If I’ve learned one thing from visiting Reykjavik, Iceland, it’s that they have nailed the packaging/visual appeal.
Two stores in particular, neither a fashion house, I found to have an incredible eye for visual marketing.
First, Flying Tiger, a brand originally from Copenhagen.
The store capitalizes on color. The display shelves, walls, and checkout areas are completely white, so the products they sell stand out for being so colorful. The whimsical sketches on packets of seeds, candles organized by color, and display of rainbow kitchenware really catch the consumer’s eye. Even if you know you don’t need it, suddenly, you do.
The other store that nails visual merchandising is Hrim, an Icelandic homewares store.
The storefront is eclectic and Scandi, and inside is even more whimsical. The natural wood, stripes, bright colors, and geometric shapes combine to create a building that no passer-by will forget. The Smeg kitchenware, the rustic wooden cutting boards, the fun patterned salad bowls, and the macrame wall hangings are all sold in the same corner, though they all clearly give off different vibes. Together, the mix is visually appealing and balanced, and the consumer realizes that once again, they want one of everything.
This activity, an “inspiration explosion,” got me thinking of the kind of things that inspire me. Here’s a collection I came up with:
As you can see, this collection of items includes different colors and materials but creates a unified vision. The artwork, pieces from Iceland and Switzerland, remind me of my travels and the whimsy that is necessary to go through life. The plants, one potted in a tin mug from Costa Rica, bring in a natural element that is life itself. The framed Martha Stewart tweet (I know, right), brings forth a quality that’s really important to me–not taking myself too seriously. These items, their colors, their eccentricities, create a vibe that I’d love to reflect in my own designs.
Though my social media sites don’t have huge followings, I do post for an intended audience. That audience mainly involves family and friends. Some sites, like VSCO and Tumblr, are a bit more free and not as curated. I think this is because these sites focus on the visual more than the social.
If I were to open an online or brick and mortar storefront, I would need to spend a lot of time thinking about my intended audience. I think for the most part, my audience would include friends and family at first, and then would expand to local people they knew. The audience would depend on where I was located. If I had a physical storefront, I would most likely have more of a local following. If it were online, my customers could come from anywhere.
For this course, the item I produced was a pair of coral tassel earrings.
Below, you’ll see my production costs and calculations.
All in all, I’ve learned that if I were to produce these handmade earrings on a large scale, the process would become easier and more challenging for various reasons. I would become more used to creating tassels, and the process of actually creating them would become easier. However, if my clientele grew, I would have to produce more, so that would lead to more stress that way.
This lesson allowed me to see how companies and individuals set price points and where they originate.
Not only did no one tell me life was gonna be this way *clap clap clap clap,* but no one told me that the outfits that Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, and Rachel Green were going to be in again.
But alas, walk into an Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, or Reformation (do they even have brick-and-mortar stores? Idk, too expensive for me) and you’ll be bombarded with styles that make you feel like you’ve stepped into that kitchy NYC apartment that not even those six characters together could have realistically paid for with the jobs they had.
What I’m saying is that the Nineties are attacking fast fashion. I don’t know if I’m all about the velour tracksuits, but I do love a good high waist, cutoff jean. And yes, I’ll admit it, there are some full on ensembles that Rach, Mon, and Phoebes wore that I’d totally steal. Oh, and scroll to the bottom to see my favorite look of all.
Cooperative Straight Neck Gingham Dress, $59, Urban Outfitters. Rachel in her black and white gingham mini dress, probably miffed about something someone at Central Perk said about her poor waitressing skills.
MOM JEANS & TANKS
Monica peers around a corner (probably judging someone) in her worn in high waisted jeans and red tank. Wedgie Fit Jeans in Kiss Off, $98, Levis. Tali Tank, $15, Brandy Melville.
Contemporary Maxi Skort Romper, $24.90, Forever 21. Phoebe sits on the arm of a couch in her zany maxi dress, probably laughing at a dumb joke that everyone stopped laughing at minutes ago. We love you, Phoebes.
CROPPED TEE & SLOUCHY PANTS
To be honest, I have no idea what is going on in this picture, except for the fact that Phoebe has her hand on Rachel’s head. It’s a look, though. Lettuce edge top, $6.90, Forever 21. Smocked Drawstring Pants, $15.90, Forever 21.
Monica tells Chandler off about something. Probably. Oversized shirt, $35.90, Zara.
AND…MY FAVORITE LOOK OF ALL TIME, EVER.
I mean really. She’s a style icon. Turns out you can buy the shirt here. But the yellow turtleneck may be harder to find. And the milkmaid braids…yeah good luck.
