Understated Luxury Created to Keep

It is always exhilarating when you hit on something that reflects who you are — a phrase that rings true to your philosophy. That’s exactly how Susan and I felt when we came up with our tagline: Understated Luxury Created to Keep. This is really what BiniChic is all about! Refined and traditional, yet eclectic, natural and contemporary, it is easy to live with. Like good art or wine, it’s timeless.

UNDERSTATED LUXURYCREATED TO KEEP

We came up with this tagline while creating our latest venture, BiniChic Home.  A lifestyle inspired by the Mediterranean island chic with a fresh, modern take on the Bohemian vintage world of Fortuny of Venice, Tuscan frescos etc.

Subtle colors, layered prints and textures that have been curated and collected. Designs that are rooted in craftsmanship for today’s world: made locally by young designers and artisans, a brand with a story.

Here’s a little taste of what we are feeling for BiniChic Home:

THE MEDITERRANEANISLAND WAY OF LIFEWITH A FRESHUNEXPECTED TWISTON THE BOHEMIANVINTAGE WORLDOF FORTUNY OF VENICEAND TUSCAN FRESCOES

Staye tuned to see what our BiniChic Home is like, but we know you will love it and feel right at home!

binichic

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BiniChic Bags: Around the World

We are happy to be back with an exciting New Year ahead of us! Here are some photos of BiniChic fans around the world, as well as some inspirational photos I took of our bags in the Tuscan location of Villa Vivarelli. We hope you enjoy them! If you’d like to see the collection in person, this next week you can catch us at the Fraiche @ Circuit show in New York from the 6th-8th of January, Pier 94. 12th ave @ 55th Street – Booth #3022.

This past winter holiday, we were lucky to spend some wonderful days with our family and friends in Barcelona (Spain) and in Arezzo (Tuscany). I had a great time photographing my good friend from Barcelona — the talented actress and singer, Queralt – posing with some of the BiniChic bags to show their versatility in some of our favourite BiniChic locations in Tuscany: Villa Vivarelli and Villa Il Cicaleto.

The beautiful bright leaves compliment beautifully with the red fern printed on the Eleonor Red. Inspiration and final product come together!

I love how the Eleonor in gray tones looks in this room with hand-stenciled walls in periwinkle tones of Japanese inspiration.

The warm winter sunset gave the black suede Florence clutch printed in Snow the perfect glow.

I thought the Sylvia bag in the Glade print looked interesting combined with the stencils featuring roses, flowers and other colorful Victorian motifs in Villa Vivarelli. The caramel and gold tones of the bag coordinated wonderfully with the wood and marble night table, and the aqua zipper contrasted nicely with the wall designs.

All the above photos and the two right below were taken by Ona Villier of BiniChic.

To show how versatile the Sylvia style is, the beautiful Robyn Bliley sent us some photos of herself in Los Angeles while taking a walk to her favorite cafe. This style has a detachable chain as well as an incorporated handle, making it wearable as a purse or as a clutch. The photos of Robyn were taken by Chad Wilson.

We also got some great photos of our fans in Dallas, Barcelona, Turin, Arezzo and Buenos Aires! Thank you Tania, Alessandra, Annie, Isa, Giorgia and all those who sent us their wonderful photos.

If you have a photo of yourself wearing a BiniChic bag or clutch, please send it to us — we love to see how you wear them. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming chance to win a BiniChic bag!  Become a fan of our Facebook page to learn more.

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Learning from Nature

“Green exercise improves psychological health.” — Richard Louv

Nature is our best muse. It is also our wisest teacher. This point of view echoes deep within BiniChic’s roots, permeating our designs and lifestyle. Today we’d like to place the spotlight on our dear friend and kindred spirit, Carol Puck Erickson, whose passion for creating a synergy between nature, art and people is a great source of inspiration.

A planter of beautiful arid plants from one of Puck’s projects with Arcadia Studio.

BiniChic’s Susan  (“Fung” to some) — actually, Fung comes from the decidedly unflattering nickname, “Fungus”, given by the same 5th grade classmates who gave Carol the nickname “Puck”–  was recently out in California, where she got to spend some quality time with her dearest, oldest friend, Puck. They’ve gone on many magical adventures together — both real and imagined — since they were both 9 years old.

Their love of nature and the outdoors kicked in while they were still very young. They were both Girl Scouts, and went on many camping trips and outdoor treks.

Above, Fung and Puck as teenagers doing the Scout salute. On the right, the Camp Hill Girl Scouts kicking up a leg before going out canoeing. (Susan is the second from the left, and Puck the sixth from the left)

Born in Pennsylvania, Puck has been a resident of the small town of Los Olivos (in California’s Santa Ynez Valley) for the past four decades, where she has become a solid member of the tight-knit community.

