Filling The Gaps: Maria Vonn

The most recent addition to my somewhat fall-themed right arm, these oak leaves and acorns were tattooed last weekend by Maria Vonn at Guts N’ Glory Ink in Rosendale, New York, just a short drive from my college town.

I’d stalked Guts N’ Glory for almost a year before ever setting foot in the studio. Airy and colorful, the studio is an awesome hodgepodge of personality, filled with antique mirrors, tattoo flash, and prints. I was instantly comfortable and welcomed…by the lovely ladies and gentlemen who work there, yes, but also by the shop pupper, Sagan. I’m a sucker for a tattoo shop with a doggo.

Right off the bat, I let Maria know when I scheduled the appointment that we’d be filling a gap on my arm. However, the gap was a difficult spot to photograph by myself. I gave Maria a rough idea of what it looked like/how big it was, but when it came time to put the stencil on day-of, Maria decided to go for a different approach.

She traced the gap and drew up a slightly different sketch, which was custom-fit the parameters of my lil’ ol gap. Amazing, right?

In no time, I was sporting new ink. I gave her very limited guidelines (I basically said, “Some acorns would be cool!”), and I’m super happy with where she went with the design. Maria is an apprentice, and I can tell she’s got a fabulous future ahead of her in tattooing. I love how she incorporated stippling into the design to coordinate with some of my other pieces.

To Maria: thank you so much! I’m so excited about my new piece, and I can’t wait to come back.

dfrntpiegon: Streetwear with Heart

The compassionate folks at dfrntpiegon, a new streetwear brand out of Portland, OR, recently reached out to me for a feature on the blog. I fell in love with the brand’s cool-kid aesthetic and wonderful mission, and I couldn’t wait to write up a piece about what the folks behind dfrntpiegon are doing for low-income, at-risk youth in their community.

I received the CRISIS shirt pictured below for review.

“The strange, crazy, ugly ones. The freedom-fighters. Those who know what it means to eat, sleep and breathe survival. Who aren’t defined by the hand they’ve been dealt. We are here to show that struggle made us better, not broken. We are here to prove that true beauty is imperfect. And when it comes to adversity? We don’t just rise above it, we take flight.” – manifesto, dfrntpiegon

Debuting their inaugural collection this past April 2017, dfrntpiegon is one of many trendy online streetwear retailers. What sets them apart is their mission for youth empowerment. Officially founded in 2016, the dfrntpiegon studio and streetwear label is a spinoff of a project launched by the Portland-based nonprofit New Avenues for Youth called INKubator. INKubator paired up local at-risk youth, many of whom were homeless, with designers and creatives in the area.

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“Throughout the workshops, it became clear the youth had unbridled creative talent, and so dfrntpigeon streetwear line and creative studio was launched,” says Angela, a spokesperson for dfrntpiegon. “The name [for the project] comes from the negative perception people in urban areas commonly have of the pigeon as a street pest. Alternatively, the youth recognize the bird as a symbol of beauty and hidden potential buried under negative perceptions.”

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dfrntpiegon’s first collection, called the identity collection, was conceptualized, designed, and launched by homeless and at-risk youth. As such, it’s a beautiful and raw reflection of identities: think bold graphics and striking colors abound. Each shirt sold directly benefits the kids and teenagers involved in the design process, helping them take steps toward economic independence.

dfrntpiegon’s label is a reminder of the creativity and passion inherent in our world’s youth—and the responsibility we have to foster that creativity and help it blossom into fruitful lives and careers. In a world where homeless and/or low-income youth, particularly people of color and LGBTQIA+ youth, are constantly marginalized and devalued, talking to organization that actually works to empower these children and teenagers was a breath of fresh air.

To find out more about dfrntpiegon, visit their website, dfrntpigeon.com.

virtue + vice: Q&A with Shop Owner Melanie DiSalvo

When Melanie DiSalvo, founder of the sustainably and ethically-made clothing line virtue + vice, reached out to me in hopes of collaborating, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Melanie has an incredibly unique perspective: after years spent working in Asia sourcing and developing clothing for well-known, big-brand retailers, she chose to start her own clothing line (namely, virtue + vice) as an alternative to the morally unjust and environmentally hazardous practices she witnessed firsthand.

Pictured above: the WINNE caftan and LANEY modal wrap skirt, both available at shopvirtueandvice.com.

“I want to provide eco-conscious women with style that promises to produce the smallest possible carbon footprint, while providing a safe work environment and living wage to artisans in India,” Melanie says.

Melanie and I got #real and talked all things life, ethics, and business in our Q&A. Wondering about what it takes to start your own ethical clothing line from the ground up? Click below the jump to find out.

Continue reading “virtue + vice: Q&A with Shop Owner Melanie DiSalvo”

Plus-Size Ethical Fashion: A Chat with Sara of Sara Laughed

Why can’t I find ethically-made, plus-size clothing?

I’ve asked myself this question over and over again in my quest to support ethical, environmentally-friendly clothing and accessory brands. Let me tell you: it’s hard. With a a handful of exceptions, there is little to no plus-size clothing that fits my personal criteria for an ethically-made or sourced garment. In a country where the average woman wears a size 16 (and is constantly facing discrimination in the realm of the fashion industry), why haven’t ethical and sustainable retailers caught on to this gap in the market?

Sara of Sara Laughed, a fabulous blogger and fellow curvy girl trying to live more ethically, offered some insight on the issue. Sara thinks that the choice of whether to offer plus-size garments is complicated for ethical and sustainable clothing brands. Many of these clothing and accessory brands are starting from the ground up, and since their market is relatively niche, designers often economize by limiting their size range, at least from the get-go.

“[For ethical clothing brands,] catering to plus-sized bodies means creating new patterns and making their already limited items available in a broader range of sizes, which can be a risk if a company is struggling to get off the ground or stay afloat,” she says.

While this might explain the hole in the market, though, it doesn’t justify it. “The fact is that while making clothes for plus-sized people may seem like a financial risk for a small ethical company, it actually expands their market,” Sara explains. “The desire to live ethically and sustainably isn’t exclusive to straight-sized people, and I think as the market grows, ethical companies are catching on to that.”

Sara’s advice for plus-size babes on a budget looking to shop more ethically? Thrift stores are a great option, she says. After all, textile waste is a huge issue for the environment, and there’s nothing more sustainable than recycling gently-used clothing.

“If it’s important to you to support ethical companies, start small: email the company with your support, tell your friends, and share about them online, or buy smaller items like accessories until you have the budget to really invest,” Sara says.

Recently, Sara compiled an awesome (and extensive!) list of ethical and/or sustainable clothing lines or fashion retailers that cater to the plus-size community. With just over 20 options, a significant increase from Sara’s first iteration of this lineup, it might seem like a victory. But Sara believes there’s still plenty of work to do on this front.

“A lot of the more popular ethical brands aren’t carrying plus sizes yet, so I think there’s absolutely room for growth,” she says.


Further reading on this topic: