Monday, February 24, 2014

Nyah Beauty

Last Thursday, I had he surprise pleasure of dropping into the work studio of La Shonda Tyree's of Nyah Beauty, located in Paterson, New Jersey. La Shonda and I have been online friends for almost a decade but had never met in person. it was so wonderful to finally do so. She was such a warm, generous presence. Plus, my senses got their fill thanks to the scents and visual power of her natural, skin-loving cleasing bars of goodness! What I already knew about Nyah Beauty is that it is a luxurious, artisan soap brand that's been going strong for almost 15 years following the tradition of soapmaking in La Shonda's family. Nyah Beauty has goodies for men, women, children, and pets. Owner, La Shonda Tyree, also offers soapmaking classes.

What I learned since meeting her, is that she is dedicates 10% of her sales to ending the industry of child brides and has done more than talk the talk, she helped with the purchase of equipment needed for the organization to create their own soaps to sell in area hotels so that it could provide the finances needed to save young girls from a dreadful fate, some as young as 7 years of age.

If you need more reason to fall in love with the Nyah Beauty brand, just try any bar. While at her studio, I was chatting with a fashion photographer who has a studio down the hall fromLaShonda's and that brother made it plain. "It changed my life," Stefan said ( refering to the Wake Up Call bar.

 I grabbed one of those for my own man. Gotta love a serious testimonial! Also, I got the Oatmeal facial bar to switch up my facial cleansing routine. I never, ever, ever use bar soap on my body, let alone my precious ;) face. But,  when I say its super gentle and nourishing, it really is. My face is pleased. Find out for yourself by shopping the Nyah Beauty website or find a retail location near you.
Inside the Nyah Beauty studio

Inside the Nyah Beauty studio
Nyah Beauty signage

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Style Social in Philadephia

Annually in Philadelphia, the Style Social brings international fashion to buyers, press and consumers in a local market to present collections that might not otherwise be seen.   
Each Style Social also draws fashion, art and design talent from the community to offer local artist and designers an opportunity to present their work alongside international fashion designers.  This year's Style Social and Launch Party, happened on Wed, Faeb 12, 2014 and featured Macy's Fashion Incubator as wwell as fashion designers from Italy, Hungary, Colombia and Franc. It occurred to celebrate the success of the Incubator designers as they launch their collections in the international fashion market.
In a unique setting combining art, fashion, design, with an emphasis on sustainability, the event was hosted by The Transfer Station, an ambitious entrepreneurial project imagined to revitalize the Manayunk neighborhood, with local businesses and restaurants supporting the event with their signature offerings.
The Style Social and Launch Party was a collaboration between Macy’s Fashion Incubator, which is a one-year intensive designers-in-residence business training and ongoing mentorship for selected Philadelphian fashion designers to provide all of the resources they need to launch or grow their companies in the city of Philadelphia; and international showrooms Bel Espirit and Showroom International.  These two Philadelphia-based showrooms carry international ethical fashion designers and well as highlight and support each brand’s ethical principles and global ethical initiatives such as Andes Made, a line of premium alpaca scarves, socks and accessories for me and women .
Andes Made

The event was a combination of a runway fashion show with a complementary display of fine art, accessories, home décor and furniture; much of which was available for sale through the Transfer Station. As an innovation resource center for entrepreneurs located on Main Street in Manayunk, the Transfer Station provides a retail market space, co-working spaces, artist studios, creative labs and tailor-fit solutions to work, create, sell and collaborate with like-minded individuals.

Some of the works of the fashion designers were proudly displayed on the handcrafted furniture from one of the area's finest emerging makers: Don Yacovell. 

"...(my) designs are simple. They are meant to highlight the natural look of the wood, not fancy moldings. I mostly work with local domestic hardwoods such as cherry ,black walnut or maple.I look for wood with "character" cracks ,knots ,holes, and color variation. I like to highlight any marks left behind by the original craftsman when I work with salvaged lumber. Seeing the history in an old piece of lumber just enhances this style of furniture."
Don Yacovella has work for sale at The Transfer Station in Manayunk.
Learn more about Don Yacavella here.

Stay in the loop of what's happening on Philly's style scene by following Bel Esprit showroom in Twitter @bel_esprit.

