Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The “Hats Heard Round the World” Challenge is Here!


Today’s modern couture hats are without a doubt the purest-existing expression of wearable art, ornaments for the head that are often part jewelry, part sculpture, and are usually one-of-a-kind, painstakingly handmade with love by an actual person or team of people who sit squarely on the wall between artist and artisan. I am so happy to announce that hats are surging back into fashion. For many a true hat enthusiast, hats never went *out* of fashion, but fashion did not seem to agree for a few decades there, starting around 1970 or so.


Nowadays I feel like there is always an occasion for a spectacular hat on every outfit I see in the mags and the shops and on television, a bold statement, but here comes an even bolder one: Society seems just a bit less civilized without the hat as a fixture on women’s heads, as couture hats these days defy and transcend every expectation society once defined for the hat, thanks to trend-setting master milliners who have pushed the couture envelope.


New milliners are popping up worldwide, and millinery classes from old-school milliners are on the rise with feverish demand where the art of the hat is both revealed and discovered.

As part of this blog, I am launching a “Hats Heard Round the World” Challenge to milliners globally for a unique and exciting fashion opportunity. Its goal? To spread the love and enthusiasm and adoration for chic hats and headwear worldwide and reiterate the message that hats are universal in every culture.


Hats selected for the challenge will be featured in the “Hats Heard Round the World” fashion editorial, styled and shot in top couture, and published on the blog. For milliners interested in participating, please email for details.

For you, my readers, you’ll meet countless milliners from all over the planet—world-class, award-winning, utterly fabulous milliners, as well as aspiring milliners who are self-taught and have never taken a single class—but all of them have one thread in common: talent. And all of them prove without a doubt that hat-making, or millinery, as it’s known, is not a dying art. In fact for many of these artists, millinery is their entire life and their devotion and passion.


We will travel to Canada to visit with an award-winning milliner and felting expert, Trish Hirschkorn, and see her breathtaking hat made from clay (yes, clay!) that will dazzle you with its utter spectacular-ness! On the opposite side of Canada we’ll stop at the atelier of the versatile artist Maria Curcic, whose love for classic couture and valuable vintage surfaces in her incredible heirloom creations. Maria has one hat in particular that I’m absolutely obsessed with, a topper that would make Scarlet O’Hara green with envy!

We will jet across the world to the Eastern Bloc to Poland, and on to Russia, to meet the gifted milliners Hania Bulczyńska and Svetlana Gulyaeva, respectively, both of whom studied under one of my favorite milliners, a spectacular genius in hats, the great Anya Caliendo. And we will dash off to Israel for two milliners whose couture hats are as different as day and night, and their hats could not be any more so as well! Each milliner’s process is a unique one, and results in unique pieces of wearable art, the anti-thesis of disposable fashion.

Yes, we are taking a virtual tour around the world on the brim of a hat! Australia, Ireland, England, Asia, Italy, France, Belgium and of course the United States are also all on deck! Isn’t it exciting?!?!

Every milliner featured in the Hats Heard Round the World editorial will be interviewed and an article written about him or her. You will examine the designer’s unique creative process, read about their materials, hear about their influences and influencers, and discover perhaps just a bit of what it is that makes them tick.


As part of this series I’ll also teach you how to wear a hat—that is, how to position a hat properly on your head—as well as how to choose the perfect hats for you and your image and your age and face. My good friend from Australia, stellar stylist Lynette Pater will be chiming in on that. Lynette will give some helpful tips on wardrobe styling, accessorizing, and overall execution of a “look” when wearing various styles of hats and headwear, and we will also discuss how to style your makeup and hair with all kinds of various hats, with advice from my friend and celebrity hairstylist, the fashionable Edward Tricomi of the perpetually-chic Warren Tricomi Salon in NYC. And of course I’ll be throwing in my two cents as usual. So stay tuned!


He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

~ St. Francis of Assisi


Ciao for now, from your favorite fashionista!

Peace. Love. Beauty.



Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sequoia Emmanuelle Photography: Have Art, Will Travel

the dapifer

Hi guys! If you’re in my hood this week, meaning the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s an incredible treat waiting here for you! Sequoia Emmanuelle is in the house! Specifically, she’ll be at Beats Antique’s ShadowBox storefront Tuesday in Berkeley–her first appearance here in two years.

It’s a celebration of her newest, color-drenched masterpieces, and as a special gift she will also be available for book signing of her long-awaited, highly-anticipated tome titled “Duende,” a visually-juicy anthology of her illustrious career in fashion photography.

Sequoia began her career in the year 2000, after studying photography at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and has since lived in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she’s currently based. She unites her talents in fashion, set design, painting and graphic design in her beautifully bizarre portraits steeped in surrealism.

Inspired by and having worked with many of the unique talents of the West coast underground music, fashion, art and dance scene, her avant-garde captures have surfaced as album art and have been published in many a magazine, such as Italian Vogue, Dark Beauty, Giuseppina Magazine, and The Dapifer, pictured top.

If you have the loot, you can even book a shoot with Sequoia while she’s in town for a limited time, as spaces are filling up rapidly. Now take a look at some of my favorite works by Sequoia Emmanuelle.

Ashley Joy Beck, above, looks divine in deVour Magazine with this lace wig, resplendent in nothing more than a massive Asian headdress by Bubbles and Frown Haberdashery Shoppe.

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The portraits above and below, of the visionary Hollywood stylist and costume designer Bea Akerlund, are hauntingly beautiful.

The dynamic pairing of Sequoia and Bea yields some pretty impressive captures, darkly-themed and deliciously noir, during Bea’s film shoot “In the Closet” for Fuse TV.


I love the shot above, where Sequoia uses dramatic color and striking composition for maximum effect. It’s interesting, the way she integrates a playful sensuality into downright dangerous themes. Just look at that capture!

desert dune portrait

A myriad of sepia stone sets the backdrop for the shot above, Sequoia’s stark study in exoticism, with a raven-haired beauty wearing dramatic facial jewelry.


This photo takes glitter to a whole new level of glamour, with makeup by Debra Macki. Alive with brilliant color and texture, it’s simply flawless!

red velvet boots

Facial jewelry has never been so right. It’s amazing how Sequoia can make the bizarre look beautiful.

floral headpiece

Even a simple floral headdress looks sultry on this model. It’s innocence-with-an-edge.


The impeccable beauty, music artist Ivy Levan, looks authoritative and powerful sitting regally in a grand metallic chair in front of the lens of Sequoia Emmanuelle. So much mood in one defiant capture. I love the drama!

gem encrusted face 2

This model looks oddly vulnerable in Sequoia’s ‘Wildchild’ series. Glamorously punctuated with sparkling gems and dotted with body makeup, she is a fantastical vision. There’s something about the contrast in this piece that makes it rivetingly unique, and I love the playful lighting.

orange opulence

Overt in opulent orange, this shot speaks of decadent alienation.

kat von d beauty

Sequoia’s piece for Kat Von D Beauty is awash in beautiful blues, featuring a deep indigo lip on the feline-faced Ivy Levan.

blue velvet

‘Blue Velvet,’ above, is another spectacular vision in cyan. Loving the avant-garde hand jewelry and the dramatic turquoise topper! Moody lighting and slivers of shine make this photo more than memorable.

gold glitter freckles

I just love the risks Sequoia takes in her styling. As if vivid slashes of teal eyeshadow and a poppy-red mouth are not enough drama, Sequoia sees to it that the model above is adorned flirtatiously with a constellation of gilded freckles.

This is a show not to be missed! Hope I see you Tuesday…Ciao for now, from your favorite fashionista!

Peace. Love. Beauty.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fashion Takes a Bow……Or Two

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There’s a new/old decorative element of style that has me positively obsessed these days–its origin is antique and it conjures fantasies of unwrapping a precious gift for its recipient.

Bows date back in fashion history longer than any of us have existed, and for bloody good reason: they’re feminine, stylish and lovely to look at, and can be worn in infinite ways.

