The blog: Musings and insight from my greatest source of inspiration, travel.

A day in Antwerp to scope MOMU’s “Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion”

Perpetually eager to feed my wanderlust, this summer I packed my curiosity and took it to Antwerp, Belgium: home to cutting edge Belgian fashion, a trailblazing cult vintage scene, The Royal Academy (which produced the well-recognized Antwerp Six) and, of course, the Mode Museum (MOMU).

I planned for a quick rail layover en route from Bruges to Amsterdam, but ended up staying  a full day. A few, even a dozen, hours just aren’t enough in this noteworthy city tucked away nearly 45 minutes north of Brussels.

#NaviBleuTravels: Antwerp

#NaviBleuTravels: AntwerpHallo Antwerp!

I was delighted to hear that MOMU’s “Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion” exhibit was presently live and running. It featured the works of many designers connected through a cohesive central theme; in this case, feathers. A tribute to the refined grace of ornate plumes and airy feathers, the display efficiently interpreted the elegance, charm and vitality of an otherwise underrated natural wonder. Used throughout history as accents, accessories, and even part of an entire silhouette, feathers bring the perfect mix of strength and delicacy. This fascinating exhibit showcased pieces by some of my most beloved sources of inspiration: Alexander McQueen, YSL, Louis Vuitton, Thierry Mugler, (vintage) Chanel, and so many more.

A little over rail travel at this point (having travelled to five countries via rail during this trip), I hailed a cab and asked to be dropped off in the heart of the city’s fashion district –within steps of the museum. Luckily for me it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and I strolled right in. Upon entering the showcase, I already knew… this was going to be amazing.

#NaviBleuTravels: Antwerp

I fell utterly mad for the very first dress I came across and it quickly became clear why this particular piece by Thierry Mugler was chosen as the opening gown of this exhibition.  Featuring a grand-scale butterfly, hand-crafted by feathers, affixed into the open back of the dress. Every detail on this wonder was bursting with blooming energy.

Birds of Paradise: Thierry MuglerThierry Mugler Haute Couture S/S 1997. “…a link is created between the butterfly, woman and bird in a surreal creation that emphasizes the woman’s uniqueness and exotic nature. She herself is thus presented as a bird of paradise.” -Exhibit Guide

As I made my way through the ethereal showcase, my amazement seemed to increase with every step. These were not just pretty dresses; rather legitimate [thought-provoking] works of art. Every detail was immaculately executed. From peacock to ostrich, marabou, and chicken -feathers have never looked so winsome.

Picking a favorite out of these marvels is like picking a favorite vintage shop –simply senseless. One in particular that was in my top 3 was this enchantment by Rochas by Oliver Theysken. The complexity of this silk taffeta dress with dyed rooster feathers was realized in the most dreamlike of fashion.

Birds of Paradise: Rochas Rochas by Oliver Theyskens, A/W 2004 – 2005. 

The showpiece of this exhibition was Marlene Dietrich’s swan down coat. Designed by Jean Louis of Hollywood for Marlene Dietrich in 1957, this striking piece was created with the use of the feathers of 300 swans. Worn over a dress bearing 227,000 rhinestones, Marlene debuted this look at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1957 and numerous times throughout the 1960’s.

Birds of Paradise: Dietrich Swan Coat

Having spent more than half of my time in Antwerp viewing this exhibit, I walked out of there all smiles. It was so worth it! Between the super helpful staff who, thankfully, spoke English effortlessly and their the brilliant curation of works, I cannot stress enough why the Mode Museum is a must see while touring Antwerp. Scope our many more amazing snaps of this exhibit HERE!

Till the next one!

xx,

Navi

Vintage Road Trip: Montreal

Though I thoroughly appreciated every stop on my Vintage Road Trip, Montreal was my absolute favorite. I love this city with its Euro nature, understated flair, and brilliant vintage scene.  I spent two freezing March days on the vintage hunt and my first stop, which came highly recommended, was Eva B. I didn’t realize this was THE Eva B. that I heard such impressive things about through the years. In fact I was too busy admiring the exterior to even realize I was standing right in front of the building.  Montreal: Eva B.

