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Success, in the Bag

AS IF THERE WERE not enough reasons to adore the well-kept Mission Hills community, native Rebecca Minkoff is the icing on the cake. Her Morning After Bag (custom-designed for actress Jenna Elfman) thrust her handbag collection into the spotlight and onto the arms of Sarah Jessica Parker, Leighton Meester, Blake Lively, model Agyness Deyn and other notable fashionistas. Now in her fifth year of making bags, the New York–based celebrity de­signer is launching her eponymous apparel collection (rebeccaminkoff.com). We caught up with the name behind the handbag empire as she prepped for her much-anticipated apparel debut.    

Who are some of your greatest design inspirations?
Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Alexander Wang and my friends.

At what moment did you realize you had made a name for yourself in the industry?
When I was doing an in-store appearance and a woman ran over from the length of a football field away, yelling my name and pumping her arms to get an autograph.

What can buyers expect to see in the second season of your apparel collection?
I got a lot of inspiration from Tim Burton and Edward Scissorhands, but mixed it with feminine touches and a throwback to the movie Clueless. I like the combination of pretty and tough. 

How did your life in San Diego play a role in your career path?
I think of my childhood as idyllic. By the age of 8, I was sewing and playing dress-up. I was still able to play in our neighborhood streets without adult supervision. I think this freedom played a part in my artistic expression. 
—Andrea Ebbing 

Metal CanvasBrevin Blach

The spidery limbs of two trees perched on a rocky coastline tangle against a cloudy, three-dimensional sky. The medium for this piece of mural art—sheet metal—is as unconventional as the artist behind it. Tucked in the corner of a Chula Vista scrap-metal yard, 25-year-old Michael Leaf creates gallery-quality artwork from sheet-metal scraps.

“I want my art to motivate people to think differently, to see things in a new way,” says Leaf, whose family has owned and operated Leaf Sales for three generations. Leaf has been commissioned to make public art installations (San Diego Urban Trees), business signage (Wit’s End, Spa Gregories) and furniture, and his work hangs in local galleries, including Trios Gallery and Leaping Lotus in Solana Beach’s Cedros Design District.

Inspired by dreams, metaphysics, the natural environment and life surrounding him, Leaf approaches his art—which is zero-waste—with a passion matched only by his inherent curiosity and creative spirit. In his workshop, smaller abstract pieces sit beside a 4-by-10-foot rendering of The Last Supper. Leaf’s art is generally priced from $300 to $1,500, but some pieces have netted up to $8,000. And some he simply gives away. Remarkably, he’s been creating art for just over a year.

In his gallery space, The Metal Hut, which he recently added adjacent to the workshop, Leaf is busy working on a “revolutionary piece” he’s keeping tight-lipped about. But his excitement is no secret as he says, beaming, “It’s go­ing to be my Sistine Chapel.” More information: 619-240-4300 or themetalhut.com.
 —Julia Beeson Polloreno

Raen Maker

Justin Heit has always been fascinated with eyewear. Which might explain why he owns 400 pairs of glasses. “It’s the most important accessory,” says Heit. “You can tell a lot about an individual’s personality by their eyewear.” Last year he co-founded Raen Optics, an Encinitas-based line that fuses vintage, classic style with modern design.

“We wanted to stay away from trends or fads and create a collection that’s timeless,” says Heit, who has worked for 12 years in product design and marketing geared toward the action-sports demographic. His brother, former pro surfer Jeremy Heit, heads up marketing and sales.

Totally handmade of European acetate and the highest quality lenses, the glasses come in 10 designs and are priced between $85 and $149. See raenoptics.com.                                        
—J.B.P. 

The Insider

NO ENTOURAGE FOR ADRIAN: Actor Adrian Grenier may play a superstar on TV—he portrays Vince Chase on HBO’s Entourage—but in real life he’s just a normal guy, according to spies at Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern. The multi­talented Grenier, who also plays a number of instruments, loaded his own drum kit when his band, The Honey Brothers, played the club recently. The group’s five members cop fake stage names: Grenier’s is Honey DuContra, and strangely enough, the real name of lead singer/ukelele player H. Huckleberry Honey is Ari Gold—the same as Vince’s agent on the show (played by Jeremy Piven).

CITIZEN DICK: Bald-headed mood musician Moby, whose real name is Richard Melville Hall, complained about “two drunk porn stars” seated behind him on his flight to San Diego. “They brought their yorkies with them,” he wrote on his Twitter page. “It’s like a cancelled sitcom from 1986.” The singer bunked on Coronado the night before his show at House of Blues, then took over the late-night Big Sonic Chill program on FM 94/9 after his gig. On the playlist: Simple Minds, Joy Division, Depeche Mode and his own “Mistake,” the second single from the new album, Wait for Me.


DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE EGGS: Blame the economy: The 63rd annual Mother Goose Parade rings in the season without its usual flood of semi-celebs. Parade organizers told the Union-Tribune to expect a star-free, “bare-bones parade” in El Cajon. Last year’s grand marshal, Tori Spelling, will still be making the trek down to San Diego this holiday season, this time for Lego­land’s tree-lighting party on November 30. The theme park erects the world’s largest Lego Christmas “tree,” which stands 30 feet tall and is made from almost a quarter-million bricks.

SAKE JOCKEYS: San Diego songsters Jason Mraz, Tristan Prettyman and Anya Marina indulged in a raucous post-surfing nosh session with pals at Zenbu in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The group ordered a pair of whole fried fish and drank cold sake for more than three hours. Before ducking out, Mraz took time out to pose for pictures with the waitress, who was quivering with excitement.

CELEBRITY TWITTER ROUNDUP: A sampling of what stars are tweeting about lately: Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton praised the free wi-fi at the San Diego Airport; Karl Rove posted a pic from the Naval Special Warfare Foundation dinner on Coronado, where he was a featured speaker; Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba “wasted time” at Fashion Valley before playing a gig for listeners of Sophie 103.7. He dubbed the Gaslamp’s Bitter End “a great dive,” noting the dressing room is “like the governor’s mansion!”

POSH DIGS FOR POSH SPICE: Victoria Beckham brought her three sons to San Diego for a little SeaWorld action and an overnight stay at the Hard Rock Hotel. Traveling without her soccer-player hubby David, the super-slim star didn’t venture far from her Gaslamp digs, spending time sipping bubbly at the hotel’s rooftop pool, dining at Nobu and treating her sons to fro-yo at Pinkberry before retiring for the night. The family was also spotted breakfasting at Maryjane’s Coffee Shop, where, an insider says, she gorged on—gasp!—coffee and a bowl of ber­ries, while her sons ate flapjacks.

—Rachel Zenn Sachs

Wrapped In Comfort

ALL I WANT for my birthday is Daddy,” 5-year-old Grace Neiman tells her mom, Jeanine. Grace, the youngest of three children, turns 6 on December 28. Her siblings, 9-year-old Emily and 7-year-old Jacob, have a better understanding of their ­father’s absence. Chief Petty Officer William Neiman, 28, departed on the U.S.S. Nimitz in late July and won’t return until mid-March.

“A friend of mine was searching the Internet for Daddy Dolls—a doll the American Red Cross makes from a pho­to­graph of deployed servicemen—and she found Operation Kid Comfort here in San Diego,” says Jeanine. “So I requested quilts for the kids.”

Operation Kid Comfort is a partnership between the Armed Services YMCA and the American Sewing Guild that creates free photo-transfer quilts for the children of deployed serv­icemen and -women. Each comforter contains nine pic­tures—for the Neiman children, photographs they individually selected as their favorites.

“The kids sleep with their quilts every night,” Jeanine says.
Go to ­militarymca.com for more information. 
—Laura Byrd 

Dreaming In Crimsom

JUNIOR SEAU IS GENERALLY KNOWN AS a charismatic NFL star, but to a handful of local high school students, he’s also a life-changing philanthropist. The Junior Seau Foundation recently awarded 20 scholarships amounting to $100,000 to low-income students based on academic merit and personal achievement. Two of these scholarship recipients, Elizabeth Lopez and Nadia Farjood, recently began their first semester at Harvard University.

Lopez grew up in Imperial Beach and attended Mar Vista High School, where she was told that no one from her school had ever attended an Ivy League college. Undaunted, she applied to multiple Ivy League schools, was admitted to all of them and got a large need-based scholarship to attend Harvard. Her scholarship from the Junior Seau Foundation covered the rest of her tuition costs.

“It was my dream school,” Lopez says. “I never thought it was within my reach. I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this. Maybe I’m good enough.’ I worked against the stereotypes. There were no examples.” Since arriving at Harvard, Lopez has become involved with Latinas Unidas, an organization that supports Latina students. “I definitely want to be a role model,” she says.

A graduate of Torrey Pines High School, Carmel Valley’s Nadia Farjood is thriving in Harvard’s intellectually stimulating atmosphere. “The prospect of Harvard wouldn’t have been possible without this generous contribution to my education,” Farjood says.

She’s thrown herself headfirst into the university’s abundant opportunities, joining a mentoring program in Boston, writing for the school newspaper and working for women’s rights through the Institute of Politics. A self-proclaimed feminist who wants to study global affairs, Farjood has fully embraced the self-defining journey she’s just begun.

“I’m worrying less about what I want to do and more about who I want to be,” she says.
—Jillian Anthony
 

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