I don’t own many bracelets, never have. But this past summer, I bought one that has received more compliments than just about every other accessory or article of clothing I own.
It was an impulse buy, I’ll admit. I was at a gallery showing in Pittsburgh of clothing by fashion designer Kim Davis. Jewelry designer Richelle Wilson also was there with a captivating selection of pieces. As I surveyed the table, my eyes fell on a bold link bracelet. It was a dragon fashioned from polished sterling silver, and it closed where the mouth met the tail. She urged me to try it on, and I found myself unable to take it off.
The best jewelry is somewhat unusual, and that’s a quality Ms. Wilson’s designs distinctive since she began designing jewelry off and on in 1991. A decade later, she launched her Earth and Alchemy brand a decade later.
“I have always loved jewelry and gemstones,” said Ms. Wilson, who is based in New York. “I began studying geology in order to understand gemstones, until I found there was an actual field of study called gemology.”
She graduated from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Ca. with a graduate gemologist degree in 1991. Then it was on to New York City, where she studied jewelry design and production at the renowned Fashion Institute of Technology.
Like many women of color who try to break into New York’s modeling and fashion industry, Ms. Wilson faced some resistance as a black female jewelry designer. “I had a lot of ugly comments thrown at me, and some suppliers who basically ignored me.”
But she found a friend and advocate in Mike Adanas, a master jeweler with whom she worked and trained. “Mr. Adanas held my hand through those rough times, and continues to do so this very day,” she says.
Versatility is an important design feature, such as “enhancer” clasps on pendants so that they can be moved and worn on any type of necklace. Pins have backings that allow them to also be worn as pendants, and bracelets have connections that allow them to be combined with other pieces and worn as necklaces.
She’s been a flight attendant for the last 23 years, a source of much of her creative inspiration. “A lot of my ideas come from my travel and work. I have been blessed to see many parts of the world, and meet artists and jewelers from all over the globe. I get incredible ideas from various cultures and their customs, architecture, local fashion, and from people-watching.”
Earth and Alchemy creations are an interplay of color and texture, striking in their artistry. She pairs deep jewel tones with icy pastels, rich earth tones with vibrant precious and semi-precious gemstones, fiery transparent gems with cool opaques - all held together by carved or textured sterling silver, 14-carat gold, or 18-carat gold.
She chose her brand name carefully. “Alchemy is an ancient science that ancient chemists believed had the ability, through magical transformation, to turn base metals into gold,” she explains. “To take something ordinary and make it extraordinary; this is the premise behind the Earth and Alchemy name. Earth and Alchemy uses the natural gifts the earth offers and transforms them into beautiful, modern; yet timeless jewelry not just to be worn, but to ‘live’ in.”
Ms. Wilson loves that jewelry can tell the world who you are - or who you want to be - on any given occasion and for every mood. “Jewelry speaks volumes about you, without you saying a word,” she says. “Small and dainty says romantic, shy, demure. Larger pieces show confidence and strength. Whether you wear a signature piece, or layer it on, great jewelry introduces you to the world.”
Earth and Alchemy jewelry will be available online in January. Get it now by calling 1-877-TRIBE44. Most pieces are custom orders, and she works with clients around the globe by sending sketches via e-mail.
Any time is the right time for a knit, from the sweaters that keep you warm in mild first days of spring to lighter weaves that skim the body and help you stay cool in the summer heat.
Fall and winter, however, are when designers churn out an abundance of knitwear. They went all out this season, throwing in some crochet and macramé for good measure. Retailers have stocked up on it all, from roomy caps and super-long scarves to big sweaters and dramatic dusters.
For women, the sweater dress has returned, along with knit ponchos, capes and even knit hosiery. Guys can find handsome knit toggle coats and full-bodied sweaters in various styles: vests, cardigans, crewnecks, V-necks, sweater coats.
Here are 10 tips for buying and caring for knitwear:
- Before buying a piece, examine it thoroughly for snags, pulls and holes.
- If you have allergies or sensitive skin, find out what if any, chemical treatments or artificial dyes were used.
- Make sure any irregularity in the weave is barely noticeable and due to handcraftsmanship rather than machine error.
- Always try the piece on. It should be warm and lightweight rather than hot and heavy.
- Remember that knit apparel is a layering piece for warmth as well as style.
- Obey instructions on the care label. It’s usually best to have knitwear professionally cleaned before storage. Some pieces can be cleaned effectively by handwashing them in cold or tepid water with a mild detergent formulated for knits.
- Allow knits to flat-dry in a well ventilated area on a surface that allows air to circulate above and below the garment. They should be dried fairly rapidly to avoid mildew or a musty odor. To hasten drying, roll pieces gently in a lint-free towel, press gently to remove extra water, unroll and reshape the garment, and then smooth it out to dry.
- Handle wet knits delicately, especially looser weaves. Heat and rubbing can cause wools and other natural fibers to felt.
- Lavender and red cedar have become a more preferred deterrent of moths-and carpet beetle larvae than mothballs and is just as effective, if not more so.
- Hanging a knit is likely to warp its shape. Store each piece folded.
There aren’t many women like Barbara Cloud. The retired journalist spent most of her 55-year career covering the fashion industry, yet remained genuinely warm and gracious in a world where being plastic and rude increasingly became the order of the day.
To read by-line, the new book by Ms, Cloud, is to hear from someone who has something to say that is worth hearing. The 251-page paperback, published by Word Association Publishers, is a collection of 80 columns from her illustrious 55-year career at daily newspapers in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The tome is creatively divided into five chapters based on the fundamental questions newspaper reporters are trained to ask and answer: who, what, where, when, and why.
Although Ms. Cloud’s life ambition was to be a professional actress, her first job out of Westminster College was as a newspaper reporter in 1952. That job turned into a lifelong career - she never took a journalism course - during which she met and wrote about many interesting people both in and outside fashion. Her relationships and connections read like a Who’s Who of the rich and famous: Phyllis Diller, Nancy Reagan, Telly Savalas, Rosalind Russell, Diahann Carroll, Charlton Heston, Judy Garland, Vidal Sassoon, Julie Newmar, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Ralph Lauren, Galanos, Adolfo, Verte, to name just a few.
But to her credit, there’s no name-dropping or ego-tripping. Just honest, insightful, engaging analysis of people, places, and events she encountered along her professional journey. Ms. Cloud’s gift for wonderfully weaving a story was one reason she won numerous journalism awards, from local and regional honors to such national accolades as the 1971 Men’s Fashion Association Aldo fashion writer’s award and, 20 years later, that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Golden Aldo.
The book includes copies of photos and letters from over the years. They’re interesting to look at, a visual walk down memory lane. But even if they were not included, the stories this writer shares are well worth the modest investment of time and money.
A short Q&A with Barbara Cloud
How do you define style?
I’m not sure I can define style, but I think I know it when I see it. It’s not about having money, that I know. Or piling on every trend, every season. I think of style as flair, which means a certain perception of a look. Some people have a “flair” for style. It doesn’t mean everyone has the same style, but they have a good eye, especially for their own look. Style is defined as “fashion” but I’m not sure there really is a single word to define it.
What decade was your favorite for fashion?
I don’t have a favorite decade for fashion, although I admit when I covered the industry from 1960 to 1990 approximately, I felt it was most alive and exhilarating when names like Bill Blass, Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Norman Norell, Anne Klein, Pauline Trigere were simply making women look beautiful. Of course, now they are all gone. But they set the mood for me, and spoiled me in many ways for what passes today as fashion. I feel very fortunate to have been around during those decades.
What would you consider the worst fashion trend of the last 30 years and why?
I suppose as a general rule it would be “no rules.” It would be “anything goes.” Most of us need guidelines, not set in stone but a direction. As a result, decorum is passé, as is respect in what we choose to wear. I think exposing body parts is out of control. I’m not sure when exposure became a trend, but it leaves nothing to the imagination. I feel that is a great loss to the beauty and intricate art of designing. And almost an insult to women themselves. If I could pick a single trend which astounds me, it would be the piercing of tongues, ears, noses etc., and the tattoo overkill - all in the name of fashion. Also, prices for a “name.” I find it insulting a designer of a handbag or a pair of shoes can ask $500, let alone thousands, for such an accessory, a staple in our wardrobes. That women will pay it is even more amazing. But remember, I am from another generation. My spending habits are quite different, and my needs come before my desires for fluff as I have never had money I didn’t know what to do with. So I marvel at such expenses.
