Moran Etstein’s Astoria apartment might be one of the sweetest places in our neighborhood. That’s because it’s filled with the “chocolate fashionistas” and other intricate chocolate creations she designs and makes for her business, Drizzle Inc.
The chocolate fashionistas — 7- to 9-inch-tall edible fashion designs on chocolate mannequin molds — are her pride and joy. Most of the outfits are her original designs; she is particularly interested in Victorian and Steampunk-influenced designs, as well as ‘60s pin-up looks. Others, though, are made to look like real-life clothing. She makes miniature chocolate versions of brides’ real wedding dresses, and she even made mini recreations of four “Project Runway: Junior” contestants’ designs.
“Some people say, ‘You’re not in the right industry; you need to be a fashion designer,’” Etstein said. “No: so many people are fashion designers. I want to design chocolate fashion. It combines two of my biggest passions: fashion and chocolate.”
Besides, she said, she’s not always drawn to the fashion you see on television; what she’s passionate about are patterns, details, prints and accessories. That’s why the Israeli-born artist loves designing Victorian and Steampunk looks — the richness of details and fabrics.
“For me, it’s all about the details. I really, really love details,” she said. “I try to give my interpretation of all of the beautiful details in fashion, like ruffles and prints and feathers and beads, in my chocolate fashionista, so you can see they’re very, very stylish and colorful.”
She uses white, milk and dark chocolate, and if she wants to add color, she dyes white chocolate.
“It’s beyond fashion: it’s details, it’s fabric, it’s prints, and I try to convert everything to my little fashionistas,” she said. “It’s fun. And it’s something that I’m always challenged by.”
Her journey with chocolate began four years ago when she began making confections like chocolate bars and truffles.
“I really love aesthetic food that’s also yummy,” said Etstein, who came to New York from Israel nine years ago and has been an Astoria resident for more than six years. “I discovered the world of chocolate art and fell in love with it.”
She bought mannequin molds, “and then the ideas just kept coming,” she said. “When I was exposed to modeling chocolate and the mannequin, it was very simple for me to combine it into [the chocolate fashionistas].” She created her first four or five fashionistas at a chocolate party in her home and put them on display. From there, the fashionistas have become more and more intricate.
When coming up with a new fashionista, Etstein doesn’t have a design in mind; she makes the first layer of molding chocolate, and “then ideas keep coming,” she said. Making a new chocolate fashionista design takes about three to four hours. When she’s copying an old design, each fashionista takes about an hour or hour and a half.
Etstein gives every fashionista design a name that matches what they look like. For example, fashionistas with Victorian designs will have Victorian names.
She also makes life-size busts decorated with modeling chocolate; it takes Etstein two days to make a bridal bust.
Etstein has taken some classes at the Culinary Institute of Education, where she was able to gain some tools, but she is mostly self-taught.
And while it’s not easy running a small business full time; it’s worth it, Etstein said.
“Fall in love with the process, and all the rest will come,” she said. “I’m so in love with what I’m doing.”
To get the word out about her products, Etstein participates in chocolate shows, bridal expos, fashion events (she sometimes make chocolate versions of designers’ work), and more. Last year, at The Big Chocolate Show in NYC — New York’s largest chocolate expo, according to the event’s website — Drizzle took home second place for its chocolate fashionistas in the expo’s Innovative/New/Noteworthy category. Etstein said that about 40 to 50 chocolatiers were competing at this show.
“Oh, wow — I was finally getting exposure and recognition for my chocolate art,” Etstein said of taking home the silver award. “It was unbelievable. I enjoyed every moment, and it gave me this crazy drive. I challenged myself; I wanted to do more crazy stuff with chocolate.”
In addition to making her own creations, Etstein helps others exercise their creativity by leading group workshops during which participants decorate chocolate masks, chocolate shoes and more. The workshops are great for kids as well as adults — sometimes, a group of women will drink wine and decorate chocolate for a bachelorette party, or Etstein will be invited to teach a workshop at a baby shower. Etstein brings her workshop to people’s parties and has taught about 30 to 40 workshops so far. She’s hoping that someday soon, she’ll find a space in western Queens to hold her workshops for the local community.
“In other chocolate workshops in New York City, you make chocolate; in mine, you decorate with chocolate, play with chocolate, bring all your imagination and creativity to the event,” she said.
You can find Etstein at The Big Chocolate Show this weekend, with events from Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8.
But while her fashionistas gain recognition all over the city and beyond, Etstein’s home base of Astoria is the best place for her to develop her art:
“I’m in love with Astoria,” Etstein said. “I love, love, love everything about this neighborhood. We have a great community here, great friends. A lot of the community here is very supportive. There are artistic people, intelligent people, a young vibe, and it’s fun. A lot of people here have come to visit me at the events I participate in, and it’s amazing to be among people who are very supportive of art.”