Dressing for the decades: What to wear at gala

Elegance in Navy

Elegance in Navy

It’s almost time for one of the major fixtures on our community’s fall social and philanthropic calendar: the Annual Friends of FEMAP Gala.

As many locals here know, FEMAP (Federacion Mexicana de Empresas y Asociaciones Privadas) is a nongovernmental nonprofit organization serving future and expectant mothers in Ciudad Juárez. FEMAP founder Guadalupe Arizpe De la Vega wanted to make family planning and prenatal care accessible to women living in poverty and has worked side-by-side with many El Pasoans, including longtime leaders Adair Margo, Mary Ann Dodson, and Dr. Jack Heydemann, to make this goal a reality.

What started out as a two-room clinic named Clinica de la Familia became the beloved Hospital de la Familia, where thousands of babies have been born since 1976. I have been a serious supporter of FEMAP since I visited that hospital in Juarez years ago. I was amazed at the medical services provided with such limited resources.

Today FEMAP has two full-service inpatient hospitals, a nursing school, community-based health programs helping children and teenagers develop emotionally and physically, and a micro-finance program. It’s a good cause and hundreds of people from both sides of the Border are expected to attend the benefit ball at the Judson Williams Civic Center this Friday, September 20.

Anna Aleman, executive director of the FEMAP Foundation, tells me that this year’s theme is “Decades: 1973-2013” to celebrate FEMAP’s four decades of service and the Foundation’s two decades of fundraising.

In 1973, when Guadalupe founded FEMAP, disco was king and everyone was doing the Hustle under mirror balls and strobe lights. So for this anniversary year, the gala’s entertainment will start with ‘70s disco tunes and work its way up through hits of the past to the present, while celebrating each decade of the organization’s milestones.

So, naturally, women are asking me how they should dress for this themed party but still be elegant and stylish. Good question! Here are some thoughts on the questions I’m hearing:

  •  Length? Either cocktail length or long ball gowns are appropriate. Both are in fashion. Choose the length that makes you feel the most fabulous.
  • Color? Navy blue is by far the most up-to-date color for evening wear this year. It is so trite to say it’s the new black.  Ok I won’t say it.  In addition to navy, burgundy and teal are great evening colors.
  • Details? One of this season’s top trends is the return of lace and illusion – sheer fabrics to cover a little but still tease.
  • Jewelry? Less jewels on the dress itself – not so much in sequins or beading.  More drama in colored stone necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Think sapphire or blue topaz

I hear that some tickets are still available for the gala! Call 544-4151 or visit www.femap.org

 

New season, new surroundings, new venture!

This coming week brings a special business milestone for me: a new store within our store. Any small-business owner – or large business owner, for that matter – can relate when I say it’s both exciting and a little un-nerving when you dream of something new and you watch it come to fruition.

To back up, earlier this year, after a lot of thought, I decided to move forward with a business expansion opportunity: a fine jewelry boutique. It was a natural progression for our mission to dress women on the Border in style from head to toe.

Tres Mariposas has been under construction much of this summer to build this new boutique within our store’s footprint and it’s finally coming together. We’ve torn up our store and are putting in designer display areas to create an amazing fine jewelry environment for customers.  We’ve debated about perfect lighting, about interesting wall textures, about just-right pieces to go in the cases.

However, as I write this, I confess I am a tad nervous about whether everything will be finished in time for our grand opening this Wednesday!  But hey, if you don’t plan a party or special event, you’ll never get finished, right?

The building project is only a part of the picture, though. The key components: people and product. My to-do list is long, but I can check these off with pleasure:

  • We hired Carmen and Flori, two fabulous associates with serious fine jewelry expertise and experience.  They have integrated seamlessly into our retail environment that emphasizes teamwork.
  • We went to the world’s largest jewelry market/show in Las Vegas in June, and carefully selected top designers to carry.  In every industry with designer lines, you can’t just pick what you want and buy it.  The vendor decides if you are      “worthy enough to carry their product.” You see all kinds of jockeying for different designers in the prestige jewelry world.  We are thrilled to be launching with some really gorgeous jewelry from Ivanka Trump, Yvel, Carrera & Carrera, and Cassis, in addition to best-selling lines from Ippolita, Jude Frances, and others that we already carry.

Needless to say I have robbed my “Retirement Piggy Bank” to invest dollars in personnel, boutique build-out and expensive inventory, but I’ve never been one to stick to the status quo when an exciting new opportunity presents itself.

We’re in the countdown now. We’ve got jewelry trunk shows for four days and lots of festivities from September 11 -14. Drop in and see what it can look like when you dream of new changes – and your dreams come true!

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Business Success and Philanthropy Go Together for Jeweler

Ethiopian immigrants are now employed in full time jobs in Israel, and with the launch of this beautiful and affordable new collection, they are helping to bring the same educational services to other new Ethiopian immigrant students.

Ethiopian immigrants are now employed in full time jobs in Israel, and with the launch of this beautiful and affordable new collection, they are helping to bring the same educational services to other new Ethiopian immigrant students.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “doing well by doing good” – a phrase describing a business that is financially successful at the same time it is working toward making the world a better place. Instead of the corporation’s generosity hurting its bottom line, the company reaps rewards.

“Well-known companies have already proven that they can differentiate their brands and reputations as well as their products and services if they take responsibility for the well-being of the societies and environments in which they operate,” write business consultants George Pohle and Jeff Hittner in a report from the IBM Institute for Business Value. “These companies are practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a manner that generates significant returns to their businesses.”

Maybe it’s retention of top people who share in the values of giving back to society or maybe it’s better morale that incentivizes people to work harder for a company they respect. Maybe it’s just good karma. Whatever the explanation, a growing number of corporations contribute financially to charitable organizations, allow employees to volunteer for good causes on company time, and give back to their communities in many ways.

And then there are some companies that go beyond those generous gestures to make doing good an integral and transformative part of the way they do business. For instance, 3M has the 3P program — “Pollution Prevention Pays.” Employees get paid for ideas that reduce pollutants in 3M’s manufacturing processes and products.  Since it was launched in 1975, 10,000 projects have eliminated more than 1.9 million tons of pollutants – and saved the company $1.7 billion. Now that’s transformative!

I have gotten to know a jewelry company that, like 3M, goes beyond simple financial charity to make a major difference. The company, Yvel, is committed to help struggling immigrants in Israel have better lives.

Yvel (“Levy” backwards) was founded in 1986 by Orna Levy, a member of the Mousseueff family famous for importing fine pearls and designing exquisite pearl jewelry, and her husband Isaac Levy, who emigrated with his family from Buenos Aires. Isaac’s family faced poverty and hardships before succeeding in their new country, a childhood that he never forgot.

“My way of repairing the world is to give others what I didn’t have as a child,” he says, “and to help repair the weakest links in Israeli society – our immigrants and, in particular, Ethiopian immigrants.”

About 90 percent of the 100 employees working in Yvel’s design and production facility outside Jerusalem are immigrants; they come from more than 20 very different countries and cultures, including Iraq, Syria, Russia, and the United States.

Then, to take their corporate social responsibility mission even further, the Levys set up a company within their company: a new line of jewelry designed and produced by a group of Israeli immigrants who have faced particular challenges, Ethiopian Jews.

In 2010, the Levys founded the Megemeria School of Jewelry to train and employ Ethiopian-Isrealis whose people were expelled from their native Ethiopia in the 1970s and who now number more than 120,000 and who have high rates of poverty and unemployment.

Megemeria, which means “genesis” or beginnings, teaches students jewelry design, goldsmithing, gem setting and pearl-stringing, all artisanal skills that can earn them jobs at Yvel and other jewelry manufacturers. Training is free and the students receive monthly stipends; mentors also help them learn every day skills for success.

It sounds great. In addition, the designs coming out of this new venture look very intriguing. Their Africa-inspired pieces in brass and gold-plate are simple and creative and their sales bode well for the Megemeria business inside the Yvel business. The hope is for it to become self-sustaining in the future.

I am excited to see in person some of these pieces when Yvel representatives are here on September 12 for a trunk show during the grand opening of the new Tres Mariposas jewelry department. It’s a special boutique within a store!

 

I also can’t wait to see Orna and Isaac Levy’s award-winning cultured pearl necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings. These lustrous pearls come in beautiful colors and innovative settings and are unlike anything else we’ve ever had at the store. And when I buy a piece that I’ll like to wear, I know I’m helping to support a good cause on the other side of the world!

