Monday Muse: Zack McDowell

Inspired, motivated, encouraged and influenced by today's Monday Muse, Mr. Zack McDowell. Zack speaks on his life and artistic career with intelligence, passion and heart--you'll quickly realize why he was a clear choice for our blog today. 

Hey Zack! What kind of artist do you consider yourself to be? 

I’m a director, a photographer and I run a small production company, the DUGUD Lab. I have found running a business takes a certain caliber of creativity. I work mainly on fashion and commercial projects that center simplicity and color. (Some of the brands they've worked with include Dell, DSW, Gore Apparel, Helzburg Diamonds, Home Depot, JCPenny, Mary Kay, Neiman Marcus, Raising Canes, TJ Maxx, Vera Bradley, and ESPEROS!)

Have you always considered yourself an artist? 

Honestly, I never made a conscious decision to be an artist. Growing up in a creative household, I remember waking up early on Saturday mornings to draw birds in our backyard or going for long hikes to shoot and develop prints. Creating art has always been a part of my life in very big ways. Even when I started to make a living as an artist, it took me a couple of years to realize there is artistry to the ads that I create. To me, it just felt like an extension of who I am.

How did you get your start? 

While I wasn’t born with a camera in my hand; I did grow up on set. My mom is a talented hair and makeup artist and I was a child model. Over the years I had opportunities to transition from in front of the camera to behind. I’m really thankful to the many great photographers who took the time to show me how to properly expose an image or how to do some cool trick on Photoshop. At a very young age I was able to gain the tools for what would later build my career. 





Where are you from? Where do you live now?

A year ago, I made the big move to New York from Dallas. It's been one of the most fulfilling adventures I've ever been on.  

What inspires you? 

One of my favorite things to do in New York is walk around, taking in the sights of the city and the people that fill it. I've always been interested in people--learning their stories and what makes them tick. Whether it's the 80-year-old woman with pink hair at the bodega or the man singing on the subway, it inspires me and makes me want to tell stories that compliment the lives of those around me.  

What do you like most about your ESPEROS backpack?

Living in a transient city, this backpack is essential. I like the textured canvas and the pop of color it adds to my mostly black, white, and gray wardrobe. I also like the well thought out pockets and dividers. I can throw my camera in, pull the drawstring, and know that my stuff is secure.

What does our slogan "carry hope" mean to you?

I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world and no matter where I go there always seems to be an underlying message of hope. During my trips I have seen how different people deal with the concept of faith. Some carry it, while others struggle with it due to circumstances. In developing countries where access to education may be limited or hard to obtain I've found that when we do the diligent work of listening to a community's needs and support them – we all flourish. Each time I see the message on my backpack I'm reminded to carry a better future for myself and the communities that ESPEROS supports.

Why do you think education is important? Do you think it always comes in the form of formal training? 

Education is extremely important. I've always been of the mindset that if you don't learn things formally, you'll figure them out in the real world -- which isn't always easy. I was never really good at school. I didn't understand why teachers gave you standardized tests to gauge things the world is never going to offer in the form of multiple choice. I took a lot of online courses, studied under people who were better than me, and took in any opportunity to practice the skills and knowledge I have today. I'm proud of my non-traditional education.

Do you have any hobbies, talents, near death experiences?

In my free time I enjoy painting portraits of important people in my life. I’ll find a picture of a moment that I really enjoyed and I’ll interrupt it on a canvas. It's time consuming so I don't find myself doing it too often but when I do I find that it’s a good way to reflect on a moment and the time that I spent with that person. 

Favorite song you are listening to? 

Ah! That is such a hard question. Music is part of my daily ritual. Whether it’s for a photo shoot or just walking down the street, every moment has it’s own song and artist. There are a few songs that years later I still can’t seem to take off my playlist:

“Tulips” (Club Version) by Bloc Party
“Humming Bird” by Alex Clare
“Blueberry Pancakes” by Fink
“One Day They’ll Know“ (Odesza Remix) by Pretty Lights


Now, a free-bee! Tell us whatever you would like our audience to know...

I have found that creativity is something that has to be practiced. It’s a culture that you surround yourself with and a ritual of exposing yourself to things that expand your horizons. I’m in the process of launching a new production company in New York City and I couldn’t be more excited for the platform that we are creating. We are constantly working with thrilling clients and looking for new creative endeavors. You can always follow our journey on Instagram (@dugudlab) or at our website (

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Zack - you're a rad one. In an industry where it is easy to let your work speak for itself, thank you for sharing with us the things you believe in. Your words on education, people and seeking adventure are pure gold!

You guys can follow Zack on Instagram @zackmcdowell or check out his Facebook page, Zack McDowell -- keep an eye out for his latest project with JC Penny


Written by Grace Mueller
Spring 2015 Intern

Friendly Friday: #loveisproject

What is LOVE? If you asked even 10 people that question, you would get a multitude of answers. Love can be something you yearn for, something you already possess, something you do or something you receive. We don't know the answer, because there is no right or wrong answer to this question. But wouldn't it be powerful to know what others think about love around the world? 

 In 2014, LIFE Line and The Supply Change collaborated on a project to explore just that. Traveling around the world with a single LOVE Bracelet, turning strangers into friends, and documenting how love connects us all, the story took flight and resonated in people’s hearts. They created the #loveisproject, an Indiegogo campaign that raised money to put the LOVE Bracelet into production and provide jobs for Maasai women in Kenya, where LIFE Line works with over 400 mums.

 #loveisproject: the art of love in motion across the world 


These bracelets, made by women in Kenya, provide employment for women and their families to lift themselves out of poverty. They create community, connecting the makers and the wearers around the world with a common purpose, and raise awareness, creating a powerful community of activators who are spreading love with people across the world. 


The campaign was a huge success, raising almost $30K beyond the initial goal of $5,000, gaining support from fans like Sadie Robertson, Shay Mitchell, and Tori Kelly, and eventually top fashion retailer, American Eagle Outfitters. LOVE Bracelets are now sold online and in-store through American Eagle, and supporters are joining the conversation, sharing their own definitions of love with the #loveisproject tag on Instagram

For more information, including stories of impact from the incredible women who crafted the LOVE Bracelets and how to join the #loveisproject community, check out the LIFE Line Blog. Check out their Mother's Day promotion (Mom's Day is in t-minus 9 days), or buy a bracelet through American Eagle here and think about the impact you are making on women across the globe, and their attempt to spread the love. 

How do you define LOVE? Let us know in the comments below.


Written by Grace Mueller
Spring 2015 Intern
*all photos courtesy of LIFE Line

Wildcard Wednesday: ESPEROS takes West Texas

If you're human, you were programed to get away every once in a while. Finding time to stop and breathe is not only good for the soul, it's absolutely necessary for our health and well being. As much as we (hopefully) love our jobs, and are passionate about what we do for a living - our bodies still need rest. Rest looks different for everyone, but for us rest means tucking away the cell phone for a day or two, getting in the car, and soaking in the beautiful state of Texas. 
...and the road trip begins! 

Austin, TX ⇢ Fredricksburg, TX ⇢ Marfa, TX
When in Marfa, check out Cobra Rock Boot Company (seen in far left picture) - the coolest shoes west of the Mississippi. 


Marfa, TX ⇢ Big Bend National Park 


Moral of the story: find time to put your phone down and do something that gives you life. You won't regret it. 


*photos by the amazingly talented Aubrey Closson

Written by Grace Mueller

Spring 2015 Intern



Monday Muse: Aaron Vazquez

Aaron Vazquez: artist, creator, filmmaker, and today's Monday Muse inspiration.


Aaron has directed a variety of projects including the BKLYN1834 Collaboration, Deux North, Six Sisters (Written by Thom Browne, Narrated by Diane Keaton), Mizaru and music videos for artists such as Pharoahe Monch, Foe Destroyer, denetia and sene, Little Simz, Live Footage, and Ro James

Simply by reading this interview, it will quickly become apparent to you how passionate Aaron is about what he does. His work breathes talent and excitement and a true love for art--he gets as jazzed about education as we do, and he's got jokes too! 

Aaron with his Poppins Schoolyard Backpack in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

Are you an artists? If so what kind?

I am a filmmaker. 

Have you always considered yourself an artist? 

I haven’t until less than a year ago! I started making music videos for a couple of friends a few years ago with a camera my best friend bought me. I always considered what I did as an enhancement to the existing art, but never as art itself. I’ve had a lot of self-worth issues early on--I saw other directors, with connections, with film school education, and got down on myself for not being at that level. I was also the only person around my friends who did video, so I felt like I was the default director, not because I was good, but because I was there. After making videos for a few years, getting more experience, I became really comfortable with artists. I have a solid handle on how to do a good job making a music video. But now, I want to make visual pieces that transcend. 

What does our slogan "carry hope" mean to you?

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. Shawshank. 

What do you like most about your ESPEROS backpack?

I always feel like backpacks never have enough pockets. Little things need their place too. I can store little things like notebooks, batteries, or lighters in this bag and not have to dig for them at the bottom of big pockets.

What inspires you? 

People, I suppose. People who are trying to bring everyone together. People who have self-love. People who give others love. People who are passionate and sacrifice to pursue that passion. People who can make others laugh. Kendrick, Kanye, Seinfeld, Fey, Nolan, Trash, Nabil, those are all people who inspire me. 

Do you have any hobbies, talents, near death experiences?

My hobby is photography. I don’t think I’m talented enough to make a living on it, but I do want to keep doing it as I get better with film. 

One time, my buddies and I were rear ended by a drunk driver on the FDR. He tried to drive away, and I jumped in front of his car hoping I had the strength to stop him. After he pushed me 20 feet into the highway, I decided to jump out of the way and not be run over. I had done like 50 push ups earlier that day so, you know.

Ha! Yeah..we totally know...
Where are you from? Where do you live now?

I was born in Austin, TX but went back and forth between Austin and Mexico until I was 15. I moved to Brooklyn in 2012 when I was 24 years old. 

Why do you think education is important? Do you think it always comes in the form of formal training? 

I could go on and on about this. Education is important. Keeping our brains active and finding new things to learn is important to humanity. However, not everyone learns the same. Not everyone has the capacity to learn each subject at the same pace. I feel like “education” has become a political talking point, but they don’t actually care about the overall environment and culture in education from top to bottom. I hope every kid, and every adult is trying to learn a little bit more each day (with or without a teacher) because they value learning.

Is there a song you can't stop listening to?

Alright, I got a few...

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (The entire album)

Jack + Eliza - Floodlights

novellus - talkback

PartyNextDoor - Wednesday Night Interlude

Saint Ballantine - Fashionably Late

Where can we follow you? 

Tumblr - 

Insta/twitter/vsco/steller - @aaronisnotcool 

Side note: though Aaron's humble demeanor led him to create social media handles that state how he is "not cool" -- be fully aware that this is reverse psychology. Aaron is actually very cool. Believe us. Or, go to to find out for yourself if Aaron is really cool or not. Comment your findings below!

Thanks for taking your time to share your story with us, Aaron. Any lover of Shawshank is a friend of ours! We always love to see the different ways that people around the world like to carry hope, its the source of our inspiration - and certainly makes Mondays a little easier.

How do you carry hope?
We would love to know how you, our readers, carry hope as well. Comment what carry hope means to you, or shoot us a message on Facebook. Happy Monday, y'all!


Written by Grace Mueller

Spring 2015 Intern

Friendly Friday: Teysha

Behind every person, every company, every product—there is a story. Stories of success, failure, disappointment, joy, hard work, and adventure, these stories shape us into the beings that we are and bring life to the products that we purchase. Yep, I said it, stories bring life to products - and I fully believe that! One of the things I love about companies who seek to change the world, is that every product has an ongoing story. With ESPEROS, the story unfolds the second you buy a bag. When you carry an ESPEROS bag you carry hope, knowing that the money from your purchase gets us one step closer making sure every child has access to quality education in the world. 

Other times, if you're lucky, the story begins even before the purchase of a product—like with our friends over at Teysha

Each one of Teysha’s beautifully detailed, hand crafted boots are made outside of Antigua, Guatemala by artisans who bring their own traditions, designs, and systems into the art of boot making. Starting with the fundamental fabric materials, all the way to the finished product, Teysha shoes are all locally and regionally sourced. From the leather made by a local woman-owned business, to shoe laces, eyelets, labels, brands and textiles, your Teysha shoes will travel through the hands of at least a dozen Guatemalans before they reach your feet! Talk about a product that has a STORY, each shoe is a chain reaction of empowerment in itself. 


Teysha shoes are socially responsible, ethically made, and look good. They have custom boots, sandals, hats, belts, even pillows - all made by their friends in Guatemala and brought to the United States. 

Your Guate Boots come with a tag, signed by the artisan who worked directly on your pair. I would challenge you to take this name a step further and inquire to know about the artisans life. It can be incredibly rewarding to personalize the face behind your product, and know the difference you are making in someone's life across the globe. You can match the artisan's name with their story on the Teysha webpage here.

Companies like Teysha don't merely exist to sell a product, because a shoe on its own is no different from the million other pair of boots you could buy down the street. It's the story of freedom and empowerment behind the product that breathes life and propels us to be apart of the change. Carry their story with you as you wear a pair of Teysha shoes--be apart of the change. 


Written by Grace Mueller

Spring 2015 Intern 

Wildcard Wednesday: Change in Cambodia

Last Saturday, Austin's Harvest Mission Community Church hosted an event called Liberty Cafe, where we got to be apart of some pretty cool change that’s benefiting people all the way in Cambodia.

Thanks to Allyson Szatny for her recap of the night! 

"Sound of Hope for the first time. It was a night of music, food, socializing, and community art. Their main goal was to raise donations for XP Missions in Cambodia, who are currently fighting child trafficking and providing care for those rescued. Local business ESPEROS bags jumped onboard and donated great products to sell for the cause! Their logo "Carry Hope" perfectly fit the shared vision of a better world for all children. The event successfully raised awareness and funds over $2,500! (still calculating this number) 100% of these funds will be sent overseas to support the amazing cause. The church is so encouraged by this true partnership!"




How incredible it is to be apart of something bigger than us. Safe wishes to those traveling to Cambodia, you are bolder than many. We can't wait to hear about the trip! 


Written by Grace Mueller

Spring 2015 Intern


Monday Muses: Lily Cummings

Today our muse is Lily Cummings, a phenomenal artist who's passion for photography radiates through every piece of her work. Lily has worked with some amazing publications including Catalogue Magazine, Remix Magazine, Oyster Magazine, Fashion Quarterly and Glassbook Magazine. She has also photographed some of the fashion industry's top models like Georgia Pratt, Ashley GrahamEleni Tsavousis, Jess King, and Inga Eiriksdottir. There will be zero questions why she is our inspiration for the day after reading her words--she is talented beyond her years and we have a feeling she will never stop creating masterpieces.

(Lily sitting with her Bourbon Classic Backpack)

Lily, what kind of artist are you?

I get nervous calling myself an artist. I am a photographer and filmmaker. Sometimes I am able capture the truth, other times I construct it.  

Where do you call home?

Brooklyn is my home, but I am a Mainer at heart. When people ask where I'm from, I can't help but always say Maine.

What gets you inspired?

Oh so many things! I am a bit manic, and my creativity is constantly being jolted by interesting and beautiful people, striking architecture, cinematic light. Sound is incredibly important to my interpretation of visuals and to my sense of interaction with an environment where I'm shooting. If I'm in a creative rut, I'll watch old movies from some of the more surrealist filmmakers such as Fellini, AntonioniChytilová...

What does "carry hope" mean to you?

I think it's about holding on to positive energy and passing it along from one person to the next. Keeping the good juju flowing, in all of its manifestations. 

Who inspires you? 

The amazing people that I photograph. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful it is to have a conversation with the characters that come through my door and then get to take their photograph. There is such a level of trust and responsibility. I am in awe of how beautiful and interesting some of these people have been. Their insights broaden my scope on humanity, and I am constantly being pushed to test my own beliefs and engage on a completely honest level.

Is education important? Do you think it always comes in the form of formal training?

Education is such a broad term. Education through experience--absolutely. Formal training is important when you are using expensive and complicated tools. But everything I know specifically about digital photography has been mostly self-taught. Then again, I would love to learn more and that might come from a class or two. To each his or her own, I suppose. 

Hobbies, random talents, near dead experiences?

I try to travel as much as possible, and I often travel alone. The quiet solitude of standing alone in the middle of somewhere vast and unknown brings me a sense of spirituality I often have trouble connecting to in my daily life. Because I feel like I'm working 24/7, I often don't take the time to reflect on how far I've come and where I'm going. 

The first moment I truly felt a sense of success was at the end of a trip to Europe last fall. I had a layover in Oslo so I decided to take the train into the city and found myself standing at the top of the Opera House at sunset. It was cold. Very very cold. And the wind whipped my hair all over the place and threw my scarf into the air. Incredibly dramatic save that I was all alone. The stone steps were icy and there were not many who bothered make their way to the top. 

As I stood there, I had an overwhelming sense of calm and gratitude. With hard work and large doses of luck, I'd found myself in this quiet moment, in this beautiful place, and I was incredibly happy. Not a near-death experience. But certainly an, "If I died now, it would be okay" kind of moment. 

