Tagged: ladies

Closet Tour: Carmen Artigas

Closet Tour: Carmen Artigas | This I Wear

I feel like I just traveled around the world! And not because I am still on the other side of the world, but because my interview with Carmen Artigas, Mexican designer/teacher/”eco-cop” (her word, not mine), was a whirlwind trip around the globe from inside the closet of her beautiful Park Slope apartment. Carmen was one of the first people I asked for advice when I decided to pursue THIS I WEAR, and she is the extreme embodiment of the conscious consumerism I hope to explore here. Yet it is still not always easy to shop consciously and to dress intentionally. As a teacher at FIT and Parsons in ethical fashion, I thought she might have some advice on how to start asking questions about our clothes and connect with our stuff in a new way. Given Carmen’s passion, it was a pleasure to sit back, listen, and let her be my tour guide for awhile.

What are you wearing today?

I’m wearing a bracelet that is made from two types of wood. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend in Milan. The dress is also an Italian brand, not very known…Hache? I like it because…you know, like Pompeii? It gives me the idea of a painting from Pompeii – the pleating…So it just gives me a very romantic feeling, and it might not be flattering. Maybe I look three times my size, but I like it.

The shoes are the feature of the day. They are [made by] my friend Monisha [of Love is Mighty]. The inspiration was an antique Tibetan necklace. She did everything beautifully. And this [necklace] is from Mexico. What is the stone? Jade? From Mexico, in the south near Chiapas.

What part of your outfit is most special to you? And why?

This is my personal critique, because I stopped buying H&M just over three years ago. I just thought, “I can’t do this. I’m not going to support them. I don’t like their quality. I can’t figure out how the prices can be this low.” I teach Ethical Fashion, so I just stopped buying [H&M]. But this was one of my last purchases – these tights. They look like tattoo, and many people have stopped me and asked me “Where did you get that?” and I say “H&M.” I never saw them again. They never made them again.

And they’ve lasted?

Yes, they’ve lasted all this time. So that’s a very unusual choice. But I don’t have anything else from H&M, because it doesn’t last. You can tell. It’s made to fall apart. But meaningful? I think the shoes right now, because I just appreciate the story behind them and the person behind them, because I know Monisha worked very hard. She had a vision, and it came full circle.

Do you have a shopping philosophy? How do you shop?

I really am very aware about waste. My personal sustainable agenda is about water, trees, waste, and working with artisans. So waste is an issue for me. It doesn’t go away. It’s not going to disappear, so where is it going? So I would say of my shopping habits, I will only shop for things that I see longevity. Of course, price…

Do you shop often or only when you really need something?

Very little. I actually was able to ask that question to a whole classroom [of FIT students]. I said, “How often do you shop and where?” They were caught off-guard because many of them – the youngest people – said Forever 21, H&M, vintage, and Zara. And the men barely shop. They didn’t even know what that meant. Maybe their wife took care of that. But the younger they were, the lower the price point. And the older they were, the more interested they were in longevity. And so am I. I have things that are 20 years old. They are beautiful, because they were never in a trend. I like things that will never be noticeable in a trend.

For people who are shopping at Forever 21 & H&M, a lot of them are doing it because of their budget. Do you have advice for them?

But the obvious reply is that there is no quality, right? So if you wash it once or twice, the garment looks terrible. [The students], mostly because they chose to take Ethical Fashion class, are becoming very aware and feeling guilty. It changed radically towards the end of the class. One semester I asked [the question] at the beginning of the class and one semester I asked towards the end of the course, and the answers were very different. Everyone was like “Oh no! We do swapping, I shop in stoops [sales], I inherit things…” So people were more connected to what’s out there that they aren’t making the most of.

Interesting! So it’s more that as soon as people become just a little bit more aware of it, they start asking questions?

Yes, because they ask me “what’s behind the price of a $4.99 top?”

