From Iran to spirited San Francisco: designer Gelareh Alam makes a name for herself

After being raised in repressive Iran, a country known for its severity, especially towards women, now-fashion designer Gelareh Alam found herself in an entirely different world upon arriving in San Francisco in 2001. Alam started out as a child psychology graduate student in the Bay Area, but being a self-taught artist and hosting a lifetime yearning for a creative career, she found herself drawn towards sculpture and painting more than ever in her newfound home. Here, in a city known for its imagination and innovation, was where she finally did not have to suppress her creativity or be censored.

“Becoming an artist wasn’t a viable choice for me when I was growing up in Iran. But when I relocated to San Francisco, I was faced with a culturally liberating environment that enabled me to become a designer,” she tells JustLuxe. “In my work, there are definite influences from both my heritage and my current home that I continuously explore thematically as the foundation of my designs.”

Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs
Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs

After a friend suggested that Alam attend art school, she found herself pursuing her dreams at last, where she discovered that she had a penchant for shaping forms and pulling elements together—instrumental skills for fashion design. But bridging her strict upbringing and newfound freedom was not an easy task. “I had to navigate the different perspectives of expressions and meaning,” she explains. “But it ultimately enriched my understanding, not just about cultural and social differences but also about myself.”

The young designer began to create limited-edition pieces in 2007, and after several years of change and growth, gradually evolved her passion projects into the Gelareh Alam brand of today. She has grown not only in her approach to design, but in how she executes each piece. “We’re now at a point where the brand’s visual signature is clear. But fashion is nothing if it doesn’t evolve, so I am constantly honing our style and making sure it continues to be relevant to what women need,” she says.

Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs
Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs

The customer who needs Gelareh Alam pieces to express herself in the fashion world is one who is not faint of heart. “The woman who wears my pieces has every confidence in herself. She’s not dressing for anybody else but herself. She knows what she wants from life and is empowered to work toward getting it.”

The lines of women and men’s clothing revel in both strength and sensuality, which is combined with a degree of fragility to represent each of our individual freedoms and empowered self-expression. It is a mix of tomorrow’s sculptural glamour and yesterday’s elegant confidence—statement pieces that unleash a provocative style for those willing to stand out from the crowd. “My line cannot ever be described as conventional. I always endeavor to create something distinct and special,” says Alam. “These are not meant for someone who wants to blend into the background. Therefore, it encourages the wearer to be bold and gives them the freedom to express themselves in however way they choose.” The brand, which she describes as confident, defiant of convention and edgy, is for creative souls who wish to be elegant while taking a little risk and drawing a bit of attention.

Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs
Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs

As far as celebrity customers go, Alam is drawn to iconic women who house a strong sense of their personal style, such as Lady Gaga, whom the designer considers to be walking art. Alam feels that the starlet and she share parallels in how they choose to accessorize with items such as hats, hair, feathers and masks.

Although Alam said that she doesn’t necessarily have any fashion idols, she does appreciate the work of fashion designers Cristobal Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, as well as artists Wassilyevich Kandinsky and Mark Rothko. However, her inspirations for her designs come not from other famous faces but instead, from everything around her such as music, films, architecture, nature, everyday experience and historical moments. “These various influences that inform my work drive me to create more. Creativity begets creativity,” she explains. “The more I do what I do, the more challenges I have to face to make my collections, the better I am at my craft, the better I become at adapting to situations and being able to find workable ways to deal with a challenge.”

Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs
Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs

After discovering an inspiration and idea for a garment, she enjoys working with soft fabrics that drape well and tougher materials such as leather, to create a more structured look. She often juxtaposes the two to show how opposite concepts can exist within the same space. In her effort to find different ways to drape over the body, Alam says that she often starts with one idea and ends up with something completely different that creates a sense of balance and is pleasing to the eyes.

But it’s more than just what a piece looks or feels like—it’s also about sustainability. She uses natural fabrics as much as possible and also repurposes vintage clothing, going as far as to toy with the idea of creating a line with all natural fabrics. “I have always tried to source sustainable materials and work with people who respect the environment. I believe it is important to maintain a sense of responsibility in how we affect the world in which we live,” she adds.

Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs
Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs

San Francisco is Alam’s adopted home, but the designer loves everything about the City by the Bay, including its vibrant cultural presence which is translated in the residents’ sense of style. “It is both adventurous and intellectual without being too mannered,” she explains. “And beneath that is that laid-back West Coast attitude that makes it not only acceptable, but exemplary to dress in exactly the way you want to. My brand speaks to that very same idea of freedom in expressing who you are.”

Although San Francisco is not known for its fashion, Alam feels that there are many talented designers in the city who work hard and create quality pieces that deserve recognition and support from the industry. And while Alam knows she is one of those designers, she’s handling her success with humble grace. “It’s a long process from an idea to creating the piece. So when it is finally worn by someone, it presents you with the realization of your work.” She adds, “It is a very fulfilling experience that in itself can be called a success.”

Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs
Photo Courtesy of Gelareh Alam Designs

Gelareh Alam is available online and is priced from $410-$3,300.

Written for JustLuxe.com

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British edge meets Italian grace in Alessia Prekop’s designs

Written for JustLuxe.com

England is a country notorious for dark, daring fashion with a focus on asymmetrical lines and abstract shapes. Italy, however, is renowned for elegant, feminine silhouettes featuring flirty colors and soft fabrics. So what do the two style-savvy locales have in common? Alessia Prekop, an Italian-born designer with a London label. This curious combination of style lives in every seam of Prekop’s collections. Her pieces hold elongated shapes that are fitted in tailored separates with both symmetric and asymmetric lines. Just like the women of Italy and England, the street-style clothing is made for the modern, daring fashion lover who is both powerful and graceful.

Photo Courtesy JustLuxe.com
Photo Courtesy JustLuxe.com

Prekop studied fashion design at Instituto Marangoni and graduated in 2010 before launching her line in 2012, which quickly caught the eyes of the style-conscious. After being acclaimed as “One to Watch” following the debut of her Autumn/Winter 2013 collection at New York Fashion Week, Prekop brought her work to London, a city that she knew would inspire her designs due to its bold nature.

“While I was living in Italy, my visits to London always left a great impression because of the eccentricity of the people that wandered its streets. Their fearless attitude represented a freedom of thinking; I knew I had to be a part of,” she said to Schon Magazine. “As a designer, the city’s rough, rebellious energy unconsciously provides a plethora of ideas that feed into my work.” But that doesn’t mean Prekop left her Italian roots back at home. “Italian style knows how to show a woman at her best,” she added. “In my work, I express a specific aspect of femininity by focusing on the beauty of the female form.” Prekop accomplishes this by embellishing her pieces as much as possible by using satin strips, ribbons, metallic sheen or other romantic finishing touches.

Photo Courtesy JustLuxe.com
Photo Courtesy JustLuxe.com

Now releasing her fourth collection for Spring/Summer 2015, Prekop is channeling the distressed housewife of Betty Friedman’s The Feminine Mystique, who meets the contradictory modern woman of the future. Incorporating soft, feminine colors in powder pink, cream and lilac alongside harsh, monochromic black, the collection showcases Prekop’s signature clean-cut lines alongside delicate crepes and ruffles. And quality is never sacrificed in the design of her work, which uses materials such as mohair, lamb hair and mélange wools alongside silky leather.

Although Prekop’s collections continue to appropriately change with the seasons having now translated to subdued, romantic colors for Spring/Summer 2015 after the edgy, dark styles of Fall/Winter 2014, her uncanny ability to juxtapose the dreamy, tender woman and strong, modern woman exist in every item of her growing work.

Photo Courtesy JustLuxe.com
Photo Courtesy JustLuxe.com

What Not To Wear This Thanksgiving

Ahh, Thanksgiving is here. The seemingly endless few hours where you are forced to not fight with your sister like you’re 11-years-old, where you must try to simultaneously drink enough wine to get through the evening yet not bring suspicions that you may be an alcoholic, and the day where you must listen to your grandpa’s boring stories again while feigning attention.

It would be easy to wrangle up a few fall outfits for the holiday if it wasn’t for some of these pesky above issues looming about. The possibility of a brawl, of spilled red wine and a cheaply heated home can seriously inhibit your fashion choices. However, there is hope.

1. Do not wear white. 

No white pants and no white, or otherwise lightly-colored sweaters, because you’re soon going to be so drunk that red wine is going to be spilling all over you. It’s way easier to hide a drunken stumble over a black blouse, trust me.

Found on lookastic.com
Found on lookastic.com

2. Do not wear anything too revealing. 

You’re not going to the prom – you’re going to Thanksgiving, where there is pretty much a zero percent chance you’re going to meet any men unless you’re a holiday drifter and you got it right and avoided a family gathering on this special day. You don’t want anyone’s weird uncle hitting on you in a wine stupor so just bypass the whole mishap so keep the cleavage hidden.

Found on mygoldbutteruniverse.tumblr.com
Found on mygoldbutteruniverse.tumblr.com

3. Do not wear anything too tight. 

You do realize this is a holiday focused on eating, right? The last thing you need is a protruding belly dipping out under your tight shirt. Ew. Please just join the rest of us and wear something classily baggy. You can thank me later.

