Meet Verena von Pfetten

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After starting out as a writer and editor at online and print publications, Verena von Pfetten was itching to start something new. With her co-founder, David, they started the print publication Gossamer, and recently launched Dusk, a CBD tincture with CBN. She shares how she launched her career, some advice for co-running a business, and cannabis recommendations for first-timers.
 
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Top, Imogene & Willie

Top, Imogene & Willie

ON HER MORNING ROUTINE

I get up between 7 and 8 AM depending on when I went to sleep the night before. My favorite mornings are the ones when I wake up naturally before my alarm and can read quietly in bed for 30-45 minutes. Once my alarm goes off, I inevitably spend anywhere from 5-15 minutes looking at my phone (checking email, scanning my personal and Gossamer’s social media feeds, reading the news), which is my least favorite part of my morning. It’s something I hope to stop doing entirely. I’ve recently gotten into dry brushing so I’ll do that for a minute or two before hopping in the shower. It’s weirdly invigorating and effective: it’s fundamentally changed the texture of my skin. If you get ingrown hairs or those pesky bumps on the backs of your arms, I strongly suggest trying it. I’m not great about eating breakfast, but I try to drink a liter of water before I leave the house. If I have a few extra minutes, I’ll eat a piece of fruit. The only sort of vitamin or supplement I’m religious about taking is Seed probiotic. I never really understood what a probiotic was, let alone why anyone would take one. While I still can’t exactly explain what they do, I just know that I can feel the difference (in my digestion, appetite, and energy) when I don’t take them. I sometimes also take Goop’s Glow and Balls in the Air formulas, but I have a hard time spending money on those things, even though I think they do make me feel generally better. My boyfriend makes us pour-over coffee most mornings, which I recognize is the loveliest of luxuries and I’ll drink it while I “walk” my ancient French bulldog, Harry, before I head into the office.

on her beauty routine

I cannot leave the house without my lipstick. I switch between MAC Lady Danger and Stila All Day lipstick in Beso. I wash my face every night without fail, even if I forget to brush my teeth. Retinol and sunscreen—I like ELTA MD for the latter. I think spending on a few high quality products can be worthwhile, and save you a million steps. Pai Rosehip Oil is my desert island skincare product. It’s high in vitamin A and C, and it’s a natural retinol. I’m also newly obsessed with Olay Ultimate Eye Cream. It’s the only eye cream I’ve tried that actually does something. It lightens and brightens my bags in a very subtle way (because everything in skincare is subtle. There are no magic answers!) I’m also experimenting a lot with CBD-based skincare. Cannabidiol is an anti-inflammatory, and hemp seed oil is moisturizing and low on the comedogenic scale. Ildi Pekar and Khus Khus have formulas I really like. In the winter, I do an overnight hydrating mask—Sulwhasoo or Kana two or three times a week.

Trench, Yang Li Men ; T-Shirt, Vintage ; Choker, Vintage YSL ; Pants, Sonia Rykiel
I’m an incredibly hard worker. I’m professional. I’m proud of my career and think I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m a good hire! I also smoke weed. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Why is it okay to have a drink after work with your boss, but not okay to go home and eat a low-dose edible before relaxing in the bath?
— on her motivations behind gossamer
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on taking unexpected detours in her career

I worked for a jewelry designer right after college, in sales, which meant I worked with wholesale accounts on their orders, customer service, and marketing. I interned at Conde Nast my sophomore year of college because I’d always wanted to work at a magazine. I had a terrible experience, mostly because I was young and only applied for the internship because everyone at school told me I needed one. The program was incredibly competitive. The other women in the program were all seniors hoping to get a full-time role. Conde as a whole was a pretty cutthroat place. This is just a long way of saying that I wasn’t a great intern. As a totally myopic 20-year-old, I let the whole thing color my impression of magazines and swore them off entirely. I decided I wanted to work on the business and brand side of fashion which is how I ended up at the jewelry designer. Please read this entire answer as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Except for the fact that nothing is forever, and it’s okay to change your mind.

on finally launching her career in writing

I graduated from Columbia in 2005 where I studied English and Creative Writing. Websites weren’t really a thing. I had a LiveJournal in high school, but to put this time in the world into context, I have a very vivid memory of a creative writing professor asking our class if any of us knew what a “blog” was. Blogs as publications—Gawker, PopSugar, Perez Hilton, etc—existed, but it never occurred to me that actually working for one was an option. The Huffington Post launched the same month I graduated from college. A year into the real world, I realized how much I missed writing. At the same time, one of my sister’s friends from college, Rachel Sklar, had just started working at HuffPost doing media coverage. I remember totally fangirling one night at dinner because the idea that she was paid to write things on the internet straight up blew my mind. I asked if I could send her a submission, then wrote what is now the world’s most embarrassing post about the spate of starlets going to prison, followed by a second piece about the time Courtney Love accidentally wore fake Chanel couture to Paris Hilton’s birthday party, which, yes, is a thing that happened.

