On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Peregrine Honig sat on a velvety couch inside Birdies, the lingerie shop she owns at 116 W. 18th St., and carefully measured her dog’s head.
“Four inches,” she announced as she stretched the tape between the black Papillon mix’s feathery ears. “No — three and a half.”
Beignet, the dog, has 131 people in his Facebook fan club, and one of them wants to knit him a sweater. That’s what happens when you’re always on the arm of Honig, an artist and entrepreneur who helped turn 18th Street and the Crossroads Arts District into an epicenter of Kansas City art and fashion.
Recently we sat down with Honig and her friend Peggy Noland, a designer with a boutique two doors down at 124 W. 18th St., to talk about their very different styles.
Honig wore a lived-in Chinese silk jacket, a gift from friend Linda Erwin Abel, over an abbreviated frock and wooly tights. A beat-up pair of tobacco leather Frye boots, a recent score from Arizona Trading Company, added a tough edge to the softer pieces.
Noland rocked her own design: a body-hugging dress she crafted from a Wal-Mart T-shirt emblazoned with a close-up photograph of an owl. Teetering, Jeffrey Campbell wedges with suede cutouts and a silver skullet (shaved in the front, flatironed and fabulous in the back) completed the eye-popping look.
“I like being noticed. I like attention,” Noland says of her always-changing look. “I think that’s pretty obvious.”
In some ways, Noland and Honig have a lot in common, style-wise: Both are artists who use clothing to tell a story about who they are and what they’re interested in.
But there’s one big difference.
Honig “treats her clothing like pieces of artwork,” Noland says. “She wears them to death. My aesthetic is very trend-based. After a month or two, I’m over the trend.”
Noland likes things shiny and new; Honig likes to watch garments break down over time.
Once, she saved up to buy a sequin bodysuit Noland had designed for Brazilian singer Lovefoxxx. Noland thought Honig might not want it because it had been worn, and some of the sequins were missing. But that made Honig want it even more.
“Things fall apart and reveal themselves,” Honig says. One of the newest additions to her wardrobe is a crude purse made of two slices of raw cowhide. When she saw it at Donna’s Dress Shop, Honig knew she had to have it.
“Look at this fucked-up bag,” she says, holding it up for Noland to see.
Noland says that every once in awhile, she wishes she could fall in love with a few key pieces and have a more wash-and-wear look. But her tastes are constantly changing, and keeping up with them costs a lot of time and money.
“This haircut’s hard,” Noland says. “It takes a lot of effort to look on the chic side of different and not on the meth head side of different.”
But the bottom line is, Noland says, she can’t be something she’s not. Neither can Honig. And why would they try? This isn’t The Gap — this is 18th Street, where individuality is honored.
“Who wants to be basic?” Noland says. “That’s such an insult.”
We’re on the lookout
Ink’s new style feature documents individuality in Kansas City and comes out every second and fourth Wednesday. Know someone with a one-of-a-kind look? Nominate him or her (or even yourself) by sending a snapshot to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet us @inkkcmag or @sarah_gish.
Israel Garcia grew up near several clothing distribution warehouses in east L.A.
One of his earliest shopping memories is of going to clothing sales at one of those warehouses. He remembers buying a bag for $5, then sifting through mountains of unsorted clothes to find shirts or pants that he liked.
“Your job was to sift through this mundaneness and try to find something that made sense to you,” Garcia says. “That’s where my style came into shape.”
Even as a kid, Garcia liked classic-looking clothing that never went out of style. He never saw clothes as disposable.
“I take good care of my clothes so they last a long time,” he says.
Now Garcia is an artist with his own studio and gallery space, Garcia Squared Contemporary, at 115 W. 18th St.
When he gets dressed for the day, he considers comfort first. But the designer, photographer and sculptor also puts his eye for color and composition to work.
He prefers the structured look of a button-up shawl sweater and a scarf to a hoodie, for example. Prescription Ray-Bans boost the pulled-together, professional look.
Garcia says that when he finds a piece he really loves (those glasses, for example) he’s willing to spend more.
“It’s about finding those golden pieces that will survive,” he says. “Quality as opposed to quantity.”
Shopping for bargains at thrift stores and H&M balances out those bigger investments.
Garcia never really sets out to go thrift store shopping — he just stops when he sees one. The same goes for style inspiration.
“I don’t necessarily go searching for it. For me, it’s a little more organic,” Garcia says. “I don’t have a style. I just do, I just am.”
When she was 12, Mariah Gillespie started reading fashion magazines and became obsessed with styles from the 1960s and ’70s.
“I remember trying to explain to my friends what mod was,” Gillespie says.
The Norman, Okla., native still loves everything from that era, even the bell-bottoms and polyester.
Her closet is a carefully cultivated collection of pieces you won’t find in a mall today. Her most prized possession: a pair of yellow Silhouette sunglasses from the ’60s that she found in a treehouse when she was a kid. Recently she looked them up on eBay and saw a similar pair for $2,000.
Not that Gillespie would ever consider selling them.
Gillespie’s collection is always growing. When she’s not taking photography or fashion classes at the Kansas City Art Institute, she’s scouring eBay and local vintage stores such as Boomerang and Reruns for new (old) clothes.
She shopped so often at a vintage store called Anty Shanty in her hometown that the owner gave her a job. Now Gillespie models clothes, photographs garments and operates an Etsy shop for the store.
Gillespie says she doesn’t see herself ever getting tired of mid-century style. Recently, she cut her hair short in homage to her style icon, Twiggy.
The cropped cut is tame compared to the pink bob she used to sport. But it helps put more focus on Gillespie’s rainbow-colored clothes.
Her advice for pulling off something you love (but others might be too scared to wear): “If you don’t look confident in it, you’re going to look like a fool,” Gillespie says.
“So you have to freakin’ own it.”
Whitney Manney is addicted to accessories.
“The more the better for me,” Manney says. “Usually I ask myself before I leave if I have too many on. If I say yes, and I’m comfortable, then I’m ready to go.”
Manney, a recent Kansas City Art Institute graduate who specialized in fashion and textile design, wasn’t always so bold. The 6-foot fashionista says she was a “gangly” goofball in middle school who wished she could afford Abercrombie and Hollister.
Attending a high school for artistic kids helped Manney find the confidence to rock her own look. She learned to sew and sift through thrift stores and clearance racks.
Art school taught her to make her own clothes and develop her aesthetic.
“I’m a ’90s kid, for sure,” Manney says. “My closet is a crayon box. I like mixing colors, textures and patterns.”
Manney is inspired by everyone from Michael Jackson to Biggie Smalls. Recently she scored an oversized Gucci sweater at a Salvation Army store in Overland Park that she says is just like the ones the rapper used to wear.
The sweater is super-comfortable, which is key for this designer.
“I love combat boots and tennis shoes,” Manney says. “Nike and Adidas and Chucks are everything to me.”
When she does wear heels, “I wear five-inch heels.”
“If I’m gonna wear ’em,” Manney says, “I’m gonna go for it.”
As a server at Cafe Gratitude, Sarah Dunne has to wear all black.
Once she’s off duty, Dunne slips into an outfit that better reflects her style. Usually it’s a patterned dress with wooly layers, like a sweater or fringed scarf.
“I love feeling girly,” she says.
Dunne’s other jobs (she also clocks in at the wine store Cellar Rat, the Art of Pizza and a church in Overland Park) don’t have dress codes, so she can pile on the color.
Dunne doesn’t have a ton of clothes, thanks in part to her tiny closet. So she layers pieces she loves in new ways to achieve fresh looks.
“I love to mix a bunch of different patterns and colors that you may not think to put together off the bat,” she says.
She wears socks over tights and (one of her current favorite looks) a nubby orange sweater over a silky blue dress.
The resulting look hints at styles from bygone eras without being overtly retro. So does Dunne’s dark bob.
“My biggest hair icon is Louise Brooks, the silent film star,” she says. “I love that look — it’s so choppy and stark.”
Dunne’s hair is a little softer than that bold cut, but it has a playful shape that puts a girlish spin on everything she wears. Even all-black outfits.
“If I’m not having fun with what I’m wearing,” Dunne says, “I don’t feel like myself.”