BodyTree Studio

Live, love, eat, have fun and feel good. BodyTree Studio, it’s for everyone!

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After twelve years living in the UAE, I’ve developed a special connection to the capital. Abu Dhabi attracts me with its soft warmth reflected in local architecture, focus on arts and cultural events, close communal living and an atmosphere where people you randomly meet become good friends. Dubai, in contrast, is a louder, busier, shinier and a lot more extravagant neighbour. Dubaians set impressive records; Abu Dhabites love to enjoy living.

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When I heard about a hidden gem of a wellness studio with unique classes, inspirational workshops and ten years of history, it was immediately worth a morning drive to the capital for me. Even for a Dubai girl, BodyTree studio was easy to find. Once I set my destination, Google showed minimal traffic warnings and confirmed I was in for a pleasant trip.

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Upon arrival, I sighted several model-fit girls rushing with little concern to the gate of a spacious villa. I parked right in the front and jumped out. The whole place was surrounded by tall palm trees, lush greenery and blue sky, giving it a Miami feel, though the first thing I noticed was a thoughtful sign on the wall saying (and Bradshaw is never wrong):

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The front desk greeted me with smiles and cheerful comments. I was advised to disclose any physical injuries or concerns to instructors prior to the workout. I was also encouraged to go with a flow, not worry about the choreography and to challenge myself while having a lot of fun. I’m always in for fun!

 

That morning I was about to try BTB – a Bodytree body class designed by women for women. Led by two very experienced fitness instructors trained in dancing, Pilates and other advanced “stay awesome” techniques, the class promised to be a blast. All equipment for the class was provided, including cuff and ankle weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, a mat, and towel and of course, motivation.
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The hour started with a musical warm-up; musical because Anissa, a professional ballerina, included a few pretty cool moves one can use in audition for any upcoming Broadway show. My legs were a little lost for the first few minutes, but not my heart. It was pumping blood, oxygen and good vibes. When I was about to quit, I heard that wonderful world “break” and Nadia took over with arms and upper body exercises. The next segment was high impact and a little intense, balanced with Anissa’s cosmic personality and persistent energy. I jumped, squatted, bounced and laughed my soul out. Girl, it was great!

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However, it was Nadia’s leg workout that practically killed me. Usually I favour mat exercises. You know for a lazy girl like me everything lying down is the best fitness routine. Nadia didn’t let it happen. Raising the same leg up and to the side and flexed and straight with ankle weights and a resistance band repeatedly was a challenge. When we finally surrendered to the baby pose, I was the happiest person ever. Anissa closed BTB class with stretches and dancing, making it an unforgettable experience for my muscles. The difference between first timers and a regulars was noticeable. While my breathing fluctuated from bad to very bad, other girls in the class encouraged me with smiles and non-stop positive attitudes.

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Wrapped in a towel, I decided to drown my sores and fails in a cup of coffee (my personal solution to stress). Conveniently, BodyTree studio has a brilliant Nectar juice bar on the ground level, a few steps away from the reception.

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When it was my time to order I decided to treat myself to something super exciting, but was slightly overwhelmed with choices: turmeric latte, smoothies, fresh juices, signature drinks, etc. The girl at the counter sounded very understanding and just asked me to describe what I felt like. As I felt a little sorry for myself and dehydrated, Nectar bar mixed me a powerful smoothie with coconut water, dates, almonds, protein and probably a bunch of other secret ingredients that boosted my thirst, energy and self-esteem. Impressed with the service and taste, I opted for a few healthy snacks to take home: warm from the oven banana muffins, crunchy granola, soft protein snacks and spicy vegetable toasties.

 

 

 

Refreshed and very happy, I asked if a tour around the house was a possibility. And it was! Accompanied by charming PR and Marketing Manager Grainne, we covered all three floors looking at the state-of-the-art training facilities, equipment, and changing rooms with huge floor-to-ceiling mirrors and showers. I spent half an hour at the wellness and fitness boutique looking through stylish activewear, essential oils and even waiting for the right “gong moment” (super tempting to just do it).

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During the tour I noticed what a fantastic gathering place it was! I spotted moms-to-be waiting for a pre-natal class, an Emirati father waiting for his little ballerina, a Zumba girl in a sparkling outfit, a girl in a sharp suit, a group of moms enjoying “kids at school time” at Nectar juice bar, and a cool mix of personalities everywhere.

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With more than 130 classes on offer, ladies-only workouts, private training, classes for teens and kids, including ballet, mixed group training, fancy Pilates, outdoor meditations, full-moon nights, Zumba (yeee!), free workshops and conversations and so so so much more, I wonder what will bring me to BodyTree studio next?

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Sunset Street Feast, #AZtory

Of all the Iftars I recently attended in Dubai, there was one that evoked a mix of emotions and a long series of photographs. It’s all started with the sound of powerful cannon operated by Dubai police in front of the tallest tower, Burj Khalifa. Legend says the tradition of firing Ramadan cannons dates to Ottoman Empire, when the sound announced the end of fasting. Today it’s only a symbolic gesture. The first cannon was fired in the UAE at the beginning of 19th century in Sharjah.

The cannon we observed in Burj Park wasn’t simple or shy.  Made in the UK in 1945 it looked as good as new but sounded a lot louder. I was 20 meters away however faced all the consequences of the sudden explosion. Prior to the demonstration I took photos with a charming UAE military officer in a smart uniform that resembled my outfit. When the ceremony was over, packaged Iftar meals were distributed among the spectators.

Amused by my astonishment, Zainab (you remember that brilliant girl, do you?) suggested we must go back to the Old Dubai to immerse in the true spirit of Iftar, witnessing people breaking fast right on the streets. So I charged my camera’s batteries, cleared the memory card and was ready to snap.

Wearing beautiful scarf “Distant Lands” by Wyilda 

From Baniyas square we crossed the street towards Deira, moving away from heavy traffic and into little alleys. The rule in the UAE says no drinking, eating, smoking or chewing is permitted during day time in month of Ramadan. Zainab’s last meal was around 3am and my discreet sip of water was right before I met Zainab however I was literally dying of thirst.

Zainab didn’t seem to mind the weather. She bravely led our expedition further and further between buildings and random pedestrians.

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Our first stop was in the front of a local mosque. I was surprised how many people were gathered for Iftar. They were busy helping with improvised tables, distributing meals and arranging seats for themselves and friends.

I wondered where all the women were. So Zainab took me around to a little hidden space.

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It took me a while to find Zainab.

After all the recent fancy dinners I’ve attended, it was very interesting to see the simpler side of dining at the sunset. Strangers offered me a bottle of water, dates and an opportunity to share their meal. I held tight to Zainab. She was my everything (again) in the middle of the old Dubai.

The prayer started and the feast began. I finally got to my bottle of water and believe me it was the sweetest sip ever!

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Only debris served to remind of the great feast that just happened in front of us. We  rushed to a nearby restaurant using the great Dubai metro of course 🙂

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P.S. I’m wearing a beautiful silk scarf by Wyilda, “Distant Lands”. Get yours here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night out at Zahira, H Hotel Dubai (it’s closed)

When the sun is shamelessly, endlessly bright, and temperatures above 40C, Dubai summer life eventually moves towards shady evenings. Fortunately most places stay open until midnight and safety on the streets is impeccable.

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During the month of Ramadan there is always something exciting going on after sunset, opportunities to give back to the community, night swimming experiences with a view on Burj al Arab, photographing the street life in the Old Dubai, watching a thoughtful movie screened as a part of DIFF 365 (Dubai International Film Festival all year round), or catching up with incredible people over a heartwarming meal.

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I love to eat. Here’s a confession: I love food more than photography and red lipstick, completely neglecting the latter when a beautiful steaming bowl of soup appears in front of me. You may not believe it, judging by looks, but it’s an absolute “veritas”. That’s why I couldn’t resist but go for an incredible Iftar offer at Zahira, a very well reviewed recent addition to local “fancy eating out”.

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I entered intense WhatsApp correspondence looking for a fellow skinny foodie available on a short notice. Likely SylviaSylvia was in town and a few texts later, mostly about fashion with a focus on “I have nothing to wear”, we set a date.

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Without prior agreement on dress code, we both showed up wearing black. Sylvia chose a long flowy maxi dress and I styled a new little black dress from Dubai-based online fashion store Trovea. What do they say about great minds? Dress alike 😉 ?

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Zahira caught my attention partly because of its location in H Hotel, famous for futuristic design with elements of Art Deco. H Hotel represents eclectic, vibrant and dynamic hospitality, and we’ve expected “nothing less but more” making our way to Zahira.

It was Dragana’s dazzling smile at the entrance that settled all non-existing doubts and put us in the right mood for a beautiful evening ahead.

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Our table was pre-set with a bottled of chilled mineral water, little plate of dried fruits, nuts, and short, easy to digest menu by chef Greg Malouf.

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Waiting for the beginning of Iftar, we spent time studying the surroundings. Our eyes were fully occupied, wondering around ceiling, walls and unconventional art radiating great taste and humour.

It was like magic when mezzas started appearing. Moroccan style Harissa with labneh, a dash of fresh red chilly, smoky moutabbal served on a stone plate, crunchy soft chicken pies, tempura made of fresh zaatar, halloumi fondue with oregano, freshly baked Arabic bread and a very interesting dish called Fatima’s fingers (I’m saying nothing, you need to discover it for yourself).

What a feast! All starters had 3 qualities in common: light, appetizing and incredibly tasty. It was a combination of Arabic food I’ve never tasted before. Zaatar tempura was served with a side of tiny fried fish with a dipping sauce to zest the flavor. Looking for a much needed break between the courses, I dragged well-mannered Sylvia to hang out at the real bar. While James was performing tricks, Mohammad and Tilak had to work twice as hard to get the taps pouring. Tilak was impressively skilled with his throwing technique and Mohammad managed to stay seriously professional under all the stress we caused.

Being nice to bartenders resulted in laughing out loud and a complimentary cocktail. Meet Tilak:

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When the main course landed on our table, I was the happiest person on Earth. In front of me was a beautiful pink salmon cooked 40 minutes using some secret techniques, and a tender lamb wrapped in Arabic bread with rice and nuts, paired with the soothing tunes of Oud.

Our night at Zahira turned out to be fun, entertaining and very very tasty. My advice, save enough space to try their incredible pavlova with marshmallowy center, fresh cream and slices of peach.

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One of the Chef, Troy posing in a distance

P.S. Zahira no longer exists in Dubai

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Fight Night Team and a Fancy Girl

In anticipation of the returning Fight Night II, a white-collar boxing event on March 31st, a fancy girl like me cut her Maldives trip short for exclusive behind the scenes access to the training zone. What a night it is going to be! Fourteen Dubai seasoned executives including two female brave hearts have traded their business dinners at Roberto’s for an opportunity to physically interact with one another face-to-face, surrounded by a roaring crowd and yelling coaches. Great news, the event is free to attend and will take place at the Round 10 Gym at 2pm on March 31st in Dubai. Exciting!

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Not wanting to admit what a complete idiot I am in connection to  boxing or any competitive sports (my last attempt with Muay Thai failed due to a lack of aggressiveness), I turned my desperate eyes to Hollywood, a trusted source of reliable information. From the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a talented amateur boxer, I studied Kubrick’s Raging Bull followed by unbreakable Rocky. However, it was Gigi Hadid’s defence strategy during Milan Fashion Week that convinced me to jump into my favourite Zumba outfit, tie my hair in a quick chignon and put on some bright long-lasting lipstick prior to committing to an hour of live trial.

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“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep on moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you are worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits…” Rocky’s alarming voice was looping in my ears again and again as I made my glamorous entrance to the Warehouse Gym reception. My first sweat appeared a few seconds later when I shook hands with Roy, the technical coach of the Fight Night Team who unlike me was chill and confident. After Roy promise not to hurt me, I was ready to take the hit.

The training started with a warm-up followed by an intense three-rounds skipping routine. “Side to side, faster, knees higher”. Joe’s voice was lost on me as I struggled to produce five decent skips in a row. Everyone around me seemed absolutely fine, skipping like pros. Joe, the Fight Night fitness coach continued to be very nice, not yelling for extra push-ups like the movies.

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When sparring began, I did what I do the best – giggled and batted my eyes to avoid participation at any cost. The fighters in front of me were engaged in an incredible boxing waltz, mixing rapid steps with sleek shoulder moves and sneaky defence strategies. I couldn’t believe these were the freshmen who started their first boxing class at the end of January this year.

I was mesmerised until someone tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at resting gloves. “I’m Frank, let’s get you started,” and that was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Frank, was a tough looking guy with the most charming smile. He helped me with gloves, moved my feet apart, stretched and curled my arms in a defensive position. In a matter of minutes, we were practising the basics: “one” and “two”, (“three” was a challenge). Needless to say, my glam had faded away.

During short breaks I noticed how dedicated and focused the whole Fight Night crew was. I was the only one out of breath, quietly sobbing in a corner with my long lasting lipstick smeared all over my face. The fighters were constantly on the move, from bags to sparring and back to the bags.

The last part of the training was mat power exercises. Joe gathered us in a circle so there was no change of sneaking out. Without escape, I dove into rounds of burpies, high jumps, full body crunches and some other painful moves. Believe it or not, I survived!

It was a real pleasure to chat with the crew who didn’t have a single laugh at my ridiculous attempts to beat them at their game. With the attitude of real champions, they were supportive, encouraging and helpful. I really can’t wait to see them in the ring. Are you gonna be there? Do come to say hi if you see me.

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You can shop my look at Zumba.com

 

 

 

 

 

Be your own stylist with Valenxe

Once upon a time on a late night train from France to Germany, two beautiful girls dreamed up a perfect wardrobe staple for all occasions all around the world. Joined by a third fashionista they designed a pair of truly desirable and versatile leggings with a slimming effect. That’s how Valenxe, the “intrinsic attractiveness” was born. Being hard to impress, I decided to sneak three pairs of Valenxe leggings into Dubai and put these babies to an ultimate style trial, breaking all possible fashion rules in between.

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Look One: Trophy Girl

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It was a sunny January Friday in Dubai, the perfect day to brunch, pool around and show off that hard to get beach body (did you try my insane workout?). So I grabbed my “la vie en rose” shades, a silky shiny tunic by Parker NYAntilla crop leggings in dream navy, and headed to the family friendly Waldorf Hotel on the Palm. Cropped leggings is a challenge to wear well. For me. I visually extend the look of my legs by balancing shorter leggings with either flats or sneakers. Voila:

Look 2: Nasty Woman

They say show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are. Woah-oh-oh-ah-ah-ah! Hanging out with these three unbreakable style gAnnstars: no.1, no.2 and no. 3 led to irreversible changes in my attitude. Armed with a truly Canadian maple syrup candy, a tee with me boyz Beavis and Butthead, I pulled on the leather-like Aspasia leggings in black and rolled away. Do mind the cool hat (this is Rella)

Look 3: Lady in Red

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When the time came to dress for a challenging shopping afternoon with a fellow fashion-addict, I opted for a bright red tight dress, Versace scarf and Bollea leggings in bella fiora brown. Not only did I have a fun time strolling down the new “must-see” district in Dubai, but found a solid number of followers thinking I was a celebrity in disguise.

Look 4: Walkaholic

It’s that time of the year in the UAE when the anticipation of rain is almost as enjoyable as the rain itself. Layered in Aritzia wool jacket and protected by a powerful red umbrella, I felt like Mary Poppins on a mission. Surprisingly my black  Aspasia leggings pulled off a classy as well as edgy look, making my lower body look “gym every day” thinner.

Look 5: Trouble Maker

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Inspired by the adventures of Indiana Jones, I decided to initiate my own treasure hunt and drove all the way to the capital, glorious Abu Dhabi. Dressed in a vintage cotton shirt from Austria, breathable Japanese sneakers, sweet Italian shades and Canadian leggings I was proud to communicate the spirit of a true globetrotter. I did discover a hidden Arabian quarter overlooking the blue water of a little creek and called my trip a total success!

Loved Valenxe – shop’em here! Stalk me on Instagram and Facebook

Update: While on a different style mission, I spotted another Dubai girl rocking Valenxe leggings. I think she wore them better than me! What do you think?

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New Year’s Resolution: Shape Up!

Dear lovely loyal reader,

How have you been? I’m mostly well too (thanks!), struggling to conquer sugar cravings and removing make-up before sleep. My resolutions is “just do it!”The opportunity for a new top me-me-me sounded tempting, a spiritual Klondike on a personal horizon of dreams and hopes.

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However a few weeks through January, when it became obvious that goal accomplishment has already failed, there was one I intended to nail no matter what – shape up! Frankly speaking it would be really cool to get super fit in my 30s and be discovered by Sports Illustrated.

Would you agree that the year of 2016 was the year of healthy living? If research into the benefits of black coffee, red wine and butter left some questions unanswered, Instagram hashtags #fitness and #fit displayed endless motivation and effort towards a stronger body. Meanwhile my initial attempts to exercise were barely successful and rather painful:

Right at that moment the destiny introduced me to Leo.

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Leo belongs to a rare circle of Personal Trainers who don’t brag, but do their job with enthusiasm, passion and contagious persistency. Yelling is not in practice either. Instead, he uses a technique that I describe as “charm and kill”, loading me with a logically connected chain of exercises similar in structure to DNA. Just right when I’m out of breath or motivation to continue, he would drop: “Today’s pain – tomorrow’s gain, smash it Anna” and smile. While I indulge in double Caesars for fun – Leo wakes up at 5am to win Cross Fit “pageants”.

The best is that he focuses on my fading body goals to tone sagging knees, straighten outer thighs and so many many more. Leo delivers a tailored workout every time and gets me stronger, fitter and healthier because a rising star swimwear model is not just a pretty face!

So to keep my New Year resolution alive and get you involved, I teamed up with unstoppable Leo who decided to break our “perfect legs” exercise routine into 5 easy moves. Attention: warm up and stretching are not included in this routine but should never ever be skipped (though skipping is great for lean leggies).

Move 1: Front Squats

A very successful exercise that results in stronger and leaner legs. Choose to start without weight if your recent workout plan involved Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” or spying on friend’s Instagram (I’m certainly guilty), otherwise move some weight off your shoulders to the front, stand with your feet apart and squat! Do 20, 15 and 10 reps.

Move 2: Ball Throw Squats

A variation of the previous exercise engages additional groups of muscles including shoulders. Start with a lighter weight and focus on your posture. It’s important to keep your back straight and straighten knees softly every time. Do 20, 15 and 10 reps.

Move 3: Single Leg Bench Lunges

Stand a meter away from a bench. Keep your back straight, place one foot on the bench, smile, bend your leg and lunge. Do 20, 15 and 10 reps.

Move 4: Curtsy Lunges

A powerful variation of the standard lunge, this exercise tones outer hips and builds better glutes. Bring one of your feet back and across your body. Both knees when bent should be 90 degrees (as always). Do 20, 15 and 10 reps.

Move 5: Forward lunges

This is considered a dangerous exercise, please remember to keep your chest lifted, back straight and knees bent at 90 degrees. Add weight only when a standard lunge has been mastered to perfection. Wear compression socks for an extra support.

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Well done! Let’s make the world a fitter place together, right meow!

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I am wearing Coega sunwear and Zumba wear. For questions and inspiration feel free to reach out to Leo or stalk me on Instagram or Facebook

El and An #LastExitDubai

Beside the thrill of extreme driving and promise of a great night out, there is a new exciting reason to take a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Food Truck Park! Just cross the nonexistent border between the emirates on E11 to dig in to a selection of street food, cool folks and eye popping design.

The only one of its kind in the Gulf,  Food Truck Park offers both drive through and dine-in options for foodies on the go, making it a must visit playground for kids and older. Well, I couldn’t resist! Could you?

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Together with my edgy style gangsta El in her sequence black hat by Rella paired with golden slate stone & wood shades from Propwood, we were ready to party.

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Overwhelmed by the number of choices including Chicks and Friends, Clinton Baking Company, The Brass, Poco Loco and My Karak (among others), we seriously considered Starbucks to reward their support of bloggers worldwide with free Wi-Fi and facilities. Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Once I tricked El in trading her beanie for my awesome Dark Knight Snapback made of shiny black leather from the Nylon Shop, it was the right style moment to review the old school public dialing experience. Meanwhile my 6Plus was peacefully boosting its battery at phone charging station right around the corner.

Then a random brilliant idea entered my hungry mind (oh, boy). To determine who’s gonna pay for dinner, we engaged in a winner take all game of style. Best look rules!

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El moved quickly and with confidence knowing that except cats, nothing beats the “hot girl and a car” scene.

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Being a big fan of emerging brands and hipster-friendly designers, I was pretty happy in my “go back to black” outfit that contrasted with vivid industrial design and urban sand.

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Details from the head to toes: black wool beanie by Rella, Propwood shades, silky long-sleeved shirt under a golden see-through top by Trina Turk, track pants with leather elements by Alice & Olivia and super comfortable Sperry sneakers.

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Frankly, it didn’t take El long to prove that timeless “lady in red” conquers hearts in seconds.

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Dinner is on me, girl!

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