spotlight: marla aaron

Marla Aaron recently moved from a home office to a space in the Diamond District on 47th Street—where she used to spend her lunch breaks.

 

While Marla Aaron was still working as a global communications executive, she would come to 47th Street, also known as the Diamond District, during her lunch breaks to feed her jewelry passion.

 

At the time, she was collecting antique jewelry and starting to make some of her own pieces. Fast forward to 2019, six years after she left her previous career to launch her eponymous line in 2013, and she’s recently moved from a home office on the Upper East Side to 47th Street, where she’s no longer a lunchtime hobbyist. She has a studio and showroom and has almost finished securing a third space to house her rapidly growing brand. 

    

New Marla Aaron pieces made from Fordite, pictured over a chunk of the material, which consists of layers of solidified automotive paint. 

 

“It was all terrifying—that I was going to throw away my 25 year career to pursue my dream,” says Marla, “but a passion for something can carry you a long way.”

 

 A self-described lifelong “frustrated product designer,” Marla makes jewelry that is both formally beautifully as well as fully functional—from her original lock design to her Gimmel rings, which feature interlocking bands that separate to reveal a hidden, inscribed message. “When I saw that I could morph the lock in a lot of ways, I knew there was the possibility to do a lot more,” Marla says of her signature lock design that launched her company, which now includes over five-hundred unique pieces. Recent iterations of the lock include one made using Fordite (layers of old, hardened automotive paint from Ford factories in Detroit, pictured above) and one featuring stones gathered from around New York City.

  

Marla pictured in front of her vending machine at the Brooklyn Museum.

 

There’s a warm ethos that surrounds everything Marla does.

 

Since 2016, she’s run the #lockyourmom project, which sends special edition silver baby locks to single mothers just before Mother’s Day. As Marla explains on her site, "We do this because I was a single mom when my son was small. Then I met my husband and together with our children we made a family. Being a single mom was the most difficult time in my life . . . I remember that feeling and I want to give back in a small personal way."


There's also the Marla Aaron vending machine (which is exactly what it sounds like). It's traveled to the Brooklyn Museum and the William Vale Hotel, and most recently, it was in residence at the MZ Wallace store in SoHo this past February. The machine’s monitor played a special film Marla produced for Valentine's Day, featuring children collaboratively reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. Marla also traversed the city with several members of her staff, handing out copies of the sonnet printed on small sheets of paper. All of this was done with refreshingly little branding and simply in celebration of love—no jewelry is featured in the video, and it was a last minute decision to even include Marla's logo on the back of the printed poems. 

 

The Regular Lock in Yellow Gold with Diamonds and the Star Lock in Yellow Gold.

 

Since the brand’s inception, Marla has used the verbiage of "jewelry and objects,” and while she has yet to offer any objects that aren't meant to be worn, this pursuit seems to be on the horizon—no doubt they will be equally as gorgeous and functional as all her current offerings. 

We love Marla’s line both for its its unique, thoughtful craftsmanship and many customizable combinations, as well as the spirit with which she does everything.

 

Shop a selection of Marla Aaron online now

and visit us in store to see more. 

 

 

Of Rare Origin

 

 

Of Rare Origin is a family affair. And this isn’t just due to the fact that a mother-daughters team—Leslie, Octavia, and Thea—run the entire operation.

Every aspect of the company’s world—from the initial inspiration (their Armenian matriarch) to the manufacturing process (intimate Italian workshops) is suffused with familial joy and whimsy. We sat down with the spirited trio to talk a bit more about how their quickly coveted, artisanal jewelry came to life just a little over a year ago and which just recently landed at Scarpa this season. 

Leslie’s history in the jewelry world laid the groundwork for Of Rare Origin.

Working as a consultant for several high-end jewelers, she traveled throughout Italy, France, and India, discovering and sourcing specialized manufacturing techniques from small, family-owned workshops. Growing up, Leslie’s daughters would often accompany her on these trips. They kept in touch with the families who operate these ateliers (many of them had children the same ages as Octavia and Thea). They maintained pen pals and more recently, they've attended each other’s weddings. Some of these peers are now the owners of their family’s businesses.

Back in the states, Octavia and Thea’s maternal grandmother (of Armenian descent, born in Geneva, raised in Brussels and moved to NYC in 1945) was a formative presence in their lives; together spending a lot of time in their Montauk home. They all lovingly recall their grandmother’s singular spirit. Thea recounts their grandmother’s favorite garment to wear to parties in her later years (she lived well into her 90s): a Jean-Paul Gaultier blouse, with a subtle, yet suggestive pair of entwined lovers embroidered on the front and on the back in bold red letters: Liberte, Egalite, Sexualite.

 

 

 

As the story goes, their grandmother made it a habit of daily feeding the birds her leftover crumbs after breakfast.

“Every day the cardinals would come, and we would tease her and say, ‘When you die, you’re coming back as a bird.’ She loved that idea,” Leslie recalls. When her mother passed away a few years ago, Leslie found a trinket in her belongings, which inspired Leslie to create the first pair of aviary-themed earrings. 

After giving the earrings a test run, where the response was overwhelmingly positive, Leslie, enlisting both the help of her manufacturing network and Octavia's communications background, swiftly developed their first full-fledged collection. All of this happened just over a year ago, and since then, Octavia, who was working full time at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, now splits her time between the firm and the family biz. Thea joined the team just 8 months ago, and while all three wear many and interrelated hats, presently, Thea has taken on more of a creative role with her mother in the design aspects of the company, while Octavia spearheads the structuring of the business as well as relationships with retailers and press. 

Reflecting on her experience so far, Octavia notes, “I didn’t realize how proud I would be to be in a woman-owned business—that’s taken on such an essence for me, [as has] the fact that we’re manufacturing something hand-crafted, something artisanal.” She acknowledges not only her mother’s remarkable network (“Lovingly, we call her the jewelry hustler.”), but also the increasingly rare talent in that network, “There are not so many people who do these techniques any more.”

 

  

 

How the Of Rare Origin jewelry comes together is perhaps as elaborate as the finished product itself.

It’s charmingly impossible to trace the process in any linear sense, but it involves some combination of: sourcing a wide range of stones and materials, 12-hour days visiting one of many workshops (punctuated, of course, by a quick Aperol Spritz) where Leslie, Thea and Octavia will sit with the craftsmen as they work, and in between these visits, countless shipments of prototypes back-and-forth to ensure all components are perfectly balanced and the creation is beautiful on, lightweight and comfortable. A single pair of the Aviary Classic earrings could contain up to 5 different materials, likely fashioned on different benches in different towns, and multiple moving parts (for example, not only does the cage swivel, but the bird perched inside will swing, as well), which all coalesce into the striking final result.

When we spoke with Leslie, Octavia, and Thea at their self-titled “messy office” on Madison & 66th, spread out before them were samples from a new piece in development: the same, small element carved in no less than eight different materials, each considered for its weight and durability, as well as its more formal characteristics, such as texture and color. No doubt other parts were already taking shape in any number of towns in Italy, where Leslie and Thea were headed back just several days later.

We’re thrilled to bring Of Rare Origin to our shelves, not only for its rare beauty but for our fondness for the women behind these magnificent creations, as well.

 

 Shop Of Rare Origin

 

Beauty Spotlight: Henné Organics

 

 

While Laura Xiao was traveling and living abroad, she was forced to declutter and only keep essentials at hand.

She cultivated an appreciation for reliable basics, which may explain why when she launched Henné, her luxury lip care line, she began with just two products: a lip balm and a lip exfoliator. Both products are, however, rigorously developed and USDA certified organic—no small feat to achieve when it comes to personal care products. 

Laura has recently expanded her offerings to include 2 more flavors of lip exfoliator (the Lavender Mint is beyond) and she's introduced a lip tint in 4 lovely shades. We're happy to offer her entire collection online and in store. We sat down with Laura to discuss her background and the development of her brand. 

 

Could you tell us a bit about your background and how Henné was born?

Well I can't say the journey has spanned over many decades as I'm still in my late 20s, but it did start relatively early. Growing up I was raised in a household where health and wellness were extremely important. Unhealthy snacks at our house were a rare sighting, which is why as a teenager I'd have to go to friends' houses if I wanted to sneak in some junk food.

My interest in green beauty started in college. I was studying Broadcast Journalism and I ended up on the Health beat while working at an NBC affiliate. One of the stories led me to discover just how many chemicals were in consumer products. It was definitely a wakeup call. I started replacing as many products as possible in my bathroom and makeup bag with natural alternatives.

It wasn't until early 2015 that I decided to launch Henné Organics. Looking back, I think 2015 was the right time for Henné, as I needed those previous years to develop the knowledge to feel comfortable with starting my own lip care brand.

 

 

I read that you competed, quite successfully, in professional table tennis when you were younger. What effect, if at all, has that experience had on launching and running your own business?

Wow, that feels like a century ago! Great memories always come to mind whenever I think about my table tennis years. I love sports because of the discipline and work ethic it instills. The sport taught me the power of visualization and staying calm under pressure. I'm not perfect and like any normal human being, I falter at times. But overall I believe those years of training and competing have really helped mold me into the person I am today.

 

How do you spend your days off?

You can usually find me at a cafe during my work days and my days off. I'm trying to drink less coffee these days, but even just being around the smell of coffee can be enough to jumpstart my creativity and productivity. In general, I love working out of different spaces for inspiration and a change of scenery.

When my schedule allows it, I love catching up with loved ones/friends over a few drinks. Cozy nights in with the hubby are always perfect on any given night of the week. Right now Henné takes up almost of all my time, so I don't travel abroad as much as I used to, but my husband and I aim to go on mini-trips at least once every month or so.

 

 

Who are your role models?

It's hard to narrow it down to only a few people! I've been blessed to have developed wonderful business and personal relationships with individuals who have taught me so much and have inspired me tremendously. Anyone who is willing to put himself or herself out there and be relentless in pursuing a dream or passion is a role model in my book.