Found on Pinterest
Found on Pinterest

4. Do not wear a skirt or dress with bare legs. 

Although this would be a pleasantly cute outfit according to Pinterest, it doesn’t work out too well in practice since it’s winter and Thanksgiving hosts like to cheap it out and crank the heat down. Put on a pair of pants.

Found on extrapetite.com
Found on extrapetite.com

5. Do not wear anything too bright. 

This isn’t an EDM concert – it’s Thanksgiving, and if you didn’t get the memo, it’s about pilgrims and Indians. No neon pinks, yellows or blues – scrap together some neutrals instead.

Found on fashidea.info
Found on fashidea.info

The Three Blazers For Fall

After returning from warm, sunny New Orleans yesterday after a week of sporting t-shirts and flip-flops, I was rather sad to take a look at the Jersey forecast for the week and see that temperatures were planning on dipping down to the 30s. It became real – the days of stripy sandals were over and it was time for cozy layers to prepare for the frigid cold.

So what’s the fashion staple of November work fashion? Blazers, of course, which I actually look forward to sporting because they give me a chance to mix up some prints, colors and fabrics. Before winter gets in full spring, check out my picks for the three blazers you need for your cold-weather wardrobe.

1. Navy

You can’t go wrong with a navy blazer – it’s the perfect staple for fall and gives a bit of color and class to all outfits, while also spicing up some neutral pieces. Plus, it complements other classic-colored pieces as well, like a flannel, jean or striped shirt.

Found on amyparent.cabionline.com
Found on amyparent.cabionline.com

2. Herringbone 

Who doesn’t love a classic style staple like a herringbone blazer? Grab one in shades of gray or black in white and pair with various brights to mix up an otherwise color blocked outfit. A very professional piece that will never go out of style.

Found on net-a-porter.com
Found on net-a-porter.com

3. Red

A pop of red mixes up neutral colors that are fitting for fall and due to the layering of the piece, it’s an item that is appropriate for work. Try mixing this up with other prints such as leopard, polka dots or stripes.

Found on expresarte-mujer.blogspot.ca
Found on expresarte-mujer.blogspot.ca

London Based Designer Tessa Packard Creates Jewelry With a Story to Tell

Written for JustLuxe.com

Stories have historically come from predictable places. They are born from classic novels, cinematic masterpieces and tales passed down from generation to generation—they do not come from jewelry. However, Tessa Packard, a London-based designer whose debut label launched in April of last year, does just that. Within each of her refined pieces lives a tinge of edge in which narratives begin to take shape when read with the rest of the collection. Her lines vary from No Smoke Without Flowers, inspired by 19th century Chinese opium dens, to Mexicana, jewelry made up of geometric Aztec shapes. Each piece holds its own, yet tells a story when joined with its colorful yet classic partners.

Courtesy JustLuxe.com
Courtesy JustLuxe.com

With the success that Packard now enjoys due to her innovative jewelry collections, it is difficult to believe that she is a completely self-taught jewelry designer. Born in Brazil and raised in Britain, Packard studied Fine Art and History of Art throughout school before springing into the London commercial art world. However, something was missing after four years in galleries—she missed designing the fashion accessories she had done as a teenager. “I really missed being creative, and that urge I had when I was tiny for being a jewelry designer began to kind of creep in and manifests itself in the sense that I really couldn’t think about doing anything else,” Packard told The Shop at Bluebird. After spending 2012 into 2013 becoming her own businesswoman and preparing to launch her first collection, Tessa Packard London was born.

Courtesy JustLuxe.com
Courtesy JustLuxe.com

Still, it was no walk in Hyde Park. “I literally knew no one in the fashion world, so to begin with I had to make a lot of contacts,” she continued. “I spent the first 6 months meeting people, making connections, meeting press to show my face and show them sketches of where I was coming from.”

Her newest collection, Predator/Prey, which launched this year, proves that Packard certainly feels no need to mimic past designs. Featuring vivid gold and black, her jewelry incorporates contemporary shapes in ingenious designs including honeycomb rings and earrings, bees perched on top of gemstone rings and bright, dynamic bracelets mixing contrasting shapes.

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So where does Packard draw her inspiration from? As with all dynamic artists, her designs can’t be defined by one source, but instead, are drawn from the culture, history and nature surrounding the narrative she wishes to tell. She creates her pieces with ideas of alluring fabrics, inventive architecture and antique ornamental objects made up of varying colors, form and composition. “I started looking at how you could translate the forms or the colors of the shapes into jewelry,” she explained. A believer in making all things locally, her designs are also entirely “homemade,” or manufactured and hand-finished by United Kingdom workshops.

So what will Packard come up with next? It could be drawn from anything from a misunderstood beast to a sparkling sweet in a candy shop. We’ll certainly be keeping our eyes peeled for what this up-and-coming artist has in store for the jewelry world.

