December 21, 2009

Pocket luxury: shopping for the extraordinary in everyday things

Looking for little things that are luxurious but won't bankrupt the average shopper.

Pocket luxury is about buying the best of ordinary things to create pockets of luxury in your life. Be it the best hand-made toothbrush in the world or a silver pen to write the shopping list.

I visited Louis Vuitton (very nice people there, no joke) on Burrard in Vancouver, Tiffany & Co (they were hopping, what recession?), also on Burrard, and Holt Renfrew (with the nicest guide to the luxury department store) on Granville.

December 15, 2009

Holiday packing tips

The secret to a perfect holiday trip home means focusing on what really matters. Family, friends, peace, love and happiness are certainly important, but when it comes to menswear, knowing what to pack and what to wear can also make a man joyful and triumphant.

For Club Monaco’s menswear designer Timothy Farah in New York, the go-to travel item is “the perfect blazer.” He adds, “It can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion” Club Monaco offers the Wright blazer and the Channing Tuxedo blazer, both for $349 (top, with Fair Isle sweater and bowtie). The jackets are “tailored and modern.”

For the finishing touch, Farah says, has to be “a handkerchief in the breast pocket.”

Jeffery Spivock, the public relations senior manager for the Gap in Toronto, would wear a Banana Republic velvet blazer on the plane to avoid crushing it, $310 (bottom). He says it “looks as good with a pair of destructed jeans ($160) as it does dressed up for holiday drinks.”

If the itineary is elaborate and takes you from cold to warm cities Spivock says, “I always pack neutral staples that I can layer in multiple combinations and still look fresh.”

He suggests accessories will also make the difference. “A bright scarf (linen or wool), a bow-tie to dress up a classic white shirt, a pocket square, loafers or even a simple fitted t-shirt (for under a blazer in warm weather),” says Spivock. “ These take up little room in the suitcase, but add a big punch to the outfit.”

Adrienne Shoom, head stylist for Joe Fresh Style, thinks adding a zip-front Fair Isle sweater, $39, to the checklist is a good idea. The sweater’s intricate geometric patterns are “festive without going overboard, perfect for the holiday season and then cozy for hitting the slopes.”

And since lounging with in-laws in boxers may not do, Shoom has a great
pointer: pyjamas.

Shoom says, “This season Joe Fresh did great plaid pjs for men - cozy and perfect for Christmas morning.”

Some packages, it would seem, should always stay under wraps.

Black tie tips from Brooks Brothers

JJ in the Vancouver Sun:

VANCOUVER — To rent or to buy is not the question.

What really matters when it comes to wearing black tie is looking like you belong in a tuxedo.

Admittedly, all men can't be James Bond or Barack Obama, but it is possible to achieve some true panache, thereby avoiding any associations with Batman's flightless adversary, the Penguin (who technically wore a tailcoat and therefore was dressed in white tie), or high school graduation.

Guy Voglino, New York-based divisional merchandise manager for Brooks Brothers, offered the following advice....

(read the rest in the Vancouver Sun)

December 10, 2009

Savile Row sojourn, Dege & Skinner and Henry Poole & Co

If you've been wondering where I've been, well, I've been in merry olde England.

Part of my research for my book, I had a chance to go to the backrooms and basements of Savile Row. Here are a few photographs of England's greatest tailors (and therefore the world!).

Paul at Henry Poole & Company

Henry Poole & Company

The shirt cutting bench at Dege & Skinner (say "Deej", if you're wondering)

Henry Poole & Company

In the basement livery workshop at Henry Poole & Company.

November 16, 2009

Local jewelry: a few basics about quality in Vancouver-made artisan jewelry with designer Justine Brooks

I know NOTHING about jewelry.

The problem is Vancouver is a hotbed of local design. And hitherto, I've been silent on the subject.

Until now. Today, On The Coast, I spokewith host Stephen Quinn about what consumers should know about quality before spending money on jewelry this holiday season.

To help me along, I visited with designer Justine Brooks. I think her work is fantastic and she really exploits the seaside/boreal rainforest vibe of Vancouver.

If you like Justine's work, you can find it at Chachkas on South Granville in Vancouver.

Shoe renewer, Mr. Ho's new digs on Robson Street

If you need MORE than a quick drop-off and instant, most likely dubious, shoe repairs, you need to know Mr. Ho, my shoe guy for the last ten years.

