Behind the scenes: the making of the LOVE bracelet

It’s just before 7pm as the three of us watch the larger-than-life burnt orange African sun set on the edge of the Ngong Hills. Each of us covered head to toe in the deep red dirt of the Great Rift Valley, smiling from ear to ear and drinking down an ice cold Tusker beer. It’s been one of those days when you’ve worked so hard that your brain hurts and your body aches yet your face is shining because of the deep satisfaction from the day.

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Just over a decade ago I purchased a one-way ticket to Kenya. I had no idea when I got on that plane just how much the people of Kenya would change my life and what that change would create for many others. I knew very little about Africa then and about the world of international development. I was just a kid from Texas recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a heart on fire wanting to know more about my purpose in life, who I was, and where I fit in the world.

I am so grateful that I did jump on that plane, despite the well intentioned wisdom of so many who kept telling me to go to medical school first and then go help the people in Africa. I am thankful that I was too ignorant or stubborn or whatever it was to get on that plane. As a result I quickly realized it wasn’t about my helping the people of Africa, or about the people of Africa helping me, but about us learning how to love and appreciate one another. During that year of living in Kenya my understanding of the world broke wide open and for the first time I realized how intertwined our lives are to one another, even those we may never meet. My heart was shattered in such a beautiful way that I expanded and began to see how much I had to learn from my new friends and family in Kenya. For the first time I began to know the abundance of LOVE.

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And that brings us to the present moment, drinking a few Tusker beers, watching the sun set after a long day in the Kenyan wilderness overseeing the creation of our new product, the LOVE bracelet. Jeremiah, Jim and I had just spent the day visiting the 10 Maasai community groups totaling more than 400 women who had recently been employed as artisans through our collaboration with American Eagle Outfitters (AEO). It was one of those work days that you couldn’t possibly dream up even if you tried. Three friends meeting with more than 400 Maasai artisans, talking with them about life, about what it means to them to hand-stitch LOVE each day with their friends as they sit under acacia trees near their homes.

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The LOVE bracelet was designed by my friend, Chrissie Lam, during a collaborative trip to Kenya with our fashion brand, LIFE Line. We had been in partnership for a few years and wanted to partner on a product that would continue to empower the people of Kenya through job creation. One of the key elements I have learned over the past decade is that much harm has been done in Africa under the intentions of doing good. The reason for this is that much of the Western worlds efforts to “help” Africa actually perpetuates a culture of dependency where African communities literally wait on Western aid to “help” them rather than give them opportunities to live empowered lives. I have found that the best way to do this is by creating jobs where people are able to take control of their own lives by becoming business men and women providing for their families just like any of us here in the West want for our own families.

I couldn’t be more excited about our latest partnership with American Eagle Outfitters and the launch of the LOVE bracelet. Over the last 3 months during the production of the LOVE bracelet AEO has empowered LIFE Line to create more than 400 jobs for Maasai women in the Great Rift Valley. Not only have we created jobs, but the Maasai women have made these beautiful bracelets through their ancient tradition of beading under acacia trees near their homes. These products were not made in a factory. They were literally hand-stitched under acacia trees by women community groups gathered in love to stitch LOVE for you!

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Together, we have empowered these women to earn a living, care for their children, and provide for their households. It puts a smile on their faces as they wake up, walk with their community of women to live into purpose-filled work of a quality product. Their efforts also connect us here in America to a powerful story of LOVE that we then get to share via the hashtag, #loveisproject.

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As the three of us sat there watching the sun go down we all smiled knowing that such a product handcrafted in the African wilderness would soon be front in center in the 1,000 American Eagle Outfitters stores across America. What an incredible feeling and what an amazing collaboration between The Supply ChangeLIFE Line and American Eagle Outfitters to believe in something greater than ourselves and to live that belief out loud across the world through LOVE. I hope you enjoy the LOVE bracelet and ask that you please share the love via the hashtag #loveisproject. Thanks to everyone for doing your part to open this door, including our personal TRIBE and the original #loveisproject backers, for believing in us and for seeing the opportunities created when we leverage the influence of fashion to empower lives though job creation.

Big LOVE,

Zane

More about LIFE Line: lifelinefashion.org and @lifelinefashion on Instagram

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LIVE YOUR LOVE. Be a part of the Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

I worked in Concept Design for American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) just shy of a decade. It was an incredible job, allowing me to travel the world, searching for the coolest trends. In 2008, AEO supported my efforts during a 3 month sabbatical volunteering in Rwanda. That trip inspired me to follow my passion to merge design and international development. In June of 2012, I left AEO to start The Supply Change, an initiative that connects artisan groups with brands and creates products for collaborations. Everything has come full circle with AEO’s partnership of the Love bracelet I designed for Lifeline Fashion in Kenya. I couldn’t be happier.

Love is proportional to your will. It is an axiom.” The #loveisproject is a true testament to that and the exponential power of love. The dream is now a reality.

In April of 2013, I visited LIFE Line’s Maasai mums in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley to design new products. Finding myself inspired by the vibrant colors and patterns of the tribe, we developed an idea to design a simple and bold message bracelet in their traditional beading.

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Just over a year later, with the LOVE bracelet in hand on a flight to Russia, I struck up a conversation with two perfect strangers, girls from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. On a whim, I asked them about love. Upon landing at the Moscow airport, inspired by their answers, I snapped and uploaded a photo of them wearing the LOVE Bracelet to Instagram. The #loveisproject had begun. Coincidentally, one of the girls, Shahlo (pictured below), wore American Eagle denim.

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Four months and 31 countries later, 330 people representing 75 nationalities have worn the first LOVE bracelet. Using social media to link their love stories together, what started as a personal passion project began to blossom into a global movement of love.

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On my quest across the world searching for the meaning of love, tumultuous world events have unfolded simultaneously, juxtaposing  two passionate energies, love and hate. The profiles of people from the #loveisproject give voice to positivity rather than to the minority extremists dominating headlines.

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To see more of Chrissie’s inspirational images of her journey around the world check out her instagram page @thesupplychange

I’m so thankful for American Eagle Outfitters’ support and partnership in launching the #loveisproject this Valentine’s Day.  AEO is the largest employer of Maasai in Kenya through this collaboration, creating hundred of jobs and in turn supporting thousands in the community through economic empowerment.

I’m grateful for my friend, Zane Wilemon, Founder of LIFE Line, and the LIFE Line team who ran a stellar Indiegogo campaign raising more than $33,000 with bracelets purchased in 30 countries. Love is a shared purpose – achieving things together that you never thought were possible. This is just the beginning. Let’s celebrate Love every single day. Please join us in creating the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. May the stories of love inspire you as they have inspired us. Dream on.​

To learn more about The Supply Change click here.

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The Evolution of Denim in America

Denim is one of those uniquely American garments that has continuously been able to reinvent itself to suit the changing cultural and stylistic landscape. Starting as a simple workman’s garment, jeans have retained basically the same structure since the addition of riveted seams in 1873, a testament to their design. Building off that fundamental construction, jeans have evolved into a variety of styles their creator could have scarcely imagined.

Having started as a hearty dungaree – think overalls – the denim we see on the shelves today is as varied as it is unrecognizable when compared to those first pairs. So let’s take a look at a few styles that have ebbed, flowed and ultimately caught the attention of the fashion set over the decades.

History of Denim

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Western Jeans
Long thought of as a purely ‘Wild West’ fashion style unfit for the rest of the country, blue jeans were ultimately carried across the nation thanks to an unlikely champion: Hollywood.

In the 1930s, the genre of the ‘Western’ film became hugely popular, and with it so did the leading man’s uniform of choice: blue jeans. Made from medium-weight denim and decorated with elaborate stitching, this was a working man’s pant with an extra bit of flourish. Actors like John Wayne typified the kind of hyper-masculinity the style quickly became associated with.

Today, Western-style denim has become as popular as the musical genre, with Western jeans being more suited to the runway than the ranch. Though complex stitching still characterizes the style, the denim is much lighter than actual working ranch denim and typically incorporates a stretch element into the fabric.

Bell-Bottoms
Though bell-bottoms may be synonymous with the hippie/counterculture movements of the 1960s, they actually emerged as a style in the 19th century when the US Navy adopted them as part of its uniform.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, though, that the bell-bottom style was rendered using denim, and it took off as a stylistic symbol for a freewheeling culture. Both men and women donned styles with legs that flared outwards, reaching circumferences of up to 18 inches. Patches, pins and beading all became the trendy way to set your personal pair apart from the rest.

Skinny Jeans
Most of us might think the skinny jean is a modern style, taken to comical extremes by young skaters and punks starting in the early 2000’s. The truth is that skinny jeans go back over half a century, first coming into vogue in the 1950s with ‘Greaser’ culture.

