On the 54th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy, I talk with Eliza Brooke, a senior writer at Racked, a publication that covers shopping from all different angles. Racked takes a consumer perspective to covering the industry, rather than solely focusing on the business side, which makes its lens unique. We had a great talk about Eliza’s career, her favorite and most interesting stories, and where the industry is headed as complexity lingers from every angle.

I really enjoyed talking Eliza about the culture side of the industry. Most interviews on here tend to be about the business side, but it’s important not to lose site of the cultural side as well, since they are directly linked.

Check out the full transcript below.

Richie: [00:00:00] Welcome to the 54th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy. This episode is brought to you by Loose Threads Membership, which gives you access to forward thinking research, events and our analysts so you can capitalize on the new consumer economy. Learn more at loosethreads.com/membership. We also have a newsletter called Ripcord that highlights one important development each week and helps you escape the noise. Learn more at loosethreads.com/ripcord. Joining me today is Eliza Brooke, a senior writer at Racked, a publication that covers shopping from all different angles. Racked covers the industry from a consumer perspective, rather than solely focusing on the business side, which makes its lens unique.

Eliza: [00:00:47] A lot of people, I think, believe that they don’t interact with fashion. It kind of represents something that’s untouchable whereas, like, everybody puts on clothing, everybody shops for clothing. You know, you put your clothes in the laundry. You don’t launder your fashion.

Richie: [00:01:00] We had a great talk about Eliza’s career, her favorite and most interesting stories and where the industry is headed as complexity lingers from every angle. Here’s my talk with Eliza Brooke.

Richie: [00:01:13] Why don’t we start? How did you get into this or like where did this journey to this part of the world begin?

Eliza: [00:01:19] I’d always been interested in fashion. Like I was one of those teens who, you know, obsessively stalked style.com, learned every model’s name, bought all the magazines. And when I got to college I started doing fashion internships. I was at T for one summer and at Pamela Love, the jewelry company, for another. And also working at, like, the college newspaper, I realized that, like, journalism was, like, really the side of it that I wanted to be on. And so once I graduated–

Richie: [00:01:46] Wait, why?

Eliza: [00:01:47] You know, I think it’s because, like when I was working in those environments, I always kind of felt, like, a bit outside of it. Like I was always kind of just like looking in on the workings of the industry and thought it was so interesting but didn’t feel like I should be a player within it, if that makes sense? Which is interesting, I mean, because fashion is such an exclusive world, and I think like a lot of people feel excluded from it. And I think that is also what I was feeling but, at the same time, was like, “But I want to know more.”

Eliza: [00:02:17] So when I was about to graduate from college, someone from TechCrunch reached out to the school newspaper and was like, “Hey, we’re hiring very well paid interns.” So I took on an internship there for the summer. Basically, I was like I want to try something other than fashion. I know I want to be writing. And, like, I hear this startup thing is happening—this is 2013—and that was like a great experience. And I covered a lot of ecommerce startups. So, you know, Everlane was just coming out, Cuyana was just—

Richie: [00:02:45] I remember Everlane started as a Tumblr site.

Eliza: [00:02:47] Did it really?

Richie: [00:02:48] I think so. The original thing was on Tumblr and they posted their, like, first, you know, “Here’s what the things cost, actually, and here’s what we do.” And I just remember, like, that’s how Everlane started.

Eliza: [00:02:56] Well, I just learned something. Clearly I was a bad reporter.

Richie: [00:03:00] You were just like, “They’re going to the moon!”

Eliza: [00:03:02] I mean that thing is, like, I was not a good tech reporter. Like, I’m not a tech person and, like, frequently friends make fun of me for this fact, that I’m like, “I don’t know how to do this thing on my iPhone.” But like, what I was really into was covering startups and like covering these small businesses and, you know, covering all of these direct-to-consumer brands that were popping up. So I stuck around at TechCrunch after the internship ended as a full time freelancer, essentially. Like I owed them, I forget what it was, maybe like five stories a week or something like that, for like a set amount of money, which I terribly low balled when they were like, “How much money do you need?” I was like, “Here’s a number that’s true.” So I kind of messed up on that front. But it was kind of through doing that that I met Lauren Indvic, who is now at Vogue International in London, but, at the time, was covering kind of fashion and tech at Mashable, and had just got hired to be the new Editor-in-Chief of Fashionista. So, we got hooked up through a PR girl who was like, “You guys cover the same stuff. You should know each other.” And I was like, “Yeah, I know who she is. She does what I do but better.” And when she moved over to Fashionista, I wrote a freelance piece for her. She liked it. There was an opening and she hired me there.

Richie: [00:04:15] And then talk a bit about how, kind of, Fashionista works. From the little bit I know, it’s become somewhat of a training slash breeding ground for a lot of people that have gone on to do a lot of other things, kind of, beyond it.

Eliza: [00:04:25] Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because it was one of the sites that I read when I was, like, a high schooler who was so fascinated by this world. I mean, Fashionista, then, was doing a really interesting job reporting on fashion from kind of like this—it was a blog, right? It was like, kind of the digital world infiltrating the fashion world. I remember when I started, Lauren was very worried about me being a slow writer, which was completely true, and I got way faster because of that. So, kind of learning to write for the internet at Fashionista was just—I mean, that’s a huge skill and that’s like a skill I’ll use forever.

Richie: [00:04:58] Yeah because they’re known for just pumping out shorter form but immensely, kind of, frequent stuff right?

Eliza: [00:05:03] Totally, yeah. And it’s so cool working at a website where, like, everybody, like, loves this industry and is like really just fascinated and motivated by it. I mean, the team is super close-knit.

Richie: [00:05:14] What year was, did you guys start at Fashionista, which was the first kind of sole focus?

Eliza: [00:05:18] I started at Fashionista in 2014.

Richie: [00:05:21] Okay. I’m curious to kind of poll, like, what were some of the things or like the major kind of pillars or tenets of, I guess, the industry? That point that a lot of coverage was lent to?

Eliza: [00:05:31] Honestly, I just I think I like blacked out and woke up from it and was like, “What happened?”

Richie: [00:05:36] Is that a story in itself, though? That there was basically just no memory from everything and the craziness and the noise?

Eliza: [00:05:41] I think that has more to do with, like, I have a poor memory and also, like, I was working on so many different types of stories. I mean, like I kind of got put on the business beat when I was there. Lauren was like, “You can write about this.” And so I was sitting in on, like, a lot of earnings calls for the first time. So, a lot that, to me, felt very novel at the time, were like continuing threads that had been happening. But one huge one that was coming up during that time was, like, Coach’s overhaul. I remember when Victor Luis, the CEO, kind of made his first statement about like, “We’re going to overhaul this, it’s gonna take time but this is what we’re doing.” I remember Lauren wrote that story and then I kind of got put on the, like, quarterly tracking.

