Saturday, June 30, 2007

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Reebok's limited-edition Jean-Michel Basquiat inspired sneaker

I’m feeling a little nostalgic today because I’m still high off of the New Edition concert I went to last night. The 1980’s heartthrob singing sensation rocked NYC’s Beacon Theater (unfortunately sans Ralph Tresavant who was ill) and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was two-stepping to Popcorn Love and Mr. Telephone Man like I was eight years old again. Good times. I have rather fond memories of my childhood and I grew up in a very working class household. Could that be an oxymoron? Nope. Contrary to what mainstream media often portrays (the Huxtables aside), every little black kid growing up in NYC or any ‘urban’ city for that matter during the 80’s and 90’s isn’t a scene from a Charles Dickens story. I love to reminisce on the pioneers of hip-hop, playing ‘it’ and being extremely excited about hearing the Mister Softee truck during the summer months.

So, I was grinning ear-to-ear when I learned that Reebok re-launched an entire collection of Freestyle kicks to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the sneaker. WHAT?! Most of you reading this remember these sneakers as ‘fifty-four elevens’. For those of you out of the loop, the sneakers were given that nickname because that is exactly how much they cost with tax during their hey-day. In the 80’s to mid- 90’s, these sneakers were so popular that I believe they became and remain to be the highest selling women’s sneaker for Reebok - ever. (Please know that I did not fact-check that information.) They were sold in all of these yummy rainbow colors - I had a spearmint pair myself. Sometime in the late 90’s it became very passé to wear these sneakers however because they had become relegated to ‘young girls’ or dare I say ‘chickenheads’. But I am old enough to remember when and therefore really can appreciate this anniversary collection. Reebok went all out and is introducing a pair practically every month this year. I’m quite excited about the Basquiat pair. I might not be able to afford one of his paintings just yet but I can have a little bit of the visionary’s work on my kicks. Be sure to take the little quiz on the site to find out your sneaker-personality match. (Mine is Sheen.) Since I’m no longer 15, I rarely wear sneakers these days but I think any of these would be perfect worn with a pair of skinny jeans, a funky belt and a feminine, flirty top without appearing juvenile. Also, after viewing the website, you will see that the Freestyles no longer cost $54.11 even before tax. Just looking at these sneakers takes me back to a time when all I had to worry about was cleaning my room, doing my homework and eagerly finishing the latest Judy Blume or Sweet Valley High book. But as some wise person once said ‘Nothing is constant but change itself’.

Random Fun Fact: What’s always been really funny to me is that most people I know never actually paid $54.11 for their fifty-four elevens. You see, around my way (Southeast Queens) everyone copped their kicks from the Ave aka Jamaica Avenue and no one pays tax in most of the stores on the Ave. Every borough has a version of Jamaica Avenue by the way. Brooklyn has Fulton Street (Downtown), the Bronx has Fordham Road and Manhattan has 2-5th or 125th Street in Harlem. I don’t know what Staten Island has. Those kids from Shalin probably went to BK to get their sneaker shopping on.

Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite memory of growing up in NY is.
R.I.P. Ryan

Friday, June 22, 2007

Learning When to Say When: This Is Grown Folx B-I

We'll buy a lot of clothes when we don't really need ‘em,
Things we buy to cover up what's inside.

All Falls Down, Kanye West

I went to a sample sale earlier this week and purchased two fabulous frocks. Although the dresses are from a designer I really respect and admire - I know, deep down in my heart of hearts that I didn’t need those dresses. I need a new mattress. I need to remember to take my iron pills to control my anemia. But those dresses? Didn’t need ‘em one bit. I knew it when I tried on the dresses, I knew it when I paid for them and I know it now. In my defense, every time I purchase something from said designer, I end up wearing the items for multiple years. And her well-crafted, highly detailed creations always get me loads of compliments. So while I don’t totally regret my purchases, I realize more and more as I get older that it is quality – not quantity- that produce a stylish wardrobe.

How often have we all stood in front of our over-stuffed closets (often containing clothes that still have tags on them), frustrated because we ‘have nothing to wear’? Virtually all of us have because we unfortunately live in a society where over-consumption is the norm. But that’s another blog and post all together… My point is that I’m trying to achieve balance in my life. Of course I want fly gear. But I also love to travel and see the world, I want to live in a fly pad and most importantly, I want to live debt-free and keep my finances on the up and up as much as possible. Plus, wisdom (and not being a trust-fund kid) has taught me that fly gear does not necessarily mean new gear.

My co-worker hipped me to another sample sale last week after the before mentioned one, and I was so tempted to go. So, so tempted. But, I did the grown-up thing and opted out. Sure, I could have went, thrown caution to the wind and charged my little heart out. While it was difficult to pass initially, I am so glad I didn’t give in. In times like those I remember the sage advice given to me by a veteran fashion stylist a few years ago. She had just complimented me on a sweater I was wearing and I quickly rejected the compliment saying, ‘Oh, I threw this on because I was running late and didn’t have to iron it. I just wore this same outfit last week!’ She politely warned, ‘Sweetie, people don’t remember how often you wore something. They just remember whether you looked good in it or not.’

Well call me a sucker, but I thought her advice was so profound and it has been in my subconscious ever since.

Living within your means is probably the most stylish way to step out of all.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Few of My Favorite (stylish) Things

Lip gloss - I’m not really a make-up wearer but lip gloss never fails to help pull your whole situation together. Trust. Someone even decided to write a song about it… My top pick is Nars Revolt. I also like Lancome Paris Juicy Tubes and MAC Lip Glass. I admit the lip glass is not my favorite (it’s a bit too sticky) but it stays in rotation simply because it's a black girl requirement.

