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Fashion With Purpose

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

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.

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."

Toronto House of Vintage Summer

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By Laura Connell · July 27, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

The last time I wrote about House of Vintage was here for the launch of its new location at 1239 Queen West, a little further along the strip than its previous locale. It was December-- chilly outside but warmest ever in the new store thanks to all the open-hearted folks, including owner Dennis Adamidis who generously provided drinks and snacks to all his lovely guests and opened up his space for a fun evening of unpretentious socializing and vintage browsing.

Walking into a House of Vintage party is like walking into a giant hug. Within seconds you are embraced and chatted up by almost every person you encounter. It's a rare and beautiful thing in a city where revellers can sometimes seem a little shy or stand-offish. When you enter a House of Vintage party, you leave your inhibitions at the door.

Now that the sun is out, Dennis is at it again, this time with last Thursday's summer soiree which again dished out customer appreciation in the form of complimentary hors d'oeuvres and drinks served by the lovely and hospitable bartender (pictured here with Dennis). In the vintage trade for over 20 years, Dennis has amassed one of the finest selections in the city. If you are in the Parkdale area, or even if you're not, check it out; it's worth the trip.

More pics at For Those About To Shop's FB Page

French Lingerie Fashion Rendez-vous

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By Laura Connell · July 8, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I've never seen so many straight men at a fashion show in my life! They came out in droves last night for A French Rendez-Vous, a summer showcase featuring dozens of sultry looks from Lingerie Francaise, the French Federation that represents and promotes over 70 brands of lingerie and swimwear. The venue, Artscape Wychwood Barns (home to the 4th annual LEAF fundraiser covered here recently), filled up well before the 7 pm showtime largely due to the complimentary champagne that flowed freely at the bar. The lack of air conditioning--no, it wasn't broken; the usually airy venue just doesn't have any--provided a somewhat fitting, sweaty and HOT environment which rivalled the heat on stage. Host Glen Baxter described this show as the hottest of the season and of course a lingerie show in 40 degree temperatures is going to live up to that introduction.

The show ran about 45 minutes, a full half-hour longer than the typical runway showcase and it was a joy to behold. I never thought I would have so much fun watching beautiful women walk around in underwear, but I did. There was something playful and theatrical about the whole thing which incorporated song and dance elements from Cabaret and Moulin Rouge in keeping with the French/European theme. The models seemed a little more accessible than, say, those at Victoria's Secret, not because they were any less beautiful, but because it was clear they were having FUN. Perhaps the joke was on the audience as most of us wished we, too, could have had the luxury of stripping down to our underwear in those hard-to-bear temperatures.

Ainsley Kerr, local philanthropist and all-around lovely person, arrived dressed a propos in a gorgeous blue corset by Starkers, the underwear-as-outerwear label Gail McInnes (Magnet Creative) represents and which was last spotted on the runway at Fashion. Art. Toronto on the day of LUST. The F-list's Leesa Butler made an appearance as well as PR girl Courtney Corner who was seated at the end of the runway and snuck into the media pit to get some shots. The show, put on by Brill Communications, was a fantastic success luring what seemed like the entire Toronto Fashion/Media community out on a sweltering day through the promise of luxury lingerie and a real runway show during these summer months when fashion often takes a hiatus.

Check For Those About To Shop's FB Page for more photos from last night's show.

London Fashion Week Day 1

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By Laura Connell · February 20, 2010 · 0 Comments ·


After missing Paul Costelloe due to a delayed flight into Gatwick, the first show caught here at London Fashion Week was Body AMR which Vogue has called “one of the best kept secrets in fashion”. Held at Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden, one of many exquisite historic sites chosen to house the official catwalk shows, it was clear one of the benefits of Fashion Week in London is its history. Having come fresh off the heels of New York Fashion Week, the esthetic advantage of these architectural masterpieces as a backdrop to the art on the runway was evident.

 

That’s not a slight against New York which of course has its share of beautifully-designed buildings. It’s just that everything here in London is so, well, old and there’s just no replacement for that kind of history. Another interesting contrast with New York is that I have no idea who the celebrities are here. The paparazzi went nuts over several young blondes in the front row, whose identity escaped me. Josephine, a retail buyer for A La Mode, a boutique in Sloane Square, was kind enough to enlighten me: the strawberry blonde was a singer with local band Girls Aloud.

 

The haunting opening strains for the Body AMR show “A Vanguard” matched the eerie atmosphere of the Freemason’s House, which carries its own tale of intrigue. Aggressive string music accompanied the models militaristic strut down the unmarked runway…fitting since the tag in the press kit read: “The forward element of an advancing military tactical formation.” Lots of drape and halter styles with Grecian elements like rolled/twisted necklines dominated. Trend-watching contrasted with classic elements in the form of gauzy thigh-highs accented with gold embellishments which emulated the omnipresent boot style except these ended at the ankle, sometimes covering the top of the footwear. Three-quarter sleeves with gold epaulets adorned a mini-shift dress, and details such as tied knots silk-screened on rather than done with fabrication gave the impression of the jokey t-shirt with the tuxedo image painted on. Was the designer after the same kind of irony here? Was it a comment on the economy and lean times, eschewing the use of fabric and painting it on instead?

 


Skirts were short, short, short, and cut close to the body and breasts were barely covered by gauzy halters, making the show unabashedly and aggressively sexy. Ruffles were prominent whether in black tiered jersey or floaty chiffon and a black cropped feather jacket was a show stopper. A collarless three-quarter-length jacket was also on trend.

 

The militaristic music morphed into something more romantic to indicate the transition to evening looks: silk satin in winter white cinched at the smallest part of the waist with a narrow belt and complemented by a gradient train from light to dark grey. Floor-length gowns, feminine and flowing, kept their modern sex appeal with cut-out shoulders, not to mention the layer of grease on the models’ bodies. A long-sleeved ruffled gauzy mini-dress with diamante-encrusted bib shone.

***

Over at Somerset House, Fashion Week headquarters, designer Craig Lawrence showcased his collection on-screen at the Digital Space with a 5-minute looped film. Heavy on metallics, the showstopper was a look which appeared in Women’s Wear Daily’s preview of LFW: a silver metallic confection whose short skirt resembles tin foil put through a paper shredder with a captivating result.

 

The Estethica Exhibition at Somerset House featured an installation by emerging designers from the London
College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Each of the four designers has benefitted from the CSF’s business support programme which gives support to local entrepreneurs. Michelle Lowe-Holder is “inspired by the idea of creating treasures from trash”; Nyonyo & Yayra uses end of line fabrics to create “a quirky but beautiful aesthetic”; Partimi has collaborated with Greenpeace on an awareness-raising t-shirt line; and White Tent produces its edgy, laser-cut and eco-friendly womenswear in a family-run factory in Portugal.

NY Fashion Week: Recycled Icons

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By Laura Connell · February 14, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

London designer Gary Harvey opened The Green Shows at New York Fashion Week tonight with a runway presentation that was something of a landfil rescue mission. Constructing dresses wholly out of reused materials such as Financial Times newspapers, checkered laundry bags, skin cream packages, nylon baseball jackets, and army surplus, Harvey creates whimsical, dramatic and tactile pieces that may not be eminently wearable but do create a stir.

Called Recycled Icons with the tagline "Fashion With A Conscience", various symbolic pieces whose value has withstood the test of time were represented: denim jeans, checked shirts,  military jackets, trench coats, white t-shirts, and nylon baseball jackets are reincarnated here as they are season after season by countless designers in a less literal way.

Pioneering eco-designer Katharine Hamnett provided the 20 organic t-shirts bearing slogans like "Choose Life" and "Save the World" that came together in the White T-shirt Dress. Contrasting with the drama and boldness of the garments was the practical and utilitarian ethos behind them. Besides the newspaper dress, all looks were constructed using materials known to last and that often end up in landfill when they are seen to have outlived their "usefulness" even though they have decades of wear left in them.

Harvey was Creative Director at Levi Strauss for almost ten years. Of the Denim Dress constructed from 42 pairs of 501s, Harvey notes: "Jeans are often discarded for the next latest silhouette before the end of their 'useful' life. Of the Military Dress made from 28 army jackets: "Military clothing is designed to withstand heavy-duty combat and last for many years."

 

Designing Dreams

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By Laura Connell · February 9, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

In the 80s movie Pretty in Pink, Andie designed and sewed her own prom dress because she hadn't the means to buy a new one. It was unique and gorgeous and made her stand out like a diamond ring precisely because it was a one-of-a-kind designer piece.

A design competition is giving Grade 12 girls the same opportunity: to wear a gown that has been re-designed from a donated dress. Called the Passion for Fashion Competition, amateur designers stand to win $500 in two categories: Redesign by Sewing in which contestants create a new dress out of two old garments; and Creative Beading which involves hand painting, embroidering, appliqueing or beading an existing gown while making minimal alterations (or none at all).

Ballroom Blitz, the organization hosting the contest, will hold a juried fashion show at the Kozlov Centre in Barrie on April 10th to determine the winners. To address the particular need for larger-size gowns, extra points are awarded for gowns in sizes 16-20.

Founder Robin Hadfield started Ballroom Blitz four years ago after reading about a similar program in the States: "I picked up the phone and spoke to a few high school principals asking them if girls were missing their prom because of the cost of buying a dress. Each one told me they know three to five girls...75 to 125 girls were not going to prom because of money, and that's only the ones we knew about."

"My daughter and I wanted to see what we could do to help the girls at her school, so we called around to some designers and boutiques asking if they would put up flyers to get their customers to donate dresses...We then put out some press releases asking the public for gowns and it snowballed from there."

Grade 12 girls can get the gorgeous garments on a first come, first served basis on dates posted on the website. They are not required to provide proof of financial need. Robin reasons: "I think it's too harsh asking a 17-year-old girl to prove financial hardship. This is about building self-esteem. Asking to prove you have no money is not building anything but embarrassment."

Tia Addresses Dress Dilemma

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By Laura Connell · December 3, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

You hear about a fantastic website that sells designer duds at a fraction of the price. You get excited. You tell all your friends. You go on-line and find that gorgeous gown. You go to check out and get that deflated feeling that comes when you find ...they don't ship to Canada.

Tired of being titillated by fashion websites that cater exclusively to U.S. residents, Tia Star, above in the violet eyelet, decided to take the opportunity to launch Canada's first on-line dress store, carrying accessible lines from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and the U.S. cities that matter: NYC and LA.

The launch party, pulled off to perfection by Dana Shalit (in the patterned mini-shift), at the Show and Tell gallery on Queen West featured the musical stylings of Boris and Alvaro Castallanos who spun sounds and pounded bongos to keep the eclectic crowd moving.

The unseasonably rainy night didn't stop the fashionizers from filing in. After all, a girl will go far for a great deal on a good dress. With Tia Star's new site, now she doesn't have to.