Category Archives: fashion


In Nei Hoi, better known as Gemma Hoi, is a Macau-born fashion designer who recently established her own label in New York City, USA.

Gemma is preparing a collection to be presented during the New York Fashion Week (NYFW) next month, becoming the first ever Macau designer to present in the prestigious event.

To learn more how about how preparations for the event are going and the designer’s feelings ahead of this major international debut, the Times interviewed Hoi.

Macau Daily Times (MDT) – For those that don’t know you well, can you recount a bit of your story and explain how you started in this industry?

Gemma Hoi (GH) – I was born and raised in Macau. My father was a menswear designer, so it was under his influence that I wanted to engage in fashion design since I was little.

At 18 years of age, I started sending out resumes to different design companies in Macau.

To my surprise – since I had no prior experience in the field whatsoever – a company called Estawon granted me an interview. They were originally in search of designers with at least four years’ experience, but the head of the department at the time, Anne Chou, also the first to see my profile, thought she’d give me a shot.

After three rounds of interviews, Anne gave me the last challenge, which was to illustrate designs according to a set theme. Three hours later, I came out of the conference room that was used as the place for challenge, and handed in my design, which I was quite confident with. Then they told me “Gemma, welcome to Estawon,” and so I became the youngest fashion designer of the company.

MDT – What are your principles in relation to the fashion design industry, what values do you represent and what inspires you to create new items and new collections?

GH – Well, I think the current fashion market is no longer [made] of beautiful clothes, so I am only creating meaningful clothes [instead].

In Italian, the word Gemma means jewels or gems, and that was the name that I picked for myself as well as for my brand, because I believe every woman has her own unique luster, or quality, that will make her shine. However, it takes time and effort, and especially self-confidence to explore and express this unique “charisma.”

In a scientific study conducted in the United States’ Northwestern University, it was proved that “one’s choice of outfit and style does reflect and influence his or her emotion, health, and confidence.” Therefore, I personally pay [a great deal of] attention to how my designs can bring that positivity and confidence out of my customers. This is very meaningful to me, because although on a present and narrow scope, we are just making clothes, on a more futuristic and broader scope, the beauty and comfort brought by the clothing can also change a person’s life through bringing more positivity.

We all want to be special at some point, and there are many things that we can study and explore to help to find what makes each and every one of us special, and this is what inspires me to design.

MDT – How was the move from Macau to NYC? What challenges did you face?

GH – When I first arrived in America, the language was my greatest challenge. My mother tongue is Cantonese, yet to become a designer of the international market, I had to break through the language barrier. Luckily, art and design doesn’t necessarily have a boundary, as visual language is rather universal.

It is because of the visuals I present that Parsons School of Design recognized my talent, and thus granted me acceptance, since I wasn’t able to submit my application through the usual methods.

MDT – You are going to present a collection for the first time at NYFW. How do you feel about it?

GH – I’ve always dreamed about being part of the New York Fashion Week, and it has always been one of the biggest motivators that drove me to leave the peaceful hometown of Macau to the gigantic city of New York.

I still remember the first day when I arrived with two large suitcases, as I walked out of JFK Airport. I vividly recall how nervous I was when I was having trouble communicating in my less-than- proficient English. Yet surprisingly, here I am, after four years, being able to present a solo exhibition at the One World Trade Center last year, and this year, I finally entered New York Fashion Week.

I’m truly grateful for all the opportunities of growth that this city has offered me. I’m so proud now to say that “I am a fashion designer, and I come from Macau.”

MDT – Regarding your design, do you think that the fact you lived in different place, and with a quite different culture, influences you in any way?

GH – Yes, I believe design is reflected and influenced by the creators’ history, culture, and personality.

For example, my experiences at the patternmaking department of 3.1.Phillip Lim taught me the different possibilities that can be achieved through creating new patterns.

Another experience of mine in Marchesa’s couture department inspired me through the usage of mix-and-match materials to create expansive extravagance. It is through these western influences, and my own eastern background, that I now express a culturally balanced style of design.

MDT – What are you presenting at NYFW? What inspired you to created it?

GH – I named my collection “Time Traveller 1940s.” The collection is inspired by the uniforms of America’s female factory workers. The 1940s was a dramatic period of time when America was involved in World War II, and it was also the second bloom of the women’s rights movement [after] the 1920s.

These historical facts symbolize the rising from the ashes of womens’ rights, and embody the spirit of courage, freedom and democracy. Denim is a symbolic fabric, perhaps the most, in American history, and its toughness and ever-changing definition played a huge role in the evolution of women’s gender role. I hope my audiences can view this collection from a symbolic standpoint, and engage in the history, more than viewing the collection as a row of products.

MDT – What do you expect from NYFW? What will it represent to you?

GH – I hope this is the end of a journey, but also the beginning of an [new] era.Read more at:long formal dresses | evening dresses

Shine Theory: Kendra Eno

In my next Shine Theory column I spoke with Kendra Eno, the showcase manager for Afro Caribbean Society. We spoke about what it means for her to be a black woman growing up in the blackgirlmagic and natural hair cera, and the role of the Afro Caribbean Society in projecting a sense of community onto the greater St Andrews community with Ubuntu – their showcase this semester.

The theme for the showcase is UBUNTU, meaning “I am because we are.” Tell me a bit about what that means.

I was trying to come up with something that speaks empowerment for the black community because god knows we need it. Especially in St Andrews, where there’s a lack of us, togetherness. I feel like the ACS society has a great community but in a wider sense, I don’t think we’re projecting it. We have it for ourselves but we’re not showing it to others.

Tell me about your role in Ubuntu?

I knew if we were going to do something this big, which was my own idea, I’d need someone to bounce ideas off of. Alice and I recruited a team at the start of the semester. The showcase is dance, acting, singing and modelling, connected through one narrative. Modelling is particularly important to showcase culture, and designers from other places, I actually knew no African or Caribbean designers until we put on this event.

Would you consider yourself as someone with split heritage?

Yeah it’s definitely split. I feel more Barbadian than Nigerian but I’ve got to know more of my Nigerian side through uni, and I think that the showcase is probably going to emphasise the Nigerian side, because the theme for it is Southern African. The story we’re telling is Nigerian – the story of how earth is created.

Something that often trends on twitter/ Facebook is “Black Girl Magic.” What do you think is the impact of this?

It is so nice to have a movement that portrays us as also beautiful. The media is very good at portraying one standard of beauty. Even white women say that standard of beauty is unreachable, but at least they can relate to it. But us black women; we’re not even considered. ‘Black Girl Magic’ speaks volumes, that we can finally love our chocolate skin and our beautiful hair. It’s really impacting the black community; people who are bringing up their young girls to love their hair. I hated my hair when I was younger. I felt it was rough and knotty; I had no idea how to take care of it. The natural hair movement is slowly helping us to reclaim ourselves, and not to answer to anyone else or rely on the media to validate it.

How has your mother influenced how you perceive yourself as a woman and your role in society?

As I was growing up it was a very big thing for me. My mum would catch me, catching my reflection on the way to school. And I remember one day I said, ‘at least I’m pretty’, and she said ‘Kendra, one day someone could throw acid in your face and what would you have then? Education first, beauty comes after.’ I learnt so much of myself through her. Especially with dance, even though she would say now some of the moves I’m doing she didn’t teach me…! As I got older she instilled in me the fact that I was black, but when I was young, she didn’t. I was a woman first. She said she didn’t realise she was black until she came to the UK, because everyone looked the same back home. And I would always say I’m black before I’m a woman.

Recently there have been a lot of allegations of sexual assault or harassment in the news. What do you think we can do as a society to lessen this epidemic?

I think the metoo was great, it showed how widespread it was. Reading all these articles about it made me realise how much blame we put on women. Something I read recently is that in reports on assault cases, it is always “a woman has been assaulted” not that “a man did it”, it’s very passive. As women we’re all united, but men haven’t banded together, a lot of them just blame. We need to remove the blame, talk to our fathers and young boys, even relatives. Also, talking to women who have been influenced by gender roles, like my elderly aunts, who have quite out-dated views. ‘You’re not sitting like a lady…pull your dress down’, I was told that so many times growing up. Those kinds of views cannot be allowed to continue.

This year Rihanna released a line of makeup for all skin tones. What did that mean for you?

You know, it meant that my bank account is quite empty…! I bought three match stick highlighters, treat yo self. (laughing) She’s won awards for it. It was innovative, but why did it take so long? Companies have the money to develop products as much as they want, but they can’t create more shades of foundation to be put in Boots,….?!! Please. Beauty standards are dictated by whoever has the power in the industry. I can’t say the industry is racist, but in a way I can. There’s only one reason they only catered to one section of the demographic.

It’s the same as ‘Nude’ like skin colour tights.

Yes! It always means white. I used to draw myself as white, so when I was a kid and I used ‘skin colour’, it was always white, that’s what people were in my head. Skin colour tights, I still can’t get them unless I go to Calzedonia, which is so expensive. It’s changing; we’re experiencing a turning point.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Probably to continue to get my hair relaxed. It’s so damaging, but black hairdressers need to get onboard too. These aren’t our beauty standards we’re conforming to, they’re the European ones. It’s part of the journey for loving yourself as a black woman. There’s so much self-hate in the community. We need to take back what’s ours, and stop apologising for what we are. I wore an afro in St Andrews, and got stared at by locals, but that’s black girl magic for you!

Name a woman who you admire, that is in the spotlight?

I discovered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in my second year, through my friend who is Nigerian. I realised I didn’t know any black authors, and then I was recommended her books by a friend. I read ‘Americanah’, and saw her Ted Talks on ‘Why We should all be Feminists’, and ‘The danger of the Single Story’. She made a funny comparison, someone had read her book The Colour Yellow and came up to her and said, “It’s such a shame that all Nigerian men are domestic abusers”. She’d just finished reading American Psycho, and said in response “It’s such a shame that all white American men are serial killers”, which shows the danger of generalizing, and the single narrative!

