Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cuckoo for CARO

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interactive Models: when is to much, to much?

The lights are dimming, the two minutes until show time call has been announced. Everyone is quieting down and finding there sits, some are running to grab the idolized front row seats that only the people of most importance get unless you’re lucky. It is Wednesday October 22nd and everyone is waiting for the 5pm Playdead Cult and Damzels in this Dress show to begin.

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.

Bootylicious for the Runway

Is society finally making some room on the runway for plus-size models?

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 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!

Fashion Makes the Grade

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 New York, and since the show started airing in 2004 enrolment increased from 3197 to approximately 4000 in 2007. Mainstream America’s most well-known fashion school student, Lauren Conrad of the Hills, attends the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in California. FIDM’s enrolment in 2004 was 3191 and has since soared to 7500 in 2008. Coincidence? Not likely, but some may beg to differ.

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!

Boots wit dem fur?

The modern day exploration of the fur trade industry.

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

Interview with Angela Martin; Fashion Photographer

Interview with Angela Martin
Fashion Photographer

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:// On top of her already successful independent work, she also been shooting main spreads for Fashion Weekly Magazine. ( Outside her busy schedule she loves going to see live music, theatre, reading a good book and traveling.
I know that your career has really kicked off in a short amount of time so I’m sure you have some work to be proud of. What is your most significant accomplishment?
Angela Martin: Having my work published in a nationally recognized fashion magazine, numerous times. I still get a little excited every time I see my work in print.
I can imagine, knowing you shot a spread and the rest of the country will see your published work.
With photography what would you say are your biggest attributes to the industry?
AM: I think if nothing else, I'm passionate, and I hope that shows in my work. I never stop thinking about photography, and I'm constantly thinking up new ideas and projects.CR: On the fashion side of things, if you could emulate anyone’s style who would it be and why?
AM: I really enjoy Jamie Nelson's work, she's a young up-and-comer from New York and I think she does really fun stuff with light, and her style is excellent!
How exactly did you get interested in this work and from that initial interest get hired?
AM: My program at school gave me a degree in Media Studies and diploma options in journalism, pr or photography. When I first started post-secondary education I actually started school in journalism, switched to public relations, and then took a year off after my second year. I was miserable, I dreaded going to classes. I decided to take a year off to focus on something completely different just to challenge myself. I took a one year certificate course at Sheridan College in performing arts. That year changed my life completely; I matured tenfold, and realized that in order for me to be happy I needed to pursue a career in something creative. Through my year in performing arts, I fell in love with photography while documenting my experiences.
It just so happened to be an option to switch into photography when I went back to finish my degree. In third year, I continued taking media courses, and jumped right into photography, taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd year classes all in one year. I proved to myself, professors and classmates that I could do it.
I graduated at the top of my class, winning an award for best in show in our graduation photography exhibition. I interned at FASHION Magazine the first summer out of school, and worked about four jobs at a time to make ends meet. Things have, I’m able to support myself solely on photography related jobs and I love it!
A long journey, but that time off really made you realize what you wanted to be. How exactly did you choose photography?
AM: It was almost fate that I discovered photography through theatre and was able to focus on that in my third and fourth years at university. I think I have always been interested in visual media, I just never fully realized that a career in that field was the best option for me.
What is a typical day like for you?
AM: One reason I love my work so much is because it allows me to do something different every day. I’m still working for FASHION, FW and also photo editing for a company called ikonica, it’s a great environment and keeps my Photoshop skills up to par with other professionals in the industry. Other than that, I have many different freelance shooting gigs, with many other different interested clients.
What are some responsibilities of your career?
AM: I need to be on top of my craft, very aware of my budgeting (being that I own my own business), and staying focused.
What made you choose the fashion industry?
AM: I've always been interested in the fashion industry, mainly in the imagery of fashion photography. I'm an only child and I used to spend hours in my room reading magazines, so my love for fashion images started at a young age.
What is the level of stress usually for you?
AM: I’m a strong believer in that; if you love what you do, things seem less stressful because you are enjoying yourself. Sometimes it's difficult to connect with someone creatively, and when that's a client, you run the risk of creating work that doesn't satisfy them. Communication so important in this industry, and don't forget energy & enthusiasm! Sometimes you just don't feel like turning on that outgoing persona, but you just have to take a few more swigs of that red bull and up the energy level.
What motivates you?
AM: Passion for the art, excitement in creating something tangible, and the need to be recognized.
How would you define success?
AM: If you are happy with your life and who you are as a person, I think that is ultimately what success is. You could be making peanuts at your job, but if you absolutely adore what you do and it gives you drive, I would call you a success.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
AM: I'd love to have my own studio, definitely. I'd like to be shooting fashion creative’s and editorials on a regular basis, and may end up teaching part-time, I love working with people in the creative process, and I think to teach would be stimulating and fulfilling.
What would you say to someone interested in getting into the fashion business?
AM: Be ready for tough competition, and be aware that you have to be willing to work incredibly hard in the beginning to get to where you want to be. Nothing is handed to you in this industry, but when you meet a goal that you've made, nothing feels more gratifying.
Environmentally Friendly?

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.

My Interview with Ndeur

Ndeur (pronounce it “Under”) is Mathieu Missiaen, a French artist and graphic designer who comes from Paris and now lives in Toronto since April, 2007. He started to become famous with his work on high hills which made him appear on several magazines and blogs (Format Mag, Wad, xlr8r, Strut magazine), and also on Canadian television (Much Music, Fashion Television). You probably have seen some of his work on flyers for several Toronto based nightclubs like Circa or the Social ( He worked lately in collaboration with Microsoft for the launch of their new mp3 player (Zune) in Canada, with Van’s for a store in San Diego (Milo Shoes Gallery), did a stunning exhibition of wooden objects at Omy Gallery (1140 Queen street West, Toronto) and launched a t-shirt line with Coltesse (
I had the chance to interview Ndeur in his own work environment: his living room!!

Kevin: Where does your name come from?
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

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 [] 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?
N: Jazz!

K: Left or right?
N: Uh … right. [laughs]

K: Line or Curve?
N: Line.

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 [] 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:

A Peace of History

A Peace of History
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.

I'll Have My Fashion with a Side of Scandal

Along with celebrity scandals, fashion scandals are also the rage du jour.

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!

Shopping to Save the World, One T-shirt at a Time

Marketing is defined as, the planning, pricing and distribution of ideas to promote market demand and adapt to consumers. Cause marketing is defined as, a type of marketing involving a partnership between a for-profit company and a non-profit organization. The best way to market a product is to ensure that the item is both ethical and answers peoples needs. When a company or retail store comes out with an ethical product line should we, the consumers, be suspicious? Would it be right to support the line and what it stands for?

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 Spain and India who claimed to be mistreated and taken advantage of. When consumers buy an item from the Gap they do not know if it was made by sweat shop workers or in an ethical way. They are not aware of what goes on behind the merchandise. The Gap made a smart move when they decided to partner with the Product (RED) campaign. It has boosted their status, and gained some profit along the way.

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 Africa. What influenced my decision to buy an Inspi(RED) t-shirt was the fact that I knew Bono was a good humanitarian, I was aware of the effort he put towards helping others. Therefore I trusted his views on this campaign. However I did not consider the option of proceeds going towards the companies.

Entirely, Product (RED) is really a great campaign. It helps women and children in need of AIDS treatment and the civilians of Africa. With all retailer partners combined, Product (RED) has raised more than $63 million. It is definitely a success, and continues to perform well. But how do we know that all the proceeds will go directly toward the Global Fund? This is why consumers should be suspicious and not jump into charities, because the money could be going towards the companies for their own personal gain and consumers would think they are helping the Global Fund greatly. It is a good feeling when you help someone in need; let us hope it is for certain.


A very serious issue has been brought to my attention. The upper echelons of the menswear fashion industry are quickly and quietly changing and no longer can this seismic shift go unnoticed. It is a difficult topic, I know. One that requires some very serious research, hours and hours spent on looking at the changing physique of male models. Seeking out the new model ideal towards a toned and muscular body. It is hard work, but someone has to do it.

The constant and ever elusive male model has gone through quite the change the past few seasons. While the press has been focusing on the size of models in the womenswear industry, a far more interesting and dynamic change has begun concerning the look of our male models. 
During the early 00’s Hedi Slimane came, saw, and conquered men’s fashion. His reign as both head designer and creative director at Dior Homme, between the years 2000 and 2007, saw him introduce not just a new slimmer silhouette but also influencing men’s body shapes in the process. For the first time in fashion history men were looking to shed pounds in order to fit in a pair of skinny trousers. Slimane consistently used pin-thin models in his runway shows and it wasn’t long before the rest of the industry followed suit. Everywhere one looked it was deathly thin young boys parading down a catwalk. The power of this look was undeniable. Karl Lagerfeld himself famously shed 92lbs in just thirteen months, reportedly just to fit into a pair of skinny Dior Homme jeans. Quickly males all over the world, both gay and straight, began adopting restrictive diets. In a notorious 2006 interview, Hedi Slimane revealed to the Daily Telegraph’s Celia Walden that “[his] diet consists of baby food. [Hedi] doesn’t like to do much digesting, so it’s the obvious option”. What followed was a mad rush by fashion loving boys everywhere to the nearest Whole Foods adopting what came to be known as ‘The Baby Food Diet’. Fashion was officially taken over by skinny boys in skinny jeans.

Like all trends in fashion this one too is about to change. For Spring/Summer 2008 Dior Homme not only adopted a new designer with Kris Van Assche but also a drastically different aesthetic for its’ male models. The models no longer appeared to be on deaths door. A much healthier look was prominent – still thin, but more athletically honed; these models were a drastic change compared the physiques of seasons passed. Looking at more recent seasons for 2009 this shift has not only continued but also spread. Calvin Klein, Thome Browne, and Lanvin are just some of the big brands to have adopted this more athletic male model. “With the casting for the show, I was looking for really healthy, fit, and masculine guys that had a sexy edge to them,” said Italo Zucchelli, creative director of the Calvin Klein Collection for men, in an article by Liz Hancock in the autumn issue of 10 Men magazine. “I like to reference […] a provocative yet sophisticated element that speaks to the season. Essentially, I really wanted the look to be more masculine and less boyish”. 

But what drives such a change in not only fashion but also concerning overall greater views on masculinity? The industry seems to be saying no to the modern urban dandy that has become so prevalent. To use a clichéd term, this ‘Meterosexual Male’ has become so démodé and bourgeois that even the most suburban male has wholeheartedly adopted the lifestyle. The reaction to this commonality is a return to the stronger, more dependable male. Do not be mistaken; this is not a return the bulging biceps and over developed pecks of the 1980’s. The increasingly modern male model is defined by his thin yet toned physique and his vaguely athletic body. He doesn’t live at the gym but that doesn’t mean he has never seen the inside of one. 

The impact of this physical change in male models is not one to be scoffed at. Boys everywhere adopted drastic diets to fit into the lean silhouettes of seasons past and this new change, while admittedly more evolutionary than revolutionary, is one that surely will affect the bodies of males everywhere. The new muscular model is here to stay and soon he will be taking over the rest of the collections. Finally, take my advice the next time you happen to be looking at barely dressed male models strutting down a runway; be sure to study their changing athletic physiques, as it is clearly a very important reflection on our changing ideals of masculinity.

HIGH Fashion

L’Oreal Fashion Week Fall 2008. Designers, models, media, members of FDCC, PR coordinators, catering companies, volunteers, bartenders. All running around in a frenzy to make this week a success. Yelling, shouting, screaming at one another. Throwing fits, taking frustration out on others, throwing clipboards and schedules. Black coffee and cigarettes as their diet and energy supply. If you look harder they have another source of energy. One that makes them work faster and more efficient. It makes them happy, glamorous, outgoing, and fabulous. Their secret? Drugs and alcohol.

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.

Artistic Disposition: The Future Face of Fashion

Artistic Disposition: The Future Face of Canadian Fashion

I first met fashion designer, Zoran Dobric this past summer while helping him with a small marketing assignment for an upcoming trade show. My first impression of him was that he was soft spoken and down to earth. As I got to know him better I realized that he had the fire inside him to succeed in the fashion industry. A fire that unfortunately is very dim in the Canadian fashion industry, with successful Canadian retailers such as The Hudson’s Bay Company being bought out by American retailer, Lord& Taylor. “It is unfortunate that this is happening as many jobs in Canada are lost that way”, says Dobric. However, when it comes to his designs, he remains optimistic, “this will not influence my work.”

Born in the former Yugoslavia, Canadian-based fashion designer, Zoran Dobric has known that he wanted to become a fashion designer from a young boy where he was, “always drawing pretty princesses in fancy dresses”. Since then, Dobric has gone on to winning first prize for the Art of Fashion: Hollywood-Rethink Breast Cancer Competition and Smirnoff Fashion Awards-Virtual Nature 1999 Competition. Having worked in the fashion industry since 1999 and participating in Toronto’s L’Oréal Fashion Week for the past three years, Zoran continues to intrigue the fashion industry with his contemporary designs featuring abstract graphic prints that he creates himself, “I start with a hand drawing or painting, and then manipulate them in Photoshop or [Adobe] Illustrator in order to create the final print which then can be digitally printed on fabric.”

His Spring/Summer 2009 collection was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s semi-biographical story, Orlando and featured a colour palette of soft greys, pea greens and sky blues with a shot of black. The silhouettes were inspired by the many time periods that the immortal, Orlando travels through while transitioning from a man to a woman. A women’s leather bomber jacket with a nipped in waist paired with grey and white striped pants, resembled a 17th century doublet popular during the Baroque period. When describing why the gender themed novel inspired him, Dobric says, “The fact this person was immortal. I was able to borrow different historical references and inspirations, as well as the idea of androgyny, where I could combine masculine and feminine elements that were inspired by the fact that Orlando started out as a male and later turned into a female by the end of the story. It’s a really intriguing story.”

Dobric’s unique designs have become more wearable as the years have gone by, through focusing more on what the everyday man or woman would wear rather than his previous more avant-garde designs. A men’s turtleneck with a cable knit neck and sleeve attached to a chiffon bodice from his spring 2006 collection is now replaced by a short sleeved collared shirt, decorated with a gradated print the goes from pea green to grey. Even though Dobric’s style has evolved, the artistic inspiration in his clothing designs is always there. “I think fashion is a form of art or least an applied art. I would think art is what inspires me to design fashion” describes Zoran, when asked what influences his overall design aesthetic. Being European is another influence in his fashion designs, “it affects my aesthetic since I always lean towards European fashion style more than American style.” The hands-on designer has experienced success on both a national and international level. Most recently he participated in New York’s prestigious, “The Train” trade show in which he experienced great success through receiving sales orders from New York, Boston, San Francisco and Hong Kong. “The experience was great for learning about buyers and how they work. I got sales orders which will help move my business forward.”
With the recent economic recession in the United States and realities of global warming, consumers are becoming more aware of what they are purchasing and more conservative with their purchase decisions. In fact, according to a June 18, 2007 editorial by Footwear News, author Jennifer Carofano states that 27% of consumers are interested in purchasing green products. The fashion industry is no exception to these changing times and according to Dobric, “the buyers are clearly more ‘safe’ when buying then before.” The economic recession has also had an effect on fashion buyers purchase decisions, Dobric says, “It makes it hard for newer brands, as buyers go for old, tried brands. This means that new designers, including me have to emphasize uniqueness and quality of their products even more, in order to remain competitive. It also means that their offerings need to be a pretty safe sale, buyers don’t want too much risk at this time.”

Dobric’s experience in the fashion industry includes, previously teaching at Ryerson University and currently teaching at George Brown College on top of designing his own fashion line and this multitasking gives him what it needs to succeed even further in the fashion industry. His name is continuously growing with appearances in Lou Lou Magazine, Fashion Television and NOW Magazine. With his focus on success and innovative design, Dobric has what it takes to become the face of Canadian fashion. Citing creativity as to why he loves the fashion industry as “there is always something new”, he continues to have high hopes for the future of his fashion line. When asked what direction he sees his fashion collection taking in the next 10 years, Dobric answered, “I am hoping the sales will grow and I will be able to continue designing” As for fashion trends, in the future Dobric feels fashion will continue to take inspiration from the past. “It will probably be something repeated from what was done before. I don’t anticipate nothing too radical.”

