A Haute Mess Award

Lovely Kelsey of The Anthology has given me the Haute Mess Award. Thanks Kelsey!

Niki B. of A Haute Mess created the award to celebrate her 100th blog post and describes it as a way of thanking "blogs that are a mess (as in a collection) of all that is haute." I'm flattered to be included in this category and am hereby passing the award on to three blogs that I find eclectic, stylish, and inspirational:
It's been a weekend of rest and relaxation for me as I try to take it easy: a pub crawl on Friday night, roast chicken dinner and seeing Ninja Assassin on Saturday night, and sleeping in and watching Pushing Daisies on DVD on Sunday. How was your weekend?

December Events Calendar

I know it's only November right now, but it's also that time of year when social calendars fill up quickly. In between the gift-buying and the merry-making, make a little time for these fun and fashionable events. Mark these events on your calendars, readers!

CRAVE Vancouver and Operation Style Present the "Stylista Contest"

Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see all the possibilities in our own closets. From now until Monday November 30th, 2009 submit a photo of yourself in your go-to outfit to CRAVE Vancouver. One winner will be selected and announced at the "What's Hot for the Holidays Party" at Boudoir on December 2nd, 2009, at 8pm. The prize includes a one-on-one closet detox session with the consultants behind Operation Style and a one-hour personal styling session; both sessions are worth $700.00 in total.

To enter:
  1. Snap a picture of your favorite go-to outfit, answer the questions below, and email everything to arpen@craveparty.com. Once it has been approved and has been uploaded under "Photos" on the Facebook event page, you can begin the remainder of the process.

    • Describe your outfit
    • Describe your current style
    • What would you like to revamp about your style?
    • Who is your style icon?

  2. Have your friends vote for your picture by clicking "Like" on your photo.
The top three finalists will be determined by votes and one winner will be announced at the event. All three finalists must be at the event. Contest closes Monday November 30th, 2009, at 11:59pm.

Gastown Christmas Shop Hop

This is your chance to score some deals at participating retailers such as John Fluevog, Obakki, and Block. Also keep an eye out for the Lynn Steven pop-up shop (330 West Cordova): a sneak peek at the goodies that will be available when the brick-and-mortar boutique opens and 20% off everything.

When: Thursday December 3rd, 5-9pm
Where: Gastown

Two of Hearts "Holiday Gifts Under $40" Party

Join Two of Hearts Boutique (3728 Main St.) on Saturday December 5th from 6pm-9pm for a relaxing evening of fun, food, and holiday cheer while you check out great gift ideas under $40. To RSVP, email info@two-of-hearts-clothing.com.

Got Craft?

Got Craft? bills itself as the largest indie craft fair in Vancouver. Featuring over 50 local vendors, Got Craft? boasts locally made and designed clothing, jewelry, art, ceramics, and home decor. The first thirty people through the door will receive a free re-useable swag bag. For the craft-inclined folks, the organizers are also giving away a personal screen printing machine valued at $400 courtesy of Yudu and a DIY button kit including a machine and 250 parts courtesy of Six Cent Press.

When: Sunday December 6th, 11am-5pm
Where: Royal Canadian Legion 2205 Commercial Drive (@ E 6th Ave)

Product Review: Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara

While in Las Vegas, I bought Sephora's LashStash Mascara Deluxe Sampler ($39), a collection of ten sample-sized mascaras. Here was my chance to explore mascaras beyond the drugstore variety and see if these premium brands were worth the hefty price tag, all without actually committing to any one brand! Inspired, I decided to review a new mascara once every two months until I go through the entire sample pack.

First up: Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara. Benefit's BADgal Lash mascara has a cult following; fans swear that the big brush and clump-free formula give them the biggest, most luscious lashes they've ever gotten from mascara before.

I was pretty impressed with the reviews I read on the Sephora website, but my own feelings about the mascara are mixed. The feminine, luxe-looking black-and-silver packaging on the full-size product is replicated in miniature on the sample product. The wand felt comfortable in my hand, and while the brush was big, it didn't clump even after four or five coats. The mascara did indeed deliver on its promise of long luscious lashes which, at the same time, looked very natural.

Now, here comes the downside: The formula smudges like no other mascara I've ever tried. I found myself doing intermittent undereye checks throughout the day, but even so, by the end of the day, I had panda eyes I couldn't get rid of. After the first time this happened, I figured I should be more careful with applying moisturizer and eye makeup so that it doesn't wick away my mascara. The smudges still occurred. The smudgy formula left me more than a little disappointed because I'm such a fan of its benefits. At $19 US (and $22 or $24 Cdn, I think?), I think I'll pass on buying the full-size version.

Have you tried BADgal Lash Mascara? What do you think of it?

Today's Outfit: A Night At The Ballet

Eleven years ago, I saw the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's production of Dracula and absolutely adored it--the dancing, the Gustav Mahler score, the costumes and stage sets. So when I heard the RWB was returning to Vancouver with another full-fledged original story ballet, Moulin Rouge, I knew I had to go. I suggested it as a date to the boy and he agreed because he'd never been to a ballet before. Tickets were bought, plans were made, and on Friday night we found ourselves in a packed theatre waiting impatiently for the curtain to rise. The ballet exceeded all of our expectations with its storytelling and beautiful choreography. The film's storyline was rewritten for the ballet so that the story remained fresh while still incorporating many of the elements that fans of Baz Luhrmann's film are familiar with. The boy loved it so much he's curious about the film now. Perhaps a night in with some takeout and a DVD will be our next date?

  • Dress (Forever 21)
  • Lace tights (Charlotte Russe) worn over teal tights (Gap)
  • Booties (DKNY)
  • Clutch (Chanel)

Two of Hearts Sample Sale

Oy, what a time to be on a shopping ban! One of my all-time favourite designing duos, Jenny Yen and Tabitha Savoie, is having a fantastic sample sale at their studio tomorrow. Stop by and say hi and scoop up some great deals on pieces from their Two of Hearts, CiCi, and Togs lines.

Resurrecting The "Shopping Bans" Topic

Faithful readers of this blog and close friends know that last year, I embarked on one of the hardest challenges I've ever set for myself: From the beginning of May to the end of September 2008--just a little under five months--I was under a self-imposed shopping ban...no clothes and accessories were purchased during that time. Recently, I've been seeing more and more fashion bloggers impose bans on themselves to save some money for the holiday season or for other goals, prompting me to look through my archives at what inspired me to not shop and how I fared when I ended it.

Right now I once again find myself on a mini ban of sorts to save money for other people's Christmas presents without compromising my personal savings goals (although I've already slipped up and bought a netbook).

Are you on a shopping ban? How have you fared so far? Let's share and commiserate in the comments. And for the readers trying to watch their spending, check out this old post from August 2008 with tips on how to make it through. Good luck! I know how difficult it can be.

Creme de la Creme Wedding Showcase

Confession: I'm not one of those girls who grew up dreaming of her wedding and fantasizing about poufy dresses, diamond rings, and floral arrangements. I tell people all the time that my wedding can go one of two ways: a traditional Chinese affair with a banquet dinner, or an elopement to a beautiful beach somewhere, followed by a huge 27-course meal and dance party when the groom and I go home (all the guests for that party will go home with miniature bottles of Pepto Bismol as party favours). Be that as it may, even I found myself ooh-ing and aah-ing over the exhibitors and shows at the Creme de la Creme wedding showcase, which took place on Sunday at the Four Seasons Hotel. Brides-to-be and their posses sampled desserts and hors d'oeuvres from caterers and chefs, enjoyed fashion shows and burlesque performances, and checked out wares and services from local businesses. Here's a look at the event in photos.

Yaletown's lash queen Joyce Cajucom was present representing Noir Lash Lounge, one of the go-to places in Vancouver for lash extensions. Joyce's top tips for brides-to-be? "Definitely go for a trial run before your wedding, and have the extensions done for your makeup consultation so that you see how everything looks together."

Lord's Shoes caught my eye with their creative display combining cake and accessories. Store owner Jacqueline Noland goes on frequent buying trips abroad to find little-known international names and quality shoes. They also stock shoes by well-known labels such as Betsey Johnson and L.A.M.B.

JK Models founder Jennifer Koning was present to support her models as they worked the bridal runway. Here she is with one of her models, Kelsey, at the Bisou Bridal exhibit booth.

This was one of many beautiful floral arrangements by Granville Island Florist. I love the use of orange and the upside-down tulips!

One of the gowns from Blush Bridal

Mmm Cupcakes! This local cupcake chain sponsored Creme's "Wedding Cake of Your Dreams" contest, which Dummeow won.

