Monday, April 23, 2012

Latina Fashionista: Nesly Palacios

When I look back on my time as a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers teenager, I wonder when it was that I decided to toss off the boxy look and accentuate my body to show that I actually had one. It had to have been right after my freshman year in college. I remember buying up every collegiate t-shirt ever printed to add to my wardrobe, and no, girl shirts hadn't been invented yet. Then one day, our dorm rooms got together to have a nice dinner. I donned on the one plain navy blue A-line dress that twirled up nicely when I spun around and wowed at the attention from the boys. That's when I thought, hey, dresses aren't half bad. I should wear them more often! After that it was a journey of discovery and budget balancing to find the looks that were right for me. I looked to other women who looked good on a daily basis and one of those women was my former coworker Nesly Palacios. Every day she had on a professional look that wasn't dumpy or covered in a shapeless blazer that many women default to in a corporate setting. Nesly had style and grace. She wasn't afraid of bright colors particularly on her lips. If anyone had curves that I could finally compare myself to it was Nesly albeit more athletic than me or anyone else around her. She is definitely one of my first favorite fashion mavens. So here I am turning this post over to her to describe her personal style in her own words. Enjoy!

This weeks Latina Fashionista is the Fabulous

My wardrobe consists of a mix of name brand items as well as not so known brands.  The colors range from the neutral tones to very bright colors; from tropical floral designs to pin stripes. I enjoy textures and colors. I am not shy about mixing patterns and colors.  I am creative and like to take controlled, age appropriate risks when I select an outfit for any event.

The first outfit with the pants and the blouse is something that I wore to a meeting.  Since I am a florist, I like to include a flower or two with my outfits.   I thought it would be fun to mix a navy blue and white polka dot blouse with glamorous bishop sleeves and the classic brown herringbone pants.  As with any Latina, I love looking and feeling feminine.  Adding pearls adds a feminine touch to any outfit. The shoes are Missoni, compliments of Target!


The second outfit, featuring the spring green silk chiffon dress by Jones of New York was an outfit I wore recently when I saw the American Ballet Theatre, “Firebird.”  I coupled it with a Juicy Couture Red Fox Bolero Jacket and an antique multi-layered necklace in gold and jewel tones.  The jacket was a fab find at a Marshall’s.  The gold sandals are a staple that I use over and over with both dressy and casual looks. The purse is a metallic Coach wristlet.  

The third outfit includes a classic Evan Picone dress I wore for Easter.  I layered it with vintage pearl earrings, bracelet and layered necklaces.  The shoes are Guess.  

Being familiar with Nesly's love of physical activity I asked her talk about her marathons and global adventures . . . and you know she's going to look good running, swimming, biking, hiking or whatever the adventure calls for!

I have always enjoyed exercising.  My sport of choice was always running, especially long distances.  Running helps me release stress and resolve problems. It is a time of reflection, and a time in which I enjoy the fresh outdoors. In 1997, I decided to challenge myself by training for my first marathon.  I had never run more than a 5K at that time.  In 1998, I completed my first marathon, the L.A. Marathon.  After successfully completing my first 26.2 miles, I decided to continue participating in them.  At the end of 1999, my sister was diagnosed with a severe form of Lupus that landed her in the hospital.  This disease adversely affects the organs in our bodies.  In her case, it affected her heart.  She was in a coma for 3 weeks.  Just when we thought we were going to lose her, she came out of the coma.  She faced many challenges that took their toll on her body.  To learn more about the disease, I contacted the Arthritis Foundation (after discovering that Lupus is a form of arthritis).   I found out that they had a yearly race to raise funds for the cure.  It was a no brainer for when I decided to sign up to do another marathon to help them raise money in honor of my sister.  For that race, I raised well over $10,000.  

Since then, I have done over 9 marathons, 2 Centuries (100 mile bike rides, yes, in one day... 8 hours), 1- 62 mile ride and 8 triathlons (Olympic distance in the ocean).  Less than half were for causes like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation, The Heart Association as well as the Diabetes Foundation (Tour de Cure).   I have raised over $30,000 for charities and continue to donate any way that I can. Some of these races were on behalf of people that I know.  But for the most part, it was my way of contributing to the lives (health) of others.

