Posts in conscious profiles
How a Female Boutique Owner in Topanga is Creating Community While Supporting Women

Nature and Intent Journal is a digital container featuring inspiring original content and profiles of conscious business owners because we believe that the humans behind brands create a meaningful impact through living their nature and intent.

Moona Star Collective Topanga Store

Monica Zaidman is the founder and designer of Moona Star Collective, a Topanga boutique that lives up to the movement of “women supporting women”.

Monica has come a long way on her journey to becoming a designer - from designing clothes as a child for her dolls to working at various corporate fashion companies. She’s the Founder and Owner of Moona Star Collective, a fashion brand, artist collective, store and gathering space based in Topanga.

We interviewed Monica’s passion and career journey into making her dreams a reality, her conscious approach to fashion sustainability and how she’s co-created a community of women supporting women.

Read on to learn more about Moona Star Collective.

Moona Star Collective Topanga Store
Monica Zaidman, Owner of Moona Star Collective

What sparked your inspiration to begin working in fashion, design, and eventually launching Moona Star? What is your intention behind Moona Star?

Monica Zaidman: Wow, it has been a lifetime journey! I have been designing and creating clothes since I was a child, cutting up my own clothes to make clothes for my dolls. My Mom used to watch Romeo and Juliet along with other period pieces, and I would obsess over the costumes and all the details that went into each piece. Looking back, I think this inspired my love for lace and all things romantic. Throughout high school and college, I continued to thrift and re-create clothes out of whatever vintage pieces I could find. After going to art school and fashion school, I started my first label, still making clothes out of vintage in a small studio apartment in San Francisco.

Moona Star was born after I moved back to California from New York and started a family. I had transformed into a different person after becoming a mother and had a new calling. The name “Moona Star” has so many layers. When I first met my husband, he added me to his phone as “Moona”. My Hebrew name is Emuna - which means faith. The name Moona Star is a reminder to live by the cycles of the moon and having faith to follow our stars, and always finding the light in the dark.

What are some memorable moments working in large corporate fashion companies (or the fast fashion industry)? What have you learned in those roles or experiences that inspired your approach to sustainable manufacturing?

Monica:  I’ve worked for many corporate brands including opening and running stores, merchandising, designing, training and managing teams. I became disenchanted with the unsustainable and exploitative aspects of the fashion industry in general and fast fashion in particular.

I remember feeling sad about the sheer quantity of everything being made, knowing how unsustainable it all was from the fiber and labor conditions to the amount of waste. I also remember working with a team on adding organic cotton to the season. Many of us worked very hard on this style, but in the end, it was dropped from our line plan because none of the big department stores ordered it. That was when I knew if I was going to design, I would strive to do it sustainably.

How do you implement a sustainable manufacturing process for Moona Star?

Monica: I implement a low-waste manufacturing production process when I design with Hector, my partner in creating patterns. We design pieces on paper first, and then make the markers to the fabric so that almost every bit of fabric gets used and whatever fabric is left gets incorporated into pieces that are designed specifically to make use of it. I'll add or take away a cuff just to save fabric or use fabric that is left over.

At the very end, if there are any scraps left, I use them for small projects such as scrunchies or bags for shipping. I have also recently started giving small scraps to other designers who use them to make eye pillows, scarves or other small pieces. I also design clothes that don't require too many samples. Finally, I make limited quantities of all pieces and sizes, so that most of what I make is gone before the season is over.

Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC
Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC
Moona Star Collective Topanga Store

What are the three personality traits or core values that embodies the Moona Star brand?

Monica: At our deepest core, Moona Star is intentional, sustainable, comfortable, wearable and above all, beautiful.

Can you share your experience in supporting women's co-ops in Mexico and Peru?

Monica: When I was living in New York, I had a small clothing line that was all about supporting and empowering women. I had the opportunity to work with a non-profit that sent me to Ghana to help teach a community of women basic pattern-making and how to market their designs to ‘the western customer’. We created patterns and catalogs so that they could make pieces to sell in stores and to customers anywhere. I designed some one-of-kind pieces with their batik fabrics and produced a fashion show in New York to fundraise for their community. Today, a lot of these women have jobs making uniforms, and even a small shop. This was a life-changing experience for me because I was able to help women who really needed the support and inspiration.

I also had the privilege of working with women in Mexico and Peru, using the embroidery in my designs. Having access to an international market is not only empowering to these true artisans, but the amount of money they can make for one embroidery order can help support them for an entire season. I dream of going back one day to continue creating and designing with them and to do my small part in helping to keep these beautiful traditions alive.  

As I look back, I suppose I have always been called to work with groups of women who help support one another. When I opened Moona Star Collective, I knew I didn't want to do it alone and I also know how powerful women can be when we work together. I love that I have co-created and that I get to be a part of a space that continues to support women emotionally and spiritually in their creative and professional pursuits, and in business.

Clothes hanging at Moona Star Collective Topanga Store

Who does the Moona Star collective comprise of? How does the collective function in your boutique in Topanga?

Monica: At any given time, I have a group of designers who each contribute toward the store’s overhead and inventory. They also work one day each week. In exchange, they earn 100% of the sales of their products so everyone feels and IS invested in each other and in the collective's success.

The current group includes two clothing designers Camile, Victoria Keen, a jewelry designer Michelle Perez, a tea master Cynthina, and a textile designer Courtney Konuch. We also have a resident tarot card reader, Amalia, and other healers who use the space to offer their gifts to the greater community.

What was the process like starting a boutique collective in Topanga?

Monica: The process was a total miracle. If you believe in manifesting your dreams, this was it. Since I was in my 20s, I have been writing in my journal about how much I wanted a store - and not just a store, a collective. The collective is not just a designer’s collective, but a space for classes and gatherings with beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces.

I must have written this down at least once a month for twenty years! That’s about 240 times that I wrote out my vision and my dream! When the space became available, my husband (who is the sweetest human I know) and I began reaching out to the landlords right away. We also started to envision how it would all work - the store, the collective and the community space. I also prayed. It has been one miracle after another, starting with the invaluable help of family, friends, neighbors and the collective power of an incredible group of women that got us to where we are today.

So grateful to feature an inspiring human and conscious business owner leading with her nature and intent.

Follow Moona Star Collective on Instagram @moonastarcollective.

Photos and interview by Kristine Lo.

Akasa Community on Making Wellness Accessible for All

Nature and Intent Journal is a digital container featuring inspiring original content on conscious brands and individuals.

Our belief is that your unique background, perspective, and experiences shape uour authentic ‘nature’ which connects us to our purpose or ‘intent’.

Akasa Community Brand Feature on Nature and Intent | Gardening | Food Health

Akasa Community is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit providing a diversified wellness curriculum in partnership with public schools in low-income communities throughout Los Angeles. At Akasa, both students and families have access to healthy, affordable food options and education to best care for their bodies.

