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Monday, April 18, 2022

New York City Easter Bonnet Parade

 easter parade nyc 2022
It has been two years without the New York City Easter Parade and I was starving for some good Easter Bonnet action. The parade is one of my favorite events in Manhattan, where New Yorkers and enthusiastic visitors strut their best hats and springtime fashion down the city's biggest runway on 5th avenue. 

I always make my own headpiece. Previous years have included giant flowers and butterflies. This year, my inspiration was a little bit Midsommar, a little bit Atlas (the statue at Rockefeller Center). I didn't start on the piece until earlier this week because I wasn't sure if the parade would happen. I started with metal wreath frames that I wired together. I also attempted to solder them, but the metal flaked off. Then I took silk flowers and wove them in and around the frames. I finished the headpiece by weaving ribbons around the crown base and metal headband attached for stability. 

I loved how it turned out, but boy, this piece was heavy AF. I think I have a permanent dent on my forehead from wearing this today. 

While making my annual headpiece is fun, I participate in the parade to peep (ha!) other people's creations. I was afraid millinery fans might slack off post-pandemic, but the absence only made them try harder:

Go big or go home was the theme for many of the looks. Flowers, butterflies, eggs, and feathers are a perennial favorite. The Yayoi Kusama tribute was by far the most popular creation for photographers.

This is a great event to showcase the nice side of NYC to tourists. Everyone is in a good mood. Creativity, craft skills and artistry of (almost) regular folk are on display. So are their humor and generosity (you can always find someone giving out candy). I was approached by a family visiting from Vienna who apparently photographed me four years ago, remembering my outfit. This was very impressive as I can't even remember what I wore yesterday, let alone several years ago. 

Did you dress up today? Did you have a great Passover and/or Easter? What was your favorite look from the Parade? Happy Spring!
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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Vintage Fashion On HGTV's Everything But The House

 

ebth vintage fashion

mariana leung hgtv
lara spencer mariana leung


How does it feel to sell vintage fashion you collected for years on HGTV's Everything But the House? Weird. Emotional. Liberating. After my husband's parents passed, we had a 7-acre farm upstate to process and big decisions needed to be made. Going through lots of clutter, we attempted to have a garage sale, only to have the roads blocked for the filming of the movie, A Quiet Place.

Sorting through a parents belongings while experience grief is an emotional process, and it took a few more years for my husband to decide which items were truly meaningful to the family vs. items that were best used towards a meaningful project. His parents had always hoped we would continue to appreciate the rural county property as much as they did. Since we both work and live in Manhattan, that would be difficult unless we found a way to have a life upstate. 

We enlisted the help of Everything But the House, an online auction company out of Cincinnati Ohio, and HGTV. The amazing team there sorted through a houseful of antiques, artwork, travel souvenirs. My husband's pop culture memorabilia. I took this time to also clear out years of vintage fashion, antique handbags, designer collectibles from NYFW, and personal fashion treasures. As much as I loved each piece, I had to look towards the future. 

The pieces I was most sad to see go were the Judith Leiber quilted clutch, the 1920s beaded flapper dress I bought at the Manhattan Vintage Show in the 1990s, and a few gorgeous handpainted silk kimono from the 1960s. A nostalgic piece I personally wore was a purple velvet spiral bra from nightclub days purchased at Trash & Vaudeville on St. Mark's Place in 1994.

The television show is hosted by GMA and Flea Market Flip's Lara Spencer who was a lot of fun and knows her stuff! I learned a lot about the industry from Jacquie Denny, the auction maven of the site, and decorative arts expert Andrew McVinish. I learned about the history of some items, their markings, and their purpose that I couldn't find online, but also about bidder behavior and selling trends in the moments in between takes. What I didn't expect was how much joy it was to see how happy buyers were for their items. I had never thought about the second life of an object. For example, there was a woman who purchased a ceramic planter my Mother-in-law had brought back from Italy. As much as I loved the story of it, the style didn't fit with my husband and my taste. I preferred to include my Mother-in-law's actual artwork over her travel souvenirs. However, any guilt I felt about that decision was gone when I saw Kay W., the loveliest Southern Belle talk about how much she loved the planter, how many flowers she had in it and how she felt the planter loved her back.

