Thursday, August 14, 2014

Monday, December 23, 2013

From New York With Love!


From Alysa:
The holidays in New York are always exciting and very manic. For me, it’s always a mix of taking it all in and staying within an arm’s reach of the madness! I like to make one single jaunt to Midtown to see the festive holiday windows at big box department stores and the large Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, but other than that, my favorite holiday experience is taking in the smell of my local evergreen sidewalk salesperson steps away from my apartment. This year, here are a few things about the holidays I am loving:

Very few things scream holiday like diamond encrusted works of art set in a dimly lit palace-feeling room of the MET with throngs of visitors.

Everyone in New York (and in the jewelry world in general) is abuzz about JAR! For those of you who don’t know, JAR is the nickname of renowned jewelry designer Joel A. Rosenthal. Jewels by JAR, which is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until March of 2014, features more than 400 exquisite pieces of jewelry.

The jewelry simply drips in the most beautiful materials imaginable. JAR’s work is intricate sculpture meets flawless one of a kind stones meets precise artistry. JAR’s atelier is on the Place Vendome in Paris, across from the Ritz, and appointments are highly sought after. After feasting over this exhibit, it’s no wonder!

A personal favorite at Jewels by JAR





















Rolf’s = Christmas. I had heard about this place for a while but didn’t quite understand how dressed up Rolf’s gets for the holidays until I went to have a drink with some friends.

There is something over the top festive (and almost a tiny bit hokey!) about this restaurant and bar that puts me in a party mood (you would be too if you saw its thousands of little lights). The bar’s frequenters are part happy hour crowd, part Christmas fanatics. If you’ve never been, you should make a pit stop there soon! 

Rolf's is brimming with holiday cheer between Nov-Jan!
















This massive emporium of yummy food and gifts really shows off during the holidays. Little twinkle lights in all corners, the smell of fresh cappuccinos and iced cookies, and the excited faces of tourists new to the city light up my life year round, but especially during the holidays.

There are so many little shops worth checking out, and you won’t leave without getting at least a couple of snacks. My favorites are the little cookies at Sarabeth’s, the tacos at Los Tacos No. 1 (they are almost as good as the ones I eat when in Texas), the full lobsters from the Lobster Place, and the wake-me-from-the-dead coffee at Ninth Street Espresso.

The signature clock and holiday lights at Chelsea Market.

















For Next Year:
The holiday season has come and almost gone, and a few of my festive bucket list items still didn’t get scratched off the list. Next year, I’m going to make sure to take a trip to the Dyker Heights lights in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, made famous by the PBS documentary “Dyker Lights”. Can you believe I have also never seen the Nutcracker and Rockettes? I’m not sure how that’s possible as, by now, I'm almost a New Yorker, but I’ll definitely be hitting that next year too!

I've never seen so many holiday lights and can't wait to visit!

















Monday, July 8, 2013

SUMMER 2013, THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS. CHAPTER 1: We're Having a Moment......

It's been a glorious Spring and start of Summer, and if I could just bottle it up to capture it forever, I would. The moment is so surprising, I honestly don't know who to thank. 

Truth be told, we receive double issues of JCK Magazine (to the Jewelry Trade what Vogue is to Couture Designers) and the first thing I do is toss the 2nd copy in the recycling bin. Charles was flipping through the April issue when he stopped, went "Wow" and caused me to make a dive to retrieve the discarded duplicate copy from the trash. 

I was floored to be included in the "Power List" of the 50 Most Influential People in the Jewelry Industry which also included the CEO's of LVMH, Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston, & even Michelle Obama. Charles has promised to pull my head out of the clouds and keep me grounded, and he knows how to do it -- Practice makes perfect!
 

As if that weren't enough to make my day, my month, my year, Ylang 23 was named in the July Issue of Town & Country to a select list as one of America's 50 top Independent Jewelers. We have always adored Town & Country's brilliance in showcasing the top talent in Designer Jewelry, and under the stewardship of editor Jay Fielden the magazine has now set a new standard as the see-all be-all of luxe living.
 
 
And lastly, a nomination by the Women's Jewelry Association, the Award for Excellence in Retailing under 15 stores... well, let's just say that life is sweet. If you're going to the event July 29, hope to see you! 

But let's give credit where credit is due. We are only as good as the collection of designers we carry, and we are in awe of their talent. A highlight of my year is seeing, inhaling, applauding, visiting, and buying from the most exceptional jewelry designers in the world in Las Vegas at the June shows, most notably Couture. Truth be told, some of our favorite designers do not show in Vegas, or anywhere else but their Studio. It would certainly make life easier, but we still love them! This year was exceptional and we suggest that you fasten your seat belts for a season of 'shock and awe'. 

SUMMER 2013, CHAPTER 2: Brilliant Design and the Fun of Buying in Vegas

It was a simple question by Couture, the Show, posted on their Facebook page:

" Now that the dust has settled on Couture 2013...what was your favorite part of this year's event?!?"

My answer of "camaraderie and the explosion of so many new designers & creative work" did not even begin to scratch the surface.

Don't tell Charles that I could actually spend more than four days in Vegas buying jewelry at the Couture Show. His achy feet were yearning  to head home to Dallas after a couple of days. But it's true. Despite a ridiculously tight appointment schedule due to the addition of new designers, we fell behind as we greeted old friends who have been showing at Couture for years, and met those who were new to Vegas.

It was one dizzying day after another with So. Much. New!

We were dazzled as always by Irene Neuwirth's new gemstones featuring emeralds, left speechless by Arunashi's couture pieces (we were thrilled that he won a major design award!), and couldn't scoop enough  of Jamie Joseph and Todd Reed's new one of a kind rings. While color was clearly driving the season (think juicy opals from Gurhan), there was beautiful new gold with and without diamonds from Laurent Gandini, Janis Savitt and Adel Chefridi.

 
Arman Sarkisyan reminded us why we love him so much and his Fall collection just soared! We were enchanted by Jemma Wynne's gem tipped bangles (coming soon!), and adored Armenta's tiny mosaic masterpieces. Erica Molinari's new magnifying glasses are amazing, and the new rings from Ila & I, Yasuko Azuma and Megan Thorn were irresistible.
We took a break to attend friend and editor Beth Bernstein's event  to preview her new book, Jewelry's Shining Stars, and are delighted that six of our designers are included among those profiled with beautiful double page spreads:  Todd Reed, Arman, Jamie Joseph, Megan Thorne, Jemma Wynne  & Adel Chefridi.

SUMMER 2013, CHAPTER 3: It's All About Our Designers...

Behind every great design is a talented Designer. And behind every talented Designer is a story, a family.

The amount of preparation it takes for a designer to get a collection ready for Vegas is crushing. It takes creative juices, discipline, reinvention, production management, mental toughness, fearlessness and maybe an occasional therapy session with whomever is willing to listen. 
Seriously, we thought everyone would need a drink by then, so we hosted a reception honoring our designers, spouses, and key staff who we had worked with and included a few favorite Couture and press friends.

Marion Fasel brought her entire InStyle team which livened up the party; Women's Wear Daily's Roxanne Robinson-Escriout surprised us by showing up with a close friend of hers from Vegas who is a client of ours we had never met!
It was fun introducing some of our younger designers to the veterans and Press friends. And we loved hosting the spouses of Rosanne Karmes (Sydney Evan) and Kim Carpenter (Todd Reed).

Dana Colby (formerly assistant to Cathy Waterman and now working with Andrea Fohrman) was skillfully navigating her first trip to Vegas with 'Bebe on Board'.
Afterwards, we all tumbled out to the Couture Welcome Party and an electric performance by Neon Trees.
Friday we attended an event hosted by Town & Country and Gemfields, where we viewed a major one of a kind collection of emerald and ruby jewelry designed by the world's leading designers, including Jemma Wynne. It was also a wonderful opportunity to connect to Stellene Volandes, Town & Country's Style Director.  
The last evening was awards night and we loved meeting Andrea Fohrman's husband Syd who had just flown in and seeing Arun Bohra (Arunashi) win a big design award. I love the picture I took, Arun with his award and his wife Ashita with her own, a stunning pink Hermes Birken bag. Way to go Ashita!

No show is complete without Tipsy, Fiona's 4-legged constant companion (Gurhan). I wish I could bring my pups Eddie and Tuey, but they not so people friendly. 
And in case you think that Couture is all about the jewelry, Jamie Joseph debuted a sexy Lanvin dress in this year's color sensation -- green.

After so many years of working with our designers, we have formed friendships based on loyalty and mutual respect. It only took four days to get pumped up for the season, and I promise it will be a wild one.

Friday, February 22, 2013

THE GLAMOUR OF TRAVEL? REALLY? I SAY, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: A TRILOGY

Dorothy clicked her ruby slippers to get back to Kansas, but I prefer my fluffy pink Uggs (a birthday gift from my son) and the warmth of home, complete with Charles and loyal pups Eddie and Tuey.

TRILOGY | PART ONE: 51 HOURS IN LA WITH CATHY WATERMAN, IRENE NEUWIRTH & JENNIFER MEYER

My best way to jump start the Spring Season when late January Texas weather is chill is to head West to spend time with designers and personal friends Cathy Waterman, Irene Neuwirth and Jen Meyer.

Some day (but not this trip), I will finally stop at Randy's Donuts by LAX. Happy to see that his business is still booming! My first stop was the Four Seasons, as I just had to meet my favorite new Facebook friend, Eric Buterbaugh, aka Florist to the Stars. We had a great visit and the flowers were amazing!


The mood at Cathy Waterman that Inauguration Day Monday was festive, as she (and the rest of the World) had gotten word that First Lady Michelle Obama was wearing her jewelry. Spending the afternoon at Cathy's light infused Studio visiting with her and daughter Claire over the newest creations is inspiring. Trays of twinkling rings and earrings at my fingertips made me feel like a Princess, and it was hard to make my picks. Gretchen was in the garden taking pictures, and I couldn't help but wander through the cucumbers, lemon trees, delicate lettuces and other home grown wonders to take a few shots of my own.



Monday night Jen Meyer whisked me away for a girls' dinner in Malibu where we discussed balancing marriage, children, work and fashion over amazing food . Fresh off her CFDA Fashion Fund win, her life is crazed: think 2 adorable kids, husband Tobey Maguire whose movie "The Great Gatsby" is opening in Spring, and back and forth travel to New York for fashion events, not to mention the demands of designing and producing jewelry for insatiable customers such as Moi. It was fun to run into one of Jen's best friends, Courteney Cox, who was having her own girl's night out with adorable daughter Coco.



It's great to talk about the jewelry, but my high was touching and trying on Jens' new designs on Tuesday, as well as visiting with Meegan, Caitlin and other Studio staffers who we just couldn't live without. As usual, Jen was juggling that day, arriving at the Studio having just completed a field trip hike with Ruby's class.


Irene Neuwirth hosted dinner Tuesday night in Santa Monica with Lizzie, Woju and mutual friend, clothing designer Gregory Parkinson who was getting ready for New York Fashion Week (more on this later!). The Italian food was over the top, and the warmth of friendship mixed with great wine made for a wonderful evening.



Wednesday was my day at Irene's Studio, and the amount of new work to choose from knocked me over. Thankfully, Woju had some ideas, or I never would have made it in time for my flight back to Dallas. Truthfully, it's hard to function with Teddy Neuwirth competing with the jewelry for attention. I just love this dog, Texas born and adopted during a Dallas Trunk Show.

TRILOGY | PART TWO: 110 HOURS IN PARIS

With scarcely any downtime, Charles and I jetted off to Paris for some family and friend time, as well as inspiration. Of all the cameras I usually travel with, this time the go to was my iPhone 5. Admittedly, I'm a tourist, and have taken hundreds of pictures of Paris landmarks, which I never tire of. For this posting, I offer up a list of Bests:


Best Window: Hermes Faubourg St. Honore


Best New Store: Hermes Rue de Sevres on the Left Bank, once the site of Paris' oldest swimming club, is a must see. Hermes stores designer Denis Montel has kept the original swimming pool concept with the tiles and waves of wood including huts, which form a fashion fantasy.




Best Mosaic Rotunda: Au Printemps Department Store (which also gets the honors of best new department store remodel)


Best Childhood Memory (my kids, not mine): Le Manege (Carousel) across from the Eiffel Tower, at the foot of Les Jardins du Trocadero


Best Shopping Cappucino Break: Vive le Cafe at the Bon Marche with Texas sized macarons.


Best Flea Market: The Paris Flea Market at St Ouen, the great old original.



Best People Watching: Place du Palais Royal (across from the Louvre), where you can meet our best friends Patrick, Marie and Justine who own the Best Souvenir Shop, Gregory's. Be sure and tell them we sent you in! I got lucky and met "Bubble Man" who was charming the kid in all of us.



Best Hostess Gift: Hediard

Best Camera Spots: All of it. My favorites are Les Jardins du Palais Royal (Charles' favorite spot in Paris); La Pyramide du Louvre, Place de la Concorde, and the Flame (remembering Diana). And of course any angle of the Eiffel Tower, especially during its once an hour light show at night.

TRILOGY | PART THREE: 39 HOURS IN NEW YORK WITH THE CFDA, JEN MEYER, FINN, GREGROY PARKINSON & FEATURING NEMO

Yes, as everyone was trying to escape New York, I was one of the crazies who flew into Blizzard Nemo, but Nemo be damned, I had a lot of ground to cover in a very short time. I was determined to visit Finn, surprise Gregory Parkinson during his NYFW presentation and attend Jen Meyer's CFDA presentation at Milk Studios that evening.


First stop was at Finn's Studio to meet designer Candice Pool and see the new collection. I just have to say 'Wow'. I have a love affair with the Finn aesthetic and the new designs were so beautiful, I just cannot wait to receive them! Candice and Karly were appropriately prepared for Nemo with their cute Hunter boots, and I was getting the impression I needed to buy a heavier hooded jacket to ride out the rest of my stay. I found a great Canada Goose jacket nearby (which pup Tuey is still barking at, as it has a coyote lined hood).


Following a quick surprise pop in to see daughter Alysa, who was hosting a blogger event at Jack Rogers (great new metallic Jacks collection!), I was off to Gregory Parkinson's at the hot spot Nomad Hotel. Gregory's collection was divine. Think elegant party separates in rich laces and overdyed, embellished and embroidered fabrics. The presentation was packed with press, and it was wonderful to see friend David Rees of Ten Thousand Things, who along with partner Ron Anderson, made the custom jewelry for the bohemian chic collection.



The CFDA event was over the top. Each winning designer (Elder Statesman, Jen Meyer and Tabitha Simmons) had a giant studio space to display their collections. Naturally, my date Alysa Teichman and I spent the most time at Jen's, along with Diane von Furstenberg (CFDA President and Jennifer Meyer's new mentor), Steven Kolb (CFDA CEO), Jen's husband Tobey Maguire, Leo DiCaprio, and many other friends and fashion luminaries. But the star was the jewelry and we are excited to be carrying the explosion of new designs.



Friday night Nemo blew in, but by Saturday, the great meltdown started. Alysa and I enjoyed brunch and a bit of shopping, including a hit at Trader Joe's goodies as a departing Mom to Daughter gift.


And with that, it was back to Dallas. I couldn't change into my slippers fast enough to hang out with Charles and the pups. Travel is great, but there's no place like home. Period.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Brain on Bytes and Pixels: Celebrating a Dozen Years Online

When I was a kid, I loved Surprise Balls. For those of you too young to know this childhood pleasure, it is a wonder of strips of brightly colored crepe paper, wound around and around into a ball, and along the way, small treasures tumble out and make you smile. It was easy to start, delightful to unwind, and bittersweet when you got to the end of it.


The internet has been one big surprise ball to me, with one difference: it just never ends.


I can't remember exactly when my love of photography and the written word morphed into a passion for all things online. I've always loved to write, and can thank my high school typing teacher for pushing me to write really fast. I was top of my class at 98 words a minute, a skill which serves me well to this day. I've always loved to draw and paint, but despite numerous classes and lessons, I abandoned the paintbrush for a camera which could capture the images I had in my head and saw through my eyes. College was pure joy: as a journalism major, I brushed up on my photo skills and spent many days and nights in the darkroom (like surprise balls, most darkrooms have been archived!).

Landing in the retail jewelry business was a fluke, but a lucky one. I photographed jewelry suspended in fishbowls or threaded onto flowers (a Cathy Waterman staple), and sent out postcards with clever copy.


The first camera which started my digital revolution was a Mavica and I may have been the first to jump to get one (buying new cameras has become a lifelong passion, even though my husband calls it "just another addiction"!) Images were recorded on discs called floppys, although I have no idea why a stiff piece of square plastic would have a "limp" moniker. With the highest camera resolution setting so that my postcards would not look fuzzy, no more than 4 images could be captured on each disc, so my stack of floppys was quite large. And Cathy Waterman was of little help when I brought too few Mavica discs to shoot her over abundance of merchandise.


Unwrap my surprise ball a bit and there it was right in front of me: The Internet, rich with websites. I had to have one of those too, and in 2000 I sketched out my desired 7 sections page by page and picked the third web company I interviewed . Coincidentally, it was the only one we could afford (we're still together after all these years!).


THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME

Our new website Ylang-Ylang.com (we have since changed our name to Ylang23.com) was rich in imagery, but at the time, nothing was for sale, as no one was selling expensive jewelry on the internet at the time. Several months later, we offered 6 items for sale, and by the end of the year, had added our highest end which was Cathy Waterman. I couldn't tell Cathy over the phone (fear factor!) so I hopped a plane and watched her shocked reaction as she powered up her (quite slow) computer. "But Joanne! You can see my things!" (Added to the drama was Cathy covering her eyes with her hands).

Exactly the point.

Ylang23.com is our flagship now. We have undergone 5 major relaunches, and there are more in the pipeline. Last month our site was viewed in 186 countries, even though we now ship internationally to (only) 106 of them, with locals shopping on our site in their own currency. That's all great, but we still get the most pleasure  from answering the phone. Our web copy in 2000 describing our "ultimate level of service" hasn't changed a bit: "Imagine someone on the other end of the phone who knows the merchandise, and can even help you find pieces from previous collections."

There are many days lately when, even though our terrific staff is working and many hands are free to answer the phone, I dive for it first. It's a simple pleasure that none of my internet toys can satisfy: meeting a new customer, or chatting with an old one, asking where are you calling from and what is the weather and where are you traveling next, and yes, let me tell you more about the item you are asking about. (And when I get in over my head, such as knowing the exact stampings and sizings of Heather Moore or the rainbow of colored silk possibilities for Catherine Michiels charms, I can always say, let me put a Specialist on the line, since all of my Sales Gurus know every bit of it).

ARE WE THERE YET? THANKFULLY NO! IT'S NOT THE DESTINATION, IT'S THE JOURNEY

Facebook is fun, but Twitter's launch in 2006 which was not widely publicized was made for me. My first account was personal and my first Tweet in 2008 was: "signing up for Twitter..."; I have no idea why my second tweet was 8 months later. But then the floodgates opened and I haven't stopped since. In 2009, realizing that most of my Tweetable world was related to Ylang 23 (the kids were begging, "Mom! Don't Tweet about me!", I changed over to @Ylang23.


(Notable Tweets: 1. I obviously thought Adam Lambert should have won American Idol! 2. I was thrilled that Debra Messing named Ylang23.com her favorite website.)

ANOTHER TOY IN MY TOY CHEST: POLYVORE!

In 2008 I added another pastime: Polyvore. Wow, it was just like the bulletin boards of old and so much fun. I was honored to have been asked to host a Polyvore competition for "Stand Up to Cancer", since I am also a Breast Cancer Survivor, and just couldn't seem to create enough Polyvores to honor friends. Ylang 23 was also one of the first to install a mini-Polyvore directly on our site so that everyone could join the game. What was really a blast was hanging out with Polyvore founders Pasha Sadri & Jess Lee at a conference in NY. In another life, I might have taken a short detour and asked for a job.


Since then, there have been many new toys dangled in front of my face but none as inviting as Pinterest. A visual feast, it is fun to see what others are "pinning" and truth be told, I love making my own boards, whether they be personal or for Ylang 23.





During a recent vacation in California, something familiar caught my eye in a trendy coffee shop, a small bowl of Surprise Balls, which I had not seen in years. Knowing that my favorite Art Director was celebrating his birthday the following week, I just had to buy him one. No surprise, he had no idea what it was, but I imagine the learning experience was fun. We should all have as many surprises in life.


Last night as I was dozing off and checking tomorrow's news on my iPhone, I was shocked and excited to see that the Internet was about to gift me with