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Nigel Barker Celebrates Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
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‘Ready for Retail’ with Fashion Group International of Houston
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#Carochella Zen Den – Los Angeles
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Elaine Turner Launches Her Spring 2015 Apparel Collection
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My “Sunday Funday” Fashion Show with Top Vintage LLC
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Keysocks- Socks Meant to Wear with Heels
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A Visit to Emblem Showroom – Los Angeles

Nigel Barker Celebrates Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

In conjunction with Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the department store hosted Nigel Barker– notable author, filmmaker and photographer. Barker is of English and Sri Lankan descent and credits his Grandmother and Mother for being pivotal influences in his life.

I attended his appearance at the First Colony Mall in Sugarland and had the opportunity to interview him one-on-one regarding his heritage and his successful career in the fashion industry.

His Heritage:

“My Mother and Father were both born in India. My Mother moved back to Sri Lanka when she was a little girl. In her late teens, she moved from Sri Lanka to England and that’s really where the basis of my Sri Lankan heritage comes from and why it’s important to me and why it has been an important part of my personal life story. Growing up in England as a young boy in the 70s, there were very few bi-racial children. I was probably one of the first bi-racial children of a generation where you were beginning to see them. So growing up in England, you were constantly asked, ‘where are you from? Who are you?’ and it makes you question your identity. Then I had to identify with a place called Sri Lanka, which geographically meant nothing to me. Luckily I had my Grandmother, Mother and Aunt who lived with us, who told us about it. Even the Sri Lankan community alienated us because we weren’t 100% Sri Lankan. As a child, I remember going to Sri Lanka for the first time, seeing other children who looked like me.”

On Modeling:

“My Mother, who had been a model (also former Miss Sri Lanka) entered me into a show called The Clothes Show in the late 80s and I was still in high school. I didn’t win. It was a televised TV show and was one of the first of its type. I got in the top three and was offered a contract and in between going to school and college, I took a year off and had a go at modeling. One year led to two years led to several years, etc.”

On Photography:

“I’ve been shooting now for almost twenty years and in many respects, I’ve always been interested in photography. Got my first camera- a Brownie- when I was 9 years old. Learned how to print when I was 14. It was never a career, just something I enjoyed doing. It was an expensive hobby more than anything. When I became a model was the time I saw fashion photographers at work. This was a very exciting and high-fluting type of job, or so it seemed from the outside. I was a model in a sort of special time, in the late 80s, early 90s when there was a lot of money in fashion and modeling business. When big supermodels Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks were all emerging and becoming major stars. That all changed in the mid-90s with heroine-chic and grunge and androgyny. I was none of those things, so it was the transition that I made just because I didn’t want to give up the six/seven years of experience within that business that I had. It took a couple years, but I transitioned from one side of the lens to the other.”

On Writing the Book:

“I just wanted to write the book. It was my second book and I enjoyed the experience and process of it. I’ve worked 20 years in the business with so many remarkable women. I’m a big advocate for woman’s rights and equality and gender-equality as a whole. I’m a spokesperson for the United Nations Foundation and am an ambassador for them as well for the HeForShe campaign with Emma Watson and Girl Up as well. Writing books about how these extraordinary women that I’ve worked with (models in general have always gotten a bad rap), but I wanted to talk about how so many have actually shaped the way we see beauty. As much as we have a long way to go still today, seeing people of ethnicity, shape and size and there being an equality within beauty and fashion. We’re only as far as we are today because of some of these extraordinary women and what they did, what they went through and what they pushed and stood for and made happen; not just from purely a beauty stand point, but often times from a women’s liberation stand point and economic stand point. For example, someone like Lauren Hutton who changed the hourly wage that models were getting paid in the 70s and made them get contracts for the first time. That was a huge step, as no woman had ever received a million dollar contract. Lauren was the first to demand it and made it happen. She eliminated hourly wages in modeling. To Elle MacPherson who got the very first licensed deal as a model or celebrity of any sort in 1989. She created Elle MacPherson Intimates – a multimillion dollar business that makes 65 million dollar a year today. To people like Naomi Sims who was the first black woman on the cover of a magazine in 1967. She was also the first black woman on a TV commercial that same year… having first been turned down from every single agency out there. So to talk about how they did that and those pivotal moments and why they did that and how they epitomized a moment that helped shape it, so it’s a tribute to these remarkable women. I start off with my Mother at the beginning of the book because she’s the woman who is of Sri Lankan heritage, who started modeling in the 60s and I know now how difficult that must’ve been and she certainly had a profound affect on me.”

On Why Macy’s Chose Him for the Campaign:

“Because I’ve talked about my Mother so much in previous books and on television. She’s been on my shows and I’ve brought her in to teach the girls on ANTM to properly tie a sari,etc. So that part is known about me, but not terribly well-known. Also it was because I have a new book to launch too. It was a great synergy too, to celebrate my heritage, talk about the book and these wonderful women and give a tribute to my Mother, why not…”

On Career advice:

“I think there’s no really special recipe, golden ticket or anything like that to success. I think that you have to be yourself. I think that being authentic and real and honest, hard-working. These are all the things that seem obvious but they are. It’s the reality of it. Everybody I know who is a serious success are all those things. Certainly within fashion and being in any of the creative industries, the number one thing that is important is to know when you’re done. Know when you’re finished. Know when you’ve got what you need to get. What I mean by that is that people are constantly asking me ‘would you have a look at my work? Do you like it? Is it ok? What do I need to do to improve?’ and I totally understand and I appreciate that there’s nothing wrong with asking for mentorship and having some guidance. But the turning point for when you finish being a student and when you start being a professional is when you know that you’ve done the last stroke on that painting. But you don’t need to turn around and say ‘am I done? Does it look ok?’ I don’t ask anyone what I do. If they don’t like it, it’s their problem.”

After the interview, there was a Q&A with Nigel and the audience. We also viewed traditional Sri Lankan dancing as well. The Q&A was hosted by Manesha Liyanage, who was dressed in a traditional Sri Lankan sari. One of the highlights of the session was when Manesha asked about taking a good ‘selfie.’ Nigel showed a rather saucy side (which was just for show of course) while teaching Manesha with her phone.

~ If you’ve got an iPhone, you can take it with the (+) sign.
~ Most people go really high up and shot down on themselves…DON’T… It helps get rid of the double chin, but you end up with a huge head and tiny body.

The last bit of conversation/demonstration between Nigel and Manesha had the ladies in the audience in a comical uproar and went something like this:

Nigel: “Do you like chocolate?”
Manesha: “I love chocolate…”
Nigel: “As you’re looking at me, think of a piece of chocolate in your mouth and with just your eyes, tell me how delicious it is…If you can’t think of chocolate, you can think of something else…and THAT ladies and gentlemen is how you do it!”

I mean… Let’s just say I won’t be looking at chocolate the same way again! Anyway, following another Sri Lankan dance, there was a reception and book signing for the public.

Thank you to the folks at Pom PR/Macy’s for gifting me a copy of “Models of Influence.” HUGE thanks to Nigel for the wonderful interview and for taking your time to sign my book.

Find out more information and local events at a store near you during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month HERE.

‘Ready for Retail’ with Fashion Group International of Houston

Fashion Group International of Houston has put on several really great seminars lately… and “Ready for Retail” was no exception. Attendees were able to attend mini-sessions pertaining to production, design, meeting the buyers, marketing and branding.

Sydney Dao and St. Cloud‘s Cecelia Marquez briefed the audience on the proper protocols of how and when to approach buyers with your product. Cherise Luter and Medley Inc‘s Ashley Small spoke on the importance of social media and opened the majority of the seminar to the audience to ask questions. Notable Houston designers- Chloe Dao and Toni Whitaker discussed design and production. New American Creative‘s David Stagg enlightened us on branding and logos. Did you know that it only cost Nike $20 for their logo?!

For more information and to get involved with FGI, go HERE.

#Carochella Zen Den – Los Angeles

During my trip to Los Angeles in March, I had the opportunity to stop by Caro Marketing‘s new downtown digs while attending their Coachella event- Carochella Zen Den. Caro’s fashion branding extraordinaire- Caroline Rothwell opened this event exclusively for LA’s top bloggers, stylists and editors as part of the pre-festival activities that were taking place throughout the city. The lofty space was transformed into a mini-boutique and zen lounging space for guests to relax and enjoy. The event was also hosted by YMI Jeans and featured brands such as: Coye Nokes (their Inas flat is TO DIE FOR), Hare+Hart (sustainable leather accessories), Carmen Steffens, Lelis Collection (made in the USA and creator of one of the cutest ruffled floral blouses), d.RA Clothing (adorbs floral crop tank tops), Egg by Susan Lazar, LATS, Globio Juices, Kind Bar, Lovemade, Mario Badescu, Raw Elements Sunscreen, Snaptats, and Sthenos. DJ Amy Pham provided beats for the event, while Flashtag offered a photo booth to capture fun moments. The event concluded with sunset meditation by Aliign.

Elaine Turner Launches Her Spring 2015 Apparel Collection

Houston-based Elaine Turner, best known for her luxury accessories, recently launched her Spring 2015 apparel collection at her Rice Village store. The event was hosted by not only Elaine, but also Nancy Levicki, Co-Founder and President of Dress for Success Houston. The designer, whose classic shoe and handbag designs grace the likes of stylish women all over Texas, premiered easy-to-wear separates in bright, tropical hues. Chic silhouettes include: lounge pants, a short caftan-inspired dress, cami dresses and tunic tops.

As Elaine explains, “The three main reasons why I designed this collection were, number one: I wanted to bring you those classic, essential pieces that could take you through all facets of your lifestyle. Second, I really wanted to appeal to all body types, so I designed loose-fitting, relaxed silhouettes, but they still have a refinement and a polished edge to them…They can go from cross-generational, from all body types, so there’s not that insecurity of ‘should I try this on?’ I wanted people to feel an accessibility about the pieces. Lastly, I wanted to communicate my message of color and print. I wanted the collection to make you smile.”

The evening consisted of shopping (20% of the proceeds went to Dress for Success), mingling and eating light bites catered by Phoenicia Specialty Foods (I’d like to chat about that Tiara cookie…so delish). Elaine also presented the looks, modeled by Paige Branam, Lisa Dawn, Roseann Rogers and Clare Sullivan Jackson. While I was browsing the store, I have come to learn that I’m IN LOVE with the Renata Cork Heel and the Bo Fringe Clutch in all color ways.

When I first walked into the event, I signed up to win the Sabine Tote…and WON!! The tote is my first ever Elaine Turner piece and I’m quite excited to have it.

Be sure to subscribe to Elaine’s YouTube channel to catch up on episodes of “Elaine’s Big Life” and more!

My “Sunday Funday” Fashion Show with Top Vintage LLC

Earlier this month, I collaborated with Top Vintage LLC and put on a small fashion show. The show featured my fellow bloggers and friends, who graciously volunteered to model. Since Top Vintage didn’t offer jewelry, I sourced local brands who wanted to showcase some of their best-selling items. The brands were: Skoutshop, FPCO Limited and Apothecary Collective. Local fashion illustrator and blogger Eva Duplan also came out to support, as well as vend her lovely illustrations.

That day ended up being beautifully pleasant and sunny, so we decided to take advantage of it and did hair and make-up outside. I had enlisted the help of make-up gurus: Beauty By LeRenda and Kolour Theory Artistry, who also humbly volunteered their time to help out. These ladies are a ‘dream team’ if there ever was one!

So the fashion show showcased looks that I styled myself. Every time I go to Top Vintage, my brain literally explodes with creativity in regards to styling outfits. Every piece I used was vintage. I also wanted to showcase the importance of sustainability in fashion. I mean seriously, why do I want to spend $50 for damn t-shirt with flimsy fabrics OR spend money on cheap crap that will just fall apart after a few washes?! This is why I shop at vintage shops, thrift and shop at places like Top Vintage… I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth on pieces that are one-of-a-kind and fun to wear. Anyway, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I had a blast fitting these lovely models and celebrating women of all shapes. This show was a great experience that I learned quite a lot and grew from. There will be more events down the road, so stay tuned!

Huge thanks to everyone that came out to support me. Thank you to Diane, Sofia and Kimberly for providing jewelry for the event! Thank you Eva for showcasing your talent at the event! HUGE thank you to Valerie- who was the BEST assistant a gal could ask for! World of thanks to the talented and wonderful MUA’s LeRenda and Krystal. Of course, the models- DeNeka, Cintrena, Mimi, Teriya, Tanaka, Syretta, Jasmine and Paola. Thank you to Liz, Andre and Nico of Top Vintage for collaborating!

** All runway photos were provided by Shalanda. Thank you so much!! **

Keysocks- Socks Meant to Wear with Heels

Keysocks was founded in 2009 by Shelby Mckee. The concept was born when Mckee was getting ready for a football game on a cool Fall day. She was wanting to wear flats, but due to the falling temperatures, she soon realized that she needed “no show” socks. She felt that ordinary footies fell off her feet, scrunched up or never provided any warmth; so she took her husband’s knee-high socks, cut a hole in them and voila! Keysocks was born. She enlisted the help of her sisters- Stefanie and Christy to create the first Keysocks. Since then, the socks have brought style and comfort to women all over the world.

I had the chance to connect with Shelby, who sent over a few pairs of Keysocks for me to try out. The socks are available in a variety of colors and are comprised out of Coolmax Polyester, Nylon and Lycra. The socks are comfortable and stay up. As far as “no show,” they do a good job, however some portions of the sock do peep out slightly. I think it depends on the fabric of the pants, I was wearing cotton during the shoot and noticed that they (the pant legs) did ride up marginally to reveal the socks. But I do agree, they are a great alternative if you are wearing heels and pants and would like to not have to worry about sweaty feet or other discomfort.

PHOTOS by Brock Lawson.

Disclosure: I was given some Keysocks to review, all opinions are my own.

A Visit to Emblem Showroom – Los Angeles

During my recent visit to Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to stop by Emblem Showroom, located in The New Mart and in the heart of LA’s Garment District. It was founded by Eveline Morel (you may or may not have heard of her past endeavor, hip little boutique- Em & Co.). Emblem offers over twelve years of experience in retail, design and business management. According to Eveline, “We work with global and emerging contemporary brands whose unique combinations of quality, wearability, and style bring a unique and valuable offering for consumers. We are passionate about fashion, innovative design, and bringing style that inspires. With a talented and passionate team, and over 12 years experience in design, retail buying, and marketing, Emblem Showroom connects retailers with innovative designers and products from US and around the globe. A dynamic and multi-talented team of fashion bloggers, former retail buyers, merchandisers, and visual creative, we focus on providing value-added solutions and products for retailers to help them thrive and meet their customers’ needs. We connect brands with our ever-expanding network of stylists, social media mavens and fashion influencers, for maximum trend impact.”

Emblem houses a unique array of brands, mainly from Australia, but also from here in the States as well. The brands I viewed were: The Shanti Butterfly, Pelle D’ Arte, Elle Zeitoune, Magdalena Duma, Ashley Michaelsen, Natasha Morse Designs, Talina Hermann, Chasensully and Silvana K (they also rep Australian brands- Clarissa Avenue and Nest of Pambula).

Australian brand- The Shanti Butterfly was founded in 2002 by Justine Guyot, on the beaches of Goa. The brand’s name reflects on the “peace in the present moment, the butterfly and the pure freedom of the months the designer spent there.” The pieces I saw were effortless, yet chic and wearable. I also loved the use of prints and color, in that they were toned down, yet could easily be mixed n’ matched.

Usually I’m not a huge fan of leather clothing, but after seeing some trendy pieces from Pelle D’ Arte, my taste for leather did a 180. Pelle was launched by Nairana, who’s roots began in New Zealand; but now calls Bali home. The quilting and tailoring were just exquisitely constructed and fine-tuned into the garments. She also has a line of uniquely shaped tote bags that are just so deliciously good and versatile. Now if only I lived in a somewhat colder climate to wear Pelle D’ Arte all the time…

Sydney, Australia based- Elle Zeitoune first launched in 2010 and has since had a major following. Her brand features a variety of cocktail and party dresses, as well as coordinating separates. I was able to view the gown and cocktail collections at the showroom and was delighted by Elle’s use of structure and use of sweetheart neckline. My favorite dress from the collection is the “Ruby Gold“- a gown with cap sleeves, gold sequins and demure silhouette. I would love to see more of these gowns on the red carpet (at least here in the States).

Polish-born Magdalena Duma moved to Sydney, Australia in 1990. She unofficially launched her label after Christmas 2007, where she began selling her clothing at markets at Bondi and Glebe. In 2008, she officially launched the brand after going into business with her best friend. Her brand consists of handcrafted, European-inspired trendy pieces for the independent woman. Most of the pieces I viewed were simple and on trend for the season. I also noticed some fun quirks to a few pieces, such as a jacket with the elbow area exposed and a zippered top with feathers.

New York born and raised- Ashley Michaelsen is quite the multi-tasker! This bi-coastal designer is also known for her acting and modeling. She launched her brand when she was just 21 and believes her brand mixes playful flirtiness and timeless elegance. She draws most of her inspiration from the stylish women of New York and LA.

Chasensully is a brand based in Corpus Christi, TX and launched by friends- Tiffany Foster and Kelley Cortese in 2007. The contemporary brand features fashion-forward, youthful clothing at moderate prices.

Los Angeles based Talina Hermann launched her namesake brand in 2008 and is inspired by her own experiences here in the U.S. and her native Ukraine. All her modern and streamlined designs are also manufactured in Los Angeles. She also has a collection that focuses on original graphic patterns inspired by many cities she has traveled to, such as LA and New York City.

Natasha Morse launched her jewelry brand in Fall 2013 and has since been gaining numerous fans. She crafts her statement pieces out of semi-precious stones, crystals, glass beads, pave diamonds and gold-plated brass.

Silva, along with her husband- Nubar created the first green jewelry manufacturing company in Los Angeles during the 90s, called- Silvana K. To this day, they have recycled over 250 pounds of copper per month from certified recycling centers. Very piece is manufactured in LA and is nickel, cadmium and lead free. I absolutely love this jewelry brand! Everything about them screams statement-worthy and would brighten up any outfit.

Be sure to follow Emblem Showroom on Instagram!

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