; all of these are supposed to help achieve clear structures, as long as we are aware of using them. You can take any licences, except the lack of awareness regarding your intentions.”

-Dan Nistor, a beloved professor

SIMPLICITY

Simplicity means something different to everyone. Some people shun the concept. Others cultivate it into a lifestyle. For us, simplicity is a way of living — a choice in everything you do driven by slowing down and being present. Simplicity breeds a sense of ease and joy in the small moments and the little things. There are many ways of living simply, but for us, it looks something like this — the life of our muse:

She lives in Brooklyn, but spends a lot of her time outside of the city in nature. She’s confident in herself and comfortable in her own skin. She honors herself by eating healthy, enjoying every moment of life and staying active. She’s creative, in her job and outside of it. She’s the creative director of her own design company. She’s not married, but she’s in a serious relationship. She’s learned that simplicity and balance are the keys to happiness and her life reflects this in all facets, from the amount of things that she owns, the way that she structures her day and her few very close friends. Any excess is just noise that gets cut away. She believes that the little things in life are what really matter in the end. She’s frugal, but invests in well-made things that will stay with her for a long time. She will splurge on an adventure to a far away land. That adventure won’t involve a beach resort. She can be introverted, but has a few very close friends that she can rely on even if they go several weeks without speaking. She likes to photograph, cook simple, healthy and delicious meals, take hour long lunch breaks with a book, catch the sunset as often as possible. She feels at home on the ocean and gets to it as much as possible. She’s close with her family. She’s in love with life despite the hardships that she’s made it through. She is self-actualized and expanding every day. One day she will become an old woman with a gleam in her eye that makes you wonder what she did with her life.

As we move into the holidays and then onwards into 2015, remember — it’s the simple things in life that really matter in the end.