I've had the distinct honor of interviewing Jon a couple of times in the past and I keep reaching out because he's such a positive force in the eco-fashion world. Not to mention the man is just an all around open and honest business owner who truly cares about what he does and how he shares his passions with the world.
Please take a minute to say hello or give him a virtual high-five at the end of the post!
It's been a while since we last spoke, how have things changed for Blend Apparel in the last year?
Things are truly amazing. Orders are more consistent; we have a few new designs and discontinued a few others. We also have a super big-hearted and phenomenally devoted intern named Julz. So she's been really freeing me up with answering emails, doing product research, and shipping out orders and the corresponding love notes we send. This of course has allowed me to stay creative, and focus more on the visionary aspects of the company-which I am so grateful for. Basically, we've grown and broadened our "communi-tee" -some of whom you can see on our website gallery.
How has the economic crunch in California impacted you personally or professionally or both?
Honestly we haven't noticed a difference at all. Things around here have been steady. Sure we have our good weeks and our not as good weeks, but overall-we can proudly say we're still doing really well. I feel at times like this people actually want to be a part of something transformative. Something that questions the ways things haven't been working so efficiently (whether it's the financial or political systems, expressing love, generosity, self-worth, or any other issue Blend tries to have its wearers and viewers consider).
As an artist and human-I'm always looking at the whys of the way things are, and I try to offer up questions for different, more "heart-minded" views on life. Really it’s the famines, the wars, the recessions that really call me into action. I can see they are all results of some kind of fear or perceived scarcity. I'm acutely aware that there's no less money in the world right now. The money didn't go anywhere. It's all still out there-people are just holding more tightly on to it. Thus, it's not flowing.
So yes. The economic crunch has totally affected me as someone who's sensitive to global issues. But this is the stuff that really fans my creative fire and gives birth to new ideas and images. Also, I feel it really gives us all an opportunity to shift our resource reliance on community versus bank or institution.
Carpool, share groceries, clothes swap. Instead of "mine. mine. mine." It can become "ours." I truly feel the only way out of a lot of the knots we've collectively got ourselves into is by getting past our individual (and limiting) beliefs and [come] together in a unified stand for what best serves the whole.
Are you finding an increased awareness in the Green movement is also leading to an increase in understanding what Blend is all about?
Whether it’s "the green movement" or just people starting to wake up-I'm so thrilled it's happening. People are becoming way more self-aware and privy to ways they can make a difference, and that our planet needs a difference made. I feel there's a cultural and I'd go as far as to say, global inherited belief that "I don't matter." So we have all these people running around the globe thinking they don't matter, what they say doesn't matter, and what they do doesn't matter. It's no wonder the planet is in the state it's in.
So for me personally, I think it's awesome that it's currently hip to be green. There's always been a green movement. I live in Berkeley, and I promise you it's still alive and well. I'm glad it's found some limelight through celebrities and the media.
I've also heard people say that green is just [a] trend and that it too is has been over-commodified. That now we'll have a new problem of a zillion METAL water bottles as opposed to plastic ones. And honestly, I can see their point. The green movement can become like anything else if we're not committed to creating a sustainable system for it. A system that naturally creates a future for us (and future generations) to live into, not just creating more products.
For us, we feel t-shirts and living more sustainably never go out of style. Our shirts are designed to really just teach ways of BEING. BEING more loving. BEING more generous. BEING more aware. So while I am all for the green movement, our commitment is to who we're being about our lives.
It's my belief that the being gives way to the doing, and not vice versa. For example: using green materials (the doing) doesn't necessarily make you committed to the environment. BEING committed to sustainability and the planet's future will naturally transform the doing/using green resources. Again, this isn't "true" it's just the practice I feel gives me a powerful place to lead and create from.
Speaking of creating, now that more people are creating clothing from bamboo have you considered increasing the use of this fiber, or are you happy with the current, literal, Blend?
I love the feel of the material. The blend of 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton that we're currently using, we've found holds up better. Being a product oriented company, we're completely committed to giving our customers the best product we can find with the greenest possible materials. I'm always open to new ideas, but really am more concerned with the footprint we're leaving then trendiness.
What is your favorite new design & why do you love it so much?
I love the reciprocity shirt. It's SO brilliant to me. You can't tell if the hand on the left is placing the love in the palm of the hand on the right or taking from it. It's this infinite give and take. A cosmic sharing.
What has been your greatest personal or professional achievement in the last year?
Jason Mraz (part owner with myself and our other friend Jeff Goss) wore the “?eace” shirt on American Idol. There were 80 million+ viewers who watched that show and thus saw my shirt***. That's pretty amazing to think about. And to be honest to continue to have people such as yourself interested in what we're up to-lets me know we're up to pretty cool things. We've had people hand write us letters thanking us for all we do, and almost daily emails with similar sentiments. It's amazing.
***Editor's note -- At about :25 there is a sweet shot where Jason’s jacket opens on the way down the stairs & the shirt is in full view. Yippie!
How does it make you feel to see so many people send in pictures of themselves wearing one of your shirts, be it celebrity or everyday normal guy?
I love it. That’s the whole point of this crazy/foolish project. To plant as many seeds of love and awareness as possible. So that the wearers become beacons and seeds of transformation. Spreading smiles and ponderings across the land.
Honestly it's a dream come true. It's so cool-that I get to wake up everyday and walk into a world I helped create. I really am so proud of the work I do.
What is the furthest from California you have shipped a shirt?
We've had some Indonesia and South Korea [shipments] out there. Australia too. And Chile. We're on 5 continents so far. I'd love to get onto Antarctica without the help of global warming. It's not exactly t-shirt weather there so we may just have to offer some Blend parkas or mittens or something.
What kind of new stuff is on the horizon for the second half of 2009? Do you see the company growing?
New stickers. A few new tees. And it’s my goal to have a hoodie for the holiday season. I totally see the company growing and I had an insight recently, where I realized I've been waiting for Blend to "get big" or for it to be discovered some how. Within that realization I decided that I wasn't living very powerfully and am choosing to take on passionately inspiring and enrolling people in the possibility of Blend.
To invite our fans to take on spreading the word and help create the world we want to live in. I see this whole crazy experiment as my responsibility as an artist to fill the world with as many smiles as possible. So yeah, if I were to go all algorithmic on you, my calculation for 2009 would be something like this: more shirts + more smiles = more love.