“Like boys” …

Credit: The New York Times On the Street with Bill Cunningham

Credit: The New York Times On the Street with Bill Cunningham

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?

My very own Comme des Garcons shirt!

My very own Comme des Garcons shirt!

Irina and Anna

Mother and Daughter - Irina and Anna

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

Lipstick always makes things better!

Sending you kisses!

Sending you kisses! Wearing my favorite lipstick (Bobbi Brown Lip Color – Pink*)!

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!

Phoebe

Phoebe

Phoebe

It warms the heart to enjoy a conversation with a young woman with whom you have history and have known all of her life. I sat down with Phoebe, who turned sixteen last month, and at first, all I could see was the adorable cherub of a baby I once knew. But as Phoebe spoke, I left the baby behind and saw only the young woman sitting next to me. And isn’t she effortlessly chic and stylish? Here is Phoebe, in her own words: on fashion, where she shops, and the need to express oneself …

My feeling about fashion is that you should dress the way you want to dress. I never understood trends. I just pick the things I like and I wear them …

My high school is big (Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, or simply, La Guardia High School), and like any other large school there is a wide range of fashion looks. But we definitely feel free to express who we really are without judgment. Sometimes students’ choices are wonderful and sometimes terrible, but at least they are their own and I think that is what’s important …

I shop at J. Crew, Forever 21 and The Gap. If I had to pick my favorite place to shop, I would say J. Crew, because their clothes are always current and classy. My friends and I also like to shop at Buffalo Exchange, a consignment shop filled with current looks and is geared toward a young, hip crowd. There really isn’t one store where I shop most, because I look everywhere for pieces that fit my style. As long as it’s not too expensive and I think I can make it work in my wardrobe, I’ll buy it …

I wonder about the connection between fashion and self-esteem and people who don’t care about how they dress or what others think. I have a certain level of self-respect and it affects how I choose to dress. From what I observe at school people care about how they present themselves, too; from their outfits, to their makeup, to their shoes and their accessories. I think it’s connected to having a more positive self-esteem …

I used to wear only jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. Now, I like to add different pieces to enhance my outfits and go a step further. I may choose a collared shirt under a sweater, with leggings and boots, for example. I’m also warming up to accessories like headbands and bracelets and I have a pair of pearl earrings that I wear with everything. I’m definitely more open to different styles.” ~ Phoebe

Phoebe, you are doing so well! I think you have a smart fashion sense and a solid perspective on the benefits of expressing yourself through your clothing choices. I love to see it and to see you too!  xx, Melissa

Be a trail blazer!

Luxe Rachel Zoe chocolate suede jacket

Luxe Rachel Zoe chocolate suede jacket

There is something about a well-fitted modern jacket that feels like armor. If it’s cut well, it adds a dose of cool to anything you wear it with and does the heavy lifting when it comes to creating a flattering shape.” ~ Stacy Londonstylist, television personality, and author – from her new book, The Truth About Style

Do you own a blazer? Have you checked your closet recently? Blazers are so important for pulling a look together, and having a few well-fitting jackets, as Stacy London says, is necessary for feeling your best. I like the notion of a jacket as armor and I agree. Sometimes you want to say more rather than less. Sometimes you need the extra coverage; not just to complete a look, but to go deeper – to give you a sense of control and purpose when you need confidence. Sometimes, as your body ages, you simply need a little more structure and form, especially in the shoulders. And nothing, nothing gives a man or woman a sense of power and elegance like a blazer.

The expression ‘go to’ really fits when it comes to wearing a blazer. I have a few; a white and yellow for spring/summer, and my recent purchase – this Luxe Rachel Zoe chocolate-suede from her QVC collection. I chose it because of its good fit and interesting detail, including the puffed-sleeves (love!) and multiple zippers. And brown looks great with black, which makes it a classic for everything.

Take care of yourself and add your own protection with a proper jacket. Be a trail blazer!

What do you think?

New Year, New York, New You!

Oh, the windows of New York!

Oh, the windows of New York!

Whenever I am in New York, especially at holiday time, I come alive … much like Farnoosh’s sister, Fara. The walking and the windows are a constant source of energy and inspiration. And so, when my mom and I had the chance to meet our friend Jodie for omelets and coffee at our favorite spot, Pastis, I jumped at it! New Year, New York, New You! New Me!

What do you think?

Breakfast at Pastis

breakfast at Pastis

Farnoosh’s sister

Farnoosh's sister Fara

Farnoosh’s sister Fara

Do you remember Farnoosh? She moved to The United States from Iran ten years ago with her parents and two older sisters. We spoke about how difficult the move and transition was for her at the tender pre-teen age of twelve, about how Farnoosh views fashion, and about the need for us to express ourselves, no matter what our circumstance; even when restrictions are placed upon us and our expression comes in the form of colorful fashion accessories, as in the case of Farnoosh’s female cousin, who lives in a modern-day Iran.

I spent the last morning of 2012 having a cup of coffee with Farnoosh and her oldest sister, Fara (her middle sister, Farnaz, lives in San Diego). Fara is 29 and is living in Chicago as she pursues her Master’s Degree in Designed Objects from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Like her sister, Fara is lovely and creative and full of energy. She has her own story and relationship with fashion. Here is Fara …

When we left Iran I was nineteen. It took me a while to get comfortable, but I was open to the move. I had already graduated from high school in Iran and had an idea that I wanted to be an artist. I stayed local when I first arrived, and for the first year and a half learned English as a second language at Seton Hall University. Immediately I knew that the school was too small for me and that I needed more. I was drawn to New York City and left Seton Hall for New York, where I attended NYIT, the New York Institute of Technology, and graduated with a degree in architecture …

I’m a city person and from the minute I came to New York I was happy. I loved the energy and the diversity and how people in NY are original, especially in the way they think and dress. My favorite thing to do became walking: I would walk everywhere! I was inspired by the streets and the windows. That might be why I dislike shopping in malls where everything is so generic and everyone looks the same. I can’t be linked to only one brand and one designer, head-to-toe. I like variety and dressing high and low. That is why I am a fan of H&M …

I would describe my look as chic enough but not too fancy. I enjoy mixing pieces and remaining eclectic. My passions remain shoes and handbags!” ~ Fara

Fara and Farnoosh have adopted their American life but also embrace their Iranian culture. We had an interesting conversation about what that means. I shared with them that I have Colombian blood and at one time I wasn’t comfortable embracing it, but as I get older, I understand that it is a major part of who I am and I treasure it. I guess that explains why I love Latin music and always want to start salsa dancing … even though I don’t know how!!

I hope I meet Farnoosh and Fara again soon – and meet their middle sister next – Farnaz!

What do you think?

Farnoosh and Fara

Fara with Farnoosh

Fara with me

Fara with me

“The Empress Vreeland”

Diana Vreeland in the office of VoguePhoto courtesy of documentary -  Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Diana Vreeland in the office of Vogue
Photo courtesy of film, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, her granddaughter-in-law

I wasn’t a fashion editor – I was the one and only fashion editor.” ~ Diana Vreeland

My holiday break has been about spending time with my family … and watching movies. Movies like, Hitchcock, Lincoln, Argo, The Silver Linings Playbook, (all wonderful films, by the way), and today a movie just for me: the documentary called Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. I must confess that I did not know very much about the iconic editor before seeing the film. The woman and the movie are fascinating and I was moved by her life and her story; much of the documentary is told in her own words, in her own voice.

