All posts by Lauren DiLello

What’s in a Name? The Price of Luxury

chanelFendi. Gucci. Prada. What’s in a name?

As long as there have been luxury items, there have been luxury consumers dropping big bucks to get their hands on supposedly precious pieces. But when the extravagant shopper purchases pumps in the four-figures or a purse equal to a down payment, what’s it all worth?

Is the age-old aphorism true? Do we get what we pay for?

Before she was Fashion Editor of Colorado’s 5280 Magazine, Georgia Benjou was a buyer for Dolce and Gabbana and worked in the merchandising departments of Chanel and Hermes. During her time at some of the most eminent and expensive brands known to man, Benjou got a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create a truly luxurious piece.

“It’s the combination of material and craftsmanship,” she says, remembering a Hermes alligator wrap skirt lined in leather than took five Parisians and their 10 bare hands to create. For the price of mid-sized sedan, the garment had to be flawlessly constructed — each scale expertly lined up and the colors identical.

gucciAccording to Benjou, this is exactly what separates astronomically priced luxury items from your mainstream goods. When you buy an item that was mass-produced with run of the mill textiles, you sacrifice major attention to detail. She says, “For a mainstream product to sell at a more affordable price point, the level of material and the technical know-how and individual attention can’t be spent on just one item.”

Designer Sam Kori George would agree. The winner of the Oscar’s Designer Challenge at last year’s awards puts an impeccable amount of creative energy and labor into constructing his luxury pieces. Currently, George is working on an espresso brown leather jacket made up of 28 different pieces that runs for approximately $3,250. “It’s not an assembly line,” he says. “It needs to be one person focused on that particular item.”

George also says he uses only the best materials for his garments, calling upon textiles and hardware (everything down to the zipper) from all over the world.

Sometimes, however, high price doesn’t mean high quality. Fashion and Events Editor of msfabulous.com Mariana Leung-Weinstein says, “A lot of what you don’t see is what drives the cost up,” but admits that doesn’t necessarily imply you’re getting a well-made garment.

designer jeansSo is the case with designer denim. According to Leung-Weinstein, the extra softness and assorted washes we’re emptying our pockets for are a result of extra dye processes and harsh treatments (making holes, stone washing, etc.). Essentially, we’re paying for damaged denim. “The more destroyed the garment is, the more expensive it is. The more expensive the jean, the shorter it will last.” she says.

Whether the work is about meticulousness or mutilation, Benjou believes part of our attraction to luxury is a brand’s rich history. “The desire for an item is created by the story behind it,” she says. The mastermind designer, their journey into fashion and uniquely iconic pieces all contribute to a deep and meaningful heritage. Benjou says the legacy, “gives the brand a certain authority and legitimacy — it says that this company has perfected their product and craft over decades.”

And so, for decades to come, we’ll continue to spend, or simply swoon, as luxury items go beyond what we wear and walk in and exist as our most extravagant, yet stylish relics.

Photos (via Flickr): Chanel Store – Chad Davis; Gucci Bag – Peter Petrus; Denim – Huey Yoong

Season Staple: Hair Accessories

head2Just because spring fashions are delicate and dainty doesn’t mean we have to be. With an abundance of hair accessories of the barrette, clip and band variety, this season we’re getting especially headstrong.

Barrettes are a hair piece that truly put the fun in functional. While they’ve got your locks on lock down they make the stylish statement of your choice. Go with a few miniature bows to show off your traditional tailored side or an oversized glittered piece for glam.

Clips can work in much the same sense as barrettes, but are way better when it comes to versatility. Many of the styles are designed to body double has a hair piece as well as a chic outfit ornament. At the office, affix your floral clip on the breast of your blazer, but at night, use it to maintain your mane.

hair clip

head3This season, headbands, once the international sign for all things preppy, are anything but. The plane Jane styles admired by 1950s teenagers and Charolette York have had a crash course in edgy embellishment. Prepare for bands thick and thin adorned with bold statement pieces (patches, plates, etc.) or unique textures (flower petals, feathers, etc.).

The best part about these trend worthy hair accessories? You can tackle your tresses in any which way and still utilize them all (separately, of course). Barrettes, clips and bands work with an updo for old fashioned sophistication or with your day-to-day free form luscious locks. And there’s no bigotry for those with bangs. Barrettes and clips suffice, but a band should be your go-to headgear.

Photos: All from Urban Outfitters

Make Change with the Alisa Michelle Pocket Change Jewelry Collection

alisa michelle pocket change trioWish wisdom was as common as pocket change? Veteran jewelry designer Alisa Michelle’s latest line just made pinching pennies inspiring and super chic.

Each piece (necklace and bracelets included) is made from a coin that was saved from being melted down, then handcrafted and adorned with thought provoking one-liners and the occasional charm or gemstone. A gold coin with “Keep Calm and Carry On,” a copper coin with “Do It” on one side and “For You” on the other and a silver coin with “I am Green” accompanied by a silver leaf are only a few of the nearly 100 one of a kind designs.

alise michelle do itWear them with the text facing outward to share your inspiration with others, or turn the coin around for an exceptionally personal piece.  All the designs are perfect for a casual look with a vintage tee or jeans and can be layered for an edgy twist (bonus points for mixing metals and chain lengths).

But if nothing in Alisa Michelle’s Pocket Change collection quite speaks to you, feel free to personalize your own piece. For $80, pick the metal (copper, silver or gold), the chain and an original message of your choice. You can add a gemstone like pearl, quartz or red coral or a heart or strawberry charm for just $8-$12 more.

Alisa Michelle’s Pocket Change collection and other Alisa Michelle designs are $45- $145 and can be purchased at alisamichelle.com.

Photos: Lauren DiLello/BeautyXpose
Disclaimer: Products furnished complimentary for review

Season Staple: Wooden Wedges

wooden wedgesThe Dutch gave us wooden loafers. The spring 2010 runways gave us wooden wedges. And not surprisingly, these sexy, often strappy, sky-scraping tree trunks are click-clacking their way to being the most wanted staple this season.

A light wood or mahogany tone wedge with tan or brown leather detailing is the ultimate daytime shoe for the next few months. Try a pair with an airy white off-the-shoulder sundress for a classic summer look or with a high waisted super wide leg pant and tucked-in-tank to channel your inner disco queen. For a more dressed up look, go with a darkest dark brown or black wooden wedge. They’ll add instant edge to tailored dress shorts or cigarette skinny jeans.

No matter which tone you choose, however, be sure to pick a pair with a lot of support (lucky for us, super thick strappy is a definite must when it comes to footwear this season). If you’re investing in a quality pair, they’re going to be solid wood, which means they’ll be heavier than your typical straw wedge. Not to mention, the hottest styles this season are silly high, so set your wooden wedges aside for a day with minimal sprinting.

wood wedge 2But if you’ve mastered the art of the wooden wedge and are looking for something with a bit more, ahem, personality, slip yourself into a pair of clogs. Clogs have been clunking their way in and out of fashion forever (though none of us are ever quite sure why), and they’re back in full force again this season. The styles are just as high as the wooden wedges we’re seeing, but lack most of the support, so be particularly carefully when deciding where to wear them and what to wear them with. Avoid a long pant that will awkwardly get lodged between the sole of the shoe and your heel, and opt for a cropped boyfriend jean. Avoid short shorts and skintight minis if only to circumvent a Britney/Lindsay-like situation should you take a tumble.

Photos: Black wedge – Diane Von Fustenberg; Camel studded strappy wedge – Kors Michael Kors; Clogs – Kors Michael Kors

Expect Great Things from American Beauty and Flirt! by Kohl’s

American Beauty Pink Gingham Kit

American Beauty Pink Gingham Kit

Sure we “expect great things” from Kohl’s, but what about great cosmetics? With the spring/summer makeup trends in full bloom, we put the store’s exclusive American Beauty and Flirt! products to the test.

American Beauty’s Pink Gingham Look Kit ($30) is a set of two eyeshadows, blush and mascara. The Luxury for Lids Eyeshadow Duo is a baby pink and gray purple that go on way softer than the palate alludes. The blush titled Rosy Cheeks will give you just that.  The powders don’t have serious staying power, but do the trick if you’re looking for simple last minute maintenance. The Softly Shaping Mascara ($12.50 if sold separately) that comes with the kit is the real winner. The brush is super thick and full, allowing every lash to be evenly coated. While it doesn’t provide an exaggerated curl (that’s what your curler is for after all), lashes look delicate but voluminous after application. American Beauty’s Fabulous Feel High Shine Lip Gloss ($12.50) was also a crowd pleaser. The Poppy shade was the perfect playful pink for day or night and stayed sleek and shiny for hours.

