Introducing Generic Surplus

Nowadays, stylish girls are just as likely to reach for a pair of oxfords or wingtips as a pair of ballerina flats or stilettos. (Blame it on Alexa Chung's tomboy cool vibe.) So it's small wonder that I'm kind of coveting the spring/summer 2012 collection from Generic Surplus for myself even though their shoes are, strictly speaking, for the gents. An offshoot of The Generic Man, the LA-based label takes "casual dressy" to a whole new level with their men's shoes. The resulting aesthetic is classic but modern.

For their latest collection, Generic Surplus drew inspiration from "how the cityscape changes with the transition from winter to spring's warmer weather and longer days" as well as "the laid-back outdoor culture of 1960s Los Angeles with the cutting edge urbanity of 1970s New York City." I love how sleek and simple these shoes look.

In Vancouver, Generic Surplus is available at The Block and Livestock.


Sandal Season

Flat sandals are one of my must-have summer essentials. As comfortable as sneakers and more stylish than flip-flops, they're a versatile shoe that goes with almost anything. My favourite pairs this season have colour-blocked straps, metallic accents and contrasting leathers. Think of how good they'd look with maxi skirts, shorts or white trousers! Plus, unlike heels, they won't torture your feet when you go for that leisurely evening stroll to the local gelateria. Talk about a win-win.

Left to right: Pour La Victoire 'Faine' ($152.79), Rebecca Minkoff 'Bardot' ($292.80), Rebecca Minkoff 'Bettina' ($133.09), Rosegold 'Adrian' ($146.93), Tibi 'Amber' ($253.41)

Are you a fan of flat sandals? Which pair is your favourite?


A Love Letter to Heidi Merrick

Dear Heidi Merrick,

I don't know whether to bless you or curse you for your impeccable eye. You see, the boy and I are set to move into a new place next month, and all along I've been very good about saving money for furniture by not shopping for clothes. Then you come to Vancouver and act like your charming self.

What's more, you co-host a media preview party with Oliver and Lilly's where your colourful and equally charming spring/summer 2012 collection is on display. Silk shirt dresses, blouses, full skirts, and colour-blocked tunics in the brightest, most cheerful shades imaginable, adorned with black trim and maybe an exposed zipper. On trend and wearable, your collection is right in line with my slightly preppy, slightly classic aesthetic and my recent penchant for donning saturated hues. Talk about temptation!

I managed to walk away without buying anything the night of the party. But I might return to Oliver and Lilly's to check out the pink, cream, and orange Neapolitan tunic. Or the patterned pillows and chairs that are part of your new home decor collection. The latter, at least, I might be able to justify.




Springing into Summer with Joe Fresh

I don't know what made me more cheerful last week when I stopped by Joe Fresh for their spring/summer 2012 media preview, the sunny Wednesday morning or the bright blues, oranges, and yellows that greeted me inside the Granville St. store. The sun has since retreated and been replaced by rain and chillier temperatures, but never mind that--summer has officially landed at Joe Fresh. Here's a little peek at what you can find in store right now.

Mix-and-match bathing suit separates for days spent on the beach or your next vacation--with coordinating accessories, naturally.

Black and white never go out of style.

As always, Joe Fresh nail polish shades are on trend and easy on the wallet.

Nautical-inspired pieces are perennial crowd-pleasers.

Neoprene, squared-off white sequins, and a pop of orange give classic outerwear silhouettes a (Joe) Fresh spin.

Despite a reluctance to shop (I need to conserve funds for furniture), I couldn't resist trying on a few things and ended up going home with two of the items pictured here. Try to guess which ones.

A perusal of their lookbook after I got home yielded even more covetable and affordable finds. My favourites were the nautical-inspired "classic with a twist" items and I love the look of the orange and taupe sleeveless silk blouse. I guess this means I'll have to stop by Joe Fresh again sooner rather than later!


Product Review: Mary Kay Botanical Effects Skincare

With green and organic skincare becoming more popular than ever, it seemed only a matter of time before Mary Kay ventured into this category with their own offering. Mary Kay Botanical Effects launched earlier this year, promising gentle, effective products tailored for each skin type (dry, normal, and oily). The fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formulas are supposed to be ideal for sensitive skin and younger women who aren't concerned about visible signs of aging yet. They also contain botanical extracts like milk thistle and luo han guo.

After taking a quiz that determined I was skin type 2 (normal), Mary Kay sent me the entire Botanical Effects line in the type 2 formulas to try and review. I've been using the products for the last couple of weeks and found them to be hit-and-miss:

  • The Cleanse Formula 2 ($17) was as gentle, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic as promised, although its consistency felt a lot like Cetaphil--disappointing considering that this cleanser costs considerably more than the drugstore alternative.
  • Likewise, the Hydrate Formula 2 ($20) is barely distinguishable from Cetaphil's lotion. While it moisturized effectively and didn't aggravate my skin, I didn't see enough of a difference between this botanical-infused formulation and the inexpensive Cetaphil lotion to justify paying more for the benefits.
  • The Mask Formula 2 ($18) was probably my least favourite product in this line. The granules felt jagged and harsh when I tried to use the mask as an exfoliating scrub as per the instructions.
  • The Freshen Formula 2 ($17) is supposed to refresh your face mid-day and get rid of oil and shine, but it dried to a sticky finish which didn't feel fresh at all.

Overall, the products disappointed me. What's more, the marketing strategy for this line is just odd. It seems more like hypoallergenic skincare for sensitive types despite the green-sounding name "Botanical Effects." Everything from the sterile white packaging to the equally sterile-feeling formulas seems so much more clinical than luxe organic skincare should be. I say save your money and opt for the cheaper drugstore stuff, or save your pennies and splurge on organic.


Product Review: Lash Love

When it comes to a simple summer beauty routine, lashes, lips, groomed brows, and healthy skin go a long way. I've talked extensively about lipstick on this blog before, and the SPF products I reviewed last year are still great options for protecting your complexion. Today, then, will be all about lashes.

Give your lashes (and brows) a boost by throwing an eyelash fortifying treatment into the mix. The B. Kamins Eyelash Fortifier ($99 at Spa Boutique) uses a formula full of peptides, plant extracts, and multivitamins to nourish lashes and brows, boost micro-circulation at the hair follicle, and plump up each individual hair. Although $99 seems steep for only 4ml, the unique rubber applicator dispenses only a pinhead's worth of product at a time and applies it precisely where needed, so the pen will last a long time. I've been using it for the past couple of weeks and am pretty pleased with the results. My brows seem fuller (fewer of the sparse spots that Asian brows are prone to) and my lashes look longer and thicker sans mascara. The product does tingle a little when applied, so try not to get any in your eye.

If you have a special occasion and can't wait 4-8 weeks for a fortifying treatment to take effect, Noir Lash Lounge's new line of faux lashes ($11.99 per set) might be just the thing. Because I favour a more natural look, I like the Hidden Lashettes (top), individual lashes that can be trimmed and applied to the outer corners of the eyes for a flirty look. The 'Lashionista' (centre) set would look pretty if one were attending a wedding, while the 'Flirty Little Secret' (bottom) would work well for a glamorous event. Unlike other lash brands I've tried, Noir's has a thinner-than-average rubber strip, which means they blend in more easily and look more natural. If you have shaky hands and can't trust yourself to apply your own faux lashes, stop by one of Noir's locations and let their pros do it for you: $20 includes application and a set of lashes to call your own.


Today's Outfit: Orange and Pleats

  • Banana Republic cardigan and flats
  • H&M tee
  • Zara skirt
  • Ray-Ban wayfarers
  • Roots bag

With all the talk of wardrobe remixing and shopping-induced debt in the world of fashion and style blogs, you'd think that wearing the same outfit twice is some sort of blogger taboo. Well, I'll confess something: I wear the same outfit more than twice. In fact, when I find a combination that really works, I'll wear it many, many times gladly and feel secure knowing that if my creativity fails me, I can always count on a tried-and-true ensemble to look good in a hurry. This outfit is definitely one of them. Since these photos were taken, I've worn the same pieces all together at least twice, probably more.

I hope my Canadian readers are having a lovely Victoria Day long weekend! You know what long weekends are good for? Leisurely flipping through magazines like the June issue of FLARE.


Cassie Dee Fall/Winter 2012 Presentation

After interviewing designer Cassie Dee about her spring/summer 2012 collection, I was eager to see what she had in store for the next season. Her fall/winter 2012 presentation (held at the ARC Gallery in East Van) drew its inspiration from an unlikely source: Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and the oft-forgotten character of Rosaline, Romeo's first love. Dee was intrigued by the idea of Rosaline thriving long after the tragic lovers passed away, and envisioned her as a strong, intelligent woman who boldly made her way through life.

Rosaline's character, as imagined by Dee, translated into a collection that's definitely not for wallflowers. Drawing on a Mondrian-esque colour palette of black, white, and primary colours, the dresses, outerwear, and separates contrasted structured tailoring with fluid draping and movement. The effect was bold and architectural, but with a touch of feminine softness.


Wear Else Spring/Summer 2012 Fashion Show

While The Real Housewives of Vancouver were probably getting their drama on for reality television, some of Vancouver's other well-to-do ladies of leisure joined Wear Else at their Park Royal location for a spring/summer 2012 fashion show several weeks ago. The store's devoted clientele staked out front-row seats next to the purple runway by leaving their designer handbags behind as they mingled, sipped champagne and enjoyed canapés.

Hosted by president Zahra Mamdani, the event was a showcase of the latest offerings available from the Vancouver-based retailer. Pieces from the likes of Alice + Olivia, Missoni, Pink Tartan, and Catherine Malandrino were featured alongside local labels like Jacqueline Conoir and Jason Matlo.

The big trend for this season? Colour, colour, colour. Whether in the form of a jewel-toned dress or a brightly patterned tunic top, this is clearly the time to add something vibrant to our closets full of neutrals. Although some of the looks were intended for more mature tastes, there were quite a few cute pieces that could integrate easily into the average twentysomething's wardrobe.

Visit Wear Else at their Park Royal, Oakridge, or West 4th locations or shop online.


Hats Off to Summer

La Vie En Rose trilby hat (c/o), Madewell dress, Joe Fresh bangles, Zoya nail polish in 'Bevin' and 'Carey' (c/o Spa Boutique)

With all the lovely sunny weather Vancouver has been enjoying lately, I finally had a chance to wear this floral trilby hat that the generous folks at La Vie En Rose sent. Who knew they had a small but decent selection of hats and beach accessories aside from their lingerie and swimwear? Definitely going to have to take a closer look the next time I'm shopping.

Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of how joyful summer is. Goodness knows I've been an anxiety-ridden basket case lately with work and homebuying stuff. And even though I took the week off blogging last week, my email didn't. "Breathe, relax, take it one day at a time" has become my new mantra. Maybe with enough repetition, the anxiety will fade. After all, life's a beach, right? Right.


Mary Katrantzou at The Room

It takes a rare talent to produce prints that are equal parts unexpected, cerebral, and just plain fun. But that's exactly what Mary Katrantzou has become known for and manages to do season after season. Last week, The Room at The Hudson's Bay Company in Vancouver was lucky enough to play host to the talented London-based designer and offer clients, fashion lovers, and media a preview of Katrantzou's fall 2012 ready-to-wear collection.

