March 18, 2017

Bienvenue à La Maison

This week, Québec-based retailer Simons (La Maison Simons) opened its doors to my city. My friend and I met up to check out the grand opening, which soon turned into one of my favourite activities: trying on dresses. But before I get into some of the dresses I tried on (not all were photo-worthy), let's talk about Simons.

My early exposure to Simons was through my friends. I have a friend (in a different city) who likes shopping there, and another who bought a dress there while in Québec. My first encounter came when I passed by the store during my grad trip in Montréal. Walking through the store, however, I was underwhelmed. The clothing appeared quite basic, reminding me of a watered down version of Hudson's Bay. Nonetheless, I was still looking forward to seeing what Simons would have to offer in my own city.

After exploring the four-story department store this week, I do have a better impression of Simons than before. But to say it is a good impression would be wrong. It caters to what I consider the suburban professional mom. Khaki capris, flowy floral tops, and blazers in various solid colours. The majority of clothing in the store is of poor quality, with a selection of better quality mid-priced items, and one section of incredibly unique, quirky high-end pieces (Leotard with floor-length cape? Yes, please). Despairingly, the shoe and handbag departments were tiny and mediocre. On the bright side though, I was impressed with the offerings in the home section, the decently-priced café, and the two floors dedicated to a wide range of men's clothing. Simons will offer some unique selection for our local market, but overall, I'm left with little reason to shop there.

Though as you know, that doesn't stop me from trying on their clothing.

Twik Floral Choker Dress

What's a huge trend right now? Chokers. And honestly, I'm digging it. So I tried on this dress with the popular choker + v-neck combo. The body of the dress was shapeless, but I appreciated the neckline and the floral print. Definitely going to try copying the trend with one of my own low-cut tops and a ribbon around my neck.

TFNC London Golden Belt Dress

There really isn't anything groundbreaking or special about this dress - I'm just a fan of Grecian styles. This ended up being the only dress that fit me properly, so in that sense it looked flattering. The only thing I would change is how the gold band in the front turns into a black bow belt in the back. I would much prefer a gold waist all around.

Twik Pretty Ruffles Dress

So I didn't realize the straps on this dress were adjustable, hence why it hung so low on my body. My friend tried this dress on with the straps adjusted, and the off-shoulder ruffles did look a lot better. I liked the colour and feminine neckline of this dress, but the cheaply-made body ruined the silhouette. (Interesting to note: the model on the Simons website wears this dress as a regular spaghetti strap, and not an off-shoulder.)

ICÔNE Flower Embroidery Sheer Maxi Dress

And finally, on to my favourite (and more expensive) dress of the day. Not only did I love the sheer white chantilly lace, I adored how there were shorts underneath the skirt. Practical and flirty. The ruffled sleeves were also an ethereal, elegant touch. As for up top, I would certainly need another layer, unless I were to commit to the true fashion life of using double-sided tape to keep deep, risqué v-necks in place. But as my friend suggested, a bandeau would suffice.

Image Source: Daily Hive

February 26, 2017

UGG, Really?

Let's talk about shoes.

ALDO Zusien

Remember when I fell for ALDO's Digosien boots? I still Google them every once in a while hoping ALDO will bring them back in stock. Yeah, that's how sad I am. However, that's besides the point. I didn't think ALDO would impress me with another pair of shoes so soon after Digosien, but they did. Introducing, Zusien. I first discovered the appeal of strappy, pointed toe, low block heels from Marzia Bisognin, one of my style icons. I waffled for days over whether I wanted to try these shoes on (and potentially fall down the rabbit hole of lust), but finally, I went into an ALDO store and took them off the shelf.

Oh dear, did I fall down that rabbit hole. I squealed in excitement as my boyfriend looked on with a confused, yet slightly amused, smile on his face. I think even the salesperson took a hesitant step back. These shoes were so classy. The black is sharp against the foot, emphasizing the d'orsay sides. The toe is perfectly pointed, and the block heel is cute and stout. My mind flashed through so many outfits I could wear with these shoes. Alas, at $60, they were too expensive. I didn't want to spend that much money on a pair of suede shoes that I didn't necessarily need.

Shortly after, these shoes went out of stock. I stalked around ASOS for fun, and saw they had a similar pair, but the toe box and heel just weren't shaped as nicely, making the shoes off-kilter in comparison. In an unexpected turn of events though, I checked ALDO again last week, and it looks like Zusien has been revived for another season with more materials and colours. I hope these shoes aren't here to tempt me again, but frankly, I would trade these in to have Digosien brought back from the dead.

Tod's Chukka Boots

A while ago, I was given a pair of brand new soft blue (different colour than above) Tod's chukka boots as a hand-me-down (they were never worn by my predecessor, hence why they are still in brand new condition). Over the years, my wardrobe has acquired some designer shoes thanks to the generosity of my friend, but no matter how big the brand name, I have never been as impressed by a pair of shoes as I was with these Tod's. These boots are of absolute incredible quality. The craftsmanship blew me away.

First of all, the suede. The suede is of the softest, most buttery kind. My fingers slid smoothly over the completely blemish-free upper. Shoelaces were the next thing I noticed. The are made of a thicker, stiffer rope, resulting in a satisfyingly secure tie. Overall, the shoe is a feminine and sleek take on the traditional chukka boot. The elongated toe box narrows into a beautifully gentle curve, and the leather sole is done in a clean birch colour - my favourite shade for shoes like these. While short and demure, the heel is still noticeable, adding just enough negative space underneath the arch to lend the boots a sophisticated polish.

I've always known Tod's to have well-made driving shoes, but I am utterly astounded by this particular pair of chukka boots. When my dad saw them, he told me he too was once floored by the beauty of Tod's, yet could not bring himself to pay the price for a pair. I agree with him when he says these are the type of shoes you don't even want to walk out of the house in due to fear you will ruin them. I love how these shoes help my style venture into more masculine territory, so one day, I shall have to muster up the courage to wear these out. In the meantime though, just let me admire them while they're still in pristine condition.

UGG Janney Boots

UGG, really? Yes, really. I've given UGGs a hard time on my blog, though to be fair I'm only opposed to those loaves of bread they call boots. This winter, we were hit with bone-chilling cold weather. In the five minutes it took for me to walk from the train station to work, my toes practically froze over. I knew it was time I took action and wore some better boots. Luckily, I ended up finding some insulated, albeit hideous, winter boots in my closet. Although I cared about warmth, not style, at that point, I've still been low-key on the lookout for stylish winter boots (is there such a thing?).

Today, browsing though Nordstrom's sale rack, I came across these UGG boots. I picked them up immediately to try on. I don't normally go for wedges, but I'm fine with them if they are sleek enough. What appealed to me about these boots were the military-style lace-up and buckle (which reminded me of Burberry Fall/Winter 2010/2011 RTW - a great collection), and the smooth waterproof leather. The boots were nice and lean compared to my chunky winter boots, and I liked how they were slightly bad ass, but in an elegant way. I would have bought them if it weren't for the $160 price tag. I'm not sure whether these boots are practical enough for our cold, messy and slippery Canadian winters, so I need to ponder some more before I lay my money down.

Image Source: Aldo, Lyst, Zappos

February 4, 2017

We Gucci

It's about time we talk about Gucci.

At the beginning of 2015, Alessandro Michele was named Gucci's new Creative Director after Frida Giannini announced her departure from the role. Giannini had memorable collections throughout her 12 year tenure, including a powerful 2011 season that swept the industry with its colour blocked glamour. However, as an old classmate of mine once put it, the brand became irrelevant thereafter. In the years ensuing, nothing Gucci put out could quite rouse the hearts of the industry like it once had. It became bland and repetitive. Looking back at my own blog, I stopped writing about Gucci after 2011. The brand likely dropped off my radar completely, which is why I don't have much recollection of Gucci's later works.

But when Michele arrived, he wasted no time hitting us with his new vision. His vision is inventive, unapologetic, and most importantly, exciting. 2016 was a good season for Gucci - that's when Michele really found his stride.

Gucci Resort 2016
I first took note of Gucci again with its Resort 2016 collection. I came across the collection's short film, which tells the story of guy-meets-girl (in a long chevron midi-dress). There was something so enchanting about how the richly textured seventies designs popped in their bold, saturated colouring. Compared to how things were before, this was an acid trip. Michele firmly reminded us that fashion, and particularly Gucci, can be fun.

Gucci Spring/Summer 2016 RTW
Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 were also joy rides. Wild motifs decorated sheer dresses and shimmering fabrics. Sporty, retro, glamorous...Gucci is the eclectic flower child of the 21st century. Fashion influencers had Gucci's fur-lined loafers on their wishlists. Magazines scrambled to showcase the gossamer floral motif dresses. Its green embroidered duchesse bomber jacket was the epitome of all bomber jackets. In short, Gucci became relevant again.

