TEXT, VIVIAN KELLY
This post is about my newly found respect for the Power of the Accessory and my ever-increasing admiration for fashion stylists, such as Amanda Ross, Mary Alice Stephenson, and Colette Malouf. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and one little accessory can create your entire look. The right well-chosen accessory has the magic to turn mere clothes into fashion. While this statement is hardly a news flash, it wasn’t until I worked with Colette Malouf that I really experienced the phenomenon of optimizing my look with only one key piece.
I’d RSVP’d to the Shiseido pop up store spring 2011 preview event organized by Kaplow PR many weeks ago to look at makeup, not accessories. Nonetheless, I spent the first half of my visit admiring Colette Malouf’s latest collection of mermaid inspired hair accessories. The colors were straight from the Technicolor palette of marine life in the Caribbean. As if that weren’t enough, I got the added bonus of a personal consultation with Colette, in which she got me to look at myself through a different set of eyes. This is something that a good stylist does – they look at you and suggest, not demand, that you try a few things – like a different hair part.
My hope walking into the event had been to continue the conversation that Lisa Johnson, my blogger guru of www.lisajohnsonfitness.com
and I had started with Dick Page, backstage at United Bamboo. I’d looked forward to picking up where we’d left off about what lip and eye colors Dick was feeling for, as well as some off-topic sharing about exercise regimens and the joys of cooking.
Dick was not there, but meeting and working with Colette Malouf,
another fashion star, and someone I’ve always wanted to meet was more than enough to make my initial disappointment disappear like a puff of smoke.
I’d of course, heard of Colette – she’s a longtime member of the CFDA and one of the most prominent names in the accessories world. Colette, who New York Magazine crowned, “the Queen of Accessories”, started out as a hairstylist. In 1987 her fledgling business took off like a rocket after she introduced “The Malouf Pouf”. She elevated the humble ponytail holder into a must-have item that quickly became a staple in Kelly and Birkin bags all around the country. That one little accessory was responsible for helping fashionable women get through those tough in-between blowout days. By her second year, she reported $1million in revenues. Colette built on her success, combining her experience working as a hair stylist, and her artistic eye, turning boring every day hair into a woman’s best accessory.
My impromptu styling lesson with Colette sold me on the power of hair accessories. Having her practiced eye analyze my frustrating growing-in my not quite there yet bob and suggesting easy solutions, was a Christmas Gift that arrived early.
Colette’s part of that rare breed that possesses artistic genius as well as business sense.. As I settled into her chair, she told me that Shiseido had only asked her to have some of her clips and headbands on hand for their event so that attendees could have a look at them. Instead of just giving product, Colette decided that SHE herself – would do a PA and meet and greet the editors. As she played with my hair, all the while analyzing it, she reflected, “I’m a real person, there IS a Colette Malouf. People won’t know that though, if I don’t get out there. It’s important to be an extroverted [fill in the blank, designer, editor, writer].”
Colette – a Soho NYC native, has been eating and breathing fashion since was a child and has been in the fashion business for 23 years. She used to sneak into her Grandmother’s attic and spend hours among thirties, forties, and fifties iconic designer clothing and accessories treasures in there, such as Schiaparelli, Dior, Norell and Hattie Carnagie.
“Jewel encrusted heels, crocodile purses white kid gloves, and black resin cigarette holders fascinated me for hours. It became an obsession and today I have managed to save a closet full of favorites. This is the foundation of my inspiration to create elegance in an artistic manner” says Colette.
COLETTE’S STYLING 411: “I look at face shape, texture, cut, lifestyle. Then, I do the stylistic part, something that contrasts with your look.”
In my case, she took in my working uniform - black Joan Jett tee, navy cashmere sweater, dark jeans, moccasins, square jaw, pale makeup-free face, and small 5’5”frame – and dropped the data into her artistic data bank/computer.
What the creative computer spat out was the idea to try an extraordinary Mermaid meets Old Hollywood headpiece I never would have envisioned myself wearing.
