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C r e a t i v i t y , C o m m u n i t y a n d C o n v e r s a t i o n i n t h e He a r t l a n d

Carhartt Creative Director, Brian Bennett, MI C R E ATOR FOOD

Lauren Ash, IL / A R C H I T E C T Manuel Zeitlin, TN / C E R A M I C I S T Emily Reinhardt, MO

Chef David Kirkland, Turn, MO / P O E T R Y Jay Erickson, MN / F A S H I O N C O L L A B Two Son, TN


We tell the stories of interesting

people doing remarkable things in the heartland of America.


L E T T E R F ROM T H E E DI TOR Resilience is a funny thing. We all experience times when we fall so low or lose so much that we think no amount of optimism can bring us back. But we also know that we have the opportunity to meet our true heroism in those moments. When we are no longer able to survive in one mindset, we evolve into another. We resolve to change and adapt. We all have our own story of resilience, and while rereading the stories in this issue it struck me that all of our chosen subjects possess hardy resolve in the face of challenges. At age 20, artist Mariam Paré was shot in the back of the neck and left a quadriplegic, which forced her to transform in order to continue her art career (page 34). Illinois-native Lauren Ash couldn’t find a place for wellness and self-care dedicated to black females, so she started her own in Chicago (page 18). Chef David Kirkland worked for years to hone his unique culinary style before opening his inspired new restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri (page 26). Maintaining an independent art career is a challenge in and of itself, and it has been an inspiration to observe studio artists Emily R einhardt and Lauren Michelle Tr acy achieve this goal—especially after reading their compelling stories and learning about the rocky roads they’ve traveled (page 22 and 32). From all of these folks we can learn that showing up and doing the work in the face of any odds is what success really looks like. Nashville-based architect Manuel Zeitlin thrives with a strong belief in revitalization through resilient design, which has made him one of the most intriguing architects in the Middle of America. ALIVE associate editor Jorie Jacobi sat down with Zeitlin to understand the mind of a true visionary (page 62). I doubt there’s a brand that better exemplifies resilience in the history of American industry than Carhartt. Writer Dan Michel and photographer Attilio D’Agostino traveled to Detroit, Michigan and their sewing facility in Irvine, Kentucky to take a look inside the world of this hardworking brand with creative director Brian Bennett (page 48). If this is a time when you are questioning your strength or are not quite sure of your next move, take solace in these stories. The daffodils will push up from the frozen ground again, the chorus will always come around and resilient artists will continue to change the world. Love,

Rachel Brandt @RachelEBrandt

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B U S I N E S S M A N AG E R

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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 18 Creator | Lauren Ash 22 Ceramicist | Emily Reinhardt 26 Food | David Kirkland 32 Studio Artist | Lauren Michelle Tracy 34 Painter | Mariam Paré 36 Fashion | “Sweet and Lowdown” 48 Feature | Brian Bennett, Carhartt 62 Architect | Manuel Zeitlin 80 Poem | Jay Erickson

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L AUR EN ASH IN PURSUIT OF PURPOSE: CHICAGO’S BL ACK GIRL IN OM. by RIKKI BYRD / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

In her collection of essays titled “A Burst of Light,” black feminist Audre Lorde writes, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” The practice of self-care has become a ubiquitous topic in the 21st century, particularly crucial for those with a hand in social justice—those who must seek to protect themselves while also advocating for others. Twentynine-year-old Lauren Ash understands firsthand the necessity of safe spaces for marginalized populations, specifically women of color. Thus, she founded Chicago-based Black Girl In Om. “I had to create something I didn’t see: an intentional space for women of color to breathe easy through practicing holistic wellness and self-care,” says Ash in her smooth, vibrato voice. Prior to launching Black Girl In Om, Ash had taken yoga classes as an undergraduate at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, where she grew up. She further embedded the practice into her life during graduate school at Purdue University, where she pursued a master’s degree in American Studies. She noticed how rare it was to find instructors of color in the wellness community, and how few students of color were in her classes. This sparked Ash’s desire to create a dialogue around the idea of self-care for people of color, one that eschews the bourgeois associations and narcissism that often come with it. “Self-care doesn’t have to be your $150 yoga mem-

bership or green smoothies that you get from a coop,” she says. “It’s deeper than that. It is fundamentally rooted in making sure we know how to sustain our spirits and that we can take care of each other.” Ash then made her way to Chicago, where she enrolled in a yoga teacher training course and began hosting yoga sessions, which she titled “November Namaste.” It was in the midst of her yoga practice one day that the idea for Black Girl In Om came to her. The awakening led to an expanded collection of events with titles such as “Wednesday Recharge,” “Sol: Stay Woke,” and “Food Church.” Home to various artists, musicians and authors, Chicago has historically been a site of migration where African-Americans could find new opportunities. It offers the same rich possibilities today, as young black millennials, natives and transplants alike, are anchoring their talents and finding purpose there. Such is the case for Ash. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it: I think Chicago is the place to be as a black creative right now. Particularly as a black creative interested in collaboration, impactful community work and catalyzing ideas.” Her sentiments are corroborated by the recent successes of young Chicago-based artists of color. Shani Crowe, whose 2016 solo exhibition “Braids” was exhibited at Fountain Head Lofts in the Chicago Art District, gained the attention of Solange ›››

