January 26th, 2021 / posted by paularath

Jack and Sadie, adorable shih tzus, snow doggies in Dad’s Cooperstown back yard

When my dear friend Darius Homayounpour, who often simplifies his name to Darius Homay, moved to the mainland, I was devastated.

Darius is the man who introduced me to indigo dyeing, one of my passions. He was the primary enabler for my indigo habit. On many Sunday mornings he fed my habit, allowing me to get elbow-deep in his vat. He kept his vat healthy, a challenging feat all indigo-lovers understand and appreciate.

So when Darius moved to Cooperstown, where the winters are brutally cold and snowy, I wondered if the vat would survive. After all, it can become a vatcicle (his clever term) in winter time.

Darius’ Indigo Vatcicle after a snowstorm

So how does Darius handle the frigid Upstate New York winters? “The vat freezes during the winter; I just make sure it’s not too full.  I installed a great sink (double, stainless steel sink with sideboards) in the basement studio so that I can have a vat going in winter.  And since my basement is unheated, I use a ‘trough heater’ to warm the vat, essentially an immersion heater on steroids to keep cattle troughs from freezing.  Works like a charm.  Only wish I had known about these when I was teaching at the Donkey Mill up in chilly coffee country on the Big Island.”

Darius has an eviable studio in Cooperstown.

Darius worked at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (now Honolulu Museum of Art, or HoMA) as the collection manager in the Textile Department. He has a deep knowledge of textiles from all over the world.

In his adopted community of Cooperstown, New York, Darius has found a welcoming community of artists, who are appreciating his many textile-related talents, as a curator and teacher.  In July, 2019, he curated a show called “Indigo/Blue.” it featured three artists who are indigo-dyers (there are three indigo vats in Cooperstown…sigh), as well as other artists in various media inspired by the blue of indigo. This show was held at The Art Garage, one of Cooperstown’s art centers.

https://www.facebook.com/TheArtGarageCooperstown

In addition, Darius added, is “Cooperstown Art Association’s gallery in the village hall (isn’t that quaint?), and The Smithy, an historic building-turned gallery, both under the same umbrella. I’m a member of the CAA and sold indigo-dyed shibori at their holiday sale.”  http://www.cooperstownart.com

A recent work by Darius Homay

Darius is also discovering some new natural dye materials in Cooperstown. Instead of hibiscus and turmeric, popular dyes in Hawaii, he is using goldenrod, but only in the summer and fall.  Above is a piece he completed recently, patchworked from fabrics shibori-dyed in indigo and goldenrod. “And yes,” he wrote wistfully, “I’m dreaming of summer and fall and the life outdoors.”

You can take the boy out of Hawaii, but you can’t take Hawaii out of the boy. I’m hoping, when things begin to open up more here, Darius will return on occasion to teach a workshop at HoMA or U.H.-Manoa. How happy many of us would be to get our hands (or arms) deep into an indigo dye bath!

Paula Rath

 

 

 

 

 

January 22nd, 2021 / posted by paularath

Photo courtesy of Spanx

Note to readers: I totally get that most of my readers are women. So I’m writing this for you so you can pass it on to HIM in time for a thoughtful Valentine’s shopping excursion. And, hey, maybe I can help save a relationship with a little piece of advice about Valentine’s gift giving.

Valentine’s Day might be the holiday most paved with pitfalls. Some guys just don’t get it. Spanx is NOT an appropriate gift for a woman at any time, much less the holiday that celebrates love. C’mon, guys! Just try for a minute to see it her way. What is the message you send if you give a woman a gift of Spanx? Well, I can tell you several likely scenarios upon the unwrapping:

  • She will throw it in your face, then throw you out.
  • She will burst into tears and run away without a word.
  • She will scream: “You think I’m fat!” (And that’s the conclusion driving the first two scenarios too.)

Another Valentine’s gift booboo: an appliance, any appliance: vacuum cleaner, toaster, waffle iron, panini maker, dust buster. Is this gift for her so she can do stuff for you? Uh oh. The same goes for a gadget that you probably want more than she does.

Photo courtesy of Wolford

Lingerie is a gift that can backfire. Unless you have supreme confidence in her taste (would she actually prefer a flannel nightie from the Vermont Country Store?), lingerie can be a tacky, trite gift, or a flattering one. And, uh, sizing is a minefield. The best way to be safe with sizing is to check some of her favorite bras and panties or slips or nighties. If you’re not certain of sizes, the smart move is to go bigger on the bra size and smaller on the bottom.

Rumi Murakami’s Gwen Shirt
Photo courtesy Rumi Murakami

Clothing can be a welcome gift, especially if it’s something you know she wants (if you’ve been paying attention to subtle hints.) But the sizing advice for lingerie is just as true for clothing. Again, do your best to shop local. We have fabulous designers in every category, from work wear to evening gowns and bikinis. The blouse above is by Rumi Murakami, who recently opened a studio in Kaimuki. She can offer you great advice.

Perfume is lovely if you know what her favorite scent is. (And you get extra points for knowing that!) If she already has the perfume or cologne, perhaps you can buy her a body lotion or shower gel to match. One caveat: Avoid a scent that was beloved by a former girlfriend or spouse.

Bliss Lau Black Jade pendant from Bliss Lau NY, a local girl who grew up in Manoa

Jewelry is usually a welcome gift, especially if she has been shopping with you and mentioned a piece in a window that she loves. Sizing is not a problem with jewelry, but taste is.  Does she usually wear silver or gold? What is her birthstone? Does she choose pieces that are bold or delicate? Funky or classic? And please consider one of the many outstanding local jewelry makers we have in Hawaii.

Of course flowers and chocolate are always traditional and appreciated, but Valentine’s isn’t the time to buy flowers at the supermarket or chocolates at the drug store. Make sure they’re special. And don’t forget that Hawaii has some delicious chocolates right here. Diamond Head Chocolates is now available at Kahala Mall and Ward Center.

Perhaps you have a talent that you can share for Valentine’s Day. A poem, a song, a potted plant, a handmade cupcake or a hand painted card? My husband, Jerry Mayfield, delights me every year with a watercolor card that features hearts in one form or another. They are whimsical and loving and I have kept every one of them. He made the border with ohe kapala (carved bamboo sticks, a method used by the ancient Hawaiians to print kapa) a craft he studied with Philip Markwart. Here’s the one from 2001:

Jerry’s hand painted watercolor Valentine from 2001

One year Jerry was in San Francisco at my favorite card shop, Avant Card on Grant Street. He bought 14 Valentine’s cards, each hand painted with the word for “love” in a different language. I have some of them framed in the bedroom and appreciate them every day.

Jerry sent me a Valentine each day one year.

There’s one other thing I am sure your Valentine will appreciate: Don’t give her the job of planning your Valentine’s Day date night. Have courage and take on the task yourself.

Paula Rath

January 13th, 2021 / posted by paularath

Your favorite lingerie needs special care.                             Photos by Jerry Mayfield

After ten months of COVID-19 and the changes we have made to the way we are living, our closets probably look (or at least feel) quite different to us.

We are undoubtedly doing a lot more shopping in our closets now, and when we do seek something fresh and new, I hope we are seeking out local designers, as they need us now more than ever.

I am finding that I really love some of my clothes, even clothes I had sort of forgotten about for awhile. Are you rediscovering old “friends”?

If you truly value the things you wear, then treat them that way. Once a treasured garment makes it into your closet, there’s the necessity of maintaining it. You may have to invest a little more time into making good garments last, but isn’t it worth it for our faves?

Over the years I have interviewed experts on clothing care. Having adopted many of their tips, there has been a measurable improvement in the life of my clothing. Maybe some of these tips will help you maintain your clothes too.

LINGERIE

Bras last much longer when they are hand washed, preferably in a gentle soap. (I love The Laundress Delicate Wash which I buy at fishcake in Kakaako.  It’s also wonderful for hand washing masks, as it makes the whole world smell better! I have friends who swear by Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap as well, which I think is sold at Whole Foods.) Attention please: a dryer is the very worst enemy of delicate undies, even when you put them in a lingerie bag. The heat will destroy the elastic.

WORKOUT CLOTHES

The elastic rule – no dryers – extends to workout clothes as well. Those special fabrics that make exercise more comfortable to do, also contain a lot of high tech fibers and at least a little elastic. Preserve them through washing by hand or in the washing machine in cold water. If you have a place to hang them, that’s ideal. If that’s just not possible, tumble dry using the lowest temp.

T-SHIRTS

T-shirt care depends on the fabric. I have some T-shirts that are more precious than others because they are hand-dyed in natural dyes; those I wash by hand. For most T-shirts, though, it’s fine to wash them in the machine in cold water and use a dryer on the permanent press cycle. Do not hang them on a hanger. Just fold them carefully and keep them in a drawer.

Some silks require dry-cleaning, others can be hand washed.

SILKS

While silk used to be a high end fabric used only in evening wear, it is now found in everything from men’s shirts to women’s tropical dresses. And while in the past dry-cleaning was always recommended for silks, washable silks have changed the rules. The Silk Institute makes the following recommendations for care of silks:

  • Some dyes used on silks are susceptible to bleeding. Check by wetting a small, inconspicuous spot and blotting the damp area between paper towels, pressing hard. If color appears on the towel, the fabric is not colorfast and should be dry-cleaned.
  • Certain types of silk generally require dry-cleaning: chiffon, georgette, organza, taffeta, silk satin and charmeuse. Dry-cleaning also is advisable for dark solids or bright prints.
  • Among the silks that can be hand-washed: China silk, India silk, crepe de chine, shantung and doupioni. When washing silk items by hand, use a mild detergent in lukewarm water. (I use The Laundress Hand Wash for silks.) Do not wring or scrub. Rinse garments thoroughly and roll in a clean bath towel to absorb excess moisture. If the label says to machine wash, use a gentle wash cycle with lukewarm water and mild detergent. Do not tumble dry unless the care label says to, as the surface may be abraded or the fabric may shrink.

