Saturday, October 23, 2010

Herban Lifestyle unveils Naked

On the eve of the DC Green Festival, the eco-minded flocked to One Lounge to get Naked.

Mary Kearns, creator of Herban Lifestyle, unveiled her new line of all-natural, certified-organic bath and body products aptly titled, Naked. The line includes lip balms, soaps, and essentials oils free of fragrance and other harmful chemicals. Proceeds from the sales benefited Miriam’s Kitchen.

Kearns teamed with Ferragut Event Group, an eco-event planning firm, to launch the line two years in the making. To take “green to the next level” she stripped the essential oils into a user-friendlier product for consumers with allergies and in doing so restored the oils natural medicinal properties. “Naked is very much gentle for the earth and people,” she says. The final green stamp of approval is in the packaging. Products are sealed in recyclable containers with 100% recycled paper labels - a huge plus for Sarah Matheson, an attendee at the launch.

Kearns connection to Miriam’s Kitchen began with a request for soap.

Her initial donation of body soaps five years ago quickly followed with serving breakfast along with other volunteers on a regular basis. Ashley Lawson, development and volunteer manager of Miriam’s, thanks Kearns for the “best-smelling soup kitchen in DC.”

The organization feeds nearly 350 homeless men and women nutritious meals daily afforded by donations from Whole Foods and locally grown produce. The volunteer-run organization also offers its guests counseling, haircuts, postal service, and art and yoga classes.

One Lounge
, a newbie to Dupont Circle’s eatery and bar scene, has played host to numerous event of late. According to PR Director Daniel Kramer, the restaurant not only wants to offer its patrons libations but draw their attention to local causes. Next Tuesday, October 26, the restaurant partners with Style Exchange of DC to host a clothing exchange to benefit Doorways for Women and Families.

Kearns, a seasoned health and wellness professional, prescribes to what festival-goers will experience this weekend: a sustainable lifestyle requires respect for all things pure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fashion for Hope 2010 shines bright on Women for Women International

The second annual Fashion for Hope 2010 gala raised more than hope for its benefactor, Women for Women International; it solidified support. Fashionistas and philanthropists gathered in the Renaissance Hotel ballroom Sunday night to pledge their commitment to “Change the World: One Woman at a Time.”

As the evening’s emcee, WUSA9’s Anita Brikman set the tone with one simple statement: “We [Americans] take for granted the tenets of our freedoms.” Those freedoms compromised in time of conflict. Organizations such as Women for Women International restore lives.

From its DC-office, the organization collaborates with in-country specialists to operate its 12-week job-training program for women living in conflict and post-conflict zones. In Bosnia, women cooperatives turn their skill in knitting into a business and in Africa, the women apply modern techniques to dying fabrics. To reach these women, however, organizers must go through the men first.

“Many of these villages where we work are run by male tribal leaders and we have to ask their permission and/or convince them to offer the training to the women in their community,” says Dieu Tran, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator. “We are working with women who have to overcome much adversity.”

How can a fashion show support such cause?

“Tonight’s event is very much a cultural exchange,” Tran said. “We are here to learn about each other.”

If 80s ruled the fall 2010 shows, then House of Kas dominated the 70s. The local fashion house showcased ready-to-wear and cocktail hour ensembles in tradition of wide-leg trousers, lots of satin and sheen, and Italian-cut suits anchored by floral wide-ties. One Lenny Kravitz-look alike modeled a cream trench coat worn over cream wide-legged trousers and paisley button-down top with confidence and cool.

MinnaK, a New York designer, wooed the audience with airy cocktail and bride dresses. Several models floated down the runway in floor-length 40’s glam bridal gowns – white accented with black beading or belts - while her counterpart walked steadily not to be missed in her jewel-tone thigh-grazing cocktail dress.

The remaining four emerging designers drew inspiration from their contemporaries that included rocker chic, hip-hop, and the power suit.

“This is more than a fashion show,” says Denita Austin, of Inner Expressions. “This is about supporting women all over the world. It’s really a beautiful moment.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fashion Designer Aysha Saeed Visits DC 85 Broads

New York fashioner designer Aysha Saeed is a real broad. In fact, she is among 25,000 professional 85 Broads across the United States and last night, she stopped by One Lounge to visit members of the DC Chapter.

The 85 Broads, founded by women who worked in investment firms on 85 Broad Street in New York, operates in 82 countries connecting women in a variety of careers from the for-profit to non-profit organizations. Saeed is a member of the Broads’ Power Circle.

Saeed traded her lucrative career as a financial banker on Wall Street for the fashion industry more than a decade ago. She moved to Milan to consult on embroidery design and production sourcing, working with fashion houses such as Dolce Gabbana, John Galliano and La Perla. Upon returning to New York in 2005, Saeed honed her design craft and launched her label, Signette. In 2008, she renamed the label, Aysha Saeed.

