Style stories

 
Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

Here at STUFF, we approach the Style issue in our own, well, style. In other publications, this is where we'd tell you that we unleashed a SWAT team of fashion and beauty experts throughout the Hub, evaluated every single one of Boston's more than half a million residents in front of a full-length dressing mirror, and compiled a list of the unequivocally Most Stylish People in the city - hands down, point of fact, no argument allowed. But if you believe it's humanly possible to boil the subjective notion of style down to some kind of top-10 list, you need knee-high boots made more for wading through BS than for walking the runway. The fact is those lists often return time and time again to the same well-publicized glitterati: prominent Bostonians with tenure on the social scene who certainly do look like a million bucks every time they leave the house. But they also often have big bank to spend on the latest fashions, personal shoppers, and access to teams of trendsetting aesthetes. (It takes a village!)

So STUFF celebrates folks who represent a newer generation of style mavens coming up in the Bean. Some you'll surely recognize from local industries; others are simply eye catching urbanites we admire for their unique looks. A few spend oodles on designer duds (like a handsome athlete with an insured coat collection), while others scour the racks at secondhand stores to concoct their ensembles. But all exhibit incarnations of style - Vineyard preppy and city chic, fabulously retro and sleek metro - that are their own creation. And from a sunglasses-selling entrepreneur to a working artist, a team of punk-rock beauticians to bloggers who represent Boston's new fashion elite, they're making their own impact on the local style scene. So whether you're part of the industry or not, an aspiring designer or just a closet fashionista, we hope you'll find inspiration in these pages - and permission to put your own stamp on our city's style.

THE URBAN NERDZ

 
Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

Unless your campus happened to be located on the deck of the Starship Enterprise, it's unlikely that the school nerds were the fashion heads of the student body. But with their eye-catching spectacles, penchant for bold patterns, and colorful ensembles that hark back to old-school street culture of the late '80s and early '90s, members of hip-hop trio The Urban Nerdz are at the head of their class, style-wise. And musically, they're definitely star students on the rise: "We're like the upcoming freshmen," says Nerdz member Ace Boogie, commenting on the cover art of their album The Transfer Students, which dropped this month. (In fact, our sister publication the Boston Phoenix placed them in "Boston's Rap Class of 2010" earlier this year.) The cover image depicts the guys lazing in a messy dorm room with a collage of established hip-hop artists (the metaphorical "upperclassmen") hanging overhead: some, like Kanye West, are big influences on the Nerdz. And when you hear the other gents Ace Boogie cites as stylistic inspirations - say, dapper Fonzworth Bentley and Outkast's eccentric Andre 3000 - their approach to geek chic might just have you seeing Steve Urkel in a sexy new light. But hearing their music is the best way to understand their unique style, a melting pot formed by Ace Boogie's ear for go-go (a form of funk popular in the mid-Atlantic), Kay Special's knack for mainstream rap, and producer Bueffard Mallary's jazzy R&B leanings. And even if they're still ascending the music world's hierarchy themselves, they're already looking to be good examples for future freshmen: positive messages are a "big part" of their style and music, says Ace, who points to tracks like "Hi Johnny," which slides in a message about safe sex. We've never seen, or heard, cooler Nerdz.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

D. GRAHAM KOSTIC
"I think some people might be underwhelmed when they meet me," laughs D. Graham Kostic of his style. While we highly doubt it (he looks dapper in everything he puts together), we understand why some might think his "no fuss" style belies his extensive fashion experience: at just 28, he's already served as style editor at Modern Luxury Magazines, co-founded the style site Glossed & Found, and most recently relocated from Chicago to Boston to serve as art director at private-sale site Rue La La. But while he's educated on haute couture, he admits that he lives his daily life mainly as a "uniform dresser": you'll find him in skinny bottoms and "ultra-fitted" tops, mainly in variations of neutral tones - black, grays, white - and accessorized with a carefully chosen scarf or gold watch. He keeps it stylish, but oh-so-simple. "My movers hit a delay bringing the rest of my things out here," he chuckles. "I'm tempted to tell them to just ‘Bring it all back!' Apparently I could live with what I packed for two days." He does sometimes indulge in more outré displays of personal flair: he loves to throw lavish house parties (incorporating everything from hot-dog carts to live harpists), rides a white-and-orange scooter, and, yes, has been known to splurge on a good bag, like his beloved Prada briefcase. But in general, he believes in keeping his look "understated." "I already have a really big personality," laughs Kostic. "I don't need to be the guy with the big personality and the pink coat!" But even if he was that guy, at least his best quality, modesty, would still look great with anything.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

