Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Celebration of Hats - by Iva Ksenevich

Fate conspires in the strangest ways to bring hats to us.  And wonderful adventures to accompany the hats.

You might remember that way back in March we went to a "do" at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan (see our posting here).  We didn't tell you then, but we were stopped by a gorgeous woman named Zlata, who complimented us on our hats, and, with the magic of her smart phone, showed us photo upon photo of hats made by her sister Iva in Moscow.  Good thing we wear glasses, which kept our eyes from popping too far out of their sockets.  Zlata said her sister would be coming to the U.S. in July, and asked if we would like to meet Iva and maybe do something with her hats.  Of course we said Da.

Four months later, Iva came to town with nearly her entire collection and we found ourselves in Zlata's apartment, in a frenzy of hat wearing (scroll down to see that).  It all went so well that Iva invited us to model three hats each for her website, and booked tres sympa (very cool) photographer Francois Charlier to memorialize the event.  Did we mention that Iva and Zlata were two-thirds of a set of triplets?  And we had the wonderful fortune to meet Alisa, the third member of the triumvirate.

Iva's millinery philosophy includes the concept and illusion of "motion" -- through textured, layered, sweeping fabrics, textiles and designs. Mix in a healthy color sense and a sense of wonder and et voila! That's Iva in the center.  We're each wearing one of her hand made creations.

To give you a taste of what you'll see on the website, we've included just a few shots from the shoot.  These were all taken at the periphery of Little Italy, and the tourists had as much fun watching, and taking their own photos, as we did voguing around in Iva's chapeaux.  (Iva and Francois were very patient with the interruptions.)  The opening photo is also from the shoot.  (In case you didn't guess.)

Can you tell how much fun we were having?

That's some of the finished product.  Let us show you some of the many hats Iva brought from Moscow, that we got to try on at Zlata's apartment.

Here's Valerie in the hat Jean is wearing in the opening photo.  The colorful, layered geometric lines and suede-like texture in this sophisticated grey hat create a much more interesting landscape than a simple toque.

At the end of the evening of frenzied try-ons, Iva kindly offered us each one of a selection of her confections.  This is the one Jean took home.

The hat Valerie is wearing in the opening photo is the one she took home.  In the opening photo, it reads grey and black with brown and black feathers. But as Jean illustrates below, from the other side and back, the hat most definitely reads bright red. Iva's ability to create this sense of surprise is one of the most endearing qualities of her designs.

The white plastic splash looks like one of those old National Geographic mid-air stop-frame photographic images of of spilled milk splashing, a true embodiment of Philip Treacy's devotion to motion.   It's actually a piece of plastic that she shredded and melted.  (Valerie wears this in the third shoot photo above.)  The simple design on a black velvet headband is at once amusing and arresting.

Iva called this her fish net hat.  The net, paired here with a small red disk, is actually made of metal and very sturdy.   Iva delights in using surprising and mundane materials and transforming them into things of beauty.  She wore it beautifully and the color complimented her grey dress.

Here are the three of us, this time with Jean wearing the fishnet hat.

One of the most interesting results of this entire exercise was our realization that hats we never thought would look good on us surprised us by being imminently wearable and attractive. It was a lesson that we have to continue to go outside our comfort zone. Case in point, the hat Iva is wearing in the big photo of the three of us in front of the purple pink painted wall looked terrific on Valerie too.

That the same hat would look so great on all three of us was a great revelation.

Another of Eva's hats used a striped, pleated double disk design.

And here it is, seen from the other side.

Iva designed this feathered crown so that women with long hair could secure it to the nape of the neck for a royal look.

Jean tried it two different ways.

Valerie's style, tilted more to the front, looked very 1950s Norell/Norman Parkinson.  Iva told us that she sterilized the feathers, which she'd found, before creating the hat.  We hadn't thought to ask, but once you think of it, it's comforting to know.

This purple cone shaped hat with colorful accents was a killer look.

Valerie wears the purple hat in the opposite direction, for a completely different effect.  Iva blew us away when she told us she had only taken two millinery classes, neither one more than two weeks long!

This tall feathered hat could be worn forwards or backwards, displaying more -- or less -- red. It is incredibly dramatic. And lord knows, we love drama!

Of course, we'd have to remove such a tall hat if we were to have gotten into a taxi (speaking from past experience).  But as we've often said, one must suffer for one's art...

This red and pink floral velveteen hat has a short brim. Jean was extremely hesitant to try it but once she did, she loved it.

Valerie tried wearing it back to front, for a sort of flower-power/Nehru effect.

This brown hat, which resembled either a bird in flight or an exotic flower, could also be worn forward or backward, tilted to one side or the other. Each angle showed different colors and textures.  Here's one way:

And here's another:

We both fell in love with this creation. and wound up calling it the manta ray hat, but we could just as easily have called it the bat hat or the stealth bomber hat.   Jean is wearing it in our second photo.  Here it is on Valerie.

Below is a closeup of this amazingly constructed hat, about which Jean has actually had dreams!

And here it is upside down.  Each of Iva's hats has her label in it. Notice how the golden oval is hand stitched?  Iva described spending quite a lot of time on each of her works, making sure she gets the details exactly the way she wants them.

We wanted to end this post with the most dramatic, evocative piece in Iva's collection. We called this "The Miss Haversham" hat.  Not sure the Dickens anti-hero was an appropriate choice for the name, but we were thinking along the lines of a very proper English woman of a certain age, a certain social class and a certain time period.  Jean is wearing this in the fourth photo above (paired with her antique silk folding children's parasol).  Valerie takes it out for a spin below.

But you really must see it from behind as well.

The serendipity involved in this connection makes our heads spin.  That our trip to the Classic Car Club of Manhattan event in honor of Luca Forgeois (a local boy from Long Island who aspires to be a Formula1 driver) was the genesis is icing on the cake.

Needless to say, we are both thrilled with our Iva Ksenevich hats but also more thrilled to have connected with such a talented, artistic milliner.

(For your future reference, the Russian word for hat is shapkah.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

X's BDay Blast!

Xtine ("X" for short) celebrated a milestone birthday in style last weekend. On Sunday, we had a leisurely brunch at B Bar.  On her actual birthday on Saturday, she held court in the historic Marble Cemetery on East 2nd Street.  Here, dear readers, is the illustrated version of the X Diaries, birthday edition!

The unparalleled Xtine (whom you have seen here on several previous occasions) recently sent us pictures commemorating her sixty-fifth birthday.  Ever tongue-in-cheek, she held a little gathering in a picturesque local cemetery, and sent photographs later on.  Much to our chagrin, we could not be there, but enjoyed the photographs so much that we asked if we could 'reblog' them.  Here, in the order we received them, and with the original photo captions, are pictures capturing a very happy day.
Thank you all for a great birthday!
Start with beautiful flowers...
and end with crazy accordion lady.

What a day in the cemetery!
Sean's beautiful flowers

65, still alive

The behatted birthday girl herself!
the birthday gang

da hand

(The be-bakelited hand of the birthday girl)
Helga's fruit

Richard, X, JB, Riitta, Katie

Richard, X

Helga, Richard, X

X, Riitta


Woman with accordion

X wrote later to say that the lady with the accordion often plays in the cemetery, so it was serendipity that she simply happened to be there to provide entertainment for the party.  Don't you just love her kindergarten photo -- with added cat-eye glasses?

Since Jean was driving back from New Hampshire and Valerie was at a TV taping, neither of us could make it to her garden, er, cemetery, party. So, taking matters into our own hands, we invited her to a BDay Brunch at BBar on Sunday.

We snagged a large booth in the main room, opting for air conditioning rather than outdoor dining in August.  Xstine is wearing her Veuve Cliquot champagne cork cage as her own millinery tribute to turning the big Six Five!

Bakelite and bangs! This profile shot gives you a better idea of X's haircut, and her multiple pierced earrings, fingers full of rings and wristsful of bakelite bangles. (Remind you of anyone?)  Not many women could carry off this look as wonderfully as she. What we love most about her is her fearlessness. The way in which she celebrates rather than fears getting older inspires us.

Had to show you her amazing hat. Don't you love how she peeks out from under the brim?

After a long and luxurious meal (pancakes for Valerie, waffles for X and fruit salad for Jean) and some wonderful bubbly champagne, we stopped for a parting shot before heading off into the afternoon sun.

What we're wearing:  
X is wearing a wonderful Jill Anderson black and white buffalo check dress;  Jill Anderson skirt and matching black and white check crinoline;  John Fluevog boots; lots of bakelite bangles and black hat.

Jean is wearing an Issey Miyake dress (for which she traded the skirt Valerie is wearing); Rick Owens tee shirt; DIY customized Dansko clogs; ivory colored vintage bakelite necklaces, earrings and bracelets and Tibetan straw hat from the Ruben Museum.

Valerie is wearing a green straw hat from Paris's Printemps (bought on her last trip to Paris in 1996),  green plastic earrings (Monies imitations), Issey Miyake dress and skirt (see Jean's note, above), yellow wood bangles from Zara (on sale at 2/3 off!), and Charlotte Olympia leaf shoes from a resale shop ("Charlotte Olympia" is French for too expensive to buy at manufacturer's suggested retail price.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair

Stalkers, pay attention! Every November, like clockwork, we travel to the City of Brotherly Love to attend the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show. We also like to seek out other craft venues to check out  their interesting designs and creations. When Jean was in New Hampshire earlier this week, she was thrilled to find out about the 81st Annual Craftsmen's Fair sponsored by the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen at Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, a hop, skip and a jump from New London where she was staying. It didn't take much persuading for her to coax her sister-in-law Maureen and niece Teresa to join her. She took lots of photos in order to report back to Valerie and to you, dear readers.  Please do click on the names of the exhibitors to link to their websites to see more of their handiwork.

Just inside the entrance, visitors were treated to a show by puppeteer Dan Butterworth. His intricately hand-carved puppets dance and whirl from the stage into the air. He masterfully manipulated this little clown to ride a unicycle around the stage.

Since it would be impossible to cover the glorious work of the hundreds of craftspeople, with the exception of a couple glass works, Jean focused on those exhibitors showing clothing and jewelry. Sally Bags by Janet Durkee-Prescott and Siiri Grubb are colorful and functional and come in a variety of styles and prints.

Julia Brandis' Glassworks from Westminster, Vermont featured desk and table lamps as well as illuminated stained glass panels.

Jean was delighted to run into one of our favorite exhibitors from Philly, Joy Raskin Metal Ornaments from Concord, New Hampshire, was participating in the show.  Joy does metal work and tablewear, but her jewelry rings our bell.  This amazing woven metal collar caught Jean's eye.

Another jeweler who shows at Philly, Kathleen Dustin from Contoocook, New Hampshire, was in the same tent.  Although we love her necklaces, like the one pictured below, she also does amazing purses in alternative materials.

Nathan Macomber of Macomber Glass in Conway, New Hampshire, displayed beautiful glassworks in his booth. On the outside, he had hung this demonstration of the process of the making of a striped glass marble.

The booth of Marcia Hammond of Brookfield, Vermont, was filled with scarves, handmade wearables and beautiful pastel knit tops that were lightweight and had a wonderful feel.

Hand weaver Nancy O'Conner from Ashuelot, New Hampshire makes rayon chenille scarves, tops and jackets that look stylish and feel amazingly lush.

Patricia Palson, also of Contoocook, New Hampshire, makes women's clothing that feels as good as it looks. Jean, of course, was initially distracted by her terrific eyeglass frames by MiuMiu.

Patricia focuses on jackets and coats and will be participating in the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show this year, so our paths will definitely cross again soon.

Jim Lambert is an artist from Hillsborough, New Hampshire, with an incredibly wicked sense of humor and a well-developed sense of whimsy. Jean was struck by his installation of a dress made out of tree bark, most especially by its halo of butterflies.  She chatted with Jim about the piece which had sold to a young couple and advised him to tell them to look up Philip Treacy's famous butterfly hat to add a dimension to their enjoyment of the piece. Although he doesn't have a website, his email address is:

Here is Philip Treacy's butterfly hat for Alexander McQueen's Spring 2008 collection. (Image from

Carrie Cahill Mulligan makes heirloom handknit hats. Her booth featured an example of what her buttery soft felted hats start out looking like before they are washed and shrunk.

Although it is a slightly different color combination than the one above, this hat gives you an idea of how soft and fitted her hats can be.

Feltmaker Miriam Carter's booth was chock full of beautiful designs. This shot only gives you a glimpse, so check out her website to view more goodies, including her gorgeous hats!

Hope you enjoyed Jean's whirlwind tour of the NH exhibition. If you are on the East Coast, we recommend the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show in November. And someday, we hope to make it to the Smithsonian's Craft Show in Washington, DC, which is held in the spring.