When I walk in the front door to Mia’s second floor apartment, I wonder if she’s just raided a florist. There are flowers waining in the kitchen sink, in artsy cabbage bushels on the window sills, laid out in a very specific color scheme on the book shelves, cut to little stems in porcelain vases on the bedside tables, there are even flowers behind the shower curtain and, in accordance with true Mia style, on her head. “My Iove for flowers is as big as my love for life,” she smiles. “But everything I love, I love big. No time for kinda sorta, I’m an all or nothing type of girl.” And as I’ve witnessed firsthand she never leaves for a party without calling her “guy” to perform his 10-minute braid-and-flowers pinned up-do. “He braids my hair and then just pins in whatever flowers I bring him,” she informs me in her boisterous chuckle. “Sometimes throughout the day I’ll add some more, or take some out. There’s no rules to it, and I don’t think anyone could mess it up.”
I also wonder what kind of lumbago-inducing luggage she brought back from her recent trip to Morocco because the living room looks like a Tangier souk. Berber rugs, embroidered, hand-made slippers, caftans-turned-home-decor, suspended bamboo rocking chairs and all kinds of other tribal knick-knacks are methodically strewn across the floors and walls of the darkened apartment. “You know where I find so many little treasures?” she asks with a mysterious wink. “Airport shops! Texas has the best airport stores in the US. The ones in Tangier, Jaipur and Istanbul were all amazing as well. I travel so much, and I am relentless! I just came home from Tangier with my girlfriends and we had seven suitcases (we started with one between us).”
Mia’s home is downtown bohemian to say the least but it seems practical. Her jewelry is stored in transparent stackable boxes, organized by category; her handbags and coats all hang from high hooks in the corridor, which was, along with the cream and brown painted stripes on her living room walls, wise, space-saving advice from her decorator-friend Mary McDonald in Los Angeles; her many, many vintage clothes are stored in closets, and displayed on racks, ready for a wizard styling session at a moment’s notice. I can’t but pity Mia’s boyfriend though. Where is all his stuff going to end up when he moves in? For more than a year now, since they bought a place together in London, Mia has been splitting up her time between both continents. But the distance and Mia’s undying love for New York have finally pushed the decision for him to move in. And it’s happening soon.
I suddenly notice the ethnic influence seeping into my ears as well. Mia’s been playing vinyl records all morning but I hadn’t paid attention until this throaty voice came on. “What are we listening to, Mia?” I ask. “Miriam Makeba, also known as Mama Africa!” she yells from the bedroom. “You’ve probably heard her track “Pata Pata” but this record is the live recording from her show in Paris at Théatre Des Champs-Elysées. The whole record tells such a story; it’s the essence of the perfect DJ set.” And she should know, because 29-year old, Oakland native Mia Moretti has been DJ-ing for more than ten years. “It actually took a few years before I was comfortable enough to call myself a DJ,” she recalls. “I started collecting records when I was living in Los Angeles (where she attended UCLA), and I had a lot of collector friends and DJ heros I looked up to (DJAM, Z-Trip, Cut Chemist, Vice, Steve Aoki). I was actually in a music video for Cut Chemist, who some might know from Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, and we became good friends. He generously offered to take me along to all his secret record spots, parking lots, storage units, warehouses, etc. That was really the beginning of my obsession.”
Now Mia is one of New York’s most requested fashion DJs, a judge on VH1’s Master of the Mix and producing her own record of instrumental pieces with violinist Margot, who she also performs with. And just like her innate, eclectic dressing, DJ-ing is a form of expression for Mia. She lovingly describes it as “time travel” and “creating an experience” and “half talent, half tastes and half instincts.” She says “it’s not cut and dry like cooking where if you have the right recipe you can do it, you need more than that, you need three halves to make a whole.” And even though that’s not a mathematical possibility, I get it. There are no rules to her musings either.
While we make our way through Stuyvesant Town, the home of the rent-stablized elderly couple and the infamous black squirrel (aka “sqruats”) we talk about fashion. She walks to the beat of her own drum. “I grew up in Northern California to the two most loving, accepting, openminded, “new age” parents a kid could wish for. They always encouraged me to just be me! My dad had a Dr. Seuss quote hanging in his office that said “Be who you is, not who you ain’t because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.” Which again, makes a lot of sense when you walk, talk and dine Mia. For her “clothes are a transformation, they allow you to be anything or one you want. I feel so awful when I’m in jeans and a t-shirt. I feel like we’re gonna look back at photos of people in t-shirts and not know anything about those people! I want to express myself. I want people to know a little about me, at the least I want people to smile, or laugh, or wonder when they see me in a rainbow caftan.” When she twirls for my camera a couple of flowers fall out of her hair, but she doesn’t pick them up. She examines the damage and says: “I think it’s time for a new color anyways…”
Please join Mia and her friends Liza, Margot and Cleo on Friday, November 22nd, at No.8 for their artful benefit, 25 People, 1 Goal. They will be selling artwork to raise money with http://3villages1goal.org for the Philippines.