VFW SS 2010: Kersh

On the second-to-last day of Vancouver Fashion Week, Kersh presented a spring/summer 2010 collection that harkened back to the the carefree seventies. Models sashayed barefoot down the catwalk with tousled centre-parted hair, nude lips, and dark eye makeup reminscent of Cher circa "Sonny and Cher."

Despite the seventies theme, many of the separates had the potential to feel fresh and new if styled differently. The strapless yellow dress with an exposed zipper down the front and the black jersey jumpsuit, for example, are very on-trend with what's happening in fashion right now. Covetable denim pieces included a cropped dark denim jacket and the perfect little dark denim short. Fans of last spring's light wash denim and chambray trends will be pleased to see plenty of both in Kersh.

However, there were times when I felt that Kersh's interpretation of the seventies was a little too literal and the show became a game of "Spot the '70s trend." I spied a tie-dye green skirt, embroidered tunic tops, and a paisley kerchief maxi dress. Sometimes this literal quality worked (the red-and-navy striped tee with the flared denim trouser looked like something Donna Pinciotti from That '70s Show might wear), sometimes it didn't (the crochet pieces which evoked comparisons to couch throws, for example). Overall, though, the collection was fun, exuberant, and very wearable.

All photos by Wayne Mah.

Beyond Pink Conference All Male Panel

Today young women from across the Lower Mainland and beyond gathered at the Hyatt Regency for the second day of Beyond Pink, a two-day conference organized by Young Women in Business. I was lucky enough to attend the all-male panel at lunch along with media and bloggers covering the event live. Just before the panel discussion began, organizers invited us for a quick private Q&A with panel members.

From left to right: Matt Corker, Cameron Herold, Phillipe Desrochers, Mike Desjardins, Bob Elton.

The panel included:
  • Chris Flett, founder of Ghost CEO, who advised women to ask for what they want
  • Bob Elton, CEO of BC Hydro, who acknowledged that there are still issues women face in the workplace
  • Mike Desjardins of ViRTUS, whose involvement with Beyond Pink stems from a desire to impart his own insights as an inspiration and a mentor
  • Cameron Herold, founder of Backpocket COO, whose main message was "The past is history--get over it"
  • Jason Pires, weekend sportscaster with CTV, who spoke encouragingly of the opportunities in media for women
  • Matt Corker, alumni relations manager for UBC's faculty of science, who maintained that women have more to offer in the workplace than merely their gender
Moderator Phillipe Desrochers (Hari B. Varshney Career Centre, Sauder School of Business, UBC) posed questions to the panelists and kept the discussion lively. So, what do the panelists think about...

...feminism and the struggle for equality?

Chris Herold: "Get over it." Namely, activism and the aggressive, public struggle for equality were things of the past and women should move on. Nowadays, such politicized rhetoric actually impedes businesses rather than helping achieve results.

...achieving work-life balance?

Bob Elton: "In a large company, they define a job in a way that excludes a lot of people." The old 9-to-5 regimen won't work for employees who are increasingly focused on quality of life and priorities outside of their jobs. Companies will have to catch up to the times to retain their skilled workers, particularly female workers who value work-life balance.

...the impact of pregnancy and maternity leave on a woman's long-term career prospects?

Cameron Herold and Chris Flett both agreed that pregnancy should not impede career growth as long as women plan for it professionally. In Flett's words, "You can have a family if and only if it doesn't affect your boss." Both men advised women to be upfront in speaking with their managers and to make concrete plans for how their workload will be handled in their absence.

...how an ambitious woman can avoid the "bitch" label?

Matt Corker argued that being called a bitch or dragon lady isn't exclusive to women--men who excel in business are called assholes and derided, but the difference is that men have had centuries to get used to it whereas women are just dealing with it now. Meanwhile, Flett offered these words of wisdom: "Aggressive and assertive are not the same thing. Passive means you’re going to be someone’s bitch. Aggressive means someone who’s scared of being passive and so they get in people’s faces. An assertive woman is the most powerful type of person in business."

...why women are consistently paid less than men for the same job?

Almost all panelists agreed that women won't speak up for themselves or ask for raises whereas men do. Said Flett, "The reason why women make less is because they’ll work for less. When you stop accepting less is when you’ll get more."

...breaking into the old boys' club?

The panelists stressed being intelligent, knowledgeable about what you do, not playing the sexuality card, and building relationships with members of both sexes.

Bloggers tweeting and live-blogging at Beyond Pink, from left to right: Rebecca Bolwitt, Ishra Sharif, and Sunny Shum.

There were many more insightful comments made during the panel session, too many to relay all of them here. A big thank you to YWiB and Beyond Pink's organizers for inviting me to an invaluable learning experience!

VFW SS 2010: Paul Hardy

Paul Hardy poses with his models after the show.

"Intellectual purity" is one of the guiding principles that Paul Hardy follows in his designs, and it was certainly in evidence in the spring/summer 2010 collection he presented at Vancouver Fashion Week. Drawing on a palette of white, white, and more white, Hardy's clothes struck a balance between minimalism and richness, simplicity and depth. The singular colour forced the audience's eye to look beyond the deceptively simple surface and focus on the details.

And what details these are. Fabrics in a variety of textures were juxtaposed one against the other--lace, jersey, silk, chiffon, linen, feathery fabrics. An armor jacket with tailored shoulder plates was softened by an empire waist and chiffon panels. Stiff wool was transformed into a figure-hugging floor-length sheath gown, topped by an exaggerated neck ruffle that was dramatic yet light. Large external pockets added visual interest to tailored trousers. Observant audience members also noted the tank tops styled upside-down as dresses.

It's hard to isolate and critique individual pieces in this collection because the white-on-white worked so well together in layered ensembles.

As beautiful as Hardy's clothes are, the higher purpose behind them is even better. Earlier this year, Hardy took a life-changing trip to Uganda which inspired him to found Reversal of Fortune. This project provides safe, socially responsible employment to victimized women in Africa: as members of Hardy's "privately funded 'green' production sewing units," these women produce Hardy's moderately priced women's clothing line. Revenue from the line will be used to create trust funds for orphans so that they, in turn, might "become future leaders of their nations."

Photo of Hardy with models by Tony Tsai. Runway photos by Wayne Mah.

VFW SS 2010: Red Jade

Margarita Angelatos walks the runway at the end of the Red Jade show.

After seeing Red Jade designer Margarita Angelatos win the Generation Next competition at BC Fashion Week last year, I was especially keen to see what she had up her sleeve for spring/summer 2010. The collection she presented at Vancouver Fashion Week definitely did not disappoint. Separates ranged from highly structured to loose and flowing, but always featured some interesting detail that drew the audience's eye, making it linger over a drape here or a row of snaps there, a certain pleat or a well-placed button. It's hard to believe, but this luxe-looking line is eco-friendly and made from natural materials such as hemp, organic cotton, silk, and linen.

By sticking to a minimalist colour palette of cream, white, gray, yellow, and black, Angelatos created a cohesive collection where the pieces worked well with each other or by themselves. There was a lot to covet, from the high-waisted shorts with buttons down the front to Red Jade's wearable version of the harem trouser. Surprisingly slim-fitting throughout the leg, high-waisted, and gathered through the ankle with a row of snaps down the side, this is a pant that would pair well with an architectural statement heel.

I can't decide which piece stole the show: the double-breasted coat with oversized black buttons, which drew admiring murmurs from audience members sitting next to me, or the abstract print maxi dress with touches of gold in its fabric.

All photos by Yvonne Chew.

VFW SS 2010: Lav & Kush

Local eco-friendly label Lav & Kush presented one of the better collections at Vancouver Fashion Week on Friday night. The show opened on a strong note with tailored gray dresses featuring wonderful attention to detail, proving that eco fashion can be more haute than hippie. The sheath dress in particular demonstrated sophisticated old school glamour reminiscent of Roland Mouret's 'Galaxy' dress.

I felt like Lav & Kush's collection had two design stories rather than one. There seemed to be a new direction--the uber feminine gray structured dresses--and the draped jersey pieces that were comfortable, easy to wear, and undoubtedly fan favourites. Separates and dresses in the latter category came in a palette of jewel-toned blues, pinks, and purples, as well as an array of neutrals. The collection also featured slip dresses and feminine skirts in a variety of pretty florals. My personal favourites included a blue asymmetrical mini dress with ruching up the sides and a draped sleeve, and a black-and-cream patterned silky dress with a high-necked bow.

With pieces ranging from girly to womanly, it's easy to see why Lav & Kush describes itself as the "flirt of eco fashion."

All photos in this post by Wayne Mah.
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