Scope Out Caroline Ventura’s Top 5 Travel Destinations

Start saving your vacation days.

Caroline Ventura, behind the ultra-understated line Brvtvs, is a jewelry whiz, but she’s also a traveler extraordinaire—seriously, her Instagram, bursting with shots of stunning docks and island huts, never fails to make us jelly. So where would she go if she could go anywhere? Explore her favorite locales below. —alisha prakash

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
“The architecture is unbelievably beautiful. All the houses face the street and seem unassuming at first, but those giant wooden doors open into some lush courtyards filled with gardens and fountains. It feels like an old colonial Spanish town, with its cobblestone streets and brightly painted facades.”
Protip: “Go have lunch at El Correo. It’s the best tortilla soup I have ever had. Ever.”

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Northern Morocco
“Last summer, my husband and I drove around Northern Morocco for ten days. It is the one trip that stands out in my mind as my favorite. This is just a regular ol’ water fountain in Fes—with that tile, on a drinking fountain.”
Protip: “If you find yourself in Fes and can manage to find your way around the Medina (you’ll get lost—it’s an insane maze that is next to impossible to navigate, but that’s half the fun), go to the Palais Amani and treat yourself to their hammam (spa!).”

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Rome, Italy
“I fell hard for Rome when I took a family vacation there when I was 11, and it has been a torrid love affair ever since. The ancientness of this city gets me every time. I love it so much that I named my jewelry line after one of the Empire’s most notorious characters.”
Protip: “One of my favorite memories is from the first time I visited. My parents and I got stuck in a rainstorm and had to take shelter in a teeny little restaurant on the northeast corner of Piazza Navona. It was the first time I tried spaghetti carbonara, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since.”

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Portland, Maine
“There is something about the air up in Maine that is otherworldly. It makes your lungs feel alive. I’ve visited Portland a few times and really love that it feels like a quaint little fishing village but has a bit of a city vibe to it.”
Protip: “My favorite place to go to in Maine is Eventide Oyster Co. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, seeing as it was probably plucked from the ocean that morning. Splitting a dozen oysters and a martini is the best way to start a meal there.”

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Tofino, Canada
“Tofino is like the Maine of the West Coast. I can’t think of any other way of describing it than, ‘Shit, this place is bananas.’ You have to take a teeny propeller plane to get to the island, so if you’re afraid of flying, maybe pack some valium because my pilot liked to swoop down along the mountains as we were coming in, which was awesome. Second, bring lots of film (or an extra memory card) because you won’t be able to put your camera down.”
Protip: “Book a room at the Wickaninnish Inn. I was lucky enough to stay here as part of a job I was working on, and this place is incredible. Bathtub in the bedroom—enough said.”

Caroline’s new ball chain earrings are MAJ—check ‘em out now!

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Laura Lombardi’s Historic, Insider-y Guide to Pisa

Lookin’ beyond those leaning towers.

“I hate good food and beautiful places,” said no one ever. In other words, you’re going to L-O-V-E the Pisa tour that jewelry designer Laura Lombardi is about to give you. “I grew up between New York and Italy, and spent a lot of time in Pisa,” says Laura, who still has some famiglia living in the Tuscan city. “What’s unique about Italy is that I can go to the same pastry shop or restaurant as my grandmother did. You feel a different connection.” Here, five spots to hit on your first visit or tenth. alisha prakash

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Pasticceria Salza is a pretty touristy pastry place. Get a coffee and hang out and people watch. It was my grandma’s absolute favorite place, so I have a soft spot for it.”
(Borgo Stretto, 46)

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“I’ve always stayed at this hotel called the Royal Victoria Hotel. It’s right on the Arno River. It has been open since the 1830s, and there’s something so interesting about all the history that’s there—tons of ephemera, photos, maps, menus, and postcards since they’ve been open. It’s kind of like a museum in its own way.”
(Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti, 12)

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“The Camposanto Monumentale is a giant burial ground—it’s the one that nobody goes to, but it’s my favorite. Initially it was made as a home for Roman sarcophaguses, but eventually, they started burying people in there. They all have these really elaborate gravestones. And I love the legend behind it—they say that all the soil that it was built on is sacred, and if you bury someone in it, they’ll turn into a skeleton in 24 hours. It’s a classic Italian lore, but it’s part of what I love about that culture.”
(Piazza dei Miracoli)

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Trattoria Sant’Omobono is a restaurant that has really classic Tuscan food. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve had a really good, authentic meal—try the homemade gnocchi or any of the homemade pastas. It was built where a medieval church used to be, so one of the giant columns of the church is in the middle of this tiny restaurant—it’s really cool.”
(Piazza San Omobono, 6)

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Il Vecchio Forno is a bakery that has all the authentic Tuscan pastries, cookies, and treats that you’re not really going to find anywhere else like ricciarelli, cantuccini, and schiacciatine. It has typical terrible Italian service where it’s like they’re mad at you for being there. There’s nowhere to sit—you get your pastry and take it home or sit on the bench in the front and have it. It’s the real deal—it’s super legit.”
(Via D. Cavalca)

Think Laura’s travel tips are amazing? Wait until you see her edition tomorrow! You don’t want to miss it—trust.

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Workhorse Jewelry

When we say the women behind Workhorse Jewelry go way back, we mean all the way back: Two of its three founders, Nicole (left) and Amber Sutton (right), are twins. And along with their DNA, they also share a longstanding love of vintage jewelry. “As kids, we would always go with my grandmother and my aunt and my mom to flea markets,” says Nicole. “And we just got obsessed with searching for those special things that nobody else had.”

That homespun passion spurred them to ditch the 9-to-5 after college and move to Florence, Italy, where both enrolled in a yearlong metal-smithing course. While there, the duo got in touch with Zoë Chicco (center), whose namesake jewelry line they had always admired. And after they spent some years in her ranks, Zoë was the one who encouraged the sisters to explore working on their own line, which they did with Archive, founded in 2006.

“Even after we got to work on Archive, the three of us talked a lot about collaborating on a project together,” explains Nicole. “We obviously all get along. It just felt natural to mess around and see what we could do as partners.”

So in early 2012, the trio hunkered down in L.A. and came up with Workhorse—a line of hand-finished, Victorian-accented pieces that are subtle and elegant enough to wear every day. “People have been wearing these representative symbols for centuries,” says Amber. “And to the untrained eye, they’re beautiful, but meaningless. With Workhorse, we try to communicate those hidden messages. We want to share those stories.” And we want to hear them. —mattie kahn

workhorsejewelry.com

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Meet Laura Lombardi

This designer’s at home in Chicago, New York, and Italy. Wow.

If in 2008 you told Laura Lombardi, then a newly-minted Chicagoan, that a successful jewelry line was on the horizon, she probably would’ve laughed in your face. Even with a year’s experience in the craft under her belt, the plan was always to pursue fine art. “I started studying illustration at FIT and SVA when I was 13, and in college, I was doing all this drawing and sculpture,” the native New Yorker remembers. For undergrad, she moved up to Boston, where she landed a job working for a group of jewelry stores—and, surrounded by all the chains and crystals, started to incorporate those elements into her sculptures. That work became a gateway drug of sorts, and the art student soon turned to making jewelry full-time. But not until her subsequent move to Chicago did Laura decide to establish her namesake line of classically inspired vintage metal accessories.

And that visual arts training? It plays an important role in shaping her aesthetic. “I like to make things that are eye-catching and interesting, but at the same time, I don’t want them to be fussy,” the designer explains. “I was really into repetitive imagery—making big mandalas—and sculptural wall pieces that echoed things growing out of the ground, and I try to do that with the jewelry also. The way I see things is still the same.” The other inspiration comes from her Italian roots. Although she has plenty of love for the Windy City, Laura holds citizenship in Italy. “My dad’s side of the family is from there, and I grew up speaking the language,” she explains. “That side of me is very drawn to the classical aesthetic and dark aspect to Italian culture, and I’m very influenced by it.” jiayi ying

Laura made amazing brass earrings just for us! Click here to grab them while you can.

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Where They Were Then: Miuccia Prada

Miuccia Prada was a poli-sci major, a onetime member Communist party, and a passionate feminist who entered into a world of fashion that she once described as frivolous. Talk about conflicting interests. Here’s how she managed to take all of that and grow—in a major, may-jah way—the iconic luxury-goods company she inherited from her grandfather. —sunny

1949 - Miuccia Prada Bianchi is born in Milan, Italy. She’s the youngest granddaughter of Mario Prada, who at one time believed women should have no role in business.

1970 - Miuccia graduates from the University of Milan with a doctorate in political science—and becomes a mime for six years. She claims it’s because it gives her an excuse not to talk and that being “strange or different or eccentric” (per CNN) is in at the time.

1978 - She reluctantly takes over the luxury leather goods company that her grandfather had founded in 1913 and that her mother Luisa had been running for nearly 20 years. Key word: reluctantly.

1985 - A turning point for Miuccia Prada: She creates the quintessential bag—the black mini backpack—that would become a Prada staple. Eschewing standard luxury-world materials, she instead crafted it with a heavy-duty nylon originally used in the Italian army. Talk about revolutionary—and, no, not in the Marxist way.

1989 - Prada (finally!) launches her first ready-to-wear collection, to critical acclaim.

1990 - Prada, along with her business partner/husband Patrizio Bertelli go on a “buying spree,” scooping up labels like Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, and Azzedine Alaia. The acquisitions prove unprofitable and hinder the Prada label, but that’s one posh misstep.

1993 - Miuccia debuts the less expensive Miu Miu (her own nickname), inspired by her own personal wardrobe. That same year, she winds up winning the CFDA International Award, turns out a menswear line, and opens Prada’s Madison Avenue store in Manhattan. Yah, busy.

2007 - Prada is a full-fledged fashion conglomerate. And now one with an e-commerce site.

2011 - The Met announces that the Costume Institute will pair the works of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada (on view next year from May 7 to August 19). Some have been questioning what could stand up to the last exhibition, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” Pretty sure they’ve found their answer.

Read about more huge names when they weren’t so big right over here.

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Of a Kind

In constructing this handwoven wool bag, Maria La Rosa mixes patterns so that you don’t have to (you lazy fool, you). —erica

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The Making of a Meredith Wendell Bag

This duo geeks out on its production.

It takes major stamina to make a Meredith Wendell bag, and though Meredith and Wendell German might have to endure language barriers, jet lag, and amazing pasta to source and produce their vibrant collection of accessories in Italy, there are some pretty thrilling things about the process. The highlights:

Click here to score our exclusive Grasshopper bag, which features one of Meredith’s of-the-moment skins, python. There are—and will only ever be—ten.

The Materials
Meredith: I like to use a lot of different things and mix them together. The factories hate when you do that! Right now, I’m really into exotic skins, like python and lizard. And I love patent leather. I tend to gravitate towards the glitzy or the shiny stuff. I’m kind of like a fish.


Cutting dies used to create some of the bags in the duo’s spring collection.

The Design Process
Meredith: For a bag, I do sketches and then make a sort of 3D mock-up that I send to our factory to prototype. I’ll change things—we’ll go back and forth on a few prototypes—and then they make a market sample that I can still tweak. When thinking about what skin to use where, you try to look at how the leather will wear. If it’s trim or if it’s a handle, you want it to be durable. If it’s on the body of the bag, you want a larger skin, and if it’s a big bag, you don’t want to use something too delicate.


Each component of each bag—no matter how big or small—requires its own die. Whoa.

The Production
Wendell: We go into the place where our belts are made in Italy, and we see these Alaïa belts before they’re done. Then you go to our jewelry factory, and there are big tins of old Louis Vuitton hardware. It’s just super inspiring to be there and see all the amazing stuff that’s created.

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Meredith and Wendell Do Florence

They’re practically regulars at these five spots.

