Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life, The Universe and Everything

With all the craziness going on in the last few months, I decided to once again pull out some reading material that was sure to distract me.  If you've never read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book series by Douglas Adams, it is craziness from start to finish.  The author makes no bones about the fact the books are not cohesive and that much of it is ridiculous.  People either find them hideously amusing or absolutely hate them. 

The characters in the book move randomly from one disaster to another and are assisted by odd occurrences such as a floating sofa. The earth gets destroyed, but a shadow version from another dimension is brought to replace it by the dolphins - you get the picture. Arthur Dent who is the central figure in these tales tries for a while to make sense of it all, but finally gives up thinking about it. Ford Prefect, his alien companion, just goes with the flow. You really need to carry a towel at all times and we find out the ultimate answer to the ultimate question is 42.  Unfortunately, we never learn what the question actually is. The "trilogy" ended with FIVE books written by Adams, but a sixth written by a different author was also released.  Personally I find the first four the best and rarely continue to read beyond the 4th.

Doodle Art pays tribute to Douglas Adams
I ended up consuming those first four books in about three days and they left a smile on my face, but but also a nagging suspicion that it all felt a bit too familiar.  My life in general has always seemed to have a mind of it's own.  I remember when my last child graduated from preschool and the owner said how much she would miss hearing about all the crazy things that happened to me.  Imagine that - she found my life amusing!  I used to think it was because Murphy was a long time personal friend of mine.  If you are not familiar with Murphy's Laws you can out a growing list at the Murphy Laws Site - but number one on the list is, "If anything can go wrong, it will."  However, after reading Adam's series again I realized I am just destined to live an unpredictable life.  It is full of craziness, and seems to have a constantly changing landscape, but to be honest I think I'd be bored if it was any other way.

So just a warning.  If you want to know what's going on with me, best be prepared for a cup of coffee or glass of wine and some time to visit.  The answer is never simple. Just to put a smile on your face today, I am going to leave you with some quotes from the "trilogy".  My particular favourite is the third although I have never had the courage to try it.  I suggest you not try to make sense of them. Oh, and "DON'T PANIC!" :)

--He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

--A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

--All it takes to fly is to hurl yourself at the ground... and miss.

--Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. 

--Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.   

--I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

--There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beker - The Sequel

It was interesting to post my memories of Jeanne Beker's interview from two years ago yesterday and then hear her speak at the The Bay last night where she launched the Edit collection.  I came expecting her to talk about the clothing line, but that was such a brief part of the evening.  During a Q & A with the audience she touched on many subjects. Some of the same words of advice were there that I mentioned before (see yesterday's post).  Many more were added to my list and I touch on them below.  I again walked away feeling empowered and realized, as much as I hate the term because it makes me feel like a groupie, I have become a fan.  She is about so much more than fashion.

One of her first surprising responses was to a curvy customer who asked, "Can a plus size person wear leggings?"  Typical Beker, her answer was the unexpected - "Absolutely!"  She went on to explain that women should have a critical eye when looking in the mirror, but in the end they should wear what makes them feel beautiful and empowered no matter what anyone says.  That's the joy of fashion.  We get to make a personal statement about who we are.

When asked to name what she thought were the five "must-haves" for fall she jokingly replied, "Anything from my collection."  Then after a short pause went on to say how she really felt. "You don't 'MUST HAVE' anything."  It's all about personal style and what makes you feel good.  She commented on the fact she is often assumed to think all women need to be thin and said nothing could be further from the truth.  She is about celebrating and empowering women as they are.

Another against the grain fashion statement was that she felt trends were on their way out.  Marketing loves trends to boost sales, but fashion is changing to the degree that the concept is quickly becoming passe. There are some serious fashionistas that enjoy wearing the latest trends, but most of the women I know wear what they love - what makes them feel amazing.  I had an interview with a 90 year old former designer the other day that hinted at the same thing.  She felt women had so many options now that it must be tough to be a designer and know what to put out there.  In talking with many designers I think this is a serious concern.  There are few limits, and trying to guess what will sell in such a varied market is challenging. 

The last was not really related to fashion, but to interviewing.  It's something I personally have tried to explain to people many times when asked why I am in fashion.  To hear it come from someone who has interviewed for over 25 years was such a validation for me.  Interviewing for her is about the amazing artists that she has the honour of talking with.  Their stories, their creativity, their lives - it is a privilege.  It is how I feel every time I am allowed to share an artist's journey.  More than once I've had goosebumps.  We have laughed and cried and I have gone home with many life lessons to incorporate into my own.  I am passionate about hearing and telling people's unique stories - the fashion industry is just one I am allowed to do this in.  So while I do love clothing, for me writing is about the honour of being a part of that interview.

There is a reason Jeanne Beker has achieved such a high level of success.  She is open, honest, brave (saying some of those things in The Bay was just one example), very real and shares openly with those who come to hear her speak.  Kudos to a woman who is a Canadian icon - well deservedly!   I personally want to say thank-you for the effect you have had on my life.

If you missed it, please check out my previous article - Jeanne Beker Live.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jeanne Beker Live

A few years ago I was invited me to hear Jeanne Beker interviewed live at a local Jewish Book Fair.  It took a lot of persuading to get me there as I assumed she would just be talking about her just released Tween book on entering the fashion world.  Wrong!  I sat there entranced as she openly shared her life story as well as that of her parents.  All night I kicked myself for not bringing my recorder as it was just the kind of interview I loved the most.  Because I don't have proper notes from the evening, it is too risky to share what I remember of her family's journey.  Memory is never totally accurate. I do, however, want to share some highlights that were significant to me. 

