The Next Big Name: Meet Avant-Garde Designer Charles Youssef

from Sarasota Magazine 10/13/2016

Fashion editor Heather Dunhill interviews emerging designer Charles Youssef, whose architectural collections are winning him accolades.

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The possibility exists that you’ve not heard the name Charles Youssef–and if not, it’s time. Especially because in May 2016, Vogue named him one of “The Next Wave of Young American Designers.” And his collections are stocked at Barney’s New York, the luxe retailer with a history of discovering fashion’s talent. Not to mention Lady Gaga purchased his graduate collectionfrom the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design–during London Fashion Week in February 2010 for her concert tour that same year.

But  here’s the thing about this clearly talented designer who, justifiably, could’ve launched a label after that name-making support: He didn’t.  Youssef went for the wise and calculated strategy to put experience on his side. And, now his résumé lists senior design positions at Calvin Klein in New York, Gareth Pugh in London, Cerruti in Paris and Ralph Lauren in New York.

Instead, four years after the Gaga-effect, Youssef launched his eponymous label. And now his distinctive architectural designs, which often play with proportion, are propelling him forward. You’ll fall for the luxe, perfect fit, but it’ll likely be one of the super-charged, inspired details that will make you a true follower.

By the way, no need to go so far as Barney’s to add a piece or three to your wardrobe. Sarasota’s fashionphile Natalie Rue Morgan has this must-have brand in-store at her boutique Rue on Main Street.

And until then, here’s Charles Youssef on Charles Youssef.

What is the overall inspiration for your eponymous brand?
It’s about creating wearable, optimistic, polished, and geometric-inspired clothes that uplift strong women so they can take charge.

How does being NY-based influence your creative style?

It means that we pay attention to our local New York clientele who tend to lean toward a clean, minimal look. We like to bring fun to their wardrobe by adding interesting textures, colors, and embellishments; I believe these elements give the clothes a wide appeal.

Well, we have to discuss Lady Gaga purchasing your first collection for her 2010 tour. Was that exhilarating? Intimidating? Surreal?!

It was both exhilarating and surreal! I actually didn’t know whether she was going to wear the clothes, until I saw it all over the news!

What did that do for your brand?

It put us on the fashion map very early on and a pretty big way. At the time, I was just finishing my master’s degree at Central Saint Martin’s and preparing to work for another brand in the industry. It made me start thinking about having my own brand.

Who is your design icon? And, what is it that speaks to you about her/his style?

Yves Saint Laurent. His collections were always so intelligent, well-tailored and sophisticated while referencing travel and modern art. I love the black turtlenecks and thick-rimmed glasses he used to wear.

Sarasota is an event-centric city–women take their look from the boardroom to the bar nearly every day of the week. What are your thoughts on elevating a look at the end of a day?

I think it’s the reality of how people dress today; I really love the speed of modern life. No one has the interest in spending hours after work getting ready to go out; women just want to touch up their look with cool heels and lipstick and get the evening started. I think clothes have to support our fast lifestyle today, and I’m a big advocate of that.

And for the lightening round….

 What kind of music defines you?

Up-tempo, playful music.
What’s your culture fix of the moment?

The zen quality of the Japanese countryside.

What’s the last thing you scribbled on a paper napkin?

A cartoon of my friend Lisa.

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View Full Article at Sarasota Magazine


Acrylic Glamour

from the SRQ Daily 10/13/2016

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Black, gold and silver glittering acrylics get poured by hand into distinctive patterns to make these eye-catching clutches by Edie Parker. Stop by Rue Boutique’s new Main Street location to find tons of the coveted clutches in all sorts of colors and patterns, from swaying octopi to bags emblazoned with Sarasota pride. Both trendy and functional, the bags include the ingenious combination of a handy interior mirror and clasp closure, making them ideal for those last minute touch-ups. Customize your own or purchase one of the striking styles offered—no matter which you decide on, each clutch will shimmer and radiate as you walk down the busy streets of Sarasota.

