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The MiA Project Is Live!

I know I don’t post much on here, but this little baby of an idea I had a year ago has turned into this: http://themiaproject.com/ I’m so thrilled to see more ideas that I’ve generated for this come to fruition and to be a part of consumer change and sharing design and art with a capital “D” and “A”!

The MiA Project is a digital and physical epicenter for a new wave of American design and production. An editorial platform and a community-based organization with e-commerce on its way, The MiA Project celebrates designers focused on producing in the U.S., by sharing their stories, the origins of their creations, and connecting their work to a larger audience.

I share in this with a dear friend Jaime Lawson, by profession a physics major turned stylist and designer, and in life a patient, brilliant and giving friend. And many treasured people have chipped in with help and feedback. To be floored by support, love and the power of collaboration took on a whole new meaning for me this summer when I began devoting real time to my vision for this.



While the site is a great encapsulation of the concept and the love and time we’ve devoted to this over the year, it is just a part of a larger whole for us. Continuing to build community events, start conversations about American design and how we can make smart, sustainable purchases is a huge driver of this.The site (and the mobile version, which is not complete) is also a work in progress, and you might catch some examples of that. Imperfections are part of life. Your feedback on the concept and site, your support, and even sharing with your friends is invaluable to us. Sharing with just three close friends can be so powerful when it comes from a discerning, trusting source such as yourselves.

Cheers,

Micha

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More on this soon!

SXSWEcoSeeSession

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Catch up Krochet Kids Int’l for Selectism

Is now live!: http://www.selectism.com/2013/03/05/catch-up-with-krochet-kids-kohl-crecilius/

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Selectism Q&A | Catching Up with Krochet Kids

By posted on

If you know anything about Krochet Kids Intl. then you already know the oft-used lead – that the three masculine founders now in their 20s, all happen to be, well, male. While many of their peers were chugging beers, they were discovering a love for crocheting in high school passed down to them from Kohl Crecilius’ (one of the founders) older brother. What was once a pastime and part-time moneymaker for the boys became a mechanism of empowerment for women in Uganda following a trip to the African country in 2007 while the boys were still in college. Six years later, Krochet Kids intl., mainly known for hats and scarves, is launching a line of accessories including bags, sunglass cases and laptop bags, and we’ve gotten an exclusive look.

Besides bringing their company to California, the Pac Northwest guys also brought down the art of pickleball to the OC – a sport we learn about before digging into what’s coming up for the Costa Mesa-based company. Don’t be fooled though – the kids are laser-focused on the future and perfecting new products, while the female artisans look toward their bright futures as local leaders. Above all though, quality of life – for themselves, their knitters, and their employees – is tantamount to growing the business.

OK, pickleballing aside, the premise of your business is simple while life changing for your indigenous makers. Women in Peru and Uganda are taught to crochet as well as mentored in areas like leadership, finances, and starting a business. Their wares are sold via your network of sales affiliates and they are not only paid, but empowered to better their communities. Do you have local affiliates carrying out mentorship programs on a weekly and monthly basis? What does the mentorship consist of?

Yes, we have local indigenous people leading the mentorship programs. This stems from the idea that we could provide a job because they could create products with ease, but that’s a small step. One of the first things we did is help them understand their money: setting up bank accounts, managing money, and creating monthly budgets. We also teach functional literacy and life skills. Then we lead them into “dreaming” – what they could pursue in their future. In Uganda, for example, subsistence farming is something they are passionate about, so women are buying land and tending it. Some women are opening their own kiosks, purchasing motorcycles, and putting their husbands to work!

How are women in these communities chosen or recruited for KK?:

It is a thorough process facilitated by our local staff. We collect lists of individuals in need from local organizations and churches. Afterwards, our staff does interviews and home visits to assess the vulnerability of those recommendations to choose those that need help the most and could be successful in our program.

How many people does Krochet Kids employ now?

We refer to the women as beneficiaries. There are now 150 women in Uganda and 20 women in Peru. We have 11 staff members in the States, 12 staff members in Peru, and 20 staff members in Uganda that we deeply trust. Also, lots of interns here in the States that help make everything happen!

Why such a focus on women?

A lot of people say they’re the key to development and we saw that first hand. Mothers taking care of their own children, as well as others in the village, and even taking good care of the men. Helping one mom or one woman bring in an income, providing her a future, helps so many more. Our mission statement is to empower people to rise above poverty – all people. But as we continue to grow it still makes the most sense to focus on women and through that we focus on everyone in a village.

Do you consider yourselves in the business of fashion, mentorship, both, or neither?

We definitely are in the business of fashion but we are just now realizing the importance of that. What’s most important to us first in fashion is educating consumers, letting them know how much impact one’s purchasing decisions can have. We want to be the brand that elevates the conversation to knowing what you’re buying and the story behind it. We differ from most fashion companies via the connection piece. Consumers can find out who made their purchase and send her a thank you note as well as learn a bit about her via our website. It builds our beneficiaries’ confidence.

 

Will there be another fashion collaboration this year like the one you did with Volcom?

Yes, we’ve collaborated with Vans on a collection of shoes that will be available this Fall. There are two styles of women’s shoes, one pair of men’s, and a backpack.

What kind of accessories can we expect to see this year?

This year is a really big turning point both for us in both the quality of products and variety. We were known as a hat and scarves company because that is what we focused on teaching the ladies in each village. But as they’ve grown more proficient we’ve also had the opportunity to expand into new products, so this Spring is going to be really important for us. We’re launching iPad and Macbook cases this Spring, branching into bags such as over-the-shoulders, sunglass cases, clutches for women, and then in the Fall we’ll release duffle bags. In Peru, we’re incorporating a cut-and-sew element. This growth allows our teams to branch out into other skill sets.

You’ve been selling at large retailers for a while now. How is supply and demand met with big stores like Nordstroms?

We plan really well, as best as we can at least. We know what we can produce, and we schedule and plan the years pretty dutifully. We’re very thoughtful about our work with big retailers and big collaborations. We don’t want to grow too fast. It’s very tantalizing to expand into new countries of beneficiaries and new products, but we’re pacing ourselves. Our pace just happens to be pretty quick!

 

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Inspiration in Reverse – my ’90s

I’ve existed in a bit of bubble this past year. While I was gazing back at the ’90s, a comfort blanket to me of the softest faux fur, I barely realized fashion, culture and even prominent blogs were as well. At first, I couldn’t get enough of the music I listened to. Music is almost always the treat that lures me into the well-furnished den of other things. Then I started watching movies and TV of the era – some I’d memorized and some I missed the first time around. Now comes fashion (I currently have my browser open looking for the perfect babydoll dress).

Maura Johnston, former music editor of The Village Voice recently asked in a Seattle Weekly headline “Why can’t we leave the ’90s?“. I’ve always liked her writing, and I understand some of her assertions, such as “fewer present-day common denominators and the overwhelming comfort provided by familiar objects from the past—means that advertisers, punch-line writers, and listicle crafters are reaching ever more often for the nostalgic.” Nailed it, but for me this looking back at when I was quite young and just forming who I am has meant re-forming in the present.

I made a bit of a moodboard to mimic where my head has partially been for a good 13 months now.
'90s board

Hole: First known for the babydoll dreses and docs aesthetic, so much so that designers in 2012 mirrored a line after that era of Miss Love. But I loved the filmy, waify (too waify) look of ’99’s “Celebrity Skin”. Who else could do an about face from Pac Northwest grunge/punk chick to barely-dressed Malibu barbie so seamlessly?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A product of the later ’90s, she also shares that sparsely clothed, she-devil wrapped in chiffon and bare midriffs feel, but I LOVE IT. Love the show.
Angst: There was so much angst. Is there any less today? It’s difficult to measure now that it’s rarely on display. In the ‘90s, it was front and center. And some prominent public figures were unabashed of it; they didn’t thrive on irony or apathy.
The Crow: My heart had already broken once by the 8th grade. I fell in love with The Crow and its deceased lead, Brandon Lee. By the time audiences and I saw this movie he had already passed. The movie stands up today.
Gwen Stefani: Yep, this was one of her many looks.
Reality Bites: “Hello, you’ve reached the winter of our discontent.”
Daria: She was sardonic, wry, wore glasses. She was on MTV. I can’t even imagine such a daring show now on the network.
-Micha

