March 31, 2011

Off We Go...

Hannah Whitaker
I am all packed and headed to Hong Kong and the outlying islands this afternoon. I'm leaving one fast paced city and off to another city with frenetic energy. Ni Hao Hong Kong! 

The next two weeks promise to be full of fashion and style inspiration. I will be working on my Glamorous Little Side Project, meeting up with colleagues  in the industry and sourcing fabric and design inspiration. I can't wait to explore the markets, art galleries and all that Hong Kong has to offer. Hopefully, there will be some much needed relaxation (something my Type A personality struggles with) thrown in too.

Last night all of my  accessories were methodically laid out like the above picture. When it comes to selecting items for travel it's all about versatility and pairings. The above picture is apropos because I managed to pack a few pairs of flats for all of the walking I'm going to do. 

I can't wait to share all that I find on this blog. A two and a half week vacation means I'll have more time to blog. Hopefully when I return to New York it will be springtime. I'm thankful to be leaving before tonight's snowstorm hits. 

March 28, 2011

Carry On

The Coveteur for

The Carry on and luggage in general is one of those often overlooked items. There's an old quote that says it's bad luck to travel with dirty luggage because it sets the wrong tone for a trip. There was a time when people travelled elegantly... I always try to keep this in mind and not stray to far from my pulled together look when traveling. 

All I can think about is boarding my 2:55 PM flight on Thursday. Interestingly, I find myself far less concerned with packing my clothing (I'm sure that will change by Thursday) and far more preoccupied with packing my carry on. I have a fifteen hour flight ahead of me and need to pack my carry on with my go to beauty products to keep me comfortable, a diverse array of reading material, layers to keep me warm, my laptop, electronic gadgets  and most importantly my passport and documentation. 

The Céline luggage bag pictured above is the perfect travel tote. I could never pull off such a bright yellow, but a more subdued black or the two toned black and tan in the next size would be the perfect addition to my travel luggage. Yesterday at Bergdorfs, I deliberated about this bag once again. Honestly, the bag feels a little heavy with nothing in it. For now I'm relying on my go to tote. 

I enjoy hearing what others consider their travel essentials. Vogue's "Editors Fashion Week Survival Guide" provides excellent travel tricks for staying chic on the go. If you have time, I would highly recommend reading this article. When traveling I rely on layers (I'm always cold), scarves and a capsule wardrobe of my favorite versatile items. I can agonize and edit my clothing picks for hours, but inevitably I always end up making the right choices. So for now, I would prefer to concentrate on packing my essentials in my carry on. Truth be told, I'm truly looking forward to nestling myself in a cozy wrap and utilizing all of  that uninterrupted reading time. 

What are your carry on essentials?

PS- I still appreciate a handwritten diary with notes. I'm in love with that darling orange Smythson diary. A place to jot down my thoughts is integral when traveling. 

March 23, 2011

On Fragrance

Courtesy of Luxxxe

Fragrance is another one of those intensely personal things. Perfume is the last thing I put on before leaving the house. To me, leaving my home without a light spritz of fragrance is akin to leaving the house without earrings- I simply don't feel dressed without either one.

I love the idea of a fragrance that friends and family associate with me or a signature scent. A part of me has always longed for a signature scent. Having to many choices can be overwhelming! For years I searched for a scent that was quintessentially me. When it comes to wardrobe building, I am confident in my ability to immediately discern what works for me, however selecting a fragrance takes precision and time. 

To be honest, I divert to my mother to scout out fragrances for me. There are few people who I turn to for advice on style. My mother is at the top of that short list and when it comes to fragrances she has exquisite taste. I discovered several delightful Chanel fragrances through my mom. 

I'm not easy to please when it comes to fragrance. I dislike scents that are heavy or overpowering. I relish fresh and subtle scents that are classic. A signature scent needs to provide a bit of intrigue and allure. My mother introduced me to Chloé and it has been my go to cooler weather scent for several years. I love how the fragrance becomes more complex and layered when it melds into my scarves, sweaters and coats. This fragrance makes me feel energized, elegant and chic. It contains many of my favorite notes- peony, magnolia flower and amber. I also love having a gorgeous perfume bottle to display on my vanity. A pretty bottle is no excuse to purchase a beauty product, but Chloé had me with the plated silver engraved top and hand tied ribbon. Once the weather changes, I will have revisit my search for a scent that embraces the lighter air. 

Do you have a signature scent? 

March 21, 2011

The Crossroads of Fashion

Paris truly is the crossroads of fashion. Fashion is still the national sport of France. In New York, when the shows are going on, you're never going to hear a cab driver say, "Oh, Michael Kors' show just let out. They're all going to Proenza." In Paris, everyone knows everything. You can get into a dissertation with a waiter, who will say, "The Rykiel anniversary was fabulous." It's just part of life here. - Michael Kors WWD March 9, 2010

I couldn't have said it better myself. There is something so refreshing about a city where people authentically love fashion so very much. Fashion and style are ingrained in Paris' heritage, culture and her people. There is no escaping it. In Paris, everyone has a nuanced view on the collections, regardless of their occupation. There's an energy and excitement in the air.  While sitting outside a cafe, you are likely to hear all of the pros and cons on who should helm Dior or how much the Spring collections were so clearly influenced by the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Petit Palais. Where else can you have a spirited discussion on the state of couture? Above all else, there's an understanding of craftsmanship and luxury. It never ceases to amaze me.

Admittedly, the culture in New York is quite different. Although I do find myself pleasantly surprised more and more. On my way to Lincoln Center, I did in fact have a lovely conversation with my cab driver about the implications of moving fashion week to one of the world's leading performing arts centers. I almost wanted to give him a hug. That being said, times are changing. Although, it's  still not Paris. 

In honor of Paris being the crossroads of Fashion and it officially SPRING- 

Shaka Maidoh and Sam Lambert in Bespoke

I never get tired of entrance ways or rooftops

That Light!

Or fresh flowers
Image 1- Courtesy of John-Paul Pietrus for Arise (I LOVE this magazine in the same way that I love The Gentlewoman)
Image 2- Courtesy of STREETFSN
Image 7- Courtesy of Liz Ruzby
All other images are my personal photos

March 14, 2011

Pretty Little Things

"For many women, French lingerie is the ultimate in beautiful underwear. Feminine but rarely frilly, French lingerie differs in style from Italian, which is more elaborate. French lingerie, on the other hand, blurs the distinction between can-can and muse, femme fatale and woman on a pedestal. Yet it is actually quite understated, its style more dependent on superb fabrics and workmanship than adornment." Cathy Horyn  
Via Worn In Perfection
I have a penchant for beautifully made undergarments. I value, good construction, high quality fabrics that feel soft to the touch and a proper fit. Treating yourself to fine unmentionables, bras, bralettes (one of my favorite things), camisoles, robes and slips are some of life's little luxuries that are worth indulging in for yourself. There is something incredibly empowering about knowing you are wearing something incredibly beautiful underneath it all. 
I prefer lingerie that is feminine. I don't want my lingerie to be overly frilly or fussy. Lingerie should be understated and subtle. I adore a touch of lace. Lingerie is the first thing you put on and the foundation for your wardrobe. When shopping for lingerie, you should touch the fabrics to ensure that the lace feels polished and soft. Most importantly the lace shouldn't snag or itch. 
The majority of fine lingerie is made from pure lace and silk, however there are varying degrees of quality. Italy and France produce what many consider the finest lingerie silk in the world - woven from silk thread imported from China, the leading supplier of thread and silk fabric. Even the finest lingerie is machine sewn, so the quality of materials is what truly sets it a part. 
The other day, a colleague was telling me  that she had purchased exquisite bras from Dior in Paris years ago and has never been able to find the same quality in the US. The Dior lingerie that is sold in Printemps, Bon Marche and boutiques all over Paris is predominantly silk and made with premium lace. The Dior lingerie that is available in America is sold through a licensee, which accounts for why my friend couldn't find the same craftsmanship. Sometimes you just have to go to Paris. 
That being said, fine lingerie is worth investing in. In Paris, I enjoy splurging at Sabbia Rosa for comely underthings. The camisoles trimmed with handmade French lace and the attention to fit make for a luxurious shopping experience. There's something incredibly rewarding about saving for something special. In New York, I'm loyal to Cosabella, Calvin Klein and Eres (a French brand that is readily available in New York), which provide a diverse assortment of styles for petite sizes. You should always feel good about your purchases and I wholeheartedly believe that feeling good starts with the underpinnings. 

March 9, 2011

On Elegance

Via Oscar PR Girl

There is a saying in France, 'Elegance is the privilege of age' - and thank heaven, it is perfectly true. A woman can be elegant until the end of her days. However, as the years pass a woman changes in type, and she must be intelligent and objective enough to recognize the fact. A Guide to Elegance

A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux is one of those books that I find myself re-reading again and again. Every time I unearth it from my bookshelf it's like being reunited with a treasure. Needless to say, if you have not read this book, I highly recommend reading it. It truly speaks to the idea of cultivating a timeless style, having grace and poise. 

Elegance is extremely personal. To be elegant is to truly know yourself and what suits you. Elegance is reflective. Perhaps it's acquired with age. I love the idea that a woman can grow into her elegance. If  'elegance is the privilege of age' doesn't that make getting older all the more exciting? 

Recently, I hosted a fancy and very adult benefit dinner. I tried on beautiful designer gowns and  while all of the dresses were gorgeous, I had a few years to grow into them. I ended up wearing a tasteful and very chic short dress. It's interesting to think that one day the more austere gown will be right. Sigh... One day. 

Currently, I find the following elegant-

* My signature Chanel Noir nail polish  
* Being gracious 
* Feeling comfortable and confident in your own skin
* A handwritten note
* Keeping it subtle with the perfect white shirt (I'm still looking) or trench, but knowing when to add that little unique detail that pops.  
* Timeless pieces that only get better with age

What do you find elegant?

March 7, 2011

Lessons from the Boys

Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

I have a very dapper friend who I enjoy browsing for clothing with. It's truly refreshing to shop with a gentleman who appreciates a bespoke suit and understands the differences in cuffs. We usually split up. He goes to the men's department and I the women's. When we meet back, it's always amazing to see how many classic, timeless, well made and reasonably priced pieces he has found in comparison with the options for women. Who knew there was so much to be learned from the sophisticated male shopper?
I don't wear fast fashion. When I shop I'm looking for craftsmanship and a piece (I rarely purchase more than one item at a time) to enhance my wardrobe. This runs a bit countercurrent to the current trend of overtly trendy and disposable fashion. I prefer to own less, but better quality garments.  This is something my mom instilled in me from an early age. Needless to say, I am incredibly picky about what I buy. When I saw Christina Binkley's article "To Dress Well, A Woman Should Dress Like A Man" in The Wall Street Journal I knew I was onto something. I have reposted the article because I believe it provides a few helpful hints to keep in mind when shopping. 
When it comes to shopping for fashion, women usually dominate, buying clothing for their men as well as themselves. But ladies, I have a gauntlet to throw down: Women have a lot to learn from the way men shop.
I first sensed this when menswear designer Thom Browne told me that he couldn't use a fabric unless it felt good "to the hand," because men won't buy uncomfortable clothing.
Come again? If comfort were the top criterion for selling womenswear, Jimmy Choo would be out of business. Unlike men, women frequently settle for garments that don't fit well and don't feel good.
Sometimes, women have little choice. It has long been an irritating truth that men are offered better-quality clothes for lower prices. Many fashionable women's clothes—including plenty sold at luxury prices—are made relatively cheaply. "Women do get shortchanged in the market," says Patrick Gigliotti, a menswear salesman at the venerable Boyd's Philadelphia department store. Some women who value well-made clothing have even resorted to shopping in menswear departments.
One reason for the quality difference is trendiness: Because womenswear is more faddish, there's a perception in the fashion industry that the clothes will be thrown away more quickly. Indeed, fast fashion has trained a generation to seek out throwaway styles.
Yet tailoring should matter. Women are always looking for clothes that will lift their bottoms and smooth their bulges. That's exactly the kind of magic that tailoring works. Luckily, with a little education about the way sophisticated men shop, it is possible to buy good-quality womenswear.
What does it mean to think like a man? Consider the way Jay Kos bought himself a pair of pants in New York last Sunday. Mr. Kos, himself a clothier and the owner of the Jay Kos store on Park Avenue, found a pair of olive wool pants at Soho's Blue in Green shop. But the pants had to pass a few tests before he took them to the dressing room. First, he felt the wool with his hand to ascertain its weight and softness. He checked the seams for clean stitching—no loose threads. In the dressing room, he squatted to be sure they fit comfortably. Only then did he step out to take a careful look in the store's biggest mirror and ask the salesman if the pants fit well.
This isn't the way most women shop. But it can be.
A first step is to put less focus on the brand. Logos don't guarantee fine craftsmanship. Dozens of luxury womenswear brands make high-quality fashions—Dolce & Gabbana and Akris among them. But I've found excellently sewn clothes at Zara (though not universally so). Some brands, like Ralph Lauren, have varying quality levels among a dizzying array of sub-brands. Akris offers well-made but lower-quality clothes under the "Akris punto" label. Rather than being blinded by branding, use it only as a starting point.
When you like a garment, grab the fabric and crunch it up—ignoring any gasps you hear from the womenswear sales staff, who are not accustomed to these maneuvers. If the cloth stays wrinkled or feels scratchy, consider moving on.
"You should start from the inside out," says Debi Greenberg, owner of Louis, a high-end store in Boston that caters to both men and women. Loose threads and ragged seams are signs of poor construction. Look for seams that have been carefully rolled and folded before being stitched down or have been "taped," or sewn over with a narrow strip of fabric.
In pants, the waistband is particularly important, as it provides structure and must hold up to sweat, pressure and twisting. In well-tailored pants, the waistband will have two layers of lining, with some structural seams in between. When it comes to pants, Ms. Greenberg recommends Proenza Schouler and Marni at the high end of the price range and Jil Sander for Uniqlo at the more affordable end.
A good jacket starts with a shoulder that permits comfortable movement and isn't so stuffed with foam padding that it looks awkward with the arm raised.
While you're peering inside the garment, check out the width of the fabric in the seams. Is there enough to allow the garment to be let out, if necessary? While good men's clothing is manufactured to be altered, women often have to buy a size larger and then cut the garment down—which can be more costly and difficult.
It's a good idea to ask where the garment—and sometimes the fabric—were manufactured. "Men love the story," says Mr. Kos. "If you're going to spend the money, then it should come come from a place with a respect for quality."
The country of origin can be an indicator of quality, and it's certainly a fair indicator of price. Italy, France and Japan are famous for their high manufacturing standards, but their prices are higher than those of lower-labor-cost nations.
Still, "made in Italy" is no guarantee, and it's possible to buy well-made clothes from many parts of the world. The 3.1 Phillip Lim brand makes some high-quality clothing in China with taped inner seams and alterable waistbands. J. Crew buys many quality shirting fabrics and cashmere yarns from Italian factories and then cuts and sews the clothes in less expensive countries.
Mr. Kos believes that garments and accessories that use a logo as the dominant design feature are more likely to take short cuts with materials or manufacturing.
Only after a garment has passed all these tests is it time to try it on. Be sure you can raise your arm in a shirt or jacket and that you can squat (without making the knees baggy) in pants. See if you can breathe easily. There should be no stretch marks across the torso and no gaping buttons.
When in doubt, remember what Mr. Gigliotti of Boyd's says about men's priorities: "Comfort is paramount."
I'll never be a girl who exclusively shops the mens department and I would be lying if I said that comfort is paramount, however I am a firm believer in not settling when you shop. Perhaps part of the thrill is the hunt for the perfect garment. 

