I had a few more photos from the Cooper Hewitt. Not enough to really give anything away, but just enough to be annoying. The photo above is of the staircase of the mansion, and I think I take a picture of it every time I go there because I’m in love with it. It’s substantial and gracious, and stairs in my regular life just don’t look like that. I also love how the floors creak as you walk. It’s a living building melded into a modern day museum, and there are moments that are quietly shocking, like when you come out of an exhibit and fetch up in a window walled room perfect for sitting and reading. Or taking a hidden concrete staircase that is drenched in sunlight and modernity that runs up the building like a spine.
I thought that I had taken more photos. But I didn’t, which is kind of good because it means I was super engaged. There was exhibit of Lilly Pulitzer florals by Suzie Zuzek, and posters by E. McKnight Kauffman. Im nit sure about the furniture, it may have been in the Kauffman floor. Went to the bathroom and found a chance to show off my Versailles tote bag. And I bought a book about fashion that I already bored with.
Coming out of lockdowns and variant scares, New York is chock full of eye grabbing museum visits, trying to get those visitors piling in. I found out that there was a Willia Smith exhibit, so I headed uptown looking for fashion.
It was good, I liked it.
It’s a small show, but it perfectly captures the 80s. The layered, bulky but streamlined outfits, the crumbling concrete and chainlink fence decor. You can feel the overdone smokey eyes and red lips in the atmosphere. It’s like a little New York apartment where you sleep all day and then jump up at sunset to get dressed and go out to sulk at a club, then slink into the night with a stranger. Not a lot of space, but they did a lot with it. It’s that kind of show. It has layers.
I loved how artistic the designer is. There was a whole installation of concrete forms and a notepad with sketches you could take home. There was a little corner showing how Christo had Williwear design the uniforms for the staff at his exhibits. I was seeing this just as everyone was gasping over Christo wrapping the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, so it was a bittersweet feeling. He also did costumes for dance performances and plays. Willie Smith was a prolific and thoughtful designer who skillfully took the mundane and made it glorious.
I didn’t just go to the Met for fashion. It’s always a visual treat. And no visit is complete without a few minutes admiring the sheer cheek of snatching an entire temple and dragging it back to New York. It’s breathtaking, with the moat around it and the massive window looking out into Central Park and the surrounding megabucks real estate.
The Egyptian artifacts on display at the Met are impressive as a whole. Heiroglyphic covered walls, jewelry, pottery, statuary… you can easily slip into a reverie and daydream yourself into ancient Egypt while visiting.
But there’s more!
Tastefully appointed rooms perfectly preserved. Silk carpets and marquetry tables, and ornate candelabra. Perfect setting for romances and horror movies. There never any in between.
I have never seen this area before. It’s spectacular, and completely new to me.
This is one of my favorite paintings. This girl is feeling herself and here we are, hundreds of years later, feeling her, too. The color of the gown is what’s known as ‘everything’.
Right after I came back from Paris I ended up going to see the latest offering from Anna Wintour’s Costume Center at the Met. For once I actually had someone to go with, so it was a raucous afternoon of laughing at things that other people take seriously and day drinking wine at lunch. Not a date, just two ladies cackling their way through a cultural institution.
I need more of that in my life, tbf…
Anyway. we met up at the museum and wound our way through the excellent display of stolen goods in the Egyptian wing to the museum. The exhibit was in a little room that you could easily miss. The line for the exhibit is over by the Temple of Dendur.
The show centers around American fashion, and the first items that you see on display explain ASAP Rocky’s red carpet quilt. Patchwork and quilting are as old as those little houses on the prairie. It’s an integral part of the American legend, homie and comfortable. It’s a symbol of how disparate parts can come together as a rich and cohesive whole (which we are capable of, but that’s a whole other blog post).
The museum is actually doing the show in two parts, so right now it’s just a dodgy little display in a smallish suite of rooms in the basement. And because of the times we live in, the narrow aisles feel like a death trap. And there’s this horrible music, that resembles no American music trend, droning on in the background, raising the hackles. Yes, I’m complaining. Better to wait and do it properly instead of this, but no one asked me about that, so…
I will say that they had a ton of black designers so I’m excited to see what the larger show will look like. Featured in the exhibit were Pyer Moss, Patrick Kelly, Stephen Burrows, Dapper Dan and for some reason a look from Rihanna’s Savage underwear line. Not to slight her, but she also did a pretty respectable fashion collection that could have been included.
If you’re in New York, I’d definitely go and take a look at it. Try going early or mid-week so as not to be stuck in the maze-like aisles with a crowd. You can get tickets here.
Working on my Shopify store and trying to gain perspective on my side hustle business. Constantly thinking of how to push it into sustainable success. Doing a lot of running around, researching, taking classes and looking at long term strategies. Plotting shopping trips and new marketing strategies.
Going through my inventory, looking for ways to style my items, and just taking time to be still and look at everything and find the significance and meaning in every piece.
Also, since I lost a little weight, I’m trying things on and looking at how pieces will work on real people, how things go together, etc. I’ve been selling since 2015 and have worked pretty much nonstop since quarantine trying to build a brand, trying to find an audience, trying to sell, trying and trying to stay on top of things and stay sane. I can see the finish line, but I still have to figure out how to get there.
One thing about the past year of worrying, anxiety causing, horrifying and alarming events was having to retreat into a bubble (quarantine) and having to really and seriously think about what I would do if my job didn’t come back. Luckily I’ve been selling stuff online since 2015, and I had that to fallback on. My online business gave me something to focus on and a lifeline, since so many were shopping online.
The last few months have been collectively better than the last few years, and the last few weeks have been amazing. But this week really floored me because I sold items that I had refashioned and handpainted, which made me super happy. I believe in everything that I list, since I picked these things to sell, but when I sell something that I personally created, it’s like having wings on my heart.
This week I sold a handpainted denim jacket for full asking price and I was on the floor because I also sold a pair of penny loafers that I reworked into fun fashion statements. I think these are so cute, tbh. I wanted to do something that suggested spats and had an old fashion, 30s feel. I’ve sold designer, vintage and plain old used but selling items that express my personal creative outlook is icing on the cake.
This week I sold a handpainted denim jacket, these shoes and a striped sweater with embroidered patches. I started experimenting with reworking and upcycling items in 2018, and I’ve sold 16 items, from bags, to tiedyed t-shirts to shoes. One the one hand, it’s an economic endeavor because I do want my items to sell, but they’re also individual artistic statements. I put a lot of effort into every piece, even the ones that seem simple like dip bleached jean shorts. I took a sashiko stitching class, bought a sewing machine, spent days in the bathroom tie dying. Every sale gives me the energy to work on more ideas. I’m dying to get into screen printing.
6 years ago I was just trying to make a little money selling blogger perks and thrifted items and now I’m a fashion designer. Granted, there are tons and masses of people ironing on patches, bleaching, tie dying g and stitching items. A lot of people have sewing machines and are doing creative things with them. I’m not the only person handpainting denim jackets, and I’m not the only one who loves drawing hearts. But that doesn’t stop me. You can’t always be the first and only, but you can do what makes you feel happy and creative and not worry about the competition.
Eleven years ago I created an online magazine. I was living in Chicago and sick of not getting opportunities to publish my fashion work. I wasn’t one to sit on my ass and let other people determine what I deserved and I knew my work was as good as anyone else’s. I took graphic design classes while I was studying photography, and I spent years studying magazines and fashion photography and I knew that technically it wasn’t that hard. Mostly I didn’t want those Chicago assholes thinking that they could keep me down. Nobody wanted to hire or book me, so I hired and booked myself. Screw them.
There’s something maddeningly frustrating about having your work ignored that I couldn’t live with. I really busted my ass coming up with ideas, finding locations, looking for models and designers and makeup artists and stylists and shooting and editing and then getting nowhere. Every so often I would get a job or win a little contest or something but it wasn’t enough. I worked hard and I tried hard and I deserved to be published. No one could tell me that I didn’t deserve success.
I asked people that I knew and had worked with and I even styled another photographer’s shoot to get what I wanted. The pics in the Pink Lady spread features all clothing that I had collected. I settled on a pink/black/white color scheme with a punk, new wave feel. I could have shot it myself, but I wanted to try starting a styling career back then since I wasn’t doing assisting work. You have to get on the sets somehow. I only did a few styling gigs, though. I ended up selling and giving away all my stuff and moving to New York.
Here’s a funny thing, I did a shoot with a nice girl who was looking to start a modeling career and one night in hotel in Montana I found out that she made it onto ANTM’s 15th cycle. And I only saw it because I was fighting with the person I went out there to visit so it was completely random that I found out. She was a cool girl, but that Mexican wrestling shoot did her in. Anyway. I was renting the first floor of a grey gardens type house in Humboldt Park and I had people come over to shoot all summer and she just happened to be one of them. Crazy, huh?
I didn’t end up getting the editorial work I wanted, but I did get a fashion internship which helped me learn more about desktop publishing. Then I started getting paid to write for a fashion website. Then I started publishing on another site and drifted into fashion/beauty blogging. The Magazine OK helped me get fashion show invitations and gave me a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. I had my own magazine. If I wanted to, I could do it again. If I felt like it.
Eleven years ago I made a decision not to let other people determine my fate and it led me on a path to where I am right now. I’m not a world famous anything, but I’m happier just chilling and being basic and loving the life I have. I’m capable of affecting change and shining a spotlight that lets other people shine, even as people judge me worthless. I took great photos, and then did a great job editing my own publication with no help from anyone else.
I don’t usually feature other photographers, but I have a soft spot for perfection and I had to do a post about an amazing woman who makes art out of old clothes, bedsheets and her gorgeous daughters Jayla, Jada and Ella. I’m usually super jealous… but her work is so good that I had to get over myself.
I started following Alissa Bertrand’s page during quarantine and it kept me engaged with the old. I started waiting for Alissa’s posts. They’re like a portal to a fairy tale world where all the princesses are black with beautiful natural hair. Her work reminds me of old Ralph Lauren ads, or Sally Mann’s revealing body of work that starred her pre-pubescent children. Every image is stunning. The lighting is soft, the girls are self aware and graceful, and the clothing is everything a girl or woman wants in her wardrobe.
I studied photography at Parsons and Columbia College Chicago, and I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such a cohesive body of work or such consistent excellence. Enter the fact that she is doing all of the styling with clothing that she designed, and all of the hairstyling and grooming for the girls and you have a one woman fashion army. If she decided to sell prints, I’d buy them. And I wouldn’t mind a grownup version of this stunning white cotton dress with eyelet lace, either.
I got Alissa to answer a few questions about her images and her plans for the future.
The Jabella Fleur interview:
SEBMARKETBK: What inspired the photographs that you take of your daughters? Was there an artist or designer or magazine that informed your distinctive photography style?
Alissa Bertrand: What inspires the photographs I take of my girls is just simply trying to capture them and the clothing I make for them! It’s also a way for them to have some really amazing pictures of themselves as children, to look back upon and remeber all the times we spent together along with all the fun adventurous stories too. I don’t look to others to inspire what I do. I’m a vintage fanatic and I love vintage aesthetics, so a big part of my look is evoking that style.
SEBMARKETBK: Did you study photography or take any lessons?
Alissa Bertrand: I’ve never studied photography! I wish I had some more knowledge in photography. I simply know the basics of what I like and what I want to capture along with the feeling.
SEBMARKETBK: When did you start designing clothing? Do you remember your first garment?
Alissa Bertrand: I started sewing from the 8th grade, and designing and repurposing about 10 years ago! The first garment was a maxi dress for the girls.
SEBMARKETBK: Do your daughters take pictures or create clothing like you?
Alissa Bertrand: My daughters don’t take pictures. They’re just my mini-muses. They do enjoy sewing and creating little things.
SEBMARKETBK: Where do you see your artwork taking you? Are you interested in being in galleries or museums?
Alissa Bertrand: I see my fashion and photography taking me to the next level in fashion. I’m currently working on a fashion collection for girls, hopefully coming out SS21! I hope my work will end up in magazines and introduce myself and designs to the world!
So as a way to thank Alissa for helping me hold onto sanity during the horrible weeks of quarantine and then the first weeks of the protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, I’m doing this blog post. She reminded me that art has the power to heal, and that consistency is key in creating a successful art process. Her work reminds me to look towards my family for inspiration and savor the small pleasures and victories available to me.
Please follow Alissa and her girls on @jabellafleur (and tell others!) so that she’ll be a mega-success and I’ll get the coffee table book I keep begging her for. Any requests for collabs or publication should be directed to her on instagram.
I was thinking about what to blog about this week as I was scrubbing up in the shower and then I realized that I wanted to write about some of the black owned brands that I’ve been buying from. As a former beauty and fashion influencer, I now hate everything. Partly because I was just used as a lure for big businesses that find it cheaper to throw a party and give away merchandise that they can write off and still profit. Partly because after testing so many products that were not meant for my skin or hair I realized that I was a pure idiot to keep promoting a system that doesn’t really see me as valuable. So, now I try to buy from small, independent and Black companies. If I’m going to influence people, then I want to influence them to help build new companies and business moguls.
I came across Goldenbrownskin LLC after they posted on Fashion Bomb Daily’s instagram page. I started with the Rose lip gloss ($4) and ended up going back for the Coconut and Rose brown sugar scrub ($27.95) that looks super expensive and pretty in the bathtub edge. My items were created, packaged and shipped quickly, and the owner was really nice about answering messages and whatnot. You really feel that there’s a human being behind the screen making beauty magic for you.
One night I was looking for something to buy and I noticed that they were offering Wholesale lipgloss. You get 40 to 100 tubes custom made for you. I chose five flavors and GBS worked with me to create the colors that I wanted. They basically went flavor by flavor with me specifying my color choices and then sending me photos of the progress. I sell them and give away tubes with items that I sell in my online shops and people adore them.
Of course I had to be nosy. I love finding out about people’s processes and ideas. So here, in her own words, is Goldenbrownskin LLC:
SEB Market BK: What made you start a business for yourself?
Goldenbrownskin LLC: I started a business for myself because I noticed I work better alone. I’ve always been a leader, a creative & I enjoy helping others.
SEB Market BK: What inspired your Upcycled designs? Did you go to fashion school?
Goldenbrownskin LLC: I have a lot of old clothes & I don’t like being around crowds of people so I normally just rework the items I have. I love to see ideas come to life. I’ve never been to any fashion school, I just watch a lot of YouTube, lol.
SEB Market BK: Your lipgloss is amazing! How did you get into creating your collection and what got you into selling wholesale?
Goldenbrownskin LLC: Thank you so much! I started making lip gloss because I wanted to experiment with a variety of products, that women would shop for all the time. I enjoy doing wholesale more than making individual lipgloss because I like helping others start their own business.
SEB Market BK: You’re taking orders for custom t-shirts now. Are you going to be designing a collection exclusively for Goldenbrownskin?
Goldenbrownskin LLC: I have started taking t-shirt orders, but I am still practicing. I’m not sure if that’s something I’d get into, I really enjoy making custom tees for other people. But of course a branded t-shirt with “Goldenbrownskin” has to happen!
SEB Market BK: Tell me about your latest product, Dragon Butter. It looks like the secret to perfect summer skin!
Goldenbrownskin LLC: Yes, so my body butters are my new favorites. Everything is natural & homemade. My fav body butter is the dragon butter, I love the strawberry scent. The body butters a natural raw African Shea butter. The Shea butter is great in healing and evening out your skin tone. Works great for individuals with any skin disorders via eczema, psoriasis, rashes etc
SEB Market BK: You’ve been really outspoken about the protests. How has the current climate affected you and what are you doing to make a difference?
Goldenbrownskin LLC: I haven’t personally been too affected by what’s been going on. I have a blended family so it’s a hard subject to speak on, but I have been donating 30% of each order to fund the BLM movement. It’s a very sad situation, something I truly don’t understand.
So, basically a savvy business owner with empathy, kindness, and social conscience as part of her business plan. In other words, a Queen building an empire of love. Yes, I do see what just wrote. I said what I said. Click to check out Goldenbrownskin, and follow her awesome instagram, too.
I promised las week that this would be about nothing, and here it is…nothing.
This week I had a job at Macy’s Herald Square and I was scared that it would be all ruined and busted up because of looting. It was actually normal inside, down to the snotty security guard who always tries to imply that I’m a criminal (no, he’s not that color, he’s African). I basically had to go in with a team of two and supervise sending a company’s merchandise back because it’s all stuff that was on sale while we were in the house on quarantine. So that’s reality; stores getting ready for all of us to go shopping this summer.
I tried making bath bombs, using a kit that I bought from Organically Bath Beauty. I’ve been thinking about making them for a long time, and this list solved all of my issues by having pre-mixed dry ingredients and a decent sized mold. I also got the refill kit, so I’ve have a lot of material to experiment with.
I sold this jacket. I was really proud of it the day I finally finished it, and I was so sure that it would get snapped right up. I even paid for photos because I wanted to make it as appealing as possible. A year later someone plopped down $225 and it was gone. Amazing, right?
This is a chair. I broke off the leg of this chair in February, I think. For some reason I was convinced that I couldn’t fix this chair. I was using a spray can to prop it up instead of fixing the problem. This week I managed to fall off of the chair four times because the cap on the spray can was not meant to bear the weight of a quarantining woman who knows how to cook. So I finally resolved to fix the chair. It took about 15 minutes.
This chair symbolizes my procrastination issue.
I will do anything but the thing I’m supposed to do. Which is why I went into quarantine with an expiring state ID and an expired passport. I had also put off studying to take the driving test and I had put off bike riding lessons (I’m terrified about riding in the street, I just need lessons for reassurance). I had put off fixing up my apartment, buying a new mattress and calling my mom. It was really sad. It’s a terrible thing to know that a pandemic was the best thing to happen to you. I needed this time to get a life.
I’m still putting off exercise, though. As you can see…
I’m not big on combing my hair anymore, either. I take care of it with Fro.ology products, I twist it and then let it out to be free. It’s summer now. My head gets hot really quick, so wigs are out right now. The world is going to get this 4C perfection.