As engagements rise, Herrin jeweler offers advice on ring selection

HERRIN — As people gradually return to pre-pandemic lifestyles, jewelry experts predict an increase engagements in 2024. Amid the projected increase, a Herrin jeweler is offering advice for couples looking to purchase diamond engagement rings.

Don Asbury has been making jewelry for 50 years. He owns Asbury Custom Jewelry & Repair with his son.

Asbury said the store gets more calls for engagement rings now than in recent years, and more often people are choosing alternate stones.

With diamonds, however, he advises buyers to keep two things in mind — whether the ring is hand-made or lab-made, and whether it is sold by an independent jeweler or not.

Asbury said while lab-made diamonds have been around for a long time, they have become much more prominent recently. He thinks 2024 will be the first big year for lab grown diamonds, especially because of the price difference.

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Asbury said he could sell a man-made three-carat diamond for around $10,000, and a natural diamond for $85,000. “There’s no way you would know [the difference],” he explained.

Asbury said he believes people should be cautious when purchasing lab-grown, because, according to him, there is more room for error when assembling small stones and delicate designs.

“All you have to do is polish it and it’s ready to go ” He said about lab-made diamond sellers. “They don’t have to sit there and set the stones. It takes hours to do this.”

Oftentimes, lab-made diamonds fall out after a few years, he said, and depending on the design and assembly, he can’t always fix rings when that happens.

“I have to turn people away and say ‘sorry, nothing I can do,’ ” he explained.

He also said buying independently can help ensure a knowledgeable, honest

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Miss Manners: My fiance wants a diamond ring, even if the stone comes from Russia

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am very much against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and I don’t want to support it by buying a diamond engagement ring, since the stone is likely to come from Russia.

I told my fiancee I would like to buy her a ruby, emerald or sapphire ring — her choice — but she says the only ring appropriate for an engagement is a diamond. What is your advice?

GENTLE READER: This is not the jewelry department, so Miss Manners cannot advise you on how to find a diamond with a clear provenance (or a lab-created one). But that is what you must do.

The reason is not because there is any etiquette rule about diamond rings. Frankly, we don’t even care if there is a ring, much less what type. Etiquette considers that all an engagement requires is an agreement between two people to be married. It is not we who invented that bended-knee routine.

But your fiancee craves this. And your marriage will go better if you acknowledge that while a spouse’s moral convictions should be respected, so should a spouse’s emotional longings.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: If one is dining alone at a restaurant and must burp, what should one do afterwards? It seems coarse to say nothing, but it seems odd to try to engage nearby diners.

By saying “excuse me,” would one be asking the salt shaker for a pardon?

GENTLE READER: Even if dining alone, one should say “excuse me.” Especially if the people at the next table jumped.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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Australian fashion label Anna Quan turns 10

“It has been a lot of hard work,” she says. “Ironically, I think it only gets harder as you go along. Because I feel like now we are in an awkward adolescent stage. We are not the new kid on the block, the shiny and bright thing. We are at a bit of a reckoning point where we are figuring out what the brand is in this phase. It’s a crossroads – we have the capacity to grow, but how much do we want to do that?”

I am constantly asking myself, what is the value proposition for the customer? Why would they buy it?

Anna Hoang

Currently stocked by the likes of Net-A-Porter, Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford and David Jones, retail seems to be the next logical step. But Hoang is not convinced.

“I worry about inventory, rent, inflation… I won’t say no, or never, but right now it’s not my top priority. I want to feel super-comfortable with every decision. I’m not ready yet.”

Anna Quan signature long-sleeved shirt: The style first resonated with New Yorkers.  

Hoang started Anna Quan in 2013 with a run of shirts, made because “they were relatively inexpensive and I knew how to make them,” she says. “I was a no-name designer, and they were simple to produce and sample.”

The brand first resonated with New Yorkers, who Hoang believes discovered it via celebrity stylist Kate Young, an early fan. “It was very specific. It was New York women who would write to me and say, ‘I wear the shirt on the subway, and people ask me about it all the time.’ ” It was the first sense she had that the products were finding an audience beyond Hoang herself.

And while Hoang will bring back those shirts, with their signature elongated

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11 New British Fashion Designers to Get Excited About

The late, great Dame Vivienne Westwood once said, “Fashion is life-enhancing, and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people.” Never before has that spirit of positivity been more present than with the new guard making Britain’s fashion scene buzz once more.

Attending the shows last September was a strange experience. It was supposed to be the first full, “proper” season since COVID-19 hit, but the atmosphere was solemn due to the schedule falling within the nation’s period of mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Despite a sombre tone to proceedings, there was still a palpable undercurrent of excitement around a slew of new names that many industry people—including myself—hadn’t yet heard of. Editors, stylists and buyers were as hyped up to see these young talents as they were for the big-ticket shows.

“London’s position as an international hub, combined with its host of best-in-class creative colleges and the support available here to young creatives, has reaffirmed the city as the home to an incredible new wave of talent. What makes them so exciting is that they each bring their own stories, their diverse and authentic backgrounds and their beliefs to the work that they are producing,” says Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council. “As we have emerged from the pandemic over the last few years and begun to reintegrate into normal life, there has been a surge of excitement, authenticity and collaboration that can be felt throughout the creative industries and its outputs. We are very proud of the fact that, post-pandemic, we have been able to raise over £2 million in funding through the BFC Foundation to continue to support future generations of creative talent here in the UK, and this year, we are very excited to be celebrating

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Fashion retailer Joules closes Woodbridge store

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Malaysia’s first reptile cafe opens to animal lovers

STORY: Location: Subang Jaya, MalaysiaStep aside cat cafes, this spot in Malaysia has scaly friends instead”Fangs” serves up desserts and drinksand lets you meet lizards, snakes, tarantulas and even gerbils[Yap Ming Yang, Café owner]”I’m a very active member in the reptile community, in the reptile hobby. For us reptile people, when we want to lepak (hang out) right, we want to talk about all these snakes, ‘Oh, I have this snake, I have that snake’. We will go to the pet store and stand in between the aisles, so it’s not so nice. And the original idea was that I could make a place for all the reptile hobbyists to sit and can gather, talk about our interests. But, eventually, it turned out that even normal people, everyone actually really appreciates all these animals.”Staff are on hand to answer questionsand ensure the safety of animals and customers[Alethea Lim / Reptile enthusiast]”I’ve always been interested in snakes, and kind of like iguanas, those types of reptiles. But because I moved around a lot I didn’t have the chance to keep them. And usually if you go to a pet store, you’re not really allowed to touch it, right? And I saw from the photos on Instagram that you can interact with them. So, it’s quite a cool experience I think.”[Yap Ming Yang, Café owner]”I really hope that people can see reptiles as also another type of pet that you can keep and love.”

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Business Inspiration: Selling Direct-to-Consumer Custom Fashion

When you see one of Ramon Smothers’ custom-made suits, there’s no mistaking it for an off-the-rack design. As the owner of Legacy Lapels, he’s made a business out of making people look good.

Based in Houston, the company lets customers design suits for a fraction of the cost of traditional bespoke tailoring, and the inspiration behind the concept was simple.

“I really love how I feel when I wear suits,” says Smothers. “If I can make people feel how I feel when I put on a suit, I’m content.”

But Legacy Lapels’ audience shifted after just a year in business, and the company found a new market where its lower prices and personalization brought in unexpected customers.

Giving customers a choice

“When I started the brand, I wanted to be unique in the things that are offered,” says Smothers.

Smothers sells the standard options, but he built his business around atypical fabrics with eye-catching hues, including emerald, plum, burgundy, soft yellow and powder blue. Giving customers freedom to design their own styles was something Legacy Lapels aimed to do from its inception, and it’s paying off.

“I’ve noticed that people come to me for that,” says Smothers.

And while Legacy Lapels retains its emphasis on suits, the company has expanded its offerings to include tuxedos, dinner jackets and custom-made shoes.

Ramon Smothers sits on a stool wearing a green pinstriped suit.

Ramon Smothers sits on a stool wearing a green pinstriped suit.

Ramon Smothers wears one of his designer suits. (Photo courtesy of Legacy Lapels)

Falling into the wedding market

Smothers initially expected his ideal client to be “fashion forward” and looking for business-focused statement pieces, but he soon recognized that his customers were trending toward engaged couples.

