Inspiration: Architecture in Venice

When I was reading the Guide to Venice that our producer put together, I was surprised when she said Venice is a city known for its decay – I’ve never been there and am not very familiar with it, but from what I’ve seen it looks beautiful and far from decay. But it’s true, and the same aquatic setting that also makes Venice so scenic puts its gorgeous architecture at greater risk of decay. In some ways this also adds an element of dramatic beauty and heightens the mystique of the city. In the behind the scenes photos from our shoot, Thomas Northcut also captured the dark beauty of the architecture in Venice…these photos take my breath away.

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San Francisco Photo Diary

“Take another little piece of my heart…”

San Francisco is the only other city I’ve lived in besides Philadelphia.  A few years ago I drove across the country with a friend and when I got to San Fran I fell in love with it and decided I wasn’t leaving.  The vibe of the city is unlike anywhere else – a unique blend of creativity, individuality and a bit of artistic madness. It always brings to mind the Jack Kerouac quote:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

There’s a reason he, too, was drawn to the musical beat of San Fran.

The city is alive with music, all hours of the day and night – when I lived there it wasn’t, “what are we doing tonight?” it was “what show are we going to tonight?”  It’s a place where you never feel lonely, because even if you are alone you’ll always meet someone on the street or in the park or on the barstool next to you with a smile and a friendly ear. And it’s a city where no matter how big it is, or even if you’re at a festival with thousands of people, you can still run into an old friend.

Philly is my home but I will always love the city by the bay.

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Free People’s Guide to Venice – Part 2

Here is part two of the Free People Guide to Venice, put together by our producer! Read on for our tips on where to eat and more of our favorite things about Venice, and if you missed it be sure to check out part one of the guide featuring where to stay, landmarks, gondola riding tips and more fun stuff!

It’s always my goal when arriving in a new city to find the best local joints. Venice is a hard city to get to know due to its “tourist-y” nature, but all it takes is a little wander away from San Marco and the Rialto (make sure you see those too!) to get to know the real Venice.

It was recommended by a friend of a friend to eat at Alle Vedova – we didn’t end up finding it until our last night, but I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we wish we had made it there sooner! After a week of sub-par and expensive Italian food we found just what we were craving at Alle Vedova.

I think that it was more the experience than the food itself, though tables of  fresh squid, local veggies and homemade pasta weren’t so bad! Alle Vedova is settled in at the end of a small dark alley, but the rumble of local chatter makes it clear when you are headed in the right direction! Once you put your name in they give you small glasses of red or white wine for while you wait and homemade meatballs to tide you over until your table is ready. One of my favorite touches was the napkin lampshades! What a sweet idea!

Its spritz o’clock!

It seems to be a Venetian tradition to take a break in the middle of the day for a Spritz. I think it’s the most beautifully colored cocktail I’ve ever seen and it is the perfect drink for a hot summers day.

Here is how to make it for yourself …

1/3 white wine (ideally prosecco)

1/3 aperol or bitters or select (pick your favorite!)

1/3 seltzer water

Throw in an olive; find some sunshine and lounge by a canal… you’ll blend right in with the locals!

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I’m not sure even where to begin talking about gelato! I think that a few of us ate it breakfast lunch and dinner during our long shoot days. Our local producer claimed that Gelati Nico was her favorite in Venice, and though I agree that it was delicious I believe that gelato is heaven anywhere you eat it in Italy, it may just be a matter of price … more expensive does not equal better in this case!

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what the difference is between gelato and ice cream and I am here to tell you that they are not at all the same thing. The ingredients are similar but the process of making it, the ratio of ingredients in it and the temperature at which it is served are completely different. It is smoother, tastes creamier and I am happy to tell you has less fat then ice cream.

… it’s making my mouth water just thinking about it now!

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Oh boy… every little detail makes me smile… and the color combinations are inspiring to say the least <3

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Venice kills me with its rich color combinations and patterns … for a city that is known for its decay, it has the richest detail elements! Look at these samples from the home that we shot in… All of these patterns were found in the living room alone!  Just thinking about it makes my heart melt a little.

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These shoes aren’t mine but I sure do wish they were! They are the perfect flat shoe… casual and dressy and oh so comfortable.  I can’t wait for them to come out in the catalog so I can snatch up a pair for myself!

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Venice comes alive at night, and I recommend to everyone that you go out and enjoy it! We often worked late which meant that we didn’t eat until around 10 or so which seemed to be the norm at most of the places we ate.  After our meal we often opted to wander back to the hotel instead of taking a water taxi and we saw the most beautiful things along the way!

