A Merch Line that Doesn’t Suck. A merch line that is more than just merch. Your weird is welcome here.
Why does photography business owner need branded merch? In short, they don’t.
But I wanted one. And here is the why behind all of it.
My clothing and style are one of the many ways I choose to express myself. I love thrifting old pieces and making them new. I love investing in high-quality clothes that will stand the test of time. But, there were a few items I could never really seem to find, so I made my own.
We nailed it friends. With the exception of the jerseys + hats all pieces are 100% US Grown Cotton and manufactured in the US. The manufacturing company pays their workers living wages, gives them 401ks, paid time off and health insurance.
Each design was incredibly intentional from start to finish. I had two incredible humans helping me through this process who deserve all the glory for dealing with my indecisive ass.
Now you’ve heard the why behind the Merch launch as a whole, but remember when I said each piece was intentional? Well like Law + Order SVU, These pieces were brought to you by an elite squad known as the F+L Merch Team. These are their stories. DUN DUN.
When I was in school, I guess you could say I was “popular adjacent”? I got invited to parties, I was an athlete-ish, and was at all of the high school football games. But, I never really felt like I fit in all the way. So, as any high school girl in the 2000s would do, I molded myself into a box to be more likable. However, one day I let myself tip-toe out of that box and wore neon yellow and teal slip-on vans. (Back then, the “popular kids” were NOT wearing vans) I got called “weird” and “freak” multiple times that day for wearing those. I went straight home and put them in the deep depths of my closet and never looked at them again.
The “Weirdo” merch is for the 2008 version of Aja. The one who tried to hide her uniqueness when it made others uncomfortable. Now, I’ve given her clothing to wear her weird as a badge of honor, the accessory she reaches for first instead of something that needs to be shoved in the back of the closet. Something she’s proud to wear.
The Rest is the Work story behind this Half zip is on my Instagram. (click here to read the post) But there is a bit more to the story.
The Rest Day Half Zip is for the 2018 version of Aja.
When I had just started my photography business and at the same time, was working full-time running a 24hr fitness facility. I was serving clients on both sides, but had completely forgotten to serve myself. I have what is called Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease that flares up (for me) during times of high stress. On Christmas day, 2018 the worst flare of my life started. But I tried to ignore it, because “busy season for the gym is almost here”….
Rapidly losing weight, neglecting all meaning of the words “self care” and burning the candle at both ends, I quickly landed myself in the hospital complete with a 5-day quarantine and a threat of having surgery to remove my large intestine. I even remember WORKING from my hospital bed.
I promised myself I would never let that happen again.
“The rest is the work, hunnie” is a constant mantra to make sure I never get back to that hospital bed.
A wonderful magical human named Kimi Morton taught me this phrase. She and my friend Courtney were my gateway drugs to feeling good and living my life FOR ME first. Having other independent, successful women show me that resting can actually lead to MORE productivity, was the permission I needed to sit the fuck down for a second and just BE.
My hope for you every time you wear yours is that you remember you’re allowed to rest, it is not earned and your worth is not determined by the number of hours you work a week.
French Fries This shirt was an unexpected one, but when Walker, my incredible graphic designer, showed me the first rendering of this design, I knew I had to have it.
This shirt is for 2011-2016ish Aja. The “gym bro” Aja. The “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” Aja. Big Yikes.
I used to work out for the wrong reasons. Restricting calories, restricting fun, restricting LIVING. French fries were something that I would need to earn by working out, or worse… workouts felt like a punishment BECAUSE I ate french fries (or other “unhealthy” foods). I had this inner narrative that bad food = bad human = bad gym manager.
This vicious cycle continued until I realized I was missing out on so much life. Yet another box I broke myself out of. Once I let go of the “skinny” mindset and started looking towards the “healthy” mindset, everything changed. Working out is no longer a punishment and eating is no longer something that needs to be earned. They both coexist in perfect balance with one another, not allowing one to control the other.
So with this shirt, you can have your fries and eat them too.
Last, but absolutely not least. This phrase is on multiple pieces of merch and is the first thing you see when you enter my website. This is for every version of Aja who felt like she didn’t fit in. For every Aja who felt like she had to be a certain type of person to succeed. For every version of Aja who made herself smaller to make people more comfortable. But most importantly, this is for present-day Aja to scream out to the world.
Over on my side of the rainbow, “weird” is now a compliment.
A reminder that your special kind of “weird” is what makes you so freaking powerful and amazing.
A reminder that you can do whatever the hell you want to do, so long as you’re not hurting anyone.
A reminder that you are ALWAYS welcome here, no matter what. Any skin tone, gender, religion, ability or who you choose to love.
Your “ weird ” is always and forever, welcome here.
Shop this merch here!
Ready to embrace your weird in a photoshoot? Inquire here!