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KNOWSHOW Fall/Winter 2014 Review

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Established in 2006, KNOWSHOW is a private bi-annual tradeshow which caters to Canada’s top lifestyle, fashion, and action sports retailers and brands.  Every January and August, select brands and their representatives debut new products to retailers and media from across Canada over a three-day show at the Vancouver Convention Centre.  Since its inception, KNOWSHOW has grown steadily over the years and by 2010, over 400 brands were represented and had access to 500 unique retailers.

Style by Fire was invited to check out the latest KNOWSHOW last week.  Admittedly I’m not much of a winter sportive type.  I am a very beginner skier and do enjoy it, but am too cheap to invest in the equipment and lift fees to take up the sport in a serious way.  I don’t know how to snowboard and frankly, the thought of having both of my feet strapped to a moving board scares me considerably.  So needless to say, I checked out the many wholesaler stalls at KNOWSHOW from a very layperson perspective.

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One thing was immediately clear – unlike regular winter fashion which tends to lean towards the black and neutral colour tones, winter sport fashion is all about colour and lots of it, the brighter the better.  Those who are committed to an active lifestyle want to stand out against the natural environment; the predominant look being ‘cool’, ‘rad’, ‘gnarly’, ‘wicked’….you get the idea.  Amid the kaleidoscope of colour, I found many fun and bold fashion offerings.

MANITOBAH MUKLUKS

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Manitobah Mukluks combines traditional Aboriginal mukluks and moccasins with new materials and production techniques to create authentic footwear that is modernized to meet today’s needs.  The general styling follows traditional design but is reinforced with a fur lining and high performance rubber sole made by Vibram.  Despite the sole being a modern addition, it still connects to the past by having a traditional Aboriginal story etched onto it in pictorial form.   Started in 1997 by a pair of Métis siblings based out of Winnipeg, the company supports the Aboriginal community while also producing fashionable footwear that are sold in high end retailers such as Holt Renfrew and Browns Shoes.

I loved how cozy and cute the mukluks looked with their swinging pompoms and beaded detailing (their Ugg-ly cousins should take note), and made by a socially conscious Canadian company to boot (har har).  Manitobah is a brand to support!

CELTEK

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Helmed by two brothers in California, Celtek produces a range of outdoor winter accessories, including beanies and face masks.  But it was their gloves and mittens that caught my eye – not only did they come in day-glo and Daft Punk-esque gold colours, some of them were covered in cool graphics and patterns.  You can never go wrong with mittens adorned with a picture of a kitten or panda, am I right ladies?!  Gender stereotyping aside, your hands will probably never look so rad while also staying toasty warm.

Speaking of warm, Celtek also produces heated touchscreen gloves which heat up with a touch of the pad on the back of the glove.  The top-of-the-line self-described ‘Mercedes-Benz’ of gloves features a touchscreen, heat system, OutDry waterproofing, and BOA closure technology.  Polar Vortex? Bring it on!

AIRHOLE FACEMASKS

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Founded by two professional snowboarders in Vancouver, Airhole Facemasks combines fun and functional in producing accessories that protect you against the harsh elements while also bringing fashion to your face.  Both half-mask and full balaclava mask styles are made of lightweight thin fabric knitted by hand that help to insulate heat while also featuring an anti-bacterial coating.  The breathing hole has been carefully designed to be the correct size, shape, and positioning for maximum comfort that allows the wearer to breathe, talk, and drink while keeping the mask on.

The fun prints on the masks were what made me stop and chuckle.  The face of a shark or tiger for men, awesome.  And you guessed it, kittens and daisies for the ladies.  Why look like any boring terrorist or burglar in a black ski mask when you can look like a vicious animal!

PULL-IN

From the brainchild of French engineer and fashionista Emmanuel Lohéac comes Pull-In.  He noticed how much today’s youth is attracted to colours and originality, with the exception of its drawers with their mundane black, blue, and grey colours.  With Pull-In, Lohéac strives to bring style and fun to underwear.  Collaborating with illustrators who design the patterns on the pieces, the mens’ boxer briefs I saw featured such themes as pastel popsicles, Pirates of the Caribbean, tropical fruit explosion, and African safari animals.  These undies are not for the shy at heart, but who wants to be when you can don such whimsical underwear and no one knows about it except you?  It’s your secret wild side that only select close ones get to see and what a great surprise they’ll have when peeling off your pants.

I took home a pair of these colourful boxer briefs and tried them on – comfortable and reasonably flattering!  And mine were covered in ping pong paddles, how appropriate for the Chinese in me.

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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Holy Grails of Fashion: The Sweater Dress

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Photo by Lance Holroyd

Do you have specific fashion covets?  And when I say specific, I mean you have a very clear vision of what this particular item looks like in terms of fabric, cut, colour, etc, in addition to how it looks on your body and how it makes you feel like the Queen of the world?  And trying to find this very specific sartorial piece in the real world is an ongoing mission of indefinite time, and you’re not going to quit until it materializes because you’re just obsessively determined like that? I call these the Holy Grails of Fashion.

One of my many Grails has been the Sweater Dress.  Conceptually to me, this item is the perfect solution to winter dressing; the fuzzy counterpart to the breezy summer dress.  It is easy to wear and immediately stylish – just throw it on over your head, add a touch of bling around the neck, pull on knee high boots, and you’re set.  They’re also incredibly comfortable, made of knit, jersey, or cotton with a touch of lycra, which move with you.  Now the tricky part and what has made it to Holy Grail status for me is the fit.  I have a naturally somewhat athletic figure, ie. not fashion model-boyish, which means the dress needs to cling to certain bits but not to others without adding too much overall bulk to the torso.  Ideally it should be body skimming and create an hourglass shape.  The neckline shouldn’t be too tight, but wider with a flattering shape to offset my wide face.

This specific dress has not been easy to find by any means.  Over many years, I’ve settled for various not-quite-it versions which didn’t elevate me to Queen status.  Instead, I would find myself a bit insecure and fidgety in them, constantly tugging here and there to try and re-direct the clingy areas.  But I’ve never given up and always beeline to them whenever I make my shopping rounds.

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Photo by Lance Holroyd

On one of these rounds in early fall I was perusing Front & Co. on Main Street, my go to destination for retail therapy, when I came upon this charcoal grey Rachel Roy bias cut cotton/viscose blend dress.  I tried it on and voila, had the Holy Grail of Sweater Dresses finally been found?  Flattering wide neckline, check.  Body skimming without too much bulk, check.  Current and slightly edgy with an uneven hem, but basically timeless in style and colour, check.  Sexy and yet still appropriate for the office, yes.  And finally, at the $35 consignment price, it was a closer.  Praise be to the Fashion Gods!

I have worn this dress several times to work and felt like the Queen of the office…except for the fact that after a few 8-hour days of wear, the knit started to loosen up and not spring back to its original shape, causing it to look increasingly baggy.  I’m hoping that drycleaning will do the trick to bring back the shape; otherwise, there’s always a return to the quest for the Holy Grail…

Words by Aurora Chan

Photo by Lance Holroyd

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Eco Fashion Week 2013: The Scene

Team Sbf @ Eco Fashion Week

Team Sbf @ Eco Fashion Week

Although I have attended the sustainability seminars in the past 2 seasons, this was Style by Fire’s official first time attending the Eco Fashion Week runway shows. They were amazing, and so were all the fabulous fashion folks we met in between the shows. Of course, we always love seeing Marilyn Wilson, who’s always connecting us with the crowd, and we love her for that. We finally met Jennifer Gray, owner of Jennyfleur Loves boutique in Yaletown, and Nicolette Lang Anderson, aka NLA Stylist. Memorable moments include interviewing Tammy Joe, who debuted her first re-worked vintage collection, Young Oak, this season at EFW.

I love the production of EFW and all the eco-centric values it stands for, one of the things I do miss is running onto the runway right after the show to take pictures with everyone. I’m crossing my fingers that in a future season to come, us fashion brats will get that luxury. Until next time I’ll do my part by a) only buying things I love and will wear, b) keep the cash in Canada (difficult, but it must be done), and c) buy less to accomplish a goal (ie buy a nice down vest for work instead of buying a vast array of sweaters).

xo, Miranda

Photos by Aurora Chan

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Sale Review: Front & Co Rummage Sale

Aurora in Betsey Johnson, from Front & Co Rummage Sale

I anticipate Front & Co.‘s annual Labour Day weekend rummage sale as much as Christmas…no wait, more so.  Who could blame me – my favourite go-to retail therapy destination with prices slashed at least 50% off = shopping heaven.  As always, I dressed very practically with sleeves rolled up, ready to dig deep into those clothes bins and knocking out any competitors in my way.

Not everything in the store gets rummaged; only the overrun items that never sold.  This means a lot of weird sizes and styles, but there are always gems to be found.  This year didn’t yield as large of a bounty as years past, but I did score a few cool pieces, including a pair of black leather cuffs for $8 each and a beige/black fitted skirt.  But the piece de resistance would have to be this classic Betsey Johnson flirty black dress for a steal at $15.  Easy to wear and perfect for a hot summer’s night or party.

358 days until the next rummage sale; so far away!

Words by Aurora Chan

Photo by CYDEX!A PHOTOGRAPHY

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Sale Review: Frugal Fashionista Lux Redux Sale

Kitsilano Kitty's Closet Sale-1

The online store Kitsilano Kitty’s Closet held its first Frugal Fashionista Lux Redux Sale in the form of a one-day pop-up shop in the gorgeous Waterfall Building on Sat August 24.  The big open space flooded with natural light provided the perfect backdrop for the gently worn high end designer clothes, shoes and handbags.  The owners of KKC, Helen Siwak and her husband, scour thrift shops, craigslist, and local retailers for gems and then re-sell them on both Etsy and their own website.  They are selective with their finds, only choosing barely worn items bearing big name labels, ranging from Prada to Dolce & Gabbana.  The prices ranged anywhere from $30 to $300.

In addition to their own stock, KKC also invited other businesses to join the space, including Seductive Perils by Maggie Pie, Mystic Masala Aromatherapy, Indian Brow & Henna Boutique, as well as culinary treats by Arielle’s Sweet Tooth.  I tried one of the gluten-free mini pumpkin spice cupcakes and it was perfection.

The premise behind KKC is both smart and eco-friendly – providing fashionistas with a carefully curated selection of high end pieces at a fraction of the retail cost while also practicing the three R’s of sustainability, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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Sexy Styles at Vancouver Pride 2013

Pride 2013-5

2013 marks the 35th anniversary of Pride in Vancouver with the City granting civic status to the Pride Parade, yah! Alongside a weekend chock full of festivities, the parade has become a hallmark event attended by close to half a million spectators. This year’s festival was also significant for the LGBTQ community as a way to show solidarity and support in light of Russia’s recent passing of anti-gay laws. Way to walk proud and colourful Vancouver!

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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A Skin Workout at Skoah

At Modern Mix Vancouver’s 5th Anniversary party recently, the attendees left with a swag bag of goodies which included a gift card to Skoah, a personal skin care company based in Vancouver.  The closest Skoah location being in Yaletown and only a five minute walk from my office, I took advantage of the card during my lunch hour.

Skoah’s trademarked slogan is “personal training for your skin”.  Their philosophy approaches skin care as something that you should maintain and monitor as regularly as your body, rather than as an occasional indulgence or luxury.  They develop a continually evolving spectrum of products and build a regimen customized to each individual’s skin.  Various skin gym memberships are offered to ensure regular skin workouts, but there is also a menu of facials available with strong sounding names like Xtreme, Power, and Double Dose.

My gift card entitled me to a Sweet Skin facial which was not on the menu but was equivalent to the Quickie except I received a shoulder and arm massage rather than a facial massage.  My skin expert Vivian led me into a darkened private room where there was a comfy bed and minimal décor.  This 20-minute mini facial proceeded in several phases – cleansing, toning, exfoliating, and moisturizing.   With my eyes closed, all the products felt soothing, cooling and fragrant, with the exception of the exfoliating mask.  My skin is quite new to facials and wasn’t used to the strong and tingling sensation of the mask, as if the top layer of my skin was literally being eaten away.  It took me aback a bit, but like bootcamp for your body, the discomfort made me feel like my skin was getting a true workout.

Once the mini facial was done, my face felt as smooth and soft as a baby’s bum, and smelled delicious.  It was the perfect tune-up in the middle of a hot and dry work day and caused me to reconsider my skin routine.  After all, your skin is the canvas to your face and provides your body with a barrier against the environment.  It deserves attention.  And if you’re wondering what the name Skoah means, what does it matter if it has a Euro chic ring to it?

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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Sale Report: YYoga Warehouse Sale 2013

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YYoga is holding its annual warehouse sale on July 25 and 26, 29 and 30 at YYoga’s head office on West 2nd Avenue in Vancouver.  Some of the brands included Tonic, Om Girl, Karma, Prana, ALO, Elroy, Fluxus & Spiritual Gangster.  Besides yoga and lifestyle clothes, there were also a selection of jewellery, shoes, books, CD’s, and accessories.

Everything was deeply discounted; I snagged a cool leather cuff which was originally $65 and was now 70% off.  I love the look and feel of cuffs rather than bracelets, and the leather will only improve over time as it develops a coveted patina.

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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Holt Renfrew Presents: Donna Karan New York Pre-Fall 2013

Hal Rubenstein and Lisa Tant

Holt Renfrew hosted a special sneak peek Donna Karan Pre-Fall 2013 fashion show on July 10th inside the downtown Vancouver store.  The show was introduced by Holt’s VP Fashion Editor Lisa Tant, as well as special guest Hal Rubenstein, editor at large at InStyle Magazine.  The tanned and smartly dressed Rubenstein acted as representative for the Donna Karan brand and shared its philosophy and design concepts. Karan understands and relates to the needs of real women and that informs how she designs each item and what fabrics she chooses.  Rubenstein called her creations ‘value pieces’ as they are meant to work for you as hard as you do and for many years.

True to Rubenstein’s word, the show featured subtle, streamlined pieces in subdued blacks, browns, greys, burgundy, and navy which looked like they were meant to be long-lasting staples in your wardrobe, both versatile for a variety of occasions and easy to travel with.

In addition to the focus on Donna Karan, Rubenstein also sprinkled his talk with plenty of inspirational gems of advice and observations worth taking to heart:

  1. Each woman is special and unique in her beauty; discover and revel in this rather than feeling inadequate because you don’t look like a certain celebrity.
  2. Don’t follow trends. Follow what looks good on you.  Follow what makes you feel good. (hurrah!)
  3. Don’t listen to what fashion editors tell you what to wear.  Turn to the ones around you who love and appreciate things about you that you may not even be aware of, like your spouse, children, mother, etc.
  4. Dress everyday like as if you’re going to run into that someone you dated back in high school. (yes!)
  5. Wear your clothes; don’t let your clothes wear you.  Once you’ve put on your outfit for the day, you shouldn’t have to think about it anymore.
  6. Always show your waist.  Belts are your friend.
  7. Every woman should own jersey.  It fits and flatters every body type. (This one I’m a bit unsure about.  Jersey is comfortable and doesn’t require ironing, hugs every curve; however, it also hugs every lump n’ bump.  I like clothes that hug more discriminately.) 
  8. You are only as wide as the width of your clothes.  If you wear a tent, you’ll look like one.
  9. Sorry ladies, but shoes with heels are simply sexier than flats, especially with a dress.
  10. Try flirting more; you’ll get a lot further than texting.

Words + Photos by Aurora Chan

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Style SEEN: Charles&Grace and Whiskey Teacup Clothing Pop-Up Shop

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The Chinatown Experiment space on Columbia Street in the heart of, you guessed it, Chinatown, has provided a low cost launch pad for local designers and artists to showcase their work and test the market in the form of a pop-up retail shop.  The latest team of designers to take advantage of this great opportunity was Charles&Grace Jewelry and Whiskey Teacup Clothing, who kicked off their 3-day shop with a launch party on Friday June 21st.

It would have been hard to miss spotting the party as it was totally rocking when I arrived.  Jam packed full of hip and trendy 20-somethings mingling and chatting on top of the booming tunes courtesy of the guest DJ, the vibe was electric.  To add to the atmosphere, there was a cash bar in the back, as well as fun props and accessories for attendees to don and take instagram-ic shots.
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The designers behind Whisky Teacup: Laura Crossman and Sharlyn VandenBroek 
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Whiskey Teacup instantly caught my eye, mainly because a selection of their pieces were made of clear plastic.  They made me think of the mod dresses and raincoats that were first introduced in the 60’s.  The modern Whiskey Teacup take consists of jackets, capelets, aprons, and similar items that are meant to be worn on top of your outfit so it acts as outerwear and yet you can still see what’s worn underneath.  The two designers behind the name are Sharlyn VandenBroek and Laura Crossman, two enterprising friends who buy unusual fabrics from Dressew and handmake all their pieces.  The pop-up shop was their grand debut.  They also design jewellery made of fabric and I quickly grabbed a necklace for $20.  It has been quickly put to use, featured in my photoshoot just two days later!  I love it; it adds texture and colour to any plain top.
Charles&Grace Jewelry specializes in delicate feminine gold pieces, but what stands out are their body jewelry.  These are thin chains that drape seductively over the torso.  I’d imagine they are meant to be worn on top of a body hugging dress, but there is always the option of having them adorn your birthday suit for a special someone.
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It was inspiring to see all this support for local young designers and the energy was contagious.
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Aurora Chan wearing Charles&Grace Jewelry
PS Here’s a bonus shot of Aurora wearing Whiskey Teacup Clothing for a photo shoot by photographer Ryan MacLean.
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Words + Photos by: Aurora Chan

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