When I flipped the calendar over to Sept. 1, it awakened memories of the old dilemma of whether “wearing white” after Labor Day is truly a fashion faux pas or just a leftover ritual from growing up in the Midwest. I distinctly remember that no matter the temperature outside, wearing white shoes after Labor Day was definitely considered a no-no.
Some may laugh about this, but there were closely adhered to rules that were part of my growing up in a four-season climate. As I was debating the question of white shoes, I looked down at the white jeans I was wearing — which have become a staple in my year-round wardrobe in Santa Barbara. I could not imagine myself in dark wool pants, tights, knee-high boots and a cashmere turtle neck just because it's September.
Never wanting to be a slave to every fashion trend that is widely publicized in the September issues of Vogue, InStyle, Vanity Fair and Elle (some the size of small phone books), I decided to consult with one of Montecito’s coolest "styleistas," Kimberly Phillips, owner of Maison K, to get her opinion.
Maison K, 1159 Coast Village Road, is a lifestyle store with a national reputation and a Montecito destination since 2002. Phillips, who does personal wardrobe and home design consulting, stocks her well-edited two-story retail space, which includes wood floors, open and airy ceilings, and an ocean view. The store contains an eclectic array of merchandise, including home furnishing vignettes, candles, jewelry, clothing, cashmere accessories, leather goods, wood salad bowls, art by Montecito's Elizabeth Slaught, photography by local artist Brian Hodges, and Phillips' own black-and-white images from her travels.
As part of Phillips' signature style, one that is partial to a "neutral and natural" palette, she continues to source new and one-of-a-kind vintage and antique merchandise, both domestically and abroad. She travels regularly to New York City, Paris, India and Morocco for products. She always travels light, with the aim to bring back treasures for her store in the heart of Montecito.
Phillips has seen many a trend come and go during her several decades in the retail business. On a beautiful summer-like afternoon, we sat down with a couple of iced teas in her upstairs gallery, where the breeze was perfect and where she was willing to weigh in on this subject of seasonal do’s and don’ts for clothing and homes.
Judy Foreman: Growing up in California, how did you handle the change of seasons and how has it related to your own wardrobe and home?
Kimberly Phillips: My mother, Diana Phillips, is from Connecticut, where the weather dictated the necessity for two wardrobes. She carried that habit with her when she moved to California. I grew up in a home where the closets were changed annually from spring/summer to fall/winter. I continue to honor that tradition to this day.
Because of my travel schedule to New York and Paris, I still need both wardrobes. The best part of it is when you switch to the new seasonal climate, it’s like having new clothes and seeing old friends — so I love that aspect of the change out. I still wear white through September and early October, which are some of Santa Barbara’s warmest months. By the end of October I switch out my summer whites to winter whites, which have a more creamy tone that I love to pair with black and browns and gray.
JF: Just having returned from a big buying trip to New York City, what did you see in the showrooms for 2013-2014 home and clothing styles?
KP: There were several trends showcased in the large department stores. Numerous fashion houses were showing black and white ensembles and displaying loads of leopard-print clothing. Leopard prints have had surges in popularity in the past couple of years, but it is one of those timeless and classic patterns that we always represent in both home and fashion goods at Maison K.
This is one of those chic patterns than can cross all seasonal lines and is never out just because of climate; it is just how it is used. The iconic Bergdorf Goodman windows, and the pages of Vogue were filled with black and white fashion stories. Black and white is ageless and timeless, and very practical. It's a good crossover from summer to fall, with just a change of texture and weight of fabric, and is flattering on most people.
JF: What about home trends?
KP: The most important trend in the U.S., although de rigueur in Europe forever, is for one's home to be unique and lived in, and to express the family's personality and interests and adventures, and not be a frozen stage set. I strongly believe in incorporating a meaningful mix of found objects, art, textiles and furniture that have character. Certainly one can use more basic pieces that create structure in a room, but it’s the hand-crafted, vintage, textural pieces with soul and character that bring comfort and elegance to a home — and give it life. I talk about this and show my customers how it can come together on my newsletter blog.
JF: What never goes out of style?
KP: "Luxury" is always a trend and so I stock my store with gorgeous cashmere wraps, ponchos and scarves and throws, which I sell year round for our cool evenings. We also have fingerless alpaca gloves you can text in comfort year round!
In terms of style, be it clothing or home, I love things that last and are significant and very special. Then one can layer on touches of trend for the fun of it. For home, that may mean different colored or patterned pillows to bring a fresh touch to a room, seasonal flowers to bring a fresh touch, or a different scarf or piece of jewelry to add a new twist to a great jacket.
As for the white shoes after Labor Day dilemma, it seems to be one fashion question that will not go away. I suspect it will be a topic of conversation forever. In Sunbelt states with a big resort business like California, Florida, Arizona, and year-round cruises going to the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Mexico, white shoes will always be in style for some people, no matter what month the calendar says — or my mom.
Maison K is located at 1159 Coast Village Road in Montecito. Click here for more information, or call 805.969.1676.