Can you describe yourselves in a few words and introduce you and your project?
My name is Laura, I’m 31 years old, American and I live in southern Italy with my husband, Jim. A couple years ago we bought a little villa on top of a hill on a dead-end country road and have been working to restore its beauty and breathe life back into the land for the past 2 years. We’re learning Italian, how to cook traditional Pugliese recipes with our adopted nonna and best of all, how to care for our dozens of fruit & olive trees that we inherited with the property. It’s been an exciting & challenging adventure so far and we’re taking all the bad with the good – trying to learn how to balance our American urgency with the southern Italian pace and embrace a completely different way of living.
We run our vintage shop, For Love of the Moon, out of our new home as well as a little B&B for travelers and we do some travel planning for those wanting to experience Italy as we do. During our busy season (summer), we’re juggling a lot of activity but growing the vintage shop and expanding our brand For Love of the Moon is our main focus year round. It’s what makes me happiest and feel like my truest self and I’m humbled and proud to be part of the movement to reject fast fashion & senseless consumption in favor of a more ethical approach to buying clothing. The climate crisis is a wave that is going to come crashing down on us in the not too distant future, in so many ways it already is, and we have to start building businesses and lifestyles that reflect a more sustainable future and challenge our views on consumption.
Moving into your decision of changing your lives.
When did you decide you were up to a big change? Really, what did trigger you both?
Jim & I lived in Brooklyn, New York for many years and when our neighborhood, Williamsburg, priced us out of our apartment, we were forced with the decision of where to move. We were both already itching to get out of New York, we had a few hard years there and truly all of it piled up and created a tension inside both of us that we carried around every day. I saw myself living a different life but I just didn’t know where. And I was confused by this feeling of wanting to leave but just simply not knowing where to go. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was Jim was hit by a car around the corner from our apartment. He was extremely lucky that he wasn’t killed or severely injured and after that accident we just realized we needed to make a move.
Life can change so quickly. While living in New York I was working at a marketing firm and working long hours and felt stressed and so tired at the end of the each day. It just didn’t feel like we were getting the same things out of the city anymore. I will always love New York for so many reasons, it shaped so much of my personality but at the end of the day it wasn’t a lifestyle we were committed to forever. We wanted to be near the sea, have a garden, grow our own food. Most of all we wanted to be able to afford to buy a home without owing the bank for the rest of lives, forcing us to work jobs that we maybe didn’t love just so we could afford material things. For some reason during those years rejecting this conventional American lifestyle was crystal clear. I saw a different path to happiness and I convinced Jim to try it out with me.
Slower, simpler, more connected to the present and less worried about the future.
What is the main thing you gain with your courageous move?
We’ve been told so many times since we did this how brave the move was and it really hasn’t been until recently that I look back on that time and actually feel brave for what we did. What I’ve gained is trusting myself. When we were planning this move, I doubted our decision constantly. Some days I’d be confident and Jim would be uncertain, some days it’d be the opposite. We had many conversations where people would interrogate us on how it would it all work. Sometimes I felt mocked for pie in sky dreams. We didn’t have answers to give anybody, not even ourselves. I trusted my instinct that this change would bring us happiness and that was a courageous thing to do for someone in their late 20s. Betting all your cards on yourself is not an easy thing to do but I’m getting pretty good at it!
Because New York is a place so different, full of lights, movement, events and people.
What are the things you miss more?
Hands down the thing I miss the most is the diversity. Seeing different kinds of people coexisting in one place, sharing subway seats and brushing shoulders on the street is a beautiful thing. New York is full of all walks of life, all colors, shapes, religions, sexual orientations, nationalities… I think I took it for granted when I lived there and I crave that same diversity now.
Why Italy and why Puglia?
When I was young my mother brought my family to Italy every summer. We would travel around the entire country, climb down steep cliffs to the beautiful beaches of Sardegna and Sicily and eat pizza in the small villages of Umbria. My happiest memories were always in Italy. I fell madly in love with it at a young age. We chose Puglia because we loved the rawness of southern Italy and Puglia had something magical: the olive trees. Our area, the Itria Valley, is so peaceful with ancient olive trees filling the countryside and gorgeous turquoise seas nearby. Prices were reasonable to buy a home and in the winter tourism completely dies down so we get to just exist without the business.
You have a place where you receive tourists as well. So, my question is: what are the main attractions in Puglia?
You know, the places and tipes we don ́t easily find in google by asking “what to do in Puglia”.
Oh goodness there are so many! Every time I go onto the internet someone is posting about Puglia. The tourism is exploding here it really feels like it’s just getting more popular every day. It depends what you’re looking for but I would say my best Puglia trip is focused on beaches and food. Puglia offers insanely good food and beautiful coastlines.
Focusing on those two things will make for a really relaxing holiday. The olive oil history is worth learning about and finding locals who can walk you through how important this region was in the oil trade. I recommend exploring some of the smaller towns, where you won’t find as much tourism or English, but you can eat really well and cheap cheap cheap. Check out Ceglie (they have some of the best restaurants) and Casalini, which is a tiny dot on a country road between Ostuni and Cisternino. Also, a town called Grottaglie is known for their ceramics and they have beautiful artists who sell kitchenware and home decorations and they ship internationally.
I frequent the weekly markets that pop up in different towns each day which are fun to see – overflowing with fresh food and locals buying their groceries.
Regarding big changes in life, motivation, courage and entrepreneurship stuff.
What was (or is) your biggest challenge? How did you feel starting something completely new?
Starting over in a new country was completely exhausting. The romance of moving to southern Italy only lasts but so long. Then comes just regular life stuff, but in a different language and with much less money in your bank account. We didn’t finance our move so we quite literally put every penny we had into this. Those first few months were pretty stressful and we just had to keep reminding ourselves that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
The most stressful was sorting through how to run our shop over here. There was a whole new system of Italian tax law that was making our particular business very difficult to navigate and I almost gave it up…. which made me really sad. I’m happy to say we finally sorted it, and had I’d known how hard it would’ve all been I’m not sure we would’ve done it. But we were naive and just tackled every problem as it popped up. That’s basically how we’re still going about life.
Were you already working in your pieces of clothes in America?
How did you started it?
I started my shop about 5 or 6 years ago, selling vintage out of my Brooklyn apartment on the side. I didn’t take it very seriously. Then when we left New York and I quit my job, I needed to make money so I just focused on the shop. I loved doing it and I knew I had an eye for it. It was growing but very slowly. I had an idea to save even more than just vintage from the trash bin by sourcing recycled material and making dresses and robes out of the used fabric. My customers responded so I just kept going. I put it all away when we moved to Italy because I just really didn’t have the time so starting it up again feels really good.
Who makes it and where you source your fabrics?
Right now I’m personally making each piece, which is why the production is so limited. I’m sourcing my fabrics at used clothing markets – often times saving a piece of beautiful fabric that has a small blemish that can be cut off or cleaned up. I see the women at the market checking for imperfections and tossing used fabric & clothing aside when they find a mark. I then go behind them and scoop it up – seeing potential in what already exists, flaws & all. I truly believe in balancing my closet with mostly recycled pieces and just a few new pieces made by one of the many ethical brands producing right now. We have a responsibility to change the conversation on fashion and to me, it feels like the right and only step forward to focus on recycled.
Doing so much things at the same time.
Where does your motivation come from? What do you do in order to maintain your imagination and creativity keep flowing?
Music! I feel my most creative, my best and happiest self when I’m listening to music and it connects me to all the things I find beautiful in my new home and all the things I miss about my life in America, in New York, my family and friends. I find inspiration in the simplicity of life here – imagining the woman I want to dress who is laid back and easy going, willing to get her hands dirty in the garden in a beautiful vintage dress and go out to for dinner after the beach without worrying about her salty hair.
Living in the country has connected me to this idyllic world – fruit trees, bare feet, clothes hanging to dry on the line in the sunshine. I also find my most peace first thing in the morning when I can spend time alone. I’m not that social of a person, so the hosting during high season can be draining for me. I need lots of time to myself and when I put energy into For Love of the Moon I need it to be genuine. It’s hard to balance the social media marketing with my personality – often times I don’t feel like they are in harmony – and it’s a constant effort for me to come up with my voice. I feel like since I’ve been working on my message of ethical fashion for the past two years, having this important mission has allowed me space & confidence to be louder and more forceful in promoting my own brand. I would say I’m also completely & totally consumed with the climate crisis and I don’t feel like I could ever be loud enough or spend enough time talking about it and fighting for climate justice. I read a lot of books about where we are and where we need to be and that inspires me into action. The injustice for minority communities and our most vulnerable beings and creatures on this planet is reason enough to dedicate my life to lessening my footprint.
If you could give one advice to all people out there who looks for a big 360º change in their lives. What would that be?
Nothing is permanent, everything is fluid and flexible. If you make a change and you’re not happy with it, you can always change it again.
Well, what about folks going sustainable?
What would be your advice? Can you share some tips and tricks to get their eco journey easier?
Do not throw away existing stock or packaging to swap out for eco-friendly items – that defeats the whole purpose! Use up what you have and plan to be better in your next purchase. The most earth friendly thing you can do is consume less.
Finally, I think all people conducting interviews ask that (so, I will follow the rules):
where do you both see yourselves in 5 years?
Hopefully still here in Puglia! I’d like For Love of the Moon to be a bit bigger, so as to lessen the pressure of marketing, and will definitely have a small collection of recycled, ethically made clothing under my brand. I will be completely fluent in Italian and hopefully pretty good at French. I’ll have visited Turkey, Greece and Portugal extensively. I’ll be living in a world where the oil industry is deflated and the fast fashion industry faded. Small brands like For Love of the Moon and my customers will have the power and Donald Trump will not be president.
Hope you all liked to know our first guests. Jim and Laura are, truly, so inspiring.
Laura, Portugal is a beautiful country. Hope to see you around here very soon.