Sustainability Without Sacrifice

Featured image: The Weekender Bag by Banda Bags. Photo courtesy of Banda Bags.

Introducing luxury handbags that leave their mark on the fashion industry without damaging the environment.

 

Banda Bags  bandabags.com

“Banda Bags was born out of adventure and discovery,” says founder Brianna Jane. The company came to life when the founder was filming a docu-series on natural medicine in Indonesia. “I found myself in a wild area of Sumatra that is completely off the beaten path, known for its rich coffee and devout Muslim culture,” according to Jane. “I did not create these bags. I discovered them!” The company really took shape when Jane realized that this traditional art was becoming obsolete and that she could create an opportunity to empower female artists and revive traditional techniques, while supporting the environment.

The Weekender Bag

Perfect for a weekend away, a carry on, or when you need a little more space, the Weekender Bag is one example of the fine handcrafted embroidery that is a mainstay among Banda Bags.

From start to finish, Banda Bags considers its impact on the planet. The base of the bags are made from recycled nylon, along with recycled polyester for the thread, and organic cotton for the insert bag. And finally, recycled, corrugated boxes are used for shipping. “Seeing that fashion has the power to influence the masses, there’s a unique opportunity to use it as a platform to educate the masses about sustainability, and how our choices affect the planet,” adds Jane.

The Banda Tote Bag

The Banda Tote Bag is a must-have for the summer. Not only is it functional, but it features handmade traditional designs that bring a piece of art made by Sumatran artisans into your everyday wardrobe. Large, comfortable shoulder straps, a roomy interior, and zippered pockets bring function and sustainability within reach

Gemma Backpack Purse by Svala. Photo by Mikel Roberts.

Svala  svala.co

Svala came to fruition when the founder, Helga Douglas, was searching for a bag that was stylish and sustainable, but came up short. “I found it hard to find brands that represented the values that I was looking for, so I decided to create my own,” says Douglas. The company specializes in luxury, vegan handbags that have been handcrafted from innovative PVC-free fabrics, such as Italian vegan leather, Pinatex® — made from pineapple leaf fibers — cork and recycled plastic bottles. “We are also in the process of introducing a new vegan leather into our range that is made with recycled polyester and bio polyols,” according to Douglas.

Didi Clutch

This elegant addition to any outfit is made from vegan leather PU (polyurethane) and lined with recycled polyester that is made from plastic bottles combined with organic cotton. The vegan leather PU is sourced from Italy, “from a family-owned factory that supplies various high-end European luxury designers,” says Douglas.

Gemma Backpack Purse

The Gemma Backpack Purse is elegantly versatile, easily transforming from a convenient backpack to a sophisticated handbag. Handcrafted with high-quality, luxurious Italian vegan leather, and embossed faux snake-skin, or velvety cork, this bag embodies the Svala brand.

Lidia May  lidiamay.com

Lidia May, like several other sustainable brands, has been influenced by the growing industry of fast fashion and trying to combat low prices and the concept that clothing is disposable. “The fast fashion business paradigm is so pervasive that many entrenched players cannot survive outside it … Against this backdrop, Lidia May is proving that fashion can be creative, glamorous, and personal without being exploitative or exclusionary,” says co-founder of Lidia May, Rasheed Khan.

Pema Shopper Rose & Pema Top Handle Rose

The Pema collection is ultra-luxurious, refined, and a favorite among customers. This collection and others aim for natural and biodegradable materials to achieve their goals. “We prefer to use silk and cotton and unbleached linens in our fabrics and embroidery threads,” explains Khan. The company utilizes full and top grain leather that is luxurious, durable and incidentally a by-product of the meat industry, says Khan. There is no sacrifice between beauty and sustainability here.

The Barre Poppy

“Fashion is a beacon. It’s highly visible, it’s aspirational, it can influence society’s values and behavior,” says Khan. If the fashion industry can make sustainable changes, then items such as The Barre Poppy can hopefully inspire others to follow. Agile and sophisticated, The Barre Poppy can be worn around the waist or carried as a mini top handle.

The Barre Poppy by Lidia May. Photo by Emmy Pickett; Courtesy of Lidia May.

Photo courtesy of Mavis by Herrera.

Mavis by Herrera  mavisbyherrera.com

“I started Mavis by Herrera because I needed to be a part of the plastic pollution solution,” says founder, Mavis C. Herrera. “My passion is to encourage change through sustainability and regenerative business practices.” In the process of creating sustainable, ethically elegant handbags, the company also aims to empower indigenous people by first, offering jobs and eventually, by providing business skills, according to Herrera.

Less Pollution Convertible Bag

Mavis by Herrera handbags are waterproof, durable, lightweight, and fashionable. “We aim to revolutionize the fashion industry by proving that it can be done without harming people or the environment,” note the founders. “We take plastics and turn them into recycled, elegant, and sustainable handbags.” Working hand in hand with a local recycling company, each bag is hand woven in Mexico.

All photos courtesy Vanleles Diamonds.

Vanleles Diamonds — focused on producing jewelry sourced from ethical mining — is the first-ever female-owned African fine jewelry brand.

Living and working all around the world has allowed Vania Leles to develop an edge in her work, drawing from her experiences to shape Vanleles Diamonds into a global luxury brand. “Growing up, I studied in between Guinea-Bissau and Portugal, returning to Africa during breaks to travel around the continent with my family,” Leles says. “Upon graduating from NOVA University Lisbon, I moved to London to learn English and became a social worker. I changed careers after being discovered by a modeling scout, and lived and worked as a model in Paris and New York for a few years.”

Leles’ ties to her African heritage are evident in her designs. “Then came that fateful day when I decided to join the jewelry world,” Leles says. “All these events and influences are reflected in details of the Vanleles collection. Some people expect my jewelry to be tribal or ethnic, but it is a combination of my memories of Africa and my experiences traveling throughout the world and living in Europe.”

Leles is no stranger to the world of luxury. While working as a model, she was inspired by the fine jewelry on set, and connected this to her home in Africa. “Around 2003, I was modeling on a shoot with fine jewelry when someone on the set told me that all precious and many semiprecious stones can be found in Africa,” Leles explains. “Intrigued, as I am from the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau, I did some research. I discovered that at that time, there were no African haute-jewelry designers working with these materials native to their continents.”

With this in mind, Leles set out to begin her own company. “This was enough for me to decide that I would establish the world’s first female-founded African high jewelry house,” Leles says. 

Leles’ breakout into the world of jewelry was not immediate. “When I told my mother about my plans, she suggested I get 10 years of experience before launching my own company,” Leles reflects. “This seemed like a long time, but I agreed, quitting modeling and enrolling in classes on gems, design and business at the Gemological Institute of America.”

Leles then traveled to New York City, learning and graduating from the Gemological Institute of America. Heeding her mother’s advice, Leles spent over a decade working and learning from world-renowned fine jewelry brands GRAFF, De Beers and Sotheby’s. To launch the jewelry business she had dreamed about since her modeling days, London’s New Bond Street, the heart of the international fine jewelry world, was a clear-cut choice for the location of Vanleles Diamonds flagship atelier. “I came here over 20 years ago to learn English and never went back.”

Vanleles Diamonds offers a variety of jewelry styles, including rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, each crafted by skilled jewelry makers. Leles explained that her goal is to allow the wearers of her jewelry pieces to feel “empowered, happy, and with a knowledge that we created their jewelry in the most transparent and ethical way possible.”

Pieces from The Nile Collection, inspired by Ancient Egypt.
The Nile Yellow Gold and Diamonds Fringe Earrings.
Enchanted Garden Titanium Paraiba Flower Earrings.
Legends of Africa Grand Bangle.

According to Vanleles Diamonds’ website, its “unparalleled belief in responsible mining” and commitment to the ethical sourcing of gemstones and precious metals has brought a new direction to the world of fine jewelry, one that is based in purposeful luxury and beauty.

“For my collections, and depending on which gems I need, I will mainly source them in Africa; Zambian for emeralds, Mozambique for rubies, tourmalines of all colors, Namibia for diamonds and Madagascar for pink and other multi-color sapphires,” Leles explained. “Most recently, Nigeria for blue sapphires. When I can, I travel to these locations personally to buy my gems, other times we work with suppliers that adhere to human rights policies and have strong corporate social responsibility.”

Vanleles Diamonds’ strong commitment to responsible mining and the African community is evident in its philanthropies, mainly the Malaika Foundation, a charity that seeks to empower Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs.

“The funds we give go straight into these communities that so desperately need them, and in a very fast manner,” Leles says. “For Malaika, for instance, they only have one employee outside Congo, and no real estate rent, so the money is really going into the community and not to pay high salaries and rents in the West. We sponsor girls, and I can see tangible results directly. We chose charities that are small and the employees are on the ground.”

For an especially unique piece, Vanleles Diamonds offers bespoke consultations for custom made, handcrafted jewels. “The design process always starts with the client’s wishes.” Leles says. “During our meeting, I am able to capture their true desire, understand their lifestyle and then we embark on a unique journey to create something exceptional that will last generations to come.”

Finding friendship in diamonds allows Leles to focus on the most important things in her life — her family and business. “[I have] freedom of creations, where to source, how to send my message and freedom for being a mother of young children, I can work when I put them to bed and not miss many matches and activities,” Leles says. “But I certainly work longer and harder!”

