Have you ever met someone who inspires you to aim higher, achieve more and be happier? Renee Balconi is one of those people.
I got the opportunity to meet her last week completely by chance. It started when I popped in to a coffee shop for my daily dose of caffeine, and I ran into Candace Klein. Candace pulls this cute hat out of her bag, and says “You HAVE to meet my friend Renee Balconi who makes these hats. You’ll love her.” What an understatement that ended up being.
Long story short, Renee and I met up and she told me her story. She’s a pro soccer player, fitness trainer, entrepreneur and fashion designer, all wrapped up in a super cute and incredibly fit little package, topped off with a bouncy short ponytail – and of course her signature Balconi Hat.
She was inspired by her father who told her to make a career out of whatever she was passionate about. Throughout the years, she discovered what those things are for her: Family, Passion, Confidence. She makes a career out of these passions by training clients at her Mason-based Balconi Top Training to be the best they can be “and, ultimately, happy,” she says. “I always ask clients if they’re happy and it throws them off. But that’s what I want them to be.”
She created the Balconi Hat as an extension of the brand and lifestyle. The design was created after her experience with being physically active outside in widely varied weather. It’s any and everything you want a hat to be – perfect fit, keeps the ears warm when it’s cold, wicks sweat away when you’re hot, keeps the sun out of your eyes, and lets that ponytail pop out the top so you don’t look like a boy in a hat. It also looks great on men and kids too.
I don’t know why Renee’s story touched me so much. I think it’s because it sprouted from a promise to her father to make a profession out of a passion… and then it blossomed into a lifestyle that inspires people to be healthy, happy and true to their roots. That’s just something that will never go out of style.
Enjoy the webcast below so you can virtually meet Renee and hear her story and see the Balconi Hat for yourself!
Saturday was the big finale show of Cincinnati Fashion Week (CFW) and it was like Christmas. I woke up like a little kid with a big smile on my face, hopped down the stairs, and pranced in front of the mirror holding up my new dress. I was so excited.
I had really done my homework on the designers this year. (I did a sneak peek of CFW designers here, here and here.) And I just got a really good vibe from new aspects of this year’s show versus last year’s. The venue, for example, made a dramatic difference. Last year, it was in a cookie-cutter event room in the Hilton. This year, it was a very raw space – in an unfinished floor of The Edge condos downtown – and it had a very underground “say the secret password to get in” feel to it. Much like a space you’d find a New York Fashion Week show taking place.
My hubby and I get all dolled up, GPS it to the venue, get out of the car… and wouldn’t you know it, Mayor Mallory is walking down the sidewalk heading toward the show. So, we walk in with him, and find out he’ll be co-emceeing with my sister-in-law (Melissa Scalia who was the super fab emcee of the event!). So, several more great vibes about the night to come…
We were of course fashionably late, so the show started right after we got there. Looking back, I wish I had more time to brace myself. It was an incredible show and I’m still reeling. It was so difficult to choose my favorite looks from the show to share with you (watch the below video to see ALL the looks from the show, thanks to the talented Annette Navarro).
Last year, I easily picked my top 10 favorite looks from the show. This year, I had a VERY difficult time narrowing it down to just 20 looks. That’s how good the show was! Below are the notes I took at the show about each designer and below that are my favorite looks in order of 20-1, #1 being my favorite. Enjoy!
Laura Dawson– oversized silhouettes, strong shoulders, 80s color palette Jonathan Mezibov – “cowboy chic” menswear, interesting mix of tux shirts with western belts/jeans/boots Amy Kirchen – (my overall favorite) designed a playful new paisley pattern, all the looks were made with the posh professional in mind Avani– eco friendly, Indian influences strong throughout collection, interesting necklines – even incorporated scarves onto garments Cala Ossidiana – has one- and two-piece suits, but excels at making one-piece bathing suits “chic,” customizes fit w/knots for couture fit, incorporates strategically placed sheer, color palette of solid pink/blue/teal Amanda Valentine– Nashville meets Egyptian meets African. You’ll find everything from denim to ethnic graphic prints in this collection. Melissa Tabor – (my new obsession) business professional chic, perfect for the work hard/play hard YP – business by day chic by night, Jackie O in front/party in the back, exposed zipper down the back of most backs Arbitrage – all items hand sewn by Josh Stevens, leather details, short sleeves, leather glove accent Lindsey Lusignolo– (I wish she would have gone last – it would’ve ended the show with a bang… she got a standing ovation.) intricate backs, formal/bridal, unique and fabulous cocktail attire Amaresinh– “boardroom cavewoman” (fur on shoulders/forearms/sleeves made silhouettes look a little monkey/neanderthalish), great color palette mix of black/gold/red, strong shoulders and graphic patterns, lots of sheer (a little too sheer for me to wear though, definitely saw some nip slips… okay for the runway, but it might be frowned upon in the workplace). : )
#20: Barefoot in the boyfriend’s shirt… I just love that this look was thrown in a menswear portion of the show. Reminds me of all the times I’ve run around the house in my husband’s clothes. Gives me inspiration to throw on a belt and some cowboy boots next time and make an outfit out of it.
#19: Collar me bad… The attached scarf-as-collar to this dress was just so interesting. I don’t know if I could personally pull this look off, but it really intrigued me. Keep in mind that, as Avni told Cincy Chic in her sneak peek interview, all these items are handmade and dyed using century-old methods. Ah-maz-ing.
#18: Knotty by nature… One of the things I learned in my interview with Anne Pachan, the brains and beauty behind Cala Ossidiana, is that these knots can be adjusted for the perfect couture fit. And I just love how her design actually makes a one piece swimsuit chic versus shlumpadinka.
#17: Jackie Ooooh My, look at that back!… This is the first of many Melissa Tabor looks in my “top 20” rundown. She’s definitely my new obsession. I love the “professional in front, party in the back” design (although it was a little big on this model). I could easily wear this to work. Every single day. Because I love it so.
#16: Pretty in Paisley… This is the new fabric print Amy Kirchen designed herself. Several pieces in this collection feature this fun print. My husband wants to get a vest made with this print on the back and a dress shirt made with it inside the collar and cuffs (I’ve trained him well!). I love the silhouette of this dress. Could be belted for a more fitted look, or flow freely as pictured (great for hot muggy Cincy summer days).
#15: Peekaboo LBD… Melissa Tabor gives this classic LBD a flirty twist with a slightly lifted front, cascading to the back, with a contrasting white fabric to add interest. What a great wardrobe staple.
#14: Singing the blues… I don’t sing, but I would if it would bring back this blue pinstripe ensemble. I love how effortless this “casually business casual” look is. I especially love the baby blue fabric peeking out of the back pockets. Nice touch.
#13: Get the scoop(neck)… I love the deep scoop on this neckline and the cute capped sleeves. I personally would have paired it with a statement necklace, but it’s one of those necklines that doesn’t need accessorizing. It’s a statement in and of itself.
#12: Falling in love… This is a great look for fall. I’m definitely going to steal this styling by belting an otherwise boxy longsleeve dress with a great pair of tall boots. The feminine ribbon is a nice touch to this thick fabric and structured silhouette.
#11: Like a glove… Arbitrage makes this one-glove look fit like, well, a glove. I really like the blue buttondown paired with this rust-colored leather jacket. The shorter sleeves give it a crisp look and draws attention to that statement glove.
#10: Jump(suit) to it!… Jumpsuits have the tendency to look a little silly if they aren’t done just right. Well, Amy Kirchen designed this one to perfection. From the feminine spaghetti strap, gathered neckline and belted waist, I’m in love from head to toe.
#9: Short sale… Just like the jumpsuit, shorts can go tragically wrong. But Amy brilliantly balanced out the sexy shorts with a billowing blouse. Amy must have designed this collection with the businesswoman in mind. I can literally see myself taking a client to a summertime lunch in this outfit. I’m going to justify the purchase of this outfit by all the sales I’ll make in it. See, it’s an investment.
#8: Sheer genius… A simple triangle string bikini taken to an extreme with a little sheer. So smart. Now, excuse me as I diet for the rest of my life to fit into this.
#7: White out… I don’t know what it is, but there’s something so special about this little white dress. It’s so classic, but with fun fashionable twists like the pockets. I want it. I need it. I must have it. “And your little broach, too!”
#6: Belt it out… I love the dress. But I love the way its belted even more. I would have never done that in a million years. But now that I see it styled that way, I’m completely wooed.
#5: Get the Dert… Denim + skirt = dert! I just made that up. But what I didn’t make up is how adorable this skirt is – love the piping! The sheer blouse and knitted sweater were also very cute. I wouldn’t have paired these colors or items together, but they really work!
#4: Silver lining… Light catches the outer tulle fabric of this couture cocktail dress, revealing a slim silhouette underneath. Gorgeous. I love how it looks simple and not overdone, but you’d clearly feel like an absolute princess in it.
