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Thursday, September 8, 2022

NYFW: In Earnest, Byron Lars Spring 2023

3 models wearing Byron Lars clothing

 Welcome back to NYFW! Starting off with In Earnest, Byron Lars Spring 2023. Designer Byron Lars brings things back to being an independent atelier with partner Sheila Gray. His beautifully textured fabrics mixed artfully with floral prints, and corset detailing with comfort make this collection so crave-worthy. 

In a post-pandemic world, we are all still trying to figure out what our personal style is now. There are sporty, leisurely elements in this collection for those who are still clinging to the work-at-home wardrobe. However, the athletic components are there for comfort, but the execution is very glam. Embroideries, sparkling embellishments, lace, but all with some stretch and flare. Each individual garment was a statement garment. Every dress, skirt, short, and top had a romantic element for spring but could be worn with practicality. 

The muse for this season was vintage Harlem glamour. You can see the inspiration in the silhouettes and styling. All you need now is to listen to the jazz as you dress.

For an accessible piece that displays their artistry, I always love the fashion illustrated t-shirts. If you're not ready for that dramatic dress, their tees are a canvas for their style that you can pair with jeans.

Anyone who is a longtime reader already knows how much I love this brand. Byron and Sheila are the best of this industry and I'm so happy to see the collection thriving.

sheila gray byron lars take a bow at nyfw


Thursday, September 1, 2022

African Fashion Week Toronto 2022

African Fashion Week Toronto celebrated its 10th anniversary this summer. It is one of Toronto's more colorful fashion events that I feel are underattended and not covered enough in the stylish press. The presentations were at various prestigious venues across the city, like the Royal Ontario Museum and Yonge Dundas Square.

While fashion weeks in other cities may be about celebrity sightings and social media likes, African Fashion Week Toronto puts the emphasis on supporting the community and those who work in it. The events throughout the week included workshops in makeup, models, business, and design. MCs encouraged guests to shop from local vendors in addition to the designers themselves. Unlike many fashion weeks, the shows were often open to the public like in Yonge Dundas Square on a huge, open-air runway in the middle of downtown Toronto. 

I caught the collections of Keda Couture and Cynthia M Couture on a very sunny afternoon. Both designers mixed classic, elegant evening wear and sportswear silhouettes with vibrant, modern takes on African tribal prints. 

Next August, should you be in town, explore Toronto's diverse and talented African fashion community!


Sunday, May 8, 2022

Met Gala Exhibit: In America An Anthology of Fashion


What is American fashion? The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute has been exploring what that means since its inception. Like many museums, many fashion exhibits have been a celebration of the elite paying tribute to themselves. That has also been my top criticism for exhibits of recent years like China: Through the Looking Glass and Punk:Chaos to Couture.

I was pleasantly surprised at In America: An Anthology of Fashion. The show was a series of vignettes curated by successful directors like Sophia Coppola, Chloe Zhao, and Regina King. Many of the vignettes highlighted accomplished dressmakers (before they were called designers) of color who created some of the most famous garments in American history. What do they usually have in common? They were women of color, who were rarely recognized publicly or treated with disrespect.

Ann Lowe, who only in recent years had her name celebrated, was the go-to maker of Jackie O’s famous wedding gown and counted high society’s leading brides and debutantes as clients. However, Jacqueline Onassis, when asked who made her dress, would callously just say “a colored dressmaker”.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s inaugural gown was made by Elizabeth Keckley, who was once a slave, then a trusted companion in the White House, then an author and activist. Fannie Criss Payne was also featured. She was a Virginia modiste who turned to dressmaking because it was one of the few businesses a woman of color could legally start in the late 1800s. 

It wasn't all dark history though. The most joyous vignette was the dancing, floating mannequins Tom Ford curated depiction of the Battle of Versailles. This 1973 moment in fashion history where American designers traveled to France to declare themselves a design force to be recognized on an international scale. Designers Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Anne Klein, and Oscar de la Renta brought models and collections in tow to show the world that Europe did NOT have a lock on style. The event was recently dramatized in Netflix's Halston series starring Ewan Mcgregor.

While the fashion world as a whole is far from progressive. Seeing the talent involved (both as exhibit and curator) gives me hope that it is inching forward, however slowly. Giving credit where it was due, centuries later, at least is a start.


Monday, April 18, 2022

New York City Easter Bonnet Parade

 easter parade nyc 2022
It has been two years without the New York City Easter Parade and I was starving for some good Easter Bonnet action. The parade is one of my favorite events in Manhattan, where New Yorkers and enthusiastic visitors strut their best hats and springtime fashion down the city's biggest runway on 5th avenue. 

