Brooklyn by Design tour spotlights local fashion entrepreneurs
Tour operator Dom Gervasi debuts a new offering
The woman wearing the OptiVisor is a retired classical violinist.
Emiko Shinozaki makes jewelry inspired by organic chemistry and other learned subject matter in a shared DUMBO workspace called the Alloy Studio Collective.
I met this dynamic designer and saw her intricate, lovely necklaces during a visit to her studio with Dom Gervasi, the owner of Made in Brooklyn Tours.
Gervasi introduced me to some of the stars of a new tour he has devised that spotlights Brooklyn fashion designers who manufacture their clothes and jewelry in New York City.
“Each one has a unique story,” he told me.
Shinozaki’s story involves a career switch after a life as a violinist. At one point, she taught music to about 100 students per week, she said.
She studied fashion design in Florence through the Fashion Institute of Technology — and learned to speak Italian, which is something she’d wanted to do.
The OptiVisor, which she’s wearing in her photo, is a pair of magnifying goggles.
The Carroll Gardens resident showed me a prototype for a three-dimensional earring design she made of recycled pocket-watch springs.
I call it “the Deconstruction of Time,” Shinozaki said.
The Grand Union Tea Co.’s headquarters
Gervasi’s full-length Brooklyn by Design fashion tour will include visits to a cluster of DUMBO buildings. On our afternoon together we focused solely on entrepreneurs in the building where Shinozaki’s studio is located, 68 Jay St.
Gervasi said the building was constructed in 1915 as the headquarters of grocery chain Grand Union Tea Co.
The Gravesend resident will officially launch his Brooklyn by Design shopping tour the second week in April.
It’s what the travel industry calls a private small-group tour. A group of two to 10 people makes a single reservation for $300 and up. They’re the only participants on that tour.
Gervasi’s other offering, the Made in Brooklyn Tour, is public. An individual books a $50 ticket and takes a walking tour with a total of two to 12 participants. This tour involves visits to Brooklyn artists, artisans and crafters.
Gervasi said he expects interest in his private Brooklyn by Design fashion tour will build slowly because “the price point is higher.”
He started his tour company in 2011 after getting laid off from a job in the communications equipment manufacturing industry.
Now. it’s time for me to introduce you to the other four fashion businesses Gervasi and I visited at 68 Jay St.
Menswear fabrics last longer
Designer ninA Valenti’s goal is to make “collectible” women’s clothing you’ll “wear for the rest of your life,” she said.
One thing that could make this longevity possible is her frequent use of menswear fabrics, which last longer than fabrics manufactured for women’s clothing.
Valenti, whose business is called NatureVsFuture, launched her clothing line in 2002. She draws up her designs in her 68 Jay St. studio. Apparel contractors in Manhattan do the manufacturing.
One of the Gravesend resident’s eye-pleasing designs is called a swerve coat.
The coat’s front panel is wide at the shoulder and its edge swerves inwards to the coat’s waistline and out towards the coat’s hemline. It’s priced at about $500.
Valenti also makes a swerve dress, a swerve blazer and a swerve vest.
A French bulldog named Maxine
Janelle Funari designs performance wear — leggings and jackets that are suitable attire for a gym or a bar.
“This is what people are actually buying,” said the Bay Ridge resident, who has been making clothes since 2004. Her company is called Funari New York.
Customers asked her to add color to her mostly monochromatic black clothing line. She made a hooded red jacket that’s priced at $179.
As a bonus, I got to meet her French bulldog, Maxine. The pup obligingly modeled a $159 dog jacket Funari designed.
Many of the apparel contractors who manufacture Funari’s clothes are located in Sunset Park. Others are in Manhattan.
The Jay Street building where she works has multiple entrances and addresses. Funari New York’s address is 145 Front St.
Feathery flights of fancy
When you think about leather accessories, earrings probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind — unless you have Roberto Calasanz’s creative imagination.
The leather accessories designer makes an array of feather-shaped earrings, priced $29 to $75 per pair. For conscientious consumers there’s a vegan version crafted out of vinyl.
“I have taken the feather to the extreme,” said Calasanz, who also designed feather-shaped headbands and feather-shaped chokers.
His boutique at 145 Front St. is called de main. He lives in Washington Heights.
A necklace from ‘Law & Order SVU’
Dong Chen designed a turquoise and gold-filled wire necklace that appeared on the TV series “Law & Order SVU.” An actress wore his freshwater pearl earrings on an episode of “The Good Fight.”
Chen and marketing expert Jennie Lau work with a Los Angeles entity called the Artisan Group that hooks them up with TV stylists who need to have jewelry designed for their shows.
Television exposure is a helpful marketing tool for their business, which is called Admirable Jewels. Shoppers on the company’s website can click on photos of the jewelry, find out who wore it and when — and order similar pieces.
Necklaces are priced $35 and up. Earrings are priced $50 per pair and up.
Lau said jewelry made with rainbow moonstones sells especially well. People who believe in the healing power of gemstones think the rainbow moonstone enhances fertility.
The rainbow moonstone is visually intriguing. The stone is clear or white but when you turn it from side to side, flashes of blue appear.
Admirable Jewels’ address is 145 Front St.
Lau and Chen, who are married, live in Bensonhurst.