Friday, June 28, 2013

Cultured canines at the Ritz-Carlton

Starting this month and running through August, the Ritz-Carlton has a treat for dog owners. 

During its Saturday Sidewalk Socials held outside the hotel’s Bar Cocoa, humans can enjoy an all-dessert dinning experience, including gelato and iced teas, alongside their pets. A special section will have leash tie-ups, doggie bags and local dog-walking maps. Each four-legged visitor will also be offered a sweet treat: a Bar Cocoa dog biscuit. 


Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rock out with Daniel Coston June 28

I often tell "my" photographer Daniel Coston that I couldn't do my job without him. If you've attended a social function in the last decade that I've covered for the Observer or SouthPark magazine, most likely he'll be there capturing it with his camera, often while wearing a super cool chapeau cocked at a jaunty angle. I have "my" in quotes because although I want to claim him as my own, he's an in-demand nationally known freelance photographer whose first love is shooting bands in action at concerts, or for their album covers are other publicity shots. 

I think one of the reasons he excels at photographing parties is that they're similar to rock concerts. You just have to dive in there and do it, often while jostling through crowds while dealing with lots of noise and chaos in the pursuit of a great shot. And you have the added pressure of having to be careful not to step on a gorgeous gown while trying to write down whether it's Sally Smith, Sallie Smythe, or Salee Smiths that you're taking a photo of. He makes it look easy, but it's not. 

Along with being a great photographer, Daniel is also a great writer. He has combined those passions in two new books. One, "North Carolina Musicians: Photographs and Conversations" is due out in July from McFarland Publications. It's filled with black and white photos from behind-the-scenes moments he experienced with some of our state's most famous bands - from the Avett Brothers and the Carolina Chocolate Drops to the Squirrel Nut Zippers. (Check out the July issue of SouthPark magazine, on newsstands now, for a sampling of Daniel's photos and excerpts from the book.)

The other is "There Was a Time: Rock & Roll in the 1960s in Charlotte, and North Carolina,"  his self-published book that's out now. He recently signed copies of the book with musician Jake Berger at Park Road Books where the book is available. Here's a photo of Daniel, right, at the book signing with Jake Berger, left, and two fans:

To celebrate the book, Daniel is hosting a book release party on June 28 at Neighborhood Theatre at the corner of 36th and North Davidson streets in the NoDa neighborhood. 

The book will be available for purchase, and Daniel will be doing signings. Along with emceeing the show, he's also planning to jump on stage and perform with some of the musical acts that are playing at the party. The lineup showcases the Young Ages, Good Bad & The Ugly (featuring Patrick Walters), Abbadons, Mannish Boys (featuring Jake Berger and Donny Fletcher) and Bobby Donaldson. 

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the bands start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the door, or in advance at Lunchbox Records and Sunshine Daydreams. 

I can't wait to be there to rock it out with Daniel in support his latest creative project, and to turn the camera on Charlotte's best known social event/rock photographer. 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Carson Goodwyn's summer style favorites

Editor's note: Talented teen fashion blogger Carson Goodwyn, who just finished an internship in New York City with designer Charlotte Brody, takes over this blog today. On June 26, Carson appeared on the Charlotte Today show on WCNC-TV to talk more about her latest blog for the Observer where she shares her five favorite summer style must-haves.

Here's the link to her segment with Charlotte Today show's Colleen Odegaard:

School’s out for the summer!  Most kids are thinking about the swimming pool, camp adventures and beach vacations.  I am thinking that I am now free to wear whatever summer clothing I desire! Like many schools, mine has a dress code and that means my chic jeans, shorts and mini dresses are held hostage in the closet until June.  So now that all of my favorite pieces have made the great escape, I can happily display my choice looks for the season of sun.

1. This summer, I am loving shorts.  They are all the rage in many great fabrics and designs. I am a fan of the flat front, tailored short.  Pleated shorts can add heft and are generally less flattering.  Shorts seem to be in every collection and you can dress them up or down in a flash.  Pair them with a well-cut T-shirt and metallic gladiators for daytime or dress them up with a silk tunic and a splashy graphic wedge for evenings.  Pulling off shorts does not mean you must have model legs, either.  The most important thing with shorts is finding a length that compliments your legs.  And less is not definitely more with shorts.  A mid-length can hide a multitude of figure flaws and may even look classier.

2. Next up, the high-low dress.  This style feels like an evolution of the maxi dress that made a huge appearance last summer and has really had staying power.  I love this look because it’s fun, casual elegance.  The high-low dress is functional because it is super easy to walk in and it does not hide your fabulous footwear.  You can throw a high-low over your bathing suit or dress it up for dinner with a chunky statement necklace.  You can even pair a shorter high-low with a skinny jean for cooler evenings at the mountains or the beach. 

3. A distant cousin to the high-low is the draped tunic, or what I like to call the whale tail top.  It’s short in the front but nearly calf length in the back.  BCBG included this piece in their summer collection in many colors and cuts and I cannot get enough of this.  If you are not a fan of your backside, this top is for you!  It drapes in all the right places and elongates your figure.  I love it with shorts, colored denim or a slim fitting mini.

4. The crossbody bag is another of my favorite looks for summer.  And it is super functional.  It’s easy to wear and hands-free!  It’s great for travel or an evening out.  Crossbody bags come in every style from structured leathers to beaded linen. The Poole Shop has some amazing Boho crossbody bags by Star Mela. I would love to have one in every color.  A friend gave me one and I have carried it non-stop.

5. Speaking of Boho,  expect to see this global ethnic trend showing up in clothing, footwear and jewelry.  It’s been around a while now but keeps gaining momentum.  It even has it’s own page in Wikipedia…I looked it up!  It’s origins come from hippie-chic vintage but what makes it so interesting is that you can really put your own spin on it.  I love to marry a little Boho with classic style.  Combine your prints and patterns, mix it up.  You never want to be too matchy-matchy.  You can take a really conservative outfit and add a global scarf or chunky beaded necklace and suddenly you’ve got it going on.  Check out C. Wonder’s web site for great finds in fresh Boho trends. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Party advice from a party boy

When internationally acclaimed artist and bon vivant Louis St. Lewis was at an opening of an exhibit of his paintings at Allison Sprock Fine Art, I couldn’t wait to ask him how he prefers to entertain in his home.

“I believe entertaining is exactly what the word means – to put on a show,” he said. “I like to pick a theme and do a lot of research and really go all-out. Let’s say I want to have a 1920s-themed party or a 1950s theme. I’ll research cocktail and party food recipes from that era and make sure music from that time is playing. I’ll even seek out vintage textiles from then to make into tablecloths. I look at it as a performance, and I’m setting the stage.”

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Progressive party at Phillips Place

Fashion boutiques and restaurants at Phillips Place shopping center are joining together for a progressive evening of shopping and eating for ages 21 and older to benefit Carolina Breast Friends. 

The event is 6-11 p.m. June 21. Registration is 6-7 p.m. at Modern Salon and Spa. From there, guests proceed to Taylor, Richards & Conger and TRC Women, 7-7:45 p.m., with food from Upstream; Windsor Jewelers, 7:45-8:30 p.m., with food from The Palm; Bevello, 8:30-9:15 p.m., with food from Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar; Coplon’s, 9:15-10 p.m., with food from Dean & DeLuca; and Hampton Inn & Suites, 10-11 p.m., with food from the hotel.

All-access passes are $20, plus a $2 processing fee, at

Friday, June 14, 2013

Belk makes Southern designers dreams come true

When I walked into the atrium of Belk department store's headquarters at 9 a.m. on June 12, I felt like I was at a club. A song by Bruno Mars was cranked up and hundreds of stylish people of all ages were mingling around a stage where the winners of Belk's second annual Southern Designer Showcase were getting ready to be announced.

Arlene Goldstein, Belk's vice president of trend merchandising, was the first on stage. "What started as a celebration of Belk's 125th anniverary has become an important franchise for our company," she said.

The competition, which is the brainchild of Kathryn Bufano, Belk's president and chief merchandising officer, has turned out to be a huge win-win for Belk, Southern designers and Belk customers. The designs of last year's winners - which ranged from gowns to dresses, children's clothing, shoes, jewelry and handbags - were offered to customers at special pop-up boutiques in select Belk stores and online at this spring.

One of the reasons Belk is so successful is that it doesn't try to second guess its customers - it's the customer who ultimately determines which lines the stores carries.A handful of last year's winners who really resonated with customers will continue their partnership with Belk, including last year's only winning designer from Charlotte, Kathleen Murphy. I bought a necklace and earrings from her collection that I absolutely adore and every time I wear them I get compliments. I wore the earrings to the June 12 event. Kathleen was there wearing the matching necklace. We got a kick out of that.

From the stage, Arlene looked over at Kathryn Buffano and said, "Remember when you called me into your office and said, 'Do you think we could do a little design contest? Now look what happened!' " That got a huge laugh because it's obvious Kathryn's idea has become a big success.

I wondered if they could equal the creations from last year's talented designers and the answer is heck yes, y'all. As each one was introduced to the audience - first by video vignettes shown on the screen of them working on their collections and pitching them to Belk's team of judges - it was clear this is going to be another incredibly talented crop of designers.

Here are all the winning designers with Kathryn Bufano, Tim Belk and Arlene Goldstein on the right.

Then, in a fun video, Arlene is shown surprising the winners at either their homes or design studios with a big bouquet of white flowers. I got a headache from fighting back tears during that segment. It was so moving to see the reactions of the designers. It was a life changing moment for all of them and it was a beautiful thing to see.

This year's winners are Kari Bryde from Little Rock, Arkansas; Lori Cunningham, who currently lives in New York City; Darrius Curry of Lithonia, Georgia; Lucy Dang of Dallas, Texas; Charlene Dunbar of Lilburn, Georgia; Heather Menzie Gressette of Columbia, South Carolina; Ali Howell of Atlanta, Georgia; Annabelle LaRoque Columbia, South Carolina; Elle Parkinson of Raleigh, North Carolina; Diane Wallace of  Knoxville, Tennessee; Regina White who's originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina but currently lives in Chesterfield, Virginia; Anne Hughes Windmueller of Charleston, South Carolina; and Rhonda Wyman of Union Mills, North Carolina.

Here's a photo of some of the designers who are from the Carolinas. Annabelle LaRoque, from left, Regina White, Elle Parkinson, Rhonda Wyman and Heather Menzie Gressette.

After seeing the displays of all the winning works that were set up around the atrium, the only bad thing about the announcement is that Belk customers will have to wait until spring 2014 to shop the designers' collections. I cannot wait. Everyone is unbelievably talented. There are a few who personally appealed to me. I wanted to buy their offerings right then and there.

Here are samples of designs from the winners from the Carolinas and you'll see what I mean.

Regina White's bags:

Elle Parkinson's children's clothes:
 Rhonda Wyman's jewelry:
 Heather Menzie Gressette's classic clothes:
 Annabelle LaRoque's super cute dresses.

Note the monogrammed sash on Annabelle's dress. She, like all the winning designers, really captured Belk's tagline of Modern. Southern. Style.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson