What is Going on With Retail?

The news is full of major retailing chains closing stores – or closing their doors completely. Just here in El Paso, the Sunland Park Macy’s was one of more than a hundred marked for closure and across the street, the long-time Sports Authority store closed when the whole chain was liquidated. Yet unemployment has been down and salaries have been creeping up the last couple of years. So what is going on?

A piece posted on TheAtlantic.com in April – “What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017?” – garnered a lot of attention in our industry. “The reality is that overall retail spending continues to grow steadily, if a little meagerly,” wrote Derek Thompson, one of The Atlantic’s senior editors. “But several trends—including the rise of e-commerce, the over-supply of malls, and the surprising effects of a restaurant renaissance—have conspired to change the face of American shopping.”

If spending hasn’t come to a halt, what do customers want outside of e-commerce? With all of today’s technology, people do not want to become simply robotic consumers.  We still need to recognize the “human element.” One takeaway: Since it is easy to get so many needs taken care of at the click of the cursor, consumers have developed into more discerning shoppers.

In many ways, the act of purchasing is an expression of identity.  According to Boston Consulting Group, BCG Perspectives, “millennials are changing the face of marketing forever.” In the U.S., 50% of 18- to 34-year-olds believe that the brands they endorse “reflect their personal character and values.”   When they do shop in person and not online, they want a unique experience and unique products appropriate to their lifestyle.

My friend and retail guru Doug Fleener says shoppers want three things;

  • A “curated” product mix. Today’s inventories should reflect a point of view and a lifestyle. For instance, my store has recently changed its product mix to reflect a new take on fashion. We see that women want relaxed fashion that is still put-together with an element of luxury. More than ever, today’s consumer puts together her own look to express her unique personality.

Women in particular like products with historical and emotional connections. Take for instance jewelry by Temple St. Clair, who designs with an artist’s eye and explorer’s heart. She uses gold and rare colored gems to illustrate universal narratives of the earth and cosmos. Unique and authentic resonates with today’s consumer who can be overloaded with tech.

Customers also seek out items that are interesting and one-of-a kind for their home.  In our new home and gift area, for instance, we have onyx items that came from a mine where intense heat from an adjacent volcano created unusual variations. Rich colors and patterns in the onyx pieces ooze a sense of earthy beauty that only Mother Nature can create.

  • A more personal store brand. Fleener says that stores that are succeeding today “are much more than simply a storefront with a name.” He notes that they’re a very personal brand in their community. Customers feel a real affinity for the business and its staff, and shop there to support c the local community. El Paso is a distinctive, unique city where people embrace its special culture and support its businesses.
  • A personal shopping experience.Successful store have highly engaged customers and a staff of associates who see their primary responsibility as building relationships. Associates get to know their customers’ tastes and become their personal shoppers.

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Temple St. Claire “tolomeo” pendant

Encircled by a stunning array of multicolored sapphire and tsavorite stones, a sapphire cabochon gleams at the center of this magnificent 18-karat-gold pendant finished with petite diamonds

Denim never goes out of style, right?

DistressedJeans1You may not have thought about it or realized it, but denim and jeans have been on the back burner for the last few years. Have you noticed? Women have been wearing black leggings, skinny leg pants and yoga pants in place of jeans.

Well, it’s true – but I’m about to tell you that denim is back. And, of course, I’m about to tell you this classic is back in a new ways with modern tweaks.

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• Today’s denim trend is about a lot more than jeans. In years past, denim was associated with blue jeans, maybe a blue jean jacket now and then. Silhouettes beyond the jean are shirts, off-shoulder blouses, dresses, jackets, fly-a-way tops and rompers.

• Now we are seeing a whole new denim dimension added to this sturdy cotton fabric. Chambray and tencel are the best new complements in the denim universe. Technically, all three fabrics are woven differently, made from different raw materials and represent different weights, but the fashion world is grouping them together this year.

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• Watch for more diversity in the classic blue denim. From very dark indigo to pale washes, the color intensity of denim runs the gamut now. Generally the lightest colors are in blouses and other tops, as well as sundresses.

• Designers are working the denim on denim trend. Does this mean matchy-matchy denim from head to toe? Yuck! Instead what is on-trend are varying weights and washes, mixing darks and lights, mixing denim with lighter chambray or tencel, mixing blue denim with white or black denim, or mixing distressed jeans with a solid blouse or jacket.

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• This is a time for fabric innovation in denim, with surprisingly soft-handed fabrics and stretch technology. At Tres Mariposas we recently sold out of a denim jacket that was so super-stretchy that it felt like a sweater when you put it on. Literally, you couldn’t try it on and not buy it.

