Friday, March 18, 2016

Feature articles Spring 2016

Girl Bosses by Kelsea Schnitzler
'Cause I Got A Blank Page Baby by Shannon McTeague
Creative Burnout by Roberto Lagman

Is the fashion industry selling an impossible dream by Shaelyn Meier

George in the City
A Man About Gown: Christopher Paunil by Susannah Kiernan

Every Story has Two Sides. The Real Cost of Cheap Clothing

80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased worldwide each year, which is 400% more than a decade ago. The fashion market is increasingly growing and most average fashion consumers don't bother questioning what it really takes to produce that cheap, trendy piece of clothing bought at the local mall. So the real question that we as consumers should be addressing is: when we buy cheap clothes and accessories made in developing countries, are we supporting a developing economy or taking advantage of underpaid workers?

Clothing is cheaper now than it’s ever been. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average shopper spends less than four percent of their total income on their wardrobes. Its the era of Fast Fashion, new products are being brought into stores weekly, if not daily. Cheap
clothing that keeps up with the latest fashion trends- its almost like you can’t afford not to buy it.

Fashion brands have the possibility to manufacture wherever they want. They have the ability to switch factories at any time, for any reason. This means that desperate factories in impoverished countries are forced to compete with each other by continually lowering costs and increasing the burdens placed on the garment workers who have no say or rights in this equation. 

This business formula has proven remarkably successful, with many of the big brands posting record profits. The founders of H&M and Zara are both among the richest people on the planet. And they’ve done it by providing a nearly unlimited selection of super cheap, fashionable clothing that consumers reliably devour.

In a recent interview with NPR, Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Price of Fast Fashion, explained that stores like H&M produce hundreds of millions of garments per year. “They put a small markup on the clothes and earn their profit out of selling an ocean of costing,” she says. H&M has about 2,800 stores in 48 markets and it’s growing rapidly, especially in China and the United States.
But if these companies are making billions and consumers are getting great deals, the cost has to be absorbed somewhere. And that’s where developing countries like China and Bangladesh come into the picture. Because there is no way the fashion profitability could be so high without an army of extremely low paid workers to quickly turn massive orders around. You could only imagine the harsh working conditions and unsafe environments these workers are forced to work in on a daily basis in order to keep up with the high demand. 

Taking into account, the recent tragedy that happened in Bangladesh. Rana Plaza, the building outside of the capital Dhaka that collapsed on April 24, was owned by a local politician who illegally built three additional floors onto the structure and installed heavy textile machinery. The building housed five different garment factories and more than 3,500 workers. Even after large cracks were found in the walls the day before the disaster, factory supervisors – under pressure to fill orders – ignored warnings to vacate the building, and ordered workers to continue production.

Sadly, consumers never take a step back to take any of these statistics into consideration. There are numerous articles, documentaries showcasing the disturbing conditions the workers within a developing country work in order to produce that piece of clothing. That piece of clothing, that will than be marked up twice its price and sold to us at a reasonable price which won’t even cause a slight hesitation, before purchasing it. But, hey its business right? 

It’s easy to blame the big clothing companies, many of whom reap enormous profits, fully aware of the conditions where their products are made. From a business perspective, it is a win-win situation since companies capitalize on low-wage labor in developing countries and significantly reduce production costs. They move more cheap product to low-end consumers and increase annual profits for the shareholders.

And then there’s us – the consumers. Because the reality is that none of this would be happening if the demand wasn’t there to fuel it. Factory conditions would likely improve if consumers were to demand it, especially if we were willing to pay more for our clothes and absorb some of the costs.
But doing so is a lot easier said than done. It’s one thing to be horrified by Bangladesh’s recent tragedy and to hope conditions improve. It’s another thing to voluntarily pay more for your clothes at the register. It’s easier to just pretend they don’t exist.

Which begs another question: how much more would you be willing to pay to know your clothes were being produced in an ethical manner?
Do you really care to make a difference? 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Power & Influence. Chanel's Game Changer (assignment 1)

Karl Lagerfeld is a celebrated couture designer who can bring style and shape to any design fitting a modern, classy and edgy look with eccentric colours. A man of power

Since he was appointed creative director for Chanel in 1983, Karl has turned the legendary label into a fashion powerhouse.

The rumours about the brand going downhill during the beginning of 80’s were of no secret, Karl was so to say destined to take over the empire of Chanel and bring it back to the spotlight.

He saw the potential and made it a big responsibility to transform Chanel into something more, into something extraordinary.
He did it with such mastery that today the brand is a point of reference in the fashion industry and women around the globe.

Each season the Chanel fashion shows are some of the most awaited events during the fashion calendar.

One would never imagine Chanel without Karl. He changed its character into an elite status by adding sex appeal and glamour.

He has the power to influence the industry to take a different direction, not always following traditional forms to become successful. 

Criticized or praised, he aways delivers an unbelievable spectacle which keeps the media talking until his next move. As we say “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

Karl Lagerfeld does what he does best, thats is being Karl. “I am a walking label. My name is Labelfeld not Lagerfeld.” as he himself describes it. He is a walking marketing icon.

His contribution to the fashion industry speaks volumes. While being the Creative Director of Chanel, he simultaneously worked with Fendi and Chloe while launching his own line.

Fashion is all about magic, evoking imagination and the senses, and he managed to create a almost mythological creature of himself. 

Karl Lagerfeld, the power and the influence of a man that turned Chanel into a legendary icon. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Girl Bosses

Toronto boutique owners dispel millennial stereotypes of inexperience, laziness and technology addiction and CONVEY their secrets to entrepreneurial success.

    After years of working in various levels of retail, Daniela Figliomeni and Jennifer Shotbolt were ready for a new challenge. As two young women approaching their mid-20s, both had secure jobs that were set to advance toward higher positions. However, the two had also reached a crossroads. Having felt uneasy about the trajectory of their career paths, Figliomeni and Shotbolt explain, “We questioned whether we would ever be fully happy helping someone else reach their dream rather than chasing our own. It was in that moment we decided to leave our jobs and create our own boutique, CONVEY.” The duo confronted an occupational dilemma that many millennials face when starting their careers: do I want to work my way up a company or do I want to be my own boss? More important, how do I turn that dream into a reality?
    Following months of planning in the off hours of their full-time jobs, they finally needed a brick-and-mortar location to realize CONVEY. As it so happened, in 2014, Vogue named Toronto’s West Queen West the second coolest neighbourhood in the world. A national hotspot for arts and culture with a reputation of youthful occupancy, Queen Street West is a young fashion entrepreneur’s dreamland. It can be an intimidating playground for a new business owner, but these women readily accepted the challenge. The young entrepreneurs had a meticulous vision for CONVEY and ultimately found their perfect location at 754 Queen Street West in 2015.

Image via
       After CONVEY’s launch, the pair received impressive press coverage from Elle Canada, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star amongst others. As young businesswomen that really do it all (Shotbolt is currently learning how to do the company’s accounting records), they’ve found not everyone has been confident in their professional capabilities, “We have definitely encountered people that assume we don't have the same amount of experience because of our age or who are intimidated by two young women in business. We don’t mind being the underdog and think that gaining respect and working hard is the easiest way to prove people wrong,” says Shotbolt. When asked which women inspire them most in life, Figliomeni replies, “We are both huge fans of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amaruso. We are also very lucky to have many amazing women in our lives: our Moms, friends and mentors are all such strong entrepreneurial women and we can’t help but to be inspired by them daily.”
    So what exactly has CONVEY accomplished in the first year of business? Between creating an e-commerce platform, sourcing new brands from around the globe, adding menswear into their product line and collaborating with Toronto’s finest, the women of CONVEY have been full-speed-ahead since the boutique’s inception. With no signs of slowing down, they discussed how time-consuming the transition from corporate employee to business owner has been: “Our lifestyles have definitely changed since we started CONVEY but we both agree it's for the best. CONVEY comes first, so we don’t have all the free time or flexibility we did when we were working for someone else. That being said, our lifestyle has routine and that’s a big part of what keeps us rested and eager to work. Regardless of what you are doing for your career, you should never do anything you don’t want to do. That is something we truly discovered when our lifestyles changed,” says Figliomeni.
Shotbolt and Figliomeni at Toronto Fashion Week. Image by Elaine Fancy
         When asked to reflect on their recommendations for entrepreneurial success, the millennials offered up ambition and integrity as their foundational source: “We think the secret to success is having integrity, being nice to people and working hard. Success doesn’t come to those who wait for it. Ambition and drive are skills that cannot be taught. We wake up every day running towards our goals both within CONVEY and in our personal lives." What exactly does having integrity mean to them? "Having integrity goes beyond doing what you say you will, it’s also the courage to admit faults and take responsibility. We don’t want to be successful by stepping over people either. Reputation and respect are two things that are very easy to lose and it’s important to us to never compromise our values to gain success,“ explains Figliomeni. 
    With such a demanding workload required to run an entire business on their own, how exactly does the duo maintain a healthy balance between work and play? Shotbolt explains: “We are both very good at separating business and pleasure. In order to have the ability to do the things we love outside of work, we need to stay focused at work.” Not losing sight of the implications of constant connection to technology, the pair notes, “We also find it crucial to unplug from time to time. Putting away your phone while sharing a meal or not reaching for your phone first thing when you wake up has proven to make the hours you spend working more productive.” 
    Happy with their continued growth and excited for the future, there seems to be nothing Figliomeni and Shotbolt can’t handle. As driven entrepreneurs who sacrificed certainty for the opportunity to create their own dreams, the duo have proven that youth not only have the same work ethic as previous generations but are also able to successfully harness passions into realizing goals. Next time you hear baby boomers lump all millennials together, tell them about the boss ladies over at CONVEY, because we don’t see any contribution to stereotypes here. 

A Hidden Gem: York University’s most stylist gal

Living on the out skirts of Toronto is where one hidden gem is kept from the rest of the world, her name is Tyler Christoff. York University isn’t one of the most fashionable locations in Toronto, but Tyler definitely finds a way to out shine all of her peers. I am pleased to say that Tyler being my friend has definitely inspired me to step out of my comfort closet, which has actually created some pretty cool outfits. I sat down with her and we talked about how fashion became part of her life and where she gets her inspiration from, because I know where I get mine from…HER! Tyler isn’t just the beauty you see when you look at her; she has a lot of brains too. “Apart from fashion, education is an important factor in my life and in the future I plan to complete my B.A in law at York.” She tells me that going to school for Liberal Arts doesn’t have the most exciting wardrobes in the classroom but when she is there to learn that is all she does. Tyler is a very hard working and determined young woman and getting into her ideal school is something she is striving for right now. “Why I chose York University is because it’s a great school for law and also diversity is their trade mark. I’ve been waiting to apply for this school for a very long time and I am determined to get in”, as you can see she is dead set on this school and won`t stop until she is sitting in one of those classrooms. So enough about school, let’s get to the fun stuff!! Fashion is a way where this girl expresses herself from the classroom, to the downtown scene and to my house haha. I asked Tyler the question we have all been dying to hear and it was… Where do you get your fashion inspiration from? “Okay so where I get my fashion inspiration is from different designers like Rihanna, Kimora Lee Simons, Victoria and Kanye and sadly Kim k” let’s be honest not everyone wants to say that their fashion number 1 go to is Kim K but hey, it could be like 5th. Apart from Kim K being on her list, Tyler is very smitten with what Rihanna has brought to the fashion industry, the new age Goth pretty girl look. It’s pretty hard to pin point Rihanna’s exact style because she tests the waters in the entire fashion category and let’s face it, she looks amazing doing it. Tyler got talking about Rihanna and just couldn’t stop herself, “She gives off good vibes through what she wears. Her style is cool comfy and sexy all at the same time.” Another thing Tyler values in clothes is not just for expressing herself but also comfort, we all want to be comfortable doing our daily tasks and it’s so much better to look awesome being comfortable vs. looking like you just got out of hibernation, which us students know a lot about being comfortable and not looking good doing it lol. Now that we have gotten to the most important question of the interview, let me tell you a bit about Tyler and what she does when her face isn’t in a book, which is hardly ever… I would know. Okay so, Tyler is simply awesome. She’s always finding the cool new trend, making sure she can rock it herself (which she almost all the time does) and then passing it on to the world of the not so fashionistas. “Fashion gives me confidence to feel like a strong and sexy women which motivates me to work towards getting a better education” Tyler said it all in the last quote, she is very determined to get where she wants in this world and I know she will. Tyler gives off a lot of confidence but not the bad kind, I think in this day and age there are not a lot of people who are confident in themselves because of what the society has done to the picture of the perfect woman, not saying that we are doomed because we aren’t, there are people out there that are making a change and thank god for them because everyone is beautiful just the way they are and soon they will see it too. But! Back to Tyler, she is my “person” who is changing the world slowly or at least my mind. So everything good thing must come to an end, and I’m glad I got to sit down and tell you all about Tyler Christoff. Her fashion choices definitely inspire me and I plan to steal more and more of her ideas as well as her outfits. I hope you all enjoyed hearing about my style crush, she is indeed a hidden gem but I believe not for long!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

swin n' strut

  A few weeks ago I spoke with Clara Fortini about her swimwear line, Nua. She told me that Nua translates to naked in Portuguese, in which she is fluent, meaning that the suit fits in such a comfortable way that it feels as though you are wearing next to nothing, like a second skin.  She wanted to bring life and colour to her customer’s life palette and that is reflected heavily when looking at the collection.
      Season five of Nua is about to debut in a few months and the collections have only improved each season. All of the pieces are constructed of thick nylon and spandex swimsuit fabric. As functional as they are for beach and poolside lounging they can all be dressed up into chic outfits. Fortini says that this was something she highly focused on during the design process. “You can’t wear swimsuits in the restaurants at some resorts, she says. But zip on the sleeve and slip on a skirt and it suddenly looks like a chic outfit” showing me a photo to demonstrate, wearing a white one sleeved swimsuit with a mini skirt, Michael Kors heels, a clutch purse, and hoop earrings.
     Asking where the inspiration came to do a practical but glam line of swimwear she told me that it was after a vacation to the party island in Ibiza where almost all party goers were dressed up in bathing suits with stilettos and full hair and makeup in the early evening. Pop singers like Rihanna and Beyonce can be blamed for this “bottomless” look. Music videos showing woman in sleek bodysuits, high heels, and full glam are becoming increasingly popular inspiring a nightclub trend. The first season of Nua was shown in an actual nightclub on King Street West. “I wanted to show it off as a leisure suit, a lounge suit, and a chilling suit” she said, bringing it back to the first design goal of being able to dress it up into an outfit.
     Starting to talk more about the business logistics of the company, she told me that she has space in a warehouse just North of the city that holds the product until it is ready to be sold. She has some samples at her condo to show or sell to people that are close to her but the rest is at the warehouse. The bathing suits are manufactured completely locally here in Toronto which really adds value to them. At first glance the $150 price point may seem a bit steep but seeing they are all made in Toronto it is a very reasonable price. Canadians love buying products that are made in Canada, supporting local and helping our own economy. Fortini says that her customers show this when giving feedback about the company always saying that it is an attracting feature. The Canadian manufacturing sets her brand above mainstream swimwear lines from companies like Victoria Secret which is made overseas.
     The suits are sold exclusively online, the entire website is set up for just Nua. The website is visually appealing and shows not only this years collection but collections from previous years too which is nice for new and old customers being able to see how the brand has grown and changed each season. The website is split into two categories, swimsuits and cover ups. This arrangement is perfect because the customer can choose the perfect suit for themselves and then go over to the other part of the website and find a cover up to match.
     Being sold online only makes running the company easier. Not having to deal with communicating back and forth with stores and transporting the product from the warehouse to each store saves a lot of time and money. Running the business strictly as an online store eliminates the second person. Once the order is placed online it can be received and processed at the warehouse. After the warehouse receives the order it can simply package it and ship it directly to the customer. This eliminates the amount of places the product has to travel to therefore reducing the risk of theft and damages. When asked if she see’s the bathing suits being sold in stores in the future Fortini says that she loves the operations of the online store but won’t rule it out as an option.

     As fashion students this company can be inspiring to us all. Taking the concept of wanting every woman to feel sexy, Fortini was able to develop an entire company around it. Being able to connect her love for fashion, sex appeal, functionality, and empowering woman makes the company a model for anyone wanting to start their own business, showing that you can do something that brings all of your passions into one. The story of this company shows us that it is possible to create your own business without spending millions of dollars. Hopefully the glamorous, unique, but practical aspects of the bathing suits will allow Nua to be equally successful and grow in the collections and years to come.