Thursday, March 3, 2005


Physician Endorsed's bead-embellished, pack-and-go sun-protective Celestial T-shirt is paired with a terry cloth-canvas tote bag and La Playa hat.

Designer shade

Designer Elissa Margulies’ creations
are made to be a part of wearers’
wellness regimen

Fashionettes happily welcomed Elissa Margulies when she visited Honolulu last spring with her line of sun-protective hats. But one can keep people happy only so long before they go looking for the next new thing, and soon hat fans were writing letters saying, "OK, we've got the hats, where's the rest?"

Get out of the sun

Physician Endorsed products will be featured during a series of Kaiser Permanente Pharmacies events focusing on sun protection, as follows:

» Saturday: 1 to 5 p.m. at the Kaiser Permanente Waipio clinic lobby

» Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente Waipio clinic lobby

» March 21 to 23: At Kaiser Permanente

Events are also planned in Wailuku, Maui Lani, and Lahaina Pharmacies. For more information, call Alana Gaitley at 432-5580.

Margulies has obliged by creating a line of T-shirts, pants and accessories for the style-conscious, which is not unusual for a designer, but represents a big step forward for a company growing along with the health and wellness industry.

Margulies' company, Physician Endorsed, is a leader in creating clothing that addresses the hazards of ultraviolet radiation.

After winning over customers at stylish boutiques and golf shops, Physician Endorsed is quickly finding a niche at hospital and resort spa gift shops.

"I'm getting a lot of inquiries from resorts because customers are requesting them after finding nothing but straw hats, which are not sun-protective," Margulies said. "Our customers are actually educating retailers and buyers."

The company's growth so far has been "just right," she said. "I don't feel snowballed. We're trying to grow smartly."

Nothing could be smarter than focusing on the ill effects of sun exposure. As the rate of skin cancer grows, so will interest in sun-protective apparel. In addition to causing skin cancer -- one-fourth of cases expected to develop this year will be in people 39 and younger -- UV exposure also increases the likelihood of developing cataracts, according the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although the baby boomers have been associated with the push for anti-aging products, the message seems to be catching on with youths as well. While shooting the Physicians Endorsed catalog on the Big Island last year, Margulies offered her teen models a choice of hats to keep. They opted for the largest to shade their back and shoulders, as well as their faces. One of the 16-year-olds told her, "My auntie told me never to go out in the sun, otherwise I'll look like her."

Spas have begun to promote the hats as anti-aging apparel. It's difficult to warn sun worshippers to stay out of the sun, but the task gets easier if they are able to equate their physical appearance with a price tag.

"They might have spent $500 getting a facial and peel, and what do they do -- walk out in the sun? By putting on a hat, they're protecting their investment," Margulies said.

The hats run $40 to $75, which might be considered the cost of preventive care.

Physician Endorsed's sarong-style Balinese pant, in fuchsia, is paired with a Diva hat and Beachy Keen tote bag.

Although Margulies designs with a futuristic vision of depleted ozone and global warming in mind, her garments -- though high-tech in engineering -- appear natural to the eye and touch.

Lightweight, bead-embellished T-shirts are of a tightly woven cotton that has tested to UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 35, which means it blocks 95.9 percent to 97.4 percent of damaging UV rays. By comparison, a denim jacket might test to UPF 35 to 50 but is much heavier and hotter to wear.

Physicians Endorsed clothing is suitable for an active, outdoorsy life that, while taking clients' needs into consideration, seems to reflect Margulies' life most of all. Her first hats, for instance, were inspired by trips to the golf course with her physician dad. (He's the physician behind the company name, having warned her all her life, "Fry now, pay later.")

"When my husband asked me where we were going to target, I said, 'The golf course.' Those are my people. Poor things. They were out in the sun all day, and they really had no options. They could put on a visor or a straw hat.

"Now we have an underground, cult following among the golf crowd and country clubs. They definitely want the big brims."

Then there's the traveling. Margulies still has bad memories of a trip to China when her luggage was lost, and a trip to London when her mom's bags went AWOL, and now makes it a point to travel light, with just one carry-on for packing all her easy-care T-shirts, pants and hats, plus retail samples.

"Everything just rolls up or packs flat," she said. "There's no excuse not to bring one of my hats."

But it's not all about sun protection. Mona Lee, who has been carrying Physician Endorsed hats for a year at Mona's Golf Shoppe, says deciding to carry the hats was a no-brainer: "(Margulies) walked in and she was wearing (one of her hats), and she look so pretty, so I tried and OK, I get the idea.

"Golfers really love it because first of all, it looks very good."

Lee makes it a point to tell her clients about the hats' protective properties, but for many that's just a bonus. Says Lee, "Some don't care; they just want to look good."

Look for Physician Endorsed products at Ala Moana Golf, Bareskin Hawaii at 1481 S. King St., Ihilani Resort & Spa, Kailua Beach Walk, Kapiolani Medical Center gift shop, Kapolei Golf Course, Marriott Waikiki, Mona's Golf Shoppe, Oahu Country Club, Riches Kahala Mall, Serenity Spa, Waialae Country Club golf shop and the Walking Co. For more locations, visit www.physicianendorsed.com

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