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

January 27, 2019

The Modern Socialite

After giving social media influencers a hard time in my previous blog post, I thought it best to even out the playing field. This post was inspired by an incident that occurred back in 2016, but with the still-prevalent ubiquity of social stars today, the fraught battle between old media and new media remains as relevant as before.

In a recap of Spring/Summer 2017 Milan Fashion Week, Vogue.com editors made scathing remarks about the fashion bloggers in attendance:

"Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style." -- Sally Singer

"...the professional blogger bit, with the added aggression of the street photographer swarm who attend them, is horrible, but most of all, pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows, in traffic, risking accidents even, in hopes of being snapped." -- Sarah Mower

"It’s not just sad for the women who preen for the cameras in borrowed clothes, it’s distressing, as well, to watch so many brands participate." -- Nicole Phelps

"...how funny it is that we even still call them 'bloggers,' as so few of them even do that anymore. Rather than a celebration of any actual style, it seems to be all about turning up, looking ridiculous, posing, twitching in your seat as you check your social media feeds, fleeing, changing, repeating...I have to think that soon people will wise up to how particularly gross the whole practice of paid appearances and borrowed outfits looks. Looking for style among a bought-and-paid-for ('blogged out?') front row is like going to a strip club looking for romance." -- Alessandra Codinha

Clearly, the crows were out to feast! Every single editor featured in that article couldn't help but express utter distaste at the swarms of influencers making a living off online profiles. Not surprisingly, Vogue ruffled the feathers of those they called peacocks. Among the many responses to the provoking assertions, the one that inspired me to write this post was published by Fashion Magazine in an interview with Canadian fashion bloggers Sam and Cailli Beckerman:

"Calling anyone pathetic because they like to have fun with fashion is awful. What we do is a legit job. We’re editors and journalists, too—it’s just on our own platform."


Them vs. us; you vs. me is a disappointing mindset to have, and one which I believe powers much of the world's conflict, intolerance and antagonism. So if you've already pitched your tent in support of one side of the quarrel, I ask that you erase such notions and proceed with me, because we've got some exploring to do.

The fashion editors...they had a point. There are undoubtedly bloggers out there who are paid to wear outfits they probably wouldn't promote if it weren't for the dollars they received just to slide those pieces over their bodies and arrange themselves flatteringly in front of the cameras. Vogue's criticism is not unwarranted. Authenticity has become a precious rarity. Around the time blogging became monetized and bloggers became celebrities, we lost the bona fide feeling of closeness to those whose words and images we scrolled through. And the extent to which some influencers will go to be snapped -- blocking traffic, posturing, grasping for attention -- can be quite unfortunate to see. The show is not about them; it's about the designer. Paid-to-wear outfits can perpetuate superficial style, so I don't blame Vogue editors for their disparaging comments. At least they had the guts to speak up with crushing honesty about what they saw as undignified behaviour.

But of course, not all bloggers in borrowed clothes lack substance to their style. We can't just assume influencers dress up for the money. I'm sure many bloggers genuinely love the garments they get paid to wear, and if they're like me, probably welcome any opportunity to experiment with different styles, brands and attitudes. A sincere love for fashion can manifest itself as a willingness to wear absolutely anything. And to preen and prance is arguably what these bloggers are paid to do. It is their job to be seen. Did Vogue editors have to attack bloggers with such venomous language? Probably not. They erroneously allowed the actions of a few to impair their perception of the many.

And the Beckerman twins make a good point: many bloggers have worked hard to get to where they are. Whether a fashion editor or a fashion blogger, we're all just trying to build a career out of pursuing our passions. I would discourage against partitioning out the industry and assuming one group is more elite than the other. Fashion editors cannot boast to have uttermost integrity either. They march to the beat of advertising dollars, and no one reads a fashion publication believing all of its content is unadulterated by commercialism, corporate motivations and obligatory praise. Our modern, self-made socialites have managed to carve a portion of the industry for themselves, and I think we should be proud of that. Fashion is becoming more accessible and interactive. Social media mavens have inspired countless everyday youth to embrace creativity and believe that dreams can be within reach.

So after all this, whose side am I on? I started off on nobody's side, and I will end on nobody's side. Because ultimately, I am on everybody's side. I respect the calibre of our editors, while still admiring the entrepreneurship of our influencers. Let us recognize our common goal of making a difference in the world by doing what we love -- and support each other in doing so. We are a team, and together, we make up this wonderful thing called fashion.

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Image Source: I Am Schick, INM, Vogue, Marie Claire

December 16, 2018

The Source of Paying More

Get ready for a rant because I am peeved.

You know how much I adore shoes. They will forever be one of the greatest loves of my life. So when I heard Payless ShoeSource released a commercial where they opened up a fake luxury shoe store and successfully pranked shoppers into believing their shoes were worth up to $640, my inner footwear diva was instantly offended. Yes, I have a bias for high-end footwear. Yes, I sometimes display immediate displeasure at certain shoes without so much as a second glance. But I also like to think of my bias as a heartfelt respect for the art of well-designed, well-made shoes.

And in reality, your home girl shops at ALDO, which is far closer on the scale to Payless than any luxury brand. I may be a snob, but I am not delusional. I am fully supportive of affordable footwear, and have said before that fashion which appears to be of high quality does not have to break the bank. I strongly believe in clever ways of faking it 'till you make it, baby.

Before we start peeling apart the situation, let us first take a look at the commercial:


Initial Thoughts

No way. There is NO WAY you can mistake Payless shoes for something worth anything more than $100. I have been in Payless multiple times before, and based on my knowledge of their merchandise, I am adamant there are no shoes in there which can remotely pass as high-end. As soon as I heard about this campaign, I was absolutely certain there was more to the story than what the headlines led us to believe. Which is why I am going to start breaking it down and showing exactly why Payless managed to pull this commercial off (sort of).


The Intent Behind Using Influencers

Payless used social media influencers in their commercial. That statement alone pretty much explains the entire situation. I had a difficult time imagining everyone who browsed through Palessi -- whether they be fashion industry folk, affluent shoppers familiar with high-end wares, or even random passersby from the public who wandered into the store -- all being fooled by the façade. But once I learned only social media influencers were invited to peruse the shoes, everything made sense because...well, influencers are a special breed.

The very nature of being a social media maven is to promote merchandise, and we all know how the allure of sponsorships and paid promotions can propagate inauthentic words of praise. So just imagine you have a bunch of (probably) D-list social media influencers who are invited to a swanky, glamorous party, and you shove a microphone in their face on camera to ask what they think of the shoes. I'm pretty sure no one would dare criticize the shoes, even if simply to be polite. In fact, in order to leave the door open for future opportunities with you, they might actually compliment and rave about your shoes. And heck, if nothing else, they would put on a face to show their followers they're having a fantastic time at this oh-so-luxe event.

And let me clarify one thing: social media influencers are not necessarily experts in fashion. They are experts in influencing. Many social stars may enjoy nice clothes and looking good, but their understanding of fashion may not go beyond the superficial. Their true skill sets lie, after all, in how to create and promote engaging content -- that's their bread and butter. One particularly pointed, yet not altogether unjustified, comment on Instagram opined, "Great job Payless for exposing the fraud that this 'influencer' movement represents." Ouch. But really, Payless does not stock any footwear that is made from real leather, so basically you're telling me these influencers couldn't even distinguish between synthetic and genuine leather...?

Payless was deliberate in who they set up. You think the corporate minds at Payless didn't sit around a conference table discussing exactly what kind of individuals to invite? They made a clearly conscious decision to not bring in actual fashion experts, and didn't even run the risk of having random members of the public blow their cover.


A Shameful Social Media

I feel bad for harping on influencers so much, but they really did paint a bulls eye on themselves here. Being social media influencers, I imagine the first thing they would do upon receiving an invite from Palessi is to...check out the company's social media pages! And yet if they really did, then how could they not have been suspicious from the start?

Look at Palessi's Instagram page. What kind of luxury company would post these grainy, low resolution photos? And isn't it odd how they posted a total of 24 photos on October 25 -- half of which don't even contain shoes?

And their website is laughable. Granted, the site has been edited since the campaign so I'm not aware of what it looked like before, but the shoes currently showcased on the landing page are dead giveaways. The rubber sole, man-made material, and bumbling shape of the stilettos would have been obvious from miles away. Yet hilariously, Palessi has blown up and magnified the images to the point it should have been impossible to miss these details.

The problem is, the social media influencers probably didn't look too deeply into what Palessi was, or if they did, chose to ignore what they found. There are countless influencers on the Internet who knowingly advertise for (Chinese) clothing companies which have abysmal quality and deplorable customer service, and YouTube was rife with recent drama over high profile content creators who just didn't do enough research on what they promoted. Ignorance is bliss.


Auctioned Away

Although Payless has not confirmed outright, it does appear some shoes were sold through an auction format, giving Payless that sweet, sweet opportunity to drive home the fact their shoes fetched up to $640.

This move too is entirely deliberate. An auction allowed Payless to capture inflated dollar figures for their campaign. If you attach an outrageous price tag to an item that can't live up to the figure, shoppers might not bite. But if you pit influencers against each other in a friendly game of bidding, you can possibly get them in the right mood to spend more. The auction was yet another strategic decision that granted Payless the perfect little media snippet.


Glamour Shot

Let's be honest with ourselves and not deny that the atmosphere of a store can most certainly affect our perception of quality. No matter how much we may try to judge the inherent value of a fashion item, a lot of what we think (and how much $$$ we shell out) is impacted by brand value. Brands in favour have the freedom to demand more in exchange for their promised fantasy. By simply setting up shop in a former Armani store in LA alongside other luxury giants, Palessi gave themselves some leverage against even the more discerning influencers. A poorly made shoe might just seem decently bearable perched on a gleaming glass shelf. Add to that scores of beautiful people at a glamorous party by invitation only, and you have a stunt that is one step closer to believable.


Take To The Streets

I aim, if nothing else, to be fair. So before I gave myself the liberty to knock on Payless, I did actually go out and try it. I was a girl on a mission as I visited two separate Payless stores to confirm: (1) Could I find the shoes presented in the commercial? (2) Was the quality actually impressive enough to deceive?

First of all, yes, I was successful in finding most of the shoes filmed in the campaign, with the exception of the gold and leopard print sneakers which appeared to be Palessi's pride and glory (though I found many similar styles). The majority of shoes used were, not surprisingly, from the Christian Siriano line, but I do give Payless credit for keeping the stunt honest.

In terms of quality, Payless was far better than expected, though still hardly exceptional. While some shoes veered towards trendy, the designs were overall basic and banal, lacking the originality of luxury footwear. I was disappointed to see a rubber underside on every shoe (instead of leather soles), and was put off by all the fake leather and textile uppers. However, I will say some of the synthetic leather was smooth enough as to almost pass for the real thing at first brush of the hand, unlike the nauseating polyurethane normally used by bargain stores. And I didn't see as many exaggerated toe springs (often seen on poorly made shoes which need to roll forward in order to compensate for lack of flexibility in the sole) and sloppy stitching as I had anticipated. Yet despite the reasonable craftsmanship, the devil is in the details. Payless pumps all came with -- in addition to a seam in the back -- a second seam along the arch of the foot, a surefire sign that more than one piece of material was used to construct the shoe. A high quality pump will possess only one seam along the back of the heel. Upon inspection of their ankle boots, I found one particular design with braided straps which were cut bluntly near the zipper, leaving a distasteful number of unfinished ends. Any luxury shoemaker would close the loop on such details.

After my evaluation of the shoes, I pegged their worth at around $40 (not $640!), which turned out to be exactly what most of the price tags asked for. I am happy to say Payless is at least principled in their pricing.


Final Thoughts

The news headlines surrounding this campaign were almost farcical:

"Payless pranks customers by getting them to buy its discount shoes at designer prices."
"Payless shoes fools fashion snobs, sells discount shoes at luxury prices."
"Payless opens fake luxury store, dupes influencers into paying hundreds for shoes."

In some ways, Payless did manage to dupe a bunch of shoppers -- but not because of how great their shoes were. This campaign was a carefully constructed scenario that took full advantage of the behaviours and motivations of those who were invited. This is not a prank that would have succeeded if a single foot stepped outside of those meticulously drawn parameters. My conclusion? The real dupes are those who think this experiment said anything about the quality of Payless shoes.


Image Source: PYMNTS, Adweek, Ad to Date, Bustle, Rouse Hill Town Centre, Forbes

December 2, 2018

Heavenly Bodies

I've been very upfront about my relationship with Versace. Never have I tried to hide the special place Versace has in my heart as the brand that ignited my lifelong passion back in 2007. Though it dawned on me there is one thing about this Italian house I have not yet talked about: Atelier Versace. So here I am today, ready to fully come clean to you about mon amour.

While the core Versace prêt-à-porter collections can at times come across as flashy and tacky, the haute couture arm of the brand, Atelier Versace, is consistently flawless. I first discovered Donatella Versace's brilliance in haute couture when I began to notice time and time again she was behind some of the most splendid red carpet moments over the years. Angelina Jolie is clearly a fan. Her statuesque emerald column at the Golden Globes? Her swipe of red the year after? Her iconic thigh high slit at the Oscars? All were thanks to Atelier Versace. And it's not just Jolie who looks jolie draped in DonatellaSelena Gomez deserved applause for her brazen gown with fluorescent accents, while Gigi Hadid struck a winning pose swathed in what looked like painterly strokes. Atelier Versace is like the Sia of fashion: it is the silent, underappreciated genius who makes other people look good.

But, of course, the red carpet alone cannot do justice exhibiting what Atelier Versace is truly capable of. For that, we must look to the collections themselves. Some of my personal highlights include...

Spring 2012 Couture: Gold metal splicing through with razor precision for maximum extraterrestrial glamour.


Spring 2016 Couture: Colour geometry and texture play pave the way for youthful yet thoughtful urban couture.


Fall 2016 Couture: This elegant dishabille, pleasantly reminiscent of Vionnet demi couture, encourages us to slip deeply into the folds.


Spring 2017 Couture: Deliberate use of mythology as a muse: the incarnation of Artemis through meticulous pleating and angular layering.


Fall 2017 Couture: Whether you see liquefied precious metals which harken back to Prabal Gurung, or a bronzed up Mystique in mid-transformation, this look is dripping with intrigue.


Fall 2017 Couture: A collection so strong I had to show it twice. With this embodiment of a winged crusader, Atelier Versace proves that perfection does exist.


Fall 2018 Couture: Natasha Poly serving up lewks which showcase the incredible workmanship behind the earnest art of embellishment.


What I see from years of couture is Donatella Versace has an acute awareness of shape and placement. She is able to gently trace intersecting lines across the canvas of the body in ways breathtakingly unexpected. She has honed her ability to carry out elaborate adornment by ensuring each and every bead serves a purpose. Wearing Atelier Versace is like indulging in that split second sensation after emerging from a dream where fantasy and reality are still lusciously intertwined. When it comes to haute couture confections, Elie Saab may be king but Atelier Versace is divine, blessing us with pieces crafted by the hands of angels in what may as well be the house of heaven.

Back when Versace was founded, Gianni Versace chose Medusa as the subject of his logo because it was believed the serpentine sister had the power to make people fall hopelessly in love with her. Turns out Versace had the foresight of a prophet, because boy, am I ever in love.

Image Source: Dutch Girl Chronicle, Vogue