What's on the Fashion Calendar for October

Saena Afternoon Scent Collection
October is chock-a-block with fashion and arts related events:

October 1-2: This is the last weekend to see The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition is a celebration of the 30 years of visionary and groundbreaking fashion creations by Jean Paul Gaultier under the premise that there is no singular standard of beauty. The exhibition will move on to venues in Dallas (November 13 - February 12, 2011) and San Francisco (March 24 - August 19, 2012). My review of the show can be read on Fashion Projects here.

October 1 from dusk until dawn: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche is Toronto's all-night celebration of contemporary art. The menu of activities is too long to recount here, but one of the highlights will be a live performance called SLEEP as part of Gullivers' Rehearsal: Drawing into Performance at Loop Gallery.

until October 5: Paris Fashion Week.  I had two invitations to Paris Fashion Week this year neither of which I could accept.... Sigh! I am intrigued by the work of both of these talented young designers as they seem fresh and vibrant in their own way. I've mentioned Saena before as she appeals to my romantic side. Saena Chun is based in Berlin and creates modernist confections like the gorgeous dress shown above. The other designer who has caught my eye is Andrew Majtenyi who has created an edgy and fashion forward collection inspired by the Medieval trial of Katherina Hetzeldorfer in 1477. I am especially sorry to miss this one since I am currently doing research into how fashion designers reference history.

October 14: I will be giving the keynote address at the Costume Society of America mid-west conference on the topic of When Does Fashion Become Art?

October 17-21: The Spring/Summer 2012 Collections of LG (Toronto) Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oréal Paris will take place in their new home at the David Pecaut / Metro Square.  The SS12 Collections will include more than 40 shows and presentations filled with local talent.

October 20: The launch of my project tentatively titled  The Swing on this blog. I chose to do a creative project for one of my grad courses called Design, Text and Ideas and will be posting regular updates here as part of my progress reports for that assignment. This work takes its inspiration from the 18th century painting by Fragonard which is in the Wallace Collection. I will create a dress sculpture in a post-modern mash up of fabrics and using embroidery or other means as interventions to make the work into a conceptual art piece.

October 29: Opera Atelier’s 2011-12 Season opens with a glittering new period production of Don Giovanni designed by Martha Mann and my friend Gerard Gauci. The new production will be presented October 29, 30, November 1, 2, 4, and 5, 2011, at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto and will also be performed in Columbus, Ohio on November 25 and 27, 2011.

Photo provided courtesy of Saena.


Gorgeous! Patterned autumn leaves by Anthropology: http://www.facebook.com/Anthropologie?sk=wall

Finding Balance

Do you ever wish there were more hours in the day? Lately I've been feeling that way as the hours and days fly by in a blur. Finding balance in my life when I'm juggling so many roles means I have to make choices. I find I am saying no much more often than I used to.

One lovely invite that I really wish I could accept is to see Saena's capsule collection in Paris. I discovered Saena - a sophisticated and romantic line of women's clothing and accessories - this summer when I was in Berlin. The designer, Saena Chun, completed an internship at Celine and then worked at Sonia Rykiel as well as Chloe before beginning her own label in Berlin. "Every woman has the desire to have something special in her wardrobe, something that only belongs to her and no one else - this one favourite garment, which gives her the confidence to get through the day." Between her major collections,  Saena works on various projects that reflect her creative spirit and artistic perspective in collaboration with other artists.

Instead of going to Paris, I'll be finalizing my keynote address for the Costume Society of America mid-west conference, doing research, trying to narrow down my thesis topic and hoping to find a new equilibrium in my life.

Thank you so much to all of you who sent me emails, Facebook messages and left comments on my last post. It means more to me than words can express to get so many kind and thoughtful words of support and encouragement. I know I can do it, but it is not going to be pretty and it is definitely not going to be easy!

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice in Wonderland in the Rabbit Hole
It feels like I've fallen down the rabbit hole.... I feel disoriented, alone, and often confused. What I thought I knew is not what I know now....