Though not a new thing in fashion by any means, skinny jeans really started to make a resurgence in the early 2000’s when young male members of punk subcultures began buying girls jeans. It’s hard to imagine that at the time a skinny jean marketed to men was nearly impossible to find.

Today the extremes of the skinny jean trend have largely dissipated, with cooler and more relaxed fits prevailing.

What Goes Around Comes Around
Ultimately, trends in denim will always be cyclical, with certain styles appearing like new concepts, only to have been brought back from decades before.

Source URLs

http://skinnyjeansme.wordpress.com/skinny-jeans-history/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell-bottoms

http://selvedgeyard.com/2009/10/17/history-of-denim-through-the-ages-western-wear-goes-hollywood/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17101768

http://nakedandfamousdenim.com/2012/01/31/scratch-n-sniff-raspberry-scented-denim/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JNCO

http://www.evo.com/how-jeans-fit-a-guide.aspx

http://nymag.com/shopping/features/47205/

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No scare don’t care… our top 10 Halloween traditions

Happy Halloween! In our opinion, today is the most fun day of the year (and obviously the scariest). We’ve rounded up 10 of the top Halloween traditions for you… so we hope you’re ready to get spooked.

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Read Christine by Stephen King
There’s a ton of Halloween-ready lore out there, and Stephen King is its master. While Christine might be considered tame by some (or, okay, most), this tale of a car that comes to life and kills everyone in its wake is still pretty terrifying. (And now we have absolutely no desire to ever name our cars again.)

Eat Halloween Themed Treats
Type “Halloween food” into Pinterest and you’ll have your pick of scary goodness to choose from. We had a tough time deciding on our favorite treat, but we ended up going with Boo Sushi… because how on earth are you going to be able to come up with something more creative than sushi rolls topped with body parts?

Download The Zombie Me App
Especially suited to those who love The Walking Dead, but come on… anyone can have a little (too much) fun turning their normal, everyday pictures into scary zombified creatures. It’s pretty much the best reason to take a selfie today.

Watch Scary Horror Movies
Whether you hide under a blanket on the couch or brave the theater, there is absolutely no better time to watch a scary movie than on Halloween night. There are a few new releases to choose from this year, but we’re going with Annabelle… because there’s really nothing more frightening than a doll connected to the supernatural. (And while this movie has been banned in parts of France, we’re not too scared to watch it. We think.)

Watch Campy Horror Movies
If you’re in the mood to laugh more than scream this Halloween, you HAVE to watch Hocus Pocus. The cult classic stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy as three witches who come back from the dead to terrorize a small, sleepy town. While you probably won’t be too scared by this movie, it’s still definitely a must see.

Do The “Thriller” Dance
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is at the top of every Halloween music playlist, and for good reason. The music video is one of the best of all time, in large part to the infamous dance sequence. Get ready to bust a move.

Carve A Pumpkin
What would Halloween be without pumpkin carving? It’s the best way to show off your artistic skills (or, okay, how all you can do is cut triangles for eyes). Be sure to scoop out the seeds and roast them, too (we recommend doing so with a bit of garlic olive oil and a pinch of sea salt).

Go On A Hayride
Bundle up, drink some cider and grab your friends for a hayride on a crisp fall night. Bonus points if it’s through a haunted graveyard.

Wear A Costume
This one might be obvious, but we’re including it anyway… because Halloween just isn’t Halloween without a costume. Think beyond the typical cat, witch or ghost this year by dressing up like your favorite celebrities.

Visit A Haunted House
This is hands down one of our favorite annual traditions. Getting spooked is, yes, scary… but isn’t that the point? Just be sure you’re ready to scream.

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Wear America x Wit & Whistle

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Please introduce yourself, your business name, and where you’re from.
I’m Amanda Wright, the girl behind Wit & Whistle. I design and illustrate witty greeting cards and whistle-worthy paper goods. My husband and I live in a quirky 1970s A-frame house in Cary, North Carolina with two dogs, three chickens, and an absurd quantity of houseplants.

