Musings on the culture of keeping up appearances

All the Rage

Category: Michelle Obama

Alexis Bittar, fashion jewelry's renaissance man, set for expansion


Alexis Bittar
I can think of no better time than Mother's Day weekend to discuss jewelry. Fashion jewelry design is in the midst of a renaissance the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1980s. And Alexis Bittar blazed the trail.

In the past two decades, the New York-based jewelry designer has gone from selling his signature colorful, hand-carved Lucite pieces on the streets of SoHo to bejeweling leading ladies in Hollywood and beyond, including First Lady Michelle Obama (pictured below wearing one of his pins to the State of the Union address in January), Lady Gaga, Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Meryl Streep and Rihanna. At the same time, he's managed to keep the core of his collection in an accessible $225 to $645 price range.

Michelle Obama
Bittar has also challenged the definition of fashion muse by eschewing prepubescent models in his ad campaigns in favor of real women, such as eccentric octogenarian Iris Apfel, "Dynasty" diva Joan Collins and, most recently, "Ab Fab" couple Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

In a story for Sunday's Image section, I caught up with Bittar to talk about how the jewelry business has changed over the years and what he's planning for his own brand, now that he has a new business partner in private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners.

-- Booth Moore


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Photos, from top: Alexis Bittar and pieces from his spring 2012 collection from the designer.

First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Jan. 24. Credit:  Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Fashion news: Michelle Obama, holiday sales, New Year's Eve

Obama family portrait
Tom Ford. Naeem Khan. Vera Wang. Target. What do they have in common? Michelle Obama (who wears a dress from Byron Lars' Beauty Mark line in the photo above). The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the first lady's year in style. [WSJ, subscription required]

What were the best parties of the year? Vogue UK includes the usual awards shows, plus the Met Ball, plus the "street party" surrounding Fashion's Night Out. [Vogue UK]

The end-of-the-year lists just won't stop. has compiled a year in "style crushes," starting with Kourtney Kardashian.

If you're still wondering what to do with your hair on New Year's Eve, The Moment lists a few suggestions. Among them: the ponytail. Earlier this year, Times staff writer Melissa Magsaysay explained how it's done. [L.A. Times]

And, finally, if you continue to fret about the shaky economy and the retail industry, New York Magazine (with an assist from Women's Wear Daily) reports that "American consumers are currently on the verge of breaking the national record for holiday sales." [The Cut]


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Obamas spend a low-key Christmas in Hawaii

--Alice Short

Photo of the Obama family (First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, President Obama and Sasha Obama): Pete Souza/Associated Press


Nicole Miller and Vivienne Westwood have designs on Africa

When First Lady fashion plate Michelle Obama visited South Africa in June, she nodded to the region's rich textile tradition by wearing a colorful print top from the ASOS Africa fair-trade line. And I've been obsessed with finding African print clothing ever since. 

Nicole As it turns out, ASOS is not the only one dabbling in fair-trade fashion. Nicole Miller recently debuted a selection of brightly colored sarongs, shorts and bangle bracelets in five African prints, as part of a partnership with Indego Africa, a social enterprise that employs more than 250 women in Rwanda. The styles are available online, with 15% of proceeds donated to the organization.

Vivienne Westwood joined forces with the United Nations International Trade Center to debut her Ethical Fashion Collection for

The Nairobi, Kenya-based center employs disadvantaged women, who make the wildly patterned bags for Westwood using recycled materials. Westwood

When the flame-haired designer visited the center this year, she took photographer Juergen Teller with her to capture the project.  "It's quite incredible to think we might be able to save the world through fashion," Westwood said in a statement.


-- Booth Moore


Vivienne Westwood fetes her first U.S. store

Vivienne Westwood opens first U.S. store

Top photo: First Lady Michelle Obama wears an ASOS Africa tunic while visiting the Emthonjeni Community Center in Zandspruit Township, Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 21. Charles Dharapak /Associated Press. Middle photo: Sarong from the Nicole Miller Indego Africa Collection; credit: Nicole Miller. Bottom photo: Vivienne Westwood with bags from her Ethical Fashion Collection. Credit: Juergen Teller.

[UPDATED] Your Morning Fashion and Beauty Report: Justin Bieber's new perfume bottle looks familiar; Duchess of Cambridge causes (another) fashion frenzy


In Britain, the Duchess of Cambridge has created a frenzy for High Street retailers such as Reiss. Just a couple of days after the duchess wore the brand's body-hugging, nude-colored "Shola" shift dress to meet the Obamas, the style went flying off the racks and sold out. Even knockoff versions in British stores are going quickly, indicating that the Shola likely will be seen everywhere this summer. [Daily Telegraph]

Pop star Lily Allen must have been bitten by the fashion bug while posing as the face of Chanel. She has a vintage store in London called Lucy in Disguise, and she's launched a vintage-inspired clothing line by the same name. Think '70s-style jumpsuits, '30s-inspired tea dresses and frilly and full '50s-style skirts. [Vogue UK]

LRG co-founder Jonas Bevacqua was found dead on Monday in his Laguna Beach home. The Irvine-based clothing label fused a West Coast skate lifestyle with streetwear and hip-hop sensibilities, creating a new and influential genre that struck a chord with music and sports stars. [Los Angeles Times] [Updated June 8 at 11:13 a.m. This item originally incorrectly said Bevacqua was found in Laguna Hills.]

Jessica Biel spills her beauty secrets, including the power of Dove soap and the use of a gray eyebrow pencil to fill in her brows. The Revlon spokeswoman is promoting the cosmetics brand's new line of eyelash-growing makeup, called Grow Luscious. [Bella Sugar]

Justin Bieber just unveiled his first women's perfume, called Someday, and the rose-shaped top looks strikingly similar to the bottle for Marc Jacobs' Lola. Apparently, both have fruity floral notes too, but Jacobs isn't phased. Let's see what he thinks when thousands of screaming teens are clamoring for the Bieber bottle. [Style List]

Stretch out that long-weekend tan with a bevy of golden bronzers that add a hint of shimmer to the skin. []

The street-style factor at the Sasquatch music festival in Washington state may have Coachella beat. Concert-goers were slightly more rugged and certainly inspired by the indie vibe of the Pacific Northwest. []



G-Star rolls out motorcyclist-inspired collection

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Photo: The Duchess of Cambridge, wearing the Reiss "Shola" dress, meets First Lady Michelle Obama. Credit: Associated Press

Your Morning Fashion and Beauty Report: Chloe Sevigny plans runway show. Oprah wears L'Wren Scott. And Fergie picks up a FiFi.


You might say actress Chloe Sevigny dabbles in fashion design, creating collections for Opening Ceremony sporadically and showing them rather casually -- at a concert, for instance, or over tea. But next month she's scheduled to present an actual runway show. "I've never done this part before and it's a little scary, to be honest," she told I'm still in the early stages, but I have been looking at spaces, looking at models, and selecting the music and all of that. It's pretty cool to be doing this." [] 

Newly blond singer Fergie was honored Wednesday at the fragrance industry's annual FiFi awards, picking up the New Celebrity Fragrance of the Year award for her Outspoken scent for Avon. Clad in a lemon yellow dress by BCBG -- and surprised when she was joined onstage by husband Josh Duhamel -- Fergie said it was humbling to have "the biggest fragrance launch in Avon's 125-year history."  [People]  

Former wholesale-manufacturer-turned-designer Eli Levite plans to expand his bohemian-tinged Johnny Was label to the Grove this summer. [Mondette]

Trendy men's underwear line 2(x)ist is getting into swimwear, and will show its first collection at the Swim Show in Miami. [WWD] (Subscription required.)

Our Booth Moore wrote about the effect Oprah Winfrey has had on fashion over the 25-year span of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and we posted a photo gallery of her looks over the years. So what did the divine Oprah wear for the last episode? An elegant custom coral silk L'Wren Scott dress, nude heels and drop earrings. [StyleList]

After an action packed two days in London, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a formal thank-you dinner honoring their hosts at Winfield House, the American ambassador's residence in London. The first lady wore Ralph Lauren. But my favorite image came earlier in the day, when the Obamas co-hosted a barbecue along with British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha. Michelle Obama, dressed in a brown-and-white patterned sweater and skirt by Tracy Reese, and Samantha Cameron, in a belted Jonathan Saunders dress, served up potato salad and coleslaw to guests while their husbands handled the grill. [WWD] 

Meanwhile, France's first lady, Carla Bruni, hosted a luncheon in Deauville, France, for wives of leaders attending the G-8 summit, wearing a white maternity shift and black coat and confirming that, yes, she is four months pregnant. [People]

Express will try out a new Japanese-designed store prototype next month, with industrial fixtures, a runway down the middle and a denim lab. [WWD] (Subscription required.) 

-- Susan Denley

Photo: Chloe Sevigny. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times 

Your morning fashion and beauty report: Kim Kardashian's engagement ring bling. Michelle Obama wears Tom Ford. And Fergie goes blond.


After several months of dark hair, singer Fergie has gone back to blond -- similar to her hair color last fall. She showed off the blond locks at the Billboard Music Awards over the weekend. Who can keep up with celebrity hair color changes? [People]

Jennifer Aniston recently dyed her hair brown, but that doesn't really count. She just did it for her role in the film "Horrible Bosses." In "real life" she prefers her normal blonder color, her stylist assures.  [Us]

Amichelle Michelle Obama wore a lovely ivory goddess gown by Tom Ford at Tuesday night's Queen's State Dinner at Buckingham Palace and it was as interesting a diplomatic choice as it was a fashion pick. Ford is an American designer who shows in both New York and London and who maintains design headquarters in the latter, just a short walk from the palace. The choice underscored the United States and Britain's "special relationship," according to pundits. [Telegraph]

Queen Elizabeth II wore white for the dinner as well. In her majesty's case, it was a crystal-studded empire-line ballgown, with the Grand Duchess Vladimir's diamond tiara, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee necklace, the Garter Sash and Star. Don't you just love a heritage where even the bling has names? [Telegraph]

White seems to be the color to watch, at least this week. I wrote earlier this week about the elegant white pantsuit Rihanna wore on the Billboard Awards red carpet. Now our Jenn Harris tells you how to recreate the look in her Frugal Fashion column.

Kim Kardashian's beau, New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humprhies, has popped the quesion, and Kim has the sparkler to prove it: a custom-designed, 20.5-carat Lorraine Schwartz diamond sparkler. "I just knew I wanted it to be big," Humphries said. Good choice, buddy. Everything in Kim's life is over-the-top, so the ring needed to be, too. Over-the-top? Well, her engagement party featured two glitter-covered mini-horses.  [People]

Celebs by the swarm are teaming with Uniqlo to raise money for Japanese Red Cross. Uniqlo expects to raise about $1.2 million for disaster relief by selling T-shirts designed by notables including Lady Gaga, Blake Lively, Karl Lagerfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Alber Elbaz, Charlize Theron, Cyndi Lauper, Victoria Beckham and Orlando Bloom. The tees go on sale June 25 for $19.90 each. The benefit effort is in addition to $12 million that Tadashi Yanai, chairman and chief executive of Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing Co., has personally donated and more than $10 million in clothing and money the retailer previously gave to aid the earthquake-devastated country. [WWD]

The dress Lady Gaga wore in the finale of Nicola Formichetti's Mugler show was listed for sale at $20,000 on private flash sale site Gilt Groupe ... and shockingly no one bought it. [Cut]

Diane von Furstenberg is coming out with a new scent, Diane, which she describes as a fragrance in which she wanted "to put the power of women in a bottle." [WWD] (Subscription required)

-- Susan Denley

Photos, from top: Black Eyed Peas, left, Taboo, a newly blond Fergie and accept the Top Duo or Group award at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas last weekend; Queen Elizabeth II, President Obama, Michelle Obama and the Duke of Edinburgh pose for a photo op at Tuesday's State Dinner in London. Credits: Ethan Miller / Getty Images for ABC; Larry Downing / Reuters

Your Morning Fashion and Beauty Report: Lady Gaga on 'The View.' Michelle Obama meets Kate Middleton.

