New York: A Reflection

I’d like to start by saying that my goal of blogging weekly was such an incredible failure. But this blog post is about why I didn’t blog – because I was in this city! We hear so much about New York, and when people ask me where I’ve been over the summer and I answer, they respond with a “Wow!!!” and are excited. At least for me, growing up in the suburbs of Portland and the tropical island of Penang, New York has always been a city I saw on TV shows and movies (mostly Gossip Girl, let’s be real), somewhere I never thought I would experience living in. Now, I can’t believe my summer here has come to an end; it has been a colorful experience to say the least. I can’t even begin to list the experiences I have had that simply wouldn’t be possible anywhere else, with New York being a fashion and tech hub, an intern flood during the summer and such a huge cultural melting pot. I’ve categorized my experiences into a few sections to organize my thoughts!

vente-privee

I guess I should start with the real reason I came to New York: to work. At vente-privee! In case you’re not familiar, vente-privee is a French company which pioneered the flash sales model back in 2001. While now a huge company in Europe with almost $2 Billion of annual revenue, they came to the US a little more than a year ago in the form of a joint venture with American Express.

The reason I decided to intern here is because it was a perfect intersection of fashion and tech in a start-up environment. I have learned SO much about the different aspects of an e-commerce business – email marketing and how that drives revenue, social media engagement, PR initiatives, and even the finances and logistics of it. Along with the other interns, I even organized a sample sale to liquidate some of the company’s inventory. It was also a unique opportunity to learn about what a joint venture is like, especially between two companies that don’t have a lot of overlap at all, and come from different parts of the world. It’s such an interesting mix of cultures in the business, and it’s been really interesting seeing that.

But apart from that, it was a great place to work. I’ve made some great friends and had so much fun! vp has a great office on the edge of SoHo, so I enjoyed walking through New York’s fashion center every day. The office is a huge, open, collaborative space that’s mostly white with pink accents (pink is vente-privee’s color), and we always have a stocked kitchen (loved it, obviously). It was also so amazing having samples from different brands coming in everyday, and photo shoots happening all the time. There was one photo shoot for a swimwear brand, and the photographer created a huge fake beach with sand and everything in the front of the office – super cool!

The Office Entrance
The Office Entrance
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Lobby area

New York: Fashion/Retail Capital 

Of course, it was amazing to be in the fashion capital of the country. Fashion lives in New York, and people have their own very individual tastes, and it’s apparent everywhere (I love it, obviously).

Another thing I noticed while shopping and exploring in New York was how much effort and detail is put into the storefronts of stores. I guess that in New York, all stores are essentially flagship, so that’s necessary. Some of my favorites were the All Saints in SoHo, which has a whole wall of vintage Singer sewing machines in the front. At the Jill Stuart SoHo store, a wall has been plastered with 3D flowers and butterflies. For a while this summer, The Tommy Hilfiger storefronts had a convertible car that had been decorated with seashells and immersed in a beach scene. I just found it so interesting how much work and thought had been put into luring the shopper into the store, and to project the brand’s presence outwards.

Singers at All Saints
Singers at All Saints
Jill Stuart
Jill Stuart

In General

There are so many things about New York that so unique, and living in New York is an experience that definitely can’t be replicated. I was constantly astonished by how frequently I ran into people I know, or people who had mutual friends. It boggles my mind to think every time I was walking through Union Square (where I took the subway from), there was probably one person I knew within a two block radius of me; it’s unreal.

I’m also so happy that I explored different neighborhoods of New York. I love Williamsburg, because it reminds me a little bit of Portland. I can’t get enough of sitting on the Hudson and watching the Manhattan skyline. There was one night when my roommate and I watched the sunset while sitting on the rocks on the shore, and it was one of my favorite nights in Manhattan. We also found a consignment store there called Beacon’s closet which is certainly my favorite thrift store in the world (so far). I also had such a great time exploring food in New York (the list is too long to talk in depth about). A few of my favorites were Cuba (SoHo), Joe’s Pizza, Chloe’s Soft Serve (Union Square), Rudy’s (Nolita), Yakiniku West (East Village), Nyonya (Little Italy/Chinatown) and Chikalicious (East Village). There were more that I’m definitely forgetting!

All in all, an unforgettable summer. Thanks NYC!

Manhattan skyline from Williamsburg
Manhattan skyline from Williamsburg
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Fashion in the Tennis World

Sports have been a big part of my life since I was a toddler – some of my earliest memories are of my first NBA game (where I continually asked my dad why I couldn’t “go down there” onto the court). Now that I have developed an interest for fashion, it’s been interesting witness how the two passions combine. In basketball and other team sports with uniforms, it’s a little more difficult to see, but in a sport like tennis, where sponsorships are key and players have some choice in what they can wear.