An extremely talented landscape architect, Puck doesn’t just “plant” plants, but creates visually rich and chromatically interesting landscapes, while also incorporating many native plants into each of her projects. Initially trained at RISD in visual arts, you can see  that artist’s eye overseeing her designs. She has been a founding partner in Arcadia Studio since 2001, and her extensive portfolio includes a long list of beautiful residences, hospitals, public buildings, and ranches in the Santa Ynez Valley as well as many residences and arid gardens in Arizona.

View of the Santa Ynez Valley Botanical Garden.

Always thinking of ways to create and give back, the pair organized a fun event during Susan’s trip. Through the sale of BiniChic bags and t-shirts they were able to raise funds and awareness for Puck’s latest community project: The Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden.

Some of the BiniChic bags that were on sale at the benefit pop-up sale.

The SYV Botanic Garden is a wonderful resource for community interaction and horticultural information; designed, built and made possible by the efforts of the Santa Ynez Valley community. Puck is a founding member of this project, which will encourage community collaboration, new ways of thinking about environmental education and appreciation of the natural world.

They have a particular focus on plants native to the Santa Ynez River watershed, teaching school-aged children about their history and their value in the environment.

A young gardener feeling the California Poppies, and a view of the Botanical Garden.

Susan sat down with Puck for an interview to find out more about how this project was made possible and the philosophy behind it:

Susan: What inspired you to start the Botanical Garden?

Puck: First of all, I [singular] did not start the Botanic Garden.  As with many experiences in life, the Garden began because a number of people in the community saw an opportunity and collaborated to develop a vision for a local garden based on common ground.

S: When was it founded?

P: We planted our first trees almost five years ago with about 2 yrs. of organizational work before groundbreaking.

S: How was it received by the local community then, and how is it being received now?

P: As with many new ideas or projects, there was a certain amount of skepticism.  Although we could see a Garden flourishing on the site, filled with children, the elderly, teens, etc.; when we first began what the community actually saw was a severely degraded site that would barely support weed growth.  No wonder they were puzzled, worried or just plain cynical!


Manzanita plants thrive at the Garden.

S: We understand that the purpose is to give locals an opportunity to enjoy native plants and learn more about the history of the Santa Ynez Valley through native plants and their uses. Can you explain some of the programs that make this happen?

P: Now, this week actually, we hosted a series of outdoor classes for five schools within the Santa Ynez Valley, collaborating with teachers from our local Chumash tribe. This program enriches the required California history curriculum for all fourth graders. You can go to our Facebook page to review the activities.

Clapper sticks, soft water turtle rattles and jewelry made out of native Rose Hips are all used to educate the school children about the traditional Chumash culture.

Next week we have students from one of the local prep schools coming to the Garden to measure our trees’ growth and clear our willow ‘maze.’  And the following week we have Cub Scouts coming to the Garden to plant new plants around our children’s amphitheater, currently under construction.

And every day, people walk their dogs, explore with their kids, or just catch their breath in a very busy world.  I think we are now really part of the community fabric.

Children are taught about the environment where Tule grows, how it’s picked and thatched to construct an ‘Ap, the traditional Chumash dwelling. “A family of four would spend their nights in this tule. The Chumash never wasted any material. The left over reeds were used to weave floor mats, baskets and canoes to mention a few.” (from the SYVBG facebook page)

S: Why do you feel its important for people–especially children– to experience nature in their everyday lives?

P: We often forget we are animals with a natural deep seeded affinity to the natural world.  For children, as they explore the Garden ALL of their senses are activated and they may not be aware of it, but they are constantly synthesizing information as they look, touch, smell, balance.  Any every day is different.  They begin to grasp the concept of subtlety and nuance.  It is magical.

Puck leading a group of small children that learned to identify the wildflowers in the Garden, and later seeded the young meadow with wildflower seeds.

S: Tell us how you, as a Landscape Architect, create with plants and nature, and why this gives you so much satisfaction.

P: As you know, as a child, I absolutely loved being outside.  And I was fortunate to be raised around gardeners and campers.  My work is a wonderful combination of science and art.  And although I often feel like a painter or sculptor I am not alone in my work.  The forces of natures, the rhythms of the seasons all remind me that I am just a small piece of the puzzle.

S: BiniChic’s design philosophy is very much built on the principles of Wabi-Sabi–that Japanese philosophy where the impermanent, unfinished and imperfect are considered positive qualities which reflect a Zen approach to living, or reality. Does this philosophy play any part in your work?

P: Absolutely.  I think in order to succeed as a landscape architect you must embrace those principles.  Nature is never ‘perfect’ – or as in our culture we view the concept of ‘perfect’ it is impermanent it is unfinished.  To me, that is where the joy is found.  I think the Garden is a reflection of those principles.


A Blue Bird perched on one of the Garden’s trees. Below, one of the three Nest Boxes installed for the Blue Birds. “It is important to install the box so the opening is in shade. A perch is missing to keep larger birds and other critters from disrupting the Bluebirds.” (from the SYVBG facebook page)

S: What is your vision for this garden in the future?

P: As the Garden grows and evolves, new microclimates will reveal themselves allowing us to explore further dimensions of this environment.  The community will be part of that journey, building shared memories – a fundamental component of healthy communities.  New leaders and visions will emerge and I will relish every moment I can cheer them on.

Puck peeking out of the ‘Ap at the SYVBG.

***

And we here at BiniChic cheer on Puck, to keep creating and sharing her gift for bringing nature into our lives.

photo credits: All photos are from the SYVBG’s Facebook except for the first one, which is by Arcadia Studio. The one of the BiniChic bags and the last one in the post of Puck are taken by Fung.

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BiniChic Bags: Prints with a Story

As some of you may know, earlier this year we launched our line of BiniChic Bags. We created the collection as a way to extend the BiniChic lifestyle into wearable goods — or in this case, exquisite bags — inspired by our homes in Barcelona and the Mediterranean island of Menorca, Spain.


In our first collection — “Of Lights and Colors” — we wanted to recreate the soft palette of tones and organic shapes from the Menorcan countryside to create a range of wearable and timeless day bags.

Barcelona’s fabled architecture, Modernist curves and Ironwork influenced the richly colored and original evening clutches. We chose simple, vintage-inspired shapes for our bags to serve as canvases for the silkscreened prints, our signature mark.

The Scallop print seen above and below these lines draws its inspiration from Art-Deco as well as Japanese art. We love the way it reminds us of fish scales — or waves — and still has a very simple and linear silhouette. It is actually a print we found in the Susan Unger archive, and we loved it so much we decided to make it one of our signature prints.

We want the BiniChic woman to feel that she is wearing a unique bag that compliments her fabulous and busy lifestyle, creating the perfect accessory that will complete her look.

Our bags are made with the finest leathers we could find. Italian bovine hides were used for the smooth, soft and wearable day bags. Spanish goat suede for those rich, vibrant jewel tones in our night clutches and handbags. New Zealand lambskin adds an interesting, distressed texture that looks great combined with the smooth leather and the suede. Oh, and gold painted leather, just because every girl needs a little bit of glam in her life!


Each one of our bags is individually hand screened in an artisan workshop, much in the same way we printed the leathers for the collection of flats we collaborated on with Pretty Ballerinas. It is the same hand printing system used to create all the home and fashion textiles designed and produced by the Susan Unger Studio.

As Susan often says: “Metallics are the new neutrals.” Chains, buttons, rings, pulls, phones and many other personal accessories in our lives feature metallic details without them being considered for special occasions. That is why we used various tones of metallic inks all carefully combined with each leather to create a range of subtle to statement purses.

The elegant lifestyle photos throughout this post and on our website were taken by our talented friend Patrushka. Patrushka was born and raised on Menorca, and her photography reflects her inspiration from the islands’ rich nature and bohemian culture.

With a keen eye, her lens captures the subtle light and details of her subject, giving her images a distinctive look. Patrushka brought out the textures and richness of the BiniChic Bags, while also capturing the beautiful building in Barcelona in which they were shot.

After the leathers are printed, they are sewn by expert craftsmen. We take great pride in the high quality of our product, and make sure that only experienced artisans create our BiniChic bags. Each piece is made with great care and attention to detail.

We feel fortunate to have worked with a wonderful team of creative people that helped create our brand image. Our dear friends Pau, Cristina and Héctor of Aire CSG shot and edited the video of Making-Of a BiniChic Bag, a wonderful way to discover the care and effort put into creating each one of our bags:

We found the vintage oak leaf that hangs next to our BiniChic tag while shopping at the Marché aux Puces in Paris. We fell in love with it and decided to have it cast and add it as a charm to each BiniChic bag.

The BiniChic bags are conceived and produced to last a lifetime. The natural leathers will acquire a patina with use and time, which will give each bag its own character.

If you’d like to acquire your own BiniChic Bag, please visit our online store. If you’re in New York from the 19th to the 23rd of September, please come by  Teich in the West Village (22 8th Ave — at 12th Street). We’d love to meet you at the cocktail party we’ll be hosting on the 19th from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.

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Pretty Printed

It is always exciting for designers like us to be involved in collaborative projects with other brands. We recently had the pleasure to work alongside renown Menorcan shoe company Pretty Ballerinas in the creation of a hand silk-screened edition of ballerinas.

The project came about when I met with Ursula Mascaró — the vivacious creative director of the Mascaró Group — and commercial director David Bell, and showed them some samples of printed leather with our original designs.