She was born in Paris in 1903, during La Belle Epoque, to a life of adventure and beauty and Le Ballets Russes, where, according to Mrs. Vreeland: “my education was the world,” and to live a happy life, “the first thing to be done is to arrange to be born in Paris. Everything else happens quite naturally.” But it was her mother, who told her that she was the ugly duckling of the family, who may have inspired Mrs. Vreeland to dream her big dreams, spark her desire to stand out from the crowd, and be where the action is. After she met and married the very winning bachelor, Reed Vreeland, she says that her mother’s words no longer hurt her, and “Reed made me feel beautiful no matter what my mother made me think.” Oh and by the way, while living in Paris, she met Coco Chanel, with whom she says she was very close.

Her family later moved to New York, and eventually, as a grown and married woman without any formal education or training, found her first job as a columnist for Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Her column? Why Don’t You? A sort-of-how-to, way out, eccentric but  tried and true fashion Q&A, that represented her first step into a career in fashion, which she continued writing until the onset of World War II. She stopped when she believed the column to be frivolous. But Mrs. Vreeland’s role at Harper’s Bazaar grew and she would eventually become a fashion editor: the first of her kind in a role that she truly invented. Before that, magazines like Harper’s Bazaar didn’t have fashion editors; the role of women and fashion was more about society ladies dealing with the social do’s and don’ts of running a household, including how to make pies. But Mrs. Vreeland revolutionized that: she gave fashion a bigger, exotic life, she took people to new places they couldn’t reach on their own, she launched the careers of actors like Lauren Bacall, and put bikinis and blue jeans on the map. And after 26 years as editor of Harper’s Bazaar, she moved to Vogue, where she would become editor-in-chief during the explosive 1960s and set the world on fire again, turning a sleepy magazine into a global fashion runway.

She did it all her way. She was an original with a vision – always a vision. And I wonder, as I often do, what gives someone that indescribable drive? I am left with a compelling thought; that beyond her success in the fashion world, it is perhaps her personal story of drive and determination to find her own way and step away from the ugly duckling messages that her mother placed on her, to stop at nothing to express who she really was: magnificent. Here she is, in her own words:

I think when you’re young you should be a lot with yourself and your sufferings. Then one day you get out where the sun shines and the rain rains and the snow snows and it all comes together.” ~ Diana Vreeland

What do you think?

Diana Vreeland

A young Diana Vreeland

Elle: Eating, styling, playing

Elle, styling in her Asos shimmer pencil skirt and Belle by Sigerson Morrison eskimo booties

Elle, styling in her shimmer pencil skirt by ASOS and her Eskimo Clog Booties by Belle/Sigerson Morrison

Elle writes a fashion and lifestyle blog (eatstyleplay.com): we enjoy reading some of the same fashion blogs and that is how I found her. She is in her 20s and lives in Washington, D.C. There is an ease and an openness to her writing. On the face of it, Elle’s story is very different from my own, and yet … is it really? Aren’t we all connected by fashion and life? Here is Elle …

What inspired you to start a blog? How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging on and off for about four years. I was first inspired because I needed an outlet, I loved fashion, and when I shopped I was told that I knew how to select and find unique items. I also spent a ton of time online searching for things that the stores didn’t carry. My blog was more of an inspirational fashion blog. Then I lost my job, and I started blogging about the food I was cooking, which became a big hit. I then started venturing out into my personal style and covering events around D.C. As I continue to search, I find more things that inspire me everyday.


Your blog is focused on lifestyle. Why are you inspired to write about both fashion and food?

Growing up my grandmother was always in the kitchen and she and I were joined at the hip until she passed away when I was about 14. I helped her, literally, from the time I was two years old. I love to cook and I hadn’t realized how much I cook for my family until my mom pointed out that I have a “gift” for seasoning. I have made my own season kits, jazzing up even the blandest of foods. I wanted to somehow let that shine in my blog. My girlfriends told me that they loved to see me write about the basics of cooking, so that’s what I’ve been doing, or at least trying to do.

