The see-now-buy-now model could ruin indie designers

Fashion

indie-designers-800x532 (1)

Last week Tom Ford and Burberry made huge announcements that might change the fashion industry forever. If that sounds dramatic, it’s because it is. These mega-brands are rejecting the traditional show system in favour of a see-now-buy-now model. Beginning in Fall 2016, customers will be able to shop Burberry and Tom Ford collections immediately following their runway shows rather than waiting up to six months for clothes to hit stores.

“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” Ford said in a release.

Many shoppers and industry insiders responded to this news with a collective “finally!” In the age of blogs and social media, consumers see collections immediately and want them immediately. If large brands don’t deliver, people simply go to a fast fashion retailer and buy a copy that is available.

Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, told the New York Times that “this strategic move shows brilliant leadership from [Burberry] in driving this agenda forward.”

There’s just one problem. If the see-now-buy-now model becomes industry standard, it risks putting many indie designers out of business.

Is this ‘screwed up’ beauty startup Canada’s next M.A.C Cosmetics?

Beauty

deciem

One of the top-selling face creams in Europe is manufactured by a Canadian brand you’ve probably never heard of. In fact, it isn’t even a face cream: It’s an anti-aging hand cream called Hand Chemistry that is so popular women buy it in bulk and slather it on their faces.

Within two weeks of hitting shelves, Hand Chemistry became the No. 1 hand and body product at Boots (the U.K.’s version of Shoppers Drug Mart). But in Canada, outside of a small cult of dedicated beauty geeks, Hand Chemistry remains relatively unknown.

“Canadians don’t like Canadian brands. They don’t think they’re sophisticated,” says Brandon Truaxe, the eccentric founder of Deciem, an umbrella company that owns Hand Chemistry and nine other beauty brands the company manufactures in Toronto’s east end. “Yes, M.A.C came from here, but in a global context no one thinks of Canada as a beauty powerhouse. But it just takes a few [success stories] for all of that to change, and hopefully we can be one of them.”

Why mean girls always seem to meet especially cruel ends

Culture, Fashion

sceam queens

“Good evening, idiot hookers,” snaps Chanel Oberlin, the perfectly blond and symmetrical queen bee of the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority in this season’s hit TV comedy-horror series, Scream Queens. She addresses a mix of misfits that includes a deaf girl, a “predatory lesbian” and a pledge with a neck brace played by Lea Michele (Glee). The university’s Dean forces the sorority to admit these so-called undesirables in an effort to curb the sisterhood’s history of mean girling … and a few suspicious deaths.

Chanel (Emma Roberts) is pretty, rich, vain and hopelessly entitled. She rules the campus with a well-manicured fist and has Kazi — whom she refers to as “her Asian” — on retainer to take tests on her behalf. She names her best friends and minions after herself: Chanels No. Two, Three and Five (Chanel No. Four died).

The Chanels are the latest addition to Hollywood’s stylish she-devil hall of fame. Viewers love to hate cliques like The Heathers (Heathers), The Flawless Four (Jawbreaker) and The Plastics (Mean Girls). All the Chanels are impeccably dressed, decked out in various shades of pastel, layers of fur and feathers, tweed jackets and couture garments. The sorority’s house includes a two-level walk-in closet, which is restocked each season by Chanel’s godfather, Karl Lagerfeld.

The show’s costume designer Lou Eyrich has been interviewed by just about every publication with a passing interest in fashion – Vogue included. There are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to documenting Scream Queens’ fashion while showcasing cheaper alternatives and where to buy them.

Scream Queens, along with many of these female-centric films, are hailed as feminist, but why do these films and television series lean so heavily on the age-old idea that attractive, fashionable women are inherently vapid, vain and dumb.

Runway, Interrupted: Genderless models all the rage

Culture, Fashion, Politics

ad3f094e-ba83-11e5-9ce7-2395197ababe_1280x720.jpg

There’s been a lot of uproar in the fashion world over underage, underweight models – particularly female models. Media and consumers are increasingly outraged by companies that market designer clothing to grownass women using pre-pubescent girls.

Governments have taken notice: France recently moved to ban ultra-thin models and photoshopped campaign images. The U.S. Congress also introduced a bill that extends workplace safety regulations to young professionals, including models.

So, what do design houses do? Do they have an epiphany that leads them to cast adult, healthy-looking women? Nope. They decide to cast teen boys instead. In September, Acne chose its creative director’s 11-year-old son to model women’s clothing in the brand’s fall campaign. Now, Louis Vuitton taps 17-year-old Jaden Smith for a new women’s wear campaign.

Underage boys with no hips, boobs and nary a pound of fat on their bodies are being used to sell clothes worth thousands – sometimes tens of thousands – of dollars to grown women. But instead of being lampooned by critics and body image activists, designers have somehow spun the narrative in such a way that they’re actually being applauded for this trend.

Sure, there’s a lot to be said for fashion’s newfound acceptance of genderless clothing, androgyny and trans models. It’s also fantastic that young men (albeit one percenters with famous parents and nothing to lose) are willing to dabble in women’s clothing. But the sorts of ads Louis Vuitton and Acne are creating aren’t furthering those causes- they’re continuing to force unrealistic body ideals down women’s throats, cleverly disguised as progress.

Theses brands aren’t trying to sell their women’s wear collections as unisex or genderless – they’re still very clearly targeting the same female consumer base they always have. In teaser shots for the new Louis Vuitton shoot, Smith poses alongside three other very young, extremely thin girls. There’s absolutely nothing subversive or noteworthy about the image other than the fact that we all know he’s actually a dude and Will Smith’s son.

If designers are serious about supporting the LGBTQ and genderless movements, perhaps they could start by no longer designing separate male and female collections. They could cast models who represent diverse backgrounds who aren’t already notable rich kids. They could make a genuine effort to represent their clientele in ads by, at the very least, hiring models over the age of 18 who look healthy. They could – gasp – actually do something new and creative.

It does no good to applaud major brands, that have all the power and capital in the world to take risks and push the social envelope, for Trojan horse campaigns that misrepresent themselves as progressive. They can do better. They must do better.

*** This column originally appeared in 24 Hours

A sexy Santa? What’s next? Hot elves?

Beauty, Culture, Fashion

fashion santa.jpg

Is nothing sacred? Toronto has a new homegrown celebrity. Yorkdale’s Fashion Santa, personified by Canadian model Paul Mason, has gone viral. His photo is plastered across media websites from the U.S., Germany, France and the U.K, including CNN, Time and GQ.

He boasts a trim frame, sapphire blue eyes that make everyone go wild and a wardrobe full of festive designer wares like velvet blazers, trendy man purses (not sure how he fits all the presents in there) and plaid trench coats. But is this sexified Santa really a good thing? While it’s surely a brilliant marketing stunt, and Mason pulls off the role like no other, why can’t Santa just be Santa?

Jolly Old Saint Nick is one of the few pop culture figures who’s allowed to be … well, old and fat. His message is supposed to be about giving and the spirit of the season – not chiseled abs and a perfectly symmetrical face. It’s pretty bad when even he has to conform to the fashion industry’s expectations of how we should look.

Naughty nannies: A celeb buzzkill

Culture

nannies

Hide your kids, hide your husbands: we have an epidemic of pretty little liars (formerly known as ‘nannies’) on our hands.

That’s according to the tabloids, anyway. Once trusted household employees, these tramps are running wild, seducing one middle-aged Hollywood hunk at a time.

Recent headlines claim Gavin Rossdale carried on a three-year affair with his children’s nanny while married to Gwen Stefani.This week’s US Weekly cover screams “HE CHEATED WITH THE NANNY!” from newsstands in big bold print, striking fear into the hearts of wives everywhere.Ben Affleck was accused of cheating on Jennifer Garner with their 28-year-old nanny. Even the New York Times got in on the action this weekend with a fear-mongering feature, “The Nanny Factor in Hollywood Marriages.”

This is nothing new: before Rossdale and Affleck there was Schwarzenegger, Hawke, Law and Lowe. There are countless men whose names we don’t know, but whose titillating tales we hear from neighbours and friends.

It’s a tale as old as time: hot young nanny who doesn’t know her place seduces otherwise totally happy, well-adjusted husband. The only thing worse than nannies might be interns and gremlins when you feed them after midnight.

