The Shiny Squirrel

A New York based PR company and showroom that specializes in emerging designers.

Pearce


Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

I am the designer/creator of the locally made, small batch clothing line Pearce. I’m a costume designer for television and film, and I’m part of the design team on Saturday Night Live. I’m based in Philadelphia, which is where I’m originally from. I’m also very into hiking and am an avid outdoors woman, a yogi, and a country music DJ.

What inspired you to open your shop and create your line?

I’ve had this idea in my brain for a while so I might as well put it out into the universe and see what comes of it! I wanted to create modern basics in natural fabrics that make people feel good. It’s important that the pieces be somewhat gender-neutral, as that’s one of my ultimate goals for Pearce. When I wear natural fabrics like cotton, wool, or silk, I feel more comfortable and free.

Additionally, it’s important for me to make my line in the USA. As a costume designer, I’m always dressing actors and musicians. Often, when I’m out shopping, I’m looking at the country of origin and it’s very rarely USA. It’s important to me to be a part of the American design movement, in an artists’ community like Philly.


What inspires you? 

I really love the vividness of the characters and colors in Italian films of the 1960s, particularly Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini) and Red Desert (Antonioni). I think those films in particular gave me endless insight and inspiration for how important tailoring garments to the body really is, and how to make color part of your everyday life.

l’m also really inspired by Americana, specifically Raymond Carver. I recently read, “What we talk about when we talk about Love” and “Cathedral” while traveling, and it made me think of detail and personality in a totally different way. I think when you create anything, there’s always a sense of home in there somewhere. Americana is particularly important to me when designing because I like to think of things in a timeless framework - will someone want to wear these pants next year? In 10 years?


Nature is also really essential to me and that’s why I chose the 3 main colors for my first micro-collection: tomato red, cadet blue, and navy blue. I like the way bright colors look in different situations whether in the woods or in a cityscape- they take on a life of their own. Last, but certainly not least, my work on film projects with Director/Choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall has changed the way I look at fabric on the body. When you design costumes for dancers, you think about movement in a totally different way than if you’re designing something for an actor. The costume becomes an expression of the movement itself, and that’s something I really take into consideration when designing for Pearce.

What is your current 6-month goal and what are your steps for achieving it?

I don’t really have any goals - I really would just like people to enjoy wearing Pearce as much as I have enjoyed making it!

Where do you live and how has that affected your work and life?

I own a house in Philadelphia where I have a work studio that I built in the basement. I make everything there! I moved back to Philly a little over a year ago to take steps towards having a better quality of life. I love it here - being in nature is much more accessible for me now, and that has inspired me a lot in my designs for Pearce. I particularly was excited to shoot the GIFs for Pearce in the Wissahickon Woods, which is right near where I grew up. I was always going on woods walks as a kid, and that has really translated into my work as a designer. I love the texture of the woods, the movement of the trees, and shooting Meg Foley in the Wissahickon was very interactive and special for me.

Allison is an artist and designer living and working in Philadelphia and New York. She is an alumni of Parsons School of Design. Allison is a costume designer for various projects including narrative film, television and web series, and other creative media content, and is part of the design team forSaturday Night Live. She launched her first clothing line, Pearce, in July 2016. 
Pearce Shop's Instagram

The Joy of Swimming Book

Tell us a little bit about your book and why you wrote it.

The book is my homage to the role swimming has played in my life -- and the lives of millions of other people. A lot of people think of swimming as a "sport" -- which it is. But it's also so much more than that. Most people, even if they've never been a competitive swimmer, have some relationship to swimming. Whether they like soothing, meditative laps or jumping in a lake as a kid.

Swimming has been a giant, healthy, healing force for my entire life, and I wanted to tell that story, and also tell the story of other swimmers and their relationships with the water, and of swimming culture and history around the world. It's bright and colorful (and every page is illustrated) and has some really amazing and facts in it! 

How has Swimming transformed your life? 

I started swimming on a team when I was eight years old, and fell in love with it. And I also swam competitively as an adult as a Masters Swimmer. In my 30's, I went through a horrible year when a very long term relationship I was in ended in a very hard way. Swimming on this team carried me through the next year of my life as I healed from the experience -- the water was a constant source of comfort for me. it provided me with a routine and a healthy activity to keep me from the depths of sadness.

My teammates were also there for me in a very profound way, expecting me to show up to practice. But really beyond that experience, in my entire life swimming has been a constant source of movement and comfort for me. I am a fairly introverted person so I love the alone time I have when i am swimming -- I work out all of my problems in my head while I'm counting laps. I love how I feel after I've swum most of all! It's a whole body experience in a way that many other activities aren't. 

Do you have any recommendations for someone who has never been a swimmer before but is interested in trying some thing new? 

Swimming is an incredible activity for health & fitness. If you have never swum before, it's really, really important to take an adult swimming lesson. Most cities offer them at recreation departments and there are also private schools out there. This is especially important if you have any fear of the water or are not sure how to swim. If you have experience from swimming as a kid, but just haven't done it in awhile, then it will most likely be like riding a bike! Just get in and start slow -- a few laps at a time and then build as you go. 

What is your process for starting a new project like a book? Do you have routines that you follow or a process for organizing such a large task? 

The first phase is the brainstorm phase. I like to call this the "rainbows and butterflies" phase, because the real work hasn't begun, and it's all about visualizing what the book can become, which is really exciting. Then I organize the brainstorm into a chart or spreadsheet, and dig into research, outreach and development. I take my ideas and figure out how to put them all together in a book through writing and illustration. Then I do the work of research, interviewing, writing and drawing or painting the illustrations. And my studio manager and one freelance writer/editor help me too. I love the whole process, even the editing.

My studio manager (who is an amazing project manager) and I keep several connected spreadsheets in Google docs where we keep track of every element of the book as it's being written and illustrated -- subject matter, sections, interviews, essays, illustrations, and, ultimately, page count! I'm working on another book right now so we are in the thick of it. Keeping all of the moving parts organized keeps us on track to meet my deadlines. And then off it goes to the publisher when it's done and another round of editing happens there until it goes to print months later. 

On the topic of Transformation and Change, is there anything you have discovered recently that has really affected you? 

Recently, I have begun a process of change in my own life after 10 years of intense work to build my illustration practice. I started in the past year to get really burned out. I reached a point of success, sure, but I also found that I was working all the time and beginning to feel really exhausted. I realized the time I used to spend swimming, walking, reading, and being with family and friends, was now spent working -- even on projects I wasn't excited about. I was miserable! 

So, since January, I have taken active steps to get back to living what I call "a good life." This includes things like getting out from behind my computer and into the world again, reading, taking time off, and taking on less work so that I can have a sense of peacefulness again. My friend Kelly told me something that really helped with that: When an opportunity comes into my inbox (and they come frequently) if my reaction isn't "HELL, YES!" the answer is no. Saying no is a form of saying yes to other things in your life. I guess I always knew this in theory, but now I am putting it into practice. 

Recently I read Ariana Huffington's ThriveIt's a great resource for statistics, data, and anecdotes on the importance of what she calls the "Third Metric," which is a redefinition of "success" that includes well-being, wisdom, and wonder. We live in a workaholic, perfection driven society, and it's all about redefining success to include balance, play, connection and space. Reading it really has helped to solidify my perspective that a good life includes rest, relaxation and fun -- and that I have access to those things now if I show up for them. 

The Drive New York

Tell us a little bit about your business? 

I recently started an online concept shop called "The Drive New York". We officially launched in September of last year, but had some off-and-on technical web issues until February so we are very new to the market! We are building a platform that inspires us and hopefully inspires others in the world of fashion and design.

 

What kind of technical issues did you have and how would you recommend people avoiding them in the future? 

We were experiencing web redirect issues that caused our url to fail, but it never seemed to happen on my end. I'am really fortunate that customers and friends told me it was happening to them, otherwise I wouldn't have known to address it. It made me feel terrible because here we were promoting our new shop, and people were going to the site yet there wasn’t anything for them to see. I actually have no idea how many customers we lost because of the redirect issue. We were able to fix it pretty easily once we knew what the problem was. I definitely think it’s a good idea to ask every friend and family member to go to your website and click every button to make sure it works correctly! 

 

How has your previous business/ career as a designer affected the decisions you made while opening The Drive New York? 

 

I am fortunate enough to have a lot of friends in the industry so when I decided to open The Drive my friends who are designers had my back and were eager to be apart of it. Having a design background makes me appreciate all the hard work every designer puts into their line. I know first hand how incredibly tough it is to juggle all the aspects of designing, fabric sourcing, pricing, follow-ups, finding the funds to produce and then your personal life on top of it!

 

 

Why did you choose to transition your focus? 

 

I got really burnt out…I felt like I was on hamster wheel never stopping. I was constantly getting sick from stress. It was a really difficult decision to stop but once I decided to cut the cord I felt like I could breathe again. I had friends and family who didn’t agree with my decision, and kept saying “No, please don’t stop. The line is so cute..blah blah blah.. “ and that is difficult to hear because you feel an obligation to other people and you want to make them happy but I knew it was time. I physically and mentally could not do it anymore. It’s incredibly important to follow your gut. And I’m so glad I did because it opened a new wonderful chapter in my life! 

 

What do you look for when choosing the designers to work with and to bring into your online platform? 

 

I look for designers that have a clear vision, who are witty, and have some a little different yet long lasting. Right now we are in the testing stage of seeing what works and what doesn’t, so it’s interesting to see what people are responding to. I think the shop is only going to get better with time, and that makes me really excited. We have some really great designers joining "The Drive" this fall! 

 

What is the future for The Drive New York - 6 month Goals? 

 

To keep going, stay inspired, and learn more about our customers. We have some special things in the works, so I hope people stay tuned and will follow our journey! 

 

Please recommended one amazing thing that you are totally into right now.

 

The ballet! It’s ABT’s season at the Metropolitan Opera House right now so, I’ve been trying to go as much as possible. It also fuels my addiction to watching ballet clips on YouTube.

 

What was the last ballet you saw and what is it about the ballet that you love? 


Le Corsaire. It was my first time to see that ballet and a couple of my all-time favorite dancers were in the show, including Maria Kotchetkova and Daniil Simkin. Me and my best friend Odiri (my ballet partner in crime) have been following Danil’s career since he was in the 2006 International Ballet Competition. To me, following the careers of these dancers is my version of following the careers of football or baseball players. The dancers' life is something that will always strike a special chord within me because I was a dancer from ages 5 to 19. It was basically my life. I attended speciality dance programs in middle school and high school, going to class everyday and training almost 3-4 hours. I have a huge appreciation for their discipline. I also have huge respect for the costume designers as well since my professional career is fashion design. When I go to see a performance I think about the bigger picture, the training, the production team, and the costume designers. I think about the struggles they went through to get to this point and how it takes a village to put on one show, and the relief they all must feel when it all goes according to plan. 

The Boxer: Kelly Reid

Tell us about your relationship with Boxing. What type have you been doing and how long have you been doing it? How do often you train? What got your started? 

My road to Muhammad Ali-ism all began with a kickboxing class that I only started because my genes finally started to argue with my diet of chorizo/chocolate and negroni's. To say that it was torturous at the beginning is an understatement. I think I went home after my first 9am class and promptly took a nap, but I was determined to make changes. I altered my eating habits and went regularly to the gym and made slow progress. About a year into going to CKO Williamsburg, I saw a video that one of the gym owners  had posted that showed his clients doing classic boxing pad work for their one-on-one sessions. 

Matt and I have been training once a week for 2 1/2 years. I had a few injuries at first as my hands became adjusted to hitting the pads. The first few months were slow-going. I didn't realize the importance of listening to your body when it's injured, and letting it heal instead of pushing through.  So I finally took a break for close to two months and jumped rope cause I'd seen Rocky, that's what boxers did on their down time...

We eventually moved on to sparring and initially I didn't enjoy it - you think since you can pull off a five punch combo drill that you're somehow prepared for someone with years of experience.  I got over myself by the next session and we've been sparring with some cameos from boxer friends and other CKO members for about a year and a half now.


What are some of the biggest challenges you faced or currently face when taking up this hobby? 

Initially, one of the biggest challenges I faced was accepting the slow and steady approach my trainer takes to our sessions. It’s better for long-term technique, but as someone who hates to listen to instructions and would rather just jump in, it was difficult. 

 

Tell us a little bit about your routine for training both when you started and now? 

When I first began training, I was very sporadic with visits to the gym alongside my one definite session with my trainer. This meant I often felt like I was starting from zero every time. So I started going three times a week, including my personal trainer then upped it to 4. Now, I aim for 5 if my schedule permits.  To mix it up on one of those days, I'll just mess around doing jump rope routines; go running around McCarren Park, or a Kayla Itsines BBG workout.

 

What are you current - 6 Month Goals for it? 

So, my big goal this year is to be selected for the Haymakers for Hope Charity match that happens once a year and would enable me to have a fight at Madison Square Garden. It’s based on whether they can match you with someone of your experience and physical build. I would be trained by a pre-approved gym (naturally, I chose Gleason’s) for four months and about halfway through you spar with your partner and then you don't meet again until the final bout in November.  It's the perfect goal for me, I'm an introvert/extrovert and the thought of fighting in front of a big crowd is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.  

 

Please provide a recommendation of anything you like that is really exciting you right now or inspired you?

The second season of The Chef's Table has just come out on Netflix. While I may not love the style of every chef I really appreciate how singular and focused they are on achieving his or her goals.  

I also am delighted that Summer has finally arrived, and I'm making more of an effort to do things in NY like visit The Met and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, go to gigs and attend seminars on people I admire.