Before adding the headpiece, Colette revealed that special something it takes to be a good stylist. She showed me one simple thing that had me [gasp!] loving my hair. The frustration I’d been feeling for weeks about my unruly hair dissolved after fifteen minutes with her. After playing with my hair for a minute or so she suggested something that broke me out of my comfort zone: changing my part.
Colette was the first hairstylist to tell me to part my hair from right to left. By the time I got out of her chair, she’d convinced me to celebrate, rather than curse the 3 cowlicks on that side. The reverse part lifted my forehead and showed my hairline, which she pronounced “pretty”. I thought we were done, but she decided it needed something more. She began to experiment with some of the headbands from her Mermaid inspired collection of silk and beaded bows and headbands.
After rejecting a delicate lace and pearl seed pearl headband
that resembled sparkly sea coral, she selected a green silk organza “seaweed” headband. The band does double duty as a tiny hat that’s got a forties nuance.
As I gazed at the gorgeous confection, she placed it on my head and adjusted the “leaves”. It was pure fashion, and I wanted it, but was it …. “too much”? Too Isabella Blow? When I wondered aloud about that, Colette skillfully dismissed the notion, encouraging me to be adventurous rather than making me feel foolish for asking the question. She suggested that I should maximize the piece by wearing it with all black. The silk shantung "bendaband", contrasted against the black, would pop, as a Harry Winston necklace does on a jeweler’s velvet pad.
I mentally pictured my February Fashion Week uniform – black Prada combat boots, dark jeans, black cashmere pullover and skinny black wool Hilfiger coat. It’s comfortable, but when I’m backstage, surrounded by TV reporters decked-out in the latest “it” 5” Louboutins, I invariably wonder if I should have made more of an effort. Was I “fashionable”? The Duckies jokingly refer to the TV hosts as “the young curly haired girls with the mikes”, but nonetheless, I secretly envy their perfectly executed hair and makeup, expensive figure-hugging dress and heel combo.
I’ve held-out, refusing to participate in the backstage dress-up wars. Number one, I can’t wear heels and number two, I’m not 22. What I want is to feel fashionable, not “dressed-up”. Dressing-up is for cute toddlers who want to look like Disney Princesses, or for those who are trying to play some kind of character. I’m a professional adult women and I want to look like myself, only better. I want that “easiness” that fashion personality, Abe Gurko spoke of this morning, when we chatted about his blog, www.imeanwhat.com and about what good fashion really is. He referenced the scene in “The Women”, [George Cukor’s stylish 1939 film], when they did the show and loves it because “it all seemed so effortless.” That effortless ease, that put together look is what I’m really “going for” when I get dressed, whether it’s for fashion week or for everyday.
Why NOT wear something extravagant and fabulous, like Colette’s headpiece any day of the week if it can make me feel as elegant like an old-time Hollywood stars, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell? The piece has the elegance of that era, but is not overly costume-y or retro.
Once my hair hits my shoulders, I’ll invest in one of Colette’s chignon and figure 8 pieces that will transform my ordinary red-brown hair into the -chic French twist Grace Kelly and Kim Novak
wore in their Hitchcock heroine performances.
Colette demoed that look a few minutes later, transforming a Shiseido Exec in attendance; deftly twisting thick shoulder length into a French twist [no product!]. in less than two minutes flat, just like in her “Twist of the Wrist” YouTube video. The Exec and her friends were awestruck; with her new do, she really could pass for a Hitchcock heroine.
For a tutorial on how to get this look, watch Colette’s YouTube video, “Twist of the Wrist”
Thanks to Colette’s styling advice, even with hair in the painful growing out stage, I will at long last feel fashionable while conducting backstage interviews. I’ll be wearing my fashion uniform of black tee, black slacks and black coat, as usual. This season though, I’m excited about my look. Although I’m only adding Colette’s green headpiece, that one special piece will make all the difference.