December 30, 2008

Refreshing the dress: Here are a few pointers on recycling last year's frock for this year's New Year's Eve party

The hip, hot new thing in fashion is going for the old. Apparently, recycling last year's dress for this year's New Year's is just the right pose to strike in the year of the Recessionista.

While wearing vintage is not new, the twist this year is how to update an old dress and make it few new again.

Part of this year's trend is to keep the old and bring something new to the New Year's outfit.

The best way to do that is to add accessories that hit dead-centere a few of this year's hot trends: sequins and beads, metallics and shine are great, opaque black leggings and coloured legging high-heeled peep-toes and ruffles are all spot on.

For sequins and beads: There are three great ways to bring this to a black dress.
I saw a sequined clutch, a big one, at Zara for $70 (I would link to them but HATE their website). It's a great party bag and let's you leave a purse at home.

I also found at Zara a beaded shrug to bring a bit of lustre that will draw the eye to a woman's bosom and face. They were going for between $50 - $70. But look for the sales price.

Another place to bring sequins into the outfit is on your shoes. Aldo has sparkling pumps for $70.

For shiny - I found a great metal mesh belt with chromed panel at Zara for $30. At Jacob, finish a tuxedo-inspired look with a plain ivory silk scarf. It really is lovely and is affordable at $32.

Also in the shine department were a pair of red satin peep toes at Aldo for $80.
You can find lots of peep-toes out there. Also Zara has suede peep-toes with rosettes on the in-step strap for $50. You can also find black satin peep toes as well. All of it lovely and fun.

Of course, bring a number of add-ons to the outfit requires some caution. There can be soome mix-and-match disasters. Here are a few Do's and Don'ts:

  • Don't wear textured leggings with a textured dress. If the leggings are coloured, keep the finish smooth. A textured dress calls for a plain black stockings. A plain black dress can be given extra oomph with plum or metallic tights. Texture and parttern are then welcomed. But then remember to bracket you stand-out legs with black shoes. Consider finishing it with satin peep-toes.

  • Ruffles add weight most of the time. For ruffles to work, do wear them on an a-line dress. This makes your bottom and legs look thinner. Ruffles should be big to look chic and to work to cover a tummy without adding weight. Small ruffles on tight-fitting clothes don't work. They merely make a woman look bigger, rather than fluffier. Remember, BIG ruffles. It is counter-intuitive but it works.

  • Belts with sequins and shine are a DO! So do it.

If you feel the need to break the trend and wear a new dress - on a bargain - at Urban Outfitters I found a boat neck jacquard tunic dress with daisies and fleur-de-lys waves. It's by C. Ronson and has a great sheen to it. The thread is glossy or metallic. The dress has a button back. It's $144 and available in Toronto and Vancouver.

Also I liked a halter dress at Le Chateau. Metalic thread in cerulean blue and gem plum or in a flat black for $90. I really like the open back.

December 16, 2008

Designer deals or Pretty Woman syndrome at Vancouver's luxury stores?

You know the scene. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman gets iced-out by a snobby shopkeeper because Roberts' character is a, well, a hooker.

Mark Startup, CEO of Retail BC, calls it the Pretty Woman Syndrome. That's the belief among people will experience poor service at a luxury boutique if they appear they can't afford many of the items.

Well, today, I tested the idea by alighting through some of Vancouver's most elite stores. Starting at Waterfront Station, I wandered through Plaza Escada and Leone at Sinclair Centre, Alfred Dunhill at Howe, Harry Rosen at the Pacific Centre, Gucci and Louis Vuitton at the Hotel Vancouver and, finally, Salvatore Ferragamo on Robson.

My goal was to declare I was looking for cheap or affordable designer stocking stuffers for an office gift exchange. My budget was $100-$200.

I was pleasantly surprised. The service was excellent and super-accommodating. With the exception of Gucci where sales staff were swamped, I found the shop keepers super helpful. So helpful, I was able to compile a list or great stocking stuffers for the man or woman who may have everything!

At Plaza Escada, Janet Truong showed my a complete line of women's belts that were 50%. Great for cinching sweaters and wrap coats alike. But my favourite deal were on trend knitted berets from Escada Sport, usually $160, on sale for $80 (top).

For the skinny tie man in your life, look for a fine Dior tie at Leone, also at Sinclair Centre. A textured Shantung-like, it comes in black and is perfect for this season's celebrations, $97.

At Dunhill on Howe Street, I found delightful poker cards with the mascot bulldog. If golf is the game, check out the leather golf score card keeper for $80.

At Harry Rosen, the very best deal I found that day were silk knot cuff links for $12. Sometimes avoiding man-bling on French cuffs is the best way to keep things suave and yet understated.

For the travel bug, consider Louis Vuitton's had beautiful illustrated travel notebooks for $95. If you have a friend who has gone to Beijing or Mumbai or Paris or New York or just dreams about it, LV's scrapbook will make a great way to keep the memories.

At Hermes, you can find an affordable family heirloom that granddaughter's would fight to get their hands on: the Twilly print scarves for woman for $150 (right).

At Salvatore Ferragamo, if you can't afford the shoes, go for their scarves. From simple neckerchiefs to full-sized Catherine Deneuve head covers, they go for between $129 and $200. Italian fibre arts at it's best. You can't go wrong.

December 9, 2008

Bad fashion writing

Sometimes, I worry that I'm wasting my time writing about fashion. Then I realize, there are few men who actually have a feel for writing about menswear.

Case in point - this little here article from the Calgary paper...what is it? The Herald?

Anyway, I'll assume it was filed by a disgruntled crime beat reporter
whom they are torturing into retirement by making him write fashion

I personally like writing about fashion and see it as a pure joy. Tell me if you detect any joy in story. Is this a beauty or what?

The whole mess reminds me of something the very fine fashion thinker and sometimes literary pornographer Russell Smith wrote about Indian blog content mills.

Both the Herald piece and the example Smith offers share an impenetrable cluelessness, a total quality of daftness...

"Watches have hands. They are called analog. Ironically, even though "digital" watches are called so, they have no hands. In Latin, digit means fingers. Fingers are attached to your palms. Together, they constitute the hand. Watches strangely enough are usually strapped onto ones wrist. Perhaps, referring to any watch as "digital" is one of those slip-ups in the English language."

Something like that. Nothing to fear, I say.

December 8, 2008

Leather in the Post

My most recent article on leather made it to the National Post. I'm not sure if it's hitting the print edition. Either way, it's nice to know the stuff is getting out beyond Vancouver, once and a while.

Lately, I've been wearing a brown leather jacket in a denim cut. It hits two inches above a lower waistband but hits just right with my GWGs.

Ah, my GWGs. I've set out to wear them nearly everyday and abuse them as naturally and often as possible. I bought them at the Army and Navy in New Westminster for $29.99.

This summer, I swam in the Pacific with them on twice. And I've only washed it once. I've had them since June and only now are they beginning to show some nice whiskering. The experiment continues!

Measure of a Man

If you're looking for Measure of a Man - my Ideas documentary on the history of suits - you'll find it online here.

December 2, 2008

Go Old School with last-minute sweaters: Nods to a manlier yesteryear brings relief from this holiday season's crop of sweaters fo

Receiving a sweater as a holiday gift can be a big let down. Really, how many of you have had enough with those light, v-neck pullovers of cashmere or mohair that dress well for work and evening-time play?

Yes, they are comfortable, contemporary and they do look nice underneath a good sports coat but they also lack surface detail, drama and a sense of substance.

Sometimes sweaters like that feel too much like t-shirts. They just don't have enough gravitas and perhaps this holiday there can be nothing worse than another one of its ilk lurking in wait beneath the boughs of a decorated tree.

If you have such woolen trepidation, fear not. The winds of change are a blowing. Cut this article out and let your gift buyers know sweaters are manning-up this season.

Knitwear 2008 is sturdier, chunkier, and, strangely, kind-of paternalistic in a hip kind of way. It draws inspiration from male archetypes such as navy fighter pilots, rugged outdoorsmen, the Amerian G. I.'s that flooded campuses after the Second World War and manly prep-nerds like Clark Kent, aka Superman.

Scott Walhovd owns and operates, with Anthony Castro, the Vancouver boutique and fashion label (212) in Gastown. Walhovd says, "There's a big comeback of the grandfather sweater. It's old style details, leather-covered buttons, elbow patches and interesting cabling. It's geek chic."
Castro adds, "It's Mad Men (a TV show set in an early 1960s ad agency)...and a throwback to Camelot and John F. Kennedy...with an updated, trimmer silhouette and colour story."

This vintage-tinged tendency has been coined "young fogey" or "retirement chic" and, along with bow ties and tweed jackets, sweaters form the backbone of the look.

Christian Chensvold is the editor-in-chief of an authoritative fashion blog, He says, by phone from Los Angeles, the trend recalls, "protestant establishment, elite clothes, the WASP style bequeathed to America with it's frugality."

Some people call it "trad", others call it "preppy." Regardless of what it's called, he points to sweaters found online at and Ralph Lauren's Chensvold says look for "updated varsity and letterman sweaters" with a "1930s to 1950s collegiate look with an emphasis on shawl collars."

Chensvold says the style evokes a previous generation's aversion to ostentation and, though he stresses it is a coincidence, he finds the current nostalgia synchs up nicely with the economic downturn. He says, "We are definitely in a hangover state and keeping your clothes and passing them on and not buying what you don't need is out there."

To make his point, he recounts, "Yesterday, I took out a Fair Isle sweater (a heavily-patterned classic sweater from Scotland) that I had in storage since last winter. I bought it a couple of years ago. I've discovered it has a couple of holes in it. I am very pleased. It's finally, really mine."


To go vintage is one thing. Wrapping up old sweaters in a box and giving them as gifts is another. It's pretty dicey and takes a special shopper who can hit the thrift stores and find a perfect sample with just the right hand-me-down feel.

Most, and it's recommended, will have to buy new to go Old School.
Here are the essential rugged and retro-inspired sweater details to seek out around town and online:

- Elbow patches of brown cotton twill on Brown Sound's cardigans at (212) (454 Cordova Street West) suggest a decade of wear and tear has created a hole on your sleeve. For $165, you can pretend you and your sweater have been around the block more than once.

-Perfectly placed multi-stripe rib knitting can be found on classic cricket or tennis sweaters around the v-neck. Cockpit's navy blue henley sweater goes full-on with Fighting Irish/ Notre Dame-like stripes at the collar, cuffs and bottom ribbing. Score one at Urban Outfitters (830 Granville Street) for $100.

-Correct amount of slouchiness is essential. The Old School rejects the overly neat and tidy and embraces just a little male frump. New York shirt maker Steve Alan is famous for making perfectly wrinkled shirts. Now he applies his talents to Lark and Wolf cardigans available at Urban Outfitters for $110.

-Double-breasted are big this time around. They can be worn with a bow tie and a plaid shirt to hit the right level of geek chic. H&M's chunky version was inspired, according to spokesperson Karen Richter, "by a post-war, 1940s feeling. Like it's passed on from father to son." A great deal at $59.90, it leaves you with enough cash to buy a pipe and smoke it.

-Cowichan-style sweaters are a perfect example of heritage Canadiana. Featuring animal and geometric patterns, heavy wool and button or zipper fronts, these sweaters are usually handmade by First Nation knitters. The Richmond label Granted, run by the brother and sister team of Minoru and Ai Hirano, offer a cheeky update on the Cowichan. Instead of deers and conifers, they serve up with palm trees and camels or flamingoes for $278 at

November 6, 2008

JJ takes on political blogging

Crazy. But all my recent stories about fashion and politics (Palin, sweaters and May's green wardrobe woes) has ignited my interest in politics again.

So much so I've started a new political blog called:

I'm not a card-carrying Liberal. I vote differently but I think a strong Liberal Party is good for the country and good for political stories.

Look for original interviews and views and maybe one day guest contributors on the site.

November 3, 2008

Vancouver fashion designers answer the $150 000 Sarah Palin question

Q. What would you do with $150 000 to spend on clothes as a vice-presidential nominee?

A. Nadine Spidla of Imaginary Friend:
I think it worked for Sarah Palin...She is definitely pulling off the business-person blazer. I think that's working for her. And she's choosing red which works perfect with her complexion.

While Nadine of Imaginary Friend recommends a long great coat,
your spending spree could put Imaginary Friend's swing coat on
the shopping list. And it won't cost a million bucks or even $150 000.

Q. What fashion item would you get with an unlimited budget if you had to run as VP?

I think a great coat polishes up any look. Even if you have to run to store and pick up a carton of milk - you put on a great (over) coat - you look like a hundred bucks, a million bucks.

A. Megan Dengerink of Imaginary Friend: You want it to be tailored because the camera adds ten pounds. But for us, while it's not a long coat, our swing coat because it's shorter will make the lower part of the body look slimmer if you wear pencil skirt with your suit.

Mother Trucker's black Ava dress will get most in need of
an a-line first past the post.

Q. What do you think about fashion being such a big deal in the US election?

A. Erin Stansfield of Mother Trucker Clothing:
Fashion has always played a role in politics...Marie-Antoinette was a fashionista. It not just taking a new role, it's just that we're talking about it a little bit more lately. They go hand in hand.

I'll vote for that.

October 22, 2008

God (Non-liberal elite kind) love her: Sarah Palin's new image cost Republicans $150,000

I am fascinated by the story. Not because I think it's appalling that someone running for office needs a makeover - but I'd love to know how she dressed before the GOP makeover.

Next time around, I'd like to be picked to run as VP.

The Republican party has spent $150,000 (£92,000) on clothes and accessories since late August for Sarah Palin and her family, according to records of party spending.

(more from the Guardian)

In my run, I'd buy the Fitzgerald line of suits from Brooks Bros. I'd get knitted ties from JPress. I would still cut my own hair.

Admittedly, I wouldn't wear a bow tie. The world may have a US president who is black but the ugliness of prejudice still remains against bow tie wearers.

Leather jacket tips for men

(Ocean Drive Leather's B-20 and B-18 jackets make fit and proportion the secret to looking good in leather. Courtesy Ocean Drive Leather/Gordan Dumka.)

Besides crimson leaves and pumpkins, is there any surer sign of autumn than the arrival of leather coats and jackets?

Leather warms against chilly winds and can shed water. Leather also captures perfectly the seasonal melancholy of rain-slicked streets, longer nights and the sense of rebellion a man feels when he leaves behind the summer of childhood and is forced to embrace the cold hard reality of adulthood.

As fashion historians Richard Martin and Harold Koda once wrote in their book, Jocks and Nerds, leather is 'wild' and 'the essence' of men 'who sign their defiance of civilization by wearing black.' Leather is totally cool or should be - and it can be if men know how to wear it correctly.

Too bad many don't.These last few weeks I've identified a number of atrocious leather faux-pas and found a few fixes...

(continue reading my tips in the Vancouver Sun)

October 20, 2008

Sir Paul Smith reflects on life as a fashion designer

Tonight, Sir Paul Smith presented a slide show about his 30 years in fashion at Holt Renfrew Vancouver.

Starting with a 12' x 12' shop in Nottingham, which he rented for 50 pence a week and opened only on Fridays and Saturdays, Smith has built an empire that wholesales to 35 countries and owns 14 shops in England.

Smith's talk combined autobiography, fashion philosophy and retail pointers and really underscored the importance of finding inspiration in art, architecture and travel and appreciating colour found in everyday objects.

Smith draws ideas from Lithuanian churches painted in aquamarine to seed packets (leading to floral patterned shirts) to tomatoes on a vine.

Here are a few of the things he said tonight:
  • On his Spring 1996 cerulean blue suits - "I like to pretend they were Yves Klein blue but the colour really came from a security guard uniform."
  • On his Guatemalan inspired collection - "I didn't go to Guatemala. I went to the library and opened a book. It was a lot cheaper."
  • On his limited edition Austin Mini-Car - "They said it was impossible to do 28 colours. But the man at the shop said, "I'd like to see if I could do it." It was perfect but when I saw him, he said, "I am divorced now."
  • "Be brave. Do things more punchy, more special."

October 13, 2008

Fashion blue chip portfolio: classic style items for austere times

JJ Lee - our man of style - brings us little simple items that have stood the test of time and will hold their value no matter where the market goes.

Levi's 501 reissue brings back an iconic jeans for women.

What will bring fashion dividends regardless if it's a bull or bear market?

I think they should be affordable. I see classic iconic style as a form of austerity measures because you're buying something that never goes out of style.

Q. The idea is to go from head to toe. What do you have for the top?

People are willing to pay $300-$400 for glasses by Gucci, Prada and Calvin Klein. Then, there are hipster brands like Moscot - which do nerd glasses for a hefty price.

Instead, I recommend a true stylish frame: Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

This style of frame has been worn by the likes of Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, and Audrey Hepburn.

Wayfarers have been in production for the last 55 years. For $140, you can pop out the tinted lenses and have a true fashion frame.

Q. What do you think about all the big, honking watches out in the market the last few years?

Here's a funny thing: Gentleman's Quarterly, the leading men's fashion magazine, gave the nod to humble designs after pushing really expensive Swiss watches these last few years.

But recently the humble Timex has found its way on GQ's pages. Consider one of the classics in the Mercury style. My favourite is the blue-faced version at $69.99 at The Bay. It has simple san-serif numerals.

Classic Timex watches have a great following. Recently, Andy Spade - of the luggage company Jack Spade - curated a store for J. Crew in New York where a number of vintage Timex watches are for sale.

Q. You've talked about fairly expensive jeans in the past. What is your austerity dungaree?

This is the season of the boyfriend jean. Levi's has reissued a distressed version of the 501 for women. It costs $88.

I would wait a couple of weeks for the darker, less distressed version to come out. No holes, just a straight, classic, Americana cut.

And if $88 sounds too much. How about buying 501's at $9.99 a pound.

is a vintage store on Commercial Drive and there's one also opening on Fourth Avenue. You can find a pair, perfectly worn in for around $15 when it's weighed in.

October 9, 2008

Digital Camera, Megapixels and the Fashion Writer's Dilemma in Vancouver

I'm going to do it. Buy a digital camera.

I will buy a Nikon D40 at 6.1 megapixels because megapixels don't matter. It's enough. To have a leap in quality one would have to use a 24 megapixel camera to double the resolution of an image. Not needed. And my suspicions were confirmed by the New York Times tech columnist, David Pogue.

Now why do I need a digital camera. Well, it seems Vancouver designers are under-served by photographers. Certainly it can be expensive. Also, it's hard to get the shot you want for the articles you are writing.

If I had Kris Krug or Fiona Garden in tow with me all the time, that would be different. I would shutter up and let them shoot. But we all can't be graced with such lovely company and I'm doing my own thing. So I may catch what I catch.

I'm going digital. To check out my film stuff, go to my photo project: Everybody in New Westminster.

Nikon D40 here I come.

October 2, 2008

Fashioning a national leader: Green Party leader May requires a makeover

In the recent federal leadership debates, the Green Party leader adopted masculinist-politico outfits.

Many female politicians feel and look comfortable wearing the standard uniform.

However, May did not during the debate.

And what do her clothes say? For better or for worse, the dress of female politician comes under greater scrutiny (though both male and female dress choices make an equal impression).

The take-away: May IS NOT Margaret Thatcher. Nor is she Hilary Clinton. She doesn't have to be.

May's masculinist suit choice had a negative impact on her visual branding. May wearing an out-dated Ghillie collar - that's a suit jacket with a shirt-like collar - paired with an open shirt collar OVER the Ghillie was the most notable.

It's just too much. Look at the collars. They crowded the face and presented too many downward angles which gives the impression of slumped posture.

I'd like to see her finally put together some of the elements she's relied on in the past to construct a polished and complete look that says "Hey, I'm not a 'suit'", all the while,
demonstrating she's fit to hold office and stand in Parliament.

Here's my Elizabeth May debate makeover:

1  Drop the dated Ghillie - it is so early Nineties and NBA draft choicey. Instead, May should wear a standing collar like a Nehru or Mandarin collar that will cast shadows on her neck and strengthen her jawline. Trust me, it would have shaved perceived years and pounds under the unforgiving TV lights, something everyone has to worry about when stepping in front of a camera.

2, Wear a melton or felted cropped jacket or even a Bolero-like shrug instead of the smooth serge found in a business suit may be an option. Something more matte, more homey, comfy, and feels like a sweater BUT looks like business wear. May likes black and she should keep it black...
3. ...but I think a nice satin ruffle of green or even an ivy embroidered along the collar and the lapels would be a perfect way to put the green on the Green Party's leader.
4, A green patent leather belt. Make it wide and have it sit at the thinnest part of her torso. Perhaps just below the bust. This will give her a nice waist line and keep eyes above the equator.
5. Finally, a high-waisted A-line skirt down to mid-calf.

Five rules for fashion friends

  • Never say, "It doesn't really suit your body type. Can I try it?"
  • Also never say, "It's a great look. Everybody in New York was wearing it last season
  • You can ask a woman about her shoes and where she bought them but you're not allowed to go out and buy them unless you plan to never see this woman for at least a year
  • Don't even ask about the handbag if it cost more than $1000
  • When buying the Hermes watch - you know the one your friend arbitrarily wanted since she was 13 years old - make sure you're buying it for that friend and not yourself

GOTCHA!!! Did Green Party leader Elizabeth May reuse an outfit for the federal election debate en francais

From the CBC, Elizabeth May on the release of The Green Party's Green Plan 2 on September 27, 2006.

Here's Ms. May from a still at last night's French debate.

