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A CURATED LIFE                      

A Lifestyle Blog

Joanne's updates about what's happening behind the scenes and inspirations for living the curated life.

  • Joanne Mullin

A tale of an epic evening beyond our expectations.

Wow! What a great evening we had! After three years of preparing for this event, we have finally officially launched the J.Mullin Apparel line of distinctive handcrafted luxury kimonos!

Over 70 fabulous fashion-loving women came to our event on Thursday, April 21 at the 1900 Building in Kansas City. The ladies entered an elegant boutique-like dressing room setting with fabulous passed canapés and an open wine and champagne bar where they felt comfortable to move around the room and try on kimonos as they visited with each other.

Our two models, Mariah Kelli and Amy Dreyer Appleton mingled among the guests and modeled several different kimono ensembles throughout the evening. Our stylist, Amani Skalacki, put outfits together all evening long -- both for our models and for the guests.

We all wore several different kimonos throughout the evening. It was so much fun to see the reactions of our guests to how they looked and felt when they put yet another kimono on. By the end of the evening, our guests had put on their own fashion show. It was the best dress-up party, which far surpassed my expectations.

Our wonderful MC, Katie Van Luchene charmed us all with her poised and professional presentation. Of course, I had to tell the story of how we met. I was new to Kansas City, and attended a runway show at KCFW (Kansas City Fashion Week). I was wearing a kimono I had just finished making that day. It was the first one I ever made. I was nervous about what to wear. After all, it was a fashion event. As I was making my way to my front row seat, a glamorously dressed woman came up to me and complimented me on it. When I told her that I made it, she said, "I'd buy it in a heartbeat!" I was stunned, and thought to myself, "Maybe I should make some more!" I didn't know who she was, but her reaction and kind words to me had a huge impact on me.

That same night I met Jennifer Lapka, the founder of Rightfully Sewn, who told me about her non-profit organization that works with new designers to develop patterns and do small batch production. The rest is history. Here we are three years later, and the woman who complimented me on my kimono that night was none other than Katie Van Luchene, who was now the MC for my Launch Event. And, Jennifer Lapka was one of my honored guests and a presenter.

I have been working with her team of professionals for the last two years on creating three new patterns, and streamlining our production process. She spoke about Rightfully Sewn's mission of providing education and employment opportunities for underserved women in Kansas City. Her business model has attracted the attention of the Council of Fashion Designers in America (CFDA) which is considering starting a similar organization in New York City.

Another honored guest, Bobbi Jo Reed, stole our hearts with her story of founding Healing House, a non-profit organization that provides housing and counseling to those recovering from substance abuse issues. Her mission of lifting women up, giving them confidence and a fresh new start on life meshes with my own mission of encouraging women to be all they were born to be; to give themselves permission to be more of who they are and to not hesitate to invest in themselves and create a life for themselves around what they love.

Both Jennifer and Bobbi Jo now have their own J.Mullin kimono. And Katie Van Luchene now has three! One of the highlights of the launch event was Katie's presentation of the luxurious

way we package our purchased kimonos.

When she untied the navy blue ribbon and opened the white box to reveal the package inserts and tissue wrapped kimono, I suggested she go ahead and open it. Inside, was THE kimono that brought us together. The very first kimono I ever made, which I still had, and now it was going to be hers. I also included a small leather shoulder bag that was printed from a photograph of the kimono's fabric. It was a great moment!

There are not enough thank you's to go around for all of the people who helped me put this event together: O'Neill Events, the 1900 Building staff and the Restaurant at 1900 for its fabulous catering and bar service, and the sales reps of the local magazines who were very patient with my lack of PhotoShop skills in preparing display ads! And, of course, our wonderful presenters, models, stylist and MC! Thank you also to my photographer, Samantha Levi, and videographer, Johanna Brooks, for their excellent work.

Our new kimonos are not on our website yet -- but they will be soon. In fact, some of them are still being made. The new kimonos we had at the launch event were completed the day before the event, and Bobbi Jo Reed and my husband, Bill, were still tagging them as our guests were arriving. I will let you know when the new kimonos are on our website!

By the end of the evening, we had sold ten kimonos and several scarves and belts. Two of our guests purchased two kimonos each! It was so gratifying to be so well received by some of Kansas City's best dressed women. We are grateful to all of those who came out and supported us and that we are able to donate all proceeds from our Launch Event to Healing House.

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  • Joanne Mullin

A Conversation about Renewal and Reinvention

About this video: This video is a 60-second photo montage from a recent photoshoot of the J.Mullin Apparel Spring/Summer line, which is set to debut at a LAUNCH EVENT this coming Thursday in Kansas City.

