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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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Weekly Round Up – Puerto Rico

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Some would use the phrase, “It’s like rain I’d never seen before.” But as powerful and relentless as it was, I had seen rain like this before. It was the same rain that tinted our windows black in Gwangju, adding a pause in the day to consider the sound of your own loneliness. It was the rain that rarely came in Sevilla, but when it did the town would briefly fall under a spell and come out smelling like sodden clay. It was the rain that rose up past the tires of our car on my first trip to Puerto Rico and turned palm trees and lights into shadows and smears.

As we drove the dark and mountainous rode from Ponce to San Juan I felt the electricity–a mixture of terror and ecstatic delirium–that comes to me in moments when I am completely out of control of what is to come. This feeling happens often in travel when I’ve been in a place long enough to have a routine, but something occurs that reminds me that I am still at the whim of this foreign place. It happened to me on this recent trip to Puerto Rico because, despite the fact that I had landed on the island only 12 hours prior, I was blissed out to be back among Spanish speakers in a capacity other than “tourist.” I was also duly petrified by the combination of darkness, lateness and infernal rain we were experiencing.

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It should go without saying, as I sit here writing this, that we made it safely back to San Juan. A fate for which I owe everything to the adeptness of my companion and driver to whom a little tropical rain storm is nothing if not routine. I spent the next days falling more deeply and deeply in love with my temporary life as an Islander, delighting in my cafe con leches purchased in Spanish, my daily commutes to work on which I often had the same taxi driver and my moments (though infrequent) to feel the Caribbean sun turning my skin rapidly brown.

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IMG_8213I fell asleep each night to a chirping Coqui and awoke each morning to the sight of a reflecting pool stretching out toward the crashing waves of the open ocean. I felt blessed to be back, if only for a moment, in a place just foreign enough to feel that specific electricity.

So, until next time.

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Featured rain photo courtesy of Unsplash.com, Photography by Christopher.

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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!

Dispatch from the Desert

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Just seventeen miles outside of what most of the world pictures when they think about Las Vegas—the lights, the scantily clad, the fortunes won and lost—is an expansive landscape magnificent and martian in its curiosity. Odd trees burnt by the relentless sun sag toward the earth like something from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, massive cliffs of limestone and bulbous formations of sandstone press against a cloudless sky of the brightest blue and desert creatures scuttle about in the sage brush.  It’s hard to imagine such pristine natural beauty exists so close to a city built as a mirage of dreams.

I travel annually to Sin City but had never before made it out to the true desert. The Couture Jewelry and JCK Luxury shows are all held in the heart of Las Vegas at the end of May each year and the industry flocks to revel in a celebration and presentation of the best in the business. Being surrounded by such talent and innovation in fine jewelry and filling my days working with incredible brands and discovering new pieces and designers leaves little time for extracurricular expolaration, but each year that I find myself leaving the desert without having trekked into the red mountains that touch the horizon in each visible direction from Las Vegas I regret it.  So this year I made the trip, and who better to go with than the crystal-toting bohemian beauty of my heart, Maria, alias @GratefulGemHead.

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Maria’s crystal business is an inspiration– with an unparalled knowledge of the stones and their properties, she sources from across the country and makes them accessible to rock heads nationwide.  On our trip she actually had a piece with her to ship to a loyal, repeat purchaser based in Las Vegas and we joked about showing up at this person’s house with merchandise in tow — perhaps not the best idea in a place where signs advertise “Shoot Real Machine Guns” and “Las Vegas Battefield” every 20 feet. She is in the midst of growing her jewelry business featuring the gorgeous crystals she sources and as such, this idea to collaborate on a story was formed.

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Red Rock Canyon is a straight shot outside of the city by highway, and the arrow straight road that takes you into the foothills of the mountains stretches into 360 degree landscape of rich color; stripes of bone-white rock painted onto the dusty red cliffs are framed by green brush below and blue skies above.  The radio was tuned to the local classic rock station and Stevie Nicks sang in her wild voice welcoming us to the edge of nowhere.  Nothing makes you feel such freedom as barreling down a road hazy with heat rising off of the concrete and dissapearing into a world without cell service.

The outside temparature was a blissful 88 degrees with a breeze when we rolled into the canyon park midmorning which made the day exploring and photographing a pleasant one with the onset of heat exhaustion slow and sneaky as we ran around in the hot sun for hours–we thankfully remembered to apply sunscreen twice on our trip and walked away unscathed, though a bit dehydrated.  The dress I was wearing was the perfect camoflage in the desert with dusty brown and red colors.  I love the photos of me being swallowed up by the vast landscape.  You can imagine how little justice the photos do for this vivid expanse of rock–when you stand at the base of these mountains the wild formations they take make them look as though they are moving even though they are as still as the dead.

Laying back on sun drenched stone with nothing but the sound of the wind echoing through the caves is the closest I’ve been to pure bliss in a very long time.

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The crystals we photographed in the desert come alive as though they found themselves at home after a long journey and the purity of the land, the company of Maria’s spirit and the excitement of a seemingly endless expanse of beauty inspired future collaborations.  I am so very excited to work with Maria as she launches her jewelry line and you should definitely look forward to some summer fun–and an amazing give-away–with this babe. Stay tuned!

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