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The Etsy-sodes (part I): Children’s Books About Fish + Crafting As A Political Expression

Today we’ll dig into the early days of Etsy, with special attention on the very crafty, very political, very community-driven primordial soup that birthed Etsy. This will be a majorly nostalgic moment for some of you, especially if you’ve ever subscribed to Bust or attended a Stitch ‘n Bitch night. We are going to spend most of this episode in 2005, but we’ll take a brief trip back to 1998 to learn about Jean Railla and her website, Get Crafty, which brought together a new generation of crafters.

Also: let’s give a special, super grateful shout to our friend (and a previous guest), Christine of Lady Hogg Vintage for doing a bunch of research and sending us a ton of info! Thank you so much, Christine! She’s been selling on Etsy for a long time so she had a lot of experience and memories to share that really guided the process of writing this story!

Transcript

Welcome to Clotheshorse, the podcast that remembers my first gift from Etsy. It was from my boyfriend Baxter (who you’ve totally heard about on the department) and it was a knitted holder for my ipod in the shape of the prince from Katamari Damacy. And I felt so cool everytime I pulled it out of my bag.

I’m your host Amanda. And this is episode 90, part one of a series I’m calling “the etsy-sodes.” Roll your eyes if you want, but this is my podcast and I’m calling the shots around here. Today we’ll dig into the early days of Etsy, with special attention on the very crafty, very political, very community driven primordial soup that birthed Etsy. This will be a majorly nostalgic moment for some of you, especially if you’ve ever subscribed to Bust magazine or attended a Stitch n Bitch night. I thought that the Etsy-sode would be just that, a single, non plural episode, but there’s just TOO MUCH to talk about! I also want to give a special, super grateful shout to my friend (and a previous guest), Christine of Lady Hogg Vintage for doing a bunch of research/sending me a ton of info! Thank you so much Christine! She’s been selling on Etsy for a long time so she had a lot of experience and memories to share that really guided me as I started writing the story of Etsy.

Let’s set the stage, the context, let’s name a year here…it’s 2005. What was happening that year? Let’s set the mood if you will…well, George W. Bush just began his second term as president. Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, prompting Kanye West to rightfully say “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” A company called Amazon–have you heard of them? Announced a new subscription service that offered free shipping on all orders: Amazon Prime. Put a pin in that because as we often do around here, we’re going to talk about the continuing ripple effects caused by Amazon Prime and the delusion of free shipping…

In 2005 I was living in Portland OR, which I would say was at that point, the west coast headquarters of DIY and crafting. Yes, this was happening all over the united states, but it was basically a way of life. Kim and I did an episode of The Department a while back about the importance of DIY and crafting for the early aughts hipsters. I highly recommend listening to that one–I’ll share it in the show notes–but the TLDR of it all is that there were too major segments of consumers dominating the popular culture of the early aughts. There was the mainstream culture of barbie pink, pulling your thong out of your low rise jeans, Paris Hilton, the Simple Life, Swarvoski crystals, Rock of Love…all this raunch culture. And then there was the ostensibly “not mainstream” culture of the hipsters. And the hipsters definitely hated everything that the mainstream culture with all of its celebutantes represented: conspicuous consumption, pop music, rom com films…all of that. Now of course the hipsters were just as consumery and misogynist as their mainstream counterparts, but well….seriously go listen the 2000s series on The Department.

But one of the things that hipsters embraced as a rejection of the mainstream was crafting and DIY. They saw it as more genuine. And I was definitely one of *those* hipsters. I was always making jewelry and hair accessories out of felt and buttons, I made pins and stickers of my own. I customized every article of clothing that I found thrifting and I aspired to be able to afford clothing from Seaplane, Portland’s incredible upcycled, extreme fashion forward, literally works of art clothing boutique. In fact I would call Seaplane the mother of the portland fashion scene.

One of the co-owners of Seaplane, Holly Stalder went on to found another one of my favorite boutiques, Haunt…she has since closed the store–mostly due to the pandemic–but she’s still making beautiful clothing. I have a few extra special pieces from her that I have been outfit repeating for years. I will share a link to her website in the show notes because more people should know Holly Stalder!

While Seaplane was filled with the most aspirational, most fashion forward clothing and accessories…there were stores and sellers all over Portland specializing in all of the “genres” of crafty, DIY products. For the cuter, quirkier hipster, We had Queen Bee Creations, who you most certainly recognize if you’re either a Portlander or an elder millenial/gen X-er who read Bust, Bitch, and Venus in the aughts. The ads and editorial in these magazines introduced their readers to indie makers, making them household names, well at least in hipster households. Queen Bee specialized in bags and wallets that had these character appliques (also made out of leather/faux leather) stitched on to them in the way of flowers, bikes, bees. You could find Queen Bee and other Pacific Northwest artists/makers like Nikki McClure on Buy Olympia dot com.

But in general, small makers were limited in terms of how they could reach the customers:

They could sell at the various craft fairs that were beginning to pop up, even in Portland we had a regular weekly craft fair called Saturdays Market where you could find duct tape wallets and all the toe rings you’ve ever wanted. The Saturday Market still happens, btw. The drawback to selling at these various fairs and markets is that sellers couldn’t really always predict how it would go for them because they were at the mercy of weather and the customers that decided to show up. And having a booth at these kinds of events cost money! Tables and signs had to be bought, too. There was the time involved in driving to these fairs, setting up, sitting there all day, then tearing it all down and driving home.

Makers could wholesale to smaller boutiques. They could email every boutique they could find on the still burgeoning internet. Or they could get a booth at the Pool tradeshow. Pool is now part of MAGIC, definitely the largest apparel, accessories, and shoe trade show in the United States. It happens twice a year (or at least it did pre-pandemic) in Las Vegas. At some point Pool (yes, like swimming pool, like pool of blood) was acquired by MAGIC and the company describes it as “a “community of art and design driven brands” that will particularly appeal to the boutique and lifestyle market.” But showing at this tradeshow was not and is not cheap: you pay for a booth, you have have catalogs and order forms printed, you have to pay to actually travel to Vegas, stay in a hotel, all of that stuff. So kinda risky unless you have access to some extra cash or maybe take out a business loan.

Or maybe you could form a collective with other makers. The Austin Craft Mafia was formed after a 2001 meeting of 9 women who hoped to grow their craft skills into a way to quit their day jobs. Each member built her own business, all while helping the other members build theirs. That’s an amazing idea–and I’m starting to think we need more of that in 2021. But in a pre-social media era, it was a lot harder to find other makers to collaborate with in this way.

Very simply, It was hard to reach customers. Vintage sellers were a little luckier because they had Ebay! It’s hard to believe now, but in 2005, Ebay was *the* place to find vintage clothing on the internet. The prices were good and sellers from all over the world were building small businesses just by sourcing, photographing, and listing stuff. This wasn’t a great fit for crafters and makers though because Ebay just wasn’t set up for quote “handmade” stuff (and you know I had to put handmade in quotes there because well, everything we buy is actually made by humans). But the Ebay customer at the point was primarily buying secondhand stuff, and vintage fit into that bucket. But brand new, made with love stuff did not. I know that eventually people started selling closeouts and other brand new stuff on ebay, but that wasn’t happening yet.

So unless a maker was selling stuff on a site like Made in Olympia or had their own website, they didn’t have an entrance into the burgeoning area of ecommerce aka buying stuff online.

And that was unfortunate, because craft was bigger than ever. As I mentioned, magazines like Bust were making activities like knitting, sewing, and needlepoint cool again, encouraging the formation of “stitch n bitch” groups where individuals could hang out a cool bar or someone’s cute apartment, socializing as they worked on their current projects. The Church of Craft was forming chapters all over the country, where people could meet and work on projects, inspire one another. Hi, remember crochet and yarn bombing? It started in 2005 when Magda Sayeg, from Houston she covered the door handle of her boutique with a custom-made cozy. Yarn bombing is guerrilla art, street art made with yarn rather than say chalk or paint. If you’ve seen a tree or stop sign wearing a little cozy, you’ve just witnessed some yarn bombing. And yarn bombing was 100% an creative expression and a political act.