Richie: [00:06:18] So, how’d you find your way from Fashionista to I guess where you are now at Racked?

Eliza: [00:06:23] Yeah, I mean Britt just reached out. You know, I think that’s—that’s another thing about the media industry is that like, and particularly this side of the media industry is that, like, everybody knows everybody and everybody’s kind of aware of each other’s bylines. Yeah, I was just, I loved Fashionista but I was just ready for a new challenge. And when I came on to Racked, that was kind of the beginning of a big overhaul of the website, both in terms of kind of clarifying what our area of coverage was and also redesigning.

Richie: [00:06:51] And so talk a bit more about that, of maybe where was it kind of when you started and then how it’s evolved, kind of, I guess, up to the present?

Eliza: [00:06:57] Yeah. I mean, so, Racked started as a website dedicated to sample sale listings, store openings. It was like a very practical, local resource that got started in New York. It kind of evolved from there and, kind of, the scope of the coverage widened up a lot. They started turning out these really amazing long-form features which is a thing that we still do and is a huge reason why I love working here. But when Britt came on we kind of began this process of figuring out, like, what the purpose of the website was. And what the team landed on was it being a website dedicated to shopping for clothing, accessories, beauty products and kind of looking at it both from a service perspective—like where are the best places to buy stuff—but also a kind of like more psychological and more business-oriented perspective. So, like, “Why do we do it? Where are we doing it?” Kind of, “What’s the culture surrounding it?”

Richie: [00:07:47] When I like remember kind of earlier versions of it, it was—I think everyone always knew it for the sample sales, right? Which is, “This is just where you would go to see what was available to buy this weekend.” It maybe was—the psychological piece that you alluded to and the long-form piece was maybe not as exaggerated or prominent back then as it has increasingly been, if that’s a fair summation.

Eliza: [00:08:05] I think so. I mean, like we have a really amazing essays editor, Alanna Okun, came over from BuzzFeed, who is really, like, leading the charge on getting first-person essays in there. And she does a really amazing job of, kind of, finding the unique angle on those. Like, it’s very easy to fall into cliches when talking about yourself and your relationship to clothing, and she does a really fantastic job teasing out, kind of, the unique stories within that. I’m very proud of where Racked is at now. Like I really agree with the way it covers fashion.

Eliza: [00:08:34] It’s funny. I’ve kind of transitioned from telling people that I cover fashion to saying like, “I write about clothing and culture and business.” But like, it’s kind of this semantic distinction between fashion and clothing. Like, a lot of people, I think, believe that they don’t interact with fashion. It kind of represents something that’s very exclusive that’s, like, untouchable whereas, like, everybody puts on clothing, everybody shops for clothing. Like, you put your clothes in the laundry. You don’t launder your fashion. You know what I mean? Like, and kind of transitioning to thinking about it as something that like, “How can we cover this in a way that like everybody can understand?”

Richie: [00:09:12] Like less on a pedestal.

Eliza: [00:09:13] Yeah, totally. And it’s funny, it’s been an interesting transition for me kind of like moving from thinking about fashion as this, like, almost academic area of study.

Richie: [00:09:23] Because like what is luxury?

Eliza: [00:09:25] What is luxury? Because I can’t afford that clothing. Like this isn’t real for me either. Like, this is like, it’s a case study or it’s like a museum display.

Richie: [00:09:34] Which has always been somewhat of a paradox with the media covering it, right, which is, if anything, it’s a facade and realistically, you know, very few people are actually buying the stuff that they’re writing about.

Eliza: [00:09:42] Oh totally and they’re getting it for free or at like a heavy discount.

Richie: [00:09:45] If they’re even wearing it but otherwise they’re just abstaining from the world from a personal perspective and covering it from a professional perspective.

Eliza: [00:09:52] Exactly, right. So it’s very cool covering something that you’re like, “I have a relationship to this too.” And what’s been so cool is that, like, I’ve had people from college or high school like reach out on Facebook when I like post something I’ve written and they’re like, “Oh, this is really cool.” Like, “I want to read about this stuff,” even if they don’t care about fashion at all.

Richie: [00:10:11] As Racked has gone, and it sounds like personally you have also gone, from covering this idea of the elusive thing of fashion to more clothing and culture and all those things, does that also have a parallel to, culturally, what is happening? How people are changing their beliefs, their buying behaviors, all those things?

Eliza: [00:10:27] I don’t know. I mean, I think it does say something about like the direction that fashion has gone in recently which is that, like, Kim K is fashion. Like she is the ultimate in fashion. A lot of brands are kind of understanding that they need to appeal to a wider swath of people. I don’t know. This is where I’m like, “Maybe my fashion history is failing me.” I do think that is like a blind spot for me as a reporter and that’s like something I need to really work on. But I think it’s true that, in the current moment, like, designers are trying to incorporate pop culture very heavily into what they’re doing. And you think about like Tommy Hilfiger with the fact that he’s been doing these “See now, Buy Now” shows for the last three seasons that are, like, very clearly trying to court consumers and pouring tons of money into that and also pouring tons of money into working with Gigi Hadid, and harnessing her huge following to get in front of people.

Richie: [00:11:14] To me there’s been a really interesting almost kind of bifurcation between—there are elements of it that are becoming more democratic but also, if you talk about those influencers, is also becoming immensely more centralized at the same time. And that’s like a very interesting kind of give and take.

Eliza: [00:11:28] Oh, totally. Right. There’s this like huge consolidation of power and the, like, Kardashian-Jenner family which is, like, they’re driving the industry right now.

Richie: [00:11:36] Right. But at the same time there are brands that are trying to become more accessible. Like this, to me, is an interesting transition into the—so one of the pieces you wrote recently was about—tell me the title of the startup brand one.

Eliza: [00:11:46] Oh, “Why Does Every Lifestyle Startup Look The Same”.

Richie: [00:11:49] Right. Which again, in itself, is a paradox of the centralized yet democratized aesthetic that all of these—I think you looked at like Outdoor Voices, Glossier, Bonobos, you know, Harry’s, Warby Parker. All of them have, you know they’re done by the same three branding firms, they look and all kind of use similar elements. But again this interesting, I guess, paradox between very similar yet centralized.