The black and white photo of me is from the transition area of the Malibu Triathlon after completing a 1.5 mile swim in the ocean.  I was getting ready to mount my bicycle in T1 (transition 1).  This triathlon is to raise funds for the Susan B. Komen Foundation (for the cure of breast and ovarian cancers). Other sports I am involved in are zip-lining, kayaking, hiking, and scuba diving around the world.  The giant fish behind us in the group photo is not superimposed.  That is his actual size.  I was scuba diving in Australia where everything is "super-sized"!

Q & A with Nesly

How do you integrate your culture into your wardrobe?
I am of Cuban and Colombian descent.  Both countries are represented by vibrant color, culture and a love and appreciation for the arts, music; a joie de vivre.  My clothing choices are an extension of who I am and of all that I have learned through the years from the phenomenal women in my life.
Who are your fashion icons?  
My mom, to whom I attribute my fashion sense and Lucille Ball (“I Love Lucy” Show).  I am very fond of the unique vintage and retro styles of the 40’s and 50’s.  I have an immense appreciation for the hats, gloves, SHOES and great looks from those eras.

What do you fuss over the most when getting ready?  
My hair. A good hair style adds the icing to a great outfit.

 What is your favorite piece of wardrobe and why?  
Accessories! They can make the same outfit look completely different.
Favorite pair of shoes?  
I don’t have a favorite pair of shoes.  I love all shoes, equally!  The taller the heel, the better, the sexier.   

Any final words of fashion wisdom?
I want to tell people (women) something I've learned over the years on how to get great deals when shopping. I use manufacturer or store coupons. I shop sales because I discovered that if you buy something before or after the season starts you can get the item at a heavily discounted prices. I only invest in Classic pieces that don't go out of style. Or good pieces of jewelry. The rest I purchase on sale. Oh, and I avoid credit cards. Pay cash!

If you can't get enough of Nesly, check out her floral design and events website at I can't recommend her enough!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Latino Fashion-Listo: Quetzal Guerrero

I'm usually the first one to knock down the gorgeous people of the earth that live a fantastic life, travel the world, and only socialize with other beautiful people while everyone else is still wiping up the drool from their shirts. It's just so superficial to ONLY admire them for their good genes and jeans. Even now, I hesitate to feature this adonis of a man because it's just too easy to see him for his superficial good looks (I have to look away he's so darn beautiful). But no, I have to write about him because aside from the obvious, I looked beyond the surface and found a unique soulful person on the inside. This weeks Latino Fashion-Listo is  . . .

Quetzal Guerrero

I suggest you click on his youtube channel and enjoy his American folk- soul- jazz- funk- samba- bossa nova- reggae- afrobeat- inspired music as you read this feature. Go to click back here and enjoy!

Arizona native Quetzal Guerrero picked up the violin and studied at the famous International Academy of the Suzuki Method, in Matsumoto, Japan, and the Conservatorio Pernambucano de Musica in Recife, Brazil. Throughout the years he has become an outstanding multi-instrumentalist and performer fluid with his voice, guitar, and percussion as well as an accomplished dancer and Capoeirista.

Quetzal’s artistry, much like his American, Mexican, and Brazilian heritage, bridges many Latin and American cultures and styles. Add a touch of Native American sensibility with his Yaqui and Juaneño roots and you have someone grounded, balancing life on stage with everyday humanity. It comes across in his music, through his lyrics, and positive vibes. His music, much like himself, is easy-going, comfortable, and stripped of any pretension.

Let's start off with the simplest of looks. Grey on grey isn't my favorite color combination but when you're surrounded by the lush gardens of nature, you don't want to blend into the abyss in case you need to call for help. I especially like the simplicity of this outfit. No logos, no weird patterns or stripes. Leave that to nature and enjoy your romp in the woods.

Head back to civilization with class. A slick short-brimmed fedora in a dark shade of chocolate is a subtle way to enhance your best feature, if that feature is your caramel cheekbones. Here, Quetzal is dressed in your typical three piece suit with a white shirt, vest, and tie. The magic comes when he loosens the top shirt buttons, fattens the noose on the tie, loses the jacket and voila! A relaxed yet pulled-together look for cocktail night at your local intimate dinner bar . . . and if you can get up and sing a tune or two dedicated to all the laydees, well, be our guest!