Two men escorted Lady Gaga to a seat on the couch on "The View" Monday, helping her negotiate the walk in her 12-inch platform shoes. Her mom watched from the audience -- and occasionally answered questions from the shows hosts. ("Mom, was she really born this way?" "Yes.") Lady G talked about fashion, hair color, nails and -- oh, her new album, of course! [The Cut] [The View]

Katherines Maria Shriver had at least one moment of joy last week when her daughter Katherine Schwarzenegger, 21, was honored at the Girl Power Awards luncheon for being an inspiration to young women.  As an undergrad at USC, Katherine wrote the book "Rock What You've Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty From Someone Who's Been There and Back." She also works to raise money for Best Buddies, her uncle Anthony Shriver's organization for the developmentally disabled. The luncheon, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, was a fund-raiser for a Place Called Home, a nonprofit youth center in Los Angeles. [People]

Two women whose style we like to watch met Tuesday. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (née Kate Middleton), wore a neutral-toned bandage dress from retailer Reiss to meet Michelle Obama. The first lady, in London for a two-day visit along with her husband, wore a shimmering blue floral brocade "prom" dress by one of her favorite designers, Barbara Tfank, topped by a metallic pink silk bolero. [Telegraph]

Queen Latifah acts, sings and fronts for CoverGirl. Up next: She's designing a fashion collection for HSN. The Queen Collection will include clothing in sizes 2-24, accessories and hair extensions. It's scheduled to debut on HSN on Aug. 27. [People] 

Elle MacPherson Intimates has launched a line of wedding lingerie. [WWD] (Subscription required.) 

-- Susan Denley

Photo: Katherine Schwarzenegger, who was honored at the Girl Power Awards luncheon. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters


Your Morning Fashion and Beauty Report: Michelle Obama's elegant American style

While everyone was still drooling over Friday's royal wedding fashion, First Lady Michelle Obama showed elegant American style at Saturday night's White House correspondents dinner, in a mauve-chocolate empire-waist gown, accessorized by multiple bracelets and necklaces. She wore her hair in flattering loose curls. [StyleList] 

Also at the dinner, Scarlett Johansson debuted her new red hair color, joining numerous celebs who've been going the red route. [StyleList]

Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are working on a costume-jewelry line that is to include year-round, classic pieces that will be brought out each season in different colors and materials. [WWD]

California action-sports brand Volcom is being acquired by French luxury lifestyle group PPR -- which also owns Gucci and Puma -- in a deal reportedly valued at $607.5 million. [Wall Street Journal]  [WWD] (Subscription required.)

French designer Léa Peckre, 26, won the L’Oréal Professional grand prize, worth about $22,000, at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography over the weekend. The collection was described as "cemetery themed," and it featured an angular tailcoat-inspired jacket in black velvet and skirts with organic flounces richly embroidered with wood-effect sequins. [WWD]

-- Susan Denley

Photo: President Obama and the first lady at the White House correspondents dinner, April 30, 2011. Credit: Jason Reed / Reuters   

Your morning fashion and beauty report: Westminster Abbey turned into English country garden for royal wedding. New creative director named at Balmain.


Westminster Abbey is being turned into an indoor garden -- complete with a canopy of eight 20-foot-tall trees -- for Friday's royal wedding. Kate Middleton is working with garden artistic director Shane Connolly to re-create the feel of an English country garden. Eco-minded, she insisted that the trees be seasonal and replantable. [Daily Mail]

I don't know if this is spooky or sweet or just a coincidence: Middleton has taken to carrying Tod's "D Bag" -- named for the late Princess Diana who, had she lived, would have been Middleton's mother-in-law. [Telegraph]

Olivier Rousteing is taking over as creative director at Balmain, which announced just three weeks ago that it was parting ways with Christophe Decarnin. Rousteing joined the atelier in 2009 and had been in charge of the women's wear studio. [Telegraph] 

Ralph Lauren has mounted an exhibition of his vintage car collection at Paris' Les Arts Décoratifs. [WWD] (Subscription required.) 

A/X Armani Exchange marks its 20th year with a capsule collection, AXX. [WWD] (Subscription required.) 

Tali Lennox, the 18-year-old daughter of singer Annie Lennox, has been nominated for Scottish Model of the Year. [Telegraph] 

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen had another of their many dreams come true last week when First Lady Michelle Obama wore one of their pieces -- a skirt from The Row, which she donned for an appearance on "The View." [StyleList] 


Interactive: Your guide to the royal wedding

-- Susan Denley

Photo: Westminster Abbey, which is being turned into an indoor English country garden for the royal wedding. Credit: Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times 

Kate Betts dissects Michelle Obama's style in 'Everyday Icon'

Obama When considering the effect Michelle Obama has had on fashion and first lady protocol (which she flouts with astounding grace), a question bubbles to the surface: Did Laura Bush even wear clothes?

Before Mrs. Obama, we'd become so used to our first ladies dressing to disappear, we'd gotten dangerously close to equating female power with shapeless pantsuits forever.

In the new book "Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style," veteran fashion journalist Kate Betts (the pen behind Time's style coverage and a former editor-in-chief for Harper's Bazaar) dives into what makes Obama's style so alluring, and how she's changed our perception of what a first lady should look (and act) like.

It's a great read -- a years-long study on the first first lady to wear Converse All-Stars and Alexander McQueen.

We caught up with Betts to chat about the book:

All the Rage: How did this project come to be?

Kate Betts: I actually had been following Michelle Obama during the campaign. I was watching her transition, stylistically speaking, from power-mom to mom-in-chief –- going from pinstripe pants suits to floral-print dresses. She was embodying the role of a first lady, and doing it with her style, in her house. I thought it was interesting that she was making herself more relatable and accessible during the campaign. I’ve always been interested in the question of why style matters. Michelle Obama is the perfect lens to explore that question.

What has she done that's so different from past first ladies?

What's interesting is that she came to Washington as the first African American first lady. One would have thought she would choose the path of political wives. Instead, she took this counterintuitive aproach and chose to stand out. She’s dressing for herself, not her job. The first year she was in the White House, she didn’t really talk at all. She spoke through her style.

A lot of people make comparisons between Jackie O. and Michelle Obama, and I think it's a little bit of a stretch. What they do have in common is they come to the White House with a certain fluency in fashion. Hilary and Laura didn't have that fluency of how to use their style to set the tone of the White House.

What are some of your favorite Michelle Obama looks so far?

 [Betts describes an image of Obama walking the dog in turquoise jeans and Converse All-Stars] That image sort of sums up her approach to her positions -- that picture could be you, it could be me. It’s not what we expect.

At the same time, she has unbelievable glamour too. She can do that whole red-carpet thing so beautifully. She has an incredible ability to convey so much about her position through her style. And I think that’s unusual for a first lady.

Has Obama seen the book or said anything about it?

I got a note from her press person, Katie McCormick Lelyveld. It was nice. They said it was a lovely book. 

Mrs. Obama has been criticized for wearing international, not just American, designers. Unjustly so?

That's not her way of doing things. Her self-posession and confidence, to me, define American style more than any label in a dress would. The McQueen dress [that she wore to the state dinner for China] she obviously chose for the color as a gesture to China.

She famously mixes high and low -- that's a first for a first lady, right?

She’s definitely the first first lady we’ve ever had who wears H&M. That’s what makes her so accessible for us. ... That’s something every one can relate to.

-- Emili Vesilind

RELATED: Michelle Obama perfects spring's bold color trend

Photo: Michelle Obama in Isabel Toledo. Credit: Clarkson Potter



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