Monday, November 10, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
A rags to riches tale of a county kid, determined to succeed in a new industry.
I grew up in the county, hailing from a small town in the middle of nowhere that required a dedicated “trip” in order to find the nearest mall. When I did go to purchase clothes I dove towards the nearest skate shop, avoiding and ridiculing anything in between. My understanding of fashion left something to be desired, which explains why I’m so surprised that today I’d rather wear a collared shirt with tie when my younger days dictated that a skateboard tee would suffice.
I grew up in the county, hailing from a small town in the middle of nowhere that required a dedicated “trip” in order to find the nearest mall. When I did go to purchase clothes I dove towards the nearest skate shop, avoiding and ridiculing anything in between. My understanding of fashion left something to be desired, which explains why I’m so surprised that today I’d rather wear a collared shirt with tie when my younger days dictated that a skateboard tee would suffice.
1. Buy cappuccinos at Starbucks and take it with you wherever you go.
2. Work at a retail store selling something. Start in the stockroom if you have to, just getting a job will give you inside information that schools can’t offer.
3. Look like you’ve always wanted to look. Before you were an outsider but now you’ll blend in.
4. Don’t be a brat. That doesn’t get you further in life and it won’t get you further in retail.
5. Have one foot in and one foot out at all times. Fashion is overwhelming so have space set aside to breathe.
Just remember boys and girls, if a hick from the county can do it, so can you!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It is true there are potential consequences of the recession we should consider. A friend of mine was recently laid off from her part-time retail job at Le Chateau of which she worked on commission, because her ‘productivity was low’, “They wanted me to be selling $1500 an hour!” She exclaimed to me. I started in surprise. How on earth could one person sell that much in one hour? Especially in the midst of a recession! It’s not like she was working for frikkin Chanel!
This proves there are a couple of consequences we should still consider: job loss, a weak job market upon graduating, and the possibility tuition could rise depending on the length of this economic uncertainty. We should remember the impact of this recession in our later years so that we can make better financial plans for the future (because recession is always going to be around).
However, the amount of fear we should have for this recession should be directly proportional to the amount we have to potentially lose. Since we are students, most of us do not own houses and therefore do not have to worry about the value of our homes going down. Furthermore, most of us do not yet own big businesses that could pull us into debt, nor do we have much (or even any) stake in the stock markets. Since we have less to worry about, we shouldn’t restrict our wardrobes if we find a great deal on something special!
Since consumers seem to be listening to the economists warnings not to spend, is it possible to get your shopping fix and still ride out the recession practically unscathed? The answer is sad for businesses, but great for consumers! In an article titled A Black Friday like no other: How the economy is changing Black Friday, Dan de Grandpre CEO of dealnews.com says, “Make no mistake: Thousands of jobs are at stake, and so many stores going out of business is bad over the long-term. But in the short term, these stores must liquidate their inventory. Consumers benefit from liquidation sales.” Now wait a second. Aren’t economists telling us to spend conservatively? Isn’t the whole notion of a recession that we need to cut down? Well some of these sales may be too good to give up! I say, shop smartly. If you need new clothes don’t forbid the shopaholic in you from prospering, just make sure you find the best markdowns!
Since people will not be splurging like they used to, high-end labels will be hit hard by the recession. The solution, accessories! Designers will be marketing their handbags much more because they are cheaper then their other products. People may still buy an expensive bag if they realize it will last a long time and will far surpass the outfit they wanted that was more expensive in the first place.
So what else are high-end labels and brands doing to stay afloat? Not surprisingly, slashing their prices like everyone else! “Look for overpriced brands like Ralph Lauren, Coach, and Gucci to be dramatically discounted… at Macy's, Saks, and their own retail outlets. Saks is running web coupons that apply to high-end brands, a rarity. Even Tiffany is pushing free shipping deals,” states Dan de Grandpre. Of course labels will always be around but it’s good to know you may now be able to get that amazing Gucci bag for a steal!
I have always been somewhat of a bargain hunter myself and usually head straight to clearance in my favourite stores first. It seems this may become an even more popular trend for the itching fashionista; only in this case it’s time to become a recessionista! Someone who embraces the recession not as a time to be stingy with their wardrobe, but to embrace the discounts (both designer and non-designer) that will likely be popping up out of nowhere. So what are you waiting for? Now just may be the best time to update your wardrobe!
Monday, November 03, 2008
Priscilla Levac shreds the hill and her new collection
These days there are so many different role models fluttering in and out of the magazines. Good ideals are hard to come by with scandals in the tabloids almost every day; why not look to Levac, a killer woman snowboarder for inspiration both on and off the hill. From Canada and sponsored by many notable companies, such as DC shoes, Spy and Monster; she only started riding when she was fourteen, now going strong on the snowboarding scene, she is one of the most adventurous up and coming women.
When ever she talks about going to a snowboarding contest she gets so stoked; it’s wonderful for Levac to have a job that she loves, as well, she’s just starting her own company. How could a girl from a town as small as Montebella Quebec have achieved so much? Well it’s all thanks to her mother who moved her out to British Columbia when she was younger. She had to learn English when she moved there because she was never taught it when she was in Quebec. This is a great accomplishment for a teenager spending most of her time on the hill but that time certainly paid off. She was named Snowboarding Magazine’s female rider of the year in 2005, won the US Open of Snowboarding in 2004 and Queen of the Hill that same year as well as got second in the Session at Vail, CO. Levac thinks events are fun, but she’d much prefer to head off into the backcountry with snowmobiles and a bunch of good friends than pin a contest bib on.
