Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Designer(s) on the Rise: Vrai & Oro's Vanessa Stofenmacher and Chelsea Nicholson

"I hate jewelry," says no fashion-forward girl ever. Whether you're rocking an arm party on the daily or peering into your local jeweler's window every so often, there's something undeniably glamourous about some serious bling. And contrary to popular belief, diamonds aren't a girl's only best friend. We love sapphire, topaz, tanzanite-- amongst a slew of other precious and semi-precious stones-- and bare (yet sleek) metals. But what's a gal to do when tracking down an exquisite trinket at an affordable price feels like mission impossible? Enter Vrai & Oro: affordable, sustainable and undeniably chic. In this installment of Designer(s) on the Rise, co-founders Vanessa Stofenmacher and Chelsea Nicholson talk jewelry, business and what's in store for the budding jewelry brand.

The Trendologist: Congratulations on the wonderful line! What was your inspiration behind Vrai & Oro?

Vanessa Stofenmacher and Chelsea Nicholson: We have always been hugely inspired by companies that have shifted the way we see retail and e-commerce, such as Warby Parker and Everlane, even before Vrai &  Oro.  It is such an exciting time to be a part of the movement happening in e-commerce. We ourselves wanted well-branded, well-designed, high quality jewelry, but were discouraged by the price tags. So we set out to create an option for people to invest in luxury pieces that will last, while making the prices as attainable as possible by selling online only without the retail markups.

TT: What makes Vrai & Oro stand out is the ethical responsibility the brand takes on as well as the affordable price points. Can you elaborate on how these two aspects are possible?

VS & CN:  Being in Los Angeles, we are able to oversee where the pieces are manufactured, negotiate our costs, hold minimal inventory and have extremely fast turnaround times.  Our direct to consumer model reduces middlemen and eliminates the wholesale to retail markups, allowing us to focus on high-quality goods that are sustainable and last.

TT: Did you face any challenges by committing to a high-grade, yet affordable, line? How did you overcome these challenges?

VS & CN:  One of the biggest challenges we face is selling direct to consumers as we don’t have the support and outreach of retail brands that help market and sell products. This has been a challenge because it limits our network and audience,  but it has also been a blessing because it's forced us to be more creative in our marketing efforts and also given us insight into each of our customers in order to learn what is working for them and what’s not.

14K Gold Circle Necklace, $135

TT: Where did the name Vrai & Oro come from?

VS & CN: Vrai means truth in French, and Oro means gold in Spanish.  A few years ago , we moved to Paris together for a summer largely and are inspired by French design and culture [to this day].  Now that we live in L.A., we are surrounded by Spanish influence as well, so we wanted to incorporate that aspect.  The words themselves-- truth and gold-- embody the essence of our company: we are dedicated to transparency and using high quality materials that last.

TT: Playing favorites is nearly impossible, but what is one piece from your latest collection that Trendologist readers MUST have in their jewelry boxes?

VS & CN: Our solitaire diamond necklace is our most popular piece for a good reason. It’s such a classic staple that can be worn [daily] and it goes with everything. It layers beautifully with other designs.

14K White Gold Diamond Line Drop Earrings, $495
TT: What did you both do before founding Vrai & Oro?

VS & CN: Vanessa studied graphic design and communication arts at OTIS College of Art & Design. After graduating, she traveled to Paris with Chelsea and worked at the [emerging] design and marketing firm, CrazyBaby. After returning to the States, she founded a graphic design studio, Duk Design, where she designed websites and brand identities for startups and small businesses. Continuously furthering her education in technology and design, Vanessa (along with Chelsea) studied UX design at General Assembly. Upon completion, they planned and launched Vrai & Oro. 

Chelsea has always had a passion for business, fashion and creative marketing. After her first year of studying at the University of British Columbia, she moved to L.A. to launch a philanthropic clothing company, Elise Elizabeth.  After a year of running the company, she passed along the business in order to pursue travels and finish her degree. After spending time in various countries around the globe, she completed her degree in business and marketing at the University of Oregon. Chelsea then moved back to L.A. and continued her education in user experience design through General Assembly. As the course came to an end, Vrai & Oro began.