Monday, February 10, 2014

BLACK DRESS Exhibition Dedicated to Contemporary Black Fashion Designers at PRATT

Tracy Reese
The groundbreaking work of 10 contemporary New York-based black fashion designers, both established and up-and-coming, will be celebrated in Black Dress: Ten Contemporary Fashion Designers, an unprecedented exhibition that recognizes creativity and entrepreneurship in the field. Organized by Pratt Institute Fashion Professor Adrienne Jones, and timed to coincide with Black History Month and New York Fashion Week, the exhibition will include designs by international fashion superstars Tracy Reese, Byron Lars, Omar Salam and Pratt Institute alumnus Jeffrey Banks as well as a fashion-forward video created specifically for the exhibition by renowned artist and 2013 MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems.

Presented by Pratt Manhattan Gallery, located at 144 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor, the free exhibition runs February 7 to April 26, 2014. It will be celebrated with a public opening reception on February 6 from 6–8 PM.

Black Dress opens at a time when black designers, despite their growing influence and success, remain largely underrepresented in the fashion world. In response, the exhibition was envisioned by curator Jones to create broader awareness of the triumphs and accomplishments that contemporary black designers have achieved in the industry. To illustrate this new emergence, the exhibition space at Pratt Manhattan Gallery will be transformed into a series of Madison-Avenue-style store windows that give each designer a distinct spotlight for their work.

LaQuan Smith
Each store window features bold visions from designers who have influenced contemporary fashion around the world – those who have worked and thrived in the industry for decades, and young designers who are coming to the attention of runway audiences, fashion editors, and consumers. Exhibitor Reese is a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and her distinctive designs can be found in both her Tracy Reese and Plenty by Tracy Reese lines. Lars, a pioneering designer and founder of Byron Lars Beauty Mark, was named “Rookie of the Year” by Women’s Wear Daily for his edgy takes on classic American design. Salam is a designer and entrepreneur who founded the Sukeina Fashion House, known for its vivid colors and elegant fabrics. Banks was a protégée of Ralph Lauren and now runs a brand that encompasses menswear, accessories, and home décor.
Stephen Burrows

Byron Lars
Other featured designers are Pratt graduate and former “Project Runway” contestant Samantha Black (Sammy B); celebrated fashion innovator Stephen Burrows; Harlem-based visual artist, designer, and entrepreneur Donna Dove; self-taught Brooklyn designer and former “Project Runway” contestant Epperson; environmentally-conscious designer Michael Jerome Francis; and Queens-based celebrity go-to designer LaQuan Smith.

Ann Lowe

The designers featured in the show draw on a long history of black fashion design in America, which dates back at least as far as the 1860s when Elizabeth Keckley became sole dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln. According to Jones, today’s designs are steeped in the cultural legacies passed down by Keckley and Ann Lowe—who designed Jacqueline Bouvier’s 1953 wedding dress for her marriage to John F. Kennedy—as well as by the tailors and dressmakers who designed and sewed for other politicians, slaveholders, and members of high society in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jones says the industry’s narrative in America has not included many black names, despite significant contributions on the runways and behind-the-scenes.
“Black designers are emerging on the scene with greater visibility than ever,” said Jones. “Black Dress will highlight the correlation between entrepreneurship, creativity, and locality. These factors work together to create opportunities for designers and their communities to become new destinations where fashion excellence and achievement are measured,” she added.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a panel discussion on the contributions of black designers will be held on March 5 from 6–8 PM in Room 213 at Pratt’s Manhattan campus at 144 West 14th Street. Panelists include Michaela Angela Davis, a former executive fashion, beauty and culture editor at Essence, founding fashion director at Vibe, and advocate for women's and human rights causes; Constance White, who penned the book Style Noir and has been editor in chief at Essence, fashion editor at Elle, and style director at eBay; Harriette Cole, author and former editor of Ebony, Essence, and Uptown magazines; Elaine Welteroth, beauty and health director at Teen Vogue; and Pratt Institute Fashion professor Adrienne Jones. Fashion guru Walter Greene, fashion editorial director of Profiles98 and consultant to Black Dress, will moderate.
(Excerpt from

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Art Smith, Premier Modernist African-American Jewelry Designer

Art Smith, born in Cuba in 1917 to Jamaican parents in Cuba. His family settled in Brooklyn in 1920 and Smith showed artistic talent at an early age. Encouraged to apply to art school, he received a scholarship to Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. There he was one of only a handful of black students, and his advisors tried to steer him towards architecture, suggesting he might readily find a job in the civil sector of that profession. His lack of proclivity for mathematics eventually forced him to abandon this path, however, and he turned to commercial art and a major in sculpture, training that would prove invaluable.

