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Archive for April, 2009...

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MADONNA WAS RIDING A HIGH CREST of popularity, along with Prince, Michael Jackson, the Beach Boys and Duran Duran.  The USA for Africa charity was in full swing, and the spectacular song, “We Are One” was being sung, coast to coast.   “Who shot JR?” was the hot question on everybody’s lips in the US while, in England, Prince Charles was marrying Princess Diana. This was an unforgettable decade. 


The fashion look was hot, feminine, and a little exaggerated, with huge shoulders and tiny waists, skinny leggings and high-high heels. It was the 80s, a long way from the 60s and 70s, and an era unto itself.  Now it is back, with all its hype and creative verve.


–Well, it’s true!  Retro just never gives up, it keeps raging back into style decade after decade, with new-found enthusiasm and design momentum.  With the 80s making updated news on the world’s fashion scene now, revving it up with wild accessories, big hair, and strong-feminine statements, we have a major Retro Story underway. 


EIGHT-OH! .And, if you’re inclined to think that’s just yesterday, it wasn’t. We’re talking almost 30 years ago, before most of today’s hot fashion models were even born.










                                               Shiny Leather


But, hey.  Today’s gals look terrific in the 80s look.  Think punk accessories and lots of wild-looking color mixes, like purple, violet, black, and blue, maybe spiced up with some checks and plaids and, of course, shiny leather.  This was an era for belts. For chains.  For long scarves and messy hairdos with exotic or yesteryear hair accessories, like crushed velvet black bows. 


The Eighties look often featured rumpled skinny legs as in body-skimming leggings and super-tight-tight pants cut long enough for an eight-footer, then pushed up from the ankle. Fingerless gloves were the rage. 


Long waterfall earrings dangled to the shoulder and below.  Socks gave a young and funky look to everything. Polyester and spandex were IN fabrics. Bracelets were hot, and things were often mixed up in use, like necklaces worn as belts and hair ribbons worn tied around the legs. 


And music?  Ohhh, honey!  This was R & R heaven.







Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

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LOUIS VUITTON has it down pat, as usual. The super couturier house is awash with hearts, the big, super trend in fashion NOW.  For just one example, see his gorgeous little dress with black and grey heart appliqués, large and small, very soft and feminine, netted and chiffon-y, in some instances looking like big fabric flowers.  Charming!


But hearts are a hugely popular trend now not just in clothing, but in all kinds of accessories, as well.  They are everywhere. You might call it a major love-in!


IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a hot trend that will fit just about everyone on your customer list, look no further!  Hearts are where it is at. Any kind of heart, any color heart, any size heart.  Because…who doesn’t love them?  Big girls, little girls, young and old all love hearts.








                                            Big Customer Base


HEARTS SELL year in and year out, but sometimes they sell better than at other times.  Like NOW. Fine jewelry makers and costume jewelry makers are both turning their attention to hearts as a real sales activator.


Hearts sell, at every level of the fashion industry.  Take watches, for example.  Bulova has just introduced a radiant new winding mechanical watch with round face and link chain band featuring several beautiful hearts (one diamond pave) on the face. As for sunglasses, Gucci has applied finely carved hearts to the side of their big, trendy super-chic shades. It’s a rage!


The message is, simply, that designers are, as always, in love with hearts.  Take Roger Vivier’s chunky brass necklace with huge hang-off hearts, a centerpiece for his recent accessories party.  Or, his charming little black evening bag with big brass heart closure. Or, his racy hot pink super high heeled satin and patent shoes with large heart and bow jewel embellishments.


These are just a few of the endless variety of hearts coming onto the marketplace, some as separate jewelry pieces, others as adornments for dresses, coats, handbags, and even shoes.  And the delightful thing is, they fit everyone and everything.



  • Stunning silver plated spring fashion brooch with heart-shaped simulated stone crowned with lacey filigree and sprinkled with sparkling crystals. Choose from a variety of colors.




  • Cupid pin in rich pewter finished with red enameled hearts. Sweet!







                             Intensely Trendy


IT’S NOT THAT COMMON for an item that has been trendy in vintage to suddenly become intensely trendy in modern interpretations as well.  But hearts cross over that divide with ease.  Modern hearts maintain a romantic flavor, without being saccharin. 


