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sweetflag
via Sweetflag

The women-focused head shop taking weed bros down

Sweetflag is the polar opposite of the sweaty, 420-blaze-it shops that make paraphernalia so boringly dude-based

Sweetflag is the by-women online market store for women who smoke. They’re fighting back against weed culture’s infuriating non-aesthetic as a bro-heavy, #sexygirlssmokingweed, alien-headed space, in favour of a curated, female artistry-championing place.

Selling pipes, boxes, candles and other accessories, the owners are working towards reevaluating the stoner stereotype. As laws shift in America to become more in line with modern attitudes to drugs, and the culture surrounding it blends with the mainstream, the idea that smokers revolve around messy student halls and Xbox tournaments among old pizza boxes falls away.  

We caught up with Luren Jenison about dudes’ weird sexualisation of girls who smoke, careful curation and changing cultural aesthetics when we want to light up.

What was the incentive for you to start Sweetflag?

Luren Jenison: Anyone who has ever had to go out and buy smoking accessories knows that the pickins-is-slim when it comes to what you can find in person at shops near you.  There's really nothing behind the counter that jumps out and says "I'M THE ONE" for a lot of people. This is double true for women, who are, for whatever reason, completely sidelined when it comes to marketing and designing accessories.

What do you offer that the market currently doesn't?

Luren Jenison: We tried to make the experience of shopping at Sweetflag like visiting a really perfect small shop that you want to explore with a friend – a place where you walk around slowly and pick things up and think about what they would be like if they were in your life. It’s a special, slow, shifting experience for the customer... and I think that feeling like you can take your time in a shop like this is something that is special in and of itself. 

Our selection is highly personal, and each piece is deliberately chosen for its beauty, simplicity, and usefulness. We have curated from the market some artistic and functional pieces, as well as worked with many female artists and designers to produce what we couldn't find but dreamed of having.

What do you think of the fetishisation of women who smoke? Is it still a big thing?

Luren Jenison: I think there's a double-stigmatisation of women who smoke, because on the one hand, you have the objectification and over-sexualisation of women who smoke – the weed-leaf pasties and big-dong-bongs between the thighs – which reduces women to one-dimensional party favours and ‘considers’ a woman about as much as a badly written porno. On the other hand, there's a real stigma against real actual women who smoke – real professional bosses, moms, friends, teachers, students – and a real fear about ‘coming out green’ among women because of the perceived potential social and legal fallout of doing so. Both stigmatisations are unfairly stacked against women.

Men are not sexualised in this way to promote weed brands and products, so why are women? We know why... and it's not right. Men who drink and smoke are rarely gossiped about, people pondering their capability to do their job or raise children, but women can have their children taken away in some states for minor infractions. It’s a wild double-standard and it needs to change, and it starts with portraying a different picture of women who smoke.

Is the culture surrounding smoking quite bro/dude heavy? 

Luren Jenison: It depends where you look.  I think in the retail experience that is true, and in marketing. But girls all over are smoking, and enjoying it, and sharing their tastes and experiences through Instagram, blogs, Tumblr, etc. There is definitely a sea-change happening in the way people are approaching the culture now, and portraying it. As it’s more and more de-stigmatised culturally, more perspectives are seeing the light. There is no rule written anywhere and never was that girls don't smoke just like anyone else. We do! You just don't show it! 

“I think the idea of women (and really just anyone) being free and relaxed and able to express themselves scares some people” – Luren Jenison

Can you describe your aesthetic? 

Luren Jenison: We've tried to create a layered but super clean and bright showroom for our products. Our store is broken into three phases: Before (things to set the mood, boxes, candles), During (smoking accessories, kits, herbal blends) and After (blankets, eye masks, incense, fun stuff). We have a mix of chic design objects and playful funny stuff. It’s really mixed so there's something for everyone but it's definitely unified by our creative direction and vibes in the photography and colour and brightness of everything we put in the shop. 

How do you curate the products and find particular artists?

Much of what we have is made by artists we've been watching for years. Some of it we have developed with artists and designers (almost all women) who we work with to make really special exclusive items for the shop. We always have our eyes open and find inspiration anywhere from a limestone quarry to a roadside fruit stand. If we can't find something we want, we make it!

What has the reception been like since opening? 

Luren Jenison: We've been so grateful and thrilled by the amount of love we get!  There's been a lot of ‘THANK YOU FINALLY’ – type feedback from women who've been waiting for something like this, and a lot of ‘Wow, good idea’ vibes.  We've been lucky enough to get some exposure through some press and that's lead a lot of people to us who it would have been difficult to reach, just in terms of numbers... We have a lot of fans and repeat customers who already love their stuff and want to share the wealth and send on as gifts to others in need of an upgrade! We're just getting started, and we want to grow and grow, so we try to be really personal and helpful to everyone who comes by!

Why do you think the people-who-smoke- club has been so male-dominated? Surely the market is there for more feminine/non binary curation?

Luren Jenison: I think the idea of women (and really just anyone) being free and relaxed and able to express themselves scares some people. I think people have to let go of the idea of controlling women. People have to let go of drawing lines in the sand, whether it’s about binary gender, purchasing power, race, recreational activities, or telling anyone -women, people of colour, post-gender thinkers - what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, before you will see people treated equally.