High-End Fashion with El Paso Roots

logo_blkWe absolutely love seeing El Paso and Juarez natives excelling in the fashion world! So we’re especially thrilled to tell you about Leigh Elena Navarro, 1996 Coronado High School grad, who will be visiting the city next week from her home in Austin. This gifted designer and entrepreneur has her own design line, known as LeighElena, featuring jewelry and other accessories that reflect her clean and interesting design aesthetic.

After graduating from the University of San Diego with a degree in Spanish and business, Navarro spent a number of years working in fashion and high-end retail in Los Angeles and New York. She moved back to Texas in 2005 to start her jewelry business.

Lots of people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, but you could say that Navarro found her calling at the age of five. That’s when she began learning how to fuse enamel and glass together: her first teacher was her mother, Susan Navarro, a talented enamel artist. As a child, Leigh helped her mother at art fairs and then started creating and selling her own hand-made jewelry. Today Susan helps her daughter.

“My mom and I still do the enameling together here in Austin,” Leigh says. “The leather work is now done in a couple factories here in Texas and everything is finished in Austin.”

Her signature pieces include contemporary cuff bracelets featuring distinctive metal clasps. After a couple years in her new business, she began using leather and genuine exotic skins, such as alligator, stingray, python and ostrich, and the brand took off. The bracelets, in vivid dyed leathers and natural colors, are unique and striking.

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Since she started the LeighElena line, the bracelets have developed an international following. They have been featured in both fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Southern Living and Lucky. Her accessories are carried at both large retailers, such as Anthopologie and Neiman Marcus, and small boutiques.

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Some of her work has even found its way into celebrities’ jewelry collections. She’s seen her bracelets in photographs of such stars as singer Miranda Lambert and television host Hoda Kotb. “Many years ago I had a picture of Barbara Walters hugging Oprah with my bracelet on,” she recalls. “That was pretty fun!”

Navarro is inspired by role models such as Donna Karan. “I appreciate what Donna Karan does so much, because she created beautiful things for women that are truly wearable,” she says.  “She is a smart, strong woman and that comes across in her lines.”

She also is inspired by what she sees on her frequent trips in the United States and abroad.
“I travel extensively for personal inspiration as well as inspiration for my lines,” she says. “I travel about four or five months out of the year for both work and play. I find it fascinating to see what people think is beautiful, useful and adored.”

One of her favorite destinations is Mexico. “I will be there almost monthly over the year,” she says. “Guadalajara was a wonderful trip I took with a couple great friends in March.  I cannot wait to return!”

Coming up next for Navarro is a line of Native American-inspired pieces. “It is similar to pieces that my mom and her mom wore and treasures I have had growing up,” she says. “I love gold tones and I am making this line entirely in bronze.”

Navarro still has relatives in El Paso, including her father and his sisters and some cousins. She is looking forward to visiting this week for a trunk show at Tres Mariposas. It will be just the second time her work has been spotlighted in her hometown; a few years ago she showed her accessories at the Ruby and Lola store.

What can shoppers and friends expect at the trunk show? “I will have my best pieces from my collection with me,” Navarro says. “And there will be surprise gifts with purchase, too!” she says.

Where can you see LeighElena accessories?

LeighElena Trunk Show at Tres Mariposas
5857 North Mesa Street
Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16
Leighelena SoCo
1714 S Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas
Leighelena Pearl Brewery
303 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, Texas
 Trunk Cover
 

Fail-proof shopping for Mother’s Day: Handbags

If there is one holiday when you want your gift to be just right, it has to be Mother’s Day. Especially in our part of the world, Mother’s Day is a major celebration. People want to be sure they let their moms and madres know they are cherished and adored.

But what do you get the woman who means so much to you? It’s not easy. Flowers are nice, even if they don’t last long. Chocolates are a sweet choice, but they go faster than the flowers! Clothes are appreciated if you know her size and tastes.

However, one of the greatest no-fail Mother’s Day gifts ever is a handbag. It is an indulgent yet useful present that’s one-size-fits-all and always welcome.

The good news is you can find a purse that will be as individual as she is. Think of who she is and what she likes and the rest comes easy.

Be sure to tell her exactly why you chose the handbag for her. When my son was growing up, his gifts to me came with a note that started out “I hope you like it” and ended with why he picked that present. Here’s some inspiration for finding the handbag that’s right for your mother and how to tell her why you picked it.

Marc Jacobs tote

• For the artist, fun-lover or zany mother: “Mom, I love your artistic side, so I wanted you to have something creative and fun.” Marc Jacobs designed this bag’s colorful collage print by hand in his Paris apartment while he was on vacation.

Tory Burch tote

• For the modern, practical mother: “Mom, I like your no non-nonsense approach and I’m glad you taught me how to be practical and savvy about things.”

The Tory Burch York tote is a classic made of saffiano leather that it is more scratch-resistant and generally easier to care for than nappa leather. With convenient compartments for organization, adjustable straps and a good price for a designer name bag, this is a foolproof gift.

Mini Crossbody

• For the mother who’s always ready to socialize:“Mom, I’m giving you this turquoise statement purse so you will have even more fun when you meet your friends for lunch.”

This mini cross-body style is adorable and just big enough for a phone, credit card, driver’s license, some cash, lipstick and keys. This one is from Furla, the nearly 90-year-old Italian handbag and accessory company known for elegance, femininity and artisanal details.

Save My Bag, option 2

• For the mother who’s ahead of the trends: “Mom, I love that you’re always on the inside track of the newest and latest and I wanted you to have something that is super cool.”

The designer behind this bag by Save My Bag is Valentina Agazzi of Bergamo, Italy. She was a fashionista who made neoprene fabric covers to store and protect her vast collection of designer bags. Her bag covers evolved into an ultra-hip, inexpensive line of fun bags made in Italy.

Hammitt Los Angeles

• For the mother who loves to travel: “Mom, I know I got my wanderlust from you. I hope you like this bag designed for the urban traveler.”

Hammit handbags are known for several features geared for travelling. Every bag has a crossbody stap, which is a must, both for travel security and ease. They also have well-designed pockets, compartments and a place for a cell phone, essential for staying organized on the go. Hammitt is based in Los Angeles and the bags are predominanty U.S. made, a rarity!

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• For the mother who appreciates high-end designers: “Mom, I know you have an eye for the finest designers, so I’m giving you a handbag to add to your collection.”

If your mother is a collector and conossieur of fine designer clothes and accessories, she will truly be touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity if you present her with a new or vintage bag by Louis Vuitton, Celine, Chanel or other designer.

This is just a sampling of handbags to get you thinking about what your mother might like. El Paso has lots of choices, including bags by Coach, Michael Kors and so many others. Have fun shopping and have fun matching the bag to your mom!

New Zealand adventures call for the right clothes

 On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.


On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.

As I wrote a in my column a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were heading off to a New Zealand family reunion with my son and daughter-in-law from France and my daughter and her husband and two kids from Thailand.

I am now back home – and nearly speechless with happiness and in utter awe of the beauty of New Zealand. It was a dream trip, with sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords, but the most important part of all was being with family.

I’ve always heard from El Pasoans who had visited that New Zealand was beautiful, but it was so far away that I never expected to experience it. Now I am the proselytizing zealot, crazy for this uncrowded, green and peaceful country. I was especially struck by how firmly proud and protective, almost reverent, the people of New Zealand are about their land and natural environment. Their delight and appreciation is contagious.

An isolated Pacific Island nation, New Zealand was settled by humans only recently in the grand scheme of history. Polynesians arrived about 1280, and the ensuing Maori culture continues to be an important part of the nation today. Later Europeans, primarily British people, settled in New Zealand and brought their English language and European ways.

The population of New Zealand is just 4.6 million, which is about the same as the El Paso/Juárez region, scattered across land the size of Colorado. Perhaps it is the small size of their population or the isolation and vulnerability of their island nation that makes the people seem unified in defining their culture. They are cosmopolitan, educated and easygoing and share heightened social and environmental sensibilities.

We visited so many places, including Auckland, Christchurch, Doubtful Sound, Nelson, Milford Sound, Picton, Queenstown, Rotorua, Waitomo and Wellington. We stayed at interesting places, ate well and tried adventurous activities. We saw sights that will stay with us always.

In my last column, I promised to stay on the lookout for fashion insights – and I have some unexpected observations. I soon learned, for instance, that our adventure trip involved a whole new fashion approach. The key was wearing the right outdoor gear for the right activities!

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

• Hard hats with headlights for caving. The Manawhitikau Cave in the Waitomor/Rotorua area was magical. We boarded a small inflatable underground river raft where we silently experienced a glittering display of glow-worms out of the total darkness. This experience was so amazing that even the grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, were awed into complete silence for 20 minutes!

• Sun visor for birding. Birdwatching? Excuse me? I have never thought much about wandering around looking for birds to identify. Birding isn’t athletic, cool or interesting, right? Shame on me! Oh, my gosh, birds in New Zealand are fascinating. First of all, most of the native birds do not fly. New Zealand has more species of flightless birds, both living and extinct, than any other country. They have such fun names: kiwi, kakapo, takahe, penguin, weka and moa. One reason New Zealand has so many flightless birds is that before humans arrived, there were no land mammals that preyed on birds. In evolutionary terms, they just had no need to develop an ability to fly. And I never knew they were so smart!

• Parkas, hats, sunglasses for travel by sea. We bundled up to enjoy the Interislander Ferry cruise from Wellington on the North Island across Cook Strait to the South Island.

• Hiking boots. I may be a designer shoe aficionado from way back, but my husband has always made sure I have up-to-the-minute hiking boots. Our most amazing hike was in Abel Tasman National Park.

As you can imagine, packing for an outdoor trip like this had its challenges. The experience gave me a whole new look at a vacation wardrobe, for sure. This was a far cry from resort wear!

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

Celebrating 45 years of trends: Best of fall 2015

Fringe crossbody bag- - Photos by Eduardo MunozLast week, Tres Mariposas celebrated 45 years of fashion, friendship and fun with a Fashion’s Night Out fundraising party. We loved seeing old friends and making new ones. The guests enjoyed shopping – and we enjoyed sharing a portion of the proceeds for each purchase with the FEMAP Foundation for all the good works they do in our community on both sides of the border.

For the party, we wanted to tell this season’s style story with models wearing some of the top current trends. But first we wanted to focus on which trends seemed to be most appealing and most likely to stick around a while. Here’s what I would say are this fall’s best trends:

Ponchos with panache

Ponchos with panache

Ponchos, ruins and capes – all these wraps are practical and instantly impart a trendy, fashionable look. Variations are endless and perfect for any occasion – casual and sporty to throw over denim, detailed with fringe or fashion accents, fun furs for socializing or bold prints. Ponchos are easy layering, instant chic and great for any body type. Choose your favorite for mixing and matching with your essentials.

Leather, suede, fur

Fur VestReal or faux furs and leathers starred on almost every designer’s fall runway. You will see this trend in a statement piece, such as a knockout jacket, or a design detail on a handbag. These days, designers are mixing fabrics and leathers for interesting textural combinations in a lot of great pants, blouses and jackets. By the way, leather or “pleather” leggings are a must.

Fringe

Fringe crossbody bagFringeSwinging and swaying from every possible surface, tasseled trims offer an alternative route into this season’s retro mood. Women can’t get enough of fringe and tassels. This embellishment offers a great vibe – part hippie and part luxury – and adorns everything from handbags, shoes and boots to skirts, dresses, vests, you name it. Fringe communicates fun, channeling a rock star, the bohemian life, Vegas showgirls or Wild West chic.

The mini bag

Mimn bagGood things come in small packages. Vogue calls it the “mini-me movement.” Virtually everyone from Fendi to Tory Burch has this latest must-have. Micro purses are perfect for social occasions where you just need your phone, credit card and keys. No one needs to be a pack mule with a heavy oversized bag all the time. These bags are fun and flirty and downright adorable.

