Monday, May 31, 2010

Sustainable Style + Festival Fun

I spent my Memorial Day weekend talking about sustainable fashion to music fans in a little country town called Chillicothe, IL.  Sound odd?  Add 14,000 fans, several dozen bands, and a green festival approach to mix, and things start to make a little more sense.

I was hired to lead a panel discussion on sustainable style and host an eco-friendly clothing swap at Summer Camp Music Festival, where live music fans gather each May to dance under the sun and stars to their favorite bands.  Summer Camp took a very green approach to the festival this year, and it was refreshing to see how many music fans were genuinely interested in the concept of eco-friendly fashion.

(The music and organic beer weren't too shabby either).

Discussing sustainable fashion with Umphrey's McGee band manager Vince Iwinski and Change of Atmosphere founder James Gooch.

Showing examples of the wide variety of eco-friendly styles available today as compared to the past.

Music fans participate in the clothing swap.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The May Newsletter (Big Coupon Inside!)

*30% OFF SPECIAL:  To redeem 30% off coupon, use code MAY2010 in coupon code box at  Good though 5/26/2010. Coupon not valid toward purchase of gift certificates, and may not be used with payments made by gift certificates or store credits, or in conjunction with other coupons.  Must be entered at check-out to redeem.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fashion Flashback!

Here's a little snapshot of yours truly in the early 90s. I wish I'd thought a little harder back then about keeping clothing for future seasons (which, of course, is an incredibly eco-friendly way of working your wardrobe), as I'd love to be wearing that army green oversized blazer right now.

Never mind the terrible jeans, thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Great Clog Comeback

I always loved looking at pictures of my mom in the 1970s.  Her style was markedly Bohemian, but not over the top.  She usually had on something elegantly simple, and wore lots of sandals, boots, and clogs.

In the early 90s, I went through a clog period of my own.  I remember finding a pair of vintage clogs at a thrift store with heels so high I could barely stand in them.  I wore them to death, then lost them somewhere along the way.

And now, once again, the clog is back in action, seen paired with everything from short shorts to evening dresses.

Our vote for the best clog is, of course, the sustainable clog.  The obvious eco-choice is getting your hands (feet) on a vintage pair.  We're also in love with Swedish Hasbeens, which are handmade from sustainably harvested wood and chrome-free, vegetable tanned leather.  The company itself has been around since the 1970s and have maintained these eco-conscious pratices ever since.  And the shoes are adorable.  Our favorite is the T-Strap Sky, seen in the photo above (retail for $220).  We personally think they'd look especially chic with our organic cotton Edie Dress for summer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Adventures in Organic Cupcake Land

Warning:  This particular post has absolutely nothing to do with fashion. It's a recipe. 

I'm posting a cupcake recipe on a fashion blog for two reasons.  One is that these are some stylish cupcakes, if I do say so myself.  The other reason is simply the fact that I'm excited that I baked them and feel the need to post proof.  After all, dear readers, these cupcakes were made (from scratch) by someone who can't even toast a piece of bread without burning it, and has this fine piece of art hanging directly over her stove:

To spare you the details of the motivation behind my adventure with baking, I'll keep it short and just tell you the simple truth: I lost a bet, and cupcakes were the winner's prize. I'm not going to lie and say that these were the most enjoyable two hours I've ever spent, hovered over a mixing bowl with powdered sugar blanketing my dress (and the kitchen walls). I don't like baking, or cooking, or being in the kitchen for longer than the time it takes to make a salad.  Because of this, I decided that regardless of how they tasted, I was going to make these cupcakes (a) as organic as possible, and (b) pretty. To my surprise and delight, these tasted really, really good too.

(Dear boyfriend, don't get any ideas in your head that I'll be getting all Betty Crocker again any time soon). 

Organic Yellow Cupcakes with Raspberry and Lemon Buttercream Frosting

-1-1/2 sticks unsalted organic butter (softened) or vegan butter
-1 cup organic sugar
-1-1/2 cups organic flour
-1-1/2 t. baking powder
-1/8 t. sea salt
-1/2 cup organic milk or soy milk
-3 organic eggs (or comparable amount of egg substitute)
-3/4 t. organic vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   In a large bowl, use a mixer to mix the butter and sugar on low until blended, then on high for 5 minutes.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the milk or soy milk and vanilla, and also set aside.  In the bowl with the butter and sugar, mix in one egg at a time.  When fully mixed, add 1/2 cup of flour at a time, then the milk/vanilla mixture, mixing on low.  Then mix/beat on high for 5 minutes.  Pour into muffin/cupcake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely before adding frosting. 

