OOTD: Fall is for cape dresses

Last week I was getting ready for a last-minute event after work. This happens sometimes, which is why I keep backup makeup and hair stuff in my office, and it's also maybe one of my favorite things about owning a clothing store--plenty of things to throw on and run out the door in when I'm in a pinch. Our Foret Cape Dress was my pick. I'd had my eye on it for a while, I loved the pattern, but I hadn't tried it on yet. But now that I have, I don't think I'm taking it off.  

Dress: Foret Cape Dress, Hello Holiday; Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens; Sunglasses: Prada

Seven Pieces of Advice for Beginning Fashion Designers

I was recently talking to Buf Reynolds, an Omaha-based designer who is the Designer Coordinator for Omaha Fashion Week and currently featured on the cover of Encounter Magazine. I've always admired Buf's willingness to seek and receive feedback, which is something that influenced me when I was a fashion week designer for several seasons. As she works with the OFW team to judge applications for the next season's show, she reached out to me (and many other past designers and industry people). We spoke about how designers can better position themselves for success with retailers, and I'm eager to share a few points from that discussion with you, for anyone who wants it. 

1. As a designer who wants to be carried commercially, you have to know something about the retail world. Spend some time thinking about what kind of retailer you want to work with. Is it Macy's? Is it ModCloth? Is it an indie boutique? Take a night and actually learn about your target market--not just the consumer who is the end buyer, but the businesses that you hope will carry your line. If a judge on a fashion week panel, someone in the press, or a potential buyer asks "Who buys your clothes," you should have an answer and a plan.

2. Think realistically about your price point in terms of what retailers will be able to sell. You can learn more about this by going into shops you like or looking at comparable stores online and observing what else they sell. What price points do they typically carry? That's the range you need to stay within. If you're far above their price point, you might not be a good fit and an ask may be a waste of time. 

3. And when I talk about retail pricing, keep in mind that's with a wholesale markup. For example, if you're planning to have a dress retail at $100, you need to be able to sell it to a boutique at $50. To make a profit from that sale, you should be able to design and produce that dress for around $25. That's just an example, markups vary, but this is about what your retail partners will expect at the low end. Many retailers will look for a 2.5 or 3x markup, in which case you'd have to manufacture each piece for $15-20. (No wonder it's hard to compete as an independent designer!) 

4. This markup is a good reason that many indie designers (like the ones in independent fashion weeks) want to venture out on their own, market their own private label, and not work with retailers. This can work, but then you have to run your own business which takes a lot of time away from design. Learn about designers who have done it this way, too--Clare Vivier, Rachel Antonoff, Dusen Dusen, Heinui, Family Affairs, Corey Lynn Calter, Samantha Pleet, there are so many. Whichever route you choose, there are many pros and cons.

5. Any retailer you approach will expect to see a "linesheet" and a "lookbook." A lookbook can be a .pdf file that shows professional photographs of all the pieces in  your line. It helps when there are photos taken straight-on that show how the clothes look, and then more styled editorial photographs that show how the clothes move and help the buyer make an emotional connection to your line. A linesheet can be an excel file or another .pdf that simply shows the prices of each piece, the sizes you can produce, your payment and delivery terms, and your order minimums. A typical linesheet would show the name of each piece, the sizes, and the wholesale and retail prices. It would also give an order minimum--sometimes it'll say the buyer must carry a minimum of five styles, and sometimes it's a value minimum like $500 or $1000. Sometimes pieces come in "pre-packs," meaning a set number of each size, and sometimes collections are "open sizing" meaning the buyer can get as many of whatever size they want, which is typical when pieces are made to order. Hello Holiday won't typically work with designers who can't give us a linesheet and lookbook, and that's not unusual. 

6. Keep your branding and packaging consistent and expensive-looking. Vistaprint.com and Moo.com are great resources to get hang tags, postcards, etc. on nice thick paper, PaperMart.com, Uline.com are good places to get plastic bags and hangers, and all of them often have sales and coupon codes. The branding and packaging can add value or remove value from your collection, and sometimes that's the deciding factor for a retailer who is considering your line. We just can't carry something with an ugly tag. I dunno. 

7. Designing one or two low-priced, well-designed, interesting accessories is a great way to get your foot in the door with retailers. Sometimes retailers want to try out a more inexpensive piece before committing to a big order of clothing from your line.

At Hello Holiday and throughout my brief experience in the fashion design and blogging world, I've been asked a few times about advice for beginning designers who aspire for more exposure, whether through traditional retail or through their own channels. There are many ways to reach your goals, but nothing beats hitting the pavement and building your own support and PR network because the truth is that no matter what anyone else has done, there is no formula you can copy for success.

