Friday, March 11, 2011

Gone Are the Days...

Gone Are the Days…

Spread out that spring wardrobe budget this year, cause the price of clothing is on its way up,up,up!

You may feel your wallet a little lighter when shopping for your spring wardrobe this season. It seems the less you buy, the more your spending, and all of a sudden that summer wardrobe budget has run out! Probable that the cause of this is the rising prices of clothing that are on their way up this year. According to an article in WWD by Kristi Ellis on Thursday February 17 2011, clothing prices have rose 1 percent in January as compared to the month prior. The idea of clothing prices going up is causing discomfort in the industry because retailers are unsure whether or not consumers will easily adjust to the price changes. In the WWD article written Thursday February 17 2011, by Kristi Ellis they quoted John Lonski, chief at Moody’s Capital Markets Group. “I think what we’re going to find is that manufacturers and retailers will perhaps continue to attempt to increase apparel prices in response to sharply higher materials costs, as shown by the latest surge in the price of cotton. Whether or not these price increases will stick is problematic. We may well find the consumer will balk at paying significantly higher prices for apparel, and if the consumer cuts back on purchases of apparel, owing to higher prices, unsold inventory will mount and that will ultimately put downward pressure on apparel prices.”
The reason for the inflating clothing prices is because of the shortage of cotton for the last year, which has made the cost of buying cotton almost double. Floods in China, Australia and Pakistan damaged the cotton plants from all of these major exporters. India also restricted much of their cotton export to protect their own supply. Factors keep driving up the cost of cotton to the fashion manufacturers around the globe and now consumers are forced to relieve those financial scars. Alternatives have been considered and used for 2012 fabrics, cotton blends mixed with synthetic fibers, and other fibers such as linen and viscose. Wool prices have also increased by approximately 40 percent over the last year as well, although it “hasn’t seemed to affect the business yet ,“ says Martin Aveyard, design director at a vertical British woolen mill Abraham Moon in Tuesday February 22 2011 article in WWD written by Katya Foreman and Joelle Diderich. “In fact, people are placing orders earlier as they are worried wool prices will increase, and they probably will.”
With the rising cotton and wool prices, consumers will soon notice a rising price in the finish goods they are purchasing. Rick Darling, president of LF USA says in Tuesday march 8 2011 WWD article by Kristi Ellis, “the industry is coming out of a 30-year period of price deflation on the wholesale side, driven primarily by China’s market entry, which had major impact on lowering labor rates around the world.” Darling continued, “That day is over, Last year marked a complete turnaround… when China started to encourage significant increases in labor and that is going to continue, in our opinion, in the foreseeable future.” The retail world is preparing itself for some lost sales because of these growing prices. With the higher cost of raw materials and labour eventually the consumer will have to deal with the higher cost of purchasing the end product. We as a society are not used to paying more for clothing because of the deflating costs over the last 30 years, but now is the time and it may be a struggle at first, for everyone to adjust.
The recent rising cost of oil may pose more issues for the apparel industry. As gas prices rise the cost of transporting inventory will increase as well. Oil is now over 100$ a barrel and so a drastic increase in the cost to ship product to its stores and warehouses will eventually affect the cost of the end product for consumers if these high oil prices continue. These rising costs seem to be driving up the cost for more than just the apparel industry, food prices are expected to rise as well and the price of the coffee bean has doubled over the last year. These costs all affect the consumer and they will be feeling the wrath of these increases throughout the 2011 year. Costs of cotton, wool, raw sugar, and oil are driving up the price the retailers are charging. Tim Horton’s is expected to raise their prices this spring as well due to the rising cost of coffee. It is still early to tell how consumers are going to react to these increases, but if their reactions are anything like the reaction to the gas prices, which are at a 29 month high in Toronto, as reported at on March 8 2011, then retailers may be stuck in a rock and a hard place. The possibility that consumers may purchase less, especially since inelastic products such as gas and food are increasing, apparel may take a backseat to these other items for consumers. Clothing may become less important and the price increases may not be well accepted by the Canadian consumer along with all the other price increases they are going to have to face this year. Retailers may have to come up with alternative solutions to try and fix this problem and keep people shopping in 2011.
So what does this say for the fashionista’s of the world? Looking into alternatives to try and spread out the wardrobe budget. Reuse and recycle older pieces with new pieces to get the seasons look, or maybe try some vintage shopping. Picking out your favourite trends of the season rather than every trend may help the wallet as well. Less frivolous spending, and a bit more caution with your spending can allow for your money to go a little farther, buying timeless pieces can last a lifetime.


From campuses, offices, to parties, many people are turning to alleged “miracle” drugs for a boost – despite health and ethical concerns.

Facing an important final, the college student sits down at her desk with a large mug of coffee. However, she then contemplates her alternatives. She sorts through her medicine cabinet for just the right cognitive enhancement pill. She casually pops a couple pills of Adderall. Satisfied, she sits down at her desk to start studying for her final exam.

Scenarios like this one are becoming increasingly common as attention-deficit drugs have slowly been seeping into the norm at an alarming rate. People from all generations are turning to so-called “smart drugs” such as Adderall and Ritalin for several reasons. College students use them for midterms and finals. High-powered professionals do so to increase cognitive abilities and to aid their high-pressure jobs. Hollywood starlets and women are turning to Adderall for rapid weight loss schemes, and partygoers are using them for endurance and a quick buzz to overcome anxious jitters. In reference to a July 31 New York Times article, writer Andrew Jacobs spoke to several students who spoke adamantly of the drug, “Adderall is the drug of choice these days, it’s a legitimate and even hip way to get through the rigors of a hectic academic and social life.” Thus proving that these stimulants have become increasingly popular due to their accessibility, efficacy, and its likable nature.

With our culture becoming increasingly competitive, healthy individuals who do not have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are using these drugs to fuel their busy lives and desire for success. It has also become the drug of choice for girls, who naturally are concerned with their figure and found that Adderall miraculously suppresses the appetite. The usage of these “smart drugs” have become rampant in U.S. colleges as well as the workplace. These non-patient users are enticed by the pleasant effects of improved concentration, increased wakefulness, and less susceptibility to distractions.

While the popularity of these stimulants appear to be more significant in the United States than Canada, there is still an increasing competitiveness and pressure in the Canadian environment. According to the November edition of Elle Canada, Katie Addleman reports that since 2005, “the number of ADHD prescriptions dispensed by Canadian pharmacies has grown by about 200,000 every year. As of June, the figure for 2010 already stood at more than 1.6 million.” Addleman also reports that a 2008 survey found that “80 percent thought that healthy adults should be able to use these drugs if desired; and 69 percent said that they would risk mild side effects to take them.” With the mental boosts these drugs can supply, it is not difficult to understand the appeal. However, in spite of the benefits, are the effects and consequences worth it?

Side effects can include irritability, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, increased heart rate, and at it’s worst, it could cause death. In 2005, Health Canada reported that 20 drug related deaths were related to Adderall consumption. Even with a growing amount of non-patient users, Adderall sales continue to soar because it is inexpensive and easy to use. Little is being done for the misuse of these drugs and the market for legal stimulants is only becoming stronger. When taken at a higher than prescribed dosage, Adderall can be both psychologically and physically addictive. Users even take drugs such as sleeping pills to counter act the stimulant effects of Adderall. Increased dependency can also lead to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, where many report feeling depressed and vapid without the drug. Persistent abuse of Adderall and Ritalin can also produce a “psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations – psychotic symptoms can persist for months and even years after use of these drugs has ceased”, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in a government report labeled, “Drugs of Abuse”.

Despite the fact that stimulants can increase productivity and fuel the mind, these drugs can also be counter productive. They are said to stifle creativity and impulsivity, two traits that are lost at the expense of a focused mind. It is interesting how changing expectations for people these days have altered the way we treat ourselves in order to reach success. People are striving for more time, better results, and social confidence more than ever before. The pressure to perform and achieve perfection has become a simple reality. At the end of the day, human beings are capable of extraordinary things, with or without drugs. However, people strive for the best to get to the top, and in this day and age, unless high standards and over achieving is no longer the norm, the use of these drugs are inevitable.

A Jersey Store-y

For the last few years, MTV’s hit phenom show; Jersey Shore, has shown immense success and involvement throughout the media on an international level. Nightclubs are now filled with “Gorilla juicehead guidos” and “Guidettes” showing off their fist-pumping skills. As well as being a hilarious cast, these young stars have also become style moguls. Here are a few looks that were inspired by the Jersey Shore Cast.

High Fashion

When Jersey Shore first aired, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s oversized hair made quite an impact on the popular hairstyles to date. The “Snooki pouf” is the new “Rachel” of the decade. With the show growing notoriously, the “pouf’s” popularity seemed to also grow with the show. With this new found success, the 4ft 9 meatball was able to add a few inches to her height. Not only are young girls wearing their own “pouf” higher, but it has also been the subject for many parodies such as: Ellen Degeneres’ Halloween costume and MTV live’s Sheenooki.

Who wears Short Shorts?

The Royal Teens said it best: Who wears short shorts, they wear short shorts! Summer means legs and when it comes to showing skin, the girls from Jersey Shore are no strangers to that department. It seems that when it comes to picking out a pair of shorts, less is more. Short shorts have transitioned into more of clubbing attire since the show came to air. It appears to be normal to now wear micro-mini shorts through the winter as well. More girls are going out in February dressed as if it were august. This disregard of weather conditions helps showcase the importance of looking sexy vs. the proper attire for weather conditions.

Sun Kissed

The cast of the Jersey Shore have seen their fair share of tanning beds. They have made tanning part of their signature addictive saying: GTL – Gym, Tan and Laundry. Because the whole cast has olive skin complexions, it makes it easier and safer for them to achieve their sun-kissed glows. Indoor tanning has become so popular that laws have been set in order to protect the younger generations.

Summer Fresh

It is very important to make a good first impression. At most times, the first thing someone will notice about you is the way you are dressed and presenting yourself. GTL is present in this area. According the MVP crew – Mike “the situation”, Vinny and Pauly, looking fresh is an essential part of everyday. It is crucial to always have clean and fresh laundered clothes if you are going to have a successful T-shirt time. T-shirt time is defined in by The Situation in this way: "We have an abundance of wife beaters ... we wear before we go out. Then it's T-shirt time. Right before we go out we take off the tank and then we put on our fresh shirt." As Pauly D would say it: “You gotta stay fresh-to-death I call it - fresh outfit, fresh haircut, fresh tan, just stay fresh.”

Pumping-Fist… and iron.

The third addition to the GTL lifestyle is working out. In order to look like a gorilla juicehead, hitting the gym is a must. Working out has become much more glamorized recently and girls are now dressing up to work-out. The Jersey Shore cast is usually shown working out at least once in every episode. After pumping iron, the cast concentrates on pumping fist. Fist pumping is defined in as an arm motion made during intense moments of musical euphoria, defined by the outward thrusting of the fist and flexing in-between repetitions. Can also be done inside a moving vehicle for extra style points and honks from random females. So weather it be fists or iron that the cast is pumping, they always do it with millions of fans watching.

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

Child labor continues to be an issue. The fashion industry had been quiet for sometime on subjects concerning forced child labor laws however; recent speculations of forced labor have been submerging. Overseas, these laws are no longer being enforced and more children are being forced to work at a very young age. UNICEF has estimated that from ages 5-14, there are approximately 158 million children working underage for horrific pay. Various countries in the eastern hemisphere such as India and China have been talking about efforts being made in order to eliminate or lessen child workers. Although there has been talk of these efforts, solutions and answers to the child labor problem still have not been seen.

Children around the world are being forced to work in sweatshops that can often be harmful to their health. Investigators who have visited these apparel sweatshops have seen children working with dangerous chemicals in dangerous settings; they have also seen these children get abused and forced to work in very unsanitary and disgusting conditions. These kids will often be forced to work 12 to 14 hour days without receiving overtime pay. They will also be deprived of an education and a proper childhood. The biggest problem areas in the apparel industry include clothing, handbags and shoes. Most athletic shoes are made in Asian sweatshops.

It’s no secret that there is a serious problem concerning child labor laws in Asian countries. India had once been a go to country for American manufacturers but that is no longer the case. The amount of apparel traffic coming out of India and that is being shipped to North-America is decreasing greatly and the U.S labor department is encouraging the cease of textile merchandising with Indian manufacturers. Registered textile mills in India are now subject to regular inspections by the government.

With the rise of cotton prices, efforts are being made in order to save money in Asian countries. There have been reports of children harvesting genetically modified cotton because of its smaller size. In Uzbekistan approximately 2 million school children are sent by the government to pick cotton in fields. These children will usually be gone for 2-3 months in the fall. Often, some of these children will be injured in the fields.

For sometime, the government in these countries have been stating that change is coming and efforts are being made to help these children. These governments have not made sufficient efforts because child slavery continues to be a big issue in developing Asian countries. Canada and the U.S have been closely working towards settling this issue with the United Nation.

According to an article in Women’s Wear Daily by Liza Casabona (October 10th 2010) the U.S Labor department has given out millions of dollars worth of grants to organizations working closely to fight child labor. They believe that every child has the right to an education and are working towards this goal.

Canadians have also made an impact globally. Free the children is a non-profit organization that is concentrated on raising money for the children around the world while raising awareness of the current situation. It was founded in 1995 by a 12 year old boy named Craig Kielburger. Since then they have started the adopt a village program which provide schools, health care and clean water to child laborers everywhere. The 500th school was built in 2008.

It is rewarding to see how much North-Americans have been helping overseas however unless the governments in said countries starts to enforce child labor laws the issue will not cease. Canadians are beginning to be more aware of the issue and some are no longer buying brands that have been known to support child laborStores such as forever 21 and stitches may be able to sell their merchandise cheaper but they will lose a certain demographic of shoppers who are aware of the company’s ways. Companies such as Gap and H&M have strong views against child labor and are able to reach out to a higher demographic. Brands can no longer afford to make unethical decisions and this is taking a toll on the third-world child labor industry. The media is posing more awareness on social activism and these brands have all been seeing positive feedback and sale increase within the company. The world is becoming more conscious of the way that our clothes is being produced, procured and then sent out for the consumers to buy. Companies that support child labor in foreign countries are becoming more and more susceptible to company sales lost due to the unethical behaviour and decisions making in the company and they will continue to see their number decrease as long as they are doing so. Child labor is not going to be solved overnight, however if poverty and slavery continues to be ignored there might not be any children to enslave in the future.

How to Turn a Blind Eye

The fashion world has been abuzz lately with clamor regarding the ousting of John Galliano from the fashion helm Christian Dior. On Tuesday March 1st, only three days prior to the showing of Dior’s fall 2011 fashion show, John Galliano was officially dismissed as their head designer based on allegations and video footage of the couturier drunkenly slurring anti-Semitic and racist insults. Galliano has received an unprecedented amount of media attention as a result of these incidents, both negative and positive, scrutiny and support. Anti-Semitism has played a crucial role in fashion’s history both underlying and blatant. This resurfacing of the issue poses questions of whether our world’s tastemakers and fashion-elite are still pushing an “Aryan” standard of beauty or if the industry steps in when they see racial injustice.

Many of Galliano’s supporters rushed to his side to try to rebuild his now tarnished image. Vogue Italia’s editor in chief Franca Sozzani posted on the magazine’s website “I’m just as disgusted by these people who saw what state John was in and took advantage of the situation by trading on his name and notoriety.” She seems to flippantly suggest John to be not only a completely innocent man, and that the witnesses were acting in malice.

Patricia Field, a stylist and costume designer sent a mass e-mail to 500 blogs, media and friends in support of Galliano. She seemed dismissive of Galliano’s actions in a phone interview by saying “People in fashion, all they do is go and see John Galliano theater every season. That’s what he gives them. To me, this was the same.” She described his anti-Semitic slurs as “Farce” and said that Galliano was “acting out a character.” Something Galliano knows how to do all too well.

Galliano has also received a tremendous amount of flack for his outbursts, most notably, and controversially from his employer Christian Dior. The chief executive for the company, Sidney Toledano expressed the company’s opinion in a statement at the recent fall Dior show soon after the incidents. He honored Galliano’s work describing him as “brilliant” and possessing “remarkable creative talent.” However, Toledano didn’t hesitative to express the company’s unabashed distaste for Galliano’s actions as well, stating, “It has been deeply painful to see the Dior name associated with the disgraceful statements attributed to its designer…” making it clear to sever their ties to Galliano in fear of what the association could do for their company.

Further in Toledano’s statement, he claims that the company will now, more than ever need to re-commit itself to the core values of the House of Dior. “He [Christian Dior] believed in the importance of respect and in the capacity of this fundamental value not only to bring out the beauty in women, but also bring out the best in people.” Clearly a section of the Dior handbook John Galliano overlooked when he was appointed a design successor of Christian Dior.

This whole uproar regarding anti-Semitism in fashion resurges memories of France’s fashion history over the last century and it’s scary ties to fascism. Prior to the Second World War, France’s fashion industry was responsible for a major portion of its economy and Paris was the world’s fashion capitol. During the Nazi occupation between 1940-1945 Paris’ fashion exports to great Brittan and United States dwindled and they only were only allowed to export to Germany, Italy and Spain.

In an effort to eliminate the “Jewish influence” in the French Economy, the Nazi’s underwent an upheaval of the labour market. Under the Vichy regime, Jews were officially barred from owning businesses. Companies, many of which, primarily Jewish, were “Aryanized” terminating all their Jewish employees. One person who took part these efforts was Coco Chanel who had very close ties with the Nazis. Years earlier, she had sold her fragrance business to a Jewish businessman and now saw the chance to unfairly regain it. He beat her to the punch by cleverly giving control of the company to a trusted “Aryan” associate of his.

The Nazi’s censored the content of French magazines such as vogue and limited their production. They also asserted an effort to limit what women could and could not wear. They wanted women to adhere to their fascist ideology by straying from masculine clothing such as pants and structured silhouettes.

When looking at today’s beauty standards in the fashion industry, they aren’t so different from the Nazi’s ideology for an “Aryan” race, blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin, and a slender muscular body, sounds quite a lot like the “All-American” image we are constantly bombarded with on the cover of fashion magazines and in runway shows.

When something as terrible as an artist, revered for his creativity and innovation falls from grace because of many drunken, yet loaded racial slurs the world is shocked, but for good reason? The signs of a racially charged history are still prevalent in the current fashion industry. Attitudes of segregation and discrimination have not completely disappeared; more times than not the issues at hand are swept under the rug and fashion’s elite turn a heavily made-up, long lashed blind eye.

Living Life...Vicariously Through a Celebrity

A look into why our society is so celebrity obsessed

Celebrities, we idolize them, track their every move and treat them as though they are modern day gods. One day we love them and the next day we hate them and the day after that we don’t know what we think. The latest news, gossip and photos depicting the lives of the rich and famous is a very lucrative business and there is a subculture built around celebrity obsessions. Magazines such as In Touch and Star, Blogs such as Perezhilton and Just Jared and TV shows such as TMZ and Access Hollywood, all feed us our celebrity drug and we go back to them for our daily fix. We can’t help it either, everywhere we turn celebrities are talked about, in fact there are more gossip magazines than real news magazines in Canada. Next time you’re in a convenience store check out the news stand and you’ll find proof of our society’s celebrity obsession.

In today’s day, celebrity news is considered “real news” and often takes the headlines above world events. As far as I know, nothing else in the world took place the day Britney Spears shaved her head or the day Tiger Woods publically confessed he committed adultery. The paparazzi could be to blame for making celebrities so ubiquitous but what about those celebrities such as the Kardashians who willingly flaunt their personal lives via reality television shows? The line between private citizen and public persona becomes blurred and the public begins to lose sight of true reality.

Of course the idea of being a celebrity is intoxicating and easily envied. Who wouldn’t want to be dressed in the latest fashion, drive expensive cars and be invited to all the “it” parties? Although the life of a celebrity is surreal to most people, we are so bombarded with the broadcasted glamorous lifestyles of the rich and famous that we begin to find escapism in it. All of a sudden you turn your attention from a world of job loss, debt, anxiety and boredom to a world of red carpet walks, beautiful beach houses, private jets and high fashion. Obviously, celebrity obsession doesn’t stop there. We then turn our “escapisms” into reality by going to restaurants and bars celebrities have been spotted at (TAO in Las Vegas), dressing like them (Nichole Richie’s boho look), cutting our hair like them (Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel Haircut”), talking like them (“that’s hot” courtesy of Paris Hilton), and buying anything and everything they endorse, just because they say we need it.

Fascination with famous people is said to be a human phenomenon that dates back to ancient history. In the times of Ancient Greece, “Greek Gods” were created and considered to be celebrities. Citizens believed that the gods had a direct impact on their lives and because of this they felt it was important to know about each god’s personal life. It was this innate, “need to know,” that led to the creation of myths that personalized the gods and involved them in ancient celebrity scandals that excited and intrigued the citizens. Interestingly enough, during the Middle Ages, royalty and aristocracy were considered celebrities while during the Dark Ages religious figures, saints, and martyrs took on celebrity status.

As the ancient Greeks did, we today build up myths about our modern day celebrities and then watch their every move, building them up as modern gods and tearing them down as they begin to show signs of humanity. In fact, the term Schadenfreude, defined as “pleasure taken from observing the misery and misfortune of others,” has been studied for years by psychologists as one of the main reasons for celebrity obsession. So then do our celebrity obsessions stem from the idea that we secretly enjoy watching as others flail and can’t help but tune in when a celebrity is experiencing distress?

My inability to pinpoint the reason for celebrity obsession led me to ask various people if and why they followed the lives of celebrities. On average, most people were in tune with current popular celebrity headlines, those who claimed they were not said they had no interest in the entertainment world, even though when questioned they knew the story of Britney’s meltdown and Charlie Sheens manic ways. Reasons people watched the celebrity gossip shows and bought the magazines included: a form of entertainment, boredom, curiosity, love for certain celebrities, wanting to see what the celebs are currently wearing and one respondent even said that her and her girlfriends get together weekly to gossip about celebrities.

However, when does celebrity obsession go too far? Where does one draw the line between an innocent friendly obsession and celebrity stalker? The concept of celebrity stalking as a mental illness is far beyond the scope of this article. Nonetheless, as stated by the DSM, celebrity stalking falls under the category of “delusional stalking” where the stalker has little or no contact with the victim but believes that the victim is in love with them. Okay, so most people don’t fall within the celebrity stalker category but I do think that a category should be created for those who live, eat and sleep celebrity because this is becoming a major concern and more and more of an issue whether dangerous or not.

In the end, maybe our obsession with all things celebrity is a human trait or an addiction that we can’t shake or even just a simple form of entertainment to ease our minds after a long day. Either way, with advancements in technology and/or the need for immediacy, celebrity obsessions will inevitably only increase. However, it is our choice whether we want to live through the eyes and experiences of celebrities or take the reins and begin to live a thrilling, out of the spot light life celebrities would be envious of.

Live and Let Live

The fashion industry has always been driven by the constant change in trends. Some last longer than others. Some become a movement. All can be predicted more than a year in advance by some of the most influential and powerful trend forecasting companies across the world. This process begs to ask the question: are these services creating or spotting the trends?
Trend forecasting companies span across all industries including interior design, architecture, food and automotive; in one word they cover everything. So if major industry competitors are all subscribing are there really trends?
Pantone specialists are entitled appropriately “cool hunters.” Companies like WGSN and Pantone are great references for designers. They provide inspiration for the fast paced industry where one wrong colour choice means thousands of dollars in lost profit. They provide a range of colour ideas that the designer can choose from and interpret. They still allow flexibility and creativity to thrive in the fashion industry. They go to the streets in over 100 cities worldwide to see what people have pulled and paired together. They seek out up-and-coming artists, travel destinations and world events that may inspire the latest runway collections.
With trend companies going to greater lengths and investors forcing designers to follow colour trends as a means of success, does all of this pressure force designer to conform? Linda Lundström, who you may know as a George Brown faculty member, adopted an acclaimed forecasting company when her company was bought out by Eleventh Floor. She explained in her draping class that she had never used trend forecasting services before while working on her label, but adopted them into her process. She continued to say that while the services create the pallets, designers are free to interpret them for different target markets.
The issue also becomes apparent with the overall cost to access these services ringing in well into the thousands of dollars. Smaller designers don’t find it in their budgets to afford these services and are therefore left behind. Luckily in the modern world, careful studying of street-style blogs and world events can provide the inspiration for free. The photographers that take to the streets each day provide the perfect representation of what the world is wearing- vintage or new. Designers in Toronto who belong to the Toronto Fashion Incubator can access seminars held by Pantone and have constant access to the books they publish. With the membership and fee for the seminar reaching just over 100$ smaller companies can afford to attend.
The need for trends and new products to constantly flood retail stores means that these companies are essential in keeping the market going. They provide information on new innovations from around the world and ideas on advertising and packaging to bring the final product to the consumer. Customized consultations are also available for designers. The companies filter through the trends and provide only details on the key details relevant for the price point and target market. In such an artistic and creative industry such direction is an asset to the artist. Allowing the designer to efficiently design a line for each fashion week or retail season means a major increase in profit and satisfied investors.
Consumers can take these companies as an advantage. Since there are so many companies making similar garments, style can be achieved at any price point. Of course the fabrics and the details may not be the same, but the colour pallet and the silhouettes are so similar that it makes dressing on a budget easier for the mass market. For designers it becomes an advantage because some advertisements are more easily obtained through magazine editorials. Since their garments can coincide with other designers who have chosen similar styling, magazines get to showcase several pieces cohesively.
With the fashion industry being the multi-billion dollar business that it is, the bottom line remains the essential ingredient in major decisions. If one decides to forego using the services of cool-hunters than one risks a design flop known to investors as an expense not lightly taken.
So the question still remains; do trend forecasting companies hurt or help the creative process? With the industry being so business-focused and the consumer empowered by the market’s saturation, any business decision that minimizes the risk of poor design choices is a no-brainer. It’s not to say that a well chosen pallet and fabric choice based on a solid inspiration can’t just as easily succeed. But with colour names like: orchid hush and quarry how can you not find inspiration in these services

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tissh: A Leap of Faith for Designer Gloria Lee

An up and coming Toronto fashion and jewelry designer wants to be part of a new generation of fashion; one that empowers.

As a young girl Gloria Lee could not stifle her love for fashion. She often doodled dresses, compulsively watched Fashion Television, and found herself mentally altering clothing she would see in stores to improve them to her own taste.

After high school Gloria put aside her creative interests and tried pursuing a life in traditional business. She majored in Actuarial Science at the University of Toronto and held corporate jobs for 5 years. In 2005, during her corporate days, Gloria was looking for a baby shower gift at Walmart. She instead found herself wandering into the craft section picking out beads and string to make jewelry for friends as a hobby. It seemed her creativity was again emerging. That year she founded Tissh Inc. The name is inspired by an internet handle she had in her teen years and is a play on the word fetish. She soon enrolled part-time at Coco Fashion Design Centre in Toronto, where she took pattern drafting and garment construction courses. In 2009, encouraged by her brother and business partner Joseph, Gloria took a leap of faith by quitting her corporate job to follow her passion designing women’s clothing and jewelry full-time.

Gloria has since found another equally rewarding passion; helping others. She wants women to feel empowered in her clothing and be more aware of themselves as powerful, confident beings. Gloria loves to combine design with “giving back” to society. At the end of each month a portion of Tissh sales is given to local charities. The designer is also participating in Super Saturday this July in The Hamptons, New York. It’s a charity sample sale started by designer Donna Karan with 100% of profits going to ovarian cancer research.

There appears to be a spiritual link to many of Gloria’s musings on her life and business. She continuously refers to maintaining a positive attitude, a higher being, and the law of attraction; all part of her spiritual journey she says. It’s a journey that Gloria intends to continue on as it has brought her to a place where she feels ready and excited to help others. She candidly offers advice to budding entrepreneurs; valuable tidbits like saving more money than you think you’ll ever need, never giving up, and reminding yourself to be happy. After all, Gloria says, “Life is about being happy, do what makes you happy and listen to your own voice inside.”

Gloria wants to make it clear that starting a business is not easy, especially as a fashion designer. She talks about the difficulties of wearing all the hats; as financier, merchandiser, designer and accountant. What makes her job challenging though, is exactly what makes it rewarding. She truly seizes opportunities to expand and always learns from mistakes.

At this point in her early thirties Gloria is grateful to make her fashion dream a reality as her business continues to grow. In early March 2011 Gloria was profiled on eTalk and Canada AM, both part of the CTV network. It was a segment that had ten of Canada’s top designers submit wedding dress sketches for Kate Middleton’s upcoming marriage to Prince William. Gloria was thrilled to have been part of an impressive group that included David Dixon and Lucian Matis.

When we spoke back in March, Gloria was busy putting the finishing touches on promotional material for her spring 2011 collection. New York City is her inspiration and each piece is named after a street in the Big Apple. Her two favourite pieces from the collection are the Hudson jacket; a three-quarter sleeve camel coloured swing cropped trench and the Lexington dress; a stretch silk halter dress with pockets and an exposed back.

Looking ahead to the future Gloria hopes to participate in the international Las Vegas trade show, Magic. She also plans to continue with social media endeavors. Her website, has links to her Twitter account and blog. Gloria appreciates the ability to connect with real people in real time. She enjoys the approachable relationship she has with customers and plans to stay grounded and accessible.

When asked if she has any closing remarks Gloria pauses and states, “I feel there is a movement, globally, I feel like people are becoming more awakened in their lives and I hope to be part of that.” She wants people to change their outlook on fashion from seeing it as something superficial to something empowering. Gloria wants women to feel strong and confident in her clothing, she wants them to soak in the good energy she hopes her clothes transfer. At the end of the day she wants to be proud of her work and knows she is fulfilling her life’s meaning by helping others. Even though her journey is just beginning, Gloria Lee can confidently say she is on the right path.

Tissh clothing is sold at Beyond 7, a boutique in Chelsea, NYC. Prices range from $400-$700. TisshXpress jewelry is sold at Dorly Design in Toronto. Prices range from $30-$300.

When the Spotlight Shines

For people in the public eye how do your actions represent who you are?

The renowned house of Christian Dior has been making headlines and not just for the recent Fall/Winter 2011 collection, but for Dior’s most celebrated designer and creative director, John Galliano. After an altercation with a women and a man in a restaurant, who called the police and a video of Galliano making anti-Semitic slurs in a Paris bar on February 24th, the designer is faced with a trial for his offenses. Under French law, provoking any form of racial hatred is considered a criminal offense and anyone found guilty could face jail time and possible fines.

Since Galliano started in 1996, the house of Christian Dior has seen tremendous change as the designer’s vivid imagination and whimsical ways took the brand to a multimillion-dollar ranking. Despite John Galliano being thought of as synonymous with the Dior brand, CEO Sidney Toledano decided to suspend the designer and soon afterwards it was announced that he was fired. The New York Times article, Galliano Case Tests Dior Brand’s Future from March 1st, quoted Toledano saying, “[that] he condemned the words and conduct of Mr. Galliano, “which are in total contradiction to the longstanding core values of Christian Dior.”

The recent media attention from around the world has created much discussion on the fate of the legendary haute couture fashion house. In addition to the lead designer and creative director of Dior, Galliano also has his own line of couture. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton owns Dior amongst other fashion houses of the same caliber, such as Celine and Louis Vuitton. Dior has a 60-year history to uphold with French fashion, as it remains a huge aspect of French culture and way of life.

Recent Oscar award winning actress Natalie Portman, has been a huge admirer of Galliano’s work and for the Oscars she was planning on wearing a dress by him. Having heard the allegations against the designer shortly before Hollywood’s biggest night, Portman chose not to support him and wore a dress by Rodarte instead. Dior’s brand of perfume, Miss Dior Cherie is represented by Portman and as a result of the recent uproar caused by Galliano’s behaviour; Portman publicly announced her disappointment with the designer. In The New York Times article from March 1st, Portman stated, “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

For many designers having celebrities and public figures admire and respect their creations, as they often are seen in the spotlight showcasing their outfit and commending the designer for their astounding garments, is a form of publicity. The individual wearing the garment, is essentially representing the brand, in turn rewarding the designer for choosing to dress him or her. The commitment to a particular designer on the part of someone in the public eye often results in that individual being associated with appreciating that designer’s work over the competitions. The star of Gossip Girl, Blake Lively has been a devotee of Chanel and mutually speaking, Karl Lagerfeld has favoured this bright, young star, as she recently has been chosen to represent the “Mademoiselle” handbag line for the Chanel house.

While Galliano’s actions may be considered an isolated incident, there have been similar issues in the past that impact the moral and ethical obligations of a company subject to possible public scrutiny. Checkered Past, an article by the National Post reveals that German fashion powerhouse, Hugo Boss A.G. which at the time was a family-owned textile factory of uniforms, “became the official supplier of Nazi uniforms in 1933 and continued manufacturing throughout the war using forced labour from France and Poland.” The company came clean of its association with the Nazi administration and “Boss’s own son Siegfried confirmed his father’s membership in the Nazi Party.” While some may feel disgusted and choose to not support the brand, the company did own up to the truth.

From a public relations standpoint, the house of Dior handled the circumstance in a respectable way. Despite Portman’s feelings on Galliano’s inappropriate outburst, the company has to look past this and move on. Fashion Director of The Daily Telegraph, Hilary Alexander, felt that this will impact Galliano the most, and for Dior she feels that it will go back to “business as usual, [as] the show must go on.”

Jean Paul Gaultier, a man accustomed to the pressure and scrutiny of being a well-known fashion designer, defended Galliano. The article from WGSN, Galliano and Dior Shows go Ahead with Absent Designer, Own Label to Continue for now, Gaultier Defends Galliano, quoted Gaultier stating, “he is clearly not a racist. Everything he has done has not revealed someone who is racist, quite to the contrary, referring to the design inspiration he has drawn from widespread geographies and cultures.” He also seemed skeptical of the context in which the recordings of anti-Semitic slurs were taken.

Although, Galliano’s recent episode has got the fashion industry talking, there is an important underlying issue to address. The concept of corporate social responsibility relates directly to this, as the Dior house felt responsible for Galliano and thus fired him for his offenses. Many companies around the world make it a main priority to present themselves in a positive light and consequently hope to benefit society and provide a purpose to the consumers they are serving.

Specifically, Galliano’s scandal poses a number of questions, which ultimately reflects differently on every individual and also affects those consumers involved. Some may feel that this incident should be thought of as separate from his remarkable work, as fashion industry professionals, such as Jeanne Beker, described him as a fashion “genius and icon”. However, others such as Natalie Portman disrespect his recent behaviour and as a result will no longer choose to support him. Dior is one of the most prestigious houses in fashion and Galliano’s actions may impact consumer’s shopping choices. Being that Dior serves a niche market, individuals perhaps may take this episode personally, as John Galliano was a well-respected fashion designer who has made a mark on the fashion industry, as his elaborate collections speak for themselves.

Saying Goodbye to John Galliano

Dior’s quest to repair their image after creative directors anti-sematic remarks.

While most of us were relaxing at home, or perhaps lying on a beach (if you were one of the lucky ones) enjoying our much anticipated intercession week, such was not the case for chief designer of fashion house Christian Dior, John Galliano. Galliano was fired on March 1st 2011 after a video surfaced of him yelling a series of anti-sematic comments in a bar in Paris. Soon after the video appeared, it spread like wildfire throughout the fashion industry and many people were jumping at the opportunity to comment on what they had seen. Although most were up in arms about the racist comments he had made, there were several individuals who stood by the famous designer in his time of need. One of the main questions on everyone’s minds was whether or not Dior will survive without its creative director, and more importantly who will be brave enough to fill his shoes?