#3: Tuxas… Tux shirt + western wear = Tuxas. Yes, I’m getting a little giddy (for good reason, we’ve almost reached the top of the list!). But this particular look ranks so high because: 1) the bold color choice is amazing. I love how it just jumps out at you and demands attention (as every metro man does). 2) pairing a tux shirt with wrangler-fit denim, a western belt and cowboy boots. I don’t know how, but it works.
#2: Birds of a feather… I’d flock to anyone wearing this cocktail dress, that’s for sure. The feathery bodice has a structured, yet satiny tan overlay. It’s like a buffet of contrasting texture. The overlay gives a beautiful hourglass figure, but the silhouette is essentially a classic strapless A-line dress. Love.
#1: Drum roll please… This look gave me butterflies. And I think I might have drooled a little bit. I just love ab-so-freakin-lutely everything about it. From the belted high-waisted pencil skirt in tan, to the structured yet sheer chiffon black blouse with barrel sleeves and ascot collar. Then bold black shades and a ravishing red lip. It’s a little Audrey, Marilyn and Jackie O… all weaved into this #1 look from Cincinnati Fashion Week!
Hope you enjoyed my top picks! Now, check out the video below to see all the looks from CFW to see which ones are best in your book!
You’d think after running Cincy Chic for the past four and a half years, I would have “been there, shopped there” in every single boutique in Greater Cincinnati. For the most part, that’s true, but occasionally I’ll unearth a new little Tri-State treasure. And I did just that when I found out about Eula in Silverton. Eula isn’t new to Cincinnati, though. They’ve been around for more than seven years!
Sandy and Mary, the former school teachers who now co-own Eula, emailed me to tell me about their store and invited me in. So, I dropped by the next time I was in the area (it literally took me three minutes to get there from Kenwood Mall). I absolutely loved it!
These ladies have amazing taste – some great accessories, some clothing and unique gift items. A lot of their inventory is from local designers, which is awesome. I recognized some of them, such as Tracey Vest, who I have several pieces from. But I also learned about designers such as fabric artist Carole Gary Staples.
Check out the webcast below where Sandy, Mary and I give you a peek inside the boutique and showcase three of my favorite pieces from the store! And below the video are some great pics of items from the store! Enjoy!
From 10am-8pm, she’ll host a Grand Opening Event, where you can sip on champagne, indulge in chocolate and shop to your heart’s content (sounds like heaven, right?!).
She has incredible cocktail dresses (I got a sparkly LBD for the Fashion Week Finale!), great tops and skirts for work (like what I’m wearing in the video below), accessories and handbags. And the prices range from $30-$200, so you’ll find something for you, no matter what your taste or budget might be. You’re going to love it!
Amy will also be featured in Cincinnati Fashion Week‘s finale event on Saturday. So, if you go, you’ll see her new line, which will also be carried in-store.
Amy also does custom couture gowns, too, so keep that in mind if you don’t find anything on the rack, you can have something custom made just for you!
I’ll see you at the grand opening – can’t wait! Check out the webcast below where Amy gives us a sneak peek of her new store and what you can expect at the grand opening on May 24!
Anne is originally from this area, but she’s since moved to New York to pursue her dream of designing swimwear. It’s amazing – and you can see for yourself, as she’s one of the featured designers on Saturday!
When we chatted last night, she told me all about the latest color and cut trends for this year’s swimwear so you can heat things up this summer. Check out the video below!
The ticket price is $50, but with all that’s included – and considering the great cause – it’s a small price to pay for a big night of fun! I *highly* recommend checking it out, my fashionista friends! It’s going to be a great event!
A Few Facts about Pancreatic Cancer:
• Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
• This year, 43,140 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and 36,800 will die from the disease.
• Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which
the survival rate has not improved substantially over nearly 40 years.
• Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 94% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 6% will survive more than five years. 75% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
I’m so excited! My favorite local mall and my favorite local boutiques and designers are joining forces for an event this weekend! It’s called the “Indie Collection Kenwood: Pop Up Market” and it’s going on this Friday and Saturday at Kenwood Towne Centre. Local designers such as Amy Kirchen with ALK Fashion and local boutiques such as Elizabeth’s Closet will be there showcasing their wares. So, bring your mom, take her shopping at the Indie event and let her pick out something special for Mother’s Day! Here are all the details:
Friday, May 6, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Kenwood Towne Centre
(Lower level in front of Macy’s and Center Court)
7875 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, OH 45236
An Artisans Event: enjoy unique specialty and one-of-a-kind jewelry, apparel, handbags, decor and more from local artisans!
For more information call Kelly Koeller at 513.745.9100
It’s said that Princess Diana’s dress was replicated and on the market within hours of her Royal Wedding. And Princess Catherine’s big day today is no different.