Who is your all-time favorite womenswear designer or label?
I have had many in all the years I have been around, and for dreaming I would say I would have loved wearing or owning a Norell or a Valentino or Armani, even Donna Karan or Blass. I once owned a Donald Brooks dress, a Bonnie Cashin coat, a Pucci blouse and a drop-dead red wool Estevez dress years ago, and a B.H. Wragge dress. But my everyday working wardrobe consisted of many Liz Claiborne separates. I didn’t look for that label when I shopped, but when I saw something I liked it was more than likely Liz, when she was at the helm. I had a few Calvin Kleins and at one time Kimberly Knitwear was the most prominent label in my closet, in the 70s, especially when pantsuits arrived. I always loved Adrienne Vittadini sweaters. If I had to pick the label I had the most of, however, as a working woman, it would be the original Liz Claiborne, bought off the rack, followed by Jones New York sportswear and similar lines such as Ellen Tracy (before it got pricey). I buy many extras at Kmart and Sears, with no apologies.
Favorite menswear designer/label?
No favorite menswear designer, although I admire ads for designers like Hugo Boss, Cardin, etc. Names like Sal Cesarani, Alexander Julian brought color and flair to menswear when I was covering that market 25 years ago and they made it exciting. It was no longer just white shirts in the office. Menswear needed some excitement, and the time arrived when men were given permission to care about color. Yes, even wearing jewelry, although that can be tricky. Ralph Lauren has been major, of course, in creating the look of a certain lifestyle, and many others have followed that lead. I don’t know who designed the late Cary Grant’s wardrobe, but I’d vote for him any day as my favorite! Wow.
What are 3 staples every woman should have in her winter wardrobe?
A great bulky sweater, probably turtleneck; a coat with a hood; a warm and cuddly bathrobe. Boots, gloves, wrap scarf, naturally are givens.
What’s one winter must-have for men?
Judging from just seeing men in New York City during chill, a great muffler worn casually says a lot.
Name 3 style icons and why.
Never thought about it much. Nobody I copied, but several I admire. I was a movie fan as a teenager, and the more I watch old movies the more I realize I liked the look of Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly and, of course, for most of the world, Jacqueline Kennedy. Of course, they all had the money to look great, but they also knew how to carry it off - usually quite simply, but with that style factor which is hard to describe. And they gave us something to aim for, and something for designers to copy for an average woman’s wardrobe and budget. Jackie’s basic simplicity, Hepburn’s softening of menswear looks, Kelly and her pearls, white gloves, cleanliness and femininity. I admired Lauren Bacall, too, especially in Norman Norell. And especially her hair!
What advice would you offer someone who wants to become a fashion designer?
I would hope he or she would try to bring back true beauty and clothes which are sensible without being boring. Even though lifestyles have changed, even casual can be attractive, not just bizarre or baring the body. I know newness is the seasonal by-word - it can’t remain the same as the season before. And my idea of beauty is not the same as a 20-year-old. Still, I wish they would leave something to the imagination. I just saw “September Issue” and am reminded the fashion world depends on change, and exaggeration, whether we like it or not. It’s complicated.
Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise means a new day, a new beginning. Sunset means the day is done. Prefer the sunrise - seldom awake to see it - but am grateful for the sunset, which I have photographed many times.
Coffee or tea?
What, no milk? I drink coffee, out of habit, in the morning, using my single cup French press, reading the morning paper. Just one cup, usually. I started to drink coffee after I was in a play, “I Remember Mama”, in college. Our director made sure we had fresh coffee in the prop pot on the stove every performance. Stage “business” included several scenes of having coffee, and I learned to like it black. Up until then I had always turned up my nose when I would take morning coffee to my mother, wondering why she liked it and swearing I never would.
Diamonds or pearls?
I have never been drawn to diamonds because it wasn’t realistic to desire them. But I can ooh and aah when I see a beauty, like the engagement ring my son gave to his wife. The sparkle of a diamond can cause me to stare or admire, but never to crave or envy. Pearls, on the other hand, aren’t intimidating and I feel comfortable wearing them. Maybe that’s because as a young girl, a first strand of pearls was a special gift. I have no idea if mine were real or imitation, but I would guess the latter. It didn’t matter. I wore my single strand of pearls almost every day, with a sweater to school or a gown to the prom. I felt elegant. Diamonds are more or less wasted on me - not that I would ever turn one down if presented to me!
One essential quality of a good writer?
Honesty. A good eye and a good ear.
What was the most challenging part of writing the book?
Deciding what to include with only a certain number of pages. To appeal to those who wanted fashion, those who wanted personal, those who wanted celebs. I saved many clippings, thank goodness, but choosing what would actually be interesting to a reader who would plunk down $16.95, that was hard. Wondering if anybody really cared was also a question I wrestled with. I didn’t want it to be an ego trip. I wanted people to like my choices. I wanted to take them on my journey.
What did you learn about yourself in the process?
I learned this about myself, looking back: I do tend to ramble as I share stories. But I couldn’t do it any other way. I write the way I talk. A good editor always helped me, but I wanted my voice to be heard. I also learned my past is a major part of who I am today. My memories are my strength as well as my weakness in some ways, but most of all, I appreciate even more what my years prior to now taught me and the love I shared. Even as I recognize looking forward is healthy, even at 80, I don’t mind being called a “queen of nostalgia” and remembering things past. I think I also learned I have been so privileged to have had the career I had. I didn’t always appreciate it until I put the book together.
By-line by Barbara Cloud is $16.95 at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Marjie Allon, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Penguin Book Store in Sewickley, Pa., Mystery Lovers Book Store in Oakmont and at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s online store.
Thanks to so-called reality TV shows, all many people will ever know about Madagascar is the hissing cockroaches.
But the Indian Ocean island off the southeastern coast of Africa is where rare vanilla orchid blossoms were harvested at daybreak for use in Jo Malone’s newest fragrance, Vanilla & Anise.
Research tells us that vanilla, one of the most versatile natural ingredients in fragrance-making, is a scent equally appealing to men and women. It forms the heart and base of this new cologne in combination with star anise, a spice that sort of sparkles.
Notes of bergamot, neroli and frangipani keep the cologne somewhat light while white amber, tuberose, vetiver bourbon, vanilla bourbon absolute and Madagascar clove counterbalance with an exotic warmth in the drydown.
Like every other Jo Malone scent, it can be combined with other colognes in the line for different effect. It becomes even more lively and uplifting combined with Grapefruit, more feminine and elegant when worn with Orange Blossom, and more sultry in tandem with the cedary nutmeg aroma of Vetyver.
Vanilla & Anise is $55 for one ounce and $100 for 3.4 ounces at Bergdorf Goodman, select Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue stores, and at jomalone.com.
Is it possible to notice a difference with an eye cream in just a week?
When such products first began to show up on store shelves some years ago, the answer was a rounding no. But with discoveries in science and technology, the answer now is “it depends.”
So, I was impressed when I noticed diminished appearance of puffiness, darkness and wrinkling under my eyes after not even a week of morning and evening application of GinZing Refreshing eye cream, a new product by Origins.
Several factors contribute to wrinkling, bagginess and darkness around the eyes, from allergies and smoking to stress, inadequate rest and poor nutrition. I’ve become pretty good at guessing somebody’s approximate age by looking at the skin around their eyes, but products like GinZing are probably going to lower my average.
GinZing contains some of the same ingredients found in similar products: caffeine to soothe skin as an anti-irritant; chestnut extract to aid in the exfoliation of dead surface cells; shea butter to hydrate; and silica and mica to diffuse darkness and illuminate. But there’s also Panax ginseng (an herb that dates back 7,000-years) and vitamin B complex to strengthen skin and combat puffiness, magnolia extract to reduce the appearance of dark circles, and extracts of apple and cucumber to brighten skin and even its tone.
GinZing is $29.50 for a 5-oz. jar and just became available this month. You can buy it by clicking here. And remember: the best time to start using an anti-aging eye product is in your 20s.