Joshua Tree National Park, CA
“I’ve seen the Joshua tree,
Got down on my knees,
Thru the virgin love of a prayer.” – Eric Church, Desperate Man
When I’m in search of answers, I head to the Desert. It can be intimidating…stark…barren. It’s a place that doesn’t suffer fools. But like a woman at Midlife & Beyond, once you experience its ability to simply be itself with no apologies, you will be inspired by the alluring beauty, strength, and calm that one finds there.
I was looking for clarity and meaning that would help me to refine my mission and my message, to go deeper within myself. It worked. You may have read my last post entitled “I Quit!” It was the desert that opened the space, cleared my mind and provided the necessary inspiration. This led me to take a powerful stand and connect with women around the globe on the collective journey to “Mastering Modern Midlife!”
The desert, and in particular, the moonscape of Joshua Tree National Park is one of the coolest places to shoot fashion… with cool being the operative word! It was 33 degrees at 5:30 AM when the shoot began! Join me in the first installment of my Desert Series celebrating my new direction along with some of my favorite fashion shoots of all time! This one juxtaposes the ethereal beauty of a gossamer wrap against the harsh and rugged backdrop of the lower Mojave Desert.
Let me introduce you to We Are Leone.
This story started way before Joshua Tree!
I was walking down Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach immersed in conversation with my friend, Julie Bee. It was late at night. We’d spent the afternoon till evening on a long shoot for one of our favorite brands, Jaclyn Jones USA. Jacqueline DePaul of Yellow Brick Runway had been my partner on the shoot and Julie kindly accompanied us to document behind the scenes. The street was dark with most of the storefronts shuttered for the night. We happened to walk by a tiny boutique, lit up and bustling from within. We peeked in like two excited school girls and began to window shop as what we saw on the inside was mesmerizing. The boutique was filled with the most exquisite gowns we had ever seen. A couple of the young women inside were unpacking boxes and saw us out of the corner of their eye. Before we knew it, the door popped open and we were whisked inside. It was the beginning of a night to remember.
We Are Leone is a brand I discovered by happenstance and one that will be etched forever in my memory. Julie and I quickly immersed ourselves in trying out one fabulous design after another. The gowns are made with an incredible attention to detail with the most exquisite embroidery and finishing touches. The two young women inside the boutique were also the designers and founders of the company. These two have a fascinating story that may fill you with wanderlust: “Inspired by the art of living, travel, culture, and style, the sister duo Tallulah and Ruby Rufus Isaacs created We Are Leone for women all over the world. The two girls grew up between Los Angeles, Rome, Paris, and Africa and have traveled extensively to all corners of the earth; always being acutely aware of all things beautiful surrounding them whether it be a pattern in a tile or the color of a birds wings…”
Tallulah and Ruby look like the supermodels you see in the glossy fashion magazines yet their personalities are deceptively warm and inviting. They decided to combine their love and experience in fashion with ten years in the industry under both of their belts. Their brand quickly evolved from a love of simple pieces that can take you from beach to city and daytime to evening all into one effortless and unforgettable piece. You’ll see We Are Leone designs all over the world, from street style in New York City or having lunch at Club 55 in St Tropez. The cover-ups transition easily from jeans to a little black dress. The brand is developing its reputation as a timeless one with “no fuss” designs for women of all ages.
One of my favorite things is discovering new brands and sharing them with my wonderful audience. That particular night, Tallulah and Ruby were setting up for a “Pop Up” Shop over the weekend. The benefit of this particular Pop Up was the incredible discounts on many of the gowns that were samples from the past season. The discounts were up to 80 percent off! Everything in the shop was on sale, including the latest designs from the current season. I’m pretty sure I tried on just about everything in the shop as Julie and the sister duo oohed and ahhed. That’s what happens the minute you try on one of their designs. You can’t help but ooh and ahh. One dress was more beautiful than the next. Some were covered in the most intricate and exquisite colorful embroidery with gorgeous ruffles or eyelet fabric. It felt like a dream. Well…it was a dream!
Julie was busy getting to know the sisters while I was simultaneously shopping up a storm. Once I hit upon the sheer white lace gown in the images, we knew that was it. We found a winner, a keeper, a gown I couldn’t part with. Before I knew it, the sisters had wrapped it up for me and gave it to me as a gift. I couldn’t believe it! I kept asking them, “Is this for real???”
That’s the essence of the brand. Kindness and beautiful designs rolled into one. The sisters have created something so unique and special along with a vibe that’s friendly, warm and down to earth. We Are Leone won me over. Its designs are pure delight, making a woman feel absolutely beautiful, like a princess in an instant. I’ve spent months searching for the perfect shoot to share this gown with you. I’ve taken it with me on many different locations but none were worthy. I knew it had to be Joshua Tree.
The vistas and terrain are otherworldly. We woke up at the crack of dawn to make it to the desert for the spectacular sunrise. This particular morning, that meant a wake-up call of 4:30am and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. For someone who shied from the camera for well over the first 50 years of her life, I’ve now turned into a bit of a “shot whore” as I’ll do just about anything to get that perfect capture. Freezing temps, tarantulas, attack cacti, and actually having to use pliers to get spines out of my hand! Despite all that, there’s nothing like incredible fashion with the immense beauty of Mother Nature. Combine that with the light of the morning sun and it’s as close to heaven as I’ve ever come.
I tossed on the We Are Leone gown over a white swimsuit from Zara. I love the monochromatic look and felt that the gown should be the absolute focus. Tossing on a pair of Tabitha Simmons strappy sandals from my own collection finished the look. With something as special as a design by We Are Leone, you don’t need anything else. The backdrops in the desert change as you drive the expanse, moving from the high desert where the Joshua Tree lives to the lower desert that’s brimming with cactus at every turn.
I don’t know if I’ve ever owned anything as beautiful as this gown from We Are Leone. I do know that I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life. It isn’t every day that you happen upon a boutique or Pop Up Shop, are welcomed inside when the store isn’t yet open for business, and gifted something so special as this gown. The best part is, no matter where you are in the world, you can share in the experience. WeAreLeone.com is an online experience filled with all the exquisite gowns and dresses found in their shops. If you’re in the LA area, make sure to sign up for their email list to stay abreast of their special sales and events. Keep an eye out for their exclusive Pop Up Shops. They also have a sale section on their website. I can promise you if you choose a piece or two from their collection, it will be an unforgettable experience. Be prepared to be stopped by everyone you meet to share the name of the designer. It’s that special.