Last weekend, I launched a campaign to celebrate and share Pittsburgh’s fantastic sense of style.  As part of that, I’ll be talking to local fashionistas in a bid to learn more about my new home and it’s sense of style.

My first interview is with Meryl Franzos, I came across her blog before I moved to Pittsburgh, and have followed it ever since.  I love her sense of style, she’s an extremely considerate clothes shopper who wears pieces that she loves and that make her feel great, regardless of what’s in fashion.  She’s the epitome of style!  I love that when I asked her about shopping she replied: “Whenever I want to buy something, I ask myself, “will I
love this six months from now? Six years?” If the answer’s no, I put it
back on the rack…I’m into long term relationships with my clothes”

We met at a cute little Italian restaurant in Southside – Dish Osteria – for happy hour, and hit it off right away bonding over our experiences as an outsider in Pittsburgh, and a love of Led Zeppelin!

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself.

Sure! My name is Meryl Franzos. I love road trips, writing fiction, sharing food and drink with friends, and having impromptu Instagram contests with my husband, Pittsburgh photographer and cinematographer, Joshua Franzos.

How long have you been in Pittsburgh and what do you think makes it a great city to live in?

Pittsburgh is now my surrogate hometown, but it wasn’t always. I came here 12 years ago and it took quite a while for Pittsburgh and me to have the healthy relationship we have now. It’s a small town in a big city and Pittsburgher’s are friendly without needing to be your friend…that was hard for me when I first came here. It is a very insular community that is hard to break into, but once you do break into it, you’ll have friends for life. I think the general mentality is, it’s a university town and there’s a lot of people constantly coming and going, so they don’t want to invest in a relationship with you if you’re going to break their dear hearts and leave in three years. I get it, but still…I try to welcome outsiders as much as I can, because I know how hard it is! Anyway, I’m here and I love it for many reasons.  

 I love the history, the beautiful museums and libraries, the burgeoning
food scene, and of course, the cost of living here is just incredible! I
also love living here because of the people. This city is chock full of
characters…a great thing when you’re a writer.

Where are your go to places when you’re shopping for clothes? Do you tend to shop in malls or are there a selection of local boutiques that you head to again and again?

This may sound a little blasphemous for a fashion blogger, but I actually detest shopping for clothes. I have a hard time finding the kind of things I want to wear, and when it comes to trying things on, I REALLY have to be intrigued and motivated by something to get to that point. So I tend to go long periods of time without shopping, but when I find a collection I love, I go a little nuts. For example, in 2014 I stumbled upon an All Saints store in Miami, I think I bought 5-6 pieces there.

A few weeks ago, I pre-shopped H&M online and saw a dress I was intrigued enough to consider trying on, so I went to the South Side Works store in person and totally forgot about the dress when I saw the Divided Gray collection for the first time…It was love at first sight. I think I purchased just about every piece in that collection (including the drop hem sweater dress you posted on your blog:)! But the only store I get really excited about is Century 21 in Manhattan…I always find some amazing designer pieces when I shop there, which regrettably, is not very often.

What do you think about Pittsburgh’s style and how would you describe it?

If I were to give Pittsburgh a grade based on people watching alone, it would sound an awful lot like my junior high report cards, “Has a lot of potential—doesn’t apply oneself.” Generally speaking, Pittsburgh’s style is very casual. It’s not too unlike a California beach town in that regard. Pittsburghers and Californians are comfortable in their own skin, they don’t need to impress you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate style and fashion, or that they don’t clean up nice. Because they do. I’ve been fortunate enough to live on both east and west coasts. There’s pros and cons to both and also the middle coast. People watching in New York City and Beverly Hills is incredible, but there’s a competitiveness about it that seems futile and stupid. Pittsburgh is comfortable and unpretentious.

 All the places I’ve lived or visited have made an indelible impact on my
own personal style, but the Pittsburgh attitude has made the largest.
Thanks to Pittsburgh’s laissez-faire attitude on style, I’m more
comfortable in my own skin than ever and I’m free to experiment with
style in my own space.

Did I also mention that Pittsburgh is a fiercely proud city, and will not tolerate any sort of anti-Pittsburgh talk? If you trash talk their city, they will cut you!

Describe your own personal style and why it works for you.

I was afraid that you’d ask me about that! My personal style is a work-in-progress, something that is constantly evolving. When I was in my early twenties and living in Manhattan, I was way more impressionable and trendy. But let’s face it, clothing, accessories and keeping up with fickle fashion trends is expensive. I had several closets full of not very versatile options and I eventually got tired of the feeding the fashion machine for very little return. Whenever I wanted to buy something, I started asking myself, “will I love this six months from now? Six years?” If the answer was no, I put it back on the rack…I’m into long term relationships with my clothes now, so these days my personal style seems to vacillate between, ladylike, drunk literature professor, and a post-apocalyptic warrior/jedi. It’s hard for me to commit to anything except writing.

 What or who inspires your style?

My one true and unfailing style icon is still, Peta Wilson on the 90’s TV show, La Femme Nikita. She loved sunglasses, she dressed for the role of whatever secret agent mission she was embarking on and she was tough as nails. But truthfully, I’m inspired by everything, music, art, films, architecture, furniture, ceramics, but especially interesting characters. Writing for my blog gives me more and more insight on my varied and sometimes curious style inspirations.

What’s your most treasured item in your closet?

Good question. I don’t know. I’m tempted to say my Nike air presto running shoes because they’re so comfortable and incredibly rare. I have no idea when or if Nike will re-issue them. They’re the thing I take the most care of because I need them to last.

Tell me a little about your blog and what inspired you to start it.

My blog is a creative collaboration between my photographer husband and I. We have a lot of fun working together. I started the blog to honor my late mother-in-law, a very stylish Pittsburgh woman, who was often photographed by her own husband, my late father-in-law, who also was a Pittsburgh photographer. I was also curious about fashion blogging, which I primarily viewed as a young woman’s (18-25) domain and wanted to see what I could offer and get away with as a thirty + woman. I was also deeply and newly infatuated with writing my novel, a work-in-progress that I couldn’t share with anyone in its rough state and found the blog posts quick and gratifying to publish. I can’t stress how gratifying it is to write something, proof it several times and then send it off into the world to be read. Blogging gives me the instant gratification audience and subsequent feedback that I’m lacking on the larger writing project right now. I also enjoy the self and style explorations I arrive at through the writing of it. I feel like I’m THIS close to figuring out my personal style!