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WHY REPRESENTATION MATTERS ON THE RUNWAY

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If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve likely noticed my unusual preoccupation with Valentino in the past week. Last week marked Spring 2019 Haute Couture fashion week in Paris and the runway show Maison Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli put on was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

For a little context,  haute couture fashion shows are the most exclusive of all runway shows.  You’ll see the most creative, expensive, and often outlandish offerings a design house to offer. Maison Valentino is the couture wing of the Valentino brand. So what made the Spring 2019 show anything but the usual show of excess and unattainability? One word, inclusivity. Not buying it? Take a look!

Now I realize there was a lot to process. Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” playing(which I coincidentally walked down the aisle to), Céline Dion weeping in the audience and Naomi Campbell closing the show after a 14 year absence from the Valentino runway, were reason enough to lose one’s mind!

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But more than the spectacle of celebrity, what came boldly down the Valentino runway was a visionary, in your face expression of Black female beauty.  43 Black women glided down the runway in some of the most spectacular garments ever! Not since the historic ‘73 Battle at Versailles and the late Carla Sozzani’s 2018 Italian Vogue Black issue has high fashion made such a definitive statement.

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For me, this was a fashion girl’s Black Panther moment and a real testament to why representation matters. In watching the 17+ minute video presentation over and over, I’ve grown teary eyed each time.

While we can debate how much couture has to do with real life, or the average person’s finances and priorities, there is a role that fantasy plays in how we envision ourselves and where we think we can go. 

Taken from the designer Piccioli himself, “Couture is a dream.” “Although it celebrates uniqueness, which is a synonym for diversity, it has always meant to be for white people.” This presentation intentionally turned that notion on its head. Read the designer’s full statement below the pic:

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pppiccioli

Naomi & I. 19,03. 23.01.19
Couture is a dream.
Although it celebrates uniqueness, which is a synonym for diversity, it has always meant to be for white people.
From the Forties, the pioneering magazines Ebony and Jet, have been making a great effort to give black beauty the deserved dignity.
Franca published the Black Issue, ten years ago, demonstrating to be a courageous woman and a real visionary.
To have a Roman brand represented by Black Beauty goes against all the xenophobia in Italy and, hopefully, all over the world. With this Valentino Haute Couture collection, my hope is to deliver the message, as strong as I can.
Change the aesthetic and you change the perception of people more than any slogan.
Everyone is allowed to dream, this is the inclusivity of Haute Couture.
This is the Haute Couture Naomi and I believe in.
@naomi


While I don’t think Black women need couture or outside forces to tell us we are desirable or valuable, to have a European brand take this stand on inclusivity at its premiere runway event, at a time when racism and hate seem to be taking over our world, is extremely powerful. 

So I challenge the design world to recognize the power they have to change narratives and perceptions through aesthetics. I thank Pierpaolo Piccioli for putting forth a vision of haute couture that includes us all and I challenge more fashion creatives to become allies in this fight.

And with that, I will continue to dress up at every opportunity, fighting my own fashion revolution, and hope you’ll do the same;) All day, everyday, fashion!

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OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW... TO YOU!

MAKING THE CASE FOR VINTAGE & SUSTAINABILITY IN THE NEW YEAR

While taking some much needed R&R over the holidays, I started making some keen observations about my past year’s spending. I began to realize that running Neutral Ground had become more than a business. It was actually influencing my lifestyle. Sustainability, a big current day buzzword, was seeping into how I purchased everything. 

Now, one might think that being a vintage and designer curator, I’d be the sustainability queen. But in all honesty, my initial take on wearing pre-owned pieces had more to do with style and not being a follower than it did with the environment. It also had to do with my opinion that a level of craftsmanship and quality was missing in modern day wear.

The detailing on this  Geoffrey Beene silk twill dress  is impeccable. You don’t find self covered buttons and welt buttonholes in typical garments anymore.

The detailing on this Geoffrey Beene silk twill dress is impeccable. You don’t find self covered buttons and welt buttonholes in typical garments anymore.

Yet, as I delved deeper into this work last year, I began to realize so much more about the fashion industry and the waste and exploitation that goes into mass production. 

When I went on buying trips, far too often I’d come across fairly new pieces from H&M, Forever 21 and similar fast fashion chains promoted as “vintage”. Not only is there nothing vintage about an item produced and discarded in less than a year, the majority of these items are cheaply produced on the backs of poorly paid women and children in developing countries. 

