My name is Melissa Kaplan Guarino. Welcome to my blog! It’s a place for sharing fashion tips & stories that will help make each one of us shine brightly. What is your story?
Hello Dear Readers,
I am in the process of updating my blog host and it is taking a little time. Please stay with me as I learn the ins and outs of technical production.
I recently learned about a new company named, Pantheia, and once again, I was moved by the story of sustainable fashion production. It comes from the island of Bali and was the inspiration of a designer named Alisa Kreynes …
In 2007, Alisa moved to East Timor from New York City for work. Bali became her escape; it was just a short flight away from the pressures of Timor. Just three years later, in 2010, Alisa had moved to Bali permanently, and started designing jewelry, bags and accessories. According to Alisa, designer and founder of Pantheia: “I was, and still am, enchanted with the Bali and wanted to incorporate some of its magic into my pieces. The concept behind Pantheia designs is simplicity and unity. Unity of different cultures, histories, traditions and beliefs as well as unity with nature and its elements.”
Scott Russell, Director of Marketing for Pantheia, shared more with me about the purpose and intention of this extraordinary company …
“Pantheia was born in 2010 and expanded internationally in late 2011. The philosophy and values are centered around making unique and quality jewelry, clothing, bags and accessories, using the skills and techniques of Balinese artisans and craftsmen.
A moment to take in the First Fashion from the Inauguration …
Michelle Obama has great style. What I love most about our First Lady’s fashion sense is that she truly owns it. She knows what works for her and how she likes to present herself. Every time she steps out she makes a statement – one that says chic and approachable at the same time. Today, all three Obama women made statements, and the First Fashions were so well coordinated …
… and for the second time, Michelle Obama chose a custom Jason Wu design for the Inaugural balls. I love this color red; she wears it so well.
What do you think?
Like boys … translation: Comme des Garcons
“The way I approach each collection is exactly the same…the motivation has always been to create something new, something that didn’t exist before. The more experience I have and the more clothes I make, the more difficult it becomes to make something new. Once I’ve made something, I don’t want to do it again, so the breadth of possibility is becoming smaller.” Rei Kawakubo, Japanese fashion designer and creative force behind the label Comme des Garcons, Ltd.
Today I am inspired (as I often am) by New York Times On the Street photographer, Bill Cunnigham, and his piece entitled, “Coated“. He highlights the coats and dresses from Rei Kawakubo’s collection from March 2012, and those women lucky enough to be wearing these colorful fashion-as-art pieces now.
Rei Kawakubo’s first collection, “Lace,” debuted in 1981 and since her debut, Ms. Kawakubo’s designs have been original and exquisite. She appears not to be interested in what others are doing, in creating the new, and in having the discipline to do so. I am thrilled to own my own small piece of Comme des Garcons, and for once I too, can be like boys!!
What do you think?
Have you turned on the news lately? Anchor women are going sleeveless and everywhere you turn, you find this new uniform; sleeveless blouses/dresses and exposed arms – even in the cold winter months. I’m wondering … who sent these women the memo?? Could it be a response to our First Lady’s penchant for sleeveless dresses? My mother, Claire, and my neighbor, Jean, first brought this phenomenon to my attention. Initially, I noticed just a handful of participants, but now I see that among the younger news women the trend is spreading. Everyone is dressing this way; local newscasters to more well-known names, like NBC’s Natalie Morales and ABC’s Katie Couric.
Should we be reading into this? Is it just a passing fancy or simply a passing thought? Do we care?
What do we think?
Irina and Anna are mother and daughter. Their family moved to New Jersey from Russia just two years ago, turning their entire lives around, because since she was fifteen, Irina knew in her heart that “she didn’t want to grow old in Russia.” We sat down for a conversation and talked about their life in Russia, what life is like in today’s Russia, and both American and Russian style. I walked away smiling, knowing that I spent time with two extraordinary women, and learned a little about their world as well! Here are Irina and Anna:
Irina: “When I stopped speed skating at 21, it was a very difficult time for me. I had always had my skating and only my skating; I was living in a bubble without having to step into the real world. Then the sports ended and I had to figure out what I would do next. I was also married at 21, so my life changed in that way, too. My husband and I first attempted to leave Russia when we were newly married, and we moved to Holland as aux pairs. That didn’t work out, but it led me to my next opportunity, because it’s the little details that are important ..
