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Fall Trend: Plaid 4 Ways 

Plaid: the definition of fall. Though this tartan print has been around for centuries, we are always finding new ways to wear it. From runways to fast fashion, this trend can be found anywhere and everywhere. To demonstrate just how easy it is to find and incorporate plaid in your wardrobe, PATTERN collaborated with Goodwill to create four different outfits, urban grunge, classic red, tailored, and pastel, with this checked staple.

Urban Grunge: Inspired by the ’90s, this black and white checked pattern is a standout. Pair it with a jean jacket and ankle boots for a full throwback effect. Add a belt and bam your outfit is complete!

Classic Red: This bold color is the star of the show. When starting to incorporate red plaid in your wardrobe, simple is key. Add a white button down, skinny jeans, and heels for a classic outfit. Pair it with your favorite sleek bag and let your plaid do the talking!

Tailored: Old is always made new again. This trend isn’t just for your grandpa! Pair a classic tailored plaid jacket with your favorite ripped jeans for a more casual look. Add ankle boots and your fav cat mug to bring this look into the twenty-first century.

Pastel: Tone down the plaid trend with this muted color pallet that anyone can pull off. Pair your pastel print with other soft tones and a fun fall sandal. Mix in different textures to elevate the look!

Indiana Tailor Co-Designs Suit for Post Malone 

International popstar Post Malone is used to standing out. From his face and neck tattoos to his painted nails to his gold teeth, he’s certainly not one to go unnoticed. This stands true when it comes to fashion as well. Last month, Post Malone wore a bright blue, western-style suit to the AMA’s, and got shout outs for his look in Vogue, Page Six, and other media outlets that covered the red carpet. The suit had a snake embroidered on the front, as well as a monogram “P” and “M.” He received the award for best male pop/rock artist of the year while wearing it.

From across the country, Indianapolis tailor Jerry Lee Atwood watched the AMAs on television and started to get emotional as he helped co-design the sky-blue suit. Making a suit for someone as famous as Post Malone was never something he expected for himself, and in his words, “that’s a seriously humbling feeling.”

Atwood does custom chain stitch embroidery using antique and vintage embroidery machines. Chain stitch embroidery consists of a series of loop stitches in a chain-like pattern, and it is often used in Western wear, which is Atwood’s focus. Atwood describes using antique chain stitch embroidery machines as “painting with thread,” as they allow him to have much more control than modern day machines.

“The operator controls exactly where the stitches are laid down as opposed to modern computerized embroidery where the design is digitized and the operator simply presses a button and walks away while the machine does the work,” he said.

Atwood began to sew in 2001, and is self taught. He’s been interested in embroidery for a long time, and began making western shirts to showcase his skills. He previously worked at a drapery shop, and also spend three seasons working in Indiana Repertory Theatre’s costume shop. Atwood was even the star of a short documentary that premiered this past summer at Indy Shorts.

While he likes being Indianapolis based, Atwood feels that Indiana is a hard place to gain opportunities as an artist. He described Indiana as being “the state that people are from but where they never find their voice.”

This may be true in some cases, but it certainly doesn’t apply to his recent work for Post Malone.

Post Malone’s stylist, Catherine Hahn, contacted Atwood through Instagram last year because she was looking for someone with expertise in Western-style suits and embroidery. They designed the suit together.

“I’m a big fan of Nudie suits and Jerry is making Nudie inspired suits for modern times. As soon as I found him on Instagram I reached out immediately and said we have to work together!” Hahn said.

Nudie suits, named for American tailor Nudie Cohn, are very decorative and traditionally embellished with lots of rhinestones. Hahn’s vision for Post Malone’s suit was a cross between a Nudie suit and a Mariachi suit, with a shorter jacket and a more high-waisted pant. She also wanted to incorporate design elements from Malone’s “Beerbongs and Bentleys” album, such as barbwire and snakes.

Atwood made some sketches for the suit’s design based on Hahn’s suggestions, and after several phone conversations with Hahn, he had a plan.

“Cathy’s an incredible stylist and I genuinely think she’s one of the best in the business. She’s been recognized by Vogue, GQ, Page Six and elsewhere as a style innovator for her work with Post Malone,” Atwood said. “The vision is mostly hers.”

Hahn also enjoyed working with Atwood, and even hinted that they may be working on something new in the future.

“I love working with Jerry. The process of throwing ideas back and forth and then watching them come to life is so fun,” she said. “Jerry and I have some other creations that haven’t been seen yet that I am very excited about.”

Atwood created the suit within a quick, two-week deadline. He even had some friends help him set rhinestones to make sure it got done in time. The experience was a whirlwind for him, and he’s still a little bit in awe.

“It’s really crazy to make something for one of the biggest pop stars in the world,” he said. “I keep asking myself how this happened. I was raised Catholic so I’m terrible at recognizing that I deserve anything and I think I’m probably really hard on myself most of the time.”

While Atwood watched the AMAs last month, he thought about his expectations when he first started making western wear, and how greatly he has surpassed them. He originally thought making western wear would be a casual side job for him, while also working at a coffee shop.

“Now I feel like I’ve earned a seat at the table next to the western wear designers that came before me,” he said. “I’m forever a part of the story of rock n’ roll and that’s a seriously humbling feeling.”

You can follow more of Atwood’s work on Instagram.

