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For now Central Oregon entrepreneur Melissa Kuchta only dreams of traveling to Bali. The Bend mother of two has never been to the Indonesian Island often described as paradise with white sandy beaches, volcanic mountains and lush jungle landscapes. It is the island’s cultural side that made this remote island in the Indian Ocean the ideal spot to start her handbag and footwear company. “Bali is an amazing island, full of soul and culture, with so many amazing artisans. It is also a haven for making high quality leather products,” says Kuchta.
Kuchta says she always knew she would work in fashion. Nearly a decade ago, she began making plans to launch her own footwear and handbag company. “The U.S. is impossible because of expenses, I didn’t want to go to China, and I was drawn to Bali,” Kuchta recalls.
So via the Internet, Kuchta began searching Bali for someone to help make her dream of creating handmade shoes and handbags a reality. That someone is Russian born leather manufacturer and designer Olga Luchanskaya. “We just clicked instantly. Our design sense, our attention to quality and customer service are all the same,” says Kuchta. In 2009 the two women, living worlds apart, launched their footwear and handbag company: Elf, which stands for Everyone. Living. Free. Kuchta says with a chuckle, “Our name may not have huge inspiration; we just liked it.”
Luchanskaya lives in Bali and oversees all production. Kuchta is responsible for distribution. “Elf shoes and handbags are in 50 stores nationwide, as well as Japan, Australia, and Canada,” Kuchta says with pride. Kuchta and Luchanskaya work together diligently, designing new styles each season. “We have 400 different styles of shoes and an extensive handbag line. We add new styles to our collection every six months,” says Kuchta. To minimize impact on the environment, paper comes from locally sourced cocoa plants, and all the leather is hand dyed on the island. Elf products are not made with large machines. “I think what sets us apart is everything we do is truly made by hand. Even our patterns are cut by hand,” says Kuchta. “When we say handmade, we really mean it. Every pair of shoes is double and triple checked,” says Kuchta.
At the end of this month Kuchta will debut her shoes in Bend with her first ever Central Oregon Elf Footwear and Handbag Trunk Show at Desperado in the Old Mill District. “I will have samples of my spring collection available for people to see and feel,” says Kuchta. She’ll also have leather and color samples and a tape measure to ensure perfect fit. “People will have the opportunity to order whatever they want. What’s most important to us is customer service. We make it right,” says Kuchta.
Elf footwear runs about $110-$190 a pair. Handbags cost about $110 for a clutch to weekend travel bags retailing for about $320. The Elf – Everyone. Living. Free. Trunk Show will be held on Saturday, May 30th from 12:00-7:00pm at Desperado in the Old Mill District at 330 SW Powerhouse Drive.
Desperado has a rich tradition of carrying only the finest apparel, boots, jewelry and products around. We search the world over to bring our customers the best of the best. So when our search brings us back to our roots we know we have something to boast about and that’s why we are proudly introducing our newest line of blankets and throws from Shaniko, Oregon’s Imperial Stock Ranch.
If the name rings a bell that’s because Imperial Stock Ranch entered into the world spotlight during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia after fashion legend Ralph Lauren chose their wool for his Opening Ceremony sweaters worn by the entire USA Olympic Team at the Parade of Nations.
And just like the Olympic sweaters – Imperial Stock Ranch uses only the finest wool in its new line of blankets and throws. We invite you to watch this video showing the fascinating world of wool making…a technique as tried and true as the 140 year old Shaniko, Oregon ranch the wool comes from. Thank you to ranchers Dan and Jeanne Carver for keeping this age-old tradition alive and bringing Desperado and its customers the finest blankets available anywhere.
Scott Emmerich has spent his adult life keeping alive the age-old tradition of custom handmade boot making. It’s almost a lost art and one only a handful of boot craftsmen continue worldwide today. “I have in-house, 6 of the best master boot makers in the world and 4 who are older and pickup work and take it home,” Emmerich says with a chuckle. Emmerich then sighs and adds, “My master boot makers range in age from 57 to 86. When we’re gone, we’re gone. There’s no boot makers like us anymore.” Emmerich owns and operates The Tres Outlaws Boot Company in El Paso, Texas.
From tanning their own leather to the finishing polish, Emmerich and his team create custom western boots that are not only molded to fit a customer’s foot perfectly, but every stitch and detail are meticulously and completely done by hand. Emmerich proudly says,
“I like the artistic side of me that can create boots that have never been done before. You have to engineer them because my boots are art that can also be worn.”
This fall, Central Oregonians will get a rare treat and opportunity to meet Emmerich and see some of Tres Outlaws’ prize boots at a special one-day event on Saturday, November 8th. Joanne Sunnarborg has been a fan of Emmerich and his boots since she opened her store 18 years ago. “I have a collection of Tres Outlaws Boots and just when I tell myself I have enough, we do a show and I discover a pair I just have to add to my collection,” says Sunnarborg. As proprietor of Desperado Boutique in the Old Mill District, Sunnarborg says, “Bringing Emmerich to the store gives people a chance to learn about boot making and the opportunity to create their own pair of wearable art.”
Tres Outlaws Boots start at about $500 and have gone as high as $50,000. The ultra expensive boots include details like exotic leathers, 18 karat gold and precious stones. A simple pair of Tres Outlaws Boots has 210 steps and takes 40 hours to make. The company makes about 10 pairs a week, and depending on difficulty customers can expect to wait anywhere from 4 weeks to a year to get a pair made. Emmerich says, “I am very detail oriented. There are no short cuts when you’re getting the best of the best,” and adds, “My customers know the cost and wait are worth it.”
Recently a prize pair inspired from a trip to Spain won Emmerich the Western Spirit Award and the People’s Choice Award at the Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The boots took hundreds of hours to make and nearly 200 different colors can be seen in the butterflies and crosses that adorn the leather. “I like my boots to tell the story of people’s lives or what they love in life,” reflects Emmerich.
Tres Outlaws boots are also featured in numerous books and on display in museums including a permanent exhibit called “Legends of the West” at the George Bush Presidential Library. Emmerich says, “It’s nice to be in museums, but my favorite part is the testimonials from people who love my boots and making people happy is the largest compliment of all.”
So when asked in our recent phone interview why people should come see his boots when he visits Bend, Emmerich again says with a long laugh, “All you need to bring are your ideas and your feet. I’ve designed 40,000 boots over the last 32 years and my favorite ones are the ones still in my head.”
Scott Emmerich of Tres Outlaws Boot Company will be at Desperado Boutique in the Old Mill District on Saturday, November 8th from 12pm-8pm. 330 SW Powerhouse Drive, Ste 120, Bend, OR 541-749-9980 www.desperadowesternwear.com
Second only to finding the perfect bathing suit is the seemingly never-ending search for the perfect pair of great fitting jeans. The choices are many – from low-rise to high-rise, flair to boot cut, to what makes a great color (better known in denim dialogue as ‘wash’). The good news is you don’t need to be a denim expert you just need to know where to find one. Desperado is about to do that for you.
This Saturday, September 20th from 2:00-6:00pm Desperado Boutique in the Old Mill District will hold its first Denim Event with Dear John Denim Expert Kaitlin Moor. Moor resides in Los Angeles and represents one of America’s leading jean fashion lines: Dear John.
We caught up with Dear John’s Denim Designer David Tak recently and picked his brain on what women can expect to learn at Desperado’s Denim Event.
David, what is the first thing a woman should think about when investing in a pair of jeans? Fit, Fit, Fit…
Is there a style for everyone? Some rules of thumb when it comes to body types and the best style of denim to fit a woman’s figure? No, there really is not a style for everyone as every body type is different…but as a general rule of thumb, most women can’t go wrong with a good mid-rise bootcut or a mid-rise skinny.
What ‘new trends’ or ‘must haves’ are we seeing in jeans this season? A lot of denim brands are bringing back the “Flare Jean” in various ways. Everything from the 70’s Hippie Flare to a more subtle Trouser Flare.
Can the right pair of shoes or heel height make a difference? Definitely yes, depending on the length and the size of the leg opening.
How much do we really need to spend to get a great pair of jeans? I would say anything in between $80-$120. Anything over that is usually made in Los Angeles and you are paying a “Premium” because of it. The more “expensive” brands are tacking on a lot of costs associated with branding and where it’s made but a lot of those costs really have nothing to do with how good the actual product is.
What advice to you give women when they seek help in finding a new pair of jeans? Try on as many brands as you can and find a brand that fits you well. Every brand tries to cater to as many body types as possible but you will find some brands really fit you better then others.
To find your personal best fitting pair of denim visit Desperado Boutique in the Old Mill District. Dear John’s fitting expert will be at the boutique Saturday, Sept 20th from 2:00-6:00pm. Enjoy prizes, special giveaways and signature cocktails from Bendistillery.
To see proper care of your Dear John denim, click HERE
Y Knot Branded founders Kelly Beall & Wendy Weems were featured in the Bend Bulletin June 10, 2014. We were happy to have been involved with their photo shoot!
Sisters-based Y Knot Branded to launch shoe line
By Valerie Smith • The Bulletin / Published Jun 10, 2014 at 12:01AM
Central Oregon sisters Kelly Beall and Wendy Weems saw a void in women’s fashion footwear for shoes that brought together the big city and the Old West.
So the duo, who manage their business from their homes in Sisters and Tumalo, started Y Knot Branded and plan to launch their first shoe collection, Alpha Mare, next month. Weems is the sole investor, and Beall the lead designer.
The company specializes in shoes that are a cross between traditional Western styles and high-end heels. Beall and Weems say Y Knot Branded is, “Where New York and the Old West collide.”
Those in the Alpha Mare collection feature hand-tooled leather similar to designs found on Western saddles. Some shoes are adorned with silver nail heads; some have conchos; and others sport Western buckles.
They have names like Tequila Sunset, a celosia orange-colored shoe, CowDiva and Cowboy’s Sweetheart.
The sisters’ love of horses and ranching inspired the designs, Weems said.
“The trends for women in Western lifestyles are usually frilly skirts and dresses,” Weems said. “They always have to wear cowboy boots. A cross between boots and flip-flops or heels has never been explored before.”
The sisters started the business in January 2013, formally branding their company in January 2014.
The shoes will be showcased at Desperado Boutique in the Old Mill District and High Desert Ranch and Home, both located in Bend. Ten other retail locations across the U.S. and three in Canada will also sell the shoes.
Y Knot Branded sells shoes wholesale, not directly to consumers. However, it does offer online shopping through two retailers, via YKnotBranded.com.
Beall, who thought of the initial idea for the products, designed and worked in the Western fashion industry for close to 20 years. Weems, an artist and sculptor, put in the money to make the business happen.
“The other ideas that she’s had were amazing, but this one is just unique, and I couldn’t quit thinking about her drawings,” said Weems. “My husband couldn’t quit thinking about her drawings, and if we didn’t do it, someone else would.”
As far as testing the market to see if the shoes would be successful, they threw that idea out the window.
“No, we went backwards,” Weems said. “We didn’t test the market, but we had an unveiling back in January with women connected to the fashion industry.
“I would think we invited about 20 from our local area, and the response was overwhelming. As far as market research, it was small and local; we felt like it was enough to go ahead and take a chance on it.”
To see the full Bend Bulletin article, click here.
We all have jeans, but when it comes to denim pants, and proper care, no one says it better than Dear John Denim.
Remember, love your clothes, and they will last a lifetime!
Wash your denim pants inside-out in cold water and, if you prefer, hang to dry.
You can find a full selection of Dear John denim at Desperado!
Central Oregon sisters, Kelly Beall and Wendy Weems never dreamed of being shoe designers. As little girls growing up in the small farming community of Jefferson, Oregon between Salem and Albany, fashion was not part of their world. “Golly no!” Beall says with a laugh, “There was no fashion in our house. We were either barefoot or wearing cowboy boots.” That was then and this is now. Five years ago Wendy moved to Central Oregon after nearly 20 years in the South. Kelly arrived a year later from Texas. “Oregon is home. We’re proud of where we come from and where we are now”, says Beall.
Beall and Weems are also proud of their new joint venture. Weems says, “Kelly always carried a sketch book full of shoes she had drawn and I kept telling her I want to wear those shoes.” One night Weems says she had an epiphany. “I kept having what I call ‘God-Winks’ telling me this is what we needed to do, so I woke up and called my sister and said come over here and let’s do business,” recalls Weems. Within days Beall and Weems formed a business partnership and began developing Y Knot Branded footwear.
Weems says, “Kelly is the designer and I’m the venture capitalist.” But they come from a family of artists and both lend a hand to design and the finished product. Beall counters, “Wendy will look one of our sample shoes and instantly see that a nail head is one-one-hundredth of an inch out of place. She catches every detail. We make an incredible team” Beall says they began creating what they wanted in footwear, but couldn’t find in stores. “I love my western heritage, but you can’t wear cowboy boots with every outfit.” Beall and Weems find inspiration in everything from a favorite pair of old chaps to a childhood saddle. Even the name ‘Y Knot Branded’ comes from Beall’s registered Oregon horse brand. This spring ‘Y Knot Branded’ launches its first line of footwear. The women’s collection is an array of high heeled and platform sandals and shoes in 15 western influenced styles.
“It feels surreal,” Beall says, “We’ve been a great team and our hard work is paying off.” Y Knot Branded shoes will be in at least 12 stores across the US and Canada this June. But Central Oregon gets a sneak peak this weekend. Beall and Weems will unveil their new line of Y Knot Branded shoes at Desperado in the Old Mill District. This special Trunk Show Event features Y Knot Branded shoes and Old Gringo Boots beginning Friday, May 9 through Sunday, May 11th . Beall says, “We still feel like barn kids, and now we’re barn kids with big dreams.”
Beall and Weems will be at Desperado throughout the trunk show with their new Y Knot Branded collection. For more information call (541) 749-9980.
For centuries, spiritual symbols and themes have inspired the creation and display of art. So it comes as no surprise to us at Desperado Boutique in Bend Oregon’s Old Mill District, that many of these symbols have crossed over into today’s fashion world.
“Symbols of one’s spiritual beliefs have stood the test of time throughout the world and within the art community,” says Joanne Sunnarborg, owner of Desperado. “Now the fashion world is paying homage to these very symbols.”
Today, from Madison Avenue to the Old Mill District, it’s common to find both clothing and accessories embellished with symbols such as crosses, angel wings, rosaries, the depiction of saints, and the trendy-though-spiritual peace sign.
And while this ultimate display of wearing one’s heart on her sleeve may transcend certain styles, Sunnarborg sees it as more a tradition within the Western style of clothing.
“Because the Western lifestyle is so eclectic, it often incorporates elements of Mexican, Spanish and Native American cultures,” she said. “These cultures are steeped in spiritual and religious tradition, and that’s often depicted within their clothing and accessories. Fashions today allow people to express themselves in many different ways,” she said. “This gives people the ability to reflect their own personal beliefs in a way that’s both attractive and artistic. Many of these symbols have meanings that are universal within specific religious circles, but often people find their own, more personal meanings through the display of these symbols.”
Stop by Desperado in the Old Mill District, or their online store and see their collection of clothing and accessories that fit your fashion and spiritual style.
On February 17th (5 AM to be precise) Joanne, Haleigh and Rebecca (that’s me) embarked on most every woman’s dream – attending the largest fashion convention in the world – better known as Magic Market Week in Las Vegas.
In a nutshell, for more than a decade, Magic Market Week has brought fashion designers and boutique retailers from around the world together. It now fills 5 Vegas convention halls and is the premiere event that shapes fashion for the upcoming year.
Wow!!! Right??? For the record…Joanne has attended this event practically since its inception; Haleigh has been in the world of fashion practically since her conception; and I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 12 years, wearing mostly sweatpants and messy ponytails. Thank God for my Desperado ‘work life’ intervention!
Fueled by PowerBars, instant coffee and Emergen-C, we hit the strip running. Our mission was to visit all our major designers and to scour the endless rows of 10×12 booths. We were in search of those up-and-coming fashion designers to add to our Desperado spring, summer, fall & winter collections.
I can assure you, it’s going to be a great year at Desperado Boutique! The trends are awesome and fit really well with our broadening clothing lines. There will be lots of beautiful embroidery, soft knits, and great denim with less emphasis on bling and more on fit in really cool colors. Dresses will flatter every figure. There will be jackets in spectacular faux leather and fur.
Desperado will also be debuting a much larger footwear department with the addition of great new lines including OG by Old Gringo and Steve Madden’s new Freebird collection. My wish list is long!
The Magic Market Week days were also long. Joanne’s bracelet that monitors everything from her heart rate to sleeping patterns clocked us at walking 9 miles of convention floor in a single day. All of us were in cowboy boots! Mine, brand new and while that wasn’t my smartest packing item, it is a testament to Old Gringo- I survived. Besides we all looked good.
I could likely go on forever with tales from Vegas, but you know the saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. So I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts:
Biggest Tip: Every garment needs to be touched to know quality. And we know Joanne knows quality.
Biggest Triumph: Booking Johnny Was as a Trunk Show for our 18th Anniversary Celebration this fall.
Biggest Smile: Watching 4 of the original Commodores do ‘synchronize dance’ the opening night of convention. Shhhhh…Haleigh had to Google them (she’s from the younger set). Joanne and I knew all their songs (what does that tell you?).
Biggest Disappointment: Underwear models really do have perfect bodies – it’s not airbrushing after all.
Biggest Scam: the Oxygen Bar – breathing 20 minutes of blueberry smelling “pure oxygen” doesn’t really perk you up!
Biggest Scam #2: United Airlines offering a $7 voucher after telling you your flight won’t be leaving San Francisco for another 8 hours. $7 buys nothing in an airport!
Biggest Realization: I am grateful for all the Joannes and Haleighs of this world. It’s their relentless pursuit of beautiful and high quality fashion that gives us all the opportunity to feel good about the way we look.
Biggest Accomplishment: That for one week, I too could be a part of bringing to Desperado some of the best fashion the world has to offer.