Established in 2012, the concept of Akasa stemmed from the growing inequality of access to healthy food in different neighborhoods. With a team of four including Ashleigh, the Founder, Veda Romero, Director, Nina Anakar, Lead Chef, and Amanda Beattie, Lead Gardener, Akasa aims to provide a preventive health model for the local Los Angeles community.

We interviewed the diverse, all-female team behind Akasa who educate and empower students and families by making 'wellness more accessible’.

Ashleigh Parsons | Akasa Community | Gardening
Ashleigh Parsons Quote | Akasa Community | Nature and Intent Feature

Ashleigh, can you share your background in food, education, and wellness? How was your experience at Harvard and working at an after school program in San Francisco?

Ashleigh Parsons: I’ve been interested in education from a young age and during college, when faced with my own challenges in health and wellness, I was drawn to holistic practices that involved mind, body, spirit. I began practicing yoga for physical pain and quickly realized the positive effect it had on me. Soon after this experience, I began instructing yoga and fell in love with the practice of teaching. Upon graduating college and being unsure of what I wanted to do, I enrolled in an intensive yoga teacher training in San Francisco. For me, one of the most empowering tools gained during that training was the realization that these wellness practices were fairly simple and with the right training, could be done on your own at a very low cost. Eating well, moving the body, meditating - these practices that became integral to my own personal wellbeing can and should be accessible.

With an interest in psychology and education, my first job after college was working as a Program Coordinator at the Tenderloin Afterschool Program -  a free after school program for youth ages 5 to 18. At that time in 2009, the neighborhood was known for its high crime, drug use and prostitution and our job at the program was to provide a safe haven for our students. Our center was often described as a family and it felt that way. During my time in the Tenderloin, I learned a lot about the importance of community. During that time, I also became intensely aware of the disparity and injustices that existed in our food system. As a white, educated female living in SF, I had access to an abundance of the most beautiful produce growing in the country, whereas my students living in the Tenderloin didn’t even have a grocery store within walking distance. The closest food was found at corner stores where Cheetos and soda were more affordable than water and a piece of fruit. At that moment, I understood the work that needed to be done in this space and felt inspired to work in this field but wanted to gain more experience and knowledge before pursuing anything on my own.

My experience at Harvard studying Human Development and Psychology was positive and there, I was able to study and examine the many ways in which people learn. I became more interested in how we can create environments that set up youth for success in our schools and after school programs. During my program, I also became the Principal Investigator on a research study at Harvard Medical School investigating The Efficacy of Yoga in the Schools - a research study that examined the positive outcomes of yoga for high school youth. This experience made me become deeply interested in studying the benefits of holistic practices for youth specifically focused on low-income youth that may not otherwise have access to practices like these.

Ashleigh, what does “Akasa” mean? What is the significance of this name in alignment with the mission and offerings?

Ashleigh:  It’s pretty simple. The name is Pali for “sky” or “limitless being”. The idea is that we as an organization are providing a space where students and families feel safe, supported, nourished and able to be themselves. The goal is to encourage and empower them to be agents of change in their communities and pursue their own dreams and passions.

Ashleigh Parsons | Akasa Community | Nature and Intent Feature

Veda and Ashleigh, what inspired you two to conceptualize the current AKASA program to offer a wellness curriculum promoting cooking, gardening & mindfulness for low-income youth & families?

Ashleigh: The program is always evolving and this year has been our most successful year to date. The most important piece for me is that we’re always listening to the youth and families that we serve and addressing their needs. For example, we’ve had more parents attending our parent workshops led by Veda, so we’re working on increasing the number of parent workshops we offer. Often, Nina will create a recipe that’s inspired by something a student requested in a class or Amanda will plant a particular item that students want to see growing in their garden. It’s important to me that we listen to the needs of our community and create programs and workshops that address those particular issues.

Veda Romero: Since joining Akasa over 2 years ago, through conversation with the community, I have been able to witness the need for this program. Students and parents attend programs eager to learn when they step into the classroom.  We as a team work hard to make sure that the healthy food movement is accessible and achievable for all. I want to empower the community by giving them the tools to live healthier lives and empower them to make informed decisions about their overall health and wellness.

Veda Romero Quote | Akasa Community

Nina, what is your favorite thing about being a Lead Chef at AKASA promoting healthy lifestyle and cooking to students?

Nina: I get fired up about the idea that wellness doesn’t have to cost as much as those who market it to us often make it seem, and that there are simple ways in which we can use the nature around us to feel good inside. I get really excited about the simplest ways in which we can feel nourishment and health, like cooking a simple vegetarian dinner for the smallest fraction of what you’d pay in a restaurant. I feel lucky to have learned from women who are very resourceful when it comes to cooking for their families, so sharing that information feels like a practical service that I can offer to my neighbors in this city.

Amanda, when did your passion about the importance of food and education begin?

Amanda: I started cooking for the joy of it in middle school. it was a tangible avenue into other times and places, which is one reason I loved and still love food & cooking. But it was in college that I was first introduced to the injustices embedded in our food system: the myriad ways our food system exploits both people and land to the detriment of us all. I grew a lot as a fellow for Harvard's Food Literacy Project, a group of peer learners and educators that dealt with everything from nutrition to social justice issues in the food system. That was when what was previously just an enjoyable activity (cooking & eating) and my desire to do my part to address oppressive systems fused for the first time.

Amanda, how has your personal passion for community and creating a conscious dialogue with others align with the goals and mission behind AKASA?

Amanda: My personal approach to things like community and growth these days is to start super-duper small: in my city, on my block, in my own life. I find myself going back often to the sixth principle of Kwanzaa, which is "kuumba," meaning "creativity." More specifically, it means to strive to do what we can with what we have to leave a space better than we inherited it. I feel that my micro-size approach to problems that seem insurmountable aligns with Akasa's: we're four women trying to do what we can with what we have to hopefully be collaborators in positive growth.

Vegetables | Akasa Community | Nature and Intent Feature

Amanda, how did you start working as the Lead Farmer and Gardener for AKASA? Please share any previous experience developing an urban farm.

Amanda: I reached out to Akasa when I returned to LA after an apprenticeship on a farm in the south of Morocco. They were looking for a gardener and I was looking for gardens so it worked out perfectly!

I had helped manage a quarter-acre hillside garden in Lincoln Heights a few summers previously and was excited to get back to growing food with students in my home city.

Amanda, what farming or gardening practices did you take away or learned previously that you continue to teach and cultivate at AKASA?

Amanda: All the agricultural sites I worked on were organic and I continue those practices in the Akasa gardens. I'm also a fan of the French intensive method of gardening - practices like integrated pest management, companion planting, etc. I'm working to incorporate as much of this as possible into the schools' gardens.

Nina Anakar | Lead Cook | Akasa Community | Nature and Intent Feature
Veda Romero | Akasa Director

Can you expand on how AKASA is improving overall wellness for young people nationwide? What were the results of the Stress Reduction Research?

Ashleigh: We haven’t gotten there yet but research in this space is high priority for our organization. We’re lucky to have Professor Joel Gittensohn, PhD, Head of Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, signed on as a consultant for Akasa. He offers support in terms of research as an expert in the field of formative research and evaluation in public health as it pertains to food justice and food deserts. Thus far, we’ve gathered testimonials from students, parents, teachers and administrators in our community that suggest the positive outcomes of this program. Our goal would be to create a research study that examines the positive benefits of a program like Akasa and hopefully build a case for more programs like this throughout the United States.

Veda, what was your experience like growing up in the Rampart neighborhood? How has this contributed to your intention to support your local community through the Akasa programs?

Veda: My experience growing up in the Rampart/Virgil Village neighborhood was a lot of fun! I was born in Mexico, so moving into a neighborhood filled with people who looked like me and came from similar backgrounds felt like home. There was a great sense of community. Many nights, we spent with other families having dinner and backyard parties. Although, the neighborhood had its issues with crime and robberies, we always looked out for each other.

Being raised by immigrant parents who worked two to three jobs made it hard for them to provide dinner for our family. I’m able to relate to a lot of the stories that the students share with me. Many live in food-insecure homes so I can see the importance of the work we do with Akasa.

In regards to gentrification, it’s a loaded question because this process often negatively impacts communities of color. For a neighborhood that is mostly populated by low-income Latino people, many of whom are undocumented, it is easy for big developers and powerful companies to take advantage of them. It’s been difficult to see the displacement of neighbors, the cost of living skyrocket and small mom-and-pop immigrant-owned businesses close down.

The food system in this country is out of balance and unfortunately low-income neighborhoods are the ones that suffer the most.  When big fast food corporation target certain communities and grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods only open in wealthier neighborhoods, the disparities become clear: people living in more affluent neighborhoods don’t have to think twice about access to fresh produce whereas low-income communities are just barely able to feed their families after working two to three jobs. Priorities are different if the only two options for dinner are to eat Cup N Noodles or take a bus 20 minutes there and back simply to buy healthy groceries. The system is out of balance and my goal with Akasa is to speak up about the disparity in my community while simultaneously educating students and parents about how they can take their health and wellness into their own hands and feel empowered to care for themselves as well as their families in ways that are affordable and sustainable.

Today, how many schools and students do you work with on a weekly basis? Can you also share about your intention behind the AKASA community dinner pop-ups in Los Angeles?

Akasa Community | Reach and Numbers

Nina, can you please share your experience working at Murad, Sweetgreen, and Soho House in NYC? How did this lead you to become a chef and launching Ziza Mediterranean?

Nina Anakar: I decided to make the switch to cooking full-time after growing up in a family full of hospitality professionals and home cooks. Throughout school and after college, I worked for seven years in the industry but was always in front of house, marketing and production roles. I've learned so much working for food service and hospitality experts, but a couple of years ago, I was feeling burnt out from working in NYC and started cooking more often for family and friends as a way to feel creatively stimulated, nourished and restored. A big part of my desire to become a chef was also driven by the fact that I love to spend time with nature, work with my hands, and use my senses. My food business, Ziza, came out of my love and respect for my Moroccan family’s rich culture of food and hospitality and my home of California’s bounty of beautiful year-round heirloom produce.

Nina, can you share your cultural background and travel experiences? How does this inspire your cooking?

Nina: I’m the daughter of a mother from Ohio whose parents migrated from Germany and a father who immigrated from Morocco. I spent some of my formative years living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I was exposed to the relationship between nature and food at an early age. My family eventually moved to San Diego, California, where I was lucky to grow up around a lot of beautiful local produce and comfort food, thanks to my mother (and both my Midwestern and Moroccan grandmothers’ recipes!). In my cooking, I love to draw connections between family recipes, traditional Moroccan food, California's seasons, and all of the flavor that Hispanic culture has offered to this state's cuisine. I think that having such a mixed cultural experience and heritage has really allowed me to develop a unique and specific perspective in the kitchen, and I’m constantly inspired by the ways in which food connects humans everywhere.

Nina Anakar Quote | Lead Cook | Nature and Intent Feature

How do you maintain all the AKASA community gardens on a weekly or seasonal basis? Can you share what’s currently growing this season and your favorite harvest experience?

Amanda: On a weekly basis, I try to visit the gardens twice a week for weeding and troubleshooting any issues with pests, disease or irrigation. Seasonally, things are slower in the winter. Right now, it's early spring so we have some crops that came through the winter - fennel, brussel sprouts, spring onions, kale, various herbs, snow peas, swiss chard, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, radishes. Our fava beans are flowering and we're just getting started planting carrots, beets, leeks, and more now!

Akasa Community Team | Akasa Community | Nature and Intent Feature

So grateful to feature an inspiring humans and conscious business owners leading with nature and intent.

Follow Akasa Community on Instagram

Photos and interview by Kristine Lo.

Katrina Razon on How to be a Conscious Female Leader

Nature and Intent Journal is a digital container featuring inspiring original content and profiles of conscious business owners because we believe that the humans behind brands create a meaningful impact through living their nature and intent.

Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur

Katrina Razon is an inspiring entrepreneur and a truly amazing example of an empowered female leader living in alignment with her nature and intent.

She’s been featured on Forbes, CNN Philippines, ABS-CBN, and several fashion media outlets. Katrina wears many successful hats in various industries as a VC at KSR Ventures, Director of fashion label Dear Frances, and moonlights as a DJ under the name ‘Katsu’. Most notably, she co-created Wonderfruit Festival, a conscious music festival built around celebrating diversity in a way that is carbon neutral and beneficial for the environment.

Although she grew up from a prominent family in the Philippines, she does not take her popularity or privilege for granted. Her intention is to promote social, environmental, and sustainable initiatives through her many ventures and projects that take her around the world.

Starting her career in the music industry at only 15 years old, Katrina discovered how she wanted to make a continuous impact. Read on to learn more about Katrina.

Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC
Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC | Katrina Razon Quote

What is your background and where are you currently based?

Katrina Razon: I was born and raised in the Philippines but I have been living in the U.S for the past decade. However, I am an island girl at heart.

What is the meaning behind your DJ name ‘Katsu’?

Katrina:  My friends call me Kats. When I started DJing, there weren’t many women who were DJing in the Philippines at the time. Katsu became my DJ moniker to symbolize the fierce feminine energy to break into the scene as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Growing up, I was captivated by Hayao Miyazaki’s films because each film was centered around a heroine unlike Disney movies where the storylines were typically about a woman being rescued by a man. We don’t need to be rescued. We don’t need to be told how to behave and how to play. Katsu is the heroine to my story.  

Today, there are more women in music than ever before but music festival brands and talent buyers of venues need to do a better job in making the line-ups more inclusive to women. Create opportunity wherever you go.

Can you share the inspiration and intention behind Wonderfruit Festival?

Katrina: Music festivals cause devastating damage to the environment whether by carbon emissions or plastic pollution paired with the fact that major music festivals were offering the same monotonous line-ups. We wanted to prove that a lifestyle festival can be carbon neutral yet celebrate cultural diversity.  

We seek to encourage, develop, and innovate creative solutions for sustainable living and bring together a global community to celebrate them. Our ethos circles back into using the event as a platform to catalyze meaningful and positive impact.

Across the world, we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year and most of it end up in the ocean. Thailand together with four other Asian countries (including the Philippines) account for 60% of the plastic pollution entering waterways all over the world. Marine litter threatens sea life, habitats, poisons our food chain, affects human health and costs billions to abate. Plastic is a substance that the earth cannot digest.

Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC
Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC
Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC

Did you have role models or experiences that inspired you to work in music and production? What industry did you start in that led you into your current roles?

Katrina: I have always been in the music industry or hospitality industry. The two industries are very complementary to each other. I started my career as a DJ when I was 15. But, working between the hospitality and music industry, I began realizing how wasteful both industries were. Luckily, I found myself with a group of like-minded individuals who shared the same passion for the arts and the same frustrations around the environmental impact caused by large scale events. By turning to the arts as the medium to inspire sustainable living, we hopefully can inspire businesses and other events to follow suit.

As a Creative Director and VC, how do you navigate partnering with companies and individuals? What attracts you to work with a company or individual?

Katrina: With a focus that values companies beyond traditional financial metrics, KSR Ventures’ investment philosophy adopts a Triple Bottom Line (3BL) sustainability framework that evaluates social, environmental and economic impact. Each investment contributes to solving social and/or environmental challenges in inspiring ways. I want to back visionary teams that solve systematic problems.

As a busy multi-hyphenate creative and entrepreneur that travels often, how do you manage it all?

Katrina: I manage my day by increments and by importance of certain tasks. I am more analog in that sense that I plan my day out on a Moleskine planner. I am a visual person and it helps me map out my tasks best. I take an hour to either hike, go to Lagree or run. It’s important to let out the steam and come back fresh if I ever hit a mental roadblock. My lifestyle requires a lot of late nights that it’s important for me to find balance.

You experienced a physical injury last year and shared so much of your vulnerability and resilience. Can you share how and who supported you in your healing?

Katrina: I’ve learned that healing is not a linear process. Trauma recovery is a discovery and uncovering of you really are. I got up every day and made sure that I didn’t quit on myself. I choose to go through my life fully awake, allowing painful experiences to seep into my bones and difficult moments to wash over me and act as a salve to my pain.

I turned to a holistic approach to heal. Adaptogenic mushrooms gave me the energy to optimize peak performance while giving me energy to push through my long work days. My family and friends, of course, were an incredible support system. Injuries like this make you truly grateful for the amazing people in your life.

What has been your biggest learning experience thus far as a creative and entrepreneur?

Katrina: Having a big vision for yourself and your brand is important. Instead of just thinking about numbers, I thought about how I can change people’s lives.

Katrina Razon, Creative Entrepreneur and VC from Phillipines and LA

So grateful to feature an inspiring human and conscious business owner leading with her nature and intent.

Follow Katrina Razon on Instagram @katrinarazon.

Photos and interview by Kristine Lo.

Behind the Brand: HFS Collective on Sustainable Fashion.

Nature and Intent Journal

Feature conscious brands and conscious living inspiration to inform and inspire our community.

Rachel and Debra Denison | HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion

HFS Collective, is a sustainable fashion accessory brand based in Los Angeles that produces fashion-forward hands-free accessories produced locally with sustainable materials without compromising beautiful design.

The founders, Rachel and Debra Denniston, are a mother-daughter duo who reinvented the old fashioned “Fanny Pack”. The brand has been featured on Vogue, Refinery29 and more. Rachel shared how they started their conscious company, their use of sustainable materials, benefits + challenges of working with family, and their social impact intention.

Can you please share when and how HFS Collective began?

Rachel Dennison: 25 years ago when I was still in diapers, my mom fell in love with the fanny pack and it forever changed her life. It freed up her hands to play with and care for two uncontrollable little toddlers. She became addicted to the freedom and convenience afforded by it and while she couldn't find a fanny pack cute enough to appease my sister and I, once we learned how to talk, she realized her love of it never went away. Six years ago, after Debra still couldn't find a fanny pack stylish enough in the market, our brand was born. At HFS Collective, we make hands-free bags to liberate women from their baggage. Our brand is actually centered on the feeling of freedom that Debra discovered so long ago and the "joy of less", an idea that we really don't need all of the stuff we think we do to go throughout our day. In fact, we are able to have more freedom, joy, and happiness in exchange for less stuff.

Rachel Denison | HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags
Debra Denison | HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags

Can you expand on how you contribute to empowering women and the planet through each HFS Collective purchase?

Rachel: We tithe 2% of the purchase price of every bag sold to organizations that help empower women and protect the planet. There are a handful of organizations we donate to and they rotate quite frequently. One of my favorites we've donated to thus far is the Geena Davis Institute of Gender and Media, a special organization changing the perception of women in media providing them opportunity for lead roles, as well as creating empowering narratives. Another one of my favorites is the Rainforest Trust. They help prevent deforestation in the few remaining parts of the world where there are still rainforests today. With the money donated to them, they purchase large areas of land and create special preservations where that ecosystem (all of the animals and rainforest as well) is preserved and can't be touched by the ever-growing livestock industry.  

HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags

What is the meaning behind the name HFS Collective and what is your brand mission or intention?

Rachel:  We started making belt bags six years ago under the name Hipsters for Sisters. At the time, the name really encapsulated the hands-free aspect of our brand and our mission of liberating women from their baggage. However, as we grew, we found the name to be quite limiting so we abbreviated it to HFS Collective to give us more flexibility and freedom to grow organically.

Hand Free Bags to Liberate Women | HFS Collective

How is HFS Collective as a brand implementing sustainability? Can you share how your accessories are produced ethically and sustainable materials you source?

