August 12, 2018

Time's Up

I have been following the fashion industry for ten years, yet it has only been in the past few years I have truly sensed a seismic shift in our attitude towards fashion. Trends have come and gone...and come back, and technology has been a persistently disruptive force shaking the industry to its core (a topic I touched on back in 2010), but I believe what we are witnessing now is different. We are in the midst of a cultural change. Fashion tends to have a distinct characteristic every decade, and I wouldn't be surprised if we are right on the cusp of defining our current conviction. The present-day zeitgeist might not be revolutionary, but I would consider it revelationary -- an aha! moment where we realize, yes, fashion can be like this.


In addition to having impressive racial diversity on the runways lately, we have seen a move towards a new kind of look: one that is comfortable, casual, and even crazy. Labels which specialize in skate and hip-hop streetwear, such as Yeezy, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, Supreme, Vetements, and Fenty x Puma, have experienced meteoric rise. Our growing focus on health and wellness has brought activewear to the forefront, with Nike and Adidas actually rivalling the major fashion brands in footwear. Moreover, there is a deepening acceptance of 'anything goes' fashion, evoking crazy cat ladies, eccentric vagabonds, and hippie activists. Led by powerhouses Gucci, Balenciaga and Maison Margiela, layers and layers of clothing are thrown together to hide and obscure the lines of the body -- avant-garde style with urban sensibility. At what point in earlier years could we have thought to send such ugly clothing down the runway and still have people lap it up? Let's face it, the cool kids nowadays are wearing oversized hoodies, slip-on mules, laidback culottes, chunky runners, fanny packs, embellished slides, patched-up denim, socks with Birkenstocks, micro shades perched low on their noses, and yes, even platform Crocs (thank you, Balenciaga).


It is no coincidence this new aesthetic coincides with today's volatile sociopolitical landscape, where on the regular we encounter actions and speech crawling with undertones of intolerance, disrespect, and hate. What we are seeing is a response to our current reality with clothing that can become a canvas to bear our manifesto. A battle cry for diversity in the face of adversity. We climb up high with our megaphones but before we even have to speak up, what we wear declares: We don't have to look good. We just have to feel good -- about ourselves, about others, and about the world we live in.


To illustrate this modern mentality, let me take you for a walk down memory lane and chronicle the ascent of athleisure.

Our story starts off with American sportswear in the late 20th and early 21st century, fronted by designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors. This approach was exemplified by relaxed, unfussy separates which -- although influenced by the ease of sportswear -- were still appropriately dressy enough for social occasions. There had not yet been much focus on actual athletic gear...until 2005. That year, Adidas released Adidas by Stella McCartney, a collaboration I believe to this day remains highly underrated. McCartney was truly ahead of the times. She achieved the unfathomable: she changed my perception of gymwear and convinced me it was possible to exercise both my body and sense of style at the same time.


Shortly after, Lululemon began to gain traction with its derrière-defining yoga pants and zip-up hoodies with a distinguishing omega, and the brand became famous (or infamous) for making it socially acceptable to sport activewear casually outside of the gym. Perhaps, too acceptable. Being decked out in head-to-toe Lulu eventually became an object of ridicule. The way I see it, our obsession with athleisure sincerely started when Karl Lagerfeld outfitted his models in sneakers for Chanel Spring Couture 2014. At that time, who in their right mind would have ever thought to combine runners with the runway?! For Chanel, no less. And for haute couture, no less. Yet when the Kaiser speaks, we listen. The moment became a movement, and the movement became our #currentmood. Cool kicks started cropping up everywhere on both the streets and the runway, and soon enough, they stole the title for most pervasive trend. Even I caught the bug. I initially swore off rubber soles in high school (I did choose to identify with red soles, after all)...but now I own nine pairs of sneakers, most of which were acquired within the past year or so.


In 2018, sneakers are our stilettos, sports bras are our lingerie, and putting Ariana Grande's "God is a Woman" on repeat with a chia bowl and fresh pressed green juice in hand, a healthy mind and body are our mantra. One day, there will of course be a return to classic fashion. Elegance is eternal. But right now, we really need this new order. We really need the world to take notice. In our baggy logo-ed sweaters, our sleeves may be long, but our hearts are loud. The fire burns brightly within us and to those who think they can weaken our flame, you better listen up: times are changing, both in fashion and beyond.

Image Source: Team Kanye Daily, Something About, The AustralianTrend Hunter, AOL

August 3, 2018

Nine West Gone South

Well, it's been a minute. Having taken a week off work for a staycation, I thought I would finally have more time to hunker down and blog. But of course, me being me, I scheduled myself full this week and haven't actually had a single day at home.

Today, however, I am here.

I have many things I'd like to catch up on, but the most recent of them is the bankruptcy of shoe retailer Nine West. In April 2018, Nine West filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, and shortly after, began the widespread shuttering of its American and Canadian stores.


To say I was surprised would be an absolute lie. For years and years, Nine West stood out like a sore thumb (toe?). It attempted to mingle with the likes of Aldo, Town Shoes, and Call It Spring, but realistically, it was the awkward mother trying to fit in with her daughter's friends. There was something indescribably off about Nine West shoes. They appeared almost too stiff, as if their designers tried to sketch out the perfect shoe, but in the process, ended up trying too hard to draw within the lines. What I didn't see when I looked at a pair of Nine West shoes was the innate talent of someone who knew how to make a good shoe.

Nine West straddled an odd line between classy and trendy. It would take classic silhouettes -- stiletto pumps, ballet flats, penny loafers -- and plop on one or two crazy elements. Pumps fully covered in a floral print. Black flats with enormous bow ties. Loafers in metallic pink leather. Conceptually, I think Nine West was aiming to make quintessential shoes more unique and interesting -- good on them for that. In execution, however, they failed to rope the design elements together into a cohesive shoe. Like blindly pinning a tail on a donkey, the final result was disconcerting.


I never had the desire to walk into a Nine West store because in the few times I did venture through, I left feeling thoroughly uninspired. In light of its bankruptcy though, I decided to give it one last chance. I visited multiple stores over the course of a month, revisted the same stores in case the inventory was refreshed, and willed myself to find one, even just one, pair of shoes that I might consider buying. And yet I still came out with nothing.

Having monitored Nine West so closely for a month, I realized how poor the quality was relative to the price. The majority of footwear was made from synthetic materials and lacked the soothing lines of a well-shaped shoe. I picked up a few items, but as soon as I tried them on, they looked ungainly. The toe box was too wide, too stunted, too curved...the shoes just didn't look natural on the feet.


Nine West's bankruptcy only served to remind me why I never shopped there. In some ways, you could say it is sad to see so many giant retail chains closing down, but frankly, I think consumer spending speaks loud and clear when it comes to identifying which stores are underperforming. If you don't sell what people want, the truth is your space can be better utilized by someone else who does. The constant refining of the retail landscape is an inevitable response to the way of the world as defined by you, by me, and by us.

Image Source: Butterboom, BMG, Coloribus

June 6, 2018

R.I.P. Kate Spade

The news came unexpectedly -- not because of timing, but because suicide was not something I ever imagined would befall fashion designer Kate Spade.

I had admired her namesake label since my early days of following fashion. Her vibrant, feminine designs dripped with sunny optimism. She became the go-to designer for women who wanted punchy, youthful handbags. Although Spade sold her company in 2006, her legacy remained with the brand and up to this day, Kate Spade continues to invoke childish glee in shoppers with fun, adorable accessories. Standing its ground against the industry's haughty exterior to declare a smile as the greatest accessory of all, Kate Spade truly is the candy of fashion.

So never did I expect Spade to have harboured such deep suffering. She is now the third prolific designer to have committed suicide in the past decade, following L'Wren Scott and Alexander McQueen. In a sense of renewed urgency, what Spade kept hidden has now shed light on the shadows of depression and mental health.

To the woman who spread happiness to others through her creations, may you R.I.P.

Image Source: Hello

June 2, 2018

An Ode to Fashion

I greet you in the morning. You stay with me throughout the day.
You let a part of me go in the evening, but I stay to wish you goodnight.

I am punk. I am classic.
I am glamorous. I am conservative.
I am minimal. I am decadent.
I am feminine, androgynous, and masculine.

I am unique.

You use me to express your moments of greatest elation.
I help you express your moments of deepest grief.
Whether to hide, or to highlight, I change when you change.

I am a tabula rasa, for the young mind, or the old soul.
I am a woman. I am a man. I am neither.
I know no boundaries, for my love reaches all.

I was there during your first kiss. I was there during your final goodbye.
I will be there for you, always.

I am extravagant, but essential.
I am ephemeral, yet everlasting.
I am anything and everything you want me to be.

I am you. I am fashion.

Image Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy

May 18, 2018

You know you're a fashion lover when...

