Animal Instincts

Now that we are past New York Fashion Week, let’s talk about a real trend-setter with values deeply rooted in the earth, well-being, and humanity.

Before it was popular, Imelda McCain (seen above) opened her all-handmade toy store, Playing Mantis, in Tribecca in with the goal of providing families and children with toys she felt were worthy of—and that she was already making for—her own son, Lucas (seen below). Not only has she been providing smart, wholesome, green toys for local families for the past 8 years, but she has been giving back to craftsmen and their families and communities—around the globe—in the process.

According to Imelda, every toy has to have a story and a passionate creator behind them. With these altruistic standards in mind, Imelda has had many years of success with Playing Mantis as she has watched Lucas, now 14, grow up. She has been making toys out of felted wool (from her own alpaca & sheep farm) and wood since the get go, but this year she has started a new line that I think is particularly fabulous, and Lucas agrees.

So if you are left feeling drained from another overly-commercial Fashion Week, take a peek at these stunning creations of Imelda’s and feel inspired, refreshed, and perhaps a few years younger? Coincidentally—or not—Halloween is just around the corner and so is Playing Mantis where Imelda has all of her homemade, homegrown, felted-wool beauties on display and for sale! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! And if you haven’t been to Imelda’s shop, it’s well worth a visit.


Laid-back Luxury

We spent Easter with my godfather, Chuck Elmes, at his 1760’s estate home in Middletown, NY. As we pulled up to his picturesque, 400-acre polo farm (Blue Sky Polo), Chuck walked down the dusty drive to greet us; hair wind-blown just-so, small tear in the breast of his sweater, hands dirtied from a hard day’s work… but he had had time to set the dining room with his fine china and crystal.

Chuck was raised on a plantation in Georgia and as a young man he moved north and entwined himself in the country club & real estate worlds. That and his love for polo inspired him to start a polo club. The man knows his way around a horse farm, a clay court and a boardroom. He’s as rugged as Robert Redford and as refined as him in The Great Gatsby. He’s the definition of laid-back elegance and exactly what Ralph Lifshitz has been bottling and selling for decades.

After getting the Easter feast going, Chuck took us for a little drive around the grounds. The views and smells—saddle soap and leather—refreshed my fond childhood memories of watching polo games and riding his exceptional ponies.

Aside from the sprawling, perfectly-level fields abuzz with matches, there is a sideshow at Blue Sky that Chuck [loves and] has brought to the forefront in recent years. He boards dogs in what he calls The Pet Camp. It’s like Canyon Ranch for canines. He has roughly 70 pups at any given time (from around Manhattan and its ‘burbs) and he honestly knows each and every one by name (and personality). By day the dogs romp around a racetrack, play in the fields, swim in the pond and sunbathe. And at night, one by one, he calls them in and they slip into their individual horse-stall-suites.

While on the topic, I recently found a great little London-based pet boutique, Mungo & Maud. They will be launching a US online store next month. The wooden dog bowls are polished and chic and the adjustable rope leads and collars are very cool.