Theory at Work
Seattle is many things—a tech haven, a travel hub, an outdoor enthusiast's dream and Nordstrom's home base. But when it comes to fashion, it's not usually the first place that comes to mind. Through a project called Theory at Work, we met up with five standouts from different professions and backgrounds who call Seattle home and prove that the Emerald City really is a hidden gem for fashion lovers. #TheoryAtWork captures the artists, entrepreneurs and changemakers who inspire us to move forward, now and always.
Read how they got started in their careers, what inspires their personal style and how Seattle's landscape and culture shape their lives.
Would you believe vegan ice cream can be as desirable and delicious as its dairy version? Maybe even more so? "We're in the business of changing minds," says Frankie & Jo's cofounder Kari Brunson about her plant-based ice cream company. Established in 2016 and named after Autumn Martin's two late grandmothers, Frances and Joanne, Frankie & Jo's' interesting flavor combinations (Salty Caramel Ash, Jamocha Chaga Fudge, California Cabin) and ever-changing roster of seasonal flavors draw lines out the door and regularly sell out.
How did you learn to make ice cream?
AM: I taught myself; it was a giant exploration—tons of trial and error.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
KB: My personal advice is just to do it. I have spent a lot of time in my twenties being sort of scared of risk, and as I've approached my late twenties and now thirties, it's the reason that I live.
AM: I'm a little more calculated. I would say if you have an idea, why is that idea worth turning into a business? Is it something that people need? Is it an expression of yourself? So, figuring out what it is that will be driving your business forward because when you're tired and exhausted and when your sales are low, you need that strength and that drive to keep you going.
Do you have a scooping technique?
KB: Use your shoulder and not your wrist. I actually got injured from scooping ice cream the wrong way and had to have a brace on my arm!
How would you describe your style?
AM: I would say very natural and of the earth. I love handmade clothing from people who are taking time to make nice clothes, and also vintage—I love a good pair of old Levi's. I love clogs; my go-to would be clogs, a comfy pair of jeans and a nice sweater or a nice T-shirt.
KB: I wear a lot of the same color because I find that, in the morning, I just don't really want to think about what I'm wearing. So I have a lot of very basic pieces that all kind of work in tandem.
What about Seattle style in general?
AM: I feel as a city we are probably on the edge of casual—we kind of go down the more casual and outdoorsy vibe for style and clothing.
KB: At any moment, you could go hiking.
What inspires you?
AM: First and foremost, nature—all of the plants that grow in nature that we can use in food. I also really love stories, history, people—what they've been through, where they've come from and how they've gotten here.
KB: I'm inspired by people. I get a lot of energy and wake up every day for the people that work for us and the customers that come in.
Kari is wearing the Theory Treeca 2 Good Wool Crop Suit Pants and Theory Stretch Silk Shell, and Autumn is wearing the Theory Crewneck Cashmere Sweater. All other items their own.
If you're from Seattle, then you know of Linda Derschang—or you at least know Linda's Tavern on Capitol Hill. Derschang has founded a dozen restaurants in the span of 25 years; she currently oversees five, including many Seattle institutions. "There's something that I'd heard once which was, 'Would you rather be the best or a favorite?' she says. "I think about that a lot; all of our places become favorite places."
Tell us a bit about what you do.
Since 1994, I've opened bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Seattle. Over the years, I've sold a few of them, but currently, I own a couple of dive bars, neighborhood bars—sort of beer and burger joints. I also own a café in the best bookstore in town, Elliott Bay Books. Next door to that, I own Oddfellows Café and Bar, which is an all-day, all-night neighborhood café. Then, about a year ago, I opened Queen City. We believe it's the oldest bar and restaurant in Seattle, because it's been in this location since 1910 as a bar, a tavern, a restaurant—at one time it was called The Queen City Saloon.
How would you describe your style in three words?
Funky, eclectic but comfortable.
What's your typical work uniform?
Jeans of some sort—often old Levi's; a boot or cute sneakers; and a T-shirt, sweater and a jacket of some sort, whether it's a leather jacket, jean jacket or a blazer.
What do you love most about your job?
No day is ever the same. I definitely plan a week, but those plans frequently change. There's something about it always being different that I think keeps it really fresh and really enjoyable.
If you could describe Seattle in three words, how would you describe Seattle?
It's beautiful, it's outdoorsy and it's very grey.
Do you have a company philosophy?
One of our values is, "Why do something half-ass if you can do it really well?" I've always tried to live that way.
