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Karen Walker Fragrance Launch & Interview Excitement!

Karen Walker launched three new fragrances, starting in New Zealand - and Ever So Scrumptious was invited to try the scents and meet Karen Walker herself. For international style-lovers, Karen Walker brings fresh, wearable Antipodean quirkiness, especially with her successful eyewear line. For style-conscious New Zealanders, Karen Walker is the gateway to investment style with "accessible luxury" - I note that Karen Walker jewelry is often the first silver or gold piece a young woman owns. And now the brand has branched out into another area of accessible luxury with fragrances. Fun out front at Karen Walker for Kirckaldie and StainesThe fragrance launch event in Wellington was everything fabulous about style in New Zealand. Cheerful redheads flourished giant balloon letters to greet us, making our day more surreal. Inside, several stands with the three perfumes awaited us, with vivid cards for spraying samples. There was a sparkle of excitement amongst the handful of people, always renewed, who waited in a loose queue to meet Karen Walker in person. Where else is a globally famous designer going to be so accessible? Karen was polished and relaxed, pausing to grab shopping bags to package up inflatables, or to hand out macarons to astonished fans.
Karen Walker serving up macarons at the launch of her new fragrances in Wellington

Karen Walker clearly felt at home in Wellington

A little rough-voiced after chatting with well-wishers and fans for two and a half hours, Karen made the time for a short interview with me about the fragrances.[Read more]
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Friday Follies: Some Style Solutions

Contemporary women's fashion has had one of its sea changes into something strange and androgynous and blocky. Mainstream retailers aren't handling this well - clothes in most of the stores along Lambton Quay in Wellington look nearly identical, spookily corporate. Here's some options on the independent continuum. Wellington femmes: run, don't walk, to Honour Fashion. This preloved shop is exceptionally well curated, with a full range of sizes up to 18 (with plenty in size 14 and 16), and has a very tempting range of dresses. The prices are just what they should be, too. Clothing by Desiree came to my attention at a fabric sale, Fabric-a-Brac. I'm one of those awful, awful people who shops for clothing with my hands. And based on Desiree's fabrics, they pass the touch test! Contemporary, but a lot more wearable  and interesting than many of the season's alternatives. RutshireForeverUpper-end Wellington designer Twenty-Seven Names is taking the UK by storm with their latest collection, based on the writing and characters of Jilly Cooper. It's all rawther too preppy for me but it would be ideal summer-wedding wear for those who like contemporary classic garb. Rutshire Forever, indeed. If it's all too much or you just don't have time, here's another option. I ran into a long-term Woman in Tech colleague who was looking smashing, and asked admiringly where she'd found her sophisticated red shirt. She said she'd received a substantial promotion at work and felt that she needed more than her usual uniform of jeans and casual shirts. "I used the personal shoppers at Farmers. It was fantastic."  Importantly, my colleague didn't just look polished, she looked like herself. Farmers has also vastly improved their online shopping experience. I wish they didn't rely so much on synthetic fabrics, but they are still New Zealand owned. Meanwhile, my wardrobe continues to be its usual mix of 40% thrifted/swapped items, 40%  items from US and UK petites retailers, and 10% new NZ purchases. I'm wearing a lot of olive-with-leopard-print this spring.
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Jo Malone Boutique Launch and Giveaway!

More fragrance adventures! This Tuesday, I was invited to attend the launch of the Jo Malone fragrance pop-up boutique at Kirkcaldie and Staines here in Wellington. Of course, I went! They've carved a corner out of the second floor of Kirk's. It's not the the serene sanctuary of the Jo Malone boutique in Auckland, but it is enough room for the full Jo Malone range, and it's next to the cafe to allow time to make fragrance decisions. We were pampered with flutes of bubbles or juice, delicate canapes chosen to offset the fragrances, and the soothing tones of a harpist. MaloneLaunch-partyThe full Jo Malone range was there -26 fragrances and additional home scents for candles and diffusers.
MaloneLaunch_testtable

