Saturday, November 5, 2016

Crossroads, crucifixes and crowns

Katherine Leutzinger in her beautiful shop, Casa Katalina
at Calle Correo 51, one block from the center of town.

Situated on a 6400 foot plateau in central Mexico, San Miguel de Allende does not have the beaches that most people imagine when thinking about Mexico. But it does have the constant hum, buzz and electric energy of creativity on just about every corner. It can be the creativity of a metal fabricator hammering out the next beautiful iron gate. Or it can be the lamp shade maker in the mercado piercing slotted patterns on shiny silver tin to create beautiful wall shadows.

Or it can a stylish ex-pat gringa who is inspired by the local creativity to bring her own design visions to life. That's what interior designer Katherine Leutzinger did in 2004 when she was at a crossroads in her life and daringly decided to close her interior design business in Reno and move to San Miguel for a new start.

With her keen eye for drama and style, Katherine opened her elegant shop selling her jewelry, home decor and vintage Mexican items. Using rich Mexican imagery and icons such as crosses and crowns in her designs, each piece is handcrafted locally, making each piece not only a fabulous thing to wear, but also a meaningful travel memento. On every trip to San Miguel, I make it a point to visit Casa Katalina and spend time trying on Katherine's bracelets, earrings, rings, necklaces and I always find several items for myself and for gifts. And while I'm trying things on, I love chatting with Katherine to learn about the latest great restaurant or fun thing to do.

Made of the metal alloy, Tumbaga, each link on the chain is skillfully crafted by hand. The large charms have images such as the Aztec calendar and the Mexican coat of arms.

This necklace of old Mexican coins is one of my personal treasures. 

Katherine also carries vintage Mexican items, each rich with history.

I have several of these glasses for sipping tequila in style. 

In addition to her own designs, Katherine has some traditional Mexican crafts like these gorgeous candles from Oaxaca.

If you don't have a visit planned to San Miguel, many of the jewelry items are available at

Friday, October 21, 2016

Couture on the tarmac

One of many displays in the SFO International Terminal for "Fashion in Flight." 
Photo: Bien Vestido.

In the early 70's, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was either an astronaut or a stewardess. It was a toss up. Man had recently walked on the moon which was the most exciting thing ever. But airline stewardesses flew around the world and looked glamorous and sexy while doing it. My grandmother and I took our first plane trip in 1969 from New Orleans to Los Angeles, she holding a bottle of smelling salts in one hand and her rosary beads in the other for most of the flight. While I don't remember what the stewardesses wore, I do remember how sharp, chic and competent they looked.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of seeing the wide variety of uniforms and their place in history. The SFO Museum is currently exhibiting seventy airline uniforms from 1930 to present. Last Saturday my indefatigable fashion friend Karen and I made the trek to San Francisco International Airport to see the show. Yes, a museum show at the airport. With over twenty galleries in various terminals, it's the only accredited museum in an airport.  The exhibit is a fun visual lesson in fashion history, couture designers and the effect of culture on fashion. It's worth a visit to the airport, even if you don't have a plane to catch or someone to meet.

United Air Lines stewardesses, 1939. United Airlines Archive.

They do look sharp with a post-war military chicness.

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944. SFO Museum

This is a clever design for TWA by Hollywood fashion designer Howard Greer. The TWA logo appears as cut-out letters on the upper right chest with a flap that unbuttons to cover the logo when the hostess has an off-duty cigarette or cocktail. Greer (1896-1974) created glamorous garments for stars like Katherine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich.

Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci, 1966. Collection of SFO Museum.

With "The End of the Plain Plane," an advertsing campaign created by Mary Wells Lawrence, airline uniforms did an about-face from the tailored military styles to this wild psychedelic outfit called the "Supersonic Derby" by Emilio Pucci. 

Braniff International Airways hostess in uniform by Emilio Pucci, 1965. Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas. 

My dream come true! Pucci makes it possible to be a stewardess and an astronaut! The space age bubble helmets were originally designed to protect the hair on blustery tarmacs but proved impractical and were used only in publicity.

Braniff International Airways hostesses in uniforms by Emilio Pucci, 1965. Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas.
 Pucci's Gemini IV Collection, with multi-layers for quick-change combos.

United Air Lines stewardess in uniform by Jean Louis, 1968. United Airlines Archive.

Spiffy with double-knit practicality.  Another Hollywood designer, Jean Louis (1907-1997) designed glamorous gowns for many leading ladies, most notably the strapless gown Rita Hayworth wore in "Gilda."

Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1969. Courtesy of Air France.

Immutable chic. Designing uniforms for Air France was Balenciaga's last project before he retired. His uniforms stayed in production for ten years.

Qantas Airways female flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent, 1986. Collection of SFO Museum.

Not my favorite, but definitely a product of the 80's, Yves Saint Laurent designed this Dynastyesque suit for Quantas, complete with a flying kangaroo print.

Virgin Atlantic Airways female flight attendant uniform by Vivienne Westwood, 2014. Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic Airways. SFO Museum.

With Vivienne Westwood's signature touches such as the nipped waist and high collar, this is a very couture look.

Many thanks to SFO Assistant Museum Director John H. Hill for permission to use the photos and his generous offer to schedule a group curator's tour. Let me know if you're interested!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trusting that the earth is beneath you

Inspired by Annie Lennox and Sinéad O'Connor for their strength and vulnerability, Taya created these garments that are "clean and simple and easy to wear with a bit of unfinished edge sort of thing." Photo by Kelia Anne.

I haven't experienced back-to-school anticipation and excitement for a while, and now I'm enjoying it vicariously. My brave and talented friend Taya Badgley just left her home in Northern California for London to attend Central St. Martins to study fashion design. We recently had a great chat about her upcoming adventures and design process.  

This big move was carefully considered by Taya and her parents. For the last two years, she has studied at SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design. When a professor showed her class the CSM's graduate show and said "this is your competition." Taya decided she would apply to CSM, known for its alumni like Sarah Burton, John Galliano, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. She was thrilled when she was accepted. 


At twenty-one, Taya has already created a beautiful and substantial portfolio of work. She generously shared her images and thoughts with me. Here is a sampling of her designs and inspiration:

Photo by Kelia Anne
The above is Taya's response to a SCAD class assignment "find inspiration in an artist." She chose George Balanchine, which led her to one of his favorite dancers, Tranquil Le Clercq. At the height of her career, she contracted polio and her dance career ended. Taya explains, "This collection has many pleats and skirts made of stiff crinoline fabric. I wanted it to have a melancholic, beautiful feel and juxtaposition between movement and constriction."

Based on one of her mother's old Irish sweaters, she created the above mood board inspired by heritage, hard work and handwork.

An ongoing collection, the inspiration for "Roots" is real people, young and old. Taya sees them as people working in the fields and on farms, where clothes are made and mended by hand. This is an ongoing project.

Photo by Kelia Anne

For an independent project called "Amalgam", Taya designed and made this simple tunic,
inspired by medieval chemises.

Photo by Kelia Anne

The top is woven and spray-painted vinyl, inspired by primitive armor and medieval peasant wear. Taya says, "The skirt has a sort of Edwardian silhouette and is made from painted artist's canvas. The fringing on the top and hem is inspired by a decorative technique called dragging that was used in Medieval times. It created movement in the simple garments."

Taya and I chatted about what she was packing for London. In addition to "packing as many overalls as she can", she's wisely taking the warmth, coziness and comfort of her favorite sweater. In her thoughtful blog, Cautiously Optimistic, she wrote about her love of dance, and the words can also apply to her new adventure. "The ultra magical thing I've discovered is that by trusting your floor, your earth, your foundation YOU can LOOK look up and suddenly you move with freedom and levity because you logically KNOW and faithfully TRUST that the EARTH IS BENEATH YOU."

Good to remember when dancing, walking down the street or beginning a new life chapter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Black dandy, when a pocket square is much more

Kia Chenelle, The Waiting Man I, 2013. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist.

I always thrill at a flash of j'ne sais quoi; whether it's the angle of a hat, a splash of pocket square or a dramatic and unexpected color worn with confidence. The traveling exhibition, Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity, at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco until September 18, offers that thrill with sociological impact and meaning. 

Through photographs and film, curator Shantrelle P. Lewis shows us images of black men from around the world who assert their presence through their conscious use of dashing, elegant and stereotype-challenging mode of dress. The show defines a Black dandy as "self-fashioned gentleman who intentionally assimilates classical European fashion with African Diasporian aesthetics and sensibilities."

A sampling of the sharp style from the show:

Sara Shamsavari, Cal ‘Caligraphist’ Librea, London, 2014. Archival pigment print. 
Courtesy of the artist.

Sara Shamsavari, Terrence Lathan, London, 2013. Archival pigment print. 
Courtesy of the artist.

Radcliffe Roye, Untitled No. Two, 2011. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist.

Hanif Abdur-Rahim, Ubiquitous SWAG, 2010. C–Print. Courtesy of the artist.

I'm reading a book I bought at the MoAD gift store, Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity by Monica L. Miller. This is a part of cultural history I didn't know about and there is so much to the story. She begins in the 18th century when African slaves were brought to England, America and the West Indies with nothing, really nothing, naked. They were issued clothes that they often modified. The Black dandy modified European dress in ways that played with social hierarchies, using elements from the perceived higher class.

In the book Miller says, "As a form of cultural resistance, Black dandyism functions as a kind of fashionable weapon of the weak, an everyday form of resistance...the enslaved and marginalized use to comment on their relationship to authority."

Time and thought spent on fashion and personal style is often seen as frivolous and inconsequential; but I learned from the show and book that historically for the Black dandy, the expression of personal style could be a matter of presence or oblivion. Or even life or death. Black dandy style is life affirming and provides a way to resist and survive. This is personal style with extreme meaning.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Seeking beauty: goodbye to Bill Cunningham

Sadly, I'll be adding Bill Cunningham's photo to my Day of the Dead altar this year. The New York Times has the details here.

The above photo of Bill was taken by a friend on September 10, 2012. Bill has his holy trinity of accoutrements: blue French workman's jacket, bike and camera.With those three simple things, he documented the personal styles and fashion of New York City people and showed the world how powerful and fabulous it is to share yourself by dressing creatively and expressively. He loved his "peacocks" and that love can be felt in every one of his photos.

In the 2011 documentary Bill Cunningham New York, I was moved by the kindness and honesty of the man. I wrote about it here.

In the film Bill says, "Everyone has taste, but they don’t have the daring to be creative" and "It’s as true today as it ever was, he who seeks beauty will find it." My friend Debra pondered that and commented on BV: "So it's about creativity, and seeking, and beauty...all with meaning. I'll continue to think about this because I think it's profound. Seeking beauty in our own adornment is an act of courage, even rebellion!"

Isn't that a wonderful thing to think about?

Goodbye Bill, I'll miss seeing the pizazz of personal style through your lens.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Baubles, Bubbles and Beauties

There's more to shopping than just buying stuff. There's the pleasure of looking, touching and trying. Just because I love it, doesn't mean I have to own it. That's what I told myself as I ogled the diamonds, gems and jewels ranging in the 4, 5 and 6 digit range at Tiffany & Co. on Wednesday night. Usually, I'm a 2 to 3 digit girl. 

And there was more to see than jewels at this toast to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the people watching was fabulous.

Beautiful women, Elizabeth Harker of SFMOMA with PR, social media and style consultant Khuyen Do.

I met and chatted with darling Jon who has worked at Tiffany's for over twenty years. He looked so dapper that I complimented him on the gold bee pin on his lapel. I learned it isn't just an accessory, it's a memory of his mother who was nicknamed Bee and had a collection of Tiffany bee pins that Jon had given her.

Even in the midst of the festive crowd, he had a hint of tear as he told me the story, so of course, I did too.

My photo does not do justice to the gorgeous sparkle of this Oscar de la Renta dress that Kamal Shah wears so well. And I love how her friend doesn't have a skimpy pocket square, but a full blown Pucci scarf in his pocket.

The San Francisco Tiffany's is under renovation right now and this is one of the new rooms. It's like being inside an elegant jewelry box.

Great style all around!

 Vanessa Getty with Gina Peterson, Event Chair for the SFMOMA Modern Ball this May.

Gorgeous richly embroidered and sequined coat on philanthrophist and art collector Norah Stone.

I had a great time chatting with charming Alexandre Alesandrini in the Patek Philippe room. Our conversation went from luxury watches to classic race cars to bespoke shoes. He has George Cleverley shoes shipped from London. First I've heard of them and this needs further research. We also shared our passion for a well-shined shoe and he gave me such great info, I plan to do a post on shoe shining.