The Flirt! Lash Curling Mascara ($14) has the curved brush American Beauty’s Soft Shaping Mascara could have used, but lacks voluminous bristles. They’re spaced too far out, occasionally allowing clumps to form or missing lashes completely. The mascara is definitely functional; you may just need a few applications to get it just right.

kohls3

The Flirt! Rock-n-Rebel perfume ($35) has a serious rock-n-roll aromatic punch. The scent is super sweetened with grapefruit and apple nectar but has a kick of blackberry for an added zing.

flirt

These products from American Beauty and Flirt! are available exclusively at Kohl’s or at kohls.com.

Photos: American Beauty, Flirt!
Disclaimer: Products furnished complementary for review purposes

Season Staple: Straw

straw coverWe’ve had enough with trite spring fashions. This season it’s the last straw.

A straw carry all is not only the “it” bag of the season, but it’s a piece you’ll love for versatility’s sake. Straw totes are surprisingly lightweight and super durable, sure to get you from the boardroom to the beach faster than you can say Hampton’s Jitney.

But while the straw carry all will be an easy everyday season staple, the straw hat will be your only-in-moderation, but ultra chic accessory to accent effortless spring looks. For day try a wild floppy style with a crisp white linen top, denim and your best strappy sandal. If you’re looking for a night cap do a thick woven straw fedora (accent ribbon optional) with a cotton tank and high-waisted tailored shorts.

For feet, of course, straw is no stranger to the spring and summer months. Your classic espadrille and wedge are already right on track with the trend, but feel free to incorporate a more unique straw shoe style into your seasonal wardrobe. A straw flat, for example, is the perfect collaboration of relaxed and refined for spring.

Photos: Tote – Tory Burch; Hat – Aqua; Flats – Tory Burch

Season Staple: Lucite

lucite1What do strippers and Cinderella have in common? Lucite accessories, of course! Though the intent of a plastic pump and glass slipper may vary, one thing is for sure — this season we’re lusting lucite.

Prada’s Plex Sandal sent fashionistas fawning this season with its chunky transparent heel, Velcro strap and leather detailing. But besides the obviously fabulous features, the best part about this pump is an effortless ability to go from day to dark. When the Sun’s out, try a pair with a floral wrap dress or sleek capri pant for lunch. At night the glass slipper effect is perfect for evening elegance.

lucite3Lucite jewelry is also huge this season, as plastic baubles, bangles and bands are everywhere in sight. Michael Kors’ humongous lucite bead necklace is a serious fan favorite and superb with a plunging neckline and blazer or strapless mini dress. Lucite bracelet and bangles are super chic, too and work with just about any outfit.

lucite2Whether you’re suiting up for a night on the town and piling on the hardware or seeking an accoutrement to build up a boring boardroom look, you can’t go wrong with wrists decked in lucite. Another nod to Mr. Kors — his MICHAEL by Michael Kors lucite watch is the ultimate time piece this spring and seasons to come.

Photos: sandal – Prada; necklace and watch – Michael Kors

Super Dry Skin? Ole Henriksen Skin Insulator Lives Up to its Name

ole reviewJust because the weather warms doesn’t mean we get to quit moisturizing. Now that spring has sprung and we let our legs loose, it’s just as important to stay soft and smooth today as it was when we bared the frigid winter months.

Calling Ole Henriksen’s Skin Insulator for dry/sensitive skin a “skin insulator” is certainly no overestimation. It’s incredibly thick — more so than the consistency of a sunscreen (it has SPF 15!) — and adds a substantial layer of moisture to your body upon application. The borage and grape seed oil moisturizer has serious longevity, lasting essentially until you shower or sweat it off, whatever comes first. Because of these powerful insulating capabilities, however, it seems best to use the crème exclusively on your body. It’s way too heavy for your face, especially during the day, and leaves a bit of a shiny residue.

