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Bridge & Burn

T-Shirt Tales: "Perfectly Imperfect" by Birch & Pine

We met Kate a year ago through her blog, Birch & Pine. We loved her imagery, use of light, and outdoors aesthetic - It was a natural fit for Bridge & Burn. But as we collaborated on images, Kate found herself struggling to reconcile her real life with an Instagram / blogger persona that seemed to continuously demand an unattainable level of perfection. When Kate decided to open up about her struggles with perfectionism through a series of Instagram posts she entitled #unearthingmytruths, we asked her to be the first of our T-shirt tales storytellers - Here is her interpretation of PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.

We may dream the designs up, but it is you who make them mean something. "T-shirt Tales" is where we open the flood gates and let others do the interpreting. 

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What does Perfectly-Imperfect mean to you?

As an artist, I’ve struggled for years to get started on creative endeavors and, once I start, finishing or at least continuing the work. I needed to understand why this was happening. It was debilitating and heartbreaking. I needed to create, yet I was unable to easily turn to my artistic outlets the way I desired. After much soul searching, I finally came to the conclusion that I have a level of perfectionism where I desire conditions around me to be perfect before I begin creating. This means, on a daily scale, that I need my workspace just so - clean, tidy, a candle lit, a warm cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Music. All things set in place.

On a much larger, more crucial scale this meant that I wanted my life to be perfect before I felt I could truly start anything. Yet my life is really messy. I can’t change most of it. I can’t pretend I wasn’t abused as a child, or that I haven’t gone through a horrible divorce, that my daughter isn’t struggling with a once-absent father reentering her life (and by default, mine). That I haven’t screwed up and lost so much.

These things make me feel like I am not worthy of the creating that I wish to do, and that where I come from somehow means that I am unable to be the person that I actually am. I convinced myself I was just a big fraud. This translated into my new marriage and motherhood as well, and for many years, I just felt like I was falling apart.

"This meant that I wanted my life to be perfect before I felt I could truly start anything. Yet my life is really messy."

When I realized this very key point about myself and my brand of perfectionism, it afforded me the ability to spend the last few years working through these issues with a new understanding. To dig deeper. I started with sharing honestly about my life - it wasn’t easy,

I’d found it much easier to hide behind a facade of a pretty house and pretty things to give an illusion that I had everything figured out. In starting to share honestly, to stop apologizing for my lack of perfection, I was able to start peeling away the layers and opening myself up to a world where I could create.

Sharing real things does that. Being raw and broken, as we all are, with others and ourselves brings so much beauty and possibility. This process is ongoing - an intentional, daily practice where I give myself grace to be imperfect. That my past doesn’t have to dictate who I am, how I love my family, how I approach motherhood, how I create. That I am enough. 

 

Tell us about #unearthingmytruths?

Social media is it’s own kind of beast, isn’t it? This past summer, I was in a really dark place. While I’ve definitely accepted more of myself than ever before, I’m still a human being that struggles. My life (outside of the tiniest fraction that is shown in squares) has been a nightmare this past year. We’ve lost so much as a family and faced insurmountable things. I was wrestling with how to share truthfully on Instagram without bumming everyone out or sharing details that…quite frankly, weren’t anyone’s business. Much of what has happened in my family’s life this past year involves other people who would be affected by my words, whether they were deserved or not. I was angry that I felt pressure to post perfection while my life was falling apart in front of me.

I began to wonder about this pressure - who was giving it? Why was I buying into it? Why did I feel the need to post images for others before myself? I saw so many people doing the same, and I knew that behind all of those grids, there were people - living, breathing, rejoicing, hurting, screaming, crying, loving people.

I decided to stand up and speak. 

It wasn’t until I decided to start #unearthingmytruths that I was able to begin posting on Instagram regularly again. For me, much of my community as a stay-at-home working mom is through my blog and social media. Finding like-minded folks, people who truly ‘get’ who you are, is broadened when we have the ability to reach out to the entire world.

"I was wrestling with how to share truthfully on Instagram without bumming everyone out or sharing details that…quite frankly, weren’t anyone’s business."

When we traveled, we met so many amazing people because of relationships that first began on Instagram! People who have become friends that I visit, call, write, and text regularly. It can truly be an amazing way to connect with others, but somewhere along the way, I had stopped sharing in a way that felt truly authentic and raw. I was hoping that in sharing honestly again, perhaps even more so than ever before, it would resonate with others and we could all stop feeling pressure to post certain types of imagery or Instagram-y captions that got big likes, but instead to post images and words that inspired conversation.

Connection. While I still keep so much of life to myself, I have begun to share in ways I never have before - and because of this, have started a dialogue. We need to remember that our Instagram galleries are just a tiny portion of the person behind it. To take the time to post things that matter could speak to someone, might meet them where they are, and it becomes more than just an app. It’s human connection. Friendship. Love. And now, don’t we need that more than ever? 

Learn More about Kate. Read - Profiles: Kate Oliver | Birch & Pine

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Photos by: Kate Oliver (@birchandpine)

Bridge & Burn Apparel: Perfectly Imperfect T-shirt in grey; Ellis Pants in Navy Grid; The Warbler Jacket (from a previous season) similar to Fall 2016 Warbler in Waxed Black Olive; Bea shirt in Olive; Bridge & Burn Ragg Wool Cap.

 

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Bridge Burners Vol. 12 - Ty McBride

Creating Bridge & Burn required a leap of faith. Founder Erik Prowell quit his job as a software developer, lit the proverbial match, and threw it—burning the bridge of working for anyone else behind him. With no formal training, he trusted his smarts and his strong work ethic, and took the plunge. In that spirit, Bridge Burners is a series showcasing people who are taking a similar leap.

There are a few true pinnacles in the trajectory of a burgeoning lifestyle brand. That moment when you get picked up by a major national department store is usually one for the company annals.

Unless you’re Ty McBride.

Only two and a half years into the life of his shoe brand “Intentionally _______,” Nordstrom came knocking, and Ty boldly shut the door.

“I have a different interpretation of what’s valuable in the market,” he says. “At this point in the brand, I don’t want to sell to Nordstrom. I already turned them down. I don’t need to become a millionaire. It will take longer, but I want to be worn by cool girls and those girls still go to small shops.”

His curated approach is built right into the brand’s name. He’s intentionally minimal and understated, filling a gaping hole he sees in the mid-tier market—an option for the girl who loves Celine but isn’t ready to drop $700 on a pair of streamlined sandals. That intentionality trickles down into how he selects his stockists and how he markets his line. It means saying no to flourishes and trends, and sometimes, saying no to the retail behemoth who could make you a fortune.

In that and pretty much everything else Ty is unapologetic. It’s a risky approach for a brand that’s less than three years old. But he knows exactly what he’s trying to achieve, and he’s not averse to risk. His career has been marked by bold moves: like stepping into the Jeffrey Campbell Studio and beating out candidates with a decade more experience for a sales rep role, or moving from New York to LA because he “accidentally fell in love with a Mexican shoe designer,” and now, bootstrapping his baby brand by cashing out his 401k and the savings he set aside for a New York City apartment.

But there are ways to hedge your bets. Before striking out on his own he had worked his way up to Global Brand Manager for Jeffrey Campbell and then spent five years at Solestruck.com as Creative Director and Brand Manager. “Whenever I meet people who are in fashion school my advice is: do it first with someone else’s money,” he says. “I was being trained from the beginning and accumulating the skills to eventually strike out on my own. At Solestruck I was allowed to wear a lot of hats. It groomed me for the next step.”

It also meant that when he launched “Intentionally ______,” he was doing so with the best network a new shoe designer could ask for. His first round of samples yielded deals with Free People, Nasty Gal and LF Stores. Not a bad start. “When you come off a brand that has made people millions of dollars, they associate you with success. I have a charmed life—doors open for me,” Ty explains.

But it’s not just that his life is charmed, it’s that he’s charming—deadpanning one minute, verbally sashaying the next—and one hell of a hard worker. He knows about hustle—while building his brand he paid the bills by consulting for other brands—and he isn’t afraid to make sacrifices, whether it’s living minimally or holding loosely to material possessions. “It’s just money. I’m single, I don’t have any kids. I have a cell phone bill—I don’t have any debt.”

He credits outsourcing the minutia and a lack of social life for his ability to get all of it done. Like most Bridge Burners, there are no clear lines between his life and work. “Everything is combined. It’s very one and the same,” he says. “Being in LA has been really lonely but in a way it’s a blessing. It’s allowed me to hunker down and focus without missing out on a lot of social obligations.”

That singular focus has paid off. Intentionally _______ is now in 100 stores, in 6 countries. Ecommerce is steadily blazing and this year Ty opened his own shop in LA. There’s huge momentum:

“I feel like I just finished the balance beam and I’m heading to the floor routine. That’s my best event, so get ready!”

The time is right and he is making hay (minimalist leather hay) while the proverbial sun shines. In the near future that means furthering the reaches of his international distribution, and then a second store in LA or Williamsburg. After that? Shops in the major hubs and building his product offering. “I mean I don’t think I need my own kombucha or anything but I wouldn’t mind having a line of accessories.” For now, he says, “I’ve tabled my own happiness and I’m hoping that in the end I’m just this disgusting power gay who can just live wherever he wants.”

Ultimately what he’s working for is independence: the luxury of not having an alarm clock or a boss (“As it turns out, I don’t like being bossed”), and maybe one good meltdown in his 40s (he predicts: “Lots of sleeping with 18-year-old latinos—really messy, my friends doing an intervention—and then I think when I come out of that, success will rise up like a big moon on the horizon”).

He knows the onus is on him to make it happen “In the end my happiness is not going to be an espadrille. It’s a feeling of satisfaction that’s going to come from within me, and I’m willing to gamble on myself.” He’s curating a life as much as he’s curating a brand. And that life is one in which he calls the shots and has the freedom to travel, take risks and unapologetically follow his gut.

Written by Amanda Lee Smith

Photos by Michael Robles

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Profiles: Kate Oliver | Birch & Pine

At Bridge & Burn, we are lucky to be able to work with an amazing community of artists, photographers, creators, and do'ers who inspire our designs daily. Get to know them through our "Bridge & Burn Profiles", and what influences their individual sense of style.

Kate Oliver is a photographer, writer, and Bridge & Burn Ambassador. Founder of the blog, Birch & Pine, she splits her time between the midwest and traveling in her Airstream trailer with her wife and daughter.

How would you describe your individual sense of style?

Comfortable, tomboyish, easy, simple. I am most confident when I’m completely comfortable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sweatpants! I am comfortable when my clothes fit me well, when they are easy pieces, when the fabric is soft and quality made. As I get older, I’m okay with this! When I was younger I was all about looking good, even if it meant I was wildly uncomfortable in my clothes. I still think it’s possible to look good and be completely comfortable. When those align, I feel confident as hell. 

What are the five most essential pieces in your wardrobe? Why?

  1. My Madewell boyfriend jeans - the only pair of jeans I own. They are so broken in and go with everything. I can dress them up with a silk blouse or down with a tee.
  2. Either one of my Bridge & Burn tees. They are the softest, most flattering tees ever.
  3. Yoga pants in black or charcoal gray. I am a runner and sometimes-doer of yoga, but mostly I just love wearing them because they are comfy.
  4. Everlane tank tops in the summer. Perfection.
  5. Pair of broken in suede loafers. They go with everything and I can wear them almost year round. 

Why do you like Bridge & Burn? Any pieces that you especially love?

I love the androgynous nature of the women’s pieces, they speak to my tomboy heart, yet I still feel feminine. The comfort, tones, and nod to the Pacific Northwest just can’t be beat. Wearing Bridge & Burn feels like coming home to me, home to the Pacific Northwest, which I’ve always felt so connected to and hope to live one day, and coming home to who I am. 

I love my Bridge & Burn tees and sweatshirts especially, but my favorite piece is by far my Warbler jacket.What does being an "Outsider" mean to you? 

In understanding my imperfection, I was able to embrace so many new things I’d have never otherwise. Coming out, marrying my wife, traveling around North America for almost a year with her and my daughter, living tiny, sharing my work as a writer and a photographer, or my current project starting a new business. While yes, I love to be literally out of doors and it's where I feel most alive, being an Outsider to me means I am embracing ME in the face of societal, familial, and peer pressure to be anyone but who I actually am. Being an Outsider means ignoring it all and listening to my heart and the hearts of those who know me best, who want me to be who I am. Sadly, there are so few of these voices, so it can be a struggle to keep going and fighting for truth and acceptance in my heart, but I know it’s the right thing to do. It is the only thing to do. 

Photos by: Kate Oliver (@birchandpine)

Bridge & Burn Apparel: Outsider Sweatshirt in Burgundy; The Warbler Jacket (from a previous season) similar to Fall 2016 Warbler in Waxed Black Olive; Bridge & Burn Ragg Wool Cap.