March 22, 2020

Cheers!

We are living in unprecedented times. As the world grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are witnessing massive shocks to international economies, local businesses, tourism, the arts community—you name it—and, of course, the health, financial and social wellbeing of our people.

In terms of the fashion industry, it has been scrambling to survive the disruption. In my eyes, the moment the severity of the situation dawned on the industry was in Italy when we saw Giorgio Armani, the show that was meant to close Milan Fashion Week, being cancelled and live streamed behind closed doors. Paris Fashion Week cautiously continued on following Milan, but at that point, face masks were trendier than any designer handbag. Shortly after, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and widespread temporary closures of retail stores and offices began. Even fashion’s biggest annual bashes, the Met Gala and CFDA Fashion Awards, have been postponed until further notice.

The growing prevalence of online shopping has helped curb the full devastation of fashion retail, but we’re still reeling financially. Burberry, who already suffered a hit at the outset from the loss of its Chinese market, has warned it expects a 70% to 80% decline in sales over the coming weeks. Fast fashion is also hardly immune. Inditex, the owner of brands like Zara and Massimo Dutti, reported a 24.1% sales drop between March 1 and March 16. Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has echoed the bleak outlook. Its sales have seen a similar plummet since the outbreak, and due to the uncertain situation, the company announced it would be suspending earnings guidance for the rest of the year.

Yet despite concern for what lies ahead, I see the light amidst the darkness.

Luxury conglomerate LVMH announced it would start manufacturing disinfectant gel used to make hand sanitizer at facilities that currently produce perfume and cosmetics for donation to French health authorities, and has managed to source an expected 40 million surgical masks to help France cope with its shortage. Countless other major brands, including Prada, Versace, Moncler, Kering, Armani and Sergio Rossi, have offered financial support for hospital relief efforts.

When it comes down to it, I hope the industry knows what is most important. Hint: it’s not the sales figures. It’s about doing what we can for others who need it. It’s about compassion. It’s about valuing people over things.

Fashion and clothing can still have a role in our lives right now—just in a different way. When the days in self-isolation seem to stretch into nothingness, we can find little pleasures in dressing up and having fun with fashion, even if we don’t have to (or can’t) leave the house. They say to dress for the job you want. Why not dress for the future you want?

Looking beyond the fashion industry, we are at a point in history where we have the tools and infrastructure in place to accommodate and reduce the impact of social distancing. Say what you will about the role of technology in creating collective disconnect (I wouldn’t disagree with you), but in this time when self-isolation and social distancing are upon us, social media has given us the opportunity to stay together and come together.

I also see a globally unifying force that has brought people from around the world together in our shared experience of fighting against this disease. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate across race, gender, age, socioeconomic status—and so neither should we. Our differences shouldn’t matter regardless, but they certainly don’t matter now in the face of something we can all relate to each other on. Our borders are closing, but our hearts are open.

Stay healthy. Safeguard others. Spread love. Just imagine the celebrating we’ll do when this is all over.

Image Source: New York Post, Business of Fashion, Footwear News

February 14, 2020

Love Yourself

I believe women have great power that is so often underestimated, even by themselves. Society took a step forward when it finally acknowledged there are great women who stand behind great men, but nowadays, we don't need (nor want) great men to give us identity. What we want is to take control of our identity and our place in the world. And yet, before we can do so, we must use the strength of believing in our own potential. My fellow females, we must first love who we are.

Over the past few years, we've had some great music that celebrates, not love for another, but love for oneself -- and specifically, the love a woman should have for herself. So when I'm looking to get pumped up about how powerful and badass women are, I pull up songs like "God is a Woman" by Ariana Grande, "Mother's Daughter" by Miley Cyrus, or "Joke's On You" by Charlotte Lawrence. But the music video for one song in particular, "Nightmare" by Halsey, has stuck with me.


The whole attitude of this music video serves as a formidable battle cry for women who gear up day after day to prove themselves capable in front of those who are doubtful. I'm enamoured by the scene with Halsey, Suki Waterhouse, and Cara Delevingne as brooding presences in their menswear-inspired pantsuits, dishing out blazing confidence with slackened ease. Queen Delevingne, twiddling a toothpick in her scowl, looks so commanding as she tosses her piercing gaze towards the camera pans. Later on, as Halsey dances in the burning junkyard, the full effect of her oversized suit with rolled up sleeves, a crop top and stiletto boots is on display as a testament to how women can look damn good wearing the pants too.

I want to acknowledge and extend thanks to all the people who, when a woman says she can do something, reply with, "I believe you can too." These are the kind of people who realize that if a woman loves herself, her love ultimately comes back to the world twofold -- and that's what makes women great.

Happy Valentine's Day, ladies.

October 31, 2019

Out of This World

It's the day of ghouls and instead of a blatantly seasonal blog post (like a compilation of spooky clothing items), I'm taking a different approach to the theme of Halloween.

BEWARE: Not for the faint of heart.

Over the summer, I noticed the growing prominence of Canadian design duo Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran of the Instagram handle @matieresfecales -- or in less elegant words, Fecal Matter. When first encountering their Instagram, one might oscillate between varying emotions, including viscerally disturbed, morbidly fascinated or creatively stimulated. Infamously known for their skin boots -- high-heeled boots that look like grotesque human feet -- Fecal Matter has tapped into a unique niche of alien fashion.


I was in disbelief when I first witnessed their images, madly wondering if the most bewildering bits were a result of digital manipulation. But in realizing the couple painstakingly create each look using makeup and fashion, I was dumbfounded. Their work is incredibly unsettling, yet there is an odd otherworldly beauty to it, as if the protruding edges are rounded and softened by artistry.

Fecal Matter is not alone though. I started noticing more individuals online with similar aesthetic lifestyles, Rick Owens recently transformed models into alien creatures for his Fall/Winter 2019 RTW show, and Valentino took to the unearthly by bleaching models' eyebrows that same season. Of course, my mind goes to Mugler and Alexander McQueen as arbiters of this particular type of extraterrestrial fashion, and the runway (among many other creative platforms) has always been a space for futuristic captivation to cultivate, but we're experiencing recognition of a lifestyle niche that takes nonhuman visuals to out-of-this-world heights.


So what's making us push ourselves to the outer cosmos? Humankind has always had a burning curiosity about the celestial, but the embrace of it as a form of self-expression I think is largely driven by our modern understanding of gender identity. We no longer have to be either feminine or masculine -- or even anything in between -- because we now have the liberty to present ourselves as not even human. Does that desire come from a frustration with the limitations or downfalls of humanity? A disappointment with the current state of affairs? An escapist sentiment bubbling over as we become fed up with feeling like progress is regressing?

Or, is it rooted in an appreciation of the fundamental gift of human life and our potential to achieve so much more?


On a lighter note, I read somewhere that the alien aesthetic can be traced to the return of nineties fashion. I remember TV shows like The Jetsons or X-Files, and all the lurid alien movies of the decade, and it's as if we're once again going back to speculating what extraterrestrial beings could look like -- but this time with self-aware irony. When the Storm Area 51 raid ended up being a kitschy alien parade, it was clear we can now admit with a sense of humour we truly have no idea what's out there.

For many years, I have found intrigue in the universe and consider our lives intimately linked to the flow of the above and beyond. I once saw a slogan on an H&M t-shirt that I absolutely loved: Aliens Believe in Us. Let's keep having fun believing in aliens, with the hopes they believe in us too.


PS: You can bet I'm also using this topic as an excuse to bring up Shane Dawson's new makeup collaboration with Jeffree Star, the alien queen himself. I have been a fan of Shane for 7 years, through every phase he has had on YouTube. I'm thoroughly engrossed in his latest docuseries like a proud mother hen (pig?), and am thrilled to see him finally achieve all the happiness and success he so fully deserves. I stan creativity, hard work and a beautifully genuine soul. The Jeffree Star Cosmetics x Shane Dawson Conspiracy Collection launches November 1!

