fuel for your dreams in 2016




cc: Pinterest

Mary Lou Cook, an american actress from the early 1940s, once spoke the following words: “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.” For emerging, aspiring or experienced entrepreneurs, the art of establishing a business is best embodied by Cook’s definition of creativity.

The process of establishing a business begins with inventing – observing what the industry lacks, analyzing what it needs and intentionally inventing something that challenges what’s already out there. The next phase is a trial and error run of experimenting with the hope to grow, breaking rules to challenge the mainstream traditions of business, making mistakes to learn and trying new things to determine what works effectively and what doesn’t.

To set an optimistic tone for 2016, I’ve accumulated advice and wise words from a few business owners on what they’ve learned and their thoughts on starting a brand. The direction of the following words ranges from fashion bloggers to designers all the way to digital collaboration and networking opportunities in an effort to weigh in to whatever direction appeals most to you.

1. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Amy Levin, the founder of CollegeFashionista, a well-respected and well-known blogging platform for fashion enthusiasts on college campuses. Levin has experienced a tremendous amount of experience since the idea of CF emerged a few years ago. Throughout our conversation, she made it a point to emphasize the importance of establishing connections in the industry.

Talk to people, whether they interest you or not, and let them talk. Meet with people and network. Put yourself our there.”

Levin’s success conveys her willingness to remain open-minded to a variety of opportunities and her eagerness to continue learning. Talking with her allowed me to uncover the realization that you can learn so much even when you don’t expect to.

2. In light of networking in the fashion industry, I was humbled to have met Evan McCarthy a few months ago when I covered a story on his street-style brand, Evanem, a headline brand at Portland Fashion Week. McCarthy’s professional endeavors in the industry were inspired by his lifelong interest in the arts. While he’s recently made tremendous strides in growing his business, he offers invaluable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who are still in the phase of transitioning an idea in to a reality.

“I used to think too much about what the outcome would be, but you really just have to do it. You have to start somewhere.”

The authentic and transparent nature of McCarthy’s advice weighs in to the doubt and uncertainty many face in deciding to launch a business. And it’s here that we see a reflection of Cook’s advice that attests to taking risks. Starting a business will surely present you with curveballs and unforeseen obstacles, but McCarthy’s right. If your dreams are vast, you must decide to start somewhere.

3. Kristin Coffman, another emerging designer in the Portland/Eugene area, touches on the experimenting and growing component of cook’s theory. In the midst of working on her first up and coming fashion line, Coffman is finding that aspects of her life in both the past and the present are merging together to influence the outcome of her work. These inspirations are of great importance, and her advice for aspiring designers explains why.

“Designing a brand or a fashion line really gives you the opportunity to start new and rebrand yourself. I can’t wait to see where my line goes, and to learn and to grow as my line does.”

I think it’s imperative to remember that starting a business and sustaining a business are two different things. Starting a business is a project. Sustaining a business is a journey – an adventure of highs and lows that reflect great triumphs and great failures. The best businesses experience phases of modification with the intent to improve its mission and purpose. Often times we see brands recreating their image and reinventing themselves at the core. Coffman’s ability to embrace the industry with resilience and an open-mind makes her a brilliant role model for hopeful designers.

4. There are many components that contribute to a successful business, and social media, is undoubtedly one of the most influential. Establishing a strong presence across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is one of the most efficient and strategic ways to build your brand. Your target audience will best indicate which of these platforms is most appropriate for building your brand.

Because the fashion industry is highly visual, Instagram is extremely popular among emerging models, designers, fashion brands, etc. One of my favorite brands, Flea Market Girl executes this remarkably well. This growing brand exemplifies how you can apply this strategy to growing your business.

Flea Market Girl does an impressive job of merchandising their product on Instagram in a way that creates a visually appealing aesthetic. “Artsy” has become a commonly used term coined by popular culture, but the ability to artistically advertise your product on social media is one of the fastest ways to attract your audience, engage loyal followers and engage consumers.

5. As our world continues to become increasingly connected through technological advancements,online resources are becoming another powerful tool for business owners. The internet has become the greatest tool for networking with likeminded entrepreneurs and creating contacts with other creatives in the industry.

