Playing Catch

April 6th, 2013
So you’d think I would have learned my lesson about trying to coerce Asa into doing things he is ultra resistant to doing. (See last blog entry, Mom Twists Ankle in Attempt to Change Son’s Life for the Better where I twisted my ankle really badly trying to get Asa to jump over a mound of dirt with a bunch of boys he didn’t know!) Now it’s been a few weeks and the ankle seems to be healed– knock on wood. And I am already, embarrassingly, up to my shenanigans again!

Ani’s softball practice was today. I brought my mitt, Asa’s mitt, and a softball. I, again, was having repeat visions of playing catch with Asa while we waited around. As it turned out, the softball diamond was a muddy mess with a pond between 1st and 2nd base– so the girls just practiced in a corner of the big grassy field.

I led Asa to another corner of the field for our (er.. my) fantasy game of catch. To my chagrin, he immediately stated he didn’t want to play. I said, “C’mon. It’s SO fun!” I truly believe this. I’ve been playing catch with Ani in our backyard this past week of spring break– it is great!

Asa sighed, shrugged, and started tentatively putting his fingers into the mitt. “Ace! It goes on your left hand, not your right. You throw with your right.” Another sigh. He puts it on the correct hand. “Let’s just stay real close” he says. So we do. I’m hoping it will go like an egg toss game and we can keep taking steps back until we are far enough away that Asa will get to finally experience the rewarding sound and feel of the smack of the ball in his glove. But I’m off fantasizing again and Asa is already sitting on his knees on the ground. “Hey! I have an idea, want to practice grounders?” “Okay”, he agrees. I roll him some grounders. No problem! Grounders are fun too! But no, he is quickly getting frustrated with my aim. I tell him he needs to take grounders by staying low on his feet, not on his knees! He refuses to get off his knees. My plan is unraveling quickly.

I head back over to him to see if I can woo him back to the original game of catch. But he has something crawling up the back of his jacket. What is that?!?  “Asa, you have a ladybug on your back.” Asa’s eyes immediately light up. He wants to hold the ladybug. I watch as Asa’s entire face and body relaxes up. He is delighted by his little friend! It’s crawling up his shirt! It’s been named “Buddy”.

The joy of a ladybug

"Buddy is just like Spidey!"

I sit down in the grass and realize there are ladybugs everywhere! Asa doesn’t seem to see them and needs my help in catching them. We have a new game of catch underway. I pick the ladybugs up off the grass, give them to Asa, and then he lets them crawl up his arm to his hand and then watches them until they fly away off the tip of his finger. It’s very exciting when they spread their wings and fly off. Some of them fly far. Others nearby.

We realize Asa has a hard time finding the ladybugs because he’s color blind– especially with his reds and greens– so ladybugs in the grass do not show up well. We both ponder that and then giggle about what a losing set up that is for him. Next we start looking closely at the ladybugs and realize they are all 6 dotted ladybugs with a 7th dot in the middle. We thought ladybugs had varying numbers of dots. These ladybugs must all be from one family!

Ladubug launch

Now we are into experiments with the ladybugs. We learn they really seem to enjoy the warmth of my iPhone. Their favorite game tunes to crawl around to are Cut the Rope and Bridge Constructor. We worry they might get radiated by the cell phone and burn right there before our eyes. We are relieved that doesn’t happen.

“Asa,” I ask, pulling him onto my lap, “what do you choose, ladybugs or baseball?” “Duh, mom.” “Okay, how about ants or basketball?” “Basketball, but I don’t like ants!” “Um, pill bugs or sitting in mama’s lap at Ani’s softball practice catching ladybugs?” Asa doesn’t say anything, he just leans back into me.

It turned out to be a game of catch even better than my fantasy.

Just us 3

Mom Twists Ankle (in attempt to change son’s life for the better)

March 18th, 2013

It’s Saturday night and I am icing my swollen ankle. I sprained it earlier today at Ani’s softball game, of all silly places.

The early morning Under 10 division game was pretty slow moving, as to be expected. I had advised Asa to bring his homework, or a book. But did he listen to me? He did not. He brought his binoculars instead. Thus far, at the bottom of the first inning, the only thing he deemed worthy of pulling them out for was to see Ani’s facial expression close up when she didn’t catch the pop fly. “She looks very disappointed” he observed. “Now she is really frowning.”

After Ani’s expression evened out, Asa put the binoculars away and got very bored. “Can I play ‘Cut the Rope’ on your I-phone, Mom?” he asked. “Definitely not” I replied. I did not want Asa playing on my phone during the game; there were too many better options for him, like just watching the game and being bored. After all, he could have been doing his homework or reading a book if he had followed my recommendation.

On second thought, maybe I could persuade him to play catch with me. I had brought his barely used (once to be exact) mitt and an adult mitt to the game. “Let’s play catch, Ace”. “Nah.” “C’mon, it’ll be fun!” “No.” “Why not?” “I don’t want to.” I had hoped both of my kids would enjoy playing catch by now, enjoy the smack of the ball into the leather glove and the meditation of the back and forth.

I noticed a Dad and a little boy Asa’s age playing catch at the far end of the field. They were smooth and in the flow of the back and forth ball throwing. It took all of my verbal restraint not to bring Asa’s attention to that boy. “You could do that too if we practiced a little bit sometimes” I said in my head.

Asa has recently begun identifying as a kid who doesn’t play sports. When his best buddies at school go off at recess to play soccer or baseball or football, he just goes over to the bars and swings alone. Now mind you, he loves a good game of tag. He also really enjoys wrestling, archery, bike riding, pogo stick hopping, and Tae Kwan Do— just not team sports. It’s frustrating sometimes for me… but I’ve stopped pressing it— most of the time anyways. Today was a day to press it a little bit. I just feel concerned that 2nd grade is young to be taking on such a “non-sport playing” label, especially for a coordinated kid. What if his friendship options will be limited to kids who don’t play sports? I’m already starting to see that happen for him more and more at school.

For the moment, I let the game of catch go. Right in front of us were four boys (whose sisters were all in the softball game). They were taking running starts down the grassy hill and leaping as far as they could over a big mound of sand and dirt. The boys were getting dirty and having fun. Oh good, more boys Asa’s age, I thought to myself. And they aren’t playing sports; they are just doing what Asa likes to do. “Asa, why don’t you play with those boys? That looks like so much fun. They look like friendly guys just about your age.” Asa did watch them (through his binoculars) and agreed it looked like fun but he didn’t want to join them.

While Asa looked on with his binoculars, Doug took a closer look at the jump, but wants it on the record that not for a second did he even consider risking his limbs for the cause.

I should have left it at that, but there was a part of me that thought I could convince him to join in, and once he did, he’d have such a great time that he’d overcome his shyness or fear of rejection, or whatever it is that stops him from joining in the fun. So I said, “I dare you to go join them.” “Nope.” At this point, Asa’s dad, Doug, who knew exactly what was happening, chimed in with an offer to replace Asa’s broken archery arrow if he gave the jump a try. Still no budging. “Well then, do you dare me, Ace?” “Yeah, Mom… actually, no Mom. Actually, I don’t care, Mom.” “Ok, I’m going.” I got up and casually walked over to the boys to ask if I could join in their game. Talk about the least intimidating, most friendly kids ever, they immediately gave me a tour of the whole territory: the “diving board” drawn onto the top of the mound and the area to clear when you jump. What the heck, I took a running leap and jumped! I landed right in the middle of the sand. Very unimpressive jump. I’d have to try again. I motioned to Asa to come join me. He shook his head.

Round 2 I went further, more self assured this time. But this was to be my last jump, I landed awkwardly and felt a pull in my ankle. Wah Wah Wah Waaaaaaah. I slinked (or rather limped) back to my seat on the grass, as subtly as I could pull off — but not before I made one last ditch effort and quietly asked the sweetest boy in the pack if he would invite Asa to play with them. He did, and right away! I heard Asa mutter, “No, thanks” as I came back to my spot, and we were back where we started– except for the swollen ankle. I think my face must have looked like Ani’s when she dropped the fly ball.

As I sat back down to catch the end of the softball game, Doug whispered in my ear, “Stop trying so hard.” Of course he’s right. When Asa was 2, I was so supportive of who he was that I created the Handsome in Pink line of t-shirts just for him. Now, admittedly, I was trying hard then too, but perhaps was more supportive of Asa’s interests. Now our pink boy is 8 and I need to accept that he is the kind of kid who more often than not says no to playing ball, and feels shy about jumping over mounds of dirt with kids he doesn’t know.  I know I should just let him be. He’s a boy who likes to watch the action from afar with binoculars, who feels safest playing games in the comfort of a cell phone. It’s hard because I have these ideas of what a child should be doing, and it doesn’t always align with what he wants to be doing. I always want to be helping him fly a little bit higher. Well, the ankle ought to keep us on the ground, at least for another week or two.

Sisters and Brothers…Brothers and Sisters

March 7th, 2013

Sometimes when it’s late at night, and all the house is sleeping, I like to sit at the computer in my office and get lost for a while in the photos of my kids. Old photos and recent photos;  I love to remember the ride. How is it even possible that it’s been less than a decade?

Ani is the 9 1/2- year- old sister. She is strong and very competitive. She loves the limelight. She does not take no for an answer, and she wants everyone (particularly her brother) to know that she is THE BEST! She often has to be reminded to be a gentle leader. Asa is the 8-year-old brother. He is wise, funny, and sensitive. He is extremely self-conscious and avoids the limelight at all costs; he can feel overwhelmed pretty easily. He is cautious and often has to be reminded to assert himself.

You might be picking up on the fact that the kids’ personalities are like night and day. And you might be guessing that the energy between them can be incompatible and downright messy. Absolutely! Sometimes they become wild cats roaring, clawing, and attacking each other until blood is drawn. It can be ugly. And then it can move quickly from spiteful and aggressive, to intimate and protective of each other. Sometimes I wonder if my kids even realize yet that they are separate beings, and not just extensions of each other.

Raising this brother/sister duo has certainly had it’s share of moments where my husband, Doug, and I feel helplessly frustrated. But funny, for as different as they are, and for how much conflict they have between them, my kids seem to have had similiar interests over the years. They have really influenced each other and have gone through the phases together from princesses and dolls to Ivy & Bean, Harry Potter, and Jack Sparrow and everything in between. This has made the times they do get along very, very sweet.

I feel appreciative of having a daughter and a son very close in age. They have had a unique opportunity to have exposure from a wee age, to all things “girlish” and “boyish”. They have closely observed their sibling with the opposite gendered toys, games, clothes, and treatment out in public. And I think in the case of my kids, they both liked what the other one had and didn’t feel that it was off limits.

Admittedly, in our family, my husband and I made an attempt from the beginning to avoid the obvious gender stereotypes in raising our kids… but some of that is unavoidable. Our son was known to toddle around in a hand me down truck onesie (and mind you, Handsome in Pink didn’t exist yet so this was not a pink firetruck onesie!) And it wasn’t a onesie handed down from his sister either! Our daughter had several pink onesies, as well as some skirts and dresses. And we certainly did not start our son off in dresses. He came to them on his own!

Please enjoy these photos of my kids together over the past 8 years. The pictures, although out of order, tell the whole story.

Bottles and diapers at the same time.

Ms. Kissy and Mr. Sensitive

The superheros!

"Hey, we look just alike!"

"I want to wear that dinosaur costume!" "No, it's mine!"

Out to fight crime

Orphan Annie and Luke Skywalker hangin’ out

A visit from the royalty

A good moment together

Harry Potter & The Statue of Liberty are good friends, didn't you know?

We love our baby dolls!

A recent duel

Way fun to cuddle up with a thousand blankets and towels

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward PART 2 OR Four Steps Forward!

October 19th, 2012

Well wouldn’t you know it, we have a very happy ending to this story. Now to recap, when you last heard from us a couple days ago in my original post, “One Step Back, Two Steps Forward“, Helena’s 5-year-old son Charlie was refusing to be the Handsome in Pink model for our hang tags. With his masculinity on the line, he was actually in tears at the prospect of wearing the purple and pink dirt bike tee for the photo shoot with his twin sister, Anna. Helena gave up on recruiting Charlie and thought her 3-year-old neighbor boy was in, but that didn’t work out after all.

Now all along, Helena and I didn’t really consider having Asa, (my 7-year-old son), the original inspiration for Handsome in Pink, on the hang tag. The reason was simple.  Asa has become such a goofball lately in front of the camera; it’s actually hard to get him to make a sweet face. Here are some shots Helena and I took just a couple weeks ago of us with our children. We thought it would be nice to include in our first HiP newsletter. Can you pick out Asa? :)

Asa hamming it up

C'mon Ace, just smile nicely!

Please, Asa?

All righty then, I give up.

But when I read Asa the blog about Charlie, Asa looked at me very seriously and said, “Mama, I’d love to be on the hang tag.” So yesterday, just before the sun went down, three hours before Helena was hopping on a red eye to New York,  I grabbed Asa and headed down to Helena’s house where we had a very lively and successful photo shoot on her front lawn with him and Anna. Asa was unbelievable. No fooling around this time. He understood it was a race against the sun going down. He gave every winning smile he had. He looked deep in Anna’s eyes when directed to do so. And he rocked that Organic Dirtbike Pink and Purple tee.

Gazing deeply...

This is so fun!

Charlie watched the entire event. Charlie couldn’t take all of this fun another moment. Suddenly he had to be a part of that photo shoot. Charlie ran into the house lickety split and popped that purple and pink dirtbike tee on and ran back outside. Charlie begged to be in the photos!

What are you tawkin' about? I love my purple and pink dirtbike tee!

Wow! After two days of crying and refusing to even put that tee on, all it took was seeing his big friend Asa feeling so comfortable being a boy in pink. Charlie moves three squares forward! (That’s because we have to make up for his one step back.)
***
p.s. Guess who called their mommy in New York this morning to ask where his purple shirt was cause he wanted to wear it to school! And when his mommy told him it was in the laundry, he asked if he could wear it anyway!

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

October 15th, 2012

After 5 years of being an online store, Handsome in Pink has started dreaming of having our tees out in the world in “real” stores as well. But there’s a barrier in the road— and it’s name is “hang tags”. You know them. They are the thick card stock that hangs from clothes that says the name of the company and a little ditty about them that you cut off the clothing item when you get home with your purchase. We have never invested in hang tags, but in the interest of expanding into the universe, we must invest. So Helena and I have been meeting and planning our hang tags. They are expensive and you have to buy them in bulk: a thousand at a time. Gulp. In typical Helena and Jo perfectionist fashion, we keep going around and around with the design, coming up with bigger and better ideas each time we meet, and generally dragging out the process.

