A Chat w/ The RealReal on Health by Design, Creativity, and Wellness

Joe Holder
8 min readFeb 1, 2022


I realized early in my career, when it comes to interviews, they are often edited for “clarity” but quite often that means words are cut that don’t provide the full meaning.

So from that point I began to ask to conduct interviews via email so I can keep a transcript of them.

I recently answered a few questions for an editorial feature on The RealReal and I wanted to present it raw and unedited below to give a greater insight into my mind with takeaways that work for you.

Please find it below!

The RealReal: What does wellness mean to you?

Joe Holder: Wellness is the action you take to remain healthy, which includes aspects around you. It isn’t complicated, just methodical. Current definitions are too nebulous, thanks to the growing and burgeoning “wellness” economy. Wellness simply is the strategy used to not just cope with existence but to hopefully thrive.

TRR: How did your wellness journey start? What led you to create the Ocho System?

JH: My wellness journey started at birth. My Mom and Dad were my first teachers in that regard. My Dad being a doctor and my Mom just utilizing the intuition provided by her upbringing in Trinidad was very special and formidable in my early years.

The Ocho System was created out of my time at UPenn dealing with football injuries coupled with my studies in sociology of health and medicine, psychology, and marketing. This intertwining helped me realize that my physical health was connected to so many other areas besides just sport. Additionally, taking a class with the renowned Angela Duckworth (many will know here from her book “Grit”) helped me understand that resilience, and achieving, is just based off talent but can be taught. So why weren’t there simpler design system that showed people how to actually perhaps do well in life.

So I started researching, ideating, talking, and applying these strategies to myself to heal my body from football injuries but perhaps also to give me purpose in life. I saw others gravitating towards it as I began a blog detailing my experiences. From there it began to grow and continues to refine itself. It is very much an alive and expanding design philosophy for self.

TRR: Where do you think a lot of people make mistakes when embarking on a new wellness regimen?

JH: Lack of frameworks. Can’t expect behavioral change to just happen without a framework. Also, I stress this a lot, put a deadline on things. Set up checkpoints. Otherwise weeks, months, and years often go by without one actually achieving what they set out to be.

Also, you’re going to mess up. Be ready for that and just keep in mind how you are going to respond to that slip-up.

TRR: Why is it important to take a holistic approach to wellness?

JH: 1.) You have to measure success in as many ways as possible. Keeping wellness just under one small area doesn’t allow you to expand that circle of success.

2.) The things that impact your personal health are much more expansive than you think. That is why The Ocho System focuses on 8 areas — mental, emotional, social, intellectual, occupational, environmental, physical, and financial. People take a myopic focus on health because they use it as an escape/coping mechanism to not have to deal with the other areas. Don’t do that.

3.) It also, especially in America, makes you not think of things so individualistic. Your health is also contingent on what is happening around you so don’t take care of just yourself at the expense of everyone else.

TRR: What wellness routines and rituals are important to you? How did you learn about them?

JH: All my wellness routines have either been taught to me at a young age, school, or through research. My main ones are below

  • Sleep
  • Vitamin/Mineral Supplementation
  • Healthy Eating
  • Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Taking Breaks from Technology
  • Physical Activity
  • Sunbathing
  • Emotional/Mental Audits
  • Eating Well
  • Spending Time in Nature

Most of mine are pretty basic/foundational but those are the things that work. Really just about consistency

TRR: You’ve worked with a lot of creative people in the fashion world. How important is the connection between wellness and creativity?

JH: It is all about brain health so creativity can be harnessed through discipline and endurance.

You literally change your mind, your body, the view of the world when you exercise, eat well, mindful, etc. Wellness practices are a gateway to creativity.

TRR: What does it mean to you when you help someone achieve their goals?

JH: That’s the whole point. My work for the most part is a service industry so whatever aspect I am working in and I help someone achieve their goals, that means I did my job.

Although my career has evolved a bit, I spent a lot of time in the gym where that was my main responsibility — making sure people met aesthetic, fitness, or performance goals. The best part was seeing though the mental changes that often resulted from this.

Now when it comes to particularly health related goals, I’m hype. Cause that also means I likely helped improve someone’s life.

