R.I.P. Bill Cunningham

Living in New York City with 8 million New Yorkers, you quickly learn to bop and weave down the street, dodging anonymous faces that brush shoulders with you from all directions.  The streets are long and the pace is fast, even frenetic at times.  

But then there are New York's institutions.  They have been around forever; they ground you.  They remind you that despite the hectic pace, this city was created by someone, for someone.  It might be a familiar building, like the New York Public Library or the Flatiron.  It could be a statue or a monument, like "the Arch" in Washington Square Park.  Then again, even if rarely, it might be a person. 

Bill Cunningham at the Jazz Age Lawn Party - August, 2013

Bill Cunningham, with his blue jackets, khaki pants, and Nikons strapped around his neck, was one of those people.  He is famous as the eccentric pioneer who captured through his lens the relevance of Street Style's in Fashion.  He curated a column in the New York Times for 40 years, and, until 2010, he lived amidst rows of filing cabinets rife with negatives in a studio above Carnegie Hall. He was a fixture on the Northeast corner of 57th and 5th.  Heat or cold, rain or shine, he was there photographing the most stylish commuters on their way to work.  

I came close to meeting him once at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island.  When I put out my hand (Bill hadn't seen me yet, he was busy photographing the people around us), I stopped, and stepped back... I couldn't bring myself to interrupt a master so focused on his craft. It was then that I understood how special this man was, and how important he was to New York City. 

As sure as the subway runs, and the Statue of Liberty presides proudly over the southern tip of this island, Bill was in the midst of the world's most elegant people, capturing their most stylish moments. 

He passed away yesterday at 87 years old.  It's a bat of an eye compared to New York's other institutions, but his impact was no less significant. 

RIP, Mr. Cunningham.  Thank you for keeping us New Yorkers grounded. 

Grinta (n.f.) - determination; grit (noun)

Once I heard Sophia Loren in an interview.  When asked how she became so successful, she answered with a single word: "Grinta." 

Technically, "grinta" is the Italian term for "determination"... but really, it means much more than that.  It implies recognizing the task at hand, rolling up your sleeves and not hesitating before diving elbow-deep into the hard work and sacrifice that stand between you and your dream.  

“Grinta” might have been Sophia Loren’s secret weapon, but she’s not the only one...

I’m happy to introduce you to Maria Vittoria Paolillo. She’s young, she’s charming and she’s passionate; she is the creator and designer of MVP Creations

It started just for fun: a few bracelets here, a few necklaces there – a creative outlet for Maria Vittoria, who sold her first designs to her friends.  Before long, interest spread from friends to acquaintances, from acquaintances to complete strangers, and what began as a hobby matured into a real opportunity for Maria Vittoria to create her own brand. 

There was one big obstacle before her, though: the family business. 

See, Maria Vittoria comes from a long line of jewel merchants.  To this day, her father and brother sell nature's most precious stones to the biggest names in luxury jewelry; they also sell their own label at a store in the heart of Rome's luxury district. 

In fact, it was while working in this boutique that Maria Vittoria was inspired to design her own collection.  She was just 21 years old and wanted to sell some designs conceived for girls her own age at an accessible price point.  To her father, whose career was built on selling examples of the worlds most exclusive jewelry, Maria Vittoria's idea seemed counter-intuitive.  She had to prove that it could work before earning his support.

Maria Vittoria self-funded her first production series by selling all her bags, all her jewelry and all her stones.  She wore her collection to Milan Fashion Week and it wasn't long before she was invited to represent it at a jewelry trade show.  Maria Vittoria accepted the invitation.  Fast-forward a few years; MVP is an established brand represented in points of distribution all throughout Italy - even in world renowned boutiques like LuisaViaRoma


I am inspired by Maria Vittoria, and I was excited to have the opportunity to meet her last April in Rome.  We sat down for a long conversation about artisanship and how gratifying the artisanal process is.

As a matter of fact, it's by not chance that Maria Vittoria chooses to work with a Roman goldsmith when developing her designs.  She searched far and wide before she found Daniele.  They are a tightly knit team, and together they create designs that break the boundaries of convention.

Maria Vittoria follows the stages of production from beginning to end, and ensures that every detail is perfected before the collection is released. Daniele also does his part, applying his knowledge of the craft to develop innovative solutions that more conventional hands would deem impossible. 

The result is a special, and contemporary line of jewelry that has won the hearts of countless celebrities, and has garnered the attention of the most prestigious names in the press. 

It started just for fun... now it's that and more. Brava, Maria Vittoria!! 

P.S. If you love Rome nearly as much as I do, you might want to check out her Instagram account HERE for daily life inspiration from the Eternal City!