*

Last week, we concluded our meeting at my house with the decision that the best hang tag ever would have a photo of some really cute kids in their HiP clothing. Luckily, we didn’t have to look too far to find these models. Helena offered up her 5-year-old girl and boy twins, Anna and Charlie. Those kids are super photogenic and are just the same age as so many of our customers. And they don’t even charge by the hour! Perfect, right? So we picked out “Organic Dirtbike Pink and Purple Tee” for her son, and the “White I Love Math tee (with PINK heart)” for her daughter. Helena walked home full of excitement about the imminent after school photo shoot. (We live in the same neighborhood.)

*

Two days passed and I didn’t hear from Helena. I kept waiting for these adorable photos of the twins to arrive in my inbox. Nothing. Finally, I got an exasperated voicemail from Helena saying that she was having a big problem. For two days, she had been trying to get the photo shoot on, and Charlie was refusing to wear the dirtbike tee! He felt so strongly about not wearing the shirt that he cried about it! Now mind you, when he was 3 years old, he happily sported that very tee all around town. No problem! I asked Helena if she could possibly bribe Charlie into wearing the shirt. Ice cream? She said that he passionately explained to her that pink was for girls and he would have none of that shirt! No ice cream! Fortunately for us (and Charlie), Helena quickly found her 3 year-old neighbor boy who would happily model the shirt for the photo shoot.

*

So there I was a few days ago, walking down to Helena’s house to collect Charlie’s larger tee and exchange it with a smaller Dirtbike tee for the neighbor. I was far off in my thoughts, feeling disillusioned about the fact that in the last two years Charlie  (the son of a Handsome in Pink owner for heaven’s sake) had absorbed our society’s message that pink is only for girls and not for boys, even if it’s a tough looking pink dirtbike that looks like a motorcycle!
*

The Fabulous Kim!

In the middle of my thoughts, I was interrupted by a car alarm going off. I hate those things! I looked up to see what was going on and saw that a frustrated looking man was sitting in his car having a lot of trouble getting the engine started while simultaneously trying to figure out how to get his alarm to stop sirening. Facing his car was a bright yellow AAA tow truck. The driver was just getting out of the truck to help out this man. It was a woman! Wow! Way to break down gender stereotypes. If I could only pull Charlie out of kindergarten to see this!

*

I continued walking down to Helena’s house to make the t-shirt exchange. Somehow, my mood had lifted a bit. I felt a sense of renewal, that the world IS actually changing and there are women out there repairing cars even if there are simultaneously little boys who won’t wear pink. 15 minutes later on my walk back home, I saw the man with the broken down car driving merrily down the street, no more car alarm. The AAA driver was just getting ready to pull away from the curb. I ran up to her and without even knowing what I was going to say, called out, “Excuse me! Hi. Can I just say hello for a minute? Or actually, can I take a photo of you?” The driver was very friendly and wanted to know why the photo. I introduced myself and explained about Handsome in Pink to my new friend Kim. She suggested, “How about a photo in exchange for one of those purple and pink dirtbike tees?!?” It was a deal!
*
Kim explained to me that growing up, she was an only child. Her father was an architect who, like many architects, didn’t like to get his hands dirty. But he was more than willing to get his daughter’s hands dirty! He taught her how to work on their ‘67 VW bug. As a girl, Kim loved working on the engine of that car. She said that all her other troubles and thoughts would melt away when she was working on cars. Interestingly, Kim added that her formal educational is in Childhood Development and it has been extremely relevant for her current work at AAA. When I drew a blank face, she explained that often when she arrives on the scene, the driver is extremely stressed and has regressed back to the state of a tantrum prone child. Kim uses that child development understanding to connect first with the child— er, frustrated adult, before dealing with the car repair. Kim told me it’s like magic; her customers always calm down within 5 minutes of her arrival.
*
Well, in wrapping up this story, I would say, when everything Handsome in Pink stands for was on the line with Charlie’s refusal to wear pink, the universe responded with Kim! Perhaps we should even consider putting Kim, in her new dirt bike tee on our hang tag! What do you think?

Messing Up Neat Little Boxes

April 10th, 2012

Read the rest of this entry »

THE Authority on Fashion interviews HiP

January 9th, 2012

Helena and I were recently interviewed by Robin Wilding who is putting together a website which she anticipates will be “THE authority for aspiring fashion designers”. The website for this article is: http://www.fashion-schools.org/articles/handsome-pink-creators-jo-hadley-and-helena-simon-share-how-they-took-matters-their-own-han. We thought you might enjoy reading the interview!

Handsome in Pink Creators Jo Hadley and Helena Simon Share How They Took Matters Into Their Own Hands

Written by Robin Wilding December 28, 2011

Did You Know…. The Art Institutes offer fashion design and fashion marketing programs in dozens of cities across the US. Learn more about the Art Institute campus near you.
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The amount of accidental designers that we have encountered during our Interview Series is incredible. Equally as incredible is the amount of people called to the fashion industry by an innate desire to improve on what is currently being designed.

Jo Hadley and Helena Simon both felt that calling, to design fashion that they felt the industry was missing. Friends since kindergarten the two are now mothers and feel that children’s fashion is too limiting. Their venture, Handsome in Pink (HiP), blends the gender lines by believing that “pink can be masculine, blue can be feminine, and exciting rough and tumble imagery belongs to boys and girls alike!”

This gender image blending philosophy isn’t willy nilly though, its solid science as Helena holds a Masters degree in Child Development and Jo has a Masters in Social Work. These are two smart cookies. And their children’s clothing line is now almost 5 years old—and going strong.

We recently got a chance to sit down with the Masters graduates-turned moms-turned fashion designers, and we got to know what their experiences in the industry have been like, including their successes and failures:

What inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
Jo: I did it for my son! Four years ago, when he was 2 1/2 years old, he fell in love with the colors pink and purple and wanted to wear nothing but those colors. Adorned in his pinks and purples, he was assumed to be a girl wherever he went. After a short while, he started getting confused, and I started getting tired of the clothes options out there. I searched high and low for pink and purple clothes with a masculine feel, but found nothing!
So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create clothes for him (and pink boys we knew like him) in pinks and purples with his favorite activities and images at the time: electric guitars, rocket ships, and motorcycles! I thought up the perfect name for the clothes line: “Handsome in Pink” and quickly recruited my artistic/fashion oriented best friend, Helena Marsala, to join me in this business venture.

What is your focus within the industry?
Jo: Our focus in the past 4 years has been on spreading our Handsome in Pink “gospel” which is “wear what you like— like who you are”. We want kids and adults to feel empowered by our clothes! We have also been focused on making more designs and messages on our shirts.

What type of education did it take to get you where you are today?
Jo: I would have to start with growing up in the 70’s era of Marlo Thomas’ record album “Free to Be You and Me”. I listened to that record over and over again as a kid. I adored the message that boys and girls are free to be exactly who they are!
I have a Masters degree in Social Work. Helena has a Masters degree in Early Child Education. So we definitely have the degrees to back up our ideas around advocating for children and meeting them where they are at. But more important than our formal education is the passion we feel for the cause; I think that is what keeps our business going! I lay awake in bed at night thinking up new ideas and messages for our clothing. Helena probably lays awake at night thinking of what brooch she should pin on her coat or what color she should paint her room. She
has always been extremely artistic and I think that runs in her genes– and thank goodness for that or we wouldn’t have the cute, fashionable clothes we have.

How has your career path progressed over the years?
Jo: When I conceived of the idea of Handsome in Pink, I very much had in mind this niche group of people I wanted to reach: boys (and men) who like pink. But very quickly I realized there was someone I was forgetting: girls and women! My daughter, who is a year and a half older than my son, absolutely loved the Handsome in Pink apparel. She, too, wanted to wear it every day! I quickly realized girls in our society have been pushed into pink frills and flowers on their clothes and a lot of them wanted more interesting and active imagery. In the past
year, we have really moved into the “Girl Power” movement and have created
more shirts with messages such as “Forget Princess, call me President.”

But another way my career path has progressed is I’ve realized that in our two person business where one of us is the fashionista queen, the other one of us (that’s me) needs to be on top of marketing, accounting, filling orders, tracking supplies, research, maintaining the website, etc. It has been a huge education for me learning how to run a business. I’ve made too many mistakes to count on one hand… okay, or even two hands.

What is your favorite part of working in the fashion/design business?
Jo: I have a couple favorite parts. First, I love when inspiration hits. I remember last year thinking about the expression “Girly Girl” and how that described an ultra-feminine weak character. I wanted to reinvent the expression. I wanted to have a tough blue shirt that had Girly Girl written on there with a different story about Girly Girls. This Girly Girl was going to love being outside climbing trees and fishing. She was going to be strong, artistic, musical, intellectual, and athletic! And that’s exactly what Helena and I created!

My other favorite part of the business is receiving emails from happy customers telling their story and why the particular clothes items they bought from us fit the bill so well for them or their children. And I adore when they include a photo of our shirts or onesies or dresses in action!

What advice would you give to aspiring fashionistas?
Jo: Get out there, listen to your instincts, and don’t be afraid to put your heart and soul into the clothes you make. Also, know you’ll make lots of mistakes and that’s okay!

What school(s) does your company generally recruit new hires from?
Jo: We are still a small business. We are hoping to attract a high school intern from our high school alma mater to help us out with marketing this spring.

Do you think there is an overall increasing or decreasing need for people
in the fashion industry?
Jo: In my experience, the economy dictates the increasing or decreasing need for people in the fashion industry. Helena and I started our business at the end of 2007, right as the “Great Recession” really took hold. It’s hard for folks to justify spending money on a non-Target t-shirt when they are financially stressed. I remember going to trade shows where we spent $200 to have a table there and then made 3 sales the whole day! Talk about discouraging! But when you hit a nerve and are able to have your clothes reflect the fashion wave of the times (or the political wave or the wave of what people are talking about), then sales go up even despite hard times.

Which roles in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career
opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
Jo: You know, recently, I was listening to an interview with Walter Isaacson, who is the author of Steve Jobs’ recent biography. He is also the author of biographies on Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, and Benjamin Franklin. Isaacson was asked what these four men had in common. He replied that they were all very bright. But being intelligent isn’t enough in this world. They were all also deeply creative thinkers. They were all able to get out of the mainstream ways of thinking about things and solving problems. I think Isaacson’s answer applies to all arenas,
including fashion. The best career opportunities are for the people who see a space for themselves and create an opportunity. It sure helps if you have a good head for business!

