ask me anything question series #1


love this! (referring to new dress in IG stories)

why are your items so so expensive that middle class women can't even afford a single dress?


there are so many facets to this question and i could probably find myself discussing them all day, but i will try to do my best to address them! shopkeepers everywhere get asked a similar question to this all the time, and i think it could be helpful to hear more.

before i dive in, i want to give a broad round up of where retail is at right now. as you've probably heard on the news over the past 5 years, retail is suffering right now, both large and small retailers feel it - and there are so many reasons contributing to it. online shopping, large discount chain stores, millennials focusing on experiences over consumer goods, millennials having student debit or not being able to buy houses - this list goes on and it's way more complicated than just saying "amazon".

yes - online shopping has changed consumer habits - it's also altered expectations. a retailer used to to have all goods shipped to a physical storefront, and from that point, customers would make purchases and returns in store. now, all of that can been done from a computer. due to not being able to try things on in person, customers may have a higher return rate. many retailers, to help with the inconvenience of this, offer free shipping for the order and returns. depending on the size of the retailer, the retailer may be able to negotiate better margins or terms to allow them to be able to offer free shipping that doesn't effect their bottom line. smaller retailers, if they are a multi-brand shop, often end up eating the cost to keep up with the larger retailers. it is also important to note the time windows allowed in which online returns can be made - usually 10 - 30 once the order has left the retailer.  in the fashion industry, where seasons are shrinking quicker than you can count, a month is a very long time and chances are if 30 days pass, the retailer may have to discount that item when it's returned as it's no longer seen as viable new inventory to consumers. All of these things impact the cost of the item on the shelf, where ever that shelf may be.

but let's get a bit more specific - how does a dress get so darn expensive? first, it starts with the brands decision of what kind of quality garment they want to make and where they want them to be made. natural fibers cost more and last longer / wear better over time - synthetics are cheaper and don't age well. manufacturing in countries that have labor laws will be more expensive to the brand, countries where the labor laws are not as strict or don't exist at all will be cheap. garment construction also plays a big part in cost - how are seams finished - some methods are better than others and also contribute to cost. whether the brand decides to sell directly to consumer or to retailers also will impact the end price - brands who sell to stores that reach customers in person will always be more expensive than direct to consumer product.

let's make a pretend dress here in the US at a small workshop! the dress uses 4 yards of a nice linen fabric at $10 per yard. your fabric costs are $40. you are making a dress that has many pattern pieces, is fairly intricate, uses french seams, and you are a small brand an not doing a huge production run. A dress like this, in a factory setting, could take from cutting to finish garment i would guess between 2-5 hours but it depends on the garment and how many are working on the different components at once.  for me, it takes me about 3-6 hours to make something from scratch. let's say we are paying the person making the garment $12 an hour at 4 hours, $48, so our total is $88, we also should probably add in $20 of overhead costs, so now we are at $108. chances are the workshop factory will want to make a profit on this (i don't know how much honestly) but let's add on $30 for their margin - now we are at $138, that's the cost per unit to the brand. the brand then marks that up by roughly 2x , now that item is $268 wholesale to the retailer. without going into detail because then this will be really long, believe me when i say the retailers needs to do at least a 2.3x mark up from that to stay afloat. so domestically, that dress will sell in a store for $616.  but, if you are a store buying that brand internationally, you may need to account for a price that adds another 20-30% on top of that to allow for customs duties/ shipping for importing. so now we are looking at a dress that's around $739-800 if you are still doing a 2.3x mark up, but honestly once you start buying and importing and traveling to buy - you are going to start doing a larger mark up because the cost to get those goods is way more expensive and sometimes you will do a 2.5x mark up. so that's it, in a nut shell.

now i want to talk about the other side of this question as we've addressed how a price is determined. how is a middle class customer supposed to afford this dress? i am not in a place to evaluate anyone else's financial situation and it would be irresponsible for me to do so. what i will say though is you should never make any purchases (either clothes, vacations, going out to eat, school - anything!) if that puts strain on you or your family, never go into debt. my best advice to anyone is to live within your means and live simply. we all have things in life we justify spending money on - i for one rarely drink and have never spent money on this - instead i'd rather save up and buy a piece of clothing or crafting supplies. but i know people who would rather spend money going out to eat or traveling and would consider buying expensive clothes a luxury. the truth is neither approach is bad and we all have things we prefer or don't prefer to spend on, and it's not anyone else's place to to judge the other.  an $800 dress is not something that will be in everyone's budget and i completely acknowledge that.

