Springtime in New York – a sign of rebirth

Crowded restaurants and parks, bars and coffee shops full of people, musicians playing outside, in the streets. If it weren’t for the masks, which are still mandatory to wear even outdoors, walking around Soho on any weekend of April, it would be difficult to believe we still are in the middle of a pandemic. 

 In New York, a fresh wind has been blowing for the past few weeks. Thanks to the impressive vaccination plan, around 40% of New Yorkers have already received at least one dose of vaccine. 

The restaurants are full of people, while they serve mainly outside like the new formula adopted in Europe: a novelty introduced last spring as an experiment, then extended to the whole winter, despite the frigid temperatures that characterize the Big Apple during cold months. It was eventually confirmed indefinitely by NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio. 



Today NYC restaurant owners, who resisted the months of the lockdown, are ready to take their revenge. They can offset the reduction of the internal capacity with large external structures that have nothing to envy to the typical ones in the main European squares, for lunch and dinner “en plen air”. 

And so, in this New York spring 2021, one of the most affected sectors during the pandemic is now becoming the most evident and concrete sign of restart post-Covid. 



Even the real estate business hints that a turning point seems to be close. As confirmed by Andrea Pedicini, a real estate broker who has been living in New York for over eleven years: “In the first quarter of the year, in Manhattan 3,700 new sale contracts were signed, this has been the highest number since 2007, growing by 58% compared to the same quarter in 2020.” The combined effect of three factors has been impactful, “Prices are on average 10-15% lower, interest rates are low, there is a spread optimism that derives from a concrete and efficient vaccination plan”, he explained. 

Data related to the rental market are also positive, with an increase of 90% of new leases registered in March compared to the same month in 2020: a growth consistent with what already happened back in early 2021 between January and February. “It is the most evident sign that people are coming back to the city, attracted by convenient rents, with prices falling by 15-20% compared to before the pandemic”. 



These data challenge the thesis of the detractors of New York, who claimed that the emptying of the city recorded during the lockdown would be definitive. Moreover, at the moment only 10% of the employees who used to crowd the city from Monday to Friday have gone back to the office, and international tourists are absent because of the closing of borders still in force. 

In this context, despite the temporary impossibility to move there, even Italian investors’ interest in Manhattan and its surroundings is growing. “Since last summer, our compatriots’ interest in the real estate business in New York has increased significantly, as often happens in these circumstances”, said Pedicini, whose clients are mainly from Italy and are entrepreneurs, managers, but also actors and professional athletes. 

“Some people are just waiting for the borders to reopen and, in the meantime, they request to be kept updated about market trends. Others have invested remotely from Italy without even seeing face-to-face the acquired property.”



And so, within sight of the total reopening expected on July 1st, New York seems to be ready to welcome tourists with open arms, considering also the impressive budget approved by the New York Tourist Board, which has assigned the record amount of 30 million dollars for the “NYC Reawaken” campaign whose slogan is “Wish You Were Here in New York City”. 

Photo Credits: Federica Carlet

Manintown Talents: Meet Brandon Jay McLaren

Meet Brandon Jay McLaren of Netflix series FIREFLY LANE in a quick conversation with MANINTOWN.

Ph: Felipe Sanclemente

Firefly Lane is the new top of the chart Netflix series inspired by the New York Times bestselling books by author Kristin Hannah. It is a story about love, loss, and the magic of friendship. In the Netflix series, you play Travis. Tell us about him. If you had to introduce him to our audience, how would you describe him? 

Travis is a fellow PTA parent and friend of Kate’s daughter’s best friend. He’s a widow with a big heart and an equally big attraction to Kate. That being said, he’s sweet and respectful and thinks the world of Kate. Now that Kate is going through a divorce, he can finally acknowledge his feelings for her and see where they lead.

Brandon, tell us about what inspired you to be an actor. Which one, if you could choose, is your favorite character played so far?

I was inspired to be an actor because it gave me an outlet to express things that I didn’t feel I had permission to do in my real life. 

 DALE JAKES from the show GRACELAND is my favorite character I’ve played so far. I had so much fun on the show. I loved my co-stars, and the creator/showrunner Jeff Eastin created such a compelling character in JAKES. Jeff also gave me a lot of room to make him my own.

 Is there someone in cinema/tv that you look up to and who has somehow influenced and inspired you in your acting career?

I have a lot of admiration for Jordan Peele, and I was lucky enough to work on his project “THE TWILIGHT ZONE.” I am inspired by what he has created as a filmmaker and as a creator/producer. 

 Passions, apart from acting, tell us what drives your interest?

I am currently working hard on the development side of things. I want to give people who may otherwise have been looked over the opportunity to tell their stories and shine. 

 Your favorite inspirational quote?

My favorite inspirational quote is, “Time waits for no man, although I control the slow hand.”

 To me, it means that although a lot of things in our lives are out of my hands, the few things I can control I can focus on and maybe change the trajectory of my life.

 Food and Travel: favorite cuisine/ dish and first destination post-pandemic, unrelated to work travel.

I don’t have a favorite cuisine. It depends very much on what mood I’m in. The first place I’m going post-pandemic is Grenada, and I will be eating the national dish OIL DOWN, extra pigtail. My father is from Grenada, while my mother is from Trinidad. Both places have always been important to me. I’ve been going there since I was a young child, and it’s still the first place I go after I’ve filmed something or when I have a chunk of time off. For me, it’s a place to visit family, recalibrate, and ground myself. I also am involved with a charity there called REACH WITHIN. The mission is to improve the future outcomes of vulnerable children in Grenada with wellness programs. I ran my first marathon in Grenada to help raise money for Reach Within, and in 2019 I ran the NYC marathon for Reach Within as well. You can get more info about the cause at www.reachwithin.org or on Instagram @reach.within

Fashion: what do you think of it, what is fashion for you, and which style represents you best.

For me, fashion is comfort. Jeans, a pair of Jordan 4’s, a tee and a leather jacket and I’m good.

Future Projects for Brandon. What is ahead for you, any new project you can mention?

