13 December, 2014

The high cost of "cheap".

When I was a child one of my favorite things to do when visiting my grandmother was to sit beside her as she shared her beautifully lacquered Japanese jewelry box with me. That box held a special place in her heart and brought back many memories of when she and her family had been stationed in Japan, when her husband, (not my Grandfather) was in the service.

Sweethearts dressed up and danced the night away at "Sweetheart Socials"
The post war officers clubs hosted many a "social". These events afforded military couples stationed on foreign military bases, to experience a taste of controlled nightlife with their loved ones and friends.

I'd watch her as her hands lovingly caressed the ornate mother of pearl and abalone inlay that decorated the box with images of Mount Fuji and fancy Geisha girls. When my grandmother opened the box she was instantly transported to faraway places and distant memories.. 

This type of jewelry chest was traditionally purchased by American military men and given to the one they loved. These chests were often referred to as "Sweetheart Tansu" during Post-war Japan.

As each little compartment and padded drawer was opened, the treasured item within brought back memories of a special time, place, or person - connecting her viscerally to that moment, forever. 
When Grandma passed away, several items from the box were given to me and I love them still. A strand of Mikimoto pearls, a beautiful sterling silver necklace etched with Thai dancers, earrings, a brooch and matching bracelet, and an intricately carved ivory pendant, simply hung on a worn leather cord. 

Thoughts of my beautiful grandmother, her glamorous personal style, and jewelry have always warmed my memories of her. I think not only of the moments associated with them, but the fine craftsmanship, design, and quality they possess. They are as "cool" to me now as they were 40 years ago. 

My grandmother - or - Glam-mother!

The phrase: "They don't make 'em like they used to," sits with me as I reflect on current trends in the marketplace. The jewelry industry today is afflicted by trends moving so fast, that an item is often passé by the time you bring it home. Semi-precious stones often are replaced with a dab of epoxy resin for color. Gold and silver have been replaced with scary toxins like cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury and arsenic - dangerous carcinogens that have no business being near our skin, let alone hanging around our necks. Like lead, cadmium adds weight and shape to jewelry and is cheap to use in manufacturing.

Last week I spoke with two chatty, darling little girls who came into my store oooohing and ahhhing over the jewery cases. Adorably they inquired as to the cost of several pieces of jewelry in the shop. The conversation briefly went something like this. "How much is that, and that, and that?" in true childlike manner, they asked.. "It's $ 69.00, $119.00, $250.00" I replied. I chuckled as their little eyes and and jaws gaped wide as they both breathlessly and repeatedly chimed the word, "... Dollars?" These sweet little girls were approximately 10 years and they excitedly proceeded to —show and tell me— about the bounty of jewelry they had just purchased with "only five dollars"! They had obviously be given money to entertain themselves, and my heart broke when I saw what they had each purchased. These sweet babies were so proud of the sparlkly treasures they had found and excitedly proceeded to tell me how much it "cost", or rather - didn't cost, compared to the cost of the jewelry they encountered in my store. 

Hello! Parents!!! Children’s organs are still developing! A level of cadmium that may not be as toxic to a healthy adult is seriously toxic to children; the problem with cadmium is that it accumulates in the body and itt can cause kidney disease, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It can contribute to brittle bones. It has been linked to neurological disease, lung cancer and even prostate enlargement. Children deserve the best chance possible to grow up healthy - in mind and body. I am concerned that they are being subtly poisoned and many people aren't even aware of it. $10.00 may have purchased a moment of peace quiet for the parents of these youngsters, but at what possible longterm cost? 

How can these sell for so little cost?

With so many health related issues striking the young and not so young today, might it be related to the hidden toxins in our world? It's no secret that manufacturers have become careless and complacent in their use of cheap, hazardous materials - which is why it's so important for retailers like me to play watchdog and be diligent about the items we present our customers with. I care about my customers, and I care about the health of my community; therefore, I refuse to sell items made in toxic foreign factories with cancer-causing chemicals. Sadly, many retailers are not doing their due-diligence. The bottom line speaks louder than public safety, and if it's sparkly and cheap, it'll sell.

Photo: Coutesey of Health Roundup

Last year, the non-profit organization The Ecology Center ran tests on 99 pieces of jewelry (some of which were geared toward children but most for adults) that were purchased from 14 different stores across the country, many big boxes or chain stores. They checked each piece for dangerous additives like lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury and arsenic. And, surprise, surprise, over half of the jewelry had high levels of these hazardous chemicals, including 27 of the pieces that had lead levels exceeding the 300 ppm limit for children's products. Ninety percent of the pieces had chromium and nickel, which can cause allergic reactions, and 10 percent of the pieces had cadmium, which is a toxic metal that's been the subject of other jewelry and toy recalls. There's also the problem of brominated flame retardants, which are usually sprayed onto jewelry made in China, and can rub off onto your skin or be inhaled. The compound used is a known hormone disrupter - definitely not the best accessory one can think of. Are you really going to be satisfied buying something that is simply "compliant," meaning allowable toxicity, because its pretty, trendy and cheap? As the Christmas season approaches, I (like you) am considering the gifts I'll be giving to my loved ones and I thoroughly renounce this unfortunate trend. In the past 30 years, the persona of the retail marketplace has changed, and with so many opportunities for excellence and personal expression, too many stores have made shortcuts and mediocrity king.

If a company can have a mission other than simple survival, mine is to resist the current direction the market is taking and suggest another way. Good design isn't something disposable, and you can take pride in something you bought years ago; perhaps even sharing it with generations to come, creating memories around something special and precious. 

Anything truly valuable takes some care, whether it's your grandmother's jewelry or your grandmother herself. The things you wear really can be an expression of who you are; they can make you feel good, but they also can make you sick if you're not reading labels and asking questions. 

What will be the story around a piece of jewelry you buy? Will that item reflect a special and lasting memory, or it will expose you or your loved one to toxins?

Lauren Woltman is the owner of Hop Sing Trading Co. in the Bashford Courts, 130 W. Gurley St.

29 November, 2014

Shopping Small - Gives Back - BIG!

It's 6am on Small Business Saturday - and my feet are still sore from being on them all day yesterday, but today that soreness reminds me of just how truly fortunate I am. Our one-little-independent specialty store was able to participate and actually compete in the corporate lead "BLACK FRIDAY", an event that due to economic realities — cheapens the spirit of the holidays, but officially signify's the start of the holiday buying season to consumers. Despite all the billions of dollars spent in corporate advertising campaigns and inbox's overflowing with e–order bargains, It was a really successful day for us on so many levels... 

For starters November marks Hop Sing's 5th Anniversary, yay! We opened our doors with little more then a wing, a prayer and a concept that would take time and continued reinvestment to execute fully - in fact it's still evolving, as does every entrepreneurial dream worth chasing. We've foregone vacations and eaten more oatmeal then I cared to swallow, in order to protect our investment. That necessary frugality has seen us through some rough spots, and yes, we've seen a few new businesses come and go since then due to the economy. Yet, each day we unlock our shop door we are reminded to be grateful and humbled in the knowledge that it is completely due to our community and their/your support - that we are still here. 

What's in a name?

Daily we're asked, why Hop Sing? The name "Hop Sing" has caused confusion at times, and more then a few customers have told us that it actually took longer for them to walk through our door,  assuming that it was a "Chinese Restaurant" or perhaps only sold goods made in China... hmmm, that problem never occurred to us. We carry more USA made merchandise then most. When we opened our store we thought it was a cute kitschy name - from the beloved western tv show "Bonanza" - kinda an East meets West thing —after all, I had lived my entire adult life in an ethnic melting pot known as Hawaii for over 33 years prior to arriving here in Prescott. I still stumble over the "remove your shoes before entering the house tradition" when presented at the threshold of any door... Anyhow, most people now love our catchy name and associate it with the want and desire of quality clothing, footwear and all things along the fashion accessory trail. Our goods are uniquely curated and often have one of a kind or handmade qualities, and these attributes tend to cost more then mass produced products of low quality. We believe in investing in something lasting and not disposable and cheap.  After all what woman hasn't purchased a great bargain or two that still hangs unworn in her closet years later? Was that a  good deal?  We say buy less and buy better! Invest in the things you decorate your body in! You deserve beauty and quality! You are worth it! Also consider the supply chain... If a garment cost nothing, the garment is most likely made in a filthy sweat shop, by tiny hands in faraway places under very sad conditions. Buy smart, buy ethically and feel better.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” – Benjamin Franklin

Well, we've got a busy day ahead of us and wordy is my middle name! I really just wanted to say THANK YOU for all of your support and Jeff & I just wish you all a truly happy, healthy and beyond blessed holiday season! Now I've got work to do and feet to massage! Click the link to our Facebook page above, and find today's SALE! And then follow along, Hop Sing insiders are the first to know everything!!!



11 November, 2014

Just be you, but with a dash more confidence... It's the confidence that people will notice first!

"It doesn't matter if you're on a runway, or a sidewalk."

Let me tell you a little story... A model walks through the door of the boutique: "Hi, I'm here to be fitted for the upcoming fashion show". The stylist is expecting her and has prepared a few potential outfits in anticipation. She escorts the model to the fitting room where the items are carefully hung, and instructs her to try on a few combinations. "First try on this... then this. This, this and this go together- and those boots. I'll accessorize you when you come out. Ok?" The model smiles, nods and pulls the privacy curtain. She proceeds to change into the clothing selected. Minutes later, the fitting room curtain opens and the model emerges, amazed. "How did you do this? How did you know this would look so good on me? I would never have chosen this!" The stylist responds, "It's my superpower".

This scenario has been happening in my world for the last few weeks. Fans of this column know that I've been busy preparing for a local benefit fashion show, and you also know that I adore fashion and style! From my perspective, fashion shows are the ultimate challenge.  Women surrender themselves to the mercy of the stylist, and I have the privilege of outfitting them from head-to-toe.  It's so rewarding when these women are genuinely surprised by my choices and love what they see in the mirror. I proudly boast a fairly high batting average- Hop Sing regulars might even say I'm a home run hitter! Not too shabby for a fashion retailer/stylist with a quirky eye, established in a town that tends to make safe fashion choices.

Yesterday I had a good laugh when one of our models asked, "Am I suppose to act like I think I'm HOT?" to which I replied: "No—It doesn't matter if you're on a runway or a sidewalk, genuine confidence is what's important, and I can't sell you that. But if I dress you in such a way that you know you look great, then that's all that matters." Confidence is what completes any outfit, anytime, anywhere; and stylist or none, only you can provide that element. Regardless of what your wearing, you have to own it! Stop worrying about what others see. We are always our own worst critics anyway. When we're secure in ourselves, we exude an infectious charm and charisma- no matter what we have on. In fact, as of right now I'm declaring a moratorium on boring clothes and self-criticism in Prescott. Dress accordingly, my friends!

29 October, 2014

The Art of Fall Layering, Beauty and Compassion....

                                                                                           Image by @darlingmagazine

Hellooooo from crazy town!

The fall fashion forecast is being served! Customers are Frocking out— I mean, freaking out for boots, sweaters, scarves and all layering things that work well together. Ladies, building a layered look is a little like decorating your bed. The layers are always related to each other in a color palette, textural or patterned way. Matching is great, however too-matchy-matchy looks juvenile. As mentioned, retailers like myself have been stacking and unstacking the boot boxes, helping the ladies find the perfect fall footwear! By the way if you haven't found yours! Run don't walk! Sizes are becoming limited and styles are selling out!  Fall retail is busy, busy, busy!!!

If you've been keeping up here with previous articles I've penned, you already know a little bit about me and my lifestyle approach to fashion and style. I call it highly interactive. You may also know —and yes, I'm going to shamelessly plug this event because it's for a worthy cause— and because true fundamental beauty starts from within, and by showing compassion for others in need, and that kind of inner beauty enflames the heart... 

Hop Sing Trading Company is sponsoring, and therefore I am co-producing a benefit fashion show fundraiser for the Good Samaritans - Hospice Compassionate Care Fund, on Saturday, November 15th, at the Prescott Resort, please call 928-899-3620 if you would like more information... I sincerely hope you'll consider supporting this heartfelt endeavor fashion fans!  

Now let us move on to "Fall Transitions" in fashion ... close your eyes and click your boot heels together 3 times and say, "there's no time like fall, there's no time like fall, there's no time like fall... The leaves are turning, fireplaces are smoldering and my hot beverage is being cradled in cold hands. But best of all here in Prescott, we get to dress in layers! Layering is an essential part of styling when the day to evening temps vary between forty-something and the low to mid-seventies. You simply must add and subtract layers as needed throughout your day/evening as the temperatures dictate. I'm still rather new at this Autumn-Winter thing, as I came here from the average 78 degree Hawaiian Islands, yet fall has proven to be my favorite time of year! 

In my shop I meet women who are challenged by the whole layering concept.They've shared their concerns and discomforts such as "layering creates waistline bulk, or arm restriction or just too much confusion period". Well I'm here to tell you it's easy, it's attractive and it's comfortable - if you do it right... It starts with owning great layering basics. Without the right first layer you set up for failure. The perfect base layer complements the next layer as it effortlessly glides over and creates a flawless double the warmth look, without doubling the volume! So walk away from layering a sweater over that kimono inspired top you purchased last summer because it won't lend itself to smoothness. This also applies to poet or dolman sleeve tops, they just don't play we'll underneath another sleeve, unless your -umm- going for the ever attractive "Stay-puff Marshmallow" look. Outer layers must glide over under layers without bunching, and when done right, the look is fluid and has enough movement to appear loose yet fitted. Top off your layered look with the perfect scarf, (and yes, the scarf has to be chosen wisely as well...) and Voila!  — you are a walking, smiling, poster child for personal climate-control!

Now... see you at the fashion show???

15 October, 2014

Mark your calendars...

Philanthropy is always in style, and charitable giving looks great on everyone!

Mark your calendars... Saturday, November 15th! It's a day I'm looking forward to with much excitement and anticipation.  Prescott Resort will host the 4th Annual Pumpkins & Pearls Fashion Show and Marketplace fundraiser.  "P&P", as it's lovingly referred, is an exclusive event, focused on raising funds for the Good Samaritan's Society, Prescott Hospice Compassionate Care Fund. This truly incredible non-profit organization supports local community members with terminal illnesses, who have inadequate funds to cover their hospice services. I'm honored to be working side-by-side with the Good Samaritan's Society at this beautiful event, which will feature a full-production fashion runway show.  Guests will be treated to the very latest collections in contemporary women's wear, by Neon Buddha, Free People, Odd Molly, WILDFOX, Adriano Goldschmied, Bed Stu, Goddis, OTBT, Virgins Saints & Angels, Cut n Paste, and so many more!  Runway fashions will be provided exclusively by Hop Sing Trading Company in collaboration with Evans Furs and Leathers.  As if that weren't enough to whet your appetite, Executive Chef Bill Toto of the Prescott Resort, has outdone himself preparing a gourmet luncheon (trust me, I've sampled the menu and it is out. of. this. WORLD).  In addition, local artisans, retailers, and business owners have donated goods and services to be included in the best raffle of all time!  A holiday gift marketplace will also be set up before and after the luncheon, for easy shopping on the spot - making this luxury event truly unique.  Ok, so let's re-cap... Runway fashions, VIP luncheon, Best raffle ever, and a gift marketplace to polish off your Christmas shopping in one afternoon... AND it's all for a good cause!  Yes and yes!   Purchase your tickets to this can't-miss event of the Season today!  

Tickets $60.00 each and are available for purchase at:

Hop Sing Trading Company - Bashford Courts
130 West Gurley St. - 2nd Floor
Prescott, Arizona

113 West Goodwin St.
Prescott, Arizona