The rise of richface: Why so many young women are getting cosmetic surgery

Beauty, Culture

richface

Images of young women, lips severely swollen and bruised from aggressively sucking the air out of shot glasses, began to flood social media in April. The disfigurement was intentional – an attempt at DIY lip plumping inspired by 17-year-old Kylie Jenner’s oversized pout. The frequently disastrous results were mocked by columnists and reposted across the internet, partially to warn other girls off the trend and partially because, like watching a train wreck, it was hard to look away.

The results of the Kylie Jenner lip challenge might seem extreme, but a growing group of millennials are going several steps further to alter their facial contours. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons last year reported that in female patients aged 20 to 29, face-shaping cosmetic procedures were on the rise: Requests for hyaluronic acid fillers were up by almost 10 per cent, while Botox and chemical peels saw similar upticks. What’s more, according to dermatologists, young patients aren’t looking for subtle results; they want the ‘work’ to be noticeable. That’s because the puffed and plumped ‘richface’ aesthetic is the new Louis Vuitton handbag in certain circles – an instant, recognizable marker of wealth and status.

You, me and everyone we smell: Do new unisex scents mean the fragrance industry is finally embracing progress?

Beauty, Culture

perfume

For the better part of the past century, the conventional wisdom — or at least that spouted by the fragrance industry — was that scents were inherently feminine or masculine. It’s a matter of simple biology, of course: the so-called finer sex favours fruits and florals, while manly men everywhere prefer the rugged scents of nature and strong spices.

But just like the age-old gender myth that girls fancy pink and boys blue, the idea that fragrances should be segregated by sex is ripe for a challenge. Take Moschino’s Toy, Lady Gaga’s Eau de Gaga and Pharrell’s Girl: all are among a crop of new scents designed for a unisex market.

“Many fragrances are moving away from gendered boundaries, and many of the of top sellers in our portfolio are presented to both men and women alike — including Creed, Frederic Malle, Acqua di Parma, By Kilian and Byredo,” says Wayne Peterson, Holt Renfrew’s division vice-president of cosmetics.

The trend is on point with the evolution of gender roles. Why can’t a woman relish the smell of musk and tobacco? Or a man wish to smell like a rose? “The fragrance world is reflecting a larger cultural shift,” Peterson says. 

TORONTO’S FAVOURITE FASHION OUTLAW IS BACK IN TOWN

Fashion

Evan Biddell, as outspoken as ever, returns from NYC to light up the FAT Arts & Fashion Week runway

STYLE-JenEvanBiddell-066 (1)

He’s back. Again. Evan Biddell has been called a rebel, the bad boy of Canadian fashion, an oddball and a drama king. The last time I saw him, he was urinating off a dock into Lake Ontario after one of the Power Plant’s infamous Power Ball galas. The act was perhaps an apt metaphor for the state of his rocky love-hate relationship with our city and its fashion scene.

I spoke with the Project Runway Canada winner on the phone last February after his recent move to New York City: “I did the whole ‘I believe’ thing in Toronto for a long time. I tried to push new ideas, but it was never met with any sort of ‘Can I buy that from you?’ So I had to leave.”

WAKE UP, CANADA – AND TAKE A LESSON FROM HONG KONG

Culture, Fashion, Politics

This country’s consistent refusal to give financial support to designers is making us a laughing stock on the international fashion scene

lifestyle-feature1-0416

HONG KONG – In little old Toronto it’s difficult to truly grasp how the world’s 1 per cent live. Fly 12 hours forward to Hong Kong and it’s impossible to ignore. Highly concentrated wealth engulfs you like the dense fog that obscures the city’s towering skyline, leaving you awestruck and dazed in an urban maze of upscale boutiques that occupy the square footage of modest mansions. Our trendy Yorkville strip looks like Schitt’s Creek by comparison.

Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Hermès – they’re all here in triplicates, quadruplicates and then some. It’s easier to find a $10,000 handbag than a Starbucks. Tourists from mainland China fill the malls on weekends, armed with rolling luggage that enters the city empty and leaves packed with high-end spoils. 

