I’ve always seen clothes as a beautiful escape from the real world, so working in fashion was what finally got me to come out of my shell. Since I was young, I’ve loved digging through vintage bins at local shops and making my own clothes. If you go to my house, you’ll find Winning London-era plaid pants I made without a pattern from whatever plaid they had at Walmart. Or lots of tie dye, lots of t-shirts, always hand stitched.

Getting dressed in something I feel really confident in makes me feel ready and excited to face the world. I think fashion can give us a way to communicate with each other that side steps things that are hard to talk about. Sometimes “how are you?” can be a really tough question to answer. But “where did you get that?” can lead to a story about a hidden gem of a thrift store in an unknown city. To me, fashion is like a security blanket and suit of armor all in one.

Fashion can give us a way to communicate with each other that side steps things that are hard to talk about.

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We had a family tragedy when I was five that really impacted the way I moved through the world, and still do to this day. I didn’t relate to kids my age, so I spent a lot of time alone making art in my room. We lived in a small town in Tennessee and both of my parents were artists, so making art always felt like a natural, supported activity in my house. It was just kind of like, “There are supplies everywhere and there’s a kiln and we don’t really care what you do with it.” I still see making art as a form of self-care in that way.

Because we’d already experienced this big trauma, I made it my mission to try and make my parents happy and be what I thought was a “good kid,” which I mostly took from stereotypes on the few channels we got on rural TV. That meant I probably missed out on a lot of things and was closed off to some things that I now really love.

I’ve always kind of felt like I’m jumping from one lily pad to the next. My whole life in high school was like, How am I going to get to New York? I got this secret job at a boutique in another town, saved up all this money, and got into the NYU pre-college program. I had already bought the ticket and everything when I gave a PowerPoint presentation to my parents. I was like, “Here’s my business plan of how I’m going to move to New York.”

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Being around so many overwhelmingly talented people made me a little self-conscious about my art, and as a result I started to be really secretive about it.

After that, I applied to a bunch of schools and went to the one where I got the biggest scholarship, which ended up being Pratt. That turned out to be exactly what I needed because I didn’t know anybody and I could really experiment and branch out. I feel like at Parsons, they try to make you like a star—the Marc Jacobs people of the fashion world. Whereas Pratt is very much “Here’s how we’re going to get you a job as a pattern maker,” and “Here’s a realistic plan for you.” Stars do come out of it, of course. But it was realistic.

The one negative at Pratt was that being around so many overwhelmingly talented people made me a little self-conscious about my art, and as a result I started to be really secretive about it. I interned at Nylon and with stylists like Mel Ottenberg, and after getting a lot of advice from them I switched my major from fashion design to art writing. I started writing for places like Purple and Refinery29.

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After school and a few odd jobs, I ended up at Conde Nast, first as digital editor at W, and later as an editor at Teen Vogue for both the magazine and website. I loved every bit of it—working on a creative team, brainstorming together, and making this physical object come to life.

From the magazine world, I moved to branding mostly through a deep connection I had to the founders of Milk Makeup. I just loved that they were making a brand that felt human and not doing any of the normal beauty brand stuff. So I went there in the very early days and helped them refine what they sounded like and how they talked to their customers. Since then, I’ve really loved going into a brand when they’re just starting out and doing the same. There’s nothing I love more than seeing a brand find its footing, become super successful, and have all those initial problems solved. But I’ve learned that after that, it’s easy to get put into a marketing role, which is never what I wanted to do. That’s really not who I am.

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I think that’s how I came full circle back to making things. I never stopped painting, but it’s been something I’ve kind of done in the dark. I started showing my work a lot more in the pandemic. I think there was a certain point where my love and passion for it outpaced my insecurity. It fed itself. It was this snowball effect. I started by painting Soprano scenes. When I moved to the beach, I started doing more beach scenes or surfing—things I saw. Then I naturally started doing these herbs and flowers, as I was researching those for my own health.

I was going through some medical stuff and looking for an integrative approach to healing. I was growing mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and learning about how incredible mushrooms can be for our health. I was also looking into Ayurveda—traditional alternative medicine from India—and things like Ashwagandha and Moringa. As I was learning about these ancient and natural healing methods, looking in all these old hippie books filled with beautiful illustrations, I just naturally started working these herbs and flowers into my paintings.

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I live in a bungalow in Venice Beach, so I don’t have a ton of room for canvas. I used to have a little online vintage store, and had stock left over of perfect pants, perfect jackets. I started pulling them out and painting on them. I enjoyed it so much that the love I had for making these pieces overcame any self consciousness I had for showing my work. I started wearing them out to see what people thought. Herbs for Relaxation started super organically.

The first pieces I made were jackets. I’d just throw them on as I went to the scary appointments you have to go to when you’re sick, and the work meetings you have to do to keep your health insurance to pay for said sickness. I would put one on at the last minute. It almost felt like a cape. It felt nurturing and calming. That’s why I now say it’s like soft armor for a harsh world. People kept stopping me and asking me about them, and that made me wonder if I could give that comforting feeling to other people. My sister made the website, I took all the pictures, and we had the first collection online within a day. Almost everything sold out and it has just grown organically from there.