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You have been painting since you were a child, what sparked this interest at such a young age?
I’ve been at it so long that I can’t even remember what first motivated me to start creating. I believe my urge to create is a God-given gift, so it was natural for me to start making art as early as I could. I’m sure I was hooked from the moment I experienced the intoxicating aroma of my first box of crayons.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by my love of drawing and my desire to indulge in light-hearted creativity. My goal for Wit & Whistle has always been to create a line of products that are both funny and beautiful. I leave plenty of room for frivolity in my designs, because creating is so much more enjoyable if you don’t take yourself too seriously. I want my work to feel like play!

What does the day in the life of Amanda Wright entail?
After breakfast I make a cup of tea and head to my studio. I have a short commute, just a walk down the stairs to the basement. In the morning I ship orders, reply to emails, send invoices, and reorder supplies—all the necessary but boring stuff. I try to reserve my afternoons and evenings for creative things like working on new designs, taking photos, brainstorming, and writing blog posts.

What was the first product you started selling?
I first tried to sell sets of block-printed snowflake cards around the holidays back in 2008. I painstakingly hand-printed each card in metallic silver ink. They were lovely, but no one bought a single one! So, I went back to my sketchbook and came up with a few witty Valentine’s Day cards. I had more success (and much more fun) when I started incorporating my sense of humor into my work.

Educate us on your design process and making methods, what it’s like and why do you love it?
My design process involves spending a lot of quality time with my sketchbook. I usually curl up on the couch with my dogs while I draw. Once I finish a pen and ink illustration for a new product, I scan it into my computer to make layout adjustments and add color. I love all the little imperfections in my work that make it obvious each one of my designs was drawn by hand.

witandwhistle_process1Amanda’s sketches coming to life! Jotter above and Spiral Notebook below.

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If you had one product to describe as your signature item, which would it be and why?
My “uterus” birthday card is my signature item. Slightly inappropriate greeting cards have always been my best sellers, and that particular card has been around almost since Wit & Whistle began. I think it’s the perfect blend of funny and awkward while still being pretty—just the way I like it.

We love your humorous approach on your cards and prints, do you consider yourself a ‘jokester’?
I don’t think of myself as a jokester, I just have a strange sense of humor. In the real world my “humorous approach” is usually just me saying weird things and getting strange looks from my friends, hah.

Describe your decorating style inside your home.
I like calming, neutral colors with interesting textures like metallic gold, exposed brick, and rustic wood. I prefer bright spaces with lots of natural light and a mix of old vintage finds with newer pieces. I have a weakness for anything mid-century modern. Above all, a house isn’t a home unless it’s brimming with houseplants. If I could live in a greenhouse I would be happy!

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My coffee table is my favorite handmade possession. My dad, mom, sister and I spent a day piecing together the herringbone tabletop from reclaimed barn wood. We finished it off with hairpin legs and carved our names on the bottom. It’s gorgeous, and whenever I look at it reminds me of how awesome my family is. I even wrote a blog post about it!

Tell us something surprising about you that no one would guess!
Running Wit & Whistle is my dream job, but if I had to change careers I’d love to own a small zoo. For now I’ll just have to focus my zoo-keeping energy on my dogs and chickens.

What is the best advice you would give to designers starting their own business?
Whether you feel ready or not, just jump in. If I waited to start my business until I had everything figured out, Wit & Whistle wouldn’t exist. The most important (and most difficult) thing is to take that first step and get going. Just worry about one day at a time, and figure out the rest as you go along. Baby steps!

Check out Wit & Whistle on ae.com, and tell us which jotter or notebook is your favorite in the comments below!

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Wear America x Pommes Frites Candle Co.

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Introduce yourself, your business name and where you are from.
My name is Kristen and I’m half owner of Pommes Frites Candle Co. I grew up in Northern Virginia, but I currently live in downtown Los Angeles. By the way… our business name, Pommes Frites may translate to belgian fries, but it’s actually just a goofy play on my last name (Pumphrey). That’s what happens when you start a business at age 22!

You made your first candle at the age of 12, what inspired you to do that?
My sister brought a candle-making kit home from Michael’s craft store, to make and sell candles for a home economics fair. In true little sister, “me too!!” style, I learned to make candles and continued to make them for easy gifts throughout high school. When I started my business after college, it was a no-brainer to make candles again, I already had the tools!

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Tom and Kristen in their studio 

What does the day in the life of Kristen Pumphrey entail?
During the week I usually work from 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. or so. Work usually entails emailing with the shops that stock us (both independent boutiques and our national brands), developing new scents, making sure all the orders are heading out and receiving supplies. I usually take time each day to post on our instagram (@pfcandleco), play with our dog (an Italian greyhound named Max), and go for an iced coffee. Weekends, I love to explore our neighborhood in DTLA, or get away from it all on a quick camping trip.

