As an artist and entrepreneur, it’s essential that you have a group of people who you turn to when you need support in your business and artistic endeavors. When I set out as a freelance writer over two years ago, I was fortunate to have connected with singer/songwriter Erica Bryan, and since then, it has been an honor to be a part of her circle and to have her as part of mine.
This past January, I was thrilled to be included in a focus group for her first EP. Erica’s music and lyrics are always very evocative of a particular sensation or image. While I listened to each of the six incredibly diverse songs that will be featured on her debut EP, I was immediately overcome with an array of feelings. As Erica and I formulated a concept for a feature on the EP, it has been amazing to watch these moods brought to life through outstanding styling, makeup artistry, and photography. I was eager to dive in deeper with the photographer, the makeup artist, and Erica herself and to learn how they collectively translated the music into Erica’s image.
AOC BLOG GIRL: How did the EP influence the wide variety of backdrops you choose for the photoshoot?
DANIEL MEIGS, PHOTOGRAPHER: Erica and I discussed ideas that centralized with the theme of the song Jericho – destruction, crumbling walls, and debris. She wanted a darker, moody feel for a lot of the outdoor locations. While I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, we did end up with some places that worked really well. Lots of concrete and some old abandoned buildings with plenty of overgrowth.
AOC BLOG GIRL: How did you adapt Erica’s makeup to the diverse set of looks for the EP?
ANAIS SHIBA, MAKEUP ARTIST: When I’m coming up with a look, I always try to capture the feel of the set. For Erica, we wanted a range of looks that would really express the diversity of her musical style. So, after meeting her and seeing the outfits she had chosen for the shoot, it was easy to come up with makeup looks that would not only accentuate her style but also her beautiful personality.
AOC BLOG GIRL: Describe the creative process that went into conceptualizing the looks for the EP.
ERICA BRYAN: I really wanted my looks to reflect the different styles of songs that I have on the EP. To represent the song Jericho, I wanted a look that was very strong. I thought the black dress with the fur shawl was very powerful and warrior-esque – like maybe I was going to hunt for my own dinner that night! I call the style inspired by the track Billboard “Cali-Chill.” I wanted to wear something fun and laid-back, so I chose loose, light-colored clothing. For the song Immune to You, I wanted to emulate a classy Adele-type style, so I went with a vintage hat, fur vest, and some jewels of course! And finally, to represent the track Leaving You In Memphis, I wanted a little more edge, so I wore a Journey t-shirt and some leather fringe!
AOC BLOG GIRL: What type of direction did you give Erica in order to evoke the mood of each look?
DANIEL MEIGS, PHOTOGRAPHER: You know, Erica really knew what she wanted. When we started at each location, she just turned it on. It helps working with an artist who understands what she wants and how to get herself there. I would offer suggestions here and there with posing and getting more of a natural look. A lot of that is achievable by natural movement. So, instead of, “OK, turn like this, and look this way,” we would try things like, “Ok, start here, let’s walk together, and just look back at me along the way.” We did some smiles and laughs, especially in the studio, but for most of the outdoor looks, we were channeling a strong feminine vibe.
AOC BLOG GIRL: What is one signature quality about Erica’s style that you maintained throughout each look?
ANAIS SHIBA, MAKEUP ARTIST: I really wanted to highlight Erica’s eyes and hair in each look that we did. Although the makeup and hair changed with each location, my goal was to bring focus to those qualities, as they are some of her most striking features.
AOC BLOG GIRL: Who or what has been the greatest influence on your personal style as an artist?
ERICA BRYAN: I really look up to strong women performers, so I think the edgy-rocker look of Grace Potter and the classy, timeless look of Adele really speak to me fashion-wise. Some people have even called me a chameleon because I can look rocker one day and classic the next, but I enjoy switching it up!
AOC BLOG GIRL: Which look was the most exciting to shoot and why?
DANIEL MEIGS, PHOTOGRAPHER: I love shooting on location. It’s just so unpredictable. I love the old building with all of the gnarly branches. We lit it in a way where you had just enough light on the background, and it created such a creepy feel, so much character everywhere we would turn. That was my favorite.
AOC BLOG GIRL: Which look was your favorite to work with and why?
ANAIS SHIBA, MAKEUP ARTIST: I think my favorite look was the black dress and faux fur. It was the first look that we did that day, and everything came together so perfectly when we started shooting. It was also the most dramatic hair and makeup, which I tend to naturally gravitate towards.
AOC BLOG GIRL: What is one thing you’ve learned after producing your first EP that you’d like to share with aspiring artists?
ERICA BRYAN: What I’ve learned is that once you record your EP… you’re not done! Recording is just the first part. Figuring out how to get people to listen to it is the hard part. The industry is always changing, so you have to be creative about how you are getting your music out there. So many artists put their EP up online and wonder why no one’s listening, but if you’ve thought it through and made a plan of action, someone will hear it besides your mom. And that, my friends, is success!
When I first listened to the EP, I was torn between the tracks Leaving You in Memphis and Billboard. I couldn’t decide which was my favorite! After seeing the music come to life, I have a whole new appreciation for Jericho. I have to agree with both Daniel and Anais – the look inspired by that particular song took my breath away.
Click here to listen to an exclusive preview of the four songs that inspired the looks for Erica Bryan’s debut EP, which is set to drop on July 1, 2016. Stay tuned for the release of the first single off the album in the next few weeks. To keep up to date on all of Erica’s future release dates, tour dates, and more, visit her website and sign up for her mailing list for a free download!
In the past several years, platforms like social media, live streams, and blogs have allowed us to catch a glimpse into the illustrious world of New York Fashion Week. Through a tiny window on the Internet, we’ve been able to observe the fashion elite in their natural habitat, prepping models, presenting their works of art, and posing for photographers. Twice a year, I would glue myself to my computer and phone, watching another season and another set of collections unfold on my screens. This taste of NYFW wasn’t enough. It only made me hungrier to experience the fashion phenomena myself.
This week I finally had the opportunity to realize my NYFW dreams. I was tapped by the emerging womenswear designer Mimi Wong to cover the debut of her Fall/Winter 2016 collection at Nolcha, a set of shows exclusively for independent fashion designers. The minute I stepped into the lobby, I was overwhelmed by the energy. Mimi came to meet me and whisked me backstage. I acquainted myself with the area and got to work, snapping photos and video and posting them out to the loyal followers of her label, Minan Wong. For an instant I allowed myself to relish in the fact that I’d come full circle – I was the girl reporting live and sharing the experience out to the world on social media. Then I jumped back into the moment, trying to capture every inch of the excitement – the press jumping from label to label, the designers prepping their lineups, the models in hair and makeup.
Eventually I left the backstage area and made my way out to the runway. I found my seat on the second row and settled in before the show began. Other patrons were finding their places and chattering about the collections they were about to see. Flashes came from the end of the runway like bolts of lightning as the photographers took test shots. As the lights began to dim, the conversations dissipated. Music started playing, and the first look stepped out onto the catwalk. Four labels – Cute Like Mad, Virtruvius, Planet Zero Motorsports, and Fine Art of Fashion – displayed their Fall/Winter 2016 collections before Minan Wong closed the show with her latest line of vibrant, youthful, and feminine pieces using eco-friendly fibers and sustainable materials.
If you’ve ever watched a fashion show, you know the actual show is over in the blink of an eye. The lights went up and floods of people rushed out of their seats, but my work wasn’t done yet. I met Mimi again to follow along with her post-show interviews, taking snapshots and soaking up every moment I could. An hour or two later we wrapped up, said our goodbyes, and parted ways. As I stepped out onto the streets of Chelsea, I was on a high, but by the time I got back to my Upper East Side home office the buzz had dissipated. This taste of NYFW wasn’t enough. It only made me hungrier to experience the fashion phenomena again.
As I stepped off the escalator and headed toward the stairs leading down to the subway, I could see the uptown train waiting. I started sprinting, as every good New Yorker does, but as I reached the platform, I could see the train doors were closed. Damn, I thought, just missed it.
I stood there, expecting the train to depart any second, but it didn’t. It sat, doors closed, for another couple minutes before it finally took off. I sighed and rolled my eyes in frustration, and I noticed another woman on the platform who had experienced the same misfortune. We both glanced around the station and quickly caught each other’s gaze. It’s the worst when that happens, I said, and we struck up a conversation.
At first, we commiserated over the occasional annoyances, like this one, that come with relying on public transportation. Another train arrived, and we sat, continuing to chat about the usual things. As the conversation inevitably shifted to work, we began to click. Before we parted ways at the station where we both needed to transfer, we exchanged business cards. This woman is now one of my clients.
Why should you always dress to impress? Because you never know who you’re going to meet. As artists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and the like, we often live in our loungewear and activewear. Full disclosure: there are days when I work in my pajamas and only throw a coat on to run to the bodega up the block. Living in New York City (where the streets are filled with people bringing their fashion a-game) has inspired me to put a little more effort into my appearance before I leave the apartment. Fortunately, on the day of my subway debacle, I happened to have done my hair, thrown on some makeup, and put on “real clothes.”
When you work from your home office a majority of the time, it makes sense to only dress for video calls or in-person meetings. Most of the time, the first contact we have with our potential clients is on the web. They see the styled and polished images depicted in our bios and on our contact pages, not the girl in the yoga pants and oversized sweater on the other side of the screen. In our self-employed lives, we can’t forget to maintain a certain level of professionalism outside of our online presence. You never know if your next client may be behind you in line at Starbucks.
What you wear says something about you and your brand. Not the designers or trends you sport but how you present yourself. Just like the story you use to introduce yourself, clothing is a medium you can use to portray something about your business. Is your brand bold and colorful or sleek and minimal? Look at your company’s aesthetic, imagine how it could be translated into an outfit, and take it into consideration next time you’re running errands around town or walking your dog in the park. If you need a little guidance translating your brand’s image into your personal style, connect with me. In addition to writing, I happen to do a bit of styling on the side!
When you live in New York City, it’s bound to happen eventually. Against your better judgement, you will decide that it’s absolutely necessary to attend a sample sale for one of your favorite brands.
Anyone who knows me can imagine that the sample sale environment is not my cup of tea. I don’t possess most of the characteristics required to be a good sample sale shopper: I’m anxiety prone, I like to take my time, and above all I’m incredibly indecisive. But when I saw that my all-time favorite lingerie brand, Hanky Panky, was having a sample sale at the Chelsea Market, I couldn’t resist. I figured, it’s just lingerie, how complicated or intimidating could it be?
A couple weeks before the sale, I saw a deal on Gilt City to pay $10 for one-hour of early access to the event. I was sold. In the fine print of the voucher, I noticed a note: bag and coat check will be required. I’m guessing this is a pretty standard practice to prevent theft at sample sales. I quickly decided I didn’t want to have to deal with that. I would bring only what I absolutely needed: my pocket-sized credit card case, my phone, and a reusable shopping bag that could easily fold up and clip to my belt loop. My first tip for successfully navigating a sample sale: avoid the bag and coat check, be a man, and use your pockets!
On the day of the sample sale, my Gilt City voucher allowed me to gain access at 11:00A, but I’d still resolved to arrive by at least 10:30A. My second tip for successfully navigating a sample sale: arrive at least half an hour before the doors open. I arrived around 10:20A and was number six in line. I was feeling both accomplished and incredibly nervous. Everything had perfectly fallen into place, but would I be able to hold my own once the doors opened?
Finally, it was 11:00A, the moment of truth. They checked my voucher, and I whizzed in, past the bag and coat check and line that was forming there. My plan had worked! I beelined for the bin of small v-kinis and literally started grabbing one in every color. I continued to the bin of extra-small boy shorts and the racks of small tanks and chemises with the same approach – grab one of everything. The employees were looking at me like I was crazy, offering me bags left and right to hold my loot. I, of course, had no intention of buying forty pairs of underwear or a dozen tanks, but I figured it was best to grab now and decide later. My third tip for successfully navigating a sample sale: if you see it and there’s a 1% chance you might want it, pick it up, and don’t put it down until you’re ready to make your purchases.
I survived my first lap without a hitch, but as I made my second round, things started to heat up. Every inch of the space was mobbed, and you had to shove your way in to each rack and bin. It was time to assess what I had, return what I didn’t want, and head to the checkout line. My fourth tip for successfully navigating a sample is to be sure to check the payment methods that are accepted – this particular sale accepted cash and credit card, but some may be cash only!
I left feeling excited and empowered – I’d successfully conquered my first sample sale with a total savings of $215 off retail! Despite the anxiety and insanity, it was totally worth it, and I’d absolutely be willing to brave another sample sale again. If you’re scoping out sample sales and planning to attend in the future, I’ve got one last piece of advice. My fifth and final tip for successfully navigating a sample sale is to note that you may not be able to try items on, as we were not at Hanky Panky.
Crave, a verb:
1. To long for; want greatly, desire eagerly
2. To require; need
A few months ago I debuted the first edition of CRAVE with a compilation of my virtual hoardings. You know all those pictures, articles, and posts you Like on social media? What happens to them? How many articles have you Liked and actually read? Did you ever buy that great new product you Liked? Most times, the answer is no. So, I began periodically reviewing my likes and bookmarking the information in a folder called Cravings.
In this edition of CRAVE, I’m sharing some of my latest cravings from a Saturday of shopping around New York City. A couple weekends ago, I was hosting some out-of-town company. We walked through the park, hopped onto the subway, and ventured out onto the streets of Soho with one destination in mind: The Reformation. Coincidentally, we’d both been eying dresses from the sustainable LA-based boutique. Next, I suggested we shop for accessories at Erica Weiner, a Brooklyn-based antique and vintage-inspired jewelry brand with a shop on the edge of Little Italy. After that, we let or instincts guide us and roamed based on the flow of the crosswalks. This landed us at our final destination: a below-ground shop with an interesting window display and a name we couldn’t resist: Fair Folks and a Goat. As we explored the wares, I was reminded of that spark you get when a store window catches your eye, you wander inside, and touch, feel, or taste things as opposed to just reading reviews or looking at images on a screen. It was then I realized how much I’d been craving a shopping experience offline.
Not in NYC, don’t worry! All of these retailers are all available online as well.
Pining for… the perfect LBD to take from day to night? Head to The Reformation and check out their collection of ribbed stretch jersey shift dresses. I opted for the Arly Dress in black. No matter which style you choose, it can easily be dressed down for daytime with flats and a crossbody or dressed up for nighttime with wedges and a clutch.
Yearning for… a unique conversation piece to wear to your next event? You need a Heartbeats necklace by Erica Weiner. I wore my Heartbeats necklace featuring the Talking Heads lyric “This must be the place” to a garden party a week after purchasing it, and nearly every person I chatted with that night remarked on the necklace and the quote.
FAIR FOLKS AND A GOAT
Longing for… the most functional bag to carry in the city or on your next trip? Let’s start a movement to revive the fanny pack, which has now been rebranded by Herschel as the hip pack. If you’ve ever lived or traveled in an urban environment like NYC, you know it’s essential to have a great bag that is functional and fashionable. I typically turn to my crossbody or occasionally a backpack, but I have to admit, the hip pack is the most aptly designed for pedestrian, city life.
Still craving more? Check out CRAVE: First Edition!