On a recent Sunday, we met Lisa (far right) and her able crew (assistant Barbara, and photographer Char in the center) in the lobby of the Doubletree Suites Hotel in Times Square and headed upstairs to the showrooms.
Our first stop was to meet designer Cynthia Ashby (next to Valerie) and try on pieces from her Spring and Summer line.
Barbara brought us some of Kathleen Nowak Tucci's jewelry to try on with Cynthia's dresses and separates. To echo the black of Cynthia's 3/4 sleeve black Essential mesh layering tee and contrast with her crinkled two-layer citron-colored linen dress, Valerie doubled one of Kathleen's long Madison necklaces.
Jean experimented with color (OMG!), pairing Kathleen Nowak Tucci's Selma necklace and earrings with Cynthia Ashby's yellow linen top and tie-dye skirt. (Did you ever think you'd see tie-dye appear in the same sentence with - let alone on the body of - Ms. Jean? We broke all the rules that day!)
Valerie loved this Cynthia Ashby summer-weight linen Flynn duster in a very subtle gray/blue shade called Wisp. It reminded her of the kind of linen jacket a woman would wear to go driving in a Model T. You see it paired with a Kathleen Nowak Tucci's rubber and steel Selma necklace and Jessica bracelet.
Emboldened by her first foray into color, Jean tried Cynthia's cotton/tencel Ballad vest in a shade called pink grapefruit and added her own earrings. The pockets are the icing on the cake.
Here is Valerie in the same Cynthia Ashby Flynn linen jacket with different jewelry. The versatility of the rubber is amazing, and Kathleen's ability to create designs that will coax the most out of her material is like a sixth sense. This is her striking Vanessa necklace.
Jean flashes Kathleen's Selma earrings and necklace. Not only is the rubber versatile, it is light as a feather.
Cynthia's designs are very easy to wear, and fun to mix and match. This jacket has a great line, and the pants work with it beautifully.
We had to be dragged away to our next assignment. After we said goodbye to Cynthia, Lisa took us to Kathleen's showroom. Here we are with Kathleen herself. We're all wearing her designs. Since Kathleen's jewelry is eco-friendly and inspired by Art Deco, we've dubbed it: "Eco-Deco"!
Jean cannot control herself. Back in her Goth-black attire, she piled on Vanessa earrings, a Marie Jean neckpiece and Betsey bracelet.
Valerie doesn't have pierced ears (long story for another time), and Kathleen didn't bring any clip-ons, but there's a way around that dilemma: she just threaded the hooks from Kathleen's earrings through her own clips!
Kathleen does a lot of work with steel as well. The black tire jewelry works with any color; the steel looks wonderfully dramatic on black. Valerie models the Bliss necklace.
Here's what you do if you can't make up your mind which ones to wear -- wear them all!
Jean vogues in the Marie Jean neckpiece, Vanessa earrings, Betsey bracelet (on her right hand) and Jessica bracelet (on her left).
Then we were off again, this time to visit designer Mariam Heydari's showroom. Heydari favors nontraditional cuts, materials and patterns, so we were all agog every way we turned. Most of what we tried on was for the fall season, so we can't show you that now. Here's just a little hint of what we saw. We asked to be photographed with the designer, in green, and her business manager.
Then we were departed Times Square for the Gansevoort Hotel in the heart of the Meatpacking district, to Mieko Mintz's showroom -- Color Central! That's Mieko, next to Jean. We're all wearing the designer's hats, jackets and scarves. Jean added a long necklace of kimono beads in green. (Can you stand all the color?)
Luckily for us, Mieko also has a deep love of hats. We're each wearing another one of her millinery creations and her clothing.
Valerie tried on a two layer reversible cotton tank flare dress that looks like this in the front...
And completely different in the back! Check out the deep diagonal hem!
Jean paired one of Mieko's knit hats with her intriguing pullover bat-winged jersey tunic -- which was sooo comfortable and so versatile -- and would easily pack into a suitcase!
Valerie loved this red kantha jacket (two layers of Indian cotton hand stitched together), and paired it with a scarf tied as a turban. Mieko designs all the clothes herself, and sews together several different fabrics in coordinating colors and designs to make one of a kind pieces.
Jean coordinated one of Mieko's four cornered felt hats with one of Mieko's two layer multi-printed cotton jackets and her own skirt and clogs. We loved the wide red portrait collar of the jacket.
Valerie with Lisa, both in Mieko Mintz. The hat is the same one worn by Jean, but each wearer changes the look of the hat. We're both wearing it high, but it can also be re-shaped to be worn closer to the head. The material is very light and holds the shape you give it.
There just seemed to be something Cossack-like about the clothes that made one want to do that amazing knee-centered dance... (Jacket paired with another colorful Mieko hat.)
Time just flew by! Five hours had passed in what seemed like five minutes. When it was all over, we retired to the roof of the Gansevoort for stunning cocktails, great views of the city and the kind of conversation you have when you're exhausted but happy, and inspired. (And the gentleman in the colorful sweater is Lisa's fiance, who joined us at the end of the day.)
Adios, amigos! Stay tuned in September for a continuation of our escapades when Artful Home debuts its Fall-Winter collection.