Tag Archives: shopping

Swedish Style Diary: Play Hard to Get, Take it Slow

Over several years working in the fashion industry, and countless more wondering what to wear, I’ve seen the topic of “sustainability,” appear with increasing frequency. And while the fashion industry and the media agree on its importance, no one seems able to land on a definition. The Financial Times’ Vanessa Friedman spent two days at a conference on the topic, only to conclude that “the more you try to figure it out, the more confusing it becomes.” She asked a handful of fashion designers to define the term and received as many varying answers—a troubling result, she wrote, as “sustainability” becomes more ubiquitous in the fashion community.

I don’t mind giving designers a little wiggle room as they find their places in the movement, but like Friedman, I’d like to clarify my own concept of sustainable style. So when the Swedish Institute invited me to Stockholm to learn about their country’s take on the idea, I happily accepted.

What I found on Day One in Stockholm surprised me.

Stockholm’s Old City, Gamla Stan

When I met Piotr Zaleski, one half of the duo behind denim label Julian Red, I expected to hear about sustainable materials like organic cotton and natural dyes, and I did. They were integrated into pieces like high-waisted, straight-legged, slightly cropped jeans (“The Lady Hi”—take note) and a floor-grazing skirt in midnight gauzy wool, hand-painted with thin stripes of watery rainbows. The styles were wearable and well-designed, so I found it odd when Piotr said that since 2003, their company has been growing by about 20% each season—much slower, he clarified, than many successful young fashion labels, that easily increase sales by 100% each season.

“Small quantities are the most ecological part of our business,” Piotr said. “The idea is not to make more than you need.”

Piotr Zaleski

He explained that Julian Red presently makes no more than about 200 pieces in a given style. It’s only now that he is confident with his supply chain, which includes fabric mills in Japan, and factories in Mauritius and Portugal, that Piotr will push the sales a little more—but just a little.

He manages both the brand’s marketing and production—a position that likely leaves him sleep-deprived, but also offers him the unique perspective to adopt an effectively non-aggressive sales style (I believe in dating we call this “hard to get”) that brings the label to stores like Oak in New York City and Isetan in Japan, while growing at a pace everyone—mills, factories and Piotr and his partner Mattias Lind—is comfortable with.  To boot, there aren’t scores of leftover clothing each season, an issue another Swedish brand has reckoned with in regrettable fashion.

This idea, sustainability defined as growth at a supportable pace for a business and its partners, shouldn’t seem so novel. But let’s be honest, this is fashion, and designers and the media alike have been trained to strike while the iron is hot, because it might not be for long.

But I think the guys at Julian Red are onto something, adding fuel to a fire—sustainable fashion—that is better off starting as a slow burn.



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Beware the “I Wants” of March

I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day, but today’s Closet Case Study references a different time in March.  Yesterday brought the first whisper of spring weather to Manhattan, and the first inspiring catalog Anthropologie has released in ages to my mailbox. The heady combination left me climbing into bed last night with a serious case of what my sister would diagnose as the “I Wants.”

The catalog still had some of the less-than-special pieces (knit rayon-argh!) that have permeated the store over the last few years, but it also had a bit of that old “Dries for real girls” magic that made me love it years ago in California. I think the “I Wants” started when I saw a floral Brazilian bathing suit, pictured under an oversized white button down shirt.

Anthropologie, March 2010, page 5

Well, I know I’ve got a perfect boyfriend-style white oxford from Steven Alan’s sample sale, and surely I must have a great Brazilian bathing suit in the archives from my time there

Yours truly, happily home in Rio de Janeiro, 2002

I flipped a few more pages, and then I saw this skirt:

Anthropologie March 2010, Page 21

I turned down the corner of the page. And then I thought, don’t I have a plum-colored silk skirt with a bustle, that I bought years ago in St. Louis? I do. If only I could find it. I could wear it with some little vintage Hawaiian print blouse to similar effect. 

Do you see it in here? I don’t.  

Maybe it’s in the “Spring bins” stacked beside my bed. (One of those books, by the way, contains a clue to my next trip’s destination.)

Rather than getting out of bed to look for the purple skirt, I flipped a few more pages, and found this amazing accessory, aptly titled, the “Epic Headband.” 

Anthropologie March 2010, Page 21

But upon further online investigation, I’ve found it’s little more that a shantung scarf, cleverly tied. Surely I’ve got one of those in the archives–many of which came out a couple years ago in celebration of the Prada turban

Indeed, they’re somewhere in there.

