Passion for Fashion

Located at 227 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, is a little shop by the name of St. Hrouda.  Walking inside, one will find a combination boutique / art gallery, managed by the fashion extraordinaire Nicole Bell.  St. Hrouda’s walls are chicly lined with art and clothing from local artists and brands, including, my particular favorite, those made and designed by Nicole Bell herself.

Though I was in Brooklyn this past July, I have not yet seen this wonderful boutique/art gallery, because it has only recently opened its doors.  When Nicole first took over the space this fall, it was a somewhat drab and old-looking little shop.  Within weeks, she and her father, through their combined genius, had put together one of the most classy spaces I’ve ever seen (even in photographs).  The before and after photos of the space showed how true a transformation had taken place, and they actually had me wanting to jump up and down to celebrate the amazing results.  It is now the bea-U-tiful space of St. Hrouda, named for Nicole’s grandmother, and housing brands from New York, Australia, Denmark, Mexico, Paris, London, and LA, while featuring, of course, Nicole Bell.  And the gallery portion of St. Hrouda displays art by local New York artists (including, again, art by Nicole Bell herself), all for sale.

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On a regular basis, Nicole hosts a ladies’ night at St. Hrouda – from which I always see photos of wine and fabulous personal styling sessions (Think of what Becky Bloomwood does with her customers in the Sophie Kinsella novels) – as well as a variety of other events and pop-up shops/parties to help integrate St. Hrouda into the beautiful community surrounding it.

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Photos of the Grandmother Hrouda who inspired the name, along one of the walls of St. Hrouda

Now, let’s talk for just a minute about the amazing, spectacularly inspired fashionista behind it all: Nicole Bell.  I recently had the opportunity to visit and interview Nicole in her work studio in Brooklyn, just weeks before she began work on opening St. Hrouda.  Nicole is From Houston, Texas, and, only a handful of years ago, founded her fashion brand Nicole Bell.  Nicole herself is a goofy yet stylishly sassy woman who is taking on the world with long legs and big, brave strides.  She never fails to put a smile on my face when I am with her, and her determined outer self never hides the truth of what it really takes to be successful in fashion – life is hard, and making it in fashion is even harder.

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Nicole Bell of Nicole Bell and St. Hrouda

Nevertheless, fashion is her passion, and so she is going for it with all she’s got (and then some she’s still figuring out)!

Every time I see a Nicole Bell outfit, my inner Lady Gaga whoops with joy and longing – Ooooh! I want! I want! it always seems to shout, over and over, not unlike a little kid begging for ice cream.  Nicole’s designs are impeccable and utterly breathtaking on the powerhouse female front.  When I picture my BA* self taking on the world in heels, she’s wearing Nicole Bell.  And the world is looking on in awestruck astonishment. 🙂

Do yourself a favor, and give my interview with Nicole Bell a listen.  I learned so much about the fashion world, as well as how Nicole comes up with her individual designs and collections/lines.  Her sense of gratitude to those who have contributed to her journey thus far – as well as those who continue to contribute and show their support – is clear, as well as her almost unreal dedication to sharing her eye and inspiration with the world through fashion, despite the many, many hardships that have come with her endeavors and that still lie ahead.  Nicole does not have it all figured out, and that is just part of the beauty of exploration involved in furthering her passion for fashion.

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Nicole and Khaleesi, her baby boxer, @st.hrouda

The talk these days is all about getting to know the people behind our food and our clothing  – Buy local is a regular mantra (alongside Know your farmer and Made in the USA, in efforts to support quality products and fair trade, respectively).  The woman behind this shop and clothing line is definitely worth getting to know.  Especially if you’re in the New York area, give Nicole Bell a solid look – she is local and well worth the visit.  And, even if you aren’t in the area, look her up anyway – she’s that good.

When you find yourself interested in learning about the glories, trials, and tribulations of pursuing a love of and passion for fashion, give our interview a listen.  If you missed the link above, click here to listen to the interview I did with Nicole!

Definitely check out (and follow) her Instagram accounts for St. Hrouda (@st.hrouda) and Nicole Bell (@nicolebelldesigns) – the photos and videos on there inspire me just about every day.

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Notes from the interview:

The photographer Nicole really loved from the skate park is Nico Nordström, found at http://www.niconordstrom.com/

If you prefer regular websites (or want to buy something), check out www.sthrouda.com and www.nicolebell.co.

