We have so many talented friends with a brilliant “eye” for objects and fashion that delight. Furthermore, these friends either live or travel all over the world. So we’re becoming a bit of a voyeur as these style ambassadors lead us to treasure!
Art therapist, style guru Melissa Clarke, aka Buttons, heads off to Colombia tomorrow. We’ve met up for some Q&A at The Somerville Flea where Melissa sells cold brew coffee from her new venture, Old New School Cold Brew, which she launched with our dear friend and Flea founder, Greg Ghazil.
Q & A
So I’m giving you carte blanche to buy whatever you’d like as you travel through Colombia. (We’re laughing because it’s total freedom, yet a tight budget!) You’ll explore markets and talk to artisans and sellers in Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. Your “Market Finds” will then be for sale through A Curated World.
What inspired your trip to Colombia?
Many reasons. I started taking Spanish three years ago and my teacher is from Colombia, so I feel like my Spanish originated from Colombia. Also because of so many beautiful Colombian people I’ve met I just feel a soul connection with the country. I need to go and experience it.
What will you do while you’re there?
Soaking up culture, meeting and talking with new people and eating! When not traveling, I’ll stay at my friend Julie’s Grammas’ house for one week and then teach art at a school in a fairly impoverished rural area just outside of Medellin.
I’m excited to contribute to your Instagram during this trip. Through photography I’ll share my view of the markets, colorful art, people and street scenes I discover while I’m gone!
The big takeaway goal is bettering my language skills. Working in East Boston as a mental health counselor and sitting down with Spanish speaking mothers, I would never be able to create many of the relationships I do if I didn’t speak Spanish. I speak Spanish in my day-to-day now and build friendships through this second language. So engaging with people is really what this trip is about for me.
There’s a beautiful photo of you laughing with a friend while running a road race and I know you mentor young runners. What are you hoping to share with them?
A mental health clinician started the running mentorship program for adolescent girls. They’re mostly peanuts, age 9-11. The mission is to be role models. Through running we’re sharing with them what can be possible when you care for your bodies. To run you need to sleep and eat well and it brings you outside. And personally with my travel, sharing with them that the world is both small and big and being a woman is being able to go out into the world and experience it.
You have a unique, timeless fashion sense. Yet, is there an of-the-moment, fun trend you’re personally championing right now?
You know, I’m a little dorky. I really like high-wasted jeans and pencil skirts, and I love tucking in my shirts. I’m also drawn to textures, patterns and colors, and I’m always looking to mix things together in a way that’s a little unexpected. I was Frida Kahlo for Halloween last year.
I guess I’m a bit frugal, or maybe it’s mindful of how I spend. I really have plenty of clothes, so mixing them is how I create my personal style. Also I’m given a lot of unique hand-me-downs!
If I’m traveling I search for something bright or patterned, something that will make me feel unique when I’m back home. I like wearing something with a story behind the item.
Sometimes when I travel I feel right at home. If you moved from Somerville tomorrow do you know where you would go?
Good question because I am at a crossroads and I think about it a lot. I don’t think there’s one answer. I would go somewhere that has a community that I could fit into because that is what I have here.
I have a love affair with New York and people compare Medellin and Bogota to New York. I’m going to Colombia with some intent on discovering my love affair and what it means. Could I live and practice art therapy in Bogota? The reality of that doesn’t seem so far fetched. I think I would return, but I have nothing holding me back.
A few last questions for people traveling to Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston – these three great cities we both live in and around?
The Beehive in Boston’s South End feels like a NY joint and has live jazz.
I loved everything about Sarma in Somerville – the food, the décor, the lighting, the crowd! I don’t often go out with the girls on a Friday night, so I just felt so refreshed, like a class act.
Toad – the community is always there and it’s an easy place to not know anyone. And terrific musicians play there every night, no cover.
Highland Kitchen has terrific cocktails and food, but I like sitting at the bar.
Favorite Place for a Run
The Charles River with the whole cityscape! Running over the bridges especially Mass Ave, and being inspired by all the other runners – you’re never alone.
Anthropologie – my secret dream job is to create the windows in Harvard Square. I love to try things on even if I don’t buy.
Thrift shops – Buffalo Exchange and Somerville Flea vendors like Madera y Metal Design.
Favorite Home Store
I want a Pony – another Somerville Flea vendor.
Home items are often hand-me-downs that maybe I paint. My apartment’s balcony is really coming along with my garage sale finds!
Favorite Way to Escape the City
Experiencing New England Culture – a lobster roll and sand in my shoes – any North Shore beach like Crane Beach or Singing Beach.
Cape Cod, I love the color palette.
Melissa will guest curate our Instagram while she travels around Colombia. Follow along at @curatedworld
Melissa Clarke’s Colombian Market Finds will sell on our website in the Fall! Stay tuned!]]>
I stayed in Miraflores at the top of Parque Kennedy, a large square lined with art vendors and cafes. This is a bustling, urban upper-class section of the city. The neighborhood also struck me as party central with music, fireworks and voices being heard throughout the night.
With only four days, I wanted to focus on exploring one of Lima’s forty-three districts. After a Pisco Sour-infused ceviche lunch at La Mar, followed by a taxi, a wrong turn, a run-in with old friends and a cocktail party, I found Lima’s artsy enclave, Barranco.
Barranco is a tiny, bohemian district just south of Miraflores and built right up to the rocky cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Early in the 20th century, Barranco emerged as the fashionable resort for Peruvian high society, and beautiful colonial residences line the avenues.
Walkways down to the ocean glow with milk-glass streetlights. Bars with second story porches overlooking squares set a romantic and laidback mood. Wander down small streets and find rows of colorful houses, graffiti and one vintage VW Bug after another. One might call Barranco quaint.
Heaven may be to stay in the pristine Belle Époque mansion that today is Hotel B. The stunning building, originally built as a seaside retreat, sits on the corner of an old square that leads down to an ocean overlook. The renovated boutique-art hotel is crisp, layered, curated and extremely elegant, yet with a distinct gypsy vibe – walking in you feel like a character in a vintage film.
Hotel B makes Condé Nast Traveler‘s 2014 Hot List.
There’s a chance photography was frowned upon…
Dedalo – just opposite Hotel B – is considered Lima’s premier artisan and home goods retailer. I sat in their garden café with owner Eduardo Lores and his business partner Fernando Perez-Egana; two elegant, open and gracious men. We discussed artisan production, on-line marketing and the power of Pinterest, which is just emerging in Peru! Collaboration is surely in our future.
I returned to Barranco the next day to meet Mari Solari and explore her fabled shop, Las Pallas. At once both a bit standoffish yet chatty and gracious, she started her career as a folk art and handicraft dealer 45 years prior to my visit. Her strict no-shipping policy reflects a well-earned luxury; she doesn’t need the headache!
Here is a glimpse of her private collection displayed throughout her home.
Four days in Lima and I didn’t begin to scratch the surface. My wheels are turning on how to get back, which new neighborhoods to explore, how to travel into the countryside and film and buy from artisans; to get to know new friends better and bring you along with me so we can discover together all that Lima has to offer.
The alpaca is a crucial component of life in the Andes Mountains of South America. The alpaca’s fleece produces a near perfect fiber; silky smooth and soft, durable and water resistant, lofty yet also provides superior warmth. Baby Alpaca is considered super fine and warmer than sheep’s’ wool. It is also hypoallergenic (alpaca do not produce lanolin.) Some Uqllu scarves blend alpaca with silk or bamboo. We recognize traditional designs, and Uqllu is also working with artisans to create fashion-forward scarves that appeal to a larger market.
Additional training, tools, looms, workrooms, decent hours and fair pay are all provided to local artisan weavers. Knowledgeable weavers pass on skills to apprentices. Profits from the sale of Uqllu scarves are distributed to the artisans. Profits and wages enter their local economy, magnifying their impact.