Above: Out of Africa Fan Earrings crafted in 18k Rose Gold with Mozambican responsibly sourced rubies and rubelites.
Below: Statement Cocktail Ring

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MEISTER

David Meister’s journey to become a fashion designer to the stars is based on “no rules” and creating timelessness.

A fashion designer or a brain surgeon. As a kid, the “very opinionated” David Meister already decided he was going to be one or the other. It was Cher who convinced him to choose fashion. Or actually, her dress.

Meister couldn’t help but notice how great Cher looked on “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.“ “I watched the credits where it said ‘Cher’s Gown by Bob Mackie,’ and that’s how I realized that people could really do that,” he says, meaning design celebrity evening wear. From that point on, Meister put himself on a path toward fashion stardom.

Meister went on to study Fashion at the University of Cincinnati College of Design. He would later move on to New York City where he worked at Danskin, a fitness and body wear company. There, Meister learned to work with all types of fabric and how it can be used to effortlessly accentuate and flatter a woman’s form. It wasn’t long before he had his first collection of evening wear in 1998, followed closely by his first fall line, which was composed of the more modern evening wear that came to be the beginnings of his brand and signature style. His career has only grown since the 1990s, as he’s gone on to create a daytime dress collection, a line of bridal dresses, and numerous pieces that can be found in top luxury department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as top boutiques across the country.

Apart from his overall love for all things fashion, Meister notes that the aspect of fashion that appeals to him is that it’s always moving. “I love it because it’s never static or ever the same — it’s always different and it’s always changing, and it’s quick. There are no rules, there are no formulas.” He also says that design itself is just another form of creative problem solving — “problems” he continues to solve by creating beautiful pieces in a style that offers a “sense of timelessness” so they will stay fashionable no matter the decade. This style not only makes him stand out as an iconic designer, but as a master of his craft.

What keeps people coming back to Meister’s style is his judgment in terms of design, particularly with fit. “I think a great fit is key, something beautifully made that fits beautifully,” which helps him remain inclusive of all sizes. This is essential, especially for his clients who are walking the red car-pet, noting, “once you put a dress on and go on the red carpet, you should not be thinking about anything except smiling and feeling good you shouldn’t have to worry about anything else.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MEISTER

 

Meister’s pieces have become staples on the red carpet, as his star-studded list of clientele continues to grow along stars such as Diane Lane, Sofia Vergara, Tina Fey, Sigourney Weaver, and many others. Some of his favorite dresses include a hot pink piece worn by Felicity Huffman at the Emmys in 2007, as well as Valerie Bertinelli’s sky blue chiffon dress for her New Year’s Eve wedding, a personal request made to Meister only a week before the wedding. Even with the razor thin deadline, he and his team finished the dress in time for the wedding, a lovely gown worn by Bertinelli that was also featured on the cover of People Magazine in 2011.

Another strong passion of Meister’s is giving back to others. Now residing in Los Angeles, he frequently works with philanthropic groups in his free time. For example, with The Art of Elysium, Meister goes to communities in Los Angeles to support individuals in the midst of difficult emotional life challenges such as illness, hospitalization, or crisis. He does this by spending time with children or young adults, doing fun projects and helping them to be creative and expressive with art. Meister is also very involved in Dress for Success, having donated dresses and supported the organization as a whole.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MEISTER

“I’ve always been a big supporter of this organization that works so hard to help people who are trying to put their lives back together and get back into the workforce,” Meister says, noting that it’s especially important for people to give back.

No matter the facet of life he sets his mind to, Meister showcases unwavering determination to succeed. When discussing his goals for the future, he humorously yet seriously says, “Simple: global domination.” Though these plans might take some time to reach their full effect, he adds that “if there’s something I want to do, I’ll do it.” He also recommends to anyone else interested in pursuing a career in fashion that this field is not for the faint-hearted.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MEISTER

 

Helen Mirren

©2013 JON KOPALOFF

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

 

PHOTO BY JOHN SHEARER / ©2009 WIREIMAGE

Viola Davis

PHOTO BY MATT BARON / BEI / SHUTTERSTOCK

Delilah Hamlin

PHOTO BY DAN MACMEDAN / WIREIMAGE

Diane Lane

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MEISTER

Emmanuelle Chirqui 

“Fashion is one of those professions where if you’re talented and you just keep going, there’s no limit to where you can end up … You’re the master of your own destiny, but only if you want it, you have to work hard for it.”

 

     

This editorial originally appeared in The High End Winter 2020.