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Knowles, who invited the artist to style her hair for her first performance on “Saturday Night Live.” Musicians, including Chance the Rapper and Smino, have risen to fame in the past two years. These millennials are carrying the torch handed to them by storied Chicago-based artists like Theaster Gates, continuing to push for creative freedom. “Many of my friends are black artists or creatives in some way,” Ash says. “It’s a black Renaissance right now.” Black Americans routinely grapple with invisibility and inadequate representation in media and the arts, while a disproportionate number suffer from the effects of poverty, police brutality and lack of

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access to affordable health care. Furthermore, very few platforms that promote fitness, yoga or self-care are targeted at minorities. These truths cannot remain invisible once citizens become conscious of them, and it is this work of consciousness-raising that Black Girl In Om has undertaken. “There are some people who are never going to be able to step into a Black Girl In Om session or any other physical space that prioritizes wellness and self-care for people of color” says Ash. It’s a challenging truth, but one that has not stopped her and fellow creatives from lifting the voices in communities of color, as Black Girl In Om persists onward.


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E M I LY R E I N H A R DT ’S H A LC YON DAYS An Ar tist Comes Home. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

The story of Kansas City-based ceramic artist Emily Reinhardt begins like this: she graduated from Kansas State University with a BFA in ceramics, stayed in the college town of Manhattan, Kansas for two years, and then moved to Wichita for six months before heading to Omaha for a relationship. “We have since gone our separate ways,” she says, openly and without melancholy. Ironically enough, Reinhardt’s journey in the arts led her back to where she started: her hometown of Kansas City. “I wanted to go where I felt my business would thrive instead of following someone else. I think we all have one of those stories where we’ve gone after someone.”

allowed me to make work on the side. After school no one wants to say, “I’m waiting tables full time.” But that is what helped me launch what I really wanted to do. I worked at a casual deli and a bar at night in the college town where I lived, where locals would go. I was there every day serving lunch and doing some night shifts, too. I still keep in touch with some of the regulars. They were there when I said, “I think I’m going to be a ceramics major.” And they were like, “What?” So now it’s exciting to get to tell them that it worked, and that I’m doing it. I still think fondly of those days. I think everyone should wait tables. It’s a tough gig, depending on who you’re waiting on.

Today, she is the artisan behind her own Etsyacclaimed ceramics shop, The Object Enthusiast, selling uniquely crafted ring dishes, miniature planters, mugs, cups and more. It was in Omaha that Reinhardt was able to jumpstart her career as a working artist. She rented a house with a basement that doubled as a studio, and while there weren’t many retail stores or art fairs, the advent of Etsy made it possible for her to begin an online shop. “When I moved, I told myself, ‘I’m going to try really hard not to get another job,’ even though I probably wasn’t quite ready for that leap” she says.

How did Etsy change your business?

Now back in Kansas City, a decade after leaving it, she tells me how she spends most of her time these days: tending to thick slabs of wet clay and all their visceral beauty.

At first I was just selling work that I had made in college—I was really tired of moving it from apartment to apartment. And then I had access to a studio again and I thought, “Well … what can I make now?” I worked really hard, but I also got lucky with the timing.

When you were starting out, how did you balance

A couple of weeks after I moved to Omaha, Etsy ran a front-page feature story on me. That was truly the moment that launched my business. It was a matter of one or two years after school when my online business started thriving. In art school, no one told me that was a possibility. So I hadn’t planned on this, and I wasn’t working towards it because I didn’t think it was going to happen. But Etsy was big for me at the right moment. It’s kind of amazing what happened in just a short period of time, with the possibility of selling artwork.

your creative interests and paying your bills?

I waited tables at night, and I was also a social media coordinator for a bank. I did a lot of side jobs, but was strategic in picking jobs that had flexible hours and

It’s very human to assign value to an object, isn’t it?

It’s why I want to make things. I have several pieces made by one of my former teachers, Professor ›››

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Yoshi Ikeda. He passed away a couple of years ago. To have his work—and I have accumulated old pieces of his that are worth some money—to me it’s worth it that it’s his, and his signature is on the bottom. I open my cupboard for a cup of coffee, and I often see the maker before I see the cup. I think, “Oh, that’s a Yoshi cup.” I reach for a cup and think of that person, instead of just a cup. I tend to attach value to normal things, and then they’re much more special. Coffee tastes better out of a cup that a friend made. What has been the importance of mentors in your journey, and what did they teach you?