If I’m not mistaken, I’ve watched at least a few matches of every grand slam since 2004. I’ve picked out some of my favorite looks, and others I think are just too iconic or unforgettable to leave out.

Maria Sharapova, US Open 2008

This dress is just amazing. It made me think of the US Open as a tennis Met Gala or something. It doesn’t hurt that Maria is probably the best person to wear all these amazing dresses, but this one, with the Swarovski crystals around the neckline, and it’s almost fit-and-flare silhouette is flawless. Her earrings are pretty as well. If only we all were Maria Sharapovas.

Serena Williams, US Open 2004

Serena Williams plays in denim and knee-high boots... (2004)

I remember being 11 years old and being shocked when I saw Serena Williams walk on to the court in this outfit. A denim skirt and boots? I guess no one but Serena could pull this off (and this probably isn’t her craziest look, actually). She did take off the top part of her boots after warm up, but still. This outfit is ridiculous. But then again, in my opinion, tennis needs these sort of personalities – it goes to show that it’s not some old-rich-people-country-club game anymore, it’s a current, exciting and eclectic game.

Rafael Nadal, French Open 2009

This outfit is brings back a little bit of sadness, because it is the outfit Nadal wore the only time he lost at the French…I remember worrying that his knee injury would end his career. Anyway, apart from the emotion, I absolutely LOVE this pink/yellow/grey combination. I always think about the designers who design the clothes for the French Open, and how they have to pick colors that go well with the rusty red clay of the courts – it’s such a sight.

Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon 2008

I LOVE this might be my all-time favorite. Way to get creative with the “all white” rule, Maria. The tuxedo look (well, any look) is perfect on Maria. It accentuates her broad shoulders and tall, slim figure. The mix of sheer and tuxedo detailing on the front make for a stylish yet polished look. Even though she’s wearing shorts, she manages to create the perfect look for the classy, timeless grass courts of Wimbledon.

Venus Williams, French Open, 2011

I couldn’t exclude this dress because I had never seen anything like this in the tennis world. Or the sports world, for that matter. I mean for one thing, this dress looks like lingerie, but the thing you can’t see in this photograph is that Venus decided to wear spandex that was her exact skin color under the dress. So every time she served, you thought you were looking at her rear-end. I don’t know what fueled this outfit choice, but it’s interesting to say the very least.

Caroline Wozniacki, Wimbledon 2011

This isn’t my favorite dress ever, but I had to include it because it’s a Stella McCartney for Adidas design. It really excited me that designers were getting more into designing sportswear; I was a little disappointed with this dress. I mean it’s alright, but I would expect more from Stella McCartney!

Chris Evert, Wimbledon 1981

I couldn’t just not include some of the greats before my time. Chris Evert was my favorite from back in the 80s – I love her polished looks that would translate well even into today.

I would include more, but I think I’ve captured the essence of it. Can’t wait to see the outfits of Wimbledon this year!

My Summer Shopping List (It Should Be Yours Too!)

Since I am no longer an uncontrollable freak shopper, I now employ methods to streamline my shopping and make it more efficient (okay, I sound like some sort of supply chain manager). In all seriousness, I’ve decided to devote my shopping energies to a select few items that I really feel could add something to my wardrobe, and I’m going to be super picky about them too.

1. Denim Jacket

Denim jackets are SO versatile. The only thing they don’t go with is, well, blue jeans. Especially when I imagine my New York summer filled with maxi dresses/skirts that I think are complemented perfectly by a well-fitting denim jacket. I especially have a thing for denim jackets with pattern detail. That being said, I have a really hard time finding a well-fitting denim jacket with my disproportionately broad shoulders.

Denim Jacket Combos
Denim Jacket Combos

2. Maxi skirts (yes, plural)

Maxi skirts have grown on me, and now I’m hopelessly in love with them. I mean a skirt that you don’t have to shave your legs for?! Okay, not the point, but maxis do have a versatility that persists from spring to fall. I just bought my first one (just plain black), but I’m looking to buy a few with more interesting patterns and colors.

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Maxi skirt dreams

3. Midi skirt

Okay, I’m a little reluctant about midi skirts because I’m so short, but I definitely love the idea of them. They’re so elegant and can be used in a variety of situations – evening, casual, work, etc.

