Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Auld Lang Shine

by Becky

I always wear sparkles on New Years. It could be that I'm into being festive, or, more probably, because I'm part crow. Oohhh shiny!

Do you have any NYE traditions? Share!

NYE 2007
01-20 night
People always think I have full-leg tattoos when I wear these tights. Weird, right?

NYE 2008
Props to Lisa and our jukebox... prop

NYE 2009
You may recognize this dress from Formal Friday

Before I really learned how to ply fake eyelashes...

NYE 2010
Vintage stripper slip? Okay!

12/31 profile
Cheap tricks: Make a super-inexpensive sequined headband by buying a yard of trim from a fabric store.

NYE 2011
167283_1817365198139_1360390325_32048422_5743228_n copy
Awkwardly Photoshopped to protect the innocent

Me, my sister, and her life mate

Most importantly, though, I always share the day with my most favorite loved ones.

Cheers to a new year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Holiday in the State of Unique

by frédérik

Well folks, this is it. My last post for the year. I thought I’d end 2011 with a look at this years Unique LA holiday event. It’s the third year in a row that I’ve attended, and I’m happy to see the event evolve into a bazaar with even more genuinely fun and idiosyncratic offerings. Alas, apparel is still the event’s weakest dimension, particularly for us men looking for something other than t-shirts, but overall the selection of products was more diverse and more creative than in past years.

Particularly enjoyable was either reuniting with artisans whose work I’ve been following since I first started attending Unique LA, like Loomlab’s charming Jane Henry, meeting them in person for the first time, like Sheswai’s Lacquers delightful Debbie Leavitt, or discovering really creative individuals whose work deserves closer attention in future feature posts. As to who these individuals are, well, you’ll just have to come back in the New Year to find out.

In the meantime, I leave you with some other pleasant discoveries.

Enchanted Leaves (www.enchantedleaves.com)
Taking their inspiration from “land, sea, and air,” the husband and wife team of Nedda Shishegar – Szylewicz Aaron Szylewicz are committed to delivering unique jewelry at affordable prices, like this really cute mini silver pewter hedgehog necklace for $15.95.

Jesse & Co. (www.jesseandco.com)
Locally handcrafted in Los Angeles, this artisan specializes in leather belts, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and bags. I’m not too crazy about the use of leather – except for footwear, where leather can be kinder to feet than synthetic materials, I prefer to avoid wearing animal products – but their metal work is very fine indeed. Lead-free metal feather cuff for $38.00.

Sire’s Crown q.v. (www.sireseyewear.com)
Using woods sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and apparently eco-friendly Italian Mazzuchelli (a tree pulp and cotton fiber based composite), Chris Erven and CJ Thomason aim to deliver eco-conscious eyewear. They have a variety of styles inspired by artists like Federico Fellini and Dylan Thomas, and draw on wood such Italian Ebony, Walnut, Rosewood, and many others. Average price for a pair is around $300.

LOVE NAIL TREE (www.lovenailtree.com)
This intriguingly monickered company has a compelling mission. From their website: “LOVE NAIL TREE is a company motivated and fueled by a desire to provoke conversation about topics neglected and often ignored by our culture. We believe in the power of story and think there are many that need to be told. Whether it be the trafficking of helpless children, the devastation of addiction, or the high rate of divorce in America. Our hope is that the stories we tell would move people to action and inspire a deep change within them.” My wife’s eye fell on this $22 radio vacuum tube pendant, and I can’t blame her: it’s a really nifty piece, and a good example of LOVE NAIL TREE’s grungy (but not too grungy), quasi-steampunk aesthetic.

Alter Ego (www.alteregojewelry.com)
Through Alter Ego, Erika Watson delivers recycling with a playful twist: accessories made from reused toy cars and figurines. It’s too pop-artsy and kitschy for my tastes, not to mention far too colourful for my generally monochromatic palette, but any idea that helps keep stuff from the landfill is A-OK in my book. So, if it’s your thing, check out items like Erika’s original car bracelet, available for $60.

Happy Holidays, and thanks for your readership and comments! See you in 2012!

Note: All images borrowed for illustrative purposes from their respective owners, except for the portrait of Jane Henry which I took.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Frivolous Friday: Partakers of Formal Wear

Here are some fabulous formal wear aficionados who gave casual Friday the finger.

Okay, so it's just me and Frédérik but, whatever, it's still pretty formal!

Mr. Sisa, fighting the confines of casualness

Says Frédérik:
The tie fighter. I usually resist wearing ties. Which works fine since we don't tend to dress up to the nines here in Los "Jeans at the Opera" Angeles...the sevens, maybe, but rarely the nines. But since every day is Casual Friday, I whipped out a neck-noose to meet the challenge.

And check out the vest! Awesome.

I wore my prom dress:
Oh, and I took this self-portrait in front of my coworkers. Mocking ensued.

You were warned!

This is a vintage number that is so filled with crinolines and boning that it could stand up by itself.

I made this myself. God bless hot glue.

I also may or may not have worn a golden dove-bedecked headband. Future Frivolous Friday challenge: Funny headgear?

Frivolous Friday is taking the holidays off but stay tuned in the new year for more fashion folly!

Friday, December 16, 2011

From War to Peace in Style and Good Conscience

So what do you do with materials from disarmed nuclear missile systems?

A) Make a statement about the follies and dangers of nuclear weapons.
B) Recycle.
C) Turn them into art.
D) Create shiny, pretty things for people to wear.

The answer is, obviously, E) All of the above. And the company providing that answer is From War to Peace, who offer jewelry, charms, bottle openers, and more as products, and a business model, with a conscience.

Founded by legislator, healthcare entrepreneur, and social justice advocate Paul Ogren and his wife Sandee,who sadly passed away in 2010, From War to Peace is an all-American company dedicated to using their art and jewelry to raise awareness about the need for peace and nuclear disbarment. At the heart of their enterprise is Peace Bronze, which is made using American-mined copper recycled from the thousands of miles of cables connecting missile silos to their command and control center. Using casting foundries both in the US and Mexico, they work with local artisans to create the beautiful peace-themed products.

If that isn’t green enough for you, consider that they also used recycled paper for their packaging and, when plastic is needed, biodegradable plastics. And if promoting peace by turning the components of weapons of mass destruction into objects of beauty isn’t enough, they donate 20% of their profits to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Peace Now (Shalom Achshav), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and others.

I happened to come across Paul, a very friendly guy, at his From War to Peace booth at the Green Festival LA last October, and I was struck by how beautiful and high-quality the jewelry was...and affordable.

For myself, I bought a pendant with the Japanese kanji character for peace, “the only nation on earth to embrace a pacifist constitution” and “also the only nation ever subjected to the horrors of nuclear weapons in war.”  The design is by Jason Main and consists of red enamel on peace bronze.It’s just the sort of product that embodies what I, as a fashionista, want from I buy: local manufacture, environmental consideration, and a business that aims to use its success for the social as well as individual good. And it looks great.

 Eager to delve a bit deeper into what drives From War to Peace, I eMailed Paul for an interview.

Paul Ogren
Making and selling jewelry is quite a change from legislating and founding community colleges...beyond the fact that the opportunity to create jewelry existed given all that copper, what made you decide to try such a different approach to effecting social change?
Occasionally - if we're lucky - we have ideas which grab us. Those ideas are life's gift, combining - at their best - intellectual curiosity and heart. I've been grabbed by such ideas a few times in my life, and by and large they shape my passions and the direction my life has taken.
From War to Peace is such an idea, and came to me one day about four years ago when my niece asked me to sing the bass in an old Hebrew hymn. The words of the hymn are quite simple, and are drawn from Micah & Isaiah in the Old Testament: 
And every man, 'neath his vine and fig tree, shall live in peace and unafraid. And into plowshares turn their swords, nations shall know war no more.
I sang it, and knew instantly that I would spend the rest of my life finding those swords and transforming them into symbols of peace.
FWTP is also - at least in part - an opportunity to expiate my sins. Here's what I mean: after 9-11, I, like far too many others, reacted with fear and anger, and supported going to war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Clearly, George W. was not the only idiot operating in America at the time! In any event I realized quickly what a foolish and brutal face America was turning to our world, and resolved to try affecting change any way I could.
Like many folks, I worked hard in an electoral context, and thought we had won a significant victory in electing a peace president, Barack Obama, in 2008. It is almost inconceivable to me that one so clearly brilliant, who spoke with such extraordinary clarity and love in the course of that campaign, should have turned out to be such an impossibly weak leader. We (America) are spending over 25% more on military and war today than we ever did under the recent Bush presidency.
Peace bronze jewelry offers a great way for people to promote their dedication to peace...but what comes after that? Obviously, From War to Peace encourages a smarter kind of consumerism rooted in social ideals that are, sadly, all too lacking in our politics these days. And it's great to read about how you donate 20% of your profits to various social justice organizations. But how would you like your customers to go from wearing your jewelry to becoming active agents of change?
We (FWTP) are developing a companion website to our commercial venture. We call it The Peace Front (www.thepeacefront.com), and it is dedicated to connecting folks to other like-minded individuals who share their commitment to creating a better world. To that end we are linking all peace, social justice, environmental, and economic justice organizations we can find in our world in a single location, and we have begun to actively recruit folks from our commercial website to engage in broader activism. The recent Occupy movement is eloquent in its expression of rage and sorrow, but it needs to translate into genuine, widespread social change. The Peace Front will be shaped more fully as we move into 2012.
Are there any legislators, State or Federal, wearing From War to Peace jewelry? I could easily picture Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich wearing your pieces...but how wonderful would it be if other members of Congress and other political bodies expressed their commitment to nuclear disarmament?
Thus far no politicians - to my knowledge - are wearing FWTP jewelry, nor have we actively encouraged them to do so. I am, however, sending former President Bill Clinton several pieces of our jewelry in the coming days. He, more than any other American leader, actively engaged in Nuclear disarmament, and with extraordinary results. Our world has eliminated half of all worldwide nuclear warheads in recent decades, largely as a result of Clinton's efforts. God knows, however, that we still have enough warheads left to blow us all to hell several times over, so there is much work still to do.  
I was hugely disappointed in the utter lack of debate on issues of War & Peace in the recent 2010 federal elections. It appeared that all incumbent politicians - Republicans and Democrats alike - were marching in lockstep to the beat of the Military Industrial drummer. Let's pray that the 2012 elections demand the renewal of this debate.
In addition to pendants and bracelets, you also offer key chains, wine bottle stoppers, even Beers Not Bombs bottle openers. How did you evolve your collection? How do you work with artisans to develop new designs?
I am always actively recruiting artists and designers with ideas that will translate into From War to Peace offerings. Ideally those offering will resonate with peace, but peace in a fairly broad sense. Joy, humor, light, love, music and nature all express peace. Thus far we have worked with three different artists: Jason Main of San Luis Obispo, Jack Biesek of See Canyon, and Mary Rose O'Leary of Eagle Rock, all of them Californians. 
I am particularly thankful to a British artist named Gerald Holtom, who designed what we now call the Peace Sign for our world's first significant anti-nuclear weapon march in 1958, from London to Aldermaston in England. The peace sign incorporates the semaphores for the letters N and D, wrapped in a circle, and was created as the symbol of Nuclear Disarmament.
The peace sign was brought out of England to the U.S. several years later by the wonderful American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, and has become our world's universal symbol of peace. Mr. Holtom left his work intentionally in the public domain, so that it might be used by all those who share his commitment to a more peaceful world. I am delighted that From War to Peace has been able to bring Holtom's symbol full circle, actually casting our Peace Signs from disarmed nuclear weapon systems. While Mr. Holtom himself has long since died, I am delighted that his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren wear From War to Peace created Peace Signs today in his memory.
Finally, what can we look forward to in From War to Peace's future?
From War to Peace has been actively creating and selling its art for about one year thus far, and we are hugely ambitious. Our work is now sold in about a hundred stores in the U.S. and Canada. By the end of 2012 we hope to be in over a thousand stores worldwide. For many decades now the primary American export to the world has been militant aggression. Our hope is that From War to Peace becomes the new American face shown our world: one that turns weapons meant to destroy us into art meant to restore us, designed and created entirely in the United States of America from recycled weapons of war.
This next year we will begin incorporating precious and semi-precious stones in our designs, casting cuff bracelets, brooches, pins, and rings, and alloying our copper recycled from nuclear weapon systems - along with recycled gold - in the creation of a wonderful new Peace Gold form of rose gold. We hope to increase our network of artists and jewelry designers substantially. Our design dreams are bound only by beauty and imagination.
We have also begun working with some terrific American peace activists on the creation of two heroic scaled sculptures dedicated to the Peace Gardens located in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. These sculptures will be cast from Peace Bronze, the alloy created from disarmed American nuclear weapon systems, and will be a simple gift of love from the people of the United States to the people of Japan - the only nation on earth ever subjected to the horror of nuclear weapons in war. We hope to complete this project for installation in 2014.
And there you have it. Beautiful jewelry that eases rather than hinders the conscience. Visit www.fromwartopeace.com to learn more about the company and see more of their catalog.