Daredevil Levac loves to go out into the back country and jumps off of cliffs with only a board strapped to her feet for fun, so starting her own under layer company must have been a snap. Her own company called Cilla started when she had a snowboarding accident and broke her fibula. As said in Pacsun’s Future Snowboarding on September 13th, 2007, Levac has always dreamt of creating her own company in the snowboarding industry and she “had the idea of first layers because most of them out there are pretty boring and not so functional.” Her contribution to women's snowboard fashion has been amazing so far; her functional fashion pieces include the June which is a fleece top with a waterproof band around the bum. Erin Comstock said on Cilla’s website that, “the waterproof band kept my bum warm all winter. I never ever got snow down my pants when I wore this top! It is the ultimate piece to snowboarding in!” The new collection will be coming out in ’09 but right now she has a few pieces in stores in North America and on her website: www.cilla.ca.
When she’s not designing her new under layer line, she’s busy jibbing rails for movies or contests. Most notably she was in Love/Hate by Kidsnow Productions as well as Ro Sham Bo by Misschief Films, in these she does more rails but she loves jumps a lot more. Being an amazing women snowboarder means that many younger girls look up to her, she even has one fan who she is very personal with named Emma. Just like the the pop stars, she has a fan base, and with her new company’s designs she should be a figurehead for young snowboarding girls everywhere. Levac brings a new sort of sexy to the stage, instead of flashy dance outfits, she sports a more subtle attractiveness. Modeling for her new clothing line she has a modelesque body and this can be seen even when she’s riding the hill in her snow clothes with the guys, sometimes even showing them up a little. Many riders such as Mikey Lablanc even compare her to Mark Frank Montoya with her easy going but sometimes competitive riding style, it’s easy to see why she’s coming out on top.
However, despite her fearless nature, she is also quite down to earth, loving soy lattes that she makes herself and oil painting to jazz on a rainy day. She loves to hike with one of her best friends: her dog. She is a model for fitness through her job as well as on her spare time, snowboarding is a rigorous sport and she more than does her share to keep up with some of the top male snowboarders her age. She is anyone and everyone, showing what anyone can succeed when they have a passion for something so great it drives them forward for the rest of their lives.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Have you ever wondered what it would be like running your own fashion business? I sat down with Candice Lashley, who runs Caro Imports with her friend and business partner, Roseanne Selci. Candice is truly fashion savvy. Born in Barbados Candice grew up on the island as well as in Germany, her mother’s native country. She has been around the globe and back and is very open to unique and exciting fashion ideas from all over. Candice currently resides in Toronto running the business. In her own words she describes their business, “Caro Imports is a new import and distribution company operating out of Toronto, ON, bringing the newest trends in fashion jewelry from around the world to customers across North America. Our mission is to source high-quality exotic and unique fashion accessories from international destinations and to distribute them to Canadian and US retailers.” Caro Imports carries a line called A Cuckoo Moment that is designed and sold in Germany.
Q: What products does your company carry? What are the materials used? Where are they sourced and made?
A: A Cuckoo Moment is a very large line. We carry everything from, bangles, bracelets, necklaces, watchbands, hair bands, hair slides, belts, clutch bags, purses (big and small), organizers, and ballerina flats. The products are all made from exotic leathers from ostrich leg leather, stingray leather, and python leather. The ostrich leather comes from South Africa, and the stingray leather comes from Thailand. All the products are great quality and are hand crafted throughout Europe. The python is handcrafted in Spain and the ostrich and stingray are handcrafted in Italy. There are a wide variety of colours. The stingray comes in 25 colours, the python comes in 8 and the ostrich comes in 12 different colours.
Q: What made you decide to get into this business?
A: I have always wanted to be involved in fashion; especially accessories. I went to a trade show in Germany and met the designer for A Cuckoo Moment. She needed a representative in North America. I loved and believed in the product. I find the most unique pieces come from around the globe.
Q: What obstacles do you face on a daily basis?
A: Finding the right people to buy our product, and are willing to take a chance on a new product. We are definitely learning as we go, and have realized, knowing the right people comes with time. You always have to be a step ahead in fashion; you have to know what people are looking for.
Q: Were there high start up costs?
A: The biggest cost was buying inventory. We run an on-line business, so we do not have the expenses of brick and mortar operation. We pay a very low fee for a hosting package on the net, and our friend designed the site, which is self maintained. We always buy inventory in large amounts to lower costs as well. We have attended a few exhibitions, which does add to your over all expenses.
Q: Speaking of exhibitions, you were recently at The Clothing Show, here in Toronto and also The Mode Accessories Show. How did you find showing your products to customers there?
A: It was a great experience for us. We learned a lot more about the Toronto market; however, we will not be exhibiting our products there again. You really need to know your customer, when you want to sell your product. I found our product was too high end for those particular exhibitions.
Q: Because your products are made from exotic leathers, are your customers apprehensive about buying the products?
A: At first, people can be a little taken back when they learn what the products are made of. It’s no different then purchasing a product made of cow leather, here in North America. Just how we here in North America eat cow, other countries eat other animals that we my not be accustomed to. No part of the animal goes to waste.
Q: Do you think Toronto is ready for your kind of fashion?
A: Yes! I think Toronto is a fashion forward city, and customers want something new and unique. I find that buyers in Canada though often want to see if products do well in the States first, before purchasing. The retail sector is taking a hit because of the economic financial situation, and it can be difficult at times to sell luxury items.
Q: A Cuckoo Moment has been doing well in Europe, especially Germany, where it originates. Has the product gained any international press?
A: Yes, A Cuckoo Moment has been featured in, In Style Germany several times, as well as Sue Magazine and has also appeared in many leather, textile and trade publications.
Q: What kind of marketing strategies have you been using?
A: Mostly direct marketing. We have been focusing on stores where we would like to see our product being sold, and approaching them. Because we are a mainly a wholesale operation, we do not do any general advertising. Buyers that we have met have given us such positive feedback and realize this is a special product. Its important to keep in mind the different seasons buyers are making their purchases as well. We have been learning this as we go.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who was hoping to pursue this type of career?
A: Definitely do a lot of research before you buy anything. Know as much about the product as you can, believe in it, and be proud of it. Know your customer and their wants and needs. Network, make your contacts….this is so important.
