Northern California hillside at sunset

Rolling hillside at sunset in West Marin.

From Northern California to Berlin: A Story of Perspective

Born and raised in Northern California, I moved to Berlin, Germany on a whim when I was 23. Coming on 15 years later I find myself having spent most of my adult life away from the land I grew up on, a land known as ‘home,’ a land which both speaks to my heart and soothes my soul.  

Maybe it is simply because I live so far away from this ‘ort,’ that I hold its image even closer and dearer to me; savoring its textures, its vibrancy and its perfumed fragrances like holy sacraments. Is it not true that we often cherish what is limited in offering, rather than that of abundance?  

Founding AVMM for me was partly paying homage to my homeland and upbringing; designing clothing which aims to embody that spirit of ‘Northern California Ease.’ For me that ease, whether romanticised or actual, is a dreamy lifestyle supported and inspired by nature and organic forms with subtle influences of modernist art and architecture. You may be able to take the girl out of California… but she might try to bring that essence of holistic living and effortless elegance with her.

Drakes Bay in West MArin

Drakes Bay in West Marin.

California dreaming: Indulging in fantasy

For many, California is a faraway place where everything is possible. It is a land of endless beach fronts and ocean views, scattered with bleach blonde surfers and golden toned sunbathers. It is a land full of movie stars, paparazzi, and mega mansions upon mega mansions and infinite wealth. 

Perhaps ‘my California’ is a bit different, more like a long lost lover who only left behind sun kissed moments and whispered promises. I hold California like preserved magic encased in my mind’s eye to be savored and reminisced at a whim; my own private escape from the burdens of the daily grind. Perhaps my California is more like a dream than a reality, made sweeter by distance and savored in condensed moments, often through time travel via carefully stored memories and wildly conjured dreamscapes. My California is also varied and contrasted, with its intense winter storms, causing floods and black outs and its blistering hot summers with ferocious wild fires and dried up reservoirs. My California has both its darkness and its light. 

Redwood grove in Nicasio California

Redwood grove in Nicasio California.

Northern California: A Love Story 

While California is a very large, diverse and complex state, over 400,00 sq kilometers actually (almost 100,000 kilometers larger than the entire country of Germany) I have found while living in Europe that many folks I come into contact with, who have yet had the chance to visit California, have a very specific idea of how California looks like. Their image is often one resembling a very small fraction of topography that actually exists there, mostly that of specifically Southern California. Their image usually entails beaches, palm trees, lush lawns, luxury bungalows and endless sunny days. I, however, grew up in the north and never spent much time in ‘SoCal’. Although we do have our plethora of beaches north of San Francisco, the topography in general is often not quite that which is often first imagined to many. 

Limantour Beach, Northern California

Limantour Beach in West Marin. 

When I close my eyes I trace my fingers along rolling golden hills of recling nude silhouettes, encasing spirits of ancient femme archetyles deep within the earth. I wander through a labyrinth of majestic redwoods, spotted with speckled sunlight, the smell of moist earth below me. I open my eyes to blowing sand dunes and a sea of wild grasses, the sound of the rugged ocean, the touch of cool and salty wind licking my skin. I run like a child through open pastures, zigzagging between clusters of cows, those giant and gentle beasts grazing lazily as if straight out of a pastoral impressionistic painting.

Northern California pastoral landscape

Pastoral view in Nicasio, California.

Although I will always be grateful for my upbringing in such a richly diverse province, one of the most geographically diverse states in the USA actually, I deeply value the distance both physically as well as annually that I have spent away from my homeland. The time I have spent living abroad, on another continent with strikingly different climate and culture, has offered me invaluable perspectives on a place that not only left deep impressions on my childhood development, but continues to influence and inspire me with its unique locality and flavor. I wonder now and then if in this modern world a person can root themselves in multiple locations at once, as if a tree connecting not only to a single location or moment in time, but rather rooting down to a multitude of places and memories and keeping that connection strong even if not physically present? 

While I will always hold the image of northern California close to my heart, I continue to embrace my current place of home, Berlin, Germany with its cultural abundance as well as it’s unique geography: the swampy flatlands, endless lakes, dreamy farm pastures and nature reserves plentiful in the surrounding Brandenburg region.


This article was written by Molly McDonnell, AVMM’s owner and founder.

All photography taken by Molly during her recent trip to northern California.