Show + Tell: Aurora James, Creative Director of Brother Vellies

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As the old edict goes, “you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes,” but we think you can tell even more about the person who makes them. We spent an afternoon with Aurora James, founder of the footwear line Brother Vellies, and covered a lot of ground, from sustainability to starting her own company to clothes as a second language.

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10 Questions for Caroline de Maigret

We’ve been longtime coveters of Caroline de Maigret’s romantic tomboy style (not to mention her addictive Instagram feed). So we were thrilled when we had the chance to hang out with the Parisian while shooting in her apartment in the 9th arrondissement for our fall catalog. Here, the music producer, mom, model and muse to many chats with us about her love of “real-deal” jeans, her fondness for men’s tees and why she has a serious thing for Keith Richards (and really, who doesn’t?).

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What’s your approach to style?

It’s almost unconscious. A lot of it comes from what my mother taught me: to seek out a nice cut and a quality fabric. It’s in our roots not to show off or be too ostentatious, but rather to understand the classic beauty in the understated.

Other than your mom, who has influenced your style the most?

My boyfriend taught me to have fun with clothes and to look in the mirror and find that little twist, that one signature or special item. I don’t follow trends but my style evolves with fashion in the sense that I incorporate new pieces into my wardrobe every season—a mix of closet staples with a few of those statement pieces to give it that unique twist.

You wear a lot of hats. How do you transition from a day spent in the studio to heading out at night?

In France, we dress the same almost 24 hours a day. What you wear during the day can always take you out at night, because it’s already cool enough…I only wear things that can carry me from day to night.

What’s been your biggest splurge?

My little black jacket by Chanel. The cut is so perfect and the quality is so incredible. With just this one special piece your whole outfit becomes chic. I only ever really wear it with jeans and a T-shirt, so it’s perfect for my fashion laziness [laughs]…I expect clothes to have this power.

Any cheapies you love?  

All of my menswear T-shirts, which are mostly secondhand and cost anywhere from $1 to $5. When I’m in the U.S., I love to buy packs of ’em and then cut the collars in order to make them looser. Also, men’s socks!

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A Madewell Girl We Love: Emma Louise

When the Brisbane-based singer stopped by our store in Austin during SXSW to play a few tracks off her just-released album Vs Head Vs Heart, we were floored. It’s one thing to write music that has celestial qualities to it, but crafting a song that truly sounds like a dream? That’s where Emma Louise excels.

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We interrupted Emma’s jam-packed touring schedule to get in her head about stage clothes, favorite tunes and even accidental road trip keepsakes.

How would you describe your sound? 

It’s always hard to describe my sound. But, to describe my songs in a fashionable way, they are heartfelt songs wrapped up in detailed power suits or metallic frilled dresses.  

Who are your favorite musicians or bands?

I really like Björk, Ane Brun and Massive Attack at the moment. Definitely check out Seekae too—they’re an awesome electronic band that has sweet melodies with perfect sounds.

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What do you like to wear onstage? 

I am always changing my mind, but at the moment I seem to be wearing tights and jackets. I got a new haircut that makes me feel a bit manly, so I’m kind of manning it up a bit. Girl-man chic.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

A big band cuddle and a few deep breaths. And afterward, I always try to go somewhere quiet to settle down.

Do you collect anything on the road?

Not really. I always seem to collect flight tickets in the bottom of my bag.

What would you be doing if you weren’t traveling the world playing music?  

I’d probably work with animals or be a hairdresser or makeup artist. I’m pretty glad I’m doing music, because I didn’t really click with anything else.

Turn It Up: An Interview With La Sera’s Katy Goodman

 

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We’ve been fans of Katy Goodman since we first spotted her bouncing around on stage with Vivian Girls, the all-female peppy punk band she has been the bassist for since 2007. And while she remains a faithful member of VG, we have found ourselves even more smitten with her solo project, La Sera, which brings Goodman’s utterly charming, soft-focus vocals and knack for catchy pop songwriting to the forefront at long last.

Since one of the songs from her 2012 album Sees the Light (the tropical-tinged “Real Boy”) serves as the backdrop for our captivatingly cool Madewell swim video (seriously, it’s like a little mental vacation), we thought there was no better time for a catchup with Goodman to talk songwriting, spring rituals and poolside playlists. 

How’d you come up with the name La Sera?

I was on tour in Italy with Vivian Girls while I was trying to come up with the name for my new solo project. We were at a restaurant when I saw a crazy pink tropical drink get sent to a table and I asked the waiter what it was called. He said “la rosa de la sera,” which means “the rose of the evening.” I thought it was a beautiful phrase, so I shortened it into a band name.

Sees the Light is, by all accounts, a breakup album; was there something cathartic about putting all those feelings into song?

Oh definitely, that was the main motivation behind writing the album. After singing all those songs a thousand times, I can safely say I am over that breakup.

Can you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?

I tend to start off by myself in my bedroom with a guitar. Lately I’ve been experimenting with more unique chords and song structures. On Sees the Light, I generally wrote the music first and lyrics and melody second.

What are your plans this year for La Sera and/or Vivian Girls?

I plan on recording my next La Sera record this spring! I’m very excited. Also, I think Vivian Girls will be doing a few shows here and there…

What’s your favorite springtime ritual?

I live in LA, so it feels like springtime all year round. I would say my favorite daily routine is walking to the coffee shop every morning without my cell phone. It’s only 15 minutes, but it’s the perfect way to start every day. It almost feels like meditation.

Any favorite song that always gets you in the mood for sun-filled days?

Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.” It’s an instant mood-lifter.

New Tees, New Faces

For a fresh look this season, we are in love with linen tees. Lightweight and perfectly draped, they are supersoft perfection thrown on with everything. They’re also a key piece of the effortless, off-duty model look, so we asked three of our favorite faces to give them a spin. Here, they share their thoughts on tees and other warm-weather pleasures.

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1. KRISTINA

What do you normally wear to a go-see? Skinny jeans and a simple T-shirt or tank top.

What’s your favorite thing to do once the weather warms up? Explore a new city with freshly blooming flowers.

Favorite word that starts with T? Truth. 

2. MATHILDE

What do you normally wear to a go-see? Usually my outfit is very simple: skinny black jeans, a white T-shirt and high-heel boots.

What’s your favorite way to soak up spring? On the weekends, I love having a glass of rosé on the terrace with my friends. We’ll stay there for hours enjoying the sun.

What smell most reminds you of spring? The smell of Nuxe Oil—to me it means that winter is over!

Favorite word that starts with T? Travel.

3. MAGDALENA

What’s your favorite rite of spring? Just sitting in the park with a nice book, sunbathing. What else do you need? I also like the fact that I can put on anything I want and not worry about being cold. I’ve been collecting new skirts, dresses, shoes and other stuff all winter, and just waiting for the moment I can show them off.

What smell most reminds you of spring? Lilac and cherry blossom.

What’s your favorite way to wear a tee? Over a swimsuit, while playing beach volleyball on summer vacation.

Favorite word that starts with T? Tomorrow.

Labels We Love: Whit

We’re longtime fans of Brooklyn label Whit, led by ever-charming designer Whitney Pozgay (she of the signature top knot and coral lip). Her new collection—full of feminine silhouettes and whimsical prints—is so perfect for the season, we decided to pick her brain about all things spring.

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10 Ways Whit Thinks Spring:

1. What’s your dream destination for a spring break?

I have always wanted to go to Indonesia. This April, we are finally headed to Bali. We’re going to scour the island for inspiration for our Spring 2014 collection. There’s so much to explore, from spending time with the craftsmen who produce amazing traditional textiles, to hiking to the terraced rice fields, volcanoes and temples, to experiencing the rich culture during the colorful religious ceremonies that will be taking place while we’re there.

