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 fĂȘte 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 PrivĂ©: 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