March 6, 2011

No Rest for the Weary...

Via Fashion Gone Rogue

This image of the stunning Liya Kebede sums up exactly how I'm feeling.

Truth be told Fashion Month has been exciting and exhausting with no rest for the weary. While the season commences in New York, it's not until the last of the collections wrap in Paris that we can begin to interpret what Fall 2011 is truly about. 

So far, I would say Fall 2011 is about coats, texture, unique color combinations, tricky proportions, mixing and matching prints and the return of opulence, but the Paris collections always have a way of changing the dialogue. Perhaps that's the benefit of showing after New York, London and Milan. The great show schedule debate ensues. At any rate, we'll know for sure on Wednesday. 

After a day of seeing runway shows, I like to end the day looking at the shows online with a cup of tea. It's the only way to make sense of the sensory overload and packed show schedule. It's also a quiet way to unwind after a long day. I'm always intrigued by the show notes and designer inspirations. 

Sigh... If you have to slouch, might as well do it elegantly right? 

March 3, 2011

Hair Inspiration- NYFW Edition

Perhaps it's the years of competitive gymnastics and dance where my hair always had to be neatly pulled back, but I adore chignons and buns. The oversized bun held tightly with bobby pins is part of my signature style. Nothing seems more chic to me. 

When Raf Simons, Phoebe Philo, Francisco Costa et al ushered in the era of new minimalism and fashion people swooned, I panicked. Clothes that rely on precision of cut, clean lines and restraint instead of overt luxury lend themselves to buns and sleek ponytails. The bun might be having a resurgence, but it suits me. Regardless of popularity, we should all wear what suits us. 

While I agonize over what collections I like and what  I will embrace next season, I know right away when I see hair inspiration. Here is a little fashion inspiration from the recent New York Fall 2011 shows. 

1) Donna Karan

I adore the high bun. It's ladylike and elegant and yet hairstylist Eugene Souleiman managed to somehow make the girls look a bit edgy too.

2) Carolina Herrera

Hair rolls, reversed buns, and the low bun are equally sophisticated. Orlando Pita can do no wrong.

3) Thakoon

Sometimes you just have to have fun. The hair complimented the collection, music and general feel of the show. Refined and elegant, but spontaneous. Thakoon was inspired by the Masai and street style.

It might not be 'wearable' but it certainly is something I might have to try the next time I'm suffering from insomnia.