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FEATURES

Filtering by Category: Business

Brooklyn Diamond Coffee

fairweather enterprises

It was amazing to sit down with Lottie Terzi, the founder of the delicious cold brew coffee shops, Brooklyn Diamond Coffee. At the age of 21, Terzi opened her first store in Brooklyn in 2013 and she is excited to share that she just launched a new shop on 54th street right next to Soul Cycle. How did it all begin? "I just loved coffee," smiles Terzi. "But I was also very particular about my coffee and I would never settle. I'm very picky," laughs the gorgeous entrepreneur. So when she started making her own cold brew coffee at home, it quickly became a hit among friends. And word spread that she had something beyond your regular cup of joe. And that is certainly the case as it takes 18-20 hours to brew her yummy cold brew.

In the spring of 2013, she started to do door-to-door deliveries of cold brew coffee and by the summer, she was asked to open a summer pop up in South Street Seaport. The budding entrepreneur generously donated the summer’s proceeds to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and by the fall of 2013 bottled Brooklyn Diamond Cold Brew was available at local grocery stores and health food markets throughout the tri-state area. Next, Terzi decided to open her first location in Gravesend, Brooklyn. And she found that the stores are more than just coffee shops. As Terzi put it, “It has almost become a culture,” a community that is expanding with her new location in midtown as well as a popup shop during the summer at the Jersey Shore. In 2016, Terzi plans to open 2 more locations in NY as well as to expand her wholesale business of cold brew coffee.

What advice does she have for entrepreneurs? “Today you need hard work but it has to be strategic work and smart work,” reflects Terzi. “You need to constantly educate yourself. Always read. Read about CEOs and entrepreneurs. It’s very important to have role models.” And after seeing Terzi’s success, I’m sure she will become an incredible role model for others. So, if you are looking for a role model or an insanely delicious cup of cold brew, make sure to visit one of Brooklyn Diamond Coffee’s shops.

Michele Wiles, BalletNext

Mable Yiu

Former principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater, and now Founder, artistic director, and dancer at BalletNext, Michele Wiles has an impressive resume to say the least. Before that, she trained and lived at the Kirov Academy in D.C. from the age of ten, and competed in numerous ballet competitions in places like Bulgaria, Japan, and France. See my interview with the lovely and ambitious Wiles below.

By Mable Yiu

Wiles' visit to the YMCA in Bed-Stuy, December 2015. Photo courtesy of the YMCA of Greater New York.

Wiles' visit to the YMCA in Bed-Stuy, December 2015. Photo courtesy of the YMCA of Greater New York.

I remember seeing you perform with American Ballet Theater years ago in Orange County, but I never knew about your training. What was it like moving to D.C. to train at the Kirov Academy when you were only ten?

This was a life changing event and a big decision for a family to make. Originally, I received a full scholarship from the Royal Ballet in London. My parents would have had to sign legal guardianship over to them- a bit extreme! Luckily, the Kirov Academy opened in 1990 and that was a car ride away. We made the huge decision that I would board at the school full time. I was there for six years training in classical Vaganova technique, character dance, and historical court dance. There were academics in the morning, and at night, I had to maintain other kinds of dance for local dance competitions I would compete in... there was no time for anything else. I lived for dance!

Did you take academic classes at Kirov as well, or did you have to go to a different school in addition to the ballet academy?

I skipped 5th grade to go there. The first two years we went to a public school in the area. It was a crazy adjustment. The kids were older… it was overwhelming at first. I wasn’t living at home during the week, it was my first time living at a boarding school, and I was eleven. I had home on my mind a lot. It was a different social scene... It was a public school and it was hard to fit to find people to fit in with. But by eighth grade, I made a really good friend, Lisa, and we still keep in touch. By the third year I was there, they started to have in-house schooling, so I could do my schooling within the Kirov Academy.

Since you started training at such a young age, was ballet always a career you were aiming for, or did you ever think about going to college or doing something else?

I started young in tap and jazz and [participated in] a local dance competition then. At that point, the goal was to be a Rockette. To improve my jazz technique, they suggested that I take ballet. I started watching videos and became completely hooked and knew that was what I wanted to do. So I set out with this one goal in mind.

You moved pretty quickly through the ranks at American Ballet Theater (ABT); it took you two years to become a soloist, and then five years to become a principal. Can you share more about your experience at ABT?

This was like going to college. There was a whole new set of people and challenges to experience. Like the big leagues. The Kirov was a place to concentrate on creating my technical foundation. ABT was about carving out a space in the world of dance as a great dancer. I went through several phases, which ultimately led me to BalletNext. 

Phase 1 was the Kirov training for 6 years, and winning the gold medal in Varna, Bulgaria.

Phase 2 was company life. I was dancing through the ranks: studio company, Apprentice, Soloist, and Principal. My Kirov training carried me through becoming soloist, the Princess Grace Award in 2000, the Eric Bruhn prize in 2002, and my first principal roles in Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. In 2005, I sustained a back injury which sidelined me for 7 months. Ironically, I was just promoted to principal when this happened.

