Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Shanti Boutique: fair-trade jewelry for the eco- and spiritually-minded

by frédérik sisa

This week brings a brief eyeball review of a little online boutique I came across a while ago. I’ve haven’t had the chance to handle any of their goods first-hand, but their business model and compassion-driven philosophy is very compelling. In line with Toms and Sierra Sandals, Shanti Boutique is all about doing business with a conscience, that is, with an eye towards improving the world. A portion of the profits generated from the sale of yoga-related jewelry goes towards the Tibetan Children’s Education Fund, a non-profit “dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture by supporting Tibetan schools and school children-in-exile from their homeland.”

Also appealing is Shanti’s membership in Green America, which screens vendors for their environmental and social sustainability, and the Fair Trade Federation, a trade association of North American businesses committed to alleviate poverty and supporting sustainable businesses across the world:
“The Federation envisions a just and sustainable global economic system in which purchasing and production choices are made with concern for the well-being of people and the environment, creating a world where all people have viable economic options to meet their own needs. We seek to alleviate poverty by continually and significantly expanding the practice of trade that values the labor and dignity of all people.”

So what kind of jewelry does Shanti sell? Their products span the gamut – anklets, earrings, bracelets, pendants, and toe rings with a yoga, Hindu, and/or Buddhist flavour. Charms feature the “Om” character, yoga poses, and other charms loaded with spiritual and ecological significance. All of their jewelry is sterling silver; most are handcrafted. Materials used also include vegetarian ultrasuede. I quite like the gentle spirit and style inherent in the jewelry, and somehow I get a much better vibe from Shanti then I do from large retailers like Gaiam. Once I can reasonably justify it, I’ll try out some of the anklets and report back.
Of course, if I had been really clever I would written about this a few weeks when it would have made a difference for your holiday shopping. But there’s more to the holiday season than shopping, right? Regardless, Shanti Boutique is the sort of business worthwhile supporting for their good selection of designs and because the only way to get stores to notice that people want products that don’t exploit people and the environment is to support those businesses with good practices and avoid those without.

As always, I’d love to hear back from you if you do order from Shanti Boutique. Send me pics, feedback, comments…

On a housekeeping note, this will be my last post for the year. I’ll be back in January with more Fashionoclastic goodness, including an interview with LOOMLAB founder Jane Henry, bowling shirts, and more. Have great holidays! Namaste!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the Tarahumara's awesome running sandals

by frédérik sisa

(Click image to enlarge.)

Confronted with these rough-hewn sandals, it might be tempting to turn away, thinking, “hey, these are just leather insoles glued to cut-out rubber outsoles with holes punched through for the leather straps whose knots aren’t even hidden.” And so they are. The soles are even made from recycled tires, which scores points for the planet if not for refined handiwork. Yet as tempting as it is to dismiss them as DIY crafts when lying helplessly on the ground as in the picture above, its worth remembering that they’re not called running sandals for nothing. The Tarahumara Indians – among the world’s best long-distance runners - run in these things for miles, and miles, and miles…a 100 miles... With a kinship to the sandals of those legendary marching Roman warriors, these are clearly not sandals to mess around with. But let’s be honest. While running and marching may be great for those who like that sort of thing, and who have unlearned the corrupted walking habits that come from wearing shoes, the question is – can these be fashionable too? Here's a hint:

(Style in the city! Image courtesy of Sean Hull. Click to enlarge.)

The answer is, of course, yes. In fact, of all the shoes I’ve reviewed so far for The Fashionoclast these are my favourite. They’re an earthier, eco-friendly cousin to the often tricked-out gladiator sandals of runway models and celebrities, with a timeless quality that makes gladiator-type sandals a perpetually popular choice of summer footwear. The lace-up straps offer a distinctive flair, and the happy discovery is that while the sandals may not look like much by themselves, they do look good on a pair of feet and calves – casual chic, even, in a colloquial sort of way. The best thing is that these sandals have a style that is truly universal, with both Tarahumara men and women alike wearing them… and now us, which is good news for those us of who are tired of seeing yet another flip-flop as a shoe brand’s offering to men.

(Bald head = reflected light. But you're really looking at the sandals, right? Click to enlarge.)

In practical terms, the running sandals lack the characteristics that detract, ever so slightly, from those other shoes reviewed here. They don’t make flip-flop noises like the Dopies or Topsies. They aren’t as demanding as the topless sandals (or the Dopies, for that matter). The trickiest thing about the running sandals is figuring out how to lace them securely but without cutting into the skin, a relatively mild challenge on par with breaking in a new pair of shoes. Most importantly, once they’re on they feel great – simultaneously, and paradoxically, both very snug and very carefree. With just a few straps holding the sandals on the foot, there is that unmistakable feeling of being barefoot. These sandals maximize foot mobility and flexibility. The straps, however, can fit securely enough, especially around the ankle (but not on top of the anklebone), to create a warm-and-fuzzy kind of foot binding. As for those knots below the sole, they aren’t nearly as noticeable or distracting as I thought they would be. The leather flattens out with use.

Speaking of flat: these sandals have no arch support or other orthopedic contrivances, part of the barefooting philosophy that sees modern footwear as harmful. Feet evolved for walking without shoes, the insurgent wisdom goes, and I suspect that those of us without foot problems (or simply accustomed to walking badly in flat shoes)will best enjoy the running sandals…but probably not as much as people walking using the natural barefoot techniques we’ve been conditioned to suppress. (For example, walking heel first causes more pain since its like driving with the brakes on.) That’s neither criticism nor praise, by the way; just an observation that may (or may not) be of value for people who may be on less than friendly terms with their feet.

(Just what you want: a close-up. Click to embiggen.)

It is possible to find these sandals on the internet through barefoot runners who can make them using high-tech vibram soles. Or you could, in principle, make these yourself using recycled tire rubber, or even vibram soles, thanks to instructional videos and kits. But what makes these sandals unique is their origins at the hands of the Tarahumara Indians. Sierra Sandals’ Sean Hull, as you’ll recall from a previous post, is working with non-profit organizations in Chihuahua, Mexico, to provide the Tarahumara with sources of revenue. So not only are the sandals fun, stylish, and good for running according to expert runners, they’re also a means to help a poverty-stricken people pull themselves up by their, well, sandal straps. Who can argue with that? To find out more, including how to get a pair for yourself, visit

(Yup. There they are. Right where I left then. Right...there. Click to...oh, you know why. And of course my pants are rolled only to show off the sandals.)

As always, if you get yourself a pair please check in and let me know what you think! For my part, I'm looking forward to warmer weather here in LA so I can experiment with these sandals and more summery real "capris."

Note: A pair of sandals was graciously given to me for review purposes. Many thanks to Sean Hull of

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

report from Unique LA 2009

by frédérik sisa

I realize I said I’d offer a foots-on review of those Huarache running sandals, but since I haven’t been able to take the pictures I’ve wanted it will have to wait until next week. Sorry. Instead, I give you a report of the 2nd Annual Unique Los Angeles Independent Design and Gift Sale, a great idea that didn’t entirely live up to its promise.

Here’s the scoop: Unique LA jammed up space at the California Market with designers and artists selling their wares – jewelry, clothes, greetings cards, chocolate, and an assortment of stuff. Key word: local. The ground-floor room focused on specifically “green” vendors, like a fellah who transformed record album covers into snazzy take-out boxes, while the 13th floor was more general in scope. The overall feeling was of a hipster’s arts and crafts fair, an urban version of a country crafts sale.

