September 25, 2016

The Metropolitan Shopper

Wow.'s been over three months since I last blogged. This is probably the longest break I've ever taken from blogging, but life has been a whirlwind lately. In addition to graduating university and taking a week-long trip to celebrate, I started working full-time, moved to a new condo downtown, am getting involved in the local fashion/film industry on the weekends, and am spending more time hanging out with friends. Over the past few months, so many things in my life have fallen into place, and I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. Living downtown has been my dream for many years, and as I wake up everyday to a view of the river and the energy of downtown, I find myself so grateful for all the opportunities I have been given.

But that's enough about my life. I've missed sharing my thoughts about fashion these past couple of months, so let's get right into it. I've been frequenting the malls more often now that I'm less than 15-20 minutes away from all the hot spots in the city. Here's a look at three interesting pieces I tried on at H&M:

Look #1: Giving the Cold Shoulder

The off-shoulder/exposed shoulder craze continues as shoulders strand strong as the latest erogenous zone. I've mentioned before I'm not a huge fan of fully flaunting my shoulders, but can find compromise in the cold shoulder trend. This dress had been on the store mannequin for a couple weeks, and everytime I saw it, I admired those two single straps running over each shoulder. I thought it was a unique variation on the trend. Finally, I gave in and decided to try the dress on. I was afraid I would be overcome with the adrenaline of finding a piece I love (and thus feel the desire to buy it), but thankfully, that didn't happen. The length and shape of the sleeves emphasized the width of my upper arms, and I felt strangely like a robot with stiff shoulders. The awkwardness of the sleeves was so prominent, the straps - the main reason why I liked the dress - dwindled into oblivion.

Look #2: The Little Mermaid

This dress was an amusing one. The tiered layers were reminiscent of the 1920s (and you know how I love Gatsby fashion), yet the way the ruffles were angled also reminded me of a mermaid. I didn't think the dress would actually look that good, though it did turn out better than I thought. The ruffled tiers might be a bit obnoxious for my personal tastes, but it was statement-making and fun. My only issue with the dress was how deep the V-neck was - so deep I had to keep it cinched with one hand. I don't like going bra-less or wearing crazy bra substitutes, so a gown like this wouldn't be too practical for me.

Look #3: Halting Traffic

Lastly, a halter dress. With my aversion to revealing my bare shoulders, I didn't think I would be able to pull off this dress. I kept telling my good friend I wouldn't do justice to a halter dress, but once I put it on, I had to take it all back. Because it looked great. I was surprised by how well it fit, and in retrospect, I believe the square neckline, embellished halter, and torso cutout all worked in beautiful harmony to even out and lengthen the wide-shoulder feeling I often get from exposed shoulders. If you look in the mirror behind me, you can also see the halter straps came with tassels on the end. An added touch of glamour. I wouldn't be able to pinpoint the science behind why this particular style of halter works for me, but it goes to show anyone can wear anything - it's just about the magic of finding the right design and cut for your own body.

June 23, 2016

5 Lessons From a University Graduate

Five years. Five years of hard work and fun times have led up to this moment. Earlier this week, I officially graduated from university with two undergraduate degrees. As I reflect back upon these years, I have a number of reminders I would like to pass on to those who are still in education:

1. Don't be afraid to leave home

If you have the capacity to attend university in another city - do it. I could not be more grateful for my parents' support in allowing me to move across the country for education. If I hadn't moved away, I would not have had the pleasure of attending arguably one of Canada's biggest and most beautiful university campuses. While I did break down in tears from panic and fear after saying goodbye to my parents, a mere one week later, I was thoroughly enjoying my independence. I learned what it's like to take control of my life, and experienced the consequences (both good and bad) of my actions and decisions. I ultimately came to appreciate all that my parents had done for me, and by the time I returned home after graduation, I had a new sense of maturity. There is also something special about living on campus. I was never forced to leave the campus environment at the end of my day. For years, I was surrounded by friends and fellow students 24/7 - and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

2. Meet people

Get out. Meet people. Talk to people. Despite being a horribly shy and awkward girl, I highly recommend meeting people during university. I met one of my friends after she spontaneously decided to sit beside me in the cafeteria. I have another friend I met after sharing a cab from the airport. I have friends from clubs, residences, and my two programs. Not everyone you meet will become your BFF, but even that brief chat with a stranger in the elevator will stay with you as a memory of how great the campus environment is. You don't need to have a lot of friends - just good ones. There won't be many other opportunities in life where thousands upon thousands of people pack themselves onto one campus. It's astounding how everyone is on their own individual paths, and yet here we all are, coming together for education. The diversity on campus is incredible. Take the time and muster up the courage to learn about other people's life stories.

3. Follow your dreams

University is not the place to be doing something you don't want to do. Do something you're passionate about, because that is the only thing that will ever truly motivate you. Never stop listening to what your heart tells you to do. Whether you find the answer in your existing program, in another program, or outside of university altogether, pursue it. If you have absolutely no idea what your dreams even are - relax. There are many in the same boat as you. Make the effort to explore and find yourself. I was lucky enough to be able to fulfill my goals at university, and I want to see you walk away from university feeling as if you're on your way to achieving your own dreams.

4. Do your own thing

In high school, I graduated with an International Baccalaureate diploma. In university, I graduated with a degree from a business school with limited enrollment. For years, I have spent my time surrounded by incredibly intelligent high-achievers - people I know I will be seeing headlines about in the future. While I adore such an environment, it comes with its own difficulties. There were many times I felt like the "admission mistake". A girl walking through hallways she didn't belong in. But I realized that no matter what everyone else is doing, Have no shame if your goals are different from those around you. Don't be intimidated by those you consider more successful than you. Everyone has their own definition of success, so never let other people's goals define your own. This goes beyond education. If you don't like partying every weekend, then don't. Never feel pressured to. Stay in and huddle under your blankets for a night of Netflix. You'll be happiest when you do what you want to do. The university experience should not be wasted chasing after other people's definition of happiness instead of your own.

5. Seize the moment

One of my wise, beautiful, amazing BFFs (who is currently backpacking across South America for 4.5 months - love ya girl, safe travels!) sent me a letter in the mail this year. While the entire letter had me tearing up, one passage in particular stood out to me. I will let her words do the talking:

"Never delay happiness. It isn't compounded. It doesn't multiply with time. It simply slips through your fingers if it isn't accessed in the moment. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; they are the best way to learn and they serve to be marvellous stories afterwards. Live the life you would be proud of on your deathbed. Don't waste time being sorry. Life is so short - if it isn't lived, it will be a wasted life."

I've had five years to live out my university experience, but the approaching end didn't hit me until my final month. In that month, I made sure I appreciated and enjoyed every last second. For many, undergraduate education is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My dad tells me his college years were among the best years of his life, and I know he is right. The last thing you want to do on your final day is look back and realize you regret not having enjoyed university to its fullest. I understand that marks are stressful - there were days when my head felt like it was going to explode from all the pressure. Recognize that stress is a natural part of education, but never forget university provides much more than that. Absorb everything university has to offer: clubs, friendships, events, a community... For me, I made sure to admire how beautiful my campus was every single time I stepped foot in it. I may never get another chance to walk among the gorgeous ivy-covered stone buildings with the same comforting sense of belonging as I did as a student - and so I seized the moment. I hope during your university journey, you will find ways to do the same.

Dress: Topshop | Shoes: Calvin Klein | Necklace: Unknown

This moment is certainly bittersweet. Five years ago this milestone seemed so far in the horizon, and yet here I stand, already on the other side. Goodbyes are difficult, but as Winnie-the-Pooh once said, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." As I close the book on this chapter in my life with a tender smile, I look forward to what lays ahead of me. There are more moments to experience, more friends to make, and more happiness to be gained. The future? I say, bring it on.

Image Source: PublicDomainArchive, Favim, Pexels

June 4, 2016

Thank You, Friends

Looking back at my most recent blog posts, something dawned on me: many of them have been inspired by interactions I've had with my friends (Make Me Look Cool, Are You Listening? and In Uniform). I've never denied the incredible influence of those around me, but seeing three consecutive blog posts which came to fruition thanks to seemingly passing conversation topics really highlights how grateful I am to my friends.

Fashion has opened up a platform to bridge me with people in ways otherwise not possible. A mutual love for fashion has helped me make new friends - and reconnect with old ones. From people with the same affinity for fashion as me, to girls who want outfit advice, to guys who could care less about what they wear, I am so honoured to be that friend people think of to send random fashion things to. Without the chats we have, without the links and photos you send me, without your thoughtfulness to share with me, I would not be able to build up this blog like I have over the years.

Even I am sometimes surprised by how this blog has managed to go on for almost six years. How have I not run out of topics to muse about by now? Yet I realize inspiration is everywhere and endlessly flowing. It's in the big news stories that sway the industry, and in the tiniest details of my daily existence. I have no fear of ever running out of inspiration. It may come sporadically and unexpectedly - but it always comes.

Friends have played a big part in keeping me inspired. That is the reason why I always acknowledge when someone has awakened an idea in my head. I may have started this blog, I may write all of the content, and my name may be what signs off on each post, but my blog is not a solo act. It is a compilation of my interactions and experiences with the people and things around me. My blog may not be professional (read: marketable / monetizable) nor popular nor perfect, but it's genuine. It's real. It's me. It's you. Friends, you have helped make this blog what it is, and for that, I say thank you.

Image Source: Favim

May 23, 2016

What A Push Up

Well, after bashing Freddy WR.UP pants, I thought it was only fair I grant the pants fair trial by actually giving them a go and trying them on. Besides, my curiosity about their magical butt lifting abilities had me gravitating towards the store (yes, so what if I am curious about that bootylicious life).

While the Spring 2016 collection offered some crazy options (tri-coloured ombre?!), I decided to go for a pair of classic denim pants.

At first I was skeptical of trying on an XXS (I don't quite have that teenage physique anymore), but it turned out to be the right size. I don't have a photo of myself in the pants (I rather not have something like that saved for eternity on the Internet), so you'll have to bear with me as I explain.

The first thing I noticed was how incredibly tight the pants are. Luckily, it is made of a soft, stretchy fabric, so putting it on does not require breaking out into a sweat and swearing under your breath, but I was still surprised by how much it looked spray-painted onto my legs. While the waistline fit properly, I did have problems with length, as a significant portion of the pant bunched up around my ankles. 

But of course, Freddys are not about the legs - they're about sculpting that derrière. I must admit, my behind did look rounder. I still found the stitching to be awkward, but I guess once you have the pants on, you are slightly blinded by the magnificence of your new spherical asset. Although, I'm tempted to say part of why you get an instant butt lift is because of how tight the pants are. With jeans glued to your skin, any curvature (no matter how slight) gets brought to light.

At the end of the day, I still prefer my normal rump. I felt a little try-hard in those pants, and I was definitely not a fan of how tight they were. I thought my legs looked like two unappetizing sausages (though the friends I was with told me my legs looked good). Besides, $180 for a pair of denim pants? I understand designer jeans can cost upwards of $300, but Freddys still carry a hefty price tag themselves.

So after all that, maybe I have saved some of you from the embarrassment of having to walk into a Freddy store to quell your own curiosity. Or, perhaps, I've actually enticed some of you to give your own booty a push up...

Image Source: Livify

May 15, 2016

Make Me Look Cool

A good friend of mine recently shared this Buzzfeed article with me. In it, Buzzfeed staff member Chelsea Marshall goes to six different clothing stores and asks each of them to make her look "cool".

My first thought: why cool? Cool is a word inherently based on what is trendy at the time. If you ask a store to dress you "cool", you're just going to get an outfit consisting of the latest trends or whatever the store's brand image is. There is no concrete definition of what cool is, so this article essentially sets out to prove what is already known.

However, despite my initial skepticism with the premise of this experiment, I do like the final message Marshall leaves us with: "If you’re uncomfortable, even the 'coolest' outfit will look terribly uncool." Because you know what's cool? Confidence. It's the backbone of all good outfits. It's the reason why we say designers like Alexander Wang design for "cool" girls. Wang's designs are not intrinsically cool - it's the type of girls he designs for who are. Being cool is more about an attitude than what you wear.

One thing I did notice from the Buzzfeed article is how varied womenswear can be in terms of what is considered cool or trendy. What about menswear? Well, this is where my friend from earlier comes in. He actually decided to carry out the same experiment for his YouTube channel, More Merrick.

As you can see, in all cases, Merrick was given a pair of pants, a shirt, and a jacket. Of course, to the fashion-minded, there are many differences between these three looks, but generally speaking, the formula was consistent across all stores. Variety in menswear is definitely more about the subtle differences. Overall similarity between the looks could also be attributed to the fact these stores are based heavily on following trends (though you could argue Urban Outfitters is the exception, as it does have its own distinctive image). Also, notice how Merrick has to make rules for expanding on and clarifying what "cool" means to potentially confused sales associates, which just goes to show the ineffectiveness of using the word in the first place. I understand "cool" makes for a catchier editorial title, but again, it's a strange way of going about an experiment.

Nonetheless, whether cool, or elegant, or edgy, we have probably all tried to embody a certain descriptor at some point in life. Eventually, we come to realize the most important thing is staying true to ourselves. Who we are may evolve through time (hence the cringing when we look back at our younger selves), but achieving harmony between your inner self and your outer self will leave you with a confidence that carries more weight than any single word ever could.

Image Source: Buzzfeed

May 1, 2016

Are You Listening?

Diversification in business is meant to reduce risk, and some luxury designer labels go to great lengths to take advantage of that theory. Most infamous may be Chanel; from fashion and lifestyle, to sports equipment, to guitars, Chanel has dipped its toes into many industries. While it may be amusing to see all the things Karl Lagerfeld is willing to brand with his interlocking-Cs, his multiple forays realistically boast more style than expertise. Labels are forgoing specialization for ubiquity, and while it is possible for a company to acquire expert knowledge through partnerships, the truth remains: the knowledge is not innate.

Dolce & Gabbana has also been trying its hand at diversifying product lines. For Fall/Winter 2015, the label released ornately embellished $7000 headphones, decked out in materials like Swarovski crystals, pearls, nappa leather and fur. Stylish, indeed - but functional? I decided to share the product page for a pair of D&G headphones with a good friend of mine who is a techie (he's also the one who introduced me to video game fashion) to see how he would react. He acknowledged the visual appeal of the headphones, but as I thought, he quickly wanted to know some specifications. D&G's product description is clearly written with the fashion buyer in mind, focusing on aesthetic offerings rather than technical capabilities. Those looking to learn more about the technology behind the fashion will be hard-pressed to find that information. A bit of Googling revealed nothing.

Of course, the type of people who are going to buy $7000 D&G headphones are probably not too concerned with specifications; D&G has made no mistake in understanding and catering to its customers. I simply find it curious that if someone happens to be interested in how well the headphones perform, that information is seemingly no where to be found. Fashion techies do exist - and D&G is failing to give that niche part of the market the full picture.

A fashion x technology collaboration done with more professional grace is the Apple Watch and Hermès collection, released earlier this year. Two massive powerhouses in their respective industries, coming together to produce an accessory meant to appeal to both the techies and the fashionistas. The product page gives fair weight to explaining the technical and design clout of the watches, making this collaboration a clean and equal partnership.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Two heads are better than one. We all know the exciting possibilities made available from the dynamics of two specialists joining hands. Collaboration with those from diverse backgrounds provides an opportunity to explore beyond one's own boundaries into uncharted territory, but the greatest beauty comes when all parties are given the chance to shine.

Image Source: MegaDeluxe, Yucatan, Engadget

April 24, 2016

In Uniform

Nearly two years ago (Ha. Ha. Yes, I know), my friend sent me a link to an article from The Independent about how many of us end up gravitating towards a uniform in our adult years. The uniform may be idiosyncratic, but a uniform nonetheless. Think Anna Wintour with her A-line skirts, pointy toed pumps, and of course, her signature dark shades.

On a different but related note, another friend of mine was telling me how uninspiring and wearisome it is to be forced into a suit everyday for work. He calls it a costume he puts on for the office.

These two instances bring me to the topic of uniforms. As a fashion fanatic, I have always feared the idea of mandatory attire. Growing up, I hated the idea of a school with uniforms, and even cried when I learned I was accepted into a private school for junior high (I didn't end up attending that school, thankfully). My mom had a uniform when she was little and chides me whenever I voice criticism against it. She praises uniforms for making her morning routine much simpler. While I acknowledge the benefits of a set outfit, I most certainly believe they are not for everyone.

For me, fashion is my greatest form of self-expression. Like an artist materializing his/her mind's creativity, clothing is my paintbrush and my outfit is my masterpiece. I strongly value the freedom to wear what I want. I've always considered the liberty to dress outside of the box as a huge bonus of working in the fashion industry. Nonetheless, while I adore experimenting with fashion, I do recognize that the article from The Independent is right: we can develop our own uniforms over time. Call it personal style, call it a uniform - most of us will get into a groove. But the difference with these uniforms is that they are our own. They become our uniforms because we created them. As a result, we love them.

The problem is, as an adult, we may still find ourselves forced into a uniform - this time not of the school variety. I've been lucky enough to work for an organization that is not strict on dress code and encourages the right attire for the job, resulting in a wide range of casual to dressy. I am also glad to have worked around amazing people who were either appreciative of those who enjoyed dressing up, or liked the art of style themselves. But I can imagine if I were forced into the traditional blazer and pant for five days a week, I would very quickly begin to dislike my job. Is lack of self-expression really enough to make someone pack up and switch jobs? I think it is.

To some, clothes are just pieces of fabric. To others, they're much more than that. Being forced into a cookie cutter image can take its toll over time. Attire is an element of corporate culture that should not be overlooked, whether you consider it a priority or not. One size (or uniform, in this case) does not fit all. If you insist on a particular uniform, know that you consequently insist on recruiting a particular person. Understandably, that may be exactly what your organization wants. But if you value diversity, there's worth in having people discover their own uniform. Of course, there should always be baseline rules that must be adhered to, but freedom to operate within those rules (it can be as simple as casual Fridays) will give people the leeway they need to remain true to themselves.

Looking forward to my adulthood, I will continue to insist on my freedom of fashion expression. I never ascribed to a uniform as a kid, and I'm not going to start now. There are ways to dress appropriately for the office while still having fun. We're in the workplace for the majority of our lives - don't let it be a place you lose sense of who you are.

Image source: Speaking of Style, Pinterest, Memorandum