Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

The Trove: Ludlow Beckett
July 10, 2011

The distinguished proprietor.

Back in 1999 one handsome, stylish LB, Lloyd Boston, hipped me to another, Ludlow Beckett. Ludlow had just opened his Fort Greene shop, Yú Interiors and Lloyd was spreading the word about his friend’s new venture. Given Lloyd’s clean, modern tastes I knew it would be good. Since then the emporium of “home accessories for modern living” has become my go-to spot for everything from scented candles to vases, lamps, art books and my mid-century glass-topped Danish coffee table.  It’s always a pleasure to browse the inventory for something new and chat with the mellow-voiced Ludlow. We spoke recently of the challenges and rewards of caregiving, how he’s survived in a faltering economy and as the somber anniversary looms, reminisced about the island lift we got when just weeks after the horrors of September 11, 2001 we were both in Kingston, Jamaica for the inaugural Caribbean Fashion Week.

Kingston born and raised, Ludlow “grew up with parents that were very conscious of style,” he says. “My mom started coming to the states in the sixties and would bring back American stuff.  When I look back at the furniture, I think Wow, that was pretty cool!”  Though the seed was planted then, it would germinate for quite a while.

“I never thought of it as a career. I came to the US at twenty and went to college, two years at City College for accounting then Pace University for finance,” he says. He spent 27 years on Wall Street but ultimately left banking when his mother became ill. “I didn’t want to travel as much, so I took time off.” While caregiving, he pondered what business he could open in Brooklyn.  Given the onslaught of gentrification in Fort Greene, he thought home goods would be a viable local option to big box stores.  In keeping with his modernist aesthetic, “It was about providing the things I would like in my own home. I operated under the premise that if I liked it, someone else would like it too whether it’s a Votivo candle or a vintage serving tray.”

About the store name he says “It’s everything YOU need,” and with a considerable Asian influence on much of the merchandise, he spelled it Yú. He incorporates new with vintage pieces, mostly mid-century modern. He loves that era for its “gorgeous woods” like walnut and rosewood; simplicity,”great design without being ornate” and functionality “mass produced for modern living, but still beautiful.”

Yú’s interior.

He’s kept his doors open through the economic downturn armored by his banking experience. “Having managed people (a group of eighty) having run a call center for Chase where you understand customer service, how to recruit, how to train, how to run reports to check progress…all the pieces that come together to run a business. I learned that if you can’t increase your revenue you can still be profitable if you keep your expenses down.”

And most importantly he acknowledges his life partner of 24 years, tax accountant, Allen Harvey, “I couldn’t have done it without him.”

George Mulhauser for Plycraft chair; gold leafed Sea Urchin bowl; spider clock; Quistgaard ice buckets; Tozal ceramic boxes and trays; Zwelethu Mthethwa book; Ridley’s classic games and mid-century Danish teak mirror.

Lean or flush he absolutely enjoys his entrepreneurial endeavor. “When you do something you love, the rewards can come in ways that are unexpected,” he says. An elderly Latina woman, a resident of the local senior center has supported him from the beginning. Though his modern sensibility differed from hers, she wanted to patronize his business and made a concerted effort to seek out items she related to like scented candles. They have become friends. Another customer “came to check on me during the blackout with a flashlight and a beer. So it’s not just about making a dollar, its about making relationships far beyond a transaction.”

Similarly, a look at his Trove reveals a quest for the simple pleasures; his favorites experiential, the stuff that creates quality of life.

1. Entertaining. “I love cooking and love being with my friends over a home-cooked meal.”

2. Great Espresso. “Made in the morning, with my own espresso beans.”

Bialetti stove top espresso maker.

3. Negroni.  “I love cocktails but a good Negroni is the best!”

The classic Campari aperitif via SeriousEats.com.

4. A Bath. He enjoys a good ole tub soak with aromatic botanicals like eucalyptus, lavender and sage. “I’m a product person when it comes to baths.

A Yuma bathtub from BluBleu.

5. Farmer’s Markets. “Brooklyn’s are great, but the one at Union Square can’t be beat, especially in the Springtime.”

Photo via: The Untrepreneur

6. Sag Harbor.  The Hamptons village is home to several historically black enclaves including Chatfield Hills, where Ludlow and Allen purchased a home in 1998.

The pool at their home.

7. Kobo Candles. Clean burning soy wax and unusual fragrance combinations make the scented candles a fave in the shop and his home.

In-store, he carries a full complement of fragrances, but at home he burns the green yet spicy Jalapeño.

8. My Shop. “Gives me the opportunity to meet some great, really interesting people.

Keeping shop: Ludlow and his wares.

9. Vintage Wittnauer Watch.  He loves the 1940’s timepiece inherited from his father.

Launched in 1872, The Wittnauer brand graced fine Swiss watches until it was bought by the Bulova company in 2001.

10. Complexions Contemporary Ballet.  Ludlow truly enjoys the performances of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson’s dance company.

Complexions Co-Founder Desmond Richardson.

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The Trove: Marcia Jones
July 7, 2011

The artist at her recently opened exhibition, Live and in Stereo(type) Photo: Gantt Center.

In 2009 visual artist Marcia Jones chose to inaugurate her brave and unabashedly personal blog, untitled 1972 –truthBE told on December 12, the anniversary of her conception.

 Teens Paul Davis and Christine Jones with their infant daughter; from “Open letter to self.”

And with miraculous will, she’s moved along. From her birth during Mercury retrograde at Chicago’s Little Company of Mary Hospital, her home for her first three months as her tiny body was incubated to her sixty-hour labor to bring daughter Saturn into the world in 1996 to birthing a new vision of and for herself as she juggles the excitement of her career momentum as an artist with the unpredictable challenges of living with chronic illness.

Marcia and I spoke at length by phone on the eve of her exhibition opening with fellow Atlanta artist, Fahamu Pecou at The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, NC. The culmination of her residency (a collaboration between the Gantt Center and McColl Center for Visual Art) her works for the show are from the series, The Displaced Oshun Theory created “to examine the purposeful patriarchal division of The Divine Mother (Mary the Virgin) and The Sacred Whore (Mary Magdalene.)”  She and Fahamu celebrated their shared June 25 birthday at an artist’s talk  at the museum.

“Wonder Twins,” Fahamu and Marcia (in a glorious vintage find) flank Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe whose Gantt exhibition opened the same day.

The show raised a few questions and eyebrows so Marcia has been invited to address the controversy in a discussion on July 21 from 6-7:30pm.  Of her return for the artist round table she says, “curator Ce Scott has been an amazing advocate of my work. I’m very much looking forward to the dialogue with the community, the staff, and the patrons of the Harvey B Gantt Center. I feel like my work is doing exactly what great Art should do… raise discomfort and questioning. I am extremely happy that they are inviting me to come back and answer these questions with valid answers.”

She is grateful for the entire Gantt/McColl opportunity “I sat on a panel with the NEA chairman. Who gets to do that?  The McColl Center catapulting me in the spaces that I would never be in otherwise. So I’m completely appreciative of that. They chose me to speak on behalf of the arts community. I am honored.”

Another part of her residency obligation was, of course, community outreach. “I was really into the advocacy work I did at a battered women’s shelter. That was so healing for all of us there.  I haven’t been physically abused but metaphorically we’re all a little battered we’re all a little wounded in some way. I’m not comparing mine to theirs by any means, but it still resonates in an emotional place in women: trauma, regret, hurt, shame or what not.  I want to move into this arena. I want to help people heal. At my studio at the McColl, women would come in and leave crying. I realize that emotion is very repressed these days, I mask too.”

We spoke of her bohemian childhood, the smile-as-mask that women often adorn, the Kahloesque honesty of her work and her periodic need to pick it up, pack it up and start anew–elsewhere.

Declaring “I’m taking my baby, I’m gone,” Christine and two-year-old Marcia left life in Maple Park and the Southside for Atlantic City, NJ and a cross-country odyssey alighting in Arkansas, Texas, and finally Southern California when Marcia was nine. By the time Marcia was elected president of the Marshall High Black Student Union,  they’d bounced from Silverlake, Venice, and Leimert Park in Los Angeles alone. One of the grounding forces for Marcia was their embrace of Buddhism when she was eleven.

From holding hands (with Mommy) to shaking poms to wielding fire.

Her father, who hadn’t been allowed to take part in her life past infancy, called her on her 18th birthday. “He was like, okay, now we can talk…and we were inseparable from that day forward.” Though she loves her mother, she considers her father and her Chicago aunt, “Aunnie” Lavan Morrison her parents.

With a goal to become a journalist she headed to historically black Clark Atlanta University, where she discovered her writing lacked the necessary objectivity for journalism (Subjectivity was a theme that would pop up again during her graduate study.) While there the young woman who’d filled countless childhood hours coloring books from back to front with crayons, switched majors to fashion, embracing her natural affinity for the visual. She enjoyed the foundation classes, art and drawing. “Conceptually, I liked the idea of being an artist,” she says.  She’d seen the then-emerging artist Radcliffe Bailey around Atlanta, his work, the first show she ever saw.

Armed with a fashion portfolio she headed to New York after her 1995 graduation and camped with friends on Avenue A. While styling a photo shoot she chatted with djassi daCosta johnson who said “I’m going abroad, do you want to interview for my job?” (as personal assistant to harriette cole) “Hook it up. That’d be cool,” was Marcia’s response.  Later at an event she a noticed a woman in the restroom and said, “Ooh, I love your hair.” That woman was harriette, she discovered when she went to the interview.” She got the gig and when I met her, an Afroed angel in the halls of Essence, full of optimism and a smile to melt glaciers, she seemed a blithe spirit, energized by all the possibility that lay before her. “That’s one of the things I miss about being young and vibrant and excited about things, you attract stuff,” she says.  And attract she did: a job, a love, a child and a calling in short order.

Inspired by her painter roommate and drawing on her own innate gift, she began painting. Her first was a tree woman with a hollow womb and which she gifted the man who would give her both love and a baby girl, poet Saul Williams.  “Yeah we conjured up that baby. There was a full moon and a group of us on the Brooklyn Bridge reciting poetry: Mike Ladd, Mums, Mos Def, Wood Harris, Bahiyyih Maroon, Saul and me. It was a magical night…”she recalls fondly.

Sun and Sea and Saturn.

Brooklyn Moon Cafe was buzzing then, poets making noise and making names and I helped bring local visual artists to the space to mount their works.  “When you approached me about that it came at a beautiful time. Thank you. That was really major for me. It solidified my presence in that whole movement–Brooklyn Moon when all this history was taking place.”  She began doing performance painting, raw and in-the-moment, which has taken her from touring England and Scotland with Saul to touring Turkey with band Wax Poetic to solo “performances” in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The Unscene: Marcia Jones directed by Pierre Bennu/Exit the Apple.

After she and Saul parted, she returned to her LA “hometown” and accepted a position at Ikon Secondary Art Gallery in Santa Monica, an immersive experience in the art world.  She noticed that the exhibiting artists all had master’s degrees thought that she too needed an MFA to be taken seriously as an artist and to begin to exhibit her work. “That’s how I ended up in grad school.” That and the joy she knew it would bring her dad.  She was accepted and enrolled in University of North Carolina at Greensboro, studying transatlantic slave trade for her thesis.  She studied the work of Robert Farris Thompson, Orisha studies and slave culture. She was moved by the slave practice of using cooking pots as tombstones. “My father passed away a month after I got into school. It devastated me.  The night she learned of his passing she painted out her sorrow in the wee hours on a vast canvas she submitted for the next morning’s critique.  Tear-streaked and puffy, she donned sunglasses and was reprimanded for it. “I said look, I found out my father died, I painted all night, please don’t make me take off my glasses.”

Her father, Paul Davis and the memorial pot she created in his honor.

At the funeral her father’s best friend told her, “you don’t understand how happy he was you were getting your master’s; he bragged about you all the time.” The grad school experience was, however, brutal. “It tore me to shreds emotionally, spiritually, physically.  I didn’t see it coming. I’d never been so harshly critiqued.” The issue of objectivity (like in undergraduate journalism) reared its head again. From an artist whose work is deeply personal, the criticism your work is too subjective, yields a bored, “yeah, and?…I muse off of my relationships. And the more they fellow in the arena of dysfunction, the grittier they are. I heard the gamut from ‘no painterly technique’ to ‘the work is a little contrived.'” Her champions at the school, Susan Page and Cora Cohen had left, but instructor Juan Logan and artist Kojo Griffin encouraged her to continue — What you’re doing, there’s a place for it. Don’t stop.

Death of New York, circa late 90’s; the artist at work; I Am the Difference, 2002; Displaced Oshun Theory 2; Perfect 2, 2006; Untitled 2004.

She’d chosen her thesis chair because he’d written a book on Atlantic triangular trade, a seemingly good fit but in the last days, he hedged on signing off for her, asking “If I realized that his signature is a green light. I was like what do you want to hear from me, that I won’t end up at the Whitney or MoMA unless you sign this paper?  Everybody else is out celebrating because they’re done and I’m sitting here in your office.” He critiqued and found value in her portfolio and they had “a very long conversation about my position on art, contemporary art specifically.” He signed.  Three days later she was in the hospital. She thought it was exhaustion from all the stress. It was Multiple Sclerosis.

