All Posts in Inspiration

November 9, 2015 - Comments Off on Industry Insights with QCut’s Crystal Beasley

Industry Insights with QCut’s Crystal Beasley

Crystal Beasley is taking on quite the task: to provide custom-fit denim to people around the world without having a physical retail space—for now. By taking five measurements and putting customers through two fittings, Crystal says QCut will get your fit 95 percent right. Considering most store-bought jeans are tried on and still don't see the light of day, it's quite the promise—not to mention a great lesson in efficient production. Each pair is made on-demand in the USA, meaning there's no pulling from the stock room when it comes to QCut.

Recently, Beasley made the decision to forgo a business partner and take the project on herself, with lots of support from her personal network. We grabbed some time to chat the important of outside support, the state of innovation in the fashion industry, and more. Meet Crystal.

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October 9, 2015 - Comments Off on Industry Insights with Wabi Sabi CEO Michele Cohen

Industry Insights with Wabi Sabi CEO Michele Cohen

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

Michele Cohen has a word for how she runs her business, Wabi Sabi Ecofashion Concept: "Octopus" (more on that later). Michele, who started out in finance and business strategy, has found herself leading a team for a burgeoning fashion brand—somewhere she never expected to end up. Talking to Michele, you can tell she lives the lifestyle her brand promotes: eco-friendly, sustainable education focused, versatile, completely centered on personal values. Wabi Sabi is gearing up to launch its second collection, but we caught some time with Michele to talk industry pain points, meeting your consumer on every available platform, and her lack of fashion business role models (it's not as negative as it sounds—we promise).

The Daily Pain Points: Tradition and Breaking Stereotypes

Michele: "There are many pain points around being an entrepreneur, specifically with a small company. There are pain points focused around fashion in many aspects—both the idea that it’s difficult to present to the consumer, and that brands are very competitive. Another part that is challenging is the supply chain. The whole manufacturing / production / supply side is very traditional in our industry. Yet we’re in a very consumer-focused, innovative, fast-paced industry. It’s just two different worlds, manufacturing and marketing. They often collide more than they combine. That’s my personal day-to-day pain point: looking at that divide between what’s behind the company and what we do moving forward in terms of commercial strategy.

I always say I’m not sure if I’m an entrepreneur in the fashion industry or if I’m an educator and communicator.

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January 15, 2015 - Comments Off on Women Who Inspire: Smita’s Take on Indian Culture, Women in Information Technology, and Must-Sees in Bangalore

Women Who Inspire: Smita’s Take on Indian Culture, Women in Information Technology, and Must-Sees in Bangalore


Meet Smita, Technology Consultant and Outdoor Adventurer

Nicole and Smita met while working together on a project for Brooks Brothers. While they successfully designed and implemented a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) system, they also became quick friends in the process. Smita works and lives in Bangalore, India as a consultant for a company called ITC Infotech, helping clients better understand the technology they use for their manufacturing processes and order tracking. While that might come off as Latin to anyone not involved in the industry—hey, that's why Smita's there!—you're sure to recognize some of the names she's worked with: Charming Shoppes, Levi's, QVC.

We were lucky to catch Smita on a wintry Sunday in NYC on her most recent consulting trip to the States. We had a great time catching up over many pots of tea, going shopping at Young & Able, and grabbing a yummy vegetarian meal at Le Verdure at Eataly. Smita wouldn't usually gravitate to a bold, red outfit, but we managed to get her to try on the scarlet Elena dress. As you can see, she's totally rocking it. Read on to hear what Smita has to share on being a woman in an Indian tech company, the chaos that is her daily commute, and must-see spots in Bangalore:

A Day in the Life

Let's start with the weekdays. When I'm in India and working from ITC headquarters I wake up around 6:00am and go for a jog, then get ready for work, and put together a lunchbox to take to the office—I don't like my office food anymore. It's not healthy or tasty. My day at the office starts around 9-9:30 am and goes until 8 or 9pm, depending on which customer I am working for. I go back home and I try not to work after that, but I haven't succeeded in that yet! I have something for dinner and watch TV or read a book—something to soothe my mind after I leave work. I sometimes stay up late, but I try to at least get six hours of sleep.

Dressing for Work: It used to be all typical Indian dress, whether you wear Salwar Kameez or a kurti—which is a long top with leggings. I don't wear a lot of Indian clothes to work. I do wear jeans, but normally I'll dress up in trousers and a comfortable top. Apart from that, we do have our ethnic dress, like saris. On special days the whole office is festive. I prefer clothes that I can move easily in—I don't want to worry about wrinkles.

You have a lot of Indian companies and manufacturers who are making western clothes. But you also have brands like Marks & Spencer, Zara, Mango—mostly European companies. The style is definitely evolving and leaning toward more trendy nowadays. In India, we don't have a seasonal concept because you can wear jeans and a T-shirt almost 365 days out of the year—the temperature is not extreme. Things tend to be colorful and bright. I try not to look overly professional or nerdy! I don't prefer skirts because I think they make me look even shorter.

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January 5, 2015 - Comments Off on Round-Up: Survive Winter (And Look Good Doing It) With These Tights

Round-Up: Survive Winter (And Look Good Doing It) With These Tights


Photo by Vanessa P./Flickr Creative Commons

With winter weather comes many things—wind-blown hairdos, rosy cheeks, and the great fashion responsibility that is layering. Instead of thinking of them as another layer between you and the great season that is summer, treat them as the versatile accessory that they are. The right pair of tights can take an outfit to new levels, whether you're working with patterns or a bold color.

Tights are also great for turning summer wardrobe pieces into weather-appropriate outfits—just like the Edie and Pixie Rompers. (We love how they look with either solid or patterned hosiery). We know it's overwhelming—you can't turn around in any department store or website without running into a pair of tights ('tis the season), so we rounded up some of our favorite for your shopping convenience. From the perfect everyday legwear to bold seamed varieties to flaunt on date night, we've found the perfect pair for you.

For the Sustainably Minded

vo3g1t1420174491Maggie's Organics from Abe's Market

They put it best: "Grown without pesticides, harvested safely, and spun without chemicals, this cotton is soft, safe and scrumptious." How can you resist a pair of tights that are described as scrumptious?

These tights are made to be lighter than other cold-weather designs, making them a great choice if you're looking for a pair to show off during warmer months, too.

The Go-To, Everyday Tight


M6 from Bene Rialto

These opaque tights are perfect for weatherproofing your favorite summer outfit—whether it be a favorite pair of shorts or a romper. Make sure to play up your accessories to break up the opaque look, if you're working with a monochrome outfit. A stand-out pair of shoes can go a long way with a black pair of tights, as well.

M6 makes their hosiery in Germany, but you can find their designs at Bene Rialto in Manhattan.

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October 29, 2014 - Comments Off on A Brief History of Halloween and Where the Costume Came From

A Brief History of Halloween and Where the Costume Came From

Photo cred: Emily Hildebrand/Flickr

Photo cred: Emily Hildebrand/Flickr

If there's one thing that pops to mind at the first mention of Halloween, it's got to be the costumes. While getting dressed up when you were young and planning out your candy route might have been exciting for a an entirely different set of reasons (hint: copious amounts of free candy), celebrating Halloween as an adult can be just as fun. But along with those years of costume experience comes an interest in why we spend so much time and money planning our get-ups. That's where we come in. Read on and see why you're really going all out with the wardrobe on October 31st.

Photo cred: Allison Marchant/Flickr

Photo cred: Allison Marchant/Flickr

It turns out that the Halloween costumes of years (read: centuries) past are much more terrifying than any fake-blood-spurting plastic mask situation. The costume tradition dates all the way back to a mention in Shakespeare's 1593 play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona (and even earlier). The house-to-house begging came into the picture around the 16th century, where friendly neighbors would hand out cakes and other sweets to those who came for a visit. In their defense, it seems that the threat of "trick or treat" was taken much more literally than it is today.

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September 2, 2014 - Comments Off on 7 Rad (Mostly) Women’s Organizations You’ve Got to Know About

7 Rad (Mostly) Women’s Organizations You’ve Got to Know About


Photo: Leorex/Flickr

With the long Labor Day weekend behind us, it's time to buckle down for a while before we get another holiday to celebrate. (But that doesn't mean you can't still give our Labor Day weekend playlist a listen every once in a while.) A quick getaway might have left you feeling refreshed and ready to take on any task that may come your way, but it's only a matter of time before something tries to bring you down. Do yourself a favor and plan something special just for yourself—you know, "you" time can be just as effective as fleeing the city if you do it the right way. And what better way to do that than with a group of women looking for the same thing? The number of possible activities in New York City can be overwhelming, but here are seven (mostly) women's organizations we can't wait to check out:

Techfest Club

This group revolves around their monthly breakfast meet-ups, with a few panel discussions and networking events thrown in between. Created by women in tech for ladies in the industry, these morning chats are focused on delivering a daily dose of inspiration before taking off to work while the evening get-togethers are reserved for getting to know women of similar interests and letting loose with a drink or two. Luckily for interested women outside of the NYC area, you can catch keynote addresses online after the event.

