Friday, October 28, 2011

Ralph Lauren's Best Campaign

In 1988, Ralph Lauren ran my favorite of his campaigns in The New York Times Magazine. The clothes,  the models chosen, even many of the hair styles (more than the lifestyle depicted) were so right. Here are some images I scanned in from my tattered copy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My J. McLaughlin Favorites, Fall/Winter 2011

My fall and winter schedule has been filling up with meetings and events in New York that fall somewhere between khakis and boat shoes on the dock and formal fundraisers at the Hayden Planetarium. So I recently went to J.McLaughlin’s with a couple of specific goals in mind.

Pants were a priority as I have had a terrifically difficult time finding ones that fit, flatter and that are comfortable, as well as a notch (or two) up from my usual khakis.  I also needed a holiday cocktail party ensemble.

While I had known their downtown store for slightly over twenty years, their new Westport Store is so much more accessible. And, oh yes, parking!

It is hard to believe this building was transformed from a car-wash.  

Before getting down to business, I checked out the Men's collections.

Festive Socks

A Little Taxidermy 

The first thing that caught my eye was the Palomino Cardigan in the Off White.  Made of Italian Merino Wool it was as soft as it was thick.  And it was truly comfortable.

Then I tried on the Stockbridge Stretch Corduroys in Oyster.  These are made of 97% Cotton with 3% spandex.

I didn't want to take the sweater off.
I like a little stretch in any less casual pants.  It makes moving in them easier, as well as finding a more flattering fit.  These had a 31 inch inseam which was perfect for me.

Then I discovered the Palomino Cardigan also came in Camel.  It was hard to say which I like more.

The next pants I tried were the Slim Fit Bi-Stretch Dixie in Cape Hatteras Sand.   And again, the fit was exactly what I was looking for.   The J. McLaughlin sizing was consistent across styles and both had a flattering silhouette.  They are slim-legged, not the low-waisted, wide-legged, boot-cut styles which have been everywhere.
The Slim-Fit Dixies are somewhat less dressy, as you can see here with the back pockets.
These also came in corduroy, which too fit great.  Here, the 14-wale in Taupe.

Next, I had to find something for a specific holiday cocktail party.   As it will be in the city in the evening,  I turned to Black.  I found the Stockbridge Stretch Corduroys.   That was easy.

A somewhat simple white blouse was supposed to be next.  But I got distracted by this Blue and White Gingham Whitney Blouse.  I was just so taken by the colors and patterns.

The ladies at J. McLaughlin were right - I needed a size smaller.
This Whitney Blouse in White would be a good layering piece.

But the final cocktail party flourish came when I tried on this Kara Print Quilted Vest, with its equestrian vibe.   It was certainly more vibrant than anything I normally wear,  but I was feeling bold.

My cocktail party ensemble was complete. My goals had been met (although the right shoes will come later). I was also able to see everything here in less than 45 minutes, thanks to Jodi's acumen and good humor, which I also really appreciated.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blankets from Swans Island

Blankets and throws from Swans Island are expensive.  They are expensive not for the reasons many lesser products are expensive today:
  • The CEO of the leveraged buy-out shell company lives in an expensive New York apartment and has friends on the board. 
  • They need huge markups to pay for marketing and PR to keep stories out of the press that the products are outsourced to sweat shops in China.
  • Sharp-elbowed, competitive housewives will eagerly overpay for them to show off as a posh brand to frenemies in an attempt to appear sophisticated and get a leg up in their status arms race.
Rather, they cost more for all of the right reasons.
  • The blankets and other items are made (and sourced) on the coast of Maine.  
  • The processes used are uncompromising.  If you set out to create a perfect blanket, this is how you would do it.  
  • The items can last for generations.    

A Nice Weave

Their distinctive box...

Seeing the process first hand.

Swans Island Blankets has been renamed Swans Island, although Swans Island (formally Swans Island Blankets) is no longer on Swans Island.  But they do still make blankets.

Swans Island's headquarters is in a 1780 farmhouse in Northport, Maine.
Owner, Bill Laurita.

The organic wool is soft, both in the summer weight and winter weight blankets.

 Cotton soaks up water (and looses its warmth when it does), and even down duvets trap moisture and can create clammy conditions.  Wool, however, keeps heat but wicks moisture away, creating a dry warmth.
They are famous not only for these blankets, but their rare wool as well.
Most commercial wool vendors use harsh processes to get out all of the dirt and twigs.  Swans Island pays their suppliers more for cleaner wool to avoid this damaging step.

Then, all of the sheared wool is custom spun in Vermont using only biodegradable soaps and oils.  And unlike other spinneries, Swans Island gets back the same wool they sent in.  Using less harsh chemicals means more lanolin is retained, which is why their wool is so soft.

Their fleeces come from farms across Maine, including from some sheep who live year round on islands off of northern Maine.

Soft gifts for babies.

(They have some amazing looms.)
Seeing their air-assisted shuttle looms...
...and  their new dye house...

...where the interesting,  complicated, and completely natural dye process was explained. No petrolium-based, synthetic dyes here.  And all their yarn is skein dyed, which means, among other attributes, that wool has slight variations in color. 

Depending on the color "recipe" some yarns are in the large tanks for only a few minutes, some are in overnight.

The Extractor

The new building had just been baptised with its first stain on the white walls. 

Irene explains an upcoming "build a blanket" feature where customers can custom-design their own blankets and throws.

Irene showed her favorite colors.
They also sell yarn for knitting.

Natural Variations
Just down the road from them....

In Lincolnville, one can get the ferry to Isleboro...

Waiting for the Ferry to Go Over

100% Organic Merino Wool

A Perfect Spot