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Our last night in Venice was my favorite.  We combined all of my favorite things into one last hurrah! We ate great food at Alle Vedova, had fun drinks at Bar Paradiso Perduto (Cannaregio 2540, Venice), played dice along the canal, met up with old friends, made some new ones, wandered endlessly and laughed even more so… certainly a night to remember and how I recommend ending every trip! Well, think of it this way… a late night before the flight home helps you sleep on the plane :)

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We hope you enjoyed our guide to Venice! If you’d like, visit our flickr page and download the whole thing. Ciao, Venice!

*All photos by Thomas Northcut except for pages: “All about the details,” “Patterns” and “Shoes I Love”.

Venice Photography by Robert Crum

I am always on the look-out for artists and photographers to post about on the blog, and it was by pure coincidence that I found this one about a week before our August Catalog dropped. Robert Crum is a fine art photographer, and his images of Venice blew me away. They almost look like paintings – I expected the rich color and scenery to be idealized on a canvas, but no…they are photographs, and these are typical scenes that you can expect to see in Venice. Stunning.

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See more on his etsy site.

Free People’s Guide to Venice

Our talented producer has put together a beautiful Guide to Venice to share with you all, with tips on where to eat, where to stay and things to do while in Venice – with some Free People fun thrown in for good measure :) Read on for Part One of Free People’s Guide to Venice!

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The Free People team has just returned from a trip to Italy, Venice to be exact, and what an amazing trip it was! It was my 3rd time to the beautiful country known for its pasta, wine and enthusiastic, fun-loving people and the 3rd time was certainly a charm.

Venice. Despite the fact that I was there for work and our hours were long, I feel like I really got to see the best of the best. We ate the most amazing food, found some magical local drinking spots, and spent many late nights lost in Venice’s streets – as every good traveler should.

Here are some of my favorites … some places and things that I hope everyone can enjoy at some point in their lives.

It’s never a quick exit for our catalog team when embarking on a new shoot. There are months of prep that go into one catalog at a time and since we shoot 12 catalogs every year there are often 3 to 5 shoots in the making at one time! We never stop emailing, calling and texting about work until we are finally on the plane! Here is a quick peek at our morning before a flight … packing samples, making last minute calls, and finally at the airport and checked in we take a seat and talk about the week to come. Here is our art director, stylist and me on our way to Venice!

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striped shirt, two tees, two tanks, leopard print scarf, maxi skirt,  high waisted jeans, blouse, leather jacket, flats, hats,  high waisted shorts, wayfarer sunglasses.

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Venice appears to have hotels on every canal corner, but finding one that is reasonably priced, with large rooms is far less obvious. We found exactly what we were looking for at Ca Pisani. With a friendly staff, large clean rooms, and an amazing full breakfast included we couldn’t have asked for anything more. Located in the Dorsoduro section of the island, we were close to the Grand Canal, the Academia Art Gallery and at a perfect distance from the bustle of Piazza Margarita, The Rialto and the heart of Venice.

Oh… and they leave the best candies on your pillow at night!

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The Hotel Danieli is known to be one of the most decadent hotels in the world. Its guest book includes a plethora of royalty and Hollywood icons from the past and present, and it has graced many films such as “The Tourist” and the classic James Bond film “Moonraker”.

On our scout day we were lucky enough to peek inside. They even gave us a tour of the Master Suite! … What I would give to be able to call that home for the night.

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Dating back to the 14th century, the interior is breathtaking and intriguing … it tells a story of the decadent golden years of the floating city, of doges and Italian royalty. simply standing in its hallways made me want to put on heels, do my hair, put on some red lipstick and sip cocktails on the rooftop patio that overlooks the grand canal and San Marco square. Alas … it’s back to work for the fp crew!

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The first time I visited Venice was with my family when I was young.  Sadly, a huge part of what I remember is feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco! This time I took a moment to notice the magnitude of the architecture.  Parts of this square date back to the 800’s! So, so incredible.

Just a heads up: you can no longer feed the pigeons :(

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We got a handy tip from a local Venetian today and i wanted to share it with you all! As you learn quickly in Venice, getting from point A to point B may not be as easy as it looks on a map. Often times, right when you think you have finally maneuvered your way over bridges and through piazza’s there is a beautiful deep blue canal standing between you and your final destination.

A tip to remember is if all you need to do is go from one side of a canal to the other, it is common for gondoliers to take you for mere pennies opposed to the hundreds of dollars that a gondola ride usually costs you… the catch is that it is standing room only! But considering that the ride is only about a minute and it could possibly save you an hour of walking, it is a tip totally worth remembering.

Look for a line of locals at gondola stops … they are most likely hitching a ride as well!

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Masks are everywhere in Venice, and are a very important part of the Venetian culture. Carnival is a festival that was originally intended to be a time of expression and celebration throughout all social classes of the time. What a beautiful idea! I love that anyone and everyone become equal when behind one of the many intricate and delicate masks. We stumbled across Ca’del Sol while shooting one day behind San Marco. The women that ran it were so kind and let us shoot in their store. We all fell in love with their masks that covered every inch of every wall … even the ceiling! It’s a breathtaking sight! And the perfect gift to bring home from Venice.

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The many faces of Free People! While working on location on the 3rd day I decided to document the Free People crew Venetian style! What a good looking group! And what an amazing team <3

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Part Two of Free People’s Guide to Venice will be posted next week!

*Photos in pages “Arrivederci,” “Welcome to Venice,” “Ca Pisani,” “Hotel Danieli” and “italian lovers” are by Thomas Northcut.

Venice by Guy Aroch

Venice has always been a city that intrigued me. I have never been there, but having studied a lot of Art History in college, it was always a place that signified fine art, gothic architecture, romantic music and exquisite fashion. The city’s layout, with ribbons of canals running through it, and iconic imagery like the masks of carnival, made the city seem almost other-wordly in my mind… a decadent gem floating mysteriously off of Italy’s coast, its own unique entity. Guy Aroch’s photography heightens these sensations and confirms in my mind that I will visit this city one day.

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Stay tuned because our team put together a beautiful guide to Venice – I will share it with you soon!

view the complete August Catalog.

Weekend Getaway: The Not-So-Dirty Jerse

Jersey gets a bad rap, but my experience with the state has been primarily good, so I wanted to highlight one of its cute, lesser-known towns: Mount Holly. It’s a quaint historical village with a bit of indie vibe. Drive in on the main road, High Street, and you’ll be amongst town halls, prisons, and estates built as early as the late 18th century. As you make your way down the buildings are that of a more recent era – now filled with quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants. There’s a rich history in this place, and you can feel the presence of the many lives lived here.

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Once you reach the town center’s crossroads – you’ll come across an arched gate leading into what is called Mill Race Village. The town mood changes here. Mill Race is an eclectic mix of quirky shops, handmade goods, and cute homes all painted in vibrant colors that brighten up your day. You can find anything from ghost hunting supplies to fresh honey to handmade jewelry in this part of town. It’s a lot of fun to walk around and explore.

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After enjoying the town, venture out to Smithville Park. This National Park is built around a historic village which was once a major industrial plant known for its high-quality woodworking machinery in the the 1860’s to the 1920’s. The plant ruins are a bit eerie, but they’re placed amongst such beautiful surroundings it gives off a strange feeling. Keep wandering around and you’ll find a large lily pad covered lake with canoes, hiking trails, gardens, and old homes both restored and vacant.

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Weekend Getaway: Find a Swimming Hole

There are a lot of things I love about Austin, but near the top of the list are the swimming holes. When we were down there for our July catalog release party, it was sweltering – over 100 degrees. So the Saturday after our party, with a day off to explore, we went straight to Barton Springs.

Barton springs consists of four natural water springs, around one of which is a man-made pool that is one of the most popular places to hang out in Austin. The water is COLD – and the best way to deal with that is to gather your courage and dive in. When you do, the rush you experience is refreshing and rejuvenating. Some Austinites believe that not only is it good for your mental being, it’s also good for your health. I can definitely see how that may be true.

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On the near side of the barrier in the pool above is a smaller pool where you can take your pup swimming! Barton springs costs just $3 for a full day, and is open until 11pm (night swimming!)

We didn’t have time to visit this next one, but if I ever find myself back in austin (and I hope I do) this is on my list of things I MUST do.

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Yes, this is in Texas. Hamilton pool, located 30 miles outside of downtown Austin, is a natural pool that was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed from erosion thousands of years ago. The result is secluded pool surrounded by cliffs and huge slabs of limestone, into which a waterfall runs. Getting to the pool requires a steep quarter-mile downhill hike – but it’s more than worth it.

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After seeing the amazing swimming holes that Austin has to offer, I thought, surely there are swimming holes near Philadelphia? Indeed there are, and while it might not be on the same level as the ones above, Devil’s Pool is a swimming hole right here in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Creek.

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Chances are, where you live you have a swimming hole nearby as well – and with the crazy heat coming this weekend, this might be a necessary thing to do!

Check out swimmingholes.org, where you can view maps of all the swimming hole locations near you! The site was started by a man from Philadelphia named Tom, who runs the site purely as a hobby with the help of his friend Dave.  Why? “Tom and Dave like to explore, find and enjoy these hidden pools in natural settings they find a natural swimming hole in a beautiful setting to be very nurturing and soothing to the body and soul.”

