Friday, November 7, 2008

OBESSSION: Fringe Desire

Forget men: A great bag is hard to find. It’s difficult to know when to invest in a signature piece and when to lay low with the cash outflow. But the tipping point may have arrived for the Prada Nappa Fringe hobo ($2,195) from the Spring 2007 Collection. As Rachel Zoe says “I die”— and I would die for this bag. It delivers elegance and chic, and best of all, it looks the money. It doesn’t scream labels or logos. In a sign of more restrained financial times, the signature Prada nameplate hides under the fringe. Consider it a bit of everything: trendy, yet timeless; carefree, yet creative. It’s also the right size — big enough to hold all the essentials. At the bag’s initial launch, Bergdorf restricted patron’s purchases to no more than three of these bags per every 30 days. While this bag launched last season, it’s just as covetable today. Fashion is unpredictable, and it enjoys ignoring rules. All the evidence I need: Mary-Kate still sports it. Seriously, I must have this now. This bag is currently out-of-stock, I plan to keep checking for news of a replenishment.

HOW TO: Flea-Market Master Class

Once the barren wasteland of tube socks and knock-off sneaks, flea markets provide fashion hounds unique ways to create distinct looks. From beaded jewelry to vintage apparel and antique fabrics, these style treasure hunts offer all you need to make yourself standout on a limited budget.

Consider these seven secrets for flea-market shopping success:

1. Cut and Paste. Before you go, look for inspiration from magazines, blogs, and online stores. Establish what you want before the abundance overwhelms and distracts you from your mission.

2. Dress for the Occasion. No dressing rooms. Wear thin layers (think sheer tights, leggings, basic tanks) so you can throw on a dress, skirt and still determine whether it fits.

3. Time your visit. Arrive early if you intend to snag a collectible vintage piece or novelty item. If you want great bargains, consider showing up late in the day. Vendors discount as the day progresses to reduce their inventory.

4. Scope out the good vendors. Follow the fashionable people. They will lead you to the good stuff.

5. Quality check. Make sure each piece is in good condition: hems, zippers, lining, intricate details, all of it. Items may be a bit worn (since that adds to their appeal), but never falling apart.

6. Negotiate. Vendors expect shoppers to ask for discounts. Think of an amount you want to spend before asking the vendor for a price. Then proffer: What’s your best price for this. If the piece has a hole, a stain, or a frayed edge and you still want it, use that as price-negotiation leverage. Be prepared to walk away if the price arrives about your mental set point.

7. Spend wisely. Carrying lots of cash helps with negotiating but can lead to overspending. Establish a limit and spend within your budget.

EXPERIENCE: Mother Nature

I hit up the boardroom in the prestigious main building of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the I.M. Pei designed building and the location of my interview with Syracuse jewelry artist Michelle DaRin. As I open the door, her 2-year-old daughter, Julia, runs over to show me her rolling Spongebob snail. She climbs into the modernist chair next to me, eager to show me the snail and the beige foam blocks from her mother's jewelry box, which she loves to stack. A mini-me of her funky mother, Julia's outfit consists of silver glittery ballet flats, plaid pants, and purple shirt and a delicate bob similar to Katie Holme's, Suri.

Her mother places the toolboxes full of her artisan works on the long, boardroom table that seems taken from a past Trump “you're fired” moment. A dyn-o-mite!!! time capsule explodes in my face as DaRin unearths a sea of orange pendants, Jimi Hendrix-inspired belt-buckles, and groovy-green lockets and earrings. DaRin adjusts her white polka-dotted brown newsboy cap, and the earrings she cast from real leaves sway back and forth, catching on her light brown hair. Layers of brushed-cotton tees, a short-sleeve over a long-sleeve tee, the former reads Buon Viaggo, cover her svelte figure. She wears a corduroy, brownish-orange skirt, Prada-esque toeless ribbed knee socks in brown and orange, and huge (I'm guessing four-inch) wooden platforms with orange plaid buckles. “These are dangerous when carrying a small child,” she says of the platforms. “I can't tell you how many times I've fallen in these.” Three necklaces of her own design swing from her neck: a circular flower enamel pendant, a belly-button-length necklace made of green milt stones tied together with knotted strips of iridescent taffeta, and an owl with magenta eyes.

