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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.]

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.]

Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver

17 Oct

Too often the phrase “eco-friendly fashion” calls to mind visions of scratchy hemp tunics and hippie tie-dyed tees. It’s a perception the sustainable fashion industry is reinventing by showcasing aesthetically appealing, comfortable clothes — pieces you’d actually want to wear regularly. Since we’re in the midst of Eco Fashion Week, I take a look at local eco-friendly designers and talk to the founder of the event about the importance of environmentally-responsible clothing.

Since 2009, Eco Fashion Week has presented the collections of Canadian sustainable designers. Myriam Laroche, the president and founder of Eco Fashion Week, says the event helps generate attention in finding a balance between the environment and the fashion industry.

“The manufacturing of clothes, as it is right now, is in a very unhealthy space,” says Laroche. “We need to find solutions — eco, ethical, responsible or smart clothing offers solutions. It’s illegal to be naked, so we will continue to create apparel. We just need to do it the healthy way.”

A reworked sweater dress from Adhesif Clothing.

For a brand to be considered eco-friendly, Laroche says there are a variety of factors that come into play.

“At every step of the product development cycle, there is a choice to be made that will be less damaging to humans and the Earth,” she says. “Materials can be organic, recycled, upcycled. We look at the amount of wastage; chemicals in dyes, treatments, finishing; energy consumption; carbon footprint from creation to the consumer; packaging.”

While it may be difficult to decipher which garments are designed sustainably without first doing research on the brand, there are some key terms to look out for when shopping for eco-friendly clothing. Labels marked with third-party certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), SA8000 and Oeko-Tex Standard 100, for example, all independently assess the garment’s impact on the environment. For a product to be certified by GOTS, it must meet the strict requirements of being made at a minimum of 70 per cent organic fibres and also meet the standards of the International Labour Organization, which requires living wages and safety for workers. Similar to GOTS, an item marked with the SA8000 label means it meets their checklist for humane working conditions. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification is a check for harmful chemicals in the production of a garment.

Upcycled leather vest and zebra dress from RISE.

There’s a wide selection of eco-friendly designers in Metro Vancouver. Adhesif Clothing creates their collections by upcycling, a process where vintage or recycled materials are used to create new garments. RISE is also another label that uses upcycling. Designed by local upcoming fashion designers, RISE takes donated clothing and turns them into hip, wearable apparel. Nicole Bridger, a highlight of Eco Fashion Week, is one of the bigger eco-fashion labels to have come out of the city. Creating chic, feminine collections using biodegradable fabrics and GOTS certified wool, the majority of Nicole Bridger’s pieces are manufactured locally.

A rain slicker from Nicole Bridger, made with recycled materials.

Though buying sustainable clothing may not be for everyone, it’s definitely something to think about when shopping. Buying locally helps limits your environmental footprint in addition to boosting the local economy. And for us living in Metro Vancouver, shopping eco-friendly is made all the more easier with the abundance of eco-designers nearby. Laroche believes our landscape also helps us appreciate environmentally-conscious fashion more so than other cities.

“I think that being surrounded by nature has a big impact on Vancouverites’ lifestyle,” Laroche says. “It’s a slower pace here where people take the time to be responsible. Also, the City wants to be the greenest city in the world by 2020 — I’m sure the citizens are motivated to reach that goal as well.”

Eco Fashion Week runs until Oct. 19.

[Article first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of Richmond Review.]

Sizzle with summer style: Dressing for weddings, grads and parties

23 May

The days are longer, the smell of barbecue is in the air and everyone is thinking about their next vacation — the summer party season is officially upon us. Whether you’ll be attending a wedding, graduation ceremony or just a general celebratory event, summer parties are the perfect occasion to ditch the rubber flip flops and jeans, and play a little dress-up. There’s guaranteed to be a bunch of photographs taken during weddings and grads, so it’s crucial to look your finest while remaining comfortable enough to enjoy the festivities.

Add some romance with a vintage-inspired floral dress from Ruche.

When finding an outfit for weddings, the most important rule is to not outshine the bride and groom. There’s the obvious tip about avoiding white dresses, but also take into consideration the couple’s culture. For example, Chinese weddings are big on the colours red and gold since they represent luck. The more modern brides will be fine with any colour, but their elders might disapprove of a little black dress since the dark colour marks somber occasions.

Comfortable and trendy, this French Connection maxi dress can go from a beach to a wedding.

