Concorso Ospitalità: A Look Inside the Monterey Car Week Hospitality Experience

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For car people and gear heads, Monterey Car Week is Mecca. This year’s Car Week was the biggest and best to date, with a flurry of prestigious events, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world and every type and shape of car one could imagine in attendance. With so much to do and so much to see, what’s the best way to take a bit of a breather? The answer is to take a little time to visit some of the VIP hospitality villas and suites hosted by your favorite manufactures, and that’s exactly what we did this year.

The first hospitality retreat we took was at the BMW Villa, which is located in a secluded villa in the heart of Pebble Bach. A literal hidden gem, the villa was dressed up in an inviting and intimate fashion. At the front steps was a test drive booth, were attendees could test drive virtually any car in the BMW range, which we seized the opportunity to take the i8 for glorious drive. Upon returning from our drive we decided to further explore the villa. Out in the front patio BMW brought their two highlighted concept vehicles for display, the 2017 8 Series and Z4 concept cars. Both looked at home out in full display, which let us know that we were in a BMW fan’s dream house. To further that theme in the first room of the house was a station setup to highlight the BMW Individual Program, in which a customer can custom spec any exterior and interior color and material combination they can think of. The rest of the villa was decked with lounge chairs, couches and refreshment stations, and we will admit having cranberry-elderflower spritzer after a test drive was the perfect way to unwind a bit.

The next stop on our hospitality tour took us to the House of Bentley, which is next to the entrance of the Pebble Beach Concourse. The quickest way to signify that we were at Bentley was the elaborate display of the current model range in front of the massive house. Inside the house, one feels at home in the intimate environment, despite the first room having been converted into a high-end accessory and watch boutique, filled with scale models, jackets and fine watches. The next room feature the Bentley Design Studio, which features a blend of old school handcraftsmanship with technology that seems to be from the year 3017. We got to sample many of the fine leathers used for the interiors of the vehicle, but perhaps the coolest thing was a special app they had on their Design Studio iPads. This app scans your face and then custom specs out a car based on your personality, and it was pretty shockingly accurate with our specs. We decided to make our way to the outside patio, but to do that we had to pass the kitchen where several gourmet chefs were busy cooking a flurry of delicious bite eats. After grabbing some wine, a few insanely good lobster rolls and wagyu beef sliders, we ventured out to the back deck which had a breathtaking view of the ocean. This was a very hard place to leave, especially with those lobster rolls coming fresh out of the kitchen consistently.

Our third stop was to check in with McLaren. We were pretty excited to be testing out the new 570S Spyder, though we were not complaining about having to spend some time at the luxurious Bernardus Spa & Resort beforehand. McLaren brought out an impressive display of significant cars from their history, from a 1967 McLaren M6A Can Am race car, to the legendary 1992 McLaren F1, to their most recent effort with a 2017 McLaren 720S. There was also a good showing of owner cars, with 4 McLaren P1’s making an appearance with an assortment of 675 LT’s, 570S, 650S, and 720S’ as well. A variety of Asian-themed h’orderves were served and we helped ourselves to some ahi tuna mini tacos while inspecting the McLaren 570S configurator.

Our last stop on the official hospitality tour was with Lamborghini, located at the Quail Lodge Club House. Elegantly situated at the entrance to the Quail Lodge grounds, the club house is the perfect venue for enjoying a refreshing coffee or latte next to the mini-lake at the lodge, before experiencing the fury and insanity of the Aventador S and the Huracan Spyder. It was a very surreal dichotomy: At the lodge, we felt a Zen-like sense of peace and calm, the perfect counter balance to the raw and primal fury of the Lamborghini’s, particularly the V12 Aventador S. It was the perfect calm before the storm, and was certainly the perfect way to end our hospitality tour as we continued the weekend with many other events.

Other noteworthy mentions in the hospitality tour go to Aston Martin, who had a wonderful display and setup at the Sunset Center Carmel; Audi’s Hospitality Paddock at Laguna Seca Raceway, which was highlighted with a speech by 9-time LeMans winner Tom Kristensen; The Rolls-Royce Villa which showcased the band new Phantom; Porsche, who’s hospitality suite at the Quail Lodge made for the perfect mid-day escape and refreshment stop, and Mercedes-Benz, who’s Pebble Beach hospitality suite gave the best views to be had of the Concourse winners as they came to the front stage. If you plan to attend car week next year, we highly encourage you to talk with your dealers and secure an invite to a hospitality suite of your favorite brand or brands, it’s the best way to get the full Car Week VIP Experience.

Cheers,

-JB

Sunset GT 6-11-2017

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With a flurry of car shows out there, how does one pick which on to go to? Well, we decided that since it was pretty conveniently located…and a new show…and that there would be a Bugatti Chiron and a Lamborghini Huracan Performante featured…we decided we’d go check out Sunset GT, which is hosted O’Gara Coach.

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We could sit her and talk about how it was a fantastic showing of cars old and new, and the atmosphere was full of fun, excitement, and car joy. Or we can show you some awesome photos and tell you to mark your calendars for the next one.

 

Cheers,

-JB

BMW ///Master Class: M2 vs M3 vs M4 vs X6 M vs i8

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We had a very exciting start to our week, as Valencia BMW, Center BMW and Pacific BMW were kind enough to host us at  BMW M drive event and dine event. The idea was to drive the new M and Alpina range and then enjoy a celebrity chef tasting afterward. We can tell that this story has wet your appetite, so let’s dive into it. For us, we wanted to see how the M cars all stacked against each other, so with Santa Anita Raceway to play around, we did just that.

The i8

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We’ve driven the i8 before, so we where very familiar with it going in. However, it was interesting to see how it compares when directly pitted against other M cars. The i8 is set up a bit differently and feels very different as well. It feels much more futuristic yet somehow still familiar. As we noted the entire car is all about gimmicks…the doors go up to be dramatic, the dash lights up red when put into sport mode, and the was the car feels in motion is a little over the top. But that’s part of the appeal and what makes this car work…it’s a bunch of things that individually seem like gimmicks, but added up they all work together to create a fun and unique driving experience.

It’s a hard trick to pull off and many other car makers fail at this, but BMW does a brilliant job of hitting the mark. Stacked against the other M cars the i8 is a different machine all together: It doesn’t really fit in. It’s more of it’s own flavor and spin on what a car is, so it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. That might be a middle of the road answer, but you’ll have to take it for what it is. If you want proper, old-school M fun, then you’ll want to stick with an M car. If you want a unique and refined driving experience on the other hand, the i8 is not a bad way to go.

The M3 Competition Package

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What can we say that hasn’t been said before? The M3 is a benchmark for performance cars and there’s a good reason for it: It does everything that well. Can you take it for a grocery store run? Check. Can you tack it for a hardcore track day? Double check. Can you comfortably transport your buddies on a night out? Triple check. The M3 is fast, powerful and feels properly dialed in like the M cars of old. With the competition package everything has a little extra boost. There’s a little bump in horsepower and torque, the steering a bit sharper and there’s some bits of extra carbonfiber goodness as well.

While some people have issues with the turbo-charged engine, we found it sublime as the performance exhaust gives a deep, burbling roar as we pushed the car through its paces. There was no turbo lag and the car feels balanced and direct: You point it one way and the car goes that way. Admittedly, we’re not the biggest fans of the dual-clutch transmission paired with paddles. We think that with a manual, the M3 would feel truly special, but we will admit that the DSG is light-years ahead of the old SMG transmission. All in all the M3 is a proper M car and great modern successor in a legendary lineage of M cars.

The M4 Competition Package

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You know everything we said about the M3? Well repeat that except for now it’s on an M3 that looks a little sexier and sleeker with two doors. We love the M4, and with the competition package we love it even more. One of the things we’ve heard is that BMW M has lost it’s edge as other cars in the category are giving them legitimate runs for their money. What we see is that M cars are actually still M cars, they are dialed in racing machines you can use every day on the street, but when they first came on the scene no one else was doing anything near their level. However, as time has progressed and we’ve reached the modern era, everyone has stepped  their game so the field is now more packed than before. So this doesn’t means that M cars have somehow gotten worse, it means that everyone else has gotten better and reached the near M level, so the real question is how do the M cars manage to stand higher than the rest of field despite the fierce competition? We think it’s a mix of utilizing the same DNA as their predecessors and good old fashioned BMW witchcraft.

Getting back o the M4, it’s everything the M3 is minus two doors, so if you like the sleek look of a coupe, this is the car for you. We’ll state it again for the record, we think that with a manual transmission the M4 would feel even more special, but we’re not going to complain about powering around with the DSG. All in all the M4 is the same winning formula as the M3 just in a slightly sexier package.

The M2

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The M2 is a car we’ve been waiting to drive for a while now because we’re intrigued by the idea…a smaller, lighter version of the current M3 & M4 would make for a really fun car. We’re a bit annoyed by the marketing, as the folks at BMW are trying to convince us that this is the “real” M car, much like when they had the 1 Series M launched against the E92 M3. But we got to examine and drive the M2 and we must say, we were a bit perplexed.

The M2 is sold as the “smaller and lighter” car but looking at it right next to an M4, the M2 is not that much smaller and it only weighs roughly 80 pounds less (with no options) so it’s not that much lighter either. The dimensions are a little odd on the car too, and one thing we take issue with is that the signature M engine outlets on the side fender that started with the E46 M3 or the M2 are actually fake and non-functional. This upsets us since the mantra of M cars has been form is function, so an M car with non-functional bits is a violation of that philosophy. Driving the M2 was a disappointment because the car still feels soft and not as hard-dailed in as the M3 and M4. It really feels like a slightly more powerful version of the M235i. And that’s what disappoints us: When you drive a regular 3 or 4 series and then you drive and M3 or and M4, the M car feels very different and very maximized. When you drive a 2 Series, then an M235i and then the M2, they all feel too closely similar. On it’s own the M2 is a fun and a bit playful, but when stacked directly against it’s bigger brothers the M3 and M4, it becomes clear that the M2 is a training car to get you ready for the properly dialed in ones. the M2 is a car that we’re told is one thing when in reality it’s something else: It’s not a hardcore, dialed in M car of old. It’s a soft, playful modern car that speaks to a different segment of drivers.

The X6M

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The X6M can be summed up in one word: Why? Why does this car exist? The answer: Why not? Why does this car have 580 horsepower and enough torque to rip the skin off your face? Why shouldn’t it? The X6M is the sleeper hit of the day, because it is literally a stupid amount of fun. When we were driving it we could not help but smile and laugh, because the car sits so high up, it’s cozy and comfortable, yet it drives like a bull at full charge and shockingly handles like a dialed in sports car. The whole experience is so absurd because your brain knows this shouldn’t be, and yet it is.

The X6M offers a master class in ridiculousness because it’s a usable sport activity vehicle (whatever that means), but it’s also a hardcore driving machine. The M3 and M4 are much more serious cars for serious drivers, the i8 in it’s own eco-future dimension and the M2 is a soft trainer car, but the X6M is just a barrel of jolly monkeys strapped to  rocket. There’s no way to fully describe the X6M with words, it’s just something you have to drive and experience for yourself. Well done BMW, the joke is on us this time and we love you for it.

 

 

 

After the drives we enjoyed a some refreshments and three-course tasting menus provided by a few celerity chefs. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, and we want to again thank Center BMW, Valencia BMW, and Pacific BMW for hosting us.

Final Verdicts

i8 – It’s gimmicky, but all the gimmicks work which makes it cool. It’s fun to drive and looks really awesome, so it’s a winner in our book.

M3 – A legend with 4 doors, nuff said. It’s properly dialed in a with extra doors so you can claim it’s “family friendly.”

M4 – If we could only take one home today, it’s be this one. It’s an a proper M3 it but sleeker and sexier with the 2 doors.

M2 – A huge disappointment for us. It still feels too soft like the 2 series and not properly dialed in. On it’s own it’s a great car, but compared head to head wit the M3 and M4 you realize it’s a good training car but not a proper M.

X6M – Literally a stupid amount of fun. It should not exist, and yet it does, which makes us giddy. A sleeper hit, and a hard hit at that.

Cheers,

-JB

 

Sai Suman Fashion Show

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When you catch word of a fashion show on a Tuesday night, you feel inclined to check it out. When you hear it’s at the hip Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills, you have to check it out. When you discover it’s Sia Suman showcasing a new Fall/Winter 2017 collection, you find yourself at the venue before you finish reading this sentence.

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At the venue, you’ll find noted guests such as Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite) and Ken Davitian (Borat), among a host of other attendees. Not doing anything in a traditional style, you’ll also find Suman’s designs to be highly fashionable, elite, and prime for the red carpet any top Hollywood event. The show made use of the entire venue space as an extended runway, ensuring everyone one got a close up and indepth viewing of the intricately elaborate designs.

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All in all it was a fun way to spend a Tuesday night…and to top it off we shot over to one of our favorite hot spots Toca Madera for an Agua Fresca, which we consider the best cocktail in Los Angeles.

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Cheers,

-JB

Meet Giulia – The Alpha Romeo Giulia Driven

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Word on the street is that there’s a new Italian roaming around aiming to shake thing up a bit with the establishment…and her name happens to be Giulia. Being the curious souls that we are, we had to investigate these rumors which led us to an event hosted by the amazing Peterson Automotive Museum.

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The Auto Gallery was gracious enough to be sponsoring the event. The main garage had a fun display where we could go up and checkout the cars before our test drives, and should our wait time be significant, we could tour the museum or hangout on the rooftop lounge. Taking full advantage of the beautiful weather, we opted to head straight for the roof for some refreshments while we awaited for our cars o be ready. The sky was spectacular and having a gourmet spread of food made for a great atmosphere as we paid a visit to the Cappuccino Man stand for some liquid refreshments while enjoying some tunes from the DJ.

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When our drive time came up, we made our way downstairs to get acquainted with our new Italian personality of interest, Giulia. From the outside, the Giulia is distinctly Italian, it has a combination of smooth and aggressive lines. The rear of the car, especially on the Quadrifogilio is strikingly similar to a combination of the Maserati Gran Turismo and Ghibli, but it looks pretty sharp. Personally, Alpha styling hasn’t been our thing, especially the front ends of their modern cars, but the design language does echo back to traditional Alpha styling ques. Either you love it or hate it, so if it speaks to you, then the Giulia is one of the most beautiful cars you can find.

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The cars available for testing where the Giulia base model with sport options, the Ti model, and the Ti AWD version. Of course we inquired about the Quadrifogilio that was on display and we were promptly told that car was “off-limits for today.” So instead we decided to see what the base Giulia could do, and opted to test the sport optioned base model first. On the inside is where the real beauty to be found on the Giulia is, as the layout and materials are sleek and elegant, a true credit to Italian craftsmanship. There is adequate interior space in the car to comfortably fit 4 adults and plenty of space in the trunk to store a 5th and 6th passenger…we mean lot of luggage.

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Under the hood, the base Giulia features a 280 horsepower inline 4 cylinder engine that is turbo charged. The shocking thing is that is that this engine generates 306 foot-pounds of toque. On paper, it certainly sounds sporty enough, but unfortunately that sporty feeling stays on paper. The base Giulias only come with an 8-speed automatic transmission (and also some of the largest paddle shifters on any car) which is setup primarily for economy. In Eco mode the car is quiet, subdued and very…pedestrian. When put in Dynamic mode (performance mode) there is a subtle difference in the throttle response, but not by a large margin. Pushing the car to accelerate it feels very subdued…your foot goes down, you get a little momentum before the transmission decides to give you some power, then after that the turbo kicks in for some added momentum. The problem is by the time the turbo kicks in you’re near the redline so it’s time to shift up and restart that entire process all over again.

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The Giulia however has some very solid brakes and turns like a nimble compact car, so you can get a sense that the big brother Quadrifogilio has a solid base platform to really turn things up. Returning the base sport model and getting into the the Ti model, we found the Giulia’s true calling. Ti model is the more luxury focused base model. So it still has the same engine and power, but the interior and ride are more focused on comfort. Suddenly, the subdued power and lack of exhaust note are welcomed as you drive around, because the ride is pleasant and relaxing. Having the expectation of sport options is misleading, the base model Giulia is not a sports car. It’s more like an Italian Lexus IS350. From a performance stand point, this car lacks everything you’d want and you’d be better of getting  base model BMW 3 or 4 Series, or an Audi A3. But for a comfy cruiser that has looks, luxury, and Italian flare, then it’s a great pickup for the money since the Giulia starts at about $40,000.

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All in all it was a great day and the Peterson and Auto Gallery hosted  great event. But now that we’ve gotten to know Giulia, we’re very curious to see what her big brother Quadrifogilio can do. Be sure to enjoy some other pics from the Peterson Museum (and schedule your own visit too):

Cheers,

-JB

Skyline Road: A San Fran Road Test Of The C7 Covette vs McLaren 650S vs Gen 1 Acura NSX

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During our recent San Francisco trip, we decided to reach out to a few friends and go a for a drive up San Francisco’s amazing Skyline Road on Highway 84.  What a drive it turned out to be.

The C7 Corvette Stingray Convertible

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Utilizing the app Turo, we snagged a C7 Corvette Stingray convertible with a Z51 package for a great price. The 450 Horsepower V8 in the Vette is a formidable weapon to be in control of, but fortunately it’s very accessible in the C7 platform. Unlike Corvette of old, where mashing the gas peddle was a game of Russian-roulette where either you went fast or went fast sideways into a tree, in the C7 the car is planted and stay planted so you can enjoy the full bellowing of the exhaust note as the world zips by.

Unlike the base model one we drove before, this one had the Z51 package which means that the car has a sportier feel, especially when taking it in the twisties. Top down, race mode on, and the road ahead, we zipped through the forest chasing the other two cars in a drive to be remembered. The Vette held its own on the twists and turns and really made up ground on the straights. The balance of the chassis is really impressive on the car, and if you’re familiar with it’s family heritage it’s very hard to see any relation. That’s what makes the C7 platform special; it’s undeniably American Musclecar glory at it’s best, but it’s also proper fun, it handling amazingly, and you can actually enjoy driving the car instead of trying to wrestle it under control.

The Generation 1 Acura NSX

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Back in the early 1990’s, Honda shocked the world by saying they were going to build a car similar to a Ferrari and then they actually did it. The original NSX is one of those milestone cars because it had the looks and driving feel of a supercar during it’s time, but also had the quality and the reliable family cars that Honda was making at the time. This paradigm shift-cause other supercar makers to get better, and in the big picture it lead the market to make some ridiculously cool cars that had this new thing called quality in them.

In the modern area, the Gen 1 NSX looks like a dinosaur, a remnant of a time long past. But that doesn’t mean the “cool” factor has worn of. Quite the opposite, the NSX is like a velociraptor on the road. It might be ancient, but it can run. It’s handling is sublime, and this particular example has a racing inspired exhaust on it which makes the tiny 6 cylinder engine roar. In the hairpin turns it murders the other 2 cars because it’s crazy light and hyper-agile. In the straights it gets left in the dust, but then again, it was meant to be the best handling car, not the fastest in a sprint.

The McLaren 650S Spyder

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The 650S may seem like an unfair contender to throw in this contest, but we’re not going to complain about that…ever. Yes the McLaren costs 3 times the combined price of the NSX and Corvette. Yes it is insanely faster in the straights, more hardcore in the turns, and has all the computing power of Silicon Valley built into it. But that’s what makes it a great addition to this group, it’s a third philosophy of cars and that’s radically different than the other two. The NSX is old school, bare-bones go-kart style handling. The Corvette is power on top of more power for great speed and screaming exhaust…because America. The 650S is about using science and engineering to engineer the most superior machine possible. Every millimeter of the 650S reflects that thought process, each polish panel and perfectly aligned bolt was designed with maximum performance above all in mind.

While the Vette and the NSX have very loud and distinct sounds, the 650S is more humble in that regard. But speed wise it is the king of the three, as on the straights it makes the other 2 appear parked and in the turns it can devour them a a frighting pace. But that’s the brilliance of the 650S, it’s not just a driver’s car, it’s a race car driver’s car. It’s the car you take when you need all the 10/10ths you can get. It’s the weapon of choice for the racer who wants to set a new lap record. Simply put it was created for one purpose and it does it brilliantly.

Final Verdicts

Corvette – America summed up in car, the C7 has proven to be a proper car and a boat load of fun. Yeeha!

NSX – Old-school and zippy, the Gen 1 NSX is a car every car buff should drive at least once.

650S – Mad science at it’s best, the 650S will blow the doors of most things and connects with your inner Le Mans driver.

If we could, we’d just take all 3 home with us. Each one is a distinct and unique take on the idea of what a car should be, and stacked head to head they each shine in their own right. Which would you take home with you?

Cheers,

– JB

LA Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2017

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“Fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream” – Donatella Versace

An inspired week for the LA Fashion scene wraps up as LA Fashion Week Fall & Winter 2017 comes to a close. Always evolving, the theme and scale for the events this week was more about intimacy and personal connection. The venues this year were a delightful mix of high end glamour with the W Hotel hosting the opening ceremonies, discrete on the outside yet lively on the inside with Plaza Bar in Hollywood hosting a show, and industrial underground with Hubble Studios on the outskirts of downtown LA as the venue for all the rest of the shows. The opening ceremonies featured some live musical performances, a live art demonstration, stunning a performance by the Anahiem Ballet and a display of never before seen prints of Andy Worhol.

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The venue selection and pacing of the shows this season harkened back to the budding fashion scene of New York in early 1990’s. The “less is more” approach this season combined with the inspired works of the designers made for a spectacular an truly memorable event. We can’t wait to see what the dedicated LA Fashion Week team pulls off later this year for the spring / summer ’18 show!

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Be sure to view the list of the designers the presented at this season’s shows and checkout their websites for other unique works by them.

Sophie Hardeman

Hardeman

Hailing from Amsterdam, Hardeman draws inspiration from people in every day scenarios. Anything goes is a recurring theme you’ll find in designs from Hardeman.

Khala Jones

Grayscale

Fashion with an emphasis on a personal touch, Greyscale is about an appreciation for one’s own uniqueness expressed through apparel.

Vicken Derderian

Vicken Derderian

A distinct fashion duo, Vicken Derderian makes use of dynamic and sleek lines to make their designs stand out in a bold, yet refined way.

Edwin Haynes Sav Noir

Sav Noir

Classified as Dark Chic, Sav Noir has designs that speak to the rebellious night owls in all of us. Founded in San Francisco but now based in LA, Sav Noir features dark tones that capture the industrial-gothic mood of underground fashion.

House of Cuoco x Vanessa Simmons

A joint collaboration show, the talent and edge of House of Cuoco blended with the finesse and flair of Vanessa Simmons. We hope to see more collaborations between this duo in the future because the what we saw was an amazing blend of two dynamic talents.

Be sure to enjoy our gallery of photos from the all of the activities:

Cheers,

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-JB