Trained at Cooper Union, Art Smith opened his first shop on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in 1946. One of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-twentieth century, Smith was also an active supporter of black and gay civil rights, an avid jazz enthusiast, and a supporter of early black modern dance groups.
He also took a night course in jewelry making at New York University. That and the friendship with Winifred Mason, a black jewelry designer who became his mentor, set him on the course of his adult artistic life. 
Mason had a small jewelry studio and store in Greenwich Village, and Smith became her full time assistant. He subsequently moved from Brooklyn to the Village’s Bank Street. In 1946 Smith opened his own studio and shop on Cornelia Street in the villag. But after suffering racial violence in this Italian neighborhood, he soon moved to 140 West Fourth Street just 1/2 block from Washington Square Park, the heart of Greenwich Village where as an openly gay black artist he felt more at home. The new store was better located business-wise and socially, and Smith’s career began to take off.

He began to also sell wholesale to boutiques around the country. Also, he became acquainted with some of the city’s leading black artists including writer James Baldwin, composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn, singers Lena Horne and Harry Belfonte, actor Brock Peters, and expressionist painter Charles Sebree. In the early 1960s, Smith received a commission from the NAACP in 19757 to design a brooch for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Inspired by surrealism, biomorphicism, and primitivism, Art Smith’s jewelry is dynamic in its size and form. Although sometimes massive in scale, his jewelry remains lightweight and wearable. 
Visit his long-term installation at the Brooklyn Museum; From The Village to Vogue.  Visit his website to learn more about this legendary artisan/designer.
Art Smith (American, born in Cuba, 1917-1982), fashioned modernist pieces from simple metals that achieved new expressions in shape and form.
Visual resonance can be detected between pieces of Smith’s and the works of artists associated with modernist abstraction,
- See more at:
Art Smith (American, born in Cuba, 1917-1982), fashioned modernist pieces from simple metals that achieved new expressions in shape and form.
Visual resonance can be detected between pieces of Smith’s and the works of artists associated with modernist abstraction,
- See more at:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Heidi Lee, Custom Hat Maker

Yesterday, design alchemist Heidi Lee hosted a hatmaking workshop at the Brooklyn Museum. It was a great opportunity to join her to fabricate a hat of your own, or even a fascinator inspired by the awe-inspiring designs of John Paul Gaultier, which are on view currently at the museum. The workshop was $25 and free for members. See the website for details. I'm excited to learn that Lee designed hats for the last Barat Foundation Art Parade, which I attended downtown Newark (my hometown). Nice!

Ambersand hat
Glass hat
Hats for the Art Parade

Learn more about the work of Heidi Lee.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

DIY: Studded Bucket Bag

You already know I design handbags but whenever I see a way to update a bag I already own, especially one of the many I have from thrift shops, I get so excited.
Here's a perfectly easy and fabulous update. Enjoy!

10 Beautifully Simple Ways to Go Greener in the New Year

Remodeling, decorating, and more ∨

When decorating or building a home, don't forget about the walls.
Browse top designers interior portfolios, from high-quality cookware set and decorative dinnerware sets to ideas for remodeling bath and kitchen.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Art In Honor of Nelson Mandela

A man as great as Nelson Mandela inspires so many of us and all in different ways. Here are some of my favorite Nelson Mandela-inspired art and designs:

Table by Dokter & Misses
Portrait by Patrice Murdiano
Mandela-inspired clothing line 46664
Monument by Marco Cianfanelli
The Verster Table: Named after the prison where Mandela was detained.
Lithograph available at

Mural by Mirky Stapleton
Find more furniture, paintings, and other pieces are art inspired by the late, great world leader at

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Debut of The Brick City Design Market

Every Saturday, in conjunction with THE VINYL SWAP, come shop & mingle with the most talented indie fashion, accessory, and product designers in the tri-state area!
Vintage records spinning. Inspiring art exhibits. Food & libations abound in a chill atmosphere. Networking with the creative community. And SHOPPING the best designers around. Each & every Saturday at Seed Gallery.
Curated by me,  Meca McKinney of  

Jypsea ~Eclectic Handcrafted Leathergoods.

Brick City Design Market
12-6pm at SEED GALLERY
210 Market St. in Newark, NJ.
Free admission
More info:

See you there! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Haute Hangouts on Halsey Street

Halsey Street, without equivocation, is the best street in the city of Newark, NJ. As the land of my birth, I kinda feel like I became an expert on the city since leaving there in the 90s, entering college then the corporate world. I spent years defending the place to outsiders who refused to believe I came from such a "bleak" place and, as a result, I learned more about Newark's rich history.
But I digress! Enough about the city...let's focus on my favorite street there: Halsey Street. Located downtown, it runs parallel to Broad St from Washington Park to Lincoln Park. The enterprises below are on the blocks between Central Avenue (one block in from Washington Park) and Commerce Street.
Halsey is literally around the corner from my favorite Newark gem--the Newark Museum--and has been ahead of the curve in creating a chic, cosmopolitan row of cafes, restaurants, salons and boutiques. One spot more fabulous then the next. And with a Whole Foods opening there soon, Halsey St. will surely see a massive increase of popularity soon.
 Here's the lowdown:

The Coffee Cave:
45 Halsey St.
My go-to place in the area for salmon wraps, Italian sodas and homemade soups. Also known for its house music parties. It keeps strange hours but is usually open in the middle of the day, Monday-Friday.
Fan page: 

Elbow Room:
41 Halsey St.
The latest addition to the Halsey St eateries is the Elbow Room which originates from Brooklyn and serves hearty comfort food with macaroni and cheese being the central sticking point. From cheeseburger mac & cheese to lobster mac & cheese, you are bound to found something for any macaroni & cheese lover. And you'll linger playing board games over dessert.

Art Kitchen: 
61 Halsey St.
Known first as Newark Art Supply, which had been around since I was a child, this retailer used to sell art supplies. The Newark Art Supply then later merged with a cafe. Now, the art supplies are gone and the name has since changed to the Art Kitchen. It's has a hipster vibe, pretty decor and serves sweet treats.
27 Mix:
27 Halsey St.
A cool Southwestern, Asian, and Italian fusion restaurant and bar with a downtown vibe. Exposed brick walls, intimate outdoor seating in the back and delicious bites with  fair prices makes this a MUST-GO Halsey St experience.
Luxe Boutique:
83 Halsey St.

Sexy, body-hugging dresses with equally sexy strappy stilettos are what you'll find at Luxe Boutique. If you need a freak 'em dress, this is the place to be! The boutique caters to its clients with fun shopping parties, brunches and other fab events.

Blush Spa & Lounge:
32 Halsey St.
I've never had their services but I have been inside twice. Hip environment with a pretty staff and an impressive list of pampering services.  If you're into faux lashes, the word on the street is that they're the best for lash extensions.
Marco Hall Boutique:
29 Halsey St.
Originally Karma Boutique, which featured the designs of Newark's own internationally-known fashion designer, Marco Hall. On December 7th, 2014, it will re-launch as the Marco Hall Boutique. Marco Hall is a genius at what he does. I had the pleasure of meeting him and watching him drape a new design on a mannequin. In minutes, he had a piece SO BAD, I was astounded. Not only is he extremely talented, but also fast---which is an oxymoron in the design world. He is a prized Newark design star. Can't wait to see the new shop!

St. James & Co.
25 Halsey St.
Finally, something for the fellas! Hi-end eyewear (the owner of shop, Cabral Miller,  is also the co-owner of Newark optometry shop, Elegant Eyes), leather man bags, silk ties, skin care, candles, and all the cosmopolitan urbane man needs to distinguish himself. The vibe is luxurious yet unpretentious there, thanks to the friendliness of the crew.

Other places of interest-
Lenzy's Health Bar:
I never been in but if they have all the natural goodies stated in the signage, I need to make that my next stop. It's been there for ages so it must be doing something right. I've seen quite a few shops open and close on Halsey over the last few years due to lack of support from the locals but this one has stood the test of time.

The Weave Bar:
1212 Raymond Blvd
(973) 733-2881
No, it's not directly on Halsey but just a block away on Raymond Blvd. I'm a natural chick BUT if I ever choose to indulge myself with a weave, trust and believe, this would be where I would do so. The owner is super sweet, the location couldn't be more convenience and the setting is totally chic! 

Enjoy your Halsey St. visit!
Meca xo

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Citi Medina, Creative Director & Visionary

"I truly believe that by being YOURSELF you become your BEST asset!" ~Citi Medina

Following the exciting launch of Citi Medina's website for his brand (, I had the opportunity to discuss his vision for his company, his inspiration and what keeps him constantly evolving. Citi Medina is so full of inspiration and motivation that any creative entrepreneur can learn from.

LOTA-N-C: The new website looks phenomenal. I feel like I understand the brand and your mission so much more now. What led to the evolution?