I am currently shooting the reboot of TURNER AND HOOCH on Disney +. It will be released sometime in 2021.

“Hey Elon here, can you hear me?” – on Clubhouse with Elon Musk

What you may have missed from the Uber talked event on Clubhouse, takeaways and fun facts with a plot twist:

A “snowy” usual pandemic Sunday (at least in NYC) suddenly turns into the hottest digital event, with Elon Musk joining a chatroom hosted on the trendsetting latest app on the net, Clubhouse, for 2 hours of entertaining, informative, and revealing banter with a grand finale.

With a max capacity of attendees at 5200 reached within seconds at 12.57 a.m., earlier than the start of the event, and later expanded to about 7k, we at Manintown thought of extending a few takeaways to our readers. The alarm clock set at 1 am, I was one of the lucky ones to join in and listen to Elon Musk’s conversation with the moderators, and it was all worth the effort. Topics of discussion as many as his many endeavors, including the final banter and quite the “entertaining ” unexpected plot twist.

With his profile pic set to one of his famous meme, “The short shorts,” a joke on Tesla stocks from the previous summer, Elon enters the room, setting a friendly tone ahead, claiming he is just trying to look “sexy.” For those who wonder, his sense of humor is, by far, one of my favorite discoveries during this event.



“Hey Elon here, can you hear me?”, Clubhouse is an audio app. The greeting made this geeky girl in love with anything space-related giggle with the thought of the unforgettable song by David Bowie. I found myself wondering if Elon was indeed calling us from Mars, already trying to get connected to the circa 5000 humans in the audience waiting for a signal from him to planet Earth. In all secret, it would not surprise me. This man has embarked on all the futuristic endeavors that we were hoping for in the Age of Aquarius. (yes, we are right in it).

Let’s explore what you may have missed in a summary of 6 fun facts: (and a plot twist)

Mars and the “holy grail of rocketry

  Elon spoke extensively of the mission of developing an alternative planet living on Mars, and his efforts to push forward this colossal project with Space-X. His insight on the future is that it will not be a luxury stay, not at least for the longest of time. When asked if his kids would ask him to go to Mars, he responded, “none of them so far wants to go.”

According to Musk, Space-X will possibly get the first people to Mars in probably five and half years.



“The Earth and Mars synch up every 26 months (approx. 1.5 years)” there are slots of time “when we can do Interplanetary transfers.” According to Musk, the rockets need to be fully and rapidly reusable, or in his own words, what is “the holy grail of rocketry,” and achieve what is now possible with regular aircraft, where the cost of air flight would be majorly covering the cost of fuel. That and local propellant production are, summarizing it, fundamental things that need to happen between now and then. The settlements will also be quite the austere environment for the first at least 3 or 4. Lots of work will have to be done. In brief, as expected, infrastructure to make it a livable place will require a long time. We are looking at about another 5 and a half years before that can be started.

Memes

Elon loves memes. He communicates through them; he dedicates some time off his busy schedule to producing or getting memes from what he called “meme dealers”. How funny is that? How cool is that? And it works. Elon’s memes talk to his audience, primarily on Twitter, where he was a pioneer with 10k followers at the time of his sign up. “People say I went crazy on Twitter, the fact is I started crazy on Twitter,” laughing along with his own funny jokes.



To Start ups and new entrepreneurs – a word of advice from Elon

There is something Elon said that I would not easily or soon forget about being a startup entrepreneur. It is something that entirely resonates with me as co-founder of a young creative agency, and that may also be the answer needed to dissolve a million questions we hear from new company owners all the time. It was:

“If you need encouraging words, don’t do a startup,” the drive to do a thing as Elon has done, founding and guiding multiple ventures, comes entirely from a compulsion to do it, he states. It compared it to a sort of mad demon in the skull.

“Seeing is believing”, he tells us of when he used to sleep on the factory floor (which he still does in times of crisis). People would see him there, and there would be no excuse, and hopefully, they would see also that “if he could take that level of pain, then they would do the same.” No doubt we are talking about a “leading by example” kind of leader here.

The vaccine distribution- “I am not an anti-vaxxer”

Elon is quite passionate about the topic. He suggests that it would work better to expedite the process with less limiting procedures on prioritized categories, entailing opening the vaccine distribution to a first-come, first-serve basis at CVS, Walgreens, like the flu vaccines. Also, we will have more vaccines that we may need by the end of the year, and we will have an excess of them. The good news is more vaccines are on the way. Good news seems to be quite on the way too.

Neuralink is hiring

A shout out was also given from Musk to professionals in AI and those who have worked on phones, robots to join Neuralink, the brain implant company he started in 2017. He then retweeted it, after leaving the conversation also on his account @elonmusk. The company seems to have made quite the progress in its research, and it aims in the first stages to be a way to assist people with brain and spine injuries.

Stocks and Crypto- Bitcoin is a good thing.

Before his intervention, the joke on the net was that most of the audience’s followers would be having Clubhouse on the phone and be on the laptop staring at their portfolios. Elon is known for being a Bitcoin supporter. As expected, he reconfirmed it in the chat, also admitting, “I am late to the party, but I am a supporter of Bitcoin,” probably due to the coin being more and more soon accepted by traditional finance players. With Musk’s track record of success in all he puts his mind to, it seems that Bitcoin may be something certainly crypto to keep an eye on. 


gold-colored Bitcoin

Dogecoin also made its appearance. The fun coin of the crypto bunch, Elon explains that was meant as a joke to make fun of cryptocurrencies, but he adds on, “But faith loves irony, and the most entertaining outcoming is often most likely,” he also jokes. Dogecoin has experienced a bullish, quite unexpected wave in the past week, and it seems quite certain that despite its comical origin, it has made itself known amongst the crypto community.

Plot Twist- “Spill the beans man- The people demand an answer”

I have to say this CEO-to-CEO was, without a doubt, quite the plot twist and the highlight and the perfect end to the event. As heard in the news, the trading app Robinhood limiting trade activities to its customers of some stocks in the past few days. Gamestop and AMC, Elon asked a couple of direct questions to Vladimir Tenev, whom he introduced as “Vlad the stock impaler,” CEO of Robinhood. Elon’s is a no-frills, straight to the point, no going in circle attitude and communication style. With straight-shooter, truth seeker Elon calling on stage the CEO of Robinhood, a series of direct and to-the-point questions seemed inevitable in retrospect. Questions on behalf of the people, and investors, like what exactly happened last week? “the people want to know.”

 It was quite the show. It seems that Elon on Clubhouse is here to stay, and we look forward to hearing more from him.

Barbera’s Biella handmade shoes

“All our lives, we have heard our father called Maestro, and that has always made us proud of him, now that they call us Maestro, we know that it is our father who is very proud of us.”

Barbera Sandro & Figli is an artisan company rooted in a long tradition of working with leather to create fine, entirely handmade footwear. For over 50 years, our family has been producing shoes according to our area’s ancient shoemaking traditions.

Founded in 1968 in Biella, thanks to our parents’ will, Sandro and Luciana, Barbera Sandro & Figli has its headquarters in the city.

Just on the occasion of our 50th year of activity, the company obtained the recognition of “Eccellenza Artigiana Piemonte”; an award followed by “Eccellenze Italiane” and “Artigiano del Cuore.” Together with the collaboration with leading companies in the fashion industry, three awards have filled us with pride and satisfaction for our work.



Barbera shoes are unique and completely customizable models because they are created one at a time and proudly Made in Italy.

The desire is to offer a refined, long-lasting accessory to meet each customer’s style and comfort needs. The collections range from the most youthful, modern, and exclusive models to the classic and timeless ones (both for men and women).

Each shoe is produced with the utmost care, aimed at searching for the best materials (strictly Made in Italy), design and development of exclusive processes and colors, such as hand-dyed, stone waxed, and garment-dyed.

Let’s review the history of the company with Andrea Barbera.

Tell us about your journey and how your company was born.

Barbera Sandro e Figli is an artisan workshop producing quality footwear for over 50 years, strictly by hand and selecting 100% Made in Italy materials. The company was started in 1968 by our parents Sandro and Luciana, and over the years we brothers, Stefano and Andrea, took over.



For both of us to continue the family business was a natural path. It was born by learning the trade secrets from our father and, above all, being “infected” by his passion.

The aim is to create unique products with our own hands, capable of enclosing all the beauty and quality of Italian handmade products.

How do you carry on the tradition while keeping up with the times?

For us, making shoes by hand means creating elegant footwear and researching innovative processes and materials to ensure maximum comfort to our customers even when they buy a leather shoe. After long years of studies, we have reached this goal, experience in the field, and the continuous updating on the market news. Besides, we wanted to give a green footprint to many of our collections, selecting eco-friendly materials, such as Merino wool for our iconic Wooly, or ecological rubber for the soles.



We also focused a lot on the digital sphere, making ourselves known and keeping a channel of communication open with our customers near and far. We have opened our social media with Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube and created a website with e-commerce, to be always reachable and tell a bit of us to those who follow us.

What are the iconic pieces that characterize the brand?

Our Wooly unisex sneaker is one of the most appreciated creations. It was created in collaboration with the designers of Reda Active.

It is a New Zealand Merino wool shoe, a tribute to our land known for its fine fabrics. Thanks to this material’s properties, it can be worn all year round (wool provides exceptional thermal comfort) and can be combined with a casual style, but also with a broken dress.



To celebrate our 50 years of activity, instead, we have created our Barberini, Belgian loafers with an exclusive design, made of calfskin, suede, and fabrics and with Flex processing, which combines maximum comfort with an elegant and ultra-trendy style. Last but not least, the Multicolor shoes that have made us known all over the world. This is a line of men’s brogues entirely handmade and dyed. One of their strengths lies in the extensive possibilities of customization, as the customer can choose the color of every single part of the shoe.



Which craft techniques are part of your heritage and still used today?

As already mentioned, we make extensive use of the Black Flex technique, one of our exclusive processes, which increases the shoe softness, giving it a particular aesthetic, but above all, considerable flexibility. Another traditional method that we still use for some models is hand dyeing, which gives the shoes unique shades of color.



Finally, there is the “stonewashed” process: as the name suggests, with this technique, shoes are “washed” with stones to give them a vintage effect, soften the leather and create a unique texture, with a gritty and very current style.

Plans for the future and what strategies are you developing to overcome this moment.

In this period, we are focusing a lot on the digital part: we continue to invest in online communication, but also to implement new services to meet the needs of our customers, such as the Virtual Shop.



The latter consists in the possibility of scheduling a video call on WhatsApp to virtually enter our laboratory and get advice on the sizes and style of our models. Beyond the fact that the relationship with people is one of the aspects we love most about our work, today more than ever, we believe that the human connection, even if at a distance, makes the difference for our customers and us.

Karim Rashid: welcome to Utopia, the future of design.

“If it’s style, it is a thing of the past.”– Karim Rashid




Let’s start with your training. Is there a figure who was like a mentor to you?

Early in my career, Ettore Sottsass taught me that there are many beautiful design objects, but you have to ask what they do for us? In the sense of human, inspiring objects, Memphis was a revelation. Many imposing design objects need to stand by themselves to impress. I always ask myself, what is left, if you take the design away? If it’s style, it is a thing of the past.

Also, Sottsass taught me not to be too much of an artist to be a great designer. I keep his vases, and a few Memphis works around to remind me of this. An artist is not a designer, and a designer is not an artist. What counts in the end is to help the world become a better place from aesthetics to human behavior, from the ecology to the economy. Hence design is a creative act, a social act, a political act, and an economic act.


Bladensburg Condo in Washington D.C.- 2019

During our conversations, you have mentioned you were also a student of Maestro Gaetano Pesce; what is that you learned and remember from Pesce as a teacher. Is there something of that time and of his teachings that still influence your work? And what is the best memory you have of this experience? 

I studied under Gaetano Pesce near Naples in 1983. Gaetano gave us an unusual assignment to design a drinking glass with a head or a person’s face. It was an unusual assignment. He reminded me of my father a lot because my father was quite figurative that way, and a sculpture and an artist, just like Gaetano. I learned from him the notion of Variance. Back in the 60s and 70s, he did many experiments where he would take a plywood box and inject polyurethane foam but not allow the box to fill up with foam fully. Every time he would open up the box, it would be a different chair. It was is non-serialized production. And I took his ideas of non-serialized production to a company called Nambe in Santa Fe back in the 90s. I used a CNC machine and created a software that the CNC machine would cut out of alloy vases. But because of the algorithm, it would cut a different form every time. This process was non-serialization through mass production, but obviously, I was doing it digitally. Whereas when Gaetano was doing the experiments, it was a hands-on way of creating non-serializations. He also did a beautiful table for Cassina where the workers poured the colored resin in the mold, and the colors world mix, so each table came out differently. That peculiarity was the most crucial aspect of his design philosophy.

Minimal and futuristic shapes are often the leitmotif of your creations. 


Heartbeat- Nienkamper- 2019

How would you define your style?

I don’t have a style. I focus on new social behaviors, new paradigms, new technologies, new materials, and embracing and mirroring the age we live in. To design using contemporary criteria, in turn, shapes the future. If I style, I only imitate the past.

Completely new shapes, volumes that develop within different volumes, shapes that overlap, you have given your best in fashion too. Among your collaborations with various brands, if you had to choose an experience that touched you particularly, which one would you prefer to tell us about?

I was greatly inspired when working on the HUGO BOSS Boat. Here was an opportunity to speak about speed, exclusivity, energy, power, and courage through the sailboat’s visual aesthetics. I intended to make a graphic statement by embracing new technologies and materials. I worked with Solar panels, techno paints, and techno printing technologies to shape a photogenic, memorable sailboat. Meeting Alex Thompson and touring the boat showed me the great passion needed for these races and projects. Meeting with HUGO Boss and the ATR team members, having a constant back and forth dialogue was essential in shaping the final design. Meeting with Stewart Hosford, showing me the carbon fiber samples helped steer us in the right direction for what we should base our design around. Using carbon as the direct inspiration for the livery as this boat is made of carbon fiber is the first of its kind.


Every round of designs required analysis from a performance perspective. It led to many iterations and revisions but ultimately helped us narrow down the best possible design functionally and aesthetically, marrying the Hugo Boss brand & ATR with my aesthetics. I have worn Hugo clothes and cologne for many years and always appreciated the simplicity but innovation of materials and perfection of quality. I understand the desire for innovative materials and the need to embrace new technologies in all they do. Hugo does not follow the flippant recycling of trends. I see myself with these same attributes- precision, elegance, minimal, yet humanized. 

Let’s talk about the future. What is innovation for you? Both in the field of fashion and design.

Innovation only comes when one focuses on contemporary issues and works with recent social changes, needs, and desires. Innovation and design are inseparable, as technology and design are also inseparable. Fashion should talk about how we live and not repeat antiquated derivative styles of the past. We live in a data-driven digital age, and like our digital tools, our physical world should have the same seamlessness, ease, immateriality, functionality, and smartness.


Karimotel- Concept Building Design

Why the choice of often bold colors? What is their meaning to you?

As a 5-year-old child, I loved neon colors and colors that were alive. Until today I find these colors (as accents) can change our mood, create more positivity, make us feel more alive. Color can alter our behaviors and elevate our mental well-being. Of course, color needs to be used in a very sensitive way, and then it can be a beautiful phenomenon, be it an entire building, an interior space, a product, a piece of furniture, a piece of clothing.

You are a reference point for design enthusiasts, a key figure for the new generations, especially for the transversal way you manage to develop your projects. What message would you like to give to them?

I would tell design enthusiasts and consumers to sincerely question what they’re purchasing, creating, and bringing into their homes. We must remember the obvious HUMAN issues in a product. Are consumers flippantly purchasing useless kitsch at the checkout? Are they assessing a product for criteria like Emotion, ease of use, technological advances, product methods, humor, meaning, and a positive, energetic, and proud spirit? 


Bounce- Concept Building Design

Can you tell us about your relationship with music?

I listen to a very broad range of music. Music affords me to concentrate, be inspired, dream, imagine, and become completely engrossed in what I am working on. It is an essential part of my process. I mostly listen to electronic or jazz – without lyrics since it takes me into my lyrical state of mind, and I also write my own lyrics while I am drawing.

This pandemic has forced us all to stop and reflect deeply. What do you imagine in the future of design?

Even in this hyper-consumptive world, in the future, we will own nothing – this is nature- we lease cars, we rent houses, and soon we will learn to lease or rent everything, experience it for a short while, and go on to the next. We will create a forever dynamic, ever-vast changing human condition, where everything will be cyclic, sustainable, biodegradable, customizable, personalizable, and seamless. This is Utopia, this is freedom, and this is nirvana. All the goods in the world will only exist if they give us a new or necessary experience. We will dematerialize.


Pebble Sink- Relax Design- Multicolor 2019

Eclectic characters like you are also great visionaries. Do you dream of something revolutionary?

In the next year, I plan on building my dream house! I’ve designed so many spaces for others, but this will be my own Utopia. For so long, I was inspired by Pierre Cardin’s Bubble House (Palais Bulles) in addition to his fashion and product design. The space is so soft, curved, organic, and conceptual. Like this, my dream home will engage technology, visuals, textures, lots of colors, and meet all the intrinsic needs of living a simpler, less cluttered, but more sensual envelopment. 


SWITCH, Dubai- 2020

Finally, the concept of sustainability seems to have entered concretely within the most varied areas of production. Could you give us your idea of quality of life”?

Recycling is in a cyclic paradigm now in the United States and many other countries. Conserving resources means using less raw materials and energy throughout a product’s entire life — from its development and manufacture to its use, reuse, recycling, and disposal. I am interested in biodegradable materials. I am trying to use bioplastics; the Garbo can is made of corn, and the Snap chair by Feek is made of 100% recycled polystyrene and is 97% air. A while ago, I designed packaging for a fast-food restaurant using starch and potatoes that are injection molded and have the exact appearance of plastic. These innovations are finally becoming part of the consumer zeitgeist.

