For Denise Porcaro (aka Flower Girl) denim and florals go hand in hand. Not necessarily when it comes to what she wears, but in her work and in life – from the fact that her floral design studio was once headquartered in the Earnest Sewn store on the Lower East Side (now closed, but stay tuned for the brand’s relaunch this fall!), to the pretty ruffled, dark-denim work aprons she sells in her newer Eldridge Street shop, to the black Rag & Bones that keep this native New Yorker looking polished – but that can take a take a bit of a beating from the gorgeous roses and ranunculi she and her team arrange for some of New York’s chicest weddings and events.
We got to see Denise in those Rag & Bone jeans – and in her element – when we paid her a visit. We talked bagels from Russ & Daughters (her boyfriend is fourth generation co-owner, with his cousin, of the New York landmark), how she got into the flower biz (she was working in restaurants and started creating florals for them) and her mom’s cool old cut-offs. Read on for more about those, and if you see her wearing them this summer around the Lower East Side, you’ll know just where they came from.
You’re wearing Rag & Bone jeans today. Would you say they are your absolute favorites?
It’s a hard one. I hate to play favorites, especially with jeans. But I am a jeans and t-shirts kind of girl more than anything else. It’s the easiest thing for me to gravitate towards. I’ve had different favorites throughout the years. I feel like we all got into these expensive jeans like ten years ago. We used to be in Earnest Sewn, so I wore those religiously for a while.
Were they your first designer jeans?
No, I think Paper, Denim [& Cloth] was my first designer jean purchase. I feel like nobody really cared about jeans until they came out. Levi’s were sufficient for so long. Or Gap, or Wrangler. Or, I just had my mom’s old cutoffs from the 70s, which I still love.
Oh, fun! We’ll have to get back to those in a moment. But tell us what you love about the Rag & Bones.
Rag & Bone just fits me really, really well. When somebody says “favorite” to me, I think “go-to.” They’re the jean I always grab when I want to feel good. They’re almost like a legging. They don’t have pockets in the front, but they have them in the back. I always put my phone there, or clippers. They have to be user-friendly. I know there’s that whole raw denim thing, but I happen to like a little stretch in my jeans. It’s comfortable. These are exceptionally soft. I like a skinny or a straighter leg, and these have that without being so drastic. They fit well, they’re not too high and not too low. I feel like I can have a woman’s body and not be hanging out all over the place.
How long have you had them?
Four to six months, I think. Before these, I had a pair I wore through. It was time for them to be retired. They had a waxy finish to them, they were a little shiny, but that wore off when I washed them. I liked that. I’m a no-frills kind of person.
I like a monochromatic look. That hasn’t always been the case. I’m a blue-jeans girl at heart. But I think in the last three years maybe I’ve wound up with black as my go-to. I don’t know if it dresses it up a little bit. I’m a New Yorker. Black is my uniform. My mom, her whole wardrobe is black and khaki. I do like color sometimes, too, though, and I think if you want to wear a print or a plaid you can always wear it with black. I think it’s pretty eye-catching. Most of the time, a worn-in, thin t-shirt is what I gravitate towards. My lifestyle is everything in one. Flowers can be dirty, but then I’m expected to show up at meetings and things like that. Does that justify an $80 t-shirt, or would it be better for me buy four $20 t-shirts? [laughs]. That’s my dilemma.
Click on an image to see the slideshow
Where do these jeans go with you?
It depends on the day. I might go to a meeting with a bride and her mom here, or maybe they go to a wedding where it’s all-hands-on-deck. I love to go to the flower market. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I went into the flower business. On these dreary, bleak days in New York it’s still so beautiful at the market, and there’s reggae playing. You just walk around and there are all these wonderful smell and colors.
Okay, before we forget, let’s get back you your mom’s shorts…
Right. Both my parents were hippies, but not the same kind. My dad made his way to Woodstock, whereas my mom couldn’t go because she would have gotten in so much trouble. My mom had all of this clothing that she’s alluded to – that she wishes she’d held onto for me. But there are some things she held onto, though, like a pair of Wrangler jean shorts that I couldn’t wait to fit into. When I was younger they were like swimming on me. They’re still a little big, but they finally make sense. They have that high waist that I think is something people would spend a decent amount of cash for at a vintage store now. I have this other pair of her jeans that I wore through – they were already in a worn-in state when I inherited them. My mom still lives in the same building that she grew up in, and that I grew up in in Queens. There’s a basement full of you-name-it there, I found both shorts there early on. The Wrangler ones are a medium-to-light blue. And then the other ones I can’t really wear anymore because they’re almost obscene. I don’t even know who makes them. They’re light blue, with white, bleached out speckles all over them. They’re super soft, and they’re ripped. My mom put all these awesome patches on them over the years. One’s holding the butt together. I don’t know if I’ll be able to wear them this summer, unless I come up with something to wear under them, or put my own patches on them. It’s definitely one of those “if my jeans could talk” moments.
It sounds like your mom had great style.
She was a beach bum. And she traveled a ton with her friends in Europe…Greece, Italy, Spain. She has this awesome picture of herself in a little turban, an aqua triangle bikini top, and denim shorts, and I wonder if they’re one of the pairs I have now. In the picture she’s with six people standing in front of a Volkswagen bus. She and her friends would come down here [to the Lower East Side] and go to poetry clubs. She was a New York City school teacher, so she was able to do all this in the summer. She was a part-time hippie [laughs].
So do you keep your old jeans, too?
I’m kind of in a re-vamping-my-jeans stage in my life. I used to not care so much about my jeans. Then jeans became a designer thing, and I wound up with lots of different pairs. Fashion dictated which jeans were cool, and I just wasn’t into that. I’m a creature of habit and all about less-is-more in a lot of cases. If I have three pairs of jeans I love, and then a pair of no-name acid-wash jeans, that I bought at a cheapie store on Broadway last year, that work for me. I was like, I don’t even care that these are cheap, they’re fun and it’s for a moment. I wore them maybe once, and then the fad was gone. And it’s totally okay! I think when you move around in your 20s and with NYC apartments it’s hard…I guess I could have stored a bunch of stuff in Queens, but it gets to be too much. Will my [future] daughter be annoyed one day that I don’t still have my whatever-brand jeans? Maybe. I probably have ten pairs, but I think I’d rather have three that I wear all the time.
Denise shared with Jean Stories an e-mail exchange (see below) with her mom, Linda Fiorenza (previous owner of the aforementioned cut-offs!) that took place after we posted our story. We love it when we get to learn even more about a treasured denim piece!
Denise: This is your post as much as it is mine… xo
Linda: Wow… This is really nice! Your pictures are beautiful, and those cut-offs belong in the Smithsonian at this point!!! I wore them in 1969/70!! They were originally hip-hugger bell-bottoms before I made them into cut-offs and patched them. (Your grandfather was sitting on the stoop and I was wearing them and he gave me one of the patches to add on!!) It’s amazing that one little article of clothing can hold such great memories… Thanks for making that possible for me today… With love, Mom.