Caputo & Co. Melds Tropical Hues With Sustainable Materials for Their Spring/Summer 2015 Accessories

A glimpse of the accessory offering for Spring/Summer 2015

As a blogger, it is always fun for me to attend “press days”; the days allotted on the fashion calendar in which members of the press and stylists visit various brand showrooms to view forthcoming collections. Sometimes these meetings serve as an initial introduction to the brand, but whilst on location, you are given a full run-through of said collection. From a press standpoint, you are able to gather materials for future stories, and from a stylist standpoint, you are able to take notes of pieces you may want to pull for shoots.

Just this past week I was invited to the Spring/Summer 2015 press days for Caputo & Co.; a New York-based unisex accessories line with a “Central-American soul”, featuring handwoven elements from local artisans in Guatemala. After perusing the brand’s website, I was introduced to their quality aesthetic, which made me really excited to check out the line in person. These photos give you a small glimpse of the forthcoming collection.

Signature bracelets, in an array of hues

Caputo & Co. is a leather accessories line for both men and women launched in 2011 by designer Alex Caputo. The product mix includes leather & canvas totes, small bags, leather weekenders, travel accessories, wallets, belts, and bracelets. For the  Spring/Summer 2015 season, the line is injected with rich color, reminiscent of a tropical escape. The color range and Batik-esque weave (seen in the top photo) was inspired by the designer’s trip to Bali.

The brand is known best for their bracelet assortment (seen above), that continues the color-saturated inspiration of the larger accessories, along with special pieces using lava stones and rudraksha beads, crafted by local Balinese artisans.

A plethora of leather & hand-woven belts

It is important to note that all leather in the collections is full-grain Vachetta leather which is incredibly rich and untreated, making it quite strong AND eco-friendly. What a treat! As a leather lover, this made me quite happy as I know pieces from the collection will stand the test of time.

Stunner: full-grain leather weekenders

Now what was my favorite piece, you may ask? Definitely the leather weekender, available in a striking cobalt blue, and warm tan. The quality is impeccable and the leather, quite luxurious. Seeing this piece, I cried in my heart a bit because I believed it would cost upwards of $750. Boy was I wrong.

The weekender retails for $450, making it the most expensive piece in the collection, but well worth it. I would say a median price for all the pieces would be around $200, with bracelets in the $65 – $225 range, belts in the $95 – $145 range, and larger bags in the $200 – $450 range.

Gorgeous,sustainable, eco-friendly, affordable luxury? Sign me up! Be sure to check out the brand’s official website, as well as on Instagram & Twitter. Their handle is @caputoandco.

 

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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WOMANday: Atlanta-Based College Friends Embrace Female Duality With Their Online Fashion Boutique, Babs + Mickie Co.

Chatting with Lucy (L) and Monique (M) of Babs + Mickie Co.

The vast mass that is the world wide web opens us up to so many different things; whether it be music, fashion, art, or people. Being one who basically spends their livelihood on the internet via this here blog, freelance projects and more, I find myself connecting with really amazing people via social media. This is how I was introduced to Babs + Mickie Co. The Atlanta-based women’s e-commerce store reached out to me via Twitter about a possible collaboration and I was totally into it. I really appreciated their aesthetic, and here, I am able to share the story of the women behind the brand. Read on.

Tell us the story behind Babs + Mickie Co. and how the idea of this business came about.

Monique: Randomly, it started at mutual friend’s birthday brunch. It was in West Midtown (Atlanta) and we were all just talking about our sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. We were just getting ready to graduate and one of the things about being a student leader on campus and being in AKA is that you have this whole reputation, or this whole responsibility to be prim and proper, just a lady at all times, you know? But both of us are a little rough around the edges with that [laughs]. One of the things with me and Lucy is that we best express ourselves through clothing and style, and being ourselves, so we wanted to create an online store that kind of represented that, and that’s where the birth of the two characters came in, the “Babs” and the “Mickie”. Babs being that typical lady, like the Alpha Kappa Alpha woman, which is really poised and polished, and Mickie is more of the androgynous friend that you like to take out, the rebel, boyish part of the brand. We really wanted to have two styles that we kind of fuse together to make up those characters; to make up what a woman is. We want to make sure girls feel comfortable embracing both sides.

How would you each describe your personal style?

Lucy: I think for me, I definitely find my personal style to be androgynous. I love feminine silhouettes…I think the clothing I like has more shape to it, more geometry and cuts…more futuristic. I do like to play with different textures. I like pops of color, so you will find me in grays or blacks, or nudes; I like to play with nudes a lot, with pops of color. But at the very same time, I like to stay prim and proper, so I do have my nails done, and things like that. I like accessories; hats, sunnies, a pop of lip. I definitely think Monique is more feminine though…

Monique

Monique: I’m more comfortable. I like boyfriend jeans, but I will always throw on a pair of heels with it. I love colors, patterns; you will rarely see me in anything very tight. I like to be flowy, and loose, and comfortable. That effortless chic style, I guess is more that I go for.

What are some common misconceptions you believe the public may have of starting your own e-commerce business?

Monique: That it’s easy. That you can just put it up and people can shop online, as opposed to a brick and mortar stores where you are worried about foot traffic, depending on the city you are located in, high overhead costs of getting a building and so forth. People like to go online because 1) we are in the technology age, and 2) it just seems  easier to put up a shop online, but the amount of work you have to do to make people actually go to your site, because you’re one in millions, you know? So that is the main thing, but thankfully we have so many tools like social media and so many ways to bring traffic to it, but you really have to put a bulk of your time into that, because with brick-and-mortar, you can have that foot traffic and say “Hey I like that!”, and try it on, but how are you going to get people to your website? How are you going to find out about Babs + Mickie? That’s a tough battle. I didn’t realize how tough it was until you actually get into it and you’re like “SEO and all these other things…what?”.

Lucy: It’s so much research. I believe we spent the majority of our time researching. As soon as we graduated from Georgia State in 2012, we looked at a couple of our records, and I think we opened the store six days after. Through all that time in 2012, it was just research, research, research. How to start a company? What is marketing? What is SEO? How do you find your audience? Who is your audience? It’s not just getting products and throwing them online. Our main thing is building a consistency with our brand, and discovering our customer; knowing who our customer is, what she wants, what she likes. Keeping up with trends but still having a starting point, or a point of reference. Starting an online store is NOT easy, and 80% of small businesses fail in the beginning, but you really have to do your research, and have fun with it too.

Lucy

You all are an Atlanta-based business and you mentioned that there are a lot of cool new things on the fashion front for the city. What do you foresee in the future for Atlanta as a burgeoning fashion capital, and what can we expect from you both in the not-too-distant future?

Lucy: Atlanta is great for the new up-and-coming professional, entrepreneurs; so much construction going on, but from Atlanta you can expect new designers, new fun styles, more contemporary-chic, and from us, a plethora of that, going into casual, cocktail-wear, formal, business [attire]. We want to bring color and patterns to the city, and that’s what we want to do through our brand, Babs + Mickie; showing the everyday girl who loves style where she can find that, you know?

Monique: I think what is a good thing about Atlanta is that everything is just sprouting up so quickly, we’re JUST getting our Rodeo Drive with the Buckhead Shops that they’re just building up, we’re just getting our SoHo, so a lot of designers are seeing potential in Atlanta. There’s a growing market and a big media outlet, like a $1 Billion budget, so you’re going to get a lot of opportunities in the entertainment industry, and fashion is really starting to grow because people feel interested  it. With that, we’re definitely going to make sure we capitalize on bringing those patterns and those colors to the city. What I loved about coming to New York is that everyone had their own style, and I feel like Atlanta has their own style, but it’s growing, so we’re really excited to take advantage of that, and provide some cool products for women to be comfortable in.

Fin.

It was such a pleasure chatting with Lucy and Monique about their business. A special thank you to Lindsey Trimble for the lovely photos (website link below). Be sure to follow Babs + Mickie Co. at the following links:

Babs + Mickie Co. E-Boutique

Babs + Mickie Co. Blog

Babs + Mickie Co. Twitter

Babs + Mickie Co. Instagram

 

 *Photos by Lindsey Trimble/Pristine Finesse

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Amy Collado Realizes her Tribute To NYC’s New Golden Era With #BornTooLate

I love New York City stories. I especially love those raw and gritty stories that are sometimes overlooked on a mass scale. It is especially meaningful to me when these stories are brought to light through the work of my peers and colleagues who also, happen to be New York City natives. #BornTooLate happens to be one of those stories.

Curated by Amy Collado, #BornTooLate is a collection of photographs, music, and jewelry installations that capture the essence of New York City’s new Golden Area, between the years of 1975 to 1985. The three-day exhibition was held earlier this month in a former bodega in Manhattan’s Alphabet City/East Village neighborhood.

Botánica NY installation

Upon entering the space, you felt immediately transformed into NYC of yesteryear. ’70s-inspired gold jewelry and eyewear from Botánica NY was showcased in the window, a playlist of everything from Hector Lavoe, to Donna Summer, to the Freestyle greats played in the background, and wine was served out of “We Are Happy To Serve You” disposable coffee cups.

The Brooklyn Four photo installation

The highlight of the exhibition was the photo installation of The Brooklyn Four, a crew based in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, which included some members of Amy’s family. It was interesting to see these photos in a grouping, as they embodied both the highs and lows of life in the inner-city during that time. Friendship, family, love, violence, and indecision were all showcased in this tight vignette. I found it to be particularly brave of Amy to showcase these photos as it is hard at times to get over the mistakes of our family members in the past.

Another highlight of the exhibition was the painting above by BK The Artist. We see the hand of an elder holding that of a child; a reminder to us to respect our elders, and uphold their legacy.

I really enjoyed the exhibition as I believe it totally embodied the spirit of the time in an honest way. I was also quite happy to see the project come to life after initially speaking about it with Amy. It’s always great to see your friends realize their goals.

I’ll toast to that.

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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What Oscar de la Renta Meant To Me, A Look Back

Oscar de la Renta with model Karlie Kloss backstage at his Spring 2013 show. Photo: Google

Born in the Dominican Republic, trained in Europe, and coming into his own in the United States, Oscar de la Renta is one of THE modern masters of fashion design. Upon hearing of his passing yesterday evening [October 20th], I was overcome with emotion, and in this time, I gave myself a moment to reflect. I first become familiar with the name “Oscar de la Renta” as a young girl; my grandma wore his namesake perfume, and always had it sitting front and center on her dressing table. At that time, I was unaware of the fact that he was an incredible fashion designer, but I knew from the presentation of his product that he catered toward a certain type of woman, and that that woman embodied grace, and effortless style.

Over the years, my interest in fashion grew, and I always tried my best to make my ideas a reality with the help of my mother, whom aside from being a schoolteacher, was a seamstress. Together, we made all my dresses for special occasions, and for whatever reason, I was perfectly in-tune to what a “timeless” piece was to look like. I wanted to look like all the beautiful women who wore Oscar de la Renta, and my other favorite designer, Carolina Herrera.

I continued to read and research his career as a designer, and was determined to meet him. On one lucky day in April 2011, about a week before I started this blog, I attended the Fashion Talks series at FIAF, where Oscar de la Renta was the distinguished speaker. He discussed his uncommon path in choosing fashion design, leaving his native Dominican Republic to study art in Europe, and the evolution of his career, working as an apprentice for Balenciaga, transitioning to assisting Elizabeth Arden, to Balmain, and eventually, starting his eponymous label. One thing that rang true in hearing him speak, and viewing his collections is that clothing for women should be wearable. At this time, those words were a wake-up call for me, having learned design in college and feeling like an outcast because my peers designed conceptual collections while mine were actually wearable. I was reassured that I was on the right path.

I am not interested in shock tactics. I just want to make beautiful clothes. – Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta & moderator at FIAF Fashion Talks in 2011. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

Upon  the closing of his talk, my two co-workers who attended with me and I were determined to meet the man himself. We nuzzled our way backstage upon his exit and were able to shake hands with de la Renta, and confess our admiration for him as a person and a designer. He was so poised and gracious, treating every person like an old friend, exchanging hugs and kisses and well wishes to emerging designers. He really showed me that it was more important to be gracious, than the cold, bitchy diva we are used to seeing in the fashion world. To be someone relatable that could create beautiful things; that is what he showed me, and that is what I try to uphold in my everyday life.

Like many women, I often create the picture in my mind of what I believe my wedding to be like (yes, quite girly I know) and I always picture myself in one of his gowns, specifically the dress below.

Oscar de la Renta wedding gown. Photo: TheKnot.com

Oscar taught me to not be afraid to use color, and to not be afraid to be simple; to be able to retract to embody luxury. He taught me that consistency is key, and that the goal is to create a piece that will stand the test of time. To create something that is timeless; that is what Oscar has done. May his soul rest in peace, and may his influence live on forever.

Closing looks from his Fall 2013 presentation. Photo: Google

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From A Fan’s Perspective: Kaytranada Live @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

KAYTRANADA in the zone

It has been quite some time that I have personally posted a “From A Fan’s Perspective” concert review, and I believe it is just as well. This space is truly reserved for those musicians I’m a fangirl for, so it is quite appropriate that this post is a review of my faveeee DJ right now, KAYTRANADA. If you have been reading for a little bit, you would have noticed back in June that we had a review for Disclosure x KAYTRANADA at Output written by the lovely Jasmine, but this was now my moment to experience the man behind the decks. Disclaimer, I was there truly as a fan, so these photos were taken on my phone.

On Thursday October 9th, KAYTRANADA headlined at the Music Hall of Williamsburg as part of his North American tour. He was joined by fellow DJ openers, Obey City (known for his work with the Flatbush Zombies), and BBC Radio mainstay, Benji B. Brooklyn-based Obey City brought the beats with a cool ’90s vibe, some tracks remixed to fit his own groove, starting his set shortly after 8 PM. Since doors were at 8 PM, he was playing for a scant room at first, but folks steadily trickled in to get the energy going.

At approximately 9/9:30 PM sets changed and it was time for London’s own Benji B. He looped the first track of his set a number of times to tease the crowd, but when he finally let the beat drop and we realized it was “Gon Stay” from SBTRKT’s latest featuring Sampha, we knew we were in for a JAM. He steadily continued the jams, inserting a number of British artists into his set including more from Sampha, Wiley, JME, and Jai Paul. The wiggles slowly started to come out, and we were allowed to stretch out as we decided to take seats in the mezzanine, as opposed to the floor.

As the hour got closer to 10 PM, I started to become anxious, because I’m a nerd obviously. Benji B got on the mic and proceeded to say, “Brooklyn! Are you ready for KAYTRANADA?”, and the crowd went wild. His set wound down, equipment was switched, and a few minutes after 10 PM, KAYTRANADA hit the stage. This show was sold out, and in this moment, you could truly see how packed the music hall became.

KAYTRANADA greeting fans

He warmed up the crowd with some cuts from the ’70s, which he is known for, and wasted no time to get into his remix of Missy Elliott’s “I’m Really, Really Hot”. This jammy jam awakened the senses of the crowd, myself included, and there was nowhere else to go from there but up. I attended with four friends, and in this time, we made sure all of our belongings were set aside on chairs so we could freely move, and dance to the beat. His set stayed strong, followed up with his Teedra Moses “Be Your Girl” remix, and MNEK’s “I Wrote A Song About You” remix, which put the crowd in a frenzy, and which made me put down my phone and boogie to the max. The track is probably one of my most played songs on SoundCloud right now, a little ridiculous from an outsider perspective, but totally fine for me because the feel of it is just undeniable.

Kay Kay (as I call him in my head like we’re real life friends) continued with a solid set of disco jams interspersed with his incredibly popular remixes, as well as some originals. We got a taste of his AlunaGeorge “Kaleidoscope Love” remix, Common “I Want You” remix, and originals like “Hilarity Duff” and “At All”. The moment of truth was his performance of his incredibly popular remix of Janet Jackson’s “If”. As one of the tracks that really put him on the map, you could sense the excitement in the crowd when that beat dropped; it was magical, euphoric even. Booties were shaking, waists were twisting, and all hands were in the air. Other fun moments included a “Where Brooklyn At?!” interjection, and “Hot N*gga” interlude. Kay proceeded to do the Schmoney Dance across the stage, and throw his hat up in the air as the crowd danced along.

For my first time seeing KAYTRANADA after many failed attempts, I was so happy that I had such a great experience filled with friends, lots of dancing, and jams on jams! He continues to tour in both the U.S. and abroad until December, so be sure to check out his tour dates to see when he’s in your city. Not to be missed!

*Fuzzy photos made possible by Andrea’s iPhone “Boo Boo”*

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Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself; Andrea, The Fashion Designer

In our everyday lives, we deal with many ups and downs; celebrations and mishaps, opening and closing doors, each moment adding to our own unique story. I cannot say that my experience is more difficult than that of anyone else, because the major things (food, shelter, clothing), I don’t need to worry about. However, when you suffer from being somewhat of a perfectionist (yes, I used “suffer” in this case) and have extremely high expectations of yourself, points that may be less exciting end up being the lowest of lows. This my friends, is not okay.

It’s been nearly a year since I have worked in a proper office setting, and for me, this has been somewhat of a gift and a curse. A gift because in this time I have been able to learn more about myself as a person, and what I believe my strengths and weaknesses to truly be, and a curse because I lack the structure of an office setting, and at times, have too much time with myself to think. As a writer, my thoughts are a commodity, my thoughts become THINGS. Whether it be a simple reflective post like you are currently reading, a location and full conversation set-up in advance for an interview, the idea for another blog or literary project, my thoughts translate quickly into something you can consume, if I of course, write them down. For whatever reason, in these past few weeks, I have had much difficulty in writing anything down. After the fatigue of fashion month, my mind and body became drained, and I really had to take a step back and evaluate my current situation. Covering fashion and music as a single writer on my own site becomes overwhelming as the cycle is so incredibly fast. I was trying and trying to put out content, but all I really wanted to do was sleep because I was so mentally and physically exhausted. I am happy that I did immerse myself in various types of fashion events this past month because it made me realize how much I care about it, and miss it, because I am indeed, a fashion designer.

I started this blog in 2011 because I have a unique perspective on the creative world, but my main reason in giving myself a voice online was to solidify a space for my fashion design. My secondary major in college was fashion, and since 2007 I have created capsule collections, more so for school fashion shows and other small shows in New York City. I abandoned much of this once I put the majority of my energy into this here blog, and I knew that if I wanted to be truly fulfilled, I had to do both. In these past few weeks, I have been sewing again, making skirts and dresses for myself with excess silk fabrics I have had from previous collections. This was quite new for me as I had formerly constructed garments solely for sample size models, and have ended up with a closet-full of garments that do not fit me. In my observations of apparel during fashion month I truly realized that my perspective in regards to women’s special occasion wear was quite special (not to be trite) and that I should put more of it out there. My mother has always been my right-hand in regards to fashion; teaching me how to sew, how things should fit, what fabrics should be used, and what is “appropriate”. Because of her wisdom, I inherently design dresses and skirts with a timeless appeal that is always appropriate in a fresh way.

With that being said, I wanted to show you a photo of my first completed skirt, of many more to come! This skirt was constructed out of two different silk ikat fabrics from Uzbekistan (note the opposing pattern in the waistband), lined in marigold silk. This was the last of this piece of fabric I had, purchased back in 2010, and is truly one of a kind. I will be making skirts like this in three different lengths; knee, mid-calf, and ankle, to satisfy all tastes. If you are interested in a skirt, feel free to send me a message on my contact page. So excited to take you on this journey with me. :)

*Photo by Diana K. Castillo

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#WOMANday Event Re-Cap: Women Empowering Women Luncheon & Fashion Show at the United Nations

Artisans from India, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, and Peru w/ model Cameron Russell (fourth from left)

As the United Nations General Assembly has kicked off its 69th session, the headquarters and neighboring venues have been hosting various high-profile events. One of the main focuses of the current session is Women Empowerment, led by UN Women, their officials, and other speakers.

Producer & LDNY Foundation Founder June Sarpong  and model David Agbodjiv

In the spirit of entrepreneurship, the Women Empowering Women Luncheon & Fashion Show launched as the premier event of the LDNY (London New York) Festival, a month-long event that is set to bring the culture of London stateside, and vice-versa. The luncheon and fashion show, backed by the UN and held in conjunction with ITC (International Trade Centre) and the LDNY Foundation, served as a platform of collaboration between selected female artisans/entrepreneurs from around the globe and fashion students from Parsons and the London College of Fashion. Fashion GPS served as the tech partner, whose technology was used to check in all guests.

Creative Director of Malone Souliers Mary Alice Malone (L) and Managing Director of Malone Souliers Roy Luwolt

Together, the students collaborated with the artisans on their collections, whether it be actual textiles, knits, hand-embroidery, or beading. In addition to these collections, the artisans showed their own lines as well, that best exemplified their craft. Countries represented included Peru, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Palestine, Mongolia, and India. Shoes were provided by Malone Souliers, a boutique ladies shoe brand based in London, founded by Americans Mary Alice Malone, and Roy Luwolt.

Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Distinguished speakers included Gina Casar, Associated Administrator of UNDP, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, Cherie Blair (wife of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair), Ban Soon-taek, wife of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Cameron Russell, supermodel and leading supporter of ITC’s women empowerment initiatives.

I volunteered at the event for an organization called Agent Of Change, who organize and manage events that connect the people who want to change the world with the people that do. I was truly humbled to be in a space with so many powerful, talented, and enterprising women, and I was delighted to be a part of the event, which was the first fashion show to ever be held at the United Nations.

The presentation featured so many beautiful, thoughtful looks, so I wanted to share my favorite four women’s looks, and my favor four men’s looks of the afternoon. Unfortunately, I do not have a detailed rundown of the designers and artisans and whom contributed to each look below, but I hope the gorgeous photos will suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITC designers, student designers, event organizers, and UN officials

The collections are being housed in the Joey Showroom in NYC for wholesale opportunities. Truly inspiring!

You may watch the full video of the Women Empowering Women Luncheon & Fashion Show here.

*Photos courtesy of GETTY IMAGES

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#ALifeInTheDayinBelize: An Awe-Inspiring Trek Through The Ancient Maya Ruins of Xunantunich

The red ginger plant on the grounds of Xunantunich

Visiting Belize for me is a time for many things; a time to relax and unwind, a time to spend with family, but most of all, a time to uncover my roots, and the history of the country. For the past few years now, I have made it my duty to visit various museums, reserves, and archaeological sites in my trips to Belize, to learn more about the country’s rich, multicultural history. As the country is situated in what was once the center of the “Mundo Maya” (Mayan World), visiting various Mayan ruins is always a part of my journey. On this trip we visited the extremely popular, Xunantunich.

El Castillo, the main structure of the grounds

Xunantunich has always been on the top of my list of Mayan ruins to visit for many reasons. I had learned at a young age that the site has one of the tallest structures in the country, and that that structure happened to be called “El Castillo”. For me it felt like a duty of all Castillos everywhere to visit, climb to the top, and take in the glory of such a feat. And that I did.

El Castillo stands at 130 feet tall making it the second largest structure in Belize, after the structure at the ruins in Caracol. The structure is the center of the Xunantunich (Stone Lady) grounds, and is believed to be the edifice in which the kings lived. For this trek we had a lovely guide, of Mayan descent, who really gave us a full history lesson on Xunantunich, the rise and fall of the Mayan empire, and how that all equates to the current state of Belize. Our journey was simple; climb to the top of El Castillo, and learn more about it along the way.

The view on our way up the side of the pyramid

As I have climbed the ruins at Altun Ha and Lamanai in the past, I was not scared to embark upon El Castillo, but there was a significant height difference. Given the fact that this trek was years in the making for me, I did not let my nerves get the best of me, and pushed forward. The photo above shows the view looking up during our hike to the top.

The view from the top of El Castillo; just gorgeous

The stone steps leading to the temple’s zenith were steep and uneven, but sturdy nonetheless. As the space around me lessened, I will say that anxiety set in, but I wouldn’t let it hold me back from getting to the top. I took a quick break on the level below the top as I was sweating at this point, then made my way up the narrow stairs to the top.

What I was greeted with is what you see in the photo above; awe-inspiring greenery in an area of the country that is almost untouched. The site is less than a mile away from the Guatemalan border in the West, and you could literally see the country from standing on the top. I felt such satisfaction to have made it that far, like I was coming closer to finding some lost treasure. Maybe that will be in the next chapter of my travels?

Close-up of the frieze on the side of the structure

I took tons of photos, and had my brother take a few of me, which I decided not to include as I looked a bit tired and sweaty. I know, I know, I should have just included them, but I’m a little self-conscious, you know? I stayed at the top for about ten minutes, and I knew it was time to go down when this little thing called anxiety kicked in. For whatever reason, it was more difficult for me to walk down than up, as I imagined myself tumbling on one of the stones, and having a terrible accident. This, thankfully, did not happen, and I was able to take more photos, like the one above showcasing the detail of one of the friezes, depicting life of the ancient Maya.

When we were back on the ground, we took time to walk through the plaza, learn about the native trees and how the Maya used them in ancient times, as well as learn about their leisure activities. Exploring Xunantunich was by far one of the high points of my Belize trip. I feel satisfied that I made it, and am forever thankful to our tour guide.

But wait, the Belize stops don’t stop there. Look out for more adventures in #ALifeInTheDayInBelize!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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Capsule Women’s NY SS15: Modern Americana, Feat. Gant Rugger, Brooklyn Tailors, & Billy Reid

Capsule Women’s SS15 tradeshow took place right after New York Fashion Week on September 12 – 14 in Lower Manhattan’s Basketball City venue. As there was no time to really regroup after my fashion week whirlwind, I decided to sit out Friday, and hit up Capsule on Saturday and Sunday.

This was my first time attending the Women’s show, so I was personally looking for brands that matched my aesthetic; revamped classics, silhouettes borrowed from the boys, happy prints, and color galore. In my first round-up, we take a deeper look at a few brands doing Modern Americana well; Gant Rugger, Brooklyn Tailors, and Billy Reid.

GANT RUGGER

Silk bomber goodness

I’ve been a long-time fan of Gant and their various lines, so I was excited to see the new Gant Rugger Women’s line IRL at the show. Their booth was a short walk from the entryway, and filled with duds that have made me a fan of the brand; great shirting, easy layering pieces, stripes, and classic color. I happily introduced myself to Spencer, who runs wholesale, and basically got the lowdown on the new collection.

Gotta love a chambray shirt!

Gant Rugger for women has launched this season (Fall/Winter 2014) in their respective online and brick & mortar retailers, but the Spring/Summer 2015 collection is their first Gant Rugger collection available for wholesale. New to Capsule, the collection was everything I would expect from Gant, with some whimsical touches. One piece in particular is the floral silk bomber in the first photo at the far right. The colors are super Americana, in navy, white, and reddish pink, on a simple bomber silhouette. The unexpected touches were the usage of silk, and the understated floral pattern, that blend the masculine and feminine in a beautiful way.

Red, white, and blue jeans

They had a full offering of shirting, one of the pieces I love the brand most for, in shades of white and blue, also offering shirt dresses in similar fabrications. Stripes and plaid remain a constant, but always done in a fresh way.

 

BROOKLYN TAILORS

Signage and blazers

After my perusal of Gant Rugger’s collection, I sashayed over to the Brooklyn Tailors booth, which was just around the corner. I had read in the Capsule show guide and online that the brand was new to the show, so it was necessary that I get to know the folks behind the brand, as well as the collection.

Can I have all these shirts in my closet, right now?

When I entered the booth, I was greeted by Brenna Lewis. She and her husband Daniel founded Brooklyn Tailors in 2007 when they started offering custom tailoring out of their Brooklyn apartment. Fast forward to 2011 when they opened their first storefront in Williamsburg, and 2012 when they unveiled their first men’s collection. Now in 2014, they have brought us a taste of a new women’s line, to launch in Spring/Summer 2015.

Shift dresses, shirt dresses, and trousers

Some of the silhouettes mirror that of the mens collection, as well as using similar fabrics. We see this in the oxford shirts, in a divine weight, tight-woven cotton, pants, and blazers. There were more feminine touches in shift dresses, slightly cropped blouses, and shirt dresses, all of which I would love to add to my closet ASAP!

 

BILLY REID

Signage and a quick preview of the collection

After a lovely chat with Brenna, I walked over to Billy Reid, which rounds up my Modern Americana list. If you are not familiar with the modern Americana luxury that is Billy Reid, let me just give a quick rundown of some awards:

  • February 2010, winner of the CFDA “Best New Menswear Designer in America”
  • November 2010, he won the “CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund”
  • June 2012, recipient of the CFDA’s prestigious Menswear Designer of the Year award.

A close-up of some textured offerings

I can continue to read off accolades, but let me be clear, Billy Reid embodies modern luxury; wearable modern luxury. My heart melted a bit when I walked in to the corner booth and viewed its three full racks of goodness. The Spring/Summer 2015 collection takes notes from the Middle East and American Southwest in pattern, and color assortment.

Understated footwear

There was a multitude of pieces that could mix and match in the color scale of ivory, navy, camel, faded red, and gold, including chunky blazers, breezy tunics, and luxe leather jackets. Along with the lovely clothing items, Billy Reid has a full footwear collection, masterfully crafted out of some of the best leathers offered. The tasseled croc loafer on the right was by far my favorite. I think what I love most about this collection is the keen attention to detail, whilst keeping the silhouettes breezy, and easy to wear.

Viewing all these collections has me pumped for the coming spring season, and gives me piece of mind that my slightly boyish style is all the rage right now. Hope you dig the duds. Look out for more recaps on the radar!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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#ALifeInTheDayinBelize: Simple Pleasures, Food, & Drink In Caye Caulker

The motto of the island, “Go Slow”

In my previous post on Caye Caulker in my #ALifeInTheDayInBelize series, I discussed the stillness of the island, and how much I believe it is a great place to unwind and reflect. In addition to its stillness, Caye Caulker is a wonderful place to enjoy a true Belizean culinary experience.

The entryway of Tropical Paradise

I’ve been spoiled growing up with the food of the women in my family, who put their all into Belizean cooking, never skipping a beat. Whenever I return, aside from the beautiful sites, I am very much focused on finding great food that is reminiscent of my family, if not better. Tropical Paradise is a hotel and restaurant that rings true to this.

Breakfast favorite, Lobster Scrambled Eggs w/ Fried Jacks

I’ve visited Tropical Paradise a few times in my years, but on this occasion I was truly set on good meals. Whenever you are out at caye, it is always suggested that you eat some lobster, and the restaurants in Caye Caulker have been making a breakfast of Lobster Scrambled Eggs with Fried Jacks for years now, the offering at Tropical Paradise being the most popular.

I ordered this breakfast my first morning at caye, and it was everything that I had expected. The lobster was fresh and sweet within the eggs, so minimal seasoning was added. The fried jacks, which in short are triangular pieces of fried bread, was the perfect density and flavor that I had expected. I finished my meal off with a fresh lime juice to keep it light, to truly savor in all the flavors I had consumed. My belly was full and happy.

Lazy Lizard, in all of its glory

At The Point of the island, there is a lovely beach bar called Lazy Lizard which is popular both with locals and visitors. The open air space takes up the end of the island with a two-story palapa bar and two piers in which guests can lay out and chill throughout the day.

The view from the point

I visited with a few family members, and we were lucky to get a little table by the water. We ordered buckets of the local beer, Belikin and Lighthouse, which offer six bottles for $20-$25, which is a pretty consistent figure throughout the country. I myself ordered Rum Punch, as I am not much of a beer drinker, and was pleasantly surprised that their main ingredient was watermelon juice. Not to worry, the punch still packed a kick, which I am all for.

A bucket of local Lighthouse Beer

In between drinks and stories, I made it my job to take a little swim in the water. Caye Caulker has great swimming grounds, but do be warned that the areas to swim near The Point are quite rocky, so keep your eyes open! The water is also quite salty, so I would recommend you bring goggles if you visit.

I would definitely recommend Caye Caulker to those that love an authentic experience with a small town vibe. With great food, drinks, and friendly locals, it is an awesome place to experience Belize in a relaxed setting.

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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MANday Watch: Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, Presented by PBS

Kehinde Wiley is one of the most prominent portrait painters of our generation, focusing his work on the African-American male. We see his works in art institutions throughout New York City, and the world, and in his recent PBS Arts presentation, we see the road to one of his most recent exhibitions, An Economy of Grace, which was held at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery.

The exhibition was Wiley’s first using Black women as subjects; exploring sexuality and beauty in the 21st century. You may view the entire special over at PBS Video.

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Saturday Sounds: “Inside The Mind Of MeLo 4 (Mixtape)” by MeLo-X

On this gloomy Saturday, I wanted to bring some jams back into the forefront. In a slight break from fashion re-caps, I wanted to share the latest from the homie, MeLo-X. “Inside The Mind Of MeLo 4″ is a mash-up of tracks remixed/produced/featuring MeLo, in all of its downtempo/electro goodness. Press play, and see the full track listing below. Happy listening!

Tracklisting:
1. MeLo-X & Bunji Garlin – Carnival Tabanca (MeLo-X GodMix)
2. MeLo-X & Drake – Trophies (MeLo-X GodMix)
3. MeLo-X & Cheri Coke – I Love You (MeLo-X God Mix)
4. MeLo-X – She Likes It (Prod. By Quan Luv)
5. MeLo-X & Janelle Monae – Primetime (MeLo-X GodMix)
6. MeLo-X & Boy/Friend – About Love (MeLo-X God Mix)
7. MeLo-X & Beyonce – Drunk in Lust (Version 2)
8. MeLo-X & PartyNextDoor – Break From Flatbush (PartyNextDoor Remix)
9. MeLo-X – Sweet Bitch (Back n Forth)
10. MeLo-X – Finer Things feat. Elle Pierre (Prod. By MeLo-X & Sango)
11. MeLo-X & Wild Belle -Another Girl (MeLo-X GodMix)
12. MeLo-X – She’s on Fire (Prod. MeLo-X)
13. MeLo-X – Mojitos & Little Dragon (Prod. By AbJo)
14. MeLo-X – A Tree Must be a Tree (Prod. By MeLo-X)
15. MeLo-X & MoRuf – Fallen (Prod. By MeLo-X)

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#NYFW Tales: #techSTYLE Lounge Takes Over House Of Bumble For A Fashionista Retreat

The view from above at techSTYLE Lounge

On Monday, September 8th, the folks at Janine Just Inc. & Bloggerini joined forces to host the #techSTYLE Lounge. The lounge has become a must for fashionistas over the past few seasons, and this time around House of Bumble (headquarters of Bumble + Bumble salon) was host to the festivities.

My look the afternoon: Ralph Lauren blazer, Gap tank, Forever 21 pants, Pour La Victoire sandals

I hopped over to the lounge in the early afternoon after completing a photoshoot, dressed in garb that I’ve called “comfy chic”. This was the beginning of a busy evening, so I opted for cotton pieces that would look smart all night long. Upon entering the massive space, my list of priorities went as follows:  nails, beverage, food. So let us begin with some of my faves of the afternoon!

Guest getting a mani from Diosa Nails

Upon looking straight back to my right in the space, I spotted the manicure station, sponsored by Diosa Nails & PolishThe NYC-based brand is somewhat of a “social nail brand”, holding various nail meet-ups and special events, in addition to selling vibrant polishes. I decided to go for a mani in Oro Solido, a pale metallic gold color, to match with my accessories.

Checking out Happy Tree Water with Lorie

After my mani, I stepped on over to the Happy Tree Water station. They are a maple water that has some of the same benefits of coconut water (electrolytes, vitamins), with a mild maple flavor, sourced right from New York State in the Catskill mountains. The consistency was light, and above all, refreshing.

