Saturday, December 8, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Designer Mary Symczak of Susan New York Design

All runway images by Simon Lau

Fond of this pic snapped on my  phone with
designer! I wore one of her looks that day.
Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career. 

My father was a painter and set designer, so I was encouraged to create from a very early age. When puberty hit, I guess my fascination with becoming a woman was explored through creating and combining clothing.  I continue to do this, to try to create and understand my identity as a woman today.

How did you learn your skills? If you studied fashion design where? If you are self-taught how did you hone your skills?

I started taking high school fashion design courses at FIT when I was 14. I got my BFA at FIT, where I split my time between their New York and Italy programs. I took a year off between my sophomore and junior years to intern full time at Oscar de la Renta and work on a cashmere goat farm in Chianti to learn about organic cashmere. During and after college I also interned at many other companies, including Calvin Klein Collection and The Row, Then having full time design jobs in the fashion industry really taught me the most.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

The flow of ideas for new designs presents itself most readily, but I am not the greatest seamstress.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

I am inspired by my daily life needs ( I wish this was longer, I wish I had more mobility in this, I wish I could wear this and not worry about getting stains on it) combined with diligent research about the changing role of women in society today, and what that means for how we represent ourselves in the world through our clothing.

Color is important to show cohesion or tell a story, but I abhor the idea of poisoning the world with more chemicals so that something matches a pantone. Since the fabrics I source are leftovers discarded by other designers at the end of their seasons, I prioritize fabric quality and how much of it there is on a roll before I worry about what color it is. Every color is a gift. 

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week. 

The name of the collection is "Difficult Women," inspired by an article about Frances Mcdormand. I had originally wanted to make the concept of the collection empowering and positive in some way, but that felt phony and pandering. So instead I focused on the realities of the day to day lives of the women I know and love and butt heads with on a regular basis. These are women who work day and night, are filled with passionate rage about everything from their idiot bosses to the current state of society, and they feel like they are losing their minds. So I broke the collection down into clothes that not only are physical representations of these women, but are also things a woman might want to wear when she is Tired, Angry, and Crazy. 

 The Collection opens with dark prints and blues that are cozy and comforting for these poor overworked women. It is followed by looks that are "office wear" but are streaked with stripes of angry red fringe, or cracking with errant seams, and with plenty of cargo pockets to be prepared for the daily battle. The show closes with representations of a woman who has finally lost it. Evening wear is mixed with sportswear ( because you have to stay fit, but be beautiful all the time!!!!!), ruffles are sliding off their bodies, and floral patterns are a frantic confusion of shapes and colors, much like her mind. 

Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

I think my favorite is Look #7. This is an example of the mix of sportswear with evening wear. The top is a sporty thermal-looking waffle cotton hand-dyed with natural dye. The dye pattern could come off as maybe an abstract floral, or faded bloodstains. The skirt is a classic and simple silhouette in a very "evening wear" silk charmeuse. I feel like this look really tells a story, and is also just incredibly comfortable to wear. The fabrics feel lovely on your skin, and for as covered up as you are in these designs, it is a very sensual feeling having the fabric almost floating around your body and having complete freedom of motion.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

The collection is available for pre-order on my website,, but there are also a limited number of styles available at a wonderful boutique in NYC's Lower East Side called Theory of Gaia, on 174 Ludlow Street.

What's next for you as a designer and your brand? 

I am currently struggling between my feelings on socialism and capitalism, and wondering how to continue growing this company while realizing that I just don't like "selling things to people" and don't give a damn if I ever make money off of this. I'm going to make clothes no matter what, until my fingers stop working. And if someone else wants to figure out how to bombard people's lives with demands that they buy things, they should call me.

Love this linen dress with hand-dye
detailing so was honoured she
allowed me to wear it one night.
Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your brand that isn't included above?

Every design is made with deadstock fabric, which is one of the most eco-friendly ways to source fabric. Pieces that are hand-dyed use only all natural dyes, and as sparingly as possibly, hence the "splash" technique. All designs are produced either in the garment center in midtown Manhattan, or by a seamstress in Philadelphia. Because of the limited nature of deadstock fabric, only about 12 units of each style can be made, making each piece "limited edition."

What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

What you create sends a message out into the world whether its intentional or not, so take control of your message, make it intentional, and think long and hard about its effect on people's lives and our time in history.

Links - 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Interview With Jan Risher, Author of Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short

You’ve written a weekly newspaper column since 2002. How did you decide which ones to include in this collection?

Picking the columns to include in the book was a much greater task than I expected it to be. In fact, finding all the columns was a bigger task than I expected. My weekly column started just at the cusp of the transition from print to digital media. Newspapers across the land were working through changes to their model — and those changes affected the way the newsroom was organized. At most smaller papers, including The Daily Advertiser where my column was and continues to be published, newspaper librarians and maintaining paper copies were a thing of the past by 2002. The idea was that everything would be archived digitally — which didn’t happen (which makes me concerned about the bigger picture of what will be lost to history during this period of media disruption).

To select the columns, I eventually found most of them and read each and every one. I put aside the ones that I thought were the strongest — or ones that held a sentimental place in my heart. From there, I asked three outside editors to go through separately and help me decide which ones made the most sense to include. (Special thanks to Elizabeth Lyons, Amanda Elliott and Joelle Polisky for their help as editors.) Once we had an idea of which ones to include, we had to figure out how to organize the book — which was a challenge. Initially, we thought organizing the pieces by theme made the most sense. However, after several months of working with the columns and thinking about the best way to present the story as a whole, we opted to present them chronologically.

At the time the book was published, you’ve been writing a weekly column for more than 16 years. How do you come up with ideas to write a new column every single week?

At this point, my newspaper columns are akin to public therapy. I’m always looking for ideas and inspiration. These days, I send myself an email or jot a note in my phone when an idea comes. I constantly keep a look out for my theme of the week.

Occasionally, I’ve got nothing and simply don’t know what to write about. For those times, I’ve found a special trick that helps my brain develop an idea. I have an old Pantone color booklet with thousands of color swatches in it. If I flip through that booklet, I’m able to come up with an idea for a column. I’m not sure why, but it works consistently. On a side note, I am proud that I’ve never missed a single week of sending in a column.

You’ve had lots of jobs, — teacher, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, public relations, non-profit executive. You’ve mentioned that you loved full-time journalism, which you left in 2008. Why did you leave and do you miss it? 

Book Review - HERE!
First, I do miss it. I believe most people who have worked in a newsroom will miss the thrill of being in the middle of whatever is happening for years to come. I would also be remiss not to defend the honor of journalists and journalism — both take quite a rap these days. Our founding fathers recognized the importance of free speech by making it the First Amendment. Democracy won’t survive without it — and, with that, I’ll get off my soapbox and answer the rest of your question.

I left journalism because the internet changed everything and the newspaper model changed. At the time I left, both my husband and I worked at the newspaper. Every week, we wondered if that was wise. Even though I loved the work, it was all-consuming and I was a mother with young children. Ultimately, we decided the best interest of our family was for one of us to leave newspapers. So, I did. Four months later, my husband was laid off — after 34 years with the same company. That was a time of major transition for our family, but we came out the other side smiling.

You’ve mentioned that you come from a family of storytellers. Do you believe storytelling is genetic or learned?

Like the nature/nurture question in every form, I believe it’s some of both. As a child, I loved listening over and over to my grandparents’ stories — even the ones I knew by heart. I had lots of cousins. They weren’t nearly as interested in the stories of long ago as I was — so that shows me that an appreciation for stories and storytellers is not all nature since my cousins and I came from the same gene pool.

On the other hand, certain uncles (particularly David Risher and Guy Henderson) were great storytellers. My uncle David held court at every family gathering in the living rooms of my childhood. Listening to both of them taught me a lot about the importance of rhythm, repetition and the pacing of a story. 

Do you have a personal favorite column?

Indeed, I do — hence the title of the book. My favorite column is the one I wrote after the 10-year Katrina anniversary, the night my husband and I had the 10th birthday party for the little fellow who had gotten separated from his parents in the tumult that came with and followed Katrina. His name is Keldon Ruffin Jr., and at that time, he lived in Old Algiers with his mother, brother and baby sister.

But, there are other ones I like too. That one just holds a special place in my heart because it encapsulates so much hope and heartache. The dinner my husband and I shared with Keldon and his mother that night was so full of joy and love, but I can never think of the evening without thinking about the poignant walk we took after dinner. My husband and I were walking to our hotel. They were walking to get a bus to head home. It was a Cinderella-after-the-ball moment that I had to examine closely because I realized the carriage had indeed turned into a pumpkin.

While I’m sure they enjoyed the dinner, they were headed back to the harsh realities of their lives — to a home that I later learned didn’t even have running water. Looking back, I have to ask myself, “Who was that fanfare really for — them or me? And what difference did any of it make?”

I still am not sure of the answers to those questions. I went on to try and help the family as much as I could after we reconnected. Sadly, I lost touch with them again less than a year after I found them. That whole saying about “making a difference for that starfish” is more complicated than the act of just throwing the starfish back in the water.

Connect with Jan: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short by Jan Risher

Synopsis - 

Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short is the collection of columns written over 15 years. Arranged in chronological order, the collection creates a narrative of one woman's aim to build her family, build up her community and weave the stories and lessons learned from the past into the present.

From her family's move to Louisiana, adoption of a daughter from China, covering Hurricane Katrina, travels near and far, author Jan Risher attempts, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, to do her small part to make the world a better place.

Review - 
When I friend let me know about Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers I was intrigued.  While I haven't written a newspaper column, I had been writing a blog for years and had been considering packaging some of my favourite posts a series of books. I was intrigued and had to check it out.  The columns are offered chronologically, broken into chapters by years - 2002 to 2017.  For those who do not know, the term long story short refers to longer story that has been abbreviated by skipping directly to the point or giving a brief summary.

This book hit a chord for me as an author. In the chapter called Traiteurs and stories Risher shares, "Telling other people's stories is a humbling and powerful experience."  I sat back stunned as this is the first time I have had someone else share this. So it was great to find someone else on the same page. I have two focuses for my personal writing. The first is to give wings to the stories of others as I feel it is the stories of real people living real lives that will create true change.  Listening to their stories has certainly had a profound effect on me.

Then as grew as a writer, I began to realize the importance of offering a platform to those who do not have a voice - to help make their voices heard. So this quote in the title chapter leapt off the page for me. "They left me with much to consider - primarily the lesson of responsibility that those of us who have a voice have for those who don't...what is necessary to teach people who don't know how to be their own best advocates to do a better job of getting people to listen to them...Maybe the only solution is when one end of the red thread meets the other that we figure out how it is we can help each other-and we keep helping until it doesn't make sense to do it anymore."

This is an easy to read book, written as if the author is there sharing with you.  While the columns are offered chronologically, for the most part each chapter stands on its own and with short chapters, you can read it over many months without having to review. 

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

Meet the Author - 

Read a fab behind the scene interview - HERE!

Jan Risher is an award-winning journalist and investigative reporter. She was managing editor of The Times of Acadiana. Before and after her time as a full-time journalist, she was an English teacher. She has taught English near and far, in its most basic and most lyrical forms. She continues her career as a freelance writer and now owns Shift Key, a content marketing and public relations firm. She, her husband and their two daughters have made their home on the banks of the Vermilion River.

Connect with Jan:   Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Designer Tijana Milutinovic

All runway image by photographer Simon Lau

 Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career.

I was conscious at a very early age that fashion would be my choice. It came naturally to me because I grew up with a mother who was always passionate about creating clothes for herself, my sister and me. Today, we work together.

So, I suppose I found my fashion sense in my own intimate universe.

How did you learn your skills? If you studied fashion design where? If you are self-taught how did you hone your skills?

I learned my skills first at home, then in High School classes in design, and then I did further studies at the  Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade where I earned a degree in Contemporary Clothing Design in 2012.  From then until now, I've worked several different jobs in the industry.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

For me, the easiest part is the process of creating a collection. The hardest one is everything which comes after.  This is quite a universal answer, which could be taken also with a philosophical touch...when easiest and hardest become one.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

Sometimes I feel like my inspiration is always the same. For sure, it comes from the same source. I'm interested in the daily feelings of contemporary individuals and communities. I am always trying to transpose those feelings into clothing which "speaks" about their inner worlds.

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week. 

My new collection "NETWORK" for spring/summer 2019 offers a new way of my thinking about the previous answer.  In it I am thinking about connection, disconnection and reconnection, in both an emotional and physical way. At the end of the day it's just clothes, but you need to "say" something. For me, color palette, seasonal marks, and target groups are less interesting to speak about.

Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

I couldn't say I have my favorite look, but I could say I have the signature piece. It's my black suit with asymmetrical viscose patches.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

At the moment at the Palmas Boutique online store, and very soon at Wolf & Badger.

What's next for you as a designer and your brand? 

Next I will be stepping out into a wider market while maintaining a continuity of producing and presenting collections.

What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

Follow your path, feel, learn.

Links - 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Jicama, Carrot and Green Onion Salad/Slaw

I truly love Jicama. If you are Mexico or another tropical area where you can get it really, really fresh - all you need is just to peel it, cut a few wedges and squeeze a bit of fresh lime over it.  It's the perfect healthy crunchy snack for a warm climate.

It's much more difficult to find a fresh Jicama up here. The quality comes and goes.  But a week ago I managed to find a fresh shipment at a local farmer's market and snagged a pretty large one.  It sat in the fridge for a few days before I decided not just snack on it this time, but to try to make a salad with at least part of it. 

After much searching, I decided the standard ingredients were Jicama, Carrot, Green Onion and fresh lime juice.  Outside of that there were a lot of options.  Most recipes cut the carrot into matchsticks. Some grated it (okay for the carrots but I thought it would be too mushy for the jicama) and a few diced.  I went with a mix.

I diced the jicama fairly small to keep that amazing crunch intact. The carrots I broke down and bought a package of matchstick cut ones. I know - not the healthiest choice and I'll do it differently next time. But for this time around I needed it easy.  A little green onion, some cilantro, then olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Voila.  Best of all it the leftovers have stayed fresh in the refrigerator for several days so I could have it for lunch. 

I first offer the basics of what I did. Then I share a few options I saw on others sites that would change the flavour a bit and add a bit of spice.  One addition I might add next time is pomegranate seeds.  Their tart flavour would fit in well and it would add a pop of colour to the visual appeal.

= = = =

Jicama, Carrot and Green Onion Salad

1         Medium Jicama, peeled and diced into small pieces
2         Medium Carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (or grated or diced)
4         Medium Green onions, cross sliced into small pieces
1/2 C  Chopped Cilantro
1         Large, juicy lime or 2 smaller ones
Olive Oil

Combine all prepared vegetables and cilantro in a medium size bowl.  Squeeze limes over bowl and then add a swirl or two of olive oil (I would guess 2 T. Just add a small amount first and increase if you feel it needs it).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, cover and chill in the refrigerator for an 30-60 minutes to allow flavours to combine. Stir once more and serve.  Keeps for several days.

Alternatives - 

1. Optional Ingredients -

  • Pomegranate Seeds 
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Orange, red or yellow sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers such a poblano, jalapeno and chipotle
  • Shredded red or green cabbage
  • Tart Green Apple

2. Honey Lime Dress from Canucks Cooking -

  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

3. Spicy Mayo Dress from Steph Gaudreau -
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Designer Jessica Tierney of Chained Couture

Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career. 

I have always had a Passion for Fashion. As a child, I would sit for hours and make clothes for my dolls from paper and fabric pinned together. When I was 6 years old I learned to sew, helping mum make costumes for our school plays. I have always had a natural talent for style and design. I have a talented family history in design and dressmaking, so perhaps I have inherited their skills.

How did you learn your skills? 

I first studied Textiles and Design at High School, where my teacher taught me the skills to produce a wedding gown for my final assessment. This ignited my desire to study fashion design, so I enrolled at the Whitehouse Institute of Design in Sydney Australia, where I completed a Bachelor of Fashion Design. Learning how to make my designs a reality at Whitehouse sparked my ambition to create my own label. After I graduated, I thought it was time to take the leap and I created Chained Couture.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

The easiest thing as a designer, and the most enjoyable, is finding the creativity and inspiration to fuel my designs. I love creating the story behind the collection and from there watching the collection come to life.

The hardest thing would be finding the right outsourcing to successfully run a business. It’s hard to find people that understand you, your designs and your business and are as passionate about it as you are. I believed when I started Chained Couture I could manage everything; patternmaking, sewing, social media, graphic design etc. When you try and do everything yourself you end up with all the jobs not completed to 100% of your ability. 

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

I am mostly inspired by the architecture and culture of different cities I visit. For my latest collection, Chained: 40.7128° N, 74.0060° W, my inspiration was New York City. I spent hours walking around, experiencing the city and meeting the local people. I then used aspects of the architecture to create the design lines for my collection. I predominantly use a monochromatic palette in this collection, opting to use different fabrics and textures to create depth in the design. My designs are accentuated with stainless steel accessories that compliment this palette.

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week. 

After travelling to NYC for the first time in 2015, I have constantly felt myself being drawn back to it for inspiration. I wanted to express my emotional connection to the city and the idea of literally being chained to it. Hence the use of the global co-ordinates CHAINED: 40.7128° N, 74.0060° W.

The collection is motivated by structure vs deconstruction, elegance and sophistication. I wanted to combine the masculinity of the hard steel with feminine fabrics to create a contemporary look. Sustainable fashion is important to me, so my accessories are created from recycled stainless steel. I am also proud to promote Australian products so this collection included both Australian wool and leather.

I personally designed, pattern-made and sewed every garment in this collection, which is something I am very proud of. 

Do you have a favourite look in this collection?
Each look in the collection is named after a “location” in NYC that inspired the look. The streets and avenues have been used to identify the particular location.

I actually have two favorites. The first look in my collection titled: 5th Ave & 82nd St, was the first garment I designed for the collection and it became the focal point or “hero look” of the collection. This look was inspired by the Met Gala and the Avant Garde looks that hit the red carpet every year at the Metropolitan Museum. It combines hand beading, asymmetry, stainless steel hardware and a mixture of textures and fabrics.

My second favorite look titled: 5th Ave & W 34th St was the 5th look of the collection. I love how many textures and fabrics I was able to combine to create it. I hand wove stainless rings and ribbon to create the fabric for the skirt. An asymmetrical leather jacket featuring an Australian lambs wool sleeve finished off the look, which was then secured with a stainless steel belt and yacht shackles.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

As a couture designer, each garment is created individually for my client. The collection can be ordered through my website I am also available to work personally with clients to design a custom look for any upcoming event. 

What's next for you as a designer and your brand?

I have started sketching for my next collection and I will be travelling overseas in the next few months to source inspiration.  

I have been invited to collaborate with an Australian Swimwear Label, to design the accessories for their Runway Show in New Zealand and Miami, which I am very excited to be a part of.

I am also working with clients, both in Australia and overseas to create unique couture gowns for their upcoming social calendar.  

I am always on the lookout for the next opportunity to promote Chained Couture, to collaborate with other designers and to show at fashion weeks around the world.

Anything you'd like readers to know about you and your brand that isn't included above? 

I am inspired by the creative directors Anthony Vaccarello (Saint Laurent) and Olivier Rousteing (Balmain). I would love to one day live in New York or Paris (I have already started French lessons) and have the opportunity to work with these amazing designers.  My goal is to one day have my collection shown at Fashion Week in New York, Paris, London and Milan and be photographed in the pages of Vogue Magazine.

When I’m not designing, I love surfing at our beautiful beaches, reading a good book and catching up with family and friends.

What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

Be passionate, work hard and believe in yourself. If you’re struggling don’t be afraid to ask for help because you can’t be good at everything. Surround yourself with people that have the skills you don’t.  In the end, the only person that stops you following your dreams…is you!

Links -

The Ghost by Henry Kellerman

Assassinations, a love story, a kidnapping, and many twists and turns characterizes this riveting novel of historical fiction, circa 1958, thirteen years post World War II.

Synopsis -

Events are uncovered where The Ghost, a powerful Vatican Bishop, is sending assassins to retrieve a secret tailpiece – a hidden extension of the 1942 Wannsee Conference Papers that underpinned the Holocaust against Jews. Only two copies of this tailpiece remain where names of thousands of high level Nazis such as Eichmann and Mengele are listed along with their future destinations – should Germany lose the war.

