Living the Wellmade Life
Grace P. C. Gouin
Designer, Maker, Creative Problem Solver
Grace's most recent Wellmade job was as Creative Director of Appalatch, a heritage inspired, ethically driven apparel company with a mission to change the way that clothing is made, sold, and used. She helped grow the company to the success that it is today, and now is searching for her next inspiring project. She is a creative and a creative problem solver.
- What’s your life motto ?
- Live the life you believe to be good.
- What would you be doing if you had to choose another profession?
- Archaeology or psychology - hard to pick! I would also like to travel the world studying a documenting traditional textiles - I'm afraid they are dying out.
- What are some of the moments when you are happiest ?
- I feel happiest when I'm in nature and contemplating the answer above! I also feel complete happiness when playing cards or a board game by a fire - or going to sleep under heavy blankets on a really cold night.
"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." - This is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Self-Reliance - I should have engraved this on my bathroom mirror or something.
- Whats a place in nature that leaves you in awe?
- I feel the most at awe in the mountains or on a lake. I love when you're in the mountains and your mind is blown by the incredible three dimensionality of the landscape as much as I love the way that the shore of a lake or pond, or even the flat glassy ocean will force you to contemplate a flat but liquid plane.
- What song makes you dance in your apartment like no one’s looking ?
- "My Patch" - by Jim Noir. It is irresistible!!!
- What makes a good employer ?
- A good employer understands mutual loyalty, a work/life balance, the importance of physical and mental health, the value of their employees time, and the empowerment that comes when employees are given credit for their ideas and hard work.
- What do you think makes a job good for the planet?
- I think a job that encourages people to change their perspective on value is good for the planet. I think it's incredible when a body of work encourages folks to slow down, and recognize that you can buy something with a very light footprint on the earth at a cost that will give someone a healthy living, while simultaneously being so beautiful and high quality that the buyer can feel good in compromising neither their desires or their morals.
- What/ who are some of the biggest inspirations on your esthetic ?
- Nature is a huge inspiration, and spending time in nature is a huge inspiration! I am not a super athletic person but I really like spending time in the outdoors and hate it when the most appropriate clothing for the outdoors is makes me feel like an REI advertisement. I think that learning a lot about the history of textiles and the very fundamentals of what goes into raising livestock, shearing, washing, combing, spinning, knitting and weaving - all makes me feel inspired in a way that simply buying a cone of yarn or bolt of fabric ever will. I'm more likely to gather inspiration from research from a history book than WWD.
- Who are a few of the people that helped you along the way? How did they help?
- Besides my husband and my family, my co-founder at Appalatch helped me a lot to see value and possibility in myself after it had nearly been stomped out. Our relationship is far from perfect, but it was certainly transformative.
- What is the oddest job you had to take along the way to get by?
- Trimming medicinal marijuana plants (the hours are very flexible and I'm pretty good with scissors).
- What/ who are some of the biggest inspirations on your ethic?
- Kate Fletcher's writings on sustainable fashion were what initially opened my eyes to the ethics behind sustainability in fashion, but if I dive deeper into what makes me prone to care about that at all, I think of the Quaker School I attended growing up. The school was named for its founder, Moses Brown, a Quaker who also have a heavy hand in the textile industry's birth in America. The Quaker teachings focus on simplicity and equality - all people are created equally, period. How can we ask someone to work in conditions we wouldn't want to work in ourselves?
What did the tired cat say to the tired mouse? - "I'll catch you later."
- Did school/education play a part in discovering what you love? If so, what was its role?
- Absolutely! At Skidmore I was lucky to be able to study weaving, dying, printing, and finally was stumbled upon the study and principals of sustainable design during an independent project in advanced textiles. I also took some incredible art history courses including the study of the textiles of Southeast Asia - really mind opening. However, it was the long winters of upstate New York and the TV series "Lost" that prompted me to take up knitting during my free time - something I had put down as a kid and not picked up for years.
- When did you actually start doing this as your work? how did you get started?
- After I graduated, I moved to Asheville NC and within a week I had a very strange and often uncomfortable job working for a small apparel company that makes organic cotton clothing. It's a small company run by a married couple and I worked in their home for two years, learning a lot about small business and organic cotton. From there, I met Mariano DeGuzman and we started Appalatch together and I dove into my love affair with wool and the unforgettable experience of building a brand.
- When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
- When I was a kid I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I never thought that artists could work with textiles so I tried drawing, painting, and ceramics. Meanwhile, I learned to sew, knit, and embroider from my mother and grandmother who I realize now are both "textile artists", though both of them would never had said so. My moms passion was knitting, my grandmothers sewing and fine needlework. They actually started a fabric and needlepoint shop called "Bear Threads" in Providence in the early 80's. Needles to say, I had a lot of great handmade garments as a kid, and some amazing teachers.
- When did you discover the passion for what you do now?
- I always loved to make things out of fabric - coin purses, pants, tops, napkins - anything. It was not until I started learning about the horrors of the apparel industry on the mass scale and the damages of fast fashion during my senior year at Skidmore that my eyes were opened to the fact that well made and sustainable clothing actually had a purpose in the world. I felt like I had a green light to go at my interest with full force because suddenly it was about more than making pretty things, it was about making a necessary change in the way that objects are made.
"So, will loving clothing more help make the world a better place? We think so. Sustainability is becoming a bigger goal than anybody thought, and everyone has a part to play."