Tender Cargo: How can garments speak a person’s pain?

“What does it mean to wear one’s pain?” asks a new exhibit by textile artist Taleen Batalian at the WaterFire Arts Center though November 20. Inspired by her parent’s memories of the Armenian genocide that claimed her grandparents, Batalian developed a set of prints on fabric and some fabric designs that read almost like statues which try to embody the experiences related by her ancestors. To accompany this exhibit, she developed a runway show from some parallel universe, in which dim lighting and quadrophonic soundscapes support the slow, agonizing progress of three models in Batalian’s garb, as they traversed the length of the Waterfire Arts Center. The audience was set up on either side, much like a fashion show, but single file, facing the minimalist runway designed by Keri King. The music was developed from manipulations of Batalian’s Grandfather’s recorded musings, by audio engineer Antonio Forte.

“I thought of the movement as postures of grief. The choreography was really, ‘Go slow and sink sometimes.’ But keep moving, because to me that meant there was some hope as well. Otherwise, we would just end up on the floor the whole time,” said choreographer Heidi Henderson.

Batalian added, “It’s about shape. Shape and texture. The garments were refined based on what I saw as the dancers were wearing, but I really thought of them as garments I get to inhabit, as opposed to traditional costuming that’s meant to add to a dancer’s character.” The designs themselves came to form with “not intention, just trust.”

Waterfire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, PVD. waterfire.org through Nov 20.

Fashion Flashback: This summer is all about rebooting the ‘90s—and not just the cartoons!

One of the most popular fashion trends to make a comeback this summer—as with everything else nowadays—is the ‘90s. That’s right, boys and girls! Grab your butterfly clips and hang onto your low-waisted jeans because Y2k is back and ready to party. With everything from neons to vintage band-tees and even the (dreaded) micro-mini skirt returning to store shelves, this summer is about embracing old favorites – and maybe even finding some new ones. While it might be overwhelming picking out an outfit after not going out for over a year, (and no, you can’t just wear the same green sweatpants for three days straight—thank you very much) I asked local fashion designers what we can expect to see on the streets of PVD this summer.

Coming off her third RI Styleweek, Zoe Grinfeld is no stranger to the current Y2k resurgence: “I know fashion is always recycling itself… I was born in ’98 and the early 2000s was like my entire upbringing.” Childhood and nostalgia play a large part in inspiring Zoe’s designs, with her past shows paying tribute to classic board games like Twister.  For her, this summer is about exploring the bright and colorful side of fashion: “A lot of it is bright colors and bold prints and lots of rhinestones [and] embellishment glitter—which I think is always just so fun to play with and it kind of tackles kitsch in this really fun way.”

But if glitz and glitter aren’t your forte, Providence native Amy Page DeBlasio, owner and operator of APD Design Studio and Boutique in Pawtucket, has got you covered. Blending an urban attitude with edgy sophistication, her designs are all about playing with different fabrics and textures to create eye-catching looks. “I mix a lot of fabrics together that most people wouldn’t think would work in the same garment,” Amy says. “I incorporate neon into a lot of my pieces… I’ll use it in a dressy piece [or] a gown, and I’ve used it as a little ruffle on a cute co-ord set, like a skirt and a top.”

Bold colors and textured fabrics have been dominating the runways as of late, opening the opportunity for androgynous fashion to emerge as a new form of self-expression. Crocheted vests, highlighter green crop-tops, chunky platform shoes, small handbags, and lots of two-piece sets are just some of the styles gracing models. This much variety can cause some anxiety when putting together a new outfit. But adding these new trends into your own style shouldn’t be scary:

  “Even though something might feel bold to one person, most other people wouldn’t think twice [about it], says Amy. “Nowadays, anything goes. But I would suggest incorporating one piece at a time…start small, like a neon accessory and you know, work it. Work the piece into your own wardrobe and it will help the transition. It’ll help you feel more comfortable.”

Zoe adds to this sentiment: “I think that fashion in general right now is about celebrating the individual and expressing yourself in a way that’s not just cookie cutter.” She says when it comes to branching out and trying new things, “it’s all about balance. I think a lot of people are afraid to experiment with their style because they think it’s all one way or the other but it’s really just [about] being comfortable when you want to be comfortable, and fun when you want to have fun.”

For more of Zoe Grinfeld’s designs, check her out on TikTok and Instagram @zoe.grinfeld, and keep an eye out for her online boutique opening at zoegrinfeld.art.com.

For more of Amy’s designs, visit her shop in Hope Artiste Village or online at apdpvd.com, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @apdpvd.

Highlighting Fashion’s Power: A closer look at the impacts of fashion

Since humans have been wearing clothes (no, not loin cloths), fashion has manifested itself into distinct trends. These trends are often fleeting and rarely occupy more than a few weeks of social media exposure: low rise jeans, cowboy boots, athleisure, monochrome outfits, color clashing outfits. Regardless of the particular trend, the fact of the matter is that they all tend to come and go rather quickly. However, fashion trends can actually have a meaningful purpose that reach beyond what’s fashionable or what’s marketable at a given point in time. Fashion’s power is limitless, but there are a handful of special powers that are worthy of highlighting. 

Social Justice

One way in which we often see fashion trends making a difference are through the issues of gender norms and social equality; inequities in the standards of dress for different genders are palpable. For instance, take something like school dress codes. Young girls are relentlessly scolded and sent home for exposed shoulders and midriffs, but young boys can continue to walk the halls in tank tops and jeans that so desperately are in need of a belt. Beyond the walls of schools, male-identifying individuals being shirtless is normalized, while female-identifying individuals are punished for exposure for having visible breasts because of how sexualized the female body has become. 

Different fashion trends have paved the way to combat these inequities. Female-identifying folks have started to wear sheer shirts to fight back against the sexualization of the female body, and straight leg loose jeans have become popular to fight against the normalization of tight, hip-hugging skinny jeans. 

Fashion has also been used to propel social movements forward. Enter the Pussyhat Project: these iconic pink hats were designed and crafted in late 2016 in anticipation of Washington DC’s January 2017 Women’s March. The hats were meant to create a visual statement of solidarity, and allowed people who couldn’t be present at the march to still show their support for women’s rights from afar. They were fittingly named to destigmatize the word ‘pussy’ and re-empower it following remarks made by Donald Trump. 

Local designer Kent Stetson is a prime example of how fashion can be used to propel social movements forward and give back to valuable causes and organizations. As a handbag designer, Kent has a number of pieces that are dedicated to particular social movements, with the proceeds going to the respective organizations. For example, his piece “Judiciary” is a handbag with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent collar on it, and he donates proceeds from the sale of that piece to the ACLU. He also has a piece called “Peace for Ukraine,” which is designed as the Ukrainian flag with a sunflower. The proceeds from this piece are donated to Amnesty International. Kent not only believes it’s important to have his pieces to prompt conversations about justice, but he also finds it important to directly contribute to those causes as well. In his words: “An accessory can align and speak to a movement while also being mass propaganda to make a point against injustice.” 

Environmental Justice 

Sustainability has been a hot topic in the fashion world recently, especially with the popularity of fast fashion brands like Shein and Missguided. For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘fast fashion,’ it refers to brands that rapidly consume high volumes of trendy clothing. The consequences of fast fashion are immense: the factories are major polluters that not only emit greenhouse gasses at concerning levels, but the products they create flood landfills. Determined to fight these issues and better the planet, Charlotte von Meister and Danielle Sturm founded PVD’s The Nest. 

In establishing The Nest, Charlotte and Danielle carry out a number of missions – educating people about how to be a conscious consumers, offering professional decluttering and organizing services, rehoming unwanted clothing and home goods, and bringing people together to want to elevate sustainable style. 

Now, people don’t typically think of fashion’s power as being tied to environmental issues, but fashion does have a distinct power in that arena. Charlotte and Danielle note that fashion is a choice we all make every day, and these choices can affect the planet at large. Take their biggest inspiration, for example: Vivienne Westwood, “the mother of punk and a climate change rebel.” Through their own work at The Nest, Charlotte and Danielle embody Westwood’s message of protest against a system that doesn’t care much about consumerism’s impact on the planet. A way that they channel this energy into their work is making outfit repeating hot again. The trendiness of social media and micro-trends makes people feel uncomfortable or weird for repeating the same outfit, but Charlotte and Danielle don’t accept this judgment and reminds others that trends are all personal, and you should wear whatever makes you feel the most authentic version of yourself. 

Kent Stetson also has sustainable approaches in his work, as he often uses worn-in, pre-loved clothing to repurpose into new handbags. He spoke of using clothing like jackets and jeans to create new pieces in a way that’s both fashionable and sustainable. 

Fighting Back Against Beauty Standards 

For years and years, especially with the development of software like Photoshop and the chokehold of the modeling industry, the concept of society’s beauty ideal has been an issue that has damaged the mental health of men and women everywhere. Commercials and magazines will advertise super thin women with accentuated breasts for companies like Victoria’s Secret, even though the majority of women in the United States don’t even fit in that size demographic. Other commercials will feature men with unrealistically large muscles showing off their love for Old Spice deodorant, when most of the men who use Old Spice don’t fit the bodybuilder standard. In the face of these unrealistic standards, the fashion industry has begun to fight back. Advertising campaigns have become more diverse and more inclusive, and more people are beginning to say ‘Fuck it’ and wear whatever the hell they want. 

Designer Karen Beebe (owner of Queen of Hearts and Modern Love in PVD) argues that your mood or feeling can be influenced by the confidence that fashion brings, especially in that it drives people to wear what they feel best in, regardless of their body type. Although we’ve been conditioned by the media to believe that there’s a ‘perfect body,’ there really isn’t one. Karen talks about the fact that you don’t need to be a size 0 or 2 to wear a bikini and be confident – everyone can be confident in whatever they wear, because society’s standards are simply wrong. She’s firm on the fact that we should be using fashion to say, “No, you don’t have the power to tell us what to be or how to be it.” 

Danielle at The Nest has experienced this pressure firsthand: “In our society, I see a big gap of respect for women who exude sexiness and also having the respect as a human being, and that opens up to an even bigger conversation when that woman is plus-size.” Danielle often had trouble finding clothing that allowed her to express herself to her fullest potential, since no one really carried the styles she wanted in her size. This pushed her to be more eclectic in her own dressing, and she was able to use her unique style to push against these barriers in the fashion industry. The Nest fights for this access as well, offering a range of sizes and styles. 

Standards of beauty and dress can extend beyond body size and into gender conventions as well. There are typical ideas of what men and women should wear, but recent years have seen more fluid styles of dress. Kent Stetson speaks to this point of how much more fluid gender and fashion has become. As originally marketing his pieces towards women and focusing on a more female-oriented clientele, over time he found that he was gaining a number of male clients as well. Having such a large clientele of both men and women extends pre-existing fashion barriers, and it’s great to see those being knocked down.

Local designer Amy Page DeBlasio also speaks to the point of the fluidity of fashion between genders. She has seen other designers pushing the boundaries of men’s and women’s clothes by creating more gender-neutral designs that can be worn by any gender. She herself has designed a lot of what would typically be considered as men’s clothing with more traditionally feminine prints, and vice versa with typical women’s clothing.

In the words of Charlotte and Danielle of The Nest: “We’re entering an era where androgyny is normal and style is not gender exclusive. If you want to wear a skirt or dress or pantsuit, DO IT. And we’ll be your dance mom gassing you up and taking pictures.” 

Redefining Professionalism 

When thinking of how people are expected to dress in a professional setting, some pretty distinct ideas typically come to mind – men are often dressed in a button down and pants (sometimes with a tie), or perhaps a nice collared shirt, while women are suited in pants (or a long skirt) with a blouse that covers the majority of the top half of their body. However, fashion trends recently have pushed the boundaries of what has been considered ‘professional,’ and a new age of professionalism is emerging. 

For instance, tattoos have always been a taboo subject in the workplace. I may be biased in my thinking here, but it seems to be that a large demographic of people in the rising generations are agreeing with the notion that having tattoos does not make one look less professional, and many workplaces are beginning to allow tattoos more often. 

Charlotte and Danielle of The Nest use fashion to redefine professionalism in their own ways. They acknowledged how frustrating the stigma is that someone can’t be both stylish and professional. As two female business owners, they refuse to ditch their self-expression and sexiness at the expense of running a business. In Charlotte’s words: “I am hoping to slowly chip away at the stigma that a woman can only be one: professional in a pantsuit, or sexy in a dress. I AM BOTH, I AM ALL.” To achieve her goal, Charlotte always makes a point to wear provocative outfits at parties held at The Nest that host local brands and businesses to support local makers. We can’t forget that, as Charlotte and Danielle state, “It’s possible to be a badass woman in business and also have amazing style – the two are not exclusive.” 

Giving Rhody a Lfe Line: The latest kid on the fashion block

Clothes carry meaning, and fashion has the power to change social discourse. As the nation wrestles itself free from four years of hateful and divisive politics, society has an opportunity to express what it has learned from the experience and what it will no longer tolerate, and the fashion industry has the tools to communicate that attitude to a national audience. In Rhode Island’s latest apparel Lfe Line, married couple Amos and Katie Goodridge have taken their passion for design and lifestyle and fused it with a commitment to the greater good. 

Amadeus Finlay (Motif): Brand names carry meaning, and nothing is decided upon without deeper thinking. What does Lfe Line mean to you? 

Amos Goodridge: When I think of Lfe Line, I think of dependability, it is about everyday life. The name Lfe Line is unique, I want it to be different from anything out there. It’s not a brand, it’s an empire.

AF: Powerful name, focused intentions… now let’s talk about the clothing. What sets your products apart?

AG: Within our Lfe Line clothing range, our tie dye especially is unique within itself. Each shirt is none like the other giving each customer a one-of-a-kind design with each purchase. But more than that. Lfe Line does not apply to one size gender or race. Lfe Line is for the people.

AF: Do you practice ethical sourcing?

AG: We at Lfe Line strive to produce not quantity but quality clothing. We make it a point to be ethical in all operations of our future empire. The point is to set a strong foundation, and the only way to do so is to do everything the right way.

AF: Your Facebook page also covers a lot of food conversations. What is the relationship there?

AG: What we are trying to accomplish is helping people of all walks of life. Lfe Line is a lifestyle and one of the aspects is nutrition. I wanna show people there’s other ways to nourish your body through natural foods, meditation and exercise.

AF: At a time when socio-political tension is at a high point, what is it about your message of togetherness that compels customers to choose your products?

AG: It starts with the team that we have around us, we have people working with us from all different backgrounds. Our team consists of people from Cambodia, Africa, Portugal and more, giving our clothing a flair like none other.

AF: As the son of Black immigrants from Liberia, and as a woman of mixed European, African and Indigenous cultures, what does this beautiful partnership of romance and commerce say about the potential for a modern America?

AG: It shows what the American dream should be, it’s about unity and bringing everyone together. This is more than just a partnership; this is the solid foundation that is needed for this impending empire.

AF: Any final thoughts for the stylish, socially-conscious people of Rhode Island?

AG: No matter what your background or style you can always LIVE LIFE in Lfe Line.

Cleverhood has a New Home and a Successful Year Ahead

2N3ec0pgMost people start a business because they had an idea that they fell in love with and wanted to see that come to life. As difficult a process as getting that idea off the ground is, maintaining growth and success brings a new world of challenges. Keeping a business open is a true labor of love, and Susan Mocarski continues to have an undying passion for her business, Cleverhood.

Mocarski’s business has made much progress since I last spoke to her in September 2017 (motifri.com/cleverhood). Last year was their best year yet, and things seem to be trending in the same direction for this year. They are gearing up for spring production and preparing to be vendors at local, national and international events. They also moved a few blocks away from their previous location.

“Our lease was up after three years,” Mocarski says of their decision to move, “and we needed a different office configuration to better accommodate our shipping operations. We love our West Side neighborhood and neighbors, so we made a concerted effort to stay as close as possible.”

wtgQnlLMWhile the new location is more of a design space than a store, Cleverhood does host special events and parties, which they always open to the public, welcoming as many people as possible. They also are open to visitors who schedule an appointment via email (info@cleverhood.com).

To stay ahead of the curve in the outergarment industry, Cleverhood has been launching new stock while continuing to promote older merchandise and push their most popular product, the Electric Houndstooth. They recently launched their new Lab Series, which are composed of specially designed garments that are made locally, within a .1 mile radius of their office. Mocarski is happy that this cuts down on their carbon footprint.

“We have a ton of new stuff this spring,” Mocarski adds proudly. “We hired a new amazing sewist and she has been instrumental in helping us engineer some cool new gear and allowed us to develop our design lab. We have a new fully reflective smart looking unisex trench coat, and Italian wool cape with some very cool magnetic fasteners and a line of Cleveraks that are windproof, waterproof, self-stowing, ultra lightweight and have a ton of storage.”

5EQCrHIDCleverhood continues to be proud that they produce their apparel locally, but sell it all over the world, including Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. They have their manufacturing and shipping processes down, which gets customers their products sooner. They have a team of three full-time and five part-time employees. Most live in Providence, with the exception of one who lives in Boston.

The entire staff love being part of the process of manufacturing and selling their outerwear. Mocarski says that they are always designing, whether in their local design space or out on the road at events. They are a team with much poise and ambition, striving to make the best products possible.

Shosha: Comfy Clothes for Goal-Setters

Shosha, a hip, urban clothing company from Providence, is run by a 28-year-old who goes by the name of Lex Effects. Her company creates strictly comfy, everyday wear for youths and young adults who are going after their goals.

Lex learned graphic design in college, but was always into designing. Even in high school she found ways to express herself in her style. “I always embellished or changed my clothing to make it unique, so it was kind of an expression for myself,” she says. Choosing to create her own clothing line was not a hard decision.

The name of her company comes from the Japanese term meaning winners. I asked how she thought of the name, and she told me a simple story. “My friend from Japan came to visit and I was showing him around Providence when I asked him what the word for winner was in Japanese. He said shosha, so I decided to name the company that.”

Lex wants her clothing to be worn by those chasing after their goals or those who are winners. As written on her website, “It’s the daily apparel for those in the pursuit of fulfilling their goals.”

The icon for the company is something different than what is typically seen on the streets today. It’s a character with a bright smile, sunglasses, a bowtie and a fun hair curl. “The big smile is welcoming, the bow tie is classic, the curl is kinda fun and the sunglasses are futuristic. My friend drew it and I altered the colors.”

Lex is very hands-on when it comes to the production of her clothes. She shops for and buys all of her products herself, but has a printer in East Providence. “I’m very hands-on when it comes to the production of my clothes. I’ll go over to my printer and help out over there,” she says.

If you’re chasing your goals and visions, Shosha clothes might be for you. Comfy, everyday wear is something that is perfect for anyone of all ages. Comfy is the new professional.

For those looking for a little comfy in their lives, Lex has a trade show in Los Angeles on June 10, then has a follow-up pop-up gallery at Mad Dog Gallery in Pawtucket on June 23-24. shosha.online




Pin-up: Bettysioux Tailor

Are you a good roller skater?
I am really good at rolling forward, not so good at stopping.

Would you ever be a roller derby player?
Yes! If I could just figure out that stopping thing I would be unstoppable! Wait….

What’s your favorite first sign of spring?
I live near a small body of water and I love to watch the ducks, geese and swans pair up and hang out on our bank. I also look forward to the first turtle sightings.

What do you like to do on the first warm day of the year?
Open the windows and let in the fresh air! Of course, then the neighbors have to listen to me attempt to sing along to Heart songs.

What’s the best April Fool’s joke you ever played or that was played on you?
I am not a very good prankster. I think the only April Fool’s joke I attempted was putting chalk in the blackboard eraser when I was in 4th grade. Brilliant, I know.


Pin-up: Amber Niaura

What’s your biggest pet peeve? When people are mean to animals.

What do you never leave home without? My phone, keys, my stethoscope and all my nursing books!

What’s your favorite book? I tend to prefer the classics, anything by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte.

What’s your favorite TV show? “Game of Thrones,” hands down.

How do you feel about corned beef and cabbage? And are you a fan of green beer? I like corned beef and cabbage separately, but not together. And I’m a fan of every color of beer!

What do you do in your daily life to help the environment? I recycle everything and try to use as little electricity as possible.



Providence’s Runway: StyleWeek Northeast

The biannual StyleWeek Northeast, better known by its social media friendly name, #SWNE2016, began in 2009 with the intent to connect the community, buyers and press with emerging talent. The February 26 show presented designers Nick Pini, La Fille Colette, Angelica Timas and Alexandra Nam at the Providence G.

Attendees were dressed extraordinarily well, wearing the average person’s rent check at the tip of their toes with either Christian Louboutin’s or Valentino heels. Most fashion show goers arrived with a heavy, but well-applied, face of makeup.

All of the staff presented themselves similarly to what you’d see at a Mac Cosmetics counter—black outfits, a bold lip, air-brushed skin and runway-ready eye makeup. After checking in, I made my way down the hall toward the runway room. Accent lighting shifted between shades of blue and red, continuing Providence G’s minimalist aesthetic. Simple but grandiose crystal chandeliers illuminated the space. It was bright! You could have seen the proverbial speck of dirt across the room, but it wouldn’t have been there.

The show started with La Fille Collette; mainstream music remixed for the fashion event played in the background as models made their way onto the runway with inch-long blue eyelashes. The choice of makeup for the models overshadowed La Fille Collette’s somewhat simple designs.

Immediately following the first show was an intermission during which I and many other showgoers had the obligatory $10 shot of vodka mixed with club soda, one of the large variety of adult beverages available.

A few photo ops later, the chandeliers came beaming back on and Angelica Timas presented her line usually consisting of prominent ballooned hips and crisp seams. Angelica Timas definitely had the more beautifully eccentric models of the night. Every model could adequately replace Milla Jovovich in the 5th Element.

Alexandra Nam, who has designed an outfit worn by Lady Gaga, has a style that incorporates a lot of geometric and blunt edges. She featured a lot of structured coats and one item with a structured frame.

Nick Pini and Amy Beth Photo by:
On Right: Nick Pini and Amy Beth
Photo by: Gustavo Leon

Nick Pini, the final designer of the night and seven-time participant in StyleWeek Northeast, thrives on and celebrates the renewal of the California Girl concept. The California Girl is “Driving with the top down, palm trees in the sun, feeling like you’re famous and living while we’re young.” He uses deep ivory colors and occasionally black textiles on sun-kissed models with lengthy legs, emphasizing his concept of The California Girl. His choice in models with a dewy complexion, long legs and California sun-kissed tans successfully displayed his collection. His latest season showcases decorative elements such as cruelty-free ostrich feathers, seashells, brass chains, tassels, Swarovski crystals and sequins. Pini ultimately plans go a step further a produce vegan versions of his ensembles.

Later, I had a chat with model Amy Beth, born and raised in Rhode Island, who caught my eye with her trademark appearance consisting of a shaven head and an elaborate ensemble of tattoos.

Photo by: Myke Yeager
Photo by: Myke Yeager

I was given the opportunity to dispel false truths about the modeling industry in the conversation I had with her. With four years of experience in the modeling industry, she said, “You can’t have an ego in this business and expect to last. You can gain fame and notoriety, but the second nobody wants to work with you … you’ll just fade away.”

It is important to understand with this industry, much like in film and dance, you are your own product and bare the responsibility of keeping your product desired by the masses. “Every single interaction should be approached like it could make or break you,” she explained. “I like to pretend sometimes that I’m talking to Anna Wintour whenever I meet someone new, because you honestly never know who is who.”

Given my fascination with the modeling industry, I was curious about a few things. For example, what does a model think of while making their way down the runway? Amy Beth explained that it requires an active effort to avoid eye contact and refrain from giggling when making her way down the runway. Amy Beth lightheartedly told me, “Local designer Kent Stetson has made it his personal mission to make me laugh every time I hit the runway.”

Throughout the night, I was genuinely surprised by how polite and friendly everyone involved was. Friday night was a successful and exciting event.

StyleWeek Northeast ran from February 23 – 27, 2016 at the Providence G on 100 Dorrance Street, Providence, RI. Look for it next year around the same time.