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
 

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.

What to wear when touring New Zealand, Part 2

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As I wrote last week, I have been on a family reunion in New Zealand. I absolutely loved the country and all the fun outdoor activities we enjoyed. It was a trip to remember. We learned a lot about the country’s history and culture – and we also learned to wear the right clothes for whatever came our way.

As I also mentioned in my last column, our adventure trip involved a whole new approach to fashion. Almost every day we were pulling on some kind of gear:

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• Wind shirt. A wind-resistant shirt or windbreaker was just the thing for our excursion in the Wellington area to Terawhiti Station, home to both New Zealand’s most modern wind farm and the dramatic Seal Coast. And I thought El Paso had strong winds in the spring! We had to work hard to stay upright as we viewed the coast and a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

• Swimsuit, wetsuit, wetsuit booties, warm fleece pullover, heavy parka and life vest. Whoa! On the morning we had to layer all this gear, I was nervous before we even started the day! This was what we needed for our exhilarating jet boat ride up the braided channels of the Dart River. We then transferred to inflatable canoes for exploring Rockburn Chasm and other remote areas.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

• T-shirt and shorts. Our day of sailing with just our family on a big catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park was wonderful. Talk about gorgeous! Our relaxation turned into work, however, when we were launched from the sailboat onto paddleboards. I had to work to paddle and try to keep my balance to avoid falling into the bay.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t paddle fast enough to get back to the boat when the tide was going out. So somehow the boat – my ride home – and I got separated. As the water receded, it left a very shallow separation between the sailboat and me. My family thought it was hilarious. A rescue boat had to be launched to come get me. My husband told the catamaran captain that a rescue attempt might be useless as I am stubborn and wouldn’t want help. Darn, I hate it that he knows me so well.

• Jeans, jackets and tennis shoes. We wanted to be comfortable when we visited a sheep farm. New Zealand is truly a land of sheep. Did you now that there are six sheep to every one person in New Zealand? Being in the apparel business, I’ve always known of prized merino wool, so I was happy we got to see merino sheep up close. My husband, Sam, ever the outdoor wear enthusiast, purchased a base layer merino tee for skiing made by Icebreaker, a New Zealand performance outdoor apparel company that has quite a presence in the U.S. and globally.

I’ve been told merino wool is breathable in the summer, yet insulating in winter, but I didn’t know how that could be possible. Well, it turns out that merino sheep live in the extremes of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, where it is freezing in the winter and beastly hot in the summer. No wonder the sheep evolved to have very different summer coats and winter coats. I also learned to pay attention to the micron or thickness measurement of merino fibers. Lower numbers are silkiest and finest.

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• Lounging PJs. Finally in the evenings we would do something for which my fashion career more properly prepared me. I got to relax in my pajamas! Because we had a family group of eight – daughter and son-in-law from Thailand and their two kids; son and daughter-in-law from France, with Sam and me – we chose to go the Airbnb route and rent homes in each locale, instead of pigeon-holing ourselves in separate hotel rooms. Oh, my gosh! It was a very good way to travel. Every home had spectacular views. Hanging out with a glass of wine on the deck or in the living room in the evenings was a great balance to our adventure-filled days.

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand, be prepared. Who knows what kind of clothes you might need for your own adventures on this beautiful island!

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

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.