Karim Rashid is one of the most groundbreaking, vibrant, and prolific designers of his generation. Over 4000 designs in production, over 300 awards, and working in over 40 countries attest to Karim’s legend of design. Each of his designs carries a unique color signature and fluidity that is inspiring and unforgettable.

His award-winning designs include luxury goods for Christofle, Veuve Clicquot, and Alessi, democratic products for Umbra, Bobble, and 3M, furniture for Bonaldo and Vondom, lighting for Artemide and Fontana Arte, high tech products for Asus and Samsung, surface design for Marburg and Abet Laminati, brand identity for Citibank and Sony Ericsson and packaging for Method, Paris Baguette, Kenzo and Hugo Boss.

Karim’s work is featured in 20 permanent collections and he exhibits art in galleries worldwide. Karim is a perennial winner of the Red Dot award, Chicago Athenaeum Good Design award, I. D. Magazine Annual Design Review, IDSA Industrial Design Excellence award.

Illustrated portrait by Maria Angela Lombardi

Photo courtesy of Karim Rashid Studio in NY

www.karimrashid.com

Beauty alert: LAFCO New York

Founded in 1992 by Jon Bresler in New York, LAFCO combines traditional craftsmanship and the purest ingredients to create transporting home fragrances and personal care products. The luxurious collection of soaps, lotion, diffusers, and candles are made from rigorously sourced essential oils. The products are hand produced using both time-honored botanical production practices and cutting-edge technology. The fragrances are designed to evoke an emotional, sensory response. We met the founder, here below our conversation:

How and when did u develop the brand and launch? Philosophy and values behind it

Our founder, Jon Bresler, began the LAFCO brand after leaving New York City and moving to Switzerland in the ’90s. While living in Europe, he discovered and fell in love with the continent’s traditions in aromatherapy and botanicals. His hunger for travel, combined with a new love of fragrance and old-world craftmanship, led him to beautiful cities in Italy, Portugal, and Greece. It was there he had his first experiences learning about and then launching unique European brands to the American market; brands such as Santa Maria Novella, Claus Porto and Korres Natural Skin Care, all of which are globally recognized today. In 2010 Jon launched his own home fragrance line, LAFCO New York, based on these European traditions, but with a modern New York twist.

Our concept has always been to create a full ambiance with the elements of mood, scent, and color. We design our home fragrance offerings with these details in mind and associate them with a place in a house or a type of setting. For example, our Chamomile Lavender candle is calming in scent, and the glass vessel color is a warm, neutral beige that evokes the relaxation of a bedroom. Our Office candle fragrance combines notes of rosemary and eucalyptus, both invigorating and revitalizing scents. The glass color is a vibrant green, a stimulating color, making it the perfect choice for an office environment.fo

Since LAFCO New York has its roots in botanical and natural fragrance and skincare, and because our philosophy is to create products that smell good (and are good for you), it was imperative to us we use the cleanest and safest ingredients available. We create our candles with a clean-burning blend of soy wax, with no petroleum. Our reed diffuser fragrance formula contains zero alcohol, so it not only is good for you, but the fragrance lasts much longer. Also, all of our candle glass is hand-blown, using techniques from one of the oldest glass factories in Bohemia. Each glass piece is a creation as unique as our customers!

Which are your core products? 

• Signature Candle – Our original creation has a 90 hour burn time and is hand-poured here in the USA.

• Signature Diffuser – Our reed diffuser has an innovative design that allows it to be completely refillable; it’s eco-friendly luxury! The glass vessel is hand-crafted and may be enjoyed for many years.

• Hand Care Collection (Liquid Soap + Hand Cream + Bar Soap) – Artisanally crafted in Italy and Portugal, our hand care collection uses natural ingredients, without any sulfates, parabens or palm oil, that is gentle to your skin, as well as the environment.

Can we have a message of hope and support to other small-medium companies from NY to Italy

As business slows right now, and we all hunker down together as a call to public safety, our hope is that we help remind people that there is still so much beauty in the world. Now, more than ever, people are looking to their favorite brands to offer inspiration and escape. We feel our mission, as with all brands, is to continue to connect with our customers during this challenging time and lean in to their stories and ideas. We will all get through this darkness together, and in the process, learn valuable lessons that not only strengthen us, but also our companies.

Pick up your 5 favourite products and explain why?

Feu de Bois 3 Wick Candle – My NYC studio doesn’t come with a fireplace, but this is the next best thing. I love how the woody notes of cedar and sandalwood combine to create the warming effect of a roaring fire during cold winter nights. In the summer, it reminds me of the campfires of my childhood. I love it so much, I burn this candle all year long!

Amber Signature Candle – Amber has always been a fragrance I’m drawn to and this candle captures its essence perfectly. The deep blue color of the glass makes it feel modern and timeless at the same time. 

Sea and Dune Classic Diffuser – Our Classic Diffuser is a new design that we just introduced this year. The small size of the diffuser fits perfectly in a smaller space, like a guest room or even a closet. Sometimes I don’t have the time to burn a candle and this is a great alternative for adding scent to a room. The Sea and Dune fragrance transports you to a house by the ocean. Bring this as gift wherever you stay, and I guarantee the host or hostess will invite you again and again.

Discovery Trio– This is just brilliant! If you’re shopping online, the challenge is you can’t smell fragrance through the computer. How many times have you come across a product online and wished you could smell it? The Discovery Trio is the idea we came up with. You select 3 different candle fragrances of your choice. Each sample is a mini candle so you can experience the product before you commit to the full size. Its a great gift for those hard to shop for friends!

Wick Trimmer + Snuffer– I have a candle obsession (clearly), so I understand how important it is to take good care of your candles. My golden rule: you must trim the wick each time you burn your candle. Otherwise, the wax will tunnel and the glass becomes smokey black. There is nothing worse! Our Wick Trimmer + Snuffer is an ingenious design our team created that simultaneously extinguishes the candle flame and trims the wick. No mess and your candle always burns perfectly.