Image Source: Fecal Matter, Dazed Digital, Shane Dawson

September 2, 2019

A Return to Runway

I'm ashamed to say it's been over two years since I've blogged about runway. Can you believe I used to have a series called Fashion Week Marathon, where I blogged daily about the latest collections of the season? Sure, the time I had dedicated to doing my homework took a hit, but I was secretly proud of my ability to take one look at a clothing item and make an educated guess -- if not actually identify -- which brand and season it came from. I remember back in school, whenever we had free time in the computer lab, I would pull up YouTube and start catching up on runway shows. I owe so much of what I know today to the hours upon hours spent watching shows and reading Style.com reviews.

Nowadays, between doing adult things (whatever adult things it is adults are supposed to do), trying to do more and be more in life (deep, I know), and watching an unhealthy amount of BTS (Jimin is my bias), runway has regretfully done a catwalk into the back burner. However, I still try to keep up with the fashion world in stolen moments, and am thankful I have not yet lost my instinct for noteworthy collections. I know when a collection really speaks to me through gut feeling: I get goosebumps, my heart rate elevates, and I get lost in rapturous reverie. So to share some of my euphoric bliss with you, here are the collections that have me smiling as of late:


Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer 2019 RTW


I debated whether I should save the best for last or hit you upfront with the most splendid of shows. Ultimately, I decided Ralph Lauren's newest collection was far too refreshing to risk leaving until the end. With a palette of only three colours -- black, white and gold -- Lauren had a tightly edited and succinct message: elegance never goes out of style. Cuts were at times roomy yet always refined. Wide-legged trousers were nipped tightly by pristine gold belts, and swishy knee-length skirts were finished off with precise t-strap heels. As much as I appreciate the sardonic streetwear heralded by younger designers, it was a breath of fresh air to once again see clothing made for the grown up, no-nonsense woman. But demure she is not. There were sharp shoulders, sophisticated blazers and even a billowing gold cape to round out the show, reminding us that just because a woman dresses simply does not mean she is without strength.


Fendi Fall/Winter 2019 RTW


Even before the inimitable Karl Lagerfeld passed away, I had developed a recent appreciation for Fendi. Fendi has always been one of those staple brands in fashion, but for many years after the release of its peekaboo handbag, I wondered if it really had anything new to say -- particularly as a brand known for fur in a society that is increasingly against it. My question was answered when I saw the debut of its new logo: a powerfully simple yet humorous emblem that didn't replace the quintessential double-F, but rather complemented it to attract a younger audience. Fendi also played so well into street culture's obsession with logomania that I saw it climbing its way back to relevancy. And yet despite having fun with fashion's fleeting fancies, Fendi has remained grounded in its foundation of ladylike clothing. The transparent vinyl raincoats with tan leather trimmings from Spring/Summer 2019 RTW blew me away, and I was rendered weak in the knees by the romanticism of fluttering scarves tied back between the belt loops of dresses and coats in this Fall/Winter collection. For a brand that has embraced the irony of obnoxious monogram print, I am impressed with how it still manages to speak with sophistication.


Chanel Fall/Winter 2018 RTW


Naturally, I can't talk about Fendi without bringing up Chanel. Lagerfeld was always immensely consistent with his visual messaging for Chanel, but his Fall/Winter 2018 RTW collection made me take notice. The warm autumnal vibes of sheer black nylons (oh, those legs!) worn under knit dresses and knee high boots brought back memories of how I used to dress in high school when the temperatures dropped. It may be a slightly dated, girlish look, but it still feels so comfortingly familiar. I guess I am finally getting old enough to experience nostalgia for styles of the past. This collection was akin to being wrapped up in a cozy blanket -- a sentiment made all the more poignant knowing this was among Lagerfeld's final few collections for the brand.


Christopher Kane Spring/Summer 2019 RTW


Of many runway moments seared into my memory is an especially vivid image of Ralph Lauren's Spring/Summer 2015 RTW waterfall necklaces, which were so excessive they practically became breastplates of glimmering jewels. When I saw Christopher Kane's interpretation of those necklaces in gems the size of rocks strung vertically across the chest or suspended in the middle like Iron Man, I immediately felt a frisson of connection. The tongue-in-cheek glamour granted a subversive power to the high-octane dressing. I find Kane to be masterful at pinpointing singular details that will steal the show. For example, I still salivate over the embellished cold shoulder cutout from Spring/Summer 2014 RTW, or the mildly kinky transparent PVC patches laced with crystals from Fall/Winter 2019 RTW -- simple creative manipulations that transform the existing into the exceptional.