It’s my understanding they have several events like this, although this looks to be one of the biggest for the obvious holiday-related reason.

For all the nobility that comes with bypassing the whole made-in-China thing, however, Unique LA suffered from a curious lack of diversity. There were plenty of t-shirt vendors and jewelry-makers, plenty of letterpresses selling greeting cards, plenty of baby and kids stuff. After a while, the juxtaposition of idiosyncratic vendors only highlighted just how similar the idiosyncrasies tended to be. How disappointing. Curious was the overall lack of truly refined, elegant products. It was like walking into a clothing store and finding lots of nifty jeans and t-shirts but very few dress shirts and blazers. The most disappointing quality of the show had to be, hands down, the lack of items for men. Bling for the ladies? Oh yes. Accessories and cute indie-designer clothes for the gals? You bet. Gifts for moms? Absolutely. Dads, however, were mostly out of luck in the gift department, and so were guys looking for a unique sumthin’-sumthin’ for themselves. Like I said: lack of diversity. I feel very excluded.

But in any case, there were standouts. My favourites of the show are:

Crows Cloth: Accurately self-described as “peculiarly unique textile art,” I’m reminded of the cheery macabre oddities from Necromance on Melrose. Doriandra offers t-shirts, bloomers, skirts, pants, hats, bags, creatures adorned with medical diagrams, pages from Coton Mather’s treatise on witches and demons, quirky erotica, or other delightfully peculiar images. Think Victorian by way of steampunk, seasoned with goth, and crafted with skill, class, and wit that goes beyond genre offerings. Bonus points for eco-friendly vintage re-use. I bought my wife a fuzzy black hat with cat ears – we call it a Russian Kitty hat – and she’s been getting much admiration for it ever since.

Dust and Co: In speaking with a few other folk who went to the show, the verdict came in: a wee bit pricey, but wow, what a concept. Using recycled watch parts – mechanisms, clock faces – and vintage finds, Jill crafts rings, pendants, and cuff links that are mechanical yet minimalist, industrial yet not without an elegant flourish. Forget the fanciful stuff that belongs to a cosplay convention; Jill delivers on the honest, DIY side of steampunk.

Loomlab: Founder Jane Henry offers some funky fresh scarf and pocket square designs drawing on her experience working at Reebok International designing tennis apparel and, more recently, at the fashion house of Tadashi Shoji & Associates. Designs are inspired by technology - circuit boards, barcodes, Braille – and make me wish I incorporated pocket squares and scarves in my wardrobe. (Personally, my scarf style is cold weather and Tom Baker but I can admire, can't I?) Materials range from silk to wool. Lovely, lovely accessories for today’s fashionable wardrobe.

Scarlett Glass: A mother-daughter team of artists. Daughter Sunny offers photography and fused glass pieces of jewelry including pendants and earrings - elegant, understated, reasonably priced. Sally is all about pot melted glass with vibrant, amorphous colours.

The question is, would I go again? Sure...with tempered expectations and a more detailed look at the vendor list beforehand.

For a full list of the vendors, click here.

How about you? Did you go to Unique LA? Find anything? Share your shopping experience by leaving a comment below...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Face Your Hairs, Never Never Never Never Give Up

Aqua Catlin

The Clog. Toe Socks. Recycled Rubber Sandals. Some things Frederik and I will never see eye to eye. But each to his own and as I've said, there's room for most points of view. Except on the toesock thing and the clog thing too.

But then, he's got the gift of bald. He can use the coolest product on the planet, Headblade, which is run by some quite cool baldies I like to visit with him. Lucky Frederik can go through life looking confident, clean and pretty much in charge of his world...most people look at bald men with some awe. Even in his toe socks, he's still got impressively healthy looking skin-head. I assume its the Headblade. Done.

Me, I have endle$$ experiments in foundations, primers, revver-uppers, cleansers, toners, sunscreens and moisturizers. Doesn't seem to matter that I've got 2 kinds of primers (goes - I think - over your toner and moisturizer before the foundation...?), turns out I need a specific brand that is really the best. Is it ok to use it with a sunscreen as well? Nope! That's too much on the skin. So which do I choose? According to extraordinarily talented makeup artist, model, and talent Brooke Mason,
( she also gets photocredit for my pic here), I need to be using the primer at night-events and the sunscreen, (spf50, no more or less will do), during the day.

I use Arbonne, for most of my skincare and cosmetics
, a wonderful quality brand. I also represent them if you'd like to try anything but this is not a salespitch. Its a cry for help really from too many options, or not enough. But I've used Arbonne foundations and love them, then came the Bare Mineral powder foundation trend and I tried that instead and quite liked it. Then I ran out recently for the second time. I suppose I was bored but I wanted to try what Brooke was recommending. Cargo foundation. Well after reading a lot of consumer reviews which I also do for shoe, car and electronics purchases, I went into Sephora and after trying several options, I walked out with Makeup Forever's High Definition foundation. I've had this endless hunt because I tend to have an oily t-zone. Don't judge, it keeps your t-zone looking younger for longer. But with MF, it was just too young-looking a Tzone. So I exchanged that for the Cargo and quite like it. The packaging is eco-friendlier because its in a foil bag with a screw-cap and it won't fill much of a land-fill. Plus it smells exotic for something so utilitarian. But I wonder if the powder wouldn't have been just as good with less time invested? And the Arbonne liquid foundation I used to use made me pretty happy at the time too, and for skin health their products aren't rivaled within the price-point.

Hair: different story. I didn't love the Arbonne for my lame locks. It didn't fatten them at all. Can't do much to it anyway. Can't go Frederik's route. Thanks Brooke for the new cute hair style, it helps! Still, my hair is so fine I can tease it at the root several times a day, hairspray it for nearly $20 a bottle, and still run my fingers through it easily like it was brushed by two handmaids I didn't notice. This on top of volumizing Root Lift by Kiehl's, whose thickening shampoo is good! Success! At $20. Does anything work extremely super well? I'd probably pay more if so but otherwise, I'd like to pay less! I think perhaps the Root Lift does a little something. For guess how much? $20. I've settled on, when I can find time: curl it and get happy. It gets to bounce around for at least 5 hours before it starts to straighten and fall again. Like a little Cinderella moment.

I mentioned I needed to improve my body, recently and so was asked if I "like myself". Of course I like myself! This is vanity not insecurity. What's wrong with wanting "the pretty" or "the perfect"? If we stop trying, we're either not inspired or not girls. There'd be something wrong if I didn't want to improve.

This post isn't very fashionoclast, I know. Its barely even a full review of any one product or brand. Its just a review of my experiences in experimenting. Its been time to read reviews, ask questions, find parking, get excited, avoid frustration, buy, try, request samples, return, exchange, mix and match, and eventually settle on:

A. Use the best you can afford especially in skincare: Arbonne or Clarins, or Headblade. And I learned, if you make a mistake with a product, your face will still be there and no one but you will know the difference.
B. With your hair, devote the time to getting the right look that frames your face and know that the $60 means nothing if you don't. And even if you do. Unless you're bald, then see A.
C. We can experiment forever wanting better products, bodies and habits and maybe never settle on just one miracle solution, its because you do like yourself and believe in having the best possible face forward (which is being respectful to others and yourself)...and maybe one day, thinner calves and big fat hair.

