Friday, June 22, 2018

Vancouver Sustainable Fashion Designers (VSFD) - Interview With Laila Bedard-Potvin of Harly Jae

Please share about your journey to become a fashion designer? Looking back, can you remember any moments growing up that hinted you'd embrace this career.

I did not always know that I would end up in the fashion industry but looking back; it makes total sense. From a very young age, I started to put a lot of thoughts into the outfits I would wear. I understood that the clothes I put on my body were a reflection of my personality. 

When I applied to fashion school, it was to end up in a public relations or advertising position eventually. But during my fashion studies, I discovered the ugly truth about the industry: the poor conditions in which the sewers work in and the devastating environmental footprint it is leaving on our planet. I could not see myself contribute to an industry that brought so much harm to our world, so I entirely moved on from this initial career choice.

It’s only a couple years later, after finding myself unhappy in my new career, that I reconciled my relationship with fashion. I discovered a community of conscious consumers and slowly built my ethical closet. It’s during that process that I noticed a gap in the market: there was not a lot of Canadian options of what I look for when I invest in slow fashion.

The idea of being a designer had crossed my mind a couple of times before. But I always thought there was already so many cute clothes out there; I did not see the point in creating more of them. With the whole slow fashion ethos, there was all of the sudden a good reason for me to create my brand. My line would differentiate itself from others by being ethically manufactured, timeless, made with Eco-friendly fabrics and versatile. It now made sense. 

Why was it important to you to offer a sustainable, responsible, Eco fashion line and how do you incorporate ideals such a Zero Waste into your work?

I could never work for or build a brand that would not align with my values. It’s as simple as that for me. The whole reason I created Harly Jae was to bring an ethical option to fashion lovers like me who also care about the footprint their buying habits leave on our planet.

I always strive to be as Eco-friendly as possible. The more I learn about the industry, the easier it is getting. For me, it all depends on the piece I am designing. For example, if I am making a linen tank top, I will first try to source organic linen rather than regular linen. I will make sure to use cotton thread rather than polyester thread, so the garment is biodegradable at the end of its lifecycle. If I am designing a form-fitting piece like my Bardot jumpsuit, for which some polyester and elastane were required to make the fit happen, I spend more time on product development. 

In other words, I make sure that if I bring polyester to this world, it will be loved by my customers A LOT and worn until it is unwearable. For this particular piece, I also made sure to reuse my leftover fabric from production. I created some 70s inspired shorts for the Summer! 

Where do you find inspiration for new work? 

Vintage fashion is my biggest inspiration. If you love thrifting, you know the feeling of pulling up a piece from the racks and thinking “wow, they don’t make clothes like this anymore.” That’s the biggest compliment you can give me when looking at Harly Jae pieces. Being inspired by past trends also helps me design pieces that won’t go out of style next season. Although I consider my aesthetic to be very current, it is not reflective of fad trends that will be out of style a couple of weeks after they made their entrance. 

Please share a bit about your brand - client, materials, type of clothing you offer, where it's sold, collections or made to order?

I describe my designs as feminine and vintage-inspired. I created Harly Jae because I saw an opportunity to build a brand that would not only reflect my aesthetic but also emulate what I look for when I invest in slow fashion: clothing that is inspired by the past, made to last, and with planet earth in mind. My clothing transitions from work to happy hour, and transcends trends and seasons. 

I am incredibly focused on the “wearability” of my garments: I make sure that my pieces are not see-through and not too revealing. I try to eliminate any excuse someone would have to not wear the clothing. I use Eco-friendly fabrics as much as I can (organic cotton, linen, and hemp) and recycled paper for my branding material. I am moving towards releasing new pieces piece by piece rather than creating whole collections. You can shop Harly Jae online and in a few select boutiques in Vancouver.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a sustainable designer?

Designing with purpose requires more efforts and planning than merely designing what you think people will like. As I mentioned above, I want my pieces to make sense, to be versatile, and to be cherished for many years. This requires more thinking and time and also letting go of a lot of ideas. I am also limited in terms of fabric I use, which can be frustrating sometimes! 

How do you incorporate sustainable living in other areas of your life? 

I obviously recycle and compost. I carry a water bottle and reusable bags everywhere I go. I use stainless steel straws. With some exceptions, I follow a vegetarian diet while always aspiring to be vegan. I shop second hand before buying new and am intentional about the purchases I make. If I’m not wearing Harly Jae, I am wearing vintage or other ethically produced garments. 

How did you connect with Vancouver Sustainable Designers, and what are the benefits of being a member?

A fellow designer introduced me to the group. Concretely, I found my new production partner and a facility that handles the pre-washing of my fabrics thanks to this fantastic group. Being a member allows you to have access to the more resourceful people around – people who do the same work as you do – and endless support. 

How do you help customers understand the higher cost of sustainable garments when they are so inundated with sweat shop-produced cheap merchandise? 

This is something I am still struggling with, but I am about to put in place more tactics to overcome this challenge. The key is sharing information. Sharing about the impact of fast-fashion on people and the planet, explaining why your product is worth more, being honest about your pricing, and not being afraid to talk your product up. 

In my case, the sewers who sew my garments are paid a fair wage and do it in the comfort of their home, some of the fabrics I use are sometimes eight times the price of unsustainable fabrics used by giant retailers. I can spend a year perfecting a piece before it is ready to my customers, etc. 

Anything else you would like readers to know?

I recently launched new pieces that you can check out in the link below! If you are located in the Greater Vancouver area, I am always happy to meet people in person so they can try on the clothes. You can also catch me in front of Neighborhood Quality Goods on June 17th for Car-free day on Main Street.

Social Media Links - 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Almond Butter Thai Quinoa Salad

Image from
I love when people post food videos on Facebook. I regularly try a few - the ones that most catch my eye - and so far haven't been disappointed.  One type of recipe I always have my eye out for is one offering a healthy salad, especially if I can make it into a full-meal-deal.  Yesterday it was Almond Butter Thai Quinoa Salad.

While video was on Facebook, the link to the recipe takes you to a blog by Alyssa called Simply Quinoa. It is chock full of recipes using Quinoa that include everything including breakfast, meals, bread, desserts, smoothies and more. You can check it out at

Honestly, I have a recipe - Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad -  that is similar already shared on my blog. The last time I served it to a friend they commented, "That salad changed my life." So it's a good one. But it never hurts to try other versions as over time, you'll often find yourself making little alterations to your favourite that makes it more your own and takes it to next level.

Almond Butter Thai Quinoa Salad will definitely be going on my menu list this week, in fact maybe tonight if I have everything in my refrigerator. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Video by The Blendaholic -

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Almond Butter Thai Quinoa Salad


3 C          Cooked quinoa
1 C          Fresh Broccoli florets finely chopped
1/2 C       Shredded carrot
1 C          Red bell pepper julienned and cut into 2″ strips
1 C          Shredded red cabbage
2              Green onions finely chopped
1/4 C       Peanuts chopped (optional)

1/4 C       Creamy almond butter (or peanut butter)
1 T          Toasted sesame oil
1 T           Gluten-free tamari (can use soy sauce)
1 T           Brown rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
2 – 3 T     Water to thin the dressing


Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl, minus the broccoli and dressing. If desired, gently steam the broccoli for 2 minutes (or 40 seconds in the microwave) and transfer to the salad bowl. You can also leave it raw. Toss ingredients together to combine. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss again until everything is incorporated and evenly covered by the dressing.

Serve immediately or store in fridge and serve when desired.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Bitten by Alan Moore

In the not-too-distant future, Italy is in disarray. 

Synopsis - 

It has voted to leave the EU in an attempt to regain control of its laws, finances and commerce. Even so, the country's economy is shrinking and its national debt rising. There is a marked escalation, too, in unemployment, bank loans and immigration. Production and service companies are in difficulty. The only thriving business areas are the black market and organized crime. There is discontent and protest on all sides.

In Florence, the local Mafia boss, more accustomed to gunrunning and trading in plutonium, is involved in organizing a silent auction for the sale of one of the world's most valuable lost paintings - a sixteenth-century masterpiece, which was appropriated in World War II by Stalin's Trophy Brigade. A British art expert is set to buy the picture on behalf of his client, a South American billionaire - yet surprisingly two Italian undercover intelligence agents, acting as antique dealers, submit the winning bid.

All the while, human beings continue to harm the Earth by destroying land, sea, air, animals and trees. Global climate change, polluting the atmosphere, depleting the ozone layer: these are some of man's crimes against Nature. But time is running out. Nature has lost patience with humans. Unless something is done immediately to reverse the destruction of the ecosystem, Nature will retaliate by deploying the terrifying forces at her command. And as a first step in wreaking her revenge, she instigates a reign of terror by the deadliest creature on Earth.

Review - 

I am a big sci fi fan and get little chance to indulge, so was looking forward to reading Bitten. While an interesting idea, the book just doesn't quite hold together. It really is two separate stories that run parallel with each other without ever really connecting.  Either could have been taken out without affecting the other's plot line. So perhaps this should have been two books.

One story is that of the Italian mafia trying to sell not only arms, but what could be an original work of art by a master. The process to authenticate and bid on it consumes one story line.  The second is a sci fi themed story of mosquitoes of many types banding together in devastating attacks that leave many dead. We follow a female expert as she researches and tries to find solutions other than mass extermination. The only connection to both stories is this women as she knows most of the men involved. As a sideline we are introduced to the woman's demanding sex drive which may sell books, but doesn't add to either story.

Another area that could use work is the romantic dialogue. It doesn't sound natural. And the book is wrapped up without us clearly seeing how and why the researcher came to her conclusion on how to deal with the mosquito problem. Instead we are given a speech by her sharing thoughts to wrap every up in a tidy package. No proof is offered, it's just her ideas. 

For the most part the author's storytelling is strong, he just tries to do too much in one book and could use some fine tuning in several areas.  As Tim Gunn would say, "Edit, edit, edit." With some hard work, the core of this book could become a strong story.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author - 

Born in Surbiton, Surrey in 1944, Alan Moore lives in Barnes, SW London, with his wife, Amber. They have two daughters and a son, who between them have two boys and two girls with another boy expected in May. Alan was educated at Oundle School in Northamptonshire and at London University, where, as an external student, he obtained a BA degree in English. Thereafter, for 25 years, he single-handedly ran his own book publishing company, which at one stage was producing up to 20 titles a year. Now, at the age of 74, he has self-published his first novel.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Turkey Broccoli Rice Casserole

Image & Recipe from Spend With Pennies
My latest food addiction seems to come from all the enticing cooking videos on Facebook.  Of the every 20 I look at, 1 seems to make its way to my dinner table.  That's how it happened this time.  I saw this recipe from Spend With Pennies and just had to give it a try. And just a note - in a web search this recipe has a ton of variations on several different websites.

My cousin posted this cooking video for Turkey Broccoli Rice Casserole and as I watched, it instantly took me back to my pre-teen years.  I know cooking with canned soups has gone out of favour with many and I do try to make everything from scratch as much as possible. But when I was in my pre-teens women started heading back out into the workforce in droves. They were trying to do it all.

They still embraced the traditional roles of mother, cook, house cleaner and more, while adding in the responsibilities of working often full time.  It was challenging to say the least.  Campbells came to their rescue with easy, quick casseroles made from cooked chicken or ground beef, veggies, potatoes or rice or noodles or Tatter Tots and canned soup. These recipes could be assembled in minutes or even sometimes the night before. It was a revolution in some ways that took a bit of the heavy burden off their shoulders.

So now we know more about the importance of making things from scratch as much as possible, and in many homes the men have stepped up to share equal responsibility for running the home, cooking and caring for the kids. So things have changed in terms of what we cook. But every once and awhile I crave a recipe like this from my youth as it brings back memories of home.  

I did as always make a few changes. No turkey available so I cooked up a few chicken breasts. And I used green beans instead of broccoli as the one son who lives at home despises broccoli. I love it - go figure - but not worth the fight. He will be gone soon.

Also, I wanted to use real rice. I tried to adjust the recipe so the rice could cook in the casserole in the oven, but missed the mark. So I suggest if you want to use real rice, cook it ahead of time.  2 cups uncooked instant rice equals 4 cups cooked rice, but that is probably too much as minute rice is a lot fluffier. So I am going to try about 3 cups of cooked rice next time and see if that works. I'll let you know.


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Turkey Broccoli Rice Casserole

  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 2 cups Instant white rice (I am going to try 3 cups cooked real rice next time)
  • 2 cups Chicken broth, reduced sodium
  • 1 can Condensed Cream of mushroom soup (10.5 oz)
  • 1 can Condensed Cream of chicken soup (10.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup Sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper
  • 3-4 cups Leftover turkey, diced (I cooked up a few chicken breasts for this)
  • 4 cups Fresh broccoli florets (I substituted fresh green beans)
  • 1 ½ cups Cheddar cheese


  • 3 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 cup Crushed crackers (any kind)
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook onion in olive oil in until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in rice, cover and turn off heat.  Let sit covered 5 minutes.
  4. Steam broccoli until tender crisp. NOTE BELOW
  5. In a large bowl combine cooked rice, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, milk, seasonings, turkey, broccoli and 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese.
  6. Spread into a greased 9×13 pan.
  7. Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over casserole and bake 35 minutes or until hot & bubbly and lightly browned.  Serve warm.
Note - I love using less pans. So as I substitute real, cooked rice, I changed this. In step 3 I added the fresh green beans and covered the pan, letting them cook in the broth until crisp tender, then stirred all the other ingredients in.  Less pans to clean!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Vancouver Community College (VCC) - Stella Chu of 透 TÒU

Images by J. Collin Jones

When Vancouver Community College (VCC) moved their fashion design graduate showcase to the Vancouver Fashion Week runway, I was thrilled. It is such a great experience for the students and so much easier for me. I have been connected to VCC for over 10 years now and think I have seen every single one of their shows since 2007.

The collections shown this season - Fall/Winter 18 - did not disappoint. Every single student presented great design work, strong tailoring and well though out silhouettes. When it came to picking a student to feature in a solo article it wasn't an easy choice, but there was something about Stella Chu of 透 TÒU that really caught my eye.  Interestingly enough, the look I loved the most and would love to own was the designer's favourite as well. That made me smile. And if I read her answers right below - she made her own shoes as well. WOW!

So here you go, a chance to step behind the scenes in this Q and A interview with new designer Stella Chu. You'll get to learn a little bit about her journey to fashion design, her design process and the collection she showcased that day.


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My favourite look in this collection.
I would love to own it, except
maybe not in white. I spill things constantly
Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Taiwan, which has the mix of metropolis and nature, and moved to Vancouver when I was 15 to pursue my education.!

What were you like when you were young?

My siblings had influenced my interest in art. They both loved art and were both really artistic and creative. We were all sent to an art studio when we were little. Then all of us were enrolled in classes specializing in art in elementary school and high school. I guess you can tell how much I love art!

What were your interests in High School?

I was passionately driven by art and fashion when I was in High School. I loved dressing up and most of my elective courses were art classes such as print making, drawing, painting, ceramics, AP (Advanced Placement) arts and a portrait drawing class.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

I studied Visual Art at Emily Carr University (ECU) for one and a half years. After years of taking mostly theory courses, I decided to take a semester off to rethink my career path. I first took a non-credit sewing course at VCC.  It really blew my mind and came to change what “Fashion” meanty to me. Fashion is not as simple as just dressing up. The course helped me appreciate the process of just making one simple garment.

I am thankful that my parents were always supportive of my hobby. However, they hoped I could finish my degree at ECU first, and then enroll in a fashion school after to pursue a career in the fashion industry. They felt quitting halfway through my degree at ECU was quite a pity.

Why did you choose to study in the program at Vancouver Community College?

After attending an information session at a few different schools, I chose the Fashion Diploma Program at VCC because it provided courses from the production process to sales, and it focuses more on hands-on technical courses rather than the creative process.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you? What was easy for you? Are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?

Since we were the first group of students in this brand new 2- year program, there were only 4 of us. At first I was stressed by this small number of peers, but as the year progressed I ended up feeling very lucky to be a part of this group. As there were only 4 of us sharing the space, we each could use two full large working tables and there was no wait-line when accessing the sewing machines, equipments, and etc.  

Besides having the advantage of using the workspace, my classmates were very talented. They all had experience in fashion design and sewing. On the other hand, I didn't even know how to thread the machine in the beginning of the first class. One low point for me was that I was too shy and was afraid to speak up due to lack of confidence and experience. However, I gained a lot of valuable experience learning techniques, good working attitude and getting positive energy from being around them.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

My Fall 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection was inspired by the travelling photos and videos I took in the summer. While looking at the natural scenery, landscape, architecture, textures and portraits I had captured, I started to write down all the Chinese characters that inspired me.

Chinese characters have a complex form, and the beauty of Chinese character is that one character may have many different meanings. By looking up the definition of the characters, breaking down each character into components and realizing how each character is formed, I picked the character “tòu” to be the inspirations for the season.

Describe your customer.

People who love minimal dressing and a minimal lifestyle. Minimalist fashion doesn’t have to be boring and you can dress comfortably without sacrificing style. The key message associated with this season for me is minimal, playful, effortless, ageless, and ease.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

This season the palette consisted of neutral colours with muted brights. The fabrics I used in my collection are mostly 100% cotton, stretch cotton, cotton blend, wool blend twill fabric, polyester mesh and nylon mesh. I also incorporated clear PVC, leather and rubber for the accessories (flat mules).

Do you have a favourite look?

I personally love the 5th look - an oversized tee and trousers paired with a tight-fitting mesh turtle-neck sheer top. This look shows a balance between muscularity and femininity.

Links - 
  • Instagram - @and_a_n_d
  • Email -
For more information on the Fashion Design program at Vancouver Community College, please visit their website at

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Reason for Living by Julian Jingles - Book Spotlight and Author Interview

In this tale of love, passion, and self-discovery, two Jamaican men become caught up in a 1960s revolution that reveals injustices, oppression, and a purpose for one of them.

Synopsis - 

It is the mid-1960s in Kingston, Jamaica, and the country is steeped in social, political, and economic inequities. Howard Baxter, the heir to a real estate empire, has no interest in seeking or managing wealth. Painting and deflowering Jamaican maidens are his passions. As he combs the streets looking for greater meaning in his pathetic life, it soon becomes apparent that Howard's journey will not be easy.

Bernaldo Lloyd, a member of the Baxter clan, is a medical student who is sensitive to the hopelessness of the Jamaican masses. Inspired by his close friend and Howard's cousin, Ras Robin Pone, and their ties with the Rastafari movement that calls for social and economic equity, Bernaldo is determined to overthrow the corrupt government. As Howard, Bernaldo and Robin become influenced by America's Black Power and Civil Rights movements demanding equal rights for African Americans, the women in their lives both love and criticize them. But when revolution breaks out, Howard finally discovers a purpose for his twisted life that leads him in a direction he never anticipated.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ iUniverse  Add to Goodreads

Interview - 

Can you please share a bit about your journey to become a published author? Is it a dream you've had from childhood or one that arose as an adult? 

It’s a mission I’ve been on from I began writing at age 16.

You began this book in the 1960's, but didn't publish it until 52 years later, after working as a journalist and producing documentaries and music videos. Why

I engaged an agent in 1967 - Scott Meredith Literary Agency - who were the agents for big guns like President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Scott and his brother Sydney encouraged me to “keep writing: first for A Reason For Living, and then after telling me that they could not find a publisher for that book, that I continue writing. I had no other book to write, this was the story I had to tell, and over the years, I was able to get it to be read by several literary giants including Toni Morrison when she was at Random House, publishers such as Dell, Fawcett, Viking, all passed on it. 

Three times it came close to be published, twice in the mid to late ‘70s, by “adult book” publishers who wanted me to extract the politics and other matters and just leave “the sex.” I refused. And in the 1990s a small black publishing house Gumbs & Thomas was about to publish it, but ran into financial difficulties. The challenge I faced, and still do, is that the tale of a “small island” from a working class perspective is not respected or appreciated by the bourgeoisie that controls the arts, the creative industries be it literature, plays, television, cinema.

Where did the inspiration for A Reason for Living come from? The inspiration for the characters included in this story? 

From what was being experienced in Jamaica, and the world in the ‘60s. Several of the characters names were from friends, relatives and associates who I wanted to immortalize. Much of the inspiration also came from the three young ladies acknowledged in the book. Beauty, grace, charms are great inspirations.

What research did you have to do to bring a sense of reality to the book’s location, characters and storyline? 

It was around 70% living experiences written as fiction, and 30% research. The locations are real, the story line 90% fiction, and characters all fiction, only some aliases/nicknames are real.

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or? 

My experience was like I was on a path, a mission. I wrote religiously every day, from around 6 AM to 6 PM, with time out for breakfast, lunch, dinner which didn’t last more than 30 mins. each. I would spend two hours early morning around 4 AM, going over in my mind what was done the day before, and the direction to go in when I commenced writing later that day.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about the writing process? What feels like a chore? 

I enjoyed everything. Nothing is a chore, except making sure the grammar is correct.

What would you most like readers to know about you? 

I was born with a strong sense of vision, and a gift to write. I read voraciously from age 6 to about 23. And I read widely from poetry to, fiction, to politics, war, business, comics, newspapers and magazines. By age 17 I had consumed literary greats such as Miller, Spillane, Christie, Lawrence, Robbins, Tennyson, Livingstone, Shakespeare, Sheridan, Baldwin, Hughes, McKay, Mais, Blake, Russell, Brown as in Sterling.

Do you have any new books in development? 

Yes, a compilation of my works, articles, essays, poems, short stories between 1968 when I began being published with a byline, to the present.

Lastly, can you please share any advice you might have for other writers working on their first book? 

Read widely and write well.

Meet the Author - 

Julian Jingles has had a professional career spanning 52 years writing for publications such as the Jamaica Gleaner, the New York Amsterdam News, JET magazine, the New York Daily News, and the New York Carib News. He began work on his novel A Reason For Living in 1966, a teenager just graduating from high school in Jamaica. In 1967 he went to work as a journalist at the Gleaner Company, the oldest published newspaper in Jamaica, and the Caribbean.

He has written, produced, and co-directed three documentary films, production managed several music videos featuring Kool and the Gang, Steel Pulse, the Main Ingredient, promoted several music concerts, and a stage play, along with investing in several entrepreneurial projects in America, and Jamaica.

​Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ LinkedIn

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Interview with Makeup Artist Extraordinaire - Allison Giroday

Images by Liz Rosa Photography

Allison Giroday
I always feel blessed when I think about all the wonderful connections I made during my time as co-owner of Fame'd Magazine (Vancouver Fashion eZine) - a publication that promoted artists working in Vancouver community.

Every year over 100 local talents would contribute to one of our issues. Writers, photographers, fashion stylists, hair artists, make-up artists and models all provided their time and artistry to create the magical images and wonderful articles. 

We were so fortunate to have Allison Giroday offer her talents on four amazing photos shoots. I have provided links to the online pages at the very bottom. 

When we connected recently at an event, we chatted about some of the exciting projects she's been involved with lately. I realized I had never actually done an interview with her. How did that get missed? It was time to remedy the situation.

I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at her professional journey toward becoming one of Vancouver's leading makeup artists. Be sure to check out her website and follow her on social media so you'll be the first to see her new work as it is shared!


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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Vancouver and raised in Coquitlam, BC. About an hour outside of the city.

What were you like when you were young? 

I was inquisitive, I loved art and I drew a lot of faces. My best friend and I would get dolled up and create little performance videos and photo shoots. Makeup for the both of us was always done by yours truly. It was pretty funny.

What were your interests in High School? 

I was part of the cheer and dance team in high school. I was very social. Friday night football games were so much fun. I think I annoyed my parents for a time there. LOL!

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would choose this career path? 

Fashion File was a Canadian television series in the early 1990s. It was the peak of the supermodel era and I watched it religiously. I have always felt connected to beauty. I read any book or magazine I saw that had anything and everything to do with makeup artistry. I would learn it and practise it. In fact, I practised it all the time on my little sister and her friends. No one would leave our house without full glam.

 Please share about your journey to becoming a professional makeup artist.

After high school I entered the Blanche MacDonald program for Makeup Artistry. I then worked at MAC Cosmetics for almost 4 years before leaving to start freelancing.

Was your family supportive? 

I have very supportive parents. They completely encouraged me to follow my passion from the start and they still do. I’m so grateful to them for all they do.

What was the learning process from beginning to this moment?

I self taught until I was old enough to go to a makeup school. At MAC I learned a lot too; sharing tips and learning from other artists was so valuable. I started freelancing and I learned to navigate through the industry by trial and error. 

What was hard to learn or move through and how did you deal with the more difficult aspects?

When I started freelancing, it was extremely difficult. I was trying to build a portfolio and photographers were reluctant to work with me without having one to show already. It was a Catch 22 and for a time I felt really discouraged and stuck. 

As you were learning the skills needed to succeed in this industry - what came easy?

I aligned with a really amazing photographer when we were both new on the scene. We grew together and things started to take off from there. We’re still a great team to this day.

What kinds of jobs are open to a professional makeup artist, especially those we might not have heard of?

Honestly, jobs can really vary from the expected to the unexpected. You could be in TV/ film, or editorial, celebrity & advertising, or you could be a mortuary makeup artist. These are all entirely different worlds so whatever floats your boat.

Readers would love to hear some of your favourite stories from your time in the industry.

My very first paid job ever was at a wedding. Huge bridal party. It was on the hottest day of the year and my makeup was literally melting all over. We had to put it in the freezer. I had to apply the 7 AM girl’s makeup twice because by 1:00 it had completely melted off of her face.

Then there was then time I was on location in the tropics and one of the girls found a baby scorpion in her purse! Lol One of many creepy crawlies that shared our space.

It’s always exciting to see your work in a magazine or on a public figure. Working with such influential and creative people is a highlight for me. I’m proud and grateful for those moments.

How does the process work when you book a new job? Is there a lot of creative freedom or do you work within limited guidelines?

It really depends on the situation. Often times on a job, a client is going to have an idea of they would like. I think In any case, it is always a collaboration to some degree. If you are asked to execute a particular look, as an artist you are going to bring that vision to life through your own style and interpretation. 

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?

I used to collect images from magazines and now I’ll use instagram and I’ll save pictures that I love. Pinterest is really great for referencing., I think that when it comes to drawing inspiration, you really have to be open to seeing beauty wherever you go. A lot is intuitive; I’m constantly inspired by each face I’m working on. I’m also inspired by the creations of other artists.

What is the most unusual makeup shoot you have done?

I once did a shoot in abandoned wing of an asylum. It was rumoured to be haunted and part of the contract banned Ouija boards on sight. No joke. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone because it would without a doubt seem absolutely ridiculous, but I was legitimately terrified to go to the bathroom alone! Haha.

What advice can you share with young people thinking about this career? How about for artists just starting their professional career? 

For those young people thinking about this career: Instant success can happen but it is rare. You have to really love what you are doing. Be prepared to do a lot of free work in the beginning to get your name out there. 

If you’re new on the scene: Study, practise, repeat. Compete with yourself and not others. Showcase only your best work and remember your four Ps: Passion, Persistence, Perseverance, Patience. 

Is there anything coming up you can share with us about what you'll be doing in the next 12 months?

There are a couple of projects in the works that I can’t reveal just yet but I’ll be excited to share when I can!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

KPU Wilson School of Design - Chelsey Wong of Textilier

On April 19, 2018, I was honoured to be invited to view KPU Wilson School of Design's 2018 The Show, a showcase of collections from the 31 students graduating from their fashion design program.

In addition to a show overview HERE, I selected a few student grads to offer solo interviews with. Each stood out in their own way.

Today's interview is with Chelsey Wong of Textilier. What drew me to her collection was the theatrical element combined with great fabric choices and strong tailoring.  She offered Victorian era silhouettes with modern design details. Film, TV, stage and Steampunk would all be natural outlets for her work.


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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Guangzhou, China, but have grown up and lived in Barnaby, B.C., Canada.

What you like when you were young?

As a child, I was involved in lots of after school activities ranging from ballet, art (drawing. painting, sculpture), pottery, soccer, swim, skating, etc. I enjoyed keeping my hands busy by making arts and crafts in my free time. I was pretty shy when I was younger, and also quite a tomboy. However, I still liked reading fashion magazines and dressing up.