2. Spring-cleaning strategy?

I take everything out of the closet and donate what I haven’t worn in a year. (In theory that is…I have a hard time letting go of some things, especially vintage.) Then I organize by item and color. It looks really beautiful for about a week or two. If I could only figure out how to keep it that way!

3. Spring produce of choice? 

I love strawberries on everything, especially arugula with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.

4. Music that sets the mood for spring?

Go Outside by Cults
The Banana Boat Song by Harry 
Belafonte 
Anything by The Beach Boys
Itchycoo Park by Small Faces
Cleo’s Mood by Jr. Walker and the All Stars
Dance Yourself Clean by LCD Soundsystem

5. Cultural event?

My husband is from New Orleans and we’re hoping to make it down to the Jazz Fest this year. Fleetwood Mac and The Black Keys are playing in the same weekend and the food is off the charts.

6. Spring nail polish shade?

“Butler Please” from Essie is the best bright blue for toes! It’s really saturated and looks rad with a tan. 

7. Spring fragrance? 

I’m obsessed with Bobbi Brown Beach. It smells like sunscreen. I wear it year-round. 

8. Spring flowers? 

I love bright pink ranunculus for entertaining, but I am a sucker for white daisies. We keep them in the kitchen all through spring. They make any room feel brighter.

9. Quintessential hue? 

Pinky corals are my favorite for spring. They look great on everyone.

10. Outdoor activity?

Pro Kadima in the green grass.

A Madewell Girl We Love: Model Liu Wen

Model Liu Wen is by far one of our favorites. Born in Hunan, China, the 25-year-old beauty is known for her outgoing and funny personality (not to mention killer cheekbones).  

But what we love most about this girl is her impeccable personal style. Her knack for mixing denim with designer duds and streetwear constantly provides us with style inspiration. The cover star of our first-ever Madewell catalog, she’s back in our latest spring edition modeling black and white fashion, one of the season’s biggest trends.

We caught up with the whimsical, globe-traveling Wen to find out about her denim choices, her styling tips and what she can’t leave home without. (Spoiler alert: It may include a cookie or two.)

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You have such incredible off-duty style—who else do you admire for their sartorial choices? 

Kate Moss!

Where do you look for fashion inspiration?

My work is the best inspiration! Every makeup artist or stylist with whom I work has many special ideas, tips and creations. I can always learn so much from them.

What did you like about this shoot? 

Striped shirts and printed shorts, jeans and trousers are all items I buy and wear a lot in my private life. They are very easy to mix and match and they’re must-haves to create many different looks.

How would you describe your denim style?

I prefer skinny jeans. I’ll wear simple, tighter clothes on top to make a sexy look and when it’s colder outside I wear a big jacket over them.

You’ve said you would like to be a stylist. Do you offer advice on shoots?

Ha, ha—actually, I rarely offer my opinion on shoots. After all, I am working as a model now and think it’s more important for a model to let others be creative and realize their ideas.

How will you wear graphic black and white this spring?

I’m thinking of using a bright solid-colored bag to contrast with the black and white. 

When you have down time, what’s the first thing you want to do?

I let myself wake up naturally, do a manicure and my hair-care routine and cook for myself.

Is there anything beauty-wise you would never try? Say, with your hair color?

I wish to try everything beauty-wise (except plastic surgery), although sometimes I’m just not brave enough to take the plunge and do something that makes a big difference.

Since you are constantly traveling for work, what are you packing musts? 

I collect a lot of eco-friendly shopping bags that serve to separate my shoes and other small stuff in my luggage. For skincare, I always pack facial masks from Estée Lauder. There are always candies and very often a half a pack of cookies in my bag.

Three Talented Ladies, Three Winter Escapes

As you can probably tell from the bikini picture, we’ve got vacation on the brain. We asked three of our favorite creative ladies whose work inspires us to spill their own winter getaway plans. And, because we couldn’t help ourselves, we had to know the one thing they always pack, no matter what the destination.

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Mara Hoffman: Swimwear designer extraordinaire (aka, the genius brain behind the most amazingly covetable psych-art prints around)

Where are you headed for a winter escape?

I’m hoping to get away to Miami the second fashion week is over!

Is there anything you always like to travel with?

I have a weird thing where I have to wear a special bracelet when I fly.

Sadie Stein: Talented scribe, deputy editor of the Paris Review, bespectacled gal icon

Where are you headed for a winter escape?

I’m not typically a tropical-vacation kind of girl, but the recent frigid weather has everyone dreaming of sun. My dream getaway is something low-key and easy, like Florida’s Pine Island, a 17-mile refuge on the Gulf Coast that’s filled with charm and natural beauty. A weekend of reading and biking sounds just about perfect right about now.

Is there anything you always like to travel with?

Whenever I travel, I get a new perfume. Nothing expensive—in fact, samples are perfect for most vacations—but it needs to be something I’ve never worn before. I spray it on before I leave for the airport and immediately feel like my vacation has started. Later, whenever I smell that scent, it takes me immediately back to my trip. 

Shruti Rya Ganguly: Senior producer at MTV World, producer and director at James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini Productions, maker of music videos we actually want to watch

Where are you headed for a winter escape?

In the winter, I usually head home to Oman in the Middle East for a much-needed getaway. I get to see my family and friends for the holidays, and am by/in/under the sea almost every day whether I’m going for a jog, a swim or for some scuba diving. Oman is also the type of place where time is on your side and you can sit back, relax and recoup. 

Is there anything that you always like to travel with?

When I travel, I always take my diver’s log book so I can document my dives.

An LA Treasure: Book Stand

We count ourselves big fans of the print medium here at Madewell, so when we discovered the wonder that is Book Stand, an online shop devoted to offering a thoughtful curation of the most exquisite, and often very hard-to-find, books and magazines, we were immediately smitten. The curator responsible for all this amazingness? LA-based art and film director Claire Cottrell. Read all about her:
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Claire Cottrell in her LA home. Photo by Jessica Comingore.

Can you tell us a little about your background?
I studied architecture but was seduced by advertising when I was finishing up grad school. I worked my way up as a producer and then, after feeling like I’d lost my way creatively, switched gears and started working as an art director, and then as a film director. I’ve always been obsessed with art books.

What inspired you to start Book Stand?
In between jobs I was making a living creating mood boards for ad campaigns, film and television. It was kind of crazy, but big production companies would pay me to research and present inspiring images to help clients visualize a project. The more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with the idea of a place where you can literally shop for inspiration.

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How do you find the books and magazines you feature?
I start with a subject that’s of interest to me (plants, a specific color, a philosophy) and then start looking around, which involves everything from poking around the internet to scouring second-hand stores, friends’ personal libraries, etc. And lately, I’ve had some really interesting submissions.

What are your top five favorite titles you are currently carrying?
Are Plants People, by Mark Borthwick
Blossom, by Hermine Van Dijck and Eefje Coninck
Plants and Mammals, by Carol Bove
Natural History, by Jordan Sullivan
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry, by Leanne Shapton

Do you have any favorite bookstores or literary landmarks that you’ve visited?
0fr. in Paris and Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts.

What are the first books you remember falling in love with?
Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome
The Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton
Take Care of Yourself, by Sophie Calle

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What are your thoughts on the Kindle culture?
I think it’s great if you’re an avid reader, but personally, I can’t do it. I spend enough time looking at a screen; the printed page is my escape from digital everything. Add to that, I think tablets work for literature, but the art book is (and always will be) best as a beautiful object that you can hold and cherish.

Introducing Rebeca Raney x Madewell

We’re huge fans of this Brooklyn artist and couldn’t wait to collaborate with her on a few limited-edition pieces—all clearly marked by her cheery, imaginative style. Watch our interview with her and then check out the entire Rebeca Raney x Madewell collection here.

P.S. If you’re headed to Miami for Art Basel, don’t miss her exhibit at Primary Projects (where you can also snatch up a few Rebeca Raney x Madewell pieces).