At the same time, New York City detectives working with British M16 secret service, and Israeli Mossad agents, get Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and his group, (including an Israeli sanctioned killer) involved in order to find and send the crucial coded microfilm to England’s renowned decryption center. Now, in 1958, these Jewish Nazi hunters will not forgive and not forget.

This story is newsworthy testimony regarding the villains who are actual historical figures and are named. Fitting it all together (as in the screenplay based on the story titled: “We Will Find You,”) is the avenging drama of the novel.

Review - 

The Ghost by Henry Kellerman is an international thriller set in the 50's with a unique, intricate plot. It starts with the attempted murder of a young man - unsuccessful thankfully - and then follows the lives of several characters as they move around the globe trying to unwind all the threads leading to a secret group in the Vatican who have been hiding Nazis around the world. At the centre is a hidden copy of a list of locations for thousands of those secreted away, and the unconscious young man the only person who knows where it is.

I have to admit I am torn on how to review this book.  There are two sides. The author is an accomplished writer and that shows here.  The plot is intricate and well thought out, the characters believable and the editing strong.  However, there is a but. Somehow I was not drawn in emotionally. I tried to figure out the why given the strength of the writing. While not sure I am right, I think too much time was spent focused on conversations between the characters to tell the story - history, people, who's who, what the next step is, etc. I personally think more of the story needed to evolve naturally through following the characters actions as the storyline unfolded instead of happening through long discussions. 

That said, perhaps this style of storytelling could hit the sweet spot for those drawn to historical fiction. Readers will definitely walk away with an understanding of the era and the passions of the characters we meet.

Buy the Book: 

Meet The Author - 

Dr. Henry Kellerman, psychologist / psychoanalyst / author, is a practitioner in New York City. His more than 50 years of treating individuals with a host of humanity's psychological/emotional struggles as well as his more than 30 books published, is testament to his virtuosity AND SKILL in the telling of compelling stories.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview with Designer Xiaoyi Li

All runway images by Simon Lau

Please share a bit about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career. 

I remember that my grandmother made clothing for herself when I was a child. She was good at sewing and pattern even though she was an engineer. She used bright colors and beautiful fabrics to make dresses, which is different than what everyone else wore in that period. She influenced my career choice and parents were very happy I chose this major.

How did you learn your skills? If you studied fashion design where? If you are self-taught how did you hone your skills?

I chose to study at LaSalle College Fashion Design program in 2013 and learnt all my skills from there. After I graduate, I attended few international contests and won  the Art of Fashion contest in San Francisco. That win provided me the opportunity to participate in a Haute Couture master class in Paris. This class was very helpful not only in developing my skills but also in my inspiration.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

The easiest for me: when I can’t find a coat that I like in boutiques. I can make one by myself.

The hardest: Being a designer who can support herself. The business side of fashion is very hard for me.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

I find inspiration in exhibitions, news, and art books, especially anything with a theme based on SLOW fashion. I hope that I can use my clothing and theme to tell a story more deeply to make people think.

I’m not a colorful woman. Most of my collections are black and white. Instead of color, I’m more focused on cutting, fabric and texture.

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week. 

Name of collection: MOI

Inspiration: I was inspired by Maison Martin Margiela spring 1998. He used anti-form patterns and made flat surface clothing for woman, which had a strong effect on woman fashion. When I went to Paris to study, I visited the Martin Margiela exhibition. I found this type of pattern to be very interesting. Nowadays women are getting stronger and are more confidence being themselves, so I used wide shoulders and masculine/feminine tailored jackets to emphasis this. 

Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

Wide shoulder tailored jacket with deconstruction pants.  It is the look on the far left in the photo strip below.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

Right now is available on La Maison Simons website or Simons store in Montreal. Here is a link - 

What's next for you as a designer and your brand? 

I want to expand the number of places that sell my collection including more boutiques in Canada. I will be participating Shanghai Fashion Week next year to help open a market for my collection in China.

What advice do you have for young fashion artists just beginning their journey to become designers?

Be very creative, but also be practical when designing clothing.

Understand what goes into a beautiful garment to create it. 

These images provided by the designer
Links - 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Vancouver Fashion Week SS19 - Interview With Fashion Designer Elena Pignata of Ombradifoglia and Elena Pignata Bridal

Runway images by Simon Lau 

Designer image from Website
Please Share a bit about your journey to embrace Fashion Design as a career.

I began my fashion career, just after graduating from the Feller Institute of Design and Fashion. I won the Fashion Grand Prix Aware and was invited to show my collection at Tokyo's Fashion Week.  I was only 18.  Initially I’d like to be an architect as I thought fashion was  not my path. My family encouraged me to study fashion, and they always supported  me a lot.

How did you learn your skills?

I graduated from the Feller Institute of Design and Fashion in 2000. They offered great education and training that covered from all aspects of the industry from research, to illustration, to making models and tailoring. First I worked 6 years as designer with several important Italian brands. Then in 2006 I launched my own brand - Ombradifoglia. Then in 2015, I launched a second label -  “Elena Pignata” - for wedding and ceremony dresses. I personally create all the items of both collections in my studio here in Turin, Italy, We take care of all the stages of the collections, from the research and style, prototyping and production in house.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

Being a fashion designer is complex work. You must be up-to-date, tenacious and have a mind that is always fresh in order to receive new ideas. Certainly it is difficult to maintain on a daily basis because sometimes, especially in some periods of the year, there is no time to devote to research. But I have to say that there isn't anything that scare me. I am very passionate about my work, so the difficulties are parts of the creative phase!

