On $300 Bathing Suits, Local Farming, and How Money Expresses Your Deepest Values

written by Bari Tessler July 2, 2014

Welcome to my Guest Post Series! For the rest of 2014, my team and I are in deep creation mode, writing my book, The Art of Money. Yay! While we’re away, I’m thrilled to present voices + perspectives about money (and much more) from some of my favorite colleagues + thinkers. Don’t fret, though! I love you all too much to stay silent for long. Look for the occasional article (and book excerpt!) from me … meanwhile, soak up this fresh + eclectic wisdom from my friends. Enjoy![/box]

This is a guest post by Jennifer Elsner: a dear friend, incredible designer, and part of a very special + intimate femme-preneur mastermind group I’m a part of. This woman has exquisite taste: I can’t help but drool every time I see photos of her beautiful home! It always makes me want to visit and relax with her over some fine charcuterie. I’m so honored to share her insights with you today.

For more on Jennifer, see the bottom of this post.

I buy $300 bathing suits.

There, I said it. And while I have no shame around this, I do know that saying this out loud, in most circles — the circles I marinate in, at least — is a radical statement.

When something is a “great deal,” I look askance. Nothing delights me more than paying full price for, well, value!

True cost is often on my mind. How could it not be?

The ways in which we consume lie at the very heart of how we express what matters to us.

What some may consider an exorbitant amount to spend for a weekly Produce Box, I see as a sound purchase. When I calculate an apples-to-apples cost comparison between what seasonal Texas grapefruit costs at Whole Foods vs. what I pay for them through my CSA, it may look like I’m paying too much.

But the true value of my veggie purchase lies somewhat in the rejection of conventional food industry practices (yes, even at Whole Foods), and even more in aligning with the subtle expressions of things that matter to me: 

  • Supporting local farmers to grow produce (and their business) sustainably
  • Supporting two entrepreneurs whose consideration for my experience is clear, thanks to their smart ordering system, menu planning, and pleasure-filled photography
  • And, yes, even supporting the meaningful conversations that occur at my CSA pickups.

But back to the suit.

I have been a client of Malia Mills since 1995. My first encounter with her work was at a lunchtime Sample Sale when I worked as a Merchandising Assistant at Eileen Fisher. I was young (ish) and fit (ish) and worked in a culture that celebrated women of all shapes.

Sample Sales were highly anticipated lunchtime excursions in NYC’s Garment District, but for swimsuits? Gulp. Like most women, I dreaded trying on suits. But I went to Malia’s Sample Sale to learn more about a woman whose work I admired. Bathing suits cut for a woman’s body. All types of bodies. Sexy suits. Fashionable suits.

Suits that were designed to not only perform but, more importantly, afford me the confidence to flaunt assets I once felt were liabilities. This was leading edge stuff in the mid-90s. Heck, it’s still pretty rad today.

While I didn’t buy anything that day, I was smitten. When it came time to shop for suits the following summer, I went to Malia’s store in NoLITa for the four-star treatment. I’ll admit, at retail, I was a bit taken aback by the price tag.

However, I was attracted to her designs, sizing system and fit. Oh, the fit! I knew this was an item of quality, one that would endure. Soon thereafter, their “Love Thy Differences” philosophy made deep roots in me, and grew into the shift all my future consumption practices would take.

Check out the video below. You, too, will fall hard for Malia.

And then there’s that email I got from Malia, personally thanking me for referring a client. Now, I’m crushing HARD.

So, sure, paying full-price could feel like getting ripped-off when, say, a sweater you covet can (and will) be reduced up to 75% if you just wait long enough. Or when you pay a premium for a meal at a five-star restaurant and the service/environment/menu falls short of expectation—that sucks!

But $300 for a bathing suit, designed and manufactured in New York, by a company who offers their employees insurance and a positive work environment, whose whole mission is to liberate women from the feeling of inadequacy that accompanies the struggle to find a suit that fits?!

A company that has succeeded in getting women to embrace their bodies? Their beauty?! A company that is run by a generous, talented woman I can admire?

When a seductive presentation of goods and services meets a holistic purchasing experience and results in “fit-me-like-a-glove” long-term satisfaction…

I haven’t paid enough.

Jennifer Elsner 550w

I’m Jennifer Elsner. My studio, Viewers Like You, delivers Creative Direction, Brand Development and Graphic Design to a select number of clients annually. This allows me to sustainably grow my clients’ business in the very best direction: deep. I believe that design is visual, structural, navigational and emotional. It’s moving, it’s systemic, it’s relational—in many ways, it’s an evolutionary organism. I recognize the dynamic nature of problem spaces and design opportunities, and endeavor to create offerings, as opposed to solutions. I’m deeply committed to my client’s needs and only partner with those projects that buoy my spirits, enlivens my mind and challenges my practices. As you can see from ‘Viewers’ diverse portfolio, this is a formula that manifests compelling solutions. Our clients are smitten with this standard too.

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