My Love Affair with New York

Tibi Navy Satin Poplin Ruffle Dress

ParisaNYC Hooked Lady Bag (c/o) // Tibi Satin Poplin Ruffle Dress // Steve Madden Pumps
SparklyFix Cleopatra Earrings (c/o)
// EarthWood Sunglasses Del Carmen (c/o) 

Eight years ago, I packed a huge suitcase full of Russian books and just five pairs of shoes, gave my clothes away to friends from college, kissed my parents goodbye, and moved to New York City. As soon as my high-heeled feet stepped on American land, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to become a New Yorker.

My love affair with this city has never been easy. Being an immigrant is nothing like you see in cheesy chick flicks: it’s not like you can buy a one-way ticket and wake up famous the next day. No, living abroad involves a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, and loneliness; everything and everyone is so different. You feel homesick, your friends are getting tired of talking to you on Skype when it’s always glitching, your parents are crying and saying that if they’d known you were leaving forever they would never have let you go…

Even though I cried a lot my first year for breaking my connections with the past, I was incredibly inspired by exploring a new, exciting city. Having grown up in Soviet Russia, I felt like a child on her first visit to an amusement park when I went exploring the streets of New York. To-go coffee cups? Awesome! We didn’t have those in Russia. Unlimited fruits and veggies all winter long? I’ll take that any day as a better alternative to Russia’s cabbage and potatoes options. Makeup and skincare products at any pharmacy? Man, it’s my new favorite store!

Over the first year of living in New York I probably walked as many miles as a typical New Yorker does in a lifetime. I’d put my ballet flats on (of course, I always had a backup pair of heels with me!) and walk from street to street looking at signs, studying people, and spending hours at movie theaters and art exhibitions. I learned that the best bagels are made in Brooklyn thanks to its unique water quality. I calculated that you have about eight seconds to go through the turnstile in the subway (or even less if you don’t want other passengers to scream at you). I found that certain streets in Manhattan are named after certain ethnic groups—so you can always go to Chinatown for veggie dumplings, K-Town for bibimbap, Little Italy for pasta, and Brighton Beach for pierogi.

ParisaNYC Hooked Handbag Midnight Blue 3

Perhaps the only thing that really slowed me down on my city exploration path was the language barrier! Even though I’d been studying British English from the seventh grade back in Russia, the American accent and the tempo of speaking totally knocked me out when I first got here. I didn’t understand half of what people said and felt angry that no one was trying to speak more slowly to help me learn. I also often got frustrated by how harsh locals could be. I was thinking, “Hey, aren’t they suppose to smile and be nice to everyone, like these guys on TV?” Nope, girl, it’s New York style.

I always tell the story of how I tried to buy a cup of tea at a grocery store when I first arrived here. Standing in line, I felt like I’d totally mastered a perfect British accent through hours of listening to audiobooks, and when my turn came I asked in the most polite way possible, “Sir, could I have a cup of tea, please?” In return, the man working behind the counter screamed at me, “Sugar? No sugar? Cream?” I felt lost and didn’t understand what he wanted from me and why people behind were hurrying me up. I also felt heartbroken that someone had managed to scream at me first thing in the morning, not to mention the absence in his speech of any “pleases” and “thank yous” that my English teacher couldn’t have emphasized enough. I went for a coffee at lunchtime and the same thing happened again. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with these bad-mannered Americans?” And after all this, they think Russians are rude?

People say that once you’ve lived in New York it will always be in your heart… It’s true! I love reconnecting with nature and travel, but my “home” is definitely here, in a city that might feel too fast, too hectic, too crowded…generally “too much”! Somehow I was able to see beauty behind all the craziness, controversies, and individuality of the Big Hectic Apple and I would probably never be able to live anywhere else.

Looking back at my own self circa 2008, with my long hair and bangs, my thick Russian accent, and my desire to express my creativity, I can’t see that anything has drastically changed since then. Yes, the interior is different, but on the inside I feel exactly the same–maybe because I am just meant to be here?

ParisaNYC Hooked Handbag Midnight Blue 2

* * * * *

This mini love letter to New York was inspired not only by my upcoming eight-year anniversary of living in this city, but also by a wonderful woman I recently met. Her name is Parisa Pan Wang and she is the creator of ParisaNYC, a handbag brand that was created to inspire women to be independent and fight for their dreams. Being an immigrant herself, Parisa is one of those rare girl bosses who managed to find the strength during the most heartbreaking moments and transform it into something encouraging for women from across the globe.

Parisa has a very interesting story that inspired her to create her The Love Affair handbag line. She went through a heartbreaking love affair that would have destroyed her emotionally if it hadn’t been for the support of close friends who were there for her. Even though she was disappointed in love, Parisa decided to put her energy into creating something positive and helping other women get through the tough times in their lives. Knowing that many girls express themselves through fashion, she designed a collection of handbags with each piece being dedicated to a certain stage of your love affair.

The bag that you see in these pictures is called “Hooked” and it conveys the feeling you have when you first meet someone and fall for him or her at first sight. You feel excited, intrigued, somewhat scared and definitely hooked. I love the design idea behind this bag! Since the Hooked Lady Bag features two handles, you have more options for styling it: wear it on your wrist or shoulder. The bag comes in a perfect size so you can wear it during the day and at night. It’s made out of smooth, silky leather in your choice of three shades: black, midnight blue, and beige.

The ParisaNYC collection has four more handmade handbags, all available on Similar to my Hooked Lady Bag, each purse symbolizes one of the stages of falling in love and is designed to motivate women to do what they were born to accomplish–whether it comes to career, personal goals, or passions. I highly encourage you to check out the ParisaNYC website  where you can learn more about Parisa and her story, see behind-the-scenes photos of creating a collection, and watch inspirational videos. Go social and check out brand’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Sparkly Fix Cleopatra Earrings 3Sparkly Fix Cleopatra Earrings 2ParisaNYC Hooked Handbag Midnight Blue 5Earth Wood Sunglasses Malibu ParisaNYC Hooked Handbag Midnight Blue 8Earth Wood Sunglasses Malibu 4ParisaNYC Hooked Handbag Midnight BlueNavy Satin Poplin Ruffle DressSparkly Fix Cleopatra EarringsEarth Wood Sunglasses MalibuNavy Satin Poplin Ruffle Dress 3

ParisaNYC Hooked Lady Bag (c/o) // Tibi Satin Poplin Ruffle Dress // Steve Madden Pumps
SparklyFix Cleopatra Earrings (c/o)
// EarthWood Sunglasses Del Carmen (c/o) 
Photos by Mani Andreone

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by ParisaNYC, but all opinions are my own.

  • New York seems like such a magical place, love reading about experiences there. Great post and photos!

    Anika |

  • Beautiful story! I immigrated here a little bit earlier in my life, so my experience of things are a little bit different, but I really wish I could have seen this city with more “adult” eyes. I find that people who come here a little bit later in their life really enjoy the city in a different way.

    I think they way you describe the differences between Soviet Russia and the US are spot on though. In some ways, I think “I wish life were a little simpler” but the notion of only cabbages and potatoes (and pickled everything!) in the winter is not something I actually want to live with again, LOL.

    Style Tomes ||ST on IG

  • This is such a beautiful post Katya and you are such an inspiration to move to a new city and start a whole new life. Personally, I absolutely love NY and haven’t discounted living there myself one day. The little experiences you have shared are touching and show how far you have come. I really enjoyed reading this.

  • I love this story and description and am so thankful that you decided to share it! I have a similar story (not from Russia) and mine is more complicated because I was actually born here but moved to live in a third world country until I was 7, when I moved back again. I always love hearing people’s stories of their love affair with NY because all the stories are so varied and different and you really get a change to see into their lives, instead of it just being another person passing you on the street. Really loved reading this and how you transitioned it into Parisa’s story.

    COFFEESLAG Bringing Back The ’90s

  • NY is one of my favorite cities!

    You looks gorgeous, loving the ruffles!


    Tamara –

  • I loved reading about your experience moving to NYC. It is for sure one of my favorite cities. You look stunning in these photos! Love the dress!

    xx, Elise

  • Maria Jose Abad

    This is a wonderful and encouraging story lady, I’m an immigrant myself, have been living in the U.S. for 11 years now, sometimes it feels like yesterday and sometimes it feels like a lifetime. I’m glad to read you overcame the challenges you faced when you first arrived. Politeness is always a good trait so even if some people don’t give it to you, stay strong, others appreciate it so much! The story behind the bag designer is very encouraging as well, give it to women to take an adversity and turn it into a business plus the bags are simple and I can see myself wearing them with many outfits. Cheers to the wonderful NYC Style Collective.

  • Love reading your experience moving to the Big Apple. I recently visited New York for the first time and I enjoyed my time there! Great photos as well!

  • Naelle Oip

    I really loved this article. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to move from Russia to NYC all on your own, but I moved from Germany to France all on my own at age 16. I thought that countries that are so close would be so similar…but nope. You can be very proud of yourself.

    I just discovered your blog and really, really love your style! Happy to follow you from now on!

    Greetings from Paris!

  • Anna Hubbard

    I loved reading about your move to NYC, I bet those 8 years went by really fast! And I also love all the color you incorporated in this look!
    -Anna |

  • Ahh tell me about it. Dying to get back to NY asap! xx, Erin –

  • Carolin

    I’ve never been to NY before but I guess it is equally exciting as it is in London. All the people, the different cultures, the possibilities, the amazing sights….it’s on my list! Love your dress, especially the ruffled detail at the neckline is gorgeous.

    Caz | Style Lingua

  • What a beautiful story of your love affair with New York! You look like you belong there so I’m glad you fought for it and made it your home! It is a crazy, beautiful, wonderful place, isn’t it? And you are absolutely stunning inside and out! I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  • I love hearing about your time coming to the states! My father also immigrated (from El Salvador) to California. I always think that moving from your homeland is the bravest thing. He used to watch children’s shows to learn English. Thank you so much for sharing. 😀 xx

  • Your details are everything!!!


  • Pingback: 10 Reasons to Love New York | Style Sprinter()

  • This is such a beautiful post. I’m an immigrant to the US too, and I find NYC the most fascinating place in this country. Sadly it’s not where I live, although California isn’t half bad either, but whenever I have a chance to visit I very much enjoy the of energy and creativity that flow in this city. The feeling that everything is possible.
    And there’s the style: in Southern California everyone is so casual, I have adopted the shorts, flip flops and hoodie uniform as well. A trip to NYC reminds me that you can also dress up just for the sake of it, lol!