December 15, 2014

Smart Moves

A lot has happened in the Canadian retail industry lately. As Jacob prepared to close down all of its 92 stores in Canada over the summer, American retailer Nordstrom made its first foray across the border to its Canadian neighbour. More recently, Reitman's announced it would be shuttering its Smart Set banner, and weeks later, Mexx filed for bankruptcy, a move likely to affect all of its Canadian stores. Yet at the same time, Quebec retailer Simons is set to expand across the country.

What is going on?

Many are blaming it on the rise of fast fashion retailers like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara, shouldering out retailers who can't keep up with the latest, greatest trends that have young hearts beating. It appears only the extremities at either end of the retail spectrum are staying well-afloat - cheap and chic fashion, or high-end luxury. There is no place for those hoping to occupy the precarious middle ground.

And I agree.  All three stores cater to the average woman; they offer basics that occasionally come in trendier guises, but overall, nothing too fashionable nor unique. Let's be clear: there is space in the retail world for the average woman looking for everyday, wearable clothing, but what there isn't space for is a retailer average in all aspects of price, quality and design.  All three stores obviously positioned themselves above the chaotic realm of fast fashion, but ultimately, they didn't offer much more than their (slightly) glossier entrance way.

Being not particularly high quality not fashionable, and not particularly affordable, Jacob, Smart Set and Mexx all occupied that tough space among (better) competitors that left them with a very halfhearted customer base. You cannot lure in loyal customers with average designs, average prices, and average quality. At least one thing must stand out. Cheap and chic fashion offers decent designs at low prices, and for that, consumers are willing to sacrifice quality.  Luxury retailers offer beautiful designs with exceptional quality, and for that, consumers are willing to pay the price. I think our three fallen retailers were fine with the price point they operated in, but if they had upped their quality or put more thought into design, I think they could have struck a chord with paying customers. But that's easier said than done, and perhaps why that murky middle ground remains the Bermuda Triangle of fashion retail.

Certainly I am saddened that such stores are finding themselves at a struggle, but at the same time, I think this will help push us towards better retailers. The free market mechanism - no matter whether you support it or criticize it - is showing us what the consumer truly wants. And the market must respond. To be frank, malls are filled with stores I (and apparently many others) hold no interest in. They are mere fillers. If competition is filtering out those who offer no value to consumers, then we may finally begin to see malls fill with stores that actually interest us. It's never a smooth and happy ride in business, but I think it can only lead to one thing: a better retail sector.

Image Source: Jacob, Smart Set, Mexx

December 10, 2014

I'll Have a Julep

Four years ago, I sloppily discovered nail polish in a university dorm room.  My friend had offered to help me paint my nails for the first time, and it was there I realized my nails had the potential to become amazing canvases for self-expression. It was like a whole new world opened up to me.  I couldn't stop staring at my nails - when I was typing, when I flipped through a textbook, or when I saw my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth - because nail polish made everything I did with my hands just that much better. And because I don't wear makeup, nail polish is essentially my one and only beauty pleasure.

Throughout my nail polish adventures, there is one brand I've come across and have always wanted to try: Julep. Imagine my surprise then, when I incredulously found an email from Julep asking if I would be interested in sharing my holiday look with them. Let's just say it was a no-brainer.

Skirt: La Dive | Top: Alice + Olivia | Heels: Christian Louboutin | Earrings: Dolce & Gabbana | Clutch: Saint Laurent | Lipstick: Gucci | Nail polish: Julep 'Karissa' & Julep 'Oscar'

I'm a classic girl, as you all know, but I like my fashion drama. Whether it be a ball skirt in shocking holiday red, a simple tee covered in glimmering gold sequins, or a quintessential pump with a raised counter (and red sole, naturally), it's all about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. For my nails, I would do the same by taking classic red and pairing it with girlish glitter.  Whether I indulge in a glossy red manicure with glitter tips, or simply use the golden glitter as an accent nail, I know one thing for sure: I won't be able to stop staring at my freshly decorated hands.

October 21, 2014

R.I.P. Oscar de la Renta

The news was broken to me by a friend: "Oscar died".  At first I was racking my brain for an actor I knew named Oscar, until my friend sent the crushing words, "The fashion designer". That's when my heart dropped.  With suddenly cold hands, I immediately Googled what I knew I wouldn't want to believe.  Last night, Oscar de la Renta passed away.

I have been following this prolific designer ever since I started my blog four years ago.  I was completely amazed by his elegance.  He was a designer for the ladies of high society, and I adored how he always stayed true to old-school ballroom sophistication. There are few designers out there who dare have such an unabashedly uptown aesthetic, but de la Renta made clothing for grown ups, and I always respected him for that.  

Sometimes I wonder how the passing of designers can have such an impact on me, but then I realize it's because they've touched me emotionally. As any creative person will know, putting out a piece of work comes with great vulnerability.  Designers bare their soul to us every season, and every fashion show becomes an intimate exchange. I may not have known de la Renta personally, but his creativity knows no physical boundaries.

After learning that de la Renta had passed the reins of his namesake label earlier this month to Peter Copping, I am comforted to know de la Renta was ready to let go. To the man who left both his design house and the world with utmost grace and dignity, may you R.I.P.

Image Source: MissInfo

September 27, 2014

4th Year!

Hip hip hooray, 4 years of blogging!  I still feel like a newcomer - the one who joined the party late and who still has so much to learn.  I don't think it will be until my 5th year that I start to realize maybe I've been at this for a good amount of time.  And it won't be until the 10th that I finally accept it.

Nonetheless, great things have happened this past year.  Even though I still consider 4 years the tip of the iceberg, I'm honoured to know others recognize more potential in that than I see myself.  Every year, it would be a crime not to thank my friends, readers and supporters (are you sick of it yet?); I feel incredibly privileged to have friends who show me so much support.

And at the end of the day, I am privileged.  Not because I was born with connections or was one to have opportunities come knocking on my door, but because I've had to yank seemingly closed and unreachable doors open myself. I've seen what hard work can do.  I am privileged because I have experienced doubt, adversity and judgement, yet have come out more passionate than ever.  Passion is ceaseless and will always serve you well. Follow your heart because those who tell you to go in other directions will never understand how strongly the fire burns within you.  Prove them wrong.

Happy Birthday, Red-Soled Fashionista.

Image Source: Birthday

September 6, 2014

Blossoming Love

One of my favourite things to do is go to weddings.  You get to dress up, see the bride's dress, eat a lot, and witness the beginning of a wonderful marriage.  I'm a sucker for romance.  I practically burst with joy after receiving an invitation to a wedding this summer, and spent all four months planning an outfit.

The thing about dressing up for me is...I don't have a lot of fancy dresses nor heels.  So to make do with what I had, I came up with a simple look that focused on quality separates.

Dress: Charlie Jade | Heels: Prada | Handbag: Unknown | Necklace: Tiffany & Co. | Tights: Unknown

If you'll recall, this dress is one I bought from Holt Renfrew for $9 (thanks to a gift card), and as for the shoes, I have been dying to find an opportunity to bring out these heels.  For once in my life, I didn't feel short - I felt average height, if not even tall.  I had a great time walking around in these booties, even though, no, they were not painless.  They didn't scratch or rub at all, but height like that doesn't come without sacrifice (no pain no gain, ladies).  The dress was understated, but I felt the artful mixing of colours and slippery silk material were details that elevated it slightly.

As a final note, this particular wedding I went to was one I will remember.  The bride and groom were clearly in love, and not because they were overt, but because they were so subtle.  The tender, silent communication they shared through the simple locking of eyes was palpable. A romantic, I am.

August 11, 2014

Not Without Love

So...yes, this is shaping up to be another summer of me not blogging.  That's not to say I've forgotten about Red-Soled Fashionista; on the contrary, I've had a steady flow of inspiration these past few months, yet time is one thing I don't have.  Partially this is due to a full-time summer job I am so grateful to have landed, but also another opportunity that was miraculously offered to me back in May.

I had planned to find another easy pay-per-post fashion blogging job for some extra cash, but there were slim pickings this year in terms of companies who were hiring.  After about a month of searching, I finally found a job posting from an accessories company.  I almost didn't apply because it required a CV, and I was too lazy to create a fashion-targeted resume. Luckily, I had a niggling fear of missing out on an opportunity, and so I applied.

And thank goodness I did!  A week later, I received an email.  After a surreal phone call with the company, I realized it was my blog and my writing style, both of which I have lovingly nurtured all these years, that made me stand out among the applicants.  Now here I am, working from home as Managing Editor of an American accessories company, getting paid to do what I love.  What seemed like a distant, impossible dream a few years ago has now become a very real possibility.  So, please do forgive me if Red-Soled Fashionista becomes a little bare, but always remember that my heart and soul is in this blog and I will never, ever be without love for it.

Image Source: HeartIfb

July 14, 2014

Dressing for the Occasion

I feel good.  Just breathing in the moment, and boy, it smells sweet.  For one thing, I'm wearing a new outfit. In fact, these past three months have been filled with wonderful sartorial adventures, thanks to dressing up for the office.  I was too lazy to take a photo of my outfit today, but use your pretty imaginations: a navy Vince tee with the front tucked loosely into a pair of blue and white floral H&M shorts, a slouchy grey crochet cardigan from Hong Kong, gold snakeskin print Elie Tahari loafers, a maroon snakeskin minibag with gold hardware, and a blue-grey metallic stone necklace.  With an outfit like this, I felt decent enough to hit up Holt Renfrew for an afternoon of shopping.  Here's what I tried on:

Pink Tartan

This dress was in the sales rack, and it was a size 0 - how could I not pick it up.  I adore jacquard detailing, especially when done in sorbet pink, and the fabric had a quality thickness to it.  The bodice fit me wonderfully, but I just didn't have the model-esque figure to pull this off.  The dress landed below my knee (which actually isn't a problem once you have heels on), but the structured A-line slightly overwhelmed my petite frame.  

Needle & Thread

Both my mom and dad ohh-and-ahh-ed over this dress, so I definitely had to give it a whirl. The size 2 bodice fit a bit too snugly around my arms, even though the length was once again past the knee. However, the skirt was less poofy, making the length very chic.  I'm not too fond of the muddy colors, but the floral embroidery was quite pretty.  My parents thought the beading made it wholly worth its $500, and I guess they're right - this is better than any typical $500 prom dress you'd find in BCBG Max Azria.  Obviously I didn't buy it, but I have discovered a new dress label to ohh-and-ahh over.

Miu Miu

I never give up the opportunity to try on a pair of shoes at Holts.  I liked the artful sketch print on the toe of these Miu Miu pumps, although the stark white leather felt somewhat outdated.  The pointed toe added instant glamour to my legs (despite being very painful), but there's something about the shape of these heels that make it "off". I can't pinpoint what it is, but it didn't have the polished contours that a great pair of pumps should have.

P.S.: Managed to catch Germany's winning FIFA goal on a TV in the menswear floor.  It seems like all greatest looking, most stylish guys work on the Holts menswear floor...I should frequent more often.