Meredith and Wendell German, the husband-wife team behind Meredith Wendell, produce their luxe, crazy-bold leather goods in Italy—which means heading across the Atlantic to Florence every six to eight weeks. Sounds like a tough gig, we know, but the travel really is essential. “The people we work with are such artisans,” Meredith explains. “You can’t Skype them. It’s very old-fashioned, and I’ve been taught to just go there.” These are the five places they hit when they’re in town.

Via Vai
Wendell: They serve the best steak—it’s better than any steakhouse here in New York.
Meredith: It’s just olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Wendell: Last time I was there, I wasn’t with an Italian, but I got the Italian discount—so they’re getting to know us, which is good.
(Via Pisana, 33, 055 223132)

Hotel Lungarno
Meredith: It’s really, really cool. It’s not very typically Italian—it’s all blue and white.
Wendell: It’s right off the Ponte Vecchio.
(Vicolo dell’Oro, 5-red, 055 27261; lungarnohotels.com)


View from the hotel

Bardini Gardens
Wendell: These are the gardens next to the Boboli Gardens, which are a big tourist attraction. The Bardini Gardens are like an afterthought, and it’s quite nice to go there and get away from everybody, especially the crush of people who are around during the summer and the springtime.


The plush Bardini Gardens

Il Santo Bevitore
Meredith: This is a hip new place owned by these younger kids. The food is incredible.
Wendell: It’s sort of avant-garde Italian food.
(Via di Santo Spirito, 64-red, 055 211264)

Golden View
Meredith: The name sounds like a Chinese restaurant.
Wendell: And it has the signage of a Chinese restaurant, but it’s just pretty, clean food. They have live jazz and serve food until midnight—which is nice because we’ll be at the factory until six or seven and then keep working because everyone in the U.S. is working.
(Vicolo del Canneto, 2, 055 288683; goldenviewopenbar.com)

Buy the (Italian-made) bag the duo created just for us right over here. It’s bright—and surprisingly practical.

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Brvtvs

You know how high-school girls are—they’re so into soldering. No? Well, California-born Manhattan-resident Caroline Ventura was. “My dad was in the movie business, so he would have to fix all of the circuitry on his video equipment when it broke,” she explains. “I would go play on his workbench when I was little and watch him solder. And then I taught myself how to use the iron and blowtorch.”

Caroline has now carved out a niche making the sort of classic, delicate jewelry designs you can wear (and get compliments on) every day, and it turns out her father’s movie making career encouraged her entree into the jewelry world in more ways than one. “I went to Rome with my dad the summer before I started sixth grade—he was filming a movie and lived in Italy for almost a year. I found it really cool that this modern city existed alongside all of these completely ancient things,” she says. “The craftsmanship and the amount of pride people took

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The Apolis Guys: Behind the Tie

Shea and Raan Parton tell the story of their Of a Kind edition—it starts in a field in Italy and ends in a tub of black tea in California.

The linen tie that the Apolis team crafted for Of a Kind is bi-continental—talk about sophisticated. Creative director Raan Parton shares its coming-to-America tale.

Click here to score one of the ten ties Apolis made for us.


An Italian linen field.

“The linen is from Italy—it’s harvested twice a year, and it has beautiful inconsistencies. We take the natural linen and weave it into broadcloth—just a plain weave. We hand-wash the fabric in hot water at a studio to give it dimension. Then we press it and cut it into ties, on the bias, which helps it maintain its shape.”


A worker at the 2,500-square-foot Los Angeles manufacturing space making an Apolis tie by hand.

“The ties are lined with canvas and hand-sewn at our little seven-person tie factory in L.A. Once they’re made, we dye them at our studio. We let black tea brew for four hours and then sit the ties in it for two hours. We have a lot of manual—kind of dumb—ways of doing things. We designed all of these analog processes into our brand because we have the big-picture goal of working with a non-profit downtown that rehabilitates homeless people by giving them entry-level jobs. We’ve been trying to bring that piece into the business so that we have a whole global-local process.”

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