We 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
On my recent return flight from Italy, where we had vacationed after visiting my son in France, I was reading the international edition of the New York Times (May 15). An entire section of the issue was devoted to jewelry, which completely captured my attention for a chunk of that long trip.
One writer asked a good question: “Is jewelry art or accessory?”
“Throughout history, jewelry has been called personal adornment, a fancy way of saying it’s wearable,” was one answer. Yet the question remained: “is it art?”
When — or whether — fine jewelry will ever qualify as fine art remains hotly debated. Apparently some in the art world are reluctant to call jewelry art; maybe jewelry is too much of a commercial commodity for them.
Another theme in the Times section focused on the 21st-century trend of more and more successful women buying high-end jewelry for themselves. Women are not waiting for a man to buy them jewelry. Duh, I could have told them that. Or maybe, El Paso just has more successful women who are ahead of the curve.
With these thoughts fresh in mind, last weekend I attended a huge jewelry trade industry show in Las Vegas. The entire world of jewelry was in Vegas, with over 2,500 exhibitors from more than 22 countries, ranging from high-end to flea market.
The smaller, upper-end “Couture” show is always at the Wynn hotel. The giant JCK show is always at the Mandalay Bay convention hall, billed as “the jewelry industry’s premiere event.” Believe me, for a portion of the sprawling JCK show, “flea market” is not an exaggeration.
Over two days we saw the latest awe-inspiring domestic and international designers and most sought-after trends. I can answer with a resounding yes, that some jewelry designers are truly artists in the highest sense of the word.
One of the greatest examples of art in the fine jewelry world is Carrera y Carrera from Spain, a company whose origin dates back to 1880. Carrera y Carrera’s identity is tied to sculpture and strong symbolic components related to the natural world. Each collection has a unique theme and each piece of jewelry tells a tale different that that what you expect at first glance. The newest collection, debuted in Las Vegas, is called, “Seda Imperial” – imperial silk.
An Eastern legend has it that 46 centuries ago, a Chinese princess named Liu-Tsu was forced, at age 14, to marry a barbaric Khan against her will for political reasons. In revenge, Liu-Tsu, who knew her shawl held the secret of Imperial Silk embroidery – the best guarded mystery of the Far East, unknown to other countries – threw it into the depths of the ocean. Amazingly, according to legend, the shawl made its way to Spain, along with the secret of Imperial Silk embroidery.
Over time, the shawl that Liu-Tsu was said to throw in the ocean became known as the Manila shawl, considered an adaptation between ancient Chinese tradition and Spanish emblems, thanks to the fusion of Eastern and Western culture.
The sculptor-jewelry artisans of Carrera y Carrera were inspired by the beautiful legend and struck by the similarity of embroidery and jewelry design. The creation of a Manila shawl requires the expert hands of an embroiderer who dedicates months of work to create a garment and adornment of incalculable value. Similarly, many months of meticulous work by master sculptors, gemologists, and goldsmiths are required to create Carrera y Carrera jewelry.
Carrera y Carrera has adapted the most characteristic images of the Manila shawl to the rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings in the Seda Imperial collection. Floral motifs inspired intricately detailed pieces that honor flowers with special meanings. The rose meant secrets, the lily denoted purity, the cherry blossom signified bravery, and the peony symbolized the empress.
The heron, or garza, is another motif of the Manila shawl. According to the ancient art of Feng Shui, the image of a heron is used to ward off negative energy. Carrera y Carrera artisans have depicted this powerful bird in rings, earrings, and pendants in yellow gold with diamonds and prasiolites, fancy stones in many shades of green.
Look at all the necklaces in your jewelry box. If you’re curious, you can categorize them by the traditional lengths: the chokers (16 inches long), the “princess necklaces” (18 to 20 inches long), the “matinee necklaces” (22 to 23 inches long), and, of course, the “opera necklaces” (30 to 35 inches long).Now look to see if you have any of this spring’s hottest necklaces – the “bib necklace.” It’s a funny label, but it gets its name because it sits higher on your neck and it can have the shape of a baby’s bib. It’s close to your neck, but can have added rows of beads down the front or other jewels cascading down from the neck.
Bib necklaces are often ornately jeweled and a bit over the top. It’s that over-the-top quality that makes it a perfect accessory for otherwise simple, clean outfits. This season, it’s the accessory that takes an ordinary outfit to an outstanding look.
If a statement necklace like this feels a little intimidating at first, get out of your comfort zone by first wearing a bib necklace with a black t-shirt. As you get more confident, wear a bib necklace with bright colors and try it with a crazy printed maxi dress. Then wear one on bare skin such as with an evening dress for ultimate impact. It’s wonderful how these necklaces can flatter your face and your figure.Pair your bib necklace with simple earrings if you are the understated type. Mix it with elaborate earrings if you want a more gypsy-glam look. However you wear it or whatever you wear it with, enjoy this spring’s hottest trend!
One of the most wonderful parts of getting to know more about some of today’s top new jewelry designers is that so many of them have such interesting stories as they struggled to succeed and build their businesses. One of the most interesting jewelry designers of our time has to be a woman who doesn’t need to work: that is Ivanka Trump, daughter of billionaire Donald Trump.