In the end, we were so appreciative of the bidders that were enthusiastic about the sale. With work opportunities and rentals down last year, the proceeds from the auction went towards much-needed improvements to the barn and house to welcome guests to the property, our passion project, Wicked Finch Farm. 

Wicked Finch Farm is where my boozy jam and tipsy marshmallow recipes are created (yes, I make things that aren't always fashion). It also hosts guests as an Airbnb. We also run workshops for the boozy jam and other tasty things. With more improvements, we hope to upgrade to an event space some day. 

I hope you can visit or sample or products! 

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

How Important is Inauguration Fashion?


This was the president that we were waiting for, a history-making vice-president, following a terrible attack egged on by a failed excuse of a leader before them. With all of that before us, is the inauguration fashion actually important? 

As someone who has worked in the fashion industry for over 20 years, and seeing most of my friends and colleagues lose their jobs in recent times, any buzz about the industry is only good. Besides that, is fashion really relevant to the country at large? The outfit choices of political wives were traditionally reported on as a way to engage women of decades past who were assumed to have no interest in politics otherwise. Also, what is acceptable for male political fashion was and still is pretty limited for creativity.  

Now there is a Second Gentleman instead of a Lady. There were plenty of female writers joking about getting the details of Doug Emhoff's outfit today. The details were that President Joe Biden and Doug Emhoff wore Ralph Lauren, an American designer whose brand has been present at most significant events of this country. Lauren has provided Olympic uniforms, dressed award shows, and positioned his brand as the American establishment. It makes sense.

All of the women on stage today are highly accomplished, and there are so many topics to discuss that should be more relevant. However, the reality is that the fashion questions will always be asked. The women have been very strategic in using clothing to help elevate their message rather than a distraction. 

The First Lady wore a matching blue outfit by Alexandra O'Neill for the label Markarian. The blue was meant to "signify trust, confidence, and stability." Blue is also the color associated with the Democratic party. The less obvious statement, but important to the fashion industry and the country, is that it was designed and manufactured in New York's garment district. A visual statement of supporting industry at home.

Jill Biden's outfit the evening before was purple, a statement of intention of bipartisanship. The chosen designer was indie Jonathan Cohen, known for upcycling and passion for sustainability.

Today, many women posted they would wear "Pearls and Chucks" today in honor of Vice President Kamala Harris.  Her fashion choices have all been in support of a larger message. Her signature pearls reference her sorority, while her footwear is representative of her confidence and comfort. She wore a white Carolina Herrera suit with a pussy-bow blouse when she accepted Biden's running mate's role. The color was symbolic of the women suffrage movement, the blouse a nod to England's first female Prime Minister. 

Her pre-inauguration look included a coat by Kerby Jean-Raymond, the Haitian-American designer of Pyer Moss. He has used his fashion shows to promote Black Lives Matter and express other messages of resistance. However, when the pandemic hit, he repurposed his studio into a donation center, donating PPE and grants to women/minority-owned businesses that took a hit during the crisis. 

Kamala Harris's inauguration look was by another African-American designer. Her purple look (also bipartisan in color) was from Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson's shoes. Her choices of lesser-known American designers (in the mainstream) lifts the profiles of indie labels overall, struggling hard in this pandemic.


Harris's choices follow in First Lady Michelle Obama's footsteps, who made household names of many designers who might have been respected within fashion circles but not known to the average citizen. Jason Wu, Byron Lars, Tracy Reese were all celebrated for contributing to Obama's fashion icon status. She also drove interest in smaller labels in general, boosting the industry as a whole.

Today was yet another opportunity for Michelle Obama to add to her style fame. Her plum-colored ensemble was also by Sergio Hudson. I saw lots of love for her look from my colleagues on social media. There was even a good number of posts merely to appreciate her belt. 

Speaking of accessory love, Bernie Sanders got quite a bit of attention for his knitted mittens.
His cold-weather seated photo is the most popular meme right now, but as a man not usually known for fashion statements, this was a good one. Fans liked the bold pattern and home-grown look, knitted by Vermont schoolteacher Jen Ellis from upcycled sweaters and recycled plastic. I can't imagine anything more on-brand for Bernie than that. 

New faces that I loved? Poet-laureate Amanda Gorman moved everyone with her poem "The Hill We Climb." Her bright yellow Prada coat and red headband, together with her beautiful smile, were like sunbeams across the great lawn. Her jewelry, on the other hand, was more meaningful. A gift from Oprah Winfrey, her birdcage ring was a reference to legendary Maya Angelou, who read her poetry at Bill Clinton's inauguration.


All the nerdy girls had a crush on Elle Emhoff. She was the breakout darling of the day with her talented eyebrows and jewel-embroidered tweed coat by Miu Miu. Her dress was from Batsheva and a headband by Loeffler Randall. While she wore designer goods today, you might find her wearing her own creations most of the time. She is a textiles senior at Parsons School of Design, with a talent for crochet and bright colors.

Did any outfit today intrigue you? Has inauguration fashion ever inspired you to learn more about the designer or what they represent? Let me know!

All photos by Getty

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I am a Holiday Crafter Gone Wild!

 



It's been a while! One of the projects I worked on the past few months was to compete on HGTV's Holiday Crafters Gone Wild! This is an epic 2-hour holiday special where my teammate Terry Rollyson and I break out the sewing machine and glue guns with three other super-talented teams to compete for the ultimate crafting trophy.

You'll know the host, Jay Manuel from America's Next Top Model, giving everyone some extreme Jack Frost chicness (yes, that's a thing). The judges are Kim Myles from HGTV's Myles of Style and Holiday Battle for the Block. Mikie Russo is a celebrity party planner, doing event design for the stars.

Let me tell you, yes it looks so fun (and it is!) but knocking out a bunch of crafts high-speed with many cameras on you is INTENSE! You don't have time to think about your decisions, you just need to run with your creative thoughts and execute! It's amazing how fast the time goes. 

My family was mostly on my mind during the process of the show. Big holiday specials are designed for multiple generations to watch together, and because of the pandemic, I haven't been able to spend time with my family in person this year. It might seem like a really complicated way to do it, but being IN a holiday special that my parents and nieces and nephews would watch was my way of being with them. Our second "colossal" challenge was to decorate a tree. This tree was inspired by my nephew Evan's Elf on a Shelf. He makes an elaborate mansion (complete with vehicles, hockey rinks, etc.) for his elf Sebbie every year. Terry and my tree used bright colors, fun pom poms, and simple wooden, craft sticks to make sleds with all of our nephews and niece's names on them. I was so excited that the show showed each and every one of their names for their second of fame.

My competition was FIERCE!!! The other teams were all at the top of their game in their specialties. Garrett and Guerdy are two of Miami's top event designers whose work can be seen in almost every glossy magazine. Mario and Katie, the edgy and the beautiful magician and manager. They have a huge following across the country for their show and book on being a maker mixed with magic. Sam and Charlotte are two of the coolest women with woodworking and practical DIY. I have been stalking Sam's channel for all of her furniture and home builds that are super stylish. She inspires me to get out of my comfort zone and want to learn all the tools to build. Charlotte, mother of 5, somehow can film tv shows, be a great Mom, make amazing DIY home projects (still obsessed with the hydro dye technique) and still have time to hilariously recap The Bachelor. 

If you're looking for some holiday crafting ideas this season (or just want to watch Terry and me get glue gun burns) tune in to HGTV for Holiday Crafters Gone Wild!



