Monday, April 21, 2014

Who Makes Your Clothes?

There's been a revolution bubbling underneath up through fashion week runways and retail announcements. Can you feel it?



It has to do with something we've forgotten -- that fashion is less about things than it is about ideas. This time last year, more than 1,100 people were killed and over 2,500 injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And since? What has changed? What have you changed?

Fashion by its very nature requires us to challenge the status quo. The Rana Plaza tragedy was a stark reminder of that. Today's status quo demands a more empathetic, less materialistic approach to fashion. Period. When did we stop appreciating the creative process? Stop valuing the artistic side of fashion? When did we decide to compromise basic 
human life for something to wear? When did Wall Street start calling the shots on what we buy, when, and for how much?

Forget it - those are complicated questions to which the answer does not matter right now. What does matter is life, liberty and the pursuit of individuality of fashion. This goes for everyone. Those who buy, sell, design and sew the fashions on our backs. The pace of governments and industrial change is slow. But your ability to make a decision is not.


People have literally died for the shirt on your back, and until this story gets as real as a Pharrell video, I say FUCK YOU status quo! There's no excuse for turning a blind eye. 

Fashion Revolution is an organization with lofty ideas of impacting things like working conditions, environmental impact and fair trade. Join the Fashion Revolution here or on Facebook and Twitter

Amber Valetta did. Will you? #InsideOut


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Forget the Food Trucks, I'll Take the Fashion

Last weekend I stumbled upon Fashion Truck Canada, set up in the parking lot of Liberty Village. Food truck you say? No, no, the only food at this truck was the adorable candy bar set up front of it.



Following the recent food truck craze, fashion trucks have been popping up in cities across the U.S. such as L.A. and New York. The concept has been test driven in Canada, but barely. Yorkdale Shopping Centre used a fashion truck in 2012 to promote its new retailers in the downtown core. Saint John's New Brunswick had a fashion truck. But Toronto? Not so much.

Enter entrepreneurs Emily Dobbie and Ashley Barber. "I already have two physical retail stores and an online website," Emily explains, referring to her Vocado boutiques. "I see this as a great way to test new markets and bring our pieces to new markets."

The clothing and accessories are contemporary labels, the kind you can easily try on over a pair of leggings and a tank, in case Fashion Truck's one change room is booked. "We sell a lot of LA brands -- Olivaceous, De Philo, Everly, Six Crisp Days," says Emily. You can also find pieces from Alternative Apparel, Free People, Levi's, Henry and Belle, Chaser and Wildfox. Accessories? No problem. Fashion Truck carries loads - necklaces, scarves, hats, rings, headbands, sunglasses, wallets and clutches. Just don't expect to find shoes, unless they're Tkees.

So when you have two brick and mortar shops and an online boutique, why the truck? "Retail is changing and we wanted to lead the way with this new trend. I see this as a great way to test new markets and bring our pieces to new markets."

Unfortunately, Toronto's bylaws around trucks -- food, fashion or otherwise -- do not make this easy. Fashion Truck's partners have already addressed councillors at City Hall, lobbying for easier permit processes. The current (archaic) rules and the city's snail's pace to change hasn't deterred these women so far. "We're ready to fight for this and show Toronto that they need to adapt and adjust and bring this city to the next level from a unique retail perspective." 

Don't miss Fashion Truck Canada's next stop. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Canadian Fashion Throws a House Party

This past weekend brought the inaugural Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) to life at the Fairmont Royal York. The official raison d'ĂȘtre, "CAFA was created to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievement and emerging talent in Canadian fashion design." 



But this was not just another awards show. This was the first time the fashion industry gathered to honour the best in our country. I repeat, the first time. As a member of the official nominating committee, I am proud to have been a part of the process.  Unlike the music, literary, stage and screen industries, Canada's fashion world - until now - didn't have an event to crown its own for their outstanding talents.  Only time will tell if receiving a CAFA has a positive impact on one's career. Until it does, we're just shouting in a bubble. And since it's our first bubble, I vote we get dressed up and have a party. And party we did! 

