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The 411: Vena Cava


The “future heirloom” idea behind Vena Cava’s collections is pretty spot-on. The pieces that designers Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock have been churning out since launching the brand fresh out of Parsons in 2003, have a singular vintage-cast sensibility and well-traveled quality that gives them a sense of history: Are those Egyptian hieroglyphs on that silky dress? Most likely, yes. Much of their appeal can be chalked up to the artful prints that the pair of avid thrift-store shoppers conjures up, which succeed at simultaneously paying homage to the past and looking forward. That quality has earned them a varied assortment of ardent followers, and accolades aplenty: They scored the Ecco Domani prize in 2006 and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominations in 2007 and 2008. And with the recent launch of their lower-priced Viva Vena line, getting your hands on that aesthetic is more attainable than ever. The designers, who now live on opposite coasts (Buhai in L.A. and Mayock in New York), are as cool as the designs they dream up, so we were pretty keen on getting the inside track on their own personal beauty favorites.

Lisa’s Picks:
The Adjustment Bureau: Spring Street Chiropractic
“I’ve gone to a chiropractor since I was really young, but never found anyone in New York that I really liked, until I met Dr. Allan Sicignano. He’s just damn good! I love that his whole operation is so efficient and low-key, and he’s happy to answer my ten minutes’ worth of questions about my neck. Added bonus: He has an amazing collection of psychedelic-rock posters that you can check out while you wait.”
Spring Street Chiropractic, 21 Spring Street, (212) 343-9218;

The Hair Hero: Bajaj Almond Drops
“I just came back from a long honeymoon in India, which is the land of hair oil—there is a huge variety of different kinds on the market, but the one I fell in love with is called Bajaj Almond drops. The tiniest amount rubbed into the ends of your hair gives them that perfect separation. I usually smooth some over my bangs and crown, too. The bottle looks like a men’s cologne from the seventies—it’s a beautiful design!”
For more information, visit

The Great Escape: Udaipur
“On said trip to India, we visited Udaipur, which may very well be my favorite place in the whole world. The sleepy town has a massive man-made lake with a palace floating right in the middle, which was converted into the Lake Palace Hotel in the seventies. Maharajas were officially de-recognized as royalty in the seventies (and therefore lost any financial help in maintaining their estates), so many palaces were converted into incredibly decadent hotels. It feels like half palace, half boat, and it’s just a very special place with remarkable attention to detail, where the staff greeted us in the corridors by name…we actually still can’t figure out how they knew our names.”
For more information, visit

The Skincare Secret: Dermalogica
“I don’t really stick to all one brand for anything, except for my skin. I love Dermalogica products for my face, and they never fail me. I mix Daily Microfoliant with Precleanse oil and use that paste on my face every morning, followed by its Special Cleansing Gel, Skin Smoothing Cream, and Solar Defense Booster. It’s a lot, but it works. I also remove everything, even cleanser, with a sponge. It helps, especially if you wear a lot of sunscreen—that stuff doesn’t come off with just cleanser—and it gets everything off my skin.”
Available at

The Friends in Fragrance: D.S. & Durga
“I’m lucky enough to be close friends with some of my favorite perfumers, Kavi and David of DS & Durga. I love Siberian Snow, and the perfume they custom-made me for my wedding—a perfume we christened Shitty Roses. Every so often, I go over to their studio, listen to music, hang, and just smell things. They’re working on some beautiful new scents inspired by Yeats’ writing that I’m psyched about.”
For more information, visit

The Makeup Muse: Robert Palmer Girl
“I’m a big fan of the Robert Palmer-girl look: graphic red lips and nails are my go-to. I wear MAC Ruby Woo pretty much every day, with Lorac black liquid eyeliner and MAC mascara. NARS makes a great red polish called Dovima, which I love with lots of silver jewelry. I’ve been taking liquid calcium magnesium, which makes nails (and hair) grow like crazy, so I redo them every week and half or so.”
Available at and

The Vintage Haunt: Amarcord
“I love Amarcord for vintage. I like to tell myself that I’m just going to swing by for a look, but I almost never make it out of there empty-handed. They have a very defined aesthetic across their clothing, jewelry, bags, accessories, and they just love great design. The owners, Marco and Patty, have an unbelievable archive (including Alaïa’s very first collection of all lace) and can tell you all about the history of certain pieces they have. It’s a great place to get lost.”
For more information, visit

Sophie’s Picks:
The Big Stretch: Pilates and Arts
“I do Pilates for exercise. I love the ballet influence, the beautifully designed machines, and the overall science behind it. Plus, it’s the exercise of choice for all eighty-year-old chic and eccentric women! Since moving to L.A., I’ve been taking Pilates at Pilates & Arts, an amazing studio in Echo Park that also functions as an Art Gallery. Tannis, the owner, is like a younger, more beautiful Anne Bancroft; it’s like having Mrs. Robinson teach you Pilates.”
For more information, visit

The Complexion Corrector: Coconut Oil
“I only use hot water and coconut oil on my face. I started the regimen by accident when I was in Mexico and forgot my cleanser. Ever since, my skin has been clear and balanced. Hippies call it the ‘Acid Wall’; apparently soap messes with your ‘Acid Wall’ and the natural oil balance of your skin. I try to abide by the idea that I don’t put anything on my body I can’t eat…but of course that goes out the window when it comes to Armani lipstick and obscure nail polish colors.
Available at

The Bathing Ritual: Korean Baths
“Once a month, I like to go to the Korean Baths in L.A. for some relaxation and a great scrub. I’ve tried fancy spas, but nothing beats the experience of the Korean baths. I have a few other hidden spots in Koreatown that are my favorite. I love to do the soak, steam, and sauna, followed by an intense scrub. It’s also a great way to hang out with a friend, naked. I usually go with my mom, and the whole experience feels just like it should…as if we were there hundreds of years ago, in a bathing ritual.”

The Secret Spa: Ojai Valley Hot Springs
“I recently became obsessed with California hot springs. One of my favorite things to do is visit the hidden hot springs in Ojai Valley. You drive through some mountains, hike a bit to come upon the most beautiful deserted hot springs in the middle of the forest. The baths are incredibly healing, and the sulfur in them leaves your skin baby soft. Plus, it’s an amazing way to be outside.”

The Hair Art: Sylvain Le Hen Barrettes
“I’m completely low maintenance when it comes to hair. I have no patience for a blow-dryer or a hair iron. Because of this, I’ve mastered a French twist that I wear almost every day. My mother used to wear one in the nineties; it’s very Catherine Deneuve. I feel like it’s an easy hairstyle that never goes out of style. Recently I discovered these Sylvain Le Hen metal hair barrettes. They are a beautiful sculptural addition to any updo. It’s like wearing a Richard Serra in your bun.”
Available at

The Power-Woman Perfume: YSL Opium
“On a special occasion, I’m a big fan of Opium by YSL. It’s a really intense, seventies power-woman scent; you feel like Charlotte Rampling when you wear it.”
Available at

The Party Trick: Folk Smoke
“I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore, but if I ever have a craving at a party, I like to roll cigarettes from Folk Smoke. My best friend turned me onto it; it’s basically smoking ground-up flowers instead of tobacco. It smells delicious and somehow kills the craving for the cigarette. I love the idea of smoking flowers at a party.”
Available at Kiosk, 95 Spring Street,

Photo: Jason Frank Rothenburg

Beauty Insider