View Full Article in the SRQ Daily


Spring Must Haves by Heather Dunhill on My Suncoast view

from My Suncoast View 4/5/2016

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Talking To: Emerging Jewelry Designer Lizzie Fortunato

from Sarasota Magazine 4/1/2016

Fashion editor Heather Dunhill talks with Lizzie Fortunato, who’s on the way to world-wide accessory domination.

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Confession: I’m so enamored with the emerging brand Lizzie Fortunato.

Seriously. It makes me so happy. The ahead-of-the-curve designs are feminine yet cheeky, created with unexpected materials. Not to mention, the unmistakably modern brand was founded by two impossibly clever women who happen to be twins–Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato. Lizzie, who heads up creative, often draws on historical, artistic and architectural references, making her fashion-forward jewelry feel well-traveled. But more than that, my growing collection feels like old friends who always bring a smile to my face.

SS16-P004_SAFARI_CLUTCH_IN_POOL_GIRLS_zy83onBefore we get to my interview with Lizzie, we also have to talk about the brand’s range of handbags. They are perfectly quirky and adorned with exquisite hand-loomed embroidery and beading. Likely the chicest I’ve seen since Edie Parker came on my radar for art-forward clutch.

With that, here’s Lizzie Fortunato herself.

How would you describe Lizzie Fortunato to the woman who may be unfamiliar with the line
Lizzie Fortunato designs statement accessories (jewelry and leather goods) for the woman who dresses to tell a story and turn heads. Our pieces incorporate embroidery, semi-precious stones, leather, brass, African glass beads and other mixed materials for a look that is “luxury artisanal.” We draw on travel, fine art, and textiles for inspiration and loves to dress woman who are independent, dreamers, artists and adventurers.

SS16-N012_WESTERN_COLLAR_ajzqvtWe all have those mornings where we run late – what jewelry do you reach for in a pinch
Earrings! It’s the fastest way to feel “dressed” and pulled together. I love bringing some attention to the face with a bold earring, and it immediately dresses up the rest of your look.

Lets talk about your cheeky, feminine handbags–what inspires the fun designs?
These are so fun to design, and inspiration comes from everywhere. Sometimes the inspiration is more literal–for example, I designed the Spring ’14 collection after a few weeks in Tokyo and one of the bags that came out of that season was embroidered with sushi and sashimi. And Spring’15 was based on a trip to Oaxaca and Mexico City, and one of that collection’s clutches featured crystal-embellished toucans. I don’t always have the luxury to travel every season, so I also spend a lot of time looking at art books, fashion magazines, and pinterest. I hand-draw all of the designs and sometimes its just a matter of seeing an interesting image (a wallpaper sample that I found on Pinterest is the basis for a Resort ’17 floral that I designed) and going from there!

SS16-N007_SEASIDE_NECKLACE_papouqWhat is your favorite jewelry trend of all time?
The Native American squash blossom silhouette. It’s classic and stunning and statement and gets me every time.

How about some insight for the woman who wants to launch her dream biz as you have–what failure was important to your success?
We’ve been a small business that has been bootstrapped virtually since the beginning… sometimes I’ve tried to take it all on myself to the point where mistakes start occurring, not to mention felt so burnt out that it makes me want to throw in the towel. I think that it takes something going wrong–from a late shipment to a production hiccup–to teach the lesson about delegation and letting go.

SS16-P002_PORT_OF_CALL_IN_EXPLORERS_CLUB_xunsdjWhat’s next for Lizzie Fortunato?
We did a NYC holiday pop-up store that sold pieces from the line alongside curated lifestyle products–which we’ve labeled Fortune Finds–which was a blast. I love merchandising my own designs next to art, ceramics, vintage pieces and the creations of other artists that I admire, and I think further dipping my toe into lifestyle could be next…

And for the lightning round…

Leopard-print or giraffe-print? Giraffe

Run-D.M.C. or Eminem? Run DMC

Diamonds or rose quartz? Diamonds!

