Trade Show Shenanigans

A Year Without Vegas: Reports, Rumors, and Rumblings heard from Jewelry Week 2017

Every May for the last five years I went through the motions of preparing my mind, spirit, and feet for what was usually a week or more of schmoozing retailers, cozying up to brands, and/or fighting off the occasional handsy old-timer who thought he was above the law because of his name or status in the jewelry industry. And every year I would return from said week exhausted and oftentimes broken, looking for whatever it was I needed to replenish my drive and rebuild my faith in the career decision I made more than two decades ago; a decision I still don’t regret despite its twists, turns, and occasional turmoil.

This year, however, was quite different. For this year, the closest I came to the Venetian was spending time with actual Venetians in the City of Canals in the country of my ancestors; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear about Vegas. I certainly heard a whole lot about Vegas, so while this may not be a “Tales from the Strip” in the traditional sense, I’ve decided to call it “Whispers from the West,” as this year seemed to be a kinder, gentler experience for many, many people.

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“Give me your take on this year’s Vegas in five words or less… GO!”

That was the text I sent out to nearly fifty folks in my contacts list, post Vegas shows, in order to get a generalized feel of how the show went for them. This group included store owners, retail salespeople, designers, wholesalers, members of the media, and PR and marketing professionals whom I’ve known for some time and who rarely, if ever, miss a Las Vegas Jewelry Week. Here is just a sampling of the responses I received:

“Change or be changed.” – Sam Jansen, MBM Diamonds

“Quiet yet productive; always fun.” – Shannon Smith Waters, Hale’s Jewelers

“Groundhog Day with some surprises.” – Michael O’Connor, Celebrity Stylist

“Cautious optimism.” – Alexis Padis, Padis Jewelry

“I did not go.” – Ben Simon, Windsor Jewelers

And yet if I had to combine all the declarations in one pot and call it a meal, I’d probably name it Forge Ahead Soup. The overall vibe I received as a non-attendee was a concoction of zeal and hope created from a base of uniformity with a dash of uncertainty thrown in. “It seemed like there was less foot traffic and fewer buyers but the buyers in attendance were focused and wrote orders,” said one attendee who didn’t wish to be named. “Low traffic/high yield” said another, and one relatively new designer I reached out to said that she had experienced her most successful trade show to date. I also had a well-known retailer come back to me with two variations that he said fit the five words or less suggestion: “no one was buying diamonds,” although there were “price points for today’s economy,” which despite his usually fearful outlook, he accepted as a positive.

Other statements made by a handful of industry veterans I spoke with had to do with the designs on display. While the artistic and often complex level of jewelry creations seems to have reached an all-time high, some retailers are concerned that their buyers aren’t ready for inventive fine jewelry that may not translate well to either their younger buyers who have smaller budgets, or to their conservative customers who may not understand the artistry/price ratio. “There are so many gorgeous designs out there right now,” said one retailer I contacted who has a store in the south, “however, I always have to ask myself… ‘is it sellable? Can my team sell this?’”

But, Las Vegas Jewelry Week isn’t just for new jewelry and gemstone buyers, manufacturers, and sellers, thanks to the focus that has been paid to watches by both the COUTURE show and JCK in the last couple of years. And while Swiss watch exports saw a slight decline (-1.1%) in May in the United States, according to a report by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, on average, the industry has seen a worldwide increase in their numbers. This year shows a 9% growth from May of 2016. That is good news for brands and boutiques alike, and with more and more companies pulling out of Baselworld for a variety of reasons, those folks running the watch shows in Vegas may have unknowingly found themselves with an opportunity unlike any our industry has been familiar with in the past.

With all this being said, and with all that I learned and heard about the business side of Jewelry Week in Sin City this year, there was and still is the feeling that something was missing.

Oh, that’s right…

Me.

Here are five more words to sum up Vegas according to John Carter of Jack Lewis Jewelers:

“No Palumbo equals no fun.”

That’s not to say that I didn’t do my fair share of drinking during my plethora of visits to wineries across Italy, but come on, we all know that sipping a pour from a two-hundred-dollar bottle of Super Tuscan in the cellar of a 300-year-old winery doesn’t come with quite the same excitement stigma as slamming a shot of whiskey you accepted from someone you may or may not have known, at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of Eye Candy’s dance floor while sweating through your Spanx, now does it? And while both are experiences that – combined – will eventually make up the story of my life (as written by a yet-to-be-discovered, best-selling murder-mystery novelist… you’ll see), it is times like the latter situation that make for the most interesting stories in the end.

Here – in no particular order – are some of the events and occurrences that either happened during past Jewelry Weeks, or that may have happened at this one, which made my missing out all the more difficult:

  • High-fiving Chaka Khan during her performance of “I’m Every Woman”
  • Duck-facing with WJA Awards for Excellence Nominee, Wendy Brandes
  • Hating Michael Schechter
  • Running a 5K for charity, past prostitutes at 6:00 a.m. on Las Vegas Boulevard
  • Spending way too much money on the shittiest martini I’ve ever had
  • Eating M&M’s for lunch and knowing that’s the only nutrition I’ll get all day
  • #TallGirlClub
  • Being recognized as either “that blogger” or “that blogger who throws alcohol to the crowd during speaking engagements”
  • A concert in a pool
  • Any night with any member of the Asscher family
  • Liking Michael Schechter again
  • Struggling to get proper lighting for watch shots
  • #OriginalVegasGems
  • Taking a full glass of Scotch into the cab and knowing no one would have a problem with that
  • The Oris Party
  • Glow-in-the-dark phallic symbols
  • Bobby’s Burger Palace
  • Visiting my AGTA FAM (looking at you, Bindra clan)
  • Partying with my AGS YTH FAM
  • Hanging out with my WJA FAM
  • Having dinner with my actual FAM FAM (because my Uncle lives in Vegas)
  • Seventeen-dollar Starbucks cappuccinos
  • Sharks, and I’m not talking about the ones at Mandalay Bay
  • Singing frogs, dancing fountains, gambling celebrities
  • Wondering if my feet can make it another four days

Here’s hoping that those of you I haven’t spoken with who did attend Jewelry Week this year had a wonderfully successful show, in whatever way that means and whichever way that occurred.

Let’s hear it for cautious optimism.

Let’s hear it for forging ahead.

Let’s hear it for watches and jewelry.

Let’s hear it… for Las Vegas.

 

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Petals, Pavement, Paper, and Plastic: BIJORHCA Paris Brings Beauty Back to Basics

Paris, France is otherworldly. Think about it; if you’ve never been there, it’s as foreign to you as a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons though thankfully not quite as cold, (at least in September). Known as the “City of Light,” Paris isn’t just a place on a map, but rather a genre; an attitude, an emotion, even. Feeling Parisian means one is serious about work but curious about life. It means one dresses the part of a runway model but makes love with the ferocity of an untamed beast. It means deliberate kisses on both cheeks, ice in your 2 o’clock glass of rosé, and never, ever wearing flip flops in public. Paris isn’t easy for the rest of the world to figure out nor does it wish to be, which is why the surprises that Paris presents us with are ones we mortals value, learn from, and not soon forget. And the BIJORHCA jewelry show was the perfect paradigm of the city’s glorious yet unexpected delights.

After landing at Charles De Gaulle airport and going through what felt like a year’s long line at customs, I was greeted by fellow American jewelry blogger Matthew Perosi, who graciously accompanied me on the shuttle bus to Porte de Versailles expo center – Paris’ largest – in the 15th arrondissement. BIJORHCA selected one blogger from the United States to send to the September show but they got a Buy One/Get One deal as Matthew lives in Bordeaux six months out of the year and decided he’d take the train over to Paris to accompany me for a few days. Upon our arrival we were met by Pauline Royer (our contact for the show) as well as Show Director, Aude Leperre, and Artistic Director, Richard Martin, all of who were impeccably dressed, stunningly kind, and gorgeously French. This is not the surprise I spoke of earlier.

Matthew and I settled ourselves into the press room so that I could get an espresso or six (I can’t sleep on planes) and so we could come up with a game plan for how best to tackle the show in the amount of time we had over our three days. Prior to my friend Jen Heebner telling me about BIJORHCA last year I was frankly unfamiliar with it, as I largely write about jewelry found in traditional jewelry stores or high-end boutiques. Fashion and contemporary jewelry just wasn’t much on my radar leading up to this year when I started a new InstaSeries, #50DesignersofJewelry. Researching designers for the social media series (which I was waiting to complete until after this trade show in case you were following along and wondering what happened) developed and grew my interest as it pertained to the creativity of contemporary jewelry designers, and I assumed that being at BIJORHCA was only going to enlighten me more. Now that all is said and done, however, I have to admit that “enlighten” isn’t severe enough a word. Let’s just say I had a complete and utter rebirth regarding what I feel about the jewelry industry now; about where it needs to go, and how open-minded it has to get if it wants to survive for generations to come.

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

Flint lapel pin by Marion Fillancq

The first booth I visited belonged to French designer Marion Fillancq, who started designing jewelry by using crushed mirrored glass, before venturing into her current designs which are made using prehistoric methods. Her pieces often contain uncommon center stones such as flint, and her metal of choice is brass coated in gold or silver. But the thing that grabbed me most was her tag line: “Brut & Chic.” If that mantra alone doesn’t make your ears perk up, I’m not sure what will.

Marion’s designs set the tone for what was to come in terms of nontraditional materials and everyday elements we would soon discover. Spanish design house Testone creates organic masterpieces in the form of brooches and pendants, by overlaying leaves and plants found in the wooded areas of Spain with a variety of non-precious and precious metals. French jeweler Le Côté de Guermantes (meaning, “time regained” [and also a novel by Marcel Proust]) makes necklaces and other items out of bronze and the pages of old, worn books; some in French but some also in English like the ”Pride and Prejudice” piece I nearly purchased for myself. Dutch designer Parsifal forms brightly-colored poppy flowers into lapel pins by immortalizing them with a clear coat of resin (and displaying them brilliantly in a rainbow pattern), and the husband and wife team of Christian and Malene Storm of Danish company Dansk Smykkekunst go out of their way to create affordable and fashionable jewellery and accessories by using a base material of copper overlaid in 14K gold, 925 silver, rhodium, or hematite. But the other important thing to know about Dansk Smykkekunst’s designs (as well as many others I saw) is their attentiveness to sustainability and green processes as well as their desire to keep their products as chemically free as possible. This is what many European and South American countries do that the United States struggles with, at least for now. Fairmined gold, ethically-sourced gemstones, and sustainable materials are going to be talked about and used more and more in the very near future and the companies who are already on board are going to reap the benefits of being the early game changers.

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

Sarah Cavender flower brooch

While the majority of the brands exhibiting at BIJORHCA were from Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa, there were also a handful of American designers showing their wares and having successful shows. I accidentally stumbled upon Sarah Cavender’s booth as I was leaving the press lounge and saw what I believed to be a necklace created out of some sort of fabric. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I went to touch the piece and it didn’t move. I was astonished to find out that it was made of brass mesh screening – a material that Sarah treats and folds into flowers, bugs, and other earthly shapes. Her degree from Philadelphia’s College of Art (where she majored in sculpture) had allowed Sarah to experiment with brass, bronze, and other metal wires until she developed a unique process working screen into various nature-inspired representations. Her creations consist of not just jewelry, but of belts and handbags as well. Her work was some of the most extraordinary I’ve seen in all my years working with metalsmiths and I look forward to watching how her brand grows.

Also from the States was Texas designer Claudia Fajardo, whose designs are brightly hued and border on a Native American vibe. Claudia uses glass beads and gemstones for color and contrasts them with hammered and satin finishes on her metals.

I noticed that acrylics like Lucite or Plexiglas played a huge role at this year’s BIJORHCA show, showing up in the form of everything from bangle bracelets to whimsical brooches to clutch purses. And while the artistry was awe-inspiring (and occasionally giggle-inducing), I couldn’t help but think back to that scene from The Graduate where Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin that he wants him to think about one word… just one word: “Plastics.” Companies like Jean Marie Poinot from France and Aramez out of Brazil are making playful acrylic accessories in the spirit used by a master metalsmith and it was clear that buyers were taking their work seriously, because both of their booths were flanked by onlookers.

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

Daniel Espinosa dressed me up

On a fun note (and I use the word “note” with all puns intended), it was a real treat to meet Allouche Ingrid, head designer at French jewellery brand Sing A Song, which makes men’s and women’s jewelry out of guitar strings and other parts of musical instruments (bonus points for their booth refrigerator which was a converted rock-n-roll stage speaker). Also glee-inducing were the designs of UBU Paris which played with elements such as buffalo horn, tin, resin, and enamel to create oversized baubles and eye-catching adornments. Spanish design house Ceraselle brought change to the table (literally) with convertible leather and button necklaces in colors brighter than Lady Gaga’s wig collection, and French designer Mere Guy utilizes hand-painted pasta… yes, I said PASTA… in their earring, pin, and pendant designs. The level of creativity in both materials and formats used was remarkable in my opinion, and even something as simple as a ribbon bracelet imprinted with fun sayings (like those we saw from the brand Lucky Team) stood out to me simply because it wasn’t something I was used to seeing. There were also a few brands using a process that would mold crushed or powdered gems (such as turquoise and pearl) mixed with resin or polymer into dramatic, vibrant “stones” that they then used in a variety of jewels. Uno de 50 was one such brand using this process, and Daniel Espinosa was another. In fact I felt that Daniel’s jewelry came across as brave and bold in more than one way. His use of a bronze base with 22K gold overlay allows his pieces to be affordable but in no way do they lack fine craftsmanship or detail. His collections draw inspiration from his Latin roots and religious beliefs and his creativity flows as freely as the forms many of his items take.

