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It Takes Two: Sara Brown and Mordechai Rubinstein

“I was wearing a Knicks jersey and a fedora, which I thought was the look back then,” recalls Sara, an interior designer. Mordechai, the fashion consultant behind the street style blog Mister Mort, snapped Sara’s photo, and the pair ended up on a date. Ten years later, the newly married couple still goes on them — often in coordinating outfits. “Sometimes it happens,” shrugs Mordechai. “He copies me!” counters Sara. Not up for debate: “We influence each other’s style,” says Sara. “And we don’t take things too seriously.”

Mordechai on his style: “I’m leaning toward ‘man of leisure.’ I grew up an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn. I never knew anything about white style, rich style, Connecticut style, dad style.”

Sara on her style: “I’m definitely tomboyish, and structured but never polished. I always mix in something vintage. A lot of new things are influenced by vintage. I’d rather have the real deal.”

Mordechai’s favorite outfit of Sara’s: “Vintage pajamas she got for me. They look better on her.”

Sara’s favorite outfit of Mordechai’s: “At our wedding he wore a custom silk brocade jacket. It was an authentic Hasid look.”

One piece you share: “Belgian loafers, the uniform of the Upper East Side.”

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Designer Caroline Ventura Finds Wardrobe Inspiration in Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes

As the designer behind the jewelry line Brvtvs and co-owner of the West Village design store Calliope, Caroline Ventura wears a lot of hats — but never too many frills. “I try to keep it minimal,” she says. “Basically, I find pieces I love and wear the shit out of them.” Ventura, a native of Los Angeles, has the sass of her adoptive home: “That one store I was telling you about,” reads the signboard outside Calliope one afternoon. A busy day might include metalworking at her jewelry studio in the diamond district, sketching and painting at home, and walking her dog, Darryl, named for Eighties rocker Daryl Hall. “My clothes need to be able to get dirty and comfy,” says Ventura. “I channel Elaine Benes from Seinfeld. She’s feminine but never dresses like a quote-unquote woman. And she’s a bit loudmouthed and says what she thinks.”

The shirt: “I troll eBay and Etsy for vintage Liz Claiborne linen button-downs.”

The shoe: “Never heels. My go-to shoe is a men’s shoe, like an oxford. That’s a place I love a bit of color. For instance, I have a beautiful lilac lace-up pair from Dieppa Restrepo.”

The jewelry: “All my own stuff. Not out of vanity, but out of utility. I want to make sure it works well and is comfortable — I’m testing it.”

The jacket: “I usually wear a chore jacket. I like that they have these little patch pockets in the front where I can put my tools.”

The pant: “I have short legs compared to my torso, so high-waisted jeans are my friend. I have an insanely comfy pair from Imogene and Willie. And I love vintage Levis. I was wearing them long before every girl in New York — there’s proof on the internet!”

The color: “I like to wear all one tone. All white, all black, all navy, all burgundy.”

The takeaway: “There’s not one bold thing that’s my signature — it really is a uniform. I find confidence in the comfort of that.”

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For Helena Barquet and Fabiana Faria, Romance and Style Go Hand in Hand

Helena and Fabiana met working at a gallery. One year into the relationship, they created a space of their own: Coming Soon, on the Lower East Side. “I love French design from the Fifties and Sixties,” says Helena, a native New Yorker. “I’m more into Italian from the Seventies with a bit of glamour,” says Fabiana, who grew up in Venezuela. “We both love things that are comfortable and well-made,” says Fabiana. When you like someone’s style, says Helena, “you’re probably in sync.”

Helena on Helena’s style: “For clothes, I’ll buy the craziest thing from the collection. In design, I look for conversation pieces that make you smile.”

Fabiana on Fabiana’s style: “My style is more austere. I went to a Catholic school growing up, and the idea of a uniform has stuck with me.”

Helena’s favorite outfit of Fabiana’s: “She has these printed flower pants. She probably wouldn’t have bought them prior to us being together.”

