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Monday, June 27, 2016

Best Handbags from the Independent Handbag Designer Awards 2016

indie handbag designer
handbag designer awards 2016
Congratulations to all of the talent who won an Independent Handbag Designer Awards last week. Competitors entered their work from countries all over the world. There has been a decade of indie designer labels and handbag designers that have built great brands or careers.

This Awards show may be less famous than the CFDA Awards a few weeks before, but of all of the fashion industry's events, I feel like this one is the most emotionally and creatively engaging for both the viewer and actual designers. More often than not, it's about what celebrity wore the designer. At the IHDA, designers are rewarded for their talent in craftsmanship, working with socially responsible initiatives or creating sustainable handbags.

Another moving aspect of this competition is how the designer have made the judges and audience a part of their personal journey in designer their collections. Creator Emily Blumenthal has personally been involved in reaching out to the designers across the world and learned from their stories. She often brings designers back in later years so fans like me can catch up on what the designers are doing in the years since then. I remember seeing a pregnant Blumenthal in the early years, and in 2016, her daughter is now in charge of handing out the trophies. It was an apt image representing how both her personal family and the handbag designer family has grown.

We at Ms. Fabulous asked Emily Blumenthal a few questions about her experience with the awards over the years:
handbag awards 2016

Ms. Fabulous: After a decade of being Godmother to handbag designers around the world, what was your proudest moment from the past ten years?

Emily Blumenthal: There have been so many. We are just thrilled to have helped so many and discover talent that would have never been found.

Ms. F: How has the handbag industry changed since the first awards, for the better or worse?
E.B.: The market always works in cycles. It's definitely making a comeback now.

Ms. F: I love that you update us on what past winners are doing. Do you keep up relationships with designers over the years? Are people collaborating?

E.B.:  We always maintain relationships with our past finalists and winners. Their successes we celebrate with them.

Ms. F How has mentoring independent designers affected your work?
E.B.: We work with designers to ensure they make good decisions and keep their line on trend and not price themselves out of
the market.

Ms. F:  Do you have an all-time favorite handbag design?
E.B.: Can't pick favorites…

I ran into former winner Lorna Nixon (winner in multiple years). A Brit, who moved to New York now working for a larger brand, but also working on a collaboration with this year's Bernina Best Made Handbag, Stevan Saville. Other winners include Carolina Kuhnen Ecco as the Best Student Made Handbag, Jacqueline Suriano for the Most Socially Responsible Bag, Zeh Liu for the Mary Kay cosmetics bag, Cathleen Nicol for the Trina Turk Resort Bag, Adrian Furstenburg for the Guess Logo Handbag, Stacy Chan won Pantone's Wild Color Card Award, Yanique Moore won Audience Fan Favorite and finally, Tiffany and Lynn Lu for the Best Handbag in Overall Style and Design.

To all of the finalists and winners of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards 2016, bravo!


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2016

mermaid parade 2016
coney island mermaid parade

After many years of admiring photos from afar, I finally got myself to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The attire of choice is, of course, sea-worthy chic. The tradition of the Mermaid Parade was born from the artist's community of this area of New York City. Fine artists, burlesque performers, circus folk and unique souls kept this parade going. I love the sheer diversity of the crowd. There are, of course, sexy, scantily clad ladies that the photographers fight themselves to shoot. There are all groups, ages, body types, entire families with children and dogs. I even saw a chicken in cosplay.

princess leia paradeYou'll find tons and tons of glitter and seashells on mermaid outfits. Some people just opt for body makeup. Parasols to block the midday summer sun was the most popular accessory. Like other alternative fashion trends, mermaid style has evolving trends. There were Goth mermaids, mermaids that incorporated pop culture, like the Star Wars, "Fish" Awakens group. There were superheroines Bat-mermaid and Wonder Woman mermaid.

For the gentlemen, sea creatures were popular. I loved the Steampunk vintage diver costume (with a strategically placed spigot!). Sexy pirates, sea captains, Triton and even a Popeye costume walked the parade.

mermaid crown diy

My own outfit, I put together a pink skirt, embroidered tulle (fishnet) topper and I embroidered a bra top with seashells, jewels, and taffeta petals.

My DIY mermaid crown. I twisted a bunch of pipe cleaners into a coral fan shape (you can just wrap them around each other into any organic pattern). I used a headband as a base. The pipe cleaners are very easy to use (just a caveat, the sparkly ones tend to leave sparkly bits on the floor). Start twisting a few around the headband at first, creating branches that veer off at different sides, doubling up with other pipe cleaners around itself.

Then I glue gunned shells and jewels on top, using the pipe cleaners as a support frame. I originally wanted to use pearls, but the flat back jewels were easier to glue. That's it! A glue gun just makes everything quick and stable. Regular glue works too, but it just takes longer.

I hope you enjoyed the Coney Island Mermaid Parade peep show!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cointreau x Dannijo: The Art of the Soiree

best dressed ginger

Cedar Lake Events was home to a fantasy indoor garden Wednesday. Cointreau showcased a range of exotic cocktails to start the summer paired with scrumptious bites. The visual senses were seduced by the glittering jewelry from Dannijo, the brand founded by designers Danielle and Jodie Snyder.

Cointreau has been a staple in my bar for years as a key ingredient for my cosmopolitans and margaritas. I tasted several new cocktails that night that I will be adding to my repertoire.

cointreau soiree

Dannijo jewelry came out of the gate with spectacular statement pieces in 2008. The sisters self-taught themselves to make jewelry using their father's tools. Their label launched from a project to benefit Danielle's non-profit organization to create economic opportunities for women in Africa. Now their jewelry and handbags are sought after by top celebrities and "It" girls around the world.

Tin Can Studios in Brooklyn created the most beautiful decor for the party. There was a gigantic orange tree as the central point of the event space that seemed to bloom Cointreau and glittering jewelry from its branches. Other topiaries were dripping in jewels. The beautiful banquet table was set with wild-looking florals of intense color, stretching out from partial terrariums. The overall effect looked like an organic amethyst.

Platters of vegetables offered innovative flavors along the table. A rich smoked duck appetizer followed. The bar offered up salmon rilettes, pate, and cheese. Servers enticed with desserts like a chocolate tart that looked like tiny flower boxes of dirt and creamsicles that hung off bamboo spirals like tendrils of a vine. Here is a recipe for one of the most refreshing cocktails I sampled:

Cointreau French Lemonade:
2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 oz. Cold-pressed Watermelon Juice
3 oz. Club Soda

Build all ingredients over ice in a highball glass. Stir gently. Garnish with a watermelon wedge and lemon wheel.

Thank you Cointreau and Dannijo for a decadent evening! A mix of opulent style, food and drink is a treat indeed.
(photos by Mariana Leung)


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

NYWIFT Gala: Celebrating Designing Women in Film and Television

sarah edwards costume designer
ninja turtle costume

I was fortunate to attend the NYWIFT gala celebrating the achievements of women in film and television Monday. Costume designer Sarah Edwards, hair stylist Rose Chatterton and makeup artist Anita Gibson were honored for their work. Gender disparity is rampant throughout the entertainment industry. It was an empowering night to watch successful women encouraging others to support and mentor other creative women.

Sarah Edwards is the costume designer behind the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Star Will Arnett was hilarious in character as "himself" in his speech about Edward's talent as he took an interest in anyone who makes him look. Her favorite look for the movie was the armor-like costume for Shredder (far right). She is also behind the costumes of Michael Clayton, Last Days of Disco, The Devil's Advocate among others. She also oversaw the looks for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller. She remarked the subtle difference in dressing Stiller in frumpier versions of the same outfit in his real life scenes versus the sharply tailored versions of his fantasy sequences to define the character.

rose chatterton hairstylist

Legendary actor Ray Liotta remarked on the talent of hairstylist honoree Rose Chatterton in his presentation. He noted that in the initial reviews of his show Shades of Blue, the press actually complimented his hair in their articles. That's memorable hair. In my chat with Chatterton, she noted the most challenging days are the long ones, chasing down talent in humidity and wind. She actually looks to her clients for discovering the best in hair products. They are often gifted new beauty items and then share their favorites with her. In addition to the show Shades of Blue, she created the retro looks for Factory Girl and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

hollywood makeup artist

Anita Gibson was a powerhouse of energy at this event. Her favorite beauty products are to work with nails. She initially succeeded in film by excelling in films like Inside Man and Tyler Perry movies as an expert in working with diverse casts. That became more poignant when she worked on Kerry Washington playing Anita Hill in HBO's Confirmation. In the 1990s, cosmetics options for women of color were limited. Gibson reflected that in creating her look for Washington during the testimony scenes. She illustrated the stress Anita Hill's character endured in using waning lipstick and a lack of facial makeup as Hill's testimony wore on.

maura tierney the affair

The entire creative team in costume, hair, and makeup for the tv program The Affair was honored at the NYWIFT awards. Star Maura Tierney presented the award to the enthusiastic ensemble. What is subtle, but fascinating about this show is that the same storylines are told from multiple characters perspectives. This requires major diligence and precise creative choices to style onscreen.

Costume, hair, and makeup are always admired when the project is a fantasy or time period. However, helping to build the characters for realistic situations and real life is more intricate with less appreciation. I noticed that all the women honored this night had that in common. The characters they styled had to be believable in all scenes, even if they were the same scenes shot differently.
NYWIFT, the New York Women in Film and Television is proof that there are many hard-working, successful creatives in the field. Entertainment may be a cutthroat industry, but talented people are happy to prop each other up.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pamella Roland Resort 2017

Resort style is about heading out to the sun. Pamella Roland's fashion show at the Bulgari store Wednesday night was presented as a ray of light. As a board member of the Whitney Museum, she took inspiration from contemporary American artists James Turrell and Spencer Finch. She had looked at both their use of color and sculptural shapes to act as a muse for her Resort 2017 collection.
There was an inner glow to the collection (helped by the lit floor). The long, flowing lines of the dresses as well as the simple, draped pleats served to elongate all of the body lines when worn.
The fabrics were light, luxurious and breezy. Crepe, silk faille organza served as the canvas to cut bugle beading. The embroidery ranged from long linear motifs of reflective beads to emulate rays of light or a build-up of beads in an ombre or degrade pattern like a three-dimensional glow. The color palette was a serene white, silver, rose quartz and serenity blue (Pantone's top colors for the year). There was also pale iris and richer blues and staple black as part of the mix. 

I asked designer Pamella Roland where her ideal "resort" destination was. Her collection here is much more formal than most resort collections. That and the elegant pairing of Bulgari jewelry looked like a black-tie holiday. She said she was headed to Capri, a perennial favorite of hers. If that's the case, that little island has a much stricter dress code than I thought. Roland's Resort 2017 collection was a beautiful presentation of eveningwear, and I only hope that my next vacation is worthy of it.

Check out Resort 2017 Looks to Inspire Your Next Getaway
by Ms. Fabulous at Mode

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Maiyet Fall 2016

This fashion show is the first collection from Maiyet I had seen in person under the creative direction of Declan Kearney. He has taken over the design of the label for about a year now. Maiyet was founded by the unlikely fashion exec Paul Van Zyl, a human rights lawyer and executive secretary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. 
Van Zyl established his brand as a luxury line dedicated to sustainability and one that sources from struggling communities in India and Kenya. They work heavily with NEST, an organization that connects with businesses that want to help communities preserve artisan techniques. However, he wanted to establish the brand as a high-fashion designer force as well. He brought in Declan Kearney to overhaul the look and was a former designer at Alexander Wang. For the Fall 2016 collection, he drew upon the sexy aesthetic of Carlo Mollino photographs and interior decor patterns found in John Lautner designs for the iconic Indochine. An image of Jackie O. also factored into the mood board.
Carlo Mollino Photographs
 You can see the retro influence in the wool boucle coats and slim cigarette pants. Leather trim and leather jackets made for sophisticated statement pieces. There were a lot of sheer evening and cocktail dresses that were embroidered or appliqued with variations of a leaf motif. The leaves were a tribute to the botanical print wallpaper of Lautner's interior decor. While the vintage source was acknowledged, the collection looked thoroughly modern. Each model in Maiyet's outfits strutted down the runway like a cosmopolitan power woman.
Maiyet is quickly growing as a great designer label for the style but also one that stands for something. Barney's and Neiman Marcus is one of many luxury retailers to support the brand. I can't wait to watch this label in the seasons to come.

Fashion show photos by Mariana Leung
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