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

Inspiration can be found everywhere - in a song, in a place or in a museum. It is a feeling that in a particular moment suggests something to you, that inspires you precisely. The colors are very important because they define the "mood" of the collection. And the way you choose to mix them defines a precise period, thus giving the collection itself modernity.

Readers would love to know more about the current collection you showed at Vancouver Fashion Week.

The inspiration for this collection came from a combination of fabrics and photos of African women.
Going into deep in this topic, I came across the Sapeurs. These African dandies mix the tradition of their fabrics and colours with that of another culture,the cuts and clean lines of English blazers. I decided to give a kind of personal interpretation to this style. I combined materials with different fantasies, apparently all disconnected from each other, which together defined the Sapeurs style.

Do you have a favourite look in this collection?

Yes! One of the last outfits of the runway - a check silk taffeta top, multi color ottoman vest and cotton pants - is absolutely my favorite!

Where can readers purchase your designs?

At the moment unfortunately only in Italy or in Kiev. However, they can send us an email letting us know the dress they want. Then we can make it and sent it directly to their home!

What's next for you as a designer and your brand?

A few weeks ago we presented the fall/winter collection in the fashion show. Then February 19 we will be present it again at the White in Milan, during Italian Fashion Week.

What advice to you have for young fashion artists just starting out?

"Being a fashion designer is not a good time. You have to be tough."

Links - 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Pomegranate, Spinach, Mushroom and Almond Quinoa Pilaf

OMG - the almonds!!! SIGH!  

There is such a hilarious story to this recipe.  I wanted to have a quinoa pilaf on the side to go with the Crockpot Maple Honey Chicken Breasts I was making for a small family get together.  After perusing several recipes, this is what I mashed together.

It was tasty, but the broth I used dulled the light colour of the quinoa, so might try another type next time that keeps the lighter colour intact.  Also the almonds became one of those kitchen horror stories you just can't stop laughing about.

I decided I wanted on skin on thinly sliced almonds as I thought they would look great sprinkled on top and still at that crunchy note to the pilaf.  Roasting them brings out the nutty flavour more.

I placed 1/2 cup in the oven and watch and stirred and watched.  Then I got distracted and burnt them. Not a great smell in the house with company coming. It was my last prep thing to do, so I walked away for awhile and then tried again.  SAME RESULT.  My patience for standing by the stove was obviously missing that day and we all know a watched pot never boils, so it was always in the minute I walked away that things went south.

I had now used up all the sliced skin on almonds I had purchased and the house smelled like burnt nuts.  However, I was determined.  I found some sliced almonds in my cupboard and, while not the exact ones I wanted, I managed to roast them perfectly by setting the timer 2 minutes at a time. VOILA! Success!

30 minutes before supper, I got up from visiting with our company and started final prep on the pilaf.  When it was all cooked I popped it into a warmed bowl and set it on the table with a great sigh. It was only when half way through eating that I realized those crazy almonds were still sitting over in the prep area. They never did make it into the pilaf.

I shared this story as we at ate and everyone had a great laugh. I swear the almonds will be in the quinoa next time, but for this time they just served as a humorous note to the evening.  And the photo I took for this column an echoing reminder.

I'll be replacing the pilaf image as I'm not happy with it anyway as soon as I get a chance to make this recipe again! And next time it will have those skin on toasted almonds decorating the top.

= = = =

Pomegranate, Spinach, Mushroom and Almond Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients -

2 T        Olive oil, divided
1/2        Medium onion, diced
1 C        White Mushrooms
1 C        Brown Mushrooms
1 C        Quinoa
2 C        Broth (chicken, low salt chicken or vegetable)
1 T         Parsley, chopped
4 C        Chopped Spinach
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp      Fresh lemon zest
1 tsp      Sugar (I left this out and didn't miss it a bit)
1/2 C     Raw pomegranate seeds
1/2 C     Diagonally sliced scallions
1/2 cup skin on sliced almonds, toasted and divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions - 

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms until onion is translucent and mushrooms are slightly brown. Add the quinoa and stir to coat. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Add chopped spinach, cover the pan and let steam a few minutes until fully wilted.

Reserve a few tablespoons of sliced almonds as garnish.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, pomegranate seeds, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, zest, the rest of the sliced almonds and sugar. Add the quinoa/spinach mixture, toss gently,  season with salt, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the reserve almonds on top as garnish. Serve.

Crock Pot Maple Dijon Chicken

My son-in-law was in town for business. We were able to snag him for dinner one night - myself, my husband, my youngest son and my son-in-law.  Yup, I was the only hen in a room full of roosters.  Not the first time and won't be the last.

I grew up with 2 brothers only and my husband is one of 3 brothers with the other 2 never marrying.  Then I have 2 sons and a daughter, but she lives on the east coast.  So me and the men is a recurring theme at get-togethers.

As a distraction I decided to try two new recipes. This was brave move that could have backfired on me - especially as I always seem to try to make them my own with small changes - but one that made cooking more interesting for me personally.

I searched for a crock pot recipe so that I could relax and be a part of the pre-dinner conversation for a longer time.  I found a recipe that looked interesting on for Maple Dijon Chicken Drumsticks and decided to use their sauce as my starting point, but wanted to use chicken breasts instead and needed to increase the amount of sauce and chicken. Cooking time was a bit of a question with the switch. Many recipes on the internet said 6 hours on low, but mine seemed to be pretty done by 4, so put it on the keep warm setting for the last 2.

With this I wanted to offer a quinoa pilaf. After perusing quite a few recipes and taking bits from each, I came up my own version - Quinoa, Pomegranate and Mushroom Pilaf. A vegetable side dish, some homemade biscuits and voila! Dinner was served.  For dessert, we opted to pick up slices of Tiramisu from the local bakery 2 blocks away. An easy way to end the night. And we were all stuffed!

= = = =

Crock Pot Maple Dijon Chicken

Ingredients - 

2-1/2 lbs.       Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (I prefer smaller size so more servings. If your
                      Chicken Breasts are really large, I would cut them in half lengthwise.)
2-3 T             Butter or Olive Oil
3/4 tsp           Garlic salt
Fresh cracked pepper
1/3 C             Pure Maple syrup
3 T                Balsamic vinegar
1/3 C            Stone Ground Dijon Mustard (love the flavour and the little flecks
                     add texture to the look of the sauce.
Cornstarch to thicken sauce (optional)

Directions - 

Season chicken with garlic salt and pepper, then brown in two batches in a skillet with 2-3 T of butter or olive oil. While they are browning, combine the maple syrup, balsamic, and dijon mustard in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

Place the browned chicken breasts in the crock pot. Add the syrup mixture to the hot pan to deglaze, scrapping up as much of the brown bits from the bottom as you can. Then pour the sauce over the chicken in the crock pot, making sure all chicken is coated.

Set on LOW and cook 4 - 6 hours. You want the meat cooked, but not overdone.

OPTIONAL -  I removed the chicken to a warm plate, put the sauce into a small saucepan and thickened slightly with mix of cornstarch and water as I wanted it to be more like a gravy, but this is totally up to your personal preference.

NOTE - Many recipes I looked at said to cook chicken breasts 6 hours on LOW, but the size of your chicken breasts will influence cooking time, as will the crockpot you use. Mine seemed to be done at 4, so I set my crockpot to WARM the last few hours. You don't want them overcooked as they get very dry and stringy, but you do want to be sure they are done through.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Spring Thaw: A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery Novella and Other Mystery Short Stories by Lauren Carr

"Lauren Carr could give Agatha Christie a run for her money!" - Charlene Mabie-Gamble, Literary R&R

Synopsis - 

In today’s hectic world, many whodunit fans don’t have time to get their mystery fix diving into a whole novel. Lauren Carr’s SPRING THAW AND OTHER MYSTERY SHORT STORIES is for these fans—but that doesn’t mean whodunit fans who do have time can’t dive in as well.

A novella, Spring Thaw features retired federal agent Chris Matheson from Lauren Carr’s newest bestselling cold case series. When his late father’s former friend is indicted for the seven year old murder of a church bishop, Chris renews old broken friendships to thaw out the cold case.

Featuring Mac Faraday from Lauren Carr’s popular Mac Faraday Mysteries, an estate auction turns into a deadly affair after Gnarly's antics cause Mac to purchase a gem of a dress, which isn't his color in Killing Bid. (Previously published in Lauren Carr’s BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Beauty to Die For features the Lovers in Crime, Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates in a race against the Angel of Death to clear the name of a dying woman's son, who was framed for murdering Miss Pennsylvania. (Previously published in BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Countdown to Murder returns to the Lovers in Crime where Cameron and Joshua try to solve the murder of a young pregnant widow before it happens. (Previously published in BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Mystery fans will see that every dog has his day, especially if that dog is Gnarly. In Lucky Dog, Gnarly helps Mac Faraday to solve the murder of a wealthy society girl. (Previously published in BEAUTY TO DIE FOR.)

Dog Loving Mystery Fans will get a special treat when they read The Gnarly Rehabilitation Program. In this Gnarly Mystery Short, Bert and Ernie learn the hard way that crime does not pay when they dog nap Gnarly. (Previously published as a bonus feature with A WEDDING AND A KILLING.)

Gnarly, the rambunctious German shepherd, is also features in Lauren Carr’s Christmas short, A Gnarly Christmas. It is Christmas day and Gnarly has been up to his old tricks again. Now he's in the dog house--or rather the boathouse--after stealing the Christmas feast! Moments after Archie and Mac leave Spencer Manor, Gnarly hears a call for help from Rocky, the Maltese down the street. Four assassins for hire have invaded the home of Rocky's elderly owners. While the home invaders wait for instructions from a mysterious caller, Gnarly must plot to stop them. Can Gnarly save Christmas with only the help of an 8-pound Maltese dressed in an elf suit? (Previously published as a single short story by the same name.)

Review - 

I only found the work of Lauren Carr a few years ago. Although late to the game compared to her other fans, I dove immediately into deep water and have managed to read all of her full-length books. However, this is the first time I've had a chance to read shorter works by this author. All I can say is "Bravo."