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Fall Fashion Trends, Part 2

As I wrote last week, we are all gearing up for fall. This week, we have a few more trends for you to watch for as you shop. Check out the big September issues of the leading fashion magazines and you will see some wonderful examples of what’s hot this season.

Sometimes people wonder what retail buyers do – when they’re not at market actually buying! Besides placing orders for what they project will sell well, our buyers at Tres Mariposas, are  also responsible for educating our staff about the clothing they saw at market and why they think our customers will be drawn to some of the new styles.

Our contemporary buyer, Gesuina Legaspy, identified some interesting directions that designers are taking this season:

Keep up with the latest trends.  Follow our Tres G.A.L. on Instagram. http://instagram.com/tres_gal#

Keep up with the latest trends. Follow our Tres G.A.L. on Instagram. http://instagram.com/tres_gal#

 

1. Leather Detailing: Leather is always big for fall but now you’re seeing it show up in new places. It’s about the details this year. Leather accents can be found on collars, sleeves, and even peplums. You’ll still find plenty of leather jackets and pants, but watch for some distinctive details.

2. Mini Statements:  After years of big handbags, the tide is turning. Purses are downsizing. Once oversized bags are giving way to minis that still can provide a big impact. Luxury handbag designers are having fun with these smaller accessories that can add a lot of personality and style to an outfit.

3. Popular Purple: Mulberry, plum, and dark saturated purple hues are a major trend color this fall. Stylists are mixing and matching purple with other colors, both neutral and bold. No matter what shade you favor, purple is a gorgeous jewel tone that conveys elegance, creativity, romance, and luxury.

4. Retro Flare: Call it fit and flare – it’s a lady-like silhouette with a close-fitting bodice and a softly flared-out skirt. Cinched at the waist, these dresses create a flattering fit for almost any size. This is one of those styles that accentuate the positive!

5. Mixed Media: You can see so many variations on this trend, which can include novel ways of combining fabrics, styles, and looks. For instance, mixed media can be a fun way to play with textiles, such as combining cashmere with chiffon, leather with ponte knit, or wool with silk. It could be a dress that looks prim and proper in front and sexy in the back or an outfit mixing a vintage look with cutting edge details. It’s all about versatility and individuality.

Enjoy shopping for fall – cooler weather is right around the corner!

Preview Top Trends for Fall

Keep up with the latest trends.  Follow our Tres G.A.L. on Instagram. http://instagram.com/tres_gal#

Keep up with the latest trends. Follow our Tres G.A.L. on Instagram. http://instagram.com/tres_gal#

 

Each season our buyers at Tres Mariposas present a trend seminar for our staff so they will be up to date on the latest.  Last week, our wonderful contemporary buyer, Gesuina Legaspy, gave us a fun preview of what’s going to be hot this fall. I’ll share half of her top ten trends for fall 2013 this week and the other half next week. I’ll also give you an inside look at Gesuina’s “trend board,” a typical presentation tool used by both designers and buyers.

Here are Gesuina’s predictions for what will be popular this fall:

  1. Rocker Chic: Think black leather jackets and studs galore. You don’t have to be a serious rock-and-roller to get into this tough, yet sophisticated look – but you might feel like one after you put on an updated motorcycle jacket!

    Rocker Chic

    Rocker Chic

  2. Digital Print (or exploded print):  Lots of designers use photography as an inspiration for their designs, but now textile designers are reproducing actual photographs in their prints for fabric. It’s a trend we call digital print. Think of photos of all kinds of things – landscapes, buildings, faces, whatever — reproduced on dresses, scarves, and even pants. Digital print is innovative and fresh.
    Digital Print

    Digital Print

     

  3. Jungle Fever: Animal prints never go away, and this season python and leopard prints will be big. You’ll also see some accessories with fur from animals that you won’t find in the jungle. Watch for calf hair and pony hair on handbags, wallets, and even coats.

    Jungle Fever

    Jungle Fever

  4. Navy, the New Black: Navy blue is THE color for fall. It’s both classic and neutral and you can mix it with just about anything. This rich dark shade is the go-to color this season, night or day. Wearing navy with black is a sophisticated trend that started in Europe. Some people might wonder about mixing the two colors, but you can just tell them, “It’s a very European look.”

    Navy is the New Black

    Navy is the New Black

  5. Illusion Additions: Feminine “illusion” necklines and sleeves — made of sheer fabrics that cover but don’t conceal — have been an ongoing trend, especially popular in wedding dresses and evening wear. Illusion designs leave something to the imagination and can be very flattering. Designers use fabrications such as mesh, tulle, and lace for these designs. What’s new this seasons is the use of illusion fabrics in panels on the side of pants and dresses.

    Illusion

    Illusion

So here we have five very different trends to watch; tune in next week for the rest!

Step into Tres Mariposas or check out more of Gesuina’s Instagram to learn more about the newest fashions!

 

My Charmed Life

Have you ever thought of your jewelry box or jewelry collection as representing your life story? A biography in a box if you will.

I just finished reading “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching for a Band of Gold,” by Beth Bernstein. In this new book, Beth recounts that her fascination with jewelry began at a very young age. She grew up to work in the jewelry industry.

“I believed in wholeheartedly in the transformative power of jewelry – how it made me feel more regal and glamorous, changing me from a shy, ordinary girl into a shimmering princess from a faraway land,” she writes. She says she hopes her book “will appeal to women who have fallen in love, felt loss, learned to start over again and have been transformed by the enchanting power of jewelry.”

As she came into midlife, she realized that her life was a collection of memories represented by various pieces of jewelry. “All of the precious keepsakes in my jewelry box reveal part of my history: not just material possessions but sparkling memories that link together the family, friends and romances that inspired me to write this book,” she writes.

In a recent interview in “Accent” magazine, Beth reports that since her book was published, many women have written her about what their jewelry means to them and, sometimes, what jewelry meant to their mothers. In a way, mothers and daughters have shared jewelry boxes, after daughters inherit important pieces, for instance.

“Almost everyone who wrote mentioned the relevance certain pieces have to significant moments in their lives: the exciting time they got their ears pierced or the magical moment they were first given jewelry by a buy,” she writes. “Women have told me about the pain of selling their jewelry after a divorce, the joy of receiving their engagement ring, the bittersweet memories conjured up by their mom’s charm bracelet.”

I think most of us can relate to the emotional significance of jewelry. One of my favorite pieces of jewelry is a crystal cross that belonged to my mother. My mother and I shared a love of crosses. Although it is not an expensive piece, I always get compliments when I wear it. And I always love saying, “It was my mother’s.”

I must confess that as the book continues, Beth gets a little heavy on the portion of the subtitle, “Searching for a Band of Gold.” I couldn’t keep up with the descriptions of all the gorgeous Adonis-like boyfriends. It became a little repetitive that decade after decade; the author was so focused on finding a husband. I read on though, sure that by the end of the book Mr. Right would have appeared to put a ring on her finger. Not so!

Instead, Beth finds redemption in another way – a way many women eventually find peace of mind – that she is content as herself, without Prince Charming. This breakthrough comes when Beth realizes that she can purchase her own jewelry. Life doesn’t have to be about waiting for a man to serve up life to you on a platter or in this case, in a jewelry box. As the book jacket says, “she realizes that the brightest gems are the ones you give yourself, and finds freedom she never thought possible.”

Wise words for today’s women. Give this exercise a try: go through your jewelry box and look for those pieces that carry memories of people, places, and events. You might even think about buying special pieces to give to your loved ones so that they will carry on happy memories of you! "My Charmed Life"

Consultants can help navigate change

In the past, I’ve written about the creative energy of change in a small business.  I often

ask myself and my staff what can be changed to improve our store and our customers’ shopping experiences. Whether it’s trying out new business practices or creating a shoe department, I don’t mind shaking up the status quo now and then. Remember our Nicole Miller store-within-a-store or our Men’s Night Out? I’m never afraid of committing to new concepts!

Change is good – and in fact, change can be fun. It can also be challenging, to say the least. I’m like a lot of you out there who own your own business. Maybe part of you loves to innovate, but on your other shoulder a more conservative voice is questioning each and every move. In times of major change, I often hire outsiders to help increase the likelihood of success in waters I have not previously charted.

A confluence of events recently spurred our latest change. First off, our fine jewelry business has been a strong growth category over the last five years. Secondly, after a local fine jewelry store closed, one of their associates wanted to join Tres and help us expand that category.

At first, I was negative about that idea. After all, didn’t I already have a successful business without the havoc of a major change? Well, one’s true nature usually triumphs and sure enough, I couldn’t resist the siren call of a challenge. Two new associates joined our staff and I began plans for expanding our fine jewelry business.

We had already outgrown our existing fine jewelry space. With plans to expand the category, an upgrade and expansion of space was critical. We decided to rearrange our store to give more space to fine jewelry. So I researched jewelry store designers to help us create that new environment.

Did you know that there are professional designers that just specialize in such areas? I found Shane Dunn in Phoenix and began working with him. I’m glad to report we are on track and I love his vision.

Just one hitch.  When we expand fine jewelry, that will displace accessories.  And when we find a new home for accessories, that will displace something else. You know the domino effect.

Remember how when you got a new couch, suddenly you needed to repaint? After you painted, then you needed new carpet and so on. It’s like that.

So we decided to take this opportunity to revisit the whole store!  Shane works with a noted specialist in store design, David Larson out of Phoenix, so we hired him, too, to “remerchandise” and transform our other departments.

I am a tad skeptical of anyone I don’t first meet in person, but we corresponded. When he wrote that his most important point was making our store “that kind of business that makes your clientele excited about their next visit (with) a mix of entertainment, retailing and relaxation,” he had me at the proverbial “hello.”

He has years of experience in fashion merchandising – basically the art and science of display and arranging lines of clothing and accessories on the selling floor – and taught store design and merchandising on the college level for eleven years. David has worked with a variety of retailers, from Nike to the flagship Disney merchandise store at Disneyland.  About 20 years ago, he worked with some Downtown stores here.

We enjoyed meeting him at our store last Saturday. He talked about the psychology of shopping, the flow of a store, “merchandise adjacencies,” balance, alignment, and first impressions. He discussed how spatial arrangements can make shopping easier, more user-friendly.

Having a fresh new ambiance is all fun and exciting, but can remodeling pay off? No one can predict, but he gave an example of a store he worked with that sold metal home goods, such as Nambe and fine copper. He completely re-arranged their displays and the owner told him the next year that sales were up 160 percent. Interesting!

We’re eager to see what he comes up with as he arranges our various puzzle pieces and analyzes our existing departments. “You are brave,” he told me. “This type of tinkering with an established business, and the budget that it requires, is not for the faint-of-heart.  But the rewards are real.”

In spite of the remodel, we’ll stay open. And we’ll be reminding ourselves: change is good!

Please Pardon our Dust!

Please Pardon our Dust!

Behind the Scenes at Luxury Jewelry Company

Sapphires from Thailand are so famous that they were featured on a Thai postage stamp in 2001.

Sapphires from Thailand are so famous that they were featured on a Thai postage stamp in 2001.

If you are in the jewelry industry, you know that Thailand has a rich history in gems and jewelry. Something about the topography makes Thailand and nearby regions rich resources for fabulous gems.

Thailand gives us the dazzling red “Siamese rubies,” for instance. Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province is known for extensive deposits of blue sapphires.

It’s only natural that hundreds of years ago, the Thai people began combining their artistic flair and these local gem resources to develop a thriving jewelry industry. Skills handed down through generations plus modern manufacturing techniques helped the country become a global production and trade center.

As I wrote last week, I recently visited my daughter and her family in Thailand. I had been wanting to get a better sense of the jewelry industry in Bangkok, so for this trip, I made arrangements to visit one of the luxury firms. I ended up enjoying a fascinating jewelry tour and education.

I visited the production center for a jewelry company that designs and manufactures luxury pieces with prices ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. They are well known in luxury destinations around the world, but I cannot divulge their name to you.

Secrecy and discretion were the rule of the day! When I saw the artisans and craftsmen working, I immediately wanted to take pictures. (Remember: Wherever I travel, I am always thinking of my dear readers!)

“Not possible,” the intelligent and handsome Swiss manager said with a smile, so I put away my camera.

This factory employed more than 150 Thai workers to produce jewelry for their own design house. Additionally they manufacture for other designers worldwide. For instance, a European design house may outsource the manufacturing to this company or one of the others like it around Bangkok.

Many European designers are reluctant to admit their creations are actually produced outside of Europe. Think about it: “Made in Italy” is a prestigious luxury designation, but not everything can be produced in Milan, Rome and Florence at all the different price points retailers require!

I wonder if designers and customers will eventually be more accepting of high-quality goods coming out of places like Thailand. In the garment industry as well as other industries, people are increasingly concerned about exactly how and where products are made.

Recent factory tragedies, such as the building collapse in Bangladesh, have put the spotlight on Asian manufacturing conditions. However, this Bangkok jewelry manufacturer operated in a pristine factory with skilled workers and craftsmen who were obviously treated very well.

As I toured the various areas of the facility I observed most of the steps in jewelry making:

Concept. The process begins with the designer’s drawing and visualization of the jewelry piece. These sketches are referred back to throughout the process.

Stone selecting. An entire work team was devoted to selecting stones. If a necklace is to have 10 sapphires, for instance, the finest jewelry will have 10 stones that are very, very similar in quality and color. Craftsmen may sort through hundreds of sapphires until they are satisfied with the 10 stones that, when assembled, will create the most magnificent piece.

Processing the stones. The gems must be ground, cut, buffed and polished with a keen eye and high level of skill.

“Lost wax” casting. Have you ever wondered how the raw bulk gold became the finished product? The “lost wax” casting method was developed in ancient times, although modern tools are now used. The object that is to be created is first sculpted out of wax to exact specifications. The wax sculpture is encased in plaster. After drying, it is put into a kiln to melt the wax, leaving its hollow image inside the plaster encasement. Molten gold is put in the hollow spot.

Setting the stones. Stone setters are like surgeons. They must have a steady hand and a meticulous eye. They are perfectionists in symmetry and placement.

Polishing. The metal becomes smooth and shiny. Impurities are steamed off, and remaining sharp edges are buffed away.

I was overwhelmed with the well-organized facility, the use of age-old skills, the intricacy of the work and the obvious contentment and expert professionalism of the workers. If I were to own a beautiful piece of jewelry made by these practitioners, I would be most proud to have an example of fine Thailand-made jewelry.

The World Gets Smaller and Other Adventures in Travel

Travel is a sure way to improve one’s perspective and get outside the confines of our own little worlds.

As summer vacations approach, it’s a great time to think about how we can expand our own horizons, whether we are travelling overseas or visiting friends and family nearby.

I just returned from Bangkok. Even though I’ve been to Thailand a number of times to visit my daughter and her family, my experiences there and en route often teach me a lot. It never ceases to amaze me how the world keeps getting smaller.

• On my flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, I was seated next to a good-looking young man. When I asked where he was from, he replied, “Russia and Los Angeles.” He was a cinematographer and native Russian. An ad agency in Los Angeles saw his work and invited him to move to the United State. And now he was flying to Bangkok to shoot an ad for Johnnie Walker whiskey.

My first thought: “Wow, the world is small.” No longer is talent isolated to one area. The best global talent is easily identified and recruited.

My second thought: “They drink Johnnie Walker in Asia?” I learned that the brand is quite successful on an international level, generating a real need for ads that make a global statement.

• One American woman I met, part of the ex-pat community in Bangkok, is a highly educated chemist who works in the drug industry investigating off-label uses of medications originating in Asia. Very interesting person.

• I also met a woman employed by an American designer handbag company. She is in Thailand to help prevent counterfeit copies and knock-offs of their products. Another interesting story.

Not only does travel introduce you to fascinating new people on vacation, but travel also inspires adventure, and I had quite an urban adventure of my own this trip.

As you may know, Bangkok is an international center for raw gemstones and jewelry. I wanted to get an insider’s view of this industry, both for fun and for my business, so I made an appointment with one of the world’s top high-end jewelry designers and manufacturers.

Now Bangkok is a huge international city with incredible traffic problems and construction issues. You can get around by taxi, by foot, by bike, by motorcycle or even sky train, but you do not want to have a rental car.

Off I went in a taxi, hoping the driver could find the jewelry designer headquarters and a bit nervous about my lack of Thai-language skills.

We eventually turned onto the designated street. “Drat,” he said, indicating the place was in front of us but there was a barrier. So we drove a very circuitous route around this Bangkok neighborhood and he let me out nearly in front of the building. I could see the name of the jewelry firm on the side of the building so I figured I was home free.

However, as the taxi drove off, I saw that I still needed to navigate around a fence! I managed to ask some men sitting nearby which way to go to work my way through the maze. Finally one of them volunteered to take me.

Then he got on his motorcycle and motioned to me to get on the back. I was a bit stunned – I’d never been on a motorcycle before! – but I climbed on and held on tight.

The whole time, I’m thinking, “What have I done? I’m on the back of a motorcycle with a stranger in Thailand. My husband will surely kill me if I die this way.”

I was thrilled and relieved when I was safely deposited at the door of the vendor.

This jewelry design house exceeded my expectations. They represent true luxury, designing and manufacturing pieces from $5,000 to $250,000. I had a wonderful and highly educational in-depth tour with the handsome Swiss manager.

At the end of my visit, he asked if I had a car waiting for me. I told him, no, I came in a taxi. He graciously asked if I would like a ride home. I was so relieved and, of course, said yes. He then asked an employee if he had an extra helmet … and I knew that I was about to have my second-ever motorcycle ride!

So I was chauffeured back to my daughter’s apartment by motorcycle through the chaotic streets of Bangkok, holding on for dear life. And yes, my husband did just about kill me when he found out.

Next week: What I learned at the jewelry designer.

Nan wears a helmet on one of two motorcycle rides in Bangkok, Thailand, her first-ever.

Nan wears a helmet on one of two motorcycle rides in Bangkok, Thailand, her first-ever.

Jewelry Stylists Pull Together Looks

Untitled-4-01We all know about celebrity stylists — those miracle workers who advise stars and assemble stunning and distinctive looks for them. A great stylist can pick out outfits that reflect your personality and make you look better than you ever thought you could.

My new friend Brianna Miller is like one of those stylists, but she specializes in jewelry. She has what many women would consider a dream job. As a jewelry stylist, she is an artist who works not with paint and brushes, but with gorgeous necklaces, earrings, bracelets and pins. Her canvas is every woman ready to play with new ways of wearing her favorite pieces.

Think about how some talented interior designers can rearrange your own furniture and then add just the right fresh pieces in up-to-date styles and colors. Suddenly your same old, same old space looks new. That is kind of like what happens when a good jewelry stylist like Brianna Miller gets to work on your jewelry wardrobe.

 

While working at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, Miller discovered –and honed — her gift for styling and selecting the right jewelry for every ensemble. Her creativity and eye for color, textures, and proportions helped her succeed, but she also learned to “read” a woman’s lifestyle and fashion profile.

“For me, styling is all about finding my client’s personal style and drawing it out,” she says. “It’s about elevating her style to make her the best version of yourself.”

She loves hearing women report back to her things like “everyone told me I looked fabulous, but it wasn’t about one specific piece — it was about the entire look!”

 

The flexibility of mixing jewelry drew Miller to Ippolita, the line of distinctive hand-crafted jewelry launched by Italian designer Ippolita Rostagno. She now works at the company, designing jewelry, merchandising, and of course, styling.  A California native, Miller grew up in Malibu and her own personal style combines cool, casual freshness with luxury.

 

The last time I worked with an experienced jewelry stylist, I had a great time. She showed me a bunch of options for putting different necklaces earrings and bracelets with the same outfits. It was amazing how the jewelry completely transformed the look. She used jewelry that I would never have thought of using with some of the casual looks and then with some of the dressy looks.

We were working with some new pieces in the store, but then she helped me with my own personal look. I already mix jewelry styles frequently, but this stylist helped me learn fresh new combinations. For instance, I sometimes wear my mother’s giant sparkling cross with Ippolita long layered necklaces. I would never have thought of that.

They say a great jewelry stylist can open your eyes to new ways of seeing and wearing things. You don’t have to be a movie star to enjoy the benefits of a celebrity jewelry stylist – come meet Brianna Miller at Tres Mariposas Friday, May 10, to see what she suggests to go best with your own necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. Your new jewelry pieces will feel like old favorites and your old jewelry will gain a new lease on life!