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4. Oxfords

I have been wanting to buy oxfords for so long, but I have a hard time finding the perfect ones (and justifying them to myself given the price and/or necessity). Oxfords are preppy and cute at the same time, and go well with jeans and skirts. I’m looking for something unique but not something that stands out too much. I’m thinking something like dark brown leather or grey, but maybe with some colored accents. To be decided.

Oxfords galore
Oxfords galore

5. Summer sandals

I am so incredibly picky about summer sandals. And I’ve also become big about wanting comfortable sandals that don’t make you feel like you’ve been walking on stone barefoot; many of the sandals I’ve come across have a sole which is only a little thicker than a piece of paper. I really want something rugged, maybe some leather sandals with thicker straps.

Summa sandal ideas
Summa sandal ideas

6. Fedora

Okay, I’ve really wanted one for ages. This does not fit with my whole efficient shopping strategy, but I want one to wear this summer for my casual strolls through Central Park (a la Blair Waldorf).

Fedora!
Fedora!

7. Versatile Sheath Dress

I don’t really enjoy wearing a business skirt-suit thing when doing interviews or formal presentations (#Wharton); the skirt always rides up and the collar always gets messed up…just not comfortable. I really want a simple, plain sheath dress that can I can pop a cardigan or blazer over  for formal purposes, but also for nice dinners and occasions.

Sheath Dress: Work or Elegant Party!
Sheath Dress: Work or Elegant Party!

8. Sunglasses

I really want new sunglasses, and yes, I want some chic retro ones. I do want them to last me a few years at least, so I want them to look like they will last the next few years in fashion. It’s also SO HARD to find sunglasses that look good on my face, since my face is so small and has weird angles to it. Ugh. I am really hoping to pick a pair at the Warby Parker showroom in New York though.

Retro sunnies
Retro sunnies

It is my mission this summer to find all of these things, and I won’t just buy any item, it has to be perfect. I mean, I’m in NYC so hopefully this will happen. Okay I think that’s enough for now – there are still two whole other seasons to go in the year, and who knows what will be on my list for those!

Places: Penang

I haven’t written a travel post yet, and I think it’s time I do. And what better place to write about then the place I would most associate with the word ‘home’ (there are multiple…#CulturallyConfused).

Penang is a small island off the west coast of Malaysia where I happened to move when I was eleven years old. At the time, it was devastating. I cried for three hours into my dad’s shoulder, asking him why he was making me move to the other side of the world away from my established sixth-grade routine. Six-and-a-half years later, I was crying again; this time, because I was at the Penang Airport, saying good bye to friends I know will always be there for me, and leaving the island I that had become my home.

Penang from the sea

Okay, sorry for that emotional but necessary (?) aside. Anyway, when most people think of a tropical island in Southeast Asia, they think beaches, suntans, snorkeling, etc. I’m sorry, but Penang isn’t the best place for these things. Of course, these options are available – water sports like parasailing, jet-skiing, banana boating – these I would actually recommend at the beach. But the actual beach and water are nothing to die for – the water isn’t very clear, there are jelly fish, and the sand isn’t soft. It is fun for bonfires and just general being-by-the-ocean (which is something not to be undervalued, I miss having the ocean around me). There are a number of restaurants, hotels and hang-out places near the beach that are great too – Sigi’s by the Seat and  Bora Bora (formerly Sunset Bistro) are great hang-out places, while Rasa Sayang (Penang’s “6 star” hotel), Parkroyal, and Lone Pine are all hotels along the Batu Feringghi beach.

Roti Canai
Char Koay Teow

Food is one part of Penang you can’t miss…I would say that it has arguably the best mix of food of any other city in the world. By that I mean that you can find delicious food of any type and any price range (besides Mexican. That one’s difficult). The hawker (street) food in Penang is amazing, and probably cheaper than anything you could make at home. For this reason, many Penangites eat out more than they cook. Hawker food ranges from Malaysian Chinese food to ‘mamak’ (Indian-muslim) food to Western food even (I would check out the Northam Beach cafe hawker stands – they have a really good French hawker place!). My favorite dishes are Char Koay Teow, which is sort of Penang’s signature dish, and Roti Canai. I also really, really miss having Iced Milo and Iced Lime Juice…you really don’t get those things here! Apart from Hawker food, there are also some really nice restaurants. My personal favorite is Bella Italia, a really good, small Italian place started by an Italian man. Their pizza is amazing (it’s thin crust and really light), their pasta is good too, and their tiramisu is some of the best I’ve tasted (granted, I’ve never been to Italy). If you like Indian food, I would recommend going to Woodlands (in Little India) for brunch; it’s the some of the best South Indian food I’ve ever had. I feel like I’m forgetting most of the good food in Penang, but there’s only so much I can fit in a blog post!

There’s a lot to see in Penang too, and all of it reflects Penang’s unique mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western cultures. One of my favorite places in Penang is Armenian Street, which is an artsy part of town where there are art galleries, furniture shops, and my favorite jeweler in the entire world, Jonathan Yun. The tiles on the sidewalks of Armenian street are even artistic. It’s wonderful. Another must-see is Kek Lok Si Temple, a majestic Buddhist temple in the hills. It’s especially beautiful at night during Chinese New Year – it’s all lit up and looks heavenly. I really like going there just to relax and light a candle during the day too – it’s a spiritual, peaceful haven nestled at the base of Penang’s hills.

The tiles of Armenian Street
Kek Lok Si Temple, lit up during Chinese New Year

I guess there’s a gaping difference between living in Penang and visiting it, but I tried to merge the two in this post. Arguably the best part of Penang is having the ocean in sight at all times, it’s always a relaxing and calming feeling to see the ocean surround you; that’s definitely something I miss. Sometimes I can’t figure out what it is about this island that makes me so enthralled with it – it has a unique charm – but it’s definitely a mix of its landscape, culture and people. It will always be home!

Ed Helms on Mindy Kaling (one of my favorite people!)

Mindy Kaling embodies the trifecta of being brilliant, wonderful and hilarious. Because that is statistically impossible, it can mean only one thing: she was created by an evil scientist to lull us into a giddy stupor in order to control our minds. How else can you explain someone who simultaneously commands respect and affection? Someone so acutely adept at creating her own opportunities? Moreover, Mindy has a bright and generous laugh that’s good for the soul, and yet she doesn’t suffer fools. No matter the issue, she can be relied on to weigh in with conviction and good humor. To be made fun of by Mindy is to feel special. I’ve learned so much from working alongside her, and I’m proud to call her a friend. I just wish she hadn’t been created by an evil scientist.

– Ed Helms on Mindy Kaling in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People

Portland: Street Style

I have grown to love Portland. Sometimes it’s hard to get over the ever-present drizzle, but when it’s sunny and bright in Portland, there is positively no other place I would rather be.

This spring break, I decided I would try and capture Portland’s sense of style in a blog post. This was a first for me, but with the help of my sister Charvi, I took a day to explore some of the parts of Portland I particularly enjoy (namely NW 23rd street, Alberta, and Pioneer Courthouse Square). I enjoyed taking pictures of people whose style stuck out to me – I think there’s something really rewarding about taking time to appreciate other people’s fashion sense, even when it’s really far from your own.

I’ll stop writing now – this one’s all about the pictures. Enjoy!

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Yes, I included Charvi in the post. Also, a big thank you to the people who let me take photos of them. I wish I had found more people, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway!

Oscars Style My Style

Okay, first, a disclaimer. I am not trying to be E! Fashion Police, or People.com (both of which I frequent, if you must know). I’m not about to go all Joan Rivers on you and hate on people’s dresses; instead, when I see a dress I try to think about what the person was thinking when they chose it. I mean, everyone’s disagreed on red carpet fashion. I mean, yeah, everyone agrees that Jessica Alba would look good if she wore the debris from Hurricane Sandy, and everyone also agrees that they don’t know why Helena Bonham Carter a tries to look like a zombie-type creature most of the time  (she made a FIERCE Bellatrix Lestrange though) (#HarryPotterNerd). But then again, even me and my best friend, who always pride ourselves on having the same fashion sense, disagree all the time about it. So really, this is just a collection of the thoughts I had while browsing the dresses of this year’s Oscars red carpet, with no claims that they are right or wrong – fashion is such an individual, personal art, and that’s what’s so great about it.

(I think I might be getting really philosophical and intense about fashion, but that’s okay, right?)

Jennifer Lawrence – Dior Haute Couture Dress, Chopard Jewelry, Roger Vivier Clutch

 This year’s Best Actress winner was the first person I thought of. To be completely honest, I find Jennifer Lawrence pretty awkward. But it’s her awkwardness that everyone seems to love – like, not to bring it up again, when she tripped up the stairs…it was kinda cute, am I right? She’s beautiful in this stretched-out way, if you know what I mean. The upper part of her body is so long and elegant and it makes her look good in pretty much anything. I feel like not a lot of people would be able to pull off this dress; it’s a little strange that it protrudes naturally at the hips and then immensely with the big puff at the bottom, but she makes it work with her tall figure. And her face looked so effortlessly nice, so all in all, it made for this light, almost bride-like, sweet look.

