whimsy

 

One of my favorite local beauty lines is Dear Clark! I love the scent and the way it keeps my hair clean, healthy, and hydrated.  This Thursday, the Dear Clark Hair Studio along with Erica and Trey Kuppin will host an art exhibit featuring pieces from talented at-risk teens who participate in Big Thought’s Creative Solutions Program.  The event will be from 7-10 p.m. this week at the Dear Clark Hair Salon at 3317 McKinney Ave. Come enjoy the art show and shop select products available for purchase – all benefiting Big Thought!  Big Thought is a non-profit organization that serves the Dallas community and provides youth  with access to innovative learning opportunities outside of the classroom setting.  We’ll see you there!

 

What: Dear Clark and Big Thought Art Exhibit and Shopping Event

When: Thursday, August 7th from 7-10 p.m.

Where: Dear Clark, 3317 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX

 

 

style

 

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the sneak peek of the new Oscar de la Renta exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted by Laura Bush. This exhibit celebrates five decades of style, a retrospective of Oscar de la Renta’s career. The exhibit features stunning celebrity red carpet gowns, attire worn by First Ladies, one-of-a-kind pieces, and recent runway gowns.

The exhibit will be presented through October 5th. Learn more.

I hope you enjoy a few photos I snapped on my visit!

 

 

 

 


style

“We practice slow design, which is the opposite of ‘fast fashion.’ The ‘slow’ philosophy is a direct response to the instant gratification mindset often seen in fashion. We are not interested in creating garments that are cheaply made and meant to last for a season. To the Alabama Chanin standard, a quality garment is designed and constructed to fit into a person’s wardrobe for years, if not decades. We focus on style over trend.”

– Natalie Chanin

One item near the top of my getaway list, is planning a trip to Florence, Alabama to visit the Alabama Chanin studio and café. Several years ago, I was introduced to Alabama Chanin through Colleen Duffley’s Studio B. Since the introduction, I’ve been an avid follower of their work and designs.  My excitement intensified with the creation of A. Chanin, their basics collection. These closet staples are an introduction into the extraordinary and thoughtful craftsmanship of the line.  With a stunning array of fabrics, colors, and hand embroidered designs, these pieces are treasures that will be enjoyed for years to come.

It’s an honor to feature an interview with the founder and creative director, Natalie Chanin.  Her work has been featured in Vogue, The New York Times, Time, Town & Country, Garden and Gun, and CBS News – to name a few. Natalie is an author and member of the CFDA.

 

N/S: What lead to the development of Alabama Chanin? Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?

NC: I really began to discover my love of design in college. I studied as part of a Bauhaus-based design program at North Carolina State University. I have worked steadily in design since then. But, I did not have intentions of building my own brand until it happened. I always say that the creation of Alabama Chanin was a happy accident – the perfect combination of people, places, and ideas meeting at just the right time.

 

 

Natalie Chanin

 

N/S: What are your favorite places and things in Florence, AL? Why did you choose this as your home base?

NC: Florence, Alabama, is a place rich with history and full of talented artists. I’m honored to work with and among this community of creatives. When I have visitors, I often take them to a place known as “The Wall,” a mile-long rock wall near my home built by family friend, Tom Hendrix, in honor of his great-great-grandmother, a Yuchi Indian woman. It’s a sacred place for our community and for me, personally. Florence also has a home designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright that you can tour. More and more, visitors are interested in our region’s recording history, so I like to take them to FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where people like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and the Rolling Stones recorded. Of course, a barbecue sandwich (with hot slaw) from Bunyan’s Bar-B-Q is also a must.

Florence is my hometown – where I grew up. I came back to Alabama for a simple reason: because they have the workforce that understands how to make the things that I want to make – and to make them well. Those skills and the idea of building a strong community are central to Alabama Chanin at its core. Our community has embraced us and I believe them to be one of our strongest resources.

 

 

N/S: What inspires new designs and collections from Alabama Chanin?

NC: How does inspiration come to any artist? I’m encouraged by my community, challenged to succeed by my fellow artists, and moved by my love of family. I find great inspiration in books and photographs, as well. Our most recent collection was inspired by Maxine Payne’s upcoming book titled, Making Pictures: Three For A Dime. It catalogues the work of the Massengill family, who worked in the late 30’s and early 40’s as itinerant photographers in rural Arkansas. The photos of farmers, young couples, babies, and the Massengills themselves really capture a specific time and spirit. I wanted to translate that into our work.

