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Fashion With Purpose

We've Moved!

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By Laura Connell · September 7, 2010 · 0 Comments ·


For Those About To Shop has moved! Thank you so much for reading and I hope you will join me at my new site for continued coverage of local and global events, issues, and shows!

Toronto Fashion Gets Support

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By Laura Connell · September 1, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Staging a runway show at Fashion Week can be expensive for emerging designers. With fees in the thousands just for the privilege of showing, not to mention creative costs, getting the word out to buyers and media about an upcoming collection can be challenging.

This Sunday September 5, the Liberty Group and C Lounge will support the local fashion community by giving designers like Zoran Dobric and Joshua Shier the opportunity to show their collections free of charge in an installation-type setting where models mingle with partygoers in a free-flowing format. Dobric wowed me last season at LG Fashion Week with his literary-inspired collection. (his showcase was one of my favourites) and Joshua Shier impressed with his exciting, bold and graphic womenswear line, Youth. In. Asia at Fashion Art Toronto last April.

Liberty Group and C Lounge played host last month to a A Midsummer Night's Dream, a similar fashion installation featuring legendary Irish-born designer Pat McDonagh who is reported to have stayed and cut up the dance floor until the wee hours! For more info call 416-260-9393.

Filed in: Events
Tagged with: toronto, couture, Fashion

Harry Potter's Emma Watson Fair Trade

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By Laura Connell · August 28, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I watched my first Harry Potter movie last week. I'm not sure what took me so long especially since I am an admirer of J.K. Rowling for her role in bringing children back to books, getting them excited about reading again. Rowling is also the speaker of one of my favourite quotes. Upon signing the book contract for Harry Potter, she is said to have uttered to her agent: "I know I'm not going to make any money off this." Besides being completely hilarious in retrospect, it proves her honest pursuit of a passion without expectation of return.

A big fan of UK and Irish films I was pleased about Rowling's insistence that the film franchise stay true to its roots. "No American Harry Potter," was her succinct way of putting it. I also adore strong female film characters, so Emma Watson's Hermione Grainger made me smile.

I have also enjoyed Emma Watson in the Burberry print campaign. She's the perfect muse for the brand: a quintessentially British actress who seems destined for iconic status, and one who will help the label garner a younger audience without alienating the traditionalists. "This is one girl who will never pull a Britney Spears," I remember thinking while watching Watson in Harry Potter and pondering her choice to represent that most British (and covered-up) of luxury brands.

I began following Watson on Twitter and was pleased to read her bio which described her as a "British actress and fair trade supporter". It seems in addition to portraying a cool character in the Harry Potter franchise, Ms. Watson has partnered with fair trade clothing line, People Treeas creative advisor of a lifestyle capsule collection geared toward the younger consumer who wants an alternative to fast fashion. The 20-year-old student described the venture as "the most incredible gap-year project" and said she believes in using fashion as a tool to alleviate poverty. Watson recently visited Bangladesh to observe and participate in the manufacturing process of the collection which is made from 100% organic and certified Fair Trade cotton, providing livelihood for some of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal's most impoverished people.

"Not only does People Tree make sure the people who make the clothes are paid fairly, they make sure all the cotton is organic so they're not polluting the environment, and they're also committed to mitigating climate change. They do three important things and that makes them stand out from other brands," Watson said in a YouTube Q & A session about her collaboration with the brand.

The cool and casual collection which features t-shirts, dresses, skirts, pants, and knitwear for men and women will make its debut on September 12 at Prince Charles' Garden Party To Make a Difference, a festival of music, talks, and installations offering new ideas to help us stretch our precious resources. A sculpture of sheep climbing a ladder, for instance, will encourage us to use sheep's wool for home insulation. The gardens of the Prince's home at Clarence House as well as those at Lancaster and Marlborough are being opened to the public for the first time to celebrate the event.

Chloe Sunglasses Prove Point

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By Laura Connell · August 24, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I was catching up on my Facebook tonight and noticed an interesting link posted by one of my Friends Selina. It was to an article in Scientific American entitled "Faking It: Why Wearing Designer Knockoffs May Have Hidden Psychological Costs".

I have yet to post about my aversion to fake designer merchandise here, but I have tweeted it on occasion. That's why I was intrigued to find scientific evidence backing up my belief in the inherent dishonesty of wearing inauthentic clothing and accessories.Those who buy fakes seem oblivious to any conflict: "It looks just like the real thing" they'll say. But the wearer knows it's not real and presenting the purse, garment, or other item as though it is authentic is untrue. Besides that, it represents a false sense of style, one that says only outward appearances matter, that what others think is more important than how you feel.