Eliza: [00:12:10] Yeah that piece was really fun to write because that was something that, like, I mean, I’ve been thinking about for ages. Like, “Why do all of these lifestyle startups have the same, like, minimalist Sans Serif aesthetic? And why did they all use the same typefaces?” So I looked into that. I mean and that was a funny case of like, this is a very obvious thing to write about but, like, I hadn’t seen many people like delve into it and kind of like what are the mechanisms for that?

Richie: [00:12:32] And what’d you find?

Eliza: [00:12:34] My question going into it, which I knew I couldn’t really answer, was like, “What’s next?” It came from a place of frustration. Like, I’m so sick of seeing all these startups that look the same. What’s the next thing?

Richie: [00:12:45] I guess, first, why do you think it happened? And then we’ll talk about that.

Eliza: [00:12:48] Totally. I mean I think there are a number of reasons why it happened. One is that all of these startups, ecommerce startups, launched and live online. And, you know, by virtue of them being on a phone screen, you just, you need less junk on the page. So I think, like, the minimalism really spoke to how it was being viewed. I also think, like, forces like Google changing its fun to a San Serif and like iMessage looking how it does. Like they all kind of look like iMessage. So I think that was just, kind of like, in the water.

Eliza: [00:13:17] But then, you know, in talking to the art directors who worked with these startups, they’re all like graphic design people with like a very strong, often academic, background in this area and, for them, it was also kind of a kickback against the 90s typography and 90s graphic design which is like kind of overloaded layers, like very kind of exuberant, kind of cacophonous looks and—

Richie: [00:13:40] Like the Juicy logo.

Eliza: [00:13:41] Yeah, totally. Which is funny because, like, then, like, Kanye came out with this merch that’s, like, essentially a Juicy logo.

Richie: [00:13:47] Right. And where Gucci is now.

Eliza: [00:13:49] Yeah, totally. And I think that’s the thing is like, we’re seeing these kind of small instances of kickback against minimalism. So like, Kanye’s like very heavy, Gothic, “Life of Pablo” tour merch or like the Thrasher t-shirts that have been everywhere for the last few years. Like, I think people are really into, kind of these, like graphic design memes that pop up. And it’s like super recognizable. They’re everywhere but at the same time that’s not necessarily what brands are using for their, like, permanent logo.

Richie: [00:14:17] Was that one reason? Were there other reasons?

Eliza: [00:14:19] Yeah, okay, so I think I said technology and then the other one was the pendulum of graphic design, swinging back and forth between minimalism and maximalism. And I think there’s also just the fact that, like, businesses copy other successful businesses. So like, Airbnb rebranded and it went from that kind of like goofy, bubbly script to its very, like, clean, San Serif look that it has now. And that got a ton of attention, partly because its new icon looked like a vagina, but also because other brands are like, “Yeah, we’ll have what she’s having.”

Richie: [00:14:52] All right, so that was kind of how it got there. And then talk a bit about—you were trying to answer this question of what comes next.

Eliza: [00:14:57] Oh yeah. So like, obviously I didn’t actually answer that question because like nobody knows what’s next. I mean, I think the general answer is, like, probably more maximalism. And when I talked to Outdoor Voices’ current art director, you know, one interesting thing she said was that, like, they’ll probably keep their logo as it is because that’s the foundation of the brand. But they could get more into like fun fonts, like through stickers or t shirts. You know, it’s very similar to kind of the Glossier approach. Like they have their adorable little, like, cherry stickers and their kind of—there’s a novelty to kind of like a cartoon-ish thing that you can like put on your phone but then—

Richie: [00:15:35] Change the cursor on the website or something.

Eliza: [00:15:37] Yeah, right, right. Exactly. All these cute little touches but the underlying thing is very clean and straightforward.

Richie: [00:15:45] So, I guess, after kind of reporting out that piece do you think that, like, we’ll forever kind of move in a herd mentality when it comes to these aesthetics or do you think they’ll ever be like a splintering where there’s some individuality that comes out of it?

Eliza: [00:15:59] I think we’re forever a herd but, I mean, I’d love to see a splintering. I think there’s like a big thirst for that too. I heard back from a few graphic designers who I hadn’t interviewed for the piece and they were like, “Yes! We really want to see more that’s, like, different and weird. You know. I’m not—certainly—not an expert in this field. I think, like, some people are going in that direction. But like, you know, if you think of like the first dot-com bubble—like this is a thing that came up a bunch in my reporting was like, there was the 90s graphic design that was like all over the place and really like, I’ll use the word cacophonous again, and then, kind of with the first dot-com bubble, there were all these, like, online company founders who were making their own logos. And so they did, like, some pretty, like, heinous design work but, you know, it was like fun and weird and like they could use as many colors as they wanted and they could do whatever they wanted because they were designing digitally. So I think that’s like an instance of things kind of going in like many different directions, even though it was still governed by one kind of big principle.

Richie: [00:16:58] So I guess the next one to talk about, just from the sheer kind of response I saw on Twitter, was the French Girl one.

Eliza: [00:17:02] Yeah.

Richie: [00:17:03] Talk about where that came from, why, and then kind of what happened?

Eliza: [00:17:08] So the French Girl story was another example of it being—

Richie: [00:17:13] —Just say the title for those who—

Eliza: [00:17:14] “How to Sell a Billion-Dollar Myth Like a French Girl.” Yeah, so that story—I basically wanted to look at this, at like, Americans’ obsession with “French Girl style” which is a trope on a lot of women’s lifestyle websites, not too much in print. Like it’s really a digital thing. You know, “How to Eat Breakfast Like a French Girl”, “How to Do Date-Night Style like a French Girl.” We’re so into French girls because there’s this idea that they’re like effortless and chic and beautiful and thin and they have fun while doing all of that. It’s like the ultimate in self-help literature and it’s like the ultimate in, kind of, preying on, I think, like a thing that gets thrown at women all the time which is like, “Look fantastic but, please, make it look effortless.” So I basically wanted to know what the business around this looked like. So, part of it was exploring the culture of it and kind of why we’re so attracted to this, but a lot of it was also looking at like, how big is this economy? Like how much money is being generated from French Girl sales?

Eliza: [00:18:14] So I basically looked at the beauty business around this, the fashion business, and the, kind of, literature business here because there have been a lot of books that have been written about, like, literally how to be more French. That’s like the first degree of aspiring to be a French girl is, like, buying a book that will tell you exactly how to do it. The second degree of it is, like, buying products that are kind of associated with it. So, you know, getting into like beauty brands that were kind of marketing this aesthetic. There’s one called French Girl Organics that is based out of Seattle, and it’s founded by a woman who is American but she just has a really strong affinity for French culture.

Richie: [00:18:52] There is a—you know what a mango lassi is? There’s a company that brought them to America and it’s just called “That Indian Drink.”

