Blake Lively launched a new shopping site, Preserve, and the Internet went bananas — as in, they threw the equivalent of verbal rotten bananas at it. Everyone from usually woman-friendly Jezebel, who called it a "silly blog for rich ladies who never laugh," to Entertainment Weekly who published the most snark-filled, cynical essay I've ever come across that was about something other than a political figure. The Guardian called it "pretentious," and the Independent called it "inane." Writers tore apart the overall design, the font size and type, the products offered, the prose-y descriptions for the products, and most of all, Lively's editor's letter.
I immediately clicked over to the site to join in on the fun-making.
And then I found a lovely shopping blog, filled with pretty products that are less expensive than the stuff you'd find on Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop (to which Lively's site has been compared in every article I read), are all Made in USA, and support American artisans. Same price point and target as Anthropologie — which does a booming business in cute stuff for the home and accessories — but with products that are made ethically. I didn't love Lively's letter (she played herself down as an expert, when she should have owned it), but it was ... fine; like, not perfect, but it seemed like running such a business was something Lively would have to grow into a bit. As someone who has started several websites and is launching her own design project next month, I know what learning curves are all about.
I combed through the site, looking for things to make fun of too — and I didn't find much.
Was it a slow news week? (Uh, no, as anyone who has been paying attention the last few weeks, there's nothing slow about the news the summer of 2014.) Was Lively a terrible person and I just didn't know? (I couldn't find anything objectionable — she's married to professional hot guy Ryan Reynolds, has some incredibly enviable hair, has starred in a teen-fave TV show, and acted in a couple of movies.)
I just don't get it. People have made fun specifically of the dark background/light font of Preserve, which I actually really like — it approximates walking through one of those low-light LES or Camden Market-area boutiques in NYC or London, respectively. So, OK, maybe the design's not for everyone. And the prose descriptions for the items are certainly purple — which I also enjoy, though some don't. I was a J. Peterman catalog devotee in the '90s, which had page-long descriptive stories for each item. It makes shopping (or just browsing, which I love to do) even more entertaining than just looking at pretty things.
The site even has a nice give-back aspect: "We have set our first goal of giving 5,000 children a meal, 2,000 children a blanket, and 2,700 children a warm hoodie, all within the U.S."
Why the vitriol?
All the hating on Lively, all the negative press got me thinking who was really being hurt here, besides the celeb herself. And I imagined being one of the bootstrapping artisans on her site (each item comes with a description of who made it and where it's from). I envisioned one of them getting a big order — maybe even one that kept them afloat for the rest of 2014 — from a new celeb-endorsed site, and how exciting it must have been for the people who make the stuff Lively has stocked on Preserve. I thought about how they woke up on the morning the site launched, and saw their handmade jewelry, pottery, sauces or home goods up for sale — and then how much it must have hurt to see something that could have benefited them (I'm sure I'm not the only shopper who clicked over to some of the makers' websites to check out their other work) ripped to pieces by media people — well-known for not being particularly well paid either. It's like the struggling attacking the struggling, and it's ugly.
It is also kind of pathetic that with all the anti-bullying rhetoric out there, it's still just fine to bully a celeb (and a pretty innocuous one at that). If we are serious about not bullying, then don't bully anyone. Critique? Fine. But what I read out there about Lively was just plain mean.
I'll admit it: I like Preserve; so much that I'm buying this berry colander for my partner — he loves to bake and is always using a colander and then a measuring cup for the many berries I like in my scones and other treats. It's perfectly sized, nicely designed, and made by an American artist, Joanna Buyer, in Minneapolis. I think it's cool and will look cute in my kitchen.
Related on MNN: