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Ban.do's Jen Gotch on holistic betterment

What did you find surprising about this writing process?

Definitely how hard it was and how much I felt like I was failing, which was not on my radar going into it. I can hit an Instagram caption no problem, but to take a thought and elaborate on it for pages and pages and remember what you wrote was really different and challenging.

In the book, you return to specific moments of anxiety attacks and bipolar episodes. How did it feel to write about those?

It actually wasn't hard. I've been in therapy for so long and I'm always in my own personal therapy trying to resolve things. It wasn't like I was revisiting things that I hadn't thought about or processed. More than anything, it gave me a different perspective on the experiences, similar to how journaling would.

What was it like writing about people you know?

As I was reading about how to write a memoir while writing a memoir [laughs], it's identifying that this is your story, told through your lens. Whoever you're including in that story may have a completely different version of that, and it's all about owning your piece and treating it with some diplomacy and care. My mom was probably the main person that was really interested in what I was writing. I ran stuff by her but I did not have her read anything, because I feel like it's triggering to read something somebody has written about you, good or bad. I didn't show anyone anything I'd written. I don't believe that Andrew, my ex-husband, knows that I've written a book.

You use social media to talk about anxiety and depression, but it can also exacerbate those things. How do you reconcile that?

Social media has become a platform where I feel like I can serve a purpose for people. So, I can see the good in that, but I can also have a day where I'm in a total trance, scrolling, and each picture I'm looking at is triggering an internal dialogue that I'm not even aware of. And then, three hours later I don't even know how I got there, probably through the Explore page, but somehow I'm worried about Channing Tatum.... I think social media is going to have pros and cons, it's about how you take responsibility for yourself and protect yourself and your emotional wellbeing. Everybody needs to construct their plan with how they're going to have a relationship with it. Personally, Instagram has been a huge thing for ban.do and I would not have written this book without it—my editor found me on Instagram!

How have you included the mental health piece within the company?

I was longing for us to be able to communicate how layered we are as a brand and a group of people. Having a fun, joyful brand is great for business and you don't want to disrupt that. So the necklaces [ban.do sells necklaces with the words "anxiety", "bipolar", and more] were an idea that popped into my head. It allowed us to have other conversations and talk about personal holistic betterment. But, I don't think we'll be digging into too much more on the site around mental illness except for the necklaces. It's also much more palatable for me, as a person, to speak to my experiences, rather than the company.

How has it felt being the face of the brand and now the face of the book?

It's good. I love attention, so it's not a problem for me [laughs.] I think I hadn't really thought about true strangers [reading the book] because even though I don't personally know a lot of people that follow me on Instagram, it's always felt very safe and supportive. So, I think that part will be interesting. But, at this point in my life I feel like I have it all in perspective even if I sort of slip back a little and get in my head about something. I'm glad that I'm able to offer the value to ban.do of going out there and being me.

What does optimism mean to you?

Always finding an upside. Part of it is problem solving, part of it is resilience, and part of it is an unwavering willingness to surrender to the difficulties in life. I don't think that means saying 'everything is going to be great'. It's more of a mental exercise. There was just a moment in time where I began to understand how limiting negative thinking could be and how it actually determines everything. It's such a reflex for me. [When confronted with a problem], I immediately try and find a work-through. Optimism is recognizing your thoughts and thought patterns and course correcting when you have to. It's okay to feel scared or sad today, but I know that there is always going to be an upside, even if I don't know what it is for 20 years.

What's upcoming for ban.do?

We'll be expanding and diversifying our IRL events down the line. As a creative leader, you want to keep pivoting, but I also understand that's very confusing for the customer, so we need to stick to what we've been doing.

What lessons have you learned as a business owner?

There have been sticking points for me along the way, but what I've realized about business and life is that the things you're really digging your heels in and resisting are usually the things that you're not supposed to resist at all. Once I understood that, it made it a lot easier for me to let go of ideas and evolve in a way that didn't feel scary.

What's your wellness regimen?

It changes. I'm usually working out every day, but I've been injured. I feel better when I exercise, but sometimes I need to not stick to my regimented plan. I've done a whole anti-inflammatory diet for the last several months that includes no alcohol and no coffee and I feel great. Mental wellness is a huge part of it for me too because if that's not well, the rest of it can't be. The biggest thing is really asking myself what I need each day. I don't think we're necessarily trained to do that. It's actually easier to see what someone else is doing and think 'Oh I should do that' and never check in and see 'Is that going to be right for me?' Since I have been able to do that inwardly, I get a lot of information that is very contradictory to what I thought I wanted to or needed.

What books are most important to you?

Who are your favorite clothing and jewelry designers?

Well, 80 percent of my clothing is vintage but I love the jewelry designer WOLL, who we just started carrying on ban.do. Also Rock + Raw JewelryNooworks, and Molly Goddard.

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