Boots

Over-the-knee boots, called OTKs, are making the ultimate style statement. Close on their heels are knee-high boots, booties, chunky rugged boots, platforms, and low-heeled flat boots and wedge styles. Some are downright works of art, with laser-cut patterns, fringe, delicate lace-up designs and feminine high heels.

In vest

Not the discreet underpinning of the past, the vest takes center stage for fall as the ideal piece in long and lean silhouettes. Call it a long vest, call it a gilet, call it a sleeveless jacket – whatever you call it, the menswear-inspired piece is the ideal item to add to your wardrobe for transitioning to fall. It will work well into the season, especially in that fickle early fall weather when it’s not quite hot, not quite sweater weather. It’s polished enough to take you into an important meeting at work and cool enough to wear over a summer dress for after-work cocktails.

Cross body bag

mini bag2Both chic and practical, long-strapped bags are making a major comeback this season. Not only is this style functional, theft-resistant and hands-free, it looks super chic slung across an equally stylish outfit. You’ll see a variety of bags worn across the body, including mini bags, satchels, messenger bags or the classic clutch.

What’s great about this fall’s trends is their versatility. These are styles that look good on any age and body type. Look for them on your next shopping trip and be ready to rock these new styles!

Through the Hoops: Earrings Can Make Your Style

What woman does not have a whole variety of hoop earrings in her jewelry box? It’s safe to say that the earring that has always been in style will definitely be the hoop. From ancient times to today, an infinite variety of hoop earrings have been worn and hoops are still one of the most wearable pieces of jewelry.

Think about it: The different elements that a jewelry designer can play with in a hoop earring are endless. Among those variables are the size, the thickness, the metal or other material, the shape – circle, oval, tear-drop and so on – the accessories dangling from it and the huge variety of colors, sizes and shapes of the stones.

The most sought-after earring with stones is the diamond hoop, with one or two rows of diamonds sparkling on the outside of the hoop. Then you also have the trendy inside-out diamond hoop with diamonds on the outside on the front of the hoop, and on the inside of the back of the hoop.

No matter what your chose, hoop earrings can be worn for day or night, for fun or formal. They go with any outfit and any hairstyle. Earring size will vary, depending on your mood and the occasion. Large hoops – more than a couple of inches in diameter – can provide a bold, playful statement, for sure. Small hoops can be feminine and even dainty.

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Some celebrities are even known for their hoop earrings. Princess Diana was seen in hoop earrings in many photographs, and Jennifer Lopez is known for wearing big hoops. Who can forget Oprah Winfrey’s big diamond hoops? When customers walk into a jewelry store asking for a J-Lo hoop or the Oprah diamond hoop, salespeople immediately know what they’re talking about.oprah

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Hoops are everywhere, from Harry Winston catalogs to top-10 lists of mistake-proof items every woman should own. Today the hoop is evolving into something that can transform your jewelry wardrobe into endless possibilities with new charms and interchangeable options.

Designer Jude Frances has certainly played with the evolution of hoops, with updated oval shapes and ways to decorate hoops to showcase your individuality and creativity. The latest trend is to transform your hoops even further into an elegant evening look with the addition of a “frame” hanging from the hoop to accentuate the dangling charms.

Whether you are planning a play date at the zoo or going to a glamorous gala, the hoop will always be a great choice. Now’s the time to update your earring wardrobe and explore new options for this perennial favorite.

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At last: A fantasy market trip

Ivanka Trump and Nan

Ivanka Trump and Nan

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, assumes that my trips to various apparel and jewelry markets are fun and glamorous. Nothing could be further from the truth.Instead, buying trips are full of early morning to late evening appointments, squeezing in seeing every last thing in a limited amount of time, negotiations with recalcitrant vendors, stressing out about which merchandise selections are the most saleable, and feet that are throbbing.

Trips to market can be exciting and energizing, but they have never been luxurious or glamorous. Until now.