This super thick cream will keep skin super hydrated
This thick cream will keep skin super hydrated

While the scent of super thick moisturizers can often be as overwhelming as the consistency, Ole really hits the mark with this one. The crème has an aromatic, but subtle fresh perfume sure to please the most scent sensitive.

The Ole Henriksen Skin Insulator for dry/sensitive skin ($35) can be purchased at olehenriksen.com or at Sephora.

Photos: Ole Henriksen, Lauren DiLello/BeautyXpose
Disclaimer: Product provided complementary for review purposes

Season Staple: Military Inspired Apparel

camouflage coverAtten-tion! As camo, cargos and structured jackets infiltrate spring, we can’t help but Season Staple salute this military inspired trend.

With the variable weather of spring, there’s practically no piece more essential than a versatile light and crisp jacket. Be it khaki, denim, weightless leather — whatever — you have to get your hands on one of these super structured military inspired pieces. The sharp shoulder can add a sophisticated touch to a casual daytime ensemble (tees and shorts) or a punch of power to an otherwise delicate evening look (floral cocktail frock).

Also on the line up this season are cargo pants, your go to bumming around bottom. The cropped variety is the best way to go and is even better when paired with a sky-high wedge or chunky strappy sandal. An over-sized linen button down or layered tanks are the perfect partners for up top. Not to mention, because cargo pants come in a range of styles, they’re a piece almost every body type can work with. The super tight selection works for the super skinny (rear pockets with buttons or snaps will give your bum a boost), while a more relaxed fit can do wonders for the curvy.

And of course we can’t talk military without talking camo. The print has made its way onto every piece imaginable, from tanks and totes to pumps and coats. The important thing to remember here, though, is to indulge in moderation. Keep it to one camo piece per look to assure you’re trendy but tasteful.

Photo: Camouflage tank – Neiman Marcus; Cargo pants – Neiman Marcus; Jacket – Bloomingdale’s

Spring Into the New Shiseido 2010 Makeup Collection

Shiseido spring 2010 collectionShimmering eye shadows, brilliant lip sticks and glam glosses galore — spring has sprung at Shiseido! According to Shiseido celeb make-up artist Renato, “This collection was designed for a woman to be able to create a simple look that makes her feel feminine, pretty, fresh and natural.”

When it comes to eyes for spring, we all want something with a pop of color, but still light and effortless. The Luminizing Satin Eye Color in Ghost ($25) is your go-to for luscious lids. The shadow has silver and gray tones and can be pumped up or down depending on the occasion. For a bold eye, apply a liberal amount so the silver sparkle shines through. For a tamer look, use your finger to apply a light coat for more subtle gray tones.

In the Perfect Rouge lip stick collection ($25 each), Red Triton and Coral Glow are starkly different shades, but equally appropriate for spring. The Red Triton is a super shiny plum with a hint of pink that’s best for your moonlit rooftop evenings. The Coral Glow is a hot pink matte hot for spring, but can be a bit overwhelming if not rocked right. To be safe, a simple clear coat of gloss over the matte always adds a softer touch.

Lip glosses: Warm, Rainbow, Brown Sugar. Lipsticks: Red Titron, Coral Glow.
Lip glosses: Warm, Rainbow, Brown Sugar. Lipsticks: Red Triton, Coral Glow.

The Luminizing Lip Gloss ($22) in Warm, for example, is the perfect top coat. Though it looks like a pale brown in the tube, it glides on totally clear. Rainbow is another superb choice for a top coat since it goes on super clear, but buyer beware — this gloss glitters. It’s best if you’re going for an ultra playful look. Brown Sugar, though, is seriously versatile and one of the best from the collection. It’s a transparent gloss so you can glide it over your matte lip stick, but it also has a shimmery blush tone.

Coral Glow (top), Red Triton (bottom)
Coral Glow (top), Red Triton (bottom)

Makeup from the new spring 2010 Shiseido cosmetics collection can be purchased at select department stores nationwide and at Sephora.com.

Not only is Shiseido looking good, however, they’re doing good. Shiseido along with SELF Magazine and Cancer and Careers will host an event for working women with cancer. The evening of networking, career couching and support takes place on April 21 in Boston. For more information, click here!

Photos: Shiseido; Lauren DiLello/BeautyXpose