What does this all mean? Is she staying tried and true to the Green Ethos of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

I called out Ms. May on CBC Radio One's The Point today. I DARED her to wear the same outfit again during tonight's English debate.

With Ms. May as a role model, no longer will women fear being caught wearing the same outfit twice, no longer will women loathe finding themselves wearing the same outfit as another woman.

In the masculine world of dress, two men in the same tie (see Layton and Duceppe) is only an opportunity for convivial recognition - "Hey, we have the same taste!" - perhaps women will now feel the same way.

JJ on the great debate: Fashion and the Federal Election

Today, on The Point I'll be going over the fashion sense of Canada's federal party leaders as they appeared in last night's French debate from the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

The Point segment will air between 3-3:30 PM local time....however...if you live in a major market like Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, you'll have to tune in online at and listen to a live link from a different city.

My particular point will be: Did Ms. May's sweater-skirt outfit pass muster?


September 30, 2008

Fall leaves inspire drop in sweater hemlines and chunky cosy details

Regardless of today's high temperature, it 'tis the season to be wearing sweaters and I spoke with a twin set of designers - Anthony Castro and Scott Walhovd of the local label and boutique, 212 - about the warm and fuzzy.

Bold...fetish...architectural are the trends governing womenswear this season but how do they apply to this season's sweaters?

They do and they don't. The idea of bold silhouettes can't manifest in knitwear the way they can in leather goods or structured tailored clothes.

That said, Sweaters are chunky with bold collars and details.

Another trend s a low-slung aesthetic. It's like gravity has taken hold of dramatically cut soft materials and dragged it down to create the slouchy look. Think swooshes, downward hem lines and neck lines.

It's a relief after years of high-cropped clothes like belly shirts and layered looks that have segmented women's bodies between the bust and waist.

Now, it's time to look at layering action around the thighs.

In this gravity influenced design, look out for low vees, low-slung closure points and button details.

Sweaters are like the stock market....they're going down.

Locally look to Scott Walhovd and Anthony Castro of 212 for their take.

They have a great heavy shawl collared cardigan. Double-breasted with six-on-six leather buttons. Try it with leggings and ankle boots or even low-profiled sneakers.

They also have a plum sweater dress in cashmere silk that hits mid-thigh and can be worn as a tunic with skinnies.

And Anthony mentioned layering with thin tees and the right sweater is the way to go this season.

He says, "Make your own look."

September 22, 2008

These shoes are made for talking: Carla Stef of Holt Renfrew brings in some of this fall's stunners in women's footwear

This season is about taking all the trends you've been hearing about and wearing these last few months and mashing them together so the separate trends for ankle boots, gladiator sandals and metallics converge in one brassy, black-heeled Gucci.

The trend towards SHAPE, TAILORING and ARCHITECTURE melds in to a houndstooth tweed, leather and wood block heeled platform by Marni.

And there's still room for subtlety in a Christian Louboutin limited-edition peep-toe pump, the platform is covered and peeps at the toe. Cheeky.

All can be found at Holt Renfrew, right now.

Thanks, Carla for bringing it to CBC.

September 18, 2008

And what about the fashion sense of Obama and McCain?

Amy Lapsley asked via Facebook:

Amy Lapsley at 9:51pm September 17
what do you think of obama v. mccain in the fashion department?

My response:

JJ Lee at 11:31am September 18
Obama looks great. McCain seems feeble but that's an age thing. I find their attire more invisible than the attire of our candidates.

One of the great goals of sophisticated masculine style is to make the clothes invisible. The focus should be on the person.

Both McCain and Obama have done that.

Because, our leaders are less skilled in dress, they often wear things that draw attention to their clothes - mistakes are noticeable, dressing well is all about "je ne sais quoi"!

And you, Amy Lapsley always achieve the quoi!

September 17, 2008

Menswear War: How Harper and Dion use sweaters; whether to blue suit or not to blue suit; and how style became a 2008 election issue in Canada

The Conservative party's strategic deployment of the blue sweater vest to soften Canadians' impression of Stephen Harper has turned the sartorial sensibility of all the candidates into a campaign side issue.

Taking the initiative, Harper now owns the sweater. While in previous campaigns politicians have pulled out sweaters to show solidarity with the regular folks, something is different this time around because it worked.

It would seem no other candidate can now wear a cardigan, vest or pullover without cuing close clothes watchers to reference Harper's first strike (as seen in the above still from the first volley of Conservative election ads - this one titled, "Family is Everything").

It reminds me of Nike's attempts in the 1980s to initiate branding by electronic colonisation. The athletic shoe maker faded their famous swoosh logo into a field of TV static with the hopes of making electronic snow a visual cue for viewers to see the Nike logo where it wasn't.


Everybody knows if you wear a blue suit you're a "suit". However, this election it doesn't really pay to wear any other colour. Yes, there is an old English tradition of socialist and labour leaders wearing black suits as a nose-thumbing to Tory blue - but at least they were smart enough to avoid weaker tints.

Jack Layton, who in the past, has been caught in murky grey suits that appear green under the lights (or are they murky green suits that appear grey?) has stuck with a front-runner's blue. Tory may lay claim to inky indigos and the Liberals have the less masculine red...and the NDP have orange with green highlights. Jack, stick with the blue suits and say NO to orange ties.


What about Stéphane Dion? This week, he too has adopted the blue suit. And better yet, he has in his arsenal an absolutely dark shade of blue in two-button form. He's taken a fairly sophisticated approach and paired them with nice on-blue foulard print or jacquard square ties with tiny squares or diamonds. This is a nice break from the endless striped (regimental) ties I have seen. So, for Dion, I award a Snazzy.

One tip I would offer is: Super dark, midnight blues are best because they are resistant to the wacky white balances video cameras must adapt to compensate for different temperature lights. Only the darkest blue suits will stay bold and dark under all lighting conditions.

Dion did go with a grey for his visit to Newfoundland. There seems to be stripes or herringbone patterns, who knows, and that's what you want to avoid. Visual ambiguity. Though, his colouring does do well in a grey suit for in-person appearances. I suppose he's a "winter." Just not so good for the camera.

Actually, here's another good tip. Candidates should dress in front of a video camera and monitor instead of a mirror. This is a good way of figuring out what will look good on camera.

If Stephen Harper followed this advice, he never would have appeared in this atrocity. The light colours make him look heavy and do not convey a sense of strength. Actually, it looks cheap.


Obviously, candidates want to relax their look once and awhile, especially if the goal is to sway blue collar votes. Dion did a pretty good job by having the best of both worlds. On Sunday, he work a blue suit with a burgundy (a nod to Liberal red) sweater and an open neck.

Not bad, but I vote for candidates to keep their ties firmly knotted. And, in the case of Dion, I recommend he keep his dark suit pants on and give the blue jacket a break during the day by wearing a herringbone tweed sports coat with elbow patches. Preferably dark.

It will evoke his professorial credentials without making him look stuffy.

Though, one may have to wear it with the burgundy sweater if a dark version can not be found. We don't want the whole outfit to come across too pale.


One final thing. I've noticed all the candidates have attempted a bit of variety by wearing striped shirts. However, most have adopted framed striped shirts. This is where a thicker main stripe is bracketed by two smaller stripes of another colour. DON'T WEAR THEM.

They often look like the below:

Harper's Bengal-striped shirt from earlier today is slightly better (right).
If digital strobing can be avoided, candidates may want the more sophisticated butcher striped shirt. The lines are more distinct and graphic with a simple foreground-background relationship. Another option is the pinstripe shirt, which, unlike the pinstripe suit, has a nice relaxed allure to it with the stripes being thicker, yet straight forward.

Remember, how you dress occupies the greater bandwidth of non-verbal communication. And since personality and leadership qualities have become a major selling point among the candidates, it would make sense to dress the part.

Sorry, Ms. May - you need to snap it up.

September 2, 2008

Local fall fashion haul for womenswear 2008

Nine West's ankle boot with pleated vamp
and in-step zippers at Town Shoes stays on
trend without an early style expiry date.

It's ten hours by plane to the latest fashion trends of Paris and Milan, but today we bring it home on Vancouver by Design. We hit the mall and find out what looks have made the jump over the pond and into local shops.

Q. How were you able identify fall trends for this season?
My usual answer would be that I research on the usual garment trade websites, blogs and view the European runway shows on line and I do do that...but today a took a more shopper/consumer-centred approach. I bought the latest copy of Vogue Magazine - the September 2008 Fall bible - and hauled that mammoth magazine into Metrotown's Metropolis Shopping Centre.

Q. Why did you do that?

The main reason is I wanted to correlate the trends and hot styles put forward in Vogue and find out how it translated into the boutiques most women would shop at in Vancouver. So, essentially, I went window shopping.

Q. On which trends did you zero-in?
From my notes after perusing all 800 pages of Vogue, I identified a trio of trends that I felt would be considered relevant to women in Vancouver -- so I won't be talking about evening dresses inspired by ballerinas.

One was sculpted or shaped suits. There's a trend on the high-end side to create jacket-pant-skirt combinations that have dramatic shoulders, defined collars and waists, and skirt shapes that modernize the suit.

Q. Were you able to find anything like that?
Not at Metrotown. I was told by staff at Aritzia that the mall skews younger than Oakridge. One can find sculpted or shaped suits there but for Metropolis the answer is "NO."

Instead, we find a more traditional look at stores known for their business suits, like Jacob and Banana Republic. There, I found a much greater push towards a tailored women's suit. Not so dramatic - they strove for a feminine elegance.

At Banana Republic, I believe I saw a grey suit (pencil-striped) that borrowed much from men's tailoring. It had a hacking pocket (slightly slanted side pockets) and a jaunty ticket pocket (a tiny pocket one finds over the right side pocket). Most notable was a visible top-stitching which emulated the hand work of a tailor. So at Banana Republic and Jacob, there was a fairly conservative take on the suit. But perhaps it's my memory playing tricks on me. I haven't been able to find this suit on BR's website.

But there one new thing to report - the cropped blazer, which has been in fashion for what seems like the last decade, has taken a backseat to the longer tailored blazer.

Q. Why is that a good thing?
The cropped blazer really favoured skinny women. Because it is cropped you don't get the coverage on the backside some women would prefer.

Now, this isn't a blazer, it's outerwear, but one of the best pieces I saw today with the benefits of the on-trend look of dramatic shapes while maintaining strong traditional tailoring was a Funnel Coat by Talula Babaton.

Talula Babaton is an in-house label at Aritzia. The Funnel coat is a great coat. It's black virgin wool. It is double breasted with six on six button (all the lovely black wood buttons work on the coat). It's a longer coat so it will cover your bottom.

Better yet, it has a nice nipped waist just above the natural waist and below the bust and from there it is an A-line, flaring out from the waist.

It has a bit of swing and has a bit of shape without being a slave to trend. That's the Talula Babaton Funnel coat at Aritzia for $298.

Q. Speaking of price, how do you buy trendy clothes without it going out of style?
I think as everyone says "you should buy basic classics" -- but I see nothing wrong with looking for trend-inflected version of classics. Here's a perfect example.

SHINY as an look will be a big trend this fall. SHINY is an expensive look. The fabrics and finished cost more.

A great buy that falls into the SHINY trend is a black trench coat I saw at Zara.
It is a shorter version of the trench coat. It will cover the bottom and perhaps go mid-thigh.

It's a shiny black nylon. You're going to wear it when it rains. It has a cinched belted waist which gives it a great shape and it's very inexpensive at $99.00. It's utilitarian with style, but no so much style you can't wear it next year or the year after that.

Q. You've done SHINY. You've done SHAPELY...what other trends did you find?
I'm going to save listeners some money. I'm going to tell you about a trend I don't like because it only suits the thin and long legged. It's the wedged-heeled ankle boot.

Now, the ankle boot is not the problem. But when it's married to the more recent style of wedged heels or platform wedge heels, where the shoe has no independent heel but rather is one monolithic sole, the ankle boot becomes a really clunky shoe.

One example I saw was an ankle boot wedge sneaker in patent leather by Geox at Town Shoes. It had velcro sneaker straps and has zero elegance.

An alternative I would suggest is a 3-inch heeled ankle boot by Nine West. It's $130. It has a bit of fetish detailing with instep zippers and pleating at the VAMP - that's the top of the shoe.

It's very 80s without going too far. And it will elongate the leg rather than make it stumpy.

Q. So go for classics that are inflected with shape, shininess, and anything else?
Yes, quickly, GRAPHIC means a bold look including geometric prints.

I saw a lovely cotton, black and white, set in sleeve, fleur-de-lys dress at Club Monaco. It's a perfect balance of trend and classicism, the KATE print dress at Club Monaco for $179.

August 19, 2008

Pamela Anderson, vegan shoes and a guilt-free sole

Blame it on the power of Pamela Anderson. A chance encounter with the pin-up girl and PETA activist has JJ Lee thinking about leather-free fashions.

Q. From what I understand, you've had a consciousness-raising experience with Pamela Anderson. What happened?

A. Many of your listeners may not know this, but I'm an associate producer and director for Sounds Like Canada. That's my day job. A couple of weeks ago Pamela Anderson visited us to talk about her new show and a bit about her work with PETA or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

She walked in with an entourage of four or five people. Her eyes hidden by a pair of sunglasses and her nose in a Blackberry. More importantly, she came in well-turned out. No sweatshirts and yoga paints for Ms. Anderson.

But after she left the studio to carry on her media blitz, she got me thinking about what she wears for shoes and accessories...

Q. Being an animal-rights advocate ..... Does she wear leather-free clothes?

A. I spoke with PETA and they tell me she is in fact NOT leather free. Apparently, she keeps PETA up to date with her animal-cruelty index.

In the past, there have been “gotcha” moments.

For example, there is a picture of Pamela Anderson wearing UGG boots – those very ugly shearling boots that were in fashion a few years back. Dating from her Baywatch days, Anderson has renounced those boots.

You could say a ladder of leather-freeness.

Anderson does emphasize she buys from designers who provide vegan options and has endorsed the vegan fashion of Stella McCartney.

Q. Stella McCartney is a high-end fashion designer. Are there good, affordable leather-free shoes on the market?

A. Well, I've found quite a bit over the last few weeks. There are local sources and online sources that are quite interesting.

For example, a man named Jay Nathanson wrote to me from Boston. He's a Vancouverite who is a vegan. He now lives in the States. While his correspondence was about which vegan shoes would suit his body type (hard to explain but it can wait).

Jay drew my attention to North America's first VEGAN shoe store. It's in Manhattan and they have an online presence. It’s called Moo Shoes. Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to the owner about the quality of vegan shoes.