The power suit is back — but it’s no longer about imitating the authoritative look of men

Culture, Fashion, Politics

powersuit

Any time someone uses the word “appropriate,” I consider it a feminist red flag. It’s often used to hold women to standards of conduct or dress that simply don’t apply to men. This is especially true of workplace presentation. A quick Google search brings up pages upon pages of advice for ambitious women: cover up, look less feminine, speak with a lower voice. The bottom line? Don’t threaten the men and, if at all possible, try to disguise yourself as one of them.

For decades, the look of success has been steadfastly masculine. If a woman had any hope of elbowing her way past the glass ceiling, she was expected to imitate the male esthetic with boxy pantsuits and shoulder pads better suited to NFL linebackers.

Unsurprisingly, men often scoffed at female attempts to access the corridors of power and gain membership to the old boys’ club through their fashion choices. Women had to fight for their right to emulate men.

NEWLY ANNOUNCED JOE FRESH CENTRE RAISES EYEBROWS WITHIN TORONTO’S FASHION COMMUNITY

Fashion

What about the Toronto Fashion Incubator?

joefresh (1)

Just in time for Toronto Fashion Week, Joe Fresh and Ryerson University announced the creation of The Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation, which includes a $1 million investment from the clothing brand. The centre aims to support and grow emerging fashion-related businesses through Ryerson’s Fashion Zone.

Of course, any initiative that gives desperately needed funds and mentorship to Canada’s fledging fashion community should be applauded (is this possibly the initiative that was teased, then mysteriously never announced last fashion week?). But, in the company’s habitual quest to shine a spotlight on themselves, they made a big faux pas when they referred to the project as “Canada’s first fashion innovation centre.”

They’re a few words in a press release, but words matter and these ones show a surprising disregard for one of Canada’s oldest and most effective fashion institutions: the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI).

It’s all meme to me: What’s behind our rush to adopt the latest subcultures

Culture, Fashion

gcat

Surrounded by idiots? Get in line. Is negativity your specialty? Heard it before. Just so damn grumpy? Well, who isn’t?

Grumpcore, or whatever you want to call the slightly evolved second coming of “I’m with Stupid” tees, barely hit shelves before anything subversive about the movement was tempered by its own sudden trendiness. You can’t self-identify as a grump of epic proportions when everyone else thinks everything is awful, too.

This isn’t the first subculture to find itself on the wrong side of trendy. As much as fashion is about conformity, it’s also a tool for dissent. Fashion’s subcultures have become the defining visuals of many a decade.

Long before Mary-Kate Olsen brought “homeless chic” to the masses, for instance, oversized clothing belonged to the 18th-century Bohemians as they rejected the bourgeoisie’s cold rules. Those impoverished creatives wore what they could salvage, often second-hand garments that didn’t fit or match. Bohemian style soon became a statement, one that rejected materialism, embraced communal living and empowered the individual.

IN 2015, RESOLVE TO LOVE YOUR BODY

Beauty, Culture, Fashion

Thirteen brave Torontonians strip down and tell all about their journeys toward self-love. Find inspiration in their images and stories to jettison society’s toxic values and embrace the beautiful you.

cover LA

If you listen to most mainstream media, the new year is all about finding the new you. But what’s wrong with the old you?

We want to break away from the soul-crushing onslaught of negative New Year’s resolutions – eat less, lose weight, spend every waking moment at the gym – and promote feeling good about the skin you’re in.

While weight loss and fitness conglomerates would have you believe “healthy” looks like a size 6 or bulging biceps, good health doesn’t discriminate based on size or body shape. Wellness is about respecting and caring for the body you’re born with, not forcing it into an unrealistic cookie-cutter mould.

On many fronts, 2014 was a great year for the body-positive movement and diversity in general.

The rise of androgynous and genderless fashion represents society’s increasing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, as well as body types that don’t read as traditionally “masculine” or “feminine.”

Love your Body LA

The viral #FreeTheNipple campaign, backed by celebrities like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Chelsea Handler, challenges gender-biased policies and sexist societal taboos both online and off.

American Vogue boasted a record number of black stars on its covers, and while magazines still have a long way to go, there have never been more discussions about the need for increased racial diversity in media, entertainment and ad campaigns.

Then there were those who appeared to jump aboard the body-positive bandwagon only to appropriate the movement’s language to sell us the same old crap.