The full Jo Malone fragrance line within reach

Based on the crowd, the powers that be might have underestimated Wellington's appetite for Jo Malone. Tuesday night, after two days of operation, they had already sold out of the Cologne Intense of Tuberose Angelica.
MaloneLaunch_crowd

A tremendous crowd around the Jo Malone brand ambassador (center, floral dress)

In the Jo Malone line, the standard colognes have fewer notes than other lines - the idea is that you combine and layer two or three of the colognes to create your own scent. But I enjoy a simple fragrance with clear notes, and I think they're very wearable on their own, especially in New Zealand.
MaloneLaunch_waiting

The promise of elegance in serried ranks of bottles - the 30ml sprays are well within reach

I asked the Jo Malone acolytes what they would recommend for...
  • Someone just getting started with fragrance? The clean and crisp international favorite of the line, Lime Basil Mandarin.
  • Someone femme? "Peony and Blush Suede layered with Wood Sage and Sea Salt."
  • Someone intense and edgy? One of the Cologne Intense line. These seem to be less for layering - even on the sample slip they were oily and strong. Once sprayed on the skin, these weren't going anywhere.
Blue Agave and Cocoa wasn't in the forefront but it's the sample slip I keep coming back to. Wood Sage and Sea Salt is just made for New Zealand. And there's a green tomato scented candle??
MaloneLaunch_choosing

Trying to choose a scent diffuser: challenge accepted

I look forwards to going back to revisit some of these - the pop-up boutique is open until the end of December. Mark Conroy (our scent sommelier from here) also says that there are going to be some other interesting new fragrances launched at Kirk's in the lead up to Christmas. Thanks to the Jo Malone brand ambassador I have a FABULOUS giveaway for you - a boxed Pomegranate Noir candle. MaloneLaunch_candleThis is 200 grams of lush, ripe fragrance deliciousness with a 45 hour burn time. I will be selecting the winner at random this Friday night. To be in to win, leave a comment on this post telling me when you would light up this candle. Getting ready for a glam night out? A romantic night in? A decadent party? Telling sad, romantic ghost stories? The winner will be selected at random from the comments. You can enter until 6 PM Friday the 10th, New Zealand time. This giveaway is only for people with a New Zealand mailing address. The only problem with the Jo Malone approach emerged later in the evening. I was at a gathering of friends. Someone said, "You smell nice. What perfume are you wearing?" And, after the fragrance layering, the answer was complicated...
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Monday Follies: Between Friends

I admit it: the last few posts here at ESS were a nostalgia-fest. A friend of mine in the USA had her delightful wedding (sunflowers! Cape Cod! mini-reunion of university friends!), I wasn't there, and it made me look homeward. After reconnecting with wonderful Wellington friends over the past two weeks, I am feeling more grounded. This includes Joy from A Charm of Magpies. She of the flying crafty fingers and dancing feet has written a post about her talented Wellington friends, and I'm so honored to be one of them. Trelise Cooper's sale lines have many items marked down to 60% off and their very good returns policy applies to sale items.  They ship free in NZ and worldwide. Each line has its own sale category. Many of the coats and jackets are a great Steampunk Every Day look.
TreliseJackets

Still available in a size 14 at time of posting at the Trelise Cooper sale: all these jackets.

For Wellingtonians, hidden treasure Harry's in Seatoun is also having their smashing 50% off winter sale, a good chance to pick up something posh. They stock striking NZ fashion in a range of sizes. Sale goes through Sunday the 13th! Nip into their gift shop for delicious candles and spring preview clothes, and a vintage designer rail plus vintage shoes. Most adorable new comic book in the world: Lumberjanes! Buy it for your daughters, your sons, and your own sunkissed nostalgia for Bigfoot-chasing summers that never were. Friendship to the max! (Even I knew that Sasquatch wasn't living in my neighborhood growing up, so I restrained myself to squinting at the skies for UFOs.)
The lovely Bridgette
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Fragrance Exploration, Wellington: Kirckaldie and Staines + Mecca

This past Sunday, a group of ardent perfume fans descended on Wellington's most venerable department store, Kirckaldie and Staines. We were there to sniff, share, and experience a range of fragrances while bouncing opinions and experiences off each other. We were very fortunate, because Kirk's had set up an hour's perfume encounter for us, and we also experienced fragrances at the Mecca Cosmetica area of Kirk's cosmetics floor. Even at 10 AM on the Sunday morning after Daylight Savings, there was still a crowd waiting to get into Kirk's. Some of us were soignee; I was tired and blinky. We were met by the front door fountain by Mark Conroy, a tall, blue-eyed, career fragrance expert. He greeted us all smoothly, blinky and beautiful alike, and invited us in. We trooped past the space-age lighting of the cosmetic area to Kirk's fragrance department, and the fun began.

The fragrances of history, waiting for us at Kirkcaldie's

PFMarkConroy

Mark Conroy prepares a scent strip for our delectation

PFSmellMe

"No, wait - smell it on my wrist!" Coffee beans to the right, scent strips everywhere.

After listening to our group and getting an idea of who we were, Mark took us through classic French scents from Chanel, YSL, Guerlain, and more. "It's good to smell some of these as reference notes," said Mark, handing around slips of paper sprayed with Mitsouko and Chanel No. 19. "The Italians have a very different approach to scent," he noted, handing around Acqua di Parma, which I fell in love with instantly. Thanks to Mark, by the end of the hour, I'd learned that while I  like the idea of a "green" perfume, I'm more drawn to perfumes with a citrus or amber note and a woody base. In between sniffs, we refreshed our noses by smelling... coffee beans!
The lovely Bridgette

Sampling scent strips - the way to try

Just as marvelous as the perfumes was being able to share them with like-minded people.* Suggestions and ideas and personal perfume histories were shared. "You know what you'd really like? Can we try...?" I gained a sense of how perfumes really do act differently on different skins, and how they express personality and a subtler sense of beauty. And I learned about scrubbers - perfumes you can't wait to scrub off your skin! We wrapped up with some more modern fragrances, such as the Elie Saab line - extremely popular right now, but very different from the weighty classic scents. We started asking about prices - and we were agreeably surprised. Kirk's fragrance range has become more affordable thanks to some international market changes. Some standouts from our hour of exploration:
  • Bvlgari Blue –  One of us said,  "This is what I wear when I need to wake up on a dismal winter's morning." It starts out as GINGER and more ginger, and dries down beautifully.
  • 24 Faubourg by Hermes – I was very taken with the cashmere-sweater-nuzzleable quality of this, along with the markedly pretty bottle. As the blogger Perfume Queen says about this fragrance, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you the smell of money and happiness.”
  • Miss Dior Originale by Dior  – Several of us were smitten with this revived classic. Mark told us the charming story of how the fragrance was created for Dior's sister.
  • Thierry Mugler Angel – One of several love-or-hate ones, this elicited long stories about when-I-wore-Angel and the comment “This smells like…like the sound of a 90s modem.”
  • French travel perfume bottles – Kirk's stocks leakproof travel perfume bottles in two shapes. Transfer some of your favorite into these to take it with you securely. High-end yet affordable, most of us picked up one or more of these.
SO COOL

Getting ready to fill a travel perfume spray straight from the fragrance bottle. How cool is that?? The narrow pen-like shape is airport security friendly, too.

After one more hit of coffee beans to clear our sinuses, we went over to Mecca, ten yards away on Kirk's first floor. The lovely Charlotte gave us a review of their perfume lines. Standouts from our Mecca visit were:
When store lighting and outdoors lighting collide, we all look like lemons

Getting ready to sniff some more at Mecca Cosmetica with Charlotte (left).

At the end of our visit, perfumes and travel perfume bottles were bought, and notes were taken away for future purchases. "I don't really buy a fragrance the first time I smell it," one of us declared. That's why, even in the age of the Internet, the glass-and-light perfume counter is still the place to go, and for those of us introduced to perfumes online, there's nothing like getting together with like-minded souls.
"Suede and peaches, you say?"

Sniffing thoughtfully with friends: what the morning was about.

