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HORS D’OEUVRE Masthead Contributors Letters Behind the Scenes Things We Love From the Desk of the Editor


BEAUTY & WELLNESS Crazy in Blush: Whether you’re in love or not, we’ve got your new blush crush. The Skinny on Health: Boost your sex drive with yoga! Lisa Eberly shares how. {Beauty} Trick to Try: Need a non-cheesy way to do your hair for Valentine’s Day? We’ve got it.

ARTS & LEISURE Good Eats: Maria Eubanks creates a romantic dinner for two. Use these recipes every month! Made: Sometimes you just need cute decorations for your party. These tissue pom poms do the trick. A Few Words: Billy Youngblood shares a poem from the streets of Paris.



You & Me: In honor of the month of love, we review Vera Wang’s collaboration with wedding powerhouse David’s Bridal. Essay: What is love? Jenna Anderson has a lot of questions and not too many answers. Sweet for Valentine’s Day: Don’t know how to pull off pink and red? Check out this guide. Share Your Where: Do Europe by train the right way. Learn from Amanda Chi’s experiences! Share Your Wear: Cover girl Michelle Lesniak, winner of Project Runway Season 11, shares looks from her “Little Girl Lost” collection. Cover Story: Michelle Lesniak is anything but a “Little Girl Lost.” See what she’s been up to since her Project Runway win.

Always end with something sweet

CAROLINE A. WONG Editor-in-Chief

BRANDON GAMBLE Creative Director

FASHION AND FEATURES Fashion and Beauty Editor BREANA POWELL Features Editor AMANDA CHI Feature Writers LINDY TOLBERT



ART Lead Photographer ALEXANDER HERMAN Assistant Photographer HAIL NOWAK West Coast Editor ROSIE RYAN UK Editor JENNA ANDERSON

Billy Youngblood is a Los Angeles-based writer and poet. His least favorite thing about Paris is that “after eating at L’as du Falafel, all my subsequent experiences with falafel have seemed somehow inadequate.”


February 2014

Lisa Eberly of the health and fitness site shines with her monthly Tastevin column and her nerdy love of science. Get sexy with her tips on how to use yoga to boost your libido! Our UK Editor, Jenna Anderson, is a collector of stories. This issue, she explores the story and meaning of love, whether near or far.

Amanda Chi is spending her time in Europe traveling for Tastevin. Check out what mischievous antics she’s been up to in this month’s “Share Your Where” column.

Danielle Robbins is back with this month’s cute little tissue pom poms to brighten up your next party. Check out her designs at www.daniellerobbins.! Fashion and Beauty Editor Breana Powell does it again. She glams you up for Valentine’s Day with non-cheesy fashion and beauty tips in this month’s issue.

Creative Director Brandon Gamble mans the Tastevin office in New York, where he is barely surviving the polar vortex in his stylish blazers. Maria Eubanks prepares you for dinners for two— whether for Valentine’s Day or not—with a delicious shrimp scampi recipe and treats for dessert!


Tastevin Magazine February 2014

Alexander Herman is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and photographer. For this issue, he photographed our editor-in-chief at the Getty Museum for the “You & Me” column. He forgot to look at all the art galleries: “People come here for the view [of Los Angeles].”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is there something you’d like to see in the pages of an upcoming issue of Tastevin? Are you an awesome fashion designer or an up and coming musician looking for exposure? We want to hear from you! Send your thoughts on the February issue (and any other thoughts you might have!) to or go to and fill out the form on the Contact page. All submissions become the property of Tastevin Magazine and may be edited, published, or otherwise used in any medium. And if you think you have what it takes to write a column for our magazine, show us what you’ve got! Send your resume along with three column proposals and a writing sample to for consideration.


Things We Love What better way to celebrate the month of love than to share all the trends and products we’re crushing on? The Tastevin editors wax poetic on their latest obsessions.

Caroline A. Wong, Editor-in-Chief High Boots “If there’s one trend I hate, it’s western ankle booties. They make whoever’s wearing them look cheap and chunky! It’s about time something kicks those westerns off the street. I’m so glad thighhighs are on-trend right now, and I love these boots by Beau+Ashe ($70). Avoid trashy territory by wearing with opaque leggings or dark-wash skinnies.”

Breana Powell, Fashion and Beauty Editor “I’ve been wearing this Forever 21 fedora ($20) non-stop! It’s super versatile because it’s black and instantly adds more to any outfit. I’ve also had fun pairing it with my knee-high leather boots.”


Wide-Brim Fedora

Colette Choi, Beauty Editor Coral blush “The coral pink sheen of Benefit Cosmetics’ CORALista blush ($30) adds the perfect glow to my complexion—just the right amount of pink and just the right amount of shine. And weirdly, it smells amazing. Just don’t inhale too much powder!”


Editor-in-Chief Caroline A. Wong and Lead Photographer Alexander Herman made their way to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles to photograph the White by Vera Wang for David’s Bridal collection for this month’s “You & Me” column.


Tastevin Magazine February 2014

Behind the Scenes Photos by Caroline A. Wong and Alexander Herman

The White by Vera Wang dress was too large on Wong so Herman helped clip the look with a handy binder clip


Herman took some time out from shooting fashion to photograph the stunning LA scenery. To find the best places to shoot, Herman scoped out even the areas crowded with museum visitors.

