Traveling and Sightseeing in a Smaller City in Spain

Getting great cab service when you are traveling is hit or miss. You know the cab companies to rely on in your home city, and maybe even know a couple when traveling locally. However, when traveling abroad, how do you figure out even which cabs are safe to take? In the city I live in drivers have to have a medallion to operate a taxi. In London they have specially trained drivers to navigate some of those old narrow streets. They even have to pass a difficult test of routes to take. In Spain, we use MyTaxiAlicante to get around. I like it that they have drivers that speak English. That is a huge thing for me. I am lousy at languages other than my own. I can’t help it. I did not learn anything other than English as a child, and I just can’t grasp other languages as an adult.

I really like it when drivers in the countries I visit can speak the same language as me, and to have a cab company that provides drivers that do gets my vote. Alicante is not a small city. It is a port city in Spain, and we have been there a few times over the years. Continue reading


L.A. well-represented in upcoming CFDA/Vogue Paris showcase

September 17, 2013

Southern California-based designers participating in the upcoming "Americans in Paris" showcase include, left to right: Jennifer Meyer, George Esquivel, Greg Chait, Andrea Lieberman and Juan Carlos Obando.

Southern California-based designers participating in the upcoming “Americans… (Bob Chamberlin, Don Bartletti,…)

Southern California-based brands account for half the lineup in an upcoming “Americans in Paris” initiative organized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue magazine and sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger.

Past West Coast CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists tapped to participate include Jennifer Meyer, George Esquivel (Esquivel Shoes), J.C. Obando, Andrea Lieberman (A.L.C) and Elder Statesman’s Greg Chait, who won the most recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award last November.

The other five designers in the mix (also past Fashion Fund designers) include Wes Gordon, Sofia Sizzi (Giulietta), Daniel Silberman and Justin Salguero (Illesteva), Jennifer Fisher and Patrik Ervell.

As part of the program, the 10 designers are set to occupy shared showroom space at Le 8 Valois from Sept. 28 through Sept. 30 during Paris Fashion Week. The night before, Hilfiger is scheduled to host a roundtable conversation with, followed by a dinner in honor of, this year’s group.

The “Americans in Paris” program, now in its fifth season, was created as a global showcase for emerging American designers and leverages the exposure that comes with Paris Fashion Week’s international retailers and fashion industry media.


Designer Reed Krakoff finds a new luxury after Coach

Reed Krakoff wants his creations to convey a sense of desire and power. He has dressed Lena Dunham and Michelle Obama.

November 10, 2013

Actress Jessica Pare of "Mad Men" and designer Reed Krakoff.

Actress Jessica Pare of “Mad Men” and designer Reed Krakoff. (Jeff Vespa / WireImage )

After 16 years at the helm of Coach, Reed Krakoff left the American heritage brand this fall to chart a solo course with his own label, which is starting to really gain momentum.

In the three years since launching his namesake brand, Krakoff has dressed Lena Dunham, Julianne Moore and First Lady Michelle Obama, who wore his cobalt blue dress on the March 2013 cover of Vogue. He has a robust accessories business (the Boxer and Atlantique bags have been big hits), which accounts for about 70% of sales, and his ready-to-wear clothing is gaining momentum among women looking for something intellectual, modern and American.

Recently, Krakoff was in Los Angeles for a Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund event and to look at real estate for a forthcoming store. I caught up with him to talk about life after Coach.

Do you miss Coach at all?

I wouldn’t say I miss it. I had an amazing experience and it was a chunk of my life. But it was becoming clear that this was what I wanted to do with the next stage of my life, and the timing was right.

People who watch the markets are predicting the decline of Coach now that you’ve left.

I really don’t know much about it. I’m just so happily focused on my business and my team, and I’m lucky to have been able to start the business with the great support of Coach. They still have a stake in the company, which is great.

What niche do you think the Reed Krakoff brand can fill?

We’re finding we’re being accepted as a credible competitor to European luxury brands. And I believe there is space for a brand that is about a new kind of luxury. … It’s about creativity that’s connected to all different aspects of the world: art, design and architecture.

You’re lucky to be a young brand with such a robust business in accessories, when often it’s the reverse, and the clothing comes first. What are people looking to you for in your ready-to-wear?

It’s not enough to have the most expensive double-face cashmere. There has to be desire, quality and craftsmanship. The fundamental of our brand is bringing together the disparate ideas of sensuality and architectural design, luxury and modernity.

Let’s talk about the spring 2014 collection. What were some of the inspirations?

I thought it would be interesting to start with something more ethereal and feminine, something inspired by traditional dressmaking techniques, shirring and transparency. We were playing with overtly feminine fabrics like satin but then bonding them to make them more architectural. The palette mixed somewhat industrial colors like signal yellow with the opposite, makeup-like tonalities. Then we brought all the elements together.

Did you have any artists or art pieces on your inspiration board?

Usually it’s more how people approach things than the actual thing. One was Louise Nevelson and her organic sculpture, which she created with pieces of wood. Anish Kapoor was another, for the fluorescent color.

I like that, the idea of architectural or industrial femininity.

That’s always running through the collection, and at the end of the day, we’re trying to create things that have a feeling of desire and power.

The handbags have been so successful. Do you have a new style coming out soon?

For spring, we are introducing a new style called the Atlas, which is very different than what we’ve done before. The whole concept — because for me, it’s not enough to just make something nice, it has to have an idea — was that this would be the opposite of anything architectural or linear. So every edge of the bag is turned in a different direction. You can’t see the zipper; the handles are turned so they are tubular. There are very few seams and very little stitching. And the hardware is round to create this idea of something soft in the extreme. It has a pillow effect. It took about six months to do, to make this edgeless bag. It’s really an expression of sensitive craftsmanship in a modern way.

You’ve dressed Lena Dunham a few times. How did that relationship develop?

I actually met her mother [artist Laurie Simmons] first. We worked on a project for the Whitney Museum together [a Coach bag inspired by Simmons’ 1989 work, “Walking Purse”]. We did it over the phone and it came out great. Then I watched Lena in her first movie, “Tiny Furniture,” and got to know her through that. We dressed her for the Emmys in 2012. I love the work she’s done. And she really embodies the type of woman we dress. She’s self-confident and has her own sense of style.

Are you planning an L.A. store?

Yes, definitely, in the near term. L.A. is important for us in so many ways. We need a place to have a presence here and to work with Hollywood.


Stars go blue for ‘Smurfs 2,’ CFDA and Vogue go to TV

July 29, 2013

Katy Perry (left, in Tadashi Shoji) and Britney Spears went with Smurf-appropriate colors for the premiere of Columbia Pictures' "Smurfs 2."

Katy Perry (left, in Tadashi Shoji) and Britney Spears went with Smurf-appropriate…

Big names, small screen: The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund will be the focus of a just-announced TV series. According to Monday’s announcement, the partnership between the arts channel Ovation* and Conde Nast Entertainment — appropriately named “The Fashion Fund” — will document “the excitement of emerging fashion designers vying for the chance to be named the 2013 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner.”

The fund, now in its 10th year, will award the top designer a $300,000 grant and a one-year mentorship with an established industry name. But if you ask us, this is a genius move since it will provide much-needed exposure to the other nine, non-winning, finalists as well. Produced by Break Thru Films in association with the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) and Vogue magazine, “The Fashion Fund” will premiere in December with six initial one-hour episodes on Ovation.

Lagerfeld jumps for ‘Jasmine’: Designer Karl Lagerfeld was more than happy to create some custom Chanel wardrobe pieces for Cate Blanchett to wear in Woody Allen’s latest movie, “Blue Jasmine,” reports the U.K. Telegraph. Apparently costume designer Suzy Benzinger sent Lagerfeld a note and two days later, a couple of jackets were on their way. The Telegraph says the jacket in question is “a classic white bouclé style with navy trim, which Blanchett can be seen wearing in the film’s trailer.”

Stars align for HollyRod: A serious constellation of celebrities (enough even to constitute a Milky Way galaxy of stars) including Magic and Cookie Johnson, LeVar Burton, Garcelle Beauvais, Cedric the Entertainer, Leah Remini, Viveca A. Fox, Amy Yasbeck, Alan Thicke, Eva LaRue and Laila Ali clustered in Malibu on Saturday night for a fundraiser benefiting the HollyRod Foundation, which provides support for people living with autism and Parkinson’s disease, our friends over at Society News L.A. report.

Hosted by Holly Robinson Peete, the evening included the presentation of awards, a full-length runway show of Rubin Singer fashions and a performance by Ne-Yo.

Blue Hues: Folks sure seemed to be in the Smurfy spirit on the blue carpet for the “Smurfs 2” premiere in Los Angeles. Those who, to borrow the parlance of “Arrested Development,” memorably “blue themselves” for the occasion included Britney Spears and Katy Perry (in a cobalt blue hand-cut leather and beaded lace cocktail dress from designer Tadashi Shoji’s Fall/Winter 2013 runway collection).


Punk’s rebel spirit inspires fall fashion

Designers salute street style and the anti-fashion movement, offering a fierce, feminine view for fall.

September 01, 2013

British model Cara Delevingne shows off a street tribe look for Chanel during the Fall/Winter 2013 Ready-to-Wear show as part of Paris Fashion Week at Grand Palais.

British model Cara Delevingne shows off a street tribe look for Chanel during… (Venturelli / WireImage )

This is the year of punk. Vogue magazine decreed it to be so, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute chimed in with its “Punk: Chaos to Couture” exhibition this spring.

When Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Nicole Richie and others turned out in leather and spikes for the gala opening in May, the irony was overwhelming. All those shiny celebrities were there in the name of an anti-fashion, anti-establishment movement of working-class heroes. But that was the point of the exhibition, to demonstrate how high fashion feeds off the street and how designers appropriate the visual codes of punk, using slashes and safety pins to sell cool.

(The fascination with punk is likely to continue with the film “CBGB,” scheduled to come to theaters in October, with Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry and Mickey Sumner as Patti Smith, documenting the story of Hilly Kristal’s legendary New York music venue that nurtured the punk scene beginning in 1973, closed its doors in 2006 and has now become a John Varvatos store.)

Looking at the fall 2013 collections, it’s clear that many designers are still inspired, if not directly by punk pioneers Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Iggy Pop, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, then by their rebel spirit. The looks that came down the runways were rallying cries for fierce femininity. Nods to punks, grunge rockers, glam rockers, hippies, bikers and other street-style tribes came in the forms of spiky hair,

motorcycle jackets, tie-dye, tartan checks, combat-ready camouflage, chains and studs.

The best looks were rough, but also refined. Call them street luxe.

Riccardo Tisci’s standout gypsy-biker Givenchy collection paired motorcycle jackets or patchwork tartan tops with long romantic skirts in rose silk chiffons embellished with lace. Phillip Lim was also taken with bikers — or, rather, girlfriends of bikers — which translated into lots of wearable leather motocross jackets, vests and wrap skirts with contouring shapes and feminine details, and fun, grungy oversized sweat shirts and sweaters with side zippers.

For their fall Rodarte collection, Kate and Laura Mulleavy took their cues from the gritty scene on the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, where they grew up. The result was a magical melding of counterculture styles — hippies, Dead Heads, goths, Hells Angel bikers, yogis and beach bums. Body-skimming tie-dye satin gowns in reds, blues and pinks were the stars of the New York runway. There were also silk charmeuse and sheer tulle jumpsuits with angel wing embroideries on the back, and elongated blazers and cropped woven pants shown with thong bodysuits that exposed triangles of skin above the waistbands, like something a rebellious teenager would try to get away with when her parents weren’t looking.

At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane’s inspiration was “California grunge.” The super-short leather skirts worn over crystal-studded tights, Grandpa mohair cardigans, plaid flannel shirts, baby-doll dresses and combat boots conjured images of 1990s style icons Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love and neo-grunge stars of today such as singer Sky Ferreira, whom Slimane tapped for the brand’s pre-fall ad campaign. And as skeptical as I was when I first saw them, there is something appealing about wrapping up in an oversized flannel shirt, thrown over skinny pants and combat boots. It’s cozy with an edge.

Even the iconic Chanel suit was roughed up, with a longer-length tweed jacket cut close to the body, worn with a matching tweed skater skirt and thigh-high leather boots covered in chains. (Those boots are made for stomping!)

At Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld’s focus was fur, which he tagged in graffiti-bright hues of pink, purple and blue, in the same way that celebrities Katy Perry, Alexa Chung and Selena Gomez have been striping their hair.

The diversity of runway references was a reminder that more than any single trend, the fall collections were a tribute to the notion of individual style. Social media has ushered in a golden era of DIY fashion expression and empowerment in which punk culture is all culture, every street in the world is a runway and anyone can be a style star. Chains and studs are optional.

Diane von Furstenberg summed it up with a reference to her everywoman inspiration of the season: “She is the rock star and the muse of her own life.”


Monique Lhuillier: On the move

Fashion designer Monique Lhuillier works to add clothes to her line for earlier in the day.

September 01, 2013
Los Angeles designer Monique Lhuillier is determined to dress women head-to-toe and ’round the clock.

Since starting her namesake label in 1996, after she couldn’t find a dress with enough fashion flair for her own wedding, Lhuillier has established herself as the go-to designer for Hollywood brides, including Reese Witherspoon, Carrie Underwood, Jewel, Ashlee Simpson and Avril Lavigne.

Building on that foundation, in recent years she’s developed a successful ready-to-wear collection shown seasonally in New York, and sold at major department stores and her own boutiques. And she’s become a force on the red carpet, outfitting a constellation of stars for awards shows and First Lady Michelle Obama for the White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner in April.

Not one to let grass grow under her stiletto, Lhuillier is taking another step toward her goal this fall, with a new collection of evening shoes, daytime boots and pumps ($600 to $1,100), all made in Italy. Styles include a decadent black suede and lace bootie, a strappy gold metallic cage sandal and a leopard d’Orsay pump with silver curlicue-like straps. “I wanted to make shoes that are classic and feminine but with unexpected details,” she says.

This month, she will enter the world of e-commerce on her website MoniqueLhuillier.com, and debut a new “Ready to Wed” collection of bridal wear ($2,000 to $4,000) that will be ready to walk down the aisle in a matter of days, instead of the five months it takes to get one of her custom bridal gowns fitted. “Some people want to get married in the courthouse — they don’t want a whole big thing. We needed to have dresses that brides can get on the spot,” she says, adding that the collection will include traditional and nontraditional bridal styles, such as 1960s-inspired mini-dresses with matching coats, and jumpsuits.

Lhuillier’s bridesmaids’ dresses, stationery, home fragrance and tabletop items will also be available on her site, as will her full ready-to-wear line, which is made in Los Angeles.

In the last couple of seasons, she’s been focusing on designing more clothes to wear before dark. “I’m doing lace T-shirts and more knitwear. I’m trying to dress women earlier in the day,” she says. “It’s great to have a signature at the start, but we’re not just about special occasion dressing anymore.”


New York Fashion Week spring 2014: Diane von Furstenberg review

September 08, 2013
NEW YORK — There’s been a lot of grousing about New York Fashion Week this season — the packed crowds, the packed schedule, the faraway venues. And on Sunday afternoon, Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, answered with a feel-good show that reminded everyone not to take it all so seriously.

There was a toe-tapping soundtrack of songs of the summer (Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Daft Punk).

And a front row full of glittering Hollywood, fashion and media world fixtures, including Von Furstenberg’s husband Barry Diller, as well as Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Allison Williams, Jessica Alba and Bella Thorne.

On the runway was some high-wattage talent too, including model Naomi Campbell leading the finale in a black-and-gold dress.

The inspiration: The title was “Oasis,” and the girl power message of the season from Von Furstenberg in the show notes was, “Be your own oasis … an unexpected source of renewal, serenity and beauty.”

The look: Sexy safari with ’70s swagger.

Key pieces: Black-diamond-print halter jumpsuit; white tunic and flared pants suit; cork-printed leather safari mini-dress; snake-print chiffon halter gown cut out over the waist; colorful column gowns with rope details; “lion landscape” shift, as worn by the designer herself on her victory lap.

The verdict: Back to basics, DVF-style, which means jet-set glamor to the max. When she’s at her best, which she was this season, Von Furstenberg is difficult to resist, her confidence even more so. That’s why when she shimmied down the runway at the end of the show, the whole crowd almost joined the dance party. An oasis, indeed.


Must see: Haute paper fashion designs at Decades boutique

December 19, 2013

The haute paper creations of Swedish fashion designer Bea Szenfeld at Decades boutique.

The haute paper creations of Swedish fashion designer Bea Szenfeld at Decades…

If you’re doing any last-minute holiday shopping on Melrose this weekend, be sure to stop into Decades and check out the extraordinary wearable paper-art creations of Swedish designer Bea Szenfeld.

With intricately folded and cut shapes, they are a treat for the eyes, especially the starry-looking “Snow Twins” cocoon coat for two, and the fantastic, fur-free “Lion Stola.”

Cameron Silver, fashion tastemaker, author and co-owner of the Decades vintage boutique, discovered Szenfeld’s work earlier this year while he was on his book tour in Stockholm. And he just had to bring her to L.A. The idea for a holiday window display was hatched, the paper works were shipped in crates from Stockholm to L.A., and voila!

“Swedish style is synonymous with fast fashion like H&M, but Bea’s work is purely artistic and incredibly arduous to execute,” says Silver. “It’s the opposite of fast. However, Sweden is also socialist, so there’s something very egalitarian in her use of paper in lieu of fabric, so I particularly love the irony.”

“I want to make fashion fun,” says Szenfeld, who shows her innovative art-meets-fashion collection on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Stockholm. “The theme for my latest fashion show was ‘Make Love, Not Fashion.’ Fashion does not have to be more complicated. For the work itself, everything is made by hand, out of paper, and is one-of-a-kind.”

Talk about a truly special gift. If I were lucky enough to receive one of these haute paper works, I would display it on a mannequin in my living room!

Bea Szenfeld pieces, $7,500 to $15,000 at Decades, 8214 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 655-1960 or at http://www.shopdecadesinc.com/beaszenfeld. They will be on display until Jan. 5.


Indian fashion designers eye the global market

May 05, 2004
NEW DELHI — French actress Sophie Marceau has worn their dresses in a Bond movie, Judi Dench to the Oscars, and Nicole Kidman wanted to wear their creations for the premiere of “Moulin Rouge.”

After making ripples in Hollywood, India’s fledgling fashion designers now hope to make a splash in the world’s top retail stores.

Until now, India’s fashion designers have mostly sold to the country’s rich and famous — Bollywood film stars, socialites and industrialists, with the occasional celebrity client abroad.

But for the first time they are hoping to enter the global market, having just hosted a fashion extravaganza in New Delhi modeled on those in Paris and Milan. More than 50 top Indian designers showcased their talents in front of about 400 buyers, including Saks Fifth Avenue from New York, Browns from London and Maria Luisa from France.

Indian designers are hoping to lure buyers through innovative Indo-Western combinations, adding deft touches such as traditional embroidery, crystal work, beads and sequins to Western cuts and styles.

They are also mixing and matching silks and handspun cotton or khadi, with shimmering Swarovski crystals and chiffons to create the East-meets-West fusion look.

Fashion experts and industry insiders say it is only a matter of time before one of the top 50 makes that elusive breakthrough and becomes an international style icon.

“The bubble is about to burst, and one or two of the designers will really make it,” said Raghavendra Rathore, the designer from the royal family of Jodhpur.


A Wylde ride for fashion designer

Paula Thomas’ skull-print scarves created instant recognition for her upscale brand Thomas Wylde

March 09, 201

Former model Paula Thomas has opened her first stand-alone boutique for her global brand, Thomas Wylde, beside company headquarters in Culver City.

Former model Paula Thomas has opened her first stand-alone boutique for… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Flanked by giant Carrera marble planters shaped like skulls, designer Paula Thomas stands in the courtyard of the first stand-alone boutique for her upscale global fashion brand, Thomas Wylde.

“I love the dark and macabre, but I try to turn that into an aesthetic that is beautiful, alluring and abstract,” says the British-born, Los Angeles-based Thomas, whose label merges a streetwise, rock ‘n’ roll vibe with feminine sophistication.

Located next to company headquarters in Culver City, the store opened on Feb. 20, simultaneously celebrating Thomas’ 48th birthday and the debut of a made-in-L.A. home collection of Moroccan-style pillows ($600), reversible cashmere blankets ($1,800), chairs and daybeds ($2,200-$12,000). The loft-like space also showcases the brand’s apparel and outerwear ($350-$11,000), footwear (from $600) and handbags ($2,200-$22,000).

Thomas launched her career at age 17 with a Bond girl cameo in the 1985 film “A View to a Kill.” After more than 15 years of modeling and a stint as business partner to designer Julien Macdonald of Britain, Thomas moved to Los Angeles in 2003. She launched Thomas Wylde in 2006 with a 44-piece collection of leather jackets, cashmere knits, print silks, shoes and handbags. The brand gained instant recognition when its skull-print scarves were worn by actresses Sienna Miller and Lindsay Lohan.

“I did not intend to make the skull print so prominent, but it just took off, and it identified the brand immediately,” Thomas says.

Celebrity clients include Miley Cyrus, Jane Fonda, Rihanna, Nicole Richie and Cameron Diaz, whom Thomas styled exclusively in the label for the Ridley Scott film “The Counselor.”

The Korean-made apparel line has grown up over the last eight years, focusing on luxurious fabrications — silks, cashmeres, leathers and fur — and decorative flourishes, such as hand-sewn crystals and hand-studded nailhead detailing. Hard meets soft on fitted leather jackets with chiffon ruffles, sharply tailored sheath dresses edged with decorative zipper detailing and lacy skull-patterned knits. Versatile designs include leather jackets with zip-off sleeves and blouses with zip-out silk scarves.

“When someone starts following the collection, they [tend] to become a big fan and are always trying to add the special pieces to their wardrobe,” says Jon Harris, owner of Gregory’s boutiques, which have carried Thomas Wylde since its inception. “Most designers look to the past and reinterpret older styles and trends. Paula doesn’t do that. She comes up with a clear new style and new trends and runs with them.”

Thomas Wylde flies largely under the radar with no fashion shows, no advertising, no press mailings, no licensing and no current backers — unusual for a global fashion label sold in more than 120 stores and hanging next to luxury powerhouse brands such as Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.

“The word ‘luxury’ gets bantered around a little bit too much these days, and I don’t think people really fully understand what it means any more in fashion,” says Thomas, explaining that her low-profile approach is intended to prevent knock-offs by fast-fashion retailers and create a quality brand experience.

“People want something other than the trendy, ‘bag of the season’ vibe; they want an experience,” she says. “When they shop with us, they can meet me personally, have a glass of Champagne and learn about the collection. If they can’t come to us, we can curate for them.”

Thomas Wylde offers a by-invitation VIP membership club for top customers that includes previews of seasonal collections, access to limited-edition handbags, a 30% discount and a points-rewards system.

Given the 15-employee company’s rapid expansion plans, Thomas is working with Vendome Global Partners to secure an investment partner. A fine jewelry collection ($500-$120,000) is scheduled to debut in July. E-commerce and a revamped website, with film clips and Thomas’ styling tips, will launch on www.thomaswylde.com this fall. In early 2015, the company plans a 60- to 80-piece Wylde Denim collection ($120-$350) and licensed footwear; by 2016, licensed eyewear and fragrance will join the mix.

And shops in Miami, Paris and Tokyo are in the works too.