Name a woman you admire who isn’t in the spotlight and, tell us why you think she should be.

As I already spoke about my mum, I will talk about my friend Oyin Kan. She is so great, and came back from a year abroad and got high firsts in everything. She’s so modest, demure, kind and funny. She has really good taste in friends, not including me! And is just a great person to be around.Read more at:princess formal dresses | red formal dresses

In an organic fashion

For someone who embraced ikat when Indian fashion was yet to find its feet, Madhu Jain has always been looking ahead of her times – first in 1980s when only a handful of designers would rummage for raw materials in the labyrinthine bylanes of the Walled City to now when designers have no compunction of procuring imported fabrics, accessories to economise cost of their outfits.

As a precocious child, Madhu was quick to appreciate the aesthetic eyes of her father, who liked dressing up in his best bib and tucker and lived in regal style in posh Aurangzeb Road. Madhu meticulously studied everything – be it décor, lifestyle, cuisine and heritage. Years later, that would reflect on her sartorial choices.

She loves figurative work of Thai ikat and that translates into her food as well. As we meet at Zing, the Asian restaurant of The Metropolitan Hotel and Spa, she observes the large vegetarian spread aesthetically. After settling down, the food connoisseur in her comes alive as she inquires about erstwhile Siam’s Pamelo salad and raw papaya.

Madhu’s dietary influence has come from Rajeshwari Devi, her mother, who hailed from a traditional Jain family of Kucha Bulaki Begum in Old Delhi. “At home, mother would cook onion and garlic-free food which was so sumptuous. At school in Delhi, I would take tiffin in which she packed me lip smacking chana and puri.” Surprisingly, she was enlisted as a non vegetarian at Welham Girls School in Dehradun. “But, right from day one, I was adamant to stick to my vegetarian palate.”

B.D. Meattle, her father, was fond of fashionable clothes. And would gift floral French chiffon saris to her mother. “She wore it with pearls. His aesthetics could be seen in Belgian chandeliers, Persian carpets at our home.” The Walled City continues to be her favourite haunt for street food. “Jo khatir nawazi wahan hoti hai, kahin nahi hoti. At my nani’s house in Old Delhi, khumchewalas would send banana leaves filled with kulfi, kulle, a fast disappearing edible, from which sweet potatoes and other veggies would be scooped out.”

Foraying into fashion

Having taken the bold decision of working on the ancient weaving technique of ikat even though she was a student of Economics, Madhu was not perturbed by the fact that Indians then had virtually no exposure to couture.

“I was lucky to be around the same time as Rohit Khosla.” Those days camaraderie existed between designers. “Today, it is rare to find two designers on the same page,” she says, while sipping her hot and sour soup.

She has remained loyal to the indigenous handmade crafts and textiles. “Foreign buyers have a lot of respect for our handmade clothes but the problem is that only a few designers are presenting Indian art and craft in their totality abroad. Like when I took Kashmiri handicrafts to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Americans were in awe of it. There needs to be responsible fashion and the idea of giving back to society should be pursued. That is what I believe in and follow.”

She is worried that blatant commercialisation by designers these days is making a dent in India’s image overseas. She laments that the finesse with which she did her crafts no longer exists now. “Now it has become too commercialised,” she gripes, while sipping her soup.

Like she zeroed in on Kalamkari, which gave her a chance to express her creativity, one asks. “It also created multiple jobs. How many designers have worked on it? We used it for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. That is when it took off,” she says.

Sustainability factor

The conversation shifts to how imported fabrics have penetrated across the nation and are threatening to ruin livelihood of artisans. “Tamil Nadu is famous for its kanjeeverams which is staple for weavers there. However, there is influx of kanjeeverams from China at one third the price. It has become a huge issue. What is going to happen to weavers of the State?”

While polishing off Pamelo salad, Madhu feels the solution lies in designers following the path of ethical fashion. “Indian fashion designers need to work on this. They should not alter the geographical craft index. There need to be ethics in fashion. There has to be credibility on what we showcase on the ramp. If designers are trying to work with traditional crafts, then economics is a consideration but that doesn’t mean that theyforget about backward linkages.”

She further says that designers need to understand how much damage powerlooms are doing to handlooms. .

“Everybody is falling in line due to the push given by the powers that be. Our history informs us that crafts have always been protected by rulers. All it needs now is right positioning. The government has to step in to protect our identity,” suggests Madhu, a strong proponent of the government’s ‘Made In India’ scheme.

In 2018, Madhu forecasts that alternative fabrics, anti-fit silhouettes would be worn by fashionistas. “We will have more eco-friendly textiles and practical silhouettes based on comfort. This is where the Ministry has to play a bigger role and I am glad that Smriti Irani is open to new ideas.”

As far as story of sustainability goes, Madhu is a cut above the rest of her fraternity. And this could be seen from the special award conferred on her by the FICCI.

Explaining how she seeks to take the sustainability story forward, Madhu asserts that she is the first designer in the world to come up with bamboo silk ikat. “Not even in the North East there is any designer who has converted bamboo, which is found in abundance into textiles. This is my gift to our industry.”

Sipping fresh orange juice, Madhu opens up about the secret of hard bamboo from which furniture and upholstery is made in the North East.

“It doesn’t require much water. It doesn’t take away earth’s resources. This is textile for the future and is completely organic. One does not require fertilizers for its growth.”Read more at:formal dresses online | formal dresses sydney

FashionValet aims to penetrate the West Asian market

FashionValet, Malaysia’s first online fashion store, aims to penetrate the West Asian market as it sees high market and consumer demand coming from the region.

Its founder, Vivy Yusof said apart from Malaysia, the high demand from West Asia was also due to FashionValet’s product and fashion offerings that suit the local community’s taste.

She said the company already established existing customers and plans to penetrate the business into West Asia to serve its loyal consumers.

“As the growing e-commerce operators, business models need to change to remain relevant and viable.

“So, the choice to penetrate the West Asian market is one of the plans for the growth for FashionValet in continuing to provide value our customers,” she said when met after a discussion session titled ‘Driving High Impact Entrepreneurs’ in conjunction with the 10th CIMB Malaysia Corporate Day 2018 organised by CIMB Group Bhd here yesterday.

Vivy is listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2017 which featured the top 300 successful individuals in the Asian region last year.

Apart from online sales, FashionValet also has a physical boutique in Bangsar Village and Pavilion Shopping Mall in Kuala Lumpur, a move which is considered the best way to extend product ofering to shoppers who are not shopping online.

Vivy said although the platform was originally online, it was intended to strengthen the presence of the brand on both online platform and physical boutiques.

“In 2018, we also aim to open about two or three physical boutiques at several locations in the country to support the e-commerce segment as well as FashionValet vendors,” she said.

Commenting on the growth of the platform, Vivy said since the setting up of FashionValet in 2010, the company recorded a positive business growth of between 90 and 100 percent year to year.

“Looking at the trend of e-commerce business, it is expected that this year will be more exciting after a challenging 2017.

“This is because last year, too many new e-commerce stores and fashion brands have emerged. This has created a stiff and competitive environment,” she said.

FashionValet has over 400 online brands is also geared up to meet the growing online shopping trend in the region.Read more at:cheap formal dresses | formal dresses

2017-We Survived!

It was 2017, we blinked and it’s 2018! We laughed and cried, faced many battles; out of which we won some and lost some. Some important developments happened this year , and we witnessed some of the craziest and quite interesting new trends. All in all – we now bid our farewell to the yesteryear. In case you have missed out, here’s a review of what 2017 had to offer…


The unprecedented leak of Panama Papers by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in May ‘16 shocked the world as it listed down the names of rich entities and how they have evaded taxes. The list contained many prominent names from around the world including Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif and his children were charged with corruption.

After a year-long process in July 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Sharif as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for not being %

Celine Dion reborn with an exuberant foray into high fashion

Many celebrities walked the 2017 Met Gala carpet earlier this year in outlandish styles, but only Celine Dion used the moment to propel her transformation into a fashion maven.

While she’s been the queen of Quebecois music for decades, the “My Heart Will Go On” powerhouse strutted onto the New York fashion scene in May with surprising confidence and swagger. Dressed in an Atelier Versace gown, she mugged with hip hop trio Migos and slinked like a lioness across the floor for Vogue’s popular Instagram “photo booth.”

She also yanked off her high heel and pretended to use it as a phone. Everything she did pulsated with vibrancy — and a touch of silliness — at an event where attendees often take themselves too seriously.

Not long afterwards, some voices in the fashion industry started proclaiming 2017 as “the year of Celine Dion,” as the Met photos went viral and sent gossip pages into a tizzy.

The Met Gala also proved the 49-year-old performer wasn’t defeated by the events of 2016, an emotionally draining year that saw her lose both husband and manager Rene Angelil as well as her brother Daniel to cancer — within the course of a week.

The deaths left a void in her life but also convinced Dion to forge ahead, suggests Alison Eastwood, editor-in-chief at Hello Canada.

“She’s really wanted to pour her heart and soul … into something she’s passionate about — and that is fashion,” Eastwood says.

“It’s part of her re-emergence as an independent woman.”

Searching for inspiration in the world of haute couture — the glamorous looks that grace runways — isn’t entirely foreign to Dion. In recent years, she slipped into designer threads as part of her flashy Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace.

But getting credit as a fashion influencer was mostly new territory for the singer in 2017.

Years ago, Dion was better known for her clothing missteps, like the backwards pantsuit she wore to the Oscars in 1999 which divided critics. Other clothing choices were less inspired and sometimes called safe and undistinguished.

It wasn’t until the performer strolled onto the streets of Paris in the summer of 2016 that heads really started to turn. Her outfit that made a statement: a Vetements hoodie bearing images from the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic,” coupled with distressed jeans and Gucci sandals.

“It was hailed by many as her official debut in the world of fashion or certainly current fashion,” Eastwood says.

