Letters from RMM

Some things never change

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Lovely!


Well, we made it. We’re into the Roaring 20s...or so they say. I think it might be too early to determine but so far it’s off to a good start. How about you?


I’m currently in Morro Bay, sitting in my car staring out at the seals and Morro Rock. It’s beautiful and calm. It’s a place I haven’t been in 20 years after I graduated from CalPoly. It’s been a whirlwind of adventures since so it feels a bit strange and nostalgic to be back. I lived in San Luis Obispo but would come out here with friends and surf or hike or ride bikes. A time in my life where I had time. 


And even after all this time there are still shops that exist, restaurants that have become institutions, and a culture that relies on the ocean to sustain them. Let’s pray that it still can. 


Watching all the sea life float by I am reminded of the delicate balance of the ecosystems around us. The codependency of each creature to another, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us. It’s why even the smallest changes we make to preserve our environment can have a profound effect on saving the wildlife around us.


I’m comforted by the familiarity that exists here. As I write I realize that change is a paradox. Constantly in motion and standing still. A need to be proactive and sometimes stepping back. We may not be the directors of all the cycles of life but we can choose how we want to exist in them and the legacy we leave. 


Here’s to a more beautiful world in 2020.


XOXO,


RMM


Interested in style advice and what you can do to decrease your fashion footprint? It’s free but not unsolicited so please hit reply to this email if you’re interested and I’ll send you a questionnaire to get us started. If you’re in the Sacramento area we may be able to meet in person too. Look forward to hearing from you!

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Sparkle Responsibly

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Beautiful!


Happy Holidays! I’m kinda awe struck that we’re at the end of the year, the end of a decade, the end of what seems to be some crazy astrological cycles...or rather I should flip that and say we are at the beginning of a new time, a new era. 


This feels like a time of reckoning, a time of clearing. It feels like we have been building towards not only an awareness of what needs to change, both globally and personally, but now we also have an opening to move forwards and make it happen. 


For me this means owning my vision and big goals. Not letting fear and doubt lead the way, or even complacency. The latter is the hardest. As I get clear on goals I’m also refining my values and leading with those. But this often means making different choices that aren’t always that easy to do. Some are habits that have set in over many years...yet the time is ripe for change!


Making changes can be simple things too. Like the type of glitter you choose. If you’re like me you love the sparkle even though the fall out, literally, ends up all over the house. I remember when I first heard that glitter was made out of plastic, I was devastated. Tiny bits that never biodegrade, that are impossible to clean and that end up in our wildlife. I was thinking about this again recently after listening to Dressed Podcast on the history of glitter and how it’s made. It’s fascinating, but they also stress the environmental issues with it. 


When I first learned about the dark side of glitter I did some research and found a company that makes a biodegradable version. So I made roll-on bottles of different colors to make it easier to apply and less of a mess. They’re super fun. I was inspired by the podcast to pull them out again and share with you. May your days be sparkly and bright...but please, do it responsibly and make the changes that future generations will be proud of. 


XOXO,


RMM 

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It’s more than a dress

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Gorgeous!


Here we are, coming to the end of the year, the close of a decade, and ramping up the holidays. It’s pretty wild when I stop and think about it. Not that I’ve had too much time mind you. Being the end of the year it’s also the end of the semester and I’ve been on high drive finishing up projects for my finals.


The project that has been the most eye opening to me over the course of the past few months is my dress. It’s a simple shift dress that we are making in Construction 1. As we learn a skill we apply it to the garment: darts, sleeves, zippers, hems, etc. It’s this process that has me hyper aware of the clothes on my back and the labor it took to make them. 


I think of the history and the past of what it took to design basic patterns. The math and geometry. The draping and sewing. Each piece of clothing has touched so many people’s lives. From the farm to the textile production to the factory floor. From the shipping to the marketing to the department store. Each thread connects us all and every day we get dressed. 


It’s the simple things my friend, that we often forget that play such an important role in our lives. 


May your holiday be bright. May you see the blessings and feel the gratitude of what has come before. There is still much change needed but let us dwell on the magic and the creativity to close up the year. 


XOXO,


RMM

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Something fresh for you to chew on

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Lovely!


Happy Turkey Day! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Despite it’s potentially unsavory beginnings, I love that we have a day in the calendar devoted to giving thanks, eating a lot of food, and sharing it with friends and family. At least this is my wish for you.


And in honor of all the food we Americans like to consume on this day, I thought I’d give you something else to chew on...some fresh facts you can share around the dinner table.


So here we go ranging in topics but covering areas I believe we can all be grateful for. 


  1. Women’s Suffrage: Next year we will be celebrating our 100th anniversary of the success of the women’s suffrage movement in the US. Just writing this brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. But researching dates I also learned that 2015 was the first time women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to vote. I know it’s different culturally than here in the States, but my heart goes out to those who are tired of the patriarchal oppression that has been running the world into the ground since its inception. No, patriarchy wasn’t heaven sent, it was established just like any other societal structure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage
  2. Plastic eating mushrooms: I’ve always believed that mushrooms will save the planet. And if you haven’t heard yet, one of the biggest environmental issues affecting us today, plastic, is consumed by a rare species of mushroom from the Amazon rainforest. Pestalotiopsis microspora consumes polyurethane, the key ingredient in plastic products, and converts it to organic matter. Not that we should make more of a mess for them to clean up, but it’s nice to know that Mother Nature will outlast us all. http://yupthatexists.com/pestalotiopsis-microspora-plastic-eating-mushroom/ https://www.dezeen.com/2018/09/25/state-of-the-worlds-fungi-report-mushrooms-eat-plastic-kew-gardens/
  3. Shoes: The necessity of shoes means they have been around since at least 1600-1200 BC. But did you know that prior to 1830, there was no difference between right and left shoes? https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-shoes-1992405
  4. Fire: The timeline ranges but about 1 million years ago ‘man’ began to control fire. As their knowledge and confidence in using this tool grew, differentiation of societal roles may have developed separating cooking task groups from hunting task groups. Was this the beginning of men in the field and women in the kitchen? Not sure I’m so grateful about that part but happy we’ve learned how to use fire for our survival! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_of_fire_by_early_humans
  5. Airplanes: We’ve all heard the Wright Brothers invented flying but this is not the whole truth. They actually invented the creation of a three-axis control system, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium. And their first airplane engine was actually built by their employee Charlie Taylor, ever heard his name before?! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wright_brothers
  6. Telephone: That classic children’s toy with two tin cans connected by a thread is actually the beginning of the development of the telephone. Sound waves can be carried through a cable or a string and harnessed into sound with a bowl shaped container, kinda like our ears. Simple beginnings with now very profound implications. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_the_telephone
  7. Handwashing and sanitization: The man who first discovered the importance of handwashing never got the recognition he deserved. Despite saving lives, the doctors were not quick to change and even ridiculed him for his ‘discovery.’ By 1865, when he was only 47 years old, Ignaz Semmelweis was committed to a mental asylum. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/01/12/375663920/the-doctor-who-championed-hand-washing-and-saved-women-s-lives
  8. Sewing machine: In 1755 Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal, a German-born engineer, was awarded the first British patent for a mechanical device to aid the art of sewing. Although his namesake is familiar to most of us, Isaac Merritt Singer was not the original inventor. He was though an incredible marketer spending a million dollars a year on advertising during the 1850s. http://www.moah.org/virtual/sewing.html
  9. Electricity: Was it ever really invented? More accurate to say is we have learned how to harness it’s powers just like we have with fire. Many people are attributed to this gradual understanding and applications of it today, but Thales of Miletus was the first scientist to recognize the existence of electric power in nature in 600 BC. https://readanddigest.com/who-invented-electricity/
  10. Chocolate: fermented chocolate drinks date back as far as the 450 BC but it wasn’t until 1847 the first chocolate bar was invented. Joseph Fry & Sons found a way to combine the cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar and make it into a moldable form. They then displayed it for eating in Bingley Hall, Birmingham, England. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_chocolate https://www.chocolateuniversityonline.com/the-history-of-chocolate-bars/
  11. Art: the oldest piece of art ever found dates back to 33,000 AD. This discovery shares that we have been using art as a form of self expression and communication since the beginning of human history. In our modern world we often view art as a fun pastime or a good investment, but in light of its longevity perhaps it’s time for a re-elevated position. https://www.ancienthistorylists.com/pre-history/top-10-oldest-art-ever-discovered/
  12. Mother Earth: she is by far the greatest gift to us all. No facts needed here. We all live within her arms as she continues to embrace us and provide sustenance, keeping humanity alive and growing. In what ways can we share our gratitude for her unyielding commitment to life?

There are many many more topics and things I am grateful for, and I’m sure you are too. But I hope this list gets you started and may even help to initiate a conversation or getting the banter flowing. 


Big love and have a fabulous day. 


XOXO,


RMM

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It’s okay to breakdown

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Lovely!


How are you? You surviving this Mercury Rx and massive time of change? It’s definitely been an upheaval for me in many ways. All good, but it certainly has me reviewing past decisions I have made and the current reality I am in because of them.


It doesn’t matter what part of life we look at - every decision we make, either individually or collectively, there are consequences whether we deem them good or bad. 


Take the textile industry for example. Out of necessity from the war(s) many new materials were created. Some of these fabrics are life saving like those worn by firemen. Some were innovative ideas on existing materials like using cork and wood for shoes. And some liberated women from the time consuming work of laundry - the pressing and maintenance of natural fibers. 


It’s this latter one that has me most interested. Polyester and rayon saved women (and still save women/men) time away from laundry to do other things like work, earn an income, get out of the house. This is, of course, AWESOME! But not unlike the pill, which liberated women sexually, it has come with it’s own demise to our health...perhaps unforeseen consequences and shortsightedness of the ‘gift’ that was right in front of us.


The downfall of these poly and synthetic fibers is they don’t breakdown. Unfortunately that hideous 1970s polyester print lounge suit will never go away. You can bury it and try to hide it but it will still be there when you dig it up again. And now with the rise of fast fashion and the need for the economy to keep producing to stay alive and the cheapness to produce these fabrics - we are getting more and more of them and they will never go away meaning our landfills are becoming consumed with them. The knock on effect of this is becoming increasingly apparent to us all. But just like polyester, the synthetic manufacturing companies will never go away. 


Thankfully recycling technology is getting better as they figure out ways to separate blends and rework existing materials. Yet, the question remains: what do we do in the meantime and ultimately how are we making decisions for our future?


My belief is in the purchasing power of the individual. We can choose not to buy synthetic as much as possible. We can take a few extra minutes to pull our items out of the wash and hang them dry or hand wash if necessary. It can be annoying, I know. But isn’t the benefit of saving our planet for future generations worth the extra 10-15 minutes we have to spend weekly? And yes, natural fibers like silks may breakdown more quickly...well, they actually breakdown. Beyond being good for the environment, I think it’s a natural invitation to buy something new. Updating our wardrobes is a good thing. It’s all in how we choose to go about it. 


So with that, and because it’s the season, here’s a discount code for 20% off all silk scarves. They need minimal maintenance, pack well, keep you warm, and are super versatile. Use code SILKYAF at checkout. 


Big big love,


RMM









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Appropriation or Evolution

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Bella!


How are you this gorgeous day?


This week has been pretty full - working on a fashion exhibition for my visual merchandising class and getting ready for a market on Saturday. With some help I built 3 free standing walls for the exhibition...building isn’t too different from sewing, it all requires a lot of measuring and attention to detail. 


While I’ve been building and producing I have been listening to Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press. One of the topics that comes up frequently in her work is cultural appropriation. But, it isn’t just on her podcast, it’s buzzing around the fashion industry quite prominently. And I’m sure there are some who would love to swat it away. 


I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic too. It’s obvious when it’s done poorly, thank you Kim, but there are a lot of nuances that can go unnoticed unless you know the backstory and understand the history. As consumers this is hard to do. We may see a brand making efforts on the runway or in their ad campaigns but then hear about all the ways they screwed up. It’s confusing sometimes for me as a consumer so it must be incredibly challenging for the industry. 


