Friday, April 18, 2008

Willy Street Updates

This shopping district known for some offbeat shops (Cosmic Object; Rick’s Olde Gold; that leather goods shop that I don’t know the name of that sells, er, biker stuff, fishnets and miniskirts) has some changes afoot. First of all, Cosmic Object, sadly, is closing. I was going to include Cosmic Object in a piece I wrote about quirky businesses (page 46 in our May 2008 issue) until I found out about its demise. I admit I was totally intrigued by its Technicolor sign with a UFO in its logo. I investigated the shop one day and found out it sells much of the same as Sunshine Daydream on State Street: pipes, tie-dyed stuff, incense and other assorted niche objects. But I digress.

Three new shops and one salon have opened. One biz has also revamped its product selection.

First, the new stuff. The Green Parasol (1370 Williamson) is a beautiful and quaint little shop that sells new and vintage clothing and jewelry. Owner Laurie Rossbach plans on selling more of her one-of-a-kind designs as she makes them. The vibe of the store was comfy and soothing and Rossbach was very friendly to talk to. Rossbach said the space was a former religious bookstore.

Almost next door to The Green Parasol is El Kiosco (1348 Williamson). I didn’t get a chance to stop in (the owners appeared to be packing up for the day) but I surely didn’t miss the life-size Egyptian sculpture and smaller assorted statues that were sitting out in front of the shop (woman with a parasol and more). I peeked in the windows and also spied a large decorative giraffe, among other objects. The shop’s flyer says “A hand picked collection of the unique and unusual from across the Americas—featuring: folk art, traditional crafts, antique furnishings, architectural salvage, vintage toys and house wares and ironwork and outdoor sculpture.” Interesting. I’ll let you know when I stop in again what I see.

Indus Beads’s (1148 Williamson) name says it all: they’ve got tons of really cool beads to make any kind of beaded thing you could fancy. Personally I favored some origami-looking gold beads that looked like mini sculptures (they were around $15 apiece!) but was dazzled by the hundreds of other types of beads sold, all priced per bead. It appears as though the shop will also host bead-making classes by the looks of the table in front.

I was surprised to see Cha Cha at 921 Williamson St. At first I thought they had closed down the 121 East Mifflin St. salon and relocated. I called and, to my surprise, they’ve opened a second location. The interior looks hot. Check it out.

Pick More Daisies (1216 Williamson) has revamped its product selection to add more new items such as bath and body products, jewelry and home goods. This adorable shop has always charmed me with the sweet vignettes of vintage and new goods owner Dawn Hellenbrand has set up. “We closed for six days during this changeover. We completely updated our retail and are just carrying a lot more fun things,” says Hellenbrand. “We restocked our jewelry and are trying to find new wholesalers. We’re carrying the tag line a little more intensely. We repainted and we’re keeping up with the reupholstered, vintage furniture and that seems to be coming and in and out all of the time.
“It’s just a fresh, new vibe. It’s been over ten years and we needed a facelift. We’ve actually been open twelve years. When we turned ten, I totally bypassed it because I never felt like the store was everything it needed to be and could be. This year we’re definitely celebrating our ten year and doing it with a bang.”

The Green Parasol 1370 Williamson St. 204-7434.
El Kiosco 1348 Williamson St. 449-4943

Indus Beads 1148 Williamson St. 251-2323

Cha Cha Beauty Parlor and Haircut Lounge, 121 E. Mifflin St., 251-2191. 921 Williamson St., 204-3988.

Pick More Daisies 1216 Williamson St. 255-7090

You Saw it Here

Have you seen our May issue? If not, pick it up and turn to page 16 (left). This Fab Finds page titled “Wild Things” features African and tribal-themed accessories and home goods. This global trend is hot for the summer and I’ve spied it in many a fashion mag. Luckily we don’t have to go to across the world to find what we’re looking for—it's right here! Retailers like A Greater Gift, J. LaMore, World Market, Calabash, Art Gecko and more all have variations on these items. Lest you doubt that Madison has fashion cred, Lucky’s April issue has an entire page devoted to this trend called “What I Want Now!” that features—you guessed it—a tunic, vest, sandals and skirt all swathed in “polished tribal motifs.”

Speaking of Lucky, was featured quite prominently in April’s “Lucky Breaks” section (surprise, surprise). Although known by most to be a hotbed of fashion, its Madison storefront (and only storefront!) is gorgeous, and when I stopped in recently I longed for many an item. Marc Jacobs’ stuff, mostly. His cute tanks and dresses in bright, saturated colors made me long for warmer days. I also saw a cropped black satin jacket that I coveted (I promise, it’s not straight out of the eighties, though it sounds like it ☺).

One more Lucky item: their April spread on eco-friendly clothing really hit home as we featured some eco-friendly clothing on our April cover (above) and interior “Eco Chic” spread. Although Lucky’s got a lot more selections in terms of green clothing offerings than we do here in Madison, I have no doubt more green clothing will be rolling into stores here as the green trend takes hold.
Lucky’s spread featured vegan shoes (a tree is planted for every pair sold), an organic cotton and hemp dress, wedges of sustainably sourced wood and rubber, and much, much more. See, being eco really can be chic.