So while seeking items for personal wear, I started making a concerted effort to buy vintage and pre-owned from people whose taste I admired. Or, I’d purchase interesting pieces from small, local makers. I was meeting so many at the pop-ups I was participating in, I felt like a new and exclusive world was opening up to me. I also felt a personal connection to these creatives and was delighted to support them. 

Oversized knit cardigan from SF shop  Relove  and  Ungaro blouse  and Missoni pants from Neutral Ground.

Oversized knit cardigan from SF shop Relove and Ungaro blouse and Missoni pants from Neutral Ground.


Then slowly this ethic started seeping into items I’d buy for my home, my skin and beauty products, and the gifts I’d purchase for family and friends.

A roundup of some items I gifted this holiday from small female business owners. (Clockwise from the top)- A  Sseko  purse from  Alyce on Grand , the Unity tee from  Owl n Wood  and an  Unoeth  leather tote.

A roundup of some items I gifted this holiday from small female business owners. (Clockwise from the top)- A Sseko purse from Alyce on Grand, the Unity tee from Owl n Wood and an Unoeth leather tote.


All of this to say, through my work I am slowly becoming more of the person I want to be in this world- someone who recognizes style and social responsibility can work hand and hand.

So I challenge you to make a statement this year through sustainability. Be it in your wardrobe, your home, the products you use on your body, the foods you consume-  they can be both beautifully unique and beneficial for our world.

XO- Alysha

NEUTRALS FOR EVERY SKIN TONE

With all of the hype around major cosmetics brands expanding their shade ranges to include women of all skin tones, I thought now was a fantastic time to talk about the most flattering neutrals and “nudes” for your complexion.

Sourced from the New York Times

Sourced from the New York Times

For most gals of color, saying nude is not one color isn't rocket science. Yet, working as an assistant for a major fashion house in the early 2000’s I can still recall my horror at being asked to buy 20 pairs of identical nude pantyhose for the models in our runway show. 

I then had to give a “life lesson” to my counterparts on how nude was not the same shade for all women and it certainly didn’t mean clear or standard!

Christian Louboutin figured it out!

Christian Louboutin figured it out!

So how does this all apply to clothing & accessories?

See how different the same neutral color can look on different skin tones?

See how different the same neutral color can look on different skin tones?

I’ve had women say to me, “I’m too pale to wear neutrals,” or, “If I wear brown I’ll look too drab”. This is not true! I’m here to tell you everyone can wear neutrals as long as they work with their skin’s undertones. They fall into 3 categories: cool, warm and neutral. Let's break them down!


FOR COOL GIRLS

This means your skin has pink, red or bluish undertones. If you fall into this category, your best neutrals are going to be shades of grey, navy and bright white with silver and graphite for shine.


FOR WARM GIRLS

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This means your skin has peach, yellowish or olive undertones. Your go to neutrals are going to be taupe, hot chocolate, ivory, amber and camel with gold and copper as metallics. 


FOR NEUTRAL GIRLS

If you're lucky enough to be a neutral, you're in the sweet spot! There aren’t many bad colors for you as you sit somewhere between the cool and warm spectrum. I’d simply advise you to go with colors you like. The 2 looks above combine warm and cool neutrals in a way that plays to all your strengths.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little lesson on finding the right neutrals and nudes for your skin tone. If so, please be sure to like the post and share the link.

Lastly, if you're not already, please follow us on Instagram to hear all the latest goings on at Neutral Ground.

We appreciate you!

XO-Alysha

INDEPENDENCE DAY STYLE

I have mixed feelings about the 4th of July. 

The holiday brings about warm feelings of family bbqs, illegal fireworks (I’m a NYC kid, don't shame me), and one of the best days of my life- the day I said “I DO” to the man of my dreams.

But then there’s the “Independence Day” part of it, which almost seems surreal in our current political climate, where the rights of so many seem to to be slipping away. Its very hard to feel patriotic. 

So how do you navigate the cookouts, the boat rides, the weddings and the long weekend get togethers and not get depressed about our state of affairs?

Dress like its going out of style!  Heck, it might be:/


Perfect for a Gatsby themed garden party or a cruise on the French Riviera, Circle Line, escape from Alcatraz, fill in the blank…

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Sonia Rykiel  dress ,  Charles Jourdan wedge  s  and B.Altman  raffia clutch

Sonia Rykiel dress, Charles Jourdan wedges and B.Altman raffia clutch


Outdoor wedding under the big tent

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#Afterthedance  Halston  suede shoes , Sheer  floral blouse  and beige  wide leg chiffon pants

#Afterthedance  Halston suede shoes, Sheer floral blouse and beige wide leg chiffon pants


I’m wearing this to your bbq. Think I’m not??

1960's Mod  Sequin sleeveless shell  w/cutout detail

1960's Mod Sequin sleeveless shell w/cutout detail

Western Style  Frye Boots

Western Style Frye Boots


And if you have to do red, white, and blue....go chic with a Studio 54 original, Halston. 

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Halston dark  denim jacket  w/red stitching and  Valentino white linen skirt.

Halston dark denim jacket w/red stitching and Valentino white linen skirt.

Make this Independence Day meaningful and be safe in whatever you do!

XO- Alysha

NYC POP UP

Neutral Ground is doing a bit of traveling this summer, but isn’t that what summers are for?

As an entrepreneur, however, you’re always working, even when you’re not. So, we’ve been trying to infuse vacations with a little bit of business AND pleasure. This led to our very first Neutral Ground NY pop-up!

Shot in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)

Shot in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)


The event was thrown at the Afrochateau, a.k.a. the fabulous home of my immensely talented  photographer friend, Kelly Marshall

A small view of the set up, with one of Kelly’s photos from the  Louvre  as a back drop. The  Carters  aren’t the only ones in the know.

A small view of the set up, with one of Kelly’s photos from the Louvre as a back drop. The Carters aren’t the only ones in the know.

Kelly showing them how  plaid  is done. 

Kelly showing them how plaid is done. 


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Sparkle really had a moment. These pieces are gone, but there are more  sequin  and  beaded  pieces where these came from.

Sparkle really had a moment. These pieces are gone, but there are more sequin and beaded pieces where these came from.

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Accessories  also had a moment and here again, shine got a close up.

Accessories also had a moment and here again, shine got a close up.


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To sum things up, Neutral Ground couldn’t have had a better NY homecoming. We worked hard, we played hard, and came back with tons of inspiration. 

If you like what you saw in the pics, please be sure to visit our shop. We sold those specific pieces, but we have many similar ones. 

And we were in NY for goodness sakes, so don't think we didn't do some shopping. We've got new items in the online store too! 

XO- Alysha

WEEKENDS OF WINE AND WHIMSY

It’s my very first Neutral Ground blog post and with summer on the horizon, talking about weekend getaways felt a great starting point. One of my new favorite pastimes since moving to the bay area is whiling away weekends in wine country, and this past weekend marked the kickoff.

 

As a recovering NY-er now settled in Oakland, it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to escape the city. In a matter of clicking your heels, or an hour give or take, you can find yourself squarely planted at a northern California winery.  The fresh air, the heat, the wine- I’m here for all of it!

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So we took a mini break this weekend and headed up to Napa for the day. The towns of Yountville and St. Helena were our on the agenda and we had a little bit of fun snapping pics while we were there. Funny enough, wine didn’t make it into any of our pics. Go figure!

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Photos taken at  Mini Model Bakery  in Yountville where the iced coffee and homemade English muffins are a must. My sleeveless dress, leather belt and  Charles Jourdan slides  were too!

Photos taken at Mini Model Bakery in Yountville where the iced coffee and homemade English muffins are a must. My sleeveless dress, leather belt and Charles Jourdan slides were too!


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In the Yountville "town square" we came across this sculptural piece. The  ivory charmeuse slip dress , flamenco scarf and Marni shoes seemed appropriate! 

In the Yountville "town square" we came across this sculptural piece. The ivory charmeuse slip dress, flamenco scarf and Marni shoes seemed appropriate! 


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Time for more lightweight  satin  with layers. Here I opted for a  belly dancing skirt  worn as both a skirt and shawl. Even with show stopping pieces, you can have versatility!

Time for more lightweight satin with layers. Here I opted for a belly dancing skirt worn as both a skirt and shawl. Even with show stopping pieces, you can have versatility!


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These last shots were taken at  Hall , one of my favorite wineries in St. Helena. The tall guy on the left gets all the photo credit:)))) #photoshootover #thanksforbeingagoodsport

These last shots were taken at Hall, one of my favorite wineries in St. Helena. The tall guy on the left gets all the photo credit:)))) #photoshootover #thanksforbeingagoodsport


To find these these looks and more like them, please visit our shop.

We had a great time showing you some of our favorite pieces out and about in the world. If you have pics enjoying yourself in Neutral Ground, please share them!  Post them on IG using #shopneutralground 

Can't wait to see you all dressed up!

XO- Alysha