Tastevin Magazine February 2014

from the desk of the


Welcome to the month of that touchy holiday—touchy because it’s touchy-feely or touchy because it encourages face-palming and bashing-of-heads-against-walls. For the cynics out there (also known as those who insist upon aversions to “commercial” holidays), Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be overly saccharine, or even overly commercialized. We have a bunch of ideas for how to make the day your own, from reimagining the classic red-and-pink look on page 46 to cooking for two (or twenty!) on page 20. If you’re craving more badass inspiration this holiday, look no further than our cover girl, Michelle Lesniak. After her taxing season on Project Runway, the designer has been making a name for herself in the fashion world and building her brand. Check out her collection on page 57 and flip through to my chat with her on page 66 to find out what she’s been up to since the show wrapped. And if you feel like sending me or any of the Tastevin staff some love letters this month, shoot a message over to We can’t wait to read your sappy sonnets. (And speaking of sonnets, check out a sweet Parisian-themed poem in “A Few Words” on page 32!)


Tastevin Magazine February 2014

Even if you’re not crazy in love this Valentine’s Day, you can be crazy in blush in a couple of heartbeats! 1) To achieve this dewy cheek look, first start off by sucking in your cheeks and contouring the space in between your cheekbone and jawline with a warm bronzer. 2) Next, apply a pink or peach blush to the apples of your cheeks, blending outward and toward the contoured area. You want the two areas to blend naturally, so there shouldn’t be space in between. 3) Then, apply an illuminating highlighter on the tops of the cheekbones (above the blush) to complete the look.

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oga has obvious health benefits: It increases flexibility, reduces stress, builds strength, even induces enlightenment. But did you know that it can also do wonders for….your sex life? Oooh yeah, this wonder workout has a number of poses that have emotional benefits, as well as some physical ones that are sure to fire up your bedroom poses. Unlike men, who hold their stress in their shoulders, women tend to keep stress locked up in our hips. This makes it difficult to enjoy sex when we’re under any sort of stress (read: all the time!) which is why we should devote time to releasing this negative stress in our bodies. Yoga affects libido from several different angles, mainly by physically increasing natural energy, confidence, sensuality, intimacy, and better orgasms. It boosts energy by helping you achieve a higher quality of sleep, allowing you to spend more quality time awake in bed, if you know what I mean. I find that when I’m confident in my appearance, I enjoy sex much more than when I’m not feeling so hot. Yoga builds confidence by preventing weight gain and building lean muscle tone, amping up both your sex drive and your partner’s! Sensuality is a quality yoga provides that most other workouts can’t give you. A natural sensuality stems from the awareness of body sensation that yoga practice teaches you to savor. I can sometimes find myself in my head during sex rather than present in my body (You know how it is: Did I lock my car? Oh shoot, I forgot the laundry! Hmm...I should update my to do 14 Tastevin Magazine February 2014

list…). Yoga helps keep me in the moment so I enjoy the experience between the sheets. Another essential element of libido achieved in yoga is intimacy. This is reached through the vulnerability of yoga positions. Many women find themselves uncomfortable in more vulnerable positions in the bedroom, keeping them from relaxing and enjoying themselves. Let me tell you: If you can find yourself enjoying a full wheel in yoga shorts, you can find yourself enjoying any sexual position! The more attainable physical qualities of yoga allow for another level of orgasms. Certain poses in yoga increase blood flow to the pelvis. If you’re a working woman who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk, the muscles that run through the pelvis can become chronically constricted. Yoga stretches these muscles out and allows the blood vessels to dilate, sending blood rushing to your pelvic area—with heat to follow. Additionally, yoga involves engaging the muscles of the pelvic floor. This strengthens muscles crucial to an orgasm. If you think about having an orgasm as flexing a muscle, yoga is pretty much the bicep curl for that muscle. Don’t think you have an hour a day for yoga? That’s totally cool. The full benefits of yoga—like intimacy, energy, confidence, and sensuality—are really only built in consistent classes, but better orgasms can be reached anywhere! Here’s a list of some poses you can do at home to improve the ‘strength’ of your orgasms, connect you with your pelvis, and boost intimate and sensual feelings:


by Lisa Eberly

1) Adho Mukha Svasana (Downward Facing Dog) 2) Upavistha Konasana (Wide-legged Straddle Pose) 3) Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose) 4) Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose) 5) Garudasana (Eagle Pose) 6) Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) 7) Halasana (Plow Pose) 8) Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

9) Supta baddha Konasana (Reclining 10) Bound Angle Pose) 11) Balasana (Child’s Pose) Enjoy your yoga practice both in the bedroom and out of it! xx,


{Beauty} Trick to Try

By Colette Choi Romantic, beachy waves are too expected for Valentine’s Day. Make things more interesting with a sleek ponytail. Whether you opt for high or low—right now I’m loving a low side pony—you’ll want to start with a great base before you even begin styling. I recommend shampoo and conditioner with added moisturizers so your hair doesn’t dry out and get frizzy. Points for using a leave-in conditioner too!

Tie off your pony with bungee bands. The hooks on each end of the elastic help you get the tightest fit on your pony to ensure it stays in place. Finish with an anti-frizz hairspray, like Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Anti-Humidity Hairspray, also $5. You’ll be edgy, sophisticated, and different all at once!


Use a flatiron to get a super sleek texture in your hair. Make sure it’s a quality tool and that you’re using protective spray. I’m a fan of Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Flat Iron Perfector Straightening Mist 48 Hour Finish. It is easy to use, affordable at $5, and available at most drugstores. Separate your hair into one- to two-inch sections. When the iron is hot, apply the heat and iron slowly to make the most of each go-over, but be sure to always keep the iron moving so you don’t burn your strands.

good eats


by Maria Eubanks

Since the Middle Ages, Valentines Day has been celebrated by exchanging small tokens of affection and handwritten notes with friends and lovers to express your true emotions towards them. Today, Valentines Day may seem to have lost the essence of true love, becoming another retail holiday and race of who can buy the bigger and better gift for their loved ones. Last year, we all spent about $18.6 billion for Valentines Day! That’s a lot of chocolate. Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not advocating against the flowers, candy, and jewelry that many buy for the day. If that is what makes your loved ones happy, by any means go forth and purchase! But I am advocating for everyone to remember that quality time is priceless and

irreplaceable. So in lieu of stressing over dinner reservations—and traffic trying to get there!—or trying to find the perfect gift, consider staying in and spending quality time together by cooking a meal and making dessert! Here, I’ve pulled together some great Dinner for Two recipes including a great shrimp scampi sautéed in creamy garlic butter sauce for you to enjoy over your favorite pasta— Lady and The Tramp style if you please! Pair it with a refreshing Strawberry and Spinach Salad drizzled with Balsamic vinaigrette. You can use any left over strawberries with dessert! And last but not least, for dessert, we have a classic Valentines treat: a delectable mini red velvet cupcake. These bite-sized cupcakes are perfect for sharing!

What You Need:

5. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set them aside 6. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and white wine and simmer for about 5 minutes 7. Add the shrimp back to the pan, mixing in the butter 8. Continue cooking the shrimp for a minute to two 9. Finish with the parsley and check the seasoning for taste 10. Serve over angel hair pasta or pasta of your choice

Shrimp Scampi in Garlic Butter Sauce over Angel Hair Pasta

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined Salt Ground black pepper Paprika or Red Pepper Flakes Olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 1/2 lemon, juiced 1/4 cup white wine 1 tablespoon cold butter 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves Angel hair pasta or pasta of your choice

What To Do:

1. Season shrimp with salt and pepper 2. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat 3. After the pan is heated, add enough olive oil to coat the pan 4. Add the shrimp and sauté until they are slightly pink but not completely cooked


Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes What You Need: 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened 1 ½ cups of sugar 2 large eggs 2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder 2 tablespoons of red food coloring 2 ¼ cups of cake flour 1 teaspoon of baking soda 1 cup of milk 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 2. In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs until they are fully blended 3. In another bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and the food coloring until it is paste-like 4. Add the cocoa powder and food coloring to the butter mixture 5. Sift the cake flour and add in the milk and vanilla extract 6. Mix all ingredients together until a smooth consistency is reached 7. Using a mini cupcake or muffin pan, fill each cup up about ⅔ of the way with batter 8. Place in oven and allow to bake for 10-15 minutes 9. Remove cupcakes from pan and allow to cool 10. Have fun sharing and coating with your frosting of choice! Cream cheese frosting pairs perfectly with red velvet!

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Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette What You Need: 4 cups baby spinach 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons honey (optional) Sea salt What You Might Want: 1 avocado, sliced ¼ cup slivered almonds Cheese of choice

What To Do:

1. In a serving bowl, combine the spinach and strawberries 2. In a separate bowl, blend the olive oil, balsamic, honey, and sea salt 3. Toss vinaigrette with salad, to taste 4. Top with fun add-ins of your choice!

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e d a M by Danielle Robbins

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Pom Poms!

One of my dear friends is getting married, and while perusing Pinterest for all kinds of inspiration for wedding décor, I kept finding these cute tissue paper pom poms used for decorations. I thought to myself, “These would be great for any party, not just weddings!” For an upcoming party, I decided I would take a stab at this cute decoration myself. I changed up the colors from a traditional white to a vibrant pink and blue. You can mix up the colors and make them your own depending on your theme—maybe a pale pink and black for a chic girls’ night on Valentine’s Day! But if the month of love doesn’t inspire you, these would also be great for a baby shower or child’s birthday party as well.



Tissue paper stack Scissors Twine or string Ribbon At least 6 nails/3 crates Level

Directions: Fold the tissue paper lengthwise like an accordion (Alternating folds front and back) until tissue paper is long and skinny. Then fold your tissue paper accordion in half.


Tie a piece of twine around the middle of the tissue paper.


Take your ribbon and tie one end to the twine in a sturdy knot (This will hold your pom pom up) Cut the edges of the tissue paper so that they are rounded.


Peel back the pieces of tissue paper from each other one-by-one. This will create the fluffy texture that will make your pom pom. Hang your pom pom up by the ribbon and decorate your next party!

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Le Rayon Vert By Billy Youngblood


The aperitifs are all in dusty bottles sealed with wax on a high shelf where I cannot reach them And I am rooted to the spot, on a street corner, between streets whose names are unfamiliar to me, so unfamiliar that I forget them even as I look away.

II. On the Metro, between Gare de l’Est and Chateau d’Eau, I recede into myself and into the walls of the cabin.

III. Eating shawarma from a plate on the banks of the Seine, a happy beagle approaches my fallen french fries but refuses them. Maybe he doesn’t like the smell?

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A barge of tourists waves to me as if I am a real Parisian, And I wave back to them, because I am not.

There’s no designer collaboration more fitting to explore for February, the month of love, than White by Vera Wang, the affordable line for rosy brides and bridesmaids available through wedding megastar David’s Bridal. Caroline A. Wong takes a walk down the aisles of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to test drive Wang’s collection. Photos by Alexander Herman

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wanted to like the dress. It looked great in lookbooks. It looked great online. It even looked great on the hanger. But then I tried it on. Vera Wang’s collaboration with David’s Bridal, White by Vera Wang, is full of traditional Wang frills and thrills—tulle ruffles, flowers, the works. It stays true to the romanticism that has made Wang an icon in the bridal industry. White by Vera Wang does not disappoint in the design department. The wedding gowns are gorgeous, but the best part of Wang’s bridesmaids numbers in the collection is that they’re also perfect cocktail looks (your bridesmaids will thank you!!). I chose a black and gray bridesmaids dress with a black ribbon sash. Wang’s line offers a selection of tulle sashes that pair with all the dresses in the collection. The two-

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Tee, L’Wren Scott for Banana Republic, $40 (worn Draped satinRepublic, dress with sash,Skirt, White by throughout). Blazer, Banana $200. DaiVera Wang, jacket, H&M, $35. lyLook, $45. Black pumps$160. with Moto gold accents, Christian Black booties, Nine West.bag, Sunglasses, Karl Siriano for Payless, $40. Leather saddle Coach, $300. Lagerfeld, Rings,throughout). editor’s own. Bar earring and rings, editor’s $180. own (worn

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tone coloring of this dress appealed. But unfortunately, the fit of the skirt was terrible, and the fabric crinkled easily. Who wants to get up after sitting through a reception dinner, ready to clear the dance floor with her awesome moves, only to find that her dress is creased? A good tailor could probably adjust the wide-bottomed skirt, but the fabric just felt a little cheap for the occasion for which the dress was designed. In the future, if you find yourself on the receiving end of iffy bridesmaid attire—or simply want to get more miles out of your cocktail dress—edge it up for day with a motorcycle jacket and booties. The contrast of the tough cut with the more-formal dress makes it a great weekend look!


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The Heart of the Matter: Hoping for Better Conversations About Love


by Jenna Anderson

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ove is hard. That’s why so many people aren’t good at it. I know girls who talk about love so much that it makes me want to never love anyone—ever. I’ve known guys who may not talk about love very much, but they think about it, or write songs about it, and definitely chase people around for it, hoping this time they’ll land The One. Many of these people watch television shows or buy books to figure love out; a fewer percentage of them also write these television shows and books, secretly hoping that, by the conclusions, they will have found the answer to finding love and loving well. Writing an article on love feels a bit like that. I don’t have love figured out. Not enough for a book or TV series, and probably not enough for a speculative article either. On the spectrum of people-that-should-talkabout-love, I am on the ill-qualified end, just above sociopaths and sixteen-year-olds. So, let me be appropriately candid here. My track record with love is, in a word, unimpressive. Any theories I hold on the mechanics of love stem from things I have read or people I have spoken with or heard about. In other words, personal experience is lacking. I’m single. Sometimes I’m grateful for the life that I have, and sometimes I’m lonely— and I think that people in relationships can identify with that statement as much as other single people can. My current views on love change frequently and without warning. Sometimes I think that falling in love sounds wonderful (my hopeless romantic phase); other times, it sounds like a colossal waste of time (lazy phase). The point is, I’m not writing to you as someone who has the “golden ticket,” or even as someone who can tell the Wonka Bars from the Slugworth candies. I’m simply a baffled person who inhabits planet Earth and is wondering about love with you. If you’re like me, you’ve already heard a lot of things said about love. And it apparently doesn’t matter what people say any-

way, because speaking is the easy part, right? Words are seen as the awkward adolescent sister to behavior. We hear this concept all the time, one way or another: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” “Actions speak louder than words,” and “Practice what you preach.” I’ve always felt bad for words. They get passed over quite frequently and treated as insignificant when, really, they are windows into how we think and behave. In that sense, words are actually quite powerful. I would like to think that—just like actions—words have a lot to say.

“Actions are really the true test of words. If our words are wrong, so will our actions be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that actions do play an important part in determining relationships, and words can only take you so far. I’m not saying that actions are not important; I’d simply like to challenge the notion that they are more important than words. Instead, actions are really the true test of words. In this sense, words come first, acting as the foundations to our actions. If our words are wrong, so will our thoughts and actions be. In his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, William Faulkner talked about the nature of writing, warning other writers against writing stories that were “ephemeral” because they didn’t focus on what mattered. Faulkner takes time to describe these types of “doomed” stories where the author writes of “defeats in which nobody loses anything of value…victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving 43

no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.” Faulkner’s caveat for writers applies to love as well. We often talk about the “glands” and miss the “heart” of love. As a result, many of my friends who spend a lot of time thinking about and pursuing love come up empty-handed, and the friends who are in successful relationships shrug their shoulders when I ask them what they’ve done differently. We don’t know what we’re talking about when we’re talking about love. Most of the time when people talk about love, they are talking about the results more than they are talking about the process. And I don’t blame them. The results can seem effortless and sound great: affection, pictures together, laughter, date nights, and gifts for your birthday. Who wouldn’t sign up for that? The process is something else entirely. The process of love is a journey in faithfulness, commitment, and servitude. Its building blocks are invisible choices that no one will thank you for while you make them, but might be more inclined to notice once you don’t make them as much anymore. When we talk about love, what should we talk about? We should describe people and not dreams, experiences and not theories, and hardship as opposed to simplicity. Love is not about playing it safe, nor is it about playing the game. It’s not about falling off of a cliff headlong into an abyss; it’s about committing to a climb that may be difficult, that other people may tell you is impossible, but that you find worthwhile. It’s not about reckless behavior; it’s about another person. You can learn certain elements of love by reading about it in a book or on a blog post, but I think you love best when you try it. And in order to be effective—to love well—we have to understand that we might have the wrong idea about love. We might be missing out. And we should want to change that. 44 Tastevin Magazine February 2014

ll Powe a n a e by Br

There’s a disaster-proof manual for holiday fashion, especially for Valentine’s Day: Start simple and celebrate the holiday’s traditional colors! Get creative by finding new ways to wear reds and pinks! If you’re struggling with what to wear, consider two options: The Little Red Dress and The Little Mix and Match.

The Little Red Dress is just as important as the LBD. Sure it’s a little bolder and outside of comfort zones for some, but red evokes passion, power, and love. It is a staple piece that translates from Valentine’s Day onward! And with countless styles to choose from, there’s a little red dress for anyone who dares to wear one. Get inspired by these gorgeous dresses!

Where to Buy: 1. Motel Vanessa Skater Dress, $55 at

2. Nasty Gal Duplicity Maxi Dress, $70 at

3. Jolie Moi Ruffle Lace Bodice Skater Dress, $75 at 4. AKIRA Jacquard Print Strapless Party Dress, $40 at 5. Jane Norma Fold Sleeve Ponti Dress, $40 at

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The Little Mix and Match is all about reimagining the clothes in your closet for an occasion. If you want to stay in theme, first pull out your red and pink pieces. A red or pink crop top is a great place to start. Pair it with a bold skirt or layer it over a dress! Or, buy one new item and create a look with other items already in your closet. I challenged myself to follow this “mix and match” guideline and produced a complete outfit that I had never worn before, even though I have worn both the fuchsia skirt and floral kimono top tons of times in other ways. I started with a silk camisole and layered the kimono on top. I then tucked the kimono into a circle skirt. An instantly new silhouette—love!

Where to Buy: 1. LA Hearts Heart Back Red Tank, $20 at

2. MANGO Cropped Knit Top, $20 at 3. H&M Cropped Top, $33 at

4. Ted Baker Monny Rose on Canvas Full Skirt, Bright Pink, $215 at

5. River Island White Lana Super Skinny Ankle Grazer Jeans, $45 at


Share Your Where Travel by Train

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By Amanda Chi


atching a girl get deported by the German police, meeting a drunk Canadian at a train station, and getting fined in the Czech Republic— sometimes the best stories from traveling are the unexpected ones from which you learn. I’ll regale you with a couple of my most recent travel stories, and hopefully you can come away with some worthwhile tips. As I currently reside in London, traveling throughout Europe has been significantly easier. There are always cheap methods of travel, like the discount airlines Ryanair and Easyjet. However, if you have an extended period of free time and no fixed destination, I suggest exploring by train with a Eurail pass. Sure it may seem pricier, but its convenience outweighs the costs (not to mention, you’ll avoid those hidden airline fees). You can hop on and off almost all the trains that don’t require reservations. You buy the pass based on the number of countries you’re visiting or how many days you’ll be on the rail. Missed a train? Just look at the timetable and catch the next one. The thing I love most about trains is their punctuality. No delays because of weather, missing flight crewmembers, or lost bags. When a train says it will depart at 16:32, it will depart at 16:32. And the scenery is gorgeous as it passes by your window. There’s no need to turn off all electronic devices, so you can take as many pictures as you want! I also learned to not be fooled by the ticket agents at the train stations. Some trains have optional reservations while others absolutely require one. If you don’t want any fuss, pay an extra fee for a direct ride without transfers. If you’re on that backpacking budget, you can simply take four trains from Amsterdam to Prague, as I did, and still find time to wander around Enschede, Holland, at midnight. My friend and I opted for the adventure of train transfers, but when we arrived at one of the layover sta-

tions, the ticket agent insisted that we pay for a reservation. It was optional, but he said we should’ve booked it in advance and that we were foolish for not doing so. All around it was an unpleasant transaction as I reluctantly passed him 60 euros. Once we boarded the train, however, we realized there were plenty of seats available and that it wasn’t full at all. So don’t let an agent bully you into thinking he’s more useful than he really is. Rather than having the ticket agent look up an itinerary for you, it is easy to search one yourself on the Eurail website. Never take an agent’s word that an entire train is fully packed. Seats may be previously booked, but there are always a few scattered about that are free. I’ve also seen individuals lounging near the entryways of the carriages and ticket officers never seem to mind. Besides the convenience, taking the train is a great way to meet people. Conversations are always fascinating, and discussing one another’s culture can be a good laugh. I met a Dutch student named Bas on the train from Amsterdam to Köln who was heading to Switzerland to ski. He kept raving about this one Dutch candy called drop that practically every Dutch person I’ve encountered LOVES. It’s practically a national treasure. What is it exactly? Turns out it’s licorice. The look on my face when I tried the candy assured him that I