Hearts also speak an international language.  It doesn’t matter where a lady is from, she’ll understand what hearts mean.  So make use of their power.  Gift them as beautiful jewelry by themselves.  Drop a little heart charm into a blouse or sweater gift box before wrapping.  Dangle a heart off a handbag clasp.  Add a heart to a keychain.  The ideas go on and on, as does the statement hearts make:


                                                     I love you.


Ah…say it again, and again!

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Friday, April 24th, 2009

Filed under Fashion Accessory Trends
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DESIGNERS LOOKING FOR something extraordinary to bridge the dampening effect of a world-wide economic miasma are turning to Africa for inspiration.  Here they are finding an incredibly sophisticated visual tradition in exquisite materials and patterns, and in a way of wearing fashion, from clothing to jewelry, that is intense, dramatic, and, strangely, natural.  Nothing here seems to be contrived.  It just all works.


The major Italian fashion consortium, Max Mara Fashion Group, is employing local artisans in East Africa to make jewelry for its young brand, Max & Co.  In other cases, jewelry designers in vital fashion centers like New York and Paris are forging ties with creative individuals and groups in East Africa for more innovative and expensive jewelry lines.  The result is hoped to be a very new cultural fusion culminating in new, exciting impressions and design statements.


                                     Hope and Prosperity


THE EMERGENCE OF THIS NEW TRIBAL design wave is a story that goes far beyond fashion itself. By developing community-sized fashion businesses across Africa, the global industry brings new hope and prosperity to an often impoverished, job-deficient area, changing lives and establishing a new economic stability. If it all continues to work and grow, it will be a win-win situation for everybody.


The new tribal expressions – which Christian Dior has labeled a “New Ethnicity” — are often beaded, natural, handmade, one-of-a-kind looking.  Crocheted handbags with traditional African motifs.  Jewelry made from wood, leather, bone and stone that fits amazingly well into the new “Green” movement.  Earth-y stories. Styles that combine ancient and modern artistic forms and symbols.  Timelessness.











And, for store or residential decoration, consider these fantastic home accessories, too:






                                        Fashion with an Attitude


An important thing to remember is that the new design movement is neither cheap nor commonplace. To the contrary, the new tribal look is strongly upper crust.  It has class and, as Time Magazine noted in a recent issue, it has an “Attitude.”  While it reflects the serene beauty of Africa, it also radiates with a very civilized Park Avenue élan.


To focus in on the new tribal look, think materials of every imaginable kind, hand-painted, appliquéd, hand-dyed, and more. Think bangles that run up the arm, dozens upon dozens, and scarves used for a hundred and one purposes. But, most especially think prints, oh…those indescribably magnificent African prints! Also think color!  Reds and greens and blues of the most glorious tones. 


–Add to all this big gold three-dimensional chokers, and long, multi-layers of gold beaded necklaces.  Hats that wrap around the head with almost magical movement, rising high and tied with golden cords. Huge hoop earrings, wildly big rings, and discs of every conceivable sort. Exquisitely cut African stones, set into clothing and jewelry, handbags and scarves.  Strap shoes embellished with beads and embroidery, snake skin handbags and long colorful tunics over blouses, under jackets, in a cacophony of different patterned layers. Fantastic!


This is fashion that literally takes your breath away.  Even when toned down, and blended with western sensibilities, they remain intractably wild. And yet the patterns and designs are remarkably sophisticated and intellectually evolved.    



  • Wood stretch bracelet goes beautifully with tribal prints, naturally! Pair it with prints featuring wild leopards, exotic flowers, and mixed sized geometrics.




Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

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LITTLE TANK TOPS:  they’ve been the rage for a long time now, in sophisticated black and sizzling neon colors.  Now, add a comfortable amount of studs down the sides, and you’ve got an updated version of the coveted fashion look, very edgy, sexy, un-conventional.


Studs are one of several embellishments being used to decorate everything, from clothing to shoes, handbags, and more.  But they aren’t alone.  Look also for rivets, and spikes (wow! big Gothic numbers) to give a designer look to Present Moment Casual. 


The interesting thing about the new embellishments is that while they lean on the Biker Look, they’re still unto themselves.  For example, lots of present-day studs are colorful, even feminine, done in bright tones of pink or blue or yellow.  That’s just not something a self-respecting motorcycle driver would be caught dead with, but a fashion loving damsel…?  Just the thing!



  • A natural accompaniment to the semi-rough trend in studs and rivets, this interesting zigzag plated metal necklace looks pretty but still works with for the tough guys.







TRADITIONALLY MOST STUDS and rivets tend to be silver, and call for plenty of silver jewelry to finish the look.  Necklaces and bracelets are hot numbers here.  Crosses and crucifixes are, for some inexplicable reason, also closely associated with these fashion stories, as are skulls and crossbones, swords, and knives.  Think shiny leather all the way here, and you can’t go wrong!



                                         Spikes Can Be Scary     


COMPARED TO studs and rivets, spikes are super-tough, more S&M.  No playful lightness here, this is black and silver, all the way.  Add to it silver chains, some leather dog collars, straps going every which way, and a generally tight, tied-in appearance, and you’ve got the look. It is somewhat angry, definitely inflexible. At the designer level, this is Helmut Lang, pure and simple. Germanic.


–We can’t ignore the other side of this story, though, and that’s what you might call “Spike Dopey.”  There is nothing hard about this look, it comes with dropped, oversized pants, messy and unironed. In place of a tied-in look, here you generally encounter an overly loose feeling. Unkempt. 


Spiky hair sets off both appearances. In either case, Spike tends to be a young look, embraced by kids who want to shock, stand out, look very different.  Sort of like Grunge of yesteryear, often so repulsive it turned heads.  Well…that was the idea!  Still, the look involves some great looking jewelry and accessories and, when put together lightly and well, can even be attractive! 










Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Filed under Seasonal Jewelry
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OXYTOCIN IS a remarkable bonding hormone.  It helps reduce stress and it helps develop and maintain close personal relationships.  It is, simply put, that chemical in the brain that helps us establish and keep relationships of love and friendship with our families, associates and, well, just about everybody we care about. 


Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone,” and understandably.    Its power is uncanny! As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s a good subject to think about.  Oxytocin, for example, induces uterine contractions when a woman is about to give birth.  It helps in the release of milk in nursing.   And, as a leading Health publication put it, it is responsible, at first touch, for a mother’s feelings of instant attachment to her newborn. Mother love – whether from the mother to the baby or the baby to the mother – is strongly centered in this fabulous bit of human chemistry.  Oxytocin. 


                                               Think Love


OXYTOCIN IS ACTIVE throughout our lives, often more so in women than men, since its effects are amplified by estrogen.  But men still have plenty of it.  When an individual engages in any thought or activity that induces the release of oxytocin, feelings of love and attachment are enhanced.  A hug is one such action.  The thought of a child’s or a husband’s love is one such thought. 


–Dr. Paul Zakk of Claremont Graduate University found that by just giving individuals a bolt of oxytocin in a nasal spray, they became more trusting of strangers and had better feelings toward them. 


The really good news about oxytocin connects directly to Mother’s Day, when everyone hopes to give a gift that will be appreciated. Good thinking.  But…with oxytocin in the picture, the gift can go a lot further than that!  Here’s an example of what we mean:


–If you buy Mom a gift of jewelry for Mother’s Day, say, she’ll see it, put it on, and enjoy it that day.  But long after Mother’s Day, each time she puts on that piece of jewelry, she’ll think about  who gave it to her, and the positive thoughts will cause a release of  — you got it! – oxytocin, adding even more love and affection toward you.  Is that terrific, or what?






  • Mom’s silver plated initial will look beautiful set into this lovely rectangular frame pendant, supported by a 30″ pink leatherette cord.


                                      Love Maker


IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that you’ll want to increase your own amount of oxytocin, as well as your Mom’s, your marital partner’s, and maybe even your boss’ and co-workers’.  After all, you can’t ever get too much love. 


Some ways of building your supply of oxytocin include being more demonstrative with love (with hugs, as we already said), even walking hand-in-hand with someone you care about.  Avoiding negative thinking, and following the old adage that says you’ll be a lot happier concentrating on the good things in life also brings good results.


THERE ARE PLENTY of other ways to latch on to the love hormone, too.  You might adopt a dog or a cat.  Wow!  Every time you pet one you’ll release this magical stuff!  Or you could volunteer to work with kids because, after all, they’re easy to love.


–But most especially, on the Second Sunday of May, year-in and year-out, send special love to Mom.  This is her day! 



  • Large sparkling crystal brooch with large acrylic center stone.  Dynamic.