SOONHA LEE
She may work primarily as a fashion photographer, but all it takes is one look at Soonha Lee to see that her very own style is fit to be framed. And just as any given snapshot captures a unique moment down to the millisecond, Lee's look is just as individualized. "It's just like a person's smell," says Lee, when asked to define style. "Someone's style is everlasting throughout their whole life. . . . You can realize its presence [in the person] all the time." She's always had her style - edgy and chic with occasional pops of color - ever since she was growing up in Seoul, South Korea. She moved to Boston in 2002 and studied at the School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street (she plans to one day work as a stylist). But observation has been her greatest teacher. "I learned lots of technical things about clothes and jewelry," she says of her coursework. "But to tell you the truth, I get more inspired by what I see and feel in daily life." And unlike those who see style entirely as a matter of self-invention, Lee thinks it wise to judiciously take cues from your surroundings when creating your own individual look. "Many people say, ‘Don't follow fashion trends; create your own style,'" she explains. "I have a different view: follow fashion trends, but don't lose yourself. Let fashion trends sink into your style naturally. Don't be the person who . . . [looks like she just came out of] display windows at a department store." As this shutterbug knows, real style is a work of art - not a Xerox.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

MEGGIE SULLIVAN
She may have only just graduated from college, but Meggie Sullivan's style is already a pastiche of her life experiences - from the pink silk bathrobe her father brought home from business in Japan (she's been known to pair it with a belt and wear it as a dress) to the mix-and-match fashions she creates from consignment shops as she tailors, tweaks, and embellishes pieces with the sewing skills she learned from her mother. Oftentimes her pursuit of style brings her far afield, whether she's perusing the men's section for finds at local boutiques or looking internationally for inspiration. Romantic silhouettes and exotic, ethnic prints are what captivate Sullivan, who's a co-manager at Sikara & Co., a jewelry line founded on principles of multiculturalism. "Sometimes it sounds like a microcosm of the UN, with all the different languages we hear in the store," she boasts. But her eclectic style never quite fit at preppy Boston College. "I used to complain to my friends that when it rained, I couldn't recognize people because they were all wearing pastel North Face raincoats and the same boots," chuckles Sullivan, who believes in making strong style choices and blazing your own path, wherever it leads. "The last thing you want is for a magazine to be a dictator of style. The editorialists, [like] Anna Wintour, take them for strong inspiration but nothing more," says Sullivan. Concludes the English major, "Nothing is more unattractive than style plagiarism."

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

CHAD ARNHOLT
"I don't know if I have a trademark style," Chad Arnholt modestly opines. But while we know he'd never refer to himself as a work of art, we'll take the liberty of doing so since we always love his style when we see him pouring drinks around town, from Woodward to Back Bay Social Club. His fashion sense tends toward the simple but funky, with ensembles often culled from secondhand stores (like the JP resident's neighborhood thrift shop, Boomerangs). Educated in art schools in hipster cities like San Francisco and Athens, Georgia, he uses his artistic eye for both his personal style and his installations, photographs, prints, and mixed-media works. ("Sometimes I do go that route," he says, describing how a look can be constructed like a work of art. "Thinking of things as pieces, and how they all come together.") But this fall, he takes his artistry to the next level by opening Lufthansa Studios at 100 Gibson Street in Dorchester with five other artists. Named after a sign for the German airline found in a nearby dumpster, it is intended to function as a working studio and gallery space, says Arnholt, adding that it will also be a site where other artists can come by to take part in creative collaborations. We can't wait to see what comes out of this latest creative outfit.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