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Lately I’ve been going a bit bow-crazy, scouring the shops for a bevy of bows. I love the way they can look elegant, classy and sweet; or dramatic, whimsical and coquettish. I also love the way they can take center stage as an enormous ornament or simply work as an adornment for an accessory, or even become the accessory itself.

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John Galliano ties one on for his Maison Margiela fall 2016 collection, and this giant bow, in rich gorgeous chocolate, is the fabulous focal point for the entire ensemble. I love the proportions of this thoroughly-modern bow! Amazingly, the exaggerated scale looks appropriate for chic day drama in an earthy urban palette, as Galliano brilliantly redefines the bow.

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Formally, Zoe Kravitz was fit to be tied at the Met Gala this year in dark and dreamy Valentino. Valentino loves the bow almost as much as I do, and has used bows in many a garment over the years, as seen in the little red day dress below, worn by the perpetually-chic Alexa Chung. It looks so sweet and current. What a difference a bow can make!

celebrity dresses

This elegant sleeve from Chloe in 2009, below, undoubtedly shows that you can never have too many bows! Just look at the timelessness of the detail and tell me what I already know: it’s all in the bow!

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Notice how the bow can dominate or embellish, it’s entirely up to you! I also appreciate the fact that you can dress the bow up or down, and wear it sexy, schoolgirl or couture.

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For spring, summer or winter, fall for the bow and you won’t go wrong. This grey tweed bow by Christian Dior, shot by Paolo Roversi for Vogue Italia, proves that bows smartly travel through all seasons and can be worn on any occasion.

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Above is more Dior, a pumpkin gown punctuated with a beaded bow.

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But the humble bow can also remain modern and minimalist, as seen in this Yves Saint Laurent summer dress photographed by Martin Lidell for L’Officiel Russia back in 2010. This design looks as current to me today as it did six years ago, which speaks volumes about the bow!

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Christian Lacroix used the bountiful bow for Schiaparelli Haute Couture in the bustled beauty above. I love the whimsy of his powder pink plaid. Stunning!

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Victorio & Lucchino embellish a model’s assets in a sleek silver sheath adorned with a dramatic Asian-textile bow.

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Bows are ideal in bridal, as seen in the wide geisha-style wrap above, but they can also surface simply as a delicate accent on a garment or worn in the hair for flirtatious effect.

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This shoulder ribbon, in an editorial for Harper’s Bazaar shot by Solve Sundsbo, proves that the bow need not look bold to create a maximum impact.

 Silk base wigs

Just a bit of ribbon tied in a loose pony can elevate bedroom hair to a couture coif in seconds! I love the sweet simplicity of it. It’s so effortless looking and incredibly sexy!

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And speaking of sexy, I’m currently crushing on the hair-as-sculpture bows, pioneered by Valentino in 2006 and worn famously by both Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga.

lace front wigs

They look just as cool with couture as they do with a casual, fresh summer dress, and now you can find clip-on hairbows at the wig stores and beauty supply and in a variety of colors, so you don’t have to have mad skills to look charmingly coy if you decide to jump on the bow bandwagon!

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The bow is a glamorous, chic and feminine element which has remained timeless in the history of fashion. I now invite you all to take a bow!

Peace. Love. Beauty. xxx

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Meaning of Life and The Purpose of Life and Issie Blow

issie sublime in red

One of my earliest memories from childhood is a cold day at the beach in San Francisco, my sister and I walking with my mother and my father. I don’t remember how old I was, but I must have been very young because my dad was still around, and the ocean was a new experience for me.

As I walked the shore with my father at my side and my mother and sister trailing behind us, I collected treasures from the briny, surf-soaked sands. There was a multitude of shells, pieces of glass and driftwood, and a plentitude of pebbles, each a tiny work of art from nature, and each a masterpiece in its own right.

I would gather my souvenirs from the sea and contemplate their perfection, or lack thereof, in my tiny hands as we walked. None of the treasures were without flaw. Perhaps a gnarl in a shell or a blemish on a stone rendered them, in my mind, inadequate. So upon reflection I would inevitably discard each treasure that I discovered by simply dropping it along the walk until we came back to the car to leave, at which point I saw that I had nothing.

My sister, however, had the most intriguing collection of beautiful little things as we came to the end of our walk. In her findings were darling shells and colorful stones with character and wonderful, memorable relics that I examined in awe. I remember telling my mother with incredulity how lovely each item was, and asking how my sister found these beguiling mementos on our walk when I had seen only imperfect specimens.

My mother simply smiled for the longest time as I fawned over the glorious treasures. How could my sister have found such wondrous art, I asked, when I found nothing? My mother finally replied, “Shannon, she picked up the things that you discarded.”

The story reminds me of a quote by Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

The story also reminds me that imperfection is interesting, flaws equate uniqueness, and nothing in life should be taken for granted. Beauty is everywhere, and when you seek beauty in all things and all people, you not only find it, you become it.

This thinking brings to mind one woman so mesmerizingly unique that, despite her flaws, she remains radiant, beautiful and memorable long after she was discarded as an imperfect specimen in an industry obsessed with perfection. I’m referring to Isabella Blow, the British stylist and fashion editor whose suicide death in 2007 left a bittersweet legacy, as well as an imperfect wardrobe–a diary in clothing, if you will–which is now on display until 28 August at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia.

toupee uk

“Isabella Blow: A Fashionable Life,” provides the opportunity to examine more than 45 of Issie’s outfits, as well as rare photographs of her in her finery. In addition, you can see some of her favorite jewelry and shoes, and of course the signature hats that made both her, and her protégé, milliner friend Philip Treacy, pictured above with Isabella, famous.

The remarkable thing about Isabella, to me, was her unwavering authenticity in an inauthentic world. Like any artistic community, the fashion industry is filled with superficial people–talentless clingers scented with insincerity and insecurity–who really couldn’t give a fuck about anyone else. Issie, on the other hand, she cared. She cared about talent and vision and genius, fostering countless “unknown” artists and promoting their growth and flourish. She was the real deal, and she had heart.


Issie discovered the meaning of life when she sought beauty, and fulfilled her purpose in life when she gave it away. She unearthed the curious, the interesting, the magnificent, when she brought us Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen, pictured above with Isabella, and many more. Thank you Issie. You are neither gone nor forgotten.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hats Heard Round the World: Meet Master Milliner, Philip Treacy


The hat is without a doubt the boldest accessory that a woman can wear. And I believe it was the arrestingly-beautiful creature Iman, who stated that British milliner Philip Treacy’s hats were glamorous, sexy and eccentric. And that is such an important statement. It can be difficult to look all of the above simultaneously, but with a Treacy hat or fascinator propped solidly on your topper, it is indeed difficult to go wrong.

Since the 2010 suicide death of Alexander McQueen, fashion has witnessed a fiery landslide of McQueen’s visionary ideas sweeping the world of style, melting the mundane and burning away the banal like lava spewed from a hot cave.

Philip young

And sitting squarely in the center of this beautiful demolition is Philip Treacy, the pale quiet ghost and sole survivor of the genius trinity, which includes the aforementioned McQueen and one unusual woman: the remarkable, the unmistakable…..Isabella Blow.

Isabella was the British fashion editor who discovered both McQueen and Treacy. Unfortunately, she also committed suicide three years prior to her protege McQueen, in 2007, by drinking a bottle of weed killer.

I have spoken to Philip Treacy several times, and there is a longing in his voice when he speaks of her. She remains his muse, even from the grave.

“Isabella Blow had something common to all of us, but unusual in fashion,” Philip told me. “She had a big heart. Her dilemma was that she worked in the fashion business, but was more interested in the fashion, than the business. She lived for the art and drama of fashion.”

Philip recounted a story for me of the way Blow would attend the shows, “with 600 people all sitting there, dressed in black. They were all serious, and there she’d be with a lobster hat on her head and a Nell Gwyn-inspired gown,” Philip recounted.


“She would be the only one to woo-hoo and clap. She didn’t care. I was so inspired by how she wore my hats. She wore them like she was not wearing them,” Philip continued, “like they just happened to be there. She was never a snob. She believed in talent–no matter where you came from.”