When nature calls again, in a good way, and you long for a day at the beach, don't forget to bring your hoodie. Spending the day by the beach can get chilly at sunrise and sunset but who wants to wear black at the beach? Opt for a pop of color in tones Yemanja would approve of. Bring your guitar, even if you can't play (leave the drumming to those annoying guys beating on plastic buckets), and enjoy the smiles you'll get from other sun-kissed souls.

Is it time to work again? Who says you have to keep your jacket on? Certainly not Quetzal. I'm beginning to wonder what happened to all of his suit jackets. No need to wonder, we don't want him to find them. This practitioner of Brazilian Capoeira shows off his sculptured arms with this loose fitting vest under a plain white wifebeater and natural beaded (read: earthy, grounded) necklace. A dark pair of jeans give off a polished yet relaxed look for work and play. The fedora tells you he's in charge. Have a seat because the lesson is about to begin. Yes sir!

And sometimes all you need to wear is a pair of piercing brown eyes  . . . and a pair of violins on your head. Cheoow!

And because we need to bring the temperature back down a bit, here's Quetzal making the least attractive face possible . . . whatever, he's still hot! Hey, I tried!

Q&A with Quetzal Guerrero
Do you have any fashion icons that have influenced your style?
I don't really have any fashion icons. My inspirations in fashion comes from my travels to various countries and absorption of different cultures and customs. Latin and European, also, Indigenous cultures have had a great deal of inspiration in my fashion sense . . .especially indigenous cultures to the Americas.

What do you fuss over the most when getting dressed?
What I fuss over the most when I get ready is my shirt. Wearing the right shirt and/or top as a man I feel really defines the overall outfit.

What is your favorite piece of wardrobe?
My favorite piece of wardrobe is the hat. A hat can really distinguish a man and give him a certain aura. The type of hat a man wears also says a lot about his personality and/or cultural awareness. But you should NEVER judge a man by what he is wearing!

What inspires your fashion sense?
So many things inspire my fashion sense from whats on film and TV to whats on the streets around me and in my travels. I am always looking for clothes that attract attention but that are not obnoxious or too loud. Its all about the subtleties for me.

How do you integrate your culture into what you wear?
I integrate my culture into my fashion with color, jewelry and an overall combination of outfit and accessories. From the hat to the shoes to the necklace, it all has to fit together to give a feel of authenticity and class.

How you you like to see women dress?
My favorite outfit on a woman is the classic black cocktail dress. There's no glits or glam to hide behind. A woman's physique and class is really exposed when she is wearing a black dress.

Enjoy Quetzal in action in his latest music video . . . Ay que Coiza Boa!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spider Sense

I believe everyone has a story to tell. Some people are shy and reserved while others wear their past on their sleeves. My friend, George De Los Santos, aka Spider, aka Spiderflesh, not only wears his life on his tattoo sleeve, he shares his story with those that may benefit from learning about his past.

He grew up in various cities south of LA from Bell Gardens to Compton and finally Huntington Park. "I’ve always known we were poor. That has been something I accepted and was humbled by. My mother has always been a worker. Not so much in a 'job' but more so in side-jobs that pay," said George as I asked about his childhood. "My 'real' dad was not around much and when he was it just lead to disappointment so I’ve not sought him out anymore. I have learned to appreciate my mother over the years as I became a parent but there were many years that I resented some of her actions as I was growing up. I later realized that she’s human and did the best she could with what she had and knew."

Not one to cause trouble as a kid, George followed the rules but as the years went on, "I found myself wanting to battle more and more. I always felt different so why not look it," he said. "My first tattoo was a small spider I have on my right shoulder. My brother did it for me when we were in high school at 15 years old.  We made a tattoo machine out of a spoon, guitar string, mechanical pencil and race car motor," he explained. The tattoo was to symbolize the nickname given to him by his fellow gang members. Getting high and drunk in alleys was a typical party night for George. "Most of the times I went to a party I was too damn shy or nervous to talk to anyone and I didn’t feel like I belonged there so I’d want to leave. There were girls but being as self conscious as I was, I would never talk to them, so I got high. That quieted my head. It made me belong anywhere I went." Except perhaps on his way to jail. "The day I got jumped into the gang, I was arrested. The police thought my black-eye was from a gang fight and that we were going to retaliate." His sentence was one year under house arrest. To get by, he focused on school and drawing.

"I knew I had a drinking problem many years ago---when I heard that I did things I typically wouldn’t do or treat people the way I never would. It started out as fun but later would become a battle. I was always trying not to overshoot the mark of feeling good. I was desperate to keep the good feeling so I kept pouring in the booze. Next thing you know I’m slurring and spitting on you when I spoke," he confessed. Although he tried to control his drinking, he failed each time. "Thinking about it now I don’t know if I really wanted to quit. I just didn’t want the shame or demoralization to continue." It wasn't until a couple of doctor visits provided him the wake up call he needed. "The doctor said 'you have to quit. You are 27 and you’re borderline heart attack.' My reply was 'I don’t know how. I don’t know how not to drink.' That started my road to recovery. I knew my wife deserved a better life than what I was set to give her in the condition I was in. She deserved a better man."

George's sleeves: Wife and son on left, him on the right.
George met Paty through a mutual friend. "I had known about her being a great person for some time. However, my life was in a bit of a chaotic phase so I decided that it was not a good time to introduce myself. I had to remove myself from it as much as possible and then move forward." What would any girl see in a wild partying gang-member I asked. "She always says she like that I made her laugh. That and she saw behind the vampire-dressed, long hair guy with black fingernails," said George. I stand corrected. What would any girl see in a wild partying, vampire-dressed, long-haired gang-member, with black fingernails? What he saw in her was a loving and caring person that saw the real him, a nice guy, deep down inside. "I loved her smile, the red in her hair and the way her top fit her body. I loved her laugh and her independence. In the span of a 10-minute chat we had at the Relay for Life in Long Beach I knew I really liked her. I like to think I loved her then and that’s why she stuck in my mind so much. I can still feel that now about her." On August 25, 2001, George and Paty married.

Now on his road to sobriety, George was bored. Looking to occupy his time and being more alert than ever, he attempted his hand at airbrushing and pinstriping to no avail. While in school, he enjoyed sketching in class or at home. He even painted murals at his high school, San Antonio Continuation in Huntington Park. One of which is still there. His idea to pursue leatherwork came when he wanted to make himself a bag to carry his drawing pad, pencils and cigars or pipes. "I made a bag using some pleather pieces I got at the Paramount Swapmeet. I wanted to put my art on the bag so a friend gave me some tools his dad no longer used. I did research and set out to make over 75 leather skulls, each with it’s own personality. I would make about 3 to 5 a day for over 15 days straight just to get the practice," he said.

Requinto strap for Ulises Bella of Ozomatli
Who does leatherwork now-a-days? I've seen elaborate leather saddles engraved by masterful hands that have since come to pass. When I think of leatherwork, I picture rough and tumbled cowboys sitting in a barn or near some wooden posts grunting about the good ole days. The last thing I picture is a tatted Chicanito buying leather slabs to work in his East LA garage, next to a skull-embellished motorcycle. "I started off by myself. I didn’t know even the right type of leather to tool on. I tried on garment leathers and suede but that was so wrong. Later I would do research and found an online community of leatherworkers. They were all willing to critique my work when asked and give tips on do’s and don’ts. But mostly they were encouraging and appreciated my different style of art. I was never too proud to ask questions and that helped me a lot. I also never stick to one style of art so this way I don’t cheat myself out of learning many different techniques," said George.  

In 2005, George and Paty had a son. As much as he denies liking kids to keep his tough guy image, those around him know he's one fun loving father. "I'd have to say that my priorities have changed completely with fatherhood. I'm not as selfish as I used to be and I want to be there for my son especially since my father was never there for me. I want to protect him, but also teach him about life. I love him like I've never known I could love. I was my worst enemy and biggest critic and now I accept myself as I am. As God has made me. And I do my best to better myself. I stay teachable."

