Mom We Love: Melissa Sonico

We’ve shared our love for this multi-hyphenate Los Angeleno before, so we were so excited to have the chance to finally sit down with her to talk about all things style, motherhood and everything in between. Melissa Sonico does it all: a writer, professor, jewelry designer, fashion and lifestyle blogger, wife, mother, and a constant source of style inspiration. She’s just as supportive of indie boutiques and emerging designers as we are, so you’ll often find her (and her son) wearing labels of a ton of mutual friends. Here, she shares her best style advice, her new go-to outfits, and the best things about being a new mom.

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TELL US ABOUT YOU. My name is Melissa and I just turned 34. I live in Southern California with my husband Johnny and son Harrison who is turning one on the 16th. I am a fiction writer (I write short fiction), writing professor, fashion and lifestyle blogger, and jewelry designer, all of which takes up a lot of time. I also love to read, go for walks with my boys, and watch everything from Silicon Valley to Stranger Things– lately it’s been Elmo or Beatles videos though because of Harrison! Music is a big thing in our house too. We’re trying to pass that love on to Harrison for sure. Harry Nilsson, Belle & Sebastian, some hip hop– everything.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? My personal style revolves mostly around things I can get away with wearing while still giving easy nursing access to Harrison, which isn’t as difficult as I thought. I wear mostly classic pieces like a tee and jeans or a loose linen blouse that Harrison can fit under comfortably. Comfort and style is easy when your pieces are versatile like that. Minimal, neutral tones with a pop of color here and there.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE DESIGNER? Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. I’m a huge fan of Lauren Winter. Everything she makes fits so well and is super flattering while still being comfortable. Black Crane, of course. Objects Without Meaning. For shoes, St. Agni.

WHAT’S YOUR DAY-TO-DAY GO-TO OUTFIT? Right now it’s my logo tee from Older Brother, high-waisted jeans, and my Caron Callahan jacket or some variation of that, with some mules or clogs. Simple and classic.

WHAT’S THE BEST STYLE ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? Best advice: comfort above everything else. Not just the feel of the clothing but whether I feel comfortable going out in them.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR HARRISON. He is a doll. Every day, I still can’t get over the fact that Johnny and I made this little tiny being, and he’s perfect. He’s frustrating and demanding, and he’s got a temper but he’s also goofy, smart, and charming– and so sweet. His favorite things to do are watch Feist and Usher on Sesame Street, and alternate between growling and purring. Oh and bath time is a fave. I could go on and on.

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HOW DO YOU APPROACH GETTING DRESSED WITH HIM? The same way I do for myself really. Living in California, we miss out a bit on layering and cute winter clothing, so it’s all about comfort for him. I also like neutral colors for him (just like my own color palette) but with a lot more color and fun prints. He’s a stylish boy, but he can still play and get dirty in his clothes– nothing stuffy.

BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MOM? That immediate love for someone. It’s instantaneous and just keeps growing. I laugh so much with him too. Everything he does is hilarious. I think Johnny and I need to learn not to laugh at everything he does, especially if it’s something he shouldn’t be doing!

HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK AND FAMILY? It’s rough, and I’m still learning!

HAS BEING A MOM CHANGED YOUR OWN SENSE OF STYLE OR APPROACH TO FASHION? Oh yeah! I have much less time to get ready, and sometimes I dictate what I’m wearing on a certain day based on whether or not he can have easy access to breastfeeding. But the overall aesthetic is still the same.

WHAT STYLE ADVICE WILL YOU GIVE HARRISON AS HE GROWS UP? Less is more, especially for a guy, in my opinion. Basics are perfect– they’re comfortable, durable, and always in style. A tee, jeans, high-top chucks. That’s kind of universal advice actually!

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Photographer: Abigail Halstead

Meet the Designer: Kelsy Parkhouse of Carleen

Though she’s based in Brooklyn, designer Kelsy Parkhouse continues to find inspiration in her southern California roots for Carleen, her line of cool, quirky women’s wear. Folk-art motifs, fine art and domestic manufacturing are also mainstays for the emerging designer. After her thesis collection at the Pratt Institute found rave reviews in 2012 and receiving the inaugural Liz Clairborne Concept to Product Award, Kelsy ventured out on her own straight out of school and never looked back. We caught up with the emerging designer to quiz her on her inspiration and all her favorite things.

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WHAT PART OF THE DESIGN PROCESS DO YOU LOVE THE MOST? I love pattern making the most. I love making little adjustments and discoveries as I work and having that sense of adaptability. I also love fitting and seeing initial muslins on a real body.

 

Meet the Designer: California’s Ali Golden

Fashion design for Oakland-based designer Ali Golden has always been about the process of actually making clothes. Trained in graphic design and fine arts, her first garments were constructed and sewn in her spare time, as a hobby. But in 2011, she discovered that what she loved doing for fun could actually be a career. Today Ali runs her own fashion line alongside two eponymous boutiques stocked with her own designs alongside like-minded brands like First Rite, Creatures of Comfort, Ilana Kohn and Dusen Dusen, one in Oakland and another in Los Angeles that just opened its doors on Sunset Boulevard. It’s easy to see how the California native’s approach to design leads in to the clothes themselves. Her easy dresses and separates are cut to fit everybody and every lifestyle.

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YOU STARTED OFF YOUR CAREER IN GRAPHIC DESIGN. HOW DID YOU END UP RUNNING YOUR OWN FASHION LINE? I got really sick of sitting in front of the computer all day and I wanted to spend my time moving around and making something that was tangible. As I started making clothing for fun, I realized how difficult it was. The idea of “fast fashion” and the extremely low value we attribute to clothing really pissed me off. I thought I would like to start a line that celebrated the craft of making a garment (and was also capable of functioning in the global economy) and it helped that I really loved pattern-making and sewing.

