GLOBAL CITIZEN

As the US election draws to a close, we are reminded that art, fashion and photography are mediums through with we can express the current political context of the world.   As members of multicultural families in a country based on the innovation from all area of the globe, we decided to showcase our global muse Harini Madheswaran, who reminds us that although it isn’t always easy being a global citizen, the journey of challenge can inspire growth and confidence in us all.  She is writer, nurse and advocate for Save the Children.   If you need poetic inspiration or a virtual hug follow Harini @optimistpundit .

faimg_1073We all want to be that girl who sees the world with open eyes, fearlessly explores it, and challenges the state quo.  Harini Madheswaran is that girl. Born and raised in Bangalore, Harini relocated to US when she was 8.   We sat down to chat with this amazing young woman, who represents the spirit of strength, fearlessness and the positive face of modern America. As a person of great depth, she embodies our inspiration for how to dress for Fall – with a sense of global intelligence, mystery, and empowerment.  faimg_1010As the she bravely waded deep into the cool blue waters of Lake Tahoe, and the light hit those stong cheekbones, we were captivated behind the camera by her intoxicating strength and magnetic presence that speaks volumed about the richness of her life experiences. She taught us that although there are challenges along the way, adapting to a new way of life and becoming a global citizen is not lonely, because ultimately connection teaches us that we are all human.

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Q&A


Q

What is the most defining part of being a global citizen?

The best part of growing up in two different cultures is that it helped me be very open-minded. It has taught me that there is so much more to the world than what we are shown – whether it be on the news or what we are taught in school. The biggest part of being Indian that I hold dear is how big the term family can really be. It is a very community-oriented society—especially in the smaller cities and towns.

Q

What was the hardest part of being a teenager in a new land?

When I first came here, I was still very much a child with all the childlike ideologies. I didn’t realize just how different I was until a couple years later when the other kids made me realize it. The hardest parts were definitely the teenage years when I struggled between being a “good Indian daughter” and fitting in with my peers at school. I never quite figured out the right balance but throughout those years, I got to know myself really well. I learnt my strengths and weaknesses and promised myself that each year after would be better. That determination to make something great of myself comes from my immigrant parents and the dreams that they came to this country with.

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Q

What advice do you have for other young girls and women struggling to assimilate into a new culture?

In more ways than one, it is much harder for girls to assimilate into a new culture than boys. In India, I was very outgoing and had many friends in school. When I came to this new country, it was the complete opposite. I spent countless days sitting by myself at lunch and trying to get the courage to make friends at recess. At the end of it all though, I knew it would get better and I had the power to make it better. We just have to keep believing in our own strength as women. Our parents and grandparents grew up closer to a time when women were constantly reminded of weaknesses that may have never existed. It is going to be a challenge and you will have many hard days and want to go back home but slowly and surely, you will step into yourself and conquer every fear you had and all the new fears you will gain from new experiences. You will come to love this new home as I have and continue leaving your own beautiful mark in YOUR country.

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On Harini:

L’Oreal Paris Color Riche in True Red

Alice + Olivia Cold-Shoulder Crepe Mini Dress.  

NOT A BASIC WITCH…HALLOWEEN EDITION

Fright night is fast approaching!  Are you still need of inspiration for your devilish disguise? We dug through our archives to give you a sampling of tricks and treats to make any last minute costumes come to life with a high fashion twist.

1.  SIREN CALLING

Sirens. Those eerily beautiful mythological creatures. Odysseus and his crew became entranced by them during their long voyage. Feminine sea creatures have long enchanted fashion designers, artists and other creatives, but they certainly are not the fresh-faced ocean dwellers reminiscent of Disney movies. She is strong and full of lean silhouettes that connect with the aesthetic of a modern mermaid, vindicated with free-flowing hair.  Instead of sweet Ariel, we are envisioning seductive sea sirens glammed up with gothic hints using come-hither purple lipstick and smoky eyes.

Re-create Valentina’s otherworldly enchantress utilizing feminine silhouettes without the obvious red carpet-type mermaid gowns. Opt for dresses that cinch-in and accentuate the waist, like these from Attico and Undress.

 2. MORTICA ADDAMS

For a super luxe Halloween, turn to classic black and upgrade!

Morticia IS glamour. We have always been taken with Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams—the ultimate combination of class, grace, and sexuality. And who doesn’t have a wardrobe filled with black lace that they are searching for an excuse to wear?