CORY GIBBS
It doesn't hurt that they're usually handsome as hell, but soccer players also seem to be among the most stylish pro athletes (see: David Beckham). Maybe it's because those footballers spend so much time in Europe, where sweatpants and Sox caps are not the de facto dress code. "It was a big influence," says Corey Gibbs of European style. Now a teammate on our New England Revolution, he's spent years playing on Dutch, German, and English fields, too - and when he stepped off them, he stepped into dapper duds. "Working in Europe, we were always wearing suits with an overcoat and scarves, stuff like that. You pay close attention to details because you're being followed all the time." Footballers are, after all, the continent's celebrity athletes - plus, Gibbs is married to a former BBC Radio personality and pop star, singer Zena McNally of the group Mis-Teeq. "Back in the day, it used to be Ed Hardy," he chuckles of his old wardrobe. But now his closet befits a well-traveled player: he owns nearly 100 pairs of shoes, has coats so expensive they're insured, and admits a soft spot for Gucci designs. His style has moved on from baggy fits to tailored shirts, from trendy to classic; thanks to the EU, this athlete looks fit for GQ.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

ELLIE MUELLER
"I'm a sucker for history," admits Ellie Mueller. Even as a film major in college, she was particularly interested in how wardrobes fit into a historical context: "I enjoyed [discovering] how trends evolved in different times [and] histories of different textiles," she says. "Plus, I'm a sucker for '30s style. Fashion was very tied in to the film industry at that time." (She especially appreciates the graceful flow of Ginger Rogers's garments and the naturalistic beauty of Ingrid Bergman.) Today, the history buff radiates her own self-described style of "eccentric elegance" through vintage pieces that are attention-grabbing and creative yet boast clean lines and classic, body-flattering fits. "I was an artsy kid. Even then I always gravitated toward the weirder things, interesting textures and proportions," says the Cambridge native, who has a unique history of her own with Harvard Square vintage boutique Oona's. She was a frequent shopper there as a teenager, and she just became its new owner ahead of the store's recent reopening. She transformed the space by imagining it as she might a movie set, staging themed rooms, a costume area, an expanded men's section, and a $5 vintage T-shirt rack. What remains unchanged, though, is her love for vintage wares: "I guess it's a way out of the groupthink of whatever's in style," says Mueller. And though history repeats itself, Mueller's style would be unique in any era.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

THE SHAG TEAM
Step inside Shag's South Boston loft, and if you're not overwhelmed by the salon's kinetic energy - all blaring music and bustling activity - you will be by its modishly packaged eye candy: stylists decked out in every strain of streetwise looks, from Dita Von Teese doppelgangers to glam goths, from riot grrls to skater boys. The undisputed front man of the motley crew is owner Sandy Poirier, who was a fixture in Boston's punk-rock scene back when clubs like Spit and the Rat were still alive and kicking in their combat boots. "Back then, we used to cut each other's hair in basements and bathrooms," says Poirier, explaining how a sense of style has always been part of the punk scene. "Though at the time, we didn't have the sophistication." But today, Shag has achieved infamy in local buzz circuits for its rock-star-chic staff, a team whose technical skills and creative prowess put a high-gloss spin on an underground sensibility. Over the course of six years, they've contributed to greater risk-taking in Boston's style world, even as punk looks have moved from subcultures to the mainstream. ("We used to be freaks," says Poirier.) Reflecting these continued transitions in style is "Porn Is the New Punk Rock," Poirier's new brand of T-shirts launched in September. The line, Poirier says, reflects a sexy flavor of punk rock present in music trendsetters right now, from the sharp Semi Precious Weapons to the smoky-eyed sexiness of The Pretty Reckless. Now extending their influence from hair into fashion, the Shag team always manages to keep it wild but styled.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

