The Beauty of Balloons

Jihan Zencirli in her downtown Los Angeles studio

Jihan Zencirli in her downtown Los Angeles studio

"If CHANEL would want me, then my grandma will take me!" exclaims Jihan Zencirli, the ultimate balloon trooper and founder of Geronimo! Balloons.

After starting her career as a balloon girl in Los Angeles in May 2011, Zencirli found herself filling a tall order: creating balloons for CHANEL to send out as invitations to their Paris fall runway show in September of the same year.

“I hadn't even conceived my balloons being that high fashion or high end," she says, "and for them to kind of trust that we could create something that was beautiful, that was to their level of excellence and luxury made me rethink how I projected my business image and how I really felt about where my business could go.” And in true balloon fashion, there was no place for it to go—but up.

In 2010, Zencirli was a Seattle resident with a passion for her job working as the creative director of a children's educational product company. She had grown up inspired by her grandmother's values, a creative woman who "really had a strong desire to do kind things for people by making things since she came from a generation where you don't buy stuff for people, you make them stuff." She says, "I would go over to her house and I would be delivering all of these kind things to people." So when one of her friends was celebrating a birthday at a local Seattle restaurant, Zencirli continued her grandmother's tradition, and made something.

After blowing up the 3-foot balloon she bought online, Zencirli recalls "it just kind of looked funny walking around with its orb by itself; it needed something." She created a ribbon-made tassel with paper, an unplanned addition formed in the craft room in her home from a desire to make the balloon more presentable.

"I walked in [to the restaurant] and everyone just stopped and they were staring at me, and they were probably wondering if I wanted to sell something or if I was in with the circus." The stares were followed by a slow-clap introduction from a man in the corner of the restaurant, who commented that it was the biggest balloon he had ever seen, and culminated with patrons stopping by every few minutes for the remainder of the night to ask questions about the balloon.

A few days later, a woman hailed Zencirli and pulled her car over. The driver recognized Zencirli from the previous weekend and took the opportunity to ask for a job request. She was having a 60th birthday party for her husband, and wanted to surprise him with a really beautiful event. Offering $1,000 and a leap of faith, the woman instructed Zencirli on where to deliver the balloons. And just like that, a business concept was created.

geronimo-balloon-frill

Since being referred to by friends over five years ago as Jihanimo, the word Geronimo held a certain sentiment for Zencirli, and seemed like the perfect fit when it came time to deciding what to call her business. According to Zencirli, "Geronimo is yelled as paratroopers fall from the sky. They yell Geronimo and it's just kind of an old tradition. I don't know if paratroopers still yell Geronimo, but I thought that there was kind of a nice little parallel between Geronimo as flying into the sky and then falling from the sky, so it's been a good name for me."

Geronimo! Balloons really catapulted to business success at the heels of a formidable blogger, Joy Deangdeelert Cho. Writer of the blog Oh Joy! and author of two books, Creative, Inc. and Blog, Inc., Cho is highly respected in the blogging community. With a mutual friend in common, Cho and Zencirli connected with the idea that Geronimo! Balloons would offer photos for a birthday post on Cho's blog.

geronimo-balloon

“I think in her case I knew it was going to be a big deal," says Cho. "I profile people and things that I like and after awhile I get to know what my readers will like…but with her, because what she does is so different, just such great editorial type of images, I knew that people would love it. I did have a sense that it could be the beginning of a great business for her."

And she was right. Zencirli attributes her ability to jumpstart a business in balloons to Cho by saying, "I woke up the next day with hundreds of orders from people who had seen her post on her website and the influence she had on the Intemet just allowed me to really begin and go from there."

The evolution of Geronimo! Balloons may not drift much farther from a differently shaped balloon or a brighter pop of color, as Zencirli points out, "what we do is very simple: it's just balloons. But there's a whole world that lives with that, so when people invite us to do something that's really fun and magical, we love that."

And nothing is more clearly representative of how magical a balloon can be than the packaging details involved with a Geronimo! Balloon delivery. Domestically sourced products are of the utmost importance, along with using post-consumer waste paper and working with distributors local to the Los Angeles area.

An ever-evolving process, Geronimo! Balloons makes changes when appropriate to use only the highest quality balloons and paper, and ensures that each of the balloons are fresh, not stale. This, I am told, is necessary because a balloon stretches out, similarly to a rubber band. The standard for a Geronimo! Balloons balloon is a 36-inch balloon; that is the equivalent to three dozen small balloons! And the final touches are simply unprecedented.

geronimo-frill-hanging

“I always add a little extra and I want people to feel really delighted when they open up the boxes; kind of a little magical world awaits for them to assemble and to share with others,” says Zencirli, who has added mini matching straws to celebrate an engagement and even a mini balloon to celebrate a baby gender reveal.

When asked what the purpose is, what her customers get out of ordering a custom-created balloon package from Geronimo! Balloons, Jihan Zencirli points out the simplicity of her product. "I want them just to be amazed," she says.

“I want them to be inspired to see their day a little bit more beautifully and for them to kind of have a little bit of magic that's added to it." And with that, the image of a paratrooper falling from the sky as he yells Geronimo is met with the grace of a balloon that brings beauty with nostalgia as it ascends towards the clouds.

 Geronimo!

Originally written in April 2013 for educational purposes

 

A Love Letter to the City That Never Sleeps

I don't think there is a better way to announce today's news than by showing this amazing video by Randy Scott Slavin. Slavin is a director and photographer based in New York City, and is well-known for his recent work with AT&T + Tribeca Film Festival for an advertisement that asked celebrities their favorite movies set in New York. 

As a native of Los Angeles, I love to return home after traveling and appreciate what my city has to offer. For me, it's like falling in love with a new place each and every time. The art scene and creative community here is unparalleled in my mind, and as an emerging writer, I'm glad to form friendships within that community. However, lately it's been a bit difficult. I just don't have the spark. Occasionally I go to a party--or an opening, or a new restaurant--and I fall back in love; but I'm not challenged on a day-to-day basis. Granted, this could be due more to my complacency than a lack of offerings, but I still feel like a change is needed. 

I've been yearning to explore new places, and while I first looked into moving abroad, I am happy to announce I'll be moving to New York soon. I'm an LA girl through and through, so I will be back often. However, I think I need this to be energized, to be inspired. I want to be woken up, and what better place for that than the city that never sleeps?  

Clothes, Champagne & Caviar: The Concept Show

Emily Daccarett show

Emily Daccarett show

Saturday night was a whirlwind of international splendor. First, I started the night off at the Concept Los Angeles Fashion Shows at Mack Sennet Studios. I was slated to see two shows, but was lucky enough to see three collections. 

Sumie Tachibana presentation

Sumie Tachibana presentation

The first show was Emily Daccarett; her collection caused jaws to drop. There were panels of sheer fabric and lots of velvets and plaid in the green and blue varieties. There was also bits of lace and lots of appliqués. Beyond beautiful clothes, her show offered a fashion production. There was a film prior to the runway display, and a finale with scantily-clad men to accompany a white gown that didn't necessarily fit with the rest of the collection aesthetically, but still worked well.  

At the Concept Los Angeles After-Party

At the Concept Los Angeles After-Party

And just as a bonus, Emily Daccarett is a member of the Daccarett family's Golden Valley Farm, so guests went home with miniature bottles of wine and delicious cheese along with a copy of the latest JIMON magazine; unconventional, yet much appreciated.

Between my first and second scheduled shows I had some down time, so I walked over to Stage 2 of the Mack Sennet Studios for the Sumie Tachibana presentation. Only moments later, Kat Von D walked in and seemed to really love the collection. And there was no surprise why; it was full of great fabrics, cuts and structure, a true representation of Tachibana's artistic talent. 

Özgür Masur, a Turkish designer from Istanbul with an affinity for vivid colors and embellishments, was the last show I attended for the evening. Just like Daccarett's collection, there was lots of paneling, some sheer draping and beautiful fabrics. Every dress (slideshow) embodied a sophisticated, yet sexy woman. 

Side note: I spent a weekend in Istanbul a few years ago, and I have always been captivated with the Turkish culture. Istanbul is one of the most beautiful places to visit, and there is such a warmth and beauty to their people and culture. This said, the Masur show was supported by the Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Turkey, and Turkish Airlines, amongst a number of other Turkish brands, and was a part of the directive of Istanbul DESIGNERS, who hope to bring more Turkish designers to Los Angeles Fashion Week.  

After the shows, I was taken to Mari Vanna on Melrose Place for the official Concept Los Angeles after-party, "Fashion With a Touch of Caviar." The Russian restaurant was as much of a place you would want to bring your great-grandmother as your chicest friend, a testament to the very Russian feel of both comfort and glamour. Guests were kept happy and full with a free flow of complimentary caviar and champagne, and wine for when the champagne ran out. Flavored vodka shots were unique for the night, representing a gastronomic explosion of tastes. The glamorous evening continued with more luxury as DJ to CHANEL and Porsche's official events, DJ Eva, flew in to Los Angeles to perform exclusively for Concept Los Angeles. 

