style file

chic, interview, styleandsubstance

STYLE + SUBSTANCE // ERIKA EHRMAN-REPOLA

She is a producer, an entrepreneur, a mother and a designer embracing fashion for a woman who is +50. I have noticed Erika Ehrman-Repola on Instagram, once again, for her elegance and discreet elegance, for her natural beauty and unfrivolous sensuality. She agreed on being featured, so please meet another fierce 'shero' who reinvented her life at 50. 

'Elegant, eclectic, bohemian'

'Elegant, eclectic, bohemian'

Style + substance = empowerment. Are you on board? 
EER - YES 

Your personal style in three words
E - Elegant, eclectic, bohemian 

On shopping with a purpose
E - I love textiles and texture, so I am often inspired by that first, I prefer to buy items that are not overly trendy, and feel unique.
 
Do you feel like sharing one secret?
E - I hate spending a lot on clothes. My dirty little secret is that … sometimes I find pieces at Forever 21 and integrate them into my wardrobe. People have no idea and are often complimentary and think  it’s some high ticketed designer piece. It’s all in how you style it and wear it, sometimes I even cutout the tags and no one knows. 

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Your relationship with fashion: single, married, it’s complicated or …  
E - I am happily and newly divorced and it has made me fall in love with fashion all over again, because I dress exactly how I want and experiment more too. 

What’s the one thing a woman should do to feel powerful? 
E - With regard to fashion, feeling comfortable in your own skin and what you are wearing. If you don’t feel good in your clothes, you don’t feel as empowered. I designed my line of dresses with that ideology in mind, I don’t want you to be a slave to your clothes. You should not have to starve yourself, or go to spinning class five times a week to feel sexy or beautiful to fit into a dress. It’s a state of mind, and it’s about being comfortable first and foremost, and then whatever you wear will look amazing, because you feel confident. 


When did you find your confidence? 
E - I think as I was about to turn 50. I thought I look pretty damn good for my age and I felt sexier than ever before. 

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How do we get rid of the princess/cute/pretty/pink stereotype? 
E - Celebrating all types of women and styles. I think being unique, embracing individuality whatever it is, might normalize it and help. 

You look at your closet holding your morning coffee ready to get dressed: personal uniform or outburst of creativity? 
E - Depends on the season. In the spring and summer I love to wear colors and patterns and I often live in jeans and dresses. In the winter, I find I don’t wear as much color, but I love texture still, so I often have a furry something, a sweater or coat, and my favorite pair of red booties. I try to have at least an accent of color somewhere. 

Which irritates you more and why: “Sustainable fashion is boring” or “Fashion is frivolous”  
E - I am not sure I find either irritating. I think both statements can be true or false depending on context. Sustainable fashion, if done right, can be interesting. Fashion can be frivolous, but it’s also about self-expression and it’s about showing personality, even if it’s a uniform. Frivolous makes me think of excessive amount of the same things, but if you can afford a great piece and it makes you feel good, it gives you that extra pump of confidence, then why not? 
 

 

chic, style file, styleandsubstance

style + substance // Dominique de merteuil: can style go "beyond my control"?

 

The idea of style + substance series was born to inspire women and support the process of blending femininity with leadership, style with career, motherhood with business. 

As well as we are all exceptional, being exposed to other exceptional women will further the purpose.

I want to use my voice to inspire and expand its reach by featuring other inspiring and powerful women. It's shaping up as a club, a mastermind clique: we don't follow trends, we don't owe prettiness to anyone (wait until you read the chapter on the book), there's no trendy or cute in our dialogue, we don't need to thrive to please, as our strength and confidence come from affirming who we are. 

What better than with what we wear?

Here's my contribution to inspire with a purpose: to be uplifiting with a great dose of bitch and fun, as in "don't take yourself too seriously". 

We are the product of the 5 people around us, let's make it real. 

I have stumbled upon women like Dominique De Merteuil of "It's Beyond My Control" on Instagram, with whom even the simple attraction of a few pictures and shorts exchange of comments has shown that together we can exponentially expand our point of view. 

Get inspired away!

Style is who we are inside and trends are what people want us to be?

DDM- I’ve never cared for trends because the only fashion that has ever caught my eye has been that worn on the screen in my favourite 30s, 40s and 50s films which starred such style icons as Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn. It’s the costumiers like Adrian and Edith Head who I’ve been learning from, observing closely the way they styled all those incredibly glamorous and always immaculate looking movie stars. I agree wholeheartedly with Edith Head who once said “Fashion is a language. Some know it, some learn it, some never will – like an instinct.”  I buy mainly vintage clothes from the 40s and 50s as well as authentic Victorian capes and skirts. I do however buy modern fashion, that which has been inspired by my favourite periods of time, and mix it with authentic vintage accessories. It’s important to find your own style, build your wardrobe around it and not around the trends.

Do you remember your first fashion moment?

DDM - Fondly! I was 10 or 11, visiting with my mom, a Dior shop in Montreal and saw a couture dress for the first time in my life. I remember that it was red and really over the top. The shop manager let me try it on because I told her that it was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life and whoever will wear it, they will be the luckiest person in the world.

Don’t dream it. Be it.
— Dominique De Merteuil

When did you realize it was time to be fearless and badass to embrace your style ‘no matter what’? 

DDM - When I was about 8 or 9 years old and watched The Rocky Horror Picture show for the very first time. That’s when my obsession with corsets and very theatrical fashion started. My mum went out of her wits trying to find a corset for a child and sadly she didn’t succeed. Living in NYC taught me that you can be whoever you want to be and dress the way you like even if it means standing out from the crowd like an odd ball. After all it was Coco Chanel who said “I don't care what you think about me. I don't think about you at all.” and who am I to argue with Miss Chanel. :)

Before leaving the house you … 

DDM - Make sure that I have my red lipstick and perfume in my bag. I feel completely naked without them. 

Do you have a muse? 

DDM - My biggest inspirations are Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn for their very unique beauty, strength, intelligence and incredible sense of style. Also my fabulous mum, a real style icon, who initiated my interest in fashion and art, she used to take me to see ballet and opera from when I was 5 years old.

The piece of advice that you wish you would have received yourself

DDM -  “Don’t dream it. Be it.”  Don’t be afraid of being ridiculous. 

Some thoughts:

"The way you dress is a reflection of your cultural background" 

"You can have a career and love clothes" 

DDM - I don’t think that the way I dress is exactly a reflection of my cultural background, as I’ve lived in four different countries and have been traveling extensively since my teens when I was working as a fashion model and due to my current work of being the founder and fashion editor of www.itsbeyondmycontrol.com. I’ve always been inspired by Old Hollywood Glamour and honestly believe that I was born in the wrong era.

You can find Dominique on her BLOG and on Instagram

style file, styleandsubstance

Style + Substance // Carey Vasallo on dreams, mentoring and running for City Commissioner

What better than another exemplary sample of empowered women for International Women's Day? 

And it's not a cliche', we all want  

to feel fabulous and comfortable and sexy and strong and beautiful - Emma Watson

Carey and I met serendipitously at an event, it was love at first sight, although we could barely do any proper conversation other than "Hi, here's my card" off of my seat as right after the presentation we had to fly away (bad networking skills they say).

There was something we liked of each other and acouple of weeks later we were having breakfast. 

So how did it all start with you?

I was born in Miami to two wonderful parents of Cuban descent.  My siblings are also my best friends in life, and I have been very blessed with a wonderful and caring family.  I once asked my mom if my deceased grandfather would have been proud of me, and she replied “ 

Did you choose the accounting profession, namely known for being a male dominated one, because?

I chose the accounting profession because my parents were always entrepreneurs and business owners.  I felt by studying accounting that I would be able to assist them with their business, and eventually, could be an entrepreneur as well.  I never allowed myself to feel limited by the fact that it was a male dominated field.  I believe in following your dreams and aspirations, and not allowing yourself to be restricted.  As Sara Silverman stated

stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up.  I think it’s a mistake, not because they can’t, but because it would’ve never occurred to them they couldn’t

What made you move from the public sector to your own firm?

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur after seeing what my parents were able to accomplish.  I also felt it was the best way to provide myself and my family with the flexibility needed and quality of life.  I employed my time in the public sector to learn my craft, so that I could utilize this as a business owner. 

You said you wanted to give back to the community, do you have a plan?

Providing to the community has always been part of my plan. 

My plan to contribute to the community is demonstrated in my current and past roles as a board member / committee member for several organizations including:  The Downtown Chapter of the FICPA, My Man Is Not My Plan, The Women’s Fund Young Professional group, and as a Treasurer for the South Florida Auto Rental Association. 

My passion is mentoring and assisting women and girls, and emphasizing the importance of family. 

I provide opportunities to others as well in my daily work as a small business owner and operator of my own firm, VMBG Accounting

Additionally, I will be running for a Commissioner seat in my local city of Miami Lakes in order to afford myself more opportunities to provide back to my local community. 

Have you always wanted to lead a team?

I have always led teams whether in the classroom as a student, or as a professional.  I believe that input from team members is important as a team leader. 

Therefore,

I lead teams by emphasizing the importance of making others feel empowered to voice their opinions and concerns on projects. 

Accounting is known for being a corporate environment where personality and individuality are not sought after, how can a woman succeed?

I believe a woman can succeed in the accounting profession by emphasizing those traits which are generally desired in a corporate environment, and innate to woman, such as team work and thoroughness.  A women’s thoroughness is a desired trait among accountants who need to be detail-oriented in order to provide value to their clients.  Also, being team-oriented is a strong trait among women.  We try to include the opinions of others in projects, and this allows us to make decisions that are better for the organization as a whole.     

How do you bring your style into it without being stamped as frivolous? I am saying this because it’s one of the main restrains for any woman willing grow in a profession where men are still a majority.

I personally feel that others opinion of your style shouldn’t impact your decision making.  The only way your can grow in your profession is by showing confidence – and confidence comes from feeling comfortable with yourself. 

That means defining your personal style in a corporate environment. 

If you own a signature style do you still have to wear the latest and shop till you drop?

Absolutely not!  If you have your signature style, and it’s something that brings you comfort and confidence, then continue to express that signature style. 

Ultimately, style is not about the latest trend, but about expressing your individuality. 

When you have the odds against, what do you do?

When the odds are against you, you need to evaluate your strategy and goals.  Ultimately, the odds may be against you because the strategy implemented may not be one that will lead to success in reaching your goals.  In the alternative, the strategy you have may be effective but the odds are against you because you need to do more to inspire people to share your vision. 

Do you have a muse?

My muse is my mother.  My mom started her own company at 20 years old, while raising a newborn child.  She created a successful restaurant in South Florida, and then went into the medical field in her mid 20s and assisted my father in establishing and running 5 medical clinics.  Throughout this all, she never made me feel I lacked attention or love.  Additionally, she took on every challenge she faced in her personal and professional life with grace and poise.  I hope to achieve just a fraction of her success, determination, kindness and grace in my lifetime. 

 

chic, niche, style, style file

Aleksandra Lacka: the entrepreneur with style || style + substance

This is the launch of a new series of interviews dedicated to highlight women succeeding in their career with substance and style.

I will have more on this in every feature, by now enjoy this brain-stimulating interview and make it to the comments and ask away or comment if you find yourself agreeing or not.   


Aleksandra and I first met virtually through her Facebook Group called Defining Your Ideal Client. She is a business strategist consultant, a title that sounds belonging to a male dominated world, she is a woman, she is an entrepreneur, she is inspired by uniqueness and brilliance.

Our conversation went to throrough, that it helped her and assisted me to know more of each other. 

You can't miss it, because #girlspower sometimes is good.   


FB - I have read somewhere that extroverts spark and introverts glow. There’s always a unique brilliance in anyone, how did you find yours?

AL - Finding one’s own brilliance is a process. I believe that it needs to start from deep within. For me, it was about understanding what it is that allows me to be in my most creative space, my ultimate zone of genius. I knew that I loved being surrounded by and working with entrepreneurs. It’s their creative way of thinking, their openness to new ideas and that ‘no constraints’ mindset that inspires me to create, think beyond my perceived limits and bring new ideas to life.

It also is about creating an experience that transcends time, place and culture. Creating something that combines my extensive travel and cultural experiences into something universal. I believe that as entrepreneurs there are certain tenets we all share, whether it’s common values, struggles, successes, the appreciation for what’s different and unique…

That’s why I believe that the internal part is so crucial. It really is the foundation for everything else we do. Once you have figured that part out, you can express it in any way you want and that expression may change and evolve over time. I combined my passion with the love of intellectual challenge and my deep expertise in media, marketing and strategy. Because ultimately, my goal is to bring something of value to my clients.

And I go through that same process with my clients too. First, we go deep to find their fundamental brilliance and then we intertwine it with their skills, expertise and our knowledge of the market. The end goal is to create unique, distinct offerings that are highly valued and desirable in the marketplace. 

FB - What’s your take when it comes to defining your style (or brand)?