Q. What kind of quality can you expect from faux-leather shoes?

A. Sara Kuberski of Moo Shoes was frank with me. She said there's a history of awful vinyl or PVC shoes in animal-free shoes.

She says it’s not a very good material. They don't breath and they feel terrible.

You'll recognize these shoes by the fact that are are usually lined with a fabric on the inside to hide the humble material. She said one should avoid those shoes.

Instead, she recommends good polyurethane micro-fibres. She says they are breathable, durable and the micro-fibre has the give of leather. Plus as a synthetic product it's more environementally friendly in comparision to vinyl.

Q. That's the material. What kind of build may we expect?

At Moo Shoes, because they have practice ethical buying, many of their shoe lines come from shoe-making countries like Portugal, Spain and, my favourite, England, which in my opinion is the greatest nation of cobblers!
They are getting shoes made in some of the best English factories. Ironically, these manufacturing facilities used to make leather shoes, but like Clarks, they have since abandoned England to make leather shoes in India.

Any way, vegan or vegetarian shoes can be of very good quality and cost no more than regular leather shoes.

I personally haven't been able to check out Moo Shoes quality but Jay Nathanson - the guy in Boston - swears by them.

Q. What about Canadian and local designers?

A. In the field of leather-like accessories, I would give the nod to Matt & Nat. They're based in Montreal and have a very successful line of non-leather goods.

They use polyurethane micro-fibre. They also use cardboard to make brief cases and they've started to make felt out of recycled pop bottles. It's call the Feutre line and it's quite impressive for faux materials.

Q. What about in Vancouver?

A. Well, there's Boris Brothers - it's a luggage brand designed by Mike Jackson. His messenger bags are made out of recycled vinyl sheets used on billboards. It's a tough material with lots of colour -- no one will mistake them for leather. You can find them at the store, Thriller.

In the shoe department, John Fluevog has a vegan line of shoes called, D.O.G. or Disciples of Good shoes. They are vegan, crepe soled shoes with the fun style that you expect with Fluevogs.

They're also working on an entirely eco-friendly AND animal-free versions of their iconic Angel Shoes.

Angel shoes look like Docs and made Fluevog famous.

It's a big deal for them to go enviro and animal-free with their core shoe and they are constantly experimenting with vegetable dye leather (more green) and cruelty-free materials.

Q. What if you don't want a faux leather look? What should people look for material-wise when it comes to shoes?

A. Going back to Sara Kuberski of Moo Shoes, she says HEMP is the ultimate material. Like cotton shoes (think Converses), they breath and have their own material authenticity but hemp, Kuberski says, is more durable than cotton and has a better ecological footprint.

Sara says she has a pair of hemp Simple Skater shoes. She loves them and they've lasted four years.

August 11, 2008

Fashion Olympics - forget medal counts, who are the best dressed?

Canada goes for red, gold and white
chinoiserie - go to for more pics.

Gold, silver and bronze are the only colours that matter in the Olympics unless you're me.

Today, I joined On The Coast's host, Stephen Quinn, in studio to talk about Olympic fashion and about which country gets the high score when it comes to high style. Listen.

If you want a fuller analysis, read on.

Canada has yet to win a medal in Beijing but who cares? A opening ceremony fashion Q & A with JJ Lee...

Q. You've decided to focus on the Opening Ceremonies. What are you looking for when it comes to judging a county's fashion acumen during the parade of nations?

It's not easy to compare what the countries are wearing -- though I think it's patently obvious to anyone when it comes to figuring out who looks good and who looks bad.

The reason why it's hard is because the delegate nations pick clothes for different reasons.

Generally, there were three genres of clothes at the opening.

1. National costume - this is where athletes are forced to wear clothes as if it were multicultural day at their local high school.

2. Athletic wear - this is where countries dress as if they are ready to take the field at any moment.

3. Traditional sportswear - Not to be confused with track suits, this is the prevalent neo-traditional approach that evokes the time when athletes wore blazer, white pants and cricket sweaters when they weren't on the field of battle. One of the most iconic examples of that style of dress is - historically speaking - is Rene Lacoste or Le Crocodile, the French tennis star of the 1920s who later became a fashion giant.

Q. It sounds like you're comparing apples and oranges -- who do you think came off the best in terms of fashion?

I thought I could break things up in categories like weight classes for boxing -- for example "BEST in RED".

Q. Okay, which countries made it into the Best in Red category?

Angola did. They went with a hybrid look of patterned pants with red tops that seemed to straddle athletic wear and national costumes. It was a nice red. The shirts featured an rather delicate detail at the neck line. It was a circular opening below the neckline like a peekaboo that would show cleavage on a woman -- but it was predominantly the men who were wearing it. It's just a blouse but the circle is a nice detail.

Q. What did you think of China, the host nation, in red?

They were unfortunately one of the WORST. They went with red blazers, white pants and yellow shirts for the men. They looked terrible. Wear red or wear yellow but don't wear them together.

The women looked better with yellow blazers, red kerchiefs and white skirts that went BELOW THE KNEE-- but I think they should have deviated from looking exactly like the Chinese flag and picked a yellow that was softer and more forgiving.

I think though there should be a rule where hem lengths should only be determined by body type and not by designer edict. If you have the legs, you should show it. If not, find a length that suits you. Say "no" to totalitarian regimes and uniform hem lengths.

Q. Did anyone look good in red?

My favourite team in red was Serbia.

The men looked lousy but the women wore ruffle v-necked front buttoned blouses.

You have to understand Serbia has tennis star Ana Ivanovic on the team. She just dropped out of competition because of an injury...but she looked absolutely gorgeous in her blouse during the opening ceremonies. She showed showed some clavicle a bit of skin below that.

Q. And isn't that the whole point of the Olympics?

It is. If you look at the classical roots of the Olympics, the display of the body, naked, without adornment, in physical struggle was the whole point.

And despite the National Socialist baggage of the Berlin Olympics, Leni Riefenstahl's film of the Olympics really suggests a modern template for the cult of the body in the Olympics. She had images of athletes in the nude much like Greek statues -- it's kind of corny but it makes a good point. We need to see more skin at the Olympics.

I used to disdain the uniform rules of beach volleyball because they forced women to essentially wear bikinis but I've come around. I think celebrating young athletic bodies is a good thing...I would even suggest eliminating the jersey for men's boxing. Let us see heaving chest muscles. I think that would be a great first step in the right direction.

Q. What marks do you give to Team Canada?

Six point five or a seven out of ten.

My reason, I think track suits are a cop out.

The reason why I don't talk about designers who make hoodies or t-shirts is the reason I don't think Team Canada looks so hot...track suits are boring.

There's none of the flare of let's say, Mexico's ruffle skirts which had a flamenco-mariachi feel to them. That was nice.

But Canada was entirely invested in it's graphic approach.

And it's bad. Some people have complained about the chinoiserie of the uniform -- which is understandable but what is worse is how the pattern of red and white and degrade - which means fading - gold number "eights" on the clothes obliterates the sense the human form.

The more I talk about it the more I dislike it.

Q. Which country did you like?

I think you have to give credit to Ralph Lauren for creating a consistent vision of Gatsybyesque sporting elegance.

And remember, Ralph Lauren did the costume for the film version of The Great Gatsby.

The other film reference was Chariots of Fire - the motif was simple. Blue blazers, white buttons, white pants and newsboy caps -- which are not as nice a the trapper hats Canada did for the Turin Olympics nor are they as nice as the Roots Cap of the Nagano Olympics -- but they do the trick.

A lot of countries went this direction but Ralph Lauren did it the best. Though the look was a bit androgynous on the women. They did fit nicely enough. Unlike the Chinese blazers. Terrible.

Q. Enough stalling....give me your fashion winner...

My flat out my favourite would be....okay, the women of France wore seersucker and red sashes...that was okay

Hungary had skirt-suit combos with a bold poppy pattern which was interesting...

But I have to say I like Poland because the women wore red dresses with a red peek-toe sling backs and the men wore black and white wing tip shoes.

So, the red dresses are nice but they only favoured the fittest of athletes

They didn't wear read but I think Brazil gets the gold. Their women wore dark mini skirts with green jackets and black lapels. They didn't look like flight attendents, and they showed some leg.

Definitely, I award Brazil the GOLD.

August 6, 2008

Pamela and PETA and fashion

Just met Pamela Anderson on Monday. I took her pic with Sounds Like Canada host, Steve Burgess.

It's obvious why Anderson is the pin-up and not Burgess. But Burgess had quite a bit of fun with the former Baywatch icon - he donned a lick-and-stick tattoo which explains the open shirt.

It would be great to speak with Anderson about leather goods replacement consdering her work with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

I think my next column for VBD on radio will be on leather replacements.

July 15, 2008

Building Your Brand: Suits and Stationery

Mark Busse of Industrial Brand Creative had a suit made a while back at my old hangout, Modernize Tailors. Here's what he had to say about the tailor made experience:

My fashionista friend and design columnist JJ Lee convinced me to have a new black suit custom made by Modernize Tailors. It’s the first tailor-made suit I’ve ever purchased and as I experience the myriad of choices such as fabric, weight, colour, texture, pattern, lapel style, cuffs, buttons, pockets, pleats, hems, etc it occured to me: This is just like the many choices we make when executing stationery components as part of a client’s brand identity.

(read more at Industrial Brand Creative's blog)

July 8, 2008

Short and Stylish

Today, I've responded to the pleas of one man. He's 65 years old. A divorcée interested in dating and tuning up his look.

He's a very cool dude. A Liverpudlian of the same vintage as John, Paul, George and Ringo with a look reminiscent of Anthony Quinn. And he's short, like me.

Read my tips for the shorter man in the Vancouver Sun.

July 7, 2008

More on Shorts

How to wear shorts by the designers of Imaginary Friend, Megan Dengerink and Nadine Spidla. (Speaking of shorts, my next Vancouver Sun column will look at style tips for the shorter man.)

June 20, 2008

Men wear short shorts?

Fashion Tip for Men #1. Obakki shorts (above) drop below the knee this spring
but men should hem shorts to their taste, just like they do for pants.
This is the latest and the last fashion item for the Georgia Straight. It contemplates men should take a hike when it comes to hemming their short pants.

To thigh or not to thigh, showing it is the question I asked a number of fashion cognesceti at Obakki's Spring and Fall preview show a month ago.

"Long, baggy shorts have dominated for so many years, it’s hard to imagine men showing skin above the knee. But is it time for a change? Can men finally consider wearing short shorts again? Yea or nay?"

Check it out in the Straight.

June 12, 2008

Short shorts? Get a leg up on what’s chic now

Allison Wonderland's take on the cropped pant, the Cutie.

(My short shorts swan song - this week and next, in the Georgia Straight, you'll be able to read my last two columns. This weeks it's women's shorts. Seven days from now, it will be men's.)

Judging by what’s hanging from retailer racks and the derrières of gamines, hottish pants and short shorts will hold sway once again on the beach and on the streets this season.


June 10, 2008

From Straight to the Sun

Starting today, I will be the men's style columnist for the Vancouver Sun. I, in my vanity, asked for a photo byline. It was taken on the fly by Steve Bosch of the Vancouver Sun.

I went to their second floor photo studio in the Vancouver Sun building. Bosch seemed harried. No one told him what was what. But he started doing his thing. I had been drenched by the rain and my hair was sticking up at the back. In the print addition, they cropped it so my fly-aways are no longer there.

Hard to reproach the way men dress when I look like a navvy. A coworker said, "I never realized you could look so rugged." I think she was being kind.

Leaving the Straight was a tough decision but also something I wanted to try. With all the media conglomeration, I wanted to see if I could make some headway in the Global media family.

To wit, I made on the front web page of the National Post on Tuesday. It will get plowed under as the day goes...but you can check it out here as well.

The Straight has been good to me and I especially want to thank the editor-in-chief, Charlie Smith, for all his encouragement.

Onwards if not upwards...

May 29, 2008

Everybody (in New Westminster)

Over the last 18 months I've taken pictures for a personal photo-project Everybody (in New Westminster). The goal of the project is to...well, you can figure it out. Please look forward to additional images. Comments are welcome.

May 17, 2008

KRAZY! show leads to crazy thoughts

The Vancouver Art Gallery opened this week with an exhibition that wants to change the way people think about comics, animation and video games.

It's called KRAZY!

Bruce Grenville curated the show with the help of a squad of guest curators who are distinguished practicioners in the fields of manga, comics, graphic novels (aren't these three categories all the same?), animation and video games, including Art Spiegelman - the creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic, Maus.

KRAZY! is built around the premise that it is time to reconsider the importance of popular "visual culture", ie comics and all, with culture as a whole. And the act of hanging on the gallery wall the work, be they original comic pages or animation cels, will somehow provide the critical space to assess the phenomena.

Spiegelman in his opening remarks that felt more like an apologia to the media that the artists included in KRAZY! was "just the tip of the iceberg."

But Spiegelman and this show has it all wrong.

Visual culture isn't an iceberg, and KRAZY isn't its tip. Visual culture (KRAZY culture, if you will) is an ocean and as it increasingly dominates big "C" culture in total they may be little left outside of anime, comics, etc.

Music, literature, visual arts and other story-telling and representational activities may soon be the distilled and frozen chunks floating in KRAZY culture.

If it comes down to Astro Boy versus Hamlet or the Mona LIsa, the 1 000 000-horsepower robot creation of Osamu Tezuka may be the champion.

It's not that KRAZY culture is more important than high culture or the fine arts and literature. It's just that KRAZY culture is bigger and more pervasive in the popular is the near essence of the popular imagination.

KRAZY culture - having been outside the validatiing discourse of museums and galleries or art journals - has developed its own discursive environment of comic shops, meetups, conventions, blogs, zines and chatrooms where there can be on occasion a fairly sophisticated analysis of all this cutural production. KRAZY culture already has a critical framework to address the importance of itself built on fandom instead of academia or the curatorial class.

So what is the KRAZY! exhibition for? What does the frame of a gallery provide? It does validate the appetites of the nerds who support KRAZY culture and its attempt to crossover into and become the respectable and profitable mainstream (take for example the success of the film, Iron Man). But does KRAZY! add to the conversation? Or is the exhibition intended to help visual art culture and its institutions catch-up?

In a content-is-king world, KRAZY culture is King Kong AND Godzilla and what a gallery may only offer is, perhaps, some gilding.