HuffPost then launched a lifestyle section called Living, and the editor, Anya Strzemien, took me out to lunch and asked if I would write a column. I wrote one to two pieces a week for free at HuffPost on the side for almost a year. When Anya was given the headcount to hire an associate editor, she offered me the job. I don’t think anyone should ever do any work for free (writing, internships, or otherwise), but I don’t regret doing it. For better or worse, there are things I learned on that job that publications are still figuring out. From there, I went on to launch and oversee editorial for different websites, mostly in the women’s lifestyle space—fashion, food, travel, entertainment—before landing as the digital director at Lucky in 2013—almost ten years to the day that I first interned at Conde Nast. Like I said, nothing is forever.

Dress, No.6 Store, Earrings, Georgia Perry

Dress, No.6 Store, Earrings, Georgia Perry

Write and pitch. Pitch and write. When I graduated, most pitches were still submitted via letter or fax. Mastheads were totally opaque. In this day and age, everyone is reachable. Most publications have literal instructions on how to pitch posted on their site! I can’t stress enough how important it is to just put yourself out there and in front of editors. You have no excuse. If you’re brand new and don’t have any previous clips, I recommend pitching a full submission. Do your research, be clear and thorough in explaining your story and why it’s a good fit for the publication, and write it in full. The editor will see who they’re working with. If all goes to plan, you only have to do that once. All it takes is convincing one editor to take the first chance. It’s totally doable. To this day, I don’t get a lot of cold pitches. I think people assume editors are inundated with them. They’re not! Pitch me! Our email is hi@gossamer.co. Do the research on the types of stories we publish. Hint: most of them are *not* about weed.
— advice for breaking in as a writer
Dress, No.6 Store

Dress, No.6 Store

Pants, & Other Stories ; Top, Imogene & Willie

Pants, & Other Stories ; Top, Imogene & Willie

on the freedom of doing brand work

I think that the best writers can write about anything—and they often write best about the things they know the least because it forces them to do research and think about how to make it relevant to the audience. Brand work is very similar: your job is to figure out how to make that brand—what they’re selling or offering—relevant and interesting to a broader audience. I find it somewhat freeing because writing is so personal. It has your name on it. When you’re working with or writing for a brand, you’re inhabiting their voice and persona—the work isn’t a representation of you. There’s something comforting about that separation.

on starting her publication, gossamer

David and I met working at the Huffington Post back in 2008 and have been friends since. A couple years back, we were freelancing and consulting and talking a lot about the types of roles that were interesting to us. We felt the itch to start something new and in a space that warranted it. David was the one who suggested cannabis. We smoked a fair amount of weed together. Over the years it was something that bonded us socially, and we realized that there wasn’t anything out there that accurately reflected our relationship to cannabis, which is to say: it’s a part of our lives but certainly not the defining feature. My first reaction to the idea was, “Absolutely not.” I was worried it would make me unhirable. I went home that night and kept thinking about it. The thought that people would judge me—negatively, at that—for doing it, is what made me decide to go for it.

I don’t think anyone can adequately prepare you for how hard it is to start your own business. People will try! But you’ll never grasp the intensity and sacrifice until you’re doing it. Then we threw in a print publication in 2018 on top of that. So the answer is: a lot goes into it. You have to do research. I think that’s basically my answer for everything. Read. Ask questions. Ask for favors. Before we even “started” Gossamer, we spent months and months just talking to people. Taking meetings, asking advice, figuring out what we didn’t know and what we needed to. It’s how we found our printer, Hemlock, because they work with some of our favorite publications like Victory Journal, Kinfolk, Cherry Bombe, and Racquet. They’re also one of very few printers in the world to have zero carbon footprint. They recycle literally everything which was very important to us particularly when making a paper product.

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I think we’re very curated and rigorous in terms of what we put out there. I’m so mindful of how I feel overwhelmed and stretched thin that the last thing I want to do is add to that for other people. It was important for us to make something that felt worthy of people’s time and interest. I don’t use any apps though I’m starting to take more advantage of the screen time alerts on my phone. I set social media to an hour a day. Because it’s part of my job—David and I both manage all of Gossamer’s social media—I often exceed that. Most important to me is starting and ending my day by reading a book. I put my phone and all screens away at least 30 minutes before I turn my lights off, though I often try for an hour. Then I read, mostly fiction, which I find helps to disconnect and escape. I average 1-2 books a week, and I feel lost without them.
— on creating thoughtful content and setting boundaries
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on launching a CBD tincture with CBN, dusk

CBD—cannabidiol—was something we were interested in from the beginning because it offers a lot of the benefits people are looking for in THC products (relaxation, pain relief, etc) without the psychoactive effects. As more and more products came into the market, we realized things were getting more confusing for consumers. The number one thing people asked us about was sleep and how to get more of it. We took our 18 months of research and channeled that into creating Dusk, a CBD tincture with high amounts of CBN (a cannabinoid shown to have sedative effects) and a terpene blend formulated specifically for sleep. I’m so, so proud of it. It’s weird to have spent so long looking behind the curtain because you know exactly how things are made and how purposely opaque brands are about where their products are sourced and how they’re made. We held ourselves to an incredibly high standard.

on her advice for trying weed

Start slow and small. The number one thing to know about cannabis is that everyone’s metabolism for it is different. There’s no universal dose and just because you are someone who can eat or drink a lot, doesn’t mean you have the same tolerance for cannabis. I recommend starting with a product that has a structured dose: low-dose edibles like Beboe pastilles, 1906 Chocolates, Kin Slips sublingual slips, or even more literally, a Dosist pen. I love them and think they’re such a great way for people to experiment in a safe and structured way. The Arouse formula is fun and light without feeling too heady. It’s my go-to rec. If you’re extra nervous, start by trying a high CBD, low THC strain, and know that weed is really, really strong. I’ve also found that budtenders in dispensaries still often direct people to starting doses in the 5 to 10 milligram range. That can be a totally reasonable amount, but I just think first timers should start with 2.5 and then wait at least an hour. You can always take more. You can never take less.

on her haircare

Minimal. I wash my hair with Hairstory New Wash two to three times a week, brush it only after I’ve washed it, and let it air dry.

Pants, & Other Stories ; Top, Imogene & Willie

Pants, & Other Stories ; Top, Imogene & Willie

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The piece of advice I found most helpful and particularly applicable to co-founders, I got from Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo of Of A Kind. They cc each other on every single email which is something David and I do more or less. It’s really helpful because it allows us to be on top of things without having to constantly catch the other person up. It doesn’t mean we’re responsible for double the emails—we each handle different things—but the visibility is incredibly helpful and efficient.
— on her advice for running a business
Dress, No.6 Store, Earrings, Georgia Perry

Dress, No.6 Store, Earrings, Georgia Perry

Coat, Aritzia ; Pants, & Other Stories ; Top, Imogene & Willie ; Beanie, Man Repeller ; Bag, Haerfest, Sunglasses,Le Specs

Coat, Aritzia ; Pants, & Other Stories ; Top, Imogene & Willie ; Beanie, Man Repeller ; Bag, Haerfest, Sunglasses,Le Specs

on her style and where she shops

I’m a big online shopper. I don’t have the time to go shopping in stores! I have a few go-tos like Aritzia for pants and coats, and No 6 for dresses and shoes. I started shopping more at boutiques like Stand Up Comedy in Portland, Concrete + Water in Williamsburg, Voyager in San Francisco, even if it’s online, because I trust their curation of brands. I’m newly obsessed with Lauren Manoogian knitwear. If you can’t figure out what to wear, then jeans, a nice white T, and sweater will do for any situation as long as you wear red lipstick and fun earrings, plus heels if you really need to dress things up. Comfort is key.

on her favorite books

I’m an unabashed fan of sci-fi and fantasy. If a book is part of a series and features mythical creatures or magic, you can guarantee I’m in. That said, there are a couple books I come back to over and over and over again. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is one of them. It’s about a bored young boy who comes home one day to a mysterious package. I re-read it every so often to remind myself to be more playful and not take things so seriously. I also recommend The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, and The Collector by John Fowles.

Verena’s favorite films

Labyrinth, Bachelorette, The Apartment, and Jurassic Park. I love almost everything Nicole Holofcener makes.

verena’s favorite places in nyc

Hometown in Red Hook for BBQ, Fort Defiance in Red Hook for their All-American Breakfast, Rita’s All Day in Red Hook - extra special breakfast sandwiches, perfect savory bowls, and the world’s best oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Grindhaus for their Hausbread and the taxidermied horse head on the wall. Frankies Spuntino in Brooklyn because I treat it like my second living room. Pau Hana Nail Salon on Court Street. It’s owned and operated by two Japanese women who are obsessed with Hawaiian surf culture, hence the theme. Pro-tip: always book ahead. It’s next to impossible to walk in. For art, Walter de Maria’s Earth Room and Broken Kilometer. Brooklyn Yoga Project and Sky Ting for Yoga. Brandon Dailey at Mudhoney Salon for the perfect cut, Roxie Darling works miracles with hair color. Valentino Park and Pier for the best views of the city and the statue of Liberty.