The hipster culture of the aughts saw craft as a more genuine means of creative expression and shopping (except for when they were shopping at Urban Outfitters, then they just didn’t care). Jenny Hart showed us that embroidery was cool with her line of needlepoint patterns, Sublime Stitching. Debbie Stoller, one of the founders and editors of Bust, wrote a series of iconic knitting books. Seriously. Pick one up if you’re interested in finally learning how to knit or crochet! Stoller herself said, ““Knitting is part of the same do-it-yourself ethos that spawned zines and mixtapes,” More and more people were believing that making something yourself was a true political statement, a revolutionary act. I mean, this sounds more relevant than ever, right? Ultimately, making something yourself or very literally buying it from a person you can see in front of you ensures (hopefully) that you’re reducing the human exploitation in the supply chain of making that product.

I would also be just a complete jerk if I didn’t mention that Wendy Mullin, aka Built by Wendy showed the world that sewing could be cool too with the publication of her book SEW U in 2006. I love that book and we also got to interview her for The department!

Even on the more mainstream side of things, my queen Martha Stewart was out of prison and ready to show us even more complicated ways to celebrate the holidays!

Okay, so we’re in 2005 right now..but we’re going to take a really fast trip back to 1998, when Jean Railla started a website called Get Crafty. This was before crafting was seen as a hip, cool political thing. OKay that may not be accurate…we know that craft had its own renaissance for the boomers during the sixties and 70s, but for gen x-ers, that just hadn’t happened yet. And the millennials were maybe crafting via friendship bracelets and beaded jewelry, but in general, crafting had become sort of an old lady thing to do. So Railla was doing something major here. Getcrafty.com, “home of the craftistas”—was the first website to bring together the new generation of crafters. And really look at it from a feminist, progressive, political perpective.

A version of the website that still remains says, “When Jean Railla was in her twenties, she thought being a bohemian meant smoking in cafes and going home to a crummy, dusty walk-up apartment. But then she had a shocking thought —would vacuuming really get her booted from the riot grrls club? So she began to cook, and then to knit and then she took up sewing. Soon she had launched getcrafty.com, the webzine for radical craftiness.

Get Crafty is about realizing that domesticity matters–that an apartment with handmade pillows or a bathroom with an Elvis theme is more life-affirming than the same old Ikea couch. Jean inspires readers to start making creative choices t

hroughout their lives—in the way they shop, cook, dress, decorate and, of course, craft.”

I mean…I feel like we just nailed the pillars of the Clotheshorse community here, right?

Returning to this century, In 2005–just after the publication of Railla’s book Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec– environmental engineer Kari Tipton wrote a loving essay for Satya about Get Crafty and it’s impact on her life called “Getting Crafty as a Feminist Statement”

She said,

“If I had to choose the one way the getcrafty.com message boards most shaped my life it wouldn’t be from the incredibly helpful crafty tips, but by introducing me to so many smart and interesting women—women who weren’t afraid to use the word feminist and who thought about the issues I was dealing with: how to reconcile our need for community with our work and its demands on our time, and how to craft our lives in the direction we wanted them to go. And maybe it was being surrounded by so many strong and vocal women or maybe it is the direction my growth would take anyway, but the longer I craft, the more I think about societal issues. For example: crafting not only as a pleasant and rewarding activity, but as an inherently political activity. What is more political than giving homemade gifts during the holidays—avoiding Black Friday and conspicuous consumerism in favor of items you make as you hold the recipient in mind?.”

She ends the essay by saying, “As Jean remarks in the afterward: “[being crafty] is about viewing your whole life as one big craft project.” So don’t be shy to pick up those knitting needles, crochet hooks, hot glue guns, or sewing machines, to read a new cookbook, or take pride in your home. It’s a feminist crafting revolution, and it’s about creating a better life for ourselves.”

Here in 2021 it probably feels super antiquated to imagine cooking, cleaning, sewing, crafting as a revolutionary activity but women who grew up in the 80s and 90s were told to prioritize career and education over home and craft. Even the federal government felt that way…as I talked about way back in my home ec and sewing episodes with Mary, in the 80s, the Reagan administration decided to stop funding home ec programs and public school and shift that money into more job-related skills. As if cooking, cleaning, and sewing were not only essential to day-to-day life, but also potential career paths.

I know I just started this paragraph by saying that it seems super antiquated to imagine cleaning, cooking, sewing, and crafting as revolutionary, as a political statement…but actually, it still is! Because with less and less people knowing how to do these things themselves, they are pushed into a corner of consumerism where they must outsource the food they eat, cleaning their homes, laundering clothing, etc. I have worked with so many people over the years who were super intelligent, great at their jobs, all-in-all amazing creative people…yet all of their meals were from restaurants or the to-go section at Whole Foods because they just did not know how to cook or even grocery shop. Making stuff for yourself IS a revolutionary act.

I’m just going to tell you that while I vaguely remember seeing Railla’s book out there at the time, I never read it…so I’m ordering a copy from Thriftbooks posthaste. Debbie Stoller–once again, one of the founders of Bust magazine described Get Crafty (the book) as “Martha Stewart meets Patti Smith in this essential homemaking manual for the modern-day gal (and guy). With projects ranging from the straightforward (how to paint your room) to the sublime (Jean’s grandmother’s Madeleine recipe) as well as a keen sense of both the political and spiritual reasons for why young people are embracing the “New Domesticity,” Get Crafty is the best proof yet that crafting is the new rock n’ roll.”

So here we are… it’s 2005, Jean Raila has just published her book, I’m sure she’s riding high on how stoked everyone is about it…and she hires a guy named Robert Kalin and some friends to redesign Getcrafty.com. Kalin was studying at NYU, but feeling sort of lost about what he was going to do with his life. He and his buddies Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik (who was also working on the site) had some woodworking experience, but they would have described themselves as more “techie” types than crafty types. In fact they had very little knowledge or awareness of the crafting phenomenon that was sweeping young women all over the country. But soon Kalin started to see that there was a massive opportunity there…he realized that while tons of crafters dreamed of giving up their full time day jobs and making a living crafting instead, there just weren’t a lot of opportunities to do that. Remember, even in this burgeoning ecommerce world, there were almost no options for the average crafter to reach customers via the internet. What if Kalin could adapt the Ebay concept for a community of crafters?

Railla thought it was a “brilliant” idea. She agreed to act as an advisor on the project, but ultimately she wasn’t really into the idea of commercializing crafting. For her, crafting was more of a philosophy, a way of life, and its magic and power lie in participation, not consumption. She discussed this in her Craft magazine column, arguing that “the practice satisfies the urge to create, values feminine art forms, provides relief from the digital world and, yes, is a form of “political statement” against the dehumanizing global supply chain.” But, she was also aware that while not everyone had the time or privilege to craft, they would appreciate being able to buy more ethical products. That even if you didn’t have the luxury of DIY, you had an appreciation for DIY.

A few years later in 2008–as Etsy had sold millions of items on its platform,, she would write in an essay called “What would Jesus sell?” where she said

“Isn’t shopping, no matter how wonderfully crafty and politically correct still, well, shopping? Can you escape the so-called sin of consumerism by buying handmade? Isn’t the whole point of modern crafting Do It Yourself — not Buy from Someone Who is Doing It Themselves? Not to be a total hypocrite; I shop Etsy and artisan crafters as well as buy the crap from China just like everyone else. It’s just that I see a new trend, which is moving away from crafting and towards consuming. What’s next? “Hip Craft” aisles at Wal-Mart?” Um well….I have some bad news for you Jean, everyone has a hip craft aisle now.

Also…It’s clear that at this point Railla was starting to doubt the “revolution” part of this craft revolution. And her statement is a pointed criticism of what Etsy would eventually become. Did she see it coming?

But back to Kalin and his big new business idea. He consulted his grandfather about making Etsy a reality, but he disliked the boring and tedious direction he received. You know, practical stuff like “write a business plan” and create a budget. He decided NOT to write a business plan, figuring that if he could just build the site, it would function as a living, breathing proof of the concept. Later he wrote a “fan letter” to one of the founders of Flickr (HOLY SHIT REMEMER FLICKR) and she became an investor. A founder of del.icio.us, the social-bookmarking site, invested, and so did a New York venture-capital firm.

I’m just going to go ahead and say here that this just such a privileged white dude origin story.

And let’s also put in a pin in that venture capital money. Because it’s not the last time Etsy is going to take VC money…and that kind of money has a lot of strings attached. And these strings are made of that plastic fishing line that never breaks: VC money means two things: the company must grow exponentially and it most be profitable. Keep that in mind!

Anyway… but what’s with the name? I remember the first time I heard the name “Etsy” i was kinda turned off. It sounded really cutesy and not very cool. But on the other hand, it reminded me of Effy of Skins (yes, major Skins fan over here). Well, In a January 2010 interview for Reader’s Digest, founder Rob Kalin explained the name. “I wanted a nonsense word because I wanted to build the brand from scratch. I was watching Fellini’s 8 ½and writing down what I was hearing. In Italian, you say ‘etsi’ a lot. It means ‘oh, yes.’ And in Latin, it means ‘and if.'” Okay, well that seems fine.

About 90 percent of the early sellers were women, today it’s still 87%. The customers were cut from the same cloth (is that a crafting pun or what) as the sellers: passionate about craft, shopping small, community and support. And the people working in the Etsy offices were from the same community as the sellers and shoppers.

Nora Abousteit, one of the co-founders of BurdaStyle, rented out a spare desk at Etsy headquarters and she got to witness the cool community around the brand. She told Vox, “There was this one woman who [worked there] who used to wake up every two hours just to curate the Etsy homepag. It was really a passion. It was amazing. I mean, there wasn’t that much going on in the tech scene in New York, and also the whole craft-making scene was just starting, just budding.

Etsy was all about community. In 2010, Kalin told the Wall Street Journal that his vision for the company had always been “Instead of having an economy dictate the behavior of communities, to empower communities to influence the behavior of economies.” And early Etsy walked the walk.

The company had these “Street Teams,” crafters who organized around things like better booth rates for art fairs and pop ups.

It held entrepreneurial workshops for its sellers with names like “how to grow your global microbrand.” It offered shop critiques, taught its sellers how to write press releases, showed them the best practices of its most successful sellers.

It had its own “magazine videocast” called the Storque, which the New York times called a “DIY business school.”

Kalin also hired the best Etsy sellers to literally work for the company in the hopes of being able to share their skills as both crafters and entrepreneurs directly with the all of the sellers using the plagorms.

The company also held weekly craft nights at their offices, had a book club and created Etsy Labs, a community-focused program that taught craft and business skills to the public

In the first 10 months of business, 10,000 artists sold their handmade goods to over 40,000 buyers. Over 70,000 items were sold on Etsy. And it felt kinda miraculous because one, etsy was giving makers this opportunity to be build a business out of their passions. And two, it was prioritizing the success of its community.

Early Etsy was so cool. But it wasn’t profitable. That’s going to be a recurring theme. Running out of cashflow in the summer of 2006, Etsy accepted another round of VC funding, this time from Union Square Ventures. Once again, the promise of exponential growth and profitability was made.

On July 29, 2007, Etsy registered its one-millionth sale. That same year, Etsy partnered with other crafters (including the Austin Craft Mafia) to form the Handmade Pledge, which people could sign at buyhandmade.org. It said, “I pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me,” i “Buying handmade is better for people,” a statement on the site read and “better for the environment,” because mass production is a “major cause” of global warming, among other things. There were links to an anti-sweatshop site and a Wal-Mart watchdog site. Because in 2007, the worst company anyone could think of was Walmart…this was only two years after the creation of Amazon Prime.

That year, Etsy had record sales every day in December. And both retailers and the press began to take notice. By this point, I was working in the buying office of a massive quasi-hipster retailer and the bosses were concerned by Etsy. Etsy and its handmade pledge, it’s army of politically minded crafters, who hated mass manufactured anything…well they were anathema to what my employer was selling. The question never was “how can we support makers and crafters in same way Etsy does?” No, it was how can we cash in on the success of Etsy and DIY culture? Somehow I was given the greenlight to collaborate with some Etsy sellers… after scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through the site, I landed on amazing knit designer named Yokoo…who by the way, still sells her cool knit (as in knit out of yarn) products on Etsy. I’ll link to her in the show notes. My job was to get Yokoo to license some of her designs to us so I could have the much cheaper fast fashion version made by one of our vendors. She had final sign off on all of the production samples. Overall I like to think it was good for her because at least it put some money in her pocket and we didn’t do anything predatory or exploitive. I thought about reaching out to her to ask her how she felt about the whole thing for this episode, but I didn’t want to be weird. I still have and wear a hat from the collection! Thanks Yokoo!

The press also was taking more notice of Etsy, and in December of that year, New York Times reporter Rob Walker went to the Etsy offices to meet Robert Kalin.

