Latest Outfit: Blooming

Zara denim shirt | H&M belt | Topshop skirt | Ray-Ban cat-eye shades | J. Crew necklace (c/o) and flats | Chanel bag | ILIA lipstick in 'Voila' (c/o)

Do you ever yearn for a perfect imagined piece of clothing in your head, only to despair of ever finding it in real life? I spotted the perfect floral skirt I've been dreaming of for months during Topshop's Festival Dressing event, which simultaneously satisfied my sartorial cravings for a full, ladylike, knee-length skirt and a traditional floral print. In a way, the floral pattern reminds me of the Topshop sundress I purchased during my first and only trip to London and wore to death, so maybe it was kismet that I would find my next floral favourite at Topshop right here at home.


Product Review: Annabelle Expandable Mascara

I usually steer clear of gimmicky mascaras because they don't work on my Asian lashes, and silly tricks like vibrating wands inflate the prices of underwhelming, smudge-prone formulas. So I'm extremely happy to report Annabelle Expandable Mascara ($10.99 at London Drugs) defied my expectations. The gimmick works, and the formula is among the best I've tried.

In this case, the gimmick is a retractable polymer brush that can be dialed up for dramatic volume and down for length. The difference between settings is noticeable: the highest "plus" setting made each lash plumper, while the highest "minus" setting gave me a naturally pretty doe-eyed look. (Personally, my preference is for the highest "minus" setting as it doesn't look overdone for everyday wear.) The formula stays put pretty well throughout the day with minor smudging at the 10+ hour mark. All in all, it's a solid drugstore buy and a fun foray into gimmicky mascaras, especially given the wallet-friendly price tag.


Mark Holden's Message of Peace

When I first received the pitch about Vancouver-based designer Mark Holden and his peace-sign-emblazoned scarves, my instinctive reaction was one of distaste. I'd never been a fan of the peace sign personally. How could such a loaded symbol be reinterpreted in a stylish, meaningful way, and in a line of luxury scarves no less?

Happily, any lingering skepticism I had was quelled upon meeting Mark Holden and seeing the scarves in person at Kiss & Makeup last week. The oversize 'Adventure' scarves—done in a featherweight modal-silk blend—featured painterly peace signs that looked like bright daubs of watercolour when the scarves were worn. Neutral and neon chiffon scarves featuring a smaller peace sign motif, and script-emblazoned linen scarves, were also on display.

To hear Holden talk about his designs is to realize he's not just dabbling in fashion. He confessed to painting "hundreds of peace signs" before picking one that was just the right balance of "perfect and imperfect" for the 'Adventure' scarves. The yellow and red chiffons had to be just the right shade. And he described his relationship with his fabric suppliers as a creative collaboration rather than a mere customer transaction.

The meaning behind Holden's creations transcends the days of nuclear disarmament protests. As Holden sees it, these scarves are supposed to make the wearer feel a personal sense of warmth and serenity—an embrace in a piece of clothing, essentially. "We create wearable items with the intention of illuminating the possibilities for peace...Find your inner peace. Wrap yourself in it." That inner peace will mean different things to different wearers.

Inner peace aside, the scarves also promote a better world. Partial proceeds from the sale of Mark Holden scarves go to the Just Imagine Foundation, which funds a variety of local and global charities. Imagine that, a message of peace that has both style and substance.

Mark Holden's scarves retail for $195-295 and are available at Kiss & Makeup.


Introducing JACHS

Sartorially speaking, most guys don't need anything more than a beloved, worn-in shirt that goes with fitted jeans and sneakers on weekends. JACHS—a New York-based clothing company whose shirts are carried in Nordstrom, Saks, and now their new Bleecker St. flagship store—seems to understand this inherently. Their vintage-inspired button-downs and striped tees are perfect for leisurely hours spent doing a whole lot of nothing. Casual but classically preppy, in a variety of fabrics, colours, and patterns. It's the shirt he'll always want to reach for in his off hours.

P.S. No need to steal his shirt; JACHS offers a women's collection too.


Beach Shoe Round-up

Looking for a pair of beach-friendly shoes that can go in the sand and get a little wet? Flip-flops would work, but if you crave something more stylish, jelly or plastic shoes might be a better alternative. Yes, they're kind of like the ones you used to wear when you were little. But the grown-up versions mimic the sleek styling of street shoes, which means you can wear them with a swimsuit and denim cutoffs on the beach, or with a colourful maxi dress and cat-eye shades on a patio. Other pluses: these shoes are washable, come in a variety of fun styles, and are available at lots of price points. Win-win.

1. Mel contrast sandals ($39)

2. MICHAEL Michael Kors MK plate jelly sandals ($49)

3. Old Navy hyacinth jelly sandals ($12.94)

4. SWIMS loafer ($149-179)

5. Native Shoes 'Verona' ($50)

6. Mel 'Macadamia' sandals ($42)

7. Mel 'Fresh Flower' peep-toe flats ($42)


Latest Outfit: Wedding Guest

Joe Fresh dress | RW&CO. blazer (c/o) | Kate Spade necklace | Pour La Victoire heels | J. Crew invitation clutch (other patterns)

I once read that the amazing flavours of Italian cuisine don't come from complex preparation methods; instead, the secret lies in simple combinations of top-quality, in-season ingredients. The sartorial sentiment behind this outfit (which I wore to a close friend's wedding on the long weekend) reminds me of the Italian approach to cooking.

Nothing complicated; I'm only wearing five pieces in total. But each piece has a detail that makes it special: the blue-and-gold floral print on the dress; the sparkling facets of the necklace's large black beads; the visual interest of the polka dot clutch's contrasting pattern; the scallop pattern on the heels, ending in a heart shape at the vamp (how appropriate for a wedding!).


Product Review: Estée Lauder DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection UV Defense SPF 50

Estée Lauder's new DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection UV Defense SPF 50 ($45, available at Estée Lauder counters) is the skincare equivalent of dark wash skinny jeans: a good basic to have in your routine and pretty much goes with everything.

Fancy name aside, this product is essentially a very effective sunscreen. The active ingredients are chemical sunscreens, not mineral, so regular re-application is a must. But the high SPF and super anti-oxidant complex protect skin from the sun's rays and free radicals, while glycerin and hyaluronic acid hydrate.

The untinted, lotion-y formula goes on with minimal greasiness and smells like cucumber. I personally like wearing it under an oil-controlling, SPF-free BB cream for matte coverage on weekdays. On weekends, if I'm feeling really lazy, I'll wear this with just a light dusting of colour correcting powder on top and some mascara. Like I said, it's a good basic to have.


First Look: J. Crew at Pacific Centre

It's not every day that a girl gets to meet the designer responsible for almost half her wardrobe. So when I was invited for a private tour of the new J. Crew Pacific Centre location with head womenswear designer, Tom Mora, I jumped at the chance. Opening today, the 4,000 foot store is the second J. Crew location in Vancouver and the first to focus on womenswear only.

Leading a small group of bloggers and industry insiders around the store, Mora pointed out some of the spring/summer 2013 collection's highlights (patterns, light fabrics, bright colours, and playful nautical details). The tour wrapped with a Q&A session where we got to ask Tom about his work:

  • The inspiration behind this season's bright green "punk floral" print: Tom's old Time Life issues with photos of flowers "where the colours were a bit off."
  • The travel destination inspiring next season's collection: Marrakech.
  • How he keeps track of ideas: If they come to him during workouts, he'll ask his trainer to text him and refer to the texts later.
  • Does the design team listen to customer feedback, and will they bring back popular items by request? Yes and yes, but if Tom and his team feel an item isn't very current anymore, it'll be available online only.
  • The company's plans for a British invasion: A pop-up shop opens this week, and a Regent Street location in the heart of London is in the works.

This is where I'm going to stop writing and let the images in this post speak for themselves. For more photos, go to the album on my Facebook page, and make sure you check out the new J. Crew store!


Q&A with Jan Halvarson, Curator of West Elm's Etsy Pop-up Shop

I've become obsessed with decor since becoming a homeowner, so it should come as no surprise that news of the West Elm x Etsy pop-up shop instantly piqued my interest. Curated by Jan Halvarson of the design/lifestyle blog Poppytalk, the event features 18 local artisans selling handmade wares that go far beyond home decor. I caught up with Jan and got the inside scoop.

How did you become involved in the West Elm Etsy Pop-Up Shop project?

West Elm has for years been an amazing supporter of handmade and I'm guessing because of that and their work with Etsy, they were aware of my love for handmade through my blog. I am honoured they asked!

What sorts of unique finds can people expect to find this Saturday?

We'll have some really cool bamboo brooches and pins from Cabin + Cub (whom I've been a fan of for years), floating rings from Colleen Baran, prints and paper goods from Banquet Atelier + Workshop, Lemonni, and The Beautiful Project, gorgeous baskets from Landon Dix Design Craft, and there will even be some market-related products like Feest Home featured at West Elm Market right next door to West Elm.