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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Fashion Designers Pivot to Sewing Masks for Healthcare Pros

Christian Siriano led the charge to answer Governor Cuomo's plea for help. In turn, he inspired me, and many other fashion designers into sewing masks for healthcare professionals who need them. My little fashion accessories brand is part of the NY Handmade Collective. Our team members are furiously cranking out cotton masks that will be used by medical facilities, seniors, and other vulnerable people. There is a drastic shortage of N95 masks that are needed to protect against the Coronavirus. The grassroots efforts by me, many of my industry colleagues, design studios, crafters, sewers are a great way to stay productive and help the front line workers during the crisis. Personally, being able to do something active to help went a long way in helping my anxiety and feeling helpless.
Craft stores like Jo-Ann's are offering pre-cut fabrics to anyone who wants to sew them for free at their stores.
Facebook group Sew the Curve Flat has a running list of facilities that need masks and lots of resources for best practices and patterns. It's also just a great group for support.
I am so touched at how many people shared my original social media posts and have come forward to volunteer. Even those who don't sew were keen to contribute. There is a website designer who would create a site for donations. Another was a food truck influencer who volunteered to pick up supplies and deliver masks. The goodwill here was exactly what I needed in contrast to the media reports of hoarding, ignorant politicians, scary statistics, and xenophobic attacks I felt overwhelmed with.
In a time of global crisis, kindness is the one thing that we can all participate in together, and ultimately will be what saves most of us. We can't control politicians or science, but we have complete control over how we choose to act towards others. Take back how you spend your time and how you perceive the world around you. Find something to do that makes you happy right now and brings you fulfillment. If it also helps others, that's good karma that you can use too.

This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Couture Combats COVID-19


There is no one in the fashion industry that I know that hasn't been affected by COVID-19. Many, like myself, have lost work as a freelancer for the foreseeable future. Photographers, writers, designer consultants, producers, models, everyone connected to the industry without a salaried job, and works in the gig economy will be hurting financially. Others are working from home for brands that are losing millions in sales, so their job security is threatened. Some are risking their lives because their clients and managers are forcing them to work onsite and travel. I could go on and on, but I would instead highlight where fashion brands are doing something to fight the global pandemic:

Prada donates ICUs

Italy was the first European country to be crippled by the Coronavirus. Much of that had to do with an aging population and a lack of facilities. In response, the Prada family contributed “two complete intensive care and resuscitation units each to Milan’s hospitals of Vittore Buzzi, Sacco, and San Raffaele.” Other Italian designers contributing to the efforts include Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani, who made financial donations.

LVMH Fragrance Division Making Sanitizer to Donate

Parent company to Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Moet & Chandon, LVMH is leveraging its fragrance factories to make hand sanitizers instead. They will be donating the hydroalcoholic gels to health facilities in France to battle the shortage of sanitizers around the country.

Nike donates $15 million

The Oregon-based company has about 12 000 employees in the state, and the HQ is closed at least until the end of April. Nike is donating the majority of the 15 million dollars towards relief efforts in their local community, with some of the funds also going towards the Boston, Memphis, and overseas offices.

Christian Siriano Pledges To Make Masks

New York's governor made a plea for manufacturers to produce masks to combat the dangerous shortage of protective gear for workers on the front lines. Designer Christian Siriano pledged his team, manufacturing capabilities to help make this happen.

So what can you, as a fashion fan, do to help the many people around the world affected by the Coronavirus? If you are in a position to hire someone remotely, even if it is not fashion, that would be great. Fashion writers, photographers, marketing pros adapt quickly to other industries. For independent brands, do some online shopping! If you need to try clothes on in person, you can always buy yourself or friend a gift certificate and spend it later.  Not in a financial position to shop or hire? If nothing else, send your fashion friends some online support, a good review, social media shoutout, or just call them. Stay connected. Hell, you can try on all your favorite outfits via video chat and get some feedback. Together we can all conquer COVID-19.


This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.
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