What designer(s) or brand(s) influenced you the most as a creative
professional?
Jo: I’m always a fan of clothes that are new and different. I was recently at the Ashland farmer’s market with my husband and we couldn’t get over all of the gorgeous clothes booths. There was a woman turning blue jeans into blue jean skirts with magnificent nature patterns. But hey, I’m no fashionista. Better ask Helena…
Helena: Personally, I am inspired by clothes and costumes designed for period movies, the theater and the ballet. I also have a great appreciation for a wide range of designers such as Gabrielle Chanel, Paul Poiret, Cristobal Balenciaga and Sarah Burton. Each has influenced me in a different way – I could talk to you for days about it, but I’ll hold my tongue since there are three more questions I still have to answer!

Do you think today’s jobs in the fashion industry require more of an
artist’s touch or business-like ruthlessness?
Jo: I want to say artist’s touch just because I’m an optimist. I don’t know how ruthless one has to be, but like I said, having a strong business sense is extremely important as well.
Helena: I think one needs to be both creative and business-savvy in order to succeed in the fashion industry. The old adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” comes to my mind. You can create the most original, well-made, fabulous garment ever, but it you don’t pluck up the courage to step outside and knock on every door until you get a buyer, that dress will remain in the studio on its hanger forever.

Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Jo: Having confidence and being bold enough to get out there and create clothes and start selling them. You really have to just put yourself out there and be mentally prepared to not take off flying right away. It’s okay to sell at farmer’s markets or trade shows in the beginning— maybe always. You might be discovered which would be very exciting, but you might not.
Helena: I feel strongly that you need to believe in your product. It’s important to surround yourself by designers and wares that inspire and energize you, but you should always follow your own instincts when it comes to forging your own career in fashion. Make what YOU love and success will come.

What do you think the future of fashion and design holds?
Jo: I imagine flying dresses and pants. Just put them on, press the fly button, and off you go, into the sky! I’m just kidding. I have no idea. Who knows? Maybe body art will take off and people will just go Burning Man style and paint their nude bodies with interesting designs. Then we’d all be out of work!
Helena: I anticipate the use of new fabrics and natural dyes that are earth-friendly with minimal harm to the environment. I’d also love to see the return of the chapeau. I live to see which hat Margaret Schroeder is wearing each week on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. The craftsmanship alone!

Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.

Drama at the HiP Headquarters

July 29th, 2011

Everyone loves a little drama, especially when it’s not their own. Well, here’s the latest Handsome in Pink drama for you to chew on. Are you ready?… Here it is… it’s a little embarassing… but we were fired. How could HiP possibly be fired you might wonder. Who can fire us? We are our own bosses! That is true, and yet we were fired by our screen printers. That’s right, the people who we pay to screen print all of those beautiful, non-toxic, water-based images on our tees. We will not name names. But we have worked with one and only one screen printing company, based in our own hometown of Oakland, since the very beginning.

If you revisit my blog entitled “the Social Worker Starts A Business”, you will remember that we (er..I) made every mistake in the book in starting up this business. I won’t go back into all of that. But our screen printers certainly did not help matters. I remember at our first Holiday craft fair, my business partner Helena and I were unloading tees to display at our booth. We were so giddy and nervous being our first public event and all… didn’t even have a HiP website yet. But as we unloaded our tees, we saw that a handful of them had what looked to be skid marks on them. We couldn’t imagine how those marks had gotten on our shirts that hadn’t been touched since we picked them up at the screen printers. But I hadn’t gone through each shirt at pick up and had assumed that if the ones on top were good, they were all good. (Never a good assumption.)

Since it had been a couple weeks since we had picked up our shirts from the screen printers, when we called them about the skid marks, they said it had been too long since we had picked them up for them to take responsibility for damage— after all, we could have driven over them with our car!

Now we were already displeased with the screen printers because we felt we had not been properly informed about the pink brightness factor in their “house pink” that we had used on the majority of our first order of tees.  But, speaking of bright pink,  Tickled Bib, anyone? You could be the first customer ever to order one! They are very soft and organic and even have Handsome in Pink printed on the other side of the bib! They will be a collector’s item someday so please buy one while you can :) )

Organic "Tickled" Bright Pink & Cream BibWe should have stopped our relationship with the screen printers at this point in the game. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, we did not heed to the red flags. And the situation did not improve. As we continued to put in new orders, the shirts were coming back with different subtle and not-so-subtle oopsy daisies from burn holes(!) to smears of ink on the insides of shirts that showed through the shirt, to smears of ink on the outside of the shirt.

This is all leading up to our final encounter with these screen printers. I was heading in to pick up our newest addition to the Handsome in Pink family, the “Forget Princess, Call Me President” tees. There was a new employee at our screen printers who helped me when I arrived. When he asked for my payment, I told him that “I did not want to pay for mess ups, and there were often mess ups. I would need to check the tees before I paid.” That was the entire interaction. It actually felt friendly to me. I did check the tees and they looked great! I was so relieved. I paid the bill and went home.

