The Meaning of Jewelry

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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.”

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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?

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Dressing for the decades: What to wear at gala

Elegance in Navy

Elegance in Navy

It’s almost time for one of the major fixtures on our community’s fall social and philanthropic calendar: the Annual Friends of FEMAP Gala.

As many locals here know, FEMAP (Federacion Mexicana de Empresas y Asociaciones Privadas) is a nongovernmental nonprofit organization serving future and expectant mothers in Ciudad Juárez. FEMAP founder Guadalupe Arizpe De la Vega wanted to make family planning and prenatal care accessible to women living in poverty and has worked side-by-side with many El Pasoans, including longtime leaders Adair Margo, Mary Ann Dodson, and Dr. Jack Heydemann, to make this goal a reality.

What started out as a two-room clinic named Clinica de la Familia became the beloved Hospital de la Familia, where thousands of babies have been born since 1976. I have been a serious supporter of FEMAP since I visited that hospital in Juarez years ago. I was amazed at the medical services provided with such limited resources.

Today FEMAP has two full-service inpatient hospitals, a nursing school, community-based health programs helping children and teenagers develop emotionally and physically, and a micro-finance program. It’s a good cause and hundreds of people from both sides of the Border are expected to attend the benefit ball at the Judson Williams Civic Center this Friday, September 20.

Anna Aleman, executive director of the FEMAP Foundation, tells me that this year’s theme is “Decades: 1973-2013” to celebrate FEMAP’s four decades of service and the Foundation’s two decades of fundraising.

In 1973, when Guadalupe founded FEMAP, disco was king and everyone was doing the Hustle under mirror balls and strobe lights. So for this anniversary year, the gala’s entertainment will start with ‘70s disco tunes and work its way up through hits of the past to the present, while celebrating each decade of the organization’s milestones.

So, naturally, women are asking me how they should dress for this themed party but still be elegant and stylish. Good question! Here are some thoughts on the questions I’m hearing:

  •  Length? Either cocktail length or long ball gowns are appropriate. Both are in fashion. Choose the length that makes you feel the most fabulous.
  • Color? Navy blue is by far the most up-to-date color for evening wear this year. It is so trite to say it’s the new black.  Ok I won’t say it.  In addition to navy, burgundy and teal are great evening colors.
  • Details? One of this season’s top trends is the return of lace and illusion – sheer fabrics to cover a little but still tease.
  • Jewelry? Less jewels on the dress itself – not so much in sequins or beading.  More drama in colored stone necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Think sapphire or blue topaz

I hear that some tickets are still available for the gala! Call 544-4151 or visit www.femap.org

 

New season, new surroundings, new venture!

This coming week brings a special business milestone for me: a new store within our store. Any small-business owner – or large business owner, for that matter – can relate when I say it’s both exciting and a little un-nerving when you dream of something new and you watch it come to fruition.

To back up, earlier this year, after a lot of thought, I decided to move forward with a business expansion opportunity: a fine jewelry boutique. It was a natural progression for our mission to dress women on the Border in style from head to toe.

Tres Mariposas has been under construction much of this summer to build this new boutique within our store’s footprint and it’s finally coming together. We’ve torn up our store and are putting in designer display areas to create an amazing fine jewelry environment for customers.  We’ve debated about perfect lighting, about interesting wall textures, about just-right pieces to go in the cases.

However, as I write this, I confess I am a tad nervous about whether everything will be finished in time for our grand opening this Wednesday!  But hey, if you don’t plan a party or special event, you’ll never get finished, right?

The building project is only a part of the picture, though. The key components: people and product. My to-do list is long, but I can check these off with pleasure:

  • We hired Carmen and Flori, two fabulous associates with serious fine jewelry expertise and experience.  They have integrated seamlessly into our retail environment that emphasizes teamwork.
  • We went to the world’s largest jewelry market/show in Las Vegas in June, and carefully selected top designers to carry.  In every industry with designer lines, you can’t just pick what you want and buy it.  The vendor decides if you are      “worthy enough to carry their product.” You see all kinds of jockeying for different designers in the prestige jewelry world.  We are thrilled to be launching with some really gorgeous jewelry from Ivanka Trump, Yvel, Carrera & Carrera, and Cassis, in addition to best-selling lines from Ippolita, Jude Frances, and others that we already carry.

Needless to say I have robbed my “Retirement Piggy Bank” to invest dollars in personnel, boutique build-out and expensive inventory, but I’ve never been one to stick to the status quo when an exciting new opportunity presents itself.

We’re in the countdown now. We’ve got jewelry trunk shows for four days and lots of festivities from September 11 -14. Drop in and see what it can look like when you dream of new changes – and your dreams come true!

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Fall Fashion Trends, Part 2

As I wrote last week, we are all gearing up for fall. This week, we have a few more trends for you to watch for as you shop. Check out the big September issues of the leading fashion magazines and you will see some wonderful examples of what’s hot this season.

Sometimes people wonder what retail buyers do – when they’re not at market actually buying! Besides placing orders for what they project will sell well, our buyers at Tres Mariposas, are  also responsible for educating our staff about the clothing they saw at market and why they think our customers will be drawn to some of the new styles.

Our contemporary buyer, Gesuina Legaspy, identified some interesting directions that designers are taking this season:

Keep up with the latest trends.  Follow our Tres G.A.L. on Instagram. http://instagram.com/tres_gal#

Keep up with the latest trends. Follow our Tres G.A.L. on Instagram. http://instagram.com/tres_gal#

 

1. Leather Detailing: Leather is always big for fall but now you’re seeing it show up in new places. It’s about the details this year. Leather accents can be found on collars, sleeves, and even peplums. You’ll still find plenty of leather jackets and pants, but watch for some distinctive details.

2. Mini Statements:  After years of big handbags, the tide is turning. Purses are downsizing. Once oversized bags are giving way to minis that still can provide a big impact. Luxury handbag designers are having fun with these smaller accessories that can add a lot of personality and style to an outfit.

3. Popular Purple: Mulberry, plum, and dark saturated purple hues are a major trend color this fall. Stylists are mixing and matching purple with other colors, both neutral and bold. No matter what shade you favor, purple is a gorgeous jewel tone that conveys elegance, creativity, romance, and luxury.

4. Retro Flare: Call it fit and flare – it’s a lady-like silhouette with a close-fitting bodice and a softly flared-out skirt. Cinched at the waist, these dresses create a flattering fit for almost any size. This is one of those styles that accentuate the positive!

5. Mixed Media: You can see so many variations on this trend, which can include novel ways of combining fabrics, styles, and looks. For instance, mixed media can be a fun way to play with textiles, such as combining cashmere with chiffon, leather with ponte knit, or wool with silk. It could be a dress that looks prim and proper in front and sexy in the back or an outfit mixing a vintage look with cutting edge details. It’s all about versatility and individuality.

Enjoy shopping for fall – cooler weather is right around the corner!

My Charmed Life

Have you ever thought of your jewelry box or jewelry collection as representing your life story? A biography in a box if you will.

I just finished reading “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching for a Band of Gold,” by Beth Bernstein. In this new book, Beth recounts that her fascination with jewelry began at a very young age. She grew up to work in the jewelry industry.

“I believed in wholeheartedly in the transformative power of jewelry – how it made me feel more regal and glamorous, changing me from a shy, ordinary girl into a shimmering princess from a faraway land,” she writes. She says she hopes her book “will appeal to women who have fallen in love, felt loss, learned to start over again and have been transformed by the enchanting power of jewelry.”

As she came into midlife, she realized that her life was a collection of memories represented by various pieces of jewelry. “All of the precious keepsakes in my jewelry box reveal part of my history: not just material possessions but sparkling memories that link together the family, friends and romances that inspired me to write this book,” she writes.

In a recent interview in “Accent” magazine, Beth reports that since her book was published, many women have written her about what their jewelry means to them and, sometimes, what jewelry meant to their mothers. In a way, mothers and daughters have shared jewelry boxes, after daughters inherit important pieces, for instance.

“Almost everyone who wrote mentioned the relevance certain pieces have to significant moments in their lives: the exciting time they got their ears pierced or the magical moment they were first given jewelry by a buy,” she writes. “Women have told me about the pain of selling their jewelry after a divorce, the joy of receiving their engagement ring, the bittersweet memories conjured up by their mom’s charm bracelet.”

I think most of us can relate to the emotional significance of jewelry. One of my favorite pieces of jewelry is a crystal cross that belonged to my mother. My mother and I shared a love of crosses. Although it is not an expensive piece, I always get compliments when I wear it. And I always love saying, “It was my mother’s.”

I must confess that as the book continues, Beth gets a little heavy on the portion of the subtitle, “Searching for a Band of Gold.” I couldn’t keep up with the descriptions of all the gorgeous Adonis-like boyfriends. It became a little repetitive that decade after decade; the author was so focused on finding a husband. I read on though, sure that by the end of the book Mr. Right would have appeared to put a ring on her finger. Not so!

Instead, Beth finds redemption in another way – a way many women eventually find peace of mind – that she is content as herself, without Prince Charming. This breakthrough comes when Beth realizes that she can purchase her own jewelry. Life doesn’t have to be about waiting for a man to serve up life to you on a platter or in this case, in a jewelry box. As the book jacket says, “she realizes that the brightest gems are the ones you give yourself, and finds freedom she never thought possible.”

Wise words for today’s women. Give this exercise a try: go through your jewelry box and look for those pieces that carry memories of people, places, and events. You might even think about buying special pieces to give to your loved ones so that they will carry on happy memories of you! "My Charmed Life"

Consultants can help navigate change

In the past, I’ve written about the creative energy of change in a small business.  I often

ask myself and my staff what can be changed to improve our store and our customers’ shopping experiences. Whether it’s trying out new business practices or creating a shoe department, I don’t mind shaking up the status quo now and then. Remember our Nicole Miller store-within-a-store or our Men’s Night Out? I’m never afraid of committing to new concepts!

Change is good – and in fact, change can be fun. It can also be challenging, to say the least. I’m like a lot of you out there who own your own business. Maybe part of you loves to innovate, but on your other shoulder a more conservative voice is questioning each and every move. In times of major change, I often hire outsiders to help increase the likelihood of success in waters I have not previously charted.

A confluence of events recently spurred our latest change. First off, our fine jewelry business has been a strong growth category over the last five years. Secondly, after a local fine jewelry store closed, one of their associates wanted to join Tres and help us expand that category.

At first, I was negative about that idea. After all, didn’t I already have a successful business without the havoc of a major change? Well, one’s true nature usually triumphs and sure enough, I couldn’t resist the siren call of a challenge. Two new associates joined our staff and I began plans for expanding our fine jewelry business.

We had already outgrown our existing fine jewelry space. With plans to expand the category, an upgrade and expansion of space was critical. We decided to rearrange our store to give more space to fine jewelry. So I researched jewelry store designers to help us create that new environment.

Did you know that there are professional designers that just specialize in such areas? I found Shane Dunn in Phoenix and began working with him. I’m glad to report we are on track and I love his vision.

Just one hitch.  When we expand fine jewelry, that will displace accessories.  And when we find a new home for accessories, that will displace something else. You know the domino effect.

Remember how when you got a new couch, suddenly you needed to repaint? After you painted, then you needed new carpet and so on. It’s like that.

So we decided to take this opportunity to revisit the whole store!  Shane works with a noted specialist in store design, David Larson out of Phoenix, so we hired him, too, to “remerchandise” and transform our other departments.

I am a tad skeptical of anyone I don’t first meet in person, but we corresponded. When he wrote that his most important point was making our store “that kind of business that makes your clientele excited about their next visit (with) a mix of entertainment, retailing and relaxation,” he had me at the proverbial “hello.”

He has years of experience in fashion merchandising – basically the art and science of display and arranging lines of clothing and accessories on the selling floor – and taught store design and merchandising on the college level for eleven years. David has worked with a variety of retailers, from Nike to the flagship Disney merchandise store at Disneyland.  About 20 years ago, he worked with some Downtown stores here.

We enjoyed meeting him at our store last Saturday. He talked about the psychology of shopping, the flow of a store, “merchandise adjacencies,” balance, alignment, and first impressions. He discussed how spatial arrangements can make shopping easier, more user-friendly.

Having a fresh new ambiance is all fun and exciting, but can remodeling pay off? No one can predict, but he gave an example of a store he worked with that sold metal home goods, such as Nambe and fine copper. He completely re-arranged their displays and the owner told him the next year that sales were up 160 percent. Interesting!

We’re eager to see what he comes up with as he arranges our various puzzle pieces and analyzes our existing departments. “You are brave,” he told me. “This type of tinkering with an established business, and the budget that it requires, is not for the faint-of-heart.  But the rewards are real.”

In spite of the remodel, we’ll stay open. And we’ll be reminding ourselves: change is good!

Please Pardon our Dust!

Please Pardon our Dust!