There once was a hot button issue that divided the Black community even before the dawn of the Civil Rights movement and it especially affected sistas (for those unfamiliar with the African-American vernacular to this well-known English word, the latter here references Black women). We were made to be one another’s enemies over what was considered true beauty within our community and in the eyes of the world at large. Historians have written extensively on the idea that African-Americans themselves were proliferating the idea that “light was right” within their own enclaves; those belonging to the lighter side of the Fifty Shades of Black spectrum were often perceived as the closest figures to divine purity, were thought of as more physically appealing than their darker counterparts, were highly favored by slave-era masters, and were more likely to access the trenches of luxury that were reserved exclusively to Caucasians at the time.
Movies such as 1959′s Imitation of Life give a poignant portrait of the heartbreaking realities of those days: despite being raised by a loving and proud African-American mother, the protagonist, Sarah Jane, takes comfort in her “socially” acceptable skin tone to forge her place in society, but must later contend with the consequences of her choices when her true roots are revealed, ultimately sealing her demise. No wonder growing up, many of us were made to believe that our skin tones were not to be construed as wonderful displays of uniqueness, but rather, dirty cocoons unable to undergo the transformative power of evolution.
However, this post is not about those “woe is me” days. Having conquered those demons as the resilient creatures that God made us to be, we’re now exposed to more latte, mocha, cinnamon and ebony role models than ever before, giving us countless reasons to believe that there’s a place for each of us in this grand ol’ world. We’ve collectively ended this war of the mind that didn’t originate from us, but pitted us against one another for so long. We learned to stand against anyone who had much to say about who we were, but couldn’t stand to say they birthed us. Today, we’re showing the world that we’ve defeated the beast of division (can I get some backup vocals on Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves, please?). Indeed, there is great cause for celebration, which is why I must ask why we’ve begun a new war…
THE HAIR KIND!
If heads most roll, don’t leave any blood stains on this carpet (I’m a tad skirmish). This one has been brewing for some time, leading me to ask the following:
Is going natural the ‘new black’ of hairstyling? And if this is all a matter of personal preference rather than a new consciousness, why are we so intent on fighting each other over it?
Everywhere I turn, I’m bombarded by evidences of women turning away from so-close-to-burning-my-damn-scalp devices to embrace the manes nature had blessed them from birth. Facebook friends who have transitioned into the “au naturel” universe pepper their timelines with images of smiling, kinky/curly-haired lovelies with captions that read “Natural is Beautiful!” (the overzealous ones remind us to join pages dedicated to the growing demographic). Fashion and beauty-driven publications are also in on the talk, seeking out the curly lock routines of street-style beauties rather than those of Rapunzel-like femmes fatales, as if they fear that not being in on their secret could spell disastrous The Craft consequences. Sisters are now turning to the likes of Solange, Janelle and co. to dictate the many ways to make a bold statement with their crowning glories — sadly for the hair relaxer business, it has never looked more downtrotten (somewhere in a factory far, far away, those who missed out on their hairstyling vocation are icing hairless mannequin heads with remaining jars of “hair crack” until the clock strikes twelve).
As I ponder a change myself into the foray of all things kinky/wavy/curly, I’m left with many questions on what this new transformation will signify personally, especially for someone who has gone through the Skittle Rainbow variety of long/short/braided/weaved/colored/textured/and-just-plain-razored incarnations of hairdo’s. My reasons for choosing to join the ranks of The Bold & the Bounciful are by no means rooted in social pressure — I’ve always taken pride in walking in the opposite direction of oncoming traffic simply because the idea of being like everyone else is as appealing to me as wearing socks with clogs. Are my reasons inspired by the notion that change could potentially broaden my view of what I’ve construed as beautiful until now? Absolutely!
However, it must be said that the circle of mistrust that we’ve created, where those who’ve chosen to go natural accuse the ones with relaxed tresses of self-hate for not abiding by a purist approach, or inversely, those slicked maned devotees looking down on their naturally-inclined peers as women who do not embrace their inner sexpots, is an unwarranted slap to sisterhood itself. As women, regardless of race, we already have it hard enough every single day, fighting the deck of violence, double standards and inequality cards stacked against us. What message are we sending out to those who oppress us, be it men, other women or society? That out of the many advancements we’ve made as women, from voting rights to becoming leaders, all the way to juggling successful Jane-of-all-trades lives, our most significant “conversation” consists of reverting back to the archaic way of thinking of our forefathers? File this one under #238 of my Won-Ton Weird list, behind twerking, planking, Olivia-Pope-mistress-fantasies-daydreaming et j’en passe!
Let it be known: your uniqueness is not for sale nor up for debate, especially when the only person who must live comfortably with this body is you.
When the courage to delve into the unknown plagues me, I think of such friends as Lori of A Positive Curl, who found her calling as a “be yourself” advocate when she chose to love the gorgeous, curly mane she was blessed with — she now invites women to embrace the kinks in their lives. I think of Krystina of Kitten Kouture, whose dainty figure, beautifully framed by Pocahontas hair, are only second to a dazzling personality of optimism and spirituality; I think of Charlotte of Milk ‘n’ Honee, who works her short pixie do’ like it’s nobody’s business and walks fearlessly in the direction of her dreams, never apologizing for her success. I think of Roseline, Joy, Winnie, Grace, Louise, Jenna-Mae, May Lilly, Alyssa, Leah, Alexa, Crissy, Donna, Ree, Jaimie, Katherine, Jeanine, Cassie, Amy, Aianna, Ashley, Sohar, Karine, Mandy, Mimi, Star, Jessica and the list goes on to the end of the world and back! Our stories are as varied as the sand of the earth. The sisterhood transcends race, ideologies and bigotry; it does not look back to what’s broken, but rather builds new foundations for the future.
You are only better than the person you were yesterday.
I’m gearing up for my biggest winter ever: growing out this hair will most likely feel like the Five Stages of Mourning, especially on the days where it takes a life of its own. But I’m ready to take it all in strides: bundling up for the cold, imagining the new me, and embracing the girl that I, alone, will have to live with happily.
Source credit: Embelical Modeling inc.
There’s something about city life that invigorates me: like a magnetic force field, its busy streets, people and happenings pull me in. I may have left city life nearly 9 years ago, but the love of concrete jungles has remained steadfast within my heart. When I have the opportunity to make a break to megacities, it is never taken lightly. In fact, every moment must be maximized to heighten my time away and I’ve been known to have my days mapped out by the hour to ensure this mission (anyone who’s ever had the “pleasure” or misfortune of traveling with me can attest to this fact).
This past weekend, however, constituted a different kind of getaway and one I consider an investment into myself as a blogger: Spark Sessions, the first ever fashion and beauty blogger conference in Canada, welcomed enthusiastic “web loggers” from across the country to Toronto for a two-day affair at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI). While I’ve anticipated the event for some time, the trip was made all the more special thanks to a complimentary weekend stay at the Bond Place Hotel where staff provided me and my better half with the most delightful attention and care a business traveler could ever hope for.
It felt surreal to return to the place where I had my first face-to-face encounter with the man you now know as the hubs and see firsthand how much the hotel has evolved since that fateful meeting (all details coming to a January near you, you Curious George!). Although I was away for the majority of the time during the day, I was beyond pleased with our well-appointed Business Queen room on the top floor of the hotel, which boasted sweeping views of Dundas-Square’s hustle and bustle outside our door. From the complimentary parking voucher to the assigned Internet access codes that kept me connected to all devices, all the way to the friendly front desk staff that never once ceased to inquire about our needs to ensure our comfort, I’ve had to ask myself which generational sacrifice my ancestors had to consent to for me to enjoy such spoils; but to avoid potential disastrous discoveries, I will simply bow my head to the ones who have this hospitality thing down to a science and humbly whisper a thousand thanks. Bond Place, I’m bonded to you for life.
With my hotel located in the heart of the downtown action and easy transit access steps away, traveling to the conference venue was a breeze. The streets, devoid of human life at 7:45 a.m. (suffice for a few early birds) gave me the calm I needed to collect my thoughts and prepare mentally for what were to be two of the most enlightening, eye-opening days of my existence. Riding a street car to Bathurst as shops and restaurants zipped by, I was filled with the unfailing hope that I could someday call this city home.
“Are you looking for 720, where the Spark Sessions conference is taking place?” asked a pretty, well-dressed young woman standing beside me at the light. Her name was Dana and she was also headed in my direction (first blogger encounter? Check!). We walked towards the venue and with some hesitation, entered a side door to the main one: immediately, the CSI buzzed with the sound of clicking heels and faint voices as organizers greeted arriving guests and gestured for them to help themselves to the breakfast bar: the counter, fully stocked with saucer-size muffins, Macadamia-nut cookies, various pastries and accompanying morning “pick-me-up” beverages, were well received with expressions of relief.
After checking in at the registration desk, I took a seat at the closest empty table and proceeded to read the contents of my conference package. Then appeared Donna, who politely inquired whether she could sit at my table; her fiery red mane and sweet demeanor instantly won me over. Our party of two quickly grew to include Ree and Jaimie, rounding out the foursome who would remain joined at the hip for the remainder of the conference. Looking around the room, I sensed that this event was going to be one for the books.
With an electrifying conference opening speech by the one and only Jeanne Beker, there was every reason to believe that Spark Sessions would exceed expectations. One panel after another welcomed some of the industry’s best and brightest minds, let alone hilarious and passionate sharers (Valerie Starchurski and Lainey Gossip, I see you!). The topics at hand were appropriately relevant for every blogger present and the plethora of knowledge and advice imparted by the speakers was nothing short of enlightening. Bloggers listened to the sage advice of their 48-hour mentors with intent, bleeding their pens dry in the pages of their Smart Set-sponsored notebooks. Each session concluded with Q&A sessions and questions fused fast and furious, keeping panelists on their toes.
Fifteen-minute breaks in between panels allowed the crowd to retreat to the washroom, treat themselves to a late breakfast bites and beverage refills, or get better acquainted with other conference guests. Everywhere one turned, references to the event peppered chalkboards, frames and mementos that could easily guide any amnesiac. I walked the room, immersed in the energy of the laughing voices and aiming my trusty eye on the folks who made for interesting subjects. People watching is a dual sport in which one is at times the competitor and at other times, the spectator.
Healthy eating was carefully considered by organizers: a colorful tablescape of sandwiches, baked tortilla chips and dips, assorted salads and cut-up fruits made up the buffet spread and appealed to the multiple palates. It is over these meals, devoured to an all-90′s playlist blaring nostalgic Electric Circus-era jams, that blog discoveries were made and bonds were formed.
One of the highlights of the conference for nearly all attendees present consisted of interactions with the Almay and Smart Set teams, who invited guests to discover their latest products and take part in a styling challenge respectively. The former showcased its newest collection of eye shadows, blushes, mascaras, lipglosses and foundations, beautifully laid out among marshmallows and spring-like blooms. Bubbly National Makeup Trainer Jacquie Hutchinson, who I recalled discovering at an ELLE Canada event several years back, demonstrated the best application techniques on willing participants. ”What foundation do you wear?” she asked me; I blurted out my drugstore staple. “Let me guess: in Toast, correct?” My shocked expression would register well in a MasterCard “Priceless” commercial moment. Needless to say, getting Aunt Jacquie to set things straight has since yielded: a) a healthy glow; b) a compliment from the hubs to the affect of me looking “rested”; and c) a newfound appreciation for Almay, the makeup brand who had virtually gone unnoticed to me until Arlette 2.0. Each blogger happily made away with a bag of various Almay essentials for their makeup cases.
The latter enticed bloggers with racks of glittery and festive holiday pieces, giving competitors 3 minutes to lay out their ideal look over a cardboard cutout resembling (surprise!) the square window of an Instagram shot! Using the hashtag #StyleLikeSwag, participants could then appeal to their followers for likes, with the one obtaining the most votes getting a $500 Smart Set shopping spree, her full winning look and an extra one for one of their readers. Smart Set, clearly in it to win it, has done a remarkable job at reinventing itself and staying abreast of new and inventive ways to be bring the social element into the shopping experience.
As the first day wrapped, bloggers who had previously registered for speed dating appointments with brands were able to sit with their wishlist sponsors and pitch representatives. Brands present included a varied group of well-known and respected bunch such as Smart Set, Almay, Blossom Lounge, Benefit, Charming Media and Tria Beauty. As I sat down to chat with Kevin and Cheryl of the last aforementioned brand, I instantaneously felt a connection. With Tria showing the strong promise of being the newest skin device darling on the market, it became clear to me that I had finally landed on the beauty opportunity I had long being holding out for. The exchange only solidified my belief that when one follows their instincts and hold out for the right opportunity, they are never led astray.
With the brand & blogger connection in full swing, there remained only one thing for attendees to do to cap off the first day: party! Taking the merriment to the 5th floor, bloggers and brand representatives were invited to delight in libations courtesy of Fresita, while those with a sweet tooth indulging themselves with frosty cupcakes from Le Dolci. Manicurists from Bio Seaweed Gel set up shop to treat overworked digits with fantastic manicures, while a few feet away, racks replete with fellow bloggers’ clothing castoffs offered attendees the opportunity to acquire new pieces for their wardrobes. Clearly in line with a do-gooder mentality, the SS committee chose to donate all unclaimed garments to the worthwhile cause of Dress for Success. Bloggers with a mind for philanthropy? Where have you ladies been all my life?!
The second day had a decidedly Ground Hog Day feel to it at the root, but the panel actors differed in the script. Day 2′s panels highly met my need for editor-related advice thanks to insightful tidbits from editors. Turns out, the image of disheveled word nerds tearing freelancers to shreds was a figment of my imagination all along…
The delicious cherry to the end of the 2-day extravaganza was known other than the Canadian Queen of Gossip herself, Elaine “LaineyGossip” Liu, who made a bold entrance onto the stage cupping a “glass of blur” in one hand and a pouch in the other, which was to later reveal the contents of a shisha cigarette (yes, she gets down like that). Ms. Liu happily divulged interesting bits about the twisted world of celebrities (though names were withheld to protect the Won-Ton Weird) and dropped F-bombs aplenty along the way for those moments where no other word could punctuate the subject matter any better. Authenticity, Rob Ford eccentricities (“her own personal Christmas”, she quipped) and the long-standing dichotomy of gossip as both a force of social vice and a form of communication clearly demonstrated how attentive Ms. Liu is to the human condition. Whether we love her or not, she remains every bit the snarky commentator that continuously has jaws dropping and minds racing.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and after final goodbyes, I stepped out into the night air, my goodie bag in hand, my mind filled with ideas and my heart warmed by new friends. As I reached the bright lights of Dundas-Square, it dawned on me that my hour-by-hour weekend list had remained safely stored away, proving that when a spark ignites the mind, it often burns brighter than any best laid plan.
“Babe, we have to get rid of it.”
“But why? She just needs fixing!”
I looked doubtfully at my decrepit writing chair, a $35 Stittsville Flea Market vintage find purchased at a time when I had become convinced that my writing was suffering from the absence of a suitable seating piece that could inspire Hemingway magic. One of its arm rests lay broken by its side, a side nail menacingly protruding the air as if to warn that it wouldn’t spare any flashes of flesh. The seat, hardened by time (or is it the lack of love?) hid under a crochet-style flower cover which I imagined was lovingly done by hand by a young newlywed waiting by the fire for her beau’s return from the war. Its back, beautifully varnished in a wood stain color and shaped in a curvy design that is both classic and timeless, seemed to be its only redeeming quality. I had begun writing Paper Trail Life in that chair and it had brought me comfort to be nestled within its arms as I typed away on my ex bad boy Dell, bringing my characters and their struggles to life. While my fictitious friends raged war against betrayal, broken hearts and dilemmas, my chair was giving up its last breaths.
“I don’t know, babe. I just feel that…I can still get it fixed!”
Never mind the fact that the hubs had promised to revamp it the minute it had come out of the car’s trunk, carried out carefully like a newborn making its home debut. But I admit I’m no angel; my resolve to take matters into my own hands by seeking the services of a upholsterer on McArthur quickly left me cold upon getting the “surgery” price and I returned home, tsk-tsk-ing at my chair as if it was putting me in a bad predicament. It was grounded to a cluttered corner of our dining room for a long time, leading me to sigh repeatedly every time I laid eyes on it…until Rock and Loop intervened and performed a Joy-to-Arlette miracle.
The brainchild of Robertho Sineus, Rock & Loop Functional Art is the labour of love of an artist whose manual dexterity, coupled with ingenuity and a passion for giving furniture a “second lease” on life, has helped him transition from the sterile world of banking to doctor of furniture. With a gift for finding the beauty in everyday pieces in need of “fine-tuning”, Robertho has built a business from the ground up where furniture have become a second language he masters with finesse. Come along on a photo diary of the transformation of a writer chair into a beautiful, resting lair.
Q: What are the key elements clients should keep in mind before meeting with you for a consultation?
A: No job is too far out of this world to get the result you hoped for. Having a mental picture is good, but also picture samples from magazines are a great start. Even a picture of the room in which you would imagine the piece in is useful!
Q: Different clients mean different expectations and budgets. How do you take these needs into consideration when taking on a project?
A: I consider the end purpose of the piece. What will it be for? I provide suggestions on styling and materials while complying with client budgets. But at the same time, I educate clients on the work that goes into the piece and the process and the costs associated with labour so that they know they know the difference between a higher end piece and one done more affordably.
Q: On average, how many steps are included in the refurbishing of a piece?
A: It really depends on the piece itself, but a lot of things are consistent: the preparation; the application work; and the detailing work.
Q: You went from crunching numbers to working manually. Are there experiences or lessons learned from your former career that are serving you well in your current business today?
A: My former self…the biggest lesson I learned is to enjoy everything that I do. I feel like I didn’t have a chance to utilize my strengths back then. Now, I work for myself and love what I do. The challenges that come along with the job are something I can deal with compared to a job I do not enjoy.
Q: Your work is impressive! Is there a particular piece you worked on that still stands out to you as the one you’re most proud of?
A: Every new piece I do is my favorite one – I get a chance to challenge myself every time. I’m always trying to outdo what I’ve done before.
Q: If you could consult for any company or designer, which one or who would it be?
A: I like Chanel because it is always willing to experiment with different things. I respect Karl Lagerfeld because he is consistent in his brilliance; he has this uniform and wears it every day, but he wears it with confidence as if he has nothing to prove to anyone. I take cues from fashion and enjoy it.
Q: Where do you see Rock & Loop in 5 years from now?
A: We (he and Creative Director, wife Kara) want to be creating one-of-a-kind functional art pieces. All of our pieces will be handmade from sustainable materials: the wood will be salvaged and taken from different places because we want it to have a history. Every piece will have a history that will lead the client purchasing it to the next chapter.
Q: What is your advice to all the creative souls out there who want to transition from a less-than-thrilling job into the career of their dreams?
A: You have to take a leap of faith. “If you build it, they will come!” You’re going to have hard times; but you have to hold on to the vision, which is what will keep you going when times get tough. A creative person will never be truly happy in the regular rat race.
Looking to revive a treasured piece?
Rock & Loop Functional Art
Excuse me: Hemingway genius is calling me in my cushy seat!
Photography credit: W. Orellana
It’s been a weird few days; I won’t bore you with the details of what that means, but I will say that I’m in this fantastically, optimistic zone that has even my husband baffled by my Skittles Rainbow happy nature. It’s just one of those things where even when life slow down all around you and you don’t quite know where the wind will blow next, you dare to believe that it is still there to push you forward. Intuition? Optimism? I shuck it up to faith.
I keep thinking about how at this very time last year, things didn’t seem to make any lick of sense “life-wise”. I knew I was in need of change, but I didn’t quite know where to seek its comforts. I was growing restless, watching with envy as countless people around me found the missing pieces to their life puzzles. I had come to master the art of “I’m good!”, complete with a frigid dummy smile that probably had people wince much more than convinced. But deep inside, I knew something different and those closest to me also did: I was a giant, shoot-me-and-take-me-out-of-my-misery, discouraged, fed up MESS.
Fast-forward to today: some things are evolving at turtle speed, but others have gone turbo-charge and WhoIsArlette.com is one of those lovely revelations that I had no clue could ever shift my thinking to the wondrous light. As much as I could go on talking to myself on this blog, I’m rather relieved that you, my readers, are there: laughing along, reflecting, growing with me, reaching out and (perhaps?) poking fun when common sense decides to take an “off” day.
I’m indebted to you, but feel somehow that something is amiss: knowing who YOU are! How do we fix this? How do we get the ball rolling into “formal” introductions and send each other virtual air kisses and hi-fives? I’m no Millionaire Matchmaker, but I’m a pretty good listener and one hell of a Curious Cat. So with that being said…
Shall we get to know one another?
Tell me who you are in the comment section by stating your first name; where you live; what you do; some of your dreams and aspirations; and how you discovered WhoIsArlette. Nota: if, for some reason, I am to be on the receiving end of disses or crimson wave rage, I’ll break out my dusty helmet for protection and offer you my “sincerest” frigid dummy smile face; but if compliments or kind words are a lot more your cup of tea over which we can toast each other with virtual crumpets, then we’ll most certainly have a jolly good time. Bottom line: make like an early “My Name Is” Eminem and leave your mark.
Source credit: Tumblr; telegraf.rs
8:00 a.m. | Day 2 of WMCFW. I wake up bright and early, despite vowing to sleep until 10:00 a.m. My body does not know what that is, having woken up every day at 6:00 p.m. in the last three years. Restless and eager to see what the day has to offer, I lay out my outfit and look at the day’s schedule. Every hour starting at 3:00 p.m., I’m headed to a show. Let the madness begin!
12:40 p.m. | Off to St. Andrew station to meet BFF. The most “lucid” crazy bag lady gets on and starts “educating” her fellow riders aloud about the state of our society, calling us sheeps who are slaves to a system that robs us all of our dignity. She is beyond eloquent in speech and I cannot help but wonder how my life has managed to go on this long without this sort of refreshing “mad hatter” honesty. I need to move the city to stay “aware” of…life!
2:00 p.m. | It’s chilly outside, but an impressive number of individuals are arriving at the tent decked out in Barbie’s favorite color. The antithesis to the fall’s surprise hit color are the many incarnations of black ensembles, complimented by a wide range of head wear of all kinds: from wide-brim felt hats and beanies, to newsboy caps and snap back hats. In my eyes, however, none of the parading head accoutrements beat bff’s impressive dread beehive, and deservedly so, she is sought by the paps for her unique look.
2:10 p.m. | With a bit of time to kill and a lobby that is still somewhat of a Ghost Town, bff and I decide to check-out the Maybelline New York Canada makeover booth, which offers complimentary manicures and makeup applications. I meet Stefania Serna, TV host and actress, who is also a representative for Maybelline and offers to take a snap of me against the brand’s photo booth backdrop. “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!”
2:25 p.m. | As bff gets her nails done, I decide to go off on my own to explore the media lounge and discover the very place I’m obviously not taking enough advantage of as a reporter in training. Showing my pass to publicists, I get through the velvet rope and make my way into a draped-off area, where I am greeted by a volunteer who briefly explains how to get set up and offers further assistance should I require it. White lacquered tables, set up as writing stations, offer laptops and extensions for those harmed with their own devices. I make my way to a vignette of white sofas, where other bloggers and journalists are focused on their tablets or mobile phones. In this very moment, I marvel at life’s sense of humor and how being in this place, at this time, is another life-long dream fulfilled. Thank you, blogging, for the gift that keeps on giving.
2:43 p.m. | Time for the first show of the day, that of Japanese designer Dan Liu’s label, Tatsuaki. After a 6-year absence to the tent, Mr. Liu is, unfortunately, snubbed by most media outlets, with room attendance appearing scant. I’m a bit saddened that the turnout is less than stellar, especially for a man who has gone to great lengths to email guests personally rather than use the services of a publicist. When the opportunity presents itself for us to take front row seats, I am more than happy to do so and anticipate the show with great enthusiasm, having developed a certain rapport with Mr. Liu through several emails days prior.
3:00 p.m.| The show opens to Adele’s Sky Fall and models line up at the starting line side-by-side before taking turns coming down the runway in all-black cocktail dresses, exuding an air of innocence for some, while others come down the runway stomping seductively. The second lineup plays up spring and summer flirtiness, with some of the models holding a single daisy, sunflower or casablanca lily stem. They are outfitted in floral dresses, peplums, paisley and geometric patterns, lace and sheer details. The final looks are definitely spring- and summer-like in an array of taupes, blushes, ivory, greys and color-blocking gems, triumphant as Justin Timberlake’s ‘Mirrors’ closes out the show.
3:15 p.m. | My heart bursts at the sight of Mr. Liu taking a bow and waving, his gratitude filling the room. I bolt backstage and wait on my turn to get the designer’ take on the collection, but never get around to getting my questions answered as Mr. Liu excuses himself and takes off to quench his thirst, promising to return and resume interviews. He never does. I thank the powers that be for email, deciding on this backup plan to get my questions answered at a later date. I console myself with a cookie from the Maybelline and Redken media lounge which, I reckon, must be what Santa Claus has in mind for the industry’s hardest working artists.
4:03 p.m. | I make a last-minute dash into the studio, a smaller runway room where designer Laura Seigel is set to show her collection. At first I sit, but quickly decide to stand up to catch a better view of the looks as they come down the runway. The photographers’ pit flashes a thousands bulbs per minute as the girls strut down a u-shaped runway, determined. I view Laura’s girls as free spirit, Bohemian summer girls who frolic leisurely in the park on a hot summer day, dance barefoot in the grass and shoot 8mm footage of their friends, which they later replay against a white drape at a nightly rooftop get-together. I’m focused on capturing their essence and attempt to immortalize what transpires in the flesh. You be the judge.
5:00 p.m. | The Travis Taddeo show begins to a packed house and trip-hop music invades the speakers. As the first looks come down the runway, I immediately think of my hubby, whose love of trill fashion is greatly replicated in the show, with both male and female models starting out in head-to-toe black (clearly the season’s trend) and later returning to the catwalk with bravado in sporty street wear that included baseball caps, jumpsuits, mini skirts, skin tight tank tops and leather jackets. A particular look of leather shorts over sweatpants elicits smiles and nods from a trill-clad set of fashionable gentlemen seated front and center. I amuse myself with a mental game of Canadiana 101 by searching the faces that populate the front row: among them are interior designer Sarah Richardson’s funny sidekick Tommy Smythe; revered Fashion Design Council of Canada leader Robin Kay; and Jaclyn Genovese, owner of popular boutique Jacflash and the one-time darling of her own reality webisode series on SliceTV that was wildly dubbed the Canadian The Hills.
5:20 p.m. | Mr. Taddeo takes a bow and as soon as the crowd is up and running, I feel a mean case of the hungries settle. I must have grub or else, will morph into a raging cannibal. Although the JNBY show is less than an hour away, bff and I decide to seek out a meal the area instead. Although we both feel fancy enough for an editor-worthy location, we settle for a bar pub across the square that proves to be a great solution to hunger pangs. A few VIPs enter the pub and head for the bar. Starvation knows no cachet; just comfort food and the closest place to accommodate it.
7:45 p.m. | It is a quick run back to the tent to catch what will be my final show of the day. The place is humming along and the square footage per person feels like stepping into a cardboard box. Mélissa Nepton, Montreal’s latest design star and the winner of the Target Emerging Designer Award, is the night’s IT girl, attracting all the major VIP and media players. To avoid being shut out of a decent view, I claim a seat as soon as the doors open. Having loved shooting the Seigel show, I give bff a reprieve from shooting duties and camp out on the end of an aisle to score the money shots.
8:00 p.m. | The Mélissa Nepton show does not disappoint: breezy pieces, in a chic 70′s-era aesthetic, feel like a cross between a modern Geisha uniform and a preview into the future…a decade from now. Geometric patterns and quilted fabrics play in harmonious fashion and stand-out details come in the form of pink eye (shadow, that is; hold the ailment!) and tightly-wound ponies with Japanese flair over loose hair. Chunky clogs with colorful soles round out the looks and as the models glide down the runway, the fabric of bell bottoms float like fog clouds all around them. Cinematic…dramatic…fantastique!
8:25 p.m. | Exhausted and ready to retire my heels for the night, bff and I head out into the night, returning to the underground transit and agreeing to do brunch in the morning before my return to Ottawa. On the commute back, peace reigns all around me and although it pains me to have to leave the city and its “crazies”, I’m secure in the notion that they will be there to greet me in the future: all chaos and fashion love.
Dear readers, shot callers, ballers!
I’m interrupting WIA’s regular programming to call on all of you for your support. For what, say you? Made in Blog’s first edition of the MiB Awards, which aims to recognize the best Canadian blogs out there and yours truly (still high from brazen hussy spirit) made a go for it and is now a nominee in the Lifestyle, Fashion and Art & Culture/Theater/Music categories.
Now, let’s get some things cleared up before we go any further into this little “who/what/where” journey. I have been running WhoIsArlette since January 2013 and though I had no idea what this little platform would become and whether it would ever make enough of a dent with anyone other than my imaginary friends, I will be the first to admit that it has been the most rewarding return of my entire life. I’ve been having more fun writing WIA than I’ve ever had writing anything else. I’ve been pinching myself every day since for the wonderful people it has allowed me to meet and the multiple adventures it has allowed me to experience, so trust when I say that every time words are written, it is not just for the vanity of saying something; it is first and foremost because you share in my passion for my craft by supporting it and by showing me the kind of love as readers that any writer could only dream to nurture.
Entering the MiB Awards is my way of celebrating how far we’ve come together thus far in our virtual relationship. If you have found some solace in this blog; have laughed or cried; felt compelled to change your circumstances; have been entertained; or are just dropping by for the first time out of curiosity and are still making up your mind about a girl whose name rhymes with “Omelet”, I’m still humbled by your presence. Hence, I would feel honored to get your support for the Best Canadian Blog 2013 Awards in the Lifestyle category given that I don’t quite think of myself as a fashion blogger, but rather, dabble in whatever interests me, which is a combination of things.
For my international friends, although we have yet to speak, I know many of you stop by and I’m happy that you find something worthwhile on WIA to continue to visit the blog and read my ramblings. Even in silence, I sense your presence and I cherish the unspoken connections. To my readers in the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, India, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Russian Federation, Kenya, Czech Republic, Portugal, Philippines, Mauritius, Denmark, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands, Turkey, Barbados, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Yemen, Ghana, Switzerland, Indonesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Pakistan, Austria, Dominican Republic, Macao, Kuwait, Sweden, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt, Argentina, Slovakia, Jamaica, Thailand and Belgium, you matter. Let me know you get my message of love by voting. In the language of blogs, there are no frontiers.
And to my Canadian readers, you know who you are: you spoil me with kind and encouraging words and your support is unsurpassed only by your loyalty. You treat a girl well and truly demonstrate true patriot love. I salute you.
How can you go about voting? I’ve added a shiny MiB Awards badge on the top right, which will take you directly to where you can cast your vote. It all comes to an end on November 18th at midnight. Word to the wise: turning into a pumpkin wasn’t fun in fairytale land, so make of that what you will.
Thank you all for your continued support! Keep dropping by: mi casa is su casa and your love is my love.
All images are the property of Made in Blog
What a whirlwind of a birthday month this has been so far! If you’ve been following along here or on Instagram, life’s piñata has erupted into lovely surprises that include being accepted into the MadeInBlog family as a member; being invited to the VIP party of the much-anticipated first H&M store opening in the Nation’s Capital; being invited to contribute pieces to Press The Fashion magazine’s blog; and being approved for media accreditation to World MasterCard Fashion Week. The latter, which is on its third rebranding run and has relocated to David Pecaut Square in recent years, has been sitting pretty on my list of “places to crack into” for quite some time. In fact, I can imagine that if you are: 1) a Canuck with a severe case of #fashionlove; 2) a subscriber/follower of every major Canadian publication; 3) a former addict of Fashion Television or an avid follower of style blogs from the four corners of the world; and 4) a walking encyclopedia of industrie de la mode references, this goal likely ranks high on your bucket list as well, because, well…there is power in numbers and good taste (Arlette translation: am I alone in this?).
Getting accredited for #WMCFW has had me walking on a S/S cloud (Spring/Summer for the novices; Surprise/Shock in my WIA dictionary). After the mandatory informational reading of the who/what/where/when/why, the panic set in as it dawned on me that WMCFW also happens to be synonymous with bringing-it-on style game. Not surprisingly, once there, one could cut the fabulous, style-heavy energy with a knife! There definitely was no shortage of beautiful people in even MORE beautiful clothes, and those who came correct with their street style can now boast about being among the coveted elite of those snapped by the industry’s best photographers, who held court outdoors in the unforgiving frigid temps to capture the most impressive looks.
Given that there was a lot to take in during those two, insane, still-need-my-bed days, I thought I would sum it all up the way I know best: through a timeline diary.
DAY 1 – OCTOBER 21, 2013
3:45 a.m. | I wake up with butterflies in my stomach (or is that the remnants of last night’s birthday dinner?). Hubby seems to also share my misery of a sleepless night. I check my cell phone and find an email from the The Social informing me that my request to attend the show has been approved…for that very same day! Quick text to my bff, iroseline, who, herself, is not sleeping, is still stuck in Montreal and is scheduled to fly back at 6:45 a.m. It’s going to be an interesting day.
11:40 a.m. | Osgoode station. Waiting on Miss Ro to arrive and while sitting quietly, minding my own business with a book, a jolly and drunken commuter whistles at me and furthermore, puts on a “looney” tune show for yours truly. Big cities, bigger personalities.
12:40 p.m. | After getting through the lineup at the CTV building, checking in and waiting patiently for instructions, we are ushered into The Social’s studio; bff and I are put in the first row and it dons on me that this possibly means that the camera will pan to us often (doesn’t the camera add 10 pounds?). My suspicions are confirmed later when my husband calls to state that I was shown no less than 20-some times and that my son almost choked on his carrots upon seeing his momma’s mug on the screen.
2:20 p.m. | We leave on a high – the ladies of TS are as fabulous in person as they are on TV. Retreating to a Starbucks across the street to get a treat while waiting on our friend, we are approached by another drunken bon vivant who not only makes himself at home at our table, but furthermore, decides to grill us on our lives before deciding that he will tag along on our Toronto Fashion Week adventures. If Dazed and Confused met Sex and The City, would this be the pilot to our lives?
3:03 p.m. | First a duo, now a trio! Starved and in no shape to head to the tents on empty stomachs, we decide on Everest Restaurant & Lounge on Queen Street W. for a quick and affordable lunch where I’m too busy devouring my meal and talking a 100-mile per hour to ponder what is really awaiting me. I will soon find out why editors go without food for days during fashion week #rushlife
4:30 p.m. | At the tents! No later do we set foot on the grounds that the paps come running to snap one of us for some of the publications’ street style features (hint: it’s not me). We enter the lobby, where an impressive chandelier hangs above our heads and several publicists welcome us at the registration booth. On my right, I spot the lounge, which presents a hub of entertaining vignettes and stations, falling short of providing a knight in shining armor on a gold-dusted unicorn. I won’t just roll with this — I’ll request permanent residency.
6:15 p.m. | Off to the first show: Beaufille, previously known as Chloé Comme Parris, is the brainchild of sisters Chloé and Parris Gordon. The runway room fills up in no time and bff takes up shooting duties with the Nikon borrowed from mi amor. She’s a former photographer by trade and you know what I say about her kind: once a photog, always a shutterbug.
6:33 p.m. | A live band in 50′s greaser attire opens the show, playing an instrumental and lively set in the style of dive-bar music. The models start coming down the runway, sporting shades, oxfords and booties, and light, breezy pieces in that faded 90′s grunge look. It all feels so “laissez-faire” and free, as if one trespassed the gates of a Las Vegas motel to take an unauthorized dip into its pool before being on the run from the law. I’m squealing silently.
6:50 p.m. | It’s back in the lounge to check out the lively scene. One of the most anticipated shows of every season, Pink Tartan, is set to begin in 40 minutes. Standing two feet away from me is Joe Mimran himself, aka Mr. Joe Fresh, smiling wide and laughing with his surroundings. Next to me in the line stands an actress whose face seems familiar and who smiles at me shyly. Usually on point with my pop culture trivia, her face will haunt me all night until I am able to “mentally” locate her IMDb. OMG! She’s the lady behind The Initiative on REVENGE who met an untimely death at the hands of Victoria Grayson! I’m now humming Garbage’s ‘Stupid Girl’ to myself…
7:10 p.m. | Notable faces start arriving! Among them is songstress Kreesha Turner, whose gigantic curls and perfect midriff give me a case of envy; eccentric former model Stacey McKenzie, who leads funny lady Jess Allen of The Social fame by the hand in a fit of giggles; socialite Ainsley Kerr, who is a vision of polished perfection in a floral dress; and all the EICs of major and lesser-known Canadian publications, along with some of my favorite Canadian bloggers. The show is sold out, but hold up! I’m media, which means my little pass likens itself to the precious key that opens the Pandora box. I’ll stand up just fine, thank you.
7:30 p.m. | Round 2: Pink Tartan opens with a Stanley Kubric-style video before launching into summer happy music, with models sashaying down the runway in a mix of black and white looks, peppered with stripes one minute and going romantic with florals the next. The collection feels very Parisian, polished, but not fussy. The PT girl is one who eats her chocolat au lait with abandon, scoffs at those “foutus” tourists and pouts in such a sexy way that makes you “dingue”, non? I can fake a Parisian accent, but I certainly could never fake swagger, which we all know the French have down to an art. Pink Tartan rolls with those ladies.
8:20 p.m. | With 15 minutes left to go before the doors open to the final show of the night, David Dixon, the tent’s reception lounge because a hot bed of buzz and interactions. The return to the runway room is timely and we decide to switch it up and sit in the designer guest section. I look down at the program: a beautifully calligraphed program. The writer in me is enchanted and holds on to it like a cherished pet.
8:30 p.m. | Leave it to Mr. Dixon to enchant his public with a story as an opener, which concludes with (say what?) one of my favorite Bible verses: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” – Psalm 139:14 (I’m in awe and feel like crying). The confections that soon glide down the runway start out with clean line ensembles that would fit well into a woman-in-charge’s wardrobe, but soon, my pulse starts racing as more party and gala-appropriate dresses appear: THIS is how women should dress — in pieces that make them so enchanting that their presence alone serves as the narrative to their beauty. David Dixon gets it and makes every one of his leading ladies visions in lace, frills and flowing fabrics that are mixed in with embellishments and intricate details. If angels walk among us, she’s simply a woman dressed in David’s heavenly confections.
8:45 p.m. | It’s a rush to get backstage and score an interview with Mr. Dixon himself. Not surprisingly, the entire world gets the same idea. Surrounded by three of his models who (ironically) are in my three favorite looks of the show, he takes turns with each journalist, some of which seem to aim for the story of his life. I arm myself with the little patience God has given me.
9:12 p.m. | Seeing how my time with Mr. D. still seems like light years away, I take a seat and observe backstage action. A few feet away, do-gooder and socialite Suzanne Rogers is in deep conversation with friends. Her trademark bouffant that ends in a side-swept pony is even more impressive in the flesh. But all things cease to exist when my eyes travel down to her legs and discover those…what are they? Elongated shoes? Stilettos masquerading as boots? Gladiator-style stilts? Whatever they are, they give me fever. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to stare.
“I design for all women: soccer moms, CEOs, entrepreneurs…Clothes are only clothes until you put a woman in it. The woman transforms the clothes.” David Dixon
9:35 p.m. | At long last, my turn to interview! I introduce myself and despite registering fatigue on Mr. Dixon’s face, I am pleased to find him a gentle soul and every bit willing to chat. I question him on the relevance of the show’s opener with the Bible verse and tell him how as a Christian, it delighted me! He comes alive and states that he’s also a Christian (Hallelu-jer!). He tells me that with all the negative things perpetrated in the world, he finds the verse to be such a powerful message to humanity and one that calls on us to celebrate who we are. He also cites Maya Angelou has an inspiration because of the very fact that her body of work is about celebrating life. I’m a fan…through and through.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
“Is this it?”
We entered the building and went up a flight of stairs to our final destination. Following standard verification protocol by publicists donning the usual head-to-toe black uniform, we bypassed the cordoned-off entry area and looked at each other knowingly: this place, bathing in a mix of cold concrete and colorful shadows, wasn’t going to disappoint. As hubby carved himself a place in the photographer pit facing the runway, I looked around anxiously all around me before realizing that I was being sized up by a small cluster of well-dressed bloggers standing a few feet away. Did I look awkward and out of place in an outfit I could have certainly “jazzed” up a little? I conquered that my bold red lip was probably powerless alone in helping look somewhat decent. My shoulders hunched forward and I did my best to focus on my reporting duties, typing furiously on my mobile phone when the melancholic and soothing voice of Lana Del Rey broke through the air over a thumping beat that made her sound more powerful than she had ever sounded before.
My apprehension dissolved within seconds and my feet walked past the “judgment” and towards my musical redeemer.
Meet James Drummond!
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A DJ?
I’ve been spinning on and off casually for seven years; made it my part-time career three and a half years ago; and made it my full time career two years ago. The day I realized I could support myself from music alone was one of the most fulfilling of my life.
WHEN YOU GET APPROACHED TO DJ A SHOW, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CRAFTING THE RIGHT PLAYLIST FOR THE OCCASION?
It’s about two things: having an idea of the space and the audience on one half and building playlists around that idea, but similarly, it’s about being flexible with regards to changing your preconceived notions and changing gears if an event ends up being a different vibe than you initially anticipated.
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCE?
Hmm…My influences are drawn from so many different sources – it would be impossible to name one. My father; good friends; musical acts that led you down the path to new discoveries; a thousand other things — all have played an important role.
FIVE OF YOUR FAVORITE SONGS TO CREATE THE PERFECT DANCE PARTY ATMOSPHERE. GO!
As hinted at in my answer to how to craft a show, it all depends on the crowd. A weekend commercial house crowd would be wildly different than playing a deep house set, which would be wildly different than a tech set, which in turn would be wildly different than a hip hop/trap set, and again wildly different than an Indie Dance set. I love each of these genres (and more!) and play all of them. Some great random acts that set places off at various degrees and will be completely obvious to some and completely unknown to others: Alex Metric; Prydz/Pryda; anything by Dusky; anything by Gesaffelstein; and some local love for Thugli, Keys N Krates and my boys from Kill Them With Colour. Seven names (not five) and acts (not particular songs). I do not limit myself to a certain genre, but any names you do not recognize, you can look up and start your own adventure of musical discovery. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list covering all my tastes. All are more than worth your time.
ANY LAST WORDS OF WISDOM?
Do what you love. Whether as a DJ or otherwise. Let your love of your career guide you along your path and the rest will sort itself out in time.
Thank you, James!
I’ve always deemed fashion shows to be a lot more than what we see come down the runway: the many actors who contribute to the mood and the vision are often overlooked, yet are no less significant to the overall picture. But who pays attention to their craft? Who understands the zeal with which they painstakingly work at delivering the perfect result and for which there will never be a bigger critic than themselves? On a night when I wasn’t convinced that I belonged or that everything I had worked on thus far could ever mean anything to anyone as much as it did me, the throbbing sounds that fell in line with the promise of what was to come rewired my heart to an earnest place. Yes, on that night, a DJ saved my life.
Credit: eiralinnea.blogg.se; Photo of James Drummond: Jeff Hui
“We right here; we’re not going anywhere…” – DMX
After what seemed like an impossible mission to get to The City on time and without accident, the hubs and I braved Toronto’s monstrous traffic to make it downtown 15 minutes to our first World MasterCard Fashion Week show last night. Now, I could wax poetic about how fabulous it all was without giving much thought to the connection made to the show’s sights and sounds, but what would be the fun in that? #Arlettedontplaythat! Hence, I’ve decided to bring you the 411 in a different format. Using the word SNAPSHOT, the experience will be summed up in such a way that each letter of the word will reference a specific aspect of the event. Consider them…fashion bites, if you will — enough to keep you satiated. ALLONS-Y!
S | SHOW
Mikhael Kale S/S 2014 Runway Show, Friday, October 18, 2o13. For those not versed in fashion lingo, S/S refers to Spring/Summer. Conversely, F/W would refer to the Fall/Winter collections.
N | NOTEWORTHY
A graduate of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins, Mr. Kale’s garments have been worn by some of Tinseltown’s most fashion-forward divas, namely Jennifer Lopez, Sienna Miller and Beyoncé. Although bold in his design approach, the designer himself revealed himself quite a shy bloke, barely bowing at curtain call, which led photographers to scream in protest “Show the pit some love!” #blowtothepaparazzo
A | APPAREL
Colorful cutouts and shadows, inspired by artist Mary Reid’s geometrically rendered portraits, made up the dozens of slinky sheath dresses that came down the runway, which were at times topped up with motor jackets that came in an array of sorbet colours and classic black. My favourites include the opening number, a distressed orange mohair dress topped with a light slate blue leather corset; a red sheath dress playing up equal part cutouts and sheer paneling; a shimmery A-line skirt topped with a black distressed crop top and sheer frontal paneling; and lastly, a few reincarnations of black leather ensembles which one can never have enough of in their wardrobe. Every bit edgy and current, this line is for the girl about town who has no vices about letting her lacy undergarments do a subtle peek-a-boo, yet lets her magical aura do all the talking. She’s Jennifer, Sienna, Beyonce…oh wait! Damn, he’s good!
P | PRESENTATION
Coiffed in a slicked-back mane styled by Marilisa, models came down the concrete runway in careful strides; in my mind, I imagined them as earthly Amazonian creatures who walk the grungy, mean streets at night, seducing the unworthy as Kavinsky’s brilliant Odd Look retro track plays in the background. Makeup-wise, minimalist faces, which closely resembled past Estée Lauder beauty campaigns, showed gleaming cheekbones and well-defined eyebrows, with lips inheriting a hint of orange lip balm courtesy of Maybelline New York Canada’s Lead Makeup Artist Grace Lee. The long nail trend of the last year also made an appearance, with models’ claws painted in a muted beige courtesy of Essie’s Lead Artist Rita Remark.
S | SCENE
For the opening night to the WMCFW festivities, the stylish set adhered mostly by an #allblackeverything dress code, which proved fitting in such a bare space. Fashionable statements ran the gamut from motor and fur jackets, to stiletto heels and booties, all the way to trench coats and stand-out leopard-print accessories. The most recognizable bloggers, possibly outfitted in brand-gifted wears, congregated in a group to chat while awaiting the start of the show…which began a full 30-minutes behind schedule. Notable faces present at the event included sociliate Jenna Bitove, F-List editor Leesa Butler, TV personality Rosey Edeh, bloggers Nicole Wilson and Jay Strut, and former Flare Magazine EIC Lisa Tant.
H| HOME RUN
Nothing says hipster downtown chic like an open, industrial-size space where concrete is king, steel is the deal and white columns that have seen better days can be “rejuvenated” by the purple glow of strategically placed uplights. Rows of Louis ghost chairs formed the ever-popular U-turn setup and displayed the names of their occupants. The venue was a perfect compliment to the collection’s geometric cutouts and hard edge and could easily be reminiscent of 90′s rave spots — the kind of raw space where raves took place and attracted the city’s most notorious partiers in a swirl of glow sticks and zany fashions, before one found themselves at some guy named Bert’s place post-celebration, downing Asian leftover dim sum while he scratched his guitar and sang of the realities of a broken society in an off key. For the record, I know no guy named Bert.
With leading public relations company NKPR manning the RSVP list, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that its founder, Natasha Koifman, would be in attendance; but hoping to meet one of your girl crushes and then meeting her in person are two entirely different things! Verdict? Ms. Koifman revealed herself to be everything her online persona dictates: warm, lovely and a true breath of fresh air! Kids, stay in school…the kind where the curriculum of hopes and dreams pays you in “pinch-me-now” moments.
T| TWEET, TWEET!
Want to get in on the virtual action? Follow at @WMCFW or #wmcfw or visit the tag #mikhaelkale on IG to see all the lusty looks.
On Tuesday night, after peeking at it dozens of times since its arrival, I finally slipped on the pièce de résistance to my evening’s assemble en route to the H&M VIP party — the garment, a leather-sleeved varsity jacket emblazoned with the letter ‘W’, is what reincarnated 50′s fashion dreams are made of. Although back then a girl waited anxiously for some boy to drape his jacket over her shoulders as a sign of them going steady, the 21st century girl’s agenda calls for a different call-to-action, where she alone holds the power to reinvent the game by wearing hers with swag. The positive response my new “armor” garnered, both at home and at the party, testifies to the many reasons I’ve always relied on H&M to make a lasting impression. From the multi-layered cocktail dress I wore for my engagement photographs shot against Toronto’s busy streets, all the way to the strapless gold and black holiday number my ladies donned as bridesmaid dresses on my Big day, I’ve repeatedly found in H&M a lasting saving grace to my style conundrums, which is why receiving an invitation from the brand to attend the Mother of all VIP Parties could only be met with a booming Y-E-S.
The ByWard Market was the starting point of the H&M journey where guests were chauffeured aboard a
chariot coach bus that made no bones about letting O-Town know that it has arrived #atlonglast, thanks to a prominent exterior advertisement of that adorned its façade with the opening date and location of its upcoming digs. Out on the corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, a giant shopping bag installation served as the meeting point for all revelers headed to the festivities. Though the hubs decided to drive himself to the mall, I decided to go #bougie and take advantage of the service, accompanied by my dear friend and fellow blogger Alyssa, aka Ms. Beltempo. The bus quickly filled up and was on the highway several short minutes later, zooming down the 417 West to Bayshore Shopping Centre.
Once at our destination, the crowd proceeded like well-mannered children to the eastern side of the shopping centre, forming a line before an enclosed area where smiling staff from Montreal’s Agence ZOÏ greeted invitees, iPad in hand to confirm guests’ names. A black curtain kept the party area hidden from view, but once the clock struck 7:00, it opened to reveal a space fit for a stylish rendezvous: a red carpet, both for the purpose of what VIP parties are known for as well as an ode to the brand’s signature color, forged a path to a step-and-repeat backdrop where photographers snapped pictures of guests from behind a velvet rope before they could proceed to the lounging area made up of clusters of white couches, cocktail tables, stools and coffee tables that held small understated white floral arrangements. On the far end of the floor, an stage corralled untouched instruments, hinting at the upcoming musical set of the night’s live entertainment, Oh Land. “H&M means business!” I stated to Alyssa before turning to face the store’s front, all 23,000 sq. ft. of honest-to-goodness retail deliciousness: divided into three distinct sections, the women’s section takes center stage as one enters the store and is flanked by a very replete gentleman’s corner on the left and a stocked children’s mecca on the right. I had to stop and take in this moment: years of petitioning? Check! Prayers answered? Fill in the blank.
“The entire world is here tonight!” – only1o
As more fashionable guests pulled into the space, greeting peers with full-blown hugs, waiters dressed in standard black and white attire made the rounds passing out flutes of bubbly, to which I heard the clinking call from a distance — doesn’t VIP miss the words NO ID? A DJ, holding court by a grouping of motionless, blonde-haired mannequins, spinned a party-appropriate soundtrack that I could easily picture making Songza’s Blogged 50 playlist. Platters of hors-d’oeuvres came zigzagging down the floor and my investigative side and palate battled it out for supremacy: I live in a curiosity-meets-foodie dimension. The evening’s catering, courtesy of one of Ottawa’s favorite entertainment reception providers, Thyme & Again Creative Catering, pulled all the stops with arresting bites that delighted the masses and worked their way down nicely with sparkling wine or the evening’s specialty pear-ginger concoction; but most impressive to me were the descriptions that servers recited like Old English sonnets without batting an intimidated eyelash: rare beef tenderloin with caramelized onion and fresh horseradish on roasted fingerling potato; house smoked salmon and zucchini round on organic seed cracker; lemon shrimp wrapped with snow peas; baby endive with herbed chèvre, lemon and pinenuts; foie gras paté & prosciutto on sweet potato crisp with orange marmalade; poutine bite with fresh cheese curds and braised short ribs; local Mishka ham with peach chutney on cheddar chive scones; Thai style corn fritters with sweet chili drizzle; Medjool date wrapped with pingue pancetta…Receiving the menu by email almost led me to print it and chew on it — in case eatable paper with enticing food descriptions ever becomes a “thing” #justsaying
“She will be mine; oh, yes, she will be mine.” – Wayne’s World
Eager shoppers spared no earned dollar, proving that H&M’s arrival wasn’t only anticipated, but very much needed: dozens toted armloads of new garments and stood patiently in the line leading to the cash register, gazing down at times at nearby racks and snapping up additional pieces for their haul. While much of the clothing spoke to me in tongues (I’m a translator by trade, so I can roll with that program), I restrained myself from making any purchases and chose instead to enlist Alyssa’s help in dropping a word to mi amor about a particular bag that flirted with me from the wall’s “bleachers”. With all of my birthday wishes having come true so far this month, I don’t want to push my luck, but certainly hope that I will be able to continue collecting my blessings…preferably inside the aforementioned tote.
As the night progressed, I was delighted to finally meet the team behind this extraordinary soirée – Denis Lemieux of Agence ZOÏ, the man to whom I owe the H&M opportunities I’ve been blessed with lately; bow-tie wearing Patrick Tackney from H&M, who made my night with gracious compliments that are still resounding in my head; and flawless Emily Scarlett, who was kind enough to accommodate an interview for WIA and who looked ravishing in an all-black look that had my heart aflutter. First-time encounters with fellow bloggers and followers, as well as laugh riots with friends, made me grateful to know that this community is a welcoming one: as my father likes to say, the essence of life lies in the relationships we entertain with others. Papa is a preacher; I know better than to argue.
The sound of live music perforated the air as Oh Land took to the stage with her three-men band, turning into a ball of energy and charm. Her dust-colored locks, held down by a crimson-flower crown, bounced up and down with each one of her movements as she jumped on keys one minute and mastered the microphone the next. With in-house fans belting out the lyrics to her hit song, Son of a Gun, she responded favorably to the love, chatting up the crowd with humor in between songs. What was to follow was Oh Land taking to the 1 and 2′s, having undergone a switch in outfit from punk to grunge. A slew of favorite tunes played in succession, leading a small cluster of “raised-in-the-90′s” bloggers to drop it like it’s hot, both in moves and lyrics, similar to the days of old-school basement jams. This special moment could only be immortalized in my mind with the following hashtag: #90sdropdontstop.
“I’m craving poutine right now…” – MsBeltempo
With the night drawing to a close, final photo-ops of the selfie genre were quickly uploaded to social media, giving the world a final glimpse into what was one of the liveliest evenings in Ottawa in recent memory. As I departed with the hubs, Alyssa and CJ and Katherine, we collected gift bags at the door complete with a branded HM umbrella and press packet folder so pretty that it will most definitely come in handy for carrying my WMCFW itinerary. The mention of poutine became a rather pressing matter, which we collectively agreed could only be addressed at Smoke’s Poutinerie on Dalhousie and save us all from binge drinking misery. The night may no longer have been in its prime by then, but somewhere in the west end of the city, the arrival of a retail newborn is every bit so…
Happy opening day, H&M Ottawa! You’re most welcomed among us.