There are many Southwestern Native American legends about Grandmother Spider swirling through time. This is my favorite one: She tossed her freshly woven web laced with sparkling dewdrops into the darkness and it became the glittering stars, sun and planets. Bang! The universe was born. She sang her song and danced across the heavens spreading her web of light, fanning the vital flame. The fireworks of life burst up, exploding. Anchoring us all with her magical braided cords to The Great Mystery, she made sure that we were all connected to one another. All of us with our unique purpose for our Earthwalk. Interwoven. Never alone.
When I saw the aubergine, tangerine and greeny-gray muslin wraps by Natasha Naragis many years ago I would gaze at them for, well ... a loooong time. My husband would say, "Hey, I'll meet you back here in an hour." And there I would stand, absorbing her work, lapping up the subtle moon glow of colors, an infinite tapestry of delicate textures. It felt like gossamer, indeed, a spider's web. Unimaginably light. "Etheric" barely does it justice. So imagine my surprise when a talented designer and teacher of two production sewing courses at the Santa Fe Community College named Estelle Norris-Smallwood invited me to a freshly-baked style-forward pop-up in the Railyard, and there was Naragis.
As I entered this very SoHo-circa-1985-NYC-drizzled-in-Left-Bank-Paris space, the snooty smoke of doubt cleared. Norris-Smallwood’s passion for bias-cutting is apparent on an elegantly draped, deep midnight gown topped with a shimmering satin pistachio jacket. The dark grey ombre fringe on the back of the semi-bolero, though, is the juiciest cherry on top. It is true couture and only available at a new boutique dubbed
natasha santa fe
(403 Guadalupe St., 913-9236)
, which is open 10 am-4 pm Wednesday-Sunday or by appointment.
That's right, style fiends—the Railyard has it going off! Better than Barneys, nicer than Neiman's and you can buy direct … no middle man. Snap up Naragis' scrumptious and sumptuous woven wraps, scarves, outerwear and tunics, done in a muted palette with contrasting selvages. Hot roses bleed into luminous kumquat and plums meet indigos. These bright edges make the granites and lighter softer tones vibrate with sunshine made from linen, cashmere, silk, muslin and alpaca. She also loves the Indonesian technique of ikat, wherein threads are wrapped and colored before weaving, as well as shibori, an eighth-century Japanese art that reminds one of grown-up tie-dye. They are butter-soft and gorgeous. YUM! At the moment she is showcasing Amanda Speer and Dain Daller, both of whom live off the grid in Abiquiu and create fabulous woven wraps. Bright-toasty roasted yellow corn with matcha tea greens dripping into electric blues; reds next to sun kissed caramels. Their work recalls smoldering embers, salty oceans and pinky-chocolate earth.
Bobbie Sumberg has knitted pieces that are like the lovechild of a poncho and a wee capelet. Lush and sublime colors; vivid azures to icy slates to lilac frost and persimmon sunrise.
Karim Jaekel is another one of the showstoppers in this boutique of chic. Being Naragis' only son and proof that the apple does indeed fall not far from the tree, his works are done in cotton and raw silk. Hand-woven scarves and wraps, but with a bit of a more heavy and rustic bent … juicy sherbet hues welcoming you. Jaekel adores grassy greens, lemon drop and happy cerulean. These are primaries with a twist. He informed me that both mom and son will soon make large bolts of fabric which interior designers can snatch up and use to create masterpieces.
Pam Knob showcases ceramic wrap pins. Open hearts, squares and circles all shimmering in pearly pastels, plus super-fun felted and handwoven scarves. The bright amethyst and oyster one caught my eye.
Bessie Berman has created earrings of warm metals, thin as potato chips, fashioned out of bottle caps with zias, hammered copper hoops and discs and wooden loops. Frida Khalo, the Blessed Virgin and ravens all make cameos in Berman's work and they promise not to give you drooping Buddha ears. They dangle feather-light like flashing icicles.
On the walls of natasha santa fe you'll spy another nod to underground cool: Cissie Ludlow's photographs from a 1980's NYC performance piece/fashion show of which Naragis was a part. Dubbed Trashique—a sly play on tres chic—her photos wink at you from the walls. A sexy sculpture from Trashique also makes an appearance with Michael Motley's fire-engine-red, life-sized paper skeleton complete with no flesh other than his nether regions (with a curly cue glittery carpet). Peckerman, Naragis' pet name for him, greets you in a very "Toto, we are not on Canyon Road anymore!" way.
This is the real deal, fashion folk of the high desert. Naragis shines and has given Santa Fe a place not only to shop but to also experience. Let's relish the splendor of being human and thank Grandmother Spider for all of our lavish and magnificent gifts. Happy New Year, Santa Fe.