TT: As a design duo, what is it like to work so closely with another person in an industry that is fueled by creativity?

VS & CN: We’re both very creative in different ways, which works to our advantage. Chelsea is very creative in business and marketing while Vanessa is creative in branding and visual design. We both share ideas on every subject, but we have mutual respect for each other's talents so ultimately we trust each other to make the best decisions in our respective roles as creatives.

14K Rose Gold Double Stacked Diamond Line Ring, $295

TT: Where do you see the brand in five years?

VS & CN: We plan to continue growing quickly and, in the near future, hope to increase our in-person experiences [with] pop-up shops and showrooms.

TT: What is your advice for emerging designers?

VS & CN: Get involved in relevant networks and communities. We didn’t have any connections going into this business, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without the connections that we’ve made during our first year. Attending events, lectures and classes as well as reaching out and following up with key figures in our industry has been extremely helpful for us. We would recommend all emerging designers and startups to do the same.

Can't get enough of Vrai & Oro? Follow the brand on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Trending: Celebrate Personal Style with Stylekick

Personal style is like falling in love. It's something so intimate and special to each of us, yet you also want to show it off to anyone and everyone. But when it comes to showing off your flared skirt or pair of mules, where can you find the right audience? Facebook and Instagram are powerful platforms; however, most of your followers are your extended family members and old high school friends who probably won't geek out over your new dainty watch. Starting a personal style blog is another option; however, you may not have a shutterbug friend to take street style photos of you at your beck and call. Luckily, we now have an alternative. Introducing Stylekick, the coolest way to celebrate personal style.

Think of Stylekick as a fashion-forward Instagram: you can post pictures, follow fellow trendsetters and like or comment their photos. Available to men and women, users have the power to swipe through their followers or peruse the app's thousands of style savants in a general pool of pictures. After a few swipes in StyleKick's database, don't be surprised to find yourself loving everything on your feed. The app's special alogorithim pays close attention to your feedback on each outfit and tailors your selection to looks that are similar to your previous likes. And thanks to one common interest, and the consistent monitoring of malicious comments, Stylekick offers a friendly and encouraging atmosphere for anyone with a passion for fashion.
"The creativity and breadth of representation of our users is what makes Stylekick unique," comments Natalie Gray and Karn Saroya, Stylekick's CMO and CEO, respectively. "The playing field for creators looking for distribution of their content is certainly more equitable on Stylekick than say Instagram--where if you don't have [thousands] of followers, you can quickly get drowned out."
Stylekick sprouts from a classic tale of fashion meets tech. Gray previously worked with Russell Simmon's fashion marketing group while Saroya got his start building body-scanners to help inform sizing decisions at MIT.

"When we first started working on Stylekick we were building body-scanners to help shoppers be better informed about sizing of online purchases," they said in a joint statement. "Eventually, we decided to move away from that, and started experimenting with products we could build to help shoppers ‘cut through the noise’ when it came to discovering the styles they would be most happy with. Our app tries to figure out which styles and items you’ll love best through your interactions on our products are the result of a lot of tinkering!"


 Yet Stylekick also solves another personal style dilmena: where to find that amazing fringed skirt, amongst other covetable pieces, you saw your favorite budding fashion in?  With an e-commerce platform, users are able to include shopable links to their outfit in their posts. But what if you wore your mom's flared jeans from the '70s in a post? Fashionistas (and fashionistos) can list alternate options that resemble their threads. If a style savant hasn't posted links to their ensemble, users can reach out to him or her directly.

Today marks a major victory for the Stylekick team for a few reasons.  Perhaps its not as obvious to the eye of the app-holder, but smarter and faster technology has seeped its way into Stylekick, which will learn your personal style quicker and more intimately. Additionally, the emergence of in-app notifications, which will alert you when your followers inquire about your posts, and the option to shop and compare items based on your taste makes Stylekick even more user-friendly.

 As one of the top fashion apps on the market, what's next for Stylekick?

"As a company we think that contextual shopping will win over grid-based e-commerce," say Gray and Saroya. "Any experience, whether it be video, editorial, our outfits in the context of other real people that gives a customer additional confidence in a potential purchase pushes forward the idea of 'contextual shopping' and deprecates traditional 'grid-based' shopping. We are incrementally testing broader lifestyle content (interior design, D.I.Y., beauty, home, etc.) with the view that context matters, and are seeing great results as an early indication."
Stylekick, available for free on Apple and Android App Stores.


10 Best Looks from the 2015 Cannes Film Festival

As Cannes kindly reminds us every year, summer is way more glamorous than a pair of denim cutoffs, aviators and rubber flip flops. In fact, the fête du jour frowns up banished flats altogether. In true Cannes Film Festival manner, the red carpet looks did not disappoint. From formal showstoppers to casual--but equally chic--party and press outfits, check out the 10 best looks of the film (and fashion) extravaganza.

Diane Kruger in Prada: If any budding fashionista need guidance on having a personal style that is both feminine and edgy, look to Diane Kruger. Between utterly Parisian Chanel Haute Couture frocks to punchy Giambattista Valli prints, everything the German actress wears tickles the heart of all girly girls. This Prada gown is no exception. There's something insanely ethereal about the thougthful embellishments against a playfully sheer backdrop, and not to mention the dramatic back is undeniably regal. In true Kruger fashion, her subtly messy curls perfectly match the princessy vibe of this gown. But of course, leave it to the It-Girl to make even bedhead coveted.
Sophie Marceau in Alexander Vauthier: Far from the festival's riskiest look, the actress's fuss-free outfit offers a good lesson in easy summer dressing. Whether on red carpet or the boardwalk, a white shirtdress is the ultimate example of understated glamour. Yes, Marceau's take on this wardrobe staple is fancier than the top that also doubles as a cover-up, but the carefree sentiment is still strong. In general, the getup feels a little ho-hum; however, adding Chopard's snake necklace ups the sartorial ante. Polished off with a pair of gold gladiator sandals, Marceau looks more like an ultra chic Medusa (in a good way!) than an actress. Brava.

Cate Blanchett in Alexander McQueen: As any fashion girl (or guy) knows, the secret to sexy dressing is highlighting one body area and leaving much more to the imagination. This iteration is not as obvious as a plunging maxidress, but this Victorian alternative is undeniably sultry. Lesson to be learned: a sheer top and frills-free black bra does wonders, and isn't only appropriate for a night on the town. To prevent this look from getting too vampy, the Academy Award winner opts for smooth waves, a fresh face and minimal accessories.

Sienna Miller in Sonia Rykiel:  Once upon a time, the American Sniper star was known for two things: her rocky relationship with Jude Law and her perfectly boho style. Though Miller has made several movies since then, and seemingly ended her on-again-off-again relationship, who doesn't regularly nerd out over her style? Her clothes still have a hint of boho, but her overall style has received a major, sophisticated upgrade. There's something about this gothic look that almost veers into Stevie Nicks territory; however, the minimal jewels (besides that glitzy collar, of course) make this less costumey. Long story short: the drama of this ensemble is divine. Though the cape adds an air of mystery, the sheer skirt and starry embellishments keep this outfit fun and youthful. The juxtaposition between the beachy braids and classic deep red lip perfect this look.
Poppy Delevingne in Burberry Prorsum: A little psychedelic without veering too trippy, this dress is the ideal option for any creative style savant. In a sea of neutrals, metallics and jewel tones, this forest green adds an undeniably refreshing jolt of color to the red carpet. And the whimsical embellishments contribute an unapologetically youthful energy that is rarely found at Cannes. On the accessories front, the tiered necklace emphasizes the deep neckline, making this look more fashion girl than party girl. Finished with a smokey eye and slightly messy updo (with the ubiquitous fashion girl middle part)? A sartorial homerun. 

