In 1993 I lived on the outskirts of Nashville, TN. I was in my 30s then, and into comfortable clothing that was made of all natural material and traveled well. It was extremely hard to find garments that combined these qualities and also looked great. Working as a business executive, I should have worn suits and probably a much more understated look, but I did discover this newly emerging all cotton made in the U.S. brand in one of the most unlikely places in the West End, across from Centennial Park and the Parthenon – Nashville’s most hip part of town because it was close to Music Row and Vanderbilt University. Next to the store was a varsity shop. It was called – of all things – “Wild Animals.” Owned by a former lawyer and his quirky wife. They carried an eclectic mix of toys, kitsch classified as art, clothing made from flax – and they had just had a Blue Fish trunk show. Apparently, the owner of Nashville’s famous Bluebird Café, where numerous major country artists were discovered over the years, shopped there as well and had just bought a load of the new organic cotton line. Being what the industry refers to “plus size,” I instantly liked the brand because I could wear a size 2! Size 2 is a concept that is totally inconceivable for me to wear in any other line and I simply got a kick out of being able to say that I was a size 2. The clothes had yet another unique feature: they were hand painted. Each item was different and entirely unique. I tried on a whole range of pants, t-shirts, jumpers and dresses and eventually walked out with two huge paper bags filled with clothing in hues of pale blue, Lake Placid blue, mint green and black. The designs were painted with kindergarten-style flowers, taxi cabs, tools, coffee and tea cups. They had handmade strings to tie them into personalized fits, but most importantly, they featured generous, flowing cuts that actually made me look a lot thinner than I was although they were voluminous.
In the years that followed, I eventually bought suitcases full of Blue Fish outfits, and some of them I still have today – some 20 years later. They have accompanied me on business trips around the globe, they have sat with me in uncomfortable airplane seats for 15 – 16 hours at a time and kept me comfortable, they have been crammed into suitcases – sprayed down with water upon arrival – and worn to meetings with key accounts. They helped me close a deal with Target and Lowe’s. They’ve been to my brother’s wedding. Now I live in Taos, NM at an altitude of over 7000 feet, near the ranch where Blue Fish has a large store and still hand paints its American made garments. I still wear a size 2 and I’m proud of it.
My next big adventure will be a trip to New York to participate in Chopped, a cooking competition on the Food Network and Blue Fish will once again be at my side on the trip, before and after the taping… I’ll even wear Blue Fish pants to cook in. I’ll wear Blue Fish on my book tour for my new publication “The Homegrown Gourmet.” Blue Fish was great for me in my 30s, and it has become a trusted companion who will keep me looking good in my 50s, 60s and way beyond… Because it’s homegrown. I love quality in food and I adore things that are made beautifully. Blue Fish is art and when I wear it, it brings out the best in me.
Brigitte Pauli-Barlos, writer/translator/editor
Author of: The Homegrown Gourmet