#MANday: Belizean-American Designer Jonathan Justin Smith of Jonathan Justin Handbags Chats Working With Janice Dickinson, & Following Your Dreams

Jonathan Justin posed with Janice Dickinson. Bags L- R: Aaron Clutch, Ricardo Duffel, Elinna Togo Satchel

Here at A Life In The Day of Andrea, I have made it a constant mission of mine to showcase and uplift people, entrepreneurs, and businesses that I care deeply about, or believe are doing innovative work. As a lover of all things beautiful and handmade, I am drawn to great design of all sorts and types. Having worked in the handbag industry for many years, I realized that what excited me the most about the process was not only the end product, but the story behind the designer and what bright idea led to the beautiful bag you carry each day.

For this feature, I interview an emerging handbag designer out of Los Angeles named Jonathan Justin Smith of Jonathan Justin Handbags. A fellow Belizean-American and lost cousin (truly, not for fake), I believed it was imperative for him to tell his story in his own words via my platform. Read on below!

 

What inspired you to design handbags, and when did you know that you wanted to pursue it full-time?

Well to start off, I was about 18 or 19 years old, I always looked up to two people, Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn. There is a certain class about both ladies that’s timeless. I used to work in the handbag industry as a sales representative, my first job was at TUMI Designer Luggage. I was going to Santa Monica College studying Business Administration, and I knew that I wanted to start my own business, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Working for TUMI Designer Luggage I never cared to have a bag. I’m a luxury guy, I like nice things, but I would never look to handbags for anything. While there I  grew an interest for handbags, and what TUMI taught me is functionality, and that’s what I loved about them. Every piece of theirs is so dynamic in functionality; women have a place just for their watch in their handbags, and I really enjoyed that idea and the quality was out of this world.

After that I worked for Coach Leatherwear. Coach taught me about leather and the quality of it too; I think Coach is known for their leathers. So it was like, let me just take what I learned from these companies I worked for and make a sample. I had my first sample made, the JJ Blue, and it was pretty high-end; Saffiano blue leather outside with this red interior, it was really nice, and I didn’t think it would go anywhere. I thought I was in over my head a little bit because of the concept the there is a Hermes, and there is a Prada, you’re not the first to come out, and it is obviously daunting, but I guess God puts things in the right place at the right time. I had a friend that was a fashionista in the Pasadena area that is known for her style. I told her about the bag and she was like, ok let me see it. So I showed it to her and she was like, “Get the out of here, this (bag) is pretty dope!” She decided to take it and wear it for a week, and now I’m here. With Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn in mind, it definitely inspired my go-getter attitude at the time and my fearlessness, and also in my design, that luminous aspect I was talking about recently.

Elinna Togo Satchel & Elinna Togo Wallet

What is the inspiration behind your bags, and why they have the names that they do?

I never just look at Louis Vuitton like “Oh that nice bag, let me copy that and make it Jonathan Justin”, that’s never the case. I always seem to have somebody in my life at that time that’s like, “Omg I love your handbags! What do you think of doing an orange (lining) in a handbag?” I am usually that person that says ‘let’s do it!’ if I am feeling it. So Aaron, for example, he is one of my good friends and was my artistic director for some of my shoots, he was like, “what do you think of some orange in a bag?” and I’m like, ok, cool, and made it. It’s a blue clutch with orange (lining) on the inside and it’s named the Aaron Clutch. It’s awesome when it has a name or meaning like that because I can go back and think, “yea that’s the guy that told me to put orange in there.” He helped make that and I feel good about it.

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#MANday Interview: M. Tony Peralta Has A Fresh Take On Latina Icons With “Rolos & Icons”


M. Tony Peralta and his work, “Dora Con Rolos”

*Originally published on Slant News

It’s an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon for October and I am making my way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side to chat with artist M. Tony Peralta. His newest exhibition, Rolos & Icons had opened the night prior to a packed house of family, friends, and supporters. This was the first time he had ever held an opening downtown, and the incredible turnout was a feat in itself.

I had been following the works of the Dominican-American artist by way of Washington Heights for a few years now as we have many mutual friends who’ve invited me to his events in the past. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of his Latin roots, hip-hop and pop culture elements that were consistent through his works.

I sat down with Tony to talk to him further about his career thus far, Rolos & Icons, and the inspirations behind his work.

I have been following your career for a number of years and I have noticed that there has been a strong female presence throughout. Why is it important for you to showcase women of color in your artwork?

The first exhibit I did, Complejo, had to do with identity issues. Mainly being Black and Latino, and the identity issues we have growing up and the effects of it. I started to think about some of the things that women go through as well; the whole good hair/bad hair thing, which I went through myself, as a man. I had curly hair and would shave it off. For women, it’s a little more extreme because they have to go to the hair salon, and get their hair straightened, and relaxers, etc. I grew up with a single mom and an older sister, and a younger sister, and our bathroom was filled with their products.

Growing up with a single mom that was a very strong figure, along with my sisters and brother, I had a good balance. My mom was very influential. I don’t think it’s something that I do consciously. I grew up with low self-esteem, so I touched upon things that affected me [with the Complejo exhibit] but then I started to think about how it affects women as well because they deal with it more, whether it be a hair [texture] thing or skin lightening, if it’s body issues. There was a piece in the exhibit of a woman in hair rollers, and that woman almost became a Latin Mona Lisa. She had a certain gaze that people thought was beautiful, and I feel that it influenced other artists to start creating works with women in hair rollers as well.


A glimpse into “Rolos Con Icons”

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#MANday Exclusive: Stephen Andrews of Earls Kitchen + Bar Talks New Location in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Fave Dishes, & More!


Earls Brunch Croquette

In a time where restaurants close as soon as they open, how does one find the secret formula? It seems like the chain Earls Kitchen + Bar has figured it out. Founded in Canada in 1982, Earls Kitchen + Bar was created with the goal of becoming “The Most loved and Best Run restaurant in North America”. The franchise now has 59 restaurants in Canada, and 7 in the United States; its latest opening being in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

We had the opportunity to pick the brain of Stephen Andrews, Chief Development Officer and Vice President, who is driving International Growth for Earls Restaurants through world-class Real Estate Development.


Stephen Andrews, Chief Development Officer & VP of Earls Restaurants

Coming from a senior position at Darden Restaurants, what about Earls enticed you to make the move in particular?

Earls is a restaurant company with scale but without the predictable monotony of a chain. We work really hard to create a collection of innovative and individually compelling restaurants, so the design freedom is intoxicating. Then, seeing the design and personality of each individual restaurant come to life is positively addictive.

Earls Kitchen currently boasts 66 locations across the US and Canada. If you had to choose, what would be your top three locations and why?

Aside from Lincoln Park:

1) King Street in Downtown Toronto for its fantastic energy and patio right in the heart of the financial district.

2) Tysons Corner, VA. Located in Macerich’s jewel project, this location is absolutely breathtaking with panoramic views sitting on the center’s elevated 40,000 square foot landscape plaza.

3) The third is a toss-up between Dadeland in Miami for its spectacular cantilevered patio complete with tropical breezes and one that is still on the drawing boards — the Prudential Center in downtown Boston. Earls Prudential is currently in the design phase and will feature an spectacular 3400 square foot roof-top patio complete with an exterior bar right in the heart of it all and just an eight minute walk from Fenway.

What are some of your favorite items from the kitchen and bar menus?

The bold flavors of the Korean Bibimbap with its crispy rice never fails to impress me, but I am also a huge fan of the authentic Jeera Chicken Curry with coconut jasmine rice. When I am feeling more traditional, there is nothing quite like a Creekstone Farms antibiotic and hormone free New York Strip Steak to fit the bill. I try to leave without dessert, but the Sticky Toffee Chocolate Pudding (it’s actually a caramel and ice cream covered cake) somehow usual finds its way onto my table.


Rendering of Earls Lincoln Park

Tell us, what do you find most unique about the new Lincoln Park location in Chicago?

To be able to deliver a great indoor/outdoor restaurant and patio in an urban location is challenging. At Lincoln Park, we are able to deliver the good– such as open views, open facades and a spectacular patio without the bad– street noise, cars and fumes. The restaurant will be a perfect oasis woven into an urban fabric.

What do you find is most rewarding part of having a career in the real estate development sector of the restaurant business?

Restaurants are very complex creatures — part entertainment, part utility, part social, but they are always experiential from the guest’s perspective. The ability to help create a fantastic guest experience through real estate, architecture, and design is just plain thrilling.

Photo Credit: Earls Kitchen + Bar

#MANday Exclusive: Le Club Des Douze, The Men’s Online Fashion Destination in English & En Francais

ALEX & OLIVIA OF LE CLUB DES DOUZE

It has been some time since I’ve featured a piece for MANday, so to get back on the ball, I want to introduce you to super-cool menswear aficionado Alex Rizos of Le Club Des Douze. Alex first reached out to me over a year ago via Twitter, and since I have been following his blog which is a men’s lifestyle destination focused on curated fashion-apparel inspiration boards, designer & brand interviews, home goods and food. We are both in good company as contributors to Capsule Show’s We Are The Market blog as well.

The site began entirely in French, and with my little knowledge of the the language was able to navigate the mood boards and posts. It has since transitioned to be a completely bilingual site, featuring content in both French and English. I caught up with Alex at a coffee shop in the city to chat about Le Club des Douze and learn the story behind the blog. Read on.

You started Le Club Des Douze in 2012 with your wife, Olivia. Give me a little background on you guys and your interest, and why you decided to start the site?

Let’s start with Olivia. She used to be a lawyer in England, she’s actually from here [United States] but she moved there to study law, but she didn’t love it. At some point she came back here and went to Parson’s because she was interested in fashion, not necessarily fashion design, but working in a more creative, design-related field. She does PR for interior designers and architects, so it is very specific. As far as I’m concerned, I lived here six years ago for one year, then lived in London for a year, where I met her (Olivia). During these stays in both countries I discovered the renewal of independent menswear [brands]. I don’t know if it was because I felt new to it or it was actually a new wave then, between 2009 and now. I discovered a bunch of new brands between here [New York] and in London, and also a lot of menswear blogs that focus on craftsmanship, more independent smaller brands, and I thought that was very interesting. At the time in France, there really was no blog talking about that. So before moving back here, I had a three-month period where I moved back to France to take care of my visa, and I said “let’s launch something in that field.” I started the blog [Le Club Des Douze] and at some point it had an e-commerce portion to it when I launched, then I realized that it was writing that people were looking for.

How important has social media been in connecting you to fashion brands, in addition to building your brand internationally?

It’s crazy how social media can enable you to connect with so many brands, even the smaller ones, and that’s amazing. When I started Le Club Des Douze I feel like most of my followers were on Facebook. There was an interaction, but I didn’t feel that brands would reach out to me there, and it kind of shifted to our biggest following being on Twitter. That’s where our audience is, where you can visit our website from, where you share articles, and where you connect with a lot of brands. Either we reach out to the brands or they discover us, and they want to talk to us. It’s crazy that five years ago, to know about a brand, I would have to read about it on a blog or go to a trade show. Since the beginning, our following grew a lot internationally. Now we have about 40% French followers, about 30% in the UK, and the rest divided between the U.S. and Japan.

SCREENSHOT OF THE WEBSITE

How important do you believe a female influence is for the growth of a menswear-based business?

I think it is very important. I think since she [Olivia] started working with me, she’s added a lot of value in terms of …I don’t know. She just KNOWS when she sees a group of items together, what to add. I need to see things. I need to see the twelve items and then decide if it looks good. She can see three items and already know what the whole section will look like. I don’t know if it’s a feminine thing, but I know that’s the way she thinks. She sees the story behind it all. She has the vision of the guy that’s going to wear the outfit, and each selection is basically one outfit with additional pieces that you can pair and swap out.

What do you foresee in the future of menswear apparel & media?

I think the menswear industry, especially independent menswear …they’re not looking to do something that is “out-there”, these brands are looking to do something that they have seen and that is “heritage” with a twist. Whereas in womenswear, designers create something that is new, and there are menswear designers that do that as well, but that’s not what we are really interested in. The independent brands and designers that we work with are more into heritage and taking something that exists and making it better.


It was such a pleasure to speak with Alex, and see the growth of Le Club Des Douze firsthand. You can check out their site here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

*Photos courtesy of Le Club Des Douze

#MANday Exclusive: Reggie Milligan of Mantry Talks Food & Start-Ups, And Why You Should Get Hip To “The Modern Man’s Pantry”

ANTHONY HANCOCK & REGGIE MILLIGAN OF MANTRY

MANday is back and we have a special feature interview for you guys! I had the opportunity to speak with Reggie Milligan, co-founder of food start-up Mantry, affectionately named after a play on words of the modern man’s pantry. They search for the best artisan and small-batch foods around the country, and deliver you the goods every month.

Their latest project is a special box catered towards cocktails, specifically high-quality cocktail mixers. Read on below to get the lowdown, and how you can get involved!

What is your personal experience with food and drink?

I grew up working in restaurants from the age of fourteen, specifically fine dining. I started working when I was fifteen years old, at a restaurant that was called Lumiere, and I actually apprenticed at the ages of seventeen and eighteen down at The French Laundry which is out in Napa (that’s a three Michelin star spot). I was really much the driven guy that was super-interested in owning the next best restaurant by a really young age. So I was really deep into fine dining between the ages of fourteen and twenty, and learned from chopping onions in a back hallway to apprenticing in kitchens and bumping around. I was always very passionate about food; I was a part of that generation that might have been plunked out in front of The Food Network, and absorbed a ridiculous amount. I remember growing up watching Emeril and stuff for hours on end back when The Food Network was based on teaching, opposed to building sugar castles and running around chasing food trucks, or whatever they do now [laughs]. In short, the same way a young boy would get interested in sports, I was always drawn to cooking.

How did the idea for Mantry come about, and why did you decide to make it a subscription-box service?

I actually ended up going to university and doing business school, and once I left fine dining kitchens around twenty, I burnt out a little bit. But back at school, just living the college lifestyle and doing a business degree, I kind of saw how people cooked and would eat at home more, especially living with a bunch of guys, and that’s where the seed for the concept kind of started in a sense. I was just thinking, ‘is there a resource for food that really speaks to guys as much?‘. There’s the GQs and the Details, and that sort of thing, they write the very rare food article, so that’s what planted the seed. Ultimately didn’t know if we wanted to do a men’s food magazine fully, as opposed to just product. Those magazines write about “top sauce to try” and “five artisan makers around the country”, “four products that use bourbon”, and we just thought, let’s hedge our best, put this stuff in a box and send it to guys blind and hopefully they’ll dig it, cuz they can’t read about it when it’s right in front of them.

Mantry came out of just trying to find a cool resource that was tailored to guys. We have lots of female subscribers, most of our subscribers are couples who just like getting six cool products to accessorize their shopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or whatever throughout the week. The true concept to why we wanted a subscription was just cuz we wanted to take people on more of a journey. We focus on American small-batch makers, but there are so many stories to tell. Maybe a box would be just focused on different Mexican-inspired foods made throughout the U.S., or different people making Thai foods throughout the U.S.; we did a box called Thai Game which was kind of game-night feature, wings recipes and nachos recipes, and that type of thing, but using different makers that had Thai influence around the country. There was this amazing Thai chili sauce from Virginia of all places, there was Thai basil pickled jalapeños from Washington, from a maker up there called Gordy’s, this supercool Thai curry coconut peanuts that this person was making down in Texas…so we’ve done boxes like that, or we’ve done boxes like “Six Amazing Makers From Georgia” and trying to tell a little bit of a story of food culture in Georgia, we included an amazing small-batch grits from down there with a shrimp & grits recipe, there’s an olive oil company that’s the first olive oil farm east of the Mississippi in 100 years, so there’s so many stories to tell around the U.S.

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#MANday Feature: An Ode To The Shawl-Collar Cardigan, & Why You Should Wear It This Season

MANday13

Hey guys! Now that November is upon us and the weather is a bit more brisk, I felt it was time for me come forth with some style ideas for the men. Fall is a wonderful time to mix up your wardrobe as the chilly temperatures allow you more leeway in regards to textures, color, and layering. I’m a huge fan of chunky-knit sweaters on gentleman, and one of my most favorite, that I believe every man should at least own one of, is the shawl collar cardigan.

Photo via Google

When a simple v-neck cardigan doesn’t give that “oomph” to your outfit, and a fitted blazer is too formal, the shawl collar cardigan is the perfect bridge garment. Worn with an oxford shirt and tie underneath, the shawl collar cardigan is perfect for work, and worn with a tee-shirt underneath it is perfect for weekend activities. Hell, you can even wear a solid tank or muscle tee underneath, whilst maintaining a polished, but not-too-prim look.

Below I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite sweaters on the inter-webs from a few of my favorite American designers and brands that appeal to both tame and eccentric personal styles, as well as varied budgets.

CLASSIC

For the man who wants a wardrobe staple that will never go out of style, let me lead you to Billy Reid’s wool/cashmere blend cardigan in navy. The classic color can pair with jeans, slacks, and chinos, and the fiber blend with keep you warm throughout the blustering weather.

 Billy Reid: Shawl Collar Cardigan in Navy, Price: $395

PREPPY

Reminiscent of rugby shirts and overall Ivy-League collegiate style, this colorblock cardigan offering gives a bit of color while staying subdued. The collaboration between Oregon-based knitting company Dehen and J. Crew is one we hope to see more of in coming seasons.

Dehen for J. Crew: Shawl-Collar Cardigan in Black Colorblock Wool, Price: $395

COSMOPOLITAN

For the man about town that is worried that a shawl-collar cardigan would make him look like a “grandpa”, we have a cool, yet sophisticated offering from John Varvatos. The “Black Velvet” color, which has a black/charcoal distressed look has a slim body for the sleekest silhouette on the list. No grandpa comparison here.

John Varvatos: Shawl Collar Cableknit Cardigan, Price $278

FUNKY

So you have a penchant for color, Americana, and a HUGE budget? POLO Ralph Lauren pulls out all the stops in this bold Navajo-print, double-breasted stunner. Definitely for the fashionably-fearless, this conversation piece takes a very specific kind of man to pull off the look. Is it you?

POLO Ralph Lauren: Double-Breasted Shawl Cardigan, $995 

Stay warm this season, and be on the lookout for more on MANday! That’s Monday, for the men 🙂

#MANday Watch: Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, Presented by PBS

Kehinde Wiley is one of the most prominent portrait painters of our generation, focusing his work on the African-American male. We see his works in art institutions throughout New York City, and the world, and in his recent PBS Arts presentation, we see the road to one of his most recent exhibitions, An Economy of Grace, which was held at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery.

The exhibition was Wiley’s first using Black women as subjects; exploring sexuality and beauty in the 21st century. You may view the entire special over at PBS Video.

#MANday Exclusive: .Bk Founder Teghvir Sethi Talks The Evolution of Menswear, Production, and Being Brooklyn-Based

.Bk founder Teghvir Sethi [left] and guest at the #InventorsGarage launch event

As a lady who loves menswear, I’m constantly on the lookout for brands and designers that are fresh and cutting edge, not only for my male readers, but for the ladies that love to rock menswear themselves. About a month or so ago I was introduced to .Bk  [said “Dot BK”] by the lovely women at Janine Just Inc. The Brooklyn-based brand designs and produces limited-edition mens shirting in a cool palette and size range, fitting for both sexes.

I loved the concept, and wanted to learn more about the brand and the man behind it, Teghivir Sethi. Read on for the full story on .Bk, and what we can expect from the brand in the future!

 

Tell us the story behind .Bk.
In September 2012, I was commuting from Bed-Stuy to Midtown & running the menswear division of my father’s small independent brand. Back in the 70s, a production run fit in the back of my father’s Dodge Colt — he’d drive around the Midwest selling to boutiques & regional chains. Where there were once thousands of local boutiques, there are now a handful of mass-retailers dominating the globe.

Generally, online retailers are out to solve a simple problem for customers. Generally, the benefit breaks down to a value proposition (low overhead –> low prices) or convenience (let us choose for you). These retailers claim to “reinvent” fashion (echo:”Silicon Valley”) when they’re simply repackaging mass fashion through the tools of online retail. It’s business as usual for everyone except the customer.

I started .Bk to solve a complex problem for designers & customers alike: scale. We produce clothing at a run of a 100. At a better price than mass-produced “designer” clothing. Why is this different from a typical online retail value proposition?

Aside from saving our customers money, “cutting out the middleman” allows us to operate at a revolutionary scale: limited edition design, artisan-scale production & in-disposable clothing. We’re out to turn back the clock on mass production, mass retail & mass appeal.

A selection of .Bk shirts from the #InventorsGarage launch event

 

We love that you feature women in your shirts on the website? Will you be doing women’s pieces soon?
It’s one of the many things we do differently when it comes to our branding. We’re not out to sell machismo, or any traditional sense of a men’s brand. We design for individuals. The women & men featured on our site have all founded something unique & different.

With that said, we design to our strengths. So, no womenswear soon. Women’s fits & sizing on menswear? It may be in the works.
What lifestyle does the Dot BK consumer uphold?
Our customer doesn’t want to be told what to wear, or who to buy a basic tee from. They want to know more about the clothes that they’re wearing: who made it, and what inspired its design. And, they’re constantly evolving their own personal style.

Why did you decide to have your business headquartered in Brooklyn?
Our designs are inspired by 21st century subcultures. And, Brooklyn’s got the highest population of “live your own, unique way” kind of people. If it was anywhere else, we’d run out of material after two collections.
What can we expect in the future on the business-end for Dot BK?
This isn’t your typical scale-able startup. Regardless of demand, we won’t be increasing our quantities (60-100 per shirt) any time soon. Right now, we’re focused on expanding the lifestyle collections: look forward to items beyond button-down shirts. And, the Dossier (our spy journal on subcultures, written by the best writers & photographers in Brooklyn & Austin) will be launching in the next week!


It was a pleasure speaking with Teghvir Sethi of .Bk. Stay on the look out for more #MANday features!

*Photos courtesy of Janine Just Inc.

#MANday Feature: Father’s Day Gifts For The Budget-Conscious Feat. Cultivate Wines, HIT E-Cigars, & British Sterling Colognes

On June 15, 2014, we celebrate Father’s Day. Known as the day to give thanks and commemorate the fathers in our lives, folks often give elaborate gifts and experiences. But what about those that are a bit strapped for cash? We’ve rounded up a few affordable gifts that Dad is sure to appreciate. As  a note, all gifts on this list are under $25, so let’s get to it!

 

“The Gambler” Malbec 2011 by Cultivate Wines

A bottle of wine is always a nice treat for Dad. Cultivate Wines offers up a bold Malbec in “The Gambler”. The 90% Malbec, 10% Bonarda blend has a deep red color with a purple center, with a nose of olives, leather, strawberry. “The Gambler” can be purchased directly from the Cultivate Wines website.

Cost. $14.99


HIT Bold & Mild E-Cigars

Cigars, through the years, have been paired with men of a certain stature, encompassing the must lusted after leisure life. With varieties of Cuban cigars costing approximately $20 each, where is the alternative for those who want to treat Dad, but are strapped for cash? Enter HIT E-Cigars, an electronic cigar that fulfills the cigar smoking experience in a vape. Offered in a Mild variety containing 16 mg of nicotine, and a Bold variety containing 24 mg of nicotine. HIT E-Cigars can be purchased directly from the company website.

Cost: $21.oo


British Sterling H.I.M. ‘Private Stock’ & ‘Reserve’ Colognes

When it comes to a gift for Dad, or any other man in your life, you can never go wrong with a fragrance. Heritage brand British Sterling has revamped their image, and has launched a new a collection of colognes called “H.I.M.”. The ‘Private Stock’ and ‘Reserve’ fragrances are served up in sleek silver packaging, that Dad will appreciate. Here is the lowdown on the scents:

  • British Sterling H.I.M. ‘Reserve’ — a provocative oriental blend of fresh citruses, bold spices and sensual woods
  • British Sterling H.I.M. ‘Private Stock’ — which showcases fresh citruses  combined with crisp woods, aromatic spices and rich undertones

British Sterling H.I.M. colognes can be purchased at Walmart, in-store, or online here.

Cost: $24.99


We hope you dig our suggestions, and we wish the fathers in your life a very Happy Father’s Day in advance!