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My new hat collection

November 17, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Pink Angora Beret

Pink Angora Beret

One of the really great things about Shanghai is the amazing shopping. If you’re a size negative whatever with tiny feet, you can find some of the most fantastic articles of clothing for some ridiculous prices. Just roam the streets, you’ll spot street squatters, under ground markets, bargain malls and everything else your little heart desires for prices that will put any sample sale to shame.

Just today while roaming the dingy halls of my favorite bargain market I came across some of the cutest motorcycle jackets in copper colored snakeskin, denim, and sequins. I wanted to buy them all, unfortunately none of them fit me. (I stopped wearing China’s version of a large when I was in third grade.) If jackets aren’t your thing, try on a party dress! These dresses are to die for cute and would blow any socialite out of the water. Heart shaped tops with pleated bottoms, patterns with bold colors and hemlines with just enough to help make the point. They’re adorable and would cost you a fortune at home but here you can get them for 20 bucks, easy. I’ve even contemplated buying two of the same dress and sewing them together, they’re just so cute!  But I am always quickly chased out of the store buy the sales girl shooing me away. God forbid I destroy her ten-dollar dress with my laser vision and fiery touch. You can even find your very own Chinglish T-shirt with embroidered bunnies or glittered hearts! It’s amazing, if they only carried one size bigger (or two).

But just because they don’t make “big girl sizes” here doesn’t mean I can’t shop, damn it. I have learned very easily that accessories fit everyone, regardless of what your waist or bust size are. Today, after being rejected and chased out of all the skinny people stores I came across a store where my waistline didn’t matter. It was as hat store! (So take that China!!)

After spending a multitude of time perusing the shelves and trying one every item in the store I decided on a few head ornaments that would easily grace the pages of my favorite magazine. At 15rmb (2 dollars) a pop I bought a half a dozen magnificent cranial coverings, which are sure to protect my head from the infamous Shanghai winter and to make me look… umm… amazing!

Ear Muffs

Ear Muffs

London-esque Mod Hat

London-esque Mod Hat

Floral Beanie

Floral Beanie

Hot Pink Beanie with Big Poof

Hot Pink Beanie with Big Poof

When East Meets West

October 18, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Chloe Tea SetI am such a bad chocolate eater. I blame it entirely on my mother. I always bite into every single piece of delicate chocolate, anticipating the surprising flavor that lies beneath. My assorted box typically comes with a handy guide but I have to bite into every little square in order to figure out which one tastes the best. No guide can ever explain that to me, no guide can ever describe the magnificent melting sensation that occurs on your tongue when heaven melts away. I look at my little ritual like a wine tasting, you bite, you chew, and you either finish the piece or you set it down for a later discovery.

My dear friend Andrew has crossed the mighty Pacific and entered the Holy Grail that is Shanghai. Upon his arrival he surprised me with a small box of heaven from La Maison Du Chocolat and truly shown me the magnificent ness of a chocolate sensation.

Having lived here for almost 11 months now, there aren’t many first that I experience. I’ve become accustomed to the spitting, yelling, horn honking, and fabulous fashion choices of the people here but now that Andrew is here, I feel as though I am experiencing so many things for the first time. The shock value that had worn off is suddenly back and giving me whiplash! It’s so exhausting.

You know what else is exhausting, the exploring Andrew and I have done. Foot massages, back massages, launch parties, Nip Tuck on DVD, manicures, pedicures, shopping trips and Chloe cups… it just never ends. How is a girl supposed to maintain such an active social calendar?

One of the things that Andrew and I did was wait in line. That’s right, as fabulous as we are; we did our fare share of line waiting. And no, it wasn’t to get into the posh parties or hot clubs, we never waited to get into those places. Our line waiting was for something much more… limited.

A limited edition I Heart Chloe Coffee Mug, that is.

A local westaurant (western restaurant in Shanghai) had a special promotion in partnership with the Chloe brand. So everyday, for one week, at 2pm they distributed 15 limited edition mugs with the Chloe name sprawled across them. Now these mugs weren’t free! For 78 RMB (about 12 dollars) you got a ceramic mug (which probably cost them 15 cents to make) filled with coffee, three teeny tiny desserts, and an annoyed smile from the cashier ringing you up!

The first day Andrew and I waited for our chance at ceramic gold we got there too late. We were numbers 16 and 17 in line but we were convinced we could possibly still get the chance to swindle a mug any way, so we stayed and waited. We waited forty-five long minutes only to be turned away.

Having been rejected so easily Andrew and I were determined to get a mug. On nothing but principle, of course. So the next day Andrew and I got there over an hour early and planned on grabbing lunch and then grabbing a spot in line. So we arrived and walked down the glossy white hallway only to find a line had already formed. Andrew and I would be numbers 3 and 4 this time around! Even with our early arrival we were still not the first!

