A Fashion Week First: Ellen Wise

 

To me, senior year of college is all about saying yes. Within reason. So when one of my sister’s college friends, Dani, reached out with the opportunity for me to head to New York for the weekend to photograph a show during New York Fashion Week, I practically purchased my travel fare before I even properly said yes.

The gig was to photograph for the designer Ellen Wise at her debut fashion show on the east coast. The task was simple: get myself to New York by 3pm on Saturday, and photograph the 6pm show - afterparty access graciously included.

Arriving at the venue was a whirlwind, as neither Dani nor I had ever met the designer or her husband, Mike, but proudly marched on up to get our press passes anyway. Once the whole team got acquainted, Dani and I got to see what goes on behind the lights, camera, and action. We were able to visit the models in makeup, chat with show staffers about what they were hoping to get out of it, and even watch other designers send their works down the runway (other designs pictured below).

Though I had been to Fashion Week shows before (think back to the sophomore year trip to NYFW 2016), I had never been granted the opportunity to photograph for one designer in particular. Getting to know Ellen behind the scenes gave a whole new dimension to her garments as I learned they’re each one of a kind and custom made for the client. Ellen has even gone so far as to design her daughter’s wedding dress - and Mike even made the wedding cake!

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All in all, the photographing of the show was easy. It was the saying yes to a spur of the moment opportunity that put me out of my comfort zone - letting me learn that it’s not so bad, and you can even score a fashion week after party ticket!

So thank you, Dani, for thinking of me for the job, and to Ellen Wise for fashionably fueling my year of saying yes!

Xx, Maia

 

If I Were a New York City Storefront

 

I often dream about owning my own little one room shop when I grow up.

It'd be filled with one stock items so that everyone who came through and shopped would know that what they found was uniquely theirs. Maybe I'd sell objects of one color, and change that color every month. Whatever the concept, I know that finally financing a purpose for all the quirky tchotchkes and eclectic tastes I have will make me smile. 

Trotting around NYC this summer, I'm often looking for those little, eye-lifting moments that make me smile. It's curious what I'm drawn to, and because of it's aesthetic inconsistency, I can't help but wonder: what would I look like if I were a New York City Storefront?

Someday's I'd be all dolled up, really feeling my look, and not so subtly strutting through the SoHo streets:

On days that are way too hot, I'd long for a breezy and verdant escape:

A handful of days I'd lean into the art scene and wear a mashup of a minimalist concert t-shirt paired with slick, black culottes in this vein:

On the days I miss Miami, I'd proudly wear my tropical pants to the office:

Some days I'd be blushing after having participated in rosé season on a friend's rooftop:

On days I feel a little reserved, I'd wear something a bit feminine yet subtle, perhaps in this shade of green:

Other days I'd embrace the Man Repeller vibe and wear all of my favorite garments at once, despite the glaring pattern mismatches:

And some days, days that are hard or scary or overwhelming, I'd wear several different emotions on my face:

But at the end of the day, no matter the day, I'd wear a smile - because everyone in this city could benefit from a little kindness:

Xx, Maia
 

Take Me to Church - or just to see Heavenly Bodies

 

On a summer's Sunday morning, what else could be more fitting for some than going to Church? In our case, a party of three (with two of us being Jewish) decided to go to the Church of fashion: The Heavenly Bodies Exhibit at The Met. 

Hyped up from all the Met Gala videos of star studded guests strutted through the galleries and donning designs by many of the designers prominently displayed in this religious retrospective, Annie, Rebecca, and I put on our Sunday best and embarked on our religious experience. 

When you walk in, one of the first things you'll notice are the purposeful shadows and spots of light. The whole presentation has not only been carefully curated for content, but for ambiance as well. The music on loop in the background mesmerizes you. It perfectly matches the sense of drama mirrored in the costumes and staging of the exhibit. Luckily, Annie got in trouble for Shazaming the soundtrack so you don't have to. Find a similar tune here, and I strongly recommend playing it while you continue this read.

The exhibit was split in two spots at The Met (not to mention offsite displays as well): the Anna Wintour Costume Institute & the Medieval and Byzantine Art Galleries. The former featured relics and items from the Vatican in the costume institute underground in order to set the historical tone of the more theatrical display aboveground. And, aboveground, fantasy melted into fact as garments by Versace to Alexander McQueen were interspersed with art from The Met's permanent collection of Medieval and Byzantine Art. 

This split of displays was a helpful, visual delineation - if not a good excuse to cross the entirety of The MET in between - prompting Annie to point out the juxtaposition of, "old garments in a modern space and modern garments in an old space." And a modern space indeed. The first few dresses were floated atop stands in parallel hallways that led into the main gallery space. The mannequins looked like they were strutting on a runway in heaven as we had to crane our necks and catch glimpses in between spotlights to see them in all their glory. 

In between these two hallways were the brightest gems of the exhibit: three Versace tops encrusted with jovially colored jewels, presented against exposed bricks and encased relics.

"The seminal collection includes jackets and halter tops with Byzantine icons embroidered entirely in crystals, creating an immediate visual link to the luminous tesserae of the mosaics. Here, they are paired with Byzantine icons from The Met collection."  (Versace Wall text) 

Gliding onto the main gallery, you can't help but start to feel a bewitching quality consume you. All the mannequins stand eyes closed, draped in ornate and opulent fabrics. They're positioned either in flanks, in silos, or watching you from above. Everywhere you turn there's a new garment beckoning you with it's rich colors or even richer jewels. And each time you lean in close to inspect the details, you're sucked into another world of fashion. 

Each designer showcased in this exhibit is or was Catholic, and are all brought together here by their sartorial storytelling abilities. Piecing together garments that manifest "the Catholic imagination" as stated by sociologist Andrew Greeley - the theoretical backbone to the exhibit. Each cluster of costumes represents a short story (like The Habit) and crescendos into an overall narrative of how fashion stems from function and evolves into fantasy. 

Xx, Maia
 

A Father's Day "Worn Story" Tribute

 

Growing up, my dad was never a superhero to me - he was far too human, and made me laugh too damn much. He was, however, someone I always looked up to (until I surpassed him in height at age 16). Now I'm 21, he's 65, and while I don't live with him anymore, I always have him with me. 

Three  years ago, on the morning I left for college, I knew our relationship would be different. Since he was already the workhorse of our family, I had grown accustomed to being woken up by a goodbye kiss when he left for work at 6am and greeting him with a hug when he came home for a late, Latin dinner around 9pm. Now, I'd really see him even less. He was never the one I told about my school day, nor my daily dramas, and I feel a little guilty that he had to receive re-tellings from my mom because I was too lazy to re-tell him myself. Now, I'd really talk to him less. 

When I was packing to leave for college, I remember realizing I could no longer run into his closet and grab one of his t-shirts to sleep in when I missed him. Those shirts were so comfy and so large, and I could always tuck my knees to my chest within them (to recoil and protect myself when he wasn't home and I was watching a scary movie alone at night). He and I wore those shirts so much that they were too tattered for me to want to tote at college, so I decided to discreetly "borrow" a sweater of his instead. 

