Is it just me or is everyone associated with a brand or product today? As if the water bottle we use, hats we wear, and verbiage on our graphic tees define who we are and what we believe in. It's true, what we wear and the products we purchase define us - but to what extent?
If you've been following my steady stream of articles and Instagram posts, you'll notice that I've sold out. I am pushing products that you don't necessarily need to you. Yes, I get them for free. But here's what's going on behind-the-scenes...
We live in a world fueled by capitalism. Don't stop reading, this isn't a political rant. But the money in your pocket is power. It gives you choice. Where you go, what you buy, how you buy, how you throw away, your consumption effects every single one of us. If you think I'm lying check out this film: Plastic Ocean and their Ditch the Straw efforts.
If you remember, last year, I got rid of everything. I realized I didn't need 30 pairs of shoes, a million t-shirts, a pant for every day of the week, and a steady influx of new sh*t to stay cool and relevant. I went with a uniform: if it wasn't black, white, grey, or denim it was gone.
We've grown up in a society that thinks more and new is better. It's not true. The statement less is more couldn't be more relevant today. After reflecting on my entire life, every moment where I had nothing but the sun, sea, surf, sand, and a taco were the best moments of my 26 years on Earth. Look around you, does everything you own have a story behind it? What does it mean to you? If you were to get rid of it, would it rid you of that memory or feeling or purpose? The tangible things don't matter, its whats inside!
I'm supporting a few brands today because just like anyone, I can't walk around naked, unfortunately. But, here's what separates me as a responsible consumer.
1. I support brands that I believe in.
2. I support brands that I have a personal connection with.
3. I support brands that have a vision.
4. I support brands that have an environmental & collective conscience.
I was connected with Manta via a friend of mine, Ben Pigao (a respected Portland based photographer). I was going on a surf trip to Indonesia/Australia/Hawaii and they hooked me up with a few bikinis to product test & snap a few photos of. Since then, my relationshp with Janeane (the owner) has only grown. When I asked her about her vision for Manta and what she's doing now to be different than every other bikini brand out there, I realized - I may never wear anything else but Manta for the rest of my life. Here's her response to when I asked "How environmentally friendly is Manta?" Note, this was a casual back and forth conversation via Instagram DM, not an interview or e-mail or anything staged for publication... a genuine and authentic conversation between the owner and I. THIS is what we need to look for.
"For now, the fabric element is notable. It's made from recycled nylon, made from commercial fishing nets abandoned in the open ocean. I am adamant about sustainability being more effective when it's focused on people and humanity. So for Manta it is a scalability factor, as Manta grows I plan to use the business as an active force for change. My big dream is to hire staff out of women's incarceration centers, which I'm researching now. I also spend at least an hour a week picking plastic from our local beaches and when I ship a product I do not use plastic packaging. Single-use plastic is choking the entire planet, and most people don't give their bags and forks and cups a second thought. I really view business as the most effective tool for activism these days. I'm just happy that I have a product that I love and believe in."
Vindur Hao, you probably haven't heard of them yet and that's because they are brand new. This is a team of shapers, doers, and world travelers that I just joined. Their product designer is my dear friend Kelsey Van Patten. KVP is good down to her atomic core. Coming from the LA fashion scene she is appalled by the amount of waste & garbage the fashion industry creates. I don't know the numbers but can you imagine the amount of scraps that end up in landfills every single day? Waste, waste, and more waste. Kelsey also educated me about Spandex and how it is basically the styrofoam/plastic of the fashion industry - it never breaks down! Pollutes our planet, our home, our health. She's the root of this brand - creating products out of remnant and recycled fabrics, using skilled labor both domestically and abroad, and working as hard as she possibly can to do things right and correct our faults. I had a packaging conversation yesterday with one of the founders asking him to use recycled paper vs. plastic for all packaging and he said, "It's worth it to spend more money to make that happen." It's this mentality and shift that needs to happen immediately.
I just went on a 2-month production with LifeProof, exploring the East Coast of the United States. Before this trip, essentially taking over their social media - they told me time and time again to BE MYSELF. There was no acting, retrofitting myself to fit some make-believe mold, to convince you or consumers of anything different than I was on a road trip with one of my best friends having the time of my life. This authenticity is something you don't find. Sure, they funded the trip and helped us along the way but I'm not exaggerating when I say they handed over the keys and said "Have fun." LifeProof appreciates everyone, the average-joe and the athlete. You'll see. Shout out to Tedd & Brew Dr. Kombucha who kept us booched the entire trip, that's my local kombucha company!!!
It turns out my website has become a blog and a place where I can make money. I was approached by a friend of mine who works for a blogging company out of Dallas, TX and she was shocked that I wasn't monetizing this bad boy... Just this year I had over 12,000 people visit this place and I wasn't selling a thing but my bad ideas and banter. Don't judge me, I'm not going to fill this thing up with advertisements and bullshit. But, I am going to link all the products I use and care about to a retail location & you bet your ass I'm gonna try to make commission off you guys because I still need to eat and travel. BUT......... you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to only link sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and brands/products with a conscience - none of this palm oil, ocean destroying, plastic mongering BS. I hope that you guys are out there doing your research, question everything - even me and this ridiculous website.
On a personal note, this hasn't been easy. I found myself modeling and taking photos and doing weird shit for brands and asked myself so many times, "What's the point? This is all so ridiculous." But, there is a point and we can make change, it's going to be gradual but if enough of us start to give a shit - it's going to be okay.
Please don't buy things you don't need, shop second hand, shop local, shop sustainable, quit plastic, watch out for palm oil, bonus points for plant-based people, think quality not quantity, hold companies accountable, ask questions and do your research. Most importantly, go establish a connection with your environment - be it the lake, woods, trees, ocean. This is it, this is our one and only home. Take care of yourself, your body, mind, and spirit because it starts with you. We're in this together.
PS I want to talk about this, I want to find options, I want to hear you out, I want to know about brands that give a shit. If you have an opinion, comments, questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributing Photographers: by Catherine Aeppel, Mark Welsh, Hunter Murphy