Social responsibility initiatives by multi-national corporations are benefiting artisans and communities all over the world. The stories are not simple, and there is controversy and dissenting opinion, yet we move forward. Change, in our view, is included in the definition of culture. Weaving has been a part of the culture of Peru and the Andes Mountains for thousands of years. So, the industry may look different today, but we should value it all the same.
A Curated World hopes to help Uqllu grow sustainable partnerships in the communities in which they live and work.
With both health and beauty benefits, it’s an experience not to miss when travelling to Morocco as it’s sure to leave you feeling like you’ve uncovered a new skin, and deeply relaxed.
With a variety of options, travelers are sure to find an option depending on their comfort level.
Do as the locals do!
Wind your way through the tiny streets of any medina throughout Morocco, and you’re bound to see women carrying buckets filled with the finest beauty products and the essentials en route to their local hammam beldi (traditional).
With separate areas for men and women, a trip to the local hammam can be a unique experience. Just don’t expect anything fancy here. Children run free while adults socialize. It’s the local hang out. And before entering, you’ll need to stop by the local hanoot (corner store) to pick up your black soap and a kessa (glove) for the body scrub.
Typically comprised of three rooms of varying temperatures, locally employed staff is on hand to apply the black soap and provide a full-body scrub, along with a bit of guidance. The cleanse will take approximately 45 minutes for a complete body scrub, hair wash, and perhaps even a short massage.
Entrance to the local hammams is approximately 10 – 12 Dirhams (about $1.50) and you can expect to pay the staff member around 50 Dirhams for the treatment.
While each community has its local hammam, the hammam located on Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid is one of the nicest and easiest to access in the medina. The hammam is open to men in the morning and women in the afternoon/evening.
Make yourself at home
For the ultimate relaxation treatment, opt to stay in a riad with a private in-house hammam. An afternoon in the souks followed by a late-afternoon hammam treatment will leave you feeling relaxed and ready for an evening in. This option is ideal for couples wanting to experience the hammam treatment together.
Book a stay at Riad Farnatchi not only for a luxurious stay, but a divine hammam treatment.
Step inside the intimate hammam hidden on the main level at Riad Tzarra to experience a hammam typical of a local residence.
Black soap made from olive oil to soften the skin and rhassoul (ghassoul as the locals say), mineral-rich detoxifying clay, is blended with rose water to cleanse and detoxify the skin, followed by a heavenly grommage. Then wrap up in a cozy hammam towel before generously applying argan oil to hydrate the skin. And perhaps a relaxing massage to complete the experience.
In Marrakech, head to Les Bains de Marrakech inside the Kasbah district. Or for a purely luxurious experience, reserve an appointment at La Mamounia, winner of Best Hotel Spa in the World 2011 by Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Best Spa Awards.
To truly escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, plan an afternoon at to the Beldi Country Club. Lunch by the pool, followed by a hammam and massage treatment is quite simply divine.
SHOP our favorite spa products…
I received my first Moroccan pouf from dear friends in 2002. It was butter-soft ivory leather with lime green stitching. It has sat prominently in all my living rooms since. A reminder that age-old design never tires.
These friends had moved to Marrakech. They were both artists and had heads for business. They scoured their way down every alley of the souks searching for the very best sources. They understood that all are not equal. Years later they would launch Zid Zid Kids.
The pouf is generally made by hand-stitching eight pieces of leather together to create a round ottoman-like structure. We recognize the traditional natural brown hides and neutral decorative embroidered tops. That has all changed! Today they come in every bright color you can dream of with contrasting colorful stitches.
All poufs are not equal. You want a thick goat hide that has been expertly tanned to be durable, yet flexible and soft. Most importantly, you want the dye to be fast, to not run or fade. The makers of the best poufs use thick hides and heavy-duty threads on thick needles and have strong arms from expertly embroidering thousands of stitches. Theirs are the poufs that will someday be called vintage!
Classic pouf – this is truly a stunning pouf made from hand-cut, hand-woven leather fabric! A pouf in a class of luxury of it’s own!
Our tough and colorful vinyl versions for kids!
And see Nihal’s exquist square poufs made from hand woven leather fabric – a truly remarkable evolution from the traditional design.”
