Thursday, February 25, 2010

Character & Brilliance, Cool & Beautiful

One of my favourite things about fashion, especially with serious styling, is the ability to mix and match seemingly random genres and inspirations in one look. Maybe you've paired a vintage inspired John Varvatos leather motorcycle jacket with a perfectly pressed traditional oxford style dress shirt, and your favourite jeans. Or in your home, you've arranged a dinner party for your nine closest friends, and positioned everyone around an antique farmhouse style table, with elegant Vietri dishes, gorgeous Garnier-Thiebaut linens, old world extravagance in Arte D'Italia pewter serving pieces, and the most modern, pop-art inspired chairs. It's like the old wedding phrase - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

When you mix and match various styles, make sure there is a common code to avoid looking like potpourri. Choose fabrics that compliment each other. Maybe you wear a thick tweed jacket, with a paper thin tshirt. A flirty, fun table cloth with a handful of colours and intricate woven design never competes with napkins in a contrasting, solid dark hue. When the dominating pattern or focus piece includes a small scale, detailed design, accessories or secondary pieces can still be patterned as well, but should be on a larger scale or with minimal complexity.

Taking cues from the runway, designing your living space is not as difficult as you think. Start with a neutral canvas. In fashion, you can wear denim or gray in every season. In living spaces, any room can be well decorated, no matter the season, with a neutral wall colour. Think khaki, sand, ivory, slate gray - any light, warm colour that suits your taste. A warm, chestnut brown couch can be anything but bla when you update its look with bright pillows or a luxurious throw. Add charm and whimsy with art, antiques or pieces with character and romance, and of course personal touches like photographs and custom pieces.

I love the modern aesthetic, durable construction, and youthful inspiration of CB2. I've owned several pieces from this company of the last ten years, and have been nothing but pleased. From the most fabulous Marimekko wall art and the funkiest clocks, to the most innovative shelving solutions and the most functional food preparation tools, CB2 is brilliant. Imagine Crate and Barrel being the classy, conservative older brother; CB2 is the funky, fabulous, free spirited, full of flair and finesse, younger sister.

From their website:

CB2 is a modern destination from Crate and Barrel that first opened in Chicago in the year 2000.

CB2 is affordable modern for apartment, loft, home.

CB2 is a community (which we hope includes you) seeking modern home design that's clever and in the moment, that's spare and simple but with great attention to details, that's priced smart so we can all have it all (and feel smart doing so). The only attitude you'll find at CB2 is creative, fun, happy to share.

CB2 is about sharing as we search the world for CB2 one-of-a-finds, limited edition items crafted by artisans with a story, a history; our partnership has helped to provide much needed funds for housing and education in remote villages. Our Thanksgiving store tradition, the CB2 "can do" food drive, fills the shelves of local food pantries while helping to fulfill the basic needs of those in need.

CB2 is now six urban stores in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Berkeley, LA and Miami. Stop in and see the way we like to mix, play, live with emerging trends, new color, scale for spaces small and large.

Here's what I'm loving right now:

Radius Day Bed

Marimekko's Vermutti wall art

Twiggy Side Table

Madra Magazine Rack

Keep Calm Rug

little bird pillow

stainless steel shiny water pitcher

mapkins - Rome

Century Wardrobe

As you can see, it's incredibly easy to fall in love with CB2. It's not just stuff. It's functioning art with fashion, finesse, and flair.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fashion's Question of the Day

I was talking to a friend this morning, and I could tell that they were feeling a little overwhelmed and definitely in need of a vacation. It seems like we're all working harder than ever, for more hours each day, with less payoff.

There's an advertisement on the Armed Forces Network with First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady (if that's what the Vice President's wife is called) Jilly Biden. In the commercial, the main message is this: never before has so much been asked of so few. (Our American Military is smaller than traditionally, and is engaged and needed in more missions than ever before.)

So I said to my friend, "Are you living to work, or working to live"? This made me think of another question, but with a fashion twist.

The question of the day then: "Are you dressing for work, or working to dress?" When you work to dress, you know you love fashion. As if it wasn't obvious, I work to dress.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spring 2010 Colour Trends

White - especially pants, leather driving shoes, and accessories.

Distressed and destroyed denim in lighter shades - paired with crisp dress shirts for the perfect contrast.

Killer khaki - khaki is a Hindi word for 'dust'. Try monochromatic looks for a simple and stunning statement, especially when accessorized with pops of colour.

Mad for metallics - silvers, muted golds, beautiful bronze. Particularly effective in leather goods, shoes, and statement jewelery.

Browns - I don't want to sound cliche and say that brown is the new black, but brown seems to bring a much more interesting depth and character than traditional black. Try a rich chocolate it cognac for shoes and small leather goods, opt for a dark brown suit, or a warm caramel leather or camel hair jacket. You'll love the added dimension.

Green green green - not just the en vogue colour for the environment, green is the rage for spring. From loden to celery to lime to Kelly, green looks good on nearly everyone. Find the best shade for you complexion and rock it with style and grace.

Gaga for Gray. I've always loved gray, regardless of the season or the presence of the sun. Monochromatic gray denim with a light gray polo shirt make the perfect canvas for a bright orange belt. Gray suits add instant pizazz, especially when anchored with a dark vneck sweater in purple, navy, or wine. Gray shoes and small leather goods compliment any denim or dark ensemble. I love gray. Even for decorating the home. One of Christian Dior's favourite colours was gray. And interior designer Nate Berkus loves to paint walls gray and outfit rooms with gray furniture and accessories. Gray weather is not nice. Everything else gray is simply fabulous.

Accentuate with a vibrant splash of colour - corals, acid electric blue, pale pink or lilac, incredibly light yellow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Luxe Lives (and loves) in London

I just spent about a week in London - and I must say, I am incredibly inspired. Maybe I'm particularly reflective, especially with the recent passing of Alexander McQueen, but I can definitely appreciate a bit more of his wildly amazing creativity and fantasy filled designs.

While walking through the bustling markets in London, I came across these two gentleman. Serious style. Attention to details. The vibrant coloured red shoes, accentuated by the red stripe of the coat. The perfectly balanced not-too-short and not-too-long pants (and a possibly homage to Michael Jackson with those visible white socks?). And loving the ecru coloured jacket, with slightly darker toned trapper hat - such a breath of fresh air in a sea of dark coats and drab colours.

The first gentleman, with his wild hair and vintage Ray Ban aviators just oozed with style. The cable knit, chunky sweater with the sleeves so care free and pushed up. The dark cords. The fabulous boots- they were definitely made for walking, especially down runways! Effortless, flawless style so excellently executed.

Seeing these two guys, along with the many other incredibly stylish visitors and inhabitants of London brought a renewed sense of creativity, appreciation for unique styling, and reminded me why I love fashion so much. There's no doubt Alexander McQueen was a fabulous designer, and I'm sure that there's some part owed to the stylish city of London.

Some things I just love about London:

-- The fact that nearly all of my favourite stores have food halls (for those that don't know: food halls are fabulous grocery departments) - especially at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Marks & Spencer.

-- Walker's Salt and Vinegar Crisps (Potato Chips for those in America)

-- the gusto Brits seem to use when saying the Underground stop "Embankment"

-- The high fashion and low prices at Top Shop

-- The unending delicious options of Indian and Chinese foods (not to mention Sushi, Kebabs, Doners, and this weird obsession with southern style American fried chicken)

-- The pomp and circumstance of Harrod's

-- shopping on Sloane and New Bond streets

-- miniature Cadbury creme eggs

-- Jack Wills

-- The Spitalfields Market (especially brunch at The LUXE)

-- the egg shaped toilet pods at Sketch in Mayfair

-- the Fashion and Textile Museum

As you can gather - I love London, and can't wait to return!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What's next at McQueen?

There's no denying that the fashion world will never be the same. Since the death of Lee "Alexander" McQueen, a huge question hangs in the balance - what will happen to the House of McQueen without their beloved creative driver?

I can't help but think back to when I was working for Christian Dior. I always respected, and still do, how Christian was able to be so expressive and so inventive with something so wild and different. Of his first collection on 12 February 1947, Harper's Bazaar famously described the creations as "The New Look". (Side note: World War II had just ended, so a collection characterized by abundant, flowing fabrics, precious medals, and luxurious medals was such a departure from the then accustomed rations and bare minimum creation.) When Christian died just a few years later, his protege Yves St. Laurent took the helm and kept the spirit and house alive. Even after the tenure of Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, and now John Galliano, even the most minute details so famously instilled by Christian Dior himself are still present throughout today's collections, but in a modern, time appropriate manner. On Galliano's smash selling Gaucho collection from 2006, we saw a western inspired range that featured a coin medallion, with an effigy of Christian Dior on the front, and Dior's favourite bow and flower, the Lilly of the Valley, and the year 1947 - all codes celebrating Christian Dior's famous design aesthetic. And in Dior's "Le Trente" collection - a fabulous handbag in honour of the House of Dior (Found at 30 Avenue Montagne in Paris) - there continue to be codes and fingerprints of Christian Dior throughout.

I'm sure the world was deeply saddened and shocked when Christian Dior died, just like we are now for McQueen. But the Dior brand moved up and onward. Sure - no one quite embodied his spirit or innovation or master craft. But like everything with a solid foundation, all will be well.

I only hope the same for Alexander McQueen and the house he built. His imagination, his creative spirit, and rare ability to see his dreams transformed from conception to reality without adulteration or dilution are very rare. And like Dior, his legend will live on beyond his years on streets and runways for years to come.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Remembering Alexander McQueen

Today one of the most creative, innovative, and talented fashion designers has left us. At the too-young age of 40, Lee "Alexander" McQueen, founder and chief designer of the Alexander McQueen fashion house, was found dead in his London home.

For more than 15 years, his creations always flirted with fantasy, unconventional constructions, vitality, and escapism. Stunning. Smart. Sexy. Sensual.

From his website:

On behalf of Lee McQueen's family, Alexander McQueen today announces the tragic news that Lee McQueen, the founder and designer of the Alexander McQueen brand has been found dead at his home. At this stage it is inappropriate to comment on this tragic news beyond saying that we are devastated and are sharing a sense of shock and grief with Lee's family.

Lee's family has asked for privacy in order to come to terms with this terrible news and we hope the media will respect this.

Whether designing a simple silk scarf for Breast Cancer Awareness throughout Selfridge's, or styling that amazing gray cashmere hooded wrap for Mary J. Blige in AT&T's commercial, or bringing his fantasy to reality on the runway, everything he did was precisely perfect. Rest in peace, maestro.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Animal Cruelty

A few years ago I bought a tshirt from Abercrombie & Fitch's now-no-longer Ruehl. It had a picture of a woman with a giant fur hat, full length fur coat, and leather boots on. The small caption next to her said, "Animal Cruelty? Screw it - I look good".

Apparently this is the mentality of many Italians I've seen over the last few weeks. Whether it's giant fur hats, big fur coats, leather boots, leather jackets, fur and leather purses - excess is en vogue.

I could understand wearing a fur hat or coat if there were incredibly cold temperatures - but it's been in the 50s! Obviously there is less of a social stigma with fur and fashion than there is in the United States. Granted, we see fur there as well - but not nearly to the extent that of the Europeans.

On another note - nearly all the fur I've seen has been simply fabulous.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Travel with Louis Vuitton

For Christmas last year, one of my very good friends gave me the Louis Vuitton guidebook to Rome. Normally I'd reference the Luxe City guide collection, but I thought I'd try something new. After all, Louis Vuitton has been the purveyor of luxury travel bags since the 1800s. If they make longlasting, quality goods, maybe they know a thing or two about travel as well.

Just read a few sentences from their introduction. "Traveling is a multifaceted art born of dreams and imagination and one to be savored. The art of travel cannot be completely improvised; it must also be organized. ... But a suitcase, no matter how handsome, is not enough to turn a trip into a dream journey - a voyage n ourished by encounters with fascinating people and places. This is where the Louis Vuitton City Guide, a valued travel companion for over ten years, excels. ... A subtle blend of the avant-garde, the established, and the iconic, the Luis Vuitton City Guide is a unique trend predictor. Written by specialist journalists and authors from a inside viewpoint, it is an attentive, highly informed commentator on the changes that are shaking up cities, with an alternative outlook on fashion, design, well-being, contemporary arts, and fine food."

I must admit - knowing Louis Vuitton wasn't exactly inexpensive, I was nervous that all of the recommendations would be expensive as well. While there are the several-thousand-Euros per night hotel rooms and couple-hundred-Euros per meal dinner recommendations, there are also incredibly inexpensive options and suggestions as well.

Take for instance the Osteria della Frezza (Via della Frezza, 16). "Taking its lead from young chef Marco Gallotta, the Osteria della Frezza serves Roman cuisine with a nice balance betweent radition and modernity, in a fashionable decor, but with music played at nearly unberable levels." To be honest - it wasn't as loud as I was expecting, considering I've visited many Abercrmobie & Fitch stores - but the food was absolutely delicious and worth the trip for sure.

With over 30 European city guides, and a handful of non-European cities as well, I definitely recommend these guides. Anyone can find out where a good restaurant is - but knowing what to expect, average pricing, tips on atmosphere and dresscode, and even names of chefs, managers, and owners - these guides provide the insight and information that well versed locals only rival. Well done, Louis. Bon voyage!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dolce and Gabbana

For Fall/Winter 2010-2011, Dior Homme showed us classic styling with a modern twist. Dolce & Gabbana bring even more edge and utility to the runway with classic evening pieces mixed with modern sporting technology, fabulous firs, and luxurious leathers. It's playful, sexy, and sporty. And I love every bit of it.

Before I show you some of the looks I love the most, I wanted to share something. Did you know that Domenico Dolce is Sicilian? He was born in Polizzi Generosa - a small village near Palermo, Sicily. Stefano Gabbana was born in Venice. If you know anything about the relationship between Italians and Sicilians, you know that the Italians think the Sicilians are incredibly backwards, agrarian, and uncivilized. The Sicilians think the Italians are stuck up, incredibly vain and waistful, and don't know what it's like to really live la dolce vita. So, seeing the Sicilian influence mixed with the Venetian influence of the two famous designers really is exciting and entertaining.

For example, after dinner, it's commonplace to see Sicilians sit at the dinner table with fresh fruit and knife in hand, expertly carving the produce for a leisure dessert. To most Americans, the latest advertisement wouldn't make sense seeing scantilly clad people huddled around the table eating fruit with sharp knives. But knowing a little about the Sicilian culture, you suddenly have a bit more insight into D&G's message (and appreciation for the delicious Italian seafood with fresh lemon, pasta, and farm fresh produce that is the everyday standard in Italian eating). I wonder what other designers have messages that are lost in translation.

So here's the advert:

And the looks I love from the fall/winter 2010-2011 range: