Style Icon — Princess Long Long

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The T.Tandon NY AW17 Fashion Week event at 230 FIFTH Rooftop Bar in the Flatiron District was packed with stylish people. Among them, one woman stood out. She was wearing a beautiful floor-length fuchsia gown and a pale pink beaded blazer, and her hair and makeup was impeccable: back-length curls and a thin cat eye. More than that, she radiated confidence, an attitude of embracing the attention she knew she attracted, rather than demurely acting as if it wasn’t happening. I complimented her on her outfit, and she told me that the dress was of her own design.

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Tina Tandon, Princess Long Long, and models.

But Xia Long Long – internationally known as Princess Long Long – is much more than a fashion designer. She is an opera singer first and foremost. Born and raised in China, she moved to the United States and trained as a soprano at The Juilliard School in 2007, a year in which 2,138 students applied and only 162 were accepted. She has channeled her otherworldly voice and years of training into countless performance endeavors around the world: China Central Television (CCTV)’s Avenue of Stars competition, winning the North American finals; the International Music Forum in Bo’ao, China; the China Army; the UNESCO World Fashion Parade in the Garment District; Couture Fashion Week in Times Square; New Jersey Fashion Week; and the 70th Cannes Film Festival last May. She has worked with Freedom Williams (C+C Music Factory), songwriter Howard McCrory (see Michael Jackson and Chaka Khan), soca artist KMC, reggaetón artist Valentino, and spoken word performer Andrew Anderson. Her stage presence translates naturally into acting. Her repertoire includes independent films The Right to Live, Good Friday, Be Frank, and What Women Want Chronicles, and the Off-Broadway cabaret comedy Whatever Happened to Beverly Daniels?, and she is slated to star in the TV show Whatta Guys Really Want. Her creativity also extends to writing, particularly mythology. She wrote a fairy tale, Bird, Bees, and the Fruit Fly, co-developed Blue Cat, which went on to become the most popular cartoon in China, and is working on an epic melodrama, Moon Goddess.

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Me and Princess Long Long. Forever 21 headband. Frenchy of California handbag. Vintage blazer.

Princess Long Long describes her sense of style as “like a fairy” – floral, beaded, ethereal, embellished, often pink, with grand flourishes and minute details, each look designed by her and tailored for her. She has even designed and produced a Broadway-themed fashion show in Times Square! She works extensively with Thai designer Thunyatorn Cheng Ng, who has a boutique in Elmhurst, and Kyrgyz costume designer Natasha Berezhnaya, who is based in Westchester County.

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Princess Long Long and friends at the South Street Seaport.

She invited me to some events at the United Nations headquarters in Tudor, as the Ambassador for Humanitarian Affairs in Culture and Arts by the National Council of Women of the US Director of Culture and Arts at Partners for UN Affairs. She subsequently invited me to her induction as an honorary member of the Rotary Club of New York. This was when I really started to learn more about her. She wore a black velvet dress and a belt of golden dragons, to represent her lineage from the Long, or dragon, family of the Silk Road kingdom of Yanqi (200 BCE to 800 CE). We started talking and she told me all about her background, her accomplishments, and what she is currently working on.

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Princess Long Long accepting her Rotary Club honorary membership certificate at the Union League Club in Murray Hill.

Blissful Style: How did you become an honorary member of the Rotary Club?

Princess Long Long: Because, first of all, I work very closely with the United Nations, I have been participating in different kinds of events for world peace for a long time, and I recently became the World Peace Ambassador for the World Peace and Diplomacy Organization, so I’m also the ambassador for the 70th Cannes Film Festival, the Chinese ambassador for diversity and cultural arts. And I’m also the ambassador for the US Council, Women’s Council for Humanitarian Culture. So with all this, now I’m becoming an honorary Rotary member. The president, Jasmine, she told everyone what it was that I have been contributing, that I have been working so hard and contributing for world peace, that’s why they wanted to give me the honorary membership. So I also hope I can devote myself to using more time and more opportunities, so I can help people from all over the world. As you know, the Rotary Club has 3500 clubs all over the world and 1.2 million members. So I’m so honored and very happy to be becoming an honorary member today, and I really feel that I have a lot of things to do, to fulfill. All I want to do right now is to be focused on cultivating peaceful and friendly relations, one world, with cultural diversity and shared with all nations, is my one focus. As you know, man has the mind, which made war, and if you work on the mind, the spiritual level, then there will be less war and less terrorism and less manipulation, so there will be nothing like the 9/11 tragedy happening. That’s why I’m working with the UN and supporting the UN record on the creative economy and also on cultural diplomacy. What the creative economy means is that, on the spiritual level and cultural level, we believe that if you are a creative artist, you can create beautiful stuff and make the world a lot more beautiful, and people will understand people much more, and once you understand each other much more, there will be much fewer barriers, much less misunderstanding and much less fighting. Yeah, so that promotes the economy, that’s the social sustainable development of the United Nations, so, it’s a global goal.

BS: How long have you been involved with the United Nations?

PLL: It’s been, off and on, almost three years. I started as an artist, you know, performing, and then later on I also worked with several organizations, and I also worked with some creative press from all over the world. To develop art here today, I’m so happy, [it shows that] the UN definitely knows what you’re doing. Once you do something, really do it, and the UN might support you.

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Princess Long Long at her Broadway-themed fashion show.

BS: How did you decide to go to Juilliard and pursue a career in music?

PLL: Oh, you know, you either have it or you don’t have it, so I knew that I had it, for as long as I can remember. So it’s been a long-time dream of mine to become a singer. However, my parents didn’t agree, they just didn’t want me to be a singer, but, actually my father was an opera singer and my mother was a music teacher, so that’s what they do, music as their livelihood, but they didn’t want me to be in that, so they sent me to Europe to get a business education, but I was not feeling happy, because I believe that people always have to do something to make themselves happy. So, before I came to the United States, I had this girlfriend of mine, she told me one thing and it really made me make this decision. So I remember we went to see a Broadway show in Beijing, Chicago, it’s very famous, and we watched that show together, and she is also a good friend of mine, because we used to go to karaoke which is very popular in China, so we performed, and my girlfriends would go crazy for my voice, after they heard my voice, they would say Ohh, and then my girlfriend told me, “Long, I’ve got to tell you one thing before you go to the United States”. I asked her “What?” She said, “After seeing this show, Chicago, you are just one of them,” she says, “You are absolutely one of them, I know you, because I know you from old times,” she said, “If I don’t see you on stage singing and performing like them, if I die, I’m not gonna close my eyes,” she said, “Because I’m hoping”. That moved my heart. So I thought Wow, I have a certain friend, and she’s a girl who has been with me for ten years, that means she knows me better than I know myself. She said, “When you go to the United States, you have to pursue your dream”. So I made a decision, in 2006 I came to the United States, I spent like a year traveling to eight cities, to live in each city for a little while and see which city is the best. So then, around 2007, I made my decision and said Okay, I have to pursue my dream, and go to music school to train myself, my voice. I’m not gonna give it up. So I did research, I also had like a year-and-a-half of training, with the professors, in junior school, for preparation, for the audition stuff. So that’s it, before I went over there I did lots of preparation, almost two years of preparation, so it was a big challenge for me. So I did, it’s just simple, I made my dream like that, I said If she wants me to be on the stage like that, I should start with training school, a professional music school, so then I’ll go.

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An advertisement for Princess Long Long’s performance at the Cannes Film Festival.

BS: Tell me about your experience at the Cannes Film Festival. What was it like? What did you sing and what did you wear?

PLL: Oh, the Cannes Film Festival, that was a very interesting thing. Again, I had dreamed about the Cannes Film Festival since I was very little, so I never believed that the first time I went to Cannes I would be performing over there. I thought, I’m gonna go over there, see the red carpet and see the stars, but I never thought I myself was gonna be a star over there. So it was so exciting. So they picked me up, a Hollywood production company, they wanted a Chinese singer because they were promoting a diversity event, a diversity and inclusion event. I believe I met with the theme. So I was a singer picked up, so I did cross-cultural pieces, I revised some famous songs like “La Vie en Rose”, and also there’s another one, “Shanghai Night”, and there was another one, a French opera piece, Roméo et Juliette. But, so I did the songs in a cross-cultural way, I didn’t want to do the same classic way it has been done before, so I mixed different styles and mixed different cultures, and mixed different languages. Because I believe that as artists we are facing a global citizen, and we have to produce something that the global citizen really wants. They’re not gonna be satisfied with one culture or one language anymore, it has to be cross-cultural and cross-language. So that’s what I thought, so I created those pieces for the Cannes Film Festival, and it was good, it was an honor to be the Chinese Cultural Inclusive Ambassador, the diversity ambassador for the festival.

Some other people who went to the 70th Cannes Film Festival. No big deal…

BS: What languages do you sing in?

PLL: You mean at Cannes?

BS: Just in general.

PLL: Oh, I can sing in eight different languages. But that’s standard training for all the classes at university. You have to be able to carry at least five, maybe seven, eight, some people say ten, different languages, so that’s not a big thing. I wore three different costumes. The first one, for Roméo et Juliette, I created an image of white, all white, so my promotion video in the background was all white, everything was related to that white princess dress. So that’s the image that I created, “Eastern Dragon Princess”. This image won first prize for the Italian Royal Carnival fashion presentation, in 2016. And I also performed in this one at the World Fashion Parade. It has wings because I’m trying to give a message to this world, that the Eastern Dragon Princess on the Silk Road is the one link from East to West, and I’m fulfilling my ancient mission to bridge the cultural arts and the spiritual level from the East to the West. And this dragon princess, she’s pure, she’s classic, she’s elegant, and she is also hoping for peace, because the wings mean peace and prosperity. So that was the first one I wore, and the second one, when I sang “Shanghai Night”, I wore a blue dress, like a mermaid, I had also dreamed about being a mermaid. That’s why I liked your style the first time I met you, it’s like a fairy tale. When I was a little child I wanted to be a mermaid so badly. So I presented that with a Chinese robe. The wings and the robe were made by Natasha Berezhnaya, and she’s very good. We work together a lot for making these costumes. I would say she is the most talented and the best theater designer, and also dressmaker, that I know. I’m very picky about stuff, but we work beautifully. I always give her lots of ideas, and she has some ideas too, and then we make beautiful clothes, and she’s very talented. I wear lots of stuff of hers when I perform, and when I give presentations like this, like a speech, or going to a nightclub or cocktail party, we work together. So, the third one was the “La Vie en Rose”, I was all pure rose. Did you see that one? With the roses all over my head?

BS: Yeah! It’s so pretty!

PLL: That was one I designed. I thought, This song is rose, so let’s make a dramatic rose look, so I placed rose hairpieces all over my head, and added a pink fan. I can wear all pink because, like you, that is already how I dress. I also wore that one to perform at Couture Fashion Week.

BS: Oh yeah, I saw that, that’s what I saw. Would you ever consider creating apparel for purchase?

PLL: Yes, I’m doing that, because now I have a team in Shanghai that would like to do branding for me, they also want to fund my projects. You know, Shanghai is a financial center, I have so many fans over there, and they want to do something for me, but, at this moment, I don’t think…I’m just a talented designer, but I’m not really a professional designer. It’s just, I have too many things going on, I am a writer, I am a singer, so when I’m young, I will be focused more on performing arts, and then later on, my plan later on is to do all my branding, you know, the commercial lines and stuff. I’ve already got enough fans who want to do it together, some professional people, especially in China. I would love to work with many Western designers and people, I would easily help them reach the China market. I just want to work together with them on my ideas, they need to do the rest of the stuff, you know what I mean? I’m not a professional tailor or seamstress, I don’t know how to make that kind of stuff. I’d like to work with other people so we can, you know, make the branding-related, commercial products.

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A Natasha Berezhnaya fashion show.

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Natasha herself on the runway.

BS: Other than Natasha Berezhnaya, who are your favorite designers that you want to work with?

PLL: I have a couple of other people, I have some other Chinese too. I also like another Thai lady and her name is Thunyatorn Cheng Ng. She’s very talented, the Thai woman, so I work together with her too. Natasha has a little bit more of a Western style, while Thunyatorn Cheng is very Eastern. So I go with both sides, because I kind of look in between.  I have the Asian skin and hairstyle, but I have a Western body, so I can work with both sides, there is the Western I that I can wear, and the Eastern that I can wear too.

Thunyatorn Cheng Ng runway looks.

BS: Yeah, now that we have the option to wear both of them, as a more global world, everyone should start wearing things from all over.

PLL: Sorry?

BS: Oh I was just saying that as a global world, yeah, we have all those options.

PLL: Yeah that’s another thing, I was gonna tell you, because you are more like a fashion magazine, I think that the designers nowadays, in the Western countries, they should really be aware of the Eastern impact. They could make a hit, if they can do some cross-cultural things very well. You may see, there are a lot of like big brands, companies like LV, H&M, they are now starting to sell in all countries, in China, they are trying to add little things as an Eastern touch, but it’s gotta be more. This is just the beginning. The Eastern impact is going be big in the next ten, twenty years. So, whoever is gonna catch this tide will be on the top of the world, whoever is gonna do it first is gonna be a pioneer, that’s what I think too. They should consider it, they will make themselves very outstanding if they do some Eastern part, but the key is how to make the harmony, how to make it very organically. You cannot be too Eastern or too Western, you have to do the right combination, mix them together and make it beautiful.

BS: What is Moon Goddess about? When can people see the Broadway show and the film?

PLL: Oh, Moon Goddess? Moon Goddess is about the first love story in the Chinese mythology, the moon goddess’s name is Chang’e. Chang’e is the most beautiful woman in Chinese history, and Chang’e is also the moon goddess. This is also the story of the Moon Festival. A lot of people know about the Moon Festival, but they don’t know what the story is, and they also know how to eat moon cakes, but people say “Hey, where do the moon cakes come from?” The Chinese moon goddess is the like the one in Greek culture, they have a moon goddess too. The story is similar, but it’s different. Moon Goddess is about her life story with the hero Yi. There were supposed to be ten suns before, and the hero shoots nine suns and now there’s only one sun left, so in the Chinese mythology it’s a new miracle, and it’s a new door for the Western people to know and learn about Chinese culture. If you see, for any culture, when you bring the culture to an international level, you always start with mythology: the Greek, the Middle Eastern, the Indian, all the people. If you need to open the door, you have to open the door to the rest of the world with mythology. So that is why I wrote mythology. I wrote five mythology books already, that I want to release one by one. So, now I’m working on Moon Goddess. I have several people —  professional, musical, Broadway producers, theater producers, movie producers – I’m associating with them, and they’re trying to fund Moon Goddess, and it will be a joint venture from them, from China and the United States. And hopefully this musical movie is going to be out very soon. Maybe we should make it animation. I’m still working together with my professional team to make a decision, we’re doing research and making decisions on stuff like the different steps: animation, then the musical movie, and then the Broadway show. But this is a new thing. China has the longest history, five thousand years, and they created a mass of information for the Eastern cultures. So most of Eastern, Asia-Pacific culture is based on the Chinese culture. So can you imagine if you guys never even knew about China? There’s a lot of information, a lot of potential.

Princess Long Long at Cannes.

BS: And, even now, Han Chinese is the largest ethnic group in the world, so yeah, we should know. Tell me about your foundation. What does it do, and how can people find out more?

PLL: My family fund organization is working together with the UN too. We majorly help and support all the sustainable development goals, which are seventeen goals for the United Nations. We are helping, doing anything we can, to help them and support the global goals. I mainly work on cultural diplomacy, world peace, culture and the arts, the creative economy, but then we have different partners. My family, my cousins, they are working on education, cultural exchange, exchange students, and we’re working on some technology projects too. My other partner is handling that.

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Princess Long Long at New Jersey Fashion Week.

BS: How has getting an MBA at Maastricht University helped you later on?

PLL: That was when I was young. My father told me to do that, and at the time I was like, No, I don’t want to do it, but now I look back and it was the best thing. It helps with everything, knowing how to manage my business and my brand.

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Princess Long Long at the Crown Prince of Italy’s masquerade ball.

BS: You are descended from the Yanqi kingdom. What is the legacy of Yanqi today?

PLL: Yeah, I am a direct descendant of Yanqi, it is a little country on the Silk Road, but it was conquered two times, one time was in the Tang Dynasty and another time was in the Qing Dynasty. So, I’m part of a direct line from the country, the Dragon Family, my family, are direct descendants from the Yanqi country. Yanqi, it’s very interesting, they are people who are very, very famous in culture and arts, very spiritual people. You know, Yanqi is the same pronunciation as the red, what do you call that, the red powder you put on your cheeks?

BS: Oh, blush?

PLL: Blush! Yes, blush in Chinese is called yanqi, so the Yanqi country name is taking over by yanqi, because we created it. We created blush a long time ago, because all the women in that country, they liked to make themselves very beautiful, and they made blush. They made blush, and then in turn it became a commodity, going over into China, down the Silk Road, other places, and the Chinese didn’t know what it was, so they called it yanqi. In Chinese they call it yanqi, the same pronunciation as the country. These people are also very good in entertainment, they sing, they dance, they are composers, they are very spiritual. We are also the ones who transferred Buddhism from India to China, and we also brought the dragon image to India. You know my name means dragon, Long means Dragon, so we created the dragon image, and then we brought it. I’m not sure when we created the image, but we are the ones who brought the dragon image to North India. As for the Yanqi legacy of today, Yanqi became part of Xinjiang Province. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, it’s beside the lake, it’s called Bosten Lake. There’s nothing really going on over there. We call it a zone, a developing zone. But they still keep the name Yanqi. As you know they have several names, the Western people called it different names.

BS: Yeah, like Karasahr…

PLL: Yeah. So we were also the ones, you know, the whole country is Buddhist, right? So we were the ones, I just said, who transferred the Buddhist religion from India to China, so we were all Buddhists. But later on, that changed. Part of the people were from different religions, like Islam, so, but my family is Buddhist.

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At the Rotary meeting. Custom dress and dragon belt. American Rag dress. Forever 21 necklace.

BS: What advice would you give to people aspiring to a career in a creative profession?

Wow, that’s hard to say. I cannot say I’m at a level to give advice, I mean, lots of people do better than me, but I think for my career, I would like to address one thing: communication skills. It is very important for you, in becoming successful, to have great communication skills. So I trained myself in that way and, you see there are a lot of people who are talented, and I’m sure, of course I’m not the most talented. I might be talented, yes, but some people, what I’ve found, especially for the artists, I found they’re not very good at talking with people, they’re never good at showing their skills, and they feel shy, they’re very sensitive, the most sensitive people. From what I see, the reason why they’re sensitive is because they’re talented, and they, they are….Artists tend to be more sensitive than other people, because they know what is going on, and they always want to be the best, and what if sometimes they’re not the best? It does make them very shy, it makes them feel very bad. So you need to keep a goal, you need to treat yourself like…It’s a psychology thing, at  The Juilliard School I took a peak performance class. The women’s class, they help you to understand, before you perform, to train you. I don’t know if you know about Alexander technology, but basically, before you go to perform, they train you how to think that other people all — it’s all psychology — that they’re all there supporting you, and they all worship you, and they have no problems at all with you, and think you’re the best. So you have to practice that all the time, so you don’t get stage fright. So that’s the key. Also, as an artist, you need to go outside to develop your opportunities, and then you have to know how to run your business. As I told you, you need to, a lot of artists, they tend to avoid all these things. They hate to be a business.

BS: Yeah, they think it’s two opposite things. You know, creativity and business.

PLL: No, unfortunately if you want to, if you really want to become successful, you know, you need to do everything. Especially the business parts, you have to know how to build agreements, even though you have agents, but most agents sometimes take advantage of you. So you need to know how to protect yourself. The biggest problem for artists is that they don’t know how to protect themselves. And then that’s the next thing I’m going to do, is to create a foundation with my auntie together. I want to have a foundation to protect the artists. Because I see all the sadness, I feel bad that they get taken advantage of. I myself have been taken advantage of by people too, so I can’t imagine how many artists get taken advantage of, it’s a sad thing. It’s very sad, however, this is a reality, because most of the people we hear about, and I’m not saying there aren’t good people, but most only care about money. Some of these people are sincere, they take the artist into consideration, but still, 80 percent of people don’t, so you need to know, you have to be strong, to learn how to protect yourself. You know what I mean? Our society cannot be completely successful, because the artist is not at the top. The ideal society is one where you have beautiful people cultivating the beautiful parts, and they are closest to the gods, they cannot be brutalized. They are not supposed to be brutalized.

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Princess Long Long performing at the Kaufman Music Center.

 

Hi Bear

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Anthony Vaccarello metal skirting
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Patricia Field Art Fashion embellished bag
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FOSSIL coin bag
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Vintage style jewellery
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Flower Fairy

Flower Fairy

Love This Brand — Kurtis Paul

Kurtis Paul Sherlock lookbook

Having interned at a small business, I love to see new businesses and new creations. Kurtis Paul, a men’s accessories brand, caught my eye for the detail and care that is clearly put into every product.  I interviewed one of the founders, Lloyd Rayner, and could immediately tell that he was a thoughtful and earnest person.  He answered all of my questions personally and promptly, writing with the refinement that seems so charming to us Americans but is probably taken completely for granted in the UK.

Kurtis Paul was founded in 2015 by two brothers from Manchester, Kurtis and Lloyd. They make handbags, backpacks, duffle bags, beach bags, laptop sleeves, and pencil cases made of genuine top grain cow leather with nylon fabric interiors and brass metal work. They are priced between $52 and $364. Kurtis Paul is a brand for “the man with a desire to succeed, to reach his potential and do it in style”. This involves drinking coffee and working long hours, but also staying in shape, going out at night, and rewarding yourself with a vacation once in awhile. Living in New York City, I can relate. Most days I wake up in Bushwick, take the M train to Greenwich Village, get coffee, and work on my laptop in Bobst library. Yet I also take some time to play board games with my friends in Jersey City, go to clubs in the Meatpacking District, and watch the pigeons and squirrels in Washington Square Park.

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Manchester at night

Every Kurtis Paul bag takes on the character of an extraordinary gentleman.

 

 

Alfred Leather Weekend Bag = Alfred Pennyworth

Alfred Pennyworth, a fictional retired intelligence agent, was Batman’s butler and sole confidant, advising him to do good.

 

 

Arnold Canvas Duffle Bag = Arnold Schwarzenegger

Californians may call him The Governator, but you can’t deny that Arnold Schwarzenegger is someone who can do anything he sets his mind to, in bodybuilding, acting, and politics.

 

 

Columbus Canvas Backpack = Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus left his country and set sail across the ocean to a place he never even knew existed.

 

 

Cromwell Leather Duffle Bag = Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was a radical military and political leader who attempted to overthrow the King of England in the sixteenth century, and is considered the father of British democracy.

 

 

Darwin Leather Backpack = Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, an English naturalist and geologist, introduced the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection in the nineteenth century.

 

 

Donald Drawstring Beach Bag = George MacDonald

George MacDonald was a Scottish poet and a pioneer of fantasy literature, known for Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, and Lilith: A Romance.

 

 

Sherlock Leather Tote Bag = Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes, a fictional British private detective, was “the master in his field”.

Lloyd and Kurtis Rayner were born and raised in a small village on the outskirts of Manchester and the Peak District in central England, an idyllic place of peat bogs and heather moorland and the home of Britain’s first national park. Lloyd and Kurtis both grew up to work for large corporations, Lloyd in analytics and Kurtis in sales.

Kurtis Paul Peak District

They started Kurtis Paul for practical and personal reasons. Their jobs required them to travel frequently, and they encountered many difficulties with luggage. As they tried to find the best options for their travel needs, Lloyd says, “Our experience has found that there were two ends to this market, the cheap, high street brands where there was a tendency to create ‘one time use’ products or the high end brands where a majority of the cost was embedded in the brand name and not necessarily the product.” In other words, when it comes to bags you do not always get what you pay for. They saw a need for “a brand that stood for super high quality, classic design and costed to suit the customer”. As someone who pays this much  per month in rent, I am very much in support.

Working at a large company brings affluence and prestige, but there was something missing. “We felt like the processes involved with our former jobs were restricting our creativity. Having grown up in a small village this creativity was a big part of our lives, we were brought up to believe that imagination should be used as a form of entertainment. Having spent years feeling suppressed we knew that it was time to be true to ourselves and express our personalities.” So they took the risk of starting their own business from scratch in order to express their creativity in design. Lloyd is passionate about industrial design, “the heavy duty/oversized look and the space that comes with it”. Kurtis is a perfectionist, “constantly seeing items from clothes to bags and more and imagining what I could do to enhance and make the items unique”.

Kurtis Paul Darwin lookbook 3

They envisioned themselves as not only a brand that built quality bags, but a brand built on “class, trust, and integrity”, and they needed a name to reflect that. Lloyd and Kurtis spent an entire Friday afternoon brainstorming such a name. Says Lloyd, “There were thousands of discarded ideas”. They finally decided on Kurtis Paul, after Kurtis Paul Rayner, in the tradition of celebrities like Tim Allen, Gary Jules, and Charlotte Olympia. “As they say, if you truly believe in something you should put your name to it,” says Lloyd. “We did just that.” I like to think that my name, Brette Nicole, is more marketable than my sister’s name, Darin Leigh, but clearly this pair of siblings is above such pettiness.

Kurtis Paul Arnold lookbook

Kurtis Paul is headquartered in Manchester, where all of their design takes place. Manchester is considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. At the turn of the nineteenth century it was the most productive center of cotton processing and the largest marketplace for cotton goods, earning the nickname “Cottonopolis”. The engineering firms that made machines for the cotton trade started producing machinery for general manufacture, Manchester exported machinery in addition to cotton, and the city’s population exploded as people flocked from all over England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland in search of opportunity. Lloyd and Kurtis take much pride in this heritage. “Elements of this great city can be found in most of our products,” Lloyd explains. “For example, each of our bags is finished using brushed brass fixtures, chosen specifically for their strength, and they mimic the style of industrial machinery.”

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Manchester during the day

The design philosophy of Kurtis Paul is that “products should be designed to fill a purpose. The creation of all our bags starts with a problem, as in what problem are we trying to solve.” The Alfred weekend bag solves the problem of needing sturdy luggage that can be used for years without wearing out. The Arnold duffle bag solves the problem of needing a bag that can be used anywhere all day long, from the café to the office to the gym. The Columbus backpack solves the problem of “fashionable exploration, how to create a bag that looked classy [but] was practical.”

According to Lloyd, “Our most proud achievement is the creation of the Canvas Collection.” This collection of duffels, backpacks, and beach bags stands apart in the market for its extreme durability. While most canvas bags are thirteen to eighteen ounces thick, the Kurtis Paul cotton canvas is twenty ounces thick. To visualize this difference, think of taking your average canvas bag, then adding the weight of a standard 5oz. baseball, all of which will stand between your things and the sand, dirt, and concrete outside. Lloyd says, “We have kept the design of the bags as simple as possible, opting for more of a minimalist feel. For example we decided to strip the backpack of conventional side pockets, giving it a more civilised look.” (By civilised he means not hipster.) “Whilst on the outside these products may look simple, a great deal of attention was paid to every detail.”

Kurtis Paul Columbus lookbook

Besides making business trips, Lloyd has backpacked “all over the world, covering many parts of Europe, Asia and Africa”. For him, backpacking is “the perfect freedom, a period away from connectivity, rules and schedules”. He prefers going “off the beaten track” and living like a local to checking off a list of tourist spots. His ability to travel to so many different parts of the world in this manner intrigued me. I have always been interested in learning about different places and ways of living, have known the name and location of every country in the world since I was five years old, and have researched 371 different languages, but my self-consciousness holds me back from actually traveling. I don’t ask for directions, I go to great lengths not to ask for help, and I feel stupid if I cannot communicate with a person in their language. So I asked Lloyd for advice. His first suggestion was to “blend, if you stand out as a tourist you’re an easy picking for anyone to take advantage”. That said, he doesn’t think traveling to foreign countries is any more dangerous than the usual hazards of everyday life. He suggests traveling with friends because “groups are always safer but travelling is also meant to be a social event. Find someone you can share your experiences with, it will make them more memorable.” For some reason, I had always pictured myself traveling alone. His perspective really inspires me to move out of my comfort zone.

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In the course of his travels, Lloyd came face-to-face with extreme poverty. He has seen “people who have self mutilated because they are so poor and feel it is the only way people will help”. He was especially moved by seeing the Kibera slum in Nairobi, a place where 1.2 million people live within a single square mile, over 10 percent of the children are orphans, homes are made of mud and corrugate iron, and “sewage runs freely through the streets”. Last year, Kurtis Paul donated their entire profit, from August through December, to African Children’s Haven, a charity that combats extreme poverty by improving shelter, health, and education. Extreme poverty is defined by living on $1.90 per day. To put this in perspective, the poverty threshold for a single person in the United States is $11,770 per year, or $32.25 per day.

Kurtis Paul Namibia

A slum in Namibia

As a small family business, the Kurtis Paul brand is able to stay true to themselves, creating a richer vision to show to their audience. Their Instagram already has 19,000 followers, which is incredibly popular for a small emerging brand. They are proactive about reaching out to people and seeking collaboration. They invite suggestions, design ideas, and modeling submissions from the public through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and want to see “your stories, your successes and your adventures” with the #shareyouradventure hashtag.

 

 

Namibia and the Maldives

Lloyd and Kurtis are inspiring people, they make exceptional products, and their hearts are in the right place. I encourage anyone in search of a bag or a gift for the men in their life to look no further than Kurtis Paul!

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One Hundred Sunglasses

Besides being a blogger, I am a sales consultant at Sunglass Hut in Times Square — the highest-grossing store out of 3,000 Luxottica-owned retailers! Helping people with their style, talking to tourists from all over the world (Mongolia? Check. Nepal? Check. Cayman Islands? Check.), and seeing all the new luxury sunglasses come in is very exciting. Upon greeting a customer, we always let them know that they can try on any of the sunglasses on display. I thought it would be cute to say “Feel free to try everything on!”, meaning that they can look and think as much as they need to before making a purchase, without feeling judged or pressured. When I shop, I make sure to look at every product that meets my needs. It’s simple if I need a belt and there is literally one belt in the store that fits me. What’s more challenging is scouring a store with a great many qualifying products…like, say, a store that has hundreds of different sunglasses when I need sunglasses for summer. And I wondered, could I do it? Could I honestly consider every pair I liked in the entire store?

Miu Miu

I can. I went in on June 27, National Sunglasses Day, and spent three hours inside Sunglass Hut trying on every pair I liked. Here are 100 of the pairs I tried on:

Bulgari 6083 $370; Bulgari Serpenteyes, $470; Bulgari 6088, $510

Bulgari 8189, $440; Bulgari 6093, $440; Bulgari Serpenti, $410

Bulgari 8188, $470; Burberry 4241, $215; Chanel Butterfly Summer, $350

Chanel Round Spring, $515; Chanel Pilot Fall, $610; Dior Homme Composit, $565

Dior So Real, $595; Dior So Real Stud, $670; Dior Sight, $380

Dior Chicago, $395; Dior Diorama, $500; Dior Liner, $375

Dolce & Gabbana 2172, $340; Dolce & Gabbana 2169, $340; Dolce & Gabbana 4288, $330

Dolce & Gabbana 6105, $270; Dolce & Gabbana 2173, $650; Dolce & Gabbana 2170, $650 

Fendi 0060, $455; Fendi Iridia, $520; Fendi 0133, $380

Fendi 0041, $470; Fendi Hypnoshine, $695; Fendi Rainbow, $545

Fendi 0025, $355; Gigi Hadid for Vogue 5211 in black/pink and white, $140

Gucci 0061, $400; Maui Jim Nalani, $280; Maui Jim Summer Time, $319

Maui Jim Manu 64, $270; Michael Kors Hvar, $139; Michael Kors Evy, $179

Michael Kors Lia, $159; Miu Miu 52RS, $410

Miu Miu 13NS, $380; Miu Miu 52QS, $320; Miu Miu 12RSA, $410

Miu Miu 52SS, $470; Miu Miu 11RS, $410; Miu Miu 05SS, $470

Oakley Tie Breaker, $200; Oakley Elmont, $210; Oakley Frogskins, $120

Oakley Crossrange, $210; Oakley Mainlink, $200; Oakley Catalyst, $160 

Oakley Holbrook Ink Fade Collection, $170; Persol 100th Anniversary Collection, $410; Prada 65TS, $420

Prada 16TS, $460; Prada 68TS, $410

Prada 27NS; Prada 51SS, $330; Prada Cinema, $430

Prada 54SS, $330; Prada 61TS, $370; Polo Ralph Lauren 4125, $169

Ralph 5203, $150; Ray-Ban Cats 5000, $165; Ray-Ban Hexagonal Flat Lens, $150

Ray-Ban Gatsby, $185; Ray-Ban Flat Lens, $185; Ray-Ban 4274, $165

Ray-Ban Clubmaster, $175; Ray-Ban New Wayfarer, $155; Sunglass Hut Collection 1003, $80

Sunglass Hut Collection 2001 in red, black, and clear, $80-$100

Sunglass Hut Collection 2005, $80; Tiffany & Co. 4136 in brown and black, $380

Tiffany & Co. 4121, $380; Tiffany & Co. 4134, $390; Tiffany & Co. 3058, $330

Tiffany & Co. 3051, $310; Tom Ford Kasia, $390; Tom Ford Savannah, $445

Tom Ford Arabella, $475; Tory Burch 9046, $195; Valentino 4002, $350

Valentino 4005, $390; Valentino 4013, $290; Valentino 4008, $410 

Valentino 2002, $350; Valentino 2004, $380; Versace #Frenergy, $315 

Versace 4338, $240; Versace 2160, $265; Versace 4294, $240

Versace Medusa, $280; Versace 2177, $375; Versace 2140, $215

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And the winner is…the Oakley Elmont!

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Me and my new shades in my favorite corner of the store. Bebe blouse. H&M skirt. Bandolino pumps. Claire’s earrings. Topshop headband. Handbag from my mother’s friend, with no tag inside. Photo by my coworker Baruch. 

Before I started working here, I thought Oakleys were for guys. There is a scene in the TV show Workaholics where the protagonists join a fraternity, and upon their initiation a frat member says “Here are your Oakleys,” as if every frat boy wears them. I know that show is basically one long joke, but the impression stayed with me. Until I found a pair of Oakleys that was polarized, had Prizm lens technology, and was feminine enough for even me.

Happy Summer!

Sun Shady

No Such Agency

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Last week, I ventured into Chinatown to visit the ready-to-wear showroom of No Such Agency, a boutique PR firm. They, along with a handbag brand and a lingerie brand, occupy the Triple A Loft, a cool, airy space filled with natural light. A zebra greeted me when I stepped out of the elevator, and I wandered past the mod yellow sofa and issues of WWD and Electrify in the lobby to the No Such Agency space, a charming area with a minimalist desk and table, an old-fashioned window, a floor-to-ceiling mirror, and six racks of samples. An intern greeted me and showed me around, telling me all about the collections.

I was immediately drawn to the Daniel.Silverstain rack. “I want to focus on this brand because I would wear every item here,” I stammered. I don’t always say this. Liking every item from a clothing brand is rare, in the way that it’s rare to enjoy every song in a music artist’s repertoire. What was it about these few items, hanging on a single steel rod, spaced a few inches apart? There was the recurrent pairing of black and white. There was the dramatic asymmetry, the kind that makes you feel perpetually a step ahead of the here and now.  There was the formality of each piece – being in my early twenties, I often like to dress older so I will be taken more seriously. And even though common prints and materials were used across items, as is typical for a seasonal collection, no two pieces blended together. There was nothing redundant, nothing forgettable. I could envision every item on myself, each one standing out on a crowded block, each one making a distinct impression.

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This is the Fall 2016 collection, shown last September as a see-now, buy-now presentation. Titled WHITE.CITY, it was inspired by the effects of the Bauhaus movement on Tel Aviv in the 1950s.

Me in the layered blouse, black pants, and crocodile-embossed shearling coat with separating panel in orchid. Though I prefer warm weather, I have always gravitated toward the grandeur of a long winter coat. All runway photos by Robert Mitra/WWD.  

Daniel Silverstain founded his luxury apparel brand in 2013. He takes inspiration from industrialism, modernism, and futurism. “I design to inspire women to be bold, to be courageous, to stand out, and to create a story of their own,” he says. Originally from Israel, Silverstain started his fashion career at the Israeli division of KEDS Kids in 2006, advancing quickly to Design Director. In 2009, he moved to New York to pursue a BFA in Fashion/Apparel Design at FIT. While in school, he interned at Marie Claire for a semester (see, even acclaimed designers pay their dues) and worked as an assistant designer at 3.1 Phillip Lim and a designer at Muuse and Elie Tahari.

He launched Daniel.Silverstain soon after graduating. Last year, he co-founded Flying Solo, a designer-owned retail incubator in Little Italy. Flying Solo provides a platform for startup brands to enter the brick-and-mortar market without selling to a retailer, which requires accommodating a retail markup and often supplying high minimum orders, or maintaining their own boutique, especially in New York where rents are high. Flying Solo is owned and operated by twenty-eight fashion brands.

     Daniel Silverstain Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe, my favorite actress now that she’s an actress, in a Daniel.Silverstain coat for Cosmopolitan. Photo by Max Abadian.

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I recognized KUT from the Kloth from Nordstrom, where I sold their jeans in the Point of View department alongside brands like Caslon and NYDJ. I really enjoyed seeing the brand on its own, in its complete form. I always knew they had great-fitting jeans, but I didn’t know that they also had dresses, tops, jackets, and pants! I loved the profusion of florals, the pinstripes, the sweeping bell sleeves, and the whimsical paper bag waist on a pair of dress pants.

Me in the Luz blouse and Regina pants. Life Stride shoes.

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The effervescent bell sleeve of a pink blouse. 

KUT from the Kloth is based in Los Angeles. Their core focus is “to offer women of all shapes and sizes the perfect-fitting jean”. They started with the denim concept in 1977, but expanded to add sportswear in 2006. The company has a strong commitment to workers’ rights, requiring that all of their suppliers and vendors adhere to their Code of Ethics policy. They make sure to work only with factories that do not employ workers younger than 15, pay a fair wage, properly dispose of all hazardous materials, and have an environmental management system in place that includes disaster and emergency preparedness. After the Rana Plaza collapse, this is welcome to hear.

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The Ruthy dress and Rosie skirt. 

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The off-shoulder flutter sleeve dress and Adyson dress. 

You can find KUT from the Kloth on their website, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Century 21, Zappos, Bluefly, and many boutiques nationwide. As a resident of Bushwick who likes to shop at little shops, my source of choice is Néda in Park Slope.

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No Such Agency’s fashion showroom makes appointments for editors, stylists, celebrities, bloggers, and “micro-influencers” to select samples to borrow for photo shoots and events. The biggest appointment witnessed by the girl I talked to was from Vogue, to select pieces for a Karlie Kloss spread shot in Australia. Karlie Kloss has been my favorite model since this article in 2007, so I was pretty excited. No Such Agency keeps six brands at a time. The founders, “This British power couple”, consistently choose independent ready-to-wear brands “with a cool vibe”. They also have a showroom in Los Angeles.

Besides fashion, No Such Agency represents clients in the media, music, art, and lifestyle industries; in other words, everything creative and glamorous. The founders, Dan and Helena Barton, came from marketing at Diesel. Dan has worked at Maison Margiela and DSquared2. Helena has worked at Rag & Bone and All Saints. On the music side, she has worked for James Brown, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, and Franz Ferdinand.