Ayanna remembers the day she walked into a boutique in Rome where everything, even the doormat was crocheted by the men who owned the shop. "If they can do it, I can do it," Ayanna recalls saying to her mother, Alma Felder, when she returned home from the European tour that had been a gift following here graduation from Roosevelt High School. Her first project, under the guidance of her mother, who is the principal of Bruce Monroe School in Northwest D.C. and accomplished in all the needle crafts, was a scarf that turned out to be much too long, Ayanna says.
Now, she's into making seasonal collections. Her mother is a customer and so is Effi Barry, among others. It takes Ayanna about nine days to make a basic dress. She usually does two fittings and stays in constant touch, she says, in case there is some special adjustment needed.
Ayanna had only one store-bought dress shen she was growing up. Her grandmother, who made clothes for congressmen's wives, and her mother provided everything she needed. Now her own clothes come mostly from sports departments and are mostly running shorts, sweat suits and the like. "Comfort. What really counts is comfort," says Ayanna, who was wearing running shorts over sweat pants and a T-shirt when she showed her line last week. She sells mostly through fashion shows for organizations and women's clubs, and the dresses start at $175.
We've heard of house-sitting, plant-sitting, pool-sitting and even pet-sitting. But boutique-sitting? Mara Bellenger has opened a business called "Who's Minding the Store?" to shop-sit stores where managers need to be away for a short time. A former floor manager at Rich's, Atlanta, Bellenger says, "Once you know the ground rules of retailing, the differences from shop to shop are not huge."
The reward, says Bellenger, is seeing fresh mechandise with each new job. Her work has included shop-sitting for Mamori, Today's Cargo, Sho-Gun Gallery, and starting this week, Full Circle.
The first lady has a new status label. When Nancy Reagan stopped by the Bill Blass showroom on Seventh Avenue during her New York visit for the 50th anniversary performance of the Royal Ballet, she carried some of her clothes that needed adjusting in a garment bag with the Camp David seal. "I could make you a million," teased Gail Levenstein, Blass' aide-de-camp who is now also in charge of his licensing, as she eyed the official seal. No one laughed, Levenstein reports, but "Blass turned green."
Offers for the Blass seal of approval are nonstop, according to Levenstein. He has been offered, and is now considering, several nonclothing items including bathroom fixtures, wrapping paper and telephones. "You remove the human beings [from designer-stamped items] and you immediately skip the fit problem," says Levenstein.
How much cachet is there in the name Cachet? Apparently enough to label two stores -- one, Washington's own Cachet, opened this year in the Four Seasons Hotel by Ruth Conant with an eclectic mix of designer specialty items, including clothes from Milan houses such as Complice, Helyett and Basile. Coming with the opening of Georgetown Park this fall is another Cache (spelled without the "t"), a nine-store Miami Beach-based women's specialty chain, headed by Marilyn Rubinson, with shops in Houston, Las Vegas and Chicago as well as Florida.
"Cachet was really my third choice for a name for a shop," said Conant, who only last week was in the namechoosing business again, this time for her baby, Meryl. Other store name possibilities were Printemps ("They told me no one would be able to pronounce it") or Limelight. At one time Pizazz was also a possibility. She now regrets not having used her own name, and will probably settle on calling the store Cachet-Four Seasons to stem the confusion.
April Stern Riccio, Saks Fifth Avenue's fashion director in Washington, was not only the first on her block to get the metal urge to wear bronze shoes, copper/leather belts and the like. Now she may be the first to come up with a substance for caring for them. She has used "Rub 'N Buff," which is made to highlight or decorate any surface, according to the label on the tube. It comes in several metallic tones, but Riccio finds the antique gold best for brightening her accessories (Hechinger's has it.)
Skin-care specialist Irma Shorell has informal scientific data on what pressurized air cabins do to your skin. "Try to save a soft, tasty dinner roll from a flight tray to eat later," she suggests. "Then notice in how short a time the dry, pressurized cabin air turns that roll dry and crusty." While some can see instantly the effect of the dry air on their skin, Shorell concludes that for every year flown on large jets, the skin can age up to 2 1/2 years. As a result, Shorell and Hal Lightman, head of Shorell for Men, have developed skin-care kits for flight attendants that are already being used by Eastern Airlines.
Menswear designer Michael Black has found two things wrong with the film "Raiders of the Lost Ark." First, the name is too long. Also, the star, Indiana Jones, doesn't change his clothes much. Just the same, he has developed a line of "Lost Ark" clothes from the film, designed from clips and slides before he saw the whole movie. In the flilm, Jones changes to a coat and tie and later a Nazi uniform for disguise, but spends most of the film in a black leather jacket, placket-front poplin shirt and double-pleated trousers. "I didn't do the military things, I felt it might offend someone," says Black. "Besides, the safari is more fashion-right than the [Nazi] German clothes." Bloomingdale's originally approached Black witht the expectation of doing a movie tie-in as they had done with the film "Breaking Away." Black hasn't ventured very far from the safari look or the fabrics that were around in 1936, the period of the film. "There wasn't any polyester around then, so I'm not using it now." The clothes will be at Bloomingdale's in August.