Jen McCabe

Jen McCabe's blog Honey Kennedy attracts thousands of followers around the world with its focus on classic design finds. (McCabe's taste runs to the likes of Colenimo's Fall/Winter line, with its natural fabrics and clean shapes, and sustainable fashion made of durable materials, like Caravan Pacific's metal hair ties.) A few years after moving to Portland, McCabe quit OregonLive.com, the Oregonian's website, in 2011 to pursue a full-time blogging career. We tracked her down to learn more.

What's the first thing we should know about you and Honey Kennedy? My goal is to highlight small businesses and things made by hand. Corporate brands get enough attention. My interest lies in talking about small businesses that produce beautifully made goods, like Portland's own Seaworthy Jewelry or Adam Arnold Apparel.

You have readers all over the world. Where's your largest fan base? Most of my readers are in the United States, but I’m lucky to have thousands of readers daily from all over the world. Portland is the top city, of course. Other cities where a lot of my readers reside are New York, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Paris, Sydney and Melbourne.

How'd you attract that worldly following? I get a lot of emails from new bloggers asking me how to do what I've done. All I can really say is that I worked really hard—way over 40 hours a week. Reader trust is crucial. Over time, people find your blog and begin to trust you for sticking to your beliefs. I've never strayed from the core purpose of the blog, which is my personal design aesthetic. I get offers to post things for money, but I don't do that. For example, I'm adamant about not posting things that are polyester or synthetic fabric. My readers know that I'm more about sustainable fabrics and natural fibers. Staying true to what I enjoy builds that trust with readers.

Can you pick three pieces you featured recently and walk us through why you chose them?

  • I love holding fun giveaways with small shops and makers. I recently held one with Portland’s Alima Pure for cruelty-free natural mineral cosmetics. Their colors blend beautifully and can be easily layer. Plus, they feel good on your skin, and these folks have a big heart.
  • Evens is a line by Austin-based designer Kate dePara. I love Kate’s simple shapes and the stunning treatments she creates by hand for the linen and silk fabrics she uses for her garments.
  • I love the recent lookbook from Bridge & Burn by Portland designer Erik Prowell. It’s such a traditional Northwest vibe without looking the least bit schlumpy. Cara Denison’s photos are great and Casey Keasler’s styling is fantastic. I also love that they used a vintage Pendleton blanket and locally made Mazama Wares’ mugs.

How does Portland's design scene compare to what you see elsewhere? The supportive community here in Portland helps make designers feel more confident in setting up shop, building an online presence and getting their designs out there. That is amazingly inspiring and with social media, depending on how savvy the designer, you get to see the whole beautiful process and the evolution of their aesthetic.

Many designers in Portland have a strong handle on organizing, executing and producing wonderful lookbooks for their collections, but I would love to see more of that. I feel like not everyone understands the importance of consistent, thoughtful styling and great professional photographs. We live in a very visual world. Even the same designs look fresh and exciting with a new perspective and lookbook. I also love seeing design collaborations from likeminded people who are good at their craft — even if they don’t live in the same city!

Where do you look for aesthetic inspiration and ideas? I love sitting with an actual magazine, like The Gentlewoman or Wilder Quarterly, putting away the computer, and drinking some coffee while I read. I find it very inspiring to take a break from the computer. I like the big issues of import magazines. A lot of the design blogs that I read are more interior-design focused. I don't find a lot of the fashion stuff online.

What's one idea you see trending elsewhere that you want to see more of in Portland? I’m really into beautiful linen and washed silk garments in simple shapest. More classic tailoring, special details and finishing would be wonderful to see. For instance, the French seem can make a simple top feel so much more special. Also, more hand-dyed textiles! Less jersey garments and polar fleece, please.

Honey Kennedy is named after your grandmother. Can you tell me about her? We were very close. Unfortunately she passed away years ago. She influenced my love of classic design, and the idea of buying things that last. She would find the perfect pieces of housewares and clothing instead of just making impulse purchases. She was a very generous person who had a lot of personality. She had a reputation for being a firecracker, a very opinionated and outspoken woman. She loved to travel and she loved classic design. She's just been a constant inspiration to my life.

Were you always into fashion and design, or did you stumble upon this passion later in life? Always. Like I said, my grandmother was big influence. I also had an aunt and other family members and friends who inspired me. We would cut up fashion magazines and make collages. I went through a stage where I tried to sew my own clothes before I realized I was not very good at it. We would throw fashion shows for our family or try to recreate fashion magazine photos.

Every other Tuesday: Home and garden ideas, fashion trends, stories, and images from Portland's rich design scenes. (See an example!)