A couple days later, I received an email saying that due to my comment to their new employee, and our “somewhat rollar coaster-y relationship”, (our history of us not wanting to pay for their messups and them wanting us to pay), they did not want to do business with us anymore. I knew this guy was right that it was time for us to switch screen printers, but was my comment to his employee that controversial?  I returned his email verifying what my comment was that he was so insulted by and indeed, with an angrier email, I was told it was about the mess ups comment in front of a new employee.

I called Helena and told her we were fired. She was quiet for a moment. And then asked me, “Do you think they would have had the same reaction if we were men?” I thought she raised a good question. Are men given more elbow room to communicate directly and advocate for themselves and their businesses than women? Did Handsome in Pink experience some good ol’ fashioned sexism? Or are we just too whiny to work with? Who knows?

Finally, to bring you up to speed with things. We are currently about to try a new screenprinter! Oaklandish makes these awesome Oakland, CA tees and they have just started a screenprinting company called Corsair. So we are going for it. Our “Call Me President” tees for older kids should be coming out next week and our fingers are crossed that Oaklandish is our new screen printers! Stay tuned…

The Mixed Messages of My Youth: The Brady Bunch versus Free To Be You And Me

July 14th, 2011

Today was my daughter Ani’s 8th birthday! I let her do many things she wanted to do today just because… One thing she was very excited to do first thing in the morning was watch 3 episodes back-to-back of The Brady Bunch. (Yes we are the proud owners of the first two seasons). I understand the draw. One episode is never quite enough!

When I think back to my own girlhood in the 70’s, many memories come to mind. I don’t know why, but that Easy Bake Oven of mine and those scrumptious frosted mini cakes I could make all by myself  jumps into my head immediately! It was such a shame when my next door neighbor accidentally (?) destroyed my oven when she cooked and melted the orange plastic tool that was used to remove the hot cake pan from the oven. I also have a very clear memory of playing Cops & Robbers with the kids on my street as we tore around chasing each other on our bikes. How I loved my Purple Schwinn with the banana seat, such a smooth ride.  And how can I forget spending hours memorizing the intricate light up codes of my beloved electronic Simon game? What I would give to have one of those again.  The 70’s were a happy time for me.

But I’ll never forget the summer after 3rd grade when I learned the Brady Bunch would not be aired in the afternoon anymore at my prime TV viewing time. I was destroyed! I truly cried my eyes out. How could I possibly last an entire summer without the Bradys? My mom even called the television station KBHK (channel 44) to reason with them about their decision. But KBHK had their reasons and I had to take the summer off from Marcia, Jan, Cindy, Greg, Peter, and Bobby. I watched the Brady Bunch religiously. I knew every episode forward, backward, and sideways. There was no Brady trivia that could slip me up.

I don’t remember exactly how I survived that Brady-less summer, but I’m sure there were many rounds of listening throughout the summer to my beloved record album: Free To Be, You and Me. I just had the whole record memorized word for word from the conversation between the girl and boy babies (“Who’s bald? Your mother or your father? Boys are bald and girls have hair”) to Atalanta the princess who defeated all her suitors (except Young John from the town) and therefore didn’t have to get married and was able to travel and explore the world, to My Cat is a Plumber to Dudley Pippin who tipped over the sandbox at school. I’ll tell you, that Free To Be album struck deep in my soul where it has remained. I have never told anyone this before and now here I go blogging about it but when my kids were a little bit younger (Okay, I still do it), I’d sing “It’s All Right to Cry” when they looked like they couldn’t quite get the waterworks going but wanted to. Such good messages on that album.

So I have begun to wonder in my adulthood and particularly in my motherhood about this obvious discrepancy between the values I was picking up from The Brady Bunch and the values I was absorbing from Free To Be You and Me. Truly, this TV show and this record album were polar opposites. Marlo Thomas and her friends created the record album as a direct antedote to shows like The Brady Bunch. And there I was, there we all were, receiving both messages and personally, not noticing.

To this day, I adore both the Bradys and Free to Be. So I have passed them both on to my kids. But sometimes I can’t believe I’m letting my kids be exposed to the Brady Bunch values. This morning, one of the three episodes we viewed was the episode where the three boys have a boys clubhouse, NO GIRLS ALLOWED! The girls are not happy and want to be allowed in the boys’ clubhouse. I can NOT believe the dialogue that ensues when the girls have temporarily taken over the boys’ clubhouse. Greg calls out in utter outrage, “Look Dad! Look what they did! Curtains! And rugs! Girls’ stuff!” Carol interjects, “I think it looks lovely.” Mike retorts, “Honey, it might be lovely for girls but not for a boys’ clubhouse!” Carol pleads with her husband, “I’m sure if the girls had a dollhouse and the boys wanted to play with it, there wouldn’t be a problem.” And here is the shocking reply by Mike Brady on good, wholesome TV viewing of the 70’s, “If my boys wanted to play in anyone’s dollhouse, I’d take them to a psychiatrist!”

