Archive for October, 2009

Skulls and Skellies
October 31, 2009

From Damien Hirst to Dan Akroyd’s vodka bottle, skulls are everywhere and today of course, skeletons will dance in windows and ring our bells looking for treats. Amid the vast product boneyard a few things have piqued my interest:


From Japanese designer Nobuhiku Kitamura’s extravagant, rock-influenced line, Hysteric Glamour.


Beijing-born, New York-based artist Jing Yu’s 2003 litho,”Gold Teef”
Lithograph with 24k gold leaf
10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
Edition 12


And my favorite… from the magical mind and gifted hands of Brooklyn artist, Adrienne Patrick, a floral wreathed marionette brings whimsy and light to the skeleton motif.  I snapped this shot at BedStuy’s wonderful SOLA festival, where Adrienne displayed her fanciful, earth-friendly, one-of-a kind creations. For more on Adrienne, check out this EcoBling interview.

Happy Halloween!

Talkin’ Shop: Hooti Couture
October 30, 2009

To tell the story of the Brooklyn boutique, Hooti Couture is to share the various incarnations of Alison Houtte as cover girl, vintage maven and author.  The vivacious proprietor gives first props, though, to her fashionable grandmother, Clemence Houtte, whose sense of style shaped her own and whose pronunciation of the family surname as “hoo-tee” gives the store its name.  Alison’s infectious joie de vivre is shared with Jacqueline Houtte, her recently deceased mother, a stylish woman glad to have walked the earth whose joyous 1970’s visage smiles on visitors to the shop.


Major life and fashion influences include Grandma Houtte, circa 1940 (on right in black and white photo) and Mom, Jackie in 1973.

I sat down with the infinitely quotable Alison recently to get the goods on her beloved Prospect Heights emporium. She’s got an eye for style and a keen sense of value.  Her business philosophy is simple, “keep it fresh, cheap and chic!”  Since the inception 12 years ago of Hooti Couture, she’s offered prime vintage goods at affordable prices.  Her neighboring Park Slope predecessor, the well curated, Weeds, was her foray into vintage apparel and furnishings retail, but it is with Hooti and her priced-to-move merchandise, that she’s struck gold.  A mint-condition Blackglama coat at $1200 is the highest ticket item in the store right now, though most pieces fall well below that figure.  I snagged a chevron stripe, wasp-waisted Ronnie Heller dress for thirty bucks — love it!

Alison is as warm and welcoming as they come, but she has little patience for the snippy commentary that’s come with moving her base just blocks from Berkeley Place to Flatbush Avenue.  One customer, indignant about the locale change said, “you will never survive because a stroller will not cross that avenue.”  Alison’s response: “Do you see baby clothes in here?”  Eight years later the business is thriving.

I’m a little secondhand shop in Brooklyn, but I cater to each client like she’s in Bergdorf’s.  I think the success has come with the service and price points. It’s great, fun stuff in a fun environment and we get new merchandise weekly.  I buy with love, what I love.

And it is with great love she’s culled the mines for the largely 1980’s collection in store now. “I am loving fashion right now.”  The resurgence of eighties style is clearly delighting her.  The era that thrust her onto the runways and into top fashion mags is evident throughout the store.  Having spent a decade on the catwalks of Paris and New York and posing for celebrated photographers such as Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier, she’s traveled the world and seen the very best of fashion.  “I sold myself for ten years, Vogue, Marie Claire, forty-two grand for one day on a Woolite campaign but when the phone stopped ringing,” as it does fairly quickly in the modeling universe, she transferred skills.  “I brought my personality to the game in modeling; I bring the same to the counter at Hooti.”


The cover that launched a decade-long career.


Courrèges and killer brows.


Pretty legs and all.

She uses the personal pronoun when referring to the gently loved resale merchandise she stocks. “What about her, isn’t she a beauty?” she queries, motioning to a brooch. With unabashed glee she helps each item find the right home by getting to know her customers and their tastes very well. She’s not likely to forget a face or a name and her customers genuinely seek her counsel.  With giddy self-deprecation she says, “I’m flattered when someone asks for my advice.  I’m just an ex-fashion model…and they listen!”


Looking for the perfect accessory for a big night out, Hilary Van Santen scores at Hooti.

When asked to shoot some of her store favorites for this piece, Alison jumped back into mannequin-mode tout de suite.  And not for nothing did the experience of coming under the brushes of makeup superstars like Kevyn Aucoin and François Nars have her whip up a flawlessly “beaten” face.  So without further ado, “sexy, cheeky and affordable,” some of Ali’s faves — merchandise available in store, with a few personal pieces thrown in for good measure.


What becomes a legend most?  Alison luxuriates in a late-60’s chocolate mink, $1200 and Wolford tights. This faux-fur capelet, $75, is a perfect topper for Alison’s own Miami thrift find, a sassy zebra print dress.  Red lucite earrings, $10; wood and abalone bangle, $12.


Personal paste:  Alison’s own costume jewelry and similar brooches $25-45, adorn these sequined panties, $28.  “I looove the Peace panty,” squeals Alison, “sometimes a gal just needs a little bling for her booty!”


Fabulously feathered:  Dyed cock feather headpiece, $125 and jaunty fedora, $55.


Warmth and whimsy: nostalgic needlepoint meets modern lucite in this handmade purse, $75; crystals adorn this earring bursting with shooting stars, $28.


The Clemence collection:  Alison treasures her grandma’s golden oldies from the Whiting and Davis evening bag to the Tura reading glasses she’s transformed to sparkling sunglasses.  Gilty pleasures available in store:  a mesh shoulder bag with a hint of Clem, $75 and a bejeweled Andrew Geller shoe, $25 for the pair.  The diminutive shoe is smaller than many contemporary feet but Alison refers to it as “bedroom art, a pretty thing to look at.”


Alison knows her skins and keeps a steady supply of structured handbags from lizard to croc’ and ‘gator, $75-$375.

The wonderfully nostalgic Montauk Club was the perfect venue to launch her delicious romp of a memoir in 2005.  Written with her journalist sister, Melissa Houtte,  Alligators, Old Mink and New Money, shares their modest Florida upbringing, replete with thrift store wardrobes; her “discovery” as a lanky 18-year-old and subsequent launch onto the Paris catwalk, both instrumental in developing her aesthetic and training her eye to find diamonds in the rough; and her often humorous musings about her new life in the vintage trade.


The dimpled author gives a lady-like, raccoon trimmed coat, $450, a quirky twist.   A 70’s era Samsonite travel satchel, $48, is “tagged” Hooti-style with silk flowers and a sequined lion applique.


The power of a great line: arrow brooch, $35; late-eighties Geoffrey Beene, $175 and python-embossed pumps, $25.

She loves creating her windows and the entertainment value of it all.  Go, check out the campy Halloween window display, “I love the silliness of it,”  Alison enthuses, “A sexy dress with a grotesque mask.  Deep down, I’m a little girl.  I love a holiday and Halloween is one of my favorites.”  Have the inevitable holiday yummy, but the real treat is in unearthing a happily-affordable treasure from a fun-loving gal who doesn’t take herself too seriously.  As the sign on her door says, “No drama allowed.”

Hooti Couture

321 Flatbush Avenue

(at Seventh Avenue)

Brooklyn, NY


Out of South Africa
October 27, 2009


An Ndebele woman.

The past few months have been a whirlwind for creative wunderkind Montgomery Harris.  She was invited to present workshops in August to South African crafters and designers in conjunction with fashion week in Cape Town.  Spending time there as well as in Johannesburg, she volunteered her services but received beautiful inspiration in return.  On Saturday past, she participated in a fashion show of stellar designers such as the always wonderful Byron Lars and Kai Milla (Mrs. Steve Wonder) benefiting the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Her presentation featured many of her archival pieces reimagined through the eyes of one exposed to the beauty of South Africa.


Richly textural, the show featured a melange of global textiles. Fashion show photos by Elan Artist.


Hand-dyed “toadskin” fabric and fluid butterfly tops — both Montgomery signatures — worked to dramatic effect on the runway.

It is in this celebratory spirit that the South African Consulate General is sponsoring Out of South Africa, a shopping night of fashion and culture at Montgomery’s Harlem boutique.  An incubator for emerging local designers and a showcase for Montgomery’s own creations, the shop will host guests with wine and hors d’œuvre, from 7pm-9:30pm on Wednesday, October 28 and present South African-inspired Fall collections as well as one-of-a-kind artisanal pieces direct from the “sub-continent.”


The designer at the Mandela House in Soweto.


