Ilana Harkavy & The Just, Girl. Project.

As I stated in a past post, with my blog's 2 year anniversary coming up I want to start covering some more serious topics here. And with that being said, when I came across Ilana Harkavy on Instagram and began reading about her Just, Girl. Project I knew that this was a story I absolutely needed to talk about.

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Photography by Keith Weidner

Normally, this is the part where I would dive in and begin telling you about Ilana and her project however, I'm going to let her tell you about it herself because she was kind enough to let me interview her!  So let's get to it.

The Just, Girl. Project.

Bree Fesh: Though I have read a bit about you andThe Just, Girl. Project, to start off this interview tell me a little about yourself! How long have you been a musician and what made you decide to start this project?

 Ilana Harkavy: Hi! My name is Ilana and I am an LA based musician. I have been singing and songwriting for my entire life! I had an exciting career in electronic dance music and was able to collaborate and tour with some amazing artists worldwide. I also worked on music that was featured on TV and in films. I had a blast! I feel so grateful for those opportunities! But to be honest, I never felt truly satisfied. I decided I wanted to get back to my first love, my roots—Pop music. So, I created my very first solo project, Just, Girl.

This body of work sheds light on the struggles I’ve faced as a young woman and the mottos I’ve adopted to overcome them. I’ve put my heart and soul into this project.

So… It is with glowing pride that I present to you The Just, Girl. Project.

 The Just, Girl. Project is a fiery art movement that empowers girls to embrace their passions, be blatantly honest, and to take ownership of their individual struggles. Through the power of music, this project relates to and empowers girls to be the utmost honest version of themselves, take responsibility for who they are, and go after what they are most passionate about.

I wanted to provide something functional and relatable that would spread positivity, inspiration, and happiness, and inspire my fellow girls to do the same with their own art. 

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Photography by Keith Weidner

BF: I really like your positivity and thoughts (well I’d have to say truths) about people being able to create their own happiness. Have you always had this outlook? If not what was your turning point, and what issome advice you could give to young women who are trying to bring more positivity into their lives?

IH: I spent a large portion of my life blaming other people and “society/the media” for my depression, but I’ve come to realize that my happiness is dependent on my attitude and the way I decide to perceive myself.  Once I realized that I held that kind of power, I was able to train myself to get out of that cycle.  I still struggle--I have days where I feel so low that everyone can feel it, but I bounce back much quicker now, so that’s progress!

The truth is that if you decide to own how incredible, amazing, and unique you are, you’ll live a much happier life. You have the ability to shift your attitude, even when you feel miserable.  It’s important to talk about the things that make you uncomfortable, whether it’s with loved ones, a professional, or even yourself (I talk to myself all the time!). Once you open up and express yourself, you’ll start to work through the kinks, and you’ll see color again. I know that being okay with yourself and loving who you are is a CONSTANT cycle, but you can never truly be okay with yourself if you don’t allow yourself to be. 

BF: While reading about The Just, Girl. Project, I noticed you stated a big influence that prompted you to do this body of work was due to the promotion of eating disorders and lack of self-love on social media. Have these issues ever hit close to home for you, and if so, how? 

IH: As a teenager, I struggled with eating disorders, negative self-talk, bullying from my peers, and mental health diagnosis after diagnosis from doctors and teachers. Everyone had an opinion, and those opinions stuck with me and became my identity. But as I’ve grown, I’ve learned that the opinions of others, while important to me, cannot affect the way I feel about myself if I decide not to let them. I turn to music to express my frustrations. I create my art as an expression of my soul–my wants, my needs…my heart.

I still struggle with my body...  We have a love hate relationship. I’m not here to tell people that eating disorders can go away like that if you just love yourself, but it definitely helps. I’m a work in progress and I think that’s something that isn’t addressed enough.  It’s great to say “I love myself” but what about “I want to love myself”… to me that’s something I can relate to and it’s something I’ll stand by.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a startling subculture: social media accounts devoted to the promotion of anorexia, bulimia, and self-harm. It broke my heart because, not only did I feel saddened by these negative messages, but I also related to them, so I knew I had to stop avoiding my own insecurities, and start doing something to help myself, and the other girls who were going through the same things as me!

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Photography by Keith Weidner

BF: Aside from promoting positivity and self-love, how else do you feel The Just, Girl. Project helps to empower young women?

IH: The Just, Girl. Project isn’t full-fledged yet, but it will be.  I want this movement to grow exponentially. I want to start The Just, Girl. Project mentorship program and a non-profit and foundation, a record label and management company where we can develop artists with strong social messages, and a global movement!

I’ve been a business owner for almost 7 years and it’s been a blessing, because it’s taught me to be self-sufficient. I want to teach girls the skills they need to feel independent, inspire them to pursue entrepreneurship, and not give up on their art. I want this project to provide as many girls as it can with the tools, resources, and support they need to do their thang.  Cause let’s face it, working for yourself is badass.

BF: Due to the name of this project, I would be willing to bet that you believe in feminism. So, I would like to know what feminism means to you, as well as why you feel it is important in today's society?

IH: The F word? Just kidding.

Feminism has turned into this bad word, hasn’t it? It’s a shame.  Feminism was founded on such an amazing ideology, but I think it’s portrayed by the media and organizations in so many different lights right now, that you sort of have to find your fit. The 1960’s Feminist Movement was meant to promote equality, and we should never forget that or take for granted how hard those women fought to bring us to this point.

I consider myself a feminist because I too believe in the equality of men and women. For me, feminism is about solidarity. Women have a bond that men will never understand (yes, men have their own bond), so I think we should embrace it and empower one another.  It’s that simple. I don’t believe women are superior to men or the same. We are different in many ways and that’s OK. But as long as this new wave of feminism embraces solidarity and avoids radical hatred towards men, I think it will continue to grow beautifully.

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Photography by Keith Weidner

 BF: Though girl culture is going in a more positive direction in recent years, what are somethings you would like to see within the community to strengthen it even more?

IH: OMG, I’m in love with the #girlpower movement! I’m so grateful for social media’s influence to make it a thing.

But, I really think we need to stop with the name-calling. Terms like “mean girl”, “curvy girl”,“normal body type” are poisonous.  Like, can we just stop? We need to stress the importance of diversity!

And…the struggle! Not everything is sparkles and rainbows.  Life can flat out suck, especially for younger girls who experience emotions like a typhoon on steroids.  I think something as simple as influencing the music industry to address these uncomfortable issues will really change the game.  I hear a lot of self-love songs and I’m grateful to know they are there, but what about the struggle songs?  They are there, but I want more.

And we need to give girls the tools they need to get through it all!  Inspirational talks are great, but if there’s no solution or answers, are they going to do much beyond the surface?

I have way too many opinions about this and thoughts and ideas… but the ultimate thing I want to stress is…let’s stop sugar-coating and start getting real.

 BF: What has been the hardest part of putting this project together?

IH: Financially it’s been difficult.  It’s easy to avoid something that doesn’t provide you with monetary compensation, but knowing I get to do what I love (mentoring girls and learning from them), makes it utterly worthwhile… and I mean that. 

And I always compare myself and my success/lack of success to other women, but that’s just unproductive… It’s so easy to get discouraged, but…

The ultimate win for me has been that I discovered my purpose in life! This started as a music project, but it’s evolved in to so much more. The Just, Girl. Project is here to make waves and support/empower as many girls as possible. You can quote me on that.

 BF: Due to The Just, Girl. Project’s current success, where would you like to see this go within the next year? And do you happen to have anymore long term goals such as possible concerts or conferences?

 IH: We had a concert last year and it was amazing! I finally performed my solo music and it felt great.

And now, I'm SO excited because we are about to release the music video for "My Body" - a song I wrote about my relationship with my body.  The video is about eating disorders and the battle we face with loving our bodies and ourselves. This video is very near and dear to my heart. Plus, my cast and crew were absolutely inspiring to work with!

Th website is being made RIGHT NOW too!  And come Spring‘17 , I want to turn the movement into a 501c non-profit, and by summer, I hope to have it up and running (but I mean, life happens and so I’m going to take one calculated step at a time!). I want to participate in as many conferences and TEDx talks I can!  A lot is on the horizon and I’m really excited for the possibilities!

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Photography by Keith Weidner

 BF: For people who want to get involved and help with this project, what can they do to pitch in?

IH: I would love for everyone to share the video, to help us get some more media coverage and plays, and to bring to light the importance of recognizing that eating disorders are very real and we need to talk about it!

I’m also hoping to bring on ambassadors, volunteers, and supporters, so contact me if interested!

And please,GIRLS, continue to “spread the love” amongst your community (it’s infectious!)

Remember: Your life IS full of beauty and magic, but like everything, you have to decide to see the good in the bad.  Your story is a movie…or a book, whichever you prefer… and while the plot isn’t for you to decide, your attitude is something you can control.  So speak to yourself with love, the way you would to your best friend. And don’t forget to express yourself!

#JustGirlProject

Final Thoughts

How have body and self esteem affected you throughout your life? Feel free to talk about it in the comments below and remember if you want to help out this cause you can follow the @justgirlproject on Instagram and Twitter. Also feel free to check out Ilana's website The Just Girl Project as well as her SoundCloud to hear some great tunes!  

UPDATE LINK TO VIDEO  

Hi everyone! Ilana's video for "My Body" is now live! You can watch it here!  