 

All of your products are USDA Certified Organic — not an easy feat to achieve. Can you speak about the importance of that qualification and standard?

Even before Henné's inception, I know that we would have to work our way up from being completely unknown to a household name in the natural beauty space (something we're currently still striving for!), as I don't come from the beauty industry and there were no shortcuts available. I wanted to start things off on the right foot, and I felt that having organic certification was important to show prospective customers and retailers that we're serious about the integrity of our products. USDA is tricky though, as a lot of natural and organic ingredients are not allowed simply because the USDA organic certification was created based on the agricultural industry, not personal care. This is something we're constantly keeping in mind and sometimes battling with.

 

If you could be transported anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, where would it be?

I would be relaxing with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on Waiheke Island in New Zealand. I definitely miss living there, especially during our winters/their summers.

 

 

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Studio Visit: Calleen Cordero

 
Photos by Jeff Cornejo 
 

In the 1970s, North Hollywood was a cottage industry for hand sculpting wood bottoms for shoes.

 

Though the industry shuttered, Calleen Cordero has been reviving this lost art for the past 17 years, and we've been proud to carry her wares for much of that time. Her artisanal ethos defines every element and process that goes into the creation of her shoes, bags, and belts. We visited her Los Angeles factory to glimpse the remarkable, sustained craftsmanship behind her brand.

Each part of Calleen Cordero's shoes—from the outsole to the insole to the heel—is meticulously handcrafted; a single pair can pass through up to 36 pairs of hands over the course of its production. Above, in front of a wall of stencils, an x-acto knife is used to cut a piece of suede. All leather for the shoes is cut using the custom stencil for a size and style. 

 
  
Calleen's signature studded ornamentation—shaped in wide array of geometric and natural patterns—is comprised of solid nickel and brass studs, each of which is kick-pressed in by free hand. The exact amount of pressure must be applied to embed each stud; not enough pressure and it doesn't close, too much pressure and the leather rips. 
 
 
Once a piece has been riveted, the rear is covered with an additional piece of leather. Here, a belt receives its backing. Afterwards, edges are hand trimmed and burnished.
 
 
Shoes are given a test run on the factory floor, and Calleen will often take part. On the right, a new strap across the front of this particular pair of sandals was judged too tight and sent back for stretching. 
 
 
Calleen says her goal from the beginning was to create an environment that felt like a home for her employees. Many of the artisans who work for Calleen have been with her since the brand's inception. 
 

Shop Calleen Cordero

 
 

Beauty Spotlight: Herbivore Botanicals

 

Meet Julia Wills and Alex Kummerow— the founders of Herbivore Botanicals, which began in their Seattle kitchen 6 years ago and has quickly become a standout brand in the natural skincare landscape. 

 

Herbivore's formulas are pure and highly concentrated; every ingredient is included for a specific, therapeutic reason. From French pink clay to Brazilian gemstones, Herbivore's treatments combine essential vitamins, minerals, and botanicals to restore skin to its optimum health and vitality. 

Julia and Alex also craft their offerings with a little indulgence in mind. They believe daily bathing and skincare rituals should be enjoyable. Thoughtfully designed packaging and seductive scents, colors, and textures enforce this mission. We spoke with Julia and Alex about their dynamic brand. 

 

Could you tell us a bit about your background and how Herbivore was born?

 

Julia: We are a married couple who started Herbivore from our kitchen 6 years ago. At the time we started we had just moved in together. Neither of us had the intention of starting a business. We just realized that we had a lot of fun making things together and Herbivore was born. We are both really interested in design and have always had just as much fun designing packaging and styling photographs as formulating products so I think that gave us a strong brand identity from the start. 

 

What does your working relationship look like? Are your roles clearly differentiated or is it always pretty collaborative?

 

Alex It’s definitely very collaborative - we rarely work on our own. We are both very passionate about the brand and naturally talk about it all of the time since we are always together. It’s great. There is no business formality that needs to exist between us and no judgement with even the craziest ideas. We can just be hanging out in a park chatting and we may come up with our next big idea. 

 

 

 

What do you find is the most versatile ingredient across your products?

 

Alex: Jasmine essential oil. Julia thinks everything is better with Jasmine and I agree!

How do you all spend days off?

 

Julia: We love being outside and in the sun. Living in Seattle that can be tough in the winter time. So, we fled to Kauai this winter - we’ve pretty much been living here for the past 3 months just soaking it up. We do a lot of beach days. 

 

 

 

Which of your products do you all use most often?

 

Alex: We use them all, but the one we use most is probably Rose Hibiscus Face Mist. We go through it like crazy, it's pretty hard to keep it in stock around our house. 

 

Who would play each of you in a movie?

 

Alex: Brad Pitt, circa Legends of the Fall, of course.

Julia: Julia Louis-Dreyfus 

  

Your line seems to have grown steadily since you launched in 2011. What’s on the horizon in the next few years?

 

Julia: Natural cosmetics is on our horizon and of course, more skin care!

 

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