Before I left for Costa Rica in August of 2016, I spent a lot of time gearing up for the “study abroad experience.” I bought three bottles each of bug spray and sunscreen. I scrolled through other students’ Instagrams, featuring their zip-lining extravaganzas and their newest tie-dyed headband purchases. I Googled the best places to see sloths with the possibility of holding one. Despite the whole mistreatment-of-animals thing that might entail.
So, in short, I came to Costa Rica ready to see it all. But what I was not prepared for was the fact that these three months weren’t going to be one big tropical vacation. They were going to be life. I wasn’t just studying abroad–I was living. And, as we all know, living in general comes with its rough patches.
Being plopped into a different country, surrounded by people speaking a different language and going about their days with a different sense of time, is challenging. Something as simple as grabbing lunch on your way to school can be a huge ordeal. Perhaps the Pupusa place at the food court ran out of vegetarian options, but the man says “no tiene vegetarianas” too fast that you have to ask him to repeat himself three times, to which he gives you a look that seems to say “what a dumb gringa.” And then once you finally leave with your Subway sandwich from across the street, construction workers holler at you, calling you a macha, or a blonde white girl.
Perhaps this series of events seems trivial in the span of a three-month experience. Yet no one wants to feel uncomfortable or be talked down to or cat-called, no matter the country you’re in. I definitely let these things, which happened repeatedly, put a damper on the day. And it was sometimes hard to shake it. What really helped, though, was discussing with other women on my program the uncomfortable situations they had encountered, and how they dealt with it. Ignoring the idiots seems to be the easiest thing to do. Effective, too!
Another hard thing about living abroad is routine. I, for one, love routine. It’s what makes me feel most comfortable. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at adjusting to a change in routine, but any change still tends to throw me off, no matter how small.
For example, in Costa Rica, things are done like twenty minutes after the fact. My host mom says breakfast is ready at 6:30, and at 6:45 she’s scrambling my eggs. She says we’re leaving to visit a volcanic national park at 10, and we don’t start piling into the car until 10:30 and don’t leave till 10:45 because she needs to brush her hair and put on mascara. Even my professor says we’re visiting a local tech school ten minutes away to learn about different curriculum, and the trip takes close to half and hour.
And Costa Rica isn’t the only country that does not prioritize punctuality. Nowadays, I think the U.S. puts too much emphasis on being on time. That being said, the hurry-up-and-wait thing got really tiring and sometimes frustrating, especially when car trips were twice as long as expected and my anti-motion sickness pill was starting to wear off.
When it comes to adjusting to a new routine or a new frame of mind concerning timeliness, I suggest a lot of self-talk. I’d ask myself, what’s so bad about leaving being twenty minutes later than expected? I guess I could have slept in another twenty minutes. But the early morning sun had already kind of waken me up. Plus twenty minutes is another twenty minutes to play with Luna the Schnauzer, or straighten up my desk. I don’t have anything else going on today, anyways. It’s not like I’m letting anyone down.
I’d also tell myself that being late in these instances is out of my control. My host family is hosting me, so they’re in charge. Acknowledging my lack of control in a situation, though frustrating at times, gave me some peace of mind.
So, all in all, living abroad is something I’d recommend to anyone. The discomforts and adjustments that everyone experiences are normal, and now, to be expected. They’re learning experiences, too. To anyone about to embark on living in a different state, country, or continent, remember: with living comes some difficulty. But getting through those difficulties is a personal achievement.
I’ve been living abroad in Costa Rica for two and a half months now. And I haven’t blogged until now.
BUT, in these months, I’ve had the pleasure of trying a bunch of different Costa Rican foods–comidas típicas–and have found some of the best.
Agua Fresca/ Batidos
Even when you’re in the middle of bustling San Jose, fresh fruit is super easy to come by. One of my favorite ways to try out such a variety of different fruits is with agua fresca. High-end restaurants and cheap corner sodas alike offer tons of varieties of this drink–fruit of your choice, water, and sugar, all blended up into a delicious, refreshing treat. Fresa (strawberry) is always a good go-to, but I recommend maracuya (passion fruit) and cas (a type of guava) if you want a true taste of Costa Rica.
This dish translated means married man, and I’m still not exactly sure why. But casado is always your best bet if you’re in doubt what to order. The plate comes with rice, beans, fried plantains, salad, your meat (or vegetarian option of choice), as well as picadillo (more on that later). Each restaurant has their own spin on how it’s made, and even my host mother has a version different from others I’ve tried. Also, casado is usually one of the cheapest options on the menu, so if you’re traveling on a budget, you can get your complete proteins and a great meal in one!