See the pouf here:
Not sure what Pinterest is? Click here.
One pouf winner will be contacted via private message on Facebook or Twitter 09/10/12 and their board will be shared on our Facebook, Twitter and with our Mailing List.
A 15% off discount code will be mailed to you via private message on Facebook or Twitter on 09/10/12. Discount valid on your next A Curated World Purchase until 01/01/2013.
Winning Pouf is available in Silver, Midnight Blue, Silver, Powder Pink, Fuschia, Purple.
1. CONTEST DESCRIPTION AND PERIOD: The A Curated World ‘Win a Pouf’ Pinterest Contest (the “Contest”) starts 8/20/12 at 12:00 AM Eastern Time (ET) and ends 9/9/12 at 11:59 AM ET (the “Contest Period”). The ‘Win a Pouf’ Contest is a contest where participants pin at least 10 Moroccan Inspired images to their Pinterest page on a board titled “A Curated World – My Moroccan Home”. Participants must first ‘like’ A Curated World on Facebook. Participants will use the hashtags #acuratedworld and #marrakesh in the description of their pins as a way to identify they have pinned items specifically for the contest. In order to be eligible to win this contest, the participants must also pin this image to their board. Kay McGowan will choose 1 winner who will be announced on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook on 09/10/12. He or She will be contacted via Pinterest, Facebook and/or Twitter and asked for delivery information. We will also share their winning board with our Mailing List. No purchase necessary and no entry fee, payment or proof-of-purchase is necessary to participate.
2. PRIZES: All potential winners will receive 15% off their next A Curated World purchase. They will be contacted via a private message on Facebook or Twitter on 09/10/12 with the discount code. The discount code is valid until 01/01/2013.
3. ELIGIBILITY: Contest is open to legal residents of the 50 United States or district of Columbia.
4. QUESTIONS: For Pinterest help, visit http://pinterest.com/about/help/ OR for questions regarding A Curated World, please contact us.
6. LIMIT ONE (1) ENTRY PER PERSON: Any individual who attempts to enter, or in the sole discretion of Sponsor is suspected of entering more than once or submits entries in excess of the disclosed maximum, by any means, including but not limited to establishing multiple Pinterest accounts, will be disqualified from participation in this Contest.
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or in association with, Facebook.]]>
This summer’s IT is a flowing tie-dyed pink and yellow cover up brought to us by Aya’s of Marrakech.
I discovered this item while traveling last December. We were underdressed for the cold Marrakech winter nights, bundled up on an Essaouira coastal roof deck, and definitely not thinking of the beach or a hot summer’s night.
Nawal, owner and designer behind the venerable Aya’s clothing boutique in Marrakech, expertly directed our attention to this seemingly simple garment. She schooled us on the many ways to wear her Poncho. Stef of Kif Kif graciously modeled on your behalf. I particularly love the belted look. Notice how the belt snakes under the garment in the back!
The Poncho is 100% cotton and hand dyed with natural pigments by the women of a cooperative south of the city. Remember that no two are alike. We will labor over the selection on your behalf. You may specify Vibrant or Earthy color tones and wait to be surprised!
Nawal was born and raised in Marrakech. Her commitment to culture, quality, and community make her a perfect Curated World designer.]]>
For those who aren’t lucky enough to talk technique with a local chef or join one of the many excellent cooking classes, there are three new cookbooks that provide not only authentic recipes, but also photographs, stories, and the history of the food and culture of Morocco.
Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou is a beautifully photographed full-color cookbook with personal stories from the chef’s childhood in Doukkala, notes from Lahlou about his essentials of Moroccan cooking, as well as classic and updated recipes – all written in the chef’s distinctive voice. I loved this book for the personal connection Chef Lahlou makes between his upbringing and the food he cooks, as well as the lessons he provides on the essential ingredients and the cultural significance of Moroccan cooking. The recipes he shares range from easy preserved lemons to a spice-rubbed eight-pound rib roast that could feed a family. This cookbook is required reading for any fan of Chef Lahlou’s award-winning San Fransisco restaurant, Aziza, which was the first Moroccan restaurant to receive a Michelin Star, but it is also worthy of coffee table status thanks to the gorgeous photography, courtesy of Deborah Jones, whose sparse styling and saturated color perfectly capture the magic of the culture.
Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco is another beautiful full-color cookbook with stunning photography. Paging through the sections – separated, roughly, by course – images that recall a walk through the spice market or a drive along the fields of argan trees are accompanied by recipes offering variations on the salads, tagines, and soups, among other classic Moroccan dishes. Where Mourad is part personal narrative, part cooking lesson and part cookbook, Chef Wolfert keeps us focused more firmly upon the recipes of this country, whose cuisine she clearly adores and reveres. The images are equally reverential, thanks to Quentin Bacon’s ability to capture the essence of a place – and a dish – so exquisitely.
Le Riad Monceau: A Palace of Moroccan Gastronomy, also combines full-color photography with culture and recipes. With text in both French and English, Le Riad Monceau takes the reader on a virtual tour of the history and architecture of the riad, tells the story of its renown restaurant, offers recipes from their highly regarded chef and provides an exclusive guide to Moroccan wine. Owned by the French artist Isabelle Aubrey and her husband Ludovic Antoine, who also took the photographs for the book, Le Riad Monceau is a tribute to its namesake, a temple of classic Moroccan hospitality.]]>
Jump ahead to 2011. I am trying to find a ‘fixer’ in Marrakech, a person who can facilitate meeting all the needs of A Curated World. A woman named Stef was recommended several times. She “owns a shop called Kif Kif.” I put two and two together and knew I had found our ‘fixer’.
Stef was born in 1972 in France and she has lived in Marrakech for the past eight years. Her husband, Philippe, oversees their classic courtyard hotel known as a riad, Riad Magellan. Guidebooks consistently site Riad Magellan for its “relaxed swagger” and peaceful ethnic-elegant surroundings.
It was Stef’s decorating ventures, and then seeing how much the hotel guests delighted in her use of unusual materials and bright colors, that set the Kif Kif collection in motion!
Stef opened her first boutique in the Medina of Marrakech at Bab Laksour, my most favorite district within the old walled city. Stef embraced the cultural exchange that came with creating the line of jewelry, handbags, vintage finds and home accessories.
Stef developed her ‘voice’ behind the brand and formed bonds and reliance on the local artisans. She acquired a better understanding of Moroccan crafts and she brought to the artisans an awareness of aesthetics and Western demands, her own heritage. This is a collaboration and partnership we explored through interviews with many designers.
Stef has an ability to create whimsical designs while avoiding a clique or kitsch style. This is not an easy line to walk. The collection sold through A Curated World highlights Stef’s immense talent.
Both Stef and Philippe walk the cobblestone and dirt alleyways of the medina quickly and with expert navigation, nodding a quiet hello, a glance back and a wave, a handshake and quick catch-up. For expats, they seem in harmonious step with their adopted city.
SHOP KIFKIF – Find KifKif accessories here (necklaces and bags)! For KifKif home goods (pillows and poufs and storage) click here. Lovely and traditional tea glasses and plates click here.]]>
The square was dotted with groups of mostly men – sitting around a carpet chatting with one another, playing drums or charming snakes with a wooden clarinet-like instrument called a pungi. While I had assumed that these shows were mainly for the tourists, few were there that early, and yet the men continued on, weaving a tapestry of sound as I zig-zagged across the square, taking it all in, not pausing long enough at any of the shows to be asked for money as payment. It appeared as if this Marrakech was quietly going about its business, and despite my obvious outsider status – a woman alone, in jeans, wild curls and a pink scarf – I was free to observe or take part as I wished.
I had experienced a different Marrakech in the very same place, however, the previous evening as one of three women who had decided to visit the food stalls for dinner. Every night in Jemaa el Fnaa dedicated teams erect and disassemble dozens of tented stalls offering nearly every aspect of Moroccan food, from snails to goat brains, all cooked on the spot for just a few dirham. The calm of the square in the morning was a stark contrast to when the three of us were standing behind the filled stools at stall fourteen, jockeying for position. They had the best fried seafood and silken cumin-spiced eggplant we were told, and were worth the wait. The three of us were in jeans or long skirts, hair uncovered and clutching our purses to our chest, while men pushed us from behind and the sides, all aiming for the next open stool. After ten minutes, a twenty-something student from Fez offered up his seat and struck up a conversation in excellent English – it was clear we were westerners in a roiling sea of Muslim men. Soon, with help from our new friend, we had three adjacent stools and had placed three orders of mixed seafood.
Stall fourteen was, as reported, delicious. The fish was sweet and fresh and crispy, the smooth spice of the eggplant and traditional fresh tomato and green pepper salad a worthy complement. But the three of us agreed: we would not be getting our dinner at the food stalls every night. This most talked about of experiences in Marrakech represents one version of Morocco that a western visitor can experience. There is the frenetic energy – as we walked through in search of our stall we were accosted by workers who would aggressively block our path or tug our arms to bully us into giving them business. It was exciting, yes, but also frightening at times, in the ways that Moroccans’ perception of personal space differed from our western one. It was not unlike the trip from the airport to the riad at which I was staying – my mini-van taxi shared the road at sometimes dizzying speeds with extended families on motorbikes, the occasional mule-drawn wagon and plenty of small hatchbacks all vying to merge around one of the city’s many roundabouts.
But that morning, the food stalls were just a memory, and I circled back and turned down a narrow pedestrian street at the far corner of Jemaa el Fna, heading to a cooking class, passing women stirring soup pots in the open window of a narrow shop – likely harira, a tomato and lentil soup – to be offered in a few hours for lunch for the shopkeepers. Again, I was ignored as Moroccans went about their day.
A few hundred yards away from the square down a shadowed walkway, I pushed open the heavy wooden door of Le Riad Monceau, and experienced yet another Marrakech – the one that caters to foreign travelers with beautifully appointed rooms, excellent food and wine, and stress-free activities to help while away the day between shopping and eating. I spent the rest of my pleasant morning chopping vegetables and then enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the December sun in the riad’s rooftop dining area. Once inside the beautiful riad, I spent most of my time chatting with Europeans – in English – with the Moroccan staff offering their services whenever they sensed a lull.
In my time in the city, I experienced this same high-end European luxury while sipping expensive cocktails overlooking world-renown gardens at La Mamounia or shopping for handbags and jewelry in Lalla’s second floor shop in Geulitz, a hip, upscale neighborhood just outside of the walled medina. This is the Marrakech that continues to bring countless vacationers from Europe, eager to soak up the desert sun and indulge in the generous hospitality of the Moroccan people, coupled with luxurious, but exotic amenities.
But perhaps my favorite version of Marrakech was the one apparent in the everyday interactions. Like the hour spent chatting with a shopkeeper who I met the following day while shopping for jewelry deep in the medina. Within a minute of meeting, he had volunteered his belief that the politics that often kept our parts of the world at odds were not necessarily his beliefs. Perhaps this was at first a sales pitch, but then while I browsed his beautiful selection of antique Berber necklaces and Taureg rings, he asked a local boy to bring us mint tea and cookies. And he told me how he believed that both Americans and Moroccans were at their cores generous, open-minded people. He sought to forge a bond, even after it became clear that I wouldn’t be purchasing anything that day.
After meeting the shopkeeper I ended up back in Jemaa el Fna, which I tended to walk through at least three times a day, sometimes just to get my bearings among the winding alleys of the souk. It was late afternoon and the stalls were being erected for the evening among the crowds that populated the square; I could feel the energy changing from the daytime meandering of tourists and locals to the nightly hustle for customers among the stalls. I purchased a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the vendors who I had seen there no matter the time of day. And instead of turning back towards my riad, I took in that moment near sundown where Jemaa el Fna reflected the many versions of Marrakech that I experienced in my time there – full of both tourists and locals, people both passing through and there to work or play, men and women from around the world and around the corner who all helped define the city as a crossroads of culture, with something for everyone.]]>