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felt differently than the rest of the Dutch. Bas also made fun of the way I pronounced hagelslag, the Dutch equivalent of chocolate sprinkles that they like to eat on toast, and I laughed when he attempted to say my Chinese name. Talking to other travelers is also a good way to pass the time when

“Whether it’s politics,

culture, or foreign language pronunciations, it’s always a fresh experience to talk to strangers on a train.“ you’re waiting two hours for the next train, but it also helps open you to new cultures. In Köln, a man approached my friend and me and asked if he could just talk to us. Apparently this Canadian man heard our American accents, and since he was living in a small German town, he rarely had the opportunity to speak English. His stories never seemed to have a point, but it was funny how eager he was to merely communicate in English. Whether it’s politics, culture, or foreign language pronunciations, it’s always a fresh experience to talk to strangers on a train. I know this may sounds fairly obvious, but it is essential to bring your passport when you’re crossing borders. My friend and I were seated in a train compartment, much like the enclosed ones from the Hogwarts Express, where we met two girls from China who were studying in Sweden. The German police were walking through the train and asked to see our passports, but one of the Chinese girls handed him her student ID instead. He asked

if she had her passport, and she said she had forgotten it at school. Then proceeded one of the most frustrating displays of languagebarrier exchanges I have ever witnessed. As English was a second language for both parties involved, the girl couldn’t seem to process that it was illegal to not have a passport and the policeman couldn’t explain what was going to happen to her because of it. Some things you can learn from this girl’s experience: 1. Don’t laugh like it’s a joke. She did, and the officer grew increasingly irritated. 2. Don’t try and use reverse psychology on a police officer saying that it’s alright and not a big deal. He’ll think you’re not taking him seriously and might take action to prove to you he’s completely serious. 3. While it may work in some countries, don’t bribe the policeman and ask if you can just pay him off. It can be insulting and, obviously, illegal. And finally, don’t throw a tantrum and stomp your feet when you finally process what’s happening. In the end, this girl was taken off the train to a police station at some obscure Bavarian city, where she was given a couple days to leave the country while her friends continued on to Prague. While you should carry your passport with you everywhere regardless, Germany was the only country that wanted to check our passports. As we crossed from England to France by car, the French didn’t seem to feel the need to look through our passports, much less touch them. Some countries are more strict than others, so I’d say be generally aware of each country’s public transport rules. I had to learn this the tough way when my friend and I were fined in Prague for having an expired bus pass. We bought a 24-hour pass, and no one checked it while it was valid. Of course, thirty minutes after it expired, when we were exiting the train station, a Czech transport policeman asked to see our passes. Even though it was only thirty minutes, he demanded to see our IDs, followed us to the ATM, and had us pay a fine. Granted, the


fine was only the equivalent of $40, but it was still a moment of misplaced anger, regret, and self-despise for not having avoided the situation. This has happened to Tastevin staffers in Paris, as well, so it’s a pretty widespread practice. If something like that happens, try not to dwell on it and get too upset. And if you are skipping out on those bus fares, just be wary of those policemen! Once you arrive in a city, you have to find a place to stay. Whether or not you’ve booked a hostel or an apartment in advance, it’s always a good idea to check out the ratings online. But even if a hostel has a good rating, you can’t always be prepared for the people who will be staying in the same room. Hostel experiences are always a hit or miss in my opinion. Even though the amenities and facilities are nice, it’s about the company you keep! Sometimes those fellow travelers will be friendly, some may keep to themselves, and others will be the creepiest beings you can find. Staying in an Amsterdam hostel room with three other people, my friend and I kept waking up throughout the night because of how loud our hostel mates were. It’s difficult to avoid the sound of snorers (bring earplugs and an eye mask!), but waking up at 3am to the smell of roommates smoking weed is not ideal. Avoid unnecessary hassle by booking a private room in the hostel or cheap private accommodations through reputable sites like AirBnB. The next morning in the Amsterdam hostel, I woke up to snag one of those complimentary breakfasts that the hostel offered while my friend slept on. The man in the bed next to her waited until I left the room to strike up a conversation with my friend. Although he was Turkish, he kept calling her chica and asking where she was from. She kept her back to him and tried to without being too rude. But even after she told him she was really tired, he continued talking, offering her a back massage and asking if he could keep her warm. It’s always good to be aware of the

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people you’re sharing a room with if you have to share one. In my experience of encountering crowded trains, irritable policemen, friendly strangers, and creepy roommates, it’s always good to just go with the flow (unless, of course, you’re in danger—luckily, my friend was fine from her encounter with the Turkish hostel man, but if you’re unsafe, don’t just go with it). It certainly helps to travel with a levelheaded friend who isn’t prone to panicattacks and hysteria—and it’s safer! Be prepared to always pay a little extra when traveling because not everything is going to go according to plan. So try not to fixate on what went wrong or how much money you unnecessarily spent because the stories and experiences you’ll have are invaluable.

Share Your Wear Photos by Kevin Focht

Michelle Lesniak , winner of Project Runway Season 11, shares looks from her collection “Little Girl Lost.” Says Lesniak, “I tend to use what’s going on in my personal life…I come to fashion with a concept before I even delve into designing anything.” We think these looks are anything but lost!


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“Without the show, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. So it would be really foolish of me to poo-poo the hand that fed me, you know?”

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AVAILABLE NOW! Get it on the iTunes store or at

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Little Girl Lost?