Last week thousands of jewelry vendors, buyers, designers, manufacturers, reporters and all kinds of jewelry-related service firms gathered in Las Vegas for two trade shows: the upscale, smaller Couture Show at the Wynn and the enormous JCK Show in the Mandalay Bay convention hall.

Flori, Carmen and Bobbie shopping Armenta

This trip with the Tres Mariposas fine jewelry staff – Bobbie Baldridge, Carmen Bagby and Flori Trudeau – had all the delights missing from ordinary buying trips.

First, we stayed at the Encore Resort and Hotel, next door to its sister resort, the Wynn. Encore has been awarded AAA’s Five Diamond Award every year since opening.

Small business entrepreneurs like me usually watch their budget and try to keep travel expenses under control, which means five-star hotels are not usually on the menu.

However, the Couture Show put us up at the Encore as their guest! Just being in this beautiful and luxurious environment made us feel like royalty.

In addition, we stayed a day longer than usual on this annual Las Vegas market trip. So we had the bonus of not being stressed from the usual hurry, hurry, hurry.Some of the designer lines that we like set up shop in posh Wynn villas. At the John Hardy villa, they treated us to an alfresco lunch beside a private pool with a panoramic view. With a slight breeze in our faces and delicious food in front of us, we leaned back and said, “Ah, yes, this is the way market was always supposed to be!”

Ivanka Trump with buyers from Tres Mariposas

Ivanka Trump with Nan, Carmen, Flori, and Bobbie

We were also invited to special parties. Our first night was a party with Ivanka Trump, principal of Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry. Like many celebrities, she has even more star presence in person. Ivanka is 5 feet, 11 inches tall – before her 3 ½-inch heels – and stunningly gorgeous.

The party was at one of the Wynn clubs that was located at the base of the large curtain waterfall. Again, I felt the spell of the good life. Ivanka’s children are learning to speak Mandarin Chinese, as are my two grandchildren who live in Bangkok. It was fun to chat about something in common.

Jewelry designer Emily Armenta

Jewelry designer Emily Armenta

A jewelry designer we adore these days is Emily Armenta. Famous for her “Old World meets hip” jewelry, Emily is a down-to-earth person who has a passion for helping women, as well as designing jewelry.

As was the trend with many at the Couture Show, Emily wore a well-cut, interesting black dress that spotlighted her jewelry. I admire Emily’s creativity, business talent and work to empower women.

While Emily was taking an entrepreneurship class at Rice University, she was given an assignment to create a fictitious company and write a business plan. Little did she know the assignment would become her life’s work.

Designer/artist Ippolita Rostagno

Designer/artist Ippolita Rostagno

Tres Mariposas has carried the highly successful jewelry line Ippolita for many years, but this trip brought my first time to meet Ippolita Rostagno. The famous Italian designer and artist pioneered the fine jewelry industry’s transition to blend contemporary trends with traditional techniques and styles. Upon meeting her, I immediately felt Ippolita’s energy, strength and dynamism.

Frances Gadbois of Sloane Street

Frances Gadbois of Sloane Street

The jewelry industry is always experiencing transition. A personal favorite jewelry line is Jude Frances, known for youthful femininity. The company had been a collaboration between Jude Steele and Frances Gadbois, but now Jude and Frances each have their own lines. A native of London, Frances has a new line called Sloane Street.

Here again is a beautiful, creative and strong woman pursuing her passion. In her new venture, she often invites women to bring in older, dated jewelry that they no longer wear. Frances sketches new ideas and re-makes the piece and stones into contemporary classics.

While this is not a new idea – any of us can take our old stuff to a jeweler – rarely is there the opportunity to access this level of talent for private design. Frances is looking forward to visiting El Paso in September, so be thinking of your older pieces that can become new treasures.

When we boarded the plane back to El Paso, we had a unique sensation: We worked hard to accomplish our buying goals and found many fabulous pieces to share with El Paso women, but we also felt like we had been on vacation! Now that’s a great market trip!