Besides being illegal, counterfeit items are made with inferior materials and their manufacture definitely doesn't support fair trade principles. Three scientists in the States have found that wearing them also compromises the owner's integrity. They gave a sample of women authentic Chloe sunglasses to wear, telling half of them that the pairs were fake. Then they asked the women to perform tasks that gave opportunities for lying and cheating. Guess what? Of the wearers of the "fake" glasses, 70% cheated, while only 30% who knew they were wearing authentic Chloes did.

The psychologists decided to go a step further. Could wearing fakes also affect the way we view others? The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about "people they knew" and whether those people would do things like take too many items through the express lane at the grocery store or steal supplies from the office. Again, the fake wearers proved to be far more cynical (expect the worst from others) than those who knew they had on the real thing.

The conclusion of the findings? "Wearing counterfeit glasses not only fails to bolster our ego and self-image the way we hope, it actually undermines our internal sense of authenticity." Not only does it make the wearer feel like a cheater and act accordingly, she also assumes those character flaws in the people around her.

Do these findings change your attitude about knockoffs? If you've worn them in the past will you stop? Will you continue wearing them? Or, like me, does it simply confirm what you've suspected all along?

Filed in: Fashion
Tagged with: high-end, brand, couture, luxury, designer, Fashion

Toronto Fashion Gives Back

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By Laura Connell · August 23, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Yesterday was an inspiring day in fashion for me. I received an invitation from Ainsley Kerr to a very special photo shoot at Marben on Wellington where over 50 volunteers including photographers from the Hermann & Audrey agency, Sutherland models, and Judy Inc. stylists came together. The photographers--Babar Khan, Javier Lovera, Caitlin Cronenberg, Steve Carty, and Jalani Morgan--each conceived and executed a Studio 54-inspired photo shoot for an exhibition at the Booby Ball in October, Rethink Breast Cancer's major fundraiser. Rethink is the group that puts the "fun" in fundraising with a youthful approach to charity through parties that incorporate fashion, music, and fitness. The Rethink Romp in June encouraged guests to dress up as superheroes, for example.

The lower level of Marben where the shoot took place is all dark wood and plush velvet couches. When I arrived Caitlin Cronenberg was shooting a party scene with revellers Kate Wallace, Gail McInnes, Nolan Bryant, and several gorgeous extras all rocking the 70s disco vibe. Gail slept with rollers in her hair to achieve the perfect front flip--the kind at the roller rink back in the day; you know, with the skin-tight satin pants and baseball jacket? Ainsley Kerr was serving drinks at the bar and invited guests to touch her hair which had recently been restored with the famous Keratin Complex treatment at the Tony Chaar Salon in Yorkville. It was baby soft; another friend of mine who had the same treatment described the result as "Jennifer Aniston hair" which seems fairly accurate!

I was involved in Steve Carty's shoot. His concept was to have three models leaving the "club" arm in arm with the extras forming two lines on either side of them like the audience for a runway show. Before the shoot, Steve did a television interview for ET Canada. He was sweating alot and mumbled something about "TV with 40 beautiful girls watching" which I thought was very sweet. No matter how confident and successful the man, pretty girls still make him nervous!

During the interview Carty talked about being a fifth-generation Canadian whose ancestors escaped to Canada through the Underground Railroad. He has made a career here in Toronto, refusing to be part of the "brain drain" that takes alot of talent south to the States. He shot Thom Yorke of Radiohead "just before OK Computer came out and it was like shooting U2 before the Joshua Tree." He has also photographed Pharrell, Kanye West, Tony Bennett, Oscar Peterson, Romeo Dallaire, Sarah Polley, and George Romero (director of Night of the Living Dead). Carty's ultimate goal is to have a motion picture featured at TIFF.

After my shoot, it was off to interview cufflinks designer, Chris Zownir, for a magazine profile of his business Cuffwear. Besides making the world a better place by encouraging men to dress up more (wink), he was one of the founding members of the Out of the Cold program as a high school student at St. Mike's in Toronto. He has also designed Pink Ribbon pairs for the breast cancer awareness campaign, donated to silent auctions and to the major fundraiser for Huntington's, the disease to which his friend's mother succumbed. How inspiring to speak with a designer whose main objective is to spread positivity and playfulness and whose second career (his first was on Bay Street) came humbly out of a desire to explore a "more creative way of thinking".