I always make my own headpiece. Previous years have included giant flowers and butterflies. This year, my inspiration was a little bit Midsommar, a little bit Atlas (the statue at Rockefeller Center). I didn't start on the piece until earlier this week because I wasn't sure if the parade would happen. I started with metal wreath frames that I wired together. I also attempted to solder them, but the metal flaked off. Then I took silk flowers and wove them in and around the frames. I finished the headpiece by weaving ribbons around the crown base and metal headband attached for stability. 

I loved how it turned out, but boy, this piece was heavy AF. I think I have a permanent dent on my forehead from wearing this today. 

While making my annual headpiece is fun, I participate in the parade to peep (ha!) other people's creations. I was afraid millinery fans might slack off post-pandemic, but the absence only made them try harder:

Go big or go home was the theme for many of the looks. Flowers, butterflies, eggs, and feathers are a perennial favorite. The Yayoi Kusama tribute was by far the most popular creation for photographers.

This is a great event to showcase the nice side of NYC to tourists. Everyone is in a good mood. Creativity, craft skills and artistry of (almost) regular folk are on display. So are their humor and generosity (you can always find someone giving out candy). I was approached by a family visiting from Vienna who apparently photographed me four years ago, remembering my outfit. This was very impressive as I can't even remember what I wore yesterday, let alone several years ago. 

Did you dress up today? Did you have a great Passover and/or Easter? What was your favorite look from the Parade? Happy Spring!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Cozy Canadians: Pajar Lands in NYC

I miss my Canadians! Pajar, cold weather chic mavens of the North landed in Soho and I was so happy to see familiar style (if not faces). 
If this winter is as brutal as the last, you're going to want the luxe, quilted coats and stylish boots from this Canadian producer. While the outerwear is what the are known for, I am mostly drooling over the footwear. They come in fun colors, and are technically innovative. I love the cleats built-in for icy surfaces. I have seen plenty of influencers hurt themselves running around NYFW in February in the wrong shoes. This would make a better choice for sure.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Vintage Fashion On HGTV's Everything But The House


ebth vintage fashion

mariana leung hgtv
lara spencer mariana leung

How does it feel to sell vintage fashion you collected for years on HGTV's Everything But the House? Weird. Emotional. Liberating. After my husband's parents passed, we had a 7-acre farm upstate to process and big decisions needed to be made. Going through lots of clutter, we attempted to have a garage sale, only to have the roads blocked for the filming of the movie, A Quiet Place.

Sorting through a parents belongings while experience grief is an emotional process, and it took a few more years for my husband to decide which items were truly meaningful to the family vs. items that were best used towards a meaningful project. His parents had always hoped we would continue to appreciate the rural county property as much as they did. Since we both work and live in Manhattan, that would be difficult unless we found a way to have a life upstate. 

We enlisted the help of Everything But the House, an online auction company out of Cincinnati Ohio, and HGTV. The amazing team there sorted through a houseful of antiques, artwork, travel souvenirs. My husband's pop culture memorabilia. I took this time to also clear out years of vintage fashion, antique handbags, designer collectibles from NYFW, and personal fashion treasures. As much as I loved each piece, I had to look towards the future. 

The pieces I was most sad to see go were the Judith Leiber quilted clutch, the 1920s beaded flapper dress I bought at the Manhattan Vintage Show in the 1990s, and a few gorgeous handpainted silk kimono from the 1960s. A nostalgic piece I personally wore was a purple velvet spiral bra from nightclub days purchased at Trash & Vaudeville on St. Mark's Place in 1994.

The television show is hosted by GMA and Flea Market Flip's Lara Spencer who was a lot of fun and knows her stuff! I learned a lot about the industry from Jacquie Denny, the auction maven of the site, and decorative arts expert Andrew McVinish. I learned about the history of some items, their markings, and their purpose that I couldn't find online, but also about bidder behavior and selling trends in the moments in between takes. What I didn't expect was how much joy it was to see how happy buyers were for their items. I had never thought about the second life of an object. For example, there was a woman who purchased a ceramic planter my Mother-in-law had brought back from Italy. As much as I loved the story of it, the style didn't fit with my husband and my taste. I preferred to include my Mother-in-law's actual artwork over her travel souvenirs. However, any guilt I felt about that decision was gone when I saw Kay W., the loveliest Southern Belle talk about how much she loved the planter, how many flowers she had in it and how she felt the planter loved her back.

In the end, we were so appreciative of the bidders that were enthusiastic about the sale. With work opportunities and rentals down last year, the proceeds from the auction went towards much-needed improvements to the barn and house to welcome guests to the property, our passion project, Wicked Finch Farm. 

Wicked Finch Farm is where my boozy jam and tipsy marshmallow recipes are created (yes, I make things that aren't always fashion). It also hosts guests as an Airbnb. We also run workshops for the boozy jam and other tasty things. With more improvements, we hope to upgrade to an event space some day. 

I hope you can visit or sample or products! 

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