The first noticeable thing about Beker is her daring.  She doesn't seem to have the same amout of self-doubt that many of us experience - something that keeps us from grabbing that ring and running with it.  From landing a role at her first audition with no prior acting experience, to sharing openly with the largely Jewish audience how she approaches her faith in practice, she makes no apologies for who she is.  She doesn't attempt to convince others to feel the same way or try to justify her choices, she just lays them out as facts.  This is a lesson I am still trying to absorb and a hard one for me to incorporate into my life on a daily basis.

Another nugget of wisdom I have shared many times was something she said to a fan.  When this person ran up to her in excitement and blurted out, "I want your job," her response was, "Get your own."  Harsh one would think.  Then she went on to explain what she meant and it all came together for me as an editor.  Fashion TV has been running for over 20 years.  What she wanted was for this person to dig deep and bring something new to the table - don't take my job and repeat what was done before, create something new and better. I have passed this on to many people who ask about starting a magazine and also keep this in the back of my mind as my partner and I make choices regarding our fashion magazine.  Despite industry pressures to go with something already proven, each of us will make our mark in the long run by offering something new and creative.

Last to come up was how she felt about the current fashion industry.  Beker expressed surprise that with technology advancing so quickly, it hasn't had more of effect on the fashion world.  One of the few examples of someone experimenting with innovation is Hussein Chalaya.  While his transforming garments were groundbreaking, in general the fashion world is seriously lagging behind.  Fabrics, drafting models and construction techniques should be moving forward at a pace in keeping with what is happening in the rest of the world.

There was so much more she shared, but these are the highlights that rise to the top when I think back to that interview.  She is on my mind today as she is in town launching her clothing line.  I hopefully will get the chance to hear her speak again, although I doubt it will have the depth of the amazing interview I was fortunate to hear last time.

For those who want to know more personal information, you can visit the Fashion TV bio.   It only lacks her family's history which is pretty amazing in itself.

For more check out Beker The Sequel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"I Don't Think I'm in Kansas!"

Can't seem to enlarge it enough to give photographer credit
My last 5 days can only be described as worlds colliding.  Usually I am either involved in the fashion scene or away from it visiting family, etc.  These last 5 days the gears were definitely grinding as I moved from one function to the next. Flipping between the SMOC's (Society For the Museum of Original Costume) historical cocktail fashion show, the Danier launch in a DT Vancouver club, a burlesque style fashion show at Scout Boutique by Misty Greer of Trunk Show and 3 days at the Fraser Valley Bead Show out in Langley have all left me feeling a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz - "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto....." 

The Fraser Valley Bead Show in particular was an eye opener as it threw me back into an environment I remember from when the kids were small.  Lack of funds and time for shopping meant that fashion was simple, comfortable and usually not too varied.  It was strange to look around me and see an ocean of sensible shoes (tennis shoes, walking flats and Uggs), sensible coats (lots of hoodies and MEC style jackets) and comfortable pants (jeans and sweats).  I remember first thinking how weird it was everyone was dressed that way and then realizing that in my mum-at-home past that used to be my uniform, too.  I didn't realize how much I had changed over the last few years.

Deep down the disturbing question simmered - have I become a fashion snob?  While I don't spend the kind of money serious fashionistas do on high end designer labels, and I wouldn't recognize a specific designer's handbag across a crowded room, there definitely is a growing side that appreciates a great fashion statement. I have been slowly learning over the last three years how to put an outfit together and my crowning moment recently was when a doorman at a high end hotel asked if I was involved in the fashion scene - a definite first for me.  (See Shannon - I am starting to get it!!!)

As I continue down this incredible journey trying to shine a light on our amazing Vancouver fashion talent, I will not only try to continue to grow in knowledge, but to develop a fashion statement that is uniquely mine - a strong point of view.  I also hope I remember it's okay for others to choose a different path and live outside this bubble.  Each to his own.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Burlesque Wow Factor

Photo by Peter Jensen
Despite being at the Fraser Valley Bead Show all day yesterday, I managed to make it to the Hard Candy fashion show at Scout Boutique.  For those who have not heard of Misty Greer, her Trunk Show brand is a line of sexy wear inspired by pin-up and burlesque.  When she puts together a fashion show, it's an all out celebration of women.

Yesterday I was privileged to watch approximately eight models celebrate their sensuality while showcasing Greer's new line.  I am guessing most come from the burlesque world - if not they certainly were able to step into the roll easily.  They represented a variety of body types and personal styles and celebrated that fact when they stepped out to model.  No stony faces, no bones poking out, it was unbelievably refreshing.  I loved the seductive smiles, I loved the range of bodies - from thinner to fuller, from small chest to large - and I loved the way they each felt their sensuality in a completely different way.  For some it was a slither down the runway.  Others used their faces to create that wow factor.  It was women at their best, exuding confidence in their own skin.  As I tend to be one who is very negative about my body shape, these shows are always a lesson that it's really about feeling great for who you are.  If you feel sexy in your skin, it's how everyone else will feel about you too.

Photo by Peter Jensen
The Trunk Show line is not for the faint of heart.  Greer pushes everyone to break out and enjoy being flirtatious. There are sexy stretch skirts in pink and black that hug your curves.  I particularly liked the black with a ruffle over each hip to accentuate a curvy figure and bravely purchased one that I intend to flaunt at an upcoming event.  The collection included a sequins dress and two shrugs, a couple styles of silkier dresses with cut-outs, pointy bra cup details, lots of flirty self material bows accents and much much more.  The final garment was a show piece displayed on a local burlesque performer - Danielle Swanson (Lola Frost).  I have no idea how to describe it except to say it was very nude and unbelievably sexy on her.  In true burlesque fashion, Misty had designed it to have a large part of the fabric slowly unwind leaving the model with just the important bits covered.  It brought the house down.

Congrats to Scout Boutique and Misty Greer for again raising my spirits with such an entertaining show and reminding me it's okay to be comfortable in my own skin.  I can't wait to wear my new sexy black skirt and promise to feel and act the part when I step out in it.  Watch out Vancouver, the new me is on the way.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Cocktail Dress

Photo by Fraser Milne
Last night I had the privilege of attending THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Fashion On The Rocks 1925 through 1965, a wonderful evening of food, fund raising ( and historical fashion show with commentary by Ivan Sayers.  The wealth of his knowledge is legendary and he is full amusing tidbits about the garments and the era they are from. I only wish I had remembered my tape recorder as there were so many intriguing details, I would love to be able to listen to it again.

The one thing I enjoy about Sayer's lectures is the way he is able to place the style of the garments in their political, social and economic setting.  He also know the personal history of many of the garments - where they were made, who owned them, etc.  It was fascinating to view the garments in historical order so one could follow the slow change in styles - how each lead to the next.  The evening's show started with the 1920's.  Post war women had proved themselves during the war and wanted to be taken seriously.  Cocktail dresses from that era were soft and flowing, but the hung loosely from the shoulders straight down so as not to emphasis the figure.  There were suggestions of the body underneath, but nothing obvious.  As we slowly progressed through the different decades, the cocktail dresses first began to have slight hints at a waistline and then moved to more and more form fitting garments. Width through the shoulders and details like fringe on the hips added to the illusion of a small waist, giving women hour glass figures.  One garment shown towards the end had a built in corset with a large full skirt and attached crinolines (something Sayers found in the U.S. and brought back through customs by cramming it into a duffel bag).  The final dress shown from the 60's in some ways took us back to the start. Although a baby doll style (think Twiggy), it hung loosely again from the shoulders, hiding the body underneath.

The technical detailing on most of these garments was unbelievable and Sayers had the hats (everything from closely cropped to wide brimmed to tiny tokens with veils), shoes, handbags, jewellery and long evening matching evening gloves that would have accompanied these dresses down perfect.  In addition to following the silhouettes through the decades, he brought in the economic pressures of the time.  If fabric was limited in supply, the dresses presented were not made with volumes of fabric.  If designers needed to force women to purchase in a slow time, they dropped the hemlines so they couldn't just use an old dress by shortening it.  Designers also tried to define a specific style of dress for each occasion a society woman might attend, forcing them to have large wardrobes.  Other influences were seen such as "Egyptomania" which popular in the early decades.

The Original Costume Museum Society and Ivan Sayers have new shows going on all the time, but you may have to email for upcoming dates as some are fund raisers or booked for specific groups.  Topics might include - "What was I thinking" - fashions that just didn't work, haute couture and more.  They are also working hard at fund raising for a permanent location to not only house their extensive collection, but to make it more accessible to the public.  Here they would be able to have a rotating display of garments including an amazing couture collection that is currently in storage.  As well, there would be facilities for students and professionals to research clothing from a specific era.

To find out more about OCMS please visit their website at    If you are interested in learning more about Ivan Sayers, I interviewed him for Vancouver Fashion eZine.  The article can be found in the current print collectible or can be read online at

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Step Outside Your Box

Part of what I am committed to each year is attending local events with copies of the current Vancouver Fashion eZine print collectible in hand.  I have my own small table, poster and cash float and sell the magazines with 50% of the proceeds going to a charity picked by the organizers.  Last Fall I was at VFW (Big Sisters), Make-It Productions (Ronald McDonald House), Got Craft (Vokra) and many more.  This year I have already attended Dress Me For Success and am again scheduled for Make-It Productions and Got Craft, but I am also trying a new one up the valley - The Fraser Valley Bead Show (Network for Animals).

Any time I attend a new event, the first thing I do is check out their website to get a feel for what they is about.  My assumption was the bead show would just be a floor full of businesses providing jewellery making supplies and perhaps some finished product as well.  Not so.  While there are over 50 suppliers providing everything you can imagine, there is also a serious commitment to training.  Numerous classes are available each day - 5 on Friday, 8 on Saturday and 7 on Sunday - teaching subjects such as silver smithing, copper, metal texture mania, resin and much much more.  I love learning anything new and now am a bit sorry I am tied to my table selling magazines throughout this event.  It would be great fun to take a class as I know NOTHING about jewellery making and am always looking to expand my horizons.  The good news is that this event is twice a year, so perhaps in the spring I will have the chance to give one of those classes a try.

I suspect opportunities like this abound in the lower mainland, it's just a matter of keeping your eyes and ears open. You don't have to want to do it for a living to enjoy learning something new.  Jewellery making, salsa dancing, web design and photography are just a small sampling of areas one could explore. So today I hope everyone will take a moment to think about trying something new.  Throw caution to the wind, be brave and most of all enjoy yourself because you deserve it.

(Note - Click on the title above to go to their home page).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Aging in the Techno Age

In the last ten years, Glen and I have had to say our final farewells to several relatives (including parents).  They ranged in age from late 70's to early 90's at their passing. It is never easy to lose a parent in particular, but we did learn a lot about what it means to age.  It's not just about loosing your looks.  In our fast paced techno world, a senior can become very isolated unless we take a moment to reflect on the many life changes they face.

First I want to mention a great article at Living Strong called 5 Things You  Need to Know About Changes in the Elderly. It's a great, concise list - some of which is mentioned in my personal experiences shared below.

Mental changes - Whether considered sharp as a pistol "for their age" or struggling with the onset of dementia, everyone faces changes in their mental ability over time.  The most obvious is that memory moves more slowly from short term to long term memory. This movement is what means we can remember things days, weeks or years later.  As you age this process slows down and you hear and understand what someone says, but you don't always remember it later unless it is reinforced several times.  I know my mom in particular was frustrated in her 80's that she would memorize something at night, have it down pat, and then get up in the morning to find she had to start all over. It also means it takes you longer to understand the meaning of what is being said and that you honestly don't realize you've told the same story ten times.  The slowing of mental processes is normal for everyone as they age, but the degree of difficulty defines whether you just have trouble remembering or you experience serious issues. This can be a real problem for seniors when getting together with the extended family.  The speed of conversation in a large group as everyone gets excited means many can't follow quickly enough to understand.  Very isolating and not something to give them confidence.

Hearing Loss - All you clubbers out there will not like this one.  Yes, the hearing goes as you get older and yes, being exposed to loud noises over an extended period of time accelerates this process. There is also hearing loss related to the aging process itself called Presbycusis. The reason most seniors deny they have hearing loss is that one tends to initially lose hearing in a specific range first. Anyone who's voice falls in that range will be hard to understand and everyone else will be fine.  Another issue is the cacophony found in large group gatherings, especially if you are normally in a quiet environment, can also make following conversations impossible.  If you have a hearing aid it's a double whammy. Also the with the speed you process information declining as you age, sometimes it's impossible for a senior to follow the racing conversation common in a group including lots on younger people.  So have pity on that older friend/relative sitting with a smile plastered on their face.  They may just want to fit in and really be struggling to follow and be a part of what is happening.

Physical Changes - Genetics and life go hand in hand here.  If anyone ever told me that injury in my 20's would haunt me later, I would have scoffed.  Unfortunately it's true. So keeping up with the world as you age becomes a challenge. We are all used to storming ahead from experience to commitment to fun.  We can hardly tolerate our own personal limitations when they come along, so it's hard to have patience when others slow us down. Loss of muscle, decreased balance, painful joints, disease and more can be difficult things for those aging to deal with, especially if family and friends do not make allowances. I know one of my friends who was in serious pain for an extended period was told by her family to just quit whining - not a very effective treatment.  A little sympathy can go a long way to ease someone's suffering.  Remember, you never know what your future will hold.

Hints - Spending time with a friend or relative who is getting on in years means slowing down the pace and finding quiet spaces that are more conducive to meaningful conversation. It means caring enough to listen to that same story again even if it's the tenth telling. As our speed of life increases on almost a daily basis, I worry about how I will be perceived in the coming years. Will my family and friends have patience when dealing with the changes I am going through?

My commitment today was to spend it with one aging friend.  We had a late breakfast, I took her to run errands, popped her into to a quick hospital appointment and then took her home.  Hopefully when my time comes I will find someone to do the same for me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Granny Panties!

Image from

 I heard the term "Granny Panties" a week or two ago and it just about sent coffee through my nose.  I don't know who invents these names that are such a great description of the product, but hands down this is one of the funniest.   Although an old term, it's one I hadn't heard in years and with the market full of thongs, boy shorts, g-string, bikinis and french cut, I hadn't expect to hear it again.

A few days later I was reminded of the term when I opened a new package of underwear.  The model on the cover sexily showed off what looked like a mid-rise version of a bikini that had the potential to work well under a few garments in my closet.  Tiny elastic and very silky smooth, I thought they would be the perfect invisible undergarment. BUT, as I skinnied into that first pair they just kept on rising like a high tide.  Up and up they came until they reached about 2 inches about my waistline.  Add in small leg holes and you get the picture.  Although they were not cotton - all I could think was GRANNY PANTIES and collapsed on the bed in a fit of laughter.  At least one family member knocked on the door to make sure if I was okay.
Now the question becomes - what to do with these since the package is now open and one pair has been tried on?  Maybe donate them to a new mom to put on her baby over unattractive baby diapers - Baby Panties.  "Honestly, really, truly - I bought them in the infant department."  Other suggestions for where to use these abominations - Tweeny Panties, Manly Panties, and from here it continues on down into humour probably best not shared in public.  All I can say is - they had to be kidding me, right?!

Whoever designed and test marketed these panties should be strung up and shot as there's not a woman I know that would be caught dead in them.  Or better yet, they should be made to wear them in public.