Agreed.

click on images for sources.

Doe Run Farm

Last week I was lucky enough to go on a phenomenal field trip with other Free People and Urban Inc. interns. We were invited to visit the 400 acre Doe Run Farm in Chester County, PA. It’s almost unfair to even call the place a farm; it was more like a country oasis for animals and humans alike. We visited the cows, goats, and sheep which they house and milk for cheese. All of the cheese is made on premise. We got to see where it is made, and then for lunch we were able to try a bit for ourselves (it was amazing, of course). They also sell the cheese around local Philadelphia farmer’s markets – our farmer’s market here at the home offices sells it every other Wednesday. The farm had a beautiful pond, lots of gardens, and we got to see a bit of the luxuriously rustic house itself.

I already posted some style photos from the trip here, but checkout the rest of my photo diary from the trip. =P

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Guest Post from Tolly of Austin Eavesdropper!

another guest post from one of our austin friends, tolly of the blog austin eavesdropper! tolly is awesome and i wish we had more time to hang out with her in austin, she’s so much fun :)

The 5 Things I Love About Austin, Texas

By Tolly Moseley

Free spirits. Hippie maidens. Band groupies and mustache-wearing gents. These are our kin here in Austin, Texas, where Free People came to play recently.

When I found out that Austin band The Happen-Ins would be the stars of Free People’s July 2011 catalogue, and that they’d be shooting at some of our favorite clubs in town, I squealed in delight. Where better to celebrate the delicious lazy days of summer than in Austin, a city where even the suited CEO’s loosen their ties for a rock concert? Where you can take your lunch break at a swimming hole, or bust out vintage cowboy boots regardless of seasonality or dress code?

I had an awesome time meeting the Free People girls when they came to town for The Happen-Ins show, and wanted to show them everything there was to see here in Austin. I also want to show you. Here are my 5 favorite things about my beloved city, a place I hope you get to visit sometime:

1. Even when we’re fancy, we’re a little hippie.

It’s true. We can’t resist vintage. The entire zip code of 78704 in South Austin has been officially zoned for the selling of hip, recycled clothing. I’m kidding. But the great thing about Austin is that we never see an occasion NOT to rock a gently used frock, be it SXSW or a gala. So if you’re ever here and have a hankering for vintage, check out some of my faves: Feathers Boutique (for boots), Laced with Romance (for dresses), or tweet my girls Homebody Vintage for accessories/home stuff.

2. We like to play dress up.

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Austinites love a good dress-up party. That’s me above, dressed as David Bowie. Isn’t the resemblance striking?

3. We make things.

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DIY is huge here. That applies to crafts, food, and even businesses. I wish I could tell you I knit-tagged that whole car above … but I didn’t, it’s the handiwork of Knitta Please, one of our local craft artists. You’ll find her knit-tagged objects scattered about all over Austin, from parking meters to statues, and they reflect how much we adore handmade – not to mention the creative spirits behind it.

4. We can’t get enough live music – ever.

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In terms of survival, music is second only to air. For Austinites, I mean. We’re the city who invented Austin City Limits (the show and the music festival), Spoon, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and of course The Happen-Ins! Stroll down Red River at night, by The Mohawk, Club DeVille, Stubb’s, Emo’s … and your ears will fill with honest-to-goodness rock n’ roll, screaming guitars and pounding drums. This city is a music-lover’s dream, and if you’re ever here, chances are a friend of a friend of a friend is playing the same nights you’re in town. If we’re not a musician ourselves, we’re probably dating one.

5. We welcome visitors and vagabonds with open arms.

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I have a personal belief that Austin chooses people, and if you’re reading this post, chances are she’s chosen you, too. You can find me here, and if you ever venture down to Texas for a visit, I’d love to show you around. We’ll bask at Barton Springs Pool, eat tofu and/or bacon (we are equally enthusiastic about both), and find multiple excuses to play dress up.

All photos by Tolly except for last one (Austin Motel sign) which is courtesy of Ellen Jo Roberts.

Monday Quote: Complete the Sentence

I picked up this vintage postcard at Uncommon Objects in Austin. I loved it because it made me think – so for today’s Monday quote, I want you all to write your own quote by completing the phrase:

“I never did, but always thought I would like to _____”

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Weekend Getaways: Inspiration from California

Last week I received an email from one of our readers, Molly, who sent me a link to photos she took on a recent solo trip to Big Sur and a trip to Ojai, and I immediately knew I had to share.  Big Sur is one of the most incredible, magical places I’ve ever been and these photos bring back a longing I can’t quite describe.

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Check out her tumblr and flickr for more inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing Molly!