Composure Magazine – 88 Handbags & VEERAH

Written for Composure Magazine:

Trying to be more environmentally responsible for 2017? Try eco-friendly accessories from 88 Handbags and VEERAH to get a jumpstart on your New Year’s fashion resolutions.

STORY: Min A. Lee

While fast fashion may be a dominant force in the marketplace, in recent years, there’s been a gradual shift towards slow and ethical labels. As this trend continues to grow, those in the know are taking a second look at the vegan approach to leather, a material noted for its luxuriousness. While some fashion lovers may find it hard to stray from the genuine deal, a couple of accessory labels are working to produce quality vegan leather that can feel and look just as luxe: 88 Handbags and VEERAH Footwear.

No small amount of research and travel went into creating bags and shoes that would sway die-hard leather fans and impress editors and consumers everywhere. Indeed, just one touch reveals that there really is a fine line between faux and real that’s starting to disappear. At times, I wasn’t able to tell if what I was holding was actual leather or not. “As well as being environmentally friendly, it has to look and feel great,” says Alexander Fowler, the founder of 88 Handbags. “It has to have durability, as we want people to love our bags for years. Also, it needs to be affordable so it can be economically viable as we hope it will become an industry standard in the future. We have solved all the challenges except getting the handfeel right, which we are working on now and are hoping to have it ready soon.”

Now, you may think faux leather equals more pollution, but that’s not necessarily the case. 88 Handbags is constantly working towards an earth-friendly solution. “While extraordinarily challenging, we’ve been working for over a year on water-based PU, which would have zero environmental impact,” says Fowler. As for VEERAH founder Stacey Chang, she travels the world to source materials and keep her line ethical. “We were able to find silky fabrics made out of recycled plastic bottles, breathable organic cotton for sock lining, and memory foam cushions that replace 20 to 50 percent of the petroleum typically used with a substitute derived from castor beans,” she explains.

Though the materials are a huge part of what makes these brands fit the eco-friendly category, it’s also the lifestyle they promote while building their brands. Their missions and passions go beyond just producing timeless fashion.

Social causes are important to Chang, and the VEERAH team incorporate a “giving back and self-improvement” mentality. Chang says she created VEERAH to “merge style, quality, compassion, and functionality for women today, who we refer to as #VEERAHwarriors.” To that end, she’s implemented an in-house 1-10-100 Battle Plan: At least 1 percent of VEERAH’s proceeds go to social impact causes (She’s The First, shesthefirst.org, is their current non-profit partner); their employees are paid to do 10 hours of volunteer work and/or improvement courses each month; and for every 100 feedback interviews they conduct, VEERAH sponsors a one-year scholarship for a She’s The First girl scholar. “We aim to grow together and give back,” says Chang.

For 88, they consider their label a “part of a movement,” where everyone works together to create a better world, whether by donating to charities favored by their customers or by sending a message in their choice of fashion. “We hope that by wearing our brand people will look good and also proudly be displaying their values and beliefs in the sanctity of life and the planet we live on,” says Fowler. “A handbag is a very personal purchase as it is a daily workhorse. We believe that by using an 88 handbag you are proudly telling the world that you are committed to a better and more enlightened world.”

And while the lure of fast fashion is strong — after all, being able to buy a $15 pair of shoes every season is hard to pass up — it doesn’t stop VEERAH and 88 from pushing for affordable items that will rise above the fickle nature of trends. 88 keeps prices competitive by being direct-to-consumer with no middleman markups, and they calculate the value to the consumer by its timeless quality and durability. “We don’t want you to use our bag for a few weeks and then throw it away,” says Fowler. “We want you to love her, treasure her, and have her with you for years. We would rather people consume responsibly. In a world where no one needs more stuff, we believe that people are beginning to expect fashion to do more than make them look and feel good. While fashion has to do that, we also believe that it has to do more.”

VEERAH offers a unique way to keep pace with changing tastes: interchangeable, multi-functional accessories that come with each pair of classic VEERAH shoes. This allows you to “multiply your look whenever you need a change,” says Chang. “Buying a pair of VEERAH heels is equivalent to buying multiple pairs of shoes. Our customers can stay fashionably current and maintain a classic sophistication all at once.”