In addition to the ways the internet connects us, it also creates new doors for innovative opportunities, such as blogging and online marketplaces. Colabination represents a profound example of this. As a digital space that promotes the art of fashion by featuring the work of independent fashion designers, Colabination creates a virtual community that connects designers and fashion bloggers alike. Other examples of this include CollegeFashionista, Polyvore, PinterestLooklet or Lookbook. Attending professional conferences, digitally or physically, can be another excellent resource. Some that may appeal to women in fashion may include Simply Stylist, Create + Cultivate, Fashion ForwardThe 3% Conference, Decoded Fashion, etc. These establishments and businesses provide you with possibilities. Here you can choose to partake in a plethora of unique opportunities that will not only educate you as a business owner, but that will further enhance the quality of your own business. There are so many outlets to be uncovered so long as your willing to pursue them.

The key to utilizing the internet in starting a business is best embodied by the three C’s: connection, collaboration and community. Establish relationships with people, ask questions, collaborate with people who interest you and who produce work that resonates with you and build community with people, near or far, who have dreams that look like something like yours.

tis the season


Tomorrow my sweet mom and I are hosting our annual cookies & cocktails party, and I couldn’t be more excited! To really embrace the spirit of Christmas and the holly, jolly holiday vibes, I made a little impromptu inspiration board – featuring ALL of my favorite xmas things.
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1. While Christmas tree hunting is always a highlight (see #7), I started with this photo because what on earth is more festive than holiday lights?! Everything about this represents the holidays, and I love it.

2. Christmas cookies – another December tradition in our home. In fact, when I was in third grade, we started our little cookie party as a result of our obsession with holiday cookies. So naturally this deserved a spotlight on the inspo board. I love passing down recipes and making my great-grandmother’s spritz cookies. It adds to the magic of Christmas and everything that matters this time of year.

3. Wrapping. always a favorite. I love getting creative with holiday wrapping. Whether it’s using old newspapers and pairing them with pretty ribbons and festive bows or using stamps and paint to create handmade holiday tags, there’s so many ways to make pretty packages to add a little extra sparkle under the Christmas tree.

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4. This wouldn’t be a fashion blog if holiday fashion didn’t make the inspo board! A few days ago I came across an article from Who What Wear featuring Lauren Conrad (she’s my idol for a reason, y’all) in all her holiday glory. The next three images are my favorites from the piece.

I picked this image for #4 because I love the mix of textures – the shaggy pink fur jacket matched with a black lace romper. Immaculate. These two pretty pieces complement each other effortlessly for the holidays.

5. All hail the metallics! LC looks flawless in this bronze dress, but that’s not the only reason it qualifies as a must-have for the holidays. I love the color and material of this simply-styled dress. It’s so different from the traditional festive fashion approach and I love it. So chic. So fab. So great.

6. This navy blue slip dress matched with glitter oxford shoes make LC 3/3 on holiday fashion. Matched with a navy quilted-style bomber jacket, this outfit works because it’s an unexpected combination of fabrics and textures that accentuate one another. On another note- I love these three outfits because they stray from the mainstream trends of holiday fashion. There’s no dark reds or alluring greens, no ugly sweaters (ugly or not, you know you love it) and no booties or high-waisted jeans. I’d love to see your holiday looks, so share them on Instagram with #VVFestiveFashion. Can’t wait to see!

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7. In addition to my love of Christmas tree hunting, I had to include a photograph honoring flannel + plaid for the Christmas season. Another popular holiday trend, plaid is perfect for him and for her in all degrees. More than that, everything about this sweet image is full of winter bliss. I know of few families who cut down a fresh tree every year, but for us it’s a tradition – one we’d never change. This image seem to honor that. From the snow to the tree stumps to the victor of the perfect tree, heck the only thing it’s missing is the complimentary apple cider.

8. Homemade marshmallows. Mmm, these take me back to days as a kid. I remember we used to have snow days on snow days around the holidays. Winter break came so sweetly because of the 2-hour delays and days of no school. As kids, we used to wake up early and bundle up to prepare for hours spent in the snow. We lived on top of a huge hill when we lived in Pittsburgh, and I swear that hill transformed into it’s own little mountain when the snow came. We’d ride down and trek up the hill again and again and again, and after hours of play when we finally got tired, we came inside to the most delicious cup of hot cocoa. My mom has her own special take to this indulgence, a particular twists that has established itself as a holiday tradition in our home.

9. Another Christmas tree! Are you surprised? Decorating the tree is another December to-do in our house. My parents have diligently saved ornaments for years and years and decorating our Christmas tree with a lifetime (and more) of memories is pretty special. There’s ones my mom made in grade school, one my dad made for my mom while they were dating in high school and ones my brother and I made as kids. It’s a magical curation of pastimes that encapsulate where we’ve been and who we are and every year we’re reminded of that at this time of year. So as we tear the wrapping paper and gush over gifts and generosity on Christmas morning, we’re also blessed by little sentiments that dangle on the tree amidst the bright lights and remind us how special this time of year really is.

