It was a beautiful, balmy summer night when I dove into the pool wearing the most exquisite light purple evening gown. The force of the dive sent me hurtling through  the water at an exceptional speed. Gliding effortlessly through the pale blue abyss made me feel alive, powerful and free; especially as my hair trailed behind me, my evening jewels pressed against me and my feet pointed themselves in the most delicate way.

My sparkling silver Mary Jane “Miu Miu’s,” which whipped off when I dove in, bellowed beneath me like a beacon in the night. It didn’t matter, though; I swam past them, because something much more magical and mysterious lured me to the deep end of the pool.

When I emerged on the other side, an unfamiliar elderly woman extended her hand to help me from the water. I graciously grabbed hold and watched as she pulled me with ease from the pool. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said with wild eyes. I smiled warmly and replied: “I know.”

I followed the old woman down a dark rocky path, illuminated by dozens of flickering candles. She led me to a large, ornate wooden table, where two of the most breathtaking antique clutches lay in waiting. I had never seen anything like them before. They were unique, awe-inspiring, otherworldly.

I walked closer to touch them, but resisted. I didn’t know why, but deep inside, I knew this was some sort of test. The old woman smiled, nodded with approval and said softly: “Inside one of these clutches is the true meaning of life; inside the other is the knowledge of what happens after death.”

The old woman paused, stared into the darkness and finished without looking at me: “You may choose one clutch. Once you’ve made your decision, the purse and its answer belong to you and you may do with it as you wish. Choose wisely.”

I froze in disbelief. Was it possible that someone actually knew the answer to these questions? If so, did I have the capacity to fully understand them? What’s more, once I garnered this knowledge, would my life be forever changed? My hands trembled as I reached out to touch the first clutch.

It was the purest of whites, like fresh fallen snow and embellished with gorgeous gold feathers and intricate black pearls. It reminded me of a fallen angel. I ran my hand up and down its exquisite frame. I felt nothing. I reached for the second clutch. It was as black and beautiful as the night around me, but when I looked closer, it glistened of beige Mulberry silk that was woven beneath its midnight material. It possessed the rare beauty of a black butterfly. I ran my fingers around its fine fabric. I felt nothing.

For whatever reason, I just wasn’t physically, mentally or psychically connected to either clutch. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and made a quick decision. The old woman looked at me as if she knew what I would do all along and suddenly, I woke up from my dream.

The next day at the Deco Drive studios, I received a package in the mail from LaMod Boutique. I opened it to find, coincidentally, a CLUTCH. I was a bit overwhelmed because of the aforementioned dream. It was a fabulous creamy, winter white, embellished with a brownish black snakeskin-like texture. I paused before I opened it, though, hoping it didn’t hold the true meaning of life. After all, I was a bit underdressed for that kind of news.

Instead, when I opened the clutch, it was lined in the loveliest of lavenders and on its flap was a nifty little identification holder. Enclosed was a note that read: “Thanks for loving LaMod. Enjoy your new “ID Please” clutch.” Enjoy? I already adored it. I liked that it was bold and beautiful on the outside, but sweet and charming on the inside. Not only was it pretty, it was practical.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dug through my purse looking for my driver’s license, press identification or beloved CVS coupon card. Ha! Not anymore. I picked up the phone and immediately called designer Christina Brooke, the mastermind behind the clutch. Finally, after a few months of messages, emails and social media maneuvering, we connected and decided to collaborate.

Matter of fact, I loved Christina’s creative clutch so much, I let her have free rein when styling the blog, something I never do. Not only did she dress me in clothing from her boutique, focusing on transitioning the South Florida fashionista’s wardrobe from fall to winter, she also wanted to feature other handbags from her line, but first: “A Winter’s Clutch”…

Shireen Sandoval: What’s the concept behind your “ID Please” clutch?
Christina Brooke: The idea came from all the times I’ve been asked to show my ID and of course, every time I had to dig through my purse to find it. So, I decided to create a fashion forward solution. That’s how the “ID Please” clutch was born. Now, when people ask to see my ID, I literally grab my purse and flip it open with a smirk on my face.

SS: When did you first become interested in designing purses?
CB: Designing and styling have always been pretty natural for me. I love mixing colors and playing with different textures. Even in high school, I would alter my clothes to suit my style and people would ask: “Where did you buy that?” I always knew I wanted to design, so I enrolled in architecture school. When I graduated, I really wanted to focus on fashion and handbags were my first stop.

SS: What other types of purses do you design?
CB: The collection consists of a lot of different styles: hobo, satchels, clutches and wallets. I try to put my own unique spin on each one. For example, the “All Nighter” is a small bag meant to be worn around your wrist; giving off the illusion of a bracelet. The bag is not only fun; it’s decorated with all kinds of studs, perfect for the girl who’s going out all night.

SS: What’s the IT bag of the season?
CB: This season it’s more about the texture of your bag. Snake is huge. You’ll also see a lot more hobo and buckets bags, but if you ask me, the “ID Please” is the IT bag!

SS: If money were no object, what would be your fantasy bag?
CB: I don’t have just one, but if money were no object, I’d buy Chanel’s entire collection.

SS: What is the style of LaMod Boutique?
CB: I wanted it to be an overall experience for “Mod Girls” with clothes, hats and jewelry, all with the same aesthetic as my handbag line; “Uptown Edge,” which is a classy, yet edgy look for the modern day woman.

SS: What’s fashionable (clothing-wise) for the Miami woman during our cooler months?
CB: Since we really don’t have a cold season in Miami, your fall/winter wardrobe should be about picking your favorite trends and wearing them in a way that suits the tropical weather. Midi skirts are very in; pair it with a lace crop top (in muted tones) and you have the perfect look. It takes some creativity when incorporating cooler weather trends, but we have some fun fashionista options on our Instagram.

SS: When styling “A Winter’s Clutch” for “Shireen’s Favorite Things” what type of look and feel did you want the blog to have and what was the experience like?
CB: The experience was great and the ambiance was so positive. It’s great to be around other people that are so passionate about fashion. For the two looks, I wanted to portray the two sides of our “Mod Girl.” The classy put together girl that knows what she wants and the edgy, fun side that takes risks and is comfortable in her own skin.

SS: Is there a certain purse from the past that you feel revolutionized the handbag game of the future?
CB: Rebecca Minkoff’s “Morning After” bag. It was the first time someone put a story behind their bag. It allowed it to be more than just a bag, it was an idea, a story, a lifestyle.  

SS: If you could get your clutch into the hands of one celebrity, who would it be?
CB: Blake Lively. She’s really in touch with fashion and makes a mark every time she wears something. Blake really loves fashion and she wears it with pride.

SS: If you had to flee the country and never return, what one thing would you take from your closet?
CB: One thing??!! Oh no! I really love the stuff in my closet. I guess my “ID Please” bag because it’s something I love and am very proud of.

SS: Do you remember the first purse you ever owned and loved?
CB: When I was seven years old, my mom bought me a “Dooney and Burke” purse. I thought it was the coolest purse in the whole world and I still have it to this day.

Of course she does, because Christina is caring, creative and classy. In other words, her mother raised her right. She’s affable, quick with a smile and is the definition of refined beauty. Although Christina embraces the latest trends, she wears them in a classic way. Our blog pictures are a reflection of that. The first look was styled with the essence of natural beauty in mind.

Christina chose a bronze pleated body suit, paired it with a deep burgundy, gypsy-inspired Midi skirt and added her “ID Please” clutch and “Gables Beauty Pebbled” bag. I adorned my feet with my favorite Prada’s of the season; a fringed suede, open-toed shootie that matched the Midi perfectly. The second look was all about texture: a silver and gold chunky necklace, neutral fur top, burgundy tapered Palazzo pants and Christina’s snake inspired “Gables Beauty” bag (all pictured in the blog.) I LOVE that bag.

I also love that in my dream, I didn’t choose a clutch. After I closed my eyes, I took a deep breath and made a quick decision to walk away from both clutches. Despite their beauty and intrigue, the intrigue and beauty of living the enigma of life meant more to me. The old woman smiled as if she knew all along what I would choose.The moment I made the decision, the water drenching my gown, hair, jewels and feet, instantly dried up. Then, I woke-up.

I can’t help but think that both of those purses were a Pandora’s box of sorts, and that opening either one of them could have been detrimental to my human condition, taking away my earthly joy and innocence. Instead, I chose to live life the way it’s meant to be: a magical and mysterious journey and that’s why “A Winter’s Clutch” will always be one of my favorite things.

Styled by Christina Brooke
Blog wardrobe provided by LaMod Boutique
Twitter: @LaModChristinaB
IG: LaModBoutique
FB: La’ Mod

Twitter @ShireenSandoval
IG @ShireenSandoval

photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Twitter @todp_photo
IG @Tod_p

Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Twitter @Odettehernandz
IG Odett_Herndz

Editor: Matthew Auerbach

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