BY KATHLEEN BECKETT | March 1, 2012 | Style & Beauty
The Chanel Addict: Lauren Sturges-Fernandez
Lauren Sturges-Fernandez, 35, adores Chanel. Her Biscayne Bay bedroom is an homage to the French label, an ode to Coco. “It is a full-on tribute, all in ivory and black.” The headboard of the bed is black lambskin quilted like a Chanel purse. The couch is upholstered in Linton tweed, the tweed Coco used for her trademark suits. And the closet has glass shelves that light up, so Sturges-Fernandez can enjoy her collection of bags, jewelry, and clothing “as the beautiful objects of art that they are.”
Sturges-Fernandez was first bitten by the Chanel bug when she was a mere 10-year-old living in New Jersey. “My father took me to the Chanel boutique at Bloomingdale’s to buy a sautoir for my mother.” The cost ($375) represented a lot of saved allowance money, and a little help from home. She finds much to love about the label. “Chanel was a super-high-end name that was universally known, even in the mid ’80s when luxury was not as accessible to the middle class. Chanel had a presence; it had a makeup line and the perfumes. And my mother held Chanel in high esteem. To this day, it’s a collection passion my mom and I share. We swap pieces.”
Her love affair with the brand was further cemented when her parents gave her a pair of Chanel earrings, hand-blown glass tubes with little thermometers in them. When she graduated from high school, they gave her a black camellia ring; for her 18th birthday, a Chanel bag. During college she found a Chanel suit in a vintage shop in Miami, where her parents were then living, for $220. She wore it for a while, then decided to unload it on this newfangled website. “I was one of the first to sell a Chanel suit on eBay,” she claims. For $1,525, a career was born.
“For the next 10 years, I bought and sold a huge amount of Chanel. I’d buy it, enjoy it, sell it, and make a profit. I’ve bought and sold from every collection since Karl [Lagerfeld] began designing for [the house].” She’s far from the biggest Chanel devotee, however. Her idol: socialite and wellknown Chanel collector Mouna Ayoub.
Sturges-Fernandez collects new, as well as vintage, Chanel. “It’s much harder now because so many people are stalking outlet malls and markets.” Miami does have some consignment stores, but Sturges-Fernandez says they “just don’t have the supply of New York, LA, or Paris.” She won’t buy anything unless it has at least one of four classic features—a black-and-gold color scheme, the classic tweeds, the camellia, or the interlocking cc logo. “It must have a thread of what makes Chanel great,” she says.
The Handbag Lady: Stefani De La O
Stefani De La O, 32, began collecting vintage bags from all over the world at an early age. “When I was seven and in Venice, I bought a clutch bag of Florentine leather stamped and embossed with gold so it looked like a book,” she says. Beaded evening bags from the 1950s came next. “I always loved poking around antique stores and vintage markets. I grew up in a house full of heirlooms in South Miami, a little like a museum, so I’m used to things that are older. That’s why I buy vintage. Every piece has a story.” Like the black raffia bag, a token of a dotty old contessa’s steamy, long-ago love affair (a neighbor of De La O’s when she lived in Florence), or the lovely floral embroidered and tasseled ivory satin pouch from the 1930s that was cherished by a grandmother she never met.
She loves her bags, and buys them to be worn. “I really use them until they fall apart. I’m always buying new ones.” All evening bags are individually wrapped in satin bags or acid-free tissue paper and stored in labeled boxes, stashed in a closet at her Miami home, ready to render service when called upon. “I don’t take collecting too seriously. The point is to have fun with it.”
Anything that catches her eye, at any price, might become part of her collection. “I bought a vintage bag at a straw market in the Bahamas for $5. I found an embossed saddle leather bag in the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires for $3.” One of the costlier items, an Hermès Birkin bag that she bought for thousands of dollars, is no longer a part of the collection—it was stolen from the Caffé Giacosa in Florence. De La O has bad luck with Hermès, it seems. A python sac à dépêches from the house—the precursor to the Kelly bag, which she bought at the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt in Paris when she was 19—disappeared on a trip. “I took it with me to Monaco at the beginning of the summer, and by the time I got to Ibiza at the end of the season, it was gone, lost along the way.”
De La O has lived all over the world, collecting as she goes: sand from every beach, ashtrays from hotels, and, of course, bags, bags, and more bags. She recently launched an interior design business and is establishing a blog, The Nomadic Collector, so she can share with others what draws her to her discoveries, the stories each one has to tell.
The Supergas Stockpiler: Keith Menin
Unless he is attending a formal, black-tie affair, South Beach resident and dapper man-about-town Keith Menin, 31, wears one, and only one, kind of shoe, no matter where, no matter what, no matter when: the Superga sneaker. “I went to Cuba with a very good friend from New York, who had bought a pair in Italy. He wore them everywhere, with everything— with jeans, shorts, bathing suits, to dinner. They are so cool. When I arrived back in the States, I bought my very first pair.”
The Superga may come in different colors—a muted beige or a bright blue, or even the pink ones model Alexa Chung, who appears in the ads celebrating the Italian label’s 100th anniversary, prefers. But Menin only wears the straightforward and simple white version. “I love a fresh, clean, classy white sneaker.” And he has a game plan to be sure he keeps them so: washing them at the first sign of a smudge, and just in case that’s not enough, he always has a few new unworn pairs on hand. At latest count, that means as many as 60 total—all exactly the same style and the same color. “I have a pretty big closet,” he adds. “I’ll buy three or four new pairs at a time.” If he’s traveling anywhere on business, “I’ll just grab three and go.”