So here are a few of my favorite holiday things. While many are inspired by the spirit of tradition, I love the fashion of Christmas. not just the ever-so-important outfit inspo, but the little things that all contribute to how we cherish whatever holiday we celebrate at this time of year. Wishing you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons.

lifelong passion to portland fashion



Evan McCarthy, a Portland local and a brilliant artist, has always been a creator. Whether it be reflected through his graffiti-styled art, experimenting with spray paint or sketching designs inspired by the energy of downtown Portland, for years he has exercised his creative energy to create compelling masterpieces. For McCarthy, what was once a hobby has become the driving force of is professional endeavors.

The transition began about four years ago when McCarthy was approached by executives of the Portland Trail Blazers who inquired about his work. He was asked to create a painting of point guard Damian Lillard on a large canvas to be featured in the corporate office. What seemed like an exciting and unexpected opportunity for McCarthy at the time revealed itself to be much more as the project resembled the beginning of a grand adventure.

Around the same time as the Blazers project, McCarthy was working diligently to grow his business when a childhood friend showed interest in purchasing a piece to support his work. Unable to afford the prices that sustain a painter’s career, his friend lacked a feasible way to support McCarthy’s ambitions. To resolve this reality, McCarthy used his earnings from the Blazers to begin an new endeavor he titled Evanem.

“I started it because I wasn’t pleased with how other local brands were representing Portland,” McCarthy shares. “I started selling shirts for $20 and began to grow a following.”

Anyone who has purchased an Evanem design knows the brand is unlike any other. It’s defined by the hipster vibe that differentiates the city of Portland, Oregon and embodies the energy that makes this city all that it is.

“Ideas hit me and I’ll design it right away,” says McCarthy. “Every shirt I make is a shirt I would wear.”

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More than just a business, Evanem provided McCarthy with an outlet, a place he could merge his painting and design interests while still providing affordable merchandise for customers.

In a city that is lively, vivacious and upholds the reputation of “keep Portland weird”, Evanem redefines the representation of the city with cunning edge and artistic style. Inspired by ideas of graphic t-shirt designs that he would purchase as a consumer, he began sketching designs for t-shirts, tank tops and t-shirt styled hoodies for men and women.

McCarthy’s strategic and insightful work ethic complements his diligent approach to creating art that throws a curveball in to the mainstream arena of local design. “I take pride in creativity in my designs,” he says, and his investment certainly shows. His work contributes to the unique variety consumers look for as his pieces challenge the norms of the industry as opposed to saturating them. The ingenious take that establishes the Evanem brand became so successful it attracted the attention of event coordinators working for Portland Fashion Week in Fall 2015.

Participating in Portland Fashion Week represents a highlight of McCarthy’s career and a pinnacle of Evanem’s progression as a growing brand. The event opened with McCarthy’s designs, which included specialized dresses made up of tastefully tied bandana pieces featured exclusively in the show. As an experience that came unexpectedly, McCarthy describes it as an amazing opportunity. “I became appreciative of other styles in Portland and cool custom made fashion, and the amount of work that goes in to the show.”

There is no denying that Evanem is one of the leading street-style brands on the streets of Portland, Oregon. However, it must not go unnoticed that McCarthy’s designs and innovative efforts are not the only component of the brand’s success. McCarthy invests his heart and soul in to this line and it’s what makes his designs one-of-a-kind.

“[Art] used to be something I did all the time, and I used to think too much about what the outcome would be, but you really just have to do it. You gotta start somewhere.”

McCarthy’s work is an honest example of the persistence and passion that allow a dream and a vision to prosper.

“Instead of waiting my turn, I keep going until people tell me I need to stop. Just keep going until you know it’s not meant to be.”

To date, McCarthy’s aspirations have led him to accomplish some remarkable things, but the fervent zeal that lays at the groundwork of this company implies that these achievements are a mere depiction of all that is to come. As Evanem evolves, check out new designs at http://evanem.com/ and follow along at @evanempdx.

holly jolly holiday love


A little Lauren Conrad love in light of the holidays!


All over my Instagram tonight is pictures from the holiday gift shop – an event that took place tonight in LA featuring Lauren Conrad, along with friend and co-partner Hannah Skvarla, and her brands The Paper Crown and The Little Market. Not only was this event everything pretty with lovely decor and a whimsically romantic aesthetic, but it promotes aspiring entrepreneurs and local businesses in the Los Angeles area during the holiday season. Other names behind the event include photographer Gray Malin, Jeni Maus of Found Rentals, Courtney Shannon of Poppy Jack Shop calligraphy, Ariel Gordon jewelry, Ilia beauty, Sugar Paper social stationery and Urban Botanicals. It’s inspiring to see one of my favorite role models using her style and taste to explore new avenues.


There’s something that’s cool about nurturing an interest in fashion, and I’ll tell you what it is. Developing a keen eye in fashion strengthens a skill set that can be applied to so many different things – anything artistic, really. If there’s something that involves innovation, visual creation and applying the basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t, that knowledge is powerful. And Lauren Conrad is a pretty radical example of that. As a brilliant and talented woman, Conrad started her career as an intern at Teen Vogue (throwback to The Hills) and continues to exercise her love of fashion through her LC Lauren Conrad fashion line. But Conrad’s success isn’t limited by her endeavors in the fashion industry. Her accomplishments in the world of designers and clothes has only prepared her to excel further in her other artistic pursuits.


So, if there’s any piece of your heart that falls under any spectrum of the “artsy” umbrella, pursue it. Investing in those skills and developing your taste will contribute to the dreams you expose down the road. And if you’re in need of some holiday gift ideas, check out some of the brands who contributed to tonight’s event! Happy holidays, friends. Xx!

wise words from amy levin



Yesterday I had a pretty amazing opportunity. While sipping my mid-morning cup of coffee, I had the pleasure of getting to know Amy Levin, the founder of CollegeFashionista.

I’ve been writing for CollegeFashionista as a style guru for the past three seasons and have loved working with this brand. Having the opportunity to chat with Amy gave me tremendous insight as her advice was as relevant as it was inspiring. As a courageous and exceptional leader in this industry, I couldn’t resist sharing some of her advice with all of you.

Amy and I discussed her experience in growing CollegeFashionista and hearing her story was remarkable. When the idea originated during her senior year of college, there was nothing like it at the time. Print publications served as the primary source of inspiration for fashion enthusiasts. While pursuing her degree in Indiana, Levin felt isolated from the fashion industry as it tends to be most prevalent in big cities such as New York and Los Angeles. To create a network and community among fashion enthusiasts all across the US, she drew on her knowledge acquired from past internship experiences to start CollegeFashionista.

The process of growing CollegeFashionista she describes as being very organic. She started with the goal of targeting 10 college campuses and found that CF quickly began to boom. As a hard worker, Amy was committed to her brand and was devoted to making it successful, and thus developed the brand while learning through trial and error.

What I found to be so compelling about Amy’s story is the way in which she emphasized the value of believing in your idea, applying a strong work ethic and seeing it through. She also touched on the idea of being a girlboss. When Sophia Amoruso launched the idea of being an ambitious woman entrepreneur, it empowered and inspired many. But Amy reminded me that being a girlboss requires patience and resilience as there is pressure, industry expectations and lots of unexpected curveballs that weigh in to the progression of any dream.

The other thing I took away from my conversation with Amy is the importance of being willing to put yourself out there. She shared, “Be open to any opportunity that comes your way. Diversify your experience and apply for jobs that will give you the opportunity to learn different aspects of the industry.”

Amy also encouraged me to network with confidence. The concept of putting yourself out there includes reaching out to people to learn about their experience and career path and to establish connections in the industry. While universities often reiterate the importance of networking, Amy’s advice resonated with me because she emphasized two things: 1.) People tend to be more willing to talk to you than you initially think, so don’t hesitate to reach out to people with the fear that they’ll reject you and 2.) Let people talk. I think sometimes it’s easy to feel inclined to to lead the conversation when you’re the one reaching out to someone, but sitting back and listening is key when networking with industry professionals because it really gives you the chance to take in all of their advice and input.

Amy inspired me yesterday. Her kindness, approachability and wisdom indicate why she is a leader in this industry. To all you aspiring entrepreneurs, I encourage you to follow Amy’s story, take her advice to heart and apply it to whatever dreams you may have, fashion-related or otherwise.

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Amy! Your efforts in the industry are exceptional. I am so humbled to have had the chance to learn more about you + CollegeFashionista! Xx.