My dad, Mo, is a man of very few words as it is, so I was especially shocked to hear the ones he chose to tell me on our drive to the airport the morning I left. I was sitting in the backseat of the car, suffocated by all the suitcases I insisted on bringing with me to Boston. Mami was driving and Papi was classically asleep in the passenger seat. Right before we pulled into the terminal, he turned around and pulled something out of his wallet. Not cash (he had already direct deposited me money for airport snacks) but rather a drawing of an imaginary friend I had made him when I was about seven years old. As a kid, I remember not understanding why he was always away at work, and childishly wanting to make sure he always came home safe. So, with my seven year old artistic expertise, I drew him a little orange figure to "protect" him throughout the day. The more he kept it in his wallet, the older it aged and the more frayed it became. He soon laminated it, for further assurance that it (and he) would be okay. A decade after I had given it to him, he was now turning around and giving it to me, to protect me now that I'd be far away from him and all that he does to keep me safe. I've kept it in my wallet since, and despite spilling many things in my backpack, it has always remained solid and watchful. 

But when I miss Mo a little bit extra, or when I want to feel enveloped by his big bear hugs, I wear that sweater of his that I stole. It's laughably large on me: the sleeves spill over my fingers and the whole ensemble hangs around my knees. But I love it. Apparently others do to. I always receive compliments on it, and one time was even stopped by my friend flagging it as a "Coogi" sweater - an old designer that now costs upwards of $300 on vintage sites. Little did I know that the sweater I wore because it smelled perfectly like musty cologne and hung comfortingly on my shoulders like a protective hug was actually an article of fashion treasure. In fact, I always thought the sweater looked weird on my dad... and that's how I justified stealing it from him in the first place. 

Inspired by Emily Spivack's Worn Stories

Xx, Maia
 

Cool Beans: If Stars Align by Marina Zoullas

 

It's April 2nd, and snowing in Boston - delayed April Fool's Joke? Probably. Since I misguidedly started packing up my winter wardrobe, I begrudgingly selected an oversized grey sweater to keep me warm on this uncharacteristically frigid day. What kept me smiling, though, was the anticipation of a chat with Marina Zoullas, founder of If Stars Align: a company that fosters individual creativity during the design process of gorgeous sweaters and other apparel. You bet I wished I was snuggled in and sporting one of her colorful, custom designed numbers on this day. 

Marina is a high schooler in New York City. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she’s either working at the showroom of the clothing brand LoveShackFancy, doing research for FXB, the organization she interns for, or making art. She’s passionate about women’s empowerment and the eradication of poverty around the world, which she supports through her website: http://givegaincollective.com - a collective of organizations that empowers women through the work they produce. She loves to be creating, whether it be through her blog, http://honeyandoats.com, her website, If Stars Align, or any homemade remedies she’s making for her skin. Though she’s just a 16-year-old junior, this is just the beginning for her and she already has a couple of projects in the making for the future.

Having founded her company on two principles, Marina conveyed this same emphasis on uniqueness and individuality throughout our quick conversation: 

How do we reveal who we are through what we wear?

How does our clothing define who we are and how we can show it?

ISA is a way for you to define your look, not others. 

(From Website's About Page)

 Image courtesy of site. 

Image courtesy of site. 

Right off the bat I asked her some questions about her vision for her company: 

What gave you the idea to start your company?

I’ve always been making stuff and I’ve been sewing for about 5 years now - up-cycling clothing. I have this jacket and sewed fur cuffs into it from a garment my mom had that she was going to get rid of. I like making things individual to myself. I feel like the fashion industry is now branching out to individuality and accepting people with different styles.

I started [If Stars Align] last year, in May, when I have a blocked out month during school to work on a personal project.

Images courtesy of site. 

What’s one surprising thing you’ve learned while getting it off the ground?

I’ve learned a lot about myself and that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. So learning when to just put it out there. I've spoken to a lot of people in the industry and the best advice they've given me is, “Just put it out there, don’t wait for it to be perfect because it’s never going to be perfect.”

Where do you see ISA going in the next few years?

I’m a junior in high school right now, so where I see the company growing is in  putting more of a message behind the brand. Right now a lot of it is sustainable and fair trade in where I’m outsourcing the materials. But I want to incorporate a component of supporting women. It’s hard to find articles of clothing that have some action behind it. The fashion industry is one that wastes a lot of water, and now there’s more awareness about the environment, but I also want to make sure that my company has a social impact; so not just trying to minimize the footprint of how it’s being made but also making difference.

If one of your role models could wear one of your designs, who would it be?

I think my clothing is for everyone - so maybe Emma Watson because she’s someone who does a lot of work with the UN but also has a big following and is making a social impact.

Images courtesy of site. 

Though Marina and I only had a virtual meeting via FaceTime, I could sense right away that she's the perfect catalyst for putting forth a socially conscious, customizable clothing brand. Based off of more personal questions, it's clear that Marina places a large focus on purposefully composing her outfits - a girl after my own heart. 

 

Go to outfit: What's your uniform?

I love blouses, I have a billion white blouses that probably all look the same but for me they’re all different - some have embellishments. I usually wear a feminine blouse with, high-waisted washed out denim jeans to toughen it up a bit, and then probably paired with sneakers.

What's the soundtrack to your life?

I just listen to the Latin music that all kind of say the same stuff and it definitely does not reflect my life. I’m not a huge music person (as in I can never learn the lyrics, even if its in English). I like something more that’s upbeat and dance-y. Which is probably pretty representative of my life right now since there’s a lot going on with junior year.

What's one piece of jewelry that's iconic you?

I always have an evil eye on me. I love evil eyes and it’s part of the Greek superstition - my dad always had one growing up so now I do as well. I usually wear it either as a necklace or a ring or a bracelet. I just love eyes.

What's a trend you're envious of right now?

Because spring and summer are coming up, I'm loving the super long, flowy, beachy dresses. I’m very short so I can’t wear it. I think unless I'm wearing 6in heels I don’t think I could pull it off.

What's a trend you want to die?

I’m not a fan of naked dresses. Like to the beach sure - if it’s a see through cover up. But I’m not a fan of the bejeweled, feathery dresses that people wear on the red carpet.

Last question: How would you describe yourself as a human bean?

I would go with an edamame bean. I know I don’t have to literally choose a bean but I feel like I’m an edamame because there’s the outside shell, but then you bite into it and the inside is sweet. Kind of like me - since it takes me a long time to warm up to people.

 

Suffice it to say, after just a 20 minute chat, I felt like I could tell that this sweet edamame bean is going to do big things. That is, if stars align. 

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To purchase some of Marina's designs, head on over to her shop

Xx, Maia 
 

A Neighbor's Guide to Miami

 

When you live where "most people vacation," you can easily become flooded with texts for recommendations for what to do in Miami during people's weekend trips down to the tropics. Lucky for me, I love my city and I am always eager to rattle of my favorite things to do so that people can experience the Miami that is my home, rather than just the Miami they see portrayed in TV shows and social media. 

Since I spent almost two months in Miami for my winter break (ask me how genuinely excited I am to be back at school with a routine and actual wintery weather), I hit up my favorite hometown spots as much as I adventured out to the newer sights in town. And here's a little write up of the current highlights in Miami - in case someone needs a recommendation list of things to do:

Explore Art Deco throughout Miami Beach

Bonus points if you find a corner cafe and stop for an empanada and cafecito - for the true flavor of Miami. 

 

Venture down to South Florida for the best Cinnamon Rolls & Strawberry Shakes

Pro tip: visit Knaus Berry Farms RIGHT when the open in order to avoid the lines and inevitable sun burn you will get outlining your outfit because you spent 3 hours waiting for the snacks in this photo. 

 

Visit Dante Fascell Park to see the statue that has become an iconic portion of any South Floridian's childhood

This here is the naked lady. She is a staple of my childhood. I don't know who made her, or who decided to put her here, but she is easily one of the most peculiarly intriguing memories of my youth. Re-visiting her and being able to climb from her navel to her shoulder in one fluid motion really reminded me that wow, I am tall. 

 

Have an early morning beach day before the big crowds emerge and block your view of the water

However, if you like people watching, I would recommend going during lunch time - though that's when you risk some skin torching sun rays. 

 

Noodle around the Wynwood Art District and 'nosh at 1-800-Lucky

Since the walls are always changing and there's new fusion cuisine constantly populating the area, this is a great spot to revisit time and time again. It also helps to bring a crew of friends for the laughs but also for rotational photographer purposes...

 

Walk around the re-vamped Design District to see well-known art at the ICA and more site-specific art in the streets

At the end of the day, I think the best thing about Miami is that you can be craving nature, art, fashion, or food, and be able to accomplish everything (and more) in a single swoop - if you play your cards right. 

Xx, Maia 
 

"Walking Ideas:" CDG at the MET

 

Is fashion art?

As I settle into the swing of this new semester, one filled with courses in different departments that somehow all interrelate (go liberal arts!), this question seems to keep popping up. Given that the add/drop deadline is today, my class schedule is finally finalized, and it features topics like Neuroaesthetics, Science & the Practice of Art History, and Tangible Things. Each course touches upon the beauty of objects in their own way - from science, to history, to perspectives of conservation. 

Back in mid-July, I had spent a weekend in NYC to reconnect with friends and, to be honest, see the Comme des Garçons Exhibit at the MET. Both of those goals were accomplished, alongside other adventures, and ever since I returned I've just been sitting on this pile of photos, wondering the best way to write about the experience. It wasn't until last week, in my first class of Neuroaesthetics, that I realized what would be most fruitful: trying to figure out if fashion, to me, is in fact art. 

To prepare for that week's discussion, our class read/heard perspectives from the likes of Tolstoy, Dennis Dutton, and Valerie Steele. Steele's talk contended with fashion directly, and her claims felt like thoughts I was on the cusp of materializing myself, yet being expressed better than I ever could. She started her talk by wondering if seeing a Balenciaga bag in a museum exudes the same "aura" as art. Now, as a budding student of art history, I instantly understood her question as a reference to Walter Benjamin and his proposal that the "aura" of a work of art is devalued by mechanical reproduction - thus emphasizing the importance of a unique, one of a kind work. This reference underscored some of Steele's other points, namely that ready to wear or commercialized fashion isn't as readily seen (or shouldn't be seen) as art, perhaps because of its mass produced quality.

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I agree with that. I don't sense as much majesty or artistry in an overpriced tee you can snag from Urban Outfitters than in a uniquely made gown or costume. However, this isn't a definitive restriction for my perception of fashion as art. I think this opinion forks off in two other ways. One fork spurred by a comment made by my friend, classmate, and fashion icon, Lily, where she noted that there is an art to how you put yourself together, even if you're sporting an UO t-shirt and not a CDG original. The other fork being that, to me, a unique piece is still a work of art regardless of its display in the MET or simply featured in your local blackbox theater. 

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I think what makes fashion art is the creative idea, the skillful execution, and the way it's worn. To me, fashion can be a static art (admired quietly in the corridors of the MET) as much as it can be performative. I chose the word "performative" in particular, mostly because of a recent Artsy editorial titled Alexander Calder’s Jewelry Turns People into Living Sculptures. The article is pretty self explanatory, but let me highlight my favorite line:

“Too big or unwieldy, his objects are not ‘jewelry’ in the conventional sense,” writes curator Mark Rosenthal in a catalogue essay. “Instead, Calder’s jewelry may be seen as a sort of Surrealistic strategy to entrap the wearer into participating in an art performance, even to become bewitched.”

A bewitching performance? For me, that sounds a lot like a runway show. You hear the music pulsating, feel the lights dance, and watch in rapture as the models flow by - fleeting quickly as if expediting the ephemerality of their art. 

All of these ideas and opinions, shaped inside and outside of the classroom, felt, in hindsight, inextricably tied to my experience at CDG. First things first, I loved it. There's something magical about clothing's ability to tell a story, to weave a narrative, literally.

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Everywhere I turned, there was a new crescendo of costumes. Even some displayed up above (not lending itself well for viewing, but definitely contributing to the immersive experience of being enveloped in all of this fabric). I also appreciated the lighting. The stark whiteness of the walls and bright beams of light allowed each work to jump out at me - and made capturing them in photos significantly easier. 

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The show itself was a display of Rei Kawakubo's work from the 80's to today. The set up is as follows, according to the exhibition description on the MET's site:

"Objects are organized into nine aesthetic expressions of interstitiality in Kawakubo's work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness." 

After chatting further about the show with my Neuroaesthetics professor, Nancy Etcoff, she casually remarked that avant-garde fashion, like that of Kawakubo, presents us with "walking ideas" - something that I think is incredibly useful in thinking about fashion as art in particular. I mean, all art, to some extent, aims to convey the ideas of its creator. So why exclude fashion from the list?

I will say, however, that leaving the show and being immediately confronted with a CDG pop-up-shop that boasted overpriced tees emblazoned with a teensy logo really begged the question, "Is fashion art?"

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Xx, Maia 
 
 

A Spanish Revival & Gaudí's Barcelona

 

Though Spanish Revival is a beast of it's own, I'm poaching its credible title to announce this Mod & Bean comeback - one of perhaps epic proportions (I'm talking travel photos galore). Though not as much pomp but definitely a lot of circumstance prevented me from keeping up a few weeks worth of Mod Mondays, much like Gossip Girl, I'm back and better than ever - sans the digital tormenting, of course.

I present to you the first of several installations reporting on the art, the architecture, and the adventures of 10 days in Spain, generously afforded by the History of Art & Architecture Department at Harvard for the sophomore concentrators.

Adventures included days spent at the Prado and Reina Sofia (before and after public hours, wow!), trips to every grand Cathedral, Mosque, and Synagogue imaginable to celebrate Spain's convivencia, and scaling these skyscrapers for behind the scenes aerial views of Spain.

For ease of photo upload and narrative arch, I have broken down this trip regionally, focusing on the major cities of Barcelona, Madrid, and Sevilla as the anchors of the posts. Each post will deliver sites and stories from that spot, including the itineraries of those days at the end for more specific citations. Today's post? A review of Gaudí's Barcelona - a visionary known for his gargantuan and fantastical structures that manage to consume you and transport you into another universe. Though we viewed images of his work throughout the whole semester in class, nothing could compare to the overwhelming nature of approaching one of these curvilinear structures and instantly feeling like both an alien and an ant inside. I'm not saying that the sleep deprivation from the day's travel helped to make these buildings trippier, but I'm also not not saying it. 

Fresh off the plane we slipped into Casa Milá, passing my personal favorite, House of Bones (Casa Batlló) on the way. At each stop, we usually had some peer presentations, so don't just think we're nerds who carry books to every site we saw, we had to do that ;) 

For Casa Milá, roof access was available to all those curious - and what a curious sight indeed:

From a peak we went to a valley, Parque Güell  to be exact, where I marveled at the colorful nature of humans when you zoom out and see them as "sprinkles on the ice cream of life" (to quote my insta caption that day). 

To finish this bit of exploration, we ended with the un-finished Sagrada Familia: a Cathedral of colossal stature.

As we all looked up, and spent the week doing so, you can look forward to plenty more jaw-dropping views and typical shenanigans in the days to come. 

Welcome back!

Xx, Maia

Barcelona Day 1:

  • Casa Milá (La Pedrera)
  • Parque Güell 
  • Sagrada Familia
 

Artsy April: Return to Identities

 

It's been a year since I first attended Identities behind a lens and in front of the stage. This year (watch the footage here!), I tried my hand on the stage itself, taking some action shots as time permitted and the music moved me. 

Identities, a campus-wide fashion show focusing on inclusion and displaying clothing in this year's theme of Fashion & Technology, provided a day full of meeting new pals, strutting our stuff, and twirling around in the designer garbs we were given. 

Though modeling in the show was more my priority than photographing it, I stole away for a few moments to capture the awe and allure that would enrapture the audience later that night. Though, caveat: these are only a fraction of the stunning models, as I was restricted to photographing those around me who happened to be on my same snack/dance break schedule. 

This Identities show was particularly special to me because my family flew up for the occasion (having the chance to check out one of my Admissions Info Sessions and Crimson Key tours while they were up here), and it was the dose of home that I needed to finish out the semester. 

Peep shoes by Thesis Couture (importing Nasa technology to comfy footwear!) & some of the more tech inspired looks: 

So thank you, Identities, for an excuse to get gussied up, see my family, and feel the electricity emanating from the bumpin' tunes and cheers from the faceless audience (those spotlights were BRIGHT!) <3

Xx, Maia 

All photos by me, except me lacing up my Thesis heels (Photographed by Olivia Nie)

 

History of a Hat

 

6pm sharp. Already late to the reading of a book I can’t even tell you the title of. Perched in the back row, stuffed between toes of boots and heels of chairs – I tried my best to listen to the author, I really did. But between not being able to see him as he spoke, and the worry of ripping my extremely, unnecessarily tight pants as I sat cross-contorted on the floor, was not the most conducive mix for focus.

Straining my ears and shifting my weight, I looked around the room to see a haze of backs, shoes, and the ceiling. As my eyes veered upwards, I paused at a hat. A hat woven of straw it seemed. One that was worn to its bone – a muslin shell peaking out vulnerably under the torn out chunks. I’d never seen a hat like this. One that screamed a story yet harbored such mystery. Pools of dust collected in the central crevice and along the base, tucked under the fraying ribbon.

I had to know the story. I had to know what could have possibly happened to this hat to cause fractures in such unusual places. From the worn, white, denim jacket to the ruggedly, smoothed-out hands I knew our protagonist was an artist. And every artist has a story – his hat definitely told a tale.

Entranced by the hat and the sound of an invisible voice, I started thinking of my own storylines for such a vivid visual. Had our protagonist gotten in a scuffle with a horse that took his hat in a fury and returned it with nibbled corners? Had it been unworn for so long that it collected dust and cracked upon re-use? Or had it been a staple of his wardrobe for countless years that it weathered with the elements of time?

It turned out to be the latter – the most simple of my plots, but still the most satisfying.

After the clapping for the un-named speaker ceased, man with hat left and exchanged a smile. Perhaps he somehow heard my muted shutter as I snuck pictures of the hat during the talk. Regardless of the reasoning for his farewell kindness, I shuffled after him and introduced myself. Without allotting time for him to respond to my introduction, I blurted how fascinated I’d become with his hat and slightly begged him to tell me the story behind it.

“Oh the hat? It’s not nearly as fascinating as I am.”

A palm, not straw, woven hat purchased at a Harvard Square Street Fair in 1999 for $10 at an Ecuadorian booth.

He admits he should’ve bought 10 of them because this one is so worn and they’re rather expensive to order online. 18 years with this hat. 18 years of scraping it with bags strapped and unstrapped across his body. Several moments he’s sat on it or tossed it. One time it was run over by a motorcycle.

He laughs when we, for Lily and I were on this endeavor together, admit we spent our time at the talk mesmerized by his hat. “Sometimes I’m so embarrassed by it. Today I even tried to sit in the back to not block anyone’s view, but you girls found a way.”

History of a hat. His story of a hat.  

Xx, Maia 
 

Cool Beans #1: D, Y, & I

 

On one of my last warm, winter-break days in Miami, I had the pleasure to reconnect with two super cool people, who also happened to go to my same middle/high school. I won't pretend like we were best friends, granted they're two years older than me, and in MS/HS, those years seem more like centuries - but we did share a chuckle about similar references and the fact that we've all really put the clichéd "finding ourselves in college" to good use. 

Nostalgia aside, I present to you this glorious day filled with fashion, humor, and tips & tricks across the map. And, in order to foster this new platform of reconnecting and exploring the opportunity to meet/mingle with interesting people on a more frequent basis, here you'll find a new segment to Mod & Bean: Cool Beans. Overdone pun yet?

Anyway, for the launch of Cool Beans, I spoke with Yashi and Danielle over a quick coffee at Threefold Cafe (Miami traffic landing us there right as it was about to close...) and then a little adventure around the streets of Coral Gables. It honestly worked perfectly as a reminiscent, lets-laugh-about-high-school ice breaker pre our quasi-photoshoot in a little Gables neighborhood. Followed up by a bulk purchase of alfajores and casual, quick-fire question conversation.

As a brief intro to these extraordinary beans, I'll let you in on a sneak preview more personal than a cursory glance at their LinkedIn profiles. Danielle, senior at LIM College has been interested in fashion ever since she interned in NYC during a high school summer. She cultivates her personal instagram with stunning shots of trend & travel, and has snagged really neat internships with fashion and PR companies in New York ever since! Yashi, fellow pun lover, runs her own blog The Hip Nip! She started it as a joyful side biz, yet has managed to partner with some brands and even start her own line with a few of her friends - you can check it out at LYNK Studio.  I've also included handwritten notes about both of their ventures at the bottom of this post if you are interested in ~educating yourselves~ further! 

Now, for the good stuff: Post hastily sipping on drinks (of the lemonade and latte varieties, of course) we piled in Yashi's car and drove to one of her favorite neighborhoods in Coral Gables. "Don't worry, guys, the stains in my car aren't scary - they're from beet juice" Yashi shouted as we hopped in her car. 

We parked and stopped to talk in the middle of the street - slowly shifting to the curb as cars rolled through, and waving at the drivers because they probably thought we lived there. Typical of the down to earth nature and relaxed vibes of both Danielle and Yashi, they both giggled and joked about being hounded by the paparazzi as I stuck my camera in their mugs while they talked. At one point, Danielle remembered the sweet specs she had in her purse, whipped them out, and said, "It's Wednesday my dudes" as an homage to the Vine that features similar goggle glasses. 

Following photo courtesy of those who put Danielle on blast for this comparison:

Though we mostly spent this portion of the day laughing about running into fellow high schoolers at Publix or at the mall, here's what we discussed over crumbly and powdery alfajores at Pasion de Cielo:

Go to outfit: What's your uniform?

Yashi: "This [jean jacket]! I wear it all the time - even on Thanksgiving. My mom was like, 'Really? A denim jacket?!'" 

Danielle: "I always want one article of my outfit to be unique - to stand out. Like flared pants, culottes, or a top with an open shoulder. One part has to be weird, and then I build the rest of the outfit around that. This was definitely hard to do in the winter. I would just freeze instead." 

What's the soundtrack to your life? 

D: "The Good Vibes playlist on Spotify. It's full of super old songs like 'For Once in My Life' by Stevie Wonder. It's perfect for driving on a sunny day, it just makes me happy!"

Y: "I love random one liners in songs that just make me laugh, and are just funny or cute. Like there's this one song that goes like "treasure every beating heart that sets your soul on fire." *imitates folk instrument, complete with air guitar motions and twangy noises*

What's one piece of jewelry that's iconic you?

D: "I always have these three rings, which I realize have become an inconvenience in NYC with gloves, but I just feel naked without them. This [purple gemstone] one was my grandma's. This [middle] one I got in a market in Peru. It's cool because the silver of these two rings is exactly the same. And this one is so weirdly cool because it's so big and people always say, 'Oh you could knock someone out with that!'"

Y: "I always have a bunch of gold bracelets. Well now I mix gold and silver because silver deserves a chance. These two rings I never take off - look, I'm white underneath. And then I always have these bracelets like this one with a little eye from Lebanon, and this Brazilian wish blanket. Oh and this ankle bracelet is from a neoprene swimsuit. And this one is a friendship bracelet but it's too big for my wrist - it just kept falling off."

What's a trend you're envious of right now?

*They confer with their Instagram feeds as a quick refresher*

D: "I'm really into headbands and ribbons. I had to pick them up for a Man Repeller article and then I just asked my dad to bring some of my mom's old headbands when he came to visit me in New York. I wore my mom's mink headband to work one day - but some couple kept whispering and looking at me on the subway, so I figured it had to be the headband and I just took it off."

Y: "This isn't really a trend but I'm just really into hand tattoos. Like lil baby ones. I want to get one for my birthday. My mom and I have this inside joke that started when I was 8. I would say 'It's 1pm!' and my mom would say 'Oh, 1' like as in 1:01 too. She's really into meditation and spirituality --

D: "I remember her being the happiest person!!" Danielle interjects

Y: "Haha yeah she is the happiest. She even has this thing called the Gaia minute where she thinks if people just emitted positivity into the world for a minute, the world would be a better place. She does it at 9:09 because she likes 9's and because of our inside joke. So I want to get that tattoo, and I wanted my mom to get a matching one but she's too much of a free spirit to be tied down by a tattoo so I might get her an engraved bracelet."

What's a trend you want to die?

Y: "Adidas Superstars, even though I wear mine all the time. They're just done. Like when I wear them and it rains it doesn't even matter to me."

D: "Bandage/body-con things. I don't need to wear them anymore to get into clubs. Now I just go to loungy clubs and last time went in my mom's high school jacket and jeans."

Do you have a signature phrase?

Y: "It's not so much a signature phrase as its the noises I make when I see animals. Like my friends will be like, 'Look, Yash! There's a dog!' and I get really excited."

D: "I also get really excited about dogs!"

*Cue digression on Danielle's friend who breeds french bulldogs*

Spirit Dessert?

Y: "Oh God a chocolate mousse. Danielle I feel like you'd be a dessert inside a dessert inside a dessert."

D: "Haha yeah, I'd say Oreo inside of a chocolate chip cookie for sure. I even made some and brought them to work and silently put them on the counter and smiled while they were gone in seconds."

Do you have a favorite conversation starter?

D: "I'm not good at talking to people, so no haha."

Y: "I usually just compliment people to start a conversation. But then I can't talk a compliment, so it doesn't work on me."

D: "I got called out for not knowing how to small talk. Like when someone says, 'Oh, you're from Miami?' I'm like, 'Yup.' and then they just stare at me like, 'and??'" 

Last question: How would you describe yourself as a human bean?

Y: "I'm a bean!!"

D: "What if we describe each other?"

Y: "Aww yeah! Danielle, you're effortlessly cool. Probably because you're not intimidating which is cooler than being full of yourself. Like you travel and you dress well but you're also hilarious."

D: "This is funny because I've known you since the 6th grade, but even back then you were super open, friendly, and down for whatever. Now it's the same, but different. Like now you're so entrepreneurial. You have your life together."

Y: "Lol really?!"

Xx, Maia 

 

Note from Danielle: 

I think my personal style first started evolving when I spent an early high school summer in New York interning at a PR firm that represented lifestyle, fashion, and beauty brands. I was exposed to a creative environment at a relatively young age (15), which really inspired me. I spent every summer after that back in New York interning at different companies within the industry from Editorialist to Michael Kors. For college, I knew I wanted to be in New York and study fashion business, so LIM College was the perfect place for me. While attending LIM College I worked at Brandy Melville, and interned other semesters and summers. I studied abroad in Paris for a summer and then for a semester during my junior year. It was by far the greatest experience I’ve ever had. During that semester I was documenting a lot of my outfits and travels on my Instagram as a form of creative expression, which I really enjoyed. I don’t consider myself a fashion blogger, but I do like to share my outfits occasionally, and hope it inspires the people who follow me. I don’t have a specific style or aesthetic that can be characterized, to me it really depends on the day. As I said in the interview, I can’t get myself wear a plain top with jeans. Something just needs to be weird.

Note from Yashi:

I came up with the idea for The Hip Nip in the summer of 2015. I was on the beach in West Palm Beach with my friends Belle and Kristen and we were talking about how I should start a blog. Kristen has a fashion blog of her own and was really encouraging about starting my own. So we started coming up with “blog/blogger names” and they helped me come up with The Hip Nip! I’m always making weird jokes about, let’s say, anatomy so it seemed perfect. Everything on my blog revolves around “the nip” so I call my readers “boob troop” and my blog sections are sort of punny titles that relate to nips as well. 

I started blogging as a hobby but my blog and Instagram @yashmula have started to gain some attention. I’ve worked with a few local companies and boutiques to host events and promote their brands as well as photographers to be featured in their portfolios. One company I worked with a lot last year is called The Makers Collective, a company that hosts Trend Walks every 2-3 weeks in different places around Miami like The Freehand, The Hall South Beach, etc. It’s cool because I’ll get paid to host these events and promote them and get people there. Recently I was contacting by a media company whose client is Coach to promote a purse from their pre-spring collection so I don’t get paid but I get to choose and keep the purse! 

 

NYFW: The Beans

Though we've known one another since January (and now live right next door...convenience optimized), this little escape to NYFW was our first chance to truly travel and adventure together! As was to be expected, we discovered even more similarities between us, including but not limited to: our fondness of a piping hot bowl of pasta after a long day, our love for funky book shops (shoutout to BookMarc in the West Village), and our respective obsessions for sweet treats (Kat drowning in ice cream and Maia bathing in banana pudding), among many other qualities. 

We imagine it's best to start off with the snapchats we accumulated during our delayed train ride into the city:

When we finally arrived in New York, you could surely find us noodling around the streets, attempting to stop traffic to cheese for the camera:

We also soaked in all of the authentic, NYC sights, including my, Kat's, stopping to commemorate this splayed rat on the sidewalk: 

(Would this be the right time to make a Kat and mouse joke? We'll let you think of the best one).

We frolicked museums in our spare time. Pictured below are snippets from our jaunt through the Whitney:

Some outrageous purchases were made, including me, Maia, succumbing to the $20 sticker price for this bag of chai tea powder: 

Really, any time food was involved, we pretty much freaked out:

(Below, we see Katherine near tears upon sampling the bounty of flavors from Ample Hills.)

Not sure whether having a spirit-wall is a thing, but this one is definitely mine:

And let us not forget the great shoe change of NYFW 2017 (photo recycled from street style post because it's honestly too good):

Outside some of our shows we were snapped and papped:

We even did some paparazzi of our own as we attempted to immortalize the cute, foreign model that may or may not have chatted us up outside the venue:

Sometimes it was hard to snag that nonchalant street style pic, dodging looks from strangers wondering why we were photographing them. To compensate -- well, actually just because it's fun -- we took pictures of actual street style as well. Street. Style. Get it? Here are some of the buildings that stunned us, clad in rugged red brick or a coat of crisp white paint. 

