Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Haute or Hot Couture?

The True Cost of Counterfeiting.

Flipping through the pages of Vogue we find ourselves in awe of the newest fashions to hit the runway. We can’t help but to be instantly drawn to the elegant colours, unique designs and effortless style. These haute couture labels have spent endless hours and an abundance of capital designing, sourcing, producing, and promoting their works of art in order to bring it all to life. The highly sought after names and reputations have come from years of hard work, creating and developing exclusive fashion, exceptional quality, and through living up to their prominent status. It was once accepted that these luxury items would only be worn by the elite and celebrity icons. Today however, more strive to attain this same image. The question is how far are people willing to go to get it? Is it possible that the emphasis on luxury brands has proven to have a contradicting roll within society?
We’ve all heard of people going to bazaars, Canal Street, Chinatown and dark city street corners to get these looks for less, but is that all that is happening? Unfortunately, today’s society is willing to take drastic measures in order to wear these designer brands. But at what cost? Couture, like many other popular and profitable industries, is susceptible to high theft and crime rates. The amount of counterfeit fashion today however, has reached staggering numbers. The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that the counterfeit industry is worth 450 to 500 billion dollars US, which makes up five to seven percent of total world trade. Of this 20% comes from clothing and textiles, 10% from perfumes and cosmetics and 5% from watches. Although counterfeit products and knockoffs have always been illegal, it is not until recently that action has started to be taken against the crime. Couture houses have been fighting against counterfeiting for years as these fake replicas destroy their brand image and cheapen their product worth. They have however had little success in dealing with this overbearing issue. The difficulty that the industry faces, unlike other business regimes, is that designers are unable to take out copyright protection under the US Copyright Act. The only security available to designers is trademark protection. Therefore when dealt with legally counterfeit items are often rendered “creative interpretation”. These fakes not only affect the fashion companies but also the customers. Customers who have, or who are willing to purchase the legitimate items are now less apt to buy certain brands or designs as the product no longer contains the exclusive value or perceived worth as it was originally intended to do. Many European cities like France and Italy have recently began patrolling counterfeit crimes. They are confiscating the items and fining the individual who is found wearing or selling it. Although luxury labels are extremely pleased with the direction enforcement is taking, officials have an alternative motive for policing it.
Individuals that buy fake merchandise most often do so because they want the popular designs but cannot afford the designer price. It may seem innocent enough, however what these individuals do not realize is what they are truly supporting. What has caught the official’s attention is the connection of counterfeit merchandise to a large number of other illegal activities. The associated crimes include drug trade, weapons, prostitution, terrorism, and child labour. Counterfeit merchandise fuels the concern for underpaid, underage workers in unsuitable environments as the vast majority of counterfeit merchandise is produced in less developed Asian countries including China, Thailand and South Korea. These countries have the technology, and man power to run the industry as jobs are scarce and they lack government support and human right laws that would allow them to make any suitable changes. Global distribution of these items has also been made easier with the removal of the quota limits on imported and exported goods. In 2004, 100 million counterfeit fashions were confiscated at European borders while these numbers continue to rise.
So how should we attempt to control this global disaster? The best way to tackle counterfeiting is to simply not buy it. Without the general public’s support there would be no industry, although as a society we are still quite a ways from that. In the meantime it is necessary to implement stricter laws and develop harsher punishments for those found guilty. European nations are slightly further ahead when it comes to governing the issue but North America is not far behind. Today, major labels employ in house security teams to walk the streets, but all levels of enforcement around the world need to be on the same page and work together in order to intervene at all possible levels. Counterfeiting willing never be stopped but we can all do our best to help improve on it.
So the next time you pass that corner stand displaying your favourite designer goods what will you do?

Dying for Colour

Ever wonder if that new hot colour should truly be called painful pink, or blistering blue? Are colours just that ... colours? Or are they harmful toxin to the body creating nasty effects?

Colours are constantly something that every person has in their closet whether its the hottest pink for spring or the hottest auburn for fall. For some people colour goes to a whole new level which involves hives, and unbelievably painful blisters. As a consumer do we ever ask whether this colour will cause a reaction or where did the dye come from?Also you might ask if it would be safer to eliminate colour from your wardrobe. Or is that hot new shade of colour going to look great when it permanently seeps into your skin forever? Unfortunately were more excited about how it looks up to our skin instead of the next 12 hours you will endure in the hospital emergency room waiting for rash cream. Suppose now the question is – Should you be dying for colour? classifies dyeing of fabrics as “ the application of colour-producing agents to material,using fibrous or film, in order to impart a degree of colour permanence demanded by the projected end use.” So what this really means is the process of transferring a colour dye to a fabric. Depending on the fabric depends on the process that the dye will be transferred. For example a fibre such as cotton shall be submerged into the dye and using an assistant as electrolyte and the is boiled in the hot dye. Dyeing can take place in many countries as long as the country has the equipment. Dyeing of fabric is always great for the fashion world because we are provided with an array of wonderful colours. Fabric dyeing also provides many jobs for different countries who find themselves in hard economic times; such as India. Also dyeing can be very Eco friendly when using Eco friendly dyes that do not harm the water that is being used. Dyeing fabrics not only creates more prospering opportunities in places and to people who don't have many resources, but they also create a brighter and more beautiful world.

So how was that couple hours spent in the hospital, I had to ask a friend recently who had an reaction to a dye that had be running onto her skin from her purple cotton shirt. This hadn't been the first time that this unfortunate incident had happened to someone I knew. Of course I knew that coloured garments should be washed before warn,but had that been enough warning for the local consumers? Unfortunately maybe the question that should be asked is should dyed fabrics have a highly more dangerous warning label with red letters saying “ proceed to wear with caution”. Now a days manufacturers tend to use more synthetic dyes which can be highly toxic as well as flammable. Many of the ingredients that are used to create a brightly coloured dye can also be a “ hormone disruptor” as said by Brit who wrote Synthetic dyes: a look at environmental and human risks. Dyeing factories have to be extra careful when working with these highly flammable toxins to ensure the workers safety from possible fires. Dye manufacturers have also been warned of the high risks of getting tumours and cancers of many sorts. Often these types of diseases are selective to the workers yet many consumers have complained of issues with colours containing what they thought was safe dyes. Often consumers have complaints about rashes such as hives, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Although the garments are washed before they are sent out to suppliers sometimes there is still dye left and can seep into the skin. Well ladies how about honey hives as the hottest new colour?

In the end colour is something that will stay in our closets as a staple that wont disappear unless washed more then 30 times. The days of trying to match the perfect shade of pink with the perfect shade of blue is gone, and the days of black is always safe is in. Is it safer to stick with neutrals then to trade in the bland's for the brights? In truth colours are both the devil and the angel. Would anyone truly stop wearing that hot new shade of purple in order to be able to breathe better? Also think of those small areas that prosper from dyeing manufacturing factories. I'm dying for colour-are you?

