December 30, 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I've had a hard time wrapping my head around how I summarize the year. Personally and professionally, this year has been incredible  - and beyond exceeded my expectations. I've had amazing opportunities, checked so many experiences off my bucket list, and traveled to some absolutely breathtaking places that I never even dreamed of seeing. I've gotten to work with my dream clients, created my first ever collection in collaboration with ModCloth, and continue to be amazed every morning I wake up that this is actually my life, (with even bigger and more exciting things to come in the New Year). I even cultivated some new hobbies - like cooking and taking barre classes. I also had the privilege of celebrating so many amazing accomplishments by friends and colleagues - they published books (Janet Mock's Redefining Realness and Kristin and Dannielle's are must reads), they created breathtaking collections, worked with incredible charities, starred in plays and movies and directed their own films, written albums, conducted medical research, and continually inspire me with their work, love, humility, gratitude, and gravitas. 

Where I struggle with celebrating, though, is looking back on the year at large in the world and taking count of all the catastrophic and painful events that have happened globally. I can't be the only person who, too frequently, reads the news and cries. It seems sort of selfish to celebrate my own personal successes and gains when the world feels more-or-less in shambles. This is something I've always struggled with, to an extent, but this year I've had an increasingly difficult time finding peace in all the noise. The events that happened in Ferguson, in Staten Island, the racism and vitriol that we've all been made painfully aware of once again (and the extent to which people will go to deny they exist) were among many that dominated my consciousness. Tensions (that's putting it lightly) between Russia and the Ukraine nearly escalated to an all-out-war, while the war at the border of Israel and Palestine broke my heart over and over. Images of beheadings and the genocide occurring at the hands of ISIS had me nearly speechless, because, really, what is going on in the world? The spread of Ebola in West Africa was damn scary, and yet somehow people continued to make jokes. When I sit down and think of it all, and this is only the tip of the iceberg, it feels... completely overwhelming. I'd really like to feel less overwhelmed. 

Looking forward, trying to stay focused and positive without disengaging with the world, I know there are many, many things to look forward to. Ali and I are back in the same home after she completed her doctoral coursework, and we have some amazing plans for the new year - topped off by our wedding, less than 6-months away, and our honeymoon immediately after that. I'm working on new business ventures behind the scenes (it's a big part of why I've been a little more quiet on the blog recently) that I cannot wait to share - and that make me really excited and hopeful about all parts of the future. Ali and I also have incredible travel plans on our agenda, and lots of homemaking that has been a really exciting part of our journey and relationship together - with lots more to cross off my 30 before 30 list

I'm not big on "resolutions" as I try to continually improve myself every day, but I saw this list on my friend Hitha's blog, and thought it was a great way to set my intention for the new year: 

Being on my phone/email/etc. I've gotten a little bit better at "disconnecting," (I recently deactivated my personal Facebook page and whoa - it has been liberating), but it's really easy to get caught up in things as a freelancer and consultant who is pretty much always "on call." Emails can wait. 

This was part of my 30-before-30, but I still really want to brush up on my language skills - especially in French. Being really fluent feels a bit ambitious considering there's no time for a full French immersion in my near future, but I really am going to reacquaint myself with the language and become more conversational. 

Both my parents. They're not without their individual flaws (who is?), but they've set a remarkable example for me and the person I hope to become.

I really want to carve out more time to work with youth organizations. I had a great time working with Step Up Women's Network this year, first with fundraising and then with mentoring some of their girls. Over this next year, I'd love to continue to foster my relationship with SUWN in a more hands-on way. I'd also really love to start working with LGBT youth. I was so lucky in my own experiences in coming out and in being born into a progressive, loving family - and know too many of my friends have not had the same experience. This is all punctuated by the death of Leelah Alcorn, a teenage transwoman, who took her own life after facing discrimination from her own family. I don't want to see another young person become a statistic. 

Naoshima! Ali and I are going to be honeymooning in Japan and we are so excited. I have been to Tokyo and Kyoto before, but Naoshima is a completely new-to-me place that we cannot wait to visit. It's an island off of Japan that houses a Buddhist temple alongside contemporary art and architecture by the likes of Yayoi Kusama.

Malala Yousafzai's I am Malala. How a young woman can be shot and left for dead by the Taliban and walk away from the experience with forgiveness and a mission to improve education standards for young women around the globe is beyond inspiring, and I'm a little mad at myself for not actually reading her book yet. I mean, she won a Nobel Peace Prize!! 

