My New Custom Chucks

I have a fun new purchase to share. But first, an anecdote.

You may recall that I took a design tour of Milan last year. While packing for the trip, I decided to wear my trusty old Converse low-tops on the flight for comfort, thinking that I'd leave them in the hotel closet for the duration of my stay. Milan, after all, is one of the top fashion capitals of the world and I'd heard that Milanese women wear stilettos everywhere...even on bicycles (since confirmed).

But what I didn't know then is this: when Milanese women are not wearing stilettos, they are wearing Converse All Stars! I'm telling you, these iconic American sneakers were everywhere in Milan. It seemed like every 3rd person on the sidewalk (women and men alike) was wearing them.

Billboards promoted them:

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Store fronts featured them (and knock-offs):

Milan Shop Window

And mine ended up getting a pretty good tour of the town...to meet designer Antonio Marras...

Antonio Marras

...and tour his gorgeous studio...

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...to relax on the roof deck at 10 Corso Como...

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..and lounge in my room at the Chateau Monfort.

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Interestingly, I even wore them to tour Missoni headquarters and was delighted to learn when I returned home that Converse had teamed up with Missoni to launch six new designs featuring their famous chevron print.

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But the most exciting thing was when Converse - which was founded in nearby Malden, MA, and spent its most recent history in North Andover, MA (not far from my childhood home) - moved its worldwide headquarters to Lovejoy Wharf in Boston's North End (about a half mile from my current home).

Converse

The building houses about 500 employees, as well as Rubber Tracks (a community-based professional recording studio), and a 3500 square foot retail store on the ground level. Converse CEO Jim Calhoun even popped in to check on things while we were there (I hear his office is on the glass-encased top-floor of the building, which was a new addition that must afford spectacular 360-degree views of the city). Check out the fun lights in the lobby of the office building:

Converse Lobby

At the back of the retail store is the Blank Canvas workshop, where shoppers can customize their kicks, including choice of colors, materials, rubber toe caps, grommets, laces, and images - either from an assortment of ones in the Converse database (they have lots of fun Boston-themed images), or one you upload yourself (assuming you have copyright).

Which brings me to the real subject of this post, my sweet new customized Chuck Taylors:

Lulu Chucks

Because they're from the Boston store, they have the city designation inside, and a red strip along the bottom representing the Freedom Trail.

Converse Boston

How cool is that? The ability to not only customize but really personalize the shoe - and to do it so quickly (often same-day, mine took a couple of days due to backlog) - is awesome. Bravo, Converse.

I'll see you around the Wharf.

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Antonio Marras + Daniela Zedda

Browsing through a recent issue of InStyle Magazine today, I was overjoyed to see a reference to  Antonio Marras (even though his wild animal runway look was deemed over the top for anyone but a street-style star).

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Last month when I visited Milan, I had the chance to visit Antonio's concept store, Circolomarras - and meet the Sardinian-born womenswear designer himself - in the heart of Zona Tortona, on via Cola di Rienzo, 8.

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His studio/concept store is absolutely gorgeous, and one of the most memborable visits of the trip. In true Milan fashion, it sits back off the street, through a gate and a secret-garden of sorts.

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Inside an old factory workshop with vaulted, unfinished ceilings and walls is a stunning collection of Antonio's designs, mixed in with antique furnishings, books, and gobs of fresh flowers. 

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It's a warm, inviting space, which is how Antonio likes to live and work:

I have always liked, as a child, the idea of ​​having a space that was not my room or my house, an enlarged and private space, confidential, to stay with friends and unleash our energies. Back then it was the garage, the attic, a small barn in the countryside. As an adult, a huge space, a loft, a multipurpose space, a place not exclusively tied to exposition and sale. A comfortable place, private and open, welcoming, “hospitable” in the sense that this word had in ancient Greece, in Sardinia, in the Mediterranean area, where the stranger, the guest, was sacred and it was considered a crime to violate the laws of hospitality.

- Antonio Marras

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Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the space is a collection of dresses hanging from the rafters, their hems tented out over bicycle wheels, and outfitted with lightbulbs to create an enormous, ethereal chandelier:

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All of Antonio's clothes are made by hand in his home/studio/workshop back in Sardinia, and can be found at retailers like Saks and Shopstyle. From 2003-2011 he served as artistic director at LVMH's Kenzo fashion house, and over the years he became known for his hallmark "ligazzio rubio" (or, “red thread”).

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There was a buzz of energy in the space when we were there, as Antonio's team was feverishly assembling racks of clothing for Fashion Week.

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Back outside through the lush garden, we toured an adjacent exhibit by portrait photographer Daniela Zedda. Her collection "Aldilàdelmare" contains eighty-eight pictures of Sardinians (she is from there as well) who have left the island to find new opportunities. Her portrait of Antonio Marras is prominently featured at the entrance to the exhibit:Image

Inside is a cavernous, unfinished studio space where the art is the focal point.
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Her portraits are amazing. I was particularly taken with this one of editorial consultant Colomba Rossi in front of street art by Kenny Random at Torre della Specola, Padova.

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Here it is nearly 8 weeks later and I still haven't shared all of the sites and stories from Milan! But seeing reference to the people and places I encountered there gives me a little burst of creative energy. Good way to start the week.

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10 Corso Como

Before I had even arrived in Milan, I had read about 10 Corso Como and was dying to go there. Located near Porta Nuova at the address from which it takes its name, it's a stylish art gallery, bookshop, fashion store, cafe, terrace, and boutique hotel all rolled into one.

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It's founder, Carla Sozzani, spent the early part of her career working as an editor for various Italian fashion magazines (including Vogue Italia, where her sister Franca is currently Editor in Chief) and American Vogue. Over the years, she worked with famous photographers including Herb Ritts, Bruce Webber, Robert Mapplethorpe, Juergen Teller, and William Wegman, publishing several books and photography catalogs along the way.

But it was in 1990 that Sozzani used her years of editorial experience to create a "living magazine" in a former mechanic's workshop at 10 Corso Como. Beginning with the Galleria Carla Sozzani, the concept space eventually evolved into a multi-level shopping and dining complex selling art, fashion, music, contemporary design objects and more. 

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The indoor/outdoor cafe on the ground floor is in a quiet courtyard surrounded by plants and flowers:

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We sat outside and enjoyed a decadent lunch in between browsing the various floors.

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Also on the ground floor is a large retail space featuring an assortment of apparel, jewelry, and accessories from high-end designers:

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Heading upstairs, there is a bookstore with an extensive collection of fashion, design, art, photography, travel, and food titles:

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Turntables for the DJ:

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And 3 hotel suites overlooking the courtyard, each with it's own private entrance and all furnished in homage to mid-20th and 21st century designers so that visitors can live the 10 Corso Como experience.
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The top floor houses the original Galleria Carla Sozzani art gallery, which was exhibiting the winners of the 2014 World Press Photos contest, including this haunting image of blind Indian albino boys by Brent Stirton.
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Last, but not least, there is a beautiful rooftop terrace, full of brightly tiled furniture, metal and stone sculptures, lush plants, and great views.

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I just love everything about 10 Corso Como; it's a must-visit spot if you are ever in Milan.
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Missoni

Tuesday afternoon (yes, that is only as far as I've gotten with these posts because we have done so much I can't keep up!) was the trip that most of us [women] had been waiting for: a tour of the Missoni factory and talk with Angela Missoni herself.

We drove to Varese where all of their iconic knitwear is made in a pair of low buildings surrounded by towering white birch trees and other greenery. The main office appears to be in a rather unassuming building, until you get close enough to see the enormous vase sculpture out front, covered with their signature zigzag pattern. Image
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Funny story: Angela's parents, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, started the business in 1953. In 1967, they were invited to show at the Piti Palace in Florence, and Rosita asked the models to remove their bras because she didn't like how they showed through the thin knits. When the lights hit the models, it created quite a sensation and the Missonis weren't invited back! Thankfully Diana Vreeland, then editor of American Vogue, was a big champion of the label and the business went on to great success.

Angela took over the business in 1998. She was great - so warm and funny, and willing to take photographs with us and to share anecdotes about her family and business - from its modest beginnings to the 2011 Target collaboration that sold out in 24 hours and caused Target's website to crash. Despite their commercial success, Missoni has purposely stayed small (250 people at this factory). Matriarch Rosita still lives next door, and Angela's daughter Margherita is now an accessories designer at the firm.  

Their workspace is colorful and elegant, as you would expect. This is a large family tapestry (needlepoint) that hangs in the entryway, commemorating all of their milestones (e.g., marriages, births) - Angela provided the backstory on each one. Image
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We walked through the factory next door and witnessed all steps of the production line, from pulling individual threads off of spools into a mechanical loom, to the resulting swatches of zigzag knitware, to huge bolts of the fabric in a variety of colors, and all of the men and women piecing items together by hand. Image
I took some amazing behind-the-scenes photos, but they asked us not to publish them because they are next season's designs and they fear copycats. Suffice it to say, theirs is an incredibly colorful and energetic work space, with heaps of fabric, jumbles of sketches and swatches, half-finished garments, whirring machinery, and smiling workers intently marking measurements on mannequins and hand stitching the final pieces. I will share the detailed photos with those of you I see in person; it was really a remarkable operation.

Quadrilatero d'Oro

The shopping in Milan puts every other city to shame. Newbury Street? HA. This is just a sampling of the stores in the Quadrilatero d'Oro, a fashion neighborhood along four adjoining streets north of the Duomo, collectively known as the Golden Quadrilateral (Via Montenapoleone, Della Spiga, Via Borgospesso, and Via Sant'Andrea): Image
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They also have plenty of non-luxury options like H&M, Zara, and Banana Republic just blocks away, but those aren't nearly as fun window shopping! And yes, the women really are as glamorous as you've heard. I've spotted more than one riding city bikes in 3 inch heels. This woman in front of Prada (and on cobblestone streets!) will show you what I mean: Image

Ornamenti d'Autore

"Even in a piece of non-precious jewelry, you can see the world."
-Deanna Farneti Cera
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On Monday morning we visited Oramenti d'Autore, the atelier of Deanna Farneti Cera, a world renowned collector and scholar of fashion jewelry (also referred to as "Bijoux," but preferably not "costume.") Image
Deanna has thousands of pieces in her collection, including notable items from Chanel, Givenchy, and a necklace Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Interestingly, I had seen some of her pieces before, as she supplied a lot of the items featured in a recent exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design in New YOrk City. That one featured the collection of Barbera Burger, who is the top collector of fashion jewelry in the world, and to whom Deanna sold many pieces. Image
Deanna has incredible knowledge of, and passion for, the world of Bijoux, having spent over 30 years in the industry and written a dozen books on the topic. Listening to her speak, you realize that every piece of jewelry is an artifact with cultural significance. Image
She talked about how this type of jewelry came to be - in the 1800's the bourgeoisie wanted to have the kind of jewelry that the nobility had, and new materials became available to make similar, but more affordable versions - and how this kind of jewelry evolved based on the decade and the character of the country of origin. For example, Dior in the 1950's loved the work of Claude Monet, so his brooches were very delicate and flowery; in contrast, costume jewels coming out of the U.S. in the 1980's were very ostentatious, like the times. She also reviewed major turning points in the history of Bijoux, like in 1895 when handmade crystal stones transitioned to industrial cut thanks to Swarovski's patented machine. Image
After her talk, we were allowed to explore the atelier and all of the jewelry and books it houses. It's a cool space: white walls and ceilings with a wrought iron spiral staircase joining the ground floor with a second floor loft, both ares full of jewelry trays, display cases, and stacks of books. Image
Here I am sporting an elaborate Givenchy necklace (pictured above)... Image
...and holding a hand-made beaded clutch that was carried by Jackie Onassis (pictured). Image
What an interesting and enjoyable visit - Deanna was so kind to spend so much time with us, especially on a holiday!

On My Radar

The crush of correspondence/news/information I receive these days has made it increasingly difficult for me to make time for long-form blog posts. But I continue to discover and  share a variety of interesting things throughout the day, and I miss my blog and the conversations that it spurs. So, I'm switching to a micro-blogging approach here for awhile. Enjoy!

Here's what crossed my radar today:

Eye Candy

VERAMEAT-for-Of-a-Kind-Frenchie-Ladder-Cuff-102713-780 Poppy Necklace

The Frenchie Ladder Cuff by Verameat and the sparkly Poppy Necklace by Piper Strand.

Brain Candy

Inspiration

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
    in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
    of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Just for Fun


Assembled at Assembly Row

There are only a few weeks left to check out Assembled, the handmade arts market at Assembly Row  in Somerville. Featuring artists from all over New England, as well as [the now ubiquitous] food trucks and live music, it's giving Boston's SoWa and Greenway Open Markets a run for their money.

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Among the booths that caught my eye: The Crunchy Home, a line of beauty, baby, and home products like face scrubs, lotions, and candles, all made with natural ingredients (find them on Etsy here; they make a great grapefruit scrub):

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...and Chappy Girls Jewelry, which offers affordable bracelets like these Breast Cancer Awareness ones that support the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation in Providence, RI:

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There were also some pretty Swarovski crystals at the Karol Peralta Jewelry booth.

Assembled runs Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, through September 21st.  Also this weekend: Charlestown's Art in the Park and the Boston Calling music festival on City Hall Plaza. But I'll miss both because I'll be searching for treasures in Brimfield!


Haven for the Holidays

I cannot believe that the holidays are right around the corner. Time again to think about family gatherings, delicious feasts, and of course shopping for gifts.

This year, why not avoid the crowds, stress, and headaches of the malls and big box stores and support some local businesses? My friend Lindsay Hill is kicking the season off with a series of pop-up shops and fun events surrounding her fashion boutique, Haven, together with some other local entrepreneurs. So not only can you shop local and cross some items off your list, but you can have fun doing it.

First up is Haven and Raspberry Bouquet's Dress Yourself, Dress Your Table event on Thursday 11/17 from 6-9pm. Shop Haven's cool clothing and accessories, view Raspberry Bouquet's sample floral arrangements for your Thanksgiving table, and snack on food from The Charlestown Gourmet.

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Then, don't miss Haven's Holiday Pop-up event at One Thompson Square from December 1-3. I've gone to this before, and Lindsay does a wonderful job staging this space with all of her beautiful merchandise.

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And don't forget about Small Business Saturday, a day to support small business owners, help fuel the economy, and invigorate communities across the country. It's on Nov 26th this year, and you can get $25 back from American Express when you use your card at a small business on this day.

So get out there and start shopping!