Anne Hathaway – Prada dress, Harry Winston Jewelry

I had to include Anne Hathaway because everyone was talking about her dress (albeit not really in a good way). I understand what everyone was saying; her breast region really does look awkward due to the strange contouring of the dress, but honestly, there are some good parts of her look that I think were under-appreciated. I did like the neckline/necklace combination, I thought it was pretty. I also liked the soft pink color of her dress (it was similar to JLaw’s color). The back of the dress was also interesting, I think it would have worked better if the dress was a different material. The material of the dress was actually my main problem with this dress; I really don’t like satin or satin-type cloths most of the time, and I don’t really like it here either.

Charlize Theron – Dior Haute Couture Dress, Harry Winston Jewelery

Okay, she looked perfect. I actually cannot stop staring at pictures of her in this gown; she looks like an angel sent from God as his representative on the Oscars red carpet. Her skin looked so smooth, glossy and natural; and her face structure is just immaculate. I’m not a huge fan of short hair on people who aren’t Halle Berry, but she kills it somehow. Her dress, in all honesty, is pretty, but nothing out-of-this-world; however, her tall, slim figure and that train make it a really elegant look overall. Charlize Theron is just the personification of that tall, thin, blonde beauty that everyone envies, and I definitely envied her look this year.

Naomi Watts – Armani Privé dress, Neil Lane Jewelry

 I’m usually really not a sparkly, over-the-top, glam kinda girl, but I think this dress works really well. It fits Naomi’s (yeah, we’re on first name terms) body really well, and the interesting neckline/shoulder strap thing oddly works. The dark gray sparkle complements her light complexion well and brings out her eyes. I am a huge fan of her lightly-puffed-up chignon hair too; I’m biased because I love up-dos in general. Overall, this fun, glamorous look that still manages to be elegant: shout-out to you, NWatts! (JK, that’s really not a thing. It’s kind of embarrassing that I just wrote that but I don’t really want to erase it.)

Kerry Washington – Miu Miu Dress, Prada clutch, Chopard earrings, Fred Leighton ring.

Okay, Kerry Washington is SO beautiful. Her cheekbones and her eyes and her face structure and everything. I am just in awe of her. I really liked this dress choice – MiuMiu is such a quirky, original brand and this dress is too, but at the same time it’s not too out there. The detail on the bodice part is really pretty. The coral pink color goes nicely with her skin tone too, and I love the little bow on the waistline. However, I did think the shoes were a weird choice with this dress. I probably wouldn’t have picked pointy ones, and I might have chosen a color more similar to the bodice. But hey, I’m not Kerry Washington.

Jessica Chastain – Giorgio Armani, Harry Winston Jewelry

Sometimes I feel bad for Jessica Chastain. Well, I don’t feel bad, because she’s beautiful, but it’s got to be hard having the red hair and pail skin: you have to get the color combinations right or you end up looking like a rainbow. This is what happened to Jessica at the Golden Globes – she was wearing this beautiful blue gown that unfortunately did not work well with her hair. This time, however, she nailed it. The color palette works really well, the different shades of red and brown in her hair, make up, and dress all go together perfectly. The dress itself is beautiful too; the patterning and detailing are exquisite. Props to her for getting this all right…I have it easy with black/dark brown hair.

Stacy Keibler – Naeem Khan dress, Lorraine Schwartz Jewlery

 Stacy Keibler has it all. She was George Clooney’s plus one and she looked perfect! This dress looks like it was made with her in mind – it highlights her amazing, athletic figure so well. I also love how it brings out her broad but beautiful shoulders. (Okay, confession. I have really broad shoulders too and I felt a connection.) The detail on the dress is really, really pretty too, especially the sort of ruched, sheer back with sequin detail. Her hair goes with the look and the jewelry is beautiful too. Stacy, I wish I was you.

Amy Adams – Oscar de la Renta dress, Mouawad jewelry

Amy Adams, like Jessica Chastain, has her beautiful red hair to deal with, but it’s not quite as bright as Jessica’s. Anyway, when dresses have ruffly, feather-type components, I usually don’t like them. But I think Amy really pulls this off. I like how the bodice accentuates her waistline and elongates her neck/shoulder area, and then it just flows out. It’s also really princess-y, and Amy will always be the princess from Enchanted to me. I guess I also just have a thing for princesses. I really like the hair (here I go again with the up-dos), and her earrings are so pretty.

As you can tell, I really enjoy red carpet season, and the Oscars is the culmination of red carpet season. Until next year, Oscars!