NYC Cyclettes: Babes Who Bike

If you're looking for a group to ride with (at a moderate pace—16-18 mph, the group description states), this is for you. The group rides through some of the city's most scenic spots: Central Park, Prospect Park, and up 9W. Aside from group rides, the organization also hosts classes at local bicycle shops, covering topics like fixing a flat and how to fit yourself for a bike. Check out their upcoming events here.

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May 2, 2014 - Comments Off on Travel: Hong Kong Favorites

Travel: Hong Kong Favorites

HK_2014_7Central, Hong Kong Island

I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong, where I was able to combine some fun urban exploring with consulting work. After a brutal New York winter (which never seems to end!), the balmy spring weather in Hong Kong was incredibly welcomed.

I prefer traveling light even if it means doing laundry, so opted not to check any luggage. I also wanted to put my collection to the travel test, and was pleased (but not surprised) upon unpacking that nothing required ironing even after 24 hours or so of travel time crammed inside a carry-on bag! The styles comfortably transitioned from work meetings to evening dinner or swing dancing. (Yep, I was able to go out dancing one night, thanks to the incredibly networked global lindy hop community!)

HK_2014Styles from the Nicole Lenzen Collection packed and ready to go

The consulting work I did this trip entailed training vendors for one of my apparel clients on a new product development software. They all came into Hong Kong for the meetings, and the office staff who hosted graciously took me out to amazing lunches every day. As a pescetarian I skipped out on the meat dishes but had so many other options I still managed to overeat at every meal! In my experiences, Hong Kong natives really know how to take care of their guests. They always serve you first, literally spooning dishes onto your plate like Mom would do!

We had everything from Cantonese dim sum to Shanghai-style noodles to deliciously fresh Thai food. Of course I couldn't read a thing on any of the menus but at dessert time when I saw this tiny picture of a bee and jokingly suggested we order one, we were all pleasantly surprised by the adorable fried custard goodness that came out! 

One thing that I always find remarkable in Hong Kong is that so many of the restaurants are located in shopping malls, I guess because of the way real estate is developed in such a compact and dense area. It's funny how as they are disappearing in the US, they almost seem to be increasing as centers of activity for all ages there.

My all-time favorite eating experience in Hong Kong is at "Seafood Street" in Sai Kung, a fishing village on the water that's a short trip out of the city and a lovely escape from the high rises. They have huge aquariums of all types of sea critters from razor clams to green lobsters, served up family style al fresca with large bottles of Tsingtao, and finished off with a hilarious, but requisite mango/coconut fish perfectly formed in a dessert mold!

HK_2014_2 Lunchtime shared plates

HK_2014_3 Kiwi smoothie with a city view (albeit from a shopping mall!)

HK_2014_4 Delicious fried custard bumble bee dessert

mango_fishRequisite mango/coconut dessert "fish" after decadent seafood at Tung Kee in Kai Sung

Hong Kong is a shopping destination for visitors of all nations, particularly the mainland Chinese. For the little bit of free time I had this trip, I wanted to escape the areas saturated with global fast-fashion and luxury brands and discover neighborhoods with independent boutiques.

I headed first to Soho, where the steepness of the streets reminded me with fondness of my days of living in San Francisco. I always find cities constructed on hillsides, and their associated alleyways and surprise viewpoints, to be much more fascinating than flat grids (sorry, NY!). Of course that means occasionally getting lost when your smartphone battery dies, or running up against geographically imposed dead-ends.

I had a lovely lunch with a friend from NY who had just moved back to HK, after which she brought me to her friend’s adorable gift shop Visionaire. I continued wandering the adjacent neighborhoods following inspiration, and probably spent an hour inside Mr. Blacksmith combing through their wide assortment of design wares. Not to mention that they have one of the coolest business cards I’ve ever seen, with a sandpaper backing! I found the Sun Street area of Wan Chai absolutely charming, with exceptionally curated shops like Kapok, and others carrying minimal but edgy Japanese menswear labels.

HK_2014_5Geographically imposed dead-ends!

HK_2014_6  Street art in Sheung Wan

kapok_sun_streetKapok on Sun Street in Wan Chaimr.blacksmithKiller sandpaper business cards at Mr. Blacksmith

HK_2014_17Little indulgences: Chase and Wonder bag and rings from Konzepp and Mr. Blacksmith (despite asking, the salespeople didn't seem to know the jewelry designers' names) Read more

April 14, 2014 - Comments Off on Trunk Show & Swivel Workshop with Evita Arce

Trunk Show & Swivel Workshop with Evita Arce

Ladies! Come join us this Saturday for a fantastic followers' only afternoon! The renowned Evita Arce will be teaching techniques on how to define and improve your Swivel, the quintessential followers' Lindy Hop move. Then you'll have the opportunity to practice those twists in dresses from the Nicole Lenzen collection!

