Thursday, April 24, 2008

the open road...

Driving from one state to another over the weekend, the sun was shining, fresh spring grasses knee high were waving along the side of the road, and the medians were filled with clover. It makes opening the sunroof an obligation, really, and upbeat music, necessary. While my weekend jaunt was nothing exciting (except for the beautiful day), I was reminded of two amazing road trips I’ve taken in my life and I couldn’t help but reminisce and ponder the wonder of a good, long stretch of road on a spectacular day.

I once drove the long trek from the Southeastern US all the way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was blown away by the ever changing landscape on that trip and have never forgotten it: lush trees throughout the Southeast gave way to low lying lands across Arkansas. Then the sky opened up and the land streamed out for miles through Oklahoma and Kansas. We stopped for the night at the ranch of a friend a few hours outside of Denver, where the small pasture in front of the house was 500 acres. We then made our way through the wide canyons and dusty fields of southern Wyoming. Every American should have to drive across the country at least once in their life, just to see it, and hopefully be moved.

I also will never forget my summer of road trips throughout Australia behind the wheel (on the other side, remember) of a white 1972 Mercedes coupe. She was gorgeous, we called her Betty. She had a cattle guard on her front bumper- a occupational hazard for many cars in Queensland, as crashes with kangaroos will tear up a car (and can be fatal) if you collide with one on a dark stretch of road. But Betty was gorgeous, steel bumper cage and all.

I drove every highway in Queensland, from the dusty outback lands to the jungles of the coast. We hit every stop from Surfer’s Paradise to the massive cattle stations hours from civilization. We changed Betty’s tires too many times to count, as rocks on unpaved roads proved too much. We even dipped down into New South Wales and crossed the great dingo fence- an actual fence built across thousands of miles to control the dingo population. We crossed it at the top of a mountain on an unpaved road, and you literally have to get out of your car and open it to pass. We crossed one lane bridges where you can’t see the other side, and too often made turns onto the wrong side of the road (its harder to catch on to that driving on the left thing than you’d think!)

All of this is to say that you learn so much about a place by hitting its roads and spending time behind the wheel, stopping here and there to get a snack and shake a stranger’s hand. It’s not as quick, and perhaps not as glamorous, as some other means of travel (i.e. a private jet, which you won’t see me turn down, either) but you come away from the trip a bit wiser when you let the journey reign as important as the destination.

tell us where you roadtrip...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

shoes, shoes, shoes...

I have an obsession with shoes. While I have battled this addiction from an early age, the days spent working in the shoe industry brought my obsession to gargantuan proportions. Imagine being surrounded day in and day out with glorious shoes- stacks of them toppling over your desk, each one encrusted with jewels or flowers or ribbons or shells. Exquisite shoes made in Italy with the finest leathers and the most elaborate adornments became a part of everyday life. How fabulous can it get… I even spent a good deal of time in Italy working with the factory, overseeing fit models, sorting through thousands of colors of baby-soft leathers from some of the top suppliers in the world. You come to recognize quality, fit, and the ideal cut of a shoe- traits moving beyond color and adornment, down to what is most elemental about a shoe, and what really makes a good one stand apart from the rest.

While I have a closet full of stiletto heels with every form of adornment imaginable from those lovely days working in New York, we at Cerulean seem to be obsessed with flats and that is what you find on our pages (web or catalog). I have one very special pair of “flats” in my possession that I thought I would share. Cerulean’s favorite world traveler extraordinaire brought me these incredible shoes from Pakistan a few years ago. Handmade in a Punjabi village by a local artisan, the tomato red leather is hand embroidered in various shades of oranges with pink and black. Fantastic pom poms adorn the Minaret-shaped tongue and silver rivets add decoration. The leather sole was nailed on with small brass tacks and the lining is absolutely perfect and supple.

They come no where near fitting my foot, nor would I wear them if they did, but rather have them as an objet to look at every day. My two favorite features are this: each shoe came stuffed with a packet of home-dried potpourri of unidentifiable flower petals possessing a smell with a definite spice, and the sole of each shoe is inscribed with Arabic handwriting, which I am as yet unable to translate. How amazing to have some Punjabi Artisan’s handwriting on the soles of your shoes, perhaps telling the story of the shoe, or of the shoe maker's life. Maybe it curses the silly girl who buys shoes to watch and not to wear. Either way, when we are able to translate, I will let you know…

tell us about your favorite 'souvenirs' from a trip...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ready for our closeup...

When the call came in recently that some photographers wanted to shoot our offices for a magazine, I did what any girl would do- get in the chair of my favorite stylist for the entire afternoon of the shoot and get glammed as much as possible. While sitting there being pampered with glosses and conditioners, treatments of all kinds, I had a sort of flash back to a hair experience not quite so pleasant, and I had to share it.

A few years back, a friend and I were in London on a girl’s trip full of shopping at Selfridge’s, perusing stacks of Liberty fabrics, and usually a few too many Guinness’. One day over a lunch family style at Wagamama (amazing noodle bar- must try it), my friend mentioned that she had found the Vidal Sassoon Academy, where all the best students of hair learn their trade. The best news is you could get cuts from these geniuses-in-the-making for pennies. We made appointments for the following day.

While waiting for our appointments, they make you fill out a short questionnaire, similar to the one you fill out as a new patient in a doctors office, but instead of family medical history and past procedures, they want to know of past procedures of another kind: how often do you color your hair, how often do you get it cut, styled, by whom, how much, and on and on. I never knew my hair had such a history. The final question asked how much freedom you will give the Vidal Sassoon student when cutting your hair. Will you let them go wild? I, of course, said no way, while my friend replied, why not?

She was the wiser, here. By not being daring, I was stuck with the beginners of hair school, just now learning to trim and blow dry for the very first time. My darling dresser didn’t speak a word of English and took an hour and half to blow dry my hair. I think she must of done it one strand at a time. I ended up with the worst haircut of my life, and it took hours. The whole ordeal was more than I could bare, and I more or less told her to wrap it up and relieve me of this misery.

My friend, on the other hand, emerged stunningly similar to Gweneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, with a short, bleach blond bob of phenomenal proportions. Her willingness to walk on the wild side landed her a spot in the advanced class, where stylists learned advanced tricks of the trade, and even some experienced stylists return for new tips.

The moral of this story, my dear friends, is not “be daring” or “walk on the wild side”. It’s to pay big money for hair styles from people with licenses. So there.

But back to our photoshoot… we pulled it together and were able to hide the usual clutter of shoe boxes, crates of accessories, bolts and fabric, and all the other fun but completely messy things that normally cover Cerulean’s headquarters, and convey a sense of order we seldom see. The only pictures we have at present are sans staff, but see below to get a feel for the place that gets our creative juices flowing, the place where we bring items from all over the world straight to you! Happy shopping!