I'm not even going to get into the 3 kinds of mascara I bought in the last 6 weeks. Questions? Makeovers? Product recommendations?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

unique LA: independent design &gift sale

Frédérik here with a special announcement for all you Los Angeles people. This weekend, December 5 and 6th, is the Second Annual Unique Los Angeles Holiday Show. From the website,
When: December 5&6, 11am - 6pm both days
Where: California Market Center (110 East 9th Street - Map It)
Cost: $10, with partial proceeds going to the local non-profit 826LA! Entry gets you an exclusive-to-the-show limited edition tote bag, a free drink ticket, unlimited re-entry for both days, and access to our great lineup of free workshops. (children 12 and under are free)

Show Details: UNIQUE LOS ANGELES is an exciting two-day shopping event that showcases independent design talent at great prices - with an emphasis on "made in America" goods, 99% of products at the show are proudly made right here in the USA! On top of shopping the wide variety of offerings, the event boasts many exciting Extras & Amenities, including free workshops, a lounge area, and two cafes. Plan to spend the day with us!

New to the Show - Our special GREEN ROOM will feature over 50 eco designers!
This exciting eco-friendly area features an amazing selection of green vendors. The environmentally friendly products include everything from clothing, bath and body care, stationery, bedding, and loads more. We've partnered with the fab crew at the eco blog Your Daily Thread to bring you cool workshops and surprises throughout the space!

Clothing & Accessories • Stationery • Jewelry • Housewares • Artwork • Ceramics
Gourmet Edibles • Plush Toys • Books • Photography • Screenprints • Lots more!
My wife and I will be there, keeping an eye out for exciting stuff - especially in the eco-friendly "Green Room." Of course, I'll report back. But if you happen to go, please drop me a line and let me know about your own fun discoveries!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

sandals and the Tarahumara Indians

by frédérik sisa

Okay, kids, welcome back! I trust you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday stuffed, as it were, with turkey, tofurky, or other culinary delights. But it's back to business here at the Fashionoclast, and I'm really excited about the sandals - and the fascinating story that goes with them - I'll be writing about both here and, in a few months time, at The Front Page Online.

So what are huarache running sandals? And what do they have to do with the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico? This week I lay the groundwork through a little chat with Sean Hull of

Who are the Tarahumara Indians?

Probably one of the last indigenous/native tribes of the world who are completely removed from 'modern' civilization. They are closely related to the native American tribes of the Southwest.

How did you discover them?

By chance. On a completely unrelated trip to that part of Mexico to see the Copper Canyon, I ran across this tribe of native Indians so removed from civilization, it was almost unbelievable.

What challenges to they face?

Primarily, surviving on their own land due to a) a long running drought, b) environmental 'depreciation' (due to such things as logging), and c) the ever-increasing narco traffic/activities in their habitat.

What makes their sandals so special?

Two words: minimalist & functional. Born out of necessity & circumstance, the sandals are minimal - tire treads & leather straps - but serve their purpose and (as it turns out) support a growing trend in our own culture – running barefoot or with minimal footwear.

What made you decide to get involved?

Just as unbelievable it was to see these Indians so removed from modern civilization, so was their plight. Seeing mothers, with kids in tow, practically eating dirt in the streets of the cities as they were panhandling was brutal. It seemed so absolutely impossible only south of the U.S. border.

How does purchasing these sandals benefit the Tarahumara...and what do wearers get out of it?

Cash means nothing to the Tarahumara. They live off their land & each other. So we work with a non-profit organization that uses the cash to provide items to the Tarahumara that they desperately need basic necessities such as corn. What the wearers get are sandals that are handmade artifacts (if you will) and the sense of helping people that desperately need it.

What are your plans for

For now, establish a source of revenue for the Tarahumara. In the long run, maybe a place where other people in need can sell their handmade sandals. Not trying to be dramatic, but sandals have been made by people all across the world since the stone age.

What organizations are you working with/supporting?

For now, I'm going to keep that one close to the vest. But know that they are not-for-profit & absolutely consumed with helping the Tarahumara in any way they can. For example, one of the organizations has negotiated a contract with Wal Mart (somewhat ironic) in Mexico to sell the Tarahumara weaved-grass "pottery."

A big shout-out to Sean for his generous help pointing me to great resources on the Tarahumara and for getting me a pair of sandals to try out. Next week, it'll be a detailed foots-on review. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

a little gem called Melrose Alley

by frédérik sisa

Cities always have pleasant little secrets, favourite word-of-mouth spots for locals in the know. LA, of course, is no different. I happened across Melrose Alley courtesy of ballroom dance classes. When you’re switching partners to practice a new step, conservations inevitably ensue - and from these conversations come all sorts of discoveries. It turns out that a fellow dance student, fashionista extraordinaire Sheila Speer, is the owner of this upscale little boutique tucked into an alleyway off of La Cienega immediately past Melrose. Contrary to what you might think, the store isn’t named after the alleyway; the alleyway is named after the store thanks to a more pliant city some time ago. Another surprise is that Melrose Alley has been in business for 25 years, getting by without advertising or flashy signs. It doesn’t even have storefront on Melrose Avenue. The only way to reach it is through the alleyway, passing by the backsides of various buildings until the small landscaped courtyard and entrance beckons you inside.

Within, the atmosphere is elegant and welcoming – a bottle of Centanario tequila and plates filled with various sweets offer visitors a hospitable treat. It feels rather like a private salon.

“We cater to an older clientele,” Sheila tells me. And a loyal clientele with discerning tastes too. A lady who came in to find some lovely pieces to add to her wardrobe, obviously a regular, told me just how much she loves coming to Melrose Alley. I can see why: Melrose Alley offers a wonderful selection of sophisticated, stylish, contemporary fashions and accessories.

But what, exactly, does it mean to cater to an “older” clientele? It means, for a start, no teeny-bopper or college fashions. This isn’t Forever 21, Gap, or Urban Outfitters with trendy clothes. Nor is it the typical Beverly Hills kind of boutique with fashion from the usual suspects – Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and so on. In a spirit of fashion iconoclasm for an underserved age group (I won’t bother with numbers, which don’t really mean much), Sheila seeks out stylish fashion and jewelry designers with more individuality and independence than the large fashion houses, but certainly as much attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship. Local designers are of particular interest, although national/international designers with a distinctive flair will find a place in the store. What struck me about the fashion on display – coming from design houses like Dismero, Robika, Stiletto, Evan Roberts, and others – is the detailing. A Stiletto skirt features strategically bunched fabric held in place by frog clasps. Another Stiletto skirt, longer on one side than the other, features two rows of frog clasps that give the skirt a sort of gothic/industrial look. Shirts by Dismero featuring creative button work, with pairs of alternating buttons accenting a shirt defined by a distinctive knotted fabric. Unfortunately, I take fuzzy pictures so some of the pieces I hoped to show you didn’t turn out. Here’s a serviceable snapshot of some of the pretty things I found, though:

Alas, gentlemen, there is nothing for us. Ladies, however, who have gotten past the trend of clothes with the word “PINK” plastered over their posterior would be hard-pressed not to find some elegant little number. And here’s another incentive to pop on by and say hi to Sheila: December 5th is the store’s 25th anniversary, which means, yes, discounts.

Melrose Alley
8465 1/2 Melrose Alley
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Many thanks to Sheila for her time...and for the tequila. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

a few words with Tessa Clogs

by frédérik sisa

In the world of footwear, clogs don’t get much respect. Even the name doesn’t often strike awe in the hearts of fashionistas. Stiletto. Espadrille. Gladiator. Mocassin. Brogues. Wingtips. Claaawwwwwggs…see?

But the humble clog, while not for all fashion types, is easily underestimated. Not only is its reputation as a hard worker well-deserved, it can be a very effective item of style - as this young woman illustrates. I like clogs precisely because they aren’t aristocratic. They have a certain proletarian quality that comes across as bohemian and down-to-earth. Clogs are not pretentious. And practical? Oh yes. Clogs are comfortable footwear with the substance of a shoe but the ease of a slide.

A surprise is that while clogs are typically relegated to the fringes, Big Fashion will, on occasion, take notice, as in the case of Karl Lagerfeld’s playful and refined work on the Chanel Spring 2010 collection. Stylin’!! Check it out:

(Image from

You don’t have to look to Chanel, however, if you want clogs suited to your own personal style. If you’re not in the mood for the straightforward style offerings of big brands like Dansko and Sanita, a good option rests with clog artisans like Tessa Clogs/Swedish Clog Cabin, who offer handpainted clogs, a very nice selection of colours (even for guys), and a few innovative touches like the “Tessa Straps.” I can’t speak from personal, hands-on experience, but I love their online catalog and the shoes have gotten rave reviews elsewhere on the web (see here, for example) So, to learn a bit more about these clog crafters, I had a friendly little eMail chat with Chris and Tessa Manning, owners of Tessa Clogs/Swedish Clog Cabin.

What made you decide to open a store focused on clogs?

Tessa (who is from the south of Sweden) and I (from the Midwest with Swedish Grandparents) met in 1993. After a trip to Sweden to visit relatives in 1994 we came back wearing hand painted clogs made in Tessa's home town. After wearing them around town and having so many people comment on them, we decided that we should begin to import them. So in 1994, we began to work with a few different manufacturers in Sweden and brought them here to Vail. When our shipments would arrive, Tessa then would spend evenings painting them up and selling them to Vail locals and stores in town. From here, we continued to grow selling locally and nationally at other fine boutiques. 1998 was when we opened up our first Swedish Clog Cabin and in 2000 we moved to our current location, downtown Vail approximately 100 yards from the ski lifts.
The Tessa Straps are a nice touch...what's the story behind them?

We know that people like to accessories and we continued to brain storm over how we could do this with our clogs. After playing around one day with straps, we came up with the idea of having an interchangeable strap and the Tessa Snap Strap was born. What is fantastic about this idea is that a person can have one pair of clogs but change the look by just changing our snap strap.

I'm picturing a town full of people wearing clogs...How are your clients, especially your fellow residents of Vail, incorporating clogs into their wardrobe?

Being a mountain town, we have a casual, fresh, hip, funky, bohemian style that we all live. So our locals and guests tend to wear our Tessa Clogs all season, dressed up and dressed down. You can see Tessa Clogs being worn by all sorts of folks: from men tuning skis here in town to some great celebs in NYC wearing them out on the town. What is so fun to see, is all of our
returning guests coming in to get there new pair of Tessa Clogs when they are visiting.

What advice do you have for someone who may have never worn clogs before but is curious to try?

Tessa Clogs are a wonderful addition to your life. Of course we all want the fashion but sometimes we forget about the comfort. All feet are different but the shape of our sole has been made for an anatomically correct position. So when your feet slide in, the position that they are put into is one that can be comfortable for all day standing and walking. If you ever take a peek at folks that are on the feet for hours on end, they are wearing clogs - and we are trying to get the world to wear Tessa Clogs :-)

Many thanks to Chris and Tessa for their time answering my questions!

As for you lot, dear readers, if you’re not exhausted by Aqua’s rapid-fire interrogation in her last post, sound off below…do you wear clogs? How do you keep it stylish?

One more thing: if you do choose to get yourself a pair of Tessa Clogs, please drop me a line and let me know!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Shoe

By Aqua Catlin

Sorry guys, another lady post. There's so much shoe news of late its a shoe-in for a review on my favorite topic. I've been trying to contact Pamela Anderson or her people. She's come out with a new line of boots. Not sexy mamma boots. In the style of "Uggs." Named after their appearance? Anderson's are vegan apparently and called Pammies. Its cool she found a way not to use animal products because Uggs are what they are because of what they are: sheep skin and wool. Its nice for all you vegans out there to have another footwear option. If you can call them that. But goodluck getting a pair. Navigating Pam's website to get into the store page is impossible and I've had to do a bit of detective work as there's no "contact us" page. So far I've gotten no response. Waiting. I'm a bit more 99 than 007. tick tick tick

When I was a child, I wore quality shoes all the time. This meant hideous brown leather, (this was key), monsters such as Hush Puppies and worse. Have you seen these things? My memory says "heavy and ugly" and I'm too traumatized to find an image. I almost got a pair of black patent mary janes when I was 7, but mother backed out of the purchase and got the Pups. sob. All the other kids got to wear junk: fun, vinyl, colorful kids' shoes. They also got to eat meat while I was raised vegetarian. Contradict much, Mum? Ah well. I just giggle and remember when my 5 year old brother threw his Pups into traffic as we walked home from school and I strap on a pair of 4 inch heals on my way out for sushi.

I've done a bit of research over the last couple days and years. Doing my tango dancing, I've become really aware of t-straps. Ladies, if you can, then avoid the ankle strap - it really shortens your legs. Fun though. I also notice how nice it is to have padding under your feet and toes. I can't find the link for you but Target and CVS sell a really cute padded satin insert for high heels. It comes in a 3 pack for about $10 with 2 different neutrals and a sexy leopard print pair. I go through these like water. Also for closed toes this season, pictured here is a nice nude elasticated lace toe cover that's ingeniously padded on the bottom and pretty on top.

Another great product that's widely available, an arch support without being the entire insert/insole. Its for anyone wearing a flat base shoe or in this case, heel, and I'll bring a few pair to the set and make someone my emotional slave for the entire shoot by handing over a brand new pair when they need it most. You remove the backing and stick it down to the shoe. You can use it on any flat, sandals too. Its close to invisible but if you're in pain you don't really care if someone catches a glimpse. I really recommend this one for guys too. Arch and foot support is so key!

And so is fit. Fit is hardest to achieve. One foot bigger, the brand doesn't make half-sizes, their 6.5 fits your 7 foot but their other 7.5 feels too tight. Nope, they're out of 8. Want 8.5? You've been there. One great cure for the shoe that's slightly too big, is a combo of heel grips (stick it on the inside of the heel and avoid blisters too!) and the satin inserts. Just one option will do it ok but together you're truly cosy. Today I paired my one size too big heel - pictured above - with just the inserts. Wore them for hours with barely any slipping out, though I was careful. Speaking of slipping...

Today met someone wearing these. Looked like a gimmick and a cry for attention but what do I know about this kind and informative stranger. It was a very silly walk. But futuristic..?

Said he was a dancer and that it saved him from 80% of the impact as well as strengthened his entire bod. Maybe. But isn't that what Curves and MBTs claim with a much lower profile? Kangajumps. Not my first choice in fitness footwear. May as well talk about that too. Taste.

What makes some love heels and others go for flats? Are you a flat lover? I'd love to know why, please explain below. Some are cute and every shoe has a place. But heels are heels. No matter how my feet may pay, I will put them in heels while I'm alive to do it. But not without some taste.

Lady Gaga
wears these hoove-like no-nos by Alexander McQueen in her absolutely gorgeous new video for her song "Bad Romance". Its a must see. Such styling! I am looking out for the first pics of other celebs actually wearing them to events. They will be torn apart by fashion critics, quite rightly.

Jimmy Choo, luxury footwear designer is doing a line of his famous shoes for H&M. I've never been a fan but now... in this price point...I'm sure that I will die without the blue cage heel and I'm sure that its already all sold out. sob. Well, since I recently joined Shoedazzle, I may pull through with and alternate. And is it so wrong that a vegetarian wouldn't mind giving those zebra flats a whirl round the brunch buffet? Update: Yes they are sold out and now double the price on Ebay.

Let me know your thoughts,
heels or flats? Why? What do the men in your life like? Why? Any brilliant shoe fixes of your own? My shoes are always in and out of the shoe repair. Those guys really maintain a loved shoe. Has anyone noticed how Steve Madden's shoes feel like the devil lives in them while Carlos Santana's line is comfy like a royal slipper? Do you think they care? Do you like Euro or American sizing better? Anyone need the actual measurement chart? Any observations in general? If you could only wear one shoe forever which would it be?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

guayaberas: dispatches from the great shirt quest of '09

by frédérik sisa

The Day of the Dead is my favourite of all the holidays. Introspective yet festive, colourful yet funerary – just the sort of thing that suits my gothic-go-lucky frame of mind. Although it’s been a few years since my wife and I celebrated the Day of the Dead at the historic Olvera Street in downtown LA, the happy circumstance of my wife getting a photograph in an exhibit at the Pico House provided the impetus for a return.

The exhibit was lovely, and the wonderful day proved chock-full of people, costumes, dancing, Calaveras, altars…and, of course, margaritas and a fine Mexican dinner with good friends at La Golondrina. As is traditional – as a tourist destination, Olvera Street is, unsurprisingly, full of shopping opportunities – I hunted for shirts. But while I’ve opted in the past for t-shirts with beautiful Jose Posada artwork (see image at left), this time I hunted under the Prime Directive of the Great Shirt Quest of ’09: Thou Shalt Avoid T-Shirts.

And thus, my discovery of the guayabera shirt, also known as a Mexican Wedding Shirt. (Wikipedia offers this fun factoid regarding the name: “The origin of the name Guayabera may come from a Cuban legend that tells of a poor countryside seamstress sewing large pockets into her husband's shirts for carrying guava (guayabas) from the field. Guayabera may also have originated from the word yayabero, the word for a person who lived near the Yayabo River in Cuba.”

Not quite a first discovery, though. Cubavera offers guayabera shirts, but I admit I was bit skeptical (especially when going solely by images on a website) and ended up sticking with Cuban-style shirts. After all, the things have 4 pockets. 4! Pockets! Crazy!

After the shock of having so much storage space on a shirt passes, however, the construction and aesthetic appeal stand out. The details are incredible: a row of three vertical buttons at the hem on each side of the waist, rows of pleats (called alforzas) on the front and back, embroidered patterns. If you can get past my lousy picture-taking skills, you can get the gist in these pics:

I ended up getting two shirts; a short sleeved black shirt and a long-sleeved burgundy shirt. (If I succeed in taking decent pictures, I’ll post them.) In the final assessment, these shirts offer both comfort and an impeccable style that can move from formal to casual and back without missing a beat. The pockets even add to the charm - forget guayabas - how about tequila bottles? Guayaberas, then, have proven to be cures for the common shirt and a worthy addition to the wardrobe.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

more fashion news from the trenches of identity politics

by frédérik sisa

Grab yourself a cuppa joe or a martini, this one’s a gabfest…

A few items in the news caught my attention in light of my post on Jonathan Escobar. Before getting to them, however, I’d like to thank Quirkate and Morbidmiss for sharing their thoughts. And morbidmiss? I apologize for not directly responding to you; I was keeping an answer for, well, this post.

As you may recall, the issue was Escobar’s removal from school because the way he “dressed like a girl” was allegedly disruptive. Feedback strongly leaned towards the idea that fashion is, indeed, a means of self-expression and not simply practical ornamentation. Of course, that brings up the whole idea about why one chooses a particular set of clothes: comfort, style, or both. Since I never really answered my own question, other than to object to anyone telling Escobar how he should dress, here it is. As pointed out by many of you, fashion (interpreted broadly to refer to choice of clothing) is, indeed, a means of self-expression as well as an identifier. No surprise there. We see examples of this everywhere: uniforms, for example, identify a function like police officer, doctor, cleric, and so on. People will use their clothes to reveal their inner selves. I’m thinking bright colourful socks for bright colourful people. But the problem is that really no guarantee that any piece of fashion will mean what we want it to mean. There may even be limits to just how communicative fashion can be since it is not a language on par with language. If one person wears stripes and another wears solid, could you really gain insight into these people? Would it be possible to assign a meaning to the choice? The problem is that sometimes people don’t wear anything because it means anything; they just wear it because they like it.

Then we have to consider cultural context and the influence of value judgments, which leads to the notion that as individuals we have no real control over how people interpret what we wear. Consider goths, for example. Within the community, the black clothes and funerary ornaments hold a particular set of meanings. To the mainstream, however, goth fashion can hold negative and derogatory meanings like “freak,” “depressed,” “Columbine massacre,” and so on. Where the goth may be asserting his or her individuality, others may see a morbid obsession. And what about culture? To cultures not steeped in Western funerary customs, the significance of the colour black and other gothic accoutrements may simply not register. Unfortunately, and this is the crux of the issue, the clothes themselves don’t decisively settle things one way or another. Meaning can’t be fixed and reliable. This is why I don’t think it means anything to say “dress like a girl;” there is no objective foundation by which he can create a link between gender and clothing. It’s all relative, in other words. Which doesn’t diminish the capacity for fashion to be self-expressive. It just means that fashion is self-expressive in a constantly changing environment of signs, meanings, and interpretations.

But there I go veering off into pompous pontificating again. So let me take this whole discussion up a notch with this little bit of news from America’s Next Top Model. During cycle 13, Tyra Banks had the models undergo cosmetic changes to become…another race? From Access Hollywood/Yahoo:
Tyra told bleach blonde Erin Wagner she was going to be "Tibetan, like the Dali Lama, and Egyptian"; Southern belle Laura Kirkpatrick was put into makeup to look "Mexican and Greek"; Jennifer An, who is Korean, was told she was going to be "Botswanan and Polynesian"; African-American Sundai Love was made to look "Moroccan and Russian"; redheaded Nicole Fox was "Malagasy and Japanese," while blonde Brittany Markert was put into makeup to look "Native American and East Indian." (Click here for image source and article.)
And if that isn’t enough, how about that flap over at the French edition of Vogue, in which Dutch model Lara Stone posed in blackface?

(Racist? Artistic? You tell me. Image borrowed from Laetitia at TFS. Click to enlarge.)

Reactions, of course, span the gamut from outrage at perceived racism and equally spirit of experimentation. In the collision between the political and aesthetic, however, the question isn’t so much whether the photos are racist – context is key – but whether the body itself can be just as much an anarchic medium of self-expression as clothing. Answer: what about the efforts we put into changing our bodies – from body piercings and tattoos to darkening one’s skin through tanning? It seems to be that a key factor is individuality versus conformity. To what extent should the individual conform to societal expressions of personal identity, even in matters associated with the body?

Whatever your opinion – and I hope you’ll share it below – one has to give props to Tyra Banks and Vogue for stimulating discussion. Sometimes there is more to the fashion industry than we give it credit for. Sometimes.

And that’s it for the heavy stuff. Next week we break out from the holding pattern with more dispatches from the Great Shirt Quest of ’09. There will be thrills, chills, and…pockets? Oh yes. There will be pockets.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Please, may I have some more...

By Aqua Catlin

I promised a boosie post and I'm glad to deliver. You may remember a previous mention too. Does anyone not like bosoms and cleavage? Breasts give life and they look nice doing it. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't appreciate them so I'm all for doing my best by them.

I love my Hollywood Rising Stars that I discuss here, even more now that I've gotten a second opportunity to wear them. They really work at holding up the girls all night and I got some nice compliments. I fished for those but in the name of research. While you're wearing them, the Cover-Ups are great to cover nipples if you're worried about being a distraction. The great thing about the Cover-Ups is the shape. They're round not that silly petal shape that's so obvious and
under anything silky or sheer the nude opaque coloring is great for a natural look. Its so rare that I'm brave enough to be brazen and again, in the name of research, I wore the Rising Stars without nip-covs last week in a darkened night club. Mostly gay so I chose my moment.

Back to my review. Was super excited to receive my new
Hollywood Extras, Silicone Breast Enhancers. They do enhance the old set but it feels like a new set so they're good with me! Just pop them into your bra, under your bosoms and you're ready to face the day, feeling sexy, round, and femme like a '50's pinup. They really knew how to fill out their tops back then didn't they?
See Rita. See the rest of Rita...
Were those girls' bigger, better or just knew how to pad? It doesn't matter since I've got the Hollywood Extras. They hold them up. Or, depending on the event and time, in. Its a much rounder look in the area all around. Its enjoyable and strange to feel somehow more feminine by just adding a secret slice of silicone. (No secret now but maybe girls will find this useful.)

Personally, I love femmy life but breast enlargement is not for me so this is a really fun little miracle. (Actually a lot of the brand's products seem like little miracles! I'm still crazy for their Hollywood Sweater Savers and Squares! I sound like a commercial but I know what's good.)

And the price is so very right. $39 and change for all that goodness. These should really last forever too if you use the Hollywood Insiders. I recommend them because it gets warm in there! They're a comfortable and disposable soft cover for the silicone and so soft against Thanks, Hollywood Fashion Tape, for including this in my package, I'm so glad to have it!

The Extras are heavy. Don't wear a flimsy bra, Girls. And
I developed an addiction to using them so I noticed how they look in every position under all kinds of tops and dresses. I recommend wearing a top or dress that's a little snug around the boosie area . Otherwise you'll look a little weighty. Not that there's anything wrong with that but keep in mind when you choose what you're wearing that it adds roundness and volume right there and if you wear a loose top it'll hang and drape larger than your torso really is off of those great bulbous smile-makers on your chest. Its actually a very feminine feeling though so feel free to play with it. Send pics!

Should we talk about the elephant in the room? How or if men react? I enhanced on 2 dates, a tango class, a tango party plus several days about in the world. Guys always seem nice but certainly there are glances in the 'below the chin' direction. Which I myself am not that comfortable with. If its going to happen I prefer not to see it and really in general I don't, but with these I caught lots of peeps and its a brief moment of ahem. I'm not saying its not worth it... it is, but prep yourselves for it. Guys like round bits. Silicone or real or a bit'o'both.

Led me to wonder, is it misleading to enhance on a date? What if you weren't enhanced when you met then suddenly you are enhanced? Would it be noticed if you unenhanced on down the road say in a few months? I'm all for enhancing on a final date! Tell me your thoughts and if you're thinking of investing in this little fun treat, please stay in touch with your own reviews.
Okaaay then!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

sherman, set the wayback machine to past reviews...

by frédérik sisa

So I’m in a bit of a holding pattern here until the various irons I have going get hot. In the meantime, I thought I’d offer an update on some of the products I’ve reviewed.

First up are Topsies, which I finally got around to ordering. The clincher was the sale price and the company’s offer to make a size 8 for me despite not listing anything lower than a 9 in their shop. Naturally, I ordered a pair in black and I have to say, these stretchy sandals are really comfortable despite the lack of arch support. Put a snug-fitting sock and a flip-flop together and presto, a comfy pair of sandals. Outside ractions have been mixed; some skepticism, some praise. But I’ve found they feel great and have a distinctive look that I like. And how do I wear them? With long pants – I think they look better on me with pants than with shorts. My only concern in recommending them is the price. It’s not that they aren’t a good value. On the other hand, these are handmade in the US, so…it’s a judgment call. I don’t have any regrets, and that’s pretty much the verdict.

Next are Dopies, those wacky things. I haven’t quite put them through their paces, but so far they’ve lived up to my review. They’re attention getters and plenty of fun. The only caveat – and this is a common problem with many shoes made of synthetic materials (my experience with a pair of Keens went disastrously wrong in the blister department, once upon a time) – is that there a wee bit of chafing in some spots, thus requiring the judicious use of a bandage. It’s really not that bad, though, and this is the sort of problem that really depends on one’s feet. What chafes for me may not chafe for you. And since Dopies really are flip-flops and not shoes, one has to keep in mind their function as designed. Bottom line: I still dig them.

…and I’m afraid that’s all I have this week. Next week will be back to the usual fully-loaded posts.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Some POP, People!

By Aqua Catlin

Last night was the first opening reception, "Meaningful," of the POPGallery, a Culver City gallery owned by the fabulous grassroots Creative Brand Engineers, Pencil On Paper Studio. It’s a great gallery to support because 100% of the profits go back to the artists. POP donates their fabulous space, people power and time and passion to supporting the art and it will contribute much to the community I think. Meaningful included installation, watercolor portraits, woodprints and photography. Lots to show up for. And...

Lots of fun and “interesting” people showed. You know who I mean. They’re easy to find anywhere but near LA. Though you can see they're influenced by the city. But still: No hair dye, no makeup, no pretension, very authentic and sweet, leaning toward appreciating same. They brought their kids and the kids were well behaved and drew and painted in their own area. Art by kids at an art show after 8. Pretty cool. There was wine. There were the usual 50% dressed all in black. It was still a gallery reception but it felt like there was more genuine interactions and fun than pretension.

For those who weren’t wearing black from head to toe, some very interesting fashions. Not all of them fashion forward but, that made it so fun and interesting. It was a reminder that art isn’t confined to the displayed artists and fashion is not confined to Us Magazine, H&M, Forevs 21 (31), Robertson Blvd or Rodeo Drive. This is easily forgotten sometimes!

My favorite outfits were worn by:
the Gallery Mamma who's a co-owner with her husband and showed up in the head to toe black flowing skirt and top and accessorized with a new born baby in a black sling across her chest. Baby covered, visible, safe and flaunted, Mamma chic, artsy, proud, accessorized.

And I couldn’t take my eyes off the woman wearing a silky sky blue and purple voluminous yet structural, diagonal off the shoulder dress-thing with one long billowy sleeve and a 2 level hem… Turns out to be a pair of harem pants she put on wrong once and now wears as a dress. With cowboy boots and jeans. Yep. I’d have left off the jeans, but then, I’d never have thought to include them, so you go, Fashionoclista!

I also loved looking at the guy in a crazy vest over vertical stripes with thin tie and expensive old looking distressed boots and a hat. I always appreciate the highly polished, clean, tucked in types who attended too. Katie from POP was in both silver and gold paired with both black and brown with bright blue. Awesome. And Ann who put it together always wears a structurally re-worked t-shirt and is a vision. Suffice to say, it was fun to be there, and as fun to look around at the people as the art.