Many thanks to Paul Ogren for taking the time to answer my questions!

Note: All images, except the one of me wearing the pendant, are borrowed from FWTP’s website with Paul’s kind permission.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frivolous Friday Challenge: Formal Wear

Welcome to Frivolous Fridays, a weekly foray into mismatched socks, ridiculous hats, backwards gowns, or any number of absurd sartorial choices!

Each Monday, we will post pictures of people who took part in the previous week's Frivolous Friday challenge and then offer a new and even more frivolous idea for that coming Friday.

Sound good? Then let's go!

This week's Frivolous Friday challenge is to don formal wear on the job.

Want inspiration? Here are Anne and myself, making copies in finery.

My coworkers and I have decided that we have too many evening dresses and not enough places to wear them so we are having a Formal Friday. Take that, casual Friday! And I'd like the record to show that I don't work in a cool, hip, artsy office where you can bring your dog and your boss calls you "man." I work in at a wastewater utility... Ahhh yes, the glamorous world of sewage. And I'm planning on wearing my prom dress to work on Friday.

Is this a black tie cube?

Are you up for the frivolity? You don't have to unearth the sequined gowns from your misspent high school dances. You could wear your favorite LBD. You could slip into a party frock. You could dig out your tuxedo vest, costume jewelry, or glittery heels. The point is to simply reassess what can be worn when you're on the clock.

I answer messages between fetes.

Post links to your Frivolous Friday pictures on this post and/or email the photos to us over the weekend. We'll post pictures of the participants on Monday, Dec. 19, and then... Probably take a holiday break. But Frivolous Fridays will return in the new year!

Frivolity is go!

Friday, December 9, 2011

she sells sheswai by the seashore

Sherman, set the wayback machine to three years ago, the first time I went to a Unique LA holiday event. Amidst all the fun vendors was a table laden with nail polish, as girly and feminine as one might expect (stereotypically, perhaps) a nail polish vendor to be. I would have walked right by except something caught my attention; wooden caps on the bottles and a proclamation in favour of eco-chic. All that was eye catching enough for me to investigate as to what eco-chic nail polish consists of, but then I read the manifesto, which contained this line:

we believe that boys should paint their nails too

And suddenly, I was more than just intrigued. Here was an expression of the kind of “fashionoclastic” spirit I value. Zooks!

The company was Sheswai, the friendly lady behind the table was Debbie Leavitt, and ever since that first encounter I’ve wanted to feature this nice little brand of lacquers on the blog. So what took so long? Bad nail habits, mostly. But after cultivating a healthy dose of vanity and channeling it to good nail care, giving nail polish a second look seemed logical – especially when taken in the context that nice nails are stylish for everyone, and style most definitely includes colour.

As far as men wearing nail polish, it will come as no surprise that I fully support the view that anyone should feel free to paint their nails if it pleases them. I’ve even put on a coat of black polish on occasion. Unfortunately, working in a professional environment, however relative lax in terms of dress code, puts limits on what I can do. Jeans, sandals, western shirts, ornamental skulls…not a problem. Nail polish, however, would be too subversive given that we have consultants and, on occasion, clients coming into the office. Given the effort needed to put on the polish myself, or the expense of having someone do it for me, it's rarely worthwhile for merely a weekend’s wear. Still, I like the idea of colour (even if for my personal palette colour usually means black or neutral) for myself, for everyone. Maybe somebody I'll have free reign...

So let’s talk about Sheswai and nail polish, beginning with a question: have you ever thought about what’s IN nail polish and how the cosmetics industry brings their products to the market? In a recent issue of VegNews, in which Sheswai was featured along with other ethical cosmetic lines, a few facts come to light about nail polish:
  • Typically contain formaldehyde and toluene, both of which are toxic. Polishes used to contain DPB (Dibutyl phthalate, a suspected endocrine disruptor also related to birth defects), but have apparently been gradually phased out since 2006.
  • Can come from companies that use horrific animal tests, including lethal dose testing that pumps substances into an animal's stomach and evaluating reactions that can including convulsions, bleeding, impaired breather, and death.
For conscientious fashionistas concerned about making the most ethical choices possible - and not subjecting animals to testing for the sake of our own vanities - companies like Sheswai offer a welcome and accessible alternative to mainstream brands. Her lacquers aren’t organic and all-natural – “if it were, it wouldn’t be nail polish” – but Debbie nevertheless strives to provide a better product all-around. “What makes Sheswai different from the rest is our approach to packaging and our eco-minded business practices. We believe that painted nails are fantastic accessories so we promote taking care of your nails naturally and painting them with a lovely lacquer you can feel good about supporting,” she says.

Thus: Sheswai lacquers are free of toluene, formaldehyde, and DPBs, aren't tested on animals, and come in glass bottles with caps made of sustainably harvested wood to reduce plastic use.

Of course, the question is: how well does Sheswai lacquers work on actual nails?

A bottle of badass in my hand.

To give you an answer, Debbie very kindly sent me a sample to try out, a bottle of a recently added colour called “badass.” I have to be honest: brown, no matter how lovely a shade, is just not a colour I can fit into my palette. (Rule of thumb: blacks, neutrals, and sanguinary colours.) Personal preference aside, however, badass is certainly a beautiful colour in and of itself, a rich espresso with playful metallic flecks that is, surely enough, pretty badass. I gave it a whirl on my own pointy digits, and despite the fact that I don’t paint my own nails remotely often enough to do a good job at it, was entirely satisfied that Sheswai’s lacquers have the quality to do justice to those of you who are nail polish pros.

Badass in the bottle, kickass on the nails..

So, you get the whole package with Sheswai: beautiful colours, quality chemistry, and eco-sensibilities.

To learn a bit more, I interviewed Debbie via eMail:

With all the various nail polish companies out there - Essie, Urban Decay, and all the usual suspects - you've got a fair amount of competition. Other than obvious moxie on your part, what made you decide to take the leap and stake out your own line of lacquers?

I’ve been a manicurist for many years, and wanted to create a line of nail color from my perspective. I love branding and marketing, and trusted that I had something to share that I had not seen before. Moxie, indeed ;-)

How did you translate your vision into a reality, from choosing the colours to manufacturing the products?

I knew the colors that women tended to choose most often; something soft & sheer, a great red, a dark chocolate shade, etc…so for my first collection of 7 colors I wanted to provide the “back to basics’ with something for everyone. It requires a lot of painting parties with girlfriends to narrow down the perfect red, or the softest sheer crème, but well worth it.

What is the meaning behind the name "Sheswai?"

