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New York to Nor-Cal: How This NYC Fashion Editor Became a West Coast Cannabis Entrepreneur

November 17, 2017

There are clichés about New Yorkers who move to the West Coast: They give up their overpriced studio apartments for backyard dinner parties. They stubbornly refuse to wear sandals when it’s 65˚ in December. They go to Burning Man. And they’re probably getting high.

But these new transplants never lose that pathological, itchy New York City ambition—which is why when fashion magazine editor Claudia Mata and her yogi husband Zander Gladish relocated to California’s Marin County in 2016, they set about launching a luxury cannabis topicals brand called Vertly, currently available as peppermint- and rose-flavored infused lip balms made in small batches by hand in Northern California. In the meantime, cannabis has become a part of their lifestyle in new ways that weren’t probable, or even possible, back in New York.

NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

Mata applies cannabis-infused lip balm from her topicals line. (Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

Before she moved to California, for instance, Mata had never used a vaporizer before. Cannabis in New York was legalized for medical purposes in 2014, but is still illegal for recreational use. There are currently only two dispensaries in Manhattan, and they are more clinical than luxe in terms of ambiance—so while New York boasts incredible clothing boutiques, NYC dispensaries cannot rival sleek San Francisco cannabis boutiques like Harvest on Geary. “The quality and selection is so much better in California,” explains Mata, who is partial to Ona.life, a curated service that combines the quintessential New York convenience of doorstep delivery with stylish, luxury-oriented cannabis products. “Yes, I care that my vaporizer is rose gold,” Mata admits. It’s an accessory, after all.

Since moving to California, Mata has ventured carefully into vaporizers and topicals. When vaping, she prefers to microdose with smaller-sized vaporizers, oftentimes as a nightcap instead of a glass of wine. Gladish will occasionally dab and vape on the weekends (just never on the job, or around the kids). “[Stoners] are an unfortunate stereotype,” Gladish says. “And it’s around for a reason, and those people do exist, but to tie it directly back to marijuana is misleading.” He notes that every couple they know in the Bay Area includes at least one person that consumes cannabis, and that the habit is no more unusual than a glass of red wine every night. “There’s more of any openness in the Bay Area,” he adds. “There’s people I know who will only do it at a wedding or a special event. But I feel like most of the parents that we come across are open to it in one way or the other.” Only once, Mata was surprised to find herself at a wedding dinner table where she was the only one vaping (until she moved to another table, of course).

NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

Claudia Mata’s “stash” primarily includes cannabis topicals, and the occasional rose gold vape. (Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

Mata pinpoints her style as the first sign of her West Coast transformation. “I used to have a closet full of skirts and heels,” she tells Leafly. “I rarely wear them now. Only if we’re going out in the evening or if there’s something special going on.” Mata is 5’ 1”, and back when she was accessories and jewelry director at W or senior accessories and jewelry editor at Town & Country, she wore a fashion editor “uniform” consisting of black stilettos (or knee-high boots), black tights, tailored black dresses, and fine jewelry that should probably require hiring a 24/7 bodyguard, just in case. She often joked in interviews that she was so dedicated to the world of fine jewelry, she’d never gone a day without wearing it, having gotten her ears pierced when she was born (it’s a tradition in El Salvador, where she’s from).

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Every couple Mata and Gladish know includes at least one person who consumes cannabis.
In the fashion world, while Mata was constantly party-hopping and being offered flutes of champagne as part of her job, she had never smoked weed. Though fashion designers like Jeremy Scott and Alexander Wang has been using the cannabis leaf print in their designs to affect a counterculture appeal, women’s magazines were not yet speaking openly about cannabis in the same way they were speaking about margaritas. Sure, edgy “it” girls like Chloë Sevigny who spoke openly about cannabis were cool, because they didn’t give a fuck—but they were framed as cautionary tales, always flagged with stories of therapy sessions. Back then, it was the only way you could talk about cannabis in New York.
NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

Mata and Gladish. (Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

But New York has changed. Earlier this year, GQ published an article outing the Green Angels, a cannabis delivery service made of fashion model-turned-messengers (it’s an attractive alternative to bartending or waitressing). In 2015, Refinery29 wrote about GOODWITCH, an underground Brooklyn-based THC lip balm that counts employees at Vera Wang and Vogue as customers. And in July 2017, Vogue-favorite natural beauty retailer CAP Beauty released a CBD-based food supplement called The Daily Hit, promoting it to beauty editors by sending them CBD-laced brownies. (The first batch sold out two days after launch, and of course, it was featured in Vogue.) Former Lucky editor Verena Von Pfetten is also launching Gossamer, a glossy magazine about weed.

So by the time Mata moved to the Bay Area in 2016, she was ready for cannabis culture—and cannabis culture was ready for someone like her. It helped that her husband’s family has a history of cannabis entrepreneurship in Northern California, where he is originally from. Gladish (towering over the petite Mata at 6’1”) had moved to New York City after college to become an actor, and later switched his career endeavors towards nutrition and yoga. He has the chiseled jaw line of a 90s-era soap star and shaggy California surfer boy hair, which makes him and the equally photogenic Mata the perfect spokesmodels for their products.

NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

Mata and Gladish wanted to raise a family where the pace of life was more relaxed than in New York. (Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

They did not meet in yoga class, however—that’s too Californian for their love story. They met at a party in Manhattan back when Mata was still a full-time fashion editor, and in 2011 they eloped to get married at the luxurious Ananda Spa in India, which sits above the town of Rishikesh, the self-proclaimed capital of yoga. Both bride and groom wore all white, and Mata temporarily replaced her precious jewels with flower garlands and a kavala, a simple bracelet made of red string. They’ve since had two kids, currently at one and three years of age, and the move back to Gladish’s hometown was partly propelled by the desire to raise their children on the West Coast, where the culture is more laid-back.

Gladish and Mata have now settled in a routine of healthy moderation that involves cannabis as a wellness supplement and social lubricant. In addition to her collection of chic vaporizers, Mata has a bedtime routine involving her own topicals from Vertly: Every night, she uses Vertly Green (the one with THC, which she thinks tastes better) on her lips and temples. She is also testing another yet-to-be-released THC balm (Mata uses every product for six months before launch). Gladish, for his part, will use CBD oil on his temples before bed. “I put on a topical just before bed, and it’s the most relaxing way to go to sleep,” she says. “And my skin feels great the next morning.”

NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

Mata’s cannabis-infused topicals accompany her on the go. (Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

Mata left her job at W in 2016, and left behind 12 years of full-time work in fashion to begin freelancing as a stylist and creative consultant for fashion and jewelry brands based in the Bay Area, who could use a dose of her New York connections. (Vogue Mexico, for instance, is one of her clients.) She regularly gets drinks or lunch with her jewelry designer friends, like Monique Péan, when they come into town. She also found a home base of fellow former New York City fashion editors who are now San Francisco entrepreneurs, like former Vogue editor Emily Holt, founder of Hero Shop. “I still wear heels when I see them,” she says. But after getting introduced to the world of cannabis by her husband, she knew she wanted to put her creative talents and energy into the cannabis industry. “There are a lot of creative people working in cannabis, just like in fashion, and I was drawn to that,” she explains.

While Gladish helped run his family’s real estate company, Mata began taking classes at Oaksterdam University, an Oakland-based cannabis college that teaches courses like Irrigation Systems, Methods of Ingestion, and Intellectual Property—everything that a budding entrepreneur like Mata would need to know. She also took herbalist classes to learn about creating botanical-infused topicals. “This is something I would buy,” she says, meaning that the products don’t smell like patchouli or cannabis—they’re fresh, clean, understated, and would look at home on the shelves of Sephora.

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“There are a lot of creative people working in cannabis, just like in fashion, and I was drawn to that,” says Mata.
Since launching in August 2017, Vertly has been featured by Vogue, Allure, and Business of Fashion, and the CBD products are available online in all 50 states. (Vertly Green, the THC lip balm, is only available in dispensaries like Barbary Coast Lounge in San Francisco, a speakeasy-style lounge and clinic.) And since Vertly’s launch, Mata and Gladish have been enveloped in the close-knit Bay Area cannabis community. “I never lie if someone asks me what I do,” Mata says, adding with a laugh, “but I never [go out of my way to] mention it at my daughter’s preschool.” Yet she is enthusiastic and earnest about her profession when prompted, and somehow, word got around the Marin County preschool that the Mata-Gladish clan was a family of cannabis entrepreneurs. Turned out, another family in the school owned a cannabis restaurant, and the wife was a community organizer for women in cannabis. “It’s weird because I never mentioned it to her and she never mentioned it to me, but we just knew!” Mata says.
NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

Vertly topicals. (Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

“In New York, we went out so much,” Mata recalls of her old lifestyle. “Now, I have cookbooks.” In New York, she relied on delivery for her groceries, whereas in California, she drives to the store. “The more that I slow down and the more relaxed I am, the more l fill my life with gratitude, and I feel good,” Mata says. And bonus: “I feel like it makes my skin look good,” she adds with a smile. “It’s this whole circle effect of just trying to relax a bit more. I don’t know another way to describe it. I sound like I drank the Kool Aid in Northern California.”

“The quintessential idea that pops into your head of Northern California versus New York is pretty accurate for us,” Gladish adds. They’re spending more time with family, less time going out in bars, more time in nature—and more time with cannabis. “You don’t have that rush, rush, rush to get everywhere,” he adds. And once you do get there, you can take time to enjoy your vaporizer.

NYC to Nor-Cal: How a High-Fashion New York Couple Embraced West Coast Cannabis Culture | Leafly

(Drew Bird Photo for Leafly)

Images by Drew Bird Photo.

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Noël Duan

Noël Duan (@noelduan) is a New York- and San Francisco-based writer, editor, and researcher. She is writing a novel about adolescence in pre-2008 recession Silicon Valley.

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