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Made in the USA | Levi Strauss for Brooks Brothers

31 Jul

Levi Strauss & Co. and Brooks Brothers have joined forces for a new denim collaboration.  Made in the USA, a unique collection of three distinct Levi’s brand denim exclusively available at Brooks Brothers stores and online, reaffirms both brand’s dedication to making clothing that are “Made in America.” The denim collection features three Levi’s brand fits, the 501, 505 and 514, which are all for men.

Generations of Americans, including presidents, celebrities and politicians have adopted Levi’s jeans and Brooks Brothers shirts as their uniform while on the campaign trail to get in touch with America, so this collaboration between the two iconic American brands is a no brainer.   The Made in the USA denim collection launched on July 29 online at as well as the brand’s brick and mortar stores.


The Silent Travel Companion: Saddleback Leather Company Handbags

20 Jul

All who know me will attest to the stellar collection of dresses and shoes in my closet. Seldom do I get excited over handbags and luggage, except ultra pricey ones that I often can’t afford.  Earlier this year, I came across a company whose sole mission was to create handmade leather handbags and accessories that will last a lifetime.  The original designs immediately caught my eye. The bags were rugged, masculine and classy, sleek in design and original in concept.  I immediately reached out to the company’s marketing department for an interview to learn more about the bag with a staunch cult following. After several email exchanges and phone calls, I was finally on the phone with Dave Munson, the man behind the brand Saddleback Leather Company, a Texas-based, family owned and operated brand that manufactures rugged and handsome leather handbags and accessories.  The story behind Saddleback Leather Company’s inception is as epic and rugged as the bags themselves and one that should be read in the first hand account by Dave, the designer and creator.

Saddleback Leather Company is a boys brand. It’s for the rough and tumble, handsome and rugged outdoors man who can don a suit for the courtroom and strip down to jeans and a plaid shirt with work boots for a day in the woods with the boys. An up-close and personal look at Classic Briefcase, will bring you to your knees.  Dave told me the bag was even more impressive in-person so he sent me the Classic Briefcase in an extra large.  The process of picking this particular bag was like picking a soulmate, one that required an intrinsic look into my life, personality and lifestyle. After all, I would be stuck with this bag for life, as evidenced by its 100 Year Lifetime Guarantee.

My Classic Briefcase in Tobacco Light Brown color suits me because I: am creative, love big dogs, never met a stranger, adventurous, a traveler and easy going. I reckon he nailed my personality to a T. The bag arrived and I immediately jet set off to Fashion Week in February, during the Snowpolcolypse. After tagging along with me in search of a mode of transportation to New York City, by train, plane or automobile, we finally found ourselves on the Amtrak train en route to every fashion fanatic’s biggest week. In a land where most gals carry Alexa Mulberry bags, Louis Vuitton luggage and Hermes Birkin bags, I decided to take Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase where its never been before: Fashion Week.

It’s been almost six months since I started carrying the Classic Leather Briefcase from Saddleback as my travel bag for my weekly New York trips and I haven’t gotten bored toting it back and forth.  Every man wants it and stops me in the street to tell me what a “beautiful” bag I have. An older gentleman backtracked on Park Avenue to ask me for the name of the company that made the handbag. This bag is take charge Humphrey Bogart; gun slingin’ Clint Eastwood in a cowboy tale; and rope swingin’, adventure seeking Indiana Jones. It’s non-fussy with a limited amount of hardware and hand stitched with perfection.  I might be dainty and feminine on the outside but my inner tomboy gives me the confidence to carry it proudly.

The Classic Leather Briefcase, along with the other leather goods in the Saddleback Leather Company, is easy on the eyes but don’t let their outer appearance fool you. They are made of high grade leather that Dave says is the Porsche of leather.  They’re smooth to the touch like a rich chocolatey milk shake on the tongue but straight as a shot of Blaton’s bourbon served neat with a glass of ice on the side, because ladies and gents, the bag is that cool. They are  kick ass tough and durable, which is why the company stands behind them by offering a 100 year warranty. My bag is the item my kids will be fighting over when I’m dead and gone. The bag that my grand children will tell stories about. As I make my way through the U.S. of A in my travel adventures, my Classic Briefcase has been my silent companion and wingman. Yes wingman! A very handsome finance guy toting the Thin Chestnut Briefcase complimented me on my bag and bought me a drink as we waited an hour for a train.

I interviewed Dave Munson about Saddleback Leather company, its origins and what makes these bags command such a cult following. Since our interview,  the company has expanded its offering with a collection of handbag cases that are priced just right for the gent or gal looking for a sleek alternative to the colorful cases on the market. I’m currently investing in a Saddleback Leather Company Suitcase in Tobacco Brown as well a Travel Case for my travels, especially on my upcoming trip to Ghana.

Read on for more from Dave Munson.

So what would you say to somebody who didn’t know your brand and asked you to explain it in a few sentences? 
Saddleback Leather is a real and adventurous company that has a sort of cult following. We makes simple designs with no breakable parts that don’t go out of style. And everything is over engineered with thick full grain leather and industrial marine grade thread.

You have a very loyal fan base who take awesome pics from different locations with their bags. Any funny stories?
I was in Costa Rican jungle once taking pictures of my bag by a waterfall and some lady asked if that was a Saddleback Leather bag.

Any exotic locations? 
A couple: Antarctica hanging on the South Pole, parachuting over Australia, Estonia, Victoria Falls in Africa, Rio de Janeiro, Great Wall of China and even on a refueling plane with a jet fighter refueling in the background. There are hundreds and hundreds more.

What kind of music do you listen to? 
Classical, Trace Bundy, U2, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, POD.

Who would you want to see carrying your bag?
Harrison Ford since Indiana Jones was my hero when I was young. I even bought a whip.

What’s in store for the next 5 years? 
My bags are extremely well made, but I want to make the greatest single bag to ever grace this earth, and with a very cool story behind it too. It’s going to be a surprise.

Let’s build the perfect Saddleback man. Who is he? What does he do?
He’s an easygoing fun loving adventuring dog lover with a very likable personality.  He’s a successful businessman who now and then opens his guitar case at lunch and plays until he gets enough tips for lunch.

Why does he carry the bag? 
To carry his laptop and other necessities that are there just in case.

What is your typical customer? 
Male college graduate married with kids a lot like the man described above.

What word describes Saddleback leather? Legendary or Timeless?

This 100 year waranty…what’s that all about? 
Saddleback doesn’t use zippers, buttons, snaps or anything that can ever break. The leather is excellent and thick, the thread is the best there is. Then, like killing a fly with a shotgun, all stress points are reinforced with hidden nylon straps and rivets. Hard living is encouraged, but nothing extreme please.

Which Saddleback bag fits the personality of a Washington politico?
Chestnut usually. There are a number of Saddleback brothers and sisters in D.C.

What is the biggest challenge working with such a small crew? 
There really aren’t too many that I can think of. We’re blessed.

What are the rewards? We only hire people we like and who are stand outs. Therefore, those who work with us are fun.

The Prince of Polo: HRH Prince Harry dazzles New Yorkers at Third Annual Manhattan Polo Classic

30 Jun

Veuve Clicquot once again had the privilege to welcome HRH Prince Henry of Wales during his second formal visit to the United States at the third annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, which took place on Sunday, June 27th on New York’s historic Governors Island. The charity polo match benefited American Friends of Sentebale, a U.S.-based charity that supports at-risk children in Lesotho, Africa. Sentebale was co-founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in honor of their mothers, Diana, Princess of Wales and Queen ‘Mamohato, respectively.

Prince Harry’s Black Rock team, captained by Nic Roldan of Piaget, faced off against the rival Black Watch team, led by renowned Argentine polo player and the internationally recognized face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo Fragrances, Nacho Figueras. The two teams with four players each went head-to-head during four chukkas, or play periods in the fast-moving 70-minute match that enthralled the crowd of close to 14,000 spectators. A nail-biting 5 to 5 tie was broken in overtime when Black Watch captain Figueras scored the winning goal, leading Black Watch to a 6-5 victory.
Over 5,000 bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne were consumed as a fashionable VIP crowd – including Prince Harry, Nacho Figueras, Mary J. Blige, Susan Sarandon & Jonathan Bricklin, Russell Simmons, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg & Diana Taylor, Georgina Bloomberg, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Julianna Margulies, Val Kilmer, Josh Lucas, Princess Beatrice, Alek Wek, Rachel Roy, Andre Balazs, Alexis Bledel, Jackie Astier, Veronica Webb, Nick Roldan, Byrdie Bell, Gayle King, Amy Sacco, Rob & Marisol Thomas, Starshell, Carol Alt, Lorenzo Martone, Julie Henderson, Chef Todd English, Becca Cason Thrash, Daniel Merriweather, Peter Brant, Steven Klein, Keren Craig, Fabien Baron, Denise Rich – was welcomed by Mark Cornell, president, Moët Hennessy USA., Stephane Bascheira, president, Veuve Clicquot, Sabina Belli, international marketing director, Veuve Clicquot, Samantha Barnes, business director, Veuve Clicquot USA and Christine Kaculis, director of communications, Veuve Clicquot USA.

Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan

Risky Business: Kenneth Cole Talks Taking Risks in Business in Success Magazine

29 Jun

My friend Lilly has always read SUCCESS magazine, because she is the president of a Fortune 1000 company, it was a given that she would have a subscription to it.  I never really thought to pick up a copy of the magazine because I didn’t think it had anything in there that would be beneficial to my pursuit of fashion.  I recently received a copy of the July issue of SUCCESS magazine – available now on newsstands – with renowned designer Kenneth Cole on the cover.  I have to say I was curious to read about Cole’s success and how he’s stayed relevant and still successful in a recession.  The revealing interview starts of with a younger Cole, in the mid-80s trying to decide whether to go to law school or pursue shoe design, something his dad was involved in.

When first starting out, Cole knew he had to think outside the shoebox to get consumers’ attention, and encourages other hopefuls to do so, too, “The lessons learned are that usually the best solutions are not the most expensive; in fact, they’re the most creative….”  In his first year of designing shoes, Cole had to get shoe buyers to buy his shoes at a trade show. Instead of setting up inside the shoe buying trade show, he talks about borrowing a film truck, hiring actors and getting a permit to shoot a movie in front of a shoe buyers event in order to get attention from buyers.

Cole knows the secret to success is remaining adaptable and staying relevant, “The one great thing about the fashion business is it’s built on the notion of change. Every day you have got to be open to reconfigure and recalculate.”

I suggest to all my readers looking to start a business or breathe new life into an existing one to purchase this copy of SUCCESS magazine. I got a few ideas from reading the Kenneth Cole interview and am actually thinking of buying a year long subscription of the magazine.

Washington Life welcomes Award Winning Director Oliver Stone to Washington

24 Jun
Teatro Goldoni’s Michael Kosmides, Oliver Stone and Washington Life associate publisher John Arundel

Washington Life feted the arrival of Oscar winning director Oliver Stone, in town promoting his new documentary South of the Border,  premiering at the AFI Silverdocs Film Festival next month, at Teatro Goldoni last night. Stone, who was busy meeting with lawmakers and officials received a warm embrace by Washington socialites looking to hob knob with the Any Given Sunday, Wall Street, and World Trade Center director. Michael Kosmides’s Italian restaurant, Teatro Goldoni, which was named Best DC Italian restaurant by Esquire magazine, was the venue befitting of welcoming Stone.

Stone’s “South of the Border” is an eye opening documentary that examines the socialist leaders of South America.  Stone chummies up to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to explore the leader’s policies and actions towards other nations and leaders of the free world; he also manages to show the beauty and struggles of the people living there who are trying to find their footing in a changing world as they shift out of centuries of Colonial rule.

Angie Goff, Kristen & John Cecchi and Courtney Caldwell

Stone has always had an interest in Latin America and U.S. foreign policy within mainstream media and uses his knowledge for his documentary projects that have included a conversation with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat. South of the Border is scheduled to open July 2nd.  Stone expressed respect and reverence for Washington and its citizens who work tirelessly for change.  He spoke of admiring the motivation and endurance within the DC community saying that DC natives are a “part of the American push to make things better…and [he] love[s] it.” In anticipation of the new documentary, many fans of Stone who attended the event showed their full support for the documentarian and his lifetime achievements.

****Victoria Gagliardi contributed to this post****

Renowned Designers to Attend Mia Gemma Jewelry Boutique’s Bridal & Commitment Jewelry Showcase

24 Jun

Nestled on the F Street block in between 9th and 10th Streets in Washington, DC is a small jewelry boutique, Mia Gemma, filled with one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces from renowned artists who have perfected the craft of jewelry making, particularly with gold and other hard to find gems and minerals.   Mia Gemma’s resident artists include Genevieve Yang, a third generation goldsmith who uses ancient Korean technique of Keum-boo to creates simple, elegant, and tactile pieces; Jessica Fields, known for conveying the beauty and grandeur of important times in history through her jewelry, which include pieces inspired by the Greco-Roman and Byzantine periods, the bold designs of Indian jewelry as well as the expressive, colorful Art Nouveau period for design ideas; African born Odaybea Morrow, whose collection reflects her passion for creating unique and exquisite jewelry inspired by the cultural diversity of her international experiences; Ruff & Cut, a brand that creates “jewelry with a conscience,” by purchasing conflict free diamonds and creating jewelry that reflect the tenacity of the human spirit. 
The boutique carries an impressive list of jewelry for people with discerning taste. They are a leader of the pack in terms of unique pieces that one can say will become family heirlooms down the line. The boutique is a feast for the eyes with its current collection but aims to push the envelope with a new collection of bridal and commitment jewelry.  Starting this Friday, Mia Gemma will be carrying contemporary wedding jewelry from Jessica Fields, Odaybea Morrow, Stephen Kris, Ruff & Cut and Ayesha Mayadas.  
Soon to be brides and grooms and others on a quest to find that “it” piece to put a sparkle in her eye should not miss this event. From 12pm until 7pm, all five jewelry designers will be in the boutique to answer questions about picking the perfect wedding and commitment jewelry, how to care for your jewelry, designing a custom-made piece and other jewelry related questions. The event will continue on Saturday with another open house to check out the collection. Whether you are racing to the alter in a month, looking to finally commit to your partner legally with a commitment ceremony or wondering what other jewelry options there are for brides and grooms, this event is sure to help you navigate the jewelry search process. 

Playing Dress Up in the H&M Fashion Studio

19 Jun

I stumbled upon H&M’s Fashion Studio last night while looking for a black and white abstract skirt I found at the H&M store in Soho, which I should have bought right away because the chance of them having that skirt in the Georgetown store was probably slim to none.  H&M’s new Fashion Studio gives shoppers the opportunity to put favorite looks together from a selection of the current season’s collection for men and women.  I know going into H&M stores can be overwhelming because there is so much going on but with the Fashion Studio, putting together a look can simplify your shopping experience.