May 16, 2008

Red alert! We can see up your skirt

Flashing fannies makes for a fashion faux-pas

Love this season's renewed ardour for minis and high hemlines.

But the now-dead trend of wearing jeans under dresses (finally) still reaches from its grave to deliver a deleterious after-effect on women.

Some of this city's beauties have forgotten how to move in a short skirt without flashing the pan.

Twice this week, I've had the displeasure of viewing the undercarriage of fellow female pedestrians as they've stooped over to pick up a Georgia Straight (today) and dropped change (yesterday). Now I know how crotch stitching on a set hoses comes together. It does not look good.

Jocasta...pass me your brooches. I need to gouge my eyes out.

It is incorrect to bend at the waist to reach down.

The right way is to bend at the knees and slowly lower your erect torso so that you may pluck something off the ground.

With such a maneuver, a woman can display decolletage and honey calves at great advantage and avoid embarrassment.

May 13, 2008

Tailor Made wins in LA

“Tailor Made: Chinatown’s Last Tailors” has won the prestigious Golden Reel Award for Best Short Film at the 2008 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Directed by Calgary director Leonard Lee and Vancouver filmmaker Marsha Newbery, “Tailor Made” follows 80-something brothers Bill & Jack Wong for one year as they face the reality that they’re getting too old to run the little tailor shop their father opened in 1913…and letting go isn’t easy. With tailoring being a dying trade, finding someone to take over the family business has proved impossible, but Bill refuses to give up. From taking on a fashion journalist as an apprentice, to selling the shop to a young hot-shot corporate tailor, Bill becomes especially determined and pulls out all the stops.

Catch TAILOR MADE on The Lens on Tuesday July 15th at 7pmPT (10pm ET), 10pm PT (1am ET) and 1am PT (4am ET) – Newsworld.

May 7, 2008

Perfect wedding pics: fashion photographer offers tips on how to make better snapshots for special occasions

Professional photographer Kris Krug offers some pointers on how to make your snapshots works of art...

Follow these tips and you'll have great wedding photographs worth posting! (Originally aired in December.)

Listen to it through Google Video.

WISH I WAS THERE DEPARTMENT: Superhero costumes at the Met

Zac Posen at Costume Institute Gala

Okay. If you read my last blog about pulling off black tie well, I presented the safe, not-sorry option. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Zac Posen's Met gala outfit is one of them.

His shiny blue suit and red bow tie captures perfectly the spirit of dressing up and smartly reflecting the theme of the current exhibition at the Met's Costume Institute, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy.

The fashion designer must be a fan of comic books like writer Michael Chabon. Chabon wrote in the New Yorker recently:
a superhero’s costume is constructed not of fabric, foam rubber, or adamantium but of halftone dots, Pantone color values, inked containment lines, and all the cartoonist’s sleight of hand.
Posen's look is graphic, colourful and it bears classic suit details of the 1940s (low button stance, a ticket pocket and wide peaked lapels). It seems he was inspired by Superman's earliest issues, where you could find Clark Kent in a sharp blue double-breasted, a red tie and a tan fedora. How could Lois overlook him?

Posen may have not gone black tie but he certainly dressed for the occasion. Great Scott and Holey Moley!

May 6, 2008

Tuxedos: from celebrities to the common man

It's about trying but not trying too hard.

My recent visit to Toronto to stand as a groomsman coincided with the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute Gala.

And despite the fact that my close childhood friends are just a bunch of regular Joes (Sean Ingram, left, and F. Galiana), as yours truly, they handled their sartorial responsibilities with aplomb.

The same can't be said about the celebrities who attended the grand New York event. With overly long sleeves, long ties and boring notch lapels (shame on you, George Clooney, just stop wearing those bloody notches), the grandees at the ball looked sloppy. In the search for individual expression, many of them ruined a near perfect form of dress.

It's always far better, like when one plays the blues, to innovate and improvise within the set structure of a particular form. One can choose a batwing, butterfly or a nifty straight bow tie. There are myriad styles of cuff links and pocket squares as well.

Put together right, it can be pure magic. The choices and adjustments are simple - their impact can be impressive. Joes 1 - Celebs 0.

Quick tips:
  • Show the shirt: getting the right ratio of white shirt to black jacket to provide a graphic punch. Go for a open lapel that creates a strong white triangle

  • Tie it: Have the patience and panache to tie your own bow tie. Long ties never look as sharp

  • Show some cuff: You're wearing French cuffs for a reason, non?

  • Keep it buttoned: Unbuttoning your coat makes you look fat and so does your cummerbund and so does our vest. Buttoning your coat will give you a waist and hide the fact you had to wear a vest or a cummerbund

April 21, 2008

Designer Profile: Hunt and Gather

Hunt and Gather is a one-woman boutique run by Nathalie Purschwitz. She's a former fine artist who has found self-expression in couture and coining clever fashion formulas.

Her emphasis is on unique ... one .... or two'ishes-of-a-kind. I wanted to find out what's behind the ideology of her style but first I asked Natalie about why she picked Vancouver's Gastown to establish Hunt and Gather.

April 14, 2008

From Project Runway to Project "Reality" - Carlie Wong makes her mark

Is there life after reality TV?

Carlie Wong
thinks so. Carlie - who left far too early from Slice's fashion-design-to-the-death, Project Runway Canada - didn't leave the fashion designing to just the show's winner, Evan Biddell.

Last month, she put together 32 looks for Toronto's L'Oreal Fashion Week. All the dreeses were made by her industrious hands and they're back-in-black gorgeous.

Hear from this promising Vancouver designer on Monday, April 14 at CBC Radio One Vancouver's On The Coast. If you using the radio tune in at 5:50 PM on AM 690.

Or listen live by visiting CBC Radio One Vancouver.

April 7, 2008

For women who like to tie knots....

(image courtesy of Viola Blanca/Shane Ward)


Femme tie girls show boys how neckwear should be done

This spring body-hugging, white shirts with structured collars will be paired with black shorts or skirts. Expect the tops smartly opened down by two, even three buttons. Women will be tempted to fill the space with cleavage, jewellery or, may it be suggested, with a Femme Tie ($60 at Hum Clothing, 3623 Main, and at Urbanity at 207 Abbott Street).

They’re crafted of silk organza by Katherine Taylor. Taylor is a textile artist based in Montreal who, under the Viola Blanca label, smartly turns her art into beguiling fashion by making ascots, ties, and scarves that double as belts under her line...

READ the rest in THE STRAIGHT.

March 6, 2008

Judge JJ helps pick Vancouver's Next Gay Top Model?

The Straight asked me to write about being a Straight Eye evaluating Queer Guys. I wrote about Darren Bruce (above, from Vancouver's Next Gay Top Model) and his rise to the top 12 and also about my own hang-ups...

"Yes, one may suppose I am at the border here. It could be “Goodbye, het-land” and “Hello, homo country” for the Georgia Straight ’s sexually anxious menswear writer."

For more, read the Straight.

February 11, 2008

Young gun: David Wilkes launches a bespoke tailoring studio in Vancouver

Call him David the Tailor.

And then drop your jaw in awe. David Wilkes is of a rare breed: a young man willing and able to hand sew men's suits so that the fit and stylings are perfect.

He was featured in the CBC documentary, Tailor Made, as was I (see below).

I had a chance to talk to him about the unique menswear he creates...but first I asked, "How old are you?"