  • Charming rhinestone hairpins with hearts make delightful gifts for Mom from anyone, but especially from a child!
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Monday, April 20th, 2009

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THE NEW YORK COLLECTIONS for fall ’09 were fabulous.  The Paris Collections were terrific.  But nothing quite equals Milan.  Nothing.  Like it or not, the Italians have an expert hold on the fashion market with their exquisite craftsmanship and incomparable design sensibilities


This year was no different from any other.  Milan captivated, despite the recession, tight money and wary buyers.  Milan was above it all.  Oh, what clothes!  What accessories!


Belts led the accessories walk in Milan, used on coats, suits, dresses, everywhere.  Some were wide, others skinny little things.  Some were leather, others fabric to match the outfit they accessorized.  They brought a refined focus to the waist, which stood out at Versace, Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo, and more major design houses.


                                        Handle Bags Still Hot


BIG HANDBAGS continued to make news, too, although a number of designers scaled back the sizes to medium.  Most were handle bags, carried like luggage.  Shiny materials and leathers prevailed, along with luxurious, but less flashy hardware.  An interesting bag at Versace featured chain wrapped around the handle base; it was a dark silver, very rich, very obvious, but also, very subtle, something Versace rarely is these days. 


Big sunglasses and little tams were also important on the Milan runways.  Lots of knit wraps gave a cozy look to a number of fashion outfits.  At Missoni, a tan wrap circled the neck and then hung down the front of the outfit almost to the floor.  Tan leg wraps furthered the Himalayan-like look. 







                                     Glamour Look        

Tan was generally an important color for fall, but nothing quite compared to black and gray.  These two colors led every collection, often spiced up with sequins or other flashy embellishments or shiny materials for a more luxe, more glamour look. 


At Ferre, for example, a black and grey striped suit in shiny material with black leather belt and little black fur collar stood out dramatically.  Gucci was, as always, cleverly chic and sexy, with tight black pants, tall boots, and a shiny black leather biker jacket, Racy!


OF COURSE, ITALY could not fail to offer up some bright colors, in true Italian fashion.  A shiny bright orange belted coat at Prada was good looking and very Italiano.


On the accessories beat, Italy gave no indication that there is a global economic crisis in existence.  Indeed, Milan was rich with shoes, handbags, eyeglasses, and jewelry that often mesmerized with unstoppable flourishes and style. Boots with super-high heels remained important here.  Flat riding-like boots were gorgeous in the richest leathers possible, mostly equestrian brown and black. 





  • Rich Lucite bangles with elegant European flair.  Great colors:  Bright orange, green, yellow!


                                                   Art Piece


HANDBAGS RAN FROM glitzy gold and silver (shine) to simple, clean-lined leather pieces of remarkable line and substance. One bag from Valexta, a brownish red hobo, had such direct, simple and sophisticated lines, it might have been a museum art piece.  Just incredible! 


Some two-tone shoes showed up at the market, along with twotoned bags, such as Robert Di Camerino’s smallish red and black shoulder bag. Animal prints were also big, as in Jimmy Choo’s terrific zebra-patterned high heeled shoes. 


Of the majors showing here, the design house of Dolce & Gabbana was perhaps the most far-out, with a surreal presentation in which one thing looked like another and nothing was quite what you might expect it to be.  Gloves were used as scarves and hats.  Shoes mimicked a woman’s profile.  Tricks and games abounded. Lots of trompe l’oile added lightness and fun. 


Underneath it all, however, there were some real fashion messages for this very moment. Like big, broad shoulders, such as we’ve already seen in New York and Paris.  Belted dresses.  And Marilyn Monroe retrospectives, with her face emblazoned on skirts and t-shirts.


                                               Sex and Versace




Versace was sexy.  Of course.  Dresses were hot here, mostly body skimming, in soft seductive materials, and belted. Gowns were elaborately draped, and body revealing.  All very, very Donatella.


Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi went strongly medieval, with lots of fur and Joan-of-Arc memoirs.  Black was his major color.  Leather bustiers were strong.  All this darkness was offset by some vibrant crimson red, startling against the bulk of the collection.

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Saturday, April 18th, 2009

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STRONG WOMEN.  That might have been the theme of this year’s incomparable fashion shows in Milan, as designer after designer paraded out well dressed, independent looking women who apparently could take care of themselves in any situation, including the present recession. 


In fact, the economic situation was practically ignored, as a bevy of very self-contained fashion presentations gave up nothing in their exuberance and élan.  Austerity is apparently not the Italian way!


