Sunday, November 22, 2009

KoolEarth cools the earth with chic tees

Shaima Ismati has a lot of ideas about how to save the planet. It is the little things like trading plastic bags for reusable canvas totes or using stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic. Her green lifestyle has even earned her the title of “The Green Monster” by friends. So, it was not a stretch when she decided to leave her 25-year career in the airline industry to pursue a future in eco-fashion.

The Virginia resident launched KoolEarth to promote sustainable clothing two years ago. The collection includes tees, sweatshirts, tunics, scarves, and totes all produced in the United States and made from alternative and natural fabrics such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and soy.

“KoolEarth enables me to educate the public on sustainable clothing and make something that is ‘American-made’,” Ismati said.

Sporting KoolEarth are teens to elderly ladies, Ismati says, an indication of the design’s versatility and “cool” factor.

“The majority of people buying KoolEarth products do not pay attention to the fact that they are sustainable,” she continues. “They simply like the design and fit.”

When Ismati is not showcasing her wares at local festivals and trade shows, she can be found at Eastern Market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What to Pack for Your Thanksgiving Holiday

Next week, we will break bread (and a turkey leg or two) with family and friends on a day observed to give thanks. Some will travel across town while others several states or even a country to mark the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps, the festive weekend will include a museum or art gallery walk, a night at the movies, or a mean game of Trivial pursuit.

Not sure what to pack for multiple activities surrounding the holiday?

Take your cues from the racks at Treat, Old Town Alexandria’s resident outlet boutique. Owner Jennifer Donahue has stocked her store with cozy knits, cashmere dresses, jeans and a variety of shoe options perfect for the fall season. What will she be wearing this Thanksgiving holiday?

“The holiday is always about comfort, relaxation and eating good food,” Donahue replies. “So, it means wearing a sweater dress, tights and tall boots. Clothes easy to throw on and expandable for all the eating!”

Whether you are traveling or having a stay-cation, here are a few simple rules and clothing suggestions to consider.

1. Comfort is the key. If traveling, take garments with fabrics that stretch like cotton knits or blends (nylon/lycra/spandex). These items pack better and come out wrinkle-free.

2. Colors should be basic with one or two warm hues for interest. Mix and match grays, browns, and off-whites with burgundy, forest green or midnight blue.

Her Essentials:

1. One carry-on tote
2. One pair of sexy undergarments and pajamas
3. Two pairs of pants – one jean and one trouser
4. Two wrinkle-free blouses/tops
5. One cardigan – Light- to mid-weight knit cardigans in basic black, white or beige can be tossed around the shoulders, layered over a T-shirt or dress, or worn alone with dressy pants for dinner.
6. Two dresses – one casual and one dressy
7. Two pairs of shoes – one casual and one dressy
8. Statement necklace – opt for costume jewelry and leave the real gems safely at home
9. Trench coat or wool-blend jacket like a peacoat
10. Something scented - bring a favorite scented candle or sash

Treat Client Appreciation Sale Nov. 20 – 22. Pick from the “Turkey Platter” and your wrapped chocolate turkey holds the discount amount you’ll receive at the register.

And don’t forget Black Friday sales (Nov. 27th)!

(Photos: items from Treat)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Limon Piel Handbags Carry a Message of Goodwill

In Colombia’s remote highlands, there is a child who is receiving medical attention for the first time. Their family and friends also get the care they need thanks to Colombia Missions, a volunteer medical program akin to Doctors Without Borders. A team of American physicians and non-medical volunteers spend six days in communities throughout the year treating everything that is requested.

Three years ago Baltimore native Lisa Garrett joined a team and met Liliana Montero, a local artisan. Garrett returned home sporting one of Montero’s handcrafted bags and hatched a plan that would support the medical missions and alleviate the local artisans out of poverty.

Limon Piel International was born.

Garrett began to import Montero’s bag and sells primarily online and specialty boutiques. Each collection is named after an Indian tribe whose history is recreated through delicate fabrications. The Shinye Collection, for example, pays homage to tradition enriched by bold colors (deep reds and brown and bright lime green – perhaps, revealing their sense of humor) and embellishments (ancestral guanga weavings). Retailing between $200 - $400, proceeds from the bags go to the medical missions.

While shopping in Old Town Alexandria, Garrett stopped by Hysteria and shared the story of Limon Piel Handbags. Manager Alicia McCaslin could not say no to the idea of hosting a trunk show.

Hysteria, as many know, offers contemporary high fashion to Washington’s tastemakers. So, how would a bohemian-natured aesthetic fare alongside wares by Trina Turk, Diane vonFurstenberg, and Nanette Lepore?

“The handbags appeal to the woman who wants something different,” McCaslin said. “But the bags themselves are simply beautifully made and have a great story.

“Fashion should make people feel good about themselves but also aware,” she continued. “And we like that Limon Piel gives back to the community.”

Handbags from the trunk show are still available at Hysteria or visit the Limon Piel Web site. To learn more about the missions, go to Colombia Mission.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Young Designers Wise Beyond Their Years

Terra boutique recently hosted the creative talent behind independent label Eva Khurshid, Fatima Monkush and Nyla Hashmi. The lifelong friends brought their first collection to DC in hope of finding an audience – they left with an instant fan base.

Upon my arrival, a few minutes past the start of the event, I sensed community forming. Perhaps it was the eagerness of the two young designers to introduce themselves or seeing how the Washingtonian woman could have easily been the designers’ muse translated into conservative construction but bold in color and fabrication. Guests touched, inquired and tried on every garment in the roughly 15-piece collection to the delight of the designers and boutique owner, Oriana Khatso (who has a trained eye for quality and innovative styles).

“The Eva Khurshid woman is confident and always on the go,” Monkush, 26, and Hashmi, 24, said practically in unison. “She wants pieces that are easy to wear and simply are a great fit.” Oh, and don’t forget sexy.

“We really considered our line as sexy rediscovered,” they continued. “Being sexy really comes from confidence.”

The New York-based designers’ fate was sealed as childhood friends growing up in Connecticut in Muslim households. They both pursued their interest in fashion by majoring in design - Monkush specializing in printmaking and jewelry and Hashmi in knitwear. Despite choosing different schools to hone their skills, they remained committed to a design partnership.

A year ago they honored that commitment by starting Eva Khurshid, named after their grandmothers. The line appeals to young women, and Muslim women in particular, who want fashionable clothing without compromising their faith or modesty. They unveiled tailored pants, billowy blouses in bold hues and signature prints and pleating, and shirt-dresses that could be worn over leggings or skinny jeans to accommodate those who prefer not to show bare legs. The collection describes the design duo's nature - thoughtful and respectful. And fabric choice is not spared.

Monkush and Hashmi present a fresh alternative to business attire this city so wholeheartedly embraces while maintaining the integrity of what has so affectionately been dubbed the sisterhood of traveling pantsuits (a la Hillary!). Similarly, the line evokes the qualities we seek in community: familiarity and acceptance. Kudos to Terra for recognizing genuine talent and making Monkush and Hashmi feel at home.