 

 

 

 

N/S: What makes Alabama Chanin designs different from others?  They are a higher price point, but how did you know there’d be a need & desire for quality design and embroidery – a return to craft?

NC: We practice slow design, which is the opposite of “fast fashion.” The “slow” philosophy is a direct response to the instant gratification mindset often seen in fashion. We are not interested in creating garments that are cheaply made and meant to last for a season. To the Alabama Chanin standard, a quality garment is designed and constructed to fit into a person’s wardrobe for years, if not decades. We focus on style over trend. Our fabrics are organic and healthy for the wearer. Our artisans and factory employees are paid a fair wage. We have found that quality garments can be created when you combine beautiful, durable materials with good design and ethical practices.

 

I think that people are generally more interested in knowing how things are made, and by whom. The Slow Food movement established the idea that we should be aware of where our food comes from and we should seek out what is good, fair, and clean. It is not such a large shift to transfer those ideas into other areas of your life. Plus, there is a growth in interest in artisanal crafts and skills. People are now more interested in making connections and creating with their hands than in decades. I hope it is not a trend – but instead is a mindset that is here to stay.

 

 

N/S: What lead to the development of the restaurant?  How would you explain the café?  Who visits it?

NC: I have always loved cooking and I believe it is important to know where my food comes from, who is growing it, and how it is made. The café is an extension of our mission as a company. We approach our ingredients and recipes from a Slow Food ideology. Our intention is to use locally sourced and organic ingredients, whenever possible. I want our customers to feel that they can trust us to source responsibly in the café, just as we do in our collections.

 

We have been supported and embraced by our community. We post a weekly menu online and there are many customers who visit regularly. But, we also meet new people every day. And those who attend our in-house workshops eat food catered from The Factory café, as well.

 

 

N/S: What lead to the development of the basics line?  How did it come to be?

 

NC: We have offered basic versions of our garments since we produced our first collections, years ago. It became evident as we were producing unembellished samples that handmade basic garments would make excellent, versatile wardrobe staples.

 

Our machine-made line of basics, A.Chanin, was launched last year. It has been part of my vision to produce sustainable, ethical machine-made clothing for quite some time. After years of research and building relationships, we felt that we had a good supply chain that would support this effort. But, there are also plans to incorporate our machine-made garments with our hand embroidery techniques. We are excited about the possibilities.

 

 

N/S: What will you be wearing this summer?  Any trips planned?

NC: I love wearing skirts and dresses year-round. So, no matter where I go, I will pack our A-Line Dresses, a tunic or two, and my Long Skirts. This summer we have several workshops and events planned, so I will be quite busy. I always try to pencil in a beach trip with my daughter Maggie, so you might catch me sporting an Alabama Chanin sarong with my bathing suit.

 

 

N/S: What are a few must-have pieces from Alabama Chanin?

NC: At Alabama Chanin, we want to make pieces that fit into your life, no matter what that life might include. My philosophy is that each person’s “must-have” piece is the one that makes her feel most beautiful.

 

 

N/S: Where is Alabama Chanin currently available?

NC: Because Alabama Chanin is a sustainable design company with a goal of zero waste, our collection pieces are available from our online store and a small selection of specialty stores around the world. However, they are made-to-order, whether that order is placed in our Factory store in Florence, online, or at one of our trunk shows across the country.

Our full Alabama Chanin line, including A. Chanin and our DIY kits, can always be purchased from our online store.

 

N/S: What’s to come this fall from Alabama Chanin?

NC: We have a few sewing workshops on the calendar this fall, as well as a second MAKESHIFT event in New York this October. I’m also busy working on a new collection, collaborations, (and a new book). There is never a dull moment at The Factory.

Find Alabama Chanin on the web here, Facebook here, and Instagram here.

What’s on the N/S list?  The must-have is definitely the Polka Dot Sarong – on sale too!

decor, style

artist Sally King Benedict  - photo credit: Ben Gately Williams

An artist’s pieces at the top of my wish list are those of Sally King Benedict. Benedict was recently featured in the Summer 2014 issue of Domino magazine. If you haven’t picked this issue up, be sure and do so!  I asked the Atlanta based artist a few questions about where she’ll be traveling this summer and the inspiration behind her latest pieces.

 

 

Scuba Face

N/S: What inspired the “faces” drawings and paintings? They are so beautiful – and there’s a consistency, yet, they are all so different?