(Lily in her Brooklyn studio with her Bourbon Classic Backpack)

Lily will have a book coming out this fall entitled "The Women in My Room". You should follow her work at, and her on Instagram @lililand


~ Happy Monday, everyone! ~


Written by Grace Mueller

Spring 2015 Intern

Friendly Friday: The Little Market

there were two girls named Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla who both had a fiery passion for improving the lives of women. They traveled to El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, Tanzania, and Uganda—all over the globe—and dreamt about how they could support the highly talented artisan women they met along their journey. Women who were designing magnificent treasures, but simply lacked a thriving market to sell their incredible products in. They needed some type of space where they could sell their goods to large numbers of people, and the Little Market was born!

Lauren and Hannah co-founded the Little Market a little over a year ago to create a gathering place for the community to support artisans around the world who were creating unique treasures that deserved to be shared. The Little Market operates as a social enterprise, combining business and social justice to maximize social /economic impact on partnering artisans and their communities. Through community development, employing women under fair trade principles and fair wages, providing a safe workplace and healthy working environments for the artisans, the Little Market has profoundly made a sustainable impact on little markets and real people all over the world.

From accessories, to baskets, to blankets, candles and other home decor — its the socially conscious store that never ends, in the best way. Whatever the occasion (*mothers day soon*), this is your fair trade one-stop-shop.

Check out their Instagram here, or head over to their blog to see what the Little Market is up to throughout the week. There are hundreds of unseen, little markets across the globe, waiting to be discovered--discover them through The Little Market.

 Written by Grace Mueller

Spring 2015 Intern 

Wildcard Wednesday: What ESPEROS is Made Of

As the common saying goes: if you can't pronounce it - it’s probably harmful. At ESPEROS, we not only value products that are made ethically, but also products that are made without any harmful dies, materials or substances. So, those 4-aminodiphenyl, Benzidine, 4-chlor-o-toluidine, and p-chloranilin chemicals that you have been stressing about....worry no more! Our bags were tested arsenic, lead, silicon, aluminum and zirconium free. 



At the end of the day, this just means that we carefully craft our bags to be eco-friendly and as safe as possible. Made with military grade canvas material, we fashioned our bags to last the test of time, over and over again. It is important to us that you feel our bag is protecting your health while also providing education to kids who need it most. So rest easy at night, knowing that those Xylidine chemicals aren't following you around; your ESPEROS bag is made with healthy, safe and high quality materials! 





Written by Grace Mueller

Spring Intern 2015

Monday Muses: Malia Grace Mau

Today we are inspired by artist Malia Grace Mau! Malia has been in the jewelry making business for quite some time now, collecting beads and creating pieces from her mom's vintage jewelry since she was 12 years old. Each piece of her jewelry is carved by hand and made from recycled metal in Los Angeles. You might recognize Malia's work from our previous blog post on Jessica Mau! (Yes, they are sisters and yes, they are the coolest sisters around).

M. Grace Jewelry 

Hey Malia. Lets start simple: what kind of artist are you?

I am a jewelry designer. I carve little sculptures out of wax. I would say that is my art at the moment!

Where do you call home?
I call Topanga canyon and the north shore of Kauai home. Me and my boyfriend travel back and forth between the two places.



What gets you inspired?

I get inspired by nature, rock formations, plants,the desert, mountains etc. I also get inspired by crafts done in the old way. Textiles, pottery, block printing, jewelry making to name a few. 

What does "carry hope" mean to you?

To me when I hear "carry hope" I think about an idea spreading from one person to the next, influencing people in a positive way.

Who inspires you? 

I am inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe at the moment. 

Is education important? Do you think it always comes in the form of formal training?

I think education is very important but I don't believe it has to come in the traditional/ formal sense in a classroom. I think you can learn by traveling, by watching your elders and by experience. Also by not being afraid to take risks and falling and getting back up again. 

Favorite ESPEROS bag? 

I love the khaki classic back pack in yellow! 

Hobbies, random talents, near death experiences?

Some hobbies of mine are vintage hunting, interior design, cooking, rock collecting, learning about herbs and animal spirit cards!




Check out Malia's incredible jewelry at, and follow her for more inspiration @mgracejewelry

In the meantime, have a happy Mau Mustache Monday : ) 


Written by Grace Mueller

Spring Intern 2015