What happens after you win one of the most grueling seasons yet of Project Runway? The no-bullshit designer Michelle Lesniak sits down with Caroline A. Wong to discuss just that. And she definitely seems like she’s more in control than the name of her collection lets on!

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Tastevin Magazine

Everyone wants to know: What have you been up to since winning Project Runway? Michelle Lesniak Tons and tons and tons of travel! Half of my life is spent out of a suitcase these days, which is really wonderful— because I love traveling—except for the part that I hate flying! I’m doing speaking engagements, working with various companies on design, maybe marketing material. I’m doing fashion shows. I’m meeting and greeting and signing autographs, and I’m feeling a bit like a diva! [Laughs] TM What’s the process of designing like when you’re so busy? ML It’s the cherry on the cake of being busy. The times that I actually get to sit down in the studio and do what I love—which is the designing side of things—is when I’m at my happiest. You definitely have to do everything else to get it out there. You have to do all the marketing and the meetings and the business and charity work and websites and responding to emails. You know, 99% of fashion is not designing. TM Still, it sounds like the life! When you first went on the show, did you expect all the attention that you’re getting? ML Not at all. I never would have thought that a year later I’d be flying to London over the course of my birthday. The show hadn’t even aired in England yet, and people were coming up to me, being like, “Oh my gosh! Congratulations! Oh, Michelle, I love you!” And I was like, Wow, how did you even see it? They were going online and watching it bootleg. It’s overwhelming, and I feel really lucky. Very, very lucky. TM Were you prepared for the aftermath of winning the competition? ML You definitely have to learn as you go. And I don’t think anyone can prepare you for being a little small-town Portland girl to having people recognize you in an airport, or in a burger shop, or when you’re working out. Umm…no one could have prepared me for that.

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Does it ever get invasive? Oh, most definitely, it does. But, even when it’s invasive, [I’ll] still [give] a warm hug because the people aren’t doing anything mean or anything malicious toward me. I get hate mail, but that’s all done in a passive aggressive way. You know, people are sitting behind the sanctity of their computer and sending a nasty email to me, as opposed to [saying something in person]. TM What’s all the hate about? ML You know, some people just don’t really get humor, or comic timing, or just being a little bit of a sassafrass—and the fact that we are exhausted [when we appear on the show]. We’re saying and doing things that we wouldn’t normally do, and I just don’t think the viewing public—not all of them—gets that. TM Would you say that you were portrayed accurately after the edit of the show? ML Most definitely. I was myself 100% of the way. And all of the other designers who were on the show with me were like, Nope, this is exactly who she is and she’s not mean at all. She just says what she feels and says what she means. TM You seem to have remained really true to yourself throughout this whole process. For example, you’re originally from Portland, and you continue to have your home base there. Why is maintaining that important to you? ML You know, I was born and raised in Portland. It’s where I [derive] my creativity from. I love other cities, but I couldn’t live anywhere else. [Portland] has the quality of life that I love and the people that I love and the style and the weather and the food and the beverages. Everything I love is in this town, and I haven’t been able to find that anywhere else. So I support my town and hope that our fashion in this city just progresses further and further ‘til we become a fashion capital. TM What’s the fashion like in Portland now? ML Kind of a no-nonsense, we-don’t-give-ashit-how-you-feel look. We’re just gonna wear what we want a lot of the time, so it’s every-


thing from…steampunk to Pacific Northwest outdoor gear to being very sports-oriented to just jeans and t-shirt. TM To hipsters? ML We’re definitely a hip city, so I guess if you have a lot of hip kids living in one city, you’ve got to make it plural. You’ve got a lot of hipsters! TM You mentioned that Portland inspires you. What other ways do you get inspired? ML I tend to use what’s going on in my personal life. I went to school for fine arts, and I come to fashion with a concept before I even delve into designing anything. You know, on the show it was the “lone wolf” [theme]. For the most part, that concept [can be] a personal struggle or strife I’m going through, or a personal joy. The outdoors are another big one for me, where I [can] get inspired by a texture or a color or even form. TM When you’re on Project Runway, they often give you themes to help spark that inspiration process. Were you always a fan of the show? ML I didn’t watch every single season, just depending on how busy or what I was doing in my work life. And I try to watch it when I can, but when you’re not always home at the same time or the same basis—and I don’t currently have a television—it makes it tough. TM No TV? Is that a Portland hipster thing? ML I have one! I just refuse to pay for cable. Why pay for something that I’m never home to see? It’s like a waste of money. But now everything’s online anyway. TM So you’ve said you watched a few seasons of the show. Did you catch the fourth season? Winner Christian Siriano is arguably the most successful Project Runway winner thus far. Would you agree? ML MLF: I would disagree. Well, I mean, it takes a while to build your brand and your line, and everyone that I’ve seen that’s been on the show, they’re doing [what] they want to be [doing] now. Not everyone wants to be just a fashion designer for themselves under 70 Tastevin Magazine February 2014

