Summer of Wanderlust – India Inspired Look Book

To describe India in a few words is like trying to put the universe in a box. It just can’t be done.  To do it justice, one must visit and immerse themselves in the cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and colors. It’s brilliant and jarring, chaotic and magical.  In my two visits I have only scratched the surface of its mystery.

These looks are inspired by many of the pieces of jewelry and clothing I have purchased when traveling to India and also by the easy, comfortable way I would dress when I am there.  Light layers, exotic prints and bold colors are the heart of Indian design and they are the center of this look book!

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{Pants/Michael Kors via Macy’s, Top/Sandals/Ross, Necklace/Handmade by me, Bracelet/Santee Alley, Bag/I bought in Jodhpur, India}

India

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{Pants/Necklaces/Bangles/I bought in India, Shoes/Ross, Blouses/Thrifted, Ring/Thrifty Upenyu on Etsy}

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{Dress/Single Dress Plus, Top/The Plus Bus Boutique, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Ring/Target, Earrings/Vintage}

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India Skirt

{Skirt/Necklace/Bought in India, Blouse/Shoes/Thrifted, Ring/Earrings/Santee Alley}

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Summer of Wanderlust – Morocco Inspired Look Book

Only two weeks left in our Summer of Wanderlust and I’ve left some of my favorite countries for last.

This week’s look book is inspired by Morocco.  My husband and I took a private tour by car through the vast landscapes of Morocco in 2006 from the forest through olive groves to a night spent in a Bedoin camp, watching the sunrise in the Sahara Desert.

Buying rugs in the desert, drinking mint tea, getting lost among mounds of spices in the markets of Marrakech, eating our share of tajine, covering my hands in henna, discovering beautiful details around every corner, meeting amazing artisans, uncovering hidden courtyards.  It was a magical journey and I can’t wait to return.  Until then, I leave with a little Moroccan inspiration.

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{Kaftan/Ross, Sandals/Target, Bangles/From India, Earrings/Macy’s, Necklace worn as a headpiece/Santee Alley}

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{Pants/Love Culture, Kaftan/Thrifted, Sandals/Marshall’s, Necklace/Macy’s}

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{Dress/Depop, Scarf/Worn as a belt/Target, Red Belt/Made in Morocco (Thrifted), Necklace/Bought in India, Shoes/Forever 21}

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{Kaftan/Querist Vintage on Depop, Heels/Michael Kors, Bracelet/Necklace worn as a headpiece/From India, Earrings/Santee Alley}

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Summer of Wanderlust – Hong Kong Look Book

Sixteen years ago for my honeymoon I went on my first big international trip to Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong.  That trip forever changed the trajectory of my life and ignited a desire to travel the globe that is everlasting.

This look book is inspired by the details of Hong Kong, the place where my ultimate journey began.

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{Top/Jacket/Jewelry/Thrifted, Pants/INC International, Shoes/Santee Alley}

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{Dress/Gwynnie Bee, Shoes/Target, Bag/Bracelets/Earrings/Umbrella/Thrifted}

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{Vintage Housecoat/Long Beach Flea Market, Bag/Belts/Thrifted, Earrings/Purchased in India, Bracelet/Old, Shoes/Michael Kors}

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{Skirt/Last Chance, Top/Chico’s (Thrifted), Earrings/Necklace/Purchased in India, Fan/99 cents store}

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Summer of Wanderlust – Bali Inspired Look Book

Bali is an exotic and tropical land with deep cultural traditions.  While I have yet to visit I am inspired by the intricate details of its temples, colorful ceremonies and the spirit of the Balinese people.

These looks are inspired by the traditional batik and lush landscapes found all over Bali.  They are my modern take on fashion inspired by Balinese elements.

I’d love to hear if you have been to Bali and what your favorite memory is!

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{Pants/Michael Kors, Top/Thrifted, Bangles/From India, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Hat/99 cents store, Earrings/Necklace/Santee Alley}

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{Dress/Belt/Shoes/Thrifted, Durry Bag/Bought in India, Long Necklace/Bought in Romania, Short Necklace/Santee Alley}

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{Sarong worn as a dress/Victoria’s Secret, Shoes/Belt/Thrifted, Bag/Claire’s, Earrings/Bought in India, Mixed Bangles/Thrifted, Ring/Santee Alley}

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{Dress/Kimono/Umbrella/Thrifted, Belt/Target, Necklace/Sistas Jewelry, Ring/Tenzin Beads, Bracelet/Earrings/Macy’s, Heels/Nine West}

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I hope that you are enjoying your summer, whether you are traveling or livin’ it up at home! Be sure to stay tuned to the blog because next week I’ll be sharing all my Southwest adventures from last week from shopping tips to folk art festivals to hidden gems you can’t miss!  Until then, have a great weekend!

~ Sheena

 

 

Summer of Wanderlust – Mexico Inspired Look Book

 

Living in Southern California, Mexico is right in our backyard which makes sense why it’s the country I have visited the most in all of my travels.  Mexico is a beautiful country with diverse landscapes awash in color from the beaches to the jungles.  What I love most about it is the warmth of the people and the rich culture and tradition.

If you are traveling to Mexico this summer I hope these looks offer you some inspiration on what to pack. Bold prints in a variety of colors will have you ready to stroll the local markets during the day and dancing the night away under the Sonoran sky.

I paired these very vibrant floral prints in breezy light fabrics for the hot days in Mexico.  Paired with warm brown accessories and a striped bag I purchased in Mexico, this is one of my favorite looks.

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{Skirt/Top/Belt/Thrifted, Sandals/Last Chance, Necklace & Bracelet, Downtown L.A., Bag/Bought in Mexico}

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This look is inspired a bit more by the colors of the desert with warm oranges and natural textures. The crochet duster caps off the easy feel of this look.

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{Pants/Marshall’s, Old tank, Crochet Duster/Ralph Lauren via The Plus Bus Boutique, Necklace/Sistas Jewelry, Sandals/Bag/Hat/Target, Bangles/From India & Thrifted}

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I have loved this dress since I bought it a couple of years ago. The vibrant orange color and the sheer cut out design are amazing! I paired it with an equally bright cobalt for a knock out look!

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{Dress Target, Top/A’Gaci, Shoes/Ross, Bangles/Bought in Kenya, Necklace/Clutch/Bought in India}

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This last look is inspired by the beautiful hand made clothing of Mexico. This blouse was gifted to me from Casa Otomi in Mexico. I paired this look with neutral accessories to let the embroidery shine!

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{Dress worn as a skirt/The Plus Bus Boutique, Blouse/Casa Otomi, Heels/Nine West, Hat/Earrings/Bangle/Santee Alley, Belt/Thrifted, Fan/Oriental Trading}

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If you’d like some more Mexican inspiration and shopping tips, check out my posts on Ensenada and Cozumel.  Be sure to tag me on social media @IAMSHEGLOBAL if you try any of these looks! I’d love to see them!

~Sheena

 

Into The Arts – Casa Otomi

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Color abounds at Casa Otomi!
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I love the shape and brilliant colors on this one of kind bag!

Casa Otomi is an artisan company located in Coyoacan, Mexico that specializes in hand embroidered heirloom Mexican creations. From clothing and handbags to home décor such as pillows, bedspreads and tablecloths, each piece is made for those with discerning tastes for exquisitely crafted original art.

I fell in love with their beautiful colors and handmade details as soon as I laid eyes on them. I especially love the unique shapes of the pillows and handbags from Casa Otomi. The embroidered designs are crafted from original art created by owner and artist, Sandra Renteria. I asked her to share a bit more below, about the history of her business and the creative process involved in bringing these one of kind pieces of art to life.

Q: What is Otomi?

A: Otomi is an indigenous culture and an endangered MesoAmerican language. This particular cultural group is known for their Tenango embroidered pieces also known as Otomi.

Q: How did Casa Otomi come to be?

A: I used to own a Fair trade Folk art gallery for close to a decade. I have a passion for indigenous antiquities and spent my gallery years travelling the world and visiting global tribal groups as a personal passion and a means of survival. I have always envisioned myself living away from the crazy grind of USA life and was finally able to get away from the rat race. I wasn’t sure how we could survive in Mexico but I knew we needed to try. Casa Otomi came to be when I was interviewing for jobs in Oaxaca. As a curator for museum or gallery assistant, I was offered positions that paid about $6 dollars a day. Which, we could have lived on. But….I decided to try to work with the locals to sell their wares and see if we could make $12 a day. Abel, my partner, could also make $6. It was an uphill climb and we lived on rickety buses for close to a year to pull it off, but we managed to make our $12 to $15 per day and reinvested all of our money. We started with only $100. The first piece we purchased took close to two years to sell. Glad we didn’t base the future on that one piece. I noticed that certain pieces would not sell because of the figures, so I started drawing new contemporary figures and those pieces had wings. Now I see my drawings all over embroidered pieces all over the country. Quite surreal.

Q: What made you get into the world of textiles?

A: As a collector, the easiest pieces to drag around the world are canvases-unstretched and textiles. The textile world is bliss for me. My daughter was raised taking naps on top of textiles in bazaars all over the world. It’s all she knows. It’s natural to her. Now she is 14 years old and she runs the tally and books when I buy. I point, drool, stare and grab. That’s what I do. Abel inspects. Serena runs the numbers.

Q: How long does it take to make a single blouse or dress?

A: This depends on the piece. We have some blouses that take close to a year to make. They are hand laced, embroidered and crocheted. For these pieces we have close to a 3 year pre paid order wait. Collectors are quite serious about these heirloom pieces. I have two of them. I wear each one weekly. It’s my standard uniform and I love how they feel so I understand. The piece you are wearing is a lot quicker. It is embroidered only one side and the fabric is hand-woven. These pieces take a few months. QUICK!! Ha…in the world of handmade that is speedy.

Q: How is the art of embroidery learned?

