EyeSwoon

  • I have always been intrigued by the behind the scenes. The hidden process of how things magically come together. The initial spark of inspiration that incites a journey. When I first moved to NYC I worked at French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant Indochine. I can recall being transfixed by the mechanics of a professional kitchen—how the cooks would communicate without really communicating in a delicate dance that managed to time a meal seamlessly. Similarly, when I first met Victor I would sit silently in his recording studio as he was producing a song and try to dissect the sounds. I would attempt to hear each instrument individually—the kick, the clap, the bass—and then allow my ears to hear it as a whole. In any of the rooms I have designed over the years, I can always trace back to the single image I saw in a book or magazine that ended up inspiring an entire space. This also holds true when I cook—simple raw ingredients, once united, become an exceptional and complex explosion of flavors. I am always pondering what that very first step was, and then the next, and the next, building until BOOM, a room, a song, or a meal is complete.

    When it comes to our work—particularly for those of us who are creatives, freelancers, or entrepreneurs—the connections and building blocks are rarely obvious. The majority of the time they are silent. They are an accumulation of seemingly-small moments, meetings, or conversations, or even the result of a visual the eye lingers upon. I have come to realize that these little experiences gently carry us to the next silent step on our journey. I’d like to amplify those mini moments because they are louder than they seem.

     
     
     

    For many years, which actually felt like a century to me, I was trapped within the confines of my own mind.  I could not see a way forward. Every step I made seemed to lead to another roadblock. I was my biggest obstacle because I simply did not believe in me. I was lost and confused, and I built up a case against myself. I was never really present—all day, all night I was in my mind. My husband would ask me often, “Babe, is everything okay with us?”. And I would snap back, “Why do you always have to make it about us? This is about me not feeling satisfied creatively. You wouldn’t understand, you don’t know what it feels like because you have a successful career. I do not”. I mean, did I really think that would help our communication? The situation was dire. I felt helpless. My only reprieve was playing with Jivan and cooking, so that’s what I did. And then I began inviting friends over for dinner. They invited friends too, and little by little, my network began to expand, my conversations grew more interesting, and my scope of possibilities slowly broadened. If I had to pinpoint the one connection who shifted everything for me it was my dear friend Jenné Lombardo. She introduced me to a major cast of creatives who were doing things I’d never even dreamed possible in the fashion and design world. She was also my biggest advocate, along with Victor and my BFF Tali Magal. Jenné and Tali both outright said to me, “People NEED to know what you do.” They saw me, pushed me, and believed in me when I didn’t yet believe in myself.

     
     
     

    Fast-forward six years to present-day and it’s a MAJOR year for me with the release of my first cookbook. I was asked to partner and host a dinner for Bumble Bizz in NYC. Created by the makers of the Bumble dating app, Bumble Bizz is a networking platform in which women make the first move. It’s a way to take control of your career and meet industry connections so you can learn from one another. Recently the company also introduced the #OneConnection series to recognize a person in your life who set you on your path and changed the course of your career. I had been to a number of dinners for Bumble Bizz and quite frankly was blown away by the network of powerful women they had banded together.

    Yes, founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, and women in general, seem to be taking over the world! This had me thinking about the network of women in my life who led and lifted me, igniting my career. I began to ponder the random conversation I had in passing at Milk Studios that sparked the idea for EyeSwoon. I reflected on organizing a lunch with a friend who had a blog and picking her brain about how to start. Asking a friend in PR to make an introduction as I looked for representation. Having a photographer friend teach me about my camera and how to use Photoshop. Going to an event and rather than being a wallflower, sharing a bit about myself, which led to a meeting. Appreciating a photographer’s lush and moody aesthetic, which inspired one of my very first brand partnerships. Allowing myself to internalize the words of encouragement from a woman I admired, which kept me plowing forward. There are so many women in my life who have empowered me. I wanted to thank them because even now with a thriving business, I need them each and every day. Bumble Bizz allowed me to gather women who straddle food, fashion, design, entrepreneurship, and photography all in one room to celebrate the connections that have led to quite a powerful year.

     
     
     

    When I organize these dinners, there is so much that goes into every choice—I consider the food, the décor, the intimacy, and the energy. I had been wanting to collaborate with Chef Dan Kluger on an event for quite some time now. He has been one of my greatest inspirations as I developed my sense of style and flavor along my culinary journey. We are all nothing without the people around us who prompt us to explore deeper and be better. Dan is one of those people for me, as are the women who collectively pushed me forward on my journey. With this event, the universe was really giving me an opportunity to see all these sparks burn bright together. The private dining room at Loring Place seemed like the perfect, intimate space to come together. I arrived there at 4 p.m. and found ceremony in the small moments, in setting the table for our dinner and thinking about the significance of the women in my life. I worked together with another epic woman creator, Taylor Patterson of Fodder Fox farm. We decided to take inspiration from the orange touches in the dining room and highlight the season with persimmons delicately placed at the table’s center. To this we added abundant candlelight and a few wispy white flowers. A last-moment addition was plucking a few magnolia leaves from the corner arrangement, (sorry Dan), to add to each guest’s dinner plate. All of these décor choices were chosen to look elegant and beautiful, but also because they are accessible to people at home who might be inspired to host their own female empowerment dinner.

     
     
     

    Another moment of awe was when Chef Dan Kluger surprised me by crafting the entire 15-dish family-style menu by taking inspiration from Cook Beautiful. The dishes were not my recipes but Chef Dan’s interpretation of my recipes—I MEAN HOLY SWOON! Dan spoke at the dinner and shared how we pored over the pages of Cook Beautiful and found so much similarity in our cooking styles and in the simple techniques yet complex flavor combinations. He also shared that I have been an inspiration to him, which really struck an emotional cord within my heart. What a magical night celebrating the many connections both silent and loud, big and small.

     
     
     

    In closing I want to ask, who is that #OneConnection in your life who set you on your journey? Let’s remember to thank and celebrate him or her! For those of us who have found success, let us remember to support the women who do not have clarify, who have not fully realized their path, to help them find their way. And, for those who feel isolated or without a network to turn to, as I did six years ago, THIS is the reason Bumble Bizz exists. It expands our support network by giving us the connections we so desperately need. Although the path sometimes seems murky while you’re on it, in six years, with a lot of help and elbow grease, you might just look back with nothing but gratitude for every friendly face and rock-solid stone on your yellow brick road.

     
     
     

    I mean talk about a trifecta of powerful entrepeneurs whom I call friends!  Meredith Melling of La Ligne and La Marque.  Bettina Pretince, the art world’s go-to consultant.  And creator of Guest of a Guest and Lingua Franca, the brilliant Rachelle Haruska.

     
     
     

    The lovely Casey Fremont, my dear friend and the director of Art Production FundBumble‘s very own Lauren Taylor.

     
     
     

    My girl Zanna Roberts Rassi is just killin’ it – straddeling her styling & editorial work, a TV personality, and oh, beauty brand Milk Makeup to boot!

     
     
     

    These two visual storytellers capture the most breathtaking images…. Andrea Gentl & Nicole Franzen

     
     
     

    Ooohhhhhhh LADIES!  Tali Magal + Chloe Crespi have been there since DAY ONE and are my tried and true besties. And Danielle Debois inspires on the daily as co-founder of the brilliant plant-based meal delivery start up  Sakara Life.

     
     
     
     

    Carly Cushnie is just a divine soul and utterly talanted woman in fashion whom I admire.

     
     
     

    Tell me more Chef!

     
     
     
    GIRLS SUPPORT GIRLS PERIOD

     

     
     
     

    I CELEBRATE EACH OF YOU LADIES!

     
     
     

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