Berkeley Welcomes Molly M Designs to the East Bay

Plus, Olivia Style Co. launches new styling services, and Lesley Evers expands into a larger boutique space.


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Photos courtesy designers

Molly M Designs includes paper cut artworks.

Molly M Designs has moved to The Tannery Lofts on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Known for her beautifully geometric creations, Molly McGrath made a name for herself designing jewelry, homewares, and leather accessories. She’s caught the eye of trendsetters like West Elm (which carrries her leather laser-cut coasters) and the SF Museum of Modern Art (which carried her earrings), and she creates corporate gifts for big names like Starbucks. An architect by trade, McGrath began making jewelry for herself in graduate school, using the same laser cutter she was using to make architectural models.

“I got comments on my jewelry everywhere I went. Everywhere. In 2006, I thought maybe I could do a side hustle. I entered a craft fair where I made $400,” she said.

After earning her chops at increasingly ambitious trade shows, she left architecture in 2007 and took out a loan to buy a laser cutter, eventually establishing a studio in San Francisco. Her brand has thrived as she’s balanced seasonal collections, wholesale production, and pursuing new artistic approaches within her laser-cutting medium. Her designs can be found online and stocked in stores and galleries across 31 states and four countries.

McGrath’s new line is based on portals and windows. “I’m entering a new phase in my life and the concept of portals was an interesting underpinning. I was influenced by decorative motifs, especially windows in Morocco,” she said.

She explained that her new paper-cut artworks (perfect for framing) are much more layered and representational than previous work — which is more abstract and geometric. This season’s color choices are also striking with splashes of neon popping against her signature neutrals.

Her current line of leather pouches, wallets, and jewelry have a scalloped edge, a new feature visually, and a notable accomplishment on the laser cutter. McGrath sources her supple leathers from The Hide House in Napa, and her line features a fabulous range of colors, including a palette of dreamy metallics.

“My current favorite piece is the Neon Viaducts papercut. It transports me and my eyes and my mind to different worlds and places. It makes me wonder,” said McGrath.

She creates using Autocad, a software program for drafting 2D and 3D designs used by architects and engineers. “I am very precise due to my training. It’s important my designs are symmetrical and make sense mathematically. I spend a lot of time thinking about proportions,” she said.

Her color combinations, however, are revealed through a more analog and intuitive process of trial and error. Full-time employee Liza Allinger (a purse designer at Liza-Rose.com) encourages her to also use software to experiment with her color combinations, but McGrath prefers doing it manually. “It takes a lot of time, but I like to try out each of my paper-cut color combinations by hand. The color has a life of its own that I need to see in real life.” All her designs are made in-studio.

McGrath and her family moved to Berkeley in 2017 and her twins started preschool here this year. “With my new studio space, my final tie to SF is cut. I’m excited to be part of the East Bay community. I’ve been feeling torn and isolated to be living two lives.” Shop her retail in the studio at 1332 Fourth St., Unit L, or online at MollyMDesigns.com.

Style to Order

Local stylist Olivia Sessanna recently launched Olivia Style Co. as a way to offer personal styling services to a broader range of clients. The 20-year fashion industry pro has worked from LA to NYC, with a focus on men’s wholesale apparel but is now settling in to focus on what she does best — helping people feel confident.

“Fashion has always been my career and has also always been my love. It’s what I want to do with my time. It’s nice to be out of the industry sales side and just help people. I feel good when I feel confident in my clothes, and I want to help clients feel that way, too. The right wardrobe can be the boost that helps someone get that promotion or meet that life partner,” she said.

Sessanna offers custom styling packages that cater to the client’s needs (such as a closet audit, style consultation, and personal shopping) or à la carte hourly services that could be anything from corporate gift shopping to special event (weddings, etc.) dressing.

While working in wholesale apparel, Sessanna represented Ben Sherman, Dickies Jr., Drifter, and more. But the demanding industry and the travel required when selling a season started taking from the balance she wanted in her family life. Since shifting to personal styling, Sessanna has partnered with J.Hilburn as a custom menswear stylist and is now broadening to work with women and to provide closet edits, personal shopping, and more. “The services I’m launching are work I’ve always done,” said Sessanna. “Someone has an occasion and you help them figure out what to wear, the accessories to choose, the right hairstyle. I just love to do it.” Learn more and connect via OliviaStyleCo.com.

Expansion for Lesley Evers

Local clothing boutique Lesley Evers has moved to 5709 College Ave., three blocks up from the original spot on the corner of College and Forest. Evers is known for the whimsical prints she designs herself and the simple, flattering silhouettes of her clothes. Happily, all her designs are manufactured in Oakland. About the move, owner Lesley Evers explained she needed more space. “Our new shop has more dressing rooms and a stock room. We wanted to stay in the neighborhood, so we were lucky to move just down the street.”

For fall fashions, Evers shared that her favorite piece at the moment is the Millicent dress in denim. “I was just on a cruise in Croatia and wore it all the time,” she said.

The styles at Lesley Evers are machine washable and many can go in the dryer. “We have a lot of great pieces for travel, work, and for just around town,” Evers said.

Stop in, say hi, and scope out what’s new. 5709 College Ave., 510-595-7600, LesleyEvers.com.

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