Is there anything in the shop you're eyeing for yourself?

I've been eyeing the cacti print from Banquet Atelier + Workshop for quite some time and I'd love one of Colleen Baran's stamp rings.

Any final shopping tips for readers?

As each seller will be selling individually, it might be best to bring cash, but I think many of them will have card readers as well. It's always fun to get to know the makers and hear stories about their goods too, so take some time to chat with the makers!

The West Elm x Etsy pop-up shop is happening Saturday, May 25, 1pm-6pm at West Elm and West Elm Market on South Granville. Full details are in the flyer below. I suggest you mark your calendars and set aside some dollars now!


Latest Outfit: Blue Peplum & Tuxedo Trousers

Aritzia Babaton 'Cody' peplum | Judith & Charles 'Lana' tuxedo trousers | J. Crew 'Everly' pumps (more colours) | Forever 21 bracelet | Chanel WOC clutch | Dior 'Diablotine' gloss and nail polish (c/o)

Some outfits come together in a matter of minutes; others require a bit more planning; and still others enter your head and stick around for several weeks, patiently biding their time until the appropriate occasion. This combo--which I wore for The Lazy Gourmet and Roland Mouret at Hudson Bay's The Room--falls into the latter category. You might recognize the peplum blouse and tuxedo trousers from my spring shopping wishlist. I'm looking forward to mixing and matching these pieces with the other items in my closet, but for their first outing I couldn't resist using them to play up the cobalt-and-black print of these pumps.


Soirée Snapshots: The Lazy Gourmet, Roland Mouret at The Room

Last Thursday was one of the best days in recent memory. Not only was the weather gorgeous, I had the privilege of attending two incredible events: a rooftop party in downtown Vancouver celebrating the launch of The Lazy Gourmet's new seasonal menu, and a very stylish cocktail party at The Room at Hudson's Bay in honour of designer Roland Mouret. Lucky me! Here's a look back at the evening in photos.

With blazing sunshine and that amazing skyline, it was hard to beat the view from this downtown rooftop, where The Lazy Gourmet introduced its new menu to guests.

Some of the highlights included a taco bar, a pie station, and appie-portioned Shanghai noodle boxes, but the most popular station had to be the guacamole bar. Guests waited patiently as chefs made fresh, individual-sized servings of guacamole for everyone.

Watching them work inspired me to tweak my own guacamole recipe!

Refreshing vodka strawberry basil lemonades quenched our thirsts.

From a rooftop to The Room! By the time I arrived, the party was in full swing. I was too shy to ask Roland Mouret for a photo (although by all reports he is quite the suave and gentlemanly figure), and too daunted by the crowd waiting for photos with him. But I did have plenty of opportunity to admire his designs up close in between catching up with familiar faces.

Before attending the party, my familiarity with Mouret's work was admittedly sketchy at best. I knew him for his infamous 'Galaxy' dress, his aesthetic of sensual, ladylike glamour, and his collaborative relationship with Victoria Beckham. So for me, his new collection was a surprise in the most pleasant sense.

The clothes were a study in contrasts. Sharp folds and geometric details decorated a form-fitted cocktail sheath--the juxtaposition of stark angles with womanly curves. Bold jolts of colour (a draped emerald gown, a scarlet cocktail dress) existed alongside colour-blocked designs. There was a minimalist aesthetic at play, yes, but there was also a tri-colour leopard suit.

Thanks to The Lazy Gourmet and The Bay!


Wear Else Spring/Summer 2013 Lookbook

I'm really digging these images from the Wear Else spring/summer 2013 lookbook, which feel like a veritable how-to guide for effortless dressing for all occasions. No complicated layers, no fuss--just great-looking outfits that are anything but basic. In the face of some of the OTT style bloggers out there, this lookbook is a refreshing reminder that sometimes a little goes a long way.

For a flirty date night look, a patterned dress like this Nanette Lepore number, a bright clutch, and metallic accessories are hard to beat. And I love the sophisticated vibe of the Nicole Miller one-shouldered frock on the right for attending a spring/summer wedding.

A tailored blazer or jacket makes getting dressed for the office and looking professional that much easier on early mornings. The NATIONALITY blazer (left) is a season-appropriate alternative to a classic black blazer. A Chanel-inspired jacket like the RED VALENTINO one on the right adds polish to cuffed jeans, a draped tee, and lots of layered necklaces--perfect for casual Fridays.

Bring on the weekend: I'd wear the look on the left for movie nights, Sunday brunch, and window shopping. The look on the right would be great for walking the dog (if I had one) or a day at the park.

When in doubt, a wear-anywhere patterned shirtdress (this one is by RAOUL) and nude heels create an instant outfit.

Which look is your favourite?


Beauty Desk Dispatches

I usually wait awhile and test samples thoroughly before featuring them on the blog, but I couldn't resist sharing the latest limited-edition launches to cross my beauty desk. Look for them at your local drugstore or department store beauty counter before they're gone, gone, gone!

Indulge your sweet tooth guilt-free with Lise Watier's new fragrance, Something Sweet ($59, available exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart). The youthful gourmand confection features notes of champagne, rainbow sorbet, melon, red fruit, raspberry, and chocolate mousse. If Something Sweet embodies your dessert-obsessed, feminine-to-the-core, Pinterest-loving soul perfectly, check out Lise Watier's nationwide search for the new face of Something Sweet; you could end up with a 6-month spokesperson contract.

Also available: Lise Watier's Sweet Lips limited edition lip balm ($12.50, available exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart) in flavours and tins inspired by the pastel hues and mouthwatering flavours of macarons. 'Pistachio' (pictured here) goes on clear with a slight shimmer and smells delectable.

Match your nails to your fragrance? Seems unusual, but Ralph Lauren did it for a limited edition collaboration between the Big Pony fragrance collection and essie nail polish. Each Big Pony Essie set embodies a different personality; Purple #4 (pictured here) features an oriental floral fragrance for the stylish woman and a deep purple nail polish that matches the branding perfectly. I haven't been a fan of oriental fragrances in the past because they can be overly spicy or too piquant or overpowering, but Purple #4 is light and bright with a powdery finish.

How cute would the bagged set be as a grad gift idea? The 30 ml fragrance, 50g body mist, and nail polish set retails for $47 exclusively at Jean Coutu in Quebec. The 50 ml fragrance and nail polish set is available at The Bay and Sears nationwide for $67.

Givenchy always wows me with their packaging, and their latest offerings (available exclusively at Sephora) are no exception. Le Rouge lipstick ($38) is a thing of beauty: the tube--with its genuine black leather and silver touches--has the look, feel, and heft that luxe lipstick lovers covet. Although the bullet looks intimidatingly matte, the formula glides on with ease, feels great on the lips, and has a semi-sheer finish. 'Carmin Escarpin' (shown here) might very well be my red lipstick of the summer.

The Écrin Privé limited edition eyeshadow palette ($78) and new waterproof version of the Noir Couture 4-in-1 mascara ($35) also earn points for breathtaking presentation. Meanwhile, the limited edition Blush Gelée jelly blush ($37) gets my vote for best blush for summertime: The sponge-tipped tube (think of it as a big Bingo marker for your face) dabs rose-scented, gel-based, cool-to-the-touch blush on your face for a natural flush.


Latest Outfit: Polka Dots and Basics

Anine Bing blouse (c/o) | J. Crew cafe capris and wedges | Joe Fresh belt

Days on end of glorious, summery weather can make Vancouverites kind of giddy. Like, really giddy. It's easy to forget how sorry and soggy we were only a few weeks ago when the cherry trees are in bloom, the sun sets a little later each evening and twilight lasts a little longer, and a pair of sunglasses--not an umbrella!--becomes the accessory of choice.


Designer Q&A: Cecile Benac

It took me a while to see the appeal of loose-knit sweaters (why wear something that kind of keeps you warm and kind of doesn't when it's hot out?). But once I bought my first one, I quickly came around. Whether crocheted or knit, sheer or featuring holes of different diameters, loose-knit sweaters make great warm weather layering pieces.

Vancouver-based knitwear designer Cecile Benac seems to feel the same way. For spring/summer 2013, Benac did a collection of mostly neutral-coloured tunics, shrugs, shawls, and short-sleeved sweaters. These aren't your typical winter woolens though; they have a light-as-air look and feel that lends itself well to spring's balmier days. What's more, luxe materials, unique stitching, and a handknit-in-Canada status make a Cecile Benac creation much more special than your run-of-the-mill fast fashion sweater.

I caught up with Benac for a quick chat about her recent collection and how she approaches knitwear design.

How did you first become interested in designing knitwear?

Knitting has always been around me; my grandmother, my mother and my sisters were all great knitters! It was just the natural extension of their legacy, and there were not many hand-knit lines around 15 years ago when I started the business.

What was your inspiration for the spring/summer 2013 collection?

I wanted easy layering pieces, so I went to some of my old collections for inspiration. My shawls, shrugs, and capes are bestsellers for spring and fall; everyone can use them, no matter the size. I knew I wanted color, so tangerine was my choice; everyone can wear it! It’s been the bestselling color of the season!

What is your design process like from start to finish for a piece?

It starts sometimes with the yarns that I can get, and what they do when knitted. Sometimes I have a design that I like, or a special stitch which requires a specific yarn, so I look for it!

Loose knits are such a great wardrobe staple for spring and summer. How would you style them for the chillier spring weather and the warmer summer months?

Currently I am using yarns made of cotton/linen and cotton/viscose and polyamide, which are all year-round really. I offer my clients a line of tanks, tees and tank dresses in viscose/spandex which work very well with my knits. I have been using my boots with these when the weather is not calling for sandals yet and it looks really western. Love it!

What's next for you, personally and professionally?

Face the challenges of producing in Canada, staying competitive, and diversifying to increase sales.

Cecile Benac pieces range in price from $75-275. For more information or for a list of retailers, refer to the website.


Product Review: Stila Set and Correct Baked Powder Trio

Stila Set & Correct Powder ($44, available at Sephora) is one of those products I didn't think I needed at first glance. The trio of baked powders--peach, lavender, green-- promises to illuminate and even out skin tone with one hand-turned crank of the compact's grinder and a sweep of the powder brush. All fine and good, but my BB cream and concealer do a pretty good job of both already. So where does Stila's Set & Correct Powder fit in?

As it turns out, the powder's colour-correcting capabilities are brilliant over untinted or sheer-tinted sunscreens and moisturizers, and ideal for days when even BB cream and concealer feel like too much makeup. (Yes, I have those days, and they usually occur on weekends.) After all, being able to to get ready for Sunday brunch in 3 minutes is pretty amazing: a bit of sunscreen, a few sweeps of the powder brush, groomed brows, mascara, and a tinted lip balm, and I'm good to go.

Other benefits (the vitamin E and jojoba in the formula, the cool-looking black compact, the strangely satisfying ritual of milling the powder) don't hurt either. If you're into a "no makeup" look that involves as little makeup as possible, this is your powder.


Almay Spring/Summer 2013 Preview

Sorry for the surprise hiatus last week! An unexpected bout of sickness and unusually busy evenings (hello, strata AGM) took over my life. Amidst the craziness though, I did manage to check out the Almay spring/summer 2013 preview. Almay invited media, bloggers, and their plus ones to Patisserie Fur Elise, an adorable pastry shop in Yaletown, to get playfully pretty. An afternoon of pastries, tea, and learning about Almay's new product launches and developments followed.

Kate Hudson & Goldie Hawn: This Mother's Day, Almay ambassador Kate Hudson teamed up with her mother Goldie Hawn for a special video sharing beauty memories and cherished mother-daughter moments. See the result (and find out what products were used in each actress's look) here.

Intense eye colours: Almay's intense i-color collections--designed to bring out each woman's unique eye colour--are expanding with new products and colours. The bold nudes eyeshadow palettes enhance eyes with subtle yet noticeable touches of colour. Tinted volumizing mascara and creamy liners finish off the look.

New eye makeup removers: I'm a huge fan of Almay's makeup remover pads for taking off eye makeup and stubborn lip colours: effective, great value, and so convenient. Look for three new makeup removers available starting June. The Lash Care Gentle Eye Makeup Remover Pads nourish lashes, while the Soothing & Depuffing Gentle Eye Makeup Remover Pads soothe eyes with a blend of chamomile, cucumber and caffeine. The Longwear & Waterproof Gentle Eye Makeup Remover sweeps away stubborn formulas and moisturizes sans oil.

Soft, glossy lips: Check out the colours of Almay's new Color + Care Liquid Lip Balms--so vibrant and fun! The ultra-moisturizing formula (containing avocado oil and vitamin E) delivers surprisingly pigmented, creamy, glossy colour, and it smells like dessert to boot. Available July 2013.

Smart shade: Almays ever popular Smart Shade line of colour pigment-adjusting makeup is launching a new CC cream. Exciting! The Smart Shade CC Cream is one of the first CC creams to launch in North America at the drugstore level, and the most accessibly priced. Hyaluronic and salicylic acids mean the formula (which comes in 3 shades) will plump and clarify skin, all while evening out skin tone and hydrating. Available June.

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