My Body, 2008.

“I kept going. I came back to Atlanta.” Holding a Master of Fine Arts, she “called on my department chair at Clark to question how to get into this [education] industry. How do you get the three years of experience they want before they hire you? What do I do now?” she asked.

“You come here,” he said.  “Someone’s going to have to take over my classes, are you interested?”

“’Hell yeah!’  That’s how I became a professor at my alma mater.  It was awesome. I walked in to ask for advice and walked out with a job,” she exclaims.  “I love teaching. I’m a really good teacher. It was the only time I’ve ever felt totally in my divine purpose–the mother, the artist, the oracle, all of it. Everything about me fell in place.” She was highly ranked among students and in end-of-year department evaluations, but when the ax swung during massive school-wide layoffs, she was the only person in her department to receive a pink slip.  An aunt in the HR industry suggested that perhaps with her illness, she was simply too expensive to insure, as she was offered an adjunct position without medical benefits.

She takes it day-by-day. She received a 2005 Caversham Printmaking Fellowship in South Africa and attended the Spelman College Taller Portobello Artist Colony in Panama in 2006. Though uninsured she says, “Everything has been blessed and taken care of.” Timing has been crucial.  As she needed to heal and focus, Saturn was beginning to spread her wings. Years ago through a reading she came into an early awareness that Saturn is “Saul’s baby,” which has allowed her to “surrender the reins. I have to let her develop in that way, in compliance with the universe because her dreams are going to come true through her interactions with him, witnessing his life. Her father is the vehicle and it all makes sense now.”

“She came to me one day and said ‘I’d like to go to California and live with my dad.’ My diagnosis was relatively recent and I thought This is no life for a twelve-year-old, to have to care for a parent. Go live a life. Her father was in the epicenter of what she wants. I knew what it was like being a child with restraints based on a parents wants, desires, even fears.  I had to let her go.”

“I’m her grounding mechanism. When she needs to talk with her mother, I am there. I’m her advocate, but she and Saul are in the trenches doing the work.” (They now live in Paris) “She comes to me in summers and it’s great. She’s great.” Her bilingual daughter now wants to study German. “She has an ear for music and language.  She taught herself to play Adele’s Hometown Glory on piano and it was flawless.  I was so impressed.  Same thing with guitar.”

“She talks like Saul and looks like me. I call her ‘Spawn,’ she chuckles. “Sat was powerful from the beginning,” she muses about realizing she was pregnant. “We were terrified.” As they discussed the test results, the sunny sky gave way to a deluge that matched their tears.  Once they made a choice: “I guess we’re going to have this baby,” the rains stopped. Two weeks after her due date, Marcia went into labor on Sunday night and Saturn River Renge arrived Wednesday afternoon. “I went to a birthing center to have a water birth and ended up at St. Vincent’s with an epidural-but it all is what it is.”

When your wonderful daughter is a Transatlantic flight away, it helps to have Skype.

“As a parent you’re supposed to make your child better than you are. And she is already,” Marcia says. “We’re doing a good job. I’m so proud of her. I could talk about her forever.” Saturn’s teacher commended her on an abstract painting she’d done: “This is amazing, how did you learn this?” Her reply delights Marcia to no end. “My mom.”

That Saturn’s children may one day read about her she says, “that is a dream of mine, that they’ll say ‘oh that’s my grandmother.’ I’m not trying to be an art star right here, right now– I want history. Frida Kahlo legendary.” She wants socks made in her likeness, “handbags at the flea market, beaded curtains.  That’s what I think about. But if the Whitney calls tomorrow I wouldn’t say no.”

The “visual learner” shares without commentary, but rather a curation of defining images, her ten favorite things.

1. Filbert Paint Brushes.  

Photo: Meadow Overstreets

2. Poets.

Poetry was a powerful springboard for her — into becoming an artist, into motherhood. It’s entwined with her adult life in collaborations with poets from Saul to jessica Care moore to her soulful exchanges with the “phenomenal” Stefen Micko. Video: Notorius Productions.

3. Kissing.

baciare. baisers. beijo. besarse. jiewen. kisu. kumbusu. kussen. kyssar.

4. Aesthetic Discernment.

From group Rising Appalachia, “SUNU.”

5. Boots.

The knee-high, fringed Minnetonka is a fave.

6. Creative Critical Thought.

The LA-based blog, Galaxy/.09, offers an amalgam of her eclectic interests.

7.8) Universal Sacred Geometry.


Diagram: Il Triangolo Sacro e La Piana di Giza. (The Sacred Triangle and The Pyramid of Giza) © 1998 Alfonso Rubino.

8. Newton’s Laws mixed with String Theory.

A  quantum primer.

9. Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic Paint.  


She specifically uses the light blue and soft pink shades.

10. Authenticity.

Ezili, dancer/choreographer Adia Tamar Whittaker’s collaborative video project with filmmakers Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel and Joshua Bee Alafia.

Join the Marcia Jones artist page on facebook.


The Trove: Lois Samuels
April 28, 2011

The delighted designer: “I really like myself; If I didn’t know me, I’d want to know me.”

When I first met Lois Samuels, she was a carefree 21-year-old giddily dancing her way through fittings in Barbados for a Ruven Afanador photo shoot.  A cavalcade of fashion to a jungle music soundtrack, the seemingly endless try-ons went into the wee hours with Lois remaining bright and cheery as the Bajan sun. Fast forward to 2011 and the ever-beautiful thirty-something remains upbeat, tempered with the wisdom of life experience.  We met in her Upper West Side apartment to discuss her journey from model to mom to fashion designer of the sumptuously crafted the Vessel. by Lois.

We spoke of our love of Grace Coddington, the brilliant heart of Vogue fashion in the film, The September Issue, and our shared disdain of cigarette smoking. “I want a clean cough,” she says. We then got down to the business of viewing the collection: clean, simple silhouettes in lush fabrics: wool twill, baby camel, silk lurex and silk twill. She loves jumpsuits, “they’re like a one-pot meal,” and she enjoys the ease of both. She’ll always have a variation on the theme in each collection. Many of her looks have detachable details like modesty panels for cleavage, cuffs, collars even bustles to make each multi-functional. “I think a woman can have five looks for the month.” Her longing for simplicity has its roots in her schoolgirl days donning uniforms in her native Jamaica and has influenced her aesthetic.  Those days also fostered a sense of respectful decorum that she “didn’t particularly like” as a student. “I appreciated it more when I got older and sought some sense of calm and structure in my life and my wardrobe. I saw how much structure it brought in the chaos of life. There is already so much to think of and plan. Clothing shouldn’t necessarily take so much of that thinking time.”

She speaks lovingly of her country upbringing. “I spent most of my younger years on my father’s farm in Manchester. It was a beautiful, old, wooden home in the mountains of St. Paul’s supposedly once owned by the English. At that time we harvested pimento, picked and dried coffee from the land on the barbecues before sending the products off to the various factories for export. There were always fruits: mangoes, tangerines, bananas, papayas and on any given day you could find me seated in an orange tree peeling up to a dozen sweet oranges at a time.  I dreamed of becoming a farmer. Loved the smell of cows, the soil after a rainy day, the muskiness from the trees.” She has a particularly fond memory of “planting a small patch of carrots and pulling the little ones from the earth and consuming it with the dirt. What a lovely combination that was. I couldn’t imagine eating the dirt in America.”

Uniformity: the sweet-faced Lois (center) with her classmates from the Hampton High School for Girls in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.

Eventually she and her older sister (they would learn of their older half brother as they grew older) went to live with their mother in the town of Santa Cruz. “It was more convenient for schooling for both ourselves and my Mom who was a school teacher.”  She credits both parents for being “exceptionally supportive” as they co-parented. Her Mom, as primary parent, “was always present and stood by my sister and me…I always had great interest in the arts. From ensuring I was in ballet classes to making sure there was a piano when I expressed interest in music,” her Dad made it happen. “When I was scouted by the Jamaican agency, Pulse, to become a model, he strongly encouraged it.” There was a local competition and a delegation was taken to the USA and Europe.  She signed in the US with Bethann Management where the sprightly Tyron Barrington nurtured her early career. She’s lived in both the US and Europe ripping the runways of Christian LaCroix, Issey Miyake and Thierry Mugler and alighting under the photographic gaze of the likes of Steven Meisel, Ellen Von Unwerth and fellow Jamaican, Walter Chin.

The Barbados shoot for Essence Magazine; one of the “hip kids” cast to launch the Calvin Klein fragrance ckOne.

Graceful beauty.

Though she continues to model occasionally, Lois has over the years pursued other passions including writing (her model memoir, A Glow in the Dark was published in 1999) creating a family (she and former husband Mark became the ecstatic parents of son Malo in 2001) photography (Jamaica Through My Eyes, a photo homage to her homeland was published in 2007) painting and fashion design. In fact, her Fashion Week debut would be inspired by the paintings of Jacob Lawrence.

A collection of photography, Lois’ second published book.

After several years of living in London, she returned to the states and assisted bespoke designer Jussara Lee briefly before becoming Account Manager at menswear designer Thom Browne, both positions offering invaluable lessons about quality control in the production of high-end fashion. She’s wanted to design fashion since she was about 14-years-old, “But the journey took me in many different places until almost three years ago when I felt it was the time.” So in September 2009 she unveiled her new line, the Vessel. by lois, to critical acclaim during New York Fashion Week. The significance of the label’s name? “I see us all as vessels of life and love. I also see clothing as vessels that uplift and protect the wearer,” she says.

the Vessel. by lois  Spring Summer 2010 collection.  Video: Grand Central Videos

When asked about her inspirations she replies, “Life inspires me. I never follow trends.” She notes that she respects indie designer, Lola Faturoti and wishes expansive growth for her. She also is heartened by the success of African-American designer Tracy Reese. “I really admire Tracy Reese.  She’s built an empire,” she says noting the growing brand umbrella.  She’s unmoveable. She’s solid…I have great admiration for the individuals in fashion who carve a place for themselves and their creations. And maintain it in this industry. Like Donna Karan and Issey Miyake.”

“I’m playing a lot with capes,” Lois says of her latest collection from the floor-length, dramatic  entrance-maker to the jaunty capelet. She smartly showcased the ebony and ivory pieces for Fall/Winter 2011 with larger-than-life black and white photographs by Joanna Totolici.  Lois herself is the sole model, presenting a strong, modern, sexy woman, The Vessel woman.

A Vogue Italia feature; the Jacket, from Fall/Winter 2011 with removable bustle in wool twill.

She’s taking it back home to Jamaica for Spring 2012.  “The vibrancy, the color, the flowers,” will be in full bloom. “Jamaica is a wonderful country and in all my travels I am yet to feel the energy that thrives there. From the topography of the land, it’s lushness … the flora and fauna… the vibration in the air and passion of the people, the flavor of our foods our music, beaches it’s endless.” She’ll continue to develop the Vessel., embrace the fact that her baby boy will be ten-years-old this fall and get to know the younger half sister she discovered via Facebook a few months ago. “It’s been an experience,” she says.

Her trove of favorites is largely experiential, have a look…

1. Motherhood. “I can’t imagine life without my son. He’s so supportive. I’m always working around him.” (and he will chime in if he thinks a look is too revealing) “Motherhood is a gift.”

Lois’ joy: glowing with the great love of her life, Malo.

2. Love. “Of the Divine, my son, family and friends.”

“Love” spelled out in American Sign Language.  © All rights reserved by Mariahhh1.

3. Fruits and Foods of the Land. With farming in her DNA, she enjoys the bounty that the earth yields.

Coffee, sweet orange and tangerine, pimento and bananas.

4. Sunshine. Her own disposition seems to mimic the Sun’s rays.

Lois, like other heliotropic beings seeks it with great zeal.

5. Flowers. She delights in the beauty of color and fragrance which sprouts from the earth.

The flora of her homeland.

6. Travel.   “All sunny places.”

No surprise that her beloved Jamaica makes the cut, but she also loves visiting Turkey. Her favorite cities are Paris and New York.

7. Photography. “I love to capture the spirit.”

Mrs. Rose and her Great-grandchild; Grandma Avis.

8. Music. “Music brings joy and sadness, brings back memories and makes us escape…takes us away.” Her tastes are eclectic from reggae (Burning Spear, Ijahman Levi and Bob Marley) to pop (Stereo Lab and Daft Punk)  to Rock, Rare Groove, Opera and Jazz. “Music is life!” she exclaims.

Burning Spear, “Marcus Garvey.

9. Spur Tree Lounge.  The Lower East Side boite has “lovely energy,” she says. With its Jamaican-Asian fusion, it gives her “a piece of home, great food, great music, and the owner Sean John is such a fantastic host as well!”

 Photo: © All rights reserved SeBiArt.

10. Ties.  Her favorite, must-have accessory, the necktie is the inspiration for her just launched Her-Tie.com, a collection of ties for women.

Her Tie by Lois Samuels worn with the Baby camel Jumper from the Vessel. by lois.

The Trove: Malene Barnett
April 18, 2011

Malene and her limited edition “Tap Tap” carpet. Inspired by the colorful buses of the same name in Haiti, she donated the profits from the sale of this carpet to Aid to Artisans Haitian Artist Recovery Fund.

Since the 2009 launch of Malene b Custom Handmade Carpets, principal Malene Barnett has enjoyed enviable and well-deserved publicity including features in Interior Design and New York magazines, the Los Angeles Times and widely followed websites Design*Sponge, Apartment Therapy and The Selby.

It was the inclusion of the “Tap Tap” carpet in the catalogue for The Global Africa Project  (GAP) at the Museum of Art and Design which brought me face-to-face with the entrepreneur whose handmade carpets were generating considerable design buzz.  We’d been introduced virtually by artist Cheryl Riley but it was at the magnificent exhibit’s opening last fall that we actually shook hands and committed to meeting for a one-on-one chat (which would reveal we’d met many years earlier.)

Her own work imbued with illustrative motifs, Malene found herself in great company amid the artists and designers included in the GAP, such as Kehinde Wiley whose work graces the catalogue cover and interior designer Sheila Bridges (far right) whose “Harlem Toile” suite of home goods is featured.

An ardent traveler, Malene’s life and work are woven with the inspirational threads of her global journeys.  She collects local teas from every region she visits so when we sat down for tea in her inviting Bed-Stuy townhouse, the choices ranged from Jamaican Hibiscus to African Rooibos. Furnished with a refreshing economy of possessions, her home, designed by Henry Mitchell, is airy and expansive. Punctuated with the artifacts of her travels and just-enough furniture, the rooms, with their jubilant colors (turquoise, sunny yellow, relaxing lavender) evoke sunshine and trade winds even on the grayest of days.  She envisions an eventual return to her Caribbean roots; her mom, Cynthia is from St. Vincent, her dad, Franklyn from Jamaica. Her goal is to own a home high on a hill.  “I don’t have to be on the ocean, I just want to see it.”

Malene’s serene, sun-drenched master bath. Photo: Henry Mitchell Interior Architecture.

Though she is Bronx-born, Malene’s parents “wanted to raise the kids in the suburbs” and pulled up stakes for Norwalk, Connecticut, where she grew up near the beach.  Teachers discovered her creative leanings early on and selected her for the school’s artistically talented program when she was in the third grade. She recalls being instructed that artists sign their works with either first initial and last name or first name and surname initial.  She at age eight, proudly signed, Malene B. “Malene has something special, we need to cultivate it,” her mother said.

And a brand was born: Malene’s first painting –with colorful carpet– hangs in her mother’s home to this day.

After her parents’ eventual split, Malene and her two sisters were raised by their mom with love and high standards.  “I have to feed you and educate you,” Ms. Barnett would say. A classical pianist and educator, she required her daughters to learn violin. Malene played for 6 years, seriously considering its pursuit until tenth grade when she had to choose between violin and painting classes. “I was playing softball and volleyball and painting. I was into my sports and into my art,” she says. “I said, ‘Mommy, I’m not into the books, I’m into the paintbrush.” Nonetheless Cynthia Barnett expected her girls to excel academically and to contribute to their college funds with summer employment when they came of age.  As a result Malene was “into my hustle –designing t-shirts, always thinking entrepreneurially.  I had to come up with monies for my education, $1000 a summer.”

Dr. Cynthia Barnett surrounded by her girls, Debbie, Malene and Nneka.

Her personal criterion for college was clear: “I wanted to paint and play volleyball and Purchase had both.” Though the SUNY school had a reputable fine art program, she “decided that I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” and considered the commercial arts.  Her grandmother had been a fashion designer so fashion illustration appealed to her and she transferred to another SUNY school, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where she soon realized that though she could draw, illustration was not her strong suit.  She chuckles as she recalls a conversation with her then-illustration instructor. Prof. Ishikawa: “Barnett, what are you going to do?” Malene: “A BFA in Textiles.” (she’d just discovered FIT’s Textile Surface Design program through hallway displays of student work) Prof. Ishikawa: “That’s going to be the best thing for you.”

Professor Ishikawa was right.  Given Malene’s love of texture and strong sense of color and pattern, she excelled in the major. Then her cultural heritage began to call: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X woke me up.  Public Enemy and X Clan were popular at the time.” She seized the opportunity for a three-week cultural exchange in Ghana. “It was my awakening, from then on every opportunity I had, I infused our culture, using our motifs.”  While still a student, she freelanced with the late Kerris Wolsky at Harlem Textile Works.

Her multi-disciplinary major introduced her to a variety of specialties, including rug and carpet design which suited her textural sensibilities.  One of the projects for an independent study was to create carpet designs for Carnival Cruise Lines. Ultimately, Malene received the department medal, graduated with honors and won the Stark Carpet Design Award for her design “African Folktale.” For graduation she treated herself to a trek through Ghana, Gambia and India.

Upon her return Malene began a two-year stint as Design Director of Afritex, designing African-inspired prints. (It was on a market appointment for Essence Magazine that I met Malene at the Afritex showroom) When layoffs ended her tenure there, she accepted a position as the first in-house designer at Nourison Rugs, one of the world’s leading producers of imported handmade rugs where she “stepped up my game with computer design.”  Her dormant entrepreneurial spirit re-emerged when on May 5, 2000, she boarded a plane to “backpack through Southeast Asia and find a manufacturer in India…At the time I was planning to launch a bedding line.” Realizing that she lacked import acumen, she shelved the idea.  “I knew how to draw a pretty picture but not the business side of production imports.”  When Nourison called her back to work on a project that would eventually last four-and-a-half years, she met Sales Manager Gary Shafran (who would later become her business partner.) Together they worked to build Nourison’s accent rug division, catapulting their business from $1 million in sales to $17 million.  “My design transformed their business,” but she ultimately hit a glass ceiling, “there would be no more growth…So I wanted to leave.” Gary found positions for them at another company, JLA, where they worked for two years before Malene proposed launching their own line focused on her design aesthetic.  Having created carpets filtered through the corporate points-of-view of the various lines she designed (Nicole Miller, Martha Stewart, Nautica, Liz Claiborne, Nate Berkus, to name a few) she was ready for her own expression.

Gary, also ready for a change, agreed and they spent the next nine or so months developing the business that would bring globally inspired, hand-tufted, hand-knotted and flat woven custom carpets to the marketplace. As committed as she is to sharing a design aesthetic shaped by her exploration of indigenous cultures and an ever-broadening worldview, she is equally committed to ethical production and trade:

It is important for me to be socially conscious in all my endeavors. To that end, I proudly support Goodweave and Aid to Artisans in their quest to eliminate child labor practices, provide education and preserve handmade crafts in Africa, Asia and South America. -From the malene b website.

A work in progress:  A Nepali weaver crafting the “Market Women” pattern in wool and silk.

She found an early champion in the editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine, Cindy Allen. “I met her on a plane in 2009.”   They exchanged cards and arranged an office visit in New York. Malene recalls the meeting, I brought six strike-offs  (2′ x 2′ samples) and Cindy said  ‘I like what you’re doing. I want to help you out, help jump-start your business,’ and gave me a one-page story in the magazine.”


Editor-in-Chief, Cindy Allen and Malene at the celebration for Cindy’s 10th anniversary at the helm of Interior Design Magazine.  The “Wolof” rug which commemorated a trip to Senegal, garnered the first major press for the fledgling malene b and inspired the design of the custom iron gates at Malene’s Brooklyn home — they mimic the silhouettes’ small heads and elongated necks.

The self-described techie continues to get the word out by utilizing social media (“like” her on Facebook; “follow” her on Twitter and check out her blog) making appearances at trade shows and “networking like crazy.”  She’s reveling in recent press in House Beautiful and L’Officiel Paris. And though she acknowledges that publicity isn’t “necessary for sales, but it validates,” the company (represented in showrooms in New York, Miami, Vancouver and Calgary) is capitalizing on the momentum and “focusing now on building sales.”  Her “Masks” design has been commissioned for the ballroom of a Georgia college. She is looking forward to next month’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair where she’ll debut four new collections based where she’ll debut four new collections based on more subtle, open designs in hand knotted and tufted techniques. The thirty-four designs are inspired by such diverse iconic images as the paper fans of Kyoto, the colored glass of Murano, the Turkish pottery of Istanbul and the lavender fields of Provence.

The “St. Vincent,” so named for Malene’s mother’s homeland, provides the backdrop for a spread on Beyoncé in the March issue of L’Officiel.

In addition to growing her business, she plans, eventually to teach. “I like sharing and showing,” which she had the opportunity to do in January when she gave a talk about her design process at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.  What she has no plans of doing, however, is opening a store. “I don’t want to be tied to a physical space,” she says.

Over the course of a multi-hour visit with this vagabond spirit, we discovered a shared myriad of design pet peeves, a passion for travel (her “Kerala” and “Papunya” patterns pay homage to two of my favorite travel destinations, India and Australia) and a love of good food.  Vegetarian like her artistic father, she views cooking as “another form of art, another expression.” Her specialty is tofu. “I can rock the tofu big time…I love food so much it has actually inspired my design:” the skin of a coconut (“Bahia“) the hypotrochoid shape of star anise (“Anise”) and stalks of sugarcane (“Kingston.”)  She adds, “And I’m big on dessert.”  It’s no surprise then, that her voyager’s trove is bracketed with sweets…

1. Fudge by Burnt Sugar. Malene discovered the UK treat at New York’s Fancy Food Show in 2007.  She loves the tasty nibbles reminiscent of the fudgy goodness she purchases from “the lady on the side of the road, in the islands.”


Yum!

2. The Color Turquoise. When asked to name her four favorite colors in a 2010 feature on photographer Todd Selby’s wildly popular, The Selby, Malene responded 1) turquoise 2) orange 3) turquoise 4) turquoise.

Her absolute favorite color welcomes all who visit her chic Bed-Stuy home. Photo: The Selby

3. Fulani Earrings. The nomadic women of the Fulani in West Africa receive the bold yarn-wrapped gold earrings from their husbands upon marriage or by inheritance upon the deaths of their mothers. Malene frequently rocks her Fulani-inspired hoops in homage.

Malene at home; a married woman in Senosa, Mali © 2004 Don Gurewitz; Fulani inspiration adapted for the Western market sans yarn and with small ear wires.

4. Jo Malone Fragrances. She enjoys the modern, unexpected blends of the celebrated UK brand.

One of her favorites, Pomegranate Noir.

5. Travel. It nourishes her spirit and informs her work.

Clockwise: chilling by the turquoise waters of Barbados; dried hibiscus in Trinidad; sand painting in Senegal; Bajan boulders; steel pan drums and Trini produce.


6. Spice Market Candle. From restaurateur James Boyce, the spicy aromas of cassia, ginger and ground cloves in an alluring collaboration with candle maker, Voluspa.

She keeps a large tin at the ready in her living room.

7. Isabel de Pedro Dress. A sleeveless, body-conscious column from the Spring/Summer 2007 collection, Harmattan features the Spanish designer’s signature use of photographic images as textile design.

A detail of the marvelous silk screened images from Africa.
8. My Moroccan Slippers.  She actually bought the vibrant raffia and leather babouches of Morocco from the Sandaga Market in Dakar. Senegal. “I bought many pairs but this one has become my favorite because they make a statement with any simple outfit such as jeans and a t-shirt.

“They are so comfy and I love the bright colors!”

9 Teal Wood Floors. White oak stained with the cousin of her beloved turquoise.

The subtle touch of teal graces the flooring throughout the parlor level of her townhouse.

10. Frosting from Butter Lane Cupcakes. Though she likes the cupcakes just fine, it really is all about the frosting and luckily for her, Butter Lane sells it by the shot, a buck a pop. A sweet, quick fix.

“I love pretty much all of their flavors but I will take a peanut butter or coconut shot any day.”


The Trove: Nicole Landaw
April 5, 2011

WE’VE MOVED! Check out this story at  THE TROVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mover of Metal: Goldsmith & Jewelry Designer, Nicole Landaw.

A few weeks ago, gloriously pregnant and furiously nesting, the lovely Nicole Landaw welcomed me for lunch at the Williamsburg home she shares with her handsome hubby, architect Mark Maljanian.  I’d been introduced to Nicole and her gorgeous jewelry designs a few years back by our mutual friend, Elsa, and have called upon Nicole Landaw Jewelry (NLJ) whenever the need arises for statement jewelry for clients.

Over a healthful meal of homemade Vietnamese crab and asparagus soup, veggie burgers and beet salad, we talked shop, suburban longings, the genesis of NLJ and the six-year relationship that would culminate just days later in the eagerly anticipated arrival of the son they nicknamed Roo. “We are superstitious,” she says. “We have a name in mind, but we won’t announce it until he’s actually here.”

Nicole was born in Northern California, where her hematologist/oncologist father completed his PhD in Nuclear Medicine at UC Berkeley.  When a research position called three years later, the clan relocated to Syracuse. A family of “do-it-yourself-ers,” they were a “crafty household during a very crafty time,” she recalls. Nicole had a solid grounding in suburbia until her folks split and her mother decamped to New Jersey. “The love of going to the movies in a car, going through a car wash, having huge basements and garages, that sensibility never left me even after moving to a high-rise apartment building with an elevator.” She enjoyed the duality of both “metropolis living and life upstate,” as she and her brother lived the school year with Mom and spent holidays and summers in Syracuse with Dad.

Her earliest memory of creating something was that of a Play-doh figure: “a two-dimensional, clumpy pancake of a man.”  When she found a curled Polaroid image of it, “it chilled me,” she says, taking her back to age four and the smells of its creation.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl.

“The resonant power of the handmade in my life was laying low for a long time. In high school, my best friend and I made beaded jewelry,” but she insists there was “no scintillating prophecy of what was to come.”  The real epiphany would come later in her first days as a Dartmouth College undergrad. A new friend, Betsy, showed her a box she’d made: a flanged silver marvel topped with a cabochon. Nicole was stunned. “I asked her ‘You moved metal? You made this?’ The fact that she could work metal and change its shape at will totally rocked my world.”  The discovery of Dartmouth’s own jewelry studio was a revelation. “It has an incredible endowment of tools in a super organized space; a full facility for soldering, casting, forging, you name it.” Though the study of economics suited her nature, the econ major found herself spending as much time as possible in the jewelry studio.

In time, Nicole began to question, “How are people using these techniques to express themselves and affirm the body?” But it took a while to realize this was her calling; she still felt her destiny was to become a lawyer.  By her junior year, however, she’d worked in a law firm and hated it. When acceptances came in from Columbia and NYU law schools she turned them down much to the chagrin of her family. “My family wanted self-sufficiency and I was thwarting a possibility. It would have been a really safe choice to pursue law,” she reflects. She was certain, though, that she’d “wake up ten years later to discover I’d done myself in.”

“I took an inventory: what do I want to do with my life, what would satisfy me, what I’d be happy to be paid for.” She realized that in moving metal, “I wasn’t just regurgitating for a grade, I had passion. It took a long time for me to believe in myself, but finally I decided. ‘I’m going to be a goldsmith!’  After I graduated Dartmouth, I volunteered as an instructor at the jewelry studio so I could have keys to access the center at night.” The low cost-of-living in New Hampshire helped. She was able to save, purchase supplies, put together a portfolio in a year and apply to grad school to pursue a Masters of Fine Art in Metalsmithing.  She selected suburban Detroit’s Cranbrook Academy of Art, about which she waxes rhapsodic. “The Academy is a master work of art, architecture and environment. It’s incredibly beautiful. There are more gardeners on campus than students in the grad school.”

“Cranbrook is a complete and holistic view of form and function. It’s paradise.” She was able to “work on my skills, find a voice in a safe, away-from-it-all environment where I could focus.  The skies parted and opened with blessings for me.” After Cranbrook she honed her skills further at the School of Design, Hochschule Pforzheim University in Germany. In contrast to her experience at Cranbrook, Nicole recalls “my life there was extremely German and rectilinear and controlled.”

Soon after her return to the United States, Nicole entered “the corporate bastion of jewelry marketing,” spending the next several years as a Creative VP fostering the design and production of mass-market jewelry in far-flung jewelry factories. She put in her time “seeing tradition being tossed out for a watered-down American aesthetic,” yet she offers that those pieces were “the best that they could be at their price point” allowing her designs to be broadly affordable to the public. Though the experience was draining, there were moments when she was “left alone to see incredible art and craftsmanship native to the local cultures.” Nicole credits this experience as having affirmed the value of a handmade object, increasing her production knowledge and offering her the experience of global travel on someone else’s dime. “And anytime I wasn’t traipsing around the world, I was making my own work.”

In 2004, when HBO’s The Sopranos borrowed pieces from her corporate collection, Nicole pulled the costumer aside noting, “I have my own things, too,” and through this connection was able to submit pieces for Sex and the City.

Sarah Jessica Parker fell in love with the Gold Beaded Spiral Hoops she wore as Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City episode, “Splat.”

Later that same year, with numerous placements of her jewelry on television and film and having won GenArt’s prestigious Design Vision Award in Accessories, Nicole launched Nicole Landaw Jewelry.

Some NLJ beauties: Her Aerin Cuff; Amethyst and Diamond Double Leaf Barnaby Drop earrings; North South East West Amethyst Ring and a special objet d’art, the willowy, Pearl-bodied Spider.

Eight months after returning to her dream of hand making jewelry, Nicole met Mark, whose Piscean father George, in charming coincidence shared both her birth week and passion for goldsmithing.  On their third date—on Valentine’s Day– Mark gave her a corrugated box he’d made which perfectly enclosed two bars of dark chocolate. “I was delighted with its craftsmanship and the thoughtful care he took to make an enclosure for his simple gift.” It was a pivotal moment. “I knew right away that he was the one,” Nicole says, “and that cardboard box sealed the deal.” Mark notes, “I’m allergic to anything that sounds too saccharine,” but he too knew fairly quickly and canceled other dates after their second meeting. “I was ‘in’ early,” he admits.

They moved in together a year and a half later, buying the building in which they now live. “Our relationship was forged by this property.” Nicole says.  “The logistics of buying and renovating it used both our skill sets to the max.” During this same time Mark lost both of his parents in quick succession George’s illness precluded the opportunity for Nicole to ever “talk shop” with him before his passing yet she says, “I have an active dialogue with George because I have all his tools and equipment.” The family asked her to breakdown his shop after he passed and gifted her his stones and tools.  She showed me the lovingly stored pieces, including an assortment of meticulously crafted cameos and garnets from India. Nicole realizes the good fortune of this inheritance: “having all these pieces to play with…who would ever have that much? His tools are treasures–like a beautiful old wooden-handled saw frame that will last forever.”

George’s cameos.

George’s tools.

“Through George’s tools, I am in rapport with him to slow things, to be mindful of our history as goldsmiths,” Nicole specializes in custom-made wedding rings as her late father-in-law did before her. “It’s a great honor for me to help affirm a couple’s union through their rings. I take that responsibility very seriously.”

His and Hers wedding bands commissioned by a Seattle couple. Photo: RSP Media

In a brilliant proposal of marriage, Mark presented Nicole with a “Make Your Own Engagement Ring Kit,” comprised of a wooden box that he crafted in his woodshop.  Within the box, Mark carved niches to cradle three diamonds and a bar of 18 karat gold.

Once again, he got her with a handcrafted box. After months of contemplation over the design, Nicole created her bridal rings and Mark’s band. They married in August 2008.

And on March 2, 2011, the beautiful boy arrived, Jack Calder Maljanian. Family photo by Urbanito.

Gifted with a healthy newborn the day before her birthday, Nicole has a living, breathing, nursing fave, but she shares some of the “stuff” she loves…

1. My studio. “I get an itch to be there and when I’m working away, I’ll completely lose track of time. It’s my sanctuary.”

George’s trusty wooden saw; her tumbler, “the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given”; the wintry garden as seen from her workbench; signage from George’s shop; with a mini-torch, she solders ear wire to a hoop casting. View the step-by-step process on Flickr.

2. ¿adónde? Stoneware. Gifts from their wedding registry, she and Mark love the brilliant combo of form and function in the modular dishware.  Versatile stoneware makes each piece microwave, dishwasher and oven safe.

Stackable stoneware, the plates fit on the bowls as lids– storage perfection.

3. Custom Cutting Gemstones. She has a “total addiction. It’s a labor of love.  It’s really exciting to approach and re-approach a piece until you get it exactly right. By designing both the stone’s cut and its mounting, I control the entire vocabulary of the piece. Getting into custom-cutting stones changed my work entirely. I can never go back to pre-cut stones.”

George’s influence is evident in the Sheri Ring’s custom-cut Rutilated Quartz with its cabochon top and faceted underside. The ring is featured in Lloyd Boston’s “The Style Checklist.”

4. Metropolitan at Diner. While the famous Williamsburg watering hole no longer offers its variation on a black currant Cosmo, Nicole insures “When I come back to the bottle, I’m gonna make it come back, it’s so good!”

“It’s perfection in a glass!”

5. Braun Multimix (immersion blender, mixer, chopper and kneader all-in-one) “My longing for suburbia is greater than me. With this I can make soup by the boatload to fill our new basement chest freezer with little effort. I became a smoothie queen during my pregnancy and with this it’s a no-brainer to whip up something delicious in a heartbeat.”

Multimix: “It’s stupid cheap, cleans in a jiffy, I’ve had it forever. It comes with a pile of attachments, too, so you can basically do next to everything with it.”

6. Supermarkets, Drugstores and Flea Markets Abroad. ”I love the sensory overload of patterns and smells and the strange novelties of new places. I get lost in the bliss of it all”

A Cheng-du supermarket via Maxxelli-Blog.

7. Adidas Santiossage Slides. The nubby massage sandal is “one of the very few branded things I wear. As soon as the weather gets warm, I’m in them constantly.”

With its massaging footbed, the Santiossage is a perennial best-seller.

8. Lip Goo. “I’ve always been a goo addict, a total junkie. I always have it around.”

Her current obsession is Kiehl’s #1 Lip Balm. Photo via Flickr: Elizabeth Taylor

9. Vinyasa Yoga. She practices at Go Yoga Williamsburg under the instruction of Stephanie Sandleben and Michael Hewett.

Photo via Flickr:  all rights reserved by Bendyburg.

10. Drive-thru-Car Wash. Again, suburban nostalgia. “There’s nothing that can completely reset me like that. It would be impossible to not to forget myself while going through.”

“The dark and misty sudsing and the right, rocking song on the radio…what could be better?”

Since launching, NLJ has garnered major press coverage including W and Harper’s Bazaar to UK Telegraph. Nicole’s work is available at arp in Los Angeles, Quadrum Gallery in Boston, Egan Day in Philadelphia and select designer jewelry retailers. For more information, visit her website http://nicolelandaw.com and “like” Nicole Landaw Jewelry on Facebook.


The Trove: Renaldo Barnette
January 13, 2011

The impeccable Professor Barnette, photographed by fashion peer, Michael McCollom.

Renaldo Barnette loves models.  In fact, he was one — a muse to esteemed fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez as he created the brooding genie in the lushly illustrated 1985 re-telling of the Scheherazade classic Tales of the Thousand and One Nights.  Friendships with runway legends eased his transition to life in late-eighties Paris: Coco Mitchell (“She’s still my heart”) welcomed him as a roommate during his jaunts to the City of Lights and Lu Sierra introduced the awed young designer/illustrator to Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy. Millie the Model, a paper doll dream glimpsed in the pages of his older sister’s comic books started it all.

A page from a 1960 “Millie the Model” book available on eBay.

 

Renaldo’s oh-s0-chic 2010 season’s greetings brightened my holiday.

The youngest of the “humorous and fabulous” Eddie and Lillian Barnette’s four children, Renaldo was born in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  An Army brood, the family moved every 2 or 3 years, living in places as far-flung as Okinawa, Japan and Augsburg, Germany to several states in the U.S.  “My real discovery of drawing was when we lived in Hawaii, between about eight and ten-years-old,” he says. He’d duplicate the super heroes from his comics, Spiderman and Superman, but it was big sis Phyllis’ Millie the Model and Katy Keene books that captured his burgeoning fashion imagination.  His mom, who called to mind Diahann Carroll’s TV character, Julia, was a “nice, stylish, suburban lady” who had her clothes made.  Baby of the family Renaldo would accompany her to fittings with dressmakers in whatever town they found themselves in.  Fascinated, he took it all in, learning about patterns and fit, fingering the fabric samples and quietly taking the available scraps. With these scavenged textiles or even bits of his own cut-up socks, “I learned how to trace a bodice and sleeve.” He saved his lunch money and secretly bought a Barbie doll, sharing this only with his brother Corinzo, now a hairstylist in Florida. “Corinzo would style Barbie’s hair and I’d make her clothes.”

During a family stint in Fort Knox, Kentucky, “Mom sent me to the store to pick up something and I spent her change to buy a copy of Vogue. It was big, the September issue. I think it was 1971 or ’72.”  Though he was concerned she’d be angry about the expenditure,  it opened a dialogue.  “Oh, you’re interested in fashion?” she asked, then shared that she’d gone to New York years before to pursue a modeling career. She didn’t continue that path, but she kept up with the styles of the times.  As fashion “got young in the seventies,” people mistook Ms. Barnette in her “Cleopatra Jones cropped fur jacket, double-knit pants and curly “Freedom” wig for her children’s sister. (With Corinzo’s help she had “an entire wig wardrobe with wiglets and falls.”)

Though his father was oft in uniform, Renaldo was taken by a photo of his father in the era just after the Zoot Suit: the strong shoulder was still there, but the silhouette was slimmer.  His dad looked sharp.  And he taught his sons the essentials of proper grooming.

When Fort Bragg beckoned, the family lived in Fayetteville, NC where Renaldo excelled in art class, so much so that his teacher taught him private painting lessons.  “But I was bored,” Renaldo says, “and kept on drawing girls.”  Noticing the fashion illustrations advertising local store, Miss Vogue Junior Shop, his instructor noted that Renaldo’s illustrations were as good the advertisements in the paper and convinced the shop to hire the eighth grader for a Saturday job drawing velvet blazers, Faded Glory jeans and Huk-a-Poo dresses. It was, of course, a big deal for him. “I thought I was the cat’s meow.  I became a local celebrity.”  When his beloved brother, Eddie Jr. passed away last year, Renaldo was deeply moved by the discovery that his proud big bro had saved all his Miss Vogue sketches (as well as his favorite Hot Wheels cars.)

After high school, he headed to Los Angeles to attend FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising,) where he was eventually advised to head to New York, for a better match of sensibilities.  He did visit the Apple and was offered a job by a fairly new company that he loved, Carolina Herrera, but a boyfriend in LA convinced him to stay on the West Coast.  He would finally make the move, take classes at the Parsons School of Design and reconnect with Antonio Lopez, whom he’d met at the L.A. launch of the book, Antonio’s Girls.  Upon reviewing his portfolio, Antonio told Renaldo that it “looked out-of-townish,” and that he should “always carry a sketch book,” a practice he embraces to this day. They’d hit legendary club Paradise Garage and whilst Antonio & Co. burned up the dance floor, he’d find a corner, take in the uniquely New York scene, and sketch away. Although he was accustomed to immersion in different worlds, Antonio and his famous friends—Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Iman – were a new universe.

Posing for Antonio and freelancing at Polo Ralph Lauren, “sketching in various departments,” Renaldo met American-born Paris phenom Patrick Kelly who liked his sketches and invited him to work in his atelier.  He loved the Paris years, working not only with Patrick but with the “very French” houses, Sonia Rykiel, Chantal Thomass and Jean Charles de Castelbajac.

Upon his return to the states, he embarked on a career designing and/or sketching for a variety of American sportswear lines including Anne Klein, Nicole Miller, Christian Francis Roth, Yansi Fugel and good friend Michael McCollom; teaching at the college level; creating day dresses for Badgley Mischka as Design Director for daytime dresses and Lauren dresses as Creative Consultant; and launching his well-reviewed (WWD) eponymous line, Renaldo, Ltd. in 2003.

When pulling looks for Lloyd Boston’s The Style Checklist, I thought Renaldo’s matte jersey stunner was the perfect piece to illustrate “The Jaw-Dropping Dress.”  Photo by Robert Tardio.

  

Recent sketches.

Now an adjunct professor at F.I.T., Renaldo has taught there for 19 years. Though he is highly rated by students, he says “it took years to develop” his teaching style and level of comfort. 

 Amazing artist, amazing professor. He does not only teach you how to draw, but how to think and act like a designer. He treats you with respect and has a lot of expectation. He very often stays late for us after class. Very accessible and helpful as long as you are seeking for help. Love him! and I wish to have him again as my professor. – Student review of Renaldo from Rate My Professors

Though classroom instruction was not in his plan, “I interviewed on a lark,” he says. Painter, illustrator and art instructor Harvey Boyd exclaimed upon seeing his sketches “Wow! Have you ever thought of teaching?”  Renaldo responded in the negative, but decided to go for it “to make extra cash.”  He had no idea how much he’d enjoy it.  “I find it so rewarding, giving back” and helping students to perfect their craft. So beloved is he and so strong his talent that he was hired by fashion darling and former student Bryan Bradley to work on his line Tuleh.

Renaldo delineates between the wonderful fashion illustration, which is “solely for setting the mood,” with little regard for technical detail and the effective fashion design drawing which serves as the blueprint for translation into an actual garment: from buttons and buttonholes, seams and topstitching to accurately rendered fabric texture and weight.

From sketch pad to runway: Renaldo’s design drawing fully articulates the look created for Mrs. Stevie Wonder’s fashion line, Kai Milla.  View more of his  work at RenaldoBarnette.com

Though the self-funded venture Renaldo, Ltd. was critically ac- claimed and able to fulfill all orders it became financially prohibitive to support.  He would like to helm a line again, however his dream is “to do what Marc Jacobs has done, to not only relaunch but to renew a brand.  I’d love to do Pappagallo.”  As for the Renaldo line he has an eye toward a made-to-measure business.  He would include the requisite red carpet looks, however the crux of the business would be daywear— “great pants, that perfect dress for day that fits! It’s all about the customer.” And his customer “appreciates simplicity, she’s someone who wants to see herself before she sees clothes,” elegant and aware that proper fit is everything.

Renaldo’s Trove reflects his love of beautiful presentation with a luxe, yet relaxed ease.

1. Meisel & McGrath.  When Steven the photographer and Pat the makeup artist come together, the results are always magical and Renaldo loves the synergy of the two. “I give props to Meisel for being a model maniac like I am. Love him.”  And Pat McGrath? “That woman’s work is genius, genius, genius!”

From Vogue Italia, Meisel and McGrath’s collaboration with Stylist Karl Templer and Hairstylist Guido.

2. Cashmere.  Especially sweaters and jackets. The tactile experience has him sold.  “It feels good against your skin and it feels good to other people.”

He often shops Barney’s for his cashmere pieces.
 

3. Chelsea Boots. “When I was a kid they were called Beatle boots and I thought they were the coolest thing–still do.”

Renaldo ushered in the new year rocking a tuxedo and Gucci patent Chelsea boots.

4. White Shirts.  He likes clean, crisp lines and “the way white looks against my skin.”

 

From the Spring 2011 collection of Los Angeles cardiologist-turned-haberdasher, Roderick Tung.

5. Black Jeans.  He enjoys the contrast of black and white and the lengthening properties of dark pants.  “I’m tall and black jeans make me appear even taller.”

Raleigh Denim creates jeans in varying washes and silhouettes.

6. Great Driving Shoes.  “Even though I can’t drive!” Prada, Hugo Boss, Bally and the Daddy of them all, Tod’s–he loves the yin and yang of softness and structure.

From Tod’s Pre-Collection Spring/Summer 2011, the Gommino Loafer.

7. Creativity.  He is grateful for his–“I don’t take it for granted”– and embraces and encourages it in others.

A project Renaldo worked on to revamp the Laura Ashley image was an all-encompassing vision for the brand from apparel to accessories and shoes.

8. Elmo Restaurant. In How to Be a Gentleman, John Bridges suggests that every gentleman should identify a restaurant he enjoys where he is known and respected.  Elmo in Chelsea is that spot for Renaldo.   

The stylish interior, great food and proximity to the garment district make Elmo a favorite haunt of the fashion crowd.

9. Bongo. With its mid-century modern furnishings, fun vibe, and great owners (his friends Andrea Cohen and Jeffrey Bell), the West Village seafood lounge is a frequent hang.

“If you like club–good house, the music will keep you coming back,” Renaldo gushes, “It’s great!”

10. Metamorphosis in Movies. The fashion-oriented films Mahogany and Funny Face tie for favorite film in his book with their shared themes of transformation. Diana Ross’ “Tracy” and Audrey Hepburn’s “Jo” both emerge from humble beginnings into beautiful swans.

One of his favorite scenes from Mahogany.

The original theatrical trailer for Funny Face.

The Trove: Cheryl R. Riley & Courtney Sloane
December 2, 2010

An invitation and homage: Courtney Sloane & Cheryl R. Riley.

Gotta love a woman who whips up a few baubles to wear on her opening night from the discards of  “yesterday’s soup.”  And so it is that interior designer Courtney Sloane adores such a woman, her wife, Cheryl R. Riley. Cheryl, one of the artists included in the massive Global Africa Project now on view at the Museum of Art and Design, gilded 3 neck bones, suspended them from black cord and wore them–like funkified Olympic gold– to the exhibition opening on November 16.

The golden girl.  Elevation Mirror I: Arizona/New Mexico, 2000, Honduran mahogany, beveled mirror, brass tacks, found and made objects 85 x 48 x 12 in. Photo by Robert Baldridge.

Just a few weeks ago, with a similar burst of spontaneous creation, Cheryl, bearing a glue gun and materials found around the house, crafted five crowns for Cheryl and Courtney’s Artful Halloween Dinner Party should extras be needed. Guests had been asked to create a crown, in lieu of full costume, to don during the Basquiat-inspired festivities in their art-filled home. Upon entering the spacious loft in my coronet of autumn leaves, I missed the fluffy presence of Pia Zadora, the beloved Chow-Chow who held court in Courtney’s life from 1992 to her passing in 2009. And I smiled as I perused the space, an eclectic mix of personal treasures including Cheryl’s own beautifully imposing, “shamanistic” mirror, a piece I’ve always loved. Courtney speaks of design as conversation, a vehicle for telling stories. The story their home reveals is one of travel and exploration, honoring family and the passionate creation and collecting of art.

Visiting from San Francisco, fantastic chef and dear friend Cassandra Miles was putting the finishing touches on the delectable feast (including a tender pot roast and Cornish game hen with garlic orange-chili butter) as the hosts readied themselves to receive guests. Courtney selected one of the Cheryl-crafted crowns: a corrugated band decoupaged with Mbuti-patterned paper and topped with glorious blue and green tail feathers molted by a friend’s Macaw. Cheryl chose for herself the “Lady Gaga-inspired” clear acrylic spire she’d painted silver and accented with corkscrew willow.

A quiet moment before the revelry.

As the guests arrived, Courtney mixed pre-dinner cocktails with the refreshing, lightly grassy Żubrówka, or Bison Grass vodka she prefers. Its single blade of buffalo grass, she explained, is akin to the worm found in bottles of mezcal.  Soon delighted dining and lively conversation commenced. Desserts of apple spice cake and sweet potato chocolate-pecan pie followed. We rounded out the evening continuing the vodka theme but appropriately with the ambrosial, chocolate-infused vodka from renowned chocolatier, Godiva. The C’s really know how to host a salon: mixing it up with fascinating people (including established artist Ben Jones and emerging artists Nina Chanel Abney and Hiroshi Kumagai) fabulous food and relaxed fun.

Floating flowers and an acceptance speech. “We are shocked, and so humbled,” said Cheryl of she and Courtney’s first and second place win in the crown contest.  She offered thanks and praise to competition judges Riley and Sloane.

Chef Cassandra and Hiroshi.  The evening’s menu.

Organic Costa Rican coffee was served in the familiar stripes of Paul Smith. One of Cheryl’s “Legacy Bags,” personalized with her childhood cowgirl snapshot.

Strongly influenced by their fierce and fashionable mothers, both Cheryl and Courtney give props to Mom for inspiring them to become the highly accomplished women they are today. “When I was a child,” Cheryl says, “my mother was called the most beautiful colored woman in Houston. She was intelligent, talented and adventurous.” Cheryl’s earliest memories are of her art student mother’s supplies:  “clay, oil paints, turpentine… She allowed me to paint and draw on a wall in my room and taught me to read before I started kindergarten.”   Aesthetics were paramount in the Sloane household as well. “My mom always had a great sense of style–both fashion and interior, ” Courtney says, ” In fact, while I was growing up she actually worked with a decorator on our house.  I would get to tag along and be a part of those conversations.  Those experiences lead me to consider interior design as a career path.”

Texas beauty, Gladys Mae DuBois.  Ever stylish, Ruth Sloane with a serious little Courtney.

Gladys Mae DuBois surrounded her daughter with beauty, ignited a creative spark and sense of boundless possibility, Bennie Riley hoped to instill in her a sense of bootstrap pragmatism. Embracing a bit of both, Cheryl attended a private community college in Missouri, Columbia College but left after receiving her Associate’s Degree to pursue life “on her own terms in a new city.” She chose San Francisco “because I am good at making lists. I wanted a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan city with a strong city center, on a coast, no snow but a maximum three-hour drive from it, nature nearby and a public transportation system. I was right because the minute I saw that fog-framed city as I entered via the Bay Bridge, I was head over hills in love.”  She launched an executive career that would take her from positions with luxury retailer I. Magnin to advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi and Levi Strauss. Directing her creative energy toward her own home, she began designing furniture for her apartment. Her professional peers took notice and became her first customers. In less than a decade she went from corporate exec to fulfilling her artistic passions in 1986 with the launch of Right Angle Designs.

In 1999, with a dream collector’s list (Danny Glover, Terry McMillan, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, et. al) several awards and exhibitions under her belt, inclusion in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt, Oakland and Mint Museums, multiple public and corporate commissions (including Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport) she moved to New York.  “After living 22 years in San Francisco, I wanted to experience another city while my career was still in full swing. Having served on several arts-related boards, she most recently was a board member of the Museum of Art and Design — formerly the American Craft Museum– where she was instrumental in re-imagining the scope and re-imaging the brand. Her power to connect to an audience with her genial manner and engage them with her expertise has made her a highly regarded lecturer and panelist, speaking across the country from Stanford and Lehigh Universities to the Bellevue Art Museum. As a teacher, she’s conducted classes in respected craft schools such as Penland and Haystack Mountain.  She’s enjoyed the embrace of the East Coast with commissions: furnishings for Judith Jamison’s Alvin Ailey office and wall murals for the Walgreen’s Corporation; exhibitions in group shows at the Newark Museum, Pittsburgh’s Society of Contemporary Art, the Tampa Museum of Art and a solo show at Peg Alston Fine Art in NYC; curating the art collections of the Washington, DC offices of BET and Harlem’s luxury condominium, Kalahari; art commentary in several publications including the current issue of Jersey City Magazine and in February 2007, marriage.


 

Before family and friends, at Cala Luna in Costa Rica, the blithe spirit wed the lithe athlete.

In Jersey City, where she and Cheryl have resided in the Powerhouse Arts District since 2005, Courtney was born to and raised by John and Ruth Sloane. She donned the maroon and gold of St. Anthony High School, playing point guard on the girls’ varsity basketball team.  Initially she majored in marketing at Rutgers University but a job at Formica was a turning point for her and she convinced her employer to subsidize her further studies in interior design at FIT and Pratt. She covered the academics in class and got the immersive knowledge of the business at work, all-the-while rocking a side hustle with friends–catering and events in a small JC loft. They outfitted the space with furniture she’d designed and hosted art shows. If Formica was the turning point, then Ms. Dana Owens was the tipping point. When Dana a.k.a. Queen Latifah, full of confidence about her own trajectory, rolled through the impressive space she told Courtney “when I really blow up, you’re going to do my place.”  Three years later, Courtney did in fact, hail the Queen, creating the executive offices of her Flavor Unit in Jersey City, which led to commissions on the other side of the Hudson.

The house music fan and her company Alternative Design (AD) became the go-to designer for the hip-hop élite: Vibe Magazine, Sean Combs (through various name changes), Jay-Z, and more recently, the executive suite of Damon Dash. As word of Courtney’s gift for spatial storytelling spread, so did the interest of major corporations. Sony Music, Disney and Viacom, to name a few, came calling, commissioning AD to create their environs. She designed the flagship of natural body-care emporium, Carol’s Daughter, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Roots, Rhymes and Rage exhibition and the living quarters for the first two seasons of America’s Next Top Model.  With such an illustrious client roster, it’s no surprise that she’s become a design pundit: contributing to Essence Magazine, appearing on several design shows from CNN to BET to HGTV to a starring role on TLC’s Material World and speaking around the country (notably giving the esteemed Hiller lecture by the Design & Environmental Analysis Department at Cornell University.) She is now part of acollective working with AF Supply to develop the Signature line of plumbing fixtures and bathroom accessories– “a huge project” to be launched in 2012, mining “New York design talent of both architects and interior designers. Since most of the plumbing design innovation comes from Italy, this project specifically will bring focus on the talent pool that exists here in NYC.” Grateful for her success in both residential and commercial design in the States and abroad, she is an ardent advocate of mentoring and honoring her obligation to give back.

Courtney and the fabulous Pia Zadora.

Together Cheryl and Courtney are launching a new venture, Riley Sloane, a socially responsible design and production studio specializing in licensing, private label and production in the Home and Lifestyle categories. Their first line, launching in 2011, is the Pura Vida collection of  decorative wall panels made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified solid indigenous woods of Costa Rica.

Cheryl on Courtney:

“About a year before I met Courtney, I made a list–again with the lists–of the qualities I wanted in my lifetime partner.”  Living on separate coasts for “the first two years of our relationship, we had a lot of time to have in-depth conversation and get to know each other on the phone. Otherwise, we saw each other every 4-6 weeks in our respective homes, traveled together elsewhere and even worked on a project together for Disney. I had 45 attributes on the list and Courtney scored 37.5!” And as any self-respecting Southern esoteric would do, she sought a reading from a cousin with “the gift.”  The reading suggested that though they are not soul mates (sometimes that is one’s best friend, business partner, etc.) they are as “highly compatible as she had ever seen–and it proved true.”

Courtney on Cheryl:

“Well I knew that there was something extraordinary about her the first time we met.  I was absolutely thrilled to meet the sister that I had read about who was doing all this bad ass furniture on the West Coast, I mean really making noise! Once we began to speak over the phone I think it was inside of about 3 or 4 weeks that I knew she was the one I wanted to spend my life with.”  And on her wife’s inclusion in the GAP show,  “I’m so excited and proud of Cheryl for this major accomplishment! It’s great for her to be a part of the new history of the Museum and [exhibiting] again since showing her Bakuba Griffin Dining Table in 1994 when it was the American Craft Museum.”

Born ten years apart, Cheryl’s an analog girl whose tech comfort level ends somewhere around email and Courtney’s a “gadget geek” prone to early adoption of the latest technology. They are alike in the ways that matter and different enough to keep things interesting, a great couple.  Though it was difficult for them to pinpoint only five things each, here’s a smattering of the things besides each other that they love…

Cheryl’s Fave Five:

1. Custom Cowboy Boots. “I was born in Houston in the days of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and there is a picture of me at 4 years old on Christmas day and I am wearing full cow girl regalia and my rifle and first cowboy boots.  I danced through the kid leather gun-metal gray and camel Italian cowboy boots that Wilkes Bashford, the luxury retailer of San Francisco gave me when I was his house model in the late 70’s. My favorite and oldest pair of cowboy boots were made by Austin-based Tony Lama.  The more rows of stitches, the better the quality of the boot,” and I love that the more worn they are, the better to mold to my feet.”

Rocking the Tony Lamas in a 1990 profile in San Francisco Magazine featuring her “Talking Head” media cabinet and “Zulu” tables.

2. Paloma Picasso Perfume. Melding perfectly with her body chemistry, it’s been her fragrance signature since its eighties debut. “Everyone loves the way it smells on me,” she says. “I love its rich, exotic, incense-like scent and that it holds its ‘color’ all day. Its namesake, daughter of Pablo Picasso and writer Francoise Gilot, is an artist ( jewelry design) in her own right, a fact not lost on Cheryl. She enjoys the aesthetic connection.

She chuckles at the long-ago memory of being followed by La Paloma, “her entourage a few paces behind” around the jewelry department of I.Magnin in San Francisco.  “When I looked at her directly once, she clearly did not want to communicate, just smell–probably did not want to break her spell.”

3. Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora. No surprise here.  It is evident in her own work, in her home, in her enthusiastic writing, in her exhaustive knowledge of the canon.   Given the breadth of the genre she’d be hard pressed to single out a favorite among the multitudes of diasporic artists, many of whom she feels “lucky” to count among her friends. She does share, thowever, a few artist friends with whom she’s had recent — and inspiring contact. Carrie Mae Weems is a “font of inspiration, constantly expanding beyond our concept of photography, her predominant  medium.” Cheryl, in awe, viewed the October rehearsal of  “The Venus Project,”  Weems’ collaboration with composer Phillip Miller and director Talvin Wilks. Shinique Smith’s first solo museum exhibit just closed at MOCA in Miami. “It was fantastic to see so much of her work together…My favorites are her site-specific wall murals. They dance with her calligraphic graffiti swirls that she paints with brushes and her body (the piece, Red Rose, is in Cheryl’s collection.)  Celebrated artists, the  Bronx-born Fred Wilson and Whitfield Lovell, “are the only couple in the world to have received the highly prestigious MacArthur “Genius” grant [Wilson in 1999, Lovell in 2007]  Their styles of making art are completely different–Fred is an intellectually-challenging conceptualist while Whitfield’s drawings and sculptures are grounded in our authentic collective history.” She is particularly proud of Fred, who represented the US at the 2003 Venice Biennale, and has been a friend “since his 1993 Artist In Residency at Capp Street Project in San Francisco where I was on the board.”

From left: Carrie Mae Weems, from The Kitchen Table Series, 1990  (the entire series was recently acquired by The Chicago Museum) Fred Wilson, Iago’s Mirror, 2009 (now on view in the Global Africa Project directly across from Cheryl’s mirror;) Shinique Smith, And The World Don’t Stop, 2009 ; Whitfield Lovell, After an Afternoon, 2008 (from Kith and Kin.)

4. Turquoise and Pearls. Others may crave bling but Cheryl enjoys a little opacity in her gems. Her birthstone, turquoise, with its spectral range of blue to green reminds her “of vacations in a tropical paradise or the native American jewelry in the Southwest. And pearls “are so classic, sexy, warm and modern,” complementing everything and available “in endless variety.  I love abundance strands à la Chanel or a Wilma Flintstone choker.  I am designing pearl charm bracelets, pins and necklaces with a friend in Shanghai so I can have even more!”

Detail from a charm bracelet she had made by a Native American artist in Santa Fé. She wore a single strand of black pearls on her wedding day.

5. Travel. She especially enjoys exploring Costa Rica, where she and Courtney married and her beloved Italy. “The food, the fashion, the furniture design…If there are past lives, Italy is where I [once] lived,” she believes, having felt “totally at home my first time in Rome. I took Italian lessons before I ever went there because I loved the musical sound of the language and my favorite Italian operas… I would live in Venice now if given the opportunity.”

Costa Rican footbridge and Venetian canals.

Courtney’s Fave Five:

1. Dahon Bikes. Her Speed D7 is “great for cruisin’ around the ‘hood or in the city.”

The quick-folding bike makes for “easy in and out of cafes, restaurants etc.”

3. Vibram FiveFingers. She rocked a Mary Jane version of the barefoot shoes all summer, but now she’s fiending for the camouflage soles.

The FiveFingers Sprint.

3. Geodesic domes. The tessellated structure created by Walther Bauersfeld and later tweaked and popularized by Buckminster Fuller holds a place in her heart. There’s one she and Cheryl enjoy time and again near their summer home in East Hampton, frequently taking friends like artist Nanette Carter to share in the experience. The Fuller piece Fly’s Eye Dome, is on the grounds of LongHouse, founded by Jack Lenor Larsen, one of Courtney’s “all-time favorite textile designers,” and is part of their permanent collection.  “It is just awesome,” she exclaims. “I love the volume, air and light. There is a sensational feeling when you are in a space that wraps around. I find it super liberating!”

Clockwise: Fly’s Eye Dome, photographed by © Ron Cogswell; Photo © Visions of America, Joe Sohm/Getty Images; Geodesic Dome Treehouse by Dustin Feider.

4. Chris Craft Boats. She prefers the wooden-hulled vintage models from the late 1940’s through the 1970’s. “Absolutely gorgeous!”

1954  20-foot Riviera. From ClassicBoat.com.

5. Paul Smith London. She loves the quirky spin on classic English tailoring.


Looks from Paul Smith Spring/Summer 2011.

The Trove: Aashumi Shah
October 7, 2010

Aashumi, at home.

On a blazing early summer Saturday I, in my infinite wisdom set up temporary shop at Silver Spring, Maryland’s answer to Brooklyn Flea, the Fenton Street Market, without benefit of a tent.  In this “babies and fools” moment I had the good fortune to be placed next to Aashumi Shah. I was selling vintage goods, she her wonderful, whimsical, eco-friendly line of handmade kids toys, pillows, gifts and accessories, mirasa design. Though I initially enjoyed the caress of sunshine, when Helios’ kisses became a little too intense, Aashumi kindly allowed me to sit in the shade of her beautiful, canopied booth. In vendor camaraderie we chatted and soon discovered we share an alma mater.

Aashumi (“Tears of Joy”) was born the youngest of three daughters to Anju and Kishor Shah and raised in the bustling city of Bombay (now Mumbai.)  She attended J.B. Petit High School for Girls, where Principal Shirin Darasha “encouraged independent thinking and empowered us to dream high. Our school badge and slogan is ‘Ever Forward’ which I think is beautiful and powerful,” she says.

The Shah girls, Aashumi, Manasi and Shivali.

Upon graduation, the honors student planned to take the exams for Law School in South India. “I love analyzing,” she says.  In an ironic twist, her older sister, who’d planned to become a fashion designer, didn’t make it into art school and is now an attorney while Aashumi shifted to art–she had been, after all “very industrious,” creating handmade cards since childhood.

She settled on Sophia Polytechnic, though she was not very happy there. “I felt the grading system for art and design made no sense; not enough creative space to grow and be different.”  Nonetheless, she met the first of two important mentors with whom she remains friends and sees whenever she returns to India. Professor Snober Mistry of the textile design department, introduced her to woven design. “She understood me and encouraged me through my textile specialization.”

The second mentor was entrepreneur Neeru Nanda, for whom she began working at 19 as she neared the end of art school. “I did design, product development and managed production for lifestyle products such as placemats and pillows. It was a great learning experience and I loved working with Neeru. She understood my need to grow and spread out into the world. I wanted to be independent in every aspect of the word. I wanted to live on my own, pay my own bills, make my own decisions…I love my family and so it wasn’t about running away from home. It was just me and I had to live it, express it and prove it to myself, that I can.”

In 2002, with family living in New York City, her parents were comfortable with allowing their youngest to pursue her artistic passions in the United States.  She spent a month studying graphic design at Parsons, “just to make sure,” before majoring in textile and surface design with a concentration in woven design at F.I.T.  Admittedly her U.S. college years were “very spoiled,” as she lived with her mother’s brother Nitin, his wife Sunanda and cousin Bijal (a Master’s candidate at Columbia) in a spacious 5-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. “I am so grateful,” she says of that time.  Though being welcomed into their warm and loving family “made my transition to a new city, culture and country very comfortable,” she immersed herself in school and spent much of her time on campus. “I totally loved it,” she says.

A year later, she would meet her dearest and most influential friend at her cousin’s birthday bash.  Bijal’s good friend Paresh drove up from Washington, DC with his buddy, attorney Carlos Vanegas in tow to attend the festivities. Carlos, spilling wine on the white carpet, could be said to have left an impression. Though he was terribly embarrassed, it was a “cordial party atmosphere,” Aashumi recalls and all was forgiven. It would be six months until  Carlos and Aashumi’s paths would cross again in Washington, DC, where he lived and worked as a Public Defender and she and Bijal were visiting Paresh.  When Aashumi mentioned that she’d like to go running, Carlos offered to take her and she was taken by the “amazing music,” he had playing in his car.  Upon her return, she shared with her cousin that she felt “a real connection,” to Carlos. On her November 18 birthday just weeks later, she received a Fed-Ex package at her NYC home filled with glorious music. Carlos had sent sixteen compact discs: Poncho Sanchez, Alpha Blondy, pre-Wailers Bob Marley, Carmen Sings Monk, Cachao’s Master Sessions 1 & 2 and an Afro-jazz mix that he’d compiled among the birthday booty.  She was elated and the two became the best of friends, speaking daily across the miles.

Los and Shumi.

Graduating Summa Cum Laude from FIT in 2004, Aashumi took an invaluable post at Britannica Home Fashions, doing design and product development. She was responsible for production artworks and followed up with the overseas factories for product eventually sold at retailers such as Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, JCPenney and Fortunoff. She’d secured the career, so it was time to “make it on her own.” She moved from the comfy family digs to an affordable apartment in Queens.

On a March day in 2008, she asked Carlos, visiting from DC and with whom she’d had general conversations about marriage, if he wanted to marry her.  He said yes.  She cried.  Months later whilst enjoying celebrated chef José Andrés’ DC mezze hotspot, Zaytinya on July 4th, youthful-looking Aashumi hadn’t brought her identification so she was refused alcohol. “Los got up to go to the restroom. Then there was a random tall glass of lemon fizz in front of me. He suddenly appeared with a ring and proposed.”

The year 2009 brought exciting change; the two married in a traditional Jain ceremony in Mumbai; she moved to DC and she launched mirasa.  Of her supportive husband, Aashumi says, “he has no expectations of me other than to do what I feel passionate about.”

Above Aashumi’s desk, she and Carlos radiant in brilliant color at their wedding alongside a long-ago black and white portrait of her beautiful parents.

As a gift for Atia, Bijal’s one-year-old daughter, Aashumi created some “soft toys with tactile elements to stimulate Atia’s sense of imagination and play. The toys were bundled into a cloth bag that Atia could easily carry around with her.” After having toiled long and hard for Britannica, Aashumi decided to put her experience and energies into her own product line inspired by Atia’s gifts and named mirasa–Hindi for “heritage”–in homage to hers. Incorporating the colors of the Indian landscape with kantha and ari style embroidery, she honors the traditions of  the sub-continent and creates gender-neutral items uninfluenced by western notions of pink and blue.  A socially responsible venture,  mirasa design utilizes fair trade practices, employing artisans in Mumbai to hand craft Aashumi’s designs in eco-friendly, azo-free, dyed cotton.  In a gesture of “giving back what I was so lucky to receive,” a portion of the company’s proceeds are donated to Room to Read, a non-profit dedicated to creating educational opportunities and encouraging literacy among girls in the developing world.

The wonderful world of mirasa design. Photo: Stacey Vaeth Photography.  “Like” mirasa design on Facebook.

The mirasa animal kingdom, now on tiny onesies. Photo: Stacey Vaeth Photography.

“Designing for kids is fun, freeing,” she says. Though her entrepreneurial foray has its challenges, she enjoys nurturing her young business.  “It’s like a baby.”  The delightful products are available online, but she garners most of her sales while vending at markets and art fairs, which provides valuable and deeply satisfying feedback. “What brings me the most joy is when a child attaches to a particular animal.” I’ve borne witness to and been as charmed as Aashumi by the decisive selection process of the wee ones.  The choices are definitive–and enchanted.

As we had coffee in her lovely Columbia Heights home, her absolute enchantment with her Ecuadorian-American husband was evident.  “Is it okay if I put Carlos on the list? I know he is a person, not a thing, but he influences me a lot.  He is a big part of who I am.”  When I complimented her on their home she said, “it’s Carlos,” his visual sensibilities aligned with hers, “he’s aesthetically-driven.”  True to the shy aspect of their shared astrological sign of Scorpio, they aren’t horn tooters but they are each fervent in their passions.  Here are a few of hers…

1. Hand-thrown Coffee Cup. She enjoys her morning joe in a ceramic mug bought from Contemporary Arts and Crafts in Mumbai.  From age six to twenty-three she lived near the emporium of “real treasures of handmade product” and brought her beloved cup with her when she moved to the United States. “It’s a very easy, very pleasing shape to hold; a wonderful color to wake up to. I love the contrast of the matte dragonfly and the glaze and I love the imperfection of the inside.”

The perfect cup.

2. Her Bike. The first bike she’s owned, it is “really empowering. It meant a lot. I’d worked really hard and used my bonus money to buy it.”  She enjoys its smooth, comfortable ride.  “Riding is addictive.” She squeezes in a 20-mile ride through Rock Creek Park whenever she can.  “It’s the best way of escaping.” 

“The best thing in the world after Carlos,” her Giant OCR model .

3. Mauritian Coconut Handbag. On a family trip to celebrate her father’s 60th birthday on the island of Mauritius, Aashumi’s parents wanted to gift her with a memento.  A handbag in the airport there caught her eye. “I love that it is a coconut, the yellow cross stitching and that it’s leather-free.”

Aashumi eschews leather goods, so the coco-purse is an animal-friendly option.

4. Carlos’ Pesto. “It is the best thing he can make — and he’s a very good cook.” But it’s the lack of cooking that makes for an easy Sunday quick mix. “No flame required, he can mix it up, watch the game, have his Guinness and make me happy all at the same time. He always has it ready for me after the market, little sandwiches he makes with love.”

Carlos enjoys making pesto. “I think he enjoys the smells of it,” she says.

5. Swatch Skin. I love that it is so clean in its design, and it’s thin.”

From the Swatch Skin Collection, Ligne de Vie, Aashumi’s favorite watch.

6. Monsoon Vermont. Carlos’ friend Julia Genatossio founded this company which produces home and fashion accessories of non-recyclable plastics in Jakarta. Aashumi uses her Monsoon Vermont passport wallet every weekend to hold her monies at market. “I think it’s incredibly fun.”

She owns several of the colorful, eco-friendly offerings from the socially responsible Monsoon Vermont.

7. FabIndia Soap. She’s formed a real attachment to these natural soaps and the refreshing ritual of bathing with them.  They scent her home with fragrance and transport her (particularly the Jasmine bar) “to the smells of India,” where children sell garlands of jasmine blossoms strung together at nearly every traffic stop. “My skin feels really soft and smooth.”  She snaps up several bars (in various fragrances) every time she goes to India.

Her favorites among the many available FabIndia scents are tucked in ceramic bowl made by her Aunt Sunanda.

8. Yoga.  Practicing Vinyasa mostly,  “it is a recent obsession,” fostered by the “great teachers” of the studio Past Tense, just blocks from her home. She volunteers as a studio assistant three days a week and incorporates practice four times a week.

Aashumi joins fellow yoga devotees in an outdoor Past Tense class in Lamont Park.  Photo: Stacey Vaeth Photography for Past Tense Studio.  

9. Frida Kahlo. During a trip to Mexico City, Aashumi visited Museo Frida Kahlo, the house where the revered artist was born and died. She was stunned by the number of people who spoke of her resemblance to the icon. “Frida was so inspirational, so dynamic, so talented, such a woman…and of course, her work is amazing.  It is such a clear expression of what she’s feeling and who she is.  To express with such honesty takes a lot of courage.”

A gift from Carlos, Aashumi treasures the published diary of the iconic Mexican artist.

10. Music. “Carlos is so passionate about music, he opened a window to a world:  jazz, reggae, bossa nova, Fela Kuti…They all came alive for me through him.” From tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins at Lincoln Center and Mexican-American conguero Poncho Sanchez at the Blue Note in New York to Brazilian singer Gal Costa at George Washington University in DC, Carlos has gifted Aashumi with the wonder of live performance.

Gal Costa lent her voice to this charming animated commercial for Brazilian skin care line, Natura.

 

The Trove: Nnenna Ogwo
September 16, 2010

Radiant and surrounded by fragrant rosemary and blossoming chives.

Though the brilliant concert pianist Nnenna Ogwo recently completed her doctoral studies in Musical Arts at SUNY Stony Brook, she is “going ‘back to school’ in such a delightful way,” losing herself in the pages of Larousse Gastronomique. “I like to fancy myself a cook of sorts.” I can vouch for her intensely fruity mixed berry pie–scrumptious!  The gracious host enjoys sharing good food and libation with friends. We met a couple of years ago over glasses of wine with friends Sonya and Susie at their ultra femme shop, Winkworth. When Nnenna spoke of her upcoming recital at the venerable Steinway Hall I promised to attend. (She was kind enough, soon after, to allow me to use her recording of a Brahms’ sonata on my costume design reel.) Now I am first to admit my knowledge of classical music is limited, but I was mind-blown by her immense talent, a talent nurtured carefully with intensive training.

Born to a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, Nnenna was raised just outside of Washington, DC (we’ve discovered that our mothers live within blocks of each other.) She has played piano since the age of six. A student of Washington’s elite prep school, Holton-Arms, she studied also at the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory of Johns Hopkins University, graduating with honors in piano and composition.  She received a baccalaureate degree in Music for her undergraduate studies at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory, the oldest music conservatory in the United States. As a Fulbright scholar, she undertook graduate study at Hungary’s most celebrated conservatory, Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary and returned to the states in 1995.

From her bio:

Ms. Ogwo currently serves on the piano faculty at Third Street Music School in Manhattan. A gifted teacher, she also maintains a private studio in New York City and has successfully prepared students for admission to conservatory.  She regularly works with composers, performing and premiering their work in order to help ensure the vitality of contemporary music. She is the founder of Working Projects, a works-in-progress venue for artists and musicians as well as the City Chamber Music Collective (formerly the Brooklyn Chamber Players), a group of international musicians committed to bringing exceptional chamber music to diverse audiences in non-traditional venues.

Inspired by her childhood photograph, Nnenna has dubbed her classical music label the gratifyingly unexpected Cantankerous Afro and has recently released Issue One, solo piano music composed by Bach-Siloti, Beethoven, Debussy, Scriabin and Piazzolla.  Visit her relaunched website, Nnenna.net to join her mailing list, enjoy her listening library, and purchase her virtuosic music.

The ‘fro that launched a label.

Nnenna speaks with admiration of her mom, Carmen Hague, who as a single parent raised her and her brother Charles, with grace and strength. The women graciously welcomed me into the family home for dinner recently. The soft-spoken Ms. Carmen’s unlined skin suggests a woman much younger, only her silvery corona of glorious hair hints that she could be the mother of a thirty-something. Both women swear by octogenarian esthetician (and “lovely pianist in her own right”) Simone France, whose “own ageless face is a testament to her work. She was quite the legend in the day and now only works by referral. After a couple of hours with her, you emerge with the perfect glowing skin you were born with.”  Though there is a luxury skin care line, that bears her name, the true Simone France experience, Nnenna asserts, is with the woman herself. Ms. Carmen makes the trek to New York for her “exquisite” facials. (to schedule a consultation, dial 212-371-6458)

As her mom busily watered her charmingly sprawling garden,  Nnenna and I enjoyed alfresco drinks, chatted and watched the cats devour their manna from kitty heaven, a fresh piece of fish. When in conversation, the feline fancier, in cat-like gesture, takes intermittent pauses to moisten her lips with a delicate sliver of tongue.

We spoke of things from comportment and dignified bearing in Teenie Harris’ photos to the frenzied rush of sports.  “I hate the gym,” she says, “but I’m all in for playing sports.”  You name it, she’s been on the team: basketball, soccer, volleyball, track, field hockey, lacrosse (men’s and women’s), diving, ice skating, even ultimate frisbee. Ballet and gymnastics figured seriously in her childhood until she had to narrow her commitment. “I’d always get to this point where the coach/teacher would say, ‘she could be really good.  I want her to go train at fill-in-the-blank’ and it would be far away, not financially viable and crazy and I didn’t want to stop playing the piano to do those things, you know?”

Though she bemoans the fact that she didn’t inherit the long, tapering fingers of her mother’s side of the family, she did get the broad, expansive hands of her father, which give her reach pianoforte perfection and, perhaps, great grip on a ball.

How could Brooklyn not forgive her recent defection to Harlem?  She still shows the BK mad love.  She’s a loyalist to its small businesses as evidenced by her trove.

1. My Mother’s Garden. “It’s an amazing spectacle that changes every single day.  I love how disorganized it is and love how wild and unruly it is. I love eating out of the garden, I love the fact that we have to fight the birds to get to the raspberries and beat out the squirrels to the peaches.   I love having an excuse to dig in the dirt with my bare hands…watching the cycles of the blooming plants and arguing with my mother over every little thing in her wild green space which I insist that she loves more than me.”

Fuschia, magenta and pink proliferate in Ms. Carmen’s garden.

2. Football. Before there was piano, there was football.  “My dad taught me to hate the Cowboys’ silver and blue and love DC’s burgundy and gold by the time I was three years old.” At her very first game she “saw the Eagles get shut out 20 – zip…I wanted to be the first woman to play in the NFL.” Fanaticism set early on, a fortuitous friendship with the daughter of team physician, Doc Collins, would fuel the love. Through the Collins’ she attended “a ton of great games at the old RFK stadium: playoffs against Dallas, the Giants, Atlanta.” During the down years, she “settled for the fact that being a football fan hurt sometimes. I always thought firing [Coach Marty] Schottenheimer was a big mistake — but you know how fans are, tons of opinions — which is why we play Fantasy Football.”  note: our initial sit-down for this post was pre-empted by the FF draft.

The would-be gridiron great loves the team, but refrains from using the politically incorrect team title.

3. Winkworth. She relies on the purveyor of fine Ladies’ Goods in her former Red Hook neighborhood for girly staples. Her newest favorite, The Love Balm from the Costa Rican retreat, Osa Clandestina is an organic “heavenly scented concoction of beeswax, coconut oil and vitamin E that does incredible things for skin and hair.”   Of her Lisa B. slingback, peep-toe espadrilles, she exclaims “they feel like bedroom slippers!  They are so comfortable and they are so sexy that people stare at my legs when I wear them.” She adds modestly, “trust me, it’s the shoes.”

Lisa B. eco-friendly, buckle espadrilles.

 4.  Pearl necklace. “Made for me as a birthday gift by Allyson Smith— she knows it’s my birthstone and that I love to wear pearls–I am continually amazed by how her painter’s eye affects her jewelry design.”

Freshwater pearls on 14kt gold.

5. HTC  HD2. “I’m a technophobe whose Palm pilot finally died and I had to make the leap into the 21st century.  The HD2 does it in style and with the most ginormous screen ever.  Every day I am stunned by what it does.”

HTC’s HD2 is available through T-Mobile.

6.  “Teenie” Harris Photographs. “Years ago I had the opportunity to buy a couple of prints by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris, aka ‘One Shot’ Harris.  This incredible African-American photographer never thought of himself as a serious artist but his unending rolls of beautifully shot film chronicled black American life in Pittsburgh.  After finally investing in framing his work and hanging them in my new apartment, I am blown away by them every morning when I walk into my living room.” The Carnegie Museum of Art purchased the archive of 80,000 negatives of the late photographer’s work in 2001.  Click the link to learn more about the artist and Documenting Our Past: The Teenie Harris Archive Project.

One of Nnenna’s two treasured “One-Shot” Harris photographs.

7. Cupcakes. “Those who know me well, know that I have been on a quest for the perfect cupcake in NYC for quite a while.  I have two current favorites.  For simple delicious homemade goodies like the kind mom made for your birthday, try Sugar Sweet Sunshine downtown…for something more of a gourmet confection, a bit of heavenly light perfection, ChikaLicious is rocking my world.  I’m not mad at their shortbread either….”

Old-fashioned goodness from Sugar Sweet Sunshine.

8. Little Luna. “Entranced by the goodies” in the jam-packed curiosity shop in the surprisingly quiet shadow of the BQE, Nnenna has “spent many an afternoon gabbing about this, that and the other,” with owner Dee. “I wouldn’t trade those hours for anything.”


A favorite Little Luna find is this vintage GE beauty.

9. Freebird Books and Goods. Freebird brought me back to reading.  Something that I had seriously stopped doing if it wasn’t related to grad school. It became my home away from home for a while and I miss it still even though I still attend monthly Post-Apocalyptic book club meetings there.”  Her favorite store purchase is a “huge coffee table book called the NYC Museum of Complaint,” filled with the various grievance letters written to city mayors over the years.  “It is a wonderful catalogue of the people and personalities and neuroses that make this city what it is.”

A young patron of Freebird Books and Goods.  “Like” them on Facebook.

10. Nina: Nina Simone. In the 1969 documentary short “Nina Simone talks about her music making in terms of ‘trying to wake people up and make people feel something.’  I actually listen to and love a lot of different kinds of music and a lot of different artists.  The one thing they have in common is that they make the musical experience a visceral one.  If and when you do that, I think you have done something truly worthwhile”

Peter Rodis’ 26-minute look at the legendary artist.

The Trove: Lloyd Boston
September 9, 2010

LB, unbuttoned elegance.  Become a fan on Facebook.  Photo: Robert Tardio


Sure he’s poised, handsomely photogenic and genially telegenic, delivering doses of friendly, practical style advice to the masses, but it’s not just fashion knowledge Lloyd Boston is dropping, it’s the well-timed bons mots that get me every time (and I’ve worked with him on various projects for years.) Irreverence sans commonplace industry snark; his witticisms never jab at the individual, but rather make a clever pop culture reference.  While taping an episode of NY Emmy-nominated, Closet Cases (on which I was wardrobe supervisor) featuring a woman planning a B’nai Mitzvah for her twins, there were for technical reasons, several takes on one scene. When Lloyd (after a few takes of getting it right) pronounced the word B’nai, with the long i sound rather than the long a, the woman corrected him.  Without skipping a beat he quipped, “b’neigh, b’nigh, cut me some slack, I’m not Sammy.”  Irreverent, yes, but not mean.  It provided much-needed levity toward the end of a long shooting day and no offense was taken.

I was often amazed by his uncanny ability to remain as fresh, energetic and characteristically quick-witted at 1 am as he had been at 6 am call. Though he has plenty to share with his well-written, accessible style guides, he comes alive on-screen.  The camera loves him and so do those who work with him.  He is courteous to all and quick to shine light on the efforts of his crew — he gives credit wherever credit is due.  He embodies Gemini’s duality: professional and driven, yet knows how to relax; confident yet surprisingly shy.  He is an impeccable gentleman, his mama raised him right.

That unpretentiously gorgeous mother, Lynell raised her only child in New Brunswick, New Jersey and sent him to Catholic Schools. Perhaps the wearing of uniforms for most of his early life indoctrinated him in the classic silhouettes that he still favors, while the introduction to men’s fashion magazines in the eighties taught him to tweak them with style.

He was a Fine Arts student at the historically Black Morehouse College when he crossed paths with Tommy Hilfiger at a mall appearance. Dressed for the occasion, he waited patiently amid the 200 or so young people waiting for an autographed duffel bag and then proceeded to proffer his advice on strengthening the collection to the celebrated designer. “Shocked by my moxie,” but impressed with his vision, Hilfiger “offered me an internship on the spot.”  The Morehouse Man returned to his home state, transferring to Rutgers University at the end of the semester to get that internship.  Hilfiger so believed in him that he paid for his last year of college and for the next ten years Lloyd grew with and helped guide the look of the brand. When he left, with Tommy’s blessings and goodwill, to transition into his current career, he was Vice President of Art Direction for the Hilfiger company.

In the years since, his trajectory has been stellar: authoring four style books, one with his illustrations; covering NY Fashion Week and all the major red carpet events: Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes as a fashion correspondent and hosting television programs as a fashion/lifestyle authority.  Since 2007, he has been the exclusive “style guy” for mega-brand Jones New York–their first male spokesperson–representing the company’s many brands and sharing his “less is modern” style philosophy at appearances across the country.

On an episode of Closet Cases, Lloyd and closet designing marvel, Carey Evans show his mom Lynell her new closet makeover.

Working as Style Editor last summer on Lloyd’s fourth book was an absolutely delightful experience.  No melodrama, just experienced people doing what they do in a relaxed yet efficient manner.  Fantastic photographer Robert Tardio’s equanimity and genuine good nature paralleled Lloyd’s. The fruit of that labor, The Style Checklist: The Ultimate Wardrobe Essentials for You, launched this week. Look for personal nods from each of us: a hoodie from Lloyd’s alma mater; Robert’s favorite Montblanc pen and my Grandma’s ornate sterling lipstick holder. The book presents a list of Lloyd’s suggested classics for the well-dressed woman’s closet.  With 100 entries, there truly is something for every woman.  Knowledgeable about fashion history, Lloyd shares the genesis of each item and its ultimate ascent into the pantheon of wardrobe essentials– the why and how it works.  A mix of garments and accessories from affordable to luxury brands (with, I am proud to say, several African-American designers represented) in Robert’s lush, artful still-lifes, The Style Checklist looks like a coffee table book, but its diminutive size allows for portability–even more so on Amazon Kindle. The book is a go-to, carry-along guide that should stand the test of time.

The latest from Lloyd:  The Style Checklist.

Check his appropriately well-designed website LloydBoston.com, to learn more about his illustrious career and view his on-air clips.

Exclusive to LloydBoston.com, The LB Signature Tote.

Now that he’s bi-coastal, pursuing television hosting opportunities in Los Angeles and admittedly enjoying So Cal weather, I have yet another well-appointed LB home to visit–the Brooklyn duplex, the suburban Jersey idyll and now the Hollywood loft. I managed to catch up with my intensely scheduled friend recently and I’m glad to present his top ten:

1. The Color Orange. “Whenever I look at a true, juicy shade of orange—I just smile inside (sometimes outside too).  I love a pop of it on an outfit, a shot of it on my dinner plate, a cool painting, a hip home accessory, you name it.  I think everyone has a color that does this for them.  Harnessing it brings a little joy to your life for cheap.”
Color bible to the design industry, Pantone has provided color standards for over 45 years.

2. A Good Crab Cake. “My mom’s are clearly the best! (get her recipe at JNY.com) If out and about, I run to Houston’s, Legal Sea Foods or Oceanaire for the best chain restaurant versions. The trick at any restaurant is in asking if there is any bread in the crab cake.  The moment they say no, I am all in!”

Crab cake perfection at The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Dallas.  Photo: Steven Doyle.

3. Stubbs and Wooton slippers. “My velvet versions with the sitting Buddha have gotten me countless, literally countless, compliments.  I can wear them with anything from chinos and a white button down shirt, to a tux.  They travel light, and keep me feeling chic on days when it’s hard to pull it all together.”
From the Stubbs & Wootton bespoke collection.

4. New Year’s in Brazil. “I visited Rio for New Year’s Eve once, and went back four more years in a row.  Sexy, spiritual, and so much fun!  I love the people, the food, the architecture, and especially the easy lifestyle.  This is one little jewel that American culture hasn’t totally invaded.  And that is refreshing when you really want to get totally away.”

The white-robed throngs on Copacabana Beach.

5. Laura Mercier Lip Silk.  “Yes, it runs you $20, but it lasts you forever.  Once you leave those $3 drugstore brands for this, you will never go back.  It is marketed for women—but is perfect for guys who don’t want shiny lips.  It holds nearly all day too.  I literally have one in every bag.”

This lip treatment from Laura Mercier Skin Care, exfoliates, hydrates and softens.

6. J.Crew. “I could spend hours in J.Crew.  It is like they are designing just for me.  I am preppy at my core, but love an ethnic or bohemian twist on top of all of my stiffness.  They strike the perfect balance these days.  I can sometimes fit a few of the women’s XL t-shirts too.  They are much softer than the mens’.  Don’t sleep, guys.”

From JCrew.com, a look for fall.

7. The Vitamix Pro Blender.  “I love juicing, but hate the clean up.  I invested in the Vitamix and it changed me.  I try to start the day with an organic green drink a few days a week, and this allows you to get the juice and the pulpy fiber.  The clean up is so easy too—that I have no excuse to not be healthy (at least for the first meal.)”

Lloyd marvels over the efficient power of the Vitamix: “You can literally liquefy a shoe on these blades!”

8. Michael Kors Menswear.  “He could dress me every day all day.  The lifestyle he translates through his collections is what I dream of living one day.  From après ski to cocktails on a terrace in Capri—I dream big when I see his vision for men. We are friendly, and I love him as a person (and personality) too.”

From the Michael Kors Fall 2010 ad campaign.

9.  Spa as Sport. “I am a total spa junkie.  I love spending time in L.A. for this addiction, as there are reputable massage spots on every corner.  From a quick chair massage at Whole Foods, to a power 90 minute Deep Tissue almost anywhere—I am in heaven.  I travel about 20-30 cities a year on average, so these bones need reviving more and more lately.”

“I could literally get rubbed down daily.”

10. Biographies of Any Kind.  “Books, TV shows, documentaries, you name it.  I love stories about successful people, tragic folk, decade long romances, the works. The entrepreneurial ones really hit home.  I love when someone you admire shares all the victories and pitfalls—and you actually can count the similarities in yourself.  Those moments make me feel connected to a tribe of winners.  And all my dreams seem less crazy.”

The biography of Barack Obama shown at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.