Abstract and bold from far away, yet filled with dizzying detail up close, Katrantzou's work is truly a sight to behold. The collection's leitmotif: everyday objects re-imagined and re-examined. The result: a typewriter that becomes a long-sleeved frock with an undulating peplum, a maximalist green print on a coat with minimalist lines, curved pencils adorning a, ahem, pencil-skirted dress (rumoured to be $80,000 and available by special order only).

It was a privilege and genuine delight to meet Katrantzou herself and see her work in person. Thanks to The Bay for the opportunity!


Published in FLARE

I'm marking my return to blogging after last week's hiatus with an exciting announcement: I have an article published in the June 2012 issue of FLARE magazine! (On page 136, to be exact.) If you want to flip around and read others before you get to it though, I don't blame you. The issue is filled with fun features like a stylish guide to London by Rebecca Tay, and an exclusive on Chanel's little black jacket and Karl Lagerfeld by Mosha Lundstrom Halbert.

Unlike my last article (which was all about my mother), this one deals with social media and what can happen in online spaces when friendships sour offline. Not a pleasant experience perhaps, but a very universal one as I discovered while writing this story. Major thanks to editor-in-chief Lisa Tant for this fantastic opportunity, former managing editor Catalina Margulis for her thoughtful editorial suggestions, and current managing editor Maureen Halushak for ensuring the article went to press without a hitch. Oh, and another round of thanks to the experts and subjects who graciously consented to do an interview.

It's on news stands now, so pick up a copy today. Enjoy!


Lise Watier Age Control Supreme Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered my Lise Watier Age Control Supreme giveaway by dishing on your plans for Mothers' Day. I hope your plans went splendidly and the day was even better than anticipated. The winner is...

Kim D.

Congratulations! I'll be sending you an email shortly.


On Hiatus This Week

The boy and I during an afternoon of realtor appointments. Fun!

I've been tiptoeing toward my goal of buying a home for the past 5-6 years: saving up for the down payment, reading news about the market, looking at realtor listings and dreaming. Now it seems that all the tiptoeing has become a mad dash to the finish line. In the past few weeks, the boy and I have gone to open houses and realtor appointments and we ended up putting an accepted offer down on a lovely place. Hurray!

But anyone who's ever bought a home knows the stress doesn't end with an accepted offer. So I'm taking this week off blogging to handle everything on the homebuying front before our subject removal date. It's just too much to juggle, and quite frankly, my heart's not into blogging about summer sandals and nail polish when I'm preoccupied with something as big as this.

I'll return next week with new posts. In the meantime, wish me luck!


Flower of Tahiti Organic Hair Masque Winner

The winner of the hair masque is...


Congratulations! I'll be sending you an email shortly with details on how you can claim your prize. Thanks to everyone else for entering.

P.S. If you're bummed about not winning, you can still enter my Lise Watier Age Control Supreme giveaway.


Q&A with Morgan Mallett of DESIGN + CONQUER

Designer Morgan Mallett and her avant garde jewelry line DESIGN + CONQUER have been on a roll since I last interviewed her in 2009. Her bold graphic pieces have earned her well-deserved praise and attention from the likes of Denis Gagnon (who carried her designs in his namesake boutique at one point), luxury retailer The Volts, and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. I had a chance to catch up with Morgan shortly before she flew to Montreal to celebrate the launch of The Volts. Let the jewelry and sci-fi obsession chatter commence!

Since the last time we talked, your jewelry has landed in new boutiques and you've been feted with new honours. Can you tell Solo Lisa readers more about what you've been up to?
Yes! Lots has happened since we last connected. I’ve launched three other collections (Tron Expo and Electro), traveled to Toronto and Montréal to shoot collections and videos, showed at Toronto Fashion Week, and have experimented with rapid prototyping manufacturing processes.

I’ve collaborated with New Jersey electronica artist Teeel, and am currently working on a custom design for San Francisco electronica group Stripmall Architecture. I’ve also moved DC to my hometown of Vancouver, and just returned from a trip to Montréal, where I was selected as one of seven Canadian designers to participate in the launch of luxury retailer The Volts. I also had a recent custom design enquiry for a Lady Gaga shoot.