Maniac Magazine: Blogger of the Week

Hi everybody! How are we all doing this Friday the 13th?! Personally, mine has been filled with nothing but good fortune and fabulous news! So forget those nasty superstitions, go walk under a ladder and pet a black cat!

All jokes aside, for those of you who have been following me for at least a couple months, I had announced that I had a big collaboration coming up with a rather large publication in the Pittsburgh area. Well this is the one! I am ever so happy to announce that Maniac Magazine has chosen me as their blogger of the week! Cara Hessler gave me a lovely write up and there is an extensive interview about myself and my fashion background. Here's just an outtake photo from the article (also featured in my impromptu OOTD post!):

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Wanna learn more about me? Check it out here at Maniac Magazine  

Xx,  Bree

WearWoof: Where Trendy Meets Charity

Ever since I was a baby animals have been a huge part of my life. Growing up I honestly can't remember a time that my family didn't have at least on pet (most of the time we have multiple). This being said it is safe for you to assume that I am a huge animal lover, so when I found out about the store WearWoof last year I was elated. This trendy resale shop doesn't only have super cute and stylish clothes but it also has heart. The main reason this store is so awesome is because WearWoof donates all of the proceeds made to help WearWoof's shelter and rescue partners, as well as going towards things such as low cost spay/neuter programs. So if you shop here, you're helping homeless animals.

WearWoof 3400 McIntyre Square Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15237

WearWoof 3400 McIntyre Square Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing the owner and executive director of this fabulous organization, Ms. Nancy Lee. Nancy was kind enough to accept an interview from me so my readers could learn more about her shop, and after you read the interview they're mission and story become even more heartwarming.  

The Interview:

Stark Raving Chic: What inspired you to create WearWoof? What brought about this awesome idea?

Nancy:  Several years ago I was became aware of the plight of homeless animals.  I was deeply concerned to learn that 6-8 million dogs and cats enter the shelter system every year, and nearly half never come out, that millions of healthy, treatable and adoptable animals were being killed every year by the system created to protect them.  It was especially alarming when put into the context of our current consumer climate, where we spend 60 billion dollars annually on pet products and services for our own pets.  As I learned more about the "animal welfare industry" I realized that there was a big disconnect between how we feel about our own pets and how we feel about homeless animals.  I also learned that there are big holes in own knowledge and awareness of the issues related to pet homelessness, such as puppy mills, breeding-related health issues, feral cat "control", and the problems created by breed-specific legislation.  One of the most interesting by-products of that disconnect and our lack of education on these issues is how little money we donate to animal welfare.  While we spend unprecedented amounts of money on our pets, only about 2% of all charitable giving goes to animal welfare.  It literally has the smallest piece of the charitable giving pie.

My idea for WearWoof came about in response to the funding crisis in animal welfare.  I felt that one of the problems with animal welfare fundraising is that they continue to ask only people who care about animals for money.  I wanted to create an income stream that was nearly blind to the actual cause - therefore capturing "funding" from people who may not otherwise give to animal charities.  The actual idea to create a resale shop as the funding stream came from my own interests.  I have a degree in fashion design and love to shop, and thought that it would be a great fit for our mission and fundraising strategy, and a relatively easy business model to run.  Resale fashion is finally being embraced and becoming more mainstream in Pittsburgh, and I felt the climate was right for a place like WearWoof.

SRC: How long has WearWoof been in operation?

N: I founded WearWoof in the fall of 2012 and began to create partnerships with shelters and rescues months before we actually had our store.  The support was overwhelming, and even without a brick and mortar, the fashion donations came pouring in (into my living room that is!!).  We opened the actual shop in April of 2013 in a small 1,000 square foot former landscaping supply shop in Ross Township, and then moved to our 3,700 sf retail space in McIntyre Square in the North Hills in July of this year.

SRC:  I understand you are a nonprofit and support the smaller shelters (which I think is awesome!), but which ones specifically do you support? 

N: We have dozens of local shelter and rescue partners, including traditional shelters, cat-specific rescues, homeless cat TNR organizations, pit bull and other breed rescues, farm sanctuaries, rabbit rescues and more.  Our concentration is Western PA - Allegheny and secondary and tertiary counties.  We support our partners primarily through our Pretty Plus program, which allows donors to designate one of our partners as beneficiary of their fashion donation.  When the item sells, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to that partner.  We also support partners through emergency funding, grants, and inkind donations such as raffle/auction items, event attendance, pro-bono legal services and marketing materials.  The full list of WearWoof partners is available on our website.

SRC: How does your donation process work? 

N: People can bring their donations - currently we accept women's and junior's fashion and accessories, pet fashion, and home décor - to the shop during normal store hours.  We encourage donors to visit our website to review the types and brands of items we accept, as well as the quality and standards guidelines, BEFORE bringing their items to us.  Educating our donors about our brand is important - it results in the most good being done for our partners and our mission.