The Politics of Being ~.*.~Invited~.*.~

Twice this week, I have heard women thank white male politicians for “recruiting” them to run for public office. I myself have been approached recently by men who suggested I run for local offices that I wasn’t interested in. I declined, but that experience, and the memory of hearing gratitude from other women toward men who encouraged them to lead, has stuck with me for the past few days. Women in leadership are great. I am not here to put that down or call anyone out. But I am here to tell you that we are not witnessing anything—locally, anyway—that represents a meaningful shift in the status quo.

I’m here to tell you all that you don’t need permission to be ambitious. You don’t need an invitation to take the seat at the head of the table. You don’t need authoritative validation to ask for something that much less qualified people have received. People at the top of the power hierarchy who recruit women—typically white women—in an effort to diversify our leadership structures oversimplify the problem to a gender equality issue of women vs. men. But the more I look for them, the more I find people communicating and collaborating across lines of perceived difference, finding alternatives to a system that has historically rewarded homogeny while congratulating itself for making room for a few token outsiders. 

Lack of perseverance, ambition, or drive isn’t to blame for the deficit of diversity in our community leadership across lines of gender, class, and race. It’s the systemic inequality, something white women honestly cannot experience to the same degree as those with other aspects of difference and identity. To see progress, forward-thinking change, and compassion across the fabric of our community, we have to acknowledge that looking to our left and right—at our own peers—isn’t the way to build the relationships that will lead to our collective or individual growth, in politics or otherwise. To serve people, leaders must consciously unlearn their beliefs and thought patterns that reinforce sexism, heteronormativity, classism, and whiteness.

One thing that excites me about the future, about entrepreneurship and access to technology, is how easily different perspectives from different cultural groups can intersect. Ten years ago as a young adult coming out of a small liberal arts college in a small town into the (relatively small) city of Omaha, I was opened up to dozens of organizations, collectives, and businesses led by people who did not receive higher education, did not have wealth, who did not have racial privilege that I had come to subconsciously associate with success. I began to unravel a tangled web of connections that has brought me to events, to opportunities to volunteer, to performances and fundraisers for individuals whose paths I may never have crossed otherwise. Whose work and ambitions and pain points and struggles I never would have heard. The call for equality and diversity in corporate and political American systems remains undermined by exclusivity, yet there are people creating their own platforms everywhere. Where race, sexuality, and class are taboo subjects in corporate and political leadership, they are simply part of the community fabric in other places. And that’s always been the case. The world is getting smaller, technology is amplifying the voices of anyone who wants to make space for themselves, and our leaders have no more excuses to ignore this vast resource of human intellect, talent, and experience.

I suppose I just want to be wary of too much self-congratulation. We should all examine who we have solidarity with. The insecurity of the marginalized is not the platform on which to build security for the powerful.

New arrivals at Hello Holiday: I'll spare the Autumn puns

After a few weeks of sitting on some new inventory we finally got in the studio with Hooton Images, an amazing new photography team for us. Our in-house photographer Amy Lynn made the big move to Chicago last month to pursue new opportunities for more editorial photoshoots, but we'll still be working with her from time to time on special projects. 

Below are some of my favorite picks from our fall collection at Hello Holiday. We sourced a lot of this in London last August from U.K.-based designers like Lavish Alice, Louche, and Emily & Fin, who has long been a customer favorite. Loved finally meeting Emily Rose Froud, the designer behind Emily & Fin, which we've been carrying since our start nearly three years ago! 

Lavish Alice is a brand for our more witchy, sophisticated, dark customers. The pieces from our Lavish Alice collection feature menswear details, capes, and luxurious fabrics at a very affordable price point. Finally, Louche is a London-based brand that we've been eyeing for a while and were excited to finally see in person. The fabrics are soft and wearable, they have stretch, they're comfortable. From this designer we've found several perfect day-to-night options for our swinging '60's queens. 

Overall, we've got a really strong Fall collection and I'm excited to debut the pieces from this most recent delivery. Later this Winter there are more fuzzy, warm, gorgeous pieces coming to transition with anything four our Fall collection, and back at the office we're already starting to buy for Summer. The fashion industry cycles are crazy, but there's nothing I'd rather do. As always, if you know any small designers or if there are any brands you'd love to buy from Hello Holiday, please let us know! We're always looking. 

Shop these styles and WAY more from our latest Fall drop at HelloHoliday.com.