The 'Arcadia' cuff from the Electro collection

Congrats on having your jewelry carried at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. How did that come about?
Thank you! We were shooting the Electro collection in Montréal, and a friend mentioned that my designs would work well at the museum. I set up an appointment to show my designs at the museum boutique, and my work resonated incredibly well with the buyers. The boutique currently carries the largest selection of DC designs in Canada.

What are the inspirations behind your current collections Electro, Expo and Tron?
My current collection—Electro—is inspired by electronica music. Each piece in the collection is shaped by a specific electronica track, and there is a playlist for the collection on DC’s YouTube channel, and an iTunes playlist. The designs in this collection are made via a unique 3D printing process.

My Expo collection is inspired by the graphic design, architecture and textile designs from Montréal’s Expo ’67.

DC’s Tron collection is inspired by 1980s sci-fi movies, such as the Neverending Story and the original Tron film.

The 'Daze' earrings from the Electro collection

Tron (1982)

'Tron' earrings

Have you been experimenting with new materials or techniques? (In our last interview, I think DC was all about industrial tubing, acrylic polymers and reusable plastics.)
I really enjoy the experimental part of the design process—seeing how different materials behave, and what concepts are possible to execute. It truly is form of play. My current Electro collection is made via rapid prototyping plastics, and has enabled me to construct designs in three dimensions. My previous collections existed more in the 2D realm, as the materials were layered to create depth, versus printed in three dimensions.

There's always been a futuristic, sci-fi geek element to DC. Care to share some of your latest sci-fi/fantasy obsessions?
I’m currently loving the retrofuturistic imagery and music on musician/designer Scott Hansen’s blog ISO50 ( His team often posts on technology—new and old—and offers up diverse electronica playlists. I’m a frequent visitor.

Also, my friend Stephanie Philips—a textile designer in Montréal—has turned me on to the technology involved in the creation of fabrics, and how incredibly creative yet simultaneously scientific that process can be. There is so much possibility when two seemingly different skillsets are used to problem-solve—that’s the main reason why I’m so passionate about collaborating across disciplines with DC.

And speaking of futuristic fantasy, have you seen/read The Hunger Games yet?
Yes! I’m almost through the first book, and saw the movie the other month. I’m typically not attracted to mainstream sci-fi, but the futuristic concepts that author Suzanne Collins explores are alarmingly possible in our current reality. I love how she addresses the cultural as well as the technological aspect of the world she creates. I was also intrigued with cinematographer Tom Stern’s uncomfortable close-ups in The Hunger Games movie: very effective in conveying the suspense and discomfort throughout the film.

Product Review: ILIA Multi-Stick

I've been a fan of ILIA since trying their tinted lip conditioners more than a year ago, so I was very intrigued to hear that founder Sasha Plavsic was coming out with a slew of new products. Same commitment to good quality colour pigments and organic ingredients, same attention to packaging and presentation, but new products that could be used on the face.

ILIA's new Multi-Stick ($34, available at Kiss & Makeup and BeautyMark) is one of those products, a versatile wunderkind that can be used on eyes, cheeks, and lips. The Multi-Stick in 'All that Jazz' is my first foray into a multi-purpose stick product and I love it. The product's flush pink hue looks great on my lips. It also provides some natural-looking colour on eyelids which, sadly, fades away quickly sans mattifying primer. My favourite way to wear the Multi-Stick is as a creme blush: the colour blends easily into cheekbones for a pretty flush that lasts all day. The product's chubby stick form--encased in ILIA's signature aluminum packaging--makes it a cinch to tote in my purse. A word to the wise though: Because the Multi-Stick dries to a powdery finish, it's not as moisturizing as ILIA's lip conditioners.

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