Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is It All Worth It? How Will We End Up?

As the upcoming fashion leaders of this generation, we have to think to ourselves; ‘After the economic turmoil that North America is facing, is it worth it to put all our energy and imagination into something that may not even become?’

We pride ourselves in developing new fashion trends as students and coming up with new styles as designers, although not one of us will take a moment to stop and think; Instead of putting more ideas where they will not be recognized, why not try to revamp the fashion industry in Toronto and make it bigger and better than ever before?

More now than ever, the apparel industry is taking a big hit on sales, development, and even interest in the consumers. According to the LG Spring/Summer 2010 Toronto Fashion Week interview conducted by blogger Marissa Bronfman, interviewed Jeanne Beker, Host of Fashion Television, asking “In 10 years from now, what do you see for Toronto Fashion Week? “. Jeanne simply replied, “I don’t know if there will be an fashion week! I think everyone will just show their shows online”. She went on to explain that she would highly miss the live spectacle but would hope that the designers will make enough money to even broadcast their shows online.

This goes to show that either Toronto picks up their pants and creates a new environment and approach to showcase the talent for the Toronto designers that we all know is there, or Toronto Fashion will crumble. The defense to this issue is that Toronto fashion is still in the “development” process of putting their designers on the map along with high-rise cities such as New York, Paris, and Milan. However, due to the recession and great loss of spending from the consumers, it is extra hard for Toronto to establish itself. There is a choice, either to wait it out or see what we can pull together and make amazing for the world to see our talent, or seriously consider if it is worth the time, pressure, and waste of talent for our city.

The upside of developing Toronto fashion, and signifying ourselves to the rest of the world is that we have seen the other cities do their uprising, their failures and their recoveries, so we can watch and observe to prevent our city from doing the same mistakes. Toronto is such a beautiful, creative, and interesting city, and for our fashion to be considered one of the capitals of the world, our consumers need to take more risks, start trends, be fearless, and overall support our upcoming designers. If all these elements are combined, there will be no need to leave Canada for New York or Milan to scope ideas.

The advantage that Toronto already has over the other major fashion house cities is that we pride our designs on more Vintage, do-it-yourself, ready to wear, and mix and math clothing that makes it more realistic to the consumer to purchase these items rather than in Europe where their focus is Avant-Garde fashion rather than practical everyday wearing. Canadian designers such as D-Squared, David Dixon, Evan Biddell and JOE Fresh have showcased their designs as fashionable, trendy, new, and yet still affordable to the consumers and wearable for everyday. Personal feelings favour these types of designers where their thinking is to the end consumer. This is greatly appreciated from both the retailers, as they have hard-hitting designs to sell and for the consumers that they are recognized in the designers eyes to produce pieces for them that they can showcase in their own way.

All in all, the future of Toronto Fashion depends on the students, the future advocators, the future designers, the future retailers, and us. The only thing that we should focus on is the Future and if there is no vision as to what the future holds, then we should really start re-evaluating ourselves and make Toronto Fashion amazing and for the whole world to see. Let’s show the rest of the world that we are not underestimated, just saving our talent for our BIG DEBUT. Let’s show them what we are really made of and prove that It Is Worth It!


Pay Your Dues

Play your cards right; be fashion’s glass half full-personality

Relatives and acquaintances are frequently wondering what are you doing with your life and where you see yourself going. All the while, coincidently,you are asking yourself- how do I get that career I have always dreamed of?

It is in your reach. But how do you get there? Where do you start? Who do you go to, who do you mentor and volunteer for? In a phone interview with Cynthia Hall Searight, Creative Director of Self Magazine, I gained insight into the fast-passed and intensely competitive industry. We can examine and learn from her, the steps to further our own dreams and turn them into achievements, just as she has done.

Oh George!: How many years did it take you to get to the position of Creative Director?

CHS: I have worked as a creative director for 25 years and started in the industry in 19 83 and became a creative director in 1986. At the age of 24, I spent 1 year as an assistant art director and then became an associate director for 2 years working with a group of 10 creative directors.

OG: What type of education and experiences helped you attain this accomplished and successful career?

CHS: I went to school in Connecticut for Design and took advertising. After school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my education. By starting to work temping as a secretary I was put on a job for Red Book Magazine. That opened all the doors to where I was meant to work. Your first job determines the path of your career. It helped me realize what I wanted to do and helped me to make connections. The connection helped set up an interview with Weight Watcher Magazine. One of the people I worked for put in a good word. I started with test publications and gained experience working for a German magazine. Soon after, 1988, I started at YM Magazine and worked there for 5 years. My next move was to be the Creative Director at Mademoiselle Magazine for 7 years. Then I did 3 ½ years at Victoria Magazine, a home furnishing magazine. After which, I went back to CondeNast magazines to work with the Brides Magazine for 4 years. I have now been with SELF Magazine for 4 ½ years.

OG: What would a typical day at work be like for you?

CHS: 9:00am-6:00pm. There is little time for lunch unless I have a meeting with someone. The majority of the days consist of meeting for visuals. I collaborate with the styling teams and give direction for images. I read the text of the magazine but focus mainly on the visual packaging and website of the magazine.

OG: Which photographers and celebrities have you worked with that stand out in your mind and have made an impact on what you do?

CHS: The most exciting part of my job is shooting covers, like the one that took place in Los Angeles with Kate Beckensale. Also, the Photographers at Mademoiselle would always be different from the ones I would choose for Self. Each is very unique, has a different point of view, and perspective that is charming. They each have incredible strength and you need to give assignments that play to their strengths. If you give them a try and let them their own spin on it, you then get more creativity and it works out for the best. Celebrities can be difficult. The shoot with Kate Beckansale was difficult because there was a lack of communication with Bechansale’s personal stylist and she did not want to wear the 3 outfits that were selected for the shot. She refused to wear pink or v-necks. It is extremely important to gather information on all aspects of the celebrity’s image, because they are easily upset. It is always best to find out their sizes but also have something larger that can be easily tailored. It is also important to find out if the celebrity has any aspects of their body they wish to hide.

OG: Do you find you have time for a family life or do you find it difficult to juggle between career and personal time?

CHS: It was a lot more stressful when I was starting in the industry at 24, paying my dues and working my way to the top. You learn the ropes and experience how to deal with the stresses. It makes it easier that women run publishing. They understand that if you have to work till midnight to get the job done then you will. But they also know that if there is a kid’s game to be at @ 5:00 then you have a priority to be there. There are a lot of sacrifices that go into the decision to work this lifestyle but there has to be good support and communication at home to get through it.

OG: It is a very competitive industry, what advice would you give to someone interested in the industry?

CHS: The more experience the better to help you decide what aspects of the industry you would really love. Intern so that it will help you make contacts and open a lot of doors. It’s all about whom you know.

There are numerous career possibilities in the industry. Finding the right niche is really a matter of experiencing as much as you can. Connecting the applications and technical sides to any future endeavour in the industry would help in becoming a jack-of-all-trades. Experience and networking are of the utmost importance. It is all about whom you know.It is of course; a fast passed lifestyle, demanding, stressful, and competitive but also very rewarding. The more you work, the more experience you will gain, and the more successful you will become.

Working with fashion designers, photographers, celebrities and a talented team of co-workers, solving creative challenges, is an exciting job. To be able to work 9:00- 6:00, you really have to pay your dues. You have to be willing to put your nose to the grindstone to work your way to the top, with a glass half- full mentality about all your experiences. You will then find your niche.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do we have what it takes?

Has Toronto made the list of Top Fashion Capitals in the World?

Toronto has become a very popular hot spot in the recent years of fashion industry; it is known to host L’Oreal Fashion Week and home to some of the most renowned designers today. It is one of the most diverse cities in the world which gives us a unique multicultural influence. There are people from all over the world who live here that incorporate their own personal style in the cities fashion trends. However some may also disagree with the title of Toronto being one of the top fashion capitals. To be labeled as a fashion capital the economy of the industry should be outstanding; also you could argue that our country is very young so it lacks historical art influence. Other Fashion capitals that Toronto is competing with include Milan, Paris, London, New York and Tokyo. Let’s see if Toronto has what it takes to be on the list!

