Designing Women

The following story inspires me and fills me with pride…

Let me introduce you to Eileen:

Everybody say "Hi, Eileen!"

Everybody say “Hi, Eileen!”

For several years Eileen and I shared a closet-sized office in Manhattan’s Midtown garment district along with our third team member, Vi Na. We were a mini ideas factory, a calm yet merry trio swimming upstream against 7th Avenue’s rampant commercialism and haute couture levels of diva theatrics.

Our walls we’d pinned with images, swatches, buttons, trims, feathers, ribbons, doodles and strips of fabric torn from vintage dresses.

The three of us, Eileen, Vi Na and me

The three of us, Eileen, Vi Na and me

We sat practically on top of each other surrounded by samples and rolling racks, our noses jammed up against computer screens that I don’t remember ever being cleaned. No cleaner would endanger herself in pursuit of a dustball by clambering over the years of junk that accumulated long before we three came along.

We tripped over boxes every time we exited or entered. It was an obstacle run just to get our Fedex out and our lunch in. If our office was a restaurant it would have been shut down by Heath and Safety. Our boss didn’t care and we were too wrapped up in the pursuit of our ideas to give it much thought.

When we looked out of our window the light was often going down as we worked late into the night to craft prettiness for the world to enjoy. Our specialty was beaded frothiness and technicolor embroideries.

The world outside

The world outside calling it a day while we worked on.

Twelve floors below on West 40th Street, yellow cabs honked and nuts yelled “Move, moron!” to lampposts and the homeless limped along unseen and tourists ate hotdogs like they were delicacies and Manhattan’s stress level threatened to bubble over like Vesuvius and wash us all into the Hudson River.

Inside we sat cross-legged on a patch of floor absorbed in arranging pretty stones on silk chiffon.Thanksgiving And Fall Protos And Summer Salesman Samples 137 IMG_1045

Three or four times a season Eileen and I hopped on a plane to India, flying coach not business, to set about making the frothy imaginings of our small office a reality.

We liked to joke that we went to India to find some order.

Eileen and I on our way to Delhi factory to inspect sampling

Eileen and I on our way to Delhi factory to inspect sampling

Stories of people living the dream are always heartwarming and Eileen’s is more adorable than most (Check out, George! He’s new). With aplomb, she has cultivated her own very different reality over the last few years, way off Manhattan’s overpopulated grid and free of Delhi’s bustle and dust, but with the same unique style and attention to detail.

Have a glimpse of Eileen in her natural environment in this short video below in which she is interviewed by a local TV station. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired too.


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For more on Little Seed Farm, check out their gorgeous website.

My novel Silk for the Feed Dogs,  set in the international fashion industry, where all but goats fear to tread, follows the thorny, briar-twisted winding career path of another farm bred fashion designer and is available here.

22 comments

  1. It’s funny the twists and turns your life can take – now you have me curious – can I ask, what turn in the road did Vi Na take?

  2. That had me yodelling with joy! Passion for your subject…be it fashion or goats…is the essential ingredient for a fulfilled life. And don’t get me started on George….x

  3. Lovely to see two people realising exactly what would make them happy and making it happen! Jx

  4. T.C.

    Congratulations James & Eileen, living their own dream, the only way anyone should live!

  5. Fabulous! I would love to try the soaps.
    I was struck by how one Friend was moved to get off the land and another desired to get back onto the land.
    XO

  6. Wow! That’s, well err… different! But thumbs up for their move, it takes a certain amount of bravery!

  7. I’ll say! A complete about-face but they’ve taken to their new surroundings like goats to briars 🙂

  8. Oh, what a lovely life they have. I’m trying to come up with a little cottage industry of my own.. now you’ve got me thinking about a few ideas. Unfortunately, I have Cooleeney cheese practically next door to me – their cows graze at the bottom of my garden. 🙂

  9. By George I love stories with happy endings! BTW your passage on W. 40th St. is poetry.

  10. Truly inspirational..doesn’t persuade me away from my pollution fix, but I still drink it in… xxx

  11. This is a truly inspirational story, Jackie. What really sticks with me is that your friends are very, very smart and went into their new life with eyes wide open. Kudos to them and I hope their soap and cheese making business continues to flourish!

    • I’m quite in awe of them as I schlepp around NYC’s Whole Foods trying to be organic and in touch with the earth in this overpopulated polluted corner of the globe and these guys are making it happen, toiling with their own hands every day and learning as they go. I’m very proud of them.

  12. I feel bad for these sweet goats! I personally believe that goat milk is for their baby goats, and what happen to these goats when they get older? And the breeding….I can go on and on. Oh yes, and I hate that my tax (subsidized) dollars have to go to these farms that I don’t like. Sorry I couldn’t watch the whole video the minute I saw the line up of the goats too depressing!

    • Gosh, sorry, what a surprising reaction!
      Unfortunately I can’t relate to you as I grew up on a farm, as did all my cousins and practically everyone around me. Without farming our small community would most likely have struggled to survive and people would likely have been living below the breadline.
      Do you not eat dairy? No animal byproducts? No leather shoes even?
      Little Seed Farm is committed to humane, organic and sustainable farming practices in order to put products into a demanding marketplace that are healthy, natural and made with pride. Their goats graze only outdoors and are only fed natural food. They live until they die on the farm I believe. As did my dad’s cows when I was little.
      The more animals are milked, the more they produce milk. It’s what I consider a natural wonder, not a tragedy. I’ve always been grateful to the animal kingdom for this bounty because as I said we were not surrounded by the affluence that would allow us to ignore these gifts. And if animals are not milked, they will be in pain.
      I guess we just don’t see eye to eye on this one! We’re on opposite sides of the fence if you like…

  13. What a sweet story!!! I love this living the dream story 🙂

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