Inside was just as fun with racks of vintage finds, a back room full of retro randoms, and speakers playing 60’s French ye-ye akin to Jacqueline Taieb & Chantal Goya (both frequently blaring through my studio speakers). It wasn’t necessarily the product assortment, but the overall ambiance, that I found to be inspirational. After grabbing a cup of tea, I nabbed the perfect faux fur beret and moved along. Further north on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, stand Citizen Vintage, Annex Vintage, and Lost & Found Shop —all worth a visit. Arterie, just a few blocks away, is worth exploring for its eclectic array of vintage jewelry alone. Also venture out to some of those bakeries in the surrounding area for their world-renowned bagels —amazing! I honestly think I went to Fairmont Bagels four times in a two day span.  Zero regrets!

Another really inspiring aspect of Montreal was the abundance of street art. Whether a multi-color mural taking up the entire side of a building or a small quirky banner in a random alley off of a main boulevard. In the short amount of time I was in Montreal (for this particular trip), I quickly noted the refined style of locals.  Glam details accented basics in the most subtle ways, with classic cuts and ladylike enchantment. Definitely put together with seemingly zero effort was not only apparent in local fashion style, but also their lifestyle. From outdoor coffee shops being packed, streets filled with young hipsters at night, to an undeniably vibrant vintage scene, Montreal not only has a very special place in my heart, but also provided a considerable source of inspiration in my summer collection this year.

Montreal: Street ArtMontreal: French Cafe in Chinatown

Until the next trip!

xx,

Navi

 

Vintage Road Trip: Nashville

Headed to Music City? How lucky are you? It’s one charming little city with delish food, incredible music, and one of the more tasteful vintage scenes I’ve encountered. I had a very short stay here so I wasn’t able to hit any antique malls (still bummed about this!); but I made sure to check out the handful of vintage shops on my list.  Here are a few of my personal faves:

Hip Zipper in East Nashville is a cute little shop filled with everything from wool A-line skirts to mod 1960’s shoes and has quite a respectable selection of vintage purses. I managed to score a camel snakeskin “granny” bag and had to talk myself into leaving before I hit the scarf rack. If you’re on the search for solid vintage clothing that is clean (no mothball smell here!), of worthy quality, and (most-importantly), authentic, then Hip Zipper should definitely be on your list! Pre-to-Post Modern is another fun place to check out. Filled with everything from 1980’s landline phones; to antique cameras; to clothing, accessories, and shoes. I walked out of there with a tan leather vintage suitcase and matching briefcase simply because they were so well-preserved. Hillsboro Village is another good area to get your hands on some vintage finds for the home, you just really have to dig. Even the look of the area screams rustic charm.

After hearing one raving personal account after another, I knew Savant Vintage had to be a stop during my road trip. I heard tales of flow-y dresses and sparkly wonders being housed here (the shop is literally a house), so naturally I made it a point to stop in. After swooning over (and petting) nearly every piece they had in store, I was in the midst of checking out handbags,when I froze in my tracks. There, to my right, staring back at me from the bottom of a dress display, was an authentic 1929 Singer sewing machine. I knew right away because I have yearned for this machine for as long as I could remember. I knew what it looked like, how it functioned, and how badly I had wanted one. Without a shred of doubt, I purchased this treasure right away. Once back in the studio, I used it to hand sew each piece of my Vintage Road Trip collection.

My stop in Nashville proved to be well worth the effort.  I definitely recommend a weekend trip solely for their vintage shopping alone!

xx,

Navi

Vintage Road Trip: New Orleans

I was super excited for my stop in New Orleans because I had heard so much about the amazing antique scene. Everything about this stop was wondrous —from the 19th Century Creole mansion where I stayed to the flood of antique dealers throughout the city. When my girlfriends were planning our annual girls trip, I let them handle most of the details while I focused on the vintage shopping part of the trip. I really have the best girlfriends ever because when we arrived at the home we were staying in, I was floored in the best of ways. I wasn’t aware we’d be staying in a historic decayed Creole mansion (circa 1855) that was featured in AHS Coven. With every detail meticulously preserved, our hosts didn’t miss a beat maintaining the integrity of the era in which this house was built. The character of this home was crazy impressive, but it was the garden that inspired me most.  Not sure if it was the clammy April air, the presence of my most beloved friends, or the whimsical lights hanging from what appeared to be nowhere; but this garden — this instance in this garden — was magical. The energy of this moment was channeled into my Dumaine Fairy Party Frock.