Other factors to consider while deciding on a look for any summer celebration include the weather, location, time and activities. Weddings taking place on a beach or garden are usually more casual than those at a traditional venue. Go for flowy dresses with flat sandals. Keep the stilettos at home since they’ll be difficult to walk over sand or a lawn; opt for wedge shoes if you really want height. If you’re unsure how formal the event will be, a good indicator would be the invitation. If your invite came in the form of an ornate embossed card, it’s a good idea to dress more formally than if the invite was more on the rustic and simple side. Evening events are also fancier than daytime ones. If a dance floor is involved, try a less restrictive dress and comfy shoes such as flats or platform heels. Strapless dresses are also fantastic for the summer but consider using double-sided (or fashion) tape if you think you’ll be dancing a lot.

A little colour-blocking mixed with art deco, this BCBG dress is sure to turn heads.

For those participating in a graduation ceremony, pair your convocation gown with understated elegant shoes such as short pumps or flats. You want to keep the attention on you, not your shoes, as you cross the stage to collect your diploma. Also avoid full skirts or ones with extra long hems as they create odd silhouettes with the graduation gown.

There are a lot of options for summer party outfits, from trendy to classic. If you want to incorporate trends into your look, go for the four P’s. The most popular ones are pastels, peplum, prim, prints and 1920s — they were all big on the runways for spring and summer. Try a pale yellow shift dress if you like the pastel and prim trends, or a drop-waist embellished dress for a Great Gatsby or Downton Abbey 1920s look. Maxi dresses are a safe bet for any occasion since they’re a blend of casual and formal. If dresses aren’t your thing, pantsuits can work for formal events and are available in a wide variety of bold colours for the warmer months. Printed skinny pants are also in for the season and can easily be paired up with a solid blouse for a chic look.

Pair this Zara jumpsuit with fun accessories and heels and it would be perfect for chic summer parties.

Don’t forget your accessories to glam up even the simplest of outfits — especially hats and sunglasses since summer events usually take advantage of the nice weather and are held outside on patios or in backyards. Bring along a cardigan or shawl in a fun complementary colour for when the temperature drops at night and, most importantly, remember to use sunscreen!

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

Event: Langara’s AWEAR Charity Fashion Show

2 Mar


For those of you who live in Vancouver and want to give back to the community while attending a fun fashion show, the Langara Business Association will be hosting their third annual AWEAR Charity Fashion Show. Taking place Tuesday, March 27 at my alma mater, Langara College, the event will help raise money and awareness for the Kettleship Friendship Society. The organization supports people living with mental illnesses to lead healthier lives by providing housing, employment and support services. The Kettle provides over 3,600 individuals with 26 services, transition housing for women, and over 200 units of supported housing.

The AWEAR Charity Fashion Show will feature the collections of local designers, focusing on trends in business attire for the spring and summer seasons. There will be a silent auction where all proceeds will go towards the Kettle. Beverages, light food and other entertainment will also be provided.

Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Location: Langara College Library, Second Floor Study Lounge

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from Zlata at (778) 668-8019 or through email at info@lbawired.ca.

It sounds like an entertaining and informative event and I will be in attendance so I hope to see some of you there!

Take your style to the next level: Fashion resolutions for 2012

24 Jan

As the end of January approaches and I’m in the midst of celebrating the lunar new year, it’s somewhat fitting that shops have also begun to get their spring collections in. The beginning of the year has always been an ideal time to start fresh and set new goals to improve your life. And there’s just something about the spring season that reminds us to blossom and reinvent our look. In keeping with the theme of resolutions, I’ve come up with a few suggestions for fashion and beauty goals to ensure you’ll be looking your best for 2012.

When to splurge and when to save

If you’re going to spend, splurge on classic pieces and save on the trendier items. Apparel such as peacoats, beige trench coats, black pants and white button-ups are basics and never go out of style. Invest in high quality, timeless pieces that can handle frequent wear and is cut in a simple style that will flatter your figure for years to come. Also, this time of year is great for coat shopping, as most stores will be having sales in order to get rid of their winter stock to make room for spring arrivals. For trendier items you’ll only wear for one season, shop at less pricey stores. It’ll save more and help reduce buyer’s remorse — it’s never pleasant to realize you paid too much for that tribal print maxi dress only worn twice.

Leather jackets from Mackage are always a fun splurge.

Pile on the layers

Perfect the art of layering. Not only is it a good way to make your look unique, but layering is completely practical for our climate. You don’t want to overdo it and end up bulky or looking like you’re including multiples styles into one outfit. The trick is to take into consideration colour, texture and proportions. Pair silks and satins with thicker fabrics like cottons or wools. Think about lengths: long, simpler tops underneath shorter, more elaborate pieces. One of my favourite go-to office looks is wearing a button-up underneath a cardigan so the shirttail and cuffs peek out, and then layering with a variety of necklaces. Explore what’s already in your wardrobe. If there’s a shirt you never wear because it’s too low-cut, layering solves that problem. And with the abundance of lace and sheer pieces available in stores now, your layering techniques will become effortless in no time.

Layering at play on the runway of Milly's spring/summer 2012 show.

Play with colours

Experiment more with colour this year. Pastels are going to be hot next season — they’ve been spotted on most of the spring collection runways from Milan to New York — so now’s a good time to play around with different shades to see which complements you best. If muted colours aren’t your thing, then incorporate some red-orange pieces into your closet. Pantone revealed that the colour of the year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango, a vibrant shade that works for clothing and cosmetics. The colour-blocking trend that was all the rage last year is continuing strong into this year too, so expect to see bold contrasts of colour in one ensemble.

Corset dress from ASOS featuring an adorable pastel skirt.

A combination of layering and Tangerine Tango presented at Jean Paul Gaultier.

Experiment with new styles

Go outside your comfort zone. It’s easier to rely on old standbys, but make it a goal to frequently change up your usual outfits or makeup look. If the majority of your wardrobe is solid colours, add some prints. You’re usually a jeans and a t-shirt gal? Then switch out your denim for a skirt or dress. If you don’t think you can pull off a particular trend, test it out for a day — you just might be surprised when the compliments start rolling in. Add more accessories into your daily look. I know I’ve fallen victim to applying the same makeup every day, so my main resolution this year is to experiment with different eyeshadows. One reason for fashion is for us to express ourselves, so we should have fun with it this year and try new looks!

I need to find a pair of comfy pastel pants to emulate this 3.1 Phillip Lim look.

[Article first appeared in the Jan. 18 style column of the Richmond Review.]

Bring on the bling: Make a statement with your holiday look

18 Dec

It’s that time of year again — festive ornaments adorn every corner, cheery carols are in constant rotation and your email inbox is flooding with holiday party invitations. It may be tempting to rely on the usual ensembles, but I encourage you to take your party style up a notch. December events are perfect for eye-catching glamour and most stores are offering a variety of options in their holiday collections. The trick is to have one amazing statement piece and use it as inspiration to build the rest of your party look.

Switch a skirt with sequined hot pants from French Connection to take an office look from day to night.

Incorporate different textures to make for a more interesting outfit: velvet, silk, feathers, faux fur. Sequins are always huge for the holidays. Whether it’s in black, gold or another vivid hue, the shiny embellishment can be found on anything from fully sequined dresses to shoes. The idea with this trend is to not overdo it. One sequined item per outfit is enough; keep the rest of the look subtle.

This shimmery sequined dress from ASOS just screams New Years Eve.

Lace is another popular choice. Depending on the design, lace can be either demure or sultry, so take that into consideration if you’re wearing it to an office holiday party versus a gathering with close friends. For a fresher way to incorporate lace into your wardrobe, look for items in colours other than black or white. It’s unexpected and more festive.

Channel Hollywood glamour in this Mango red lace dress

Accessories make for great statement pieces as well. An all-black ensemble with a pop of colour in the shoes or a bright, chunky necklace can be both understated and visually compelling. Patterned tights are also a fun way to liven up a simple party dress and can be found in a variety of designs like houndstooth or floral.

Add some glitter to your outfit with a pair of jazzy bow heels from Aldo.

As for hair, stylist and Suki’s salon manager James Valiant suggested updos.

“One of the most common and easiest holiday updos is a French twist. A French twist can look beautiful if worn with a formal gown and it can also complement a less dressy outfit,” said Valiant. Another popular request is a modern bun, or chignon.

“[A chignon] is quick and easy, and it’s sure to win you a few admiring glances. If you have at least semi-long hair it will be easier to do.”

For those wanting to wear their hair down instead, Valiant said to include lots of volume and movement — the biggest trend for the winter season. Whether it’s up or down, you can enhance your hairstyle further by adding sparkly barrettes or jewelled hair pins.

Jewel-encrusted hairbands are an easy way to add some glam to all hairstyles.

Makeup is another aspect you can take to the next level from your usual party routine. With the increase of beauty salons specializing in lash applications and extensions, fake lashes are becoming more prevalent for everyday use and especially for special events. A different way to play up your eyes is to swap your regular liner with glitter liquid liner. A swipe of sparkle across your lids will have others doing a double take. The bold but classic red lipstick is a popular choice for parties as well.

Those are just a few ideas for the ladies this holiday season. Sift through your closet and plan your outfits at least a day in advance. I’m a big believer that you don’t have to buy a new outfit for every party, but hit the shops if you’re feeling uninspired with what’s in your wardrobe. Take into account the dress code and theme, if provided (and disregard most of the above if it’s an ugly Christmas sweater party). Above all, feel comfortable and excited about your party look — it won’t be much fun if most of the night was spent adjusting your hemline or fretting over your lipstick!

[Article first appeared in the Dec. 14 style column of the Richmond Review.]