George now spends his time as a full-time structural designer by day, leatherworker by night. He's fulfilled orders for musicians, actors, and fans alike with a non-stop influx of custom creations on back-order. On Fridays, you can find George in a South LA group meeting for Alcoholics Anonymous. This week, George celebrates 10 years of sobriety.

Johnny Depp's skull & cross bones tattoo inspired this custom wallet.


More Spiderflesh custom creations

Images courtesy of the artist.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Latino Fashion-Listo: Alex Ehecatl Chavez

Ladies (and gentlemen too), I promised to include fashionable men in my fashion feature and it didn't take much thought to come up with a list of appetizing amigos that have their look on point from head to toe! I'm calling this my Latino Fashion-Listo feature because these guys are always listos (ready/smart/on-point) when it comes to their fashion sense. Let the collective sighing begin with a beautiful soul of a man, actor/director/producer. . .

Those of us that know him from his work with Native Voices at the Autry or from the bar fight scene in the movie Frida, know him as Ehecatl. It took us plenty of time to get the pronunciation right so we got it and we're sticking to it. ;-) All joking aside, this descendant of Aztec blood-lies and chiseled good-looks makes an impression when he walks into a room. Quiet and understated in person and in his everyday wear, his peaceful energy makes people stop and take notice. Read on for a fashion Q&A with Ehecatl.

The three piece suit suits Ehecatl perfectly. He make a bold statement with a strong color like this eggplant print shirt under a dark tone-on-tone striped suit jacket, and short untamed hair cut.

Hiking and spending time surrounded by nature doesn't mean baggy unflattering clothes. Tame your wild locks with a hat. Forget the dirty baseball cap you wear everywhere you go (trust me, it smells). Opt for a chic beret then choose a form-fitting t-shirt that shows that there is an actual body underneath. Here, Ehecatl chose brown and grey tones. Nothing wild or crazy or bland either with that pop of yellow across his chest. Just right! Don't forget the sporty watch so you'll know when to start back down the trail. Can't have you become dinner for hungry coyotes.

Traveling soon? Nothing says soy Latino like a cool fedora. Here, Ehecatl wears a striking white fedora with a thick, bold, black band. We see a pattern with his bold striped button-down shirt underneath a saturated grey suit jacket. Don't forget the natural two-toned wood bracelet. It shows you're grounded and earth-conscious.
With Rick Najera, Eugenio Derbez and Carlos Lòpez Jimènez

Eugenio Derbez may be uber popular in Mexico and gaining fame in the US but in this pic, all we see is Ehecatl's intellectual square-shaped frames and sienna orange and black scarf over a black on black outfit topped off by his carefree hair, no gel needed. You can't miss the sleek square-face, silver with black band watch. It's a perfect compliment to the square specs and white buttons on his shirt. Are there other people in this pic? We didn't notice (sorry guys!)

Q&A with Alex Ehecatl

Italian film actor Marcello Mastroianni

Who are your fashion icons?
Marcello Mastroianni, Sean Connery, and German Valdez "Tin Tan"

Are there any particular fashion designers you look to for inspiration?
Alexander McQueen, Enio Capasa (see fahion show video below),  and Kean Etro

What do you fuss over the most when getting ready?
A shirt that is not properly ironed.

What is your favorite piece of wardrobe and why?
They change everyday according to what I'm wearing. It could be my shoes, my tie, my hat, my cufflinks, usually a piece that I'm selecting that day as an accent. I always pay attention to the watch that I'm wearing. (We noticed!)

What inspires your fashion sense?
Freedom, comfort and a sense of aesthetic combination between color, texture and fabric.
Etro men's wear spring/summer 2012

How do you integrate your Latin culture into your fashion?
By making bold statements. We are a rich complex culture that is not easily defined by a trend.

What is your favorite way to see a woman dress?
I like to see a woman who dresses comfortably, and can emanate confidence in the choices that she makes before putting on the sandals or the high heels.

Did you hear that ladies? Be comfortable and confident. At the end of the day, all they remember is your smile. 

Check out Enio Capasa's Costume Nation Fashion Week runway  show 12/13. 
Simply fabulous and edgy.

To catch up on the latest project by Ehecatl, 
check out his new documentary "The Shoe" and vote for it at HRTV Film Festival

"the Shoe" from Alex Ehecatl on Vimeo.