From leaky boots to a mail-order empire


October 13, 2002|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,Sun Staff

Ninety years ago, a guy in Maine named Leon Leonwood Bean decided to improve on the typical hunting shoe by stitching a pair of waterproof shoe rubbers to leather tops made by a local cobbler. After testing them out himself in the fall of 1911, Bean sold 100 pairs the following spring, making sure to attach to each pair a tag guaranteeing the wearer's satisfaction 100 percent.

The boots leaked, and 90 pairs were returned. But old Bean took out a loan and refined the shoe before returning the improved pairs to their purchasers. In the meantime, he created L.L. Bean, a company known not only for quality clothes and accessories that actually work, but for a generous return policy that shoppers have come to value.

Did you know that the Freeport, Maine-based company's famous canvas tote was originally designed in 1944 as an ice carrier? Or that the company's chamois shirt, designed in 1927, was originally called the "Leatherette Shirt?"

Refamiliarize yourself with these classics and others at the L.L. Bean store at the Mall in Columbia or at the Web site:

Luxuriating in the accessories

Natori has some striking examples of belts designed to be worn below the waist that capture one of fall's biggest trends.

Consider the mod belt crafted of 11 strands of cylindrical and round jade beads. It costs $1,200 but certainly does an excellent job of dressing up head-to-toe black. And Natori's wide black suede belt embellished with pink and red chinoiserie embroidery ($390) conveys a sophisticated bohemian air.

In addition, the company's luxe scarves detailed with embroidery, rabbit trim, suede fringe and even sable tails are rich and lavish. Scarves cost between $150 for a pashmina with three layers of rabbit trim to $4,200 for a fox cape.

Natori accessories are available at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus ( and Saks Fifth Avenue (

Cable sweater that goes on forever

If you thought that the long sweater coat was last year's fad, think again. Talbots, that bastion of classic women's clothing, has crossed the long cabled cardigan with a matching sleeveless turtleneck and come up with a winner.

The look is long, lean and modern. Pair the set with a straight skirt or a pair of dress pants. And don't forget to accent your waist with a low-slung leather belt.

The merino wool twin set, which costs $138 for the cardigan and $78 for the matching sweater, comes in garnet, black, olive, charcoal or maple. It is available at Talbots stores, through the catalog or at its Web site,

Leather gifts that only look expensive

Shhhh, here's a secret: The Sak's new Elliott Lucca collection of leather gift items look more expensive than they are.

Try a trim little travel picture frame (right) or business card holder for $24, or a travel mirror or lipstick case (left) for $18. The line looks simultaneously modern and classic and comes in red, camel and black with contrasting interiors.

For a store near you or to shop online, go to

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