The news: he is still in business.

You see, he used to be next to the Vancouver diner, Cafe S'il Vous Plait (remember smoking there and drinking bottomless coffees?), but the rent went up and left Mr. Ho looking for new digs. If you go there now, you'll find an empty shop and no sign as to where he went (shameful landlord).

Well, he has found a new cobbling corner - a few blocks east at 292 Robson Street near Hamilton, across the street from the CBC and TV Towers.

He played a big part in my shoe education. Church's, John Lobb, Edward Green, Dack's Made in England. He told me, if you find them, buy them. And I did. Amassing quite a fine collection of cap-toes and winged brogues.

More importantly, Mr. Ho takes care of my shoes and he does it with a love of what he does. Three decades and still marching on. Congrats on the new repair shop, Mr. Ho!

November 13, 2009

From my upcoming book with McClelland and Stewart:

I think a father should teach his son how to wear a suit. It’s the outfit a man will wear to nearly every major rite of passage in his life, right to the bitter end. What do you think you'll wear when you’re dead? Your preferences won’t matter because there’s a good chance your survivors will put you in a suit. Graduation, marriage, job interview. Got caught embezzling? You were probably wearing a suit when you allegedly committed the crime and you’ll wear one when you stand trial.

Okay, let’s say you put in your will you don’t want to wear a matching top and bottom the day you are sent of to the hereafter – what do you think your memorializers will don? Ashes and rags? And let’s say you stipulate you don’t want people to wear a suit at your funeral service, well, what kind of jerk are you, any way? Here’s a rule in life, never deny people the chance to dress up. It shows a meaness of spirit.

Besides, if the men dress up, so do the women. Even at a funeral, women look hot in black. Men should note navy blue, really dark midnight blue and really dark grey are currently considered more tasteful in situations of mourning unless whilst attending the funeral of Yves St. Laurent.

When you attend one that is not your own, you don’t want to appear as Death himself or Karl Lagerfeld. You are not the undertaker. Wearing a black shirt with a black tie and a black suit should only be reserved for the person who double-tapped the deceased with a Heckler and Koch USP 9mm, one in the chest and one in the head.


November 5, 2009

November 4, 2009

Trenchant timing on raincoats

Sometimes, Fashion Monday is just a day or two ahead of even's email newsletter, even if it's recycled from 2002.

HBC's Olympic collection: Cowichan or Cowichan-styled sweaters

Team Canada's Cowichan sweaters WILL be a hit.

But as I mentioned in my look at the collection, I cautiously used the term "Cowichan-styled" to describe the garment. I wrote:

"However, I couldn't confirm if the suppliers are Cowichan knitters. So, it's more accurate to describe it as a Cowichan-styled sweater."

And it's a good thing. Cowichan Knitters are not happy with the cultural appropriation of the form. Read about it in a local Cowichan paper here.

Thanks to blog reader, Con, for the link.

November 3, 2009

Stop the Misnomerosity! Gents, learn your overcoat (er, raincoat) basics

The nip is in the air and male readers may be wondering how to keep off the chill (ok, it's not so bad in Vancouver).

Easy, right? Not so. There are many styles of overcoats and raincoats. Frequently, retailers (both online and bricks and mortar), journalists and bloggers use the wrong terms.

It's a big deal because different style coats suit different body types. If people used the correct nomenclature, it would make life googling and net shopping far better.

For those who agree, here is a guide:

Mackintosh (left) is a raincoat. It is also a famous English brand. Like John Lennon wrote, "The man in the Mack..."

The silhouette is tubular and currently cut tight and short. It is a closed throated coat. The button (except for the top one) are hidden. The lines are simple with minimal detailing. If they have flap or patch pockets, they are an abomination. Slash side pockets, please. It suits most body types. However, short, thick torso men should avoid mid-thigh or higher hems. It becomes too boxy especially when used as an overcoat.

For a local source, look for Black Brown at The Bay (below, left). It is $250. You can find it exclusively Downtown.

The Mack is often referred to as a trench coat (Brooks Brothers what are you doing?) but it's either wrong or an indifferent Americanism. A real trench coat has its origin in the trenches of the First World War. Originally made by Burberry, the coat was made for infantry.

Locally, a modern winter-weight version in black can be found at The Bay by Full Circle for $575 (above, right).

The details: a heavy and long turn down collar to protect the neck; a heavy belt, originally designed to take the weight of a string of grenades; and, on this version, double-breasted to protect the chest.

