May 30, 2011

Review: Filson Zipper Tote

My Filson Zipper Tote, I can't do without it.

It carries my cameras, my manuscripts, my sketch pad.

It always garners kind compliments and envious side glances.

I bought mine at The Block in Vancouver two years ago

It's the only bag I use, even if it's ten days in London. Okay, I travel light.

It's not a murse. When it's new it will look like a giant canvas box. With use it will adapt to how you use it. My tote has a patina.

One of my sons says he wants it when I die (this is a common conversation). I don't mind. I teach them to appreciate things that last longer than a lifetime.

Single best purchase I ever made.

May 26, 2011

Menswear question of the day: "Wedding reception etiquette--is unbuttoning jackets at dinner okay?"



Still, no.

If we were to take Prince William as an example, and after their royal to-do, who could deny the awe-inspiring elegance of the day (Pippa, call me), unbuttoning your coat is not consider correct etiquette.

In the case of Will and Kate, for the evening the newly-wed prince wore a double-breasted jacket for the evening to do, which one never leaves open as David Letterman eventually learned after years of complaint from men's fashion magazines.

What is correct for the double-breasted is correct for the single-breasted dinner jacket. Tuxedos look GOOD buttoned up. Why settle for less.

My rule is always this: if the jacket is too hot, get a lighter jacket.

Now, it's going to happen. When the cameras were gone and Camilla and Charles had left the young ones to rage on at Buckingham Palace, I'll assume they got down and dirty because, heck they're royals, what do you expect?

And I'm sure a few garments fell by the wayside but it is not considered a polite act. So context is everything.

If you are dirty dancing and working over a bridesmaid bodice with your teeth, by all means unbutton. I never do (unbutton that is, though undo bodices is one of my favourite past times). Standing, seated or dancing, I keep coats buttoned. But then I sometimes sleep with my socks on.

One thing to consider is what kind of jacket are you wearing? If it is one of those awful four-button jobs with framed stripes and notched lapels and accompanied by a white long neck tie, go ahead, unbutton, you look like total shite any way.

May 20, 2011

True colours: alternate, styling gear for the next Canucks home game

Love the Canucks. But I can't bring myself to wear gear as if I were a member of the team, ready to jump over the boards.

But it'd be great to show team colours at the arena.

Above is how fans used to dress to an NHL game. Below is how I'd do it: a royal blue sports blazer, a Band of Outsiders wide stripe tie in Canucks colours, and seersucker pants from J.Press. Put on camel brown lace-ups and the look is complete.

May 16, 2011

Spring things, c'mon sunshine!

Today, on Fashion Monday, we look at garments that chase the BLAHS away. That's right, clothes that puts sunshine in your heart if not in the sky. That's coming up when I hit the CBC for another Fashion Monday!

Spoke with Allison Smith of Allison Wonderland about clothes that perks her up, because face it, the weather has been atrocious. Check out her choice spring items as it appeared on Urban Rush. A show on which I once dropped my drawers.

And that's today's topic on Fashion Monday, by that I mean spring things. So tune into On The Coast (CBC Radio One in Vancouver) at 3:49 PM today!

What clothes do you wear to chase the blahs away!

Listen live on the CBC audio player, 3:49 PM Pacific!

Urban turbans, print mashing, harem pants (last gasp?) - this spring's oddities

Urban Turbans, Print Mashing, Low-crotched pants. Here are style pointers from the curious and daring mind of do-it-yourself fashion blogger, Niki Blasina of A Haute Mess. How to master this spring's more curious trends!

Niki Blasina of A Haute Mess mashing clashing prints.

Of course, it would be great to talk about hot weather spring and summer fashion trends, if only the weather would warm up.

Luckily, there a few looks this season that are not temperature dependent. They are challenging trends.

Specifically:Urban Turbans, Print Mashing, and Low-Crotched pants for women. Exactly how are they supposed to work?

Host Stephen Quinn and I spoke about it last week on CBC Radio's On the Coast.

Urban turbans?

Okay. Yes. The fashion trend for head scarves however are not related to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The urban turban, or the hair band, or the head scarf has more to do with Rosie the Riveter, economic recovery and BeyoncĂ©, the American pop star, even the royal wedding, than any Al-Qaida leader.

That’s good news. What is an urban turban?

Obviously, it’s a head accessory for women. They came out last year, but without much of a splash. They showed up again on runways for this spring’s collections and they’ve made a showing even for fall 2011.

As the name implies, they are fabric wraps that go around the head. Visually, they range in look from
Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda – the lovely and outlandish Brazilian film star of the 1940s and 1950s (If you ever see a woman or a cartoon with a pile of fruit on her head, you have Carmen Miranda to thank for that popular image) – to the more utilitarian style of head scarves worn by Rosie the Riveter.

They’ve showed up in videos by music performers such as BeyoncĂ©, Lady Gaga and Pink in the past. And it seems they’ve jumped into the mainstream.

How does one wear an urban turban?

For advice, I turned to the really great and fun Vancouver fashion blogger, Niki Blasina. She posts on a blog called,

Niki calles the urban turban an “edgy, chic” alternative over the spent straw fedora of the last few years.

When we talked this morning about it, it really matches with garments evoking the 70s bohemian revival that’s suppose to be big this season. But it can also be worn with a basic outfit, like jeans and a t-shirt.

It’s always a dramatic look. If you decide to sport one be prepared for comments.

The way to wear it is to think of it as a replacement for the summer toque or, better yet, as Niki told me, the slouchy beret knit hat that has been kicking around.

Niki says, you can find them in stores. She mentioned: Fine Finds in Yaletown has them. The brand is called Head Mistress from Toronto.

But on Niki’s blog,, she will show you how to make one if you want to save a few pennies. Niki just says go for the urban turban and have fun with it. It’s a great way to take care of a crazy hair day.

Before we move on to the other spring trends, what behind that head scarf trend?

I think it’s recession and recovery related. When a woman controls her hair through hats, which are big again, or head scarves, it suggests the control of the unruly.

Traditionally, like in images of Rosie the Riveter, the headscarf keeps hair out of the way when a woman is working. So its functional. The more women work, the more they control their hair. Albeit, the urban turban is a casual fashion, not a workplace one.

And as men’s fashion trends have become more severe and masculine, I think this trend relates to the idea of an assertive woman even though the head scarf is often thought of as a playful accessory.

Another trend I mentioned was “Print Mashing:” what’s is print mashing?

I call it Print Mashing. Most people call it PATTERN MIXING. But the way Niki does it is closer to Mashing.

She breaks all the rules when it comes to mixing polka dots with plaid.

I always say on this show, to choose patterns of different scale and Niki says beginners should follow that rule.

But in practice Niki loves to crash patterns into each other and actually, she personally is pushes matching scales to the edge. Every pattern is nearly the same size.

They clash.

But she can’t help herself, It’s one of her favourite things to do. And she says, bring clashing patterns together, one can surprise oneself.

How does one print mash well?

Niki says, it works best if both patterns share a colour. She has an example on her blog of wearing a bright floral blue top and a navy skirt with polka dot.

She calls it a Flinstone-esque mixing of patterns.

But how she pulls it together is to use strong, bold accessories of simple block colour to anchor the two clashing patterns.

In the case of the micro print floral top and polka dot skirt, she used bold blue baubled necklace to anchor down both patterns and it works.

What does Niki have to say about low-crotch pants – and by that I assume she means harem pants? Are they still on trend from last year?

They are. Women in droopy pants will last one more season.

Niki says your harem pants have a present but will have no future. This is the final summer of harem pants.

Niki says wear it shamelessly. And be prepared for comments. Last week she wore them out on the town and women complimented her and men kept on asking her if she had lost a bet.

So, harem pants, drop crotches, what have you are having their last 15 minutes in the sun.

But, I should mention, an easy to do, emerging trend, to look out for is loafers for women.

I’m not talking about oxford lace-ups anymore.

The emerging trend are simple slip-ons. Niki calls them Hugh Hefner shoes. They are simple like slippers not quite elaborate as penny loafers. But simple,traditionally stitched loafers with a plain, pointed toe and small stitches, like Bally loafers from the 70s are the next big thing. So bye-bye to Harem Pants, and look out for Playboy mansion shoes this summer.

Niki Blasina

May 15, 2011

Interesting Vancouver: My talk about why men wear suits

JJ Lee @Interesting Vancouver 2010 from Interesting Vancouver on Vimeo.

A great event last year. I loosely adapted it from my manuscript with changes of all sorts to suit (pardon the pun) the occasion.

Memoir-izing, copy edits, a blog memoir about writing a memoir - aka the Very Meta Post

Last night at 2:30 AM, I finally sent the copy edit they sent to me back to my publisher, McClelland and Stewart.

I think I was supposed to read through and approve stuff. But as I read it, I made a FEW changes.

One of the great difficulties about writing this memoir (which is an embarrassing thing because it's like getting a greatest hits album when you think you're actually putting out relevant music still - it has a pre-emptive retrospective feel and makes you want to protest, "Not dead, yet!"), is synthesising the present, the past and the use of the present tense and the past tense.

I know, it's confusing, and that's why I felt it was very important to contract the sense of time in the book.

There was a past past and a present present. And some memories felt like they happened just yesterday rather than years or decades ago.

So like an good tailor trying to get panels of wool to fit together when they don't, I pounded, steamed, invisible pin-tucked and set-in the parts to make a near seamless whole. I opted for narrative elegance over chronological exactitude.

Any how, more thoughts on all this later.

I'll be blogging about the memoir process at So subscribe or whatever one does to find out more about this strange and difficult, vexing, near mind-bending process.

I'm working on a little post about exactly how the book came about and for budding writers you may find it interesting as I really thought I would never write one myself. So check the other site out.

Also, the cover is finally up at McClelland & Stewart.

The Measure of a Man
The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

by JJ Lee

published by McClelland & Stewart

Add to Cart Available September 20, 2011

May 10, 2011

The Copy Edit of book! It's been a long road and the end is just round the corner

So sloth: on to do list is having to beef up a chapter (writing is scant, notational in this part - obvious result of crushing deadlines), write a denoument regarding time at Modernize, copy edit and approve book design.

Cold hard realities: need to get it done.