MOST OF THE FASHIONS were sophisticated and dark, but colors did come through with lightening power.  Shine lit up the runways, with slithery shiny golds, as in Etro’s gold lame skirt.  There was also no small amount of warrior looks present, as in Roberto Cavalli’s stunning suit with metallic silver under-blouse, black leather gloves and black fur collar. The whole ensemble had an elegant but unmistakable medieval armor effect.


More warrior nation looks came from Francesco Scognamiglio – in broad shouldered ruffled sleeved jackets that hung long and sported plenty of brass buttons, set off by a same color satiny blouse. He also showed above-the-knee leather boots with gold ball buttons up the sides, again, very militaristic. 



  • Fleur de Lis pins with pave crystals give classic beauty with a tinge of European military style. 



                                                 Big Collars


KNITS TOOK the spotlight in many top collections, such as Dsquared and Pringle of Scotland.  In both instances, shoulders were emphasized, with big fur collars and trims.  Grey skirts predominated, along with rich grey turtle neck sweaters and little grey newsboy caps


Alessandro Dell’Acqua showed a stunning little evening dress with a puff of  grey tassel extending over the shoulder, naturally elongating it, and heavy clusters of silver sequins over a metallic-netted dress that, again, might have been armor,. 


Big little jackets and slim skirts presented a definite ’09 look.  Quilted vests like one from Giuliana Teso gave the same effect.


                                        Country Girls/City Girls


PRADA PLAYED WITH IMAGES of country girls and city girls, mixing them up here, separating them there, and in all instances, dressing them in real, extraordinary clothes that were sometimes sexy, sometimes glamorous, but in all instances, very wearable. 


Hip high boots that might be used for fly-fishing accessorized a number of Prada’s outfits. The major color here was black. Carrying on with the dark look, hair was pulled back in obviously teased bunches, with a grayish, deathly, unkempt look.  Many eyes were blackened.  The look was an attention-getter, but not really attractive.


Prada also featured lots of black, brown, and grey, the big colors of the season. There was lots of split seaming.  These were very sophisticated looks, exquisitely tailored and fit, jazzed up by hot embellishments, like black-on-black embroideries, leather strips, metal pieces, and flocked velvet insets.


                                               More Black


FUR CLUTCHES, gem studded high heeled hooker shoes, lots of sleeveless dresses, shiny jackets over thin skirts, hot mini dress looks, big handbags and skinny little belts were just some of the major points to notice at these shows.


Giorgio Armani presented an aristocratic look that could go down in history for its classic, yet timely beauty.  Wonderful suits, with light gray jackets and dark little skirts, over-one-shoulder evening dresses in shimmery metallic materials, plenty of embellished hats, very black, worn jauntily on the side of the head.  He also showed a number of capes, and good looking shawl collared shrugs.  Brooches were big here.  So was sparkle.


Burberry Prorsum was big on trench coats in a very British WWII style, and Scottish highlander looks in big knits over full skirts.


Gucci was as edgy as ever, with big black sunglasses and wildly shiny jackets and pants in shiny snake-like materials, with broad tough-guy shouldered jackets.  But wow!  What a look!


ONE OUTFIT FEATURED blue and silver jacket and pants in prints that almost but not quite matched, very European.  Gucci also showed a sizzling orange red shortie dress with big black polka dots, and to-the-hip black leather boots.  Black cuffs finished the look.  The overall collection was very real, very glitzy, very hot, and very, very Gucci.







  • Multi-colored bangle bracelets have real Italian style and feel for reasonable cost.


                                Change on the Way?


AN INTERESTING DRESS from Bottega Veneta was tan colored, with short sleeves and tight bodice over a tight but gathered skirt.  The thing to notice here was the bustline, all very natural, small, braless. 

—The question here: Is this a precursor of things to come?  With all the tightly controlled huge faux breasts around, it doesn’t seem quite possible, but…here it was.  It would be a major fashion change. 


Clean structured shapes gave a certain conservative flair to the runways this year.  Boxy rectangular jackets were attractive, as were two-toned pants.  Prints were present, if not in abundance, and interesting, with sparkles scattered here and there for an updated 09 look. 


Alberta Ferretti played with textiles and colors in a rich, Italian fashion, putting hot pinks and bright blues together with grays and browns.  Sequins, beads, lames and nets all played important overlay roles in her collection.  Moschino brought up military looks and plenty of fifties fashion for a fascinating retro approach.  Houndstooth prints gave masculine verve to flouncy and full dresses.


ACCESSORIES WERE BUILT-IN, rather than just added on, to fashion looks.  Handle bags were important, many of them very large, with embellishments adding a lush, if somewhat downplayed, richness.  Super high platform heels were the standard designer choice, rising out of their porno-shoe origins by virtue of their exquisite craftsmanship. GLOVES were all over the runways.  That means all kinds of gloves, long, extra long, short, fabric, leather, you name it. 



  • Black Murano-style pendant with streaks of copper suspended on multiple cords.  A fabulous look at wholesale prices!







                                                     La Dolce Vita


EMBELLISHMENT WAS ON everything, not quite as glitzy as we’ve seen in former seasons, but certainly there!  In many instances, the embellishment Look was a quieter, darker approach to new fashion, coming in as dark silver on black, or even black on black.  Big dark sunglasses gave everything a kind of La Dolce Vita appearance, terribly urban, almost decadent. Boots rose up up up to the hips, mostly all of them black, tight and shiny.  Little booties were also big.


Overall, there was a lot of attention given to the neck and throat.  Designs swirled out from the neck to create big, often pointy shoulders.  Scarves and turtle necks were hot.  Knits that wrapped around the neck were seen in many different collections.  Also important: The waist. To emphasize that, belts of every description reigned supreme on the runways.  Little skinny belts, big wrap belts, and everything in between.


Metallic looks have never been so important.  In many instances, the metal is so pervasive, it ends up giving the outfit a very strong warrior look.  In other instances, the metallic approach featured silvery netting or metal flower clusters on dresses and coats. 


CUFFS COULD BE SEEN at a variety of houses, along with black lace and fishnet stockings.  Fur was big, not so much in full coats as in little shrugs, collars, cuffs, clutch bags, etc.  Hats also came off handsomely, especially little, close to the head hats, like cloches and turbans, and side-worn berets.

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Filed under Religious Jewelry & Gifts
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AMONG THE MOST INTRIGUING objects in the history of jewelry are medals, particularly devotional medals, which date back at least to Egyptian times, and possibly even before.  Since man has recorded history, we find medals as a cultural phenomenon, expressing the faith in the God or gods of the time, and bringing hope and solace to the medal wearers.


Despite the differences of language and the specifics of individual religious beliefs and symbols, these medals are still all very much alike. Their main purpose is and always has been to turn the wearer’s attention onto a Supreme Power, however he/she may be conceived by the individual.


In a separate category are military medals, which hold a special place of honor internationally.  They are given as expressions of a nation’s appreciation for outstanding military service, usually without regard to rank.  Considered the most prestigious medal existing today, the British Victoria Cross is given to members of the military to honor a specific act of courage in the face of the enemy. 


                       Many Different Types of Medals


Academic medals are another highly valued category, prized by students all over the world and given for outstanding academic achievement. Still, religious or devotional medals lead all others in popularity and number. They don’t have to be awarded, they can be bought by the individual, and no special achievement stands behind them.  They belong to all people.


Archaeologists have found Christian devotional medals dating back as far as the 2nd Century.  It is believed that the practice of wearing medals came into being specifically to counter the pagan practice of medal-wearing to ward off evil spirits.  Wicca adherents (modern day witchcraft practitioners) still wear medals for that purpose.


Of course, medals have long been an important devotional tool within the Catholic Church.  In the 16th Century, Pope Pius V, later canonized a Saint, started the practice of blessing medals.  By the 1600s, medals had become so popular that entire cities in Europe had their own medals inscribed with images of their patron saints.  


                                       Medal of Miracles


The Miraculous Medal has long been very special in the Catholic religion. It is also known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception.  It was created by Saint Catherine Laboure of France, following her vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1830.


During that vision, Catherine reportedly heard Mary request that certain sacred images be put on medallions to be worn by the faithful. The medal became known as the Miraculous Medal because of the extraordinary number of miracles reported by wearers.







                                      Patron Saint Medals & Pins



Patron Saints are specifically revered by Roman Catholics, although people of many faiths have had special devotions to one or another of them. There are literally thousands of Patron Saints, considered as special intercessors before God for, among other things, members of a special profession or occupation, or for people who live in a specific town or country or who have special needs.

   —Only a few of these have the official blessing of the Catholic Church itself. 


Still, Patron Saints are very important to many people and medallions (and pins) commemorating them often bring a great deal of solace and peace to their wearers. Tack pins, beautifully carded for gift-giving, are particularly ideal Patron Saint amulets, updated to fit today’s generation of users.  Here are just a few of those available:

  • Saint Michael, Patron Saint of police, and all those by the same name.






  • Saint Christopher, worn to protect travelers.






  • Saint Daniel, Patron Saint of wisdom and learning.






  • Saint Peregrine, Patron Saint of cancer.  What a wonderful, thoughtful gift for someone suffering from this disease.


                                                Crib Medals


There are devotional medals for many specific situations, too.  Medals for little children are highly regarded, and make for wonderful birth and birthday gifts. And how about little crib medals invoking the protection of the angels for a little one?  This is a lovely gift to welcome a newborn into the world.


And. what animal lover wouldn’t truly love a devotional medal especially for a beloved pet cat or dog?  If you think this a bit irreverent, don’t.  Remember Saint Francis and his remarkable love for all the creatures of the earth, and suddenly such medals will take on a new meaning.  

  • Ever-watchful guardian angel pet tags are adorably carded to delight any pet owner.  Available in a variety of styles for both cats and dogs.
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Filed under Fashion Business Trends
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Look out, U.S. retailers, the flamboyant Topshop has arrived on our shores, and with its first flagship store in New York’s chic SoHo, the hot U.K. chain plans to grab as big a slice as possible of the American teen market. 


This is no minor event.  As one retailer put it, SoHo hasn’t seen such a retail phenomenon since Bloomingdale’s opened its annex for contemporary fashion in 2004.  Its product cache of cheap, irreverent clothes and its in-store dramatics of at-the-moment hot happenings make Topshop a tough competitor.


Indeed, this is a store that knows what it is doing. The new SoHo space itself is pretty spectacular, covering four floors and 40,000 square feet with about 2,000 stock keeping units of everything from sexy sequined dresses to skin-tight body suits and color-blinding accessories, all at a broad price range.


                                            Voodoo Shop


There are trendy looking mannequins everywhere, and specialty shops within the shop catering to a wide spectrum of tastes and interests, from Goth to Romantic.  There’s a Trend shop for the latest fashion buzz, a shop for hot graphic Ts, and a Voodoo shop for all things dark and dangerous, to name just a few. On the mezzanine is a DJ booth for wild rock music, played on every big shopping day and special occasion.  



  • Faceted Swarovski crystals hang delicately off an ankle bracelet of fine beaded chain. A swinging trend item!




  • A stretch bracelet with all-around little rectangles left open for photos. Fits the teen mode perfectly!


                                 A New Business Formula


Topshop is one of several major international chains revolutionizing the business of ready to wear.  Its big innovation is Cheap Chic: offering trendy fashion at reasonable (and often dirt-cheap) prices.  It also offers a big plus for the young crowd: QUICK PRODUCT CHANGE. 


Instead of buying products in quantity, discounting those that are slower sellers, and reordering faster-selling items, the NEW RETAIL IDIOM is:

  • buy thin (i.e., small orders)
  • sell fast, and then
  • buy brand new items. 

The stores don’t discount. They always have new merchandise, which makes them incredibly attractive, especially to young buyers. 


How can Topshop pull off this wizardry of making the trendiest of styles affordable and then bringing them to market fast?  According to Associated Press, this is the basic formula:  They design, manufacture, and deliver their up-to-the-minute stocks to stores worldwide within weeks, in contrast to the months of lead time department stores and most traditional retailers require.


                                       Good Pricing


Who are these big time Cheap Chic winners?  Well, the whole new idea started with H & M, a Swiss company that brought its new retail philosophy to the USA in 2000, giving The Gap (the world’s largest clothing retailer) incredible competition. As New York retail consultant Howard Davidowitz puts it, “Gap has been underwater for six or seven years.  It simply can’t compete with these new Cheap Chic shops.”


Other fast fashion shops, like Zara’s and Mango, are doing just as well, even in the present recessionary atmosphere. Of course, good pricing is an added element of their success.  Some products, like t-shirts, can be extremely cheap, running just a few dollars.  Others can run up to a couple of hundred dollars, but they are usually the fast-fashion shop’s interpretations of couturier products; i.e., sandals that mimic an Yves Saint Laurent $1,000 design are less than $150 at Topshop.



  • A prom sensation!  This stunning 3″ pageant tiara features clear crystals in scrolling designs.  Show it off NOW!




