Accessories are the Unsung Heroes of the Holidays

Photo by Lauren Hagerstrom

The holiday season begins this week with Thanksgiving. Remember this: do not overlook the one thing that can be the difference between an almost-perfect outfit, and perfection. The way I see it – an accessory is the unsung hero of the holidays. Subtle yet essential. It has that x-factor; that special touch that elevates any outfit to another level. When we think about dressing for a holiday we spend so much time choosing the major pieces that we may miss the smaller things: a bag, a statement pin, a necklace, a ring, a dressy stocking – all, accessories. I love to mix high and low – dressy with casual. There is nothing wrong with wearing a sparkly earring with a casual jean. Or, on the other hand, wearing that same earring with an elegant dress because more is always good, too. During the holidays, It’s about giving yourself options, elevating the ordinary, and feeling your most glamorous self. Yes, accessories are the unsung heroes!

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Behind the Creative Mind of Erin O’Brien!

Erin O’Brien

Today marks the BIG UNVEILING of holiday window displays for two major Department Stores in NYC: Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue (other Department stores with holiday displays include, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, and Bergdorf Goodman). This delightful tradition announces the beginning of the holiday season and I thought it would be fun to re-post my interview and a chance to once-again meet the amazing creative mind of freelance window designer and prop stylist, Erin O’Brien. This feature was originally posted on December 23, 2016 …

What is it like to be a freelance window designer at famed department store, Bergdorf Goodman? What is it like to have your heart in New York City but to have found your fashion inspiration in London? What are the consequences of leaving home at age 17? Erin O’Brien knows the answers to these compelling questions because they make the story of her life and journey. Here is Erin, one-of-a-kind style originator, sharing it with us …

I was always interested in fashion but it wasn’t until I traveled to London when I was young, that I found my true fashion sense. At 13-14 I visited my family in Ireland; while there, I begged them to take me to London. Being in London affected me enormously; the edgy style, the music influencers – I felt myself being drawn in to it all and that has stayed with me to this day …

Being a window dresser is not as glamorous as you might think. It’s a lot of grunt work and hard labor. I have been working with Bergdorf Goodman as a freelance window designer since 1997. I work on the windows at Holiday and for special windows throughout the year. For creating the Christmas windows, the process is year-long and begins as soon as Christmas is over. This Holiday, I helped install and style the window on 58th Street – a “Bird’s Eye View” of a dog maze – highlighting the most wanted luxury handbags. I selected the handbags for the window, and I also decorated and installed the Holiday Shop on the 7th floor of Bergdorf’s …

I am a prop stylist, window designer, and prop master; my passion is working with props and designing windows (rather than work with people as a fashion stylist). The essence of window designing is to keep people looking. Windows have to be eye-catching but you have to do more than have people look; they have to keep looking so much that they are willing to enter the store. This is where most windows fall short – when they don’t enter the store. Designing windows is an art; looking at a well-designed window is like looking at a piece of artwork … Continue reading

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“Part of a Hungarian Success Story”

Eszter Aron, left, in the showroom of her Aeron label in Budapest. The five-year-old brand, manufactured in Hungary, now makes more than 60 percent of its sales in Asia.

The Aeron Showroom in Budapest. Credit Akos Stiller for The New York Times

My Grandma Eleanor was born in Budapest, Hungary. Anything Hungarian fascinates me. That’s why reading that Eastern Europe is becoming a new and unexpected growing fashion hub sparked my interest. In 2012, contemporary women’s wear brand Aeron was founded by Eszter Aron, its head designer, and three friends. Vivien Laszloffy joined the business as chief executive in 2015; Ms. Laszloffy says that the label’s philosophy is to be a brand “that people will recognize and know is from Budapest, in the same way people look at Acne and know it’s from Sweden. People say it is against the odds to build a brand from here, rather than move to Paris or Milan, but actually we see it as an advantage. Everyone has a vision in their minds of what a French or Italian brand looks like. But no one can imagine a brand from Budapest yet. And so we can seize that space and make it our own.”  Ms. Laszloffy said the success that Aeron has seen signing on with Itochu, one of Japan’s largest trading companies, has boosted morale at home and put the brand in a new league: “The workers have always worked for foreign companies; now they are part of a Hungarian success story.

Now, when I visit the place where my Grandma Eleanor was born – I can also check out the fashion and the Aeron brand, whose “minimalist aesthetic and techno-fabrics” are helping to bring success home to Hungary.

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French Fashion? Oui, Please!

I have been enjoying wearing French designers lately; for the style and aesthetic, the fabric, the fit – and well, the feel! There is something so elegant about the look and feel of a French-made piece of clothing. I asked Gabrielle, friend, owner, and curator of my new favorite boutique, The Collective, just what it is that is so appealing about French designers. Here is what Gabrielle said: “Working with clothing for the past 5 years, I’ve noticed that French and Italian designers just know how to tailor clothing to a woman’s body. For example, Cinzia Rocca coats are some of the best I’ve seen. I think this is part of the reason we, as American women, look to the French women for inspiration… they wear classic, well-tailored items that look effortless… and no matter what we classify our ‘style’ as, I think most can appreciate the “effortless” vibe.”

Ooh, effortless – that is the word! Dressing has been effortless.

Outift (mostly French): Coat, Maje; sweater A.P.C.; pants, The Row (American); shoes, Talbots (American)

Photos by Abrina Hyatt

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Your Boots and Bags Need Attention, too!

I was moving along my day when all of a sudden the strap to my everyday handbag broke! What to do with broken leather at a moment’s notice? I pull out my boots for the first wear of the season and notice the heel has worn down. The weather changes – you adjust to a different handbag, the boots come out, the shoes need to be sturdier. This is the time to make sure you have a reliable shoe and leather repair source.

I have been going to Rago Brothers – a family run local cobbler – for their expertise and quality craftsmanship. They were the ones I turned to when that handbag strap broke. They are the ones I visit when the season begins and my boots need attention. When I last interviewed Tom Rago about the importance of maintaining our shoes and boots, he put it this way: “General maintenance is important to keeping shoes looking new. You take your suit to be dry-cleaned every two-three times you wear it; you should do the same with your shoes.

Find a local resource to help you when you need to repair your well-loved shoes, boots, and bags. They need our attention and this is the season. Your self esteem will get a boost from the care, and you will feel more confident, knowing that you are preserving your things longer and saving yourself from buying new all the time.

Photos taken by my dear friend Patricia Saxton!

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Fashion Insider Jo Ellison, Speaks

Jo Ellison

In July, I read a fascinating piece in Financial Times, by fashion editor Jo Ellison. The subject of the feature: Why fashion isn’t always as silly as it seems … Irrelevant? Elitist? The fashion industry makes mistakes, but we should still take it seriously. I loved reading it and was drawn to the writing of Ms. Ellison. And then I thought … what if I could track down Ms.Ellison and ask her to share her thoughts on TFIO? Never mind that Jo lives in London, never mind that she is a true fashion insider, living a fashion insider’s life of interviews and fashion coverage, and getting access to top international fashion shows. I reached out to her. And reached out again. And after several months of not giving up, Jo Ellison answered my questions. What a coup! Now my next goal is to meet Jo in person – London? New York City? Here is a fashion insider’s look at fashion and self esteem …

What is your personal fashion story? Did you always love fashion and think of it as your destiny?

I always loved shopping, and clothes. But I wouldn’t describe myself as one of those people who always saw fashion in their destiny. I was more of an enthusiast. Fashion, to my mind, was always a bit remote and inaccessible. I have always been more interested in the broader societal impact a piece of clothing might have – what it says about us and the world we live in. Whether that’s Theresa May in a leopard print pump, or Julia Roberts winning an Oscar in vintage Valentino.

You worked at Vogue – tell us something about Vogue we don’t know.

Everyone there was far friendlier than people might believe. There seems to be a popular misconception – much mythologized by films like The Devil Wears Prada, or shows like Ugly Betty – that women working in fashion are all horrible to each other. In fact, the office at UK Vogue was one of the most encouraging, team-worky and supportive I’ve known. Continue reading

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Sweater, by way of Altanta …

The weather cooled and I quickly pulled out my favorite Rebecca Taylor sweater; the one I have worn and loved for many years and featured here on TFIO. This sweater has a good story – I hunted it down to find the very last one at a Rebecca Taylor boutique in Atlanta after seeing a blogger I really admire wearing it. I love the color, the softness, and the texture – it’s warm enough to wear without an added jacket for chilly days before the real cold begins. Favorite things are favorites because they make you happy when you wear them, no matter how long you have owned them. In fact, they get better with age. This sweater traveled several states to find me and I feel we are destined to be together for a long time.

Sweater, Rebecca Taylor; jeans, Frame Denim, boots, Laurence Dacade Paris

Shot on location at MONDO Summit – Photo by Serena Chmelar

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My Clothes are Working Overtime

My Baccarat crystal heart

It has been a difficult week for me as I have learned of the tragic passing of a young 14 year-old girl. I did not know her personally but I was connected to her through my work. My heart has been very, very heavy. And my clothes have been my best friends. They have had to work overtime, carrying me into my day and pushing me forward, even when all I have wanted to do is crawl back into my bed with my pi’s. They have been my armor, giving me strength when I feel weak. I started to wear my red crystal heart every day – something I bought my brides maides and me when I got married 22 years ago, because I felt an overwhelming need to wear the one thing that is a reminder of what we all need  today- LOVE.

And now, I pull out the outfit that I may or may not be wearing to a funeral service. I am not sure if I will attend, but I know what I will wear if I do. This dress will do what I have needed my clothes to do all week – to stand up for me and to be there for me, when it is a struggle just to be there for myself.

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Erdem and H&M: “Making Sure Every Detail is Perfect”

Erdem x H&M to launch November 2, 2017 – Photo: H&M

In July it was announced that designer Erdem would team with H&M to launch a capsule collection – this week, that collection is finally here. Set to launch online and in selected stores on Thursday, November 2, 2017, London-based designer Erdem Moralıoğlu says this collection is “very personal,” drawing inspiration from his memories and the English countryside: “I’ve always been fascinated by the language of femininity, whether it’s lace or flowers or the aesthetics of beauty,” says Erdem. Also known for his craftsmanship,  Erdem brings his attention to detail to this H&M collaboration: “It’s all so beautifully finished. It’s the way I approach every collection, turning it inside out and making sure that every detail is perfect.”

You know well that I enjoy shopping these designer collaborations and have found several well-loved pieces. The chance to get designer aesthetics at reasonable prices is just too enticing. This one looks like it won’t disappoint because not only is it filled with romantic detail, which I love, but there are also classic pieces that can be added to my existing wardrobe. Be aware though, that the price point for this collaboration is higher than others I have seen. I do have my eye on one piece: a romantic white lace shirt with black ribbon detail. But news that Princess Victoria of Sweden was just seen wearing it at a forum in Sweden means that it will probably make this particular piece impossible for me to obtain. I will try but we’ll see!

Erdem x H&M will feature a full wardrobe of Erdem’s feminine womenswear, an accessories line and, for the first time, a collection for men.

My piece of choice for this collaboration:: Erdem x H&M Top ($129) Photo: August Eriksson

Crown Princess Victoria in Erdem (blouse and trousers) – Photo: Getty Images

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Make Your Coat Say, “This is Me!”

A few years ago I treated myself to a bright, cherry red coat by Cinzia Rocca. The color makes me happy and is a nice alternative to the black I love (and wear!) so often. As the leaves fall and the trees begin to bare my red coat stands out as the bright spot in my day. I encourage you to wear colors that pop, that make you feel good, and that bring you joy. During the summer, I always forget how important a coat is. But when fall is in full swing a coat becomes the first thing the outside world sees – make it say “this is me!

Coat, Cinzia Rocca, pants Loehmann’s; boots Rachel Comey

Photos by Lauren Hagerstrom; shot on location at The Great Swamp, NJ

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