When it comes to style, I'm all about personalizing one's look. And few things are more personal than jewelry—especially when you make it yourself. Take, for instance, my signature charm necklaces. All of the chains and many of the talismans come from L'Art de la Rue by M'hamed Kherroubi, a wonderfully talented Algerian designer who has set up shop on a table in front of the Apple store on Ninth Avenue and 14th Street in the Meatpacking District. M'hamed casts his own pieces and travels the world looking for old medals, coins and vintage charms, which he pairs in artful combinations on handmade, one-of-kind chains (some of which are also festooned with colorful stones and beads). To these I add bits and bobs picked up from my own travels—be it a cameo from Savannah, an elephant from India, a shell from Montauk or a tiny black wing from my friend Shelly Steffee's former shop—for truly individual pendants that remind me of my journeys and the people I love every time I wear them, which is pretty much every day. It's less DIY than DI-VINE. Just ask Emma Watson, who's also a L'Art de la Rue fan. If you can't get to M'hamed's MPD outpost, you can also find his wares at Eye Candy in Chelsea and Byoutique in North Baldwin, NY, or online at Facebook. Tell him The Fashion Informer sent you—and make it your own!
The Label:Lauren Craft Collection Based In: Houston, Texas Designed By: Lauren Craft, who studied at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and cut her teeth at Alexis Bittar before moving back to Texas to launch her namesake collection of bold, edgy baubles in 2011. "The idea behind my line was to create functional pieces of art," Craft tells TFI. "Wear my pieces day or night, they'll fit in any atmosphere and be noticed." Looks Like: Describing her aesthetic as "everyday glamour," Craft takes iconic shapes, materials and motifs (bangles, crosses, skulls, stars, moons, pearls and diamonds) and re-imagines them in ways that feel both fresh and familiar (emphasis on the fresh). Neat trick, that. Her fall 2012 inspiration stemmed from a trip to Europe and features dark, romantic pieces fashioned from rutilated quartz and druzy (heavy on the skulls), while spring 2013 incorporates colors from India, softened to be more wearable, with an emphasis on baroque pearls, coral, light sapphires and moonstones—all finished with the designer's signature champagne diamonds. "My whole life I have loved jewelry," she says. "I can't think of anything else that would inspire me more than designing this collection." It shows. Next up, she plans to introduce a line of bejeweled clutches. As for her ideal customer, says Craft: "She can be the fabulous twentysomething or the iconic sixtysomething. My pieces work for every woman who has the right sensibility and attitude." Sold At: The Lauren Craft collection retails for $3,000 to $12,000 at boutiques nationwide including Switch, Coquette, Allison by the Beach, Lissa Fine Jewelry, Elinoff Gallery,Sloan/Hall, Eliza Page and Boom & Mellow in Dubai, or online at Lauren Craft Collection.
As readers of this blog already know, I have a soft spot for illustration. Especially the whimsically chic illustrations of Lana Frankel, a former Vogue colleague who left her graphic design gig and relocated to the more relaxed environs of Colorado (after a brief stop in San Francisco) to focus on her art. In addition to her signature fashion illustrations, event invites and personalized portraits (human, pet and otherwise), Lana also has a line of happy-making holiday cards and gift tags,which, in true fashionista form, can be purchased off the rack or customized for a truly one-of-a-kind holiday statement. Joyeux Noel, indeed.
The Label:Alvin Valley Based In: Midtown Manhattan Designed By: Alvin Valley, aka "The King of Pants." Valley earned that moniker from WWD back in the Nineties, when he first made a name for himself as the designer of incredibly well cut, incredibly flattering pants that were worn by celebrities such as Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow. In yet another cautionary tale about not selling your name to investors (see: Jil Sander, Doo-Ri Chung, Sigerson Morrison, Halston and Thierry Mugler), after more than a decade in the industry, Valley lost his name and business in 2009 and took a few years off to regroup. He bought back the rights to his name earlier this year and relaunched his eponymous line of pants—featuring his most beloved classics and new fashion-forward styles with a few tailored blazers thrown in for good measure—as an only-available-online collection. It is, says Valley, "strong, versatile clothing for the sophisticated woman." Looks Like: Beautifully cut pants designed to see you through 9-to-5 and beyond. From previous bestsellers like the Wide Waistband and Lana styles to office staples like the Belt Loop trouser to new skinny, cropped, pleated and high-waisted offerings, Valley really does offer something for everyone—and every figure (the line runs from size 0 to size 14, and the designer is thinking of adding size 16 down the road). Just ask Kim Kardashian, who has publicly attested to the booty beautifying attributes of AV pants.The fall 2012 collection is all about empowering women via menswear-inspired tailoring and textiles, while spring 2013 was inspired by German castle garden owners such as the Duchess of Windsor, as can be seen in fine plaid, striped and houndstooth fabrics. The designer—who studied architecture before turning to fashion—also updated the construction of his pants with an inner support panel that makes the wearer look long and lean without being constricting. "I think the designer landscape is more difficult because the market is over saturated with well established brands as well as emerging and celebrity brands, so there is a lot of competition," Valley said when asked how the market today differs from when he originally launched in 1995. "I think it's all about knowing your customer and staying true to your brand." Clearly, he's taken his own advice to heart, and we pants lovers are all the better for it. Sold At: Alvin Valley collection retails for $195 to $495 and is only available exclusively online at Alvin Valley's e-com site or you can book a private fitting at their NYC atelier.
As much as I loves me some modern kicks (Rick Owens and Camilla Skovgaard being my go-to faves), I've always loved a good spat. No, not the meaningless argument you have with your SO ("I did not hide the remote under the cushion to get back at you for dogging the Cheetohs!") but the 19th century footwear covering worn by European and Japanese infantrymen later adopted by their monied brethren as a visual symbol of wealth. Today, spats aren't so much a symbol of prosperity as they are a symbol of offhand cool. Take, for instance, the Coclico Ndakinna ankle boot, which pairs a chunky wooden base with a distressed leather upper, all of it covered with an artfully ruched spat that ties behind the heel and is fastened to the sole with small metal stud. And, in keeping with the 19th century aesthetic-meets-21st century materials, the Ndakinna (which comes in black, grey or brown and retails for $425), features recycled cork and foam for its internal padded platform, a vegan leather lining and lead free/nickel free hardware, all sourced from local suppliers—along with a side zip for easy access. It's the past, made perfect.
The Label:Mandarin & General Based In: New York City Designed By: Taiwanese-born, New York-based Peggy Tan—a Parsons educated interior designer—who took on the conceptual challenge of blending the heritage of Mandarin-style dressmaking with a Westernized aesthetic after doing extensive research on Chinese garment history and studying traditional Chinese tailoring with two master tailors in Taipei. "The idea behind it is to celebrate my cultural heritage by utilizing traditional Chinese garment-making principles in a modern context," Tan tells The Fashion Informer of her label, which launched in early 2011 and is produced locally in New York. "It is a very different approach towards the culture of my heritage. I am not so interested in the decorative motifs and theatrics of the stereotypical 'chinoiserie,' but rather the reinvestigation of garment specification and structural details in a contemporary context. I want the name, Mandarin & General, to carry out that same concept and vision—it is Chinese and beyond." Looks Like: Chinese dress meets French New Wave. For fall 2012, inspired by the idea of opposing visual style elements, Tan created two-tone, bi-panel pants and pencil skirts, sleek belted reefer coats and chic mandarin-collared dresses. For spring 2013, she riffed on the beauty of disappearing jungles and the other environmental effects of human dependency on energy consumption. Hence the easy anoraks, graphic kaleidoscopic print pieces, button-cuff trousers and asymmetric placket tops and dresses, which nod to classic Chinese silhouettes—and her seasonal theme—in a stylishly subtle way. "I would like to use the powerful tool that design is to communicate matters that are relevant to me and resonate with my audience," says Tan, who envisions her clients as "stylish, sophisticated and confident women with an acquired taste and appreciation for the cultural roots that influence modern design." For fall 2013, she is collaborating with the painter Suzanne Song on prints for the collection. Sold At: Mandarin & General sells for $175 - $598 at AnyShopStyle in Beijing, ELLEshop.com.cn and online at Mandarin & General's e-com shop.
Missed my Dossier photo essay on André Leon Talley's Little Black Dress exhibit, complete with quotes from ALT himself? Never fear, you can see it here. images by Lauren David Peden/The Fashion Informer
Much as I loves me some big-ass hoops, every so often I'm struck by the desire to wear earrings that are a little less obtrusive. A little less obvious. A little less in your face, if you will. Enter Aesa Machine de Terre studs. Hand-carved out of sterling silver or 14k gold, these artfully crafted gems resemble tiny little rocks or herkimer diamonds and are available with or without a single actual white or black 1pt diamond in the center of one earring. Best of all? Aesa jewelry is made by designer Randi Mates right in the heart of Brooklyn. Rock on!