Travel postcards, notes on friendship, growing together, and dressing for how we want to feel..
Clothing designer Shaina Mote and jewelry designer Jess Hannah’s friendship has grown since meeting in 2014 when Jess was new to Los Angeles and a photographer friend connected them to borrow each other’s pieces on a photoshoot. In the years since, Shaina and Jess’s friendship evolved, both building their respective brands, traveling together, and having one another as sounding boards for ongoing ideas, questions, and challenges.
More recently, Jess and Shaina’s friendship was experienced on the road — particularly after Shaina relocated from LA to Upstate NY last year — planning trips around work and play. They found that traveling together was often a catalyst for deeper conversations around ways of leading lives grounded in questioning, reconsidering, and redefining what it means to operate an independent brand on your own terms. As independent designers where work and “life” balance often bleeds together, these trips have been a spark for conversations about what it means to have a holistically ‘sustainable’ company, whether that means in respect to the materials used, mindfully designing to circumvent trend, and doing so from a place of true inspiration and necessary immersion into new experiences.
While last year paused any big trips, it prompted the duo’s first design collaboration and an opportunity to create something they’d never made before: a belt. Speaking to both Jess and Shaina’s shared love of horses (Shaina grew up on a ranch outside Los Angeles and continues to be an avid rider and takes care of her own horses in upstate NY; and Jess participated in 4-H Horse Project and rode competitively for a brief stint when she was younger). Since much of their time together was spent at Shaina’s family’s ranch, a belt was at once a nostalgic talisman for both designers and an item that speaks to the intersection of refinement and practicality that imbue each of their styles. Ironically, at the time of design, it felt like the least practical garment for 2020; intrinsically an accessory for being out in the world. Together they daydreamed how they would be feeling in the future, how to re-enter into the world with intentionality, how to project onto an accessory the reminder that once the world reopens, we can step into it on specific terms.
Below, some dispatches from the duo’s history of friendship, as told through stories from their travels together, and long-distance friendship:
NYC — October 2018
A hydration reminder at JFK before hitching a ride to Rome to celebrate Shaina’s 30th birthday
Rome – October 2018
Wandering through Rome together — geeking out on ancient glassware and adornments.
Japan – Hakone March 2019
Experiencing an oasis in the Japanese forest — visiting ancient hot springs in between ryokan slumber parties and Japanese mountain cuisines serving stingray, raw pheasant, tabi stocks, and yukata.
Japan – Tokyo March 2019
Mixing business and pleasure during a Shaina Mote and J.Hannah pop-up in Tokyo.
Paris Feb 2020
Right before the pandemic struck, we enjoyed a quintessential Parisian hang throughout the 11th arrondissement.
Big Sur May 2020
We needed to get out and stretch our legs and be together after two intense months in lockdown — escaping outdoors to Big Sur for long coastal hikes, nude sunbathing on hidden beaches, and deep soul sister moments in ancient redwood forests
Los Angeles Shaina’s Ranch — all of 2020
Shared time horseback riding — here’s Jess out on Shaina’s horse Amerigo at Shaina’s family ranch in Los Angeles.
Long Distance – Present
In late 2020, Shaina moved to Upstate New York — since then, we do something we call a “stand up,” marking a date we set as a revolving reminder to keep in touch (Random midday Facetime bombs also work.)
Los Angeles Malibu Feb 2021
Shaina’s first trip back to LA after moving to Upstate New York and an impromptu getaway to Malibu — in between a collection photoshoot of course (mixing work and play is a life theme here). Soaking up some quintessential LA beach activities — smoothies, long days in the sun, and slumber parties on the beach