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Having been immersed in the cannabis reform movement and culture for nearly two decades, I’ve seen the gamut of stoner “fashion”. A lot of the pieces are really linear and well, boring. A few exceptions in my collection (which are leaning towards being vintage by now), would be a heart with cannabis leaf and RX symbol lapel pin from Is My Medicine Legal Yet (IMMLY), a Prop 215 medical cross and leaf, my gold toned NORML leaf, and Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey state shaped pin with a leaf inside a white medical cross and yes, a 24k gold dipped Japanese maple leaf I got for a $1 at a flea market (score!). All that being said, and though I am proud to wear these pieces, most feel like work badges. I wanted to find something fun and complex, sophisticated and delightful to wear to social events. When I found Smokies Toke Couture on Etsy, I was ecstatic. Finally, I found my treasure box of Ladybud-approved jewelry that has a really flexible array of prices. Designer Pilar‘s pieces are absolutely wonderful (feathers! crystals! pink resin roses! steampunk!) but let’s allow her to tell us more (I really could go on…and on…and on!). <3 Diane
Ladybud Magazine: Why did you decide to make these beautiful fascinators and other accessories with a cannabis motif?
Pilar Johnson: Thank you for saying that they are beautiful. I have been a long time digital artist, but over the last few years I have been creating fascinators (head pieces and small hats) for brides, and have worked a lot with feathers and vintage jewelry materials. After so many years of working at a computer, I have enjoyed getting back to doing more tactile work, which I did when I was younger. I used to make and sell jewelry when I was in college, and worked with pencils, paints, clay, and other materials.
I really started this business to make pieces for myself. I love fashion and trends, and was looking online for cannabis accessories and clothing for women, and was really not finding much out there that suited my style. Most of it was geared towards men, or was poor quality. I started experimenting with cutting feathers, and realized that I could craft a fairly realistic cannabis leaf from them. With a lot of trial and error, I came up with a design that works well for a fascinator.
The Emerald Queen was my first design, and I thought it was both beautiful and yet somewhat funny to elevate marijuana accessories to a high fashion (haute couture) level. I wondered if I was the only woman around who would appreciate something that was elegant and cannabis-themed. I thought it would be worth posting some items on etsy and see if anyone responded to them. I soon started making sales, so I must have done something right.
As time has gone on, I don’t really think of my cannabis designs as being so amusing, instead I think of them as being more of a great option for smokers who want to show their pride in a sophisticated or intelligent way. A collector of Smokies Toke Couture can wear a well crafted accessory that just happens to be cannabis themed. My hope is also that my brand is a good resource for someone who wants to wear something special to a party or event.
LB: What’s your take on cannabis legalization?
PJ: I actually did a speech on this for a public speaking class I was taking last year in night school. It was called “Why Medical Marijuana Needs to be Legal on the Federal Level”. I think cannabis should be legal medically and recreationally. So much money has been wasted on the war on drugs, which is obviously not working. But more importantly, people are being arrested for what I would consider to be a “victimless crime”, and the disconnect between the states and the federal government has caused a lot heartache for many families and small businesses.
It bothers me that it is socially acceptable to drink a glass of wine at a party or work function, but if you want to smoke marijuana because that is your drug of choice, that is not OK. Many users feel they have to hide it because of legal issues or the stigma attached to using cannabis. I think if it was legalized a lot of this stigma would go away, and there would be more acceptance around using it.
Also, if it were legalized, there would be more thorough medical testing to reveal its potential, which I think would be beneficial for everyone. It is insane that medical cannabis is frowned upon by many folks (because of outdated / inaccurate ideas of who uses it and why), and yet it is acceptable to take FDA approved medicines that kill thousands of people each year, many which are proven to have horrible side effects.
LB: What’s the reception been like from the new customers?
PJ: It has been very positive. Many women have told me that they have been looking for something like this, but that it didn’t exist. It has been an honor to have customers tell me they are buying my pieces for a special event, such as going to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, or for speaking at a NORML conference. I feel really grateful that my pieces have been received like that, because when I first made them, I wasn’t sure if people might think I was making fun of the plant, or think my designs were silly.
LB: What are your plans for your company in the future?
PJ: I have so many ideas! One of the biggest challenges is finding nice cannabis charms and pieces to incorporate into my designs. I am in the process of designing some of my own pendants and charms what will be laser cut from my own illustrations. There is a shop in San Francisco where I can take my designs and fabricate them into many materials.
Over the next year, I plan get more into apparel, and I have several t-shirt designs that I want to silkscreen. Many of these will be female-centric, though I plan also to create some unisex designs. Also I am currently designing some medical marijuana themed pieces, which will have a percentage of sales going back to advocacy organizations. I also plan to create some house wares, printed paper goods, and men’s accessories.
LB: Do you do wholesale?
PJ: Yes I do, I am currently reaching out to several boutiques and dispensaries to partner with. I welcome any new opportunities (if anyone out there is interested in carrying my line). I am ideally looking to work with retailers who are seeking something unique and well made.
LB: Where else can your products be found?
PJ: Right now, my work can be found at www.smokiessf.com, which currently redirects to my etsy shop. In the future customers will be able to purchase pieces from my site, and learn a bit more about me and my process.
I’d also like to add that on my facebook page, I post new products as well as have giveaways and coupons, so it is worth liking me there if you are a fan. Since many of my items are limited edition, you can see them here first before they get snapped up. I also post some cannabis news on this page as well.
LB: Who would you love to see wearing your creations?
PJ: Seeing ladies such as yourself wearing my designs is a thrill. Honestly, I am honored for anyone to choose to wear my pieces, and would be happy to see someone on the street or at a party wearing Smokies Toke Couture. Some ladies I’d love to see wearing my stuff would be Dale Sky Jones, Lady Gaga, or Sarah Silverman. I haven’t yet made any men’s products, but when I do I’d love to make something for the guys In Tenacious D, or Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center, who has a very cool personal style.
LB: What’s your favorite piece in the collection?