The jewelry, created from semi-precious stones, copper, silver, and brass coated in enamel can be seen in the pages of W magazine,'s Daily Candy, Tango magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, Bridal Guide, Elevator magazine, and New York Family. However, the piece of press that she refers to as the, “gift that keeps on giving” because she received 11,000 hits is Daily Candy. Hendri Bendel, and a slew of galleries such as The Wedding Gallery in New York City, and Stowe Craft Gallery in Vermont both carry her unique creations. The cost of her pieces range from $25 to $300.

DaRin's work echoes `70s color and the themes of peace, love, and mother nature. “My mother had a pea green fondue pot,” she says, “I like to experiment with color. Especially here [in Syracuse], people suffer from `the grey syndrome.'” Not only referring to the conservative dress of non-student Syracusians but the relentless cloudy, rainy, snowy, cold and dreary skies. “People here need color,” she comments. All the more reason to fashion an extensive range of vibrant pieces from necklaces to bracelets, rings, broaches, earrings, and pendants.

Born on Staten Island in 1970, three years after “the summer of love,” DaRin grew up busying herself with creative activities such as sewing, cooking, and making people out of erasers. She realized her passion for sculpture at SUNY Cortland and continued her education with a masters of fine arts in metalsmithing from Syracuse University. DaRin admits her first love is sculpture but that it was hard to create a living selling that type of art, which is why, she says, she thinks of her jewelry as “mini-sculptures.” She creates giant decorated bezels and places huge copper multi-colored rounded enamel for her rings, making them resemble enormous mood rings that never change. Her effective use of mixed-media and child-like inspiration is evident by her rings with little farm animals molded from her daughter's tiny plastic toys and her bird pins use guinea feathers as well as copper. She met her husband, an education major, at Syracuse University. They married and now care for their three children: Ian, Joseph, and Julia (ages 15, 12, and 2) respectively.

Everyday people with interesting style inspire her as well as her trips around America with her family. After a typical trip to her edgy hairdresser, motivated by his punk-y look, she stepped out of her comfort zone and created two silver skull rings with magenta jeweled eyes (one ring given in exchange for a free haircut, the other for herself.) As for the family retreats, the last time her family took a vacation was two years ago when they went to Vermont. “I need a vacation,” she says.

While having a family and being an artist presents its challenges, it also offers advantages. Her husband manages the business side of the company, and when she exhibits at trade shows her family comes to help her set up. The stresses of family life do hinder her work schedule. Never one to miss out on a soccer game, school dances, or any event in her children's lives she says, “I barely stop to pee.” She hates to miss out on Julia's toddler years because of her curiosity and budding verbal skills. For that reason, she works in her studio from 3 p.m. to midnight everyday. “When I'm there, I'm working and rocking,” she says.

I picture her blasting Sonic Youth jams using the iPod she borrows from her son. “We're a bit of a rock-and-roll family,” she says. I turn to Julia and ask her about her favorite band. “Jimi Hendrix,” she says with the clarity of someone who went to Woodstock. DaRin continues to talk about her process and the many hours she puts into creating a piece. “And then Julia comes in and likes to drop whatever project I've just been working on for hours,” she says, smiling.

Bummer. Keep trying and rock on, sister.

Check out DaRin!