For more information on Caro Imports, A Cuckoo Moment, and the products sold, visit caroimports.com
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
For many in the room this is the 3rd day at L’Oreal fashion week and the third runway show for the day. The music begins and the first model takes her place, there is an amazing energy that fills the tented room we have been in and out of all week long.
As the music is pumping something noticeably different from the previous shows is happening, the models are interacting with one and other and look like they are enjoying themselves. This is a much different atmosphere for a runway than I have ever seen before. The stereotypical stick thin model walking down a couture runway show on Fashion Television we have all seen dozens of times. They usually look like they hate the world, death stare and all. So it was to a delightful surprise to see these young models having fun with what they do and being creative.
This was the first of a few shows at L’Oreal fashion week that you would witness models enjoying themselves, having fun and interacting on the runway with one and other.
Both fashion shows were very entertaining and had received a great response form the audience. It was nice to see these back to back designers have their models come out in unique pieces and interact, instead of seeing one model entering and one model exiting when they normally pass one and other completely ignoring that the other exists on that runway. Instead at these two shows the models high fived and blew a kiss. They had cute interactions that played off very well with what they were wearing and the feel of that particular runway show.
Four shows later it is now 8pm and everyone is waiting for the Andy The-Anh show to begin. The people who were once sitting on edge of there seats hoping to run and steal front row seats at previous day time shows are now sitting straight up in back row seats. This little white tent is now much fuller then earlier shows and everyone is waiting for the lights to dim and the show to begin.
The lights are now out and the crowd has been hushed by the excitement we all share in wondering what is coming next. To everyone’s surprise the sound of an electric violin starts filling the tent and there on the runway is a male violin player. The energy in the room immediately increases and everyone suddenly looks more alive, almost a second wind from the busy day everybody has had.
After being captivated by the brilliant lively electric violin, the show beings and models start strutting Andy The-Anh’s newest collection. After only mere moments an observation can easily be made, these models have been choreographed for this particular show. Three models walk out in there different colours of three similar dresses. One begins to walk then stops a third of the way, then the next and stops half way then the last walks the entire length of the runway. The first then walks the entire length while the other two pose and it continues until all three have made it back to the entrance way and are posing and then turn and walk off. It was a very creative way to show off three beautiful similar pieces and didn’t take away anything from the designers work. All the while this is happening; the electric violin is playing well known songs in the background. It was a show full of energy that made impressions on everyone in the audience. After a long day of runway shows on every hour, it was a phenomenal way to end the night, with a show that captured everyone’s attention not only by the clothing but by the music, energy and the models.
It isn’t until 8pm Thursday evening that a designer decided to flare up there runway show. The house is packed and why wouldn’t it be the gsus sindustries show is about to begin. Famous faces sit front row in the crowd and everyone is piling in trying to get a spot with some view of the show. The show begins with a break dancer and loud music, know one expected anything less. This particular runway show is very well known for there unique creative pieces and energy filled shows. The model/break dancer has successfully warmed the audience up for the beginning of the show; we are all sitting on the edges of our seats waiting for what comes next. The models are very interactive, they’re sexual with one and other two even passionately made out while walking by one and other on the runway. Shirts a being pulled up to reveal rock hard six packs and girls clapping there hands and chasing after male models. But when do you say enough is enough. These models are at this point taking away from what we are all really hear to see which is the designers newest line of clothing and accessories. Are you going to remember what outfit the models had on or remember the two models making out in the middle of the runway? After the show it is obvious that everyone shares the same feelings, as much fun as it was to watch it was too much. The models stole from what fashion week is all about, clothing.
Designers did a very good job this year at L’Oreal’s 2008 fashion week in Nathan Phillips Square. The controversy remains though, everyone wants there show to make a lasting impressions on the media and crowd, every designer wants to be talked about. At these shows they want to entertain the audience which is creative and when done correctly and designers have taken the time to not over do it and choreograph there shows with there models, it’s a very nice touch but they are taking shows to the next level. Some are getting carried away and taking away from the runway in a way. Is the fashion industry ready to hand in the traditional runway shows for these creative shows and when is enough, enough.
Women have been fighting with body image since the beginning. Does clothing on a stick thin model really make you want to buy the clothes? Or are designers the ones to blame for letting their designs be displayed by extremely skinny women.
So much debate has gone into the issues about skinny models, and many people think that runway shows should have average women walking. On the other hand designers are still making clothing that can only fit a certain amount of women. They need six-foot-tall models to slip into size zero clothing samples. Some of the world’s most famous and well known models are all very thin in size. The world’s skinniest model, Olga Sherer has walked 72 shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Some designers create beautiful clothing because they love to, and it’s their passion but they also want to sell their clothing to you. The media has portrayed beautiful and skinny women to be the image all women should want, and it’s not just designers, but magazines run ads with beautiful thin models to try to get you to sell the clothing or product.
Designers are not the only ones selling small sizes but retailer giants like Banana Republic are already selling clothing smaller then 0. This new size they are advertising is 00. Martin Hickman from independent.ie reports that Nicole Miller, also a popular retailer is planning on introducing “sub-zero”. “It said customers were complaining they had to take in the existing size 0 clothes.” In Nicole Millers defense, Alison Hodge a spokesperson for the brand reported that "We've introduced this new size for naturally petite women, not for models who have dieted themselves down to a dangerously low height-to-weight ratio." Are all these small women on diets from watching the runway shows? "Fashion is a mirror and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk," said regional official Concha Guerra.
With so many health problems on the runways, changes are happening. A quick poll was done on the CNN website. The question was: “Do you agree that underweight models should be banned from fashion shows?” The results 80% said yes, and 20% said no.
A big change has happen in Madrid, Spain. Madrid was the first in the world to ban on overly skinny models at a top-level fashion show. It has caused anger between modeling agencies and raised restrictions in other areas. Madrid's fashion week has turned down underweight girls after information went out those women were looking to copy their skinny models bodies and developing eating disorders. CNN also reported that the “Madrid's regional government, which sponsors the show and imposed restrictions, said it did not blame designers and models for anorexia. It said the fashion industry had a responsibility to portray healthy body images.”
With that said there are some designers and retailers that sell to plus size women, but they are not couture clothing. Addition Elle, Pennington’s and even Sears are all catering to women that are happy with their bodies and don’t want to change a thing. They all sell fashion forward clothing.
Fashion magazines like Lou Lou provide women with fashion ideas and where to buy the best fashion. They also have pages for the larger women and where the best styles can be found. Glamour magazine has also started featuring more plus-size models. USA Today reports, Glamour's Leive believes the media has a powerful influence on women's body images and a responsibility to represent women of all sizes. "We do not run photos of anybody in the magazine who we believe to be at an unhealthy weight. We frequently feature women of all different sizes. We all know that you can look fabulous in clothes without being a size 2."
Television is also changing. After the popular TV show America’s Next Top Model hosted by famous model Tyra Banks aired, the public got to see what goes on at fashion shows, model shoots, and the model lifestyle. The show carried a few plus-size models that tried to make it to the top, but never made it close, until last season’s 2007’s winner Whitney, a student from Atlantic Beach, Florida became America’s Next Top Model, and the first ever plus-size model to win.
Even with so many problems with thin models, designers, magazines, and ads are still using them, but the transition is happening, and society is become more aware of the issues. People want a change, but it is up to society to change the ways. We should be catering to ever women out there. After all women come in all shapes and sizes!
Enrolment is up at Fashion schools, but is pop culture fuelling the trend?
What do Project Runway, The Hills, The Fashionista Diaries, and The Devil Wears Prada all have in common? They have all popularized the fashion industry and sent fashion school enrolments to skyrocket. Those educated in fashion used to be few and far between, but these days, young fashionistas are causing an uproar, forcing fashion schools to create more spots to fill this new found desire for fashion education. Project Runway is filmed at Parsons The New School for Design in
The aforementioned shows have brought a large amount of attention to the industry, but do these shows and movies provide us with an accurate representation of the industry? The Hills follows a young woman that, in the span of two years, went from being a fashion magazine intern to appearing on the cover of that very magazine and showing her own line at LA Fashion Week. Project Runway launches a virtually unknown designer’s career by awarding the winner $100,000 to design their own line, a show at New York Fashion Week, and a spread in Elle Magazine. Talk to any new designer and they will surely tell you that these situations are not the norm. Many designers, in spite of being hugely talented, may never show at Fashion Week, and may never have their designs appear in a major magazine – and not for the lack of trying. So, are these shows setting up our young fashion enthusiasts for disappointment? Maybe not. If you watch The Fashionista Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada you may get a fairer representation of the industry. The Fashionista Diaries featured seven young interns that experienced the ups and downs of working in the industry – from losing a job to clashing opinions, low pay, and a rude and disrespectful boss. At the end of it all, only a couple of the fashionistas ended up with a paying job while the rest were left in the unemployment line. Similarly, The Devil Wears Prada showed viewers the trials and tribulations of the sometimes cutthroat fashion industry.
Celebrity designers have also popularized the industry and perhaps added fuel to the fire. Paris Hilton, Heidi Montag, J.Lo, P. Diddy, and even Eminem have their own fashion lines, making it seem like an easy task. They’ve attained fame and fortune, so with little or no fashion training or technical design skills these celebrities have decided to start their own fashion line? Yes, it sounds crazy and some fail, some succeed, but the cultural effects are lasting – young celebrity fans everywhere are convinced they can follow in the fabulous footsteps of their favourite star.
Although enrolment is up in fashion programs, jobs in fashion design, according to the US Department of Labour Bureau’s 2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook, are going to slowly grow by only 5% until 2016. This is in large due to the fact that there is very little turnover and few new jobs are being created in the industry. Even worse, there is little or no job growth expected for buyers and purchasing managers until 2016. So why the high enrolment numbers? Well we can’t forget that there are so many fashion jobs outside of fashion design and buying. There are careers in fashion PR, fashion sales, fashion journalism, styling, wholesale, editorial, art direction, and retail – most of which are expected to grow in number in the coming years.
So pop culture may have caused more students to enrol in fashion programs or it may have simply reminded them of their already existing interest in fashion, but regardless of the cause, we can’t ignore the fact that students are signing up for fashion programs en masse. The positive side to fashion becoming a mainstream industry is that this once ‘dream career’ has made students see that fashion is an attainable sector to work in. Time will tell if the fashion industry’s over exposure in books, television, and movies is a good thing. In the meantime, it has encouraged creativity, eagerness, and has added a great sense of variety to the industry, and a little competition never hurt anyone!
Fur: it has a bad wrap. There are organizations of people protesting, throwing red paint and having a stigma for anyone who decides to wear pretty pelts. It was one of North America’s first traded products and helped the establishment of our nation as a trading partner to the rest of the world. It is the ultimate eco-friendly item and it keeps us extremely warm in those Canadian winters; arguably more so then any other material. Which begs the question: is it really all that horrendous?
Fur pelts have been around for hundreds of years and are still around today. Fashion houses such as Dior, Jean Paul Gautier, Dries Van Noten and Ralph Lauren are the tail end of names that use fur in their collection. The Hudson’s Bay Company was one of the first established businesses in North America. With Canada’s lush forests, large terrain and immense wildlife we are the perfect type of nation to exhibit acts of agricultural manufacturing. In fact, in the Canadian government, ranch-raised fur pelts are designated as a crop under the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act – therefore, the government as a whole still sees fur production as a means of ethical practice. We use animals for various things such as the steak on your plate, the wool sweater in your wardrobe, and the glue in your toolbox; so is it unethical to use the animal to its’ full extent? True, there are many acts of cruelty within the animal product industry, such as African tradesmen poaching elephants solely for their ivory tusks; or simply targeting endangered species. Acts such as these are difficult to ethically condone, however should be looked at in a different light than the fur trade industry.
With all the attention on the environment in the last decade, it is our daily struggle to adapt to eco-friendly products and resources, for they are renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and non-toxic. As far as apparel and fashion goes, there are designers and vendors who are trying to be animal cruelty-free. While doing so, they are creating man-made products that are harsh to our environment, our landfills and essentially putting trash in our backyards. Being against fur is looking out for different species, but is it worth our own demise?
Dating back to the Metis era, fur was a high commodity on the market because of its’ warmth in harsh northern winters – and still is today. As well as being a heat insulator, fur is looked at as the ultimate in luxury and has always been an integral part of fashion. With fur’s distant cousin (twice-removed): faux fur – it is known that it won’t last as long as the real family gem – real fur. Clothing is considered as your first method of communication; in the sense that it is the first thing others see to interpret what you could be like. The way in which people dress, weather known to them or not, says something about your personality. Would the Queen look as regal; would Jackie O’ look as polished; would Marilyn look as seductive; and would Courtney Love look as trashy?
Ultimately, people should be able to choose what is ethical for them. There are different sets of morals and beliefs from person to person, so why shouldn’t an individual be able to choose if fur is right for them? There tends to be hypocrisy in this subject to begin with. After all, topics such as these, which separate numerous peoples’ opinions, ironically tend to be shaded grey. Weather or not you look at fur as an agricultural product, an organic material, or just want something chic to keep you warm, there shouldn’t be a penalty for sporting your own sentiment
Angela Martin is a freelance photographer based out of Toronto, specializing in fashion and beauty photography. She has completed a Bachelor of Arts honors degree in media studies for University of Guelph as well as a diploma in creative photography. Her career has kicked off after her amazing experience as an intern in the art department of FASHION magazine (http:// fashionmagazine.com) On top of her already successful independent work, she also been shooting main spreads for Fashion Weekly Magazine. (http://www.fashweekly.com) Outside her busy schedule she loves going to see live music, theatre, reading a good book and traveling.
When purchasing the latest trends how often do consumers consider the environment? Lately the trend of going-green is almost as hot as the color red found everywhere from the runways to cosmetics, to evening wear.
First, let’s decide how fashion is becoming environmental and some issues that have many people concerned that the products they are purchasing are in fact not eco.
Many companies and manufacturers are switching to organically grown cotton for their products. This is cotton that is grown using no pesticides and is not genetically modified. This is extremely excellent for the environment because it reduces the amount of pollution and carcinogens which conventionally grown cotton produces and it is less harmful to the farmers. This method of producing cotton is creating a giant hype about the product produced, and has a very large number of supporters that continues to grow.
Unfortunately the amount of organic cotton being grown as compared to conventionally grown cotton is very small, as it takes much longer to grow, and requires completely cleaned out crops for the products to actually be considered organic.
Don’t be fooled; when purchasing organic products it is important to become educated. Any company can label their clothes as being organic or eco-friendly because the plants are grown naturally, however the cultivation process of manufacturing the plant into fibers and eventually into clothing or merchandise can be the part of the process that is most harmful to the environment. It is important to support companies that take the environment into complete consideration and do everything they can to protect it. It is also important to consider where these products are coming from. The more locally made the product is, the less it had to travel to get to you. In other words how large of a carbon footprint has the product created in the world? This is often something people don’t consider when buying eco products, and this is one of the largest concerns and problems, with prices of oil continuously rising and the pollution it creates it is becoming more and more important to support companies that are local.
Another fiber that is becoming extremely popular in fashion is bamboo. Why is the fashion industry using bamboo? It is an extremely easily renewable resource that grows independently without the use of pesticides and fertilizers, it is part of the grass family and renews it self much faster than any other natural plant usable for fiber production. Also the admirable qualities are endless when bamboo is used in clothing, it has great wicking capabilities, meaning it absorbs moisture from the skin keeping you cooler, it’s wrinkle resistant, it’s soft and very comfortable, it’s breathable, it’s comparable to silk but available at much lower prices and it’s machine washable and dryable which makes it a much more desirable purchase. Bamboo also has natural anti-bacterial characteristics and is actually bio-degradable. Are we right to consider bamboo an environmentally friendly material? Most people will say yes because of the renewability and bio-degradability but actually there’s another side to the story.
Since bamboo is becoming so popular companies in different countries have been clearing out areas to grow more of the grassy plant, this in itself is not environmentally friendly. When natural habitats are destroyed for the benefit of large companies we may want to think twice about our purchases. Not only are areas being taken over for production of bamboo but the cultivation process is very detrimental to the environment. Bamboo pulp is typically very tough and to make the process of breaking this down to extract the fibers for yarn and fabric production requires very heavily toxic chemicals, which are extremely harmful to workers and the environment. There is a natural way of breaking down bamboo pulp but it is very labor-intensive and costly, and many companies are not using this method.
It is very important to educate yourself before making purchasing decisions; many companies are claiming to be eco but in fact are not entirely.
Some alternatives to buying organic products and still remaining environmentally friendly include;
Thrift Shopping: Recycling past trends and items is excellent for the environment, it not only keeps these items out of landfills but it allows for shopping adventures that allow you to find one of a kind items that you won’t see anywhere else. Some may find thrift shopping difficult and uninteresting, but with the proper research on what is current in fashion, a vintage piece could make a huge statement. Most of the time all these dated items need is some creativity, and accessorizing. Not to mention the prices are amazing!
Clothing Swaps: Clothing swaps are another way of keeping clothing out of the landfills and being environmental. Invite over all your fashionable friends and have them bring along a bunch of their unwanted clothing, accessories and handbags, swap some unwanted pieces with a friend and watch your wardrobe change and grow for free! What about the clothing that isn’t wanted by any of your friends? Donate them to a chosen charity or used clothing store.
Donate to Local Shelters: There are always people who are in need of something. Never throw out an old t-shirt or pair of jeans. There are too many people in our community who are in need of clothing to keep them warm and clothed. Regardless of whether an item is out of fashion or no longer a current trend, there are people out there who are more concerned with having these possessions for warmth and the ability to change their clothes everyday. This is a good deed socially and also environmentally.
There are many ways in which fashion is changing for the better; its just knowing what companies are making the best effort and which companies are only making half the effort. If you are putting in the effort to become more eco when it comes to fashion, make sure the entire process of the merchandise is considering the environment.
I had the chance to interview Ndeur in his own work environment: his living room!!
Ndeur: My name… so it’s a little story: When I did my first exhibition in Paris, people always told me that I have to sign my canvas, because I didn’t at this time; and at the same time, the term “underground” was used to much for me (I HATE this word) so the idea was to do a big signature in the middle of the canvas with this term. So in the middle I write “UNDERGROUND” and after it became “NDEUR” which is an anagram of under.
K: How did you find this idea to draw on hills?
N: In fact it’s not really my idea. When I came here in Toronto, I was looking for a job so I went in several store in the [Kensington] market and areas where I can find artsy shops and stuff like that. So I found the store named The Rage in the market and the owner of the store offer me to paint some shoes for her because she had like tons of vintage shoes in the back of the store so I told her yes. We tried to do the first ten pairs and we sold those in like seven days so we see with Sarah [Campbell, the store owner] that it was a really good idea and did another ten pairs that sold really fast … and that was the beginning!
K: Why Toronto?
N: The idea was to come in Canada, I mean… first in a country that speak English. We have not so much choice: it was UK or United States or Canada or maybe Australia but … I don’t know. I just enjoy Canada because I was came here when I was younger and I really enjoyed the country. And Toronto because it’s the closest city to the United States; it’s like in the shadow of New York.
K: Where does Ndeur find his inspiration?
N: I really try to influence myself with everything I can see and obviously in fashion. Most of the time I’m really curious and I love the art in general, especially graphic design, so I try to always see what’s happening in fashion, graphic design and music also. I try to mix everything to try to be in the “moment” of fashion but still give my own interpretation of fashion and what’s happening
K: You collaborated with a French artist, Duponchel, for your exhibition held at Omy Gallery last month; can you explain to our readers the themes and ambitions of your work?
N: So, first we had with my friend Elie [Duponchel] the aspiration of doing beautiful objects I mean … try to do beautiful objects [laughs]. The idea was to not necessarily do art but more craft work so it was like… to use our skills and try to do objects with this influence I learned for this last past years with patterns etc… There is a lot of pattern in fashion right now (more and more) especially since last year because of the revival of the ‘90s (patterns with tigers and stuff like that) so we tried to mix these two ideas: do beautiful objects with patterns in a really craft way with the challenge of working only with wood and try to work around fashion and around decoration.
K: Do you have any other collaboration in perspective?
N: Yes! I have a collaboration with Manu Custom [http://www.art-force-one.com] who is also very famous custom artist in France and in USA. We are in contact since one month right now and we have the ambition to first do two pairs [of shoes]: one pair of Dunk (Nike) and one pair of Doc Martens.
We want to try to do these two pairs together to give them to Wad Magazine who is a really famous art magazine in France to have the “buzz” and maybe in the future to do a show in Paris.
K: I’m going to ask you now 8 quick questions. Are you ready?
K: Jazz or Rock n’ Roll?
K: Left or right?
N: Uh … right. [laughs]
K: Line or Curve?
K: Tea or Coffee?
N: COFFEE! [laughs]
K: Steven Spielberg or George Lucas?
N: “Oouh”… I would say Lucas!
K: Clown or juggler?
N: … Juggler!
K: Asia or Africa?
N: Hum… Africa.
K: You are starving and you have three restaurants in front of you: a Mexican, a Thai and a fast food restaurant. Which one would you pick?
N: [laughs] THAI!!! With Chicken!
K: More seriously, what are your future projects?
N: So the two future projects apart doing shoes of course for several shops (one in Belgium and one in Turkey) are to do pillows [actually big cushions] for a company in Switzerland [http://kolorys.blogspot.com] who do pillow with young graphic designers. And another one to do bed for dogs!! [laughs]
K: More t-shirts?
N: Not right now! I don’t have anymore t-shirt lines in perspective.
K: Bonus “Would You Rather” question:
Would you rather have your hair made of salad or having to listen to a Christina Aguilera song every 10 minutes?
N: [laughs] I DEFINITELY prefer the hair made of salad!!!
Find out more about Ndeur:
The historical evaluation of a fashionable symbol
We know it as one of the most easily recognizable symbols in the history of the world; a circularly encompassed vertical line that is separated into three branches toward its base. It is a symbol of harmony, of reconciliation and of Cultural Revolution: It is a peace sign.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the symbol is now a prominent motif in popular fashion. Making a revival since its initial North American breakthrough during the 1960’s, the peace sign is best known as an emblem of a socio-cultural transformation. During this decade, the image was used as a badge of protest for a generation of anti-war activists. Fashion became a medium of personal expression and the peace sign was a prevalent embellishment. Although it was featured on the apparel and accessories of the time, the image was first and foremost an indicator of the counter-cultural revolution. More than 40 years later, the symbol is still recognized as such, however, it has since undergone a shift in its application. Rather than being worn as a banner for change, it is printed on scarves, hung off of bracelets and studded on the behind of jeans as a fashion trend. This re-appropriation marks one of several throughout the history of the peace sign; however, it is seemingly the first instance where politics have been removed.
According to the book A Biography of a Symbol written by Ken Kolsbun in 2008, the peace sign was originally designed in London, just after the Second World War as an image to protest nuclear warfare. The symbol itself is an artistic interpretation of letters from the semaphore alphabet; the inverted “V” to represent the letter “N” and the vertical line to represent the letter “D” (Nuclear Disarmament). Both of these letters are surrounded by a circle to represent the globe. Its history is entrenched with contestation, struggle and conflict; so what does this mean for the wearers of these jewel-studded jeans? Does the contemporary fashion industry have a responsibility to acknowledge this history? Or has the symbol become an image of pop-culture wherein the power of its meaning diminishes over time as a result of over-saturation?
Katherine Westcott’s article for the BBC News in March 2008 proclaims that “the real power of the sign [...] is the reaction it provokes – both from fans and from detractors.” At a point in the history of its use, the symbol met strong resistance by social critics who believed that it represented communism and/or anti-religious movements. For these reasons, the symbol was prevented from re-creation in mass-fashion, and as a consequence of fears and allegations, the peace sign befell a powerful reputation. Its use in today’s apparel provokes the question of whether the contemporary fashion industry’s use of the symbol (as an aesthetic motif) has eradicated its power, or has the industry simply exposed that the peace sign is no longer as socially and politically esteemed as it once was?
Conversely, Westcott also exclaims that the symbol “is in danger of becoming, to many people, a retro [...] item” and that its modern use has deviated from its original purpose. With this being said, the fashion industry can perhaps be regarded as a social platform and accredited with reviving the peace sign and re-arousing communal interest. The re-production of the symbol for a mass audience places it once again in the domain of public awareness. Nevertheless, does lack of a negative counter-reaction conclusively indicate that the mark is simply a fleeting, fashionable fad rather than a socio-political message of hope and change?
Regardless of its longevity, and as A Biography of a Symbol goes on to explain, the peace sign was never registered as a trademark by the CDN (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) after its initial adaptation in the 1950’s. As a result, the symbol is technically open to several uses because as Westcott’s article indicates, “a symbol of freedom is free for all.” Therefore in spite of the current fashion industry’s fleeting visual interest in the sign, its application will continue to contribute to the ever-changing history of such an extraordinarily rich symbol.
Is the integrity of fashion at stake?
On the lips of just about every fashion-devoted Torontonian during L’Oreal Fashion Week was the drunken speech given by Robin Kay, head of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Kay, under the influence of one too many cocktails, floundered her way through a speech thanking sponsors and guests prior to the Mango show. The fashion industry was mortified, and Kay apologized for her behaviour, claiming that she was exhausted. David Graham of The Toronto Star reported that Kay went on to say that she hoped her speech would be ignored, and that the clothing would take their place centre stage. Despite her less than stellar performance, Kay was absolutely right. Ideally, Fashion Week should focus solely on the clothing and not on the mishaps of models, designers and fashionistas. This time around though, it was not about the clothing-it was about Robin Kay and her drunken shenanigans.
Taking a look at the fashion flip side, it is important for any person in the public eye (celebrity or not) to uphold a certain high standard. In Robin Kay’s case, the ideal standard would be to act as the professional voice of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Not every woman in fashion can be as dignified and poised as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel once was, but some effort should be put into being at the very least coherent. Barbara Atkin, vice-president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, cleverly compared Kay’s behaviour to wearing a bad accessory with a beautiful outfit. It’s like Robin Kay kicked off fashion week wearing a couture gown with socks and sandals. Hideously embarrassing! You could be the most talented person in fashion, but one small faux pas and your reputation is tarnished.
Sadly, a tarnished reputation is exactly what everyone lives to read about. Society has become scandal hungry, with a penchant for a quick fix. Tabloid media is taking over to the point where no one really wants to hear “real” news. We are all dying to read about Donatella Versace and her speculated one-too-many Botox injections, as well as Sarah Palin and her recent $150,000 shopping spree. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that the media would blow Robin Kay’s two minute speech into epic proportions. If that is what people want to read, then that is exactly what the media is going to churn out. Scandal and sensationalism are what seems to sell these days, even more so than in previous years. This can be attributed in part to tabloid websites like Perez Hilton and the over-abundance of magazines that mimic the look and subject-matter of US Weekly. Tabloid culture peaks our interest and fuels our obsession with celebrities. It also succeeds in bringing those in the public eye down to a more human level. For example, one can look at Kate Moss’ cocaine scandal with empathy and say, “girlfriend has some problems, but at least she’s human and makes mistakes!” The same can be said about Robin Kay. Everyone has their fabulously sloppy nights once in awhile.
In our tabloid culture, when scandal and fashion collide, a little bit of artistic integrity is lost. The garments that a designer has a created or an individual’s contribution to fashion week should not be obscured by their vices or those of anyone else. Otherwise, the private life of the individual becomes the sole focus, rather than the clothing. This goes hand in hand with celebrities becoming fashion designers. Celebrities are the talk of the town; therefore they feel that they can delve into any realm that sparks their interest. No longer is it about the art of designing clothes, it becomes about the individual behind the clothing as a celebrity brand name. For example, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have two fashion labels, Elizabeth and James and The Row. Does their talent as designers thrust their clothing into the spotlight, or their status as celebrities? It seems as though we want our celebrities to become fashion designers and our fashion designers to become celebrities, if only to watch them fail. Karl Lagerfeld is such an alluring and interesting character, it doesn’t even matter that he also happens to design clothing. That may be a scandalous statement to the devotee of high-fashion, but hey, everyone loves a good scandal!
When the Gap introduced its Product (RED) line in January 2006 Americans went insane. The reason why the Product (RED) campaign was an immediate success is because of a major celebrity endorsement from humanitarian Bono. He was not only the front man for the alternative rock group U2, but also the front man for this project. Secondly, why it gathered a lot of hype is because in exchange for buying a Product (RED) item, a percentage of the sales will go towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing support for a cause. I show interest in many charities. However, consumers should know that not all “charities” are legit.
An additional reason why the campaign became a success is from a little help of the Queen of daytime, Oprah Winfrey. When Bono and Oprah joined forces after the launch of Product (RED) people everywhere began grabbing items that had the (RED) symbol on it, myself included. Celebrities have a huge impact on our buying decisions. It becomes no different when a charity or certain cause is involved. Consumers want to feel like they are doing something great, doing something that they know will be helping a person in need. When this campaign took off Americans believed it was essential to buy a t-shirt or buy a beaded bracelet that was made of African cotton, with the idea that shopping would save the world. They felt the need to do so because of the constant message Bono and Oprah were sending out. Oprah followed Bono on his many humanitarian trips, consequently influencing the consumer.
Consumers should be a little suspicious of this campaign because it has collaborated with the Gap, which in the past few years has been under a microscope. Of course there are other retailers that have partnered with (RED), such as, Apple, Microsoft and Converse but the Gap is the one company that has received a lot of criticism. This is because it was handed many lawsuits from workers in
A different reason why the Product (RED) could be seen as suspicious is because it has enlisted a number of celebrities to model their attire, celebrities such as, Christy Turlington, Dakota Fanning, and Chris Rock. Society knows that sometimes when a celebrity is involved it is to raise their status, not the cause. However there are some celebrities that do good, such as, Bono, Angelina and Brad, Claudia Schiffer, Don Cheadle, Oprah Winfrey, just to name a few. When Bono made his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show I immediately thought, gosh, not another celebrity endorsement. The interview shows the pair shopping at the different retailers and “saving the world”. I thought to myself, the companies must be profiting from this in a huge way, all the proceeds could not have gone to
Entirely, Product (RED) is really a great campaign. It helps women and children in need of AIDS treatment and the civilians of
Drugs and alcohol are nothing new in the fashion industry; however, it is getting way out of hand. From Calvin Klein’s rehab stint in 1988 to Marc Jacob’s own in 2007, this problem has not slowed down, but sped up. Back in the 1950’s, a models diet consisted solely of cigarettes and black coffee. Today their diet consists of cocaine, marijuana, heroin – even crack – all washed down with champagne. Dr. Jaynee Cadrez of Cirque Lodge, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Sundance, Utah, explains that cocaine is used everywhere in the fashion industry. “Cocaine abuse is everywhere from the glamorous catwalk to the exotic photo shoots” she says. Yet, she claims it is the worst in models. One of the side effects of cocaine use is the repression of appetite. Models see this harmful side-effect as a benefit. On the runway, models look on top of the world; confident, self-assured, sexy. But behind the stage this Fashion Week, models look nervous, unsure of themselves and shaky. Cocaine helps the models control self-doubt and boost their self-esteem.
Even the designers know the models need a boost from drugs and alcohol. In an untitled article, a man called John Scott retells a time when he helped his wife put on a show. Helping lug around heavy boxes, Scott realized what he was carrying. He was helping to bring in cases and cases of Gevrey Chambertin backstage. When Scott commented on the expensive taste the guests must have, his wife responded by saying “Oh, these aren’t for the guests, they’re for the models. We can’t send them down the runway sober.”
Models are not the only users in this industry. Guests who attended this Fashion Week were encouraged to take a seat at a luxurious bar, sip cocktails and relish in the fabulous event. However, one attendee took advantage of that bar. In fact more than just an attendee, she is the President of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Ms. Robin Kay was to give an opening speech Monday, October 20th, just before the Mango show started. Before she gave the speech she admitted to an unnamed volunteer (to protect his career, of course) that she felt “way too drunk to do this!” He gave her words of encouragement as she walked in front of the packed runway room. Kay proceeded to give a horrendous speech; forgetting names, losing her place on her cue cards, and slurring many, many words. It grew so embarrassing, that a member of Mango – obviously outraged – stormed over to Kay and pulled her off the runway. She was not seen again until early evening the next day, staggering around. The rest of the week she was seen stumbling about, claiming that she “created Fashion Week.” To sum up the extent of her sloppy and odd behaviour, she was dubbed “Miss Crazy” by the volunteers in the runway room.
On the Wednesday of that week, Evan Biddell hosted a party in celebration of his Spring 2009 collection. As he is sponsored by vodka companies and Peroni – an Italian beer – there was free alcohol everywhere. Not one person did not have some sort of alcoholic beverage in their hand. Biddell himself was seen chugging from a 40 oz. bottle of vodka. “I’m not that wasted...okay maaaaybe I am” he slurred to me as I told him to slow it down a bit. Guests were shouting over the music at one another, spilling their drinks on each other as they talked. Some girls made eight trips to the washrooms in groups, coming out laughing and suspiciously more energetic than when they entered. There were many cases of Painted Turtle wine in the back room, and in only a couple hours, it was announced they had run out of their supply.
By the end of the week, everyone was completely run down. However, everyone who contributed to the spectacular events were dying to party. “I need a drink – make that 10 – after today’s work” said one volunteer. “I’m over this, let’s go out and get f***ed up” another shouted – in the morning.
It seems there is no cure for the epidemic of drugs and alcohol in this industry. Some claim the problem is becoming minimal as famous models like Kate Moss are taking the high road (no pun intended), and checking themselves in treatment centres. Yet, many of them fall off the wagon as soon as they go back to word. “It’s either an eating disorder or drugs, and I’m not one for needles” an unnamed 16 year old model explained as she talked about her struggle to stay thin. Another model explained that it only seems like the problem is going away because it is well hidden. Models are shooting heroin in between their toes and under their fingernails so the scares from the needles will not be seen.
It seems all that can be done is to promote a healthier body image among models, as America’s Next Top Model’s first plus-sized model, Whitney Thompson, is trying to do. Models under the age of 16 were not allowed to participate in London Fashion Week this season, but there was nothing prohibiting models that were drunk or high from walking down the runway. There will always be drugs and alcohol in the industry, and with models like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell getting second – and third, and fourth – chances, it does not seem as though much is being done to stop this abuse.