Posts in Lifestyle
A Guide to Crown Heights, Brooklyn ft. Alex Harvilla

Alex is a marketing strategist living in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, in a space filled with storied histories of punk, new wave, and Brooklyn's local flavor. Responsible for guiding the direction of iconic beauty brands in consumer media, Alex shared the various ways his perspective is shaped by powerful artists of decades past and the vintage character that makes its way into the corners of this historic neighborhood. His notes below tell a few stories of things that matter most in his life and what makes Crown Heights his home. 🔮🙏 


King Nothing

My favorite piece of art titled ‘King Nothing.’ I love the high-energy colors and morbid subject matter. One of my best friends, Laura Haas, painted it. I love that when people are creeped out by it, they say “that’s interesting” OR “It’s not MY taste, but I’m glad you like it.” Side note: WTF is that supposed to mean? #Seriously. All in all, if you have a piece of art that creeps as many people out as it impresses – it’s safe to say you’ve found a good piece. 


Photo table

I’m a big fan of 80s new wave, dark wave, and synth music - so I made a table. I know each person/artist included and they’ve impacted my taste in one way or another. Why all of the 80s things? I love the experimentation and depth of sound, the contrast of depressing lyrics with a happy tune, and all the pretty people. 


Red balloon

No that’s not New Jersey, It’s a piece of a red balloon. For my 31st birthday, I had the chance to see Nena preform 99 Luftballoons with one of my best friends, and they dropped 99 red balloons on us (yes, they let us know it was exactly 99). It was the first time they had performed in the US in 30 years! New Order made me crazy about New Wave, but Nena made me crazy about the 80s. I still get pissed when I request this song and receive the English version. 



From the jerk seitan and alcoholic slushies to the always summer attire, this place is has become a life-staple for me. I bring every out of towner here to help paint the illusion of having my life together. I hate snow, and I love coming here during the first snowstorm and drinking away the ickiness (no shade snow lovers). I also like that the staff never judges me for coming in hungover AF after a dance-centric Saturday night.  


Bearded Lady

For risk of sounding like that hipster everyone hates, I live out my mid-century modern dreams here. I’m a sucker for excellent lighting and strong drinks. This used to be my first date spot (because the lighting is so good) but then I started running into ex-dates, and that’s an awkward story for another time. 


Antique shops

It’s awesome to live in a neighborhood that can support multiple vintage/antique shops. You can always find that one piece that you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. 




BKW has some of the best local wines I’ve ever had and the dips of my dreams. It’s on the corner of my street so safe to say I always find an excuse to dive in there. The intimate setting and family-like staff make knowing everyone super easy. It’s one of those places that makes you feel like you’re that popular character in a movie. 


A guide to scent & memory // Brennan Michael

In the beginning, Composure just a slowly drifting swirl of thoughts in my head, pieces of an impossibly long story that I started trying to put into words and into scarves. One of the chapters of that story was about a particular kind of art, the kind of art that works in the medium of business; I was struck by the idea that business is a medium for some kinds of artists, just like paint is a medium for some and words are for others. It helped that people like Andy Warhol were known for saying things like "making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art."

The second volume of the Composure newsletter featured these kinds of artists, and Brennan was one of the first people I found to help bring the series to life. Brennan is a candlemaker based in Toronto, bringing artistry to the work of making candles into beautiful things that shape our environments. In his newsletter feature he shared smart notes on the importance of creating welcoming spaces and on the balance that comes with navigating humbling uncertainty. When we found time to meet in NYC we knew we had a rare opportunity to share more. 

On a later winter morning that was brisk but streaked with sun, Brennan introducing me to a world of oils steamed and distilled from naturally occurring flora, fauna, and otherwise. For Brennan, these things can create entire palettes of scents, built on a balance of varied axises that remind me of a kinetic mobile hanging delicately in the air.  In this world of balance, scales of richness and depth pull against others representing a range of textures, counterbalanced by degrees of sweet and dry.       

We spend the most time talking excitedly about a shared obsession: the idea that we all collect our own unique experiences of the world, and that maybe our one job on this earth is just to share those experiences through beautiful things that others want to be a part of. For Brennan, those experiences become memories, and scents makes for a beautiful medium through which to share these meaningful moments. He went on to tell me about a particular kind of musk that's a part of all his fragrances, one he remembers from a Canadian childhood near the woods. Sitting in a Swedish coffee shop, the cardamom buns inspire reminiscence of a recent trip to Stockholm; we talk about where we're going next and maybe what we'll find out about ourselves once we're there. 

A Guide to Closing the Gap

On evenings like this one you get to appreciate the wait; for a short handful of songs this young musician found a small but captivated audience on the distant side of an otherwise impossible gap. 

A Guide to Creative Tensions

Sometimes when talking to people about how I'm building Composure I get a chance to explain it in terms of "tensions" that I think are important. I think of Composure as a kind of mirror of my own life, and like many others I find myself trying to balance "work" energy that I put into mundane, routine things (like one-off freelance marketing gigs) and "creative" energy that I put into exploring worlds that are new to me (fashion design, photography, and all the other pieces of a growing Composure world). 

These two things are always at odds with one another in a way that I usually just describe as one of a few kinds of "tensions" that move Composure forward. When catching up with my friend Océane we were talking about how these tensions pull at each other over the span of weeks and months; we shared our own experiences of feeling low creative energy during times when other pressures are high, and trying to balance that with a drive to make the most of creative energy in times when it's there.

I think my experience is that there's always this somewhat frustrating drive to spend the kind of energy that is least available; Oceane and I talked about how months sometimes go by when we feel like we're not doing enough to build on our creative pursuits even if there's the time to do so, a feeling I think a lot of people relate to. But through the conversation we realized that some of our most cherished creative breakthroughs came at the end of those months, as if the time away allowed for fresh eyes—even if that time felt frustrating in the moment. 

We put together this photoshoot as a way to capture those conflicting tensions; moments of openness, and expression alongside others of patience and introspection. Consider it a guide to developing an appreciation for the tensions that come with pursuing creative work, helping us to find and stay the creative path.  


Model / styling: Océane Hooks-Camilleri