A long time ago, when Venice was much more rootsy and you knew pretty much everyone, I had a friend named Ruthie Cadenhead, who was not only my favorite barista at Abbot's Habit (after my brother, Paul and our pal, Merlin of course), but one of my favorite Venice girls. Time marches on and things change, but Ruthie remains one of my favorites ... only now she lives in Boulder, Colorado - a town that she says kind of feels like old Venice. I missed Ruthie, and wondered what she was up to, and found out that she and her sister, Emily, are running a beautiful fashion label called Perle Mer, and now their business is one of my favorites too.
Ruthie sent me the Perle Mer "Butterfly Dress", which I wore to the California Superbloom one day, and I don't know if I've ever had more compliments ... like constantly, all day, and since over the photos. I thought I'd chat with the girls to find out more about them and their company, so everyone could know all about the ladies behind the dress.
The butterfly dress in particular was inspired by their late Grandmother, Clara Burgess (who they called "Girl Dumpy"). She had amazing style, and would travel the world collecting prints, and the butterfly print was a scarf she had picked up in the 1950's. Mrs. Burgess sounds like a fascinating woman to grow up being inspired by, with friends like the Dalai Lama, and a fantastic wardrobe that she would let the girls play dress-up in.
Ruthie and Emily were born in Malibu and would go between there and Palm Springs with their cool hippie parents, always running around in nature on a lot of land. The sisters were super connected, and shared a love of vintage thrift shopping, as well as the great outdoors. Once grown, Ruthie left for Feather River College to study more about the outdoors, while Emily headed to Paris to model and grow her collection of prints and fashion. After school, Ruthie came to Venice and that's when I met her at Abbot's Habit. The sisters began talking about doing their own fashion line, and after better learning fashion structure and sketching (Emily is the designing woman, Ruthie is the business woman ), The Daughters Of The Revolution was born.
The Cadenheads got their line into Planet Blue in Malibu, and then Paris Hilton wore one of their DOTR dresses when she got out of jail, and those photos (this was pre-what social media is now) quadrupled their business overnight. That was crazy, and even crazier when Japan became their biggest clientele. That went on for six years, and then the big Fukushima earthquake happened, and big orders were cancelled. The Daughters Of The Revolution decided to sell the company, and go their separate ways. Emily designed for other companies (Planet Blue, Zara, Wild Fox), and Ruthie learned more about the business of fashion, moved to Topanga, and got into the cannabis business, where she met her boyfriend, Tom - which is how she got to Boulder now.
Now both sisters saw a gap in the fashion business, and wanted to create a new line that would be both super sustainable and eco-friendly (as fashion is in the top five of all polluting industries), as well as offer something for every shape and size. Emily had a baby daughter named Perle ... and they thought ..."Perle of the sea ... Perle Mer!" and that became the name of their beautiful new line in 2017.
When you talk to both Emily and Ruthie, you find that they are extra sincere about being a green company. They are using natural dyes, made from sources like oranges, pomegranates, turmeric, wild tea, avocados, and flowers ... all right outside the door in Ojai, where Emily now lives with her family. Very hands on, Emily is experimenting with hand-dying while her child naps, in an earthy situation that sounds like the ultimate dreaminess to me. "Your skin is your largest organ, so you should care about what you put ON it, as much as what you put IN it," says Emily. To that end, all their fabrics are natural and biodegradable, as well as being classic pieces that will last, and are timelessly designed, so you don't have to run out for a new dress every season. "We need to be conscientious about what we consume ... what practices are you supporting by buying what you buy?" Not only are these dresses stunningly gorgeous, but you can feel good inside your body and mind for having chosen them. You can truly tell that these pieces come from their hearts.
The sisters decided that they would like to sell their work only through their website, so that they can communicate directly with their customers, and have that more personal connection. Emily hand paints over their Instagram photos, creating an advertising space as dreamy as their nature goddess dresses. I keep using "Dreamy" because that is the word that instantly leaps to mind when I see - or wear - a Perle Mer creation. I think I might even walk differently, as the dresses make you want to kind of twirl or sashay as you walk along. I LOVE them.
I think most women will, as they are designed to fit all body types, to be adjustable, and for you to feel great in them. "A woman's body is like the moon, constantly shifting and changing, waxing and waning, and these dresses are created for that," explains Emily - and she's right. Inspired by the nature surrounding her, as well as her Grandma Burgess' style, Emily is designing with the important things we bring into our lives in mind. I believe this mindful design is not only innovative, but absolutely necessary these days when we're trying to be kinder to our planet. These creations are ethically sourced, using minimal waste, bringing substance and meaning to each work of art piece - and if I can support a beautiful business that is doing just that, I'm all in.
Catching up with Ruthie, we agreed that the Venice with the sense of community, the knowing everyone, the niceness, the welcoming, the encouragement, the artists, the gangsters, the surfers and skaters is still here - if a little harder to find. Ruthie was back for a quick visit and a slice of salad pizza at Abbot's Pizza, and found that even though techies had replaced a lot of the formerly smiling, friendly faces ... "Venice is the coolest ... I don't want my sweet Venice to be taken over by the monsters." None of us do, and that is why we support, promote, and tell the stories of the sweet ones, doing wonderful work.
You can support the wonderful work of Perle Mer at Perlemer.com