I took a trip down memory lane and unearthed a post I had written six years ago titled "You know you're a fashion lover when...", listing the many kooky ways I was a devoted fashion junkie. Looking back, I realize how enjoyable posts like that were. The response I got from people who were able to laugh and relate to my humorous real talk made me feel like I developed, even if for a brief moment, a connection with my readers (my post on The Language of Arm Candy also comes to mind as having garnered a similar reaction).

Now that I don't blog as frequently, I try to make up for it by posting heavy hitters. Analytical, comprehensive and thoughtful. Although those type of posts have also been among my most well-received (eg. Boy Meets GirlFix Me, PleaseI Am Not Fashionable), I want to come at you today with something more lighthearted. I always say fashion should be fun -- let me not be the first person to forget that!

So, how do you know you're a fashion lover? Well, let me tell you.

*By the way, I'd like to note that since the first installment of this series, I have acquired another six years of existence under my belt, thus making me all the more qualified to speak to this matter. As usual, these are based on my own life experiences (with some inspired by you, my readers!).


1) ...instead of buying lunch, you ignore your empty stomach and buy a copy of Vogue. At least you've got the latest issue.
                                                                                           - inspired by FashionGeek
































2) ...it takes you an entire year to find the perfect pair of black jeans.



3) ...you abhor a casual dress code at work because you actually love the opportunity to turn it up everyday.


4) ...you look at a pair of raggedy pajama pants and wonder, "How can I style that?"



5) ...there doesn't seem to be anyone looking, so you do a quick runway strut down the hallway.
                                                                                                   - inspired by Claire



6) ...your boyfriend has a picture of you as his wallpaper, and you have a picture of shoes as yours.



7) ..."Tell us about yourself" during ice breakers is a chance for you to talk about fashion.




8) ...you actually expend mental energy memorizing the name of Calvin Klein's new 205W39NYC line.























9) ...the first thing you do after accidentally stepping on someone's foot is check for damage on your shoes.



10) ...you've been blogging about fashion to the vast abyss of cyberspace since 2010 :)


Image Source: Pinterest, LiveAbout, Pinterest, WorkkpartyHeileven, Shutterstock, Business Wire, Pinterest

April 8, 2018

Who Wears the Pants?

Clearly, I do. And apparently, I need shoes to complete the look.

I'll be honest with you, I've been shopping a lot lately. Actually, not just shopping - I've been buying. Those closest to me know I may be a so-called fashionista, but I am certainly not a shopaholic. Thankfully, my recent purchases have been limited to pants and shoes, both of which are items in my wardrobe I can confidently say needed a refresh. I'm still wearing things I bought around 4-6 years ago, so yes, I think I can justify a few purchases. Besides, I've noticed considerable discounts popping up in the retail market lately. Now is the time to buy. And in my case, stock up for at least the next 4 years.

So brace yourselves. Here is what I bought:


PANTS

The Gap 1969 True Skinny Jeans


The Gap has been having some incredible sales lately. My parents bought me this pair of burgundy jeans for only $10. While you can't see in this photo, the jeans come with a bright gold button and hardware, which I think complement the tone of the pants. I liked that these weren't Crayola red, and instead were deepened to a more sophisticated shade. As soon as I tried the jeans on, I knew I would be keeping them. I've finally found my denim soulmate in The Gap's True Skinny line (which has served me well in the past) - the cut fits me like a charm.


The Gap Favorite Leggings


Before I get started on these pants, let me say upfront I actually ended up returning them the next day. I was initially seduced by the $14 price tag and the prospect of being among the trendy ripped jeans crowd. I thought if I was to buy jeans that are intentionally torn, then they might as well be cheap and done in a more unique colour. The one lacking feature that made me go straight back to the store the next day with receipt in hand, however, was the fit. Although my legs did look great in a Size 25, the rip on the left leg gave the pants away as being too tight. The threads along the rip were pulled taut against my knee, making it look like a sausage wrapped in twine. I tried moving up to a Size 26, but then the jeans looked oddly roomy around my knees. So because of the particular way these jeans are cut (literally), I ended up floating in limbo between two sizes. Without having achieved perfection, I decided to give these pants up completely.


Old Navy Pixie Pants


After the slight let-down with the ripped jeans (only slight because I don't settle for less than perfection when it comes to pants nowadays), I uncovered gold. The thing is, I uncovered it in a very unexpected store: Old Navy. Ever since my junior high days, I have not seriously set foot in Old Navy. I had labelled it as a place with suburban style and poorly made wares. Yet forced into the store by my mom who wanted to look at a shirt, I came across this pair of shiny gold, brocade-printed pants for $8. Eight. Dollars. I briefly wondered if these pants would be too outré for the workplace, but heck, when was I ever one to balk at being bold? My goal is to get a reaction out of people, and sure enough, the first time I wore them out, I got attention. One memorable instance was when my coworker stopped me to ask if she could feel my pants. She thought they were made of silk from a luxury brand, possibly Louis Vuitton or Gucci. Oh boy. I was incredibly flattered and got an extra kick out of telling her they were $8 pants from Old Navy. Even if the gold print rubs off (though I've already committed to hand washing), these pants are worth it just for the fun.


