Fashion Tag Archives

MariNoLoves || Norway Through The Eyes of Designer Mari Norden

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Snow was falling when we arrived in Oslo, Norway—albeit spring snow, the kind that melts the moment it touches the ground—and we were immediately reminded that we were arriving in a place where warmth, sunlight and color is a luxury. There was some sort of marathon in the city center that kept us laughing as we acquainted ourselves with the city streets. The runners were galloping in circles and in criss-cross fashion. They went up and then down the same streets, marked by partitions and onlookers yelling encouragement, around Oslo Center. The Norwegians were out in large numbers, some bundled appropriately against the still frigid spring, and some letting the strengthening sun of late April kiss their exposed skin. We were witnessing the frenzied energy of the return of the warmer months and feeling the palpable excitement of the Nordic people who must hideaway throughout much of the year against the truly fierce cold.

We were seeing Oslo during its seasonal awakening, a spark of life emerging after the dormancy of winter. There was a palpable excitement of the Nordic people having left their wintertide hiding places.  It was only appropriate, then, that we visit the studio of designer and silk screener Mari Norden whose designs exist as a reflection of this excitement and as a spark of color emerging from the staid Scandinavian design scape of black and white.

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Designer Mari Norden, who’s namesake brand MarinoLoves sparked my attention on an evening scrolling through Instagram searching #NorwegianDesign, is a beautiful blaze of color and warmth. The aforementioned snow was falling on a particularly grey morning when we came upon Mari’s studio in an old industrial-residential area of Oslo. When she opened the door to invite us in out of the cold it was like stumbling upon a stoked fire in its hearth.

“It’s not chic, it’s sheep.” – Mari Norden

Her bright, friendly eyes—as full of sparkle and smiles as she is—see the tradition of minimalism in Scandinavian fashion a bit differently than I do. When I used the word “chic” to describe the controlled, color-blocked street fashion of the Norwegians, she immediately corrected me with the quip, “It’s not chic, it’s sheep.”  Mari’s almost counter-culture view on fashion in the land of black & white—that it should excite, draw attention and be an extension of your own energy—is no surprise when you walk around her studio. A rainbow of color in silks and wools, so vibrant it almost vibrates, paints the clothing rack positioned in the corner of the room. Tufts of snow cone colored reindeer hair—the same that adorns the lapel of her fuchsia coat pictured above—seemingly grow from a section of wall in her studio. The models that grace the pages of her look book carry balloon bouquets and wear balloon crowns. When you discover that the first piece of clothing she ever designed was made from a sky-blue bean bag chair that she deconstructed, followed by years of finding those little synthetic balls all over the house, the picture completes itself.

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After beginning to sew at age ten, Mari daydreamed about her future as a designer getting good grades along the way, and arrived at Middlesex University in London where she studied fashion. It was there, during her last year of university, that she got really into silkscreen printing, practically living in her school’s excellent printing facilities. You’ll recognize this technique in her work to this day, balancing the solids of her collection with playful patterns.

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But not all of Mari’s approaches to design are counter to her homeland’s approach to fashion. She focuses on all natural fibers and sustainable practices that fall directly in line with the Scandinavian tradition of social and environmental consciousness. It is this cobimnation of mindful, yet unfettered, creation that makes Mari’s pieces such treasures and her collections exemplary of a new understanding of Scandinavian design.

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After spending the morning chatting with Mari about Norway, New York City, The Netherlands, London, cinema, fashion, art, and beyond, it was clear that, while her last name—Norden, or “The North”—identifies her as a native daughter, we were meeting a person that redefine what is considered quintessentially Norwegian. In a land of people perceived (and often identifying) as introverted, wild emotions—especially those in opposition to the norm—are rarely visible. Mari’s unique perspective on design and true passion for turning the conventional on it’s ear is an inspiration.

We said our goodbyes and emptied back out into the frigid spring air. There was a context now, for this vast, snowy land and a comfort in knowing—at least in one specific example—how the beautiful minds of this society stoke their own creative fires. Our eyes were attuned now, finding the pops of color, warmth and rebellion wherever they sprang up. Be it a grafitti’d wall blooming amongst the concrete, an underground club washed in the cathartic screams of Death Metal or the radiant rainbow of the MariNoLoves collections, the Norwegians are getting their fix.

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For more on Mari Norden and MariNoLoves, please visit: www.marinoloves.com.

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The “Captain” Queen of Vintage

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There may be no better story suited for these pages than that of Nicole Katherine Alexander, aka The “Captain” Queen of Vintage. It was she that became my guardian goddess when I arrived back in Brooklyn after my year teaching and writing in Korea, feeling rather lost and in need of someone to shed some light onto my life and help me to distinguish the direction of my path. In essence, by example, it was Nicole that helped me get my feet under me and start finding my way as the creative hopeful I was in the big city. I had arrived back to NYC in the late summer of 2010 and came to work during the fall at the local Brooklyn boutique, A. Cheng, where Nicole was the manager at the time. My memory of those days is filtered through bright orange mornings, the sounds of gated store fronts clattering open and the smell of Gorilla Coffee. Nicole would always arrive to work in some vision of vintage: full skirts, dramatic capes layered over functional wool sweaters to protect against the growing cold and statement pieces of jewelry either collected or created by her. We spent our days tending to the shop and, in the moments of calm that occasionally came, talking about life, art, womanhood and our city at large. Nicole was perhaps one of my first examples of a life perfectly curated. What I witnessed in her was a cultivated balance of self-love and an outpouring of creative energy that is really, in many ways, the inspiration behind Naked City Style.
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Autumn and the weeks leading up to Halloween will always remind me most of Nicole, given the fact that it is when we first came together so many years back, but also because nobody brings the fire to a costume party like she. I once attended a Halloween party with Nicole where she was dressed in a fabulous outfit carrying a giant cardboard cut out of a phone. When people would ask her what she was dressed as, she would confidently reply, “Shhhhh….I’m on the phone.” Her humor, sense of style and craftiness make Halloween the ultimate playground. This must have been on our minds when I visited her Bedstuy apartment for this shoot, because our photographs took a turn in the direction of all things witchy and whimsical. I had asked Nicole how her vintage collection was coming along—perhaps one of her longest running passions for which she has an indestructible gift—and without missing a beat she asked, “Well, do you mean clothing, shoes or bags?” Anyone who has a collection thriving enough to necessitate breaking them down into succinct categories certainly has a lot to teach the rest of us. And so, without wasting time, she began to dive into said collection to pull out the choice pieces that are featured here. Nicole tried to suggest that she wasn’t the most comfortable being photographed. The camera immediately called her bluff. If there is one thing I’ve always known about Nicole, it is that her contagious (and seemingly unceasing) energy demands attention. 

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In fact, in the years after working at A. Cheng, Nicole has found her way to the stage. A place, in my opinion, she was born to inhabit. She and her team, Solarium, perform every third Saturday of the month at The Triple Crown Alehouse & Restaurant on the border of Chelsea and Midtown. But Nicole also occasionally performs solo, like during the recent Blood Moon Kaleidoscope. There she improvised monologues initiated by the audience, all in the name of sister witches, the moon and comedy. I asked her if styling is a big part of her performance, and, while she confirmed that she has done some prop building and costuming for her shows and for the shows of friends, it would seem as though her attention to dress is a part of her life that simply and happily permeates all that she does. Spending the day at her home was a performance in and of itself, watching her flit about piecing together enviable ensembles of vintage Versace, vintage Norma Kamali and a bounty of other treasures found on Etsy (she is a self-proclaimed “Etsy Sleuth”!) and across the United States.

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It is this contagious spirit, this laughter and love of life and inherent sense of style that make her such a prime example of supreme womanhood. But, moreover, it is her fierce femininity and her desire to help bring other women up that make her an idol. In addition to her incessant vintage collecting, her improv work and her days spent at the incredibly hip LES outpost of Love Adorned, Nicole also works as an organizer for the company The Artful Bachelorette which hosts parties at which women learn how to sketch live nude male models. Her business cards read (only naturally) Nicole “Captain” Alexander.

This beauty is a beacon of serious girl power vibes each and every day of her life. The world is lucky to have her.

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In closing, it felt only appropriate that I should ask Nicole to share some of her sage knowledge with us here, straight from the unicorn’s mouth:

What are your top 5 rules of wisdom that you would share with your 10-years-younger-self or a freshly landed creative about chasing dreams? 
1. Be your own best friend. This world is cruel and filled with people that will want to tear you down…be kind to your inner self & be forever encouraging, only you can stop you.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst thing that can happen is a no – but I have found that in most cases, when you are clear about want you want and your intentions…the universe makes a way for it to happen.
3. Do some fucking push ups or something man!!! (I’m) slowly getting flabbier…(I) really should have gotten that base layer muscle in my twenties…
4.  Travel more. While I love the work that I do…I get ULTRA committed to it. I love being successful in my work, but am still working on that perfect balance.
5. WEAR SUNSCREEN. Why didn’t I do this????? Ladies & gentlemen, wear that shit everyday. Even though I have lived a life out of the sun more than others (I tend to burn), I still see the effects of sun damage (and old age).
When the little voice inside of you says “you’re not good enough” what do you do to quiet it?
This is a very good question…and relates back to “being your own best friend.” I’ve practiced this type of thinking since high school – and honestly it has been a saving grace in so many of life’s darkest hours. I am also sure to tell myself that everyone has to start somewhere – and if I do feel a lack of ability/confidence…I WILL FAKE THAT SHIT TIL I MAKE THAT SHIT. Then I always end up making it – truly, I do always have faith that I will. By now, I trust myself at 34, to get it done. I am very excited about what life is yet to bring…and the projects that I have yet to take on.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what are the most important items you’d take with you?

– Weed plant & weed pouch
– Beach boys ‘Friends’ album (with record player b/c they are married)
– A monkey best friend (will also accept a feathered tropical bird friend…or dolphin)
– SUNSCREEN – we talked about this
– Three HUGE shipwrecked crates of peanut m&ms
For more advice, to book parties with The Artful Bachelorette or to have the sleuth track down your most coveted vintage item, email Nicole at nka.brooklyn@gmail.com.
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Weekly Round-Up

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This weekly round-up is incorporating the weekend, for a change. Nothing clears the air and opens up the waves of communication and creativity like a dramatic rain storm, and this is how the weekend began. Pounding rain and smears of traffic lights while I hid out under the BQE on my bike, trying to make a plan for how I was to make it to the city without getting (more, entirely) soaked. It actually felt energizing to be in the midst of such chaos after the oppressive air of Mercury retrograde had lifted.

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Our final destination for the evening (after stashing bikes in Joe’s classroom in Downtown Brooklyn) was the birthday party of our dear friend in her Chinatown apartment. Dumplings and red wine and champagne and cucumber slices with Ponzo fueled our post rainstorm bliss and we spoke and danced and reconnected and became closer. This sweet friend and her sweet husband bring together some of the most enchanting people from all walks and being in their home (a veritable museum of art, handiwork and natural curiosities from their worldwide adventures) is always calming, fortifying and inspiring. I am so moved to be with people and interact with the world now that my self-inflicted mercurial misery of the past weeks is over.

Rachel, Joe and myself were even motivated to “play Korea” as we often are, calling upon our surreal time together so long ago in a foreign place, and went in search of late-night, authentic cuisine in one of the last corners of New York City that remains extraordinary, curious and exciting. Our adventures in late night dumplings brought us to Mission Chinese, which after much run-around from the host, introduced us to some of the better food we’ve had the joy of eating. Authentic and fringe and tucked away it was not, but the experience was certainly wild and bizarre which is what we were hoping to encounter.

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I was so lucky to have spent time with the immensely talented Jack Woertz this past week. Seeing her work space and learning the ins and outs of one of my favorite crafts—leather tooling—from the pro herself was a blast and I cannot wait to share her story here on the blog. We first spent time together back in August at the oasis of a Brooklyn home she inhabits with her lovely girlfriend (the site of the Bohemian Collective photo shoot for Morphologically with Dawn Marie West). I had been dying to get back to that space and hear the full story of Jack’s life and work after having a sneak peek into her world. And now, more than ever, I want to shout from the rooftops: “Get out there, people, and MAKE THINGS WITH YOUR HANDS!” It’s what the world needs more of. IMG_6647-2

Finally, I found this INCREDIBLE floral jersey at Beacon’s Closet in Park Slope on this gorgeous Saturday past and I have been wearing it ever since (including to the Brooklyn Nets Open Practice on Sunday morning because it felt totally appropriate for the occasion). The piece is one of my most exciting finds in recent history as I seem to have stepped away from thrifting lately. But, after finding it, I was inspired to watch (at long last) IRIS, the documentary on the goddess of self-expression through dress, Iris Apfel, making me fall even more deeply in love with it. It makes me feel so amazing and empowered for an inexplicable reason and I am honestly going to try to incorporate this top into as many outfits as possible, and see if I can’t work it into a “professional” ensemble for a meeting or an event. I think it can work!

Wishing you late night dance parties, happy rain storms, craftiness and all the love in the world.

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#NakedGemGiveaway with The Grateful Gemhead

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This collaboration began as a beautiful desert dream back in May.  Maria and I were exploring the Mojave, marinating on how we could marry what it is that we both do—me; finding and featuring amazing babes doing note worthy creative things, she; sourcing gorgeous gems from around the country and beyond and, most recently, setting up shop near her home in Long Island to create gorgeous, earthy jewels with her bounty of stones—and we knew that whatever we did together would have to inspire the wanderlust and bohemian lifestyle that brought us both together in the first place.  Maria and I have bonded endlessly over how simultaneously wonderful and frustrating it is to be a creative entrepreneur in today’s world.  We’ve shared ideas, motivated each other and inspired one another, and I couldn’t be more excited for how far her business has come and her first steps into the world of jewelry making, something she has been working towards for the past year or so.  It is with this same joy that we bring you the #NakedGemGiveaway featuring items that symbolize both of our stories and our respective creative passions: a tooled leather Moroccan satchel, pre-loved and purchased in the covered markets in Fez, carrying with it the energy of far-flung destinations and boundless exploration.  An Arkansas quartz crystal cluster, sourced with love by the Gem Head herself, and the tour de force, the hand made sterling silver and turquoise pendant designed and crafted on Maria’s bench.  In the spirit of our shared love of adventure and our favorite season, we are asking that you tag #NakedGemGiveaway in the Instagram photo of your most beloved summer travel moment, be it to an exotic country far away or a staycation of camping and sunbathing in your backyard, for your chance to win this beautiful package.  Wishing you well and hoping that all of your summer fantasies come true!

The Brooklyn Bruja

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I was happy that big fat raindrops were falling on the day I visited Melissa McGill’s home studio for this shoot. We had wanted to take our photographs outdoors—her brilliant red hair would have looked stunning punched up against a colorful Bedstuy backdrop—but my creative spirit always feels most open during a storm, and what better time to collaborate with such an electric, soulful beauty as Melissa?  Besides, it gave me the opportunity to explore her wondrous space and share it with you here.