SKB: Most of the time, the faces are a combination of features borrowed from real and imaginary people. I have always been drawn to portraiture, but I prefer to create/sculpt the person as I paint rather than painting from life. It’s a fun freedom to have and it helps me with the balance of purely abstract pieces.

 

 

N/S: What are some memorable moments from your trip to Sea Island that most certainly influenced your recent drawings?

SKB: Lounging at the beach club on the lawn, basking by the serene adult pool, Mexican dinners at Bubba Garcia’s and spending quiet nights at Julie’s family’s classic cottage 90 that has not been touched since the 70’s…. all with paint and paper in hand, and a heart full of sentimental memories of growing up in my great grandparents’ cottage on 14th.

 

Flagpole


Sea Palms Study

 

N/S: How do you decide where your creation will “live” – whether it’s a work on paper or a painting?

SKB: I have so many fleeting thoughts and ideas, making it hard to find homes for them a lot of the time. I don’t carry around a sketchbook (though I know I should), and I am insanely disorganized in the studio, so catching a fleeting thought and putting it somewhere safe is crucial to my creative process. There live my works on paper. They are normally the pieces that I know I need to create quickly in fear that I will lose the idea forever. The canvas pieces are surely more worked and time consuming. They usually take a different level of commitment and sacrifice. There is so much doing and un-doing, messing up and rarely getting it right throughout the process on canvas where on paper, it has to work the first time for me to be content.

 

 

N/S: Where are your pieces currently available?

SKB: There is always a good bit of inventory at my home studio in Atlanta. Most available works are also shown on my website…www.sallybenedict.com with a re-launch and “shop” coming soon. I also show with Blue Print in Dallas, Hidell Brooks in Charlotte, and Sandra Morgan in Greenwich. Online, I sell exclusive framed prints through Serena and Lily.

 

Spring Pool

N/S: How will you be spending your summer? What are some of your favorite things to do? Traveling?

SKB: Would not be summer without quality family beach time. We’re going to Charleston, Ponte Vedra, and then hopefully California and New England late summer/early fall.

 

 

N/S: What is a “typical day” like for Sally King Benedict?

SKB: I am not a morning person so getting started requires a lot of coffee. The first part of my day I spend time with my husband and 2-year-old son. Around lunchtime, I get into work mode and check in with my right-hand woman, Julie on what needs to be tackled in the studio that day and any other work correspondences. From about 2 pm until dinner, I paint or I get distracted trying to paint.

The Cabanas

Big Pool Baby Pool

Garraux Face

N/S: What are three of your favorite things?

SKB: Right now: Summer tomatoes and peaches, napping when it’s raining, and seeing my son dance without being provoked.

See more from Sally King Benedict online here, on Facebook here, and follow her on Instagram here.


style

 

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to chat about seersucker.  And, who makes some of the best seersucker styles out there? Jolie & Elizabeth of course!

 

 

N/S: Has seersucker always been a staple in the Jolie and Elizabeth collection?

 

J&E: Absolutely! The first dress we ever made was seersucker and our first collection was launched in April 2010 with 4 seersucker dresses and 2 silk dresses. Every season our entire collection is based off of  seersucker – our customers and fans have come to expect it from JE.

 

N/S: What do you think makes seersucker the perfect spring/summer
fabric?

 

J&E:  When you feel seersucker it automatically puts you in a warm weather state of mind. It’s breathability and lightweight nature makes
you want to spend hours outside on a warm spring or summer day. It’s easy to wash and dries quickly. It is structured yet comfortable.

 

N/S: What do you think makes it so versatile?

J&E: It is a very universal fabric – you can use it to make a cocktail dress or a casual dress, shirts or a shirt. It can be used for children, women, men. It can be designed to suit any age or style. Southern men and women both feel a certain attachment to the fabric – it reminds them of warm weather and relaxation.

 

 

N/S: Where will you be wearing seersucker this summer?

 

J&E: We find ourselves wearing seersucker just about everywhere.. plenty of weddings, showers and cocktail parties. Our dresses are also extremely easy to travel with because the fabric is wrinkle resistant. Our seersucker dresses will be traveling with us this summer for sure! Cabo, the Caymans and of course to the Alabama and Florida beaches.

 

N/S: What are some of the new styles in seersucker from Jolie and Elizabeth? Have any returned as “classics”?

 

J&E: Our current favorites are the Rebecca dress and the Virginia dress. The Rebecca is perfect for any event imaginable in the spring and
summer. It’s a hybrid between a cocktail dress and a day dress – you can wear it to basically any event. The Virginia dress is our favorite  LWD. It’s sophisticated and mature while still being comfortable. It’s a dress that any woman would want to wear over and over. We are also loving our Caroline skirt. Throw it on with a tee and some boots or dress it up with heels and a silk blouse. It’s extremely versatile. As far as classics: the Jackie, Adelaide and Kennedy dress have all been in high demand. We have a few classic bodies that our customers can’t get enough of. Our wrap dresses are also flying out the  door. There is nothing better than a well fitting, classic dress in seersucker for the summer.

 

N/S: What will you be wearing this summer? Any fun summer plans?

 

J&E: We have a busy summer as always with seersucker being in high demand – but we’ve managed to plan a few vacations. We’re also
gearing up for out “10,000th manufactured 10,000 American made dresses – it’s an incredible feeling. And we of course plan on wearing seersucker to that soiree!

 

 

N/S: What can we expect this fall from Jolie and Elizabeth?

 

J&E: This fall we will be offering some of our new and classic bodies in basic silks and a few surprise patterns. We are mainly focused on the premier of our resort 2015 collection. Since seersucker and spring dresses is what we do best we are focusing on earlier deliveries and a strong introduction into spring with our resort collection.

 

N/S: What are some outfit ideas for summer weddings from Jolie and
Elizabeth?

 

J&E: When in doubt for a hot, outdoor wedding grab a seersucker dress, some nude pumps, and a statement necklace and you’re good to go. A lot of times women think it might be hard to match seersucker to accessories but it’s actually quite easy. We’ve seen our dresses paired with vibrant colored heels, bright lipstick and over the top costume jewelry. Since our dresses are classic, it’s easy to make them your own by choosing accessories that suite your personal style.

 

 

Shop Jolie & Elizabeth here!

 

* ALL PHOTOGRAPHY: Liz Daino

decor, style

“Our clothes have been described by the Sunday Times as ‘just the right side of fancy dress –

when wearing Cabbages & Roses I feel as if I am in a film, A Room With A View or Alice in Wonderland’.    I think this sums us up pretty well!”

- Christina Strutt

photo: Katy Lawrence


When I interviewed Lucy Guinness of Poplin earlier this year, she shared that one of her favorite brands was Cabbages and Roses.  I hadn’t heard of this collection before and immediately checked out the British brand’s website.  A whimsical introduction to English countryside and style with original fabrics, this collection for both the home and closet, was refreshingly original.  Founded in 2000 and based in Chelsea, I hope you enjoy a q & a today with the brand’s Creative Director and author (seven books!), Christina Strutt for Nonsense & Sensibility.

photo: Katy Lawrence

photo: Katy Lawrence

N/S: How did Cabbages and Roses come to be?  How did your design team come together?  Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

C&R: Cabbages & Roses was born because in the year 2000 there seemed a dearth of the gentle floral prints that we produce and certainly I could not find the type of clothes that I wanted to wear – so in one life changing moment I decided that rather than spend time searching that I would manufacture the fabric and then the clothes that I needed.     The design team consisted then, of my partner Brigette Buchanan and I and we created hotch potch collections fulfilling our needs and all that we created seemed to be welcomed by the press and the public alike.    Now, the design team consists of Brigette’s daughter Violet and I and we work with Sophie Marsh who is in charge of our Home and Fabric collection.   I think I always knew that I wanted to have a creative job, but when I was very young I yearned to be a gardener. Particularly, (a gardener) in Regents Park in London, mostly because it was so beautiful, but also because it was close to the zoo!

 

 

N/S:  What made you choose your name?

C&R: The name came about when Brigette and I were trying to think of what to call our new company – in a discussion about gardens I had mentioned that my cabbages were exemplary that year and then roses came into the discussion – thinking that the two sounded perfect together we named our little company Cabbages & Roses as it seemed to sum up all the things that we loved.

 

photo: Christabel Brain

photo: Andrew Beasley

photo: Andrew Beasley

photo: Cabbages & Roses

N/S: Where do you find inspiration for your beautiful fabrics? Are there staples in the collection?  About how many do you introduce each year?

C&R: Inspiration comes randomly, from a faded scrap, a piece of patchwork, a doodle – an existing fabric with embellishments taken out or added in.    The longest running fabric has not lost its momentum in the 14 years it has been around, the Hatley Rose – it has been re-coloured and put onto many different base cloths and papers.   It is only one of the two that I don’t mind being used for clothing as it is so versatile, simple and beautiful – the other is a relatively new fabric called Catherine Rose.  Because we are such a small team and because we produce so much across the collections, we don’t particularly introduce new fabric collections every year – for instance this year we are concentrating on introducing more wallpaper to our collection and it would be too much to try and do new fabrics at the same time.

 

 

N/S: How are your home and fashion collections connected?

C&R: Now that we have two separate shops, one housing fashion and one housing home, there is no need to try and co ordinate the two elements of C&R although they are interconnected it is not necessary for them to be displayed together.    However, because our brand has a look of its own  I think that the style is connected by virtue of the fact that they are created by the same team, the same thought process and for the same customer base.   Occasionally we use Hatley in the clothes and often use Catherine Rose in garments, they suit our style and sensibilities.

 

 

N/S: How would you describe your line to people who hadn’t seen it before?

C&R: Versatile, eclectic, interesting, wearable, gentle, wide ranging, charming.   Cabbages & Roses does not take itself too seriously, and humour is important.    Our clothes have been described by the Sunday Times as ‘just the right side of fancy dress – when wearing Cabbages & Roses I feel as if I am in a film, A Room With A View or Alice in Wonderland’.    I think this sums us up pretty well!

Our fabrics and furnishings are all of the above too – they are very adaptable  and suite a country cottage or a stately home, an urban apartment or a shepherds hut – I like to think we are all things to all people.

 

photo: Hill & Aubrey

photo: Katy Lawrence

photo: Andrew Beasley

N/S: Do you ship to the US? Where is Cabbages and Roses available for purchase?

C&R: Yes, we do indeed ship to the USA.    At the moment we do not have an outlet there, but would very much like to – my daughter has recently moved to New York, so am hoping that one day we can open a shop/s there!

I think Cabbages & Roses would fit in terribly well in the States, we have always hankered after a shop in Sag Harbour!

 

 

N/S: How would you describe your own personal style?

C&R: I think my personal style has changed little over the years.   I am, I hate to admit, a bit flamboyant, I like to wear clothes that are noticed, and Cabbages & Roses clothes are always noticed,  we have so many customers who say they are chased up the street by someone loving what they are wearing! My footwear has been the same since I was a teenager – in the summer white old fashioned plimsolls, in the winter Chelsea boots or Wellington boots.

 

N/S:  Where are a few of your favorite places in Chelsea?

C&R: I love the Chelsea Gardener, next door to our shops.   They always have beautiful plants which I find hard to resist.    The Curzon Cinema is a few steps from my apartment with excellent films and the most comfortable seats in London.   Peter Jones in Sloane Square is a wonderful, safe department store, selling anything anyone could wish for.   I have been going there since I was about 7 with my mother and three sisters, it was considered a treat on a Saturday morning.

St Luke’s church is a lovely peaceful, simple church where Charles Dickens got married – it is across the road from our office and has a lovely garden attached to it.   And, of course our shops, our offices and my apartment all housed in a beautiful old building on Sydney Street.

 

photo: Christabel Brain

photo: Cabbages & Roses

photo: Katy Lawrence

N/S: What are must-visits when visiting London? Any favorite hotels?

C&R: As a Londoner, I don’t often stay in hotels, but before I had an apartment here, my husband used to treat me and the children with an extravagant stay in London.  The cosiest was Duke’s Hotel in St James’s we used to stay there before Christmas and there was always a beautiful Christmas tree in the courtyard outside.    We also used to stay at the Ritz, which was always good for tea time treats, and the rooms were deliciously old fashioned!   I think, though, that they have modernised them since I last stayed there.   Fortnum & Mason, where I had my very first job in its Confectionary department, is a beautiful department store epitomizing everything that is English, It is a step back into 19th century England! Egg on Kinnerton Street, is a perfect hidden treasure selling some of the most beautiful clothes I have seen anywhere – it is in Belgravia’s back streets on a charming mews.   There is also a pub there called the Nag’s Head – in winter there is a roaring fire in each room and I think it hasn’t been changed for hundreds of years.

 

N/S: What’s one of your favorite projects you’ve ever worked on?

C&R: When I was working at Vogue magazine, every single project was amazing – our main job was to find beautiful houses to photograph – anything after that has not quite met the mark!

Our project with Uniqlo was pretty exciting, knowing that our designs were going to be in 1,500 stores throughout the world including Russia and China, Japan and 5th Avenue in New York – they were lovely to work with and the whole project worked like a dream.  Doing all my books (7) were great fun and I loved that there was a beginning and an end – with my day job everything is ongoing – even when a collection is complete, delivered and sold, we have been working on the next one and the one after that at the same time – there seems to be no closure!     It is both thrilling and sad to say goodbye to the last piece of anything that we have created.

 

photo: Katy Lawrence

photo: Katy Lawrence

N/S: What’s a typical day like for you?

C&R: I don’t think there is a typical day in my life!    During the last two weeks I have organised a huge Brocante fair in the garden of my home just outside Bath.   We had 25 exhibitors all over the garden and  we had to literally stop the traffic – there were about 800 visitors which caused quite a bit of chaos on our little lane.   A week after that I had a tour of Japanese garden enthusiasts to my home for lunch and a tour of the garden.     Today, I have worked on the Spring Summer 15 knitwear designs and tomorrow I am interviewing a potential new member of our team. I will re-merchandise the shops and visit the press office.    Interspersed with meetings with various departments to make sure we are on track for our Autumn/Winter collection.

 

N/S: How do you relax?

C&R:  swim,  I garden, I watch films, I sleep.    But, never really take my eye of the Cabbages & Roses Ball – it is something I promise myself I will learn to do!

 

N/S: What are you reading at the moment?

C&R: I am reading John Betjeman’s biography, and a biography of Violet Trefusis and my new book Living Life Beautifully – written by my friend Nancy Alsop – a jolly good read I may say!

 

photo: Katy Lawrence

photo: Katy Lawrence

N/S: Who are your own personal style inspirations/icons?

C&R: Sybil Colefax, John Fowler, Tom Parr and Robert Kime for their deliciously comfortable English style in interior decorating.  For clothes, Helena Bonham Carter for her eccentric effort in dressing, Comme des Garcons for being surprising, and Maureen Docherty of Egg for her inimitable style.

 

N/S: A favorite quote or motto?

C&R: HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP

Both have stood me in good stead over the years!

 

photo: Andrew Beasley


 

Find Cabbages and Roses on the web here, Facebook here, and Instagram here.

 

decor

 

I can’t get enough of the designs from CakeWalk Bake Shop. Owner and cake designer Emily Allen‘s work is pure genius.  Whimsical and lovely, each one of her designs is different – from naked cakes, to donuts, macarons, and more, each piece is a work of art.  She often works closely with local flower shop, Bows and Arrows. I was thrilled to catch up with Emily and ask her a little bit about her business, cake baking and design classes, and more.

 

N/S: Did you always know you wanted to be a cake designer? How did you get into baking?

 

EA: No, not at all! Sometimes it still surprises me to think that this is my calling. I’ve always been creative, taking tons of art classes in college and always drawing and painting, but my first passion was always reading and writing, so that’s what I set out to pursue after receiving a degree in Philosophy and English Lit. I spent a few years after college just floating around with all sorts of different jobs, even teaching abroad for a year, but nothing seemed to fit the right way, until I finally settled on exploring my passion for cooking at a professional level. I interned with my wedding baker at her cafe in Marfa, TX, where I was surprised to fall in love with cake design. I love being able to create something beautiful with my hands, and that these goods are temporary moments of celebration – making people happy and bringing them together in a moment of joy. It’s very fulfilling creatively and personally.

Emily Allen – by Amanda Marie Portraits

 

 

N/S: How did CakeWalk come to be?

 

EA: After weeks of long talks with mentor in Marfa over cappuccinos, she convinced me that I had enough gumption to strike out on my own, teach myself, and learn by doing rather than spending more money on a culinary education (which is what the bookish me had decided was a must-do). The name was inspired by an experience there (in Marfa), and pretty much as soon as I officially established myself (i.e. told a bunch of pals I had started a business and filed paperwork), I was receiving orders and collaborating with fellow creatives. It almost happened overnight and has been followed by A LOT of long, crazy nights, haha…

 

N/S: What is the first thing you ever baked or the most memorable?

 

EA: I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen, who is an amazing cook, so I definitely remember growing up with baking. The most memorable professionally was when I finally, after lots and lots of research and trial and error mastered a French macaron. It was so cute and pink and I made them for my friend’s baby shower. I’ve changed my recipe a great deal since that first one, but I still remember the feeling of accomplishment.

 

 

 

N/S: What are some of your most memorable/standout designs?

 

EA: I hope every design is memorable for my clients, but my favorite are always the ones where I can incorporate color and get a little funky. I like to do this with macarons in different ways – from painting and drawing on them with floral illustrations, to shaping them in funky ways (like, macaron popsicles for a baby shower!), to playing with flavors (for Valentine’s Day this year, I made a series of “Man Macs” – macarons ladies could gift to guys – that included flavors like Cheetos ‘n Beans, Root Beer Float, and PBJ among others).