Express x NBA Collection 

This fall, Express unveiled it’s second multiyear partnership with the NBA called “NBA Game Changers” campaign and includes a Performance Collection as well as an NBA-licensed men and women’s collection. Five of the best basketball players were chosen to be the face of this partnership, including Pacer’s Victor Oladipo! This new collection plays off of last year’s giving consumers more of an inside look into the world of basketball, what it takes to be a professional athlete, and how fashion gives players an extra push of confidence.

“This season, expect bigger plays and increased energy as our NBA Game Changers take their game and personal style to the next level in our Performance Collection,” said David Kornberg, Express President and CEO. “We’re also thrilled to offer our customers the opportunity to sport their own personal style and rep their favorite team with our new NBA-licensed collection.”

To get a clear play by play, PATTERN spoke with Jim Hilt, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Express. Check out the dunk worthy photos below and shop Express here!

Samantha Ripperger: How did this project start with Express and NBA?

Jim Hilt: We initially partnered with the NBA on our first-ever “NBA Game Changers” campaign ahead of the 2017-2018 season. This is our second iteration of the partnership, which builds on Express’s history of collaborating with inspiring individuals and organizations. Our NBA athlete partners demonstrate the true spirit of what it means to be a Game Changer, both in basketball and in fashion—and we’re excited to see where this season takes us. Additionally, we’re thrilled to expand our marketing partnership with the NBA, which includes a licensed collection debuting in December.

SR: How did Express choose who would be the faces of this second campaign?

JH: We partnered with five NBA athletes who each exemplify the Game Changer persona of being driven, self-starters who have authentic stories of hard work, grit and perseverance. This year’s campaign features NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers, Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, two of this year’s top NBA Draft picks, as well as current NBA stars John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks and Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets. 

The campaign captures the essence of each athlete, what drives him to succeed and how fashion gives him the confidence to take on what’s next in his day and life—whether that’s suiting up in an Express Performance suit for game day or relaxing in jeans on days off.

SR: What factors went into the designs of the Performance Collection?

JH: Our moisture-wicking, stretch Performance Suits, Dress Shirts, Sweaters and Jeans are designed to keep you cool and move with you… whether you’re shooting hoops like our NBA Game Changers, suiting up for a presentation, or dressing up for a night on the town. We want our customers to feel comfortable, confident and ready to take on what’s next while wearing Express Performance.

SR: Did the players get to help design this collection?

JH: While the players didn’t have a hand in the design process, we met with them prior to each photo shoot to learn more about their personal style and what makes them feel confident, from their favorite suits to the colors they’re drawn to. We also asked each player about their game day looks and how their closet has evolved since becoming a professional athlete. Through this, our goal is to bring our customers closer to the game by showcasing merchandise that is authentic to the athletes that inspire them.

SR: What can we expect to see from the Express NBA Licensed Collection? What can we expect to see from the women’s collection dropping next year?

JH: Our NBA-licensed collection will include a robust assortment of men’s apparel from graphic tees to fleece styles, and will expand into additional product categories including blazers, dress shirts, ties and underwear in 2019. We’re also planning to introduce a women’s collection next year as well. The collection will be available in select stores across the U.S., including five stores in the Indianapolis market (College Mall, Greenwood Park Mall, Circle Center Mall, Castleton Square Mall, and Hamilton Town Center) and online at express.com.

SR: As part of the Indianapolis community, we are fans of the Pacers! What what was it like working with Pacers player Victor Oladipo?

JH: Working with Victor Oladipo has been an incredibly collaborative experience. As an NBA All-Star, it’s clear that Victor is driven to succeed, and not to mention has great style, so it’s been a win-win working with him (pun intended!). He shows up to our photo shoots with the same energy and drive you see on the court.

Check out the licensed collection here and the performance suits here.

Making Music: WLDLFE talks about touring and their first full length album 

The WLDLFE has spent the past few years creating music and pushing themselves to continuously do better. Amidst tour rehearsals and prepping for the road, PATTERN had the chance to sit down with the band and talk about their sound, how they’ve evolved, and their new album.

Allie: Tour starts in only a few days now, how are you all feeling?

Jack: Excited.
Jansen: Pumped.
Geoff: Ready.

Allie: Is this the biggest tour you’ve gone on?

Jack: It’s the longest by far.
Jansen: It’s the longest but I think that the growth that we’ve had in the last year or so is what makes it a bigger tour for us.

Allie: What would you say has changed since you first started?

Jack: We’re more handsome now.
Carson: I feel like we settled into our sound a bit more and have more of a refined creative process when it comes to writing. It’s more consistent. We all have such broad influences as far as the music that we grew up listening to, that you can tell, coming in, that no one knew what this was going to be. For the first two EPs it was settling in and seeing all the chips we have and then this last project was just putting it all together. It has really settled in, feels a lot smoother and most consistent.
Jason: This is the first record all five of us have played on so I think it’s the most “us.” It’s the first thing that each of the five of us can look at and be extremely proud of the work we put into it and feel like it’s representative of our tastes and our influences.

Allie: Jansen, at the show in Indy you made a comment about how excited you were that so many people you knew and hadn’t maybe seen in awhile were at the show. How did that feel?