Eliza: [00:18:59] No.

Richie: [00:19:00] And it’s, like, that’s much worse.

Eliza: [00:19:02] That is so bad.

Richie: [00:19:03] Not saying that woman’s brand is that but there’s a similar—there’s appropriation.

Eliza: [00:19:07] Yeah, totally. And, you know, using the term “French Girl” is so funny to me. I discovered that one when I was on a store tour at Anthropologie’s massive Westport, Connecticut store and I was like writing this story and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s it.” And it’s very minimalist. It’s very clean. It’s kind of, you know, Chanel-like packaging. A lot of the products are like a very pale pink in color. So it’s kind of all of these, like, millennial pink, minimalism, French girls, like, packaged all into one. The interesting thing about that company is that, like, the founder of it is like a woman—I believe she’s in her 60s—and, you know, she just really loved France. And like, I do think that her approach to it in marketing it is not as cynical as it seems which kind of gets to, like, the endearing thing, I guess, or like the really understandable thing about French Girl culture which is that, like, it’s born out of like a genuine desire to make your life better. So that was one case study.

Eliza: [00:20:06] Another was kind of looking at the movement of French pharmacy products to U.S. stores. You know, Bioderma is like the best makeup remover in the world, according to every beauty editor. And it used to be something that you can only get if you were in Paris for the fashion shows and you’d, like, get a ton of it and bring it back to the States. Now it’s sold in certain stores here, and also big brands like Garnier and Simple are making their own versions of it too. So it’s kind of infiltrated big drug stores as well.

Richie: [00:20:34] So, look, you’ve written 225 stories for Racked.

Eliza: [00:20:38] Have I?

Richie: [00:20:38] Yeah.

Eliza: [00:20:38] Oh.

Richie: [00:20:38] If you search your name.

Eliza: [00:20:39] That seems low. I guess, no. I mean, that seems exactly right. My output decreased a lot going from Fashionista to Racked. I was not writing like five stories a day.

Richie: [00:20:49] That still is a lot of stories.

Eliza: [00:20:50] It is. Yeah.

Richie: [00:20:50] What other ones have been of note of or interesting to you?

Eliza: [00:20:56] I just did one that I found super interesting where I went to the NRA Carry Guard Expo which is a big event put on by the NRA, and they were holding a fashion show for the first time ever, so I attended. There was also someone from a Refinery there. I mean, like, this is kind of something that had like become a known quantity because States of Undress, which is an amazing show that Viceland produces, their host had gone to a Concealed Carry Fashion Show. So it’s kind of, like, on people’s radars. But, basically, I went to this expo and just like talked to people about the concealed carry accessories market, which is to say, like, bags that you can hide a gun in or, like holsters or lace corsets that you can put your gun in—basically products, like clothing or accessories, that you can put on your person and have your gun be out of sight. And that was just super fascinating because, like, you know, I personally did not know a ton about—

Richie: [00:21:54] You personally don’t conceal-carry a weapon?

Eliza: [00:21:56] I don’t but, you know, it was like a a side of this industry that, like, I really didn’t know a ton about. And, by all accounts I mean everyone who I talked to there was like, “The women’s market is growing a ton and kind of the options for women are growing a ton.” This is partly coming from, like, women who had founded their own businesses like to create bags where you can put a gun in. And like, a number of them that I talked to were like, “Yeah, I did not want to own a gun. But then like I was stalked or, you know, crime went up in my city so I decided to get one and I realized that there weren’t enough good options for women. So I started making my own.” I mean, it’s a classic founder’s story. “There’s a problem. I experienced it personally. I’m gonna solve it.” And, you know, the numbers of women who are buying guns has gone up in recent years.

Richie: [00:22:40] Which sounds like a really, again, I guess interesting example of the Sunday Fashion story but that’s a very much like a shopping, commerce, kind of culture intersection thing.

Eliza: [00:22:49] Yeah. It’s a clothing culture story, for sure. And with that one, you know, I tried to keep that one extremely neutral. I mean like that’s, obviously, when you’re a journalist, like always the goal. But. particularly when you’re going into a culture that is not your own, you don’t want to go in like making judgments. It was really about, like, learning about this market and kind of understanding the nuances of it and kind of the range of products that are out there. And also, like, the various reasons why people want to conceal-carry.

Richie: [00:23:16] One or two others that stand out?

Eliza: [00:23:18] So we published this big package recently which was a look at the amount of free products that fashion editors get. We called it “The Swag Project” and it took the form of five or six different stories that were written by different people on the team, all kind of centered around this like very long data collection project where, over a period of six months, we had everybody on the team log everything that they were sent by brands and like, specifically, stuff that they hadn’t solicited, although they could include stuff that they’d received at events.

Richie: [00:23:54] So talk a bit about the problem, first, just to make that clear and then we can talk about the process and the result.

Eliza: [00:24:00] So, basically, there’s this very well-known phenomenon within the fashion industry which is that if you write about fashion or are a fashion editor, you’re going to get a lot of stuff for free from brands. And, you know, that could be something along the lines of, like, a brand is launching a new category and they want to send it to you so you can try it out or perhaps it’s the holidays and they just want to send something over to kind of engender goodwill.

Richie: [00:24:28] There’s always a reason.

Eliza: [00:24:28] And, at the end of the day, the reason is to get coverage. So, basically, we wanted to look at this whole phenomenon and, like, really use this as a way to talk about how the fashion media works. You know, it really wasn’t intended as a way to call out PR people for muddying the ethical boundaries of fashion because the fact is the fashion journalism sphere has a lot of different kind of ethical bubbles within it and kind of what you’re allowed to take and the extent to which you purport to be objective is very different, depending on what your position is. You know, it’s a well-established fact that, you know, if you work at a fashion magazine and you’re doing a roundup of the ten best coats for winter, two of those are probably going to be an advertiser and, you know, then on top of that, probably, you know, some of the other pieces that get in there are because you have good relationships with those publicists, you know, versus like at The New York Times where you’re really not allowed to take free stuff because you’re treating fashion as like any other area of journalistic inquiry.

Eliza: [00:25:32] So, we kind of wanted to, like, tease apart what this whole landscape looked like and it resulted in, kind of, one core body of work which was logging everything that we got for six months and also keeping all of the product we got. So, we house that in our fashion closet and then eventually had to move that to a storage unit in New Jersey because we had so much stuff. And we took all of it out at the end of six months to do a big photo shoot. So, we rented out a big studio space on the west side and photographed all of the things that we got, in all of their many different product categories like beauty products, clothing, so many candles, so many water bottles and also just like random gag gifts and also, then, photographed all the packaging that it came with. And I was the one who had to do the spreadsheeting at the end of it. So, like, everybody had been adding their gifts that they’d received to this spreadsheet and they were, you know, logging what brand it came from, what the item looked like, what it retails for.

