I’ve been on the go lately and have had an unusually fun time seeing what’s new and exciting at market.
Two weeks ago I was in New York, combining pleasure with work. My husband Sammy and I went a couple of days early for a Broadway play, great dining, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and lunch with some El Pasoans transplanted to New York. Nothing beats experiencing all the best of New York.
Then last week, I was in Dallas for a couple of days. I don’t go to every market with our buyers, but I am especially drawn to Dallas because of the information we gather as members of the “prestigious Retail Advisory Board, selected by Dallas Market Center management and exhibitors to provide valuable feedback on the industry and how markets can better serve retailers.”
While some claim this is a “prestigious board,” the real reason for attendance is to reconnect and laugh with longtime industry friends, have a great meal with wine and see what tips we can gather from our retail peers about hot sellers and innovative practices.
Among those friends from around the Southwest is Patty Hoffpauir, owner of The Garden Room in Austin, who thought it was cute to give me bunny ears in a photo with the dinner’s special guest, Rawlins Gilliland! By the way, when you are in Austin, do stop by The Garden Room, which is a wonderful women’s boutique.
This board meeting didn’t fail to entertain. The Market Center had invited Gilliland to share his insights on this year’s holiday gift items. Gilliland scours the market so he can share his finds with retailers on the wonderful private tours he leads through the various vendors.
Gilliland is an interesting guy. He started his retail career with Neiman Marcus where he was named top salesperson and eventually earned the title of National Director of Sales and Product. He helped create and direct Neiman’s amazing personal shopping program. Since 1999, he has been a consultant to the wholesale and retail industry, specializing in market buying and sourcing for specialty stores and small businesses.
Gilliland is also a natural entertainer, humorist, philosopher, poet and National Public Radio commentator.
“Rawlins Gilliland and his stories are one of a kind!” says Jim Gold, president of Neiman Marcus.
Needless to say, Tres Mariposas buyer Bobbie Baldridge and I had a thoroughly fun evening at our Retail Advisory Board meeting.
We did pick up plenty of suggestion of products from Gilliland and other retailers that might be great holiday gift items.
The part of buying trips that I rarely talk about is the products we don’t buy. Part of the joy of being a buyer is the thrill of the hunt. I will go check out just about any tip, even though some explorations lead to groan-worthy products. Even though they may be bestsellers for some, these are items you won’t find at Tres Mariposas this year:
• A birdhouse that looked like a miniature Airstream style RV complete with 1950s decor and porch
• Giant Christmas ornaments made with wishbones
• Lit Coolers, for campers who need their ice chests complete with interior lights
• Bling-A-Go-Go, t-shirts that can be customized
That last one sounded so bad that Bobbie refused to go with me to check it out. Of course, she was right and Bling-A-Go-Go wasn’t for Tres.
A few holiday gifts that you can look forward to seeing:
• Jeweled evening bags in Art Deco patterns
• Limited edition individually hand-crafted fashion jewelry with Egyptian themes.
• Italian Renaissance-style candles with domes
In future columns, I’ll be sharing with you some of our observations about the styles and trends we saw in both New York and Dallas. We’ll also be giving you some ideas that might inspire “the thrill of the hunt” in your own clothes shopping this fall!
Everyone, and I do mean everyone, assumes that my trips to various apparel and jewelry markets are fun and glamorous. Nothing could be further from the truth.Instead, buying trips are full of early morning to late evening appointments, squeezing in seeing every last thing in a limited amount of time, negotiations with recalcitrant vendors, stressing out about which merchandise selections are the most saleable, and feet that are throbbing.
Trips to market can be exciting and energizing, but they have never been luxurious or glamorous. Until now.
Last week thousands of jewelry vendors, buyers, designers, manufacturers, reporters and all kinds of jewelry-related service firms gathered in Las Vegas for two trade shows: the upscale, smaller Couture Show at the Wynn and the enormous JCK Show in the Mandalay Bay convention hall.
This trip with the Tres Mariposas fine jewelry staff – Bobbie Baldridge, Carmen Bagby and Flori Trudeau – had all the delights missing from ordinary buying trips.
First, we stayed at the Encore Resort and Hotel, next door to its sister resort, the Wynn. Encore has been awarded AAA’s Five Diamond Award every year since opening.
Small business entrepreneurs like me usually watch their budget and try to keep travel expenses under control, which means five-star hotels are not usually on the menu.
However, the Couture Show put us up at the Encore as their guest! Just being in this beautiful and luxurious environment made us feel like royalty.
In addition, we stayed a day longer than usual on this annual Las Vegas market trip. So we had the bonus of not being stressed from the usual hurry, hurry, hurry.Some of the designer lines that we like set up shop in posh Wynn villas. At the John Hardy villa, they treated us to an alfresco lunch beside a private pool with a panoramic view. With a slight breeze in our faces and delicious food in front of us, we leaned back and said, “Ah, yes, this is the way market was always supposed to be!”
Ivanka Trump with Nan, Carmen, Flori, and Bobbie
We were also invited to special parties. Our first night was a party with Ivanka Trump, principal of Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry. Like many celebrities, she has even more star presence in person. Ivanka is 5 feet, 11 inches tall – before her 3 ½-inch heels – and stunningly gorgeous.
The party was at one of the Wynn clubs that was located at the base of the large curtain waterfall. Again, I felt the spell of the good life. Ivanka’s children are learning to speak Mandarin Chinese, as are my two grandchildren who live in Bangkok. It was fun to chat about something in common.
Jewelry designer Emily Armenta
A jewelry designer we adore these days is Emily Armenta. Famous for her “Old World meets hip” jewelry, Emily is a down-to-earth person who has a passion for helping women, as well as designing jewelry.
As was the trend with many at the Couture Show, Emily wore a well-cut, interesting black dress that spotlighted her jewelry. I admire Emily’s creativity, business talent and work to empower women.
While Emily was taking an entrepreneurship class at Rice University, she was given an assignment to create a fictitious company and write a business plan. Little did she know the assignment would become her life’s work.
Designer/artist Ippolita Rostagno
Tres Mariposas has carried the highly successful jewelry line Ippolita for many years, but this trip brought my first time to meet Ippolita Rostagno. The famous Italian designer and artist pioneered the fine jewelry industry’s transition to blend contemporary trends with traditional techniques and styles. Upon meeting her, I immediately felt Ippolita’s energy, strength and dynamism.
Frances Gadbois of Sloane Street
The jewelry industry is always experiencing transition. A personal favorite jewelry line is Jude Frances, known for youthful femininity. The company had been a collaboration between Jude Steele and Frances Gadbois, but now Jude and Frances each have their own lines. A native of London, Frances has a new line called Sloane Street.
Here again is a beautiful, creative and strong woman pursuing her passion. In her new venture, she often invites women to bring in older, dated jewelry that they no longer wear. Frances sketches new ideas and re-makes the piece and stones into contemporary classics.
While this is not a new idea – any of us can take our old stuff to a jeweler – rarely is there the opportunity to access this level of talent for private design. Frances is looking forward to visiting El Paso in September, so be thinking of your older pieces that can become new treasures.
When we boarded the plane back to El Paso, we had a unique sensation: We worked hard to accomplish our buying goals and found many fabulous pieces to share with El Paso women, but we also felt like we had been on vacation! Now that’s a great market trip!
Lunch at Chateau Bailly, where I met helicopter pilot Gilbert Aubrée.
As those of you who follow my column might know, I’ve been visiting my son all over the globe during his career in the U.S. Air Force. Creed, an Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot who’s served in dangerous war zones, is now part of an international military exchange program in the south of France.He is the only American at a French Air Force base in the village of Cazaux, near Bordeaux. My husband Sam Paredes and I jumped at the chance to visit him and Naomi.
And while this is supposed to be a fashion column, I can’t help but share the delights of the French love affair with great food.
In fact, one of my few disappointments was that the French have not adopted the U.S. custom of doggie bags to take home leftovers. We had dishes that were so amazing, I said, “Ooh, we have to have the rest of this for lunch tomorrow.”
But that is a cultural no-no in France because of the emphasis on freshness. My goodness, by the next day, the food would no longer be garden-fresh! In France respectable cooks start anew daily at the amazing food markets.
One of my favorite treats is a palmiere, the elephant-ear shaped crispy French pastry. I do love croissants, but the palmiere is crispier and sweeter. It became a sport to find a French bakery with palmieres each morning, and then I played the game of palmiere comparisons, each day assessing if it was the best, most buttery and mouthwatering.
Sam, on the other hand, is a big fan of frog legs, a delicacy of French cuisine. They taste a bit like chicken. My son and daughter-in-law indulged him by participating in the sport of locating restaurants that served frog legs. You can see that he cleaned his plate.
My new savory favorite is pan-seared foie gras, made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. I had a negative attitude about foie gras, but the rich, buttery and delicate yet intense taste won me over. My favorite is an entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.
An entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.
Ah, the difference in just “cheese” and fabulous French cheeses is enormous. We enjoyed a cheese tasting in a gorgeous outdoor setting at the Arcachon home of friends of my son and daughter-in-law. Christina served eight varieties of cheese with fresh baguettes.
At Christina and Mark’s cheese tasting in Arcachon.
Comté is a favorite hard cheese in France, with its strong and slightly sweet taste that comes from maturing in cellars in the Franche-Comté region. And I learned to love even more Camembert from Normandy, a soft cheese served warm with a local honey.
Creed helps pick out spices.
Before I went to France, I saw several recipes calling for herbs de Provence. The Roasted Chicken de Provencal recipe that appeared in a New York Times Food Magazine in April intrigued me. I was delighted to discover a spice vendor at the outdoor market in Arcachon who was incredibly knowledgeable, energetic and animated about dozens of herbs. He prepared fresh packets of herbes de Provence and unusual salts for me to bring home as souvenirs for my employees. I have a few left – if you hurry in, I’m happy to give you one.
We made two trips away from the Bordeaux area – to Normandy and to Bilbao in Spain – and we stayed overnight in San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque region. The coastal town touts having one of the highest number of Michelin stars – the international hallmark of fine dining – per square metre, beaten only by Kyoto, Japan, and well ahead of Paris and Lyon.
Tapas in San Sabastian
I knew Spain was famous for its tapas bars, but I wasn’t prepared for the massive arrays of dozens of different kinds of tantalizing tapas.
And all of the above doesn’t even touch the topic of French wines. We had an amazing lunch with wine at Chateau Bailly. Our tour filled my head with fascinating information about wine. We dined with Gilbert Aubrée, a fellow helicopter pilot and friend of my son’s French Air Force base squadron, and one of the most interesting people I have ever met.
Next week, a little about French fashion – I promise!
I am delighted to welcome a guest columnist today: Gesuina Legaspy, contemporary and special occasion buyer at Tres Mariposas. We’re back from a very productive buying trip and I asked her to identify trends and designers to watch for in the coming year. Here’s the first half of this two-part series.Nan Napier
The best part of being a buyer at Tres Mariposas is – well, the buying trips – particularly the trips to New York City. My most recent visit, just the week before last, was marked by 9-degree weather, vintage bags and of course, fashion.
We’re gearing up for spring in the Sun City, but the fashion industry is looking ahead to our autumnal wardrobe. However, some of the trends, designers and delicious items that I saw in New York already inform your 2015 wardrobe:
Stuart Weitzman’s LoveFringe heel
• Go forward with fringe: Trends, by definition, fade away as quickly they’re introduced. Not fringe. Fringe is stronger than ever, with its versatile appeal on handbags, evening gowns, apparel and even shoes!
In the fall, we will be seeing fringed cashmere cardigans from Repeat and Central Park West, and fringe on supple leather handbags we ordered from a line called B-Low the Belt. Fringe forward and keep wearing it, because fringe is not going anywhere.
Fashions by Jonathan Simkai
• Jonathan Simkhai: Jonathan Simkhai is a New York-based designer who was introduced to Tres Mariposas by our New York buyer, Lucie Jordan. She was right on by leading us to his showroom in 2014. We loved the collection and carry it in the store now, and it’s very exciting to see how this up-and-coming designer is now everywhere, seen on celebrities like Chanel Iman, Jennifer Lopez, Alessandra Ambrossio and Gigi Haddid.
Legions of Hollywood “It Girls” have been seen in Jonathan Simkhai, and I am proud to feature the collection at our store. The only thing better than the line itself is its price point – super affordable.
• Jewelry trends, my favorite: I am a minimalist when it comes to fashion jewelry, but I can assure you that these trends will have me decked out! Edgy, eye-catching pieces like body chains, hand chains and ear cuffs will be everywhere this year.
Tres Mariposas owner Nan Napier and co-buyer Bobbie Baldridge discovered a new line called Goldish that makes necklaces that can also be worn as 14-karat gold hand chains, which are combination bracelets and rings.
This fresh and fun trend is a great way to play with fashion and an inexpensive way to try something different. The best part is that you can mix it all together; these pieces look even better when worn together to create a statement outfit.
Midi Dress by Elizabeth and James
• Midi-dresses/skirts: The longer the better! This look is called “The Midi,” referring to a hemline below the knee and above the ankle, a nod to the 1960s and ‘70s.
There are endless ways to wear this style. Pair midi dresses with tall boots or heels and midi skirts with anything from a basic t-shirt to a crop top. Midi styles can be pencil shaped, A-line or circular.
Vintage Celine Handbags
• Vintage handbags: Until now, it was impossible to purchase a Chanel, Celine or Louis Vuitton handbag in El Paso.
Three years ago at our Fashion’s Night Out event, we hosted a Vintage Chanel Trunk Show. We were surprised to find that our vintage friends carry not only vintage Chanel, but many other brands as well!
“Vintage?” you might ask. Doesn’t that mean they’ve been used? Not necessarily.
Vintage handbags aren’t always pre-worn; in some cases, the bags may have been an older style, gifted and never used, or worn once or twice and in impeccable condition.
Nan, Bobbie and I handpicked each bag while we were in New York, ensuring all classic styles are still available at regular price in the designer retail stores, and in pristine condition.
Each bag is certified and inspected, and less than the original price!
Stay tuned next week for more fashion news from New York!
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.
The Coterie is miles and miles of designer booths displaying their lines for the Spring 2014 season. Clover Canyon is one of the most popular vendors due to their innovative mixing of prints and fabulous bright colors.
Herve Leger, king of body conscious dresses, has an amazing showroom.
The “Edit” show was a small, exclusive segregated area within the giant Coterie venue. Vendors and buyers had to go through a rigorous vetting process. Whew! Tres Mariposas passed inspection. Most of all I enjoyed the colorful sophisticated displays at the entry to Edit.
Sometimes it’s hard to get work done because of the distraction of amazingly entertaining visual displays! Alice and Olivia is a line full of young creativity.
The fringe trend isn’t stopping anytime soon. Go ahead and splurge.
A TRES customer, KC Nelson, happened to be in New York also. Our contemporary buyer Gesuina Legaspy (right) and KC are excited to discover they have the same phone covers.
Jonathan Simkhai is a relatively new designer we discovered. He started working in a boutique when he was 14. A few good people helped him along the way and he’s making it in the fashion world – not easy to do. This photo is in his showroom. He was adorable to visit with.
Our trusty travel agent, Priceline, put us at the very wonderful One UN Plaza Millennium Hotel. Our 35th-floor rooms had a magnificent view of the East River and the city as well as the United Nations complex. Each morning when I got up I opened the curtains and felt exhilarated because it was so stunning, as you can see by this view from my window. Before going to bed at night, I marveled at the city lights reflecting in the river. Speaking of New York rivers, we all remember US Airways pilot “Sully” Sullenberger, the “Hero of the Hudson.” He executed that emergency water landing after his plane was disabled, saving every passenger and crew member. When I see that murky river water, I am in awe of that safe landing and admire Captain Sullenberger’s skills even more. I’m also proud of my son Creed, an Air Force pilot – he now shares a distinction with the hero: they both have received the Jabara Award from their shared alma mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy. Creed thought he was in mighty fine company to get the same award as Sully.
As I wrote last week, I’ve been to market in New York City twice this spring; our second trip took us to the annual spring Fashion Coterie at Jacob Javits Convention Center. This is a huge show of women’s apparel from some 5,000 exhibitors spread out over a half a million square feet. With about 20,000 buyers and other industry attendees, this is a busy place during its three-day run every February.
The fashion industry categorizes apparel according to price point, with labels starting at mass market (or budget) and moving up through moderate, private label (a department store brand such as Charter Club at Macy’s), contemporary, better, secondary lines (such as Marc by Marc Jacobs), bridge, designer, and lastly, couture. The Coterie offers clothes in the better, bridge, and designer categories.
We like to shop the Coterie because of its incredible variety of designers, all vying to become the next big thing. Unless you are a real industry insider or a “Women’s Wear Daily” reporter or something, you will have never heard of the vast majority of the exhibitors filling the shared showrooms and major spaces.
What we want to do is discover the best of these new names while keeping the well-known designers our customers love. That’s what I like about the whole buying process – that combination of fresh and familiar, talent search and tradition.
We also like the Coterie because it provides a great preview of trends, both new and continuing. Here are some pieces and places that caught my.
Studded leather accessories, such as this geometrically interesting bag, continue even bigger going forward.
Ippolita offers a more delicate version of a cuff bracelet: rows of different hammered silver bangles stacked for a rich look.
It’s the season of the wrist. Some women are giving in to cuff mania and enjoying a wide variety of statement bracelets.
As we saw at the Kate Spade showroom, pointy-toe pumps are on their way back. After all the platforms of recent years, feminine single-sole shoes are gaining in popularity.
Alice and Olivia is one of the hottest lines around. Their show space at the Coterie was buzzing.
Thousands of people pour through the entrance into the massive Jacob Javits Center each day during the Coterie show.