Balmain Spring 2019 Couture


Ladies and gentlemen, Balmain is back in couture -- and what a ball it was! Literally. Massive orbs adorned wrists as cuff bracelets, were held in hand like clutch bags, and even worn as futuristic, globular skirts. Why, you ask? I have not the slightest clue, but it doesn't quite matter because the theme is magnificently memorable. Olivier Rousteing's couture debut for Balmain was far from inconspicuous and very deliberate. In a collection that would have otherwise emulated the typical image of couture as a frothy, feminine fantasy, Rousteing infused modern bite with rigid architectural shapes, spray-painted stencil patterns, and encrusted acid-wash denim. The interplay of luxurious textiles in pastel shades with peculiar and exaggerated forms resulted in a collection that was as beautiful as it was bewildering -- a reminder that even pearls come nestled in the gnarly flesh of an oyster. Balmain is off to a good start!


Iris van Herpen Fall 2018 Couture


Truthfully, I could feature any one of Iris van Herpen's latest collections, but it was Fall 2018 Couture when I first took notice of her. What a shame I didn't start following her sooner! Van Herpen is one of those inventive designers who continually challenges the notion of what fashion can be. She is a visionary exploring what I like to call the galactic anatomy of movement. Her work is technically brilliant (read: hand-casted transparent polyurethane hand-painted through injection molding, or two-tone dyed organza heat-bonded to laser-cut Mylar and cotton), and oftentimes takes shape in rippling gills of diaphanous fabric, shifting pleats that refract the light around it, and structured yet overwhelmingly delicate vertebrae. I am constantly floored by the gentle, probing beauty she births from her very scientific means. Watching Van Herpen is like a deeply intellectual and spiritual encounter where one witnesses an otherworldly intersection of the biological, the technological and the celestial.

Image Source: Vogue.com

June 4, 2019

Product Review & Giveaway: Jupitoo Glasses [Closed]

Edit: Congratulations to our grand prize winner, Caroline, and our five runner-ups, Sherry, Dynal, Anne, Bilqees and Solange! Keep reading to see what glasses Caroline chose...

Following my eyewear spectacle last year (pun always intended), I resigned myself to the fact there are just certain styles of frames I will never be able to wear due to my alarmingly high prescription. As a result, I have wondered what it would be like to own some cheap non-prescription frames -- the kind I can simply wear for fun. However, I was wary of buying glasses purely as a fashion accessory. It just seemed so frivolous.

So when Jupitoo, an online prescription glasses retailer, offered me the opportunity to review their optical frames, I jumped on the chance to not only try non-prescription glasses, but also test out an online eyeglasses site. Just recently, I met a woman at a fashion show who I struck up a conversation with after complimenting her stunning clear frames with gold accents. She informed me she shopped for prescription glasses online, and for the price of one, managed to own and alternate between three pairs of glasses. If someone with her sense of style is a proponent of online optical sites, then I was ready to give Jupitoo a go. I went ahead and chose a pair of non-Rx round glasses in gold:

Product Review

My first thought when they arrived in the mail was how incredibly well-packaged they were. The frames were nestled inside a huge shipping package with both air column and foam wrap. No damage whatsoever! As well, a cute glasses case and cloth were included.

The glasses themselves were exactly what I had hoped for. I wanted a simple pair of gold frames (à la Korean pop stars) that I wouldn't otherwise be able to wear with thicker lenses. I was relieved to see the gold was indeed shiny, the lenses were free of scratches, and the nosepads were non-slip. In terms of durability, the glasses felt lightweight and slightly delicate, but that is to be expected with this particular style of thin frames. They definitely did not feel flimsy, so the quality did exceed my expectations. I also appreciated minor details in the design, such as a decorative wave along the arms and the chic transparent temple tips.