Galliano was one of the most influential designers within the fashion industry and was known for being the so-called “bad boy”. He was constantly pushing the envelope when it came to his daring looks on the catwalk, and was admired and respected immensely by others. Many industry professionals have since replaced this respect with repulsion and hatred, since his thoughtless tirade. Oscar winner Natalie Portman released a statement claiming that she was “deeply shocked and disgusted” at the comments made by Galliano. Portman, who is “proud to be Jewish”, was so appalled by his actions, that she abruptly changed her decision to wear Galliano at the Academy Awards ceremony that Sunday evening. Renowned fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld was also quick to comment on the situation, stating that he is “furious” with Galliano, as reported by WWD’s Miles Socha. Lagerfeld feels as though he has tarnished the image of everyone in the fashion business, let alone the chairman and CEO of the company, Bernard Arnault, who had been a great friend to both Lagerfeld and Galliano.

While Portman and Lagerfeld were not alone in their feelings towards Galliano’s remarks, there are many individuals who are coming to his defense. Roberto Cavalli was interviewed by The Telegraph backstage at Milan Fashion Week and immediately defended Galliano, claiming “I don’t believe it because I’ve know John for many years. He’s such a wonderful person”, furthermore stating that Galliano is “so international” and therefore it would not make sense for him to make such racist comments. Another celebrity coming to his defense is model and friend Chanel Iman. On March 1st Iman told that Galliano “is one of the most creative, genius designers that I’ve worked with and he’s so open to all types of people. He’s loving and he’s caring and I wish him all the best”. Like Cavalli and Iman, many of his friends have been quick to dismiss these allegations of racism, claiming that Galliano is a brilliant man with a vast array of talent. Among several of his daring fashion shows, Galliano has shown inspiration through the influence of differing cultures within his designs. He has never shown any hateful attitudes towards race in the past, which seems to beg the question to many as to whether it was all a misunderstanding.

Sara Rotman, creative director and owner of MODCo Creative has compared Galliano’s absence within the fashion industry to Tom Ford leaving Gucci, as well as Alexander McQueen’s tragic suicide. She states that Galliano is “one of the few geniuses really left in our field”, as reported by WWD’s Miles Socha. Rotman believes that after the initial shock of Dior’s decision to move on without Galliano, they, like many other fashion houses, will move on and find their rhythm again. The final outcome now remains within fashion industry, and whether or not they will be willing to support a brand with a tarnished image.

Was Dior’s quick response to the controversy surrounding Galliano a smart move, or would have they been better off keeping him a part of the company? Since 1996, Galliano has been proven to be a huge success as Dior’s creative director and has showed his unique sense of style throughout his time there. He was the brains behind the whole operation and had improved their image by “ increasing sales and making it a jewel of the LVMH luxury empire run by the French billionaire Bernard Arnault”, as reported by The New York Times’ Doreen Carvajal (February 28, 2011). Dior’s rash decision to fire Galliano, may backfire when all the media dies down, leaving not only a tarnished reputation for Dior, but also leaving them without the star of their company. Galliano has been an inspiration from the start, and finding a quick replacement may just be the demise of the company.

The High Price of High Heels

The High Price of High Heels

In a battle between what's fashionable and what's practical, how can anyone figure out women's footwear in the 21st century?

Fashion revolves while it evolves; the journey of the high heel is no different. In the last 40 years, various styles of high heels, some of which reflect earlier eras and some of which are entirely original creations of the time, have fallen in and out of favor. The most common characteristic of the various styles is their pure impracticality. Furthermore, there are health studies that continually emerge that outline the detrimental effects heels have on the body, most importantly the foot. This, however, has not stopped the mass popularity of heeled shoes. The question is; why do women put themselves through the pain and risk of wearing heels?

Before we can understand high heels and the debate that surrounds them today, we must understand the evolution of this iconic fashion piece and how they came to be.

Heel History

Interestingly enough, while many feminists debate about the social pressures there are for women to wear heels and sexuality that surround these seductive shoes, they were originally worn by men. It is believed that the first heeled shoes were worn by Egyptian Butchers to elevate their feet from the mess of their job back as early as 4,000 BCE. The journey of the heel continued, and in 200 BCE heels were worn by Roman actors and were called kothorni. They then resurfaced as a purely practical item again in the 1600s when it was added to men’s shoes to help keep their feet in the stirrups when riding. Riding boots are still heeled today for safety and practicality purposes.

It was the 1500s, however, that saw the birth of women’s high heels as a fashion piece. In 1533 the first women’s heel was designed to lengthen the legs. Notable iconic figures, who served as catalysts to the evolution of the high heel as we know it today include: Catherine d’Medici, Mary Tudor and Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette even wore two-inch heels to her execution, and for the Sophia Coppola film Marie Antoinette, Manolo Blahnik designed over 100 pairs of shoes

From the 1850s to the 1950s the height of the heel remained at about two inches. In the 1950s, however, icons such as Marilyn Monroe aided in furthering the evolution of the heel, with the fashionable and arguably most iconic style: the stiletto. Also in fashion at the time was the kitten heel, which looked much like a miniature and was favored by Audrey Hepburn.

The 1970s saw another dramatic turn in heel style when the slim stiletto was shunned for the chunky platform sole. This was the new breed of the kothorni shoes of earlier centuries, and was worn by both men and women. The 1980s opted for sky high heels, and the 1990s returned to a lower heel, though many began to favor flats.

Heels in the 21st Century

Since the turn of the century, many different styles, ranging from very low to extremely high heels have swayed in and out of popularity in the fashion world, but the heel was constant nonetheless.

The simple fact about high heels is that in addition to making women taller, high heels force the back to arch, pushing the bosom forward and the buttocks rearward, thus accentuating and elongating the female form. In a time where image is everything, we are constantly trying to find ways to improve our appearance, and a high heel is a staple piece in every woman’s wardrobe for that very reason.

People choose specific shoes and styles to fulfill a variety of physical, psychological and social needs. When you get dressed everyday, your needs are fulfilled to different degrees based on what you place as priority in life. Most people tend to choose clothes based off of physical need (i.e. the need for comfort). There are, however, many people who choose their shoes purely based off of what they look like, which can fulfill their psychological and social needs.

Your shoes, as with all your clothing, present an image. In many cultures, a certain height of heel represents your social status or class. Throughout history, shoes in general have typically served as markers of gender, class, race, and ethnicity. While societies around the world have their own cultural connotations associated with different styles of shoes, the high heel, particularly the stiletto, is known worldwide for its leisure, sexuality, and sophistication.

In the 21st century all heels have their place in women's wardrobes, even high-heeled flip-flops. While the majority of women have heels they can actually wear, there are some who appreciate footwear as a form of art and enjoy heels purely for aesthetic purposes. Take for example the Alexander McQueen creations on the runway for Fall/Winter ’10. While they were interesting, artistic, and beautiful – McQueen wasn’t suggesting masses of women should sport this style.

To Each Her Own

Different styles appeal to different people. Some view footwear as practical, while some view it as a piece of art. Regardless, virtually every woman has some form of a heel in her closet; even the creatures of comfort. Ugg boots are synonymous with being comfortable, and even they have recently added a heeled boot to their collection. While many argue about the negative affects both socially and physically that high heels have on women, it is important to remember that fashion is a highly personal yet very public thing. While some might hate one style, another person may love it. Everyone has different shapes to their feet (high arch, flat foot), and everyone has different taste and preference.

While we can speculate about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ when it comes to footwear, it’s truly a matter of personal preference. One must understand why we put high heels on our shoes in the first place, and learn to let people choose for themselves how to let their feet live. It is important to understand both the negative and positive effects of high heels, and decide whether or not being four inches closer to heaven with the help of your heel is worth the possible risk. Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City claims to have ruined her feet for fashion, and every woman must decide for herself how high is too high a price.

There aren’t many people in the world today who wear heels for practical purposes, cowboys and equestrians may be among the very few. However, the debate rages on surrounding the negative effects heels have on society, and women in particular. This ember of debate will continue to envelop the kindling that society provides and will not be extinguish until the heel is no longer a part of mainstream society. Some women wear heels because they like them, while others might need to for work. Therefore, whatever purpose one might have in wearing heels; take time to understand the possible risks involved. What is important to remember is that while we are very heavily influenced in making the fashion choices that we do, it is simply that: a choice.

Shop Girls, Shop Local

An interview with Michelle Germain the curator/owner of the gallery boutique, Shop Girls.

Situated in Toronto's Parkdale at Queen Street West, Shop Girls has become the place for Canadian designers and consumers who are looking for something local. New designers are able to sell small quantities of their product in the store to test the market before going into full blown production. Customers are always looking to buy items that they feel good about. What is better than supporting your fellow Canadians? Interviewing the owner of the gallery boutique became my mission as I was curious about what inspired the concept of such a store and what it takes for new and aspiring designers to have their products sell in Canada.

Every child has dreams but not every child grows up to become what they expected. For Michelle Germain, life took turns in ways that she did not plan. Originally from Ottawa, Germain studied French literature with intentions of becoming a teacher some day. However, after she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree, she realized teaching was not for her. This led her onto a whole new path as she moved to Toronto.

After schooling in Ottawa, she decided to take on another two years for merchandising at the The Academy of Design. On graduation day, she did not attend and instead went to a Holt Renfrew orientation. To this day, she feels it was the best decision she could have made at the time. She was hired at Holt Renfrew as a sales associate. Prior to the job, she did not have much sales experienced but was able to work the floor and sell for six months. Eventually, she worked her way up into advertising, a position which was essentially a middle person for the company and everyone else. The job entitled her to deal with buyers, worked with photographers and stylists, involved in events, and worked on the Holt Renfrew book. A lot of grunt work was involved and a major down side at the time was the lack of a travel budget which meant she did not travel. After six and a half years, Germain leaves the company as Advertising Manager and pursues another career path.

Aware of her ability to lead and manage, Germain takes on a business of her own. A wellness company she named, “Lucid”, provided services that were delivered to your home and office. Employees included dieticians and massage therapists. The business went on for one year before she went back to work for a preexisting company once again. A new business is always tough and she decided it would be better to have a steady income for the time being.

Taking on the role as Marketing Manager at HBC, she left for maternity leave and when she was ready to go back into the work force, she realized she preferred being her own boss. During her life time, she had met many great designers and knew that their items could sell. However, she did not open a shop immediately but instead wanted to see first hand how consumers would react to local products. She started with pop-up-shops inviting the artists to be present to interact with the customers. The idea of a story behind the product was appealing and was an extra incentive to purchase. When the time was ready, she opened up Shop Girls.

New businesses are often difficult, Shop Girls did not become stable until after two to three years. Germain says, “it takes three times the money one expects and two times the work.” At first, she mainly did consignment but the assortment was limited. The products she took on were from artists who had leftovers that could not sell elsewhere. In order to maintain income, she sold wholesale as well. She hopes to focus more on the artists and the consumer now that her store has been established. Her market is very broad and intends on narrowing it down a bit more to make products more focused on her target market and their need for comfort.

Germain receives daily requests from designers who want to sell their products in her store, sometimes as much as a couple times a day from the same person. She advises anyone who is interested to understand the stores aesthetic, know the price range is under $200, and to be able to offer a product that is unique. Once one feels confident, they may send photos to

The store works on consignment but also unique to Shop Girls is their Artist Circle. Consignment means the store gets fifty percent and the designer gets fifty percent of the profit from the item that is sold. The Artist Circle means the designer works at the store for eight hours a week in exchange for seventy-five percent of the profit while the store collects twenty-five percent. Any items that are not sold at the end of the season is returned to the designer/artist.

Germain's advice to new designers is, “take it slow, know your market, and don't go full on production.” She believes it is important to understand clientele response so attending The Clothing Show or The One of a Kind Show would be important as one is able to interact with the customers. In the mean time, study hard, have a goal, and eventually you may find your niche in the Canadian market.