A: I think it’s something everyone is born into. It used to be a vanishing art form. Since we started the prices have gone up 200 to 400% and that’s pretty incredible. In fact our new collection is currently at a pause. The embroiderers have demanded a 100% increase and I’m at a loss. We are scared we cannot afford it. We have agreed to 20% and now await the results. It’s odd to be on the other side of things. It’s terrifying and also kinds exhilarating to see how they are empowered. It’s a double edge sword that I just deal with on a day to day basis. I used to freak out, but now I see that we manage despite it all.

Because of the increase in prices, groups have formed all over the country and we are able to get embroidery work faster that we used to be able to. Of course, now that the prices are soaring, it’s becoming a more desirable profession to enter. It’s a rare career that allows you to stay at home with the littles and embroider when there is down time. Most of the women who work for us embroider about 1 to 2 hours a day. After chores, food and everything is done and they are relaxed and the embroidery circle is pulled out.

Q: How does sharing this art form and handmade work with the world affect the local community?

A: I feel like we are empowering women and now men are entering the art form as they are seeing fiscal results from a more “feminine” position. It’s become a family venture for everyone. As I explained above, embroidery prices are soaring and we are along for the long haul.

Q: In sharing Mexican traditions and art with the world, what do you want people to know?

A: I think it’s important for people to separate the difference between exploitation and teamwork. Although we appear to be a large company we are a 5 person team with hundreds of embroiderers. We cannot change the lifestyle that we lead because our sales are getting stronger. We have people to invest in, we cannot invest in material possessions and luxury items because if we do, our network dissipates. Remember, we used to live on $12 a day. Obviously we no longer live on that salary but we have not forgotten how we started. At all. But still…It’s important for us to explain how we function to people so that we are better understood.

We have become the “bank” for many of these artisans and although it used to be stressful, now we understand our role and position. I’ve always been a champion of the underdog and have always believed in the principles of fair trade, but now I don’t just believe in the them-I embody them. Any time something within our community base goes wrong, we feel it. We are constantly being asked for loans and advances and we give until it hurts. We now survive on sheer volume. We sell the absolute highest quality for the lowest prices possible. We have markups as low as 30% on many of our pieces in order to keep a continuous ebb and flow. We could make higher markups on these pieces but it means we would have to lower our quality standards and we have no interest.

Most of our clients are repeat clients who are in awe of our quality. If you go to our Etsy store you can see our 5 Star rating. Not easy to do these days. People are more discerning than ever and expect quite a bit from their online orders. We jump thru hoops for our clients, but we always put our team first. We know that we cannot live without our clients, but we will not rush our embroiderers or put undue stress on anyone demanding things of us that we cannot provide. A client can come and go but our team is here. This is our daily life. We eat with them, we hang out with their families, we are them. They are not an email from hundreds of miles away that will push us to create under a pressured boiling pot. We live and create in Mexican time and amazingly, most of our clients are willing to wait for our pieces because of the quality that we produce. Once things are in our hands, we work in first world time. But….that moment can take a year or two of hard work to get to us.

It’s been a roller coaster ride and a beautiful woven dance that we live in. Each day brings us high highs and low lows, but this is our life. This is currently who we are. We have been approached by a couple of large companies that have tried to buy us out, but we have refused. After our meetings, we have noticed that they expect embroidery teams under factory conditions pushing and creating on slave labour levels and we would not succumb. As a stay at home mom, I value the importance of being home when my daughter gets home from school and being available at all times to her. Every piece that you see in our shop has that same energy around it. A family member working from home being able to greet their kids when they enter from school or wake up from a nap. There is no price for that feeling and that luxury. We have built an entire brand on that philosophy. Stay at home moms and dads.

 

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Beautiful Handmade Table Runner
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One of the many pillow designs available in her shop!
Below is a dress and blouse from Casa Otomi that I had fun styling! They are super comfortable and by request, Sandra is working on having larger sizes available for her customers.  Both of these styles are now available in her Etsy shop in a variety of colors.
Disclosure: I was gifted this dress and blouse from Casa Otomi in exchange for me styling them. I chose to write and share more about the company as my goal with this blog is to honor the work of artists around the world and share their stories with you!

Dora Who?

Channeling my inner explorer, I rocked this comfy look a few casual Fridays ago. A vintage dress from India, lace up boots, the perfect mini knapsack and an Indiana Jones style hat had me ready to pull out the map and get scouting.

Dora ain’t got nothing on me! Carmen, I’m coming for you next!

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{Dress/Vintage, purchased on Depop, Boots/Newport News, Belt/Bag/Thrifted from Goodwill, Hat/ The Left Bank, Ring/From Nepal, Sunglasses/Ross}

 

Forever on Safari

“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” ~ Karen Blixen, Out of Africa.

Take me back to where my soul resides, bathed in the calm of swaying reeds on the savannah, deep in the heart of Africa.

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{Dress/The Plus Bus, Shoes/Lola Shoetique, Belt/Ross, Bag/Thrifted, Bracelets/From India, Necklace & Earrings/Handmade by me}