SHOES

I consider ankles one of the most fashionable erogenous zones, and as you will see, I went a little crazy with that notion. I've always thought my two bony joints were too skinny in proportion to the rest of my legs, which led me to feel comforted by ankle straps and their ability to create the illusion of more bulk. However, my closet contained not a single ankle strap, so when it came time to revamp my footwear, I was pretty dead set on getting strapped in.

Also, don't forget: pointed toealways.

Town Shoes Brooke T-Strap Flats
Four years ago, I finally bought a pair of black flats from Town Shoes for work. At the time, I had splurged $120 on them (a total act of desperation) so I could dress appropriately in the office. Now after four years of wearing those flats almost daily to work, at business functions, and casually on the weekends, they were barely holding up. I had a hole in the left sole, and the leather was worn and torn from confrontations with the rough pavement and days when rain unexpectedly poured from the sky. I once again found myself with a pressing need for black flats.

I knew I wanted either d'Orsay cutouts or ankle straps - or better yet, a pair with both. I browsed shoe stores multiple times a week looking for an affordable pair of genuine leather flats, and was about to start stressing out when I spotted this pair of t-strap flats in a Town Shoes outlet. Never have I considered getting t-strap flats in my life (although I realize now Valentino Rockstud cage flats are technically t-straps) and I was concerned they wouldn't look professional, but at a nicely discounted price of $38, I had to snag the last pair while I still could. Once I tried them on at home with some business pants, I was sold. I like the additional straps criss-crossing across the toes, the gold buckle, and of course, the beautifully pointed toe. Sure, there were some loose threads along the strap, but that was easily resolved with a snip of scissors. With the foot secured underneath the straps and not much else to scratch against my skin, these are actually wonderfully comfortable. Plus, d'Orsay flats come with the added benefit of lasting longer because they don't get bent as much when I walk. Score!


Coach Jameson Ankle Strap Flats



The thing with having bought the t-strap flats is it happened during a promotion Town Shoes was running: I was given a gift card for $20 off my next purchase. That's a decent amount to get off a pair of shoes, especially on one that is already discounted. You win, Town Shoes. You got me to buy another pair of shoes.

I went to Town Shoes multiple times a week again to find something worth using my gift card on, and was about to reach the expiry date on the card when I decided to revisit the outlet store. Okay, I get the appeal of outlet stores now. I've always thought they were dingy warehouses of B-stock clothing, but they actually do carry some current styles at cheaper prices compared to the regular stores. I came across this pair of Coach flats that had both d'Orsay cutouts and an ankle strap! I had actually seen these shoes advertised online a week ago and had thought they looked nice. It was fate I would meet them in real life. They aren't anything particularly special; even with the silver pebbled leather toe, it's a fairly conservative shoe. But I think these are bang on for work, and with all the discounts piled on, I ended up only paying $58 for them. Although there is more toe cleavage than I am accustomed to, the flats are clearly well-made and I appreciate the charm hanging from the ankle strap. Not a bad purchase considering these retailed for over $200.


ALDO Wiliwiel


Now this right here is a true success story. Last year, I fell for a pair of Zusien shoes from Aldo. I never ended up buying them, but shortly after, Aldo came out with a variation of the Zusien: the Wiliwiel. With a spattering of pearl-like embellishment on the heel, the Wiliwiel turned it up another notch on uptown style. However, having said that, I knew this shoe was of poorer quality: it was made of microfibre suede, had an unfinished seam on the end of the ankle strap, and already showed some discolouring on the embellishment. Despite being comfortable and classy, they were definitely not worth $70. I stopped monitoring the Wiliwiel for the next few months, until one day I noticed them on the sale rack for $35. By that time, the black version was no longer in stock - only the fuchsia and red were left. Since I didn't consider those colours to be as versatile, I decided to really push my luck and wait until they went below $30.

So I waited. And waited. And waited.