Ursula was immediately excited about the idea of a collaboration between our brands; it was a sort of throwback to the time when her mother bought my mother’s couture clothes, of which she had very fond memories.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, BiniChic’s Susan Unger had her own workshop on the island, and it was there that her collections were hand dyed and silk-screened in prints and colors inspired by the Mediterranean.

Founded in 1918 by Ursula’s grandfather, Mascaró first started out as a small manufacturer of ballerina flats. The company is still family-run and owns multiple stores around the world. Their brands have many celebrity followers and avid fans who are keen to own their latest designs.

Ursula especially liked Glade, a design inspired by the Menorcan flora. The print gives the impression of looking up from under a tree and seeing its leaves against the sky.

Ursula called her design team to the meeting and the colors were chosen — some which we were to print on white leather and others on camel-colored suede.

In addition to black, the colors were these rich jewel-tones we immediately fell in love with.

The next step was to make the screens and start testing out the inks on the leathers. Each shoe had its own screen, and we engineered the drawing to be able to make each pair a mirror image of the Glade print.

The process by which we printed the shoes is completely manual. We have our workshop in the nearby town of Alaior, where talented craftsmen individually silkscreen the print unto each piece of leather already pre-cut roughly into the shape of a ballerina.

Silk screening is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to apply ink onto another material. The attached stencil forms open areas of mesh through which the ink can be transferred onto a surface. A squeegee is moved across the screen stencil, forcing ink into the mesh openings for transfer during the squeegee stroke.

Silk screening renders a sharp and elegant image onto the leather, still leaving room for the unavoidable and characteristic imperfections of hand-made designs.

We were very excited to see the final product, which premiered for this Spring 2013 season. If you’d like to buy them, you can do so on the Pretty Ballerinas website. They currently have them in white leather with blue, pink and black ink.

My personal favorites are on the camel-colored suede, which will hopefully be available soon. Check back for updates!

It was truly a pleasure to work with the creative, friendly and efficient team at Mascaró. We are very happy with the results — and look forward to other successful collaborations in the future! Maybe even with Mascaró!

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Gravity and Grace

On a recent trip to New York, my friend Alana introduced me to the amazing work of renown artist El Anatsui. Expressive and elegant, the mix of colors and textures of his opulent wall hangings capture the imagination of the spectator. From afar, they remind us of fish scales glimmering in the sun, of Gustav Klimt’s ornate paintings or Seurat’s pointilism — up close, mundane objects permanently transform our expectations about what art is and where it comes from.

El Anatsui was born in Ghana in 1944, when it was still the British colony of the Gold Coast. After studying at a local art school — where the curriculum was mostly Western — he felt the need to learn more about local traditions and began studying African ideographs, later becoming part of a movement that promoted a sort of open-minded traditionalism.

El Anatsui has spent most of his adult life working in Nigeria, emerging from the vibrant post-independence art movements of 1960s and 70s West Africa. His sculptures / wall hangings are vibrant and experimental in their mix of media, form and tradition.

It all began one day ten years ago, when El Anatsui drove by a bag of rubbish in the countryside. Although not an unusual sight in southern Nigeria, that particular bag of rubbish looked promising, and so he took it to his studio where it lay waiting for his inspiration.

In the meantime, he kept developing other kinds of art work in wood and clay, always experimenting with materials that are meaningful in the context of the local culture and which explore the relationship between the part and the parcel.

Inside the bag were numerous discarded aluminum screw-tops from bottles of whiskey, rum and gin.

Eventually, the artist began experimenting with the materials he had found that quiet sunny afternoon — cutting and folding their pliable metal into flat swatches, and then stitching these together with copper wire. The result, as it grew, began to resemble fabric, a coarse, jangly metal cloth.

The intricate, narrow-banded compositions of Anatsui’s first cloths were recognizable variations of kente cloth, the emblematic fabric of Ghana. It was not only about a reinterpretation of a rich tradition using “poor” materials such as liquor bottle caps, but also what using those particular materials suggested: a connection “to global consumerism and, more obliquely, to slavery’s economics, of which liquor was a key part.”(“El Anatsui” Worth, A. The New York Times, 2009)

Anatsui elegantly combines history and craft — creating a category of art on its own — where minimalist Post-Modern and Pop intersect with tradition and the re-purposing of materials.

Anatsui has his studio in a small warehouse near Nsukka, which has been transformed into a virtual factory. He no longer collects the discarded bottle caps and condensed milk tin cans, but instead buys them in bulk from local distilleries. He has a team of over a dozen assistants, most of them young men in their early 20s, working six days a week cutting and folding the aluminum pieces, which they then join into blocks.

When the blocks are ready, Anatsui has his assistants lay out the pieces on the cement floor and begins to compose a new sculpture. He has them arrange the pieces until he is happy with the results, at which point they are wired together and the final piece is folded up like a blanket.

The pieces are malleable, each one having the ability to take on a different form with each installation. The provisional, shifting shape of El Anatsui’s work is one of the sources of its originality. Although he does not drape the hangings himself he prefers horizontal ripples to vertical ones, but leaves the final installation to each individual gallery and museum.

In 2007, his pieces appeared at the Venice Biennale, where he immediately captured the attention and awe of the public, as well as of many of the world’s renown art collectors and Art Museums.

When I first saw El Anatsui’s work, it reminded me of the grand and laborious 15th Century Devonshire hunting tapestries made in France for the Countess of Shrewsbury. The enormous wall hangings, made with woven wool, engulf the spectator in various kinds of hunting scenes.

A parallelism could be made between the Medieval tapestries and El Anatsui’s grand pieces, as they both portray mundane aspects of their own cultures through indigenous crafts, elevating it to an awe-inspiring level.

El Anatsui’s work inspires admiration to those who see it. It might be the simple and unassuming raw materials — which can be found in your local trash bin — and which belie the sheer grandness of the cloths (they measure over 20 feet wide and high in many cases).

It is surely also the elegant and refined chromatic combinations and graphic designs that give each sculpture its own personality, as if each piece defined a different mood in the artist (or the spectator’s) life.

It is clear that we are before an artist who has taken inspiration and resources from the past and from around him, and who will surely continue to amaze us with the gravity and grace of his pieces.

As a final piece, I wanted to share with you a video / trailer of a documentary made about El Anatsui by Susan Vogel, “Fold Crumple Crush“:

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Midsummer Night’s Wedding: The Dress, Part II

On the last post about my wedding dress we saw the inspiration and the process by which it was designed and made — but we didn’t have a good look at the finished piece. Today I’d like to share with you my very own BiniChic wedding look, filled with history, vintage touches, symbolism — and now — beautiful memories.

A dress as labored as mine had to be worn with the appropriate hair and make-up. Months before the wedding, I asked my two dear friends Andrea and Maria to style me. They kindly obliged, and after some practice runs in Barcelona to work out the kinks, they made me feel truly special on my wedding day.

I wanted both the hair and makeup to be very natural and whimsical. The dress had a vintage feel and was beautifully embroidered with beads, so my friends and I felt it would be appropriate to go with natural and slightly pearlescent tones for my make-up. My hair was done in a simple up-do, with strands twisted to my nape where a floral diadem was placed. Jacopo had the same flowers in his boutonniere, including a branch from our tree — the Olive.

I got ready in the most beautiful room in the villa, with the morning Summer light pouring in and sun-kissing the trompe l’oeil walls. The room, which used to be Jacopo’s great grandmothers’ is now known as the “Newlyweds Room.”

The dress was designed by my mother, who added very special personal touches to it. On each panel there was a symbol that represented an aspect of Jacopo and my life together.

The Intertwined Rings below are for our union in matrimony, as well as a reinterpretation of the “infinity” sign.

The Bridges are for Jacopo’s family name: Ponticelli, which loosely means “little bridges” in Italian.

The Olive Tree stands as a symbol of our family. Jacopo and I chose that as our tree as we both felt a strong connection to it: his family makes home-grown olive oil and my childhood home is named after this ancient tree.

The Waves are a graphic representation of my name, Ona, which means “wave” in my native Catalan.

Pomegranates have had a very strong symbolism throughout history — a pomegranate bursting open has often represented abundance, fertility and prosperity.

The Three Figures (or goddesses) represent the three ages of life: youth, middle age and maturity.

The Grapes symbolize abundance of all the good things in life.

The flowers at the bottom of each panel were inspired by a modernist lamp in the kitchen of Villa Cicaleto, a very meaningful place for us.

The jewelry I wore to the ceremony was very meaningful. The day before the wedding, Isa and Pietro gave Jacopo and myself some very special items: they gave Jacopo a wonderful 19th Century pocket watch which used to belong to his grandfather, and they gave me the incredible earrings below.

The earrings are a gorgeous Victorian design and belonged to Jacopo’s grandmother Adriana.  They are made of pink gold, encrusted with wild pearls and Rubellite Turmaline. I was honored to wear them on such a special occasion, and thought they fit in perfectly with the rest of my look.

The beautiful Emerald-cut Aquamarine ring above belonged to my grandmother Florence, and was a very special gift from my mother. It was a ring that she often wore, one which her close friends and family associated with her. I thought it was the perfect way to wear blue on my wedding day, as the tradition calls for.

Here is my mother helping me get into my dress, buttoning up the countless buttons on the back. Exciting moments before getting married!

Below are the earrings I wore after the dinner, when I changed to a less formal outfit. They are from the 1920s-30s and have a strong Art Deco style. I loved the shoes I wore because they looked like something a 1940s movie star would have worn — I can’t wait for the chance to wear them again!

Santa Maria delle Grazie is the very special, albeit small, church where we got married. It sits on a spot which has been considered sacred all the way back to the time of the Romans and Etruscans and holds some Art History treasures inside. The arched portico was a Renaissance addition, and provided our guests with much-needed shade in a the hot Summer sun.

A dear friend of the family, Lidia, made the cushion our rings were attached to and which my godson carried to the altar. She used the same embroidered fabric that my dress was made from (well, the version we didn’t use), tying all of the pieces together.

Here are a few intimate views of our wedding day, where you can appreciate the shape and details of my dress, as well as the gorgeous bespoke suit Jacopo had made by Carlo Donati, a very talented tailor in Arezzo.

The combined efforts of everybody that made that day (well, week) possible was what made it so unique and fun. In following posts I will show you the Villa, the flowers, the tables, the party and the guests. This is our very own BiniChic wedding — we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

All Photos by Bárbara Vidal (our wonderful official photographer) except those watermarked by C. Bay Milin.

I would like to thank C. Bay Milin for letting me use his wonderful photographs to illustrate these posts — he is an infinitely talented New York-based photographer.

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Coming Into Fall

After recently writing some very personal posts, I felt the yearn to write a more whimsical post about one of my biggest passions: fashion. I love the infinite possibilities clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry and other life accessories can conjure up in our imagination. Our favorite items for this season all share their spirit with BiniChic: original pieces made with quality materials, hand-crafted by artists, artisans and designers from around the world.

Fall is my favorite season. I love that the way the humid summer heat gives way to the crisp Autumn air and warm light. It’s the perfect time to take your favorite blazer out for a spin, and discover new accessories.

On the left, the ultimate pinstripe jacket and pants by Emerson Fry, designed and sewn in New York’s Garment District. A unique look whether worn together or combined with other wardrobe essentials. It looks perfect with a bright clutch or colorful high heels.
The coat at the top is the Big Peacoat by Emerson Fry.

Above on the right, an elegant mix of necklaces from Keyla Viviana‘s Etsy shop. A young designer from Puerto Rico, her pieces are both effortlessly chic and affordable.

These bamboo sunglasses with a vintage feel are handcrafted by a young designer and craftsman, Takemoto. He designs, cuts, assembles and polishes every pair of glasses (he makes reading glasses too) himself.

The following video is about the Bexar Goods canvas bags, made in Texas. Seeing the hand-making process always brings me closer to a product, giving an emotional connection to its story and maker, which is why I wanted to share this one:

We are currently developing our first Binichic Bag collection which we will launch the FW of 2013. Made entirely in Barcelona (Spain), we are very excited about how it’s coming along, and soon will post photos of the making-of process. Made with the finest Italian leather, the hand silk-screened collection of clutches and bags will combine classic style and a fashion forward edge.

In the meantime, we love this tote from Rib & Hull, a Polish-based team of designers.

Designed as shoes worn by street artists during their performances, particularly soft and suitable to the movements thanks to the special rubber sole, Anniel’s shoes are comfortable and stylish.

This family-run Italian brand started out in 1976, manufacturing high-quality sports shoes for professionals. Since then, they have combined skilled labor, high technological standards, great Italian style and creativity to create their wonderful line of shoes.

The perfume for this Fall would definitely have to be Philosykos by the expert perfumists at Diptyque. Mysterious and seductive, the base is fig essence, the Autumn fruit by excellence. Even their description of the scent is poetic: “The sun is at its peak. The famous fig tree comes in a different guise, less fruity and warmed till white-hot by a mist of cedar. Wooded and racy, the nourishing accents from its bark and luxuriant foliage envelop the scent.”

Whimsical and fun, the Bumble Bee bobby pins below come from Elizabeth Perry’s Etsy shop. Each one is especially made to order, and although small, they add a unique detail to an everyday hairstyle.

On the left, a raw Pyrite ring by Citrine by the Stones, a Peruvian brand that supports a local and sustainable jewel-making craft.

For the daytime, Erim is the brand by Mireia Fusté, a young and fresh designer from Barcelona whose pieces are unique and sensual. I love my seashell necklace, which you can find on our online BiniChic store.

For a night out, Lizzie Fortunato are the epitome of sophisticated with a quirky edge. Using vintage czech glass stones and giving their necklaces names like Paris Confidential and The Eccentric Darling, their accessories are as daring as the woman who wears them.

Emma Go, the Danish shoe brand that effortlessly mixes vintage looks with contemporary styles would be my choice of shoes for a fun night out. I need shoes so comfy that I can forget I’m wearing them without sacrificing one ounce of style.

Although this post is on Fall’s BiniChic must-have fashion and accessories, I couldn’t resist adding a home accent by the talented artists at Potomak Studio. Based in the Italian Alps, these ceramists created this line of perfectly imperfect dinnerware in a watercolor palette.

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Drawing from the Heart

I have wanted to do a post about my grandmother (iaia Marta) for a long time, as a sort of tribute to her life and work. I first thought of writing this post when I wrote the one about my father, Marcel Villier, but never thought I had the right material to do it. Until now.

My iaia (grandmother in catalan) was born in 1921 in Aragón, a region near Catalunya, but grew up in Horta, a working class neighborhood of Barcelona. She was the third of four children — two boys and two girls — born to a blacksmith father and a homemaker mother.

She once told me about her first job at the age of seventeen in a doll factory, delicately painting the faces on porcelain dolls. She loved drawing fashion models when she was young, filling countless notebooks (on both sides of the page, it was post-war Spain afterall) with elongated figures inspired by her mother’s magazines.

She was an autodidact artist, but it is clear from the early drawing below that her refined skills were innate.

She met my grandfather Joan — a Russian-Jewish immigrant who had just arrived from France — at the book printer where she was an illustrator. He was the artisan in charge of transferring her elaborate drawings unto the lithograph plaque.

They married in 1944, and two years later my uncle Jordi was born. She continued working at the printer, creating beautiful interpretations of well-known novels such as the dramatic “Carmen” by Prosper Mérimée.

Below are some of the composition tests and character sketches for Carmen.

In the year 1950, when my father was two and my uncle six, the family of four moved to Jerusalem. They went to the recently created state of Israel, where work and opportunities were abundant.

The portrait below is of my father and uncle around the age they emigrated to Israel.

It was there that my grandmother flourished as an artist. She loved capturing the expressions and ornate fashions of the native women in her new home.

She became very popular among women of Israel’s high-society. She was commissioned by a few elegant ladies to paint their oil portraits, and soon her reputation had grown throughout the city. She once told me that one of her best clients was a Spanish duchess who had deeply influenced her spiritual beliefs.

The note in the above drawing says: “Arab woman from Jerusalem with her dowry in coins worn around her head. M.R.”

Before last week, I had never seen most of the drawings above. I asked my father to scan some of my grandmother’s older work, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover this part of her oeuvre. I have always known that she’s an extremely talented artist, capable of elegantly capturing the expressions of her models, but had seen a very different phase of her career.

When I was born, she was already working on another kind of illustration. After giving birth to my uncles Alex and Rafa in Jerusalem, they moved back to Barcelona in 1956. With a growing family, my grandmother started working with a large editorial house, Busquets, dedicated to printing postcards and other paper accessories for every occasion: Christmas, 1st communion, newborn, etc.

I have always had a special connection with my grandmother. For many years, I served as the blond-hair, blue-eyed, freckled model for her illustrations. My parents would send her photos of me and she would base her angelical-faced girls on those pictures.

I remember once, when we lived in New York, I walked into our local stationary store and saw a box of Christmas cards with me dressed as Santa Claus standing under an umbrella and a dog by my side. I picked them up and excitedly told the store clerk that it was me. I put the cards by my face, in the hope that he might see the resemblance between myself and that Santa Claus girl. He brushed me off as some sort of lunatic, but I insisted, saying: “It’s signed by my grandmother, see? Marta Ribas! This is me!”

I bought them and sent the first one to my iaia, to let her know her work had traveled all the way to New York!

For many decades, she made her living with this style of pastel-colored gouache illustrations — she was the longest-working artist for this editorial, only quitting when she was over eighty-five. A hard-working and loving mother or five, she was glad to be able to live off something that came naturally and effortlessly to her. She poured into her work the inspiration she didn’t put into cooking — she was never “that” kind of grandmother.

I remember watching her apply the various tones on the paper as if it were magic. She took what could have been something corny and made it truly wonderful and spirited.

Above is a photo of my grandmother and I when I was about two or three.

My iaia is now 91 years old, and has been living with Alzheimer for the past five years. I know that when she is no longer on Earth we will have lost a great — and largely unknown — artist. I hope this post helps change that a bit.

Her illustrations were all soft and sweet but she is one of the strongest women I have ever known. Strong-willed and energetic, generous and sweet, she will always be an inspiration to me.

All the illustrations in this post are by Marta Ribas. Photos by Marcel Villier and Susan Unger.

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Midsummer Night’s Wedding: The Dress, Part I

As Summer winds down giving way to a warm golden Autumn light, it’s fun and comforting to relive the experiences of the past months through photos and other souvenirs. This Summer has been particularly exciting for us, as Jacopo and I got married on July 14th in Arezzo (Tuscany) in what felt like a dream.

 

This is the second in a series of posts about our BiniChic Wedding. It is through these posts that we’d like to share with you how we — along with our families — put together such a special event for us. After the post about the invitation, it is only natural that we continue with one of the most important things in every girl’s wedding : the Dress.

