Richmond fashion designers

20 Apr

There are a multitude of reasons to support local designers — whether it’s to build stronger communities, reduce environmental impact or just to avoid wearing the same mass-marketed outfit as someone else. But the most important reason to shop locally should be to bolster the creativity of talented artists. Some of these skilled fashion designers can be found as close as Richmond, at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Fashion Show taking place Thursday, April 24 at the River Rock Show Theatre. Featuring collections from the graduating class of Design, Fashion and Technology, this city is home to a variety of inventive designers.

Cindy Luo

Local lingerie line ANASTASIA specializes in undergarments for petite women. Designed by Cindy Luo, the spring collection is inspired by nostalgia and takes its aesthetic cues from diamonds with the cuts and translucency of each piece. Sensual yet sophisticated, ANASTASIA’s versatility allows its garments to be worn on any occasion — underneath everyday apparel, for special events, or even lounging around at home.

A look from Cindy Luo’s lingerie line ANASTASIA. (Photo by Desmond Mok)

A look from Cindy Luo’s lingerie line ANASTASIA. (Photo by Desmond Mok)

“Each piece is designed with petite women in mind, making sure exact measurements are made to meet their needs,” says Luo.

“Most of the products in the market don’t fit a petite woman where it is supposed to be because of long straps, flimsy bands or big cups that don’t give them any form of support,” she says. “Due to these issues, many women resort to purchasing undergarments that are unflattering for their body shapes. A well-fitting undergarment is key in any woman’s quest to feel sexy and confident. I want to create a product where they can celebrate and embrace what they have underneath.”

Jan Bautista

For another local designer Jan Bautista, the focus is on giving clothes a story and sparking the imagination. Bautista’s move from the Philippines to Canada only strengthened his love for fashion. Exposure to different lifestyles made him realize the importance of craftsmanship and the meaning of true beauty. His menswear line, Maison Beautista, strives to redefine the post-modern dandy gentleman, combining fit and comfort with bold colours and eccentric designs. This season the collection is inspired by art from the Post-Impressionist movement, especially Vincent van Gogh’s Irises painting.

“This particular masterpiece represents the celebration and adoration life deserves despite the congested, materialistic society,” says Bautista. “The designs are influenced by the expressive and vibrant hues of the masterpiece.”

A dapper ensemble from Jan Bautista’s Maison Beautista. (Photo by Gene Figueroa)

A dapper ensemble from Jan Bautista’s Maison Beautista. (Photo by Gene Figueroa)

With his enthusiasm and love for bringing stories to life, Bautista hopes to one day design for the theatre and film industry, where clothes provide a crucial part in entertaining and narrating.

Venus Lai

For those looking for office outfit ideas from a local designer, there’s the HaNa line created by Venus Lai. Inspired by history and different cultures, HaNa differs from the usual business attire with its fashion-forward details. This season the designer was influenced by her cultural roots, updating the traditional Chinese cheongsam dress with a modern silhouette and chic, office-appropriate style.

A dress from Venus Lai’s businesswear line HaNa. (Photo by Matthew Chen)

A dress from Venus Lai’s businesswear line HaNa. (Photo by Matthew Chen)

“My ideal customers are women who work in a professional field and require clothing with an identity,” says Lai. “To showcase themselves in a fashionable sense, but also to wear clothing with a meaning and a story.”

“What I love most about designing is to create aesthetically beautiful clothes, but also showcase the skill and the thought put behind it. Having to produce something from a visual in your head into a 2-D fashion drawing, and then thinking about it technically to draft and design the pattern and make it into a 3-D garment is process I enjoy the most. The whole design process is not easy and can be strenuous and difficult, but the outcome and the accomplishment you feel at the end is all worth it.”

For more on the designers and the KPU Fashion Show, visit www.kpu.ca/theshow2014.

[Article first appeared in the April 16 issue of Richmond Review.]

Revamp your wardrobe with spring trends

18 Mar

With snowfall earlier this month it still feels like we’re in the middle of winter, but this Thursday marks the first day of spring and fashion is already looking ahead to the warmer months. Transition into the new season by updating your wardrobe with some of spring’s best trends.

Winter was all about punk and grunge aesthetics, but set your distressed motorcycle leather jackets aside this season and go for a sporty bomber instead. One of spring’s biggest trends is the athletic look, so take a few style cues from the recent Olympic Games and incorporate sporty pieces into your attire. Satin varsity jackets were paired with metallic trainers at the Marc by Marc Jacobs show, while Balenciaga’s collection included track shorts, muscle tees and tanks. Even the usually glamorous Tom Ford added a few sporty elements to his collection, such as a loose leather net tank reminiscent of a basketball jersey. The key for wearing spring’s sporty trend is to find pieces with athletic silhouettes in unusual fabrics, such as leather, silk, neoprene and mesh.

Crop top trends and athletic looks at the DKNY show.

Crop top trends and athletic looks at the DKNY show.

If your style is less sporty and more dressy, then the metallic trend may better suit your taste. High shine dresses and metallic detailing were all the rage on the runway this season. Lustrous satin, lamé and brocade silks made up the majority of Lanvin’s spring collection. Proenza Schouler, on the other hand, presented a more subtle approach to metallics by adding silver and bronze strips to pleated maxi skirts. Don’t be afraid to break out the metallics for daytime. Try adding some shiny accents to your office wardrobe with metallic accessories such as belts, bags or jewelry.

Metallic detailing at Proenza Schouler.

Metallic detailing at Proenza Schouler.

Another huge trend for spring is the crop top. DKNY showcased sporty midriff-baring tops in pastel blue while Diane von Furstenberg paired her collection of bustier tops with printed knee-length skirts and pants. Over at Narciso Rodriguez, the crop top was more understated and showed only a hint of skin. For a simple and less daunting way to try the crop top trend, wear the top with high-waisted skirt or pants. It’ll limit the exposure of skin but still allow you to play with proportions.

One trend everyone can get into for spring is the oxford shirt. A true classic, collared button-ups graced the runways in a variety of styles and outfit combinations. Boyfriend-style dress shirts were worn over boxer shorts at Alexander Wang, while Christian Dior revealed a more feminine version of the button-up with an oxford shirtdress. Prabal Gurung modernized the silhouette of the shirt with structured sleeves, and paired it with minimalistic pencil skirts for a clean, clinical look. A wardrobe essential, the oxford shirt is a great layering piece for any style. Pair a crisp white dress shirt with a cardigan and pleated skirt for a preppy look, for example. Or go rocker chic by coupling an oversized button-up with leather leggings.

Seen at Alexander Wang, the dress shirt is spring’s must-have.

Seen at Alexander Wang, the dress shirt is spring’s must-have.

In terms of prints, pop art was a favourite among the designers. Inspired by art murals, Prada’s collection featured portraits of women on dresses, skirts and coats. It also revived colour-blocking for the season. The other collection that ignited the fashion as art trend is Chanel, with patterned fabrics resembling paint swatches. And, as usual, florals are back for spring. However, this season’s florals are less subtle and more of a statement piece. Marni created layers of textured petals for her ensembles and Mary Katrantzou also added a 3-D effect to her florals using embroidery and decoration.

Artistic flair at Chanel’s spring show.

Artistic flair at Chanel’s spring show.

As for texture, the trends this season are pleats, fringe and sheer fabric. Dries Van Noten’s spring show encompassed all three trends. The designer showcased ruffled and pleated metallic skirts, fringed tassel accents on embroidered tops, and veiled skirts with sheer fabric overlays.

Spring is great time to refresh your wardrobe, so have fun with fashion and try out a few trends this season.

[Article first appeared in the March 12 issue of Richmond Review.]

Finding the perfect jeans

17 Feb

No matter your personal style, jeans are a wardrobe essential. A great pair of denim can be dressed up with heels and a silk blouse, or dressed down with canvas sneakers and a graphic tee. Save for formal or business events, jeans can be worn to almost any occasion since dark rinse denim creates a polished look and can be thought of as an alternative to black pants. But because jeans come in such a variety of washes, cuts and brands, they can be difficult to shop for. One way to start jean shopping is to look for a style that would most flatter your body type.

Cuff your jeans to add some flair and show off your shoes.

Cuff your jeans to add some flair and show off your shoes.

If you’ve got an hourglass figure, go for a mid-rise that cuts higher in the back for more coverage. Solid colour wide-legged trouser jeans would complement your frame, but if you prefer a slimmer fit go for tapered legs instead of skinny jeans. The ankles of tapered jeans are less narrow than skinnies and offer more room in the thighs. Another trick is to roll the hem of the jeans to add width at the bottom and balance the hips.

For petite frames, skinny jeans and bootcuts work well to flatter and create proportion. Vertical fading down the front can help elongate the legs. Look for jean brands that offer shorter inseams so you can save a trip to the tailors. Straight figures can pull off most jeans styles and rinses, but for ones that flatter the most opt for slim fits. A comfortable alternative to jeans you can try are jeggings — they have high stretch content and usually come with faux front pockets to reduce bulk and create a super slimfit effect. Bootcut jeans can also work to add a curvier silhouette to straight shapes. If you’re on the taller end of the scale, try rocking flared denim to give proportion. Jeans faded from the thighs the knees can also help in breaking up the length.

Dark rinse jeans without any whiskering are perfect for dressing up.

Dark rinse jeans without any whiskering are perfect for dressing up.

For pear-shaped figures, avoid super tapered jeans. Instead, balance curvier hips with trouser style denim or low-rise flares. If you’re plus-size, dark rinse straight-leg jeans will create a slimming effect. Trouser cut denim will also enhance your figure. Check the rear pockets to make sure it’s flattering. Small back pockets can make backsides appear larger.

To hide tummies, pick a mid-rise jean so the waistband sits just below the belly button. Wide waistbands will also help flatten the stomach. Look for jeans with stretch so it’ll rest comfortably against the belly without squeezing. For those with a small waist, one of the problems you may encounter when sitting is gaping of the jeans at the back. Reduce gaping by finding jeans with a contoured waistband. Instead of one strip of fabric, this is where the band is cut on a curve and sewn together.

Change up your blue jean routine with a chic grey pair.

Change up your blue jean routine with a chic grey pair.

Take special care of your jeans to ensure your favourite pair of denim lasts as long as they can. Keep them clean, but avoid washing them too often in order to retain the colour of dark washes and prevent breakage of the fibres. It is recommended that for the initial washing, hand wash jeans inside out with a colour safe detergent like Woolite Extra Dark. Another option before your jeans go into a washing machine for the first time is to soak your denim in a solution of water and vinegar. The vinegar helps preserve the dye in jeans before the first wash. For raw denim, which takes a while to become broken-in, most brands would advise washing after six month to get the personalized fade.

The right pair of jeans can be a great confidence booster. So now that you have an idea of the type of jeans that can most flatter your figure, you’ll be well on your way to finding that perfect pair.

[Article first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of Richmond Review.]

Make your own fashion

22 Jan

Ever walk into a store, see an item of clothing and thought to yourself, “I could make that!”? With the rise of DIY tutorials online, putting a unique, handmade spin on your favourite apparel has never been easier. Start by going through your wardrobe and setting aside the items you never wear anymore, either because it’s out of trend or don’t fit quite right. These pieces are the perfect starting point for DIY fashion. Ideas such as adding lace, studs or cutouts are simple to execute and can completely revamp an old piece of clothing, turning it into something covetable.

Turn old jeans into a pair of perfectly distressed denim.

Turn old jeans into a pair of perfectly distressed denim.

An old pair of jeans, for example, can be given the rocker chic treatment by adding a distressed look. Best for light to medium washed jeans, it helps to have a visual of how distressed you want the final product to be. Start by searching for an image of a pair of worn-in jeans, and use it as a point of reference for the rest of the project. Create a distressed look by rubbing the denim with materials you can find around the house such as sandpaper, pumice stone, steel wool or a small grater. For a more worn-in look, use an X-Acto knife or seam ripper to loosen the white threads in the denim after the area is distressed.

Add a fancy twist to cut-offs with lace trim.

Add a fancy twist to cut-offs with lace trim.