their own label. There are quite a few designers who have been on the program who are working as elite designers under somebody else’s label. And they’re just as successful. It all depends on where you place your success in and what you’re looking to do after you leave Project Runway. TM That makes total sense. As someone with her own fashion line, what do you say to people who think that fashion is a frivolous industry? ML I would wonder what they’re wearing right now and where they get their clothes. You know, so much of what we [wear] is required for protective clothing. Or you’re going to go down a wedding aisle—what are you going to wear? Something special that makes you feel and that makes you emote. You know, it’s not just materialism. And it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be a throwaway fashion culture. And that’s the other problem that makes it fall into this overly materialistic thing where, you know, you buy something to wear once. Well, the only time you should be doing that is perhaps for a wedding. But it doesn’t have to be throwaway. TM Why is fashion so important? ML It shows who you are as an individual. It’s a way of expressing yourself, making yourself feel good. And not enough people are able to do that. Fashion has always allowed me to be an individual and toot my own horn and be a little weird. TM Has fashion always been something that you wanted to do? ML It was always something that was really important to me, even being a middle school teenager, so I was always making my own clothing. And I had a different career for ten years. I was in the wine industry here in Oregon and was still designing and making my own clothing. I just couldn’t afford to do it as a business. TM If you hadn’t won, is that what you would still be doing? Working in the wine industry? ML I was already designing before the show,

“What are you going to wear? Something special that makes you feel and that makes you emote. You know, it’s not just materialism. And it doesn’t have to be.”

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so I’d be doing it in the same way, [but I’d] maybe be a little further behind in the funding department. TM Would you encourage everyone to quit their jobs and pursue fashion if that’s their passion? Do you think that anyone and everyone can be a fashion? ML As a human being, just picking out your outfit every day, you’re designing your fashion. Yeah, it could come from the same store, but that store might not have put those two or three elements together. By the time you throw your shoes, your socks, your accessories on, you’re being your own designer. You’re designing for yourself. TM Do you differentiate between being a designer and being a stylist? ML No, you’re designing a look. You might not have designed that shirt, but you put that shirt with something else to make it magical, or make it interesting. TM So what kind of specific advice would you give to women looking to give their outfits that special, magical touch? ML [Long pause] It’s the unique kind of thoughtfulness that you put into it, whether it’s something that has a bit of nostalgia—a great grandmother’s brooch or, you know, a necklace you got at a Goodwill. Those little stories that you add to clothing that make them special. Or maybe it’s the skirt that you wore to your first prom. Or the first pair of red shoes that you ever bought, and you have that story of, when you purchased these red shoes, you felt like this wild woman or wild girl. It’s those little elements that make your outfit special and make you who you are. So it’s like finding the story in your outfit. TM So when it comes to your own fashion and your own story, do you exclusively wear your own designs to get that across? ML No, I’m like, you know, today I only have one thing on—no, two things on—that I made, a jacket and a handkerchief. [Laughs] I mix it up. I can’t do it all now. I don’t have a lot of time just to sew for myself. So I wear a

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lot of my own stuff mixed with vintage as well as new things. I wear tons of clothes that I get from my fellow designers. TM So you stay in touch with a lot of contestants from your season? ML Oh, most definitely. I was this last week in New Orleans visiting Matt [Arthur] from my season. I see Stanley [Hudson] several times a year. Every time I’m in LA, I stay on his couch. He’ll be up here for Christmas to visit the inlaws. Amanda [Valentine], constantly. There’s a core group of us that are talking back and forth every day. TM You guys seem close now, but on the show, a lot of the designers had beef with each other. How real was that? ML Oh no, it is just like a family Thanksgiving. You are in the kitchen yelling at your cousin, you know. The moms are getting together, and they’re getting all sassy. ‘Cause you’re tired and you’re stressed out. I mean, it’s just like that. We’re on four hours of sleep. We haven’t seen our families in weeks. You know, our schedule’s totally topsy turvy. You’re going to have little spats here and there. TM Do you ever feel you need to separate yourself from the drama that can be associated with being on the show? ML [Being on the show is] a pretty important part of my identity because, before that, no one knew who the heck I was or what my clothing looked like. And without the show, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. So it would be really foolish of me to poo-poo the hand that fed me, you know? Umm, it’s hard. Sometimes you’re having a good cry with a girlfriend out at dinner and someone wants to take a photo with you. But without that opportunity [on the show], I wouldn’t be in my studio right now working like I do. TM With all the craziness, how supportive has you family been? ML Oh super, super, super. They are—my family and my friends—my biggest cheerleaders, and I wouldn’t be here without them. I truly wouldn’t.


Were they surprised when you auditioned for Project Runway? ML No, I’ve got some pretty big cajones. I try to run into things without a whole lot of fear, so they weren’t surprised. TM What would you say to fashion designers starting out that might have more of that fear? ML I think the most important thing is to stay true to yourself. Don’t have any regrets over a design that might be faulty in two years. You know, I look back at this dress that I did two years ago, and I’m like, “OH MY GOD, it was TERRIBLE!” But no, it got me where I am today. If you love swimwear, do swimwear. Just kill swimwear. You don’t have to do ball gowns; you don’t have to do red carpet. Just always be true to yourself. TM So how will you be staying true to yourself in the future? What’s next? ML Right now we’re working on forcing manufacturing so we’ll have more product out there! To buy Lesniak’s designs and to stay up to date with her work, check out her newly revamped website,


A Sweet Read


The #ReadWomen2014 Twitter trend sheds light on how publishing houses predominately produce books written by men. Show some love to female writers and pick up a female-written book!

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Profile for Tastevin Mag

Tastevin Magazine February 2014  

A Fashion and Lifestyle Tasting Menu

Tastevin Magazine February 2014  

A Fashion and Lifestyle Tasting Menu