Professor Yoshi is a huge part of my journey. Two years after I finished school he and his wife were moving to Portland, and he gave me his kiln, his wheel, glazes and a bunch of studio equipment. He told me, “You worked the hardest out of all of your classmates, and I think you deserve this stuff.” There’s no way I would be doing this if he hadn’t

given me those tools. He is the whole reason I’m doing this. I wish I could tell him that. He’s a special guy—he was really a jokester, very sarcastic, and gave tough love. He’d say things during class like, “You guys better marry rich, or else you won’t be able to make pots after school.” It’s funny—I’m single. But that is part of the starving-artist mentality. Another thing he taught me was to make tons of stuff. Make the bad stuff, and make lots of it. Eventually it’s going to be good. He was in the studio all the time, even when his health was failing him. He worked in the same room as I worked. Sometimes on weekends I’d be the only one in there with him, and we’d just talk and make work. Just working next to him taught me a lot—not necessarily talking, or having those heart-to-heart moments. He worked really hard, all the way up until the end of his life. Teaching, I think, is a really selfless thing to do as an artist because you’re taking time away from your practice to help others. It’s a special gift.

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DAV ID K IR K L A ND Look for seasonal beauty on the plate at Turn by David Kirkland in St. Louis. by AMY DE LA HUNT / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Chef David Kirkland, formerly of Café Osage, is putting down roots of his own in a new restaurant space, in addition to consulting at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’ café and running his own catering business. The native St. Louisan began cooking for himself and his sister at a young age, absorbing key lessons like the importance of wearing a shirt while frying bacon. But it wasn’t until he lived in Southern California that his Midwestern sensibilities melded with a more global approach to food. Upon returning to his hometown, he started doing prep at Catering St. Louis, learning everything from presentation to production as he rose up through the ranks. While developing the menu for his new restaurant, Turn by David Kirkland, he had visions of one plate in particular: two or three styles of biscuits served with cheese and jam or curds. The key members of Kirkland’s tasting panel are his family, especially son Naaja, 18, and daughter Ruby, 10. He reports that the Lemon-Lavender Biscuits With Carrot Curd, featured here, earned their seal of approval.

of kneading time, because you don’t want to overwork your dough. Then doing three layers, because the layers make the biscuit. That’s why I like rolled versus dropped biscuits. And I love lemon curd. I wondered if I could just use another juice to make the curd. It worked—it’s a beautiful combination. Tell us about your new restaurant, Turn by David Kirkland.

There are some reasons behind the name. First and foremost in my mind is the turning seasons, but also turning tables! [Laughs.] There’s a lot of revolution in things with the word “turn.” It’s always changing, but revolving back to the beginning point. We’re going to do a lot of American standards and classics with some new twists—a little “turn” to it. I plan on making in-house jams and having a jam business, all based on R&B songs. The brand will be called Slow Jams. The logo may have a revolving record— so there’s the “turn” reference again. Your restaurant is on the first floor of the .ZACK space in Grand Center. You’re very connected to the arts community. How did that come about?

What inspired you to develop this recipe?

I’m really into making sauces and breakfasts. Biscuits are my thing. I was making all the biscuits from scratch at Café Osage, and I wanted to create my own. The lavender and lemon really give you a nice aromatic feel in the lightness of the biscuit. That’s why I stress in the recipe a very small amount

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My wife is the director of exhibitions for Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design, which also has studios in the Grand Center building, so our lives cross paths all the time. I met the founders of the .ZACK through friends at Craft Alliance and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and I’m involved in a lot of artsy things because that’s what my friends ›››


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Rogue Territory Wool-Lined Trench Coat + Baldwin Denim The Reed + Reigning Champ Heav y weight Pullover Hoodie + Norse Projects Osvald Light Check Shirt + Saturdays Surf NYC Cable Knit Beanie - eastandwest.store (St. Louis / Tulsa) [ 2 8 ]

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are doing. I’ll be catering on the fourth floor in the event space and then putting together dinners to coincide with upcoming theater shows in 2017. The combination lends itself to serving both communities: food and the arts. One of my favorite things about dining at Café

ning phase, instead of picking up harvested food. Will you approach food the same way at Turn?

Yes—it taught me a lot about how to visualize a menu seasonally. It was really easy to go across the street and see what was coming up. That’s forever ingrained in me—I feel it.

Osage was seeing crates of produce come into the kitchen from the garden. What was one of

You opened over the winter, which is a tough time

your favorite things about working there?

to open a restaurant focused on seasonal food in

Exactly what you just said. There’s nothing better than being able to walk out your front door and across the street to a quarter-acre of food in the summertime, and a hoop house of winter vegetables. I also enjoyed planning out the seed selection that I would be using for spring and summer. The importance of making sure I coordinated with the farmers was impressed upon me. It’s very similar to someone going to a farmers’ market, except that I was there at the very begin-

Missouri. Why the timeframe?

We opened before early March so we could let people know that we’re here for spring events, like Mother’s Day. Right now there’s not a breakfastand-lunch space in Grand Center that’s comparable to what I’m doing. Stage Left is a diner, and they’re great, but I want to bring my style of fare to this location. I want people to enjoy the space. The building is beautiful. The energy is inviting.

