Thursday, October 30, 2008

WSJ: A Splurge on St. John Shows What You Can Get for the Price of Luxury

I have always thought this of St. John and had recently decided that when my "ship comes in" I shall adorn myself in this brand. Their recent ad campaigns are looking younger and more relevant as well...

Style -- On Style: The Suit That Turns Me Into a VIP --- A Splurge on St. John Shows What You Can Get for the Price of Luxury; Best Table in the House
By Christina Binkley
30 October 2008
The Wall Street Journal

Maitre d's are expert decoders of social rank. When I dine with CEOs at Michael's in New York or Spago in L.A., we score the best tables. On my own, I wind up seated near the kitchen doors.
Unless I wear my St. John suit.
It is very understated, with no logo. The navy blue knit tank dress hits right at the knee. A zipper up the front of the jacket adds a modern edge, but the look is timeless. That is what St. John is famous for -- and it is why the brand is often disdained by the trend-conscious fashion cognoscenti.
Yet when I wear my suit, maitre d's snap to attention, sales clerks rush to assist me and people I barely know offer me favors.
What is it about the cut of certain clothes that signals "VIP"? Men's Brioni suits and Charvet shirts are famous for it. Bottega Veneta and Akris have it. Their head designers can tell you the fabric cost the moon and the tailor apprenticed for three years, but it's more difficult to define what conveys the effect of Somebody. As with pornography, you know it when you see it. Delivering that cachet -- that power -- is the promise of the luxury business.
It was curiosity about these questions that led me into the boutiques on Fifth Avenue in the summer of 2007, shortly after I began writing this column. Comfortably middle-class, I had shopped for years at the likes of Saks outlet Off Fifth, Banana Republic and Zara. My mom raised me to believe clothes should be comfortable and practical, not frivolous.
At Versace, I tried on a $1,100 white cotton blouse with ruffles down the front. I exited Versace as I had entered -- empty-handed and skeptical.
Just up the avenue at the St. John boutique, a salesman helped me select a half-dozen jackets and dresses. The ensembles cost a couple thousand dollars apiece -- a steep price, but only a third the cost of similar outfits at high-fashion brands like Chanel and Akris. My salesman arranged it all in a vast dressing room and hovered outside the door. An hour later, I emerged from the store with the most expensive items of clothing I have ever purchased. I felt shock, shame, pleasure: The suit hadn't even been on sale.
The cost of luxury can seem outlandish -- particularly now, in an uncertain global economy. Clothes are particularly hard to value. While cars and high-tech gadgets -- Maseratis, Audemars Piguet watches and first-generation iPhones -- offer not only performance but the cachet of a visibly rich item, clothing does less to convey what you spent on it. Clothes get stained and snagged, and they go out of style quickly.
But clothes also have the power to transform you. Clothes "can be used to beguile, seduce, mock, lie and deceive," semiotics professor Marcel Danesi says in his book, "Of Cigarettes, High Heels, and Other Interesting Things." He adds, "Criminals can dress in three-piece suits to look trustworthy." Designer Marc Jacobs this year was asked to leave a Chelsea art gallery when an employee mistook him for a homeless man. The iconic designer's clothes apparently signaled "soup kitchen."
Most important, clothes can speak the secret language of status. In one of my early forays in my St. John suit, I dropped my kids at school on my way to work. A mom I've known for two years stopped me outside the building and exclaimed, "Wow. What do you do for a living again?" At the office, a colleague complimented my suit and asked, "Did it cost $1,000?" (I dissembled. If only.)
My suit and I got on a plane and drew the attention of a passenger in an ostrich-skin baseball cap and matching boots. It was Pete Rose. The baseball legend wound up telling me where I could get boots just like his -- flipping open his cellphone to display the number for Friedman's Shoes in Atlanta. "All the athletes shop there because he has big sizes," Mr. Rose confided.
As a woman at midlife, I find that if I want notice, I must command it. Waiters can be slow to respond to my black Banana Republic pantsuits. But they "ma'am" my St. John. Store clerks glide over to offer coffee while I browse. Maitre d's offer hangers for my jacket. A gentleman insisted on carrying my luggage onto a plane at JFK airport -- a chivalry he surely wouldn't have offered to my Lucky brand jeans. Is it my imagination, or do New York cab drivers pick me and my St. John over other hailers during rush hour?
At New York's fashion week last February, I sat outside the Bryant Park tents in my St. John, talking on my cellphone. A photographer began shooting pictures of me.
I don't think people recognize the label. My suit doesn't have the boxy shape, tweedy fabric and decorative touches of the traditional St. John's suit.
But the suit does have a good fit, strong workmanship and non-trendy style. Glenn McMahon, chief executive of St. John Knits Inc., says my jacket is known as the "Angelina" after former St. John model Angelina Jolie. Spun, dyed and knit in Irvine, Calif., St. John's signature wool-blend yarn has a patented twist that gives the garment memory so it doesn't wrinkle in suitcases or get baggy when worn. It can be "blocked" into a new size or shape, if mine should change. As a result, my suit rarely needs dry-cleaning, and looks as good at the end of the day as it did at sunrise.
These days, getting value for money is more important than ever. But spending money on hot designers doesn't guarantee you'll impress others. My green-gray Marni suit, which cost about $675 at the brand's Milan outlet, garners compliments but no restaurant-table upgrades. My cropped Stella McCartney jacket, $304 on sale at Barneys, has led to no adventures.
But recently, a friend gave me several hand-me-down Chanel jackets and they, like my St. John, stop sales clerks in their tracks.

Chocolate Skulls

OK, I have to admit that this comes wholly from Daily Candy Chicago, but I had to spread the word to New York, as these SKULLS can be ordered online. What could be better than a regular skull for Halloween? Well a CHOCOLATE skull of course!

Dia de los Muertos Chocolate Skulls
What: Solid chocs with edible, salt-coated eyes made in honor of the Mexican holiday.
Where: Vosges Haut Chocolat, 520 N. Michigan Ave., at Grand Ave. (312-644-9450); 951 W. Armitage Ave., at Sheffield Ave. (773-296-9866).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ike Designs Jewelry: I just can't get enough

So sue me. OK, please don't. But seriously I cannot get enough of Ike Designs Jewelry by Dori O'Dea. I went to a private showing on Sunday and flipped over the pieces you see pictured here. I have ordered earrings, which I will unveil once I receive them. But in the meantime, I debate over whether or not I should get the necklace with the 2 silver discs -- and what design I should get. She was showing the "D for Dori" sample. AH HA! Perhaps I should get a "G" on top and an "S" on the bottom.
Thank you for helping me work through this.
Otherwise, check out the chain on the one necklace with the stone pendant, and the design of the other necklace. She is planning to make earrings out of the series of discs, thus creating a set.
And the earrings pictured on top - especially the ones to the far left? Amazing. I want those too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rouge Tomate & Cavatappo Wine Bar: Food & Drink

Yours truly had the great opportunity to have dinner and lunch at soon-to-open (October 28) Rouge Tomate before it opened to the public. Located on E. 60th across from Barney's, Rouge Tomate "provides a harmonious alignment of balanced cuisine, well-being, and social and environmental consciousness. This nutritional approach demonstrates a genuine respect for the integrity of ingredients used in crafting balanced, healthful and flavorful dishes."

Bottom line? The space is amazing, beautiful, airy, and I'm not sure exactly what I mean by this, but...harmonious. If a restaurant could look healthy and delicious, this is the spot. And the food presentation is artistic and beautiful -- I might even say breathtaking if I wasn't afraid that it'd sound a bit too gushy. I have to say that of everything I ate the lobster and beet salad (lunch) was my favorite as was the chocolate/peanut butter dessert (dinner).

And last night I made it into Cavatappo Wine Bar on Third Ave. and 26th St. (other location on Second and 89th). With a substantial selection of wines, a bit of food, decent music and a mature atmosphere, this place may be one of the saviors of a neighborhood on the brink of turning into Hoboken. If you are in the hood and not interested in football or jello shots, I strongly suggest this as a top option.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Schmap to it!

Since a photo taken by yours truly has been included on Schmap, I have both added a Schmap widget to my right-hand side bar and decided to write a bit about it.

Schmap is a leading publisher of digital travel guides for 200 destinations throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The innovative technology behind Schmap Guides also lets end users publish their own ‘schmaps’ (to share trip itineraries, local reviews and more), and powers a popular range of Schmap Widgets, displaying maps with content and event schedules for travel, sports, concert tours and more on a fast-growing network of websites and blogs. Founded in 2004, Schmap is privately owned and based in Carrboro, North Carolina.

So as you will see, you can use the widget to map SHOPPING locations throughout the city and get a bit of info about hundreds of retail locations. Although I have noticed a few stores that are still listed, but no longer in business (think Princeton Ski Shop).

Check it out!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Portolano Sample Sale: Oct 27-31, 2008

Portolano Sample Sale
October 27-31
10 AM to 6 PM
(Closed on Saturday & Sunday)
15 West 37th St. (11th Fl.)

designer gloves . knits . small leather goods . handmade italian silk . emilio cavallini hosiery

No Refunds or Exchanges
Major Credit Cards Accepted

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kooba Sample Sale: Oct 28-30

I am not the world's foremost handbag expert, but these bags look super nice and come in great colors and materials. They are not cheap, which is why this sample sale is really worth checking out--

Kooba Sample Sale
Tuesday October 28th – Thursday October 30th
Hours: 10am – 8pm (Closed 2 – 3pm)
141 W. 36th Street
Between Broadway & 7th Ave.

Cash, Visa, MasterCard & Amex Accepted

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mother of the Groom Picks Anne & Alex

The only thing that may be worse than bridesmaids dresses are mother-of-the-bride (or groom) outfits. So what did a savvy little lady from Madonna's hometown do to resolve this age-old problem?


Here's how it went down straight from the mermaid's mouth: "The top is Anne Klein, the bottom is Alex Evenings. Both were purchased at Macy's after long hours of trying on the most atrocious 'Mother of the Bride or Groom' dresses...a sea of pastels with beads, sequins and frou-frou."

And as luck would have it, this mother is out of children to marry off, so both items are on sale - a guerilla shopper exclusive! If any mothers would like to purchase said items, she'll give them a deal!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

viv&ingrid stuff

I just lost one of my favorite earrings ever. I got them at Anna on E. 3rd. St. and in less than a week, POOF! Gone. Shit.

Well I found out that it was a viv&ingrid earring and that they still sell the lost earrings online! Yay! In three sizes! Yay! In silver and gold! Yay! For at least twice what I paid for them at Anna. BOO! These aren't even a photo of them, but I thought they were cool looking too.

And did you know that Paul Smith just opened a discount store in Williamsburg where prices are reduced by 30 percent. @80 Grand Street near Havermayer. Closed Monday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Clinton Kelly's New Book is Freakin' Fabulous.


Yes, that Clinton Kelly, the one from "What Not To Wear."
His new book called Freakin' Fabulous teaches you how to dress, speak, behave, eat, drink, entertain, decorate, and generally be better than everyone else and only costs $24.99. And it was designed by my talented friend Jane Archer.

AND! If you purchase Freakin’ Fabulous in October, Clinton will personalize and autograph your book—or books—no matter where you live. Best of all there’s no need to send the actual book! He will sign a “book plate” that you can adhere to the inside front cover of the book. It will look like he signed the book without all the shipping back and forth. That saves jet fuel—and money!
Here’s how to take advantage of this special offer:

1. Send a copy of your receipt (NOT the book) to:
Clinton Kelly
Freakin’ Fabulous
Prince Station
PO BOX 683
New York, NY 10012

2. Include the NAME of the person receiving the book, along with YOUR shipping ADDRESS.

3. Wait by the mailbox for a letter from him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vote Nov. 4 and Get Free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream!

On Election Day, Ben & Jerry's wants to thank us all for voting by giving voters a free scoop of ice cream! Go to participating scoop shops on November 4th from 5-8pm, show them that you voted and you'll get a free scoop of ice cream.

Show them your "I Voted" sticker, a photo of you in front of your polling station, do the "I Voted dance" or just tell them you voted.
Be honest.
And don't vote Republican.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The London West Hollywood

I had the great good fortune to stay in The London West Hollywood last week. If I could stay there indefinitely I might not dread my tri-yearly Los Angeles day job trips.
Between the decor throughout the lobby (metallic gold leather couches!) and the rooms (3' deep bathtubs! Balcony!) and the restaurant (Gordon Ramsay), this is a spot to be seen, desired and devoured. And, compared to NYC prices, it's practically a steal! I think my room averaged about $265 a night, and the prix fixe lunch at the restaurant was around $27 for two courses and $35 for three.
I highly recommend it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Shoe Box Sale: Oct 17-19

Yes, there's a 20% off sale at all four locations of The Shoe Box, which likely won't make a real dent in the price because the stuff in this joint is crazy expensive. But if you are into crazy expensive minus 20% and don't mind a shopping experience akin to The Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, then this might be your lucky shoe weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Calypso Sale: Oct 10-17

You know times must be tough when Calypso is having a sale of this proportion. Print this out to get the extra 10% off!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Project Runway: Quick thoughts

OK, two quick things on last night's episode of Project Runway:

1. The greatest TV moment ever EVER is Tim Gunn riding a tandem bike in a suit and helmet with contestant Leann. It was the most fantastic visual shown on my flat screen and you can't tell me that the producers, cameramen, etc. weren't DYING laughing the whole time they were filming it.

2. I don't understand why they ask the final four contestants to create a whole line just to eliminate one of them before anyone even sees it. If I was Jerell, I'd be PISSED. I mean, what is he supposed to do with all of this stuff now sight unseen? Seems a little bit unfair. But such is life I suppose.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gal Pal

I am watching the Today show, which I never do, but I think I just may have gotten the answer to a question I've been asking for decades: How do you get rid of white deodorant streaks on your clothes? I have literally had to change my clothes five minutes before running out the door to work because deodorant ruined my top.

I haven't tried it yet, but plan to: Gal Pal: "If you're looking for a solution to recover from a fashion faux pas like white streaks on your clothes we have the Original Gal Pal ($10) and The Travel Gal Pal ($12.50). They're great for so many reasons - from getting rid of pet fur on your clothes to cleaning up that deodorant streak on your dress."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Store Closings Floating Around the Internet

STORE CLOSINGS AND LAYOFFS (emailed to me yesterday, so who knows how accurate...)
If you have gift cards, hurry up and use them!

Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide A company spokeswoman said the company hasn't revealed which stores will be shuttered. It will let the stores that will close this fiscal year know over the next month.

Eddie Bauer to close more stores Eddie Bauer has already closed 27 shops in the first quarter and plans to close up to two more outlet stores by the end of the year.

Cache closing stores Women's retailer Cache announced that it is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide. The owner of retailers Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines Plus Sizes will close about 150 under-performing stores this year. The company hasn't provided a list of specific store closures and can't say when it will offer that info, spokeswoman Brooke Perry said today.

Talbots, J. Jill closing stores About a month ago, Talbots announced that it will be shuttering all 78 of its kids and men's stores. Now the company says it will close another 22 under-performing stores. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women's and J. Jill , another chain it owns. The closures will occur this fiscal year, according to a company press release.

Gap Inc. closing 85 stores In addition to its namesake chain, Gap also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic . The company said the closures - all planned for fiscal 2008 - will be weighted toward the Gap brand.

Foot Locker to close 140 stores. In the company press release and during its conference call with analysts today, it did not specify where the future store closures - all planned in fiscal 2008 - will be. The company could not be immediately reached for comment

Wickes is going out of business. Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores, Wickes, a 37-year-old retailer that targets middle-income customers, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Goodbye Levitz / BOMBAY - closed already The furniture retailer, which is going out of business. Levitz first announced it was going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December. The retailer dates back to 1910 when Richard Levitz opened his first furniture store in Lebanon , PA. In the 1960s, the warehouse/showroom concept brought Levitz to the forefront of the furniture industry. The local Levitz closures will follow the shutdown of Bombay.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda closing stores The owner of Zales and Piercing Pagoda previously said it plans to close 82 stores by July 31. Today, it announced that it is closing another 23 under-performing stores. The company said it's not providing a list of specific store closures. Of the 105 locations planned for closure, 50 are kiosks and 55 are stores.

Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores The Walt Disney Company announced it acquired about 220 Disney Stores from subsidiaries of The Children's Place Retail Stores. The exact number of stores acquired will depend on negotiations with landlords. Those subsidiaries of Children's Place filed for bankruptcy protection in late March. Walt Disney in the news release said it has also obtained the right to close about 98 Disney Stores in the U.S. The press release didn't list those stores.

Home Depot store closings (E. Brunswick, Rt 18 just put up their closing sign) ATLANTA - Nearly 7+ months after its chief executive said there were no plans to cut the number of its core retail stores, The Home Depot Inc. announced Thursday that it is shuttering 15 of them amid a slumping U.S. economy and housing market. The move will affect 1,300 employees. It is the first time the world's largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store for performance reasons. Its shares rose almost 5 percent. The Atlanta-based company said the under-performing U.S.stores being closed represent less than 1 percent of its existing stores. They will be shuttered within the next two months.

CompUSA (CLOSED) clarifies details on store closings Any extended warranties purchased for products through CompUSA will be honored by a third-party provider, Assurant Solutions. Gift cards, rain checks, and rebates purchased prior to December 12 can be redeemed at any time during the final sale. For those who have a gadget currently in for service with CompUSA, the repair will be completed and the gadget will be returned to owners.

Macy's - 9 stores Movie Gallery - 160 stores as part of reorganization plan to exit bankruptcy

The video rental company plans to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Galleryand Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental chain closed last fall.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores Pep Boys - 33 stores Sprint Nextel-125 retail locations

New Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse appears to have inherited a company bleeding subscribers by the thousands, and will now officially be dropping the ax on4,000 employees and 125 retail locations. Amid the loss of 639,000 postpaid customers in the fourth quarter, Sprint will be cutting a total of 6.7% of its work force (following the 5,000 layoffs last year) and 8% of company-owned brick-and-mortar stores, while remaining mute on other rumors that it will consolidate its headquarters in Kansas. Sprint Nextel shares a re down $2.89, or nearly 25%, at the time of this writing.

J. C. Penney, Lowe's and Office Depot are scaling back Ethan Allen Interiors : The company announced plans to close 12 of 300+stores in an effort to cut costs.

Wilsons the Leather Experts -158 stores

Sharper Image : The company recently filed for bankruptcy protection and announced that 90 of its 184 stores are closing. The retailer will still operate 94 stores to pay off debts, but 90 of these stores have performed poorly and also may close.

Bombay Company: (Freehold Mall store closed) The company unveiled plans to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores. The company's online storefront has discontinued operations.

KB Toys posted a list of 356 stores that it is closing around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. To see the list of store closings, go to the KB Toys Information web site.

Dillard's to Close More Stores Dillard's Inc. said it will continue to focus on closing under-performing stores, reducing expenses and improving its merchandise in 2008. At the company's annual shareholder meeting, CEO William Dillard II said the company will close another six under-performing stores this year.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Private Show: Ike Designs Jewelry, Oct. 26

Ike Designs Jewelry
3-6 pm
666 Greenwich Street, PH 21.

Dori will be showing her latest collection of rose gold, rose quartz, and rosy pendants at

In addition, Jennifer Van Santvoord will be presenting her beautiful rose and floral photographs as well as many other lovely photos.

There will be light refreshments.

Pick a Christmas gift, dream up a piece of jewelry you want Dori to make, or just stop to smell the roses.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Kule for Kids

So as the zany "aunt" to countless of my friends' children, I have countless baby gifts to buy. Today's present was for a young lad who turned the triumphant age of one. In keeping with my life's work, I try to ensure that our youth remain well dressed, and I have to say that I have scored in that department several times at Daffy's. This time I got the pictured Kule vest, lined with army fatigue-print fleece. Originally about $138, I picked it up for about $36. I have since learned about Kule (by Nikki Kule), and in case you didn't know either, it's a high-end clothing line for kids. Go to the Web site for more information about the clothes, sale items and upcoming trunk shows. Very Kule indeed...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

BoConcept Warehouse Sale, Oct. 18

Even though - years ago - they screwed a guy I used to work with by promising him that his new furniture would be delivered in a month, which caused him to get rid of his old furniture, by which time they called him back to tell him that his new furniture would not actually be ready for three months, which then caused him to cancel the whole order, which resulted in his having to live in an empty apartment for weeks until he could get furniture elsewhere, I can't ignore a good sale:

WHO: BoConcept
WHAT: Warehouse Furniture Sale
WHEN: Saturday, October 18, 2008
Hours: 10am – 3pm
WHERE: 180 Pulaski Street
Bayonne, NJ 07002