We’re all familiar with LG L’Oreal Fashion week. LG Fashion Week is held worldwide in the most influential fashion hubs; Toronto being one of them. Toronto hosts this fabulous event twice a year, bringing celebrities, media, beautiful clothing, stunning models and the hottest Canadian designers to the runway. This event gives Toronto the chance to be in the international spot light of Fashion today. According to Fashion Design Council of Canada this is the 11th year Toronto has been a part of LG Fashion Week. This is a 5 day event that is celebrated with all day runway shows and evening parties. And yes! this event is open to the public. With all this excitement and exposure that LG Fashion Week creates for Toronto why wouldn’t it be considered one of the fashion capitals?

Although Toronto does host a huge Fashion Week it doesn’t have enough generated business to support its fashion industry. Toronto only has a population of 2.5 million people, compared to New York with almost 20 million and London with 7.6 million, this means that the city of Toronto cannot generate enough dollars to be considered important in the fashion business economy. It is almost a trend for most Toronto designers to move out of the country for their work to be recognized internationally, and then move back. Since all other cities have such concentrated populations this gives them an advantage to making an impact in the business economy. Even though Toronto is the most diverse city in the world, it doesn’t have enough people to make it a strong competitor.

But on the other hand one could argue that Toronto is home to some of the most recognized designers in the industry: Joe Mimran, Lida Baday and Joeffer Caoc just to name a few. These Canadian designers have made a huge impact in fashion with their creative flare and their drive to succeed. Most have launched not only clothing, but also accessories, fragrances’ and home décor. Joe Mimran is the master mind behind Joe Fresh, Pink Tartan and international label Club Monaco. Canadian Business online has called Joe Mimran “The superstar fashion entrepreneur”. Lida Baday won the Buyers Designer of the year in 1996, she also has her line available at Holt Renfrew, Saks Fifth Ave and Nordstorm. So with such inspiring and successful designers doesn’t Toronto have what it takes to be on the list yet?

Even though Toronto is home to some of the most influential designers another obstacle is the youth of our country. Our country is only 142 years old, giving it little art and fashion history. This can make it difficult for our designers to have historical influencers. Even during the Second World War Paris and London were the fashion trend setters, and Toronto was one of the followers. Now we compare Toronto’s history to Paris’ which is 2000 years old, rich with art history and historical fashion influencers. Having such creative history puts other cities ahead of Toronto. It’s not that Toronto doesn’t have its own influence of style; it is just not penetrated with enough historical fashion support.

All in all, both sides of the argument to whether Toronto has what it takes to become one of the top fashion capitals are strong. Toronto is home to people from all over the world; the fashion here is influenced and adapted by every ethnicity. Some of the world’s most prominent designers originated here putting Toronto on the Fashion map! Bust does Toronto really have enough support to keep on making a mark in the industry? Because Toronto lacks in fashion history could this keep us back from being on the top list of fashion capitals? You be the judge. After all it is up to us to make it happen!  

What About the Skinny Bitch?!

Throughout the modelling industry we’ve all been hearing time and time again how unhealthy models are, how unattractive being skinny is, that real women don’t look like that...but when is enough, enough?

Karl Lagerfeld the German-born world-renowned fashion designer at the House of Chanel who renowned the designs for three labels: his own, Chanel and Fendi famously lost 90 pounds in 13 months because he wanted to wear other kind of clothes. Lagerfeld explained during a CNN interview “I went to see my doctor who before had never said you are too fat, you are not too fat, because he was quite big himself. Then, I said but you are big, yes? He said, ‘But that's different. My wife likes me like this.’ So this is something you cannot discuss. But single people have to see that differently,” after he woke up one morning and decided that what he saw in the mirror was enough, he wanted something else. "I only like the things that I'm allowed to eat, so it's not like I have to avoid anything, which is how I don't put on weight." Lagerfeld says “some people would like me to be round again,” when asked if he was looked at differently after losing so much weight. “Some people say to me you're too skinny, but never a skinny person says that to me, only people who could lose a few pounds say that.”

According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 86 percent of Americans could be overweight or obese by 2030. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey around two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and almost one-third are obese.

“In France there are, I think, less than one per cent of people who are too skinny. There are nearly 30 per cent of young people who are too fat. So let's take care of the zillions of the too fat before we talk about the percentage that's left,” Karl Lagerfeld states. He says countries such as France have problems with a rise in overweight people rather than underweight.

So why all the pressure on the skinny bitches?

Germany’s most popular magazine Brigitte announced they would only be using “ordinary, realistic” looking women instead of professional models in future fashion spreads. Brigitte magazine is planning to release their first edition with non-professional models on January 2nd and are urging readers to sign up for photo sessions, saying that they are tired of having to “fatten up” pictures. Editor Andrea Lebert states, “We will show women that have their own identity, the 18-year-old A-level student, the company chairwoman, the musician, the footballer.” Lagerfeld felt Brigitte Magazine's plan was "absurd," and that the women complaining about too-skinny models were just fat and jealous. The decision to use ordinary realistic women instead of professional models was driven by overweight women who did not like to be reminded of their weight issues.

19-years-old Natasha Issajenko a Canadian athlete who was Canada’s 3rd fastest women is sure watching television subconsciously affects her body image. She states this is because “most people on T.V are supposed to be “beautiful,” skinny on T.V is what men want, all women want men to want them.” When asked if watching anything in particular sparked immediate body consciousness she nonchalantly replied “well if I was fat, yeah. But I’m not, so no.” When asked if she considered herself skinny she responded “yes. Well not skinny, but on the skinny side.”

“These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly.” Lagerfeld boldly defended skinny models. Fashion designer John Ribbe also spoke out, aiding Lagerfeld’s model defence. John Ribbe feels the row over models’ weight is becoming hysterical. “It’s just as much a cliche as saying that all models take drugs and get drunk at sex orgies. Ninety per cent of them are quite normal, properly proportioned girls with less fat and more muscles who also eat pizzas and burgers.”

“We don't see anorexic (girls). The girls are skinny. They have skinny bones,” Lagerfeld told reporters after his show. When asked whether the fashion industry was to blame for eating disorders, he replied: “No, that is something to sell papers.”

Natasha believes there are naturally skinny models out there who can eat anything and not gain weight, “everyone has a different body type,” she says. “I know many people like that.” In her opinion, skinny models look gross- however in regards to the complaining “mummies” Lagerfeld referred to she adds “there is no excuse to be fat and sit on your couch everyday.” She feels their revolt against skinny models could be “jealousy on their part, or it could also be a genuine concern. Models don’t have to be that skinny. I think it looks ugly personally.” She believes there should not be so much commotion surrounding models. “If someone wants to not eat and be skinny let them do their thing. There’s help out there for everyone.”

Lagerfeld fearlessly defends skinny models stating: “No one wants to see curvy women. Fashion is about dreams and illusions.”

Many celebrities such as Missy Elliot have lost weight for health reasons. Missy felt like she was too young to be was dealing with high blood pressure, and kidney stones. She states in an interview with XXL Magazine: “You can be big and sexy. I believe you can make people think you fly and sexy no matter how many pounds you are. You have to be confident in yourself, which is hard, because people can detect when you not confident. But when you show that confidence, you make them be like, ‘Oh, she’s fly.’ ”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Airbrushing Controversy: Helpful or Harmful