I think for me this is more letters - to my friends. To reaffirm my love and appreciation for them, to say thank you, to kvell and be proud of their accomplishments. As we all get older and busier and more invested in our home lives and relationships and families, we're all spending less time together - but that hasn't at all diminished the love I have for my friends. 

I have to steal Hitha's response here and also say Senegalese cuisine. I've been pretty lucky to travel and try a lot of different things in my life, but Senegalese food has not been one of them. Hitha, maybe this can be our next date?! 

Everything. There's not one area in my life that I don't want to improve, refine, and execute better. I have big goals and even bigger dreams, and they're not going to accomplish themselves without some serious effort. I promise to do 2015 even better than I did 2014. 

Happy new year, everyone. 
Thank you for your support, encouragement, and love throughout the years. 

December 22, 2014

{STYLE} Refined Comfort

While I admire the whole "athleisure" trend happening now (that somehow cool and somehow pulled-together take on sweats), it's just not something that I feel as confident and comfortable in as I would like. I rarely wear pants as is anyways, so adding sweats and joggers to the mix is an even bigger departure from my usual (but of course, never say never). I have been wanting to wear more comfortable, casual outfits, though - especially while I have a few days off to get cozy and cuddle up over the holidays and the first couple of days of the new year. I'm craving minimal effort in a way that still feels easy and polished - and I think I've finally found something that works for me. I found this sweater dress at Navabi, made by Danish brand Zizzi (they've been on my radar for a while, but this was my first time trying something from them!). Ever since I started working with Navabi, I've been introduced to tons of great European brands - like Zizzi, Manon Baptiste, and they stock one of my euro favorites - Carmakoma

For a "going out" iteration of the sweater dress, I paired it with this simple faux leather jacket (for faux, it feels super luxe and I love the studded detail), these moto boots,  and some tried and true accessories - my go-to bucket bag, my wide-brim hat, and an awesome studded necklace from BaubleBar. It's the perfect relaxed winter look for me. 

Photos by Lydia Hudgens

Thank you to Navabi for sponsoring this post. 
All opinions and content are my own. 

December 16, 2014

{STYLE} Another Holiday LBD

I've never been one to turn down a challenge, so when Navabi asked me to be among 5-girls styling the same simple black dress for the holidays, I gladly accepted!

Photos by Lydia Hudgens

As I get ready to start packing my bags to head south to Miami for some family vacation time, I'm trying to pack smart and pick pieces that are especially versatile and can be re-styled many ways. This dress, that I received as part of a challenge, definitely fits the bill.

What are your plans for the holidays? Are you still looking for something special to wear? 

December 15, 2014

{WANDERLUST} New York Moments

Every once in a while, I need a really good New York day to renew my love for the city and reignite the magic I found when I first came here as a 17-year old. It's a really good thing that just as the weather forces me to question why I ever left Los Angeles in the first place, that the entirety of New York City also amps up its curb appeal by turning out holiday decorations, adopting a festive disposition, and balancing out the complaints about the weather with general niceties and cheer.

So, with the urge to reaffirm my life's decisions and the rising cost of living, I set out with Canon and an itinerary full of behind-the-scenes, only-in-NYC opportunities. I got an up-close-and-personal look of Marchesa's gowns during a photoshoot - with Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig in the flesh, walked up and down the aisles of an empty Broadway theater (and snuck behind the curtain, too), and wandered the stairwells of the Villard Mansion inside The New York Palace Hotel. I set out on my exploration with a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR camera in tow, easily one of the lightest cameras I've ever held, (especially as someone who so frequently carries around the amazing-but-super-heavy Canon EOS 5D Mark II!) I love my default camera and all its many lenses, but sometimes its size and weight prevents me from taking it everywhere with me. The EOS Rebel SL1 was compatible with all my lenses while being nearly weightless and far more compact - making it a lot easier to get the amazing photo quality I desire without being weighed down.

The first stop on the tour was Marchesa's studio, where I sipped on coffee while swooning my way through racks of exquisitely detailed gowns. I've loved Marchesa's collection from afar for years, but it's just impossible to fully appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into every piece from photos of a runway or red-carpet appearance. Seeing them in the flesh and being able to touch and hold the dresses was beyond inspiring! Using a Canon macro lens, I was able to get close-up details from up to a few inches away from the dresses. 

Next, we visited the Walter Kerr Theater, currently running A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. It felt surreal to experience a Broadway theatre during off-hours, especially after seeing BIRDMAN the night before. The play is a period piece so all the costumes and decor were beautiful, but I couldn't get over the architectural details of the space and how special the theatre community is in New York City. It was a good reminder to go see a play! It has been way, way too long, and I have a few on my list. (Anyone have a good recommendation?) While in the theatre, I used a Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens - what photo savvy people like to call a "pancake" lens. It's an almost flat, incredible light-weight fixed lens with great versatility - and because it's so small and compact (especially on top of the already-condensed Rebel SL1), it's ideal for travelers and people on-the-go... Definitely on my wishlist. 

After leaving the theatre district, we made our way cross town to the historic (and seriously swanky) New York Palace Hotel. I've, strangely, been in many of NYC's most iconic hotels, but the New York Palace was not one of them. What was inside was really extraordinary; you wouldn't know it from the outside, but the hotel was built around The Villard Mansion, built just opposite St. John's Cathedral. It's just... beyond stunning, and to remember that this was built just prior to the great depression puts all its glamour, golden ceilings, and grandeur into context. Because the space was so dark, playing with the exposure and using wider lenses to capture all the details was essential to capturing it's glamour - and it was so easy to do with the Canon DSLR. I can't believe I had never been in this space before, and while I'm definitely planning another visit (and holiday time might be the best time to go), but for now I'm happy to swoon over these photos! 

Thank you to Canon for sponsoring my blog.
This holiday season, Canon is encouraging everyone to #BringIt by bringing their Canon DSLR with them -- to their holiday parties, their winter vacations, and more. 
All opinions and content are my own.

December 14, 2014

{STYLE} 50 Shades of Grey

Top, Skirt, and Coat c/o MYNT 1792 (get 30% sitewide with the code HOL14), Stuart Weitzman Boots (now 50% off), Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag
Photos by Lydia Hudgens

I've been denying the impending cold front for as long as my wardrobe (and bare legs) could stand it, and while there is a balmy 48-degree day in this week's forecast, it's about that time where I need to start bundling up. Fashion for fashion's sake is great and all, but I just don't want to be that girl wearing a completely weather inappropriate outfit for the sake of a cute look. And, why bother, when with a little effort it's possible to look great and appropriately dressed for the weather? 

I rarely wear trousers (I want to write "pants" here, but I've realized about half of my readership is British and "pants" means "underwear" to them,) so learning how to layer for my skirts-and-dresses-almost-exclusively-style has been a process of serious trial and error. Using MYNT 1792's holiday collection as the basis of my look (I couldn't resist this menswear-inspired dark charcoal overcoat, which has plenty of room to layer. Because it is wool and fully lined, it's the ideal barrier to the elements without sacrificing style, (in fact I'd say it's pretty directional, and not a style I've seen often in plus - always a deal-closer when I'm shopping!). Underneath, I wore this skirt and this button-down (the ombré pattern looks even better in person), and what makes a huge difference, and allows me to wear these in the bitter cold, are my secret winter defenses: wearing fleece-lined tights and UNIQLO's heat-tech under my blouse is a winter essential - and a total game changer. 

Mynt 1792's pre-holiday sale is still going strong (you can get 30% off the entire site with the code HOL14), and there are some great deals to be made. I'm particularly in love with this sequined dress - it's such a holiday showstopper!

December 8, 2014

{STYLE} All That Glitters

Any excuse to wear something extra sparkly and attention-getting is well worth pursuing, in my world, but an exquisitely beaded dress? That is something really special. I first spotted this one online, and thought I wasn't sure where I would wear it, I knew I wanted to make the splurge: maybe I'll wear it to ring in my birthday, or for my family's annual Jews-on-Christmas dinner when I'm down in Miami in a couple of weeks, but there was no resisting this show-stopper. There was something about it that reminded me of the Chrysler Building - the lines and the subtle architecture in the patterns the beads created that formed into a glimmering skyline... But maybe that's just me and my ability to romanticize everything.

In working predominantly in the plus-size fashion market over the last three-years, I get to see a lot of clothes, but rarely do they have this level of detail or quality. Every bead has been finely placed and creates a gorgeous Art Deco design (something that will feel right at home on Miami's South Beach), and the leg-baring hemline is something that helps me show off on of my favorite assets. Now I'm just on the hunt for the new perfect moto jacket, because I love the idea of edging up a detailed beaded frock with a whole lot of leather.


Thank you to Nordstrom for sponsoring my blog.
All opinions and content are my own.