Behind the Creative Mind of Erin O’Brien!

Erin O’Brien

Today marks the BIG UNVEILING of holiday window displays for two major Department Stores in NYC: Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue (other Department stores with holiday displays include, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, and Bergdorf Goodman). This delightful tradition announces the beginning of the holiday season and I thought it would be fun to re-post my interview and a chance to once-again meet the amazing creative mind of freelance window designer and prop stylist, Erin O’Brien. This feature was originally posted on December 23, 2016 …

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 …

I am a prop stylist, window designer, and prop master; my passion is working with props and designing windows (rather than work with people as a fashion stylist). The essence of window designing is to keep people looking. Windows have to be eye-catching but you have to do more than have people look; they have to keep looking so much that they are willing to enter the store. This is where most windows fall short – when they don’t enter the store. Designing windows is an art; looking at a well-designed window is like looking at a piece of artwork … Continue reading

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Shopping Smart in the Men’s Department

There is a sad truth for a woman when it comes to shopping – you are being ripped off. For the same item, a man will spend significantly less money, and often times, for better quality. This is true of many things but jeans are an especially good example; a woman can expect to spend sometimes double the amount for the same pair. And because there aren’t as many style options for men’s jeans, I have heard that more money is spent on the quality of the material. You know how much I love wearing jeans and I have spent close to $200 on a single pair (I am thinking of my Frame Denim slim-leg jean). They are my favorites and I wear them often but today I wanted to shop and see for myself. In search of a classic boyfriend jean, I decided to visit the men’s department at Macy’s (where better to find boyfriend jeans??). I chose the ever-classic Levi’s; the first thing I noticed is that there were several ‘slim’ styles that would fit a woman’s shape. I found a perfect distressed pair and tried them on – they were $39.99.

Why should women have to pay more for the very same thing? It is unfair that is the norm.  I encourage you to visit the men’s department. You may find a fashionable alternative at a much better price and in the process make an unjust system work for you!

Photos by Hannah Walker

 

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What You Wear Brings You Into Character

Anna, in her stunning dress

When Anna first appeared on stage in that exquisite black lace fitted gown, I was mesmerized. She looked stunning but it was so much more – Anna commanded the theater. Every character she portrayed was so real, so believable.  By the end of Anna’s concert performance, I knew, I knew, that I needed to ask her about the dress. What the dress meant to Anna and the role that it played in her music and her singing. We sat down and I had my chance to hear from Anna …

About Dresses in General …

I have always loved wearing dresses. I was a tomboy, but I still loved wearing dresses – dresses with a baseball hat! Jeans actually gave me a skin rash. Today, I find dresses to be very freeing. They allow me to stand tall and watch my posture. I will never forget the first dress I wore to perform; I was a senior in high school. It was a red satin gown, v-neck, with a rectangular jewel at the neck. I loved it so much that I kept it (it still lives in my closet at home, even though I can no longer wear it!).

About The Dress …

I wanted something I could wear for this concert. There are certain protocols regarding dressing when performing as a soloist with an orchestra or choir: your dress needs to be floor length and cover your shoulders. I wanted something that I would wear often. I was in the city and decided to check out Macy’s. The dress was the last one I tried on and the best price from the sale rack! The minute I tried it on, it was perfect: the fit, the length (no hemming needed!), the style, and I couldn’t beat the price – everything was just right. I was able to check everything on my list! The black lace overlay on a neutral bodice was elegant but simple and I really loved the interesting back detail (which is important for the performances when I am conducting and my back is to the audience). The dress was so perfect that I didn’t need heels, and the only accessory I wore were large earrings. Continue reading

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Soles4Souls And the Power of a Single Shoe

The Bernados Family from the Phillipines

The Bernadas Family from the Phillipines participating in the Soles4Souls micro-enterprise program – courtesy of Soles4Souls

Brian Granfors is the Creative Director of Soles4Souls, a not for profit global social enterprise committed to fighting poverty through the collection and distribution of shoes and clothing. With the organization for 4 years, Brian has seen much change and movement for the good. We spoke about Soles4Souls and its impact on our world …

MKG: How did Soles4Souls come to focus on footwear? What should we all know about the significance of shoes?

BRIAN: It started with a single shoe. After watching news coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and seeing an image of a single shoe wash ashore, a group of philanthropists and shoe company executives were moved to do something. They orchestrated the collection of over 250,000 pairs of shoes and delivered them to those most impacted. After Hurricane Katrina hit the very next year, they collected nearly one million pairs for relief efforts. After realizing the desperate need for adequate footwear all around the world, Soles4Souls was officially formed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2006.

In many developing nations walking is the primary mode of transportation. Every day millions of people are exposed to unsanitary conditions that lead to parasitic diseases such as hookworm and threadworm. These diseases may lead to sickness, even death. They also keep children out of school leaving them without an education and continuing the cycle of poverty. In the United States, 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line. When we can help provide a pair of shoes, we’re helping bridge the economic gap. For these families, a new pair of shoes provides dignity and hope.

MKG: Is disaster relief still a part of its mission?

BRIAN: Absolutely. Our biggest impact in recent years was after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in late 2012. Acting as second-wave responders, Soles4Souls sent close to 200,000 pairs of BOBS from Skechers shoes to those affected areas hardest hit in the Philippines – the islands of Cebu, Leyte and Samar. We respond according to the product we currently have on hand. Most recently, thanks to a generous donation from Macy’s, we were able to deliver winter coats this past fall to those who lost so much during the wild-fires in Lake County, CA, in the summer of 2015. Two days before Christmas we distributed winter coats to those affected by the floods in South Carolina and just two weeks ago, we delivered coats to those who were victims of a tornado in Garland, TX.

MKG; What are the long-term goals of Soles4Souls and how has the organization developed in the last ten years?

BRIAN: Our long-term goal is to double our impact in the next three years as we continue our mission to fight extreme poverty around the globe. Continue reading

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