• For that effortless cool-girl vibe, add a pair of distressed or ripped jeans to your denim rotation. It’s meant to look a bit messy to show off your slightly wild side.

• Blue jeans are more fun than ever with a wide variety of styles. Cropped, skinny, flared, cuffed, higher rises, wide legs, you name it. The most advanced silhouette is a cropped flare. But most of us can’t quite move on from our skinnies.

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• A denim shirt can be your closet’s MVP. So versatile, with endless possibilities. Layer it under, layer it over, do the casual mixed with dressed-up pieces thing.

Bottom line: Make room for more denim pieces in your wardrobe this year, as denim and its sister fabrics are back and here to stay.

Australia and New Zealand: Fashion Down Under

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As I write this, I am about to go Down Under, which, of course, refers to Australia and New Zealand, half a world away.

The occasion: a Down Under family reunion with my kids.

My daughter, her husband and their two small children will join us from Thailand. My son and his wife will join us from France. We have planned a grand exploration of the nature, beauty and marvels of New Zealand, said to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

While I am beyond proud of who my children have become and what they are doing, I must confess that their residing in Thailand and France has its challenges. They are not exactly a Southwest Airlines flight away.

We chose New Zealand as a meeting place because (a) the travel distance from Thailand to New Zealand is manageable for children; (b) New Zealand is famous for its interesting culture and outdoor adventures; and (c) my husband Sam Paredes has been dying to go there!

You may know about the region’s stunning landscapes, but did you know that Australia and New Zealand are becoming a significant force on the international fashion scene?

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

At Tres Mariposas, we have been carrying clothes designed by Camilla, one of Australia’s best-known fashion designers. Her signature pieces are bold caftans capturing Australia’s global yet earthy identity with exuberant colors and prints.

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Camilla Franks first designed flamboyant costumes for the stage, but her entrepreneurial spirit inspired the launch of her own line 10 years ago. Today the beautiful, somewhat unconventional 40-year-old designer travels the world for inspiration and some of her collections reflect motifs from exotic places such as Turkey and Peru.

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When we were in her New York showroom a few weeks ago, she had just returned from an immersion trip in Africa. She has fans around the globe who love her silky fabrics and flowing designs, including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Maria Carey, Sofia Vergara and mother-daughter style setters, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson.

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When we were at the trade shows in New York, we checked out other emerging designers from Australia – and liked what we saw. Modern Australia has a unique fashion style that is clearly distinguished from European or U.S. fashion lines. Australian fashion has a more casual approach.

Many of the region’s top designers have been inspired by the extraordinary range of Australia’s unique cultural influences.

So, yes, when I’m Down Under, I’ll be enjoying our grandchildren, sightseeing, hiking, walking on the beach and eating “shrimp on the barbie.”

But I also plan to keep an eye out for what women are wearing and which designers are up-and-coming. See you when I return

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!

High-low hemlines are on a high

The trend of high-low hemlines is in full force. Like many fashion trends, it was introduced with exaggerated drama, and even appeared on a few “worst trends” lists.

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Now, there are high-low blouses, dresses, tees and evening gowns that are delightful. It is a twist of newness and eminently wearable.

Here are some reasons to love the high-low trend:

• It translates into easy shapes for any body type.

• The silhouette adds femininity and a bit of drama.

• It says “I’m on trend” without being too far out.

• It can be an easy day-to-night transition with a simple change of shoes and/or jewelry.

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Now here are some ways to wear the high low trend:

• High-low blouses or tunics: Pair with slim fit pants or capris. Because some tops are voluminous and billowy on their own, wear it with a slimmer pant so that you still keep your feminine silhouette. Longer high-low tops are great over leggings.

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• For high-low skirts: Pair with a fitted top, tucked in if it works, and fabulous accessories. A wedge, heel or flat sandal is fine, just don’t let the skirt drag.

• For high-low dresses: This one is easy! Simply accessorize.

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For spring, think bohemian, pastels and stripes

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends – and you got some fun new clothes either for yourself or as gifts!

Who knows what the New Year will bring? Let us hope for a peaceful, prosperous year with a new burst of kindness and compassion for all.

While we have no idea about the country’s future, I’m glad to tell you about the future of fashion trends starting this spring. Up in New York and across the Atlantic in Paris, the experts have conducted their research and made their predictions. Here’s a sneak preview of top spring trends, starting with the most important colors.

