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Anything but Flowery


Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli

Mimi Sullivan-Sparks is a fan of anything ’80s.

Imagine a room littered with flirty cocktail dresses, funky tights, bohemian shirts and more accessories than the eye can take in. Now picture a petite woman swooping in, footsteps light but purpose clear.

She takes a dress from here, a belt from there, throws on a jacket and—voila—the best outfit you would never assemble is born.

“My style is very rebellious. I like to break some rules,” says Mimi Sullivan-Sparks. “I don’t mind letting my slip peek out from under my skirt.”

While some may balk at pairing a girly dress with punk-rock boots and clunky jewelry, Sullivan-Sparks pulls it together. The guru behind Bloom, a fashion anarchist’s haven in Newark, she relies on a quirky catalogue of independent, American-made labels to stock her wardrobe and her store.

Mixie, B.B. Dakota, Tulle, Nicole Rae

Styer and Sailor Jerry are just some of the hip, hard-to-find lines that color Sullivan-Sparks’ world. “The philosophy behind my store is handmade, indie labels. That’s how I shop.”

Sullivan-Sparks also scores pieces from other locals places like Grass Roots, Studio 11 and H&M. “I don’t like to be head-to-toe from the mall,” she says. “I love shopping in small stores that have great personal service and where they know my name.”

A fan of dresses, tights, boots, Levi’s jeans, Adidas sneakers and anything ’80s, her style is inspired by the trio of Amelia Earhart, Georgia O’Keefe and Audrey Hepburn. “Audrey Hepburn may sound like a cliché, but those women had tremendous personal style,” she says.

Though her fashion icons’ threads were a lot different than the designs that hit our streets and runways, Sullivan-Sparks feels totally at home in the current world of fashion—because she’s already been there.

“I love what’s going on [in fashion today] because some of it takes me back to the ’80s,” she says. “I adore the flashback. I don’t pooh-pooh it. I love seeing a younger generation taking it and making it fresh and new. I’d rather see that than uninventive dress, like head-to-toe Hollister.”

Winner of the Best Dressed award her senior year of high school at McKean, Sullivan-Sparks “came of age in the ’80s,” and it still influences her style.

“I’m all about boots with funky buckles, tights and lipstick,” she says. “I grew up in a lipstick generation. Annie Lennox and Madonna would never leave the house without lipstick, and I follow suit.”

Though Sullivan-Sparks sees many people with design logos scrawled across their T-shirts, she says her customers have serious style. “I think [Bloom] brings them out. I see great bags, great haircuts, really inventive dressers,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite parts of this job.” —Amy Kates

Stylish brands of spectacles include
Etnia Barcelona from the Havana Line,
at Vision Centre Optical.

If you wear specs, you might as well make a statement. Here’s how.

Boys who wore thick-rimmed glasses were once called nerds and geeks. By today’s standards, they’d be sporting the hippest of looks.

“We see college guys coming in for the Clark Kent look,” says Judy Powell of Simon Eye in Pike Creek. “People are seeing styles in the media that are much bolder. Now women and men of all ages want an edgy look, something different.”

From conservative to funky, eyewear from top designers makes it easier to freshen your look. Plastic frames are more popular than metal for men and women. Colored frames, color combinations like those in the Etnia Barcelona line, and designs on the temple pieces are all the rage in women’s eyewear, says Glenn Courtney of Vision Centre Optical in Rehoboth Beach. “Designers are putting more art into the frames,” he says. He points to Chanel, Bulgari and other international designers as examples. “One designer for Coach gets his inspiration from museums,” Courtney says, “and Ronit Furst, an Israeli artist, does exclusive hand-painted designs under her tagline, ‘When art meets the eye.’”

Metal frames are works of art, too. Lindberg, the frontrunner in titanium eyewear, offers 20 colors, and ic! Berlin has a stainless steel, sheet metal look that is sleek, artistic and functional. “True fashion eyewear tends to cost a little more, and the quality is usually better,” says Courtney.

Some lines are extravagantly priced. Daniel Swarovski of Paris and Judith Leiber both integrate cut crystals at the temples. Their frames can cost as much as $1,200.

No matter the style, customers most want lightweight comfort and quality lenses. “Trivex sells well for durability,” Courtney says. —Susan Oates

Lizzie (left) and Kathryn Fortunato hang with a
few of their company’s creative creations,
which are available online.

Portrait by Patrick Dougherty
Jewelry photograph by Teddy Maki

Two for the Money

Twin sisters build a jewelry line that’s making a splash in Manhattan.

Lizzie Fortunato’s first taste of fame came from crafting beaded necklaces and earrings for her fashion-savvy classmates at Duke University. Fortunato’s twin sister, Kathryn, became business manager. (The pair graduated from Tower Hill School in ’02.)

Jump to the present. Lizzie Fortunato Jewels has worked its way into boutiques in lower Manhattan, as well as shops in such far-flung places as Aspen and Melbourne, Australia. The line also surfaced during spring fashion week in New York, spiffing up sportswear from Whistle & Flute.

“Urban tribal” is how she describes her latest creations—pieces made from cording and tasseled window pulls purchased in home decor stores. Semi-precious stones, buttons and African glass beads add glam. Prices range from $220 to $520 for necklaces, $150 to $250 for earrings. Belts and flapper-inspired headbands will freshen the mix in the months ahead.

But the latest happening is Small Fortune, which focuses on witty metal pendants ($75 to $115). Each comes tagged with a tongue-in-chic message, such as a skull that says, “Mind over matter.”

“It’s the emergence of metro jewelry,” Fortunato says. For more information, visit, www.lizziefortunatojewels.com.

—Sally Rinard

Stores in each of our three counties
carry Candles by Claire.

Light My Fire
Locally made candles will brighten your day—or night.

Here’s news: Candles by Claire have become the official candles of the Delaware Soybean Board. Made of pure, clean-burning wax from U.S.-grown soybeans, they come in fragrances such as Merlot and mint chocolate chip. Owner Claire Podesta also customizes fragrances. “You will enjoy the fragrance for the duration of the candle,” she says.

Another local company, Scentiments by Debbie (Wilson, that is) uses high-quality wax to create custom colors and scents. A paraffin-wax blend lets the candles burn longer and helps maintain strong scents such as frosted carrot cake and gingerbread cookies. The candles come in a range of colors. “Vanilla doesn’t have to be colored ivory,” she says. “You can have candles match your decor and be your favorite scent.”

Find Candles by Claire at Kimbers in Rehoboth Beach, Newark Natural Foods in Newark, Willey Farms in Townsend, Delaware Made General Store in Dover, Legends and Lore Gallery in Dewey Beach, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture Museum Gift Shop in Dover, or visit www.candlesbyclaire.com. Find Scentiments by Debbie at www.scentimentsbydebbie.com. —Katie Ginder-Vogel

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