Wishing all your favorite garments a long and happy life!

Paula Rath

 

 

January 6th, 2021 / posted by paularath

Before shopping for a quality garment, there are a few helpful questions to ask yourself:

How does it feel?

If it feels rough or scratchy or it pokes, squishes or prods your body, don’t buy it. A wool sweater may itch. A sexy bra may cut into your shoulders or boobs. A polyester shirt may cling. No matter how cute or flattering it is, just resist. The plain truth: If it’s not comfortable, you are not going to wear it and it will be in the landfill far too soon.

Sadly, you don’t find garments made like this – with perfect round edges and twill tape finishing – very often. But GORDON dresses are the welcome exception. Bravo to designer/maker Leah Redmond!

What kind of stitching was employed in the making of this garment? 

Here’s a really easy test: tug it. If you see it pulling with one tug, imagine what it will do after you wear it a few times. Really well made garments aren’t sewn so loosely that they can’t handle a tug. A really well made garment will have French, Hong Kong, bias-bound or maybe turned-and-stitched seams.

It’s rare these days to see a garment with seams that are bias-bound. I have one: It’s a palaka dress designed and hand made by Leah Redmond, a Punahou grad who went on to work as a seamstress in New York theatres and the Metropolitan Opera. She now has her own line called GORDON out of L.A.  Check out my blog about Leah’s line here:

My COS tunic from the back, see-through.

Can I see my hand through it?

We all probably remember the incident of the see-through Lululemon leggings. It was widely publicized and embarrassed the firm that is usually recognized for its high quality and durability. (I have a pair of Lululemon leggings I have worn hundreds of times for eight years and they still look and act new.)

It’s so easy to make mistakes. Although I know a lot of the rules of fashion shopping, and try to stick to them, I have been known to, ahem, make my own mistakes. While shopping at COS in London, I fell in love with a simple white tailored tunic. I tried it on and loved the flare, the sleeves, the collar. I bought it, adding to my beloved wardrobe of Great White Shirts.

Alas! when I got it home, I realized that the back was made of a completely different fabric from the front. While the front is a crisp cotton, the back is a see-through T-shirt knit. Auwe! I still love the tunic, but I have to wear a cami under it, which isn’t always ideal in our climate, thus limiting its use in my closet.

How many stitches per inch?

One way to tell if the stitching is going to hold up well is to count the stitches in an inch. About eight stitches per inch is the norm for a shirt or blouse.

Where is the fabric from?

It’s still true that the finest fabrics come from Europe: Italy, France, Austria. If the label says simply “imported fabric,” it’s probably from China.

India is coming along with its cottons and its embroidery, which many European fashion houses are now commissioning from India’s embroidery ateliers.

I am a great believer in feeling a fabric before I buy it. I won’t shop online for anything I’m not already familiar with. And that goes for every garment, from lingerie to jackets. (And shoes too!)

Look to local designers!

In any story about shopping, I must mention the importance of supporting local designers. You can find high quality garments here. Ari South, for example, was the first local designer that Neiman Marcus ever brought on board without making a single change to the quality of her garments. Every seam was perfect, every detail attended to.

My current go-to designer is Rumi Murakami. The quality of her fabrics and perfectionism of her construction are exemplary. She has just opened a new studio, and I will be writing about that soon. So please stay tuned….

In the meantime, please shop smart. You’ll be glad you did.

Paula Rath

December 17th, 2020 / posted by paularath

Tiffany Kaddish gets around in her exquisite Alexander McQueen gown. Photos from the New York Times                                                                                                                                       It astounds me how social media has driven people to believe that if they are seen in a post – on whatever platform – they can never wear that garment again. It’s a pathetic state of affairs.

Shouldn’t they be praised for wearing the garment again, and again and again? It takes a lot more chic and fashion sensibility to wear it in several ways, accessorizing and styling with creativity.

According to a U.K. study commissioned by Barclay, nine percent of shoppers in Britain admitted that they buy clothes simply to wear them once on Instagram. After posting the photo, they return the item to the store. I see that as shameful, not smart.

The Duchess of Cambridge understands the power of an Alexander McQueen coat, paired with a different hat, jewelry and, wow, even a perambulator! From the New York Times

Hey, if British royalty can wear clothing over and over, and Tiffany Haddish can wear her Alexander McQueen dress to multiple events, from the Oscars to hosting Saturday Night Live, why can’t we?

The “wear only once” approach is so passe and, frankly, makes no sense in today’s world.

Paula Rath