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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Tribute to Saint Valentino

Lori and Nicole, our handbag buyer, were working diligently when they had a vision. Saint Valentino Garavani descended in a brilliant light from fashion Olympus and commanded them to carry His handbag collection.

"O, Lord but we would save for Thine luxury pricepoint," cried Lori.
"Plus Bergdorf's already has it," noted in Nicole.

And that is when, with a nod of his perfectly coiffed head, a suspiciously similar (but delightfully more reasonably priced) bag appeared in last week's deliveries.

This is a look worth stealing. Which is why we're immensely excited about High Fashion's tribute Valentino Rose Tote in black and silver (with studs!). The bag is the perfect summer tote: wider than tall with a light lining, you can stuff this full and still find what you need (relatively) quickly. The patent finish lends a timeless chic. You don't so much dress this bag up or down as it dresses you up, regardless of your efforts. The circling folds of the floral front are feminine without being whimsical or cute. We'd ditch the optional shoulder strap, tuck this under our arm and run into the madding crowd. In sum, it's the perfect statement bag. See the summer light and pick one up now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A New Approach: Jewelry

If you haven't taken a look at our jewelry section lately, please do. We've made some drastic changes as we work to make the site a richer shopping experience for you (ok, full disclosure: we also want to make it more fun for us to photograph).

We decided to breathe a little life into this section by editing down the product into stories. Instead of shopping for necklaces, you shop for looks. We ditched the standard white ground for texture and context and to reinforce the narrative they represent. We also added big, sexy interstitial images to set the mood and get you (and us) excited for the product within. So: less jewelry, better photos and pieces, wrapped in a story that's very today.

We want to know what you think. Answer below, as many as you like or write in your own opinion. Thanks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happening Again, Constantly: Interview with Maurizio Celin of Nicole

While in Milan recently, Lori spent a day shopping with Maurizio Celin, designer for Nicole, and quizzed him on the trends of the times and how it shows up in his work. Maurizio's replies – a reflection on global forces shaping trends, yet a recognition of the influence of location and the individual – gave us some insight as to how the collections we love come into being.

Lori Andre: Milan is a city known worldwide for fashion. What are the key trends that you observe when shopping in Milan?
Maurizio Celin: Milan is just one of many cities that you visit to understand what are the "Best Trends" internationally. You can look at what they have in the shops, but it is better to observe what people wear on the street. It is also very important to have a friend who lives in that city who can tell you what’s happening again, constantly. The key trends that I see – not only in Milan but especially in the provinces of Italy – are the people. What are people wearing? And how are they wearing it?

LA: How do you integrate these trends into your designs for the American market?
MC: Since the Internet, we talk about Global Fashion. Perhaps a trend begins in Europe then arrives in the U.S., but just as often the trend starts in America and arrives in Europe. Look at the Loubotin or Blahnik phenomenon: in Europe no one knew them for years even though they had a small market in France and England; with the success of "Sex and the City" every Italian knows them.

For the past few seasons is not even correct to talk about trends since there is total freedom of taste! We can speak of "megatrends" that explode, like the trend of "Western boots." In Italy this has always existed. Italian women, with a little more fashion (and not always in good taste), led while the U.S. had always viewed this style poorly because it reminds American woman of "farm girl.” Now in America it is a trend while we just carry it over season to season.

In the U.S. market there are substantial differences in the quality of the product. Leather soles for you can be a problem; for us is synonymous with quality. Synthetic lining for you is not a problem; our women do not ever wear a shoe with synthetic lining.

LA: How would you compare the different tastes between American women and Italian women?
MC: There is a significant difference between men and women of the North and the South. This is true whether European or American or Asian. Even in Italy Milanese women are different from the women of Rome.

Women in Milan, as the women of N.Y., are more simple. They like classic colors, a little showy jewelry, fashion shoes (but not trendy), the hair is never too long and makeup is more natural. The Romans are more prominent: strong colors, jewelry and large showy, stronger makeup and always tanned, so much blonde hair like your Californian women.

In short, around the world women in the North are more “cool” and women of the South are more “go to town.”

LA: How important is the color and materials in your design?
MC: Materials and colors are KEY to my work. You can use the same construction for several seasons and give them a new life just by changing materials and colors. This is the part of my job that I am most passionate about. The finish of the materials is extremely important. We at Nicole want to give the consumer a good experience and I can proudly say that is one of our strengths.

How to say ... a beautiful shoe in a bad material and color is like a beautiful woman with bad makeup and her hair in disorder.

LA: As a male designer do you sometimes find it challenging to design for women?
MC: These days there are many women designers who are pretty brave ... but needless to say that the best designers in the world are men (usually gay). To give the best of himself in a creative work a man has always needed a woman with a strong personality by his side. Who better than a man to understand the desires of a woman? It’s often said that men can create beautiful things for women because they create objects they would wear but cannot! :-)))))

LA: What designers are an inspiration for you?
MC: MAUD FRIZON. Beautiful woman in the '80s, made beautiful shoes and iperfemminili. A unique and inimitable woman designer.

TOKIO KUMAGAI. Japanese. Lived in Paris and died too soon. The most talented designer to make low heels beautiful and avant-garde.

PHILIPPE MODEL. Un'affetto particular, having got to know him. He’s not only with great shoes but also with hats. He will always and forever be a source of inspiration.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Notes from New York: Tartan Plaids & Dark Flowers

We've been harping about the simple, natural look for a while. (Broken record, we know.) Don't expect it to end any time soon. In addition to leather-wrapped accessories, plaid is huge for fall. We're not talking grungy Seattle throwbacks or some new contemporary take. We're talking straight-up Highlands tartan. Forget anything south of Inverness: if it wasn't woven within site of Ben Nevis, it's not for fall.

Red is the dominant color. Not the berry and jewel tones seen in bags and jewelry, but regal, traditional red in traditional patterns. In addition to the paperboy caps that we're continuing to buy, tartan tam o'shanters – soft round caps with a brim, topped with a pom-pom – will be in the store and we're excited. Plaids will also pop up in our fall assortment of scarves and even a couple clutches.

Speaking of, expect to find flowers without the chintz. Darkly romantic flowers will show up on some bags. These blossoms are more deadly nightshade than American Beauty in blacks and deep hues made from raw silks with seams and unfinished edges.

The light and sunny of our natural look right now is going to take a lushly romantic turn in fall as designers explore the wilds of far-flung climes and aspects of nature that only bloom in the waning light.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Notes from New York: Fall Accessories Trends

One thing we love about the transition from season is the slow wave of color palettes as they luff up in spring bright and high-key, slowly descending over the summer months into a romantic trough of deeper, richer hues. This season is no exception as Lori and our buyers report from shopping the fall trends in New York.

Handbags are softening up. Expect unconstructed shapes, softer lines and materials, most notably roughed-out leathers and suedes perfect for a casual, slung-across look. Colors are predominantly teal, garnet, eggplant – the deeper, more saturated jewel tones – like peering at a candle through a glass of Saint-Emilion. Sangria. Raspberry. Rich and darkly muted.

Jewelry continues to edge back toward the Haight with a strong hand-made trend that includes beading and leather. Picture it on worn-out bluejeans with hand-washed short cowboy boots, plaid shirts. For the city-dweller leather-wrapped pieces are especially strong and a continuation of the natural/organic trends of this season.

Jewel-tone scarves in bottle green, teal and purple and paperboy hats with a nod toward embellishment continue to make changing up an outfit a breeze while adding some affordable personality.

While it's high sandal season at the moment, we're excited for this sneak peek at what we're wearing for fall!

For larger sizes, visit Barefoot Tess Barefoot Tess for larger sizes.