But, at the end of the day, what I found is that we had received almost $100,000 in free product, which is a crazy big number on its own but pretty remarkable considering the fact that, like, Racked is a small website, comparatively, and we don’t get as much stuff as a lot of other publications. So, you kind of have to imagine like the scale that this exists on for other websites and magazines. And of that, I mean, the vast majority of it was beauty products which is like a really interesting thing. I mean, just the amount of money that goes into marketing in that industry.

Richie: [00:27:07] Well it seems that they’re really cheap to make and therefore, from an investment perspective, you can send a ton of them out, maybe, more than you can for coats.

Eliza: [00:27:14] It’s true. Although one interesting thing that a publicist told me, cause the other story that I did, in addition to this big data story, was talking to publicists about like, what do they think about this? And what kind of thought goes into it? Like, how do they decide what they’re going to send out? How do they decide what is going to advance their cause and, kind of, what are they trying to get out of it? And one beauty publicist who I spoke with, who wanted to remain anonymous, as pretty much all of them did—like nobody wanted to injure their client relationships because of this. She said that one thing that happens with beauty is, because they tend to send press samples out well before the product actually goes to market, months in advance, they’ll do a separate manufacturing run for press samples. And because that’s a smaller quantity and because the startup cost is the same as it’s going to be for the regular manufacturing run, they actually wind up being more expensive.

Eliza: [00:28:07] But it is true that is less expensive than a handbag or a fur coat which, you know, the sense that I got is that those sorts of gifts used to be much more prevalent than they are now because, cause in the the past, publicists were only gifting to a select group of editors. It was like 30 people or so. So you could afford to, like, if they write a great piece you could send them a fur coat. Today it’s more like they have hundreds of people to give to. And that’s print editors and digital editors and also influencers, which means that everything is, simultaneously, has to be less expensive but also is more over the top, aesthetically, just because they also want it to get Instagrammed.

Richie: [00:28:45] Do you have any sense what percent of the product came in looking for coverage versus what came in after coverage?

Eliza: [00:28:53] The vast majority of it was, I believe, looking for coverage. But we did have a number of instances where it had been, you know, a thank-you gift and you do get a lot of food. But the interesting thing about all of this too is, like, there was one particular round of gifting where this brand had sent Momofuku treats with all of their products and you could see based on, like, what was Instagrammed, like, the various tiers of priority within that gifting. So like, you might just get a cookie. But the next tier up is like getting the cake balls and then the next tier up is getting a full cake. You understand where you are in the editorial pecking order.

Richie: [00:29:30] That’s really funny.

Eliza: [00:29:30] Yeah.

Richie: [00:29:31] So where do the idea come from? Like what was the actual process of figuring out, you know, to do this? Had anyone done this before? On this scale at least?

Eliza: [00:29:38] Not that I was aware of, yeah. So this project came about from a conversation I had had with a friend. She is a reporter at the Times. She covers immigration. She’s a very smart reporter and a person who cares a lot about fashion. She knows a ton about it. But we were talking one night over dinner about, like, the fact that, when I was an intern at the Times Style magazine, I was asked to sell product for the editor I worked for and give the money back to her, like sell it at Beacon’s Closet. And she was like, “What? That happens?” and I was like, “Yeah, I mean, this is the whole thing about fashion is, like, people don’t get paid very much to have these jobs where you’re selling a very glamorous image and you’re basically tasked, or task yourself probably more frequently, with embodying this ideal that you’re marketing in the pages of your magazine and that the brands that you work with are marketing, that you can’t actually afford to live. So, to do it, you take handouts from brands. You take the free manicures. You take the free blowouts. You take the haircuts, the exercise classes, the clothing. You use the press discounts. Like the list goes on and on. And she was like,”What? That is a story.” And I was like, “I thought everyone knew this.”

Eliza: [00:30:50] So I went and talked to my editor, Meredith Haggerty, and we were kind of like noodling this idea around and we took it to Britt, our Editor-in-Chief, because we were like, “We should just like look into what we get and use ourselves as a case study.” And Britt was into it, which I think really speaks to how cool of a place Racked is, because, you know, I think, like, a lot of other publications would be wary of doing something like this, you know, because it could compromise your relationships with brands.

Richie: [00:31:15] Right. It’s also, you know, exposing yourself.

Eliza: [00:31:18] Yeah and that’s the thing, you know, this isn’t meant to be some kind of like, us taking like a very superior stance, like, “We’re so ethical.” It’s like, no, we engaged with this and I think we owe it to our readers to talk about that.

Richie: [00:31:31] I think that was one of the, at least tone-wise, more interesting parts of it is it wasn’t this like, you know, “We are on the hill, looking down upon those getting investigated.” But it was almost like the acknowledge that you were all complicit in this, which I think almost set the stage for—you actually can have an open discussion then.

Eliza: [00:31:46] Totally, yeah. I mean, one thing that came up, I believe when my co-worker Chavie Lieber did a piece on all of the stuff that gets resold by editors.

Richie: [00:31:54] Talk about that more because I think that was super interesting and that, to me, people do not know about.

Eliza: [00:31:58] Yeah, I mean, that was an excellent piece. So she looked into this activity around gifting which is that a lot of editors will resell the stuff that they get for money or they might, like, you know, swap it out for something that they wanted better. But when she was writing that piece I think she like pinged the whole team and was like, “Hey, have you ever done this at Racked?” And the whole idea is like, nobody’s going to get in trouble for this, let’s talk about it. But, yeah, it’s super prevalent and, you know, it’s something that publicists know about. Like they certainly know about it. They get Google alerts every time their brand is mentioned online. So they’re getting the eBay alerts if they’re getting sold there.

Richie: [00:32:35] So I obviously really enjoyed reading it. It was in-depth enough that you actually explored the issues but it wasn’t burdensome that you were like, “OK, you know, I have to get through all this.” The one thing I did text you after was, the point you touched on before was, there wasn’t budget to afford all this stuff. And I thought that was an interesting thing that I think was quickly addressed and my two thoughts were: does something get lost when you don’t actually have the shopping experience itself, when it gets sent to you? That’s not really inexperience customers usually have. You know, what is in that process? And then, two, what would it take to actually have a budget for this and, you know, rid yourself of all of those ethical dilemmas? Those were just two interesting things that came to mind that the piece kind of triggered.

Eliza: [00:33:12] I think those are both super valid. I mean, I don’t know. I’d be curious, like I have no access to budgets as a reporter so, like, I don’t even know what this looks like. I mean, I do know that, like if I’m working on a story that is about a brand and it requires testing something out, for the most part, I’m pretty sure I can expense that. But looking at the volume of stuff that we get and, particularly, what, like, beauty editors get and, you know, I wonder if any media company, especially in this media landscape, would be willing to add that to their budget. I truly don’t know. But you do make a really good point which is, like, to write about something really well you should have tried it.

Richie: [00:33:53] Like a consumer would.

Eliza: [00:33:55] Like a consumer would which is also the tricky thing. So it’s like, right, is gifting the right avenue for that? Because you’re testing out the product but you’re not getting it in the way that anybody else would, which is actually one reason why, when it comes to packaging gifting, you know, I know some publicists are very in favor of just like using the brands regular packaging and that’s particularly true for ecommerce companies. So they’ll just ship it in the box that it would otherwise come in. So at least you’re unboxing is fairly similar. Even though it was like, you know you didn’t have to order anything.

Richie: [00:34:27] Part of me, though, is like, if you as a reporter are not compelled enough to go out and get the thing or like track it down like a shopper would, that to me is, like, fascinating evidence of anyone’s propensity to get that thing.

Eliza: [00:34:40] Yeah.

Richie: [00:34:40] If you’re just like,”Eh, like I don’t—that’s really not worth it.” That, to me, is like a really interesting signal versus having everything served to you on a platter.

Eliza: [00:34:48] Totally. And, on the one hand, like you write about so much stuff and you’re often required to jump on stories so quickly that, like, you couldn’t possibly go out and get the thing. The best you can do is look at it online. But, yeah, that’s a good point. It’s like, should you be writing about it if you’re not compelled enough to go out and look at it? And, I mean, I think that’s the thing that—you’re making me rethink all, like everything I do right now.

Richie: [00:35:14] There’s a 2.0 project coming. No, forget it. I thought it was awesome. Those are just things that were percolating.

Eliza: [00:35:20] But this is the old concept is, like, we wanted to start a conversation around it.

Richie: [00:35:23] So how did the launch go? What was our response to it and then we can circle back to—

Eliza: [00:35:27] So it went really well and it got a lot of attention because, I think, for people who work in editorial, this is that’s very familiar but doesn’t always get explored and the things that you get for free is, it’s always a topic of conversation. So it’s inherently interesting to those people. For a lot of publicists, the feedback that I got was actually quite positive. I thought that there would be more pushback or more like blacklisting after it and, instead, what I heard was a lot of like, “We sent this to our clients. This is great.” Basically just like, since nobody had written about this and since nobody had written about like what makes a gifting effective or not, like what does the competition look like. Potentially, you know—

Richie: [00:36:07] You were like laying out the blueprint, basically.

Eliza: [00:36:09] Yeah, right. And also, like, you know, sometimes like a gifting isn’t a great idea and maybe, like, a client wants to go forward with it but, like, it’s frankly going to get lost in the onslaught of things. So, potentially, that, that could help them in that way. And then, you know, beyond that, I think, a lot of people were just like, “This happens?” which is, you know, I don’t know. I just think, like, people are very interested in reading about like ethical issues in the media and they’re really interested in talking about, like, gratuitous, free things and waste. I mean the waste of it is a huge part. Ultimately, we wound up with—our packaging that we had received weighed in at a little over 300 pounds, and the full thing weighed a little over a thousand pounds which is somehow less than I thought it was going to be. It seems light to me but.

Richie: [00:36:58] Yeah, you want like a ton.

Eliza: [00:36:59] Yeah. And I wanted to cross the $100,000 mark but we didn’t. It was like 95-something.

Richie: [00:37:05] You should have just gifted team like $5,000 of something.

Eliza: [00:37:09] Right, just like a check.

Richie: [00:37:11] Yeah. Then the other piece, also, was you all updated a lot of your ethical policies.

Eliza: [00:37:16] Yes.

Richie: [00:37:16] As well. Talk a bit about, you know, when did that come in and what did you all do and how that was received.

Richie: [00:37:21] So, because we were taking a look at ourselves and what we get, we also couldn’t do this project without looking at our own ethics policy and kind of reexamining our relationship to free things and what we need to get, not just because like that’s the obvious piece of pushback that you would get by publishing this, but, truly, because it’s something that we should be thinking a lot about.

Richie: [00:37:41] Was there a policy before?

Richie: [00:37:42] I believe it was somewhat left up to each editor and reporter’s discretion. Because it’s tricky because Racked is a website that publishes product reviews from a shopping team that, like, is recommending stuff to people. And then there are also—

Richie: [00:37:58] And there’s a business model behind that too, right? You have affiliate fees and all that?

Eliza: [00:38:01] Yes. Absolutely. And then there are reporters like myself who, like I don’t make so many product recommendations. I don’t really write any of those stories. Most of the stuff that I write is like business features and cultural analysis. And so I would probably be wise to stay further away from taking free stuff. And Cheryl, as a beauty editor, sits in a weird place too where she writes a lot of those business features. She also makes product recommendations and also, to write those business features, it helps if she knows the product really well. So it’s weird in that sense. Basically, what we worked out is kind of a clearer strategy around disclosing when we’ve gotten stuff for free.

[00:38:41] As far as big lessons, I mean, I think for me, this was just a really helpful project in the sense that it threw into high relief the fact that journalism, in general, is a lot less ethically black and white than we might want it to be. And I think, you know, if you’re like a student coming out of journalism school or if you’re, I don’t know, anybody, you might hold on to this feeling that journalism, generally speaking, is like, there are right ways to do it and there are wrong ways to do it. While there certainly are right ways to do it and very wrong ways to do it, there are certain industries, and a lot of them being consumer industries, where you reporting about it is—it’s a soup and you kind of have to figure it out on a case-by-case basis, to a certain extent. There’s no blanket statement that you can make about how fashion reporters should act. So, you know, I think, in this media landscape where journalists are very much under fire, but also where people are kind of more invested in journalism than they’ve been in a long time, at least it seems that way, I just think that’s an important thing to remember.

Richie: [00:39:52] So BuzzFeed has this unit of the company called BuzzFeed Product Labs, where they make their own products, and very smartly use BuzzFeed as a distribution channel for their own products. What do you think of that? Because I think media companies are also starting to make their own things, which they then obviously want to promote and sell. Is that like very new territory? Is that different? is that similar?

Eliza: [00:40:11] I mean, I think it’s definitely like an emerging territory and I think the best example of that’s Glossier, right? Like it came out of Into the Gloss and—

Richie: [00:40:20] I guess, maybe I’ll more narrowly define it with like journalistic media companies.

Eliza: [00:40:25] Right.

Richie: [00:40:25] Into the Gloss was superfluous. It wasn’t reporting.

Eliza: [00:40:29] It was interviews though.

Richie: [00:40:31] Was it? Okay. Maybe I’m wrong.

Eliza: [00:40:31] I mean I don’t know. I think Into the Gloss is, you know—it was born out of the magazine world, right. Like, Emily Weiss worked in magazines. But no, I mean, they have like very thorough interviews and—

Richie: [00:40:41] Okay, I’m wrong.

Eliza: [00:40:41] But this is the tricky thing, especially when you’re, when you’re talking about like fashion and beauty, is that there are certain things that we want to call “journalism.” And there are other things that we want to call, like, “writing” or “editorial.

Richie: [00:40:53] “Consumer Media.”

Eliza: [00:40:54] Yeah, yeah. And I think, like, people will feel different ways about different types of writing. But I take your point. But this question of media companies starting to sell products. What types of products is BuzzFeed selling?

Richie: [00:41:06] So they have their Tasty cookbook. They have the Tasty One Top which is a hot stove, basically. They have card games, Homesick Candles.

Eliza: [00:41:13] Yeah.

Richie: [00:41:14] A lot of stuff.

Eliza: [00:41:15] I’m curious how much shoppers take to that. I feel like Tasty makes so much sense cause that’s just, like, been doing gangbusters. But there are a lot of media companies that, like—I really think you have to have the right brand and the right product because otherwise it could just seem like merch.

Richie: [00:41:33] Or just more from like the journalism side. It’s one thing to have other companies wanting, sending you free stuff to write about them.

Eliza: [00:41:40] Yeah.

Richie: [00:41:40] How does that change when your company makes stuff now?

Eliza: [00:41:44] Right. Right. I want to see more examples of it. I think it’s something to be very careful about though. You know, it’s also a question of, like, BuzzFeed has an investigative reporting team and it has a business reporting team and it has, like, more entertainment-focused teams. Like how siloed are they? I think that’s a question to consider here. Going back to the Into the Gloss/Glossier question—I mean, that was an interesting one just because Into the Gloss does a ton of product reviews.

Richie: [00:42:08] They still do, right?

Eliza: [00:42:09] They still do. And they interview people about what products they like best and what they use on a daily basis, but now they’re also selling their own product line. I have noticed there are a lot more Glossier products that pop up in people’s interviews. People, you know, saying that they love the cleanser and stuff like that. And, right, and that’s, you know, you kind of look at that and you’re like, “OK, well, there’s a very good chance that you do like it a lot but it’s kind of hard to know.”

Richie: [00:42:32] So, the other interesting one on this point is—I don’t know if you saw—but have you read at all about what happened with Casper and the mattress review sites?

Eliza: [00:42:38] No.

Richie: [00:42:38] So Casper has been buying and suing, like, the top three mattress review websites online.

Eliza: [00:42:46] What?

Richie: [00:42:47] So they now own them. There was this long story where, like, there was some fight. They loaned a dude money to buy the company but they own the company that they just bought now. So they own, now, the review channel. So that would effectively mean, if Racked covered mattresses—

Eliza: [00:43:01] Yeah.

Richie: [00:43:02] —Casper now owns Racked.

Eliza: [00:43:04] Oh that’s insane.

Richie: [00:43:05] Yeah.

Eliza: [00:43:06] I mean, that said though, I feel like I’m always very wary of product reviews. Like, in other categories too, like beauty product reviews. I don’t know. Right, because it’s like, “I don’t know. Is the brand populating Nordstrom’s website with all of these positive reviews?”

Richie: [00:43:22] Right.

Eliza: [00:43:23] Maybe. I don’t know.

Richie: [00:43:23] Right. Or who owns the—yeah.

Eliza: [00:43:25] But that’s just outright.

Richie: [00:43:26] But it’s also interesting because, you know, The New York Times bought The Wirecutter, right.

Eliza: [00:43:30] Right.

Richie: [00:43:30] —Which is their now-product review hub and I’m sure they have to be incredibly strict and transparent about that because it’s The Times. It’s just interesting how all this is like shifting.

Eliza: [00:43:40] Yeah, yeah yeah. I am curious if we’re going to have many sites that like—because, right, what we’re seeing with so many websites, particularly like lifestyle publications, is that we’re all getting into product reviews, right. So like, New York Mag has like The Strategist and they’re recommending tons of products and, obviously, we’re trying to get, like, affiliate revenue from that.

Richie: [00:44:01] Because they’re looking for business models and it turns out that, for a very long time, media was driving sales. They had no way to track it or earn money from it. And now, because of the Internet and affiliates, you can draw from A to Z.

Eliza: [00:44:13] So everyone’s doing it.

Richie: [00:44:14] Right.

Eliza: [00:44:14] I’m curious how many are also going to go the making their own products route because that’s the other obvious one. I mean, and that one’s so much harder to pull off, right?

Richie: [00:44:24] But it seems that from, again, from an ethical side, we haven’t really dealt with that before on any large scale.

Eliza: [00:44:30] No.

Richie: [00:44:31] Which is super interesting.

Eliza: [00:44:32] No and I feel like there will, probably, you know, depending on how far along it gets, there will have to be some kind of reckoning around that, for sure.

Richie: [00:44:39] What’s, I guess, on the horizon? What are you excited about, as for what’s to come?

Eliza: [00:44:44] I’m doing a long form piece on the whole, like, children-of-famous-people-modeling phenomenon which is like a thing that’s been covered so much already. But, like, I’m trying to figure out, like, what material changes this is having on the business and also, like, how sustainable this is and how much longer it’s going to go on for. Because, like, everybody’s child has entered the business, at this point. Like more than I even know and, like, I’m continually discovering new ones. So it’s kind of this question of like, how much of a diminishing return is there? Like, how many whoevers do you need to equal a Gigi Hadid? And, like, do you have to pack your campaigns with them? That one I’m currently working on the sourcing for. But I was able to source that during Fashion Week, chatted with Snoop Dogg’s son. Also his father who walked in Philipp Plein’s show.

Richie: [00:45:33] Named Snoop Dog.

Eliza: [00:45:34] No no no no. Papa Snoop. So, Snoop’s father.

Richie: [00:45:39] Gotcha.

Eliza: [00:45:39] He was really lovely and he was wearing these very great corduroy pants that were from H&M that I immediately was like, wanted to go find.

Richie: [00:45:47] And then I guess, in terms of just like looking forward, like kind of industry-wise, what’s your forecast?