As ethical fashion grows, 88 and VEERAH strive to create high-end quality that will continue to promote changes in lifestyle. Even though you’ll find beautiful designs on 88’s website, [where they sell exclusively to keep costs down], to them it’s about much more. “We are excited about the growing understanding and acceptance of veganism and environmental care,” says Fowler. We wanted to have a voice to promote those movements to bring together people who share the same values. This is about much more than selling handbags. We see awareness and engagement growing every day, as we put our energy on ethics and sustainability.”

While Chang is also optimistic about the future of sustainable styles, she knows that in fashion, the message is not enough. “It is a brand’s job to bring high quality, great design to market,” she says. “Customers are smart and savvy. They will not shop your label just because you are ethical and sustainable. First, you must have well-made, relevant products. Then you can better raise awareness on the impact that one can make — both good and bad. Once people obtain more awareness, this will lead to change on the other side in manufacturing. In turn, I hope it will also become easier to source high quality, eco-conscious materials.”

. . .

Be your own designer with 88 Handbags!

In a collaborative effort, 88 is offering you the opportunity to participate in creating a handbag. Check 88-eightyeight.com for their February contest — send in your design for a chance to see it in their fall 2017 collection!

88 Handbags are available at 88-handbags.com.

To shop for VEERAH, visit VEERAH.com or schedule a private appointment in their Manhattan studio in Greenwich Village by sending an e-mail to veerahwarriors@veerah.com.

Read the full article here.

Composure Magazine – High Shine Trend

In the current print issue of Composure Magazine available now. High Shine trend story.

Winter’s favorite shades get a glossy update.

Story by Min A. Lee

Composure Magazine – Perla Formentini

From Composure Magazine’s latest print issue available now. Article regarding footwear designer/brand Perla Formentini.

An excerpt:

Perla Formentini’s sophisticated footwear line brings European It-girl style to the U.S.

STORY BY MIN A. LEE

For such a sophisticated line with international appeal, Perla Formentini’s shoes are inspired by something very close to her heart: home.

“We are surrounded by renowned Italian art and architecture,” says co-founder Bianca Tse of Marche, Italy, an idyllic, hilly region on the eastern Italian coast. “Even the Mediterranean buildings we walk by every day are works of art. It’s inevitable that our surroundings are reflected in our color palette and in our leathers.”

Whether a sepia-toned metallic sheen or cutout patterns inspired by the history of the Italian city, each Perla Formentini shoe, which range from ballet flats to heeled boots, reference a quality from their hometown. And while the shoes don’t necessarily follow current trends — the classic silhouettes have a timeless appeal — the designs are still modern: silver hardware keeps sandals edgy and high-shine leather amps up a pair of oxfords that are anything but traditional.

Of course, Italian leathers alone can break budgets, but what sets Perla Formentini apart is their ability to provide high-end luxury at an affordable price. Because they keep their manufacturing in-house, this gives them “the unique ability to ensure high quality materials for shoes at a contemporary price point,” says Tse. Not only does this help set the brand apart from competitors, it also gives women a chance to own some exceptional shoes without that all too familiar feeling of shopper’s remorse.

To read the full article head over to ComposureMagazine.com

Getting To Know WEAR.net Japan’s Popular Fashion Lookbook App

Hop on Instagram, and you’ll find on the “Explore” page alone a heavy roll of highly edited photos that look just too good to be true. You’ll read stories on how some users spend hours shooting just for a single, tiny square post. Imagine the time spent taking 200 photos to just pick one.

It’s a game. Even I have to upkeep social media for my writing—the ultimate love/hate relationship. I’m much more shy about the selfie or selca trend and prefer to hide behind something if I can, but every once in awhile I’ll step in front for an independent brand I purchased and really support.

Then Japan’s popular WEAR app fell into my lap when a good friend and journalist for Harper’s Bazaar China, Stacy Fan, told me to just give it a go. I highly trust her opinion based on her approach to fashion with intricate reviews of designers and in-depth interviews on Eurasianvogue.com.

She explained WEAR was image based as well, but much more approachable with very little editing and filters. It truly is. I get a view of every day style from Japan to China to Europe. There’s no heavy photoshop or flawless product shots. It’s simply what people wear right as they’re heading out the door. Eclectic to polished, there’s really something to appeal to anyone with a semi-interest in street style.

Though recently launched in the United States, I still find a decent amount of unfiltered, raw images. At the same time there’s stylized shots now. I still give them a nod for creating a crisp, clean image, though my heart is chasing after those more realistic photos.

Trends vary by country, and you can pick this up quickly on the app. What we might favor in the United States, won’t be happening in Taiwan. I spend a couple hours a day on there looking for inspiration and also out of sheer curiosity. I find the Japanese are as shy about photos as I am. Many block their face with cute emoticons or graphics so the focus rests solely on their outfit. This is how I feel clothing really is meant to be, just another necessary aspect of our lives, but we still find some way to express our individuality.

Ultimately, WEAR’s lookbook style platform is Instagram from fashion only, but without all the fuss of numbers and engagement percentages.

To learn more, visit wear.net.

While you’re at it get ready to participate in hashtag challenges across some of the major media platforms Vogue, Refinery29, W, T Brand Studio for the New York Times and Teen Vogue. Here are a couple to show you how WEAR has made their recent splash into the U.S. Markets and to motivate you to take a peek at why this app has been downloaded 8 millions times:

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Composure Magazine – Style Travels

Original story published for the most recent issue of Composure Magazine.  Issues can be purchased here

An excerpt:

Natalie Chapman brings her high-end luxury line (finally!) to the United States.

STORY BY MIN A. LEE

“I want to deliver timeless classics — a wardrobe staple that elevates…”

It took just one look: The beautiful silks and streamlined jackets of Australian designer Natalie Chapman’s namesake line had us completely smitten. And now those of us Stateside don’t have to fly halfway across the world to get our hands on her chic offerings — Chapman’s moved her entire Sydney headquarters to our backyard, in Los Angeles.

Heavily influenced by her travels, Chapman’s designs bring a more European, city chic aesthetic to the West coast, balancing out the casual, beach-ready looks L.A. is known for. “I particularly love Parisian women and their no-fuss attitude and refusal to compromise their style choices despite motherhood and work demands,” says Chapman. “I have traveled extensively and have an enormous respect for European women and their style choices.”

While influential celebrities like Zendaya and Kendall Jenner are already sporting her on-trend chokers, we love her smart, sophisticated double-breasted blazer and wide-legged jumpsuit. Other standouts in the line include Chapman’s signature pieces: her tuxedo jacket and the slip dress. The deep, jewel-toned shade of green used for the “Slip V” dress has us ready for cold weather layering and is perfect for pairing with other earth tones
big this fall. In contrast, by going for a tailored yet relaxed fit on the tuxedo jacket, Chapman provides a versatile option for almost any body shape. The longer length elongates beautifully.

In addition to her travels, Chapman’s sleek aesthetic is “inspired by my customer who dresses to feel empowered and confident in herself.” She’s also mindful of her customer’s real-life concerns. Longevity may be a novel concept in the era of fast fashion, where the speed of design and affordability seem to be king, but Chapman wants customers to invest in a piece that will go well beyond one fall or spring. “I am not a big believer in following trends,” she says. “I believe in reinventing the classics. I didn’t set out to create a product that will last my customer a season and then be ‘out.’ I believe that if my customer is investing in me and in herself, I want to deliver timeless classics — a wardrobe staple that elevates and empowers her, not just for now but for years to come.”

Read the FULL article at ComposureMagazine.com

Composure Magazine – Trend Story + Layout

From the latest print issue of Composure Magazine available for purchase here.

Inspired by historical European royalty and museum-worthy masterpieces, this season’s velvet, lace, brocade, and embellishment add drama to your fall wardrobe.

STORY BY MIN A. LEE

 

Composure Magazine – Trend Story + Layout

From a previous print issue of Composure Magazine. Find the printed issues in the shop!

Add graceful movement with this easy, breezy summer style.

STORY BY MIN A. LEE