Finally, that evening Joanna W and I met the mob outside This Is London for a fashion fundraiser called Wear It Loud, benefitting the Because I Am A Girl campaign. Promoting self-esteem in girls is one my raisons d'etre so I was happy to attend the event and see such a huge turnout in support of a girl-positive movement. The main event was a little runway show featuring clothes donated by designer David Dixon who made an appearance at the club. Before the show, singer Anna Cyzon lifted the energy in the room with her powerful voice and physical performance. A real rock star, Cyzon reminded me of a cross between Pink and Gwen Stefani and made optimum use of the runway before the models took to the catwalk.

Because I Am A Girl is the Plan Canada initiative which believes "investing in girls is the key to eliminating poverty and creating a better world...a global campaign to claim a brighter, safer future for girls." On an international level, women and girls make up 70% of those living in extreme poverty; girls are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys; and 60 million of them are denied access to primary school education.

Plan Canada began in 1937 as Foster Parents Plan and embraces the "teach a man to fish" philosophy, that it's best for people to use their own ideas, talents, and energy to make lives better for themselves and their communities. Because I Am A Girl teaches us that just one extra year of schooling increases a girl's lifetime income by 10 to 20 per cent, and when women work they invest 90% of their income back into the household.

So,  yes, yesterday's schedule was hectic; however it was a privilege to be immersed in such positivity and generosity from a community (fashion) too often criticized for being shallow!

For more pics from the Rethink shoot, please vist my Facebook Page.

Wear It Loud images courtesy of Joanna W.

IFB's Links a la Mode Post Picks

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By Laura Connell · August 18, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Links à la Mode: The IFB Weekly Roundup


Fast Forward to Fall

Edited by: Florrie Clarke of Intrinsically Florrie.
The trends for the coming months were dictated back on the catwalks in February, but now as September draws closer it’s time to get our teeth into them and have a good hard think about those all important autumn buys. Particularly seeing as while I type this the weather is strongly urging me towards a winter wardrobe.
This week’s links both look to winter and bask in the remaining sun. We look at a fashion interpretation of the current oil spill disaster (intelligent or tasteless?), are inspired by gorgeous fashion illustrations and a chain bag DIY, debate the history of the ‘prep’ look and think about how all our choices determine our body shape.

Links à la Mode: August 16th

  • a la modest: High-waisted jeans (a.k.a. mom jeans) are back in vogue!
  • Beautifully Invisible: Steven Meisel’s Water & Oil: Social Commentary or Tasteless Fashion?
  • Beyond Fabric: On men bags
  • Dramatis Personae: Gilda Su announce Revasseur & Pre-Fall 2011 Lookbook.
  • Embracing Style: How to make your own chain bag!
  • Fete a Fete: Review of Guerlain’s new 68 Champs-Elysees fall 2010 makeup collection:
  • For Those About To Shop: Katharine Hamnett is the mother of eco-fashion and believes consumers have the power to change the world
  • Independent Fashion Bloggers: Can you Kickstart a New Career With Crowdfunding?
  • Intrinsically Florrie: Dream dress and dream shoes- the fairytale look
  • Kyoto Maiko: You Can’t Buy “Prep,” But You Can Own It…
  • Miss Jones & Me: Roll into the Wild Woolly West: A focus on Fall transition pieces because the temperature can’t drop soon enough!
  • My Closet in Sketches: A hand drawn interpretation of the magic of white jeans (from the Gap men’s department, to boot!).
  • Vogue Gone Rogue: tuscan vineyards and teal rompers. A lighthearted outfit post inspired by Tuscan countryside and wine.
  • Rags to Reverie: Sarah Mower’s Fashion Illustrations for Vogue China and Vogue Nippon
  • Retro Chick: A very modern vintage manicure
  • Shoe Daydreams: Where do you draw the line with knocks-offs… what about when a blogger favorite retailer is doing it?
  • Shoeper Woman: Why does no one dress up any more?
  • Style Eyes: How to jump right out of a style rut – some ideas on how to look and feel great
  • Sweet Fancy Treat: Kristen McMenamy. Collages & trivia about a timeless fashion icon!
  • The Demoiselles: What would you sacrifice for a more “fashion-friendly” body?
  • The Simply Luxorious Life: A dream of a shopping list for the fall fashions – staples that will enhance any woman’s wardrobe.

Joy at Lobby Toronto

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By Laura Connell · August 12, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

So, I was at a bar and a fashion show broke out. Has this ever happened to you? Last night, Joanna W and I were at Lobby, a chic Yorkville-area bar which must take its name from the hotel-foyer esthetic: all stark black couches and chandeliers. Lobby is kind of sexy and minimalist which is nice...it does seem as though it's craving an identity, perhaps due to location (sort of in the middle of nowhere on Bloor Street), or maybe other nights are different...let's just say last night's crowd was diverse.

At midnight, about a half-dozen models walked across the bar-top to showcase a series of Joy Couture sequinned dresses. Now, the definition of couture is always up for debate; according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, couture describes the business of designing, making, and selling fashionable custom-made women's clothing. By that definition, there really is nothing couture about Joy's creations but since the term is so hard-to-define anyway we won't split hairs.

Nightclub fashion showcases seem especially popular in the summer when people just want to kick back and relax, and still take in a little runway action. Joanna W and I are usually at Ultra on Wednesdays for theirs where a rooftop patio provides a nice outdoor backdrop to some pretty cool design showcases which have included David Dixon and Lacoste. It's all fun and light and there's really no harm...however, New York Fashion Week can't come fast enough for me!

Ethical Style

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By Laura Connell · August 10, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

When flipping through my recent edition of American Vogue (August, the Age Issue...I know it's late...and did you know Gwyneth Paltrow is 37?) I came across a picture of Blake Lively in an interesting sort of patchwork looking camel/beige parka. Blake's face always makes me pause: I find Ms. Lively's look intriguing--blond and not bland. However, this time it was also the coat that made me take notice. With an industrial, Preloved feel to the piece and a headline which shouted Style Ethics, I had a feeling before I read the copy that the garment was fashioned from recycled materials. I am a huge fan of this emerging artform: besides being in many ways the "truest" form of sustainable fashion, using what is already there also employs elements of folk art and celebrates history by bringing the past back for us to enjoy.

The coat in question was designed by Christopher Raeburn and made out of battle dress jackets found in storage in the UK which still sported packing labels from the 1950s. Besides reusing materials, Raeburn also uses organic dyes and produces his line fairly and locally with a Remade in England label to prove his commitment. Raeburn was one of ten designers chosen to receive the NewGen Men sponsorship by the British Fashion Council and will showcase at London Fashion Week.

Last season at New York Fashion Week's Green Shows, another UK designer--London's Gary
Harvey
--opened the event with a show dubbed Recycled Icons. Harveys whimsical and daring womenswear creations included a dress constructed completely from Financial Times newspapers, another from skin cream packages, and others which deliberately drew on iconic and timeless imagery like military jackets, white t-shirts, trench coats, checked shirts, and denim jeans. While preserving the past and the environment, he's making social commentary on the way these items may seem disposable but never go out of style. They go away for a while but inevitably make their way back. It's true we could save a lot of landfill if instead of buying these styles anew we use what's already there. Many would argue, though, that styles come and go precisely so the manufacturing wheels can keep turning, and the fashion machine can keep making money.

An amazing set of designers including Toronto's Julia Grieve of Preloved , are bringing recycled fashion to the mainstream. (Preloved showcased its collection at Toronto Fashion Week last season). Like other forms of sustainable fashion which might employ bamboo, organic cotton, peace silk, and tencel; clothing lines which recycle old garments are also being seriously considered by the fashion industry as we see with Raeburn's inclusion in the pages of Vogue. The Green Shows eco-friendly series of runway showcases has been an official part of the New York Fashion Week roster for the past three seasons and continues to mushroom. With the various ways to embrace environmentalism in garment-making, be it recycling or producing sustainably...will the day come when the whole of Fashion Week is a "green show" and we lose the label because that's just the way clothes are made?

Katharine Hamnett: fashion pioneer

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By Laura Connell · August 5, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

English fashion designer, Katharine Hamnett, is responsible for a lot of firsts. She created the first slogan t-shirt in 1983 with the words "Choose Life" (taken from a Buddhism exhibition) emblazoned across the front in bold block caps.  Made famous by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in the Wham video which brought the band to international attention (Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go) and by Boy George at the height of Culture Club's success, the shirts were appropriated by the anti-abortion movement in an effort to pair the slogan with its own mission. Ms. Hamnett has gone on record as being pro-choice and claims to want to take back the slogan. She has done so quietly, in the same peaceful way she has moved through the rest of her career in fashion. After Chanel, she is probably the most influential woman in the business and one who seems to act out of a sincere wish to do good rather than from a need for personal recognition.

Katharine Hamnett invented distressed denim, stonewash denim, stretch denim, parachute silk, garment dyeing, military-inspired sportswear, leggings, lycra, and, most importantly, the environmental clothing movement.  A follower of Buddhist philosophy, Ms. Hamnett experienced an epiphany when faced with the Buddhist insistence on "right" livelihood: making a living without hurting anyone or anything. It was 1989 and Hamnett had enjoyed tremendous success, being labelled the most copied designer in the industry. A little research, however, revealed that her livelihood was indeed harming others and that the fashion industry was condoning what she calls "a living environmental nightmare". (Read here for more on the human and environmental benefits of buying organic cotton.)

From 1989 to 2003, Hamnett says she attempted to change the fashion industry from within. In 2003, she conceded what most of us now know for certain, the power to effect change lies with the consumer. What Hamnett finally realized after over a decade of fruitless efforts to get industry and politicians on board is that "industries must sell but consumers don't have to buy." She decided to appeal to consumers' sense of justice by raising awareness around issues in the clothing industry, especially the benefits of buying organic cotton. Organic cotton is cotton grown in soil that has been pesticide and chemical-free for at least three years. Conventional cotton uses one-quarter of the world's pesticides even though it only represents 10% of its agriculture. What's even worse than the environmental degradation created by the cotton industry is its human cost--the two often go hand in hand.

As consumer demand for cheaper and cheaper cotton goes up (think about the $5 t-shirt you congratulated yourself
for getting such a deal on), the treatment of cotton farmers and workers becomes more abysmal. 100 million conventional cotton farmers are living in deplorable conditions bordering on starvation. 20,000 people die every year from accidental pesticide poisoning, death by starvation is not uncommon, and 200,000 farmers commit suicide annually due to overwhelming debt incurred from purchasing pesticides. Another million per year suffer long-term pesticide poisoning. The numbers sound depressing but the bright side is that the situation can be reversed simply by switching to farming cotton organically. Farmers will benefit from a 40% reduction in costs and a 20% premium that they can use to improve the quality of their lives and those of their children.

As a clothing consumer, choosing organic cotton is probably the most powerful and empowering action you can take to change the lives of others, and even yourself as your choice prevents further harm to the Earth. As Hamnett says of her desire to increase demand for organic cotton: "By choosing organic cotton t-shirts you'll see how soft, stylish, and luxurious they are. More importantly, you'll help change thousands of lives for the better."

Gisele Bundchen: Style Icon

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By Laura Connell · August 4, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Gisele Bundchen is currently retracting statements she made to Harper's Bazaar about her belief that a worldwide law ought to be passed forcing new mothers to breastfeed their infants for at least six months. Before that, she was criticized for her claim that natural childbirth was painless for her. She used yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises to ease the process because she didn't want to be all "drugged up"and gave birth in the bathtub in her home. I can attest to the possibility of pain-free childbirth because my experience was similar. I believe it may have something to do with accepting rather than fighting discomfort and of course remaining drug-free and having lots of support in the form of a midwife or doula. However...that's not the reason for this post.

Gisele B has long been a style icon of mine and her big mouth is precisely part of the reason. I fell in love with her when a journalist asked if she was seeing an older businessman who was, well, no Tom Brady. Her response? "Please. Look at him and look at me." Gisele is not into false modesty. She doesn't apologize for her beauty or make herself small to please others.

Gisele is an athlete. Before being discovered at age 13, she was on her way to a career as a professional volleyball player. She remains active, participating in several extreme sports which she says help "keep her in the moment" and "get her out of her head". I can relate to this need for intense experiences, too. They make life worth living.

Gisele is a true natural beauty. When she appeared on the cover of Vogue ten years ago she (arguably) singlehandedly changed the standard of beauty. Of course, it's still not representative of most women--a beauty ideal never is. However, I believe Gisele represents a healthy embodiment of beauty. Pictures of Gisele when she's off duty reveal an unaffected athlete and bohemian. Little make-up, hair unkempt, half the time in track pants and runners. She is a real woman unobsessed with her appearance except when the job demands it. Her look off the catwalk is most often characterized by the pic above: chic scarf, blazer, well-fitted jeans, and boots with a modest heel. Comfortable, simple and sophisticated. That's why Gisele is my style icon.