Monthly Archive: March 2015

Spring 2015 Handbags

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I recently spoke with Hilary O’Shea, Chanel handbag buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, about spring’s new trends. The biggest influence on the runways was the 1970’s. According to Hilary, this trend includes 70’s street influences, like suede and fringe, and 70’s nightclub references, such as rainbow bright colors and glittery embellishments. Another huge trend is micro bags (think Fendi’s micro baguette and peekaboo bags). Chanel’s spring bags are shipping now and include a canvas messenger with 70’s girl power slogans and the new “Girl bag,” which will also appear in the prefall and fall collections. For those wanting to invest in updated classics, Hilary recommends the new “Coco Boy” bags, which she says “represent Chanel’s marriage between the timeless classics and Boy Chanel bags.” Visit Chanel.com for a complete list of spring bags and accessories, and call your nearest Saks Fifth Avenue to reserve your favorites!

Antique Steamer Trunk

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Before the days of airplanes, large trunks holding everything from lingerie to cutlery, were in vogue. Passengers travelled by ship and packed enough luggage to last several weeks or more. The steamer trunks had multiple drawers and shelves to organize one’s belongings. This trunk belonged to my great aunt, Minnie, and includes an ironing board and hangers for clothes. Minnie stored her linens and monogrammed handkerchiefs in the trunk, as well as her fox fur stoles (which include the fox’s heads), and her cosmetics. When the trunk was purchased it came with a packing list full of suggested items for travel. I accidentally locked the trunk but as soon as I find the key I will share the list and photos of the inside of the trunk.

Some of Minnie's belongings from inside the trunk, including brushes, a nail file, rouge, and a shaving kit.

Some of Minnie’s belongings from inside the trunk, including brushes, a nail file, rouge, and a shaving kit.

 

Glory Days: The Mall

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Owings Mills Mall circa the late 80’s and early 90’s was the place. On Friday nights, there was nowhere else in suburban Baltimore to see and be seen other than the mall food court. All your neighbors were waiting in the epic, long line at Boardwalk Fries or Talking Turkey and the young kids were eying the candy at Scoops. The fancier people were dining at Ruby Tuesdays, which was a separate restaurant attached to the food court. My family preferred One Potato Two and Villa Pizza, which became our Shabbat dinner for a decade. We’d take our punch cards to the potato place and earn free potatoes (Tuesday night was double punch night when a family of four could really clean up) and chat with our friends and neighbors until the mall closed for the night.

The food court offerings were delicious, but the stores at the mall were the real draw. There was an Abercrombie and Fitch from the days when they carried high end sportswear, Banana Republic when all they sold was tan clothes in case you had to blend into jungle surroundings or were seeking employment at Jurassic Park, and The White House before The Black Market came along (which is where I bought my high school graduation gown).  Back in my tomboy years, I was obsessed with the electronics department at Macy’s. I would stare at the big screen TVs and VCRs for hours while my mom shopped, and pretend it was all mine, and the other customers were just there admiring my stuff. Macy’s was also where my parents bought me and my sister our Cabbage Patch Dolls; they waited in line for hours with the other crazed parents while my sister and I lyed on the piles of rugs and mattresses in the bedding department and played Princess and the Pea.

There was also Nine West and The Gap, but the real treasure was Saks Fifth Avenue. I’m not kidding, Baltimore used to have a Saks. It was small and carried mostly boring lines like St. John, but it was there. After Nordstrom came to Baltimore and the crime started getting bad in Owings Mills, Saks went out of business and was replaced by a JC Penney. Pretty tragic. But in that last glorious month they were going out of business, I went with my mom almost every day for new markdowns, and I’ll never forget the nylon DKNY backpack I scored at 70% off.

Every year, the mall would put on a fashion show sending the models down the main staircase in the latest fashions. My friends and I would push our way to the front row and watch in awe. After the show, we’d collect all the confetti and feathers from the finale and use them for art projects. My father still keeps some of my creations on his office desk. The show was produced by the store, Cache, best known for knocking off the clothes from Julia Roberts movies. All the girls bought their prom dresses at Cache, except me; I wore Laundry by Shelli Segal.

Now Owings Mills Mall is hanging on by a thread, if its even open at all. But it lives on in the memories of everyone in Pikesville and Owings Mills, and I have the fondest memories of my Shabbat dinners at the mall.

Morning Routine: Fantasy vs. Reality

Lady Charlotte, the ultimate morning person, wears a nightgown and robe by Kiki de Montparnasse.

Lady Charlotte, the ultimate morning person, wears a nightgown and robe by Kiki de Montparnasse. 

I wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. My hair is perfectly coiffed and my skin is so radiant I don’t even need makeup today. I let out a huge yawn and spread my arms in a glorious stretch and say, “Good morning, beautiful world.” Blackberry purrs in my ear and I open the window to hear the birds chirping happily. I enjoy a latte and eat a warm, flaky croissant and fresh strawberries. I change out of my silk nightgown and realize I am blissfully happy for no reason.

Then I wake up for real.

I can barely see there’s so much crust in my eyes and I can feel a puddle of drool on my pillow, which is sticking to my face. I immediately start coughing up phlem. I start to stretch my arms and startle Blackberry, who instinctively swipes at me, scratching my wrist and leaving a blood trail that looks like a failed suicide attempt. Great. I open the windows to the sound of construction, specifically a jack hammer. The coffee machine is broken and the milk expired last week. I decide to wear my pajamas, i.e. old sweatpants, to Starbucks.

Ok, so I’m not a morning person.

Baby Gifts

 

cashmere baby booties, Hermes.com

cashmere baby booties, Hermes.com

“It was lucky I was out of the room when Mimi opened my gift, which was a library of Beatrix Potter books. She totally freaked because it was more books than she’d ever read. Now I know why most girls give fashion from Bonpoint rather than controversial literature at baby showers.”                                                                      

-Moi, from Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes

I’m at that age where all my friends are having babies. And while I have no immediate interest in having children, I adore shopping for them. As a rule, I always give three types of gifts: something educational, something soft (stuffed animals), and some type of clothing or blanket. Barneys New York has the absolute best collections for babies and children, including Baby Dior and Lanvin and their own house brand. They make exquisite baby baskets filled with luxurious essentials for newborns, and they have a nice selection of children’s books. The Barney’s baby department is so fabulous, it almost makes me want to have kids just for the shopping opportunties.

In Baltimore, I look for baby gifts at Wee Chic in Greenspring Station. Wee Chic has tons of books and Jelly Cat stuffed animals. Recently, they featured immaculately detailed hot air balloon mobiles. For older girls, they have the most adorable pastel colored tutus filled with pom poms and confetti. Also, Sprezzatura in Stevenson Village carries baby and childrens gifts from Paris including puppet theatres and hand made dolls.

I broke my three gift rule just once, for my friend Molly’s son, Nolan. When he was born I presented him with blue cashmere baby booties by Hermes, because Molly is my one friend who appreciates useless extravagance. My other friends are far too practical. Molly’s husband didn’t understand the significance of Hermes cashmere and nearly had the booties bronzed, but Molly stopped him just in time!

Vive les enfants!!

Visa, Goddess of Credit

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Hello Visa, daughter of Zeus, goddess of credit, it’s me again: your humble servant, Elisa. I know I was late with my last sacrifice of $300, but hopefully the interest makes up for my wrongdoing. And lest there be any question of my loyalty, I offer three friends as converts. They have abandoned Discover, the demi-god, and are now your faithful minions (it didn’t take much convincing as 2/3 of mortal proprietors don’t believe in Discover’s powers). I want to thank you again for my Saint Laurent sneakers, and I hate to ask, but I must call upon you for another favor. Please grant me the power to purchase the new Chanel spring 2015 runway messenger bag at Neiman Marcus. I promise to use the bag for good- I can use it to deliver food to the poor, or better yet, to spread your message of “buy now, pay later” (I know you are Greek, but your teachings have really struck a chord with mortal, American consumers). Thank you for listening, Visa, you look beautiful and shiny no matter how many times you get swiped.

Almighty Alaia

 

Katie wears a black flared Alaia dress in the premiere issue of Lady Charlotte

Katie wears a black flared Alaia dress in the premiere issue of Lady Charlotte

If I am crazy for Chanel than I am psychotic for Alaia. In her book, Bergdorf Blondes, Plum Sykes writes, “there are killer dresses, and then there are killer dresses by Alaia, which are so killer they’re homicidal.” While I’m not sure I’d commit homicide for Alaia, I did cash in some Israel bonds to pay for my favorite grey, knit dress.

My favorite fashion sighting was seeing Azzedine Alaia, the “King of Cling,” in his Paris boutique and studio a few years ago. Monsieur Alaia is a sculptural genius who refuses to succumb to the pressure of fashion week; he shows only when he wants to and only invites his closest industry friends. Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour call him “Papa” and in the 90’s models fought over his clothes as payment for runway and campaign work.

Shopping Tip: Although Alaia dresses are extremely forgiving, you may want to cut out carbs a few days before you visit the Paris boutique. Alaia does all his fittings in a large, open space reminiscent of the Loehmann’s communal changing room.

Portrait of Azzedine Alaia which sits in the boutique's dressing room and  is made of broken plates and paint.

Portrait of Azzedine Alaia which sits in the boutique’s dressing room and is made of broken plates and paint.

A painting of Stephanie Seymour in the Alaia Boutique dressing room

A painting of Stephanie Seymour in the Alaia Boutique dressing room

A seat made of tires in the Alaia boutique dressing room

A seat made of tires in the Alaia boutique dressing room

Paris Memories: Laduree

 

Rasberry, pistachio, coffee, and chocolate macarons over cinnamon ice cream

Rasberry, pistachio, coffee, and chocolate macarons over cinnamon ice cream

Laduree epitomizes French elegance and decadence. People wait in line for hours for their famous macarons, which tantalize even the most sophisticated palates. The restaurant features Laduree potatos and the most extravagant dessert menu on the planet. The walls are painted in murals with angels and clouds and finished with gold molding. You can’t help feeling like Marie Antoinette dining at Versailles. Laduree recently opened two locations in New York City and they collaborated with Emilio Pucci for a limited run of new flavors, boxed in Pucci’s signature prints. What I wouldn’t do for one of their macarons right now!

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Nelson’s Surrealist World

Amber Nelson poses next to her three piece series, Fall of Man.

Amber Nelson poses next to her three piece series, Fall of Man.

In the series, Fall of Man, currently on display at Jordan Faye Contemporary, Nelson uses surrealism to illustrate man’s journey, with references to creation and forbidden fruit. I know Nelson by her first name, Amber. I met Amber when she was an art consultant for Renaissance Fine Arts Gallery. These days, Amber uses Nelson as her professional name for gender ambiguity because the art world historically places more value on male artists. When we met up at Jordan Faye, Amber challenged me: “Name ten female artists.” Predictably, I failed, but had no problem naming ten male artists. Point taken. Nelson, it is.

Fall of Man is a three piece series but Nelson admits splitting it up would give the buyers a “unique connection,” as each piece tells part of the same story. Balancing Act depicts a man in heaven with a green apple on his head, representing original sin. The man must jump as part of his journey, as depicted in Far From the Tree. In the final piece, Conundrum, the man reaches Earth and means to go home, but a beautiful woman distracts him. According to Nelson, the most time consuming and difficult part of her process is sanding the wood panels she uses as a canvas.

When she isn’t painting, Nelson pursues her Masters degree and works as a graphic and web designer for private clients. She’s an advocate for female artists and encouraged me to expand my own collection to include female painters and photographers.