Fashion and art lovers will fall in love with these items from textile designer and artist Dianne Erdmanis, who has created wearable art for nature lovers and more.

This artist offers a beautiful perspective that is also fashionable. Erdmanis has captured incredible, dreamy and realistic views of the Earth, as seen from space, on a 100-percent silk scarf. The beauty of the piece lies not just in the way the scarf so perfectly demonstrates a bird’s eye view of the Earth’s unique geography — it’s also hidden in the fact that it’s not a photograph.

Initially sparked by the enormity of uninspiring and mass-produced scarves on the market, Erdmanis wanted to create something unique, sustainable and inspiring. While staring down into the atmosphere of many trips through the clouds on planes, she wondered if there was a way she could capture the true-to-life beauty and geography of the landscape below her.

“I wanted to capture a zoomed-out view of the Earth as seen from a dizzying, almost stratospheric height,” says Erdmanis.

Erdmanis spent countless hours experimenting with paint color, viscosity, flow, and technique. Eventually, she found a truly unique but entirely cohesive method by which to achieve the look of bodies of water “melting” into the land, and vice versa, when viewed from space.

“The altitude had to be just right … so you could see our planet’s oceans, land, and clouds clearly,” she explained.

“The art told me a story,” says Erdmanis. “It made me feel like I was flying, it was beautiful.” The Earth Scarf resembles stunning views of the Earth captured by satellites or space telescopes, watching islands blend into the waters beyond it, depths of the oceans captured by darkening paint, hypnotic swirls of pink, aquamarine, coral and teal, that show how the land bleeds into the water while clouds float overhead.

Her greatest discovery was that her method led to an almost photo-realistic depiction of these aerial shots — except that these could now be printed onto an elegant silk scarf.

Photos courtesy of Pure Huntress

Fashion brands held to the highest style standards are now being called on to create unforgettable designs, responsibly.

The footwear industry poses a few hard-to-answer questions when it comes to sustainability. The amount of waste generated in the production phase is staggering and the options for recycling post-consumption are challenging due to the wide variety of materials used.

For example, rubber and leather are difficult to recycle and the chemicals used, such as glues and dyes, can be detrimental to the environment. Despite the many obstacles, there are companies that are more than up to the challenge.

Photo courtesy of Rothy’s

Model with shoes photo by kerstin jacobsen

ALINASCHUERFELD, named after its founder, is the perfect example of a fashion-forward company offering high-end products without harming the environment along the way. “We are galvanizing the way to a fair and sustainable fashion industry, built upon the powerful human and planetary principles of respect and responsibility,” says the founder and CEO, Alina Schürfeld. “I am using fashion as a tool to create consciousness; the products tell a story about traditional craftsmanship, quality, and appreciation.”

From the beginning, Schürfeld knew she wanted to create well-crafted, distinctive pieces, and sustainability was always the starting point. “The fashion industry has disastrous, often irreparable socio-cultural and ecological effects,” says Schürfeld. This is why her company utilizes salmon leather and chrome-free tanning, which help to reduce chemicals and limit waste.

Leather tanning is the process that transforms animal hides into a durable and long-lasting material that will not quickly decompose. However, the approach involves harsh chemicals that not only contain dangerous carcinogens but can contribute to harmful runoff. To avoid certain hazardous chemicals, ALINASCHUERFELD uses leather that is tanned with chrome-free, vegetable-, or rhubarb-based substances.

Additionally, the eco-conscious company uses bio-certified salmon leather, which would otherwise be disposed of and wasted. “I was inspired by the idea of adding extra value to a former waste product that was discarded from the processing fish industry,” Schürfeld says. Salmon leather provides the same durability as traditional leather and offers a unique texture that contributes to the style of the shoe.

The texture of the salmon leather is clearly preserved and adds to the individual design.

Photos courtesy of Alinaschuerfeld

 

Rothy’s, another unforgettable brand, proposes fashion crafted mainly from the dreaded, post-consumer plastic water bottle.

This sustainable footwear company is growing in popularity, not only because of the big names that are sporting its shoes, like Kristen Bell, Amy Adams and Meghan Markle, but due to the company’s admirable goal to create shoes without leaving behind waste. The Flat, the Point, the Loafer, and the Sneaker are made from recycled PET plastic — a widely-used packaging material — that is transformed into yarn and then 3D knitted, according to Rothy’s. Even the foam and the rubber used for the soles of the shoes are made from recycled materials and designed to reduce waste.

The company emerged in 2015 when co-founders Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin realized comfortable and fashionable flats were hard to come by. Once understanding the amount of waste that’s created in the footwear industry, they decided on a sustainable process. Rothy’s 3D knitting process reduces waste significantly compared to other companies. The entire procedure from the plastic bottles to the minimalist shoe box has been streamlined in terms of sustainability.

Already, 25 million water bottles have been saved from a lifetime at the bottom of the ocean and transformed, according to Rothy’s. The sophisticated designs and brilliant colors are professional enough for the office, stylish enough for a night out, and comfortable enough for a day of adventure. Rothy’s also offers a collection of kids shoes that are lasting and easy to care for in a variety of prints such as flames, rainbows, and more.

Photos courtesy of Rothy’s

Responsible footwear continues to be a new kind of luxury that facilitates fast-paced and fashion-forward customers. “VEERAH is inspired by women, made for warriors,” says Stacey Chang, founder of VEERAH. “We are a mission-driven luxury shoe company founded for women to conquer the world in style and make a positive impact.”

The company works with a variety of groundbreaking materials that are cruelty-free and non-harmful for the environment, making the brand stand out among others. With sustainability in mind, VEERAH uses cork, which is durable, soft, and water-resistant, as well as post-consumer PET plastic bottle fabric, vegan calfskin, and even apple peel skin. This revolutionary bio-based vegan leather comes from actual apples harvested in the Italian Alps. The peels are dried, ground into a fine powder, and transformed into a breathable and sturdy material that is perfect for crafting footwear.

“As a socially and environmentally conscious woman, it was essential for me to create a versatile collection that aligned with my own personal values. I knew that sustainability and luxury could harmoniously coexist when you combine smart sourcing and thoughtful design,” according to Chang. Chang decided to start VEERAH when she couldn’t find a shoe that was sustainable and vegan. Every aspect of VEERAH shoes, from the fabric and the soles to the ink used for the packaging, are designed to effectively reduce landfill waste and limit toxic chemicals.

VEERAH’s apple peel skin is a sustainable, vegan alternative to traditional leather.

Photos courtesy of VEERAH

Depending on the place you call home, the changing seasons may bring cooler weather, warmer fashion, and the beginning of holiday festivities.

If you’re looking to upgrade your closet, find a gift, or treat yourself, here are a few luxurious must-haves for the upcoming months of fall foliage, breezy temperatures, and autumn decor.

Must-Have Sustainable Coffee Mugs

Sustainable is a concept that is here to stay. The increasing awareness about single-use plastic and our threatened environment has sparked an interest in sustainable everything. If you’re switching from iced coffee to steaming tea and hot cocoa, try a ceramic travel mug that will eliminate single-use cups. The ceramic mugs are stylish and functional.

Photos courtesy of Kim Wallace Ceramics

A Wraparound Shawl/Pashmina

These travel wraps are perfect for breezy mornings that require a few extra layers. Muted tones and woven from fine merino wool, these scarves can add a touch of style to your outfit. Later in the day if the chill is gone, the items are lightweight and can easily be stowed away in your bag or in your desk.

 

Photos courtesy of Tolly McRae

A Rainy Day Necessity

A functional and fun umbrella is perfect for unexpected weather. Whether you’re running errands or headed to a business meeting, there’s nothing worse than being caught in the rain. Don’t let unpredictable weather ruin your day or your style. Find a compact umbrella that fits into your style. Nothing brightens up a rainy afternoon like an umbrella that perfectly suits your personality. 

Photo courtesy of Sophie Allport

Art and Greenery

Photo courtesy of Bex Parkin

Photo courtesy of AUDENZA

Shorter days, cooler nights and less time to spend outdoors can leave some days feeling rather dull. Brighten up your space with a touch of greenery, such as a new plant or a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers. A low maintenance option would be a cheerful piece of art that brings life into rooms that can feel drab in the upcoming months.

The delicate and fleeting beauty of nature has been preserved in Earth’s hardest natural substance resulting in the perfect combination of jewelry and flowers.

Jewelry inspired by flowers is not a new idea, but an enduring concept. When a stunning color or intricate design appears naturally that delicacy is what makes it memorable. Solidifying these two elements creates a unique union of fragility and strength that can last throughout the years. Diamonds, the hardest natural substance, exist far beneath the Earth’s surface for millions of years and the fragile life of a flower only blooms for a short time before it is gone. The perfect balance has been achieved in these pieces.

There’s no longer a need to choose between flowers and diamonds when selecting the perfect gift or adding to a collection. Whether it’s a ring, necklace or brooch these examples are the best of both worlds.

Alex Soldier’s Cornoair Brooch

Alex Soldier offers a multifunctional piece that is an unforgettable representation of nature. “Flower motifs celebrate life in its many beautiful manifestations,” says Alex Soldier, the president of the self-titled company. With the same intricacy found in a flower, the Cornoair Brooch with Mandarin garnet and colored diamonds appears as a work of art that can be cherished throughout the years.

Handmade in New York City, the piece is adaptable and can be worn as a brooch, ring, necklace, or a cuff. Soldier explains that in jewelry design there is “passion in detail.” The brooch is made of 18 karat rose gold and over 800 stones, including light and dark champagne diamonds, chocolate and black bead diamonds, rubies and more.

Photo courtesy of Alex Soldier

The Flower Diamond

 

The Flower Diamond stands out among other gems because of the flower-shaped inclusion that appears as if it has bloomed in the center of the stone. The pear-shaped, modified brilliant-cut diamond encases a perfectly symmetrical, six-petal flower, making it a natural marvel. Similar to a snowflake, the pattern that appears in the heart of the 3.02 carat diamond is one-of-a-kind.

Originally discovered in the jungles of Minas Gerais, Brazil and recut to showcase the flower shape, the main stone was mounted in a gorgeous, platinum necklace with a total of 32 carats of diamonds. John Humbert, the owner of Sterling Promise Inc. says, “You need to see it with your own eyes to understand how incredible it is. It’s hard to believe it occurred naturally.”

 

Photo courtesy of Sterling Promise Inc.

The White Gold Flower Ring

 

“There is something very romantic and beautiful about the simplicity of a flower,” according to Lauren Wolf, the owner/president of Lauren Wolf Jewelry. The White Gold Flower Ring has a 3.18 carat cognac diamond that is speckled with intricate inclusions that adds to the organic quality of the ring. Serving as the petals, are champagne marquis diamonds that are shockingly clear, according to Wolf.

“I’m attracted to the floral motifs from the late Victorian period and the early 20th century,” she says. “The idea that this symbol can carry such a special meaning throughout time is powerful.” The ring generates a sense of imperfect natural beauty that is typical in flowers.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Lauren Wolf Jewelry

Gold Astra Brooch With White And Black Diamonds

 

With the true detail found in a flower and the power of a stunning diamond, the Gold Astra Brooch is an unforgettable union of two iconic symbols. “Aster flowers have long been symbols of enchantment and mysterious allure,” according to Soldier. The 127 stones that make up the piece contribute to the authentic feel and overall romantic allure that Alex Soldier manages to capture.

Photo courtesy of Alex Soldier

Golf has always been considered an elitist sport, but when precious metals and exotic leathers are introduced, it’s a whole new game.

With its expensive equipment and country club heritage, golf has always been considered a luxury pursuit, even though aggressive youth programs and some hip touring professionals have begun eroding the sport’s buttoned-down image. Nonetheless, players with unlimited resources or a penchant for fantasy are fueling demand for some over-the-top golf equipment and accessories.

The venerable luxury brand of Tiffany & Co. creates some of golf’s most coveted trophies, including those of the PGA Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It also produces an elegant sterling silver putter ($2,500), which is an ideal gift for any golfing enthusiast who likes to flash some bling on the greens. A more discreet way to glamorously accessorize one’s game is with the company’s sterling silver tee, which at $175 is a relatively inexpensive way to give a loved one a little blue box from Tiffany. Hopefully, it will not be lost on the course!

The Garia “Golf Car”

Photo courtesy The Watch Judge

The most expensive regular-production golf clubs are the platinum-and-24-karat gold-accented Beres 5-Star series from Japanese manufacturer Honma. Veteran golf retailer Bill Stauff er of Las Vegas Golf & Tennis Superstore reports that a 14-club set with bag sells for about $65,000 and is popular with status-conscious Asian tourists who would pay more for these products back home. “There’s no question the quality is there,” states Stauffer, who insists Honma products are not simply for bragging rights. He explains the clubs are all made-to-order by seasoned craftsmen, which results in an eight-week wait for delivery. While the brand has traditionally been more popular with billionaire duff ers than PGA pros, superstar Justin Rose just inked a 10-year endorsement deal with Honma.

Transforming the clunky electric golf cart into a sophisticated driving machine is Garia, a Danish manufacturer whose top-of-the-line vehicle begins at $73,000. The Garia “Golf Car,” inspired by Mercedes-Benz, combines luxury, state-of-the-art technology and the true spirit of the game. For functionality, it features a scoreboard displayed on a touchscreen and handy tray for balls and tees, while comfort is ensured by the inclusion of that essential amenity on the golf course — a built-in refrigerator. And with an attainable speed of 43 miles per hour, albeit not recommended at stuffier country clubs, Garia has not overlooked performance. This aerodynamic Mercedes Benz-styled ride puts an end to the plastic buggy age and allows luxury golf enthusiasts to express themselves on the links.