What do you want guests to feel when they leave your restaurants?
When a guest leaves any of my places, I would like them to say, if they don't already live near us, "I wish this place was in my neighborhood."
Linda is wearing the Theory Stripe Alpaca-Blend Sweater and Theory Leather Skinny Pencil Skirt. All other items her own.
The land, mountains and sea surrounding Seattle can't help but inform so much of what Natasha Alphonse does as a ceramic artist. "Nature is the biggest inspiration," she says, "especially working with clay and it being actual earth. I'm trying to pay respect to the material itself and letting it kind of shine on its own, and referencing it back to nature is, I think, the key to that."
How did you get into pottery?
I was going to school for drawing and studied ceramics in my last semester, and I just got interested in the medium kind of casually. I was learning more and more about it, and it just became a thing that kind of engulfed my life.
Do you have a design philosophy?
As minimal as possible with as much earthiness to it—I'm always trying to balance those two things. And there's also this feeling that I want my pieces to have, to be very steady and calming.
Have you always lived in Seattle?
I'm originally from Canada. I grew up on a reservation in northern Saskatchewan, and I think that really informs why I love making the objects that I do; they remind me so much, visually, [of] what my landscape looked like when I was growing up. How I ended up here was basically [because of] the landscape—I really love the ocean; I love the rainforest and the climate here. I wanted something different and didn't really want to be in Saskatchewan per se, so I wanted to try out the West Coast just because of the nature.
You also teach pottery. What's the best part about that?
It creates a dynamic week, and I get to meet a lot of people that I probably wouldn't get to otherwise. Pottery is such a quiet, alone kind of craft, and I really enjoy it, but I feel like if I was only doing that all the time it would get a little bit too monotonous.
What's your typical work uniform in the studio?
As simple as possible, usually things that are very durable, and then things that can get dirty and that are easily washable. I wear a lot of denim and white shirts or very earthy tones. And comfort is key—my job is very physical, and I'm always moving around.
What draws you to Theory as a brand?
When I think of Theory, what I like most is how simple everything is—you can really pair things together well.
What's your off-duty style like?
Definitely a little more pretty. I do wear more cream and ivory colors, and I like a lot of linen and things like that when I'm not in the studio.
What's a Sunday morning for you?
Sunday morning is usually spent at home, so maybe a fun breakfast, making pancakes or something; taking my dog, Olives, to the beach. I really love gardening; I find that really relaxing. So just really low-key because, during the week, I feel like what I do takes a lot of time.
Natasha is wearing the Theory Apex Tiny Tee and Theory Treeca 2 Good Wool Crop Suit Pants. All other items her own.
Lauren Cascio's career path in the design world was a bit serendipitous. "I was pre-law in college and then stumbled into a design class and totally fell in love with it," she says. Today, Cascio heads a team at Microsoft working on a device called HoloLens. "It's essentially an augmented-reality headset that allows you to see and interact with holograms, blending the physical and digital worlds," she explains. "It allows for more creativity, more collaboration and better communication."
What's the thing you love most about your job?
This is going to be cheesy, but the thing I love most about my job is the people I get to work with. They are some of the smartest, most talented, creative, pioneering thinkers that I've ever had the pleasure of being around, and I get to come into work every day and learn from them and there's really nothing better.
Any advice for women who would want to start their career in tech or design?
Find mentorship; find people who believe in you and ask them relentlessly for advice because they're often more than willing to help.
How would you describe your style?
I'd describe my style as pretty casual, laid-back—a lot of T-shirts paired with tailored pieces. Something that's a little bit high-low [with] a little bit of contrast happening.
Do you have any favorite Theory pieces?
My favorite is a shift dress that I wore when I interviewed for a job in New York. I still have it in my closet, even if I don't really wear it anymore, but I love it because it's special.
How does Seattle inspire you?
It makes me slow down—there's so much to appreciate, from the mountains to the ocean to the desert and the rainforest even. It's hard to not be really immersed in nature, and that makes you feel really small. It reminds you that things aren't as important sometimes as you think they are and gives you the space to breathe and to contemplate and to often have new ideas.
If you could design or invent one thing, what would it be?
Something that did away with cords completely—no more charging, no more cords, no more adapters.
Lauren is wearing the Theory Demitria 2 Stretch Wool Suit Pants, Theory Classic Stretch Wool Jacket and Theory Apex Tiny Tee. All other items her own.