5 minutes with fashion photographer Jeana Sohn

Behind those gorgeous lookbook shots for Clare Vivier, Jesse Kamm, Black Crane and more there’s a rad woman wielding a camera. Jeana Sohn, based in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood where she lives with her husband and son, was a painter before she picked up said camera to shoot her stylish friends’ closets. These portraits of enviable wardrobes from women like fashion designer Sophie Buhai and stylist Sissy Sainte-Marie led to a blog and to a new-found career. We had to find out more, so we asked and she answered.

HOW DID YOU FIRST FALL IN LOVE WITH PHOTOGRAPHY? I took some photography classes while I was majoring in graphic design in college. We only used film cameras in the class and I enjoyed it more than graphic design classes.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT IT? I love that it’s so spontaneous. I also love working with other people as a team and that every shoot is different.

Road Trip: Vancouver to Ojai with Charlie & Lee

Not like we need an excuse to get out of town, but with Canada Day and the Fourth of July happening this week, taking a vacation feels more like a patriotic duty. So we’re packing our bags and getting inspired. Kleah Graham Michnik, owner of Vancouver’s Charlie & Lee boutique, was nice enough to share a photo diary from her most recent vacation so we could daydream until the Out of Office notification gets switched on. Kleah and her husband Josh Michnik, owner of 33 Acres Brewing Co., along with their new baby boy Charlie, headed down the west coast for the first official family road trip. “Josh drove from Vancouver to the tip of the Baja for his #BAJAB33R surf trip. On his way home he stopped in LA at a friend’s place, and Charlie and I flew down to meet him. We hung around for a little over a week, then drove home to Vancouver over the next five days.” Scroll down for some spectacular getaway inspo and our Q&A where we get to know more about Kleah, Josh and little Charlie.

Above: “Embarking on our journey as the sun was getting ready to set, about 45 minutes North of LA along the PCH.”

Meet the Boutique: Condor

Loriann Smoak has been putting her passport to work. Originally from Carmel, California, she moved around the world to live in some of the world’s most glamorous cities: Paris, Milan, New York. Plus, she’s visited just about everywhere else. In 2011, she decided to take her expansive fashion knowledge gathered from her years globe trotting and set up a boutique in New York City. Condor quickly gained a loyal following for stocking chic, modern clothing with a bold aesthetic. Her store mascot, an adorable fuzzy, English Angora bunny named Merlin gained his own following (follow @merlin_manhattan on Instagram), appearing in Vogue and Lucky. But this past year, Loriann decided to move back home to the sunny west coast and lay down some roots. Now based in Los Angeles, the shop has most certainly kept its New York sensibility of effortless cool. We caught up with her to talk about coming home, the best parts of California living and quiz her on her favorite things.

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Meet the Boutique: Pepper

With a focus on local production and sustainable materials, Pepper brings an LA boho vibe to Scottsdale, AZ.

It’s no wonder owner Catherine Beach cut her teeth in fashion on the West Coast. She spent years working with brands in the downtown LA fashion district, such as Alternative Apparel, before heading home to the desert to open her boutique in the spring of 2014. Nestled between galleries and boutiques in old town Scottsdale, the shop strikes the perfect balance between the old west and the California coast with a laid back, sunshine-soaked feel. We’re booking our plane tickets now. But in the meantime, Catherine shared an insider’s take on the Grand Canyon state and a few of her favorite things.

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Meet the Boutique: Beklina

Founded in 2006, Beklina is the original online eco boutique and our constant source of sustainable inspiration.

The store is stocked with colorful pieces, whimsical prints and Made in the USA labels. Every time we hit refresh, there is something new to discover. We caught up with owner Lina Rennell at her home in Northern California to learn more. Not only is she skilled at balancing bottles on her head, but she listens to Beastie Boys. As if we could love her more.

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Behind the scenes in California with the founder of ilia beauty

Sasha Plavsic spent over two years perfecting the first six shades of her Lip Conditioners before launching Ilia Beauty in 2011. Two more years later she had over 30 more products on the shelves of some pretty major stores like Barneys Co-Op and Colette in Paris, giving NARS a serious run for their money. The kicker? Her stuff is 85% organic and will last through just about any make-out session. We’re hooked. Sasha is also one of the coolest girls we know so we caught up with her during some rare down time and got the 411 on the world of Ilia.

WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TO THE PERFECT LIPSTICK FORMULA? The ingredients sourced from around the world are the best we can find, and nearly all the formulas are started from scratch. When formulating we always have a few goals in mind for what we would like to achieve and it can take up to a year and a half to get there sometimes. There are constant tweaks happening right up to our launch and even after to perfect a product.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SO FAR? The biggest challenge to date has been skin tones, which we will start to introduce this fall. The challenge is that there are so many different tones and when launching just six colors it’s a tricky to ensure there will be something for everyone. Doing what I like for myself is the best guide and is in some ways doing what I think is best for others. You can have all the stats and marketing on what sells and why, but at the end of the day if I am not in love with something and it doesn’t work for me, why should it work for anybody else?

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU RIGHT NOW? For the past two days I have been back in New York. The energy of the city, the sounds, the fashion – it all starts to bring new ideas. Any type of travel will get all pistons firing with lots of new thoughts.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIFE IN CALIFORNIA?
The sun! That is really the main highlight – amazing weather all year around. Secret spots in LA and weekend trips to Palm Springs are also a nice bonus.

iliabeauty.com