Stopping by with Rachelle Hruska MacPherson
During this extraordinary moment—of both pause and activism—we asked writers, musicians, curators, and innovators to reflect on the power and memory of language, shared spaces, and this moment in time.
Rachelle Hruska MacPherson is the founder of Lingua Franca, a sustainable New York City-based fashion brand known for their hand-embroidered cashmere sweaters. Through their products and collaborations, Lingua Franca has raised over $1 million for charities across the United States. Prior to starting Lingua Franca, Hruska MacPherson founded the website Guest of a Guest. In 2011, Fast Company named her one of the Most Influential Women in Technology.
What is the last thing you that moved you?
Lately I’ve been feeling so moved by real life New Yorkers in my community, taking care of each other and living together during these strange times. My son had a recent scare (he almost lost his finger in a door) which sent us to our local ER, Lenox Hill downtown. It was the same place we clapped outside of at 7pm all spring. It also happens to be part of the documentary on Netflix right now. It’s incredibly inspiring watching these humans sacrifice so much for strangers. It’s so moving!
What is a piece of art that changed your life?
Yoko Ono’s 1966 Conceptual “YES” art piece, shown first in London (and the first time John Lennon heard about her), has had a profound effect since I heard about it. I love the subtle encouragement to seek out the positive. There is so much negative out in the world, but you can learn to white that all out and just focus in on the positive. Find the yes.
What is a book you think everyone should read and a piece art everyone should encounter?
Letters to a Young Poet—a collection of ten letters written by Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) to Franz Xaver Kappus (1883–1966) is just fabulous material. I was gifted this book on my 30th birthday by a late and dear friend and love re-reading it and have also gifted it myself to others. The letters have beautiful digestible lines like "To love is also good, for love is hard" and "There is only one way. Go into yourself” from a poet that otherwise isn't so easily digestible. Written over 10 years...they provide inspiration and motivation!
What is your first memory of poetry?
I distinctly remember having to memorize “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost as a young girl in Nebraska. I also loved T.S. Eliot in college—measuring afternoons with coffee spoons!
The pandemic has emptied many public spaces (libraries, concert halls, museums, parks, transit systems, etc.). What space—and community—do you miss the most?
I miss long cozy dinners with friends right now, especially as the weather in New York City turns. It’s so strange not seeing shows on Broadway this holiday season. The afternoon movies in small artsy theatres, the school concerts, all of the holiday parties where you get to bump into old acquaintances and meet new strangers who may perhaps become old friends...I miss it all!
Public space is rife with words—signs, logos, advertisements. If you were to choose one poem or text to inscribe in a public place right now, what would that be? And where would you place it?
“Thank you” written out in every language. I would place it in as many places as possible. Gratitude is so necessary right now. It’s the only way to get through this together. Thank you everyone for being here with me, thank you for waking up and walking through this day with me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I also love this quote “The gift is in the wound.”
Have you thought differently about the role and power of language and art in the wake of murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the wide-spread protests?
Most definitely. The way we communicate, the way we “virtue signal” to each other, is so incredibly important. No change has ever come about by people being silent. Our words have power and it feels good to use them.
Have you created something during the lockdown, or are you working on anything now?
We (Lingua Franca) are, incidentally, having so much fun working on our first ready to wear collection for spring/summer 2021. My inspiration is half Yoko’s “YES” and half Yves Klein’s LOVE postcards which he painted each year for his friends and are on display at his house in Morocco. It’s fun to be working on a collection based on positivity, color, and hope.