Trendy, minimal active leggings

You know what I love? Leggings. I retired most of my low-rise jeans two years ago. When high-waist jeans became trendy, I started stocking up on black leggings. Being lucky to work in offices with casual dress codes, I can wear leggings instead of pants. They look just as good with suede high-heeled booties and lace-up boots as they do high-top sneakers. Win win!

Recently I also became more active, doing pole, aerial silk and yoga. The last two require long, form-fitting pants, so I’d been obsessed with hunting for the perfect pair of trendy leggings that fit with my personal minimal style. What I truly hate most about shopping for yoga pants are all the crazy prints, tie-dye colors, and super busy patterns. Why?!?!? Thankfully I was able to narrow down to these two candidates:

leggings-onzie-mesh

Onzie Mesh Leggings

1. Onzie track mesh leggings

Mesh cut-out leggings suddenly became really hot this season. I see them a lot on the street and am inexplicably drawn to them. A few stores carry this style, but the cutouts aren’t always tasteful. This Onzie pair has a large sheer area but is also very streamline. Most importantly they look flattering.

2. Outdoor Voices colorblock leggings

One day I saw a yoga teacher at Sky Ting Yoga (Lower East Side) wear these amazing light grey colorblock pants, and immediately went online to search for them after class! I found a very similar pair online at Outdoor Voices, which turns out to be a boutique store in SoHo.

The funny thing is that I discovered later on that Outdoor Voices merchandise is sold at the studio. So I must’ve found the exact pair the instructor was wearing. This just goes to show that minimal is not always easy. It’s really hard to find a store that offers a design similar to this right now. I’m waiting for the pants to get back in stock so I can splurge on them!

H&M bustier, H&M peplum top, H&M knit sweater

Black is the New Black: H&M Haul

H&M bustier, H&M peplum top, H&M knit sweater

H&M peplum top $34.95 – H&M low-cut bustier $24.95 – H&M knit sweater $24.95

“You know you’re a New Yorker when you need a flashlight to see what’s in your closet” – Dress Monsta.

I admit that since two years ago, I could never get enough black clothes. Everything, from dresses, skirts, blouses to pants, tights and booties, just look better in black to me. Anyway I ventured to H&M the other day to spend my $50 Christmas gift card.

I hadn’t been to H&M for two months (Foursquare told me), which is like 6 months in fashion year. Either this store near Bryant Park has really good stuff or H&M has improved the quality of their clothing. And there wasn’t a huge tourist crowd like usual. Jackpot!!

I found three pieces that must be leftover from previous weeks’ stock. In my size! So style. Much fortune. Wow.

I’ve been on a search for sexy crop tops I can wear in the club. Honestly I have a clubbing uniform, an outfit that consists of skinny pants/tights and a crop top, usually all black in different material. The reason I stick with this is because I feel comfortable and can show off my asset (thin waist). Bodycon dresses, while look good on me, are often too short and rise up when I try to dance or even walk.

1. The peplum crepe top in size 2 is a but snug but it will do. In the back it has three hooks and the peplum part is open. It is quite girly and flirty. I will need high-waist pants to go with it, although you can also style it with high-waist pencil skirt.

2. The bustier I got is actually all black, not pinstriped, and had double straps. Size 4 is pretty snug on me, which MUST be vanity sizing because I am barely a size 4 in tops. To clarify, this top is extremely LOW-CUT. It is even more revealing on me that on the model, and I have AA cups. Hmm, anyone larger than a B cup shouldn’t attempt to wear this in public.

3. This sweater is a coarser, loose knit that has almost of a sheer effect when layered over something else. I got a similar oversize sweater of the same material in burgundy (unfortunately it became fitted after being thrown into the dryer load) and loved it. So naturally I have to get it in black. Size Small was a bit too long in the black, since this has a high-low hem, so I went for XS instead. This sweater can be paired with leggings and easily layered over tank tops or blouses.

This was quite a successful, stress-free shopping trip. Until next time, stay warm and wear black.

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Swoon-worthy: Taylor Swift’s Gucci Gown at the 2014 Grammys

Swoon-worthy: Taylor Swift's Gucci Gown at the 2014 Grammys

Agreeably Katy Perry’s musical note tulle gown and Beyonce’s sheer/nude/white organza dress gained a lot of attention. But my absolute favorite was Taylor Swift’s gold sequin Gucci number. It’s a column number with short allusion sleeves. She looks incredibly statuesque and elegant in it with smokey eyes and a wavy ponytail.

Nasty-Gal

Why Nasty Gals Do It Better: An E-commerce Success Story

Sophia Amoruso of Nasty GalNasty Gal had a humble beginning. Sophia Amoruso founded it at the age of 22, after dropping out of a community college where she was studying photography. Nasty Gal carries clothing of an edgy, vintage aesthetic in the $50-100 price range. Arguably it competes with Urban Outfitters but sets itself apart with a sexier, more glamorous appeal. The most notable thing about the business’ growth spurt is that it didn’t employ flash sale, subscription service or celebrity endorsement like many other fashion startups.

Part of Nasty Gal’s success must have been Amoruso’s impeccable taste and talent for curation and styling. She started out re-selling vintage finds on eBay and promoting the store on MySpace. She was able to make the clothes look cute and desirable on “approachable-looking” models, whom she hired out of necessity. Anecdotally, Amoruso turned an $8 Chanel leather jacket from Salvation Army and sold it for over $1000.

Nasty Gal's sexy, retro aesthetic
When demand outgrew supply, she purchased her own domain nastygalvintage.com and began approaching labels with vintage-inspired clothing. Amoruso was also intelligent to have a sustainable business model, growing it without incurring debt. “I put every drop of profit from this business back into it. That’s why it’s successful,” she said.

Nasty Gal didn’t need investors’ help to expand until 2012. Amoruso took $50 million funding from Danny Rimer of Index Ventures, an early investor of other e-commerce successes like Asos, Etsy and Net-A-Porter. That year, Nasty Gal made $100 million in sales. By 2013, it was valued at $240 million.

Nasty Gal’s focus on highly curated clothes and avoidance of discount actually helped to keep its margin high. The company sells 93% of its stock at full price in an industry where a third of merchandise is marked down. The company keeps its stock low, which reduced the need for slashing off prices and expensive warehouse square foot. In early stages of the business, there was no advertising. Nasty Gal relied on social media word-of-mouth and listening to customers’ feedback on these channels. “I’ve probably spent more time than any other brand reading every last comment. To listen to people the way you’re able to online is very powerful. I think other companies are just starting to figure that out,” Amoruso said.

Nasty Gal original labelThe social media approach works especially for Nasty Gal because of its youthful, social savvy target market – women 18-24. To date, the brand has amassed over one million followers on both Facebook and Instagram. With the slogan “Nasty Gals do it better,” the company also solicits user-generated content and features it on its blog and Pinterest.

More than that, Amoruso knew how to capitalize on the Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule) through online traffic tracking. In this case, the top 20 percent customers generate more than half of Nasty Gal’s sales. The top 10% visit the site more than 100 times a month. Identifying this core client is extremely helpful in forming its marketing tactics and expanding the business, one of which was to develop its original label in 2012.

Like Sarah Lacey of Pando Daily pointed out, Nasty Gal is relatable to so many girls because its aesthetic is badass, effortlessly cool and not trying to be perfect. “This is what so many women who try to build apsirational brands — the would-be Martha Stewarts for the Internet generation — just miss. They try to be about perfection. Perfect job in a perfect city with the perfect hair and a perfect man. And that’s why they don’t catch on. No girl can relate to perfect,” Lacey wrote.

Like many Internet entrepreneurs, Amoruso attributed her education and success to the vast universe of free information online: “Google is responsible for this business… When I wanted to know what kind of warehouse shelving to buy, I looked online. I could watch Stanford Business School videos on YouTube. I don’t go to conferences. I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t have to. I grew up on the Internet.”

Season for Jumpsuits and Maxi Skirts

New York hit the 70-Fahrenheit mark in the past two days!! I can’t help but be excited about the spring weather coming up. With the change of season, of course, comes a turn in wardrobe.

This year I plan to invest more in fluid, elegant pieces that fit with my style and are good for both work and play. Check out a round-up of my favorite pieces, jumpsuit and maxi skirt, below.

jumpsuit, nastygal, macys, asos, bcbg, max azria
1. Nastygal sweetheart jumpsuit, 2. Macy’s one-shoulder jumpsuit, 3. Asos harem jumpsuit, 4. Macy’s surplice jumpsuit, 5. BCBG tailor jumpsuit

As you can tell, black is my staple “color”. Jumpsuits regularly come in black because of its simplicity and slimming effects (You don’t want to many prints or patterns on a long piece like a jumpsuit). It compliments slim, even petite, frames and those with long legs and/or small waist.

maxi skirt, asos, brandy melville, material girl, macys,1. Brandy Melville Maxine skirt, 2. Tie-dye Maxine skirt, 3. Asos colorblock skirt, 4. Brandy Melville slit maxi skirt, 5. Material Girl slit maxi dress

I prefer maxi skirts to maxi dresses because they can be mixed and matched with my collection of blouses. (Maxi dresses, especially high-low/asymmetrical ones, have their own appeal). I usually go for column or flared shape with a lot of room for walking and aesthetic flow. Because of my penchant for darks and neutrals, I go for black, grey, nude, dark maroon, muted tribal/abstract prints. However, the colorblock Asos skirt above is a nice pop of color.

Do you like or wear these pieces? Stay tuned for a post on footwear to go with jumpsuits and maxis.

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Best Trend at the 2013 Oscars: Black & Sparkly

It was so obvious at the 85th Academy Awards that black and sparkly was the most prevalent trend. And here are the ladies who did it impeccably:

Best Trend at the 2013 Oscars: Black & SparklyThe super hot Stacy Keibler in Naeem Khan.

Nicole KidmanNicole Kidman in a L’Wren Scott gold and black sequin gown that her husband, Keith Urban, helped to pick out.

Kelly OsbourneKelly Osbourne did very well in this Tony Ward number (Kristin Chenoweth wore the same designer). The asymmetrical straps give her shoulders definition.

85th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsHalle Berry in a shoulder-padded, plunging Versace column gown. She’s such a rockstar/Bond girl.

85th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsMy male best-dressed is none other than Chris Pine in Ermenegildo Zegna double-breasted tux. Isn’t he classically beautiful?

Amanda SeyfriedMy final favorite is Amanda Seyfried in this lacey gold and lavender halter gown by Alexander McQueen.

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Bitch Stole My Look: Tina Cohen-Chang vs. Madonna

Tina Cohen Chang vs Madonna

In the Diva episode of Glee season 4, Tina Cohen-Chang bravely stepped out of her comfort zone to re-enact Madonna’s 2005-single Hung Up. Tina’s rendition of the pop hit was good and she got rewarded – being crowned the winner of Diva week. But the outfit choice, though brave, isn’t as rewarding for her figure.

Her body is heavier on top, short and pudgy. It’s not that I am a fan of seeing Madonna’s buttocks under the leotard either, but her body is more cut out for it. Glee didn’t need to duplicated the look completely. (Rachel & Brittany as Britney Spears was much more visually successful.) Fashion faux-pas!

abercrombie-and-fitch

The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) is a retailer of casual clothing, accessories and cologne primarily marketed toward youths of the collegiate demographic. It operates 800 domestic stores and 200 international stores in North America, Europe and Asia. The annual sales accounts for nearly $3 billion. Currently A&F features four brands: Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie kids, Gilly Hicks and Hollister.


1. Company history

Abercrombie & Fitch began in 1892 when David Abercrombie, a designer of tents and camping equipment, opened a store in downtown New York City. The shop started out selling high-quality camping, fishing and hunting gear to professional hunters and explorers. When a lawyer named Ezra Fitch bought into the business, the store changed its name to Abercrombie & Fitch in 1904.

Fitch had a vision to expand the business after his partner retired in 1907. He breathed life into the store display by giving it an outdoor vibe. He set up a fully equipped tent and campfire in the store as if in the middle of wilderness. The shop assistants were not professional salesmen but outdoorsmen who are knowledgeable about what they sold. In 1913, the store moved to a more fashionable and high-trafficked location near Fifth Avenue and added clothing to its inventory. It became the first store in New York to sell clothes for both men and women. A&F also published a 456-page catalog that was accessed by 50,000 prospective customers world-wide, which opened the gate for international orders to start flooding in.

In 1917, A&F had become the largest sporting goods store in the world. Fitch invested a lot of capital and creativity in impressing customers. He built a log cabin on the roof to be used as a townhouse, a pool where people could test fishing rods and flies, golf school, a floor for setting up camps and a dog and cat kennel. In addition to standard outdoor goods, A&F had a collection of exotic equipment such as hot air balloons, trampolines, treadmills for dogs, throwing knives, chainmail shirts and falconry gear. It supplied many great hunting and exploration trips, like Theodore Roosevelt’s expedition to Africa, the Amazon and Robert Peary’s excursion to the North Pole. Other famous clients included Ernest Hemingway, Presidents Hoover, Eisenhower and Kennedy, Amelia Earhart, the Duke of Windsor and Katharine Hepburn.

Despite its growth, Abercrombie & Fitch went bankrupt in 1977 and was bought by Oshman’s Sporting Goods. It and ended up under the ownership of The Limited Inc in 1988.

In 1992, Michael Jeffries was hired as CEO, and he had a vision to change the target market from mature audiences to younger generations. He took the lead in defining and marketing an “idealized American college lifestyle.” The store now “carries casual-looking teen clothing with a not so casual price tag.” By the time A&F became independent in 1998, it was one of the most successful specialty clothing retailers.

Abercrombie & Fitch is the company’s oldest brand. It is rooted in the East Coast tradition and Ivy League Heritage and marketed toward college students of the 18 – 22 age group. The company describes this brand as the “essence of privilege and casual luxury,” “confident,” “provocative,” “timeless” and “always cool.” abercrombie kids (in lowercase) is a younger prep-school version of Abercrombie & Fitch, which targets seven to 14 year-olds. Hollister is A&F’s take on the Southern Californian lifestyle, aimed toward teenagers from 14 to 18 and priced lower than the original Abercrombie & Fitch. With a theme that centers on sun, sea and surfing, Hollister embodies a laidback, “effortlessly cool” vibe.

Reuhl No. 925 was established in 2004 to appeal to a more mature, post-graduate clientele in their mid-20s to early 30s. It was discontinued in 2010 due to disappointing performance. The company’s newest creation (2008) Gilly Hicks is inspired by “Down Under” Sydney, Australia. With a “flirty and carefree” attitude and “tomboy sexiness,” the lingerie brand targets women who are 18 or older.


2. Branding

Currently based in Ohio, A&F’s mission statement is to be “ committed to providing comfortable and long lasting clothes that look good.” This statement encompasses four points about the company and its products’ attributes. The clothes it manufactures are designated to be casual (comfortable), long-lasting (high-quality), trendy and fashionable (look good). This is a complete and down-to-earth description of the product. A&F is now marketed as the embodiment of “American cool” and “casual luxury” – a trademark slogan by A&F that evokes the characteristics of its products. The company’s clothes are priced quite high but still sell well because they are associated with a youthful, privileged, inspiring lifestyle.

The A&F appears on its products in several forms but primarily consists of the name “Abercrombie & Fitch” in a serif font and the image of a moose. The animal logo probably originated since the beginning where the company used to cater hunting and camping gears. A&F still tries to maintain the outdoor vibe in its products and lifestyle, evident through its photography and store decorations.

abercrombie & fitch ad
With a history of selling first-class professional equipment, A&F continues to position itself as a high-quality, upscale retailer of casual clothing. Learning from the early visionary Ezra Fitch, the store sells not only clothes and accessories but a lifestyle. This approach is reflected in the consistent clothing designs, in-store music and decorations, ad campaigns, catalogs and overall aesthetics. The all-American, cool ideal that A&F constructs is a very wholesome, provocative one. The company’s advertising materials heavily feature young, scantily-clad white male models with sculpted bodies. A typical Abercrombie look for girls entails a slender body, natural hair and makeup, jeans, a moose-logo tank top or T-shirt layered under a sweater and flip flops. The sales representatives working in the store are referred to as “models,” and they have to look the part.

President and CEO Mike Jeffries doesn’t deny this exclusionary attitude that is based on looks and sexuality attraction. He was quoted in an article, saying: “We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

One of the company’s weaknesses in previous years was its narrow focus on male clothing. However, A&F has begun to target women and children and benefited from the lucrativeness of these markets. Florals, bright colors and sexy silhouettes are added to the clothing lines to attract women. The new Gilly Hicks carries exclusively female lingerie. The abercrombie kids brand caters to children aged seven to 14, and Hollister is geared toward the next age group – 14 to 18 year olds.

Abercrombie.com is a very important marketing and e-commerce tool. The website has an understated but classic, chic design. It’s estimated that customers pay one million visits per month to the site. The men’s clothing items are named after outdoor locations such as Bradley Pond, Calkins Brook, Mount Armstrong and Boundary Peak, while women’s clothes bear American girl-next-door names such as Kaylin, Natalie, Addison, Lucy and Jessica. Abercrombie.com has a tab for investor relations and a “Diversity” page that boasts an inclusive corporate culture.

A&F’s success has evoked aggressive competition from companies like American Eagle Outfitters, Inc, Aeropostale, Gap, Inc and The Limited. In 1998, A&F sued American Eagle for copying its trademarks, offering the same type of merchandise for lower prices. However, the lawsuit was dismissed when the judge decided that clothing style and image were not copyrightable.

3. Marketing and criticism

Since Mike Jeffries became CEO, A&F has presented a sexualized, idealized brand image and persuaded consumers aspire to it. The company maximizes in-store advertising by hiring attractive employees to represent the Abercrombie look. A&F stores are usually dimly lit, heavily sprayed with cologne and blasted with music. The first thing that greets customers as they walk into an Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister store is a wall-size poster of a topless male model. A&F is also known for having male models wearing unbuttoned or no shirts pose in front of its stores.

A&F has faced considerable criticism, boycotting and lawsuits regarding its overtly sexual materials as well as controversial products and employee discrimination. Since the 2000s, A&F has received severe complaints from customers and advocate groups for selling T-shirts with offensive, degrading, racist and sexist slogans such as: “Wong Brothers Laundry Service – two Wongs can make it white,” “Who needs brains when you have these” (referring to a woman’s breasts), “I had a nightmare last night I was brunette,” and “It’s all relative in West Virginia” (stereotyping widespread incest in the state). The company angered parent groups when they started selling thong panties, emblazoned with “Eye Candy” and “Wink, Wink,” in the abercrombie kids store.

In the 2003 holiday season, A&F’s quarterly publication titled “Christmas Field Guide” was pulled from the shelves early because it was too racy. Advertised on the cover as containing “group sex and more,” the catalog features partially and fully nude teen-looking models in very suggestive poses. Although the company maintained that the models and purchasers of the catalog had to be 18 or older, it was obvious that A&F appealed to teenagers. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families launched a boycott against A&F on the basis that this publication promoted “sexual promiscuity.” It also collected anecdotal evidence of teens as young as 13 and 14 purchasing the magalog.

In 2004, A&F was ordered by the court to pay $40 million to several thousand minority and female plaintiffs. This was after multiple allegations that the company discriminated against female and colored workers. Hispanic, black and Asian employees complained that when they applied for jobs, they were steered to low-visibility positions that involved stocking and cleaning up in the back of the store. The settlement wanted A&F to increase diversity not only in hiring but also in its advertising materials, which had been dominated by white, preppy models. As a result, A&F agreed to hire 25 diversity recruiters and a vice president for diversity.

In conclusion, A&F is a highly successful and profitable retailer of high-quality casual clothing thanks to its lifestyle brands. However, its marketing tactics are not healthy and beneficial to the target market because they promote sexual promiscuity and unrealistic body images. The company’s reputation has and will suffer if it continues pushing shock-value marketing at the cost of political correctness.

(Statistics as of November 2010)

Are Tory Burch Reva Flats the Most Popular Shoes This Season?

I have seen these monogram flats on at least four different people in NYC but didn’t really know what brand they were. That is until my friend tagged them on her Instagram:

Photo by Hanh2904.

I agree that they are very cool flats but they cost a fortune!! The patent leather and suede (pictured) flats cost a whopping $235 on ToryBurch.com. You can find them for $195 at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s, and even slightly cheaper at outlets. But still!! I would NOT be able to afford a pair of $200 flats.

Yes, I’d rather buy two pairs of boots at DSW. Sorry I’m a bargain shopper.

Fur: To wear or not to wear

Fur is one of the earliest materials worn by humans dwelling in cold climates. Since the Middle Ages, it has always been a status symbol, being used on coats, scarves, hats and gloves (e.g., Game of ThronesDownton Abbey and Mad Men). In the 1960s, the fur industry suffered a backlash from animal rights movements. The textile industry also renders the necessity of fur obsolete. Yet, it maintains a loyal following and has been shown consistently in designer collections (e.g., Fall Winter 2012/13).

In order to mitigate opposition from protest groups, organizations and individuals have turned to endorse cruelty-free fur and other alternatives.

Sustainable, cruelty-free

The Fur Council of Canada assures, in its Fur is Green brochure, that “fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource.” Through trapping regulations, the council is committed to maintaining an ecological balance of wildlife and natural habitat. It claims that there are as many beavers, muskrats, raccoons, coyotes and foxes in North America there were when Europeans first arrived on the continent.

The fur trade has launched an Origin Assured label that provides consumers with information about the source of the fur they are buying. Buyers may feel more comfortable to know that their fur was produced in a place with trapping regulations and humane treatment of animals. In 2010, US President Obama signed the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, which obliges manufacturers to reveal whether the fur is real or fake. Before this came in effect, only products that cost more than $150 had to be truthfully labeled.

Types of fur

Guilt-free

In 2010, Oscar de la Renta and Michael Kors opted for guilt-free fur by using nutria, a type of rat that devastates the wetlands of Louisiana. Former first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, says she doesn’t “buy, wear or own fur.” But she is fine with using leather from the skin of animals that were raised for feeding purposes.

Faux fur

Karl Lagerfeld put faux fur trim on Chanel coats, boots, skirts, pants and bags in the 2010 Fall Winter collection. He said he didn’t want to compete with Fendi, who does real furs so well. He also added: “Technical advances are so perfect you can hardly tell fake fur from the real thing. Fake is not chic — we have got a new Chanel tweed to stop copies — but fake fur is.”

Celebrities like Elle MacPherson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Richie have all been spotted wearing trendy faux fur coats and vests.

Vintage fur

Another way to make fur sustainable is by reusing and recycling it. Inherit a valuable coat from your grandmother that is not your style? Determine its value and sell it back at a vintage store. Likewise, make sure you check out vintage stores and outlets when it comes to your own fur-hunting quest.

Hopefully you take away good tips for sporting fur this winter.