When Covid shut down our lives, I was hustling daily with private styling clients: Cleaning closets, donating and rehousing discarded items, sourcing wardrobe staples. Being a stylist is 90% carrying products back and forth from client to retailer; it’s physically demanding. I was ignoring my sciatica and popping Tylenol like Tic-Tacs.
In addition, I had begun collaborations with a few local secondhand shops, wholesaling vintage to curate their collections. I was really excited about spending my time treasure hunting -- more time using my skills and less time selling my skills.
On my best days, I was designing and creating one-of-a-kind wearable pieces with local artisans. A recent showing of my work at an art gallery in Rome had encouraged my confidence and highlighted my ability to make.
The description may sound glamorous, but the reality was that the majority of my time was spent on public transportation in Rome (if you know, then you know), catching a quick coffee between appointments, and donating my time hosting clothing exchanges for my community. A normal day was 10 hours away from my house, with minimal financial return. I worked 7 days a week. Always.
I’m also an Immigrant in Italy, torn between two lives and was only half a person in each. To my family and friends in the US, I was hard to reach in another time zone, living a life they could hardly imagine, but that they assume was something close to La Dolce Vita. To my community in Rome, I was constantly in a phone call with family in the US and “too busy” to meet for an aperitivo. They were eager to attend my clothing exchanges, but didn't know what I 'did for a living'.
I was tired. I had been hustling for years, investing in opportunities and collaborations that weren't fruitful or fulfilling. I spent more time and energy volunteering or collaborating in unpaid work than I could afford to do. I was so busy making each day work that I was without energy to look at the year. The life. The world.
All of that stopped in 2020.
When the world is on fire and millions of people are dying, your ETHICS become clear. I have had a lot of time to reevaluate my business and every other aspect of my life. Time to remember what I want and where I have come from. Time to reassess my own value has been priceless.
My work has always been in dressing people. I began as a costumer, moved onto an eBay shop, and eventually went into peoples’ homes to develop rituals that serve their own lifestyle. I love helping people create a new relationship with consumerism that improves their lives, style, and efficiency.
I see the world before me as a pair of discarded jeans: worth mending, even at a cost. We cannot just throw it all out. We have to mend, repair, and learn the value behind the price tag -- for ourselves, each other, and our Levi's. Every pair has a story.
The story of me can be reduced to this:
I find wonder in the forgotten.
I value the lives of makers and crafts people the world over.
Everything for me is political - because policies affect humans, and humans deserve justice and equality.
I am working on my allyship as an intersectional feminist and believe that Black Lives Matter. I want this to be a part of my daily life. I want to have the energy to be helpful to the causes I believe in. Hustling burns us out and holds us back.
Everything stopped in 2020, and it gave me the opportunity to refocus my energy in to things I believe in. For THIS I am grateful.
Saturday, I open my new Instagram shop and I have hope:
I hope I bring pieces of beauty into peoples’ lives, the world over.
I hope I show my value and ethics in the time i spend repairing forgotten things.
I hope I continue to find the courage to tell real stories, because La Dolce Vita is just a movie, and our realities are bitter sweet.
May the clarity brought in 2020 stay with me forever.
May we all shop with our hearts in the coming years.
Désirée Marie Townley
A native Oregonian, Désirée is currently living in Rome, Italy. She started working as a Costumer and Makeup artist in the Opera and Theater industry after receiving her degree in Dance in 2008. Work offered her the opportunity to travel beginning in 2009 and she hasn't stopped since. Everywhere Désirée goes, she seeks out artists and crafts people as a means to understand new cultures. Through their art and their voices, she finds stories worth telling.