Heather from FashionistaNYGirl (and fellow NY Blogger Collective member) checking out PINCHme

As a lover of product samples (what can I say?!), my next stop was the PINCHme table. They are a subscription-box service that offers various consumer goods/personal care items for FREE each month. Users sign up to receive, and are asked to give feedback on their experience from time-to-time, which is then reported right back to the brands. I received a box at the event, and can’t wait to try out the goodies.

Instagram photo printing station. Perfect!

Instagram was popping throughout the event (of course). All guests who used the event hashtag were able to print out their photos from IG within minutes. So meta, right?

Outerwear from Snowman

After picking up my photo, I swung back to Snowman Outerwear. The NYC-based brand makes stylish ladies jackets for all seasons. They had their Fall collection on view, with some sneak peeks of Spring ’15. I dig the simplicity of the lines used throughout the collection, as well as the color palette.

Malaysian street-food bites made possible by Mamak

After the jackets, it was time to refuel. I whipped back near the entrance, where Mamak was located. They serve delectable Malaysian street food, in compact sizes for eating on the go. The robust flavors made my tummy happy.

Taking a work break to catch up on e-mails and social media

Since I was now sitting and re-charged, it was time to catch up on my social media, and blog of course! I used the time to send out time-sensitive e-mails, and publish a post before I was off to the next event. As a blogger, and woman-on-the-move, events like this are so crucial to me. Kudos to Janine Just Inc. & Bloggerini for another great event. I will be looking forward to next season!

*Photos courtesy of Janine Just Inc. 

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#NYFW Tales: Maison Kitsuné SS15 Mens + Womens, #EFFORTLESSFRENCH

A glimpse of Maison Kitsuné SS15. Credit: Billy Farrell Agency

On the evening of Monday, September 8th, Parisian label Maison Kitsuné showed their mens and women’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection as part of MADE Fashion Week. The presentation, entitled #EffortlessFrench, was held at The Standard, High Line, and marked the label’s first official presentation during New York Fashion Week.

The men behind the brand: Gildas Loaëc & Masaya Kuroki. Credit: Billy Farrell Agency

The collection, spearheaded by co-founders and Creative Directors Gildas Loaëc & Masaya Kuroki, embodied the lightness and wearability of what #EffortlessFrench styling is; a base in neutrals paired with whimsical pastel print elements, classic stripes and checks, made of totally wearable textiles.

The menswear GAWD himself, Nick Wooster. Credit: Billy Farrell Agency

The crowd was full of tastemakers and cool kids. I personally spotted everyone’s favorite man in menswear, Nick Wooster, it-girl Kilo Kish, stylist Cleo Wade, and MADE Fashion Week co-founder Jenne Lombardo.

Overall, the collection was very strong and wearable, and we know I’m ALL for wearability! Below, you can see my top looks for both men and women. Can’t wait for the collection to drop!

WOMEN’S

Bias-cut geometric print dress. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

Silver jacquard sheath dress worn over black sheer blouse with tie. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

*FAVORITE* Neon salmon cape worn over pink/white lace printed skinny pants. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

MEN’S

Olive bomber and hat worn with white tee and khakis. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

Black + white gingham suit worn over white tee. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

*FAVORITE* Multi-color palm print bomber jacket worn over navy oxford shirt, with white pants. Credit: Emily Anne Faultstich

Until the collection drops, feel free to listen to some jams on their website. They have a record label as well, so get into it!

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#NYFW Tales: Backstage at Etxeberria SS15 w/ AJ Crimson

On Sunday, September 9th, I had the pleasure of shooting backstage at Etxeberria at The Pavilion at Lincoln Center. Etxeberria is young mens and womenswear line based in Spain, that called upon the make-up master AJ Crimson to doll up the faces of their models for the runway show.

Model getting prepped

Since the focus was menswear, with a few women’s looks, the make-up was very clean with a white highlight on the lower lash line, and a strong contoured cheekbone.

Model Diandra Forrest getting her make-up done by AJ Crimson

The New York show was coordinated by model Shaun Ross, which was nice as many models of color were included in this presentation.

Shaun checking his phone prior to makeup

A few of the models backstage, prepping

As for the collection, Etxeberria SS15 was entirely made of leather, suede, fur, and exotic skins, showing how light and versatile these skins can be in warmer weather. The color palette was quite neutral, composed of black, ivory, camel, navy, and burgundy, with pops in scarlet and sky blue. The feel across the board was quite androgynous, given the cut of the garments.

A few of the leather and fur looks

Here’s some of that color pop, in scarlet exotic leather slide sandals for the men.

Hair was pretty low maintenance as well. Models with long hair were given a slight wave for a worn in look, men with short straight hair were given a parted slick-back, and women with shorter hair were given a slick back bun.

Hair in the works

Once all was done behind the scenes, I was able to take a seat in the pavilion to watch the entire presentation, which was quite solid! I have a penchant for leather, so I really enjoyed seeing it structured in a more delicate way. Some pieces were more conceptual than the others, but I would say about a third of the collection is completely wearable.

Many thanks to the ladies at Bella Public Relations for having me!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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