Picadillo means chopped up anything. Literally. Most of the picadillos I’ve come across have been small diced potatoes, carrots, and green beans, served warm. Some people use ajote (similar to zucchini) or yuca as their starches. I’ve had it with some ground beef or chorizo thrown in, too. It’s a staple of any casado you order, and I can almost always bet on having picadillo de something for dinner with my San Jose host family. It tastes especially good during cold, rainy season evenings.
Walk into any convenience store and you’ll come across Costa Rica’s cookie of choice: Chiky. It’s pink and orange packaging tends to stick out, and I really have to resist from buying packages upon packages each time I walk home from school. I can’t say there’s anything special about them: 6 small crunchy cookies with a chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry covered side. They’re pretty low-frills–maybe that’s why they’re so great.
Macadamia Nut Ice Cream
Maybe this flavor isn’t distinct to Costa Rica, but when I had Macadamia Nut Ice Cream deep in dairy farm country in Monteverde, it was truly an emotional experience. The combination of salty and sweet was just perfect, and as a gal that opts for birthday cake, red velvet, or other wincingly sweet flavors, I was happily surprised. Too bad I ate it too quickly to even take a quality photo. So, if you ever find yourself in Costa Rica, pay the $8 for a bus that takes you to Monteverde and get yourself a cone.
Stopping into one of the North End’s most popular gelato shops feels like you’ve taken a trip to Italy. The giant red case that peeks out onto Hanover Street and the dozens of flavors it holds lures you in even before you’ve entered the store. Their tiramisu flavored gelato never fails, and their lemon strikes a delicious balance between tart and creamy. The family who owns Gigi Gelateria also runs a number of restaurants in the North End, each with a different ambiance and price range.
Peabody Essex Museum
If you head to Salem, Massachusetts, it’s hard to pass up the kitschy Witch Museum or the tourist trap shops with an overwhelming amount of crystals, stones, and tarot cards for sale. If you’re wanting to see something not related to the strange history of this Massachusetts town, visit the Peabody Essex Museum. Their permanent and rotating exhibits display a variety of art from around the world–Chinese sculpture, American Indian dance, and European watercolor, to name a few. Years ago, the museum exhibited fashion-icon Iris Apfel’s collection; this year, it has Rodin’s “the Thinker” on display.
Drive an hour or so North of Boston and you’ll reach Rockport, a quaint fishing town with, reportedly, the most painted scene in the country. Motif #1, a small red shack speckled with multi-colored buoys, has drawn artists’ attention for hundreds of years. Walk down Bearskin Neck and check out local art galleries or more touristy shops. Perhaps you’ll recognize The Fudgery as a faux-Alaskan background from the movie The Proposal. Be sure to buy a treat from Helmut’s Strudel, a small bakery with melt-in-your-mouth pastries. And don’t miss the spectacular view at the end of the neck.
Good Harbor Beach
Travel a few minutes down Cape Ann to the centuries-old fishing port of Gloucester. Here you’ll find the ever-popular, if chilly, Good Harbor Beach. Enjoy some boogie-boarding and a game of pickleball, or, wait till the tide goes out and walk across the sandbar to Salt Island. Bike down the street half a mile and indulge in one of the hundreds of flavors of ice cream at Long Beach Dairy Maid. Or, stay in Gloucester for the evening and explore the quaint downtown area or one of the country’s oldest art colonies: Rocky Neck.
When you think of Scandinavian design, I’m sure one place comes to mind: Ikea.
It’s known for cheap, classic furniture for college students trying to save money and its cafeteria that serves Swedish meatballs. If you take a look around Ikea, you’ll notice some common themes, like light wood, clean lines, greenery, and simplicity. Ikea, being a Swedish company, brings the wonders of Scandinavian design to the rest of the world.
Scandinavian design is known for being clean, hip, and functional. At times, it looks similar to mid-century modern pieces and reflects a minimalist approach to decorating. Maybe that’s why it’s so aesthetically pleasing.
image via freshome.com
image via ikea.com
image via dailyscandinavian.com
There are some key features that all Scandinavian-inspired interiors show: light-filled spaces, natural elements, and simple decor.
The necessity of light is important in countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, since their long, dark winters make things a little gloomy. Light woods, like birch, and house plants bring life to small rooms.
Keeping decor minimalistic and accessories functional is key to embracing the Scandinavian aesthetic. That’s how these three DIYs reflect the fuss-free but stylish looks so key to the design.