19 October 2014

Ceremony: ReciclaGEM's First Bridal | Ceremonial Design

Bom dia readers,

Last month, I had the honor of designing our first bridal, ceremonial, nuptial (whatever best describes the sacred, community- supported union between lovers and partners) design for our frequent collaborator and dear friend, Krystalla Pearce.

The process began this past February, when after our photo shoot with the River Revista, Krystalla graciously asked me to design her wedding dress (!!!). Over email, while I was in her hometown of of Melbourne, and she in my hometown of NYC, we discussed ideas over pinterest exchanges and emailed photos. The goal was to design a dress that would include elements of her family history and her style aesthetics while being constructed ethically with thoughtfully minded materials.

 After two dress mock ups and several fittings, we came up with the perfect look for her- a Ceremonial attire constructed with a hand-sewn lace bodice, "Ahimsa," Peace Silk dress base, hand-sewn, locally-sourced metal chain hem, upcycled Made Well shoes with spray-painted gold heels, and a veil constructed with flowers picked fresh from the gorgeous organic farm, where the wedding took place.

The bodice of the lace was constructed with antique lace that came from both her mother's and father's sides, collected during our visit to Australia earlier this year.  Smaller hand constructed lace pieces were artfully folded over a Peace silk bodice, topped with large pieces creating a yoke at the midsection.

The dress was finished with small pleats, a signature of Krystalla's personal style and five Peace silk fabric buttons, symbolizing the five members of Krystalla's immediate family.

The Peace Silk pleated skirt bottom was weighted down by a small Pewter gold chain, sourced from the New York City Jewelry district, and a small train, which would be pinned to create a small bustle for walking across the grass of the organic farm or the barn's dance floor, where such a glorious event continued. (Side note: Peep the gold heels! - an ode to Krystalla's Greek origins).

It was such an honor to design a bridal dress for a wonderful supporter of our work here at ReciclaGEM and to work with not only recycled and vegan materials, but materials that held a special significance in telling a family and ancestral narrative.

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity- may you and Ben continue to have beautiful, artistically-enriching, mind-expanding adventures together and a love that inspires all those who witness it to live more fully.

Peace, love, and ceremony,

Photo Credits: Sarma & Co Photography, Suzanne Finley, T*'s Iphone :-)

14 October 2014

Playing Dress Up II : Fashion, Gender Play and the Politics of Embodiment | NYC Edition

Since 2012, the Graduate Student Initiative (GSI) of the Hemispheric Institute of Politics and Performance (Hemi) has joined together graduate students from throughout the Americas in a tri-lingual conference that explores areas of academia excluded by dominant culture. That means, those areas of life that impact our social and political worlds which academic institutions, built on years of hegemonic structure, have neglected to take seriously- That's my interpretation of course. Read more here)

One of such subjects is the subject of fashion as it relates to politics and embodiment.

Thus in 2013, Drag King, drummer, adjunct faculty, and PhD candidate Kelly McKay and I joined together to create a space within the Hemispheric GSI to discuss fashion. For those of you who have been reading my blog, you are familiar with my stance of fashion being a vehicle for political discourse, awareness raising, and social change. For those who are new, I have since 2005 explored both the fashion collection and the fashion show as sites to galvanize attention around environmental and social issues in an imaginative way- ranging from creating a collection that embodies the perspective of animals affected by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill to a collection inspired by an Anti-GMO artistic action that sought to intervene in GMO-crop distributor, Monsanto, partnering with the Mexican government in taking over organic corn. Peruse the site to get to know my work.

Our “Playing Dress Up” workshop returned for a second year to the Hemispheric Institute’s Graduate Student Initiative. This year, we had participants from the US, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, who presented their work on various themes, from pandrogeny- or living beyond the binary confines of masculine-feminine, to kikis, camaraderie, and ways that fashion can create community for those alienated by dominant culture. 

This year, we had the honor of being joined by Elisa and Lily Mandelbaum, founders of style site and style-aficionado safe haven, Style Like U. 


StyleLikeU is a site that showcases people who know themselves- people with such a clarity of mind and spirit that it inspires you, as the viewer, to know yourself.

Many of there earlier videos showcased the closets of these self actualized individuals. but recently, they have launched a new project “The What’s Underneath Project” that showcases the unraveling of that person. And yet, through their undressing and revealing of painful parts of their past, the individual is shown all the more majestically.

In many ways the What’s Underneath Project showcases those who have reconciled their past and able to stand boldly in their present, knowing themselves, knowing where they’ve come from and inspiring us to do the same.

Elisa and Lily joined our group of PhD students, fashion artists, musicians and scholars in doing a “What’s Underneath” workshop, but a special edition for the GSI’s theme “Bodies in Transit.”

Instead of merely removing clothing as questions are being asks, the subject has the opportunity to take off, exchange, or remain the same.

Prior to this workshop, we had the opportunity to share with one another our “Fashion Manifestos.” a statement that would go on to describe how we would dress if our bodies were an active resistance against the oppressions we faced.


From that, working group participants either dressed accordingly, or brought an entire to change into. 

Many of the themes discussed included:
  • Rape culture and rape / dressing to deter the objectifying male gaze / dressing in a way to surpass gendered boundaries;
  • Dressing to appear “older”- when ageism makes those smaller than the body type of dominant culture belittled;
  • Cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation;
  • Dressing beyond gender normative confines;
  • Dressing to highlight brownness and femmness.

The second day of our working group consisted of group presentations, where everyone presented current PhD theses, video projects, alter ego projects, and other interests.

(Photos by ReciclaGEM)

(Photo by Manu Mojito)

The third day entailed a closing discussion at Brooklyn based, hemispherically American, fair trade fashion boutique, Carolina K, where we all viewed the video of Melanie Gaydos, discussed beauty and discussed our own objectifying gaze that we may bestow upon ourselves and those we other.

In future blog entries, you shall hear about the fascinating work of our 10 work group participants, the evolution of the What’s Underneath Project, and further discussions on dressing in ways that challenge and engage notions of appropriation, dominant culture, gender binaries and normativities, ageism, and the many provocative themes that emerged from this conference.

Special thanks to Leticia, Kerry, Olga and the entire Hemi GSI team for organizing a space for us, for this, and for elevating discussions of embodiment. You have sparked some amazing collaborations that will continue to platform these questions and, we hope, inspire consciousness-expanding around fashion and positive social change.

Fashion, Gender Play, and Embodiment,

27 July 2014

Beautiful People: Evi

(Evi wears a vintage coat, turban by J. White Original, and bangles by A. Bernadette)

Evi is a natural story teller deeply invested in telling children's stories. Born in Cyprus, Evi is an anthropologist who writes children's books that explore social justice narratives from the perspective and voice of young children.

Current Projects

“The Green Line” is a children’s story that deals with the partition of Cyprus into ‘North (Turkish Cypriot) and ‘South’ (Greek Cypriot) through the eyes of a young girl. This story is part of a larger project called WorldWideBuddies, which consists of a series of fictional, educational stories about children from all over the world, aiming to promote cultural awareness and shed light on the multitude of experiences and realities that exist.

(Read the complete "The Green Line" here)

Evi's Relationship to Brasil

 Everything that has to do with Brazil is so vibrant - even its name!

Evi's Relationship to ReciclaGEM

 Evi has been a longtime supporter of ReciclaGEM, and has even brainstormed with us projects on how we might used recycled clothing in a workshop to support the imaginative storytelling of young children. 

Evi is truly a Beautiful Person to watch. 

Thank you, Evi, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,


Beautiful People: Cladia Ayoub

(Claudia Ayoub wears a dress by ReciclaGEM, a necklace by Ladyfied Vintage, and shoes by Jeffrey Campbell's vegan collection). Photo by Austin Phelps.

Born in São Paulo and raised between São Paulo and Rio, Claudia Ayoub is an interdisciplinary performance artist who explores themes of ancestry, Afro-diasporic spirituality, ritual, carnival, and the complexities embedded within performative and non verbal story telling. She completed her Masters of Performance Studies degree in NYU Tisch after studying visual arts at the Fine Arts Center of São Paulo. She utilizes the diverse media of performance art, painting, installation, sculpture, video art, and education to explore themes ranging from São Paulo and Rio’s Carnival as a performance of the wondrous - its relations to African Brazilian religions to recovery-redemption-rescue of the self, and the appropriation and misappropriation of space. 

I modeled out of admiration of my friend's work, and the will for enriching the transmission of the Brazilian culture across places. 

"Overcome with art the monotonous conformity of all things." 

Current Projects

One of her most recent performances, "The Secret Face of Living Things: How to Make People with Objects II," was a six-hour interactive performance piece, which explored the potentially conflicting tension that can exist between the many significances objects can bear. In the words of the artist,

Is an object, in and of itself, sacred or profane?Where lies the space of possibility? – where all objects can relate, no matter what their varying significance to different peoples.And what does it mean to conceive an antagonistic potentiality: such as a deity that is simultaneously sacred and mundane? This performance is a culturally specific reflection on the social necessity of this dichotomy, and at the same time is an experiment on how it can be engaging to different individuals.
(View the clip of the performance, and the research that informed it here)

Claudia's Relationship to Brazil 

Passion and love for the beauty and richness, and hope for better changes. Changes that can improve the quality of people's lives, but don't corrupt our vitality of living. Although I feel like a hybrid person and a citizen of the world, the rhythm of my heart and soul is Brazilian.

The richness of its colors and flavors, the warmth of the people, the dancing, the possibility of navigating through so many worlds within worlds. 

Thank you, Claudia, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,


Beautiful People: Sierra "Squirrel" Lebron

(Sierra wears a corset by Tiffany Moy, a necklace by Ladyfied Vintage, vintage pants, converse, and a bangle by A. Bernadette)

Sierra Lebron is a New York based, globally inspired midwife-in-training, doula, jewelry designer, and all around fashion aficionado and healer. Her work is a daily moving meditation in spirituality and the affirmation of life. Whether designing jewelry, or dancing for Yemaya, Sierra, better known as "Squirrel" is a beacon of inspiration.

I am a reflection of your beauty.

(Photo Credit: Kamau Ware)

Sierra's Relationship to Brazil 

I am waiting to run through South America. 

Endless Singing and Dancing

Squirrel is truly a Beautiful Person to watch. 

Thank you, Sierra-Squirrel-Yemaya, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,


Beautiful People: Laura Musholt

(Laura Musholt wears two smocks by STATE, a vintage tulle skirt, and necklace-belt by Marlandia)

Laura Musholt is a yoga teacher, social worker, dancer and model. Laura is a yoga instructor at three different yoga studios, and has rocked runways and photoshoots since 2005 as a model for sustainable fashion. As an avid traveler, Laura has lived all over the globe. And her global perspective and love for movement and people extends beyond the arts into social work.

To me, sharing my love of movement and people brings me great joy! 

(Modeling Reborn by Soham Dave, at Fair Fashion Runway)

(Modeling Kibonen NY at Fair Fashion Runway)

Current Projects

Laura continues to support independent sustainable designers, and has just recently been featured in the Spring 2015 Look Book shoot for label, Launch by Susan Young!

(Left: Launch by Susan Young, Right: Choonri Collection, 
one of the designers helping to create her wedding dress)

Laura is also getting married in October, and will be having an "Indian western fusion wedding," and has been working with two designers for whom she's modeled to create the multicultural and beautifully synthesized complete look.

Additionally, Laura and her fiancé developing a new app that "helps people create healthy habits; how to eat and move though out the day to stay healthy and feel good in your body."

Laura's Relationship to Brazil 

I have visited Brazil a few times and each time I set foot there I immediately felt a sense of warmth, excitement and positive energy. Brazil has a personality unlike any country I have ever visited. Brazil is alive!

Laura's Relationship to ReciclaGEM

Laura has graced the stage modeling in the collections of fellow designers that have showcased alongside ReciclaGEM, and will soon be modeling in our next look book!

(Laura modeling Soham Dave and Leota NY at Fair Fashion Runway)

Laura is truly a Beautiful Person to watch. 

Thank you, Laura, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,


Beautiful People: Tessa Allen

(Tessa Allen wears a dress by ReciclaGEM, scarf by J. White and her own boots.). 
Photo by Austin Phelps.

Tessa Allen is a performance artist and dancer, who has explored various themes of story telling, conventions of beauty and identity formation in her work. Originally from California, she pursued dance as a choreographer and dancer of the Willamette Dance Company, and further expanded her  passion for interdisciplinary studies through her Masters of Performance Studies degree from NYU Tisch. She is a talented performer, and illustrator, who uses many media, whether ink or her own body, to tell stories. At the time of the shoot, Tessa was recovering from an injury. With her body as her instrument of beautiful story telling, she modeled the beauty of the body in all of its stages of healing.

I enjoyed an opportunity to represent the beauty of a body in recovery!

 (Photo Credit: Charlotte Martin)

Current Projects
Tessa is a frequent collaborator with Krystalla, and together, these two Beautiful People make magic through their performance art troupe, PAKT. Included in their collaborations are performance projects, Money and Eating, videos that narrate in a light-hearted and yet sardonic voice the power dynamics embedded within the quotidian things we often take for granted.


Tessa's performance project, Unless These Bones Are Shaken, explored the idea of story telling so seminal to Tessa's work and the ways the body, movement and memory can narrate nationality. Whether exploring the Northwest of the United States or her Finnish ancestry, the stories of place and the cultures associated with such places truly distinguish Tessa's artistic voice. 

Tessa's Relationship to Brazil 

When I was in 7th grade we had an exchange student from Brazil live with us for 6 months. She became another older sister to me and taught me capoeira and samba in our living room. She introduced me to the vibrant warmth of Brazilian culture, and since I have always been struck by the sense of passion for celebration and the embrace of vivacity that I especially associate with Brazilian music. 

Tessa is a Beautiful Person to watch. 

Thank you, Tessa, for your beauty, artistry, talent and grace! You make our world better,