Illustrator Happy Menocal
Celebrates the Holidays
All Year Round

Friends & Family

Dec 9th, 2016

Text by Keaton McGinty
Photography by Jessica Antola

We would be hard pressed to find someone who more wholly embraces the holiday spirit than longtime Brooklyn resident and artist, Happy Menocal. To put it in her words, “I start listening to Christmas music in the summer. I make a playlist in July with Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift for You – whatever that great album is.” And what better place to spend it than in Brooklyn, where the mix between the born-and-raised and the newbie transplants makes our traditions and festivities inimitable. “I’ve noticed, on those side streets in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, these beautiful Catholic shrines in people’s yards that get really lit up for Christmas. I love seeing those and also visiting all the Italian cookie shops during the holidays.”

For many years, Happy’s studio was run from her home in Park Slope, negotiating space between client meetings and her daughter’s playtime, until ultimately growing into a studio big enough to support the ever expanding business. After looking at a few industrial spaces in Gowanus, she finally settled upon a charming store-front in Cobble Hill. “The process by which we got the space feels very Cobble Hill. Our landlord was super particular about the tenets; he wanted someone with character. So when we applied, I put aside everything and basically seduced him with watercolor renderings of what the space would look like. I wanted to show him how much we cared about making it beautiful and being part of this little world. We have a very sweet relationship now, so I feel like we kind of earned our spot and I love being able to go there every morning.”

Whether it’s her super custom designs for numerous big-name retail clients or the never-ending supply of fairytale wedding stationery, Happy’s clever and whimsical aesthetic is unparalleled. And this finely tuned palette also pertains to her personal style; “So much of my fashion life is hypothetical or imaginary. I always think to myself, ‘Oh, as soon as I get that kimono off eBay I’m going to be the type of woman who wears orange lipstick and talks on the phone.’ Truthfully, I love women who know what they can pull off and what works.” This creative spirit is readily embraced, especially around the holidays when finding a perfect gift can feel like a daunting task. Below, Happy shares a few of her holiday picks for the season.


・“My mom is always cold so I think she would honestly live in this Lauren Manoogian Capote coat. It would be the perfect gift for her.”
・“I might get this APC Trevor shirt for my husband. He is so difficult and fussy about clothes so I love being able to find him something in a beautiful pattern. I love APC for men – it’s so straightforward and well done.”
・“SAIPUA soaps make great gifts for just about everyone!”
・“Happy Menocal drawings, of course!”


・“Funny enough, last night I was looking at this Ulla Johnson Antonia pleated Japanese satin dress for my wishlist when my friend, who lives in Portland texted me a dressing room photo of her wearing the dress! She is always trekking around nature, wearing big sweaters, but she somehow found this dress... I just love it.”
・“I am a huge admirer of Sophie Buhai and the Tiny Egg Pendant is great. It feels sort of Elsa Peretti.”
・“A potted meyer lemon tree. I already have some citrus in our studio; we have a cumquat tree and a calamondin orange tree that have really thrived. I don’t have much of a green thumb but I'm currently reading this book all about citrus and think it’s so interesting. Lemons seem really happy and our office is kind of hot and sunny so they will be great there.”


・“I'm pregnant at the moment so I'm into low-booze drinks like Campari and soda. It’s kind of a summery drink, but it’s my favorite. I love the beautiful vibrant color, sort of a bright crimson, with a little orange rind and kind of a bitter strangeness to it. They’re a little zingy but not super boozy, which is good for a pregnant lady because you just need a little bit.”


・“I’ve been wanting to see the Picabia exhibit at MoMA which I would follow with lunch at Soba Nippon. I also see the Nutcracker every few years. Last year, we saw it at BAM and one of our friend’s daughters sang in it. They had a local school’s kid’s choir perform, which was really sweet.”


・“We’ve been spending a lot of time in upstate New York recently and I'm hoping to do some clomping around in the snow with our two-year-old daughter this year.


・“For parties, this year I'm planning on wearing thigh-high sheer black stockings with simple black suede Mansur Gavriel pumps and whatever velvet or cashmere sack I can fit over my middle. I’ll definitely do big hair to give me some heft up there, with these big rhinestone earrings shaped like bows from the 80's that my mom gave me.


・“I’m very excited for the event Bird and I doing this Sunday at their Williamsburg store. I’ll be there with a big beautiful bowl of colored pencils and stacks of paper. Anyone can come in and say, for instance, ‘draw a picture of my boyfriend and his dog flying over the moon’, and I’ll do it super quickly for them. It can be whatever your little heart desires and all the money we raise will go to the Wildlife Conservation Society. I think it will be fun to break a sweat.
The other component of this collaboration are these little paintings from my archive, that are all ranging in complexity, which will be made available for purchase at Bird. I think these will make great stocking stuffers. We’re sort of obsessed with packaging, so of course it will come in a beautiful Happy Menocal box.”


・“My daughter recently bequeathed to me some very special nursery school germs.”


・“Not to sound too vague and pageant winner, but I wish for some lightness in the country and world – less violence, poverty, destruction.”