I made the name Sheswai up…I was on a beach with a friend sharing with her my desire to create a brand, and we started playing with names (something I love to do) and Sheswai was born. This was long before I started dreaming of nail polish. I just knew I wanted to brand my services of natural nail care. Then when it came time to create a line of polish it had to be Sheswai. It’s something feminine, and playful…she-sway’s; like a lady.

On your facebook page, you posted a link to Glamour's blog post on EvolutionMan's line of men's nail polish. As usual, reading the comments chips away at one's faith in humanity. It's the usual prejudice; men who wear nail polish are gay, or unmasculine, or something along those lines. You clearly don't agree with that. You even have it in your manifesto: "we believe that boys should paint their nails too." So what's the deal with men wearing nail polish? Why do you think there's so much resistance to the idea?

I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with artists and musicians, most of them men, so doing what I do they would often times be the recipients of color testing. As well as just good ol’ rock & roll fun. These days men & women alike are much more free to express themselves so putting some polish on is just another form of expression. I don’t know that he would paint his nails to match a particular outfit per se, but a painted nail in a dark sexy hue is fun. I also know a lot of Daddy’s with daughters who LOVE to paint nails…and sometimes Daddy has to be the client. Adorable.

Other than moral support, how does Sheswai encourage boys to go against the mainstream and paint their nails?

Easy, express yourself and don’t be bothered by what anyone else thinks. Do what YOU want to do. And remember- it’s just paint, you can take it off.

And what about you...what are some of your favourite ways to dress up your nails?

I love painting my nails! When it comes to getting dolled up for something (or nothing) I like to have a great pop of color on my nails. I like to make it another accessory to what I may be wearing. And sometimes I like to put a little sparkle on my nails with a single crystal stone at the base of each nail; I call it “bindi bling” (A how-to on our blog is coming in December.)

Given your experience in the fashion and entertainments industries, and as the entrepreneurial heart of Sheswai, what's your favourite tip or secret you could offer to anyone painting their nails?

Prepping the canvas is always good before you paint, so moisturize! And then be sure to wipe the nail plate clean with polish remover to remove any oils otherwise the polish will not adhere properly. Skip the basecoat!

What can we look forward to from Sheswai Lacquers? More colours? More beauty products?

Yes, all of the above! I’d love to create a lip/cheek stain and some oil blends and scrubs.

And there you have it. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, keep an eye open for Unique LA events; chances are you’ll find Debbie there.

Debbie (at right) with friend Marissa at Unique LA Holiday 2011. Obviously, I have a lousy camera.

Of course, you can always visit Sheswai online at www.sheswaibeauty.com. Many thanks to Debbie for the sample and for sharing her time with me!

And if you’d like some more tips on colouring your claws, Becky’s got some tips for you at her personal style blog Pump Up the Frump.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Note on Coats

While southern CA is a little gusty, as Frédérick reported, my Midwestern stomping grounds are currently being buffeted by blustering snow.

Ew. Good thing I grabbed my threadbare denim jacket this morn because goodness knows that nothing will preserve your shivering soul better than worn-out cotton. But it matched my dress perfectly!

I am warmed by fabulousness, not fabric.

But let's discuss the few coats I own that actually accomplish some amount of warmth-preservation.

12-11 coat
Even though this picture is from 2008, the coat is still in this perfect condition. It's made of magic, I tell ya!

We begin with my Favorite Coat of All Time.

It is black. It is vintage. It is wool. It fits perfectly, is long, can be somewhat dressy, and is so heavy that you can fart in it and never smell anything until spring. I adorn it with a marching band metal I found at a vintage shop and it never fails to glean comments.

12-11 coat detail
I totally earned this in the war of the Florence Antique Mall.

Oh, coat! I adore you so.

01-22 coat
Full woolen jacket

This is representative of any number of '50s-era wool jackets I have on hand at a given time. I am a priss and hate the feeling of wool on skin so while I love this look, these usually-unlined babies only get marginal play.

On a side note, this photo is one of the top hit-getters on my Flickr. Weird, right?

12-14 coat
That belt was a pain. I threw it away and pin the coat shut these days.

Ahhhhhh yes. I found this thing at a thrift shop in 2008... Rather prescient of current trends, no?

I just realized that I left it in a neighbor's shed. Oh, the trials of drinking in the country...

01-18 coat
I bought this at a Forever 21-like shop in TN perhaps 10 years ago and have had to repair it many times but it has been valiant in its survival.

This canvas coat is completely unlined and offers little to no insulation. I don't care, it matches everything I own.

Do you have something that is less warm and itchier, please?

A singular foray into the wool cape. Yuck. No thank you.

04-19 raincoat
Rain coats are far superior to umbrellas. Discuss.

Best rain coat ever. It is lined with tiny whales.

11/11 coat
An a-line cut coat is kind hard to come by.

This was a cheap find at Forever 21 in 2009 and while it isn't aging very gracefully, the mod cut makes it timeless.

My sister is still amazed that I look like I have a figure when I wear this.

A new vintage jacket that is lined, warm and surprisingly, has super-long sleeves that can accommodate my gorilla arms. Yay!

Is that a fox collar or a kitty cat?

Of course, if your coat doesn't keep you warm, you can always throw in a cat or two to heat you up.

SO. How do those of you not privileged enough to be on a sunny beach keep from freezing?

Friday, December 2, 2011

a fistful of updates: brains and beauty

In this first week of December, as Southern California gets blown away by the Santa Anas, I’m bringing you updates from two of my favourite designers: Jane Henry (Loomlab) and Annie Mohaupt (Mohop). The interesting juxtaposition of the two is a partly coincidental, since both ladies recently released new designs in their respective collections. Mostly, however, a look at their latest work demonstrates the quality they share that I find so appealing: their design embody brains and beauty. Almost anyone can whip up pretty things. Not many, however, can create designs that satisfy the intellect as well as the eye.

In Annie’s case, architecture provides the conceptual footbed for her designs. The shape of the shoe, the space created for the foot, the precision crafting – all these demonstrate the beautiful conjunction of form and function. For Jane, it’s not just that the patterns and textures on her scarves are beautiful in and of themselves, but that they arise from a process informed by mathematics, code, and symbolism. It’s a successful blend of logic and artistic intuition or, as Jane puts it, “modern-day accessory science, with a dash of old-timey alchemy.”

So, in no particular order, here’s something new for you to feast your eyes on.

LOOMLAB: Smock Like an Egyptian

OK, so scarves aren’t smocks. They still wrap around you very nicely, though, especially when they look as fabulous as a Loomlab scarf.

The ciphered graphics of the Egyptian CMYK collection were created from Egyptian motifs, sound waves, morse code, and the famous Golden Ratio, and delivered using a CMYK-inspired palette on artisanal textures. I just love the idea of wearing something whose deeper significance isn't immediately obvious. It's a bit like having a binary clock on one's desk, only with pizzazz. In any case, Jane delivers another winning collection, and this time I'll have to pick something out for myself. But which one?

Visit Loomlab.com for more in the collection.

MOHOP: Mo' Happenings

Annie’s latest is a very pleasant surprise indeed: mens’ sandals. Huzzah! Classic designs that demonstrate the elegant simplicity of a Mohop design paired with detailed craftswomanship. In a way, I'm reminded of a veteran Japanese geta maker I recently came across, Mizutori. Specifically, the way in which timeless designs can still sustain a contemporary style. Mizutori gets it, and so does Annie. To get a peek behind the scenes at Mohop, mouse on over to Every Clog Has Its Day. The video of how Annie makes the shoes is fascinating indeed.)

The woods used to make these beautiful shoes include sustainably-sourced American domestic Maple, Cherry and Walnut. The uppers are made from high-end faux leather straps. Annie notes that the sandals fit rather like Earth shoes with their negative heel design that puts your heel lower than your toes. I don’t know about the biomechanics of it, but it’s apparently very comfortable.

And there you have it. Two mighty fine updates.

Note from the Keep the Lawyers Happy Department: Images belong to Loomlab and Mohop respectively, and are only used for illustrative purposes.