Gucci Fall/Winter 2016 RTW
With that, though, I must say I am less enthralled by Spring 2017. The runway was awash in a smokey red glow, similar to that of an opium den. The drugged-up, hedonistic aura was intensified by blank-eyed models walking past in awkward stumbles and confused dazes. It appeared this was where forbidden desires became fulfilled. The show was a rose bearing its thorns.

Gucci Spring/Summer 2017 RTW
While the premise is delightful, the surrealism became excessive in a way that seemed garish. Ruffles were blown out of proportion too deliberately, the styling was unsettling for the sake of being weird, and thematic elements seemed recycled from previous seasons. I hope Michele does not get caught up in what the industry wants Gucci to be. I hope he stays in touch with his inner sentiments so that his collections always come from a place of authenticity. But so far, Gucci has been revived, and I look forward to what more it has to bring.

Image Source: Vogue

January 1, 2017

2016: A Look Back

In the past, I used to recap the biggest fashion news stories of the year in a series I called A Look Back. Unfortunately, this practice only lasted for two years. This year, to close off 2016, I want to bring back the series - not because it has been a significant year in fashion, but because it has been a significant year in my personal life.

My year started off with heartbreak. But in the process of learning how much the heart can ache, I discovered the love of my closest friends. I experienced spiritual growth and embraced independence. Yet, just when I felt stronger, I got held down again by the difficulty of finding a job in the depressed economy. Having a career has been my driving force for the past 10 years, and I felt distressingly lost in those months I kept struggling to stand out in the job market. I took reprieve from it all when I went on a family trip to celebrate my official graduation from university. Upon my return, things turned around immediately. I was offered a position that suited the education and experience I had. My family and I moved to a new condo downtown. I began volunteering for local fashion and entertainment opportunities. I spent more time with my friends. I reconnected with someone very special to me, and started a relationship with him. I met new people and tried new things. I'm close to paying off all my student loans. I'm learning new things by taking online courses. I feel more confident and satisfied with my personal style than I ever have before. I'm spending my spare time working on an upcoming fashion project.

Life isn't perfect, but it's not meant to be. It's meant to challenge you and break you down so that you can build yourself back up to see the beauty of it all.

Although my year had its ups and downs, I reached many milestones and realized everything has a purpose towards the better. Many people consider 2016 to be a pretty bad year. It was punctuated by violence, division and loss. However, with every shade of darkness comes a glimmer of light. Even in the bleakest depths of the shadows, there is hope - you just have to find it and follow it. Don't forget the happiness of the year. Don't forget the kindness, the successes, and the love. 2017 is a chance for us to pull ourselves, and each other, back up and towards that glimmer of light.

Happy New Year, everyone.

December 27, 2016

Black on Bottom

Looking back at my old Boxing Day posts, I become quite grateful for the records I've kept of my shopping adventures. It's amusing to see all the items I've tried on, and my no holds barred commentary on each of them. Three years ago, I tried on a bunch of things - and bought nothing. Last year, I managed to purchase one item.

This year, Boxing Day was a little different. I went in with a mission: buy jeans. I've been living off the same 2 pairs of H&M jeans for the past couple of years, and although they have served me well, they have lost the rosy colour of their youth and are fading into a lackluster shade. As well, now that I'm older, my tastes have evolved to prefer black or dark wash jeans. Darker bottoms are an easy way to add instant class to an outfit, and pair well with pretty much anything up top. So, it was time to see whether I could snag some good deals on denim.

I ventured out first to H&M and Topshop...and was hugely disappointed. H&M jeans have always been made of thin material, but now they appear to be getting rid of all the front and back pockets. I never realized how much I actually appreciate the extra bulk of seaming and pockets until I saw how cheap pants can look without them. At this rate, I might as well just buy a roll of fabric from Fabricland and wrap it around my legs. Topshop, on the other hand, had meager discounts, leaving me immediately disheartened.

Luckily, my parents urged me on to The Gap. I don't usually shop at The Gap, mainly because the styles don't interest me and the sizes are usually too big. But earlier in the month, my parents did manage to buy a pair of pants from The Gap in a size that fit me really well, so I thought I would give the store a try. After all, denim should be one of the brand's specialties.

And ta-da! I found what I was looking for. My mom and I were just about to leave the store, when both our eyes caught sight of these Stretch 1969 Studded Front True Skinny Jeans:

Discounted from $98 to $25, I had to try these on. A Size 24 was all that was left, and though they were quite tight (jeans stretch, so I would actually advise buying jeans that feel a bit tighter in the changing room), the shape they gave to my legs was exactly what I was looking for. They have black beading down the front of both legs, which give off subtle sparkle with every move, much like stars in the night sky. For the price, this was a no-brainer purchase. However, I am worried about the beads falling off in the wash. Would I be crazy enough to commit to hand-washing these jeans? I might...

