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Inspiration From Above the 65th Parallel

Iceland. 

Wow, wow, wow — what a place. I just arrived back from a week in one of the northern most inhabited places on the planet — a country of only 300,000 people, and lots and lots and lots of snow. I went mostly because my sister had been pestering me for nearly 2 years to go chase the Northern Lights with her, but I think I may have come back with some inspiration and a softer, more inspired and natural outlook on future designs for skirts. 

Early March — especially with the impact of global warming — falls near the end of the winter season in Iceland. As you can see from the landscapes here, there's snow, but just a light dusting on the moss-covered black lava rocks that make up the landscape. We traveled this road the first night we arrived, and then later in the week after a healthy snowfall, and the cookies-and-cream effect was replaced with just a heavenly white blanket of untrodden snow. 

Places and experiences like this give way to incredible room for changing your outlook. I was inspired by the way white snow could look so blue, or pink, or grey, or just brilliant white — depending on the time of day and the cloud cover. I loved this mix of soft snow and hard, violently cut mountain peaks; brilliant white against piercing black; and the incredible sharpness of such immense mountains popping out of the long, broad plateaus. It's a land of contradictions, and it's wonderful.

We had the incredible fortune of seeing the Northern Lights on our first night. According to the Northern Lights tracker, this display was just a 3; which is in large part why this photo has such a pale yet iridescent quality. I used a really long exposure to capture as much of the light as possible, and in doing so, the ground appears to glow from the reflections of the lights. I love the pale, alien colors and the mix of hard, gnarled and knotted snowpack against the soft and eery sky. 

And gosh. Wow, this incredible night sky — so impossible to see from my urban San Francisco home, and so breathtaking. This was from the top of the Langjökull glacier, in the middle of an extended snowmobile ride. We stopped a few times to just lay in the snow and marvel at the sky. I think this is where my heart had wanted to go with the Final Frontier skirt, but seeing this in such incredible detail made me want to come back and just put this exact visual on a skirt. I love with this image, how you feel like you're peering into possibly some other worlds and galaxies. 

It made me feel small, and yet big all at the same time. Here and connected despite the distance. Inspired to refer more to my lived experience than the musings of my pen and some disconnected notions of beauty. It's all right there for us, if we're willing to look! 

Back in Rekjavik, we stopped in to see the new ice cube-inspired performing arts center. It's located right in the heart of downtown, and I imagine that if Iceland had a national ballet, they would perform here. But alas, while we were in town, I think it may have been an ACDC tribute band. 

I had to wonder whether the original Viking folks that discovered the island would have stayed, much less thrived, had the island not been blessed with the fortune of geothermal energy. There are hot springs and geysers all about the island, and plenty of hot, natural lagoons to lounge in. On the shores of some you can really see how the heat and mineral rich waters create beautiful textures of growth on the dark volcanic rocks.

The Blue Lagoon is something of a tourist hangout, and while its waters have an incredible, mineral-fed, aqua hue, it was a bit disappointing to learn that the lagoon was never a natural occurrence; that instead it had been created by workers that were building the nearby geothermal power plant. Still, its beauty is breathtaking and worth the short trip from Rekjavik. For my taste though, I preferred the quieter locations in the north country much more. 

The landscape and the play of whites with simple pops of color are just so amazing. I also loved the ambiguous, blurred lines of sky and land. Here is a shot from a morning drive we took past Arnes, to see the Hekla volcano. This is apparently one of the most active on the island, and I'm pretty thankful that it didn't erupt while we were driving around that day — as the road was a bit sketchy from the freshly fallen snow. 

This incredible landscape looks nearly dirty in comparison — I left it a bit underexposed because the play of color between the sign and sky was really fun. As my sister pointed out, one of the more incredible aspects of Iceland was that these incredible, majestic peaks stood so tall and sharp, and at such a distance — that you were almost forced to just appreciate their beauty in their entirety. Unlike some road trips, where you quickly get lost in the twists and turns of the roadway as it winds up and around the mountains, here the plateaus extended so far into the distance, that you had plenty of time and space to just appreciate it all. 

I don't typically like to travel back to places I've visited — I have the sense that there are so many places on earth to visit and experience, that I couldn't imagine going back. But with Iceland, it seems clear that the summer would offer an entirely different experience. There were a few places we wanted to go, but due to roads conditions, we just couldn't pass in our rented Kia. We went in March to see the Aurora Borealis; we felt like we saw what we came for — and so much more. But a summer trip would offer a chance to see the far reaches of the island more easily, while still offering a chance to do the fun things like snowmobiling on a glacier. 

Something to dream about, I suppose — as I work on my next collection of skirts!

 

Production Comments:

  • I debated about it for a long time before I left, but was so grateful I decided to rent an f/2.8 lens from BorrowLenses.com. A good quality lens makes all the difference in the world. But also — just a little sad that the many photo classes I took in high school and college didn't really sink in. I learned so much on this trip with regards to metering and f-stops, and am excited to travel and practice capturing more. I have become a big fan of renting lenses, and I totally recommend it — you can get much higher quality lenses than you might normally buy, for just a small rental fee. 
  • Shout out to Mountaineer.is for an incredible 2 trips up the glacier. Thank you for 2 truly exhilarating experiences!
  • Shout out to my sister, for having pushed me to join you on this incredible journey!
  • If you found this article because you're researching places to go in Iceland, I have just a few recos:
    • Book key trips in advance — including the Blue Lagoon. There are so many tourists, and the busses book up tiny places quickly!
    • There are extremely limited dining options in the country. We were grateful to have bought a brick of cheese and a loaf of bread — it fed us for a few days, along with a few small items from a quick mart.
    • Take Super Jeep tours when possible and avoid the 50-person busses. You'll pay more, but you'll also have some flexibility to do what you want and to avoid the tourist traps.
    • Be ready for adventure and enjoy!

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Platform Shoe Pairings

It seems only right that the B+S blog drop some words on shoes, and specifically platforms. The gorgeous shoe shown above is the Jeffrey Campbell O'Hare in black suede, which sadly is no longer available (Jan/2016).*

I highlight it here because B+S muse Magnolia picked it for her performance in the fashion show we joined in December — and they were exactly perfect for the look, the mood, the music and her dance routine. For a small flavor of what we showed, open a new browser window and hit play on this YouTube video of Röyksopp & Robin's Monument video. Just let that play in the background as you imagine these shoes making it down the runway with a little Run Lola Run vibe. 

By the time I was ready to take care of my own look in prepping for the show, the O'Hare was no longer available, so I chose the Jeffrey Campbell Pomeroy in velvet. I thought the more readily-available (and shiny-goodness) of the black and white patent leather version was a bit much for my look, and wanted to just stay with a solid color. Our skirts are such a statement of their own, and the classic black-and-white look of the Pomeroy just wasn't working. This velvet beauty was perfect, but as a statement piece of their own, you need to be one amazing style lover to make this all work. As of today, the Pomeroy is now available in a patent leather grey palette, and a grayish wool color. The gloss grey is gorgeous with our softer grey skirts.

 

Platforms? Really? What's this all about?

Pointe shoes are a ballerina's staple because they add an impossibly long look in the leg — one that's elegant and flattering. But, take it from me, pointe shoes hurt. Big time. And they aren't so practical in the cereal aisle at Safeway. So for streetwear, dailywear — running out for coffee and to the office after a workout — platforms are an awesome choice. They give you the style and length you want after giving your all to your workout. 

And honestly, srsly, some of them are truly comfortable — like, dancing for hours and 8-hour days in the office comfortable. I'll write a post about comfort factor one soon, because I definitely have my preferences when it comes to comfy platforms. 

But that's it for now, girls! Hope you find some shoes that fit your style!

* Note: as of this writing on 1/17/16, you can get the O'Shea, which is a black leather version with an open heal at Nordstrom, but to me it doesn't have quite the same polish and style as the suede, with the closed in heal. 

I should note that I have no affiliation with Jeffrey Campbell other than a love of the fabulousness that his brand brings every day. 

 

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The Iris Apfel Movie

Loved this movie. Love! It's fun to go behind the scenes to see Iris and to get to experience her style in an intimate way. And at 90 years old, she has a lot of sage advice and perspectives on things that go far beyond fashion.

This actually was the first movie I've watched in what feels like years, and it re-inspired me to not give up on some projects I've been thinking about with the prints I've made. I had a few projects that felt a bit off the beaten path — maybe just distractions from the ballet skirts, but I realized after seeing this that if it feels right it's probably worth doing. Just because. Because you basically *have to* do these things that seem right... what else is there to do with our short time on this planet? 

BTW, yes, I did see Star Wars, but that was almost out of obligation in some way — I didn't find it inspiring or filled with curiosity and inspiration. I guess if there was a contrast to draw, Star Wars answered questions while Iris asks them. And asking is so very much more rewarding. 

Watch it on iTunes

 

 

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OFN Holiday Popup

In December I joined a holiday popup and fashion show in Oakland, and my stunning model Magnolia completely rocked it on the runway. She showed off 2 looks, one en pointe and another in a pretty rockin' pair of Jeffrey Campbell platforms. She worked with a choreographer to script out a few pieces to Röyksopp - so amazing!! 

I can't possibly thank her, and the Oakland Fashion Network enough for everything that they put into making the night so perfect. Getting ready for it helped put a sharper point on my thoughts and fabric ideas — as well as my sewing processes. 

This is what fun looks like when you get a little older... making cool stuff, enjoying it, putting it together with friends. Making fantasy a reality. *fun*

See more pix on my Facebook page!

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To Top it Off

I heart this shirt. Getting the little bits to line up was a bit of a technical challenge. I think did a fair job for the first shot.

I used the same design, which I'm sort of crushing on at the moment, from the graf ballet skirt, and used a dolman sleeve style that honestly just works with my body type — I always feel comfortable in this shape. I think it just hugs the shoulders in a nice way.

To get things to line up, I first finalized my pattern with plain fabric, and then generated a digital pattern from it. To do this, I took a picture of it, straight down, as it laid on top of my grid-marked cutting mat. With the grid as a guide, I was able to bring the pieces into photoshop and adjust things until I had a scale drawing. I then traced the pattern with photoshop's drawing tools (the pen tool), then moved those scaled drawings into Illustrator.

The graffiti art was in illustrator, so I simply started laying things out. I moved pieces around in Illustrator, and measured, to get them as close as possible. In between rounds of this, I printed sections out on my inkjet (legal size) and tested my alignment.

Once I felt I had things really close, I had the entire pattern set printed on oversized paper at Kinkos. It cost only like $7, and was ready in a few minutes. I then made even more adjustments. 

Finally, with things about where I wanted them I sent the whole thing off for printing.

For this piece I tried out Spoonflower. I had used them in the past, and felt that they were decent to work with. I have a local printer I like to use that supports other print types and fabrics, but just wanted to switch things up for this one. 

There are some limitations with digital printing — the inks don't penetrate as much, so thick rich blacks have a softer black/grey feel — especially with stretch fabrics, but it was a fun test to do and I can't wait to do another photoshoot with this on top of the graffiti skirts. 

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Sarah

I'm totally in love with Sarah's gorgeous long legs and incredible flexibility. She is also a really cool chic, and happens to be modeling one of my favorite skirts. 

It looks simple, but the chevron pattern is actually designed on a curve that fits the unique form of the arched skirt shape, so when you wear it, the angles are perfectly vertical from all angles. This treatment helps move the eye straight up and down on all sides of the body, adding even more length to your style.

I also love how Sarah styled this with her scrunchy cozy black leggings which give her that extra 4" of length in her legs. 

I throw this skirt on after a yoga class or — yeah, after a little kick down at SoulCycle — right over my capris and tank top. Sometimes I'll wear a longer sweater with it, and the waistband ties hang down outside. It's such a fun, girly look and somehow it's still totally high energy. 

<3! Thanks Sarah for making this skirt look so incredible!

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Sway

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Sway

I was incredibly stuck for a while. I was tripping over my own ideas, getting caught up on some distant, broad vision, and in the process losing the ability to simply identify what I liked or didn't like at any given moment. I bounced between vision and execution, and was feeling like my connection to my own self had been lost somehow in the mix.

Something had to change. And finally, I realized I had to be both the grazing goat and the herder, and that they could both coexist. I also decided it was time to stop letting myself get distracted — with (albeit entirely justifiable) half hour plié sessions in my office, or having a glass of wine, or walking the dogs, or — [fill in most any random distraction here]. In dog parlance, I removed flight from the equation, leaving fight to drive my process.

I went back to one of the designs I somehow always really just "got"; it was the first ballet skirt I made, and in a way, a sort of home base and solid ground. This of course, was the butterfly skirt. I can't say it's one of my favorites, but something about it has haunted me — somehow it just works. It's interesting too — some people really respond to it far and above the rest, but for me, it's always been just a bit too literal, leaving so very little room for someone to fill in the blanks. But what did work for me, I realized during this little fight sequence — was that the lines of the wings as they wrap around the hip are really pleasing. They break up the space, they give each vantage point a compelling look, and they pull together in a pleasing, tidy and balanced way on the butt. 

After my shoot with Eva Blue, I realized that I also really liked the girlish look of the angled silhouette. Unlike the more professional lines of the straight cut ballet skirts, this one had a beautiful, elegant dip in the back that left the leg looking longer and more feminine.

But the haunt. The truth is that I prefer things that are more abstract and suggestive, letting the viewer fill in the story. So I went back and used that basic structure as inspiration, and decided to just capture the movement of the wings from the butterfly skirt through simple, bright lines and refreshing plays of color. 

I spent a week on it. And as my heart sank with each additional line added, I realized that smaller pieces of the design were working, but not the whole. So I scaled everything up, and the movement alone became its own entire story. The skirts are now with the printer, but I wanted to leave you with a little taste of the fun energy that came out of my struggle.

I named this look Sway. Maybe it's the sway of the lines, or the sway in my process — or the feeling you get when moving through space, letting balance and dissonance play off each other. I'll leave that for you to decide, but check back soon for pictures of the completed skirts and please let me know what you think!

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