Spring Thaw contains seven short stories - Spring Thaw, Killing Bid, Beauty to Die For, Countdown to Murder, Lucky Dog, The Gnarly Rehabilitation Program and A Gnarly Christmas.  They all contain what I consider Carr's classic strengths - intelligent, strong characters (both men and women),  quirky pets that can steal the limelight, interesting story lines, a plot that needs solving (sometimes darker, sometimes lighter) and humour (sometimes a touch, sometimes an all out party).
And despite the shorter length, each story was still fully told.

What was best about reading this book of short stories, it that often I lose sleep when I start a new Carr mystery.  I just keep turning those pages until the wee hours of the morning, totally caught up in the plot. The next day sees me happy but dragging.  With Spring Thaw I was able to read just a story or two and put the book down while I savoured those stories on their own. This meant I finally managed to stretch out reading one of Carr's books for a full three days I think. WOW! A record for me.  In the end, while I enjoyed all the stories, I particularly loved the humorous ones featuring Gnarly.  He is one crazy character and his antics made me smile.

I hope the author will consider offering more shorter stories in this format.  It makes it so easy to tuck into a shorter period of reading into the end of a busy day.

Buy The Book:  Amazon  Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author - 

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

​Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Crispy, Crunchy Apple Fennel Salad With Walnuts and Honey

Image from

I love having people over to my house for dinner and conversation.  It just is so much more intimate than a restaurant. And as I get older, the hearing isn't as good in loud environments. Too much gets missed.

I have one amazing group of 7 couples I try to have over once a year, but with everyone's schedules it is tough. It had been 18 months since our last full get-together. Finally this week it happened and as soon as I learned it was a go I dove into menu planning.

For larger get-togethers, I try to pick recipes where almost everything can be cooked or prepped the day before so my time after they arrive is relaxed.  This time, I chose a menu of Marabella Chicken, Roasted Orange Anise Carrots, Roasted New Potatoes, Rolls, assorted cookies and Pumpkin Pecan Pie (made even easier by using a purchased crust). 
Thanks Alyson for
this pic of my menu.

All was in prep the day before when I felt I needed one more item, a crispy salad that would not wilt.  I decided the base would be Fennel and after exploring lots of options settled on this one where the fennel is paired with tart Granny Smith Apples.  I tripled the recipe as it only serves 4 and we had 13 in total, and I left off the walnuts to fit in better with the other dishes.  It was the prefect companion to all the cooked dishes. I'll be making it again.

This recipe came from a site called Chef Steps. I've put their instructions below with what I did personally in parenthesis. Enjoy!

= = = =

Crispy, Crunchy Apple Fennel Salad With Walnuts and Honey
I tripled this for my large crowd, so instead of 4 this makes 12 servings. I have the chart showing the original proportions below.

3         Granny Smith Apples, Skin on
3         Large Fennel Bulb, stalks and frond removed
1/3 C  Chopped Walnuts (plus a little more - I didn't add these) 
1/3 C  Olive Oil
1/3 C  Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 C  Honey
1 tsp   Salt

Adjust your mandolin to slice at a thickness of 2 mm (I just used a sharp knife and a cutting board and before slicing I cut the bulbs vertically into quarters and the apples into eighths).  Slice fennel bulbs and apples crosswise and mix with nuts in a big bowl.  Combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey. Pour over ingredients in bowl and sprinkle with salt. Combine well.

Chill and serve. 

(Note - be careful about making this one too far ahead of time as the salt and vinegar will pull moisture out of the apple and fennel. I sliced and dressed with the oil a few hours earlier, then added the salt and vinegar just before the guest arrived.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Crimes Past (A Mac Faraday Mystery Book 13) by Lauren Carr

"Lauren Carr could give Agatha Christie a run for her money!" - Charlene Mabie-Gamble

Synopsis -

It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of the daughter of a former colleague, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide on her own wedding night.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every possibility for a break in the cold case—even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former colleagues was the killer.

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends was a cold-blooded murderer.

Review - 

This 13th book in the Mac Faraday Mystery series opens in the past at the wedding of 2 members of Mac's former homicide squad.  The flashback ends when someone goes to looks for the newlyweds as their guests are getting antsy and finds them both murdered in their private room. Then Carr whisks us to the future for another wedding - that of the daughter the slain female police office.

Mac decided to offer as a wedding gift to the bride, a fully paid affair at Spencer Manor including not only the wedding itself, but the cost to host all the guests.  Driving the decision to offer this incredible gift lurks a second ulterior motive as well.  He promised the young woman those many years ago that he would find the person who murdered her mum. Instead the case has gone cold.  So this is his last chance to have all the suspects in one place and hopefully finally give her closure.

Things to NOT go smoothly.  First the lead investigator on that cold case killed and the hotel damaged. Another involved is flung from her balcony. After the wedding everyone will be returning home closing the door on this opportunity once and for all.  Can Mac stop the killer from claiming more victims and finally find the answer the young bride deserves? The clock is ticking - and the answer doesn't come until those final pages.

Another great title from mystery writer Lauren Carr.  Can't wait for her next!

Buy Crimes Past: Amazon Add to Goodreads

Watch the trailer:

Meet the Author -

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram