Designer- Elene Cassis
Adam Bernhard- (Former) CEO at Hautelook
Footwear Designer- Jerome C. Rousseau
The Rose Bowl Flea Market – Pasadena, CA
Jewelry Designer- Clemmie Watson
Designer John Murrough and illia
Jewelry Designer- Jenny Dayco

Designer- Elene Cassis

I had the chance to sit down with and view the Fall/Winter 2010 of New York designer Elene Cassis. Elene is a graduate of Parsons and felt very prepared and driven to start her company right after. This June will mark the one-year anniversary of the start of her company. She defines her style, inspired by Chanel and Ralph Lauren, as “classic beyond belief with a modern twist.” Her clothes have a general color palette of black and white and have a European meets Jackie-O meets London feel. She uses natural fabrics and all the pieces are lined with silk. She is extremely detail-oriented in that she checks the quality of every piece before it goes out to boutiques. Her pieces have been seen on Booker T. Washington’s daughter, the Shannon twins, Stephanie Pratt, and the ‘Linda’ dress has recently been worn on Cheryl Burke.

The classic silhouette was evident in the collection I viewed. The dresses are very versatile in that they could be worn during the day and then jazzed up a bit to wear out on the town in the evening. They are also structured to fit curvier women as well. Elene believes that “everyone should feel special and wear designer clothes.” Prices range from $300-400 and are available in boutiques around the country (one being Petro Zillia here in LA). Her NY showroom is located at 252 W. 38th St. (between 7th & 8th Aves.) and her office number is (212)784-0696 and fax is (212)784-0699. Check out www.elenecassis.com for online shopping and more information.

Special thanks to the designer, Elene Cassis and Carla Bate of Spin Shoppe PR!

Adam Bernhard- (Former) CEO at Hautelook

Yours truly had the exciting opportunity to sit down with Adam Bernhard- the founder and CEO of the popular and ever-growing e-commerce site, Hautelook. What amazes me is that the company is only two years old and is doing remarkably well [whether growing internally with employees or externally with its member base] during this economy. For this interview, I did something a little different. I not only asked some of my own questions, but reached out of my fans as well, asking them ‘if they had one thing to ask the CEO of Hautelook, what would it be?’

LAFashionsnob: What made you want to get into fashion?

Adam Bernhard: I’ve been around fashion since I was a kid. My mother’s in the fashion business. She owned a textile company and buying office. One of my first jobs was working at a retail store- Fred Segal when I was 17 years old…and so I worked there for years. Even while I was in college I worked at Fred Segal. I always loved being around clothes. It was kind of a family industry that we were in.

LAFS: Of all the names you could have named the company, why “Hautelook”?

AB: Hautelook represents a couple things in the fashion business: ‘Haute-couture’ for one, which is high or high fashion, ‘Haute’ the word in and of itself, in French means ‘high’, so the concept of it being a aspirational site we wanted to make sure the name carried with it aspirational thought process. Psychologically, you think ‘Haute’ is a very elegant word and the word,”look” actually is a word used in the fashion business. So on photo shoots, no one really says, “oh I like that outfit”, they say, “oh I like that look” and when you’re backstage at fashion shows they call the different outfits “look 1, look 2, look 3″..etc…depending on when the girls are walking out. In fashion always, there’s the new “look”…The word ‘look’ is highly correlated to the fashion business. So ‘haute’ which is ‘high’ and ‘look’ which is very ‘industry terminology’…just seem to go well together.

LAFS:What is the purpose behind the “legendary big comfy green chair”?

AB: When I had just started the liquidation business, I had just come off running a label called, “Joie” and I was in my apartment and every morning .. I would get up like I was going to work, take a shower, get dressed and go sit in that chair like it was my office. I would start to call my friends in the business and see if they had extra goods for me to sell.  ( My friend had an office up the street from my apartment and when I needed to send a fax I would go to his office and I would sneak in there and I would send faxes from his fax machine because I didn’t have one in my apartment. ) And so that chair lives on and I won’t let anyone throw it away.

LAFS: What sets Hautelook apart from the other companies (ie Gilt, Rue La La)?

AB: Part of it I think, is the culture and the roots of our business. This business comes from me being in the apparel business. We had never seen this idea. We had a liquidation  business (post my running a label)  and the business really came out of us wanting to provide brands with a better way to clear their access inventory by protecting the brand from anything that would harm their brand identity and we wanted to figure out a way to make more margin for them. So it was a fortuative timing that we happen to launch the site during one of the worst economic downturns that this country has ever seen. So we were fortunate enough to have that on our side and we had the wind in our back and it really just took off so quickly.

LAFS (on behalf of Crosby Noricks-PR Couture): Given the proliferation of similar sites, how do you continue to differentiate Hautelook and retain/extend your community?

AB: As a first-mover we have an advantage that our site is recognized as one of the leaders in the space. We are able to leverage that because we are a west-coast based company in and of itself the culture and the brand of Hautelook is more of a casual-lifestyle brand,compared to the east-coast players in the space who are much more New York based and east-coastcentric so we have more of an inviting atmosphere of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness and we wanna make sure that our membership continues to grow with that feeling of being a member is open as an invitation to all people no matter who they are, where they are, at what social bracket they’re in, what ethnicity they are, the gender…Now we have mens. So our focus is to differentiate by being inclusive rather than exclusive  and we are letting brands know that we’re reaching a huge customer base of customers that wanna know more about what’s going on w/style as opposed to us dictating what we think style is.

LAFS (on behalf of Crosby Noricks-PR Couture): Why should a designer consider a sale through a company like Hautelook? Any success stories to share?

AB: When we first started the site, it was an exhaust vehicle for brands to be able to clear their inventory. What we quickly realized was that this was a incredible marketing vehicle for brands to be able to reach our close to three million customers on a regular basis. Seventy-five percent of our member sales , when they buy something from the sale from the brand, they go to that brand’s website . Fifty percent of the people that buy something from one of our sales they go and go buy and purchased that brand post the sale at either brick-and-mortar or online store and twenty percent said they bought an item from that brand post the sale at full price. So we’re getting brands a new member into their the brand culture and this is the real exciting part of what’s happening in the flash sales base that is not just a exhaust vehicle, but it’s a marketing vehicle.

LAFS (on behalf of Crosby Noricks-PR Couture): How does Hautelook promote itself off-domain?

AB: We have been fortunate enough to have our community of members basically build our business. The bloggersphere has really retold our story, brought sixty percent of our members into our membership base into our database and it’s been really a fantastic word of mouth growth . Plain and simple, it’s one of those phenomenons where people like to talk about it. It’s one of those things, people like to hear about it, it’s great, they like to share. Like the proliferation of the social web , people like to share what they’re doing more so then ever. So as they continue to share (girls love to share about their shopping experience) so we are continuing to escalate our ability to allow them to share information. And you’ll see something coming out in our iphone and ipad apps in the next couple months.

LAFS (on behalf of Crosby Noricks-PR Couture): What excites you about coming to work each day?

AB: I think it’s the atmosphere and the people here.We’re doing so many new things every day it’s a undiscovered territory where our business is there’s no road map in doing what we’re doing. It’s the discovery similar to every night we re-merchandise our store so every morning there’s new discovery for our members and it’s similar for me when I come to the office . There’s new challenges every day, there’s new exciting frontiers , new problems, there’s always something new for us to focus on. This is a very young atmosphere here, the employees are all very young and it’s exciting to see how everybody’s just working towards the same goal and it’s a very pleasurable place to work.

LAFS (on behalf of Crosby Noricks-PR Couture): What are three things you wish you had known before you launched Hautelook?

AB: I think not knowing sometimes allows you not to have fear. There’s a lot of things that if I knew it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to build this business as big as it is. The three things I wish I didn’t know, I still wish I didn’t know. So I know now what I knew then, I probably wouldn’t have started this business. My advice would be: don’t worry about you don’t know, learn what you don’t know and don’t be afraid. You have to just go with your intuition some of this obviously when your building a business from scratch it’s all about that feeling that you’re gonna have to make a decision and once you make a decision you’re  have to stick with it. You have to be big enough to admit you’re wrong. At some point, when you know something’s not going your way you have to cut bait and move on.

LAFS (on behalf of Rebekka Lien): What is your life goal?

AB: I enjoy life. So I live as hard as I work and my goal is to experience life as it comes to me. I want to see the world. I love travel. I love that we (here at Hautelook) put a stamp on a new form of doing something, which is the new form of retail. So for us to have a lasting impression on the mindset and way in which people shop, that’s really exciting  for me.

LAFS (on behalf of Emma Zerner-model/singer/actress): How do you always look and feel “haute” and meanwhile retain your sense of self?

AB: Hautelook doesn’t define me. It’s a company that we have all built together so I am still me and I think part of our ability to build this business was my relationships out there in the marketplace and I think it’s you need to be true to who you are -always . People who change over time, I guarantee you, people from grade school will say I’m the same guy I was then , nothing has changed about me, I do exactly the same things I was doing before . Like everybody else, I eat, I sleep, I breathe, I exercise. I have the ability to meet with people that because of this business allow me to continue to collect deeper levels of information because we have garnered a status here at Hautelook of a “frontier blazer,” and so that’s exciting for me . I now am able to spend time with individuals that  are leaders of business to completely understand how we can develop our business.

LAFS (on behalf of Jane Chen): What are your favorite stores or places that you go to that always has that something special for everyone?

AB: I’m very particular with my gift-giving. There isn’t one particular store where I shop. When I buy gifts , I really think about what that person’s likes are and anytime people ask me what I should get them I say what do they do? What are they into?What are their hobbies and passions? Mine are pretty evident, you see around the office, I have modern architecture books, art books, calenders by famous artists… So for me, I’m pretty transparent. Art, architecture and travel are my passions so when people buy me things, they know and so when I say to my friends and when I go to buy gifts for people, I really focus on who they are and what they like rather then the stores i find appealing to me because I’m buying something for someone else.

LAFS: In closing, what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs wanting to start their business, and in this shaky economy?

AB: This is the best time to start a business. It’s all about change right now. It’s all about evolution. People are looking for different ways to do pretty much everything. So I believe this is the one of the most opportunistic times we’ll have in our lifetime. The economy has turned in a way where there’s a lot of great talent out there on the streets of if you’re able to start a business and get some great people, whatever you do, do it with conviction. If you believe in it, you gotta go for it, that ‘s the number one thing.  I think being an entrepreneur is one of the most exciting things you can ever do. but what you need to understand when you’re an entrepreneur is the highs are very high and the lows are very low. so you better be thick skinned if you’re gonna start a business. You gotta be able to ride the wave and be able to understand that there’s gonna be good days and there’s gonna be bad days. If you just go to work somewhere and you’re just getting a check every week, yes that could be fulfilling, but if you’re going to go the route of an entrepreneur, you have to have that mindset of when it’s going great, that’s when you need to worry, because it can turn in a second. and so you need to be able to ride the highs and ride the lows and keep a calm, cool and collected head.

NOTE: Many thanks to Executive Assistant Christine Elmassian for helping to set up the interview, to Adam and to Kate Petreccia of Paqit for providing five boxes of Paqit for my five fans that provided me with questions. And the lovely people who provided me with questions: Crosby Noricks, Rebekka Lien, Jane Chen and Emma Zerner!!

**You can sign up to become a member of Hautelook on my blog. Thanks!**

**Photo of Adam provided by Hautelook….. 2nd photo is of the Legendary Green Chair (taken by me)**

Footwear Designer- Jerome C. Rousseau

Kindly move over Mr. Blahnik…There’s a fab footwear designer that everyone NEEDS to know about! LA-based Jerome C. Rousseau is the latest “IT” designer to hit the mainstream with his impeccable taste of unique silhouettes. Jerome is like ‘the guy next door’ and quite delightful. So, I was honored when he invited me over to his new studio in Hollywood one afternoon to catch up (from our first introduction at MAGIC back in August). The studio space was still being renovated at the time, but the majority of the work was done. All the shoes had their respective places on the shelves, so it was easy to pour over them. Jerome was kind enough for show me some of the other shoes that weren’t at MAGIC and showed me some sketches for his Spring 2012 collection. All I can say is: Bellisimo!!! Seductive femininity at its finest! We also had a more in-depth discussion about his line, which launched in Fall 2008. His fascination of shoes and design started back in the 90s, when he saw the band, Deee-Lite on MTV and noticed their platform shoes. It was during an art class in high school, when he found himself drawing the shoes from the video and realized that he wanted to design shoes. He studied at Cordwainers College and worked for several shoe designers in London before moving out to Los Angeles. It turned out to be a great move for him, because things took off- from a feature in British Vogue to Charlize Theron wearing a pair of his shoes. Inspiration for his collections vary from season to season. He doesn’t do any research, he credits whatever he’s loving a few months beforehand (whether it be a painting, a musician, a sculpture, artist- Kazimir Malevich, muse- Siobhan Fahey and being in California…) and uses that for some inspiration. He loves designing peep-toe booties and loves simplicity and simple peep-toe pumps (especially the ones that show just the right amount of toe cleavage). Fans of the peep-toe staple include: Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz and Katie Holmes. What makes the Jerome C. Rousseau brand stand out among other high-end shoe brands is that inspiration is very important to him. Also, the cut and silhouette of the shoe makes it very distinctive, like where it’s cut and where it hits the foot. Prices for the line range from $495-1,200…depending on material. The Spring 2012 collection is inspired by British artist, who is based in New York- James Nares. Jerome loves the simplicity of the large paintings and the richness in the colors and shapes. He mentioned that the collection will be minimal and feminine, but also a little flirty (with some references to Marilyn Monroe as well). Boutiques in LA that carry Jerome C. Rousseau include: Arcade on Melrose, Madison in Beverly Hills, Fred Segal in Santa Monica and Saks 5th Ave in Beverly Hills. For more information on the brand, go to his website. To schedule an appointment, etc., email Ali at: Ali@jeromerousseau.com. Thanks again for having me stop by, Jerome, Ali and Renee!

The Rose Bowl Flea Market – Pasadena, CA

~The second Sunday of every month~

Located at:
1001 Rose Bowl Drive
Pasadena, CA 91103
(323) 560-7469


9am admission is $8.00 and children under 12 are admitted free with an adult. There is an express admission from 8:00am – 9:00am at $10.00 per person, an early admission from 7:00am – 8:00am at $15.00 per person, and a special preview VIP admission from 5:00am – 7:00am at $20.00 per person.

After six years of living in LA, I have never had the chance of exploring the famed Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena- until just recently, when the BF and I ventured to the Rose Bowl one Sunday. Of course it was everything I read about… Massive…Have to arrive early…Best vintage around…etc…

The booths sold everything and anything you could imagine. Jewelry, books, shoes, furniture, beads…and even an antique prosthetic leg. I was deliriously overwhelmed at the vintage pieces. I saw dainty hats, sequined tops, old Dooney & Bourke for $12 and Louis Vuitton purses, Prada and Ferragamo shoes…my list can go on and on. One vintage vendor I have to point out is Trini’s Treasures. Owner Trini Varela has the best variety of vintage gowns, dresses, jewelry and hats around, some pieces of which have been in the TV show, “Mad Men.” Her prices range from $10-500 and she also carries vintage designer as well. For more information or to get on Trini’s email list, contact her at dondanv@aol.com.

There were a few other vendors I would like to spotlight. Urai is the designer of handmade jean purses and fun sandals. The name of her company is Ramahandicrafts. Urai and her team can make up to four pairs of sandals in one day. Her sandals are also very affordable at $20 a pair. I saw my friends Sandy and Sebastian of the line, Yoga Army- selling some pieces from past seasons. I also noticed that Kami Shade and Rachel Broussard (Supastar) were also showing their lines. Sandy and Sebastian’s friend, Michaelyn “Mikie” Whitlock was selling some vintage pieces; reworked rompers for $15; original vintage, as well as reworked jewelry for a reasonable price range of $10-110.

I had an overall fun experience. Next time I know to come early (around 8am), carry cash (as the ATMs are only at the entrance (from what I noticed), bring a small shopping cart (for the larger purchases and so your arms don’t get sore from browsing the thousands of vendors and miles of walking) and plan on spending pretty much the whole day there.

Jewelry Designer- Clemmie Watson

I first heard of Clemmie Watson when I was reading NYLON magazine and saw a picture of a customized “NYLON” necklace she was sent them. I checked out her site and fell in love with her jewelry line. Native American inspired necklaces and earrings…Fender guitar pick earrings… Medicine pouch necklaces…Each piece is one-of-a-kind and was carefully constructed by Clemmie- who chose jewelry making as an artsy medium to express herself creatively. About ten years ago, she found herself at an arts and crafts store to get some string and seed beads. But as she soon realized, what started out as just a hobby, quickly turned into a happy love affair and business. She draws her inspirations from the Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte, her boyfriend, the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City (where she is based). According to Clemmie, ” [the museum] houses one of the most beautiful masterpieces by Michelangelo Caravaggio, John the Baptist. I could look at that painting for hours. It is more intriguing than the most perfect sunset because it was created by man.” As far as the process of making the pieces; she uses anything from silks, leathers, precious stones (smoky quartz and crystal quartz in particular), fine chains and feathers. “I am always challenging myself to develop new techniques to make mixed-media pieces look balanced and seamless,” she adds. At the moment, her favorite pieces are the medicine pouches. “I put different crystals in each pouch. No two are alike and they’re so much fun to make because I don’t know how they will turn out,” she explains. Prices range from $40-920 on her website. The medicine pouches range from $160-700.

NOTE: All but one of the photos were used with permission from ClemmieWatson.com. The one photo I took myself. Many thanks to Clemmie for gifting the “Silver Feather #1″!


Designer John Murrough and illia

I hate to admit, but I didn’t really know of illia until after I had the pleasure of touring the store in Venice, meeting the retail manager- Fritzie and talking with the designer- John Murrough (and meeting his dog- Gracie). The store was small, which enabled a more personable atmosphere. All the clothes and accessories exuded the highest quality in fabrics, mainly leathers and some knits and wovens. John was eager to share some background (and current) information with me. illia has been around since the 90’s and the garments at the time were made out of suede. However, John decided to take a sabbatical from the industry and went back to South Africa. It wasn’t until Spring of 2009 when illia relaunched again, with an exclusive event at Barney’s New York. This time around, the garments were mainly created out of leather. Since rejoining the fashion workforce, along with business partner-Robbie Moray, he has realized that the business had changed dramatically with the recession. Specialty stores are getting fewer and far between. The point was brought up that because of the economy, people are paying more attention to the quality of clothing. Consumers want something that’s unique and not seen on a lot of people (which is why illia stands out from other brands.) He was telling me that during one of the trade shows, he saw a very chic woman that he knew was wearing of his jackets. He found out that she has had it for twelve years. He is very passionate in his brand, being well-aware of the ‘illia consumer,’ who are usually the very health-conscious Venice women. He always wants to know what has or hasn’t sold and why, along with the fit of the garments. He focuses on a fitted, tailored silhouette with smaller armholes. Although illia is a womenswear brand, men even love trying on the shirt jackets because of the tailoring. He is constantly thinking about what the customer wants next and is usually spot on with his judgement. He credits LA as his inspiration, because the brand is all about the California lifestyle…casual yet chic. He also has a couple muses that have impeccable style and looks to them for inspiration. Although every piece at the Venice store is exquisite, there are a couple best-sellers: the motorcycle jackets and vests; because they’re made so well that they last a long time, which is what people want (I mean, wouldn’t YOU?) In the near future, illia plans on opening a few more stores (as Venice is the one and only) and creating a menswear line. The line would ultimately consist of five or six easy shirts and blazers. illia is located in the trendy Abbot Kinney neighborhood in Venice at 1638 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291. The phone number is (310)450-2890.


Jewelry Designer- Jenny Dayco

Whimsical…Fun…Humorous… Those are the words LA jewelry designer Jenny Dayco used to describe her high-quality yet very affordable line. Dayco, a natural artist who has a knack for seeing something in her mind and actually being able to make it; was tired of the limited selection of plus-size fashion back in 2002. So she figured, hell, why not make jewelry to jazz up an outfit, since she was after all, working in the fashion industry and attended numerous events and parties. She recalled making a giant gold circle necklace for a cousin’s wedding back in 2004 and later wearing the same necklace for a friend’s store’s party. Her friend is the owner of the boutique, Scout, by the Grove and he suggested she started making jewelry for his store. So she thought about it and decided to give it a go. From then until the beginning of 2006, she worked to make ends meet, while doing her jewelry on the side. Then, literally by the grace of God, opportunities started popping up everywhere. She no longer needed a job and was able to support herself doing her jewelry full-time. Though when the recession hit in 2009, she dwindled down from making mostly large pieces to smaller pieces (but still is continuing with the large pieces). It was only until recently when she started having actual ‘themed’ collections. Cleopatra is by far, one of her favorite inspirations; due to the opulence of the movie in general, in addition to Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes and jewelry. For Fall 2011, she’s sticking to the Cleopatra theme (though some people have said her pieces are very 70’s Disco inspired). She references magazine pages at times , but for the most part, feels that she gets her inspiration from within herself. “It’s like you’re a painter; what do you want to paint today? I wanna paint that tree…You can look outside at the world around you and say well, I think that is beautiful, I wanna paint that …You could. Or is there something within you that you want to create..that you’ve never seen before? Or that you have seen in your own mind. But you have yet to witness through your own eyes on a canvas,” Dayco explains. She likes to stick with what she knows, as far as materials goes. She knows that her customers appreciate the gold and silver jewelry and loves working with large found objects (such as a brooch or an aluminum acorn). Best-sellers for her line include: teardrop earrings, silver/gold feather necklaces/earrings, charm jewelry, handcuff necklaces, religious “inspired pieces, brooch rings (I have the black brooch ring and LOVE it!), black and gold jewelry. Her prices are very reasonable, as she says she wants to design for everyone. Her wholesale prices start at $10-50. Due to the economy also being the way it is and that she does everything herself and doesn’t have to outsource, her retail prices do not go above $110. She also passed along some advise that she would like to share with young artists and jewelry designers…”Start small. Make a few things, see where it goes from there! Be the person that people like working with. No one likes working with a diva. You yourself represent your brand.You’re your own spokesperson. Young designers- put yourself out there, business cards, word of mouth. And be careful what you say online (Facebook or Twitter) because your representing your brand.” Jenny Dayco has been mentioned in multiple publications, such as: Nylon Guys, Teen Vogue, Flaunt, Paper, etc and has been spotted on Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Paris Hilton, Keri Hilson and many other A-listers. Her line is sold in boutiques throughout LA, most notably: Diavolina (located 8741 West 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90048 310.550.1341), Beige (located 7274 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90036-2545 323.549.0064), Kill City (located 7975 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90046-7118 323.272.4206) and EM & Co. (located 7940 West 3rd Street`Los Angeles, CA 90048-4305`323.782.8155). She also is a best-seller in Japan and online.


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