Anders Lynge, designer and co-founder of Garia, explains the inspiration for the product was to take Mercedes-Benz design values onto the golf course, noting the iconic automotive brand has previously applied its sense of style to yachts and helicopters. All Garia golf cars are more than just your average golf cart,” insists Lynge, citing features like sports car-inspired double-wishbone suspension with disc brakes and an integrated instrument cluster. While it offers the functionality and simplicity of a golf cart, the designer maintains it drives more like an automobile.

“Buyers are wealthy individuals who need the car for golf and street usage inside their communities or on their properties,” says Lynge, who reports the car is street legal in both the EU and U.S. “Some are Mercedes collectors, some avid golfers who want the very best, others are athletes or entrepreneurs who have made it and now live in a golf community and want the best possible vehicle for driving and golfing,” says Lynge of his globally diverse clientele.

Par West Custom Golf Shoes is another brand that has gained traction among discriminating golfers. Paul Raddatz founded the business after making his first pair of shoes for PGA pro Payne Stewart — the game’s most flamboyant dresser in the ’80s and ’90s — from NFL football leather.

Currently, three of the top 10 ranked players on the Tour are wearing Par West shoes. The Wisconsin-based company custom-makes all shoes from a foot mold kit, taking into consideration clients’ sock preferences and habits on the course.

Honma Beres S-06 Driver

Sterling in Tangerine Ostrich

Reporting he has sold shoes with more than 5,000 distinct color and style combinations, Raddatz says many of his customers are simply unable to find shoes that fit in any pro shop. “Others are people who really want to look their best and care about quality,” he explains. Traditional styles are offered for conservative dressers, but for those more daring in their golf fashion, perhaps influenced by the PGA’s Rickie Fowler, Par West has plenty of eye-popping options to choose from.

Raddatz, a leather industry veteran, utilizes sharkskin, ostrich, American bison, crocodile, African elephant, and stingray for golf shoes, among other exotic leathers. He reports bold color choices like fuchsia, canary yellow or tangerine are surprisingly popular, and a pair of royal purple American alligator shoes is priced at $5,200. An avid golfer himself, Raddatz states, “I don’t care how much you spend on clubs or lessons. Stability on the ground is the basis for a good swing.” A large part of Par West’s business is corporate gifts, ideal for the Fortune 500 executive who fancies himself as the best dressed golfer at his club.

Some fashionable duffers may opt for a vintage Louis Vuitton golf bag, but among the most expensive currently available are ostrich, crocodile or carbon fiber bags from Barchi, handcrafted by Italian artisans. Customers should be prepared to spend more than $40,000 for these luxury bags, available in vibrant colors and accented with palladium hardware.

Considerably more modest but with plenty of cachet is Louis Vuitton’s golf kit clad in the design house’s signature Monogram canvas. The $850 item, which can be clipped to one’s golf bag or Garia cart, neatly holds three balls and four tees. Players with fancy accessories should probably consider membership at a country club that is equally selective, and the most expensive in America is Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, where the initiation fee is reportedly $500,000.

Riviera in Cognac Calf & Chocolate American Alligator

Nisolo, a sustainable fashion brand, shares its impact report online and offers everything from jewelry and accessories, to heels, boots, bags and more.

This company focuses on more than low prices. The handcrafted process involves intentional designs, an ethical work environment, and comfortable fashion that can be worn every day.

We sat down with Devon Murrie, brand partnerships manager at Nisolo, to learn more about this industry.

What is the inspiration behind your company?

Nisolo has the vision to push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction — where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price — a direction that not only values exceptional design but the producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.

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What are some of the biggest challenges when creating sustainable shoes?

One of the biggest challenges of sustainable production is gaining complete visibility into every level of a supply chain. We took a much deeper look into our supply chain in 2018 after learning from Patagonia about their material traceability practices. We still do not have 100% visibility into every level of our supply chain (we regularly visit all of our factories and tanneries, but no farms to date), however, after speaking with representatives of our tanneries in León, Mexico, we know that a lot of our leather comes from farms in the USA and northern Mexico, and is a byproduct of the meat industry. Diving into this further is a priority of ours for 2019.

What does sustainable mean to you?

We at Nisolo feel a responsibility to the ethical treatment of our producers. We work to ensure living wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and additional benefits such as healthcare, time off, and bonuses for our producers. We also feel a responsibility to understand our supply chain and mitigate our environmental impact. All leather used in our supply chain is a byproduct of the meat industry, and we’re utilizing the more eco-friendly vegetable tanning method across many products.

Please explain why your company stands out among others?

Two things really set Nisolo apart: our attention to good, functional design and our vertical integration. We actually own and operate our factory in Peru, which allows us both visibility and flexibility into our design and impact practices.