You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and read a direct passage from Walkers article, called Handmade 2.0:

“Kalin is 27 and seems even younger, with boyish features and reddish hair. Serious in a way that could be read as either earnest or deadpan, he told me the stories behind a stuffed animal and an interesting metal sculpture on his desk, both from Etsy sellers. He then handed me a piece of crocheted bacon. In order to explain his company, he offered me a seat and reached for a book. It was a children’s book, about a fish named Swimmy. He pulled his chair closer and read aloud. The upshot was that a whole bunch of little fish gang up and begin swimming in a formation that resembles one huge fish, thus warding off predators. In their formation, the fish named Swimmy assumes the position where the eye would be. Kalin closed the book. “We want to be the eye,” he said, in case I’d missed the point. “Like Swimmy.”

The next year-in 2008–Kalin posted a video of himself reading that book on Etsy’s blog, writing,

“”We do not want Etsy itself to be a big tuna fish. Those tuna are the big companies that all us small businesses are teaming up against.”

But here in 2007, The reporter, Rob Walker, makes it pretty clear throughout this article that while Kalin is passionate, maybe even visionary, he also spews a lot of nonsense that almost makes the premise of Etsy seem unviable. Too idealistic, too community focused to make a profit. This indictment of Kalin, that he’s just too, I don’t know, ethical to be a successful CEO will be a recurring them in the Etsy story. And yet Walker also concedes this:

“Many crafters no doubt feel passionately about the ideals suggested by the Handmade Pledge a horror of sweatshop labor and corporate conformity, concern about the environment and would be pleased to see the broader consumer culture embrace them too. Meanwhile there is also the more salient matter of how to make a rewarding, meaningful and satisfying living without having to give up on those ideals. The women who have led the craft movement don’t want to work for the Man. But many are also motivated by having reached adulthood at a time when the Man is slashing benefits, reneging on pensions, laying people off and, if hiring, is looking for customer-service reps and baristas. This is not a utopian alt-youth framework; it’s a very real-world, alt-grown-up framework.

So in 2007, Etsy was on fire. The press was intrigued, retailers were frightened, and makers were finally making a living off of their work. And there was this flourishing, happy, supportive community of etsy sellers and customers. The expectation–or at least the promise that Kalin was making to his VC investors was that the company would be profitable by the end of the year.

It was not. And so in 2008, when the company had monthly sales of about $4.3 million and monthly Web traffic of about 230 million page views, venture capitalist Jim Breyer — a board member at Facebook and Walmart lead another $27 million round of funding that included more money from Union Square Ventures. And btw, members of the Etsy community were NOT HAPPY about this connection to Walmart.

This was the big time in terms of investment. And it meant more than ever that Etsy must continue to grow AND it must become profitable. Which meant: providing a community and education for its sellers and customers could no longer be its primary goal. It also had to make some serious money for its very serious investors.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of reflection over the past few weeks as I’ve passed the one year mark of Clotheshorse…I’ve been pinpointing the core values, pillars, priorities of the podcast and its instagram account, and I’ve settled on a three pillars (soudns fancy, right) that probably won’t be a surprise to you:

Is education, as in providing information for all of you, so you can share it all with the people around you, then they can share it with everyone in their lives, and so on and so on, and then soon, everybody knows that clothing is made by people, not robots (for example). Along with that, I want to inspire you to take action in your community and to be active in engaging with both brands and yoru elected representatives. Not just telling you the what and how of what’s happening in this world, but the “now what” that helps us create change.

Next is progress not perfection. Too often I feel that we become intimidated and overwhelmed by the prospect of being perfect people perfect activists, perfect environmentalists, perfect models in this community…and then we just give up and shut down. Yes, sometimes you’re going to buy some clothes from Target and that’s totally okay as long as you care for them mend them wera them a long time and pass them on to another person when you are done with them. Progress is always going to be more important that perfection.

Lastly is the power of our personal stories and experiences, aka the personal is political. And that means creating a platform for more members of our community to share their stories and experiences here on the podcast, via the hotline, emails, audio essays, and conversations with me. This is super important to me. And sharing your stories about Etsy is just the beginning. In general, if you have an idea, a story, a question that you think will benefit the community, help the community see why something is important or maybe allow members of our community to see their own experiences with more clarity, send it my way. I want to hear from you.