Flash Back, Fresh Forward

Let us flash back down memory lane at one of fashions rising superstars today. Shawn Hewson was born in Montreal and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. With law on his mind he attended University of Toronto law school and after graduation began practicing at a large downtown law firm. At this time fashion had always remained on his mind as a need not yet fulfilled. Now let’s be honest what would fashion be without the creative minds behind Bustle.

Shawn Hewson may be famously known as being one of the judges on Canada’s Project Runway. His bold personality has taught many of the designers featured on the show that fashion is to be loved and through the love designed. Shawn was chosen for his position on the show not only for his style expertise, but also to represent somebody who had to start out designing like many of the contestants. Shawn and the Project Runway contestants share a common similarity, which was expression of art through designing clothing. He showed the contestants that with hard work and determination they too can one day sit where he is sitting. He is constantly pushing himself to remain different in an industry filled with so many aspiring designers Bustle clothing has transformed the notion of sexy-ready to wear.

Bustle clothing, from where it has come, has developed far beyond the t-shirts that were the main focus. Actually it is understandably very smart the way Shawn had positioned himself in the industry. Being a lawyer turn designer he needed to gain the respect and the buzz in the industry that kept people wanting more. His t-shirt collection proved to be very successful thus allowing him to expand his label.

Flashing forward to now, it was surprising to find out that Bustle actually started out selling men’s and women’s T-shirts as a means of getting publicity around the industry. Word of mouth was a sure way of getting his brand name around. According to the Project Runway biography, In 2002, Shawn and his wife, Ruth Promislow—both practicing lawyers—founded Bustle Clothing, launching the brand with a line of men’s and women’s’ T-shirts. After a successful season as a T-shirt line, Bustle was expanded to a small collection of men’s and women’s sportswear pieces.
Now in its tenth season, Bustle has become a leading Canadian sportswear label known for its cheeky, sexy, and sharply tailored leisure aesthetic. According to Wikipedia December 2008 each season, Bustle produces a collection based around a new ‘sportif’ theme. From the Skeet Club to the kentucky Derby, to the Spring 2009 vintage jet-set inspired “Wayfarer” Collection; high pedigree inspiration always translates into luxurious, but ‘funked-up’ classics, seasoned with Bustle's sharp tailoring, attention to details, and signature cheekiness.
Shawn Hewson has brought a breath of fresh air into the riviting world of fashion. Noted from the Bustle clothing website, this label is that of an eccentric british gentleman. In Fall 2008 the ‘Casino Collection’, inspiration came from the well-heeled patrons of French gaming salons. This was no exception to Bustle’s signature twist on the classics. These were not your average high rollers. Using charismatic fabrics, including unconventional black, metallic grey stripe, and deep purple stripe suitings, combined with midnight blue, black and winter white twill and wool flannels, the collection combines evening with day, and formal with relaxed to reflect a man’s own inner James Bond.
Shawn’s 2009 collection exuded sexy, class, and style. With looks ranging in pin stripe and plan colored suits, denim shorts paired with blazers, and a hint of the past with 60’s inspired looks such as a pocket watch chain. The desheveled man was brought into light with charisma and shine as he struted his stuff wearing aviator glasses inspired by an aviation theme. There was an aumage of looks that were drawn from the past that were reienvented into timeless modern pieces. Of course in classic Bustle style there were speratic dispersements of female models that came down the runway wearing garments that mimicked masculine designs.
Constantly drawing from past and present times and significant moments in history Bustle clothing continues to recycle images and concepts to up-to-date styles. Using vintage travel as a source of satorial inspiratin, It could also be Shawn Hewson’s natural quirk which heavily influences many of the concept directions of the designs. From a Bay Street Corporate lawyer to a rising fashion designer Shawn Hewson has yet to reach the top of his mountain. He has only begun the climb.

Style for Style

Aside from the witty writing and smart story lines, “Sex and the City” was a show that broke boundaries, broke hearts, broke bankbooks and never apologized. If New York City is the fifth character in “Sex and the City”, than the clothes are certainly the sixth. With the new movie hitting theaters in May, I have a hunch that we all can not wait to get “Carrie-d away” all over again…

Aside from sipping on the occasional cosmopolitan, or hoping that one day, I too, will be proposed to with a shoe, one can not help but be blown away by the incredible impact “Sex and the City” has had on the lives of all women who watch it (and subsequently the wallets of all the suckers out there.) The Sex and the City Effect, as it is so often referred to, stakes its claim from the large shift in behavior of certain groups of women after the show’s cultural rise to greatness. Foregoing the obvious effects: the desire to sip cocktails all day, flaunt your sexuality on any occasion, and float through life unsure of where you’ll end up (but positive that you’ll be okay), the greatest effect the show has had can be found in our closets.

As each of the four main characters grew in to themselves and began to develop their own distinct style, it can be assumed that each and every viewer out there fundamentally attributed themselves to one of the four women.

There’s the “Samantha”. Everything about her exudes sex and confidence – particularly her wardrobe. Bright bold colours, curve hugging dresses, the oversized Hermes Birkin bag, and huge gold statement jewelry. If you’re a Samantha kind of girl, you aren’t afraid to stand out.

If you view yourself as a “Charlotte”, then you are a woman who lives by a schedule and a plan. With the upstate New York combination of preppy, feminine and romantic, her look is proper, sophisticated and always put together. Grocery shopping with a dress that doesn’t go with your shoes? No thank you.

The strong and determined “Miranda” character dresses not to attract men, but to attract the positive attention she feels she deserves in the work place. With incredible power suits by day and oversized t-shirts by night, the rare times that Miranda shows a little skin, it is with purpose.

With the tendency to favour shoes over rent, many women (myself included), can strongly identify as being a “Carrie”. It is her continued nuance of hope and naiveté about all things love and finance related that make her so relatable, and also somehow admirable. She taught us the importance of mixing designer pieces with funky finds from thrift stores, and how the transgression of mixing colour pallets and styles is never safe, but always surprising.

With all four characters built upon such strong female archetypes, there is the strong possibility that one may have a bit of Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda and Carrie in all of us. But what we all possess since the show first passed through our televisions, into our living rooms, and straight to our hearts, is the willingness to forgo all common sense and follow any trend that one of the four girls busts out.

The contribution the show made to fashion is immense. They turned Manolo Blahnik into a household name, revived the fanny pack, raised eyebrows by turning lingerie into every day clothing, and exposed midriffs without disposing class. The girls made it justifiable to throw down thousands on a handbag, and made you argue that fur is not murder, fur is fashion.

Costume designers Pat Field and Rebecca Weinberg undoubtedly had no idea the kind of impact the show’s wardrobe would have or it’s influence of modern day fashion. The pair produced more than fifty outfits per episode, and approximately three hundred for the first movie installment. During the six season run they spawned a revving engine of economic, cultural, and social trends that continue to be relevant today.

“In terms of the series, fashion didn’t just reflect the zeitgeist, it actually influenced it as well,” says Valerie Steele, fashion historian and director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “It really validated people’s love of fashion. Even people who weren’t going to spend $500 on a pair of shoes suddenly became very aware of Manolo and Choo and the whole concept of luxury.”