The only challenge with ordering frames online is the inability to try them on the spot, and the absence of opticians to help offer personalized advice and adjust the fit. I would also have liked to see a wider range of frame sizes and more sophisticated lens options, such as the ability to customize and combine anti-reflective coating, higher index lenses, and different material (glass vs. plastic lenses). Although if you're not too particular about glasses and am seeking cheaper alternatives to traditional optical stores, then I wouldn't hesitate to test out a site like Jupitoo.


Giveaway

If this post has got you curious, then maybe you'll want to try your luck at a Jupitoo giveaway!


About Jupitoo:

Jupitoo is an online prescription glasses retailer designed to help people find affordable glasses by cutting the costs associated with traditional retailers. Jupitoo is able to offer a wide range of prescription glasses at a very low price.

Prizes:
  • One (1) person will win a voucher for a pair of Rx-eyeglasses. The voucher will cover frames with 1.50 index single vision lenses. The winner will need to pay for shipping & handling and any additional upgrades.
  • Five (5) people will win a $20 voucher. The voucher can be used on all glasses site-wide.

Eligibility:

This giveaway is open internationally.

Entering: 

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. The only mandatory entry is to comment below with your favourite pair of glasses from Jupitoo. For additional entries, simply follow the instructions!

This giveaway will end June 12, 2019 at 11:59pm EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Winners will be selected by Random.org and notified by email. Winners will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Please note Red-Soled Fashionista is not responsible for sponsors that do not fulfill their prizes. 

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Here is Caroline in her new glasses. Looking great!

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Thank you to Jupitoo for sponsoring this giveaway. Glasses were courtesy of Jupitoo in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

March 24, 2019

Out of Town

Sick and tired of reading me blog about retail store closings? Well, I'm not done yet! A mere two months into 2019, retailers across Canada and the US have already announced a total of over 4000 store closures (including Payless ShoeSource, hah). While this retail apocalypse spells the loss of countless jobs, I believe the landscape is being rebuilt for the better. Once the dust settles, the brands who truly offer something of value will remain standing. And those who don't -- I'm sorry, but good riddance. We are on the verge of witnessing the rebirth of retail, and while I don't know exactly what that rebirth will look like, I am excited to find out.

For the most part, I have not been surprised by the stores which have flailed and fallen. They were all brands which I had a hunch would one day face the Grim Reaper. Yet the news of Designer Shoe Warehouse closing all of its Town Shoes stores did give me pause.

I wasn't surprised Town Shoes was closing -- it had its weaknesses after all, which I will get to -- but I was surprised it ended up being so vulnerable to the shifting proclivities of consumers. I rarely shopped there myself, but whenever I went on the hunt for new shoes, I always put Town Shoes on my list of stores to visit. It had neither the trendy predictability of brands like Aldo or Spring, nor the eye-bulging price tags of higher end footwear. What Town Shoes managed to offer was variety. It carried shoes I couldn't find elsewhere, and if I hounded a pair of shoes enough, I could catch them on a good sale. In fact, Town Shoes was invaluable to fulfilling my office footwear needs. Ironically, it was just after I bought two pairs of shoes from them last year that it started to close down.

So why did it shutter? To understand the reason, we may want to look back in time at what Town Shoes used to be. In 2010, I wrote a blog post about how Town Shoes engaged in the unsavoury act of ripping off designer wares with its Red Carpet Collection. At the time, Town Shoes had some awfully overpriced, tacky shoes which it hopelessly tried to market as glamorous. Over the years, it aimed to shed its shameful past by portraying a more upscale image with higher quality footwear in what it called 'accessible luxury'. When the most prestigious collaborations Town Shoes ever got a decade ago was with the likes of David Dixon, Kate & Mel, and Barbie, earlier last year it started boasting labels such as See by Chloé, Ted Baker, Kate Spade and Badgley Mischka.


However, upon closer inspection, Town Shoes still carried some mediocre labels. It still had poor quality footwear that wasn't worth the price associated with it, and thus, continued to be seen by the average shopper as overpriced -- even if a few of its shoes did warrant the higher dollar figure. Ultimately, Town Shoes brought variety to the market, but unlike its aforementioned competitors, it lacked a distinguishable identity.