Welcoming Our Newest Neighbors: Three New Murals at Indian Hill Elementary

Brendan Sullivan, Omaha World-Herald

Brendan Sullivan, Omaha World-Herald

Omaha artist Watie White's latest public project involves creating a series of murals in partnership with Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska. With support of other organizations including the Intercultural Senior Center, Omaha Public Schools, the South Sudan Community Association, and the Anti-Defamation League, he first creates a small-scale carved portrait and then renders those small linocuts into a giant mural installed on a public wall where it will remain for generations. The fourth, fifth, and sixth portraits in this series got installed this week at Indian Hill Elementary in Omaha. Watie enlisted help painting the portraits from people at a nearby senior center, children and teachers from the school, and other community members who were willing to pick up a paintbrush and fill in the outlines transferred onto the outside of the building by Watie. Sort of a huge collaborative paint-by-number project. This week, Watie is putting the finishing touches on the murals himself. 

Each huge portrait is based on Watie's original small-scale carved linocut, which is overlayed with text from an interview with each subject. The themes in the text are inspiring: A child's dreams for her future, a boy's laughter with his brothers, a woman's memories of picking flowers with her sisters. Each immigrant depicted shares a desire to give back to the communities that have welcomed them, and reminds the viewer that we are all active participants in a very diverse culture. By welcoming our newest neighbors, we become greater as a whole, more capable of tackling humanity's challenges, and more compassionate toward all the varied experiences across our fabric. 

Alice and I drove over to the elementary school yesterday where she got the chance to help Watie paint on this mural of Sandra Bleoussi, an 11-year-old from Togo. Alice doesn't just want to be an artist when she grows up--she would correct me that she is an artist already. When I was little, my mom often hooked me up with working artists and art educators in our area, and it did so much to encourage my creativity. I'm so happy that Alice has the same opportunity to engage in person with public art on this scale. Her brushstrokes will be on this mural forever, along with all of the other children from the elementary school who got to take a turn filling it in.

I really admire what Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska is doing as a nonprofit to engage the public in this conversation about immigration using a partnership with a local artist. Instead of just mailing lists or fundraisers, they're really investing in a physical reminder of the immigrant population, providing a platform for their own faces and own words to have a presence in the city for generations to come. 

Comprehensive Sex Education Means Medically-Accurate Information Our Kids Deserve

I received a forwarded email ("do not share, do not post to social media, do not let this get into the wrong hands") last night full of talking points, misinformation, and lies that opponents of comprehensive sex education are using to ignite their base and mobilize protests against sex ed reform in Nebraska, an issue coming up for soon in our state unicameral. One quote reads:

"The proposed comprehensive sex education (CSE) curriculum is NOT pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-virtue or pro-child. On the contrary, CSE is pro-promiscuity, pro-condom, pro-abortion, pro-pornography and pro-LGBT lifestyle. CSE promotes all the negative consequences those attitudes cause.”

When opponents talk about sex education being “pro-pornography,” I think they’re really misplacing the blame for the thriving porn industry. Parents and educational institutions have historically been so afraid of discussing the experience of sex and facts about healthy relationships, and the result, throughout GENERATIONS, is that young people turn to porn (whether it’s your grandpa's Playboy or your son watching Brazzers on his iPod) and think that is the way to have sex. As technology has improved and access has increased, hardcore pornography has become the de facto sex education for an entire generation, distorting the way kids think about sex, consent, and healthy relationships. Opponents of sex education say that it should be up to the parents to teach their children about healthy sexual relationships, but even though parents have always been empowered with the control to lead those conversations, the facts shown through research say that parents just don’t, or they delay the conversation too long, and kids are left to their own devices to learn what they can, most of which is inaccurate. 

This email from opponents of comprehensive sex education say they want “children and youth to be loved and educated as whole persons in body, mind, and spirit, esteemed toward self-control with natural values instruction.” How can we expect people to take responsibility or have self-control if they’re too ashamed to admit that they need help or are struggling with questions about sexuality, puberty, or relationships? What if they can't pray it away? Where do they turn? That's where our public education is failing them because of these broken polices. 

We are human. We are imperfect, and we always have been—this isn’t a generational challenge. It is wrong to hold our children to higher standards than we ourselves can meet. A world where we expect abstinence until marriage, expect marriage until death, expect marital sex without contraception, and expect every pregnancy to be welcomed and wanted is a world that no person can succeed in. We just would not be able to manufacture Prozac fast enough.

We’ve already tried doing it the religious right’s way. Opponents of comprehensive sex education have already seen the consequences and ramifications of a world where kids are raised with abstinence education, with prejudice and bigotry against LGBT individuals, without access to contraceptives, and with expectations of body shame bordering on absurdity. This is the world we live in now, this is the world our parents and grandparents grew up in, and we can do better for our kids.

Comprehensive sex education is not about pornography, it’s not about replacing candy with condoms on the homecoming parade floats, it’s not about promiscuity. Passing this bill for comprehensive sex education will revise standards for sex education to include age-appropriate, medically-accurate education about biology, which is shockingly NOT currently mandated in 31 out of 50 state sex ed curricula. It will train educators to be able to speak about gender identity, consent, and human trafficking. The opposition wants schools to teach values, but only if they’re their values. However, that is not the role of a public school, and we have 50,000 children to keep safe, alive, and thriving. Research shows that medically and scientifically accurate sex education decreases the number of teen pregnancies, decreases the incidence of abortion, reduces incidence of STDs, and delays the average age when students begin engaging in sexual activity. So that’s where I feel like we can drop the mic. 

I’m sitting here in the coffee shop this morning asking myself why I’m even writing this address to opponents of comprehensive sex education. I want to tell myself that comprehensive sex education will pass, of course it will, so why am I wasting my time on these discussions and arguments? Can’t I just stand before the room, point to the arguments made by the opposition, and go “no”? What else is there to say? 

When reasonable people stay silent, when we don’t show up at town hall forums or city council meetings or write letters to the editor or call our representatives or vote or take the initiative and TALK to our kids about these things and BE their primary educators, kids are the ones who lose. I’m confident about sexuality as a parent, I’m comfortable talking to my kid about her body and my body and biology and relationships, I’m not afraid of those conversations. I can only imagine the motivation a parent must feel who is truly AFRAID of these things. And because of that, if you’re like me, you have an obligation and responsibility to match their motivation and join the conversation about how we can educate the next generation, to empower them with knowledge, so our kids won't be left behind making decisions that could impact their entire lives, based on inaccurate information. 

I’m writing this to to call upon the majority of people who are reasonable, who support research- and science-based policies in education, but who lay low while scores of well-funded extremists show up to town halls and forums and roundtables and drown out the logic. 

For those of you in my area locally, PLEASE plan to attend the Comprehensive Sexual Education Community Roundtable discussion on Tuesday October 20th at the TAC building on 32nd and Cuming in Omaha. The meeting starts at 6:30, but I would love to see supporters arrive before 6pm to be included in the discussion. Opponents of comprehensive sex education will be there in droves. They have done a lot of work to organize and ignite their community to come out and tell everyone how dangerous contraceptives are (pro-family), how we need to keep our hands off our no-no parts (pro-virtue), and how a wife’s duty is to provide sex to her husband (pro-marriage). What’s really pro-child is educating them, not scaring them. Come show up on the 20th and stand up for Nebraska’s kids.

Hello Holiday is Three Years Old!

Three years ago today, our baby Hello Holiday was born, and Sarah and I cried all night in our basement office as we popped champagne and packed boxes as a constant stream of orders rolled in on our first day. I want to thank Sarah and our entire team of people who helped get this off the ground three years ago, and those who helped grow it in the years to come.  I thought Sarah said it best: 

We love independent retail. We love that our generation is actively embracing brands that adhere to a strong ethical core, brands they can feel an emotional connection to. There’s an undercurrent of DIY culture in our customers. We grew up idolizing the punk-influenced riot grrls of the 90s, but embraced the symbolic pop-culture message of “girl power” of the 2000s. We are millennials who are serious about our work, who have big aspirations, but who are as passionate about our hobbies, relationships, and intellectual pursuits as our careers. We don’t compartmentalize our lives; We’re always “on.” Most importantly, we see more and more of our friends, online crushes, and customers inspired to create an independent life around their love of design, sharing, selling, and spreading the word. Sometimes to find what you're searching for, you have to build it yourself, and I feel like that’s exactly what we did with our community of designers, makers, customers, staff, and supporters who surround us. I’m so honored by the time and effort spent by everyone on our team to create this dream. I’m floored by the enthusiasm and love of our customers who understand and support what we are doing. 

On Starting, Creativity, and Sustainability

from pioneer nation 2014, which is coming back to portland this week! 

from pioneer nation 2014, which is coming back to portland this week! 

When you are an artist, it is tempting and easy to forget about being a businessperson. Inspiration is easy to come by, I think, if you follow your intuition as an artist and don’t give in to pressure to do work you don’t believe in. But to be successful as an artist or designer you must be a businessperson first, because if you can't sustain your work and support yourself, you just won't be able to keep doing it. Believe you are good enough. Get out and show the world why you matter. Be very, very brave.

Don’t wait for a job or an opportunity, assuming that will be the way you become known or successful or begin to make money. As an artist or creator you just need to start where you are with what you have. It’s easy to make excuses about why we can’t start something now, but you don’t have to have everything perfect to just begin. All you have to do is identify what steps need to be taken to see progress, and dedicate a small amount of time to one of the steps. See the freedom from judgment and failure in the act of just BEGINNING. You can begin over and over again, but if you never do it the first time, your project will never happen. 

No one can take responsibility for your ideas and dreams but you. So just start. 

Comprehensive Sex Education: What's this really about?

When I write letters and pieces about accessible healthcare, comprehensive sex education, and reproductive rights, I find myself making arguments like "It doesn't matter whether one believes abortion should be legal or not. That medically accurate sex education and accessible, affordable reproductive healthcare is a valuable asset in this community is inarguable. Reasonable people can't afford to stay silent when there are so many activists and extremists trying take lifesaving preventative care away from people who rely on it.” And then sometimes I catch myself and want to delete that all. 

Abortion IS legal. It has been legal for 42 years. If you don’t support abortion, there is no need to get one. And yet. 

Let’s talk about Planned Parenthood, which our Republican-led congress voted last week to defund. So many people are poorly educated about the work Planned Parenthood does, which is unfortunate because one reason we need Planned Parenthood is because people are so poorly educated about sex. I advocate nonprofits and healthcare organizations that cooperate with schools, administrators, and other community organizations to combat myths and stigma about sex, health, and pregnancy. These organizations promote healthy lifestyles and personal wellness for both men and women, spreading information and education which has been proven to reduce the rate of abortions. Abortion services are needed, important, and LEGAL. Ironically, for Planned Parenthood opponents, one of the most consistently proven ways to reduce the number of abortions is to support and fund comprehensive sex education, which is largely supported by the advocacy and outreach work of Planned Parenthood.

Yes. It’s annoying that most writing I do in support of accessible reproductive healthcare and education must acknowledge that there is any convincing to be done. The supreme court completed this argument over two years from December 1971-January 1973. Legal abortions are the law of the land, but the reality is that safe abortions are not accessible in most places in the U.S. Women with unintended or severely complicated pregnancies face trips of hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic, sometimes round trips of over a thousand miles. Many of these women must be absent from school or work to attend appointments, cannot find transportation, and make these journeys without the support of a parent, friend, or partner. These roadblocks are sometimes insurmountable, which results in a decision between carrying an unintended pregnancy to term or seeking dangerous options outside the law. All this in a country where abortion is legal. This is the lived reality of too many women. In fact, you probably know one of them or know someone who does. We cannot afford to settle for this low standard of healthcare and civic responsibility when the benefits of sex education have been proven, and the legality of safe abortion is firm. 

Anyway, what I’m really working on is comprehensive sex education in schools. But the focus on Planned Parenthood, and thus abortion services, seems inextricable from the argument about the importance of medically accurate sex education. 

Here are some facts: 

  1. A clear majority of Nebraska voters (66%) support comprehensive sex education. That's to say nothing of greater support in other states and communities.
  2. Comprehensive sex education reduces the incidence of STDs and unintended pregnancies by empowering students with the medically accurate information they need to make healthy decisions.
  3. In many parts of our state, access to reproductive healthcare is limited or nonexistent. Evidence shows the best way to help American teens avoid unplanned pregnancy and STDs is to help them make responsible decisions and stay healthy by giving them comprehensive sex education. 
  4. Many young people who receive comprehensive sex education choose to delay sexual activity or increase their use of contraceptives.
  5. A teen that receives comprehensive sex education is 50% less likely to experience a pregnancy. In contrast, abstinence-only education is not only ineffective, but harmful. 
  6. Abstinence-only programs are ineffective, often inaccurate, and may even cause harm. 80% of federally funded abstinence-only curricula distort information, blur religion and science, treat stereotypes as scientific fact, and contain basic scientific errors.

Most Americans, and most Nebraskans, support comprehensive sex education and realize the importance of accessible reproductive healthcare. But the loudest voices in the national dialogue are well-funded extremists who are attempting to intimidate and terrify American voters with their misleading anti-woman messaging. These baseless attacks are intended to distract from the lifesaving and important work that organizations like Planned Parenthood are doing to decrease STDs, decrease unwanted pregnancies, and reduce myths and misinformation about the biological facts of our own bodies. Don’t our children deserve accurate education and information about their bodies and relationships? I can think of no better gift to give them for their futures.