The former art high school student will be participating in the second annual Green Gala in Toronto on November 8th where he will be required to create three outfits made out of sustainable fabric. The environment friendly event is on par with a critical world issue as well as a current trend that is on its way to becoming the norm in the fashion industry and this fits perfectly with Dobric, who is definitely here to stay. In regards to the other future of fashion, which includes fashion students, interns and aspiring fashion designers, Dobric has this advice, “the best advice is either do it properly or do not do it at all. You need to invest a lot of time, effort, research and money into something in order to make it even begin to work, so persistence and believing in yourself is the most important thing.”

-Amanda Stines

Attack of the Clones

“Black is beautiful.” This was a slogan used during the Black Civil Rights movement to dispel the belief that only caucasian or “white” features were what were considered ideally beautiful. This slogan brought impact into the fashion industry when the late Yves Saint Laurent became the first designer to break down racial barriers by using black models in his shows. Iman, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks were household names, prestigiously known as “supermodels” at the heights of their careers. Nowadays the use of non-white models from various ethnic groups in runway shows and campaign ads has been on the decline.

Last year during New York Fashion Week for the 2008 Spring/Summer collections, over a third of the shows did not use black models, according to a report by Women’s Wear Daily. When the European fashion capitals London, Paris, and Milan began their shows that season, an alarming number of large fashion houses including Balenciaga, Chloe, Chanel, and Prada made it clear that the runways had gone from once colourful mosaics to a droning march of blonde fembots. Featured in 2007 by Guy Trebay in the New York Times, J. Alexander who currently serves as a judge on America’s Next Top Model says, “Now some people are not interested in the vision of a black girl unless they’re doing a jungle theme and they can put her in a grass skirt and diamonds and hand her a spear.”

In the United States alone, black women spent over $20 billion dollars in apparel each year as reported by One would think profits that large generated from the black population would drive designers in their ad campaigns and runway shows to include more black models to encourage further revenue. Ironic like some of today’s fashions, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Who then is to blame?

Fingers have been pointed at designers, who according to casting agents want only thin, plain, blonde girls that won’t divert attention from their collection. “The current taste in models is for blank-faced androids, whose looks don’t offer much to the clothes,” says casting agent James Scully, featured in a New York Times article by Guy Trebay in 2007. He recalled the days of Tom Ford at Gucci when Ford gave him free reign in casting models of different backgrounds that once made Gucci’s runway shows very colourful and diverse with personality.

Other industry members feel the modeling agencies are the ones at fault. Casting agent Jennifer Starr, who casts for Ralph Lauren among others and is also a judge on Bravo's Make Me a Supermodel believes many agencies do not invest as much in their ethnic roster as they do for their white ones. Honorine Uwera was a young Canadian-Rwandan model who was booked for five runway shows during the 2008 Spring/Summer season in New York. While this number of showings is a respectable one, sadly it was not enough to convince Uwera’s agency to send her to Europe, where most modeling careers are made. On the other hand one of her model colleagues Irina Kulikova, showed at New York for a total of twenty-four runways before jetting off to Europe to complete a whopping thirty-eight shows in total. In a 2008 Newsday report by Anne Bratskeir, Starr added, “It's not the designers' fault ... at least the designers I work for. Ralph Lauren, especially, is constantly asking me why there aren't more African-American models he can put in his show.”

Whether they are the designers, modeling agencies, or all members of the fashion industry who are to blame, the argument that that a model of colour will take attention away from the clothes they show is offensive. It depicts the industry’s inability to separate the skin colour of a model from their “look” and the false belief that by using non-white models, the focus will be on the model’s skin above all else.

Just last October Bethan Hardison, a former African-American model during the 1960’s who also operated her own modeling agency, hosted an event made up of a panel of fashion experts called “Out Of Fashion: The Absence of Color." Her aim was to bring attention to the issue of under representation of ethnic models in the industry and to have open discussion for its improvement. Those in attendance included notables such as Iman, Vera Wang, photographer Marc Baptiste, amongst other insiders, writers, editors and dozens of black models. Hoping to raise awareness and bring about change in the industry, she noted that as the fashion industry was constantly expanding and as more people around the world saw images of runway shows, this was not a minor issue. "Globally, it affects everybody," she addressed to all who were present.

