Endless Recess: Falzone '08 and Grieve '08 Instagram the World

Bill Fisher
Anna Lisa (Falzone) '08 and Porter Grieve '08 launched their blog and Instagram account, Recess City, into a business and full-time travel lifestyle just weeks after marrying in August 2017. On November 21, after earning coverage in the Boston Globe for their social media success, they made a detour from an around-the-world itinerary for a holiday pit-stop in the Trustey Family Theatre, where they impressed Upper Schoolers with their business savvy and socially conscious insight into the booming economy of 'ethical fashion.'

With 56,000 followers on Instagram, the husband-and-wife team share evocative, artistic photos of beautiful destinations around the world, and model minimalistic, ethically-made fashion pieces on location. The Grieves make a living and fund their travel through deals with fashion companies and hotels that earn a spot in their photos. The young entrepreneurs often have to explain that they’re not just taking an extended honeymoon or spending their parents' money. Their partnerships with brands and hotels can earn them as much as $500 for a single Instagram post. Companies are willing to support the Grieves because they've carved out a niche with a very desirable, fashion-conscious audience of young women in Europe, Australia, and the United States. Stops on their recent world tour—travel that was entirely paid for with revenue from hotel and product placements in their fashion-oriented photography—have included Morocco, Greece, the Netherlands, and Spain.

During their visit to Shore, Upper Schoolers were fascinated to learn more about the ethical fashion brands that the Grieves have agreed to promote during their travels. "That's where we find our real fulfillment," said Anna Lisa. "Traveling the world may sound like a dream, but for us, there's nothing like knowing that we're promoting ethical fashion companies that are working hard to ensure that the people who produce their clothes earn a living wage."

The ethical fashion niche has emerged in recent years as a response to growing awareness of the poor working conditions and wages endured by people in developing countries—such as Bangladesh and Cambodia—where the majority of clothing for the biggest Western brands is produced. Explained Anna Lisa, "While the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. Many people aren't aware that major brands like H&M, J. Crew, and Nike are producing their clothes using sweatshop labor. This just continues a cycle of poverty for the laborers, who are trapped in jobs that will never lift them out of the cycle. Their kids have little chance of receiving an education, and unfortunately will in most cases end up trapped just like their parents."

"Ethical fashion brands," said Porter, "have found a way to benefit families and future generations while boosting the economy of an entire region. The people employed by the companies we work with are getting paid enough money not just to scrape by, but to be able to provide their kids with an education, afford health care, and achieve their own dreams outside of just making clothes." 

Anna Lisa and Porter have been together since they were students at Shore and, later, at Brooks School. "When we were at Shore, there was no YouTube, Twitter, or Snapchat," explained Porter. "Facebook had just launched when we were in eighth grade. Other than that, social media as we know it today simply didn't exist." So becoming Instagram entrepreneurs was a bit of a surprise for the two, who worked at various positions in writing, finance, and social media in the United States and Europe.

"Anna was in Ireland," recalled Porter, "and whenever I would go visit her, we'd hike or explore different cities, and we got into photography. Then Anna started a blog to document her travels, and we saw our audience begin to grow on Instagram." At first the Grieves, who are both highly experienced photographers, heard from a motely assortment of brands—producing everything from backpacks to face wash—asking them to promote them through their photos in exchange for cash. "It was exciting, because that was when we realized that we might be able to make a living doing this," said Porter. But very quickly the excitement started to fade. "We realized we weren't feeling fulfilled by promoting random brands that we had no real interest in," Anna Lisa added. "If we weren't passionate about the products, then it didn't make sense to us to promote them."

That's when they began to focus their business exclusively on ethical fashion. Just months after officially launching their business, the Grieves are proud to feature products from a number of companies they're passionate about—while earning a more-than-adequate paycheck. A few of their favorites include Sharehope, a sportswear company that offers jobs, education, and health care to highly skilled women in Haiti who suffered when the country's huge traditional garment industry collapsed; Twothirds, a clothing manufacturer in Spain that dedicates a portion of their profits to ocean and marine life preservation; and Nisolo, a maker of handcrafted shoes in Peru and Mexico that provides more than fair-trade wages to its craftsmen, many of whom possess artistry and knowledge passed down through generations of shoemakers.

Still, not everyone is interested in ethical fashion, they admitted to their Upper School audience. "That's what's so amazing about a medium like Instagram: people have turned almost anything they're passionate about into a successful career," said Anna Lisa. Baking, hiking, even owning a pet hedgehog have turned photographers into entrepreneurs with hundreds of thousands of fans—and incomes to match.

The moral of the story, according to Anna Lisa: "If you're interested in something, and have always wanted to find an audience for what you love, you don't have to wait. The tools available to kids your age are incredible: you can turn a passion into a successful career right now."

While few students in the audience were likely to go into business quite that quickly, the lesson clearly resonated for Shore's sixth through ninth graders. They eagerly crowded the stage for more social media tips from alumni experts, no doubt planning to click "Follow" on Shore's own Instagram celebrities as soon as they could retrieve their phones from their lockers.

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    • On a trek in the Agafay Desert in Morocco

    • Catching up with Sam Hamlin, Beth White, and Pamela Torres during their visit to Shore

    • Catching up with Upper School fans in the Trustey Family Theatre

    • @Recesscity on Instagram

    • Anna Lisa, at left, and Porter, right, on their ninth grade trip to Squam.

    • In a hotel bathroom on the Greek island of Mykonos