Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Feature pieces

Cheap Thrills (Cassandra Petrik)
Celebrity Kids (Jocelyn Gandy)
Hot or Haute Couture (Samantha McDonnell)
Eco-fashion (Ekaterina Smolnikova)

Don't? Shop Till You Drop

How did two self-proclaimed shopaholics stop being slaves to fashion and finally set themselves free? Two words, Fashion. Rehab.

One year, twelve months, fifty-two weeks, three hundred and sixty Five Days. Could you go that long without shopping? Not purchasing even one little frivolous item? Banishing that rush that comes with buying a new summer dress or the thrill of finding that perfect designer bag you’ve been lusting after, on sale?! To the majority of us who love fashion it sounds like the premise for a horror movie, or a terrible dream you can’t wait to wake up from, but for Perdita Andrews and Alison Dunn (referred to as A and P) it is all very, very real. These two gals are the force behind 365 fashion rehab, a blog, and what some people have called a “movement” that is putting a new spin on fashion blogging. Instead of discussing their latest and greatest acquisitions, they have embarked on a challenge, sharing with the world their quest to find inspiration in their already overflowing closets, one day at a time in rehab.

Bonded by a strong friendship of twenty years and a love of shopping, A and P decided to take the plunge ten months ago and not shop for an entire year. One night, over a pre-birthday dinner for P in San Francisco, we were talking about how at this point in our lives we thought we would have been more "grown-up". We thought we would own a house, have fancy furniture, or even a considerable sum of money tucked away for retirement. At that point we realized that most of our hard earned dollars could be found hanging our closets and shopping was definitely the culprit! We joked about the idea of giving up our favourite hobby for a year, which seemed utterly insane, but one thing led to another and here we are!”

Blog challenges are gaining momentum these days as an increasing number of people use cyberspace as an online diary. Not only are people producing the content, we are all tuning in now more than ever, fascinated by the lives of strangers. But what sets apart one blog from another? What is it that makes the reader come back day after day? While there may be no guaranteed success formula, P stresses that “you have to give your readers something they can take away…or they will quickly tune out”. With an information cocktail of vlogs (video blogs), daily blogging, picture posts and their long list of “lust-haves” P and A have clearly got their readers dialled in. Oh, and don’t forget about the big pink clock at the top of the page, counting down by the second, to the day fashion rehab is over. As every good challenge must have boundaries, the ladies have assembled a very precise and what some may call torturous list of rules and regulations that are the grounds for fashion rehab. And no, it does not stop at clothing and accessories; rehab encompasses all related purchases including make-up, undergarments and household knickknacks. In light of that revelation I felt compelled to ask A and P what they regretted not purchasing before rehab began. “Knee socks”, replied P. Not quite the answer I was expecting, and then A weighed in “A really great push-up bra. A great bra can make you feel good no matter what you are wearing on the outside!”

Push-up bras and knee socks aside, I was curious to find out more about their experiences in the last ten months and how rehab has changed their lives. On top of curbing their shopping addiction, A and P have had to learn the ins and outs of running a successful blog. “We had to teach ourselves to become multi-media experts. Expanding your audience can be very difficult and it really is a big commitment. Sometimes we just don't feel like putting up a blog post but you have to just put your head down and do it.” So how do A and P find the motivation to keep pushing ahead? “You realize you are accountable. There have been so many emails and comments we have gotten from people saying they have always wanted to do something like this but didn't have the guts till they found us.” With 66 days remaining in fashion rehab A and P sure have a lot to show for their hard work. 365 Fashion rehab has been nominated in multiple categories for the Canadian Web Blog Awards, including Fashion & Style, Group Web blog and People’s Choice categories. They have connected with other bloggers, noting a correspondence with FB from Fashionably Broke in the City as one of their more rewarding experiences. Above all else, they have surpassed everyone’s expectations.

As rehab draws to a close and the end is in sight the ladies are finding themselves feeling “proud, anxious and excited”. They have mastered the art of self-dicipline, re-discovered lost loves in their closets, and channelled those pesky shopping urges in new creative ways. When asked if they had to do it all over again? , P responds “the experience has been unforgettable” but…“the make-up situation is getting worse by the day”!