After showing our host my list of antique dealers, he sifted through the “tourist traps” and made a point to stick to those that offered a more legitimate vintage selection. Our first stop was Magazine Street. If you’re in the area and are into vintage, Magpie certainly is a must. I scored the loveliest beaded gold clutch, a handful of antique brooches, and quite fancied their small, eccentric dress selection. Down the street is Jezebels —a small shop with a strongly curated selection of estate jewelry. We spent well over an hour in here looking through their extensive selection of pearl necklaces, brooches, and 1930’s clip-on earrings. It was in this shop that I scored an antique watch necklace that was not your run of the mill watch, but a tiny hand-painted grandfather clock that hangs from a chain. Lost + Found Shop and Lili Vintage, both also on Magazine Street, are definitely worth a visit (a 1960’s mod, white mesh purse and handful of antique brooches were added to my collection after a quick stop in both of these shop). If you’re into antique housewares, then Royal Street is for you. It’s lined with shops filled with antique mirrors, vases, chandeliers, doors, and everything under the moon.  One tea set, a half dozen antique baroque frames, and a fair share of chandelier porn later, I was one happy camper and New Orleans definitely charmed my tights off.

Our amazing staying quarters.. Dumaine Street Antique Mansion

Exploring Magazine Street.. New Orleans: Exploring Magazine Street

Until next time!

xx,

Navi

#NaviBleuTravels: Vintage Road Trip

Throughout the years, I try to make a point to hit up vintage shops in every city I visit. Being my favorite part of each trip, I make it a staple in my travel plans. I made it a point to check out quite a few renowned boutiques and markets throughout the States (and some in a teeny slice of Quebec). I made an event of it and decided to take a “Vintage Road Trip” from my home base in Austin, to Nashville, New Orleans, New York, and Montreal. Each shop was as distinctly different as each trip and the inspiration was never ending.

I researched a bit on where to get my hands on some authentic vintage pieces — garments, accessories, and teapots (I collect them, don’t judge). With so many jumping on the vintage train, it’s hard to gauge what’s actually a credible heirloom piece or something new that was made to look antique. We narrowed it down to a handful of cities known for the best vintage in the country and spent a few days scouring boutiques, from the most well-known, to the “holes-in-the-wall” I discovered along the way.

Here are some of my personal favorites:
Nashville
New Orleans
Montreal

After spending some time taking in the energy of each city, I came back to my studio and started creating some summer looks. Inspired by the understated charm of Nashville; the high tea salons to loud street art in Montreal; the gem that is Frenchmen Street in New Orleans; and every vintage detail experienced along the way —including a dozen or so super romantic antique covered bridges in Vermont. So how did I celebrate the unhinging of this summer’s trunk?  By throwing a tea party with my new antiques, of course!

Navi Bleu Tea PartyNavi Bleu Tea Party Navi Bleu Tea PartyNavi Bleu Tea Party

 Until next time!

xx,
Navi

Spot On Tank

Meet my airy Spot On tank: silk chiffon with small black sequins stitched to create allover delicate polka dot embroidery. Breezy and lightweight with a subtle pleat down the front center and deep-U back.

Textile sourced in India, designed and stitched at Navi Bleü Studio in Austin.

Size, fabric, and care details HERE.

$150 Sold.

Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum to immerse into “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”

Ahhh Gaultier, I adore you so! To go through all the reasons why I admire his creative genius would take far more than one blog post. The single most appealing aspect of his art (to me) is his uncanny attention to detail. His work is breathtaking, inspiring, and simply magical. From mermaids to French street style, London punk to the boudoir, there really isn’t anything this man cannot bring to life.

