Browsing Category

Lifestyle

Design, Lifestyle

Fashion Designer Tracy Reese Has Plenty Going On

October 28, 2019
designer tracy reese hope for flowers launch

Of all the fashion designers I’ve admired, Tracy Reese holds a special place in my closet. Back in the 90s when she launched her eponymous brand and her diffusion line Plenty, it was novel to discover a woman designer who was young, gifted and Black like me.

Her clothes were always joyful, with exuberant color and lush fabrics such as colorful silks that evoked India. I bought everything of hers that fit. My most treasured piece is a turquoise silk dashiki embellished with African beads and cowrie shells; I keep it wrapped up like a wedding dress so it lasts forever.

So when I had a choice this Wednesday between going to Napa to meet a big name cult winemaker or Anthropologie Palo Alto to meet Reese, it was no contest.

Reese greeted me warmly “Hi I’m Tracy,” with a big smile and handshake that ended with a little squeeze.  Dressed in a black sleeveless dress with white lacing in back, ornate Mexican silver earrings, and furry slides, she looks like one of my fashionable Michigan cousins.

Reese came to the West Coast to debut her new capsule collection Hope for Flowers, and talk about all the changes she’s made in the past couple years. She moved her design business to Detroit, her hometown, after parting ways with her longtime backer. As she discussed in a recent New York Times piece they disagreed on the direction the business should take, so she dissolved the Tracy Reese brand.

“The release from that has been so cathartic for me,” Reese said, during her interview with Rebecca Brown, senior editor of shopping at PopSugar. “It’s given me time to think about how I wanted to focus my time and energy going forward.”

Through her work on the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, she did a virtual residency in sustainability. That led her to thinking about how she could build a sustainable brand with living wages and eco-friendly textiles that are made to last instead of being discarded quickly.

 “When I design for fall, I’m pining for spring.”– Tracy Reese

The result is Hope for Flowers, and she turned to Anthropologie, her partner for 20 years, for the launch.”I believe in slow and steady growth. I believe in relationships and friendships,” said the designer, whose best friend Terrie took photos with fans.  The collection is understated, with graceful, feminine lines, lots of vintage details and of course, flowers. The deep colors and greens feel right for cool weather, but can transition. “When I design for fall I’m pining for spring,” Reese said. “That green is still living in my heart.”

The black corset dress Reese wore (the Maria!) is made from organic cotton; so is the white Victorian-style blouse with openwork framing the bodice. Other pieces are from ethically sourced silk, cupro and lyocell. The pieces cost a bit more than her, but are made to be treasured and worn for years.

Hope for Flowers isn’t 100% sustainable yet; there are so many steps to sort out from the cotton being grown, harvested, milled into fabric, dyed, cut and sewn. Currently, everything is made in China at a factory Reese has worked with for a while. She’s seen how they treat and pay their workers so she feels comfortable working with them. But she wants to shift some of the line’s creative work to Detroit, by employing sewers from Flint and other locals for finishing work like embroidery or custom fabric from Detroit Denim.

Between the openness she’s found working in the Midwest, and getting off the hamster wheel of shipping out new clothes every month and doing seasonal shows, Reese is feeling renewed. “When you open the door all the creativity floods in,” she said. “I’ve come to a particular time when I’m not afraid to slow it down. I want to enjoy the process more.”

And then the crowd dissolved into exploring the collection, nibbling more cheese and charcuterie from the gorgeous spread created by Terrain Cafe and trying things on. The Maria dress is a heavy cotton duck that could work year round, with short boots in fall or sandals in summer. As I was leaving long after the event ended, I noticed that Reese was still there, thanking store associates and doling out hugs and selfies.

Here are some of my favorites from Reese’s new line exclusively sold at Détroit is the New Black and Anthropologie; look for new pieces coming soon.

hope for flowers tracy reese maria midi dress anthropologie

 

 

Design, Pop Culture, Shopping

Like I Said … Keep Calm and Drink Bubbly

April 22, 2013
keep calm drink bubbly

keep calm champagne

This really doesn’t need much text; the sentiment expressed is quite self-explanatory. In fact, I’m a bit chagrined I didn’t think of this myself. Bubbly is an instant mood tonic, and I’ve been encouraging everyone to enjoy the Bubbly 365 lifestyle for a while now.