For those of you who weren't able to make it, and who live in New Zealand, I have a little giveaway. Courtesy of Kirk’s and Mecca, comment below, here on the blog, to be in to win:
  • A voucher for a complimentary makeup application at the cosmetic house of your choice at Kirkcaldie and Staines.
  • Nine carded/boxed perfume samples – Si by Giorgio Armani, Miss Dior by Dior, MaDame by Jean Paul Gaultier, Coco by Coco Chanel, Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, Eau de Sisley 1 by Sisley, Calyx by Clinique, and (drumroll please) two Serge Luteyns samples – L’Eau Serge Lutens and Chergui.
A random selection generator will be used to choose the winner, who will be announced this Friday. SUPER thanks to Kirk's - they were absolutely delightful all the way and treated us magnificently. I'll be back, once my bank account has recovered.
Kirkcaldie and Staines, YOU ROCK.

The fragrance team at Kirkcaldie and Staines - we weren't posing, this just happened.

  *It's not all women - several men were interested in the event, but couldn't make it.
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Rings to Last

My partner and I just got engaged, and ...this means a lot of things! Ever So Scrumptious isn't going to morph into a wedding blog. But some related posts will crop up from time to time. The first one to come out of our engagement experience is that our different cultures, backgrounds, and those of our friends made engagement ring negotiation thought-provoking indeed. It gets sticky because engagement rings are where love, money, and expectations collide. Some of my friends dislike engagement rings, or dislike diamonds (for sociopolitical reasons), or expect that Americans are all mercenary about going for big expensive rings. Others have rings on every finger, or treasure a classic diamond. As a result, I haven't tied myself up in so many anxious knots about a post since I first started this blog...even though, having worked at a jeweler, I have some Ideas about choosing rings. Another dame who has an engagement ring for her fiancé and herself says, wisely, “I love hearing about other people’s choices, but I hate that we live in a society where women are screwed for both liking and not liking rings.” Yes! This! So, this post is for those of us who like rings, and jewelry, and the idea of special rings and jewelry to symbolize relationship commitment. At the same time, we chafe at showing off, overspending, and not considering the environment and human rights when choosing said jewelry. We chose: rings for everyone! My partner and I formalized our engagement by exchanging rings. Yes, we both have an engagement ring. Because of the jewelry work involved, getting from No Ring to Two Rings did eliminate the surprise that some people expect from an engagement. But when Ring Day came, we woke up as excited as kids on Christmas - a delicious feeling that neither of us had expected. We made a pilgrimage to the springtime Wellington Botanical Garden to exchange rings with each other. My partner picked the spot - an alley of blooming magnolia trees. Ringspair Mine is an antique Victorian sapphire and diamond ring, a family heirloom. His has a chrome tourmaline, bezel-set in a hand-forged gold ring. Rings and Money and Convention Engagement rings with center stones are a cultural construct, adopted at varying levels in the USA, New Zealand, and Australia - a carry-over from our parent country, Britain. In most of the rest of Europe, engagement rings are understated bands, often worn by both halves of a couple. Engagement ring marketers are working hard in Asia, but many Asian cultures focus more on other types of engagement and wedding gifts - this forum thread is fascinating. The engagement ring "push" or culture has become stronger in New Zealand in the past 20 years. I've known several couples who got rings after long-term anniversaries, and several more where there is no engagement ring, or the engagement ring is very understated, European-style. Rings are often more expensive than bracelets, when bracelets, curiously, involve just as much work and more material. But the value of "The Ring" is inflated in our minds - here's a deep discussion about engagement rings and value metrics. One woman told her partner that a good engagement ring budget was what he would spend on a gaming system, saying, "You are happy to spend X on yourself, I would like it if you could spend X on me, too." There is a difference between engagement rings that are cold rhodium-plated signifiers of the Wedding Industrial Complex versus an ethically made, daily celebration of love. And that difference is an independent jeweler.  The people who take years to become independent manufacturing jewelers are creative free spirits or geology-engineering-artist types. And they want to adorn you with rings that break the mold and make you happy every day. Choosing a Ring That Will Last "A diamond is forever," said the classic advertisement - setting up the weighty expectation that personally significant rings are indeed forever. In real life people get their rings repaired, choose to upgrade them (often for major anniversaries), and have to deal with losing rings. Sometimes they even pass rings on to the next generation long before they die. How can you pick a ring that will last?
  • The sturdiest ring settings are bezel settings or solid 4-6 prong settings, preferably with the stone set lower/closer to the finger. Bezel settings are favorites of health professionals and others who work with their hands.
  • Keep your metals old school: yellow or rose gold, platinum. White gold is an alloy and is often plated with rhodium. Unplated white gold often has warm or steely tones. Which I, personally, like! But if you see shiny perfect white gold, it's rhodium plated, and you can expect to replate it at some point.
  • Get a ring that can be resized easily. That means avoiding detailing or diamonds going all the way around the band. Mokume gane metal bands are also challenging to resize. Rings with complicated bands may be resizable, but you should go back to the jeweler who created them to get this done.
  • Avoid melee/pave settings, with lots of little diamonds, for everyday wear. These settings are everywhere now - DeBeers created the "right hand ring" campaign to sell a flood of smaller diamonds, and that's probably where these settings got started. Also, the beading - the tiny claws that hold the pave in place - gets worn down over time.
  • Got a ring with lots of small diamonds? Wear it  more carefully, and get it looked at every year to see if it needs repairs, especially deep cleaning or prong/beading reinforcement.
Gemstones That Last, Too Here are my picks for durable daily ring stones. Like other minerals, gems get measured on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and it is recommended that gemstones for daily wear in a ring are 8 or above on the Mohs scale. Often folks get very woo-woo when talking about the mystic symbolic treasured wonder of gemstones. I've done my best to link to actual information - scientific, legal, and gemologcial - rather than vendor claims.
  • Diamond – There's a lot of diamond downers out there right now - so much so that the demand for diamonds is going down in Western countries. For durability, I cannot argue with 10 on the Moh's scale of hardness. The alt-diamond approach is to reuse a family stone, choose an ethically mined diamond (Canada or Australia), or buy a vintage diamond.
  • Blue Sapphire – Blue sapphires are the blue version of the mineral corundum. For a sapphire where everyone from the miner to the cutter is fairly compensated, look for sapphires from Montana or Australia. Sri Lankan sapphires are also considered to be at fair trade levels of ethical, lots of detailed information here in the Sri Lanka Mines and Minerals Act 1992.
  • Ruby - Rubies are corundum that is tinted within a specific range of red hues - not too purple, not too pink. Did you know that rubies from Burma/Myanmar are banned in the United States, and haven't been sold by many gem retailers for years, due to Myanmar's human rights violations? Ow. These sanctions will be lifted soon, but read this first. Go vintage or go for gems from Sri Lanka.
  • Pink or Peach  or Purple Sapphire – Speaking of those Sri Lanka gems! Pink and peach sapphires are increasingly popular. And purple sapphires delight those who, like Anne of Green Gables, wish that diamonds were actually purple.
Also worth considering:
  • Spinel – Like corundum, spinel comes in a ravishing range of colors, including ruby-alternative reds, cool blues, pinks, and even sparkling gray. Why yes, I do like spinel! Watch out for Burma sourced ones, though.
  • Tsavorite Garnet – For a gorgeous green stone that holds up to daily wear, I'd choose a tsavorite garnet over an emerald. I'd still set it carefully, though. And I'd read this piece about the death of the gem's discoverer first, in a tangle of race and mining rights issues.
  • Tourmaline – If you want a natural big stone – a really huge rock - and you can wear with care (it tops out at Mohs 7.5) tourmaline is for you. They come in almost every color including hot neon-blue and watermelon (combined pink and green).
  • Quality Lab Gems - If you want a big durable stone that's affordable and has no ethical issues, go for lab gems. A flawless five-carat ruby? It's yours! You like emeralds? Get two lab emeralds in case one cracks! And many people who like the look of a scintillating white gem go for moissanite, diamond's ethical lab twin. Several of my friends are delighted with their eye-catching lab gems.
Sentimental favorites that are too soft for daily-wear rings: opals, pearls, turquoise, pounamu (nephrite jade/serpentine).  Beryls are higher on the Mohs scale but unfortunately tend to be brittle - this includes emeralds, aquamarine, and morganite. Emeralds are a popular gemstone but there are many sad emerald ring stories like this one - after a few years of wear, her emerald center stone was pretty shot. Some sturdy and accessible ring inspiration for you: RingchoicesSapphire Tardis Police Box ring - Spinel Asscher in recycled gold ring - Ruby heart ring. Ringchoices2Yellow sapphire ring - Tourmaline and platinum ring engraved - Orange sapphire and METEORITE METAL! You'd Think Men's Rings Would Be Sturdier as a Rule, But No Have you met a guy who is lukewarm on the ring thing? I haven't - guys either hate rings or want them to be unique and fascinating. The latter, when choosing a ring for themselves, will go for rings that can be seen from outer space. Titanium rings, which are popular amongst men, are perfectly fine, but have suffered from an urban legend about being too strong/having to be cut off of fingers. Sadly, men's rings can have durability problems, too. Avoid tungsten rings, which are strong but brittle. What's more, many tungsten rings are sold with designs that are often decals sealed with PVC. PVC!!! Why is it that women are supposed to be sticklers for the four C's and 18k or platinum and men get fobbed off with plastic? For a darker ring that has technical interest, I recommend instead that perfectly fine titanium, damascus steel, and oxidized silver or gold. Miscellaneous Points You're allowed to have more than one piece of jewelry. So don't feel that you have to cram all your pent-up ring desires into one ring. Most of us have a whole other hand that can also wear rings. I often find that the jewelers I want to send my friends to, or the ones with the coolest, most inspirational stuff, about 50% of the time have out-of-date web sites. They're busy making great pieces and not overcharging for them, and getting word of mouth recommendations, so the web thing isn't at the top of their priority list. I'm not a melee/pave fan, but if you want a setting with lots of diamonds, get a hand-forged setting. It will cost more, but it will be sturdier and last longer. Antique and vintage rings are hip right now. But be advised that many of these are delicate, or require some work to make them wearable in the modern day. My ring required enough work that getting it wearable for the 21st century cost as much as a modest ring in and of itself. Quite a lot can be done, too - prongs can be renewed, shanks and engraving can be restored, gems can be repolished, even a deep clean of a neglected ring can turn it into a stunner. Antiques aside, there is nothing wrong with secondhand jewelry and some of it is good quality. It's a great way to make the most of your budget. When you want a new shiny thing for a loved one, a great time to commission jewelry is between June and September - the quiet period for jewelry sales. Larger jewelers often have sales during these months. Jewelers get busy with holiday commissions between November and February. Cool Jewelers in NZ, and Some Gemstone Sources Why are they cool? They'll work with your own stones. They have a better than average selection of men's rings. And you're talking to the jewellers themselves, instead of hypertrained, pushy sales troops.
  • Bell Arte' - One talented guy in...Te Horo, of all places.
  • Unio - A group of great people in Havelock North.
  • Berry's - A great crew based in Wellington.
  • Tory & Ko - Another Wellington team.
  • Also, Artifact for titanium and damascus rings in NZ.
All these jewelers have gems in stock, along with finished jewelry. If you want to go the extra mile and pick out non-diamond stones yourself, check out these online vendors. There are many gemcutters out there - I have chosen these because they combine gorgeous gems with NZ friendly shipping options.
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Friday Follies: Bohemian Rhapsody

I told you were were all going to be hippies this coming summer. Burning Man happened for the 27th time this week, and "festival fashion" is a thing. Not only is there a "burner look", but other festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella are being mined for their style concepts. It's no use going to Burning Man and the like if your brain isn't switched on. I'm enjoying this regular coallation of science news links by Aimee Whitcroft, Wellington-based geek extraordinare and the coordinator of Nerdnite Wellington. Get it in your feed and feel your IQ soar. If the idea of wearing a wee wreath of flowers with your gumboots is too depressing, be inspired by my style crush of the week: "goth punk steampunky bohemian fairy" over at Couturgatory! Or, check out the deliciously raw jewelry from Shh by Sadie - the creator alternates between being in Wellington, NZ and Wales. I saw some of her goodies at Rex Royale on Cuba Street recently. Hoping she restocks her Etsy store soon...

Shh by Sadie is having an arm party and you're invited - click to view her full collection!

To rock your bohemian self, Aethercon is coming to Wellington again in the second weekend of October, with a theme of "post-apocalyptic steampunk." I'm emceeing the daytime events and costume competitions, so start planning for your post-crash utopian looks. There's also a steampunk ball that evening, with performers, plus costumes judged by visiting boylesque luminary Ray Gunn. Lastly, Bohemian Rhapsody by the Muppets.
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Making It Happen: Cara Hill, Style Blogger & Best Dressed in Wellington

Cara Hill, herself.“Best dressed” lists can seem remote and unreal. But Wellingtonian Cara Hill, recipient of two best dressed accolades in 2012 and 2013, makes being beautifully dressed sound fun and accessible. Her striking style is just one facet of her expressing herself to the fullest. I talked with Cara about her style journey, being body positive, the practical side of being well dressed, and hating alterations but loving fashion risks. We've all seen you darting around town, the strikingly lovely brunette with the ravishing tattoos and fabulous outfits. But, tell us...who is Cara Hill? Hmmmm, isn't that always the toughest question? Let's see ... Cara Hill is a Canadian expat who has lived in NZ for almost 4 years now. I love the theatre and therefore have spent a big chunk of my career working in one. I'm married to the love of my life with whom I have more fun than I ever thought possible. I love tattoos, books, movies, body positivity and feminism. And I love, LOVE pretty clothes!  And you're also a published author, of the book Supernatural Winnipeg, which was quite successful in Canada.  I mention it because I think there are lots of misconceptions about women who, as you say, love pretty clothes - that we're insubstantial or unintelligent -- True, good point. Although, it is a travel guide to haunted places, so that might discredit me!  I kid.  (five minutes of digression talking about Bigfoot and taniwhas) We should probably talk about paranormal stuff sometime, but we're here today to talk about your magnificent sense of style. You run a highly popular style tumblr, ILikePrettyClothes.tumblr.com and you were also voted as Best Dressed in Wellington 2012 last September by the readers of Wellington’s Capital Times. AND you just got cited in Fishhead Magazine this month as one of Wellington’s best dressed. It's a bit overwhelming actually, the best dressed things.[Read more]
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Making It Happen: Behome by Emily Davidow

The "Making It Happen" series is back online, conversing with Emily Davidow about moving to New Zealand and starting up a home design emporium. Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always been a “house” person, enjoying my (sometimes ill advised) attempts to decorate my abode. I’ve always enjoyed home stores, and they are dream businesses for many of us. “One with special things – the kind of things my friends really want,” we say, gazing off into the distant mists, visualizing a design boutique with all of our favorites, or an all-steampunk kitchen store.  So it was a great pleasure to get behind the scenes of a delicious home design emporium with Emily Davidow. "Emporium" is the right word for the variety at her retail space in Miramar, Behome. Two floors overflow with rugs, textiles, unique furniture, and even some well-chosen garments.

Emily Davidow, center, talks to customers at Behome's grand opening in June 2013.

Growing up in the U.S.A., her family's business was home furnishings. After successfully expanding the family business online in the 1990s, and other creative ventures, Emily decided that it was time for a major life change – moving from the U.S.A. to New Zealand. And that led to her opening up Behome in Wellington. Read on to learn about her story, the vitality of beauty in the home, design Down Under, why things cost more in New Zealand, and good advice for your own business. [Read more]
So, Many. Things. Made of leather!
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Brahmin Tent Sale: An Ocean of New England Handbags

Like many carbon-based life forms, I hate trying to replace favorite bags. Last year, I stumbled across a bag that fit my exacting topological requirements, by a brand named Brahmin. Not only did this bag have a great shape, and inside pockets designed to please, but it was made of a steampunk-looking crocodile-pressed cowhide that promised to outlast me. I poked around to learn more about Brahmin, and was satisfied that I could feel good about giving them my handbag money. An intelligently managed midsized brand, they court bloggers actively - of all colors, ages, and sizes. They don't overcharge. And while a distinctly feminine brand, they are tech-friendly and their core line has a clean-lined, sturdy aesthetic that's often reserved for men's leather goods. So when I found out that they were having their biannual "tent sale" two hours away from my New England idyll, my mom and I planned to go. We get a surprising amount of designer sample sales in New Zealand, from our own designers, but I wanted to see one Yankee-style. We arrived to an industrial parking lot full of tents, with traffic and security staff waving us along. Outside the tent, a local vendor was selling fresh, hot cookies, and we refreshed ourselves before entering the scrum. Inside the tents were vast quantities of fresh handbags.
ERMAHGERD HERNDBAGS

Inside the Brahmin Tent Sale: bags as far as the eye can see

In case this wasn't enough, a stream of well-set-up Brahmin staffers constantly conveyed fresh boxes of handbags to our gaping maws. Experienced shoppers hovered for the new boxes.
So, Many. Things. Made of leather!

A constant stream of items for our consideration

There were bags that are being sold currently on the web site, bags from last winter, the winter before, and bags of total mystery. Colored oddments - puce! sandy mustard! eggplant! - were blended with standard reds, blacks, and browns, and with metallics. Privately, I was disappointed that there were no bags in the thrilling teal "Peacock" color from last winter.  Not that I was stalking them, or anything. I had to keep tearing myself away from the brown crocodile-look handbags that Brahmin does so very well. Many of the leather satchels were heavy, more than I prefer for a bag. There were tables of accessories. Keychains seemed overpriced, but leather picture frames were an excellent deal. We all have photos that deserve a frame of fuschia leather. This handbag jungle had its laws. If two of us converged on the same bag at the same time, the first comer had dibs. I was charmed when, twice, the bag's claimant offered to find me amid the scrum if the bag didn't make their cut. The handbag-shopping sound and fury was a bit much for my mom, who slipped outside after choosing one item. "I almost passed out!" I found her chatting amiably with one of the other shoppers, helping her choose between a red and a metallic bag. Many buyers tripped away with two or three giant grey shopping bags. Others slipped off with one modestly burdened bag. The more shopping bags they were carrying, the less they wanted to be photographed! To defend these super-shoppers, they were often buying gifts for friends and family. The bags were deeply discounted, 50% to 40% of their normal price - but still spendy. I wished I had that gift budget. Also, these bags don't come with the Brahmin registration card, which means that Brahmin won't repair the bags for free. Gifts! Gifts, I tell you!Are three handbags between two women a "haul"? I don't think so. My mother's purchase grew on her. She likes a bag with compartments and stumbled upon a current-season Mojito Crossbody in Pecan. "Look at this pocket. And this one. It's perfect for travel. Not that I travel. You can adjust the straps? How clever! I love the brown. It goes with everything." As for my bags, they seem to come from archives, or a department-store exclusive, or perhaps a parallel universe. One bag is of sturdy, moody, greenish-bronze-leopard leather.  Nobody understands this bag but me. We'll walk together in the rain. I will shelter it under my arm, tenderly - it fits so perfectly into the curve of my waist - and slide haiku and dried fern leaves into its side pocket.
Shiny!

Despite the potential awkwardness of the "handles", this bag passed the fumbling-with-keys-at-the-door test.

The other bag is an curiously soft black leather shoulder bag, a wardrobe workhorse. It's the little things that add up, the brass fittings and the quality black stitching, actual pockets behind the diagonal zippers. It's like that OK person at work who blossoms into a real friend.
A good solid bag

A bag destined to become a detachable part of my body. You know what I mean...

Both of these bags have been taken for an urban test drive and passed with flying colors. Next post: New York!