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
 

Marc Jacobs: 30 years later

Last week I was in New York for a busy buying trip. Fashion Week had just ended and so the serious work of reviewing collections and making decisions was in progress in showrooms across the Fashion District.

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One of my favorite stops was the Marc Jacobs showroom. I was there to shop the handbag collection. This designer has long been a leader in this category and the Marc Jacobs line of handbags has been among our top sellers.

Handbags on display in showroom last week

Marc Jacobs, of course, is an American design success story like no other. A former designer for Louis Vuitton, he is a creative genius who knows what women want. Today he continually surprises the market with his creations and holds a significant role in the industry.

However, I first knew of Marc Jacobs 30 years ago when he was only 23 and just starting out. In fact, designs from his very first, very small ready-to-wear line were shown at Tres Mariposas in 1986. I’ll never forget how that showing came about.

Back then, once a year, our New York fashion consultant brought interesting items from a number of design houses to El Paso to present at Tres Mariposas. In 1986, her selections for us included a few wool sweaters from some unknown guy named Marc Jacobs.

I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, those shrunken little sweaters look like he found them in his grandmother’s attic.” Turns out, my impression was not far from the truth! Jacobs began his fashion career by learning to knit from his grandmother. Our New York consultant said, “His sweaters may look like moth-eaten nothings, but you watch, he is going to be big.” Boy, was she right!

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Marc Jacobs has always been known for retro-influenced designs and fresh takes on vintage looks. Frequently, his designer collection runway shows are full of things that are just fantastical and far out.

But they are also so on target. His show for fall 2016 was no exception and even featured Lady Gaga on the runway!

“Jacobs showed his extravaganza of fashion noir on a stark white set to the sound of single chimed notes by Japanese musician Keiji Haino,” wrote a reporter in Women’s Wear Daily. “The models’ eyes and lips were black. The clothes were dark, wondrous, inventive, eccentric pilings of tweeds, furs, silks, and endless decoration, Victoriana meets Goth meets Biker Chic meets Varsity Chic meets Red Carpet meets Violet Incredible and countless other girls of Jacobs’ runways past.”

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The collection was indeed flamboyant, fanciful and exaggerated. The showroom that we visited was set up like a runway with looks from his recent Fashion Week show, so we got to see some of the styles.

Sure enough, what we saw in the Marc Jacobs showroom set the tone for our entire trip. Fashion is moving to a Victorian-inspired trend for fall. Think high necklines, lace, femininity and some gothic darkness. This trend was also pleasantly interpreted at hip, contemporary lines like Elizabeth and James.

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This designer has certainly come a long way since I first saw his work 30 years ago – and I’m always curious to see what he’s going to come up with next!

The Mother of Invention: El Pasoan creates fashion line

We have all had the experience of wanting or needing something that seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world to find. We go looking. Nowhere to be found. And we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe no one’s making that. Crazy.”

Most of us let it go at that.

Amy Robison Graham, daughter of well-known El Paso business leaders and philanthropists Kirk and Judy Robison, didn’t let it go at that.

Designer: Amy Robison Graham

Designer: Amy Robison Graham

Amy is an energetic, vivacious, get-it-done kind of girl. After over 20 years in high-level sales and marketing roles for major corporations, this Dallas resident and mother of four decided to pursue her own business that reflects her love of fashion.

Amy told me that even though there are a million t-shirts out there on the market, she was frustrated at not being able to find the perfect t-shirt. All she wanted was a good quality t-shirt that was both flattering and comfortable. How hard could that be? When she checked around, she wasn’t the only woman with this frustration.

Left to right: Kirk Robison (Amy's Father), Amy Robison Graham,  John Graham (Amy's Husband)

Left to right: Kirk Robison (Amy’s Father), Amy Robison Graham, John Graham (Amy’s Husband)

Amy and Mother, Judy Robison

Amy and Mother, Judy Robison

So Amy started researching women’s clothing, fabric, fit and comfort, particularly with the ideal t-shirt in mind. Her work has paid off: this fall she launched a great line of t-shirts under the name of Southcott Threads, named in honor of her mother-in-law’s maiden name.

She didn’t just set out to make a great t-shirt for women just like her. After exhaustive research, Amy selected four fit models who had four distinct body shapes. She then experimented with the most flattering style for each shape. I love how she names the shapes with different cuts of diamonds: Emerald (slender and busty), Oval (curvy and voluptuous), Trillion (narrow shoulders and bigger booties), and Asscher (small frame and well-proportioned).