So it would seem that shopping, even for cheap accessories–which I previously prescribed this time of year, is not the sustainable solution for my pre-spring “I Wants.” Loathe as I am to admit it, I’m afraid the answer lies in cleaning, so I can see those purple bustle skirts, brilliant Brazilian bathing suits and springtime scarves fit to be tied. (The boyfriend button-down, however, is not missing, as I wear it year-round.) The best way to do this is with a friend–and I have two who balance the needs quite nicely. Some might say my friend Nicolette suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but I say she’s an organizational savant. She made me hang up all my necklaces like this, and it wouldn’t be an understatement to say it changed my life–or at least the way I accessorize. Okay, my life. 

Kristen Joy Watts, on the other hand, who you may remember as a bit of a style savant, and has previously referred to my closet as Narnia (like the shop we love), will help set about unlocking its magic. Ideally, each will sit on my bed on a Saturday, and help me purge and reorganize my bins, drawers, wardrobes, boxes and closets, in exchange for a home-cooked meal and likely a cocktail or two. I can already hear how this will go.

Nicolette: “I can’t believe you ever wore that.” Kristen: “You should wear that tonight. With scrunchy socks.” (That, my dears, will be one hell of a Closet Case Study!)

So I’ve already got spring’s most important accessories–friends to help me mine for inspiration. Now my main “I Want” is centered around one wish: the weather to wear this stuff.

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Malia Mills NYC Sample Sale

I know it’s hardly swimsuit season, but Malia Mills‘ are the absolute best, and usually quite pricey. Here’s my own favorite, bought for $20 at their sale last summer:

The suits are made in New York City’s Garment Center, right across the hall from the sale. Here’s a little window into Malia’s workspace I shot last year, where she talks about the importance of overseeing her supply chain. For more on Malia and the Garment District, read up here! And find the details for the sale below. 

Malia Mills is hosting the ultimate swimwear separates celebration!

For two days, find favorite styles from seasons past for $20 bucks a piece at our Studio Sale Extravaganza. It’s a new year, and we’ve got “newly vintage” Malia Mills mixers galore!

Tops 30A to 40DD, Bottoms 2 to 16

Add to your swimwear wardrobe and 10% of your purchase will go to The New York Women’s Foundation. http://www.nywf.org/

When? Wednesday, February 24th and Thursday, February 25th

10 am until 6 pm

Where? Malia Mills, 263 West 38th St, Floor 16, between 7th and 8th Avenues

Cash, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard Accepted

It might seem a world away today, but summertime is inevitable.

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

I went to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the Film Forum the other night and realized I’ve never watched the entire movie from start to finish. I absolutely loved it, and suffice to say I could identify with Ms. Golightly when she expressed her love of Tiffany’s–not so much because of the jewelry, but because I too have felt that inside certain shops, nothing bad could befall me.

On the way home from the movies, crossing SoHo, we passed Purl, the knitting shop where I bought my first skein of yarn in 2003. It was dark, silent, and freezing on Sullivan Street, but Purl was lit up like a Christmas tree.

It was the first night of the year, and I think they were doing inventory.

I stopped to peer into the window undetected for a moment before continuing to the J-Train. Incidentally, I had a project waiting for me at home, for the very fella who escorted me to the Film Forum. (Well-earned, you may be thinking, but I think he liked the movie as much as I did.) This is it–completed just a couple of days ago. Nevermind that wavy rib.

I started this in California, with the help of  Strands Knitting Studio in San Clemente.

It was a fortuitous find  on my way home from the Casa de Kathy Thrift Shop. I couldn’t resist.

Once hooked, I picked out a skein of charcoal grey Misti Alpaca yarn and the Gwyneth Paltrow-lookalike manning the store helped me work out a pattern.

Strands got me started, but I couldn’t have finished that beanie without popping by Purl, just a couple days after passing by that cold night. (It really takes a village.) I had knit myself into a bit of a corner and needed help getting the hat off the needles at the end. My stitches were too tight. As ever, one of the ladies at Purl was patiently helpful. Maybe she shook her head at me ever so slightly, but it was only as she bailed me out.

You might not believe it, but on my way across SoHo to Purl that very afternoon, for help with the project I started at Strands in San Clemente, I came across yet another amazing, and completely different knitting store.  All I wanted to do was buy the yarn to start another project, but I made myself wait, at least until the charcoal beanie was finished. Now I’m ready for my next project, and dying to return to my new find so I can tell you all about it, but it may have to wait for a day or two.

As Ms. Golightly could attest, this restlessness is exhausting.


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CLOSETTOUR, California Style

I did a pretty good job packing for a California Christmas, with one major exception: I forgot my sunglasses.

Flea Market Sunnies in Rio

I have a couple of great vintage pairs at home,  from Eu Amo Vintage in Rio de Janeiro, including the ones pictured below, but none made it into my suitcase.

My Stripey Blue Ones, pre-purchase at Eu Amo Vintage, 2008

I hate the thought of buying another pair when I’ve got these great ones at home. Borrowing isn’t really an option, since my host is a guy of formidable stature (a bonus when it comes to loaner sweatshirts, but not so much for sunnies.) But while I was taking a little morning walk around San Clemente today, cooling off after a hot yoga class (it seems I always end up closing my practice with second-hand shopping), I came across the Casa de Kathy Thrift Shop. California thrift shops are the greatest, as I’ve mentioned in my reminiscence of Ventura, and Kathy’s was no exception.There were only a couple pairs of sunnies, but I scored these for a grand total of 50 cents.

The Case de Kathy had some other great pieces too, like a pair of high-waisted, pleated, peg-legged Ralph Lauren Country khakis that would be muy cute with wedge espadrilles and a black tank top in New York, were it not 35 degrees farenheit there. They were made in the U.S.A., and the boy working said although they were marked $6, he could sell them for $3.50. It’s something to think about. Maybe after yoga tomorrow. For now I’m kicking back behind my new shades.


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My Neighborhood Mollusk

Yesterday I took the wetsuit search to Mollusk, a surf shop not far from my place in Brooklyn. They didn’t have any loaners hanging around, but I have to admit that on a winter afternoon with vacation just a day away, I sort of just liked the idea of biking to a neighborhood spot. 

I never really thought about the surf shop as community center, since I’ve never been a big surfer (standing up for me, is a victorious day on the waves), but last fall when I made this little audio slideshow there, and one of the guys there told me how in the ’50s and ’60s surf shops served that function, it did make sense.

I think it was my friend, neighbor, and former colleague from LoomstateMoose Huerta (I still like his old blog) who first introduced me to the spot, probably via some summer evening barbeque, or stopping by to replace a broken fin (his, not mine) or something lovely of that nature.

Mollusk was equally pleasant yesterday. As always, it smelled like neoprene inside–an odor that was totally charmless when I lived in Santa Barbara, where surfers’ wetsuits hung in most showers; but is sort of precious now, and coupled with afternoon sunlight bouncing off the snow outside the window, made for a nice visit. Chris Gentile, one of the owners was working, and he told me that they’re moving to a bigger space soon. It’s rather sad they’re leaving the exceptional space that is Monster Island (more to come on that), but they’ll have more room for rental boards and wetsuits, apparel, books, and beyond.

I love the cabin-like corner on River Street where Mollusk lives for the moment, but I imagine they’ll take that neighborhood vibe and neoprene smell wherever they go. 

And in the meantime, I think a wetsuit has materialized in San Clemente.

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Update: Retail and Restoration

You may remember how disappointed I was last month when I came across this on a restorative walk through SoHo.


One of my favorite vintage haunts, Sweet Tater, had closed. I’ve since received emails from both of the Sweet Tater tots, Sarah and Christina, telling me where to find their wares. Sarah sells her vintage denim, shoes, and coats at Artists and Fleas every Saturday in Williamsburg, and Christina has opened a lovely shop, Portia & Manny, on Elizabeth Street in Nolita.
Portia & Manny, 198 Elizabeth Street
My sister, not usually one for vintage, picked up a pair of ’70s wide-leg jeans at Portia & Manny when she visited from Australia a few weeks ago. They’re made of nice sturdy denim, but are thin and loose enough to be comfortable for the summer Down Under. There she is in her front yard. 

I would be tempted to see if there’s a sister pair at Portia & Manny with my name on them, but the lovely thing about having a sister in the Southern Hemisphere is that we have our summer clothes on a time share. Maybe when Sara packs up the sundresses in May, maybe she’ll put those pretty pants in the box for me too. 


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