Imagine my delight when I learned that the Brooklyn Museum was showcasing Gaultier’s work through the exhibit, “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”. On a ridiculously cold Saturday a few weeks ago, I hightailed down to Brooklyn and waited in a winding line to get in to see his wonders for myself. I am SO glad I checked it out because the exhibit was stunning. This past Sunday, being the very last day of this exhibit, I decided to go back for a final viewing…and yes, it was just as grandiose the second time around. How impeccable is his work?  I’ll let my pics do the talking… Brooklyn Museum: Gaultier Exhibit

The very first thing I took note of was the top-notch production. Within a few seconds of entering the exhibit I asked myself, “Wait, did that mannequin just give me side eye?”  After stopping to literally stare at their faces, I realized that, yes, the mannequins’ facial character changed quite a few times during the course of my stare-down (it’s sorcery, I tell ‘ya!). In fact, ALL of them were now either ignoring my presence, or making it abundantly clear that they they hated me.

Brooklyn Museum: Gaultier Exhibit

In the pieces showcased (below), the theological inspiration legit blew my mind. I’m a faithful admirer of spiritual-influenced art. Remember my trip to Peru when I spent an entire day scouring the local shops of San Blas in search of religious artifacts and my day-long trip to Lima Cathedral? I find myself drawn to theology-inspired art and this aspect of Gaultier’s exhibit surely did not disappoint.

Brooklyn Museum: Gaultier Exhibit

My particular Parisian-influenced favorite from this French native was his perpetual use of stripes. In fact, my French Stripe Dress was inspired not only by chic French women, but also by the works of Jean Paul Gaultier.  Needless to say, my adoration of his work has been a source of inspiration for quite some time now.

Brooklyn Museum: Gaultier Exhibit

Dozens of spectacular looks (and many hours) later, I managed to pull myself away and exited the exhibit inspired, enlightened, and head-over-heels in love with every single thing I had just seen, heard, and experienced.

Click HERE to see more of the snapshots I took throughout the exhibit!

Until next time! xx,

Navi

#NaviBleuTravels: Indulging in Inca History in Peru’s Sacred Valley

A considerable source of inspiration for my Peruvian collection was derived from many aspects of Inca life. Throughout my travels in the Sacred Valley, I immersed myself in the culture and obsessed a bit over what was once quite a surreal era. I watched, listened, asked, and discovered; every which way I looked, I was inspired. I quickly learned that the Incas were extremely creative in their methods of survival. Nothing was by-the-book, even the material they used to build structures varied upon region. Navi Bleü is all about local-sourcing; therefore, there was no doubt I found this to be inspiring in itself.

It is indisputable that the artistic style of the Incas correlates with them being a self-sustaining society. With an unyielding connection to nature, it should come as no surprise that the religion practiced during the time was pantheist, worshipping the sun god, Inti, above all else. Inti’s wife, Mama Kilya (aka “Mother Moon“), was the goddess of both marriage and regulating women’s menstrual cycles. Rumor has it she cried tears of silver because she was just that awesome. What appealed to me most about the Mother Moon is that she was considered a protector of women and deemed “the original spirit of feminism“.

In terms of fashion in Inca society, nobility dressed in opulent tunics adorned in ornaments made of precious stones and gold, whereas common men and women were far more sober in their approach. Although styles and fabric selection varied with status, the use of finely-spun pure alpaca wool was very common in textile production across the board. The natural process in which the fibers were dyed remained constant, as well as traditional techniques used to weave. Though fashion was a preeminent part of Incan society, it cleverly assimilated with their simplistic approach to life. With a strong grip on spirituality and a deep-rooted love for nature, both the culture and their style of dress remained unpretentious and down-to-earth.

It wasn’t difficult to be inspired by Inca life; in fact, it would be nearly impossible to not be intrigued and affected by almost every facet of their being. I purchased only locally-constructed textiles, had custom wool hand-loomed for Navi Bleü, and picked all trims accordingly.  I aimed to emulate traditional Inca sentiment infused with current Peruvian energy.

IMG_7045

 Click HERE to see more shots of our time-travel back into Inca life!

Until next time… xx,

Navi

#NaviBleuTravels: Lima, Peru

After having the absolute pleasure of discovering “Vintage Row“in Miraflores, I was stoked to check out the rest of the wonders that Lima, Peru had to offer. While being a total tourist and discovering various nooks of this amazing city, I stumbled upon the ever-so-beautiful Lima Cathedral.  The building is absolutely beautiful both inside and out; the energy within is just as striking. Famed conquistador Francisco Pizarro Gonzales was laid to rest within the very structure and a deep-rooted sense of history is so boldly written on the walls of the cathedral, it commands your attention. It was Pizarro who laid the first stone in the building, the same man who led the conquest of the Inca empire. Once the simplistic Inca approach to life had been compromised, Spanish and European influence permeated Peruvian cities throughout the country, particularly Lima.

Within the cathedral, opulent gold structures fill each room with authentic treasures from the Spanish conquests. Stories are told via form as every room tells a tale of what had occurred at a particular point in the history of the cathedral. The lack of obvious notations allow the intricate details of each sculpture to clue the viewer in on what was occurring at the given time. It was extremely interesting to go in and out of each room, discovering a new piece of history with each turn. I observed that balconies were a key feature of Lima’s architecture both during the colonial period and in present day. Both Lima and Cusco were filled with an abundance of elaborate baroque balconies, and Lima Cathedral surely had an ample amount of skillfully-decorated window art.

Inspired in so many ways, I wanted to entwine both the structural and spiritual elements of this magical building into my Conquistador Queen Skirt, which was undoubtedly inspired by the unparalleled energy of Lima Cathedral. #InspiredBy: Lima Architecture

To see more photos of our amazing trip to Lima, click HERE!

Until next time… xx,

Navi

#NaviBleuTravels: “Vintage Row” in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

While in Peru, I made sure to check out Lima for a few days. Maybe because I was so excited about touring the Andes, I simply forgot to psych myself for Lima. Not that I wasn’t enthusiastic about the opportunity to explore another great city, I just did not have many expectations. I am SO glad I decided to stay and check out what this city had to offer because I found it to be absolutely charming.

I stayed in San Isidro and spent a good chunk of my time in / around the Miraflores area. Oh Miraflores, what a lovely, lovely district! On my second day there, I discovered my haven: “Vintage Row”. I made up this name for a few small streets lined with antique shops filled with everything from local Peruvian finds to vintage fabric shops selling laces, trims, and embellishments from the Guano Era.

Not only did the area itself have a very distinct identity, but each shop had an energy all its own. From the decor to what they carried, it was like walking into a different world each time. Staying true to my perception of Peru so far, the people were incredibly kind. I chatted it up with a few shop owners and was fascinated to hear the stories behind their merchandise stock.

One particular comerciante shared with us that he named every dress he took in and could recount how each and every embellishment for sale came into his shop; it was amazing!  While digging my hands into a legitimate treasure chest placed under an antique table, I was delighted to discover a glass bowl full of pearls, both beads and some delicately dangling from gold posts. I asked him the story behind this bowl full of magic, and he simply stated, “Those fell off of Marta.” Puzzled, I looked at him wondering, “Who’s Marta?” He proceeded to explain how Marta was one of his more lovely pieces, a pearl-encrusted cocktail dress he purchased from a mujer hermosa named Marta. He explained how his buying process usually requires the seller to give some personal information, but Marta refused. She simply walked in, said she had a dress to sell, and gave “Marta” as her only information; no last name, no phone number, no story. He told us he met a lot of fashionable women in his time, but none as esotérico as Marta. He recalled how she had an air of mystery and was definitely his most memorable client; therefore, he named the dress after her. After a while it lost a few pearls here and there until extranjero, a foreigner, came in and scooped it up. He saved the leftover pearls because he felt the mysterious energy of Marta was woven into that dress. Intrigued, I took every last one back home with me (and later added to my Time to Travel Blouse).  So when I fell mad for an intricate lock set atop a table, I just had to ask the story behind this beauty.  He glanced at it and laughed, “No story there.  Those are common around here; just felt it fit the decor.” I appreciated his honesty wholeheartedly. After spending my morning chatting it up with him, I hightailed it in and out of each shop on Vintage Row, finding more gems and hearing their stories. By the time I arrived back in Austin, my trunk was full of textiles, embellishments, and years of stories behind the goods.  All in all, Miraflores gave to me so much all the while keeping pieces of my hearts in the process.  "Vintage Row" in Miraflores, Lima

Click HERE to see more photos of beautiful “Vintage Row”.

Until the next adventure… xx,

Navi

"Vintage Row" in Miraflores, Lima