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Bureau of Trade Acquires New Life

Our friends at Bureau of Trade re-launched their site today with a revamped interface and gorgeous new products.

Promotion for the re-launch was done in partnership with Esquire – 3 installments of teaser videos, which were time-released the week before the official re-launch date. The videos remind us why Bureau of Trade came to be in the first place –  the unique narrative element that they so astutely apply to their uniquely curated collections. Why would you ever buy a regular product, when you could own a product with experience and allure?

As the man with a slow British drawl declares at the end of each video – “Bureau of Trade, it’s life acquired.”

Check out the 3 teasers below:

Part I:  http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/esquire-bureau-of-trade-video-020813

Part II: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/esquire-bureau-of-trade-video-part-ii-021113

 Part III: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/esquire-bureau-of-trade-video-part-iii-021313

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Watch out, Martha. No, really.

Dear friend, colleague, fellow vintage lover – oh man, the list goes on – Jaime Lawson penned an entry for Huffington Post Weddings recently. I’m no wedding expert, but she makes some of the most coveted and certainly coolest items around – handmade garters for her own line Bleu Garters. Parisian themed, nautical, lacy – you name it – they are beautiful, and I must share them with you. A sneak peek below.

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Sequins

So do we have Leonardo da Vinci to thank for the existence of those shiny, sometimes gaudy, always fun little metallic rounds we know as sequins? Not exactly. Over at the Smithsonian’s fashion blog, “Threaded“, authored and founded by friend Emily Spivack, we learn precious metals, coins and “discs” have been adorning even the dead since King Tut’s time – around 1300 B.C. At various points in history, it seems, sequins were a status symbol.

Today, I think it’s safe to say they are to be used sparingly – brought out at times that call for some fun and a whatever-goes mentality. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t worn enough sequins in my time to fill a modest house. It’s a dancer’s blingy standout tool. Read the full story here: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/threaded/2012/12/a-history-of-sequins-from-king-tut-to-the-king-of-pop/

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Bazaar

I love this holidays, and I love the increasing importance placed on well-curated holiday bazaars and craft fairs. I’ve felt very fortunate to be invited to many this season and sadly could only make a few. One that I was in attendance for was the Bureau of Trade/Storefront LA collaboration in downtown LA’s Arts District. I wrote about it for Selectism. As I mention there, if you aren’t LA based or passing through, call on a friend or a friend of a friend to grab you one of the exclusive items before January 15!

 

Cheers,
Micha

 

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Amanda Kim Joins C29

It’s such a thrill to end an unexpectedly frenetic year on such a high note. C29 welcomes Amanda Kim – New York resident, world traveler – to the team. Barely out of college (Brown), Amanda has already interned at Teen Vogue, Publicis in Paris, created a t-shirt line and is proficient in 4 languages. We’re sufficiently humbled! Most of all, we’re so excited to have Amanda collaborating with us.

Cheers,
Micha

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What’s in a Name

In case you’ve ever wondered, when coming up with the name for C29 a few trusted friends joined us in the creation process. We clipped images that evoked warmth, well-treaded locations, worn and adored items, and the unique blend of rustic and modern. We wrote words on notebooks that seemed rich and yet belonged to no one industry. They belonged to America, now and then. Continental was one we loved. And when we came across an image of the Continental Club, one of the best small venues in the country in a city where I split my time – Austin – the name was cemented.

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