She’s dark magic elegance from head to toe – her smooth black hair to the hem of her tight black dresses. Morticia’s family tree can be traced back to Salem, Massachusetts, and witchcraft is also implied in the television series. Her skin glows, her eyes twinkle and she understands the power of deadpan humor and languorous sensuality. Not to mention she has a kind of glorious love with Gomez we all dream about having someday.  Anjelica Huston as Morticia is something we could never compete with, but revamping this character in a modern interpretation is seductively easy to put together and quite satisfying!  Morticia’s dresses are black and fitted, with long sleeves and long Maxi skirts. Her necklines are usually low, but not cleavage-y.  Try a more daring contemporary approach to this look with a French twist from Beaufille or minimal  T by Alexander Wang dress Or shop your own wardrobe!  Pull out that classic black maxi dress hiding in the back of your closet, paint your nails and lips venomous red, and whip on this eyeliner for a complete transformation!

3. Melisandre Priestess of R’hllor

The night is dark and full of terrors!

We love Game of Thrones, and what better magical character to embrace this Halloween then the red priestess who serves the Lord of Light?  Her magic is running hot as she’s brimming with the power!  Melisandre is a great beauty with intelligence, and of course the ability to practice magic.   With long hair the color of burnished copper and pale, unblemished skin she is careful to cultivate an image of mystery, serenity and power.  As is the custom of the red priests of her faith, she wears red or crimson clothing, usually long gowns of silk. Nothing makes a woman feel more powerful, sexy, confident or bold than the red dress. Even with a more conservative style – whether it’s a long dress, a midi one, or knee – length – that dress is going to make a statement if it’s red. From the darker colors of scarlet, crimson and oxblood red to the softer shades of red violet and dark pinks, there are many shades of red to choose from when channeling your inner Melisandre this Halloween!   Get inspired by this Rachel Pally Maxi Dress, this modern Marni dress, and this dramatic flared-sleeve dress by Giambattista Valli.  

4. BRIDE OF DRACULA

We loving paying tribute to the beautiful ladies that have with the widespread vampire craze we have enjoyed over the last two decades. The concept of vampires in the horror genre has seen a fair share of changes since the first film about the Nosferatu was released many years ago . We have seen  pregnant vampires, hybrids, and even sparkly ones come on the scene. The one thing that stayed consistent is the seduction and pure sexuality of the female vampires through the years. Luring in their prey as they prepare to strike, most of their victims don’t even suspect the attack. The sexy sirens of the blood trade will forever intrigue us with their beauty, elegance and cunning hunting skills. We especially love Monica Bellucci’s interpretation of Dracula’s Bride, and found inspiration in her Italian sensuality and flowing lace garments.  For Halloween, we love to interpret this look through come-hither hints of lingerie and a bold red lip!  Throw on one of these dresses and some fangs and you will be ready for any Halloween or holiday party to come:  Oscar de la Renta Sleeveless Lace dress, Isabel Marant Tulane Dress, and N/Nicholas Cold-Shoulder dress.

5. GEISHA

We are huge fans of the versatile allure of the kimono, and Halloween is no exception!  Eastern-influenced silhouette results in an elegant and feminine look for a more graceful take on Halloween.  This humble piece can easily be elevated into cocktail territory. When paired with shredded jeans and strappy stiletto sandals, it creates a perfect ensemble for a late night out.  We love this elegant Etro kimono jacket , Red Valentino floral silk kimono and this Duro Olowu Kimono robe.

6. STORM TROOPER

Star Wars droids are always on the top of our most fashionable list!  Pair structured white dresses with tough boots and you are ready to rule a galaxy far, far away!!  We are obsessed with this Cynthia Rowley Turtleneck Dress, Alice + Olivia Sleeve Shift Dress, and this Seersucker Tie Sleeve Dress from Tibi.  Pair with these white Valiant Tophop Ankle Boots or these sporty Fenty by Puma Over the Knee Sneakers!

 

 

 

MEET THE MAKERS

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

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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)!

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“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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Strangest indulgence?

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.

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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!

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ASHA

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.

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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.

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Anything else?

Ask and you shall receive.

We are ready to answer! 

Comment box is below.

Go!

NEPTUNIAN

Recently we have had some frustrating experiences piling up – from random people offended by our shoots happening in their public territory to feeling too crunched on time to capture our visual vision to stressful interpersonal vacation situations (sometimes a vacation becomes a whole lot of not stepping on other people’s toes).  The urge for a creative reset was clearly brewing. Cue the ghostbusters theme song…who ya gonna call?  Our creativity of course…and the backdrop of a supremely gorgeous ocean setting doesn’t hurt either!

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We took last Friday off from all other work and technology to purely focus on shooting.  The Californian landscape was blooming under the sun, and we headed to our favorite year round Pacific Ocean setting by the Cliff House in San Francisco – the perfect place to calm the stormy artistic soul!  When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. There is very little self-awareness or critical self-judgement; just intrinsic joy for the task.

 

aimg_0760Inspired by Renoir’s impressionist painting “Figures on the Beach”, we re-imagined ourselves as a modern day representation of this painting – two French girls residing by the sea, who dwell within the ocean spirit, at home with the rocks, with themselves, with the swell and the surge of the surf, and take all the ups and downs in stride. Painted on the Cote d’Azur in southern France, this sun-filled painting shows two female figures at the beach. The women appear carefree and neither at work nor in the presence of men. Painted later in Renoir’s career, a period at which point the artist expressed skepticism of industrialism and machines, this quiet seascape pays homage to the resplendent beauty of what is ordinary and simple.
Like Renoir’s inspiration of embracing the simple moments lost in nature, losing ourselves by the sea in this shoot reconnected us to joy, let our worries melt away, reduced stress and increased the quality of our output.

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Similar Trina Turk skirt and T Alexander Wang Top on Francesca

Similar red crop top by Top Shop and skirt by MSGM for Farfetch on Valentina

Fare Una Bella Figure

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aimg_0698We are at the end of Milan Fashion Week, where we have been oogling the whirlwind of confident poses, bright prints, and the sound of clicking stilettos masterfully navigating the cobbled streets.  With their legendary seductive prowess and immaculate sense of femininity and strength, Italian women seem to be guided by one simple principle: fare una bella figure – make a beautiful impression.  We adore the inner strength of our favorite modern Italian beauties, who possess an strong sense of self and love of life that make their outer beauty come alive.

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What are the ways of harnessing the modern Italian woman’s strength and allure? Her strength is a combination of athleticism, poise, energy, a sense of sisterhood as well as harnessing the power of glamour and knockout dressing. She is a sophisticated woman who is elegant, not afraid of her own sensuality, and not afraid to dare or take risks in life. Modern and inventive, but also real – her mantra as the seasons change hones in on channeling authentic power.

We chose to shoot this story against the athletic drama of a baseball field – juxtaposing this gladiator esq setting with modern, authoritative silhouettes that fall with deliberately with seductive intent, reveling a hints on skin within layers of fabric. Inspired by all the feminine strength and grace of our inner bella donnas, we played with power poses, hints of skin and fire.

aimg_0675aimg_0406-copyaimg_0592Valentina embraced a combination of trenchcoat and bathrobe, a strong look sculpting the body in contoured, undulating waves.  She took inspiration from the glamorous Italian mothers like Bianca Balti, who would surely do their grocery shopping in emerald flowing silk and a strong red lip.  Silk robe coats are the perfect transitional piece for this time of year. Pair an embellished one with jeans and a simple tee or bodysuit to give you that closing splash of seductive elegance!

 

aaimg_0616Francesca’s flowing cape-like dress was a celebration of movement,  allowing her to more natural confidence that also welcomes her inner softness as strength.    With flattering lines and a nod to the glamorous ’60s, it infuses instant elegance into your wardrobe.  Cape-tivate your enemies and friends alike with the modern take on sensuality.

On Valentina – similar silk Trench Coat by Theory available on Farfetch.com

On Francesca – similar black silk cape dress by Alexander McQueen available on Net-a-Porter

 

COURTSIDE PLAY

Independent, but not afraid to show her feminine side…here we are, embodying the spirit of iconic, modern sex appeal in clean lines and a powerful, courtside form.

Strong?

Absolutely.

Serene?

Not at all!

Our challenge – can minimalism ever be sexy?

While that’s a pretty subjective question – everything is something to someone – on the whole we usually find minimalism quite bland.  Minimalism’s usual intellectual commitment to distillation of form and austerity of delivery is just too cold to be hot.  But as usual, we broke our own rules and short-circuited our prejudices with an interplay between inhibition, abandon and ecstasy on the tennis courts.

Taking an active approach, created two looks full of sleek, sportswear-inspired elements with tons of challenging, mischievous attitude. A play of contrasts is always welcome chez Valentina & Francesca, so we worked our favorite feminine/masculine motif into each look through a focus on clean lines – bringing sexy back (literally a la Francesca), and keeping a hard-core, female-empowerment mood in our every step. Slinky sexy, yes, but also fiercely don’t-give-a-damn physical.

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Definitely our comeback moment for power of dressing in black! We tend to shy away from too much black, but we challenged ourselves to plumb the highest depths of black – underscoring the color’s sleek and sophisticated nature.  We felt formidable and empowered, lunging around the tennis court cloaked in sleek black fabric, and even though we had quite a crowd gathered to watch the shoot, our outfits reduced any vulnerability, thus enabling us to embrace our inner femme fatales. Serving as a protective shield, this minimalist approach to a daytime or evening look can embolden your Fall and make anyone smolder for you!

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aimg_0143Francesca‘s Grand Slam Look:  Similar dress by Stella McCartney  and similar heels by Jimmy Choo

Valentina‘s Yin and Yang look: Wolford Black Leggings, Steve J and Yoni P Tee Shirt, similar heels Misty Velvet Leather Boots by Sophia Webster

Once Upon A Time In Professorville

As much as the present is supposed to be about New York Fashion Week and collections upon collections, hashtag #coffeetime with the Fashion elite, jet set travel, streetstyle paparazzi and visual screams of ‘me me me’, we are staying put in good ole’ sunny California, enjoying the fact that sometimes we much prefer the quite life of the Palo Alto suburbs like two Grandmas than the hustle hustle hustle of NYC.

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We all have busy lives, and there is something wonderfully serene about taking a stroll around Professorville, the historic Palo Alto neighborhood filled with quirky architecture that has become the home of many Stanford intelligentsia, inventors and innovators who all have the uncanny ability to look slightly like Einstein or mad professors.  Like any good grannies, we always have tricks up our sleeves and a desire for some good drama and intrigue.  We thought it would be fun to stir up the quiet calm of Professorville and see what would happen when we staged our version of a fashion spectacle – a celebration of that glorious, decidedly Californian feeling, of a hot Fall day that won’t allow any hints of knitwear, scarves or dare we mention the dreaded word… sweaters.

We traipsed from Hanover Street to Harvard, found a McClaren to act as our third wheel, and had a great time posing with the orange beauty as a herd of engineers walked back and forth across the other side of the street testing robots and completely ignoring the shoot.  Ahh…this is why we have a soft spot for engineers…they have no interest in fashion, are brilliant, and usually so involved in anything they are trying to accomplish they would never interrupt a shoot with questions or commentary.  What is not to love?!

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Feeling rebellious indeed, we also consciously embraced the white after labor day rule.  White. The purest of the pure, billowing clouds, a color that also speaks to modernity and contemporary design white represents new beginnings and our ability to start anew on a blank slate. Why on earth would one not embrace white this Fall?  Just don’t spill your hot chocolate on your new white threads…Francesca is definitely cursed with the spill syndrome.  But if you happen to add some food or beverages or dirt to your white or cream ensemble don’t fret – wear that spill in style and be proud of your reiterations to your look!

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Get the Granny Valentina look with this Marni cotton-blend crepe mini dress and jacket byTopshop

Blue and White … naughty or nice?  Get Francesca’s similar look with this embroidered Miu Miu cotton-poplin dress  and Aquazzura Pixie Box suede sandals

THE LADY IN RED

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Have you ever been irresistibly drawn to one color? There is nothing like a spirited red that continues to provide the energy boost we need to recharge during the change of seasons and move forward. Whether expressing danger, celebration, love or passion, red will not be ignored! The color of life, the color of romance and the color of excitement, red elicits the strongest of emotions in every culture. Dynamic and playful, red breeds unmistakable confidence. As we move away from the airy, relaxing, cotton candy days of summer we instinctually shift toward wearing colors that exude real substance, a strong foundation and an awareness of the melding of diverse cultural influences. Transcending the typical fall colors, we wanted to start September off with a bang and play with a more unexpectedly vivacious palette. Red catches the eye in an embrace of empowerment, reflects the spirit of adventure and level of confidence we encourage you to bring to work, relationships, and self this Fall.

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Sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive, we slipped on an adrenaline rush of red in the form of short dresses and headed to an action-packed shoot set against jagged rocks and a lonesome road in the middle of nowhere. Earlier that day we had been slightly off kilter and not feeling on top of our creative game, but as the shooting started we realized that the captivating, stimulating adrenaline rush of red warded off the creative direction blues! You might be considering sticking to the safer earthy tones this Fall, but we encourage you to step out of your shell and let the the bold spirit of rouge infuse you, lift you and carry you as the days get darker. Let this high-visibility, magnetic hue emanate heat and energy for your eyes and spirit!

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On Valentina:  Cape dress by Alexander McQueen and 1460 Greasy Doc Martin Boots

On Francesca:  Similar dress Optical 2 Pleated Swirl Dress by Issey Miyake and similar Leather Gladiator Sandals by Balenciaga 

Plant Intelligence

Like wildflowers, some girls are not meant to be tamed.  Teeming, rambling, and oh-so-slightly overgrown, an untamed girl just like an untamed garden can easily find a way into one’s heart and inspire a sparks of creativity.  We headed to our favorite nontraditionally landscaped oasis in Palo Alto, The Arizona Cactus Garden at Stanford, and created a story inspired by its colorful cacophony and power to bring whatever we have going on inside to the surface.  Whenever we enter this magnificent enclave, it feels like a magical movie scene where the audience is allowed the knowledge of a great secret through the confection of spaces, paths, vistas, and bowers.
Lush, graphically bold, and embodying a revolutionizing spirit, these grounds inspire us to step away from the ticking stresses of modern life, the confines of our tiny air conditioned office and the looming pressures of fashion month. Larger than life cacti, blooming flowers, and embellished wild plants  – these ancient symbols of nature manifested in vibrant, exotic day to night looks, creating a story of depth and mystery waiting to be told. We love embracing imperfections and juxtapositions – adding opposing elements like a tough leather jacket over an exotic embroidered dress – creating concepts that mirror nature and the flow of life itself.  Venturing into exotic motifs and becoming a part of the garden itself, our outfits are lavishly eclectic, with Persian, Indian, and Italian allusions.

 

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Our takeaway is that disconnecting from nature can jeopardize your happiness, weaken your immune system, and undermine your powers of focus and creativity. As pro-nature California girls we been motivated to make some lifestyle changes to incorporate the great outdoors into daily life. We now push ourselves at least a couple times a week to swap out barre or boxing classes for hikes in the woods, refreshing trail runs, or Palo Alto neighborhood jogs (follow our Instagram Stories to join us).   And sometimes we just like to be playful, adventurous, and irreverent as we kick off our shoes and dig our feet into the soil of the exotic Cactus Garden. There is nothing like living in the moment taking a walk in this elaborate garden, where the changing light will keep you constantly entertained.   Pure bliss!

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Similar on FrancescaSilk crepe de chine maxi dress by Cedric Charlier, Anna Sui printed Chiffon DressGucci Satin Bomber JacketAnnarita N Jacket

 

Similar on Valentina:  Herve Leger Maxi Skirt, Kenzo Peplum TopValentino Ring

BIRTH OF VENUS

Perception and reality play funny games with human beings.   We’re predominantly visual creatures. The wrappers in which things come not only powerfully affect what interests us but also how we react to the contents we find inside. Some people assume that because we take pictures of ourselves and put them on Instagram for the world to see we must be supremely confident and assertive.  Francesca’s boyfriend recently mentioned “You took so long to come out of your shell…I was so surprised because you take all of these pictures and are so comfortable with that, but in person you are a mystery.”

FIMG_6937f2aaIMG_68912aIMG_6941Many people who meet us in person put us in the wallflower box, thinking our shy mannerisms and soft spoken voices must mean we are unadventurous meek creatures.  The beauty of human beings is that we all have complex layers that can be peeled, and those layers all come in a variety of different flavors.  We certainly won’t be boxed in by other’s perceptions, and hope aren’t either. While we might have calm, sweet exteriors, make us feel comfortable or spark our inner flame and we can be the wildest adventurers you have ever seen!aIMG_7121IMG_71812.1aIMG_7028aIMG_6891The experience of truly opening your deeper layers to another person reminded us of the painting Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, depicting the Goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a full grown woman, a symbol of spiritual love.

Diving into a separate person’s world and seeing them come alive despite any initial biases is a Birth of Venus and a deeply loving experience.  We interpreted our own inner Venus for this shoot, and despite pre-convinced notions, hope that we captured all the various sides of ourselves that might be hidden or protected from the outside world.  Whatever shell you may be hiding within under the deep sea, we hope you have a few or many people to share your inner Venus with.

