ZARA FLORA | Don’t Call It Ikebana

ZARA FLORA | Don’t Call It Ikebana

One thing that has come to save all of us is this great urge to get back to nature. Whether your current conditions are open to dine out with your pod or stuck at home with hours of Clubhouse/ Tik Tok, this push and pull of our social habits has led to a surging culture around plants and vegetation aka a major plant selling boom. A desire and affinity for a sense of being grounded amidst the endless isolation has come with an added side effect of grounding people and understanding the might of greenery. Central to QooA’s philosophy of slowing down while still indulging, writer Janelle Zara found her path with her latest creative endeavor ZARA FLORA a project which fuses her lush floral devotions with that of her extensive art/architechtural background.

For Zara, an accomplished writer whose critiques of art, culture, and architecture can be seen in T, WSJ, and Architectural Digest, early quarantine strolls through Hollywood’s Beachwood Canyon and roadtrips with her boyfriend to Lake Arrowhead and Big Sur informed her needs to delve into nature. This biophilic desire coupled with her artistic and architectural background has well informed her design aesthetic. We got to discuss this floral venture as well as learned why you mustn’t call Zara’s gravity defying designs ikebana.

 

How did you get into floral arrangements, I feel like I’ve known you for ages and had no idea that you were so naturey.

Oh yes and road trips with my boyfriend, I look at trees and see how I could make them out of flowers. A friend of mine introduced me to this flower shop where you pick your own flowers. When he gave a bouquet to his friend I saw how his face lit up, It was full of so many unusual flowers. Doing this I realized we’re exposed to such a limited variety. The kinds of flowers you see in the grocery story isn’t even the half of it, I like working with the weird stuff. The really unusual creatures.

 

Would you consider this work consider this going in with the Ikebana trend that is so diffinitive right now? How did you learn to compose your arrangements?

It’s not ikebana. That’s a real art form with rules. I’m just putting flowers in a pot. I taught myself on instagram, really. Not by copying other people but studying their mechanics. It took me a while to understand the way that flowers work. You need to build up an arrangement with different depths and levels. Working in 3D is a lot different from looking at pictures.

I know you began this as a hobby but at what point did this become a business?

My friends were all really jazzed and supportive of what I was doing. They were the ones who convinced me to start an instagram, and then the interest started to grow from there. I was surprised that anyone would ever want to pay me for what I was doing for fun. It was a pandemic hobby!

 

Why do you think the art world has embraced you so much?

They’re my friends, a lot of them. In real life I’m an art critic/journalist. But also I’m really designing for certain graphic qualities—motion, contrast, etc… After I make an arrangement, I spend a lot of time trying to get a photo that captures that.

I love the full dimensionality of the arrangements, has your career in art and architecture inform some of your designs?

I think about it a lot like architecture; it’s about structure and problem solving

It used to take me days to figure out a floral arrangement. Lately I’ve gotten a lot faster, It still takes over an hour

 

What are some of your favorite flowers?

I like to mix high/low; really high end statement flowers with your grocery story basics. I have a secret spot where I get secondhand vases, and it’s a gold mine. They feel like the way we treat people; we treat the most delicate flowers like they’re the most precious But I live for a big fluffy bunch of carnations.

Do you Use a lot of flowers with fragrance?

I use a lot of allium, which literally smells like onion, I almost feel bad sending them to people, but they look so damn good. Otherwise not really. I don’t use a lot of “flower” flowers.

 

If you were to personify the plants and flowers you use who are they?

Flowers are challenging. They’re a lot harder than you’d think. They each kind of do their own thing in their own way, and the longer I do this, the better I get to know their individual temperaments.

Tulips: so underrated!

Anthurium: easy crowd pleaser!

Roses: just getting into them now. I thought they were really traditional but they can do a lot.

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Animal Crackers | Space Talk

Animal Crackers | Space Talk

From 60s Rudi Gernreich and Peggy Moffitt with their mod swagger to 80s era postmodernism and post punk well filtered through MTV, Hollywood has had a rich culture of bold design, color, and experimentation. This torch is carried on with the retro futurist work of LA based Animal Crackers. A label which makes you think what would Judy Jetson wear to a gallery opening, dinatoire and warehouse party. Helmed by Candice Molayem, who previously ran cult favorite Flamingo Vintage, the label just dropped their latest collection “Space Talk” which offers up galactic princess wear in Italian leather structured, dynamic colors, and with Latinx Songstress Avalon Lurks fronting the look book. We spoke to Candice about retrofuturism, LA, and building a sustainable label.

What is the background you have in getting into clothing? I know you had a very successful vintage store.

Countless friends and family members predicted I would work in fashion over the years, and out of a desire to rebel I immersed myself in other creative pursuits, only to be led back to my original calling. Animal Crackers is an amalgamation of my time as a tattoo artist, vintage store owner, painter, and stylist. My Persian immigrant upbringing also fueled my love for fashion – entertaining and dressing up is culturally ingrained in me.

 

What designers or art movements have informed the way which you are creating your own stylistic identity?

