Best of Blog 2011: Fashion

Hopefully everyone is still enjoying their holidays! After several days of gorging on big dinners and a day trip to Seattle, I'm starting to get used to this whole vacation thing. If you're unlucky enough to be working on the days between Christmas and New Year, here's another round-up of links to make the work day go faster.

I had the privilege of attending Eco Fashion Week shows for fall/winter 2011 and spring/summer 2012. Standouts included newcomer Sofia Clothing and veteran Nicole Bridger.

Local entrepreneur Christie Lohr founded Style Nine to Five, a job search website targeted specifically towards jobs in all areas of the fashion industry. Check out my interview with her.

It was a dream come true to interview shoe design legend Stuart Weitzman not once, but twice. Similarly, meeting fashion luminaries such as Jeanne Beker, Jason Wu and FLARE editor-in-chief Lisa Tant was delightful.

Other highlights: a milestone Obakki fashion show in a historic church, Banana Republic media previews for pretty summer dresses and elegant Mad Men-inspired pieces, the Thomas Sabo and Eileen Fisher grand openings.

In local fashion news:

I wax poetic about some of my fashion obsessions:

And last but certainly not least, I had an article published in FLARE this year! That was a tremendous achievement.

Happy New Year, lovely readers! See you in 2012.


Best of Blog 2011: Beauty

From product reviews to media previews, this was a banner year for all things beauty on Solo Lisa. Here's a look back at some of my favourite posts. Enjoy!

The next time you're looking for a way to pamper yourself with a facial or a massage, look no further than Lady Orchids Day Spa in Mt. Pleasant, Suki's on South Granville, Footworks Relaxology, Sabai Thai or Spruce Body Lab.

Organic products dominated my skincare reviews this year. From organic hand lotion and Pangea Organics's Canadian launch to classic Weleda skincare staples and lip balm in the world's first biodegradable tube, it's clear that all-natural options are more popular than ever. Of course, for those on a budget, there's always Burt's Bees.

Are you wearing SPF right now? You should be! Winter is no excuse not to protect your skin. If you're stumped, here's a look at some great SPF products.

I got to dabble with Givenchy products this year! My thoughts on their special edition eyeshadow palette, mascara and eyeliner and lip gloss.

I also had the chance to review Mary Kay's newest products. While I wasn't so impressed with their eye makeup, I did like the Redefining Elegance collection.

In other news, I'm pretty enamoured with Dermalogica's anti-blemish products and soothing Redness Relief SPF 20.

I tried LashDip at Noir Lash Lounge and I liked it.

Note to self: Pay more visits to BeautyMark and Kiss & Makeup in 2012.

My love of lipstick has resulted in quite a collection. Here are my picks for fuchsia, plum, red and pink.

Also, my inner magpie thinks you should wear glitter nail polish this NYE. Zoya has just the ones.


Season's Greetings!

Photo by Mukumbura

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season filled with warmth, laughter, good food and great company. Thanks for reading Solo Lisa this year.

I'm going to be taking a hiatus from Christmas until Jan. 2. While I'm gone, you'll be treated to a blast from the past via round-ups of the best posts of 2011. Just a little something to read and/or revisit in case you're bored.

See you in 2012, lovely readers!


Today's Outfit: Twenties Girl

  • H&M lace dress and feather clip
  • Forever 21 necklace
  • Roots clutch
  • Dynamite tights
  • Two-toned shoes from London
  • Hair by Chris Funk
  • Makeup by BeautyMark (Gemma or Alexa--I can't remember!)

Back in late November, I tweeted about how my office Christmas party was going to have a Prohibition era/Roaring 20s theme and how I was researching marcel wave tutorials online. I've never used a curling iron on myself before, and after some anxiety about burning myself, I decided to put myself in the hands of a pro. Best decision ever, hands down. Chris Funk at BeautyMark did a fantastic job curling and sculpting this 20s-inspired 'do into place.

As for the outfit, I tried to put together a look using pieces I already had in my closet. The only thing I ended up buying was the pink feather clip from H&M.


Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

Small trifles in a stocking can be just as thoughtful as the large gifts under the tree, even if you left off shopping until the last moment. Here's a range of stocking stuffer ideas for guys and girls alike, all under $20.

  • Principessa Bacio Me lip balm ($12 at BeautyMark). Shea butter, vitamin E, a delectable scent and a light pink hue all conspire to make the perfect winter lip balm. Principessa's pretty signature packaging doesn't hurt either.
  • China Glaze 'Love Marilyn' nail polish ($8 at Spa Boutique). Part of the Eye Candy 3-D Glitter holiday collection, this red-and-silver-flecked lacquer was inspired by Ms. Monroe's assertion that "diamonds are a girl's best friend." I particularly love the look of a layer of 'Love Marilyn' over a favourite red polish.
  • Joe Fresh sequinned wristlet ($5). She can use it as a teensy bag for an evening out or a glam makeup pouch in her everyday handbag.
  • Monogram mugs ($6 at Anthropologie). Make sure the stockings are hung with care before putting one of these in!
  • Principessa Notte Breeze dry shampoo for brunettes ($12 at BeautyMark). This talc-free formula containing vitamin E, aloe, chamomile and calendula is tinted brown to perfectly blend in with dark hair, which means no telltale white streaks. For those with lighter locks, Principessa makes a version called Bianco Breeze.
  • "What happened?" bandages ($7 at Urban Outfitters). Give the lovably clumsy one in your life better alibis for their injuries.
  • Dog USB splitter ($10 at Urban Outfitters). Laptops never seem to have enough USB ports these days, making this stocking stuffer both practical and adorable for the tech-obsessed.
  • Joe Fresh mini brush kit ($16). Perfect for the girl on the go who's constantly touching up her makeup in the office bathroom before a big evening out.
  • Pretty Polaroid notecards ($10 at Urban Outfitters). I may be biased because I'm a stationery geek and slightly OCD to boot, but who doesn't love having a box of all-occasion note cards handy for impromptu thank-you notes and birthday greetings?
  • Skullcandy headphones ($14.99 at Future Shop). I have an unfortunate habit of rolling over headphones with my desk chair at work (oops), so I always opt for cheap ones. Skullcandy headphones are surprisingly good given the low price; the silicone cushions block out ambient noise effectively.
  • Corporate flash cards ($14 at Front and Co.). You know, just in case they want to work on their value proposition and angle for a raise next year.
  • Joe Fresh tiny bow gloves ($10). The small bow detail and cozy gray colour make them look more luxe.

My Christmas Wishlist

Shoes, a colourful oversized envelope clutch, a camera lens, earrings, and more shoes...that pretty much sums up what I'm hoping Santa will bring me.

What are you hoping Santa will bring you?


Today's Outfit: Feathery

  • Forever 21 feather necklace (better view here)
  • American Apparel two-toned mini dress (worn as a top)
  • Urban Outfitters skirt
  • Bloch ballroom dance shoes

First we had black and white with a touch of red. Then we had lots of primary colours worn together with a touch of metallic. Now here's another two tricks to add to your arsenal of holiday dressing strategies: 1) wear two pieces in the same colour (in this case, black) for a one-piece dress effect, and 2) put on some feathers.

This was my first time wearing the feather necklace even though I bought it over a year ago. A fear of crushing the feathers held me back, but then the lackadaisical side of me who really wanted to wear it to a special pink and black salsa gala shrugged my shoulders and went "Meh, at least it isn't expensive." So I wore it. And none of the feathers got crushed. No, not even during the multiple spins.

I think I have one more fancy schmancy party outfit to show you before I revert back to the usual. Hope you've enjoyed seeing these ensembles as much as I enjoyed, er, wearing them. Have a good weekend!


Product Review: Zoya Gems Trio Nail Polish

I love how this time of year provides a built-in excuse to wear all things sparkly, glittery or sequinned without provoking snide allusions to Liberace. In particular, glittery nail polish like Zoya's Gem Trio ($24 for the set at SpaBoutique, or $9 per polish) strikes just the right festive note. The three lacquers--Rina (green), Kissy (pink) and Twila (blue)--reached my desk just in time for a holiday season product review.

A quick primer for those who've never heard of Zoya: This natural nail polish brand is free of formaldehyde, toluene and DBP, and is purportedly the longest-wearing natural nail polish on the market according to Women's Health. With over 300 shades to choose from and multiple seasonal collections, Zoya is meant to appeal to fashion lovers and nail polish addicts as much as it appeals to the health-conscious.

I applied two coats of Twila on my nails with a base coat and top coat on Saturday and I've managed to make it to Thursday with only one chip. The polish seems a bit viscous compared to conventional formulas, but it's nothing that decent application technique can't overcome. As with other glitter polishes where the glitter floats in clear nail polish, it takes two or three coats to completely cover your nails. (On the other hand, if you just want to add some sparkle to a solid-coloured manicure, one coat is plenty.)

Although the colour itself is eye-catching and has received many compliments so far, I like the unusual shape of the glitter too. Imagine tinsel on a dollhouse Christmas tree. Now imagine taking that tinsel, grinding it up and throwing it into a nail polish, and you can get a sense of what the glitter looks like. It's definitely different from the round confetti-like sparkles in most glitter polishes. Overall, I quite like this product so far.

Have you ever tried Zoya nail polish? What do you think of it?


Canada Goose Women's Hybridge Lite Jacket

Rumour has it that metro Vancouver is expecting snow today or Thursday. And while I usually favour tailored wool coats when the mercury drops, a part of me nevertheless wants this Hybridge Lite jacket (approx. $445) from Canada Goose. I first set eyes on it when I was lucky enough to have dinner with Canada Goose's CEO, Dani Reiss, at Hawksworth Restaurant in October and it's been stuck in my mind ever since.

Super warm without being heavy or bulky, this light-as-air jacket weighs only 0.5 lbs and self-packs into an exterior pocket, making it the ideal travel companion for that quick holiday getaway to a ski chalet. I love this as a city jacket though: one or two layers underneath are all a girl needs to face the coldest of Vancouver winters.

Canada Goose is world-renowned for outfitting scientists in Antarctica, visitors admiring the polar bears around Churchill, Manitoba, and intrepid explorers who scale Mount Everest. But it's nice to know they also make sleek outerwear for those of us who don't want to do anything more strenuous than walk a dog while drinking a latte at the same time.


Lipstick Love: Fascinating Fuchsia

For those who are bored with red, fuchsia is an ideal alterna-lipstick shade. Its combination of warm and cool notes makes for an almost universally flattering colour. Pretty magenta shades used to only be available from high-end brands, but with the renewed interest in lipstick and bright ones in particular, I've noticed that drugstore labels have some appealing options too. Here are the two fuchsia shades in my makeup kit.

  • Stila Long Wear Lip Colour Matte in 'Intriguing' ($25 at BeautyMark). Despite my mixed feelings about this product when I first reviewed it, I'm still wearing it. The slight drying effect is a small price to pay for the long-lasting colour. When I'm in a magenta sort of mood, I'll wear 'Intriguing' and dab some clear lip balm on top at intervals.
  • Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Fuchsia ($10.49 at London Drugs). Creamy and moisturizing, the Revlon lipstick is the polar opposite of the Stila one: it feels great on but doesn't stay put. I find myself reapplying frequently and checking for smudges more often when I wear it. The fantastic colour pigment and the balm-like texture belie its small price tag though. I think this is the only drugstore lipstick I own. This is huge considering it takes its place amongst Chanel, Tom Ford, NARS and MAC shades.

Is fuchsia a lipstick colour you have yet to try, or do you have favourites in your makeup kit too? Are they low- or high-end?


Kiss & Makeup Media Preview

If you're still shopping for the aunts, sisters and girlfriends on your list, look no further than Kiss & Makeup. Located in Park Royal Village, this skincare mecca, apothecary and lifestyle store is full of gift ideas, as evidenced by the media preview I attended a little over a week ago. Here's a glimpse of what you can expect in-store.

Stila eyeshadow palettes and boxed lip gloss sets would be welcome presents for any beauty lover.

I like the idea of giving a party hostess something for the home or kitchen. The Laundress products--natural non-toxic detergents and solutions for all your delicates--are practical and sweetly packaged. I picked up a bottle of Wool and Cashmere Spray for myself while I was there. The non-toxic, biodegradable, anti-bacterial spray freshens delicate knits between drycleaning trips.

You can't live in Vancouver without knowing at least one person who owns a pair of classic Hunter wellies. So how about getting her a pair of cozy fleece socks to go with her rain boots?

And for those who don't want a classic pair of Hunters, well, Kiss & Makeup has those too.

Erickson Beamon jewelry. Just divine.

Luxuriously scented and beautifully wrapped Atelier Cologne soaps are another great hostess gift idea.

Dace Sample Sale

One of my favourite local labels Dace is having a sample sale on Thursday December 15th with up to 70% off. See the flyer above for details. Happy shopping!


Today's Outfit: Blue Gold

  • Hanii Y silk blouse
  • CiCi skirt
  • Dynamite tights
  • Pour La Victoire shoes
  • Roots bag
  • Joe Fresh earrings
  • Necklace (from Nordstrom Rack)

On the opposite side of the spectrum from black and white with a touch of red, we have an outfit that combines three bright colours. I've loved the way blue, yellow and red look together ever since I snapped together primary-coloured Legos as a kid, but I never thought the day would come when I'd wear that particular colour combo. Aside from the colours, I like how the gold accessories bring out the golden sheen of the yellow squares in the blouse's pattern.

Bright colours and metallics are an eye-catching combination indeed, but probably not a great idea for wallflowers. If you wear them to your next holiday party, you might end up having your picture taken for FASHION magazine's website like I did when I attended the Jason Wu cocktail party at The Room Vancouver.

P.S. Special thanks to Wen-chee Liu for taking the first outfit photo.


Gift Guide for Her

This gift guide is skewed toward beauty- and fashion-loving females who relish quirky, colourful pieces.

  • Deborah Lippmann 'Get this Party Started' kit ($50 at Kiss & Makeup). This incredible boxed set contains three glittery nail polishes: 'Happy Birthday', 'Candy Shop' and 'Forget You'. They look great worn alone or layered over a solid colour. Break up the set for a trio of small stocking stuffers, or give the entire box to the nail polish fiend in your life.
  • J. Crew bubble necklace ($174). Give a neutrals-wearing gal a colourful statement necklace; it instantly adds a dose of quirkiness to any outfit.
  • ILIA pure lip care ($24.95 at BeautyMark). This locally founded organic lipstick line is wonderful year-round, but I especially like it in winter: the super-moisturizing lip-balm-like formula helps combat chapped lips. The colour goes on sheer or can be layered, making it a great gift for lipstick-phobes and devotees alike.
  • Madewell first frost cardigan ($79.50). Keep away winter blues with a bright cardi. Trust me, they're surprisingly versatile.
  • Juliet & Company 'Forget Me Knot' earrings ($26.35). Classic-with-a-twist gold earrings are a chic mainstay in most work wardrobes.
  • Rebecca Minkoff MAC laptop case ($263.40). This cushioned bag will keep her beloved computer safe and also doubles as an oversize clutch for an evening out.
  • J. Crew 'Edie' purse ($274). Timeless satchel silhouette, bold hue, simple lines. Utterly perfect in every way.
  • Givenchy Les Ombres de Lune palette ($64 at Sephora). I'm biased because I received one of these palettes for review, but I think it would make a gorgeous gift for any beauty lover. Good things really do come in small palettes.
  • La Mer Collections indo lucite watch ($115.89). A large watch lends some menswear-inspired polish to casual outfits.
  • Jonathan Adler 'Links' 4G iPhone Cover ($30.55). An iPhone case this colourful and unique will garner compliments and envious looks alike.