Note - Image from the Not Ready for Granny Panties website, yup there is such at thing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Through the Looking Glass - My Mum

One thing I am sure that we can all relate to is the wide difference between who we think someone is, and who we find out they are when we get to know them better.  This also becomes apparent when one realizes how other people view someone you thought you knew well is widely different from how you view them.  Enter my mother.

I am never quite sure why my mother was saddled with me, but I can only assume it was a life lesson for one of us.  She was brought up on a farm in South Dakota.  She loved school (it bored me to tears until I started my graduate work), she loved church (I never fit in), she loved playing the piano and organ (I became pretty efficient, but never relaxed enough to enjoy it), she never drank or danced (I did - in fact dance was an overwhelming passion for me for many years), and the list goes on.  The day she realized the beautiful, blonde baby girl she had been dreaming of was really an opinionated and difficult child must have made her reconsider her life-long hate of alcohol for at least a moment.  I left home at 17 and can truly say in this case, distance did make the heart grow fonder.  When we weren't in each others hair day after day, we began to find our common ground and all my family looked forward to her yearly visits.

Several times I have used my mother's story as an example of a woman who started her career late in life.  My father passed unexpectedly when she was only in her mid-fifties and she was left with no pension or support.  Despite a total lack of experience with computers and new office programs, she dug deep for courage and walked into the local private university where she landed an entry level position.  By her mid-60's, she developed a program for the women in residence that she was still running 20 years later.  In 2009, at the age of 85, she suffered a stroke while getting ready to go to work and passed away 2 weeks later.  I used part of her legacy to launch Fame'd Magazine's first print collectible.

On one hand my brothers and I knew our mother had a 30 year career starting at age 55 and we should have admired her for it.  On the other hand we tended to view her as a bit silly and uninformed.  She couldn't really talk politics.  As was common in her generation, God, Country (America - of course), Republicans and Fox News were all part of the divine plan.  She had an extremely poor understanding of how the rest of the world viewed U.S. policies and she towed the line of the religious right without question.  Many topics were avoided and we just humoured her if the subject got too serious.  Imagine our surprise when the family attended the university's memorial service.  She was honoured as a leader and someone who kept them on track.  Her bible was placed in the President's Garden (the first ever for a non-president) and a scholarship was established in her name.  To us she was just our kid's grandmother who helped them bake cookies. To them she was SOMEONE in capitals.

I wish I had seen her at work to understand that side.  My memories of her will always be of the woman who came to visit, loved my kids, baked cookies and just seemed very backward and uninformed when it came to the world in general. It feels a bit like Alice through the looking glass and I don't think I will ever be able to put these two images together.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fashion Artists Start Young

Today I decided to look back and share a few memories.  One of my favourite questions when I interview a fashion artist is if they knew from a young age where they were headed.  While many times the answer is not at the time, in looking back they can usually remember signs that pointed the way. 

Here is a few excerpts from articles I have written - a lazy writing day for me.  But I find looking through old articles takes me back to the moment.  I can still hear the story being related and usually remember where I was sitting and what the weather was like if we were outside. As these are taken from published articles, I am going to include names.


Leila Bani (Stylist at They Representation) ...developed a passion for the beautiful imagery in fashion magazines and began stockpiling Vogues by age 10. Some came by subscription, some were purchased and some were given to her by others. Over the years they began to add up. “I had stacks and stacks of magazines that I couldn't get rid of. I still have the old ones but I didn't want to be that crazy lady buried under a pile of magazines if there was an earthquake so I had to give some of them away.”

Denise Brillon being recognized at the
BC Aboriginal Business Awards

Leila Bani from article at

Denise Brillon - Debrillon and Artifaax (Producer/Designer)...Early signs of her talent were evident when she began to use the materials around her to recreate things she had seen in the Sears catalog. Bobby pins were twisted into earrings and tin cans were stomped onto shoes to make high heels.

Sarah Davis (Design Graduate)...was a painfully shy child who would rather spend her time drawing or reading. One early memory that hinted at her future career was the time she spent creating a fashion catalogue with her friend. They drew all the garments, pasted them in a binder, numbered them and priced them.

Liz Dungate (Make-up, Hair, Styling, Creative Director)...“When I look back…I played with Barbies to make clothes. I made them furniture, I made them homes, I made them clothes but I never played like Barbie’s going out on a date and meeting Ken. In my Barbie world they had no lives. They got dressed and they became mannequins. So there it was. I was art directing scenes...”

Amy Lu from interview at

Liz Dungate

Amy Lu (Stylist)...A passion for fashion has been there from the beginning... She even refused to join Brownies because of the uniform. 

Kathi Moore (Costume and Wardrobe for film/TV) .... “I had to dress everyone in my family...I played Barbies, but I wouldn't have story line. I'd just make it so they had to change outfits to go to the next event I was creating for them.”
Melanie Neufeld working behind the scenes

Kathi Moore

Melanie Neufeld (Make-up artist at Lizbell Agency)..."I was always big on make-up. When I was a kid we had a red Doberman with 3 legs named Sheba and I put purple eye shadow on him".

Dan Nguyen (Hair, Make-up, Creative Director at They Representation - Co-owner Lure Hair Salon)...has always been drawn to the arts – painting, sculpture and drawing. Hair and make-up intrigued him as well. As a child, every trip to the bathroom was an opportunity to change the look of the doll who resided there.

Dan Nguyen
Katherine Soucie

Katherine Soucie - Sans Soucie (Textile Artist/Educator)...At 8 she decided to create a wardrobe that was different and unique, clothing that would define who she was. Her closet full of hand-me downs provided the raw material and a stack of fashion magazines helped with the inspiration.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Changes in the Fashion Scene

From Vogue UK
I had the privilege of interviewing many long-time fashion professionals for my Behind the Scenes editorial series in Fame'd Magazine.  The last few months there were also conversations with industry insiders to get their thoughts.  For better or worse, here is an overview of ideas that have been presented to me by a wide variety of designers, event producers, photographers, etc.  The underlying theme through it all is we have to let go of the need to get it for free.

--"Everyone wants to borrow rather than buy clothes for A-list Red Carpet events."  While this is common with high level stars, does this really translate into sales in lowly Vancouver?  In talking with an L.A. stylist, the top celebrities wearing your brand does help promote sales, but the showrooms carry media samples that are only used for this purpose.  Locally, I'm not sure the same holds true, especially since the write-up under red carpet photos that are published rarely indicate which designer's garment is being worn.

--"Too many people expect to be on the list for free admission."  I try to only attend events for free if I am clearly invited as media (or a customer) and I am upfront from the start what I can offer in return.  To me it's a contract between 2 business people.  EVERYONE wants quality events and is quick to criticize if they're not classy enough, but I don't think most realize the cost.  Recent runway shows that were highly praised as what should be happening cost from $25,000 to $65,000.  That's a huge chunk of money.  If we want more quality events we have to be a part of the process of funding in some way. The bottom line is that we have the talent here to do amazing things, but without financial backing it is impossible.

--"Now that everyone thinks they have become an expert on digital photography and Photoshop, the market has become glutted with people who will work for free or very low wages. " A long time professional photographer shared with me how the market has bottomed out and he feels the quality of what is produced has been watered down as well.  It used to be you couldn't get published until your skills reached a certain level. This is no longer the case with Facebook, Model Mayhem and the like, and everything is being called an editorial even if it is only a creative or submission (email me for his definitions). The only personal comment I have on this is that I routinely see budding photographers put up large numbers of photos that include many shots of lower quality.  If you want to improve as an artist, learn to edit and only put up examples of your very best work.

There is no turning back from all the technological advancements and, while they come with negatives, there are also many positives. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to develop as a writer if it wasn't for an on-line magazine and some of the great writers I work with have come from the blogging world.  So the new technology holds promise as well and those who rise to the top will most likely be those who are not only gifted artists, but know how to adapt and use it to their advantage.

In the end, for the industry to survive and continue to produce wonderful garments, events and images, we have to let go of the entitled mentally and start supporting the artistic community by being involved in a monetary way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We All Start Somewhere - A Personal Story From My Interview Notes

One part of interviewing I love is when that personal story slips out - usually something that cannot be included in the article.  Why?  Because the article is there to help raise awareness of them as a designer and some personal stories just don't add to that picture.  I treasure these shared memories and have often thought about a small book where they could be referred to anonymously if the artist preferred.

One local fashion designer who has enjoyed international success for many years started by making a silk camisole for herself.  Friends noticed and began to place orders. Slowly the developing business took over the family home so her husband decided to rent a small studio.  There she toiled away with a single seamstress.  One day a friend decided it was a great idea to use their connections to send the Eatons' buyers to her studio.  This designer really had no idea what was expected.  In walked the Eatons' buyers in suits and there she stood with four lonely garments hanging on a rack. 

One of her poignant memories of the meeting (which in general is a bit hazy) was crawling under a table on her hands and knees to pull out some fabric and suggest possible items that could be made.  After they left her main thought was, "What just happened?"  Thinking she totally blew it, imagine her surprise when they placed a Christmas order - her first large order ever.  She had to hire 2 more seamstresses and work until the wee hours of the morning, but she managed to deliver the box of garments on the final day allowed for delivery.

My interviews are often full of these priceless tidbits from someone's life experiences.  As the person is talking I see the event running like a movie in my mind.  Not all stories are happy, and not all have fabulous outcomes, but they definitely add flavour to the interview.  Those moments have also taught me it's okay to learn by doing.

My new mantra - "We all start somewhere."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Pressures of Politics

 With an open day stretching in front of me, I still wanted to take a moment and create a new entry for my blog (part of my commitment to focus on writing again).  Usually I prefer something with a clear focus - people, events, charity, etc.  Today I decided to turn my mind to something a little more philosophical - the pressures of politics.

When I stepped up to become editor of Vancouver Fashion eZine, the last consideration for me was the politics of the job. I wanted this amazing opportunity to interview and write on artists lives to continue and the articles published to have a positive impact in an ever widening global audience. We're all one happy fashion family here - RIGHT?  Unfortunately the answer is not always.  There are strong currents under the surface as to who should be covered, who should not and in what order.  Everyone, including design students, seem to have an opinion to share. While I value input, it is overwhelming when it happens at a very public event.

For those who do not know - I am the daughter of a minister who absolutely hated being in the limelight as a "somebody" where every action was recorded and commented upon. Becoming a "public figure" has never had any appeal.  Now I find myself at fashion events trying to represent VFE and fielding questions that would be better asked in a casual setting. 

