The harly jae muse is our written offering which brings to you the life and stories of the intentional women who wear our clothes. We want to share with you who they are, what their influences are and what their deepest hopes & dreams are made of.
Phaedra Cassidy wears many hats, both literally and figuratively. She is the owner and stylist behind LE HARVEST, a one-stop online shop for vintage clothing, home decor & artisan made goods as well as personal styling services. She is also the homeowner of Mojave Moonlight Ranch, an exquisitely decorated Airbnb located in Joshua Tree, California.
We got to know her so much more than we expected during the following interview. From her morning rituals, to who she was as a child, and her words of wisdom for the next generation, we totally fell in love with her enlightened soul.
1. First, take us back to where it all started. What memories from your childhood are integral to who you are & what you do today?
This is a really funny question because I often hear that as children we already know our life path, or “dharma”, as it is called in India. It is often what we do in childhood that ends up being our biggest passion later on in life. For me, this turned out to be the case. I was literally obsessed with fashion and interior decorating when I was a child. I remember having this fashion plates stencil game where I could mix and match outfits and use crayons or colored pencils to etch them onto paper. I was styling and I didn’t even realize it!
I was always trying new things with my outfits. My Mum often tells me stories of how I would take out my shoelaces and re-lace them sideways, or take my scrunchies and tie my shirt up with them before that was even a trendy thing to do. I definitely got picked on a lot for being a “weirdo”. At one point, I was wearing homemade bell bottoms that my Mum had sewn for me when all of the other kids were wearing gap leggings.
I think I’ve just loved expressing myself and beautifying things ever since I was small. I used to change the theme of my bedroom often and I would go all-out with the decorating. My Mum and I would thrift furniture to re-purpose and paint. I was pretty obsessed with the 60’s & 70’s for most of my childhood. I had disco parties where my neighbors would DJ and we had ALL of the accoutrements: disco balls, strobe lights, lava lamps, glow-in-the-dark stars, and blue light art. That was definitely my favorite phase.
2. We love your clean, neutral and minimal aesthetic. Were you always drawn to this palette? Walk us through your style’s evolution.
Thank you! I would definitely say that I have always been drawn to minimalism. I have been a long-time believer in the Japanese principal of “Ma”, which basically means “spaciousness”. I think there is a reason why art is placed on empty, white walls. Space makes art; music and interiors really POP!
Even when I was in my “black phase”, wearing mostly black clothing, I was still very into Japanese aesthetics & preferred a clean, yet "wabi-sabi", look. It took me a while to learn that dark colors really didn’t work for me, so here I am on the other side of the fence in neutrals. I think the neutrals are really just a natural evolution of my life though. The light colors to me do something to my psyche. Every time someone steps into our home, they tell me they instantly "feel zen". This was absolutely what I wanted.
Neutrals also really lend themselves to the desert climate. The same is true of my selection of fabrics; I tend to gravitate towards natural fibers like hemp, linen, cotton & silk. All of these materials are lightweight and breathable.
3. You got to experience firsthand how damaging to our environment & people the fashion industry truly is. What was the turning point for you?
I think the turning point for me was at a time in my life when I was at a crossroads in my career. I had this job that was a really amazing job, but my values didn’t feel in alignment with those of the people surrounding me. I started feeling frustrated with the toxicity of the fashion industry around that time. I started to learn more about the shadow side of the fashion industry — how damaging it is to our environment and how poorly people are being treated in third world countries.
I remember watching a series of documentaries and hearing about the Dhaka garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, where over a thousand innocent workers were killed due to unjust working conditions. I finally said, “Enough is enough... I cannot participate in this anymore. I must do something to counter this”.
4. As a personal stylist, what is the one most important tip you would give to a woman wanting to make the switch to having an ethical closet?
I would say the one most important tip is to have a goal in mind while shopping. This will help eliminate unnecessary waste or save you from purchasing items that you end up not loving completely. It ultimately traces back to knowing your color palette, your favorite fabrics, and what cuts flatter you. Once you know what you like, it’s much easier to transition over to ethical fashion with laser-like focus.
5. At harly jae, we like to think of our lives as book divided in different chapters. What experiences are you learning from in this current chapter of your life, what are the lessons that you will take with you onto the next chapter?
My husband and I recently just bought a house so I would definitely say my current phase of life is all about getting rooted. I am learning so much about getting organized and being practical.
Another lesson I have been learning is to trust the timing of our life. I have had a few experiences in the past year that have really taught me the art of surrendering to life’s timing. I think both of these lessons will be carried into future chapter/s.
6. What does me time look like for you?
I try to start each day slowly and mindfully, which often looks like simple morning rituals. I usually wake up and make cacao or coffee and then head straight out back to our patio to soak up the morning sun as I sit with my mala beads and chant mantras. I usually burn some incense or palo santo and often pull some tarot cards & journal. I might stretch or do a bit of yoga. This ritual sets the pace for my entire day & I find that I need that anchoring before I begin a busy day, during which I usually don’t have much time for myself.
7. You live in beautiful Joshua Tree, California. In what ways do you believe the desertic landscape you are surrounded by influences you & the work you do?
I would definitely say the desert landscape influences all facets of my life, ranging from the home I have furnished to my shop and personal aesthetic. I truly believe there should be a direct cohesion between your style/aesthetic and your actual lifestyle. To me there needs to be some practicality to style. I guess that is the Virgo in me… Style and function.
8. You and your husband recently became Airbnb hosts. Tell us about this decision and experience. What has been the greatest surprise that has come with “welcoming strangers” into your home?
You know, overall, it has been such a fun experience. My husband and I have travelled a lot together and have had some amazing Airbnb experiences all over the world. We figured it would be an enriching experience to open up our home and share that with others who feel called to visit the desert. The connections we have made have already been so genuine. We have deep conversations and often end up with guests in our home who share our interests in astrology, spirituality, and other subjects, so there is never a shortage of topics to discuss!
9. What wisdom would you like to pass on to the next generation?
The wisdom I would like to pass on is to be curious. To always ask questions and never stop learning. To step outside and really look up at the sky. To recognize how small we truly are in the grand scheme of things. To let go of the ego and look back in time to more enlightened periods when tradition and culture was alive and well. I feel we have lost our way as a collective. We are so caught up in the progressive paradigm and fast-paced, modern way of life… I truly believe the closer we can get to our ancient past, the better off we will be individually and as a species. Oh, and don’t be afraid to explore your own consciousness. Use plant medicines! They are our biggest allies.
10. For fun, what is your favourite piece from our ss19 collection & how would you style it?
Definitely the Poésie top! I love high-waisted shorts and pants, and this is the perfect top I never knew I was missing. It works so nicely with wrap skirts too.
Have a look at LE HARVEST here where you can shop her mind & book personal styling services.