Rachel: Our company is purely a reflection of who we are as people. We both care deeply about the planet and all life upon it so we produce everything locally here in LA using only the highest quality, earth-friendly materials including Piñatex (made from the waste of the pineapple industry), Eco-suede (made from recycled plastic bottles), and naturally low-impact fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, plant-based raffia, and cork. I was so excited when we first discovered Piñatex a couple years ago. It is a really incredible fabric because seeing as it's made from pineapple leaves, not only is it biodegradable, but it's also a by-product of an already existing industry (the pineapple industry). No water or extra resources are needed for its production. Another fabric that we've used for ages is our Eco-suede which is made from a combination of recycled plastic bottles and recycled polyester. This fabric is truly beautiful and an example of how fashion-forward sustainable fabrics can look and feel.

Apart from choosing exclusively sustainable and earth-friendly materials, we also make our bags in small batches locally, just a few miles from our office. For us, it's important that things are mindfully made. We don't want to contribute more waste to an already polluting industry, so small production runs enable us to sell through our inventory, creating less waste and fewer styles that go without homes. We know by name all of the craftsmen and women that make our bags and that they're being paid a fair living wage in safe and pleasant working conditions.

The CFDA released a sustainability report this year encouraging brands to implement sustainability. As a brand that has been conscious and sustainability for several years, can you share how the fashion landscape has shifted to become more ethical and sustainable?

Rachel: So much has changed since we first started (including us!). We started as a vegan brand because we were faced with the reality of what leather was (especially in hide form) and couldn't unsee what we already saw. When we first got started, the fact that we were a "vegan" bag brand felt like a real impediment to growing our business, getting people to care about the materials used and understand that leather-free goods can be just as luxurious and well-made as those made with leather. In the end, I think our vegetarianism was golden because without it and without the crutch of using normal leather like so many other companies that don't question things, we were forced to do research and educate ourselves on materials (what they're made from, how sustainable they are, the impact they have on the planet..etc.) At first, what I saw as our most difficult challenge really blossomed into one of the coolest parts of our company; we don't just accept the status quo about how things have always been done. We care about our sustainable footprint and impact on the planet and this has allowed us to use some really exciting and innovative fabrics that really feel like the future of fashion.

The ethical and sustainable fashion movement has grown tremendously since we started thanks to documentaries like the True Cost, a new slew of ethical and slow fashion bloggers, and influencers and celebrities who are using their clout to talk about the impact of fast fashion and waste of this industry. I am so excited that we are beginning to wake up as a society (myself included) and begin to make purchasing decisions in a more conscious and sustainable way. This gives me hope for the future.

Rachel Denison | HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags
HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags | Sustainable Footprint Quote

HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags | Rachel and Debra Denison

What advice can you give to other brand owners seeking to create a successful, conscious, and sustainable fashion brand in today’s landscape?

Rachel: I would say that there is already beginning to be a lot of noise in this industry even for sustainable fashion. I'd say find a specific niche and your original voice that will make you different from everybody else. What do you do that's different?

What are some of the benefits and challenges of working as a mother-daughter owned company?

Rachel: So many of both! One benefit is that with each other, we feel free and safe to express our minds and voice our opinions when we need to without hurting each others’ feelings. I think there is less ego involved and we are more quick to acknowledge when we are wrong or are thinking about something in the wrong way. Having two different generational perspectives is also an advantage in my opinion because it allows our designs to appeal to a wider audience which makes us pretty unique. While it is a benefit, our age gap can also prove challenging because of our different perspectives on things. Debra and I have different styles. We might as well be Grace and Frankie (I'm Frankie, she's Grace), so sometimes it can be difficult to merge the two, but I do think what we come up with in the end is a really great compromise that leaves us both happy.


Do you have any exciting new product launches (or materials) that you are working on launching soon?

Rachel: Yes, so many! Right now, we are working on some really stunning evening bags for which we've sourced some pretty cool crystals. I'm really excited about these as we've never done anything like this before and our inner artist selves are very excited about this mixture of textures and materials. We are also working with some beautiful, innovative sustainable fabrics and materials which I can't really divulge more about now -- but just know, exciting things are in the works!  

Where can our community readers purchase HFS Collective?

Rachel: All of our bags are available on our website HFSCOLLECTIVE.COM. We also sell at a handful of boutiques and online stores. As convenient as online shopping is, there is something so beautiful about discovering a new brand in-person in a store setting and falling in love right then and there. I fell in love with MoonaStar Collective when I stumbled in with a friend a few months ago. Her store is really just a perfect fit for us.

HFS Collective | Sustainable Fashion | Hand Free Bags

So grateful to feature another conscious brand leading with their nature and intent.

Follow HFS Collective on Instagram @hfscollective.

Photos and interview by Kristine Lo.

Los Angeles Based Jewelry Designer Shares How She Connects Spirituality and Art.

Nature and Intent Journal

is a digital container featuring inspiring original content and profiles of conscious business owners because we believe that brands can creating a meaningful impact with intention.

Joy Smith, Communion by Joy Boutique in Culver City

Joy Smith is a Los Angeles based jewelry designer and owner of COMMUNION BY JOY. We first met several years ago when she had a studio in Downtown Los Angeles. In recent years, we have sat in many spiritual ceremonies and women’s gatherings together.

Earlier this year, she opened her beautiful showroom and sacred space in Culver City. I’ve already attended several events at her space and so excited to feature her. She is incredibly inspiring beyond being an amazing artist and she shares her journey to becoming a designer, her process, and intention behind her brand name.

Communion by Joy Boutique in Culver City | Spiritual Jewelry in LA | Dainty Jewelry | Jewelry Boutique
Joy Smith, Communion by Joy Boutique in Culver City | Spiritual Jewelry in LA | Jewelry Boutique

Can you share about your journey into designing jewelry using the wax carving technique?

Joy Smith: I love art and wanted to find a way to express myself and my message through working with my hands. I apprenticed with a jewelry designer in wax carving and that led me on the path to being a jewelry artist.

What is the meaning or inspiration behind the name 'Communion'?

Joy: The act of sharing one's thoughts and emotions with another or others; intimate converse. My inspiration comes from nature and the mystery behind the veil of life. This is a feeling I try to capture with my designs. When I give my attention to the life around me, inspiration follows. I love ritual and symbolism. I find my inspiration communing with the spirit in nature, animals, and people. I love to make jewelry that carries an energy of inner-strength and contains the power from the design or the stones I set into them. I keep my creative fire going by connecting to people and their stories.

"Communion is the act of sharing one's thoughts and emotions with another or others; intimate converse." 

Communion by Joy Boutique in Culver City | Spiritual Jewelry in LA | Dainty Jewelry

As a former fashion designer myself, I love how your brand is so unique. Your designs are so authentic and doesn’t emulate trends. I'm sure you get this a lot that all your jewelry pieces are works of art and so beautiful. Can you share and expand on how you get inspired to create each piece?

Joy: I have been sculpting jewelry for over 10 years and always loved art since I was a child. I studied some art history in college and dabbled in painting and drawing. My calling for jewelry design came when I worked at an art gallery and realized that I wanted to be the artist. After working in a gallery, I decided it was time to tap into my own artistic side. I started taking lost-wax carving classes at night and I was hooked! I loved the idea of being able to sculpt anything I wanted. I feel my brand empowers strength with feminine elegance. It is modern vintage with a touch of bohemian flair.  I had taken art history as an elective in college and loved it. I loved learning how artists were able to express themselves through their work. I thought that art was very healing, not only for the artist, but also for the people who interacted with it. Art is subjective, so the artist is pouring themselves into the art. However you perceive it, there is always some sort of transmuting of energy, and it can be very healing, or it can stir something up inside of them. I wanted to be a part of that.

I've been fortunate enough to attend so many beautiful gatherings in your space. When did you decide to open this sacred space and showroom?

Joy: I opened up a space for my studio showroom, and I’m having workshops there for empowerment and spirit, and I love that. I love being of service to people in that way.

What was the process of moving from your studio in DTLA to your current location in Culver City?

Joy: I wanted to be closer to home in Culver City.

Can you share more about the song and medicine ceremonies you offer in your space?

Joy: I wanted to share my love for ceremony with others and to invite my friends to be a part of it.

What advice would you give to someone who is creating for a living through jewelry or other art mediums but want to maintain integrity in scaling their business?

Joy: To stay true to their art and be authentic.


I admire your authenticity and ability to channel a higher power through your design process. Can you share more about how your creative process is a form of meditation?

Joy: I would try to think about how God could protect us, and my relationship to him, giving him all of my troubles. When I graduated from college, I started exploring more about world religions and different spiritualities. That’s when I started working with shamans and healers. When I started working as a jeweler, I would have all of these interesting visions, and my work became a form of meditation for me. In the same way that people do automatic writing, I would do automatic creative work, letting myself be a vessel. I would have the spirit come through me, and I would ask them what they wanted to create through me. And I would create my jewelry. I would get intuitive guidance saying, this is a piece to help someone radiate love; it activates the center of the heart. This piece will help someone with inner strength.

Communion by Joy Boutique in Culver City | Spiritual Jewelry in LA | Dainty Jewelry
Communion by Joy Smith, Boutique in Culver City | Spiritual Jewelry in LA | Dainty Jewelry

So grateful to have met another conscious business owner leading with her nature and intent. Visit the Communion showroom by appointment in Culver City, California and follow Joy on Instagram @communionbyjoy.

Photos and interview by Kristine Lo.

A Detour from Med School into the Fashion Industry.

Nature and Intent Journal

is a digital container featuring inspiring original content and profiles of conscious business owners because we believe that brands can creating a meaningful impact with intention.

Dechel McKillian Founder of Galerie LA | Ethical and Sustainable Brands

How did you start in fashion?

Dechel: Over 10 years ago I got my start as a stylist. I was on track to become a doctor and I was like I’m gonna take a year off and I never went to medical school. After I graduated from UCLA, I just needed a break. At the time, I was working at a small boutique in Venice. I was doing everything: the visual merchandising, the buying, and helping customers. I was like "I can open a boutique one day." Fast forward, during that break, I went to take a fashion merchandising class just to take it. The teacher also taught at Cal State Northridge.

She offered me an opportunity to go on a three-month long European fashion tour and that was all about design and merchandising.

I was just like this is fashion.. I saw every aspect of it. I think that’s what really got me going into thinking I can do a career in fashion. As before, I never thought of it as a possibility because I didn’t know much about it. Then, I started my own online vintage store, where it was thrifting and shooting stuff on models. From that, so many different opportunities came. I ended up styling a local band from LA, Jake Davie, because I was literally going to all of the shows. Me and my best friend. And they were like, 'Hey can you style us with your vintage things?' And that’s how I kinda really fell into it. From the online vintage store, I was like 'Okay, I have a knack for styling'. That was my first job and from that I met a costume designer, Marco Marco, who does so many celebrities. He has such a great list of every musician you can ever imagine. I just met him and became friends. I remember one night he texted me, “Hey would you wanna go on tour for me?” I was like I have no idea what that means and it was like 12 am. I was like, "Okay, but we can chat about it maybe before I say yes" but I was like sure.

From there, I went on tour with Lil Wayne and started styling. That was in 2009. So that’s when he put out his first big album, the Carter Three, and he was doing his first set of arena tours. That was actually like a big tour to go on. But it was still small enough, where everybody was doing it for the first time. From there I met Nicki Minaj and Drake, who I ended up working with on an off tour. That following year, I went on a world tour with the Black Eyed Peas.

We ended up dressing them for everything that was on tour. It was mostly the costume designing that I was partnering with Marco with. And then when then have everything around the world from press to red carpet, we were styling their looks for them. That carried on for the following 3 to 4 years and I was just like I don’t want to be on tour anymore. I look back now and I was always gone. I was literally living out of a suitcase even being in LA because you have a month off and then it’s like ok, you gotta go. I had no stability but I built a clientele in LA, mostly musicians. But I really did everything. So my background ranged from stage design, to merchandise and product design. And that kept me busy and traveling just as much but I just craved a slower lifestyle. And I was like ok, I want to go to one company basically that I can style, and really shine there, but that has a bigger social mission. And that place was Reformation who I interviewed with cause they're like one of the only company’s here in LA that was sustainable with a good aesthetic. That was really important for me too. Went through this whole interview process with them where I produced a photo shoot, mood boards, casting models, like this whole thing. And didn’t get hired by them. Which like for me that was ok. But maybe three weeks following I saw so much of my inspiration on their new website relaunch. Like from my mood board inspiration. So, I would never be like they stole my ideas just for that. But then they asked me  who the model was that I use and what was her information and that they eventually wanted to use her for their shoots.

For me, that there was drawing the line because that’s what I got paid to do. I think that I always mention this as part of my story. One because it’s what got me to found to Galerie LA. But also, for many young people in fashion that there’s a lot of poaching going on. They should be aware of how you share your ideas and things.

I met a girl named Stephanie at the same time who coincidentally was going through the reformation interview process. She had a background in sustainable fashion. And so she was like a sustainable driven person. And she had the same exact experience that I did. And I randomly met her at a volunteer opportunity for dress for success. So this is how we dreamt up Galerie LA. We wanted to bring together emerging brands with a sustainable ethos and mission as well as like integrating in the concept stores that we loved from Dover Street Market to Opening Ceremony where you come in and everything is like a work of art. That’s really what we dreamt up. We treated our business plan like it was doing our thesis. We researched brands for about three months. Everything was so perfectly thought out but she ended up moving back to Europe. So I was just like, 'Do I do this or do I not do this?' I was going for it. This is the coolest thing. So the following year in 2015 was when we launched as a blog. We were just highlighting brands, literally from anywhere that were fashionable and have a sustainable production method. In 2016, we launched the e-commerce store, and another curated collection the following year. In 2017, we opened up a pop up here and then moved in January. That's pretty much the timeline of Galerie LA.