Another DIY idea for jeans that fit well but are out of style, such as flares, is to turn them into shorts. Add a boho twist to cut-off shorts by sewing lace or broderie anglaise trimming to the hem. For an edgier look, keep the hem unfinished and stud the pockets. Studs and spikes are easy ways to personalize clothing and works for most types of fabric — all you need are a pack of studs and a tool, such as pliers, to secure the prongs. If you’re working with thin material, add another layer of fabric to the underside so the prong will have extra hold.

Personalize your kicks with DIY studs.

Personalize your kicks with DIY studs.

Studs also work well on blouse collars and are a great way to add some glam to an otherwise plain button-up shirt. Since fashion has been focusing on collars the past few seasons, there are trendy ideas for neckbands for all types of personal style. For a feminine 1960s look, try adding a Peter Pan collar to a basic crew neck shirt. One variation of a DIY Peter Pan collar uses a crochet doily to act as the rounded collars. Divide a lace doily in half and align them to fit the neckline. Fold the excess part of the doily over and sew along the neckline to secure the collar.

Use unwanted patterned shirts to make fun detachable collars.

Use unwanted patterned shirts to make fun detachable collars.

For a button-up shirt that no longer fits, try trimming off the neckband to make a detachable collar. Cut just below where the collar is sewn on so the collar will stay intact. Trim off any excess fabric or threads. Jazz up the collar by adding studs, metal collar tips, or even just a decorative brooch in the centre over the button. Now you have a detachable collar to wear over plain tees, sweaters or collarless blouses.

These are just a few simple ideas to get started. Once you’ve got some DIY fashion experience under your belt, you can continue on to more complicated projects such as screen printing, knitting or embroidering. The possibilities are endless in transforming just about any item in your closet — even changing the buttons on a coat can give it a new lease on life. So with a fresh year before us, make it one of your resolutions to complete a few DIY challenges and turn the clothes you avoid, into items you love wearing time after time.

[Article first appeared in the Jan. 15 issue of Richmond Review.]

Stylish winter sportswear

20 Dec

Living in Metro Vancouver it’s typical to complain about the cold weather one moment and be ecstatic for an upcoming snowboarding trip the next. Since we’re bound to find ourselves participating in a winter sport this season, whether it’s snowboarding, skiing or snowshoeing, it’s best to have a warm and stylish outfit ready. The key is to layer with weather-appropriate items that will keep you warm and dry while on the slopes. Layers will also make it easy to change into a less bulky look when you’re relaxing with a hot chocolate in the lodge afterwards.

Keep dry with a moisture-wicking base layer, like this one from MEC.

Keep dry with a moisture-wicking base layer, like this one from MEC.

Start off with a base layer that will wick away moisture such as sweat. Cotton may be a breathable, natural fabric but it will also retain sweat once absorbed — a situation you want to avoid when doing winter sports. Go for synthetic materials such as polyester blended with a moisture-wicking textile. Most active brands carry clothing made with their own high-tech fabrics designed to keep the wearer dry and comfortable. For example, The North Face uses FlashDry fibre in their baselayer pieces while Columbia uses Omni-Wick and Omni-Heat.

Merino wool baselayer hoodie from Icebreaker.

Merino wool baselayer hoodie from Icebreaker.

If you prefer to go the natural route for a moisture-wicking layer, try wool. Merino wool is soft and comfortable, making it a great layering piece for any snow sport. Wool pieces also make for an excellent insulating mid-layer. Another popular insulator and more lightweight alternative is polar fleece. The only downside to fleece is that it’s not windproof, so it’s best to pair fleece with a jacket that is wind-resistant.

The proper jacket for winter sports should be able to repel water and also be breathable. Whether the outer layer is a full winter jacket or a shell, it needs to be able to protect your body from the elements and regulate heat. Built-in ventilation zippers on the sides of outerwear can also help wearers keep cool after hours of activity.

Colourful snowboarding pants will add some flair to any ensemble.

Colourful snowboarding pants will add some flair to any ensemble.

Once you’ve got the base, insulation and outer layers figured out it’s time to complete the look with accessories. Accessories are crucial for winter sports since your head and hands are more exposed to the elements while up on a mountain than in the city. They’re also a great way to change up your usual ski or snowboarding look without spending a lot. For toques, go for something made of fleece or wool. Slouchy beanies are a stylish option for this season, so grab one in a fun colour. For gloves, ensure that it’s waterproof and snug around the wrist. Consider adding glove liners for more warmth. You’ll be able to keep your hands toasty and dry in case a snowball fight breaks out. An item I always like carrying in my pockets are hand warmers. Once activated, they can stay warm for the entire duration of your snowboarding session and are great for those moments between activities, like standing in line for the ski lift.