2312 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd

(136th Street and 7th Avenue)

Harlem, NY

The Gentry Lands in Brooklyn
October 23, 2009

Years ago before marriage added motherhood and the Adams to her name, I met Nichole R. Thompson Adams on an indie film project.  In recent years I’ve come to live in the same nabe as the Clinton Hill homeowner/real estate broker/performer.  Just the other day as she walked her palm-sized pup we bumped into one another and spoke about neighborhood changes.  With a characteristically beaming smile, she shared that her one-woman show, Black Girl, You’ve Been Gentrified is being staged at Cherry Lane Theatre’s Cherry Pit.  “Come out, for ten bucks you get the show and a beer…it’s fun.”  From the promo:

Race, culture, class …Jamaican born and Brooklyn raised, Nichole Thompson-Adams has just a few things on her mind.  The neighborhood around her is changing.  Is Nichole changing too? Revel in the zany and poignant experiences that told her quite clearly, she’s been gentrified.

Glad to see that the jovial John Y. Church III (with whom I’ve done commercial work) is directing Nichole in her self-penned piece, I plan to check out one of the two Monday performances on October 26 or November 23 at 8pm.


The Cherry Pit

155 Bank Street

(West Beth Complex)

989 2020

Brooklyn Moment #13: A Little Night Music
October 23, 2009

Walking down Fifth Avenue in Park Slope last night I was charmed by a street-side performance of Girl From Ipanema, by a duo wearing Brooklyn Conservatory of Music t-shirts.  “How lovely,” I thought as the mellifluous sounds wafted into the night air.  Two blocks later, an upright bass and more music. A sax solo across the street and a quartet off in the distance.  I learned that this intermittent musical melange, Music in the Streets, a program of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District extended from Dean Street all the way to 18th Street.

The accomplished musicians, all faculty members of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music are lending their talents in an effort to bolster sales in the shops and eateries of the BID.  It was a wonderful “surprise” as I went about my business on a beautiful fall evening and I encourage anyone who can make the stroll on October 29 to do just that — from 6:30 to 8pm, get your shop on, treat your belly to a great meal and your ears to an eclectic mix of genres from Balkan flute to New Orleans jazz.


As I was sans camera, I was unable to photo-document the lyric loveliness.  But this evocative photo from Jill on the cool photo blog For the Love of Brooklyn is actually a stretch of Fifth Avenue.

Talkin’ Shop: Elma Blint
October 19, 2009

I ran into jewelry designer Elma Blint at the vendors market at Madison Square Park a few days ago and we spoke of the relative merits of the the nearby Shake Shack (the burgers, she proclaimed, “excellent”) She then delightedly shared the news that her 6-foot-2 thirteen year-old son, is one of the top three students in New York State.  It made me smile, because it is, of course impressive and her pride infectious, but also it reminded me of the passage of time.  I first met a very pregnant Elma when I happened across her chic, Upper West Side jewelry boutique, Amle Arte when I was on the prowl for an Essence shoot.  We discovered that we knew a few people in common, that we were Brooklyn neighbors and we vowed to stay in touch. I remember her boundless energy during the last days of pregnancy as she nurtured the nascent shop as well as the boy within, Tyler.

Elma eventually moved her business to the then-burgeoning, acronymic shopping district, NoLita and focused on developing her Elma Blint line of jewelry. She has since brought another son, Kyle, into the world and moved her base of operations to Fort Greene, where she also participates in the much ballyhooed weekend market, Brooklyn Flea.

Most offerings are available in both 14k gold as well as budget-friendly sterling silver.  She’s discovered that many of her customers, have, as does she, a small wrist.  Her specialty bangles are engineered to accommodate the diminutive size even when one’s hands are large.  Her “ID” bracelets can be customized (GQ mag snapped some up) and her bar ring gives the illusion of a multiple ring without forcing the fingers into confinement.  Her streamlined designs make for the perfect modern touch to any look.


The beautiful designer at her seasonal market stall at Madison Square Park.



Some of Elma’s favorites from the current collection include the perfect-fit organic bangles, bar ring and her nod to our home borough, Brooklyn.

Renaissance Fine Art Opens in Harlem
October 19, 2009

Many years ago, when I too was entering the fashion game, I met Yusuf Rashad who was then honing his craft as a photographer by assisting some of the best in the business, Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz, among them.  In the intervening years there’s been a return to his given name, Curtiss Jacobs, and his career focus has shifted to finance. As our paths diverged we lost touch with each other. Serendipitously, we reconnected last year through a mutual friend.  Catching up on each other’s lives, I was glad to learn that though his has been a very successful shift, his love of the arts still runs deep.

