Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where Fashion Meets Nature and all Wild Things In Between

I’m a fan of animal print – zebra, snakeskin, and leopard. I have two snakeskin heels that have seen some days. All I need is a hint of it – bag, shoes, and belts – to stir my wild side and feel a bit sexy. And I love that I don’t have to sacrifice the source of these embellishments. I go faux. Which is not a faux-pas these days thanks to the increasing acceptance (and encouragement) of ethical/sustainable fashion.

This Friday, Dec. 19, Washingtonians and visitors will learn more about the role fashion can play in preserving the environment and protection of animals through a special event at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

The Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce (GWFCC) is hosting this one night event aptly called Fashion Night at ZooLights. In collaboration with Avani Ribbon, an organization dedicated to working with socially responsible fashion designers and retailers, the GWFCC aims to draw attention to the issues impacting our earth and promote corporate social responsibility.

Ethical fashion designers will be featured throughout the evening as part of the Zoo's educational component, "Love the Skin you are in - how animals dress for the winter." Organic and recycled clothing by fashion designer Ryann and new boutique Fashion Philanthropy will be displayed. GWFCC will also present designs made from recycled clothing by fashion design students from the West Potomac High School Academy.

I have the perfect vintage dress and faux-leather oxford heels to show off my own sustainable savvies. I can feel the wild child stirring now……

For tickets, go to www.fonz.org.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Meet the Designers: Elizabeth Wilson, Byron Lars and Daniel Vosovic

When I started this company, I knew the perks: witnessing a client’s transformation from blah to glam, attending fashion events, and meeting fellow fashion insiders. And I wouldn’t have to leave D.C.!

Most recently, I had the chance to cross paths with a few designers worth mentioning.

In late October, I met Elizabeth Wilson, creator of Asiatica. Her annual trip to D.C. is more than business; it’s a reunion for the secret society of Asiaticats. What is an Asiaticat you may wonder? As Elizabeth describes them, women who “derive satisfaction from filling their lives with things that have visual interest and feel that one’s quality of life is increased by sipping coffee from the perfect cup or wearing a exquisitely detailed textile.”

This woman is definitely resourceful. If she didn’t discover the collection from stopping by at Elizabeth’s showroom in Kansas City, then she stumbled upon a trunk show held in one of the 17 designated metropolitan cities. Then she becomes hooked - hooked to the rare fabric. [Asiatica is the only company outside of Japan to use fabric, which is made from high-tech weaving and design processes, from the company Nuno.] She doesn’t need to see the label to know you are wearing a kindred patchworked jacket or silk shirt, Asiatica’s signature pieces. Elizabeth employs a small team of women in-house who can spend months on one garment.

In the hour spent at Elizabeth’s trunk show, you can feel the Asiaticat rising from within. Elizabeth and her business partner entrance you with their graceful movement from one garment to the next. She’s the Chinese art historian by trade and you’re the awe-inspired student gushing over the intricate design work molded out of ancient materials. Even if you are not called to the society, then you are sure to leave impressed.

A few days later, I found myself in front of Everard’s Clothing boutique in Georgetown excited to meet celebrity designer, Byron Lars. Upon entering the boutique, I made a beeline for upstairs where Byron stood among a crowd of women adorning him and his collection of dresses, skirts, and signature blouses. Let’s just say it was hard not to be distracted by his charm. But back to his clothes. Since his launch in 1991, Lars has received praise for his artistic interpretation of the classics (i.e., men’s cotton dress shirt meets Dior) and penchant for the extreme. He made androgyny cool. He accentuated curves. He made Barbie a fashion icon (he designed a limited edition for the It girl, herself).

Byron’s current label of eight years, Beauty Mark, is homage to his earlier work. But it is the built-in features of a bodice, high collar, and pouffy sleeves that evoke a sense of royalty. Mixed in this collection are sweet floral shift dresses and pencil skirts with a hint of peek-a-boo pleats. The detailing is simply thoughtful and exquisite.

It was Byron’s first visit to the nation’s capital and he wondered what took him so long. And hopefully not his last. Did I mention that he was charming?

(First Lady-elect, if you are reading this, I highly recommend donning an original by Byron for the Inaugural ceremony – you will surely be on the “best dressed” list!)

Earlier this week, Daniel Vosovic graced the stage at the Corcoran Gallery of Art to promote his first publication, Fashion Inside Out: Guide to How Style Happens from Inspiration to Runway and Beyond. About 100 fashion mavens sat relaxed, laughing even, but attentive to the small-framed designer who entertained his audience with anecdotes that pieced together his journey into fashion. We were in the presence of an ingénue, a humbled ingénue.

Before there was Bravo’s Project Runway Season 2, there was recognition garnered as a student at FIT and abroad in Milan, Paris and London. The show catapulted him into the hearts of amateur designers and trendsetters. He has deferred launching his own line to collaborate with established designers and design staff uniforms for employees of a new hotel chain, NYLO. Oh, and design outfits for the NBC drama, Lipstick Jungle and its fictitious magazine – Bonfire Magazine.

The lights dimmed in the auditorium and we sank into our seats a little deeper as he took us through a slide show featuring the inside pages of his book. Not the picture book he jokingly referred to, but a photographer’s lens into the design process. Each page unfolded a truth about him and his worldview. Yes, it is a how-to guide relevant to the aspiring designer, but fashion aficionados like myself, can appreciate the ability to give life to an idea.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

DC Designer Lenny Yorke Leaves Beautiful Legacy

While vacationing in Nevada, I received news that Lenny Yorke, a prominent fashion designer in the local fashion and African American community, had passed unexpectedly.

I had the fortune of working with Lenny on several local fashion shows, the most recent being a charity fashion show to raise awareness on human trafficking. His energy was not to be mistaken for the chaotic energy that ensued behind the scenes. He brought the kind of energy that attracts passion, commitment, and enthusiasm for the creative arts.

In our brief acquaintance, I observed a gentle soul on the quest to bridge contrasting perspectives so eloquently portrayed through his designs – exaggerated hem lengths, opposing colors, and complex shapes. To me, his muse was a worldly woman who dared to be different in a time when being different was not always welcomed with open arms.

In an industry that has the tendency to draw lines, Lenny crossed him with his warm personality and creative ingenuity. He leaves behind an invaluable lesson: dream and dream big.

Thank you, Lenny.

A tribute to Lenny Yorke will be held on Sunday, Dec 14 from 2-6 pm at The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center in Baltimore, MD. The address is 847 North Howard Street, Baltimore MD 21201. If you are able to attend, please RSVP with Larry Allen at 215-817-4499 or larry@lastyle4u.com.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Make a Statement With Jewelry

Last time I checked it was 2008, but we are in the midst of a fashion flashback - circa 1980. No, shoulder pads have not resurfaced (although I gasped when I pulled a pair of stirrups from a rack at Macy's!) or neon-colored bandanas - thank goodness. Rather, bling-bling fortified. Statement jewelry is the IT factor this fall.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. This is probably not the time to flaunt your luxury décor given the current economy. People are losing their homes, college students can’t get student loans, and unemployment is rising. We should be conserving not spending.

I am by no means an economist (um, I barely passed Economics 101 and 102 my freshman year in college), but the economy has a life cycle of its own and we can choose to either respect it or steer it off course. I suggest we do the former.

Remember, life is about taking risks. And self-expression is the perfect place to start. So, inject some fun and humor into your daily attire and give people something to talk about.

Go easy. Choose one piece (take Coco Chanel's cue) - either a necklace, earrings, or bracelet - and create depth by layering necklaces, or wearing chandeler earrings, or chunky bracelets/wide cuffs. And make a louder statement by purchasing your item from a local jewelry designer. Here are a few of MSL’s favorites:

Ana Joa
CG Originals
Dancing Flamingos
Elaine Robnett Moore

Evelyn Brooks Designs
Kene Kae Jewelry
Nora Fischer Designs
Rachelle Celine

Statement jewelry is simply making your presence known. Reveal your personality – or maybe just a glimpse. You decide.

(And remember to wear your statement jewelry on Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 4th!)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fall In Love with Color

The next few weeks are going to be hard to say goodbye. Goodbye to summer, that is. The go-to strapless cotton dress and gladiator sandals that served well for barbecues and walks along the beach must now retreat to that cold, sad plastic storage bin. But don't fret, the memories will soon be an after-thought overshadowed by a new season of deep, rich hues evoking luxury and glamour.

Complement a cool starry night by opting for a gold wrap dress or violet houndstooth square neck shift dress (with this season's musts have textured black tights, see Marc Jacobs) and for him, pair a cobalt blue thin sweater with charcoal gray pants. All genders should take stock in purple, dark brown, golds, and gray.

So, farewell my summer clothes and hello fall coolness. Shades [still] required.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Take on the Heat with Hot Pants (and I don't mean short shorts)

Washingtonians have reason to suffer. Not only are they conformists to the navy suit and tie, but they are nonexempt from such attire even in the hottest of all months, August.

Well, take your cues from the lighter side of fabrics and opt for natural fabrics like soy, hemp, and bamboo. And yes, you can find stylish clothes made from these "green" fabrics.

For the busy woman, try the wide leg sailor pant which can be worn in the work place and happy hour after work. For day, pair it with a loose fitting blouse - retro style adds character, and close-toed heels (avoid slingback as the back of the pant will most likely get caught in between the heel and the shoe). For evening, pair with a boat-neck fitted tee and dangly earrings and bangles.

For a casual afternoon, straight khakis is the perfect alternative for both men and women. For her, pair with Benetton vertical striped button-down in hot pink or purple and wedges. And for him, a polo shirt tucked in with bright colored belt and canvas shoes.

For the young hipster, the cropped skinny pant is the answer. The pant can take you in any direction your mood dictates: (1) rebellious when paired with converse hightops, metallic belt, tee with graphic, (2) preppy when paired with fitted waist-length pinstriped jacket and polo shirt with collar up and Toms canvas shoes, or (2) sweet when paired with low pointy heels, soft bamboo or jersey hip-length tank.

And don't stray too far from the pool!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

China's Top Designers Scoring Gold

Next month the international community will descend upon mainland China to cheer their compatriots to victory. Representing our fearless shoes, jackets, and gear are the ambassadors of sportswear labels, Adidas and Puma. However, beyond the track and field, pools, and gymnasiums, there are emerging designers in China that are striking gold in the competition for trendsetter.

Rated favorably among their peers in China’s fashion industry, the following designers have become serious contenders for creating luxury in the form of haute couture, ready-to-wear, and sportswear. Equally, each outshine in their interpretation of East meets West. My Signature Look has been tallying their stats:

At the ripe age of 22, Cho Cheng has captured the attention of China and now New York’s elite with his glamorous red carpet gowns. After honing his craft at Parson’s School of Design, he became the creative director for Maggie Norris Couture. His most prominent benefactor, and muse (as featured on his anticipated Web site), is Carmen Dell' Orifice – who will surely launch his career into household stardom. Points: Technique and creativity

When not acting on the small screen, Liu Yang, 34, designs. His collection of dresses have generated excitement among China’s young fashionistas who are breaking from tradition and incorporating other elements of their culture into their wardrobe. In Yang’s 2007 collection, for example, he chose black over red to emphasize a new cultural identity, citing “black is mysterious, sexy, and charismatic."

Points: Innovation and elegance

Noted as the first designer to participate in New York Fashion Week, menswear designer Danny Yang, has bridged nations with his familiar-friendly label, Cabbeen. Unlike his contemporaries, the line caters more to Western influences with cargo pants, jersey knit tops and caps akin to Abercrombie & Finch, but the difference being higher quality material and shapes.

Points: Inclusiveness and tailored

Ji Wenbo may not only be known for his fantastical designs but now known as the designer who could. Ji conquered the European fashion industry by being the first Asian brand represented at Milan Fashion Week last year. His determination won the admiration of the president of the Italy National Garment Association who welcomed Ji to the runway. The show proved Ji’s talent for complex silhouettes and flare for creating drama.

Points: Technique and eccentric

Where Benetton and Nascar meet is where you’ll find Chaoyue Liu Lin-Jin Hui Sportswear. The collection of fitted leather jackets, multi-colored striped jerseys and down vests ignite heat when wore separately or together. The men who wear them evoke a bit of edge tempered with layers of approachable coolness.

Points: Originality and fun

Earning the Asahi Kasei Chinese Prize for fashion design last year has catapulted Liu Wei to the next level. Her ode to impressionism finds its focus in a colorful ready-to-wear collection. To her, beautiful dresses can, and should, be worn at the office.

Points: Cohesion and relevant

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fashion Shifts Spotlight from Runway to Charity

Forget about September and February as the designated months for fashion shows, in D.C. almost every month there are two to three to choose from. This month alone, there are four shows that My Signature Look is thrilled to be part of in some capacity whether coordinating and dressing models, doing a little PR, and/or simply being in the audience.

So, I must take a moment from these duties to draw your attention to two of them.

When Evelyn Brooks, a local Peruvian jewelry designer, asked if I would coordinate her fashion show, I was honored. To know Evelyn is to witness a master storyteller communicate in precious stones, metal, and indigenous seeds. Her connection to the past, informed by a family of jewelers, dictates her vision for the future – hope and beauty. Her latest collection, aptly named Moschik after the Mosche culture whose craftsmanship included complex geometric designs in pottery and metal work, will accessorize designer suits and casual wear.

The show is an example of a growing trend in uniting fashion with charitable giving. Evelyn pays tribute to the “men in our lives” (perfect timing for Father’s Day, I may add) through the recognition of a program that instills values in our young adults. Proceeds from the silent auction will go to the Sew-N-Know Program. I had the pleasure of interviewing Janice Rankins, the creator and director of the program, for the Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce’s newsletter a few months ago. Her career as a costume designer landed her in D.C. several years ago where she traded in dressing celebrities for teaching our inner-city youth fashion design. Twelve years later, the program has produced college-bound students and entrepreneurs who learned how to invest in themselves and in others.

Evelyn’s commitment to social change evolved after discovering her purpose in life, she says. She found her answer through her jewelry making and the life form it took. Her mission is simple: to bring light and beauty into the world and help others do the same.

Margo Schlossberg is on mission of her own. She is taking her success as a handbag designer (KuraDesign) to draw attention to human rights issues. Of greatest concern is human trafficking. As a witness to this issue that affects 1.2 million children worldwide, she was stunned to learn that victims of trafficking reside in the greater Washington area. On June 25th, Margo and four other local designers in collaboration with local business leaders and activists have staged a fashion event called Stop Traffick with Fashion to raise awareness. Sharing the spotlight will be the event’s benefactor, Charity Networks, Inc., a humanitarian initiative that works to prevent the trafficking of children. According to CNI, human trafficking crosses all borders, the United States being no exception. “For example, Latvian girls trafficked into sexual slavery in Chicago, or Ukrainian girls trafficked in Los Angeles, and Maryland, or Thai, Korean, Malaysian and Vietnamese girls trafficked in Georgia, or and Mexican girls trafficked in California, New Jersey and Florida,” the organization reports.

As noted in previous blogs, fashion is more than what you wear - it inspires change and recognizes the beauty in everyone.

And come Tuesday, June 17th, I will honor one of the most important individuals in my life: my dad.

For more information and to RSVP:

Art in Fashion – Saturday, June 14th
Moschik Men’s Jewelry Fashion Show – Tuesday, June 17th
Stop Traffick with Fashion – Wednesday, June 25th
Fashion Fusion – Saturday, June 28th

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Mother's Lasting Impression, Her Sense of Style

This Sunday marks the 94th year since becoming a national holiday we celebrate our mothers. Granted its original purpose to celebrate mothers who had dedicated themselves to peace probably didn’t include offerings of cards, flowers, and breakfast-in-bed, but it does require a note of thanks.

The last time I saw my mother was in December. After an all day flight from the West coast, she unloaded her impressively packed suitcase containing 6 - 8 outfits and 4 pairs of shoes to stretch a three-week visit.

Her mastery of packing is a result of having raised ten children who all demanded a bit of organization collectively and individually. Food and toys were rationed carefully just as our wardrobe options. We shared clothes for sleepovers, camping trips, and family visits, amounting to a few duffle bags amongst us. The parents were no exception. Presentable? Always. Designer label-wearers? Not so much.

Mom dressed herself in trends fitting of the era, mostly in flowing long dresses if memory serves. She would deny claims as ever being a trendsetter, but has recalled fondly images of a more fashionable young adult before entering motherhood. She hailed from a family of socialites who entertained regularly, where the ladies adorned themselves in costume jewelry and form-fitting cocktail dresses all appropriate of course by Texas standards. My grandmother - a wife, mother, and businesswoman - dressed my mom and her sisters in petticoats and delicate laced gloves for Sunday Mass. Mom once confided in me she dreamed of being Rosalind Russell's version of Auntie Mame – always coiffed and dressed for a party.

That dream may not have been realized but mom can hardly fault herself. As with all mothers of the world, investing in clothes – and just the act of shopping for herself – becomes less a priority. The stress of finding time and the finances to keep current gives new meaning to the word "comfortable." Mothers find comfort in a tracksuit because it requires no dry cleaning. Why button when you can slip on elastic waist jeans? Saturday Night Live immortalized the "Mommy Jeans" and fashion designers responded feverishly by introducing hip designer options at more affordable prices (thank you, GAP).

Regardless of our family's meager means, mom always evoked elegance. Sure, she may have felt crazy on in the inside (did I mention that she raised ten kids?!), but her appearance signaled a different message. Her slender silhouette akin to Katharine Hepburn accommodated a classic look of tailored blouses and trousers and dresses on special occasions. Even her yoga uniform of leotard and tights and a turban-like head wrap oozed chic. We knew we were in the presence of someone grand, confident, and strong. It was in those early years that I learned the difference between fashion and style.

Now that her children are leading adult lives, she has resurrected the image of a modern-day Auntie Mame. Albeit resigned to a palette of black, grey and white, she sports designer jeans, heels, and the occasional bold-colored blouse. Her signature look; however, is jewelry. Each piece – ring, necklace or bracelet – draws you into her world to discover a woman who constantly gives and produces life. Just the way Auntie Mame lived (life is truly a banquet).

Mom and I braved the cold weather that December to participate in a shared favorite activity: shopping. She was my Fashion Guru. I sounded like a client questioning colors, prints, and shapes. "Perhaps, you may want to try a bolder shade to enhance your coloring," she would respond with diplomacy. In between changing rooms, we exchanged views on what constituted as age-appropriate clothing, the demand for green production in the fashion industry, and if yellow was going to be the new black this spring season.

We had a wonderful visit, as to be expected. However, our goodbye brought a sense of comfort. My mom left proud of my success to date and from her, I realized that I still had lots to learn about style and grace.

Happy Mother's Day, mom.

Monday, May 5, 2008

CROW Opens for (Online) Business

As some of you know, I've been working with CROW Clothing, a new kind of clothing company that creates eco-friendly fashion and offers its customers incredible resources on social justice and health and fitness. My role has been as an Advisory Bird, offering my expert advice to it's fearless CEO damali ayo. You can find my picture and bio on our "team" page. We began this exciting and daring new venture in November of last year and it's been a really inspiring few months leading to our grand opening, today.

Please join us in our debut by visiting crow-clothing.com <http://www.crow-clothing.com/>.
Here are a few things that make CROW a unique "evolutionary" company that I am proud to be a part of (you can find this and more on our 'about' page):
* We make our clothes with eco-friendly, sustainable fabrics that are made in harmony with the environment. We use a diversity of fibers, which is key to avoiding the "replace and drain" phenomenon that plagues many "green" practices.
* Our sliding-scale pricing means that a wide variety of people can afford to wear. We may be the first retail clothing company to attempt this fresh approach to sales.
* We donate 1% of all sales to Now Art Grants, a program started by damali ayo that funds artists creating work that engages social change.
* Visit our learn page and our links section for resources and inspiration. Find everything from 10 ways to combat racism to 163 things you can compost.
* Physical well-being is part of building a strong community. You can find resources on health, fitness, and nutrition on our site.
* Our designers, advisors, models, and partners work as a team. We all contribute to the resources on the site and share our expertise on our blog. When you step out on a limb to interrupt racism, help the environment, or create a healthy life for yourself you can feel the support of the Crow Clothing team through the soft fibers of our clothing. (Check out my blog "Change Begins with CROW")
* We believe in "co-opetition" - adding the spirit of cooperation to a competitive marketplace. On our Web site you'll find links aplenty including to other designers and products that we love.
*...AND the clothes are hot.
What else is there to say? It's time to get your CROW on! Visit http://crow-clothing.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

When Green Means More than a Look

In full disclosure, I am a green follower for all the wrong reasons. My initiation into the environmental social club was in my sophomore year in high school when my “hippy” phase was blessed by a pair of Birkenstocks paid with my first check from Cinnamon Sams. My ankle-length peasant skirts circa 1986 and handmade hemp bracelets secured my spot amongst classmates who passed out flyers about recycling around campus. [At this time, I was also actively involved in Amnesty International so the image of an activist defined my choice of attire.] Sure, I believed in the importance of saving the planet but it was more about looking the part than really comprehending the impact of my actions.

Eco-fashion is finally getting the attention it deserves with help from big-name designers such as Calvin Klein and Marni commissioned by Barney’s New York to design limited eco-garments. Phillip Lim started his eco line, Go Green Go, as a result of watching a National Geographic special on the impact of global warming on polar bears. Their visibility leads consumers to research and discover other designers who have pioneered the green market or in the process of building eco clothing.

They are all leaders in every right – taking the initiative to produce earth-friendly products that consumers – whether environmental conscious or not – would buy.

The admirability falls short though when a collection remains a limited edition. For eco-fashion to be truly sustainable, a fashion house must implement sound environmental policies. It must be part of the core mission that dictates how the company – big or small – operates.

One such company is Patagonia. Its 30+ year trademark represents the success a social responsible business model can achieve. Its commitment to the environment frames every aspect of the company from product development to the workplace. The company is also a member of the Fair Labor Association, which ensure compliance of a code of conduct in facilities used by Patagonia.

Patagonia’s preservation of the environment begins with education. Employees are granted sabbaticals to exotic destinations to learn and work with local artisans, activists, scientists, and educators. Their knowledge is then transferred to product development and field reports describing accounts of their experience.

And of course, the clothing is pesticide-free cotton and recycled polyester and 1% of sales is donated to national and international grassroots environmental groups.

Similarly in its approach to the environment is Loomstate. The four-year-old label has captured the nation’s youth with stylish jeans and thought-provoking tees and the heart of the environmental movement. The design team oversees the manufacturing process from beginning to end to ensure integrity of the materials and labor conditions.

What gives a social responsible model credibility is transparency. While it is wonderful to see the explosion of “organic” materials surface in big box department stores to independent labels, it must be an institutional change. Green promotes life and the life of a business should be fruitful without depleting the source.

Tomorrow we give thanks to the Earth for giving us the resources to live. How we choose to celebrate depends on our conscience. Do we watch a program on global warming and then throw away our soda cans in the garbage can? Or do we make a commitment to conserve and invest in sustainable products – which includes clothes? For the latter, simplify your closet by investing in pieces of the highest quality fabric for longevity of wear, vintage/reclaimed materials and of course, natural organic materials. It’s the least we can do.

So, dress up for the party in your sustainable-best and remember to say thank you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Power of YOSOY

When Luciana Tiktin arrived in D.C. last summer she came with a dream to start her own fashion co-operative, she just didn’t realize it would happen so fast.

Yesterday, Saturday, April 5, D.C. welcomed its first designer showroom featuring local fashion and jewelry designers as well as oeuvres by musicians and artists. DEKKA, which stands for DC Area Fashion Art Music, is Titkin’s love child, second of course to her toddler son. The location’s second floor space on 13th and U Street features nine designers who pay a monthly rental fee. Nearly 90 designers applied within the first month of Tiktin’s advertisement.

“DEKKA is about working with creative minds and to help ignite that creative process,” Tiktin says.

Tiktin’s own creative process began after working for retail giant Stone Island in her native Buenos Aires, Argentina. Luciana left her home for Miami where she studied Fashion Design at the International Fine Arts College. From, she traveled the globe and ultimately returned to Miami to work as a professional wardrobe stylist for Eduardo Berastegui and agency photographers. Her experiences culiminated in the creation of her own label, YOSOY, in 2001.

YOSOY embodies the nature of movement – propelling you in the future with a bit of edge. One must be bold to wear YOSOY, the label means I AM after all. Making a presence or rather acknowledging your power exudes from the sultry dresses and tops not to be worn at home on a Saturday night.

And D.C. women are all about the power of I AM.

“I have women buying my dresses to wear out to the clubs who you never thought would wear them from by looking at their day clothes,” Tiktin says. “D.C. does have a reputation for being conservative, but that is not true for an evening look.”

While the D.C. market is still playing catch up to YOSOY, other major cities such as Miami, New York and Buenos Aires have embraced the label.

Tiktin is optimistic about her future in D.C., citing the environmental perspective of buy local as the key to keeping her business, as well as other local designers.

“Some bridges need to be built to bring local buyers and local designers together,” Tiktin says. “But most importantly, local designers need to network within the fashion community.”

It was evident that Tiktin’s wish came true.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Change Begins with CROW

If you haven’t noticed, change is “in.” It’s the hottest word since “hope” became synonymous with optimism. Everyone wants it from our presidential candidates, to social activists and now to fashion designers.

damali ayo (lowercase is intentional) not only wants change spoken but she wants it worn too. The conceptual artist has recently added fashion designer to her titles to demonstrate the power of change. Her introductory label, CROW features a line of casual glam – all gender hoodies, a 3-way shirt, and tiebreakers – communicating real world issues.

As CROW's tagline suggests “it’s more than what you wear. It’s who you are.” CROW offers its customers a complete lifestyle. On the CROW Web site, you can find out about social issues, health and fitness, get a second opinion from a naturopath, learn how to compost, and even how to join the textile workers union. All CROW clothing is tagged with a vow card customers sign and return to be counted among those who are committed to engaging this new lifestyle where we “enter into a relationship with our world and the people in it.”

What does this new CROW world where social change is no longer segmented, but integrated world look like? Clay, a shade of grey formed when two opposite colors on the color wheel are mixed. That symbolism, or I should say “realism”, is CROW’s signature color projecting a world beautiful in all its complexities.

A portion of all sales of the Portland, Oregon-based label goes to artists creating work that engages social change, through ayo’s Now Art Grants program.

What distinguishes CROW from other social responsible business models is its progressive formula of economics, social justice and the environment. The CROW customer can name its price in a sliding scale on all garments. Love the CROW Hoodie? Love it at the price you choose, from $40 to $75, as suggested by the site; now when was the last time you saw that offered by a retail clothing company?

ayo plans to enlist the services of seamstresses through its nest-egg program. “We believe that even social justice business provides an opportunity for financial gain and independence, not just for us, but everyone who works on our product,” ayo says.

The label equally promotes environmental sustainability and fair labor practices. ayo uses a variety of soft on the earth fibers such as soy, organic cotton, lyocell and hemp to ensure sustainability of resources. This stance extends to its unique line of “scrapology” garments, one-of- a-kind garments made from leftover fabrics. To offset its transportation carbon emissions, items are shipped through Uship, a partnership with TerraPass.com.

Sadly, not everyone believes in change. Change must be seen for a conversion to occur. ayo has built a business model on transparency unlike its predecessors in the fashion industry.

“We want our customers to trust every thing we say and everything we sell,” ayo says. “In this era of corporate distrust, CROW will emerge as a leader that ‘breaks the mold’ when it comes to how a company is run and how it views the bottom line(s) which include not only profit but cultural impact and the growing of relationships and resources at every step in our process.”

ayo’s own acceptance of change began at birth. Her innate skill and talent for cultivating change has earned praise from the social justice community. In 2005, she followed her critically acclaimed web-art-performance rent-a-negro.com with the book version, How to Rent a Negro, which received awards and favorable media attention. When ayo is not designing her CROW Clothing collection, she directs her Now Art Grants, a program that combines small donations of a large number of individuals then grants that money to artists engaged in social change.

My Signature Look is one of eight "advisory birds" throughout the country that support ayo in her approach to creating change through fashion. Her ambitious business model has raised the bar for ethical fashion, proving co-opetition can bring real change for all those who participate.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dress Your Age, Which Is?

In late January, I celebrated my 34th birthday. I treated myself to a morning jog and then gratefully slipped into a new pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans I bought myself as a birthday gift. I paired the high-waisted flared jeans with a cream blouse made out of recyclable materials by eco-friendly designer label God Help Miss Agnes. I felt stylish. I looked stylish. But that was a good day.

As a stylist, I strive to look my best everyday regardless the occasion, I aim for that perfect outfit that flatters my figure while reflects my quirky personality. I am the first to advocate for finding your own unique style – break the rules, take risks, make your own statement!

Well, maybe that was in haste. There are some rules that really shouldn't be broken. Please ladies, no black nylons with white heels or black heels (period) with light-washed jeans. Gents, no socks with your Birks or company-logoed polo shirts worn out to a nice restaurant.

Aside from the arguments of what constitutes as style, ooh, I cringe writing the next statement, but can a fashionista be agewear-conscious? It seems that we are living in an identity crisis. Teeny-boppers are dressing provocatively (even at 34, I blush at what I've seen), our mothers wearing mini-skirts (an Ally McBeal flashback, skinny or not) and young professional males are wearing their father's blazers and cardigans (well, kudos to U.K. retailer Reiss for modernizing a classic trend).

It's hard to know what's considered age-appropriate clothing when the fashion world seems geared toward young women and men.

I recently attended a fashion show where the featured Japanese designer created a collection inspired by the 1930s. As I watched the young models parade in fringe and trains of billowing garbage bags (pure aesthetics, folks), I too wanted to play dress up. Vintage worn by young people can look fresh and modern and vintage worn by someone of that same era, well, looks vintage.

Recent reviews of the Bill Blass spring 2008 show politely described it as homage to decades of party dresses. What you saw were dresses restored from archives brought to life by young models. Again, who should be wearing such dresses? The young debutante runs the risk of looking too matronly but then too predictable for the woman who wore the original Bill Blass gown.

Each week, the fashion victims on How Do I Look on the Style network cable channel appear to be just as confused. Last week, a mother felt the sting of her 20-year-old daughter’s embarrassment. The mother built a wardrobe around spandex and off-the-shoulder mini dresses that sadly brought gasps by the daughter and her friends. Her defense? She wanted to look young and sexy. Or there was the episode where the 24-year-old mother of two layered herself in fabric akin to muumuus and out-dated ankle-length Sunday dresses that not even a church elder would wear.

The other day my inner child got the best of me. I entered Urban Outfitters. I blame it on the huge SALE sign on the glass window, but honestly, it was my hold on youthful urban wear. I immediately found myself drawn to babydoll dresses (they are so versatile – layer in the cooler months and wear as a summer dress with flats) and graphic t-shirts. Never mind the fact that I just purchased a floral-patterned babydoll dress earlier in the week! I was weak. But I resisted temptation and put the dress back on the rack. Victory.

Admittedly, I didn’t like the idea of turning 34 and perhaps this article is more about my own acceptance of getting older. Yet, my personal observations of people in general have led to the conclusion that we either live in the moment or in the past, regardless of age.

If there is one strength I have, it is the ability to change. As I evolve so should my own look. I must believe that it's really not about the age you are, but about the age that you appear.

Here are a few tips this stylist promises to keep herself:

1. Body-appropriate – wear clothes that are form fitting, which doesn’t mean tight enough to see an overflow of flesh.
2. One trendy item – clothing item or accessory – per outfit.
3. No mini-skirts or midriff tops past the age of 35, unless you are Tina Turner. (See rule #1)
4. Upgrade your shoes – no flip-flops (other than for gym showers), no chunky platforms, no plastic, after your early 30s.
5. Class act – take pride in your appearance and reserve your youthful energy for the shopping!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Emerging Designers Bring Class and Sophistication to D.C.

When D.C. lost über-cool Unsung Designers last December to New York City, the fashion community was heartbroken. The boutique’s claim on emerging designers introduced local fashionistas to a world of hip culture and couture. It was a refuge for bold, funky, and edgy styles that attracted even the shiest of characters. Thankfully, online sales are still possible but if a shopping excursion to New York is not in your future, then where does that leave the designers? The departure may have left L.A.-based designers Stephanie Verrières and Kimi Sako of Verrières-Sako without a second home, but the duo wants to ensure D.C. fashionistas are well stocked with their film noir-inspired collection of pencil skirts and cocktail dresses.

“We fell in love with D.C. and were sad to learn that the store was closing,” Verrières said recently from her California design studio. “We would really like to be in the D.C. [retail] market.”

And there is plenty of room.

The designers’ skill for manipulating fabric to create dramatic lines as demonstrated in the double collar blouse or signature defined waist dress appeals to the femme fatale gone glam. The organza dress coats worn over a sultry little cream dress would be the perfect attire for a night at the Kennedy Center. The collection’s palette of neutral hues and quality fabrics, which includes bamboo, invokes elegance and sophistication – a perfect description of the modern D.C. woman.

In the months to come, Verrières-Sako plans to return to D.C. to participate in trunk shows. In the meantime, My Signature Look, a local wardrobe consulting company, has acquired items from the collection for private viewings. My Signature Look held the first viewing last week to rave reviews by clients and colleagues.

The District’s recent expansion of boutiques and couture living appears ripe for an Unsung Designer replacement, if not the answer to emerging designers east-coast hub.

Contact My Signature Look at 202-445-0590 or katherine@mysignaturelook.com to schedule an appointment to view the collection. Offer is available through the month of February 2008.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Plain Jane Who?

Plain Jane Who?

A few weeks ago I sat in my hairstylist’s chair ready to take another plunge. The first plunge was my senior year in high school before graduation when I thought it would be a nice bonding experience if my dad cut my hair. No, my dad doesn’t cut hair for a living and the last time I had shoulder length hair was when I was about 11 and my mother and I cried all the way home. Anyway, my long brown locks were my signature look. Then in early August of 2007 I needed a change. Initially, I blamed the heat and humidity as the source of my irritability, but honestly, I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. This time, I wanted to go short, really short – No, not the Brittany Spears short, but Audrey Hepburn in the movie Sabrina, or Natalie Portman post V for Vendetta. My stylist listened sympathetically as I showed him pictures of celebrities and with his magic touch gave me a happy medium. Now, four months later, I was ready to go a tad bit shorter. I walked in with my pictures and left in an inspired 1940’s bob with bangs (think Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago or Mary J. Blige’s current ‘do). I found a new me.

What really happened that day was an acknowledgement to the real me. I love change. I honor my quirky personality by being a guinea pig for new lipsticks, eye shadow, haircuts and of course, fashion trends. Through this process I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t – moss green eye shadow, no, but purple makes my hazel eyes pop. Capri pants, not so much (well, not a favored a look for anyone in my opinion), but skinny jeans create a long lean silhouette. In other words, change does not mean a sacrifice. It is a personal characteristic.

This past year I have had the pleasure of working with clients who all possessed a je ne sais quoi. Their impressive resume of life experiences spoke volumes but unflattering clothing was stifling their colorful spirit. Take my client Damali Ayo. An artist/activist by trade, she travels frequently giving lectures and workshops. Her suitcase contained non-descriptive “easy” outfits that were safe, and well frankly, plain. When she contacted My Signature Look she said she lost something important to her: her identity. She had gone from wearing urban chic to a jacket and pant uniform in black, grey and navy. An upgrade in the quality of her garments and sophistication would give her that “It” factor, but most importantly, send a bold statement about everything she is and represents. And the reviews have been positive. She now dons clothing that gets mentioned in articles about her – just what every stylist likes to hear! She has even started her own clothing line called CROW (more about the collection in a future blog), a venture she says inspired by her transformation.

Working with Damali and other clients has led me to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a plain Jane or Joe. Our individual talents are expressed daily through dialogue, an instrument, a science formula, a research project, and a piece of art. However, it should not stop at personal appearance. Think of it in terms of the whole package – would you send a proposal without a cover? Would you show up for a job interview wearing shorts? The danger plain Jane’s or Joe’s face is apathy. Financially-speaking aside, a poor appearance says you don’t care about yourself and/or it’s not important. I have a hard time believing that this is true and rather believe it is an issue of capability.

2008 is here, bringing with it an invitation to transform our lives for the better. I challenge you to spend January envisioning a new you or even reclaiming a lost sense of style. Write down your talents and ask how your appearance compliments the same passion you have for that talent. Reassess what you have in your closet (and of course, My Signature Look is happy to help with this process!) and pass along items that don’t fit to someone else and keep those that have potential. This goes for beauty products, too. Observe colleagues, people on the streets, friends, and family members who have that complete package for inspiration. Finally, start mapping out your plan which should include extra time in the morning for assembling a new outfit with existing clothes, coiffing your hair, or applying makeup that accentuates either your eyes or lips. Whether it is a new haircut or wearing a piece of jewelry, the extra effort truly does leave a lasting impression. Who knows what this process may just reveal….