A couple of other standout jewelry designers I found exhibiting at the show were Brazil’s Léia Sgro and Greece’s AposTolos. Sgro hails from South America but has lived in London, Vienna, Boston, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rome, among other cities. Her designs are not just nature inspired, but also nature created, as she uses wood, leaves, and plants alongside precious metals and Brazilian-mined stones to form her wearable yet very feminine jewels. Apostolos Kleitsiotis draws his design inspiration from the sea and uses age-old Hellenic jewelry making traditions, precious metals, and gems to sculpt contemporary masterpieces worthy of Amphitrite, herself.

But the jewelry design house that affected me most out of all those that I visited had to be Portugal’s Mariadovale. Sisters Alexandrina, Sandra, and Júlia Saraiva each plays a role in the designs their company creates, and the thought process that goes into every one of their collections goes beyond whether or not their pieces are going to sell, and into the realm of wanting the wearer to understand the depth, meaning, and sometimes satire of their creations. In other words, these are not your grandmother’s jewels, so don’t expect rubies, pearls, or platinum. These are your granddaughter’s jewels; jewels for the future, so expect concrete, a story, and an entirely different type of worth. Not quite sure I mean by this? Then let’s look at a segment of the company’s bio from their website. It states, “Each piece of work is designed and produced having a classical approach where forms, themes, and trials are deconstructed and evolve against the concept itself. The concept is the core of each collection, approaching each strand and its respective conceptual unfolding. The motto of the collections appears based on values, feelings and experiences, and aims to call attention not only to daily problems but also to more profound levels of perception like enhancing a satirical view and focusing on dubious content of dogmatic truths – wishing to socially provoke others by those who are wearing each piece of Mariadovale work.” Like I said… not your grandmother’s jewels and not even your grandmother’s jeweler, and for that I’m quite grateful.

The design team at Mariadovale opened my eyes like never before. Their use of concrete (fittingly enough in their collection called, “Concrete”), stone, and metal as a representation of how our lives are bound by the cities in which we live nearly brought me to tears, but the meaning got even deeper when they showed me how the concrete is rough on one side, representing struggle, and yet smooth on another, representing ease; much like the struggles in our everyday lives, and yet both sides seemed to create something beautiful and unique. But it was their “Stone” collection that genuinely shook me to my core as the collection stemmed from words, and as you can tell by the 2,000+ of them in this blog post, words are where I live. When I asked Mariadovale’s marketing director about the collection, he returned my question with a question… “Have you ever heard of Fernando Pessoa? He was Portugal’s most famous poet. He wrote a poem called, ‘Stones in Life’ and it pretty much sums up what this collection is about.”

It reads (translated into English):

To be happy is to recognize that life is worth living, even with all its challenges, misunderstandings, and its periods of crisis.

To be happy is to stop being the victim of problems and being the author of your own story.

To cross deserts outside of yourself, and to find the oasis inside your soul.

To thank God for each morning for the miracle of life.

To be happy is not to be afraid of your own emotions. It is knowing how to speak about yourself.

To have the courage to listen to a “no.” To have the strength to receive a criticism, even when unjust.

Stones in the road? I save every single one, one day I´ll build a castle.

I would like to thank those responsible for selecting me to attend this season’s BIJORHCA Paris show. Not just for their help, their kindness, their welcome, and a really nice hotel room, but also for enlightening me and for broadening my horizons in a way I never thought possible.

To the brands mentioned above and all others I visited during my three-day excursion, thank you for taking the time to educate me and I wish you all much success in your futures. I truly hope we do meet again someday.

I will end this lengthy post by sharing something that I wasn’t aware of until my arrival at the show: BIJORHCA is actually an acronym.

BIJ meaning bijou, or, jewel

OR meaning gold

H representing horlogerie, or, watchmaking

CA meaning cadeaux, or, gifts

And while I touched on the jewels, gold, and potential gifts in this piece, I will be talking about the watchmaking I saw and watch brands I sat down with in a post coming soon over on my watch blog, WhatsOnHerWrist.com.

Thanks, as always, for reading. À bientôt.

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART TWO (b): The Password is “Miami”

Him: (Flustered) “You can’t wear that shirt.”

Me: “WHAT?? Why not? I’m not on the show floor. Myriam said I could even wear midriffs as long as it wasn’t during show hours.”

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Matty and me. I wore the shirt.

Him: (Looking down at my… um… *shirt*) “You just… (now, blushing) you can’t wear that.”

Me: “Hey, after two kids, I’m proud of these suckers (no pun intended). I’m wearing it.”

The above conversation was between my co-worker, Chris, and me, right before we stepped out for the evening on the first night we arrived in Vegas. Let me give you a little back story on him and us, though…

Chris is my twenty-four-year-old colleague, friend, accessory, and sometimes confidant. Over the last year we’ve worked together, we’ve developed a fantastic relationship. Mind you, I’m eighteen years his senior, so it’s sometimes like an “older aunt to younger step-nephew” relationship, but he’s a funny guy and he’s new to the industry, so he’s not jaded like so many seasoned salesmen I know.

I can pretty much guarantee that on any given night I’m going to get a text from Chris with a picture of him at the pool, or him on a golf course, or him with a hot woman, or him saying “I just made a $50,000 sale!” or him exclaiming “NEW YORK IN FIVE WEEKS, BABBBBYYYYYYYY…. YEAHHHHHHH!” Never once am I annoyed, or disappointed, or bothered. I like Chris in my life. He keeps me young, but if I’m being completely honest, he’s not the only one of his kind who does.

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Christopher and I headed to Parasol Up to grab a drink before I was to head out for a “gals only” dinner at Giada De Laurentiis’ new restaurant at the Cromwell. A quick visit to Parasol Down to check out the scenery led to a run-in with Neiman Marcus’ Larry Pelzel, as well as my personal faves, the beautiful and personable Lita and Mike Asscher.

“You really do know everybody,” Chris said to me, and as I turned and winked at him I said… “My love, you have *no* idea…”

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Handsome Sam. Where’s your wallet?

As we hopped the escalator to head back up, we saw the frighteningly gorgeous Sam Jansen (it’s true; I’m actually afraid of him, he’s so damned good looking) while also running into beautiful Rebecca Boyajian, who coincidentally, was part of the group of women I’d be joining for dinner. The four of us grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered our drinks – two Proseccos for the ladies, and two whatevers for the gentlemen (I don’t really pay attention when men speak. Sorry. It’s the “manly” side of me.) What I did realize, however, was that the bartender thought we were a bunch of dipshit millennials (clearly the guy didn’t spot my grays) and tried charging us SEVENTY DOLLARS for the Proseccos. Dude… this is when I gained a whole new respect for Chris Matty. Before I could open my mouth, Chris went BATSHIT on the asshole man for clearly trying to take advantage of us, so as I went to take my first sip of bubbly, the bartender literally took the glass out of my mouth.

Good times.

Once the four of us finished our spirits (and Sam realized he had misplaced his wallet… OOPS!) Rebecca and I headed off in a cab to join our WJA sisters for dinner.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by our host, Brandee, and took our place at a fittingly round table with a fabulous view of the Strip. Brandee almost immediately turned to me and said: “You realize you’re not allowed to blog about any of the conversations that happen here tonight, right?” To which I replied, “I can only make that promise if you and everyone here says that whatever they say is ‘off the record.’”

