Words: Courtney Trop, Interview: Kristom Parson
Courtney Trop is ever-evolving and transforming. Widely known as style blogger persona @alwaysjudging, her newest entrepreneurial project comes as the founder of Stevie, a line of hemp CBD products
An east coast native who planted roots in Los Angeles 13 years ago, Courtney began her career navigating the waves of LA’s fashion opportunities. After realizing her calling was a deeper, more personalized service beyond the boundaries of retail and styling, she created her own path. Initially conceived as a blog, “Always Judging” is now a trusted inspiration source for all things fashion, vintage, music, and interiors, an intimate lens and window into Courtney’s world. Beyond this, the AJ audience relies on her unfiltered approach across self-care, wellness, and transparency in her product reviews, all to advocate a healthier lifestyle that contributes to the journey of happiness and wellbeing.
Through the years, what also remains constant on Courtney’s platform is her contagious curiosity and appetite for welcoming challenges head-on. Whether it’s exploring her personal style, searching to the ends of the Earth for a piece of vintage furniture, or perfecting the science behind her latest venture, “Stevie”, the same amount of tenacity and heart is palpable in all that she embodies and shares with the world.
And now, in her own words, a glimpse into what drives this unique being, every single day:
DC: Tell us a little about your background – where are you from and how did your interests and journey take you to where you are now?
CT: I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and never felt I really fit in. My friends were cool, and I had fun in high school, but I was more interested in working in a shop and styling looks for school the night before. I remember getting excited about my looks as young as three years old. One time, in pre-school I insisted on wearing an 80s polka dot dress five times in a row. My mom was so embarrassed. Styling all my friends in high school as a hobby then ended up turning into a full-blown career.
My first year out of high school was spent in NYC going to LIM (Laboratory Institute of Merchandising), then decided I never wanted to live in snow ever again in my life, so I moved to LA and attended FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising). I fucked around in college, I partied a LOT…I almost wasn’t even interested in fashion anymore until I graduated and got a job at Intermix where I rediscovered how much I loved styling and helping people find something that made them feel powerful and good about themselves. After three years at Intermix, I worked at four other different retailers in LA, did wholesale for a bit, was a buyer, and then started my blog at 26. It took off right away and I think because of how much experience I had accumulated in every area of fashion, and the one thing I’ve always been really good at is helping people…finding something that makes them feel empowered and good about themselves.
Blogging has been the most successful business for me and it comes naturally. The thing I try to maintain is transparency and authenticity among my followers. I’m not perfect, I’m a human being and I fuck up. But, I’m transparent in sharing all experiences good and bad with the internet and ironically, I don’t do it to judge, I do it because I love sharing and I hope that inspires people to be themselves and not care what anyone else thinks.
Okay, weed: I’ve been a pothead my whole life, and I don’t think everyone who smokes weed is a pothead, but I smoke a LOT, so that I AM. It helps motivate me. It makes me creative and relieves my anxiety, helps me gain appetite, so many positive things. My dad was in the weed biz illegally my whole life, and now here I am doing it legally. I started Stevie, a CBD brand, to try and fill a gap between fashion and negative stigmas behind cannabis. Cannabis and CBD are not bad for you. In fact, they promote a more natural way to ease pain, anxiety, along with so many other benefits. It shouldn’t be frowned upon. So, I decided to start Stevie for my stressed-out friends in fashion. After two years of working on it, Stevie launched on March 7th this year. Right now, I’m working on the launch of more CBD products while still working on fashion jobs remotely from LA. For the last six consecutive years I’ve spent more time on planes – every other week, Europe every month – and then COVID hit and it all stopped. Stevie kind of saved my ass financially because we’ve had such a great response in sales and return customers, feedback, all of it.
DC: How long has Stevie been in development for?
CT: Two years.
DC: What was the catalyst for your venture into CBD?
CT: Fashion needed CBD! Everyone is stressed out all the time. This is missing in the market. I don’t see anyone doing anything original in cannabis speaking to the fashion community. So, I decided that person had to be me.
DC: What was the biggest priority for you while developing and launching the product?
CT: EVERYTHING. Literally, everything, because it’s tricky. It’s tricky because you have a community of people who may have some weird taboo feelings toward cannabis, and they’re pretty skeptical- this means they’ll be looking for a product that they can 100% see results from – so GOOD product. This community of people is also heavily influenced by branding and messaging. Cult brands do well amongst this audience and to establish a following, you need to create a world everyone wants to be part of. You need to make sure the world is attainable but through the process of discovery. Friendly but not desperate. That’s why everything from the branding to the product had to be prioritized. I wanted customers to feel like Stevie is this imaginary goddess who is guiding them through their CBD journey – almost like a guru or doctor. Stevie the goddess is the symbol for our CBD. Up to something is our one-liner because people who are consuming Cannabis, specifically CBD, are high but they aren’t high sitting around, they’re high & they’re also up to something! And they’re up to something because cannabis and CBD are natural medicine being used as legal forms of healing in most U.S. states now. I really hope the negative connotation attached to weed is close to done.
Also, considering the planet and environment as much as I could while choosing the materials and packaging were very important to me. I never thought of myself as being overly cautious about where I shop or which eco brands I buy into, but when it came to my own brand, and personally putting something out into the world when it came down to it, I consistently chose the more eco-option. It didn’t feel right putting tons of plastic out into the world.
Another thing that was really important to me and one of the reasons I laughed Hi Stevie is to fight the war on prescription drug abuse. I realize some people need prescription drugs and they are used for good at times, but in America so many people abuse them and get addicted to pain killers and end up having a very hard time weening themselves off. CBD is a more natural way to manage pain.
DC: How do you see Stevie evolving?
CT: I will stay DTC, that’s always been the plan, but as so much of the fashion community is in Paris, it was really important I figured out how to sell in Paris. Season Paris is selling it at the restaurant in Marais. It’s going really well there; Cathy is a good friend and I love her cafe. I want this brand to evolve into its own retail location with AT LEAST 50 different products. I eventually want my own cannabis farm and shop. Fashion will always be number one but without cannabis I wouldn’t be able to do fashion, so they work hand in hand for me and my future. We have so many cool, insanely effective products coming out this year, STAY TUNED!
DC: You have such a great eye for design from vintage fashion to interiors. What drives this type of curiosity?
CT: You can’t argue that for everyone interested in the arts, it starts to take over every aspect of their lives. Furniture and vintage-inspired interiors are just a piece of the puzzle of being artistic and in fashion. Style and taste spills over into every aspect of my own life, including interiors. My creativity comes from my space and my surroundings reflect what I’m trying to say, so that is what drives my curiosity.
DC: Who or what in your life has influenced you most?
CT: Where I’m from and wanting out. I felt trapped. My grandma also used to tell my father I would never be able to make it on my own unless I met a nice guy. That made me want to be powerful and support myself and not ever need anyone to take care of me. Here I am.
DC: When do you feel most yourself?
CT: With good friends/company, smoking a joint, at someone’s house, with wine, at night. Or at a concert. I thrive by meeting new people and getting to know the way different people think and where they’re from. It keeps me going. There are so many people in the world and I imagine how many special people are out there. I miss the excitement of meeting and talking with new people…being stuck in LA is killing my soul.
DC: How has 2020 changed your perspective on different areas of your life? On our industry? What have you learned about yourself?
CT: I’ve learned that maybe the United States isn’t for me, but I already knew that. I’ve been mostly abroad for the last three years, and they were the best years of my life so far. I’ve learned that fashion is really important to me and it’s something that made me really, really happy and I miss all of it. I learned I’m my most creative on mushrooms I also learned how much love my group of friends has for each other by the way people are keeping in touch from every side of the world.
DC: How do you navigate the unknown, anxieties and fear?
CT: I like to daydream. I’m a daydreamer, or you could say manifestor? I sit around a lot and try to picture what I want for myself for the near future. I don’t like to think too far ahead because I’m always changing my mind. You are who you hang out with, so I try and surround myself with people who make life less stressful. I smoke weed when I have actual anxiety. As far as everything else, I don’t live in fear, I just do what makes me happy. If it doesn’t it’s gone.
Best vintage furniture hunting:
Pop Up Home.
Best vintage clothing:
Replika Vintage and Scout
MHZH, Larchmont Wine and Cheese, Marvin, Erewhon
In your free time you:
Hot yoga, listen to music, paint, masturbate ha!
You find inspiration from visiting this place:
What you miss most about LA when you’re gone?
Erewhon and Joe K at hot yoga
Dancassab Jacket of choice: