“Designing Windows is an Art”

Erin O'Brien

Erin O’Brien

What is it like to be a freelance window designer at famed department store, Bergdorf Goodman? What is it like to have your heart in New York City but to have found your fashion inspiration in London? What are the consequences of leaving home at age 17? Erin O’Brien knows the answers to these compelling questions because they make the story of her life and journey. Here is Erin, one-of-a-kind style originator, sharing it with us …

I was always interested in fashion but it wasn’t until I traveled to London when I was young, that I found my true fashion sense. At 13-14 I visited my family in Ireland; while there, I begged them to take me to London. Being in London affected me enormously; the edgy style, the music influencers – I felt myself being drawn in to it all and that has stayed with me to this day …

Being a window dresser is not as glamorous as you might think. It’s a lot of grunt work and hard labor. I have been working with Bergdorf Goodman as a freelance window designer since 1997. I work on the windows at Holiday and for special windows throughout the year. For creating the Christmas windows, the process is year-long and begins as soon as Christmas is over. This Holiday, I helped install and style the window on 58th Street – a “Bird’s Eye View” of a dog maze – highlighting the most wanted luxury handbags. I selected the handbags for the window, and I also decorated and installed the Holiday Shop on the 7th floor of Bergdorf’s … Continue reading

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“Fashion Has Changed my Life!”

Photo of Jess, courtesy Jess

Photo of Jess, courtesy Jess

To look at Jess and me is to see two very different people. Jess is a 16 year-old high school junior with an edgy look of youth and fearlessness. I am a 56 year-old woman in the middle of my life, with a less-than-edgy look but a strong desire to push boundaries. The thought that the two of us can connect on any level is questionable. But then it happens. We start to speak. Jess tells me how fashion has changed her life and given her confidence and courage. And Jess tells me about her ritual of selecting her clothes for the next day the evening before. And then I knew that we have a lot more that connects us. I knew that we are not bound by our ages or our appearance or life experience. I knew that we are, in fact, soul sisters. Because like Jess my clothes are my salvation and the most important way I express myself. And because I also pick out my clothes the night before. I asked Jess about her story of expression and evolution  …

I never thought very much about fashion until the 7th grade. That was the year that I started to window shop with my best friend and she and I began to play with clothes, and have fun dressing up. That gave us both a feeling of confidence. Freshman year of high school was tough for me – I was very shy and didn’t have many friends. But something happened in my sophomore year that changed my life. I started taking a fashion class at FIT in New York; this class made me think that fashion can change what you think about yourself. The teacher talked about the importance of clothing and self expression and I began to believe it. I started to dress up and experiment with my style. I began to dress  for school and to get compliments about my choices. It was such a nice feeling … Continue reading

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The Charmer who is Leandra Medine

Courtesy: Fashionista - Leandra Medine

Leandra Medine (left) interviewed by Fashionista’s Chantal Fernandez Monday night. Photo: Meghan Uno/Fashionista

ManRepeller is like an onion. You have to peel the layers to see it unfold. It’s not supposed to feel prescriptive.” ~ Leandra Medine

I had just returned from a quick bathroom break and realized with a little horror that the interview had already started. My heart sank for a moment when I heard a voice introduce her, my favorite fashion blogger, Leandra Medine. As I walked up the aisle to my seat, Leandra made eye contact with me and we smiled. She had me from that moment, the pure charmer who is Leandra Medine. Originator of the blog and phenomenon, ManRepeller. Leandra shared her story and offered words of wisdom with Chantal Fernandez at Fashionista’s NYC Fashion Meetup Series.

Leandra talked about how ManRepeller took off unexpectedly in 2010 and how she has been building it into something of substance and aligning herself with solid, talented people since. “I trust my gut.” Leandra talked about believing in the Mickey Drexler (Chairman and CEO of J. Crew) emotional IQ test, a ‘fire-pit-in-belly’ ring through which one connects with the right people.

I was there, in the audience with the college grads and 20-somethings, all looking for answers and fashion advice as they start their careers. I am of course at a different place in my life but I was inspired as anyone, perhaps even more. Because it was not about age, it was not about facts and figures – it was about instinct and honesty and humor and vulnerability and feeling – all things Leandra Medine. I walked away from the interview reminded that everything is possible and one’s career can start at any time. I believe in Leandra’s sentiments when she says, “Everyone gets what he/she wants. You just have to be clear about what it is you want.”

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Why I Love That One-of-a-Kind Look of Vintage

Optimized-P1050876When I found this dress, I knew I had found a treasure. Unlike anything I have seen this season; the subtle nuances, the draping, and the special touches in this Eva Franco dress remind me why I love shopping in consignment stores and vintage shops … for that one-of-a-kind look that you simply can’t find anywhere else! These days, when clothing starts to look like the same thing I see over and over,  I find myself wanting something all my own. I turn to consignment and vintage shopping to give me that unique edge that enables me to express my personal style. And I feel even better, knowing that I am also helping to preserve the planet.

Dress, Eva Franco; Shoes, Talbots. Photos by Abrina Hyatt

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A Conversation with Maya Albanese

Maya Albanese - Photo credit Maya Albanese

Maya Albanese – Photo credit Maya Albanese

I discovered Maya Albanese through her work, watching her film on the website, PopSugar, about a day in the life of celebrity fashion stylist, Anita Patrickson. I enjoyed it so much that I shared it on TFIO. It did not take me long to see that there was much to admire about Maya – her talents and her passion for justice guide her in a most positive way. Maya is a multimedia reporter, producer, and film director, who covers music, social justice, sustainability, Latin America, and innovation in food, fashion, and technology. But there is something bigger, something that enables her to delve deeper into the world: her warm and inclusive heart. Here is Maya …

MKG: Tell me a bit about how/where you grew up?

MAYA: I always say “I grew up in the world”…I was born in Vermont, but I have lived in 5 states (Vermont, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and California) and 5 countries up until today.

MKG: Your passions are far-reaching. What do you consider the important issues that guide you?

MAYA: I wake up every morning concerned about how the world can be a better place for people, and that involves maintaining a healthy planet and environment. The connection between people and nature, and how we can resolve dissonance occurring between the two right now – that is just one of the issues that drives me.

MKG: What inspires you?

MAYA: Art. Film. Music. I’m inspired by anyone who speaks through his/her creative self, whether that’s painting walls or singing from the heart, or producing media that is outside-of-the-box, making people think in new and different ways. Continue reading

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When Philanthropy and Fashion Unite …

Courtesy, Harper's Bazaar

Courtesy, Harper’s Bazaar

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the achievement of women. This year the theme was accelerating gender parity. In honor of the day, Harper’s Bazaar highlighted 12 fashion brands that support women around the world by combining philanthropy and fashion. Here are just three of the brands and the remarkable stories – be inspired …

Akola Project: A verb, meaning, “she works.” Says founder Brittany Merrill Underwood, “Here at Akola we are trying to create a product line that is both made by but also fully benefits marginalized women in war torn regions in Northern Uganda, women in Eastern Uganda who have experienced the HIV-Aids epidemic, and women in Dallas who have been sexually trafficked.”

FashionAble: “To be clear, FASHIONABLE is not a charitable model of business. We believe that generational poverty is interrupted when people can provide for themselves. We believe that social businesses whose aim is to alleviate poverty should use their business skills to create job opportunities for the poor, not give them more charity. What we seek to ‘give’ to those living in poverty is opportunity by purchasing goods from them, and helping those businesses grow and employ more.”

Rallier: Founder Olivia Rose Fay, was inspired after see the documentary Girl Rising: “Research led me to a study in Kenya, which found that giving school uniforms to students who did not previously own one reduced school absenteeism by 64%. Even in cases without the requirement, schoolgirls likely wouldn’t go to school if they didn’t have a school uniform. I think we can all relate to the influence that clothing has on where and how we decide to show up. So, three years later, RALLIER is launching and for every dress sold, school uniforms are sourced from regions plagued by gender inequality and given to local schoolgirls.”

 

 

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Zac Posen: “We Live in a Diverse World”

Photo: Imaxtree

A look from Zac Posen’s 2016 Fall Collection – Photo: Imaxtree

Two nights ago designer Zac Posen sent 25 black models down the runway for his Fall 2016 show – inspired by Princess Elizabeth of Toro (a Ugandan lawyer who became the first East African woman to be admitted to the English bar). Said Posen: “We live in a diverse world and it is essential it is represented in the fashion industry—it has always been critical to me, as well as a key component of my collections—whether it’s shapes, sizes or skin color—as my customers are global and part of all diverse groups.”

The fight for diversity on the runway has been long and slow-moving. But Posen is making an important statement and it is a welcome and refreshing change in the right direction. Hopefully, it will inspire other designers to do the same. I’m buying it!

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Brie’s Lucky No. 18

Brie

Brie and her mother Nancy, on Brie’s wedding day!

When I moved to New Jersey from Manhattan 16 years ago, I was struck by the reality that I would have to shop in a mall to get most of my clothes. I do have a beautiful mall near my house and I have gotten used to this kind of shopping. But I seriously miss the boutique shops and the intimate style of shopping that I found in the city – I have missed it all these years. That is why I smiled when I met Brie Tammaro, who with her mother, Nancy, own an elegant shop, No. 18 Boutique, in my town of Summit. I knew I wanted to hear Brie’s story and what it means to be a boutique owner in a town where the mall is just 10-minutes away. Says Brie  …

I was always interested in fashion. I think fashion picks you. From the time I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a business woman in fashion. I used to set up shop in my house and invite my parents. I lived and died by fashion magazines and I couldn’t read them fast enough. Initially I wanted to be a fashion designer but after working several summers at Calypso St. Barth in the Hamptons with founder Christiane Celle (when it was a small boutique) I witness her business savvy firsthand and knew that I needed to incorporate the business perspective in whatever I did. I first attended Skidmore and got an undergraduate degree in business and management, then worked 4 years, and followed that by deciding to go back to graduate school and get my master’s degree in design at Parsons, the New School of Design …

I honed my expertise in the fashion industry for years working on the wholesale side of the business in Manhattan with Moschino, Blumarine and Catherine Malandrino. I earned my way with long hours and hard work. But eventually, I burned out and started to lose my sense of joy – which I thought could never happen. So I took a break  …

When I was ready to start again, I returned to an idea that my mom and I had about owning our own shop. My mom is my best friend and I knew that the time was now to give it a try (I had the contacts and the experience). My mom and I both returned to Summit and started to look for the right space in town. Eventually, we found a perfect spot that needed a lot of work but was just the right size. We opened No. 18 Boutique in November 2014, and have been growing since … Continue reading

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The Hero Behind Zero Waste

Daniel Silverstein

Daniel Silverstein in his own zero waste design

It’s been three years since I first met New York fashion designer Daniel Silverstein and that is hard to believe. In that time, I have seen a young designer grow in leaps and bounds in his creation of beautiful designs with a mindful and ethical purpose: zero waste. Now located in Brooklyn and affiliated with Manufacture NY, his journey is reaching new depths and creating a vehicle for change in the fashion world. I applaud Daniel for his energy, positivity, integrity, and for his commitment. We talked about what is on Daniel’s mind now and for the future …

MKG: Why did you move your design studio from Manhattan to Brooklyn and what has the move meant to you and to your brand?

Daniel: I moved from Manhattan six months ago because I felt stuck.  But at the time, I didn’t realize the significance of moving my business to Brooklyn and Manufacture NY – now of course it makes perfect sense. What prompted the change was the fact that I wasn’t having a large enough impact on zero waste designs. I was too focused on succeeding in the industry as it is. I have always worked behind closed doors, developing my designs and techniques in a private, almost secret space with a small team. But moving to a community space (without any walls) has given me a new approach, with the benefits of support and access to equipment. The people with whom I work are excited about my zero waste design efforts and are helping me build and facilitate my message. It is a huge blessing for me and a really exciting time. I had an incredible professor at FIT who told me that there are 2 kinds of designers: good designers and great designers. The good designers get work, and great designers change the way people dress. I always knew that I wanted to be one of the great designers making a positive impact. Continue reading

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“Be a Kitten,” said the Heel.

Loving my kitten heels - Photo, Lauren Hagerstrom

Loving my kitten heels!

Kitten heels are such a perfect fashion choice. Adding height but not too much, they are more subtle than a stiletto and more stylish than a flat. This time of year, before it gets too cold, is the perfect time to add a kitten heel to your outfit – trouser, skirt, or dress. Try it for fun and feel yourself purr with satisfaction. You go, Kitten!

Shoes, vintage Manolo Blahnik, Photo by Lauren Hagerstrom

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