The company’s nontraditional designs have attracted a variety of newlyweds, such as LGBTQ+ individuals searching for fashion that reflects their identity, including

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Singapore’s sexagenarian model Ong Bee Yan launches an ageless fashion capsule with local label

“When I reached 50, I couldn’t find clothes I felt comfortable in. I didn’t want to wear clothes that my mum used to wear when she was 50 years old. At the end of the day, I just got stuck with like shorts and a T-shirt. I was lost, I couldn’t find clothes that suited me, was age-appropriate and yet stylish. The choices for people of my age group are honestly very limited in the local fashion scene,” said Ong, when asked for her thoughts on fashion choices for older consumers.

Ho revealed that her customers also have the same issue. “There are a lot of ladies in their 40s and 50s who always tell us they can’t find trendy clothes and that they wish there were more brands catering to them. They don’t want to dress like they’re 50 even though they’re 50,” she shared.

It’s also a silly assumption, of course, that one should abandon her sense of style as she approaches her golden years. Ong herself is living proof that that a woman can still dress stylishly and yet age-appropriately no matter how old she is.

“I think that it’s partly a result of judgement we face from people around us, and the fear of that judgement. We tend to tell ourselves ‘oh, we shouldn’t dress that way because people will talk about me’. Then again, we are also the ones who are placing that same judgment on ourselves – like ‘I shouldn’t wear this, it’s too young for me’… We need to get out of that mentality – why should we let society determine what we should or should not wear?” said Ong.

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Trans Women DJs Are Taking Over the Club

Aviance recalls a moment from the Carry Nation’s last New Year’s party, when, on stage before a crowd of muscly gays, she and her friend Xander danced what she calls “full-femme, all-out faggotry queendom to the highest degree” at the climax of the night. “I was like, ‘This feels different now. It was not like this before.’”


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Though the pandemic devastated the global club scene at large, many trans DJs actually credit it with helping to catalyze the doll takeover. The shuttering of bars and clubs “gave us space to party on rooftops and in woods, fields, even my backyard,” says Infiniti. “We didn’t have the privilege of just ‘staying home.’ Many of us needed to survive and make money by whatever means we had. It was an opportunity to make our talents known without anyone in our way.”

Dijon underscores how far things have come since she got her start. “As trans people, we basically lived in the dark,” she says, but now “it’s a whole new generation that have definitions, spaces, and medical care that allow them to flourish.” She names Infiniti, Dangerous Rose, and Memphy as young trans artists “who are making space, unapologetically and fiercely.”

The proliferation of trans-centric parties and collectives has now gone worldwide, including San Antonio’s House of Kenzo, Berlin’s No Shade, and emerging spaces in Brazil and Colombia. “I’m glad I could have been a part of changing the way things were,” says Infiniti, though she adds, “I wish I could get more money about it, because it’s still struggle life out here.”

It’s important to follow the money: Besides Rash, which plans to reopen this fall, and Seattle’s Kremwerk, which is also trans-owned,

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Social-media toxicity cuts deep for Barrie hairstylist

‘One angry person posts something and a ton of people just believe it with no research,’ says Barrie business owner

Many businesses use social media to promote their product and connect with their clientele, but a recent wave of toxicity has shown the dark side of the business tool.

Melissa Ferguson owns Beauty and Babes in the city’s south end and has been a hairstylist for several years. She told BarrieToday her troubles began in February when she did the cut and colour for a teenager who had come into the Hurst Drive shop. A few days later, Ferguson says the teen’s mother contacted her with concerns about the look and price.

“I told her we don’t give refunds, but we would happily fix it for her. I offered other styles, but she only wanted a refund, which we have a policy that we don’t do that,” Ferguson said. “There is signage up that states we don’t.”

Ferguson said she didn’t hear back from the woman until April when the shop advertised a customer appreciation event on social media. 

“All of a sudden, that same woman started posting in multiple Facebook groups and telling her side of the story from February. I don’t know if I gave that bad of a haircut,” she said. “It was three months prior, I had just found out I was pregnant  I may have been in my own head. But I did tell her I would fix it, I just couldn’t give a refund.”

Ferguson said the posts multiplied and started to come from people she had never even met.

“We also had about 150 one-star reviews on Google from people who had never been in the salon,” she said. “Thankfully, I was able to get them flagged, but it took up a

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