The first film paid homage to many of the series common fashion statements: status shoes and bags, menswear inspired pieces, and oversized flowers. With exposed bra straps, nameplate necklace, and a Prad(o) purse in tow, SATC addicts are more than ready to see what the new film will introduce into our wardrobes.

When the second “Sex and the City” film hits theaters this May, there will undoubtedly be as much discussion about the hemlines as there are about the plotlines.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The King of Clubs

An insight into the fashion world’s seal hunt kingpin: Canada

One of the most controversial social and political issues facing Canada that has been gaining worldwide media attention is the annual Atlantic Canada Seal Hunt. Held mainly in Newfoundland and Labrador and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from mid-November to mid-May, seals are clubbed to death by hunters for their fur. Retailers use these pelts in a wide variety of fashion-related products including coats, handbags, hats, vests and gloves from some of our favourite design houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. According to CBC News Canada, on average 275,000 seals are slaughtered annually in Canada equating to nearly 25% of the global industry – making it the largest hunt worldwide.

Whether or not you agree with this century’s old practice, it is impossible to ignore the national spotlight it has placed on Canada and the global uproar it has generated within ethical groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who claim the seal hunt is “inhumane and an embarrassment to Canada.” The images of the hunt are powerful, and seal hunt opponents know it. Organizations like PETA use the brutal and bloody slaughter photos in advertising campaigns to raise awareness of the hunt and to gain public trust by opposing seal hunters, the Canadian government and the representative trade organizations within the field. Many celebrities including Beatles pop legend Paul McCartney and Canadian-born bombshell Pamela Anderson have long been advocates against the seal hunt.
This past February, spokesperson for PETA, Anderson, staged a press event coinciding with the Olympics where she personally mailed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in front of the Department of Fisheries Canada pleading to cancel the main hunt taking place in April. Recently, PETA also launched the ‘Save the Seals’ campaign, using celebrities - such as Anderson herself, rock royalty Kelly Osborne, blogger Perez Hilton, and Canadian model turned actress Tricia Helfer – in advertisements to raise awareness against the hunt. Clearly, these types of continuous public campaigns seem to be working as conservation groups and animal activist groups received news they have been anxiously hoping for for quite some time. Last May, the European Parliament approved the European Seal Bill banning all imports of seal product into Europe.

Until recently, the seal trade industry has been growing economically, exporting more than $13 million worth of seal products annually according to Industry Canada. The European Union typically accounts for about 15% of Canada's seal exports. Needles to say, the Canadian seal trade industry continues to suffer the devastating blow from the passing of this bill. Proponents for the seal hunt, the Government of Canada and Department of Fisheries Canada have argued that the seal hunt does indeed benefit the nation by providing a significant source of income for thousands of sealers. However, the price for seal pelts has been decreasing drastically, even before the bill approval in Europe. According to DFO Canada, the price per seal pelt has consistently dropped by 100% each year; from $105 in 2006 to $15 in 2009. This continuous drop alone may be an indication that the seal trade industry may in fact be a dying one.

According to the seal hunt opponents’ views, the problem lies not only at the killing itself, but within the inhumane method of how the animals are hunted, poor regulations and the lack of monitored government supervision. The act of seal clubbing can be traced back as far as Inuit times, where the first nation’s people used hakapiks, a wooden hammer-like tool with a metal spike, to quickly and efficiently kill seals with little damage to the pelt. This tool is still used today.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare claims that seals are routinely clubbed or shot and left to suffer on the ice until they're clubbed later and that they are often skinned before being rendered fully unconscious. However, DFO Canada adamantly denies these accusations as studies completed by the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that of the majority of seals taken during the hunt in 2002, 98% of examined seals were killed in an acceptably humane manner. Accusations of animal cruelty have continued to flame the fire of this debate for many years and likely will continue for more years to come.

The question we are left with is: what does each of us define as ‘humane’? Is killing for materialistic purposes humane? Or is it acceptable if the animal is killed quickly experiencing no pain? The seal hunt is a cherished tradition of Canadian history that may possibly be an economic disaster waiting in the wind. Concluding the seal hunt may possibly be in our cards or we may continue to relive our past... but only time will tell.


What is a fashion advertisement? It is a means of creating unique promotions for the fashion industry. It includes advertisements for garments, purses, shoes, and high end perfumes. The goal of a fashion advertisement is to connect potential customers with the brand. Advertisements promote a lifestyle just as much as the product. Fashion advertisement is heavily linked with sexuality.

Controversial advertisements have always been part of the fashion industry. Always pushing the boundaries to see how far they can take it. Advertisements come in many forms and can be found: in magazines, on billboards, on the internet and on television. Controversial ads show up frequently in top magazines like Vouge, Vanity Fair, and Women`s Wear Daily. Some may argue that the ads are eye catching and that sex sells. On the other hand some may find it shocking and offensive. Sex and advertisements in the fashion industry seem to go hand in hand to give that ``head turning`` effect the industry is now relying on. Ads have been considered controversial for having displayed or suggested violence, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol use, anorexia, and nudity. Not everyone in the fashion industry uses sex to sell their clothes but it does seem to pop-up frequently. Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Tom Ford for Men, and American apparel have all been known for their controversial advertisements. Dolce & Gabbana`s advertisement was so controversial it was banned in Italy, featuring a woman surrounded by men in a compromising position. Gucci and Tom Ford for Men also seem to use the same type of advertisement style as Dolce & Gabbana. The ads are very sexual and memorable. They want to make sure their readers are remembering them whether it is for their clothes or their ad. It is very ironic that designers very often use nudity to promote their clothing. They try and produce advertisements people will talk about whether it is good or bad, as long as people are talking they see it as a positive for their brand. American Apparel, a popular brand for many youth, found they were in a bit of trouble when it seemed they were advertising young youth in inappropriate and exposing advertisements. They stopped using an ad where there was a female, who was inappropriately exposing herself in the advertisement where the readers where finding it offensive. They defiantly have received a lot of heat for their over their top sexy advertisement and now that is viewed as their image and it works in their favour as a company. As being seen as a sexy company, they are not going to please everyone in their advertisement campaigns. They have their target base and their sexy image is what works best for them.

It is important to have these controversial ads to keep people talking. Without them no one would be pushing the boundaries and the advertisement business would start to go dry. However there are ways to make it more tasteful. No advertisement should be so controversial that it should be banned. Photographers need to find that happy medium where they can create something new, eye catching, and sexy; without offending an entire nation. Whether or not people love them or hate them without the advertisements, magazine publishers wouldn’t be able to create great and successful magazines. Advertisements are vital to the fashion magazine industry and as long as there are magazines, controversial advertisements will follow.

Sustainable Fashion or Just a Trend?

Going Green seems to be the ‘it’ thing for designers to take part in this fashion season. Do you think it is a societal responsibility for all designers or is it a trend, just like flared jeans? Many designers such as Stella McCartney who has designed a private green label for Barneys, Phillip Lim and Marc Jacobs are all taking on the challenge on designing a green label. Maybe these designers have a concern for the environment and even if it is a trend, it is helping out the world but are these designs sustainable fashion?

We look at our leaders in fashion for pieces that are fashion forward, pieces that we can feel great in and pieces that will last for years. Are green collections as good of quality as other collections made by the same designers? Some designers have been heard calling their collections “sustainable fashion”, but what does that mean? And why is it that word’s like ‘green’, ‘eco’ and ‘organic’ have been seen in front of or following this unknown term. When you think of ‘sustainable’ you think of long lasting, good quality but not necessarily green. So tell us designers, are you’re collections ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ or both!

Or is it that none of that even matters, as long as the environment is being helped? After the climate change outbreak and everyone became aware of our desperate state, the immediate need for change was known. Whether or not these environmentally friendly lines are sustainable or a ‘trend’ may be completely irrelevant. Societal responsibility should possibly come before worrying about trends and luxury fabrics, and rather then worrying about the designers intentions, we should be proud that we have come to a point in fashion where we can, as a group help heal the environment.

Green products seem to be more expensive as well, so what if we, the students can’t afford this new trend? As bamboo t-shirts seem to be double the price of a cotton t-shirt, are we going to be blamed for not supporting this environmental revolution? Just like ‘green’ food, all good comes with a higher cost.

Stella McCartney has always made her lines free from any animal materials, and has now been extremely proactive in supporting green clothing. She has recently partnered with Barneys New York with a private green collection, which will be seen in stores this summer. Jil Sanders, Marc Jacobs and Versace, to name a few all displayed eco-friendly, recyclable collections at the 2010 Spring/Summer New York Fashion week. Gotham Mall in Manhattan also held a fashion show displaying ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ collections from Michael Kors, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Venetta. As many designers have taken the pledge to “Go Green” are we getting the same name with different materials and lesser quality?

Ideally we will come to a time where ‘green’ products are the norm and are not overly priced or limited to certain fabrics and the environment will be in much better conditions. It is everyones societal responsibility to take care of the world we live in, although the extreme designs by many top designers by limiting themselves to only a couple fabrics limits their creativity and making an impact of the fashion industry.

Creating a sound ‘green’ fashion industry will need many new factories and manufacturers as well as new sources of fabric. Many jobs lost and many companies will not be able to survive. Although having these designers ‘do-their-part’ in our climate crisis is a noble thing, if this is not a trend and here to last we need to make gradual changes to get there. The fashion industry will need to create those timeless pieces that Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior could show us in every single runway show, and the technology to create those luxurious fabrics and designs are not yet developed with ‘green’ fabrics.

Going green in the fashion industry is a fantastic accomplishment and one that will hopefully last as long as it happens on a gradual incline without loosing the integrity of fashion and extraordinary designs and fabrics. Everyone would love to see a healthier, more sustainable work to live in, but it takes time and have designers begun to cash in on this new trend? Perhaps they should start to use only ‘green’ threads or try to incorporate many pieces that are eco-friendly. “Going Green” is the new it statement, are we buying into these designers buzz words or is this the start of a new revolution?

The Island of Misfit Clothes...No More!

Where do unwanted clothes go? In light of the recent media attention about clothes dumping, a Wal-Mart employee opens up about her job that up until recently included this common industry practice.

In the classic Christmas movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Island of Misfit Toys was a place where unwanted, rejected toys went to live. However, few know of the Island of Misfit Clothes. This is a place where unwanted, unsellable, and sometimes unfashionable clothes go to live, or more appropriately, go to get dumped.

Earlier this year, on January 5th, there was an article by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times that created a scandal for the Swedish retailer H&M, who sells women’s, men’s and children’s clothing. According to the article, discovered behind the 34th Street New York City H&M location, were garbage bags full of unworn clothes that were slashed. In the city that never sleeps, where poverty is prominent, this bag of unworn clothes could have provided warmth for many people during the cold winter nights. These garbage bags of clothes were first brought to attention by Cynthia Magnus who has not only found destroyed shoes, winter coats and gloves from H&M, but has also found bags of hole-punched clothes from a Wal-Mart supplier.

This article caused an uproar by consumers and a slew of bad publicity for both H&M and Wal-Mart. Even though both companies have addressed that this isn’t their usual practice and have taken actions to stop it, the question of whether these actions are happening close to home inevitably arises.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to an employee of a GTA Wal-Mart to find out if this was happening in our own neighborhood and if there were, if any, downsides to donating clothes. Marissa, whose name has been changed to protect identity, has been working the same Wal-Mart for almost 6 year as a Claims Associate and is aware of all the media attention regarding H&M and Wal-Mart. She describes to me what Wal-Mart does to unwanted merchandise and a very interesting recent change in policy.

So what is the Claims department responsible for?
Electronically adjusting on hand inventory counts, preparing, maintaining and organizing inventory, shrinkage, recalled and claimed item reports.

What do you do on a typical work day?
I process customer returns and “shop worn” items. These are items that are broken, destroyed or damaged in the store, items that have every day wear and tear, items customer brake, and have damaged packaging.

Where do these items come from?
Customer service sends down the customer returns and I process them and each department brings down their own shop worn and recalled items.

So what happens when the items come to you?
There are three different options available when items are brought down. First is Claim and Destroy. The vendor gives 100% credit for that item that is claimed or a predetermined percentage of the cost of the item is charged against its vendor. Then the item is destroyed at the store level

And by destroyed you mean thrown away?

Please continue.
The second option is Claim and Return: It’s the same as Claim and Destroy but we send the item back to the vendor. The last is called Markdown and these items are in the shopworn or damaged category. For the most part they are thrown away and are considered losses from profit

And apparel items, what happens to them?
They fall under the Markdown option.

How do you dispose the merchandise?
For the most part, 95% goes in to the garbage. We have our own compactor truck.

Do you know where the truck goes?
Probably to a land fill somewhere.

What doesn’t get thrown out?
All shoes, unless soiled, clothing, again unless soiled, hazardous materials like fireworks, batteries and paint.

What do you do with your clothes?
We donate them to the Salvation Army.

Is it just your store that donates to them?
I think all Wal-Mart stores donate to the Salvation Army.

What condition are these clothes in?
They are in good condition. Some of them are customer returns. Most of the time they are brand new but out of season or slow moving merchandise, stuff that we can’t sell.

Do you do anything to the clothes before you throw them out?
We cut off the tags and logos and cross out the names.
How about shoes?
Just our store is picked up by a local charity.

Has this practice changed over the duration of your time working for Wal-Mart?
Shoes were always donated to charity. Up until a year ago, we use to just throw out these clothes.

Only a year ago? That’s quite recent. What changed? Why did you start donating them?
There was just a sudden change in policy. I just got a memo.

Did they give a reason in the memo?
No. They never give a reason for anything (laughs).

Why do you think they started donating?
Well, it definitely started before the article came out about H&M clothes slashing. I think Wal-Mart was becoming more aware that throwing away the clothes that could be given to the less fortunate, was irresponsible and unethical.

You said your store has always donated shoes. Did you donate anything else before the policy change?
Previous years we’ve donated sleeping bags, hats, gloves that were out of season or not able to sell.

Is Wal-Mart losing money by donating these clothes?
I’m not sure what kind of tax credit Wal-Mart gets from donating to these charitable organizations, but they are not really losing out since under previous practices we just threw them out.

Do you think there’s a downside to this practice?
We are losing productivity because our associates spend time preparing the merchandise according to our policies so they can be donated.

What do you think of this policy change?
I think me and many of the other Wal-Mart associates are happier with the fact that the merchandise is being put to good use by those in need rather than them filling up a landfill.

Like Rudolph and his friends who try to save those from the Island of Misfit Toys, Wal-Mart continues to do the right thing by donating their unwanted clothes to needy charities. Here’s to hoping that other retailers will follow suit and that Island of Misfit Clothes turns out to eventually be just a fictional place.

The Red Carpet Room

The purpose of this interview was to delve into The Red Carpet Room and find out how it compliments Amanda Brugel’s career as a Canadian actress. It’s purpose was also to provide a general understanding of the Canadian fashion industry and how it has reached high profile personalities in the entertainment world.
Of the many films and TV series Brugel has done, you might have seen her in Da kink in my hair, Splice, and Paradise Falls. She has worked very hard to come this far being involved with acting from a young age. Acting brings with it entertainment, fashion, and all the glitz and glam. Brugel saw the opportunity to expand her horizons by conquering the fashion world using Toronto as her stronghold.
A wealthy handful of talented Canadian designers come from Toronto such as Lida Biday, Pink Tartan, Shawn Hewson, and Sunny Choi from Project Runway Canada just to name a few. Supporting the Canadian fashion industry, actress Amanda Brugel has opened up a boutique called The Red Carpet Room. It’s Canada’s “exclusive and comprehensive style showroom,” which allows actors, musicians, TV hosts, and high-profile personalities access to a wardrobe of entirely Canadian designers.
After continually being asked “who are you wearing?” at 2009’s Emmy awards, it finally hit her as Brugel realized “I HAVE to wear a Canadian tailored garment next time I walk the red carpet to help promote Canadian designers.” Brugel and so many other Canadian entertainment personalities never knew where to locate hot, quality Canadian clothing and accessories, so she created a space that answered the call.
Brugel got into bed with the fashion industry when she obliged invites to shows, and made a relationship out of it through the showroom. She claims that it is “now my sister career.” She will soon be the face and spokeswoman for Jessica Biffi’s (Project Runway Canada) new accessory line. Brugel strongly believes it’s important to promote our own designers from Canada. This helps create a little self-promotional machine and teaches influential personalities to bring other artists with them on their rise to the top. Brugel has appeared on dozen’s of “Best Dressed” lists and has been admired for her loyal support to her fellow Canadian designers.
Balancing acting as well as a successful business can be hard for anyone. Brugel states that “one always overshadows the other and it is a constant game of balance”. Lately she has been dedicating endless hours to one or the other which has enabled her to move forward with both. For someone just starting out in the fashion industry it’s a fair amount of responsibilities. If the drive, passion, and love for fashion is there to pursue this particular career than there should be no problem succeeding. Brugel needs a lot of inspiration to be able to get up and do this everyday. She claims that she “loves when a client looks in the mirror and has that moment when they feel truly beautiful. They light up the room and immediately she feels their contagious high.”
Already being in the Canadian show business, Brugel understands how important fashion is and how little exposure Canadian designers get; “I would not have been able to recognize the lack of support between the two worlds without having been so heavily immersed in the entertainment business” adds Brugel. She would be at parties and noticed that the “fashion crowd” and “music/entertainment crowd” barely acknowledged one another. This was not due to an unspoken rift between the worlds; it was just the fact that certain crowds tend to stick with what they are familiar with. Brugel noticed while working in L.A. how virtually everyone would intermingle and cross-promote one another, and since then she saw a massive opportunity to teach out communities to do the same.
With exposure such as Entertainment Tonight Canada, Brugel finds that it definitely boosts her business. After every appearance she receives emails, calls and texts mentioning the company or inquiring about the service. Usually high profile personalities and people in the entertainment industry watch ET Canada to see what’s hot and what’s not. Being on ET Canada is the best method of advertising for Brugel as she discovered that any publicity is good publicity.
Some of Brugel’s biggest clients that have used The Red Carpet Room’s service are Grace Park (The Cleaner, The Border), Wendy Crewson (24, Air Force One), and Measha Brueggergossman (Opera Singer) to name a few. Brugel also just recently finished dressing fifty actors for the Actra Awards, including all of the female nominees. This was a huge step for Brugel’s The Red Carpet Room, and with complete success the business is booming with popularity. As nice as this all sounds, The Red Carpet Room is unfortunately not available to just anyone attending nice events, it is strictly exclusive as the designers use images of the celebrities in their designs to promote their label and brand.
With the Canadian entertainment industry expanding and bursting buttons off, The Red Carpet Room continues to grow as well. Brugel’s future plans may include opening up a showroom in Vancouver and Montreal to further her conquest as Canada’s fashion ambassador.

Celebrity kids are they too overrated?

A few years back, celebrities like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden and many more had one thing in common.  It became more frequent and not surprising to hear about a celebrity who walked around with a baby bump and not wonder whether or not they were expecting or whom with.  Now that these children are a few years older, they have become the “celebrity kids”; the media has kept an eye on these kids closely, including what they wear and how they wear it.  Pictures of Suri Cruise, the Beckham boys, Sparrow Madden and many others have been taken and posted on different blogs where people have commented on all their different designer garments, which costs no less than a thousand dollars!

The hype of celebrity kids has grown, and materialism is beginning to become natural amongst kids at a very young age.  Children are starting to become more interested in fashion sooner than they used to.  Marketers are now targeting a newer market for “tweens”, or children ages 8-12, when they are just gradually going into their teen years.  Different lines of children’s clothing have also become more widespread amongst different retail companies.  The trickle down fashion theory has started from celebrities and high-end designers who target mainly celebrities with their cute and adorable accessories and clothing that are adult-like for their children.  Fast fashion companies like H&M and Gap quickly follow the footsteps of these major designers adding an additional line especially for children. 

Do you feel that the media should take a step back in promoting and praising these celebrity children with their fancy and exquisite designer clothing?  Online blogs allow readers to participate in different polls and vote for which they feel are the most “stylish” celebrity kids.  Suri Cruise again beats the others with her adorable style, following with the Beckham’s children.  Right after UK clothier Adams conducted this poll, bloggers shared their opinions in negative ways about these children commenting on why they feel that each child should not have won their place because they are not dressed well enough.  Industry research has said that companies allow children to become independent so that they can remove the “barriers” (parents) between the child and the companies that are selling the products.  By doing this, children become more aware and acceptable with different images in their minds about body, sexuality and relationships. 

