GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique Grand Opening Festivities

By: Staci Rutherford

I first featured GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique after attending the soft launch in late August.  If you have not had a chance to visit yet, you’re in luck.  GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique will celebrate its grand opening festivities on Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10 at Trenholm Plaza, 4840 Forest Drive, Suite 17.  Each day from 10 am to 6 pm, boutique owner Gwen Rawls will welcome guests to view her latest collection of Italian shoes and handbags—couture originals direct from Milan—along with the chance to sample delicious Italian hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, and the chance to win several boutique gift certificates and coastal travel packages.

“I am thrilled with the gracious reception and enormous support we have received in the last two months,” said Rawls.  “Clearly, there was a demand for an upscale boutique in this market and I am so happy to give back to my growing customer base with our exciting Grand Opening celebration.”

After a September trip to Milan to complete her winter product line of fine Italian leather shoes, boots and handbags, the GWEN RAWLS collection now features more than ten designers including Roberto Cavalli, Baldan, Luciano Padoran, Luis Onofre, Gianna Meliani and Mario Zamagna.  “It’s been so much fun introducing Columbia shoppers to the Italian designers I’ve discovered,” said Rawls.  “They are already famous on the runways of Milan and in the pages of fashion magazines like Italian Vogue, but now they are gaining notoriety right here in Columbia.”  Rawls emphasizes that many of the shoes in her collection are made exclusively for the GWEN RAWLS label while others are only sold in Europe—meaning Columbia is the only place in the U.S. to offer many of her styles.

Gwen Rawls invites the women of the Midlands to her boutique to learn about the designers in her collection and to fully understand the old world craftsmanship found in her shoes.  “When you purchase a GWEN RAWLS shoe, you are making a long-term investment in a high-quality, stylish product that will stand the test of time,” said Rawls. “I am honored to bring these styles to the States and to add to the exciting retail metamorphosis that is taking place in our capital city.”

My Name Is Mary Pat, And I Am An Addict

By: Mary-Pat Baldauf

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” ― Marilyn Monroe

I’ve never really been a shoe girl. Give me a few comfortable pairs in basic nude, black or navy, and I was good to go. Until a couple of years ago, my “athletic” shoes were limited to a pair of white Keds, which became a pair of Sauconys once I experienced a heel spur. But now that I’ve embraced exercise, I can’t get enough running shoes, so much so that a friend told me that I should check into “Athletic Shoes Anonymous.”

When I started strength training two years ago, I had one pair of Saucony running shoes, purchased at a discount store because I liked the pink and black accents. They were comfortable shoes and perfect for those “shop ‘til you drop” Saturdays. Once it looked like I was going to be a regular, my trainer suggested I try a pair of the then-new “barefoot” or minimalist shoes for training.

I don’t explain it as well as my trainer, but wearing minimalist shoes provides me with a much more stable “base.” The reduced heel cushioning and sole thickness, along with a minimal offset in height between the forefoot and heel allows me to have more responsiveness through my foot when grounded. This responsiveness helps to keep my knees in proper position on lifts, the back and hips to be more aligned, and in turn allows me to be more efficient with major moves such as squats, deadlifts, lunges and other compound movements.

When it was time to choose new athletic shoes, I started shopping and I never stopped. I should probably be embarrassed to admit that I now have six pairs of athletic shoes, each with their own personality, style and purpose:

  1. First came my Nike Free Trainers, my first entrée into the minimalist shoe category. Light grey with an orange bottom and turquoise accents, these are probably my tamest pair of shoes. They are perfect for strength training and the elliptical, and are probably my best “squat shoes.” But if I’m going to be on the treadmill, I usually pick another pair.
  2. Next came my Reebok RealFlex Trainers, solid neon pink. These shoes make me smile, and pick me up on those mornings that I’d rather stay in bed. The bottom resembles a rubber keyboard, and they are good for everything. These are probably my favorite shoes.
  3. Soon after experiencing the Reebok RealFlex, I also purchased a pair of their running shoes. The attraction was purely physical; they are dark grey with a neon lime bottom and neon pink accents. Although the same size as my other Reeboks, the toe box seems to be just a smidge roomier. I often wear these during “that time of the month” or when my feet feel a little swollen.
  4. On a trip to the Reebok outlet in Myrtle Beach, I purchased a neon yellow and pink RealFlex Optimal Running Shoe. I had to go up a size in these, likely due to a difference in the shoe material, and these don’t fit perfectly. They are perfect elliptical shoes, though, so I wear them most often on cardio days.
  5. That same weekend, I found a great pair of black and purple Nike Flex Trainers at Ross. The price was right, so I figured they would be a nice addition to my closet. I added a fab pair of black and silver shoelaces for the win, and I love them. These shoes have yet to develop a personality; I can’t yet tell you when they perform the best. That leads me to believe they are probably a good all-around shoe for any gym activity, whether it be strength training or cardio.
  6. My latest purchase and the ones I swear will put an end to my athletic shoe addiction? A pair of Asics Noosa running shoes. Actually designed for triathletes, this shoe gives me just a little more stability for the days when I spend an hour on the treadmill. My trainer says they’re also fine for training, though they aren’t my favorites for that purpose. And as nonchalant as I sound, I like them most for their vivid coloring: various shades of neon with glow-in-the-dark heels and toes. Yep, they are hot!

My penchant for athletic shoes has earned me a special nickname at the gym: the Imelda Marcos* of Doctors Wellness Center. But whether you love workout shoes like me or prefer to stick to a single pair, the most important thing is to find the right shoe for you. The color and style are nice extras, but there’s more to it than that. Before you go shopping for your athletic shoes, check out “10 Tips for Choosing Athletic Shoes” from WebMD. Of the ten tips, the one that resonates most with me is to go by what shoe fits, not the size. Sizes vary by brand, sometimes even styles within the same brand, so you always need to try them on.  My regular shoe size is six, but my athletic shoes range from size 6.5 to 7.5.

Happy Shopping!

*For those of you under the age of 40, Imelda Marcos is the former First Lady of the Philippines. When she and her dictator husband were driven out of the country in 1986, she left behind at least 1200 pair of shoes. She was rumored to have over 3000 pair of shoes in her palace closet.

Columbia Welcomes GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique

By: Staci Rutherford

Gwen Rawls

When I first discovered that a new accessories boutique was coming to town, I could not wait to share the news with all of the trendsetters and fashionistas of the Midlands!  GWEN RAWLS Italian Shoe Boutique opened on August 23, and of course, I had to stop by to check out all of the fabulous shoes imported straight from Italy.  I had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Gwen Rawls, at Power of the Purse a few months prior to the opening, and instantly connected with her since we share a passion for beautiful accessories.

A South Carolina native with a love for European fashion, Gwen has traveled extensively throughout Europe, but she always returned to Milan to explore the world’s fashion capital.  Like many women living in Columbia, Gwen felt her shoe shopping options were limited, and typically went to boutiques in Charlotte, New York and Atlanta to find the stylish brands she loved.

Gwen began conceptualizing an Italian shoe boutique that could help women in Columbia—and throughout the southeast—find their own foundation for fashion right here in the capital city.  “At GWEN RAWLS, women will find elegant Italian shoes and bags that are limited in quantity to ensure a customer can build her own signature look.  I want my customers to feel empowered with their purchase and to give them a renewed sense of elegance.”

When I first stepped into the boutique, I didn’t know which way to turn.  There were beautiful shoes displayed everywhere.  The staff at GWEN RAWLS was warm and friendly, which is often rare when shopping at an upscale place. I can honestly say that Gwen really thought about her customers’ lifestyle when she personally selected each shoe.  Styles include embellished stilettos, knee high boots, booties and flats for women like me who find it difficult to stay graceful in a heel more than 3 inches.

 The next time you are out and about, stop by GWEN RAWLS and tell them Staci sent you.  It is located near Chipotle at 4840 Forest Drive, Suite 17.  Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Also, be sure to connect with GWEN RAWLS via Facebook at www.facebook.com/GwenRawlsShoes or on Twitter @GwenRawls.  You can also visit the website at www.gwenrawls.com.

Fall Essentials: Top Five Must-Have Shoes

By: Staci Rutherford

Although we still have another month and a half left of summer, I am already anticipating the transition into fall.  I love shopping for deals to update my wardrobe at the beginning of a new season.  My take on fashion is always changing; therefore, I try to incorporate some of the latest trends with a few classic staples and statement pieces.  I’ll focus on footwear first because I consider myself “shoe challenged”.

Since I don’t look forward to shoe shopping (I’d much rather shop for a new bag!), I have come up with three questions to ask myself to help determine if a shoe is worth buying: Does it fit well, and is it comfortable?  How many times will I wear it?  Will the style work with the rest of my wardrobe?  Comfort, quality and style are key points to consider as I try on shoes, which makes it easier to find and buy the right shoes.

Here are a my top five favorite shoes for fall:

Steve Madden ‘Teana’ Moccasin Flat in bright multi, Price: $49.95 at Nordstrom.com

Söfft Broadway in leopard, Price: $115.00 at Piperlime.com

Superga Classic Sneakers, Price: $65.00 – $75.00 at Bloomingdales.com

Zodiac USA Paris Knee-High Boot, Price: $159.99 at Endless.com

Naturalizer Ilona Shooties in black, Price: $99.99 at Macys.com