So excited to finally share this interview with Dechel McKillian, the founder of Galerie LA, a Los Angeles based retailer located at The Row in Downtown LA carrying sustainable and ethical brands. As a former fashion designer, I have strived to be conscious and ethical in producing my fashion collections. I would recommend watching the True Cost if you haven't alreadyIt's disheartening to learn how the fashion industry is not only the leading polluter of the earth, but the cost of mass-producing fashion pieces  negatively impacts the lives of those creating clothing in factories overseas. Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a growing collective awakening and shift to produce fashion pieces more ethically. Most conscious brands I know are online. So visiting a physical space like Galerie LA earlier this year that houses apparel and accessories was a refreshing and tangible experience. 

I sat down with Dechel on a Sunday, to discuss her fashion journey from pre-med to styling for Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake and the Black Eye Peas. We also discussed shifts in the fashion industry and how she went from online shop owner into a brick-and-mortar owner creating community. 

Dechel McKillian Founder of Galerie LA | Ethical and Sustainable Brands

Since starting Galerie LA, what shifts have you seen in the industry?

Dechel: As you may know, designers present their stuff on the seasonal calendar and retailers buy into those garments. In the last three to five years, from trade shows in Vegas to Los Angeles to Europe, it's been quiet. Buyers are not placing orders with brands at these shows. So, it makes sense that designers are not wanting to pay thousands of dollars to be at these trade shows anymore. They are now taking their collections and offering them directly to consumers. Although designers are still doing wholesale, they are figuring out 'How do we boost our strategy to get in front of our customers?Even more, so that I think has changed is there are more sales channels that offer designers the terms they are looking for like with Garmentory.

Galerie LA is like one of those sales channels where brands don't have to overproduce just to meet the wholesale minimums. 

Sometimes if stores don't sell inventory, they end up sending it back to the brands at some point. Some brands even have to pay the retailers if they put their things on sale. There are so many terms like that. The big department stores, they’re terrible. So I think, even that is changing. And the big retailers are also rethinking their strategy. We have all these brick and mortar stores and they’re filled with tons of inventory and now it’s not selling. Because people are either shopping directly with the brands online or they’re just looking for different experiences than going into a mall doesn’t offer what they want.

People are looking for experiences. I think if they are going to spend their dollars, they want to meet the designer in person and I want like a glass of champagne. They want personal styling services and want to interact.

The big box retailers are trying to catch up to that. Where small brands and retailers have more control to offer people and get that feedback. So I think that’s just a small bit of how things are changing and let’s not even get into the digital media side of it!

Kristine: Yes. It’s so interesting because I work with so many brands on the digital side of things but I’m an in-person shopper. I don’t know if it’s because of the former designer in me, who likes to feel and see things in-person. So my burning question is, what lead you to open this brick and mortar knowing all this?

Dechel: Exactly! It’s like you wake up to this retail apocalypse and then opening a store like this doesn’t make any sense. For me, Galerie LA had been online for two spring seasons right when we launched the e-commerce store. It was doing well, we had a great following online and great engagement from people who were following the sustainable fashion movement.

I think in order for sustainable fashion to grow, you need to be able to see, feel, and touch the clothes and to also reach a wide demographic of people that might not find you online.

So, I’m not paying thousands a month for Google ad words just to pop-up online. I chose to be in a high traffic space, so people that are looking for sustainable fashions can find us. Anyone who walks in that will like the clothes and hear about brands in the store may open their mind to start shopping this way.

Dechel McKillian Founder of Galerie LA | Ethical and Sustainable Brands

For me, it was like a two-fold process, definitely a lot faster than I wanted. I think it’s just so important to have a physical presence, and then we do tons of different events like, having panel discussions, bringing people together so that we can spread a bigger awareness about sustainable fashion, and then also just fun events like we had a clothing swap in February. We had mimosas and amazing clothes on the racks. From that, so many women were exchanging numbers and asking “What do you do?” in a way to build community. I think that is something I didn’t anticipate was going to happen but that’s totally fluidly happening in the process.

Kristine: I love the fact that you touch on experience. It’s so important because in the digital space, everyone’s more conscious of trying to be authentic and connecting with their audience. But to experience something in-person, that’s what we’re trying to do. Not just in business, in life. We’re all just seeking connection. So it’s amazing that you’ve created this and have fluidly turned it into a gathering space.

Dechel: Aww, Thank you!

The intention of Galerie LA is to be the number one one-stop shop for sustainable fashion. We want to house as many sustainable brands that we can provide that transparency for our customers too.

Dechel McKillian Founder of Galerie LA | Retail Window

Dechel McKillian Founder of Galerie LA | Ethical and Sustainable Brands | Green Plant

We say that our batch system allows women to 'shop their values'. Which is why we sync our shop by your values.

Because some things mean more to others. Maybe it’s local production or maybe its becoming vegan. I really value finding products that are made a certain way or I want more social impact on things that give back. Whatever it is, you can kinda just start somewhere. Often, when people think about sustainability, you’ll see the True Cost and think 'I can’t shop anywhere now!' So, if we can just start small, I think that it begins a lifestyle change. No one is changing their life overnight. Some people do, but that’s very rare. It’s the same thing with fashion. I think that’s a greater way to get towards the sustainable wardrobe and just being more conscious. Eventually more people will become aware. Which is you know, a good and bad thing. The H&M’s, the ZARA’s all have conscious collections now. But even H&M backed out of their agreement to pay fair wages. So it’s such a tug and pull. They are doing this, but just to make more dollars. The people who are making those clothing are barely living to make clothes for us. For me, it all becomes about transparency. For brands to be transparent, I do get that its so hard to be 100% anything.

For H&M, a $40 billion company, to even produce a small conscious collection still takes a lot. But they still could be doing more and more.

I always compare it to McDonalds that has captured the market in fast food. They now offer vegetarians, a veggie burger. They’re still like 'We’ve gotta get these customers now and offer them something'. So people are becoming more aware, they’ll make their own decisions even if H&M is a gateway for them to shop at another emerging brand because they’re now starting to think that way. I think it’s still good for the environment. But, yeah, I want more transparency.

Kristine: It’s so lovely to have this conversation on the fashion industry and having a non-linear career with someone who also shares similar values. Like, you were gonna go to med school and didn’t. Instead ended up in fashion.. it’s amazing! 

Dechel: I feel like almost all the shop owners have this divergent career, like the pottery girls, one is an architect and now she’s just opening a pottery shop. The wine shop owner is an attorney and is now opening this wine shop. Let’s tell our stories.. it doesn’t have to be one way like we thought.

Kristine: Our paths are nonlinear. For me, it was all over the place. I actually went to school for Public Health. I wanted to work for nonprofits to promote health and wellness. I also work with several wellness brands now. So in a way it definitely has become a full circle journey. I definitely learned a lot of things. As you know, education is so important but your career doesn’t have to be exactly what you studied.

Dechel: Exactly, for most people its not. That’s awesome we had a very similar start and somehow we both ended up in fashion.

How do you define a sustainable brand?

Dechel: We created the batch system. Every brand that we carry is ethically made. Brands are usually going directly to the factories or they're making the garments themselves, like in their small studios. That was really important just to have that stand because as a conscious consumer I don’t want my things made in a sweatshop.

Everything is ethically made, that’s the number one criteria.

It’s really hard for a brand to be 100% sustainable. So that’s why we kinda opened it up. On top of a lot of things being ethically made, a lot of brands use eco-friendly materials. That is such a wide range, but I think they have to go above and beyond to start to source and find those materials just to create great garments. Some brands use artisan made products. So, for example, they are going to specific countries where they’re known for a specific type of weaving or type of beading or something where it is a part of the culture to produce things this way. Then there's locally made. Local from the city or country of origin. It’s not going from China to wherever the brand is based and then shipping it out to LA. Instantly we can reduce that carbon footprint that’s very simple brands made right here in LA which is awesome for a consumer. We want to support our local economy. So we just opened that up for people to know where they’re things are coming from. Recycled materials. A lot of the brands use dead-stock materials. So they’re not even making new fabrics to use and within that so many things are up-cycled. Dead-stock can replace materials that they use to make things.

The other criteria is for cruelty-free brands that use all vegan materials eliminating the use of animal products and animal byproducts in their materials and production practices.

I met so many women that were vegan but still buying leather. I didn’t get that. They were like I can’t find any good bags! We want to highlight those brands that are the best of the best. So you don’t know have to feel like, I have to go buy this leather bag because I can’t find anything else. Because within sustainability although it's growing, it's still working with emerging brands. They’re not showing up on the top of the searches. You usually have to take hours on Instagram or find them through all these different routes. We just want to make it easy. We want to be able to showcase all of these brands as a collective. 'Like here’s my bag, here’s my top, here’s my pants, done.'

Dechel McKillian Founder of Galerie LA | Ethical and Sustainable Brands | Retail Window | Retail Products

Grateful to have met another business owner leading with her nature and intent. Sharing video highlights from our interview on Instagram @nature.intent.

Visit the Galerie LA at The Row and follow on @galeriela


Photos and interview by Kristine Lo.

Simples Founder Shares Her Personal Journey with Plant as Medicine.

Nature and Intent Journal

is a digital container featuring inspiring original content and profiles of conscious business owners because we believe that brands can creating a meaningful impact with intention.

Simples Founder Traci Donat Shares Her Personal Journey with Plant as Medicine.
Simple Tonics by Traci Donat | Simples Founder Shares Her Personal Journey with Plant as Medicine.

I met Traci Donat, founder of Simples Tonics in Santa Monica, and was immediately captivated by her energy and vast knowledge of plant medicine. I was feeling particularly overworked and needed to focus that day and she recommended a Schisandra tonic. The Simples shop offers tonics made with ethically sourced ingredients and offers a range of elixirs made locally from her garden in Malibu along with apothecary from other brands. She shared with me her personal journey with herbs & plant medicine. Upon learning more about Traci, I found her to be a huge expander with an incredible personal story referencing hardship and strength in comparison to plants. I was drawn to her beautiful brand's aesthetic and the benefits of her nourishing products. But her intention and personal journey is even more inspiring.

Intention for Simples.

Traci Donat: Herbs and plant medicine have been such a gift in my life, and I have spent decades sharing them with friends and family. It was the natural progression and realization of a dream to introduce them to a larger audience. Because I know how nourishing and healing these tonics are, I have always believed that once people try them they will begin to crave them and the good feeling that optimal health brings. In fact we are already seeing that in the store, we have a ton of repeat business and regular customers. Feeling good is addictive. So my ultimate goal is to introduce Simples Tonics to as many people as possible. 

Personal journey with plant medicine.

Traci: Herbalism is my passion. It has always been the thing that lights me up the most. My interest started when I began working with an herbalist as a teenager, I immediately felt the plants, and the benefits I’ve been studying, reading, taking classes, attending conferences and experimenting ever since. There is so much to learn and experience in the world of plant medicine, I will be studying until the end of my days.

Background in media supporting other brands.

Traci: My husband and I were the founders of an advertising agency called Tiny Rebellion and while I left the day-to-day business when I had my daughter, my background definitely has served me as I navigate starting a new brand. Our niche was taking start-ups or new companies and building them into major brands, so I have had a front row seat watching the ups and downs and ultimate victories of visionaries. I definitely have some things to aspire to.

Simples Founder Traci Donat | Her Personal Journey with Plant as Medicine.

Benefits of tonics.

Traci:Tonics are loaded with vitamins and, minerals, but it doesn’t end there. Each plant has its own gift. For example Nettle Tonic is like a daily vitamin but it also is very supportive to the adrenals and kidneys so it’s great for stress and rebuilding from any kind of depletion. We brew the tonics in the shop daily and each one has it’s own specific brewing time to maximize the potency and taste.

All of the tonics we offer at Simples are going to be super nutrient rich and supportive, so you really can’t go wrong. But using the specific words, over-working, stress, and lack of focus, as an exercise, I would have the customer taste, Schisandra, Nettle, and Tulsi , and see which one they felt called to. That’s how we generally work, people give us an idea of where they are at on that particular day and we offer a few suggestions of tonics that we think would be most beneficial, and they very quickly hone in on which tonic or tonics, they are going home with.


Photos and words by Kristine Lo.

"Wellness from my perspective is when our body systems are working optimally. It means the body is getting all of the necessary building blocks to cleanse, repair, and regenerate. That’s why I love the Simples Tonics, they are just that, highly nourishing water based infusions that contain essential vitamins, and minerals in a form that the body can easily assimilate. I believe the body knows what to do and will create balance when given the proper tools." 

Simple Tonics by Traci Donat | Shares Her Personal Journey with Plant as Medicine.

Grateful to have met another business owner leading with her nature and intent. Sharing video highlights from our interview on Instagram @nature.intent.

Visit the Simples Tonics shop at 2724 Main Street Santa Monica, California 90405 and follow on @simplestonics.