The use of airbrushing has been an on-going worldwide issue within the fashion industry for a number of years. Models as well as celebrities appearing in advertisements and photo-shoots are continually being retouched to either enhance certain attributes, or remove any imperfections. The results are a perfect image of the subject who has been photographed. On one hand, many in the industry deem airbrushing a legitimate tool, as it can aid in creating a sense of fantasy in advertisements that are not trying displaying reality in the first place. On the flip side, others argue that over use of airbrushing has resulted in women in our society being held to an impossible standard of beauty and youthfulness. In recent months the heavy use of airbrushing has become increasingly controversial and many have begun to speak out against the issue, with more celebrities refusing to have their images artificially enhanced.
For many in the fashion and media industry, airbrushing is a common everyday occurrence. Some of the subjects may even enjoy the benefits of airbrushing, enabling them to look perfect without having to actually be perfect. As well, many fashion photographers intend their work to be viewed as creative and as a escape from reality. Therefore the images presented aim to convey an artistic vision, and not a replica of real life. It is no wonder these images give a false impression; this is the very intention, especially when a story is being told through fashion. Fashion is a creative industry, meant to be glamorous, exotic and excite the mind, and the photographs should be expected portray that image. Fashion is about “dreams and illusions” , in the words of German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, as reported by the (October 13, 2009.) Lagerfeld’s words further highlight the fact that designers and industry professionals are attempting to create an alternate, magical and unexpected view of the world through their designs. Photographers also need to be able to present striking images to the public in order to sell the product successfully and contribute to the creation of in-demand looks. In the industry, the digital imaging software Photoshop is necessary due to the fact that “celebrities demand protection from exposure to reality” as reported by the fashion website in an April 21st, 2008 posting. The same post also reveals that editors “live and die by newsstand sales”, furthering the importance of perfection when presenting fashion merchandise. As well, airbrushing is considered indispensible for the task of showcasing clothing in the best possible light, such as removing wrinkles, creases or shadows. When considering these points, it is obvious why many of those in the fashion industry view airbrushing as a vital part of the business. Not only does airbrushing help to create the illusion and fantasy that is an integral part of fashion, but also has a practical use in terms of showcasing apparel in the most flattering way possible.
However there is also a negative impact to airbrushing, as demonstrated by the latest issue of Australian Women’s Weekly featuring model Sarah Murdoch. Murdoch opted to have no airbrushing whatsoever in her cover shot, in hopes of setting a precedent within the model and fashion world. According to Sarah Murdoch it “makes me mad that we can’t embrace the beauty of aging, because we’re all going to do it”, as reported by the Australian Women’s Weekly’s Lee Tulloch (November 2009). Murdoch is a perfect example of a celebrity attempting to denounce the necessity of airbrushing and end negative body image. Similarly, on another part of the globe singer and fashion designer Victoria Beckham declines photo retouching. In a recent interview and 16 page photo-spread with the United Kingdom edition of the magazine Harpers Bazaar, Beckham decries airbrushing and promotes being happy in your own skin. According to the upcoming December 2009 interview by Harpers Bazaar author Sarah Bailey, Beckham hits the gym seven days a week so she does not have to rely on airbrushing. Beckham is able to appreciate her body now, and realizes that it is important to love what you have. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar’s Sarah Bailey, Beckham revealed “I wanted to look at those pictures in 20 year’ time and say “Wow-look-after three kids-I didn’t look bad” (December 2009). Other celebrities who have also spoken out about airbrushing include such high profile celebrities as Kelly Clarkson, Kate Wineslet and Keira Knightly. In many ways it is encouraging to see females who are in the media spotlight be comfortable presenting a natural image. Their lead allows women in our society to see that they can in fact embrace their imperfections, and move away from a focus on being eternally young and perfect. As well, celebrities and models who avoid being extensively airbrushed act as role models for younger females to love themselves for who they are and not be held to impossible standards.
It is not hard to see why there is such a debate surrounding the issue of airbrushing since there are two very different arguments for and against its use. Photo retouching has both negative and positive connotations within the fashion industry, making it an extremely controversial topic. With the widespread influence of celebrities involved in the industry, it is also easy to see how this issue extends to society itself. Although there are compelling arguments on both sides of the argument, it can be readily said that it is important to keep an open mind when flipping through a fashion magazine or looking at a billboard image. As Cindy Crawford so aptly put it in the September 2009 issue of Redbook magazine, as reported by David Keeps, “I always say, even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford”.

Louis, and Burberry, online, oh my!

Is Fifth Avenue drowning in Canal Street?

The e-world of retailing has changed the consumer world faster and more drastically than we could have ever imagined. Consumer goods, which were once only for a small, privileged group of clientele, are now available to anybody who has a computer. Is this a good thing? Who is it good for? And what are luxury brands to do in a world where they can’t control the social image of their brands?
The consumer world has been profoundly changed by e-tailing, and one of the most changed is the world of luxury business. It is important to define e-tailing. On his website, High Latitude, William Koty defines e-tailing as “the process of developing and managing online storefronts whereby individual consumers can shop for goods and services. The intent of e-tailing is to provide a customer value proposition that is different from realspace stores. That value proposition often includes cheaper prices, increased flexibility, convenience and consumer empowerment of the shopping process.”
With the online boom of luxury e-tail stores such as Gilt Group, Bluefly, Outnet, Yoox, and Vente-Privee, just to name a few, discounted luxury brands have become available to anybody who wants them. I spend many lazy afternoons perusing these sites, which my boyfriend and many others consider time wasting and to which I pipe back, “It’s research! I am a member of the world of fashion.” On the one hand, this is wonderful for people like me who love and appreciate high-end fashion, but can’t afford to pay the luxury prices of those frame-worthy designer pieces of art that are meticulously…but I digress. And on the other hand, this over-saturation of very identifiable luxury brands takes away from the very reason we wanted them in the first place. Now those who can afford these luxury items at their original prices, and then some, don’t want the same branded merchandise that their nanny and housekeeper sport.
Many luxury retailers are re-vamping their image and finding ways of appealing to their original target customer again. Their customers need reassuring that the luxury Image they are buying into has not been devalued by over exposure. Historian Daniel Boorstin, in his essay “Welcome to the Consumption Community,” states that we buy luxury goods because they provide “a feeling of shared well-being, shared risks, common interests, and common concerns that come from consuming the same kinds of objects … A designer label is a community of consumers on whom some of the celebrity of the name rubs off.” The community is getting diluted!
Undeniably there are two major brands that have been the most affected by e-tailing and the over-saturation of their branded image to the mass public. That’s right, you guessed it, Burberry and Louis Vuitton. These historic, time-honoured and groundbreaking fashion houses have faced the scourge of the rapid rise of e-tailers selling discounted and, even worse, counterfeit or knock-offs version of their merchandise, thus causing the extreme popularity of their brands’ iconic images with the mass market, including hip-hop stars and soccer hooligans.
In the last couple of decades these brands have had to re-vamp their images, their marketing approaches and even the products they produce to maintain their rightful place and reputation in the luxury brand market. But how these brands chose to reclaim the power of their image may seem a bit unconventional and only time will tell what will happen.
What is beige, black, white, red, and plaid all over? Well, for a while almost everything that could be covered in plaid. These products that saturated the marketplace prompted Burberry to change their merchandising and marketing strategy. The Burberry plaid, which had once being associated with upper class “Britishness” and royalty, was being seen everywhere and on everyone. When famous football players in Britain began wearing the infamous plaid cap, it became a mainstay for rowdy football fans as well. Realizing that the cap had lost its cache, Burberry stopped production of the cap altogether. Alan Bannerman, owner of a bar in Dundee Scotland, who was interviewed for The Guardian (September 12, 2003) said, “I believe I speak for at least 90% of pub owners in Dundee. Burberry has become the badge of thuggery.” Changing their current merchandise from plaid, plaid and more plaid to a more discrete but still iconic look is something Christopher Bailey is doing to a tea.
Louis Vuitton is another brand whose historic logo has been pervasive throughout the mass market. Hip Hop artists have always been fans, some even covering themselves in the LV logo from head to toe. Discount e-tailers love Louis Vuitton and it has become one of their most popular brands. Its iconic LV logo is paired with wealth and luxury like none other in the mass market. But Louis Vuitton has taken another approach to reclaiming the image of its brand. They are embracing these unconventional fans and giving the fans what they want. Most notable is the partnership Louis Vuitton made with Stephen Sprouse, a significant fashion designer in his own right and known for bringing street cred to high fashion. Sprouse’s “graffiti bags” were a huge hit for Vuitton who seem to be swinging with the punches and targeting a new audience. How this gamble will affect their traditional and time-honoured luxury image remains to be seen. What does their more gentrified clientele think of the new direction that Marc Jacobs is taking with the brand? Will this contradictory market strategy be the winning combination in a world where e-tailing is providing luxury to more consumers at cheaper prices?
So whether going back to your roots and reclaiming the iconic history of your brand like Bailey, or broadening your target market to bring merchandise to two very separate customers like Jacobs, it is undeniable that e-tailing is changing the way retailers run all aspects of their business. And though this is great for consumers like me, who covet designer pieces and can buy into a world of luxury that used to be out of reach, what does it mean for the future of luxury business? Are we fashion lovers ruining the world to which we aspire and admire by buying into a luxury world that was not meant for us?

Is Green the New Black ?

As celebrities such as David Suzuki, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore stand behind the battle against climate change, we have seen the subject of the environment turn into a whirlwind of activism and movement. These individuals have been able to draw out their message to society by making people better aware of our increasingly changing environment. With huge support from media figures and celebrity activists, people around the world have become not only more aware, but more knowledgeable and informed about the crisis our environment is facing. As a result, we have seen individuals and groups making lifestyle changes and becoming more environmentally conscious, not only about the products they purchase but also how manufacturing and production processes can negatively affect the environment. The power and momentum of the environmental movement is strengthened by the fact that groups and corporations are joining in alongside everyday individuals.

Within the last decade, we have seen many manufacturers and designers craft their merchandise from environmentally and ecologically sound resources. Designing products with fabrics made of bamboo, organic cotton and recycled fleece has placed emphasis on saving the environment and a social responsibility onto the manufactures and designers of today. Because many companies are orienting their businesses in an environmentally friendly manner, there will hopefully be a pressure on others to follow suit.

‘’Organic clothing and recycled clothing are nice ways to treat our Earth in a friendly manner and at the time time being fashionable and hip’’, say Jason Duke in his article Eco Friendly Clothing.

And who better then to agree with this statement then design team Rogan Gregory and Scott Mackinlay Hahn.In 2004, designers Rogan Gregory and Scott Mackinlay Hahn successfully launched their eco-friendly brand Loomstate to the world. Their design approach was founded on the respect they both have for the environment and their appreciation for nature. Their enjoyment of the usage of eco-friendly products leads this design duo to feel the “mathematical ‘Golden Ratios’, which is evident through the nautilus shells to flower petals,” as recorded by Loomstate’s official website.
Loomstate has become one of the leading organic design and manufacturing brands, selling to retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Holt Renfrew. They have also launched an exclusive label for Keds shoes and for American retail giant Target. These major retailers are trying to capture the movement towards environmentally friendly products by incorporating them into their retail establishments. Gone are the days where environmental activism was an indie cause. Today it is mainstream to live life and buy products in an environmentally sustainable, and now fashionable manner.
“There's absolutely no better partner than Target for our mission, for our values, and for our aesthetic point of view culturally,” said designer Scott Mackinlay Hahn during the launch party for Loomstate for Target. In bringing their eco-friendly designs to such a massive retailer, Loomstate can hope to make a large impact on their consumers, who are undoubtedly the “average consumer”. Making eco-friendly designs available to the everyday and average consumer emphasizes that respecting the environment need not cost more than destroying it.

Eco-friendly clothing has definitely become the latest rage... or some may believe the latest hoax. With all the surrounding attention environmental issues have casted on today’s society, many people are wondering if these products are based on a devised marketing scheme. It is no secret that many trends die out because their hype exceeds their genuine benefit, and some worry that this may be the case with these environmentally sound products. So should consumers be cynical? Or should we embrace the cause in helping support our environment by purchasing eco-friendly products?
“When introducing an ‘ethical product’, people become more inclined to purchase the item because of what it represents’’, says Michelle Stark of the Toronto Star. It is possible that people will purchase eco-friendly clothing hoping that it will make a difference in environmental issues, without actually doing the research to determine if their efforts are being wasted.

High profile people tend to persuade the public to support causes, such as the environment. Retailers may try to take advantage of situations for profit gain by offering eco-friendly products. So the question remains, are these eco-friendly products actually beneficial to the consumer and helpful towards the environment?

One can see that finding solutions to world problems can be both a fashionable and pressing issue. We as a fashion industry have a responsibility to change the way we manufacture and create products if by doing so, we can help alleviate the harm being caused to the environment. By helping in this mission through the creation of eco-friendly products, we are not only helping the environment but enabling the consumer to become a contributor to this important cause. Launching innovative ideas such as that of Loomstate clothing can impact the environment, whether on a small or large scale. Every attempt is a step towards the success in the journey to help environmental change.

Whatever your thoughts may be, climate change is real and now. As a society, it is our responsibility to act against global warming and work for environmental change. So whether it be through purchasing those fabulous Seven for all Mankind eco-friendly jeans, or replacing that old, tacky plastic water bottle for a shiny re-usable canteen, we can all help in making our world a better and cleaner place to live in. Remember, change is within you.... and can be in what you where. Who ever thought eco chic could be so fashionable!

Monday, November 09, 2009

George Brown Divaz Dazzle in Design

How Three GBC Divaz Made Their Dreams a Reality
For many students, post-secondary education is a way of determining what career path to follow, but for Camille Evans, attending George Brown College was just one step on the way to pursuing her dream. A 2008 graduate of the Fashion Management Program, Camille, along with her business partners and fellow graduates Natalie and Thuha, took the knowledge and experience attained at GBC and applied it to their lifelong dream of starting their own fashion business. With business discussions underway since their meeting in the program, the three young entrepreneurs were able to put their plans into action upon graduation, and in April 2008, Dazlin Divaz was born. After much back and forth emailing, the girls were finally able to fit me in to their incredibly busy schedule, and I sat down with Camille and Natalie to learn more about the company and their journey into the Toronto Fashion Industry.
For Camille, who always wanted to be involved in Fashion, attending George Brown was a way to learn about the business and make the transition from her job in finance to the fashion industry. Luckily, it was also where she was able to meet like-minded friends, including former computer student Natalie and aspiring designer Thuha. Once the girls became friends, they also began to realize that they had a lot of the same goals and could work well together. The idea of Dazlin Divaz was developed throughout their semesters at GBC, where Camille says that ‘The Store’ class was a big help and learning how to deal with people was beneficial. Natalie gained a lot through her internship as assistant and product developer to local designer Debbie Sutton. At GBS the students were able to build their skills and create the basis for the company. Originally there were four girls involved in the planning, however, as graduation approached and the possibility of their dream becoming reality loomed, the extraordinary commitment necessary whittled the group down to three. Camille, Natalie, and Thuha were unswerving though; Dazlin Divaz became their focus.
With different skills and strengths to offer, the ladies complement each other well. Dazlin Divaz is a convergence of creative design and love of art with intelligence and business talent. This enables them to not only design their own clothing, but also organize their own imports and sale to retailers. Thuha concentrates on the design aspect, sketching the t-shirts, casual wear, cocktail dresses, and accessories that make up the Dazlin Divaz line. Camille and Natalie offer creative input, but Thuha conducts the technical design tasks. With her roots in Vietnam, Thuha is also able to facilitate imports by using her contacts overseas. Camille and Natalie work on the finance, marketing, and networking in Toronto necessary to getting their business off the ground. This includes researching boutiques that sell Canadian designers, for example The Fashion District at 555 Queen St.W. where they currently sell the line, and participating in events such as the Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week. Their main goal right now is to get their name out as much as possible.
When they talk about Dazlin Divaz, I can tell that Camille and Natalie are passionate about their business and excited about their future. The line, which includes accessories starting at about $30 and clothing starting at about $50, has t-shirts made from 100% Organic Cotton and fun accessories like feather and beaded clips for your hair. The girls like the idea of sustainable and recyclable fashion, and try to incorporate these beliefs into their clothes as much as possible. However, it is when I ask about the image and inspiration behind the clothes that I see the real sparks. As Thuha comes from Vietnam and Camille and Natalie hail from Jamaica, the idea of different cultures interests them. They do a great deal of research on different cultures, art, artefacts and symbols that represent meaning and apply this to their clothes with the desire to “turn art into design.” The current line is largely inspired by different Asian cultures, but they are open to everything. They search for significance in the art that connotes positivity and spirituality so that the clothing can inspire and empower the wearer. This is image they aspire to create, an empowered woman who feels special and sees reason behind the clothes.
For Camille, the image of an empowered woman is the whole motivation behind the business. Once Dazlin Divaz becomes more established, the goal is to expand internationally through the extension into their own retail store and a web based store. But there is also the hope to give back and continue to empower others. Camille believes that, “eventually, the main part of this business should not be the profit, but the ability to take care of other people.” This means, for example, that a fashion show is not just showcasing the clothes, but also giving back to the community. The girls would love to be able to host a fundraising fashion show for some of the charities they support, such as Covenant House, “because even though those kids might not be able to go to school right now, they are our future nonetheless.”
With the future of the Toronto Fashion Industry in the hands of Camille and her peers, the ladies from Dazlin Divaz have some advice for current GBC Fashion Management students. To start, it’s a great idea to keep in touch with your teachers. The Dazlin Divaz are currently in touch with three of their former teachers for planning and networking help. “They’re a great support, they don’t just say goodbye when you graduate, they want to see you continue on.” Other pieces of advice include communication, never take ‘no’ for an answer, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and “learn to decipher what advice to take, because at the end of the day, it’s YOUR business.” But the most important piece of advice they can offer future fashion entrepreneurs? “Commitment. It’s the number one thing.” Looks like the Dazlin Divaz are here to stay.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Go Green And Get Seen"

“Go Green and Get Seen”
Is Eco-Friendly Clothing The New Haute Couture?

Designers from all around the world are using and working with fabrics that are environmentally friendly as well as incorporating style and comfort all at a good price. Eco-friendly clothing is becoming more popular in the fashion world and retailers are noticing that they can still sell their line and make an even bigger impact on society by using organic fabrics. This in turn is bringing a new look to the fashion runway and is making a difference in the environment.

What is meant by eco-friendly clothing? The word eco is short for environmentally conscious. These eco-friendly clothes are being made with organic products, which indicate that the plants used to make the fabric were grown without pesticides from seeds that were not genetically altered. Magazine articles like the ones written for Elle Canada are discussing how “designers are using and working with fabrics that are low-impact dyes, pesticide-free, biodegradable, sustainable and organic such as; bamboo, soy, hemp, and organic cotton, making them all eco-friendly”.

Designers like the “Eco Zen Boutique” are making eco-friendly articles of clothing, accessories, and cosmetics that balance style and sustainability. The company mentions on their website that they,“ donate at least 1% of sales to environmental organizations through an alliance with 1% For The Planet and is a certified carbon free business by Carbon Fund”. The company is using eco-friendly materials to encourage people to live a “green” lifestyle with products that are used in everyday life.

Retailers are looking for a way to reduce the impact of buying conventional fabrics without eliminating fashion all together and customers are looking for an easy way to improve the environment. By putting these two concerns side by side and making one obvious solution, companies are making it more economical to buy eco-friendly products and also making them easy to find. Customers do not notice much of a difference from the look and feel of the eco-friendly products unless it is labeled as such. Therefore, they do not have to change their entire wardrobe style by making an environmentally friendly choice on the clothes that they decide to wear. According to an article in bnet by Blanca Torres, “ In the past organic cotton garments were less colorful, more neutral and the feel was different from traditional clothing, now, fabric production for organic cotton is much more sophisticated”.

What also has to be considered is that consumers are not only buying clothes for the fact that they are environmentally friendly, the clothing has to incorporate style and comfort at a good price. Retailers like H&M and Roots Canada are the world’s largest buyers of organic cotton, and offer it at the same prices as products made from conventional fabrics, because they are able to negotiate good prices overall.

According to the H&M website, “H&M has been using organically grown cotton since 2004, they began mixing some organic cotton into selected children’s clothing. Since 2007 they have had garments made from 100 percent organic cotton in all departments. They are also members of the Organic Exchange, which promotes the growth of organic cotton. H&M has been marking the basic babywear with the EU’s (European Union) eco-label, the Flower. This “certifies that harmful substances have been limited and water pollution reduced across the whole production chain, from the raw cotton to the final product”. It also “guarantees the garments ability to keep its shape and color”.

Even though a lot of us are trying to make our environment a more clean and eco-friendly place, how do we know if products are truly eco-friendly? “Clothing is made from organic cotton, but it could have been produced under poor labor conditions or in a factory that emits pollution”, says Blanca Torres for bnet. How many companies are truly environmentally friendly and who are just green washing. Green washing refers to “the phenomena of socially and environmentally destructive corporations or governments attempting to preserve and expand their markets or power by posing as friends of the environment, according to Tom Szaky for Inc. It is much harder to identify whether a retailer is truly eco-friendly unless there is research done to prove how their products are being produced. Yes, they may be using organic cotton, but if that cotton was shipped from China and then shipped back to the factory, how eco-friendly is it? Consumers have no choice but to take these products at face value.

Not only are eco-friendly designer dudes hitting the runway, but they are becoming more relevent in our everyday lives. We are seeing more and more eco-friendly articles of clothing in stores worldwide like H&M and Roots Canada. Organic clothing is becoming the new hot item and now more then ever there is a wide selection available in different styles and at better prices. Bottom line, consumers are looking for an easy way to improve the environment and what better way to do so then to incorporate it into our everyday lives. It takes each of us doing a little something to make a big chance all around. So, if you have the choice, why not buy the outfit that causes less harm to the environment and still look fabulous.

Celebrity Designers: Fab or Flop?

Whether it’s the daring and risqué clothing choices of Lady GaGa, or the sophistication of Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, almost everyone has a celebrity style crush. This idea of major style icons has been around since the times of Marilyn Munroe and Audrey Hepburn. Recently though, the trend of “celebrity gone fashion designer” has sprung, and exploded. Dozens of celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to 50 Cent have some form of fashion line. Whether its Miley Cyrus’s collaboration with Max Azria sold at Wal-Mart, or Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. line on the runways of New York Fashion Week, celebrity designers are everywhere. But do they even have any real talent or are people just buying into the clothing because of the celebrity title? And they here to stay, or are celebrity designers just a trend?
Many people have been quoted insulting this “celebrity-gone-designer” trend, saying that they have no credible training. In an interview with Telegraph UK, Sir Paul Smith shows his disdain for celeb designers. “They have neither the training nor the design awareness necessary in the business, which means it must be purely about ego and money.” While taking evening tailoring classes, Smith was discovered by the chairman of Harold Tillman, where he started off his designing career. From there he and his wife (an RCA fashion graduate) opened his first store, and went on to have his lines shown at London Fashion Week. He says that he “wouldn't bring in a celebrity to work at Paul Smith in a million years.” Anna Wintour has also been quoted criticizing celebrity designers. She recently told The Wall Street Journal that “Every D-level celebrity who thought they could make a quick buck by designing a handbag or whatever is going to disappear. And I think that's a good thing." Even the Olsen twins, former child actresses, think the trend is just a money making ploy. Ashley Olsen recently stated her opinion about celebrity designers at Glamour Magazine’s panel about the future of fashion. “When I look at it as a celebrity brand, it's almost silly to me, because I'm not coming at it from a celebrity standpoint” Having gotten out of acting at age 18, Olsen feels that her and her sister are in a different boat then these celebrity designers she speaks of. “(They) get involved because they get a licensing partner, want to slap their name on clothes, and it will add to their brand. And for us, it was totally different. That wasn't my point.”
There are however, some celebrities who have managed to actually prove to us, that they do have validity as designers. Take Gwen Stefani or Victoria Beckham for example. Stefani has been showing her very successful clothing line L.A.M.B. (annually grossing at about $90 million) at New York Fashion Week since 2006. Nicole Phelps, a writer for writes that “Stefani is the most dedicated of our celebrity designers, and certainly the most talented.” Stefani purposely did not name her clothing line after herself because she did not want people buying the clothes just because they had her name on them.
Likewise, Victoria Beckham has also established herself as a successful designer. She started out in 2007, with her line of denim and moved on to designing a line of dresses in Spring 2009, which was also shown at New York Fashion Week. Phelps writes about Beckham’s potential with her new line for Spring 2010, “The showstoppers—no surprise—were the evening dresses…When Beckham does want to join the big-timers on the runway, she'll probably need to expand further into daywear, but three seasons in, she's certainly established herself as a red-carpet expert.” In addition to winning over the fashion critics of the world, Beckham is also winning over our hearts as consumers. When her designs first hit stores they sold out within a month. This is clearly just the beginning for her fashion career, as Beckham is set to launch an accessories line in 2010.
Celebrity designers clearly have mixed reviews. Very few are raved about by those in the fashion industry while most are brutally criticized. Lindsay Lohan, for example, was recently named artistic advisor for Ungaro, her first collection for the designer shown at New York Fashion Week for Spring 2010, where New York Fashion Magazine called her debut “disastrous.” However, the magazine also reported that Tim Gunn’s compliments about Lohan, saying that she has “a great sense of fashion and (knows) what works and doesn’t work,” were what helped her secure the position because of his obvious authority on the subject. Lohan has obvious critics, however there are some that will stand by her side throughout her designing career (Lohan has a multi-year contract with Ungaro).
Whatever you opinion, celebrity designers do not seem to be going anywhere, any time soon, as more and more celebs are adding the word “designer” to their job descriptions. Those most recently joining the group are Alicia Keys, who is releasing a jewelry line, and Dina Lohan, who is said to be working on a line of shoes. No matter how many celebrities try their hand at designing and either crash and burn, or get placed into the “one-hit wonder” category, we can at least be thankful that a few of these designers seem to be in it for the long haul.

From No-End to High-End

Fresh out of Paris and ready to take Toronto by storm, Marlo Szellos is the one to trust.

Fashion is sacrifice. That’s meant in a good way, of course. It’s a two-faced industry, with the one side being glamorous, and the other being draining and down-right dirty. And on one Wednesday afternoon I was fortunate enough to get a hold of Holt Renfrew’s Personal Shopper and fashion guru, Marlo Szellos. Keep in mind that this was no easy task, for a moment I’d wondered if I saught out royalty by mistake.

Once my courage took hold and I picked up that telephone, I began to be passed around like a saltshaker at Thanksgiving dinner. First contender being the reception desk for Personal Shopping at Holt Renfrew, next I’m onto Mini-Marlo, her assistant of course. Lastly, I find myself ear to ear with the lady in question; Marlo Szellos.

My nerves calmed themselves down right away upon hearing the voice of a woman so friendly, serene and welcoming. After explaining my status as a fashion student at George Brown College she graciously accepted my request to interview her about her career and expertise in the industry. Off we went into an hour long fashion filled adventure. Fancy that, I even managed to catch her during her lunch break.

Dedicated and working in the fashion industry for the past 12 years, and merging into her 3rd year at Holt Renfrew, Marlo still manages to balance her family life and work. This being her least favourite aspect of her job, constantly being away from her husband and her two children, ages 7 and 9. It’s tough, but just another factor in proving that she is a fashion powerhouse.

Marlo’s career began at Western University majoring in French language, amongst other French studies. She always had ambition and dreams of eventually moving to Paris. Once she completed her studies here, she and a friend made their way to Paris where they studied Fashion together. “I had never planned nor hoped for a career in Fashion, but I became infatuated with the industry quite quickly. I was constantly learning more.” But although it is with most fashion hopefuls, design was not her area of interest. “I knew I didn’t want to be a fashion designer, but it was the other aspects of the industry that fascinated me greatly.” And so it began.

Upon graduation, Marlo was offered countless internships. Before moving to Toronto, she accepted a position at a buying office, HGAF, where she spent 9 years of her fashion career. After moving back to Toronto with a year of Trade department experience under her belt but no styling experience, a Personal Shopper position opened at Holt Renfrew.

Marlo quickly snatched up the opportunity to apply, and was granted the job immediately. “I didn’t go into this position with any kind of client base, I managed to develop all of this on my own,” she says. But was she nervous? “If I knew then what I know now about this type of job and the industry that I’m in, I would have been very nervous”. What about now? “I was given many tools and connected with many people quite quickly, everything has worked out so well. Being a Personal Shopper here at Holt Renfrew and working in the fashion industry, it’s almost like owning your own business!”

A typical week for Marlo is Monday to Friday with many appointments laid out each day. All of which exist for one main reason: to shop. This is what Marlo does for all those men and women out there who can’t. “My duty is to really concentrate on my clients, build a relationship with them and focus and recognize their needs when it comes to fashion. And even their everyday life”. Sounds personal. “It is a very personal job, hence the title!”

Her favourite part of being a Personal Shopper is really her creative freedom, “I truly get to express myself and help my clients express themselves through fashion,” she says. “My biggest and most appreciated compliment is when a client is truly pleased with what I have picked out. I love hearing about how happy and confident they are, and how many compliments they have received”. As well as making her clients confident in themselves and in their fashion choices, she loves to break them out of their comfort zone and introduce them to new designers and styles. She believes that options are endless, and shuns fashion myths. “If you never play around and never try certain things, you will never know what works and what doesn’t. You won’t have fun with fashion”. The passion in her voice is evident, and there is no doubt that Marlo loves what she does.

Her client base is primarily women in their early 30s to late 40s, as well as men in their 40s. For a potential client to acquire Marlo’s Personal Shopping services and fashion advice, all it takes is a call to the Personal Shopping suites and ask to set up an appointment with her. “There is no minimum purchase required, and I do not refuse anyone”. Personal Shopping is entirely complimentary! All that clients pay for is the clothing and accessories that are picked out for them.

I’m curious to know, as a hopeful future Stylist or Personal Shopper myself, what advice she’d offer to someone like myself. As well as what challenges she faces in her career. “Finding certain pieces for my clients is not always an easy task. Sometimes pieces need to be ordered from another store in the city, or even another province”. Frustration can build up due to the fact that certain clients often work within certain budgets. This is difficult since Holt Renfrew only carries high end premium brands.

The job is also all about trust. “Clients and I face a challenge when we have contradicting opinions. But I always stand by what I believe in and I am always honest with my clients, they have to learn to trust my instinct and be comfortable with me”. She says that this trust will come easy after you have developed your own sense of style, and you are confident in who you are and your choices. A big suggestion she offers is constantly learning and studying the industry, knowing about all the different aspects. Whether it be designers, stylists, photographers or trends. You name it. “This is SO key that I can’t stress it enough, as well as product knowledge. Representatives for the designers we carry are constantly visiting to talk about their collections,” sounds nerve-racking. “You have to know your stuff”.

Marlo’s number one quality for a personal shopper is being great with people, and you have to be very patient. “I have my own style, and just because I may like something for myself, does not mean that it will work for my clients”. And also, for all you other hopefuls out there, “There is no salary for Personal Shopping. You only receive commission from the clothing you sell”. So, not only are you styling, but you are selling as well.

Before we knew it, the time had flown by. We exchanged our thank-yous and good-byes, when she was kind enough to extend a coffee invite my way. I quickly accepted. Excited, anxious and nervous all at once. Of course, weeks later, this date has yet to take place. But I understand, the Fashion industry never sleeps. Although I hope Marlo manages to catch up on hers! Fashion has swallowed her up, and thankfully for all those out there who are overwhelmed by the idea of styling and shopping, the industry has yet to spit her out.

Pushing The Envelope

How “Too Far” Just Doesn’t Exist In Advertising

As you flip through a magazine, drive down the freeway, or walk through Toronto’s downtown streets, you are surrounded by advertisements. When the average North American is exposed to at least 500 commercial messages per day, it promotes several questions such as; what is considered influential, and what is considered excessive. Advertising can be defined as the act of describing or drawing attention to a product, service or event in a public medium in order to promote sales or attendance. The lingering question asks: what kind of attention are advertisers seeking? When does provocative become an understatement, or when is sexy too sexy?
Several retailers such as Sisely, Calvin Klein, American Apparel and many others firmly believe in the “sex sells” approach, and the “any publicity is good publicity” view when it comes to their abundance of racy ads. These businesses are well versed in the art of creating buzz, which is the main goal in controversial advertising. What better topic is there than sex? It’s sure to cause a clamor. Since sex is perceived as being personal, it’s a given that creating an emotional connection is crucial to effective marketing campaigns. The laws of nature play at the core of profitable fashion marketing. Sex is a universally understood concept, which cuts through the clutter and immediately grabs the viewer’s attention. When you notice a Calvin Klein ad, where the models are oiled up, scantily clad, and pressed up against each other, regardless if you are offended or excited by the idea, you’ve still given it a second thought: which is the sole purpose of companies pushing the limit. A shock value approach keeps a company designers’ name active in your memory long past the initial viewing of the advertisement.
A prime example of shock advertising would be the creator of the American Apparel brand, Dov Charney. Charney is directly involved in his company’s branding and advertising, with his print campaigns being perhaps one of the most talked about in the garment industry. The company is known for it’s simple and provocative ads featuring young teenage models (who are usually employees) in sexually provoking poses. American Apparel ads push the envelope of creativity, decency, and the standards of advertising today. American Apparel’s racy ads, as well as other company’s ads often pose the question of are these ads targeted at men or women? Since sex is a universally understood language, it can effectively be sold to both genders. Charney, and others grasp the full meaning of the notion that any publicity is good publicity, and they don’t fall short of impressing. American Apparel was forced to pay 5 million to Woody Allen after the director’s image was reproduced in a poster campaign without permission. In moments such as these, the free publicity and widespread media coverage typically far outweigh the monetary damages brought forth by lawsuits. In another instance, an American Apparel ad was banned (and it surely wasn’t their first) for featuring a partially dressed model who appeared to be under 16. The same situation occurred in a 1995 campaign for Calvin Klein when his images of pubescent models in provocative poses caused major controversy and debate when they crossed the line between fashion and pornography. Again, the controversy of these ads only creates a buzz, keeping the audience fixated, and taking a company’s recognition from a 5 to a 10.
Every now and again, now being more common in today’s grand scheme of advertising, someone causes a stir. Controversial advertising touches upon just about every human emotion at some point or another, which is why things are only getting more heated. Next time an ad turns your head, take a moment to think if the company took a step (or two or three) over the line, and ask yourself if it was too far. If the unanimous answer is “yes”, the advertiser has done their job. Sex sells; we know it and fashion conglomerates know it. The only question left is when is the envelope going to burst.