Follow A and P and see if they succeed! www.365fashionrehab.com

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Being Naive: Ignorance in the name of fashion…

Where do you stand; would you rather go naked than wear fur? This is the continuous question circulating the fashion world regarding the malicious fur industry. If you have never considered the issue perhaps this fact may spark some interest. According to PETA over a million animals are killed yearly for the fashion industry alone. For some, it is easy to turn a blind eye, ignore the media craze surrounding animal rights and continue supporting the fur industry which in turn supports animal cruelty of all measures. Others share strong opinions on the matter and take control of what they purchase and which designers they choose to support given their personal view on the fur world. Where among them do you stand? Are you willing to sacrifice all for fashion, for that one desirable piece regardless of the consequences; or are you brave enough to take a stand against the growing normality and fight this growing craze.

The fur industry is not a new issue; in fact it has been lurking for years. Take the famous five responsible for creating the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign which emerged in 1994. Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson and Claudia Schiffer all protested the rights of fur for the PETA campaign causing the frenzy to spread like wildfire. Ironically enough, today only Christy Turlington remains true to the anti-fur world while all remaining women have returned to their fur flaunting ways. This flip flopping of fur beliefs is common in terms of the fur debate and has been demonstrated by celebrities and society for years. The ongoing conflict between strong-willed designers refusing to banish fur from their runways and strong anti-fur protestors continues to expand creating a growing divide.

Not only is this divide present among the fashion consuming world, but also among rivaling designers. Extremes between the humane and inhumane are astonishing. High fashion modules such as Valentino and Lacroix are proudly pro fur and have admitted to directly funding farms that torture, skin and abuse animals in the name of “the industry”. Take Karl Lagerfeld for example who has been known to state several brutally blunt statements in his past such as: “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish.” He has candidly made his opinion known that the topic of fur is non-negotiable with relation to his work and shows. In opposition, Stella McCartney takes a rather different view stating that “There’s nothing fashionable about a dead animal that has been cruelly killed just because some people think it looks cool to wear. The continuing use of fur is still a real problem in the fashion industry and there is an issue with people out there assuming that fur trim is fake when most of it is real.” Other designers apply a more indecisive manner to the issue such as designer Todd Lynne who uses fur on his runways as long as one criterion is met. This being that none of the fur in any given collection be purchased in China. His reasoning is backed by the belief that the animal farming that takes place in China is unregulated. When asked about his position on the issue he stated: “I’m not a heartless person, but for those of us who work in high-end fashion, there are certain things we need to use. Fur is something my clients want.”

It is apparent that there are widely differing opinions and beliefs on the fur industry, especially with regards to the fashion world. Perhaps you are still uninformed as to the basis of the argument leaving you with a dim perspective on the topic at hand. If so turn to trusted organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) which is the largest animal rights organization consisting of over two million members. PETA approaches animal rights by targeting four main areas of concern: factory farms, the clothing industry, laboratories and the entertainment industry. In order to determine your personal view it is not necessary to watch the horrifying videos and read the fine print if you chose not to. Instead educate yourself on brief overviews of the fur, leather, and skin industries to gain a better understanding.

Depending on the view you may have or chose to have you can then proceed from there. Perhaps you will continue to support the fur industry which is one’s individual right, but if you chose to do so it would be na├»ve to not know how your particular item was truly produced and where. That mink coat that you treasure may in fact be the product of one of the many fur farms practicing animal cruelty throughout China, which provides the US with half of their fur supply yearly. On the contrary for those of you who chose to follow the anti-fur route you can look to organizations such as PETA for shopping guides to compassionate clothing, cruelty free specialty stores or the activist network to receive updated information regarding protests and other anti-fur events.

As with any issue there are always two extremes as well as a medium. All views require a combination of research and personal opinion. Determine where you stand in the fur frenzy and maybe a little mind opening and opinion changing wouldn’t be so bad after all!