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Brooklyn Designer Brightens Winter Wardrobes at Nostrand Ave. Pop-Up Shop

By Sonja Sharp | December 17, 2013 1:38pm
 Inspired by bright global garb, Crown Heights designer Debbie Hardy hopes to bring a pop of color to Brooklyn residents' drab winter uniforms.
Martine's Dream Pop-Up Shop Comes to Nostrand Avenue
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CROWN HEIGHTS — It's cold and gray outside, but inside Debbie Hardy's just-opened Nostrand Avenue store, color rules. 

The Crown Heights stylist-turned-designer recently launched Martine's Dream, a pop-up shop selling her signature bright accessories and clothing. The store at 681 Nostrand Ave., between Prospect and Park places, will be open through Dec. 24, and then it will return full-time in April.

"A lot of people don’t do a lot of bright colors in the winter, and I thought, ‘Why not?'" Hardy said.

"I’m drawn to color wherever it is and I’ve always been curious about the world. I find that the places I always wanted to go to, it was always a lot of color there."

For her holiday shop, Hardy focused on deep red, emerald green and sunshine yellow woven "blanket shawls," which define cold weather wear in India and Nepal. Hardy designed the shawls ($65 to $85) and then had them made in India.

Shopper Lillian Jean-Baptiste of Fort Greene, stopped by Martine's Dream on Sunday to pick up a gift for a coworker and returned Monday evening to scoop up one of the voluminous scarves for herself.

"This has been calling me since I left the store," Jean-Baptiste said of the fiery red and orange wrap. "I'm happy for her [that she opened the store] — my bank account is a different situation."

Jean-Baptiste said she first fell in love with Hardy's eye-catching designs at Brooklyn's annual International African Arts Festival, where she bought several of the sun-loving fashionista's cotton print dresses.

Hardy said it was those early pieces — sourced from and inspired by India, Africa, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal — that launched her career as a designer in 2008.   

"I was traveling through India and fell in love with the printed cotton. As a child in Jamaica I always wore cotton, so I decided to design a line of dresses," Hardy said. "I did the Brooklyn Flea, which I still do, and that’s where I got more customers and got more confident about what I was doing." 

At the pop-up, Hardy is offering dresses, jewelry and handmade purses, along with the shawls. The shawls were initially slower to catch on than some of her other items, but Hardy said they are now selling quickly. 

"I started them a few years ago, and it was a slow burn — for some people, they said it’s too big. [But] the next year more people came for it," Hardy said. "I wanted to see if I could make it the new outerwear in New York."