Bop, 222 W. Gorham St. 255-2570.

Upcoming Events

Madison Magazine is hosting the first-ever Going Green Expo on May 2–4 at the Alliant Energy Center. Eighty-plus exhibitors will have their green wares on display, like Creative Energy/Satara, Fair Indigo, Green Wine Bottles, Goodwill, Market Baskets On the Go and many more. There will also be presenters speaking on green topics and a hybrid car test track in the parking lot! I also read that businesses will have scrumptious treats on hand for attendees to sample including Metcalfe’s Sentry-Hilldale. The organic and locally produced beer and wine samples also sound pretty cool, right?

Going Green Expo May 2–4. Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way. 270-3632 for questions. Tickets are available at MoCo Market, Coyle Carpet One and online.

New York, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles all have them. And … Madison? That’s right folks, Madison is hosting its very first Fashion Week. According to the Madison Fashion Week press release “The 4-day series of consumer-orientated events will include workshops, fashion shows and parties. MFW aims to unify Madison’s fashion designers and retailers in a collaborative and high-profile event that brings fashion to the forefront of Madison’s culture.” Various parties and events will be held April 23–26. For the full schedule and more info check out

By now you’ve probably seen at least one poster promoting Design MMoCA. This one-of-a-kind event will showcase sixteen rooms designed by firms such as Flad Architects, Laurie Driscoll Interiors, Rubin’s, Indocara and Inner View Consulting and many more. In fact, the rooms are designed around sixteen works of art from the museum’s permanent collection. I am so incredibly disappointed I have to miss this event because I’ll be out of town! I think it’s so encouraging that Madison is hosting an event like this, and it’s my hope that this will be a yearly event (when I can come!).

Design MMoCA
April 25–27. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 227 State St. 257-0158.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Designer Details and More

I was reading M (Macy’s magazine) spring 2008 issue and came across an interview with Michael Kors. Kors, who’s been on the fashion scene for twenty-five-plus years (his first ready-to-wear line was launched at various department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Sak’s in 1981) is arguably one of the most famous American designers, along with the likes of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
Kors’ interview was enlightening as he talked about his design process, his signature style and his inspirations. I really respect and admire his clothing lines (MICHAEL, the lower-priced clothing line is about the only one I can afford ☺). There’s something about Kors that says all-American with a twist of European chic-ness that you just don’t see (in my opinion) in Ralph Lauren’s more preppy lines.
What I love even more about Kors is his no-holds-barred frankness on Bravo’s Project Runway. He’s the amusing foil to Nina Garcia’s Devil Wears Prada attitude (seriously: he once told a contestant that the outfit looked like something Friar Tuck would wear; to another, he said a pair of pants looked like the "model’s a*s was in front").
Which brings me to my point: much of the interview was about Kors’ signature style. You see, when you see pictures of fashion designers, did you ever notice that they’re always wearing the same outfit? Examples: Tom Ford in an unbuttoned white shirt/black suit combo; Donna Karan’s long, flowy dresses; Vera Wang’s tunic tops/cardigans with leggings, Zac Posen’s military-inspired jackets, Karl Lagerfeld’s all black ensemble, black boots and high collars, and, we can’t forget, Kors’ jean/blazer/T-shirt combo. Kors even acknowledges as much in his interview by commenting about his personal style, “Formulaic. I spend my life thinking about clothes and dressing men and women—but I do not want to think about how I get dressed.” Interesting.

Weaving into this discussion about personal style is a mention of Karl Lagerfeld, long known as the force behind fashion house Chanel. I saw the documentary Lagerfeld Confidentiel during the Wisconsin Film Festival (held here in Madison, April 3–6). What an interesting documentary! Lagerfeld, long known as someone who doesn’t reveal much about himself, does the same in this documentary. While it’s somewhat revealing about his day-to-day life (photo shoots, fashion shows, traveling constantly), he’s still quite enigmatic and mysterious. He even comments in the film how he wants to remain a mystery to those very close to him, including family and friends.
My favorite part of the film was the beginning when they show his French abode. He has at least five large, silver bowls on two dressers filled to the brim with big, chunky silver rings—part of his signature style. It appears as though he wears at least one, if not two, rings on each finger.
Also in his dresser drawers? Stiff, white collars that he (presumably) buttons into the collars of his trademark black jackets. It reminded me of a stay that goes in a priest’s collar—only five times as wide and up to his chin. Designers, that crazy bunch. But hey, Lagerfeld’s probably thinking the same thing as Michael Kors—if I think about clothes all day, I just want what’s dependable and looks good on me! I compare it to a chef; the last thing a chef wants to do when he or she get home from work is cook a five-course meal—they just want a grilled cheese sandwich.

So what’s your personal style?
Everyone from the highest echelon of the fashion ranks like John Galliano’s crazy pirate-style (seriously; he’s the head designer of Christian Dior) to people like you and I, have one.
I say, embrace your style! Buy what you love but don’t be a slave to trends. And for goodness sake (Kors would agree) wear what fits—that’s always in style. Whether it’s from the new Goodwill store on State Street (opened April 8) or Twigs, we can all find something that works for us.

658 State St.
Twigs 1925 Monroe St. 255-4363.