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The Perfect Summer Dress: Sicily Debut

I found the perfect summer dress!

A google search lead me to it. It’s Simone Rocha x H&M.

woman sitting in front of garden in red check dress
Here’s a Fr 38, US 6 on Vestiaire: https://shopstyle.it/l/bvWWu

With so many people asking me about the dress — even before I posted our engagement photos — I decided to post about this summer dress because I’m kind of obsessed with it and the look. You’ll probably be seeing a lot of it this summer! I was looking up “red check summer dresses” and found it on Poshmark, then found my size New With Tags on Vestiaire. It was my first time using the app so I also got $25 with WelcomeUS code. Customer service was great — there were delays with USPS.

man and woman kissing in front of ancient Greek and Roman theatre. Woman in red check dress
Here’s a new with tags on Vestiaire in 34 XS, that’s what I’m wearing: https://shopstyle.it/l/bvWWw

I reached out to H&M about this collection but they never got back to me. The collection was kind of slept on probably due to the “pancake” and I hardly saw influencers promoting it.

I loved when my friends Carolyn & Sophie had my Veronica Beard loafers and I love bringing good deals to you guys, I also love procrastinating because I have a deadline and a brand partnership due today.

Woman walking in front of pink wall with purple Vespa and red check dress
Here’s an XL on Poshmark. In my Shopstyle widget I have a link for the sandals, K JACQUES and the bag, BALLY as well. European friends, you can also get the bag here.

Getting you guys the details on this dress feels more important. So I created and this blog post on the look with my ShopStyle Collective Widget to the dress in a variety of sizes from Vestiaire Collective and then 5 separate links from finds on Poshmark.

woman dancing in front of church in red check dress
Here’s a link to a Fr 40, US 8: https://shopstyle.it/l/bvWWF

I have a short torso, so it’s not babydoll mini on me as I’ve seen on some people, so keep that in mind. Maybe order a size up if you want it to fit as mine. That being said, the width is just right for me. I didn’t want it too fitted.

Woman in front of walls with red check dress
this is the best deal I’ve seen, it says never worn, and is a size 38, https://shopstyle.it/l/bvWWJ

Check it all out right here!

https://widgets.shopstyle.com/?sc-widget-id=P-60decf1a40f729306c99678b

XS, S and Medium on Poshmark: https://poshmark.com/listing/Simone-Rocha-x-HM-Asymmetric-Cotton-Dress-605137446f6c91a66f1bed57

S on Poshmark: https://poshmark.com/listing/NWT-HM-x-Simone-Rocha-Assymetric-Red-Dress-S-60935267275e55266dc9b675

S on Poshmark: https://poshmark.com/listing/Simone-Rocha-x-HM-Asymmetric-Cotton-Dress-607da6b67468d5a63748889c

Fr 38 on Poshmark: https://poshmark.com/listing/Simone-Rocha-x-HM-Gingham-Cotton-Dress-NWT-6050e58ece1e877d76bf1f39

XL Poshmark: https://poshmark.com/listing/Simone-Rocha-X-HM-Asymmetric-Cotton-Dress-Size-XL-60d8bdbacb692c2d5c624cd3

The Perfect Weekend in Mexico City

Love exploring cities? Here’s a perfect travel guide to Mexico City.

You guys know how much I love Mexico. My love of Sayulita actually started my travel writing career. This time around, I was able to explore a very different side of the country than the coasts. With just a 4.5 hour flight from NYC, less from LA, head to this amazing cosmopolitan city for some fun, fashion and fulfillment. Here’s my perfect long weekend travel guide to Mexico City to get you started.

W Mexico City invited @skinnywashere, @troprouge, @lexiconofstyle, @catcherinthestyle, @neivy, @so.shauna, and me, @nneya to explore their city, bursting back to life after the pandemic. Seemingly unstoppable cities around the world went sleepy, but if this is Mexico City just waking up, wow! Vibrant, fun, cultured, sexy are just a few ways to describe this city, so naturally, we fit right in.


I missed exploring countries around the world. We all did. And while Americans have been going to Mexico during the pandemic, travel has been more escapism. Nightlife, restaurants, theatre, the pulse of cities were shuttered; people looked to get away from city life when they traveled. It was amazing to feel the energy of another city. Mexico City just feels good.

Thania caught me at Chapultapec

People are masked up, hand sanitizer is offered abundantly, temperature checks are done before when entering businesses. Most of us were vaccinated but wore masks around anyway to comply with local rules and regulations. Even in outdoor tourist attractions, like our visit to Chapultepec Castle, mask wearing was heavily enforced. Plastic safety barriers, and masks didn’t prevent you from feeling the smiles and warm welcome of the W team.

W Mexico City set the tone, welcoming us to our Secret Floor in the hotel.

neon sign saying W Mexico City and girl standing in front of it

Think vintage real world Las vegas vibes except no one’s running to claim a bed. There’s more than enough room for everyone, plus a gaming area, private spa room, dining area with a terrace, and movie room. Still pod traveling? You and your crew should do it in style, like us. Now that we set the mood, let’s get into it!

It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Mexico City has some of the best nightlife in the world and though the pandemic has dampened it, you can still enjoy a safe night out if you know where to look. Think roaring 20s fun. Ask W Mexico City’s W Insider, Diego Martinez, he’ll have you covered. 😉 We may have gone to a speakeasy….. Here are some great places to eat and drink while you’re in town.

Mexico is the only place I go that I actively seek out Mexican food as soon as I return home!

W’s room service is super delicious. We arrived late and the first thing I ordered was a shrimp cocktail. I also had a yummy tuna ceviche during my stay there as well as chilaquiles for breakfast.

girl eating chilaquiles in bed
self-portrait of me living my best life

Try the lush and vibey restaurant Puerto Prendes (Calle de Durango 175, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700) in Roma Norte. It has high ceilings and is dripping with flora and fauna like a Babylonian garden, definitely make your way here for drinks and shared tapas. Aguachile is my favorite Mexican dish that is so hard to find done well at restaurants in New York, so per Diego’s recommendation I tried it at Puerto Prendes. Delicious.

some of our meal at Puerto Prendes

Let’s get back to that aguachile. After some vintage shopping in Roma I met Christina at a sunny plaza side restaurant, Cabrera 7 (Plaza Luis Cabrera 7, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700). Perfect for people watching and an eclectic cool design, this restaurant had the winning aguachile of the trip: a yummy aguachile negro — with squid ink!

Alexandra and Christina also visited nearby Madre Café (Orizaba 131, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700) and they highly recommended it.

For a great lounge specializing in delicious gin based cocktails, head to Gin Gin Kitchenbar (Oaxaca 87, Roma)

Eating and drinking is absolutely my idea of fun, but let’s get into those pinch yourself moments, huh?

Where once in a lifetime becomes, every once in a while.

Life in Mexico City seems to really be lived; composed of a series of once in a lifetime experiences that become a way of living. As a New Yorker, I get it. Bucket list living. A hot air balloon over the Teotihuacan pyramids, a Temazcal ritual performed by a shamana in your hotel, a Xochimilco floating gardens tour and sunset dinner in our short weekend we seemed to check off a list of must dos in Mexico City, but believe it or not, it seemed like the natural flow.

Girl and floating top, hot air balloons, teotihuacan pyramids in front

Watching the sun come up in a hot air balloon is such an incredible experience. All I will say is that it’s a pretty smooth ride until the landing.

us piled in a hot air balloon
girl sitting on pink wall, Xochimilco colorful floating boats behind her.

So colorful and vibrant we could have spent hours taking photos on the dock. We all joked that Venice should be like this and cut the romance: make canal rides fun! You might think these colorful music and booze filled rides only attract tourists but you’d be wrong. When I posted on my insta-stories friends from Mexico City replied, “Yes! That’s the way to do Mexico City! I miss this with my friends!” 

two girls toasting on a Xochimilco floating gardens boat.

Now let’s talk fashion — no travel guide to Mexico City would be complete with our the high fashion coming out of the metropolis!

Mexico City has amazing shopping. Rugs, bags, lots of hats, arts, jewelry, markets and luxury shops. We shopped them all! We did a walking tour of the San Ángel neighborhood, cruised by the famed Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo House Studio Museum, the landmark Iglesia de San Jacinto and the tianguis, Saturday’s open air markets. If you’re anything like me and shopping and bargaining works up an appetite, snag a taco from a street vendor like our guide Ricardo suggested to Neivy and I or a delicious iced coffee at open air food and shopping hall Mercado Del Carmen. I definitely made use of the Whatever, Whenever button in my hotel room and the team at W perfectly packed my newly purchased rug making it easy for check in.

in sun in front of Iglesia de San Jacinto old church
Iglesia de San Jacinto

Sometimes hotels are in hotel districts, or more touristy areas, cut off from the city locals but W Mexico City is nestled in the posh Polanco area surrounded by highrises, posh boutiques and the ornate Colonial Californiano and Spanish Colonial Revival style villas.

Walking in front of an ornate building entrance in Polanco area of Mexico City

Less than a five minute walk away from W, down a leafy block, is Avenida Presidente Masaryk; be sure to check it out for amazing people watching and world-class concept stores. Compared to LA’s Rodeo Drive or New York’s Fifth Ave. Avenida Presidente Masaryk is chic and seemingly attracts the well heeled of Mexico City. I love visiting concept stores in my travels and was happy to find two new favorites. Visit Lago DF (Av. Pdte. Masaryk 310, Polanco) or Ikal (Av. Pdte. Masaryk 340A, Polanco) and shop high end made in Mexico designers in stunning clothing, jewelry and home decor. 

girl shopping in a concept clothing store

Into vintage shopping? Check out Good Bye Folk (Córdoba 55, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700) in Roma. Three floors of amazing finds.

Fulfillment. It’s easy to embrace the pride of Mexico’s ancient civilization, even in a bustling metropolis. A Mexico City travel guide wouldn’t be complete without some reflection.

When the W team suggested the option of a thousands of years old traditional Mexican ceremonial sweat lodge, I couldn’t wait. The temazcal ritual. The first shock was the actual temazcal: a traditional structure on the spa floor of the hotel! The shape of a temazcal is to symbolize a womb and it happened to work out that we had an all women ritual. Our shamana Coco took us through 5 stages – having us channel that eagerness and naivety from birth, empowering us to present day. I cried, deep breathed, ached, sweated my weight and felt energized by the ladies surrounding me. I felt empowered in my purpose and set MY GOALS, MY INTENTIONS. She said things I absolutely needed to hear. Though I couldn’t understand all of her chanting, I was so moved.

How fitting that on my first press trip back, the excitement, the energy of returning to travel and exploration that I experience this rejuvenation. I then took a COOOOOOLD shower back in my room.

Our last night

At a certain point of the weekend I began to feel like I was a contestant on a reality TV show and the W was just crafting experiences for us to jump up and down to. Our Farewell Dinner at the EWOW Suite was one of those moments. Wow. Incredible views of the sunsetting over Mexico City and a room that was so decadent and glam that you wonder, how could one stay here and ever leave the room? We dressed to impress and content, content, content! And laughs, delicious food. This wasn’t a staged shoot. We were really enjoying each other’s company that much — I’ve never had a trip like this! 

It was hard to say goodbye to what became our home away from home for the weekend but W Mexico City even made traveling during Covid times easy for us. To return to the US, you need a negative test within two days of your flight and the team arranged for a concierge lab to test all of us at the hotel. Talk about service!

A note on getting around. Getting around was easy, I Ubered and walked everywhere for really great rates. Would absolutely recommend.

dancing sunset overlooking Mexico City

So, when are you booking your trip?

All photos of me by Skinny (Karston Tannis)

Mexico City Travel Guide for Pinterest

Tripadvisor Byline: Wedding Planning During Covid

Are you planning a wedding during this Covid pandemic? I have some advice for you via Tripadvisor!

Dancing with the Bride
my friend Katelyn’s wedding in fall 2014, Copyright Renzi-Hawkens Studio

Wedding planning during Covid: it’s been rough! This past weekend I saw one of my first maskless weddings come through on my Instagram stories. The wedding was in New York where we have high vaccination rates and I couldn’t help but to smile. Slowly, we can start looking forward to these things. But it was pretty risky of the bride. Who knew President Biden was going to exceed his vaccination targets within the first 100 days in office. Brides like my dear friend, Kelly King, postponed their weddings more than once another friend Camilla Lesser, after going through several plans, eloped and had a beautiful wedding in St. Lucia. I spoke to these brides and wedding planner Courtney Ajinca, who planned Cynthia Bailey and Mike Hill’s wedding for Tripadvisor.com.

A bride and her bridesmaids surrounding her
my friend Sophie’s wedding, Summer 2014. Photo by Aaron Purkey

It’s one of the most awful things you can tell a couple in the months or weeks before their big day: “We have to cancel the wedding.” More often than not, weddings are one of those events that reserve a show-must-go-on ethos. A canceled wedding is usually more indicative of a change in relationship status. But then 2020 happened and wedding cancelations skyrocketed due to the pandemic, with 35 percent of couples in 2020 choosing to postpone their weddings to 2021 or later according to a bankrate.com survey. Celebrity wedding planner Courtney Ajinca of Courtney Ajinca Events told us she lost 90 percent of her clients in 2020 and that most of her colleagues lost at least 70% of their clients, if not more.

If you’re one of those people experiencing a wedding cancelation, here are a few things you should know.

see more of my article on Tripadvisor.com
Tripadvisor Article with headline: Wedding Canceled Because of Covid? Here's How to Deal

So, what do you think? Would you feel comfortable going to a wedding this summer?

Me laughing at a wedding with bridesmaids surrounding
Copyright Renzi-Hawkens Studio

BIPOC Travelers + Allies See Me at Audacity Fest Sat May 1st!

I am so appreciative of the support you perfectionists have given me over the years. I love being able to impart my experience and industry knowledge to you and here’s a fun accessible opportunity coming up for you to hear me and my colleagues speak.

BIPOC Travelers + Allies See Me at Audacity Fest Sat May 1st!
I’ll be speaking on a panel on Bridging the Gap from Industry to Influencer.

Headshot and Audacity Fest Badge

There are a few verticals to what is known as the BIPOC travel movement. Forward facing, we have the influencers who work their magic in the social media space. Internally, we have the corporate partners that are our representations at the Board of Tourism tables. On the research side, we have the data aggregators to help create the full picture, through numbers, of our impact on the industry. On the ground, we have the vendors and suppliers who help bring our experience to life. This panel is a moment for us all to come together and see how we can advocate for one another. 

I’m so excited to chat with my fellow panelist, luxury travel advisors, academics, tour operator and so much more.

$20 gets you entrance to all of the sessions in Audacity Fest Digi Vol. 5 on Saturday with $5 donation going to one of the spotlighted vendors directly affected by Covid.

Here’s a glimpse of the 25,000+ Nomadness Travel Tribe and Audacity Fest’s manifesto.

Nomadness Travel Tribe's Manifesto

Does this sound like you? If so, come hang with us on Saturday! A few years ago I watched Evita Robinson speak at the New York Times Travel Show and was absolutely riveted by her purpose and the community she created. It’s an honor for me to be apart of Audacity Fest Digi Vol 5. this weekend and can’t wait to continue the dialogue! Join us!

Tickets start at $20 for general admission. Have a friend over, treat it like a brunch party and let us guide you on your next adventure. I want to hear from you! Get your tickets here:

https://hopin.com/events/audacity-digi-vol-5-may-1?ref=0117d5987c7e

About Audacity Digi

NOMADNESS TRAVEL TRIBE CREATED A ONE DAY DIGITAL EVENT SERIES THAT BRIDGES OUR INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY + PARTNERS. WE FOSTER THE DIALOGUE THAT IS THE BEDROCK TO OUR WORLDWIDE COMMUNITY OF TRAVELERS, CREATIVES, AND SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS OF COLOR. IN AUDACITY DIGI, WE DISCUSS A VARIED RANGE OF TOPICS, ALL THROUGH AN INTERNATIONAL LENS.
AUDACITY DIGI IS HITTING ON THE INTERACTIVE FRONT, AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO BRINGING THE ATTENDEES AND OUR PARTNERS INTO THE EXPERIENCE. TIME TO BREATHE SOME LIFE, SOME ENERGY, SOME US INTO THE WORLD RIGHT NOW! 
WHAT'S INSIDE:
- Multiple speaking sessions and hands-on workshops + Panels with top travel influencers of color from the US and Europe
- Both LIVE and pre-recorded content
- Digital Expo where we are making it a point to showcase many long time partners and as many minority-owned businesses as we can -- with perks and discounts for all of our attendees
- One on one video / audio networking + event wide chat with other attendees

I can’t wait to see you all in the BIPOC Travel Community at Audacity Fest!

Perfect Afternoon in Crema

Fan of “Call Me By Your Name?” Then you might know the Italian city of Crema! Want a list of things to do in Crema? Here’s your guide to a perfect afternoon in Crema, Italy.

Image of Girl walking in Crema with Watchtower Behind her. Light blue sky, Cathedral on Right
Historic center of Crema with the Arco del Torrazzo behind me.

Check this guide to a famously romantic Italian city.

One morning late last summer, Michele and I waited for the sky to clear and looked at maps of the Bergamo area for an afternoon jaunt on his dad’s motorcycle. Crema was perfect. What should have been a 40 minute motorcycle ride (we got lost!) took us through small towns. Imagine lazy golden Italian piazzas and babbling brooks.

Man on motorcycle in front of Basilica Santa Maria della Croce
in front of Basilica Santa Maria della Croce

It’s easy to see why Guadagnino chose the Northern Italy area and the city of Crema as a setting for his “quintessential Italy.” Crema’s landmarks aren’t on the tourists drag so while the beautiful buildings evoke Italy, it’s not the Duomo in Milan or Florence, or Piazza San Marco in Venice. Crema is along the river Serio. The center showcases charming, baroque and renaissance architecture.

So, in Milan for a little? Take an afternoon trip to Crema and here’s your perfect guide, “Call Me By Your Name” sites included.

——

Girl in front of Red Brick Rotunda of a Basilica
In front of Basilica Santa Maria della Croce

FIRST STOP: Basilica Santa Maria della Croce a 15 minute walk outside the city center. Built in 1490, the art in this minor basilica is a baroque dream. 

Pastry show window with chocolate mounds inside
not so ugly! Brutti ma buoni

GNOSH ON… stop at a local pasticceria and grab some brutti ma buoni to snack on while you tour the center. Trust me, these cookies are delicious.

WALK IT OFF Explore Crema’s beautiful historic center with clocktowers (like the Arco del Torrazzo) and Renaissance palaces.

Girl in Palazzo archways of Crema

MANGIA Michelin guide featured Botero on Via Ginnasio 4 think elevated traditional Italian cuisine.

Women with mask on inside a bar
Great cocktail selection at Bar Al Dómm

APERITIVO Try high design cocktail bar Al Dómm on Via XX Settembre 34. Retro art deco style and just steps away from the Duomo for great people watching.

Here for the film?

SET SIGHTINGS If you love the movie ‘Call Me By Your Name’ make sure to check out the places in Crema where it was filmed. As Elio and Oliver are riding bikes into the town, they go along the main road towards Crema. This is Via Federico Pesadori & Via Patrini.

Image of Girl walking in Crema with Watchtower Behind her. Light blue sky, Cathedral on Right

When Elio and Oliver are in the town square at a little cafe, that is in Piazza Duomo. Crema’s Piazza Duomo and different angles of it is the site of many scenes in the movie including the goodbye kiss.

You can also see where Elio and Marzia chat in French, Via Marazzi and Piazza Premoli. Up for a 30 minute bike ride along the banks of the Serio? Head to Laghetto dei Riflessi where Elio and Marzia go skinny dipping. Bathing is forbidden as it’s in a bird and wildlife sanctuary. Nevertheless, this is a great place for a picnic.

Guide to Crema
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Stanning for Stella

I’ve been stanning for Stella, designer Stella Jean for a few years now.

When recently profiling her for TripAdvisor, I ended up feverishly writing my love story with the brand in a way that made my editor laugh. I submitted about 3 times more than was required and they worried it wasn’t “digestible” for the TripAdvisor audience! Fully understandable. I got carried away. TripAdvisor is not where people go for essays, word play etc. They go for quick, digestible info in graphically appealing formats, and great crowd sourced reviews.

Stella Jean walking down the street of an arch way of Via Giulia in Rome
Stella walking down the streets of Via Giulia

But that’s why I started ‘N A Perfect World. As a place where I can go into depth on subjects that I’m passionate about and my perfectionists appreciate it! So… as Stella Jean’s latest Laboratorio Delle Nazioni partnership was just released (it’s with Kyrgyzstan), let me tell you the origin story of my full on stanning for Stella Jean.

It’s been argued that the Italian fashion system is harder for new designers. Do a google search of “Italian fashion designers.” Nestled between greats like Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani, you’ll see the name Stella Jean in the first ten. Rihanna wore a Stella Jean Ankara print dress in a November 2014 visit to the White House while Beyoncé has worn the brand several times over the years and is a big fan as is young Hollywood heavy-hitter, Zendaya, dressed by her stylist, the fabulous Law Roach.

In the last decade, Roman fashion designer Stella Jean, considered to be Giorgio Armani’s protégé, has burst onto the fashion scene challenging what it means to be Italian — taking a very real current social conversation in Italy to the international fashion realm — and the business of fashion and sustainability.

I was thrilled to go to Stella Jean’s first official Milan Fashion Week show at Teatro Armani show space in Milan. I was covering Milan Fashion week for a few online publications and requested attendance for the Stella Jean show. Studio Re was the firm handling the show at the time. They told me “no, [they] couldn’t confirm [me,]” despite my writing for major publications and even telling them that I would be more than happy to accept a seatless position, standing. It seems like I hit a wall with the PR. Cliche, right? At the time of emailing, I was in London and discussing the brand with a colleague who was on Solange Knowles’ styling team. Receiving what seemed to be the final rejection from the PR time I expressed my disappointment and confusion. I wondered if they didn’t understand the wide readership of the places I was writing for and reputation that they had in the US or if it was because I was freelance. “That’s very disappointing to hear.  Especially as I was just praising the brand over a meeting with Solange Knowles’ stylist. What do you mean you can not “confirm my accreditations?” Best, Nneya” Suddenly, there was room! Following the show, I connected the PR team with my stylist colleague. While I’m sure it was the Knowles’ name and connections that I made good on, getting to know the brand and Stella over the years I’d like to think it could also have been Stella and her insistence of shaking up the old way of doing things: she made space for a young Black woman writer like myself. After all, this is exactly in line with what she’s doing seven years later.

Such fine tailoring, a flawless runway show. Jersey tee-shirts emblazoned with “Port Au-Prince,” pencil skirts with fine art graphics of Black island women and multi-colored drawings of sugar canes. A few of these looks would be worn by Beyoncé herself in the future. Just a year before, Giorgio Armani personally selected Stella Jean’s Spring / Summer 2014 collection to show at the Teatro Armani space in Milan as well as loaned his communications team — a first time for both. For this collection, Stella Jean also collaborated with the UN International Trade Center’s Ethical Fashion Initiative and featured fabrics that were sustainably sourced and hand crafted by trade workers in disadvantaged communities in Burkina Faso. Stella would continue this dedication to using her design platform to aid artisans, especially women, around the world.

two women in
courtesy of StellaJean.it

In a time when the fashion community frequently receives backlash for appropriation, Stella has built the business model of not only taking inspiration from these communities, but giving them a place on the global stage.

Stella Jean’s Laboratorio delle Nazioni is a business model and sustainable development platform that, through each collection, collaborates with female artisans in places like Peru, Kenya, and Pakistan and employs them in the construction of Stella Jean’s unique pieces. Stella Jean’s world is that of cooperation. From TedTalks to United Nations summits in Geneva or at the European Commission in Brussels, Stella Jean is a prolific mind on sustainable business developments in fashion.

We have to understand that we must think different. There’s no African, Italian, they can’t work if they don’t start a dialogue together, to communicate. As they can communicate in the styling, the same people can communicate in real life, so no more borders.

Stella Jean, 2013

Jean’s bicultural upbringing — raised in Rome to a Haitian mother and Italian father — defines her brand. She chose her mother’s maiden name for the label to emphasis this. Design wise, Roman striped shirts, often pair effortlessly with colorful African printed fabrics and create an unexpected and beautiful look. This was Stella, and she wanted to take that duality that she grew up with into the design world, not exotifying the Creole elements of her background but placing them right alongside the widely accepted art that is Italian design.

But self-taught designer Stella Jean wasn’t an overnight success. Jean studied political science at Rome’s Sapienza university before leaving to model for Prince and designer Egon Von Fürstenberg (ex-husband of designer Diane Von Fürstenberg); tall, lithe and graceful, Jean still cuts a striking figure.

In the last year, Stella Jean became a vocal force in the Black Lives Matter movement in Italy calling on Italy’s fashion chamber, Camera della Moda to diversify and reflect the multicultural Italy in what is arguably the country’s most known export, its fashion system.

But this wasn’t a scramble now that she had the world’s attention. In February 2020, pre-pandemic I emailed Stella Jean’s PR team to ask about her place in the Milan Fashion Week calendar. Living in Italy, I excitedly pull from the brand for fashion shoots every opportunity I get. To my surprise, Stella, herself wrote back to me!

Stella Jean email to Nneya Richards

Stella was activated. She had drawn parallels of multiculturalism and globalization with her designs and now she was demanding advocacy from age old fashion systems. I have never been as honored to wear a designer’s creations. I marveled at the craftsmanship of the Kalash women in the Chitral region of Pakistan highlighted in Stella Jeans Spring / Summer 2020 collection. Removing herself from the fashion calendar and creating protest art with her collection she raised awareness of the full picture of what it means to be Italian.

The Black Lives Matters global protests over the summer only increased her fervor. Giving a rousing speech at a demonstration in Rome opposing the murder of George Floyd, Stella announced herself as a force to be reckoned with for Italy’s race purists.

She’s Italian. Italian society is multicultural. Different ethnicities are guaranteed rights afforded to them by the Italian constitution and those who disagree need to get with it.

In a letter co-signed by Edward Buchanan, a designer based in Milan and Michelle Ngonmo, creator of Afro Fashion Week, Stella Jean asked Italian Fashion Chamber “Do Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion?” They cited the fashion council’s failures to meet sweeping reforms and benchmarks for diversity. Offering a suggestion that she has practiced for years, Jean said, “For companies wishing to continue to draw free inspiration from Black culture,” an organization called Made in Africa will provide a list of African artisans who can “train and collaborate with Italian companies.” A think tank took place on September 22nd during Milan Fashion Week. Five BIPOC talents made their debut on the Milan Fashion Week calendar supported by CNMI.* Two days after this think tank, I met Stella Jean in person in Rome. I was producing, styling and writing a package that included her for Travel + Leisure.

Jean had us meet at her friend’s apartment on Rome’s famously beautiful Via Giulia as we planned to shoot nearby. The friend was Black American author, Dr. Tamara Pizzoli. Like us, she wasn’t quite sure of Stella’s plan. Arriving on Italian — or was it Haitian — time, Stella breezed in warmly and excitedly greeting everyone. She lamented that she didn’t have a chance to pick up the delicious appetizers she wanted to bring us. That Roman charm. As we prepped for the shoot, Stella animated spoke about the think tank. The victories, the TBDs, the funny guffaws. She also made plans for us to all go out to lunch afterwards at her favorite restaurant. That Roman hospitality, her talented friends, constantly creating and her humble yet powerful spirit. That’s at the heart of Stella Jean.

*As of writing this, this Autumn/Winter 2021 show season, Milan’s Fashion Week calendar opened with The Fab Five, a capsule collection of 5 BIPOC designers.

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New Byline for TripAdvisor: A Profile on Stella Jean!

I have a new byline for TripAdvisor: a profile on of Stella Jean, my favorite Italian designer! In honor of Black History month, I’ve contributed to Heather Greenwood Davis and Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon‘s package celebrating Black Joy internationally. The women wonderfully state

You won’t find tragic stories in this package. Instead, we’ve opted to focus on Black Joy, on the parts of travel that draw us all year long, and on the ways we are working to change the industry so that it welcomes us as much as we yearn for it. Travel is in our blood, whether by force or by choice. And in a year when the world has shut down much of our access to it, we hope the decision to celebrate our past, present and future – told through this collection of contemporary stories by young Black writers – resonates with you, too.

Heather Greenwood Davis and Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Take a look through this package, and check out my quick run down on Stella Jean! For me, it was exciting to share my love of such an important designer with the Tripadvisor audience.

Image of Tripadvisor Stella Jean profile
Tripadvisor.com

Google “Italian Designers” and you’ll see Stella Jean’s name amongst the greats: Miuccia Prada, Giorgio Armani, Stella Jean. Reading ‘N A Perfect world over the years, you have been privy to my obsession with the brand. You know my great admiration of Stella. I’m in good company too. Fans of the brand include Beyoncé, Rihanna, Leslie Grossman and novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Stella Jean’s spring collection is available at Saks Fifth Avenue now! You can join the club.

U.S. Black History Destinations for Business Insider

In honor of Black History Month, Business Insider tapped me to round up great U.S. destinations to learn about Black history.

Or, as I like to make note, great U.S. destinations to visit for a well rounded view of American history.

I can’t note enough that African American history is American history.

I’m very proud of this story. To combat today’s racial ignorance, we need to acknowledge and remedy past mistakes in American history. Only then can we truly begin to heal. While this list highlights some places, like plantations, that can be uncomfortable reminders, it also celebrates Black joy and perseverance featuring Black owned restaurants and hotels.

We hope you use this as inspiration to explore and to learn about the beautiful, and not-so-beautiful, history of our country. From colorful beach communities you didn’t know had a Black history to majority Black cities making a comeback as small businesses thrive, we’ve rounded up great destinations that highlight the historical and present-day contributions of African Americans in the US.

And stay tuned because I’m going to continue the list here on ‘N A Perfect World, as you know, we’re just scratching the surface! I’ve listed international destinations in the past, like Guadeloupe, that was great for Black travelers due to it’s Black history component, now let’s get a little more local! There are so many U.S. destinations to learn about and celebrate Black history.

New Byline! Travel + Leisure Destination of the Year: Italy!

I have a new byline in Travel + Leisure’s latest issue, Destination of the Year: Italy. This byline is extra special as I produced and styled a fashion shoot to go along with it! When Travel + Leisure’s editor-in-chief Jacqui Gifford told me that Travel + Leisure’s Destination of the Year for 2021 was Italy, I was excited. Travel + Leisure decides the destination of the following year as early as the previous spring. Italy was still in the throws of the first round of the coronavirus. This was before Covid-19 ravaged the U.S. It is an honor to contribute and I wanted to tell a part of the Italian experience that is a blind spot from travel publications, tourism boards, bloggers etc. There are indeed Black people in Italy!

ITALY IS A MULTICULTURAL PLACE AND NOT ALL ITALIANS ARE WHITE!

Is the world not letting the perception of what Italy is today evolve or is Italy choosing to portray an archaic notion of its culture to the world for the sake of “heritage branding?” Chicken or the egg. Why can’t there be both. I couldn’t be apart of this erasure any longer. While this is just scratching the service, I am honored to introduce the Travel & Leisure audience to some amazing AfroItalians. They are Black people living in Italy, NOT TOURISTS, 3 out of 4 of them not expats, born there, with regional pride, dialect swag and making big moves in the creative space in the country. They have pride in Italy and are committing with pushing Italy forward on the world stage.

I wanted them to look just as regal and elegant as any other portraits. I love street style, but I wanted to align these Black people with Italian heritage and that magical architecture.

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Here is a link to the piece online where it’s a little longer: https://www.travelandleisure.com/culture-design/italian-black-creatives-new-wave


And this is just the beginning of what I hope to share with you about Black Italy.

* originally written Dec 2020

Covid-19 Tested Flights Expand

The CDC is expanding the range of Covid-19 tested flights. Starting on January 26th all air passengers entering the United States will have to provide a negative Covid-19 test. The test must be taken 3 days before entering the United States.

With the strain that seems to originate from the UK, currently, this regulation is in place for UK departing flights. By the end of the month it will expand to all international flights. At the end of 2020, I did an IGTV video on the new regulations being imposed by airlines like Delta and Alitalia for their “Covid-Free” / “Covid-Tested” flights.

In 2020 the tourism industry suffered severe losses. Even with the vaccine on the horizon, the industry is struggling with solutions to make people feel safer traveling. Airlines and tourism organizations say testing is the answer and are opening testing sites at airports — though, I found the testing site at terminal 5 JFK to be wildly expensive (over $300 for a rapid test). They are adding test results to passenger records and offering flights only for tested passengers. The World Travel and Tourism Council, along with business and airport groups called on governments to open borders with testing to reduce risk. This would be instead of waiting for vaccines to end the pandemic for borders to open.

They say it works. I recently took a Covid-tested flight from New York to Milan (layover and Covid test in Rome).

I took 3 tests in 24 hrs to return home to Italy and Michele safely. It was well-worth it. I felt safer on this flight than my flight this summer knowing everyone had been recently tested. The testing in-take in Rome was extremely efficient, taking no more than 40 minutes. They offered us coffee and panettone while we waited for our rapid tests! I wonder how this will look on a bigger scale but it was a start!

Someone can be exposed to the virus 2 days before their flight and become a carrier of COVID but their test will be negative immediately before the flight.

Though I felt safer on these flights than others assuming everyone quarantined and took their test in the same timeframe as I did, I haven’t let my guard down just yet. Speaking to a friend and health professional, Xiomara Fernandez, she reminded me

Those flights are not as safe as they seem. It can take 5-7 days before the virus is detected on a rapid RNA (NAAT) test or a rapid antigen test. So someone can be exposed to the virus 2 days before their flight and become a carrier of COVID but their test will be negative immediately before the flight. That same person is likely to become symptomatic around day 3-4 and test positive on day 5-7 (after exposure). These COVID tested flights are an illusion of safety but it’s not really safe.

Xiomara Fernandez

While I was feeling good and perhaps overly optimistic, she’s right. “Illusion of safety” hit me. After such a raggedy year, we were all jumping for joy at just the illusion. Here’s a video explaining how Covid-tested flights actually work and a peak into mine.

I like being a bit of a guinea pig for you guys. So, now that you’ve seen a glimpse into my experience with Covid-Tested flights, is it something you’d be open to?