The fashion industry sets the standards for beauty. By choosing to be exclusive and not giving models of other ethnic backgrounds the opportunity to represent their brands and style, a clear, negative message is sent to consumers, the majority women and girls that only white
women meet the standards of beauty. High fashion has always been exclusive to the wealthy circles of the elite and the select few that are employed by it. To the public, models serve as their window to seeing the fashion world from within; if ethnic consumers who look through magazine advertisements and runway photos cannot relate to the models who don’t resemble them, it further reinforces the message that the doors of the fashion world will always be closed to them.

Progression Obsession

The world of high fashion is draped over a straight silhouette, female models and most noticeably super-models can be defined by their lack of femininity. It’s a stigma that forces young women to purge themselves of themselves in a desperate attempt to stay competitive. The public understands and accepts this as a “natural” evolution of the industry; it’s a battle that nobody wins. Male models on the other hand don’t get the same good or bad publicity that the women command. We know of them, we just don’t know about them. This is why we could all be excused for not concerning ourselves with the fact that male models are getting thinner and nobody seemed to notice.

Jussi Harjunharja is an aspiring young male model and friend which makes him the perfect source for this exposé. Are the men on the runway shrinking, or is it just me?

Oh George!: Do you see a trend in male models, in that they are becoming thinner and thinner?

Jussi: Yes, although high fashion male models have been quite thin for a while...the general public just didn't notice them because they were mostly confined to international runways. But ever since Emo rocker boys revived the vintage thin rockstar look, the same body type now having transitioned into the artsy Andy Warhol Hipster, there has been a shift in North American society's perception of an attractive male from the beefcake male underwear models of the 1990's to the slim/emotional/fashionable men of H&M advertisements.

Oh George!: Do you think that a thinner male model is a better representative of males in general?

Jussi: I don't think people should ever view models as representatives of general bodytypes because models are molded according to everchanging trends of the makebelieve fashion world. However, I believe thinner male models make better representatives of the new metrosexual male simply because slim male models fit designer sample sizes. Gender boundaries are blurring and men are becoming more interested in high fashion so they're looking at male models to sell them more than undergarments and athletic wear.

Oh George!: If there is a trend towards shrinking waistlines for male models, do you think it could lead to the same eating disorders that female models experience?

Jussi: Yes, and it's already happened. Men are becoming more significant in fashion so male models are facing more significant amounts of pressure to be representatives in the makebelieve world of high fashion.

Oh George!: As a model, do you feel pressured to either stay thin or get bigger for shows? If there is a pressure to look a certain way, is it comparable to what female models go through or do male models experience more or less pressure?

Jussi: As a model, I'm constantly being sifted through by people who view me as an object to sell their product, and that's the only purpose of modeling, so it's not worth ruining my life by starving myself and binging to try and get every job that comes by. But yes, the pressure is always there, male or female, to fit various molds so you really have to disconnect from your human self, when dealing with constant rejection from the industry, to prevent it from affecting you negatively.

The concept of men pursuing success by any means shouldn’t be foreign, male models becoming dangerously thin was only the next logical step. Companies have been moving in this direction for quite some time, promoting a look to the masses and selling it in stores using thinner boys. The metrosexual male is a relatively new term that brings with it more then just semi-serious consequences. For the average “metro” it begins with a greater understanding of fashion, for those really in the know, the progression to obsession would mean jumping through the rabbit hole and landing in a fantasy world. That same fantasy world that left almost every women feeling NOT beautiful.

It was a good run while it lasted, I can still remember waking up in the morning and enjoying my reflection like it was yesterday. The average North American male could probably stand to shed a few pounds, but the guys working the catwalk can’t. Young women being stripped of their bodies wasn’t an aberration, it was foreshadowing. The runways will soon be spilling with skeletons barely able to lift the fabric their wearing. Tell someone you know right now “male models on the runway are going to be as skinny as the girls in five years.” And then in five years tell that same person, “I told you so.”

Oh George! would like to thank Jussi Harjunharja, Sietzka Wiersma and wardrobe stylist Vanessa Pinkas for allowing us to use their picture. Jussi and Vanessa both attend George Brown College.