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting:
-1 stick unsalted organic butter (softened) or vegan butter
-2 cups powdered sugar

-1/2 bag frozen organic raspberries, thawed
-fresh and/or locally grown raspberries
-3 T. organic milk or soy milk

Squeeze as much water as possible out of the thawed frozen raspberries.  Cream the butter.  Mix/beat in the other ingredients (except fresh raspberries) on low until thoroughly combined, then on high for 2 minutes.  Top half of the cooled cupcakes with this frosting and top each with a fresh raspberry.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting:
-1 stick unsalted organic butter (softened) or vegan butter
-2 cups powdered sugar

-1 organic lemon (zest and juice)
-3 T. organic milk or soy milk
-lemon candies (I used "Lemonheads," which are by no means organic, but are by all means delicious)

Zest the lemon.  Cream the butter, then add lemon zest and mix on medium for 1 minute.  Mix/beat in the other ingredients (except lemon candies) on low until thoroughly combined, then on high for 2 minutes.  Top half of the cooled cupcakes with this frosting and top each with a lemon candy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Electric Edie

In high school, I dressed up as Edie Sedgwick every Halloween. I wore a mini dress and false eyelashes to prom. I read all the books about Warhol's factory scene and Edie's riches-to-rags life of booze, pills, and fashion obsession.

To do this day, I covet pretty much every outfit she ever wore in public.  I even named one of my designs after her. Tortured soul or not, Edie had style.

This photograph in particular is one of my all-time favorites.  It makes me want to make a mad dash to the sewing machine, insert striped panels into the seams of my favorite tank, throw on the nearest pair of black tights, and walk the streets in search some sort of impractical and eccentric adventure. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I am obsessed with this photograph of Pattie Boyd. The effortless hair. The so-simple-it's-chic shirt dress. The bare feet, fresh from some sort of playful summer frolic.

This, to me, is honest, absolute style.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rewind: Music Festival Fashion '07

Ahhh, sweet, sweet summer.  Besides the obvious perks of my favorite season (example: the sun proving it actually does exist here in Chicago), summer is the time of year when the two worlds in which I work (and occasionally play) - fashion and music - collide in the most wondrous of ways.  I'll save my long history of summer music festival-dom for another post, but I thought for now I'd share some photos I came across on my hard drive today from Bonnaroo 2007.   I'm admittedly a bit of  Bonnaroo regular ('09 was the first year I decided to sit out, work or otherwise), but there was something particularly delightful about '07.  The music, the weather, the good friends, and of course, the fashion (bold colors and prints, lots of summer yellows, playful mini dresses), remain prominent in my memory as part of one of my most adored festival experiences.

Yours truly in Women's Wear Daily's "They are Wearing"
from Bonnaroo 2007 (bottom right, yellow dress)


Leslie Feist

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farewell, Gen Art

We received an email earlier that after 16 years of discovering and supporting emerging fashion designers (as well as musicians, filmmakers, and artists), Gen Art has closed its doors

The state of the economy has profoundly affected so many in the independent fashion and art worlds (including us), and we applaud Gen Art for their efforts to stay afloat over the last 18 months.  We'd also like to say thank you.  We're incredibly grateful for Gen Art's support of Mountains of the Moon (and so many other designers) over the years.

In gratitude,
Mountains of the Moon

Melissa and Scarlet at Mountains of the Moon's Sustainable Style Sale & Soiree, sponsored by Gen Art.  December 2009.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Girl Crush on Zooey Deschanel's Fashion Sense

I admit it.  I have a major girl crush on Zooey Deschanel.  And not because we have the same haircut.  I love her fun, quirky persona.  I'm charmed by her ability to star in mainstream movies without losing herself in the process.  More than anything, I'm absolutely smitten by her brilliant sense of style.  In fact, I think I may actually be crushing directly on her fashion sense apart from her all together. It's obvious by looking at my designs that I'm a big fan of vintage-inspired fashion, and she can rock vintage looks like no one else.

One of my most recent favorites is the outfit she wore to perform with her band, She & Him, at Coachella last month.  It makes me want to run full-speed to the nearest thrift store and grab the first pale blue, lace-trimmed sundress I see (or blow off work to sit down at the sewing machine actually make something for myself for the first time in longer than I can remember).  The way that she cleverly paired the dress with white fish nets and (gasp!) matching pale blue ballet flats makes me swoon.  Sigh.  She looks incredibly spring-y, and proves that you can still be comfortable at a music festival without sacrificing all sense of style.

Stay tuned, by the way, for a series of posts this summer centered around photos we take at our favorite looks from various music festivals.  We'd love to see your favorites as well.  You can submit them to us right here.