And funny story, its identity crisis became even more pronounced when one of its stores desperately tried to liquidate its inventory. I was browsing a Town Shoes Outlet during the final leg of its store closing sale when I came across a horrendous sight: the store was selling shoes which were missing the other pair. As in, a single shoe. A. Single. Shoe. Please tell me what the heck I am supposed to do with one shoe. And guess what? The store wanted $10 for those shoes. So you're telling me I can pay $10 for a complete pair (because yes, they had complete pairs for the same price), or pay $10 for half a pair. Wow, logic. Even if I had wanted a single shoe for a DIY project, or had somehow lost a shoe in a drunken night at the club, or had possibly only one leg attached to my torso...what Town Shoes was doing didn't make a lick of sense to me. Worse yet, on the neighbouring shelf, they were selling BROKEN shoes. I literally picked up a pair of shoes with its heel hanging by tendrils of fabric, exposing its ugly innards of wood and screws. At that point I was so repulsed by the store's vile behaviour that I walked out shortly after.


After all its efforts to become a place of 'accessible luxury', Town Shoes sure stopped the masquerade when the going got tough and hearkened back to what it was like a decade ago. If it had managed to successfully bring more upscale footwear to the mass market space, it could have carried its relevance into this new age of retail. But akin to putting lipstick on a pig, Town Shoes was trying to be something it wasn't. And as it turns out, we have no room anymore for a store like that.


PS: On another note, just want to congratulate YouTubers Shane Dawson and Ryland Adams on their engagement! I started following Shane 6 years ago when it was clear he struggled with deep inner demons. But finally, over the past few years, I have seen him discover overwhelming happiness with Ryland at his side. I am so delighted these two have found each other and wish them love, joy and continued silliness for the rest of their lives. <3

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Image Source: BlogTO, Narcity, Style Democracy

February 20, 2019

R.I.P. Karl Lagerfeld


Of course, I always knew the world would one day lose Karl Lagerfeld. The cycle of life and death spares no one. But he was such a monumental figure in fashion that I oftentimes pondered what his eventual death would mean for the industry. Without a doubt, I knew it would be a cataclysmic moment, shattering what we would have come to know as comfort in his existence. In my mind, his passing would define our eras in the industry: Before Karl and After Karl. 

Yet no matter how much I knew his death would one day be brought down upon us, Lagerfeld's passing has come far sooner and far more unexpectedly than even I have prepared myself for. Lagerfeld's larger than life character could have fooled us into thinking he possessed otherworldly immorality. His joie de vivre made him ageless, and his indefatigable work ethic made him unstoppable. Even though I knew he would ultimately leave us, I could never truly imagine it. So it was with considerable disbelief that I woke up yesterday to news of his death. I wasn't ready. We weren't ready. A Tuesday morning that would have otherwise been so simple and quotidian, if it weren't for the fact fashion had witnessed a pivotal change that would alter its course from here on out.

The inimitable Lagerfeld headed the helm of Chanel, Fendi and his own eponymous label, churning out up to 20 collections a year. While some may opine he worked tirelessly to produce looks which became quite tiring, there is no doubt he remained as steadfastly relevant as ever. He managed to create memorable experiences for women in his clothing, orchestrate awe-inspiring shows, and persist as one of fashion's most respected voices. Lagerfeld's ability to present a succinct vision for Chanel consistently collection after collection was precisely what made him so successful. After all these years of designing (he started at Fendi 52 years ago), there are still countless collections from past and present I hold up as shining stars of each season. I called him Kaiser because he truly was a king -- and like a king, he was both revered as equally as he was feared. His sharp, unapologetic bon mots served as bountiful inspiration and made him an icon in his own right. At 85, while most others would have been far into their retirement, Lagerfeld refused to take a break, working right up until his death. How could one not deeply admire this devotion to a life of fashion.

Even though Lagerfeld is gone and the world no longer has this extraordinary artist, it does not mean we have lost him. His influence surrounds us, and will continue to for decades to come. Perhaps I wasn't wrong in perceiving Lagerfeld to be immortal. He poured his heart and soul into everything he did, and what he has given us will last an eternity. To the man whose legacy will surely prove to be as relentless as he was, may you R.I.P.

Image Source: The Fashion Law