Mother/daughter start up Studioshop on Martha's Vineyard
Photo by Gwyn McAllister
Two years ago, mother and daughter Marlene DiStefano and Randi Sylvia launched a clothing line together. Their designs were a hit at the inaugural Fashion Week runway show and again made a splash at the second annual event this past September.
Now the two women have teamed up once more to launch a new venture. Last weekend they opened a new store called Studioshop in the Oak Bluffs Arts District. The store/studio features some of the two women's collaborative fashions, new pieces from Ms. Sylvia's RKS Leather line, and work from other designers. The combination shop also carries fresh flowers — an extension of Ms. DiStefano's wedding flower business — called Fashion Flowers.
The store is located in the Dukes County Avenue space that formerly housed the original PIKNIK Art and Apparal gallery and boutique. The mother/daughter team are renting the space from owner Michael Hunter. Ms. Sylvia worked for Mr. Hunter in his new Edgartown PIKNIK Art & Apparel store this past summer.
The arrangements were made in late October, shortly before the family (Ms. DiStefano, Ms. Sylvia, and her sister Nica) travelled to Las Vegas to watch the third sibling, Jesse Sylvia, place second in the ESPN World Series of Poker. Thanks to a nonstop effort by the three women, the store was up and running less than a month later.
At the soft opening last Saturday, Dec. 1, guests were treated to a sneak peak at collections by the owners as well as a handful of other people including local designer Minor Knight and two jewelers. Nica Sylvia also showcased her handmade cards and crocheted hats.
The front of the store houses Ms. DiStefano's fresh flowers — sold singly or in arrangements. The rest of the space is primarily devoted to the team's collaborative designs and Ms. Sylvia's leather goods. The two women's fall/winter line includes contemporary dresses, skirts, pants, and tops fashioned from luxurious fabrics and lambskin and pigskin leathers. The collection's palette tends towards subdued seasonal earth tones — a lot of brown, ecru, and soft greys. The looks are youthful but not at all trendy. There are flared mini skirts in both super soft lambskin and merino wool with leather trim, a tailored yet feminine ribbed jersey dress they call the Sexy Secretary, and fitted skirts in a metallic flecked wool blend.
Then there are the more eye-catching looks like a tan polka dotted shirt dress and an asymetrical dress in electric blue with black lace. The designs are a collaborative effort with Ms. DiStefano lending her expertise to Ms. Sylvia's visions. Ms. DiStefano says that she has been sewing and designing since she was a teenager. She often made her own and her family's clothes. Colorful cotton infant's rompers, like the ones she made for her own kids, take up one wall of the store. Also for sale are Ms. DiStefano's textural hand-knit hats.
Ms. Sylvia studied at both Otis College for Art and Design in Los Angeles and the Parson's School of Design in New York City. The 24-year-old Vineyard native has picked up design inspiration from her extensive travels throughout South America and Europe. This past summer she learned leatherwork from a well-known New York designer. Her current leather line includes handbags, belts, and jewelry. The envelope style clutches, shoulder bags, boxy weekenders, and other designs are all made from high-quality leather that she treats herself using vegetable dyes.
Studioshop also features the work of other designers. Minor Knight's looks include fun vests made from wooly Mongolian lamb and her 1940s inspired frock coats in vintage prints and solid colors. Ms. Knight also offers a selection of her beautiful scarves and wraps made from recycled saris and kimonos.
Also on display is sterling silver jewelry from a New York City artist as well as a local jeweler, ceramics from Zimbabwe, and Island made rosemary cashews. Soon to be featured is a line of funky striped jersey undergarments from a designer that Ms. Sylvia met in Argentina. Ms. Sylvia hopes to gather the work of more undiscovered designers and artists to make the showroom a true collective.
"In my travels I'm looking for artists and small studios that don't have contracts with large stores," says Ms. Sylvia. "There's just so much out there that you don't see."
For now, the two are happy to have a space to show in, as well as to work. "I was working out of my mom's house and my dad's garage," says Ms. Sylvia. "My dream has always been to open up a boutique with things from here and all over the world and things that I've made." She adds, "There's so much talent on the Vineyard."
There's certainly plenty of talent in this one close-knit family alone.
For more information, search Studioshop + Fashion Flowers on Facebook.