She’s a fascinating young woman, born with more than the usual advantages and/or burdens. While most of us think of being super-rich, beautiful, 5’11” and blonde as an advantage, it could be that living life in a fishbowl, having a famous dad that many people don’t even like, and facing immense preconceptions anytime you meet someone could be a burden.
Somehow this child of privilege avoided the pitfalls of drug abuse, reckless partying and other destructive self-indulgences that many in her situation fall prey to. Instead become a successful woman in her own right.
I have followed Ivanka more closely since Tres Mariposas expanded our fine jewelry business last year. She graduated summa cum laude from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. At only 32, this former runway and print model is a writer, mother of two adorable young children, and executive vice president of development and acquisitions at The Trump Organization.
Her life took a different direction in 2007 when she founded her own line of fine jewelry in 2007 and opened her first flagship retail store on Madison Avenue.
Far from being a plaything of the idle rich, her line is exquisite, saleable fine jewelry that appeals to confident American women. As our jewelry business has grown, we had the opportunity to choose among the best and the finest fine jewelry lines consistent with our focus on fashion and quality, and Ivanka Trump Jewelry fit our criteria.
Much of Trump’s jewelry line is inspired by her passion for travel, architecture and design. One of her most popular collections at Tres Mariposas has been the “Metropolis Collection.” This line of 18kt yellow gold and diamond jewelry was inspired by 1920s Art Deco architecture in Ivanka’s favorite metropolis, New York.
So how does she pull all of this off? I got a glimpse of what drives her from her book, “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life,” published in 2009. As with most people, when they describe what influences shaped them, it was family expectations. “In the Trump household, it was never just about meeting the expectations of others,” she wrote. “It was about exceeding them. It was about surprising people.”
For instance, she describes being incredibly apprehensive before a board meeting, knowing she would be in the company of middle-aged men who saw her as young and inexperienced. As she became accustomed to being underestimated, she made it an advantage.
Now, when asked about not being taken seriously because of her family name and her beauty, she responds as she did in a Forbes.com interview, “Bring it on.”
In the same interview she shared her top three style tips for women at work: context, modesty and femininity. “If you work in a law firm, you can’t wear the same thing you would wear if you worked at an ad agency,” she said. “Understand what is appropriate for your industry and in terms of how much skin is being shown.”
She went on to say how much her own style of dressing has changed at work. “My office style has changed pretty drastically, and a lot of it became being comfortable with expressing femininity in a way that, when I was younger, I was nervous about,” she added. “I was almost afraid to be feminine on the job, which in retrospect was probably a mistake. I wear pink to the office now, whereas when I was 22, I was nervous to wear anything other than a black pinstripe suit.”
I’m guessing that whatever she wears these days, she makes it all look better when she adds her beautiful jewelry!
Having a fine jewelry store inside Tres Mariposas has been an amazing experience. The pieces are so gorgeous and it’s been wonderful to see customers admiring them and studying their details. It’s interesting — as I become more involved in fine jewelry, I am also becoming more aware of the deep significance jewelry holds for people.
Archeologists have discovered jewelry pieces dating back 75,000 years; its appeal is universal through virtually all cultures and eras. Jewelry has been worn for decoration and fashion, but also for its perceived qualities of power, protection, and even magical effects.
Women seem innately attracted to the adornment factor of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. The right jewelry can bolster a woman’s confidence and bring out her beauty. It can pull together an outfit and make a special occasion absolutely dazzling. But women also love jewelry for its connections to others and for the stories behind the jewelry.
Flori Trudeau is a new Tres Mariposas associate and long-time jewelry industry veteran. We love to hear her talk about the jewelry – she is full of great stories about the gemstones and different designers.
“Every designer has his or her own story,” she says. “They all have different sources of inspiration and motivation. For instance, John Hardy was an American designer who moved to Bali for his inspiration. Now his pieces are made by Bali natives.”
Hardy has one line called the Naga Collection which features a dragon motif. Flori says that the dragon plays an important role in the people’s folklore. The legend is that a dragon lives on the top of a mountain, but he is in love with a pearl at the bottom of a lake. He visits the pearl underwater and when he flies back up to the mountain top, the water on his wings drips down to water the rice fields.
For the natives, the dragon is a symbol of love, good luck, protection, and prosperity. For some women, it’s empowering and comforting to think that the beautiful dragon on their wrists can attract all these good things. In any case, it’s a lovely story – and all of us can do with more love and good luck in our lives!
Of course, certain pieces of jewelry carry their own stories. You remember where you were and the story behind the occasion when a loved one gave you a special bracelet, ring, or necklace. Each of those pieces carried a silent message of “you are so, so important to me” or “you really deserve this” or a clear and definitive message of everlasting love.
Jewelry treasures that are passed down from generation to generation carry stories of memorable women and moments in time. Jewelry pieces that women buy themselves come with their own stories: “I survived my first year of teaching,” “I passed the bar,” or “I got a raise!”
As valuable as these pieces are – with all their diamonds and colored gems, pearls and stones of all kinds, set in platinum, gold, or silver – part of their value comes from the stories behind them and what the pieces mean. Think about one of your favorite pieces of jewelry – what is its story?