If you have something to contribute to help the magazine continue to grow, I thought this might be a good time to throw out some guidelines.  1. Make sure it is not just a complaint, but something I can work with to help the magazine continue to mentor and promote local fashion artists/professionals.  2. Let's do it over a cuppa, through a phone call or even email.  3. Leave your personal agenda at the door. This is about the entire community. 4. Please accept the fact that we may not agree.  It is okay to disagree, we can still support each others goals.  5. For those who want to put forward names, please send them in an email.  I save all leads that come in if they are a good fit.  It still may take some time to get them in an issue, but they are not forgotten. 

Vancouver has so many talented artists in our community!  I feel very privileged to be here at this point in time.  The coming year will prove to be an exciting one if we all work together.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Defying the Odds

Sometimes, the simple act of fund raising allows you to share in the progress of someone defying the odds. Enter Kurtis. I met his parents at the dance school my daughter was attending several years ago. They had a child dancing there as well and his father was the vocal coach who worked with my daughter on her musical theatre numbers. The studio was all looking forward to enjoying a new baby in our midst when their life took a detour.

Born 14 weeks early, Kurtis entered the world with many challenges. As with any newborn that cannot communicate, the difficulty of even knowing exactly what disabilities were present was almost an impossible task in the beginning. His mother picked up the gauntlet from day one and became his medical advocate - researching, taking him to numerous therapies and somehow dealing with the difficult diagnoses when they came - "Cerebral Palsy", "Deafness" and, after he began to attend deaf school and was still not communicating effectively, "Autism". He wasn't expected to ever stand and originally there was even a struggle to get him into the deaf school because of the challenge in evaluating a non-verbal child. Eating issues were a daily dilemma as was the need for constant supervision.

During this time the dance school came together as a family and began saving bottles and cans to help cover a few of the extra costs. I honestly can't remember when it started, but 5 or 6 years later many of us are still dropping off our stash every month or so. From building a safe outdoor accessible play area to Prism Lens Glasses to Conductive Ed sessions, we were given the opportunity and privilege of supporting the parents in their journey to help Kurtis realize his full potential. For this small effort, we are allowed to share in the progress of an amazing child who has truly defied the odds in so many way.

Kurtis is now a bright and articulate student. After a recent surgery he was able to balance standing in his casts. Although staying on his feet is a going to be a long process once the casts come off, it is a welcome challenge for this motivated boy. A university student became interested in Kurtis' eating issues and took on developing a program to expand his eating choices. Now his diet is more varied and growing larger all the time. I love this quote his mother recently posted on FB - "Don't tell me the sky is the limit, there are foot prints on the moon..." - Kent Blazy/Skip Ewing.

I encourage everyone to take a moment and look around for somewhere you can make a difference. Don't be afraid to let it be personal, and find something that fits in your life so it can be a part of your journey for a long time.

Note - For anyone facing similar challenges, the family has set up a support website called Autism, Aspergers and More - Oh My.

Monday, October 11, 2010

64 Years Ago Today - A War Bride's Story

During the course of the annual Thanksgiving get together, my mother-in-law announced that on Monday, October 11th, it will have been 64 years since she arrived in Chilliwack as a war bride with a 7 month old son in tow. If she had to do it over, she would have the 3 sons, but would have stayed in Scotland!

War time in Europe was not a period of straight thinking. Air raids, bomb shelters and dances where the local girls mixed with soldiers were all a part of the unreality. Everyone lived for the moment as no one really expected to live. So it was with little consideration of what it meant in the long run that she ended up married to a Canadian soldier and had a baby. When the day came to leave, my mother-in-law just wasn't going. She didn't want to leave home, country, friends and her way of life. It took a heated discussion with her minister and mother to get her on the boat.

First there was the long ocean voyage with all the other war brides and babies. Then they were loaded into a rail car to take them across Canada. At one point the rail car she was in was left on the track with women and babies inside. No milk for the babies or food for the mothers. She got off and started walking to find milk much to the distress of those in charge. When she wouldn't stop unless she got what the baby needed, they finally relented and provided for the women and children.

The journey ended on a farm outside of Chilliwack. My mother-in-law was a born and bred city girl and had been told stories by soldiers all through the war about how amazing Canada was. Imagine her distress when she landed on a farm, living with her husband's family who were a little worried about the foreign woman and child he brought home. That first year her husband lived in Vancouver while he attended school, leaving her alone to make her way in a foreign country with a family she did not know. Even to get to the store meant she had to walk into town, baby in a pram, and walk back.

They eventually obtained a plot of land in town and built a small house of their own where they raised three sons. She found a life here by enjoying many activities such as golf, curling and women's hockey. Her mother and brother also immigrated to Vancouver after a few years, so she had her family close by. But she declared yesterday, if she had to do it all over she wouldn't have come. I found it a profound statement as she has had a full and interesting life here and, even when she could, has made no attempt to go back for even a visit.

What would her life have been like in post-war Scotland? There is no way to tell. But over the years I know a few people who tried to go back to a life they missed and found it was not what they remembered. As an immigrant myself I can honestly say, home is where the heart is. My family and friends and life are here - I can't imagine leaving.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"I Am Prepared To Be Amazed"

Despite the fact I have lived in Canada almost as long as I lived in the United States (mail order bride you know - LOL), I am still surprised when Thanksgiving pops up early in October. This year was no exception. At the end of last week I was asked by my daughter if there WAS a family dinner this year - OOPS! The meal gets simpler and somehow we pull it all together with cleaning the house the last thing anyone wants to be involved in.

Last year at this time I had 2 out of 3 kids wandering the globe and I think I finally opted out of the annual feast in response. This year the house is yet again full, and the extended family arrives tomorrow afternoon to eat drink and be merry. But the circle of life inevitably means that over the years the numbers do dwindle until the younger generation begins to establish their own families.

Life offers a compensation for these changes. I have a new found freedom to explore wider friendships and exciting challenges. People I met many years ago are slowly becoming closer acquaintances and most weeks I am introduced to a new face that hopefully will become someone I know well in the future. Life changes, but it's never dull for those watching for the next open door or anticipating the next new adventure. My life is not always easy, and many times can be stressful, but it is never boring.

So before the crowd descends on my house tomorrow - I am taking a moment to revel in the opportunities that have come my way. I will always be grateful to the Facebook Friend who suggested a 6 word memoir for me. "I am prepared to be amazed"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fashion Design Students

When I first signed on to write for Vancouver Fashion eZine in 2007, my only stipulation was that I be allowed to cover a student designer each month. Three years later this is still a part of the magazine's regular coverage. The only sad turn of events? With my step up to editor this assignment now rotates among all our writers. I miss meeting each student, hearing their personal story and their dreams for the future. It is a chance to have that first interview with a budding talent who may one day be recognized on an international basis. They are young, enthusiastic and full of energy.

Design students are featured from five of the local schools - AI, Blanche, Kwantlen, UFV and VCC - with additional illustrations from their students included in the yearly print collectible. Each school has its own focus. Some offer more artistic freedom, some train their students towards market niches, some programs are short, some go four years. No two grad fashion shows shows are the same. Over the years there have been many exceptional grads locally and I hesitate to name names lest I forget someone, but I try to follow the careers of as many as I can.

I can't remember who first said, "Our youth are our future..." but that holds in fashion design as well. If you want to get an idea of where the industry may be heading, start to support and attend some of the local grad fashion shows. Talk to the students who stand out to you and prepare to be inspired.

Vancouver Fashion Design schools in alphabetical order -
Art Institute of Vancouver
Blanche Macdonald
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
University of the Fraser Valley
Vancouver Community College

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 20th - Wear It Purple

A Wear It Purple day has been organized on October 20th to commemorate the teen suicides caused by Homophobia. I will be participating, but will be commemorating all teen suicides caused by bullying.

As the mother of someone who was the recipient of serious bullying in elementary school and early high school (at one point the police intervened), I still don't understand the pack mentality of the kids that don't just do minor teasing, but take it to the serious level - spitting on in the hallways, vicious teasing at every opportunity, etc. Usually they manage to isolate the victim as everyone else is afraid the attention will turn to them if they befriend the person. And the most common response when someone commits suicide is sympathy for the bullies ("They are nice people and were just kidding around.") and a comment from the bully as inane as, "We were just teasing."

I believe these teens truly know how vicious they are being and take pleasure in the power - I compare them to someone who would pluck wings off of flies. Worse is the acceptance by staff at times. My favourite line was, "** is a great kid, your son just needs to stand up to him." Tried it - got decked. On the other hand, there was the teacher who had the respect of the students and clearly laid out that bullying was not acceptable and that she would look down on someone who participated in it. It stopped for that year.

I have no illusions this post will be read by anyone involved in bullying, just my chance to rant about a problem that I don't expect to go away soon. It is wider and more embedded in our school system than anyone would think. It is fueled by the religious and political intolerance found in many homes. Teaching, preaching and living a life of acceptance and being an example in what we personally say and do is the first step.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Do I Do What I Do???

Okay - a confusing title to say the least, but it came up recently in a student design classroom. "Why do you volunteer and put all those hours in running a magazine and not get paid?" Another good one I was asked - "What made you want to become an editor?"

The answer to those two questions is actually very simple. I volunteer and work to make Vancouver Fashion eZine a success so I have the opportunity to interview and write articles on interesting people. I work as an editor to make sure I can continue as a writer doing what I love to do.

For me it is all about interesting lives. They will in the future define our generation and so many are being lost on a daily basis. We now live in an era where fame and celebrity is defined by reality TV. Let's be honest - do the celebutants we follow really deserve our attention. Do the articles published on them teach us something useful. I find more interesting details interviewing a local artist just starting out or a stunt man in the business for 20 years.

In general, I prefer to talk with unknowns, but there are always exceptions. I was in the audience during an interview with Jeannie Beker that knocked my socks off. Talking one-on-one with Raphael and Lisa-Marie Mazzucco was amazing and John Fluevog has a story about his journey that is spell-binding. But I have also been intrigued by a recent student grad or someone I ran into at a party. What defines a great interview is the chance to look into and share someone's journey and life lessons. In the 6 years I have been writing I have had over 70 interviews and only a couple were uneventful.

I guess what I want to encourage everyone to do is put the cell phone down when you're in company, stop texting and tweeting and actually talk to the person next to you. See what they have to offer in life experiences - it could change your life.