February 28, 2018
It was in fifth grade when I started to really think about Girl Power. For Halloween that year, I dressed up as Olympic athlete Florence Griffith Joyner. For my costume, I cut off one leg of my Lycra pants, put on Lee press-on nails and draped DIY gold medals around my neck. While we walked the halls of the upper elementary for the school’s Halloween parade, I wanted to escape the line and take off running. FloJo’s extreme speed and femininity was a combo that I admired and sensed was unique. Living in a household of sisters where the girl to boy ratio was 4:1 – the 1 being my father – I had built-in Girl Power. My squad was always full of girls.
In college, I would go on to write and design a pop-up book about the history of the brassiere, Hoorah for the Bra. In my book research, I loved reading about the dueling feminist roles of Gloria Steinem (throw your bras away!) and Madonna (wear your bra as outerwear!). The book’s success landed me jobs at places with major leading ladies. My first job in Manhattan was at Pentagram, the house of graphic design legend (and first female principal at Pentagram) Paula Scher. My nerves shot through the company’s Flat Iron district roof when I found myself sitting next to her at the communal lunch table. My last job in the Big Apple was at kate spade – the land of all my girl crushes! In the first week of my job as a designer at kate spade, the elevator operator mistook me for Kate Spade herself and delivered me to her office floor. Wow. Mistaken identity at its best. (Insert: Working Girl soundtrack?) Life at kate spade was the catalyst for everything else that would come in my life. I ended up being the lead designer for the company’s stationery program.
Not surprisingly, I had grown up with a very robust stationery drawer – Hello Kitty letterhead, Lisa Frank matching cards/envelopes and (wait for it) Precious Moments postcards. My mom encouraged my sisters and me to write notes of thanks and notes for no particular reason. Throughout my life, I have connected with powerhouse women I admired through snail mail. In my twenties, after having seen a great editorial piece by Pilar Viladas in the NYT Magazine, I wrote her a note to tell her of my admiration. We had coffee the next week. In my thirties, when Tina Fey’s book Bossypants got me through the first month of bringing a colicky baby into this world, I wrote her a thank you note. I would end up designing her daughter’s baby announcement later that year. My love of correspondence drove me to start my own stationery company. With the infiltration of the ubiquitous smart phone, contemporary culture has become etiquette-ly lazy and therefore, snail mail has become special again. It’s so easy to blast out a text or send a quick email, but a thoughtful (brief!) handwritten note delivered by the USPS can truly capture someone’s attention. My FeMAIL stationery set is a compilation of all the reasons I write to women – ones who have made me stronger, whom I admire, who need encouragement, who make me laugh out loud, who I want to know.
In today’s divisive political climate, during a time when people seem a little more discouraged and a little less kind, where online bullying is pervasive and common courtesy seems forgotten, I felt compelled to do something—and to do something that could have an expansive impact. FeMAIL is a contribution to, and comment about, this moment in time; it is also a call-to-action. It is a period and an exclamation mark; it is a way to be heard and to listen, to share impactful memories and moments, and to let another human being feel acknowledged and appreciated. Using paper to reach people…therein lies power.