The concept was imagined by Law Roach, the “image architect” who has played a key role in helping Dion enter the fashion world. As the story goes, Dion first noticed Roach’s styling on young actress Zendaya Coleman, who was stealing attention on awards show red carpets.

Roach ran into Dion at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and they hit it off instantly. Within a couple of days, the pair was collaborating on big ideas, like putting her into the now famous hoodie.

“I had it for a while but I didn’t show it to her because I thought she would think it was corny,” Roach says, adding Dion was instantly attracted to the kitsch and insisted on wearing it immediately.

“As the days went on I started to introduce her to new brands … and one day I mustered up the courage and showed it to her.”

By 2017, the partnership between Roach and Dion had really clicked. Many of the choices seemed purposefully tuned to elevating a particular moment.

Her performance of “My Heart Will Go On” at this year’s Billboard Music Awards was paired with a white Stephane Rolland gown that towered over the singer’s shoulders, subtly evoking both angel wings and the towering scale of an iceberg.

Other looks were more playful and motivated fashion magazines to document her every move as she stepped out at Parisian hotels draped in show-stopping designs.

Dion ignited chatter by wearing a white Ralph & Russo cape and matching pantsuit topped with a wide-brimmed hat, and she also won praises for coupling a Dice Kayek blouse detailed with a giant black bow with high-waisted pants and Tom Ford heels.

Many of the looks were coupled with handbags from the “Celine Dion” branded collection she began selling this summer.

Afiya Francisco, a Toronto-based style expert, compliments Roach for enhancing Dion’s fashion sense.

“It showed that she was adventurous,” she says. “If you don’t have the attitude sometimes that can really fall flat.”

The singer has described her foray into haute couture as a source of joy after the death of her husband. She’s also credited Roach with inspiring her creativity.

“To me, that was the ultimate payoff, to have such a small part in the healing,” says Roach.

“She was with Rene for so long and loved him so much that she will never ever not mourn (him). But the fact she credited (our work) in Paris that summer as part of the healing process was so overwhelming to me.”

Roach says Dion’s vast knowledge of the industry often astounds him.

“She’s also a bit of a fashion historian,” he says.

“The things she can reference and pull up. She’s like, ‘Give me a minute, I know I have it.’ And she’ll go through like books of tear sheets (from old magazines)…. She knows what she wants and what she likes, but she’s also very open to learning new things.”

Dion’s move into the fashion industry could also give her pop music career a boost. It’s been rumoured she could release new English-language material in 2018.

Eastwood rebuffs suggestions that Dion has simply been trying to stoke buzz for a new album and her fashion lines. She says after interviewing the singer a number of times, she’s confident Dion is simply tapping into another outlet for her own happiness.

“I can guarantee you that she couldn’t care less personally about making an impact on social media,” she says.

“It doesn’t feel like she’s trying too hard…. It may have a different audience paying attention to what she’s doing now, (but) that’s the power fashion and style has.”

Eastwood also predicts that Dion is only getting started with her grand aspirations and could surprise the world by stepping onto a catwalk during Milan Fashion Week in February.

Whatever is next for Dion, Francisco expects her style choices will continue to work in her favour in the coming months.

“Fashion, nowadays, absolutely has the ability to define a career … it’s really important and part of the package,” she says.

“If a new album were to drop, she has everybody’s attention already.”Read more at:formal dresses | short formal dresses

Beyonce takes belts to a whole new level

In a world where we are so used to Beyonce being Beyonce, which is to say being totally extra in every facet of life, it takes a lot for us to stop and actually react to her fashion choices.

But her choice of a mega-long belt, which she teamed with glitter boots and hotpants, has set trend forecasters into a bit of a pre-Christmas lather.

Posting a selfie aboard her private plane with husband Jay-Z, the star showed yet again why no-one accessorises like Bey.

After all, the “Single Ladies” singer crooned about putting a ring on it way before maximalism took off.

And then, on Lemonade, she breezed down a city street wielding a baseball bat like some women would carry a Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote.

So what of the mega-belt, and will it become a trend?

Thanks to the likes of Virgin Abloh’s Off White, the cargo-inspired belt was already a major – and often mimicked – trend of 2017.

Priced at US$211, the Off White belt is serious business. But the good news is once it’s no longer in fashion, you can use it to keep your suitcase closed tight on your next trip overseas.

Beyonce’s belt, reportedly the product of her stylist Zerina Akers, is by Parisian brand Y/Project, whose mantra is clearly: why have one belt buckle when you can have 11? And why stop at 80 centimetres when you can skim the floor with that thing?

A similar style is available online for approximately AU$550. In comparison to Beyonce’s $US10,000 ($14,300) Saint Laurent “disco” boots, worn in the same photo, the belt is practically a steal.Read more | cocktail dresses online

An encounter with Grace Mugabe

The year was 1997 and the setting was the foyer of the world famous Ritz Hotel in Paris, France.

Zimbabwean government officials, diplomats and the media were lounging in the vast and opulent lobby of the hotel.

It is a very classy hotel for the well-heeled.

My reason for being in the world capital of fashion and cuisine was an assignment, which had nothing to do with good food or understanding fashion.

I had accompanied President Robert Gabriel Mugabe as part of the Zimbabwean press corps.

The world was still mourning Princess Diana who had died in a horrific accident while fleeing from the Paparazzi from the Ritz Hotel with her lover, Dodi Al Fayed.

Mugabe and his wife, Grace had gone somewhere and we waited for them to return.

There were whispers that they had gone to eat Zimbabwean food, which had been prepared at our embassy in Paris with others adding that they could have passed through some upmarket places for a spot of shopping.

Prior to this trip, I had never seen Grace from close range nor had I heard her speak.

It was on the flight to France from Harare that I had seen the country’s new first lady from very close range and heard her speak.

All along, since her marriage to Mugabe, she had always remained in his shadows and portrayed as a withdrawn person.

She barely spoke to the press, if at all, the perception among some was that she was a trophy wife.

The only time she came out of her shell was along with other prominent people and reportedly looted funds for a civil servants housing scheme.

With the proceeds, she was said to have built a monstrous edifice in Borrowdale.

So it was with a bit of surprise, thousands of kilometers away from home that I learnt from the hushed conversations that some in the delegation were actually terrified of her.

Before she officially wedded Mugabe, legendary stories were told among veteran journalists about how a certain young lady always found herself on the presidential entourage together with one or two kids who would cause absolute racket on the plane.

According to the legend, several high ranking officials on the plane would receive generous amounts of slaps to their faces and thank the kids or apologise to them.

Nobody has come forward to confirm or deny the legend.

Anyway, as a way of whiling up time as we waited for the Mugabes and their delegation to come, I had struck a conversation with the late Foreign Affairs minister, Stanislaus Mudenge, known by some as Cde Stan.

Mudenge was a giant of a man and had a booming voice and was well-schooled in history and literature.

If he had taken sport as a career, he would have been ideal in the boxing ring and probably traded leather in the heavyweight division.

I sat facing the entrance into the hotel.

It was a basic safety and awareness exercise driven into me while covering stable and unstable countries so that one could not miss unfolding news.

Mudenge sat with his back to the entrance of the hotel.

The conversation had eventually turned into an interview as he had begun to narrate developments he was overseeing in his province of Masvingo.

Sure enough, as I sat during the interview with him, I noticed Grace, accompanied by female aides and a few males stroll into the hotel lobby.

In the biting cold of Paris, she had short black and immaculate hair and was wearing a long black skirt with a grey top which, was covered by a black poncho.

She reminded me of a raven.

My attitude then, as I observed her sashay into the hotel lobby was that she was in every sense a trophy wife and would not be interested or influence the politics of the country.

A fatal mistake, particularly for those involved in the internal politics of Zanu-PF.

Everybody appeared to have made the mistake of not taking the former typist in Mugabe’s office seriously.

As she approached, heading for the elevators she appeared to notice and identify some of the officials on the presidential entourage and she nodded to them.

The officials did not disappoint either — they all but rolled over like obedient puppies to have their bellies tickled.

She appeared to be enjoying the adulation and the fawning behaviour of government mandarins.

Mudenge and a few officials who had their backs to the entrance did not take notice so we continued with our conversation, although I was now watching the fascinating display of power being exhibited in the foyer of a hotel in far off France.

She appeared to notice Mudenge and a few officials and for the first time, I heard her speak.

At the top of her voice, she shrilled in the vernacular Shona language: “Murikupira midzimu yekupi?” (What traditional rituals are you conducting?)

I was shocked by the reaction from Mudenge and other government officials.

Zimbabwe’s chief diplomat at the time for all his size, appeared to turn grey before he sprang up with the agility of a gazelle.

“I am going!” he all but screamed at me curtly as he made a beeline towards Grace and appeared to be apologising profusely for dereliction of duty.

He escorted her into the elevator of at the Ritz Hotel and appeared to continue prostrating himself before Grace as she looked at him sternly.

I had just witnessed an awesome display of power and flexing of muscles by the perceived mild tempered wife of the president far away from home in Zimbabwe, Africa — on European shores.

I immediately changed my opinion that this was anything but a laid back woman happy to stay in Mugabe’s shadow.

This woman was powerful and wielded a lot of influence. Grace Ntombizodwa Marufu Mugabe had arrived.

Seventeen years later, in 2014, Zimbabweans would witness her awesome display of power as she hounded vice-president Joice Mujuru out of Zanu-PF, while her husband looked on indulgently.

South African born, Grace Ntombizodwa had arrived.

Many assumed it was because she wanted to replace her with her chosen proxy to protect her family’s vast business empire.

Again they were wrong, as she was putting together an elaborate plan to become vice-president.

Maybe even succeed her husband as president of Zimbabwe.

We will never know following the military intervention which was “targeting criminals around” Mugabe.Read more at:marieaustralia | cocktail dresses


Fashion’s trend for bold mashups of contrasting prints and colors is making its way into the world of jewelry.

“Customers are increasingly interested in asymmetric jewelry, especially earrings,” said Natalie Kingham, buying director at fashion retailer Earrings, long a loving pair, are especially ripe for this look and are being uncoupled into mismatched shapes, sizes or different colored stones.

“It allows customers to express their individuality,” Kingham said. (And, for those of us unfortunate enough to lose an earring, the ability to keep wearing the one we still have.)

Valérie Messika, the founder and creative director of Messika, has been a fan of asymmetry from day one. Many industry experts credit her Parisian diamond jewelry brand with infusing a much-needed lightness into the convention-laden diamond stone.

“Even around 15 years ago when I first started out, I always felt I looked older in a full set of diamonds or matching diamond earrings,” she said. “I wanted to break the codes — to do something more cool and rock ‘n’ roll.”

Messika’s latest high jewelry line, themed around 1920s Paris, includes the lobe-hugging Roaring Diamonds that combine a flamboyant ear cuff with a more pared-back twin, featuring inverted pear-shaped diamonds. The diamond cluster Mata Hari pair — again one large and the other small — evoked the flair and boldness of its namesake, the Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was executed in 1917 for espionage. The design nearly covers the entire ear, which is partly why Messika went with what she called one “wow piece” and a softer one. “Otherwise it’s too bling-bling.”

On the fine jewelry side, the tribal-themed Thea triangle studs come in clashing sizes or a strand version that misfits long with short. Fashion, as ever, is Messika’s cue. “Wearing a very precious and delicate diamond today is like pairing frayed, ripped jeans with a beautiful pair of designer shoes. It’s more unexpected. I like the mix of sensibilities.”

In the designer’s new collaboration with Gigi Hadid, a G-shaped earring is adorned with a single diamond to create a pared-back version of Messika’s best-selling three-diamond Move earrings — and priced at 840 euros ($980) in an effort to entice a younger (if fairly well-heeled) clientele.

At, individual earrings offer a strong statement look, Kingham said, like Gucci’s chunky lapel-grazing bee earring in gray crystal and faux pearls or Saint Laurent’s punk-like 3-D-carved wheat stalk in gold and silver.

“By purchasing two single earrings and wearing them together, you essentially buy into two trends in one go,” she said.

The retail arrangement also puts styling into the wearer’s hands. At the Australian brand Alinka, founded by the St. Petersburg-born Alina Barlow, now based in Sydney, customers can buy its funky, rebellious earrings as either singles or pairs. The diamond Katia studs, for example, are designed as either one cross or a trio that extends up the ear, creating the illusion of multiple piercings, and are available in white or black diamonds. The Kremlin star-inspired Stasia stacks a large and a small bejeweled star and is equipped with a detachable post so the piece can be worn two ways or combined with other earrings. Like the Katia, they come in either black or white diamonds.

“I wanted a woman to wear whatever mix she feels on the day,” Barlow said. “The idea is to build up your own collection.” An individual earring in the O Drop group — a long gold chain that attaches to any stud earring — could extend the repertoire.

Fans of asymmetrical styling tend be more “fashion-forward and experimental,” Barlow said, but they are not all young. “I had a woman in her 60s try on the pieces and loved the mix.”

The Stone jewelry brand in Paris, the Danish house Georg Jensen and fashion-designer-turned jeweler Diane Kordas are other makers who have included single earrings in their collections.

But some of the most traditional haute joaillerie houses have been seduced by asymmetry as well.

In July during the couture shows in Paris, the Est Une Fête collection by Chaumet paid homage to four venues with music at their center, with the punchy Rhapsodie transatlantique, inspired by the Metropolitan Opera House, looking like a colorful burst of fireworks. A pair of white and yellow gold earrings were akin in size but the colors were chosen for contrast: a 9.5-carat yellow-green Ceylon sapphire was joined with an 8.88-carat violet Madagascar sapphire, and both were lit up by Umba garnets, brilliant-cut diamonds and champagne diamonds.

At Dior, where Versailles’ gardens were muse, creative director Victoire de Castellane called her asymmetric earrings “couples.” Plaisir Champêtre Saphir, for example, was united by sapphires, but one was square, dangling from a stem of garnets, while its sister looked like a bouquet bursting with pink sapphires, emeralds, turquoise, yellow diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines and lacquer blooms.

De Grisogono also played with color, as seen in a pair of chandelier earrings with inverted designs, each one featuring five rubies with emerald or white diamond droplets.

Offbeat shapes were the starting point for Boghossian: One set of earrings pitted a traditional hanging pear-shaped yellow diamond against a contemporary up-the-ear marquise-shaped light-brown diamond clip, both topped by marquise-cut stones. Another contrasted an emerald and a natural pearl, both swinging from slim columns of diamonds and emeralds.

“I always buy an unusual shape, even if I don’t know when I’m going to use it,” Albert Boghossian, the company’s chief executive, said. “The less boring the stone, the more I’m dared to play with contrasts.”

Asymmetry does give designers a creative boost. Celestial designs have been trending for a few seasons now but London jewelry house Vant suspended mismatched moon and sun rock crystals from planetary studs, and jeweler Sabine Roemer paired a simple diamond star stud with three strands of stars in glittering sapphires and fluorites cascading from a monochrome moon. Roemer also created an agate cameo from two stones that were bought years apart. One is a portrait in green, the other a group of women rendered in blue, and detailing in green fluorites, topaz and amethysts to harmonize it all.

“Asymmetric earrings, of course, should be matching or seem to be but there’s an element of the unexpected that I like,” Roemer said. “The look gives me the space to create within one piece.”

Bibi van der Velden, the owner and curator of the online jewelry retailer Auverture, agreed. A designer herself and self-proclaimed champion of asymmetric styles, she stocks artist-jewelers who push the form, like Ileana Makri and her mystical eye studs and Gaelle Khouri, whose latest collection of single earrings looped structural, intertwined rings.

Van der Velden’s own approach to the style is especially playful, like her pair of cheeky, bejeweled monkeys gripping oversized lemon-quartz bananas, or a man maneuvering through a pink sapphire ribboned shell, his legs on one earring, head emerging from the other.

“It’s more interesting to make use of the fact that you’ve two earlobes and the pieces can communicate with each other,” van der Velden said. “Real jewelry does not have to mean boring. We all know the rules but people are continuously breaking them.”Read more at:cheap formal dresses online | formal dresses online australia

Q&A with FashioNXT Emerging Designer Winner

The designer behind the new line Minnie Opal has garnered a heap of attention as the winner of the UpNXT competition as well as being awarded the Portland Fashion & Style Awards Best Emerging Designer. Her style blends a mix of Edwardian lace notions and 1960s mod A-line silhouettes in one-of-a-kind pieces that employ salvaged “upcycled” textiles such as antique doilies, fringe, and colorful vintage prints.

I caught up with Franklin for a Q&A about her new line and what direction she plans on taking following all these sudden accolades.

Can you tell us a little bit about your design process?

I like to drape to get a feel for what [the fabric] can do. My designs always come to life on my dress form. I rarely use patterns, but have been successful making patterns from scratch. Its definitely evolving my designs in a new way and I look forward to adding more ready to wear to my collections.

How did it feel to win the UpNxt competition? How do you think it will change/effect your clothing company?

Winning the Upnxt competition was amazing. FashioNXT was all I thought about and worked toward for this last year. The competition has definitely helped me become a better designer. Competing against individuals with great talent always pushes one to do and be better. Oscar Dominic and I became fast friends and the People’s Choice award couldn’t have gone to a better person. With the win being so fresh, I’m not sure how it will change or affect my company. I am excited to see how this will propel and inspire me.

Overall I want to remain in step with my priorities of sustainable fashion and creating clothing that is inspired by individuals. I want to add as much beauty to the world with as little of a footprint as possible. I’m just going to keep being me and designing from the heart. If people like it—great!

Can you tell us a little bit about your re-brand from “Tattered Tailor” to “Minnie Opal” and why you decided to do that?

Rebranding myself came about for a few reasons. Primarily, I didn’t feel I had room to grow with the name “The Tattered Tailor.” I’ve grown as a designer so much this last year and wanted a name that spoke to that growth, was more sophisticated, and didn’t pigeon hole me into a specific design ascetic. True to my brand and priorities, I wanted something that had meaning and a vintage appeal, so I used my two great grandmothers’ names. Minnie Messer and Opal Connor.

What were your inspirations for the winning collection, and who are your style inspirations in general?

The fabrics are the cornerstone of my collections. I never know what I’m going to make until I start pulling materials and draping them. With the fabrics in place I was motivated by the competition.

Everyday people living life is another fundamental inspiration for me. That feeling you get when you look at an individual person. It could be the little old lady walking down the street or the 8-year-old who clashes to perfection. When I make custom orders for people I let them help inspire my design. I like to get to know the people I make clothes for. I want my designs to accentuate and compliment who they are as individuals.

For this collection, I hand beaded “Nevertheless She Persisted” on my vest and jacket. That phrase was a touchstone for me throughout creating these pieces. My woman is strong, independent, and romantic. I wanted to portray that in this collection. I believe in women empowerment and will always encourage other women to succeed and grow.

What direction do you see your clothing company going?

I definitely want to stay along the lines of sustainable fashion. Using vintage, antique materials, and end-of-bolt fabrics. Fast fashion is so detrimental to our planet and I want to offer an alternative. I want to make sustainable high fashion and definitely think I’m on the right track.

Where can customers access your designs?

People can find my designs locally at Anne Bocci Boutique & Gallery in the Pearl, The Fernie Brae Gallery on Hawthorne and Artisan Avenue Marketplace on 23rd Ave in Northwest You can also shop my designs on line at minnieopal—and at the moment I’m still using Etsy for my international and more “fairy centric” customers. Eventually that will also be changed over.

Lastly, I’ve been planning to rebuild a step van with all repurposed materials into a traveling fashion shop. So be on the lookout for that! I plan on doing a cross country tour in 2019 with my new shop.Read more at:white formal dresses | blue formal dresses