It’s not mass produced and that’s the point. Each piece is hand-painted and slightly different. Right now, I carry a broken size range of 25-38 waist in jeans, and S-XXL in shirts, but there are usually only one of each size and it all depends on what I’m able to find that fits my criteria for a good piece. When I’m painting each one, I think about the magic of someone finding exactly what they want in their size, almost like it’s made for you. I don’t know if that’s how people buy it, but in my dreams they do.

There is so much joy that goes into Herbs for Relaxation and I hope people who wear it feel that.

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I feel a lot of responsibility with my little brand because I spend so much time in vintage shops and thrift stores and estate sales and I see how much discarded clothing there already is in the world. The last thing I want to do is make more of it. I also feel a real responsibility to my customers. I’m so honored that someone is spending minutes of their life on my website or wearing my clothes, and spending their hard earned dollars buying them.

There is so much joy that goes into Herbs for Relaxation and I hope people who wear it feel that and take it with them in their day. It feels like a full circle moment for me because it combines everything I love about art, fashion, and self-care, and it embraces the imperfection of a real person making your clothes. There are brush strokes and slight imperfections in the painting, but then the silhouettes are classic and chic. I source very carefully because I know from brand building that, first and foremost, the product has to be great. I go for classic silhouettes, like jeans with a long inseam with a boot cut or slight flare, and great button-ups in primary colors or classic prints. The result is a blend of sleek and human.

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When people tell me they like my clothes, I freak out and I think it’s so cool. I love wearing them, which is probably goofy and nerdy, but I do. I beam when people ask me about them. It’s almost like there’s nothing I would’ve rather done.

The thing I love most is preparing the package for people. I feel like I’ve waited my whole life to make brand packaging. It’s really evolved from the first batch, which sold really quickly. I try to make it this super special unboxing experience with as little waste as possible.

I fill this perfect little canvas tote that I either hand-paint or I put one of my silk woven labels on it. I love making these “care tags” that explain both how to take care of a piece and some tips for the person on how to take care of themselves. I do try to look at their life. Some people I don’t know so I don’t really have anything to go off of, but if I know someone loves to surf, I’ll be like, “Take the train out to Rockaway and go surfing.” I really try to creep into people’s lives a little bit and see what they love and give them a little reminder. Something realistic because I think we all get enough care instructions on the internet that are totally unrealistic for a lot of people’s lives.

Whatever new infused food thing they have at the dispensary, that’s what I want to try.

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My early experiences with weed were in dorm bathrooms in art school or DIY venues at punk shows in Brooklyn. From always trying to be that “good kid” and hearing on TV that weed was bad, it always felt like something I shouldn’t be doing. I didn’t recognize the privilege I had at the time as a white blonde girl or that the media was weaponizing it. I also didn’t know that it was natural and could be really healing. Looking back, it’s crazy to me how normalized and accepted alcohol is but weed is criminalized.

Someone recently told me there are drugs that help you work on yourself while you’re doing them, and drugs you have to work on yourself after you do them. Mushrooms and weed are the former, while alcohol is the latter. I’ve found that to be true, especially over the last year while working through all this health stuff. I’ve tried a few things, from hyper specific healing blends like Rick Simpson Oil to fun stuff like infused pop rocks, but my very favorite anytime-anywhere treat is a sativa gummy from Wyld. I also like a Cann drink every once in a while. I love everything from Houseplant, from the pre-rolls to the oversized matches. Their branding is so inspiring and their social media is hilarious. And I love Dr. Norm’s. He makes these Crispy Rice Bars which are really good sativa-infused rice krispies. Whatever new infused food thing they have at the dispensary, that’s what I want to try.

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I’m still that shy, overly cautious kid, so I wait until I’m all done with my day job and I don’t have any responsibilities for the day and then I take my gummy and truly relax. That’s my favorite ritual: get off work, take a gummy, and paint my clothes to some George Harrison as the sun goes down and the wind blows the palm trees out my window. I look forward to it all day.

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Instead of sending people flowers, I’ll send them a mushroom box.

Mushrooms have always agreed with me, both the magic and non-magic varieties. I take a fruiting body turkey tail supplement every morning and try to eat a non-magic mushroom with a meal every day. They’re just so potent and I love that the earth makes these things that actually make cellular differences in our body. You could eat a mushroom every single day and it would be the best thing you ate. The mushroom culture right now is so nice. Instead of sending people flowers, I’ll send them a mushroom box. They can just grow their own and I feel like that’s so much more fun.

A friend just gave me some magic mushroom chocolates from a dispensary in Oakland that I’ve been loving. I only take a little bit, but it’s the only time my entire body releases every bit of tension and I can truly relax. There are so many hard things we have to go through in this world, it’s such a gift to be able to take a break for a couple of hours. I’m so grateful to the earth for giving us these things; it’s my mission to reduce my own impact as much as I can to pay it back.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Sue Williamson photographed by Maggie Shannon in Venice. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.