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FEATURES

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.

 

Samuel Draxler

Mira Dayal

Samuel Draxler is an artist, curator, and co-founder of the "New York Performing Artists Collective (NYPAC)" whose practice has most recently challenged conceptions of failure, performativity, and context.

By Mira Dayal

Fairweather Magazine: How has your work as a curator affected the ways in which you think about your own art practice?

Samuel Draxler: I started curating and making art around the same time. For me, producing an artwork is a curatorial act at heart, at least in terms of the underlying logic. Buyout / Tragedy, for instance, is organized around a proposal for “a new work – a tragedy in which the characters, dialogue, and plot have all been removed, leaving only the landscape.” The work is to be exhibited “with or without accompanying text and illustrations,” which allows it to be reformulated in different contexts using different materials. At the ACC Galerie Weimar, for instance, the installation was structured in relation to the life of Christian Gottlieb Priber, an 18th century German utopianist. The piece was first conceived of as a literary work, inspired by the scene descriptions from extant Greek tragedies. The combination of texts and images, both original and appropriated, lets the references shift with each iteration. It’s become a more open investigation into the depictions and functions of tragedy.

FM: In founding NYPAC, you identified gaps in the accessibility of performance art. Do you feel that you have been able to address those gaps? 

SD: For artists working in the medium, one of the biggest issues is the lack of year-round organizations dedicated to performance art. It’s not only an issue of having opportunities to present work, but also of receiving financial support and professional services. Our goal was to work with these artists to help realize projects that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, all while representing these pieces in the clearest language, and with high-quality documentation. We didn’t only want to present well-developed work; we also wanted it to connect with an engaged and excited audience. While we’ve received a great response from our artists and audiences, we’re still a small organization. The art world is evermore vast, and the need for these types of services isn’t going away.

FM: COLLAPSE (or, falling flat), one of the most recent NYPAC events at the Knockdown Center, addressed "the legacy of failure in contemporary art," in this case partially through humor. What sources of failure persist? How can failure be productive?

SD: To oversimplify, there are two common ways failure appears in performance: as a planned motif that references postmodern dance, or as an unintentional outcome and source of abject terror. Implied in the title, COLLAPSE (or, falling flat) was both. Things fail for many reasons, but when you're looking for failure, everything's a victory. "What if it doesn't work?" "It wasn't supposed to!" [laughter]. That night, I was curator, stage hand, photographer, and sound guy. I had no functional experience with mixing, and when I caused a spike between performances – that terribly loud popping sound – Sara Grace Powell applauded. Broadly, though, I think failure is interesting because it’s hard to operationally define, and even harder to identify the stakes. It’s cathartic, too, to rehearse for the worst, but I’ve been told that I tend to catastrophize.

FM: How is performance art more suited than other media to address contemporary concerns, in art or otherwise?

SD: There's certainly a history of political concerns within performance, in regards to gender, sexuality, and the body. With a body at the center of the work, and with a performer investing their time and labor one-to-one with their audience, it's, in a way, naturally predisposed to examine and critique political and structural governing forces. At the same time, that doesn't absolve other media from being actively engaged with these types of concerns. Just because performance as a medium tends towards this focus doesn't mean that other media can't or shouldn't as well.   

FM: Your own art does not always involve explicit performance (as movement through space in time) but frequently involves multiples, collections, and juxtapositions of discrete elements. Several of your pieces (Watershed | The End, 2011 and Strike, 2012) attempt to literally freeze fleeting moments — the daily news. As the frozen pieces melt, there is a sort of performance involved, but it does not involve your body. Similarly, in one of your photographs, plants grow in a bathtub, and this itself is a sort of performance. How do you define performance? 

SD: I myself am not a performance artist, though performance, as an academic and curatorial interest, does seep into my work. Watershed | The End isn't not a body, though. The headline of the original paper in the work is "Qaddafi, Seized by Foes, Meets a Violent End." The form of the work enacts a bodily and state instability. As such, the works as you describe them are all performative, but in no sense performance art. As far as defining performance: there are video works, and installations, that are experiential to the point that performance can be a useful lens to understand them, even if the artist’s body isn’t present. I think fixing a definition is only significant so long as there's something at stake.

FM: What performances, events, or traditions are you looking forward to this winter during the holidays?

SD: ’Tis the season for end-of-year fundraising, when all of the nonprofits in your life ask you for money. We're no different, and you can donate to us at nypac.org/support. More seriously (or perhaps less seriously), the most “holiday” event I’m attending is Justin Vivian Bond's “Angels We Have Heard When High” at Joe's Pub. V is incredible, and I can’t wait. As far as traditions, I host dinner parties frequently throughout the season. Friends, brothy soups, and “Lil BUB's Magical Yule LOG Video” on repeat – what more do you need?
 

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

MatchaBar

Mable Yiu

Photo courtesy of Issy Croker

Photo courtesy of Issy Croker

by Mable Yiu

Taste it to believe it: the original MatchaBar brothers make it best.

Why did you start MatchaBar? 

Where do I begin? It began with an obsession – followed by a vision. I think any great product, really any great brand is created out of drive to share something with the world. For my brother Max & I, we wanted to bring matcha to the people. Plain and simple. We whole heartedly fell in love with the way matcha made us feel. I was amazed at how hard it was to find, and how few people even knew of matcha. In fact, there was so much education and awareness in the category to achieve, we knew right away a physical location was essential. We had to create a real community and hub for matcha lovers in New York! That community today is known as our MatchaFam.

What are your thoughts on the matcha trend?  How did that all begin recently? 

I like to think any product that becomes a household name needs to go through a "trendy" phase. Let's look at similar examples... salad, coconut water, yoga, fresh juice, even specialty espresso shops. When Max & I created the concept to launch MatchaBar, hardly anyone knew what it was. I remember Max and I joking that there was a good chance 50% of our sales would come from espresso in the first year. That being said, we had faith in the product, and our ability to educate and foster a real community. We have seen first hand the excitement behind matcha as we have brought pop-up stores to College Campuses, Music Festivals, cities as far as LA and Tokyo, corporate offices from the New York Post to Forbes Magazine. We do anything we can to share our matcha with the world. Why? Because we believe matcha is on its way to become a staple in the caffeinated beverage world, what I call your "morning cup." Now the key to success lies in who is promoting the product, how it is positioned, and the baseline quality behind it. Matcha is a tricky product. NOT ALL MATCHA IS CREATED EQUAL. The crap the Starbucks, The Bean, etc is serving... Even half the trendy coffee shops in New York who are launching lines of matcha - the preparation is inconsistent and generally lacking in taste, but what really upsets me, is that they are using at most, 1 gram of matcha per cup.... essentially shorting the customer half of what we call "the good stuff" (caffeine, L-theanine, and antioxidants). At MatchaBar we use a 2 gram serving, something that may make the margins less pretty, but delivers the full functional benefit of matcha. Imagine a cafe serving an espresso with a half shot of an espresso - good luck getting through your day with that.

Now, how do we create a unified movement behind matcha when there is such a lack of quality control on the market? It's a tough challenge that we plan on tackling! 

What have your experiences in Japan been like? How did you find the family farm to partner with? 

Japan is a wonderful country. It all started with cold calls to farms we could find online with a translator on the line. Some were more receptive than others. In the end, I had to travel to Japan myself, meet with these farmers, and find a partner that was right for us. Our current farming partners are extremely supportive of our vision as a company. What really surprised us was the reaction from our pop-up store in Tokyo! To this day, we see a great chunk of business coming from those traveling to New York from Japan!

How did the pop-up in Japan come about? What was that like? 

The pop-up in Japan came about from a fantasy. We see ourselves as the authority of matcha in New York - but how can we think of ourselves so highly when the home of matcha itself hasn't even heard of us. There is only one thing to do, get on a damn plane and open up in Tokyo - even if it is for 3 days!

I remember Max, my partner Eli, and I sitting in Tokyo the night before the pop-up wondering if anyone would even show up. To see 2-3 hour lines the following day was one of the most humbling and exciting experiences of our lives. 

We were so inspired by this event that we will not only return this spring, but also have our eyes on expanding our cafes out there in the next few years!