But wait!  What every black tie gala in Canada needs is a snowstorm, right?  I love that Canadians are such a hearty bunch. By the outfits you would never know we all left our boots at coat check. 


Coco Rocha, Lisa Tant and me
Arriving at the gala, I was soon accosted by four young fashion design students who were volunteering for the event. "We love your dress," they exclaimed in unison. "It's a Jay Godfrey," I responded. "Do you know him?" Blank stares. "Consider this your first lesson, ladies, look him up." 

Welcome to the underground world of Canadian fashion!

I love Jay Godfrey's designs. His sizing is consistently perfect, I don't even require a fitting.  In fact, I rented the dress from Rent frock Repeat for that very reason. (Although locals can schedule in person fittings.) I wanted something new without plunking down a few hundred for a dress I would likely wear once.

The CAFAs did a fine job of getting some big names out for the first annual event -- Dean and Dan from DSquared2, Coco Rocha, Joe Mimran and Jeanne Beker, who took home the 2014 Vanguard Award. Ten awards were given out for excellence in fashion, styling and image maker categories: 

Womenswear Designer of the Year Award - Jeremy Laing

Menswear Designer of the Year Award - Travis Taddeo

Emerging Talent Award - Sarah Stevenson

Outstanding Achievement Award - DSquared2

Accessory Designer of the Year Award - Want Les Essentials de la Vie

Canadian Style Award - Joe Mimran

Image Maker Award - Chris Nicholls

International Canadian Designer of the Year Award - DSquared2

Stylist of the Year Award - George Antonopoulos

Model of the Year Award - Coco Rocha

Truthfully, only Sarah Stevenson stands to benefit from her award, with a $10,000 prize, a spring/summer '15 lookbook and mentorship from Joe Mimran, this year's Honorary Chair.  I've had my eye on her since her humble design beginnings a few years back.  As a Canadian she's still humble, but with the right direction this young talent could follow in the footsteps of fellow Canadian, Erdem Moralioglu or Mary Katrantzou.

Sarah Stevenson Fall Winter 2013
For more CAFA photos stay tuned to their Facebook page.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Pack Rat's Guide to Traveling Light - Part I


Last month I attended the TFI Press and Buyers Brunch at World MasterCard Fashion Week. It’s a showcase of up and coming designers, and as such, a chance to discover a new brand. I always come away with one particular name that sticks. This season it was Ebby Rane.

Ebby Rane is a travel company aiming to revamp the suitcase for the jet-setting, luxury - and likely female - consumer. Its first product, the Quartermaster, is a carry-on fit for a weekend excursion. Ebby Rane (a nod to the creators' grandfathers) takes design inspiration from the bespoke trunks that accompanied voyages in the Victorian era. 


The Quartermaster by Ebby Rane

It comes in three colour combinations. Beyond its beautiful exterior, the Quartermaster's magic lies in the patented packing system that includes ten carryall inserts plus a leather clutch. It distills packing for a weekend down to a science - though its hefty price tag (roughly $1,000.00) leads me to believe I haven't quite achieved the jet-setting status they're going after. 

For the fashionably inclined, packing for a weekend trip can be challenging, at best. Whether its business or personal travel, there are shoes and accessories to consider not to mention the airlines restrictions on liquids and weight. I'm no expert in this arena (you'll find me at the baggage carousel), so I called of some of most jet-setting friends for their hottest tips on packing light. 

Suzanne Cohon of ASC Public Relations, Inc. hits the road for business and personal travel frequently.  "I always pack white tank tops (as they go under everything), a blazer, large scarfs and a great pair of jeans. These essential pieces give me lots of options and flexibility to dress for any occasion."

Yes, but what about shoes, I counter?  Suzanne's tip: "I try to travel with minimal options - one pair of flats, one pair of heels and one pair of trainers in case I have a moment to go for a run/ long walk. And always wear your largest shoes when you travel. It saves room in your bag."  


Bustle Clothing's Shawn Hewson admits, "I'm the worst packer."  As a designer, he's solved part of that dilemma. "One item I always like to travel with is a knit blazer. It's super handy when you're travelling, since it folds up easily and fits in something the size of a toiletries bag if you need it to. 



Bustle's French Terry Knit Blazer

"Since it's a knit," he continues, "it looks good even after it's been folded, and it's comfortable for moving through airports, lounges and planes.  And it's always good to wear a blazer in the airport - helps to reduce your chances of being "randomly selected" for additional screening."  Sage advice.

Holt Renfrew's Lisa Tant takes a methodical approach to packing. "I make a packing list based upon where I'm going and the main purpose of my trip - personal or business. I've learned the hard way to not just throw things in a case the night before. I ended up in Paris for two weeks once with a suitcase full of boring black clothes." Quel domage!


"I make sure that every piece can be worn more than one way and that I have my roster of wear-everywhere basics - jeans, black leggings, cashmere cardigans, a raincoat and motorcycle boots. I believe in layers and I always pack comfortable shoes including boots, cool sneakers (my new Nike Air Knits will be perfect) and flats. A couple of oversized patterned scarves are essential as is a roomy, but small, cross-body handbag."

Nike's Air Knit sneakers keep Lisa Tant comfy when traveling

"I make sure that every piece can be worn more than one way and that I have my roster of wear-everywhere basics - jeans, black leggings, cashmere cardigans, a raincoat and motorcycle boots. I believe in layers and I always pack comfortable shoes including boots, cool sneakers (my new Nike Air Knits will be perfect) and flats. A couple of oversized patterned scarves are essential as is a roomy but small cross-body handbag."

When travel requires a mix of business and pleasure, packing smart is absolutement a requirement. Designer Monica Mei packs pieces that can do double duty. "Women love the Aime Olivia pant that can take them from the boardroom to drinks by just adding a smokey eye, statement necklace and sky-high heels." In fact, Monica was so inspired by her recent travels she designed an entire collection for chic jet-setters. I'll dish more on the Aime by Monica Mei Seasonless 2014 collection next month.

So now we know what to pack. My next question is, how to fit it all in?  Stay tuned for A Pack Rat's Guide to Traveling Light - Part II coming soon.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CAFA to stage Canadian fashion celebration



Elisha Cuthbert (left) with Vicky Milner, CAFA Managing Director 

Last week, near the opening hours of World MasterCard Fashion Week, about a hundred or so well-heeled guests filed into a Ritz Carlton ballroom for a little star sighting and the first CAFA announcement.  CAFA, or Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, was recently created to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievement and emerging talent in Canadian fashion design.  Its lofty goals include helping spur the economic development of the Canadian fashion industry.

That said, there actually is a $10,000 prize for the Emerging Talent Award. It's the one category eligible to self-nomination and refers to someone with fewer than five years in business.  Otherwise it's mostly bragging rights for winners. Outside of Emerging Talent, the award categories include:
  • Womenswear Designer of the Year
  • Menswear Designer of the Year 
  • Outstanding Achievement
  • Accessory Designer of the Year
  • Canadian Style 
  • Image Maker
  • International Canadian Designer of the Year
  • Stylist of the Year
  • Model of the Year
Elisha Cuthbert, Canadian darling and a front-row-at-Toronto-fashion-week kind of celebrity, was there to announce the first-ever CAFA nominees.  (As part of the nominating committee, yours truly had a hand in picking them.)  

The CAFA website publishes online interviews members of their inaugural jury.  ELLE Canada's Editor-in-Chief Noreen Flanagan is among those industry experts profiled, along with TFI's Susan Langdon and FLARE Magazine's Tiyana Grulovic.  Check back for new profiles.  The awards show takes place February 1, 2014 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. 

See the CAFA website for ticket information and a full list of nominees.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

From the Front Row - the Final Edition

Over the last couple of weeks in my From the Front Row feature, I've shared snapshots of bloggers, radio/tv hosts and photographers with their high-tech cameras. Typically I rely on my trusty iPhone 4G to capture photos for my blog. In fact, each of my subjects was shot with my iPhone. But this fashion week, Samsung let me test drive their new Galaxy Camera. Allow me to share my own experience in the final post of this feature.

Fashion week day 5 - could someone fix my hair?
What are you shooting with?
I'm using the Samsung GALAXY Camera. Their tagline pretty well sums it up - "Shoots like a pro. Shares like a Smartphone."

Do you share the photos? How?
I use the photos for my blog (this one!) as well as on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  Beyond the runway and fashion week, I have been using it to shoot client events or random scenes that I use as inspiration for future events.

What’s your favourite feature of this device?
I cannot name just one.  First, the touch screen is HUGE and the colour is truly fantastic.  Even though I've dabbled with photography for nearly 20 years, I consider myself an amateur. The GALAXY's Smart Mode lets me choose the scene so I have the perfect camera settings.  

So, for instance, the Action Freeze setting is great for those fast walking models at Joe Fresh, but with the Macro setting I can get up close with fabric detail.  However, if I want to play professional, there's also an Expert setting where I can change the aperture, F-stop and all those other finite camera details.


I love the connectivity of the GALAXY.  It's wi-fi enabled, so I can share instantly via email or Instagram. It comes with Dropbox installed so I have the option of backing up there or on the Cloud. It runs on the latest version of Android OS, Android 4.1 JellyBean, giving me access to a slew of apps.  And for someone who appreciates good design, I have to say I adore its sleek, white, minimalist design.  If wearable technology is the next big thing, I foresee it being a huge success with Samsung driving it. This camera rocks.


The colour-rich Bustle runway
Joe Fresh models create wind, you must shoot fast
The details on Dreamboat Lucy's collection don't get missed

Friday, October 25, 2013

More From the Front Row: What are you shooting with?

World MasterCard Fashion Week may be winding down to its last days, but the crowds haven't waned a bit.  Hundreds cram into the runway room on the hour, every hour, and the front row fills with some of the city's most stylish denizens. There are some rocking outfits on display, but I've been taking note of those carrying more serious accessories - a camera.

This recurring feature catches up with some front row photographers to find out, what are you shooting with?

Hawley Dunbar | Blogger

Hawley has her freshly manicured finger on the pulse of all that's current in music, fashion and technology. Turns out she's also pretty handy with a macro lens.

What are you shooting with?
A Canon EOS 60 D. I flip between a 100mm Macro lens and a 50mm Macro depending on my location in the front row.

Do you share the photos? How?
I post them on my fashion and music blog, SidewalkHustle.com.

What’s your favourite feature of this device?
I can do a lot with my 60 D because it’s a professional level body. I love the sport setting for shooting runway because it captures the model no matter how fast they might be strutting.




Chris Howson | Radio & Television Host



Chris claims to be the "current owner of Brooke Shields eyebrows," but this humble morning show host and producer at Toronto's ProudFM radio bears more of a resemblance to Chris Noth. Think Chris Noth's much, much younger brother.

What are you shooting with?
I'm using the Nikon D5200 DSLR burgundy edition. 

Do you share the photos? How?
I'm shooting for the Men's Fashion Insider show Twitter account. It's a show on OUTtv that I host. I also use the photos for Dose.ca and Dailyxtra.com.

What’s your favourite feature of this device?
I love that fact that it also shoots broadcast quality HD video. I'm a bit of a 'jack of all trades' in this industry so I'm glad my camera is too!

Catch up with the rest of my From the Front Row series here