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Spotlight On: Brooke Williams

Featured, Influencers, Persons of Interest  /   /  By Nina Louie

Recently, we ducked behind the scenes for a quick conversation with each of the women starring in our new Find Your Perfect campaign. Tune in as we talk closets and careers, brunch spots and beauty secrets, and more. 

We loved meeting Brooke Williams at her home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Apart from admiring her gorgeously lived-in apartment full of fun, intimate details (like walls covered in vintage Polaroids or her 8-year-old’s artwork), it was a pleasure to talk to someone so thoughtful about what she wears, where she goes, and how she shapes and shepherds her child. Interestingly, it turns out people and their stories figure into all of her favorite things. Read on to see what we mean.

SS: What do you do?

BW: I have a lifestyle blog that’s my main focus at the moment. I am also a photographer. I’ve been a photographer forever—and a writer—so I will occasionally do freelance writing for magazines.

So you have the written and the visual.

Yes, but that’s all a side project compared to being a mom.

Tell us about the clothes you’re wearing for this shoot. Are there any stories behind them?

One thing is this super-flowery bright wool vintage Lilly Pulitzer dress that I love. I always think of Lilly Pulitzer as being a summer thing, so finding this winter-weight piece was amazing. I’m attracted to color and happy things; I think my mom used to dress like that. If I’m in a bad mood and I have to go to a party, I tend to put on that dress.

It sounds like a mood-lifter. Is it the color?

The color and the silhouette. I like to wear clothes that are simple, really easy to put on, comfortable to wear. I’m not into belting or adding things.

The other dress I’m going to wear is a purple wool dress by Alpana Bawa. She moved from London and has a little store on Elizabeth Street, and she’s Indian, so her clothes are this great mesh of Western silhouettes with that bold Indian color sensibility. It’s the same idea as the Pulitzer—long, straight, colorful—you just put it on and you look good.

Have you tried Marimekko clothes?

No, for some reason I haven’t, but when I see the store in Manhattan, I always think I should go in. It seems up my alley.

Yes, it’s very much the clothes you’re describing. How long have you been wearing these dresses?

The Lily Pulitzer I bought vintage, and the Alpana Bawa I’ve had for so long—maybe 20 years.

It sounds like your closet is full of special pieces.

Yes, when I try to describe my style, sentimental is the most accurate word. I don’t have something I can say like, “I always wear black,” or “I’m into Japanese designers.” My clothes just all tend to have some sort of story.

Will you tell us the story of your necklace?

It was made by one of my closest friends, a jeweler named Jill Platner. She makes things you want to touch. And she’s a surfer, so it’s stuff you can swim in and it will be indestructible.

When she was just starting out as a jeweler, she was putting together a lookbook. She saw me in a restaurant and asked if I would pose for some photos wearing her pieces. I said sure. We did the shoot and we were friends by the end of that day.

Hers is pretty much the only jewelry I wear. She made our wedding rings.

What about your frog ring?

It’s the only exception. It was given to me by a friend who passed, so it’s super sentimental. The frog is an Indonesian symbol of perseverance. I’ve probably worn this for the last 25 years. I used to think: I’m going to kiss you every day and maybe you’ll become a prince! The life of a single woman in New York; it wasn’t pretty, I have to say.

But now you have a husband and an 8-year-old daughter, Ada. How do you approach dressing her?

When they’re little, you get to choose what they wear. Now I still tend to avoid shopping with her, but I try to pay attention to what’s she’s into. For example, she likes skirts, but they have to flowwww.

For a while she was very princess-oriented, but luckily her favorite colors are blue and brown. She was very into Kate and William, the royal wedding. She made us watch the entire thing. She put a hat on her head, pretending to be the queen. For a while we had to recap what happened. So sometimes I’ll say: I think Kate would wear this.

What’s your favorite thing that you’ve bought on eBay?

On eBay, I’m more of a stuff person than a clothing person. Recently, I was looking for some vintage Nancy Drew books on another site, and they were outrageously expensive. So I went to eBay, and I found them there for much less.

Do you have any go-to designers?

I love Jane Mayle—and actually, I’ve had some great luck with Mayle on eBay. And then I love Maria Cornejo and Tess Giberson. They’re all women I’m friendly with, so that speaks to the sentimentality of my style, again.

Do you have any favorite neighborhood spots?

I love this café called Bakeri, it’s owned by this Norwegian woman, and they have this incredible bread and pastries. They have this great garden, and everything in there is vintage. It’s almost all women working there, wearing these cool jumpsuits.

I also like Café Colette. My daughter is a carnivore, and they have a great steak.

And there’s this incredible secret lunch spot at this yoga place called Kula on North 3rd, between Berry and Wythe, and it has a little café called Ashanti Shack. They have the most delicious food, and it’s all super-healthy. It’s run by this woman named Brownie, who’s from Hawaii. She’s just great, with this really positive energy, and you can feel it in the food.

It seems like you connect with the stories of your favorite places, just like you connect with the stories of your clothes.

Yes, and I’ve lived in this neighborhood for so long, for 15 years, and there’s so much change. So I’ll put blinders on and try not to notice any of the new stuff. I’ll be like: Grrrr, I hate everything new. But then I’ll try someplace and be like: Alright, this is fine, this is good, and these people are really nice and they’re just starting out and it doesn’t make sense to be angry with them just because they’re new.

Earlier you mentioned your daughter was into princesses, and there are a lot of implied standards that I’m sure you were concerned about. Do you have any thoughts on the idea of perfection in fashion?

Well, with princesses, I decided to embrace rather than fight the idea. I mean there are some amazing princesses like Wonder Woman and Pocahontas. I tried to think of them as something different than the ornamental type that’s only supposed to get married. I find the zeitgeist is different now. There are a lot more cool female kid princesses than there were 15 years ago.

And this idea of perfection, it’s so oppressive. Ada is very much her own person, so I’m not really worried about her. She’s very loose and in it. She did tell me once, “Mommy, I think I’m fat.” And she’s a little rod. So that was the one thing that made me say, “I don’t want to start that.”

Joe [our photographer] is expecting a daughter.

Oh, you are? It’s a lot. But, you know, girls are tough in the brain. And I feel like now is the age of girls. There’s encouragement to do so much and it’s completely normal.

And it’s also so nice that it’s very normal for Ada that there’s a boy in her class who has two dads, and there’s a girl whose name is George and she has two moms, and half the kids in her class are biracial in some way or another. It’s such a great time and place for these kids to grow up. And as long as we keep encouraging all of that, we have a shot at raising another generation of people who are actually going to be helpful and good.

But you do have to pay attention so that you don’t fall into stereotypes. You know, like, it’s not just boys who are good at math…

What do you think?

I agree with everything you said. I think you said it beautifully.

Love Brooke’s look? Browse bold prints and simple silhouettes.

Next up, we talk tuxedo t-shirts and Insta accounts with Cosmo editor Aya Kanai. Stay tuned.

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