Until my mom ultimately convinced me to just buy them. I was disappointed at myself for breaking my discipline, but I made the trip out to an Aldo outlet one day to finally bite the bullet. I was already lucky enough they still had the fuchsia in my size, but then the sales associate rung up the shoes at the till and it came to...$18. What?! I got lucky after all. I had waited just long enough for the Wiliwiel to end up on the clearance rack. Cheapest pair of shoes I've ever bought! Yes, they're also not the highest quality pair shoes I've ever bought, but I think they look more expensive than they actually are. I'm so happy I now own shoes with a bit of a heel, and can't wait to highlight them come warmer weather with an all-black or all-white outfit.


Franco Sarto Brandy Booties



Tired of ankle straps yet? Here's an ankle boot for a change of pace. I purchased my go-to pair of ankle boots eons ago in high school, so I had been low-key on the look out for something to replace them. I decided I wanted a pair of cognac leather Chelsea boots after seeing how sleek they looked, but I had not yet found the perfect pair. What I didn't expect was my mom would beat me to it. In her own search for shoes, she found a pair of brown suede Franco Sarto ankle boots for $40. The defining feature is a silver chain sewn into the welt of the shoe. Although these boots aren't 100% my style - I wasn't fully keen on the button at the back and was hoping for a more traditional Chelsea boot in leather - I certainly don't mind sharing these with my mom. She is half a size bigger than me, but these boots fit great once I put my orthopedic insoles in. Well, that was easy. Guess my hunt for a pair of ankle boots is over!


CONCLUSION

I'm done shopping. I think. For now. I mean, I do kind of want some knee-high boots though...

Image Source: The GapOld NavyTown Shoes, The Style Spy, Aldo, Franco Sarto

March 17, 2018

Fifth Harmony

When Hudson's Bay announced in 2013 it would acquire Saks Fifth Avenue, I waited ever so patiently for the American luxury department store to one day open a location in my city. That day finally arrived a few weeks ago, when Saks set up shop and opened its doors in square footage formerly belonging to Target (whose shameful expansion failure will remain talked about in business schools for years to come).

I believe I had once visited a Saks when I travelled to Seattle, but don't recall much of the experience. However, I had an inkling Saks would be on par with Nordstrom, so I was curious to see how it would differentiate itself from its competitor who is - literally - just down the hall.


After checking out the store on the day of its grand opening, I see I was slightly off in my prediction. Saks actually falls between Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew: it is more high-end than Nordstrom, but not nearly as luxurious as Holts.

As I've mentioned in the past, Nordstrom is a mix of mid-to-high end wares. Although such a product mix can make it a more approachable department store, it does unfortunately weaken its air of luxury. Saks, on the other hand, focuses solely on high-end designers. Its handbag section is fairly rounded, carrying major names like Chloé, Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Loewes, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, and Alexander Wang.


Its shoe section I found to be most interesting, though perhaps not in the best way. Besides being small in comparison to every other department, I found it lacking in variety. There were a lot of unique and quirky products I had not seen elsewhere - but that was it. It seemed almost like a museum of shoes. There were no classic styles or luxury brands to ground the footwear department, making it unlikely I will ever go to Saks for serious shoe shopping.


In spite of that, I was impressed with how Saks houses an apothecary, a Tom Ford beauty boutique (which I had never seen before), and private shopping suites. Walking into the store, I also approved of the glimmering and shiny interior décor, which truthfully outshines that of Nordstrom. My only critique of décor would be the jewellery section. With its orderly rows of glass jewellery cases, it looked surprisingly commercial and plain compared to the rest of the store.


In the clothing department was where Saks lower rank beneath Holt Renfrew was most apparent. Even though Saks carries high-end brands, it doesn't carry luxury clothing. All of its womenswear was from contemporary labels - which isn't a bad thing as many of those labels are one-of-a-kind in the city, but any feeling of granduer was certainly dampened. Nonetheless, the standout item for me that day was a light pink, beaded leather jacket from Elie Tahari.


As an overall shopping experience, I was pleased with the customer service. Granted I did attend the grand opening so I may have received particularly keen service that day, but I was greeted multiple times by sales associates who simply wanted to ensure I was enjoying my time and felt entirely welcomed to browse. I was not pressured to buy at any point.

One final, funny thing I would like to point out is I noticed every entrance was flanked by a security guard. I understand the value of the merchandise inside and I realize other stores do the same, though I found it amusingly jarring to see darkly uniformed guards standing among such elegant surroundings.

Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew are like the Venn diagram of high-end retail in my city right now. They undeniably have overlapping offerings which will challenge all of them to be more competitive, but I think each has also carved out enough of their own market to co-exist in relative harmony.

Image Source: Retail Insider