All Charlotte Olympia
This post is sponsored by Paperless Post.
I like free stuff. I do. No one could dislike their cost-free quality as such. But the problem with free stuff is that sometimes it just isn’t that good. Like a free canvas shopping bag or a free chapstick or a free perfume sample that sprays approximately five times before running out.
But a few days ago I found out that British handbags and accessories brand Mahi Leather is giving away free stuff, and it’s good. More specifically: a backpack, plain or customized, at a $120-$150 retail value. The entry process is simple and has a personal touch: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite backpack, your desired letters and your delivery address. Add to that the freedom of being allowed to enter as many times as you want. They will randomly select one winner every two weeks until the end of June (three chances to win).
Up for grabs are four styles of backpacks: the Classic, the Roma, the Explorer, and the Nomad, in multiple colorways (9 for the Classic, 2 for the Roma and Explorer). Add to that the customization element: up to three letters embroidered by hand in one of three colors. That means…
[1 Classic (9 colors) + 1 Roma (2 colors) + 1 Explorer (2 colors) + 1 Nomad] 3 embroidery colors (1 non-customized + 26 single letters + 26² two-letter combos + 26³ three-letter combos)
…there are literally 767,718 ways you can do this. So you could do your own initials, or not. Some three-letter combos that I think would be fun:
I for one would select the Classic Backpack in Ebony Black Leather with white embroidery for MEW, the Pokemon.
Good luck everyone! And if you can’t decide on one thing, you can enter several different ideas and see what happens!
This post is sponsored by MAHI Leather Ltd.
When I think about what to wear in the evening, I think of a dress. But finding the right wow-factor dress always seems to be harder than you think. Unless you’re getting your dress custom-made (which I feel like only celebrities do), you’re going to have to select a dress that was made for the ideal type of a given size. You know, the person that is, say, size large on top, size large in the middle, and size large on the bottom. Most people aren’t like that – everyone’s body has its own quirky idiosyncrasies. Personally, I have very narrow hips, so I need a smaller size for bottoms than I do for tops. What ends up happening when I buy dresses is that they look big around the hips and thighs, especially after repeated wear. And then I started noticing Nicki Minaj’s style and saw that a matching top and skirt has the same overall look as a dress. Especially when so many club dresses have cutouts anyway!
Alice + Olivia, Alice + Olivia, Calvin Klein
Jeremy Scott, Jeremy Scott, Tom Ford
Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Brandon Maxwell
Plus I love matching. I love coordination. I love themes. I like a bold color and especially a bold print. The “effortless style” ethos never appealed to me. I believe that effort is a virtue. Let’s face it, outfits that are well-planned tend to look more visually striking, on average, than honestly effortless outfits. The way I see it, if you’re going to do a certain look, really do it. Don’t hold back. What’s better than cute? Cutecute ♥♥
Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne, Rihanna
Gigi Hadid, Katy Perry
Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, Chanel Iman
I’m in good company, both on the Spring 2018 runway and with celebrities. The look of a matching top and skirt — the monochrome effect — is a tried-and-true strategy to fall back on. No matter the year or the season, designers and celebrities turn to it again and again. Our current fashion landscape is no exception.
That’s why I like Kissmiss. A site dedicated to sultry clubwear, they make sure to have a special place for bandage 2 piece top and skirt sets, of all colors and shapes, decadent to minimalist.
My favorite look from them is the Greta Wraparound Bodycon Dress Set. It’s $49, which would be quite affordable for a dress for going out…but remember, it’s actually even better than that. It’s two pieces for $24.50 each! That you can later pair with other things! That’s a pretty good deal.
This post is sponsored by Kissmiss Dress.
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, priced $52 – $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.
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.
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”.
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 Angelina Jolie, Janelle Monáe, and Rachel Zoe. “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 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.”
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.”
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 for financial reasons, I have little experience actually traveling. So I asked Lloyd for backpacking 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.” His perspective really inspires me to travel with creativity and resourcefulness.
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, Kenya, 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 corrugated 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.
