Friday, April 29, 2016

Getting Personal with Victoria Christian

The Scent of Royalty 

Just as the kitchen is the heart of a home, the beauty department is at the heart of a department store. And that's where the two worlds of Clive Christian collide.  Known for creating bespoke interiors and furniture, the British designer was one of the first to bring the crystal chandelier into the kitchen. So it's no surprise that his namesake perfume company is synonymous with using the finest, exotic ingredients to create exceptional perfumes, showcased in the most luxurious bottles and flacons.

Victoria Christian daughter of Clive Christian holding the Nº1 perfume case at Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island. Nº1 is known as "the most expensive perfume in the world." Nº1 perfume spray for women by Clive Christian, 1.6oz, $865 available at Neiman Marcus. Photo by Sabrina Azadi. 

I was first introduced to the Clive Christian fragrances, by his daughter Victoria Christian many years ago. To this day the process, reminds me of my olfactory innocence. The fragrances weren't like anything else I had inhaled or anything else on the market. Unlike the fad fragrances that are fashionable for a season, there is a longevity to these fragrances, and that's because you have to love them to wear them. You'll never just "make do" with a Clive Christian fragrance because like a great love, they're to be admired, pursued and cherished.  

If you're looking for instant gratification these fragrances are not for you. As with all absolute perfumes, wearing them means embarking on a journey, one without a compass (or a GPS) not knowing where the final destination will be. It's best to spritz the fragrance on your skin without rubbing it, so as to not bruise it, and then allow it to settle. The next step is to do nothing. You have to be patient, and give it time to develop. One spritz or a drop is all you need and depending on your body chemistry and your environment, each layer that's unveiled will hold a language of its own, that's unique, to you. Unlike many fragrances on the market, these fragrances are not going to reveal themselves to you immediately, like a fine wine that's sipped slowly, enjoy them sparingly. They're also worth the wait, because once you've discovered your match, it's unlikely, you'll stray. It's also rare to find anyone else wearing them, which is a novelty I like, and if you do, it feels like a secret shared, between friends and connoisseurs.

The Crown Perfumery, first established in 1872,  has a rich history, which is why it appealed to Clive Christian when he decided to purchase and revive it in 1999. Queen Victoria had given her seal of approval to the company. And now, another Victoria, the daughter of Clive Christian, along with her father at its helm, are taking it forward, into a new era.

My interview with Victoria Christian

Victoria Christian was recently at Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island, where I had the chance to sit down and chat with her about the past, present and future of this brand that holds the coveted title of being "the most expensive perfume in the world." I also had the opportunity to get a spritz of the soon to be launched Neiman Marcus exclusive, a limited edition; 1872 with a twist of Mandarin, which is sublime.

SA: We met almost 10 years ago at the Neiman Marcus in Miami, where you introduced the Clive Christian perfume collection to me and I had the pleasure of interviewing you, over coffee. We meet now at NM Fashion Island, how has your luxury brand evolved over the last 10 years?
VC: How time flies! And how lovely to be meeting after so many years on a different Coast and yet still celebrating this historic perfume house! What a testament to the quality and timelessness of the perfumes that they are still enjoyed by so many across the country!
Since we met my father Clive has released six new perfumes - three pairs - from his Private Collection. 'C', 'L' and 'V' perfumes all wear the same amber color glass bottle which was the color of the private commission perfumes in the archives of the Crown Perfumery and the Collection has a distinct personal feel. The more masculine versions of the pairs all carry a precious Oud wood at their base which brings a hallmark smokey, woody, confident complexity to the perfumes and the more feminine versions of the collection are a celebration of some of the most prized notes from the Victorian era - 'C' has an operatic note of Tuberose which was the Victorian symbol for voluptuous, forbidden pleasures and yet has a quiet, sensual finish and the 'L' has the unusual Davana, reminiscent of green, lush rain forest leaves and has a feeling to me similar to when sunbeams land on your face it is so bright and delightful! 

A display of some of the Clive Christian perfume collection, for men and women.

SA: What's the different aspects of working with your father, Clive Christian, and being the only sibling in the business?
VC: I am the eldest of three girls and have always had a strong connection with my father, Clive. We share the same humor which is always a great foundation for a relationship of course! I feel very lucky to have been raised by a gentleman who has a deep appreciation for life - I have learned to take time to enjoy a sunrise and a sunset, and perhaps most importantly to listen to my heart and to make decisions based on integrity and a feeling of love rather than a monetary motivation. My father has taught me this and I believe it is evident in his work, his designs and his creations. I feel very fortunate to represent my family business and to have the opportunity to work alongside a great British designer who has been recognized by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to British luxury. 

The Clive Christian coat of arms awarded to him in 1999 by The Royal College of Arms. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2012.