  • Design-savvy with the current formal fashion trends is this luxe silver leatherette evening clutch. Just right for the big-dance night!


                           Revamping Shipping Schedules


American companies are running fast to catch up with the new retail formula and at least equal if not outsmart these new European fashion merchandisers.  American Eagle says it is shipping new merchandise to its stores every two weeks.  Abercrombie & Fitch is also straining to deliver product with shorter lead time.  Not everyone is able to pull this off, but for many, mastering the new formula could be a matter of survival.


Consider this:  Today’s teenagers are living in a whole new world where “fast” is taken for granted.  Time, alternative publications shout out, is “speeding up.” Listen to the music of just a few decades ago, like the 60s, and then listen to today’s music. Wow!  That old stuff sounds like a dirge! Today’s generations speak faster, move faster, think faster, and buy faster.  From a retail point of view, it comes down to this: If it doesn’t sell NOW, it isn’t going to sell later. Scary.


Of course, not everybody wants new merchandise every couple of weeks.  Older customers, in particular, are traditionally much less mesmerized by the marketing hurricane of NOW.  They often latch on to a great look, and want to stay there, with just a few concessions to trend.  But to kids, immediacy is where it is at. And kids buy.  And buy.  And buy. 


It’s something to really think about….

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Monday, April 13th, 2009

Filed under Fashion Trends
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We’ve had Bling.  We’ve had Shine. And now…we’ve got Glitter, and is it ever spectacular!


Just look at these gorgeous gemstones!  No…they aren’t part of a new luxury line of jewelry.  They’re on – yes, on – designer clothes East and West and they are distinctive, colorful, and rich, rich, rich.  


Christian Dior presents a fabulously luxurious dress with strong Eastern sensibilities.  In an intense purple chiffon, the shoulders and neckline of the dress are lavishly embellished with vine-like gem embroidery featuring tiny as well as larger stones.

     — Over it all hangs a long, heavy gold necklace with huge gold ball beads topped by a thin choker of purple cord.


Balmain has designed a mini-skirted dress of pure silver shimmer – the entire dress is done in what could be pure gemstone pave.  Topping the dress is a same-material scarf, tied in a bow.


Designer Miu Miu works gemstones more traditionally, but with no less power.  One of her dresses features an overall gemstone design of flower bud clusters, looking like a view of the starry Milky Way.  In black with gold, white, and gray stones…this is a knockout!








                                       Never Too Much


It goes without saying that if these designs were presented to the public ten or fifteen years ago, they would have knocked jewelry out of the box.  Bam!  After all, how much glitter can you get?  But in today’s world of enthusiastic embellishment, more is never too much.  In fact, it is often not even enough, as with embellished dresses and coats.  They seem to demand more…in the form of jewelry, naturally!


Alber Elbaz offered a fabulous look for the glitterati age:  A glittery dress straight out of the Forties, with gemstones down the sleeves, at the waist (in the form of a tight belt with big circular buckle), across the top and at the hemline.  Here, the gemstones are dark, intense, dramatic.  But unadorned?  Never! 


With this wild creation, Elbaz puts a huge two tiered choker of gold, brown and white pieces…well, you really have to see it!  The necklace is made up of forms that look like big roller skate wheels out of yesterday, offset by very big globe beads. On top of it all, the model is adorned with a tight-fitting black feather hat that cups the side of the head somewhat rakishly. 





Got a passion for Dracula?  Then, this has got to be your year in the beauty business.  Hot, wild, and very black is the newest facial makeup looks coming out of several leading makeup shows in Los Angeles. Unquestionably the most important look bowing here was a Goth special:  black eyes with matte-finished nude lips, which really make the eyes pop! Straight out of Transylvania.


Another hot look involved bright orange lips with heavy black mascara and green eye shadow plus black shadow at the eye creases. Plenty of deep, smoky eye designs reflected strong Retro images, while other dark, dramatic eye presentations showed eyes completely rimmed in black with dark eye shadows creating an array of different shapes and outlines.


The strong black attractions brought up memories of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra classic, and the star’s super-heavy Kohl makeup that emphasized her inimitably gorgeous violet eyes.  Bringing it all into a very today look was, among other things, a 24-karat gold lip gloss to enhance fullness.  No natural lips here, please.







  • This blackstone chip necklace set features polished jet black gemstone chips that glimmer seductively while still maintaining the somber darkness of the Goth fashion story.  Intense!
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Saturday, April 11th, 2009