Phase 3: emotional life begins. I met David Howard [one of the most sought-after ballet coaches], and worked on rethinking how I approached my work. The first thing he said was "Let go!" I had spent so many years examining myself in the mirror; it was time to go inside and figure out what was going on. A whole new emotional side was added to my work. I learned a new way of working with ballet mistress Georgina Parkinson. She would always ask, "What do you want to do today"? 

Phase 4: emotional life continues to build. I had a lot of success with more dramatic roles, which require an emotional understanding of the character. Ultimately, I came to the decision to leave American Ballet Theatre to expand and experience a new way of creating art. BalletNext was born out of a desire and need to have a more process/experimental type environment. Then I started choreographing myself and collaborating with unlikely artists such as Jay Donn and Tom Harrell.

Dancers at BalletNext, in costume for Wiles'  Ushuaia . Photo by  Albert Ayzenberg

Dancers at BalletNext, in costume for Wiles' Ushuaia. Photo by Albert Ayzenberg

So did you start BalletNext while you were still at ABT, or was it something that came about afterwards?

I started thinking about BalletNext the last year I was there. It was just a conversation and I was just wrapping my head around the idea of creating a new company. It was definitely a risk, but a risk worth taking. You know, you come from a ballet company and a ballet school, and your main job is to dance. I had to break those walls and learn about it.

I love how BalletNext works to, in your words, "pair classically trained dancers and live musicians in a collaborative setting that encourages risk taking and a focus on process." What was your inspiration for founding BalletNext and what do you hope to achieve with it? 

My inspiration is finding new energies to pair with the strong foundation of classical technique and to bring the style into the future. This is also helping me find out how I really want to dance. I hope to achieve a bi-coastal presence and show other ballerinas who leave a company that there is another way and to bring up the next generation.

How have you selected your company members, choreographers, composers, and musicians? Did they have to audition, or did you reach out to them?

It's been a little bit of both. I have auditions in the summer- mostly for the dancers. [For] choreographers, musicians, etc., I reach out to them.

You mentioned that your husband, James, is a chairman on the board. Is he a dancer as well?

No, he is on the business side of cancer research. He develops companies - young and entrepreneurial biotech companies.

How did you guys meet?

It’s a funny story. I call it the “Chinese-Arranged Marriage.” It was all Irene Shen, who’s on the board for YAGP [Youth America Grand Prix competition] and ABT. James was on the board for YAGP. She kept telling James that she had the perfect woman for him and to not get married, and wouldn’t tell him who it was. I was dating someone at the time, but Irene took me to dinner and told me, “I have this very tall man for you. When you are done [dating], let me know.” This went on for two years. One spring I told Irene that I was ready, and she tells James. Then three weeks later, he calls me, but I’m busy and didn’t call him back for another three weeks. But Irene was persistent and said I have to call him back. Finally, I do, to satisfy her, and we met up and had a blast. It's sort of history from there.

You've also taken on choreography, and recently debuted Ushuaia, with music by Heinrich Biber, last February. How has that process been? Do you tend to choreograph works on specific dancers or simply to the music? 

I tend to choreograph to the situation. Ushuaia began with a male dancer and three females. Then there were four female dancers and I adapted the piece to that. It was like three different ballets all in one. By the end, everyone was like “I like it better with four girls now.” I liked the process and I don’t necessarily want to make the dancers to do the same choreography. Choreography is alive, too, and it always has to be changing, especially if you are doing the same work with the same music. It's never done, but you have to move on.

Wiles' visit to the YMCA in Bed-Stuy, December 2015. Photo courtesy of the YMCA of Greater New York.

Wiles' visit to the YMCA in Bed-Stuy, December 2015. Photo courtesy of the YMCA of Greater New York.

I saw that you regularly work with YMCA to teach some of their young members ballet. What has been some of the most meaningful charity work you've done? 

YMCA has been my heart for the past 5 years. I fell in love with the dancers from PS 54 and with the Tiny Toes [program], it doesn't get any better. I've recently taught at 51st Academy for the COMPASS after school program. One of the boys said, "I thought dance was only for girls, but l was wrong," which melted my heart! You realize in those moments that you are changing lives.

How did your partnership with the YMCA come about?

In 2010, I was given an Arts and Letter award at the YMCA Gala at the Time Warner building. They were honoring me for my work, and it was amazing. Then I was introduced to the program, Tiny Toes, and I taught the class out there and we decided in 2011 to do a joint collaborative performance with the Y and Ballet Next. There were high school kids that they invited to watch the performance, and I danced the White Swan pas de deux, where the guy comes out in white tights. They were all laughing! But the moment he lifted me over his head, they were like “Wow, this is amazing.” So I’ve been teaching there and doing the gala in Brooklyn. This will be the fifth year.

Andrew Laffoon, Mixbook.com

Mable Yiu

Andrew_Headshot_Hi-res_1_4_20.jpg

Andrew Laffoon is an innovative entrepreneur changing the way we tell our personal stories and preserve special memories. He is the CEO and Founder of Mixbook.com, a photo service site offering completely customizable, aesthetically beautiful, and high quality products. Easy to use, yet with limitless possibilities, Mixbook is the place to create an absolutely gorgeous, personal, and unique gift that will be treasured for years to come (especially as Valentine’s day is coming up!). Here, you can see our interview with the man himself, where we talked about inspirations and the future of photos.

