The Insider: Kristen Joy Watts
Let us tell you what: We seriously double-tap Kristen Joy Watts. As an art-and-fashion-savvy member of Instagram’s community team, she’s in charge of discovering new talent, creating cool new content, and brainstorming fresh ways to collaborate with the likes of Vogue (see: #metgala) and the Frieze Art Fair New York (see: #emptyfrieze). Obviously, we wanted—needed!—to know more, so we asked Kristen to get real with us. —mattie kahn
Q: Spill: What’s your favorite Instagram filter?
A: The city usually inspires the filter. I’ll probably use Hudson at about half strength, for example, when I’m in Vancouver next weekend—a bit of blue for a rainy place.
Q: What makes a good Intagram, do you think?
A: We often feature tips from the community on the Instagram blog, and that’s a great place to start. I think great photographs have to be beautiful—but they also have to have what Roland Barthes called punctum: a photograph’s personally touching, even wounding, quality. Maybe it’s a hair askew or a slightly crooked horizon line—imperfections that haunt you.
Q: What’s your favorite landmark in NYC?
A: Does Momofuku count?
Q: Where do you head for the best slice of pizza in New York City?
A: On one of Scott’s Pizza Tours.
Q: What’s the last viral video that made you cry-laugh?
A: This got me.
Q: Any guilty pleasures you’re willing to admit to?
A: I think a lot of people would say that they like Boyz II Men, but not a lot of people still listen to "4 Seasons of Loneliness" about once a week.
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The Insider: Rachel Webber
Something you should know about Rachel Webber: She’s based in New York but splits her time between NYC, Los Angeles, and Helsinki. Yes, Helsinki. Doesn’t that alone make you want to know everything about her? Well, combine that with the fact that she works for the company that brought us Angry Birds—and that she’s just plain lovely. So much goodness on that front below. —monica freeman
Q: Can you tell us about what you do for your 9-to-5-ish?
A: I head up Rovio’s video business, which means looking after the kids’ and family streaming video channel ToonsTV we built on top of our Angry Birds games and distribute on connected platforms. It’s like our own mini Hulu that offers fans our own original series as well as programs from top kids’ entertainment partners. We also partner with TV networks around the world to program our original series on their networks.
Q: Speaking of Angry Birds: Which apps are you obsessed with?
A: Twitter and Instagram from the moment I wake up ‘til I go to sleep. Secret is my new procrastination tool, and I get WUT messages coming in all the time but have no idea who they are from! I listen to the Boston NPR station I grew up with, WBUR. and my favorite Australian indie-music station, triple j, on TuneIn Radio, and Spotify in general for music. I’m a big Foursquare checker-inner—and now Swarm—and I’m addicted to LINE, the Japanese chat app, because of the insanely fun sticker packs. I’ve spent a lot of money on stickers…
Q: What’s your number one guilty pleasure? Doesn’t have to be guilty, of course, but you know what I’m getting at.
A: Hmm…besides LINE stickers?! Listening to Robyn’s “Hang with Me” on repeat. Rag and Bone boots. Finnish glassware. Buying iTunes season passes—for my many hours on airplanes—to Parenthood, The Good Wife, Scandal, The Americans, Sherlock, Orphan Black.
Q: Since you’re a real travel pro, if you had to travel the entire perimeter of any country, which would you choose?
A: Probably Sweden—but only in summer—because it’s an archipelago, so it would be very fun to navigate through all those tiny islands. And Stockholm in the summer is magical.
Q: Where are your favorite hole-in-the-wall spots to eat in the places where you visit regularly-slash-live?
A: In Helsinki, Kuurna is the best. In NYC—these aren’t really hole-in-the-wall, but the stretch on 9th and 10th between 22nd and 25th with Sullivan Street Bakery, El Quinto Pino, Tia Pol, Izakaya Ten, The Red Cat, and the new-ish Empire Diner is a locals’ paradise. In L.A., there’s this very dive-y Szechuan spot I’ve gone to with friends on the way back from Palm Springs holidays called Chung King.
Q: What books are you itching to read?
A: I actually just bought Lydia Davis’s new collection of stories in hardcover, so that’s next. And then Americanah because did you hear the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her NPR interview?! Wow. And then of course she showed up on Beyoncé’s album.
Q: If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would you choose?
A: Maybe a Janet Jackson back-up dancer during The Velvet Rope tour.
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The Insider: Pavia Rosati
Pavia Rosati claims she was born with the travel bug, and she can back that up: She took her first trip to Italy when she was, um, nine months old. These days, she puts her globetrotting skills to very good use: She is the founder of Fathom, the site we check for tips on how to make the most of a few days in Stockholm, where to find Maui’s best street food, and everything in between. Get some trip-taking insights from the so-savvy woman herself below. —mattie kahn
Q: What are your go-to plane snacks?
A: I always cook for flights. I roast chickpeas, which are my favorite food. And then I fill a Ziploc with slices of red pepper and cucumber and carrots. I take plane snacks very seriously.
Q: Bet you have some exciting trips planned for this summer. Where are you headed?
A: Every year I go to the Amalfi coast. I have a standing trip around Fourth of July. But the thing about how I travel is I rarely know where I’m going a month ahead of time. In the last six weeks, I’ve been to London, Amsterdam, Vegas, and Rio. But twelve weeks ago, I didn’t really know I was going to any of those places. I’m a super-spontaneous traveler.
Q: So, how many languages do you speak?
A: In order of fluency: English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. I try to learn a few phrases in every language. I like to know the important ones, like “Thank you,” “Please,” “How are you?”—I have those in Arabic and German. But smiling goes a long way.
Q: What websites do you check first thing in the AM?
A: I read the New York Times. I get a lot of my news digests via email. I subscribe to GigaOM, Skift, Business Insider. I think Business Insider is the Us Weekly of the tech world, but I can’t stop.
Q: Say you’re looking to max out your credit cards. Where would you go?
A: The Connaught hotel in London and Amanwella in Sri Lanka. The Connaught is just a magical place where everyone is kind and perfect and the décor is beautiful. It’s just heavenly. And the Aman Resort mixes taking great care of you and leaving you completely alone beautifully. It’s the definition of vacation. The food is always delicious, the setting is always breathtaking, and the people there never bother you with the things you don’t want to think about on holiday.
Q: What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
A: I miss my coffeepot a lot. Sometimes I miss being able to cook for myself. I love eating out, obviously, but when you’re on week three of having no control over your own food, it gets a little tough. I really love my bed. But, frankly, I like going away—because then I get excited about these things when I come home.
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The Insider: Jessica Allen
For years and years, Jessica Allen was the PR whiz behind the scenes at APC—during that era when everyone stateside was discovering (and going nuts for) the French label’s understated separates and perfect denim. Since then, she’s struck out on her own, and she’s worked with very cool companies like Brvtvs, Friends & Associates, Paige Hamilton Design, Denim Refinery, Personnel of New York, and (hey!) Of a Kind. Basically, she’s one of those people who always knows what’s next. More on that below. —mattie kahn
Q: What did you wear to your senior prom?
A: Oh my god. I actually made my dress. This was 1996. It was a sleeveless tank dress style, and it was bright blue, almost like a vinyl fabric—so it was kind of shiny. It wasn’t exactly patent leather, but it was definitely shiny. It had silver trim around it, and I wore these platform jelly shoes. My date dyed his hair blue to match. We were quite a sight.
Q: What magazines do you subscribe to?
A: I subscribe to pretty much every fashion-y, lifestyle magazine that you can think of for work! But the non-fashion, non-work-related magazine that I always make sure to get a subscription to is Runner’s World. I’m a big runner, so my “fun” magazine is Runner’s World.
Q: Ooh, where do you run?
A: I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, so I do a lot of running through Williamsburg. Usually, I’ll either go over the Williamsburg Bridge, or I’ll head to Queens and then run over the Pulaski Bridge.
Q: So, speaking of Greenpoint, what are your favorite neighborhood spots?
A: I’ve been really into Park Luncheonette lately. It’s on the corner of McCarren Park. They opened in the last few months, and they do great food. Every time I’ve gone, there hasn’t really been a long wait, and I think, in New York, that’s number one. I’ve been trying to go as much as I can—because I know that’ll only last so long. Selamat Pagi is another restaurant I love. It’s Balinese, and it’s so good. And then there’s this place called Maha Rose that I just started going to. I go there for acupuncture, but it’s really a general healing center. I absolutely love it. It’s fabulous. And last one! It’s called Loren. They sell denim and do amazing denim repairs and alterations. It’s my go-to place to get my jeans fixed or tailored.
Q: What’s your biggest indulgence?
A: I’d have to say massages. I keep going back to the Cowshed Spa at Soho House. You don’t even have to be a member to go. You can just book an appointment and sit and linger and use the steam room. I love it.
Q: What piece of jewelry are you most obsessed with these days?
A: I’d have to go with my engagement ring right now! My fiancé picked it out, and when he gave it to me he said, “If you don’t like it, we can take it back, and you can pick out what you’d like.” It’s super clean and simple—just one stone. It’s perfect. So, of course, I was like, “There’s no way I want something different! I couldn’t imagine something else I’d want.” So, yeah, he nailed it.
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The Insider: Andrew Schmidt
Andrew Schmidt is the king of the cool job. After helming all things digital at Puma for a few years, he just officially headed over to Superpedestrian, maker of the Copenhagen Wheel, which basically turns any bike into a Hulk-ified version of itself. (You should probably watch this video.) Also: Andrew lives in Boston and therefore has primo access to good seafood—so another reason to be jealous. —monica freeman
Q: So if your out-of-town friends came to visit you, where would you take them?
A: Boston has this old-school feel to it that I really enjoy. For one, I guess you have to go to Fenway, right? That’s like an institution. And then the South End for all of its great restaurants. I actually live in Southie, so I could always take them on a bar crawl for the full-on, Boston-bro experience. There’s the Boston Beer Garden, Stats, The Playwright, and Lincoln. And then there are those that you get glances at when you walk in because you haven’t lived in the neighborhood for 45 years. Sometimes those are the best ones.
Q: And what about for seafood, though?
A: Neptune Oyster, just into the North End, is really my favorite restaurant in Boston. It’s like a small version of The Mermaid Inn in NYC. It’s pretty small, they don’t take reservations, they’re not pretentious, and the seafood is just so good. It’s my go-to spot when someone’s like, “Hey, we want to take you out for lunch!” I just say, “Cool. Neptune Oyster.”
Q: Your Instagram is really amazing. Got any tips?
A: Well, I’m far from a professional. But it’s always interesting when you see someone taking a picture of something, and you think to yourself, “What does that person see that I would have just walked past?” I think it’s always good to change your perspective, even if it’s something as simple as kneeling down to change your shot.
Q: Who else should we be following, do you think?
A: I’m actually obsessed with some surfers on Instagram—they just have a cool lifestyle, and they take amazing photos. There’s this guy, Chris Burkard, who’s a surf photographer.
Q: How do you relax?
A: The beach or the mountains—one or the other. I have a beach three blocks from my apartment. Like, you’re not trying to take a vacation there, but you can jump in the water and make it happen. And I love the Cape—it has some of the nicest beaches I’ve ever been to.
Q: What’s one thing you always carry with you?
A: I’m not sure how to explain this, but on my keychain I have this sheath from L.L.Bean that goes over my key that’s kind of like a Swiss Army. It has tweezers, a file, a couple of screwdrivers, and a bottle opener—but it looks just like a key. You end up using it way more than you think you would. I used to have a little pocketknife in my pocket, but while traveling, you forget it’s even there. But this little thing goes through airport security, which it probably shouldn’t.
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The Insider: Shayna Kulik
Shayna Kulik knows what’s up—it is, in fact, her job to. As the founder of Pattern Pulp, lady consults for brands from Apple to Steven Alan, forecasts trends (for real!), and creates the kind of custom pattern designs that’ll make you want to redecorate, stat. Bet you’re dying to learn more—and if you read on, you’ll get to. —mattie kahn
Q: When did you realize that being a trend forecaster could be a full-time gig?
A: At my first job in the city, I remember accidentally receiving the bill for the company’s yearly trend subscription. My jaw literally dropped. I already loved going to our seasonal meetings when we would talk shop about trends and global circulation. But that was when I knew I could make a living doing it.
Q: Ok, so what trends do you see on the horizon?
A: Trends coming from different parts of the world are really big to watch. I love seeing home trends from Scandinavia—which have this very minimalist, color-accented vibe. And then I think ceramic design is also blowing up right now. I mean, Of a Kind has some great planters. You’re right on the money!
Q: Which startups do you have your eye on right now?
A: I downloaded Secret not too long ago, and I find myself checking it a lot. It’s a guilty pleasure! I don’t know if Songza still qualifies as a start-up, but I love Songza. And Citymapper is amazing. It’s this new app that encourages you to bike or walk as opposed to take taxis.
Q: What was the last thing you googled?
A: My friend Tom has a restaurant opening in Brooklyn, so I did a Google Maps search to see how to get there. The spot is called Krupa Grocery by Prospect Park.
Q: What is your go-to outfit?
A: A Steven Alan button-down, Industry Standard jeans, my pixelated Nike Air Maxes, a Morgan Carper coat—she’s an Of a Kind designer!—Gretchen Jones studs, and my Clare Vivier messenger bag.
Q: If you could have a four-hour meal with anyone in the world, who would it be?
A: Hillary Clinton. We would go to 12 Chairs for Sunday brunch and have the Israeli breakfast.
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The Insider: Meghan McEwen
What’s more exciting than a shmancy-pants five-star hotel? Well, thanks to Megan McEwen, the intrepid co-founder of the awesome site Designtripper, we’re fantasizing about booking a stay at a few spots that are a whole lot more interesting: a colonial mansion in Puerto Rico, a farm in Tuscany, a super-slick house in Hawaii, and, of course, Honor & Folly—the inn that she and her husband opened in Detroit in 2011. Get yourself off the beaten path and meet Megan right now. —mattie kahn
Q: So! Down to business: What trips do you have planned for this summer?
A: Northern Michigan, Maine, and New Mexico. I’ve spent my summers in Maine since I was a kid, and I look forward to our annual family trip there all year. The smell of the salt air. The rocky coast. The amazing, just-caught seafood. The lack of chains and all the farmers’ markets. It’s rustic, simple living and local everything. Northern Michigan is a newer tradition for us, but every bit a summer paradise. We’ve been going to the Leelanau Peninsula since we moved to Detroit. It’s about freshwater swimming in Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and ridiculously idyllic scenery everywhere you look—country roads crisscross patchwork farmland and wind through cherry orchards with views of sparkling blue water. And beaches to rival the ocean. I am not overselling it.
Q: What’s on your reading list for those trips?
A: Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter, The Queens and the Hive by Edith Sitwell, One Hundred Years of Solitude—because I can’t believe I’ve never read it—and Middlemarch, because every year, I pick an old favorite to reread.
Q: The family is away, and you’re home alone. What’s your favorite meal for one?
A: In the rare instance that I am not responsible for feeding my three children and I also happen to be at home, I absolutely do not cook a thing. I stick my hand in a jar of cashews, pour a glass of wine, and walk around with an apple, a carrot, or a pint of ice cream.
Q: Tell us the story of your favorite souvenir.
A: It’s a teapot from a back alley market in Hanoi. An old lady had spread out her wares on a blanket. She had at least 50 teapots, but only one like this: sea-foam green with hand-painted koi and white lily pads. She tied it up in a plastic bag like Chinese takeout, and I carried it around with kid gloves for weeks, while we biked the Mekong Delta, kayaked through the floating villages of Halong Bay, and ate our way through Hoi An. A couple days before leaving, a careless packing job and a wild, puddle-jumper flight to Ho Chi Minh City left seven of the eight minuscule cups it came with smashed to bits. I have one left, and somehow the teapot survived.
Q: Describe your perfect staycation.
A: I’ve never taken a staycation. I really don’t see the point.
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The Insider: Molly Yeh
If you’ve ever dreamed of dropping it all and moving to the middle of nowhere, well, Molly Yeh is the chick who actually followed through. Don’t be jealous: Instead, follow along. Girl’s got a crazy-compelling blog, My Name Is Yeh, crammed with pics of adventures and farmhouse makeovers—and total-curveball recipes for things like za’atar pizza, pretzel shortbread cookies, and red bean toast that’ll impressive friends wherever you call home. Get the goss on the Yeh way here. —monica derevjanik
Q: You made a big move from Brooklyn to a farm in North Dakota! What has that been like?
A: I like that I can concentrate here. Some people focus best when they have parties and dinner plans to bookend their work hours, and apparently I am the opposite of that. I get the most work done when I know that I have the whole day to do whatever I want. Aside from the work aspect, people in the Midwest have very different personalities than those in New York, and that’s been slower to tap into. Meeting people in this very small town is less about the elevator pitch and more about a slow process of getting to know one another. I haven’t completely figured it out yet, but I trust that I have the time to.
Q: What’s going to be on your summer playlist?
A: I’m going on tour with a chamber orchestra this summer! I’m really excited. It’ll be my first time in Berkeley and Ojai—and my first time performing the music of Kurt Weill and Charles Ives. I’ll best be listening to those guys on repeat. Aside from that, I really hope that San Fermin releases their new music soon. I heard some of it live, and it was almost betterthan their old stuff, which was hard to believe. Also, Iron & Wine and Nickel Creek pretty much always wiggle their ways onto the list.
Q: What’s the most delicious meal you’ve made in recent memory?
A: Just a few days ago I rediscovered the shallot. I don’t know why I had forgotten about it for so long. I made a simple spinach frittata with shallots and some sausage that was leftover from our weekly Friday pizza night. It was the perfect Sunday brunch.
Q: Which celebrity would leave you most star-struck?
A: Mandy Patinkin.
Q: What’s one thing we would never guess about you?
A: I was spirit captain of my high school’s math team. My one mission was to have everyone wear hot pink shirts that read “Real Mathletes Wear Pink.” It never happened.
