European travels, Part III: Fashion and D-Day

Believe it or not, toddlers wear scarves in France.

Believe it or not, toddlers wear scarves in France.

Any trip to Europe has interesting fashion insights. My recent trip to France and Spain was no exception.

This travelogue column is the third about my trip with my husband, Sam Paredes, to visit my son Creed and his wife Naomi in southern France, where Creed is the only American serving at a French Air Force base near Bordeaux. As a U.S. Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, he is stationed there as part of an international military exchange.

I’ve written about the gorgeous scenery, French wineries, a luxurious French spa and the French food – oh, the food! – but this column is about fashion. It ends with a look back to one of the most important places to visit in all of Europe: the beaches of Normandy.

Even my son Creed has joined the French fashion of wearing scarves.

Even my son Creed has joined the French fashion of wearing scarves.

The French and their scarves

The French people are famous for their beautiful scarves, a key ingredient in their recipe for style. In the U.S. we are sustaining a long period of scarf popularity that has had its up and down cycles. In France there is never a down cycle.

When we toured Chateau Bailly in Bordeaux, the oh-so French and adorable vineyard guide had that splash of panache, easy style and, of course “une jolie escharpe.”

When we walked the chilly, breezy boardwalk on Arcachon Bay, I realized even toddlers wear scarves in France. What an adorable delight, and something I’ve never seen elsewhere.

My last surprise was learning that my own son had joined the male French tradition of fending off the chill with a scarf. In the U.S. men wear scarves only if it’s truly freezing outdoors. But, when in France….

Espadrilles at Tres Mariposas

Espadrilles at Tres Mariposas

Spain’s shoe of the season

Our side trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain provided another fashion insight for me. Espadrilles are a classic shoe that are having a new fashion moment this spring and summer. You know these warm-weather shoes made of canvas or cotton or some other kind of fabric: they traditionally have natural colored braided jute soles, sometime wedges.

What I didn’t know is that these casual shoes originated in Basque country. Espadrilles have been made in the Pyrenees since at least the 14th century. Shops have entire sections of inexpensive espadrilles, which were once peasant footwear.

While you can buy basic espadrilles in solid colors, stripes and all kinds of patterns at bargain prices, modern, finely constructed espadrilles have gone high style.

Popular current designers like Tory Burch, Vince and Soludos have taken this classic shoe to a whole new level.

‘Nanas’ by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

‘Nanas’ by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Model turned artist

Have you heard of Niki de Saint Phalle? She is a French-American fashion model who left the runway to become one of Europe’s most influential artists. Raised in upper class New York society, she rebelled against expectations and has created works of art and sculptures like “Nanas,” which revolutionized the representation of women in art.

This spring, the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, is showcasing some of the self-taught artist’s work, which has included experimental films, set designs and costumes for ballet productions.

I was enthralled with the enormous and delightful range of her works in the exhibit.

Honoring our military

Last Monday, on Memorial Day, we remembered the members of our armed forces who gave their lives for our country. Sam and I ended our trip where every day is Memorial Day: the beaches of Normandy, where nearly 160,000 Allied soldiers crossed the English Channel in a single day to storm the Nazi-held beaches.

D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the largest seaborne invasion in history and casualties were extraordinarily high. Thousands of Americans died on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach as they disembarked and walked into the heavily fortified German defenses.

Like everyone who visits these famous World War II sites, I was awed and overwhelmed at seeing the beaches where so many died, the German bunkers, and hearing the stories of paratroopers, French resistance fighters and brave troops.

Reading books like “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, which is on a number of bestseller lists right now, “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust” by Edith H. Beer, and “The Nightingale” by Kirsten Hannah, has helped me learn more about this tragic chapter in history.

At the huge American cemetery, where the graves and markers stretch far and wide, I was inspired and deeply moved. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said, “The soldiers’ graves are the greatest preachers of peace.”

As we mark the 71stt anniversary of D-Day this Saturday, June 6, let us especially stop to think of those who served our country so bravely that day.

New Tory Burch book celebrates color and style

Tory Burch

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.Tory Burch In Color book photo

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

headerAnimal prints have become a classic trend, which means they are always in style. However, in some seasons these prints mimicking the markings of wild animals are more popular than other seasons. This fall and winter, animal prints are super popular. 

Why do women like them so much? These fabrics have a strong graphic identity, and some women even say they feel empowered when they wear animal prints.  Grrrr…..Hear me roar!

Animal prints are also so easy to wear, because they are like neutrals. Think about it: this season’s animal prints feature variations of browns, beiges, greys, and blacks.  

But wait, what about zebra prints? They’re not brown and beige – they’re black and white. Alas, although I am a lifelong lover of zebra prints, the zebra is just not popular this year. In fact, even when I see them, they look wrong somehow right now.

Right now, animal prints that have darker, neutral backgrounds are in. White and black zebra prints and orange and black tiger prints are not (sorry, El Paso High Tigers).

Here are a few tips on how to wear animal prints this fall and winter, along with a run-down of what’s hot and what’s not:

  • A little goes a long way.  It’s fantastic to have an animal print blouse, pants, scarf, and handbag in your closet.  Just don’t wear them all at once.  One at a time, please.
  • Done right, a pop of bright color, such as in a handbag, looks great with an animal print.
  • Do accessorize with animal prints: handbags, shoes, and scarves add some of the best touches.
Animal prints are all classics, but some seasons some are more popular than others.

Animal prints are all classics, but some seasons some are more popular than others.

Leopard Top Under a Fur Vest

Leopard Top Under a Fur Vest

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Fringe Benefits: A Trend That Works Everywhere

fRING

Fringe, as a fashion trend at least, is no longer on the fringe.  Fringe is front and center and seriously chic on sweaters, handbags, boots, blouses, everything possible.

If fringe makes you think of Pocahontas or Great Gatsby-style flapper dresses, give your brain an update. Today, fringe is a refreshing option that is fun, edgy, and stylish with a luxe vibe. It’s luxurious because it’s purely ornamental. Fringe can also be tactile and sexy: there’s nothing quite like the sensuous feel of long fringe running through your fingers.

I’m thinking that this is one trend that will stay a while. Elegant tasseled earrings have a certain classic feel to them. I predict that women will continue to adore the fringed handbags and scarves we’re seeing in the stores these days. Fringed tops and ponchos have a universality that can work for anyone -  any and all body shapes.

What I like about this do-able trend:

  • You can go all out, over-the-top fringed,  or wear it in an understated way.
  • Motion!  Fringe sways and moves.
  • Fringe works on nearly everything:  dresses, blouses, handbags, scarves, shoes, jewelry.
  • You can add a few fringe pieces to your wardrobe and you have an instant update.

     

 

And They Just Said No: A Look At Trends In Shoes

Untitled-2Last week while in San Diego, I dined at the California chic JRDN restaurant at the Tower 23 Hotel on Pacific Beach. It was Saturday night and the gorgeous fashionistas were out in styles worthy of the runway.  And they were all wearing mile-high platform shoes.

I was immediately reminded of the fashion industry’s recent efforts to roll out a new shoe trend – a trend that has absolutely flopped!

For the last year or two fashion magazines, trend prognosticators, and the shoe industry have touted fashion’s new pointy-toed, single sole shoes. This was the way of the future, the only way, they said. Anything else was out!

Granted, these single-sole towering heels with pointed toes are more feminine that the heavier platforms. Tell me this shoe isn’t down right sexy:single sole

A shoe like this spiked heel with rivets is transformative. It can completely transform a reserved, usually conservatively dressed lady of average height into a tall, stunning woman brimming with feminine power.  Wow!  You just can’t imagine what these shoes can do for you.

And guess what?  Some women have been elated and moved into the new pointed single-sole styles right away. They are fine with going back to the shoes of the past made new again. They want a shoe  that looks elegant while carrying that sexy va-va-voom impact.

Guess what else?  A whole bunch of other women did not want to negotiate those spiked heels again and push their toes into a point.  They spoke with their pocket books and just said no.

The last few years of shoe trends have spoiled women and they want to stay spoiled.  Women have had platform and wedge shoes with thick soles, which give the benefit of extra height, without the discomfort of a drastic incline that feels like you’re standing on your tippy toes.

Last month when we were in New York, we saw the new shoe collections at Tory Burch and Stuart Weitzman. At each showroom I said, “Wow, the last few markets you have shown a lot of pointy shoes, but I’m seeing mostly wedges and platforms for next season. What happened to the big push toward pointy?” I didn’t get a straight answer. platform

It wasn’t a topic they didn’t want to talk about.  Hmm…avoiding my question.  No one wanted to admit that the shoe industry pushed a new style, but many, many women weren’t having it.

What were shoe designers thinking? For one, they know that what makes fashion’s heart beat is change.  Trends typically move to something that hasn’t been around in a while, and it’s called new. Fashion runs in cycles. After all, how can the shoe industry possibly sell more and more shoes each business quarter if the same old styles stay “in?” Women want what’s new, not the same old thing. We get that. 

But in this case, the shoe designers underestimated the popularity of the more comfortable platform, which looks like it could be with us for a while. Heeled platform

However, women still benefit this season because they can make their own choices. Enjoy two upcoming options in stores: platform wedges or sexy pointy toe shoes!