The other thing is I support my friends. I have many friends who are designers, so I buy directly from them. It’s a relationship, and it’s a supportive relationship. I also get a better price, because we are friends. It’s meaningful that way. The other day I was wearing something from Ross Menuez. He’s a designer for Salvor. Everything is done locally. He does the silkscreen, and he’s a genius at the printing. I shop from him, and Monisha recently. I guess if I go through my closet, I could start noticing…

If someone looked at your closet right now, what would they say about your style?

Eclectic! Eclectic, Boho, Bohemian. I would be Boho chic. My impulse buy will be handbags, shoes – that I cannot resist. And I don’t care about a label. Nothing in my closet has a label, like a logo. I avoid logos at all cost. I find them tacky. I don’t need to advertise. I like craftsmanship and creativity, so most of my bags are handmade or very unusual. I think you communicate more personal style with accessories rather than the outfit. That has been my mode. I’ve done it always. And you know, let’s say if you gain weight, you know that black is going to slim you down. So you have a neutral choice of wardrobe, and then you would spice it up with accessories. Jewelry, I like also, but I like very meaningful big necklaces that have a lot of impact.

Once a piece ends up in your closet, how long does it stay there?

20 years. Most likely 10 or 20 years at least. But my size keeps increasing, so I have things that don’t fit anymore…

Would you say that you love everything in your closet?

Yes. It’s a language. Definitely first impressions count on people…Like [my style] is not expected. I have Uniqlo pieces, but I want to make them look special. [These pieces] carry an energy.

And with that question, I’ve selected a few highlights from the tour of Carmen’s closet, making sure to leave in the stories as only Carmen can tell them and including a little list of the items we didn’t quite have space for as an extra treat.

Select pieces by Christina Kim, Dosa
I was a big big fan of Dosa – the founder is Christina Kim. She’s a Korean designer, and everything she does is amazing, but it’s very expensive. So I collected a few pieces of Dosa from sample sales. They’re very unusual. She works with artisans around the world, like this is a mud-dye cotton from China. They pound the pigment in, so they hit the fabric [until] it becomes this finish, like metallic. This is another skirt from her. If you wrap it, it has multiple uses. It’s like an art piece, like you’re a gallery owner, no?

Mexican Rebozo
Rebozo is the typical Mexican shawl. The colors are amazing. This is called articela, so it’s synthetic. They used to be [made of] silk, but now it’s synthetic. The fine ones should pass through a ring. When they sell it to you, they pass it through a ring, because it’s so light and so precious. That was the old Mexico.

Rope Necklace from Tanya Aguiniga
This is from a friend of mine who is Mexican but is based in Los Angeles – Tanya Aguiniga. She’s amazing. She also works with artisans in Chiapas [and] with artisans around the world, but it translates well. It almost looks Japanese in a way. I went to her studio. I connected with her on Facebook and made an appointment. My brother took me to LA, and we ended up in her house. She took me to her workshop. It’s amazing.

Replica of original handmade skirt
I made the original in Mexico City when my friend and I were doing costume design. She made me this skirt, but it was ruined with makeup. So I went to Thailand, and I brought my skirt with me, and I asked them to copy it. So this is a replica of the original one from Mexico.

Select additional items:
Vintage kimono from Japan
Fabric handbag with coin decoration from Thailand
Turquoise necklace from Chiapas, Mexico
Men’s wraparound pants from India (they “look like pajamas”)
Silk and bead necklace by Carmen
Trosman-Churba piece from Argentina
South Mexican pants received as a gift from her aunt
Bone and bamboo necklace by German sculptor working in India

Thank you to Carmen both for the interview and her patience as I worked on this piece. If you couldn’t tell from the interview, Carmen is such an inspiration for me personally, so I was truly honored that she let me into her closet and shared her incredible knowledge about ethical fashion with me. If you’d like to find out more about Carmen, I HIGHLY recommend the Facebook page she runs, Ethical Fashion NY, and you can find information about the colorful woven plastic bags she creates with imprisoned workers in Mexico in the top photo on her brand website, Viva la Vida.

*Quick note: I’ve linked to several websites for the designers Carmen mentioned. I have no affiliation with them, but just think they are worth your time. Enjoy!

Style Story: Henna + the Painted Dress

Henna + the Painted Dress | This I Wear

Henna and I met in a summer Ethical Fashion class at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. If you don’t know her, you’ll wish you did, because she is endlessly inspiring, incredibly smart, and one of the most humble people I know. With a background in art history and in her current role at an auction house, she is clearly inspired by beauty from times past. Our conversation gave me a peek into Henna’s intriguing style philosophy, but I felt a bit like a detective trying to solve a puzzle. What makes Henna’s style so special? And after much thought, here’s what I think: Henna doesn’t shop/buy/consume; she connects/experiences/explores the items she lovingly adds to her closet in a way that I’ve never heard someone describe. There’s a process to it. She uses the act of building her wardrobe to craft her own story and explore the world. And I’m so glad to be able to share that story here.

What are you wearing today?

I’m wearing a printed dress that my mother bought in Taiwan about 15 years ago. As a little girl, I always looked at this dress and thought, “When will I get a chance to wear it?” so I pulled it out of her closet recently and started wearing it. It’s actually a Canaletto painting of Venice, and I was wearing it in the elevator at Sotheby’s [where I worked] one day, and one of the clients came up to me and said “That’s my painting.” And I knew that because when I was interning, we took a tour of her private collection and I kind of recognized that, but I wasn’t sure if it was the same painting.

What was her reaction?

She was surprised. She said it looked “great as a dress as well as on my wall.” And actually I was walking by the Met the other day and someone stopped me on the street and said that she has a similar dress. It’s ironic that it was purchased in Taiwan, because it’s an Italian painting.

Do you dig in your mom’s closet a lot?

I do. She takes very good care of her clothing, and she’s taught me to do the same, especially in recent years as my taste has developed. I want to focus on quality and not quantity. I really enjoy inheriting pieces from her.

How has she influenced your style?

I would say that she’s very well-traveled, so I have definitely inherited the travel bug from her and the general curiosity for other cultures. She has items in her closet that are collected from her travels and each piece really tells a story. That’s how I try to build my wardrobe as well. I’m actually wearing a ring that I made recently. I took a class at FIT in wax carving and going along the European theme, it’s actually inspired by a 19th century French console table. It has the acanthus leaf motif with the cabriole leg. It was cast in silver as part of the class requirement, but I dipped it in gold at my current job.

Of what you’re wearing today, what is the most special piece to you?

It has to be the dress, but the [pair of] shoes are also one of my favorite things in my closet. It isn’t as meaningful, but I bought it two years ago, and I had been eyeing it for months. I saw it on a blog this girl based in [the] UK updates. So I went into the store asking for it and didn’t see it. The salesperson said “We’re getting ready to send it back to Italy. Do you want to see it?” And I said “Of course!” So I was actually able to get it at a discount.

How long was the time between when you first saw the post and when you actually found the shoes?

It had to be four months at least.

Who’s the designer?

Jil Sander. I think it’s just one of those things that is a statement and really inspires me with the organic form and the combination of textures and different materials.

Are they as hard to walk in as they look?

Umm, I have to admit that they aren’t the easiest to walk in. They are not my most comfortable heels, but they are manageable.

What’s your favorite thing in your closet right now?

There’s actually this scarf by Caren Shen I got at the Asia Society Store. It’s very crinkled and it’s two-sided, so one side is midnight shimmery navy blue and the other side is this bronze color, so the scarf is actually very versatile. You can wear it, I don’t know, like 12 different ways, as a vest, as a dress if you wear something over it or under it…

Does it come with instructions on how to wear it?

No, I just played around with it. But it’s one of those pieces that you can wear all the time, and you would be surprised with the way you style it every time.

What’s the most important thing when you get dressed in the morning?

How it makes me feel. Certain people have best outfits that they save for certain days, and I like to think that I want to feel my best [every day]…of course it doesn’t mean that it’s always an elaborate outfit. But I also like to wear something that incorporates at least one piece that reminds me of what my goal…[or] what I’m working towards, maybe?

What the most important thing when you shop?

I don’t shop as much as I used to. I still browse a lot, and I do enjoy seeing what other designers are doing to sort of get inspiration. But I think I have to love it for me to buy it. If I have to think about an item and think on it for a few days, when I find myself still thinking about that item, maybe I should just get it? But a lot of times if I don’t buy it then, I know that I probably won’t wear it anyway.

Can you remember the last piece you bought that got you that excited?

I don’t know…I did receive a gift from my mom from her recent trip to Turkey. It was this brass necklace, large pendant, floral-shaped but also some Ottoman influence, wire-laced with turquoise beads and tied with a fabric cord. That I was really excited about. I haven’t traveled in a long time, and I have most of my moments when I’m abroad, because I love learning about the piece from the person who made it. It makes the piece so much more personal.

How would you describe your style?

When I was in school, people always remarked how fashionable I am, but I really don’t think that I am. I have a style and it isn’t easily influenced by the trends. I am very interested in surface decoration, so I like to combine textures and match certain colors.

It seems like your style is really influenced by your work, given the sheer coincidence of wearing the dress and the [painting’s owner] is in the same building.

Yes, and I am lucky that I’m surrounded by people who inspire me. I’m really inspired by the patrons of the arts, the art collectors, who are dedicated to preserving our cultural heritage.

When was the last time you got hands-on with the creation process of one of your pieces? Whether you custom ordered a piece from Etsy or a local tailor, or you collaborated on a piece of jewelry, or even just asked some questions to the designer or artist, I want to hear it! Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear and tell me your story.

Correction (8/23/12): Henna is currently working for a fine jewelry company, not Sotheby’s where she has worked in past as originally stated.

Closet Tour: Kendra Jones Morris

Kendra Jones Morris | This I Wear

I met Kendra Jones Morris a few months ago through Propeller (formerly, Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans). Kendra runs Rural Revolution, a social enterprise that creates job opportunities locally for sales ambassadors who in turn sell beautiful jewelry by female artisans from around the world. Kendra’s professional and personal background is so interesting that I had to find out how her life experiences have influenced her style. We chatted about how style evolves with age, her closet confessions, and why you shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to wear something you love.

What are you wearing today?

This [top] I got from Hattie Sparks, which I love. It’s a see-through white button-down. White pants from the Gap. And the shoes I wear with this are black and gold. I’m really into white, black and gold.

Are those your signature colors?

No, but with children, I’m really desperately trying to find a uniform, so that I can everyday have everything go together.

Tell me about three of your favorite items in your closet right now.

[1] I really like this skirt, because it’s so flowy. [2] Trenches because they cover up everything, and it doesn’t matter how sloppy I am underneath. [3] [This jumper] is one of my favorite things that I’ve never even worn. Basically staples. I am constantly looking for staples.

Is that part of being a mom?

Absolutely. In my 20s, I had my closet completely organized by color, texture, and lots of different items. It was fun. But now, I’m constantly giving away all of my clothes, because I’ve got to zero in on and find a style that works. I’m looking for a uniform. White, ivory, grey, and black. You can do all white in New Orleans and be very appropriate.

How would you describe your style in general?

I feel like I’m the messiest I’ve ever been in my life, but right now with my age and position in life, I’m looking for my new norm. I’m looking for my style.

If someone saw your closet, what might they say or learn about you?

I thought she had more! I get a lot of compliments on my clothes, but I don’t really have that much in my closet.

Once something ends up in your closet, how long does it stay there?

Sometimes it hasn’t even stayed two months, if I don’t think it’s going to work. If I like it, it can stay for years.

What are those pieces that have stayed?

Classic denim jeans. The ones you find in vintage stores. I can never seem to part with vintage “Made in America” jeans.

What is your closet confession? Do you have any secrets in your closet?

I think holding onto clothes when they’ve started to get tattered. It’s something that you think nobody will notice [laughs]… But sometimes people notice. That’s a closet secret.

Is it because it’s a piece that you just can’t part with?

Yeah, because if it’s a piece you love and you can’t find something to replace it, then you think “I’ve gotta hold onto this until I can get it replaced.” And then I may or may not wear it, but I think that I can’t let it go until I get it replaced.

Have your travels and the places you’ve lived influenced your style?

Definitely. I never had the backpacker look, but I love the European [look] – it’s all very uniform. Everything is black and grey. They always look sleek. I think in America we typically go for quantity as opposed to quality. We get pleasure out of consuming as opposed to enjoying [the use of the items]. My philosophy has always been, I never know if tomorrow will come, so dress accordingly. That’s what I would think everyday: if you buy something, you have to use it, because there is no “tomorrow I’m going to be a glamorous person.” Today you’re a glamorous person.

How did you develop that philosophy? Did anyone influence you?

My mom always looked really sexy and I was from a farm town of 1500 [people]. While all the other moms wore fuzzy sweaters, my mom always looked like she was going to the office, even though she wasn’t. She always wore high heels… She was just a really attractive woman. She was from a small Missouri town too, but she was a Peace Corps volunteer. She and my dad had traveled and that was when people didn’t really travel. She always looked glamorous.

Has that influenced you a lot?

Definitely. And with my daughter, I want to look presentable in front of her, as often as I can, because that influences her. I think it’s ok for children to get sloppy and experiment, but I think there is something about having your mother look like she’s intact. So I’m always trying to make sure that at least I look like I’m together.

So it’s more than just clothes. It’s really about self-respect?


Does your daughter Gisele like to play dress up? Are you seeing her develop her own style?

Yes. She is her own person. She’s always the princess.

You’re collaborating with Hattie Sparks in New Orleans for Rural Revolution. Can you tell me about that?

The trunk show will include leather clutches that are handmade by female artisans in Indonesia. We work with female artisans throughout the world and then we give back in their name and in our name to their communities. In Indonesia, it’s helping an orphanage that is right in the girls’ neighborhood. In New Orleans, it’s going back to the Redeemer Presbyterian Church that has helped to rebuild 500 homes. So every piece has a story, and we think Hattie Sparks is a great place to showcase affordable high-end quality goods that tell a story.

Learn more about Rural Revolution on their website or on Twitter.

Style Story: Amber + the belt with a past

THIS I WEAR - Street Style, Amber

Amber is a recently returned NOLA native with the perfect mix of confidence and self-consciousness. While Amber’s style will pull you in, it’s her stories that will hold your attention. (And we didn’t even get to her colorful Toms wedges!) Like many of us, she’s shopping on a budget and trying to find clothes that fit well. She’s not afraid to show off her rocking little body or talk about her love of pockets. And I am happy to report that all of the (two) interviews I have done so far have references to housedresses.

What are you wearing today?

It’s a 50’s style denim-looking [dress] and a little woven belt.

How long have you had the dress?

I actually got it in New York at some random place. I think it was $15. It was near where I worked around 36th in Midtown in the Garment District.

What made you pick it out?

At that time, I had to dress in business casual, but sometimes those clothes are expensive. I went in to see what they had. It looked really comfortable, and it has pockets, which is really important to me. And it actually fit, which is pretty hard to do because I’m small.

What part of your outfit is most special to you?

The belt. It belonged to my long-term boyfriend’s mother’s best friend. She was a wonderful woman, and she recently passed away. She was tiny like me, so I got a lot of her wonderful hand-me-downs.

Do you think of her when you wear the belt?

Yes, but I didn’t know her so personally as my boyfriend’s mom did, but I like to wear things that have a story.

[Note: I did not pay her to say this!]

Do you have any good memories of her?

I actually got to know more about her through [her husband] after she passed away. You can tell by the clothes she used to wear that she was like a little “Jackie O.” She [had] all of her housedresses, perfectly buttoned up, and the best accessories. Just going through pictures of her and her old things, I got to learn more about her than I knew when she was with us. And I think it’s more for my boyfriend’s mom that I continue to wear these things. She gets very excited whenever she sees me wearing one of Mary’s dresses or Mary’s belts.

Because it reminds her of Mary?

Yes and that these things didn’t cease to exist. Somebody’s using it.

Name one item you’d love to add to your closet.

Recently I’ve been searching for a maxi dress that doesn’t have the low-v. And I’m really short, so everything I try on is really long.

Do you have to tailor a lot of your clothes?

I try not to. Tailoring can get really expensive, and just because you get it tailored doesn’t mean it is going to fit perfectly anyway. Tailoring feels like such an investment. I actually bought a sewing machine, but I actually broke it a week later. It’s gone now.

Were you planning to learn to sew?

That was the intention. It was when I was in New York, and I saw a cute little vintage compact sewing machine on Craigslist. I trucked all the way out to Brooklyn and carried this thing – it was like 30 lbs – on the subway. I got home, downloaded the instruction manual from a website, and then broke it almost immediately.

Did you leave it in NYC?

No, I brought it to Indiana, but my boyfriend’s mom threw it away for me, because she knew I had a hard time parting with it.

Thanks to Amber for the interview. Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share times you’ve been disappointed in Brooklyn, things a mom has thrown away for you, and/or your tips on finding petite clothing.

Style Story: Lisa + the Turquoise Ring

This is Lisa. She’s my little sister, which means she has to do what I say. And I told her she had to pose for my first interview. She’s a trained fashion designer, now working wardrobe on film sets here in New Orleans. If I’m the sister who always wears the dresses, she is the sister who wears the pants (literally and figuratively). She’s got a unique tomboy-ish style that manages to come off as feminine, possibly due to her envy-inducing wavy hair. We talked about the difficulties of being petite, rings with complicated meanings, and my grandma’s house dresses.

What are you wearing today?

I’m wearing a grey scoopneck t-shirt, spearmint chinos, gladiator sandals, and I have some jewelry on – a necklace from my grandmother, a ring from my [other] grandmother and a Claddagh.

What is a Claddagh?

It’s an Irish tradition that you wear the ring to symbolize what your relationship status is.

How does that work?

Um, I don’t know exactly…If it’s pointing out, it means you’re in a relationship; if it’s in, you’re not in a relationship. I’m not sure. I need to do research.

[If you’re curious, get the scoop here.]

What part of your outfit is most special to you? Why?

I wear my rings all the time. The turquoise one in particular, because it’s from my grandmother, and she used to wear it. It’s not very often that rings fit me, so it’s nice that this one does. [She gave it to me] a few years ago.

What do you think of when you wear it?

It makes me think of her and maybe what kind of outfit she would have worn with it.

Like what type of outfit?

I picture her in one of her muumuus with some turquoise jewelry on. [Laughs]

Describe your style.

Simple. Classic. Not fussy. I like things that have clean lines and fit well. Fit is definitely important for me, because I never find things that fit well. When I do find something that fits, it becomes a staple, like these pants…because I’m petite.

Do you have a favorite thing in your closet?

My Rodarte for Target black party dress. It’s simple, but it’s really girly and cute. It fits me really well. I wore it to my senior fashion show. It was our independent show when I was presenting my final collection [for my degree].

Name one item you’d love to add to your closet.

If I had an unlimited amount of money, it would probably be a Chanel quilted purse, because I’ve loved Chanel forever. That probably translates into my style a bit, because [Coco Chanel] was a bit boy-ish in the way that she dressed. Even today, a lot of what Karl Lagerfield does isn’t super fussy, but it’s clean and classic and with twists.

A huge thanks to Lisa for the interview. If you still want more, you can follow her on Twitter @lisammagee. She’ll also be posting here in future and showing off her amazing sewing skills.

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