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There is something surreal about Botticelli’s work, a dreamlike quality in which nature emerges in its innocent perfection.  We captured our natural selves emerging through layered loungewear turned high fashion..exuding a primal intimacy usually reserved for the inner sanctum of the boudoir.
On Valentina similar skirt by Chloe, top by Isabel Marant 
On Francesca, similar dress by Mr. Self Portrait and similar outer dress by Zimmerman

PADDLE-POWERED

There are very few sports that we actually love to watch, but the Olympics present a whole other ballpark in drama and excitement, especially because we adore Brazilian culture, flavor, passion and the glamazon supermodels entertain us along the way!  Being active is something we love and partake in daily, and although we wouldn’t go so far as to call ourselves athletes, you should see Valentina’s ferocity while punching and kicking her boxing bag and Francesca’s killer glares while jumping up and down to the Insanity Asylum Game Day workout.aIMG_8783

aIMG_8653aIMG_8641Sometimes the best fashion doesn’t come from an editorial, or a runway show; it comes from a feeling that can push the boundaries of what we wear.  Because we have been kicking up our workouts lately inspired by the prowess of the Olympic athletes and have been enjoying the glorious last couple of weeks before summer’s end, we were ignited to capture the feeling of personal capability and carefree enjoyment in one.aIMG_8879

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aIMG_8715Set along the romantic Shoreline Lake in the heart of Silicon Valley, we hoped from the squad to squad of glittering paddle boats, sailboats and surfboards as the sun set upon the tranquil confines of this lovely nature preserve.  We anticipated lots of problems – wind, bad lighting, too many people etc, but were happily pleased that shooting was a breeze.

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It’s moments like this – when we are in the flow of shooting and the images are turning out successfully, that we have to pinch ourselves and grasp the moment, so we can cherish it and repeat!  It is probably a similar feeling for Olympians – tons of practice and dealing with off days, but then, with just a few strokes of luck and mastery, you get into the flow, feel the wind on your face and propel yourself forward – escaping from worry and doubt.

aIMG_8903Dive in!  Valentina embraced a powerfully structured scuba inspired sweatshirt and juxtaposed the sculptural, cocoon-like silhouette with a flirty summer mini skirt – both a perfect compliment to each other for an active, striking and comfortable daytime to night look! Similar scuba sweater ideas from Balenciaga at Matches.com, Adidas by Stella McCartney, and Christopher Kane. Similar fresh summer minis by Cecilie Copenhagen, No.21, and Self-Portrait.

Captain of the ship!  Francesca channeled her inner Duchess meets Captain in a white hot summer look infused with lots of structure, volume and lace.  Similar pieces by Self-Portrait, Marni, and No.21.  Amplify with a little silver for kicks by Miu Miu !

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QUEEN CALAFIA

Over the last couple of years we have learned so much from our diversely rich home base, California. We are fascinated by the story of Calafia, an Amazonian warrior Queen who ruled an untamed and bountiful land prior to Europeans taking the land by force.  Embodying Calafia in style, we became regal, courageous, larger than life, and contemplated how Californian culture has shaped our open minded, connected spirit.

One of the things we value most about living in Northern California is the all-encompassing world culture that thrives within the Bay Area – a melting pot of a variety of cultural, linguistic, and economic traditions. The diversity of culture is also reflected in the beauty of California’s ever changing natural landscape.  Both the human and geographical diversity of California have deeply sculpted and inspired our sense of freedom of expression.  In true Californian avant-guard boldness, we love mastering the art of mixing different pieces together to create outfits full of joyous juxtapositions, both soft and rebellious, and ultra-feminine backed up in strength.  

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California’s beginnings as a state with no infrastructure gave settlers the opportunity to create a unique identity of their own, and work together despite tribal divides.  This pioneering spirit remains as strong as ever within our modern Bay Area culture. California continues to attract a large group of global transplants unafraid to forgo an established set of beliefs to foster new ways of seeing things, while still maintaining pride and connection to their cultural roots.  

  When it comes to relationships and true connections, the culture of Californians remind us that the human spirit is universal, and stereotypes easily melt as minds open.  Today’s editorial evokes the prowess of Queen Calafia as we visually played with fabric that exudes amazonian power through use of color and pattern. We chose to embrace the strong spirit of California that triumphs against the status quo with statement pieces, delivering an homage to the great depth and wild freedom we feel for the people and landscape of this golden state.

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Francesca on becoming a warrior Kaftan Queen:
There is something so wonderfully powerful and freeing about a distinctive yet comfortable Kaftan dress.  I can run, walk and jump in the waves in this striking piece and seamlessly translate this look to nighttime by throwing on a statement necklace and pair of strappy heels.  What more could an Amazonian Queen want than ultra flexibility and power to move within her natural environment?

 

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On Francesca, similar kaftan by Hatch on Net-a-Porter, silver heels Jimmy Choo.

On Valentina, McQ stretch-knit lace top, similar skirt by Erdem, Lola Hats for Barneys.

 

MOLTO BELLA

Hotblooded, passionate creatures.  What is sexier than a woman who is full to bursting with passion and won’t take sh*t from anyone?

Throughout college we spent a lot of time traveling around Italy, observing the mindset of the Italian woman. The Sophia Loren archetype has been such an inspiration that we named this blog after our fantasy of using fashion to empower you with the inner confidence of the fierce Italian woman.  Sadly, for many women in America, our self image can really take a daily beating.  We despise the unhappiness this creates.  Part of our happiness as women comes from the inner feeling of feeling damn good about ourselves, of feeling that we are worth it.  This feeling of worth honoring our individuality is the key to sexy.
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Top Fashion Blogs, San Francisco Fashion Blog, The Italian Woman, Dolce and Gabbana, Vogue Italia, Italian Summer Fashion Editorial, How to be confident, Kiki Jewels, Versace Gold Medusa Necklace.
Top Fashion Blogs, San Francisco Fashion Blog, The Italian Woman, Dolce and Gabbana, Vogue Italia, Italian Summer Fashion Editorial, How to be confident, Kiki Jewels, Versace Gold Medusa Necklace.
And if we find this elusive feeling how do we sustain it?  The ultimate secret behind ‘sexy’ is being happy enough with yourself that you don’t seek the approval of anyone. It is the naturalness and lack of artifice that Italian women possess – a product of authentic confidence. We find the effortless Italian women sexy because they don’t seem to care if you or anyone think they’re sexy – it’s merely an inadvertent consequence.
Feeling sexy on the inside isn’t about pleasing other people.  It is about building confidence within and establishing a positive self-reference point for yourself.  Not only will you feel good about your attributes and project them outwardly, your confidence will be apparent. Feeling sexy on the inside can mean appearing sexy on the outside!
So live La Dolce Vita and stand tall, revel in your female power and beauty, and enjoy romance like an Italian woman.

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Francesca wears Dolce and Gabbana Bustier TopN21 Lace Midi Skirt, similar Kiki Jewels Necklace 

Valentina wears lace dress, similar Dolce and Gabbana Flared Cordoneto Lace Dress, similar Gucci Broadway Metallic Leather Bag, similar Versace Gold Medusa Necklace.

Paradigm Shift

 

Have you ever wondered what you would be wearing on Mars if you ended up on Elon Musk’s Space X colony? Will the steady pace of globalization make the world better or worse? If you were gifted immortal powers tomorrow – how would you live your life, what would you be doing differently?  These are the kinds of intriguing, thought-provoking, experimental conversation starters we love having…the kinds of dialogues and debates that spark a great number of fantastical ideas for our creative concepts.  

One entrepreneurial friend, during a lively thought-experiment focused conversation, proclaimed that living in the moment is the most romantic thing in the world, because it is such a rare experience for his future oriented mind.  Romance aside, the best innovators are futurists. We happen to be more whimsical dreamers, always attempting find the non-existent reigns of the ever changing digital game, and master it while keeping four steps ahead of the current fashion season.  It is quite a funny parallel to be living in Silicon Valley, where most of our friends are working 24/7 on improving technology and rambling on about the virtues (cough) of virtual reality.

 

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But how realistic are visions of scientific utopia, of a world made better through technological advances and through the percolation of sharing information in a democratic way – permeating through politics and culture?   Yes, we were excited to try Oculus the other day at Facebook HQ, and do think its amazing, but like any other tool, it remains to be seen how VR unfolds and changes our society for good and bad.
The unexpected is hard to predict, even for the most brilliant human minds.

Like any visionary idea, executing our dream of being a digital oasis delivering empowerment through creative content comes with major challenges.  What has helped us immensely?  Asking philosophical questions that aren’t mere predictions, but truly delve into guidance on how we want to live and what kind of world we want to create with others.  The process of asking, thinking and creating open up the imagination to the rich array of possibilities of what to be and what could be.

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We take you to a planet far, far away in this fashion editorial as we imagine joining Elon on Mars…because naturally he would want us there!   In the end, it’s all really about us, what we can create and what we do with what we create. Human intelligence stands alone in its creative ability.  Fearing science and technology is not the same as fearing what we are capable of. We create so that we can reinvent our future. What kind of future that will be is up to us.

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future” –  Victor Hugo

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“The clothes that I prefer are those that I invent for a life that doesn’t exist yet — the world of tomorrow,” said French designer Pierre Cardin

Valentina wears Mm6 Maison Margiela overalls and Kurt Geiger Flatform shoes.

Francesca wears the Ariane satin Blazer by Pallas and red fringed dress.  Similar dress by Sonia Rykiel on Farfetched.com

Photography by Victor Bittorf

Goddess of the Wild

Creative sparks come from the most unexpected places – with the imagination remixing stories of the past. If you haven’t noticed, we are obsessed with mythology and what it represents about our psychology and humanity.  Mythological archetypes are filled with particular symbolic meanings related to human character and emotion – which clearly inspire our creative narratives for V&F.  Whether we create our own myths or enjoy others, new or ancient, the important threads of our constructed selves – of our life meanings – are mythic.  Mythology helps us interpret the nature of culture, society, and what it means to be an individual. Goddess mythology particularly fascinates us, because it provides an ancient mirror on womanhood. Our psyche needs these images to nurture its growth.  Today we invite you to join us at sunset’s golden hour along the stormy wild cliffs of San Francisco – come embody the Roman Goddess Diana and explore how this complex, uncompromising, self-determined huntress can help us better understand our contemporary realities.

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Diana is the goddess who comes out of the forest and the wilderness; a complex and intriguing persona reflected in her quiet power as well as her generous empathy – protecting women in childbirth and children – ensuring the preservation of mankind.  Diana’s role as nurturer and protectress began early in life. She helped her mother Leto as soon as she was born by delivering her own twin brother Apollo. Diana’s selflessness and strength were harnessed in her youth as she was compelled to become caretaker for her Mother.

This independent yet compassionate goddess was readily available for others, but also vulnerable, and we created outfits to reflect her inner duality.  We created mood boards inspired by Valentino’s design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri (we are sad to see her exit for Dior) and Pierpaolo Piccioli – who together made their creations a paradox of age-old hand-wrought elaboration – yet with youthful simplicity. Since couture has not (yet!) made an appearence in our wardrobes, we sourced pieces from our travels to India and Egypt to bring Diana to life.  We find that sourcing fabric from non-western countries is the perfect way to uplift your sense of style with mythological elements without having to actually invest in couture – still creating a unique look that your friends cannot copy!

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Valentina on her connection to being a child of nature…

I loved expressing the side of myself most comfortable in the elements – bonding and communicating with the forces of Nature. Channeling Diana’s deep-rooted feminine strength felt natural, and empowering. I chose this look for the way it moved, and for the way it allowed me to move – capturing the wind and letting me become one with it. Stepping out of my daily routine and re-establishing my connection with nature is a joyous necessity.

Skirt – Chan Luu    |   Floral Blouse – D&G

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Francesca as her elegant, yet wild Diana:

I channeled the turbulent internal side of Diana because I enjoy that deep inner spirit and strongly connect with that untamed side of my own nature.  I fell in love with this long royal blue galabeya dress highlighted with golden embrodiery from my Mother’s fabulous wardrobe.  She recalled that she was on vacation, but stuck in the middle of the Nile during a sandstorm, the airlines having lost her luggage, she and my Grandmother were advised to buy clothes at the Aswan market.  There, they saw many beautiful galabeyas – long, beautiful dresses made to protect you from the harshness of desert elements.  My Mother was so admired by the vendor that he offered my Grandmother 10 camels for her!  Luckily my she came home with several gorgeous galabeyas and single (my Grandma not accepting any camels).  Like Diana, I love that the story of this dress reflects the daring and adventure in my lineage, and admire such beauty serving functionally as protective gear.

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“I am Diana, a goddess and therefore, ought to be wonderful, pure, marvelous, as only I alone can make myself.” – Diana Vreeland

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