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

 

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 
 

Press Pass: Identities Fashion Show

 

This weekend we were invited to the Identities Fashion Show, Harvard’s preeminent fashion event pairing student catwalk models with renowned designers.  We arrived a few hours before the show started to get a behind the scenes look at its making.  

It’s always interesting to see the nitty gritty details that go behind the polished products we ultimately enjoy.  While neither of us have any real “Fashion Week” experience (hopefully one day!), we liken the backstage process of Identities to be a rather fair representation of runway shows in general: the ubiquity of those anxious minutes before the lights go down, the music turns up, and the first model steps out onto the runway.  People — models, makeup artists, coordinators  run around frantically.  A girl’s shorts are on backwards, another messed with her makeup, “Does my face blend in with my hair?” a friend asks, “Foundation is like sauce for you face” we overhear in the makeup room.

We manage to sneak into some of the quiet rooms backstage and muse through racks of clothing and runway lineups.

While we don’t have ample opportunity to speak with the designers or people behind the show, most express a mix of nervous anticipation and excitement.  One model, who wears a funky 3D piece with arms attached, recalls how at last year's show she wore a bikini with sneakers, so she's feeling a little more relaxed in this year’s less revealing ensemble.

As the final run-through transitions into VIP lounging, red carpet pictures, and general mingling, the room buzzes with enthusiasm.  People gather and dance with friends.  The photo strip and red carpet establish the night's etiquette: shameless selfies and lots of them.  We take the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the pre-show social conventions and snap some Mod & Bean team pics in front of the Identities backdrop.  

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We peruse around show-goers and show-coordinators, happen upon a table serving JP Licks ice cream, and meet some of the designers from China Central Academy of Fine Arts.  

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Spotting one of the designer's sick street style, we ask to take a picture of her outfit.  She excitedly shares with us that she hand crafted everything she's wearing.  When asked how often she designs for herself, she remarks that she makes around twenty new pieces a month.  Duly impressed and jealous, we dream of being able to curate our own wardrobes with such personal precision.

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Before we know it, the show begins, we find our seats, and the night gets under way.  Venture below to check out some of our favorite runway and behind the scenes shots:

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Sitting at the end of the runway amidst eager photographers and the event's official cinematographer, gave us a sense of importance.  Fully immersed in each dress twirl, each piercing, smoldering look of the eyes, we couldn’t have had a better night. Suffice it to say, acting as mild press for Identities gave us a taste of similar opportunities to come – crossing our fingers!

Xx, Katherine & Maia

All photos by Katherine