By Camilla Misiaszek


What was the inspiration behind Mixbook.com? 

I had made a couple of photo books before: a photo book as a going away gift for a friend who was moving away and a book of my honeymoon for my wife. The books were really cool, but the creation process was so painful. We had a very different way of approaching the market, and we knew we could make the process easier and more fun, so we built Mixbook to solve our personal pain.

In an age where photos are stored on the computer and shared online, why do you think having physical photos is important? 

No matter how much I interact with photos on my phone, it's still not the same as holding them in your hand or seeing them on your wall. In an age when many things are moving digital, the physical things you have left will have more value, and you'll want them to say something about you. The regular books you keep on your bookshelf will be to show friends and family the things you care about. Nothing shows that more than a photo book of your life, brimming with stories that you want to share.

What makes Mixbook unique from other photo services?

Mixbook is all about creating the best user experience for making photo books and telling stories with your photos. The experience is fundamentally different: you can customize every aspect of your product, more than anywhere else. At the same time, it's intuitive and easy, the designs are gorgeous and the quality of service is unparalleled. We all use Mixbook often, so we care more than anybody that it's the best photo service in the world.

Between the prints, calendars, photo books, and cards that Mixbook offers, do you have a favorite?

Photo books. I am a storyteller at heart, and a photo book is the best format for telling the stories I want to share. 

Over the past ten years, smartphones and social media have revolutionized the world of photography—how do you think photos will be different in the future? 

For one thing, all your photos will be organized, easily searchable and synced across all your devices. That will be the bare minimum. On top of that, I think you'll find people engage with their photos a lot more, from printing and sharing to just enjoying them in moments of downtime.

Launching a company comes with many uncertainties and obstacles—what advice would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Don't give up. Most entrepreneurs give up way too early. Every entrepreneur will have moments of despair, days when you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, when you want to give up. Keep going - the winning entrepreneurs stick it out far longer than their peers, and position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that inevitably present themselves along the way.

Any fun Valentine's plans?

My wife and I have a date with our 1 month old son!


All photos courtesy of Mixbook.com.

Trio of Islands, Poised for Grand Legacy, Hit the Market for $100 Million

fairweather enterprises

A rare trio of islands off the coast of Panama offering 50 pristine beaches stretching along more than 19 miles of the islands’ coastline and encompassing approximately 1800 acres will be introduced to the market for the first time in 35+ years for $100 Million.


 
The islands are the premiere flagship of Pangea World, a landmark new transnational sustainable development endeavor that will offer the buyer instant status as a global player on the world stage, with access to work directly with heads of state and leading institutions of the highest caliber. Top officials at the United Nations, the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian, heads of state, and business leaders have all endorsed Pangea World.
 
If you are the lucky owner of the islands, you might build a stunning new private residence and a few luxury, eco-friendly beachfront resorts and use the revenue to fund scientific exploration. This might include exploring the coral off the islands to see if they have medicinal value or scientists surveying the islands and surrounding waters for new species and natural resources. Perhaps it’s looking at how diverse animals have migrated across the Pacific Ocean.
 
“We aren’t selling a property, we’re selling a legacy,” says Dr. Hana Ayala, who is the visionary and co-seller on the deal.  “The new owner will leave a lasting benefit to the environment and to humanity.”
 
There’s a precedent for wealthy individuals investing in real estate with ambitious environmental objectives. Oracle founder Larry Ellison spent an estimated $300 to $500 million on a Hawaiian island in 2014 with plans to turn it into “the first economically viable 100% green community.” Ellison envisions a form of sustainable utopia with renewable energy, electric cars and desalination. Leonardo DiCaprio also acquired an island off the coast of Belize, and is now planning to open an eco-resort there.
 
“It’s very beautiful, it’s applaudable,” says Ayala of these efforts. “What we are doing is in a totally different league.”

As Ayala sees it, the economic development model she is championing can be introduced across the Pacific Island region, as a way of raking in tourism dollars while also protecting unique natural resources and spearheading basic research. 

Her vision and strategy, which have already gained the support of heads of state in the region, are to explore and value the islands' geological and ecological connections with various distant parts of the Pacific Island nations as a foundation for building a transnational knowledge economy.

While Ayala is co-seller and face of the project, the islands are actually owned by German businessman Claus Mittermayer, 57, whose family bought them in the 1970s. A mutual friend connected Ayala with Mittermayer in 2006, at her request. “I sort of intended to have a ten-minute courtesy call, but several hours later we were still talking.” He was so taken with Ayala’s vision he rejected a $30 million offer for one of the islands several years ago, saying he didn’t want it to be turned into an overdeveloped tourist spot. ”The islands are uniquely suited for what Hana has in mind,” says Mittermayer. “It’s the highest and best use of the real estate.”

The islands are being introduced to the market by two exclusive Christie’s International affiliates, the Beverly Hills-based Hilton & Hyland and Christie’s Panamanian-based Panama Premier Estates. To learn more about the islands and Pangea World, please click here

Chloe Coscarelli

Mable Yiu

A lifelong vegetarian and vegan for ten years, Chef Chloe Coscarelli is an award-winning chef and best-selling cookbook author. The first-ever vegan chef to win Food Network's hit show Cupcake Wars, she demonstrated how eating vegan doesn't mean giving up your favorite treats and flavors. Having committed herself to bringing delicious, meat-free dishes to a mainstream audience, Chef Chloe recently made a splash in NYC's dining scene with her popular fast-casual spot, by CHLOE.

Chloe Coscarelli 3.JPG

by Minnie Kim

Minnie Kim: You were the first vegan chef to win a culinary competition on national television - what first got you into cooking?

Chloe Coscarelli: I grew up cooking with my mom, and once I went vegan, we had so much fun veganizing all of our family recipes.  It showed me that food can still be flavorful, satisfying and delicious. I took that passion to the Natural Gourmet Institute and it just grew from there! 

MK: What made you transition from being a vegetarian to being vegan?

CC: I was a lifelong vegetarian, once I tried the vegan lifestyle, I realized there were so many options to make vegan cooking just as delicious, but without all of the cheese and dairy. My family was beyond supportive in my decision and made the transition that much easier.

MK: Most memorable moment from "Cupcake Wars"?

CC: Aside from winning, it would have to be when I left my audition and realized that I had forgotten to tell the casting directors that my cupcakes were vegan.  When they followed up I filled them in and they said “we don’t care, they are delicious!” That as a really exciting moment where I realized that my sweets had a real shot. 

MK: By CHLOE has been a huge hit since its recent opening - any plans for expansion?

CC: It’s been incredible to see everyone’s excitement and support for the restaurant – we'll ever not be excited to see the lines out the door. We currently have two additional New York City locations planned for 2016 – in Flatiron and Soho. We are excited to see the brand grow!

MK: Will you be adding any holiday specials at by CHLOE?

CC: We will be! We just wrapped our Thanksgiving special but still have our pumpkin latte and pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting through the end of December.  We also recently launched a No-Egg Nog for December that you can enjoy as is or spiked for an extra treat!

MK: What is your go-to dish to bring to a holiday pot luck?

CC: The Stuffed Shells from my latest cookbook, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, is a solid holiday stand by. Whenever I’m hosting a dinner party at home, it’s usually the first recipe I decide on for the menu.  It’s a crowd pleaser, super easy to make ahead of time, and tastes great as leftovers.

MK: Baking or cooking?

CC: That’s like asking someone who their favorite child is! I love them both! The science behind baking is really exciting – you can get into the zone in that kitchen and perfect the details, while cooking I feel like you can toss in a little kale, a sprinkle of paprika, and just watch a dish meld together as you go along.

MK: Do you have any festive holiday traditions?

CC: Vegan cinnamon rolls all season long. My mom and I make them and are popping them out of the oven for breakfast lunch and dinner during the holidays. Nothing like the smell of cinnamon and yeast filing your home!

MK: Favorite holiday cocktail?

CC: I say keep it simple – I love a glass of rose' champagne, something a little on the sweeter side but still dry enough to enjoy alongside appetizers.

MK: Dream client to cook for?

CC: Kate Middleton! I'd make her vegan sticky toffee pudding.

MK: What are you giving this holiday season?

CC: Fresh baked vegan chocolate chip cookies! The perfect gift on a budget that everyone loves. I just pick out some cute tins and gift tags at the Container Store.

 

Minnie Kim works as a social media marketing coordinator in NYC. An avid foodie, you will often find her shamelessly standing on chairs to photograph for her food Instagram @eatingwithminnie.

Photos courtesy of by CHLOE.

Alex Devol

Mira Dayal

Alex Devol is the master hand behind Wooden & Woven, a "100% Homemade" source for your new favorite home, kitchen, and art pieces. Here he talks about his relationships with materials, tools, and other makers.

By Mira Dayal

Fairweather Magazine: How did you get into woodworking? Who or what were some of your early influences?

Alex Devol: My grandfather got me my first workbench and tools when I was about 5; I don't suppose that really counts, but I do remember quite vividly being in his garage and inspecting each tool with immense fascination. Since then I have taken on a variety of roles and worked with more materials than I could list, and I'm not sure exactly how or why wood seems to have won my affection over all the rest, but It has. It’s not just the material that’s responsible for me becoming a craftsman, though. I have a love of ceramics and sometimes think it could have just as easily been clay in my hands. I think it’s just always been important to me that I’m making things.

FM: From a cooking standpoint, how does using wood products differ from using alternative material products— metal, plastic, and glass, for example?

AD: As a designer, I am fascinated by synthetic and engineered materials. I love learning about new technology. I have a background in sportswear and one of the most fascinating aspects of that industry was the research & development. It’s interesting to see how design can push the performance of material to new places, but despite that my personal preference is always the natural one--cotton & wood over polyester & plastic. Most well-stocked kitchens will have a wooden spoon or spatula. It isn’t as strong as stainless steel, it wont wipe clean as easily as ceramic, but it just feels right to use when you’re making a stir fry! Not that long ago, all the utensils in a kitchen would have been wooden. I see why convenience and ease of production has led us away from it, but for pure aesthetics and pleasure in use there is no comparison for me between wood and metal. There is just something inexplicably warm and soothing about wood which can’t be replicated.

FM: How do you choose your woods? Do you have preferred types for different products?

AD: It’s important to me that all the materials I use are responsibly sourced. Most of the green wood I use comes from local trees in controlled areas which needed to be felled. The timber I use comes from local suppliers I trust to ensure that the process is the most ethical and sustainable it can be from woodland, to sawmill, to me.  Different trees bear wood with different properties, and that makes them most suitable for different products. Sycamore is particularly antibacterial which makes it great for chopping boards which come into contact with raw foods and meat. As with any design, to make a good product, you have to consider the properties of the material you’re going to use--the durability, strength, and weight... It’s no different with wood, but there are some idiosyncratic properties like the grain type and smell. Some woods actually retain a lot of flavour even when dried out and so would affect the taste of a hot drink if used in a cup or one of my coffee cones. 

FM: What are some of your most trusted carving tools? Have you been trying out any new techniques or materials recently?

AD: Most of my tools are either hand-me-downs or things I picked up second hand. I’m about 45 minutes from Sheffield, which is famous for crafting some of the world's best steel. While unfortunately most of that industry has vanished in the past half century, there are a lot of great tools floating around. There are still some incredible artists out there smithing tools, though. I’d say my best carving kit is either made by Nic Westermann, who is still independently making incredible tools, or a set of Japanese Oire Nomi chisels which are so beautifully made that it’s sometimes hard to bring myself to use them.

FM: I love the look of the coffee cones. What other designers or art movements inspire your aesthetic eye?

AD: Most of the makers who inform my own work are ceramicists. I struggle to think of a craft that forms a better relationship between art and utility than pottery. It seems to have always held a perfect balance of functionality and ornamentation, and at the moment that’s the same balance my work sits within. Designers are very fortunate these days since we can just look to a screen for ideas, but the people around you provide your best inspiration and I have been fortunate enough to work with some incredibly talented potters this past year: Romy Northover, Clair Catillaz, Takashi Endoh, Jono Smart… There were actually a lot this year, too many to name, and some have since become good friends. To give a nod to a few master woodworkers, though, I admired the work of George Nakashima and the writings of David Pye, both of whom should be remembered for a very long time.

FM: How long do these handmade pieces take to carve? An Italian Olive Eating Spoon, for example?

AD: The quickest thing I make takes several hours, and the longest can take weeks!

FM: How much do you depend upon the internal qualities of the wood? It seems like, by making each piece from hand, you have relative flexibility in terms of tailoring each piece to the wood you are working with, rather than having a single template you impose on each section.

AD: Yeah, wood is a very active material. As a rule of thumb, the more figure and beauty you can see, the more it will want to have a say in what you can and can’t do with it. Of course, you can disregard that and just wrestle with it with hand tools all day until it does what you want, or you can overpower it with machine tools, but I find it’s much more enjoyable and generally gives better results when you learn to cooperate with it. With dried timber, that could simply be selecting your piece of wood to make a particular item based on what you see in the grain, but when working with a fresh log, a lot of that information is hidden inside and so the process becomes much more collaborative as you chop away to reveal new knots and figure. The grain will often try to guide your axe a little as you make cuts. I really enjoy this; you feel like there is a dialogue between your tools and your material, and while I’ve often wondered if this can be noticed by my customers, I can definitely tell when and where the wood had a say in the design.

FM: What's next? Have you considered expanding the business to partner with other stores or businesses? Will you move more into art, as you have begun to do?

AD: I work with a very select few companies who I have believed in and admired for a long time. I try to keep partnerships with stores and other brands to a couple at a time and chose the projects I’m most interested in that have the most creative and honest intentions. If a store's values are the same as mine then I’ll try to work with them, but as only one pair of hands I have to keep it to a few at a time.

As for the future, for the first time I’m trying not to think about it. I’ve been inclined to think too far ahead in the past and start myself on very long journeys with my career and my personal goals. In retrospect, I think being so focused and specific with my plans may have placed a lot of obstacles in my way which might have been otherwise avoided if I had been more fluid. Wooden & Woven, in contrast, has been completely organic and unplanned. I’m enjoying just seeing where things go and am trying not to chase after anything if it doesn’t come naturally. At the moment, opportunities are finding me and it makes for a nice change for me to just loosen my grip off the steering wheel and see how things develop.

Mimi Prober

Mira Dayal

Mimi Prober is not only a proponent of the zero-waste fashion movement, but also one if its strongest leaders. In her collection the designer repurposes vintage lace and fabric remnants from the 1920s and earlier — with stunning results. 

By Mira Dayal

Fairweather Magazine: As I'm sure most people wonder, where do you find your materials? How do you ensure that you have context for their creation (the stories you refer to)? Did you consider using other types of vintage materials?

Mimi Prober: You are right! It is a question I receive often. It is a constant search for something special, almost like a treasure hunt. My main sources of materials are museum deaccessions and private collections. I have been lucky from very early on, as I’ve continued to develop this concept, to have people reach out to me interested in sharing their own family stories from materials that they have received that have been passed down from generation to generation. Not all pieces, though, have such a direct history; many come with names and locations that then I’ve personally done research on to learn more about where and whom they came from. Even content as minimal as the origin of creation, type of lace technique and date of piece is information that should be cherished and preserved.

I remain close to my philosophy of utilizing material fragments that are dated to the 1920’s and earlier (the materials that I use typically range in date from the 18th century-early 20th century). There is a closeness and connection that I feel to the handmade quality of these pieces –most of the materials that I select to use in the collection were handmade by artisans and makers of their previous era, which honors the story of the artists who came before us and continues a modern vision of these ‘lost’ artistic forms.

As far as utilizing other materials, I have created a sustainable fine jewelry collection as an extension of the atelier collection. ‘Metamorphosed Art’ is a collection in which antique sterling silver (from the same time period as the materials used within the garments, that have
also been deteriorated from their original intended forms) is developed organically into modern sculptural forms.

FM: What is your working process like? Do you start out by sorting antique pieces into groups that would work well together, or is it a more accumulative process?

MP: I begin with the antique materials that are uncovered; the individual textiles dictate the process and development of the piece. Each piece from the atelier collection is hand draped directly on the form. Through this signature draping technique I am able to individually evaluate and apply the antique textiles and their placement, similar to creating a sculptural
composition.

FM: Do you work from special orders? How do you communicate with clients to understand their visions while maintaining creative freedom throughout the process?

MP: I can create custom orders based upon the collection concept. Each piece is essentially one of a kind due to the antique nature of the materials, but silhouettes can be repeated and similar materials utilized to create multiple pieces from the collection. This also lends the ability to custom fit or create a new piece based upon the client’s unique measurements.

I have also worked alongside clients in creating special gowns for their weddings; the process is a beautifully intimate conversation concerning what about my work inspired them to commission a piece and how it incorporated into their own vision. One process that was particularly inspiring was creating a gown for a bride who wanted to integrate textiles from her own mother’s wedding gown. She was also getting married in Spain, so I utilized a selection of textiles from her mother’s wedding dress (which was a beautifully simple pleated cotton) and combined it with antique Spanish silk lace from the 1800’s. The result was an heirloom dress that is uniquely hers, but it still utilized all of the signature elements from
my own design philosophy.

FM: Have you ever collaborated with other designers, or are you hoping to in the future? What would that collaboration look like?

MP: I am in the process of an exciting collaboration with a textile artist on some very special and unique textile development for a ready to wear collection which includes signature Mimi Prober atelier elements and the continued philosophy of integrating antique textiles.

FM: What other models for zero waste fashion do you see working best in the future? Why have more designers not changed their practices?

MP: I believe sustainability in design, including zero waste fashion, is the future. There are many ways to utilize the concept--from pattern to draping to the recycling of textiles. From both an environmental and economic standpoint, there is no reason why materials should ever be wasted. Big change always starts small, and the designers of this generation are increasingly becoming aware of the need for industry change.

FM: Can you tell me more about your integrated production process and Manufacture New York?

MP: The integrated production process is very unique as it provides great opportunities for business acceleration. At Manufacture New York, I have access to my studio base alongside the facilities for the production process (which has proven well for the creation stage for our ready to wear line development), as all of the product development, sample making, and small run production can be produced in house in the same environment where my studio/atelier is based.

The educational offerings at MNY are also an essential addition for a designer or business that is interested in expanding their knowledge base with hands on workshops. Businesses can learn how to integrate sustainable practices including textile creation and zero waste production methods into their own brand ethos through these industry led classes and
training.

FM: Would you please share any traditions or events you are looking forward to, or any items on your wish list?

MP: What I find most inspiring about the holidays in NYC is the sharing of traditions from all around the world and the true sense of community celebrating from all walks of life. We all may celebrate the holidays differently, but we all share the same basic purpose, and New York is a great city that brings it all together.

As a great and unique gift to give for the holidays, I would recommend the one of a kind sustainable antique sterling sculptural pieces from the 'Metamorphosed Art' fine jewelry collection. My favorite is the draped hand ring and minimal band.

 

Rebecca van Bergen

Mable Yiu

Rebecca van Bergen in Varanasi, courtesy of Neil Davenport

Rebecca van Bergen in Varanasi, courtesy of Neil Davenport

by Camilla Misiaszek

Rebecca van Bergen is the Founder and Executive Director of Nest, a non-profit committed to helping local artisans sustainably develop their small businesses. She is empowering women, promoting prosperity, and introducing globally inspired designs and materials to the fashion industry. Here, she shares with us her remarkable journey, impact, and travels.

Camilla Misiaszek: What prompted you to start Nest? What was your source of inspiration?

Rebecca van Bergen: I founded Nest when I was 24. It was 2006 and I had just earned my master’s degree in social work from Washington University in my hometown, St. Louis. This was the same year that Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to create economic and social development through microfinance and microcredit. I was drawn to his work, and wanted to explore the opportunities for economic development beyond monetary investment but through training and infrastructure as well. I always knew that as a woman I wanted to support fellow women – I felt and still personally feel, even more so now that I am a mom, that economic independence and family life should not be mutually exclusive. 

An avid traveler, I had noticed that craft was very unique in its ability to create employment opportunities for women while allowing them to care for their children and families. On top of this, the women always seemed to be very happy when working on their craft – it seemed to bring personal joy and the opportunity to connect with others in the community. At the time, sustainable fashion was not a buzzword, so artisans and homeworkers were certainly not a widely discussed issue. I decided to make this my issue. Recognizing that the company I wanted to work for did not yet exist, I entered a business plan competition for social enterprise and to my surprise, I presented my idea for what is now Nest and the $24,000 grand prize funded Nest’s start. 

CM: Please describe how you partner with businesses to provide opportunities for local artisans.

RVB: Nest believes very strongly that change in the artisan sector must come from many directions. Many brands employ artisans and homeworkers in their supply chains. This is incredibly important for artisan groups, because it provides them access to the market, which fuels sales and keeps their businesses strong and growing. Despite how fast-paced and largely mechanized the fashion industry in particular has become, industry estimates indicate that 40% of garment production is likely to be happening in homes, rather than in the four-walled factory setting. Nest is very committed to helping these brands that work with artisans and homeworkers to bring visibility and viability to these complex supply chains. We offer our artisan assessment and programming services to them through a fee-for-service model, and also invite them to source from artisans who have already benefited from Nest business programming. Artisans with whom Nest has assisted have been able to achieve strong sourcing partnerships with cult brands including The Elder Statesman, FEED, West Elm, TSE and many others.

CM: How has Nest impacted local artisans?

RVB: I am so proud to say that Nest’s impact right now is stronger than ever. It grows with each year, and we are just getting started. By bolstering the global craft sector and leveraging a fair capitalist market as the sustainable glue to hold its programming in place, Nest’s goal is to see artisan business growth across all groups reached by Nest programming. In 2015, artisan businesses benefiting from Nest’s services realized an average increase in production of 45% and revenues grew by 76% on average, across the board. Most importantly, this economic growth is trickling down to the individual artisan level year over year. In 2015, Nest artisans saw Nest artisans saw an average increase in staffing of 8% and Nest artisans earn on average 120% more than their national minimum wage. As countless studies show with great proof of concept, when women in developing economies are empowered through employment, they are likely to invest their incomes in family care and community enrichment. For every Nest artisan employed an estimated 20 other lives are impacted including the lives of family members and children as well other people in the craft supply chain.

CM: What is the most memorable place you've traveled to? 

RVB: India has a way of taking hold of something deep within you that never quite leaves. Varanasi in particular is a holy city of death, and yet it is pulsing with life. The food, the colors, the emotions, the passion for family and culture – it is all bold and raw and compelling, just like the craft that comes from the region. In Varanasi, Nest works with handloom silk weavers who have been struggling to keep this 500 year-old tradition alive. Just ten years ago as many as 100,000 Indian handlooms were active, but since the rise of the power loom and the outsourcing of cheap labor to factories, this number has been cut in half. With Nest’s help, we have seen a dramatic increase in awareness and appreciation for the rare handloom technique. Following a design elevation mentorship, our partners in India presented a new contemporary silk collection to luxury fashion brands in Paris, resulting in incorporation of their silks into three Spring 2016 runway collections! It is incredible to be a part of this cultural diffusion and merging of East and West – one of the rare experiences that make Nest’s work so special. While I am able to travel less these days with two young children at home, I look forward to my next trip to India!

CM: What are some of the challenges you've faced as an entrepreneur?

RVB: As an entrepreneur, your company or organization becomes your baby. Your heart and soul are invested in your work, and the lines between personal and professional life can be blurry. By and large, there are meaningful benefits to this synergy. However, I have learned the importance of setting aside time that is reserved exclusively for family and moments of personal repose. I know Nest will always be there waiting for me when I pick back up my work again.

CM: What are your plans for the future?  

RVB: Nest is approaching its ten-year anniversary! As we approach this milestone, we are at an incredible inflection point in our growth as an organization. Over the past ten years, we have learned so much about the complexities of the artisan sector and we have been able to analyze where the greatest challenges and opportunities lie. As we head into the years ahead, we are excited to play a larger role in not only directly servicing artisan businesses, but also in tackling the global sector solutions that plague the craft sector as a whole. These issues include wastewater management during textile dyeing (an issue that creates both environmental and safety concerns), living wage models applicable in the piece rate payment setting, and technology integration for rural or highly decentralized groups. These challenges, and many others that other organizations shy away from, must be solved for the sector as whole in order for the industry to advance. Nest is committed to continually identifying these big picture issues, connecting key industry leaders, and working with these partners to build solutions at scale.

CM: In the spirit of the holidays, what's on your gift-giving list?

RVB: The greatest gift for me is the health and happiness of my family. Believe it or not, that includes my Nest family too – my dedicated team, our philanthropic supporters and volunteers, and the artisans we have the joy of working with. There has been so much pain, suffering, violence, and hurt taking place in the world, that I feel grateful for all the examples of love, compassion and understanding that I encounter daily. Nest stands for these values. 

Nest is also inviting our supporters to gift a $60 holiday donation in honor of someone special for the holidays. All donations will be sent with a beautiful ByBoe 14K gold fill necklace [image below], designed and donated by artist and Nest supporter, Annika Inez. Each delicate necklace is packaged in a Varanasi silk pouch made by our artisan partners in India, and includes a note describing the donation. Handmade in New York, these special gifts fund a 100% donation to Nest, supporting makers around the world. In addition to this, I am always excited to see the holiday offerings from Nest’s partners like West Elm, FEED, and The Elder Statesman, who are committed to a more socially responsible industry and are making gorgeous objects that bring beauty into our lives.

Photos courtesy of Nest.

Rose-Marie Swift

Mable Yiu

Founder of an organic cosmetic line used by models and celebrities around the world, Rose-Marie Swift discusses the inspiration for RMS Beauty and why it is so important to check the ingredients list in both your food and make-up products.

by Mable Yiu

Mable Yiu: The whole glowy and dewy no-makeup makeup look has really blown up over the past few years. Did you predict this when you first started RMS, or was it something you had always been a fan of yourself?   

Rose-Marie Swift: To me the idea of glowing and dewy no-make-up skin always went hand in hand with my beauty philosophy, so the trend was really there the whole time. Timing just wasn’t right  for it to blow up.  The whole trend in clean eating for health stemming from the uproar over our chemical laden food and environment led the ground work for it becoming mainstream.

MY: I love how your products incorporate organic and moisturizing ingredients such as raw coconut oil and cocoa butter. What was the process like creating your own cosmetic line, utilizing specific oils and minerals?

RMS: It all started on my journey through my own body cleansing after I found out I had health issues stemming from a great abundance of heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides found within my system. I started a whole regime to purge my system and self-heal. One of the catalyst was changing my diet to a raw food diet. Through that I learned about raw oils, butters and their many healing properties, etc. I started slowly using that knowledge to mix my own products. With the help of a chemist friend in Canada whom helped me with the actual formula percentages, I was able to actually go into the labs with my own formulas that are now what we know as RMS Beauty.  It took many years and just as much time on research and experimentation but I am happy with the results.

MY: You have mentioned that you started an organic, healthy and pure beauty line due to some health issues you experienced in the past that were related to toxic chemicals found in every day cosmetic products. Where can people find more information about which ingredients are good or bad for their skin?  

RMS: The internet is full of great information as long as you know who to trust.  Also there is a site called www.cosmeticsdatabase.com and an app THINKDIRTY (to name one) which helps you to navigate the confusing world of cosmetic ingredients and grades the toxicity of some of these products on the market.

MY: If you had to choose one product to get you through these upcoming dry, winter months, which one would it be?  

RMS: My beauty oil for all of its skin balancing and antioxidants that protect the skin. I also have to add in my lip and skin balm for easy application and mobility (it just can be thrown in your purse).

MY: Where do you see RMS Beauty heading in the future?

RMS: Hopefully on its continuous travel upwards.

MY: What are your plans for this Holiday season, and what are you giving this Holiday season? 

RMS: I am going to spend my holiday in my hometown of North Vancouver Canada with my family.

 

Photos courtesy of RMS Beauty

Stephanie Nass

Mable Yiu

Photo courtesy of Katie Kosaya, The International Culinary Center

Photo courtesy of Katie Kosaya, The International Culinary Center

by Mable Yiu

Chef, artist, and entrepreneur Stephanie Nass finds new ways to tie together culinary and artistic expression...and not just with beautiful photos. 

Please tell us about Victory Club and how it all came about. 

Victory Club is the supper club I founded to bring together friends of friends over the culinary and visual arts. Events take place 2-3 times per month in artists’ studios, private collections, galleries, and museums. The art in each space inspires the menus. Members bring their friends so the group at each event is comprised of friends of friends.

Last winter, I started culinary school at ICC and hosting people in my apartment for dinner. Everyone invited was asked to bring a guest, and the art on my walls— my own paintings but also treasured pieces from artist friends—sparked our conversations. These informal homecooked meals helped me connect the art and food lovers of New York City, in person and on Instagram, and ultimately led to the membership organization that Victory Club is...

How did you get into the food industry and what are you doing that's unique in the food world?

Growing up, my brother Teddy gave me the nickname “Chefanie” because I spent every free second in the kitchen. After college, I worked in Silicon Valley, and Victory Club is exactly what I wished existed when I was doing that job: a way for food, art, and friendship to converge in my busy schedule.

I am passionate about food & art and constantly look for ways to bring these things together. I look for modern plating techniques to apply to familiar dishes and consider food an important artistic medium for self-expression.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope Victory Club will continue to inspire more people in interesting venues for many years in the future!! I also hope the club will find partners that share a passion for reaching food and art lovers. I am personally working on a cookbook, as well as designing and producing embroidered napkins with aspirations to do more tableware.

Dream client to cook for/work with?

Ralph Lauren!!