Most donors drop off their items and do not wish to reclaim items we do not accept, as we pass items we can't use on to other charitable organizations such as Repurposed and Animal Advocates' thrift store.  Donors can designate any of our shelter and rescue partners as beneficiary, and when the items sells, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to that organization.  (The designation program, as noted above, is called "Pretty Plus.")  It's not necessary to designate a partner - all proceeds above overhead goes to our mission.

SRC:  What kind of clothes do you generally take in? (I know it is women's wear but is mostly work attire, casual wear, or a good mixture of both?)

N: Most of the inventory we offer is women's and junior's casual separates such as jeans, tops, skirts and sweaters.  We also accept and sell career suits and separates, cocktail attire and even some cruisewear.  Handbags and accessories do great at WearWoof, so we are always looking for costume jewelry, shoes and better brand handbags such as Coach, Michael Kors and non-leather favorites such as Baggalini.  We just this week started accepting home decor and fashion, giving our donors a new way to help save the lives of homeless animals.

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SRC: Do you have any fundraising events coming up for those interested to participate in? 

N:  Our winter event, the Little Black Dress Trunk Show will be held in January.  This is popular event is the ultimate Girls Night Out - and will sell out!.  Guests wear their favorite little black dress, but no accessories, and then test-drive new looks while they shop from about a dozen fine handmade local jewelry vendors such as bel monili, Saya Papaya, Wanderluxe.  Guests also have the chance to win any of dozens of fabulous jewelry and accessory pieces.  Details are being planned right now and will be posted on our website in the next few weeks.

Wow I know I'll be getting a ticket to that event it sounds like so much fun and for a great cause! What do you all think of WearWoof and what do you do to help local shelters? Tell me about it in the comments below, and as always feel free to tweet me any awesome #OOTDs you come up with at @StarkRavingChic or tag me on Instagram @starkravingchic

My New Favorite Store: Terry Jolo Brand

As I was preparing my camera and notes for my interview last Wednesday, I approached the boutique window, and I have to say I was impressed with this chic little shop the minute I laid eyes on their display in the window. Before me was a gorgeous handmade orange maxi skirt paired with a perfectly tailored bright teal blouse. That's the moment I knew I was going to fall in love with the clothes designed by Terry.

Of course you want to know what amazing boutique I'm referring to and it is no other than Terry Jolo Brand. I am very excited to announce that I recently had the opportunity to work and collaborate with Terry and her crew of fabulous designers and seamstresses! So you know what that means? This article is going to take you behind the scenes of one of the chicest boutiques in the Pittsburgh area as well as tell you all about their process. Ready to get the run down?

Terry Jolo Brand Logo Tee

Terry Jolo Brand Logo Tee

The Owner, Terry

Of course I have to start with the woman behind the name and gorgeous work at Terry Jolo Boutique. First when meeting her she instantly made me feel comfortable. Her welcoming and down to earth attitude were truly the highlight of my interview with her, and of course it was wonderful hearing what she had to say about the industry, she really knows her stuff!

As she should, while in conversation, Terry had mentioned that, much like me, from the time the time she was a young girl, she always had a passion for making clothes (this started with styling and tailoring hand made clothes for her dolls).

Terry moved here in 2002 from South Africa, and of course her love of designing began to flourish even more. She purchased her first sewing machine in high school and continued on to higher education at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh which she graduated from in 2012.

Terry (left) and Kayla (right) doing an after hours photo shoot at the boutique.

Terry (left) and Kayla (right) doing an after hours photo shoot at the boutique.

The Boutique

Now, Terry is still running her boutique as she has been for the past two and a half years. Wondering what makes her boutique and brand so special? Well I personally thought it was a huge deal that they make every article of clothing in house. That's right. Their studio is attached to the boutique. They also make custom creations, and as their mission statement says: "We don't  like to say 'we can't'. It doesn't matter what the project is, we will make it work." This being said I think it's safe to say that Terry Jolo takes customer care to a whole new level. 

Another fun fact about this boutique is that they didn't just stop at clothing. Terry also markets a line of all natural mineral make-up as well as launching her own fragrance line containing both perfume and cologne. (I have to admit they both smell amazing and I will definitely be adding the perfume to my collection.) 

One Last Silly Snapshot of Me in an Awesome Furry Purple Vest (could it be featured in my next #OOTD?!): 

 

Want to check Terry Jolo out for yourself? You can find them at the following websites:

Terry Jolo

Nineteenth Amendment

Macy's

Or if you want to check it out in person and meet Terry and her talented crew, the address is:  

Terry Jolo Brand 2724 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Hours of operation: 

Monday: Closed

Tuesday-Saturday 12PM-8PM

Sunday: 12PM-5PM

Ever shopped at Terry Jolo Brand or has this article inspired you to stop in? Tell me about it in the comments!

Until next time,

Xx, Bree