Eliza: [00:45:53] What’s so interesting about, like, the industry is that—and this is really a thing that I’ve kind of discovered while writing for an audience the, like, as I said, doesn’t always care about the inner workings of the industry is like—like see now, buy now, for instance, right. Like that is a huge conversation that everybody’s having, everybody’s trying to experiment with. I wrote a little piece about like Tommy Hilfiger’s London Fashion Week show and I basically asked readers like, “Is this working for you? Like all of these huge shows, like the collaboration with Gigi. Like is this getting your attention?” And like people wrote back and were just like, “I didn’t even know this was happening.” So that’s kind of thing, right. It’s like that is the biggest example of see now, buy now and it’s getting through to some people but like not a lot. Maybe a lot, I don’t know. This is a very small sample size but, yeah, it like doesn’t entirely matter to them.

Eliza: [00:46:39] The thing that, like, I’m just very interested in and I think, like, what the future of sustainability is and kind of like what the future of people saying they want to buy less but still existing in a fast-fashion culture, like what is that future? Because I think, like, there’s a reason that Patagonia’s been getting such good press recently. Like GQ Style just published an interview with, like, the archivists and Patagonia, right now, is the most bad ass company out there because it has a founder who’s like, “Don’t buy stuff. Like, we want to make really good stuff that lasts” but also doesn’t have any nostalgia about, like, archival collections, very much does not look at this is like a fashion thing but fashion nonetheless loves it.

Eliza: [00:47:20] I think, like, there’s a real hunger from people to, like, not engage with this culture but, like, we’re conditioned to. So like, how do you break that cycle? Like I don’t know. This is just kind of like a perpetual question but this is something that I would love for people to figure out for themselves. I mean, it’s one of those weird things where it’s like, it’s a personal journey. But then like, on the corporate level, like, they don’t give a shit.

Richie: [00:47:43] How do you measure success for a piece? And why do you measure it that way?

Eliza: [00:47:46] You know, I think, this is like maybe because I’m not like a business executive, I like don’t look at the hard numbers too closely. We receive daily metrics on—

Richie: [00:47:57] They’ve actually never published any of your stories. They’re just in the drafts. They’re all drafts.

Eliza: [00:48:03] They just told me that they went up and they were like, “It’s doing so good. Keep writing.” I think, initially, I was very, as a writer, I was very anecdotal about negative comments because, right, like when you start off as an internet writer or somebody says something mean and you’re like, “Oh god I’m terrible. I should never do this.” And then you kind of swing the other way and you get very anecdotal about, like, people saying nice things or, like, people retweeting it. Neither of which is, like, entirely helpful.

Eliza: [00:48:29] But, yeah, I mean it’s kind of about engagement, I think. And I think that’s kind of one way that, like, media companies, generally, can look at what they are doing. Like it’s not, necessarily, about like hard page views although we do get daily metrics about those so like you do kind of see how your stuff is performing, relative to other people’s. And like of course if you publish a big thing, like you want to be up at the top. But, yeah, I mean it’s about the e-mails that you’re getting back about it.

Eliza: [00:48:51] I mean the French Girl story was a great example of that. Like I’ve never gotten so many e-mails just from people I didn’t know. Like I got an e-mail from one woman who is a professor at Furhman, and she had taught a class on, like, dissecting the myth of the French woman and they used all the self-help literature as their textbooks. And it was basically a way of teaching students how to deconstruct cultural stereotypes and, like, look at a culture more objectively. And that was so cool and she was like, “I’m publishing an academic article about it in the fall” and I was like, “Great, please send that to me.” Those are kind of the most meaningful things, is when you’re like, “Somebody read this all the way through?!”

Eliza: [00:49:27] I had a friend from college who I don’t really talk to very frequently at all. He said he had, like, read the California style piece and he was like, “I didn’t realize you’d written it until I got to the end and I saw your name there.” And I was like, “That is the best compliment you could get.” But I know my dad always reads my stuff.

Richie: [00:49:43] That’s great.

Eliza: [00:49:45] Yeah.

Richie: [00:49:45] What’s the right length for a story—word count?

Eliza: [00:49:48] As long as it needs to be.

Richie: [00:49:49] What’s your preferred length for a story? As a reader?

Eliza: [00:49:54] Oh for a reader—I don’t know probably like— actually, no. I was about to say, like probably like 150 words but that’s actually not true. Like our readers really read those long form pieces. So, again, it’s kind of like as long as it should be. I mean, like I’m very happy writing at like a 2,000 to 3,000 word range. I mean, that’s when you can kind of like actually start to get into something.

Eliza: [00:50:18] But, like, I wrote a little ditty about, like, being scared of washing my face, looking into the bathroom mirror and seeing something behind me and that was like a very pleasant, like, 700 word piece. Actually, that is a story that I thought was going to just be like a little sinker that like didn’t mean much and that’s fine. But people had a very strong response to it because other people have the same fears that I do. I thought that people would be like, “This is insane. What? You’re a child.”

Richie: [00:50:46] And then, what’s just the last interesting thing you read?

Eliza: [00:50:50] Can I say watched? Because I am just so impressed with “States of Undress.”

Richie: [00:50:56] Explain what it is.

Eliza: [00:50:57] Yes. OK so it’s a documentary series on Viceland, hosted by Hailey Gates. They go around the world and, basically, talk to people about, like, local clothing culture or local beauty culture. And, invariably, it’s a lens through which to look at much bigger political or social issues. The production on that is just incredible. Like they get really amazing interviews, Hailey Gates does a really fantastic job. Talking to people about their clothing is inherently very humanizing and it’s inherently something that like you feel a lot of empathy toward, because it’s something that we all engage with. But she just does a really fantastic job of both kind of getting to the meat of the issues at hand but also like engaging on a very, like, human, frankly like fun to watch level. And I just think that show’s doing a great job of pushing forward this conversation about clothing as something that is so meaningful even when people don’t always think it is.

Richie: [00:51:55] Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time.

Eliza: [00:51:56] Thanks for having me.

Richie: [00:52:05] Thanks for listening to the Loose Threads Podcast. Sign up for Ripcord at loosethreads.com and feel free to leave a review on iTunes. We always appreciate it. Thanks to George Drake Jr. for editing this episode. I really enjoyed talking with Eliza about the culture side of the industry. Most interviews on the podcast tend to be about the business side but it’s important to focus on the cultural side as well, since they’re directly linked. We have a great roster of upcoming guests including Karen Young of Oui Shave, Ryan Babenzien of GREATS and Mariah Chase of Eloquii. Thanks for listening and talk to you soon.