SA: Tell me about your first fragrance memory?
VC: My father has always kept beautiful rose gardens in England and the scent of natural English roses after the rain has such a delicate captivation - a little like you might imagine Turkish delight. I was and still am transfixed by this perfume and we harness rose in its absolute form at the heart of many of our perfumes - in particular the 1872 for women which carries the beautiful May Rose at the heart and requires 170 of those roses for every single drop. 

The 1872 perfume spray for women a floral, fruity, citrus fragrance perfect for summer days and nights. (100ml $495). 1872 is the year The Crown Perfumery was established.

SA: Is it true that the Clive Christian perfume is the most expensive perfume in the world? And if so why?
VC: Yes - when Clive created The No.1 Perfumes it was his wish to design a pair of perfumes that were simply the best - the No.1. He wanted a perfume that harnessed the rarest and most precious natural ingredients in their purest form - the absolute - the notes that most fragrances do not use due to their high cost and low yield. Rare Indian Sandalwood aged from 30-50 years and Madagascan Vanilla which takes six months to crystallize - he was not expecting for the perfumes to become the most expensive in the world - however when The Guinness Book of World Records announced this we decided to embrace it and to use this recognition to help us to reignite the conversation of what it takes to create a true luxury perfume and all the stories of what goes in to creating each complex drop. 

Victoria Christian hosts a private reception at NM Fashion Island.

SA: The perfume house has a long history, heritage and even a royal crown, tell me about that and how it has influenced your brand.
VC: Queen Victoria granted the image of her crown to this perfumery in 1872 and it had held a very special place in her Royal court and within her marriage to her husband Prince Albert. They had perfumes commissioned for various special occasions in their life and these perfumes were greeted as a matched, complementing pair - so they were united, connected invisibly through their perfumes. Clive Christian has maintained this tradition and all the perfumes in our collections are presented as matched pairs - however today, in this modern world our boundaries are so different - nowadays I find our clients are connoisseurs and many wear the pairs together - for example a spritz of No.1 for women and spritz of No.1 for men - it brings a third element to the perfumes - rather like two wings of a butterfly. 

A sealed original bottle of lavender salts from The Crown Perfumery from 1800's which has inspired the current perfume bottles. The Crown Perfumery was the perfume available on the first class cabins of the Titanic.

SA: With the thousand of perfumes available, tell me about the people who choose to wear your fragrances and what makes them want to wear the very British, Clive Christian brand?
VC: It's true that every year over 1000 different fragrances are launched and sadly it is true that over 90% of these fragrances have been discontinued within two years of their launch. Each perfume launch within the Clive Christian Perfume Collections is considered and curated by Clive so that they will not date and will remain a timeless addition to your perfume wardrobe. I have been wearing X for Women paired with X for Men for almost 15 years and each time I am complimented on my perfume - which invariably brings a spring to my step! And it does help that with every drop you are connected to a piece of great history from a perfume house that was so adored by our Queen Victoria that she granted the image of her crown! Nothing better than feeling like Royalty! 

Victoria uses a fan to introduce each fragrance as was the custom in Victorian England.

SA: You're surrounded by perfume in your professional life, but what fragrance do you like to wear when you're not at work? 
VC: To quote Confucius, "make your passion your profession and you will never work a day in your life" - I do not really consider what I do to be work - I love perfumes and it is an honor to represent this historic perfume house - my perfume wardrobe is fully stocked with the Clive Christian Perfumes and they are my invisible accessory for every day of my life and every occasion - on my wedding day in 2014 I wore No.1 for Women and my husband wore No.1 for Men (1+1=3!) and now this perfume holds a very special memory of the most wonderful day of my life! 

Victoria talks to me about the soon to be launched limited edition 1872 with a twist of Mandarin and 1872 with a twist of Vetiver.

SA: What's next for your perfume collection and the Clive Christian brand and what are you telling us here at Neiman Marcus Fashion Island?
VC: I am very excited to share a preview of our newest launch which will be exclusive to Neiman Marcus - the 1872 Limited Edition with a Twist! This new launch takes the heart of the classic and well loved citrus perfume pair 1872 and adds a new dimension to their invigorating complexity - the 1872 with a Twist of Mandarin adds a burst of joyful Mandarin for a bright body and the 1872 with a Twist of Vetiver brings a clean, fresh finish and a subtle glow. Each bottle is individually hand numbered 1/1000 and signed by Clive. They are incredibly vibrant and perfectly capture the feeling of Californian sunshine! 

Victoria and I after the presentation. Also seen here is a bottle of the Nº1 perfume. Clive Christian was also commissioned to create a unique presentation of a matched pair of the Nº1 perfumes, a his and hers for Prince William and Katherine (Duchess of Cambridge) for their wedding. Their perfume bottles were hand-cut crystal with a brilliant-cut diamond solitaire embedded in them, and their initials etched in gold. A gift fit for royalty.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Getting Personal with Michael Aram

Michael Aram will be at Neiman Marcus Fashion Island for a signing event on Wednesday October 28th from 1-4pm
After a rush to get Cameron out the door and off to preschool and getting the gardener to stop using the loud leaf blower (at least for a while), I sat with a cup of coffee in hand and waited for the designer Michael Aram to call moi. I didn’t have to wait very long. At exactly 10 a.m. my telephone rang. I answered with a high-pitched Peppa Pig like voice saying “hello!” knowing very well who was going to be on the other end. He sounded exactly as I had imagined him: warm, friendly and as his name implies; soft spoken. He spoke with me from a ferryboat, with his children playing in the background. I assumed he was taking a ferry ride along the Hudson River and was admiring Lady Liberty up close, as I had done with my son when I was in New York City. It didn’t occur to me, to ask.
What I learned about the man, renowned for his beautiful metal serving objects, is that there's a level of integrity in his life and work. A trip he made to India when he was in his early 20s changed everything. He was so impressed by the craftsmanship he saw there, that he decided to create a handful of metal objects, mostly for his own pleasure and returned home with the hope that others may like them too. The rest is history. His creations are now available across the globe, with a flagship store in NYC. He’s forged together the worlds of art and business seamlessly. Aram’s creations are often my go to items when I’m shopping for a hostess gift. Even though his creations translate as the perfect gifts for the home, I know that the most important kind of generosity is not just about the items we buy or give but it’s the generosity of spirit. It’s what we share of ourselves, with others that counts. And he was both generous, with his answers and his time. 

Michael, the twins - Anabel and Thadeus and his partner Aret, during the ceremony of the unveiling that took place on October 6th 2015, of his first permanent sculpture, entitled "Migrations" that Michael designed to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian genocide, as he is a descendant of genocide survivors. It has been permanently installed at the plaza of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in NYC. 
Here’s what we chatted about while I sipped, my re-heated, morning cup of coffee:

SA: Tell me about your family life:
MA: Well, we have the most incredible four and half year old twins. They are girl/boy twins (Anabel and Thadeus) they’re certainly the light of our lives. My partner and I, Aret, we’re both Armenian, and we’ve been together for 8 years now. The kids have changed everything for me. As much, as I love my work and as much as I love what I do, it’s all for them now. And they certainly come first in our lives.
SA: Are you aware that Iranians consider you as one of their own?
MA: I’m aware of it and I’m so grateful for it. It’s always so sweet when I’m at personal appearances and people come up to me asking if I’m Persian. I tell them, I’m actually Armenian, but we are neighbors and linguistically and culturally there’s so much similarity. I love my connection with the culture, language and food. I’m glad they feel a connection to my work, and to me, and they assimilate me into their lives the way they do.
SA: Did you know your (middle name) Aram means gentle? And is that a characteristic you think you possess?
MA: Yes, because of all the Moghul influences in the Hindi language, Aram means the same thing in Hindi. It’s something we always tell our craftsmen in India, we tell them in Hindi, “do it with Aram,” meaning create it, with peace. There’s definitely a sense of peacefulness in my work.  It’s like slow cooking; when you do things that are handmade, there’s always a vibration and you only get that through each hammer mark and each file mark. You do get the sense of something being a labor of love. In my own personality, I’m a peaceful guy and I think that might have translated into my work. 
Michael in his workshop in India with a few craftsmen and the makings of the Orchid Collection.
SA: What are your golden rules when it comes to entertaining?
MA: I believe that there’s a sacredness when it comes to hospitality and your guests are your blessings. When I entertain I use the saying, “open heart, open door.” I’m not someone who gets uptight when I entertain, I think the gift of having someone in your home is just to be hospitable to them, no matter what. I think it’s important to let go, a little. When you decide that you’re going to have fun, then “the more, the merrier,” it’s never going to be a strain. And you’ll open your last bottle of wine, if you have to.
SA: If you had to choose between paper plates and plastic cutlery what would it be?
MA: (Chuckles) You’re putting me on the spot. I don’t know whether you know this, but we make plastic cutlery and paper plates. 
SA: No, I had no idea.
MA: If you’re by your computer type in MADHOUSE by Michael Aram and you will see the most incredible paper plates, paper napkins and plastic cutlery. I’m very proud of the work. We try and execute things at the highest level of design and the highest level of materials for the category. They’re just exquisite. We’ve interpreted our twig cutlery, into clear plastic and we’ve created sculpted melamine plates that look like porcelain. We use them everyday with the kids. 
SA: The best dinner guest is…. fill in the blank for me:
MA: I like guests that feel absolutely at home and relaxed in my home and they treat my house like it’s theirs. I have so many friends that make me feel at home when I am their guest, and so I like guests that get up and pitch in, then it feels like they’re family.
SA: What’s the most recent meal you’ve cooked?
MA: I made Eech, it’s an Armenian cold salad, made with bulgur wheat, fresh mint and parsley. It’s like a tabbouleh but it’s made with bulgur grain. That’s the last thing I made and we’re eating it today, on the ferry ride with the kids.
SA: What are you reading right now?
MA: I’m proud to say, I’m reading a variety of children’s books for my kids. That’s what I read every evening.
SA: What’s your favorite children's book?
MA: Anything by British author Julia Donaldson. She has written books like The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom which is charming. We own everything she has ever written. The stories have this British sense of humor which I really appreciate, they’re also poetic and there’s a little dark side to them, so there are things that boys and girls like. 
SA: You’ve lived in India on and off, over the last 25 years, do you have the hang of the Indian head shake, with its multitude of meanings?
MA: (He laughs) Yes, I’ve even mastered it! My Indian friends don’t consider me non-Indian, after all these years, I’m one of the few foreigners and there’s only a handful of us in New Delhi, who are really committed to building a company, building a home and having a life there. We are not just in and out of the Embassy or the company but we’ve established ourselves there. I feel very much part of the landscape and I feel very much at home there.
SA: You have a home in New York and one in New Delhi, do you travel with your partner and kids to India?
MA: My partner has been there several times with me. The kids haven’t been there yet. We feel they’re still a little young for the trip. I really look forward to the day they travel there. My son, Thadeus, (named after, the patron saint of the Armenian church) looks like a Punjabi boy, he has dark olive skin with long eyelashes. He looks like all the boys in North India and I keep thinking when he finally gets to go to India he is going to feel, so at home.
SA: When you go to India what do you miss about Amercia?
MA: I miss things that are not nice to say. What I love about America is there is great commonality with everyone. We can look, at each other in the eye. There’s something that’s easy here socially, and you can interact with everyone in every spectrum of society and across genders. In India there are, all these layers of behavior. There is little in the sense of class and no sense of caste here, but that still exists in India. I live in a home in India, that was built in 1945 and even the architecture of the home shows signs of the caste system. The bathrooms, all exit directly into the garden, because the person cleaning your bathroom could not enter the rest of your house.
SA: Have you seen any improvement over the years?
MA: Yes, it’s certainly getting better. My friends tell me that even from the time of their parents’ generation, things have changed a lot.
SA: When you come here what do you miss about India the most?
MA: I miss the fact that my friends are very integrated in my life in India. They use this expression “land up,” they land, up at your door. Usually, even before I arrive, my friends would have called my house, the week before, and asked my cook “when is Michael saab coming?” When I arrive my phone is already ringing and my friends are asking when are we going to get together.  There is such a bond between us there. There’s not a sense of formality. I often joke and say that in India nobody needs a shrink since we talk to our friends. In India “lets meet” means let’s meet and talk. We all depend on one another there.
SA: What’s your favorite gift to take with you when you visit someone’s home?
MA: My favorite gifts are more like combination gifts. Sometimes I feel a bit shy about just taking my own work, because people will assume that I’m not making any effort. If I take a cake stand I will usually take a home baked cake with it. If I don’t have time, then it’s a bottle of wine and some coasters. I like this idea that there should be something to celebrate and something to leave behind, as a reminder of the beautiful evening you’ve had.

The Palm Collection (Fall 2015) inspired by the beauty of the windswept palm tree and the perfectly imperfect shapes of woven palm leaves and fallen fronds.

 SA: What’s the best hostess gift you’ve ever received?
MA: Great question. I love this question, because it’s really makes me think… I remember when I had my first apartment in New York, my mom and dad came to visit me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a vase that belonged to my grandmother. I love objects that have a meaning, they’re heirloom pieces. You treasure them in a way that you could never treasure anything else.
SA: I love your mermaid bowl. It’s on my lust list. Tell me a little about it:
MA: I made that piece probably about 18 years ago and we brought it back as part of our commemorative collection, at that time all my items were just individual pieces, nothing was a collection. I love it for a variety of reasons; you can fill it with ice and place Champagne bottles in it and use it as a beautiful party ice bucket. We’ve arranged flowers in it, you can use it as a punch bowl or a centerpiece bowl and since it’s stainless steel, you can serve food it in too.
The whimsical stainless steel Mermaid Bowl is part of the 25th Anniversary Commemorative Collection, $895.

SA: Your objects are decorative yet functional and many of them are inspired by the elements in nature, tell me about that:
MA: I like to show the different phases of life and even decay. I believe there is beauty to be seen in imperfections. I’m fascinated with the idea of how we fit into this world, with all its phases of life and decay.
The Joshua Tree collection, for Fall 2015, is inspired by a trip Michael made to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

SA: What’s your favorite item of clothing?
MA: All I ever wear, and I mean this; are blue jeans and checkered shirts.
SA: Do you have a favorite pair of blue jeans?
MA: I wear Gap jeans. I’m not super fancy. But I do like nice shirts. I love wearing pocket squares. It’s really rare to see me in a tie, so it might make up for that. My kids love to pull out my pocket squares, every morning, before I go to work.
SA: What’s the most challenging part of parenthood?
MA: (Laughs) Right now my daughter’s tugging at me, while I’m on the telephone.
SA: What’s the best thing about being a father?
MA: Getting a sense of unconditional love from them and feeling the unconditional love for them. 
SA: You have a furniture line, jewelry collection, candles, porcelain and even stemware. What’s next for Michael Aram?
MA: One area that we are looking into is textiles and perhaps rugs. I also really enjoy creating one of a kind art sculptures.
The Michael Aram collection is available at Neiman Marcus Fashion Island and at Michael Aram be at Neiman Marcus on Wednesday, October 28th, from 1- 4pm. RSVP to 949-467-3327.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting Personal with Nancy Gonzalez

If you’ve ever seen one of Lucio Fontana’s white slash canvases up close, you’ll know that it has this ability to draw you in. With clinical like precision the delicate incisions are simple yet complete. Luxury handbag designer, Nancy Gonzalez has something in common with her favorite artist. Her medium however, is exotic leather, dyed in an array of vibrant hues and like Fontana’s Tagli, her leather is cut perfectly to a create handbags that women love to carry and collect. I recently had a chance to ask her some questions:

Handbag designer Nancy Gonzalez and her collection of fine leather handbags. (Photo:
Crocodile skin Gotham Clutch in fuchsia by Nancy Gonzalez, $1750 (available at Neiman Marcus)

Tom Ford Lipstick in Scarlet Rouge $52 (, Smythson notebook $60 ( scenic view of Rajasthan (, Lucio Fontana's white slashes (

What are some of the items I would find inside your handbag? 
Three different currencies in cash since I am always traveling, my Tom Ford sunglasses, two iPhones (one for Colombia and one for the U.S.), a Smythson notebook that says “Smile” on the outside for sketches and notes and a Tom Ford lipstick in Scarlet Rouge.

What handbag do you like to carry on a daily basis? 
For everyday I love wearing my convertible tote in Kelly green as it fits my entire life. I always keep a Gotham clutch in a surprising neutral such as electric blue or fuchsia packed (I use it as a wallet), in case I need to go out. That way I am ready for any kind of event. 

You're known for your use of exotic skins and bright colors, what's your favorite exotic skin and color combination right now? 
My favorite precious skin is crocodile, and my favorite bag from this season is the double chain shoulder in black crocodile, with white crocodile poppy flowers on the flap with a hint of bordeaux in the bud of the flower. 

Since fashion is inspired so much from artists can you tell me about your favorite artist? 
Lucio Fontana’s, white slash paintings. I need visual silence in the art I collect. 

What are we going to see next season from you? 
For Resort 2016 you will see the story of Rajasthan. This is by far the most exuberant collection I have ever created. From jewelry adornment made entirely out of crocodile, to horse hair woven with real silver, to crocodile flowers, this collection is truly a feast for the eyes.   

Where do you get your inspirations from and do you feel something specific inspires you each season? 
In Colombia, we have blue skies, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, the largest number of bird species in the world, and an array of greens that is incredible. Even after all these years, nature is still my best collaborator and life is my source of inspiration.

Thank you!

Nancy Gonzalez handbags are available at Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Getting Personal with Karen Hsiang, Owner of The Shangri-La Boutique

True artists do their own thing and find their tribe organically. That’s what jewelry designer Karen Hsiang does everyday. Her tiny treasure filled jewelry boutique inside Union Market Tustin, has become my go to source for simple, delicate, well-made jewelry. Her designs stand out, but in a subtle way. I feel like I'm always the one wearing the jewelry and not the other way around.
I recently had a chance to ask her some questions:

Karen Hsiang owner of my favorite jewelry store in OC. I even love the name, Shangri-La being a fictional place, an earthly paradise described in the novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. It also happens to be the name of heiress Doris Duke's Islamic style mansion just outside Honolulu.

Jewelry and prose!

Yours truly making decisions, decisions....

What item of jewelry do you have to wear everyday?
My grandmother passed her tennis bracelet to me and it never leaves my wrist. I can still feel her aura and it makes me feel at ease.

What's your favorite jewelry brand, apart from your own right now and why?
I love Tiffany Kunz Jewelry. Her collections are very wearable and versatile for all different women with varying styles. Her line is eco-conscious which I feel is such a great bonus to her brand.

Tell me how you got to open your own jewelry store?
I started the shop on a whim. I had a budding online shop and stumbled upon my first location in Costa Mesa in a tiny trailer spot. I knew it was empty for a reason, and signed my lease the day after I saw it.

Where is your favorite place to hangout with friends?
My favorite nights with friends, consists of someone’s living room, a great cheese plate, and lots of wine. Being in a setting like that is so much more intimate than being out at a restaurant.

Jewelry is associated with happiness and celebrations, what makes you happy in life?
My family and friends bring me the most joy. They have been the most supportive of my journey and without them, I don't know where I would be.

What's the most recent item of jewelry you've made?
In the shop, I usually make a few items a day just to keep my creative juices flowing. Necklaces and bracelets are in my weekly rotation. I make a lot of custom pieces for clients as well, so that’s a daily thing.

What's your favorite clothing boutique in OC?
A'maree's in Newport Beach has such a fresh take on designers/brands. The space is amazing and I want to move in ASAP. The OC isn't known for cutting edge style, and I think they do a very good job at curating pieces and people that bring life into a rather boring fashion bubble. 
What’s your preference: diamonds or pearls?
Diamonds. Rough diamonds are what I'm obsessing over right now.

What advice do you have for budding jewelry designers?
Be creative. Be bold. Be yourself.

Where is your favorite romantic spot in OC?
I wouldn't say it's romantic, but my boyfriend and I had our first date at Portola in Costa Mesa, so it just sticks with me as our "date" place.

What form of art do you love?
Dance is my favorite form of art. I could watch any type of dance for hours if I could. Before I opened the shop I was a dance teacher for over 6 years, and the dance world has really shaped the core of my jewelry collection. The forms, movement, and conviction of dance really resonate with me and my creative imagination.

Tell me a funny store about your store or a piece of jewelry you’ve made:
I'm literally laughing everyday at the shop. My customers are the most amazing and the most hilarious. I feel like a psychiatrist sometimes because people will tell me their entire life story, but I appreciate that and I love the interaction and the personal aspect.

What item of jewelry would you be thrilled to receive from your significant other?
I haven't gotten THE ring yet. ;) 

For more information visit:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Getting Personal With Fetneh Blake

I’ll give you a visual of what happens to me, when I’m driving from my home in Irvine to Laguna Beach. I'll take, what I call the scenic route on PCH, past my dream house, which I’ve named Rebecca (after the novel) that’s perched high up on a cliff, overlooking Crystal Cove, past the blooming bougainvilleas, and a few random stores until I approach the Fetneh Blake boutique on my right. Much to the dismay of other drivers, I purposely slow down every time. What I see on those two mannequins will be a blueprint for what’s new, fresh and fashion forward. Even though I’m in sunny California, that single window display gives me a glimpse of what’s on the cutting edge of fashion in New York, Paris or Tokyo.

If you're on a fashion quest for something different, you"ll find it there. Each item she carries in her store has been carefully curated by Fetneh herself and has its own story. What you won’t find here are the usual suspects (you know I mean), familiar brands rotating in all the hip boutiques around town. It’s unlikely that you’ve even heard of some of her brands, since she’s usually the only store in OC carrying them. She’s at New York Fashion Week and attends the shows in Paris, so if you pick up something from her boutique, you can rest assured that no-one will know who it’s by, let alone be wearing it!

What Fetneh sells above all, is her own sense of style, her unique edgy brand of it, and if you're in need of help, she knows how to gently nudge you in the right direction. She’s been in business for the last 14 years, in the same spot on PCH.

I recently sat down on a warm afternoon for an informal chat with her.

Her simple window display speaks volumes, so does her love of deep red lipsticks! Those are just the ones she found in her make-up bag.

Japanese brand If Six Was Nine and Paris based Simona Tagliaferri are some of the designers she's carrying right now

Fetneh wearing a SU kaftan by Parisian based brand with roots in Turkey. (SU means water in Turkish).
Eclectic sheer shirt and stretch pants by Japanese brand If Six Was Nine (the brand is named after a Jimi Hendrix song)

Who doesn't need a gold clutch? I fell in love this oversize gold painted clutch by Simona Tagliaferri $720

SA: How has your vision for your store evolved over the years?
FB: The vision changes but the bottom line, which is the passion that drives you to find something fantastic, well made and well priced, stays the same.

SA: Did you know you were going to create a brand by placing your name on your boutique?
FB: I never really thought about it. My ex-husband always encouraged me to have my name on it, and to create a brand. It has created a certain expectation, one of of high quality and high fashion from my customers.

SA: Are you under any pressure to conform to the OC sense of fashion?
FB: (She laughs) My brand is both a blessing and a curse. Some people love it and some people don’t understand it.

SA: Who is a typical Fetneh Blake customer?
FB: Anyone in their 20s to 80s. Women usually come here to find something different. They usually appreciate style and want a whole look. We don’t cater to any particular shape or size meaning I don’t just want to sell clothes to skinny people.

SA: What’s your favorite item of clothing?
FB: STROM jeans which I am wearing right now, they’re slim boyfriend jeans but they’re not too baggy. They have the perfect wash and color. I usually have to re-order them every time I get them in.

SA: I would love to take a peek inside your closet. What’s your closet like at home?
FB: I have my favorites that I go to every time. I have a few really good dresses and for casual wear I have several leather jackets. But I go through my closet and clean it out every six months or so.

SA: What color do you love wearing?
FB: Usually black, but now I am also into gold and deep deep reds.

SA: Do you cook?
FB: I love cooking. I cook healthy dishes and Persian food. I like putting things together and I can’t work from a cook-book!

SA: What kind of music do you listen to?
FB: I live with music. I listen to jazz most of the time.

SA: What is your ideal romantic date?
FB: I would say a nice lunch to start with.

SA: Do you have any favorite artists?
FB: I love Ed Moses, I own two paintings from him. I also love Peter Alexander and Jimmy Gleeson. Each painting means something to me on a personal level since I live with them.

SA: What’s your beauty secret?
FB: I try everything. I love creams, moisturizers and serums. But sleep is the most important thing.       
SA: What do you do to relax?
FB: I pray every morning and every night.

SA: Tell me about your Persian background?
FB: I would credit my mother for passing on her love of beautiful clothes to me. Sometimes she would make clothes for me to wear. Iran has a beautiful place in my heart and is a lovely memory, but my life and my home is here.

SA: What do you love shopping for?
FB: I love shopping, so I will shop everywhere. But most of the time I buy make-up. A lipstick is the easiest way to change your look. Right now in my make-up bag I have the same lipstick shade (dark red) in six or seven different brands. I guess, I am a bit obsessed with that color right now.

SA: What are some of the fashion lines you’re carrying?
FB: If Six Was Nine by Japanese husband and wife, LBG is by them too, but it’s a more casual line. There’s also Duuya, an LA artist (originally from Mongolia) she creates hand painted silk clothing with different washes. French high-end resort wear SU's range of kaftans and Simona Tagliaferri an Italian designer who works out of Paris.

SA: What’s next for you? Ever thought of having your own fashion line?
FB: Maybe, I've thought about it. I love vests so, maybe a line of vest, that are simple and lightweight. I also love easy silk tops. Let’s see.

Fetneh Blake
427 N. Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA


Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's Hot at Style Week OC

Orange with Pink is the new black.
You know how Fashion Island is 10 degrees cooler than everywhere else in OC? I've now learned that's not always the case. The Art of Fashion which was recently hosted by Neiman Marcus in conjunction with Style Week OC would have been a great opportunity to get excited about the Fall trends, if it wasn't for the heat. 

Although the NM magazines placed on each seat were too heavy to be used as fans, I did spot a few resourceful people rip pages out, and in a matter of seconds, create their own, custom, folded origami fans. I discovered, however, that the insert (made of card stock) was far more effective. And so did the lady that sat next to me. Seeing her level of discomfort I advised her to do the same. She then looked at me, like I had just handed her, an electric fan. 

The fashion was fabulous. I really mean it. It was fabulous and wearable but I just couldn't get excited about fur, winter coats or Fall colors while my bra melted against my skin and sweat dripped down my forehead. It wasn't a pretty sight.

And then, the show reached a climax when a model's shoe accidentally slipped off. What do you think she did? What would anyone do in 90 degree heat? She kicked the other heel off too and walked down the catwalk with her bare feet, holding her spiked two-tone, Louboutins in her hand,  where they belonged. Who could blame her? It made my day. And just then, the DJ played "Papaoutai" a song by my favorite Belgian artist Stromae and at that moment, I realized that all is well with the world, and I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I now invite you, to enjoy some of my favorite looks from the show and listen to the sounds of Stromae, in the comfort of your cool, fully air-conditioned homes.

Living the glam life.

Neutrals and flats. OK, they're flats to me.

It's all about the heels. Fuchsia, Playboy bunny, tartan and pearl.

Contrast your clutch.

Hot in boots. No pun intended.
Who doesn't like some sparkle and fringe?

Electric blue was a hit. And I saved the best for last.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It’s Over, COS is Here

I know it’s the primary job of a fashion writer to share, but this time I’m sorry to say, I am doing it unwillingly. My best-kept fashion secret, my “yet to be undiscovered by all” source of style and my sole reason for traveling to Europe, is now opening here, right in my backyard at, South Coast Plaza.

COS (Collection Of Style) is going to open at South Coast Plaza. That’s it, I’ve written it down and now I feel my stomach churn. It was supposed to be my little secret, and now my last bastion of style is here for everyone else to enjoy too. Right next to its sister store H&M.

Last year it opened its first US store in our neighboring Los Angeles, but somehow, I could handle that. The Beverly Drive store didn’t launch with a big bang and much to my relief, didn’t receive many accolades,

My only consolation is that its name, COS (not so pretty in Farsi) will hopefully be off putting to my Persian friends. I’m also hoping so will its, androgynous, minimalist, over sized silhouettes (which I am obsessed with). Everything, which I adore in my closet, is by COS, and so far I was the only one that owned it.  That’s all about to change.

I’ve got my fingers crossed and I’m praying that its way too simple fashion will be a major disappointment to all the the label obsessed OC fashionistas, and that hopefully it will close shop in a few months and go back to far-far away Sweden and NOT follow in the footsteps of ABBA and IKEA.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Lady Mary Crawley at the office

I know she wouldn't be seen dead having a day job and dealing with the humiliation of a "weekend" but it's not her blog, so there. And for those of you who would like to recreate the look of English Aristo type, make sure whatever you wear has been thoroughly worn in and ONLY wear two of the following items at the same time: Otherwise you might be seen as trying too hard. And as we all know, the one thing the English are known for, is never appearing to try too hard, at anything.

Lady Mary Crawley at the office

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Monster Heels

How high can you go?
My first sprained ankle was at the age of five. It was a result of wearing my mother’s red platform wedges. The 70s Biba platforms were the perfect shoes to give her the elevation she needed while she wore her elaborate heavy costumes on the stage of the theater. The wedges had a circle cut into the wooden wedge-heel. They were so high I could also fit my tiny wrist through the circle in the wedge all the way to the other side. You’d think this injury, so early on, would have marked me with a sense of caution but instead, it had the opposite effect and somehow, when it came to high-heels, I became fearless.
Who knew that thirty something years later I’d still be obsessed with heels. Like my mother, my petite frame may be to blame. My friends just roll their eyes at me, when I say that, I find flat shoes uncomfortable. Like someone with a bad case of acne, saying how much they love to wear foundation, they think I’m just covering-up another flaw.

Hole in the heel platform wedge
So you can imagine the turmoil I’ve been faced with recently, when all of a sudden, as I look around shoe stores from Bergdorf Goodman and beyond and this time, I just roll my eyes. There seems to be a severe case of monstrous heels out there, and it has become and epidemic. There are double heels everywhere,  and by double I mean double the size of what I would consider high, and believe me I have quite a tolerance. I didn’t think I’d find myself with this predicament, since I usually have no problem with double anything, (double-decker buses, double espresso shots or double layer chocolate cake). For someone who has spent almost her entire life walking in heels you'd think it would be a breeze, right? Not quite.

I’ve entered uncharted waters. Has my age finally caught up with me? Have I lost my lust for life? Is it time to head over to Clarks like my mom? Or are there other women like myself, suffering (or stumbling) in silence?

My recent episode with trying on this shoe-type left me bewildered, embarrassed and confused. I cajoled myself, into thinking, that all will be well. The sales-person; shy, soft-spoken Adrian, which I prefer to the pushy, loud, fake-friendly type, told me “This one is really popular.” This doesn’t usually do much for me and the translation for “popular” usually means they’re dying to get rid of it, but this time, I was intrigued. He handed me the black double platform shoes, and then went off to help someone else. Thankfully, he left me to my own devices, which meant I could take my time and try them on, on my own. When he came back, he saw the shoes were placed back in their box, (the wrong way around). “What happened?” he asked.

“I felt like Frankenstein, learning how to walk” I said, and then I stood up and did a stiff walk for him saying “Thump,” with each awkward step I took. He gave out a loud chuckle, and without looking at me straight in the face, because tears of laughter filled his eyes, he shook his head, even-though he knew, by doing so, he would have no way of convincing me otherwise and that this affirmation, would surely lose him, his commission.

I’m not so practical, to think that I have to actually walk long distances in shoes that I love. But like anything else that we spend a considerable amount of money on, in order to get a higher quality product, shouldn't we be paying for comfort and style when to comes to our feet? Even fabulous people, need to get out of the limo and walk a few steps on the red carpet without falling flat on their faces. Which nearly, happened to me right in the middle of the shop floor.

I’d like just one of these shoe designers to spend an evening in one of their most revered creations. Mr. Louboutin, you red-soled devil, that includes, you too.