Maybe I’m not alone on this, but I often find myself torn between wildly different “looks” as I try to develop my own unique sense of style. Sometimes, in the current Instagram-lifestyle-brand fashion world, I feel like I’m that friend who was fine with casually dating until I noticed that everyone else had seemingly already found a long-term relationship. There’s a pressure to settle, to find a single look that truly defines me – am I ultra-feminine romantic? Minimalist? A Vintage Queen? Why is it that every time I think I’ve found “the one,” I fall in love again with a completely different style (cue “distracted boyfriend” meme)?
The answer is this: I am the main source of my “everyone has figured it out but me” paranoia (surprise!) and the truth is that since we as people aren’t unilateral in our personhood, the expectation of having a unilateral approach to style is just unrealistic. To get into the pop-psychology of it, we have a multiplicity of identities – we have different personas for different occasions that all combine to make up the total of who we are as our “selves,” or at least I think so. Keeping this in mind has personally made me feel a lot more excited about finding styles I like that are different from how I may dress now (as opposed to making me feel stressed out because I’ve found yet another thing that I have to decide to either commit to or never wear).
It’s fun when I find a brand that stirs a slumbering part of my own “multiplicitous style identity,” and that’s what I love about designer Bella Weinstein’s Handyma’am Goods. With a tagline of “simple, rugged, and lasting products made for women by women,” Handyma’am makes me feel more in-tune with the strong, sincere, “get sh!t done” attitude that I admire in many of the women in my family and in my life. As Weinstein celebrates the debut of the first Handyma’am shoe in collaboration with Rider Boot Co., I sat down with her to find out how Handyma’am came together.
How did your interest in aesthetics start, and how did your passion grow from there into Handy Ma’am?
I think I have always had an eye and appreciation for aesthetics. Form, light, and color have always been things I have paid attention to. I started going to school for interior design until I got a job at a salon and decided to use those same elements on people instead of interiors. Now that same interest has evolved into clothing design.
How would you describe your style?
Depends on what I am feeling. I love simple well made clothes but I like to get weird every once in awhile. I think the constant is my recognition of fit and form. Whether it be the perfect pair of blue jeans or the wide leg jumpsuit that may or may not make me look like an oompa loompa…It’s gotta fit just right.
When I started Handyma’am I didn’t think of it as getting into the fashion industry. I just saw a void and decided to fill it. I prefer to think of it as creating a new tool, it just happens to be wearable.
Who or what inspires you?
People. I have a huge admiration for the community of women I am trying to serve through this project and the people I work alongside. The network I get to interact with is incredible and a huge part of what energizes me to keep this crazy circus I like to call Handyma’am running.
When you are designing a piece, what are you looking for? What is your goal?
Utility first. I like to start with the “why” and move onto form from there. My goal is to create timeless pieces that serve a purpose and/or solve a problem.
Can you talk to me about a time or situation that pushed you to be the most creative?
Anything to do with marketing. When I started this project I didn’t really think about that being such a huge part of the job. Until we grow a little bit more, I have to wear a lot of hats. It’s not enough to have a good idea and figure out how to make that idea a reality, you have to get it out there and tell your story in a way that engages people.
When something doesn’t go as planned with your work, what do you do?
Pivot. That is what being an entrepreneur is all about, taking what’s in front of you and going with it.
Can you tell me about your favorite pieces/pieces?
The coverall is definitely my baby. With no prior knowledge of making clothes I had the bright idea of starting with a piece that must take into account every measurement on the female body…
Since our original lunch of the garment in 2015 it’s been a constant challenge to get it produced and keep it in stock but I have gotten such positive feedback can’t seem to let this one go. It was my first love! Or rather that boyfriend all your friends advise against but you date him anyways.
We have recently partnered with an awesome women owned factory to make production more efficient, expand sizing, as well as improve the utility of the product. Look out for our kickstarter this fall!
What do you think a good entrepreneur is supposed to do (clothing-related or otherwise)?
I have no fucking clue, we are all making up as we go along aren’t we?! Once someone figures that out, give them my number…
What do you think has been the most helpful tool, guideline, or mantra as you have developed your work?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. Let go of your ego and allow yourself to learn from others.
Who or what has been your greatest teacher?
Failure. I learn by jumping in and figure things out. I have made a lot of mistakes, but every single one has made me a better and more confident business woman.
What’s next for you and Handy Ma’am?
I hope to grow the line, expand sizing, and do more collaborations with other artists and makers. I want to expand our video features and show support to the women that have invested in our products and our brand.
Creative direction: Gabriella Lacombe and Bella Weinstein
Photography: Andy Jordan
Model: Emily White, Tin Type photographer