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Walking into Melissa’s home is like walking into a still life curated by time: rife with natural curiosities, happy plants in all shades of green, keepsakes and totems of a lifetime of adventure and experience and, of course, the tools and treasures of her labor, all perfectly placed and humming with good energy.  Founder and creator of Morphologically NYC—a line of hand crafted aromatherapy wares for the body and home—Melissa has made it her mission to help heal and hearten all who use her exquisite products.  Nothing is more apparent when walking over the threshold of Melissa’s home, a proverbial pot is always bubbling on the stove, her home (as well as the host), is always warm and welcoming and a testament to a life lived in wellness.

Melissa had a houseguest during my visit—a miniature Yorkie named Bubba, a sweet little girl who stole the show and somehow made it into almost every frame we shot that day.  There is also a house mouse happily living in a fancy new cage—saved from an untimely death and immortalized in a framed portrait that is displayed on Melissa’s mantel. The true protectress of the house, Melissa’s 19 year old cat Mephistopheles, wisely spent the day sleeping, hidden in the fabulous mess we created of vintage, thrift and coveted designer pieces that Melissa has collected. A couple of these outfits that laid strewn about, in the organized chaos that only those truly clothes-minded can understand, she had picked up from a local Brooklyn street vendor the day before this shoot. Having left a decade long career in the industry to make some magic of her own, her day-to-day is still a flurry of fun sartorial choices.  A stunner with a background in performance art who rolls with a veritable coven of stylish, driven goddesses like herself, Melissa feels just as much at home in some wild costume she has created—red lips and skull ring ablazin’—as she does in an understated pair of denim jeans and chuck taylors with a bit of studded embellishment left over from her metal kid days.

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“I’m holistic, but I have an edge too; it’s important that people understand that about me.” A woman who meditates daily and eminates a feeling of calm, Melissa also has an infectious, feral personality.  She’s exactly the person you’d want to call when you’re feeling ill to ask for one of her custom aromatherapy blends and perhaps curl up on her couch while her spritely energy soothes you, but she’s the same person you’d call to catch a midnight concert and dance into the morning light. She would probably wear a hit-the-floor black dress to the latter, perhaps with some feathers braided into her hair.

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A vision of humility and grace, Melissa is the first to tell you how blessed she feels in this new entrepreneurial chapter of her life. “I don’t like to use the word too much because it feels insincere, but I really do feel so blessed.”  She certainly puts as much good into the world as she receives back and fosters a univeral connection with all people.  Her willingness to talk to everyone and to listen to advice as she “dives all-in” in pursuit of her passions will undoubtedly be her key to continued success, both in life and career.  Just remember when dream chasing to “carry a tube of bright lipstick with you for when you have a surprise first encounter and can’t do anything else to prepare but show up.”

Proof that you can take the girl out of fashion, but you can’t take the fashion out of the girl.

 

 

For more on Melissa and her exquisite brand and to shop her products, visit www.morphologically.com

Window Portrait photo credit: Dawn Marie West

To The Original Icon, Happy Mother’s Day

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In honor of Mother’s Day I had wanted to create a tribute to the fashionable moms and daugthers in recent history (re: Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lisa Bonet and Zoe Kravitz, Anna Wintour and Bee Shaffer).  Yet, while flipping through online galleries of these lovely women, I realized more and more that the individual whom I most wanted to pay homage to was my original fashion icon–a true Betty–my mother.  A self-proclaimed hater of shopping (except when it comes to buying accessories and plants for the garden) my mom wouldn’t describe herself as a fashionista.  Yet I credit her, and thank her more than she knows, for teaching me by example to embrace vintage and electic pieces and mix them in with more staid, functional classics. Being a first generation Brooklynite with French and Italian parents she may as well have invented the “look” of Park Slope as we all know it now.  Wide brimmed hats, boyfriend jeans embellished by her own embroidery and patchwork, airy linen dresses and espadrills.  She was a teenager in the 1970’s, afterall, a time when Brooklyn was still a far-and-away destination from the established island of Manhattan, budding with its own counter culture.  She was a dancer who studied at the Performing Arts school of Fame fame (she wasn’t in the movie herself but a close friend of her’s was) and later at the Sorbonne in Paris where she tells stories of the bohemian life, taking baths with her cousin and then roommate to conserve water and scraping the mold off of the cheese from the makeshift ice box for lunch.  Stories like these are why, among so many other reasons, she remains of paramount example to me.