I draw inspiration from Pierre Cardin, retrofuturism, Pedro Almodovar films, the 1960s, 70s and 80s, travels to Paris and London, vintage interiors, bold colors, mid century homes, the desert, disco/house music, old Americana architecture, vintage signage and labels. 

 

What has the design process been like, starting a label and forming the identity, during this period of time? 

The Animal Crackers design identity was formally developed in 2019, but was really informed by my entire life up to that point. There were a few delays in launching due to the pandemic, but aside from that I stayed true to my vision, although I do wish there were more opportunities to wear Animal Crackers in the wild. Luckily, there seems to be a demand for “slow fashion” – pieces that are versatile and made to last. I have also felt supported as an independent, POC designer who produces locally in Los Angeles.

I know you have had a long running relationship with textiles. What was your process in picking up fabrications?

My years of vintage collecting and work as a vintage store owner provided me with a wonderful education and wide exposure to fabrics and textiles. Quality fabrics are essential to the life cycle of a garment, so I was relentless in my pursuit. I have been lucky to work with suppliers from Japan, Italy, Spain and Downtown Los Angeles.

 

How has your time been in quarantine? What skills have you picked up? (if you have any recipes, we can also place them at the end)

My time in quarantine has been 100% dedicated to the launch of Animal Crackers this past July and designing my second collection for Animal Crackers, Space Talk, available January 28. Running a small business is all-consuming, but it has been incredibly rewarding.

 

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bläanks | Urbanized Cottagecore

bläanks | Urbanized Cottagecore

The time now to buckle down on our own terms is ever vital as we do shelter in and define our own version of “sweater weather”. As of late a merging of the tactile and nude has defined this new vision of comfort and lounge, nothing hits like the combo of heat tech synthetics and the tried and tested fluidity of a good knit. But must we not forget that our full looks of SSENSE sale items are getting to peak fatigue as a stroll or hike around the neighborhood is the new cruising ground for who is cute and the dictation of what’s hot.

Fortunately, LA based interior design company bläanks has broken through from the hospitality range to get the goods direct to consumers. With their highly textural knits and bold to subdued colors, the brand gives a slight nod to its Scandinavian roots as well as the embrace of Los Angeles’ rock n roll traditions. We spoke to Judy Pokonosky and Suss Cousins to discuss sustainability, the emotions of knits, and defining the current culture of comfort.

What is the story on how you met each other, your style and vision are a great shift from the usual knitting traditions?

We met in the apparel industry about 25 years ago and re-connected roughly 4 years ago and started bläanks.

We were inspired and saw a great opportunity in the Hospitality and A+D Space for amazing textured knits that we applied to throws and pillows. We feel our unique background and experience brought something different to this market.

I notice that you shot at the Arroyo Seco, what was the significance to shooting there and in general this type of urban adjacent nature?

Being a California and specifically a Los Angeles based company we are very inspired by the amazing nature and outdoor spaces that are in literally in our backyards!

We love the history of California-the energy and possibilities of expanded space that the west coast provides-Southern California loves it’s outdoor living spaces.

With the worlds condition, how do you see the work you have done in homewares and interior life being part of a greater discussion on the way things are shifting?

We pride ourselves as a company with sustainable product and practices. 

With a custom made to order in the USA machine washable yarn strategy we keep our carbon footprint light and provide unique product for each client and project with competitive pricing. Our research shows that no one was checking all these boxes in this market.

How did this new venture into DTC and the patchwork pattern come together?

We were really excited to offer something unique that we ourselves wanted to design-definitely knitted throws and pillows that were limited editions.

 

What trends do you see coming up in knitwear and how have you participated or feel like you are pushing the culture forward? 

We have had a great response to the unique textures and color combos that we have designed. Knits are very emotional, and our clients really love the feel and energy of knitted goods vs. the usual woven product in the market. We research and are inspired by history of stitches from all over the world -bringing new twists to them into the 21st century with a definite eye on marketplace trend.

How do you see the brand differentiating from other knit oriented interior companies?

We want to highlight we are a custom resource; this is very important as people really respond to ordering and having unique product made for them. Suss has written 7 books about technical knitting, giving bläanks an incredible advantage in developing amazing knitted pillows and throws.

For more information on bläanks

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John Carroll Kirby x Scent

John Carroll Kirby x Scent

What’s there not to like about John Carroll Kirby!? The multi instrumentalist, producer and purveyor of socal funk has long been the secret weapon for the likes of Norah Jones, Blood Orange, Bat for Lashes, Frank OceanConnan MockasinKali Uchis, and Harry Styles, adding a touch of what some consider “Kirbyesque” nuances. In the past year he presented his own vision of jazz tinged piano compositions, restrained in its minimalism and collaborative in its vision on the masterful album My Garden.

Though the precursor, the haunting and meditative album Conflict, is what we are focusing on. Released in the earlier days of the pandemic this body of work presented a perfect soundscape to the morose sentiment of the beginning of lockdown. His version offered insight and self reflection in a way which lent to thoughts of wabi-sabi fundamentalism and the perfections of slow moving meditations.

With all this time spent to reflect, in came the decision to upend the conventions of merch. Taking on a collaborative project Kirby linked with close friend Josefina Valdés of the Mexico City based indie label Scent to create a collection of hand sourced stones that were polished and engraved with the albums track titles. The brand is part of a new wave of Mexico City based designers making unique and unconventional garments, Scent is highly sought after for their second layer body piece. In a way extending the song taken close to heart. We spoke with John Carroll Kirby and Scent’s Josefina Valdés on this union of creative spirits.

John Carroll Kirby 

How did you guys meet it is such a wonderfully collaborative collection to mix the stones and track titles that are both so grounding.

John Carroll Kirby -Josefina and I met when i was on tour in Mexico City with Connan Mockasin, and stayed in touch since then!!! I was a fan of Josephina’s brand Scent, especially her second skin line as worn by Rihanna and Lil Miquela. I contributed music for her Scent Boveda 2020 show, and from there we decided to collaborate on some merch!

With this collaboration how did you go about deciding to use specifically the album Conflict? It was such a great piece of work to soundtrack the beginning of quarantine.

Josefina Valdés – I related with the Conflict album a lot because there is something so nostalgic about it, specially because this year has been extremely weird in so many ways and not precisely about happiness and  for me this album has a lot of melancholy to it and goes incredibly well with the times we are living.

What was it like in translating the albums song titles into the wearable art? 

Josefina Valdés – I listened to the songs and I envisioned a color palette, I felt this album contained a lot of brownish-goldish-orangey  hues, not too much contrast just harmony between each color, then I started looking for the stones that contained this color palette.

How did you go about picking the specific stones that would be used for this selection?

Josefina Valdés – Stones were picked according to their colors and size, we needed something that gave us the space to carve on the songs, agate turned out to be the best material for what we wanted to express in color texture and shape. Agates worked so well because they contained the exact color palette I had in mind when listening to the album. 

Was there a specific significance to the song titles that you chose, it felt like the symbolism is concentrated in the song. 

Josefina Valdés – I’m obsessed with the whole album but these specific titles where so powerful against the agates, we used our favorite words to make them necklaces you could wear close to your heart. 

Do you see the collaboration extending into other works John has created or other items customized in the Scent brand?

Josefina Valdés – I think it was a combination of both, but I had John’s aesthetic very present in the whole process, for me it easier to work with someone that has a very solid sense of identity as I see in everything John does, that gave me a strong base to start with and conjugate with Scent aesthetic as well, the result was very Scent and very John Carroll Kirby at the same time, we both related so well with the result.

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Gitte’s Kitchen | Magic Medicinal Mushroom Raw Chocolate

Gitte’s Kitchen | Magic Medicinal Mushroom Raw Chocolate

Hey guys welcome to Gitte’s Kitchen. I’m doing a special edition, Magic Medicinal Mushrooms Raw Chocolate dish for you. I have my very special mushrooms in the coffee grinder. We are going to use amazing ceremonial grade cacao. They are doing ceremonies all around the world with cacao now because it opens your heart, it’s amazing for iron zinc magnesium. Specially if you are vegan it immediately replenishes your brain. Coconut butter obviously the finest quality raw vegan, local honey (agave for vegan), amazing for allergies and other problems. Some cayenne one of the most amazing stimulants in the plant world. Turmeric it’s anti-inflammatory. Ginger so you can digest this in a very beautiful peaceful way.

Start by taking out some ceremonial grade superfood cacao. Use 3 huge tablespoon fulls. Then we are going to take our coconut butter. Use as much as the cacao, maybe a little bit more. Then we are going to take our bowl to the dehydrator.  Make sure it’s not above 118 degrees so it doesn’t kill any of the nutrients in the chocolate. Well let it sit in there for an hour and it will be melted and then we can add the other ingredients.

We are going to shred our turmeric and ginger together. When you are finish mixing the ginger and turmeric together, use the coffee grinder and make the mushroom powder. Mix the powder into the turmeric and ginger. I’m going to want to add some cayenne pepper for flavor. You can also add some sea salt to make it extra delicious. Make sure you mix it well.

Put all the ingredients in the bowl and blend it up smooth. Add some honey as a sweetener but a little goes a long way. After mixing the ingredients go ahead and fill a tray with the chocolate, push the chocolate down so it becomes smooth.

Now we filled up our chocolate in the tray, place it in the fridge for a couple of hours and it will be ready to be enjoyed.

Super cute. I put a few in a jar for some special friends.

My name is Gitte Thank you for watching!

Gitte Meldgaard is a Danish photographer and stylist based in LA.

Ingredients 

1 cup of Coconut Oil

1 cup of Cocao Powder

1 Tablespoon of Raw Honey (Agave for vegan)

A pinch Sea Salt 

1 nub of Ginger grated 

1 nub of Turmeric grated 

A pinch Cayenne Pepper

Magic Mushrooms (Your Choice)

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