You’re probably wondering why i didn’t say “community” as one of these three pillars…well that’s because community, our community, which I hope will continue to grow, is supported by these three pillars. I can’t emphasize enough how important all of you are to me and what I do. It’s one thing for me to speak into a microphone and hope that someone listens. It’s another thing to work on all of this in service to all of you, which is how I view my work on clotheshorse. You are what has kept me motivated during the last year, all of you have only increased my passion for the work I’m doing. Every time one of you says “I’ve changed the way I shop or I learned to repair clothes or I told my friends about this thing and it changed their minds.” Every time I hear that, I just get more excited to work harder.

One thing I hear a lot, which I don’t think is meant negatively, but sometimes feels a little critical is “how do you create so much content? How do you work so hard all the time?” And my response to that is so simple: because I love what I’m doing here, because I feel like my work (at least right now) is necessary and it is having an effect on others. I promise that I will take a break when I need it. And I definitely will stop working on Clotheshorse when there are no more people to educate no more minds to change, and no more systems to dismantle. I definitely look forward to having all of you by my side until we get there.

 

Additional Reading/Listening:

The Department talks about DIY/hipsters in the aughts
Get Crafty : Hip Home Ec by Jean Railla
“What Would Jesus Sell?” by Jean Railla
“Handmade 2.0” by Rob Walker, The New York Times
“A Decade of Portland Fashion Flashbacks,” by Eden Dawn, Portland Monthly.

Check out Holly Stalder’s beautiful clothing here.
Incredible accessories by Yokoo.

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Clotheshorse is brought to you with support from the following sustainable small businesses:

Thumbprint is Detroit’s only fair trade marketplace, located in the historic Eastern Market.  Our small business specializes in products handmade by empowered women in South Africa making a living wage creating things they love like hand painted candles and ceramics! We also carry a curated assortment of  sustainable/natural locally made goods. Thumbprint is a great gift destination for both the special people in your life and for yourself! Browse our online store at thumbprintdetroit.com and find us on instagram @thumbprintdetroit.

Picnicwear:  a slow fashion brand, ethically made by hand from vintage and deadstock materials – most notably, vintage towels! Founder, Dani, has worked in the industry as a fashion designer for over 10 years, but started Picnicwear in response to her dissatisfaction with the industry’s shortcomings. Picnicwear recently moved to rural North Carolina where all their clothing and accessories are now designed and cut, but the majority of their sewing is done by skilled garment workers in NYC. Their customers take comfort in knowing that all their sewists are paid well above NYC minimum wage. Picnicwear offers minimal waste and maximum authenticity: Future Vintage over future garbage.

Shift Clothing, out of beautiful Astoria, Oregon, with a focus on natural fibers, simple hardworking designs, and putting fat people first.  Discover more at shiftwheeler.com

High Energy Vintage is a fun and funky vintage shop located in Somerville, MA, just a few minutes away from downtown Boston. They offer a highly curated selection of bright and colorful clothing and accessories from the 1940s-1990s for people of all genders. Husband-and-wife duo Wiley & Jessamy handpick each piece for quality and style, with a focus on pieces that transcend trends and will find a home in your closet for many years to come! In addition to clothing, the shop also features a large selection of vintage vinyl and old school video games. Find them on instagram @ highenergyvintage, online at highenergyvintage.com, and at markets in and around Boston.

St. Evens is an NYC-based vintage shop that is dedicated to bringing you those special pieces you’ll reach for again and again. More than just a store, St. Evens is dedicated to sharing the stories and history behind the garments. 10% of all sales are donated to a different charitable organization each month.  New vintage is released every Thursday at wearStEvens.com, with previews of new pieces and more brought to you on Instagram at @wear_st.evens.

Deco Denim is a startup based out of San Francisco, selling clothing and accessories that are sustainable, gender fluid, size inclusive and high quality–made to last for years to come. Deco Denim is trying to change the way you think about buying clothes. Founder Sarah Mattes wants to empower people to ask important questions like, “Where was this made? Was this garment made ethically? Is this fabric made of plastic? Can this garment be upcycled and if not, can it be recycled?” Signup at decodenim.com to receive $20 off your first purchase. They promise not to spam you and send out no more than 3 emails a month, with 2 of them surrounding education or a personal note from the Founder. Find them on Instagram as @deco.denim.