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Lemon-Lavender Biscuits with Carrot Curd Yield: 6 to 8 biscuits and 2 cups carrot curd

For the biscuits:

For the carrot curd:

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup carrot juice

1 teaspoon dried lavender (coarsely ground with a

Juice of 1 lemon

mortar and pestle or spice grinder)

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 6 pieces

½ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar Zest of 1 lemon (reserve the lemon for the curd recipe) 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced ¾ cup buttermilk Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, lavender and lemon zest. Using either a pastry cutter or your hands (Kirkland prefers using his hands), cut the butter into the flour mixer until there are small, pea-like pieces. The mixture should appear coarse and not fine. Make a well inside the dry mix, and pour the milk into the well. Mix until the liquid is completely incorporated and a dough ball starts to form. Knead the dough by hand for two to three minutes. Place the dough ball onto a flour-dusted surface and, using a rolling pen, flatten the dough to a height of about ¾ inch. Fold the dough over and repeat two more times to create layers. Cut out the biscuits with a small biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown and thoroughly done. Let the biscuits cool before removing them from the sheet.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the eggs, sugar, carrot juice and lemon juice together on medium to low heat. Stir vigorously and continually until the liquid starts to thicken and ripples start to show in the mixture. Once this has begun, add pieces of butter one at a time. Stir and continue to cook until bubbles appear. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the curd to a heatproof bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing it down to the curd, and chill for two hours before serving.

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L AUR EN MICHELLE TR ACY Relying on traditions from antiquity, Tracy forges a future as an ar tist and maker. by R APHAEL MAURICE / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Indigo, a color that bewitches the eye like the windows of the Chartres Cathedral or the sea on a clear day, was originally discovered in the Indus Valley. Its early use dates back some 5,000 years ago, when Mesopotamians began using the dye for record-keeping on tablets. The name was originally “nila,” meaning “dark blue.” St. Louis-based artist Lauren Michelle Tracy works in indigo and batik, a method using wax-resistant dyes applied to cloth. Her method results in quirky, beautiful objects and art that still reckon with the diverse histories of millennia-old traditions. Recently, Tracy returned to her roots in St. Louis working out of a studio in the Lemp Brewery, where she makes scarves, pillows and custom designs. I had the chance to talk with the artist and discuss what inspires her. How did you get your start using indigo and batik?

I rediscovered indigo dye and created a line of indigo and batik designs as my first endeavor after moving back home. I designed pillows and scarves using large sheets of graph paper, which I had never done before. I think the structure and symmetry of those patterns felt safe, and somehow helped to organize my ideas. When it came time to put names to the designs, I found similarities between certain tribes and what I had made, which I thought was very cool—I wanted to give credit respectfully. Finding a connection to makers from the past and learning the stories attached to fabrics is so special. I feel I am contributing to the next chapter, and building on what has already been written.

usually silks in several stages of completion. I might stretch silk, batik, add color, steam scarves, hand-wash them, make tags, order supplies, draw new designs or clean up. Sometimes I listen to KDHX or shuffle a very outdated library of music from an iPod or my computer. Sometimes I sing. Lately, I have been enjoying working without music, just listening to the sounds of the street and water bubbling in the wax pot. It also helps me be aware of adjusting the heat of the wax. During late nights, I would likely put on a stack of records and sit down at my sewing machine. How did you get your start making commissioned work?

I was making everything from scarves to dinner menus. The biggest project came from a customer at a restaurant where I used to work. He commissioned me to create a giant screenprinted triptych on silk based on photographs he had taken of the new and old Mississippi River bridges in Cape Girardeau. In return, he offered to buy all the supplies I needed and pretty much outfitted my first studio. What drives you to be a working artist?

I credit my strong desire, faith in risk-taking and appreciation for unconventional living as the things that allow me to do what I do. I practice maintaining a vision of where I want to be artistically, while remembering how totally lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. What are some recent developments and highlights in your world these days?

Walk me through a typical day at your studio in Lemp Brewery.

Usually it is a few hours before and after work, or a cherished full day. I work at Elaia, the fine-dining restaurant, full time as a server. I’m usually rushing to get things done while allowing time for scrubbing dye off my hands and trying not to be late for meals with family. My favorite time is the late afternoon on a day off, when the sun is shining hard through the windows. I turn on my wax pot so that it is melting while I take inventory of what needs to come next. Batik is a multi-step process, so there are

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Recently, I was invited to showcase a line of clothing in The Factory Fashion Show curated by Kristen Johnson. I have never identified as a fashion designer and decided to just say “Yes.” The experience was such a gift. My work grew in a direction I may not have explored without the opportunity. The movement, time-based performance, collaboration and overall energy at the show were so intoxicating. I loved connecting with my models, receiving their support and enthusiasm, and seeing my designs go live for the first time.


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M A S T E R OF T H E PR E SE N T T E NSE THE METAMORPHOSIS OF ARTIST MARIAM PARÉ. by EILEEN G’SELL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Scanning Mariam Paré’s paintings and multimedia canvases, one is struck by both their accessibility and wild variety: a portrait of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond sits beside a landscape, and a still life of lemons prefaces the figure of a fallen bird lifting a boulder with its beak. The loopily surreal gets geometric. The decorative fades into the subtly disquieting. While it’s clear that Paré isn’t afraid to experiment, the stakes of every single brushstroke are less so. For half of her life, Paré has been paralyzed from the neck down. At 20, she was shot by an unknown assailant while driving a friend’s car, limiting the function of her hands and leaving her permanently unable to walk. “It was an all-too-real example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she writes on her website. “Painting was one of those things I discovered that I could still do, but just in a different way.” The fact that Paré says “just” is a testament to her refusal to be simply categorized as a “mouth-painter” and nothing more. She may hold her brushes and drawing utensils between her lips, but what matters is what she does with them on the canvas.

of influences. There’s the model influence—like Frida Kahlo. Not necessarily for her subject matter, but in how she was expressing her pain without apology, demystifying disability, ugliness, all that. Painting is a meditative, happy place for me. But I like weirdness, too—surrealism, fantasy, and a bit of darkness. Your mixed media definitely has that weirdness.

I love that you like those—usually people don’t gravitate toward those pieces. They’re interested in the portraits and work where I have to have so much technical control, when the pieces I’m most proud of are the ones in which I’m letting go a bit more. You were born in Morocco, where your mother is from. Has that influenced your work at all?

I grew up with tapestries and brightly colored rugs, so I’ve always been around an Arab aesthetic with how my mother dresses and even the food we eat. It has shaped how I see women, and how I see and depict their eyes.

During the process of reteaching yourself to paint, was there an “Aha!” moment where you realized you had gained

What are you working on today? What are you excited about?

a new dexterity?

I’m excited about the fact that as a professional artist I’m getting to the point where I’m working more and more on work that is truly my own. I’m not bound by anything.

To be completely honest, it was a slow climb. I was at an advantage and a disadvantage with the fact that I was an artist before I became injured. I had all this knowledge and knew what I was capable of—and an ego surrounding that ability. The advantage someone has who wasn’t an artist before learning to mouth-paint is that they don’t know how good they can be. Sometimes I wonder if I even had a choice. I thought, “I can’t get myself up in the morning, I can’t put toothpaste on my own toothbrush, but I can still get up and sit in front of this canvas and draw or paint.” I focused on what I could do. Who were some of your influences? Some of your paintings remind me a bit of Marc Chagall, in terms of the palette and

It wasn’t until the last few years that I started making work like “Liberty”—works based on my experience as a victim of gun violence and paralysis. It took years of accepting myself and my situation to make work about it that I could express to other people. When I see the future now, I get a lot of validation from that type of work. If I can convey a message, it’s to not be too easily discouraged by setbacks in life, no matter what they are. The thing that makes my story a success story isn’t what happened to me, but how I moved through it to what I do now.

physiognomies displayed.

[Laughs] I love Chagall. I think I have two different kinds

For the full, extended interview, visit ALIVEmag.com

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SW EET AND LOWDOW N Nashville shop Two Son captures the essence of Americana through independent, locally sourced fashion designers. Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

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Sharnee Gates for New York Models

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Trudy Fogarty-Hayden

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Ilana Kohn Marion Dress in Nav y + Brother Vellies Shoes Denim Babouche twoson.co + Fanny and June Modern Homburg Hat in Mossy Grey - fannyandjune.com + Scarf + Earrings + Tights + Rings - Retro 101, St. Louis, MO

Ilana Kohn Marion Dress in Nav y - twoson.co + Fanny and June Modern Homburg Hat in Mossy Grey - fannyandjune.com + Scarf + Earrings + Rings - Retro 101, St. Louis, MO FA S H I O N

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Jesse K amm Sailor Pant in Natur al Canvas + Bliss and Mischief Rib Slim Tank in Ivory + Jesse K amm Trench Coat in Olive + Maryam Nassir Zadeh Penelope Mule in Mustard - twoson.co + Earrings - Retro 101, St. Louis, MO

Caron Callahan Joni 5 Pocket Jean + Caron Callahan Kr asner Jacket + Brother Vellies Country Lamu Sandal - twoson.co + Fanny and June Modern Homburg Hat in Mauve - fannyandjune.com + Earrings - Retro 101, MO [ 4 4 ]

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Jesse K amm Palma Dress in Black + Two Son Vintage Tee in Rose twoson.co + Fanny and June Modern Homburg Hat in Mauve - fannyandjune.com + Earrings + Rings - Retro 101, St. Louis, MO Flowers courtesy of Flowers and Weeds - flowersandweeds.com

