Byline: Elaine Glusac

FAIRFIELD, Ill. — It’s an influence few can claim: Hardware made a designer of Isaiah Kincaid.
Using equestrian gadgetry, Kincaid fashions handtooled leather belts in 150 styles ranging from strappy to bracing. His ideas come straight out of the tack and saddle department at Kincaid Hardware, the 77-year-old family business he manages. What started as a hobby three years ago has shown up on New York runways, generating estimated sales of over $300,000 in 1994. Kincaid continues to work here in his hometown — population 5,000 — and said of his success: “New Yorkers are easier to sell than an old farmer; they buy into ideas.”
This spring, he’s adding a line of purses. He describes them as based on “shapes and styles of an era bygone, of farm and rural life.” His belts are sold at Barneys New York in Chicago, as well as specialty stores like Danielle’s Designer Shoes and Accessories in Lake Forest, Ill.

CHICAGO — Downsized and mellowed out, Zen Fitness is a new brand of health club here.
Banished are the awful fluorescent lights, odors and impersonal attendants. In their place are skylights, lavender scents, soothing music and all the attention a small shop can deliver.
“The word ‘Zen’ makes people think of balance. I want to welcome not just bodies but hearts and minds as well,” says Lynn Doody, the club’s owner.
As the name implies, Zen Fitness explores the mind-body connection to wellness. For the body half of the equation, Doody offers everything from slide to sculpt classes. For the mind, there is tai chi and yoga. Each session ends with 15 minutes of stretching and relaxation, including meditative readings, which Doody considers as important as elevating the heart rate.

CHICAGO — Extending its reach beyond the closet, casual dressing now hits home. Trading formal china for playful ceramics, Tabula Tua, a new shop dedicated to the artful tabletop, takes a lively approach to table settings.
Owner Grace Tsao-Wu has an international collection of wares for the best-dressed settings, encouraging a mix of colors on “tabula tua,” Latin for “your slate.”
The look starts with a table of reconstructed barn wood or mosaic-topped wrought iron. Place mats of handpainted linen or lashed twigs back up bright ceramic dishes from Province and Italy or their cooler cousins from England. Accessories include handblown glassware and stained-wood serving bowls.
Appetite-inspiring paintings of the raw ingredients of “Ratatouille,” “Salsa” and “Fruit Salad” by Chicago artist David Ryan are also available at the shop. Prices range from $10 for a mug to $2,800 for a picture.