MARGARET NGUYEN
Earlier this summer, James Joseph Salon stylist Margaret Nguyen had surgery on her knee. But perhaps the most painful part of recovery was the way it cramped her style. "I'm the queen of heels!" cries Nguyen with a laugh. On her first day back, Nguyen's clients couldn't help but notice that their stylist was sans her signature sky-high shoes: [They'd say] ‘Is everything okay? 'Cause you're in flats.' " But even when she's not in her favorite shoes, Nguyen still puts her best foot forward with what she calls her "romantic rocker girl" look. A live-music lover (you'll find her hanging at The Beehive and Middlesex Lounge, among other venues), she usually stands out as the colorfully attired pixie in sea of more subdued style. "I like bright colors, and that's something where I really deviate at the salon since a lot of stylists tend to wear black. That looks great and sharp," she says. But, she continues, "I want to exude the way I feel." So this chipper, creative sort is always dressing to fit her daily mood (and it's usually pretty bright). She lends the same personal touch to every client she styles. "It's very important for me to develop a relationship with them and see what their lifestyle allows them to have," she says, reflecting on how she helps clients determine their hairstyles. "I'm not pushy. . . . I'm one to adapt to what a person already is and get in their comfort zone." With Nguyen as their guide, they're bound leave chicer and cheerier than they arrived.

 


Photo: CHRISTOPHER PADGETT

MATTHEW PIDGE
Some people think of style only as it relates to what's on the outside - and there's no doubt that Matthew Pidge has fashion flair. But he also knows that what you put in your body has as much to do with style as what you put on it. "It's always about balance," says Pidge, a personal chef and holistic health practitioner. That key word, balance, applies equally to his ensembles (he's particular about mixing materials, textures, prints, and solids) and his eating habits: once a practitioner of raw veganism, he now prefers a more mixed diet that keeps it local. "I felt ten times better when I was eating meat and vegetables that were sourced locally," says Pidge, who plans weekly farm-share dinners with his best friends. "We're lucky to live in a temperate climate that has four seasons [for diverse growing]," he adds, reflecting on Mother Nature's own internal balance. And he makes the most of those great outdoors: the Dorchester resident may be an urban creature, but he loves escaping to Vermont, Western Massachusetts, and Maine for hikes and swims. "I do love that American lumberjack look," he admits with a laugh, adding that he chooses organic and natural materials for his stylish threads. "I try to reflect my inner picture," he says. "Open-minded, approachable, and friendly." Balancing act: accomplished.

 


Photo: SARAH WINCHESTER

THE NEW BRAHMIN
Stylist Liana Peterson admits that when she moved from NYC to Boston five years ago, she had "an awful attitude" about the local fashion scene. But once she stopped comparing the Bean to the Big Apple, she discovered a talented, thriving community of fashion-forward colleagues who shared her enthusiasm for enhancing Boston's style status. Nearly three years ago, she launched the fashion website New Brahmin, a labor of love designed to shape the Hub's taste and trends. And not to brag, but STUFF was quick to recognize Peterson's talent, bringing her on as our contributing style editor shortly after our relaunch in '09. Her site's traffic has since exploded (taking her away, alas, from her STUFF duties), and so has her initially tight team, now a like-minded cadre of writers, photographers, and hair and makeup artists. What defines a member of the New Brahmin, says Peterson, is a shared attitude more than a single style: good-humored but edgy, confident but kind (catty condescension is unwelcome). "We want to make Boston cool - not just be a daily source of info on shopping, style, and beauty in Boston, but give the city itself the spotlight on a national level. Every city gets its moment; I want to give it to Boston." She's seen the city transform right before her eyes ("It's grown leaps and bounds - or maybe I've become less of a snob!" she laughs), and she sees potential beyond its presently tapped talent. "We have these quarter million college kids moving in [every fall]," she says. "But when they graduate, they want to go to where the creativity is, LA or New York. The reality is, Boston has all the same potential - it's just less explored." Indeed, Peterson has zero regrets about choosing Boston as her city ("If had stayed any longer, it would have eaten my soul," she chuckles of New York), especially since her Brahmin brethren have also have become her best friends: recently married, Peterson had several Brahmins in her bridal party, and her bridesmaids' dresses were designed by contributor Sam Mendoza. New York never sleeps, but the Hub has style - and heart.