On Amy’s spring 2016 style sheet, you can tell which of the 16 t-shirt styles was designed for which body shape by the accompanying symbol for that type of diamond. For instance, an emerald appears next to a pretty v-neck and a sleeveless open neck tank and the triangular shaped diamond is next to an A-line scoop-neck. Sizes come in 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Finding the right fabric was critical. After much exploration she selected a fabric of environmentally friendly bamboo with cotton and a touch of spandex. The result is a line of luxury t-shirts that fit well, are comfortable, not clingy, not see-through, and made from great quality fabric. And the neutral colors – white, black, grey, navy, and tan – are just what we all need in our wardrobes.

What could be a better way to introduce a new line of t-shirts to El Paso than a t-party? Whether you remember Amy from her years growing up here or you have also longed for a t-shirt that looks good and fits well, stop by Tres Mariposas on Tuesday, November 10, between 10:00am and 5:00pm – and have a cup of tea at our t-party!

Westside stores and boutiques opening at The Fountains at Farah

Tres Mariposas at The Fountains

Today’s retail climate is exciting, fast-changing, energizing, and sometimes challenging. Part of the challenge is that shoppers have so many choices. They can shop online or shop when they travel out of town. They can shop at brick and mortar stores, where they can choose among big-box discount stores, national department stores, or stores that are locally owned.

I don’t have to tell you which choice your friendly El Paso retailers hope you pick!

To keep the customers coming in, experimentation has become the lifeblood of small business. People have often asked me how I learned the retail business because I certainly had no retail training or experience when I started running my own store more than 30 years ago. The answer: trial and error and experimentation. Try something new; see if it works. Repeat.

An experiment in the works

A couple of months ago, I brought in a new staff member – a savvy former Farah executive — to build on our success in women’s apparel, fine jewelry, and shoes. He suggested we open a “pop-up store” on the Eastside at The Fountains at Farah.

I told him that was a really dumb idea, and left it at that.

However, the notion wouldn’t leave the back of my mind. And other staff kept telling me they liked the idea.

As you may know “pop-up shops” are temporary retail spaces that began as a trend in urban settings such as Tokyo, London, and New York City. Pop-up stores can sell anything from art to fashion to tech gadgets. These short-term stores have generated a lot of excitement and can be really creative and engaging.

But I can be really stubborn. For the last two years I have told my friend John Folmer of RJL Real Estate Consultants in El Paso, the leasing agent for Paul Foster’s Fountains retail concept, there would be no way I would ever consider having a store at The Fountains.

In fact, my husband had already told John that if I ever tried to open a second store, we would probably no longer be married because I would end up too busy too stressed!

Well, guess what: Tres Mariposas is opening a pop-up store November 1 at The Fountains at Farah. And so far my marriage is intact!

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The Fountains welcomes locals

And guess what else: other Westside boutiques apparently like the idea, too. I hear that Ella Blu, J Luxe, and Ruby Lola have committed to temporary or permanent stores at The Fountains. You’re going to have an irresistible treasure trove of beautiful, interesting local shops all in one fun shopping center.

The Fountains has been unusual in its pursuit of local specialty shops to add spice to its mix. Why do you think that is? Three guesses!

Yes, the correct answer is owner Paul Foster, the community-minded Western Refining business leader who is behind the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, the Foster-Stevens Basketball Complex at UTEP, and the Chihuahuas baseball team partnership, to name a few of his projects.

From the outset, since even before the shopping center opened two years ago this month, Paul has pressed for local specialty store involvement and buy-in, to supplement the roster of national retailers. I now agree: what a great idea.

Soon Border-area shopping enthusiasts will have even more choices. So as the holiday season approaches, you can shop Westside stores, shop Eastside stores — just please remember to shop local stores!

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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!

UTEP Football and Arkansas Family Roots

UTEP v. ArkansasI don’t tell just everyone that I grew up in Arkansas. After all, I am supposed to be a fashion icon, not a hillbilly with a country drawl and a hankering for moonshine!

Nevertheless, I was born in Arkansas, have lots of family history in Arkansas, and moved to El Paso when I was 12.

While I don’t remember my first Arkansas football game, I’m pretty sure my dad took me when I was just an infant. My dad, granddad, aunts, uncles and sister are all University of Arkansas graduates. I learned early to “call the hogs,” which is an obnoxious cheer for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Long story short, my hubby, Dr. Sam Paredes, is a big UTEP fan. He “claims” – although this may be a little self-serving – that he likes to choose a UTEP football opponent venue each year that will be a good place for me to visit.

This year he decided it would be good for me to connect with my Arkansas heritage, so we went to the season opener against the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville used to be a small college town. Now it is a key part of the Northwest Arkansas corridor, which includes Bentonville, Rogers and other towns. Northwest Arkansas doubled in population between the 1990 and 2010!

Growth has been driven by Fortune 500 corporations: Walmart Stores, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Tyson Foods, as well as over 1,300 suppliers and vendors drawn to the region by these giant businesses. The region has also seen significant investment in amenities, including the fantastic Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, built by Alice Walton, one of Sam Walton’s children.

Accompanying the UTEP football team to an out-of-town game is exciting. It is mind-boggling just how much preparation goes into each trip.

We know the coaches and players practice, strategize and work hard toward winning each game, but few people know just how much work it takes to plan transportation, lodging, meals, training facilities, medical support, media opportunities, equipment transport and more. Whew!

You’ll always see some die-hard UTEP football fans accompanying the team to away games. It is heart-warming to see the passion and dedication, no matter win or lose, of players, staff and fans.

It was so fun to see the police escorts meeting the team plane at the airport. We boarded team buses and we felt like big celebrities as police cleared traffic, red lights flashing, and led us to town!

After we arrived Friday afternoon, Sammy and I walked the campus. A University of Arkansas tradition is that every graduate’s name is etched into a concrete sidewalk that winds around campus.

I had fun finding the names of my grandfather and his sisters in front of Old Main in the graduating classes of 1917 to 1922. The next generation of family graduates came in the 1940s, and the most recent was in 1981. It was like a treasure hunt!

Who knows where we might watch UTEP in the future, but I loved this trip – even if our Miners didn’t win!

Fun at Market: Good times in NYC and Dallas

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I’ve been on the go lately and have had an unusually fun time seeing what’s new and exciting at market.

Two weeks ago I was in New York, combining pleasure with work. My husband Sammy and I went a couple of days early for a Broadway play, great dining, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and lunch with some El Pasoans transplanted to New York. Nothing beats experiencing all the best of New York.

Then last week, I was in Dallas for a couple of days. I don’t go to every market with our buyers, but I am especially drawn to Dallas because of the information we gather as members of the “prestigious Retail Advisory Board, selected by Dallas Market Center management and exhibitors to provide valuable feedback on the industry and how markets can better serve retailers.”

While some claim this is a “prestigious board,” the real reason for attendance is to reconnect and laugh with longtime industry friends, have a great meal with wine and see what tips we can gather from our retail peers about hot sellers and innovative practices.

Patty and Bobbie

Among those friends from around the Southwest is Patty Hoffpauir, owner of The Garden Room in Austin, who thought it was cute to give me bunny ears in a photo with the dinner’s special guest, Rawlins Gilliland! By the way, when you are in Austin, do stop by The Garden Room, which is a wonderful women’s boutique.

This board meeting didn’t fail to entertain. The Market Center had invited Gilliland to share his insights on this year’s holiday gift items. Gilliland scours the market so he can share his finds with retailers on the wonderful private tours he leads through the various vendors.Nan, Rawlins and devilish Patty

Gilliland is an interesting guy. He started his retail career with Neiman Marcus where he was named top salesperson and eventually earned the title of National Director of Sales and Product. He helped create and direct Neiman’s amazing personal shopping program. Since 1999, he has been a consultant to the wholesale and retail industry, specializing in market buying and sourcing for specialty stores and small businesses.

Nan and Rawlins

Gilliland is also a natural entertainer, humorist, philosopher, poet and National Public Radio commentator.

“Rawlins Gilliland and his stories are one of a kind!” says Jim Gold, president of Neiman Marcus.

Needless to say, Tres Mariposas buyer Bobbie Baldridge and I had a thoroughly fun evening at our Retail Advisory Board meeting.

We did pick up plenty of suggestion of products from Gilliland and other retailers that might be great holiday gift items.

The part of buying trips that I rarely talk about is the products we don’t buy. Part of the joy of being a buyer is the thrill of the hunt. I will go check out just about any tip, even though some explorations lead to groan-worthy products. Even though they may be bestsellers for some, these are items you won’t find at Tres Mariposas this year:

• A birdhouse that looked like a miniature Airstream style RV complete with 1950s decor and porch

• Giant Christmas ornaments made with wishbones

• Lit Coolers, for campers who need their ice chests complete with interior lights

• Bling-A-Go-Go, t-shirts that can be customized

That last one sounded so bad that Bobbie refused to go with me to check it out. Of course, she was right and Bling-A-Go-Go wasn’t for Tres.

A few holiday gifts that you can look forward to seeing:

• Jeweled evening bags in Art Deco patterns

• Limited edition individually hand-crafted fashion jewelry with Egyptian themes.

• Italian Renaissance-style candles with domes

In future columns, I’ll be sharing with you some of our observations about the styles and trends we saw in both New York and Dallas. We’ll also be giving you some ideas that might inspire “the thrill of the hunt” in your own clothes shopping this fall!

Fashion, Engery, Success: El Pasoan Keeli Jernigan

Keeli JerniganMany of you know El Pasoan Keeli Jernigan, president and CEO of global logistics company Trans-Expedite.

Keeli is remarkable, and I don’t use that word lightly. She is a bundle of positive energy! I see her as super intelligent and efficient, with a great get-it-done attitude.

I have noticed that the very most successful people I’ve ever met have two things in common: They respond with a “yes” to almost any idea or project and they are givers.

Keeli says yes first and figures out how later. She is a busy, busy person who finds creative ways to give to the community.

And by the way, this amazing woman is also beautiful and oh, so fashionable!

Left to Right: Brandi Brown, Mark and Keeli Jernigan

Left to Right: Brandi Brown, Mark and Keeli Jernigan

At Tres Mariposas we had a lot of fun with Keeli recently, thanks to an exciting challenge she gave us. Here’s the back story:

Experienced in the freight transportation industry, Keeli and her husband Mark founded Trans-Expedite in 2001. Trans-Expedite, now having grown to over $60 million in annual revenue, is a single-source logistics solution that helps companies of every description protect their assets, reduce operational costs and solve strategic supply-chain problems with customized services.

This includes warehousing, inventory management, domestic and international distribution, customs brokerage, white glove services and trade show services.

Under Jernigan’s leadership, Trans-Expedite became the first indirect air carrier in the El Paso market to meet congressionally mandated screening measures and qualify as a Certified Cargo Screening Facility.Local and national level leadership and involvement are Keeli’s style. Her company has been recognized by the Women Presidents’ Organization as one of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Women-Led Businesses in North America five times in the last eight years.

In 2013, she was recognized by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a “WBE Star.” So it is not surprising that she has been a strong force in Women’s Business Enterprise or that Trans-Expedite was a major sponsor of the council’s recent national conference and business fair in Austin.

Keeli at WBENC Gala

Keeli at WBENC Gala

As an integral part of this conference, Keeli knew she would frequently be on stage at the June 23-25 event. She introduced key speakers and took part in a variety of seminars, forums, evening events and a tribute dinner and awards ceremony.

Keeli wanted to look great while in the public eye. As she has done before, Keeli challenged us to the fun of helping her prepare nearly a week-long wardrobe.

This is a fashion retailer’s dream come true: a gorgeous woman who looks great in any and everything! Keeli needed to look professional, yet never boring. Oh, and one more thing to add to the wardrobe planning: Keeli would be wearing custom cowboy boots each day for the Texas-themed conference!

We made it a team effort to suggest amazing travel-friendly pieces for Keeli’s trip. Her style leans toward jewel tones, solid colors, femininity and body-conscious yet still professional looks, so we had a direction to go in.

Go-to designers are Herve Leger, famous for body sculpting dresses, and La Petite Robe, a Milan designer who uses a proprietary innovative, eco-friendly stretch fabric.

Left to Right: Ceci Mulvihill, Keeli Jernigan, Brandi Brown

Left to Right: Ceci Mulvihill, Keeli Jernigan, Brandi Brown

As you can see from the photos, Keeli looked amazing. El Pasoans Ceci Mulvihill and Brandi Brown of RMPersonnel also participated in the conference. Thanks to Brandi for serving as photographer. We are so proud of all of El Paso’s dedicated women leaders and are so glad to see their work recognized beyond our community

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!