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A fearless lover of life and travel into her later years, she just returned home from five weeks traveling through Laos, Cambodia and Thailand with my father.  The two of them bonded over the vagabond lifestyle in their formative years as a couple and have continued fostering it until this day–moving from New York City to Maine where the culture and landscape lends itself more readily to weekend adventures, sprawling backyards and storage for boat, ski and camping equipment.  Her style was always, and is to this day, ammassed of a collection of pieces that tell a story: Italian hiking boots (a bit of her heritage), silk scarves collected in her travels or gifts from loved ones, pearl jewelry purchased by my father on an international flight.  For some it may be hard to pin-point exactly what vibe she is trying to portray.  And that’s because she’s not trying to portray anything.  Her style is very much her own: eclectic, functional, and classicly my mother.

So today, and everyday, I thank her for all that she is and for instilling in me the desire to be my own person, both in fashion and in life.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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Attractive People, Attractive Places – The Roadtrip

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Few vacations breath as much room for exploration, inspiration and reflection into your life as a road trip. Be it an escape, a pursuit, or a mixture of the two, the open road does wonders to cleanse the soul and always reveals a new beginning at the end of the journey.  Solar flares, coffee stains, sunglasses and the ever-pulsing road mixtape define your destiny: a new set of rules exist and time disappears.

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This past trip through Texas and Louisiana certainly shook something loose in me and re-instilled my desire to meet, photograph and write about the people, places and things that inspire me. It was incredible and exciting (albeit a bit tiring and frantic at times…) to wake up and go to sleep in a new place each day. We drove through some of the biggest cities in the South, only to then spend miles passing heartbreakingly beautiful fields of wild animals and livestock that stretched out to the horizon. In Louisiana we drove along an elevated highway with nothing but the wild bayou beneath us—a forest of trees all around, covered to their very tops with water, giving the illusion of a sunken world. It was peaceful and centering to be away from my computer for a week and to write all of my thoughts and notes in a journal.

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While on our trip I found a great quote by the epic Slim Aarons who said that he photographed “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places”—and it perfectly sums up what these pages are devoted to, but in my case it’s the attractive people and their attractive projects…the things that make them tick and, in turn, make me tick. This is why I love to travel—you stumble upon those things (the people, the places, the projects) that you may have never discovered otherwise.

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Likewise, the best part of any road trip is discovering something new: be it down some dusty road where few have been before you, or right under your nose in a bustling metropolis. Our travels brought us to the doorstep of many wondrous new places (shout out to AirBnB and all of our hosts along the way…) but it was in New Orleans, the city we ended our trip in, that I discovered one of my (new) favorite designers: Ashley Porter of Porter Lyons.

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Her imaginative, sculptural designs representative of bayou and southwestern themes and imagery, infused with the Californian cool of the native-born artist, are exactly what I would have hoped to find on my journey. With collections like “Rebuild,” “Voodoo” and “Alligator” its hard not to get jazzed on learning more about Porter Lyons – the brand and the woman behind it. I picked up a piece from the “Backbone” collection—the Backbone Medallion—cast from real alligator backbone scutes* and have been wearing it ever since and poring over her site and instagram to learn more.

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And so, with this perfect talisman to commemorate a long journey, a new designer to covet, a million photos and pounds of laundry, I return to my “real” life with eyes open.

Shop Porter Lyons online or in New Orleans at Hemline or the Frenchmen Art Market.

 

*A Scute is a bony external plate or scale overlaid with horn, as on the shell of a turtle, the skin of crocodilians, and the feet of birds.