What are your plans for the near and distant future?

We just opened a cafe in Chelsea. 256 W 15th, come by! 

Our biggest venture yet will launch this winter. We are launching a bottled product! We have taken three signature flavors from our cafe, and created a 10oz glass bottled product we will distribute throughout New York, and soon after, the rest of the United States. Each bottle will contain a full 2 gram serving of MatchaBar matcha. We are beyond excited to share this project with our MatchaFam - and look forward with being able to share our matcha with so many passionate matcha lovers who cannot make it to our stores in New York! 

Stephanie Manasseh

Mable Yiu

Photo courtesy of  Kim De Molenaer

Photo courtesy of Kim De Molenaer

by Mable Yiu

Founder of the Accessible Art Fair, Stephanie Manasseh dreamt of creating a new public art space without boundaries between artists and audiences. The art fair will be coming to New York for the first time in November 2016. 

What led you to start the Accessible Art Fair?

I left Canada in 1997 to move to Europe. Since my youth I have had a keen interest in art as my mother is an artist. I always knew that she struggled to find a gallery to represent her and when I moved to Brussels 10 years ago, I decided to start the Accessible Art Fair as I realized that there were so many great artists out there without gallery representation. I did my research and came to the conclusion that these artists are in need of exposure. I then decided to run a high level, qualitative art fair for artists only. 

Eight years on, I am very proud of the evolution of the fair and what it has become. We are a relatively small boutique fair, working with around 65 artists at a time, showcasing a hand picked selection of artists, chosen by our panel of judges all working in the arts (gallerists, art journalists, fine art specialists, etc). I made the decision that I would rather run the fair in a beautiful and special location in the high end area in Brussels, rather than have a huge event in an exhibition hall. People seem to appreciate the cozy atmosphere where they get to meet the artists behind the work. I think there is a lot to be said about gaining insight on a work of art directly from its creator.

Please describe your work with luxury brands, such as BMW, and how it ties in with the Accessible Art Fair.

I am very proud to be working with luxury brands such as Montblanc (on the Montblanc Likes Art Award, launched at the Accessible Art Fair in 2012) and BMW Belgium. By aligning themselves with the Accessible Art Fair, these very strong brands are showing their support to young, emerging talent and are showing their ongoing support to the arts.

Since November 2015 I have been working with BMW in Brussels as curator for their Art and Design Sessions. These sessions were launched to give a platform to artists and designers of various disciplines. We showcase some young talent as well as some big names such as Marc Lagrange, Xavier Lust and the legendary Terry O'Neill.

I am very excited to announce that we just got confirmation that Jeff Koons will join our session in July. We are bringing over his Art Car and the man himself will be present for one night to talk to our guests about this amazing creation.

That is so exciting that you will be launching the art fair in New York next November. Why New York specifically?

I am really excited about launching the fair in New York City in November 2016. We have found the perfect location which fits exactly the boutique style fair that we are. It just seems a natural evolution to run it in NY. There are so many artists in NY who just need the opportunity to get their work out there and we are here to give them this opportunity! I also love NY and all the possibilities it offers. We have already started working on this edition and I can't wait for its launch next year!

Joanna Going

Mable Yiu

Photo courtesy of  Benjo Arwas

Photo courtesy of Benjo Arwas

by Mable Yiu

House of Cards star, breast cancer awareness role model, and successful single mother Joanna Going, sits down with us to discuss her roles as an actress and definitions of success.

Have you always wanted to become an actress? What led you to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts after going to college for 2 years?

I became interested in acting at the age of 14, when I got involved with a local theater company’s production of The Tempest in my home town of Newport, RI. I continued doing theater throughout high school, and when it came time to apply to colleges, I knew I wanted to study theater. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts had been on my radar, but, at 17, I wasn’t ready to move to New York, and wanted the more traditional college experience, so I joined the BFA Acting program at Emerson College in Boston. After two years there, I truly knew I wanted to focus on acting, and desired a more conservatory-type atmosphere. I took six months off to play Thea in The Incredibly Far Off-Broadway Ensemble Theater’s production of Hedda Gabler in Newport, and then moved to New York to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

What has it been like to work on such a successful Netflix series House of Cards? How has that experience been different than filming other TV shows and movies, such as your current role on DirectTV’s KINGDOM?

It was an honor, and a little bit intimidating to come in to the second season of House of Cards, a show that was flying high on the well-deserved success of their ground-breaking first season on Netflix. I had been a fan of the show from the moment it was released and was over-the-moon to be a part of it. 

As a guest part, albeit a recurring one, hopping onto a moving train and visiting for a while is quite different from being a part of the building of a new show from the outset, as is the case with Kingdom. Creator Byron Balasco, just named one of TV’s Most Powerful Showrunners 2015 by The Hollywood Reporter, has been very inclusive with the cast in discussions that shape the characters and the direction of the story lines. We are given a lot of freedom as actors to develop our roles emotionally and visually in a way that is setting the tone of the world where our show exists. We live in that world, we own it, and we feel validated to make the outrageous choices, or take the time to give attention to the small details that all add up to giving the richest life possible to Byron’s beautifully drawn cast of characters.

Can you describe your work advocating for breast cancer awareness?

There are several women among my friends and family who have battled breast cancer, including my daughter’s aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The aunt, who is a dear friend, learned she had the gene markers for breast cancer, and opted to have a preemptive double mastectomy. It was a difficult choice, but a pro-active one. I admire her so much and I am grateful for her example to her daughters and nieces, who may also have an inherited propensity toward developing breast cancer, in letting them know that you can get out ahead of this disease, if necessary, beat the threat, and continue on with a healthy and happy and beautiful life. Education, awareness and early detection are the key in the fight against breast cancer. 

What was the process like creating a work-life balance with raising your daughter? Do you have any advice for women who want to have both a successful career and family?

I’ll be blunt: it isn’t easy. Especially since becoming a single mom. It was simpler when she was a baby and I could travel her with me to out-of-town locations, along with a nanny, who’d get a nice chunk of my paycheck. (Sidebar: in the ongoing discussion of the gender pay gap in Hollywood, it would be interesting to examine the percentages of males’ and females’ income that goes toward childcare!)

Once my daughter started school, I limited my work options to closer to home. It felt important to me to give her that consistency of always having a parent around, as well as an uninterrupted school life. I chose to take a step back from my work and focus on raising my child, and I was very fortunate that my then-husband was working on a very demanding hit TV show, and afforded me the chance to do that. I know the majority of women who work outside the home do not get the luxury of making that choice. During that period I threw myself into the work of running a home, taking care of a family, and went a little volunteer-crazy at my daughter’s schools, while continuing to audition and take the occasional close-to-home job. 

It made me happy, and I am forever grateful for the years I got to be THAT mom. But eventually, with the end of my marriage, I needed to get back to my profession in full-force, and for that it truly did take a village of friends, relatives, school, and nannies. My daughter and I are parent and child, but also a team, we support each other, and she has grown to understand what my work means to me. As necessary as it felt for me to be a mostly, stay-at-home mom when she was little, I am so grateful to now be able to show her what it means to be an independent working woman.  

To find a balance between work and family, you need to find the center of yourself, and know what satisfies you. There are no rules. Only what works for you and your family. If you are lucky enough to have a choice, and quit your job to stay at home and raise your kids and are miserable every second, that is not what works for you. If you go to work and cannot focus, devote your full attention to your job and find satisfaction in it because you are consumed with worry and the gut longing to be with your kids — then maybe you need a different arrangement. Of course, for many mothers there is not a choice: there is the necessity to work, and there is family to be nurtured. For everyone it is vitally important that you create a network of support for yourself and your children; extended family, friends, teachers, classmates. Nobody can do it alone. Take the opportunity to teach your children to build a community, and be willing to reach out when you need help.

What are your plans for your career in the future?

My immediate plan is to continue my work as “Christina Kulina” on Season 3 of KINGDOM, which begins shooting next week. Beyond that, it is my simple hope and prayer to be a working actress, with the ability to support myself and my family, long into my old-age.

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!!

Plums

Mable Yiu

Photo courtesy of Plums

Photo courtesy of Plums

by Mira Dayal

We don't often hear music described with terms like "spectral beauty." When we do, it's because Plums has launched a new album and its silvery dream-pop guitar riffs have captivated fans and critics alike. 

But the best introduction to our new favorite band, Plums, is below: a full stream of their debut EP, Jen.

 
 

You've recently been working on your first album release as Plums. How have you drawn on your previous experiences with music to create this album?

A few of us have made music together in the past, and each of those projects have been great learning experiences. With each new project we discover new production techniques and we find more sources of inspiration. When you make a new album, all you can really hope to do is to build upon these insights and make something that improves upon your previous work. 

How would you describe your music in terms of colors (hues, saturation, tone) or images? How do you think listeners would describe your music?

The saddest brown of all time..... 

What is your process of collaboration like while writing and producing your music? How do your diverse experiences as musicians enrich or complicate production?

Typically one of us will come to the band with an idea for a song, and then we'll work together to complete the arrangement, write new sections, and finish the piece. Working as a group helps in that it gives us more perspectives and possible directions to take the music. Music production can sometimes be a bit of a puzzle – you can tell pieces are missing, but you're not sure exactly what they are. Having multiple people involved in the writing process makes it much easier to fill in those spaces. 

Some of you are also jazz musicians. Does the structure or composition of jazz play a role in your process of creation?

Jazz really is an interactive and improvisational form. While we don't typically write music from a primarily jazz perspective, certain jazz processes influence our music in various ways. This includes compositional jam sessions, dissonant harmony, and dialogic patterns between instruments. 

What have you learned about production through this album, and which tracks were the most interesting or creative on your end?

During the production of this album we became very interested in analog recording technology, such as tape machines and cassette recorders. The drums were recorded onto cassette before being transferred to digital recording software, and many of the guitars were put through tape machines. We love the depth and distortions created by the tape – qualities that you hear in older music (pre-1980s) but get lost with modern all-digital production.

In an increasingly digital and connected world, how do you see music being shared, performed, or distributed in the future?

With digital recording software and the internet, it's easier than ever to create and disseminate your own music. Of course, we also have illegal downloading and the rise of music streaming services, and so revenue from record sales is declining and will likely continue to do so. This is bad for record labels but might not be quite as bad for musicians. Traditionally, musicians have made very little off of record sales (the standard royalty rate is about 15% for the artist), while their primary source of revenue comes from concert ticket sales and licensing. Because of social media, it is easier to connect with others in the industry (we found our record label through surfing the internet and sending them an email) and to build a following that will hopefully attend your shows. That said, it's a very complicated picture and it can be difficult to locate the exact effects of these big changes in the music world. 

Which artists do you find most innovative and interesting today? Are there any artists you tend to return to or feel most influenced by?

As we work on our full-length album we've been listening to a lot of 70s greats - Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Elton John, Jackson 5 - and we're hoping to place a greater emphasis on rhythmic elements. 

Alireza Niroomand

Mable Yiu

Photo courtesy of Kat Irlin

Photo courtesy of Kat Irlin

by Mable Yiu

Alireza Niroomand, stylistic eye behind Sant Ambroeus Soho, shares fashion and design insights.

Born in Iran, raised in Paris, and having made New York City his home 12 years ago, Alireza Niroomand is the charismatic manager behind the fashion establishment. He's also the reason why the restaurant has attracted waves of celebrities and developed a stylish following. Niroomand is not only an expert in the hospitality industry, but has also made fashion part of his lifestyle by working with brands such as Kate Spade, where he was photographed for her fall campaign. We asked him about his experience working with such brands.

It's been a true honor! And very inspiring. The best part is that I got to meet most of the artists I ever dreamed to meet...The whole experience has been rather surreal. I am very grateful.

The famous plate wall at Sant Ambroeus Soho. Photo courtesy of Sant Ambroeus.

The famous plate wall at Sant Ambroeus Soho. Photo courtesy of Sant Ambroeus.

What are your future plans?

The plan for the future is no plan, which I believe is the best plan. I leave room for spontaneity, which has been very effective thus far!