The Pewter Thimble Is there a little bit of Italy in your soul? Are you an enthusiast of pre-loved decor and accessories? Bring vintage Italian style — and history — into your space with The Pewter Thimble (@thepewterthimble). We source useful and beautiful things, and mend them where needed. We also find gorgeous illustrations, and make them print-worthy. Tarot cards, tea towels and handpicked treasures, available to you from the comfort of your own home. Responsibly sourced from across Rome, lovingly renewed by fairly paid artists and artisans, with something for every budget. Discover more at thepewterthimble.com

Blank Cass, or Blanket Coats by Cass, is focused on restoring, renewing, and reviving the history held within vintage and heirloom textiles. By embodying and transferring the love, craft, and energy that is original to each vintage textile into a new garment, I hope we can reteach ourselves to care for and mend what we have and make it last. Blank Cass lives on Instagram @blank_cass and a website will be launched soon at blankcass.com.

Gabriela Antonas is a visual artist, an upcycler, and a fashion designer, but Gabriela Antonas is also a feminist micro business with radical ideals. She’s the one woman band, trying to help you understand, why slow fashion is what the earth needs. If you find your self in New Orleans, LA, you may buy her ready-to-wear upcycled garments in person at the store “Slow Down” (2855 Magazine St). Slow Down Nola only sells vintage and slow fashion from local designers. Gabriela’s garments are guaranteed to be in stock in person, but they also have a website so you may support this women owned and run business from wherever you are! If you are interested in Gabriela making a one of a kind garment for you DM her on Instagram at @slowfashiongabriela to book a consultation.

Vagabond Vintage DTLV is a vintage clothing, accessories & decor reselling business based in Downtown Las Vegas. Not only do we sell in Las Vegas, but we are also located throughout resale markets in San Francisco as well as at a curated boutique called Lux and Ivy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jessica, the founder & owner of Vagabond Vintage DTLV, recently opened the first IRL location located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas on August 5th. The shop has a strong emphasis on 60s & 70s garments, single stitch tee shirts & dreamy loungewear. Follow them on instagram, @vagabondvintage.dtlv and keep an eye out for their website coming fall of 2022.

Country Feedback is a mom & pop record shop in Tarboro, North Carolina. They specialize in used rock, country, and soul and offer affordable vintage clothing and housewares. Do you have used records you want to sell? Country Feedback wants to buy them! Find us on Instagram @countryfeedbackvintageandvinyl or head downeast and visit our brick and mortar. All are welcome at this inclusive and family-friendly record shop in the country!

Located in Whistler, Canada, Velvet Underground is a “velvet jungle” full of vintage and second-hand clothes, plants, a vegan cafe and lots of rad products from other small sustainable businesses. Our mission is to create a brand and community dedicated to promoting self-expression, as well as educating and inspiring a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle both for the people and the planet. Find us on Instagram @shop_velvetunderground or online at www.shopvelvetunderground.com

Selina Sanders, a social impact brand that specializes in up-cycled clothing, using only reclaimed, vintage or thrifted materials: from tea towels, linens, blankets and quilts.  Sustainably crafted in Los Angeles, each piece is designed to last in one’s closet for generations to come.  Maximum Style; Minimal Carbon Footprint.

Salt Hats:  purveyors of truly sustainable hats. Hand blocked, sewn and embellished in Detroit, Michigan.

Republica Unicornia Yarns: Hand-Dyed Yarn and notions for the color-obsessed. Made with love and some swearing in fabulous Atlanta, Georgia by Head Yarn Wench Kathleen. Get ready for rainbows with a side of Giving A Damn! Republica Unicornia is all about making your own magic using small-batch, responsibly sourced, hand-dyed yarns and thoughtfully made notions. Slow fashion all the way down and discover the joy of creating your very own beautiful hand knit, crocheted, or woven pieces. Find us on Instagram @republica_unicornia_yarns and at www.republicaunicornia.com.

Cute Little Ruin is an online shop dedicated to providing quality vintage and secondhand clothing, vinyl, and home items in a wide range of styles and price points.  If it’s ethical and legal, we try to find a new home for it!  Vintage style with progressive values.  Find us on Instagram at @CuteLittleRuin.