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ST Y LE TH AT WOR KS HOW ONE CREATIVE ROLLS UP HIS SLEEVES TO TELL THE STORY OF WORK WEAR’S MOST ICONIC BRAND. by DAN MICHEL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Factory workers, finance types and fashion aficionados don’t typically agree on much—except for certain aspects of their style. Whether it’s a knit beanie, durable denim or an iconic duck fabric jacket, workwear has been an essential part of the American wardrobe since the 19th century, when it was originally marketed as tough, purpose-driven apparel for the booming American labor force. Today, it permeates every facet of American fashion, and one brand has consistently been at the forefront. ›››

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In 1889, businessman Hamilton Carhartt had a failing apparel company that he marketed to the average American worker. When the business was on the brink of collapse, he desperately asked rail workers what kind of apparel they’d find most useful. What resulted wasn’t just the iconic bib denim overalls—a workwear icon that’s still a staple of the Carhartt line. It emerged as a brand that defined an entire category of tough, functional apparel all over the world. “Hamilton had a great voice, and he was an excellent marketer,” says Brian Bennett, the brand’s creative director, who oversees branding, advertising and product development. “Once he created a product that worked so well, the brand really marketed itself for years through the clothes themselves, and they took on the lives of the people who wore them.” By the early 20th century, that group also included the military. The brand had several factories in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and when World War I broke out, those same factories were used to create uniforms for soldiers. Later, Carhartt would produce denim for the U.S. Navy and women’s uniforms in World War II. Today, Bennett is the modern-day version of Hamilton, telling the brand’s stories through the lens of his customers’ tough-as-nails work ethic. His role has evolved over the years, as the brand has reached beyond its American working-class appeal. “I’m a copywriter by trade, but what was so exciting was finding the brand’s story—its central concept—and then developing not just a TV commercial, as I’d done in the past, but the marketing plan, hang tags, the look and feel of the retail stores—everything,” he says. Bennett’s work in the advertising world has earned him a number of prestigious awards, including a Clio, an Effie and even a Cannes Lion, with a list of clients that includes Nike and Corona. When the opportunity to steer Carhartt’s creative side came up five years ago, he was hesitant to uproot his family and move to the company’s

headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. “I had no desire,” he says plainly. “But then I met our owner, Mark Valade—Hamilton’s great-grandson. He told me his story as a fourthgeneration Carhartt, and I realized this was actually my dream: to build a creative department for a 128-year-old brand that really hadn’t told its story since the early 1900s.” Even after Hamilton Carhartt passed away in 1937, Americans remained fiercely loyal to the brand. The products are still made in America, with facilities in Detroit, Kentucky and Tennessee that employ some 2,000 workers who produce more than 7 million garments every year. Some of the iconic pieces to come out of those factories include the double-front dungaree, introduced in 1932, and the Active Jac hoodie from 1976—still a top-seller. It’s made of Carhartt’s iconic duck fabric, a tough, water-repellant cotton canvas that debuted in 1929 and is still sold today, largely unchanged from the original. “Carhartt has always been that go-to heritage brand for hardworking American guys,” says Jennifer Ryan Jones, a veteran menswear editor whose work has appeared in Playboy, Men’s Health and The Manual, among others. “When I hear the name, I think of the iconic Weathered Duck Detroit Jacket in that signature golden-brown color.” While the clothes remained the same, Carhartt’s hometown of Detroit did change over the next century—drastically. Despite its economic downfall, Bennett says the city still surprises him. “Today, when you look at the city from the outside, you can’t tell how beautiful it is on the inside,” he says. “Especially because there are so many people in Michigan who know how to make and build things. The auto industry boomed here because Detroit was a cheap manufacturing place, but now you can come here and meet a different small business owner every day. You’d be here for months.” With the inspiring stories of people making things in Michigan, he hasn’t had to look far for the ›››

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subjects of his advertising campaigns. “I don’t like marketing fluff,” says Bennett. “I want the stories I tell to be real—never fabricated. But I don’t want to do ads about people digging ditches, either. I want to go deeper to see what inspires them to keep going and how we can help them accomplish their goals.” To do this, Bennett seeks out the places he finds to be quintessentially Detroit, like Miller’s Bar in Dearborn, Two James Spirits’ tasting room in Southwestern Detroit and the iconic Michigan Central Station, which was once a bustling train depot. Located in Corktown, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, it now stands as a towering relic of Detroit’s industrial might.

they can’t find our clothes at mass-market retailers.” The brand brilliantly stoked that fire by launching a craft beer with New Holland Brewing.

Today, Bennett and his team are speaking to a much larger audience than when the brand first started, especially considering that every American wears workwear in one form or another. “The whole category has been redefining what we wear for centuries,” says Jones. “It’s always been present in menswear.” In the ’70s and ’80s, Carhartt took on a new life, becoming an anti-fashion icon on the punk scene. In the ’90s, grunge adopted the trend, and soon other subcultures followed suit.

However, Bennett is emphatic that traditional workwear is still the brand’s focus. “I think the trick is to be relatable and honest without losing who you are,” he says. It’s a theory that has helped Carhartt stand the test of time. “The fact that Carhartt is still around today, relevant as ever, is a testament to the quality of the clothes,” says Jones. “If you’re busting your tail roofing, doing construction or cutting down trees, you’re not spending that hard-earned paycheck on clothes that don’t wear well. Carhartt holds up and gets the job done.”

“What’s amazing is that Carhartt is also considered a legit streetwear brand since it was anointed by hip-hop culture in the early ’90s,” says Jones. Artists like Dr. Dre, Nas and House of Pain became unofficial ambassadors for the brand, wearing the clothes—especially the duck jacket—in public and in music videos. Today, hipsters have also adopted the brand. As marketing chief Tony Ambroza told The Guardian, “They seem to like what we stand for, and that

You’ll also find the familiar Carhartt beanies lining the runways of New York Fashion Week on men and women alike. And although the brand didn’t try to reach the high-fashion crowd, it did tap into a more urban consumer with the launch of Carhartt Work in Progress in Europe in 1989, as the line adapts the brand’s core pieces for a more fashion-driven take on workwear. It has also generated plenty of buzz by collaborating with fashion brands like A.P.C., Vans and Junya Watanabe.

Even though Carhartt always relies on its core collection, Bennett says he wants to bring innovation to the brand. “I want to enhance worker vitality with our products and become essential to their work day—essentially what FitBit has done for the athlete,” he says. “We’re going to go deeper into helping our customers’ well-being. It’s scary to figure out how to innovate and tell stories like that, but I love that we have that challenge in front of us.”

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TO BU IL D A CI T Y A NASHVILLE ARCHITECT AND HIS QUEST. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

“I cry at movies. It’s terrible,” says Manuel Zeitlin, who has been one of Nashville’s most celebrated architects for over 35 years. “Like ‘The Holiday,’ even. I’ll be just bawling.” Back in the early ‘80s, before he founded Manuel Zeitlin Architects, he was studying at Boston Architectural College when one film in particular incited a pang of homesickness. “I saw ‘Hide in Plain Sight.’ I never thought I’d move back home to Nashville, but I was on a plane 20 minutes later. The only thing I had was the book I had been reading on the subway. I ended up staying there for three weeks.” He moved back to his hometown for good just a few months later, in the wintery December of 1980. A storied firm isn’t built overnight, and is often helped by an unlikely turn of events or two. Such is

the case with this architect. In the time since Zeitlin took on his very first project, he has built a firm with 15 architects and a space in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood of Nashville, which doubles as an art gallery. The firm’s projects include a number of running themes, including homages to intuitive design and the beauty of imperfection. “I love a certain rawness. Almost like Native American blankets, how there’s always something imperfect about them that keeps them from being completely finished,” he says. This specific design sensibility has informed the firm’s creation of modern luxury homes and apartments, elegant restaurants, charter schools and university buildings. Zeitlin has also designed structures of vital importance to Nashville, including a 79-unit apartment community in the city’s 12 South ›››

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District, which is currently under construction, the Nashville Holocaust Memorial, and the original master plan for The Gulch neighborhood, one of the city’s thriving cultural centers. A LEED-certified Green Neighborhood, The Gulch has transformed into one of the city’s trendiest locales, home to boutique loft apartments, edgy retail hotspots, music venues and fine dining, which couldn’t have been further from what it was when the architect first encountered it 18 years ago. “It was 37 acres of vacant land at the time. We worked on it for almost a year, sketching ideas. Our vision for it was a lot more raw than what it has become,” he says. Zeitlin’s mission-focused projects often concern themselves with sustainability, mixed-income housing and urban farming. “A common thread in our work is creative projects with very low budgets. We’ve very rarely had a client say, ‘Here, spend all our money.’ It’s usually, ‘We have an impossibly low budget,’” he says, laughing. Despite these predilections, Zeitlin is emphatic that he and his team not fall into a rut. “We’re constantly pushing boundaries, instead of doing one thing and being comfortable. Right now it’s really important to make a difference. If we don’t solve climate change, if we don’t deal with equality—equity, rather—if we don’t deal with these issues, buildings aren’t going to matter a whole lot. Our office is really committed to that kind of involvement,” he says. One of Zeitlin’s first projects in The Gulch was designing the Mercury View Lofts, which was once a two-story brick warehouse building. “Most developers would have torn that down,” he says woefully. “We had the idea of building those lofts and letting the brick come through. Much of what has been done in cities like Nashville over the last four years has been wiping out something old to create something new, instead of keeping those buildings that give the city its fabric.” The building now hosts 32 residential units, a bakery, an art gallery and a music hall. The architect believes part of what has contrib-

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uted to the success of The Gulch are its elements of character, which were there before the area underwent revitalization. “Urban experience in that part of town didn’t exist. The idea that you’d go down there for entertainment was beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.” One might suppose that the kind of innovation required to transform 37 acres of blank space into a bustling urban center would entail thinking outside the box. “I don’t even know what the box is,” says Zeitlin. Admittedly, his process is unique—the way he works isn’t for everyone. He once told a potential client, “If you’re looking for something really slick, that’s not us,” and the client hired someone else. He also had an architect quit a project because they were 80% finished with working drawings for Vanderbilt University’s Hillel Center, and Zeitlin had some additional changes. “I was looking at the drawings one day and said, ‘This seems really unapproachable, the way this wall is. Let’s open this up and make it more open to students.’ [The architect] threw up his hands and said, ‘I quit. We’re never going to make any money if you keep changing things.’ I was like, ‘It’s on paper, man. Now’s the time to change!’” says Zeitlin, laughing about it now. The architect has accepted this potential for collateral damage as part of the journey to artistic truth. On the other hand, this morning before our conversation he had spoken with the proprietors of The Turnip Truck, a modern grocery store he designed in East Nashville, to see if the project needed any tweaks. “You don’t just create these objects and throw them out there. For me, it’s really about relationships and building community,” he says. This philosophy isn’t compartmentalized within him. He and his wife, Janice Zeitlin, have been married for 32 years. She serves as vice president of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and also runs the art gallery that houses Zeitlin’s firm. “We were both a little older when we met, so we weren’t looking at the other person to fill voids in ourselves. We were our own people.” ›››


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It was in his early undergraduate days at Washington University in St. Louis that he began to develop his signature working philosophy. He worked under architect Richard Claybour, who was in the process of designing single-family alternatives to public housing in St. Louis’ Jeff VanderLou neighborhood, which was full of abandoned homes at the time. Zeitlin spent a year of his early days as an architect measuring empty houses and stumbling upon hidden treasures. Many of the homes were built in the 1880’s and had been abandoned, yet remained full of rich historical artifacts and personal documents. In one home he found the floor covered in almost an inch of old horseracing forms. “This guy that lived there was probably from a relatively wealthy family, and he’d go to the horse races, wasting all their money.” Upon returning home to Nashville from Boston in 1980, well before he started his own firm, Zeitlin got a job waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant while working on his final thesis project, which he had yet to finish. “Coming out of architecture school, you’re socially inept. Really. You go to a party and stand next to another architecture student talking about some detail of the room—like, ‘Look at that window.’ Waiting tables, I learned how to talk to people about real stuff. That absolutely helped me with my firm,” he says. One day as he was walking into work, he spotted a man inspecting one of the buildings in the neighborhood and asked if he was preparing to purchase it. A plastic surgeon, he hired Zeitlin to design the renovation of the building. He ended up using the attic as a work space for two years, free of charge. “My dad was like, ‘You ought to work for a big firm,’” Zeitlin remembers of the time. “But the architects I admired didn’t necessarily work for big firms. They started out young and learned from their mistakes. When students email me and they want to get a job at an architecture firm over the summer or something, I tell them, ‘Get a job waiting tables, or in retail. Travel. Go on an archaeologi-

cal dig. Don’t sit at an architecture firm. You don’t know enough yet. Get out and live life.” As many of Zeitlin’s projects have a strong mission underlying them, like solving climate change and creating mixed-income housing options, he has braced himself for the potential impact of the current presidential administration. The 2016 election results left Zeitlin aghast. “I think this incoming administration represents the worst of humanity, and I hope we can get beyond it,” he says, unwavering. He was in Denver on the evening the election results came in, where he’d been with a few colleagues to see examples of charter schools as inspiration for a new project. Logically, they began drinking heavily. “When Hillary [Clinton] hit 48% of the votes, we ordered a drink in a giant ceramic fish with three straws. The next day we went to a charter school with the kids and they were talking about what they were feeling. They wanted to express their hopes, and their care for each other.” It is Zeitlin’s belief that working on schools and educational institutions is a way of enacting positive change in a world with no shortage of reasons to fear it. “Any peace anywhere comes from children,” he says. “When you’re wiping out Iraq and destroying the lives of children, there are going to be generations of people there who hate us. Peace comes from making children’s lives better. Our small way of doing that is working on schools.” There’s an Anne Frank quote that keeps Zeitlin going in the moments he is awakened by tragedy and injustice. “One of the quotes from her book is, ‘In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.’” He marvels at how the young girl, who arguably experienced the worst that humanity can offer, still believed in its inherent good. “When she says that, it keeps you going: that belief that it is possible to solve things. Also, having two children [Anna, 30, and Nate, 28]—I don’t have an alternative,” the architect says, laughing ruefully. “You have to care, to try and make things better for them.”

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Pg. 62, 68 & 69: Home of Kim Sherman; Pg. 71 & 72: Home of Bob Bernstein & Irma Paz-Bernstein; Pgs. 73 - 76: Home of Bruce Zeitlin.

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V I.

by JAY ERICKSON

let this surprising wind bend me

may it strip a few leaves and crack finger-sized wood

but leave me this trunk and these roots

i am not done with them yet

we have more suns to reach for, more earth to hold

The poem above is excerpted from the book BLOOM written by Jay Erickson, who wrote it after being diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 2013. 100% of the book profits go towards rare cancer research. Erickson lives in Pawling, New York with his wife and daughter.

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VOLUME 16 ISSUE 2

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