 

N/S: What’s one of the biggest career lessons you’ve learned thus far?

 

EA: To not be scared to take risks, to keep going, and to open yourself up to opportunities and people. I’m very independent and it has been a strength and weakness translated into running a creative business. There have been challenges and failures, but the most rewarding moments have come from the ability to just keep on marching to my drum, learning from mistakes and opening myself up to the wisdom and support of respected colleagues. At the beginning it felt like I was saying “yes” to an incredible amount of things, sometimes wondering where it would all lead but taking so many risks, focusing on my work and leaving my inhibition at bay has opened so many doors.

 

donuts

 

 

Heart Macarons – Amanda Marie Portraits

 

N/S: If you weren’t doing this.. you would be doing….

 

EA: haha, I’m infatuated with so many things! I’d love to be an old school sign painter, a graphic designer/illustrator, photographer, shop/museum curator, hotelier…see why it took my so long to get to caking in the first place?!

 

N/S: How would you describe your designs?

 

EA: I feel like I have two styles that I like to work in – the playful, colorful, off-beat, whimsical and the moody, naturalist

 

N/S: What do you love most about being based out of the DFW area?

 

EA: The variety of culture. It’s hard to define DFW, and I like that. It feels like a place that is on the pulse of things but also a few steps removed, which I find very open and welcoming as a creative. It feels like a place where you can really make things happen rather than a place that you’re striving to fit into. There are so many great people to collaborate with, so many different style inclinations, so many different beautiful venues.

 

 

Ombre Cake – Amanda Marie Portraits

 

N/S:  Who or what inspires you?  Blogs? Magazines? People?

 

EA: I try not to look too much at other cake/baking work because I don’t want to feel like I’m just replicating others. I feel most inspired by patterns and interesting color combinations – from graphics to textiles to interiors. I like to look at the work of interesting photographers and artisans too, but also get lost on Pinterest and design blogs.

 

N/S: What type of collaborations have you done in the past?

 

EA:  I’ve worked with a lot of different wedding vendors on photo shoots, which is always fun – design interesting desserts based on a loose inspiration concept. Inspiration shoots are where we often like to push our limits and explore concepts we’d like to develop for clients. My favorite collaboration was hosting a Valentine’s Day Pop Up Shop with Yeti and the Beast – we sold all sorts of excessively cute VDay ephemera and some funky macaron boxes. I’ve also been a DIY contributor to the 100 Layer Cake blog.
N/S: What was it like working with Bows and Arrows?

 

EA: Alicia and I go back several years – we were college friends! So we’ve always had a unique relationship professionally. We have similar tastes so it’s always a blast to collaborate on projects, we can really run wild with ideas. She and her team have a tremendous talent and I am always blown away by their floral work. It’s always fun to be surrounded by her beautiful flowers for a day!

 

 

N/S: Where have your cakes been enjoyed?  Destination weddings and events too?

 

EA: We currently don’t ship anything, though I’ve had a lot of inquiries and hope to be able to offer that service soon. We work all over the DFW area, and have traveled to many a Texas ranch – from Possom Kingdom to Waco to Anna…the giant, crazy DFW umbrella!

 

N/S: Where are some of your favorite places in the DFW area?

 

EA: I’m a Near Southside resident in Fort Worth, so that area with all its developments and restaurants is a fave. Other FW faves include The Modern, the Coyote Drive-In, the Stockyards to remember that I’m in TX Y’all. In Dallas I love to stop by We are 1976, eat in Oak Cliff, see a show at the Granada, shop for treasures at White Elephant,  and do a staycation at the Belmont. Favorite places to travel include Austin, Marfa, the Arizona and California deserts, Portland, and pretty much anywhere abroad I can convince my husband to venture off with me to…I’d like to see as much as I can.

 


N/S:  What is a typical day like for you?

 

EA: The work day usually begins btw 4-6am and ends 12-14 hrs later. Baking hrs are long hrs. When I’m not baking for a tasting, event, or publication project, I’m responding to inquiries, balancing books, shopping for supplies – all that non-glamorous stuff that keeps my business afloat. There’s always a big giant to-do list that keeps me occupied six days a week, and a want-to-do-soon list that I work on in between it all. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting, but I take comfort in the fact that I share this crazy foodie/creative life with so many inspiring people out there who are doing it and making their way.

 

N/S: CakeWalk offers decorating and baking lessons, correct? What else can we expect to come in the future  and even this fall?

 

EA: Yes! I’m developing some classes for the fall, and always available for a private class for groups. I have a collaboration coming up with Melt Ice Creams this summer. And I’m working on a really cool project for the foodie community that I can’t wait to share this fall. We’re also working on creating an online marketplace and shopping around for a storefront of some kind, whether it be appointment-only or bakery is still undecided…but all in due time! :)

 

Follow CakeWalk on Instagram here and find them on the web here.

NBarrett Photography

 

whimsy

 

Dallas has a new social club - Circle Seven Five!  This organization works to help young women expand their local horizons.  It’s a professional & social networking group launched by Cassidy Woodard. I asked Cassidy a few questions about her new organization and what she hopes to accomplish with this new venture.

 

N/S: Was Circle Seven Five modeled or inspired by any existing organizations, business  leaders, or ideas?

 

CW: Circle Seven Five was modeled after a need I had in my own post-college life. In college, you had your social life handed to you on a silver platter. Moving back to Dallas from New York I had my social life ripped out from under me. I was looking for how to start over in a city that felt brand new. I took bits and pieces of existing social clubs and made my own cocktail! It was mainly inspired by an idea: I wanted to be involved in something young and fun but also something that knew what was important in life and could find a balance between social and professional needs, and giving back to the community.

 

N/S: What is the Circle Seven Five stance on books and ideology like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”?

 

CW: Moment of confession … I STILL have not read this! I do believe that as women we need to support  each other, especially in the work place and that we should speak up more often, put ourselves in the conversation and to really be a voice now that we’re at the table. I went to an all girls’ college, so I am very much pro strong, bold, beautiful women taking charge in their lives.

 

N/S: What are some of your favorite books and authors? What will you be reading this summer? What are some of your favorites you’ve ever read?

 

CW: I really love Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and also a lot of William Blake’s poetry. In terms of business books I enjoyed Finerman’s Rules: Secrets I’d Only Tell My Daughters About Business and Life. Also, generally anything written by Malcolm Gladwell is a win. Ivanka Trump’s book The Trump Card is also a good read.  This summer Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso are on my reading list!

 

N/S: What are some of your own personal interests? Design? Finance?

 

CW: Writing and fashion are two personal interests. I’ve had the privilege to cover New York Fashion Weeks since 2011, and I love it. I’m also a total sucker for any spy or intelligence-related TV shows.

 

N/S: Who are your own personal mentors and inspirations?

 

CW: My friend Lauren Scruggs is someone I see as a personal mentor/inspiration. I began writing for  her magazine, LOLO Mag, when I was in college and she has really helped shape the direction  of my professional life. She has also given me the encouragement I needed to pursue my dreams  of Circle Seven Five instead of settling for a dead-end job. The people I went to college with also constantly inspire me. Columbia is such a unique environment and it seems every one of my peers is off saving the world in one way or another! I also really look up to Ivanka Trump. She is one savvy businesswoman who works extremely hard. She could be doing a lot less with her life and falling back on her birthright, but chooses not to. I respect that.

 

N/S: What are some events that you see on the books for Circle Seven Five? What are  some “dream” events?

 

CW: We are doing a fun event at Exhale Spa on July 26th treatments, acupuncture, and an athletic wear trunk show. There will also be a barre class during the event. Girls can also relax and get some sun by the infinity pool, too! Always check the ‘events’ page on our website. We update that frequently.  I would LOVE to have the founder of SPANX, Sara Blakeley, come and speak. She’s helped out many a lady!

 

N/S: What type of time commitment would you imagine Circle Seven Five for an individual per month?

 

CW: The time commitment is really up to the individual member. Nothing is mandatory or required. Right now we average one to two events per month. The purpose of Circle Seven
Five is to give back to our members, not to demand time from them.

 

N/S:  Why do you think some women hold each other back rather than tend to support each other? Do you think Circle Seven Five can help these situations?

 

CW: I think it partly has to do with social media and this idea that your life should be “picture perfect” all the time. That is not realistic! We also live in a competitive society that tells us we should have it all and do it all, and to excel in every area. My goal with Circle Seven Five is to focus on genuinely connecting people. That’s why we have a balance of events. Some are glamorous, and some yoga pants-and-tennis-shoe events. It’s about people, not perfection.

 

Learn more about Circle Seven Five here.