Thursday, June 26, 2008

California Here I Come

The view from our room at Shutters, Santa Monica's most fabulous resort. Our room and terrace overlook the beautiful beach promenades and bike paths. We were ringside at a wedding, eyeball to eyeballl with barefoot bridesmaids, in shouting distance from the musicians and the minister! The comfortable rustic atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. Our room is equipped wih a yoyo, a puzzle, sea shells, books on California's history and cuisine, scented candles and an indoor jacuzzi. Whimsical and inviting, the cozy space feels like home. The small closet suggests that most guests come with a duffel bag and spend their days on the beach. Santa Monica has a joyful atmosphere, from its amusement park to the charming flower-filled homes tucked along the beach.
By Jamee Gregory

California here I come! Who needs Europe when the glorious state of California is right here? Yes, the flight is long, five and half hours, and there is a time change, three hours later, but it is well worth the trip. No Euros, same language, incredible climate and a total change of pace plus a chance to catch up with my daughter, Samantha and her husband, Roberto in sunny Los Angeles.

“Guess what?” I ask my daughter. “Daddy and I are coming to L.A. for ten days!”

Her face falls as we sit having dinner at Harry Cipriani’s in New York. My husband kicks me under the table.

“How about five days and we’ll explore Santa Barbara?” I suggest, recovering my poise.

“That would be great! You two would love the San Ysidro Ranch. You can rekindle the flame! It’s where Hollywood stars sneak off for romantic weekends. The casitas are amazing. It’s so romantic. Jackie O spent her honeymoon there. You’ll love it! ”
Left: Peter and Samantha going for a late afternoon jog. Right: Here I am (inset) in front of Shutters fabled entrance, just steps from the beach. The sun was shining every day of our visit, the temperature cool and clear in the 70"s, dropping to the 60's at night, just perfect for sweaters at night, walks in the morning.No June gloom.
Friday, June 6, and off we go, leaving on Continental from Newark. We are in the first row with miles of leg room and pleased to see Peter Duchin across the aisle. He is off to play for Eli Broad’s birthday. He looks slightly surprised to see me in my grey tracksuit but says nothing.

I am going native and quite comfortable. Our flight is smooth, the lunch surprisingly good and we all have a nap, landing at LAX in high spirits. We arrive at Shutters, the chic hotel on the beach in Santa Monica, minutes from our daughter’s home.
The tables are manned by colorful figures including aging hippies who seem to have been in residence since the swinging 60s, Venice's heyday, to gypsies in scarves, and Rastafarians with colorful knit beanies. Musicians play their guitars and flutes as the music changes as one walks past each booth. Political signs, slogans and banners dot the displays.  Paintings and scultptures sit beside sweatshirts and folk art. There is a lot to look at, although none of it detracts from the pounding Pacific Coast. Families slowly wend their way alonside marathon bikers, runners and aerobic walkers. Somehow everyone manages to stay in their own lane. Walkers of all ages, some with canes most in track suits or shorts are passed by super-fit marathoners, running at Olympic speeds in sleek shorts. The colorful moving panorama makes morning jaunts a sensory experience as well as a physical one.
“The eagle has landed,” I announce, calling Samantha. “How about a beach walk to help reset our clocks?”

“Perfect. I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she says.

We unpack, throwing open the shutters in our simple white-washed room, looking right out on the beach. The promenade and bicycle path is directly outside our window, just below the terrace. We hear the conversation of passerby as we organize for our walk. I don’t even change. Off we go into the sunshine. The air is clear and crisp and we head in the direction of Malibu, observing spectacular homes, men doing yoga, the famous Ferris wheel, newly restored, the bikers and walkers whizzing past. No wonder our daughter is in seventh heaven here.

Peter, Samantha, and sister Michele as we leave Axe, the latest in spot, with its terrific food based on local fresh ingredients. Valet parking is a big treat in LA. Just pull up, no problem!
After an hour’s walk, we come home, shower and change. Her husband is busy filming his television series, “Weeds” and we are meeting my sister, Michele, at Axe, pronounce “Ashay,” the new hot spot in Venice. The restaurant is known for its organic food and cool atmosphere. We walk in the starkly decorated restaurant; sun still bright at 7:30, finding the twin Johnson bothers as well as Samantha’s favorite hiking leader from the Ashram and his friend and boutique owner, Tracey Reese.

Our dinner is amazing, starting with freshly baked flat bread and a variety of dips from hummus to lentil, followed by myriad small plates of scallion and squid pancakes to grilled fish and chicken followed by fresh-frozen mint gelato. Everyone is dressed casually in tees, hoodies, and jeans, not a jacket in sight. Herbal infusions of ginger and chamomile insure a good night’s sleep.

Next morning Samantha appears and we head off for another beach walk in the direction of Venice. This way we pass the famous scene of body builders, greased up for heavy lifting, hippies selling art, musicians playing, and boutiques offering sixties clothes.

Many of the vendors seem to have been here for the past forty years, their shoulder-length hair now grey. There is no sign of “June Gloom” the foggy marine layer that sometimes clouds the morning sky. Once again, it is a perfect 70 degrees, crisp and invigorating.
A view of the sideshow along the boardwalk. Small stores in stalls and buildings are filled with sporting goods, sunglasses, tee shirts, and flip flops giving strollers a reason to stop and shop. Tables are set up along the beach side, covered with small jewelry, trinkets and amulets. The colorful array makes the walk a feast for the senses.
Hang on to your hats, New Yorkers! Los Angeles girls, Jamie Tisch and Elizabeth Wiatt are about to change your shopping life with their fantastic new store, Fashionology LA. Jaded shopper that I am, their revolutionary concept really knocked me out.

Last Saturday my daughter, Samantha, took me to see her friends’ new shop that is not officially open to the public. For the past week or so its adorable and inventive owners have been testing its new technology.

We pulled up to 338 N.Canon Drive, stopping to admire the welcoming windows and entered the cheery, inviting high-tech store. Jamie and Elizabeth were there with their children and some friends, ironing out the kinks. Both were dressed in clear California colors to match their bright and shiny new space.
Peter and I standing in front of Fashionology LA's window, where shoppers have been stopping all day, eagerly awaiting the store opening. Jamie Tisch, the other owner and inventor, with Elizabeth, in front of their innovative flat screen, waiting for us to try it. The two share energy and enthusiasm, enjoying the birth of their dream store.
Fashionologists in their adorable aprons holding up a typical design print-out. Samantha in her "Cali Girl" tee, filled with charms, decals, and studs done according to her individual design.
They showed us how it all works, offering tween-age girls an opportunity to design and to create clothes for themselves.

As mothers, they saw how their daughters loved fashion and wanted to learn to sew and to decorate their clothes in a creative and individual way. This led them to working with designers and tech experts over the past year, creating a whole new concept of empowered creativity.
Clockwise from top left: Samantha showing the print out of the design of her tee shirt to the fashionologist who demonstrates how to sew on the charms; A little girl showing her print out to the Fashionologist at the counter; A small shopper reviewing the pictures for her photo op on the screen; A view of the shop from the inside looking out towards the street.
Young girls enter the colorful shop where merchandise like tee shirts and zippered hoodies are displayed in rainbow colors. They can select and try on their favorite shapes and sizes and then come before a large screen, like a giant Iphone or computer panel and punch in their preferences, including style, size, and color. These girls can choose high necks vs. v-necks, short sleeve vs. sleeveless, hood or no hood by touching the screen.

Then they can select their style, like California girl, and proceed to decorate their selection in their own special way, selecting charms, decals or studs. They adjust their choices on the giant touch screen, viewing their creation as they continue to make choices. A picture is then printed out and a price posted.
A view of The Ubar.
They review their choices and proceed to the counter where a “Fashionologist” will help explain to them how to proceed, handing them the ingredients they have selected and sending them with their garment to small round tables where they are instructed in sewing or taught how to staple studs onto their tees.

Me surrounded by Jamie and Elizabeth wishing them  a great success with their fantastic new concept!
They sit working on their projects, aided by the Fashionoligists and when they have completed the task they step up into a miniature photo shoot, posing in their design for four photographs which can then be e-mailed to their pals or mother as well as printed out. Each girl leaves with her unique design and her picture, having spent around forty minutes at work.

Mothers are already lining up to sign on for birthday parties. Can you imagine the fun? It beats baking birthday cakes or magic shows for discerning girls who read Teen Vogue and have singular style.

How long before girls 8-14 can experience this unique opportunity in New York? Jamie and Elizabeth are scouting for a space! Get ready mothers or take your girls to LA this summer. Meanwhile, be sure and check out