Since I already have a graduate degree in another discipline, I'm surprised at how disoriented I feel in the Master of Arts, Fashion program. I thought I knew a lot about fashion history but what I've discovered is that I know a lot less than I thought I did. Fashion theory seems to be deeply rooted in sociology theory but also encompasses a range of other disciplines from philosophy, history, visual culture and economics - which translates into a lot of reading! Besides that, as a mature student, the logistics of going to university are a lot different that it was the first time, especially since this time I have a family and an elderly mother to care for. Add to that a perfectionist streak and there are moments when I'm a little bit overwhelmed. More than once, I've asked myself "What have I done?"

I'm sure that in due course I'll get used to this different rhythm and figure out how to make time for friends, for my art practice, for blogging, for my life.... In the meantime, I've got reading to do!

Picture credit: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/tenniel/alice/2.2.html

Fashion and the Art Museum: A Talk by Harold Koda

Harold Koda
 On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Harold Koda will be speaking on the subject of Fashion and the Art Museum as part of the Bata Shoe Museum's Founder's Lecture Series.

Harold Koda has served as the Curator-in-Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since June 2000. He is the author of 19 books including Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed.

He has curated and co-curated many exhibitions including Balenciaga (1986), Fashion and Surrealism (1987), Jocks and Nerds (1989), Fashion in Film (1990), Splash! (1991), Giorgio Armani: Images of Man (1990), Paper Clothes (1991), and Halston: Absolute Modernism (1991), Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style (1993), Waist Not (1993), Madame Grès (1994), Orientalism (1994), Haute Couture (1995), Bloom (1995), Bare Witness (1996), Two by Two (1996), and Christian Dior (1996) and The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion (2009).

Born in Honolulu, he graduated from the University of Hawaii with a B.A. in English Literature and a B.F.A. (Art History), and a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

Last week, Harold answered a number of questions for me on the topic of Art and Fashion which is the subject of my keynote address at the Costume Society of America mid-west conference in October. His eloquence and the clarity of thought helped illuminate the topic for me and I was grateful for the generosity of his time. Because of that interchange, I know that his talk will be an unforgettable experience.

Tickets are available through the Bata Shoe Museum.

The Arrangement: Fashion and the Art Museum by Harold Koda
Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 at 6:30 pm
George Ignatieff Theatre, Trinity College
15 Devonshire Place, Toronto


Here are some snapshots of nice print details taken on the streets of New York. Arrrggh, how I wish I was there with MY camera right now... Ah well, more here


While everyone is going colour crazy at NY Fashion Week, Phillip Lim is showing pastels and a hint of soft & blurry monochrome print in his cool casual collection. See more


Holly Fulton's fun and surreal aquatic prints have put a smile on my face today. Somewhere it's summer... Very Versace, still very original. View the whole collection here.


Vibrant colours and floating florals at Diane von Fürstenberg. More here

Albemarle Street, London

What to Wear to the Film Festival

JCrew 2012 Spring/summer collection
Although I should be tackling a huge pile of required reading for my courses, I'm taking the night off and going to a Toronto International Film Festival gala for the movie Hysteria with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy. Of course, I've already started thinking about what to wear.

I know from previous experience that unless you are a starlet or movie producer, being overdressed to such an event just pegs you as a newbie. The key seems to be finding an outfit that defines casual chic. This look from JCrew at this week's New York Fashion Week runway show would be perfect. It is elegant, but also vibrant and fun!

Of course, I'll have to make do with what is in my closet and I won't actually decide until it's time to get dressed. Usually it takes me several iterations before I get the right look.  Even though I know I'm not going to be photographed on the red carpet, I want to look good. Clothing is an expression of self and it speaks for me before any words come out of my mouth. 

I was recently chosen for a feature on Pocketchange.become on the best style blogs. Read more here.

Curiosity Killed the Cat

Alexander McQueen Red Trompe l'oeil Pencil Dress c2011
For the past two weeks, I've been walking around with my heart in my throat and my stomach in knots much of the time. There seems to be a real sense of urgency to chose a thesis topic as soon as possible and I'm having some trouble deciding on just one area of research. The problem is that I am a naturally curious person. I read one thing and right away light bulbs go off in my head with questions and related ideas. Plus I am easily able to converse in a multitude of areas related to fashion - from business to sociological issues, from the history of fashion to contemporary themes. How am I ever going to decide on just one thesis topic?

I started doing some preliminary research on a few random ideas I had and although they are all fascinating in their own way, I wonder whether there is enough there to sustain me through two years of research. As much as I adore libraries and looking at primary source material, I don't want to spend the next two years alone in a dusty archive somewhere pursuing a topic that no one could care less about. As shy as I can be at times, I'm actually good at doing interviews because of my innate curiosity and it makes sense to capitalize on that strength.

I'm leaning towards something that draws on both historical and contemporary references but I have yet to settle on a topic..... They say curiosity killed the cat. I hope I have nine lives, because I think I'm going to need all of them!

The photo I chose to accompany this post is of an Alexander McQueen dress that I admired while following a link from the online Victoria and Albert Museum journal. This glorious red dress captures the mood of what I wish I felt like at this moment - powerful, confident and sure. To see more of these fabulous dresses, visit the McQueen site here.

At Joe & The Juice, Regent Street, London


Calling all aspiring surface pattern designers out there....
PATTERN PEOPLE has just released their new e-book, a step-by-step guide to creating pattern repeats. Featuring tons of great work examples from various designern, including myself. To purchase your copy, follow this link.


Check out the new H&M Home collection: Seasonal motifs in warm autumn shades and fun monochrome animal prints (via dexigner.com)

Library Couture

ARTisan Tea Room and Design Studio
It's probably quite obvious that I have a deep love for books! As the daughter of a librarian, I grew up surrounded by books and the one thing that I cannot resist is a good book. I read widely and love being transported to another time and place with a good story or learning something new in a well written non-fiction book. The stacks and stacks of books that sit on my beside table and on my desk are the ongoing proof of my love affair with the written word.

Not long ago, I received an email from a librarian in Lancashire County, United Kingdom who asked for my help with a project he had initiated to engage young people with libraries:

My name is Stewart Parsons and I lead the Cultural Youth Offer in Lancashire Libraries where my brief is to engage young people with libraries. My take on that is to showcase fashion, music, film, art in a fabulously contemporary way so young people get addicted to libraries through the things they actually love anyway. One of my showpiece projects Heroine Chic /Library Couture is designed to recycle all library paper waste into paper dresses based on or inspired by iconic characters like Holly Golightly, Cleopatra, Dorian Grey etc: so far so cool...We have a huge amount of recycled library paper to fashion the garments (800 garments in all) and the idea of young people working with designers to deliver the programme is hugely exciting but we are having our progress blocked by one simple thing: How to print on the paper. Ideally we would like the garments to look like pages from the books they represent, but local printing firms are balking at the idea. If you have any insights or experience of how to print on this amount of paper pre-design, I would love to hear from you.

My suggestion was to cut the paper to the size that it might fit into a photocopier and photocopying selected pages of the book onto that as an inexpensive printing alternative or to enlist the help of some local printmakers to have skills in using screenprinting and/or letterpress. But I also know from my own experiences in making paper garments that a large component of the printed paper might get cut away in assembling the garments or become unusable (due to rips or other problems during construction). Another solution might be to have the teens choose their favourite quote or passage from a particular book and add the quote to the dress with paint, marker or other tool after the garment was assembled.

The funny thing is that when I told my mother about the project she had the best idea of all. She said "Tell him to ask the teens how they might solve this problem with the text. They might surprise you with their solutions!"   Why didn't I think of that!

This is one project that I wish I could get involved in on a hands-on basis because it combines two things that I am passionate about - books and fashion. Sadly, I'll have to admire it from afar, unless my research takes me over to the United Kingdom in the next while. Stewart has graciously promised to stay in touch and keep me posted on the progress of this fabulous project.

Covent Garden, London

Rugby Ralph Lauren guys promoting the brand

Book Review: Bride of New France

In 1669, New France referred to a part of Canada now known as Quebec. This densely forested land was cruel to its first inhabitants, who faced starvation, bitter cold and hostile natives, and being banished to New France was considered a fate worse than death. Nevertheless, there was a program to populate this new country by sending young women to New France as marriage partners for the men and soldiers already in the land.  This is the premise of the book Bride of New France, which is the story of one such young girl by the name of Laure Beausejour. The story begins in France where she is a Bijoux (an apprentice laceworker) living in the dormitory at Salpetriere Hospital, moves across the stormy Atlantic Ocean in a perilous journey and ends in the wild territory of New France.

This novel is the debut work of Suzanne Desrochers who is completing her Ph.D thesis in England on the migration of women to colonial North America from Paris and London. Clearly she is well versed in history and much of the story rings true. But like many first time authors, the book is somewhat inconsistent in flow with some parts of the story that lag and other plot points that seem over the top and unnecessary to the story. I liked the book enough to read it anyway as it paints a vivid picture of the harsh reality of this inhospitable land, but I never was really able to identify or even like the main character. Laure seems unreachable and unknowable, even though the story is about her. But no matter, the book is worth reading anyway.

One aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed was the fact that Laure was a gifted needleworker and seamstress. She makes her own clothes and the image of her lovely dresses, totally inappropriate to the harsh wilds, hanging from the rafters of her home, is one that has stayed with me.

It's been a while since I read the non-fiction accounts of Susanna Moodie's Roughing it in the Bush and  Catharine Parr Traill's The Backwoods of Canada, Letters from the Life of an Emigrant Officer but The Bride of New France has reawakened my curiosity about the role of women in settlement of Canada. There are so many books, so little time....

Title: Bride of New France
Author: Suzanne Desrochers
Category: Historical fiction
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Number of Pages: 292 (Paperback edition)


Another one of my retail therapy purchases from Anthropolgie (Pansy trench)
Why? This question has been asked of me so many times in the past few weeks, and especially so yesterday. Why would you go back to school to get a second masters degree if you already have a masters degree? And given that you have already established yourself as an artist and writer, what more could you want? Why indeed? This very question ran through my mind in the wee hours of the morning as my brain struggled to process what I will have to juggle over the next two years.

Why not? That's how I generally approach most interesting opportunities that come my way. Certainly that has led to some missteps along the way, but generally I've found my life to be richer for all the experiences I've had and all the people I've met.

But in this case, there was another factor involved. As my mother approaches the final stages of her life, I've watched her suffer as her world has shrunk. Robbed of her health and independence, she still sparkles with intelligence, but sadly she is haunted by regrets at opportunities not taken. Listening to her voice those regrets has deepened my resolve that life should be lived without regret.

The joy of doing scholarly research, with the painstaking attention to detail that it requires, is something that I rediscovered in working behind the scenes in the Costume and Textile department at the Royal Ontario Museum this past year. It challenged my brain in a way that I've missed in the last decade of my life. And it was a chance comment that I made to a professor about this research that led to this new opportunity to do the Master of Arts, Fashion at Ryerson University. I have so many unique research ideas that I'm certain I could write several theses.

As I walked into the classroom yesterday with my stomach in knots, I was relieved to discover that there are others who are changing their life's direction. With backgrounds in marketing, psychology, sociology, design, law, fine arts, English and finance, we are a wonderful jumble of talented folk. It seems that I'm not the only one who is choosing to live life without regrets.

What about you? What would you chose to do or be if you could do anything?

There is no looking back (Back view of Pansy Trench from Anthropologie)

What I Wore on the First Day of School

Culottes from Anthropologie
If you stepped into my closet, you'd see an array of black and beige, punctuated by orange, turquoise and fuschia pink.  This muted and conservative palette generally works for the multitude of roles that I juggle. But the Masters of Arts, Fashion program at Ryerson University seems to require a different look and I want to express myself in a different way. For once, I can just be me!

I love flowers. Their fragile beauty is a reminder of the transitory nature of life and the need to include joy, laughter and beauty in every day. In my recent retail therapy session at Anthropologie, I could not resist these Wind Garden Culottes from Elevenses. The old fashioned embroidery contrasts with the up to date cut. But more importantly, these shorts make me smile and I'll be wearing them for my first day of school today.  Wish me luck!!
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