Check out Nicole’s 2018 New York Fashion Week show here – it’s awesome.  Just scroll down a bit on the page that opens for the video.

*Bad-a**, for those who don’t know

Post-a-day 2019

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“Chocolate”

Okay, here’s an anecdote from the wonderful dinner we had tonight (despite the fact that there were people smoking off and on in the restaurant).

My brother, his girlfriend, and I all had dinner with my brother’s private student tonight.  He’s this older Japanese guy, perhaps in his fifties, who is quite fun and silly, and who loves his family and my brother.  At one point in the night, we ended up on the subject of the pronunciation of English words in the Japanese style (Katakana English, as we like to call it), and specifically the struggle for Japanese people to say the word “chocolate” like a native English speaker.

My brother’s student was determined to pronounce chocolate like a native, and so we kept having to say it ourselves, and then analyze and critique the student’s pronunciation.  Most of the time, there was some special vowel added to the middle of the word, because Japanese doesn’t have consonants side-by-side (only “ts”, “ch”, and guttural stops written as a double consonant [e.g. “tt”, “kk”, etc.]).  So, instead of the native’s “choc-lette”, it tended to come out as “cho-koe-lay-toe” or “cho-ku-ray-toe” (They also don’t have R’s or L’s in Japanese.).

Back and forth, back and forth we went, my saying “chocolate,” followed by my brother’s student saying “chocolate,” the two pronunciations forever being different from one another.  But the student and my brother’s girlfriend, being Japanese speakers and non-native English speakers, couldn’t quite hear the differences.  Whereas my brother and I heard the difference every time, resulting in a good amount of laughter and face-making (You know how you make a face when something isn’t quite right?  That.).

The student even called over two of the waitresses at one point, explaining the situation to them, and asking them to listen to me and him saying each of our versions.  ‘Did the pronunciations sound the same to them?’ he wanted to know.  Yes, they did.  However, when I then said both versions myself, they heard a difference.  So, having lost that bit of the battle, he had them try to pronounce chocolate like native English speakers.  No, they couldn’t quite get it right, that middle “cl/kl” sound being the constant culprit in the matter.  This, of course, created and even greater flow of laughter in our corner of the restaurant.

There is a Japanese comedian who goes around to places (I’ve only seen and heard of ones in the US, but he might go elsewhere, too), asking for different things, but using Japanese English and odd translations.  For example, he walked around New York asking for a “boat-plane” or “sky mamma”.  He was, naturally, looking for a naval aircraft carrier.  The Japanese characters individually mean “sky”空 and “mother”母, and it is, of course, a sort of boat with airplanes.  The whole purpose of his show, of course, is to be silly in interacting with the Americans who have no idea what he is asking.  Having talked about this show earlier in the night, I eventually wondered what might happen if this guy were to try ordering the Japanese version of “chocolate” in, say, a coffee shop or restaurant.

My brother and I did our darndest in listening, but we couldn’t hear the words as people who didn’t know what was being said.  That is, we understand and are accustomed to Japanese English, and so couldn’t figure out how it would sound to people who don’t understand Japanese English.  So, we decided to send a voice message to my mom, recorded by my brother’s private student.

“White chocolate, dark chocolate, bitter chocolate…. please!”

(rather, “Waiito chocorayto, dahku chocorayto, beetah chocorayto… pureezu!”)

Naturally, my mother had no idea, no matter how she tried, what on Earth was being said.  Then, when we went for some other variations, – that is, his attempts at pronouncing it as a Native English speaker – she thought he might have been saying something about a certain kind of energy used in Reiki.

As one can ascertain from that, his “native” pronunciation has some room for improvement.  He declared that his homework was to practice only pronouncing “chocolate” all week.  He even has a voice memo of me saying, “Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate,” on his phone for reference.  We’ll see if he ever manages that native-sounding “choc-lette”.

Now, for anyone concerned about the fact that, ‘Well, chocolate does have an O in the middle,’ recall that that is not the point.  They are not saying the word differently out of righteousness for the fact that the O is there and therefore must be pronounced, but out of the fact that the “cl/kl” sound is just somewhat impossible for Japanese folks.  It makes for some pretty funny-sounding words in English, if you ask me.  😛

 

Post-a-day 2017