Insane what people will do for fashion!

I’m no stranger to lines though, in my heyday I braved many a cold nights to gain front row access to Backstreet Boy shows.

So we waited, again. Andrew occupied his time playing Tetris on his IPhone; I stared at the passersby and slowly starved to death. Andrew and I hadn’t had lunch and so I couldn’t wait for the time to go by. All I wanted to do was eat!

Finally 2pm came and Andrew and I grabbed some lunch, our Chloe Tea Set (that’s what they called it), and a seat. As we sat there and snapped pictures of our adventure Andrew and I noticed the first person in line, a wannabe fashionista with a sloppy outfit, sitting all alone. A little sympathy went out to her, having to have endured this adventure on her own. Until of course I saw her pull out her cell phone, hold her hand above her head and snap away. Just what we need, another bad MySpace photo.

I was thinking of offering to take her photo when I notice her ask a passing waitress. The waitress grabbed the phone, listened to Lonely Girl explain how to use it and then snapped a photo. Lonely Girl reviewed it and quickly asked her to take another, and another and another. She posed in different positions, in different areas and slowly stared in her own Chloe Mug montage.

I was never more thankful to have Andrew to snap my photos.

By Elena Garcia

And there you have it… my magnificent time in America is over!  I boarded my flight, adjusted my seat in the bed position and slept my 12-hour way home. America was great to me: the weather, the cheap mystic tan sessions, and my friends who cooked me delicious meals that I will never be able to replicate.

On my flight to America, the pod next to mine was empty, this time I sat next to a gentlemen who happened to own Legos… or some toy company that the young one’s are crazy about! As we introduced ourselves, I found myself absolutely jealous of him. (Not just because he is a billionaire or whatever.) He was visiting Shanghai and he, in a few weeks, would return to his home in America. I on the other hand, won’t be returning for 2 ½ months! Ten long gruesome weeks!

Nonetheless, I enjoyed what would probably be my last English conversation with someone who isn’t Garrett and chugged down my complimentary mimosa.

America: land of the by one get one free mystic tan session, home of the brave and bold fashion choices and most importantly the place where I could eat Taco Bell at most reasonable hours.

Returning to Shanghai hasn’t been easy and I feel as if it is getting harder. It’s like being a kid the night before a trip to Disneyland; you’re just too excited to sleep. Knowing that I ONLY have a short time ahead of me makes me think of all the planning that needs to occur in the time remaining.

Where will Garrett and I live?
Where will I work?
What will we eat? (There is nothing wrong with planning ahead!)

But for right now, thinking of the answers to those questions, wont do me a whole lotta good. So I am planning for the other things… like tomorrow’s outfit.

Tailor Made

July 2, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Fabric MarketDisneyland is probably, hands down, the happiest place on earth. As a society, the idea of Mickey’s big ears and Cinderella’s blonde locks are the fundamentals of happiness. But unfortunate for Disneyland; I have found THE actual happiest place on earth. The Mecca that Buddha, Jesus and Mohamed all spoke of. The one place were imagination, excitement, hope and FASHION all come together… The South Bund Fabric Market!

Everyone at my work had spoke about Chinese fabric markets, how incredible, cheap and amazing they were. How with a picture and a dream any person could go and have a dress, outfit or suit made for a very low reasonable price. Desperate to see this holy place they spoke of, I dragged Garrett and headed to the address written down on a scrunched up piece of scratch paper by one of my Chinese co-workers.

When we arrived I was taken aback by the chaos surrounding us; the beggars outside of the giant building, the construction clogging the streets around it and the traffic that followed. When we finally got into the warehouse style building I was in complete awe. Hundreds of small booths filled with silks, cottons, nylons, polyesters, denims… the walls were covered with shelves of fabric rolls in ever color, every pattern, every texture that one could ever imagine. It was like the fabric stores they show the contestants of Project Runway shopping at. Swarms of people in booth after booth filling the path ways.

The cascades of flowing fabric coming at us from every angle hid the dingy lighting and dirty floors, booth after booth was filled with silks or cottons or synthetics… the only decision one needed to make was who! Who would be chosen to design my next dress? So we made our way through the grimy corridors, the cat calls from vendors (of which I have all to sadly become accustomed too) rang. “Miss, silk dress?” “Gucci Suit?” “Miss…” “Lady…”

After making our way up to all four floors I decided on one vendor to make my dress. She would be the chosen one.

One afternoon, after this initial shopping escapade I decided to peruse the pages of Saks.com, Bloomies, Niemans, and Barney’s. Page after page contained the dresses of my hearts desire! And for the first time I didn’t have to calculate when they would go on sale, or whether I would be able to eat based on the price. For the first time they weren’t just a twinkle in my eye, they were reality. I could have every single on of those things, made in the color, fabric, pattern and SIZE of my choice!

Five dresses, two shirts and one skirt later my closet is slowly starting to resemble the websites of my favorite department stores. Where else can I get a 400 Nannette Lepore dress made for less than 20 bucks and couture at that?

Ohh China!!

By Elena Garcia

Starting the show!

Starting the show!

So it wasn’t a week, shoot it wasn’t even a whole hour but it was fabulous.

My work has put together an event for the last two years called ACE (Arts Charity Extravaganza) to benefit local charities. For the most part the event is choreographed by different students from the International Community through the InterKom youth program my work helps facilitate. But this year when there weren’t enough students into the fashion aspect of the program who did they call?

Well they didn’t call Ghost Busters!

Just call me Fashionista.

Although I haven’t been in Shanghai long, I have managed to get a handle on the shopping/fashion scene here. I may not know much but clothing I know.

When my co-worker approached me I jumped at the opportunity! I was born to do this!

Needing to fill our hour slot with cute clothes I wasted not time calling the stores I frequented to see who would let us borrow clothes for this charity event.

First, I went to American Apparel, knowing that they cater to the expat community and that they make super cute clothes, I hoped they would let us have a few looks. And they did!! They provided us 9 very FUN looks to display on the catwalks.

Second I got a designer named Chloe Chen. She owns a few boutiques here in Shanghai and is really good friends with a friend of a friend of mine. (Ahhh connections!) Needless to say she has amazing clothes and she let us borrow 10 looks for the Fashion Show.

Her clothes were my favorite: girly cute and flirty. Quite the opposite of the industrial,punk and funky styles of American Apparel but the contrast was perfect!

In my mind I had it all figured out, when the girls came out to American Apparel the music would be

more rock and roll and Hip Hop like The Darkness and Estelle. For Chloe, I would have romantic and pop music like Britney and Katie Perry.

After getting the clothes, the fittings began. And as much fun as it is to hang out with a bunch of 18 year old skinny girls by the end of the fittings I was very ready to get the girls on the runway! That my friends, was the best part of this whole experience. Getting to see very novice models walk down the runway, classic! Some were afraid of heals, some had gone to modeling school, some… I just don’t have words! They were all gorgeous and a size negative 12, some of the boys in the office couldn’t help but stare! But when they hit the runway I nearly hit the floor, or should I say, they nearly did! I had to channel my inner Tyra and try to get these girls to own the runway!

The night before the show, we did a few run throughs and fittings but I was nervous. A colleague of mine was going to DJ the event (using the music styles listed above) but the girls were walking too fast, or getting nervous, thus making me nervous and the music was not working like I planned. By the end of the run throughs I was scared that maybe we weren’t prepared enough.

But the show must go on! And we had no more rehearsal time left.

So early on Saturday morning I put on my bright yellow Anna Sui dress, my long black wool cardigan, and my gladiator stilettos (those DID NOT last, I had to put on my ballerina flats on) and hailed a cab headed to LOFT, the location of the fashion show.

The cab quickly delivered me to the show site and I found that I was arriving around the same time as all the models! (Even with no makeup they looked stunning… not fair.) Quickly we headed up, and began the hair and make up process. It was fun!

We did one full run through before the event and I was pleased at, with no effort on my part really, everything had come together over night. Maybe it was the hair, or the make up, or the clothes but the girls had really gotten it together! I felt like a proud mother. But I knew that nothing was final until they hit the runway with audience in toe.

My stomach was spinning. Even though no one would really see me or know I had anything to do with the show, I was really nervous!

The fashion show was scheduled to begin about 30 minutes after the entire event began… and as quickly as you can imagine my thirty minutes were up and the Fashion Show began!

The thump thump of the music filled the room, the lights lit up the runway and the audience faded into the blackness of dark. And with that the first model walked out and the crowd began to cheer! The friends, family and peers of all the girls were rooting them on, as they made their way down the scary, long white runway in 4-inch heels!

Some of the outfits were risky, some were really fun and some I wouldn’t even wear! But the girls looked great in everything and by the end of the show I felt a weight off of my shoulders knowing that I hadn’t screwed it up royally! (Don’t get me wrong we had some mistakes, delayed beginning, gaps in songs, early entrances… but no one seemed to care and neither did I! It was for Charity!!)

I am now an official veteran of the Fashion scene! And boy did that fashion pump through my veins! As some of my co-workers noted, I was in my element!