No judgement being passed in this regard, but for those of you who can't abide wearing critter skins, let me suggest anything made of baby cashmere or alpaca. AND for those of you fortunate to be blessed with family shekels or a well paying job, VICUNA! All of these fabrics are akin to fur without anyone having to sacrifice their life. It is reported that Al Capone himself was in possession of a Vicuna coat, an incredibly rare and precious item. I managed to get my mitts onto simply crafted ponchos in Buenos Aires that are allegedly made of Vicuna, affordable due to some governmental regulation, blah, blah. I have yet to use them, however, as ponchos are not exactly my style. I imagine they would be great sitting my arse at a Giants game, or some such activity. I hear tale from one of my work partners that Loro Piana makes a vicuna coat lined with sheared mink for men for a mere 40K. Apparently after listening to me droning on for ten years about my shopping shenanigans, he finally drank the koolaid. High quality cashmere and alpaca are incredibly soft, remarkable durable, and more versatile than full on fur, not to mention relatively light, and, ahem, politically correct. (This would be of no concern to inhabitants of the upper east side of NYC where fur is a necessary component of the winter portfolio). The protean manifestations of cashmere are on display everywhere in every retail store, accessible in its varied forms to all, in a host of styles and price points. (Somewhere in my drawers I even have a pair of Lanvin cashmere leggings, to be worn during my post viral thinner days).



One of the best things about traveling to Peru is the Llamas and Alpacas, man's best friends in these parts.



(If I ever give up medicine, I'm going into the cashmere goat raising business!!!!)

And when it comes to cashmere, there are three well known Italian Houses that specialize in this most lux of fabrications: Kiton, Loro Piana, and Brunello Cucinelli. With each of these special brands, you do not have to sacrifice function for form. This is sportswear at its finest, and with each passing year, I'm amazed at the breadth of choice these firms provide. They display variations of elegance, Loro Piana is more conservative, Cucinelli a bit more funky, and Kiton a blend of both. And though both lines specialize in all things cashmere, you can find a potpourri of items to be worn with to include woolens, leathers, belts, shoes, and purses. And Cucinelli seems to become yummier with each collection. Most recently I found some wonderful necklaces at part of the NM buy for fall winter.   

Throw any one of these show stoppers on over a T shirt and feel spectacular for the day!

Some of my favorite and most wearable pieces of clothing are by the master of casual elegance, Brunello Cucinelli. These special wears are assembled by a cadre of women in a castle in Umbria. The pieces are well made delectable concoctions, and for so called sportswear, not for the faint of heart when it comes to the price tag. However, there is a wide spectrum of looks in each of the collections, so you might try the tuxedo shirt with the caviar bead collar, as the proverbial toe in the water. Then when you find your interest piqued, you might try one of a myriad of the cashmere sweaters…..****sigh***the good news that no matter what piece you select, it pretty much ALL goes together, as the colors are neutral. And not all brown and grey. Black, brown, tan, mauve, dusty rose, blue, charcoal, rust , off white, aubergine…….The pieces are understated even when adorned by embellishments. If your taste runs towards the more subdued, rather than obvious bells and whistles, this is for you. But beware, its like getting your mitts on a bag of Lays potato chips, hard to stop at just one. These are two of my favorite pieces clothing.  I've rarely gotten more compliments and looks of amazement as I have when I've worn these beauties:


And one of them is akin to a vest, even b e t t e r....This is a special treatment with what looks like fur pulled through the fibers of an underlying sweater. If you're a fan of leather, this is the stuff dreams are made of, smooth as, well…insert the usual metaphor. In general, the pieces are slightly on the funkier bohemian side when compared to Loro Piana, the other iconic maker of exquisite cashmere apparel. This is perfect clothing for a temperate climate, such as here in SF, where layering is mandatory most of the time. And don't get me started on the shoe line…more on that later. As I write this, a new boutique is on the verge of opening in SF. (In general I prefer the department stores where one is under less scrutiny and can amble around before being "forced" into making a decision). Options for purchasing include wandering into the aforementioned stores on any given day, or better yet, attending one of the trunk shows. For those unfamiliar with the concept of the "trunk show", here it is: a representative from the "House" brings the wares for the next upcoming season. For example, in the winter months, the trunk shows on display will be for the fall winter season. Many if not all of the looks for that season will be on a series of garment racks for your perusal, usually in the sample size 6. I like this option because you have the ability to choose items that will not be purchased by the stores for there stock. Some of the most FABULOUS pieces of clothing I own were from these trunk shows. Usually you only have to cough up the shekels when the items come in, typically 5-6 months later. (Sometimes for the pricier of the runway item, a deposit is required). I'd advise finding a point person at any of the above stores who gets to know your taste, and will inform you when pre-sale starts, so you can attempt to get the occasional bargain, such as a BC cashmere sweater at 60% off (better than chocolate). For instance, if your taste tends towards the more casual and subdued, the last thing you need is a call when the bugle bead festooned jacket goes on sale. (It seems as if the stores are buying less merchandise these days, so certain pieces will NEVER be found on the sales rack. Hence, the importance of the trunk show.)

The usual suspects carry Brunello. Here in San Francisco Wilkes Bashford, Neiman Marcus, and Saks have large selections, and enough pieces to fashion many outfits.

Recent looks from BC, brought to you by Neiman Marcus:

As you can see from the images above, BC is expanding their shoe empire as well, and though not as prolific as Manolo Blahnik and Louboutin, they have a great line of sporty, comfy, cool shoes. They haven't gone deep into hooch at this point, but there is always Charlotte Olympia if you want to sex up the skinny suede pants! I love the fur vest, and am in fact in the midst of a vest obsession. This kind of piece adds much visual interest, is fun to pet in moments of boredom, and will keep you warm while wandering around St. Moritz, or San Francisco in July. Its worth the Ramen noodles you'll be eating after buying it. And who doesn't need the occasional capelet, when a moment of whimsy strikes?

So, you can see that most of the pieces can be mixed and matched, the colors are all "neutral". This only matters when you don't want to have to think too hard in the morning on the way to work. I sleep till the last moment, and can't afford to navel gaze for too long in my closet. Feathers aside, this clothing is luxurious but low maintenance. You won't leave a trail of bling on the ground when stumbling around in the morning, barely awake, trying to get dressed………

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