(Photo by Huffington Post)

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Quest to Discover Forgotten Art, Yard Sale Style

Last summer, my friend Cheri and I decided on a whim to go on a random treasure hunt via yard sales.  Cheri is actually a seasoned pro at this type of thing, and has discovered/gathered some pretty incredible trinkets over the years.  This particular adventure didn't lead us to much beyond the typical chipped coffee mugs and partially-intact board games, but on our final stop, I spotted an interesting metal object buried among the poorly framed posters and VHS tapes.  It looked something like an old counter display for jewelry or neckties, but was badly rusted, perhaps hinting at some sort of outdoor use (gardening tool stand?), or maybe just simple neglect.  There was something really striking about it to me, so I forked over the $8 and took it home.

Since I'm on a new personal quest to allow (ahem, force) myself to spend my weekend days participating in activities that aren't work-related, I decided yesterday (a good 10 months after buying it) to clean this curious object and use it to make sense of the various balls of tangled necklaces in my bathroom drawers.  It was covered in enough rust to require a Tetanus shot just by looking in its general direction, but I grabbed some steel wool, and with a little water and a lot of scrubbing (is it pathetic that my arms ache today?), slowly uncovered a really lovely piece of forgotten art in this hand-crafted wrought iron display.  Maybe it was just the pride I felt in actually accomplishing something that had nothing to do with work, but once it was clean and dripping with my freshly organized necklaces, I was almost taken aback by its simple - but genuine - beauty.

Reusing, recycling, upcycling, and re-inventing are all terms we hear incessantly in the world of sustainable fashion, and ultimately, the idea of creating new purposes for items otherwise landfill-bound really is at the heart of living a sustainable lifestyle, fashion or otherwise.  I'm actually kind of inspired to participate in these yard sale treasure hunts more often now, even if just to challenge myself to find clever ways to re-purpose unwanted goodies and give them another chance to shine.   

P.S. These stunningly professional quality photos were taken with my BlackBerry, but you get the point.  My only regret: not taking a 'before' picture.  My dreams last night were haunted by rust.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gratitude for Encouragement, A Mother's Day Letter

Since Mother's Day is approaching, I thought I'd take the opportunity to jot down a little thank you letter to my mom Melanie.  Perhaps if we were 'normal,' it would be inappropriate for me to publish something so personal on a blog (particularly a fashion-related blog).  We, however, by no means qualify to be classified among those who fit the definition of normal, which is yet another reason for me to thank her.  As for this blog being fashion-related, my goddess-of-a-mom Melanie taught me to sew at the age of 5 with a needle, thread and scrap fabric, so there. (And let me tell you, the works of art I created for my stuffed animals could absolutely be recognized among the ranks of the most brilliant designers in history). 

(Shameless plug:  Admit it.  You know your mom wants her Mother's Day gift to come from Mountains of the Moon.  I say, go for it kids.  Give her the Mother's Day gift of her dreams.  What's that you say? A 25% off coupon would make it so much sweeter?  Okay, fine.  But only 'cause we love the moms.  Just enter MAMASDAY2010 at now through May 7th). 

Dear Mama,

You are the best mom in all the land.  You have pretty hair and great eyebrows.  And a very nice singing voice.  You are really good at drawing.  And you always smell clean.  You also have a stunning sense of style.  And so, in honor of Mother's Day '10, I have compiled a list of various things for which I'd like to say merci.

1. Thank you for allowing me to express my personal style as a 4-year old (mainly via spinny dresses and costume jewelry), and taking me to my favorite tea room-style luncheons (in said outfits), and letting me order those weird pink cream cheese sandwiches (with the crusts cut off).  Those were some of the best days of my life. 

2. Thank you for reading to me every single night between the ages of 1 day and 10 years.  Edie Changes Her Mind and A Baby Sister for Francis rock.  Forever.

3. Thank you for teaching me to respect the earth and appreciate nature, to be open-minded and nonjudgmental, and to think outside the box, which I'm certain wasn't easy in homogeneous, conservative suburbia.  Along with this, thank you for making me organic baby food from scratch and saying no to sugar-filled cereal and processed cold cuts, regardless of my whining about how the kids at the school lunch table gave me their cheetoes and twinkies out of sympathy. 

4. Thank you for helping me win third place in my middle school science far by teaching me how natural mordants react with herbal dyes, and for devoting so much of your free time to making certain we had an amazing herb garden in our yard, with fresh herbs available at all times.  (And, of course, for even naming me after your favorite herb.  How many other Melissa's were actually named after Melissa Officinalis, aka the deliciously fragrant, lemon-scented perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae?)

5. Thank you for making me those special dinners of scrambled eggs, baked beans, and apple sauce when dad worked late.  I will always associate those meals with feeling safe and happy.  And although I did not inherit your green thumb (see herb garden thank you in #4), I did inherit your disinterest in cooking.  Please pass the take-out menu, thankyouverymuch.

6. Thank you for teaching me to be polite.

7. Thank you for not murdering me and/or putting me in some sort of juvenile detention facility between the ages of 13-1/2 and 16-3/4.  I will leave this one at that.

8. Thank you for being part of the 'Triple BFF Brigade' that is you, sissy and me.  Cocktails and Sex in the City?  Yes, please. 

9. Thank you for coming to all of the ballet recitals, violin and choir concerts, football games during the cheerleading years, art exhibits, plays, and fashion shows.  And I mean all of them.

10. Thank you for listening to my desperate, tear-filled ramblings via telephone (often several hours long) during my "I'm still finding myself" years.

11. Thank you for letting me get - and wear - those pleated Guess overalls, tightly pinch-rolled and accessorized with splatter-paint jelly earrings and a belt fashioned from a powdery pink bandanna. And for giving me an Olgilvie Home Perm.  And letting me wear that super-shiney Revlon Zinc Pink lipstick.  I can only imagine the tears you held back as your fashion-victim-of-a-daughter paraded around the neighborhood in all her 1980s glory.

12. Thank you for not only allowing, but encouraging, me to follow my dreams.  This is a big one.

13. Thank you for telling me that the dance routine I choreographed to Billy Ocean's Caribbean Queen and subsequently performed for you, repeatedly, was "brilliant."

14.  Thank you for being tough with me.  I know that at age 15 I told you, daily, that you were "ruining my life," but trust me, I get it now.  You always gave me just enough of what I wanted to make me happy, but made certain I appreciated the things I was given.  You taught me how to figure things out for myself, be an independent woman, and never to expect (or want) hand-outs.

15. Thank you for setting an example, by being compassionate, incredibly thoughtful, hilarious, smart, talented, and strong, and for always encouraging me.  From my first day in this world, you have encouraged me to think freely, encouraged me to take notice of the details in my surroundings, encourage me to learn and experiment, encouraged me to explore, and encouraged me to never settle for ordinary.  Even when we annoy the living crap out of each other, it's impossible not to look into your eyes and see what a truly good person you are. 

(And don't you dare use this against me the next time we get into an irrational argument over where we're going shopping).


best. mom. ever.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fashion Illustration as Art

Recently my mother brought over a box of drawings I'd done as a child.  Most of them were mixed media (as in magic marker on lined manilla paper with some crayon experimentation thrown in), and I even discovered a few Fashion Plate etchings.  (Remember those, fellow children of the '80's?  My cousin Lisa had a set and I practically dove for them every time I went to her house).  Almost all of them were stick figure-esque images of women wearing extravagant gowns embellished in lace, ruffles, bows and flowers.  Perhaps these sketches were early indications of my deep rooted love for fashion (or maybe just silent cries for help feverishly sketched by a child-of-hippie-parents dressed in denim overalls with grass stains on the knees).  Regardless of my motivation to create them,  it was fascinating to look though them and realize that even as a 5 year-old, my brain had some sort of propensity for communicating fashion through drawing.

One of my favorite steps in the fashion design process (if not the favorite) is the sketching.  (I have a strong affinity for inspiration boards as well, but we'll save that for another post).

There is just something about translating an inspiration for a design onto paper that allows for pure artistic freedom without the "rules."  Yes, there needs to be an understanding of the human form and an ability to convey how fabric naturally drapes on the body, but for the most part, the mathematical aspects of garment construction (admittedly my least favorite part of the design process) can be tuned out for a while, and replaced with a permission for the imagination to overpower practicality.  In essence, the more abstract qualities of a collection - mood, aura, spirit - can be captured through illustration in a way that can't always be conveyed through a ready-to-wear garment. (Above: My illustration for my recycled candy wrapper dress on display at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, October 2008).

Originally, fashion illustration was not only an essential part of fashion communication, but truly the primary means of presenting designs to a mass audience.  Photography, retouched or otherwise, allowed for a more realistic visual of a designer's work.  As a result, fashion illustration, along with its poetic personal interpretation of the garment, fell to the wayside.

Charles Dana Gibson, 1901.

Fashion illustration certainly isn't dead, although it exists today on a very different plane that in the past, with a much more minor (though not insignificant) role in the visual presentation of fashion.  I really believe that as an art form, even separate from its original place as a practical means of fashion communication, it's under appreciated.  There exists something incredibly profound and beautiful in these works that enables the viewer to see beyond a piece of clothing, sometimes to an entirely different realm of perception.  Take a few minutes to look through FIG's website, or google "fashion illustration" and you'll see what I mean.

Peter Woodruff's illustration of designs by Lavin (left) and Chanel (right). Vogue, July 20, 1929.
Andy Warhol, 1959.

Michael Roberts' illustration of Azzedine Alaia 'Sphinx Dress,' 1990.

 Joe Eula's illustration of designs from an early 90s Givenchy collection.