Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Diamantina’s sustainable-spin on its leather goods

Rarely does one put leather and eco-friendly fashion in the same sentence. Then came along Diamantina, a Washington, DC-based leather handbag company that righteously claims sustainability as its moniker.

“I’m not going to tell you that leather production is completely free of toxins. ” Claudia Diamante says about her leather handbags. “However, the leather we use comes from a sustainable cycle where our trusted Argentine producers treat their cows very humanely.”

Such statement raises a conundrum for vegan fashionistas. If the purpose for not wearing leather is founded on the treatment of animals, does the assurance that designers and apparel companies such as Diamante purport of ethical conditions take precedent?

Argentina, known for its quality leather, produces cowhide from cows raised for consumption and not leather products, per se. A cow’s diet consists of high quality vitamin and cereal mix and pesticide-free grass. For production, every part of the cow goes unwasted.

There are environmental implications in the tanning process, which includes vegetable tanning, as there are in the production of any synthetic product. Diamante counters the argument by saying, “The tanning process itself does not yield toxins, as in air pollution, however the by-products of the process can be toxic and it is up to the producers to ensure proper disposal of contaminants. The main reason this process is done is to toughen the leather to ensure our products longevity. That’s where we hope to make an ecological difference. By producing long lasting products through a humane unwasteful process. ”

Diamante returns to her native Argentina bi-annually where she meets her design partner to discuss designs and manufacturer to survey working conditions and the production process.

Capitalizing on Argentina’s diverse geography and beauty, the Diamantina collection evokes luxury akin to the earth’s elements. The leather, fashioned from full grain, embossed, patent or suede, is complemented with detailed silver hardware, all hand-crafted by Argentinian artisans. The collection includes oversized handbags, hobos, and day and evening clutches.

“What we do is create beautiful handbags that will last you a lifetime,” Diamante says. Initially starting with leather jackets and handbags, the collection focuses on handbags and will expand to wallets in its spring/summer 2011 collection.

Visit the Diamantina Trunk Show this Saturday, August 28th at the Diamantina showroom (406 G Street NE, Washington, DC). RSVP,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Neiman Marcus Hosts Fall Fashion Preview

Aptly timed with fall’s beckoning presence, Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallerie hosted an evening of fashion’s fall trends courtesy of two DC resident fashionistas. Andrea Rodgers of Ask Miss A and model Katie Rost styled six models each in their favorite fall trends.

Rodgers, an admitted Chanel aficionado, opted for classic, tailored day and cocktail dresses with the necessary pop of hot pink such as a pink marabou shrug worn over a knee-length black fitted dress.

Rost, on the contrary, pulled separates that could be worn from day to night. Her first look introduced this season’s “jeggings”, aka denim leggings, paired with a Theory t-shirt and Diane vonFurstenberg leather jacket.

At the top of their list ranks 50s redux, sequined and gold studded embellishments, statement necklaces, and leather jackets.

“Although Katie and I have different styles,” Rodgers said, “we both incorporated similar fall trends.”

Common designers among their picks were dresses by Diane vonFurstenberg and Carmen Marc Valvo, Chanel jackets and handbags, Tory Burch suede knee-high wedge boots, St. John skirt suits, Alexis Bittar jewelry, and emerging designers, Aidan Mattox and Sue Wong, cocktail dresses.

For good measure, Liberty Jones, PR Manager for Neiman Marcus, suggested adding lace, capes or a poncho, and boots to your fall wardrobe. “Consider incorporating lace whether in a shoe or hair piece,” says Jones. “Trilogy offers an amazing fur poncho and Rebecca Taylor’s faux fur vest.” For boots, she seconds Tory Burch’s knee-high boots. "These are all smart DC looks."

Following the presentation, guests took advantage of free makeovers and noshed on cupcakes while listening to the jams of DJ Neekola.

Rodgers and Rost’s spotlight continues with their upcoming profiles in the September issue of Vogue. The magazine features women who are making a difference in their communities through their charitable work. Both Rodgers and Rost lead foundations committed to improving the lives of children in need, Courage for Kids and Ronald F. Rost Foundation, respectively.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jason Wu Fall 2010 Collection Pays Homage to American Artist, Robert Ryman

In the art world, contemporary American artist Robert Ryman is revered for his use of mix-media, the fashion community can say the same for the impressionable Jason Wu. The two worlds paid their respects in a special one-night only event as part of the After 5 series at The Phillips Collection.

Great minds think a like. The museum partnered with Neiman Marcus and Project Beltway’s Rachel Cothran to illustrate the relationship between art and fashion, proving a visual sensation for the patrons and its subject.

Ryman’s Variations and Improvisations exhibit currently on display at The Phillips serves as the inspiration for Wu’s fall 2010 TSE cashmere collection. Wu, 27, captures Ryman’s quiet montage in a 13-piece collection of textured coats, dresses and separates. The event’s organizers garnered half of the collection for a live model demonstration while a video of Wu’s fall runway show streamed in the cafe.

A departure from previous collections in terms of color (with of course, the unforgettable off-white Grecian one-shouldered gown he designed for Ms. Michelle Obama), Wu inherits Ryman’s somber palette of cream, white, black with accents of soft pastels or variation of shades. The luxe fabrics and textures combined with color choice stimulated rather than deafened the senses. What can be more beautiful in the onset of winter than a lightness of being?

Real Estate agent Claire Welsh now knows what to wear this fall. “The collection is just amazing and I’m excited about wearing creaming, it looks very clean and sharp.”

Hosts Cothran (wearing a heavenly chiffon Vena Cava dress) and Neiman Marcus’s Liberty Jones opted for elegant ensembles in muted taupe and black, respectively, in spirit of Wu and Ryman, while the sold-out crowd dressed in this season’s bright hues. Yours truly donned a customized red cocktail dress designed by local designer, David Fisher, another talented independent designer who celebrates a woman’s hourglass silhouette. (More on Fisher in a forthcoming article.)

The Ryman exhibit ends September 12 and view Wu’s fall 2010 runway show streamed on his Web site.

models, T.H.E. Modeling Agency

Claire Welsh, fashion notable: adding sparkle to her ensemble with strappy heels by Giuseppe Zanotti and vintage Gucci purse

Orinda Basha, fashion notable: heels with ostrich feathers, purchased in South Africa

Project Beltway's Rachel Cothran, David Fisher of David Joseph Designs, and yours truly

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shop the hottest summer sales during Dog Days in MidCity

DC and summer unanimously equals sticky hotness. Rather than wither away indoors this weekend, grab your friend and/or more aptly Sparky and cool off in MidCity. The 11th annual Dog Days in MidCity is here and the neighborhood stores and restaurants are gearing up for the season’s hottest sales.

Take advantage of major markdowns on spring and summer apparel and accessories and then pamper your pooch at Green Pets before a play date at Shaw Dog Park.

DC just got a bit cooler…

Caramel, suiting DC’s professionals in work and casual wear, offers up to 75% off on summer styles and 10% on fall preview items, plus shop an ADMK trunk show from 3 – 7 p.m. with special discounts on Saturday. Located: 1603 U Street NW.

Junction is the intersection between then and now. Vintage aficionados modernize classic trends with local artisans’ jewelry. Take advantage of $5 rack and $2 bins. Located: 1510 U Street NW.

Hip hop your way to Lettie Gooch, the street chic outpost for designers such as Orion, Beth Bowley, Prairie Underground and AG Denim, for discounts as much as 90% off. The Early Bird special, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., offers 30% off on select jewelry. Play a game of hopscotch for a chance to win extra discounts starting at noon. The sidewalk sale includes 50% off selected handbags, 50 – 75% off selected denim, 30% off summer dresses and shirts, 50% off all menswear and 50 – 90% of clearance items. You will need Letti’s famous lemonade after working up a shopping sweat! Located: 1517 U Street NW.

Nana crams racks with spring and summer apparel marked down up to 50% off. Can’t leave without nabbing a vintage dress for $25 or less...and that’s why Nana was voted DC Favorite Boutique of 2010! Located: 1528 U Street NW.

Add edge to your wardrobe from Redeem. Owner Lori Parkerson stocks her 4-year-old store with independent designers such as Feral Childe, Wrath Arcane, and Kaylee Tankus. Take 25% off spring and summer apparel, plus an additional 25% off previously marked down merchandise for up to 60% off select items. Jesse Walker, designer behind REALM jewelry, will be onsite. Located: 1743 14th Street NW.

Rue 14, the creation of two former fashion insiders for Polo Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers, opens its loft space for patrons and dogs alike. Discounts on brands such as Free People, Penguin, and Gant. Located: 1803a 14th Street NW.

Treasury,another vintage haven, offers 20% off summer items (excluding jewelry) and a sidewalk bargain rack, where everything is $5. Preview the exclusive in-house line Ouroboros, handmade in DC from deadstock vintage textiles. Your ensemble is not complete without accessorizing from the LITHICS collection. You can have any ring customized to your size and finish specifications. Located: 1843 14th Street NW.

For a full list of participating stores and restaurants, visit MidCity, a business trade association promoting businesses in the U Street corridor.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Create your Mad Men look at Uesa Goods Vintage

Last Sunday marked the fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men and in true fashion, the drama delivered a thoughtful depiction of fashion history’s most colorful decade: the 60s. In forthcoming episodes, will costume designer Janie Bryant put Betty in a geometric print shift dress and Peggy in a mini skirt? Perhaps, Don will embrace the color orange? Oh, those rebels!

For the vintage aficionados and Mad Men fans, leave the drama in the boardroom and create your own retro glam with the era’s finest at Uesa Goods Vintage, the DC-based online vintage store.

Owner and vintage-connoisseur Uesa Robinson scours estate sales to offer her clients a treasure trove of decades past rare apparel, footwear, and accessories. Pick your Mad Men beauty and Uesa has an accommodating ensemble. For those dark and stormy summer nights, don’t leave the house without a tailored trench, perfected by Bill Blass. Going to an after-hours office party? Throw on a Pucci mini-dress and bold-colored low wedges. Accessorize with large beaded necklaces and bracelets.

As much as we love the show, remember, it is 2010. Consider adding a modern twist to your outfit with a metallic belt, skinny jeans, or gladiator sandals such as the “Cassandra” by Modern Vintage (sold online at Simply Soles). Alternatively, ladies, retro-fy your Theory suit with a psychedelic-print blouse and gents, wear a wide tie in a bold color and add The Kinks and The Who on your iPod for good measure.

So, what will Joan wear in tonight’s episode? I predict a shorter hemline.

Photos courtesy of Uesa Robinson