To get to where I am, you have to go back to where I came from. The starting point is a parcel of 7 acres amidst miles of corn and wheat fields in rural Illinois. I grew up in a very creative household. My father is a draftsman and a ragtime guitar player, and my mother is a potter. I grew up outside of a Swiss village, which was home to 7500 people and much manufacturing. My father built our home with the help of 2 library books and his two hands. My mother cooked macrobiotic food, and taught us about nature. We listened to records and made drawings and sculptures. My father did yoga every morning of my life.
I left the nest at the age of 17, and the next 10 years of adventure would lead through many chapters, which included graduating from University, studying abroad, working as a therapist, moving to California, becoming a model, traveling the world. Ultimately I ended up lost and fairly confused about where my path was taking me. I had a desire to arrange things and to curate the way people dressed. I took a sewing class, and started making clothes for myself. People started paying attention to what I was creating. And there it started, totally organically.
When I realized that making clothing was an actual career opportunity, I took it very seriously. I have held 28 different jobs in my life, and I had my first job at age 12. The mid-western work ethic is strong, and I had no problem committing 16 hours a day for the first 2 years, while I learned the ins and outs of the business. In the beginning, all of the most coveted press agencies and showrooms reached out to represent me. I declined, because I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to be in charge of all moving parts, at least in the beginning. All these years later, I still handle all of the press and sales myself. I travel to New York twice a year with a suitcase like a traveling salesman from 1955. I shake hands with every one of my buyers. We sit and look each other in the eye. I have the great privilege of sharing my collection with the people who will ultimately be responsible for sharing this information with the world. That has become very important for me, and it allows me to build very strong personal relationships with the people who support my brand.
I work 9 months of the year in LA, and I spend 3 months of the year at our home in Panama, surfing. Very early on, I realized that because I was just one moving part, I could decide how my yearly calendar was laid out. How I do all of that is my little secret, but it involves being incredibly organized and working ahead of schedule at all times. My time in Panama is an extremely creative period for me, and it is absolutely the thing that has allowed me to be successful in my work for so long. I am a country girl. I have to be out in the vast open to be balanced in my life and work. Living in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles takes a toll. I have to check out at a certain point, and this is my way.
I am committed to my work, and to my lifestyle. In my work, I am committed to using fine and sturdy fabrics in the collection, because I want the pieces to last a very long time. I am committed to making everything in Los Angeles, because it is important to me to support my community. I choose these things because I believe they are right and good. In my life, I know that I deserve to be a sane person. I know that I need time away to be sane, so I take it. Not because I am spoiled, but because I value my existence as a happy, balanced person. Everyone deserves this.
One of the greatest gifts in my life has been the ability to trust my instincts. I never take on more than I believe I can handle. This does not mean I am weak or lazy. Rather, it means that I honor my limits. As Americans we think we have to work, work, work, so that we can have more stuff… bigger cars, more luxurious homes, and amazing new shoes every season. I call bullshit on all of that. More is not better, more is just more.
I choose to live simply so that I can travel, and spend as much time in the sea as possible. We all choose how to allocate our resources, and I choose to save mine for leisure, because that is what makes me happy. My life is luxurious, but not in the way most people see luxury. It is luxurious because I have freedom, and for me, freedom is wealth.