I hope any of you locals will find the time to support the gallery and that any of us who’re interested in doing so, will find inspiration in the fearlessness shown by the attendees and supporters of art.

That was fun but next week we go boosie. I missed y'all!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

on vacation

Frédérik, here, with apologies. On account of taking some time off starting tomorrow, I wasn't able to put together a post for today. But I'll be back on track next Tuesday. Among some of the pieces I'm working: ethical footwear, clogs (not of the plumbing variety), and more dispatches from the frontlines of the Great Shirt Quest of 2009. And men in skirts? You never know. Until next week...

Monday, October 12, 2009

dressing like a girl: no such thing

How’s this for a headline:

Cobb Teen Told He Can't Dress Like A Female At School

As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the teen in question is Jonathan Escobar, a sixteen-year-old whose preferred attire includes skinny jeans, wigs, makeup, and heels. After being told by an assistant principal that the way he dresses is disruptive – a fight apparently broke out because of it – and he should dress more “manly” or be home-schooled, Escobar took himself out of school. He had only been at North Cobb High School for three days. You can read more about the story here and watch a video report here.

Of course, it seems rather unjust to force Escobar to dress in some particular way in the absence of an official, precisely defined school uniform. After all, what harm is he doing? The most revealing aspect of the story, however, is the one left unspoken. There is a hidden assumption in both the school’s reaction and the way in which the story was reported.

"I don't consider myself a cross-dresser," he said. "This is just who I am."

If you look at the article’s headline, the assumption is right there, in these words: “Dress Like a Female.” But what, exactly, does it mean to dress like a female…or a male? When a baby is born, we obviously don’t wait until it puts on clothes to figure out whether it’s male or female. We know a baby’s sex from biology, and even then biology is sometimes ambiguous. It’s only once we have the biology settled that we start we get a line of reasoning that goes as follow:

If sex M, then fashion FM
If sex F, then fashion FF.

The trouble is that there is no correlation between clothes and sex through biology, and world history and culture is filled with a colourful variety of clothes for both sexes that, today, would not be fashionably acceptable. So far, this isn’t anything new, and neither is the inverse:

If fashion FM, then sex M.
If fashion FF, then sex F.

The mediating factor is, of course, culture. Looking at Escobar, the media assumes that because he is “dressing like a girl” – that is, according to the symbols of a female gender – he sees himself as a girl. But since he is obviously a boy, then there is gender confusion – cross-dressing. Of course, the very notion of cross-dressing is only possible when you assume that men dress like FM and women dress like FF. What happens, however, if we abolish this assumption? If we consider gender as a social construct built around anatomy then fashion, as a manifestation of gender ideals reinforced by Big Fashion, is by definition also a construct that arises from tradition, social expectations, ritual, and so on. But before I veer too far off into pretentious pontification, let me dial it back a bit. The question is to what extent the clothes we wear have a deeper meaning other than function (to protect from the weather) or aesthetic (to look fabulous). Does a business suit really give us an indication as to job skill? Does an apron tell us about a chef’s culinary ability? Is it possible that maybe we care too much what other people do or do not wear?

Perhaps fashion shouldn’t serve a communicative, pop-psychology function…because ultimately it can’t. The persistent belief that it does results in situations like the one Jonathan Escobar faces. (And he’s lucky that’s he not in a place where people get stoned or beaten for defying gender expectations.)

What do you think? Do clothes really say something about a person or are they just practical ornaments?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the sublime patterns of Vera Bradley

by frédérik sisa

Purse Envy n. The state of envying a purse you cannot have for yourself. Not to be confused with Freudian kinds of envy.

Here’s a vicious little catch-22. Pockets are great for holding the vitals, except for that unfortunate bulging effect that ruins the sleek look. Purses and clutches (or “man purses” and “mlutches”) along with various messenger bags and the like are great for maintaining smooth lines…but you have to carry the darn things. And remember to take them with you as you leave. There may not be a solution to the dilemma, except for the usual choose the right accessory for the right occasion. Of course, part of that choice, especially for the ladies, might just be a little easier with a little (or big) something-something from Vera Bradley.

The company has been around for 20 years. It began, as the website states, “While on vacation in March of 1982, [when] Patricia and Barbara were awaiting a flight in Atlanta when they noticed a definite lack of feminine-looking luggage. The longtime friends wasted no time in correcting this situation. Within weeks, these dynamic women had created a company, named after Barbara’s mother, capable of marketing and manufacturing their cleverly designed products.”

It’s all about the fabrics, of course - bold, expressive patterns that swirl and stripe, mosey and mosaic, break free and fall in line. But it really comes together when applying these patterns to a variety of products like handbags, wallets, totes, eyeglasses, ties, cufflinks, luggage, rugs…and a lot more. (Seriously. They have a lot of stuff.) It works very simply: choose your pattern and pick yourself a collection of matching accessories. Matchypoo heaven! The best thing is that for all the gorgeous packaging, a lot of thought has gone into the insides of the bags too. Pockets, zippers – all manner of things to help keep your stuff organized. The usual rule applies: balance patterns to avoid looking like an exploded textile factory. Vera Bradley makes it easy to go bold without going overboard.

(click image to embiggen)

Frankly, I’m not normally a pattern kind of guy. Call me monochromatic, but I generally prefer smooth minimalism (well, minimalish – I do enjoy strong ornamentation) with exceptions. However, the patterns at Vera Bradley are so beautifully detailed and colourful, I can’t resist. It says something that when my wife bought herself a few goodies I was just as excited at the prospect of choosing a fabric and accessories as she was.

Price-wise, Vera Bradley isn’t cheap-cheap. This Euro Wallet, for example, will run you $27. And this little over-the-shoulder everyday bag is $40. Then again, VB isn’t particularly expensive either. Perhaps it’s best to say that Vera Bradley delivers good value and quality for the price.

Last but not least, in looking over their latest collections I had a pleasant surprise – thereby proving the adage that optimists can never be pleasantly surprised. Vera Bradley has a men’s collection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include bags and wallets, but the cufflinks, available in a slew of their signature patterns, sure are spiffy…

…as are the ties and pocket squares. Love it!

Anyone out there a Vera Bradley fan? How are you playing around with patterns in your wardrobe? Operators are standing by for your comments...

Monday, October 5, 2009

featured blogger: pump up the frump

by frédérik sisa

There are zillions of fashion blogs out there. You have your fashion news blogs, your trendwatchers, your style guides and shopping blogs – and then you have your outfit-of-the-day blogs where fashionistas post pictures of themselves in their daily ensemble. Most of these come with a little too much me-me-me on the blogger’s part for my tastes, but one of my favourites, by Becky Haltermon, brings on the friendly served straight and smiling…and, of course, with a distinctive, grounded style rooted in a great sense of play. I still get a kick out of the blog’s moniker: Pump Up the Frump. (Because, by Gunn, there certainly is lot of frumpiness out there that needs to be pumped into shape.)

By way of introducing you to Pump Up The Frump, and in keeping with tradition here at The Fashionoclast, I subjected Becky to really, really fiendish questions.