Oh! And not to mention the adorable, Mod & Bean team pictures we snagged while at the modeling agency of my, Katherine's, cousin:

So, while we may have come off, dare we say, glamorous and chic during our time at NYFW, those were the rarer moments. Cheers to galavanting around NYC and to our future team trips to come!

Xx, Katherine & Maia 

 

 

NYFW: The Street Style

So far, you've gotten an inside glimpse at the runway looks and our favorite city eats. Now we're here to share yet another quintessential aspect of fashion week: the killer street style. If you follow fashion week, you know it's as much about what's worn off the runways as what's worn on. For every slideshow of fresh-off-the-catwalk looks, there's a corresponding one for what people wore to the show itself. The fashion week runways practically spill onto the streets themselves, after all, street style is serious business, with the most dedicated of attendees changing outfits three, four, even five times a day. While the Mod & Bean team had neither the space in our carry-ons nor the money to commit to a week of quick-changing, we made our own fair attempt to join the ranks of the street style stars (with a helping hand from Zara, of course). 

Fashion week brings its own special air to the city: transforming bustling streets and empty event spaces into unofficial red carpets for the who's who of fashion: bloggers, A-listers, designers, and lucky beans like ourselves. While our ensembles may have paled in comparison to the couture clad, Birkin-toting fashion insiders, we managed to fool a fair share of street style photographers into thinking we were of moderate importance. Below we've shared our daily looks in addition to some sneaky street style snaps! (Important to note that we highly resisted the temptation to insert some quote about making the world your runway etc).

Day 1

Day one, I, Maia opted for this easy Zara jumpsuit. All the elegance, none of the fuss. (Perfect for noodling around the city and impromptu dance parties in side streets).

You'll also begin to realize that I took the whole "New York Noir" thing quite seriously - ditching my Miami brights and patterns for the slick, all-black ensembles. Motivation? Probably remaining stain free (or the illusion of it), as I did indeed spill coffee on the one white blouse I wore this trip (not pictured because simply tragic). I also found that black is much more forgiving of the sweat that clung to me as we shuffled through Subways and navigated too many flights of stairs with a heavy carry-on in tow. 

For our first day in the city, black was the name of the game. I, Katherine, feel overcome by this sentiment whenever I find myself in the Manhattan bubble. One moment I'm craving summer bohemian or fun feminine style -- draping myself in flowing folds of blush and jewel tones -- and the next thing I know, I'm in New York City, and my wardrobe has unwittingly assimilated, one with that of the effortlessly cool city girl -- monochrome, neutrals, and adidas reign supreme.

Can we also just take a moment to admire this mid-morning light? Having been an on-again, off-again, photographer for going on six years, I, Katherine, am almost always chasing light, whether it's that morning glow or that final, bursting golden hour. Sometimes, there are just those perfectly opportune moments like these ones below. The best things (read: good lighting) come when you least expect it, right?

And then, there's the subway. With it's mushroom-yellow glow and the added benefit of years of built up grime, such photographic conditions prove to be a challenge. Alas, we prevailed over the New York City metro system and caught these shots.

Back up from the underground for some outfit shots in the West Village, where both my, Katherine's, below and my, Maia's, above photos were captured. Tree lined streets, dappled brunch-time light. All black. 

The infamous outfit change! After a day of prancing around the city in my, Katherine's, characteristically black ensemble, I opted for this deep green evening jumper from, you guessed it, Zara. I also found myself the interviewee of a Chinese news station. It's funny to think that there may be a little sound byte of me floating about some thousands and thousands of miles away in China...

Day 2

The day started early with Misha Collection at Skylight on Clarkson Square (a beautiful west river event space). After the show, we snagged some fun candids and style shots in the industrial, ship-yard streets. I, Maia, opted for the cool statement jacket trend, assisted by none other than (do I even say it?) Zara. I, Katherine, attempted the impossible task of dressing for two seasons, opting for this light, summer white top (white after labor day is so a thing) over this cool layered black tweed skirt. I also feel it important to make note that directly after these pictures were taken I kicked off the heels and pranced around (feet beyond thankful) in adidas for the remainder of the day. Happy feet, happy bean.

Below we've included proof of my, Katherine's, shameless switch. Take special note of the effortless flare with which I seek comfort. Don't let it fool you. I was being swallowed by the heat and nearly fell over five times.

Day 3

For our final day in the city some errand running (read: purchasing banana pudding) and a brief stop at the studio of my, Katherine's, cousin was in store. The dress code? Pants and sneaks for optimal mobility (and wiggle room for our engorged cookie/ice cream/banana pudding tummies). 

While outfit posts aren't normally our things, we couldn't help but take advantage of NYFW and see what all of the fashion fun was about. And considering we were literally mobbed with photographers following shows, the Mod & Bean team was determined to look sharp ... and hand out as many business cards as possible (haha). If the fact that we're dividing NYFW into four entirely separate posts isn't evidence enough, we're quite thrilled about our whole experience. Stay tuned for our last installment: the Beans. What to expect? Lots of awkward noodling around the city. Get excited.

Xx, Katherine & Maia

NYFW: The Noms

Let's be honest. When you go to NYC, you do it for the shopping, the sights, and the museums, but mostly you do it for the NOMS. We don't want to make too brash a claim, but we'd dare say the Big Apple is the foodie capital of the world (We mean, it's even in the name). However, finding a place to eat can present a daunting task: with so many choices and such a range of cuisines and prices, it's all too easy to find yourself overwhelmed and in a Ruby Tuesday on Time Square. Fear not. If you ever find yourself in the city, try giving any of these places a go. We promise you won't be disappointed!

Jack's Wife Freda

Locations: West Village, Nolita

Oh, Jack's Wife Freda. For me, Katherine, Jack's is a New York staple, and I was so excited to take Maia here after our first show. The meal couldn't be more quintessentially New York: two beans finishing up their runway debut at Fashion Week with a good ol' mediterranean brunch. The owner, whose quirky and stylish figure brings their instagram account, @jackswifefreda, to life, was even there, walking, feet clad in Miu Miu ballet slippers, amongst tables and chatting with regulars, a red and blue breton striped shirt swung carelessly across her shoulders.

What to order: This particular day I, Katherine, went with Maya's Grain Bowl, and I, Maia, went with the Madame Freda (a rendition of a classic croque monsieur, featuring duck prosciutto). Both were beyond delicious. Looking for other suggestions? The Green Shakshuka, Rosewater Waffle, and Mint Lemonade are all winners.

Photos below by Katherine:

Bô Cà Phé

Location: Nolita

Conveniently situated next to Jack's Wife Freda's Nolita location, we resisted the urge to return for dinner and instead checked out french-vietnamese restaurant, Bó Cá Phê. While the service left something to be desired, there's nothing quite like face planting into a bowl of noodles at the end of a long day.

What to order: We both went with the shrimp rice noodle bowl: sweet and savory shrimp over a bed of cold rice noodles, bean sprouts, carrots, garnish, peanut sauce, and a spring roll. I, Maia, also ordered the chicken bao.

By Chloe

We need to preface this section with the fact that it was quite a feat getting me, Maia, into a vegan restaurant. Ya girl loves meat, potatoes, and all things drowning in cheese. You've also probably seen By Chloe featured in my, Katherine's, instagrams and blog posts far too many times to count and are still wondering what all the fuss is about. While I admit, vegan noms aren't for everyone (though they definitely would be if everyone got to eat here), By Chloe is hands down one of my favorite NYC spots. I could spend hours here eating quite possibly everything on the menu.

What to order: I, Katherine, am a creature of habit and went with my go-to, the Quinoa Taco salad. I also ordered a piece of HEAVENLY chocolate chip banana bread because I lack any and all restraint. (I actually do deserve a pat on the back for resisting the urge to order a side of Mac & Cheese. Though I did end up eating a hefty portion of Maia's...) I, Maia, the devoted meat-lover I am, went for the dubious pesto meatball sub (is it even LEGAL to call this tofu concoction a meatball???) and the mac and cheese (which I'll admit was quite a masterpiece of cashew proportions, yet will sadly never replace a good 'ol cheesy heart-attack in a bowl). While the sub pleasantly surprised me, I'm still not entirely sure about this vegan mac and cheese thing. We both admired the mushroom "bacon" on top, Katherine for the taste, Maia for the effort.

Cha Cha Matcha

Finally a meal we can agree on: Cha Cha Matcha was completely worthy of all of the hype. We have been eyeing this spot, which specializes in Matcha lattes and soft serve, for quite some time and were itching to try one of their towering twists. As evidenced by the odd small-hand-picture below, we quickly demolished our creamy soft serve and resisted the urge to go back for more. 

What to order: Vanilla and Matcha twist, Iced Matcha Latte.

 

Dudley's

Our final real food stop of the trip (We include the word "real" because following this, we proceeded to buy cookies, banana pudding, and ice cream. Obviously on that Fashion Week diet.), Dudley's, with its edgy corner charm, embodies the up and coming East Village. Following a brief wait, we found ourselves a table outside and relished in our last morning in the city.

What to order: Yogurt & Granola (Definitely order another item if you want to feel tided over), Pancakes, and Juice (I, Katherine, went with The Rocket, and I, Maia, went with a watermelon concoction). The Eggs Benny, Rice Salad, and Shrooms Benedict looked worth coming back for!

Levain

We are avid believers in the following rule: if you go to NYC and don't indulge in one of Levain's infamous cookies, you didn't really visit NYC. This place is worth the wait. Every. Single. Time. Just take a moment to admire that molten chocolate goodness. You know you want every cheat day to look like this. 

What to order: I, Katherine, always go with an oatmeal raisin and a chocolate peanut butter. I, Maia, being my first time here, went with the chocolate chip walnut, the chocolate peanut butter, and the single most chocolaty option for my roommate Leila, because if I visited NYC and didn't bring her back an instant cavity, what kind of roomie am I?

Ample Hills Creamery

Okay, I'll admit it. I will officially go on the record and say that I, Katherine Victoria Harrison, have a minor (read: major) obsession with ice cream. After stalking their instagram account for months, I had been DYING to try Ample Hills Creamery, a Brooklyn-based ice cream shop started by two ice cream lovers who felt that there could always be more cookie dough in cookie dough ice cream. Have you ever ordered a classic cone with say, Cookies n Cream, only to be disappointed by an overall lack of Oreo goodness? Not at Ample Hills. The owners actually say they want people to come back and complain about how jam-packed their flavors are. No complaints here. So good, I did come back, but only for more ice cream.

What to order: I think the question is what does one *not* order. Just google the flavors for yourself. Every single one is eclectic, eccentric, and delicious in their own rights. I, Katherine, went with their Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Honeycomb flavors, and I, Maia, sampled one flavor (sweet cookie something and cream something) and ate it before I could picture it. So so so delish.

As you might be able to tell, we weren't exactly thinking of our runway bods when noming in the city, but who has time for that when there's ice cream and Levain cookies to be had? If you end up checking out any of these places, be sure to let us know what you think! Also, get excited for the final two installments in our NYFW series: the Street Style and the Beans.

Xx, Katherine & Maia

A Colorful Comeback

 

Thinking back on my younger days, some of my fondest memories are of doodling and drawing designs and creatures on anything from a restaurant’s beverage napkin to yards of construction paper. With every scribble and color splashed onto a page, I was proud of my creation – and I presented them to my parents and friends with such gusto you would have thought I believed I was the next Picasso. Those freeform drawings later evolved into more outlined drawings, as I learned how to “color inside the lines.” When given an image to simply color in, the stress of ingenuity was lifted, and I could then focus on the imperative matching of harmonious colors and texture techniques. Mind you, I make it sound like I could/can draw – when I tell you my illustrations are tortured, please believe me.

Though I still catch myself doodling from time to time, whether it is in an effort to keep myself awake – I mean focused – during a lengthy class or just to spruce up a little note for a friend, I haven’t actually sat down to draw or color something since those “youthful” days.

That all changed when the coloring book craze populated my birthday presents and began filling my desk. I acquired books like the mindfulness-coloring book and the Parisian fashion one, but the most revered of all - the Vogue coloring book of course! This gem of a book landed in my lap after a brief dry bar blowout and cocktail encounter with Dani, one of my sister’s college friends, in New York. Dani works for Knopf, the publishing house of the Vogue coloring book, and she graciously sent me a early-released copy after a conversation about my blog and general catching up when I saw her at my sister’s golden birthday party (25 on March 25th!).

A few days after that, the book arrived in my college mail center, and instantly became the highlight of my day. In my hands I held the brand new Vogue coloring book! Filled to the brim with opulent designs and nods to previous magazine covers. Oh how excited I was to actually color it! Flashbacks of my childhood doodle days came flooding back as I purchased pocket-sized coloring pencils from a local tchotchke shop (I figured teeny tiny pencils would supplement this whimsical activity).

Once I was set with my pencils in tow and my book carefully packed in my backpack, I was ready to finally enter the craze of adult coloring. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was getting so wrapped up in finals period and spending more time in the dark hallows of Lamont library than sitting on the Widener steps and coloring Vogue designs like I had dreamed.

In hindsight, I probably should've taken advantage of the coloring book’s soothing effects during finals. Instead, I was slumped in the library nursing the small iced coffee I accidentally purchased instead of a large, trying to make it last long enough so I didn't have to *shudder* go downstairs to get another.

After surviving finals, what ended up happening with the dreamy coloring books? I ended up using them in social zones as a fun activity to gossip with friends while keeping occupied. I guess trying to catch up on each other’s lives was more taxing than expected – everyone's brutally specific relationship details or college-centric extracurricular stories caused uncontrollable fidgetiness among an audience of friends. Apparently coloring is a more palatable antidote than simultaneously scrolling through Instagram and nodding, "Yep, I'm listening. Continue." So I busted out my three coloring books with friends and instantly added color and whimsy to these hour-long talks.

This sharing motif actually ended up spreading from small social circles to as far as a whole coloring book event at a bookstore in Newbury St. last night! I rallied Sara, my go-to-adventure buddy and soon-will-be-missed roommate, and with childhood dreams in tow we checked it out. The event couldn’t have captured this coloring book craze any better – this shift of culture back to the youthful activities we all once relished. Black and white pages were sprawled across dining tables as "grown-ups" colored their way back to their childhood.  

However, due to entirely underestimating the volume of millennials with the same Thursday evening activity in mind, Sara and I were sadly turned away from this coloring (and cider!!) event, and had to shuffle our ticket-less selves through this if-a-bookstore-was-a-candy-store type haven and onto the streets (of Newbury). So we snagged some smoothies and had our own coloring event - my Raven Symoné like instincts had nudged me to grab my coloring books and some Crayola from my apartment just in case. 

Turns out my graphic designer and all around "arteeest" of a friend truly colored the Vogue book like it deserved to be colored - with draping, shading, layering, the works! The amount of detail she spent in achieving lifelike shadowing on this red dress justifies the amount of photos I took of her working on this particular design. Plus, the Vogue coloring book itself is already a masterpiece, and being able to color in such iconic imagery imparts an air of importance onto the craft - as if the act of coloring has an official, grown up, mod stamp of approval. 

Checkout the carousel of photos below for some inside peaks at the glamorous eras that populate the inspiring Vogue Coloring Book!

Regardless of the setting, be it an official community coloring event or a casual gathering with friends, there's something quite whimsical and rather soothing about grasping the rainbow and channeling it into designs that are a bit more sophisticated than outlines of kiddie characters. So, what's my take on coloring past your youthful prime? I'm all for it. There are countless songs, and poems, and elders woefully pondering, "why is youth wasted on the young?" It's not wasted my friends - it's gifted onto the young. For the young bumble through their days with all of this imagination and excitement, and wielding a sharpened Crayola becomes the vessel between their ideas and their tangible representation. Maybe that's a broad claim on my part. And maybe coloring books aren't the end all and be all determination of a creative and happy society. But, for a brief moment, they can be. And regardless if they are or if they are not, I encourage you all to pick up a coloring book and scribble all over it. You can even add another (rather educational) layer to your "childish" endeavor by rekindling your fondness of the alphabet from Vogue’s Automobile to Zebra!

Xx, Maia
 

The Madness that is Manus x Machina

 

Approximately 3,394 miles separate the two of us this summer, as Katherine gallivants around Spain for her study abroad program and Maia frolics through the Boston suburbs for her internship. Though distance and a hefty time difference keep us apart, we sought a way to stay connected that was more powerful than sporadic texts and sweet comments on each other’s Instagram photos: We went to Manus x Machina at the MET. Not together, unfortunately. Rather, weeks apart. But knowing we both traversed those hallowed halls and ogled at the same garments made us feel back as a team, with one view, one take away. Almost as if we were at one of our classic Crema Cafe meetings, sipping on hot chocolates, snacking on pastries, and laughing about how we always think of the same things.

The improbable task of writing this joint post over Google Drive and Whatsapp has made us realize we are more alike than we previously imagined. We both walked away from this exhibit, curated by Andrew Bolton, with oddly similar thoughts, vibes, and commentary. Without further ado, this is what we saw and what we have to say about it ― a cross-ocean commune of thoughts and sentiments:

Upon entering, we weren't exactly sure what we expected, and the exhibit offered far more than we anticipated — by sheer volume, size, categorization, and grandiosity.

The exhibit begins with the famous wedding ensemble by Karl Lagerfeld for the House of Chanel. Worn as a finale piece by none other than Cara Delevingne and made of a scuba material, baring a train whose pixelated print was extended some twenty feet for the exhibition, the dress provides the ideal platform for which to showcase the dichotomy of the exhibit, that is, between man and machine. While the gown constituted the signature piece for an equally signature Chanel collection, it was not necessarily couture in the traditional sense (note the plaque’s quote from Lagerfeld describing the dress as, “haute couture without the couture”), in that it did not require the hours of intensive hand labor characteristic of couture fashion. In fact, the dress was nearly entirely of machine creation, the crux lying in the fact that it was birthed, ultimately, of the human mind.

Though the wedding dress occupied its own spacious, dome-shaped room, the remainder of the pieces seemed rather cramped in the narrow and dimly lit concentric hallways (and this is why we ask you to excuse the blurriness of some of our photos ― the low lighting and fighting of elbow jabs didn’t make for prime photographic conditions). Other than this human to human physicality, the main backdrop of the exhibit is a choral ensemble of sorts ― an oddly pious and holy sounding "ohm" that seems more in place at a church as opposed to an exhibit on fashion. The cathedral music paired with the sheer beauty of the pieces lent to an overwhelmingly spiritual experience for the both of us. Then again, that may have been the exhibit's intention — to stretch beyond the physical platform of fashion and couture and to define the intersect between man and machine, technology and antiquity, in a worldly sense. Regardless, the music built perhaps the greatest contrast in its being the soundtrack to the chaos that surrounded and filled the exhibition: the crowds, the narrow corridors, the somewhat burdensome demanding of one's attention. If fashion is for the consumer, it seems that the consumer was now the consumed — we were entrenched both in art and in obligation.  

For us, this feeling of obligation had a profound effect on the overall flow of the exhibit. We felt ourselves caught in an ambivalent state between viewing and photographing. Both desiring to take the exhibit in and to still document it, we ended up viewing much of it through our lenses ― just as the myriad people around us were: locked behind phone screens and camera viewfinders. Such an unfortunate realization captured the very essence of the exhibit. Man and machine, the intersection, the consumption. In this case, machine consumed man. No longer were we free to peruse at our own ease and pleasure, rather, we were caught behind our iPhones and in between the shoulders of countless strangers.

(Side note from Maia: when I left the MET, I was walking behind two schoolgirls, around age 10 at max, in matching uniforms, skipping and singing the most ominous song: “I’m being swallowed by a boa constrictor and I don’t like it very much.” The song, while terrifying had this occurred at night or in a horror movie, seemed to aptly echo my sentiments about tourist centric claustrophobia that I of course added to nonetheless.)

However, we did not allow the cramped quarters and 'rat race' quality of the exhibition to entirely jade our viewing of its constituent pieces, as it ultimately was an incredible experience. (We couldn't help but imagine how beautiful it might be to see a runway showing featuring an amalgam of all of the garments). We loved the organization of the exhibit; the rooms and pieces were divided thematically ― pleats, prints, dyes, so on ― so as to highlight the process, specifically the genesis (or lack there of) it has undergone with the advent of mechanization, behind each's construction. We were surprised, namely, by the florals. Florals for Manus x Machina? Groundbreaking. If you, our readers, recall our Met Gala review post, we found ourselves slightly confused at the inclusion of floral ensembles amidst the Gala's more futuristic garbs. However, upon viewing the floral pieces in their intended exhibit, thus witnessing their place on the spectrum of man and machine, we finally understand that the florals fit the theme quite well, quite seamlessly if you will. The flowers adorning most of these pieces were sculpted using gelatin in order to increase malleability and stability. They were crafted using multi step processes like metal presses and cold water baths. In the end, most were hand sewn on to their base in order to both anchor the flowers to one another and secure them to the final piece. Through the exhibition, we came to see the flowers in a different light ― one that underscored the delicate balance between man and machine. Manus x Machina was not an exhibit on futuristic fashion, a tribute to automaton-like pieces, it was a tribute to the method and technique that goes behind modern couture, a tribute to the malleability not only of flowers adorning gowns but of ideas, notions, and concepts ― how the very meaning of couture changes as technology improves, as the overlap between man and machine becomes even more ambiguous.  

Overall, pushing aside the cramped quality of the space itself, we left with a truer understanding of the exhibit’s intended dichotomy. As the introduction states:

“Instead of presenting the handmade and the machine-made as oppositional, this exhibition suggests a spectrum or continuum of practice, whereby the hand and the machine are equal and mutual protagonists in solving problems, enhancing design practices, and advancing the future of fashion.” - MET plaque

We initially expected the exhibit to be a showcase of dresses indicative of mechanization and the future (think Jordan Dunn’s metallic gown and other robotic homages). But really, the exhibit was meant to showcase the process as much as, if not more than, the product. While the flow of the exhibit felt rushed at times (in the sense that we could only dedicate some five seconds looking at a piece before being shuffled on to the next) we felt ecstatic to have gone and seen it ― especially considering it gave us the overarching feeling of being together, even when many, many miles apart.

Xx, Katherine & Maia