Thursday, May 5, 2011
She wakes up at 3am and immediately jumps out of bed. She sketches a design and selects the fabric, color, textures and feel. Bam. A scarf is born.
This is Cindy Muscarello, a woman so passionate about accessories that they occupy her head when she’s asleep.
But it wasn’t always like this. A year and a half ago, Muscarello was working for an insurance company. She could feel something was missing.
“I wasn’t happy,” she says. “I had to tap into my creative side.” She took a leave from work, toyed with a cupcake business, then had a vision of a headband made from scraps of other clothes. Soon she schemed a scarf made from the scraps of two silk shirts. After a friend paid her for $50 for it, she resigned from her job and started scouring her closets, piles of hand-me-downs from friends and every secondhand store in the area. Soon she designed a label and Lala Originals – scarves, fingerless gloves, headbands and shrugs made from recycled clothing – launched.
Muscarello likes taking what’s old and making it new.
“Sure, I’m just as guilty as everyone with stuff like clothes and accessories,” she says. “I want to do [my designs] using what’s already available.”
But taking on this project wasn’t just for fun. “It was a huge risk,” she says nodding her head. “I left a lucrative career and I knew it.”
She exhales deeply, widening her big brown eyes. “It just feels right,” she says.
Her scarves are worn by everyone from teens to KSBW anchor Erin Clark, who snapped up an onyx/olive ruched scarf she donned on air last December.
“It was surreal to see it on her,” Muscarello says. “My passion was becoming a reality.”
The name Lala comes from a song on the goofy kids TV show Teletubbies, and it fits, because those colorful creatures are a little whimsical and out there, just like Muscarello. It’s hard to say which has more personality, her or her goods.
“I’ve always referred to myself as ‘we,’” she says. “I’m the Queen of Weird.”
She compares her creative energy to “a Christmas morning feeling.”
“I’m in my zone with that [gift] as I am with my designs – I don’t care if my brother is pulling at my hair, I’m focused on what’s in there, and when it’s out, it’s like ‘Yes,’” she says as she lifts her hands into the air. She says she wishes she could bottle that feeling and sprinkle it everywhere.
Her character surfaces in her collection of wacky flat, ruched or ruffled scarves. She pairs bold cotton patterns – from stripes to swirls – with contrasting fabrics like corduroy, silk, linen, cashmere or velvet. Additional frills – buttons, rhinestones, sparkles, zippers, tassels and feathers – add texture, uniqueness and a touch of quirky charm.
Punchy pieces have punchy names. The “Periwinkle Posies” scarf pairs cotton periwinkle flowers and light blue silk. The “Tequila Sunrise” scarf is made from yellow rayon with orange undertones and metallic buttons. “Rock and Roll” is the bottom half of a black cotton sweater reconstituted into a cowl neck drape with zippers and red stitching.
“Ohmygosh,” Muscarello says, pointing at “Black Swan” cotton burgundy fingerless gloves dripping with feathers. “This once was a sweater sleeve and now look at it.”
After completing such an accessory, Muscarello performs a personalized cabbage patch dance. Her arms swirl in front of her. “Woo hoo!” she says.
Her production assistant, Natalie Basco, a third-generation dressmaker, joins in on the dance.
“We are in sync,” Basco says. “We’ve realized we have so many similarities.”
She texts Muscarello pictures of soon-to-be completed designs. If any changes need to be made, they’re quick and easy.
Muscarello designs Lala Originals scarves to be multifunctional – around the neck one moment and around the hips the next, like a sarong.
Customization is also a calling card: A client wanted to give his mother a touch of glamor in her assisted living facility, so Muscarello took her old gray fur coat and re-purposed it into a plush scarf. She’s been wearing it ever since.
The most creative section of the Queen of Weird’s kingdom has to be her office-garage. Among a treadmill, bike, brooms and boxes, oodles of fabric sit atop a steel table in color-coded stacks: bubblegum pinks, forest greens, blood reds and lemon yellows.
She looks around and then pauses.
“I just know I was being led in this direction,” she says. “There’s no telling where I’ll end up.”
For more on Lala Originals, visit www.lalaoriginals.com or call 809-8876.