As I wrote a in my column a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were heading off to a New Zealand family reunion with my son and daughter-in-law from France and my daughter and her husband and two kids from Thailand.
I am now back home – and nearly speechless with happiness and in utter awe of the beauty of New Zealand. It was a dream trip, with sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords, but the most important part of all was being with family.
I’ve always heard from El Pasoans who had visited that New Zealand was beautiful, but it was so far away that I never expected to experience it. Now I am the proselytizing zealot, crazy for this uncrowded, green and peaceful country. I was especially struck by how firmly proud and protective, almost reverent, the people of New Zealand are about their land and natural environment. Their delight and appreciation is contagious.
An isolated Pacific Island nation, New Zealand was settled by humans only recently in the grand scheme of history. Polynesians arrived about 1280, and the ensuing Maori culture continues to be an important part of the nation today. Later Europeans, primarily British people, settled in New Zealand and brought their English language and European ways.
The population of New Zealand is just 4.6 million, which is about the same as the El Paso/Juárez region, scattered across land the size of Colorado. Perhaps it is the small size of their population or the isolation and vulnerability of their island nation that makes the people seem unified in defining their culture. They are cosmopolitan, educated and easygoing and share heightened social and environmental sensibilities.
We visited so many places, including Auckland, Christchurch, Doubtful Sound, Nelson, Milford Sound, Picton, Queenstown, Rotorua, Waitomo and Wellington. We stayed at interesting places, ate well and tried adventurous activities. We saw sights that will stay with us always.
In my last column, I promised to stay on the lookout for fashion insights – and I have some unexpected observations. I soon learned, for instance, that our adventure trip involved a whole new fashion approach. The key was wearing the right outdoor gear for the right activities!
• Hard hats with headlights for caving. The Manawhitikau Cave in the Waitomor/Rotorua area was magical. We boarded a small inflatable underground river raft where we silently experienced a glittering display of glow-worms out of the total darkness. This experience was so amazing that even the grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, were awed into complete silence for 20 minutes!
• Sun visor for birding. Birdwatching? Excuse me? I have never thought much about wandering around looking for birds to identify. Birding isn’t athletic, cool or interesting, right? Shame on me! Oh, my gosh, birds in New Zealand are fascinating. First of all, most of the native birds do not fly. New Zealand has more species of flightless birds, both living and extinct, than any other country. They have such fun names: kiwi, kakapo, takahe, penguin, weka and moa. One reason New Zealand has so many flightless birds is that before humans arrived, there were no land mammals that preyed on birds. In evolutionary terms, they just had no need to develop an ability to fly. And I never knew they were so smart!
• Parkas, hats, sunglasses for travel by sea. We bundled up to enjoy the Interislander Ferry cruise from Wellington on the North Island across Cook Strait to the South Island.
• Hiking boots. I may be a designer shoe aficionado from way back, but my husband has always made sure I have up-to-the-minute hiking boots. Our most amazing hike was in Abel Tasman National Park.
As you can imagine, packing for an outdoor trip like this had its challenges. The experience gave me a whole new look at a vacation wardrobe, for sure. This was a far cry from resort wear!
We had an unusually fun and amazing event take place at Tres Mariposas last week.Let me start by sharing some insights into the apparel buying cycle. Like other fashion retailers, we go to different markets for different lines. Normally, we buy high-end and European lines the furthest in advance and in New York.
These designers do not take their lines to the regional markets like Dallas or Los Angeles. And the more premium the fabrics and construction, the longer lead time is needed. The high level of quality means these are not fast-fashion productions.
Every February, we shop Escada, the famous German luxury collection. This February, however, the collection was not in their New York showroom due to unusual circumstances.
Happily, Escada offered to bring the entire fall 2015 collection to El Paso so we could see it all here, right in our own store. “We will just bring the showroom to you,” declared Rebecca Evans of Escada. What a fabulous idea!
And what an unforgettable sight it was to see all the beautiful dresses, tops, jackets, skirts and pants in all their glory, right here in El Paso. Unlike our typical New York showroom experience, we had the luxury of more time to get to know the collection – and we got to hear reactions and recommendations from all our staff and even a few customers.
I have a special affinity for Escada. The brand was founded in 1978, the same year I came to Tres Mariposas. A few years later, an Escada outfit – a peasant-influenced skirt and blouse – was my first-ever luxury apparel purchase.
I felt on top of the world when I wore it. The fabric was divine. The fit was perfect. The workmanship was flawless. There really is a significant difference in luxury apparel; I felt elevated and special.
Escada had interesting beginnings. Margaretha Ley, a model and designer, and her husband, Wolfgang Ley, were on holiday in Spain when they bet on a winning Irish racehorse named Escada. The winnings became the seed money for Escada the brand.
Margaretha’s distinctive creations with their unusual combinations of colors and patterns soon stood out in the fashion world. Escada became Germany’s leading luxury fashion brand and a leading player in the global luxury clothing market. North America became a strong market, in part because of American women’s love of color. Today Escada is a go-to brand for celebrities and many of America’s best-dressed, most stylish women.
Having the complete Escada line at Tres Mariposas for our buyers to make their selections was such a treat. We had a great time – too bad we can’t always get a major fashion design house to come to us!
Tory Burch is one of the best-known lifestyle brands in America. My knowledge of the woman Tory Burch was that she was a picture-perfect blonde New York socialite who did not go to fashion school and who capitalized on her contacts to launch a line of clothing and accessories in 2004. There you go — another pretty rich girl who had it easy, or so it seemed.
After her nasty divorce from her wealthy husband, Christopher Burch, it was rumored that her company might not make it subsequently.
Not only did Tory Burch’s company survive, the brand has become a household name. This year Forbes listed her as the 79th most powerful woman in the world.
Now she is out with her first book, “Tory Burch in Color,” a gorgeous coffee table style volume. Since I am in the fashion industry and Tory Burch products are best sellers at Tres Mariposas, I purchased the book as soon as it was available.
I was beyond pleasantly surprised in several ways. First I learned enough about Tory Burch, the person to find out that she’s much more than a pretty face with money. Through the book I discovered that her taste and aesthetic talents are highly developed and honed. She is humble, gutsy, charming and very family-oriented. She has a serious work ethic that, along with a powerful vision for her brand, has contributed to her becoming an amazing businesswoman. Her collections are inspired by art, music, travel, interiors and her own stylish parents.
Second, I can’t say that I’ve run across very many coffee table books that I fervently liked. They are always pretty, but flipping through a few pages is generally enough for me. I found “Tory Burch in Color” to be different.
As you may know, the Tory Burch brand is known for eclectic details, prints, and color – gorgeous color. Her book is actually organized in chapters by color, with each color brought to life through images and information about her travels, her approaches to entertaining, works of art, and even advice of business leaders.
I enjoyed the section on work-life balance (in the purple chapter) with down-to-earth interviews with people such as Hilary Rodham Clinton, Carolina Herrera, and Arianna Huffington. I loved Tory’s drink recipes, such as the Screwdriver in the orange chapter and the Southside in the green chapter. At the end of the book is an interview with Dr. Samantha Boardman on the science of color.
I have always thought that much of Tory Burch’s success comes from the way her products connect with today’s American women: her designs balance tradition and heritage with fresh modernity. Tory is so in sync with the psyche of American women that her products resonate with a broad cross-section of customers.
She began the company seeking to create a culture that reflected her parents, and their values of kindness, integrity, humor and a sense of pride. The company’s signature Reva ballet flat was named after Tory’s mother. Tory writes, “Reva is my mother, the most effortlessly stylish woman I know and my greatest source of inspiration.”
Social responsibility is also important to Tory Burch. In 2009, the Tory Burch Foundation was formed to support the economic empowerment of American women entrepreneurs and their families. Through loans, mentorship, and entrepreneurial education, the foundation invests in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses. One hundred percent of the gross proceeds received by Tory Burch LLC from the sale of the book will go toward the foundation.
I encourage you to support the foundation and give yourself a treat by buying the book. Or you can stop by Tres Mariposas and peruse it there. I think you will find it a gorgeous addition to your library – or coffee table!
Last week we went to the Coterie apparel market at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. Self-described as “a premier global marketplace that bridges apparel and accessories designers to the international Who’s Who of Retailers,” this is the largest show of the year. It is so huge that it’s really hard to describe just how many vendors and buyers attend.
It is always held after the official New York Fashion Week. Fashion Week is full of runway shows meant to impress celebrities and the press. The following week, it’s time to get down to the business of fashion.
For Tres Mariposas buyers, this September trip includes a couple of days at the huge convention center show and a couple of days dashing to showrooms from one end of Manhattan to the other – Seventh Avenue, Soho, and Midtown. Market is not all glamour. For instance, the Meat Packing District of Manhattan is now a “cool” fashion district. That means riding up a nasty, grungy freight elevator to see the Rag & Bone showroom.
It’s that time of year again for the great seasonal closet switcheroo. If you still haven’t switched from your winter wardrobe to your spring and summer clothes, don’t delay. I like to think of the middle of March as your annual wardrobe-switching deadline, so make this your weekend to get to work.
We’ve already enjoyed some gorgeous summery spring days. The last thing you want to do on a bright warm morning is scrounge around tweedy jackets, cashmere sweaters, and leather pants as you look for something light to wear.
The drill is the same as every seasonal change. Sort through your winter clothes before you store them in your out-of-season closet or drawers or wherever you stash them until fall. Make four piles: items that need to be cleaned before storage, items ready to store, a very few transitional winter items that can stay in your closet for a little longer in case it gets chilly, and items that you are ready to give away.
This closet changeover may be a bit tedious, but it’s really therapeutic — and philanthropic! A friend once wished for a closet large enough to hold all of her clothes so she wouldn’t have to do seasonal changes. I disagree. While a gigantic closet sounds great in theory, I think it’s good to be forced to look at your wardrobe at least twice a year. It gets you in the mood for the new season and makes you confront the clothes you should get rid of.
As you consider what clothing to give away, just think about how you’re making space for new clothes that are on trend for this year!
It doesn’t matter if you are giving away something because it doesn’t fit, it’s no longer your taste, or you just can’t bring yourself to wear it one more time. You are entitled to your own rationale, which could be no reason at all – no one needs to justify or explain.
But I can give you one good reason to cull out what you’re not wearing any more, or rather 1300 reasons. The staff at Tres Mariposas is once again collecting women’s and children’s clothes for the YWCA’s acclaimed Sara McKnight Transitional Living Center, with a goal of 1300 items by April 16.
In addition, for every item donated up to 1,300 items, Tres Mariposas will contribute a dollar to go toward an urgent need the center staff has identified for the children living at the TLC: activity uniforms.
Think of all the great activities you might have enjoyed growing up – Camp Fire Girls or Girl Scouts, girls’ soccer or volleyball. Now think of the children who can’t take part in out-of-school activities, such as team sports or Boy Scouts, because they cannot afford the uniforms required for participation.
You can help Tres Mariposas raise $1,300 to purchase these activity uniforms for the children staying at the center. Together we can help children experiencing homelessness in our community have some fun after school!
Especially needed are almost new or gently used women’s clothing for job interviews and office work. However, think about what any woman might need, especially if she had to leave a bad domestic situation in the middle of the night without packing or if she has been homeless with little more than the clothes on her back.
The women who live temporarily at the center while they get back on their feet receive shelter, safety, job training, independent living skills, and help with child care. These women appreciate what all of us appreciate. They need skirts and slacks that fit, attractive tops and jackets, jewelry, watches, purses, and even nice pajamas.
This year, we’re also collecting children’s clothes. If you have kids or grandchildren, you know they outgrow their outfits long before their outfits wear out. It would be great if you can donate gently used boys’ or girls’ clothes for any age, from babies to teenagers. These kids need sweaters and coats, too.
You may already have activity uniforms that your kids aren’t using – things like Girl Scout blouses, Boy Scout shirts, basketball shorts, football pads and pants, baseball pants. With our donation, which will be presented at the YWCA Luncheon on April 17, the Transitional Living Center can buy the special team jersey or shirts needed so these kids won’t be prevented from taking part because they didn’t have the right uniform.
The collection campaign brings a win-win situation: you get a closet organized for spring and the TLC gets 1,300 items of clothing and $1,300 for children’s after-school program uniforms!
Technology influences many aspects of our world, and fashion is no exception.
It’s no accident that a major 2014 fashion trend is technology based. It is a trend that is likeable, crisp, interesting, and works in a myriad of bright or neutral colors. It works in tops, skirts, dresses, jackets, and accessories.
What is this versatile trend? Laser cut fabrics and materials. Today’s advanced laser cutting machines can slice the cleanest of edges on virtually everything from silk to fur, and turn out consistent patterns at an incredible speed.
Laser cuts create intricate tactile masterpieces of interesting textures. We are seeing laser cut leather jackets, laser cut cotton dresses, and trendy laser cut booties. It’s all about the cut-outs this year. Closely related trends include perforated fabrics, mesh, open weaves, or cutaway styles.
Once laser cutting techniques were limited to haute couture brands whose delicate laces and intricate leathers were painstakingly created by craftsmen. Now, due to technological advances, laser cutting is more affordable and practical for a variety of higher end and even mainstream manufacturers. The results are intriguing – just check out how well this trend works for apparel, accessories and shoes!
P.S. Next week, we’ll look at another technology driven fashion trend…
As you probably know, the fashion cycle has a rhythm all its own. New style trends emerge each season, and retailers have to predict months in advance what they think will sell in their own stores. As buyers, we do our best to guess which items are going to be big winners for the season. Which looks and outfits will our customers desire the most?
Right about now, mid-October, retailers are finally seeing what trends customers are responding to with the most enthusiasm. It’s interesting — bestsellers at Tres Mariposas invariably reflect the bestsellers emerging with other retailers across the country. Our tastes on the Border are in line with national trends.
Here are a few early winners for this fall:
Jacquard Pattern Jeans
Why it works? Texture!
Fashion is all about texture – and everyone needs jeans in her wardrobe. These are basically textured jeans! The term jacquard refers to fabric with a pattern woven into it. Your interesting fact of the day: French inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the first loom for these intricate patterns in 1801.
Fit and Flare Dresses and Skirts
Not all of us look fantastic in straight pencil skirts. The fit and flare style is fitted at the waist and then flares out into flirty fullness at the hem. It’s been a classic since the 1950s. Every skirt and dress in this style that we’ve received at Tres Mariposas seems to fly out the door. Women must be hungry for something feminine and flattering.
Why it works? Instantly ups your cool factor.
Every girl needs a bit of racy biker machismo now and then. The motorcycle jacket in black leather and other fabrications has been cool since James Dean. Wear it over everything in your wardrobe. Add boots and you are set for the season.
Why it works? Makes the outfit.
New design techniques and technology have morphed furs into garments almost as lightweight as sweaters. These are not your grandmother’s mink coats. Friendly to El Paso’s climate, fur vests are great for casual lifestyles.
We may very well see other bestsellers emerge as the season goes on, but these four trends have already taken El Paso by storm. The customer has spoken!
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
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!