Alexandre let me try on a romantic Patek watch with a mother-of-pearl dial showing the phases of the moon. I didn't look at the price, I just enjoyed the moment with a sip of Veuve Clicquot.

It was a lovely event. But wait there's more!

Such a delicious evening of luxurious gorgeousness. Right next door to Tiffany's, Saks Fifth Avenue has their windows filled with Oscar de la Renta designs in honor of the retrospective at the de Young Museum. Look for a story on that soon!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dear All, Gone shopping...Love, Wilkes

 The Michael Schwab portrait of Wilkes Bashford on the memorial program.

It was on a cold and rainy day at the end of January that I climbed the steep steps to Grace Cathedral for the memorial service of San Francisco icon and refined clothier Wilkes Bashford. He died on January 16th and his eponymous luxury store had just celebrated its 50th anniversary. The store has been a landmark for me since I first moved to San Francisco in the 80's. While it was too expensive for my freelance writer's pay, no one seemed to mind me indulging in going from floor-to-floor and soaking up the beauty of the clothes and examining designer items that I had seen in posh magazines. When I finally did have enough money, I headed straight to the shoe department which had fabulous sales and over the years I bought Jimmy Choo boots and heels, Manolos, Louboutin kitten heels, Lambertson Truex boots and Gravatti boots and shoes. Still expensive at half off, but of such quality that I will wear them for years.

Mounted police stood watch in front of Grace Cathedral to greet the over 900 elegantly attired attendees. They were a wide cross section of socialites, political powerhouses, artists and fashion devotees. From the altar,  Charlotte Schultz spoke of his "sprightly step" and "glistening cufflinks, all understated perfection." She said that although his eyeglasses were tinted blue, they were rose colored on the other side. He often asked, "Isn't life great?" And when he asked "How ya doin'?" "What's going on?" he really stopped and listened. The memorial was a celebration of Wilkes and the classic San Francisco that he personified.

His friend of 50 years, Willie Brown, said he was the most decent human being he has ever known. Known for his sharp Italian suits and fine fedoras, Brown talked about buying his first Brioni suit from Wilkes and when they first met, how they connected through a discussion of fabrics and cut.

Kamala Harris, would lunch on Saturdays with Wilkes at the classic San Francisco restaurant , Le Central, just a quick down the hill from his store. They would sit at his table near the window and Wilkes would smile at the passersby and wave vigorously at anyone carrying a Wilkes Bashford shopping bag.  Harris said he was fiercely passionate about a number of philanthropic causes for animal rights, the arts and stopping domestic violence.

Tyler Mitchell, a co-owner of the store said that Wilkes taught him that being a gentleman was cool. He showed Tyler the power of holding doors, pulling out chairs and giving two kisses to ladies. Tyler said the best compliment that would make his day was when Wilkes would look him up and down and say, "You look as chic as shit!" All of us in the pews turned to one another to confirm that we heard what we thought we heard. Apparently, it was a huge compliment from Wilkes.

Mr. Bashford was remembered in the store window with his chair, his old typewriter holding an imagined farewell letter and a silhouette of his beloved dachshund Duchess.

A collage of the social whirl of bon vivant Wilkes Bashford. He worked six days a week and reportedly went out seven nights a week for civic appearances, parties and events.

When I leave the store carrying one of their bright orange shopping bags, 
I practically skip down Sutter Street.

 Portrait by Elaine Badgley Arnoux, published in  
The People of San Francisco: Lives of Accomplishment, 1985

My artist friend Elaine Badgley Arnoux and I attended the service together. Wilkes was a great supporter of her and her art, introducing her with glowing praise to San Francisco movers and shakers. Over the last thirty years Elaine has drawn several hundred portraits of the people who give San Francisco its distinct character. Mr. Bashford was definitely one.

Wilkes and his darling Duchess. Even she was at the memorial, wearing a black satin ribbon.

From Mr. Bashford's memorial, I learned that although it is sad to say goodbye, when the honored person has lived a full and kind life, a memorial service is life affirming and inspiring. And in Mr. Bashford's case, I left inspired to do more to help others with a smile and a listening ear and to dress elegantly while doing it. His was a well-dressed life well lived.