To celebrate our 10 year anniversary, we’re celebrating the tastemakers, collaborators and like-minded business women who have championed & cherished the Lizzie Fortunato brand for over a decade. Friends for 10 is a series of short interviews that introduces you to these very women. They are our supporters and muses. Just like you, they are the people who’ve shaped our brand and made Lizzie Fortunato, well … Lizzie Fortunato. #LF10
What do you get when you put two sets of entrepreneurial, creative twins who are complete strangers in a beautiful Brooklyn bar and retail space? In our case, we got a friendship, deep mutual respect, and collaborative relationship with Myriam and Marva Babel — twin sisters, Brooklynites, and fellow movers-and-shakers. It was a hot, late summer day in 2015 when we were wandering around Prospect Heights (with another Friend for 10, florist Taylor Patterson) and did a double take outside of a beautiful little space on Dean Street. Beyond a glass wall with gorgeous gold lettering, two women were setting up what would later open as Ode to Babel: a bar, marketplace and gathering space with which the sisters’ are seeking to preserve the Afrocentric, bohemian ‘salons’ of the central Brooklyn they grew up in. Being our nosy selves, we poked our way inside and introduced ourselves to the twin sisters behind the absolutely gorgeous lifestyle bar. Our connection was instant and we fell quickly in love with their kind energy and beautiful space. Talking a mile a minute, we made plans to co-host a “Creative Women’s Dinner” with Myriam and Marva at Ode to Babel that welcomed Miami-based restauranteur Anastasia Koutsioukis (of famed restaurant Mandolin) and a mix of amazing NY-based female foodies, makers and entrepreneurs in the bar just a few short months later. Myriam and Marva share our excitement for bringing together old friends and new, with an emphasis on reviving the black meet-up spaces of the ’80s and ’90s. Like us, they’ve combined their strengths (the bar’s meticulous interiors are thanks to Marva’s career in interior design, while Myriam brings the business acumen) and built an incredible space for the community, while working with each other. We have a major appreciation for these two; not just because they are small-business-owner-twins (like us!) but because they’ve contributed so much to the neighborhood in which they reside. In our increasingly chaotic world, we feel lucky to know ladies who have made their neighborhood watering hole an essential stop for all of us to slow down and hang out. Thank you for being beautiful Friends for 10!
Q & A:
1. What is your first (or favorite!) memory of Lizzie / Kathryn / the brand?:
M & M: Our first memory of the twins is on the second week we opened our doors at Ode to Babel and were scared to death that no one would know we existed (it’s on a quiet street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn). Initially, the space was a multi-use concept space w/ a bar; we sold product by independent and local makers. Lizzie and Kathryn walked in and were so kind and supportive! We began talking and we told them our vision – and we were able to add them as stockists! They also hosted one of their amazing “Creative Girls Dinners” at Ode to Babel, one of our first events, and it was wonderful. We met other female entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and industries.
2. Are you a Lizzie (creative) or a Kathryn (business)?:
M & M: Marva (Creative) and Myriam (Business).
3. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary (crazy, right?). What’s your favorite (personal) milestone that you’ve experienced in that last 10 years?:
M & M: Becoming moms! It is definitely a life/game changer. Our whole perspective on what we were doing shifted and became more deliberate. It eventually was the driving force that pushed us into entrepreneurship. The urge to really do things on our terms, and set an example for our children.
4. What is your favorite Lizzie Fortunato piece from the Fall’18 collection?:
M & M: The Parker Earring in Burgundy. I (Marva) love the low-key drama of them! Dramatic and assertive, yet soft (like me). I (Myriam) love the Safari Clutch in Amore! Right now the cultural/political climate is so stressful, so the heart and “love” message is more of what I want to see and feel…literally.
5. What is your favorite Fortune Find for your home?:
M & M: My (Marva) favorite piece is the Lily Candlestick; I love all things brass, and its form is simple & elegant. I can also use it has a bracelet holder! I love bracelets and tend to pile them wherever I can. Myriam loves the hand-woven Morrocan pillows because of how the interwoven hardware adds more texture to the pillow. It’s very vibrant and dramatic and can easily elevate a simple sofa or chair.
6. What is your favorite way to style statement jewelry?:
M & M: It depends on the piece. For bracelets, we both tend to pile it on. Our mom used to wear bracelets almost to her elbows, which evokes memories of hearing her bracelets clanking together when she cooked, or when she was approaching. It’s definitely a style we’ve inherited from her. For earrings, we let the statement piece do all the work (nothing else added). We love anything that has great detail and thought, so we tend to let earrings take center stage.
7. What is your favorite accessory (this could be a belt / a watch / a pet / whatever!); Why?:
M & M: (Marva) right now it is hair turbans. I’ve been lazy with my hair lately, and it’s the best way to feel like I’m doing something different each day and it’s SO easy. Myriam’s favorite accessory right now is a hand-knit scarf that she found at a flea market and decided to dip dye while crafting with her kids. She loved the outcome and has been wearing it for most of the fall.
8. What is the oldest accessory in your closet?:
M & M: A heavily logo’d designer bag that was my first big purchase in the 90s! I never got rid of it (or wore it after 1998) but may pull it out since I guess the look is doable again. Myriam has a leather jacket that looks like a classic denim jacket from the 90s as well. It’s “worn” in well and has a classic tough look that we both still share!
9. I’M A ____ AND I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT ____:
M & M: We are the owners of The Babel Group (Ode to Babel bar/lounge in Prospect Heights – and hospitality design group). We are passionate about creating spaces that encourage the meeting of like minds, in a warm setting built with love and authenticity.
10. Small but impactful advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?:
M & M: Get a trusted and solid accountant who will clearly tell you everything you need to know about your finances, and how to manage your books.
Worlds Collide: Lizzie Fortunato + Ode To Babel
11: What gets you out of bed in the AM?:
M & M: Knowing the possibility for growth is limitless. Not being intimidated by any challenges or obstacles, but accepting them as being part of stretching to new heights, and to overcoming them. When you wake up, you’re alive.
12. My first job was _____:
M & M: (Marva) As a cashier at Wendy’s fast food in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. (Myriam) A cashier at Western Beef Supermarket in East New York, Brooklyn.
13. What is the most played song on your phone (or iPod)?:
M & M: (Myriam) Nina Simone’s entire catalog. (Marva) Nights Over Egypt by The Jones Sisters. We love old school funk and soul!
14. What are you doing tomorrow?:
M & M: Finalizing our new fall/winter cocktail & food program.
15. Beach or Mountains?:
M & M: Beach (both).
16. Favorite place you’ve ever traveled?:
M & M: Kyoto, Japan (both).
17. Would you rather win an Olympic Medal or an Academy Award?:
M & M: Academy Award (both).
18. Up Early or Up Late?
M & M: (Marva) Up early; (Myriam) Up late.
19. If I were a NY neighborhood I would be:
M & M: (Marva) Bed-Stuy; Myriam (Clinton Hill).
What Myriam and Marva are Loving:
Shop their favorites and more: