28 March, 2015

HOP SING VIBES... with Gudrun!

From the very first time this tall, attractive, and quietly confident woman walked through the door, all I could think of was how incredible she would look in our clothing... I wanted to run over and just beg her to try on a few choice pieces that would look perfect on her, but I refrained from accosting her - for at least 30 minutes! The power of restraint! Haha!

Meet Gudrun, she has been a Hop Sing enthusiast for about 3 years and she appreciates the whole unique process...  meaning she loves the involvement when we make special suggestions and help her choose styles that she may otherwise have passed by, especially when those pieces become favorite additions to her wardrobe. To my delight she allows me help her choose pieces that will compliment her life & personal style. It's truly a love, love relationship!  We love her & she loves us!  - Lauren

Name:  Gudrun Miller

Place of Birth:  Goerits, East Germany near the Baltic Sea, formerly Prussia.  Born right after WWII.  I grew up in Berlin and my family emigrated to the United States when I was 7.

Occupation:  Professional Counselor, Visionary artist and metaphysical teacher focusing on soul psychology.

Age: 67

Describe your signature look:  Funky but fashionable.  Casual but stylish. 

Who or what inspires you?  I am influenced by current fashion trends.  Lauren has been my greatest inspiration recently.
What makes you feel beautiful?  I like to look different.  Good quality stylish clothes help me feel beautiful.

Name an item of clothing you can't live without:  A great pair of jeans or two or three!  Now AG jeans.

What's the biggest splurge in your closet?  I think now it is Odd Molly clothing which I love and treat almost as collector's items!  Other than that, it is Native American jewelry made by artists who are friends. 

The biggest waste of money in your closet:  When clothes look good on me, I want to purchase them.  A lot of clothes look good on me so I am having to be more mindful of what I will actually wear!

What's the most memorable piece of clothing you've worn and what made it special?  I am looking for that piece!  It is the primal quest!

What is your guilty pleasure/something you can't resist?  A great glass of red wine.  or white!

Do you have a style icon?  I think now it is Lauren who embraces beauty in women regardless of age or size.  Other than that, it is whichever woman I may see that is happy in her skin.  I saw this a lot more in Europe and in South America, mainly Brazil where the women seemed so confident of their beauty regardless of age or body size.

What is your beauty/skin care routine?  I do minimal things regarding makeup.  I am very conscious of eating healthy and I use mainly simple things on my skin, organic if possible.  I am now also using essential oils internally and externally which seems to be helping my overall health and well being.

"...one of my missions in this life was to learn to love myself."

What has been the biggest surprise about the age you are now?  I am amazed that I love life!  I see the signs of aging and I am not overly concerned.  Mostly I am grateful to have wisdom and inner peace.  I wish I had known this when I was younger.

The best advice you have ever received:  This came from a spiritual source that informed me that one of my missions in this life was to learn to love myself.  I do now and that love has allowed me to forgive all that have ever hurt me and to forgive myself for my own shortcomings.

Do you believe in destiny?  Yes.

What's next for you?  I am open to that.

Thank you so much, Gudrun! You inspire us!

17 March, 2015

A social issue that hits close to home.

Today it was announced globally, that "Starbucks is serving up a "Latte and a Lesson in Race Relations..." Which caused me to contemplate a few things about my own experience - in my own town.  I'm not Asian, but I have seen how it might affect a small business adversely to be Asian. A lot like a fat shaming social experiment - the kind featuring a pretty girl wearing a fat suit with a hidden camera... Those never go well.


Although here in America we have a second term black man elected to serve in the highest administrative and governing office in the country, do we still need a daily cup of race relations 101? I hate to admit it, but I think we might! Nearly daily we're asked, why the name "Hop Sing" was chosen for our store name? Furthermore, far to often were told that someone who has been to our shopping mall has admittedly opted to not enter our shop "because of the name". Whaaat? And often they say it as they're exclaiming to have had a great shopping experience, one they wish they would have discovered sooner! Which I presume would have occurred if not for the name???

The name "Hop Sing" has cost us business many times over I'm afraid, as far more than a few customers have told us that it actually took them longer (yes, some have actually said; "years") for them to walk through our door. Exclaiming that they assumed that it was a "Chinese Restaurant", - which if we were a restaurant... Who doesn't love Chinese Food?! Many have claimed that they thought we only sold goods made in China... hmmm...?! Yet many of the establishments they shopped in around us sold them Made in China, albeit with a more acceptable store name I guess... Crazy thing is that- this name problem never occurred to us as we relocated our business to Prescott from Hawaii. 

Kong Lung Trading - Hop Sing's big sister store and historic marketplace in the cane fields of Kauai (the merchant ship crossroads of the Pacific) since 1892.

Furthermore it's a double unfair situation because we carry more high quality USA made merchandise than most retailers of our size - anywhere! When we opened our store here, we wanted it to reflect our path, our past and our future. We thought Hop Sing perfectly said it all! It was cute and kitschy, originating - from the beloved and iconic americana western tv show "Bonanza" - kinda an East meets West thing — I previously had lived my entire adult life in the ethnic melting pot known as Hawaii. For over 33 years I worked and shopped and lived in a tropical petri dish - filled with diversity - among an American culture where nobody cares what you are, as long as you're kind and thoughtful and embody the spirit of aloha. Seriously, I still stumble over the "remove your shoes before entering the house tradition" when presented at the threshold of any door... 

Anyhow, most people now love our catchy name and associate it with the want and desire of quality clothing, footwear and all things special along the fashion accessory and most recently the apothecary trail. Our goods are uniquely curated and often have one of a kind or handmade qualities. We advocate for consumers to buy less and buy better! Invest in the things you decorate your body in! We believe in beauty, quality and the supply chain... So I just wonder, what if we had named the store "Hoppy's Boutique" how many people would have come in right away, or would they have assumed we only sold clothes for rabbits? Just say'n... 

We're not in Hawaii anymore Toto...

What did you think when you first encountered the name Hop Sing?

06 March, 2015

Yeah... I'm back from market, so why am I so depressed?

3/6/2015 12:37:00 AM
Fashion Critic @Large: Price versus quality

Lauren Woltman
Kudos columnist

There is a saying in China that "if you want to know what colors are currently in fashion all you need to do is look at the rivers."

Women love clothes, and young women especially tend to think of the fashion industry as glamorous, and beautiful and I don't know what... so when I tell people I'm a buyer for women's clothing, the immediate response is usually: "Wow!" "Awesome!" "Lucky..."

Today I am reporting to you fresh off a major buying trip. And although I love what I do, it's not all good. I pride myself on sourcing better quality at the best price. And, yet, year after year I see the marketplace shifting toward buying trends I cannot support. 

In today's column I bring you an industry fashion insider's perspective. I have been "lucky" enough to attend many a trade show over the past two decades. Most of these shows are segregated by quality and price point, but not entirely. Not quite fashion week, but you get to see major slices of the spectrum of clothing being offered. There are miles and miles and thousands upon thousands of brands - at every price point. From designer labels to celebrity lines, nationally branded to indie labels, up and coming foreign and domestic designs - but most of all you can find loads of cheaply made fashion.

There is even a huge show dedicated to "Off Price" merchandise, which offers a majority of overproduced, mostly cheaply imported, often slightly defective or irregular fashions that are touted as "Guaranteed" to provide retailers with enormous profit margins that the American mass consumer gobbles up - like hot dogs and apple pie. And if price is your king, you probably have much of that show hanging in your closet. 

I think consumers need to be more aware of profit margins and quality vs. quantity. Ask yourself, why is this stuff so cheap? Where was it made? What is it made of? How much could a worker have been paid to make it? While at market I picked up a cute dress, and it looked like something I might desire to own and wear. It was unbelievably priced at $9 wholesale with a minimum of six units. As I examined the construction and details I was appalled. It looked like it would unravel before I ever wore it. The fabric content appeared misspelled, when truthfully it was a trick to sound real when it was a synthetic fabric manufactured to look like linen. And, it was as far from linen as linen can get. It also said "Dry Clean Only." The final straw was a hang tag with a warning label instructing to: "Wash garment BEFORE wearing"! The foreign salesman interjected, "This best seller! You can mark way up! Cut tag off once you buy."

I walked away sad and seriously wondering if this business I love will be able to provide me with any financial stability in my future. I just can't buy into this culture of crap. Now let me ask you, how often do you wash a garment before you wear it? I haven't pre-washed anything since the Levi's shrink-to-fit days.

You see, there is a breed of consumer - someone who grew up on Claire's and Forever 21. They want more and more for less and less, and they don't care where it's made or how, so long as it's cheap and trendy. What's more disheartening is the fact that the industry is kow-towing to this woman, supporting disposable trends, and unethical manufacturing simply to meet the demands of debt-ridden consumers whom either don't know any better, or don't care. But it's cute? That dress you're purchasing at a bargain price was made by small hands paid next to nothing in faraway places, of cheap or synthetic fabric, dyed with hazardous chemicals and some (illegal in this country) pesticides were thrown in for good shipment. But it looks OK to you?

Furthermore, consumers, you're not actually saving on anything. Here's a little fashion industry secret... YOU'RE BEING SWINDLED BY BARGAIN PRICED CRAP! Retailers know what prices you're used to, what prices you're immune to, and what you consider a "deal." The less they pay for the goods, the more they make off of you. Think they're passing savings onto you? Absolutely not. The "savings" are built into their profit margins, not passed on to the consumer. In other words, the less they pay, the more they profit. They're simply buying a dress for $10 pricing it at a 5.0 margin (WELL above industry standards). They then mark the dress at 50 percent off and you're thinking, "Wow, I'm getting such a great deal." In reality, they're profiting off of your trust and making more than they would on a higher-priced, quality garment sold at full MSRP. 

There is no bargain, my friends. The sale price was a farce and that pretty dress will most likely fall apart in a few months unless you actually care for it like you paid $300. How likely is that? That just opens up a whole other can of worms... false economy, consumer culture, mass waste, environmental impact.

And how was your week?

Lauren Woltman is the owner of Hop Sing Trading Co. in the Bashford Courts, 130 W. Gurley St.

20 February, 2015

Is 'old' the new black?

Courtesy images
Courtesy images
Lauren Woltman
Kudos columnist

Great news ladies! Did you know that ageless beauty is really an attitude? Did you also know that with age comes a special kind of timeless beauty? The kind of beauty that emerges from within and shines brightly outward ... if-you-want-it-to!

The fashion world is taking notice! It began last fall, when Lanvin featured models in their late 30s and early 40s - Violetta Sanchez, Kirsten Owen, Esther de Jong, Amber Valletta, and more - reflecting both the idea that women are more refined with time and possibly recognizing that you basically have to be in that age bracket or above to be able to afford their wares. Earlier this year, luxury brand CĂ©line debuted an ad from its upcoming Spring 2015 campaign with literary giant Joan Didion at its center. "She is an American icon; a fashion icon," famed photographer Juergen Teller said. He snapped the chic 80-year-old.

The shot falls squarely into a mature movement that's currently sweeping advertising and social media. It's amazing and it's risen to a whole new level! I believe a thank you belongs to Ari Seth Cohen and the beautiful ladies of Advanced Style! Older women are no longer giving up and giving in. They are experiencing new inspiration for living longer, younger, healthier, happier, choosing to express themselves uniquely, tastefully and timelessly styled. Not competing stylistically with their daughters, but guiding them.

"It's really grabbing so much attention," Grey Advertising executive creative director Alice Ericsson said. Attention further grew in January when Saint Laurent released ads featuring folk rock icon, 71-year-old Joni Mitchell strumming a tune on her guitar at the center of their newest ad campaign.

Iris Apfel, 93, is as busy as ever, modeling for both Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar this season. L'Oreal has added Twiggy and Helen Mirren to their already-stacked roster of mature spokeswomen, including Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton.

"They're all icons. They're amazing," Ericsson said. "They have substance. They also have wrinkles."

In its newly released spring 2015 campaign called "Better than Ever," Barneys is celebrating the allure of the older woman. The message behind the campaign is that a woman can command a room, more effectively and more powerfully when she's in her 40s or 50s or 60s than a young girl in her 20s.

Barneys has used older faces before, but this time the heat is rising. "What we're trying to say is this: 'You have a long life and this life is a rich life, and this life doesn't end at 25,'" says Dennis Freedman creative director at Barneys. "That's a very, very important message to send to millennials."

Although advertisers are chasing millennials, hoping to build loyalty with a group on their way in, not out, it's estimated that consumers older than 60 spend more than $8 trillion a year on fashion, beauty and basic luxury items.

"This is a really important demographic and these women have all the money and all the buying power," Ericsson said.

The ads showcase faces lined with wisdom and humor, grey hair lending gravitas and life experience making a woman more desirable. "I think it's a fad that will continue," Ericsson said. "At one point, at the Tom Ford Modeling Agency, everyone was naked. Maybe old is the new naked." 

Are you ready to grow ageless? At 53, I'm certainly game!

Lauren Woltman is the owner of Hop Sing Trading Co. in the Bashford Courts, 130 W. Gurley St.

27 January, 2015

Fashion is good for the soul:

We're so grateful to the Prescott Daily Courier, and everyone who contributed to this great write-up on HOP SING published earlier this week.  So fun!  THANK YOU! 


Text: Arlene Hittle, Prescott Daily Courier
Photo: Lee Stukenberg, Prescott Daily Courier

If laughter is good for the soul, Lauren Woltman may well have the healthiest soul in town.

Woltman, who owns Hop Sing Trading Co. with her husband Jeff, has a ready smile and is quick with a joke.

After 33 years in Kauai, Hawaii, and more than 20 years in retail, she moved to Prescott in 2009 to be closer to her parents, relocating her shop to the Bashford Court Mall downtown.

"We just passed our five-year mark in November," she said.

Much like its owner, Hop Sing has a fun, funky vibe. Brightly colored knit sweaters hang with denim jackets, jeans and bold graphic T-shirts. Unique shoes and boots sit next to hand-knit hats and scarves. Chunky jewelry, luxe nail and lip colors, slouchy purses and bath bombs in delicious scents complete the collection.

Above all, the atmosphere is inviting.

"This definitely is not a snobby boutique," employee Andrea Hamby said. She hasn't worked with Woltman long, but they shared an instant connection since they both had lived in Hawaii.

Woltman loves working retail.

"I kind of eat, sleep and breathe fashion," she said.

But she's not talking the runway styles many people think of when they hear the world "fashion."

"My perspective is far more casual," said Woltman, who writes a fashion column for The Daily Courier's entertainment section, Kudos, and blogs at hopsingtradingco.blogspot.com. She's also active on Instagram and Twitter (@hopsingtrading). 

The daughter of a professional surfer, she grew up in Pacific Beach, California, surrounded by other famous surfers and their friends, who came from as far away as Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

"What I remember most is that these well-traveled bohemians felt completely free to express themselves, both fashionably and otherwise," she writes on the blog. "My fashion foundation was laid with the bold fashion statements and glowing tans of surf gods and their goddesses."

Her favorite part of retail work: physically transforming women.

"I love my customers, and I love helping them decorate themselves," she said. "We're always looking for ways to help a woman feel more confident."

Among the ways Woltman gives her customers that shot of confidence?

"As I get older, I've become a lot more fearless in what I wear," she said. "It's always fun for me to teach the ladies to play a little bit."

Whether that's pairing a lace skirt with a graphic T and hand-knit sweater or putting two seemingly clashing prints together, the results nudge customers to go home and look at their closet differently.

"She really puts together pieces that you wouldn't think would work," Hamby said. "She has magic like that."

The formula for success, Woltman said, lies in knowing how to dress pieces up or down. Depending on the top it's paired with, one skirt can be equally at home at church or at the grocery store.

Hop Sing customer Mandy Moreau, who lives in Prescott Valley, agrees. 

"My husband knows I like her store and goes in and asks Lauren to help him pick out clothes or gifts. She has never once steered him wrong (even down to getting the right sizing when I'm not there to try stuff on)," she said via email.

"She takes time to get to know her customers - their likes and dislikes, personal style, what makes them comfortable and confident and, perhaps more important, what makes them uncomfortable," Moreau said. "The quality of her items are top-notch, and she takes pride in what she sells, where the products come from and who makes them."

Quality definitely matters for Woltman, who said 50 percent or more of her store's merchandise is sourced in the United States.

"Quality is paramount in my world," she said. That goes for both the clothes she wears and the food she eats. "I'd rather have a lot less, but a whole lot better."

That's the common thread she plans to weave through her life in 2015: Work less, work better. Buy less, buy better.

Hop Sing's prices range anywhere from $5 to $400.

For women who might be thinking twice - or three times - about wearing a pricy $200 sweater to the grocery store, she has one word of advice: Don't.

"Your life is only this long," Woltman said, holding up her hands about a foot apart. "You want to celebrate it every day."

Family is among the things Woltman celebrates every day. Her daughter and three grandchildren live in San Luis Obispo, on California's central coast, which gives her the opportunity to go to the beach on vacation. She relishes the chance to return to the sand, surf and sunsets.

"It's such a refreshment to get back to it," she said.

Woltman gets a lot of support from her friends, family and husband, Jeff. 

"He's the second half of mom and pop," she said.

They've been married for 14 years, after meeting in Hawaii. Her third husband, Jeff is proof that when you stop looking, "in walks the love of your life."

"I get to spend every day with my best friend," she said.

She makes a point of reflecting on and vocalizing appreciation for who she has in her life, what she has, and her customer base.

"Without them, I couldn't do this," Woltman said.

Her customers feel the same way about her.

"Hop Sing combines the best of small-town friendliness with international style," regular Gudrun Miller said via email. "Lauren, Jeff and the staff have become friends and I go to the store just to visit."

Miller continued: "Lauren has a knack for putting pieces together and coming up with amazing outfits. She specializes in helping women of all ages and sizes feel good about how they look."

The boutique carries a tote bag that does a fair job of summing up Woltman's philosophy. Emblazoned with a motorcycle-riding woman, it bears a quote from Glinda, the Good Witch: "You had the power all along, my dear."

She introduces women to new ways to get dressed, encouraging them put together the basics in a not-so-basic way.

"If you look good, it makes you feel good," Woltman said.