As the daughter of a couture fashion designer, it was only natural that the dress design and production would be orchestrated by my mother. I gave her some references for inspiration, and she came up with a labor of love that went above and beyond what I could have ever imagined.

I knew I wanted a dress that had a vintage air, an elegant feel, and above all a personal and flattering style for my body type. Since we were to be married in a church from the Rinascimento and have the party at the 17th Century Villa of Il Cicaleto, I thought it would be appropriate to wear something that fit in with the locations.

I really liked the idea of having a dress inspired by the 1920-30s — I loved the dress shapes and gorgeous beading of that era. Susan found the perfect base to work from in an old dress pattern from Vogue — who would’ve thought!

Our dear friend Shezi, — an amazing artist based in Dallas — is an excellent haute-couture designer, so he was in charge of transforming the Vogue pattern into the shape and size that would best suit me.

Since the original pattern was for a simpler dress, and mine was to have beading sewn onto the top layer, two completely separate dresses were created. The top dress was made of white silk chiffon, and the bottom dress was white silk charmeuse.

Here, images of the dress in the process of being created by Shezi. This dress was then to be re-created in Barcelona with the final embroidered fabrics.

We knew we wanted to incorporate a part of Il Cicaleto’s history into the dress’ design, and that is how the idea of making a beading pattern inspired by the Art Nouveau lamp in the Villa’s kitchen came about. Some of you might remember this image from the post about our invitation, since we used the same pattern for both items.

The lamp’s design had to be reinterpreted into a pattern that could then be expressed graphically in beading as well as on the invitation. The definitive illustration was made by Shezi. Susan and our very talented designer friend Sabrina then applied the drawing to the five panels that composed the skirt of the dress, as well as to its elaborate back.

They made a miniature model of the dress (above) on which they plotted the way the design would fit into each particular panel. Sabrina then scaled the artwork on illustrator and we had it printed full size at Kinko’s.

The artwork was to be sent along with the silk chiffon to two different factories — as my mother repeatedly said: “nothing will be left up to chance with this dress!”

Susan assigned a color code to each kind of bead that was going to be sewn in the various parts of the design. She also came up with different meaningful symbols — one for each panel and part of the dress.

We’ll see all about their meaning on our next post about the dress.

I went to Dallas for my first fitting and helped Susan and Sabrina color in the several panels (five for the skirt and two for the back) with the assigned bead color code. Everything was multiplied times two, of course, since there were two product packs to be sent to two different parts of the world (China and India).

Each piece of fabric had to be attached to its specific paper panel to be sent to the embroiderers, making sure the grain of the fabric went in the right direction so it would hang just right when sewn together into my dress.

The beads had previously been patiently counted and organized by our great friend Carlos. We then filled two boxes with the patterns, fabrics and beads and sent them off to India and China! We anxiously awaited the final result.

A dear friend of ours in New Delhi, Taruna — owner of Taurus Home –  kindly offered her most talented artisans to produce the elaborate beadwork. She sent us photos of the process that wonderfully illustrate the technique.

The beading in India was done in the traditional art of Zardosi. The process begins with the artisan first wetting the fabric and fixing it tightly on a freestanding wooden frame, called an Adda.

This form of embroidery was introduced in India from Persia by the Mughals and the original technique used gold and silver threads to make beautiful designs on wall hangings, bed sheets, silk, velvet, brocade as well as crepe.

The artisan then places a piece of paper with the design pin-pricked on it on top of the fabric. Sprinkling chalk powder over the paper he transfers the outline onto the fabric.

The artisan is then ready to start attaching the beads with an Aar needle, which has a small, bent tip similar to a crochet hook or rug hooking tool that catches the thread on the back side of the fabric, pulling it to the front side to create loops or attach beads. The artisan’s nimble hands twist and pull the hook and thread, effortlessly applying the beads on the fabric. I found a very illustrative video about the Aari technique, which is very similar to Zardozi.

The result is a very resistant, elegant and fine embroidery, its beads seldom coming loose from the fabric. This was the breathtaking result:

The beaded fabrics were then sent to Barcelona, where I live, and sewn together by a local seamstress following Shezi’s models. The final touch-ups of the dress were done in Arezzo, by the very talented wedding dress designer, Angela.

We will soon post photos with the final results on the next post about the Wedding Dress. I feel extremely fortunate to have worn a bespoke dress designed by my mother, Susan Unger.

It could not have been possible without the hard work and talent of Shezi, Sabrina, Taruna, the beading artisans, Carlos, Natalia, Angela and of course, Susan. They truly made me feel charmed!

Photo Credit: C.Bay Milin, Susan Unger, Ona Villier Unger, Taruna Singhi.
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