I just got an email from Donna Salyers, founder and CEO of Fabulous-Bridal and Fabulous-Furs. She told me that her bridal designer, Kristen Bolt, just designed a dress inspired by Kate’s to carry at Fabulous-Bridal. Here’s what her email said and below is the picture! So exciting!
Hi Amy – were you up at 4am? I was – am fading fast : )
Reason for writing – At Fabulous-Bridal, the Royal Wedding has inspired us to do our own version of a dress fit for a princess . . . developed by our own in-house designer Kristen Bolt. Have attached a news release and sketch.
I read through the release and found this interesting as well:
With sketches and samples already in development, bridal designer Kristen Bolt is racing to create her more contemporary versions of Kate’s dress to be available at Fabulous-Bridal within 60 days. Wearing a tiara and jeweled sweater for Kate-ly inspiration, Kristen was sketching before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge climbed into their carriage. With a passion for bridal design, the DAAP graduate and in-house designer at Fabulous-Bridal will remain true to the basic design, with a nod to the contemporary bride: “Our dress could possibly have a lace overlay that slips on and buttons down the back. The bride may request shorter sleeves or a different neckline … that’s the beauty of having our own label.”
“The fitted lace bodice and sleeves, lace detail at the hem and a billowing train will be in demand,” confirms April Smith, General Manager at Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Bridal. “But many brides will want detachable sleeves or a jacket that’s removed at the reception,” April continues.
It’s so exciting that Cincinnati has the talent like Kristen’s and the mega-powerhouse-business-women like Donna who turned this around so quickly, and will be supplying what is sure to be an international demand now that Kate walked down the aisle in that beautiful dress. It exuded elegance and simplicity with a tinge of tradition. Love love loved it!
Thinking back to Mother’s Day, I remember my mom cherishing the gifts that I made myself. I remember painting a cardboard box with something that kind of resembled an “M” “O” “M” and she kept it for years… she used it as the container that held her hairspray and brush in the bathroom. (She used those a lot – Lots of hairspray and teasing in the 80s you know)
As I grew up, I made things like jewelry. And I’d use stones like Amber (her fav) that would make it special and personalized for her. The things that took the most time and were from the heart seemed to mean more than a simple store bought card or an unoriginal gift card.
But as I grow up even more, I’m getting too busy to make those hand-made items I would love to make for her. Now she’s spoiled though (but I still love you mom if you’re reading this! haha!) so I can’t revert back to Planet Unoriginal and get her boring gifts.
That’s why I was so excited to learn about Sarah Center. They’re helping you out with giving a deep meaningful gift for those us busy bees for this coming Mother’s Day.
Sarah Center is affiliated with the St. Francis Seraph Ministries and is located in Over The Rhine. The center will be hosting a Spring Sale which will include handcrafted quilts, jewelry and lots more!
The women who make these unique gifts are the real reason to give this sale your time and business. Because OTR is mainly populated with poverty, Sarah Center brings the women of OTR together to build lasting friendships and help each other reach their full potential, helping to give the women stability regardless of their home life.
If you can’t make it to this sale, then check out the site for the Sarah Center to help give back or give information on how to help by clicking here. You can even check out the jewelry and quilts that have been made to get an idea of what will be showcased at the sale. Giving heartfelt gifts to our own mothers is a blessing, so let’s give back to those mothers who deserve it most!
Thanks to BreeAnna Smith, my intern, for helping put this blog post together.
So, to build on all this green and glam fun, and this week’s earth-friendly theme, I wanted to spotlight a young fashion designer who strives to make the planet as beautiful as her clothes.
Courtney McCrone has been obsessed with clothing design since the tender age of 9 and strives to have her own vintage inspired line one day. She recently applied to both Parsons The New School for Design and The Fashion Institute of Technology located in the Big Apple. After looking at McCrone’s portfolio, it’s clear that she loves to create beautiful clothes out of everyday, reusable items. I personally love her new abstract swim suit collection made from cardboard, balloons, and wood! She also made a fab dress out of cigarettes! How creative!
She has been working with a slue of top designers in the Ohio area and currently is working with Valerie Mayen with her clothing line Yellowcake. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Valerie was on season 8 of Project Runway! After working with a number of designers, Courtney has big dreams. But she doesn’t want to take the easy route when it comes to actually producing the clothes. Many designers are turing to China for cheap labor but McCrone wants all of her clothes to be made in the US where she can help the economy grow.
Make sure you keep an eye out for this young designer. Who knows, maybe one day she will follow in the footsteps on Valerie and be on Project Runway!
Thanks to Holly Hoover, my intern, for helping put this blog post together.