Where can people find your products? 

LAFCO may be found in many independent boutiques, hotels and spas across the USA. We are also available in department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. Of course we also ship worldwide through our e-commerce store at LAFCO.COM.

Giorgio Armani’s open letter to fashion

Published this week on WWD an open letter by the pen of Maestro Giorgio Armani to the world of fashion. After being one of the very first one leaders to recognize the danger of the pandemic, showing his new collection behind closed doors during Milan Fashion Week, donating 2 ml euros to the local hospitals for research and cure, Armani also converted his manufacturing facilities in Italy to produce single use-disposable gowns, leading by example in this global fight against COVID- 19.

Giorgio Armani Julian Broad

The reflection explores, in Giorgio’s words this “absurd” current state of affairs exposing a world where fashion industry has fallen in “a criminal nonalignment between the weather and the commercial season” in a frenetic pursue of fast fashion.

The decline began when we pursued fast fashion

He continues on stating that the slow down forced by the pandemic is bringing to light a necessary redemption of value to the work and world of designers, which would ultimately bring the customers to the understanding of the value of fashion and its collections.

“The decline of the fashion system as we know it began when the luxury segment adopted the operating methods of fast fashion, mimicking the latter’s endless delivery cycle in the hope of selling more, yet forgetting that luxury takes time, to be achieved and to be appreciated. Luxury cannot and must not be fast. It makes no sense for one of my jackets or suits to live in the shop for three weeks before becoming obsolete, replaced by new goods that are not too different.”

Luxury takes time

Giorgio Armani’s creations as we know them are the indisputable symbol of timeless elegance. This pause is giving the world a chance to renew the pace of proposing ideas to the world especially giving the chance to refocus on production cycles and seasons, allowing to a more livable and therefore quality-driven fashion. 

It is a moment of reflection that calls for a more ethical approach to fashion.

Timeless Elegance

“I don’t work like that, and I find it immoral to do so. I have always believed in an idea of ​​timeless elegance, which is not only a precise aesthetic code, but also an approach to the design and making of garments that suggests a way of buying them: to make them last. For the same reason, I find it absurd that, in the middle of winter, one can only find linen dresses in the shops and alpaca coats in the summer, for the simple reason that the desire to purchase must be satisfied immediately.”

Who buys an item to put it in the closet waiting for the right season? None or just a few, I believe. But this, driven by department stores, has become the dominant mind-set, which I think is wrong and needs to change.

This crisis is an opportunity to slow down and realign everything; to define a more meaningful landscape. I have been working with my teams for three weeks so that, after the lockdown, the summer collections will remain in the boutiques at least until the beginning of September, as it is natural. And so we will do from now on.”

Slow down and realign

“Special events should happen for special occasions, not as a routine.” The expense of a grandiose show far surpasses and is no longer justifiable especially when, according to Armani, it carries just a mediocre message. The letter denounces a scenario where too much is spent on “vulgar” displays of “mild ideas”; the designer reinforces his invitation to focus on slow-paced high-quality measured communication adding on to the message of focusing on authenticity to “regain human dimension”

“It is nice to see that in this sense we are all united. For retail, this will be an important stress test. I want to send my heartfelt encouragement to the American fashion operators for the difficult weeks they will face ahead. United, we will make it. But we have to be united and operate in unison: This is perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from this crisis.

United we will make it

Giorgio Armani

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“Beat the virus with creativity” 8 Questions to Mauro Porcini

Mauro Porcini joined Pepsi in 2012 as its first ever Chief Design Officer. Living in NYC and Italian native, he shares with us his experience during the Covid-19 epidemic. Mauro is an expert in design as well as global branding, a supporter of the Made in Italy and Italian style.  We have asked his view, experience and a message for businesses and individuals during this global pandemic.

  1. Who has been or is inspiration and reference for you? 

First of all my parents, though I may sound pretty obvious, probably for many. I took for granted for a long time. They taught me the importance of culture, of knowledge and of learning with curiosity. Culture was the most important thing in my family, and they passed on the love for it, leading by example. They studied, they read and they were interested in anything that was relevant. They were in owe of and loved people with culture: University teachers and people in television that somehow were showcasing that level of culture. 

One very important value they taught was the need of being a good person. They are devoted Catholic, very Christian, very religious. My father is an architect and a painter, so I was surrounded by paintings in my house. So that was a great inspiration for me on the art side, and as a kid, I could draw very well. So it was really fun for me to draw with him and learn all kinds of techniques. 

My mother instead was in love with literature, writing and reading and she loves writing poems with religious backgrounds and content. 
Still today they work together to publish daily paintings and thoughts online. You know, my parents are totally non technological but they figured out how to create a blog. They self-published different books, paintings, sketches with poems. They have been such an inspiration all my life.

2. Your personal definition of design and how did you apply it in your professional experiences?

Design is all about people. It’s all about understanding the needs and wants of people. Therefore, understanding what is important, what is relevant, what is meaningful to people, and then creating solutions. It could be a product, a service, a brand, an experience: all solutions that solve those needs and those wants, those desires and dreams. This is what designers do.

To do that, we need to understand three dimensions. One is the world of the human beings, psychology and anthropology. Semiotic and semantic, hence understanding people. Second dimension is business: how to do branding, distribution, how to work with your customers: it is important because once you understand those needs, you also need to find a way to create solutions that can be sold. Third dimension is technology: the one of the product, to manufacture the product. 

The product needs to be feasible, sellable and you need to have the right technologies to do all of that. The connection between people, strategies slash business and technology is the key to create solutions that are meaningful to people to their needs and wants. Design is all about people and is all about fulfilling those needs, and those ones in a meaningful way. 

3. How do you live in New York and how does it influence your work? What are the other places that inspire or relax you?

I deeply Love NY, I define it as the capital of capitals. People all around the world come to NY to do business, to create and inspire. There is a density of unbelievable people with great ideas and unbelievable drive to change the world that you cannot find in any other city in the world. This makes NY an amazing “piazza” where people with ideas meet people with resources to make things possible.

Having this density of people with amazing ideas, drive and energy to make things happen is very inspiring, but at the same time could be draining. You always have the desire to be out and join and meet these people that can inspire you. 

To balance this out I have a house where I can escape in nature 2 hours away from the city, in the Hamptons. I love waking up and seeing deers in the garden and the sound of the fireplace crackling. In my life I have always been in a sort of suspension between two worlds: on one side a full energy of the city and on the other the full energy of nature, I love them both and a balance of two is what I feel comfortable with.

4.  How are you facing the coronavirus situation and which stereotypes or preconceptions would you like to fight?

Mauro takes a deep breath and sighs, and I know he is gearing up to deliver his honest opinion with most empathy. If you follow Mauro on his IG account you already know his posts are often filled with social involvement messages and human sensitivity. The impact of coronavirus issue, the healthcare shortage of staff and gear, the impact that this pandemic has on our country and the others, is one that he has deeply at heart.

The Corona virus situation is absolutely mind blowing in so many different ways. Nobody expected it. Nobody understands how to face it: it’s scary and difficult to understand. The problem is that many people are underestimating the magnitude of this crisis.

As an Italian living in New York my message is “Wake up! This is not just something happening in Italy”. 

Italy has the second-best performing healthcare system in the planet according to the World Health Organization. The US is far behind: there are by far less hospital beds per person than Italy.  

My thoughts and my prayer go to all the families and all the individuals that have been and will be impacted by this. We need to make sure we are safe as individuals, families and if we have teams and companies is necessary to prioritize the safety of our people. We also need to find ways to maintain the basic business needs, in specific industries in particular: healthcare system, food and beverage, production and delivery, the production of any safety equipment, as well as information and entertainment.

The solution is to stay home. Many of us will need to be in the front line fighting this virus. Some of us may be able to work remotely, while many other will not.

Try to better yourself, to do something to grow: You have an amazing opportunity to invest your time. “Beat this virus with creativity. 

In my case: I’m reading multiple books that I was planning to read and I never had time for, I started drawing again. I’m also writing my book. Actually, I’ve been writing this book for years. But now I am full on dedicated to it.

My goal is to grow and become better as a professional and also as a human being. So this is how I’m reacting to this virus and how I’m fighting it.

5. Your message of solidarity and energy to overcome this moment 

My message of solidarity is: Beat the virus with Creativity. 

As I mentioned already, we are living a tragedy with a very heavy death toll, but we also have the unique opportunity of getting time back in our life to slow down, invest on yourself and grow as a human being by learning new things. Read as much as you can. In brief do something that you always wanted to do, but you never had the time to.

This is how we’re going beat this virus from an emotional level. Obviously, you know, we still need to fight obviously this virus in a more practical way and contain it.

Let us use creativity to better ourselves, to grow and eventually share it also with others in order to inspire as many people as possible in this moment of difficulty.

6. Let’s talk about Made in Italy, of which you are a big supporter, and specifically how the role of the designer in future business in a world where the impact and physical interaction seems to be less and less prevalent?

A designer is a creator of meaning. A designer is somebody that understand the needs and wants of people and creates solutions. In the past those solutions were often material, and the material we were working with was wood, metal, or leather. These materials will stay in the future as well, obviously, you know, as there will always be a place for physical things. 

Today, there is a new material that designers can play with and need to play with and it is bytes and gigabytes of information that you can translate in so many different ways: videos, digital content, all those megabytes of information the fly in the air.

As yourself: how does communication among devices work? what is the user interface and how do products connect with each other creating dialogue with each other? how do human beings connect with those products from their smart thermostats to wearable technology to their smart phone or device of the future that will interact with their home and their clothing and car. We design the connection of all these devices. Even when is intangible we design the way you interact with them and how user friendly, intuitive, simple to use it is. We design something that at the end of the day can be synthetized and defined as an experience and therefore there is a physical component of it and there is also an intangible component of it

At the end of the day, however, we do exactly what the designers of the past were doing. We understand people, their needs, their wants, and we create solutions that are meaningful for them, where material is not just wood metal or plastic but also intangible as bytes and the intangible experience of people with these contents made of bytes and these physical products that some how carry, receive or send the contents away.

7. Have you traveled the world to educate brands and their professionals on best practices : an advice to brands in this moment of stalemate and crisis?

My recommendation to any brand around the world right now is to be sensitive and be part of the global conversation. Create a content that is authentic. It needs to be aligned to your brand promise, to what you stand for. It needs to be relevant to your target audience. Be part of the conversation, have a specific message that invokes energy and positivity or offer solutions that can be informative or entertaining. Offer value to your audience in a way that is informative, entertaining and authentic as possible, aligned to your promise, to your positioning and with the tonality that is typical of your brands.

8. Last but not least Mauro let’s talk about YOUR SHOES. you left NY temporarily to stay at home in the Hamptons, to stay at home, retreat and to contribute and rightly follow the guidelines dictated by the concept of “Social Distancing” as a weapon to combat the spread of this terrible virus. Are your beloved shoes (from you and us) now in quarantine?

My shoes, I miss my shoes in New York! I have my emergency collection you know, Here in America some people have collections of tomatoes and flowers and cookies and chips to use this in case of catastrophes, I have that and my shoes, about 50 pairs of them. It is you know My emergency collection!

 “In this way,you know, while the other pairs, stay in New York resting and being safe, I will just as safely, enjoy this smaller collection here. “ 

He jokes about it, but truly Mauro is a lover of shoes and he has a collection of approx. 350 shoes, 50 of which now in quarantine with him, the rest back in his apt in NYC.. 

We wish Mauro to be safely reunited with his beloved quarantined shoes soon, curious to see what he will design next, and we wish all of you to stay safe, stay in and work on a better future by utilizing Creativity to beat the virus! 

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Tulemar, a jungle luxury adventure in Costa Rica

Escaping to Paradise it is a natural instinct for those living in the Northern hemisphere, especially during those dreadful long cold winters.  

Natural beauty, lush forests, palms for miles and waves for the brave: this is what Costa Rica has to offer.
This winter, right at the end of the rainy season, we took a trip from our hub in New York to visit the very acclaimed Trip Advisor best hotel in 2019: Tulemar in Quepos, on the Pacific side. 

Arriving in San Jose’ at the airport, where alas not much can be found, we were greeted by our private Tulemar driver, sent from the resort to rescue us from the noise of the Capital and take us to the area of Manuel Antonio, home of Tulemar and also of one of the most amazing natural parks and ecosystems.
Within 3 hours drive through the only “national carrettera” (in Costa Rica there is one national highway that runs throughout the country connecting relevant cities and towns like a major aorta), we reached the lusher and tourist-friendly Quepos region.

The green surrounding, the infinite beaches and lush rainforests are definitely some of the reasons why this area needs to be on your bucket list.

But this is not just it, as you may not yet know that Tulemar, on top of being gracefully built within the ecosystem with his private jungle bungalows and villas, it is also home of something fantastic: the Sloth Institute since 2015.

TSI is a non-profit organization with the mission to enhance the well-being and conservation of wild and captive sloths through research and education. They are also dedicated to collaborating with other sloth rehabilitation and release programs.
Tulemar hosts some of the species in its lush and peaceful protected environment and offers educational walks to guests and other visitors upon reservation. We took the tour and it was quite fascinating. The rescued sloths, roam freely (but not fast so to speak) in fact around the property, and some were visible even as a guest at one of the Café’ within the property, on our first night there, almost as magically they knew we had come all the way from another country to write about them.

The area of Quepos/Manuel Antonio is actually a real treat for nature lovers. The park of Manuel Antonio, which is a few km from the resort also offers magnificent VIP tours for those who care about knowing more about the ecosystems as well as the behavior of the animals who reside in the park. We took a 2 hours walk through the park with a specialized guide and it was worth it all the way!

Tulemar is one of a kind resort with 4 pools, a private beach, private villas as well as cozy bungalows, all immersed in a Jurassic Park like environment for the nature lovers with a taste for luxurious pampering and adventure.

The service at Tulemar falls within the rhythm of the place and the Pura Vida style, everything is as it should be when on vacation, by a friendly staff smoothly coordinating shuttle rides to the beach and back or delivery for room service in those lazy mornings where watching palm trees for capuchin monkeys sipping delicious coffee by a private pool is on the top to dos.

We highly recommend organizing a tour of the property with your own personal concierge as assigned to each guest upon arrival (yes a personal concierge for your stay, isn’t that marvelous!), and that you spend your mornings either at the private lovely bay that is one of the gems on-site or at one of the pools when you are not exploring the park of Manuel Antonio. For the more adventurous types, there is a little hiking trail on both sides of the bay that leads down to the wonderfully secluded beach.

Costa Rica tips/should know:

  • Do take it slow, time is perceived quite differently than our busy capitals from which you may travel from
  • US Dollars are also accepted at store and restaurants, ask first
  • Do bring an umbrella if you are traveling during or around rainy season ( May to Mid November)
  • “Pura Vida” means  Thank you, hello, how are you, you are welcome… 
  • Do steer clear of rivers and estuaries, as in Costa Rica crocs like to hang out there
  • Rent a car and explore whenever possible.

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Holiday Gifts 2019: colorful design objects to love

For this Christmas, we have thought of some original gift ideas inspired with modern and innovative style. Design objects are sumptuous thoughts when we want to amaze our loved ones, the best choice to give our living room a touch of style, but also perfect last-minute gifts. Discover the selection in the gallery.

GAETANO PESCE 

The works of the great Maestro Pesce are never the same. Handmade, these splendid contemporary objects are each accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the creative genius. In the prolific production of chairs, cabinets, armchairs, Gaetano Pesce’s house objects are a line accessible to the collector of taste and style. Not to be missed!

www.gaetanopesce.com

STEFANO GIOVANNONI 

The designer Stefano Giovannoni took inspiration from this meaning to create the Velvet Rabbit Chair: a seat that combines sweetness and sympathy with comfort and imagination. A chair in two versions, adult and child, in which the rabbit’s ears become a backrest. In a third version, the Rabbit chair lights up becoming also a lamp.

https://qeeboo.com/it/rabbit-chair-velvet-finish-by-stefano-giovannoni

LATERAL OBJECTS BY STEFAN BECKMAN

Stefan Beckman Studio is a New York-based design studio specialized in set design and art direction for the fashion industry. Their work has been part of the most iconic advertising and editorial campaigns of the last fifteen years. In addition to designing fashion shows for the biggest names in New York Fashion Week season after season, they plan events, fashion presentations and exhibitions around the world.

Lateral Objects is a design laboratory born within the Stefan Beckman Studio. The bold pop colors of California Art from the 60s and the Supergraphics design movement of the 70s were the inspiration for the first collection of objects that are ideal as a Christmas present, like the hand-blown gradient glasses or the coasters to match.

https://www.lateralobjects.com

https://www.stefanbeckman.com

@stefanbeckman @lateralobjects

MISSONI HOME 

Missoni is the home par excellence and a must-have for lovers of multicolored patterns in bright colors and first-class fabrics and elegance. Here are the best gift ideas for this Christmas:

American set in waterproof fabric with multicolored chevron macro. Solid color matching napkin.

https://www.missoni.com/it/missoni-home/set-americano-gift_cod46681538vu.html

Unisex hooded bathrobe in curly terry/cut quality cotton. Motif small multicolored dice. 100% cotton.

https://www.missoni.com/it/missoni-home/accappatoio_cod46646516xk.html#dept=hw_hmbthrbs

Plaid embroidered in Polyester, with chevron pattern lurex. With fringes. Measure 130×180 cm.

https://www.missoni.com/it/missoni-home/plaid_cod46649912vd.html#dept=hw_hmblnk

ALESSI

Food à porter is a lunch box that doesn’t look like a lunch box, but an elegant fashion accessory. A functional and beautiful object, to be worn as a bag with a sophisticated design.

https://www.alessi.com/it_it/food-a-porter-10779.html

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