Gentle reader,

Have you heard about this Pinterest thing?  I’d thought it was quaintly used by fair young maidens planning their impending nuptials and “pinning” ideas to their “boards” of bridal gowns, flower arrangements and bridesmaids’ dresses that they’ll tell their closest friends they can wear again but know deep in their hearts that the dresses have to be ugly enough to make sure the bride stands out.  It turns out, though, that, if you follow the right boards, it’s pretty much like gay porn.  Without the sound, that is.  I politely “followed back”—a term I borrowed from Twitter, the other gay porn social media site in disguise—a board from a lovely lady named Jennifer Cox, whom I now suspect of not really being an anatomical lady due to her profile name, “wannabachick70.” Her bio also gives it away, just a bit:

I am passionately a woman inside. My reflection betrays my innermost desires. I long to live my life in the open as the goddess I am in my dreams. I desire a lean muscular Latin to possess me.

Jennifer collects some very provocative pictures of guys with 6-packs, 8-packs, and even 10-packs that wouldn’t go over so well at work. Interesting.

Pinterest: It’s Not Just for Virgin Brides Anymore!

Anyway, this afternoon I was able to spend a couple of very informative hours with Valas Los Angeles founder and principal designer Karina Salmeron to learn more about her line of luxury shoes and bags. The company is garnering quite a following with musicians, most notably fashion mavens Lady Gaga and Sean Combs, a.k.a. P. Diddy. Even professional athletes are now being photographed with the bags. With the newest phase in stores for spring, we stopped by Traffic and Traffic Men in L.A. so I could see what the fuss was about.

The Blondie

The Blondie

It’s rare that I visit the Beverly Center mall so it was a happy surprise to see that the place was being spruced up a bit.  The boutiques are skewing more high-end and nearly everything just seems a little sleeker than on my last visit. Traffic, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to have joined the clean, minimal aesthetic of, say, Saint Laurent down the way, with its few widely spaced jackets and repetitious handbags.  (Side note: The combination of blazers in shocking pink with long, weird knit tank tops looks more like something you’d find in a crazy person’s closet.)

On closer inspection, you can see that these seemingly disparate items are all carefully chosen, the women’s boutique mixing Isabel Marant trendiness with Rick Owens’ goth-ness and a handful of talented local designers.  Around the corner in the men’s store, you might see Dolce and Gabbana’s floral blazer next to some seriously distressed jeans and about three thousand cool gemstone necklaces but nearly all of it is, if not stuff I would wear, then stuff I admire.  I also like that the price points leave something for every budget, with bracelets for around a hundred bucks to jackets or bags in the several thousands, and the staff seems to seriously know their shit when it comes to fashion.

The Valas accessories work well here, bringing painstaking craftsmanship and the designer’s unique modern shapes to the mix.  At the women’s shop, I spot some of the deeply colored, structured little handbags on a shelf far away and then a selection of the newest exotic skin bags and backpack on the opposite side.  The combination of alligator, ostrich and pony in rich burgundy with touches of grey anaconda makes for a bag you’d never get bored of, but without the merciless hardware and bling other labels use to makes things more interesting. At the men’s store, I have a chance to feel the incredibly soft pony on the big Voyager backpack and, let me tell you, it ain’t the same crappy cowhide as that wallet you got in Tijuana.  The pony is also incorporated with black-on-black studded beach nubuck on a pair of lace-up shoes with metal details that, for just under $1,400, can’t fairly be called sneakers.

Hand-tooling Valas shoes

Hand-tooling Valas shoes

Salmeron tells me that the next step in the evolution of Valas is mixing technology with fashion and that the newest bags will incorporate a charger hidden inside that will charge your phone wirelessly.  She was careful to stress that neither the handcrafted nature of the items or the luxury materials will change, however.  Shoes and bags alike will continue to be made at a family-run facility here in Los Angeles and the alligator, for example, is still sourced from the same vendor that supplies Hermès.

A slow and careful rollout will bring the Valas collection to more undisclosed locations in the U.S. and abroad in future but, for now, it’s only available at Traffic and Traffic Men in Los Angeles and Dallas and on Farfetch.com.

Much love,

xxJames

Hot Off the Work Bench

Karina Salmeron just sent me these, the sample of their newest bag:

Valas Back PackValas Back PackValas Back Pack

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