Gift Guide for Him

I'll admit, I was thinking of the boy when I put together this gift guide. But if the man you're shopping for is anything like my guy, you can't go wrong with cozy and stylish additions to his closet, a gadget or two and, of course, food.

What are you getting the men in your life for Christmas?


Disappointed Retractions: Kate Spade 'Randi' Rain Boots & HousexGuest

When the boy and I buy a sweater, try a new restaurant or ogle a gadget covetously, sometimes I'll turn to him and say teasingly, "We're such consumers." What can I say? We like to buy things and spend money. And as I said in this blog post, when I try or buy something that I like, I'll sing its praises on this blog in the hopes that you, dear readers, will also find it exciting stuff. So it is with a glum heart that I have to post a retraction about two things that I was heretofore crazy about.

First retraction: my Kate Spade 'Randi' rain boots. After less than a year, the left boot began to crack around the ankle. What a huge disappointment, especially considering that these boots cost as much as a pair of Hunters. I contacted their customer service, who to their credit were just as dismayed as I was and told me to send them back to the manufacturer. (The boots were covered under a one-year warranty.) While I'm not happy about the quality of the boots, at least Kate Spade has pretty decent customer service and seems to stand behind their product.

My second retraction concerns HousexGuest, about whom I had nothing but nice things to say after attending their media and VIP supper club event. Evidently they were on their best behaviour that evening because the service that the boy and I received at brunch today was a complete 180.

After being seated at a relatively secluded table, we were ignored by wait staff for 10-15 minutes. Our water glasses stayed unfilled while we looked up expectantly at the servers who passed by. I counted three servers whose eyes panned across the room without seeing us or approaching us. I saw the owner sit down in a booth to chat with friends. Still nobody came to take our order or at least ask us if we wanted drinks.

"I feel neglected," the boy said. He wasn't impressed and neither was I. My patience wore thin as I fumed silently. I was hangry enough to stab someone with a fork.

"What time is it?" I asked him. He checked his phone and showed me: 12:26. I told him we were waiting 5 more minutes, and if nobody had checked on us by then we were walking out the door.

At 12:31 exactly (just as I asked the boy the time again and began reaching for my coat), our server appeared at our table. "Thank you for waiting," she said glibly without apologizing and put down a cup of coffee. After she took our order (in which I had to explicitly ask for water), another 5 minutes passed before she reappeared with a second coffee and a water pitcher.

The much-hyped chicken and waffles were reasonably good; however, they did nothing to erase the bad taste that the sub-par service left in our mouths. HousexGuest is supposed to be a hip place for pretty young things. I just had no idea that, in this case, hip was shorthand for "hipper than thou" and "too hip to offer decent service." Maybe it's a sign of restaurant growing pains (it is relatively new, after all), or maybe social media puffery on Twitter and in the blogosphere has gone to the owners' heads. In the future, I think I'll stick to my standby brunch spot, where the staff are personable, the food is good, and our water glasses are filled right when we sit down.


Today's Outfit: Black, White, Red

As we head into holiday party season, my outfit posts are going to get progressively dressier and more festive. If you haven't figured out what you're going to wear to your Christmas party, hopefully you'll find some helpful inspiration in these posts. And if you have, maybe seeing someone else dress up will make you more excited about dressing up for your fetes!

I wore this ensemble to the FLARE x Hudson's Bay Company Trend Report event, where, lo and behold, one of the models came out in in a two-toned blouse and black palazzo pants that looked like a maxi skirt, sporting a bright orange-red lip colour. What's more, FLARE's editor-in-chief was wearing a Prabal Gurung dress with a similar colour scheme. Lessons learned for holiday dressing: 1) two-toned black-and-white looks are always chic, and 2) great minds think alike about black and white with a touch of red.

P.S. Thanks to Monika Hibbs of The Doctor's Closet for helping me take this outfit photo.


Product Review: Pangea Organics Skincare

Organic skincare has come a long way. With innovations, superstar botanical ingredients and growing public concern about the safety of conventional beauty products, organic lines are gaining momentum. They're increasingly regarded as mainstream brands rather than niche ones, often performing as well as or better than their conventional counterparts.

One such brand gaining in popularity is American-based Pangea Organics. CEO Joshua Onysko founded Pangea eight years ago after his soap-making experiments sparked an interest in all-natural beauty products. Today Pangea's products go beyond soap, encompassing skincare solutions of all sorts. Their all-natural offerings boast high antioxidant levels and superior moisturization as well as clarifying, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits. All this, and no petroleum byproducts, sulfates, synthetics and artificial colour and fragrance in sight.

Lofty claims, but how do Pangea's products really stack up? I had the chance to test drive some of their most popular ones. Here's the lowdown.

The product: Egyptian Calendula & Blood Orange Cleanser ($30)

The promise: Egyptian calendula fights inflammation and purifies and soothes, while blood orange de-greases, cleanses and replenishes the skin with nutrients. A quick perusal of the full ingredients list also shows that this sulphate- and suds-free cleanser formula is full of natural oils, which are, as counter-intuitive as it seems, very good at combating oily skin.

The lowdown: It took a little while to get used to not having suds in my cleanser and I kept using more than was necessary. After 1-2 weeks though, I was pretty pleased with the results. This cleanser gently cleansed dirt, makeup and oil away without drying skin.

The product: Egyptian Geranium with Adzuki Bean and Cranberry Scrub ($34)

The promise: Ground adzuki bean (which has been used for centuries in Japan) and cranberry seed are both gentle, natural exfoliants. Geranium is purportedly excellent for acne, blackheads and dehydration. When combined, this powerful trifecta delivers anti-oxidants as well as anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits. The result is effective exfoliation sans harsh side effects.

The lowdown: Think of this as the all-natural and much more effective cousin of the St. Ives Apricot Scrub you used in high school. It's easy to see why this is one of Pangea's most popular products. I used it at night 2-3 times a week and was rewarded by clearer, calmer, more even-toned skin as well as fewer congested pores. The adzuki bean and cranberry seed granules never felt overly rough, and I didn't experience any irritation when using it.

The product: French Rosemary with Sweet Orange Toner ($28)

The promise: When used after cleansing and before moisturizing, this toner removes any remaining dirt, cleanser residue and oil and preps skin to absorb serums and lotions more readily. As with Pangea's other products, it nourishes skin and provides a dose of anti-oxidants along with moisturization.

The lowdown: Unlike toners I've tried in the past, Pangea's toner wasn't drying. The bottle--which let me spray the product directly on my face instead of using a cotton pad to apply it--is genius. Instead of forgetting to apply toner, I actually look forward to spritzing my face and neck with the cooling, soothing mist post-shower.

The product: Italian Red Mandarin with Rose Facial Cream ($38)

The promise: Ideal for dry or mature skin, this rich face cream contains a slew of natural moisturizers--red mandarin, rose, shea butter, argan oil, evening primrose oil, shea butter, and sunflower seed oil. According to the packaging, it can be used day or night.

The lowdown: Of the products I tested, I liked the facial cream the least. It moisturized effectively and was non-comodegenic, to be sure, but its richness and lack of SPF meant it was better suited to nighttime use. Also, I simply didn't like the smell of this product and found myself wishing that it came in an unscented formula.

The product: Japanese Matcha Tea with Acai and Goji Berry Mask ($42)

The promise: Matcha tea! Acai! Goji berry! So many superstar anti-oxidant-packed ingredients combined into One. Amazing. Product. In case you couldn't tell from the exclamation points and the rah rah attitude, like the scrub, this is supposed to be a Pangea Organics cult favourite.

The lowdown: The natural ingredients made for a bizarre texture. It felt like I was smearing green tea ice cream blended with spinach onto my face. And wow, this mask was definitely green; I opted to wash it off with a paper towel instead of my nice clean white facecloth. Despite the greenness and the texture, I loved how it felt cool and soothing immediately on contact, and how soft and glowing my skin looked as soon as I rinsed it off.

Have you tried Pangea Organics or other all-natural or organic skincare lines? Would you?

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