Brandee (without skipping a beat): “Off the record.”

Des: “Off the record.”

Fran: “Off the record.”

Monica: “Off the record.”

Rebecca: “Off the record.”

Kristie: “Off the record.”

Me: (In my mind) “Y’all suuuuuuuuuck so badly.”

So, that’s pretty much all I can share about the dinner. Can you believe how stupid I am? I gave them the out and they took it and I can’t share a damn thing. I hate me.

OH! I will say this, though, since it’s super important to the rest of the story. As the dinner was ending, Brandee went ahead and checked her phone and said, “Okay, so, we’re going to a speakeasy now, is that cool with everybody?”

For me, she may as well have said, “Hey, I’ve got these five trash bags filled with hundred dollar bills, chocolate, and naked pictures of Paul Rudd that I don’t know what to do with. Can you help me by taking some of them?”

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The Speakeasy.

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Brunettes for days. Photo courtesy of Jen Cullen Williams.

As we waited for taxis to arrive, I began a texting frenzy to a couple of my twenty-something male cohorts to try to get them to meet up with us there.

“Okay, so, a bunch of my middle-aged smokin’ hot friends and I are headed to a burlesque venue called ‘1923’ at the back of Mandalay Bay. It would be nice if we had some eye candy for a change.”

“No, we’re not going to Eye Candy.”

“Yes, I know that’s also at Mandalay Bay.”

“Christ, do you want to go or not?”

“Okay, it’s called ‘1923’ and when you get there, the password is ‘Miami.’”

“Yes, you need a password.”

“Yes, I’m dead serious.”

“Yes, I know you love Vegas.”

“It’s burlesque, not a strip club.”

“You really need to get out more, man.”

And so it was that as our group walked up to the bar and gave the doorman our password, a bookshelf became a hidden passageway into a dimly-lit room with go-go dancers and hipster bartenders. There were people everywhere – three deep at the bar, yet whose was the scruffily-bearded, English face I saw first in the crowd?

“BABS IS HERE!”

Voila. Instant eye candy. Thank you, oh, thank you, you wonderful speakeasy gods.

What… a… CROWD! The jewelry industry’s best and brightest apparently all got the memo – or at least, got the password. Amanda Gizzi, and Jen Cullen Williams, and MY FRIENDS FROM HALE’S and Danny Chandler, too! Lecil and the Henderson crew were there, as was Ron Saltiel, and, no surprise, Raymond Hak. There were beautiful performers (that brunette?! Wowsa.) and the drinks were free as long as you tipped your servers. I felt like I had died and gone to single-malt-scotch heaven, down to when my eyes caught Lucking and Chris Matty doing the bump for a small audience of women.

I FREAKING love this job.

After a couple of brown liquors and an inappropriate offer or two from a handful of overly excited patrons, I decided it was time to get my arse in a car and head back up the Strip to the Wynn. I slipped out of the side door and headed for an exit, walking past the Eye Candy bar and hesitating for a split second on whether or not I should peek in… “Naaaaah. Nothing could make this night any better” I thought, so off I went into the neon madness, with not much more than the next day’s events on my mind.

Tune in to Part THREE to check out how the opening day of the COUTURE show went and what really went on at the “Power of Blogging” panel! (Spoiler alert: no one was maimed but blood was definitely spilled.)

 

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Worn On the Bayou: Styles, Sights, and Songs from the Northern Gulf Coast

“Wish I was back on the bayou

Rollin’ with some Cajun Queen

Wishin’ I were a fast freight train

Just a chooglin’ on down to New Orleans” 

– Creedence Clearwater Revival

It had been fourteen years since I had flown into New Orleans. Don’t misread that… I have been to The Big Easy several times in the last decade and, sure, maybe once or twice I experienced a hangover there or possibly got myself into a little trouble because I kidnapped Tulane’s mascot (and still have him), but I’d driven from Atlanta on each of those trips, so flying high over grand Lake Pontchartrain brought back memories from my twenties that I had long since moved to the back of my overly-crowded, sazerac-infused brain. For this experience, I’d be travelling alone. No husband to show me where he used to buy groceries during his four-year stint as a NOLA resident during college. No kids to drag against their will through shops in The Quarter or the Magazine District. It was just my map, my agenda, and me, and hopefully maybe even a bit of something we call lagniappe. But before I get to my experience in The Crescent City, let me share with you what else was happenin’ ‘round the other parts…

Antique brooches at Claude Moore in Mobile, AL

Antique brooches at Claude Moore in Mobile, AL

The Northern Gulf Coast has its own way of thinking, and not all of it is how New Orleans folks think. Things are big there, sort of in a Texas-type way. Personalities are big. Politics are big. Food is big. Waist lines are… well, you get the point. But thankfully I found that jewels and gems are big as well. And while in Mobile, Alabama, where I visited the wonderful Claude Moore Jeweler, I was elated to see that heirloom jewelry was getting even bigger. These four gorgeous pins were just part of a collection of antique pieces carried by Claude Moore, and while what’s happening in fashion jewelry up North hasn’t quite found its way to the South yet, owner Howard Moore was optimistic that the tide is changing, and that Mobile was ready to embrace the next wave. I, for one, am a big fan of Mobile, so it’s nice to see the changes they’re embracing there. Little known fact about the city: Mobile, like New Orleans, was originally settled by the French in 1702. The city has flown six flags since its existence: French, Spanish, British, Republic of Alabama, Confederate, and of course, the United States. Because of this there’s a diversity there unlike most other larger cities in Alabama, which is a draw – and the fact that the Mobile River Delta has an incredible variety of fish and sea life – bringing in more hipster-run restaurants, a younger population, and dare I say… a newer, fresher, jewelry and fashion scene. Good on ya, Alabama. Oh, and um… Roll Tide ((ducks)).

Gulf Coast area jewelers

Gulf Coast area jewelers

After several hours visiting folks in the Mobile area, I decided I’d spend my first night at a hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi. My fifteen-year-old soul was hoping to run into circa-1988 Matthew Broderick there, but sadly, that was not the case. My short time in Biloxi was less than stellar as I was likely dressed a little too “fancy” for the hotel/casino guests there, making for some awkward conversation and unfortunate visuals that will long be burned into the back of my oculi. I’m sure there are several lovely parts of Biloxi, but where I was staying was far from being one of them. (**SOAPBOX ALERT**) How any city can still allow smoking in restaurants – and I mean, what their version of “high-end” restaurants is – is beyond me. No, I would not like a side of nicotine with my Crawfish pasta, sir. I think I’ll pass on the tobacco-encrusted salmon, thanks. Mmmmmm… smell that? It’s as if Marlboro is now raising its own livestock. I mean, I get that this is a “free country” and all and that the South – above anywhere else in this land – LOVES them some G*d-given freedom, but when it comes to destroying the clothing, hair, lungs, and even the most mediocre meal of the people around you, I say, SURE… you can have your freedom… but you must take it in a tiny little room, far, far away from where I’m trying to eat my overcooked asparagus. (Editor’s note: YES, BILOXI… IT’S CALLED ASPARAGUS. IT’S GREEN. NO NEED TO FRY IT. YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOME TIME. AND NO, YOU CAN’T SMOKE IT. **END OF RANT**.)

The *new* Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metairie

The *new* Aucoin Hart Jewelers in Metairie

Thankfully the following morning would bring me back to the New Orleans area where there was no shortage of smoke-free restaurants, ladies in Lulu Lemon, and elegant jewelry stores just waiting to be visited. Some of the biggest names in the biz are in this region – namely, in a city just northwest of N’awlins called Metairie. The Lakeside Mall alone houses two major players when it comes to selling watches and jewelry: Lee Michaels, which has eight locations throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi and carries brands like Marco Bicego, Henry Daussi, and Mikimoto. Also, there is Adlers Jewelry, which has three other locations in Louisiana and is a premier seller of Patek Philippe watches. It was wonderful to be able to visit these and the other beautiful boutiques that make Metairie a jewelry-buyers mecca, but there was still one location I was familiar with but had never visited…

Aucoin Hart.

Aucoin Hart's own brand of "Fleur-de-Lis" jewelry

Aucoin Hart’s own brand of “Fleur-de-Lis” jewelry

Many, many years ago, when I worked in the customer service department at Lagos’ Philadelphia factory and design center, the South, the West, and TOLA were my regions. I always remember the folks from Aucoin Hart being super friendly when they’d call for special orders, and meeting them finally in person didn’t change my feelings one bit. The store itself, which has been recently renovated, is a masterpiece in retail design and architecture. The staff is genuinely friendly and knowledgeable, but even more importantly, they’re passionate. I know many people from New Orleans and have a few friends who still live in the city, and “Passion” is the one thing they really pride themselves on. From the way they cheer on their beloved Saints, to the way they cook their unique style of cuisine, to the way they rebuilt themselves post Hurricane Katrina, it’s the passion of the people who reside in the area that carries them through and eventually, puts them right back on top. The folks at Aucoin Hart are passionate about the new store design, passionate about their customers, and passionate both about the brands they carry, and those they create themselves. And when I needed a recommendation for a restaurant in the area, you can bet that every staff member there was passionate about where they wanted to send me. In the end, largely thanks to one salesman’s more-than-convincing argument, I decided on chef John Besh’s French/German/Creole eatery… Luke.

Crawfish, the Quarter, and sunsets on the Gulf

Crawfish, the Quarter, and sunsets on the Gulf

Food is to New Orleans what beer is to Brussels, wine is to Paris, and coffee is to Seattle. New Orleans isn’t just the party city any longer. It’s been “born again” and this second chance at life has made it an even greater powerhouse for dishing out some of the finest cuisine in the world. Does it still have po-boy shops, muffaletta houses, and crawfish boils? Damn straight. But chefs like Adolpho Garcia, Donald Link, John Besh, Sue Zemanick, and yes… even Emeril Lagasse (still) (BAM!) are changing the New Orleans fine dining scene almost daily. (And, no. You didn’t visit a food blogger’s website and a bunch of info on jewelry stores broke out. You’re still at the right place, but I’d be stupid not to mention something about regional eats in this post.)

Before this entry is over I think it only right to talk about one of my all-time favorite jewelry and housewares designers who just happens to call New Orleans home… Mignon Faget.

Having been born and raised in New Orleans, Mignon Faget allows the wearers of her work to explore the mysteriousness of Louisiana through her designs. Her first ever collection, called “Sea,” transformed gemstones and jewels found on the Gulf Coast into wearables that epitomized what it was like to be from the area. Her “Ironworks” collection takes snippets of Marcellino Hernandez’s renowned forgings from the historic Vieux Carré and makes them into beautiful baubles of wearable architecture. But it doesn’t stop with jewelry. Her “Home” collection features glassware and table settings using the classic fleur-de-lis design, as well as apis-inspired aprons and stemware from her “Hive” collection (a personal favorite for obvious reasons).

It was a brief, interesting, but enjoyable visit to the area, and I’m looking forward to getting back there again in the very near future. Until that day comes, however, I’ll leave you all with a little Louis Armstrong:

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

And miss it each night and day

I know I’m not wrong this feeling’s gettin’ stronger

The longer, I stay away

Miss them moss covered vines,

the tall sugar pines Where mockin’ birds used to sing

And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi

hurryin’ into spring…”

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Red Carpet Radness

Not Much More than Bore and Snore: My 2014 Emmys Red Carpet Recap

The Emmys are long over, and the verdicts are definitely in: too many red gowns, too many white gowns, too few fabulous jewels, too many wins for Modern Family. But hey, other than that they were great! (Sarcasm.)

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Who here wants to Polka? Suddenly I’m hungry for Kielbasa.

Re: fashion – Whose idea was it to make the Emmy’s look like the Polish flag? Since when was Poland ever fashionable? It gets crazy cold there. Loads of snow and kielbasa, plus hats, coats, and scarves, which is not usually what I think of when I think “awards season.” And while I adore the color red – seriously, it’s been my absolute favorite color since before Pantone existed – somewhere I felt like some new style council co-sponsored by Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Lucifer, himself, must have gotten all of the stylists together and promised them a lifetime supply of colored pencils and freedom from eternal damnation if they dressed their clients in the crimson hue. I mean, I, unlike most, get it. The color is attention-commanding. It screams of power and of sensuality. It beckons the eyes of those present to stare longingly and wantonly at the person brave enough to don the color in such a public forum. Like I said, I get it, but there is such a thing as overdoing it, and on this particular red carpet, it felt evilly overdone.

EMMYpost3Yet, almost as if the Archangel Raphael (as in, celebrity stylist Karen Raphael) saw what Beelzebub was planning, he decided to swoop in from his perch on catholicmatch.com’s website to give that little devil a run for his money by shrouding the good wives (though ironically enough, she was cloaked in black) in the absence of color… white. Oh, the punny headlines, they were a plenty. My friend and #emmyjewelry event tweeter, Michael Schechter, quipped, “Looking forward to groaning at ‘Celebs Say I Do To White’ headlines…” and man, was he on the money.

Variety Magazine: “Emmy Fashion: Red, White, and Safe All Over”

T.V. Guide: “Emmys Fashions: White Hot Looks”

LA Times: “White Outfits on the Red Carpet”

TheDressDown.com: “2014 Emmys: All White, All White, All White!” (I will at least give this one a point for creativity.)

(Shaking head) Who writes this crap?

If I were one of the dozens of actresses dressed in either red or white at this event I’d have canned my stylist via text message back stage, that’s how pissed I would have been. “I can’t believe you put me in white, Phillipe! This is what I pay you to do, for fuck’s sake! You get major cash to make me stand out and now I’m a photo grid on People.com, in between Robin Wright’s backless pantsuit and Sofia Vergara’s pantyless backside. I CAN’T COMPETE WITH THAT! Were you deceased when you dressed me?? Guess what? I’m Donald Trump. And guess what else? You’re fired.”

Clearly it would have been a really long text. I’d say several “dings” worth.

But I will admit that even with the commonality of fashion color trends, there were some definite standouts. My favorites in white were OITNB’s Laverne Cox wearing Marc Bouwer with Fred Leighton jewelry (more on those jewels coming up), and Angela Bassett (she’s 56, y’all!) in a long-sleeved Elisabetta Franchi wrap dress with gold accents and jewels by David Yurman. In red(ish), I adored Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Carolina Herrera with Lorraine Schwartz jewelry even though I was disappointed in her for forgetting who designed her clutch. She’s usually the one I depend on for those things. (Gives disapproving look.)

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A few (a very few) of the pieces that stood out at the 2014 Emmys

Re: jewelry – Whether you loved or hated the jewels on the carpet there is one thing we can all agree on… there weren’t a lot of them. Or, better yet, there weren’t a lot of them with umph. Or there weren’t a lot that stood out. Or many that were made by those who weren’t the usual suspects. Don’t get me wrong, I thank Deity every awards show for the likes of Fred Leighton, Chopard, Neil Lane, and Lorraine Schwartz, for sometimes, it seems that without them we would have no bling to gawk at, at all. And I know, I know, the jewelry often… no, always… takes a back seat to the dress and in reality there’s only a small percentage of us in this business who scream for today’s Liz Taylor of the jewelry world. Sadly, we didn’t get her on this red carpet, but I’m optimistic that we may see her in the near future.

So what did we see Monday night? Well, we saw yellow gold in many forms, which I’m sure made several people in this industry very wealthy happy. We saw it take the form of a Fred Leighton salamander on the back of Kristin Wiig, as well as an Ana Khouri tiara in Michelle Dockery’s hair. We saw it plentifully donning Christina Hendricks’ ears, wrists, and fingers via designer Neil Lane, and we saw it by Lorraine Schwartz surrounding gorgeously classic canary yellow diamonds on Lucy Liu. We also saw several platinum pieces like the fabulous ninety-five carat Chopard diamond necklace on Kate Walsh (though it would have stood out more on a lower-cut gown) as well as on Laverne Cox in the form of Fred Leighton diamond earrings, bracelet, and Art Deco brooches sewn into her dress. Other stars wearing platinum were “Pregnant” Panettiere, “Matthew Was Supposed To Remember Who Designed My Dress” Alves, and “I Can’t Pronounce Anyone’s Name Tonight” Stefani, which is the perfect segue into my next category…

Re: mispronunciations/forgetting who designed your free wearables – Robin Givhan wrote a fantastic article for the Washington Post last week titled “Pushing Products on Emmys Red Carpet” that put into perspective this specific topic. “Monday night, the poor, overwhelmed stars of the small screen were finding it impossible to remember all the names of the brands that gave or lent them their one-night wardrobe of fancy stuff,” she quipped, and continued with, “Model Camila Alves could not remember who designed her white, embroidered gown. And when husband Matthew McConaughey, wearing a lapis-blue tuxedo by Dolce & Gabbana, whispered the name in her ear, he only managed to remember half of it and mispronounced the half he did recall. Something with a ‘Z’, he gamely offered. Poor Zuhair Murad was sitting in his atelier weeping.”

If you were following the jewelry industry hierarchy at the hashtag #emmyjewelry last Monday evening, then you already know how these acts of “forgetfulness” bother the hell out of me. Am I supposed to have empathy for those WHOSE JOB IT IS TO MEMORIZE LINES FOR A LIVING when they just happen to… oops… not know who provided them with everything they’re wearing? And I’m sorry, but seriously, are they really forgetting or do they just not give a rat’s ass? If the Dalai Lama gave them a brooch to wear at the Emmys and someone from E! asked about said brooch (though, having someone from E! ask about the jewelry would be far-fetched, in and of itself) are we really to believe that they’d “forget” that it was from the Dalai Lama? No. I don’t believe that for a second. I believe that they’d scream it into the microphone because they would CARE enough to *remember*… and that really is where I have a problem. Big houses like Fred Leighton and Chopard have so much revenue that it’s not a huge burden on them to cloak celebrities in hundreds of carats of diamonds, yet a lot of celebrities walking the various red carpets can afford to pay for the jewelry they’re wearing, but they don’t have to. And so when a lesser-known designer comes along who has put their heart and soul (and money!) into making jewelry (or a gown, or a clutch) spectacular enough to appear in such an elaborate spotlight, it is, in my opinion, the duty of the celebrity to care enough to know the name or brand of the designer who was kind enough to dress them, in every format that dressing occurs. Yes, it gives exposure to the designer and yes, that means that it does work both ways, but let’s face it, who do you think is really coming out on top here?

I have an idea, or rather, a suggestion for the talented (and not-so-talented… I’m looking at you, Mrs. Rossdale) folks in the entertainment industry that could potentially help them not look so awkward, and frankly, so entitled, on the red carpets of the future: write your providers down on a piece of paper, a la an acceptance speech. Take a tiny yellow Post-it note and simply scribe…

Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti (so fab)

Dress: Helmut Lang (a personal fave)

Jewels: Irene Neuwirth (we want to see more!)

Clutch: Insert Clutch Maker Here (I really don’t know many)

The television world and we fickle bloggers will be thrilled that you cared enough to give CORRECTLY PRONOUNCED shout-outs to those who rightfully deserved them and chances are you’ll become our new heroine/hero. And yeah, we know that you don’t *have* to impress us, or anyone for that matter, but there’s a point where you must ask yourself what the appropriate thing to do would be, and this small gesture would potentially make you look golden to the masses, and everyone will feel better in the long run, believe me.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you, loves. On a sad note but completely related, I am heartbroken to hear about Joan Rivers’ medical situation and have so many fond comedic memories of her from my childhood into my adulthood. Funny, beautiful women seem to be few and far between in Hollywood, and those who can make fun of themselves seem to be even scarcer. The world never knew the likes of Joan Rivers and likely never will again, so I will end this post with some of my favorite and fitting quotes from The Funny Lady, herself:

“I’m in nobody’s circle; I’ve always been an outsider.”

“I think anyone who’s perfectly happy isn’t particularly funny.”

“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.”

“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. Things are happening.”

And of course…

“I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

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Uncategorized

To Fee, Or Not To Fee, That Is the Question

This post has been floating around in my brain for some time now along with the title – a direct nod to the playwright of all playwrights, William Shakespeare – however I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure if I could use the word “fee” in the syntax I needed to. Luckily for me, “fee” is also a transitive verb meaning, “to tip,” so it works well with the subject at hand, as you will read about right now.

What makes someone who writes, “A writer?” After all, we all write, do we not? We write emails to our co-workers and lunchbox notes to our kids. We write out Christmas cards to Nana Eleanor and we scribe letters to our neighbors asking them to politely stop letting their Pekingese/Dachshund/Bulldog mix poop in the kiddie pool. We write in heated response to conservative political Facebook posts and we write about mediocre celebrities in one-hundred-and-forty characters or less. We write. We write a lot. So why are we all not writers? Is it the same reason we’re all not chefs? And how much of that reason has to do with money?

A recent entry by my great friend and fellow jewelry blogger, Monica Stephenson, touched on this very topic which fueled my often internal debate about where I want to go with my skill. She wrote “There have been some discussions recently, online and in real life, amongst friends and colleagues who alternately lament–and applaud–this brave new era. Anyone with an internet connection and a publishing platform can say they are a writer. When everyone is a writer, it gives voice to original thoughts that might not have been heard from behind traditional gatekeepers. But when everyone is a writer, words can be cheap.” And yet it seems that even when the content is cheap, there are so-called writers being paid a hefty price for their opinions, which is what is known in the world of marketing and advertising, as the now often present “sponsored post.”

Let me be clear about one thing before I go any further: I do not write for a living, and I have not written a sponsored post for money. I write because I love to write. I write about jewelry because I know about jewelry, and, because I love to write. That doesn’t make me any better than the next writer, or blogger, or social media manager, or even tweeter, but it makes clear where I stand and what my opinions are about writing for money. I’d love to write for money as an editor or contributor for the trade, but I never want my opinions swayed by the almighty dollar. What I think about anything is mine right now. I own it. It belongs to me alone and should I wish to share it with the world I will, through either this blog, or one of my two personal blogs, knowing that when it is shared it is up for debate. You have a differing opinion? I want to know about it. I may even want to challenge you on yours because chances are I feel passionately and whole-heartedly about mine. And my opinion? Well, it’s pure, I can guarantee you that. It’s untouched by money. It’s as true as it gets. This is where I take issue with “sponsored posts.”

Just about every morning I go through a routine which I can imagine is similar to that of most of my blogger friends. I complete my motherly/wifely/humanly pre-coffee ritual before sitting down to the laptop to open my Gmail. There, as I’m sure a fair amount of you understand, is where I find the multitude of marketing emails letting me know about this new collection or that current brand. And man, I love it; I truly, truly do. I get giddy when I think that I’m taken seriously enough to make the lists of those looking for exposure. And I go through every last email – no joke – skimming all the images and reading every quote, and if something strikes my fancy, I file it away for potential future use. But too often between the “To Whom This May Concern” greetings and the “we hope to hear back from you” closings, are bodies filled with monetary offers willing me to say that I like their product and wear their product and believe in their product on my very public forums. While I’m no less flattered at these emails than I am of any of the others, I can honestly say that I’m ethically bothered by them. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the difference between us and them; the ones who do what we do because we believe in what we’re doing, and the ones who revel in the fame, exposure, and money of it all. Maybe, that’s really what makes us the real “writers.”

Recently, another good friend of mine, Monica Bielanko (yes, another blogger named Monica!), who writes for Babble.com among other well-known blog sites wrote a piece on her personal blog, The Girl Who, called, Liberation. In it she explains how she believes that personal blogging has gone M.I.A., and that (her words) “… all the sponsored shit infiltrated everything everywhere.” She continues to express how she believes that personal blogging is all but gone now: “Most of the good bloggers have gone totally sponsored and/or edit what they share to the point of boringness. I went that way for a bit. Shit, I have a couple sponsored posts on here that make me absolutely cringe in horror when I go back and read them. Me, half-heartedly trying to weave my love for Pillsbury into a personal post. Sorry about that. It is what it is. You need to make money to live and suddenly there are people telling you that you can get paid to do the same thing you’ve been doing for years for free and you’re like, why not?”

However, Monica goes on to give several reasons ‘why not,’ with one in particular that reached out from the screen and punched me in my face… You can’t write about what you want when you’re trying to be attractive to potential sponsors and my immediate response was no different from hers…

Yeah. Fuck that shit.

I like my writing. I like the rawness of it and the realness of it. I like digging deep into an emotion and coming up for air just before it suffocates me. I like offering my industry a human side because after all, who here doesn’t love a good F-bomb from time to time? And you know what? You like it, too. You know you can only read so many stories about twinkling facet-patterns and multi-colored stack rings. You know you only have so much patience for dogs wearing tiaras and antique rings from 1953. You know it’s true, and I know you know it’s true, and I’m making you a promise right here and right now that I’ll never, EVER, give you a story, or an opinion, or some bullshit anecdote because some multi-million-dollar company paid me to. What you see is what you get: fuck, shit, boobs, asshole, and all. If those words bother you, there’re a million other fashion/jewelry/style blogs to make up for the tiny void this one will leave in your life. They’re out there, waiting to give you everything that’s fake about this industry. They’re the college football player who dropped out his sophomore year to go pro because he was gonna get paid; who’s now endorsing everything from Reebok to Mountain Dew to Trojan Condoms and Chiquita Bananas (sold separately). Me? I’m the 340 pound player on the O-line that nobody thinks will last more than two years. No endorsements. No one knows my name. But you know what? I’ve got my degree in biochemistry to fall back on when the shit hits the fan, and when the money runs out for that guy, I’ll be content in knowing I played with heart. I’ll be happy as shit knowing that I did it for the love of the game; nothing less, and certainly nothing more because in my mind there is nothing more. No one will ever force my hand because what I think on my own deserves its own place in this business.

feeTHIS POST HAS BEEN SPONSORED BY ME. I paid for this post with years of English classes, hundreds of literary masterpieces read, and a dozen books on the appropriate use of grammar. I paid for it with the hyperbolic blood, sweat, and tears that every *real* writer feels, has felt, and will continue to as they put on paper that which is painful. I paid for it with the words of my friends, the faith of my colleagues, the envy of my enemies, and the honor that comes ONLY from being true to myself.

I am a blogger.

I am a dreamer.

I am a student.

I am a mother.

I am a jeweler.

I am a thinker.

I am a writer.

I AM A WRITER.

And what you’ve just read above is exactly what makes me one.

 

(Mic drop)

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 1 – The Beginning

The great Lewis Carol wrote a line uttered by the King in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland that read simply this:

“Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I started and halted writing my first of what might turn out to be several post-Las Vegas blog entries more than once this week. There was so much going on in my brain; so many stories to elaborately tell, yet I couldn’t figure out a way to get the ball rolling in the tone that these pieces deserved. That is, until my four-year old daughter chose Alice in Wonderland as her bedtime movie… then, I knew what had to be done. I needed only to begin where Lewis Carol had suggested was the best place to do so…

the beginning.


Me: “Are you sure there are no window seats available?”

Delta agent: “No ma’am. The flight has been overbooked. You can fly standby on the next flight to Vegas if you really can’t sit in the middle seat, or if you’d prefer, you could…”

Me: (interruptingly) “No. That’s fine. I’ll just take the middle and hope to Jeebus the person next to me gets caught in traffic.”

Delta agent: (snickers) “Well, it is Atlanta. I say your chances are pretty good.” 


