Ask and you shall receive!
They say two heads are better than one. That also applies to fashion. One outfit is better. But twice the look is a visual experience.
Last week we went on an off-site getaway to the gorgeous North Shore of Lake Tahoe. We noticed a lot of reader questions have been piling up in our various email and social media inboxes, and thought it was the perfect time compile your questions and interview each other! Voila la – her are our answers. Let us properly introduce ourselves to you as well.
We began our friendship while attending the University of the Arts in London (Asha was at Central Saint Martins studying Fine Art while Juliana was at London College of Print and Design studying Print and Communications Design). We always have viewed fashion, style and art as fluid and both longed for careers that would nurture our creative voices – places where a job never felt like work. Since we first met we have worked together creatively, traveled around the world and finally settled down in Palo Alto where we work at our creative agency Animal Spirit Design and become Valentina & Francesca…
MEET ASHA RAVAL
What three words would you use to describe Francesca?
Cheeky, flamboyant, with a penchant for drama.
How did you meet Juliana?
I first met Juliana through mutual friends in London, where we were both in college studying at the University of the Arts. She thought I was a glamour-puss, slightly snobby, over-the-top American girl. I thought she was the most quiet, put together, dainty British lady, and marveled at the fact that she could eat her food sooooooooo neatly! We went on a girls trip to Portugal with a huge group of friends and literally got lost for 10 hours in a random town where no one spoke English. Since then we have been inseparable, and created a lot of projects together.
What are the 5 things you would hate to live without?
No matter what, I cannot live without intrigue and excitement in my life (yep, I have been known to stir up some drama). I also adore filet mignon, flavorful dark chocolate (I’m obsessed with L’ Amourette chocolate made in San Francisco), super rich moisturizer from Ren (my skin is always soon dry) and most importantly the deep connections that make life worth living with the people I truly love.
Who takes all of your photos?
Unless we have credited otherwise, Juliana and I always take turns shooting each other. We get in front of and behind the camera on every shoot. For the images of us together for this editorial we have to thank our super talented friend Harini who got behind the camera for us!
Tell me something your followers don’t know about you…
Ahhh – you want to know my dark secrets?? Of course you do! I’m actually very traditional in many ways and a total hopeless romantic at heart. I love and live for romance of all kinds. I can also be quite shy, especially if I am trying to impress someone or I don’t know you super well. A lot of people think I’m an exhibitionist because I have so much fun posing in front of the camera, but I’m definitely pretty shy and quirky in person. And sometimes I am a terrible fashionista … I am either super dressed up or in pajamas and work-out clothes for three days straight. Since my days are so filled up with fashion, I really treasure the time I spend on non-fashion activities.
Top of your holiday wishlist?
Currently I love wearing long-sleeve maxi dresses as we head into the winter and holiday season. There is something about becoming a majestic Sorceress that really turns me on, and the more decadent and embellished the fabric and tailoring the better. So if my dreams were to come true I would love to wear Giambattista Valli’s ruffled organza gown for all my holiday parties. Practically, I think Balenciaga has an amazing collection of jackets this season that are designed with a kind of architectural laser-focus. I love investing in pieces that will last and that I will wear everyday, so I am also putting this Balenciaga Parka on my list. And how cool to create a jacket with a hint of sexy (love the off the shoulder design)!
“Fashion helped me fuel my creative fires and nurture countless fantasies.” – Asha
How do you unwind?
I relieve stress by cooking…my latest project last weekend was butter chicken from scratch, and I’m still super proud of my results! I also love creating healthy versions of my favorite desserts – my flourless chocolate cake really hits the spot and is made with minimal sugar. A good film, running and sexy time are also a regular part of my relaxation time.
Do you remember the first special item you splurged on?
I love impractical things! And I collect high heels because I think of them as art pieces. My senior year of high school I splurged on a decadent pair of purple velvet Christian Lacroix pumps with a rainbow heel. I still love wearing them today!
When did you first know that your love for fashion was going to be a part of your life forever?
I grew up in Palo Alto where there is no fashion! I was surrounded by engineers and scientists and got very bored because the people-watching wasn’t as exciting with all the khaki pants floating around. I drove my parents crazy because I changed my outfit 5 times a day, made them buy my costumes all the time, and never put things back where they belonged. When I was 12 I remember an important moment when I realized that fashion was an obsession I had to follow. All the other kids would be chatting during morning break while I would sneak into the library and check all the latest fashion trends on the computer. Fashion helped me fuel my creative fires and nurture countless fantasies. I remember being blown over by some ready-to-wear Chanel show and thinking that I must immediately fly to Paris, meet Karl Lagerfeld, and chase down that exact outfit…since then I never have looked back! In fact, I still have re-occuring dreams where I am best friends with Karl Lagerfeld; he hands over all of his couture collections to me and the keys to the Chateau where they are stored. Those dreams defiantly make my day and inspire me to keep working hard!
What is the best part about being a fashion blogger?
First of all, I do not consider V&F a blog, but a true platform for inspiration. Because Juliana and I are serious about V&F as a business, and we wear many hats, the word blogger seems outdated. I would consider myself both an Editor and Creative Director at this point in our development of V&F. Having creative control is so empowering! I love being an authority in my own domain, and my website allows me to bring my endless visions to fruition. Naturally there are always challenges, and I look back on old posts and get annoyed at what I could have done better. But that challenge of the creative process keeps me interested and engaged….life is never dull and no two days are the same!
MEET JULIANA STOY
Tell us a bit about becoming your alter-ego Valentina and what she means to you.
I think we all have things we want to hide from sometimes. I used to hide from the camera and shy away from drawing attention to myself. But since moving to California I’ve learned, and I’ve come to love, being loud with my creativity, which now comes through running this blog. Valentina is not afraid to stand out and be bold, and letting that side of me run wild has been so liberating. So becoming Valentina and not holding back means a lot, and has changed me in ways I will always cherish.
“Life is nothing but one long movie, and being the lead is a must. Don’t play a supporting role in your own story.” – Juliana
What is it like to be Juliana? How is she different or similar from Valentina?
Valentina is the Juliana without the stress of life getting to her. Valentina owns her destiny, and doesn’t let the little things get to her. She is a constant reminder to exercise my freedom, and not take No for an answer. She is the most confident side of me. Valentina is more extroverted than Juliana, and more daring. Daring herself and those around her to be fearless, and realize life is nothing but one long movie, and being the lead is a must. Don’t play a supporting role in your own story.
You grew up in London and now live in California. What do you miss the most about London?
Oh boy, do I miss London! That city is magic! Although I’ve come to LOVE California, and my more suburban lifestyle, London and its charm has left a mark on me forever. I miss the magic that’s within London’s historical streets; I miss the ever-changing dynamic; I miss the diversity and culture you find yourself in daily; I miss a lot of people with whom I created so many memories. I’m excited to visit soon, and take it all in again. But for now I am in love with California, and I couldn’t be happier to call this place home.
Is traveling regularly also an important aspect of your creative process?
When I travel, especially as a team with Asha, everything we experience (whether it’s something we see in nature or a different cultural attitude) stimulates our creativity and triggers different ideas in our minds. Art, film, music, a trip, it could even be the aesthetics of an American diner…inspirations come from life itself and the current cultural climate, which are then reflected back into an editorial story or fashion collection.
Favorite spots in London?
The Curzon, or The Prince Charles Cinema – perfect for the latest indie movies showings
National Portrait Gallery and the V&A – sigh!
Covent Garden for charming little London streets and fun shopping.
Laduree, Piccadilly for a quick stop of indulgence.
Liberty of London, for the amazing aesthetics and shopping!
I love cars! Everything from the design, to the mechanics, to the physical experience of driving fast. At the moment I’m learning to rotate tires and more at my local car repair shop. I’m also getting very inspired to create a Franca Sozzani Vogue Italia style editorial for V&F at the auto body shop.
Who is your style icon?
I’m pretty sure I’ll be in love with Joan Smalls forever. Iris Apfel can do no wrong. Mariacarla Boscono and her style-marriage to Givenchy – match made in heaven. From the blogger world I adore the diversity of Margaret Zhang. The elegance of Faye Dunaway is timeless.
What’s particularly sacred to you?
My friendships and relationships.
Top of your holiday wishlist?
A sneaker fan over here, so this year I’m lusting after a pair of Fendi Slip-Ons in Black Leather and Fur (I gladly accept any Christmas presents from the Fendi Santa Claus).
Favorite secret spot in the Bay Area?
Not so secret, but I just went to Montana beach, and fell in love with the majestic landscape. Perfect location for photoshoots too.
Have you become a more confident person through blogging? If so, how?
Absolutely! I think it also has something to do with working as a duo. We push each other out of our comfort zones. Asha’s drive motivates me to be brave all the time. Starting the blog and growing it over the last year has made me face challenges and overcome fears I didn’t even think I had.
What apps do you use for your Instagram photos?
My favorites are Luminance and Snapseed.
What is the most challenging part of blogging for you?
Probably dealing with creative blocks. Sometimes is can be so frustrating when inspiration for a project is MIA. That can be very hard to accept. It takes a lot of patience, and stepping back to allow for the creative juices to start flowing again. Keeping a healthy lifestyle and having a support system of other creative people around me helps.
What is the most rewarding part of blogging to you?
Seeing your vision come to life, and sharing it. Having the ability to work in a creative environment with no set restrictions, where you are constantly learning is so satisfying. It’s a temporary bliss I want to keep experiencing – it’s addictive.
Do you have any advice for other girls who are interested in creative careers but aren’t sure where to start?
I would say go for it, and be smart about it! Nothing comes just by wishing and hoping. Be smart about realising that it will take a lot of hard work. Be smart about researching the process, and sourcing the right guidance. Know that passion and hard work are your two main ingredients. If you have a desire don’t deny yourself living a creative life – do it!
What do you love the most about fashion?
That there are no rules, and that you can chose who you want to be. That you can express your individuality and feel unique. There are endless possibilities, and you can tell elaborate, powerful stories through it. It is a visual narrative, and you can be the star of the story You create. It’s empowering!
What’s it like working with one of your best friends?
Friendship is the family you choose to love. It is wonderful to have that creative and collaborative trust and a sounding board. But like anything else, we do face challenges, and sometimes interpersonal struggles can be tricky when we know each other so closely. Knowing each other’s expectations and limits made a world of difference. We may know each other better than anyone else, but sometimes it can be difficult to be upfront. We have learned that support, encouragement and bringing out the best in each other is the most important thing to focus on! I feel really lucky. And I know we couldn’t do it without one another. This definitely wouldn’t be what it is without one of us. When you come to work and both are excited to be there and organically collaborate, you feel invigorated to build the company together as one unit.
Who is your style icon?
I have SO many! I take a lot of inspiration from certain characters in films and books, as well as people in real life. I love iconic women of history like Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth I – their stories are so full of challenge and drama, and I think their bravery and poise inspires a lot of my ideas for editorials. I also love the colorful personalities of modern icons who don’t follow the rules like Anna Dello Russo, Giovanna Battaglia and Carine Roitfeld. I’m also obsessed with the show Penny Dreadful, and adore all of the Victorian lace and gothic romance of the costumes for Eva Green’s character.
How do you deal with creative blocks?
Getting enough sleep and running really re-energizes my mind and allows me that break time to gather distance from my creative project. I think working smartly is also important, which means giving yourself enough time to truly switch off and tune into another activity. Cooking is a very meditative activity for me that helps me embrace my inner world and come up with creative solutions for the V&F if something isn’t working smoothly.
How would you describe your style?
I go with my instinct, and encourage everyone else to do the same! I find that my emotions and mood change in the moment, and I try to honor whatever that means visually. Sometimes I start with a pair of shoes, sometimes from a shirt or a skirt or a pair of big earrings. It is a natural process, and by now I know what looks good on me and what doesn’t work. I prefer to have a more elegant look with hints of inner wildness. I like electric combinations with a sophisticated touch.
Ask and you shall receive.
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