If this is what you call a traditional Russian party, count me in for the next one. 

Michael Costello Steals the Show at Style Fashion Week Los Angeles

“Chirp, chirp, chirp.” The sound repeated amid small moments of a lackluster interlude from the back of the building; is this what a group of fireflies sounds like in the summer? The attendees would never find out, because this was not a Southern porch, it was Style Fashion Week in Los Angeles, and the only platform available was not wooden, but a long white runway.

Those chirping sounds represented the many members of the media snapping photographs on tripod stands at the end of the runway, waiting for the beautiful models to strut to the end of the catwalk and strike a pose. In unison, sounds of the camera shutters would release, and when there was a lull in the loud, pulsing music, guests could feel their eagerness to get the perfect shot.

Monday, March 10, marked the second night of fashion shows from Style Fashion Week and the third night of events following the organizer’s opening reception Saturday evening. Held at the L.A. Live Event Deck, the roundup of shows slated for the night reflected some of Los Angeles’ best fashion offerings from Project Runway’s Michael Costello—with Michael Costello and MT Costello (from Michael and Stephanie Costello) collections— to R. Michelle and Walter Mendez, with celebrities in attendance known for wearing the designers’ duds on the red carpet. 

It could have easily been mistaken for a reality show reunion, with front row guests including Joanna Krupa from the Real Housewives of Miami, Gretchen Rossi from the Real Housewives of Orange County, Sundy Carter, Laura Govan and Jackie Christie from Basketball Wives Los Angeles, Bridget Marquardt from The Girls Next Door, and Tamar Braxton from Braxton Family Values. However, this was merely a representation of some of Costello and Mendez’s celebrity clientele.

Beyond the front row, five rows and three sections of chairs on both sides of the white runway gave access to Los Angeles stylists, writers and fashion enthusiasts. As for the dresses themselves, the crowd “oohed” and “ahhed” as Costello’s collection swayed on the runway. One guest, L. Rios, held a sentiment that the production could have been better, but was not disappointed nonetheless. “Michael is great,” she said. “But it was nothing I hadn’t seen before; which isn’t a bad thing, but just the same silhouettes in different colors and fabrics.” Those colors were vibrant reds, blacks and creams, while the fabrics included lace, velvet, and satin.

One guest of the evening was overheard saying, “to be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed.” With the white tent reminiscent of New York Fashion Week’s Bryant Park beginnings, this particular attendee was expecting to be wowed with glitz and glamour. Although the show had its defining moments, there were a few organization mishaps that had guests scouring to find seats and wondering what the hold up was. The scheduled 8pm show did not begin until after 9pm, but that did not pose a problem for those eager to see the fashion forward collections.

 

"Glamazon, It's Fashion Week"

Korinna Kaplanis modeling Michael Costello

Korinna Kaplanis modeling Michael Costello

12.03.2014 

12.03.2014 

10.03.2014

10.03.2014

Twice a year, the fashion and celebrity crowds join together for a round up of events around town. No, it is not awards season anymore; it is fashion week. Fashion week in Los Angeles has become somewhat oxymoronic over the years, however. Once backed by Mercedes Benz, thereby making it deemed "actually an official fashion week," fashion shows in Los Angeles were hit with a dismal blow during the past few years when MB pulled their sponsorship. And yet, each season a number of designers showcase their collections all over the sprawling city.

Michael and Stephanie Costello during the MT Costello finale   

Michael and Stephanie Costello during the MT Costello finale

 

So what does this mean exactly? Fashion in Los Angeles is anything but nonexistent. Instead, Tinseltown has done things a bit differently, hoping to bring the crowds out in larger numbers like it has in the past; and no one organization is better at this than Style Fashion Week. 

Headlining Style Fashion Week at L.A. Live on Monday evening was Michael Costello, of Project Runway and Beyonce's 2014 Grammy Awards dress fame. His dresses command the attention of everyone lucky enough to be in the same room as the women wearing them. Personally, I wasn't disappointed in the least, and can't wait to think up a reason why I need to make an appointment for a fitting. 

A few days later, I went back to L.A. Live for my final round up of shows I would be attending at Style Fashion Week. In particular, Civil Society offered a completely different type of show, which was a nice contrast to the couture fashion of Monday night.