Emma Stone in Christian Dior Couture: Not to sound overdramatic, but this dress is everything. Simply put, you can wear this dress everywhere: a wedding, red carpet, gala, prom, lounging around on a Sunday morning just because you want to feel a little fancy. The options are essentially limitless. While the soft white and swishy train can come across as strictly bridal, Stone gives this look a youthful twist by adding a subtle choker. Mixed with the boat neckline, the necklace provides a cool, 90s flair.The actress's neat updo keeps this look sophisticated while her subtle lip offers a pop of color.

Naomi Watts in Armani Privé: Goodbye, basic column dresses and extravagant trains; hello, thick ruffles. Though tiers are usually associated with the likes of flamenco dancers, it feels refreshing on The Sea of Trees actress. And flattering! Compact ruffles have the nasty reputation of adding unnecessary bulk; however, the elongated layers create a subtle hourglass figure. Thanks to the ice blue hue, this dress is dramatic enough without wearing Watts. The frock's black embroidery perfectly matches her thin black strappy sandals. To complete the look, Watts adds dangling earrings and a fresh face.

Natasha Poly in Chanel: It's very rare that a set of sleeves make an outfit but do not create a paparazzi-attracting spectacle.  Paired with a flowy silhouette, this dress is the perfect thing to wear on a cool summer evening. With the help of fetching accessories as well as a gifted hair and makeup crew, Poly's ensemble cries old Hollywood glamour more than mumsy. The T-Strap heels and chained bags are sweet, while the deep lip and exaggerated side part add the right amount glamour. Not to mention the crimson lip compliment the frock's navy hue.

Fan Bingbing in Ralph & Russo Couture: Stateside, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing is known more for her extravagant sartorial choices than her bustling filmography. Especially at high-profiled events, she sports dresses that are classic with a hint of fantastical. The floral fripperies on this gown are part old money feminine, part ethereally whimsical.While a petal power frock with a trumpeted skirt can feel a little matronly, the dramatic train and funky geometric clutch offer a hip twist. Paired with matching dangling earrings, a chunky bracelet and rings, this look is glamorous, feminine, daring and dramatic all at once.  Now that's a strong red carpet look.

Kendall Jenner in Alaia: Rest assured, style rookies: attending an A-List red carpet and embracing youthful, forward-thinking style are not mutually exclusive. Case in point? Kendall Jenner. Whether rocking a crop top, thigh-grazing hemline or an up-to-there slit, the model, muse (and Kimye relative) never fails to remind us that she's only 19 years-old. But there's something commendable about her fashion choices, especially this Alaia number. Though it's easy to forget, fashion is all about having fun. After seeing photos of Jenner swishing her full, bohemian skirt, it looks like that's exactly what she was doing. While the silhouette and texture looks like something one would wear after spending hours on the beach, the layers of Chopard gems and bright red lip make this getup completely Cannes-worthy.

Which looks from the 2015 Cannes Film Festival did you love? Sound off below!

Photos courtesy of Vogue.com

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Spring 2015 Trend: Ranger School

From Michael Jackson's slew of slim-fitting jackets to Olivier Rousteing's Balmain Army, the fashion industry tends to look to military uniforms for inspiration. This spring, however, this seemingly masculine fad has received a feminine make-over. If the pepto pink background wasn't enough of an indication, Marc Jacobs's collection of voluminous skirts and structured duster coats, all of which adorned with oversized gold buttons, was a telltale sign that army chic would veer ladylike this season. For Sacai designer Chitose Abe, the secret to embracing this season's troop motif was infusing feminine textiles: sheer paneling and floral prints were mixed with a traditional olive green that is militia-ready. While some designers opted for girly shapes and fabrics, others used shorter hemlines to give the classic uniform a ladylike twist. When it comes to designing masculine-inspired pieces for the modern day woman, No. 21's Alessandro Dell' Acqua used accessories to give each look a modern, yet girly, flair. With the help of pretty canary shoes and a belt to cinch the waist, dress that could've doubled as a shirt for a boy scout was fit for a lady. Craving a sexier alternative to this trend? Rag & Bone's Marcus Wainwright and David Neville offered the perfect solution. A bomber vest and up-to-there shorts are key ingredients for a daring summer getup. But if you're searching for an ultra glamorous way to sport this trend, look no further than Ralph Lauren's show. Whether paired with bright, silky tops or loads of jewels, the New York designer proved that military garb is just as suited for the runway as it is the battlefields.

Marc Jacobs Look 3 

Sacai Look 38

No.21 Look 1

Rag & Bone Look 26
Ralph Lauren Look

ranger school

Becoming an excellent soldier, let alone deeming yourself worthy of a Purple Heart, requires strength, courage, intuition and patriotism. Fortunately, sporting an army-inspired ensemble is much easier. Though unearthening your fitted military jacket is an easy, and economical, way to participate in the fad, there are many pretty pieces to feast your eyes on this spring. And from elongated vests to tailored shorts, this trend will appease any style savant's wallet. While you may be wary about this sartorial phenomenon, finding a flattering and feminine way to wear this trend is easy.  Cursed with a complexion that repels earthy neutrals such as khaki and olive green? Opt for a tailored piece in a subdued navy or black. Let's also not forget that there's a fine between a stylish, sophisticated ranger and childhood scout affiliate. Juxtapose your rough and tough apparel with luxe,feminine accessories: a sleek pump or extravagant pearl earring is a surefire way to up the sartorial ante.

Will you be joining the fashion forces this spring? Sound off below!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

10 Best Looks from the 2015 Met Ball

Call it the "Costume Institute Ball"  or simply "Anna Wintour's Party", but one thing's for sure: the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual gala is a big deal for fashion people. Instead of watching basic column dress after basic column dress cascade down the red carpet, our hunger for creativity is satiated by the extraordinary. This year, the Costume Institute celebrated the launch of the museum's new exhibit, "China: Through the Looking Glass."  From avant garde headpieces to barely-there dress a la Beyoncé, Kim and J.Lo, last night's level of extravagance did not disappoint. Didn't obsessively scroll through your Instagram? For those of us plebians who weren't graced with the golden ticket, check out the ten best looks of the evening.

Sienna Miller in Thakoon: Typically, menswear-inspired pieces are sexy in an androgynous, "wearing your boyfriend's button-down around the house" way. Rarely do they bare some serious skin and require rolls of double-stick tape. Sienna Miller's Thakoon suit posesses a potpourri of masculinity, feminity and sex appeal that is hard to beat. Paired with a simple black pump and tasseled earring, which agreed with the tassels on her belt, Miller's styling allowed the outfit to truly sing.

Sarah Jessica Parker: Say what you will about her fashion choices, but let's address the obvious: when there's a theme, Sarah Jessica Parker will not shy away from a sartorial challenge. Whether it's an ornate mohawk or a truly magical Oscar de la Renta ballgown, the Sex and the City leading lady consistently does something even the most stylish woman forgets every now and then: she has fun with what she's wearing. Her H&M dress, which she co-designed, isn't couture and the Philip Treacy hat may not be the most covetable piece from the gala; however,  the actress's enthusiasm to embrace a theme while looking tasteful and age-appropriate is worth celebrating.
Keri Russell in Altuzarra: It's amazing how a unique blend of fabrics can make a relatively common silhouette metamorphose from average to exceptional. Keri Russell's feathered frock, made by New York designer Joseph Altuzarra, perfectly encompasses that belief.  Is this attire the most theme -appropriate? No. But with an impeccable fit, irrestible color and innovative textile, it doesn't seem to matter. This dress is flawless. To keep this look undeniably sexy, Russell added a strappy sandal and smokey eye.
Diane Kruger in Chanel Haute Couture: As Sienna Miller also kindly reminded us, wearing pants to a high-profiled event is a tell-tale sign you're an It-Girl (like we ever questioned Kruger's level of coolness). While the silhouette is relatively progressive for the red carpet, the thoughtful embellishments provided a danity, unbashedly feminine twist. Kitschy and unexpected, but it's possible that Kruger's heart-shaped clutch made every on-looker smile. And for the finishing touch, the actress decorated her hair with Asian-influenced flowers. A fashion homerun, as always, from Joshua Jackson's better half.
Amanda Seyfried in Givenchy Haute Couture: In the grand scheme of all things Met Ball, this is nothing special. Yet there's no denying that the former Mean Girls star looks sublime. The subtle detailing around the bodice and waist surprising did not create the illusion of a bulkier frame. Instead, it offers an ethereal vibe that is rarely seen on a carpet as glamorous as the Met Ball's. The slicked-back hair and berry lip counteract this dress's light and airy aesthetic. Simple and relatively safe, but perhaps this is what the every girl would wear to an event this spectacular. 
Lady Gaga in Balenciaga: Goodbye meat dress, hello Balenciaga. The pop star turned Tony Bennett sidekick has come a long way from popping out of an egg mid-red carpet. But that doesn't mean the songstress has ditched her innovative ways. Instead, Gaga has arguably reemerged to be the face of sophisticated creativity. Case in point?  Last night's outfit. While the voluminous shape comanded attention, the whispy feathers and geometric jacket created a polished way to pay homage to the exhibit. Topped with an edgy crown and severe, sleek dark locks, Gaga's ensemble was perfectly daring and dramatic.  
Emily Blunt in Prada: Leave it to the former Devil Wears Prada star to sport an outfit that is both forward-thinking and sophisticated. The delicate floral pattern stuck to the night's Asian-inspired theme, but the contrasting colorways offered a fresh look at an othewise timeless ensemble. If this getup didn't have enough star quality, the berry lip and glitzy earrings made this look suitable for any leading lady.
Kate Hudson in Michael Kors: As Kate Hudson's co-star Matthew McConaughey once said in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days once, "Frost yourself." In head-to-toe gold, the actress took this line to heart and opted for a gilded getup that would make any  awards statue jealous. The shimmery brocade is a less bulky way to give the illusion of head-to-to sequins. Though the form-fitting silhouette boasted the Fabletics frontwoman's enviable boddy, the covered bodice stayed true to the integrity of the gala as well as the exhibit's theme. Goldie would be proud.
Kendall Jenner in Calvin Klein Collection: At first glance, this streamlined dress was a disappointment for America's hottest supermodel. But when you look closer, this beaded Calvin Klein dress is anything but boring. Between the labor-intensive beading and sexy ties along Kendall Jenner's frame, this dress would be ideal for an unconventional, modern-day Chinese courtesan. Though the dress is rather minimal compared to a sea of printed silk, baroque and embroridery that surrounded her, Jenner sultry bodice cut provided enough of a statement.
Rihanna in Guo Pei: Consider this a sartorial mike-drop. It's one thing to wear a Chinese-inspired dress; however, it is quite a another both sport an authentic Asian designer's creations and create this much of a statement. From the yellow hue, to the outrageous train, to the fur detailing, one would think this would cause an eye-sore. On the contrary, Rihanna's unwavering confidence and the fragility of the outfit screamed regal. Without a doubt, this is a fashion moment that will go down in history.

Which looks did you love? Sound off below!
Photos courtesy of Vogue.com and Glamour.com