OK, I mean, here you have gay Robert Reed starring as Mike Brady, the all- American straight dad making extreme homophobic statements about if his sons were into dollhouses and decorating the clubhouse! I wonder what that must have been like for him! Well, I actually do know, because I read Barry Williams’ book: Growing Up Brady, I was a Teenage Greg. I learned that Robert Reed had a terrible time with the show and was always causing a stink, allegedly because the show wasn’t realistic enough for him. (i.e. the episode where Peter discovers his identical twin). But maybe Robert was really having a hard time because he was so in the closet.

But of course there are good parts about the Bradys or we wouldn’t all be so hooked ( I guess I should just speak for myself and my kids). The shows are so peaceful. There’s no crime, no violence, the kids are relatively kind to one another, they are outside playing, and there are always good life lessons being learned. So much more benign than say Disney with their horrible scary villains!

So I think I have found a way to travel the road of moderation. I view the Brady Bunch episodes with my kids (oh twist my arm). Without fail, we have a lively discussion after each episode about things we noticed. My kids know I want them to notice the gender stereotyping examples so they sniff out all examples like hound dogs… and the examples are limitless. Each scene is rich with gender stereotyping. But the show is so rich with fodder for so many other areas to discuss: we also talk about how all friends mentioned in the show are white, and how they all have mommies and daddies. We talk about how the kids never talk about their biological parents who have died. We notice the food choices the Brady kids make and what they are offered by Alice for meals (almost entirely consisting of red meat, milk, wheat products, and sugar). We observe how they spend their free time without any computers and cell phones around.

When  my kids listen to their Free to Be you and Me CD, I do not need to debrief them post listening. However, interestingly, it was recently brought to my attention at a Gender Spectrum (check them out at www.genderspectrum.org) talk that there is no room on the record album for gender other than male and female. Girls and Boys “can be anything they want to be” but at the same time, “girls can’t be fathers, and boys can’t be mothers”… oh how they didn’t realize the possibilities back then.

Perhaps it’s time for the next round of progressive cutting-edge Free to Be You and Me album to be recorded, it probably already exists. Or perhaps the time is ripe for a TV show about 6 siblings of various degrees of masculinity and femininity with gay parents, one of whom is transgendered, the other who is any ethnicity other than caucasian, who are organic, gluten-free vegans who make all sorts of positive changes in the world!?! Or somethin’ like that! :)

Ode to Yoda

April 25th, 2011

I know I have done a lot of blogging about my kids, and a little bit of blogging about my husband, but have I yet mentioned our cat, Yoda?!? I believe not. And what a shame; Yoda is more than worthy of a mention. Where to begin?

Yoda is a 2-year-old adventure tabby. She loves climbing trees and fences and being up high where she has a good view of the day’s opportunities. She travels through the neighborhood looking for action. Everyone knows her by name and thinks they are her personal favorite.  I think she and Curious George would get along famously.

Yoda is brave; a true Jedi cat. When dogs pass her by, she does not run away in a panic. She just stands a comfortable distance away and watches them. Loud barking has no ill effect. And unlike most other cats, she has no fear of water.  Each morning, she patiently waits in the bathroom outside of the shower until the water turns off. She then enthusiastically jumps in the shower to lick up the water droplets. She also takes great pleasure in licking up the runoff from garden sprinklers.

Yoda is a cuddler too. She loves to be carried around like a baby. She puts her forearms around my neck and purrs. She only does this on her own terms of course, but it’s very endearing when it happens.

Yoda has a very dry sense of humor, always the poker face, but secretly laughing inside right along with the rest of us (see photo above).

Yoda has, on occasion, spent the night out, and then brought home the friend the next day to meet the family. (My sister-in-law Jenny was very amused by how I explained to the kids “Yoda’s friend might be a boyfriend and might be a girlfriend, but cats, like humans, get to choose.” Jen now calls Yoda our lesbian cat.)

Yoda is also very low drama with seemingly little emotional baggage. Our other cat, Midnight, by comparison, is a wreck. One footstep too close to her and she flees as if a tsunami is coming. She is a fraidy cat to the core. In truth, very few people know there’s another cat living in our home because Midnight, true to her name, is always hiding out far away from the noise… only to surface when the lights are dim. And she is obsessed with food. If for any reason Midnight is missing somewhere in the house, all I need to do is open the kitty food drawer and she is there in a flash.

But getting back to the topic at hand, Yoda. What I really have been struck by is that everyone initially assumes Yoda is a “he”, a tom cat. Yoda’s fearless, adventuresome, no nonsense spirit fools them all into thinking “boy”. Now Midnight does not have that effect; people correctly assume she is a female. Imagine that! Gender stereotyping does not stop at humans!

I’ve just decided to nominate Yoda my Handsome in Pink “Girly Girl” covergirl of 2011. She is tough, smart, ready for adventure, and is truly comfortable in her skin. Plus she loves to fish and climb trees! Congratulations Yoda! Keep being exactly who you are!