In that spirit he has just launched Renaissance Fine Art (RFA), a Harlem-based art gallery in tribute to his father Joseph David Jacobs, a talented painter. Curator, education consultant and Harlem resident Paula Coleman has come aboard as Gallery Director.  Together they endeavor to:

contribute to the redevelopment and artistic enrichment of Harlem and to participate in Harlem’s ever-growing and dynamic cultural life. RFA will display the works of contemporary painters, sculptors, and photographers, specializing in the works of artists from the Diaspora. In support of other artistic expressions, the gallery will provide a venue for film screenings, book signings, educational workshops, and seminars. RFA will also be available for rentals, artistic salons, private parties, and business meetings. RFA’s mission is to cultivate emerging collectors, provide stellar gallery representation to well-established and emerging artists, and afford individuals and groups with a quaint neighborly space for business and cultural affairs.

I was happy to join the many arts patrons at the well-attended opening last Friday. The premiere exhibition of wonderful work, up through November 14 is “Dark Matters and Entropy,” the seminal series of frescoes from accomplished artist Jack H. White.  Mr. White, whose career spans forty years, explains the influence/inspiration of the series thusly:

This series came about due to my interest in physics and cosmology, indeed as did the two previous series, Galactic Nascence and Galaxy Cluster. The Dark Matter Theory, concerns the need for the universe to have more mass or matter than is visible in order for it to hold together. Something maintains stars in orbit and dictates the motions of galaxies and galaxy clusters. Cosmologists believe that something to be dark matter. What this matter consists of is not yet known. However, “Dark Matter,” matters, if indeed it places order on the universe.

“Entropy,” which means disorder, decay, dissipation, and the breaking down of patterns and structures in nature and the universe, must increase or remain the same. Rusting is associated with an increase in entropy.  With these two concepts in mind and a desire to work with black pigments and oxidized iron, I produced these frescoes, restating my interest in the dualities which most often engender creation.

I found myself particularly riveted by Dark Matters and Entropy #4, a very spare 1999 piece, 78 by 48 inches of dry pigment, oxidized iron, copper and plaster on wood.  Kudos to RFA. I look forward to seeing what other treasures are in store.  Congratulations and best wishes!

All photos from the opening by Salahadeen Betts.


Artist Jack H. White (in his Harlem studio) stands before the most recently completed piece in the series, Dark Matters and Entropy #53, 2006 64″ x 32″ Acrylic, dry pigment, oxidized iron and plaster on canvas.  The same work as part of the exhibition.


RFA owner Curtiss Jacobs with artist, Jack H. White.  Gallery director, Paula Coleman with Walter Greene of New York Carib News.


The beaming gallerist with his wife, Camille and their girls.


Many artists came out in support of one of their own: sculptor, Dr. Lorenzo Pace; painter, Francks Francois Décéus and photographer, Dwight Carter.


The RFA space was filled throughout the evening.

Renaissance Fine Art

2075 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.

(7th Avenue at 124th Street)

New York, NY 10027

212 866 1660

Proud as a…
October 12, 2009

Peacocks, the males of the peafowl species (the females are peahens) have long been glorified for their beauty and the spectacular brilliance of their plumage.  The motif is one that fashion — for the home as well as the body — revisits quite frequently and last Spring’s love affair with the beauteous bird (think Matthew Williamson at H&M) has continued on into fall.


1. Dress, Milly at Bergdorf Goodman 2. Dress, Byron Lars Beauty Mark 3. Notecard, Mulberry Muse 4. 1970’s peacock and pheasant feather purse (a gift from art director Jan DeChabert) 5. Rubber boots, Chooka at Piperlime 6. 1900’s England, Art Nouveau brass tray, Ebay 7. Decoupage platter, John Derian 8. Wrap dress, Epaulet 9. Feather motif rug, Neiman Marcus 10. Cocktail ring, Topshop 11. Silk chiffon blouse, Cynthia Steffe 12. Vintage brooch, Hooti Couture 13. Alligator & feather clutch, Paige Gamble 14. Dress, Giambattista Valli at Bergdorf Goodman 15. Scarf, Nordstrom 16. Umbrella, Raindrops 17. Tulip dress, Christian Siriano and “Slither” boots, Christian Siriano for Payless 18. Digital print, Carambatack at Etsy 19. Hair Ornament, Kathelonious, also at Etsy 20. Fowl and feather images are oft requested for tattoos. This one from Flickr is particularly clean and lovely 21. Evening looks from Giambattista Valli 22. A gorgeous peacock I had the pleasure of meeting in Sydney, Australia struts his stuff.

Talkin’ Shop: Apartment 48
October 11, 2009

Fifteen years ago, an unassuming young man of good taste transformed a former beauty salon — a long, narrow underground lair–into distinct rooms to display home furnishings befitting each.  The vintage crib in the nursery held colorful, charming goodies for kids; a claw-foot tub housed a myriad of bath accessories; the inviting dining table was bedecked with swoon-worthy dinnerware, you get the picture.  The young man was Rayman Boozer, the space he dubbed the eponym Apartment 48 for its then-address at 48 W. 17th Street.

I shopped there frequently for my home, for gifts, as well as to score interesting props for photo shoots. It truly became a go-to shop and I’d look forward to seeing what vignettes Rayman would create next as he changed the decor of each room as new merchandise inspired him. Shopping in a subterranean space was never a deterrent for me, but Rayman longed for light and more square footage for his growing business, which includes interior design services.  When his lease was up, he closed up shop and warehoused his merchandise until he found the right space, which, as luck would have it, was just down the block from the original boutique.  He wished, “let there be light,” et voilà, a vast windowed storefront became available.

The capacious showroom at 12 W. 17th still stocks accoutrement for the well-appointed home, though it is now in a light airy setting that encourages lingering and a chance to see just what everyone from Met Home to Elle Decor has been buzzing about.


Proprietor and Interior Designer, Rayman Boozer surrounded by some his current favorites in stock: clockwise from left, Ikat napkins, $12 each; Gold-leaf branches & birds bowl, $98; various wallpapers, price on request; Japanese ceramic cups, $14 each; cast resin mounted antlers, $38-$75 depending on size.


The prized windowed facade.pendulumPicks

I’m a fiend for color so right now I’m loving the whimsy of the striped crochet bunny, $24 and the ingenious design of this nesting set, $59. A perfect solution for space-strapped kitchens, this rainbow stack nestles measuring cups into a small mixing bowl, a colander, a strainer and the anchoring large mixing bowl.

Apartment 48

12 W. 17th Street

New York City


Brooklyn Moment #12 Ambling the Antic
October 7, 2009

On October 4th the fall fun fest known as Atlantic Antic was for the 35th year, bustling with activity along Atlantic Avenue from Fourth Avenue to Hicks Street near the Waterfront.  It, like many of Brooklyn’s outdoor festivals becomes a reunion of sorts, where friends and family stroll the avenue in search of a great vintage find, a cool mixtape, artisanal jewelry, adult libation and kid-friendly nosh. Happily I come across friend upon friend and year after year the mainstays trot out their wares. There is something wonderfully comforting in knowing this to be true, yet I am always on the lookout for what’s new.  The convergence of the familiar with fresh discoveries once again made for a beautiful Brooklyn Sunday.


What’s an outdoor festival without street food…


good friends… (the beautiful Theresa, Richard and the kids)


great music… (the illest impromptu party in front of DVR Salon on Bond)


and if it’s in Brooklyn, mad BK love?  (

Bespectacled girl that I am, I was overjoyed to stumble upon the array of repurposed sunglasses of YakBlak. This fly duo restores deadstock frames and makes them available at affordable prices.   Just yards away, beauty industry exec, Tami Brooks held court with Tam Aura, her line of sterling jewelry with modern accents of wood and concrete.  Continuing the urban materials theme, Alive Structures produces papercrates made from recycled shredded paper and mixed with cement. Hand-made by local artisans in New York, each planter is uniquely designed using succulents, saxifrages, and alpine flowers. 


YakBlak with some of their “vintage sunnies.”

Working with exotic woods such as Wenge and Zebrawood, Tami crafts beautiful laser-cut pendants and earrings.


Committed environmentalist, Marni Horwitz of Alive Structures with an assortment of planters.

This stretch of Atlantic Avenue, flanked by bars on either end has long been home to purveyors of antiques and collectibles.


Go-Go girls dance before the Last Exit Bar.


Collectibles from Vintage Signage (left) and City Foundry (right)

The nearby New York Transit Museum creates an outdoor display of vintage New York City Transit buses each year at the Antic.


This 1938 GM double-decker model was nicknamed the “Queen Mary” due to its resemblance to the famed ocean liner. It was the first diesel bus used in NYC and the last of the fleet was in service until April 1953.


This 1948 model is among the first 40-foot buses designed specifically for New York City and features a double-wide front door to expedite loading and unloading.  It is nicknamed the “Jackie Gleason Bus,” after the comedian who as Ralph Kramden, drove a similar model on TV’s, “The Honeymooners.” It was in service until 1966.


The 1958 model ushered in the era of the two-tone color scheme, push-type exit door and fiberglass rather than upholstered seating.


In route advertising of yore.  Note the pull string just below to alert the bus driver make a stop.


An unretouched blue sky, the perfect end to a sublime weather day.