What I do know is that we are evolving as consumers and because of that the industry has to catch up and evolve with us. Just like any relationship the way these sensitive topics are brought up and introduced matters. When your partner isn’t listening to your concerns you know it. Or when the response is met with little regard to execution, frustration ensues. Our relationship with brands is not much different. We want to be heard and met with integrity and understanding. 


Which means it often comes down to intention. 


Is that brand utilizing that model or choosing that design to check off a box? Or are they giving credit where it’s due and recognizing that the population is diverse and we are not a trend.


You? What do you think about this topic? Any best or worst examples that stand out to you? Would love to hear if you have a moment. 


Big love,


RMM

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Can we ever be sustainable?

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello my lovely friend,


How are you this beautiful autumn day?


A few weeks ago I was having brunch in LA with some friends. And, of course, the topic of fashion and sustainability came up.  One friend simply said I don’t believe in sustainability. It was bold but I wasn’t surprised. It’s something I have been hearing before...how do you define it, how do you achieve it, are brands really adhering to it or are they just green washing?



By its very definition sustainability assumes no depletion of the earth's natural resources. Although I think we could do better as a society to reduce our consumption, it seems unrealistic and potentially not even desirable to stop altogether. Perhaps just by using the word ‘sustainable’ we are setting ourselves up for failure, taking on an unachievable lofty goal.



What we need is a real solution. One that empowers change that lasts and new ways of thinking. What we need is something cyclical, that honors the paradigm of giving and receiving. 


As my friend put it, “what we need is regenerative fashion.”


The food movement opened the conversation and continues to propel it forward with regenerative agriculture. Putting back into the soil the nutrients and minerals we depleted. This can be done for the textile industry as well but also for brands. An example he gave is TOMS and the first ‘one for one’ initiative. This approach to social responsibility is growing but can go further...oh so much further. 


I think the approach to regenerative fashion can be dynamic and creative, allowing brands to give back in new ways, to participate in the conversation that aligns with their values, and still support the needs of the planet now. 


I choose to participate in the movement through the resell of vintage natural fibers and accessories. Finding items that still have life and value to add to a wardrobe. I choose to work with pre-existing materials and limiting the purchase of new items. I look for ways to rework things before throwing them out, even conventional trash. 


So now it’s your turn. How do you participate? What does sustainability or regenerative fashion mean to you? Does one resonate more than another? 


Drop a line if you have time. 


XOXO,


RMM

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The hidden influences

By Rachel Monique Maskell

Hello Gorgeous!


How’s the weather where you are? Fall is in the air here with cold mornings and warm afternoons. My wardrobe is changing - along with longer hemlines the colors are shifting into a more muted palette. 


But weather isn’t the only thing that impacts what I wear, or what we wear collectively. One of my favorite things to learn about is the influence of politics, war, economics, and globalization on fashion. I think it’s one of the best ways to learn about our history and to put into context what the world was like and how we functioned in it. 


Take as a primary example: WWII. During this time there was rationing of metal and fabric. Women were brought into the workforce so their clothing had to become more practical. “Make do and mend” was a call to action for all women to repurpose clothing. Men’s suits became women’s suits. Wide shoulders from the 80s were influenced by the 40s and the shift into a more masculine silhouette. 


I don’t want to bore you if this kinda info isn’t your thing. My point is that fashion isn’t an isolated industry. It’s a visual representation of the era we’re in. It’s a reaction to the people and their environment. And it’s constantly evolving.


As long as people wear clothes fashion is not going away. But it does need to change, and it will. As we become more environmentally and socially conscious and as more and more options become available we have the opportunity to redirect the industry. This will likely be a bottom up movement, coming from the smaller voices that band together and take action through their buying power and social reach. 


It’s up to us to stop trivializing fashion and to recognize its influence on us and our influence on it. What we wear now and how we choose to wear it will impact future generations. What’s your future look like?


Big big love,


RMM




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