To Live & Design in NY

If 2016 taught us anything it’s that it helps to present a clear message and point of view whether you’re talking about the world of politics or that of art and fashion. As fashion goes through its inevitable changes, it’s worthwhile acknowledging that the brands/designers with a consistent yet quirky, often eye-popping aesthetic (think Gucci’s Alessandro Michele) are of the moment RN. I recently had a chance to check in on two different design showrooms, for a little peek of what goes on behind the scenes in two foreign born emerging design companies now making their way in New York.

Martina Dietrich in her studio
Photo by Marsin

When I visited Martina Dietrich’s MD Couture studio on the Lower East Side it was a somewhat gray day (unfortunately that’s the norm in NYC this time of year) making the whiteness of the studio and the profusion of color greeting me at the top of the stairs, all the more pleasing. I had met Ms. Dietrich at an art gallery event and was intrigued by her bright orange tresses and interesting manner of putting herself together. Once I learned that she was a German fashion designer by way of Italy, Paris and now New York with a private clientele who seek out for her custom-made one-of-a-kind frocks and separates, I had to know more.

Photo by Marsin

“No one comes to me for a black t-shirt,” she joked.  Indeed her neon orange hair is in direct correlation to what I think of as a “girls just want to have fun with an elevated sensibility” flair. Many of her designs feature neon orange piping along the edges enhancing and helping to identify this signature look. Her fabrics are all sourced from Italy and include many with stretch — various jerseys, knits, velvets, leathers (often combined together in unexpected patterns) and a few intricately patchwork custom fur pieces. “The material must speak to me — it tells me what to do,” she explained. “If you don’t listen to what the fabric wants to do, you will never get it right.” I tell her that Project Runway’s Tim Gunn agrees with her. How many times have we stalwart PR viewers (Season 15 just ended BTW) heard Gunn advise and acknowledge that the design challenges are either won or lost during Mood fabric selection?

Martina Dietrich silver arm warmer

Dietrich is also a proponent of ’90’s style layering — she showed me how she transforms her pieces by placing one of her long tulle skirts underneath to dress up the look or one of her specially designed “boas” (a unique technique involving a “car wash” or thickly fringed neck piece) to give it another dimension of playfulness. Since I was wearing my silver H&M jeans and Kruzin silver sneakers that day, I was immediately attracted to a pair of orange-piped ruffled-cuff silver arm warmers and a crushed velvet floral top which, of course, I had to have. The designer also showed off a beautiful periwinkle blue velvet fabric that she tempted me with, even draping it over me, just so. Her custom creations vary in price but average in the $700 and up range.

As a young girl, Dietrich cried when her seamstress mother made her a “regular skirt” — clearly she turned into a designer that enjoys creating the unusual and finds her inspiration everywhere. Martina’s mission is to help create memorable experiences for her clients ultimately allowing them to steal the show at any occasions through her 100% custom-designed dresses. If you’d like more info ( or to book an appointment with Martina click here.

Beyonce with Blood & Honey Fur Bag

My next studio visit was in the garment district with Dave Rowan, the US manager for Blood & Honey — a clothing company that makes distinctive graphic fur coats and accessories in Kiev, Ukraine, only recently entering the US market.  As so often happens, there was a gestalt-like formation which brought Blood & Honey onto my radar — meaning that more than one sighting or reference occurred symbiotically.   Around the same time that I had seen a photo of Beyonce carrying one of their fur bags (with the provocative slogan “I Kiss Better Than I Cook” emblazoned on it) I also encountered the line at the newly opened KYLE By Alene Too boutique (the east coast version of the store owned by RHOBH Kyle Richards).

Lee Pfayer with Blood & Honey David Bowie Coat

Designed by former art critic and interior designer Lida (Lee) Pfayer with assistance from Liliia Shydlovska, these super fun furs are a joy to behold on a gloomy day (or any day for that matter) and are meant to be worn by a special clientele — those who want to be noticed. According to Dave “Moscow is drab and gray so Lida found a way to brighten it up.  Her palette is fur and the medium is people.  She wants the woman (or man) who these speak to, to be her customer.”  They’ve shown at Ukraine Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, and at Miami’s Art Basel, and have decided to come to New York, moving production here, as one does, especially lately. Her designs feature rex (extremely soft rabbit fur) and mink intricately inlaid with stripes, checkerboards (often giving a 3-D effect), hearts, evil eyes, stars, smiley faces, along with many other motifs. The unlined rex coats are about $1,500 while the minks range from about $3,500-$4,000.

Denim jacket by Blood & Honey

Originally Pfayer began her line in 2015 with mother/daughter cardigans featuring pandas, cupcakes and other whimsical designs as fur embellishments on pockets, and knit dresses with detachable fur cuffs. When those did well she expanded to vibrantly hued fur chubbies, fur scarves and accessories including high heels and slides. I got a peek at the spring line which features a Native American inspo complete with suede fringed and beaded ponchos, pencil skirts as well as jean jackets with fur embellishments and cartoon logos such as Betty Boop.

Blood & Honey Band Coat

Three specialized one-of-a-kind handmade men’s coats combining the themes of art and music were stars at Art Basel, and are set to be auctioned off in the near future. These include a rex “cardigan” featuring the Beatles likenesses in a Warholian style (retailing for $9,900), a mink “bands blazer” featuring logos from Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Kiss, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Queen, Pink Floyd, The Police and The Rolling Stones (retailing for $39,000) and the piece de resistance: the turquoise mink Ziggy Stardust coat. In the case of the spectacular Bowie coat, over 50 pieces of mink were cut and placed like a jigsaw puzzle to form the image, taking two and a half months to make. This coat is valued at $59,000!

“The Eye Has To Travel” Fur coat by Blood & Honey

In 2017, expect to see more celebrities wearing these coats (Britney Spears, Rihanna and Andra Day are a few that have expressed interest) as well as a faux fur line (which DJ Vashtie is rumored to be in on), as well as a possible stand alone brick-and-mortar store coming for fall 2017. Right now you can shop online (, or in person at selected Nordstrom stores in the Olivia Kim shop as well as at the aforementioned Upper East Side Kyle By Alene Too (1298 Third Ave). Other possible online sellers may soon include Moda Operandi, Net a Porter and and stores such as Opening Ceremony, Dover Street Market and Kirna Zabete.”Right now we’re just a small company of four,” says Rowan. “We are experiencing the usual growing pains of an emerging brand learning how to best get out our product.”

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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