Controversies have risen about whether or not children are growing up too fast especially with the industry that is already fast paced.  Styles go in and out in a matter of seasons, and the children’s apparel industry has done a great job at keeping up with these trends.  Has this made children become more materialistic?  Or has this made parents more willing to go along with the idea and follow celebrity trends?

Not only has this made children grow up sooner, it has also made us forget about traditionalism with children’s clothing.  Before the popularity of manufacturing fashionable children’s wear, the idea of a celebrity’s children having a wardrobe of designer clothing worth over $2 million dollars would not be as accepted as it is today.  Because children do grow so quickly and so much at this stage, hand me downs or a mom sewing an outfit for her children was the common thing in many households.  Children today have the say in what they want or do not want to wear, parents are just the ones paying the bills.  They are willing to pay high prices to look “cool”.  What is the extent of these marketing messages to tweens?  When the media portrays different images of children similarly to how they market to adults with images of models that are slim and almost perfect, does this also cause other issues to arise such as developing the healthy body image?  Because this is the stage of maturity and growth, children’s minds become more complex, therefore marketers should send out the right messages in their advertisements. 

Perhaps the idea of convenience and fast paced merchandise has taken over most of us, not only children but parents as well.  Parents are the ones who are able to control what they feel like their children should be exposed to.  Because everyone is now time-starved and money and status oriented, paying top dollar for their children’s wardrobe is more common amongst society.  A mom’s hand made baby doll dress for her daughter is not fast enough to keep up with the style anymore.  If parents are able to control what is appropriate for their children, and make sure they receive the right ideas from the media today, the media will not be able to take over as fast as they are doing today.  Developing the right body image and idea for children whether they are tweens or young adults is important; therefore the media should consider this and scan the different things that they are marketing to this young market.  

An Asian Invasion

The topic of apparel and accessories being made in China has been a controversial topic for a very long time. For several years now, people all around the world have expressed their opinions about manufacturing in China in regards to an ethical, economical and financial point of view. More people are going in to retail stores every day and asking where the clothing items were made. There have been many cases where people have decided against making a purchase because the item of clothing or accessory was made in China or a third world country. This has shown a growing awareness among consumers, proving that we are no longer turning a blind eye to what inevitably affects us personally, those around us and our country. This is a good and bad thing for retailers, the Canadian economy and China’s economy.

An upside to purchasing items made in China is that the consumer is getting a product at a generally well priced item. With our recent recession which affected millions of people around the world, people have become far more frugal with the way they shop. This is also beneficial to businesses that do thrive on selling inexpensive goods. Unfortunately, the less expensive the product (whether it being a shirt or piece of jewelry), the less of a chance the product will hold up for as long as the customer would like. Another benefit (only to some people) to buying clothing/accessories made in China is that they feel as though they are helping a developing economy. This being said, many companies that are developing in North America are more eager to turn to China because they will have the opportunity to turn more of a profit for their business.

The downside to purchasing clothing/accessories made in China is that although people believe China is still developing, they have already taken over the world! If you Google the phrase “is China taking over the world”, you will find over 1 billion websites which relate to that topic, which just goes to show how many people have already been wildly concerned. It may seem as though America still holds all the power, but China has spread itself into every country in the world. This causes a great deal of pain to the Canadian economy because generally products that are made in our own country are priced higher due to labor costs. Unfortunately in China, people are willing to work longer hours for less money. This is where the ethical debate generally begins. Many people find China to be the centre of mistreatment of workers in factories as well as child labor. Brands such as Nike, The Gap and Wal-Mart are some of the companies to have been caught with using child labor as well as unethical treatment of workers in their factories. The frightening thing about this is that those three companies alone are some of the most high grossing, popular companies in the entire world! Unfortunately, because many people who run businesses are often money hungry, they continuously contribute to the downfall of Canada/America by moving their manufacturing warehouses elsewhere. It is important to keep jobs in our own countries as well as provide fair wages and a good product due to it being made in a well maintained factory. If we continue a trend of making good clothing and accessories in our own home country, we will have a more satisfied consumer that will be more eager to purchase more goods that were also made in Canada.

Unfortunately, each party has a different stand point on whether or not continuing more labor in China is a good thing or not. Especially with the mass amounts of clothing and accessories made on a day to day basis, there is constantly a high demand for fast fashion and enormous amounts of clothing in short periods of time. The world is constantly consuming, and with the growing male fashion industry, there is even more of a demand from retailers. I believe that every retailer in Canada should always consider carrying goods made in Canada. Not only will this increase an awareness among even more consumers, this will potentially create more jobs for people in Canada, boost where we stand in the economy and add more pride in the articles of clothing and/or accessories we wear.

CHEAP THRILLS: Are designer diffusion lines helping or hurting the fashion industry?

Let’s face it, in today’s economy, it can be hard to be a fashionista. As much as we would love to be able to shell out the money on the latest designer duds, for many fashion lovers, that is just not possible. However, in recent years, several high-end designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Jean Paul Gaultier, and even the late Alexander McQueen have been jumping on the trend of designer diffusion lines. In essence, a diffusion line is an accessible collection produced for the masses that is inspired by the designer’s high-end couture, but at a fraction of the cost.

Hordes of women have been lining up to get their hands on these inexpensive garments and sales of these lines have been through the roof in chain stores such as Target and H&M. However, many fashion critics argue that this cheap, mass access to designer fashion is stifling the desirability and exclusivity of the designer’s high-end lines. Can these dual lines coexist in harmony? Or does it have to be one without the other?

For many of us, this huge surge of diffusion lines is like being in fashion heaven. It’s not every day that a 20-something-year-old student can say that she has a dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld or shoes by Jimmy Choo but these lines are making that possible. H&M has seen massive line-ups when premiering new collaborative collections, many of which sell out within their first week of being on the shelves. These frugal fashion lovers are buying in huge volumes and giving these lower-end lines exclusivity all on their own. You can even see some of these pieces up for auction on EBay for sometimes up to double their retail price, which is exactly what happened with many of the Stella McCartney for H&M garments.

These lines have also proven to create a mass amount of buzz for many designers and get their names and products available to individuals who would not have otherwise known they existed. Even women living in small towns across North America can now buy quasi designer goods. Designers have realized that, in this economy, it makes perfect sense to broaden their horizons and create for the masses, as opposed to the niche market of couture shoppers. This creates a way bigger market for designers and allows women who would normally be intimidated by the aspect of trying to purchase items by Vera Wang or Marc Jacobs the opportunity to own their favourite designer’s creations without breaking the bank.

On the flip side, even though saving money is a smart idea these days, with fashion it doesn't always work that way. The fashion industry has always maintained a certain level of exclusivity, which adds to the glamour of it all. The ability to possess a high-end designer piece that very few else will own adds a certain level of connection and exclusivity that true fashion followers feel towards a designer.

By introducing these new lines through mass chain stores, many fashion gurus argue that it is taking away the true meaning of "fashion". Many believe that fashion is an art form that is not meant for the masses. There are certain women who thrive off of the elite designer labels. The fact that anyone can go to their local Target to pick up something that these women pay thousands of dollars for could possibly hurt the high-end market.

These diffusion lines can possibly be taking away from the rarity of some historical fashion releases. Coco Chanel would never sell her designs at a store where you can also buy toilet paper! Chain stores also produce massive amounts of the same garment, whereas if that was a true "designer" item, the numbers would be limited, and therefore make the design one of a kind. Famous shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, was recently approached by H&M to do a diffusion line for the retail outlet and turned them down. He believed that “it’s an interesting idea” but he is ultimately happy with his current customer and has no intention of pursuing a diffusion line in the future.

Many argue that, to have massive assembly lines stitching these supposed “designer” pieces makes them no different from any random item that you can buy at your local mall. The reason all of the high-end fashion swag costs so much is because it's rare and not available to everyone. So much intricate detail and thought gets put into each high-end piece, unlike some of these diffusion lines. Purity is a huge deal in the fashion world, and it will always be that way. Critics believe that these lines are slowly erasing the history and artistic form of fashion, which helped so many extraordinary designers spread their views and opinions. Now it will be everywhere, and possibly not so intriguing.

So what does the future hold for these designer diffusion lines? If the rapid sales are an indication, there are only going to continue to grow. The masses clearly have a desire to own some designer duds without having to pay the typical designer price. However, it’s key for designers to be very picky when it comes to choosing where to sell their items and who is representing their name. Fashion is an art form and designer collections represent a certain allure and exclusivity that needs to be maintained. In order for both diffusion and high-end collections to continue to co-exist, designers must find a balance between the elite aura that their high-end collections represent and their desire to reach mass markets.

What Is The Right Size?

What is the Right Size?

Do we really want to see plus size models on the catwalk or in a fashion magazine photo spread?

Most of us are aware of the persistent criticism put on the fashion industry for using super thin models. The fashion industry is under constant assault in the media for promoting an unhealthy and unattainable image of women. The industry has been blamed for causing untold damage to the self-esteem of women everywhere. Images in fashion magazines are often linked to serious conditions like bulimia, anorexia and depression in women young and old.

No one would question that fashion models are radically different than the average Canadian woman. The average Canadian woman is between a size 12 to 14, while a runway model is typically a size 0. On average, a fashion model will weigh 23% less than the average Canadian woman.

The fashion industry is widely accused of manipulating what is considered normal for a woman’s body all in the name of selling more and more beauty products. Countless articles have been written about how women are seduced into believing that the only way to feel good about themselves is by trying to reach that ultimate ideal of beauty presented in the pages of beauty and fashion magazines. Ironically, stories criticizing the use of super thin models often appear in the same magazines that run multiple pages of fashion ads depicting those very models.

By using models with such dramatically different sizes and shapes than the average woman in advertisements, women conceive that they can only achieve this idealistic image by purchasing more lipstick, more eye shadow, more shoes, more hair products, more of everything. It is believed that only through the purchase of these products a woman can start to feel and be perceived as beautiful.

The recent public reaction to a photo of plus size model Lizzi Miller in the September 2009 issue of Glamour magazine seems to suggest that women are desperate to see more realistic depictions of women in the fashion media. Despite the photo in question being buried on page 194 of the magazine, Glamour magazine’s editor in chief, Cindi Leive wrote that the day the issue hit the newsstands, her inbox was flooded with emails that “were filled with such joy--joy at seeing a woman's body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature” Woman from across North America wrote in with comments such as “This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops."

Even though the fashion industry is under constant scrutiny, the use of plus size models is not without controversy within the industry itself. London’s Daily Mail reported on February 20, 2010 that, when Canadian designer Mark Fast announced to his staff that three women who wore sizes 10 and 12 (UK sizes 12 and 14) would be in his show, two members of his team apparently quit in disgust. This incident sparked a heated debate in the fashion community.

The result is that outside of a few isolated photographs and runway shows, there has been no significant change in the body types of models used within the industry. There is also little evidence to suggest that change is coming anytime soon or that it is even truly desired by society. Flip through the pages of any recently published fashion magazine and you will see that its pages are still dominated by super thin woman in fantastical surreal surroundings.

Karl Lagerfeld is one fashion insider who has little time for the plus model debate. In October 2009 he told Focus magazine that the criticism of the use of thin models comes from “mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly." He went on to say the fashion industry is about "dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women."

Although Karl Lagerfeld is known to be very outspoken on this issue, he does make a clear statement that fashion is not reality. Does the public really want the fashion industry to be a stark reflection of our day-to-day life? Or is the public looking for fashion to be an escape from our day-to-day reality?

Should it be the responsibility of the fashion industry to promote a more realistic image of women? Other visual media are not held up to the same standard as the fashion industry. Far more distributing and challenging images are regularly presented in film, painting, sculptor and photography. Are these images seen as more acceptable because they are considered somehow less real and more fictional than fashion photography? Is there anything more fictional than an Haute Couture runway show?

As this debate continues, women continue to buy magazines like Vogue, Elle and Glamour whose pages are still adorned with images of super thin models. The truism of seeing an average to plus size model on those pages appears good in theory, but too harsh for most in reality. While most women understand and can rationalize the unrealism portrayed on the glossy pages, there is still a glimmer of hope that they might somehow grab a piece of the beauty, if only for a fleeting moment.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Which Styles are in, and Which Styles are out?

What Project Runway Canada – Season 2 contestant, George Brown College graduate, and fashion icon Camille Prins has to say about the Spring 2010 collection!

One day here and the next day gone. Fashion styles are in and out and back in and back out. Which trends have come back for their vengeance and which new trends are here for a surprise for the Spring 2010 collection? Who better to ask about the Spring 2010 trends than one of our very own George Brown College graduate: Camille Prins. You may recognize Camille as one of the contestants from Project Runway Canada – Season 2. I had the pleasure in interviewing Camille to ask her about her involvement in Project Runway Canada – Season 2, her collection Dutch Blonde, and of course, what she has to say about Spring 2010 trends!

On the Runway. Project Runway Canada gives Canadian designers the opportunity to compete in design competitions while showing Canada their amazing talent. Graduating from the Fashion Design program, Camille used the skills she was taught at George Brown College to compete on the show. She describes the experience to have been “exciting and amazing” and that it has always been “a dream” of hers “since watching the American Project Runway.” Although Camille did not win, she describes her time on the show as being “a blast” and that all the contestants were “all supportive of each other”. She still keeps in touch with other contestants from the show such as Jeff MacKinnon, Brandon B. Dwyer, and Jessica Biffi, whose design show she attended. Camille’s thoughts of Sunny Fong, the winner of Project Runway Canada – Season 2: “He used great fabric choices, and has a wonderful talent”. I congratulate Camille on her accomplishment on the show!

That’s so “Dutch Blonde”. Camille started her collection Dutch Blonde in 2004, one year after graduating from George Brown College. Her collection was launched in 2008. She credits the Fashion Design program at George Brown College, saying that the program helped and that it is relevant. She said: “You start from a vision, to choosing your fabric, to the execution.” Her designs of cocktail dresses are fantastic. Most of the detail is on the back of the dresses, and as stated on the Dutch Blonde website, Camille says: “I decided to create a vision that I could grown into: When I design for Dutch Blonde I’m designing for the women I want to be in the future ~ successful, calm, charitable, nurturing, caring but always wearing the most amazing piece!” Her collection also features a maternity line which she explains to be designed for women to be able to “look good and feel comfortable as well”. Her photo shoots of her collection display the campaign and runway look, and the vintage broaches used led Camille to her headband collection line. She is currently working on her Fall/Winter 2010 collection which can be seen at Alberta Fashion Week.

Flash Back, Fresh Forward. So what does Camille think about old and new trends? I asked Camille: Which old trend do you miss? She responded: “The destruct/dirty look”. I then asked: Which old trend don’t you miss? She responded: “The neon look!” which I quickly agreed with. But which trends are in store for Spring 2010? Camille says that there is one person that had a big influence on the fashion trends this year. It is someone with an outrageous style that is not hard to miss. If you are thinking of Lady Gaga, you’re right. Lady Gaga thinks of extreme when it comes to fashion that’s for sure. Designers are using her “dirty look” as inspiration, adding details such as studs and bullet spikes to their garments. Moving away from Lady Gaga, Camille also mentions that Spring 2010 collections are full of ruffled sleeves and draping of garments over leggings. In the accessories and fabric department, Camille says the Spring 2010 collection has many different headbands in, and the fabrics are full of patterns and floral prints. The collection this year is very over dramatic, and I guess we have to give a bit of thanks to Lady Gaga and her crazy eye for fashion!

Experiment! I can’t express in words how amazing it was to interview Camille Prins! It is great to speak with a George Brown College graduate who has had such great success after graduating from a program that many of us can relate to. Camille’s collection in stunning, and every women would love to look and feel good wearing a Dutch Blonde dress! She has great insight in the fashion world and is a very talented designer. Her advice for upcoming fashion design graduates: “Jump into the industry right away. Even if you are doing an unpaid internship for three months, it is a great way to learn and to develop your skills. Experiment with everything you do to learn who you. Experiment from every piece you design and every fabric you use.” The motive for Camille’s headband collection started when she and experimented with the use of different headband accessories during her photo shoots! Camille had her preview of her Fall/Winter 2010 collection show on April 3rd, so be sure to check out her website for more details on her previous and future collections! The website for the Dutch Blonde collection is:, and the website for the Dutch Blonde Blog is:
ECO-FASHION: a sincere attempt to save the world?

“Be Green!”, “Save the environment!” – how many times have we found ourselves reading logos like these in the subway, on the streets, on the pages of our magazines, on some t-shirts in the stores? Eco-friendly lifestyle has become prestigious and desired by almost everybody.

Sustainability has been a big issue in the world of fashion for a couple of years now. And the reason for that is global warming. Believe it or not, it is bona fide. The evidence is there all year long. Look at the past year. First of all, there’s been a definite raise in the seasonal temperatures. We all have noticed. There wasn’t that much snow last winter, was there?! Secondly, the crazy weather behaviour all over the world: winds, snowstorms, floods. Thirdly, earthquakes: Haiti, then Chile! Aside from that, diseases like cancer, asthma, or allergies clearly have to do with chemicals in our food, clothes, and air, because such diseases were not common in the early 20th century. It gets scarier every year. The result of the human activity is that the sea level is rising, and the land might eventually get covered with water!

As a result of these concerns, a new concept “Eco Fashion” has evolved which is basically fashion made of environmentally-friendly materials. With the whole Eco Fashion concept, there is an easy way consumers could potentially help the environment: by buying eco-friendly clothing and makeup. Nowadays, there’s so much to choose from: numerous popular brands like American Apparel, Giorgio Armani, Levi’s, Patagonia, Roots, Stella McCartney, and Timberland, have incorporated the idea of Eco Fashion and started working with organic cotton, linen, hemp, and bamboo.

Organic cotton is grown without the use of chemicals compared to conventional cotton. That is why organic cotton is the number one eco-friendly material. Linen fabric is strong; it also provides the coolness and sheer. Hemp is very durable; it grows fast and leaves the soil in excellent condition. Bamboo grows fast and absorbs carbon dioxide. It is also hypoallergenic.

As for cosmetics, Stella McCartney unveiled CARE by Stella McCartney, the first luxury organic skincare line, containing 100% organic active ingredients. Brands like Juice Beauty, and Pangea Organics offer moisturizers made with organic ingredients.

So as we can see, top designers have really absorbed the “Green” idea. Marketing is going great. Just flip through the pages of monthly magazines like Elle and Flare – and you’ll see the environmental ads and articles pop up here and there. Buying eco-friendly clothes has become a prestigious lifestyle desired by everybody. As consumers, we strive for what’s trendy. How do we know what’s trendy? We read ads. Ads talk about organic cotton. Well, then it means it’s trendy! We feel that buying eco-friendly clothes proves that we belong to some exclusive group of people, establish some sort of status, are respected and admired by society.

Promotion really is a fantastic thing. The question is: what lies behind it? Is it an honest attempt to help our environment? Or is it another way of attracting more customers and making money?

A lot of people do get sucked in by fashion trends. Some even get a shopping addiction. Eco Fashion is quite expensive. But in our minds “expensive” usually associates with high status. So let’s face it, when people are purchasing a luxurious item, they unconsciously want to show the world “I am buying this because I am rich or cool like that”. So when it comes to Eco Fashion, do consumers really buy it for the sake of the environment? How many of us actually think of helping our planet when we buy that organic cotton T-shirt? Do we think of global warming when we go for that Stella McCartney raincoat? Probably not. The question in this case is whether we, consumers, are being sincere about helping fight the global warming by purchasing eco-friendly clothing.

This is the question of ethics. It is in human nature to be selfish. It is natural for marketers to advertise Eco-Fashion for the sake of increasing their budgets. It is natural for consumers to shop for organic clothes as a way to establish high status. I’m not saying that nobody cares about the future, I’m saying it is questionable whether everybody is sincere about helping the Earth when promoting or purchasing Eco-Fashion.

The problem of global warming is terrifying in the long term, but it seems that so far people are neglecting it. There are still cars that emit gas; there is still garbage on the streets. Seems like the big “Be Green!” or “Save the environment!” logos haven’t done much yet.

Personally, I’d rather do something as small as recycling my plastic bottle, than walk around in a T-shirt with a big logo saying “GO GREEN!” Because knowing I did something for our planet would make me feel good about myself. And wearing a branded T-shirt wouldn’t change anything.

It feels good to be a part of a great cause. It doesn’t mean that you should spend money on what some ad in the magazine tells you. It means doing the simple things like recycling bottles, not littering, giving away unwanted clothes, saving the energy, using subway instead of a car. Things like that could make a huge difference. Things like that would make you feel good about yourself as a human being. Things like that should really matter now.