AL - Hmmm…I think our style is very important as it is the expression of who we are on the inside. For the past year, I have been going through a lot of transition and internal transformation. When I left my corporate job and became an entrepreneur, I didn’t realize how much implication that would have on my personal style. My style is now evolving at a rapid pace, making it difficult for me to keep up haha – a big surprise, as I’m now realizing that prior to that, my style hasn’t really changed that much for the last 10 years.

Defining our style is a process. Over the last few months I learned that style is not something that we can just define overnight – even though believe me I tried, and even believed I could do so. Now that I have my own personal brand, my style is more important than ever. I had worked with multiple stylists and tried to reinvent my style before each new branding photoshoot over the last year – while I believe that it has helped to speed up the transformation, I’m also seeing that I’m not quite there yet. It really is something that requires time and that needs to come from within.

Now I’m truly seeing how the evolution of our style is a reflection of our internal growth and transformation. For me it was pretty much flat for 10 years, but now things are finally in motion haha. I have a feeling that a lot more evolution, experimentation and bold statements will come for me in the next few months.

It was my quiet way to rebel against ‘office attire’ standards

FB - How much self-expression or risk-taking do you put into it?

AL -  I’m now starting to experiment more and more I’m also more discriminative when it comes to selecting brands that reflect my values and style.

I have lately become obsessed with statement pieces from Donna Karan’s Urban Zen because they are a manifestation of the high quality craftsmanship and cultural tradition that has been almost lost in today’s world of mass produced luxury that’s more tied to the superficial logo versus true quality, heritage and deeper values.

Another area that I’ve been also exploring due to my frequent travels to India, are the caftan and the sari. I’m especially interested in pieces that are less traditional, characterized by muted colors, perhaps the ones that are more reflective of my European heritage and yet embody my fascination with the Indian culture and its expressions of femininity. There is one sari designer whose work I’ve admired for few years now and I finally feel that my style is maturing to the level where I’m ready to explore and experiment with his pieces. 

FB - In your ‘previous’ corporate life, did you have to sacrifice your style for a certain attire you were required to maintain?

AL - Now that I think about it, no, not at all. I have worked in the media industry where there are no strict rules regarding the attire. However, the constraints are there, they are just subtle and subconscious. Working in a company or corporation, you subconsciously tend to conform to what everyone else is wearing.

Media world is competitive, so I wanted to look edgy and sharp. Thus my signature style consisted of skinny jeans, pencil skirts and leather jackets. For example, instead of wearing a more traditional blazer or suit to a client meeting I would wear a dress with leather jacket over it. Or a pencil skirt with a print t-shirt instead of a silk blouse. That’s how far I went with my self-expression. It was my quiet way to rebel against the ‘office attire’ standards..

I always secretly wished that I worked for a creative agency as those people have ‘style’ and the more creative and unique that style is, the better. I remember telling my stylist few months ago that I wanted her to help me to look like someone who works at a creative agency haha

FB - What’s Italian style in a one word or two?

AL - Refined, feminine, minimalist, classy – that’s already more than two words but it’s hard to describe it in so few words. 

FB According to your imagination, who is a personification of Italian style (doesn’t have to be alive)?

AL - For me, that would be Margherita Missoni. Her style bridges the classic Italian minimalism with a bold modern twist. She masterfully mixes patterns, textures and colors making them still look classy, refined and feminine. She really knows how to pull it off.

Missoni is one of my favorite designers and Margherita certainly was born to wear those pieces (or rather the other way around lol). To me her style is a true embodiment of the best of Italian fashion: classy, feminine, bold and seductive at the same time. 


Aleksandra Lacka is a business strategy consultant who helps her clients connect their true brilliance with their ideal niche audiences. You can contact her HERE 



trends, chic

The perfect winter coat

We are girls and we want more and more and more.

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The quest for the perfect pant suit, the ultimate nail polish, the inexplicable urge for a little black dress with the je ne se quoi that will last forever but you don’t know exactly how to describe it. 

We all have been through it. 

This morning I was given my first personal shopper gig.

So she goes: ‘I need the coat of the winter’.

Then I go: 'It must be a car coat and preferably pink'.

One moment of silence is immediately broken by: "I have a budget, but it’s also my birthday. So please try to help me not to go over $100."

Oh music for my ears. The easy road would be to go into Celine or Marni and come out with THE coat. No doubt we would fall in love with the ideal fall garment.

The thrill of the bargain that will make you look like a million dollar is what I am after. So $100 top. I am in another continent and with a 6-hour disadvantage, stores may be closing soon and it’s Saturday. 

Coffee and Google have never been so adored by yours truly. This is what I want to do and multiple times a day. It’s my moment to prove I can do it. (Can we have it all?)

Am I or not the one that preaches that the 24-hour fab rule should be a daily habit like … breathing?

My business side talks to me: Vite, vite you are always on a budget as well, so you should be a master at showing the ace out of your sleeve.

My lazy ass and shy side: Remember I am in Miami and it’s November and sunny where do I go and look?

My never-been-more-determined-side: but I dream of a white Christmas all year long, now just imagine.

My OCD side comes out: start considering her lifestyle, the cold, the drizzling rain 

A look comes to my mind, a scene, a Saturday morning feel, with some lace and a big soft sweater (I know I have it somewhere on Tumblr or Pinterest, click, click click search. 

That’s what I need, only difference she has her second child in that basket instead of the veggies. 

A couple of e-stores that she can have access to and I am still not happy with the result.

And then there it is. 

 

 

39,99 EURO I can’t believe it, why don’t you get two? It’s your birthday and that emerald slash forest green is so winter, woods, risotto coi porcini and fireplace.

Does it ever happen to you that when you look for something in special you can never find it and it materializes under your nose when it’s less expected? 

If I am not wrong that is called the law of attraction but that’s a different story. 

PS choices are mine and I don’t get paid by any brand. It’s all genuinely naif. 

A thing or two on how to speak Birkenstocks and be chic

Epitomized and relegated as the ugly ducklings of the shoe species, they belong to a well stocked closet of the U.H.C. (Urban Haute Bourgeois) or to shitbloggerwear?

The ‘Arizona sandal’ worn by women has been called ‘ugly’ or for women of masculine tendencies and style.

My initiation to them was when I was a kid in Tuscany. We would exclusively see them sported by German tourists on vacation in June. They would pair them with oddly oversized bermuda shorts and their matching calfs on hill-hikes while we kids were wearing our Superga and our moms the Dr. Scholl’s clogs.

They have been cheaply plagiarized and sumptuously replicated. The double strap open toe flats stir up talks every summer. Do we want to mention the Celine babies with dyed fur applique’ on the plant?

Does wearing an overall make us all a plumber or a fireman? 

You don’t need to go couture, the Birkenstock are a statement enough that you’ll look chic and comfortable just with basics. Like Grace down here.

As seen them on Leandra Medine doing her thing. ”they are not that bad” but “can’t get past the stains of their previous identity”. White and navy, another classic revisited well done!

On www.afterDRK.com did a all-black and chambrai to run errands (and if you don’t own a Celine tote, like me, it’s ok)

An Olsen-swagger moment: unpressed boyfriend shirt, denim with a 38K croc backpack and aviators.

Eva Chen, the new EIC of Lucky Magazine rocking the Birks at The Plaza (@evachen212 on Instagram)

If my point wasn’t clear enough, here you go: yes we can show them off, be confident, look chic and comfortable and nobody will ever think we are wearing stereotypically ugly footwear.

Keep it simple and ‘act like you are always wearing an invisible crown’.

Do you ‘speak’ Birkenstock?

On Buying shoes: do you ever 'kiss and tell'?

It may not happen often, but please tell me I am not the only one. 

You linger perusing through the racks of a high street fashion store and there’s nothing in your mind that your closet needs or that you have seen in Vogue and want to be able to buy. 

A pair of shoes left unpaired on the floor next to the giant mirror: somebody has tried them on and didn’t like them. That moment of glory when somebody’s trash is somebody else’s treasure. The thrill is even more rewarding when you realize that those non-animated heels look so much like those YSL lace up you saw on Outnet …

How to do it.

1. You have to be a runway addict. Practice will help you recognize if it is a Pilati YSL vs. a Hedi Saint Laurent. If you are not up for it, ask for help. Any stylist will be happy to do it. Some charge, some others, aka yours truly, love doing it for free. 

2. Be patient and wait, sooner or later it will show up emulated in some website or one of those big cheap stores that we never pronounce, but we all now we visit religiously. 

3. Snap them and show them off. Be aware they will be the most uncomfortable ones, but if you style them masterfully you will look like a ‘couture girl’. Don’t plan on standing on heels all day long, overall they are not Manolos or Ferragamo.


And now please share that fake deal steal you have found and rocked once, or twice or whenever. (Pics please!)