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• Pretty pastels: You can expect to see buttercup and sunshine yellow and 50 shades of pink from “sunset hot” pink to the palest ghostly pink. In a class to itself, the new “powdery pastels” are muted with white and take on almost a neutral feel.

• Fruity and festive: The colors of melons add a tasty tang, including cantaloupe, casaba and honeydew, along with peachy hues ranging from coral to light peach fuzz. Another warm color to watch for is true apple red, a pure crimson color with no orange, brown or violet undertones.

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• White, white, white: This spring brings lots of white accents, in white lace, white sheer inserts, white trim. Crisp white shirts will always be in style, whether they are short or tunic-length.

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• Green and blue: We’ll be seeing more green than in previous years, including leaf green that’s the color of palm fronds, emerald green, the slightly darker malachite green and acid green, which has a touch of yellow in it. Cobalt blue will remain big, along with royal blue.

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• Stripes: Wide, narrow, wavy, variegated, broken – all kinds of stripes abound on dresses and tops. Even athletic pants and jackets will feature stripes this spring.

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• Bohemian style: I discussed this as a major trend last fall and it is definitely continuing into 2016. This trend encompasses “hippie” styles, loose sheer peasant blouses, Indian print tunics, ponchos, maxi-dresses, funky elements, artsy folkloric motifs and more.

• Embellishments: In keeping with this bohemian trend are all sorts of interesting details including tassels, appliquéd jewels, embroidery, beading, lace, sequins, fancy buttons, burnout velvet, raw edges, lacing with grommets and lots and lots of fringe.

• Textures: Fabrics continue to be highly tactile with interesting laser-cut designs, perforations, mesh, crochet trims and chiffon accents.

• Denim: America’s favorite fabric is back with a passion, in all washes and finishes from distressed-ripped to dressy dark. Skinny jeans still dominate, but bootleg and flare are still with us. It’s been a few years, but culottes in denim may catch on this spring; shorts and jackets have never gone away.

• The “new” twin-set: While we will still see plenty of knit tank tops and little T-shirts under cardigans, this season also brings cute shorter, cropped tops and matching jackets in woven fabrics.

• Pants: Not much news here, except watch for wider legs and flowy drawstring styles. You can expect less emphasis on leggings – and no yoga pants outside the yoga class.

Stay tuned for more on these 2016 spring trends. If I had a crystal ball, I’d say that 2016 is shaping up to be a fun fashion year!

Fall trends, observations from a fashion insider

Gregor Simmons

Gregor Simmons

Last week we enjoyed hearing about current trends from a fashion insider: Gregor Simmons from New York, who has worked as an independent buying consultant for the last 20 years.

I enjoy working with experts in a variety of fields, whether it’s a management specialist or a store designer. Gregor is one of those experts who challenge us to take our business to the next level.

Each year, she speaks at the Dallas Market and other markets, but she works in only a few trend presentations at stores, so we were delighted to have her visit Tres Mariposas. She understands what most women look for when they think of trends: “They want to look good: not cutting edge, but not dated.

“Trends transcend more than six months or a season,” she says. “And trends can be interpreted in different ways that are all age-appropriate.”

Illustrating her talk with dozens of examples pulled from two long racks of clothes, she looked at what’s happening in fashion this fall:

• Stormy weather: “It’s unclear to me whether the design community had a crystal ball, a secret Farmer’s Almanac or a groundhog hidden in a bunker,” Gregor says, “but the weather certainly had a huge influence of this fall’s fashions.”

Shades of gray can be found in the sky this time of year – especially during last week’s hail storms! – but also in jackets, sweaters, tops, pants and accessories.

You’ll see a variety of soft and cozy styles that conjure up comfort and warmth, no matter what the weather conditions are outside. Warm and comfortable fall must-haves include ponchos, turtlenecks and cowls, robe coats, chunky sweaters, fur or faux fur long scarves, leather or leather-trimmed leggings and quilted accessories.

Gregor Simmons with a ‘vegan’ leather and fleece jacket.

Gregor Simmons with a ‘vegan’ leather and fleece jacket.

• Pro-sport/tomboy: Think of all of today’s styles that have been influenced by physical activity, such as yoga, bicycling, skiing and working out – and you invariably think about stretchy fabrics and functionality.

“Active wear and athletic references are powered by technical fabric,” Gregor says. “Nylon, neoprene, fleece, cotton cashmere sueded ponte, jersey and elastine – all present.”

But this trend doesn’t mean grungy sweat suits. Hoodies in luxury fabrics, bomber jackets, drawstring pants and leggings are popular, along with what is known as the “two-fer,” a crop sweater layered over a shirt combo. She showed us some nice-looking quilted vests that would be good for our weather here and that fit into this sporty trend.

• Boudoir/retro chic: This trend doesn’t mean you’re dressing for the bedroom! It refers to soft, feminine looks in satin, lace, velvet, silk charmeuse and brocades. Inspired by old Hollywood glamour and luxury, this trend includes soft or flowy dresses, blouses and jackets embellished with fringe, bows and occasionally ruffles.

Look for glamorous details, such as a jeweled or pearl-trimmed collar on a simple blouse or a fur trim on a jacket.

An embroidered, Bohemian chic jacket.

An embroidered, Bohemian chic jacket.

• Folkloric/hippie chic: “It’s a mix of Bohemian and folk with some funk,” says Gregor. “Some of these pieces are a work of art.” This is where you’ll again find lots of fringe, plus appliqués, embroidery, beading, patchwork and prints from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Sheer print peasant blouses, with the little string tie at the neck, are back, as are long maxi-dresses.

After the fall trends presentation, attendees had the chance to chat with Gregor about such topics as which pants to wear with which tops, what women wear in different regions, and why it’s so darn hard to shop for men! Stay tuned for a future column on what Gregor has to say about trends for spring 2016.

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!

Making music and fashion: Laura Tate Goldman

BlogLaura Tate Goldman is a remarkable woman full of positive energy and charisma, both musical and acting talent, and commitment to humanitarian and educational causes in El Paso.

Oh, and this former Junior League president and co-chair of the 2014 UTEP Centennial Commission also has a great sense of style and always looks amazing!

Laura Tate just released her newest album, “I Must Be Dreaming,” a collection of jazz, blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll. When I saw her recently, she mentioned that she is overwhelmed by the attention and airplay her album is getting worldwide.

Born in Dallas, Laura started singing and acting at the age of 9. After studying music and theater at the University of North Texas, she traveled the country with a number of theatrical companies before settling in Los Angeles to sing and act in stage productions as well as on television. She also began a career in film production, eventually producing an award-winning documentary.

Life takes interesting twists and turns. She is now very happily married to attorney Merton Goldman, but she had moved to El Paso from Nashville with a previous husband. She shared with me that in that marriage, she became a victim of domestic violence.

“I never believed it could possibly happen to me,” she said. “But I learned that domestic violence knows no social or economic boundaries.”

As anyone familiar with this problem knows, getting free takes an enormous amount of courage and work. This is one courageous woman. Laura is open about her experience so she can help other women. It makes you think: Here’s a smart, beautiful, accomplished woman with a great sense of humor, and yet this happened to her.

As she got through this tumultuous period, she asked herself: “What can I do to feel better about me?” She decided to finish her college education and enrolled at UTEP, completing both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She planned to go back to Los Angeles – but then she got sidetracked, in a good way: she met Merton, a native El Pasoan.

She recalls that she had “gone mute” during this difficult time. “Then I started singing again,” she says. “Merton gave me back my voice and self-esteem.”

As I write this column I am listening to the new album, her third in about three years. Honestly, I am not concentrating very well on writing at the moment, because I am enjoying the music so much. The album, featuring the original songs of her friend Mel Harker, is a fantastic collection. I think my personal favorite is “No Place to Hide.”

As music reviewer Bill Wilson says, “This is the perfect album to put in the player, open a bottle of your favorite wine and snuggle with that favorite loved one.” A review on The Jazz Chill Blogspot says, “There is a spark in Laura’s violet blue eyes that seems to say, ‘I’m living my life on my own terms….with love and laughter and passion.”

This new album has generated so much interest that Laura is booked to perform at The Mint in Hollywood, Bogies in West Lake Village and Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz Club, also in LA.

Where do fashion and style fit into the makeup of this amazing woman? The answer is family heritage. Laura’s grandmother was the very first buyer at Neiman Marcus. Laura says her mother, who is 93 and lives in Dallas, still dresses to the nines every single day. Laura remembers that her mother made sure that her daughters never left the house without their lipstick and high heels. Because of that, she says she has always been conscious of wanting to look nice and keep up with trends.

Laura Tate

A few of Laura Tate’s fashion passions:

• Black. “Black works no matter where you are or what you are doing. You can dress it up or down.”

• Funky shoes

• Wearing multiple interesting bracelets

• Leggings and fun tops

• Pearls

To watch Laura’s music videos or download tracks from her three albums, visit www.lauratategoldman.com. You can also order “I Must Be Dreaming” and “Songs from My Suitcase” CDs online at www.cdbaby.com.