What do you get when you mix hip-hop lyrics with ethical cashmere sweaters? Rachelle Hruska MacPherson’s clever and stylish take on the current political climate, mixing symbolic messages of hope and humour with just the right amount activism...
Chances are you’ve seen Lingua Franca’s statement-making sweaters on everyone from social influencers to celebrities and even politicians. The effortlessly cool knitwear label’s point of difference is all in the hand-embroidered slogans, which Rachelle says were created to start essential conversations in a somewhat scary political time. “Little actions, like wearing a hand-stitched message on your chest, can spark conversations that we collectively need to be having right now. Starting meaningful dialogues has always been an essential goal of ours.” On top of her successful knitwear label, Rachelle is also the brains behind social website Guest of a Guest, a digital media company that acts as a directory-style destination for influencers and tastemakers across the US. Connecting the who’s who with a comprehensive guide of events and photographers, Guest of a Guest served as the perfect pre-iPhone and social media resource for tastemakers to engage, and is just as successful now as it was in its inception days back in 2008. If you’re getting the vibe that Rachelle is the ultimate multitasker, you’re not wrong. With the help of her husband Sean and the unparalleled love that comes with being a mother to two sons, Maxwell and Dashiell, Rachelle has not only reached for the stars in terms of success but has also overcome a somewhat debilitating case of anxiety and panic attacks. Her story of identifying the need for help and how her label, Lingua Franca, helped her through dark times is nothing short of inspiring. Read on for more… Go to www.linguafranca.nyc
Tell us about your childhood – where did you grow up? What are some vivid memories of your childhood?
I grew up in Lincoln, NE. My father was the oldest of 13 (!) and we were a tight-knit crew. Some of my most vivid memories as a child are sitting at my grandparents’ LONG LONG table on the farm listening to my aunts and uncles (who were mostly college age) argue about current events.
Tell us about your grandmother Rita?
My Grandma Rita was the most vibrant, the most opinionated, the most passionate, the most talented, the most creative and the hardest working woman I have ever met. She was convicted and strong-willed. She was unconventional. She was wacky. She had a pet goose that followed her around the yard like a dog. She raised 13 children in a house with one bathroom. She played the piano, baked, sewed all of her family’s clothing from scratch, quilted, and canned food from her garden to make it through the winter. She lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere and subscribed to Vogue. She fed us Dilly bars for breakfast and held super official “mud pie” making contests. She painted her tiny kitchen in wacky designs in only two colours – bright yellow and bright green – because she had to be thrifty. Her refrigerator was a constant rotation of New Yorker cartoons. Once, when we were very young, she woke my sister and me up in the middle of the night to drive us to a field so we could lie on the hood and watch the shooting stars while blasting songs on the radio. She was crazy. She knew the value of all of the important things.
Your dad started his own company when you were a child – what kind of things did your parents teach you about work/achieving your dreams?
The most important thing I learned from my dad about working is the most important thing there is to learn. And that is this: love what you do and do what you love. The rest will fall into place. My dad had the courage to chart his own path, and it takes guts to do something like that while supporting your young family. In the end, I truly believe it’s the only way to live. You only get one life. You better find a way to fill the hours with something that makes your soul sing. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Talk us through GuestofaGuest.com…
It started years before fashion was taken seriously online, and years before iPhones and social media existed. It was an outlet for me to express what I was experiencing in NYC as a wide-eyed transplant. It has turned into a valuable resource for many people, particularly in the PR and marketing businesses of NYC and LA – a sort of social “bible” if you will for what is going on in their worlds.
There are thoughtful political messages behind Lingua Franca – what are your goals for the brand and why do you think it has been so successful?
I think LF happened to resonate with many people that were feeling many emotions after US presidential election, including helplessness. Personally, it was the first time in my life I felt the need to speak out and speak up – but I didn’t know how to – and worst, didn’t feel like anything I could do would move the needle in any direction. Now I’ve seen the power of the people. Little actions, like wearing a hand-stitched message on your chest can spark conversations that we collectively need to be having right now. Starting meaningful dialogues has always been an essential goal of ours.
What’s your approach to social media – how often are you on Instagram/how do you approach posting to your personal feed?
I’m on Instagram all of the time. I’m not embarrassed by this in the least. It’s my choice platform for getting my information. Culture is my religion and Instagram is my communion of sorts. It feeds me, it really does! I manage both my personal and the Lingua Franca Instagram accounts and try not to over think posting on either one. I think spontaneity is magical.
Do you check your emails the minute you wake up?
No. I check instagram first. Then my emails, then the NYT.
What’s a typical morning like in your home?
I’m not a morning person. I have tried to be one several times, and it just isn’t happening. I think it’s important to realize things like this about oneself and plan accordingly. I will NEVER schedule a meeting before 9am for instance, and that’s early for me. My husband does the morning routine (he takes our boys to school every morning), and I’m there for pick up sometimes and on bedtime duty most nights. This is what works for us and I’m completely thrilled that I have a partner that is the opposite of me in this regard. I like to wake up leisurely and get to my news and emails over a long strong cup of coffee and toast with zero distractions. Sleep is so important if you can get 8 hours, you should. Sometimes I get 9 or even 10. Seriously. I will go go go all day long but don’t expect me outta bed before 8.
What is your advice for entrepreneurs?