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A Room with a View – The Strip from THEHotel

I have no urge to make movies. I mean, I know people who make movies and these are some talented folks (side note: go see Dan Schechter’s “Life of Crime” out in theatres on August 29th), but I doubt it’s a skill I could possess. However, if I were ever to consider writing a screenplay, I’m pretty sure I would make it about the various gates in airports around the country temporarily housing those en route to Las Vegas. It would be written as a series of individual short stories with the characters arriving at McCarran roughly all around the same time. There would be Joe – the childless, three-time divorcee heading out to meet his elementary school buddies and their dads for a weekend filled with strippers and scotch. And Alan – the post-middle-age/pre-elderly gentleman carrying multiple containers of freshly-made Georgia cornbread in the hope of selling his wares to a now booming restaurant city. There’d be Karla – a tanned and toned unnaturally tall blond woman who was in my jewelry security class back in January, and there’d be Anita – the suburban “best girlfriend” mom chaperoning her daughter, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s three cohorts who are all headed to Vegas to celebrate their 21st birthdays. But these characters wouldn’t even scratch the surface, because the flights to Vegas contain the most magnificent walks of life. From transvestites to retirees, my Boeing 757 was like a dollar store can of tuna. Meaning, if you cracked that sucker open, sure, you’re bound to get some actual tuna, but you and I both know that there’s a bunch of other stuff in there that shouldn’t be, and neither one of us is going to try to figure out what that stuff is.

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Segment of Andrew Hanelly’s presentation on content marketing

Finding myself sandwiched between Joe the TTD (three-time divorcee) and Alan the CCC (cornbread container carrier) for the duration of the four-and-a-half hour flight, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get some work done. To my surprise I had a message from Andrew Hanelly, SVP Strategy at McMurry/TMG, asking if he could feature Adornmentality in his JCK seminar on content marketing done right in the jewelry industry.

Andrew: “I’d also love a quote on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to jewelry marketing. Have anything provocative?”

Me: “I can give you a quote but in terms of ‘provocative’ I’m still on the plane to Vegas. I’ll need three hours and three martinis.”

Andrew used this very blog in his section on how evoking emotion and telling stories helps build your audience. The slide consisted of my logo and a screen shot of the piece “How to Not Get Kidnapped” because that title alone is what grabbed hold of most readers. To date, it’s my most clicked-on post, as I explained to Andrew via email from the air. To know my blog would be used as an example was a proud moment for me. That, combined with the genuinely nice conversations I had with my seatmates, as well as a landing that would have earned our pilot a gold medal in the Aerial Olympics, gave me the warm and fuzzies about what the next five days was going to be like.

I had finally arrived in Las Vegas. I was ready. I was determined. I was prepared. But mostly…

I was still martini-less. Bartender!


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Yours truly avec badges. Photo courtesy of Robyn Hawk.

The GUMUCHIAN product wasn’t arriving until 2 p.m., so I specifically took the early flight in order to try to squeeze in an hour or two at the COUTURE show before heading off into the JCK sunset. If you’re an exhibitor you know that we rarely see the sunlight. Jewelry Week is a whirlwind no matter which end of the buying process you’re on, but for me, for the first time, I was also registered as a member of the press. Yup. A MEMBER OF THE PRESS. Me. The thought made me giddy. Don’t believe me? Then check out this photo that Robyn Hawk of The Daily Jewel snapped of me in the press room, clad in badges. I was like a sixteen-year-old who just bought beer with a fake I.D. and got away with it. Look at my face! I don’t exactly know what I thought being in the press room meant other than it was a room I could never get into prior to this trip, but dammit, I was excited to get in there! I could meet up with my friends and mortal enemies fellow jewelry bloggers and we could discuss the current trends or the posterior of that handsome kid from Ritani privately without worrying about some petty little “designer” or “celebrity” hearing us. WE ARE PRESS! WE ARE THE ELITE! WE GET SWAG, B*TCHES! BRING ME MY SWAG!

((WHACK!))

(That was the sound of my conscience snapping me back to reality via a slap across my overly-smiling and pathetically happy face.)

Okay, (ahem) so, back to my experiences…

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The Wynn Casino – heading to COUTURE

I was a Couture show virgin. In all of my years (eighteen!) in this business I had never stepped foot into any other Vegas show besides JCK. But like my earlier post explained, I was over-the-top happy about getting to see what the show was all about and getting to visit with some of my favorite designers. And who do I run into the moment I arrive? None other than the incomparable celebrity style expert, Michael O’Connor, and the incorrigible celebrity aisle expert, Craig Selimotic Danforth. What a perfect way to start this experience. Here stood two incredibly handsome, smiling gentlemen willing to direct me as to where to go, and next to those guys, were my friends Michael and Craig. We kissed. We hugged. We sang Kumbaya. It was weird, and nice, then I realized the clock was ticking, so I left. Off to the Latour/Lafite ballrooms!

Look everybody! It’s WJA president, Andrea Hanson! And there’s adorably pregnant designer Zoë Chicco! Oh, hey Josette from Mark Patterson Jewelry! And OH MY GOD, THAT’S ACTUALLY LYDIA COURTEILLE!! Wait, what? I get to shake your hand and tell you in my worst French imaginable how much your work inspires me and how I love it, or, at least, that’s what I thought I said but maybe I actually told you that my favorite meal is wagons, I don’t really know? I could die. I could just lie down, right here, right on top of Vicente Agor’s cases, right now, and just… freaking… die. WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME OF THE AWESOMENESS OF COUTURE? I blame you, Michelle Orman. You and your “under-the-radar” Couture Musings. You really need to be out there a little more and stop keeping this show such a g-damned secret.

So right after picking up the pieces of my exploded head, I thought it best to rest my feet and quench my thirst with a visit to the Press Lounge, which sadly, I found empty of humans, but filled with other goodies. By “lounge,” of course, I mean “stage”… and by “goodies,” of course, I mean “comfy pillows and power strips.” I will admit it was a little strange to be sitting on a stage in a ballroom while everyone wondered who the heck I was and why I was up there by myself. But, hey, this is Couture, and they do things differently here, and that wedgie didn’t need picking anyway, am I right? If anything it gave some definition to my buttocks, so… up side!

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“The Humble Man” in the flesh, Atelier Minyon salon at Couture

Before leaving to head back to Mandalay Bay, I had the privilege of spending some time with Alp Sagnak of Atelier Minyon and meeting his lovely wife. And yes, I did get to wear “The Humble Man” just as I had hoped, while running into a few fellow jewelry bloggers in the process. I was also fortunate enough to see the CJDG crew including Vicente Agor and the talented Malak Atut from Zaiken Jewelry, and, on my way out, even bumped into my minutes-younger friend, Mark Mazzarese. As far as experiences go, it was a short one at Couture, but it was filled to the brim with both sustenance and joy.

If you came to the end of this first segment expecting tons of pictures of fancy product and cool new designs with carat weights and back stories, then I hope your disappointment isn’t too grand. This series is about my stories from the trip. They’ll be about the connections and the events and the people who were a part of my five days in Sin City. But each segment will be told in a way that you will likely not have read before… and on that promise, you can bet. It is Vegas, after all…

Next segment… the first days at JCK!

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