Tuesday, December 29, 2015

fit for a king

I must confess: I am absolutely obsessed with all things Italiano.  In a perfect world, everything would be fatto a mano in Italia (made by hand in Italy), of la moda italiana (Italian Design), with tessuti italiani (Italian fabrics).  I'm not just talking about automobili italiane like Ferrari and Maserati, or even Italian food giants like Barilla and Mutti.  My new obsession is focused on smaller, lesser known brands, concepts, and designers who are bringing an old world elegance to tomorrow's ranges.

It's no secret I am in love with Peter Nappi.  The Nashville-based studio presents the most incredible footwear, small leather goods, and pocket collections of surprises that are all fatto a mano in Firenze.  My love affair doesn't stop there. 

I don't think I"ve actually felt even a swatch of fabric, let alone tried on any garments from President's - but I have stocked their website for the last several days and I simply cannot get enough.  Come se dice "droga" in italiano? 

Nelle loro parole:

"President’s is proud to belong to the great tradition of Tuscan manufacture of leather and textiles. A long history of technique and style of which the brand President’s, registered in 1957, considers itself a natural heir."

PRESIDENT’S concept is simple: we walk the line of fashion and function. We like to offer functional clothing that has subtle fashion sensibilities. It is our opinion that most fashion designers/brands will offer design which makes for clothing that is more costumey. On the other hand functional clothing is boring and uninspiring.

PRESIDENT’S mixes both worlds by combining innovation with sartorial tradition.

PRESIDENT’S is an Italian brand designed by Guido Biondi, the third generation of an important fashion family, 60 years of successful heritage in fashion. He designs his collections for the contemporary gentleman, using the most exquisite fabrics and materials, producing his label entirely in Florence, Tuscany, with the best Italian craftsmanship tradition.

PRESIDENT’S is a combination of worker style for an urban and modern dandy, presenting a yearly capsule collection that integrates some of the most famous and contemporary young designers to bring a touch of modern globalization to the Italian style.


From snowboards to toiletry bags and the most incredible wears for an everyday elegance, President's is definitely going to be in my 2016.  Buon Anno Nuovo, with stile + classe.  No detail too small; no tradition too frivolous; no expense in production spared.  The best of the best for their best.


Some other Italian goodies I'm loving:

TAMI' -  the coolest wine, gifts, accessories, home goods, and kitchen tools.  All Italian.  All the time.  

Sferra - exquisite linens for bed, bath, and table.

Persol - incredible eye wear, for sun and seeing.  


Santa Maria Novella - simply beyond.  Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the world's oldest pharmacies. First founded in 1221 in Florence by the Dominican Friars who started making herbal remedies and potions to use in the monastery. Their reputation became world renowned and the pharmacy, sponsored by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, opened to the public in 1612.  Santa Maria Novella products are made on site at their own factory in Florence. Local ingredients are used whenever possible and the products are never tested on animals. Each batch is hand made and supervised according to age old recipes and artisanal methods. All batches are rigorously controlled using strict guidelines to ensure consistency of product and maximum safety for the consumer. 

Acqua di Parma's prestige collection: opulence to the nth degree.   I'm loving the luxury set ingredient collection.  The Set contains: 180ml Colonia Oud, 180ml Colonia Leather, 180ml Colonia Ambra. A highly sophisticated item fully lined with carefully selected, superior quality brown calfskin. The logo is hot-stamped on the top. The case is locked by a key on which Acqua di Parma’s logo is serigraphed, it is the ideal jewel case for treasuring your most precious, items after removing the tray of Colonias. Lining: brown velvet removable tray. 


Post Script: I understand not all of these companies are exactly piccolo (small) or sconosciuto (unknown)I'd be remiss not to include some of the more well known / established brands on the above short list.  Regardless of company size or heritage, each brand has that privately owned boutique feel, focusing on quality goods and services and an incredible relationship with their customers. 

What brands, trends, and styles are you loving?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Proper Marketing

The holidays are prime time for adverts - whether print, digital, online, or on the air, smart companies do more than shout sales and new products; smart companies intensify their grand awareness, highlight their company values and ethos, and improve their image. Case en pointe: Canada's WestJet.

For the last few years, the maple flavored airline's Christmas campaigns have gone viral. Absent are sales, new product pitches, and all the traditional commercial aspects. Instead, the company highlights their employees, giving back to their constituents' communities. In doing so, the brand builds upon their diversity, strong customer service, exhibits the priority for compassion and integrity, and overall love for humanity.

Well done, WestJet. Well done. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

everything has a story

It's no longer "just enough" for retailers to have the right products in the right place at the right time with the right signs at the right prices.  Consumers demand the best assortments, with the next-best-things, at their fingertips with immediate availability, at prices they can afford or want to pay, and the most incredible service.  Who could blame them?  With the rise of eCommerce solutions and "two-hour shipping", brands are forced to think outside the box and dazzle the customers.

One advantage traditional brick-and-mortar stores will always hold over eCommerce and other non-contact shopping solutions is the experience.  To capitalize on this, brands are amping up their customer service and literally rolling out the red carpet.  You're no longer just getting a haircut; you're probably drinking vintage champagne or feasting on delectable dolci.   You're no longer navigating parking structures at the airport or waiting in line for an espresso; you're probably being chauffeured in a sedan by the airline and whisked away to the discrete and ultra chic lounge for private check-in and the most extravagant bar, food, and pampering options.  You're not just buying shoes or traversing oceans; you're paying for the experience.

Part of the luxury retail experience is this service.  It's expected.  And it definitely woos clients en masse.   At Christian Dior, I learned straightaway the importance of product knowledge and mastering the codes of the House.  These minute details are part of the story, and clients absolutely eat it up.  So whether describing the intricate detail of the Broderie Cheval t-shirt and its Luneville stitching, the intricate process of hand washing and air drying the calf skin before constructing the coveted Gaucho collection, or describing the pomp and circumstance of Madam Chirac personally requesting the creation of the Lady Dior bag for Princess Diana as a symbol of France on one of her many visits to the country, instilling a piece of this history, an air of this luxury, and enhancing the experience drove the business like none other.

When you get to peak into the business owner's mindset, or learn the story behind a particular piece from a designer, you have so much more appreciation and understanding of the process, the direction, and the artwork behind the product.  It transforms the experience from just shopping in a store to acquiring artwork from a very curated and edited offering.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing my favorite shoe store in Nashville, Peter Nappi.  At Peter Nappi, the most incredible footwear and small leather goods are fatti a mano (made by hand) in Italy.  The space is impressive, the product quality and styling are simply beyond.  I was hooked.  The space envelopes you and quickly transports you to Firenze.  But what I wasn't expecting to see and feel was the detail, the love, and the story behind the designs.  The impressive space is often rented for special events and private parties, but business comes first.  So as you're shopping, you may notice caterers, sound engineers, lighting professionals, and other event staff quietly and unobtrusively preparing for the festa della notte.  While trying not to drool on the countless boots and bags that I thought I couldn't live without, I noticed these incredible arrangements on the bar:

I didn't want to intrude, and couldn't help to take a look at the floral displays.  Simple, elegant, and oh-so gorgeous.  I had to take a closer look:

Nestled in the midst of these fabulous flowers was rosmarino - fragrant, textured, and so unexpected!  Come to find out, these arrangements were personally created by the store's owner in honor of her daughter's engagement.  When you love a space so much, investing heart and soul to create the perfect environment, how can you not feel love?  Seeing these arrangements, and knowing the simple story instantly made me know that my obsession with Peter Nappi sarà per sempre (will be forever).  Seeing the love and care taken, the genuine understanding of all things Toscana, and honest passion manifest in every detail is so obvious.  They're not just shoes; they're more than that.  They're the time spent by the cobbler in Florence.  They're the artisanal methods and traditions passed down from generation to generation.   It's not just leather.  They're repurposed leather pads from a boxing gymnasium in Eastern Europe from the 1930s.  La più bellezza.

I feel the exact same way about Tanis & Co. at modelcitizen.  Fashion isn't just something to buy - it's a way of life.  The ladies at modelcitizen truly represent their namesake, living their best with style, class, and kindness.  One could easily order the latest frock from Parker, fabulously flattering denim from Current/Elliott, or the most iconic wrap from DvF - but the experience, the fun, the advice, and extraordinary level of service provided at modelcitizen separate the professionals from the amateurs.  You might find tens of thousands of options at a department store and only like one or two pieces, but the hand picked offerings at modelcitizen are incredibly edited and perfectly selected, leaving you with limitless choices that are all top notch and stunningly suited.  You could spend years globetrotting, searching for the coolest accessories, most stunning dresses, and most flattering denim around, or you could just take a trip to modelcitizen.  Whether virtually or in person, the service and selection are quite impressive. 

You don't have to own a business or design your own range to exhibit ownership and elevated attention to detail.  Caring for your teammates and clients, focusing on as many aspects of the business as possible, and treating the store/space like your own will instantly elevate your value to the company and solidify your presence to the clients. 

Don't get me wrong.  Not every product or store must come with an elaborate experience and endearing story.  Automobile oil changes need not come with complimentary service for your vacuum cleaner.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I don't really care to learn the detail of refining oil and creating petroleum for fueling my Fiat.  I just need to know that the price is right and the fuel is safe for operating. 

There's a time and place for everyone and everything in retail.  Thankfully as consumers, we can put our money where our mouth is and signal to retailers what we like, what we don't like, and what we expect.  And if you're lucky, and if they're smart, they'll engage in dialogue to learn exactly what you're hoping for.  

From the retail perspective, do us all a favor this holiday season - take a moment to thank your favorite associates, managers, owners, shopkeepers, service providers, and designers.  Tell them what you like, what you may not be in love with, and feel free to ask questions to learn more about the brand, the design, or the people who work there.  Relationships are two-ways.  And in retail, relationships are everything.  After all, tutto (e tutti) ha una storia.  Everything (and everyone) has a story. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Skin Care 101

 Making the right selection of skincare products can be like navigating a country you've never visited without speaking the language: tricky at best.  Just like diets, there always seems to be a new trend, must-have ingredient, and the most ludicrous treatments.  You could easily spend a few house payments worth of money on the latest lotions, potions, serums, and devices.  Here are a few ingredients, with a description of what they do and why they're beneficial.  This list is by no means exclusive to any one particular brand.  Furthermore, I've left out many other powerful, positive ingredients in the industry to keep from sounding boring or long winded.  They're absence is by no means a reflection of their importance or benefits. 

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids, commonly derived from citrus and tropical fruits, aide in exfoliating the skin by helping remove dead skin cells from the surface. Using products with Alpha Hydroxy fruit acids helps give skin a brighter, younger appearance.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant that minimizes skin's surface imperfections such as fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores, while encouraging healthy cellular function and increasing radiance.
  • Apricot / Apricot Oil - naturally nourishing, protecting, and soothing because of their strong presence of essential fatty acids like Oleic and Linoleic, coupled with natural vitamins and minerals, like A and E.  Ground apricot seeds make a wonderful physical exfoliant, as well.  Papaya extracts and seeds provide similar benefits. 
  • Avobenzone (trade names Parsol 1789, Eusolex 9020, Escalol 517) - is a chemically derived ingredient that absorbs the full spectrum of UVA rays. (remember, UVA stands for Ulta Violet AGING, and UVB stands for Ulta Violet BURNING - both of which are never en vogue!)
  • Camphor is prized for its cooling, soothing properties, especially good for irritated and/or sensitive skins.  Contains a natural antiseptic, which makes for incredibly pure, flawless looking skin.  Just as camphor calms, so too does the cool cucumber, with the added benefit of reducing puffiness.  Also delivers a small amount of natural acids, leaving skin looking fresh, renewed, and youthful.  
  • Coffee doesn't just fuel your morning routine - it also jump starts your skin, leaving a more youthful radiance.  Natural antioxidants arm the skin against natural aggressors and stressors, from fog and smog to pollution and dehydration.
  •  Glucosamine - According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a recent study shows that glucosamine could prove to be an effective topical treatment to reverse the effects of skin cells damaged by UV exposure. Additionally, glucosamine acts as an agent in skincare that basically unlocks the glue that holds dead skin cells to the surface of our skin. 
  • I absolutely love how Jojoba Oil smells - so calming and relaxing.  This oil is naturally nourishing, providing the perfect amount of moisture for all skin types.  An added benefit - Jojoba oil won't clog your pores, leaving skin to breathe a sigh of moisturizing relief!  
  • lavender - calms and purifies the skin. 
  • menthol and spearmint - both stimulate the skin and awaken your senses.
  • mica - reflects light and gives a "shimmer" effect  
  • Mimosa (the evergreen tree bark, not the drink!) is prized for aiding in the production of collagen, known for reducing the breakdown and deterioration of existing collagen, and ultimately producing a more youthful, healthier skin.  
  • Olive, whether from the fruit or the leaf, brings loads of antioxidants that deeply nourish all skin types.  Also known for delivering anti-aging properties that you'll actually see. One additional plug for olive - it's good for all skin types, including sensitive skin or recovering from burns or procedures.  
  • orange, lemon, grapefruit, or any other citrus - naturally acidic, these essential oils will provide a gentle, chemical exfoliation to the skin, leaving brighter, more radiant looking skin.  The fragrance is naturally uplifting, prized for aromatherapy and increased positivism. 
  • sea harricots, oceanic flora, Rose of Jericho, Trehalose - powerful, natural ingredients that support, encourage, and sustain skin hydration on a cellular level.   The Rose of Jericho is known as the "resurrection plant", as it can magically "come back to life" after years of dormancy and neglect with just a drop of water, light, and attention. 
  • shea butter - from the shea tree's nuts, this is an ingredient prized for it's hydration and anti-aging properties. Naturally water resistant, products with shea butter are known to be deeply moisturizing and long-lasting. I look for any treatments designed for the hands to contain shea butter, especially good if you frequently wash your hands. A similar ingredient is the Hawaiian native kukui butter. 
  • sea salts - purify the skin and make for a wonderful physical exfoliant.  
  • silver tip white tea - nearly 15 years ago, I worked for a wonderful skincare company that released a product range centered around this INCREDIBLE ingredient.  I don't mean to sound pitchy or like I'm trying to sell something to you, so I won't mention who the company was.  I think after 15 years of using a product, I'm able to give an unbiased review - and I've seen such positive, undeniable results.  All the rage was for "green tea" - but silver tip white tea blows it out of the water.  Jam packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it naturally prevents dehydration, deterioration, and oxidation, leaving skin fresh, and forever young.  It literally stops the clock on aging.  Free radicals are prevented from doing damage. 
  • sugars - soften the skin and also slough away dead skin cells.  
  • Titanium Dioxide - a key ingredient in sun protection, it's one of the only natural sun blocks, actually causing the sun's harmful rays to literally bounce off your skin. Because of this, it is a major component of sun blocks and sun screens, because it deters the absorption of ultraviolet or UV rays. The concentration of titanium dioxide determines the product’s Sun Protection Factor, or SPF.
  • Vitamin C is ideal for repairing the effects of sun damage, and will naturally restore smoothness, brightness and luminosity, while visibly firming skin. 

We're taught to read food labels, but often overlook labels on our skincare and cosmetics. Navigating the label and product packing can be tricky, to say the least. Follow these steps to learn exactly what you're putting onto your skin.

1. PRODUCT IDENTITY: statement of what the product is.

2. NET CONTENTS: the amount of product in the package. The “” following the volume declaration is a guarantee that the product has been filled in accordance with the average system of measures used in the European Union (EU).

3. PRODUCT INGREDIENTS: lists all ingredients used in the formula in descending order of concentration. This is especially important for those people who are seeking a specific ingredient or want to avoid one. In addition, the ingredient listing now includes the various components of a fragrance ingredient previously not listed and therefore may be longer. This is important information for that small percentage of the population who may be sensitive to certain components of fragrances.

4. DIRECTIONS FOR USE: informs you of how, when and where to use the product.

5. NAME/LOCATION OF MANUFACTURER OR DISTRIBUTOR: informs you who made the product and where the manufacturer or distributor is located. The London address and Post Code is underlined to indicate the main contact office in the EU. Product inquiries can be sent to this address.

6. COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: the country that manufactures or produces the product.
7. tells you the recommended number of months within which the product should be used after you have first opened and used it, provided the product has been stored under normal conditions and not exposed to extreme temperatures. For example (24M) means that you should replace this product within (24 months) after first opening. The “Period After Opening” number will vary based upon the type of cosmetic product.

8. denotes that the company contributes to European programs for the proper disposal and recycling of all packing components.

9. WARNINGS/CAUTIONS: informs you what to do and not do with the product.

10. tells you to look elsewhere in the packaging for additional information, for example in a leaflet, card or tag.

When you know what you're looking for, you can make informed decisions with ease.  Don't be afraid to ask for samples and professional opinions.  Just remember, associates in a commission based environment may sell you items you don't necessarily need.  When in doubt, consult your dermatologist.  What skincare products, tips, tools, and tricks are you loving?