The woman with whom I had worked as an aux pair, had a friend who was just starting out in publishing; he would eventually become the owner of one of the largest publishing houses in Russia. Through that initial connection I ended up working for him and began a long career in publishing …
During that time, I collected beautiful, high-end clothing for my work wardrobe. At one time, I had 10-12 Louis Vuitton handbags! Today’s Russian style is sophisticated. Russian women spend time selecting clothes and are very aware of the details of dress. They appreciate beautiful things and will spend more money buying them. They love labels like Chanel (especially the older women) and Dolce & Gabbana.“
(I asked Irina to compare today’s fashion with the old Soviet Union … )
“Growing up, we didn’t have choices. Everyone was forced to wear the same things. I didn’t dress in color: my clothing was gray, brown or black. My girlfriend’s aunt had connections and she always wore bright, colorful clothing! I wanted to look like her!” ~ Irina
Anna: “Some people here (in the United States) don’t want to make the effort with fashion. In Russia, everyone dresses carefully and with attention to the details. Even my friends who wear uniforms to school will take care in putting their outfits together: adding a pencil skirt, a nice blouse, great shoes, special handbags, etc. Everyone in Russia has a good-sized handbag and men and women carry big wallets as well … no one wears backpacks in Russia! They prefer to carry totes! When I first moved here, people couldn’t understand why I carried a tote and not a backpack. Friends still tell me that I dress with a European attitude but I don’t see it.“ ~ Anna
Much to say; I would love to have another conversation with Irina and Anna …
Details in dressing are important. It’s the little things that help you reach your style potential and create value that will take your look over-the-top. When I saw Jennifer Lawrence in her gown at The Golden Globes, the tangerine-red dress was beautiful, yes, but it was the slim black belt that made it stand out! Accessories, when done right, are accents that bring charm and identify you and your personality: a belt on a cardigan sweater, a necklace worn in an open v-neck, or the right bracelet on your wrist. Other details are critical, as well. I have spoken about the need for a good fit and having a tailor in your arsenal. Proper seams add sophistication to your shirts and jackets, and slacks hemmed appropriately for your size will do the same. Pops of color brighten an outfit, but more important, your mood. Think of a colorful handbag or clutch, or scarf worn around your neck, or even a manicure, the next time you want to feel brighter.
It’s the little things that bring huge benefits!
What do you think?
“I dreamed a dream in times gone by – When hope was high – And life worth living – I dreamed that love would never die ...” ~ Fantine, from Les Miserables
By 6pm my family knew to leave me alone, so that I could turn on the television and watch The Golden Globes in peace. Not just The Globes, though; I watch the pre-game – I mean the pre-show – red carpet. And I watch with gusto. It is my Superbowl. I love to see what everyone is wearing; I guess it brings back memories of dressing up as a little girl and glamming it up in front of the mirror! In fact, I dressed as a bride in one of the first Halloween’s I can remember (was I four years old??). Even then, it was all about the dress!
But it is more than that. It’s about dreams. It’s about memories. It’s about movies and stories. It’s about reaching back to my childhood, to that place where fantasy met reality and there were no boundaries.
For the record, my favorite looks of the evening were worn by two friends – the Aussie women: Nicole Kidman (I love her shorter hair!), in Alexander McQueen and Naomi Watts in Zac Posen. Both looked so chic yet simple and with a hint of sensuality, in perfectly-fitted silhouettes. My other favorite was Jennifer Lawrence, in a tangerine-red Dior Haute Couture dress, with a simple black belt that accentuated her slim waist. She said she felt a little “flu-y,” but honestly, who could tell??
The Golden Globes. Golden dreams!
Irina grew up in The Soviet Union; she was a speed skater. Not just any speed skater – Irina was a champion for the USSR and participated in the Junior World Speed Skating Championship in Seoul, Korea. Irina skated for ten years, from the ages of 11-21. It was the privileged life of a Russian athlete, and one that offered income and travel for precious few during the Soviet regime. By the time Irina was fourteen, she was making money; when she was fifteen she left the country for the first time, and traveled to Northern Italy to skate. She was based near Milano, and the experience left her breathless and excited for adventure. Irina says that she “loved it so much,” that in that moment she knew she would eventually leave Russia, where “we didn’t really live, we merely existed.” Sadly, when Irina was nineteen, she suffered a very serious injury to her leg and muscles, and although she tried, she could no longer skate to her top-level performance and eventually quit because “I can’t be bad at something.”
Had that not happened, Irina feels certain that she would have continued skating professionally, and who knows where her life would have led? But it did happen and the course of her life led her to different adventures and an eventual move to The United States, making her the survivor that she is today. But she remained focused and fearless and like any athlete, kept her eyes on her goals – no matter what.
More to come from Irina …
This was a rough morning: I had two places to be at the same time, and was not prepared. It is a state in which we mothers find ourselves all of the time, because life with children is nothing if not messy and chaotic. And just when you think you have your ducks-in-a-row something will happen to shake it all up and you are back to square one. I would like to say that it gets better as your children get older but this state of confusion has followed me into my boys’ teen years.
In times like these, a mother must remain calm and breathe deeply. And that is a good place to start, but the reality is that you need more to combat the chaos: you need lipstick. This morning, as I was rushing to my second place after delivering my son to his destination, I found myself grabbing my favorite lipstick* and telling my mother, “Lipstick always makes things better!” And it does. Applying lipstick in moments of stress is calming and instantly uplifting. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that lipstick is the gateway to the other stress reliever for any mother: her smile!
Sending you kisses! xx!