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
 

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

Fail-proof shopping for Mother’s Day: Handbags

If there is one holiday when you want your gift to be just right, it has to be Mother’s Day. Especially in our part of the world, Mother’s Day is a major celebration. People want to be sure they let their moms and madres know they are cherished and adored.

But what do you get the woman who means so much to you? It’s not easy. Flowers are nice, even if they don’t last long. Chocolates are a sweet choice, but they go faster than the flowers! Clothes are appreciated if you know her size and tastes.

However, one of the greatest no-fail Mother’s Day gifts ever is a handbag. It is an indulgent yet useful present that’s one-size-fits-all and always welcome.

The good news is you can find a purse that will be as individual as she is. Think of who she is and what she likes and the rest comes easy.

Be sure to tell her exactly why you chose the handbag for her. When my son was growing up, his gifts to me came with a note that started out “I hope you like it” and ended with why he picked that present. Here’s some inspiration for finding the handbag that’s right for your mother and how to tell her why you picked it.

Marc Jacobs tote

• For the artist, fun-lover or zany mother: “Mom, I love your artistic side, so I wanted you to have something creative and fun.” Marc Jacobs designed this bag’s colorful collage print by hand in his Paris apartment while he was on vacation.

Tory Burch tote

• For the modern, practical mother: “Mom, I like your no non-nonsense approach and I’m glad you taught me how to be practical and savvy about things.”

The Tory Burch York tote is a classic made of saffiano leather that it is more scratch-resistant and generally easier to care for than nappa leather. With convenient compartments for organization, adjustable straps and a good price for a designer name bag, this is a foolproof gift.

Mini Crossbody

• For the mother who’s always ready to socialize:“Mom, I’m giving you this turquoise statement purse so you will have even more fun when you meet your friends for lunch.”

This mini cross-body style is adorable and just big enough for a phone, credit card, driver’s license, some cash, lipstick and keys. This one is from Furla, the nearly 90-year-old Italian handbag and accessory company known for elegance, femininity and artisanal details.

Save My Bag, option 2

• For the mother who’s ahead of the trends: “Mom, I love that you’re always on the inside track of the newest and latest and I wanted you to have something that is super cool.”

The designer behind this bag by Save My Bag is Valentina Agazzi of Bergamo, Italy. She was a fashionista who made neoprene fabric covers to store and protect her vast collection of designer bags. Her bag covers evolved into an ultra-hip, inexpensive line of fun bags made in Italy.

Hammitt Los Angeles

• For the mother who loves to travel: “Mom, I know I got my wanderlust from you. I hope you like this bag designed for the urban traveler.”

Hammit handbags are known for several features geared for travelling. Every bag has a crossbody stap, which is a must, both for travel security and ease. They also have well-designed pockets, compartments and a place for a cell phone, essential for staying organized on the go. Hammitt is based in Los Angeles and the bags are predominanty U.S. made, a rarity!

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• For the mother who appreciates high-end designers: “Mom, I know you have an eye for the finest designers, so I’m giving you a handbag to add to your collection.”

If your mother is a collector and conossieur of fine designer clothes and accessories, she will truly be touched by your thoughtfulness and generosity if you present her with a new or vintage bag by Louis Vuitton, Celine, Chanel or other designer.

This is just a sampling of handbags to get you thinking about what your mother might like. El Paso has lots of choices, including bags by Coach, Michael Kors and so many others. Have fun shopping and have fun matching the bag to your mom!

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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Westside stores and boutiques opening at The Fountains at Farah

Tres Mariposas at The Fountains

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

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

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

An experiment in the works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Fountains welcomes locals

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

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

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

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

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

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UTEP Football and Arkansas Family Roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Fashion, Engery, Success: El Pasoan Keeli Jernigan

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

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

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

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

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

Left to Right: Brandi Brown, Mark and Keeli Jernigan

Left to Right: Brandi Brown, Mark and Keeli Jernigan

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

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

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

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

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

Keeli at WBENC Gala

Keeli at WBENC Gala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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