I have a unique connection to nature. Having grown up on a farm in rural Minnesota, I spent most of my childhood with our animals, in our orchards, gardens, and fields. My best friends were my Golden Retriever Ike, German Shepherd Heidi and my pet crow Tuesday who followed me everywhere. I attended grade school in a 1 room schoolhouse where in most grades I was the only kid in my class. I started sewing clothing when I was 5 on my mom's old treadle machine, and taught myself how to sew with the help of my grandma Ida, a professional seamstress. This is where I got my start designing my own clothing. On a treadle machine. I realize this is an unusual beginning for a fashion designer. Especially one who loves to create eco couture.
But my life experience is something precious to me, something that makes me see the world a bit differently. I moved to New York City to study fashion design at Parsons School of Design, then worked in the garment industry as a designer for a bit before launching my own line in 1983. Although I loved Manhattan, I missed nature, the animals and the peace and solitude of the farm. Moving closer to the East River and Central Park helped me with a easier nature fix, but ultimately after nearly a decade in Manhattan, I settled in Los Angeles where today I have gardens full of blossoms, bees, and butterflies, and a German Shepherd named Heidi who wants to follow me everywhere.
I often meet creative people who have a similar love for the environment and sometimes I am lucky enough to collaborate with them. This is one of those magical collaborations. I had an idea for a vegan photoshoot with farm animals, and when I was introduced to Erich and Kathy of Saving Grace Animal Sanctuary, they immediately said yes! It was so nice to spend a day with these beautiful creatures and the wonderful people who care for them.
Saving Grace Animal Sanctuary was founded for the purpose of giving animals who faced cruelty and neglect a loving home to share their stories.
Love truly lives here. Each animal has its own story, some of which we learned as we met and worked with the most willing participants. We started with the goats who were incredibly curious about our model Brookelynn.
Here we have Arthur, Niblet, and Winston who is hiding under the platform. These vegan looks are created from upcycled materials and are limited edition or one of a kind. Brookelynn is wearing applique jeans with a hand embroidered linen camisole.
Read more about the goats and their stories on this link.
The alpacas, while also curious, were a bit shy. We were able to include Apollo and Sebastian as we worked at the edge of their pen, but Wuzbear stayed more hidden. Brookelynn is wearing vintage denim 501 jeans with side ripped detail and reversed sideseams, accessorized with a vintage scarf sash belt. A vintage embroidered linen fabric camisole makes the look a bit feminine, along with a puffy sleeved hook front denim jacket made of upcycled jeans.
Read more about the Alpacas here.
Frank and Gary are the young steers. These 2 were raised lovingly by a young girl for a Future Farmers of America program before nearly being sold at auction. Gary (brown) is rambunctious, but his friend Frank is more subdued and loves the camera. Both are adorable with such beautiful faces and sweet dispositions. For more about the cows and their story, go here.
Brookelynn is wearing a bias slipdress in deadstock cotton plaid. Read about our eco fabrics choices, including deadstock at this link.
There are several donkeys at the sanctuary and all of them are loving and affectionate. This one is Rufus and is considered one of the sanctuary's most personal ambassadors. Rufus mostly wanted to stand as close as possible to Brookelynn, who is wearing a flutter front vintage scarf fabric blouse and denim cutoffs. The scrunchie is also part of our vegan offerings and is made of a vintage scarf fabric. To read more about the donkeys, go here.
The miniature horse Tucker has been called many things. A mascot, an escape artist who knows how to open gates, and in our case, a horse that takes love and posing seriously. See his back feet? He's a true model, and is giving us a little hip action.
Brookelynn is wearing a one of a kind vintage scarf fabric camisole with upcycled 501s embellished with beaded sari trim. Tucker couldn't get enough of Brookelynn and loved her so much he tried to step into her lap.
Read about Tucker and the other mini horses here.
What I didn't know about Brookelynn is that she was very afraid of chickens. I can relate a bit, since I was chased as a little girl by bantam hens on the farm when they had babies in tow. They would fluff up and come charging at me. That was a long time ago and today I'm not afraid of them or chickens in general. I assured her that this rooster named Lucky is an absolute sweetheart. He's content and happy being held, and the best way to make that happen is to sit down and let him come to you.
The goats are also fans of this rooster and as usual, fans of posing for a photo. We did not place them in their positions, they did this themselves. When I say this shoot was magic, I mean it. The cutest.
Brookelynn is wearing a vintage scarf fabric peasant blouse.
To read more about the roosters, go here.
This little ball of fluff is a Japanese silkie chicken named Patty. Patty along with her twin sister Maxine loves to be held, and loves to spend time with the bunnies. Brookelynn is wearing a one of a kind vintage scarf fabric halter top and a skirt with a train made of a table linen rescued from a stash of linens.
Notice the messages on the steps. Peace, faith, heaven, love, and more.
To read more about the chickens, go here.
A little relaxation is in store after so much action with the animals. Volunteers help out at the sanctuary, with their own building entitled "volunteers" which we turned into our dressing room. There is also a wishing well and some metal flowers that were "planted" after the real versions were eaten by critters. Brookelynn is wearing slipdresses in plaid and floral, part of our new deadstock fabric offerings.
I've saved the horse April for the last. When I think of her I want to cry. She loves this tasty pepper tree limb treat and because of it she was so easy and patient with us. She doesn't always feel this way. She can be very agitated and prefers to be alone. Emoji, the border collie does come to offer some support during the day and naps by her pen. Emoji is a love.
Here is what Erich and Kathy have to say about what happened to April:
April is the sanctuary's blind horse. Once upon a time, April was in training to be an "on the job" horse. When it was decided April wasn't learning quickly enough, she was hit in the head, leading to her going blind.
April soon found her way to the sanctuary, where she no longer needs to worry about anger and abuse. Due to her condition, she has her own private area, but she gets plenty of attention for sanctuary visitors (and an occasional visit from Tucker)!
What was next and considerably challenging was to understand her better, what she needs, and help her find some relief. They recently found a remedy that has helped tremendously with April's agitation and fearfulness. A CBD formula that is added to her food in the form of pellets. She has been through so much trauma, but she has a space to heal, people who love her, and a plant based medicine that helps her. I'm so greatful for all this and that the medicine is available for her.
On a personal note, the cannabis community has been very supportive of what I do. I sometimes applique the leaf on my designs, and have used hemp for years in my special occasion and wedding line. It is absolutely one of my favorite sustainable fibers. As a farmers daughter I'm also aware of its ability to heal the soil that has been so brutalized by pesticide and herbicide. I'm sometimes featured in panel discussions about hemp in fashion, and have been interviewed by journalists about fashion's role to destigmatize this medicinal plant. See more about cannabis in fashion on my blog.
Brookelynn is wearing an organic cotton tshirt with a hemp applique from our Green Queen line and beaded, slashed upcycled 501s. In the above photos she is wearing the same beaded, slashed jeans with a vintage lace fabric camisole and upcycled denim hook-front jacket.
All looks are available in our shop.
Watch this behind the scenes vlog by Brookelynn Elizabeth!
Many thanks to our creative team: Model: Brookelynn Elizabeth, Photographer: Ruben Domingo, Makeup and Hair: Betsy Di Francesca.
Thank you so much Saving Grace Animal Sanctuary and to all the animals who made this possible. It was truly magical.
Love Lives Here.
"Save Your Planet"