Do what you love and try to remember this…. You are going to die someday. That one truth really helps me keep things in perspective. When things seem like they’ve gotten totally, like ROYALLY, f*cked up (which they will… constantly), I repeat this line. We are all going to be dead someday – this isn’t THAT big of a deal!
How do you pull yourself up when you’re feeling down/deal with the lows in business?
I think going through massive panic attacks on a regular basis really helped me to be able to put things in perspective on a personal level. When things get tough, I remember how lucky I am, I remember my words above, and I keep on keeping on.
We often don’t stop to reflect on our successes/achievements. How do you celebrate the successes?
I never really stopped to reflect on the achievements at Guest of a Guest. The fact that we’ve been around for over a decade and have withstood so many changes in the digital media landscape really is an accomplishment that I’m proud of. But, it was always go go go and I never really got a chance to consider how far we had come. With Lingua Franca I’ve gotten really good at just celebrating, well, us! I never even set out to start the company so everything that happens is truly icing on a giant cake. I’m constantly like “can you believe this is happening?!” to everyone whenever I get an opportunity to do so! I literally can not believe this is happening and so every day is a new celebration.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced growing your businesses and how do you approach challenges?
The entire Lingua Franca team is made up of embroiderers found on Craigslist who have had to pivot to learn to be account managers and stocking experts and everything else a growing company needs. It’s a challenge every day to figure out how to get everything done, but we are all having so much fun, and so in it together, that even through our mistakes I know we are going to be okay. I really can’t explain the situation because it’s the opposite of everything I was taught and know by experience about successful businesses. Everything at LF is just so pure. We still don’t have a P&L, I mean, it’s kind of nutty! But it’s working, and I’m smart enough to not start questioning the magic of it all now.
Can you tell us about your anxiety – when did you first start experiencing anxiety and can you give examples of situations that made you anxious/vivid memories of feeling anxious?
I have always struggled with occasional anxiety since before I can remember, but things got really tough after the birth of my second child. I go into it in a great deal in this personal essay I did for the GLOW. When I started feeling like my safety and the safety of my family was coming into question, I spent all of my focus on trying to get it under control. It’s still a work in progress, but Lingua Franca has been such a gift for me. It’s really gotten me out of a personal rut.
How did your anxiety increase after you became a mother?
No one really sits you down and goes over the intense hormonal changes you will be experiencing post birth. It seems to always be more about the changes during your pregnancy etc. The day I stopped breastfeeding my son was one of the hardest days of my life. It was so emotional and scary what my body and brain were experiencing. I thought I was going crazy, but it was just crazy hormonal changes. I wish I was better prepared mentally for those changes so I would have been less hard on myself.
Talk us through the early days of two kids under two – what were they like?
Honestly, it was nuts. But it was also a period in my life that I will always look back on and treasure. It was one of those times where I truly felt the most alive and human. It felt like we were hanging by threads on a daily basis, but we really grew as people and in our relationship from that experience. It’s just nuts – every parent can relate. But it’s a beautiful mess!
Tell us about your summer house in Montauk – how often do you go there? How do you spend your time when you’re there?
We go to Montauk every chance we get. In the summer, we try to stay out there for long weekends with the boys. I think it’s the perfect place for them to undo the preciousness of their coddled west village lifestyles. The first weeks are a bit rough for them to make the adjustments to country living, but by June, our boys are barefoot on our dirt roads catching insects and in the waves. I think it’s terribly important to get out of city life and into nature – for all of us, but esp for young boys and girls.
How is it decorated and do you love interiors as much as you love fashion?
Our Montauk house is a sort of Robinson Crusoe meets surf shack. We are on a little dirt road on the beach on ditch plains and it feels very much removed from our NYC life. My husband Sean and I like sourcing things for our houses whenever we travel together as a family. I love having mementos from trips to look back on. Everything else in our homes is pretty much product of my husband Sean. As my sister says, “it’s his calling.” I try to step outta his way and let him shine.
Describe your perfect day...
Wake up to an easy and long breakfast with my family followed by a walk/run on the beach or with my kids to the ditch witch truck to watch the morning surfers. Then, a long lunch on the beach (fried chicken or sandwiches from naturally good and potato chips), with sand castles and surfing in between. Next, an afternoon nap (in bed or on the beach) followed by a late afternoon tennis match with Sean. Home for an outdoor shower then drinks on our deck over the ocean and an early dinner at the Crow’s nest. A great day is ended with an early bedtime in bed with a really really great book.
How do you unwind/relax?
I try to do Yoga and Pilates once a week and the occasional massage (I just discovered Zeel and it’s incredible!).
What makes you feel stressed?
My children growing up too fast.
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing – do you eat well/exercise? Do you make self-care a priority?
Self-care became a huge priority after my anxiety episodes, but I think it’s really important in life. Eating well is a priority for us, but I’m not dictatorial about it – I think you need to allow yourself days of grease and desserts and wine. I exercise almost every day – even if just a quick 20 minutes on the elliptical. It really is the moment in my day that is mine alone. I look forward to the time spent exercising and the post euphoric rush.
Tequila followed by white wine.
Best restaurant in NYC at the moment?
Best place to go with kids in NYC?
Best place to get some mum time out in NYC?
My patio. I like having close friends over to our house. It provides an intimate environment that makes it easier to let loose in.