It’s No Vogue

Have fashion blogs really taken the place of our beloved magazines?

Fashionistas all over the world have recently set aside their fixation, dare I say- addiction, with various fashion magazines (or at least until the release of the next issue) and are opting to hop online to peruse articles, entries, information and photo shoot-reminiscent stills from an entirely new breed of fashion icons; the style blogger.

With the economic times begging us to put that $5.99 into our savings, instead of nonchalantly adding the current issue of Elle to our grocery pile on the conveyor belt in front of us, it makes sense that the modern fashion savvy gal is turning to a cheaper, and often more bountiful, alternative.

Internet blogs come in many different styles and forms, offer diverse opinions, and are often updated once daily (sometimes multiple times). They are also opening the door for a fresh new group of entrepreneurs looking to voice their views on the sorts of things normally only found within the beautifully glossed-pages of Vogue.

This year, the front row of Dolce and Gabbana’s fashion show during Milan’s fashion week was filled with new, internet famous faces- two of those faces belonging to Bryan Boy and Tommy Ton, well-known style blog owners. Bryan Boy has even had Marc Jacob’s name a bag after him, a feat not easily accomplished. And there they sat, perfectly poised with their Mac books placed atop of their knees, between the likes of Anna Wintour, Hamish Bowles, and Vanity Fair’s Michael Roberts.

Tavi, a mere child at the age of 13, jumped from runway show to runway show at this year’s New York fashion week, all the while accompanied by her daddy dearest. She was also featured earlier this year on the cover of Pop magazine, all because of her rise to fame due to her internet journal entitled ‘The Style Rookie’. But a rookie is the furthest thing from what Tavi actually is, often jumping from the topic of her daily school yard dramatics to that of her opinions on Alber Elbaz’s Lavin collection for spring 2010 with ease. And don’t let the age fool you; she knows her stuff!

Jane Altridge, the Texas-born sweetheart who writes Sea of Shoes, has recently designed a collection for mass fashion chain Urban Outfitters and Karla Deras, of Karla’s Closet, was featured in a nation wide ad campaign for American Apparel.

With 88% of people saying that the internet plays a daily role in their lives, it seems like the concept of an online resource, such as a fashion blog, was bound to happen eventually.

But why the sudden rise in popularity? Fashion blogs can, to put it simply, do a lot of things that magazines can’t.

For example, at a regular fashion magazine, the articles take time, are normally planned months in advance, and are checked countless times by various people in order to make sure they are saying exactly what they should be. Stories go back to ‘the desk’ and are proofread, fact-checked, and circulated to Editors who shorten, squeeze content, and filter the tripe. The editorial process of a blog is much simpler. The content is created, almost as quickly as it is thought up, and then published. No shortening, no content squeezing, and definitely no filter. The world of blogging takes journalism to an entirely new, unedited, level- it seems to contain more real content with room for opinions and mistakes.

The rise of the fashion and street style blog seems to be the antithesis to the days when supermodels, celebrities, and fashion insiders dictated the world’s definition of style. Now, new style icons are made with the click of a mouse and a snapshot of one’s everyday wardrobe.

Most style blogs feature a mix of high-low purchases and anonymous labels; some even highlight thrifted pieces, which readers can connect to. Not everyone is buying a new Louis Vuitton every season or the hottest pair of Yves Saint Laurent pumps this spring, so seeing how to wear pieces we could purchase at our local shopping district (for a tiny fraction of the price of the new LV messenger bag) helps define our own style without feeling like most fashion is unattainable. It reminds us that it truly isn’t what you wear but how you wear it. Style blogs also blend a snapshot of a daily outfit with a feeling of camaraderie. The more you read a blog, the more likely you are to check back on a daily basis because you feel connected to the writer, as though the bloggers are your stylish best friends next door with a really great Nikon and a penchant for witty reviews of the last Proenza Schouler show.

But does this mean that we are going to see the passing of the fashion magazine entirely? It’s hard to tell. Many women’s fashion magazines saw a decline in advertising sales this year, with most companies pulling back buying a page in Vogue during the recession and instead trying to experiment with more efficient places to invest their money- online or otherwise. InStyle, Vogue, and Elle saw revenue declines of nearly 21%, 26% and 20% this year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. And September issues of these magazines were almost a third slimmer than last year’s batch!

However, there are still things a fashion magazine can do that a style blog might never be able to. For starters, magazines keep the industry alive and thriving. The magazines need their advertising spaces to be filed just as much as the advertisers need their placements in between the pages of Elle. Many magazines have long-standing relationships with brands and designers and bring them to life in a way that no blogger can because the magazine can afford to. Only Vogue can provide us with jaw-dropping editorials using the hottest, off the runway looks of Alexander Wang or Rodarte. It is unlikely these samples would be sent to an internet savvy teen across the globe, but they will be sent to the fashion closets of our favourite magazines on a regular basis, where we are able to see them as up-close as it’s going to get.

Magazines also have the ability to take us to another world. Opening the first few pages and absorbing it all in can be a real treat; the colour, the sheen, the smell of the gloriously printed pages. Every young girl remembers their first foray into the world of the lifestyle magazine- whether it was snooping through your mom’s issue of Chatelaine each month or saving up your weekly allowance to be able to afford your very own issue of Seventeen. Buying magazines reminds us of that comfort, that tradition, and they offer us tangible keepsakes that we can carry around with us until we get bored…or see another issue gracing our newsstands.

Blogs can give us the information we are craving faster, provide us with a more realistic and affordable approach to style, and invite us into the lives of other fashionable, real-life women we can connect with and look-up to through our laptop screens. But even though the dot-com generation is moving to the internet for faster, more accessible information it seems as though magazines will always have a place in the heart of women everywhere. They are there for us on our longest plane rides, comforting us beneath the covers after the most terrible break-up, and tucked right within our purses for a little pick-me-up during the commute home. So are e-writers the ‘future’ of the fashion industry? Maybe not, but they are definitely the right (click) now.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Choices...College or University, Burberry or Louis Vuitton?

Just like the choice of what designer handbag to buy, there are choices in life that are hard to make. Like a tasteful accessory, your education is something that will never go out of style. Unlike a three thousand dollar bag, no matter how much it costs, an education is always worth it. Post-secondary education is always important when going out into the work world no matter what type of job you are applying for. Along with experience and who you know, education will help you to get that dream job.

They say education is the key to success, but what type of education are “they” talking about, a college diploma or a university degree? Rumors say that a university degree is always preferable to a college diploma but what fashion student pays attention to rumors or gossip anyway?

When fashion is the focus, it’s especially hard to choose between college and university when you are looking to further your education. How are you sure you are making the right choice? With fashion as a rising career choice among young students and the option of so many fashion programs and schools, how do you decide between university and college? Is one path “better” than the other? What are employers looking for; do they prefer one designation over another? These are all questions commonly asked by aspiring fashion students.

Finding universities that offer fashion programs is often difficult, especially in Canada. Many more universities in the United States offer fashion programs than in Canada. Universities offering fashion programs in Canada are scarce, but they are available. Ryerson University, in Toronto is recognized for its fashion programs in Design, Fashion Communications and Retail Management. Our very own George Brown College offers its own excellent fashion programs in Fashion Design, Fashion Business and
Fashion Management. There are many other colleges in Ontario and Canada that offer fashion programs as well such as Seneca and Fanshaw.

The differences between a university or college education are fairly straightforward. Most universities offer four year programs which earn the graduate a B.A. in their field of study. A degree on a resume often impresses employers and gives them a reason to offer an interview. According to a December 2006 article in the Toronto Star by author, Ellen Roseman, “Many high-level jobs require a master's degree, even a PhD, to get in the door”. This is one of the main reasons why one might say that a university degree is so important. Some sources state that a university degree will generate higher earnings than a college diploma. However, the cost of a university education vs. college is much higher. Is the extra expense worth it?

According to an online blog by author, Simon Ma “while a degree does not guarantee employability, it does improve the odds as well as the income potential that is associated with the field you are entering into. If you have a two-year degree, the decision to continue your educational pursuits can be a tough one but it is well worth the effort in the end.”

U. S. colleges offer an Associate Degree which is the equivalent to our college diploma. This degree also requires two years of study. Colleges usually offer smaller class sizes in an intimate environment. College is a hands-on learning experience; it’s usually a two to three year program that is geared to preparing the student to enter the workforce upon graduating. Often students are allowed to transfer their college credits towards a university program if they wish. Transferring credits means that students can use their two year college diploma towards a four year Bachelor’s degree. Sometimes the two or three years spent at college can give the student time to decide whether they really need or want to pursue a degree in their chosen field.

In an article written January 9, 2009, comparing the earning power of college grads to university grads, Grace Chen, from the Community College Review, states that individuals with higher degrees earn, on average, more than individuals with a high school diploma. As CNN reports, while high school graduates with no college education collect an average weekly salary of $585, according to Current Population Survey data, that figure jumps nearly 15 percent to $670 for associate degree holders. Grace Chen also points out later in her article that, yes, a bachelor degree holder does end up having a higher salary, but does the cost of a four year institution outweigh the intended salary benefit? This is something to think about as a young student. If you have prior student loans that you have to pay off out of your existing salary, is this going to affect your total net income?

In the end, sometimes it’s the simplest reason that defines why a student might choose one type of education over another. Often it boils down to personality and learning style. College definitely offers a hands-on learning experience, if you are a hands-on learner, you might want to consider attending college. University usually attracts student’s who enjoy listening to lectures and learn from taking notes, they might also enjoy being taught verbally as opposed to learning by doing. In today’s society, it’s almost understood that you must obtain some sort of post-secondary education to guarantee a good paying job. Your success in college or university all comes down to your personality and your attitude. School requires dedication and commitment; you need to take it seriously to generate success.

As far as fashion is concerned, employers in the fashion industry are definitely looking for post- secondary education. They aren’t necessarily looking for a university degree. Sometimes the work experience acquired in a college program is more desirable than the academic style of a university. A college diploma is certainly welcomed in the fashion industry. Creativity is one of the number one attributes that will help you succeed in this field of work. In my two years at college I have personally met a lot of George Brown College Students who have earned a position and created a name for themselves in the industry with their college education. Diploma or degree? Both are welcomed in the fashion industry so take your personality, pocketbook and your personal goals into consideration and good luck, the world is waiting for you!

Disposable Fashion - Has Fashion Become TOO Fast?

Disposable Fashion - Has Fashion Become TOO Fast?

In recent years there has been a strong shift in the way that consumers buy clothing. Fashion was once something for the elite, but is now accessible to everyone. Since the introduction of stores like H&M, Zara, and Topshop, people shopping in nearly any price range can access the latest fashions. These stores offer knock-offs and interpretations of all of the newest designer trends, sometimes within days of them being seen on the runways. These lower priced stores are known as disposable or fast fashion, due to the speed at which inventory comes and goes and how quickly fashions change. Fast fashion allows shoppers to constantly stay on trend and update their wardrobe on nearly a weekly basis. 87Fast fashion is considered by many to responsible for the growth in sales in the fashion industry over recent years. According to The Times Online as the price of clothing in the UK has dropped 25 per cent between 2003 and 2008, the amount of clothing purchased has grown by nearly 40 per cent.

With the current economy and price conscious consumers, disposable fashion’s biggest benefit is plain to see; More for less. Who doesn’t want to buy fashionable clothing at affordable prices? But what about the quality of these items, you ask? When buying such inexpensive items, quality isn’t as important. A new pair of boots might only last you one season, but because of the low price you can easily pick up next season’s hottest pair when they are worn out. Many of today’s consumers would rather have a closet full of inexpensive and easily replaced clothes, than own just a few expensive fashion staples, and fast fashion allows them to do just that.

Fast fashion allows consumers to keep up with ever changing trends, without worrying about their budgets. A trend item might only remain in fashion for a short time, but if it is purchased at a store like Topshop, the shopper won’t feel guilty about only wearing it a few times. Take a look at the red carpet and magazines; celebrities wouldn’t dare being seen wearing the same thing twice. While not quite as extreme, today’s shoppers have a similar viewpoint. They constantly want new things, and get bored more quickly than in the past. Fast fashion allows consumers to update their wardrobe more often. With disposable fashion, new items are constantly being added. Stores like Zara get new stock nearly every day. This allows shoppers to continuously update their wardrobe, replacing items as they see fit.

Another benefit of fast fashion is that it has resulted in many designers collaborating with lower priced stores in order to maintain their popularity. A group of people who would ordinarily never be able to afford clothing designed by Karl Lagerfeld, Victor & Rolf, or Roberto Cavalli were suddenly given the opportunity to wear clothing by these designers when they released exclusive lines at H&M. This not only boosts the store’s status, but also introduces a new group of shoppers to a designer they may not have known about. In the past, consumers who shopped for clothing on a budget were not considered fashion conscious or aware of designers. Fast fashion is certainly proving that idea wrong.

Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t the newest trends be available to everyone? The industry’s lower prices mean that fashion is accessible to more people, and that people can afford to buy more. While disposable fashion has won over thousands of shoppers, it brings on an army of complaints from people across the fashion and environmental industries.

…………..Environmentalists argue that disposable fashion is anything but environmentally friendly. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste reported that in 2005 nine million tonnes of clothing, footwear, towels, and bedding wound up in landfills. According to The Times Online over two million tonnes of clothing are purchased in the UK per year, and 74 per cent of that ends up in landfills. The Times Online also reported that these masses of clothing sent to landfills are mostly made of acrylic fabrics, which are chosen because of their low cost, but do not break down quickly or sometimes at all.

…………..The negative environmental effects do not end where the garments are purchased and disposed of. This pollution spreads back to where the garments and textiles are produced. As prices of clothing have become lower, production has been shifted to countries offering the lowest costs. China is the leader in production of clothing, producing 30 per cent of the world’s apparel according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database. In Pietra Rivoli’s novel, The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, she discusses how the fashion manufacturing industry plays a large role in China’s pollution problem. Rivoli states that Americans purchase a billion garments per year that come from China. Maude Barlow, Canadian author and chair member of Food and Water Watch, revealed in 2008 that China had destroyed 80 per cent of its rivers through the use of chemicals and dyes used in the production of exported apparel. China is now facing water shortages due to the amount of toxins it releases into its water sources. This is due to the increase in Chinese production that the fast fashion movement brought on. Pietra Rivoli also reveals in her novel that Africa, India, Brazil, and Mexico are among other areas suffering from apparel industry related pollution. These countries manufacture apparel for such low costs, that they cannot afford to implement proper systems to reduce the environmental impact of production.

…………..Disposable fashion also draws criticism from the fashion industry. Fashion has become less exclusive, and buying a designer brand has lost some of the allure it previously held. Spending hundreds of dollars on a designer garment is much less appealing when the girl next to you on the subway purchased what looks like the same jacket for a fraction of the cost. Fashion and couture has long been a status symbol associated with the elite and cultured. Fast fashion has put an end to this, robbing designer fashion of its glamour. Some designers also feel that collaborating with budget stores is not a positive step, but rather something they are forced into in order to maintain their popularity and attempt to recruit future customers.

…………..With the current push for green living, including the recent rise in reusable shopping bags, energy efficient products, and going organic, the fashion industry remains to be an environmental threat. Is environmental responsibility enough to make consumers think twice about where they shop, or will price continue to win? Fast fashion may seem like affordable luxury; buy today, wear tomorrow, and forget about it next week, but the price must be seen in more than dollars and cents; the cost to the environment must be considered.