Keep your head warm with a fun wool toque, like this one from Canada Goose.

Keep your head warm with a fun wool toque, like this one from Canada Goose.

As covered last month, footwear is one of the most important items in determining your comfort during a winter sport. Make sure your snow boots are waterproof and warm. Some boot brands, such as Sorel, also make removable thermo liners that are great for additional insulation. And if you’re snowshoeing, opt for lightweight snow boots so less energy is required for those steep climbs.

Complete the look with a pair of sunglasses or goggles, and sunscreen to protect your skin. Along your cozy layers and colourful accessories to match, you’ll be all set to hit the slopes in style. Because if it’s cold and raining in the city, there’s a good chance fresh snow is blanketing the local mountains.

[Article first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of Richmond Review.]

Warm up with winter accessories

16 Nov

With the end of daylight saving time everyone’s gearing up for the change in seasons. Our closets may be packed with cozy sweaters and down jackets, but winter preparation isn’t complete without cold weather shoes and accessories. Here are some ideas on incorporating accessory trends to stay stylishly warm in wet and frosty conditions.

Other than a good coat, shoes are one of the main components of dress that can determine whether you’ll be dry and toasty for the day, or drenched and freezing. Warm boots are an essential. Cute rainboots are a great pick for rainy fall days, but when the temperature drops, you’ll want something both stylish and functional. When shopping for a winter boot, you’ll want to look for enough insulation to keep your toes warm, so check the lining and insole material. Shearling wool makes for a warm and comfortable option as does thermal material such as Thinsulate.

Mid-height snow boots, such as these ones from Sorel, make for a more casual look.

Mid-height snow boots, such as these ones from Sorel, make for a more casual look.

In addition to lining material, ensure your winter boots are waterproof and have enough traction. Wet leaves and icy sidewalks can easily lead to slips, so if you feel your favourite winter boots are doing more sliding than strolling, take them into a shoe repair shop to replace the outsole. Since you want to keep in heat, opt for slim fit bottoms to tuck into your winter boots. Pairing leggings, skinny jeans or tights with your boots will create a less bulky look. For a trendy option, try combat boots. Punk and grunge are huge for this season. Rock some combat boots with tartan jeans and a leather jacket for a punk style. Or portray a grungier sensibility by wearing combat boots with an oversized cardigan, babydoll dress and black tights.

For scarves, circular versions are still a popular option, whether as an infinity scarf or a snood. Snoods are tubular neckwear that can be either worn as a scarf, or pulled over the head and lower face like a hood. Whereas infinity scarves are usually wrapped around the neck several times snoods are a simpler, yet just as stylish, alternative. Scarves are a great way to add a pop of colour to an otherwise neutral ensemble, so go for chunky knit scarf or snood in a bold hue this winter. If you want to sport one of this season’s trends try wearing a plaid scarf. Plaids, checks, tartans and houndstooth are hot patterns for fall and winter, and accessories are the perfect area to try out a trend. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns in your outfit — the key is to find patterned items with a similar colour palette.

Change up your scarf routine with a chunky snood.

Change up your scarf routine with a chunky snood.

Just like a colourful scarf can provide some much needed brightness to dreary grey days, the same can be said for a fun winter hat. One easy-to-wear trend is a slouchy beanie. Also known as a tuque, look for beanies that are close-fitting around the head and loose on top for a slouchy style. Flattering for most face shapes, tuques are available in a variety of material, colours and patterns. Find one that expresses your sense of style or personality so you’ll be more likely to grab it before heading out the door.

Cure the winter blahs with a fun, colourful tuque.

Cure the winter blahs with a fun, colourful tuque like this mustard version from Zara.

Gloves are another winter accessory essential. While fitted leather gloves are a timeless and elegant choice, a more practical idea may be capacitive gloves for frequent smartphone users. The capacitive threads in the fingertips will allow you to use your touchscreen devices, so now you’ll be able to change your music selection or reply a text without exposing your hands to the elements.

Dressing for the cold weather doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. Incorporating fashionable, yet functional, winter accessories into your wardrobe will allow you to stay chic even in subzero temperatures.

[Article first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of Richmond Review.]

Stylish Halloween costumes

17 Oct

There’s only two more weeks left until Halloween, so if you’re a huge fan of the annual celebration chances are you already have your costume picked out and ready to go. But for those of us who are still unsure about what to dress up as, or decide last minute to head to a costume party, here are some stylish ideas that are easy to pull together from pieces that may be available in your wardrobe. For something you’ll only wear once, it’s simpler to avoid spending a fortune and just create a costume from items you already have. Halloween is a great way to express your interest in fashion by emulating chic characters from film and television, or even popular fashion designers.

January Jones as Betty in Mad Men.

January Jones as Betty in Mad Men.

Breaking Bad’s yellow hazmat suits will be popular this Halloween, but for a more stylish costume option dress up as one of the characters from AMC’s other critically acclaimed show, Mad Men. Whether you want to go as Betty, Joan, Peggy or Megan the key is to find a tailored outfit that looks inspired from the 1960s. For Betty, go for silhouettes with nipped waists and full skirts. Try printed silk blouses, petticoats, shirtwaist dresses and swing coats. Complete the perfectly polished Betty look with an elegant hairdo and red lipstick. To dress like Joan, wear a figure-hugging dress in a vibrant jewel-toned colour, or a sweater and pencil skirt set. Peggy’s working look went through many changes over the seasons, but you can’t go wrong with a 1960s inspired plaid and pleated skirt suit. As for Megan Draper, the most fashion forward on the show, a mod minidress should be the main part of the costume. Style with a dramatic winged eyeliner and a bouffant.

Carey Mulligan as Daisy in The Great Gatsby.

Carey Mulligan as Daisy in The Great Gatsby.

Another fun period costume idea is 1920s attire seen recently in The Great Gatsby and Downton Abbey. To sparkle like Daisy Buchanan don a flapper dress, characterized by drop waists, slinky straps and art deco beading. Top off a short bob hairstyle with an ornate head band. As for Downton Abbey, channel Lady Mary and Lady Edith this Halloween with ankle-grazing empire waist dresses. Accessorize with hats, gloves, pearls and beaded shrugs in luxe fabrics. For a different spin on a Downton Abbey costume dress like one of the staff, such as the head housemaid Anna. Add a white collar to a plain, long-sleeved black dress and tie a long, white lace apron overtop. Finish the look with black tights and a white headpiece for the hair.

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey.

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey.

For fashion designers, Karl Lagerfeld is probably the most notorious and easiest to copy. The head designer for Chanel and Fendi, Lagerfeld’s always poised in a black suit with vest over a tailored white shirt. The accessories are key for his look. Wear fingerless black leather gloves, a skinny black tie, black sunglasses, a long chain necklace, black belt and loafers. For the pièce de résistance wear a white wig pulled back into a ponytail.

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

If you’re looking for a costume that’s more timeless, reference fashionable cult classic movies such as Clueless, Annie Hall and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To dress like Cher Horowitz or Dionne Davenport, rock a tartan suit with matching mini skirt. For an alternate look try a plaid mini skirt and a white collared shirt under a sweater vest. Top off the ensembles with knee high socks and a beret. For another fun element, you can even include the Clueless vernacular as part of your costume by inserting the phrases “Whatever!” and “As if!” into your conversations.

Besties Cher and Dionne in Clueless.

Besties Cher and Dionne in Clueless.

To get Annie Hall’s menswear inspired look that is also a huge trend for this season, add  an oversized men’s vest and a long skirt or wide-leg trousers to your look. Accessorize with a bowler hat, boots and a tie. To dress up like Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn’s character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, all you need is a little black dress, chunky pearl necklace, elbow length black gloves and big sunglasses.

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall.

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall.

Halloween is the perfect occasion to test an over-the-top style you wouldn’t normally wear, so have fun with it and experiment with dressing differently!

[Article first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of Richmond Review.]

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