Find Lizzie Fortunato pieces in downtown Sarasota at Rue (73 S. Palm Ave, suites 220/221)

View Full Article at Sarasota Magazine


Rue Opens in Westfield Southgate

from the SRQ Daily 3/23/2016

retail_large_westfieldRue, a Sarasota fashion boutique opened last year, has opened a satellite location at Westfield Southgate in Trebor Style, a collaborative of local retailers sharing space in the Sarasota mall. Rue ownership says the satellite location is already driving interested customers to check out the main location above Caragiulos and that the mall has also been a good place to sell high-end customers who still enjoy the mall.

View Full Article in the SRQ Daily


Downtown Boutique expands to Southgate

from Herald-Tribune 3/21/2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.30.01 PMRue, located on the second floor above Caragiulos restaurant at 73 South Palm Ave., has launched a satellite location at Westfield Southgate. The boutique, which opened in December, carries an array of handbags, jewelry and scarves as well as high-end modern, contemporary and resort wear.

The shop’s owner, Natalie Rue Morgan, has joined the conglomerate of local retailers that make up Trebor Style inside Westfield Southgate. The mashup was launched in early 2014 and brought nine retailers into one space at the site of the former Williams-Sonoma.

Trebor Style was one of the first new stores to open at Westfield Southgate after several businesses closed and moved to the Mall at University Town Center. Since then, more than a half-dozen new tenants have joined Westfield Southgate.

View Full Article in the Herald-Tribune


Rue, a New Boutique, Opens on Palm Avenue

from Sarasota Magazine 3/10/2016

Natalie Morgan carries a tightly edited selection of hard-to-find-in-Sarasota designers in her Palm Avenue shop.

Sarasota fashionistas, let us clue you in to one of the best shopping secrets in town.

Tucked into a second-floor space on Palm Avenue, Rue–a new boutique from Natalie Morgan–carries hard-to-find brands from a variety of beloved designers, including Vineet Bahl, Clu, Sea New York, Charles Youssef, B. May, Needle and Thread, Lizzie Fortunato and Edie Parker.

Morgan has always been interested in fashion. She began her career as a buyer at a company that owned convenience stores before moving onto working in the marketing department at Costco and, ultimately, opening her own clothing boutique in Indianapolis. After her shop closed, she began writing about fashion for Indianapolis Monthly magazine before moving to Sarasota in September 2014.

“I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to have another store,” she says of her decision to open Rue. “Then one morning I woke up and was like, ‘I’m doing it.’ And that day, I got on the computer and started contacted designers.”

sarasota_mag_nataliemorganrue_d0n4nzMorgan describes her aesthetic–and her store’s–as “classic with a twist,” and says she offers pieces and brands that you can’t normally find in Sarasota. “The person shopping here wants something different,” she explains. “I buy as few pieces as I can of each item, so you’re not going to see it on everyone.”

And she’s appreciative of Sarasota style, which she says the city has in spades. “For such a small city, there’s a lot of style,” she says. “And there are really good boutiques. [Before I moved here], I thought that if you lived in Florida, you’d be running around in Lilly Pulitzer all the time. And there is a lot of Lilly–but there’s so much more than that.”

As for the future, Morgan says she hopes to expand, both as far as space goes and in the amount of product she sells. “I want to have shoes, stationery, gift items and more jewelry lines,” she says. “There are so many things I’d like to carry!”

Stay tuned. In the meantime, you can find Rue at 73 S. Palm Ave., Suites 220/221, in downtown Sarasota (with elevator access between Caragiulos and Martin Freeman).

View Full Article in Sarasota Magazine


Meet Edie Parker Designer/Founder of Brett Heyman

from Sarasota Magazine 3/7/2016

One of my pet peeves is that Sarasota’s fashion scene is often woefully underestimated–which somehow implies this city is not so jet-set. Well, let me plead otherwise.

To begin, I was introduced to the ever chic Edie Parker brand by the lovely Crystal Lahners at Sarasota Magazine’s Best Of soirée in 2014; she was embracing a fab anniversary gift from her hubby. It was what I now consider the classic Edie Parker clutch, a pearlescent acrylic box with the word Happy in scripted gold glitter. Then she popped the kiss-lock to expose the interior mirror. Uh! Are you kidding me?! So old-school Hollywood to have a mirror installed in your bag. To say I was obsessed is an understatement.

FYI: you can source any of the Edie Parker pieces featured in this blog at Rue in downtown Sarasota. This bon ton boutique is helmed by Natalie Morgan, who is style-casting all manner of inspired designers. This girl has an eye for “it” fashion.

So. Now that I’ve made my case that our Sarasota doyennes are making a haute statement, let’s hear from the woman who put these vintage-inspired modern accessories into play. Founder/designer Brett Heyman shares everything from being a CFDA Fashion Fund finalist to what’s most important to her today, whether it’s Hans Solo or Luke Skywalker for her. Read on!

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For the woman getting to know Edie Parker, how has the brand’s silhouettes evolved beyond the gorgeous original acrylic boxes?
The bulk of our collections are still all acrylic, but sometimes a lady wants to show her softer side. We have been using suede, velvet, leather, python, crocodile, metal, gold, beading, tapestry, etc., all mixed with acrylic elements and signature silhouettes. We have added more bags with chains or straps, but all in an-organic way when it makes sense.

Does designing and inspiration come easy to you? Living in a city like New York, I see inspiration everywhere. The hard part is editing and not doing too much all at once.

Who is the Edie Parker woman?
She is always confident, fashionable and doesn’t take fashion too seriously. She also appreciates pragmatiEdieParker_HulaDancersc accessories–a bag that fits everything you need and has a handy mirror for touch-ups.

You clearly hit on something chic and fun with personalization. Can you tell us some of your faves?
What I have noticed, and what is so lovely, is that traditionally the most positive messages are the most popular. Words like “happy,” “love,” “peace” and “joy” sell over and over. We have made a lot of bags that say “divorced,” which is also amazing. Imagine the wonderful confidence of the single woman who goes out with that message on her bag!


What is more important to you today than it was a year ago?
I think every season I worry about the same thing. First of all, will people like the bags? And secEdieParker_jellyfishond, will our customer want to keep collecting? Will she try our new styles, our new silhouettes? I don’t want her to have one acrylic clutch and then move on. I want her to stay with us because of the quality of the product and the style, and I want her to take a chance on the next one!

Congrats on being a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, that’s seriously cool. Been dying to ask – was it exhilarating or intimidating to stand in front of style influencers like Jenna Lyons, Ken Downing, Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Wintour?

Both! It is seriously intimidating and they ask very pointed questions. But you have to remember that they chose you to be there. They want to help and they want to help you succeed. And then you have to pinch yourself over and over.

How would you steer the next generation of designers?
Obviously every situation is different, but I would say don’t rush to do everything at once. Master what you’re good at, which takes a lot longer than you think.

…And for the lightening round…
Luke Skywalker or Hans Solo? Hans Solo! And he shoots first.

What music do you have on repeat? Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell.

Work of art you’d love to own? A Modigliani nude.

View Full Article in Sarasota Magazine


New Boutique Rue Opens Above Caragiulos

from the Herald Tribune 12/4/2015

press1The fashions inside have plenty of flare.

From the outside her boutique, Rue, looks just like the medical, law and business offices that surround the pink-colored doorway labeled “Suite 220.” But inside, she’s selling python handbags, hand-beaded scarves and racks of high-end modern contemporary and resort wear. The Midwest native had owned a boutique in Indianapolis and written for the style section of “Indianapolis Monthly” before she moved to Sarasota in 2014.

Now Morgan, 41, is looking just as forward to dressing her customers for a night on the town as letting them borrow a novel from her collection. The space on the second floor above Caragiulos at 73 South Palm, which opened on Thursday, feels more like a home than a retail store.

So she’s embraced that.

“This is not your traditional retail shop,” Morgan said. “I knew that I was really going to have to do things to get people up here.”

Morgan had a soft opening on Thursday. The sign for the door hadn’t even arrived yet and her clerk, Cheryl Bers, was still fitting a few pieces of jewelry with price tags. But they were eager to welcome customers if someone wandered in. She’d already sold a knitted wrap.

View Full Article in The Herald Tribune