Q: What do you never, ever travel without?
A: Earphones, because I love pegging a playlist to a specific time and place—and then reliving that time by listening to that music years or months down the road. Also, you never know when you’re going to have to tune out snoring or a small, crying human.
Q: Favorite quote of all time—go.
A: If life gives you lemons, squeeze them on a schnitzel!
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The Insider: Mark Simmons
Good luck finding anyone more charming than Mark Simmons—or a dude with better taste. He spends his days as the VP of e-commerce at Design Within Reach, where we works with a pretty rockin’ team that’s all about sharing authentic modern design with the world. Here’s what he’s thinking about when he doesn’t have Eames and Saarinen on the brain. —monica derevjanik
Q: What are five things that are currently on your work desk?
A: A picture of my boys that inspires me, a yo-yo to keep me in my seat, my collection of Apple products—iPads, iPhone, Airbook, and massive monitor—that keeps me connected, a stack of books constantly in circulation, and a pile of papers that reminds me to get back to work.
Q: What’s the last amazing thing you read?
A: I’m going to cheat on this question. I’m obsessed with books, so I’m always pushing books like they’re the newest wonder drug. Buying books with cash is like a secret society. Recent recommendations I’ve made to friends: The Goldfinch, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus, Slow Man by Coetzee, and The Sea by Banville. I always recommend Flow by Csikszentmihalyi and recently enjoyed the kids book The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond.
Q: What’s one habit you just can’t shake?
A: Pacing. I moved to a new house in August, and I think I’ve already worn routes in the floor. And it’s annoying, even to me.
Q: Which up-and-coming furniture and home décor designers should we all know about?
A: The best thing about my move from San Francisco to New York has been seeing the NYC design scene firsthand. I’m not sure where these folks rank on the spectrum of up-and-coming versus already-making-lots-of-noise, but I’m especially appreciative of the Egg Collective team, Chris Hardy, Rich Brilliant and Willing, Brad Ascalon, and Fort Standard.
Q: Describe your ideal vacation.
A: As cheesy as it sounds, I try to treat every day like a vacation…but I did just have a pretty ridiculously rad trip to Crete. Great food, beautiful cliffs and beaches, mellow hiking, good wine, and some ancient history thrown-in.
Q: What’s the last thing you googled?
A: Probably directions last night. I’m usually wandering sorta lost around NYC despite living here for a few years. Or I googled about what’s happening at Google, a frequent e-commerce topic.
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The Insider: Kelsey Brown
We’ll bet you a homemade taco you can’t scroll through Happyolks and not salivate—you can thank Kelsey Brown for that. Together with husband-to-be Shaun Boyte, Kelsey is cooking up some of the most addictive food-blogging on the web right now (see: kale, apple, and ancho chili tamales or caramelized fig ice cream). In other words: We’ll have what she’s having. And more on that below. —mattie kahn
Q: What is one dish that is unexpectedly worth making at home?
A: I think molé is awesome…and tamales are probably way more accessible than people think they are, too. They’re time-consuming insofar as you have to prep the masa and they take about an hour to steam, but making them is a really great activity to do with friends.
Q: When you cave and order in, you call _______ for _______?
A: We have a place here in Denver called Yak and Yeti, which is kind of a weird name. It’s a Nepalese-Indian food place, and they have the best curry I’ve had since being in India. So that’s definitely, like, a hands-down. Have to go to Yak and Yeti.
Q: Guests are coming over and dinner is still in the oven. What do you whip up to keep them happy while they wait?
A: Hmm… Probably a cocktail.
Q: Never a bad idea! Any in particular?
A: It depends on the guests. We love making pisco sours—after our trip to Chile, we just kind of fell in love with pisco. And then a lot of margaritas.
Q: What are your top three kitchen essentials?
A: Super easy: parchment paper, wooden spoons, and a microplane grater.
Q: Okay. On to more food, of course. Which food blogs—besides your own—are you loving?
A: I have a few standbys. Sprouted Kitchen is consistently amazing. I haven’t made anything from there that hasn’t been just fantastic. I really love Delightful Crumb—she’s a San Francisco-based blogger. And another San Franciscan: The Year in Food. She does just really well-done, veggie-forward dishes.
Q: Summer is finally on its merry way! Do you have anything exciting planned?
A: Well, Shaun and I are getting married in June, so that will be a highlight! And then we’re doing a honeymoon sort of after the fact later in August to Southeast Asia and Bali. That will definitely be a highlight.
Q: Oh my god.
A: Yeah. It’s going to be a good time.