Despite our confidence in those areas, we know greenwashing has reached new heights in our industry and we felt it essential to obtain third-party certification from a highly respected organization. So in 2017 Nisolo also received B Corporation certification — recognizing us as a company that uses the power of business to help solve the social and environmental challenges our world faces today.

Photos courtesy of Nisolo

Secondhand has gone upscale.

The names tell the story. The Vault Luxury Resale. The RealReal. Poshmark. Once the domain of nonprofits and local mom-and-pop stores, consignment and resale has become a big business, with new ventures adding a high-end twist to a timeworn model.

Resale, in which retailers purchase items directly from consumers and sell them outright, frequently replaces the traditional consignment model. No matter the method — consignment or resale — items are often not new. Still almost everyone in the business would be hard pressed even to utter the word “used,” instead opting for pre-owned, pre-loved, gently worn and secondhand.

“The attitude about resale has changed significantly over the last five years. The new consumer mindset sees the value in purchasing high-quality, well-made items that can last a lifetime, and our model creates access to these items,” says Rati Levesque, chief merchant for The RealReal, which sells luxury goods online (and in two recently opened brick and mortar stores) on consignment. ThredUp, one of the first online companies to focus on second-hand apparel for women and children, estimates 70 percent of their shoppers, which they often call “thrifters,” have never purchased secondhand before.

Used items from premium labels such as Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Chanel have always been in demand, often only obtained through a very small group of discrete local shops. In 1991, Sue McCarthy opened a consignment shop in St. Louis, eventually realizing that purchasing items outright was better suited to her upscale clientele. Today, she heads a multimillion-dollar enterprise, trading the original 400-square-foot storefront for a 7,000-square-foot boutique. Her roster of clients extends worldwide with approximately 15,000 individuals who send items to her. Additionally, along with her daughter who is the company curator and verifies authenticity, she frequently travels to view and purchase items from some of the largest closets in New York, Paris, London and other cities, something she calls “shopping the closet.” Clients include some of the world’s wealthiest women and celebrities, and more than a few stylists have her on speed dial. Also, customers travel to St. Louis to shop in her store. For some, like one group of female lawyers, it’s become an annual event.

 

 

The RealReal began at Julie Wainwright’s kitchen table and is now a major player in online luxury consignment. Following other online merchants, they recently opened stores in Los Angeles and New York and plan to add more brick and mortar locations in 2019.

Julie Wainwright

Photos courtesy of The RealReal.

When it comes to selling secondhand items online, eBay was a game changer and 1st Dibbs broke new ground for luxury sales online. In the industry, ThredUp, which started with a pilot for peer-to-peer online sharing of men’s shirts, established the resale niche online. Now the company claims to be the world’s largest online marketplace to buy and sell women’s and kids’ secondhand clothes.  

James Reinhart, co-founder and CEO of ThredUp says, “There is a powerful transformation of the modern closet happening and I’m proud that resale is a key driver of this transformation.” ThredUp estimates current resale market for apparel at $20 billion and projects the market to grow to $41 billion by 2022. Investors have taken notice. ThredUp, The RealReal, Poshmark and others have captured venture capital. Waiting in the wings as further resale disruptors, according to ThredUp, are depop, Rebagg, Tradesy and Grailed. Additionally, startups such as The Luxury Closet are tapping into a nascent resale market in Dubai.

ThredUp estimates approximately 13 percent of their most active thrifters are millionaires. Several years ago, McCarthy tried an online store but decided a focus on social media would make the best use of their online staff. They have a massive following on Instagram and Facebook, running special sales and events weekly. “We cast a wide net over every product,” McCarthy says. “Once we put an item up it sells almost instantly.”

The industry claims resale benefits the environment and most major players support a charity. But McCarthy believes her process allows wealthy clients to amp up their support of nonprofits. “We’re able to monetize it better for charities,” McCarthy says. Instead of receiving a check or cash for their items, many of their wealthy clients opt to donate the money to charity. “If they give the $2,000 purse to charity, the charity is going to sell it for $200. If they give it to us, we’re going to pay them a thousand dollars. We make the check out to their favorite charity,” she explains. But many opt to take the resale funds and use them to purchase the latest and greatest, underscoring the secret to resale. “The lady who wants the latest Chanel or Gucci bag is going to be the same lady that wants the next latest one. And that gives her a good incentive to sell the previous bags,” McCarthy explains.  

Sue McCarthy

Sue McCarthy pioneered the luxury resale model with The Vault Luxury. Stylists and fashionistas have her on speed dial. And she is called on to shop the most indulgent closets in New York, London and Paris.

Photos courtesy of The Vault Luxury Resale.

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