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!
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.
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.
Janelle Monáe, my favorite actress now that she’s an actress, in a Daniel.Silverstain coat for Cosmopolitan. Photo by Max Abadian.
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 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.
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.
The Ruthy dress and Rosie skirt.
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.
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.
I keep getting closer. Last year, as a Michael Kors intern, I worked at Market Week for their Fall 2016 collection. This season, I was invited to Yuna Yang as a blogger. So last Saturday afternoon, I put on my coat and boots, crunched through the snow, and took the 30-minute train ride into Manhattan, cold and excited.
The show was at the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea, so guests sat at tables for two partitioned along the wall. I was pleased because I could hang my coat on a chair and place my purse on a table, two things you can’t do with the traditional rows of benches. I could also get to know my table-mate, who, as it happens, went to NYU like me! As the guests poured in, I noticed colorful faux-fur jackets, lace-up booties, and box clutches.
Guests arrive and take their seats.
Two guests before the show.
Every Yuna Yang collection has a name, and this season was called “Lights in the Shadow”. I appreciate this about Yuna Yang because attending the show felt like seeing a performance, like a play or a dance recital. The collection was inspired by the people’s protests against American president Donald Trump, especially the Women’s March, and South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who was impeached last December. The show notes said, “Yuna Yang’s F/W17 collection pays homage to people who hold on to hope and belief in shadowed times.”
Here are some of the looks:
FLOWER BOMBER PRINT
LIGHTING CANDLE PRINT
My favorite look of all was the closing look, the burgundy slip dress. The collection was bright and full of energy, with hues like gold, ocher, tangerine, periwinkle, mint, and cerulean. Velvet dresses, sweatshirts, and skirts provided the durability one needs to get through fall and winter.
Me before the show started. D-Face leather dress and vintage dragonfly necklace from Bloom Marin.
Since this was my first time attending Fashion Week, I was so excited to see up close that which I had only looked at from afar for the past decade (yes, since I was in middle school). When I was 12, I worked on a book about an island of witches who wore only haute couture, every day, at every occasion. After seeing the beautiful Yuna Yang outfits, I was left wishing that everyone out on the street looked as put-together as runway models. That may not be the case, but this week Manhattan came pretty close.
Yuna Yang is from Seoul. Before starting her own brand, she thoroughly learned her craft; she earned a degree in Fine Arts from Ewha Women’s University, a degree in Design from Instituto Marangoni, and a degree in Womenswear Design from Central Saint Martins. Meanwhile, she also gained valuable work experience at Alviero Martini in Milan and both Ann-Sofie Beck and Clements Ribeiro in London. She debuted her New York-based line, Yuna Yang, at NYFW Fall 2010 and has shown every season since. She has also dressed many a celebrity: Carrie Underwood, Jessica Loundes, Danai Gurira, Darby Stanchfield, Nicole Murphy, Dascha Polanco, Maye Musk, and Irene Kim to name a few!
Carrie Underwood in the music video for “See You Again”, which enjoyed 42.8 million views
Nicole Mitchell Murphy at the premiere of Water for Elephants; Irene Kim, aka Ireneisgood
Jessica Lowndes; Danai Gurira at the premiere of 42
Darby Stanchfield; Maye Musk at the Met Gala
Yuna Yang can be found at their website; Foravi in Manhattan; Cami in Roslyn, New York; Deborah Gilbert Smith in Millburn, New Jersey; Joe Brand in Laredo and McAllen, Texas; A&A, La Scala, Art to Wear, and Shin Kōng Mitsukoshi in Táipěi; Avenuel and Galleria in Seoul; Lotte in Busan, South Korea; Isetan in Tōkyō; and Arabian Apparel in Riyādh.
Yuna Yang hats and headbands at Isetan.
Past concepts: The New Woman, No Borders, The 100% Perfect Girl, Hunting Without Guns, The Butterfly Mother, 1920s Shapes Meet Modern Art, Che Bella, Civil Twilight, Bright Lights Big City, My Black Wedding Dress