Jansen: It’s a cool feeling. A person that made me think of that is a guy I know, Josh, who I went to middle school with. We played drums in jazz band together. It’s just funny how all that stuff comes full circle. And there were a few people there from my hometown that I haven’t talked to in awhile and it’s just cool to see people who are supportive of the music. Even though it’s not on purpose, just the nature of it all. It makes it feel a little bit more special.
Jack: It’s also validating. All of us were music kids in high school and I’ve wanted to do this in one way or another since I was 13. When I was 13 I didn’t play anything but I had a passion for it. I even saw people from my hometown who I haven’t talked to since high school that came out [to the show]. It’s cool to see my dream realized, to know that I didn’t just talk about doing this, but that I’ve actually taken the steps to do it. Not saying you do it for the validation of other people because it’s really nice when it turns into self-validation of ‘I’m seeing this through’.

Allie: Speaking of Indy, what’s the music scene here like? What is it like trying to make it here?

Jason: I’ve said this since the beginning, I love to claim Indy, even though the music scene is maybe not the strongest thing in the world just because, selfishly, you want to be the band to break any city. Not only that, but I want to do it so badly and I want to keep claiming this place because I know we’re not going to be the last people to do this. We’re not the first and we’re not going to be the last. You could look at it like how Twenty One Pilots broke Columbus [Ohio] and now people have eyes on Columbus. And if a band tries to do something, now there’s a scene developed. People are paying attention. I want to be able to give who back to kids that want to do this in the future.
Jansen: I think the self-awareness factor is important. When we started we were very much a pop band but it’s not an easy thing to go into a dive bar and pull that off. It’s not the right crowd. A dive bar doesn’t represent Indy but it’s going to be harder to break through. But being aware of that and knowing you need to build some kind of momentum before we try to be a factor in Indy.
Jason: The typical fan in Indy is usually a 21+ beer drinker. I would say the best indicator of the music scene is the Hi-Fi in Fountain Square, that’s the gathering place of the typical music fan, especially for local music. They’ve done a great job of curating shows with great artists, but it’s a strictly 21+ venue. So I think one of the main problems the Indy music scene faces is that there’s a strong lack of all ages venues. There may be one or two, but there’s a ton of 21+ venues and that contributes to that typical music fan being a little bit older, pickier.

Allie: So even though you’re not strictly in Indianapolis, as you said, do you feel like it’s a very supportive community or more cutthroat?

Geoff
: I definitely don’t think it’s cutthroat.
Jack: There’s a healthy level of competition. We don’t know a band that we’ve met and spent time with that we aren’t friends with. There is a really good community, at least that we’ve stumbled across. In our experience, it’s been all love.
Jansen
: I feel like competition is a bit of a trigger word in that sense. It’s more of pushing each other to be better. I don’t think there’s any malice toward anyone else.
Jason: It’s a good feeler for what’s possible. You might think something’s out of your reach or impossible until one of your friends does it. You think, if they can do it, we can do it.
Carson: Everyone celebrates each others victories.

Allie: Were the people in your lives supportive when you told them you were pursuing music full time?

Jason: People that were close to me were extremely supportive. I really appreciate the way my parents handled it. They helped me out a lot when it came to getting my first guitar, didn’t make me feel stupid or guilty for wanting to get into music. I have a fiance who’s extremely supportive of what we’re doing and she wants me to succeed and do what I love. The only people who have had a negative reaction are acquaintances or people who hear about it from the outside.
Jack: I really put my parents through the ringer because I started off doing metal music. So if I can get them behind that, something they didn’t get at all, with joining this band they were like we get this. So they were all in.
Carson: I don’t know how my parents supported me last year. I skipped so much school to go on tour, but they’ve always been really supportive.
Jansen: It was never really a question for our [Carson and Jansen’s] parents. They just understood.

Allie: Let’s talk about the album now. What’s the response been?

Jansen: The reaction to it has been really good. It was a project we put a lot of effort into, which shows, and I think people see that.

Allie: What were the biggest challenges in creating this album?

Carson: Just that it changed forms around four different times.
Jason: Once we decided to do a full length, and this isn’t a fun thing to talk about but we’re self funded, we payed for the album with no label. If we’re putting this much time into something, how can we utilize it best? There were a lot of discussions and plans for how the rollout was going to go so I think the toughest part is looking at it from the outside perspective and analyzing what was the best way to utilize and monetize it.

Allie: If you were to pick an overarching theme of the album, what would it be?

Jansen: The album is titled ‘I’m Not Worried Anymore’ because it’s a declaration about the idea of just because you don’t feel like things are where they’re supposed to be, you can change your mindset and speak the way you feel into existence. When I was writing a lot of the songs I just kept asking all these questions. Why aren’t we growing quicker? Why aren’t we progressing in the way that we want to? And that was a mindset throughout the process. The album itself is not meant to be conceptual, but that’s the weight I put on it because that’s the mindset and the process we were going through while writing the record. That’s what the record is really representing, but I don’t feel as if it has one true theme and it wasn’t intended to.

Allie: Is it you, Jansen, who mostly writes the songs?

Jansen: So far I’ve written most of them but there’s a couple that Carson wrote as well and in the future will continue to.

Allie: So what does that process look like for you all when making a song?

Jansen: I’m always out and about writing, same with Carson, so usually there will be some sort of demo or idea we’ll lead with. From there we’ll go in the studio and start to write and break everything down.
Jason: It’s a lot of passing ideas back and forth too. Months out, before we had even broken ground on the album, Jansen would send me a voice memo and ask what I thought. Then I’d record guitar parts also via voice memos. The process of our band is just love notes via voice notes.

Allie: Title of the next album?

Collectively: Charlie Puth already took that one.
Jason: But the process is lengthy. It’s vastly true that majority of it comes together in the studio but before then we’re exchanging ideas and shaping our vision for what we want this to look like.

Allie: What, if anything, do you want fans to take away from this album?

Jansen: There’s a stigma with pop music that it’s shallow and you can’t have any sort of depth. For me, I want to break that. One of my top five albums of all time is Teenage Dream by Katy Perry and it really changed my perspective for how good pop music can be. Not that she’s saying anything that deep, but you get what I’m saying. Your life doesn’t have to always be about being smarter or more creative than everyone else. Especially with this day in age with social media, you only have to put out what you want people to see. That’s what I want to get across about this album, it’s not this long, heady expose about life, it just feels good.
Carson: That’s why people like me and him [Jansen] are such big fans of musicians like John Mayer and Jon Bellion. As artistically creative as they are, they’re not doing anything that’s trying to be something else or trying to portray something that they’re not. Their music is literally a pure extension of themselves. That’s what we’re really trying to accomplish.
Jansen: And we’re not innately a pop band, but in some senses we lean that way and in others we don’t. I just want people to know you don’t always have to put on a certain aesthetic to prove that you’re smarter.
Jason: All music is saying something. The way I view it is pop music gets a bad reputation because what it’s saying isn’t necessarily new, or it’s not said in the most deep way. Why can’t a clear, concise, relatable message be good also? That’s not to diss heady, philosophical artists because that’s awesome too. If it’s genuine to you, then do that. One of the themes of the album, like you [Jansen] were saying, is that you can speak into existence what you want. Just do what you want, stop worrying about what other people want you to do. And I feel like we’re saying something.

You can catch The WLDLFE on tour right now or on Instagram.

Q + A with artist Kathy Lloyd 

Kathy Lloyd is an Indiana-based artist who makes an unusual kind of art: denim collages. Using scraps of denim leftover from her hobby of repurposing clothes, Kathy began to make detailed collages of celebrities and landscapes alike. In addition to making and selling her art, she’s also a mom, works at a hospital, and is an art therapist. We originally met Kathy at a RAW art show, and met up with her again to talk more about her art.

JB: What is your background, and what made you want to be an artist?
KK: I have always been into art, every since I could hold a pencil. I have a degree in art, and I went to Marian University right here in town. My degree is actually in interior design but I had to take all the art classes anyway. After I graduated I found it kind of hard to get into the interior design field. So life happens, and I just kind of took jobs and the arts got pushed aside. Now in the last fifteen years, I decided to pick up a paintbrush again and get back into art. I’ve done several murals for different facilities, schools, and assisted living centers. And about a year ago I started repurposing clothes because I got tired of looking for things that were different, it was kind of for myself. I use a lot of denim in my upcycled clothing, and I found I had a lot of leftover denim I wasn’t using for my clothes. I started using that denim to make art, and that’s where I branched off into the collage work with the denim. I’ve always liked monochromatic stuff, so that’s been really fascinating to me.

JB: What’s it like being an artist in Indianapolis?
KK: I think it is an art centered place here. I just recently went to San Diego and saw a lot of galleries down there. Indianapolis is every bit as artsy if you want to call it that, I think. I’m only just beginning to discover what’s here. I think it’s exciting!

JB: What’s the process of making a new denim collage like?
KK: I’m pretty fast actually, and generally when I start working on a project I’m on it until it’s finished. I don’t drag it out for weeks because I don’t like that. I see if I can think of some kind of situation, or maybe a photo or a person that would be interesting and I start from there. It’s even hard for me to know where to start. I always just start in the background and move my way forward. And I sketch it out before I start laying the collage.

JB: I’ve noticed you’ve made a lot of portraits of people. What inspired this?
KK: When I’m thinking of something to make, I’m looking for a lot of shadow and a lot of variants in the color. Something that’s all just whites would not be as interesting. I have done a lot of people for this reason and because I think they’re interesting, but I’m getting ready to start a lot of landscape stuff. I’m interested in a lot of industrial and post-industrial old factories and things like that. I find that fascinating and I hope to make more pieces of art reflecting that.

JB: What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve made?
KK: I have a denim collage that I did of Ray Charles. I think that’s everybody’s favorite. It has so much character and personality and it just turned out so commercial, which is what I was kind of going for. And now that piece of art has been sold!

JB: What are your goals for the future?
KK:
Right now I work in a hospital. My goal is to not work in the hospital and be a full time artist. A couple nights a week I work doing art therapy for an autistic young man. He’s 17 and he’s non verbal. We do art and painting, and we’ve tried to build an art career for him. Working with him has shown me, too, that there are just so many possibilities to have a job involving art. My goal for him is to help him find some ways to make a living. I’ve been working with him for three and a half years and we’ve had several gallery shows and have done pretty well.

JB: What’s your advice to young artists?
KK: Just keep going forward. I had a huge break where I didn’t really do any art. But I have a lot of talent and I just decided I wasn’t going to put it aside anymore. I have two jobs, I drive an hour each way, and I have five kids at home. You just have to make time.

You can follow Kathy’s work on Facebook.

Launch Indy’s New Program for Entrepreneurs 

Indianapolis may not be the most bustling city in the world, but despite its size, it is full of creative, ambitious people with good ideas. We write about them all the time for PATTERN, and there are countless other local organizations dedicated to helping them thrive. One of those organizations is Launch Indy, a new coworking space in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

Launch Indy’s building, Union 525, is a place for entrepreneurs and innovators to collaborate and be surrounded by like minded people. Launch Indy aims to be a home for new businesses and start-ups, and in turn promote economic development and “build a stronger city,” as they state on their website. But in addition to providing new business owners with a space, Launch Indy wants to pass on their knowledge. This thought is what inspired them to launch their new social enterprise accelerator program.

Katie Birge, the executive director of Launch Indy, described this program as providing mentorship and guidance to new or aspiring business owners who may not have a business background.

“This was born out of several people in the Launch Indy community of advisors and mentors coming together and discussing the need for mentorship and help along the way during development of a business,” Birge said. “One thing we’ve found in meeting with lots of different social entrepreneurs is that lots of them don’t really have a business background at all. And so, while they’re hoping to make an impact, they may not necessarily be starting off on the right foot because they don’t have a business background.”

She went on to explain that instead of scaring them away due to their lack of experience, Launch Indy wants to help people who may not have tons of business knowledge feel confident while advancing their business.

While Launch Indy’s coworking space has been geared towards people in the tech industry in the past, they are hoping all different kinds of entrepreneurs apply for this program. Specifically, those involved with social enterprises and social entrepreneurship. In the end, the accelerator program is for anyone who is planning on starting a business, or already has a business that they want to take to the next level.

“I’m not concerned if a company has been around for three years or three weeks, as long as they have a desire to move their business forward and they can commit to showing up every week for this,” Birge said.

The program is twelve weeks long, but is spread over fifteen weeks due to the holiday season. Members will meet every Wednesday night at the Launch Indy office at 525 South Meridian. The program costs $100 per company, which is quite reasonable compared to other accelerator programs. Launch Indy’s program is also primarily education-based, and doesn’t take equity in the companies who enroll or loan them money.

Birge said that most of the Wednesday-night meetings will be in the form of meetings with advisors or workshops.

“In general it’s going to be workshops with guest presenters and facilitators,” she said. “But some weeks will be focused on scheduling time to meet with representatives from local law firms to talk about what kind of business you should incorporate as, if there are any legal concerns for intellectual property or anything like that.”

Aside from the law representatives, the speakers for this accelerator program will be business professionals and mentors in Launch Indy’s network. They will be leading workshops on all topics related to starting a business– from customer discovery to marketing and branding to funding and finance.

The application for applying to Launch Indy’s social impact accelerator program can be found here. The application deadline is November 14, and the application should take ten minutes or less to fill out.

The accelerator program will run from December 5 through late February. It will culminate with a “pitch day” at the end of February.

On this day, “the public is invited and all of the companies in the program will present on their company. So it’s an opportunity for the public to see what everyone’s been working on and to hopefully get the word out about what these companies are doing, as well as hopefully networking with people who can take them beyond what we’re doing,” Birge said.

Despite the stereotypes, Birge maintains that Indianapolis is a great place for entrepreneurs and creatives. With programs like Launch Indy’s, Indianapolis’ entrepreneurship culture will only continue to grow.

Q + A With India Hicks 

When India Hicks’ feet hit the floor each morning, she moves with the same urgency as any working mother of five children. But Hicks is not any working mother. No indeed.

The former model and daughter of well-known interior designer David Hicks was born into British aristocracy. (She was a bridesmaid to Princess Diana at the royal wedding in 1981, and Prince Charles is her godfather.)

In 2015 Hicks became the creative director and founder of her own lifestyle brand, a direct sales company that sells handbags, home accessories and beauty products through thousands of brand ambassadors. Hicks visits Indianapolis on November 13 as part of a nine-city tour to promote her recently-released book, A Slice of England.

PATTERN connected with Hicks to talk about her namesake company and her message of empowerment, which strikes a timely chord, especially among women who want to run their own businesses.

Crystal Hammon: Your brand’s tagline is “Live an extraordinary life.” What does that look like for you?

India Hicks: Mine may not necessarily be an extraordinary life, but it’s certainly been unexpected. I live on a small island in the Bahamas where I have five children, and I have several interesting projects. I never imagined this would be the life I would live.

I love to use the word extraordinary because I think we can make every day extraordinary. We focus on that very much in our business, encouraging women to do things differently, to take a leap of faith, to believe in themselves. The extraordinary comes from that. You don’t necessarily need to move to an island in the Bahamas. You can have an extraordinary life wherever you are.

CH: Based on your experience with this startup, what skills do you think are most essential to starting and maintaining a business?

IH: When I started this, I wasn’t really aware of what my skills were. I believed in my story. I thought it was an interesting story with several chapters to it, having come from England to a runaway island, and it blended well to form the basis of a lifestyle brand. I knew I had determination, energy and passion. I hadn’t really realized the skill set that one needs for this, which is a lot of grit.

I think the greatest skill is recognizing where you can excel and where you can’t. I did recognize very quickly that I should not be the person managing the back end and the finances. I should be on the creative side. I knew I needed partners who did know about those things. As an entrepreneur, I would say that it’s important to recognize what you are good at. Find others who can do the bit that you’re not capable of doing.

Having said that, I do think you need to be overseeing, involved and aware of every aspect of your business. Even if I don’t completely understand the margins and the financial numbers, I’m in on those conversations, so I’m learning as I go. If we’ve had a big financial meeting, I ask someone to give me the bullet points from that, just so I know where my business stands.

Of course, I’ve had this incredibly blessed and lucky life, and I come from a very remarkable background, but sometimes, that actually worked against me. People didn’t take me seriously, or they imagined that because I had been born under such a lucky star, there was no need for me, that I might not work as hard as I said I would.

CH: You’re very explicit that your brand is about women’s empowerment. What kind of training does an India Hicks ambassador get that cultivates the skills necessary to be successful?

IH: We like to set everyone up with a jumpstart into success. We have a lot of tools and training that our ambassadors are able to access and take themselves through. We’re very aware that our women are incredibly busy, packing lunches, getting their kids on the school bus, cleaning their homes, doing the laundry. Some are working in corporate America. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to have success in the life they lead and to encourage women to fit this in around their lives.

We also mentor them. That could be one of our field development managers, which is a boring corporate title. It’s really just two great women who’ve been out in the field themselves. We have a head of sales, and we call her Mamacita. She has lived the life that many of our women have—of starting and believing in something—the nervousness of it, wondering how much you’ll invest in it, wondering if you’ll have your family’s support in it, wondering if it’s actually going to be successful.

We’re very conscious of all that, and now that we are four years on, we understand that conversation much better because we’ve lived and breathed it. We’ve seen how our business is slightly unusual to anything else. We’ve been able to curate the training to fit our program.

CH: What characteristics are true of an India Hicks ambassador and/or customer?

IH: We like to feel that we’re quite diverse in the field of women who join us as ambassadors. It may be a new mom, a woman looking for a second career, a woman whose kids are leaving home and she wants to do something, but doesn’t want to go back to corporate America. We really welcome anyone—as long as they feel comfortable around a $500 handbag and they feel that they’ve got access to a network of women who will want to buy something that isn’t necessarily a recognized luxury brand.

Our customer likes to feel that she has discovered something that is slightly more understated. It’s timeless. There’s quality there, and it’s very affordable. Our starting price is a $28 and 70 percent of our collection is under $70.

All of our bags have stories behind them. There’s a woman out there who loves to carry our Carmen clutch because she is reminded of Carmen, a wonderful Spanish aristocrat who ran off with a bullfighter.

Our customers and ambassadors are quite similar in their taste for timeless elegance and design. They want something that they can pass on to generations that follow. They’re looking for something that feels a little bit more unusual. They don’t follow fashion trends.

Certainly, our woman is spirited. She likes adventure, and she’s got the guts and determination to keep going.

The other thing we see consistently is that our ambassadors like to give back, and so do our customers. It’s a philanthropic-minded community, so we have a program called Get Together Give Together where a percentage of our proceeds goes back to a charity. As a company we do not align ourselves with a charity. The ambassador should choose which charity, foundation or cause she wants to be giving back to, and the customers are the same.

CH: Who or what are your inspirations when you are designing products that will be sold under your brand?

IH: We know which leathers are going to be more durable, and which fabrics are going to tell our story in a better way. We know which factories are going to respond to the way we think and the way we want to produce. We always position the collection around three words: unexpected, spirited and heritage. When we’re designing a product, we ask, “Does it have heritage?” If we’re taking a graphic design from one of my father’s archives, that will absolutely have heritage behind it. Inside one of our holiday bags—a navy blue velvet with gold—you open the bag and on the silk lining, there’s a little message that says, “Count your lucky stars.” So yes, that’s unexpected and it’s also quite spirited.

CH: Can you explain more about how you’ve updated the model of direct selling for the times?

IH: We have four big launches a year, and we release a new product each month, so there is always a conversation to be had with a customer or friend. This month, for example, we launched pajamas, and they did incredibly well.

Ambassadors don’t have to host a trunk show or a pop-up. They can ask their friends and family to go to their website, or say, “Pop over to my house and I can show you a sample.”

We encourage them to think about their own e-commerce. Each ambassador has a replicated website from our main site where their friends, family and customers can shop very easily and place orders with out having to attend a party. We have a lot of innovative ways for women to shop, including virtual parties. We love the fact, however, that the majority of parties happen at the hearth and home, and that women are shopping around the kitchen table and gently encouraging one another to shop.

We also host Live & Unbleeped every week. It’s a 20-minute episode where I’ll introduce someone, or I’ll do cake decorating at home, or show someone how to style a handbag, or have Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics play for us, or Nathan Turner and I will shop together in the farmers market. Each 20-minute episode allows the customers to come into the lifestyle and the brand, and to see the messaging and the fun that we have. There’s always a deal linked to that. Again, it’s just a different way for customers to engage with the brand.

CH: A weekly show sounds like a big commitment to content, right?

IH: Content is what separates us from the masses, and it’s the conversation that everyone is having at the moment. Luckily, as a brand, we’re very rich in content. Even my little three-legged dachshund is a hero within the brand.

CH: Any advice for people who are trying to build a brand linked to their name?

IH: Be cautious and make sure you have a financial runway. I think what jumps up with entrepreneurs is the financial stress and strain. Creative people are almost never thinking about how long it will take to build a brand and get it off the ground.

When your name is involved, you do have to be more cautious. I chose to put my name on the brand because I wanted to be accountable. I felt that if I was going to share my business with other women, I wanted them to believe that I really had their backs. With my name on the product, if there is an issue, I am bloody well going to make sure it gets fixed.

A Conversation with Musician Ron Gallo 

Ron Gallo is a rock musician, singer, and songwriter known for his contemplative and honest lyrics. He began a solo career in 2014, and has released several EPs and two albums: “Heavy Meta,” and this year’s “Stardust Birthday Party.” His popular song, “Young Lady You’re Scaring Me” has been streamed over 16 million times on Spotify.

Ron is currently touring his newest album, and performed in Indianapolis last week. I met up with Ron and his band while they were eating dinner before the show, and we talked about his background, his inspirations, and the importance of taking time to be alone with yourself.

Julia Bluhm: So this album focuses a lot on self reflection and paying attention to the moment that you’re in. What inspired you to make an album about this?
Ron Gallo: Well, I guess just from my own experiences of doing those things, which were pretty unfamiliar because most of my life I’ve kind of avoided that. I kind of avoided myself forever. And then life just kind of gets to a point, or at least for me it did, where you have to stop and look– like really look– for the first time at yourself. Sometimes that involves questioning your whole idea of what reality is and being open to the idea that maybe it’s not what you thought it was. That kind of begins this life long process. It’s interesting to turn inward like that for the first time.

JB: Was that a sudden awakening for you? Did an event spark that, or was it gradual?
RG: Sort of. It began with a friend of mine who went to South America to live in a Shamanic community for a year. So I just sort of started looking up stuff, stuff to read about turning inward like that, and it peaked my interest. When you witness a transformation with someone else, you realize that maybe there’s more than what meets the eye. Every person in your life can kind of serve as a mirror, if you’re paying attention. But it was a combination of things.

JB: I read that you meditated too?
RG: I’ve been toying with that for the last couple of years. And I actually ended up going on a retreat committed to silence and meditation which was really good for me. Shutting up and turning off your phone for a week is really eye-opening, especially in the modern day. It really starts to show you what’s there underneath all the noise. That’s where the good stuff is. It also helped me realize that human beings in general are a complete mystery. That’s the weird truth that no one wants to admit, so that’s why we cling to our false identities because it’s easier than accepting that our world and life and everything is unknown and it will always be unknown. I think that’s why people run from meditation and taking time to be alone with yourself. I still do. We all do.

JB: Is that what your song and music video “Do You Love Your Company” is about?
RG:
Yeah. Kind of the discomfort of sitting with yourself for a minute and fearlessly looking at the situation. It’s like looking into a void. If you really, really break it down you realize “I have no idea what’s going on besides that story that I’ve created and tell myself every day.”

JB: What was the process of making this album like?
RG: It was crammed between tours. We didn’t really feel like we made a record. We toured forever, were home for fifteen minutes and recorded an album and then went back on tour. There was no romantic, fun, creative story. A lot of the songs were just written over time, while we were on the road. We didn’t overthink it. We kind of just did it.

JB: How do you like touring? Are you in your element right now?
RG: This is great. I think this tour is and will be great, and our tour in April was amazing. I’m with friends, visiting beautiful places. Sometimes it can be tough though. We did a European tour that was like a month long, and that was tough for me for sure. Touring can be so taxing, so if you don’t allow that time to rebuild, it can break you down pretty quickly.

JB: Can you tell me about your background? Have you always wanted to be a musician?
RG: I don’t know how I got started. I don’t really have any idea. I asked for a guitar when I was like twelve years old for Christmas. For no reason at all. There was no big ah-ha moment, I just got one. And I didn’t know how to even hold it correctly or play it. Then I decided that I was fit to be a singer and guitarist in a band in high school, and neither of those things were true. The first time I ever played in a live setting was at an open-mic and my friend did an acoustic medley of Dave Matthews songs. There was never a realization that it was what I should or shouldn’t or even wanted to be doing. And I didn’t have any natural ability so it didn’t really make sense but I just kind of stuck with it. With my previous band, that was the first band I toured with, it started to become a little more clear. I liked touring, and I always liked writing songs. That’s always been the main thing for me.

JB: What’s your favorite song from the album?

RG: I really like the song “Love Supreme (Work Together!).” I feel like that’s becoming the main part of the show, like the sentiment of that song, especially now. It has this general vibe of unity and bringing people together, especially in a time where there’s so much chaos. I think it’s an important thing to remember.

You can keep up with Ron Gallo on Instagram, Twitter, or on his website.

My Style: Breeze Robinson 

Breeze Robinson is a law student in Indianapolis, and the owner of Future Friends Holographic Magic club, a contemporary art collective. The goal of the collective is to emphasize marginalized voices through the expression of art, film, music, poetry and performance. Breeze also happens to have great style, influenced by hip-hop culture and A$AP Rocky. She told us more about her style inspirations below.

What is your earliest memory of a noticeable interest in fashion?
BR: I had a favorite outfit that I wanted to wear every single day when I was in 1st grade because none of my other clothes were cool enough.

Who or what influences your style?
BR: I’m mostly influenced by hip-hop culture and street fashion. Specifically A$AP Rocky and Young Thug.

What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
BR: Highsnobiety, alyxstudio, badgarlriri, patternmagazine

Describe your personal style in four words or one phrase:
BR: “Pretty cool I guess”

What’s your go-to item in your closet?
BR: Black denim overalls

Who are your favorite designers, and what do you like about their designs?
BR: Virgil Abloh because he makes streetwear into luxury clothes.

Define fashion:
BR: Wearing clothes to convey a message about yourself or society.

Did you ever consider leaving the Indy area? If so, what made you stay?
BR: I think everyone considers leaving, but I like it here. There’s room for growth, opportunity, and folks from Indy are some of the most creative people I know.

What trends are you noticing for spring fashion?
BR: It looks like the 90s might be here for another season. Also baggy clothes, bright colors, especially green.

What’s next for you? What short and long term goals are on your list?
BR: I’m going to keep running Future Friends and providing an opportunity for marginalized artists, graduate from law school, and take up a career in modeling.

Worst fashion trend:
BR: Jnco Jeans

Best fashion trend:
BR: I’ve been really happy with the resurrection of the color blocking and stripes from the 90s hip-hop era.

Last but certainly not least, name your favorite fashion icon:
BR: A$AP Rocky

You can follow Breeze on Instagram, as well as Future Friends HMC.

“I Vote Because” Photography project gives voters a voice 

Today is election day, but you probably already knew that thanks to countless reminders and “I Voted!” stickers on social media. If it feels like people are emphasizing voting more than ever, it’s because they probably are. No matter what their political views are, most people have a strong opinion about the current administration, and this election could reduce or aid President Trump’s decision making power. Renowned photographer Janette Beckman and PROOF: Media for Social Justice executive director Leora Kahn understood this, and were eager to do their part to encourage people to vote. They decided to do so through photography, thus the “I Vote Because” campaign was born.

Janette Beckman and Leora Kahn came up with the idea in December, while chatting in a cafe in New York: They would go to swing states, take portraits of people on the street, and ask them why it was important to vote. If they weren’t registered to vote, PROOF’s team would register them right then and there.

PROOF is a New York City based non-profit that uses visual storytelling to inspire action on issues surrounding human rights. Beckman is a renowned documentary photographer who has done lots of photography work regarding the punk and hip-hop eras in London, New York, and Los Angeles. She has also done photography for rap and hip-hop labels, including for artists such as The Police and Salt-N-Pepa.

For Beckman, being able to get out of the “New York bubble” and meet people in other parts of the United States was exciting, especially as someone from the UK.

“We all live in New York you know, and it’s a bubble,” she said. “And here we are in swing states where it could go either way and there are a lot of different beliefs and a lot of different types of people. It was an amazing experience.”

She likened the experience to photographer Richard Avedon’s 1985 project titled “In the American West,” where Avedon traveled through the west photographing many different kinds of everyday people.

Beckman was inspired by this to make sure that the “I Vote Because” campaign was as diverse as possible. After all, America is a country of immigrants, she pointed out.

Beckman and the PROOF team also wanted to make sure they reach communities that are disproportionately affected by voting restrictions and the inconvenience of voting. For example, seven states have very strict photo ID laws, where citizens must present multiple kinds of government issued photo identification to be able to vote. But more than 21 million Americans don’t have this kind of ID, and they are disproportionately low-income, racial minorities, or disabled. Other kinds of restrictions that make it hard to vote are transportation to voting locations, and the bans that some states still have prohibiting ex-felons from being able to vote.

Beckman and the PROOF team believe that voting restrictions should be lifted and that all people should have the right to vote, no matter their situation.

“You know, it doesn’t matter how poor you are, or if you’re an ex-felon or a drug dealer or you’re homeless– your vote should count and your voice should count. That’s the most important thing,” Beckman said.

To take the photos for “I Vote Because,” Beckman and Kahn set up white backgrounds on the streets of cities like Jacksonville, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. They usually focused on working-class neighborhoods. In Jacksonville, they set up their set in front of the bus station which was situated between a homeless shelter, a drug rehab center, and near a prison. Then, they simply photographed people who walked by and asked them why they thought it was important to vote.

They photographed approximately a hundred people a day, and gathered lots of interest from those who saw them and were curious about what they were doing.

“Somebody would see us an they’d come all the way over in their wheelchair, over all of this bumpy ground in the parking lot to come and get their photo taken and be a part of it. Some guy rode his Harley onto the set to get his photo taken,” Beckman said with a laugh. “Some guy even came up trying to sell us weed, and we said “do you vote?” and he said “yes” so I was like, “let’s take your picture.” People would see us and be curious about what we were doing, and would want to be a part of it.”

The finished portraits can be seen on PROOF’s website. They were all in black and white, and featured their subject in whatever way felt natural to them. Some people smiled, some people did not. Some people held objects that reflected their jobs or hobbies, and some people posed with their arms around their children and loved ones. Beckman stayed away from posing the subjects– she wanted them to appear as they really are.

The final images are being displayed on billboards, buses and subway stations. They are accompanied by quotes about why that person values voting. A few examples of quotes are, “I vote because my ancestors couldn’t.” and “I vote because it’s my obligation to protect the rights and future of my children.”

Now that it’s election day, Beckman hopes that the people who participated in the photoshoot and people who have seen the campaign take time out of their day to vote. Regardless of what happens, she’s proud of PROOF’s efforts.

“After the last election a lot of people got really depressed because it wasn’t the president they wanted. In my own practice, I wanted to use the tool that I have, which is photography, to try and help change what was going on,” she said. “So that’s what I’ve done. And whether it’s working or not, I don’t know, but at least I know I tried to do something and I’m really proud of it.”

In the end, the “I Vote Because” campaign is about more than simply voting once on election day. It’s about listening to those whose voices are often ignored or deemed less important about the issues that affect their lives, from immigration to civil rights to health insurance. PROOF’s campaign has brought these people into the spotlight.