PROFILE: An Orange Flavor of Olsen

A glass shatters in the Peterson apartment. Vicky stares at it blankly, and the speedy clicks of Erica's Dell computer serve as the only sound. No one makes an effort to move. Finally, Erica asks, “Where did you put the broom from Thailand?” She rises from the couch and uses the white, plastic dustpan and bristle brush. As she leans, her necklace, which a Buddhist monk blessed and gave her, clangs against the floor. Just like Mary Kate and Ashley, Erica and Vicky are fraternal twins, but identical to the untrained eye. They live in a South Campus apartment, the only shag pad where a framed portrait of the King of Thailand hangs juxtaposed with a Snood poster. An authentic Native American headdress, an Idaho license plate, a poster of Stone Cold, and school photos of their younger brother, Graham, hang on the other wall. Erica and Vicky may not live in a Manhattan penthouse like their more famous counterparts, but their pad is just as cool. Keepsakes from their travels- a collection of international glass soda bottles, felt artwork, and two sacred Quechua (descendants of Incas) mesas (a birthing cloth that, after serving its purpose, is used to keep holy objects)- litter all of the rooms. Both count the following country stamps in their passports: Peru, Mexico, Canada, Iceland, Jamaica, Barbados, Italy, England, France, Thailand, Guadeloupe, and St. Croix.

Erica and Vicky qualify as Syracuse's own version of mirror-image celebs. They starred in their own movies when Vicky was a film major. Photographed in countless student projects, the twins attract a collegiate kind of paparazzi. Like the Olsen twins, they also garnerattention for their style. Erica wears her shoulder-length, light-brown hair in dreadlocks. Another travel keepsake. She says showering proved to be a luxury this past summer in Thailand, where she and her sister volunteered for five and a half weeks. Vicky favors anything Icelandic.

The twins spend their free time learning languages. They are fluent in Spanish, Erica currently takes Italian and Vicky started Arabic this semester. On their own they study Swedish, and Icelandic respectively. The twins watch ridiculously bad horror movies like the Wicker Man and 1,000 Corpses. Their favorite movies however, are foreign films. Vicky's favorite movie to watch is Icelandic flick Noi Albi Noi, and Erica's loves Y Tu Mama TambiƩn. Their style, a manifestation of the cultures they observed, appears effortless and eclectic. If you see them on campus, you'll know Erica by her collection of hats and Vicky for her favorite Icelandic sweater, which the locals call a lopapeys.

SNAPS: Beautiful & Bizarre

D.I.Y.: Hoop (Design) Dreams

The SU men’s basketball team just jump-started their season with a 77-56 win over Cal State-Los Angeles Monday night. Like all good Orangefolk, you remain a true fan win or lose. But just because you love the roar of the Carrier Dome and a slam dunk from Paul Harris, doesn’t mean you must express your fandom in mass-produced college garb or bad burnt-orange accessories. Leave the chest painting to the front-row crazies, and try this simple process that turns a typical tee into a stylish exercise in school spirit.

1. Purchase a Syracuse shirt at the SU Bookstore or one of the many stores on Marshall Street. In a pinch, a plain white tee serves as a great substitute.

2. Get creative with your design, but know your limits. If you’ve never cut a shirt before, keep your design simple.
Sometimes the best idea involves only scissors. Just sketch a few ideas and find the perfect fit. Maybe even practice on an old tee.

3. If you’re a seasoned veteran, the sky’s the limit. Incorporate cutting and sewing into your design. Never underestimate the power of the needle and thread and gather inspiration from your favorite designers. Need ideas? Try or the book 99 Ways to Cut, Trim and Tie Your T-Shirt into Something Special ($14)

4. For a simple yet effective statement of varsity fashion try an off-the-shoulder top. First, cut the collar out of the T-shirt. Try the shirt on, and see where the new extended neckline reaches on your shoulders. Keep cutting the neckline wider and wider to achieve the desired look. (Think ‘80s aerobics instructor.) Pair your new top with an orange or blue tank and put your school spirit and your sexy self on view.

5. Break out your BeDazzler, glitter glue or rhinestones and glam up your shirt. No one said that only the basketball stars on the court shinned on game night.

STREET STYLE: Autumn Beauty

Senior Devon Williams took color cues from the fall foliage, and incorporated them into her layered ensemble. She kept her cozy, rustic look clean and simple by pairing it with black leggings and a slick silver purse. She may have just been headed off to class, but this outfit is perfect for snuggling up fireside with that special someone once snow finally hits the Salt City.

Her Favorite Piece: Vest, Forever21, $35

Fashion Icon: Victoria Beckham

Trend she Loves to Hate: Thong-strap stilettos