Monday, 27 April 2015

Spring 2015 Trend: Springy Suede

As the temperature rises and the final snow-lined sidewalks are cleared, we are all itching to strip away our down jackets, flannels and velvet pieces and opt for lighter fabrics. While silk, cotton and linen are no-brainers for a warmer climate, suede has the tendency to raise a few eyebrows. This spring, however, the smooth cloth is wearable, refined  and undeniably chic. Showcased in dainty pinks, Jill Stuart’s series of on-trend separates gave a feminine twist to an array of slim silhouettes. Meanwhile, a grungier vibe was offered at Tibi’s runway show. Between the range of earthy neutrals and the raw textiles that were coupled with the tactile suede, Amy Smilovic's take on this trend was undoubtedly made for fashion's cool girl.  Citing Charlotte Rampling as an “invisible muse,” Jason Wu’s collection  provided an utterly elegant alternative to this trend. Flirty mini dresses and coats nipped at the waist in deep blue and olive, respectively, would’ve been just as stylish during Rampling’s time as they are today. Before her departure from Gucci, designer Frida Giannini gifted the Italian house with a seventies-inspired collection. In a sea of suede, Giannini’s textured top against flared jeans and a silk scarf truly sang. If you're yearning to take on a new sartorial challenge, look no further than Derek Lam’s seriously suede collection. With patchwork pieces and head-to-toe ensembles, the New York designer proved that this trend has street style appeal.

Jill Stuart Look 5
Tibi Look 26
Jason Wu Look 20
Gucci Look 13

Derek Lam Look 4

When it comes to trying your luck at this trend, accessorizing with a touchable shoe or purse seems like a no brainer. Chic as it may be, expand your wardrobe this season by investing in suede apparel —the results will be worth it.  And with a range of price points, there is no excuse not to give in to this fad. Easing into suede?  Instead of taking the plunge with one of Derek Lam’s full looks, opt for  equally-striking, streamlined separates. Start with a simple suede skirt and pair it with a crisp white button-down.  A girly halter is the next step, and will look fetching with a pair of boyfriend jeans. Or turn heads with suede trench in a versatile neutral. Last but not least, up the sartorial ante with a polished dress. But before you go ahead and explore the wonderful options this fabric has to offer, order a suede brush.  After all, nobody likes neglected suede.

Will you be investing in suede this season? Sound off below!
All runway photos courtesy of Style.com

Monday, 13 April 2015

Designer on the Rise: Carnise McIntosh

Forget canines, technology is man’s (and woman’s) best friend.  According to the Pew Research Center, 25 percent of teens are using technology constantly. And with a perpetually full inbox and a coveted Instagram to maintain, it feels as if, regardless of age, we are all forever online. It’s no surprise that technology has recently been infused into what we wear. From the Apple Watch, to Will.i.am’s techie-friendly collaboration with Gucci, to a slew of smart gems that are hitting the market, wired accessories are a must. But with all the smart bands out there, finding a versatile, stylish purse that possesses technology qualities is no easy feat. Thankfully, Carnise McIntosh has remedied this fashion woe with Leoht. With a rechargeable battery, two built-in USB ports, and an external use interface panel, this line of bags is perfect for the woman on the go. Style nerds, welcome to the 21st century. The Trendologist was fortunate enough to chat with Carnise about her collection and the future of smart accessories.

The Trendologist: Congratulations on the fantastic line! What inspired you to create a bag that is both tech- savvy and stylish?

Carnise McIntosh: Thank you so much. The team is very excited.

Pure necessity! When I began to solve multiple daily problems I was encountering using technology, I came up with the idea for Leoht. As I began sketching the tote design, one of the first things that was very important to me was that it looked stylish. Coming from a sales background, you learn quickly that if it doesnt look good, nobody will buy it girl or guy, fashion or tool. Presentation is everything. Function is important, but style does matter.

TT: What are some of the techie features that are included in the tote?

CM: The tote has six features, four of which are techie. [There is] a built-in 6k mAh battery (that can charge your smartphone three to four times or tablet one to twotimes), controllable interior LEDs, two built-in USB ports, an external Power Panel (battery indicator and micro USB port for charging on the go), and wireless Qi recharging via its charging plate. The [bag] also includes a cool extra feature called the Alcove that hides important valuables or unmentionables.

TT: I would love to know more about the mechanics of this bag. How are all these impressive
amenities able to fit into one tote?

CM: That’s the core of our company. We are a hardware company first. We’ve [created] and designed an entire custom technology system that is built directly into our bags. The two influenced each other making it truly fashion technology. We didn't take two existing products and simply slap them together. Leoht bags are designed mechanically and aesthetically together from the ground up. As we release new collections, both the exterior and interior of Leohts will evolve.

TT: Why name the brand Leoht?

CM: Leoht is the Latin root word for illumination and light, which was the first technological integration that sparked the concept.

TT: What was the design process?

CM: It was a growing design process. It started with the technology first followed by the handbag design. As I tried to combine the two together, they werent working as separate components. So I went back to the drawing board, stared from absolute scratch and designed them together. Piece by piece, step by step. By doing so, it allowed me to understand the construction necessary for all parts to work seamlessly.

TT: Who is your target customer?

CM: For this collection, the modern women is our target customer. The 7:00AM to 11:00PM [woman], the go-getter, the student, the businesswoman, the mom, the planner. Modern women is a broad definition because womens needs today are vast, but the one thing they all have in common is that their world, whatever it is, doesnt stop. The Leoht tote is perfect for her.
TT: Where is the tote available for purchase?

CM: Currently the Leoht Tote is available for preorder on Leoht.co.

Leoht Totes, $250- $275

TT: I would love to hear more about your background! Tell me about your previous experience with both fashion and technology.

CM: My background is uniquely part arts and part science. I grew up as an artsy child. Ive known nothing but the love of design my entire life, yet somehow I was always immensely fascinated by natural sciences. As an adult, I intersected the two without knowing it. My studies in graphic design was heavily influenced by science and math. I entered the world of consumer electronics while in college, which encouraged my fascination of tangible technology. Being a graphic designer and working for companies like Apple and AT&T gave me further insight into worlds where beauty, desire and well thought=out innovation had an outstanding effect on the human condition and the experience was life changing. As a professional visual problem solver, when the time came to create Leoht, I had an excellent road map to ensure a fantastic team, product and experience in building the company.

TT: What advice would you give to individuals who are also looking to connect the fashion and technology industries?

CM: Be honest to both elements. If it does all of one and little of the other, start over and keep developing until it comes together. If wearable technology and fashion technology are to ever evolve into the norm, then they must work together cohesively and unobtrusively. It is in the hands of inventors, creators of these new innovations to make them as seamless and and easy to incorporate into our daily lives [as possible].

TT: Its no secret that fashion and technology have been merging more over the past few months. Why do you think techie accessories are just starting to hit their stride? Do you think this is a fad or do you believe more designers will create rechargeable, smartphone compatible (amongst other features) accessories and apparel?

CM: Two things have happened in a very short period of time. The popularity and accessibility of portable connected devices and with it, the second thing, a human connection to the benefits of these devices on a scale much bigger than most realize. Wearable, fashion technology is becoming reinvigoratedbecause mainstream comfort levels with other portable devices and modern technologies has become the norm. Long-term benefits become clearly understood by having such enhancements in our lives, and so the curiosity becomes a demand of goods. Life imitates art, and vice versa. If we can think it, it will be.

Designers and inventors will create what the public demands. For now, they want to be entertained by the possible benefits of wearable, fashion technology. Very shortly, they may demand nothing less in nearly any accessory or apparel that they buy. Wearable technology is not a fad: it's simply in the infancy of its legacy.

TT: What do you think the fashion-technology crossover will look like in two years? Do you have any plans to expand Leoht?

CM: On the horizon of fashion technology, the very idea of what technology looks like is going to change. The tech of things is striving to be invisible but immensely beneficial. We are seeing most of it in health and sports related garments initially from leading brands, but young daring designers will begin to experiment with sensors and smart fabrics for color manipulation, temperature regulation and haptic interaction for ready-to-wear, outwear, footwear and more.

Leoht has an exciting and expansive future. We will continue to push the elements of beautiful, accessible and absolutely functional, wearable technology.

Dying to get your hands on a Leoht bag? Follow the brand on Instagram and check out the brand's Kickstarter.