Not only does Menin like the look of the Superga, he also likes the way they feel. “They’re super-comfortable.” Which is important in his job, as a principal in Menin Hotels (which runs the Sanctuary, the Bentley, and the Shelborne hotels in South Beach, and the Raffaello in Chicago). “I’m on my feet a lot, as long as 17 hours a day. I have to run all over the properties, welcoming guests, overseeing staff, checking out the rooms. It’s nonstop.” But even in his afterwork hours, he reaches for the Supergas. He’s so enamored with the brand, he even purchased them for all the valets and bellmen at his hotels (in gray, however—“the white would get too dirty”). Chances are they, unlike Menin, own only a pair or two.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Menin wants to spread the joy even further—by broadening Superga’s retail presence. He already has a pilot boutique, GuyandGirl, in the Shelborne South Beach on Collins Avenue, where visitors from far and wide can experience the good looks, comfort, and style of the sneaker, for men and women alike, in every conceivable color. The price of perfection: well under 100 bucks.
The Fine Jewelry Collector: Elizabeth Kane Beracasa
My husband Alfredo and I love to buy jewelry,” says Elizabeth Kane Beracasa of Brickell Key and Caracas. Within limits: As serious collectors, their choices aren’t just coups de foudre, but informed additions, selected with an educated eye toward amassing pieces representing what a jewelry house is best known for. “Van Cleef & Arpels invented the invisible setting (now called their ‘Mystery Setting’), where you don’t see the prongs holding the stone,” Kane Beracasa explains. “So I have ruby Van Cleef Mystery-set earrings.” Cartier, she says, stands out for its “colored stones.” A whopping 23-carat yellow- diamond ring was added to represent the best of Cartier. Of the more than four dozen pieces in her growing collection, Kane Beracasa says that half are significant enough to be considered investments (although she would never part with them).
The Beracasas’ passion seems to run in the family. “In the 1960s, Bulgari made a solid-gold minaudière with diamond clasps,” Kane Beracasa says. “There were only three made, and Alfredo’s father acquired one of them, which Alfredo then bought from the family collection and gave to me.” The Bulgari bag is one of the rarest treasures in her collection. But it is hardly the most extravagant piece. She also owns a 32-carat diamond necklace, a 12-carat ruby ring, 18-carat diamond earrings, and a gold Rolex GMT Master watch with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.
The Beracasas understand what makes a piece of jewelry not just a “wow,” but a truly appreciable asset, thanks to a course Kane Beracasa enrolled in more than 15 years ago at Sotheby’s in London. “It was more for the trade than the consumer,” she explains. “We learned a lot about the history of jewelry and jewelry-making,” as well as the heritage of all the big jewelry houses.
Sotheby’s is just one source for Kane Beracasa’s remarkable collection. There’s Christie’s in New York, and the Seybold Building in Miami (“Ten stories of jewelry!” she exclaims). Also, there is travel. When Kane Beracasa was in Turkey, she had a field day in the markets. “I purchased a necklace with big green and blue glass beads in the Grand Bazaar for $8. I love to mix it with my other pieces, like the blue Chopard watch and a pair of blue Marina B aquamarine and diamond earrings.” When she is not wearing the jewels, they are stored in safes at home and at the bank. Well, maybe not the $8 Turkish necklace. “But you know,” she says, “sometimes I like the inexpensive trinkets as much as the others.”
The Textile Queen: Adrienne Bon Haes
Like many collectors, artist and designer Adrienne bon Haes discovered her passion early on. “I sewed my first Barbie dress when I was six, and designed and made my first pantsuit at 13. I cut up my stepfather’s business suits to make my own clothes.” And then, about 17 years ago (and much to the relief of family members), she let others do the handiwork. “I bought my first Chinese embroidered silk jacket at an antique show for $22. I couldn’t believe it. It was fantastic—an explosion of colorful chrysanthemums. I love the details of Chinese garments—super-fine embroideries, mandarin collars, frog closures.” Other cultures beckoned. From the Ottoman Empire of Turkey came a wedding dress embroidered in silver threads dipped in a gold wash. From Burma, a dress made for Buddhist temple ceremonies. From India, richly embroidered silks from a royal family’s wardrobe.
Bon Haes doesn’t just stash these exquisite finds away: “It’s the bulk of my wardrobe. I buy things mainly with the intention of wearing them. I pair them with simple basics to give them a modern, wearable feel.” When she’s not donning her collection, she keeps pieces stored in her closet, arranged by country of origin. “I used to hang everything, but the weight of some of the embroideries on these fragile silks was causing stress, so many pieces had to be taken down and folded, which is a pity since you cannot see them in their full glory. But they still make a very colorful display.” She packs away “extra-precious” items in boxes wrapped in acid-free tissue and also makes sachets from cloves to ward off moths.
Bon Haes will do just about anything to get something “extra-precious.” That Buddhist ceremonial dress, for instance. “I found it in the back seat of an old car for sale in front of an antique shop in Rangoon. It was buried under 15 pounds of caked red-clay mud and held together with rusty safety pins, green from corrosion, seams split and with gaping holes from water rot. I had to hold back my excitement in the negotiations. I knew what it was. I spent three weeks removing the clay from the paillettes with a toothbrush.” But in the end, she has a piece of history, of another culture, of sheer beauty: “It’s an absolute fantasy of a piece, with flame-shaped elements sewn in composite silver metal paillettes, stitched onto the same terracotta-colored cotton milled for monks. Something Greta Garbo would have worn in Mata Hari.”
Or Adrienne bon Haes, enjoying her collection in Miami…
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PRESSCOTT MCDONALD