This week I caught up with Paula Mendoza, whose eponymous line of earthy-yet-glamorous jewelry has graced the pages of Vogue, O (Oprah) magazine, and D.C.-based publications including Washington Life and DC magazine (and here on PB, natch). I came across her work in 2008 at *Muleh, which still carries her line (the line is also carried at Tabandeh at Mazza Gallerie/Friendship Heights). The Colombian-born designer left DC for New York two years ago, and has since expanded her following from DC’s fashiony set to Isabella Rossellini and many others.
I thought I’d catch up with Paula to talk about her new line, “New York Icons,” and what makes someone iconic, anyway.
What makes someone an icon?
Timeless style, confidence, uniqueness
What inspires you?
People on the streets of NYC inspire me, they are so individual and unique, each person carries their own story in the way that they dress and it is so inspiring to watch it. This is a collection full of passion, and full of my own experience living here. I follow a couple of blogs: The Sartorialist, Garance Dore, Man Repeller, and All The Pretty Birds.
If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing?
Tricky question, because I love with all my heart what I do, and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I am very lucky and blessed actually.
Who are some of DC’s ‘icons’ and why? can you name one or two and describe what you’d make for them?
I think Robin Givhan always carries herself very well, she knows exactly what she likes and how to put it together. For her I would make something minimalist because I think she is very no-nonsense in her writing style.”
What about Michelle Obama?
Oh my God, Michelle Obama is a complete icon, she is absolutely stunning, and her style is, like I said, timeless and unique. I named my Michelle earrings for her.
I like that there’s some Beltway flair in the collection! What do you miss about DC?
My friends and Cork, the incredible little restaurant on 14th Street!
Thanks to The Washington Post yesterday for featuring me in Play Favorites, a regular feature of their excellent music blog, Click Track. The list features tunes on my current rotation, among them songs I listened to in middle school that I recently rediscovered and re-fell-for (by Frente! and Nanci Griffith), shamelessly cheesy pop-country (Fast Cars & Freedom by Rascal Flatts!) and new(ish) obsession Gold Panda. It all got me thinking about how music defines stages of life, which got me reminiscing about middle school and high school even more, and some of the early 90s “riot grrrl” music I was introduced to. I didn’t really know much about that larger movement (if curious, you might read Le Tigre frontwoman Johanna Fateman’s review of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution in last fall’s Bookforum), but a slightly older friend introduced me to Bikini Kill and a few other bands, and most importantly, to zines. She had one called Naivete, which later morphed into Panorama.
I still think of zines as early blogs – zine writers exchanged hand-made and pasted ad space and published reviews of favorites (what would be links and blogrolls) – and while I’m sure there there were (and certainly now there are) zines on a number of topics, the zines she passed along to me were full of poetry, doodles, confessions, sometimes dark, angry, and sad, and all part of this larger riot grrl movement. They were wise and naive all at once, which is the wonderful thing about young girls (excuse me, young womyn). I always kinda wanted to have one! But now I have a blog, so it’s fun to think of those songs, those zines, this blog, music then & now and through all of this, reconnect and introduce the younger me to the older me. I asked my friend to send me some old copies of her zine and others she read, and I’ve scanned in a few here. Would love to hear everyone else’s favorite songs from now and from wistful-angsty-emotional teen days….and what you wore then (velour/corduroy were staples for me, and my thrifting adventures began…).
Project Runway alum Christopher Straub is in town for the Capital Home Show this weekend, where he’s been tasked with, of course, a challenge: to create a runway look from items sourced from Home Depot. Christopher will be showing off his work with runway presentations on Friday at 1 pm and 7 pm and again on Saturday at noon. Leave a comment (entering your email in the form ensures I have your info, privately) with a challenge you’d like to see on an upcoming episode of Project Runway for a chance to win one of two tickets to the Home Show.
Obvious number one question: what did you make the garment for the Home Show presentation from? Did you tell the folks at the home store what you were doing? Were they helpful, since you know, that’s their schtick?
The items that I used were 2-8′x8′ tarps (green on one side and black on the other), roll of black Duct Tape, black spray paint, and a leather utility belt. Since I’ve been to Home Depot many times I know where most things are and don’t require much assistance when shopping…mostly, I just get in and get out.
Fair enough. What’s been the biggest challenge of striking out on your own as a designer? Do you think Project Runway helped or hindered?
Project Runway has been the biggest boost to my career. Before the show I was a struggling designer trying to make a name for myself and now I’ve had designs in People Magazine, Star, and US Weekly. Craziness!
Have you ever been to DC? What are you going to do while here?
I HAVE been to DC before! I bowl of cereal was $17 in the hotel I was staying at. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to hit up a couple of museums while I’m in town.
In what ways do you see interior design and fashion design as complementary?
I used to be an interior designer and they share many common components. Balance and proportion are very important to both areas. Also, mixing and matching prints, patterns, and colors can make all the difference.
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met as a result of your time on Project Runway?
It would have to be all the fans. Before I was on Project Runway I was an avid viewer and aspired to be like those people. Now, I have people coming up to me all the time saying that they get inspired by the show. I can totally relate because I was in their shoes just a couple years ago.
What’s your next dream for your fashion career?
I’d love to get my line picked up at a major retailer so the pieces can become more accessible to more people.
To meet Chris, see his runway design, and check out the Home Show for free, leave a comment with a challenge you’d like to see on an upcoming episode of Project Runway for a chance to win one of two tickets. You have until 6:00 p.m. today – good luck!keep looking »
I kick off “Intern Fashion Week” on the Washington Post’s Campus Overload blog with some rules of thumb for our city’s interns. I’m pretty proud of the “cardigans, not Kardashians” bit. Look out for advice from other bloggers throughout the week.
Our intern at work sounds like Gina from Empire Records, so naturally I told her she needs to sing Sugar High at some point this summer. Such a great song (the real version, kids…), to turn up and flail around to while in your car or in your room getting dressed.keep looking »