TRR: You had a relationship with the late Virgil Abloh. What lessons did you learn from him and how does he inspire you?

JH: Too many lessons to share tbh. But for anyone who wants a wider perspective, can look here, as I’ve shared a bunch on my Instagram.

The one that I can succinctly say is that he led with love. And that’s a major lesson that continues to inspire me. He lit up the rooms he walked in o, he remembered names, he was a family man, he diligently did his work, and he would do whatever was necessary to make sure you had that chance too. He led with love in everything he did and it presents a challenge and opportunity for us to do the same.

He also always said “if you’re going to bring up a problem make sure you have a solution”. That’s such a radical way of looking at the world because you’re then not contrarian for the sake of but instead a problem solver. If we all took on that mindset, imagine where we could go and what we could do.

TRR: Does environment play a role in wellness? How do you make your home a space that’s conducive to that?

Yea. Research on environment shows much on how it impacts our mind to how it impacts weight gain (not just by design but also by chemicals that are around). We often think of just the home when it comes to the environment but the sunlight, access to nature, the built structure around you all make a difference too. That is “nature” too, not just green spaces.

With the home I try to make it a space conducive to wellness by trying my best to keep it free of clutter. I’m getting better at this. It is something I have learned over the years and is a constant practice. Better to be simple than have a lot. Use what you need.

I see doorways also as a mental component as well as architecture. They allow for a separation of energies and responsibilities in a space, if you are lucky enough to have that. So setting up small different pockets in my apartment has been helpful.

But at the very basic, keep things around that provide a catalyst to do beneficial things. Have a fruit bowl. Get a water filter. A cheap blender. A mindfulness corner. The basic things that don’t have to be expensive that can go a long way into promoting wellness habits.

TRR: How would you describe your personal style? How has it evolved over time?

JH: Personal style is elevated vagabond chic (ha) . I’m a wanderer. I’m not home that much so I like to be comfortable and in clothes that are relatively loose fitting.

My style has definitely evolved though to enjoy clothing that is a bit more well-made or has staple pieces. I’m not a jeans guy, but love suit and dress pants. Think that is a huge unlock for the athletic types out there. Stop trying to find jeans that fit us, go find a nice cheap pair of suit pants at the outlets. Get it tailored slightly. The fit makes the look not just the label.

TRR: Why is shopping vintage/resale important to you? What’s your best advice for how to shop resale?

JH: For me it is a bit of a look into history, literally. Like to see cultural trends of the past that are still relevant today or at the very least I enjoy.

Best advice on how to shop resale is of course use websites but get in the streets and shops. Not just the highly curated ones but the flea markets, small shops in overlooked towns, etc. You’ll find discounted gems there instead of the overpriced t-shirt on Abbot-Kinney. Google or Duck-Duck-Go or whatever you choose to use is your best friend.

Do you shop/sell with The RealReal? If so, why is being a part of the circular economy important?

I’ve purchased on The RealReal. I think people believe everything on the website is expensive but it actually isn’t — you can find deals.

I don’t think we really need to buy “new” things ALL the time — there is enough production to be re-used and I appreciate the tide turning to second hand not being seen as a derogatory term.

TRR: What was your favorite piece from this shoot and why?

JH: The Peter Shire ceramic cup. I’ve been digging into artistic ideologies a bit of late — French Realism, Bauhaus, Memphis Group — with Peter taking part in the latter. So it’s fun to see that brought to life.

Also I love tea. It is a daily practice and ritual for me. Big fan of a beautiful cup ha.

TRR: What are your goals for the new year? Anything you’re looking forward to?

JH: It’s just time to build, straight up. I’ve worked so hard the past 7+ years to give myself a 2–3 year window to bring ideas to life. I look forward to really just that — fully “leaning in” to my ambitions to hone in on all the concepts I can put out that can help improve health.

I’ve accepted it may not be for everyone, but what I can do is for someone. I’m focusing on helping those that can benefit from my expertise. It is an exciting realization.

Styled by Brie Welch

Photographed by Jessica Foley



Joe Holder

Founder of The Ocho System™, Plant Based Gang, and Exercise Snacks. Writer for @GQ. Consultant for various, primarily @nike @hyperice @dyson. Views my own