Your candles smell amazing, what inspires your scents and how do you know which scents to combine?
Thank you! There’s two ways we go about picking scents: brainstorming sessions and direct inspiration. We do a scent brainstorming session once or twice a month, where we will pull out all the oils we have on hand, dip blotting strips, and just start smelling combinations together. A little bit of this, add some of that, mix the oils together. Then the whole team will stop what they’re doing and smell the results. For direct inspiration, we may think something like “we want to create a scent inspired by Big Sur” and we will take a trip to that location and smell everything we can, just taking it all in, and taking notes. This usually gives us a base to start with, a few notes that were prominent to us, then we will take that inspiration to our brainstorming sessions for further development.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Travel and nature are huge inspirations, visiting national parks, camping, or even visiting a nearby botanical garden. We want to produce scents that invoke feeling or meaning and that also smell really, really good.

Can you share the making of a soy candle with us?

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Our soy candles are poured in small batches, but we work from a larger batch to get there. We will melt anywhere from 50-150 lbs. of soy wax at a time. Once the soy wax is melted and has come up to temperature, we add fragrance oil into our giant wax melters.

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From there, the wax is poured off into metal pitchers, allowed to cool, and then poured in into pre-wicked jars in batches of 8-9 (or 12-16 for the mini size). We use the same method I used when I started making candles, just with fancier equipment and on a much larger scale.

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What inspired the packaging for PF candles?
My design skills are pretty limited, having never taken a class in graphic design, but I wanted to make something that felt authentic to me. I loved interchangeable stamps and used them in packaging across the board (when our company used to make more than just candles), so one day, after feeling frustrated with designing on the computer, I went back to basics and just started hand stamping our labels. I wanted the candles to be simple enough that they can exist in your space every day without being too fussy, toeing the line between rustic and clean design.

What is the one scent that we will always find burning in your home?
It depends on the room! For our living room, I like Neroli & Eucalyptus and Summer Breeze. Sweet Grapefruit is always either uncapped or burning in the bathroom. When I’m at work, I like to burn Campfire on my desk.

Have you ever mixed a scent that made you say ‘what was I thinking’?
Absolutely! Luckily with our brainstorming session, it usually doesn’t get past the initial phase. There have been a few combinations that I’ve smelled and said “NOPE!”. My biggest no-no when it comes to a scent is if it gives me or any of our crew here a headache then it gets eliminated from the list. We work hard to make sure our candles can be enjoyed by even those with fragrance sensitivities.

Besides candle-making, what other hobbies/interests do you have?
Camping, bike riding, tending to my ever growing plant collection. And as I said before, traveling and experiencing new places. We try to take a weekend trip at least once a month. We live and work in the heart of downtown LA, so escaping from city life is awesome.

Describe your personal style.
Mostly utilitarian with a little bit of California hippie thrown in. My job is always hands on. You can find me unloading a pallet or unpacking wax or mixing fragrances, so I tend to wear things I don’t mind getting messy. In the summer I wear simple cotton dresses and Vans sneakers. In the winter, I’m all about jeans (including AEO jeggings!) and a simple tee shirt. I usually always wear little stacking rings and copper or bronze skinny cuff bracelets. But my favorite thing to wear, hands down, is a poncho. I can’t wear them at work,just not practical enough, but on a camping trip I usually don’t change out of one. I have this awesome one my dad gave to me when I was a kid; it’s from Argentina. It’s one of those things I didn’t appreciate until I was older.

Tell us something surprising about you that no one would guess!
I may be a candle maker, but I actually studied to become an actor. I did 4 years of rigorous training at NYU’s Tisch School, and right before graduating, I realized it wasn’t the right choice as a career for me. I got involved in the DIY community, and haven’t looked back since. In school, they constantly told us that you have to make your own work – sometimes there wouldn’t be somebody who would want to give it to you or take a chance on you. It was a really important lesson to learn – and one I clearly applied when starting PF.

Anything else you would like to share?
We’re so happy to be able to partner with AEO for their Wear America initiative! It’s awesome to us that the candles that are handmade in our studio by our crew of six can be enjoyed by a wider audience, and that handmade on a larger scale is possible!

What is your favorite scent from PF Candle Co?  Tell us in the comments below!

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