What to wear when touring New Zealand, Part 2

2 Rockburn Chasm

As I wrote last week, I have been on a family reunion in New Zealand. I absolutely loved the country and all the fun outdoor activities we enjoyed. It was a trip to remember. We learned a lot about the country’s history and culture – and we also learned to wear the right clothes for whatever came our way.

As I also mentioned in my last column, our adventure trip involved a whole new approach to fashion. Almost every day we were pulling on some kind of gear:

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• Wind shirt. A wind-resistant shirt or windbreaker was just the thing for our excursion in the Wellington area to Terawhiti Station, home to both New Zealand’s most modern wind farm and the dramatic Seal Coast. And I thought El Paso had strong winds in the spring! We had to work hard to stay upright as we viewed the coast and a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

• Swimsuit, wetsuit, wetsuit booties, warm fleece pullover, heavy parka and life vest. Whoa! On the morning we had to layer all this gear, I was nervous before we even started the day! This was what we needed for our exhilarating jet boat ride up the braided channels of the Dart River. We then transferred to inflatable canoes for exploring Rockburn Chasm and other remote areas.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

• T-shirt and shorts. Our day of sailing with just our family on a big catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park was wonderful. Talk about gorgeous! Our relaxation turned into work, however, when we were launched from the sailboat onto paddleboards. I had to work to paddle and try to keep my balance to avoid falling into the bay.

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board 2

Unfortunately, I didn’t paddle fast enough to get back to the boat when the tide was going out. So somehow the boat – my ride home – and I got separated. As the water receded, it left a very shallow separation between the sailboat and me. My family thought it was hilarious. A rescue boat had to be launched to come get me. My husband told the catamaran captain that a rescue attempt might be useless as I am stubborn and wouldn’t want help. Darn, I hate it that he knows me so well.

• Jeans, jackets and tennis shoes. We wanted to be comfortable when we visited a sheep farm. New Zealand is truly a land of sheep. Did you now that there are six sheep to every one person in New Zealand? Being in the apparel business, I’ve always known of prized merino wool, so I was happy we got to see merino sheep up close. My husband, Sam, ever the outdoor wear enthusiast, purchased a base layer merino tee for skiing made by Icebreaker, a New Zealand performance outdoor apparel company that has quite a presence in the U.S. and globally.

I’ve been told merino wool is breathable in the summer, yet insulating in winter, but I didn’t know how that could be possible. Well, it turns out that merino sheep live in the extremes of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, where it is freezing in the winter and beastly hot in the summer. No wonder the sheep evolved to have very different summer coats and winter coats. I also learned to pay attention to the micron or thickness measurement of merino fibers. Lower numbers are silkiest and finest.

2 Sam and Nan relaxing

• Lounging PJs. Finally in the evenings we would do something for which my fashion career more properly prepared me. I got to relax in my pajamas! Because we had a family group of eight – daughter and son-in-law from Thailand and their two kids; son and daughter-in-law from France, with Sam and me – we chose to go the Airbnb route and rent homes in each locale, instead of pigeon-holing ourselves in separate hotel rooms. Oh, my gosh! It was a very good way to travel. Every home had spectacular views. Hanging out with a glass of wine on the deck or in the living room in the evenings was a great balance to our adventure-filled days.

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand, be prepared. Who knows what kind of clothes you might need for your own adventures on this beautiful island!

New Zealand adventures call for the right clothes

 On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.


On the ferry from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island. From left: Naomi, Sam and Nan.

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!

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

Grandson Alec ready to explore.

• 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!

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

All eight of us, outfitted with hard hats and headlights for caving.

Australia and New Zealand: Fashion Down Under

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As I write this, I am about to go Down Under, which, of course, refers to Australia and New Zealand, half a world away.

The occasion: a Down Under family reunion with my kids.

My daughter, her husband and their two small children will join us from Thailand. My son and his wife will join us from France. We have planned a grand exploration of the nature, beauty and marvels of New Zealand, said to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

While I am beyond proud of who my children have become and what they are doing, I must confess that their residing in Thailand and France has its challenges. They are not exactly a Southwest Airlines flight away.

We chose New Zealand as a meeting place because (a) the travel distance from Thailand to New Zealand is manageable for children; (b) New Zealand is famous for its interesting culture and outdoor adventures; and (c) my husband Sam Paredes has been dying to go there!

You may know about the region’s stunning landscapes, but did you know that Australia and New Zealand are becoming a significant force on the international fashion scene?

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

At Tres Mariposas, we have been carrying clothes designed by Camilla, one of Australia’s best-known fashion designers. Her signature pieces are bold caftans capturing Australia’s global yet earthy identity with exuberant colors and prints.

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Camilla Franks first designed flamboyant costumes for the stage, but her entrepreneurial spirit inspired the launch of her own line 10 years ago. Today the beautiful, somewhat unconventional 40-year-old designer travels the world for inspiration and some of her collections reflect motifs from exotic places such as Turkey and Peru.

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When we were in her New York showroom a few weeks ago, she had just returned from an immersion trip in Africa. She has fans around the globe who love her silky fabrics and flowing designs, including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Maria Carey, Sofia Vergara and mother-daughter style setters, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson.

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When we were at the trade shows in New York, we checked out other emerging designers from Australia – and liked what we saw. Modern Australia has a unique fashion style that is clearly distinguished from European or U.S. fashion lines. Australian fashion has a more casual approach.

Many of the region’s top designers have been inspired by the extraordinary range of Australia’s unique cultural influences.

So, yes, when I’m Down Under, I’ll be enjoying our grandchildren, sightseeing, hiking, walking on the beach and eating “shrimp on the barbie.”

But I also plan to keep an eye out for what women are wearing and which designers are up-and-coming. See you when I return

Travel Season is Upon Us: Tips for Trips

lTravel brings some of life’s most wonderful moments and most memorable adventures. Travel can also dish out some of the most frustrating experiences ever.

I recently had an amazing trip to France and Italy. Thank goodness, it’s the amazing part that I am remembering now. I’ve nearly forgotten that British Airways told us that my husband could get on the overseas flight out of Chicago, but that I could not. Of course, it eventually worked out. The same bad karma must be the reason our luggage did not arrive in Nice, France.

It is so interesting that no matter how many times my luggage has been lost or delayed, I am still surprised and crestfallen when it happens. Ah… to be a member of the super-rich with private jets. It’s surely the way to go.

I was discussing travel challenges with the staff at Tres Mariposas recently and asked if they had gleaned any travel advice from our customers. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Pack light. This is such a common bit of advice that it’s tiresome — and it’s so hard to follow. Yet it remains true. Just yesterday a client at Tres Mariposas shared that she returned from a fabulous river cruise. She said she took plenty of clothes, but ended up wearing two black and white outfits over and over, leaving much of what she took untouched. All of us who have over packed can relate to that story. Several of the tips below are how-to’s for “packing light.”

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  • Fool-proof plan. One customer recommends this clever method to balance what you are taking. 1) Lay everything you plan to take out on the bed. 2) Go to the bank for your trip money. 3) Go home and eliminate half of what is on the bed. 4) Go back to the bank and get more money. Get it? Take half the clothes and twice the money!
  • Limit your jewelry. Everyone seems to agree that the best thing to do is wear your favorite pieces of classic jewelry on departure, and simply do not take any additional fine jewelry with you. It’s just too much hassle and risk to worry about leaving good jewelry in hotel safes or having to carry it with you everywhere you go.
  • Shoes make the trip. What’s the crucial item around which to build your travel wardrobe? Shoes. Take one pair of your most comfortable shoes that will go with virtually everything, and one pair of “going-out” shoes. Take the right pair of comfortable shoes and your trip will be heavenly. Take the wrong pair and you’ll live to regret it. At Tres Mariposas, we carry a funky little line of shoes called Fly London. It has almost a cult following because the shoes are so comfy for travel.
  • Mix it up with scarves. Carmen, one of our fine jewelry mavens, recommends packing lots of different scarves. Keep wearing your favorite travel outfit, but change the scarf so you won’t get bored – and you’ll look different in the photos!
  • Be prepared. You may need to survive without luggage for a day or two or more. My disappointment of arriving in Nice without luggage was mitigated by the fact that, for once, I had the right back-up items in my carry-on. I had a change of clothes, extra underwear, basic toiletries and a bit of makeup.
  • Lighten your load as you go. A few customers say they set aside old underwear all year for trips and then just toss it as they travel, adding space in their suitcase for new purchases. When packing for Europe this last trip, I couldn’t decide about taking an extra pair of pants and a few extra t-shirts. So I took ones that were almost ready for Goodwill with the thought that I could leave them behind if space was tight. I did leave them, and told the hotel maid not to put them in Lost and Found.
  • Scent your clothes. Did you see this tip in the July InStyle magazine? Put a couple of scented mini candles in your luggage so your clothes don’t have that metallic cargo hold smell when you arrive. I haven’t tried it, but I’m going to.
  • Enroll in Global Entry. Global Entry participants speed through international customs and are automatically approved to use the fast TSA precheck security lanes in the States. Here, after you apply online, you have to go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the Zaragoza International Bridge for an interview and fingerprinting. k

Frankly, I dreaded making the trek to Zaragoza Bridge and having to wait in bureaucratic lines. However, after my husband received his Global Entry card, I had no choice. I could just imagine him whisking through customs and me stuck in line! Turns out I had no need to worry: the process was super-fast and easy.