“I always loved fashion design,” said the New Jersey via Pakistan native. “Everything I have learned in financing has helped to make a great product.”

That product is a collection of coveted ready-to-wear and cocktail dresses for professional women.

“I design for real women who want clothes that are practical, well-priced, and have real value,” Saeed said. “My personal style is reflected in my collection, timeless and perfectly chic.”

For the fall 2010 collection, Saeed channels Chanel in her suiting options – bolero jackets and above the knee straight skirts in rich fabrics. Her interpretation of the little black dress also comes in chocolate brown and magenta: slimming silhouette with cutout cap sleeve on the right, creating an exaggerated asymmetrical shoulder.

Members noshed on chicken skewers and veggies while perusing Saeed’s fall collection. Several guests stepped into the 8-foot portable pink tent to try on one of her designs, emerging in awe of the figure-flattering silhouettes. At a special 40% discount, guests walked away with more than a new garment, they just bought empowerment.

Photo: Aysha Saeed, in red dress, flanked by members of DC Chapter of 85 Broads

Monday, October 11, 2010

Moroccan Ambassador teams with Nest to promote Moroccan artisans

Marrakesh Palace served as the gateway to NESTINATION 2010: Morocco last Thursday, treating guests to a light fare of Moroccan dishes and shopping for a good cause.

The event, aptly titled "Midnight in Marrakesh," brought attention to the local customs and artisan traditions of Morocco in conjunction with Nest, a nonprofit organization providing interest-free, micro-finance loans to women in developing countries, among them three Moroccan cooperatives.

In the mix of social do-gooders, world travelers, and Nest supporters, was His Excellency Mr. Aziz Mekouar, Moroccan Ambassador to the United States. He addressed the 300+ audience with words of gratitude for their interest in his country.

“Morocco has 32 million people and many very poor living in small villages,” the Ambassador said. “We welcome organizations such as Nest who are helping to generate income for our people.”

A sentiment shared by Hamza Zraqi from Casablanca. “We are not a rich country,” he says, “but we make beautiful crafts and these women want to work and sell.”

The country boasts natural resources in gold and copper, which are fashioned into jewelry and belts. Leather and wood also count among the materials used in artisan goods.

NESTINATION, an experiential journey in the lives of Nest’s loan recipients, is the brainchild of the DC Nest Board of Directors. In April, DC Board Co-President Summer Amin joined 14 other Board members on a trip to Morocco to monitor their projects. They returned humbled and proud of Nest’s accomplishments. “The women we visited invited us into their homes and entertained us with food, dancing and storytelling,” Amin said, “We felt so honored, especially since these women have so little.”

Guests shopped exclusive handcrafted items made by Nest’s loan recipients and bid on a silent auction.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SoBe Unique shoe store offers the timeless espadrille

King Street in Old Town Alexandria is far from the sands of South Beach Miami but both areas are home for SoBe Unique shoe store. Owner Juan Cortes stocks his stores with handcrafted espadrilles, sandals, and handbags designed and produced in Spain and Brazil. And residents alike connect to the timeless tradition of shoe-making.

One bright Saturday afternoon in August, customers stream into the 300-square foot Alexandria location eager to check out the latest arrival, most of which are lying in open boxes vying for space. Cortes maneuvers through the maze like a pro – pulling and suggesting alternatives without skipping a beat. His fast-pace nature softens when he takes a breath to point out the features of his new designs.

“You have to try on these sandals,” he excitedly tells one of his patrons. “Your feet will love you.” The patron walked around with a grin: sold.

Of the 12 styles Cortes carries, all vary in material and color and crafted from the traditional European and modern techniques – hand-stitching, recycled rubber, natural stone, and genuine leather.

“There is a reason our color scheme mirrors earth tones,” he says. “It is symbolic of feeling grounded and being connected with the past, the tradition of shoe-making.”

Cortes, a former investigator for the music industry, launched SoBe Unique in 1995 to reconnect with his love of fashion, shoes in particular. “I grew up around family who worked in the garment factories,” Cortes explains, “and I wanted to go back to my Spanish roots to preserve the art of shoe-making.”

When not splitting his time between stores, Cortes is visiting his factories in Spain and Brazil to ensure fair working conditions and experimenting with new environmental-friendly materials. In Brazil, he works with his partners at TRADEF on the handbag collection, a non-governmental organization assisting people with disabilities in employment. Each handbag is crafted from the remaining leather used from the shoes.

Cortes is not ready to dismiss the espadrilles just because temperatures are cooling. His female Washington clients still have a few weeks longer to sport the shoe with a pair of jeans and a light cardigan. For him, the fall collection of neutral-colored loafers offers warmth and comfort. With soles made from recycled rubber guaranteeing a 10-year life span, SoBe Unique shoes are not going anywhere.