In the past year I have been inspired to write more about fashion from a plus-size woman’s perspective. Finding hip and trendy clothing has been so hard. I would often notice that someone else was often wearing my outfit! I want to show women that it’s possible to find unique clothing and be just as trendy as so-called “regular” sized fashion bloggers. Like other plus-size bloggers, I want to know that there are choices out there for me. This year I have been focusing on my health, which may result in moving out of the plus-size range. But that will never stop me from wanting to help and inspire women.


You know about style and designers. What influences you when making a clothing purchase?

I’m influenced by classic pieces, and trendy styles. All of the clothing I wear must be flattering. If I feel like something is too tight, I pass on it because the clothing will become bothersome and give the impression that I don’t know what works for me. There are some things I simply can’t pull off. I am motivated to buy items that I know will last and transition well; I have some pieces that I can wear in all four seasons. I buy the highest quality when it comes to shoes, handbags, and jewelry. Mostly, I want to wear clothing that makes me feel great, and adds to my confidence.


Do you think fashion affects our self-esteem?

That’s a hard question for me. At one point I noticed that women who looked like me didn’t exist in the media. And there was nothing out there for us to wear and feel good about. But I do believe that selections today have improved and are making many women feel better about themselves. I know I’m excited and happy to see more fashion options available to me and to women like me. 

What is it like to be a 20-something living in Washington D.C? Is the style conservative?

I have a love/hate relationship with D.C. I grew up here, and D.C. is changing all the time. I don’t think that all of D.C. is so conservative. I think the Hill is conservative and with good reason, but once you explore different areas there is a wide variety of people from all walks of life. It’s not New York; not everyone is comfortable stepping outside of their creative box. There are still people who will judge those who are different. I love certain things about D.C., though. I love Eastern Market, U Street, the lounges, and the smaller circle of blog networks here. I know that I will eventually leave and explore elsewhere, but D.C. is my home.
Thank you, Elle, for this conversation. I am grateful to you. Maybe we can meet someday! Keep on styling! Check out Elle’s blog: www.eatstyleplay.com.

More sustainable fashion news …

Chris Yura, Founder and CEO of SustainUPhoto courtesy of SustainU

Chris Yura, Founder and CEO of SustainU
Photo courtesy of SustainU

Here is a fashion story with heart: Notre Dame football star and graduate becomes the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of a company that produces American-made, 100% recycled t-shirts. Chris Yura says that he “always felt called to think of ideas” and that the Notre Dame community encouraged him. He was speaking to Joan and Liz Hamburg on WOR Radio/NYC. Every Monday, Joan’s daughter, Liz, an entrepreneur herself, hosts a segment called Launchpad, where entrepreneurs discuss their ‘big ideas’ and business ventures.

Mr. Yura’s story fascinates me. After graduating from college, he was scouted to become a fashion model, and moved to New York City where he worked for Ford Models for five years. It was during that time that he started to understand how clothing is made and says that it was this information from “my years in fashion” that sparked his desire to create sustainable, American-made clothing. He researched the process and materials extensively, and eventually, his company, SustainU, was born.

Mr. Yura says that his clothing is not only good for the planet, but good for workers and for consumers. His tees are affordable and sell for approximately $20 retail. He also contends that if he stays true to his business model; that everything must be made in America, that all clothing must be made from 100% recycled materials (not simply partially-recycled materials), and that he manufacture in places where people need the work, SustainU will stay successful, even when up against its competitors. Anyone can order on-line at SustainUClothing.com, and in 2013 SustainU plans to be in NYC area retailers and throughout the United States. They are also planning to produce other types of clothing, including fleece and performance and children’s wear.

As a football player, Mr. Yura understood the importance of depending on his teammates. Similarly, he relies on his teammates at SustainU; they are a young and agile company and always open to new ways of manufacturing. “I’m at the tip of the iceberg now … I am starting to see what’s possible.” ~ Chris Yura

Good for you  – good for us! And thank you to NYC treasures Joan and Liz Hamburg for bringing Chris Yura’s story to our attention.

What do you think?