Remember those pants I mentioned my parents had bought for me earlier in the month? Well, we had already gotten them for cheap at $40 after a 50% off discount. On Boxing Day, however, these pants were discounted even further to $18. So, I saved a pretty penny after getting a price difference.

I couldn't find a photo of the exact pair I have, but they are black Bi-Stretch Skinny Ankle Pants with a gold diamond pattern, similar to the polka-dotted pair below:

Last but not least, H&M redeemed itself. I went to an H&M in a different mall, and managed to uncover gold - literally. A couple months ago, I had bought a pair of black Superstretch Trousers with shiny gold hardware on sale for $25. These trousers fit snug and are made of a thick, stretchy fabric. The gold buttons and zippers have a smooth sheen which outshine all the other dull finishes I've seen on H&M denim. These pants are truly a diamond among stones. I've worn these pants so often and love them so much I have been searching ever since for another pair. It was a roller-coaster of emotions to see these pants go in and out of stock at various H&Ms around the city...but never once in my size.

Until Boxing Day. My mom flagged me over from across the store with a look of urgency - she had found one in Size 2! They weren't on sale this time around, but the extra dollars were worth it. I now have two pairs of these incredible trousers. I don't have identical sets of anything else in my you know I'm serious about these pants.
Buying pants has always been a struggle for me. My legs are short and slim, which means jeans are usually always too long or too baggy. However, I've come to realize that if a pair of pants does not fit perfectly, I probably won't end up wearing it that often. I could buy a pair for a fantastic price of $10 and choose to overlook slight bagginess while in the changing room, but if I don't end up wearing it, it's $10 wasted. So, I'm particularly picky about how pants fit now (ok, I'm picky about every item of clothing I buy, but just humour me here). I'm happy I've managed to find my groove with The Gap and occasionally H&M, resulting in this year's Boxing Day reading as more a success story than a mere window shopping recap.

PS: I know I've been MIA on this blog lately. I've been busy with some free online courses I've taken up out of pure interest, as well as an exciting new project coming up (and yes, it has to do with fashion!). So please excuse the absence. I hope you'll stick around as I check in every once in a while. :)

Image Source: The GapBrittany Maddux, H&M 

October 25, 2016

How Smart Are You?

When it comes to technology, I am far from trendy. I am not even sub par. I am downright outdated.

I own a Blackberry Curve 8520. With no data. Let's just say that.

I was never concerned with whether I had the latest technology. It was all relatively unimportant to me. Technology didn't excite me like a pair of shoes did, and to this day, technology hardware remains pretty lackluster to me.

However, something new has been brewing and gaining momentum in the past couple of years: the marriage of technology and fashion. The advent of wearable technology. Now that is something I can get into.

Fashion Magazine wrote a great article outlining some of the wearable technology options out there. Designer bracelets which notify you of incoming texts, charge your phone, or provide Yelp recommendations. Um, whaaat? We aren't talking about Google Glass grappling to gain mainstream appeal by partnering with Diane von Furstenberg to make its glasses less...dweeby. We aren't talking about Kate Spade phone cases we slap onto our devices. We aren't even talking about merely attaching LED lights to a dress. We're talking about fashion items inherently designed to be technological devices. I hadn't heard of the majority of items listed in the article - which goes to show the industry is still young - but I was surprised by how it was budding.

Of  course the most popular fashion tech item to have taken shoppers by storm was the Apple Watch. It not only had the software of the technology giant, it also had a sleek, modern look, and a wide selection of wristbands to complement each customer's personal style. To be honest, when I first heard about the watch, I thought it was a pretty pointless product release. I didn't see the advantage of working off such a tiny screen - not to mention a tiny screen placed awkwardly on my wrist. While I understood it was meant to add a factor of convenience, I did not live the kind of lifestyle that benefited from having a smartwatch. As a style statement, though, I do see the attraction. Many times before has a classmate's flash of his/her Apple Watch grabbed my attention.

Just recently, my boyfriend introduced me to Michael Kors Access, a line of smartwatches packaged in the skin of Michael Kors' distinctive (and insanely sought-after) link watches. You really wouldn't be able to tell the difference until you looked at the watch face. These watches intrigued me. They were smartwatches that didn't look like smartwatches. There were no rounded edges to mimic the cool minimalism of a smartphone screen. Instead, these watches were loudly, proudly glamorous.

Funnily enough, what stood out to me about the watches was not the physical design, but the digital interface. One thing I didn't like about the Apple Watch was its bubbly main menu. Michael Kors Access watches, on the other hand, operate through a swiping motion. The design of the interface is also prettier; it's meant to align with the tastes of the quintessential Michael Kors customer. Even my techie boyfriend, who favours functionality over fashion, wants one of these watches for himself. Now that's saying something.

What's interesting is even though I had really only known of Apple Watches (and now Michael Kors Access), smartwatches as fitness devices have established themselves fairly well in the market. From Garmin, to Fitbit, to Microsoft...smartwatches are actually not few and far between. So why haven't I heard more about them? Probably because they aren't stylish. If the tech world wants to reach new markets, they might want to consider making products that also look mighty fine as fashion accessories - so much so even people like me, who aren't technological fiends, will want to buy them.

Image Source: EngadgetFashion Tag,T3Michael Kors

October 8, 2016

What is Fashion?

I am currently reading a book, titled 'Women in Clothes', filled with short stories, interviews, and blurbs exploring the relationship between women and their clothing. This book aims to fill a perceived gap left by fashion magazines:

"A problem I've always had with fashion magazines is that women are encouraged to copy other women ... The most compelling women are the ones who are distinctive, who are most like themselves and least like other women ... It's almost as if fashion magazines don't understand what a woman wants. I think she wants to be unique among other women, a creature unlike any other."
-- Sheila Heti in 'Women in Clothes'

Instead of instructing women on what to wear, how to wear it, and when to wear it, this book recognizes that style is very personal. Style is not about following the supposed all-knowing commands of the fashion elite, but the unique ways in which one makes a particular combination of clothing their own. Style is more about how one feels and acts than is it about what one wears. As a result, style is very difficult to transfer or copy because its essence is drawn from within.

One of my favourite concepts from the book is that the most stylish women are not always the most well-dressed. Rather, a woman is stylish because she has an acute awareness of the clothing she has on. It might be kooky and strange - wearing a sweater inside out to show the seams, or tying the sleeves of a jacket diagonally across the torso instead of around the waist - but that type of individuality demonstrates a keen consciousness about the clothing's presence on the body. Upon telling my dear friend about this book, he came back with the idea fashion is not bound by anything other than the rules we set for ourselves. Style is an identity. It may be a mixture of cultural influences and personal preference, but its inherent appeal is ultimately idiosyncratic. And that, I think, is exactly what this book is trying to say.

As I spoke more with my friend, he asked a question I couldn't believe I had not answered on this blog yet: What is fashion?

I have never formally articulated this, but fashion is not simply about the glitz and glamour, the runway shows and photoshoots, the gorgeous models and expensive clothes... These are certainly things encompassed within the realm of the industry, but getting to the deeper meaning of fashion requires thinking more intangibly.

To me, fashion is two things: self-expression and fantasy.

Self-expression: Fashion is more than just the clothing we put on our bodies. It is a way of communicating who we are to the world. In aggregate, fashion can instigate movements and embody cultural zeitgeist. As individuals, fashion is a mechanism to express our inner selves. No matter how little someone claims to care about fashion, everyone sends a message with what they choose to wear. Someone who puts minimal thought into an outfit sends just as bountiful a message as someone who invests significant effort. And as much as the industry makes it seem like there is right and wrong in dressing, truly good fashion comes from having the confidence to shatter the rules.

Fantasy: An interesting thing about fashion is, in addition to being a form of self-expression, it's also a way for us to become someone we're not. Fashion gives us the opportunity to explore other identities - to almost play pretend. I might walk with a heavier step and more attitude in an all-black outfit with edgy ankle boots, and glide with poise and grace in an elegant knee-length dress with ballet flats. Fashion provides me with the tools to briefly inhabit different personas and change the way I present myself. As I've mentioned before, fashion is a form of art to me. The industry is rich with creativity because it's a platform to live out our wildest dreams and fantasies - a world where we can wear things which might be impractical or "unwearable", but which are oh so very beautiful and stunning.

With regards to whether there is a distinction between 'style' and 'fashion', it depends on who you ask. "Fashion fades, style is eternal," Yves Saint Laurent once said. But I think if you really get to the heart of things, both are heavily rooted in confidence and self-expression. Fashion feeds into style, and style feeds into fashion. With no beginning nor end, the swirling duo whip up a glimmering cloud of beauty, fantasy and individuality.

Image Source: WorkShopCoop, Indian RootsStreet Peeper, emaze