Issie and lee

“I’m a baker’s son. Alexander McQueen is a cab driver’s son. Issie gave me my first commission while still a student at the Royal College of Art (in London),” Philip said. “I remember someone said to her, ‘Why is this student making your wedding hat when you could have anyone in the world make it?’ She didn’t give a fuck what they thought. Her focus was creativity, and I fell in love with her at that moment. When you were in her focus–and this includes Alexander McQueen, (pictured with Isabella, above), Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl, whom she also discovered–it was like being in the middle of a love affair,” Phillip explained.


“Everybody loved Issie, but she didn’t always love herself. She did have ovarian cancer and she suffered with depression…it was all too much for her. Isabella Blow was the first extraordinary, interesting person I met in London when I moved here from Ireland. In 20 years I have met all my heroes and nobody in my honest true estimation surpassed her. She was incredible. I thought there must be others like her, but there wasn’t. Everyone was boring in comparison to her,” he added.

Although Blow was Treacy’s ideal client, this master milliner now counts many, many famous faces among his fans. Grace Jones, Boy George, Madonna, Lady Gaga….and not just the celebrities, either. Treacy tops off the royals and practically every serious high-end fashionista in the world today, and his career has spanned an incredible 30 years of not just relevancy, but reigning.

His creations are exquisite perfection–with unparalleled creativity and the kind of delicate details and nuances that one would expect in fine art. Each and every piece is painstakingly crafted in his bright London studio, with an expert staff that he oversees. Take a look at some of these Treacy masterpieces.


Above is a 17th-century Dalian or sailing ship hat. It is Philip’s favorite creation out of all his literally thousands of hats. “I’d seen old renderings of ships in women’s hair,” Philip told me. “It was a costume designer’s dream.”

The idea for this hat was inspired and created from a chapter in Olivier Bernier’s book, “Pleasure and Privilege,” Philip said.

The chapter, called “Rule of Fashion,” was about life in France in the 1750s. “It described a British fleet admiral, D’Estaing, losing a famous battle to the French fleet,” Philip told me. “In celebration, women in Paris wore ships in their hair to go to the opera, and I loved the emotion attached to this,” he continued. “It’s made from satin and the bone of the feather. The sails are paradise feathers. And the rigging is made from the feather bones,” Philip said, which, he told me, is what remains when you strip away the feather from its spine.

Bird s nest

“I first used feathers, shed by my mother’s goose, as a child to decorate hats where I grew up in Galway, (Ireland). It took a year for Antony’s Yokohama cockerels to grow their tail feathers long enough for me to painlessly clip them to create hats that were worn by Honor Fraser and Jodie Kidd on the catwalk,” Philip told me. Above and below are two results of Treacy and McQueen’s collaboration from 2007.

Feathered hat 1

“Birds are exquisite perfection. Their feathers are weightless, and they give movement and volume. Women love them and they are very sexy,” he stated.

Issy in pheasant hat

“I like to invent new ways of using farmyard fowl; feathers feel like living, breathing material. You are drawing with them rather than just decorating a hat,” he added. Above, Issie Blow wears a pheasant hat designed by Treacy.

“She loved this pheasant. She said, ‘I want to be buried in it.’ So we buried her in it,” Philip stated.

Philip on his youth: “As a child I always liked making things like puppets, toys, Christmas decorations, stuff like that. And when I was six Mrs. McDonough, a neighbor, taught me how to sew. I studied fashion first. I didn’t have any heroes in the way of designers and I didn’t really care too much about them. When I came to college in London I found that many of the students were a little jaded but not me, because the city was all new to me. At that time I had no idea I would become a milliner, I just liked fashion and style.”

“I was always influenced by beauty,” Phillip continued. “At home in Ireland we were taught about the beauty of nature. We had lots of chickens, pheasants and geese so the prime ingredient of the hats I make are feathers because I know them very well. I now appreciate the profound effect my childhood had on me.”

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Philip described his process to me: “I sketch the hat, and then begin to make the shape in a natural fabric called spartrie. When the shape is completed it is sent off to La Forme in Paris who then creates a wooden block. With this block hundreds of hats can be created.” Above, Philip fits a hat on model Naomi Campbell.

Twisted birdcage

Philip on the beginning of his career: “I was summoned to Paris to meet Karl Lagerfeld, chief designer at Chanel. I was 23 and I’d just left school. I didn’t know whether to call him Mr. Lagerfeld or whatever. I was totally intimidated but Issie was exactly herself. She just walked into the house of Chanel and said, ‘We’d like some tea, please.’ I went on to design hats for Lagerfeld at Chanel for 10 years. The first hat I designed was the twisted birdcage, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier and worn on the cover of British Vogue by Linda Evangelista.”


Philip on hats: “Hats are very sexy. When I started at the Royal College of Art, they thought hats were for old ladies and I thought that was completely insane. Why would you think that? I love the idea of the unknown and the future; you don’t know what is going to happen next week, and that’s a fashion attitude.”

Grace and iman

“It’s all very well accusing someone of being a ‘fashion animal’–I’m one too! Fashion animals are obsessed with something for a moment, and then they move on to something else. That’s the nature of fashion. It’s all about change.”

Pink bow

“A hat can completely change the personality of the wearer, make them stand differently and walk differently. A hat can make that person feel interesting. People think sometimes that people who wear hats want to show off. But human beings, since the beginning of time, have always wanted to embellish themselves. So hats have been around since the year dot. It’s a human thing to want to dress every part.”


Philip on his clientele: “My assistant who looks after my shop tells me she sells a dream. She sells people things they do not really need, but they have to have. We all need beautiful things that make us feel good and give us pleasure. Whether it’s a flower, a sunrise, or a hat! These things are the spice of life and remind us of the essence of pleasure and beauty. I have had the greatest pleasure of having the opportunity to challenge people’s perception of what a hat should look like in the 21st century.”

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“Our customers are everyone from a young girl who’s saved up for a £150 rainwear trilby to this very distinguished gentleman of about 70. He comes in every summer to order 20 couture hats to entertain the ladies who will be staying on his yacht. It doesn’t matter how much people pay for them…everyone wants to look like a million dollars in a hat.”

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“I went to my studio today and Isabella is everywhere,” he said. “In every hat I made, every corner I turn, she is there. I will miss her laugh, her passion and her humanity.”

Issie with dog

“I will always miss her.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tales of Snails and the Trail of Success: Alex Soldier’s Snail Ring

We all have certain unique ‘things’–different objects or possessions–which symbolize success to each and every one of us. For some, a luxury sportscar is the milestone of that success. You know you’ve made it in life when there’s that one ‘thing.’

Success, for me, however, is being rich in those things that money cannot buy. In the words of Coco Chanel, “The best things in life are free.” And she was right. True love, loyal friends, and your own good health, for example, cannot be bought, even if you foolishly think that they can. But, the witty Chanel was quick to add, “The second best [things in life] are very expensive.” And right she was yet again.

As a tribute to the second best things in life, I would like to show you my idea of one of those things that represents success to me. I must admit I have a weakness for status jewelry, and I guess I will know in my heart that I have finally “made it,” as it were, when I own an Alex Soldier snail ring.

Have you seen these? From his Snail Collection, they positively hypnotize me and leave me fascinated. There are three snails to choose from. First, the Diamond Snail, made of 18 karat white and yellow gold and studded with brilliant diamonds…..

Diamond snail

…..Second, the Cognac Snail, below, made of 18 karat yellow gold and platinum, studded with yellow sapphires, citrines, garnets and diamonds…..

Cognac snail

…..And third, my personal favorite, the Sea Snail, made of 18 karat white and yellow gold and studded with sapphires, aquamarines, diamonds, peridots, and tourmalines.

Sea snail

I cannot think of any luxury purchase that I more long to own than this couture jeweler’s Sea Snail. I love the idea of Alex’s rendering of a happy-go-lucky snail, occupying quite a bit of real estate on the back of my hand.

The nature of the slow-moving slug seems almost dim-witted, as he carries the weight of the world on his very own back……..until you realize the quiet deliberateness, the intent, the purpose. Until you remember of course the consistency of the slow-and-steady, which now trails glistening fireworks of the finest gemstones executed by one of the greatest in couture gems, Alex Soldier. Behold the shimmering shell, ablaze in all its magnificent splendor.

And all the while it reminds me of Alex Soldier’s message: Slow down and enjoy life…and look closely, because the beautiful may be small, or it may come from an unexpected place.

So much simple wisdom, served brilliantly from an ordinary garden pest that’s been spectacularly punctuated with a generous gem-studded display. The dichotomy? GENIUS.

Each and every snail has its own unique expression. You are met with a friendly recognition and a kind of playful innocence that Soldier captures, as if through the eyes of a child he is seeing that snail for the very first time. The newness of the shell’s geometric reticulations, with Soldier’s characteristic etchings, and the pebbly nature of the flesh of that snail, are all Soldier trademarks and part of what makes this piece so special to me. It’s like you’re getting a little piece of Alex Soldier, the man himself, from a secret space in the recesses of his mind.

Alex Soldier’s Snail Collection is available at, Saks stores and Neiman Marcus online.

Monday, July 13, 2015

My New Find: Amina Marie Millinery

Lede shot

There’s no question that the headwear trend is in full swing, and fashion is loving this very couture moment in history. Talented designers are popping up everywhere, making millinery slightly more mainstream.

I will be featuring several talented milliners here on Beauty Shall Save the World, and for all my hat enthusiasts I have a very special treat: it is my article on a millinery legend, the great Philip Treacy, who has granted an exclusive interview to Beauty Shall Save the World. You will love what this talented man has to say about creativity and genius, as well as his late dear friends, fashion designer Alexander McQueen and style icon, Isabella Blow. I cannot wait to share it with you.

By now you all know that I love unearthing a new find, or revealing a talented but unrecognized designer or artist. Well today I am very excited to share with you my new discovery, a little-known milliner who has been practicing the craft of hat-making for only one year. She took just three classes in millinery, yet she creates some of the most beautiful, feminine couture hats. Her name is Amina Marie Hood, and her hats are treasures. Many of them are deceptive; they don’t look like much until you place them on the head, where they transform both the wearer and themselves. In short, each one is a little work of art. Just look at some of Amina’s fabulous creations, shown here in an exclusive photoshoot for Beauty Shall Save the World, styled by yours truly, Shannon McGovern.

White rabbit

First up we have “Rockefeller,” this fuzzy, pure white freeform sculpted hat that makes our model, Christine, look like the pearl in the center of an oyster shell. I had to have this hat, it is such a stunner. Love the texture, the pure white was a big selling point for me, and the scalloped edges, which really are so unique and memorable. This hat is made from white long-haired rabbit fur felt, and I thought the price point, $350, was reasonable for a couture hat such as this. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay it, however; Amina gifted me this hat as thanks after we wrapped the shoot. Thanks, Homegirl. You rock. 😉

Camel cloche wiht hardware

Next up is “Espresso,” $300, this little camel sliver of fur felt with chain detailing.

The thing about Amina’s hats is that they look stylish with all kinds of attire, whether it be fancy or casual. They can be dressed up or down, while remaining perpetually chic.

Here, I partnered Amina’s hat with a copper distressed leather jacket, but make no mistake, this diminutive little punctuation mark for your head could go haute in, literally, the drop of a hat! I absolutely adore the seemingly small touches that make her works look infinitely sophisticated, like the bronze hardware trim piping here along the edge.

Olive military hat

I love “Letters from The General,” above, an army green fur felt hat, $300, constructed similarly to “Espresso,” with a freeform sculpted silhouette. This hat is ideal for the military trend. So current. Looks great with the Christian Lacroix olive blazer shown and tortoise cat-eye shades.

Ivory mod hat

The cream parasisal straw saucer hat with black ribbon edge, “Out of This World,” $425, looks right in a nod to mod. Christine is wearing a vintage mod shift dress by Dominique, circa 1960s. But, this versatile hat would look very appropriate with a feminine Easter dress or even dramatic couture.

Red and black

I love the idea of this hat. It’s Amina’s “Convertible Derby” in cherry red fur felt, $400, with black “Pop.” This is the hat that caught my eye when I discovered Amina. She had earned her place amongst eight other finalists in Lock Hatters first annual Millinery Competition. Lock & Co., by the way, have designed hats for Kate Middleton and other royals.

This convertible hat can be worn as shown, or the black top can “pop” off, allowing the hat to be worn in solid red……or, you can wear it with other pops, which Amina sells for $50 each. This hat offers up so much versatility at a very friendly price-point. I would love to have this hat with several pops, including a funky fur felt leopard print! Meow!

Rose portrait shot

“Smells Like a Rose” is a natural ivory, extra-fine sinamay straw, freeform draped fascinator, $400, which knots beautifully into a rose-like shape. The diaphanous fabrication is so stunning in person, yielding a gauze-y kind of filter over the face. The texture is fine and malleable, with a voluminous body to it, like starched linen. But make no mistake, this is actually that beautiful, high-end sinamay straw that is one of Amina’s trademark materials.

Black sheer hat

Amina uses the same extra-fine sinamay straw in black to create “Jackie’s Funeral,” a freeform draped hat, $600, which looks gorgeous on Christine in a fitted vintage dress above. This hat travels effortlessly to the beach as well, with swimwear and a sheer sarong, for example. The versatility of Amina’s hats truly amazes.

Kimono hat

There is something very organic about “In Carolyne’s Gardens,” Amina’s tribute to Carolyne Roehm. It’s a natural sinamay straw freeform sculpted hat with hand-dyed sinamay edging, $400. A gentle draping is so flattering around the face, and this hat’s ease of wear is synonymous with simple elegance, just like Carolyne Roehm herself.

Blue fox

“Foxxxy” is the slate, hand-dyed parasisal straw hat with seafoam blue fox fur trim and crin peekaboo, $400. This is quite the head-turning hat! I love the nuance of colors that Amina works with. Her palette is always sophisticated, never garish.

Each hat is pure couture–both feminine and stylish–without any trendy gimmicks, and the versatility of each piece, remarkable. These are the hats that I could see as easily on the runway at Vivienne Westwood as I could with Issey Miyake. That really says something about the timeless versatility that Amina captures in her work. They would be equally at home with Balenciaga, Balmain and Donna Karan, and her price point is awesome for this type of couture, hand-finished hat. In addition, Amina uses only the finest materials, including fur felt, sinamay, parasisal straw, fish leather, leather and silk.

So what’s next for this burgeoning milliner?

“I still have a lot to learn,” Amina said. “I would love to study under some of the greats. I think Philip Treacy is amazing and I really respect and love the works of Noel Stewart, Jane Taylor, Anya Caliendo. I hope to collaborate with some talented photographers and stylists, and for my designs to be on the runways and in the magazines…but most importantly, on the streets, on the heads of fashionable women, because I want my work to be accessible, wearable and relevant to many women, for many years.”

Crew at photoshoot for amina

A quick shout-out and a hearty thank you to the rest of the team that made this gorgeous shoot possible: from left, that’s Sui, who was responsible for coiffing our model’s hair to perfection; the breathtaking Christine Alward was said model; photography by Topher Adam, editor of Dark Beauty Magazine; fabulous makeup by Jasmine Cardenas; that’s me, Shan, in the I “HEART” Paris t-shirt; and last but definitely not least, standing by my side, is Amina, of Amina Marie Millinery. The very talented Tim Engle was in charge of lighting in this project. We could not have done it without him, yet here he is invisible because, like most good photogs, he’s busy taking the picture of the rest of us! Jajajaja. Thanks, Tim, and thanks everybody. This shoot was a true triumph.

For information visit Amina Marie Millinery. You can follow Amina on both Facebook and Instagram. Custom orders call 816.830.9793.