This adorable poster from the Keep Calm Shop on Etsy is pretty in pink, as well as a range of other vivid shades like gold, turquoise and emerald, because they want you to be happy. The poster is just $16 retail, which is the same price as a decent bottle of domestic U.S. sparkling wine, cava, or prosecco, but alas just a glass of champagne.

Food + Recipes, Shopping

Delicious Chocolate & Champagne Candies for Valentine’s Day

February 1, 2013
socola_valentine_chocolates

Words of love are screen-printed on champagne ganache chocolates filled with raspberry pâte de fruits. Sea salt caramels topped with red salt complete the box from Socola Chocolates.

Probably because they’re both foods associated with indulgence and pleasure, people love to talk about eating chocolate while sipping champagne for Valentine’s Day. Know what that combo makes me think? Yuck!

A typical brut champagne is far too acidic to pair with a sweet food like chocolate, so even your favorite champagne will taste tart and thin. And the wine does nothing to improve the flavor of the chocolate. It’s really a waste of both.

Here’s how we can stop the madness: with chocolate truffles that are made with champagne! This way, the champagne lends brightness, fruit and a hint of luxury to the chocolate.

If you’re feeling ambitious, it’s easy to make Chocolate-Champagne Truffles yourself with this recipe from Martha. She rolls hers in white sparkling sugar, but it would be fun to use different colors.

But if you don’t fancy cleaning chocolate and sugar off your kitchen cabinets and floor, here are some great champagne and chocolate truffles to buy for your sweetie or yourself for Valentine’s Day:

Socola Chocolatier’s Aphrodite’s Delight: This chocolate gift starts with raspberry pâtes de fruits enrobed in champagne ganache; each one is topped with the word love in a different language. The other half of the box is filled with grey sea salt chocolate caramels topped with red Hawaiian salt. Super-cute sisters Wendy and Susan, who are based in San Francisco, just became the featured chocolatiers for Zaarly, a cool site that curates all sorts of services. New members can go to Zaarly and snag the 12-piece Aphrodite’s Delight box for just $15; shipping is free in San Francisco and $5 elsewhere.

 

Recchiuti Champagne Truffles: Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti adds the deeply toasty and fruity Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs to super creamy dark chocolate. They’re rolled in powered sugar as the final step. Pick them up at the Recchiuti shop in the Ferry Building, at the new Chocolate Lab Café in Dogpatch or online.

 

Moonstruck Chocolate Pink Champagne Truffle Heart: I met a sweet lady from Seattle’s Moonstruck Chocolates at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and was eyeing these cute pink hearts. A candied raspberry is at the center, surrounded by a white chocolate ganache flavored with champagne and raspberries and finally a white chocolate shell. Like all of their confections, it’s hand painted.

 

 

Teuscher Champagne Truffles: While I’ve not tried these yet, the website for the Palo Alto-based confectionery makes a compelling claim: company founder Dolf Teuscher Sr. invented the chocolate truffle back in 1946 in Switzerland.  A buttercream center infused with Dom Perignon Champagne is wrapped in either dark or milk chocolate. The milk chocolate original is dusted in confectioner’s sugar for a juicy sensation, while the dark chocolate is rolled in bittersweet cocoa powder for a drier, deeply flavored bite.

 

Vosges Haut Chocolat Champagne Truffles: These truffles and I go way back: We’re both from Chicago. The stylish chocolatiere Katrina Markoff mixes Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée with 85% chocolate and a splash of rosewater. The truffle is finished with a dusting of cocoa powder before being popped in a purple box.  You should know that the Vosges website has a range of other Krug and chocolate gifts, just please promise you won’t drink the champagne and the chocolate together.

Entertaining, Party Recipes and Pairings

A Quick Primer on Bubbly and Holiday Entertaining the Bubbly Girl Way

December 27, 2012
maria_holiday_Framboise_punch

Maria with sparkling Framboise Apricot Punch from The Bubbly Bar.

I know entertaining can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. All you need, really, are a few fool-proof recipes, a relatively clean house and an outfit that makes you feel stunning.

My first rule of entertaining is to plan on opening a bottle of bubbly — either Champagne or sparkling wine — as soon as guests arrive. People get excited when they see that curvy bottle and hear the pop as it opens. It reminds them of good times and it will put them in the party mood. You can serve it straight, pour it into a punch or a sparkling cocktail.

The great thing is that these days there are so many choices when it comes to sparkling wine and Champagne. So why not try something new? You could choose a champagne from a family who grows their own grapes and then makes it into a distinctive champagne that carries the unique taste of their vineyard. These grower champagnes — like the Champagne Saint-Chamant Blanc de Blancs NV — are bursting with flavor and personality. This one is made by Christian Coquillette, a charming 80+ year old man with a proper French mustache, who enjoys aging his wines a looong time. He has a mile’s worth of caves under his house, so why not? This 100% chardonnay wine is aged for seven years, giving it the rich flavors of a much more expensive cuvée, yet it sells for just $48 because Msr. Coquillette isn’t a household name.

Or perhaps you’d like to get even more adventurous and try a bottle of fine sparkling wine from somewhere else? There’s a growing number of producers around the world who use the  “Champagne method” to craft delicious sparkling wines that offer an amazing value. One of my favorite international producers is Graham Beck in South Africa, who makes wonderful cap classique — the South African term for méthode Champenoise wine. Beck’s wines, which use chardonnay and pinot noir, have crisp and clean flavors and usually sell for around $20 a bottle. And according to the Graham Beck website, Presidents Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela as well as super-spy James Bond like his wine, too.

Italy is a fabulous source of sparkling wine, as every prosecco lover knows. My greatest discovery from Italy this past year was Ferrari Metodo Classico. Since 1902, they’ve quietly been making fine bubbly that drinks like Champagne high in the hills near Trento not far from the Alps.

Sweet sparkling wines are always crowd-pleasers, whether it’s popular classic Moscato d’Asti or one of the crop of new pink Moscatos and other sweet pink sparkling wines that are winning fans because of their cotton-candy hue and easy to love flavors of peach and melon. Last year I was surprised by a well-balanced pink Moscato from Moldova; this year I succumbed and bought some of Torti’s Hello Kitty Sweet Pink. Though few are interested on what’s inside the cute bottle, it’s made with pinot noir from the Oltrepo Pavese region of Lombardy.

Don’t worry about pairing foods with sparkling wine; it’s surprisingly versatile. Anything salty, crispy, fatty or fried will be perfect. That list includes: popcorn, French fries, potato chips, prosciutto ham, Parmesan cheese, fried chicken and shrimp tempura. The Bubbly Girl recipe section has some good party appetizers like Posh Popcorn and Tartelette Flambée, an easy bacon and onion pizza you make with purchased puff pastry.

Shellfish of all sorts is delicious with sparkling wine because the wine’s acidity is like adding a squeeze of lemon to a shrimp or some cracked crab. A tray of nigiri and maki rolls from your favorite sushi spot is perfect with bubbly.

See how easy that is?

© 2012 Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl.

 

Celebrities & Champagne

Perrier-Jouet Champagne Florale Edition LA Launch Party

October 26, 2012

The new Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Florale edition was unveiled at Katsuya in Brentwood. Photos by John Sciulli/Courtesy of Perrier-Jouet

Champagne means so many different things to different people. On Champagne Day 2012, people are celebrating all the different expressions of this special sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France.

I haven’t been to Champagne, France in a few years, but one of my favorite Champagne experience here in California was the launch party for Perrier-Jouët Champagne‘s new limited edition Belle Epoque Florale bottle.

 

We gathered in a chic, candelit private salon at Katsuya in Brentwood to sip Champagne and meet artist and famed Japanese floral designer  Makoto Azuma. His name may be new to Americans, but he’s well known in Japan and Europe for his avant-garde floral designs and pieces he’s created for Helmut Lang, Lady Dior and Shiseido.

 

Speaking through a translator, Azuma explained that he was inspired by the original Belle Epoque bottle designed by Emile Galle, his respect for nature and the delicate Japanese anemone flower. Azuma says he was also inspired by the sensation of bubbles jumping around on his palate and the smoothness of the wine and its complex taste.

For his new edition, he started with a stainless steel cube which represents artificial beauty created by man and filled it with Japanese blooms, calla lilies, phaelenopsis orchids and vines that symbolize nature.

“I wanted the work to be an homage to Galle,” Azuma said. “The flower language of the plants is quiet and sincere.”

Inside the bottle is the 2004 vintage of the Perrier-Jouët Champagne. It tastes both rich and bright making it a perfect pairing for sushi or nothing at all.