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Interview: Etienne Aigner's Creative Director Daniela Bardazzi

Inspiration, process and what it means to modernize a heritage brand

by David Graver in Style on 30 July 2014

Accessories, Hand Bags, Interviews, Leather Goods, Womenswear

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In 1959, Etienne Aigner opened his first showroom in NYC. From Munich, Germany to Paris' fashion elite, he had already established a name as one of the finest in accessory design—a hobby he initially embarked upon while making a living as a bookbinder. His eponymous label Etienne Aigner thrives today as for more than a heritage brand, but also an innovative label with exquisite clothing and accessories, all of which are high-quality yet reasonably priced. Classic shapes come to life with new vision and vibrant materials. From handbags and belts to jewelry and shoes, the entire range of offerings provide valuable, unique options for personal style. And that's all thanks to their present day Creative Director, Daniela Bardazzi. We discussed origins, inspirations and what's to come from Bardazzi and the very exciting brand, Etienne Aigner.

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How did you get involved with the brand?

I'm a big vintage fan, so Aigner was a brand I was familiar with through my seasonal inspiration hunts. When they approached me, I was living in Florence. One of my favorite things about that city is the "well-tended way" of the women there. The older women who dress in their loafers, pressed trousers and top it off with a tailored piece—it is their everyday, go-to-the-market look. I’d come back to NYC and I felt like Brooklyn was producing off shoots of mini Florentine women. It stayed with me, this feeling that between mass market and high luxury there is this new space for this cultural class of women.

How do you keep true to the identity of a heritage brand, while modernizing with each season?

Etienne was an incredibly industrious man who believed in great design and utility. Keeping that foundation, remembering his love of all things polished, but marrying it to the way a modern women wants to live is how I filter.

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I never know what will speak to me—it can be art, architecture or something about a typeface, but it all speaks back to my current perceptions of where women are standing and where they want to go.
Can you tell us a little bit about your design inspirations?

My work is my livelihood, so designing is truly a selfish endeavor for this collection. I have a full life: a job, a family and an amazing circle of cool, inspiring women around me. I design for all of us. When I begin a season I usually start by going through my images—I am an image hoarder! Whatever down time I find, my greatest joy is falling into a Tumblr abyss. I never know what will speak to me—it can be art, architecture or something about a typeface, but it all speaks back to my current perceptions of where women are standing and where they want to go.

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And from there, how does your process continue?

I throw anything and everything onto a wall, sketch, play with swatches, then once I feel I have combed the earth, I peel away and dilute the message. But honestly, it can also be the total opposite. For spring ‘15 I was just fixated on an Andrew Wyeth painting, "Distant Thunder." It was only that and everything sort of just flowed from there—but maybe it was just my desperate longing for a deep sleep in some tall grasses that helped crystallize the vision.

What are your wishes for the future of the brand?

I hope we speak to the tribe we are aiming for. I hope we make weekday mornings a little easier. I hope she falls in love with us because she realizes that we support and understand the fact that she actually wants to be the purveyor of her own brand.

Images courtesy of Etienne Aigner

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Five Favorites from Boerum House & Home

The new Brooklyn store is designed to look like an apartment and is entirely furnished with shoppable products

by Nara Shin in Design on 30 July 2014

Shopping, Interior Design, Independent Designers, Home Goods, Home Decor, Brooklyn, Boutiques, Boerum Hill

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Retail store, museum gallery or apartment: the newly opened Boerum House & Home joins the row of stores including jewelry designer Erica Weiner and fragrance boutique Twisted Lily on Atlantic Avenue that make the Boerum Hill block a formidable shopping pitstop. Creative collective Partners & Spade (the folks behind diverse ventures from travel luggage to Shinola's campaign with Bruce Weber) have filled the space—built by architectural firm Flank to resemble a mutant apartment complete with bathroom and library—with a carefully thought out selection of goods.

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Work from local artisans and respected designers (some who have been featured on CH, like ceramicist Helen Levi and toy makers Fredericks and Mae) sit alongside vintage finds and custom editions. Consider it a micro-version of the IKEA's warehouse, minus the stress and mass-production, where everything on show—even the lighting fixtures, including a stunning custom made Patrick Townsend chandelier—is available for purchase.

Visitors to the store won't find barcodes or catalogs; prices are written on paper tags but store manager Jesse Johnson has a pretty good memory too. Here are five favorite, eye-catching items that really stood out during a recent visit.

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Haptic Lab Custom Boerum Hill Quilt

A favorite in the design world for her sailing ship kites (which actually fly), Emily Fischer of Haptic Lab also produces hand-stitched and embroidered quilts that depict cities, coasts and even constellations. The studio made custom quilts that show a map of the Boerum Hill neighborhood especially for the store. ($3500)

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DQtrs Neil Armstrong Pillow

Don't settle for digital printing, when you can get photos woven onto pillows. Made in a limited edition of 250, this Neil Armstrong pillow from DQtrs is 100% cotton tapestry (on the front) and a blend of hemp, wool and tweed on the back. This is one space-themed product that is as inspirational as it is cozy. ($150)

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UHURU Custom Sofa

Brooklyn furniture brand UHURU caught CH's collective eye with their conceptual approach to design, producing charred wood stools as well as tables made from a historical battleship's deck wood. For Boerum House & Home, UHURU makes its first ever sofa—and the results are easy on the eyes. The unconventional sofa rests in the grand living room area of the shop, with a rare vintage flag—made by a secret society in Ghana—draped over it. ($16000)

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Heico Pineapple Lamp

Whether it's for a 10-year-old Spongebob fan or an adult wanting to add some bright tropical vibes to their apartment, the Pineapple Lamp from iconic brand Heico is an irresistible purchase. The German-made, high-quality plastic lamps might have originally been made as night-lights for children, but their warm glow and cheerful design will delight any lucky owner. ($98)

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Moser Liqueur Set with Leather Case

Since way back in 1857, Czech company Moser has been creating beautiful hand shaped, cut and engraved crystalware that's lead-free. Over the many years, the brand has innovated and perfected new techniques while serving popes and kings; this striking set of 12 different liqueur glasses will have even the most fervent barware nerds trembling. ($2030)

Boerum House & Home is located at 314 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Purchases can only be made in-store.

Images by Nara Shin

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Conventional Wisdom: Anthrocon

"Furries" unite from around the globe, as captured by photographer Arthur Drooker

by David Graver in Culture on 29 July 2014

Arthur Drooker, Conventional Wisdom, Conventions, Furries, Photo Books, Photographers, Photography

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“This is the highlight of my year,” Thumpie Bunny Eve shared with photographer Arthur Drooker, while sat atop a piano, wearing high heels, exuding sexuality—and wearing a rabbit costume. This was just one scene at Anthrocon, the world's largest convention for anthropomorphics, the humanlike animal characters more commonly referred to as "furries." Anthrocon is the latest stop on Drooker's Conventional Wisdom tour, during which the photographer has brought his lens—and his audience—into the weird and wonderful world of eccentric conventions, from Santas to sexual explorers. We've been following him for a year now, as he accrues imagery for a book-in-progress, and Anthrocon is most certainly one of the highlights.

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During the 4 July holiday weekend, furries made their way from around the globe to Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center and, according to Drooker, turned it "into a wild kingdom." He notes that this year’s gathering drew a record 5,861 attendees—the most since its inception in 1996. Drooker further contextualizes the scene: "Imagine a mass meeting of mascots and you get the idea." That said, through his own reporting, Drooker discovered the roots of anthropomorphics and cleared up a lot of misconceptions the community has befallen.

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First, “A furry is a fan of walking, talking animals; the idea of making animals more like humans, or making humans more like animals,” Drooker learned from Dr Courtney Plante, a psychologist who is conducting a long term survey of the fandom, and a furry himself. "What that entails for everyone differs considerably." Further, Drooker makes two noteworthy observations. Furries hail from various backgrounds and they aren't necessarily in costume; a tier dubbed the "fursuiters" are in fact the ones who come adorned, sporting anything from "inexpensive tails to elaborate full-body costumes that cost as much as $5000." Additionally, the convention is dominated by a family feeling—one that runs contrary to its media portrayal as being hyper-sexual.

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The vast, vast majority of furries who have suits, it’s a cherished thing, part of your self-identity. A lot of them don’t think of it in a sexual way. It’s not what it’s there for. It’s not what you do with it.

"Sex in a fursuit is nearly impossible, if not totally undesirable. Donning one of these thick faux fur creations is 'akin to wearing a sofa on your back,' as furries often describe it," Drooker shares with CH. "A fursuit limits one’s dexterity and vision. The temperature can climb to over 100 degrees in there, causing dehydration if one doesn’t take a water break or wear a cooling vest." Rather, “The vast, vast majority of furries who have suits, it’s a cherished thing, part of your self-identity,” Dr Plante says. “A lot of them don’t think of it in a sexual way. It’s not what it’s there for. It’s not what you do with it.” Rather, it's an expression of a fursona—an animal identity that symbolizes who the wearers are or what they aspire to be.

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At Anthrocon, people can comfortably embrace their fursona, embraced by a like-minded community. "Every species of the fandom felt celebrated," Drooker says. "There were meet-ups for cats (Feline Friendly Furry Fiasco), reptiles (Gathering of the Scalies), even rats and mice (Rodents!)." On top of this he observed activities as far fetched as "games such as Pawpets Gone Wild and Whose Lion Is It Anyway?" As well as workshops like Transfurmations, in which tips were offered up on both fursuit construction and character development. The convention also featured a nightly dance. Altogether, "Anthrocon was a zoo like no other," Drooker concludes. But moreover, those inside this special world shared the most important observation: the outside world is changing and the prejudice against furries is slimming. Maybe many of the smiles found therein will soon break free.

Cool Hunting was invited to follow Arthur Drooker behind-the-scenes as he continues to survey and photograph conventions around the US. All images in this ongoing series are by Arthur Drooker.

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