If you're thick and tall, the double breast can break down the volume of your chest. The belting will give you some waist and a more heroic silhouette.

If you're shorter, you should avoid belting at the front. Instead tie it at the back. Overall, the coat has to be tight. A suit jacket underneath is a tall order for a shorter man (avoid).

Wear it the way you would wear a jean jacket - with a sweater or, for collegial prepness, a sweat shirt on the weekend. Also make sure the hem isn't too short - boxiness is always a threat. Plus never leave the belt dangling or in your side pockets. Always go for tying at the back! Trust me, this is actually traditional.

Finally, a word about the virtues of the pea coat , right.

This Polo Ralph Lauren Academy Pea Coat (The Bay, $525) is cut very narrow and short and works best with jeans and a nice sweater-tie combo. Note the double-breasted six on eight buttons. If you work in a business casual environment it has enough structure to tidy up ones look but is informal enough to keep your co-workers from asking you too many questions about your recent makeover.

The rotund should avoid it.

However, if you are a bit bottom heavy, look into a balmacaan. That's my coat of choice. It looks like a Mack except it has raglan sleeves. This means it doesn't have a set-in sleeve. Instead, they run into the collar the way sweatshirts and warm up jackets are made. The armholes are wider but the positive side is it is an A-line. This can elongate a figure and avoids the sausage effect of trench coats and Macks.

The hem should be somewhere between the knee and mid-thigh if you are heavier but NOT below the knee. Too much fabric will make you look worse.

Brilliant Pea Coats

GQ did a very smart thing this week when they featured this season's pea coats modeled by, very clever, Navy personnel.

My take on coats to keep you warm is coming up soon!

November 2, 2009

Update: Makeshift's amazing boots

Natalie Purschwitz 0f is making all her own clothes, accessories and shoes for a year. She will wear nothing else.

Here is her amazing boot, version 2. Keep at it, Natalie!

October 28, 2009

Grade three version of Jay Gatsby

He's sharp looking. Got money to burn and knows his bow ties.

It's the 8 1/2 year old, mini-dandy Arlo Weiner, courtesy of GQ.

October 26, 2009

Co-host and friends

From the UBC Alumi event I hosted with Tetsuro Shigematsu at Banana Republic. Also CBC producer and sometime playwright, filmmaker and character actor Charlie Cho. Very fun.

Plus the whole affair inspired the topic of my column for On The Coast - Dressing the Breast: How to deck out a heavy, yet beautiful, topside.

I'll be on air on 88.1 FM Vancouver at 5:49 PM -- Fashion Monday.

October 21, 2009

Perfect Chucks for Canucks

There was a time, way back in it's history, when the Converse Company (aka Boston Rubber Shoe Company) was all about finding ways of putting rubber underneath men's feet.

They weren't just about racquet sport shoes (Jack Purcell) or basketball (Chuck Taylor).

Instead, they made hunting boots. And they are again - in a fashion forward kind of way.

This season they've release a set of rubber soled, leather upper boots that are right on trend with the back to roots among the masculine. In black or brown, they sell for around $140. Try Gravity Pope in Vancouver to find them.

Banana Republic, Alumni, and why men should't wear stripes with stripes and stripes

Yesterday, I was organising the clothes for a UBC Alumni event at Banana Republic on Robson and Thurlow. I believe I was there for five hours. Nevertheless, it was fun.

The concept is to speak to young alumni about dressing at the next level (not dressing for a job interview) but how to dress for the workplace and advancement. Actor, writer, trouble-maker and heart-breaker Tetsuro Shigematsu will be my partner on stage and the incomparable social columnist Fred Lee will be there as well.

No John Molloy here - "Dress For Success" - that way of thinking kind of makes me gag. More importantly we look at how to dress grown-up with out dressing old.

Now, the important stuff...what will I be wearing?

So glad you asked. I will be sporting a gray flannel pencil stripe suit with a notch collar. And, because I like taking risks, I'm pairing it with a red (dominant) and blue micro plaid shirt. Both items will be from BR's Heritage Collection.

It says Heritage - but the cut is fashion forward and very young. Overall, it draws heavily on New England Americana with toggles and cabling in sweaters, patches and elements of hunting and military wear with deep patch pockets and Norfolk-like jackets.

The shirts are slim fitting with nice TAPERED sleeves. The suit has good waist suppression and very athletic cut. It's built for the heavy back of someone who is used to exercise and doesn't have a lot of padding. The cut is shoulders forward.

Their suits are great for the workplace but have achieved a highly desirable objective - they are suits that don't make a young man feel like he's in a suit.

Accessories: I'm either wearing an Italian silk knit tie (think Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate) from BR last season. A classic, nevertheless...or a bow tie. Can't quite decide.

For mixed-prints magnifilicious insanity, my socks will be herringbone and if I'm allowed, I'll be wearing a polka dot pocket square - just to drive Lisa Kwong batty. She's a bit of a clothes horse herself and has strong opinions about style - see left!

Also, gentlemen of Vancouver, watch out. If she catches you wearing striped ties, with striped shirts, with a striped suit - I've coached her to intervene and stop the abuse of stripes.

Ahem. Where was I?

My shoes are Church's custom bench brown, capped toe Oxfords. Go British or go home, I say, when it comes to footwear - but don't tell my Italian shoes that, their feelings would be hurt.

See you tomorrow night!

Makeshift Project Update: What did makeshifter make today?

One woman, one year, one promise. To wearing clothing, shoes and accessories made exclusively by her own hand. I mean, shoes!

October 19, 2009

One woman. One year. One promise. To wear clothing that she has made by her own hands.

Yes. MAKESHIFT is a project by designer Natalie Purschwitz.

Seven weeks ago, she started a year long project to wear clothes, shoes and accessories made by her exclusively.

Natalie has a website documenting the effort at

And though she is only two months in, it's been quite a journey so far for the Makeshifter.

Today, I met Natalie at the Makeshift showroom at 8 East Cordorva in Vancouver.

It displays SOME of the clothes she has worn or clothes based on clothes she has worn.... We had a little conversation about the MAKESHIFT journey so far. And my first question to Natalie was, what did she wear today:

The project is in part to draw attention to her work - but I wouldn't say it's a publicity stunt. If it is, it's one that has life-changing ideas. People in France and Italy are tracking her work. And now you can too.

Plus if you love what you see on MAKESHIFT - she's offering clothes based on her adventures through her Super! Surprise! program. You can find the info at

From my upcoming book: Measure of a Man

I just bought a tailor's form. It's a padded male torso and neck that sits on a chrome stand. The jacket is now draped over it. The dummy will allow me to pin and baste stitch possible alterations.

Think of it as sketch drawing on the suit with needle and thread. The rig is very light and I find I move it around from the centre of the living room to near the bookcase to a corner in the bedroom depending on my need for light or to be closer to the clock radio or to protect it from kitchen smells while I'm cooking.

Sometimes in the middle of a chore or writing, I'll forget I have "him" or where I've put "him" and out of the corner of my eye I'll see my father for just a blink.

October 6, 2009

True north style gets its due in HBC's Canadian Olympic team apparel

Call it, "hoser chic."

It came with a big a splash. The Hudson's Bay Company revealed its Team Canada clothes.

Canada's Olympians will be wearning retro black, grey, red and white gear at next year's Winter games.

And with some caveats, I have to say this is a pretty fine collection.

I love it because of what it does for an iconic retailer. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Hudson's
Bay Company has the best brand in Canada when it comes to evoking Canadiana. It has the history and heritage. Or, rather, it should.

Yes, over the years, HBC has forgotten this. Adopting the generic (non-Canadian specific) abbreviation was symptomatic of the tendency to leave the past behind. It was deplorable.

But with their recent Olympic campaign, on TV and through their Olympic apparel, they are putting the Hudson's and the Canada back in The Bay.

So, this is a major move on the part of the retailer to get its identity back.

For the longest time, Roots had taken the mantle, making their brand synonymous with Canadiana and Canadian style but I see HBC's long term plan to wrest the Olympic sponsorship from Roots is finally paying off (Turino's trapper hat was a hint of what was to come).

A perfect example of the synergy between red and white patriotism and corporate branding is the Team Canada Cowichan sweater.

This is a heavy, hand knit, made-in-Canada, zip-front wool sweater with a turn-down collar. It is entirely indigenous to Canadian design.

The Cowichan, originally made by the Cowichan First Nations on Vancouver Island, is as unique to Canada as tweed is unique to the River Tweed region of Scotland.

However, I couldn't confirm if the suppliers are Cowichan knitters. So, it's more accurate to describe it as a Cowichan-styled sweater.

Nevertheless, it plumbs the data bank of our national unconscious to put forth a pitch perfect image. Like a stubby beer bottle.

Is it all too "Hoser" or too "Bob and Doug Mackenzie"?

It is - but only a bit. Which is ironic after all Canada went through about presenting a backwoods, Rockie and Bullwinkle version of Canada during the closing ceremonies at the Turin Olympics.

I think the biggest weakness is the collection may need a bit of, let's say, urbanity.

For example, in recent Olympics, Armani provided Team Italy with cashmere long coats and Borsalino brimmed hats for their athletes and the French have been known to wear blazers and fedoras at summer games.

So, I hope to see more than good athletic and technical wear from HBC in the coming months.

For all the positives, there were a few negatives.

Yesterday, I bought one of the last Cowichan sweaters at The Bay Downtown. They've been a total hit. Even though they sell for $350. Nearly sold out, The Bay is taking people names and numbers and there is a wait list for the

But here's the important thing: when I bought the sweater, I found out they don't take anything but VISA
or cold hard cash. NO Mastercard? Not even DEBIT!


I was told by the store staff that VISA is the Olympic sponsor. The merchandise belongs to VANOC and guess what, it kind of feels like if you don't have VISA - they don't want you to buy it.

I was kind of choked about it and tracked down the store director of The Bay Downtown about this.

Her name is Dana Hall. She says they've had no negative feedback about the payment method limits. She also said, they've set up ATM machines in the store to accommodate cash purchases.

Unfortunately, they don't approve VISA cards on site but Hall says, "Nobody has walked away and said I'm not going to buy this."

A clarification from HBC further explained the reason for the restrictions:

The Olympic Superstore is an Olympic venue, and therefore it can only accept the Official Card of the Games: Visa.

At past Games, the Olympic Superstore was housed inside a temporary structure, like a tent, and again it would have only accepted Visa. This is the first time the Superstore is located inside an existing retailer, the Bay. As such, we still have to abide by the rules of an Olympic venue.

Still, I think it's really unfortunate. The payment limits puts HBC in a hard position. No retailer wants to say no to its customer but HBC didn't make the rules.

Nevertheless, it's a sour negative in what I think is a positive re-visioning of the Hudson's Bay Company and its reappropriation of its heritage (though acknowledging the First Nations in its TV campaign would be a good idea).

Final thought: What would I do to urbanize the look?

I think a duffle coat in the repertoire would be good. The Team Canada collection has parkas and quilted coats but I think a signature duffle with toggle buttons would really give a city look to a very rural outdoorsy collection so far. There's a Holden Caufield/Wes Anderson feel to it all, non?

In heather grey, please. You'll find samples in the company archives.
Final analysis: 9 out of 10 for artistry.

October 5, 2009

In preparation for the 2010 Olympics: a repost of my thoughts on Beijing 2008

Today, I hope to look at Canada's Winter 2010 look.

But while you're waiting, check out my Vancouver by Design (my old blog) story from the last Olympics. Or simply read below:

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.

JJ, why weren't you at BC Fashion Week?

For a decent answer, check out Victoria Potter's post about BCFW at demi COUTURE. In this matter, VP captures some of what has gone out recently.

Addressing The Continuing Failure Of Vancouver’s Fashion Weeks
Sunday October 04th 2009, 8:45 pm
Filed under:
2009, BC Fashion Week

There are three massive issues occurring with BC and Vancouver Fashion weeks; the model talent is sub par, clothing design is poor and there is a division between the organizational committees that put forth both productions.

The basics are simple; designers should be paying qualified and talented individuals to model their final vision and if they cannot afford to pay the models then they shouldn’t be paying the registration fees to reserve runway time. It’s as the old saying goes - you get what you pay for, and clearly the free ‘talent’ isn’t working.

There are legitimate reasons why Vancouver and BC Fashion Weeks aren’t taken seriously. The team running the show didn’t even instill enough confidence in BCFW’s creditors that they could repay them that the show was shut down. If they cannot fulfill their obligations to their creditors, then they cannot even begin to fulfill their obligations to those attending and expecting a functional production. (continue at

September 16, 2009

David Wilkes, Vancouver bespoke tailor, gets the nod in GQ UK from Douglas Coupland

(photo credit: Cruz)

David Wilkes, bespoke tailor, who will be featured in my fall menswear piece for the Vancouver Sun, not only got the big thumbs up from Douglas Coupland, now the writer is praising Wilkes at GQ UK!

The word:
Your website contains an index of "Couplandisms," one of which asserts that "Once you establish a look, and once everybody recognises that look as your look, you never have to think about fashion again." What's your look?
Headwise, I always kind of knew that everyone goes grey in our family very early—and I was like, it works for me. I started growing my beard and it changes the shape of your skull and your face, and I started seeing my mother's side of the family in myself for the first time. I always get jealous of Prince William because he looks so much like his mom, so that's why I keep this [beard] but it makes me look so old fashioned—I look like an Antarctic explorer or an old Civil War photograph.

And the dresscode?
Bespoke tailoring: yes! I found this one pair of pants—they're Canali—and brought them into a tailor and said, clone these dammit. They just do all the right things. I've got eight pairs in different colors and I never have to think about pants again. The only look otherwise that suits me is like, the Professor from Gilligan's Island. Everyone should have a tailor. David Wilkes, the guy who does my stuff, is like, 'Well you're a writer - do you want a special pen compartment or something?' Bespoke: That's the term you want to get out there.

Congrats, David. To contact David Wilkes, visit

And look out for my fall menswear feature in the Vancouver Sun (coming soon).

Send-Return: My email interview with Douglas Coupland on David Wilkes and bespoke tailoring

If you can spend your cash on designer ready-made suits, ask yourself, “Why?” Off-the-racks, no matter how expensive, are made to accommodate differently shaped men. That can mean extra fabric adding unneccesary bulk to your frame.

David Wilkes of David Wilkes Bespoke in Gastown will cut out the fat by personally hand making a suit for you. On the money for value side, his suits should literally last a lifetime. On the style side, you receive unique fabric, a perfect fit, and understated luxury.

Douglas Coupland has become a fan of Wilkes and agreed to an e-mail interview about his recent plunge into bespoke clothing.

FASHION MONDAY:Where are you and from what are you receiving and transmitting this reply?

Scotland. MacBook Pro 17".

What made you turn to a bespoke tailor like David Wilkes?

I hate clothes shopping and off-the-rack is so insanely boring. There had to be a better way.

What are your thoughts about people turning to fitted and tailored suits/clothing this season?

Don't understand the question. Is this a trend?

(Not a new thing but becoming more and more mainstream, ie regular guys want a tailored look)

Most people I know in Europe are a mix of Muji (a Japanese retailer with a minimal, no-waste, no-logo aesthetic) and bespoke. I think Vancouver's just catching up a bit late in the game. But at least,we are catching on.

How have people responded?

People always notice when you dress better than you used to.

What would be your must-have...what should a man get from a bespoke tailor?

A really good suit that, once they're wearing it, they don't have to think about.

It was Yumi Eto and Sharon Young (pattern drafter at Acr'teryx) who are close life-long friends who put me onto David. What's been interesting for me was watching the way their creative juices flowed when we visited David's Studio. They really, really care about quality and technique and have opened my eyes.
Nighty night.

September 14, 2009

Today, on CBC Radio's On The Coast: Harem or Zouave pants and how to dress down asymmetrical dresses

Two of the more intriguing fashion trends this fall. I discuss with the lovely, the beautiful and deftly clever designer Allison Smith of Allison Wonderland how-to pointers. We're talking about asymmetrical dresses and You Can't Touch This Hammer pants on Fashion Monday.

And let's be clear here: Allison Smith doesn't offer harem pants in her line, she did wear denim, low-crotch jeans this spring. More on her clothes next week when I spend a bit more time at Dream, the boutique!

If you ever feel the need...

You can hear me live on line, On The Coast at's live stream every Monday at 4:49 PM Pacific.

Plus while you're waiting for me to go on air, listen to this mash up:

Do, do, do, do, do do, you can touch this - Hammer pants and asymmetrical dresses

Why will it be Hammer Time On The Coast? Well, JJ Lee, this show's guide to fashion, will be looking at two of the more intriguing fashion trends this fall. And he'll have the help of designer Allison Smith of Allison Wonderland for some how-to pointers. We're talking about asymmetrical dresses and You Can't Touch This Hammer pants, when JJ joins me for another Fashion Monday.

Today on CBC Radio One's On The Coast, 88.1 FM 690 AM, at 5:45 PM!

September 1, 2009

John Fluevog, BC finance ministers, budgets, and wearing brand new shoes

It is a rite of Canadian politics. Finance ministers carefully choose their shoes, usually brand new, as a signal of the government making a fresh start.

Recent BC budget speeches and the ministers who must present them have received a lot of shoe attention.

Carole Taylor, as the finance minister for Budget 2007, was lambasted by the NDP's Jenny Kwan for wearing a pair of $600 Guccis. The criticism of Taylor was quite unfair. She's quite the clotheshorse. She was also my former uber-boss as the president of the CBC back in the day.

I loved talking fashion with her in the halls of the CBC (I know, I know, we could have discussed the future of public broadcasting instead) and let me say this: denying Carole Taylor a pair of Gucci's is like denying the Mona Lisa gold-leaf on her picture frame. It's kind of cruel.

Even so, Taylor showed a degree of acumen by wearing resoled red patent Jimmy Choo's in the next budget. How's that for thrifty but stylish?

Unfortunately, I think she picked the wrong pair to refurbish. The patent was far too hard on the cameras. Colour depth is always the way to go with red either with suede or a vegetable dye.

In her last budget, she honed her political/fashion radar perfectly. She wore green Teapot Darjeeling pumps with vamp string lacing by John Fluevog (left, in cherry).

Yes, Taylor snookered her critics. How could anyone complain about a finance minister buying BC - let alone Canadian.

This year, expect current minister Colin Hansen to wear nothing that inspires economic confidence. Instead, he donated 100 children's shoes to the Salvation Army, spending $4000 out of his own pocket.

What are the semiotics of that gesture? Does giving shoes to a charity inspire economic confidence? Today's budget looks like it will be a stinker. Kind of makes you miss the $600 Guccis, doesn't it?

If you want to know what the lovely designer Melissa Cartwright of John Fluevog thinks Colin Hansen should wear, listen to my fall Fluevog shoe preview which aired yesterday on CBC's On The Coast with host Stephen Quinn.

August 9, 2009

Kids are all right

Looks like the 80s thing works for teens born in the 90s.

I found this group walking across the park in New Westminster and I had to take their picture.

Styling. To find out more about how this picture was made, visit my flickr post.


August 14, 2009: the picture is a minor hit, at least for me, with 412 views | 7 comments | 7 favorites

It's all about the Converses!

When you shoot with a test roll for a new (old) camera, you're caught between a hard choice. Load cheap, grainy film, like Kodak Gold 200 and end up with pictures you really love on bad film. Or, blow an entire roll of expensive film on a camera with light leaks, faulty shutters and other faults.

On this day, I was testing a pawn-shop Konica Autoreflex T3 with its Hexar 28mm. The mirror had a v-shape crack. A metal plate flange which helped seal light between the pentaprism and the mirror in the up position was bent and prevented the mirror from swinging all the way. I imagine someone attempted to shove a non-AR lens into the rig.

With some pliers I bent the plate back into a semblance of flatness. And this time I loaded the Gold, which I had no great expectations at 200 ASA. With only 12 exposures it was perfect for testing a suspect camera.

At the park, I came across the group of teens. It was only mid-morning and they looked like they were out for the night. I had to take their photo. To me they represented coolness, youth, and a degree of aimless insouciance. Of course, I had to stop them.

To overcome the film's limitation, I decided to tile the image with three exposures as a way to triple the resolution of the photo.

As you can see, the grain remains. But tiling is not a bad solution.

July 8, 2009

FM visits the Noir Lash Lounge in Yaletown

Wish you had longer eyelashes?

Vancouver's first eyelash extension lounge opened a few months ago and I found out how they give you those big butterflys one lash at a time.

All about eyelash extensions with owner Joyce Cajucom of Noir Lash Lounge and the all important question: do dudes do it?

June 30, 2009

7 summerstyle must-haves for men under $250 - going off the cheap end with jeans, t-shirts and seersucker

The challenge is simple: Find seven stunning, summer must-haves for men. No problem. Right?

Not really. There's a hitch. The total ensemble has to cost less than $250.

Holy economic downturn, Fashion Man, I need help and inspiration.

This leads me to rendezvous with local designer Genevieve Graham, who recently finished fourth on this season's Project Runway Canada.

Graham's advice is to keep it simple. "I love the look of a man in summer with a nice, really good pair of jeans and a white T-shirt," she says. "And a nice pair of flip-flops. I love jeans and flip-flops on men."

Then she flashes a bit of leg and dangles a Havaianas thong (ahem, it's a sandal) from her right foot.

"They're the best flip-flops out there," says Graham. "And they never give you blisters, which is nice."

In the past, men's Havaianas have been hard to find, but this season Club Monaco is selling them for an affordable $18.

While you're there, pick up a white T-shirt for $22. They come in a standard V-neck and a deep V-neck.

For jeans, why not stick with the classic Levi's 501? Choose the deep-indigo of the Rigid 501 for $80 at the Original Levi's Store. It is a stiff pair that gives you an excuse to wear it to the beach, swim in it, rub sand all over it and then dry it on your body in the sun all summer long. The result will be the best-fitting pants you will ever own. (continue reading at the Vancouver Sun)

June 14, 2009

Says Joe: Fresh thinking on summer menswear with Joe Mimran of Joe Fresh Style

"I think it's really easy in the summer. You're dealing with natural fibres..."
"You can get away with a lot less with so few pieces, how do you make something out of it? It's about colour and cut. If it's not right, there's no style."
"It's all about slim lines to look modern today."

"If you're of a certain age, you can do it. You'll look like you're in a band if you wear too many scarves and too many little hats."

"Dress it with a polo shirt and flip flops or some anchor. Brown Church's oxfords or two-tone spectators."
"Seersucker is one of the most versatile summer suits. You can break it up. With the jacket you can break it up with white pants..."

Say it's so, Joe: Mimran suggests a man can muscle-up a summer wardrobe with a pair of white pants.
"Getting Canadian men into a pair of white pants can be very difficult...but at the height of summer, if you can figure it out, it can change their mindset for summer. Whatever you put on top, you're full-on into summer."

"Polos is where a guy should be these days. It [a Joe Fresh Style polo, $10 to 16] is slim and has real shell buttons. It can stand up to any polo in the market place."

June 2, 2009

Nada Vuksic of Bruce Eyewear on this summer's trends for sunglasses plus tips on buying cheap sunglasses

I visited Bruce Eyewear to get some simple tips on buying sunglasses and to look at the beautiful frames in the shop.

Nada Vuksic, the owner, showed me a couple gorgeous frames and let me know what's in for this season.

Plus Stephen Quinn of CBC's On the Coast and I talk about what you need to know before you buy cheaper, plastic shades.

May 25, 2009

Genevieve Graham on Life after Project Runway Canada with JJ Lee

I wanted to catch up with Genevieve Graham. She was a fashion luminary in this town but she fell off the fashion map a few years ago.

She was a prominent womens wear designer for the Vancouver-based luxury label Obakki. It is an ambitious brand with global ambitions.

Genevieve resigned from Obakki when the creative direction changed. And in many ways, Genevieve disappeared from the scene for a couple of years.

But here's the news - this past season she was featured in on Project Runway Canada.

Her public comeback was a controversial. At times she was painted as a villain on the show.

Her expertise in the art of draping came under fire when the judges pushed her to use more tailoring in her designs.

Genevieve stuck to her guns.

She made it to the final four but was bounced off the show this spring. And now that it's over, I wanted to catch up with her.

I met her this morning at the Salty Tongue in Gastown. It was right across the street of a new store called Gentil Alouette that will open this summer. And that's where I asked Genevieve about her future and life after reality TV.

May 24, 2009

Documentary about Chinatown's last tailors to air on the Knowledge Network

TAILOR MADE is a film by Leonard Lee and Marsha Newberry.

It's about Bill and Jack Wong. They've been running Modernize Tailors for almost 60 years.

Modernize Tailors has been a cornerstone of Vancouver's Chinatown and fashion scene but it looks like it is all coming to an end.

The film follows what may be the final (NOT) year of the shop.

Bill and Jack take on their last apprentice (me), make their last suits for Vancouver's elite, and open a museum in their honor before they finally put away the scissors and retire.

On Knowledge Network:

  • Tuesday, May 26 at 10:00 PM 
  • Wednesday,May 27 at 1:59 AM and 7:00 PM

And check out the preview:

May 21, 2009

Arthur Erickson dead at 84

CBC's obituary is here.

For a critical appraisal of his work with Nicholas Olsberg, the curator of the Arthur Erickson solo show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, listen below.