We'll explain how our dresses are designed and tailored for movement, and demonstrate how the shape of your skirt can influence and empower your swivel! You'll be able to give our styles a spin by trying on a selection from the collection, also available for purchase. Plus we will be offering a 20% discount off the featured Mariposa Dress during the event!

Saturday, April 19th

Workshop: 12-12:30pm
Trunk Show: 2:30-3pm
Facebook Event Page

Dance Manhattan
39 W 19th St 5th flr
New York, NY 10011

December 23, 2013 - Comments Off on The Story Behind Nicole Lenzen’s Designs: the Bubble Dress

The Story Behind Nicole Lenzen’s Designs: the Bubble Dress

by Lisa Viet

The recently launched Nicole Lenzen New York collection takes us through an amazing story of elegant, contemporary, feminine silhouettes conveyed by dresses inspired by vintage fashion and swing dancing.

After the Elena dress and the Mariposa dress, we now introduce the original design that inspired the entire Candy Collection: the Bubble Dress. Drawing from the playful airiness of bubble gum, the dress silhouette is feminine, flattering and fun.

Nicole-Lenzen_Swing-Dress_Evita-Arce_09 Nicole-Lenzen_Swing-Dress_Evita-Arce_10


The quintessential Candy dress

As the first dress design that led to the entire Candy Collection, the Bubble dress draws inspiration from bubble gum and candy that will transport you into a whimsical world of fun and play. From the candy ribbon folds of the belt to the lightness of the skirt, the sweet Bubble Dress is perfectly delicious.

This playful hourglass silhouette has a sleeveless bodice and flattering boat neckline. The bubble hem provides just the right amount of fullness while the sheen of the silk accentuates the natural movement of the skirt. Read more

September 6, 2013 - Comments Off on Profile: Evita Arce, Dancer and Choreographer

Profile: Evita Arce, Dancer and Choreographer

Evita Arce wearing a Nicole Lenzen dress and vintage gloves,
photographed by Ned & Aya at Brooklyn Farmacy

I sat down with internationally renowned swing and jazz dancer, choreographer, and instructor Evita Arce in New York, in between her travels to Malaysia and a 6-week tour to teach and perform in Europe.

I have had the great fortune of collaborating with Evita on costumes for her dance company's performers and took this opportunity to ask more about how she became the incredible dancer, artist and all-around inspiring woman she is today.

Nicole: Evita, how long have you been dancing?

Evita: I have been dancing Lindy Hop for 15 years. I started when I was 18 and I’m about to turn 33. But before that I did other dance styles, mostly of Latin origin. I was in my very first dance class at age 3.  And it wasn’t one of those my mom put me in--I wanted to go.

Nicole: Did you want to become a professional dancer?

Evita: I never thought I would ever be a professional dancer. I never ever, ever, ever even wanted to because I always assumed I wasn’t tall enough or thin enough. So never did that enter my mind!

Dancing was always for fun, like a pastime. Then it just so happened that I was doing what I loved all the time and that led to people saying, "Well could you teach? Could you perform? And so on."

It’s so cliché because people say follow your heart and you’ll end up doing what you love. But if you actually do what you love all the time, it sort of takes over. And that’s what happened--now I’m a full time dancer.

Evita_Arce_Nicole_Lenzen_lace_dressEvita Arce wearing Nicole Lenzen, photographed by Ned & Aya

Nicole: Who are your inspirations?

Evita: Well, when I was a kid my uncle was an incredible artist and he should have traveled the world and left his tiny city to go and do bigger and better things with his life. But he never did.

And I remember thinking back when I was a kid, “You’re so talented and you could and should be more.” So that was a little bit of a push to reach for higher and bigger things in life, like stepping out of my hometown.

Ryan Francois and Jenny Thomas, they were and still are my mentors and teachers. They live in London and are Lindy Hop dancers. I auditioned and worked with them and that’s actually where I met Michael Jagger, my dance partner.

Nicole: Yes, tell us more about your dance partnership.

Evita: Michael and I have been partners for about nine years but we’ve known each other for over ten. We love and hate each other extensively. He’s like my big brother, business partner, soul mate, and best friend--everything.

When I work with someone else, it makes me realize how well matched I am with Michael. I can learn and enjoy other people’s ideas but it helps me to see how right the collaboration is between us.

Nicole: How would you describe your style of dance and what distinguishes you from other dancers in the same community?

Evita: We do swing and lindy hop. But the two things that I think really set us apart are that we are much more theatrical. We like to use props and take on characters; it’s not just an athletic thing based on speed or tricks. One example of this is our most famous dance pieces called Singing in the Rain. That one is like a musical - theatre through dance.

Evita Arce & Michael Jagger perform Singing in the Rain,
film produced by Jeff Bond & Eileen O'Donnell

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