Citi Medina: I am so over the moon that you love it! The new site was definitely an ever-evolving entity. When I began this separate brand, it was to separate my speaking engagements and provide resources to other entrepreneurs and also convey my expertise in creative strategies from MEDINA = CITI which was my design haus. I wanted to share the realities of owning a business and what inspires me with others and the response has been phenomenal. I believe individual style and personality are your best assets in being successful. is my offering of everything that I can to everyone. It’s all about sharing my passions.

MEDINA = CITI Design Haus (, is my NJ-based design haus which has and always will be my first love. Crafting custom visuals and forming creative strategies with my team is everything to me. We have such a diverse client base and every day is new and exciting. In 2014, we have so many new projects and growing the company out even more.

LOTA-N-C: What drives you? We see the luxe living, fun times with your loved ones, and ambition...what would you like your legacy to be once it’s all said and done?

Citi Medina: This is a great question that I have to answer in two parts.
What drives me has always been a deep-rooted need to be successful on my own terms, for my talent and my work. I began my journey with humble means and I have a determination that has always carried me through life. I’ve always felt the need to be creative in all facets of my life; that I have to express my point of view. It is as essential to me as air.

What I want my legacy to be in the end is that I set out to create something that would stand the test of time. My new platform www.citimedina is an outlet to show others they can do it. It provides resources for success and gives a behind the scenes look past the glamour, parties and luxe appointments. I want it to grow into a brand that people can go to for inspiration and support. MEDINA = CITI, I hope, will connect a city of creativity, tech and forward thinkers. My design haus will be an institution that continues to grow and be helmed by a MEDINA to continue the legacy.

LOTA-N-C: After reading your blog post, "You Can't Do It," it appears to come from such an honest place. But because you are full of self-acceptance, achievements and inspiration, I wonder have you ever experienced anyone trying to convince you that you wouldn't/couldn't be as successful as you are? And if so, how did you overcome it?

Citi Medina: I think in the early onset of starting my design haus MEDINA = CITI, there were many negative comments about a young, minority Creative Director. I didn’t listen to them. I wanted to merge tech and style together to create a Design agency that would really bond with clients and create a high-end experience through the whole process. Many people whom I’ve worked with or for me were completely not supportive of the initiative.

In the end you have to sit with yourself. I constantly say this to aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals. No matter the supporters that this dream and this road will be walked on by you alone, by your passion and commitment. The blood sweat and tears start and end with you, so your support system will be inspired by how hard you are working and your positive results will be directly reflected by your efforts.

LOTA-N-C: You have worked with fashion brands I know and love. Is the fashion world your primary focus? What qualities embody the ideal CitiMedina client?

Citi Medina: I’d love to clarify the two brands. CITI MEDINA is a lifestyle brand based entirely on me. People can go to for resources, inspiration and behind the scenes access to my world. I show you my passions and life for the first time.
Citi Medina was crafted to show the world who I am. So many times I am asked about my clothing style, my musical loves and what my everyday looks like. I am often booked by SBA, Rutgers or corporations to give workshops and speak on entrepreneurship, social media, technology and design. With the growth of interest, I wanted to relaunch to be the “go to” platform for my audience.

MEDINA = CITI Design Haus was formed in 2008 to craft custom visual solutions for discerning brands. We offer everything in Creative and Web development, to Digital Marketing and Social Media strategies. My team crafts Video Productions and Photography shoots as well. I am charged with leading creative strategies whether campaigns, crisis moments or creative production.

These two brands are based on my ideologies and workflow; on my vision and 14 years of professional experience. They are separate worlds that are all related to me and I love them both so much.

I work in fashion and entertainment, which was essentially my background when I started as a designer some time ago. However, our primary focus is clients and companies who want to push the envelope and are willing to commit to the process. We have worked with so many different industry clients (corporate communications, fashion, technology firms, not for profit, etc.) we only require that they trust in us and allow the process to build a great relationship and ultimately a beautiful end result.

LOTA-N-C: What words of encouragement can you give an aspiring creative wanting to make it in this field,
but has no personal role model(s) to emulate?

Citi Medina: "Keep your passion alive." I cannot stress this enough. I believe that this can carry you through it all. In this age of internet access, ignorance is a choice, so stay passionate, read on it, plan, day dream it and act on it! Passion can fuel you when you are sacrificing. Passion can give you focus. I know it is the driving force in my life, so I can definitely relate to the sentiment.

Learn more from this brilliant, creative mind at