Trouser jeans - My favorite are from Habitual. For girls with hips, Habitual always gets it right. In general, trouser jeans are ideal for those of us with a little more hip action because they balance us out. Very flattering. By now we all know that skinny jeans are ‘the it thing’ and high-waisted denims are ‘back’ but a standard trouser jean is classic and timeless. I love my indigo pair. Another perk is they don’t look as casual as traditional jeans which makes them perfect for ‘dressing up’ without really ‘dressing up’.

Stiletto note cards from Smythson of Bond Street - The popularity of email, texting and instant messaging kinda scares me. I admit to being a techno phobe but beyond that the lack of human contact nowadays is just aggravating at times. I personally prefer a good 'ole fashioned phone convo over im any day. Moreover, snail mail communication is dang near extinct in 2007. How surprising and downright uplifting is it to get a note card in your mailbox? That’s why I find the sophistication of these correspondence cards from Smythson so refreshing. Plus, they have a quiet sex appeal to them but are still professional enough for business correspondence. So worth the $$$.

Kai fragrance - I really dislike perfumes or colognes that immediately smell like alcohol. Unfortunately for me, that eliminates 90% of what’s on the market because alcohol is a major ingredient in most fragrances for preservation purposes. I prefer scented oils but they have a tendency to be too strong (think: those 2 for $10 options sold on the street in any urban city, USA) or just plain messy. So, I was nothing short of ecstatic when I discovered Kai, a soft, feminine oil that’s get this -- a roll-on. It’s a light blend of gardenia and other essential oils. Ureka!

Wife beaters - I'm talking the little boys, 3 in a pack Hanes joints. While the very un-pc monkier for this staple is well, very un-pc, I really can't seem to call them anything else. I literally have close to 20 of them. I layer them. I’ve worn them under suits to the office. I wear them with jeans and cute shoes to the club. I wear them around the crib when I'm doing laundry. Although I have them in various colors - the white ones are the most popular in my dresser drawer and I often find myself thinking I can rock one with pretty much anything in my closet. (See my home-page pic.)

Vintage pieces from Mommy and Grandma - Vintage accessories are one of the ways that so many of us add personality and uniqueness to our wardrobes. As much as I enjoy the idea of vintage however, I’m honestly not a big vintage shopper. The best vintage scores for me by far have been from my mother and maternal grandmother (RIP). Not only is this cost-effective, but each piece holds sentimental value because it belonged to someone special. Although both my mom and grandma threw away countless gems, they still left me with some pretty good stuff.

Silver ring given to my mother from our cousin who purchased it on a Mexican vacay.
Grandma’s wooden bangle. She wore a lot of costume jewelry.
This brown leather belt with brass buckle from my mother looks so right paired with dark denim.

Tulips - There are some things in this world that no matter what’s going on in life manage to make you feel just a little bit better. Tulips do that for me. And it’s nice to know that for the most part, they’re less expensive than roses which for some reason men have been trained to think all women love. I dig roses too. But tulips are less predictable and in most cases don’t seem as serious. Tulips are sorta like the ‘fun’ flower. I think I’ll pick myself up a bunch this week…

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A few of my fave stylish places...

The world is not yet exhausted. Let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before.
- Samuel Johnson

I love to travel. For me, a change of scenery (especially because of NYC's hustle and bustle) always does the body and the mind good. So, I try to travel whenever my wallet and my vacation time at work allow me to. In my 31 years, I've traveled extensively around the country and there are indeed some gorgeous destinations here in these so-called United States. I discovered the jaw-dropping red mountain ranges of Sedona, Arizona this past Christmas with my mom. Been to Montreal with an ex - people were nice and it’s an impressively clean city. Numerous Caribbean getaways with friends and fam alike that made me wanna take a leave of absence from the j-o. Memorable moments in Europe (some even solo) range from visiting castles in Edinburgh, Scotland to eating gelato in Florence, Italy. And I can't wait to return to London for shopping on Oxford Street and Spitalfields Market. Oh, and debating the Jay-Z/Nas beef and other hip-hop history with native dudes in Guinea, West Africa was simply priceless. (I gotta give that trip it's own post for sure.) But, without a doubt the most beautifuliest place in this world I have ever been in my life thus far is the island of Dominica.

Dominica aka paradise

There is no hair-braiding on the beach or any cheesy Club Med resorts. But what this quaint island does offer are plush rain forests, ridiculous waterfalls at every turn - it's just so freakin' pretty! One of my tour guides said that if Christopher Columbus came back in time, this island would be the most recognizable to him of all the Caribbean. It’s just raw nature in all it’s splendidness. I hope to go back with my future husband one day - it's like that.

Sometimes the best travel destinations don’t require getting on a plane. Just a subway ride and an imagination. A couple are:

The Meatpacking District's Highline

Highline - An incognito (well, maybe not anymore) spot in NYC’s meatpacking district that has delicious Thai fusion inspired dishes, fruity cocktails and a cool ambiance for those on a budget. I eat here every chance I get. And as I discovered with a friend last summer, Highline is walking distance from a pier with tennis courts, grassy patches and benches that are ideal for journal writing or sketching or maybe even just daydreaming and watching the all too interesting people of NYC walk by.

The Cloisters - Every time I go to The Cloisters I ask myself, 'Why don't you come here more?' It's at the very tip of upper Manhattan and looking down at the city is so theraputic. It always provides a quick little get away without really going anywhere. And it’s also the perfect retreat if you want to hear yourself think which I personally find hard to do at home. Ft. Tryon Park (where The Cloisters are located) is definitely one of The Big Apple's hidden gems. (Tip: The admission fee is 'suggested' not required.)

The Cloisters in Ft. Tryon Park

My favorite stylish things up next…