Apparently, you can often be found wearing clothes. What motivated you to blog about it?
My sister and I are ridiculously close and have always fed each other's fashion obsessions. When she went away to grad school, I found that my outfit audience had dwindled to consisting of my cats. I wanted a way to share eccentric clothing ideas with my sis and whomever else might care. I had no idea that I'd find a huge network of incredible people with tons of ideas and inspirations. My blog offers way more affirmation than the cats ever did.

Just be grateful I didn't make a blog about the time I spend not wearing clothes. Hah.

What are your fashion influences and inspirations?
a. Whatever I find at the thrift store.
b. Whatever my friends donate to me at clothing swaps.
c. My awesome blog buddies.
d. Old movies. I'm still looking for a poncho like the one Luke Skywalker wears in A New Hope and a Cowichan sweater in the style of the Dude in The Big Lebowski.
e. Being cheap.
f. My silly sister.
g. The weather.
h. My dreams.
i. Cool girls who hang out near UC and OSU.

Someone is feelin’ the frump and they want to pump it up - any advice?
Wear whatever you want but do it loud and proud. People don't react to your clothes, they react to how you feel in your clothes.

And your plan for world domination is…?
I am an environmentalist by day so right now I'm too damn busy trying to save the planet, let alone subjugate it.

So there you have it. Pump Up The Frump. Many thanks to Becky for the chat!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

use your head: HeadBlade

by frédérik sisa

When I was a kid, my father had a funny t-shirt that read “God only made a few perfect heads…on the rest he put hair.” (The secular version might read “nature only evolved a few perfect heads…everything else has hair.”) It certainly made the “solar panel for sex machines” t-shirts seem really, really dim-witted. It definitely made baldness seem like something that could be embraced with good humour instead horror. That good humour was much-needed as my hair started thinning in my twenties. I gradually had my hair cut shorter and shorter until, at last, I would get a buzz cut once a month or so. The logical end to that progression was, of course, shaving. And since I’m not Mr. Potato Head, the prospect of going fully bald wasn’t one that provoked panic in the streets, had parents hide their children when I passed by, or prompted my closest peeps to threaten an intervention. (“Put down the shaver, fellah! Just put it down and no one gets ugly!”)

There are benefits of going bald other than happily avoiding the questionable issue of bald spots (if I wanted a tonsure I’d become a monk) and the horror of comboverzilla. No more fuzzy head in between buzzes – buzz cuts are good for about a week or two, then the hair gets too long. No more need for someone else to do the buzzing. True, shaving my head AND my face every day is a bit time-consuming, but at least I can achieve a consistent look under my control. Bald is my style, as it were.

Making the decision to shave the ol’ noggin was made considerably easier thanks to the cool (as in Steve McQueen cool) Culver City-based company HeadBlade, a company. Their signature product is where they get their name from:

(Click image to enlarge.)

The verdict: beautifully curved for domes, blockheads need not apply, it works. Huzzah for good design! I admit that I haven’t entirely given up the straight-edge razor, but the comfortably-shaped, contoured HeadBlade was the perfect way to get the hang of shaving my head. And it’s still never far away.

Just as worthwhile, and vital, is HeadBlade’s range of headcare products; shaving creams, moisturizers, exfoliants, sunscreen. Although I’ve tried other shaving creams and gels, HeadSlick is my favourite. The blade glides very smoothly, the mentholated cream leaves a cool tingly feeling… and razor burn? Forget about it. The moisturizing HeadLube is excellent too, keeping skin nice and fresh, and the sunscreen is a must-have unless you want your head to look burnt. They also offer HeadWipes for when the daily sweat and grime leaves skin feeling icky and oily. I tend to be suspicious about antibacterial soaps and wipes – too much use can result in resistant bacteria, as I understand it – but sometimes the day hits hard and you just have to get not just clean but squeaky. Those head wipes are perfect – convenient, refreshing, squeaky clean.

(Click image to enlarge.)

You don’t have to shave your head to enjoy Headblade’s products, however. In fact, they’ve just introduced the FaceBlade, a compact travel razor suited for face, legs, and “whatever,” that anyone can use. (This is one thing I especially like about the company; they’re always working on new, practical products. I live and work near their HeadQuarters in Culver City; every time I stop by I learn about some exciting new idea in development.) With a focus on men’s grooming needs that are much more attuned than mega-companies like Gillette and an associated brand identity that is masculine without being aggressively, cartoonishly macho, HeadBlade is the real deal. While some brands are about as puffy as cotton candy, HeadBlade’s offering of great products and great value makes a justified claim for brand loyalty.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Color me pretty

By Aqua Catlin

Don't mean to be absent. I'm on a shoot with no cell or internet reception. Its a lovely one, up high in the Malibu mountains. A place previously unknown or imagined. You can actually see stars - a luxury here in LA, and the sky is a clear that I haven't seen in forevs. Though its really hot, typically there have been clouds BELOW us but when they clear in the afternoon you can see the sea.

Leads me to feelin' summery. Hot enough to wear shorts if I only had a tan instead of this cheesecake complexion. I had the weekend off the shoot and used the time to treat myself right. Slept yesterday till 3:30, got my hair done, (Shortys "3 in 1 botanical Shampoo-Conditioner-Bodywash" is an awesome moisture rich find!!), shaved, got a spa mani-pedi with a girlfriend, went out for dinner, and went tanning twice. Two times in two days. I DON'T KNOW. Is this too much? Someone in the know please explain tanning and successful tanning.

In this quest for the right tone of "less white than before" I have toasted myself like a piece of battered fish and chips. Went yesterday for 9 minutes. The max is 12. Took a gay bff's advice and wore my underwear so I'd see the difference and not go all crazy and obsessive and eventually orange.

It didn't work and I went back today all crazy and obsessive and eventually red. I asked the guy at the desk if it was too soon, if I should wear sunscreen and if I should wait a few more days. The answer: "No. Go in for 10 minutes." I knew I knew better but really wanted to wear shorts on the hot set tomorrow. Me: "Should I try one of these expensive looking bronzers?" Him: "Yes. Here, this one's new." Australian Gold Bronze Bronze. So far: Australian Pink Pink Ouch Ouch.

So my tanning saga continues. Mystic is a fail. Spray is a fail. Bed: I feel like El Scorcho salsa from Del Taco. Lucky I covered my face, but the rest of me is tender, so bloody tender. I'm in pain where anything touches me and far from bronzed. Grumble. How long do I need to wait between tans? How dangerous is the Ergoline 450 tanning bed light and what about the Ergoline 800? I love that song Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen by Baz Luhrman and listen to it regularly. Should take my own advice but it didn't feel right in a salon. I was raised in Australia to avoid the sun and to always wear sunscreen and I do. Can I do this in a tanning bed or is it not necessary? I need answers, you gorgeous brownies out there. You're everywhere, so someone must know something.

And moving on, here's what I've learned from the shoot. Don't look everyone up and down to evaluate the usefulness of their apparel to you and your needs...well not off the set anyway. Don't touch the creepy extra guy's clothes from behind while he's wearing them. Don't ever go more than 2 weeks without a manicure. I got an ingrown fingernail and it made me very grumbly. Skirts on men stretch too much. Always have doubles, especially if there's a lot of bright red or green body makeup featured in your film and the key makeup is the nervous type. (Perhaps to help, I can play a role with my special new hue.)

Here's what I've learned again: Double-stick tape rocks, snaps suck, actors who eat in white costumes will be punished, Downey Wrinkle Release is a miracle, sleep and preparation are key but they are not a friend to each other.

Well, this is a bit of a miscellany post but its what I have at this time. Wear Sunscreen!