Fabiana’s favorite outfit of Helena’s: “I love this dress of hers that’s kind of an Yves Klein blue. The contrast with her skin is beautiful.”

One piece you share: “A leopard-print sweater from Opening Ceremony.”

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Vincent and Marianna Martinelli Honor Tradition While Breaking Boundaries

Vincent Martinelli, visual director for the jewelry and home furnishings store Love Adorned, has a knack for accessories. “I end up looking like an old Japanese woman,” he says. Marianna, community director at the Wing, a women-only coworking space and club, loves simple and black: “Anything Everlane.” Both love cooking and painting (for her, birds and still lifes; for him, outer space). Some things are traditional. “I got down on both knees,” Vincent says. In September, the pair tied the knot.

Marianna on Vincent’s style: “I’d call it Earth Mother.”

Vincent on Marianna’s style: “She’s like if Annie Hall were from Berlin. A little sharper, faster, sleeker.”

Vincent’s favorite outfit of Marianna’s: “She has this Isabel Marant bouclé hoodie. I wish she wore it all the time — I might be jealous of it.”

Marianna’s favorite outfit of Vincent’s: “He has a couple of short-sleeved tees in indigo. His tattoos are nice to look at.”

One piece you share: Marianna: “He’s got a collection of bandannas that he taught me how to wear.” Vincent: “Tied around the side, knotted in front, peeking out of a pocket.”

 

<a href="http://media.villagevoice.com/10801425.0.jpg" target="_blank">(Click to expand image)</a>

More from the Voice’s spring fashion issue:

Sasha Fierce: American Honey’s Sasha Lane Is Forging Her Own Path

For Photographer Harley Weir, the World Is Her Oyster

An Intimate Look at Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Early Days

Power Dressing: How to Wear Your Heart — and Your Resistance — on Your Sleeve

A Day in the Life of Brother Vellies Designer Aurora James

Remembering the Village Voice‘s Fashion Insert Vue

Opening Ceremony and Justin Peck Team Up for a Trump-Era Ballet of Resistance

Abra Boero’s Off Season Boutique Is at the Center of a Stylish Renaissance in the Rockaways

Hidden Gems: These NYC Boutiques Deliver a World of Unexpected Finds

Meet Your Maker: A Détacher’s Mona Kowalska

My New York: Three City Style Influencers Reveal Their Favorite Local Spots

The Bag You Can’t Have (Probably)

 

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A Day in the Life of Brother Vellies Designer Aurora James

“The other day I was listening to that TLC song ‘Waterfalls,’ ” Aurora James tells me. On her feet are pink over-the-knee boots, in her hand a shearling purse with enough fluff to double as a pillow. “And I had this epiphany — what is that song really saying? ‘Stick to the rivers and the roads that you’re used to’? It’s crazy!”

James is proof that chasing waterfalls sometimes works out. Having followed an unconventional career path — after dropping out of college, she worked for an arts nonprofit, at a celebrity news show, and as a builder of vertical gardens — the 32-year-old Toronto native is one of the buzziest voices in ethical design. Brother Vellies, her line of shoes and bags handmade in several African nations, won a Council of Fashion Designers of America award in 2015, defying the stereotype that sustainability can’t be stylish. James takes inspiration from the African artisans who produce the pieces, which are traditional with a twist. One boot, a version of the South African vellie, comes in patent cork and a holographic leather.

Convertible ruffle cape in heavy parachute silk black with gold electric egg print, $1,037, Electric Feathers at Electric Nest and www. electricfeathers.com; model’s own jeans; Moroccan Babouche shoes, $235, and Mini Island bag, $825, Brother Vellies at Brother Vellies, 4 Fulton Street, NYC, and brothervellies.com.
Convertible ruffle cape in heavy parachute silk black with gold electric egg print, $1,037, Electric Feathers at Electric Nest and www. electricfeathers.com; model’s own jeans; Moroccan Babouche shoes, $235, and Mini Island bag, $825, Brother Vellies at Brother Vellies, 4 Fulton Street, NYC, and brothervellies.com.

The woman helping keep Africa’s footwear traditions alive says she’s “all about rituals” in her own life. Her secret to a good day: comfortable footwear. After swearing off high heels for years, James rediscovered them. “I used to think it was some kind of mysterious process to make heels comfortable, like witchcraft,” she says. “It’s not actually that hard.”

Here’s a look at a day spent walking in her shoes.

Flower tile voile sleeve tie dress, 1050 Euro, Edun at Le Bon Marche, Paris; whiskey woven leather Oracle Mary Jane shoes, $715, Brother Vellies at MatchesFashion matchesfashion.com.
Flower tile voile sleeve tie dress, 1050 Euro, Edun at Le Bon Marche, Paris; whiskey woven leather Oracle Mary Jane shoes, $715, Brother Vellies at MatchesFashion matchesfashion.com.

Morning

James lives in Brooklyn these days, in a two-bedroom on Greene Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Her boyfriend, a stylist for basketball players, is around the corner. While walking her dog, Cupid, a Yorkshire terrier, she stops by Clementine Bakery for an almond milk latte. After checking in via WhatsApp with Brother Vellies’ workshops in Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Africa, and Haiti, James heads into the city to visit her store at South Street Seaport.

Cream La Sierra mini dress, $525, Apiece Apart at apieceapart.com; dusty rose suede Oracle lace-up bootie, $795, Brother Vellies at Lust, Covet, Desire LLC, Los Angeles, CA.
Cream La Sierra mini dress, $525, Apiece Apart at apieceapart.com; dusty rose suede Oracle lace-up bootie, $795, Brother Vellies at Lust, Covet, Desire LLC, Los Angeles, CA.

Evening

In the afternoon, James heads to her office in the CFDA Fashion Incubator space in the garment district, where she works on sketches and moodboards. When it’s time for dinner, she cooks at home — five nights a week. “I’m into oils — nuts, cheeses, avocado, coconut — and pastas made of veggies instead of grain,” she says. If she does go out, it’ll be somewhere like Pie- tro Nolita, whose all-pink décor matches more than a few Brother Vellies shoes. “The color,” she says, “makes me happy.”

Black Los Altos dress, $445, Apiece Apart at apieceapart.com.
Black Los Altos dress, $445, Apiece Apart at apieceapart.com.

Night

James grabs a drink — preferably the Devil’s Garden — with a friend at the Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg. “I love mezcal,” she says. “If they don’t have it, I’m probably not going.” When she gets home, James turns on her humidifier, infused with a bit of lavender, to wind down an hour before bed. “I love the idea of coming into my room when it’s humid and smelling nice,” she says. “And it’s great for your skin.” Not to mention your plants, of which James has better than a hundred.

 

<a href="http://media.villagevoice.com/10801425.0.jpg" target="_blank">(Click to expand image)</a>
(Click to expand image)

More from the Voice’s spring fashion issue:

Sasha Fierce: American Honey’s Sasha Lane Is Forging Her Own Path

For Photographer Harley Weir, the World Is Her Oyster

An Intimate Look at Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Early Days

Power Dressing: How to Wear Your Heart — and Your Resistance — on Your Sleeve

Remembering the Village Voice‘s Fashion Insert Vue

Opening Ceremony and Justin Peck Team Up for a Trump-Era Ballet of Resistance

Abra Boero’s Off Season Boutique Is at the Center of a Stylish Renaissance in the Rockaways

Hidden Gems: These NYC Boutiques Deliver a World of Unexpected Finds

Vincent and Marianna Martinelli Honor Tradition While Breaking Boundaries

Meet Your Maker: A Détacher’s Mona Kowalska

My New York: Three City Style Influencers Reveal Their Favorite Local Spots

The Bag You Can’t Have (Probably)

 

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When Marie Kondo’s Decluttering Manifesto Doesn’t ‘Spark Joy’

Four days in, Maria Walley realized she had nothing to wear.

At first she hadn’t noticed. Standing
in front of her closet, the 28-year-old Ohioan, who co-founded and runs marketing for a photography start-up, had admired her newly organized racks and evenly spaced hangers. The piles of old T-shirts had vanished. The once overflowing drawers shut smoothly. Maria had embarked on a radical decluttering mission, and now she was savoring its fruits.

Then reality hit. Cut down by two-thirds, Walley’s wardrobe was so devoid of clutter that it was…empty. “It had only been a few days, and everything I wanted to wear was in the hamper,” she recalled with a laugh. “That’s when I started thinking I went too far.”

Walley had Kondo’d herself into a
corner. She had followed the advice of
organizational consultant Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,
a tiny book with a cloud-print cover and
an ethereal title that has sold more than
6 million copies worldwide since it was published in 2011. Kondo’s prescription for decluttering hinges on a simple principle: Discard anything you own that fails to “spark joy.”

Readers have taken that message to heart. In New York, a consignment chain claimed to the Times that it saw a 20 percent increase in inventory thanks to the book. In the U.K., one nervous self-storage operator issued a press release urging customers not to trash childhood mementos. And Kondo is showing no sign of stopping: Since Life-Changing Magic was translated into English in 2014, its bright-eyed Japanese author, who dresses in
florals and famously smiles at garments as she folds them, has penned two more books, launched an app to guide fans through the decluttering process, and
begun training an army of consultants to, in her words, “organize the world.”

It’s a dramatic goal for a dramatic method. Kondo recommends permanent decluttering through a purge that typically takes about six months. “Aim for perfection,” she writes, and you will transform not only your home but your mindset. In the Kondo cosmology, stuff has psychic power. Discarded belongings should be thanked for their service, and socks should be shown appreciation through careful folding and storage. Animism is by far the most controversial aspect of Kondo — “I can’t believe she sold 6 million copies saying that your socks need to rest in a drawer,” says Barbara Reich, a professional organizer based
in New York — but it’s also her greatest source of appeal. Whether or not you buy the idea that objects have feelings, you probably have lots of feelings about them.

For many on a Kondo journey, one of those feelings is regret. While Kondo acknowledges that regret is a normal part
of decluttering — “You should expect
this to happen at least three times during the tidying process,” she writes in Life-Changing Magic — some followers say her method spurred them to get rid of so much stuff it generated new emotional baggage.

“Clothes, books, out-of-print textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars,” rattles off Kelly St Claire, 50. “What didn’t I get rid of?” Purging feels good in the moment, notes the Virginia wellness coach. “You lose track of time and get in the zone. I could get addicted to that feeling.” St Claire discovered Life-Changing Magic around the time her boyfriend moved out, and saw it as a chance for a fresh start. These days, she considers it more the nuclear option of organizing: “I almost wish the book had come with a
disclaimer. A breakup is not the right time to get rid of things.”

Even those who are happy with the results of decluttering have sore spots. For nanny Trish Mundle, 39, of the Bronx, it was a low-cut red dress with bell sleeves. “I think about it when someone mentions the book,” she says. For Joy Crook, 66, a plant nursery owner in Oregon, it was a tea set — or rather, the idea of herself as owner of a tea set. “I always thought I’d be the kind of person who’d have girlfriends over and entertain. Now I’m coming to terms with the fact that it was an illusion,” she says. Kondo writes that investing objects with anxieties about the future and attachments to the past is a major cause of clutter. Crook agrees. But “as wonderful and freeing as decluttering is, there is an element of grief that the book does not recognize,” she wrote on a Kondo forum.

Other decluttering methods promise less emotional turmoil. Unfuck Your Habitat — a Tumblr that is now a book — advertises itself as “for people who are terrified by Marie Kondo but intrigued at being able to see their floors again.” Its author, Rachel Hoffman, advocates twenty-minute stretches of tidying with ten-minute breaks, rather than marathon purges.
“For me, the idea of taking every single item out of my closet and going through them one by one is overwhelming,” she says. “My approach is more practical rather than sweeping and theoretical.”

Then again, perhaps only a sweeping approach can effect lasting change. Eventually, Kelly St Claire got back
together with her boyfriend. When he moved back in to her house, “he didn’t totally get why I regretted getting rid of things,” she recalls. “He was glad. The house looked better.”

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Designer Emily Adams Bode Imagines a Preppy U.K. Underground, Then Wears It

Emily Adams Bode has a way of turning the past into the future. The 27-year-old Parsons graduate sources the fabrics for her menswear line, Bode, from vintage finds — estate sales, heirlooms, surplus — and combines it with everything from feed sacks to her own prints. The clothes she makes don’t hew to conventional notions of masculinity — they’re full of patterns, color, and volume. She wears Bode pieces herself and describes her own style as “sophisticated, boyish, and comfortable. Think if Take Ivy” — the celebrated 1965 photo book of clean-cut Ivy League style — “was written a few years later and included footage of underground British bands.” Here’s how she puts her everyday uniform together.

Daytrip Printed Bomber Jacket, $168 freepeople.com

1. The Jacket: “I usually wear a Bode piece every day. This patchwork coat was made from a nineteenth-century quilt. It’s beautiful because it’s imperfect, but it’s also very pragmatic — warm and easy to layer.”

Paige Verdugo Ankle Jeans With Raw Hem in Optic White, $189 shopbop.com

2. The Pant: “Jeans or vintage tailoring. I love the notion in traditional menswear of buying something you’ll wear forever, like a Brooks Brothers suit.”

Express fitted tech 1MX shirt, $59 express.com

3. The Shirt: “A white oxford, tied in the front. I have a collection of white button-ups and blouses, some over a hundred years old. I can wear them to factory meetings or to private client appointments without changing.”

Steve Madden Tomorrow pumps, $69.90 stevemadden.com

4. The Shoe: “I’ve been wearing loafers since I was a kid growing up in Atlanta. Bass Weejuns are a Southern staple, and loafers span all eras and genres of dressing that I’m inspired by. When I want a more feminine look I wear glove shoes from Martiniano or Gray Matters.”

The Color: “A lot of Bode pieces are patterned and striped, so I sometimes like to wear white to make them stand out. It’s a clean palette that you don’t have to think about.”

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At the City’s Annual Holiday Markets, It’s All About the Experience

“It’s lit, Mom! Lit! Get it? Do you get it?”

On a brisk November afternoon, eleven-year-old Ava Cashman was clutching a bag containing a glow-in-the-dark-smiley-face sound-activated T-shirt fit for a rave — or, per Ava, a school dance. “If you went to a mall you’d never find this stuff,” Ava gushed, before rushing away to sample the sweets from Momofuku Milk Bar.

This was the Union Square Holiday Market, one of more than a dozen outdoor and indoor markets that spring up in the city in November and early December of each year. Oases of craftiness in high-traffic destinations, they sell wheels of cheese and recycled film reel candles, finger puppets of dead philosophers and living ornaments made from succulents. They’re frequented by tourists, office workers on break, families, teenagers, and commuters, who (for better or worse) make their treks to the office along sidewalks crowded with booths.

Dan Treiber, Dan's Parents' House, Brooklyn Flea Winter Market: "I don't want to sell to collectors. I'd rather sell to a 5-year-old than a 29-year-old who's on my case about a bent corner."
Dan Treiber, Dan’s Parents’ House, Brooklyn Flea Winter Market: “I don’t want to sell to collectors. I’d rather sell to a 5-year-old than a 29-year-old who’s on my case about a bent corner.”

Markets aren’t exactly convenient in the era of one-click checkouts and same-day deliveries: You might have to rummage, haggle over price, stand outside in the cold. Still, they remain popular. At Union Square, more than 600 applicants applied last spring for about 150 booths, according to Julie Feltman, market director for Urbanspace, which currently operates three of the largest markets in Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Bryant Park. (In 2008, Union Square received just 150 applications for 100 spots.) Vendors and shoppers alike say that markets hold a unique appeal. “It’s an experience!” says Dan Treiber, a vendor at Brooklyn Flea’s winter market at Skylight One Hanson, the old Williamsburg Bank building. In his booth, you can dig piles of tiny cars and braid the hair of Eighties-era Troll Dolls while records play in the background. “There’s a visceral feeling to it.”

Urbanspace launches its first New York City holiday market 25 years ago in Grand Central Terminal, as an expansion of the company’s markets in the United Kingdom. Today, there are markets in every flavor: crafty (Etsy Holiday Handmade Cavalcade at Chelsea Market, BUST Holiday Craftacular at Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Expo Center); neighborhood-y (in Ridgewood and Astoria and on the Upper West Side); foodie (Grand Central’s Holiday Fair, adjoined by Claus Meyer’s Great Northern Food Hall; Brooklyn Flea’s winter market, adjoining Smorgasburg).

Each markets is designed for a different clientele, says Feltman. “Union Square has a funkier downtown feel,” she says. “Columbus Circle is a bit more expensive, with highly designed pieces.” Funky, it must be said, is a relative term: Though there are artist-drawn temporary tattoos for sale, the red-and-white-striped booths organized into pockets like “Little Brooklyn” still feel swank enough. (The most outré thing on display on one visit was a guy roaming around with a disfigured Donald Trump piñata, which, though also handmade, was not one of the wares for sale.) Bryant Park, alongside local artisans, also offers shops selling NYPD hoodies and gift-shop-y Christmas decorations. “It’s a huge shopping and tourist destination, so we want to have things that serve New Yorkers as well as shoppers from elsewhere,” says Feltman, noting that vendors of more mass-market products may be local businesses, too.

Urbanspace’s selection process is extensive: Old vendors are notified in March whether they’ll be returning (more than 90 percent do), so they have most of the year to plan. New vendors submit applications by May and decisions are made in July. “We look for people with experience in their business,” including strong online and social-media presences as well as originality, Feltman says. “Markets are in vogue because people are becoming more conscious shoppers. People are willing to spend more money to get a storied product. Do you want to spend $3 on a jar of dill pickles at a grocery store? Or get an artisanal, high-concept, beautiful jar of pickles for $8?”

Jessy Caruana, a jewelry designer from Montreal, was one of the lucky newbies. She got to work in the spring smashing raw gemstones into 5,000 pairs of irregularly shaped earring studs that she stacked up in her apartment in anticipation of the 37-day holiday market season. “It’s a ‘get down on your knees with a hammer’ type of situation,” she says serenely, bathed in the glow of crystal lamps from her booth, Rawspiritnyc. “You have to be in a good mood while you do it, because the crystals will absorb your energy. I play piano music in the background.”

“It’s a marathon,” says Shara Porter, who sells hand-printed leather wallets a few booths away from Caruana. Porter, whose studio is in Massachusetts, earns half her income for the year at the Union Square Market. “I miss Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, my girlfriend’s birthday,” she says with a laugh. “My cat, my dog, my rabbit.” (The latter, Valentine, is here in spirit, stenciled in silver on a black wallet.)

One thing that makes the marathon easier, says Panama Banasiewicz, a vendor at Beauty and the Bees, which sells Tasmanian honey-based beauty products, is “vendors helping vendors.” Around noon, an older Chinese man arrives at Union Square pulling a plaid cart and weaves his way through the booths. “You hungry? Chicken, beef?” he asks Banasiewicz. The man hurries away when asked for an interview. “He probably doesn’t have a license,” says Banasiewicz. “I need that kind of ingenuity in my life!”

A few hours later, the clang of a high-pitched bell — soft enough to ignore, loud enough to notice — signals the arrival of Jumbo Joyce, Union Square Market’s patron saint of plastic bags. “I’m going on a cruise the day after tomorrow — my husband surprised me,” the tiny woman with a pushcart tells Beth Vaccari, who’s running the Unemployed Philosophers Guild booth. Vaccari picks up two boxes of bags, soon to be holding shoppers’ purchases. “Enjoy your vacation!” she shouts after Joyce.

James Wolfe, Actual Film Votive, Union Square Holiday Market
James Wolfe, Actual Film Votive, Union Square Holiday Market

“The market is its own little world,” says Annie Watkins, Vaccari’s colleague at the Guild. The Brooklyn company makes Leo Tolstoy finger puppets, “Freudian Slippers,” Plato’s Republic passports, and “National Embarrass-mints” with Trump’s face on the tin. The Guild is one of the market’s longest-running booths, its operators having sold there since the market opened in 1993. One of the highlights for Vaccari and Watkins is the rotating cast of made-in-New York weirdos who habituate the market. One year, they recall, passersby remarked so frequently on the Freudian Slippers that they began keeping tally of the comments: “That’s too funny” narrowly beat out “That’s a riot.” “People love talking about the stuff here,” says Watkins. “That’s one of the best parts.”

Compared to Union Square, Brooklyn Flea’s winter market feels small, with about half as many vendors and a bigger emphasis on vintage. At Union Square, a 60-square-foot booth rents for $17,000 for the season, according to Porter. Brooklyn Flea, whose winter market is open on weekends between November and March, charges vendors between $150 and $275 per day. When picking vendors, says Eric Demby, co-founder of Brooklyn Flea, “It’s a delicate balance of giving priority to longtime vendors and making sure the experience is exciting” by bringing in new talent. “The Flea is a representation of Brooklyn — what’s best and interesting about it.”

Treiber, who sells at Brooklyn Flea’s outdoor market during the summer months, moved his booth, Dan’s Parents’ House, into a corner of the bank building this November. He describes his inventory as “anything in piles”: broken doll parts, pickle-shaped pins, Eighties-era “Food Fighters” action figures (think donuts with guns). He even offers a post-election special: a Ronald Reagan 1976 campaign pin. “Republicans buy it because they love Reagan. Democrats buy it because he lost that year,” he says.

“The great thing about vintage is that it’s green,” says Jess Ryan, a Brooklyn Flea vendor who sells midcentury-modern kitchenware at her booth, Huntress Home. A longtime collector, Ryan finally turned her knack for rescuing vintage Arabia Finland bowls and Dansk enamel-wear into a business. “I’ve had people start crying because they recognize something their grandmother had,” she says.

Hamidou Berete, Berete Tribal Art, Brooklyn Flea Winter Market: "My favorite items are all our indigo textiles. Each type comes from a certain country: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast. And each textile is different from the next one — they're all unique."
Hamidou Berete, Berete Tribal Art, Brooklyn Flea Winter Market: “My favorite items are all our indigo textiles. Each type comes from a certain country: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast. And each textile is different from the next one — they’re all unique.”

The next aisle over from Ryan, Lamine Berete of Berete Tribal Art sells piles of indigo-dyed cloth from West Africa, ranging from cobalt (new) to faded sky-blue (older). “In Africa women wrap themselves in the cloth,” says Berete. “Here the women use it for everything!” He pulls out his phone to reveal a photo of a plush bed covered in indigo pillows.

Berete travels to Africa three times a year to stock his booth, visiting the workshops and homes of craftspeople each time. Shopping at the Flea is not so different, he says. “It’s like the old-fashioned businesses we grew up with. When you can see and feel something, it’s better.”

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Meet Your Maker: Ulla Johnson

Ulla Johnson has built her eponymous label on empowering women — both through colorful, bohemian clothes and relationships with the global artisans who make them. Take her alpaca knits, which start on looms in Peru (“you take a flight and drive for seven hours then go on a long dirt road and then down a big grassy field to a tiny hut!”). Or her silk dresses in delicate floral prints, made in India. After passing through Johnson’s NYC studio, they end up in the closets of modern, city-dwelling women who, not unlike the designer herself, seek out the comfortable and handcrafted. “My customers have children, families, commitments beyond the confines of their workplace,” she says. “Having pieces that feel at home anywhere is important.”

[pullquote]’Clothes should be fun. Especially in this time and in this city, enjoyment and optimism in dressing are important.'[/pullquote]

For Johnson, 42, anywhere really does mean anywhere. Raised by archaeologists, Johnson traveled to myriad international cities growing up, but she now prefers exploring the natural world. On a given day, the native New Yorker could be on a work trip to Uruguay, off surfing in Montauk with her husband, at home in Fort Greene with her three kids, or at Saipua, her favorite florist, in Red Hook. “I always joke I’ll have a flower career in my retirement,” she says. For now, she’s content with picking the flowers that speckle her collections. Even with fifteen employees and her clothes at Barneys New York and Selfridges in London, “I still participate in every single button, every seam construction,” Johnson says. “We’re not a large corporate entity designing in asterile environment. It’s very hands-on.”

[pullquote]’It’s been really interesting to join forces with artisans in Peru. We’re using traditional crafts, but bringing forth a product that’s quite urban and modern.'[/pullquote]

Ulla's office is filled with things she's picked up in her travels — sea fans and small dolls — that serve as inspiration. "I love color," she says. "I rarely wear black. The one exceptions was the day after the election."
Ulla’s office is filled with things she’s picked up in her travels — sea fans and small dolls — that serve as inspiration. “I love color,” she says. “I rarely wear black. The one exceptions was the day after the election.”

Elvi overalls in Arrowwood, $390, <a href="https://ullajohnson.com/" target="_blank">UllaJohnson.com</a>
Elvi overalls in Arrowwood, $390, UllaJohnson.com
Wim blouse, $380, <a href="https://ullajohnson.com/" target="_blank">UllaJohnson.com</a>
Wim blouse, $380, UllaJohnson.com
Paloma tote, $725, <a href="https://ullajohnson.com/" target="_blank">UllaJohnson.com</a>
Paloma tote, $725, UllaJohnson.com
Ulla Johnson embroidered ankle tie heels; similar style, $299, <a href="http://www.barneys.com/" target="_blank">Barneys.com</a>
Ulla Johnson embroidered ankle tie heels; similar style, $299, Barneys.com
Siri dress, $655, <a href="https://ullajohnson.com/" target="_blank">UllaJohnson.com</a>
Siri dress, $655, UllaJohnson.com
Meisha Cardigan, $793,<a href="https://ullajohnson.com/" target="_blank"> UllaJohnson.com</a>
Meisha Cardigan, $793, UllaJohnson.com

 

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City Looks: It Takes Two

Karen loves lingerie. Hana wears Vans. One couple talks about how their style defines them.

There was a first date at an East Village speakeasy, a bouquet of flowers, and a tipsy Thanksgiving with friends. Five years later, Karen Lord (right) and Hana Tojo are lovers and colleagues, running a Pilates studio in Tribeca. Karen is the owner and founder; Hana, a former sushi chef and athlete who races outrigger canoes, manages the business. When it comes to style, opposites attract. “I wear lingerie. She’d rather die,” says Karen, laughing. “I wear Vans, Converse, a lot of slacks,” Hana says. Recently, a new cleaning lady began mixing up the laundry (boy shorts with thongs, lace with oxfords). “We’re her only two-girl couple. She’s figuring it out.”

Karen’s style: “I love glamour; I have a closetful of dresses. She’ll never try them on. I’ve had boyfriends in the past who would, but she won’t!”

Hana’s style: “My style is skater-surfer. But not, like, from the Nineties.”

Hana’s favorite outfit of Karen’s: “Nothing. OK, I really like this little black dress she wears. Or a tight one-piece for when she does Pilates.”

Karen’s favorite outfit of Hana’s: “I call it her Johnny Cash outfit. It’s all black. Céline boots, black jeans, black Isabel Marant T-shirt. It’s sexy.”