Courtesy JustLuxe.com
Courtesy JustLuxe.com

How to Channel Your Creative Style Energy Into Life

As a fashion blogger and freelance fashion writer, I will say it:

Fashion isn’t everything.

Most of us do not work in fashion. We are lawyers, accountants, doctors, journalists, business owners and a million other things. We enjoy reading, hiking, bowling and movies. We go to book club on Wednesday and date night on Friday.

However, one thing that we can do is bring the joy and creative spirit from fashion into other parts of our lives as we go about our day. Even if we don’t head over to Vogue every morning at 9 a.m. and the style of our lives ends after we get dressed in the morning, the decisions and feelings that go into our fashion decisions don’t end there. Here’s how you can bring that into the rest of your day-to-day life.

Courtesy TheyAllHateUs.com
Courtesy TheyAllHateUs.com

1. When you go to the mall and you only purchase things that you really love. When was the last time you picked up a disastrously ugly shirt at the store and then decided to take it over the register? Hopefully never. Instead, you hold out for the best – that one thing that you can’t live without. Even if that means you have five pairs of jeans and four tops in your arms, you only pursue what makes you happy. This is how you should be making all decisions in your life. If it doesn’t make you excited to get up tomorrow (and get dressed…) then why are you doing it? Do what makes you happy, people.

2. When there’s a little extra strut in your step because you’re wearing your favorite outfit. Think about it. When you’re feeling your best and you’re hoping you’ll run into your ex-boyfriend that night, it’s because you’re wearing your favorite outfit – a simple piece of cloth. There is no magic in those heels or that dress. It’s all in your head. So why can’t you feel like that always? Get it in your head that you’re great, you’re beautiful, you’re smart and you’re interesting. You don’t need an item of clothing to prove it.

3. When you’re feeling pretty snazzy because you just put together an awesome new ensemble. You know when you wake up, feel a sudden pull of inspiration and you have the best outfit ever? You kind of feel like you just solved a great mystery of the world and you feel ready to take on the day. Bring this in everything you do by always trying new things. What fun is always eating the same meal, wearing the same outfit or taking on the same projects? Get creative, be courageous and try new things whenever possible.

There you have it, ladies. I know that you love to shop, you love style and you love fashion (or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog). Now, I want you to bring it to your lives.

How To Transition Your Summer Business Closet to Fall

Not all of us have a complete arsenal of fall fashion just rearing to go as soon as October comes around (although we certainly wish we did). Although we’re always more than ecstatic to pull out our fall riding boots, cozy sweaters and classic jackets, our closets can start to look pretty empty if we simply packed away all of our favorite summer and spring pieces. However, packing all that stuff away simply isn’t necessary since many pieces can easily be brought into fall. Here’s how.

1. Pair darks with lights. 

In the summer, wearing white jeans with a salmon is perfect for a workday. Unfortunately, this simply won’t work anymore once October shows its face. Instead of packing away your white or pink pieces, pair them with darker pieces instead (such as white pants with a burgundy top or light blue pants with a black top).

Photo Courtesy CaraLoren.com
Photo Courtesy CaraLoren.com

2. Throw on an interesting blazer. 

I’ve been wearing many of my summery, floral tops in the fall simply by pairing them with a classic blazer. Blazers don’t have to be boring – instead, stand out with hounds tooth, stripes or a bold color to completely transform an otherwise summertime look. Also, always remember, especially when layering, that accessories must match to pull a look together.

Photo Courtesy Vogue.com/AU
Photo Courtesy Vogue.com/AU

3. Put some tights on. 

Not all dresses need to retire in the fall. Those in darker shades can follow through to fall with opaque black tights. To keep from looking like your grandma, wear solid booties or other shoes made for the autumn. Stay away from flats as well to avoid looking like a schoolgirl lost in your office.

Photo Courtesy necessaryclothing.com
Photo Courtesy necessaryclothing.com

4. Accessorize with a scarf. 

Paired with a scarf and a cardigan, most tops that are in classic styles (not too summery or flowy) can transition from your spring closet to your fall. Grab a cozy scarf and tie in the way that most complements the outfit. Obviously, for sleeveless summery tops, a cardigan or other kind of laying is usually necessary to complete.

Photo Courtesy TheBerry.com
Photo Courtesy TheBerry.com

5. Utilize classic accessories. 

Summer is for all those wild and crazy accessories that your mom balks at. Fall is for classic pieces like pearls and more subdued and neutral colors. If you pair these classic accessories accordingly with more summery pieces, a summer outfit can easily transition into the autumn, no purchase necessary.

Photo Courtesy cyndispivey.com
Photo Courtesy cyndispivey.com