however, i do want to talk about the amount of consumption that our world has gotten used to. back in the day, it used to be that a person would own maybe 2-4 outfits and wash and wear those continuously. those garments were often made in the family or by a local tailor. they were well made and lasted for years and were often mended. garments were not as frequently disposed of as they are today. our society throws out so many clothes that are still usable simply because they don't like them anymore or they have "gone out of fashion". fast fashion is hurting our economy, environment, and producing so much waste. we are constantly bombarded by the idea that if we buy more we save - but i think if we buy less and buy better made things we will save more on a variety of levels. shopkeepers are trying hard to spread this message - buy less and buy better quality and buy vintage - wear your clothes more and love them!

as a side note, i also want to mention, i do carry some lines that are in the $150-250 price range - so within the in the shop, i do hope people will find a piece that will work for their budget. i try not to sell certain kinds of garments below this price range because i am concerned about both the product quality and the worker's quality of life who made it.

i also would encourage people to learn how to sew - making your own clothes is fun and rewarding. i will be honest and say until i learned how to sew - i had no concept of how challenging and time consuming it could be. i didn't understand costing and factories before i started my business, but once i started working on those things, i realized how the numbers add up.

i hope this has helped, there is so much more i could easily talk about - please if you have any questions feel free to ask!


"Are you famous ‘cause you're friends? Or vice versa, It depends."

Are you famous ‘cause you're friends?
Or vice versa, It depends 
on where you're standing
I can't tell from where I'm standing now

They always said be yourself
As if I could be someone else
Someone I'd rather be
If I were you would you be me?

-[molly nilsson, qwerty (censored version) history*] -

I wish there weren’t cliques. I wish there wasn’t elitism and attitude; I wish I saw people hold each other up often and embrace. I wish there was no passive aggressiveness and lack of directness. Too often there is pretense of holding up one another, but then, under the surface, I hear people talk about one another negatively and passing judgment – people snub one another while simultaneously promoting #this #that #andtheotherthing. We are all WONDERFUL creative people and everyone has something to offer. I don’t think this topic gets talked about very much but I think it’s a really important conversation. It can be seen in all kinds of communities, but I do think the design community has it’s own particular brand of this that can be really frustrating to experience. Nothing gets under my skin more than seeing someone excluded....or of course being excluded!

At one point in the past two years I remember running into someone on the way to a meeting who I’d never met that was a friend of a friend, and I was so excited to see them and we happily introduced ourselves. After, the person I was meeting with told me “that that would never have happened between other ‘creatives’ ” and that most people just usually snub each other and walk away. I was so surprised that that would be the case! How dreadful that that is usually the norm! Since then I have heard tales of such snubbing occurring and I find that absolutely mortifying! Uh guys, can we please change this ASAP? When I meet other creative or business owners I am EXCITED because to me it’s like pokemon – I gotta catch ‘em all and get to know them all! I am constantly inspired and in awe of all the awesome things I see people doing around me.

In a way, it takes me back to high school. In my calculus class three “jocks” Jon and Matt were teasing the one “nerd” Joe. Then the teacher (the uncle of one of my best friends) starting teasing Joe too. I can’t remember what the teasing was about but it was completely inappropriate for the teacher to join in, and as a fellow “nerd” I couldn’t let that be. I remember interjecting, quite nervously, and said to the teacher “I don’t think Joe likes that.” The teacher said “Julia, how dare you talk to me that way, just because you are best friends with my niece don’t think I can’t get you in trouble…” and he went on and on and started yelling at me and it went on and on and I started crying in front of the whole class and ran out. Later the school had the teacher call me and apologize which was awkward…..but still….if, as kids, we see adults doing this – will we do the same thing when we grow up? Have we learned to be exclusive?

So what is under the skin of this excluding behavior? Do we feel threatened that someone will win at this game and we will lose? Indeed, "relative success, tested by an invidious pecuniary comparison with other men, becomes the conventional end of action. The currently accepted legitimate end of effort becomes the achievement of a favourable comparison with other men..." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen)

Is it this the #fomo that I just learned the acronym for the other day? Do we get highs from making other people feel inferior? And then when they are mean to us, why do we try harder to get them to like us - is it like in Mean Girls where Gretchen keeps trying to get Regina to like her? I have no clue. I’m sitting here trying to think about it and my mind is going blank because it’s such an intense emotionally charged topic and it is always swept under the rug. Back in Boston, there were a few creative types that I very much wanted to be friends with and tried SO hard. But I was met with intermittent friendliness mixed with a good old dose of passive aggressive aloofness. Still to this day I don’t understand, and in the end all I could do was walk away.

Luckily, I have been met with incredibly open arms here in Philly and think the creative community here is WAY welcoming and I am super grateful for that. But whenever I see a twinge of it, in person or on social media or anywhere – I’m like – for really? How can we help foster a creative community that discourages this? How can we change this?

*I would like to give a big shout out to Molly Nilsson, who I don't know at all, but whose music and work I have found SO inspirational the past year, and whose song seemed like the perfect match for how I was feeling about all this *


i forgot about this song!  how lovely to remember! how could i ever forget?


sneak peak

a few behind the scenes pictures from our shoot today with christie and fellow philly shop rikumo!  more details and looks coming soon!


cotton uniform pieces from makie

lovely new arrivals from makie in the shop right now and online!  we had some pieces from them a few years ago and love their cotton fabrics and simple and utilitarian shapes.  the gingham dress, i had to keep one of those, it's just so lovely and the fabric has a beautiful crinkle to it.  the black dress is made from a sturdy cotton that is wonderfully structural when worn.  please enjoy!  we are so happy the weather has started to finally warm up, you can just now start to imagine wearing all these lovely dresses outside!


molly nilsson

stumbling on her music feels like a discovering a wonderful hidden treasure!


i'm so excited about this new gallego desportes jacket!  sturdy but soft moleskin gaberdine cotton, three pockets, i know this will age beautifully :)  modeled by eva.

we have so many new arrivals i haven't had the opportunity to get them all online yet, but mary is coming next week for a photo shoot so be sure to check the online shop by mid next week!  this jacket is online now though in case, like me, you can't wait! 


shop small : how you can help

Dear friend,

This started out as a small instagram post that morphed into something much longer. I know, ugg I mean who reads a blog anymore right??! In short, I'm really concerned about the future of small shops. I know others are too. Below I have written a set of suggested ideas to shops, brands, customers, and social media folks.

Shops and brands are struggling right now. Why? Lots of reasons and you could spend a book talking about it. But I'm more interested in how we can change it. Look forward not back, work to change it, and stop complaining!

so here's some ideas on how to change it!


1. Only buy what you love and buy it at full price. This will A. ensure you love your purchase / make it special B. give the store accurate data as to what the customer wants - and therefore we can know what to buy/bring you more of in the future.

2. If you live within a 2hr radius of a shop, go there in person. If it's a cute city/town make a day trip of it. If I live near a place and have the opportunity to try something on, I'm sure as heck going to take it. Plus it prevents unnecessary returns.

3. Quality over quantity. Yes this is kind of becoming the indie shopping motto right now, but it's SO true. In my early 20's I shopped and bought so much stuff in the $50-150 range and it all fell apart or I didn't like it 4 months later - it was a bad cover version of what I actually wanted. I could never justify actually buying the $400 sweater I wanted because it seemed "frivolous" but you know what? It's the opposite of frivolous, it's responsible and better for the environment, economy, and pretty much everything. I was being frivoulous when I was spending $200 a month at places like anthro/urban/cos/aritiza/j crew/madewell and then selling on ebay 2 months later.

4. My dear friend told me recently that Melania Trump encourages women to prepare for public office by "practicing their negotiating skills at clothing stores by asking for discounts". Eww, eww on so many levels. You guys, I've held off a long time from publicly saying this but seriously, asking small businesses for discounts or free shipping or whatever when it's not already being offered - please don't do this. If you want to do this, please go to J Crew and ask for discounts (btw have you heard their on the fritz of going under? wonder why?) When small shops have sales, we are happy to oblige and give you discounts. The rest of the year, we need to pay our rent and hopefully pay ourselves.

5. If you follow #1, wear these clothes and love them, and do not re-sell on ebay or another platform. This has been a revelation for me recently, but there have been a few things over the years I really regret parting with and as a result have bought something else to fill that hole. That's waisting money / hurting environment / etc.

6. Learn how to sew & knit. My best answer to anyone who says they can't afford to shop slow fashion is to learn how to make it themselves. You will never be able to get everything you want or need, but, you can make it. It takes a LOT of time & practice to be able to hone your skills, but it's worth it. There are so many online tutorials and blogs and patterns these days and most of it is FREE.  By doing this you will also gain a vast appreciation for handmade/well made/slow fashion items because now you know how long it takes to make.


1. Consider not giving discounts for signing up for mailing lists. This is hurting everyone, your shop included. A customer can create an infinite number of emails and thus indefinitely receive 10% off. When shop margins are low to begin with, you are cutting it even more. I honestly believe this is a large reason why so many small shops are suffering right now.

2. Consider returning to or following the "old school" model of a twice a year sale. Before the internet, small shops usually had 4-5 months to sell stock before it was considering stale. Now, merchandise is considered stale after a month and a half, then it's quickly being sold at 60% off. Do the math, how is that store going to be able to stay open?

3. Feel comfortable saying no. If a customer makes a request, like asking free shipping, please feel comfortable to say no. There will always be another customer.

4. Be unique, tell your story. Search for unique brands to work with, make your own trends.

5. Feel comfortable skipping seasons with brands if you are not in love with that season or you don't think it will have good sell through.

6. Buy within your means and do not over-buy. Over-buying leads to over-saturation which leads to more waste and more things on deep discounts which means less in your bank account.

7. Buy what you think you can sell, not what showrooms think is selling well for them.


1. Have stores agree to not discount merchandise before the season has ended. This is a three way street - brand to store to customer.  I've noticed some European brands do this but it's not as common in the states.

2. Consider making more seasonless collections that can be sold through multiple seasons.

3. Be selective about who you work with and don't saturate the market. This is REALLY hard to do, trust me I know I've been there. I understand you have to make your minimums to enter production and in the beginning you just want to get to that point. So if you are just starting, start small and have a strong vision. It's okay to just have 5 things on your linesheet.

4. You do you best, so be sure to tell your story and not just what's on trend.

5. Put a HUGE emphasis on your photography, styling, and how you present yourself.

6. Be selective about who you choose to work with in social media - it can feel forced and very advertise-y if your goods are being marketed all at once.

social media:

note: At first I was just going to give ideas for shops, brands and customers, but as I typed I began to realize social media is now a key part of the equation - it's subtle - and that's part of it's ingenious marketing - so much that I didn't even notice it. Social media is a new thing. When the internet started with slow fashion, it was really restricted to small blogging circles, flickr, and a few other platforms. We used to all give our opinions, recommendations, etc. for free because we loved doing it. I truly miss this aspect of the internet and the blog circle I was apart of. As the internet grew, a new job began to form - the paid blogger. At first, it was just sending people things for free to review them on their blog. But then, larger companies started to say "hey this internet this is really kicking off we better join the band wagon". And thus the introduction of being paid, essentially, for ads began. And then comes along instagram - now we have the hardest time telling a real opinion vs an ad.

1. Think of the saying "art for arts sake". Did you ever just find anything you loved so much and wanted to tell the whole world about it because you think it's that awesome? Do it! Don't feel like you can't share what you actually love because you weren't paid to do it. Alternate between paid and non paid posts. There are not many accounts these days that do this and it's a shame because I truly believe you will have more followers if you give yourself freely.

2. Create UNIQUE content. If you are being paid by a company to make a post or are being given free product, do your best and make the best content you can for them.

3. Work with brands you WANT to work with.

4. WRITE. Seriously write, don't just say "Love my new blouse from X, it's truly dreamy". Sorry I don't believe you. Tell me how the fabric feels, what you want to do when you wear it, make quirky comments only you can make.

5. Do more than one post, over a period of time (like 6-12 months) that shows you using that item. Customers want to see they can get a lot of use out of an investment purchase, and seeing you use it more than once shows the customer they will get the same use. If you post new things from new brands everyday, these items can come off as disposable, and that is not good for the economy or environment.

6. If you are a social media persona & happen to be in the position of also being a creative, consider a good old trade, especially for small brands. If you want to work with someone who makes dresses and you make pottery on the side, consider a small swap in addition to the social media post. This means a lot to the maker, who often puts 4-6 hours in of their time plus materials to make you that dress. It only takes about 20 minutes to take and edit a photo. So remember, if it wasn't for beautiful product it would be hard to make beautiful photos.

end notes:

I have no idea if anyone will have actually make it to the bottom of this, but if you have thank you for reading. Only together can we save the future of small shops, and I hope, wherever you are, that you will make a small effort in joining the fight!  do you have any ideas on how to save the future of small shops?  feel free to weigh in in the comments!


shop scenes

Lots of new things have been coming in the past month - it's hard to keep up with it all and put it all online! We received in so many new things from Ichi Antiquites / Ichi, Maison de Soil, and more right now an none of it's online yet - it's a shame!  So many lovely pieces, so little time!


A fresh new batch of MNZ thelma shoes has just landed in the shop and online!  We have them in salt and black suede which will go with go with everything.  We also have a re-stock of the red color too!  Next to sweaters, shoes are always one of my favorite things to get for fall!

We also have so many other new arrivals I haven't had a chance to get online yet.  It's been quite a busy week here at the shop unpacking, placing orders for next spring, and you know, running a shop and dealing with things like leaks! Somedays I'm finally coming to terms with that one person can only do so much in one day (insert monkey hiding his face emoji right here).