What were your interests in High School?

In high school I became more interested in fashion, more specifically, in making clothing. This is when I learned how to sew with a sewing machine (in Home Economics. Grade 8). My friend and I started to get into DIY culture at this time. We would make our own band t-shirts because we were too young to get into the cool concerts. Besides the band t-shirts, I was making and customizing jewelry, bags, apparel and decor.

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would end up in fashion?

My father will always tell everyone that when I was a small child, I made my own slippers out of paper and masking tape, and from that point on he knew I was going to be a creative-minded child. 

As child, I would cut up old magazines you could purchase at the library for 25 cents and create (what I now know is called) a mood board/ inspiration board. Nothing would come from these boards, they were just something I liked to create.

Besides that, my keen interest in sewing was probably a big clue that I would end up pursuing fashion. Once I learned how to sew, it was like a whole other world was opened up to me. I could create using fabrics and they were a lot more sturdy than paper. Not only did a sew clothes, but I also customized them too with paint and iron-on graphics.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design.  Was you family supportive?

I decided to study fashion design when I was in grade 11 (about 17 years old) because I was prompted by my high school Textiles teacher to consider it (at the time I was also considering science and electrical but both weren't serious). 

My parents were surprisingly supportive of me pursuing a career in fashion, though they still worried a bit about the post-grad job prospects and told me to have a Plan B (I never did have one!).

Why did you choose to study in the program at KPU Wilson School of Design?

I chose to study at KPU's Wilson School of Design program because it would fully prepare me for Vancouver's fashion industry: I would be learning every part of the process- ideation, experimentation, production and business. The cherry on the top was it is a degree serving program.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you? What was easy for you? Are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?

Studying fashion design was a mix of highs and lows. Coming into the program, my thought processes for production was already quite developed, but I really struggled with the design process, specifically the ideation/ creation stage. My time at KPU has taught me to trust my research, which is how I get my ideation stage to start.

One memorable high moment during my time at KPU would be the day I got approved to go on exchange. Going to England had been on my bucket list for years and now I had the opportunity to live there! It was a big moment for me personally as well: it was the first time I would truly be away from my friends and family.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

My inspiration for Textilier came from my semester spent studying abroad. I chose to go on an exchange to England in my third year. I absolutely loved my time spent there. Nothing can compare to being in such an old city. I loved how you could walk around London and see landmarks from the time of the Great Fire of London, but at the same time, spot a modern glass building.

Arguably, London is the birthplace of Steampunk (the style of Textilier), so my designs were inspired by Victorian clothing and some modern design elements.

Describe your collection.

Textilier is for the woman who uses steampunk to express themselves and wants high quality pieces that they can wear everyday.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I based the colour palette on what was in fashion for 1870. The colours are deep and have a warm tone. The base colours are browns, black and white with accents of deep burgundy and antiqued brass.

I used natural fibers such as cotton shirting and wool suiting, which would have been accurate to Victorian times and accented with a polyester jacquard which is the modern element.

Do you have a favourite look?

I don't have a favourite look, but I am still in love with the jacquard fabric that was used for the long coat and corset.

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

Hopefully I can bring a fresh set of eyes along with my interest in more theatrical pieces to keep fashion fun.

Where do you go from here – are you going to work for others for awhile, launch your own line, take a break and travel?

From here, I am working at a small Vancouver Fashion company, but I hope to segue into the film industry and work in costuming.

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you if possible?

Fashion design and fashion in general is an outlet to creatively express who you are.”
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For more information on fashion programs at KPU Wilson School of Design go to

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Vancouver Sustainable Fashion Designers (VSFD) - Painting Waste by Varvara Kronberg Zhemchuzhnikova

Please share about your journey to become fashion designer? Looking back, can you remember any moments growing up that hinted you'd embrace this career. 

I remember the moment when I felt I didn't want to be a fashion designer any longer. After 6 years of formal fashion education in Moscow, Russia, and almost 2 years of Master's programme in Fashion and Clothing design in Helsinki, Finland, I went to New York to present a collection of textile prints at a large textile fair. 

It was my first time in USA and in New York in particular. After living and studying in Helsinki I got an impression that people care about sustainability, that designers aim to design intentionally and produce ethically and that the world is moving towards a better practises. And then I found myself in the middle of NY with all the major fashion brands presented, with overflow of product, with sales up to 70-90%, with screaming advertising and impulsive shopping. 

No one seemed to care how it was produced, how much pre-consumer waste was produced along the way and how fast these garments will become post-consumer waste and end up in a landfill. I felt awful and didn't want to add to this messy industry or anyhow to be related to it.

Why was it important to you to offer a sustainable, responsible, Eco fashion line and how do you incorporate ideals such a Zero Waste into your work?

It took me over two years to recover and find my own way of being a designer and artist working within the fashion industry. I went back to my previous practice-based research in zero waste pattern cutting and took a closer look into the field of emotional attachment in design. I figured out that I can't stop designing, as it is in my nature, therefore I need to find the better practises of doing it. That's when I jumped into sustainable approaches in fashion. 

My thesis project for AALTO University (Helsinki, Finland) - a two year long research and production process - was an exploration journey what I can do differently.  My ready-to-paint project explores the possibilities of sustainable production and co-creation with the consumer. It aims at creating additional value to provide increased emotional attachment between consumers and products by producing high quality, emotionally valuable, and therefore durable clothing. Altogether, the project targets reducing both preconsumer and postconsumer fabric waste in the fashion industry." (More: There I made zero waste garments for children (artists) and mothers with labels that feature all the design and production parties, with prints patterns that are made with their artworks. My aim was to eliminate waste in the production process, educate the consumer, and bring emotional attachment to the final garment, so it stays away from the landfill. 

At the same time, doing research in waste percentage in fashion production I realized the scale of this problem and its invisibility to the majority, not only consumers but designers as well. That's when the idea of Painting waste project occurred.  I kept thinking about these cutoffs/ fabric leftovers/ waste that every non-zero waste designer / company has. I understand that as one individual I cannot solve this problem, but as an artist I can bring attention to it, so we can all together think of the solution and the concept of this waste.

Nowadays, it is widely known (I hope) that modern clothing industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. And as said previously there are different levels of waste streams such as pre-consumer and post-consumer. In Painting waste project, I mostly work with pre-consumer, industry waste. Upcycling (=making a product of higher value) this textile waste into art is one of the solutions to bring the value back to the discarded textiles. At the same time it is the way to question our practises of wasting resources and labor involved in textile production. 

In the creation of the paintings and art objects for the project the textile waste or scraps collected from fashion brands or independent designers are used. Sometimes I add textile scraps preserved by older family members or those I find at thrift stores or recycling organizations. I paint with the sewing machine bringing what was considered waste back to life. And then I add the layer of paint to connect two media together and question the concept of waste. Is it really a waste what we consider to be a waste? What if we cover a discarded silk in gold is it still a waste? Can the waste be a resource? Is it just our perception that puts labels on things to be waste or something of value for us. These are some of the concepts I wish people can think of when looking at my paintings.

And as someone from the fashion industry I want to point that now is the time we consider the waste we create daily as a resource for our future creations, it's more than enough of it.

Where do your find inspiration for new work?

In my painting waste project, I find inspiration in collaboration. As I work with other designers or fashion brands to get the waste fabric, there is always a starting point that's coming from outside. I get the resource to create with from other people-designers. Every time I get fabric scraps, there is always a story behind it, another designer's inspiration and creative process. I start there and add my input to it. I try to connect us both in the new painting and give it a new third life.

Please share a bit about your brand - client, materials, type of clothing you offer, where it's sold, collections or made to order?

As the project is fairly new, I don't have established practice of how I work with fashion brands or how is it sold. I explore the possibilities at this point. So far, I approached designers and brands myself suggesting to send/give me the waste from the cutting stage. After collecting it, I'd make a painting keeping the rights to it. But I'm open to new unexpected proposals to collaborate to come from the other side as well. How do I sell? Through Instagram and exhibitions. One exhibition is running right now at El Kartel in Vancouver where new works are presented to the public and are available for purchase. I work with commissions as well.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an sustainable designer?

The realization that I'm a tiny part of the huge industry that is very slow to change in every level.

How do you help customers understand the higher cost of sustainable garments when they are so inundated with sweatshop-produced cheap merchandise?

In my case, the question is how do I help my customers understand why something that was considered waste suddenly costs money, and that exactly what I love about this project. It basically looks at the question of how much our waste costs us as well as the next level of questions on the topics such as waste as a resource and how we can transform our perception of waste. 

To be honest, I'm not helping my customers to validate the cost of the paintings. I'm OK if someone says this painting is a waste and I'm not paying for it. Contemporary art in many cases faces similar judgments. Every opinion is valuable. For these paintings, I wish to show them either in the museums bringing the questions to the public further, or on the walls of owners who see the meaning in the paintings from this project and it becomes a statement for them to have this art piece in their home.

How do you incorporate sustainable living in other areas of your life?

I do try to own clothing that has a story behind them and has a personal meaning for me as well, therefore I keep it in my wardrobe longer (forever). 

How did you connect with Vancouver Sustainable Designers, and what are the benefits of being a member?

Over Facebook. I got invited to the group by a friend and joined the group mainly to learn about Vancouver's mindful fashion community. I've attended only couple of events so far but, it's been an amazing resource of knowledge and new connections work and non-work related. I'm sure it will grow into something bigger with time. I feel great to be a member of a group and seeing other like minded designers brings me hope that we can "do good design" together. 

Anything else you would like readers to know? 

I'll be happy to see you at the El Kartel exhibition event running now through July.   ( )

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