More information at tickets-264112978027)

In anticipation of our upcoming LAUNCH EVENT, I recently sat down with a writer who is very familiar with our line and shared some of the background information about our new collection:

The Theme:

Q: The overall theme of the new collection is “Rediscovering Elegance.” What do you mean by Rediscovering Elegance?

JM: It signifies a coming out of hiding; a hope for our future; a desire for renewal and reinvention; a craving for simplifying our lives, celebrating beauty and elevating our style. The new collection celebrates vibrancy and a sense of adventure, and embraces our love for luxury and sophisticated style.

Q: You say each kimono is one-of-a-kind. I love that each kimono has a name and even has a story. Can you tell us more about that?

JM: Our kimonos each feature some repurposed fabrics, and a lot of them incorporate vintage kimono fabric. Each piece tells a story that is as unique and multi-faceted as the story of the woman who wears it. I am fascinated by every woman’s story of how she has evolved. Every woman has a story, and we want to help her tell it.

The Fabrics:

Q: We’re seeing some warm, rosy colors, some graphic prints and botanicals in the line. What was your inspiration for choosing these fabrics? They’re all quite different, but somehow hang together. Can you tell us more about how you put these fabrics together?

JM: What you can expect from this collection is a bit of nostalgic luxury. My inspirations for the kimonos and scarves were the glamour of old Hollywood and the warm rosy colors of vintage travel posters. The fabrics I chose evoke the abstract art style of Matisse and the muted colors of block prints from the Mid Century. There are a lot of warm, rosy colors and contemporary Japanese prints. We trim our garments with fine Japanese linen bands and finish them off with curated vintage and repurposed fabrics. Part modern art, part vintage kimono, the fabric combinations are the true art of each piece. No two are alike.

The Relevance:

Q: How is the new line relevant for women at this moment in time, and considering the lifestyle changes that we have made over the last two years?

JM: I think women are so ready to get dressed up again. We’ve been in hiding for over two years, and we’re so ready for a change. We want a wardrobe that is less complicated, yet more sophisticated. We’re craving color and patterns, but we want fewer pieces and a more timeless, elegant look.

From everything I've read about what's trending in fashion this season, women are choosing quality over quantity, and are going for classic timeless looks that are relaxed but elevated, and are adaptable to a wide range of situations. We are zeroing in on what our personal style really is and want to wear garments that bring out our confidence and make us feel more alive. We want to wear things that are flattering, and that we can wear with pieces we already own.

Styling Tips:

Q: Let’s talk about styling. Just how do you wear a kimono?

JM: Consider it a layering piece, a topper for whatever you are wearing at the moment. The looks can vary from athleisure casual and sneakers or slides to jeans and sandals

to cropped pants and espadrilles to a simple cocktail dress or wide palazzo pants with heels. You can basically build a capsule wardrobe around one or two statement piece kimonos.

Q: That would simplify creating a travel wardrobe, right?

JM: Absolutely. A kimono can be a robe at breakfast, a light coat worn over joggers or jeans for sightseeing, a swimsuit coverup at the pool, and be a dramatic topper for cocktail dresses and evening attire like narrow silk ankle pants or long flowing palazzo pants. You’ll be wrapped in luxury and comfort from morning to night.

Paired with classic separates, a J.Mullin kimono can be styled to adapt to the many facets of a woman’s lifestyle. Slipping into one of our sleek, fully lined kimonos instantly elevates whatever a woman is wearing. She can be at ease in any situation, which brings out her confidence and panache. That’s not just relevance. That’s opening the door to new possibilities. That’s a woman giving herself permission to shine.

Our Commitment to Reinvention and Renewal:

Q: You talk a lot about reinvention. I know that’s what we’re seeing in each piece — the fact that each piece incorporates repurposed fabrics and even vintage kimono fabrics, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? Isn’t reinvention symbolic as well? Isn’t that what we all want?

JM: That’s exactly right. It’s about using what we have to reinvent our lives. Embracing our strengths and finding ways to make the world a better place. The J.Mullin brand is all about reinvention. We honor the ever-evolving journey every woman experiences as she discovers her true essence. We believe women should not hide behind clothing that simply covers them up, but, rather wear pieces that not only flatter, but also transform how we feel about ourselves. A confident woman lives with passion and puts herself out into the world and finds creative ways to make the world a better place.

Q: Is this why J.Mullin Apparel is donating its proceeds to organizations that help women get a new start in life?

JM: My husband, Bill, and I have decided to donate all of our proceeds, not just from our upcoming Launch Event, but as an ongoing commitment, to non-profit organizations that work to uplift women and help them get a new start in life. We are particularly interested in the organizations who provide housing, education and counseling to women who are recovering from substance abuse disorders.

The proceeds from this Thursday's Launch Event will be donated to the Healing House in Kansas City. We also support the House of Ruth Recovery Home in Bill's hometown of Connersville, Indiana.

If you live near Kansas City, it's not too late to reserve your free tickets to our Launch Event. Just click on this image for the link.

Those of you who are followers and friends from outside the Kansas City area, we invite you to see what's new here on our website:

Our new Scarves and Obi belts are on our site now, and are available for immediate (and free in the U.S.) shipping for Mother's Day gifts.

The new Kimonos will be on our site around May 1st.

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  • Joanne Mullin

Sometimes gratifying, sometimes humbling, always surprising.

The many faces of my new audience and what I'm learning along the way.

In recent weeks, as I have been creating display ads and talking with magazine sales reps and planning promotion calendars to promote my upcoming launch event, I have been surprised at my own reactions to having an audience. So far, my audience has mostly been people who want to see me succeed because it's how they make their money. So, they've all been over-the-top encouraging and complimentary, just swooning over the new kimonos and the fabulous photographs of the models wearing them in soft, perfect lighting. For me, it's kind of a shock because I work alone. For hours and hours I plug away trying to steer this slow boat to wherever it is that I'm going. I'm not used to all of the attention, and am somewhat skeptical of it all. I can't take all of this adulation too seriously.

A couple of weeks ago, IN Kansas City Magazine sent a writer over to my home studio to interview me for a feature article. Never mind that it was sponsored content that I paid dearly for. I soaked it all in, and pretended that they actually sought me out and that I had something to say that they thought their audience would want to hear. It was really gratifying to have such a captive listener who seemed so fascinated by everything I had to say. By the time the interview was over, she was trying on kimonos, and I have to say she was surprised at how good she looked wearing one. But I knew that would happen. Because it always does.

I always love to see someone react to how they look in the mirror when they try on one of my kimonos. Whether this writer was interested or not in what I had to say, she was certainly interested in how she looked and felt about herself when she saw herself in a new way. That is why I do what I do. I love to see the transformation, the surprise, the "Oh, wow!" moment when they look in the mirror. That's what this is all about: showing women how beautiful they are, by dressing them in something that brings out their best qualities.

This week the MC for my upcoming launch event came to my home studio to meet with me about the program content and event details. I don't know how it happened, but I think she is one of my biggest fans. I love how much she loves what I do, and everything I'm about. Who wouldn't love that kind of admiration? We really had a blast. Of course, she's a really fun person. She, being the good sport that she is, also succumbed to a kimono trying-on session. The same thing happened. She looked absolutely amazing in anything she put on.

We started playing with different ways to wear them, and pairing some of the new Obi belts with the kimonos, wearing them inside the kimono and letting the kimono hang free of being belted. That was a magical experience, even for me. Who knew that a somewhat illusive waist could be so defined? And who knew that particular Obi belt would go so well with that kimono? They shouldn't go together, but they do. We were like two school girls having a dress-up party.

If these two encounters were a preview of what's going to happen at my launch event, I will be thrilled. Seeing the transformations and sharing in the fun of putting a great outfit together is at the core of what makes me happy and feel fulfilled.

So, bring it on. I can take it. After almost three years of putting these designs together and envisioning women wearing them and loving them, I am getting a little taste of the frosting on the cake. Hours of work, hours of planning and replanning, tons of mistakes and steep learning curves have led me to this place. Not to mention the financial investment. But how lucky can a person be? I get to do what I love, and share my passion for design and fabric combinations and for dressing well. And, on top of that, Bill and I have committed to donate the J.Mullin Apparel Company's proceeds to non-profit organizations that give women a second chance on life.

All proceeds from our business -- not just the launch event -- but from the beginning and for as long as we can afford it, are being donated to ministries that help women reinvent their lives. Proceeds from the launch event will go to The Healing House in Kansas City, which provides housing, counseling and education to women who are recovering from substance abuse. We also support the House of Ruth in Bill's hometown of Connersville, Indiana, which provides a comprehensive recovery program for women overcoming Opioid addiction.

Both of these organizations are saving and transforming lives. For us to be able to have some part in the work that they do is humbling and gratifying. I have also been honored to be a part of the planning of the House of Ruth's resale shop, "Reinventions," The Healing House is also planning to open a similar shop, and has invited me to help them with the planning of their shop, as well. Can life get any more rewarding? We are truly blessed to be able to be involved in the work these organizations are doing.

Oh, and one more thing: Here is a link to the INKansas City Magazine Article that was published two weeks ago. I think the writer did a nice job. What do you think?

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