 


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

MARTINE REMY
Considering she works at advertising powerhouse Arnold Worldwide, it's no surprise that Martine Remy understands the power of presentation. But using style as a billboard that promotes her best qualities is something she learned early on, and not from her employer: "I come from an immigrant family," explains Remy, who was raised on Long Island and now lives in the South End. "My parents were born in Haiti, and when my mom came here she always knew she wanted to put herself together and present herself well. It's something that was ingrained in me: you don't have to look expensive, but look good." And Remy definitely does, describing her look as that of an "urban prepster." She's known to pop her collars, hit the town in Nicole Miller dresses, and rock her favorite blazer, a smart tweed riding jacket (there's the prepster). But she likes her fits snug and her ensembles paired with high-top sneakers, leggings, and accessories in pewter and gold (there's the urbanite). The office fashionista is particularly known for her trademark belts ("I have a huge collection" of waist-cinching belts, says Remy). But she wouldn't be caught dead perpetrating one of her biggest pet peeves: "Camel toe is a serious issue!" laughs Remy. "I'll never understand it. . . . No one needs to know what is happening there!" Some things are best left unadvertised.

 


Photo: CHRISTOPHER PADGETT

RICH AMUNDSON
Most of us only fantasize about taking a permanent vacation from the big, bad, corporate world - but two years ago, Rich Amundson actually did it. For years, he split his time between Boston, where he worked 80-hour weeks in finance and real estate, and Cape Cod, where he spent weekends partying on the beach and living it up with friends. "But Sunday night, everyone would be in the pits because you have to go back to work," he says. So in the summer of '09, he escaped the rat race to launch Dicks Cottons, a brand purveying a bright, rainbow assortment of sunglasses under the motto "Be happy. Live comfortably." "They mimic the lifestyle I want: soft and easy," says Amundson, who plans to debut T-shirt and hoodie designs soon. Though he takes business seriously, having studied at NYC's Fashion Institute of Technology, his work-life balance allows for party-hopping in sunny spots like Vegas and Puerto Rico, where he sponsored a celeb-laden W Hotel bash over Labor Day weekend. Yet his biggest celebrity coup came from another beach locale, when a friend in Miami doled out sunglasses to the Jersey Shore cast during a party appearance. Within two weeks, Snooki was flaunting them in tabloids and on the Grammys' red carpet, touting them on Twitter and snatching up pairs for her cast mates. (The result: ka-ching!) Preppy Amundson didn't expect his wares would appeal to the fist-pumping crowd, but his finance-to-fashion journey has been one big, pleasant surprise. "Five years ago, I couldn't imagine this in my wildest dreams," he says. "But my friends have a philosophy to live every day like it's the last and make the most of it. Five years from now, I could be surfing in Australia." At least he'll have the perfect shades.


Photo: MICHAEL DISKIN

NOEL FISHER
Sometimes, when folks don retro threads, they look like they're headed to a kitschy costume party. But Noel Fisher, a marketing assistant at MassDevelopment, manages be fashion-forward in ensembles inspired by past eras: she looks to mix-and-match '80s icons like David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, and Madonna (she purposefully buys one garment at a time to avoid crafting "rigid outfits"). She appreciates the '60s aesthetic of Mad Men (she stocks up on stockings and fishnets, never baring bare legs in the office). And she even harks back to the days of silent movies and the golden age of film, periods when glamorous starlets filled the silver screen (if her style was a studio, the makeup department would be as vital as the wardrobe). How does she pull off an air of nostalgia without looking like she's stuck in a time warp? "Everything old is new," she explains. "When you think about it, the shapes they [designers of past eras] created are somewhat modern, because they were trying to create what they thought people would be wearing in the future. So it ends up clean and classic." But she's still working on one dream project to reinvent a beloved piece from yesteryear: "I really want to have my wedding dress altered," Fisher explains. "Hack it off to make it a skirt, dye it some color, and maybe use the remnants to make sleeves." Some married women would balk at deconstructing their bridal dress, but Fisher sees it differently: "It's just sitting there, and it's so sad that I can't wear it anymore." Especially since in her closet, the past always finds new life in the present.