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Five Questions With | Vera Balyura

Vera BalyuraAllison Hertzberg Vera Balyura at the ivories.

There’s no stopping Vera Balyura, the East Village designer and all around driving force behind the indie jewelry line VeraMeat. Vera graduated from high school at fourteen, becoming a model shortly thereafter, and then let the cosmos (and some stylist friends) steer her into becoming a jewelry designer.

The next time you’re looking for a gift, you might take a look at the VeraMeat collection, which its creator says has something for everyone: Want a Hatchet Loving Centaur Pirate pendant? Got it. Need a delicate bracelet with spinal detail? Done. But, if you’re not quite ready to dive into the whimsy, there are tons of other options. My favorite is part of the new collection, is this nautical two finger ring, which was made with recycled metals.

I visited Vera’s East Village studio on a brisk Saturday to discuss the future, inspiration, and how her brain works.


How do you come up with designs? For example, the dinosaur eating fried chicken ring, how does something like that pop into your head?


I just have that kind of brain. It’s something I would want for myself so I make it for others hoping they’ll appreciate it. The name VeraMeat, for example, came to me while walking under a bridge in Brooklyn. It made me laugh so I stuck with it.


Describe the VeraMeat style and consumer?


I’m happy to say that my customer can’t be so easily defined. We’ve had an old man buy VeraMeat, looking to add a good luck charm to his porch, super fashionable women looking to wear jewelry that says something about who they are, and men who aren’t afraid to stand out of the crowd. The diversity makes me thrilled.


How does the East Village inspire you?


I’m a big fan of graffiti and there’s a ton of it in the East Village. I love that NY allows the streets to be embellished by its people. Ten years ago, at 15 years old I moved to the East Village and really felt at home. I’ve never stopped feeling that way. There is so much magic here, it’s just consistent inspiration on every street corner and in every face you see.


What are your favorite spots in the East Village?


Well, I love Vera’s, the bar that is right next to my studio. It has amazing Italian food ,though not as good as my Italian boyfriend Paolo can make, hah. For a bit of dancing, St. Dymphna’s is fun, plus there’s a great chocolate shop right across the street. For boots, I like Cloak & Dagger, and they also happen to sell VeraMeat!


What does the future hold for VeraMeat?


We are looking to open a flagship store this year in Manhattan. We’re also reworking our website and facebook page, and as always, coming up with amazing new designs inspired by my bat dog Fred.

Allison Hertzberg is owner and head designer at Accessories by ASH.

Five Questions With | Geová Rodrigues

Geova RodriguesAllison Hertzberg Geová Rodrigues.

Geová Rodrigues is a Brazilian fashion designer who opened his East Village shop, Geová Atelier, in 2001. After working as a painter in San Paolo, Geová came to New York City in 1992 and launched his first collection in 1998. Trading in his paint brush for fabric, needles, thread and tons of sequins, Geová’s designs have been featured in New York’s Fashion Week and in editorials worldwide.

Vivacious is the first word that comes to mind when trying to describe the designer. He’s effusive and talks to you like you’ve been friends for years. The same energy runs through his bright little shop located at 208 Avenue B. I recently sat down with Geová to better understand who he designs for, why he chose the East Village and how come grown men still play
with dolls.


Why did you choose the East Village as the place to open your shop?


I love the East Village. I can get very inspired here. It’s a neighborhood with a great attitude. I love how the East Village embodies the same aesthetic as my clothing – a mixture of fabrics, textures and designs that come together to create something beautiful – just like the mix of languages, cultures and creative people that live in the East Village and make it the unique and interesting neighborhood that it is. Also, my first fashion show was in the East Village.
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Street Style | Winter Coats

When the temperature turns arctic, outerwear is the best way to show off your personal style. On a recent frigid morning, The Local braved the elements to check out how East Villagers are bundling up this season. Classic double-breasted coats and perenially popular down jackets were seen on every corner, but quirky residents donned everything from a houndstooth tweed coat and a plush faux-fur vest to an animal print trench and a trendy army jacket.

NYU Journalism’s Sophie Hoeller and Sally Lauckner take a look at the neighborhood’s most distinctive winterwear.

From Secondhand To One-Of-A-Kind

Kate GoldwaterRhea Mahbubani Kate Goldwater specializes in using discarded or secondhand items to craft new fashions.

In a neighborhood that is chock-full of chic boutiques, Kate Goldwater is doing her best to stand out. Ms. Goldwater, 26, a self-proclaimed “social justice crusader” designs an environmentally-friendly clothing line for AuH2O, her East Village boutique. All her designs are made from recycled items. Ms. Goldwater gets discarded or secondhand clothing wherever she can ̶ including the Salvation Army, Goodwill, clothing swaps – and transforms them into one-of-a-kind pieces.

Ms. Goldwater has been running AuH2O (the chemical symbols for Gold and Water) since October 2006, but last month she took on three business partners; Rachael Rush and Alexandra Sinderbrand, who sell vintage and thrift store clothing, and Rose Kennedy, a jewelry designer who creates trinkets from salvaged items. Now all four women sell their gently-used finds and original designs in the boutique and split the monthly rent.

In the past Ms. Goldwater received attention for creating unconventional clothing, including a tie made from credit cards and a dress made from MetroCards, which earned her a cease-and-desist email from an MTA lawyer. However she has recently turned her attention to more wearable clothing saying, “I want to make recycled clothes that people wear for a long time. People thought of the unusual designs as novelty items that they wore once. That isn’t so eco-friendly.” She also produces tailor-made items for customers by updating clothing that they no longer wear.

Ms. Goldwater spoke with The Local about three of her recent sartorial transformations:

Custom-Made Tuxedo Tie Vest, $180

Before: A pile of men's tiesKate Goldwater Before: A pile of men’s ties.
Safia Karasick Southey, 12, in the vest she plans to wear for her upcoming Bat MitzvahKate Goldwater After: Safia Karasick Southey, 12, in the vest she plans to wear for her Bat Mitzvah.

“I made this for a 12-year-old girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Her mom gave me the ties that they liked and I decided what order they would look best in. The toughest part was that the girl’s waist is only 24 inches and my mannequin has a 28-inch waist, so I had to eyeball it.”

“It took me six hours to make and I charge $30 an hour for custom-made pieces. I wouldn’t make this for the store because I prefer that everything in AuH2O is under $100. I want my clothing to be affordable for artists and students. I did make similar tie skirts that I sold in the store for $55 each. They were faster to make so I was able to set a lower price.”
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From Icon To Unknown And Loving It

Maria Popson could talk for hours about any topic. Among many things, Ms. Popson is philosophical — she’s a naturalist, a healer, a chef, a storyteller, an East Village resident and a former Brazilian supermodel.

During her years in fashion, Ms. Popson went by the name “Neneca Moreira.” In 1994, Ms. Popson moved to the East Village – in large part, she says, because of the relative anonymity she enjoys while living in the neighborhood. Her ground-floor apartment on East Fourth Street looks more like an eclectic storefront — displaying colorful fabrics, tribal masks and tons of exotic trinkets.

Now Ms. Popson, 59, focuses her attention on making and packaging honeybee propolis – a residue derived from bees, which she says has a variety of health benefits.

NYU Journalism’s Rachel Wise and Sarah Tung report.

Finding The Best Vintage Clothing Buys

With holiday parties approaching, the impulse to buy a new outfit is hard to resist. To help avoid sticker shock, check out these neighborhood vintage and consignment stores. ‘Tis the season to look beautiful on a budget.

Cadillacs CastleAllison Hertzberg Cadillac’s Castle, 333 East Ninth Street.

Cadillac’s Castle
333 East Ninth Street, 212-475-0406

Named for the owner’s dog that takes inventory in the small consignment shop; this store is not to be missed. Mostly in-season women’s consignment items are displayed alongside some new stock in this clean, bright shop. The owner and his staff carefully select each item and I’ve never seen anything in less than pristine condition. Mind if I namedrop? At any one time you’re likely to find fashions from Jason Wu, Prada, Diane Von Furstenberg, YSL, Mui Mui and Missoni. The high end designer pieces carry a weighty though heavily discounted price tag, but it’s easy to find a great party dress for under $75 dollars. Even the most budget conscience can score a
deal, just check out the constantly replenished $25 dollar rack that sits outside the store.
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Street Style | A Look At Fall Boots

Boots were big news during the fall 2010 runway shows and they’re the footwear choice du jour in the East Village. Designers like Alexander Wang and Tommy Hilfiger put their own spin on the now-ubiquitous lace-up styles, while Rag & Bone sent studs and zippers down the catwalk.

With that in mind, The Local hit the streets to check out Villagers’ feet. From rugged combat booties and knee-high riding boots, to fringed platforms and slouchy Westerns, here are some of the most popular looks on fashion-forward locals.

NYU Journalism’s Sophie Hoeller and Sally Lauckner report.

Locals | Jack Germain

IMG_9696Maya Millett Handbag designer Jack Germain, who resides in Alphabet City, shows off her upcoming spring collection.

When The Local first encountered handbag designer and fashion blogger Jack Germain, she was rushing to get a manicure in preparation for her 25th birthday party. It was one of the season’s first truly autumn days, and Ms. Germain, an Alphabet City resident, was outfitted accordingly — dressed in leggings, a slouchy green army jacket, and Victorian lace-up boots.

But what caused a stir among readers of The Local was her worn leather shoulder bag covered with muted gold studs, one of her own designs. Many of you wanted to know more about Ms. Germain, a raspy-voiced south Florida native who moved to New York five years ago in the hopes of making a name for herself in the fashion industry. We recently caught up with Ms. Germain again to talk about her upcoming spring collection, future goals and New Year’s resolutions.


How did you get into handbag designing?


When I was younger I wanted to design evening gowns for the Oscars, and as I got older I wanted to do clothes, then I wanted to do shoes, then handbags were just easiest to make. You could make a handbag out of your apartment. And the more I began to study up on it and get into bags themselves, I started to see this underlying theme with the woman’s handbag — that really it’s one of the most true reflections of who a woman actually is. It’s a reflection not only of the style of this woman but where this woman’s been. People change shoes, people change even sunglasses, but a bag is like a woman’s sidekick. My whole theme is that your bag lives the life that you live.
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Street Style | What’s Your Fall Look?

Home to posh boutiques and hip vintage stores alike, the East Village is one of the most style-savvy neighborhoods in New York. So earlier this week, The Local roamed the area with one question in mind: What are the latest trends that locals are following?

Our findings were less than conclusive. Turns out East Villagers put their own spin on even the trendiest clothes, and know how to mix high and low with aplomb. The clothes ran the gamut from a Valentino trench coat to a leopard-print Target dress and everything in-between.

NYU Journalism’s Sally Lauckner and Sophie Hoeller take a look at some of the neighborhood’s most distinctive styles.

A Designer’s Take on East Village Style

I work in fashion, which means I can say things like “stripes are the new black” without getting laughed at. I have also recently started an accessories line which means I can call myself a “designer” and now everyone I meet thinks I make everything I wear.

I don’t let how I dress define who I am, so while eavesdropping during Sunday brunch in the East Village, I was surprised to hear that not only do some people define a person by their style, but they also define style by a neighborhood.

A gaggle of girls sat at the table next to me and said “our waitress dresses so East Village-y, you can just tell she lives around here.” This got me thinking. I’m now an East Village resident and haven’t broken out a CBGBs T-shirt since high school.

Are a pair of Converse and some plaid a dead giveaway? If these girls could so easily point out an East Village “look,” how do others stereotype the East Village aesthetic?

I style stalked a handful of people, and found the common answer to be “individualism.” People see the East Village as a place where style doesn’t define who you are, but it can help describe who you are and what you’re feeling. Take a look at the slideshow above to see what people consider East Village style to be.

Allison Hertzberg is owner and head designer at Accessories By ASH

Do you think there’s a distinctive East Village style?

A Look at East Village Street Style

East Village Street Style from Sally L on Vimeo.

Last month, The Local showed you fall runway trends in some of the most popular neighborhood boutiques.

But what are East Villagers actually wearing now that the temperatures are dropping?

We took to the streets on a recent Sunday afternoon and asked stylish locals about their personal fall fashion.

A Feast of Fall Fashions

rebel 2 079Sally Lauckner A selection of dresses at Anna, 150 East Third Street.

It may be all about flirty dresses, loose tanks and bright colors uptown at Lincoln Center, which is hosting Spring 2011 Fashion Week (for the first time ever), but the East Village has both sartorial feet planted firmly in fall boots. Over on Ninth Street — the Museum Mile of boutiques — woolen knits, military coats and lace-up ankle booties are reigning supreme this season. Here’s a compilation of the best fall looks from some of the neighborhood’s most iconic boutiques, whether your style is retro, trendy or refined.

Cloak & Dagger Owner and designer Brookelynn Starnes put her Pratt degree to good use when she launched Cloak & Dagger in 2006. The flattering, feminine line which has an old-world meets modern-day feel is chockfull of potential investment pieces. A navy, double-breasted wool coat ($600) with a nipped waist and gold buttons channels the season’s military trend that dominated runways from Burberry to Ruffian, but will never truly go out of style. An impressive collection of vintage Ferragamo riding boots are a find for $298.

Price Range: High
441 East Ninth Street (between Avenue A and First Avenue)

Meg Canadian owner-designer Meghan Kinney, who opened her East Village store 15 years ago, generally eschews fads in favor of versatility and ease. The few trendy pieces in her collections also pass as classics with their luxurious materials and beautiful cuts. Grey harem pants ($210) can be toned down with a matching cropped jacket ($230.) Store worker Maria Gagnon explained that the functional clothing can take the wearer from “the office, to a bar, to a birthday party.” For fall Meg also has shearling-lined, Doc Marten-inspired booties ($125) that are reminiscent of ankle boots from Miu Miu and Rachel Roy.

Price Range: Mid-range
312 East Ninth Street (between First and Second Avenues)
212-260-6329 Read more…